12/23/2005

Vonage Lets Children Track Santa’s Flight

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Children Dialing *101 From a Vonage Line Will Learn Where Santa and His Reindeer Are as They Fly Across the World.

Starting December 23, children dialing *101 from any Vonage line will be able to track Santa’s flight from the North Pole.

Dialers will hear Santa tell them he is packing his sled, getting the reindeer ready for their flight and where they are as they fly across the world.

Children can dial *101 using a Vonage line through Christmas 2005.

12/22/2005

Verizon plans to offer mobile music downloads

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Verizon Wireless is expected to introduce a music download service next month that will let subscribers purchase music wirelessly over their mobile phones and transfer songs between their phones and Windows PCs.

The new service, called V Cast Music, is scheduled to become available on Jan. 16 at Circuit City, Verizon Wireless stores and Verizon’s Web site, according to documents seen by CNET News.com. It would allow customers to browse, preview, download and play music from a mobile handset and a computer.

The service is designed to offer songs from artists on major music labels, including Warner Music Group, EMI Music, Universal Music Group and Sony BMG. Verizon expects to offer more than a million songs by spring, the documents said.

Source: News.com

Comcast offers “family-friendly” cable package

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

No. 1 U.S. cable operator Comcast Corp. on Thursday said it would offer a package of “family-friendly” channels amid mounting pressure from regulators to help parents weed out racy shows.

The package will include 35 to 40 channels, most of them comprising the basic cable tier of national and local broadcast channels. Another 16 channels include Disney and Nickelodeon, National Geographic, the Food Network, CNN Headline News and the Weather Channel.

Analysts said the move could appease regulator demands, but could not estimate potential demand for the package.

“It’s very unclear whether consumers are going to be interested,” said independent analyst Richard Greenfield. “It’s still a very limited basket of channels.”

Comcast’s “Family” tier will be available in early 2006 at an average monthly fee of $31.20, which includes the basic cable channels, the “family” channels and the cable box.

Comcast executives said earlier this month they were considering such a move amid indecency concerns raised by lawmakers and media regulators.

Last week, No. 2 operator Time Warner Cable was the first to unveil a “family-oriented” package of television channels at about $33 per month. The company is owned by Time Warner Inc..

Another four cable operators are expected to unveil similar packages in the near term, according to industry officials.

Source: Reuters

Security “checkpoint of the future”

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

An airport security “checkpoint of the future” that lets travellers leave shoes on feet, keys in pockets and laptop computers in carry-on bags was shown off in San Francisco.

General Electric (GE) got clearance from San Francisco International Airport to set up a “laboratory” in an unused lane at an active passenger checkpoint.

GE merged an array of computer and scanning technologies into a system that promises to get passengers through an automated checkpoint in 20 seconds, Steve Hill GE Security’s Homeland Protection division told AFP.

“In our vision for the checkpoint of the future, no one will have to take shoes or coats off, or take anything out of pockets or take laptops out of bags,” Hill said.

Passenger screening would begin when a traveller presses a finger to an explosive-sensing touch pad while checking baggage or getting a ticket.

Sophisticated CAT scan devices would replace X-ray technology currently used to scan carry on bags, Hill said. Passengers would then step through a circular, transparent “wave portal” capable of detecting “threat anomalies” such as weapons or bombs, Hill said.

Passengers would then step on a scanner that detects dangerous chemicals or other hazards, according to Hill.

“A passenger then picks up bags and proceeds on their merry way,” Hill said. “Unless some potential threat is identified.”

Source: AFP

12/21/2005

Texas expands lawsuit against Sony BMG

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott expanded his lawsuit against Sony BMG Music Entertainment on Wednesday, alleging that a second form of anti-piracy technology used by the label violates the state’s spyware and deceptive trade practices laws.

Abbott sued Sony BMG in November, saying the world’s second-largest music label surreptitiously included spyware on millions of CDs through technology known as XCP. That technology, included on 52 Sony BMG titles, could leave computers vulnerable to hackers, he said.

The new allegations involve an unrelated CD copy-protection technology known as MediaMax, which was loaded on 27 Sony BMG titles, including Alicia Keys’ “Unplugged” and Cassidy’s “I’m a Hustla.”

“We keep discovering additional methods Sony used to deceive Texas consumers who thought they were simply buying music,” Abbott said in a statement.

BMG officials said in a statement that they are working with Abbott’s office and believe they can prove they have responded appropriately to his concerns.

