Journalism Technology

Engadget shows you how to misinterpret an infographic

For the record, the following headline is *not* incorrect. Repeat: the following headline is *not* incorrect:

OEMs to spend more on semiconductors for wireless devices than computers in 2011 — Engadget.

The trouble is: if you look at the actual attached infographic, that graph makes it quite clear that OEM manufacturers have been paying more for wireless semiconductors in every year except one since 2008:

The other glaring issue is that what a manufacturer pays for hardware does in no way accurately reflect how much equipment they use. Are we meant to understand that the cost of semiconductors has gone up over the last three years? Or that manufacturers are producing more gear? In either case, this graph makes the difference between PC and wireless expenditures seem both negligible and consistent. If there’s a story here, I’m not seeing it.


DFE News Roundup for Friday, January 16th

It’s another interesting day for news here at DFE, so I thought I’d take a moment to point out some articles to watch for the day:

  • Xerox will be laying off 275 workers here in Rochester, both at the Webster Complex (didn’t that used to be called the Wilson Complex?) and in the downtown offices. Anyone with information on the layoffs can contact me here with details. I’d appreciate it.
  • Citi bank posted a big loss and now plans on splitting the company in two: Citigroup, which will be its traditional banking and Citi Holdings, which will handle it’s “riskier assets.” They’re hoping to minimize losses by dividing their assets up.
  • Intel is reporting big losses in this quarter, a sign of just how hard the recession might hit consumer electronics markets this year.
  • It’s a Microsoft Worm World again!! It’s been a few years since MyDoom and Klez virus hysteria, but the boys are back in town with a virus that attacks low-security networks and USB flash drives. It’s infected 3.5 million computers world wide. People, patch those systems up now!
  • More tech news: “illegal” private downloads from peer to peer systems such as BitComet and others completely swamp the industry approved, industry profit downloads available from iTunes. Not sure how they quantify that, but here’s a question to ask: how many legal copies of albums got sold compared to cassette tape recordings? If cassettes didn’t bring down the music industry, why should we give a shit about downloads?
  • President Elect Obama did a very long and wide-ranging interview with the Washington Post wherein he pledged that entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security would be getting reformed during his term. Not a small order, that. But I’d rather trust him than Republicans. Wonder if they’ll float the investment angle again?

Throwing Sheep at a Problem

BBC News has an interesting article about the future of “Web2.0” sites and development, interviewing the man who coined the term Web2.0.  Seems like, if he only knew the silliness about to be unleashed on the Internet, he might have named it something different or avoided it altogether.

But much though he may sourpuss at the irrelevance of some Web2.0 applications, the fact is that we are by and large fairly frivolous people with fairly frivolous interests.  It doesn’t diminish the Web2.0 brand to see that silly little social applications have been built, it reinforces the relevance that the Web2.0 evolution has had in that powerful concepts have invaded the simplest of communication.  To be sure, loading down browsers with a ton of irrelevant JavaScript crap is not what the originators had in mind.  They had it in mind that we would “harness collective intelligence.”

Weep for the lost opportunity if you must.  But what they didn’t have in mind – indeed, what the visionaries of our society so rarely ever have in mind – is the sheer volume of our collective intelligence occupied at all moments with the research and development of fart jokes.


One More Electronic Store in the Dustbin

Wasn’t it just a few years ago that CompUSA went under?  Well, in a sign of the increasingly dismal electronics buying season, Circuit City looks to be taking this Christmas as a means to tie up loose ends as they sink into oblivion.  Wonder how long before Best Buy follows suit?


Recession a Boon for Open Source?

Recently a friend of this website observed that the economic downturn, however down it turns, will probably mean the end of all those free goodies we’ve come to expect on the Internet.  But Jim Whitehurst of Red Hat thinks different.  Since the downturn will force companies to spend less on new technology infrastructure, innovation and improvement may well come through Open Source (which basically means “free”) solutions, which if not always free, are dramatically less expensive than Microsoft and other profit-driven, proprietary models.

Its an interesting and probably sensible theory.  Since Open Source developers are working largely for their own personal intellectual satisfaction rather than to create copyrighted software, OS development will probably not be significantly impacted by the economic downturn.  Conversely, since profit-driven companies will need both companies willing to shell out cash and R&D projects which rely on that cash, they’re likely to take a big hit.  Internet innovation is likely to continue unabated, whereas the next generation Microsoft Operating System will be significantly slowed down.

On the other hand, gaming this notion a bit further, its just as likely that the loss of revenues in the IT market will spring new fights over copyright and new litigation warfare from Microsoft.  Even when hurting, Microsoft can afford the lawyers to keep winning in court, but Open Source projects would need to divert valuable resources to such a fight.

Time will tell, but things are going to get interesting in the IT world.


Music on microSD? Really?

San Disk is announcing this week that they’ve actually talked record execs into selling high-quality, DRM free music on 1Gb microSD cards.  Can you believe it?  This is amazing to me on a number of levels, not the least of which is the fact that flash media is so cheap that it has become a suitable media for delivering music to customers.

But DRM-free and already on a microSD card?  Could this finally be the recording industry coming to grips with reality?  Naw, gotta be a misprint. . .


Never! trust! Yahoo! security!

Sorry, headline of this article is an old tech geek joke. . . .

