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Microsoft to Buy Skype for $8.5 Billion
Adam C. Engst TidBits 2011/05/10

Microsoft is (*yawn*) buying Skype for $8.5 Billion. "The acquisition makes sense from many perspectives, since Skype had never figured out a sustainable business model, and Skype's primary asset - its best-of-class technology for voice and video calls - fits well into the technology portfolio of a large company that can utilize it in numerous products and services." More from Skype Blog. Today: Total:24 [Comment] [Direct Link]

A Pair of Cartoons Reveals DRM Frustrations
Glenn Fleishman TidBITS

Two cartoons explaining the problem with DRM are making the rounds; this page links to both. Glenn Fleishman explains, "In both cases, the examples aren't, 'Hey, go steal stuff and rip off the copyright holder who is entitled to exploit his or her creation!' Rather, the humor lies in how hard companies make it to access stuff we have permission to. Media firms seem to delete in making it hard, all of which contributes to 'piracy' as a form of civil disobedience." Today: Total:58 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Why Email Remains the King of Internet Communications
Adam C. Engst TiDBITS

We've all thought about replacing email. Some of us (well, me) have actually drawn up plans and even laid out some code. But email is hard to replace, for some very good reasons, as Adam C. Engst argues. It's based on open standards. It serves the lowest common denominator. And the new systems don't solve the main problem inherent in the old one: spam. Today: Total:24 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Double Plus Ungoods: Amazon Unpublishes Orwell
Glenn Fleishman TiDBITS

It's hard to overstate the irony in this case. Arguing that it had accidentally sold stolen books, Amazon reached somehow into their customers' Kindles and deleted, "in a stunning bit of poetic reality," copies of "Nineteen Eighty-Four" and "Animal Farm". Reaction across the internet was immediate, sharp and critical, and Amazon has sworn never to delete customers' materials again. As if (and the main point, that it can, is not resolved). Kindle World has kind, if somewhat bemused, coverage of the furor, includijng reports of students' lost notes on the book, the justification for the move, and more.

The appropriately named Kafka notes that though "all sales are final" you have purchased only a "license" to the work, and not the copy of the work itself. Make magazine explains how to recover your deleted copy of an Orwell work (step one: go to Australia...). The New York Times covers the story very kindly, noting only that "Amazon effectively acknowledged that the deletions were a bad idea." Doug Johnson says "I see it more like turning on your television and finding some of your cable channels gone." Maybe, but Kindle books are not marketed as though they were here-today gone-tomorrow channels. Tim Stahmer says "Producers of video content would love to exercise this kind of control of your television and DVR through government-mandated schemes like the broadcast flag." They would also like this degree of ownership over your computer as well, and already have it over your mobile phone (as Apple has demonstrated, deleting app after app).

Amazon's Kindle was always a fiasco, bad for literature and bad for learning, and now it can only be called a total fiasco. We'll see whether incessant marketing can continue to promote the idea that people should pay for work they could easily obtain for free (an idea that has a lot of traction in academia) but socially and technically the Kindle has reached a dead end, its true intent revealed before its time. Today: Total:20 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Eye-Fi Card Adds RAW Uploads, Computer Transfers
Glenn Fleishman TiDBITS

This is really neat. It's a flash memory card, just like the ones you put in digital cameras or are in USB drives. But it has built-in WiFi. That's right. The card (and not the device it's in) will connect with your computer and (after authentication) upload data. Today: Total:41 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Wi-Fi 802.11b Standard Expires
Glenn Fleishmann TiDBITS

Update: apparently this is an April Fools that exploded 13 days later. *sigh*

Glenn Fleishmann says, "if you read the fine print of the license agreement on the box, you'll see that you agreed to this policy when you purchased the equipment," but I will bet not one person who purchased expected - or wanted - their wireless internet hardware to suddenly stop working. 802.11g wireless hardware will expire in 2011. The apologist Fleishmann can't justify this built in obsolescence, though he does try. Today: Total:36 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Amazon Releases Kindle Software for iPhone
Glenn Fleishman TiDBITS

The reason this is significant is Amazon's ebook store is now no longer restricted to the Kindle. But the vendor's selection of Apple's iPhone is not an accident - it wants to distribute ebooks only onto platforms where the hardware is controlled by the vendor. This allows them to remotely delete any applications from your hardware that they suspect might be tampering with - or competing with - the Kindle ebook format. And they can keep that annoying free content out of the marketplace. Today: Total:22 [Comment] [Direct Link]

International Verify Your Backups Day
Adam C. Engst TidBITS

I am completely in support of this: "I humbly submit that Friday the 13th, whenever it rolls around, should be considered International Verify Your Backups Day." This applies not only to the contnt you have on your hard drive, but also the content you have posted to mailing lists or discussion boards (former trdev users take note) and on various websites, such as Flickr, Blogger and Facebook. Today: Total:48 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Configure Mail to Prevent iCal Spam
Jeff Carlson TidBits

If you use Google Calendar, you will want to fix this to prevent spam from being sent into your account. Today: Total:60 [Comment] [Direct Link]

TidBITS Policy on Challenge-Response
Adam C. Engst TidBITS

If you're thinking of using a challenge-response (C-R) system to CRLFblock spam, think again. The idea of C-R is that if an email CRLFcomes from an unrecognized source, the email is blocked until CRLFthe sender, in response to an email (the 'challenge') goes to a CRLFwebsite and answers a question only humans can answer (the CRLF'response'). This article identifies a number of C-R pitfalls. It CRLFleaves out the worst one, though: some C-R systems collect the CRLFsenders' email addresses that pass the challenge, and send CRLFthem spam. Anyhow. OLDaily Policy on CRLFChallenge-Response: OLDaily has already been hit by some CRLFC-R systems. I have sent the response, and gotten spam for my CRLFtroubles. And like the authors of this article, I have too many CRLFsubscribers to do this manually. And so, like most newsletter CRLFdistributors, I will simply delete C-R requests. Yes, spam is a CRLFpain. But breaking my nice subscription system isn't the way to CRLFfix it. Today: Total:14 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Evaluating PayBITS
Adam C. Engst TidBits

Interesting article describing how users paid for articles voluntarily using a system called 'PayBits' at the 'TidBits' e-zine for Mac enthusiasts. Though there are too few examples to identify any real trends, it is worth noting that the PayPal overhead made per-article transactions problematic as the company charged about 30 percent for a one dollar donation. The author makes the point that practicality does not guarantee that an article will be supported, an observation that makes me happy. Worth a read; skip by the links after the first paragraph (they are simply to previous articles on the subject - why wouldn't the author title them?) and follow through the awkwardly designed page to read the stories of each individual article. Thanks to Scott for the story suggestion. Today: Total:18 [Comment] [Direct Link]

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