SciTechBlog
May 10, 2010

Playboy to launch 'safe for work' site

Posted: 01:08 PM ET

You just read it for the articles, huh? Well, now's your chance to prove it.

Playboy has announced plans to roll out a work-friendly website, targeting office workers who browse the internet from their desks but don't want to get caught reading the iconic men's magazine.

"Playboy’s TheSmokingJacket.com is the safe-for-work website that brings you everything you love about men's entertainment and the internet, minus the stuff that'll get you into hot water at the office," Playboy spokeswoman Theresa Hennessey said in a written statement.

The site is up but not active and will be launched "in the coming months," Hennessey said.

The announcement comes as Playboy seeks to reposition itself in an adult-entertainment landscape drastically altered by the internet. In short, if you're looking for pictures of naked women, there are plenty of other sites to find that (and more) for free.

Playboy Enterprises reported a net loss of $1 million in the first quarter of this year - actually better than what was predicted. The company reported a loss of $13.7 million during the same quarter last year.

"We believe that 2010 will be a transitional year and that the true benefits of our strategy will be more fully evident next year," Playboy CEO Scott Flanders said in a statement last month.

Presumably, The Smoking Jacket - a nod to founder Hugh Hefner's preferred brand of leisure wear - would be part of that transition.

After its monthly photo spreads of playmates, Playboy magazine is also known for celebrity interviews, short fiction by big-name authors, rankings of the nation's top party schools and other content.

But as tech blog Switched notes, "... if The Smoking Jacket will not feature buxom beauties au naturel, what exactly will drive traffic to the site?"

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Filed under: Internet • online news • pop culture


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March 24, 2010

Digg adds iPhone app, Android on the way

Posted: 04:12 PM ET

Fresh off an announcment that they'll be revamping their popular news-sharing site, Digg on Wednesday went live with a new iPhone app.

The free app is designed to give users a look at the most popular stories on the Web, as chosen by Digg's millions of monthly users.

It lets users browse lists of recent content, rate stories, search for specific topics and save stories to read later.

The app was available Wednesday afternoon in Apple's European store and was expected any time in the U.S., according to a Digg spokeswoman.

Digg will be releasing a similar app for the  Android platform soon and plans updates to the iPhone version based on user feedback, said the spokeswoman.

At the South by Southwest Interactive festival earlier this month, Digg CEO Jay Adelson announced an invitation-only beta of a new version of the site which creators say will be faster, more personalized and allow anyone, not just Digg users, to suggest stories to the site.

Founded in 2004, Digg and similar sites like Reddit [which already has an iPhone app] and Mixx have taken a hit as more people use sites like Facebook and Twitter to share links. But Adelson said Digg still has about 40 million monthly users.

What do you think? Is Digg an app worth picking up?

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Filed under: Digg • iPhone • online news • smartphones


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March 22, 2010

Students to face cyberbullying charges

Posted: 10:24 AM ET

A California appeals court has ruled that several Los Angeles high school students who made derogatory and threatening comments on a fellow student's Web site can be charged with hate crimes and defamation.

According to court documents (pdf), a 15-year-old Harvard-Westlake High School Student created a Web site in 2005 to promote his singing and acting career. When fellow students discovered the site, they were reportedly "offended and put off by its ‘I am better than you’ attitude and its blatant bragging and self promotion."

Several of the students began posting threatening remarks such as “Faggot, I’m going to kill you,” and "If I ever see you I‘m . . . going to pound your head in with an ice pick."

In response to the comments, the site was taken down and the victim's father contacted the police. However, a police investigation determined that the remarks did not warrant criminal prosecution. The father then sued six of the posters and their parents, accusing them of hate crimes and defamation.

The appellate court determined that the cyberbullying was not free speech and the students were not protected by First Amendment rights.

Mike Masnick of Techdirt disagrees with the suit:

Now, there's no doubt at all that the comments were over the line and incredibly mean. However, it looks like there was a perfectly reasonable process outside of the courts to handle this. Apparently, the father of one kid who made some of the worst comments made his son apologize, grounded him and took away his internet access.

According to Wired, an attorney for the defendants has said he will appeal the decision to California's supreme court.

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Filed under: online news


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January 13, 2010

Conan vs. NBC online: I'm with Coco

Posted: 12:33 PM ET
Artwork by Mike Mitchell

Artwork by Mike Mitchell

Conan O'Brien issued a statement Tuesday criticizing NBC's decision to move his show back to 12:05 a.m. ET. The move, which will free up the 11:35 time slot for a half hour of Jay Leno, is seen as a slap in the face to O'Brien who took the reins of "The Tonight Show" just seven months ago, and his fans are responding online.

Earlier this week, O'Brien joked he may be performing "the show live every night from Zanies Comedy Club" where the audience would receive 1/2 price drinks if "you tell 'em "Coco" sent ya!" The sketch became a hit and spawned the Internet meme "I'm with Coco."

