News: Printer Cartridge Clones Get Legal Boost

 One in the eye for the printer manufacturers: IDG reports that a ruling this week from the U.S. Copyright Office could have broad effects on the market for low-cost, third-party printer cartridges.Lexmark is suing manufacturer Static Control Components (SCC) of Sanford, North Carolina, which makes computer chips for third-party ink cartridges. Lexmark says SCC’s chips contain copyrighted Lexmark computer code and consequently violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) ban on circumventing digital technology that protects copyrighted material.
 
Without taking a position on whether SCC’s chips illegally incorporate Lexmark code, the Copyright Office has ruled that the DMCA does not block such usage.
 
Last year Lexmark began using a chip in some of its cartridges that communicates with the company’s printers and verifies that the cartridge is from Lexmark. Without that verification, the cartridge won’t work. SCC’s Smartek chips mimic the Lexmark chips so third-party cartridges can pose as official ones.

News: Microsoft Blogger Fired

 Hard times for Bloggers Like Us: MicrosoftWatch reports that a temp worker, Michael Hanscom, has become the first Microsoft employee to lose his job over his blog. But, as with all these cases, it gets murkier the more you look at it. Hanscom doesn’t believe it was the act of blogging, per se, that led to his firing but for taking a photo inside the company, and possibly revealing information in his blog about his work. The irony: Microsoft is busy encouraging its own employees, as well as others working with its products to blog. Here’s a list of them.

News: Scary Future At Singapore Expo

 Here’s an example of RFID — the intelligent radio tag technology — used without people’s permission to do something a tad scary. The Singapore Straits Times reports (no link available as yet) today that a local start up, Tunity Technologies, installed a tracking system using RFID that would pinpoint every delegate’s physical position at the recent Global Entrepolis@Singapore expo at Suntec City venue — in real-time.
 
To use it, The Straits Times says, all one has to do is to approach one of the 40 conference staff carrying a web pad, and have them key in the missing person’s name. The dog-tag issued to each delegate contains an RFID tag, which hooks up with 60 readers placed inconspicuously around the building. Hmmm. I wonder how many of the delegates know about this.

News: Tiny Drives Get Bigger

 Hitachi today is now shipping one-inch diameter drives storing 4 gigabytes with a a data transfer rate that is 70 percent faster than the previous-generation Microdrive. Hitachi reckons it’s the “world’s smallest hard disk drive“, weighing just over a half an ounce and equivalent in size to a matchbook.

Hitachi will continue to offer its current 1GB Microdrive to customers throughout the world and is planning to introduce a 2GB version of the Microdrive later this year. The company expects the new 4GB Microdrive 3K4 to be available on retail shelves in major markets this November for about $500.

News: The Death Of The PDA

 Interesting article by Reuters’ Franklin Paul on the death of the PDA (no link available, I’m afraid). “The truth is, the PDA as it was first envisioned – as nothing more than a fancy digital pocket organizer – may be nearly extinct,” he writes. Three years ago, consumers rushed to buy PDAs, but “today, its the mailroom guys and soccer moms who are toting handhelds, and the slick executives carry new wireless devices that look more like cell phones, or thin notebook computers able to link to high-speed web access at various business sites.”
 
Paul cites IDC figures predicting that traditional PDA shipments will decline slightly this year from 12.3 million in 2002, and see minimal growth at best in 2004, while smartphones will top 13 million this year and find annual growth of over 86 percent by 2007.

News: Broadband Isn’t About Speed

 British users are finding broadband isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, if it means confronting spam and other detritus of the Internet. According to a report by the iSociety project at The Work Foundation to be launched today:  ”Ordinary people are promised that broadband makes the internet better; in fact it sometimes leads to a disaster on the desktop which makes people consider stopping using the net altogether.”
 
Broadband providers and the industry as a whole must, the report says, “stop pouring hundreds of millions of pounds down the drain developing “rich media content” which doesn’t excite their customers” and start providing support. The report also makes another interesting point: the always-on Internet is not about ‘adoption’ — how many people get online — it’s about ‘absorption’ — about how people online actually get into the whole thing and find useful things online to read or do, or to communicate with others.

Software: An Alternative Firewall to ZoneAlarm?

 Aaron Heskel from Belgium suggests Agnitum’s OutPost as an alternative to ZoneLabs’ ZoneAlarm firewall. I’ll definitely check it out.
 
 
As with ZoneAlarm, there’s a free version which may be enough for most folks. I’ll let you know how I get on.

News: Anti Spam Site, Hoax, Or Did Someone Not Pay Their Hosting Bill?

 Is this some kind of joke my jetlagged brain doesn’t get? Trawling through my inbox of press releases (a glamour killer of a chore if ever there was one) I came across one suggesting I Do My Part in Reducing Online email Spam!  
There’s a battle raging inside your in-box, and it’s a war you can’t win alone!
 
Apparently a website called http://www.helpreducespam.com/, run by a guy called Stephen Clinton, is out to stop spam. The problem: the website’s not reachable, so I have no idea how it works, whether it’s real, whether Stephen’s related to Bill, whatever. Please, somebody else try and let me know what it is. There have been so many initiatives to stop spam and I don’t believe any of them have a silver bullet in their belt, but I’m willing to give anything new a try. So long as it involves putting spammers in stocks and throwing tomatoes at them.

Update: PC-cilin Goes All 2004

 Trend Micro today released PC-cillin Internet Security 2004, the latest version of an antivirus program that I have written fondly of in the past. There don’t seem to be any new bells and whistles this time around, but then again it doesn’t really need it: Internet Security includes a personal firewall and “advanced privacy and spyware protection to protect passwords, bank account numbers, and other personal information”. It also blocks spam and inappropriate (adult) Web sites. It sells for $50 which will get you a year of updates.
 

Update: The Blogger Is Back

 I’m now back on a reliable Internet connection so expect loose wire blog updates shortly. My apologies for the gap.