SciTechBlog
September 25, 2009

Commentary: MMS finally comes to the iPhone

Posted: 11:57 AM ET

UPDATE: 2:09 p.m. Just updated the carrier profile for my phone via iTunes. I had to reboot, but MMS is now working and I have sent and received a few messages. Now that this is done - Bluetooth remote profile puhhhhleeeeese?

MMS (multi-media messaging) is finally going to be unlocked on the iPhone. ATT's Facebook Page says it should be out by "late morning" Pacific Time - translating to early afternoon for those of us in the Eastern Time zone.

If you can't wait till the update comes through, the iPhone blog has a nice walk through that might sate you for a few minutes.

But why do we care? (Besides the fact that it's a feature long available on practically every phone known to man.) You can e-mail pictures and videos from the iPhone already - and when you use email they usually get there. Plus, on cell phone networks, MMS can sometimes be a crapshoot.

The real reason this is a relief, IMHO (in my humble opinion), is the nasty way AT&T handles incoming MMS messages from friends.

Under the old MMS system, iPhone users received a text message, with a link, a message ID and a password. So not only did it require extra steps to see the message, it was as if the user interface was purposefully designed to keep you from seeing that cute picture of a bunny your friend just had to send you.

Of course, the new system comes with it own issues - mainly what the additional load of iPhone users sending and receiving MMS's will do to AT&T's seemingly already overtaxed network. PC World has a decent look at that issue (which I found via a tweet from @NPRALLTECH on Twitter).

So what are your thoughts? Is this a feature you were chomping at the bit for, something you don't think you'll ever use, or are you somewhere in between? (Personally I'm still waiting for the Bluetooth remote profile to work so I can change tracks via my Bluetooth headphone ...)

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Filed under: Apple • e-mail • iPhone • smartphones • technology


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September 24, 2009

French politicians want Photoshop warning

Posted: 11:10 AM ET

A new law that would require airbrushed images to contain a disclaimer is gaining popularity in the French Parliament, according to the Telegraph.

An advertisement Photoshop Disasters claims is overly manipulated.

An advertisement Photoshop Disasters claims is overly manipulated.

Politicians who support the law claim digitally enhanced images portraying unrealistic beauty are to blame for body and self esteem issues in adolescents.

Campaigning MP Valerie Boyer released a statement with the bill saying:

These photos can lead people to believe in a reality that does not actually exist, and have a detrimental effect on adolescents. Many young people, particularly girls, do not know the difference between the virtual and reality, and can develop complexes from a very young age.

Boyer is joined by 50 other French politicians who support the required text, which would read "Photograph retouched to modify the physical appearance of a person."

Violations could carry costly penalties. Boyer is asking for a fine of over $50,000 or up to half of the cost of the publicity campaign, whichever is greater, for advertisers that break the law.

The law has only been proposed in France, but magazines around the world are filled with 'Photoshopped' images of slim and sexy models.

Ars Technica asks:

Clearly, there's a line somewhere between reality and fantasy when it comes to images in the media, and the widespread practice of Photoshoppery has only helped to blur that line. Still, do airbrushed images really require an Surgeon-General-like warning?

Would a similar requirement on images in the U.S. help adolescents maintain a realistic body image? Or would the disclaimer serve only to irritate publishers and advertisers?

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Filed under: Internet • online news • Politics


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September 23, 2009

Video game switches consoles mid-story

Posted: 09:27 AM ET

It isn’t often a video game series will switch consoles - say, from an Xbox to a PlayStation - part of the way though a game's story. The move makes it hard to build a fan base. And it's irritating, especially if gamers don't own both systems.

But, whether intended or not, that's what has happened with the widely acclaimed game called "Dead Space."

The shoot-em-up game started on the PS3 and Xbox 360. But the story continues with a Star-Wars-style prequel that's only been released for Nintendo's Wii. Called "Dead Space Extraction," that Wii game may leave some "Dead Space" fans annoyed. If an Xbox fan, for example, wanted to keep following the game, he or she might have to buy a Wii, which retails for about $250.