Sarah Palin’s email account was hacked into.  You know, the one she used to communicate official business whilst skirting document retention laws?  Yeah, that one.  And here’s the really funny bit.  Check out the McHacked-Failin ’08 campaign’s reaction:

“This is a shocking invasion of the Governor’s privacy and a violation of law,” GOP presidential campaign manager Rick Davis said Wednesday in a written statement. “The matter has been turned over to the appropriate authorities and we hope that anyone in possession of these emails will destroy them.”

OIC. . .  So, cracking Sarah Palin’s clandestine gubinatorial email account was a violation of law because it’s a violation of privacy.  Except that there’s really no privacy with government communications, which is why she’s not supposed to be using that email account in the first place.  Right?

Now, I’m not suggsting that you should go rooting through what’s there, but I will say that if you did want to look, you’d better do it quick.


Justice May Sue Google for “Being Evil”

Actually, it looks like it might just be anti-trust.  No big whoop: the Bush Justice Department probably just wants to look like it’s doing something.

Google recently announced a deal with Yahoo! to provide advertisement on Yahoo!’s network, sharing the profits with the portal company.  This deal, should it be put into action, would make Google the soul source of 80% of all Internet advertising revenue.  That’s a fairly staggering figure that does make you wonder about the potential monopoly.

But what is genuinely amusing about all this is having Microsoft lawyers tsk-tsking over Google’s dominance in search and advertisement:

Microsoft also has objected to the deal, saying it would unfairly foreclose competition on the Web. In Senate hearings in July, Microsoft’s general counsel, Brad Smith, testified that “if search is the gateway to the Internet, and most people believe that it is, this deal will put Google in position to own that gateway and the information that flows through it.”

Well, now. Ain’t that rich?  Basically, Microsoft objects to Google’s dominance primarily because they want to be the dominant company.  If anybody should be sued for anti-trust, it should be Microsoft.


Google Chrome, Net Neutrality and Internet Privacy

If you haven’t had time to do so already, you should really check out Google Chrome, which promises to be the most significant new development in computer software in about ten years.  Personally, I’m not a big fan of adapting new technology right away, prefering instead to watch others scrape their knees while the kinks are worked out of the new system.  In this case, however, I’m inclined to maybe take the leap, just because this seems a genuinely new and different technology of which I’d like to be well-familiar by the time it reaches saturation.

What Google is not saying about this new app – but everybody else who knows a thing or two about computers is saying – is that Chrome is not really a browser at all: it’s a web-based application Operating System.  Chrome allows you to launch web apps directly from the desktop – like anything from Flickr’s photo managing to your WordPress blog.  It handles file downloads on its own, has an integrated search/url/bookmarks toolbar that seems at least as impressive as FireFox’s “Awesome Bar,” which I love.  In short, this application seems built around the idea that you can virtually bypass your current Operating System and file system to store and work with everything online, making Windows optional and Linux systems at least as viable.

All of this is fascinating, but think for a moment about the consequences.  Your ISP is looking to cap your downloads, which means even accessing your own stuff could cost extra money.  Telco giants – not just your local ISP – want extra money for all that surfing you do.  Meanwhile, Google itself has left privacy advocates steaming over it’s dealings with China, and the pressure to release sensitive information in the United States and elsewhere will become more and more difficult to resist as we continue to do more things online.

I don’t particularly have any perscriptions for any of this.  All I’m saying is that we need to pay much, much more attention to the Internet as a vital resource than our current political environment allows.  We need to forget that much of the traffic on the Internet is concerned with porn or Miley Cyrus and take this seriously.


D’Ya Feel Safe, Yet?

The Department of Homeland “Security” gets it’s out of date PBX mail exchange telephone systems hacked, and the hacker procedes to make $12,000 worth of calls to the Middle East and Asia, presumably just to be a dick.

Now, two things about this worth remembering: first, this is a very, very old and very well-documented form of hacking that barely happens anymore in large companies because the PBX system is irrelevant with VoIP, which is the current state-of-the-art voice system.  So, not only are you as a tax payer paying for an outdated technology, but if DHS is going to use old crap, this is a vulnerability they should have known about and prevented.

Second, PBX is a very simple system, and there aren’t really any “rights administration” things as firewalls built in.  Once a hacker has gained access to a PBX system, they’re free to listen in on calls, listen to legitimate users’ voicemails and delete them if they please, and even re-route calls away from their intended destinations.  That the hacker chose to make calls to the Middle East and Asia on DHS’s dime is nothing short of amusing in the way of that classic hacker wit, but that it was even possible is actually quite a bit bigger a deal than the media will let on.


What Privacy?

The Washington Post is reporting that recently disclosed Homeland Security policies lay claim to the right to indefinitely detain your laptop PC, iPod or other electronic device without probable cause and share the information stored on those devices with third-party companies.  It’s all a part of making you feel safer.  Do you feel safer, yet?

I’m sure I’m basically wasting time trying to argue logically about the policies of an organization which is neither founded upon nor governed by rational interests in security.  Nevertheless, let me point out that border security – especially airport security, for which this rule seems largely designed – is about preventing dangerous items from entering a plane or the country.  Such things include guns, knives or shoe bombs.  Or more than one lighter at a time.  Or toothpaste.

So really, there is no logical reason for needing to interpret data on a PC or iPod hard-drive, is there?  Other than an attempt to bully and intimidate travelers, I mean.


PC Pathos

How can you tell a project at Microsoft isn’t going too well?  I mean, really isn’t going too well?  Check out their latest advertisement on Hotmail: