12/12/2007

Toshiba Announces Rechargeable Battery Breakthrough

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Toshiba has today announced the commercial launch of its breakthrough SCiB “Super Charge ion Battery,” a rather amazing new rechargeable battery tech. In short, SCiB cells are capable of recharging from empty to 90% capacity in just five minutes, a rather astounding advance over current Li-on cells. Better yet, Toshiba states that SCiB batteries are rated for 10-years or more of life, even under constant rapid charging stress.

Toshiba is initially targeting commercial applications in the automotive and industrial fields for the SCiB cells and is ready to begin supplying manufacturers today. The first products making use of the cells are expected to begin shipping in March 2008. Toshiba envisions a rather healthy future for the technology and has set a global sales target of 100-Billion yen (roughly $900-million) for fiscal year 2015.

w00t crowned word of year by U.S. dictionary

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

“w00t,” an expression of joy coined by online gamers, was crowned word of the year on Tuesday by the publisher of a leading U.S. dictionary.

Massachusetts-based Merriam-Webster Inc. said “w00t” — typically spelled with two zeros — reflects a new direction in the American language led by a generation raised on video games and cell phone text-messaging.

It’s like saying “yay,” the dictionary said.

“It could be after a triumph or for no reason at all,” Merriam-Webster said.

Recording Industry Tells Court That MP3s Are a Crime

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Does the Recording Industry Association of America think that you have the legal right to rip MP3s off CDs that you own? The evidence says the RIAA thinks you are a criminal if you make MP3s out of your late 80’s hair metal CD collection, but probably won’t sue you unless you send that MP3 to a friend or share it on the internet.

In a court filing (.pdf) that’s being much discussed on the internet today, the RIAA appears to say no when asked that question by a judge in an Arizona suit against Jeffrey Howell for sharing songs on the Kazaa file sharing network.

The RIAA doesn’t quite say MP3s ripped from one’s own music collection are illegal, but instead refers to them as “unauthorized copies.”

The man behind the Commodore 64

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

When people talk about the most influential names in the history of personal computers, you usually hear about Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Gordon Moore, Andy Grove, and so forth.

But one name that certainly belongs in that group is Jack Tramiel, the founder of Commodore Business Machines. As the man behind the PET, the Vic-20 and the Commodore 64–which may be the best-selling personal computer of all time–Tramiel may have had more influence than anyone.

That’s debatable, of course. But there’s no doubting the reverence Silicon Valley’s elders have for Tramiel, an Auschwitz survivor and former member of the U.S. Army who decided that his future lay not in repairing typewriters as he’d done in uniform, but in building electronics.

On Monday night, hundreds of the Valley’s graybeards turned out in Mountain View, Calif., for the Computer History Museum’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Commodore 64, and there was no doubting that Tramiel was the man of the hour, not least because he rarely ventures out in public.
C64 celebration

Among those on hand to fete Tramiel were Wozniak, IBM PC designer William Lowe, Pong designer Al Acorn, and many, many others.

During the event, Tramiel took the time to talk to CNET News.com about his most famous creation, about the current state of personal computers and about whether there really was a culture war between C64 users and Apple IIe users in the mid-1980s.

Study: 95 percent of all e-mail sent in 2007 was spam

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

There was a time–2004 to be precise–when spam “only” consumed 70 percent of all e-mail. Those were the good old days. Today, as Barracuda Networks’ annual spam report shows, upwards of 95 percent of all e-mail is spam. In 2001, the number was 5 percent.

Ironically (or not), the United States’ Can-Spam Act has done absolutely nothing (zip!) to stop the spam onslaught. It has come to the point that, as a separate Barracuda survey of 261 business professionals shows, we increasingly prefer telemarketing to e-mail spam.

NBC Universal Taps SanDisk’s Service As Replacement For iTunes

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

NBC Universal, which recently pulled its TV shows off of iTunes in a well-publicized spat with Apple, has revealed a new content platform partner.

On Tuesday, the joint partnership of General Electric’s NBC and Vivendi Universal Entertainment said it plans to offer some its most popular shows on SanDisk (NSDQ: SNDK)’s online video-download service.

