The general population is doing a much better job of keeping track of what personal information shows up online, but there's still a lot of room for improvement. Almost half (47 percent) of all Internet users have performed a self-Googling—more than double the number fromfive years ago—according to a new report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. However, few of those people check with any regularity, and over half of Internet users still have not checked up on themselves even once.
Pew asked 1,623 Internet users about their views, education, and how they manage information about themselves online. It found, to no surprise, that younger users and those with more education are the most likely to search for themselves on the Internet. Those under 50 and with a college degree are significantly more likely to self-search than their older and less-educated counterparts, as are those with higher household incomes and those who have broadband at home. Men and women are equally likely to perform self-searches.
But only 3 percent of those who have given in to curiosity told Pew that they did so on a regular basis—74 percent said that they had only done it once or twice. The remaining 22 percent said that they did it "every once in a while," although that categorycan bevague. If asked, I would say that I do it "every once in a while" too, but compared to the general population, I probably do it regularly. What can I say? I'm vain.
Or am I just smart? Pew suggests that people ought to partake in a little 'Net vanity more often in order to ensure that whatever shows up about them is accurate and acceptable for public consumption. Luckily, 87 percent of self-searchers reported having found accurate information on themselves, up from 74 percent in 2002 (butonly 62 percent said that the information they found was what they expected). 11 percent said that the information they found was not accurate, and four percent said that they have had "bad experiences" due to inaccurate or embarrassing information being available.
What could those bad experiences be? Well, it's no secret that employers are increasingly searching for job candidates online before making important hiring decisions, and many openly admit that what they find online can affect their decisions. Particular fields, such as teaching, can be more affected than others,and Internet users are still learning about exactly how much of their personal lives is too much to make public.
It's not just employers who might find last weekend's party photos that involved you puking out the window of a cab (*cough*)—your grandparents or that hot date you (almost) had are at risk of finding them, too. In fact, more Internet users (53 percent) admitted to Pew that they Google other peoplethan those admitted theysearch for themselves.
Pew recommends that users become more familiar with the privacy controls on social networking (and other) sites that allow them to put in personal info or upload photos. Thiscan help control the flow of personal information to the general public while still allowing Internet users to take part in recent Web 2.0 trends if they want to do so. Surprisingly, teens are the most likely to keep their information private with the available tools, despite also being the most likely to use such sites to share information with friends. It looks likeus "adults" have a thing or two to learn after all.
All good things must come to an end, and Child's Play is definitely a good thing. This is going to be the last prize post before we conduct the drawing, and I have to say that our first attempt and raising money for Child's Play has already been a huge success. We've gone past our $5,000 goal rather handily, and if you head over to the Child's Play site and scroll down, you'll see that Ars Technica is now listed as a gold sponsor on the site. Very good stuff guys! The amount of the donations and the nice things everyone has been saying in the e-mails has put a grin on my face every day since we began this.
For this final prize pack, we decided to dig into our own personal gaming collections to give you something special. The first thing we're going to put in there is a shiny, fresh FC Twin system. This allows you to play both NES and SNES games without all the fuss and blowing and cleaning of the classic systems. Of course, the system is going to need some food.
So how about we throw in the following games, in case, with instructions?
Final Fantasy IIIIllusion of Gaia
That's not a bad addition to any collection, but things heat up when we look at what games we'll be giving away cart-only. Unfortunately I don't have the boxes for these, but for sheer classic RPG gaming, this is a collection that is simply amazing.
Chrono TriggerBreath of FireOgre Battle
You could lock yourself in your apartment for all of next year with these games and be happy. Just in case you need something you can carry with you though, I'll throw in a box of two slimes. These were give-aways at E3 two years ago, and after finding them in a box I knew that I could find them a good home in this collection.
I hope you're as excited about this collection as I am. This is a great system for classic games, with five of the best SNES RPGs ever released. If this doesn't get you excited about donating, I'm not sure what will. These games have been in my collection for years, but I thought it was time to share them with someone who will give them a lot of love and play time. With so many generous donations already, that shouldn't be hard. My only fear is that I'm not sure how I can top this for next year.
