June 30, 2009

Tech Torture with Topher: I want my smartphone back!!

Posted: 01:11 PM ET

Hey everyone!

So here we are in Day 2 of this week's Tech Torture with Topher. This week, I'm giving up my iPhone to see how hard it is to live without constant Web and e-mail connectivity. After one day, I have one thing to say:


OK, I feel better now.

Already this morning I had a real problem because I didn't have my smartphone.

When I got to work I went straight to my first scheduled meeting instead of going to my desk. I sat in the conference room, alone, for about 10 minutes until a very nice person walked in and told me the meeting location had been moved. They had sent an e-mail while I was on my way to work in my car. Without my iPhone, I had no way of getting it. Oops.

My first post on this topic Monday has already attracted a lot of great comments. I want to quickly touch on some audience questions.

Yes, believe it or not, part of my job involves the use of Facebook, Twitter and AIM. I know, tough work if you can get it.

I'm also getting a lot of people saying that they refuse to get a smartphone for their job and how freeing that is to them. My response: If you have a job where your boss doesn't make you have a smartphone so that you can be reachable at all times, I say, ROCK ON!! But I do not. I work in a 24/7 news industry, and my bosses need to communicate with me via e-mail all the time. Lucky me.

Keep the comments going and hop on over to Twitter if you want to join the conversation there.

Other post in this series:

Tech Torture with Topher: Bye-bye smartphone
Tech Torture with Topher: I want my smartphone back!!
Tech Torture with Topher: I want my Phone Back
Tech Torture with Topher: My Phone's Back and all's Right With the World

Filed under: Tech Torture with Topher

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Has the Pirate Bay given up piracy?

Posted: 10:02 AM ET

The Pirate Bay, a Swedish file-sharing Web site used by millions to exchange movies and music, is reportedly being sold to the Swedish company Global Gaming Factory X AB for nearly $8 million.

The Pirate Bay, a Swedish file-sharing Web site used by millions to exchange movies and music, is reportedly being sold to the Swedish company Global Gaming Factory.

A blog posted on Tuesday morning says rumors of the sale are true:

We've been working on this project for many years. It's time to invite more people into the project, in a way that is secure and safe for everybody... The profits from the sale will go into a foundation that is going to help with projects about freedom of speech, freedom of information and the openess of the nets.

The Pirate Bay and its founders have been under legal attack from copyright owners for years. While the Web site does not host copyrighted content, it does host millions of torrent files which enable peer-to-peer file-trading. Many of these torrent files point to copyrighted material.

In April four of the Website's co-founders were convicted of collaborating to violate copyright law and sentenced to one year in jail as well as ordered to pay $3.6 million in damages to several major media companies.

A press release from Global Gaming Factory suggests, following the sale, the Pirate Bay is done with piracy:

Following the completion of the acquisitions, GGF intends to launch new business models that allow compensation to the content providers and copyright owners. The responsibility for, and operation of the site will be taken over by GGF in connection with closing of the transaction, which is scheduled for August 2009.

There are hundreds of competing Websites that offer copyright infringing torrents, but it appears the Pirate Bay, which once claimed a spot on the Web's top 100, will no longer be among them. The site claims more than 3.5 million registered users.

The news made Pirate Bay one of the top trending topics on Twitter Tuesday morning, with many tweets mourning the sale. "The Pirate Bay walks the plank for new biz model," said one Twitterer.

Will the sale of the Pirate Bay mean an end to free copyrighted material for all? And can Global Gaming Factory monetize a site that is based on piracy?

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

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June 29, 2009

Tech Torture with Topher: Bye-bye smartphone

Posted: 02:55 PM ET

Welcome back everyone to a new Tech Torture with Topher.

First off, thanks to everyone who made the last TTWT such a hit. Because of you all, we get to do a new one this week. The torture topic? My smartphone.

Let me explain. Like many of you, I have a company-issued phone through which my bosses and co-workers often contact me. I have it with me all the time and believe I couldn't do my job without it.

But is that really true? We're about to find out. I'm giving up my CNN-issued iPhone for the week and will try to get by instead on an old phone with no Web, e-mail or even texting capability. How will this impact my day? Will I e-mail more or less? Will I spend more time at my desk?

What impact, if any, will it have on Twitter, Facebook and AIM - which I use not just for personal reasons but to keep in contact with other people who work in the same field?

I'm sure some of you will be wondering what the big deal is. You don’t have an iPhone or a BlackBerry and you get along just great in your day-to-day life. But in the past month I've heard from a lot of people who say they couldn't do their job without their smartphones. So it's not just me.

OK, here we go. I'll post daily updates throughout the week. In the meantime, hop over on to Twitter or leave a comment below. And check back in tomorrow to see how I'm doing.

Other post in this series:

Tech Torture with Topher: Bye-bye smartphone
Tech Torture with Topher: I want my smartphone back!!
Tech Torture with Topher: I want my Phone Back
Tech Torture with Topher: My Phone's Back and all's Right With the World

Editor’s note: Topher Kohan is the search engine optimization (SEO) coordinator for, a tech dork, a “Star Wars” aficionado 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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Billie Tweets, iPhone heats

Posted: 01:40 PM ET

As Steve Jobs returns to work at Apple, several other sci-tech developments also are making news today. Here's a brief looks at these start-of-the-week stories:

Climate: The U.S. House on Friday passed a climate bill that would cap emissions of heat-trapping gases. Time has a story about what the bill could mean for climate change. Scientists have been asking for action to curb global warming for some time, and The Guardian reports on a new study that says the New Orleans coast will be under water by 2100 because of rising temperatures.

Jackson: Michael Jackson continues to make tech headlines following his death on Thursday. News of the King of Pop's death was so popular it nearly took down some parts of the Internet, CNN reports. If you're not completely sick of MJ videos yet, check out the site Billie Tweets, which pairs Twitter posts about "Billy Jean" with the music video. (Thanks to TechCrunch for linking to the site). It's cool how technology leads to new means of expression.

iPhones: And finally, speaking once more of Apple, reports are surfacing that the new iPhone 3GS is suffering from overheating problems. PC World's Melissa J. Perenson says she was playing a game on her phone and surfing its Web browser Friday for news about Michael Jackson when she noticed the device getting hot:

toasty doesn't even describe how surprisingly hot it got. It was too hot to even put the phone against my face. No discoloration to report, though; I have the black handset, and didn't see any effects.'s Charlie Sorrel also discusses the issue in a blog post.

We'll monitor this to see whether these are isolated incidents or the start of a bigger problem for Apple. As always, we'd like to hear from you, too. Have any iPhone 3GS owners out there noticed your new phone getting unusually hot?

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Filed under: iPhone • Twitter

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June 25, 2009

Apple rejects soft-core porn iPhone app

Posted: 12:59 PM ET

False alarm: Apple is not - at least not yet - approving iPhone apps containing pictures of naked women.

The blogosphere lit up Thursday with reports that Hottest Girls had the distinguished privilege of being the first application approved for sale in the iTunes App Store that contains nudity. The Hottest Girls iPhone app is not new, but as of Thursday, it added photos of topless women to its gallery of "2200+ sexy bikini babes and lingerie models."

Of course, porn has long been accessible on the iPhone through its Internet browser, but this appeared to mark the first time Apple has sanctioned images of naked women for the popular device.

An image from the 'Hottest Girls' application for sale in the iTunes App Store.

An image from the 'Hottest Girls' application for sale in the iTunes App Store.

Some speculated the "change" in Apple's porn policy was a result of expanded parental controls in the new iPhone 3.0 OS software.  Age restrictions can now be set to prevent mature downloads from the App Store.

According to a Gizmodo article that seemed oddly excited by this news:

This is not just an application that downloads softcore content from the Web, bypassing Apple's censorship. There is no censorship here, as this is truly an Apple approved app "rated 17+" for "frequent/intense sexual content or nudity" and "frequent/intense mature/suggestive theme."

The editors at took the Hottest Girls app for a test drive and were underwhelmed. "The application itself is terrible," wrote Wired's tester, "but you can be sure that there will be more, and better, very soon."

Shortly afterwards, the Hottest Girls app, which claims to be the first officially sanctioned iTunes app to contain topless photos, disappeared from the iTunes store.

A website allegedly run by Hottest Girls app developers explained the disappearance:

The Hottest Girls app is temporarily sold out. The server usage is extremely high because of the popularity of this app. Thus, by not distributing the app, we can prevent our servers from crashing. Those who already have the app will still be able to use our app. To answer the question on everyone's mind: Yes, the topless images will still be there when it is sold again.

By Thursday afternoon, Apple's public relations team felt the need to weigh in. From Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr:

Apple will not distribute applications that contain inappropriate content, such as pornography. The developer of this application added inappropriate content directly from their server after the application had been approved and distributed, and after the developer had subsequently been asked to remove some offensive content. This was a direct violation of the terms of the iPhone Developer Program. The application is no longer available on the App Store.

Did Apple do the right thing? Is the fuss over this episode just silly? And, given how lucrative the pornography industry is, is it just a matter of time before nudie pics become available through the App Store?

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Filed under: Apple • Internet • iPhone • online video • technology

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June 24, 2009

Outlook 2010 not winning fans. . .on Twitter

Posted: 03:51 PM ET

Outlook 2010, the next generation of Microsoft's software for managing e-mail, appointments and other business functions, hasn't launched to the public yet. But that hasn't stopped a sudden chorus of complaints about Microsoft's decision to use Word to format HTML e-mails, which some designers say will fail to properly display them.

Not surprisingly, the engine behind this online protest is Twitter. "Outlook 2010" was a top trending topic on the micro-blogging site Wednesday, thanks to an organized campaign of protest tweets. Many of the tweets reference a site,, which appears to be simply a page containing the icons of Twitter users who have joined the campaign.

"It’s time to rally together and encourage Microsoft to embrace web standards before it’s too late," states the site, which claims more than 17,000 Twitter followers. "Let’s use Twitter to send a clear message to Microsoft." The site then steers visitors back to Twitter.

Is this "outrage" over Outlook 2010 real? Will it force Microsoft to change its plans? Or is this just another example of clever people using Twitter to advance a cause and manipulate public opinion?

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Filed under: Microsoft Corp. • Twitter

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My iPhone upgrade dilemma

Posted: 11:04 AM ET

I purchased my 1st-generation iPhone on eBay in 2008. For a hefty $250 price tag I received a bundle of electronics that was outdated and no longer protected by Apple's famous warranty, but it was all mine.

What should I do?

My iPhone came with no contractual obligations to AT&T, nor could Apple threaten to revoke its non-existent warranty if I chose to unlock or jailbreak the device. Despite what corporate lawyers attempting to stretch the authority of the The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (pdf) may argue, that phone and all its antiquated chips and transistors belonged to me.

It is now 2009 and Apple is once again tempting me with the release of the iPhone 3GS, but at $199 is it really a bargain?

New iPhones are locked into a service agreement with AT&T because of the subsidies AT&T provides for the sale of each phone. But even after these service contracts expire, essentially ending a rent-to-own agreement, iPhones remain locked to AT&T. It's as if you bought a TV that only works if you subscribe to Comcast.

There are programs to unlock the iPhone (software is not yet available to unlock the 3GS, but unlocked phones can be purchased on eBay), and unlocking a phone was granted a legal exemption from the DMCA, but Apple opposes these hacks (pdf) and counters them with each new version of iPhone software.

I enjoy my iPhone, but I do not approve of Apple's attempt to control the device after the point of sale. While I would like to trade in my 1st-generation 4GB iPhone for a shiny new 3GS, I am hesitant to sign a two-year contract that dictates how I will use my phone.

Should I trust that hackers such as those at will remain one step ahead of Apple's locking mechanisms and purchase an expensive contract-free iPhone 3Gs on eBay? Or should I overcome my moral objections and play by Apple's rules? Your thoughts?