Under the agreement, NBCU shows could be downloaded onto SanDisk’s new PC-to-TV video player that lets users download content from a USB port, and then carry the files over to a living room television for playback through standard audio/video sockets.

To feed its Sansa TakeTV device, SanDisk has launched a download site called Fanfare, which is in beta and would compete with Apple’s iTunes music and video store. NBCU plans to start offering content on Fanfare in January. The shows will only play through TakeTV.

NBCU dropped its shows from iTunes in August after Apple refused to budge on pricing. NBCU wanted to charge more for some shows, but Apple wanted to stick to its policy of selling all TV shows at a set price of $1.99 per episode. With the SanDisk deal, NBCU gets the flexibility in pricing and packaging it wants.

Adult film industry enters new-era fight over copyrights

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

The adult entertainment industry has joined the battle between old and new media companies over copyright issues on the internet.

Vivid Video, one of the largest adult entertainment companies, yesterday filed suit against the Adult Entertainment Broadcast Network, accusing the company of allowing users to post Vivid’s copyrighted materials on its PornoTube website.

The suit, which requests an immediate injunction against AEBN and at least $4.5m in damages, echoes a landmark, $1bn claim that Viacom, owner of the MTV and Nickelodeon cable networks, filed this year against Google and its YouTube internet video site.

Both cases cut to the core of tensions between old and new media companies in an internet era in which users are able to post music, film and video - often not their own - on sites across the web.

Office 2007 Service Pack 1 Released

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Because Microsoft often gets rapped for delivering products late, it seems worth noting that, on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2007, it delivered a product early.

The software maker issued the first service pack update to Office 2007, roughly a year after the product first became available to businesses.

The new update, which has gotten a whole lot less attention than Vista SP1, adds largely performance and stability improvements, along with making the server components of Office fully compatible with the forthcoming Windows Server 2008 update.

“These enhancements span the software applications and servers that home and office workers use each day and will make the 2007 Office system an even more robust and effective productivity tool,” Office product manager Reed Shaffner said in a feature posted to Microsoft’s Web site. “In essence, SP1 targets the issues that customers told us mattered to them most.”

Microsoft said the download is available now and customers can also order a CD with the update. At some later date, Microsoft said it will make the service pack available through automatic update.

Radiohead criticized as band shuts down ‘In Rainbows’ promotion

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

One of the record industry’s most daring experiments ended on Monday, three months after Radiohead stunned the music industry in October by giving fans the option of paying whatever they wanted for the group’s latest album, In Rainbows.

The group was widely praised for potentially laying the groundwork for a new business model that might one day save the record industry. But as the band prepares to begin selling CDs the old-fashioned way, not everybody is cheering.

Nicky Wire, a member of the Manic Street Preachers, whose hits include “Send Away The Tigers,” told a news publication last week that Radiohead’s offer “demeans music.”

“Fair play to Radiohead for doing something different,” Wire told the United Kingdom’s Daily Star. “It’s certainly great publicity, but I think it kind of demeans music. Music used to be a market; now it’s all gone digital. It’s worrying (that) cinema is doing well, video games are doing well, but music isn’t. The free-download phenomenon is ruining the industry.”

I know such statements are heresy to the “free” culture, but Wire may be right to question whether Radiohead’s experiment was a success.

Radiohead has declined to reveal how much it earned from the promotion. ComScore, a traffic-tracking company, stirred controversy last month when it estimated that the proceeds were lackluster. About 62 percent of those who downloaded In Rainbows did so without paying a dime, ComScore reported.

The band called ComScore’s figures, which were derived from a sample group, “wholly inaccurate.”

The obvious question now is, why would Radiohead kill the promotion and go back to a traditional sales model, if the cash were rolling in?

After all, music industry executives say the economic life span of an album can last as long as two years. It starts when an act releases a record and is extended when the performer goes on a concert tour.

“For those of you who wish to buy In Rainbows in the usual way,” said a message on Radiohead’s site on Tuesday, “it will be available on CD/vinyl and download from traditional outlets from the 31st December 2007.”

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