Remember, to be entered in the drawing, simply donate to Child's Play, and send the receipt to [email protected], with any information you don't want shared blotted out. Every $5 you donate gets you entry, and you get to pick your prize in the order of your drawing. Check out our other prize packages, there are many great things you can win.
The RIAA has settled a case against a grandmother in Texas who was accused of sharing music over the KaZaA network. Both the RIAA and Rhonda Crain, the defendant, agreed to a stipulation of judgment against Crain, but the record labels involved in the suit will not get any damages for any infringement that occurred.
Crain, a grandmother who was displaced by 2005's Hurricane Rita, was sued for copyright infringement in September 2006 after the RIAA's investigators flagged user "[email protected]" for sharing 572 tracks on the P2P network, including tracks by 50 Cent and Usher. After Crain denied engaging in file-sharing and rejected the RIAA's $4,500 prelitigation settlement offer, the RIAA filed suit.
Represented by Lone Star Legal Aid, Crain denied engaging in file-sharing and, in a counterclaim,said that the labels had no evidence that she had infringed on their copyrights other than her ISP's linking of the IP address flagged by SafeNet on KaZaA to her account. She also accused the labels of extortion, and in a filing this past July, accused the RIAA of using investigators not licensed by the state of Texas in violation of state law.
Crain's counterclaims were dismissed in September, but late last month, the parties agreed to settle the case. Under the terms of the settlement, a final judgment has been entered in favor of the RIAA, although Crain does not admit to infringement herself. She is permanently barred from copyright infringement and is required to delete all of the recordings that "Defendant and/or any third party that has used the Internet connection and/or computer equipment owned or controlled by Defendant."
That last stipulation may be the reason behind the RIAA's decision to settle the case without any damage award. The KaZaA user seen by the RIAA's investigators was signed on using the screen name [email protected], which may indicate that one of Rhonda Crain's children or grandchildren was logged into KaZaA at the time and that the defendant's only "crime" was paying for the Internet account used for file-sharing.
That was what happened in two cases that the record labels came out on the wrong end of. Debbie Foster and Patricia Santangelo triumphed over the RIAA after the judges in both cases dismissed the lawsuits with prejudice, meaning that they were both the prevailing parties.
In each case, there was evidence that someone in Foster's and Santangelo's homes may have been logged into KaZaA, but the RIAA was unable to show that the defendants themselves engaged in file-sharing. The labels had argued that, even if Foster and Santangelo had not been on KaZaA themselves, they were both liable for "secondary infringement."
Had the Crain case moved towards a trial, the RIAA would likely have found itself forced to make the same secondary infringement argument. Judge Lee R. West, who ruled in favor of Debbie Foster, found that the Copyright Act failed to support the RIAA's secondary infringement allegations. "The Copyright Act does not expressly render anyone liable for infringement committed by another," wrote Judge Lee. "Under… common law principles, one infringes a copyright contributorily by intentionally inducing or encouraging a direct infringement." Paying for an Internet account used by someone else didn't rise to that standard.
By settling with the RIAA, Crain moves out from under the legal cloud without admitting infringement and, more importantly, without having to pay any damages to the RIAA. For its part, the labels avoid the risk of having the case against Crain dismissed and being forced to pay attorneys' fees, asthey had to doin the Foster case (Santangelo was given the right to seek attorneys' fees by the judge in that case, but I could find no record of an award one way or another).
Further readingCopyright attorney Ray Beckerman was the first to report the settlementAnother reason that the RIAA may have settled this case without a damage award is that it has a history of fighting attempts to have its targets exonerated
Happy blog-a-versary! Today is the tenth anniversary of the coining of the term that makes some of us giddy and others recoil in horror: blogging. If you subscribe to the view that says the term was coined by Jorn Barger on December 17, 1997, today's the day. It was on that day that he combined the word "web" and "log" to describe his personal journal online, according to blogging lore. Back then, the number of blogs on the web varied, with some citing numbers in the mere double digits. The trend has exploded since then, with new blogs coming online every day.
