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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The New OS Wars: Winners and Losers | Tim Bajarin | PCMag.com

The New OS Wars: Winners and Losers | Tim Bajarin | PCMag.com
The new OS war will be between operating systems that can work on all types of digital screens.
For decades, when people talked about OS wars, they were mostly referring to the Windows vs. Mac battle. These two operating systems have dominated the PC landscape with Windows owning about 90 percent of the market. This OS war has been great for the PC industry, because as Apple continues to innovate on its OS platform, it forces Microsoft to innovate as well, and in turn, consumers constantly receive new and more powerful OS platforms for their PCs.
Recently, Apple introduced some a new twist to the Mac platform with the creation of the Mac App Store. However, the reality is that while Apple can gain some new market share in the PC space, Windows will always be the dominant PC platform. There are too many vendors backing the Windows OS for any single company like Apple to gain much ground on the Windows monopoly.
Now there is a another OS war developing around smartphones, and if you think the PC OS wars were nasty, just wait for this OS war to heat up. We've already seen charged rhetoric from Apple CEO Steve Jobs over the iPhone, Andy Rubin at Google defending Android against the competition, and RIM's CEO Jim Balsillie ranting about Jobs and company during the iPhone antenna dilemma. All of these folks realize that the stakes are very high and that they need to do whatever is necessary to keep the market looking at them and pushing their platforms forward. To put these OS stakes into perspective, market researchers say that 1.2 billion cell phones will be sold worldwide this year. And while smartphones represent only 22 percent of the cell phone market for 2010, they will make up 60 percent of the market in the U.S. by 2012 and 65 percent of all cell phones sold worldwide will be smartphones by 2015. That means that by 2015 we could see as many as 750 million smartphones sold around the world, which is a massive market and will create amazing market opportunities.
The good news is that because the smartphone market is so huge, there clearly can be more than one major player in this game. And at the moment, it appears that the Apple iPhone and the many Android smartphones will mostly dominate the future smartphone market. But competitors, such as RIM, Palm, Microsoft, Nokia, and others, will also be vying for the hearts and minds of smartphone buyers. The OS battle to get apps written for all of these platforms is already in high gear.
However, when I think about the future OS wars, I look way past smartphones to what some call a "digital ecosystem" that will enter our lives in the future. It seems, to me, that while smartphones are clearly an important part of our digital lives, the Internet connected navigation system in our cars, or the Internet connected screen in our refrigerators, or the Internet connected touch screen mirror in our bathrooms will become just as important. In fact, I believe that we will have a heap of screens in our digital lives, and all of them will beg to be smart. That means that they will need a solid OS with a powerful and easy to use interface, along with the intelligence to handle all Internet-related content and app specific content.
If this is the case, any of the smartphone or PC vendors who have created an OS just for a smartphone have made a strategic mistake. For example, while Microsoft's Windows Mobile OS is now a solid contender in the smartphone war, it does not appear to be useable in things like tablets, navigation systems, or any other digital screens. In fact, Microsoft has four distinct operating systems: one for PCs, one for game consoles, one for smartphones, and one for embedded devices. If it wants to take part in the coming digital screen explosion, it may need another OS for a grand total of five operating systems.
By contrast, Google's Android OS was initially designed for smartphones, but is now being extended to the Google TV platform and will soon be on tablets. Android can also be used as an OS in things like set-top boxes and navigation systems, and it can power a whole host of screens. And, it has an SDK that will allow apps to be created for all of these devices as well.
Apple also has an OS that fits this multi-use description. Its iOS is also highly extensible and is already used in the iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. In fact, Apple already has 125 million iOS devices on the market, giving it quite an edge on the competition. Given its cross device nature, iOS could eventually be used on dedicated navigation systems or whatever device Apple wants to create in the future. Apple iOS also has an SDK and an app ecosystem that could be used across any device it creates.