Abbott said MediaMax violates Texas law because some versions secretly install files when the CD is inserted into a computer, before the consumer has a chance to accept or decline a license agreement. The files can lead to the security breach.

Source: AP

U.S. Patent Office Sides with RIM

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has indicated that it will formally and finally reject the patents at the heart of a lawsuit in which NTP Inc. is suing BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. for patent infringement.

But while such a ruling would be good news for RIM and its customers, industry experts say that it will likely take several months before such a ruling would be final.

The USPTO last week rejected two of five patents at the center of the legal battle that threatens to shutter the BlackBerry e-mail service in the United States.

While the rulings were “non-final actions,” meaning NTP can appeal them, the office made a point of indicating that it aims to reject them eventually.

Source: eWeek

12/19/2005

House approves new digital-TV deadline

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday approved legislation to complete the country’s transition to new, higher-quality digital television by Feb. 17, 2009.

Under a deal negotiated by Republicans in the Senate and House, a $1.5 billion fund would be created to help some consumers buy converter boxes so existing analog television signals do not go dark when the transition is finished.

Congress is eager for broadcasters to give up the analog airwaves, some of which will be auctioned for commercial wireless service, a sale that could bring in billions of dollars, potentially plugging the government budget deficit.

Source: News.com

H1-B Visa Plan Dropped From Bill

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

A Senate-passed measure to add more visas for foreign workers in high-tech and specialty fields was dropped from a budget bill that passed the House early Monday, disappointing high-tech and manufacturing firms in search of skilled workers.

The Senate plan would have allowed 30,000 more of the popular H1-B visas each year, and increased fees for those visas to help trim the budget deficit. Congress capped the six-year H-1B visas at 65,000 per year in 2004, and that cap has already been reached for the 2006 fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

The Senate language also would have allowed 90,000 more employment-based green cards that offer permanent residency to skilled workers, and added fees for those.

Critics contend the visas give foreigners high-level jobs that should go to American workers, and the plan was opposed by some House Republicans as a backdoor way to boost immigration. House and Senate negotiators left it out of the final version of a $39.7 billion federal budget bill that passed the House 212-206 and was expected to get a Senate vote later in the day.

Texas to get broadband over its power lines

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Two Texas companies have announced a plan to offer high-speed Internet service over the power grid.

The plan was announced on Monday by Current Communications Group, a service provider that specializes in broadband service over power lines (BPL), and TXU Electric Delivery, the largest electric company in Texas.

The companies estimate that roughly two million homes and businesses in northern Texas will be able to subscribe to the new service when the network is complete. Current Communications–which has built a similar network over Cincinnati’s power lines with local utility company Cinergy–will design, build and operate the new broadband network. Deployments will begin in 2006, the companies said.

Source: News.com

Vonage Raises $250M

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Vonage Holdings received $250 million in convertible debt funding Monday, led by Bain Capital, bringing the VoIP provider’s total funding to $658 million.

Also participating in the funding were existing investors New Enterprise Associates, Meritech Capital Partners, and senior management, with a total of 16 new investors.

Vonage plans to use the money to further build its network around the United States, as well as deploy enhanced 911 services to provide emergency-calling capability to customers.

Source: redherring

Time names Gateses ‘Persons of the Year’

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Bill Gates, and his wife, Melinda, were named Time magazine’s “Persons of the Year” along with Irish rocker Bono for being “Good Samaritans” who made a difference in different ways.

“For being shrewd about doing good, for rewiring politics and re-engineering justice, for making mercy smarter and hope strategic and then daring the rest of us to follow, Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono are Time’s Persons of the Year,” the magazine said in its Dec. 19 issue, made public on Sunday.

Managing Editor James Kelly said the three had been chosen as the people most effective at finding ways to eradicate such calamities as malaria in Africa, HIV and AIDS and the grinding poverty that kills 8 million people a year.

Source: Reuters (via news.com)

12/18/2005

iTunes lyrics fight ends in apology

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

That rarest of all things in the acrimonious disputes between copyright holders and technology developers emerged Thursday: an apology.

Last week, music publishers Warner/Chappell Music sent a threatening letter to independent Austrian programmer Walter Ritter, complaining about a free piece of software he’d developed that scoured Web sites for song lyrics and imported them into Apple Computer’s iTunes software.

Ritter immediately pulled his software, called PearLyrics, offline. But after an outcry on the Web, Richard Blackstone, Warner/Chapell’s chief executive officer, called the programmer, apologizing for the letter and offering the chance to work together.

Source: News.com

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