Of course, not everyone is in agreement as to when blogging started or when the term was officially coined. Regularly-updated journals and status logs were posted online before Barger (or anyone else) ever uttered the term "blog," although Dave Winer, widely-acknowledged father of RSS, acknowledged in an interview with CNet in 2003 that Barger was responsible for the term.
Most importantly, however, is the discussion on what exactly constitutes a blog. Is it a blog if you don't consider yourself a blog? Is it a blog if comments are enabled or disabled? Is it a blog if you focus more on news than opinion? These are all things that have been debated at some time or another over the years, and there are (still) no solid answers for. Four years ago, our own Jon Stokes wondered whether Ars Technica should be considered a blog—Winer has since declared that we are—and larger blog aggregation services like Technorati have finally agreed after having flip-flopped on the issue for a while.
Speaking of Technorati, the last "State of the Live Web" (previously called "State of the Blogosphere") report in April of this year stated that the number of blogs tracked through the site topped 72 million. That number was more than double the 35 million tracked blogs in April of 2006, and nine times the number in 2005. As easy-to-install (and even easier-to-use) tools for blogging become more commonplace, that number continues to rise. Technorati has noted, however, that the trend has begun to slow a bit—the number of new blogs is taking longer to double now than in the past, although the site is still tracking some 1.5 million blog posts per day.
Of course, blogging may be approaching its peak now. Gartner predicted last December that the trend would reach its max capacity during 2007 and begin to level off shortly thereafter, because those who would be interested have already gotten started. Everyone else, Gartner says, has already moved on. But that prediction didn't take into account that large chunks of the world's population are still hopping on the Internet for the first time and haven't had the opportunity yet to blog. Just think: there could still be tens of millions of bloggers just waiting to get started.
In a new paper examining the Sony BMG rootkit fiasco, a pair of lawyers argue that the music company didn't just damage itself—it unwittingly struck a blow against DRM in general.
Deirdre Mulligan and Aaron Perzanowski are the authors of "The Magnificence of the Disaster," which looks at the entire chronology of Sony BMG's problems with CD copy protection technology in an attempt to understand just how the label could have made a blunder of this magnitude. The paper, published in the Berkeley Technology Law Journal, argues that the rootkit was the result of more than "utter disregard, or even contempt, for user security and privacy." It was a product of market, technology, and legal factors that all encouraged Sony BMG to go forward with its ill-advised plan.
The music business continues to sink, and it's understandable that labels like Sony BMG would grab at any available life raft. Upset about P2P trading of its songs and swapping between friends, the company hoped to eliminate one of the main sources of pristine-quality digital rips: the unprotected CD. But how could it have added the badly buggy software from both First4Internet and SunnComm to millions of discs without doing any due diligence on the possible ramifications?
The authors argue that simple negligence or lack of technical expertise is a hard explanation to believe, especially as Sony (which owns a big chunk of the label) has wide technical expertise in this matter that Sony BMG could easily have drawn on. Security researchers, who identified the problem after the CDs were released, could also have done so ahead of time had they been consulted.
The most likely explanation for deploying the CD-based DRM was that "Sony BMG likely underestimated the public reaction to the security and privacy threats created by its DRM." In other words, the company took a calculated risk that consumers wouldn't care about these issues and found later that it guessed wrong.
Consumer backlash may have been particularly strong in this case because consumers already have an expectation of privacy and control when listening to CDs that they don't necessarily have when using Internet-enabled software, for instance. "Consumers consider the playing of the CD to be a private passive act and one carries no risk of attack from the outside world," say the paper's authors. "One security and privacy threats intruded upon the snow and safety, consumers reacted with unexpectedly intense indignation." It also didn't help that buyers had paid the same amount as other CDs but received less functionality in return.
The DMCA may have also contributed to Sony BMG's calculation to deploy the software. Because the DMCA bars the circumvention of effective copy protection technologies in almost all cases, even security researchers worry about looking too deeply into how the technologies work. This "chilling effect" may have led the music label to conclude that its system did not have to be extensively vetted before deployment, as it could always file DMCA lawsuits against those who researched the copy protection software.