Pro-Conan artwork by Mike Mitchell is appearing on personal blogs and social news aggregators like Digg. #teamconan is topping Twitter's trending topics. Woot.com has incorporated Conan's image into its ads. And the Reddit alien has been given Conan's signature gravity-defying haircut.

O'Brien can probably thank his younger audience and their proficiency with social media for his vocal online support, but Jay Leno reached a larger audience when he hosted "The Tonight Show."

Where do your loyalties lie?

Are you a die-hard Leno fan, or does NBC's decision to move "The Tonight Show" have you shouting "I'm with Coco!"

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Filed under: Digg • Internet • online news • pop culture


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January 12, 2010

Wi-Fi 'allergies' leave man homeless

Posted: 11:31 AM ET

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports a man claiming to suffer from electromagnetic sensitivity is suing his neighbor for refusing to disconnect her electronic devices.

Santa Fe, New Mexico resident Arthur Firstenberg claims that his neighbor Raphaela Monribot's use of electronic devices such as cell phones, computers, compact fluorescent lights and dimmer rheostats is aggravating his "electromagnetic sensitivity" and causing him to get sick.

"Within a day of [Monribot] moving in, I began to feel sick when I was in my house," Firstenberg writes in his affidavit. "The electric meter for my house is mounted on [Monribot's] house. Electromagnetic fields emitted in [Monribot's] house are transmitted by wire directly into my house."

A request for preliminary injunction claims Fristenberg's condition has left him homeless. Fristenberg "cannot stay in a hotel, because hotels and motels all employ wi-fi connections, which trigger a severe illness. If [Firstenberg] cannot obtain preliminary relief, he will be forced to continue to sleep in his car, enduring winter cold and discomfort, until this case can be heard."

The Santa Fe New Mexican notes "Firstenberg's motion is accompanied by dozens of notes from doctors, some dating back more than a decade, about his sensitivities."

However, scientific studies such as this 2005 trial at the Psychiatric University Hospital in Germany suggest electromagnetic sensitivity is strictly a psychosomatic disorder.

The major study endpoint was the ability of the subjects to differentiate between real magnetic stimulation and a sham condition. There were no significant differences between groups in the thresholds, neither of detecting the real magnetic stimulus nor in motor response.

We found no objective correlate of the self perception of being "electrosensitive." Overall, our experiment does not support the hypothesis that subjectively electrosensitive patients suffer from a physiological hypersensitivity to EMFs or stimuli.

Do you acknowledge Fristenberg, and others claiming electronic sensitivity, may be suffering real physiological effects and should be allowed to live free from electronic devices? Or should treatment be strictly psychological?

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Filed under: cell phones • computers • Medicine • mobile phones • online news • science


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December 23, 2009

Court bars Microsoft from selling Office 2007

Posted: 10:23 AM ET

A federal appeals court has ordered Microsoft to strip custom XML support from Word 2007 by January 11, effectively banning the sale of Microsoft Word and Office (which includes the Word software) in their current form.

Microsoft may be forced to stop selling Word 2007.

Microsoft may be forced to stop selling Word 2007.

The injunction stems from a patent infringement lawsuit filed by the small Canadian firm i4i in 2007. The suit claims i4i owns the custom XML editing technology that is included in Microsoft Word.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas agreed, slapping Microsoft with a $290 million fine and ordering it to remove custom XML capabilities or stop selling the infringing software.

Microsoft appealed, but the lower court's ruling was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals. And now the software giant has precious little time to re-release Word and Office 2007 before being barred from selling the profitable office software.

In a statement issued yesterday, Microsoft's Director of Public Affairs Kevin Kutz expressed confidence in the company's ability to meet the injunction date.

With respect to Microsoft Word 2007 and Microsoft Office 2007, we have been preparing for this possibility since the District Court issued its injunction in August 2009 and have put the wheels in motion to remove this little-used feature from these products. Therefore, we expect to have copies of Microsoft Word 2007 and Office 2007, with this feature removed, available for U.S. sale and distribution by the injunction date. In addition, the beta versions of Microsoft Word 2010 and Microsoft Office 2010, which are available now for downloading, do not contain the technology covered by the injunction.

While speaking with Stuart J. Johnston at Datamation Microsoft analyst Rob Enderle admits the ruling "shows the increasing hostility of this market," before adding, "For Microsoft, I think it's going to be an increasingly expensive way to do business, with a lot more patent vetting."

Regardless of whether new versions of Office 2007 will appear in time to meet demand, this significant legal decision will only further the cutthroat approach technology companies apply to protect their patents.

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Filed under: Microsoft Corp. • Microsoft Office • online news


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December 21, 2009

Young kids searching Web for 'porn'

Posted: 11:44 AM ET

Yikes. According to Symantec, the fourth most popular search term for children 7 and under is "porn" - just ahead of kids' networking site Club Penguin.

Symantec's top searches for 2009 arranged by age group

Symantec's top searches for 2009 arranged by age group

Symantec recently released the anonymous results of 14.7 million searches run by users of its OnlineFamily.Norton service in 2009. The service allows parents to monitor web activities and supposedly blocks questionable sites, so let's hope the toddlers searching for "porn" were unsuccessful.