Or find a friend who owns a Wii.

The cross-console narrative happened somewhat by accident.

While developing the “Dead Space” game for the PS3 and Xbox 360, executive producer Steve Papoutsis realized they weren’t doing anything for the Wii. He became tasked with creating a game that not only satisfied Wii fans, but took advantage of the unique controllers for the console.

Patoutsis said there was plenty of story left untold from the first release, but the challenge was making a game that maximized the Wii system.

Many of the weapons are the same from game to game, but the key difference is the perspective of the gameplay. “Dead Space” is played from a 3rd person angle so you can actually see your character. “Dead Space Extraction” is played from a first-person perspective – looking through your character’s eyes.

“It plays like a movie,” Papoutsis said. “I would call it an action horror game with more talking among the players.”

Papoutsis said they hope to open up the eyes of the Wii owners to show them what can be done. He said “Dead Space Extraction” plays best with friends, which the Wii console is intended to do.

He emphasized that they did not intend to exclude their fans of “Dead Space” with the new release, but they wanted to create a unique game for owners of the Wii.

The game, published by Electronic Arts and developed by Visceral Games, is due out on September 29.

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Filed under: Gaming


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September 21, 2009

Program predicts your sexuality based on your Facebook friends

Posted: 09:21 AM ET

Two Massachusetts Institute of Technology students have developed a program they claim can accurately predict sexual orientation based on a person's Facebook friends.

"Project Gaydar" scanned the profiles of more than 1,500 Facebook users who identified themselves as gay, straight, or bisexual. Analysis revealed gay men had a higher proportion of homosexual friends than straight men.

The discovery that gay men have gay friends isn't a surprise. But, using this information, the Gaydar program was applied to 947 men who chose not to identify sexual orientation in their profiles. While the students could not confirm the accuracy of all 947 predictions, they personally knew 10 of the men were homosexuals and the program identified each of these men as gay.

Facebook spokesman Simon Axten addressed the study to the Boston Globe:

In general, it’s not too surprising that someone might make inferences about someone else without knowing that person based on who the person’s friends are. This isn’t specific to Facebook and is entirely possible in the real world as well.

However, the study highlights the power of data-mining social networks. Statistical analysis that would be impossible in the "real world" can reveal more than we choose to disclose in our online profiles.

Do you worry about the loss of privacy online? Or are you happy to reveal a little personal info if that's what it takes to keep using Facebook?

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Filed under: Facebook • Internet


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September 18, 2009

Tech Torture, Day 5: Back online at last!

Posted: 04:14 PM ET

Editor’s note: This is the latest in CNN.com’s ongoing “Tech Torture With Topher” video-blog series, in which we “torture” CNN.com staffer Topher Kohan by depriving him of a technological convenience for a week to see how he copes with it. This week, Topher must avoid all Web-based technology when he’s outside of the office.

Hello all,

Well after the trials of Tuesday and Wednesday, last night was easy: I went out and met some friends to watch the Georgia Tech game, so I didn't miss the Internet as much.

I've been asked two questions about this experiment:
1) What was the hardest part? and 2) Was I able to go without Web access for 5 days?

As for number 2: Yeah, I did it, but it was only for a week. I'm not sure I would want to change my life that way for much longer.

The answer to the first question surprised me. I like to have a set routine in the morning, and part of that is spending half an hour on the computer before I leave home - checking my e-mail (work and personal) and then responding to messages from CNN's international units.

Not doing that this week really threw me off.

So that's it for this week. I want to thank you all for reading and taking the time to comment. Please drop me a comment about what you thought of this "Tech Torture" and what you'd like to see in a future TTWT.

Also, hop on over to Twitter (Topheratl) and let us know what you think.

Editor’s note: Topher Kohan is the search engine optimization (SEO) coordinator for CNN.com, a “Star Wars” aficionado, a tech dork and an all-around good guy. (No, really, he is — just ask him.)