To correct the problem, the paper argues that the DMCA needs reformation; specifically, it needs a permanent statutory exemption "that enables researchers and lay users to proactively identify and remove dangerous protection measures from their systems." It also wouldn't hurt for the FTC to lay down "best practices" for software installation and removal.
Although things turned out badly for Sony BMG, anti-DRM advocates may be pleased at the fallout. By raising the public profile of DRM and making users aware of its many downsides, the rootkit incident may have contributed to a broader move away from DRM among music labels. The rootkit "undermined consumer acceptance of digital rights management technology," according to the paper's authors, and may have helped spur labels like EMI and Universal to experiment with opening up downloads, rather than trying to restrict CDs.
In December, 1995, Bob Metcalfe wrote a famous column for InfoWorld in which he predicted that the Internet would suffer "gigalapses" at some point in 1996. According to his scenario, the massive traffic of the time was building like a wave about to break on the unsuspecting villagers who had just begun to rely on this "Internet" thing for e-mail and some primitive web browsing. Fantastic failures would be the norm as overloaded networks struggled to push the bits along.
Metcalfe knew his networking; this is the man who worked on Ethernet and founded 3Com, after all. His column's call to arms certainly achieved one effect: it riled up a lot of network engineers who claimed that 1996 was in no way going to be the Year the 'Net Crashed.
And of course, it didn't. There were no gigalapses in 1996, and things have been chugging along more or less smoothly for another decade since.
In early 1997, after it had become clear that his predictions had proven considerably more apocalyptic than reality warranted, Metcalfe made his mea culpa. He took to the stage at the Sixth Annual World Wide Web Conference in Santa Clara to eat his words. Literally.
Bob Metcalfe, sans blender
Up on stage, Metcalfe brought out a cake designed to resemble his column. The crowd booed. "You mean eating just a piece of cake is not enough to satisfy you? I kind of suspected it would turn ugly," said Metcalfe, according to a Reuters writeup of the event.
He then took a copy of his original article and, predating the current "Will it blend?" craze, pulped the column in a blender along with some liquid and drank the entire slurry in front of a cheering crowd. Whatever else it was, the event represented excellent value for money.
In a note to the North American Network Operators Group, Metcalfe then admitted that "I was wrong. I ate the column. I am sorry. I am not worthy."
Everything old is new again
Despite Metcalfe's column-drinking, doomsday predictions about the collapse of the Internet have never been hard to come by. Most recently, concern has focused on the rise of Internet video, one of the key drivers of traffic growth over the last couple of years. Should Internet traffic surge more quickly than networks can keep up, the entire system could clog up like a bad plumbing job.
A scholar at the Discovery Institute (yes, that Discovery Institute), Brett Swanson, kicked off the current round of debate about Internet capacity with a piece in the Wall Street Journal. Swanson warned that the rise in online voice and video were threatening the Internet, especially at its "edges," those last-mile connections to consumers and businesses where bandwidth is least available. "Without many tens of billions of dollars worth of new fiber optic networks," he wrote, "thousands of new business plans in communications, medicine, education, security, remote sensing, computing, the military and every mundane task that could soon move to the Internet will be frustrated. All the innovations on the edge will die."
What we are facing is nothing less than a "coming Exaflood."
Swanson's word refers to the exabytes of data expected to cross the Internet within the next few years (an exabyte is one thousand petabytes; each petabyte is one thousand terabytes), along with the sinister suggestion that this information will wash across the ‘Net's routers in a biblical wave of destruction. Swanson believes that the challenge of the Exaflood can be met, but only if a certain political agenda is adopted—more on this in a bit.
Swanson is not alone in forecasting massive growth. The US Internet Industry Association released a report in May on "The Exabyte Internet" in which the group talked about the "ramifications on Internet public policy as we grow from a Megabyte Internet to an Exabyte Internet." Cisco released a report on the "Exabyte Era." Clearly, these exabytes pose a risk to our precious tubes; will they clog them up?
Like many lonesome gamers, I find myself with the difficult task of picking something for the family with the hopes of instilling a little holiday gaming cheer around the house. Alas, with a rather rhythm-less family, the likes of Guitar Hero III and Rock Band—games that would otherwise be great hits—are out of the question. Also nixed were the various "family friendly" mini-game collections: the rapid-fire variance of control and context drive my aging parents away. After months of looking and searching, I arrived at what I'd hoped would be my best shot for finally getting my parents on the couch: Scene It.
