January 11, 2008 9:23 AM PST

Week in review: Gates' farewell to CES troops

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"That means nothing to me," Mark Cancelada, 42, of Portsmouth, N.H., said when asked about Net neutrality, shortly after an early-morning John Edwards rally ended Saturday in the center of Portsmouth, a quaint city of about 20,000 residents.

But that doesn't mean technology-minded people are ignoring the Granite State. Vijay Boyapati, a former Google engineer now serving the Ron Paul campaign through an independent group, says he drew on lessons learned while building Google products to create the same kind of distributed volunteer network with the goal of drawing hundreds of Paul volunteers to New Hampshire. Boyapati, a six-year veteran of the company, quit his job a few weeks ago to support the operation, which has drawn about 500 volunteers to the state.

The operation works by squeezing as many volunteers as possible into about 12 homes that Boyapati has rented throughout the state, with extra people shuffled off to hotel rooms or to the homes of New Hampshire residents with a little extra room to spare. One host said in an interview Saturday that he had 15 out-of-state volunteers temporarily living in his basement.

But for at least one candidate, there are very important tech issues. During a final early-morning rally at Dartmouth College the day of the primaries, Barack Obama said that if he were elected president, Americans would be able to leave behind the era of "wiretaps without warrants." (He was referring to the lingering legal fallout over reports that the National Security Agency scooped up Americans' phone and Internet activities without court orders, ostensibly to monitor terrorist plots, in the years after the September 11 attacks.)

It's hardly a new stance for Obama, who has made similar statements in previous campaign speeches, but mention of the issue in a stump speech, alongside more frequently discussed topics like Iraq and education, may give some clue to his priorities.

In the end, Hillary Clinton and John McCain won the primaries the old-fashioned way: trekking to scores of coffee houses, diners, and high school gymnasiums. They shook hands, answered questions, and eventually convinced a plurality of voters.

This was politicking at its most traditional, employing venerable tactics like McCain's Straight Talk Express bus tour and Clinton's "Time to Pick a President" meetings with voters. By the time the polls closed, it was a rare Granite State resident who managed to avoid in-person contact with a would-be president or a pushy surrogate.

In other words, it was anything but high-tech. Sure, there were robo-calls and e-mail alerts, but, for the most part, the local events that convinced voters to pick Clinton and McCain could have been convened at any point in the last century.

Music's new tune
In another blow to digital rights management, Amazon.com announced that it will be selling music from Sony BMG Music Entertainment in its Amazon MP3 store. This means that Amazon MP3, which sells only tracks without DRM protection, now has deals with all four major music labels. Because of their lack of copy-protection software, any song from Amazon MP3 can play on virtually any media-playing device, from PCs to music players to cell phones and PDAs.

The move follows Napster's announcement that it would start selling downloads in the MP3 format beginning in the second quarter of this year.

A handful of analysts are calling for the music industry to focus less on CDs, DRM, and subscription services, and more on giving their product away for free. Whatever gold that is still left to be mined from the music industry is supposed to be had through advertising revenue, according to some.

But exchanging songs for ad money is a frightening proposition for music executives who for decades have depended on hawking discs and are still putting up major roadblocks for the free, ad-supported model. Couple that with less-than-stellar execution on the part of companies trying to give music away and you have a business model still trying to get into first gear.

One of those not happy with the state of music on the Internet is Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor, who recently produced and helped bankroll an album that is free of copy-protection software. In a promotional offering, the album, The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust, was offered in one version as a free download and also as a higher-quality download for $5. However, the experiment hit a sour note for Reznor last week when he reported in his blog that 154,449 people had downloaded NiggyTardust and 28,322 of them paid the $5 as of January 2.

In the blog, Reznor suggested that he was "disheartened" by the results. In an interview with CNET News.com, Reznor talks about the experiment and his rethinking of music in the digital age.

Also of note
Jeff Raikes, head of Microsoft's Business Division, plans to step down in September...Microsoft acknowledged it made a mistake over a security advisory it released concerning Office 2003...Microsoft squashed rumors that it was working with the One Laptop per Child project on a version of the XO laptop that would be capable of booting either Linux--the current OS--or Windows.

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May DRM Rest in Peace...but....
I am very happy the DRM is going away. It inhibited users from general "fair use" activities like moving music from one device to another. It also protects the ability to retain the music as technology changes.

However, I'm not opposed to watermarking. I am opposed to music sharing which is real theft. It is too bad the our current society seems to have the belief that "if I can copy it, it is free for all."
Posted by drwillow (1 comment )
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"The data wants to be free"
This old Richard Stallman mantra has already caused a marginalization of thought, as print authors find their work spread around the internet for free (this despite copyright and digital rights) and musicians find their life?s work on some kid?s iPod "for free".

"Give music away for free" will never work, as long as musicians and authors and software developers still want to live with a roof over their heads and eat on a regular basis.

As a print author, I've told my agent that "digital rights are withheld" until publishers can figure out a way to account for EVERY copy out there, and make sure that I get the same royalty fee for a digital copy as a print copy.
Posted by Too Old For IT (351 comments )
Link Flag
Copyright infringement is not theft.

You can not steal a digital file.

I am also opposed to copyright infringement, but calling it theft makes you look like an RIAA shill or just plain dumb.
Posted by The_Decider (3097 comments )
Link Flag
Can't wait
"the ability to connect practically all electronic devices to the Internet" -

Neat, pretty soon my refrigerator will part of a botnet.
Posted by fokwp (44 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Misleading if you ask me...
>>>his software company has now shipped 100 million copies of Windows Vista.<<<

Yes, they've shipped 100 million copies... but there ARE NOT 100 million users out there.

What's happened is that he's shipped 100 million out to all of the Microsoft sales outlets around the world.

Try to buy a PC today with WinXP Home or PRO installed... YOU just won't find one.

But if you look at Vista... it still has both hardware and software (especially games) compatibility issues and bugs galore.

Very few people really want it, but they're forcing it down your throat regardless of whether you want it or not.

So if you count ALL of the dead stock sitting on the shelves of all of the outlets which sell Microsoft products around the world... you may end up with that number.

As for the rest... he needs to bow out ASAP!

His software company's products are still buggered galore when they are shipped.

His software company's security response is **** poor at best... albeit perhaps a bit better than their past track record, they're still not in a secure mentality boasting position.

Posted by wbenton (522 comments )
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