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Filed under: Tech Torture with Topher


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September 17, 2009

Tech Torture with Topher, Day 4: This is hard

Posted: 06:25 PM ET

Editor’s note: This is the latest in CNN.com’s ongoing “Tech Torture With Topher” video-blog series, in which we “torture” CNN.com staffer Topher Kohan by depriving him of a technological convenience for a week to see how he copes with it. This week, Topher must avoid all Web-based technology when he’s outside of the office.

Welcome back all,

Just a quick update to go with the video: Last night was maybe the hardest I've had this week. I know I'm being a bit of a whiner, but I kept thinking of things I needed to get done - and all of them involved my computer. I think I felt extra motivated to go online because I knew I couldn't.

I love all the comments I am getting, even the ones just blasting me. I appreciate both sides, because we want TTWT to be a conversation. I want you all to keep telling me what you think about my experiment, and about your experience with giving up tech.

Ok hop on over to Twitter (Topheratl) and let us know what you think.
If you start to follow me on Twitter, please take the time to say hi and let me know you found me through this blog.

One more night of this unplugged misery left! We'll see how it goes.

Editor’s note: Topher Kohan is the search engine optimization (SEO) coordinator for CNN.com, a “Star Wars” aficionado, a tech dork and an all-around good guy. (No, really, he is — just ask him.)

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Filed under: Tech Torture with Topher


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September 16, 2009

Tech Torture With Topher, Day 3: Bored silly

Posted: 04:55 PM ET

Editor’s note: This is the latest in CNN.com’s ongoing “Tech Torture With Topher” video-blog series, in which we “torture” CNN.com staffer Topher Kohan by depriving him of a technological convenience for a week to see how he copes with it. This week, Topher must avoid all Web-based technology when he’s outside of the office.

Hey all and welcome back!

So Day Two is done and I am well into Day Three by the time you read this.

My big takeaway from this experiment so far: I love being connected, and even if I did not realize it before, I like to live my life online.

I was bored out of my mind last night and had no idea what to do with myself without my computer. Lucky for me, my wife and I went out with some friends for dinner - that got me out of the house, and I had actual human interaction.

But I'm finding the times right before bed and after I get up in the morning are the hardest. I want to check in and see what’s up, read Facebook, check my work and personal e-mail. I am not doing that, so I feel a little lost.

I'm also doing the Weight Watchers thing, and so I use the online version of the tools. Because I cannot get on the Web after I leave work, I have to change the way I track things. I know this does not sound like a big deal, but it really throws me off.

So clearly I am having issues with this. Question of the day: Can cutting down on my time online make me a better person?

Let me know in the comments below, and as always jump over to Twitter (Topheratl) and join the conversation there.

Editor’s note: Topher Kohan is the search engine optimization (SEO) coordinator for CNN.com, a “Star Wars” aficionado, a tech dork and an all-around good guy. (No, really, he is — just ask him.)

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Filed under: Tech Torture with Topher


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Does the U.S. need tougher copyright laws?

Posted: 11:22 AM ET

A new report by the World Economic Forum (pdf) ranks United States intellectual property (IP) protections 19th in a worldwide survey. The rank was not based on a comparison of IP laws, but determined by a survey of global business leaders on how well they felt intellectual property was protected in their country.

The US Chamber of Commerce responds to the U.S.'s 19th-place finish by calling for greater IP protection and stricter copyright laws.

For a country whose economy is driven by innovation and creativity, where nearly half of the exports are from IP-based industries, and over $5 trillion of our GDP is based on IP, America should be setting the gold standard for IP rights and protections.

Ars Technica argues tougher IP laws are "largely a giveaway to huge businesses and rich artists," and claims most artists see less than 1 percent of the financial benefits of copyright extensions.

Artists and producers undoubtedly deserve compensation for their work. But is more "protection," which restricts fair use, encourages DRM and decreases public domain, always a good thing?

Nate Anderson of Ars Technica doesn't think so:

Reports like this come out, trade groups argue that their countries all need to do a better job of "catching up" to the first-place finisher, laws are passed, IP systems are tightened up, and a new number one country emerges. Everyone else then tries to reach this "new level."

It's a one-way system of ever-increasing control coupled with moral opprobrium for not agreeing that the only direction IP protection must go is up.

Do you feel more laws are needed to protect intellectual property in America? Or will further restrictions only stifle innovation and prevent a free flow of information?

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Filed under: DRM • Internet • online news • piracy


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September 15, 2009

Tech Torture with Topher: Day Two

Posted: 06:43 PM ET

Editor’s note: This is the latest in CNN.com’s ongoing “Tech Torture With Topher” video-blog series, in which we “torture” CNN.com staffer Topher Kohan by depriving him of a technological convenience for a week to see how he copes with it. This week, Topher must avoid all Web-based technology when he's outside of the office.

Hello everyone.

Day One is in the bag, and it went pretty well - except for the part Monday night where I had to briefly break the TTWT rules.

Until last night, I didn't realize how many times at home I just get up and go to the computer for no reason. I'd just sit in front of my computer and mindlessly surf the Web or log on to WoW and play - not because I really wanted to, but because it was there.

Several times last night I started for the computer, then caught myself and sat back down on the couch. I felt a little antsy - I didn't know quite what to do.

So instead I watched some TV and then read a book before I went to bed. Yeah, I was in bed and asleep a lot earlier than usual - not a bad thing, really. I could always use more sleep. Can't we all.

I confess: I did have to break the rules for half an hour last night because of the death of Patrick Swayze, which was big news on the Web. Because I'm the search-engine optimization guy for CNN.com, I sometimes have to do my job at all hours. Once I was done, though, I logged right off.

So far I'm noticing myself getting to work earlier and staying later to get stuff done I would have taken care of at home. But it's all good.

So what do you all think? Is this way too easy? Do you ever disconnect from the Web once in a while?

Let me know in the comments below or check out the conversation on Twitter (Topheratl). Thanks for reading!

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Filed under: Tech Torture with Topher


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September 14, 2009

Tech Torture with Topher: Topher unplugs

Posted: 04:43 PM ET

Editor’s note: This is the latest in CNN.com’s ongoing “Tech Torture With Topher” video-blog series, in which we “torture” CNN.com staffer Topher Kohan by depriving him of a technological convenience for a week to see how he copes with it.

Welcome back everyone! It's time for a new Tech Torture with Topher, and this week's torture is gonna be a tough one.

From now until Friday night, I'm trying to give up all Web-based technology when I'm out of the office. That's right: No home computer, no iPhone Web surfing, no World of Warcraft, no Twitter updates, no tinkering with my fantasy football teams.

Gulp.

In the digital age we're all used to staying connected in our off hours, whether it's answering e-mail, working on freelance projects or just goofing off on our computers or smartphones. So once I leave CNN here in Atlanta I won't use my iPhone for anything but making and receiving phone calls. And I'll leave my home computer turned off.

Two exceptions: Since I can't do my job without the Internet and I don't want to get fired, I'll be allowed to be online here at the office. And if there's a work-related emergency when I'm at home, I may have to get on the Web for a few minutes.

So, let me know what you think. Does this sound easy or hard? What will this teach me? How should I spend my newfound free time?

Drop me a comment below and lets start a conversation. And as always, jump on over to Twitter (Topheratl) and join the dialogue there. (If it's nighttime on the East Coast, though, just don't expect me to tweet back.)

Editor’s note: Topher Kohan is the search engine optimization (SEO) coordinator for CNN.com, a “Star Wars” aficionado, a tech dork and an all-around good guy. (No, really, he is — just ask him.)

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Filed under: Tech Torture with Topher


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About this blog

Are you a gadgethead? Do you spend hours a day online? Or are you just curious about how technology impacts your life? In this digital age, it's increasingly important to be fluent, or at least familiar, with the big tech trends. From gadgets to Google, smartphones to social media, this blog will help keep you informed.

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