With hours of sharp high-definition video from many films, Scene It seemed like a good way to finally get my family into gaming. Both of my baby-boomer parents were well aware of the general premise—there was even a pang of excitement in my mother's eyes when she heard me describing the family scene. The included controllers, in all their large-buttoned simplicity, certainly helped matters as well. The gameplay flow is simple, the scoring system routine, but the action, pace, and familiar nature of the trivia made for a great night of gaming.
The problems are few, but noticeable. Despite having nearly 1,800 questions, there were numerous sections that had very specific repeats. While this may be a problem that's impossible to avoid, some kind of conscious tracking for the save file would have been nice. As there are 21 different styles of question formats, such as "Child's Play" (no, not that one) wherein you have to guess what movie is being represented by a child's drawing, some sections seem to have fewer questions than others. I can't tell you how many times Angel Heart came up in a few hours of play.
I've tried to get my parents on the Wii and into various rhythm games, but Scene It is the first title I've tried that actually succeeded. Awaking to find my parents asking me when we'd play again was a rare experience, a sort of Canadian Christmas miracle.
Billing itself as "Silicon Valley's first phone company," startup Ribbit isn't happy with the current state of telephony. Inspired by the fierce innovation of the web over the last decade and the stagnation of traditional telecoms, Ribbit offers a new platform that can combine virtually every mode of communication—VoIP, mobile phones, IM, e-mail, and more. With a plausible business model and a simple platform for developers to build applications on, Ribbit just might have a shot at getting everyone talking.
At the center of Ribbit's plan is the SmartSwitch, a multiprotocol, carrier-grade, Lucent certified, CLASS 5 soft switch (software used to route calls and perform functions like forwarding calls). When the company says multiprotocol, it isn't kidding: Ribbit's switch can seamlessly handle VoIP, mobile phones, traditional land lines, e-mail, SMS, IM, and even the IM voice protocols of services like MSN, Yahoo!, Google Talk, and others.
For its growing list of 600+ developers, Ribbit offers a rich API that is currently optimized for Adobe's Flash/Flex platform due to Flash's pervasiveness across an estimated 98 percent of the world's computers. Building in Flash eliminates much of the complexity voice applications can pose to developers, allowing for more flexible applications to be built much faster than normal. The popularity of Adobe's Flash platform also fits in very well with one of Ribbit's goals, which is to enable just about anyone with voice services by embedding a simple Flash application or widget in a web site. Eventually, Ribbit plans on extending its API to other languages so even more developers can harness its services.
Right now, none of Ribbit's services are public, though the company sees a world of possibilities for both consumer and business applications by offering such an open platform. Its developers are required to test privately for now, though the company has shared details of one test case to provide a glimpse of what is possible with Ribbit's seamless communication services. For users of CRM company SalesForce.com's services, Ribbit says a non-telephony developer was able to build an application that delivers mobile phone messages as voice and transcribed text straight into the SalesForce.com application. Call logs and correspondence can now be automatically filed with other customer records, and even forwarded on to employees' mobile phones as e-mail and SMS.
Indeed, the potential for Ribbit's services to both consumers and businesses is wide open. For a business model, Ribbit simply charges clients a small fee based on their number of users, so clients are free to build, integrate, and embed Ribbit services according to their own business models. Of course, more limited click-to-call services are already being used by some businesses or even in social applications like Truphone for Facebook, but Ribbit's SmartSwitch should allow communication to go much, much farther.
Like Google's GrandCentral service for linking and managing multiple phones to one central phone number, Ribbit can be thought of as a service that could eventually unite every form of communication. A voicemail could be translated into text and forwarded to an AIM account, while simultaneously logged in a central repository that a consumer or business can search and back up. Conference calls that dial a Skype user, a mobile phone, and a Windows Messenger account could be launched from a Flash gadget in a Facebook profile. Ribbit, if a service provider desires, can even handle things like contact management and importing, which leads to even more possibilities like integration and syncing with Microsoft Outlook, Apple's Address Book, and even other web services.