Youth vote falters; Prop. 19 falls short - latimes.com

Youth vote falters; Prop. 19 falls short - latimes.com
California would have become the first state to allow marijuana to be sold for recreational use. Moderate voters opposed it.
John Hoeffel, Reporting from Los Angeles
12:39 AM PDT, November 3, 2010
After taking a serious look at legalizing marijuana, Californians voted Tuesday to reject Proposition 19, which would have made the state the first to allow the drug to be sold for recreational use.
The measure drew strong support from voters younger than 25, as the campaign had hoped, but those voters did not turn out in unusually high numbers, according to a state exit poll. The initiative also failed to win over the moderate voters who make up the state's decisive swing vote.
The San Francisco Bay Area was the only region to tilt toward the measure, but it did so just slightly. In Los Angeles County, where a quarter of the state's voters live, the initiative lost.
Despite a potential double-digit loss, marijuana-legalization advocates said the proposition had transformed talk about legal pot from a late-night punch line into a serious policy matter.
"This has been a watershed moment," said Stephen Gutwillig, the California director for the Drug Policy Alliance, which waged an extensive ad campaign for the measure. "Even in defeat, Proposition 19 has moved marijuana legalization into the mainstream of American politics."
Tuesday's vote was just the first round, say legalization advocates, who are aiming measures at the 2012 ballot in Washington, Oregon, Colorado and very likely California. But it's also the second time in two years that California voters have rejected an initiative to soften penalties for drug crimes.
"The cover of the book looked nice, but it didn't read very well," said Roger Salazar, the spokesman for the opposition campaign. "This specific initiative was massively flawed."
Richard Lee, the medical marijuana entrepreneur who spearheaded the initiative and spent $1.5million on the historic campaign, pledged to work with the initiative's critics to draft a new one.
"We won tonight. We won for the last six months, the last year, all the years we've been fighting. We're going to keep fighting," Lee told supporters who gathered inside and outside Oaksterdam University, the Oakland medical marijuana trade school he founded.
California's 1996 medical marijuana initiative, the first in the nation, has led to more liberal attitudes toward pot nationwide as similar programs spread to 13 other states and the nation's capital. On Tuesday, voters in Arizona and South Dakota were deciding whether to approve programs; voters in Oregon were weighing whether to allow storefront dispensaries.
Proposition 19's backers had hoped voters worried about the economy would embrace the measure as a way to raise new taxes. In 10 cities, including San Jose, Sacramento and Long Beach, voters appeared to be overwhelmingly approving taxes on medical and recreational marijuana.
Passage of Proposition 19 would have vaulted the state into unmapped territory, invigorated the movement to legalize marijuana and set up a dramatic confrontation with the federal government.
The initiative would have eliminated all criminal penalties for adults 21 and older who planted marijuana in a plot of up to 25 square feet or possessed up to an ounce for personal use. It also would have allowed city councils and county supervisors to authorize commercial cultivation and retail sales.
But the opposition was broad, according to the poll conducted by Edison Research for the National Voter Pool, a consortium of the major television news networks and the Associated Press. Men and women opposed it. Voters of every race opposed it. The campaign had hoped black and Latino voters would see the measure as a way to end disproportionate arrests of minorities caught with marijuana.
The measure drew intense interest. Foreign leaders weighed in. All the top statewide candidates opposed it. The federal drug czar denounced it. And the U.S. attorney general pledged to "vigorously enforce" federal narcotics laws whatever California did.

Violent Video Game Ban Could Set Dangerous Precedent - PCWorld

Violent Video Game Ban Could Set Dangerous Precedent - PCWorld From P.C. World
Thank God Steve Jobs isn't on the Supreme Court.
Our nation's highest justices, you see, are in the midst of debating a case about violent video games. They're trying to determine whether the government has the right to decide which video games minors should and shouldn't be allowed to buy. In other words, they're trying to determine whether centuries-old guidelines about free speech still apply to modern forms of media like Playstations and Xboxes.
Their decision, needless to say, could have serious implications on the future of First Amendment rights. And I think we can all imagine how Steve Jobs would vote.
The Supreme Court Violent Video Game Case
The Supreme Court case revolves around a California law passed in 2005. The law makes it illegal for anyone to sell a video game deemed as "violent" to a minor. Breaking it would result in a fine of a thousand dollars per violation.
Thanks to legal challenges, the law has never actually gone into effect. And now, its fate rests in the hands of the high court justices.
We can only hope that the U.S. Supreme Court agrees with the federal courts that have struck down this law in the past. It isn't even limited to California; similar laws have been enacted in eight states overall, according to NPR, and have been deemed unconstitutional by federal judges in each instance. It's no small coincidence.
Let me be clear about one thing: I rarely play video games -- and I'm certainly not a minor -- but I have every reason to be concerned about this decision. And so do you.
Violent Video Game Ban: Questions and Concerns
Ultimately, the Supreme Court case comes down to the divisive question of how much the government should "protect" us from "offensive" materials.
Consider this: The video game industry has already established a ratings system similar to what we see with movies. If anything, it may be even more effective than its film-based cousin: A 2009 Federal Trade Commission report [PDF] found only 20 percent of minors were able to purchase "mature"-rated video games, compared to 28 percent that were able to buy tickets to R-rated movies. Does the government really need to intervene and get involved? Isn't this system -- not to mention that silly ol' thing called parental supervision -- sufficient enough?
Principles aside, the violent video game law poses plenty of practical challenges. According to the law's wording, a violent video game would be defined as one "in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being" in a manner that's "patently offensive," appeals to a person's "deviant or morbid interests," and lacks "serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value."
So who's going to make the call as to which video games are "patently offensive" and which aren't? Or, as Justice Antonin Scalia asked during the arguments, "What's a 'deviant' violent video game? As opposed to what -- a 'normal' violent video game?"
Like with Apple's arbitrary App Store approval system, we're looking at a purely subjective judgment. Unlike Apple's little world, however, this is the real government we're dealing with here -- and granting this type of power is a dangerous precedent to set.
"If you are supposing a category of violent materials dangerous to children, then how do you cut it off at video games? What about films? What about comic books?" asked U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Supporters of the California video game law counter that argument with the notion that this scenario is different; because players are actively involved, they say, the violent acts are more damaging to their minds than the graphic violence in movies and on TV. They've even dug up some studies that suggest playing violent video games "increases aggressive thought and behavior" and "engenders poor school performance" in minors. Those studies, of course, conveniently make the mistake of assuming causation from correlation -- just because some kids who play video games also have behavioral problems doesn't mean that the video games caused those problems -- but hey, it's far easier to jump to that conclusion than to search for a real explanation.
Violent Video Game Ban: Broader Implications
Here's the kicker: Even if you accept the "video games are different" argument, opening the door to government-controlled content regulation is asking for trouble. Do we want to make the First Amendment a medium-specific form of protection? If evil, mind-warping video games warrant special consideration, what other modern media will need supervision next? Surely our smartphone app markets should be regulated too, right? There's an awful lot of interactive material there that we need to be protected from -- just ask you-know-who. If this law is green-lighted, we'd better brace ourselves for an awful lot of asterisks under America's "free speech" header.
Finally, with government-enforced fines on selling violent video games, how long will it be until the gaming industry itself starts to change? Forbes.com blogger Paul Tassi raises an interesting point:
"If video games are equated with pornography and it becomes a crime to sell them to minors, 'family-friendly' retailers might change their store policies and someone like Wal-Mart might ban all these games from their shelves entirely. This would in turn cause developers to tone down the violence in their titles to make sure that every outlet will sell them."
All factors considered, the outcome of this case is extremely consequential. When real world policies start to resemble those of Steve Jobs' world, there is definite cause for concern.
Contributing Editor JR Raphael writes plenty of things the state of California would find patently offensive. You can find him on Facebook, on Twitter, or at eSarcasm, his highly uncensored geek-humor getaway.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Adium 1.4 Arrives With Twitter, IRC, More - PCWorld