It's understandable that "sex" is one of the top searches for teens, but I was surprised to see that children as young as 7 were familiar with "porn." While services like OnlineFamily.Norton may filter most inappropriate content, they are not perfect - and are no substitute for parental supervision.

Other search terms popular with children included social-networking sites, celebrities and online games.

Interestingly, "Google" was also a top search term, which leads me to believe a lot of kids don't really understand how search engines work.

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Filed under: browsers • Google • Internet • online news


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December 16, 2009

Justin.tv defends live streaming video

Posted: 10:19 AM ET

The CEO of the popular live video site Justin.tv has been invited to testify before the House Judiciary Committee today on the topic of live sports online.

A user streams ESPNHD live on Justin.tv

A user streams ESPNHD live on Justin.tv

Justin.tv claims it is "the leader in live video and the place to broadcast and share video online." The problem, as Congress sees it, is that too many of those users choose to share copyrighted content.

I'll admit that I am a chief offender. I have tuned to Justin.tv several times in the past to watch college football games that I could not get on Comcast. The video quality is poor and I have to watch the game on my computer screen, but it beats waiting for the ESPN highlights.

Twice during a recent Tennessee game the broadcast copyright owner filed a DMCA takedown notice and the stream I was watching was removed. However, copyright owners cannot police an entire social network. The Tennessee feed I was watching had been removed, but I had dozens of other user-generated streams of the game to watch.

Janko Roettgers of newteevee.com calls live streaming "the latest battleground between sports fans that don’t want to pay subscription fees and broadcasters trying to protect their content online."

Justin.tv's online blog highlights partnerships the site has made with many copyright owners, and CEO Michael Seibel will likely insist that the company is involved in fighting piracy during today's hearing. But Mike Masnick at TechDirt doesn't see the problem.

The ability to "live stream" is something that's almost entirely brand new, and it really does change the way people can interact. But, live streaming will almost always create some sort of "copyright infringement" or "piracy," which suggests the real problem isn't with live streaming, but with copyright laws.

Whatever your opinion, today's hearing will provide an interesting look at the fight between producers who want strict control over their content and social networks that encourage sharing.

Watch the hearing on C-Span.

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Filed under: DRM • file sharing • Internet • online news • piracy


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November 30, 2009

Mac-cloner Psystar loses Apple lawsuit

Posted: 12:02 PM ET

Apple has won its copyright-infringement claim against the Mac cloning company Psystar.

Psystar sold PCs that ran Apple's OS X software. The computers functioned essentially the same as standard Macs, but were sold for less than Apple-built machines. Psystar argued that since the OS X software was legally purchased, the right of first sale allowed them to resell the operating system on custom-built computers.

However, the courts sided with Apple (pdf), and agreed that "customers were contractually precluded from utilizing Mac OS X on any computer hardware system that was not an Apple computer system." In addition, Psystar circumvented "lock-and-key technological measures to prevent Mac OS X from operating on non-Apple computers," which violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Groklaw provides analysis of the court order and concludes:

That means damages ahead for Psystar on the copyright issues just decided on summary judgment, at a minimum. The court asked for briefs on that subject. In short, Psystar is toast.

The court's message is clear: EULAs mean what they say; if you don't want to abide by its license, leave Apple's stuff alone.

Psystar, which is also fighting a second infringement case in Florida, will likely appeal the decision, but for now it looks like you Snow Leopard fans will be forced to stick with Apple-approved computers. Or build your own Hackintosh.

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Filed under: Apple • computers • online news • piracy


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November 9, 2009

News Corp. sites may disappear from Google

Posted: 01:19 PM ET

In a recent Sky News interview, News Corporation chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch announced that News Corp websites such as The Wall Street Journal may be removed from search engines.

News Corporation chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch

News Corporation chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch

Websites typically rely on search engines to index their content so users can find them. Search engine optimization (SEO), or the process of increasing a site's presence on search engines, is big business. But Murdoch would prefer News Corp sites weren't indexed at all.

In the interview, Murdoch criticized Google and other news aggregates for taking content without permission. When asked about the value of traffic generated from search engines, Murdoch claimed readers who use search engines to find articles have little value to advertisers.

Murdoch continued by attacking the ad-based model that much of the Internet is built upon, "There are no Web sites anywhere in the world that are making serious money ... there's not enough advertising in the world to go around to make all the Web sites profitable."

While not every site can rely on advertising, Google may disagree with the suggestion that ads can't generate serious money.

Murdoch's plan is to charge a subscription fee to readers of News Corp.'s Internet content, similar to a subscription for a newspaper. He admits this business model will decrease traffic, but believes a pay wall is necessary to protect content from news aggregators: "We'd rather have fewer people come to our website and pay."

I can't see the future, but Murdoch's plan for News Corp. sites sounds like a big bag of fail to me. The subscription-based business model is not worth reviving. Internet content, especially news, should remain free for everyone.

Watch the full interview below.

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Filed under: computer security • DRM • Internet • online news


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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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