In the first quarter of 2008, Ribbit plans to flip the switch on its service and allow developers to go public with their apps. The company has also stated it plans to launch a consumer service, though it is quiet on details for now.
When Intel debuted Viiv at CES 2006, it envisioned the platform as a home entertainment brand that consumers could (and would) rally around. Just as Centrino had become indicative of a particular type of laptop with certain capabilities built in, Viiv was meant to convey superior multimedia performance and ease of use in home theater systems. Viiv-branded PCs sold well, but the brand itself never acquired the same type of identity that made Centrino popular, probably because Intel never clearly articulated what Viiv offered that couldn't be delivered via other software/hardware packages. In response to the brand's continued lackluster performance, Intel is going ahead with its previously reported plans to scale back the Viiv brand. Certain Core 2 processors will now carry the "with Viiv technology" moniker, but the brand itself will no longer be used to denote a specific type of PC. Viiv just went from being a headlining act to a marketing footnote.
The failure of Viiv is instructive, as is the tremendous difference between the very popular Centrino and Viiv efforts. Both names were meant to represent the presence of specific technologies and capabilities, but in Centrino's case, Intel was capable of delivering and controlling all of the hardware that went into making a Centrino into a Centrino. Viiv, by its very nature, required the cooperation of software developers (mainly Microsoft with its Media Center offerings) and content providers.
But Microsoft is making its own way in the home entertainment market, quite without the help of Intel. Microsoft's popular Xbox 360 now offers much of what the company had hoped for in terms of moving content from the Internet into consumers' living rooms, and if the console were ever outfitted with DVR support, then the rationale for Vista's Media Center would be even weaker than it already is.
Not only have the success of the Xbox 360 and the related lack of interest in Microsoft's PC-centric media center vision undercut most of the premise of Viiv, but the growth of the Web as a video distribution mechanism for both studio and user-generated content has also helped make Viiv less relevant. The growth of YouTube and various similar services, has demonstrated that a great many customers prefer creating and establishing their own online content consumption systems, rather than being handed a single solution. A variety of established companies, including major television studios, have also been experimenting with distributing their own content online.
In hindsight, Viiv appears to have focused on the wrong aspects of what consumers want from a "digital entertainment" PC. The majority of users interested in such capabilities appear to be less concerned with a functional remote control and/or access to any particular content as they are with being able to find what they want when they want it.
Going forward, Intel intends to focus on delivering full multimedia content to MIDs, or Mobile Internet Devices. Unlike Viiv, this could actually pay off—this particular device segment is relatively young, and a hardware-focused initiative bent on delivering high performance with limited power could provemore successful.
Who would've thought that Wil Shipley himself would be one of the greatest threats to keeping Delicious Monster's secrets safe? Before you answer that, the good developer shared more details with us about the company's long-anticipated release of Delicious Library 2. We've learned in the past that DL2 will feature some big, new features like iTunes integration, HTML export, sharing options with friends, and some very Leopard-heavy UI changes. Shipley has now clarified a few details extra regarding a pro version, upgrade pricing, and when we can expect a private beta.
First, plans for a pro version of Delicious Library 2 have more or less been scrapped. The company is considering offering a DL Pro for version 3, but even that's a maybe. The good news, however, is that the pro-only features that were originally scheduled for version 2.0 have simply been rolled into the One Delicious Library 2 To Rule Them All™ that's due out soon. "Fancy" import and export, backup, and restore—all users of Delicious Library 2 will have access to these options now.
Speaking of when it comes out, Shipley told us a private beta will be out before Christmas, though we'll just have to wait and see who's on the list. An official release date is still to be determined.
Last but not least, we finally have word on pricing. Delicious Library 2 will still go for $40, and users who purchased before December 1, 2007 can upgrade for $20.
To clarify DL2's upgrade terms: If you purchased Delicious Library 1 before December 1, 2007, you can upgrade to Delicious Library 2 when it ships for just $20. If you bought any time after December 1, 2007, you'll get a free upgrade. That's right: free, as in beer and speech.