Adium 1.4 Arrives With Twitter, IRC, More - PCWorld
After debuting as a beta over a year and a half ago, Adium 1.4 has now been officially released, adding support for two new services and a ton of other new features and fixes.
The new Adium adds support for something old and something new-IRC and Twitter, to be exact. You can add multiple Twitter accounts and enjoy many of the basic features of the social networking service. IRC is also well supported, with a number of new preferences to help bend Adium to your chat room whims.
The Adium development team says this release is "jam-packed with hundreds of other new features and bug fixes." Stand-outs from Adium's lengthy list of release notes include: the contact list can display contacts in multiple groups; instant searching now works in any window configuration (select the list and start typing a name; super handy); a revamp of the built-in message styles; faster launch time; the ability to specify a different style for group chats (including IRC); and much more.

Yes, Violent Video Games are Protected by the First Amendment - PCWorld

Yes, Violent Video Games are Protected by the First Amendment - PCWorld
Tomorrow the Entertainment Software Association will stand before the Supreme Court and argue on behalf of the video games industry that video games are protected by the same First Amendment rights as music, books, and movies. The law they'll be arguing against involves an attempt by California's legislature, signed into law by governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, to ban the sale of "violent video games" to minors.
Were the law to pass, stores found in violation of selling such games to minors would be subject to a $1,000 fine.
What's a "violent video game"? According to the California law, a game which depicts the "killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting [sic] of an image of a human being in a manner that a reasonable person would find appeals to a deviant or morbid interest of minors." If this first "prong" applies, it's then run through a second check that asks whether "the patently offensive, deviant level of violence causes the game as a whole to lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors."
The law, known as AB 1179 and passed by California's congress in 2005 has already failed the judicial litmus test twice. In 2005, a U.S. district judge blocked the law before it could go into effect, arguing that it unconstitutionally restricted minors' rights and--just as importantly--questioned links posited by the law's proponents between "exposure to violent video games" and "psychological or other harm to children."
And again in 2009, three judges on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court's ruling that the law was unconstitutional. The law, wrote Judge Conseulo Callahan, "violates rights protected by the First Amendment," citing California's inability to demonstrate "a compelling interest" and arguing that "less-restrictive means" exist "that would further [California's] expressed interests."

BBC News - Facebook uncovers user data sales

BBC News - Facebook uncovers user data sales
Facebook has taken action against developers it caught selling user names and contact lists.
The sales were uncovered as Facebook investigated a web browser bug that let user IDs be shared inadvertently.
The user details were sold to data brokers who used the information to target adverts more precisely.
The developers have been banned for six months from connecting to Facebook and must be audited to check they comply with the social network's policies.
Facebook started investigating what was happening with user identifiers (UIDs) following media reports that the information and lists of contacts were being sold on to advertising firms.
In a blog post, Facebook said its investigation showed that the technical demands of some browsers meant that some user IDs were being leaked.
It also discovered that some developers that create applications for the social network were taking the user IDs of those who used their creations and selling them on.
Facebook said the investigation "determined that no private user data was sold and confirmed that transfer of these UIDs did not give access to any private data".