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Filed under: Apple • DRM • iPhone

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June 23, 2009

Beyond Blu-Ray: 2,000 movies on one disc

Posted: 05:49 PM ET

Just as we were all getting used to watching movies on Blu-Ray, Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia has developed a DVD that holds 1.6 terabytes of data - or about 2,000 movies.  There is nothing like having your entire movie collection on one disc.

James Chon of the Swinburne University of Technology holds up the revolutionary new DVD.

All this is made possible by adding a fourth and fifth dimension to an optical disc.  By doing this, a range of different colored wavelengths can read the same physical location.  Current DVDs use a red laser, while Blu-Ray DVDs naturally use a blue laser.

Researchers at Swinburne University say that a commercial release is still five years away, even though an exclusive agreement has already been signed with Samsung.

But will the everyday consumer need such a huge optical storage medium? Just think about the potential price of just one disc, let alone the player.  The steeper price of Blu-Ray discs and players have hindered that technology from gaining a large share of the DVD market.

With hard drives exceeding 2TB and the future of movies heading towards digital downloads through services such as Netflix, the future of DVDs, especially Blu-Ray, may be in peril.  On the other hand, you always will have the people who want a physical disc with a case and artwork so they can proudly display them.

Does the thought of having a 1.6TB disc excite you with its possibilities? Or do you cringe when you think about yet another new format that might force you to go out and buy "The Terminator" again for the fourth time?

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Filed under: consumer tech

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June 22, 2009

HP announces printer-computer hybrid

Posted: 01:32 PM ET

HP announced what it calls a "new category" of home printers today.

The Photosmart Premium with TouchSmart Web basically is a fancy-named home printer with a 4.3-inch LCD touch-screen panel attached to the front of it. The printer can connect to the Internet, which HP says has never been done.

It seems like HP is trying to ride the iPhone social phenomenon, both with the design of its new machine and with the fact that the company has partnered with others to develop printer "apps" that help you print coupons or customized news reports. Among HP's first print app partners are USA Today, Google, Web Sudoku and Fandango.

HP says the printer will retail for about $399 and hit stores this fall.

But guess what? Smartphones, netbooks and latptops - even the Kindle e-reader - connect to the Internet, too. Why not make printing off of your phone easier?

This begs another question: Aren't we moving past the printed age? Obama is making health care paper-free. Environmentalists decry paper waste and printer ink pollution. You can scan coupons from a smartphone, airline boarding passes are going electronic and news is rapidly migrating onto the Internet. Why print?

Or, if you do want to print something, why not just print from your computer?

In an interview, HP senior vice president Stephen Nigro acknowledged that printing will eventually go away. In the near term, however, home printing is expected to grow, he said.

"We look at it as an evolution, but we don’t see printing going away for some time," added Nigro, who said the Web-enabled printer is targeted at tech-savvy consumers.

He touted the new printer as a "big deal," saying it brings "the printing experience into the Internet and Web-connected age."

What do you think: Is this really a big deal or just corporate hype? For 400 bucks, would you buy one?

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Filed under: Internet • technology

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iReporters review their new iPhones

Posted: 01:11 PM ET

The new iPhone 3GS was released Friday to much hype and anticipation. iReporters were among the first to get their hands on one, and they shared early reviews with the community just hours after purchasing the smartphone. Some of them even tried out iReporting with their iPhone for the first time.

Vincent Yau of Knoxville, Tennessee, called himself a “BlackBerry man” but was pretty impressed by the new iPhone – the first one he owned. Check out his video to the right.

Also giving his new iPhone a whirl on video was David Seaman of New York, who said he would rate it an eight out of 10 and called it an “iReporter’s dream come true”.

Jose Gout was one of the earliest to get the new iPhone on Friday morning, and posted the very first iReport using it that afternoon. He returned to see the lines dissipate that day, but swell up again on Saturday.

Melissa Fazli spoke to excited customers waiting in line for the new iPhone Friday at a mall in Brea, California. Several BlackBerry owners were there ready to make the switch. Later, Fazli also posted an iReport using her new iPhone for the first time.

Do you own the new iPhone? Tell us what you think about it as well on!

Cross-posted at's blog.

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Filed under: iPhone

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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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