Tuesday, April 21
WIth the Obama administration working to overhaul cybersecurity in the U.S., online hackers and spies keep justifying that overhaul. The latest breach, as the Wall Street Journal reports, is particularly severe:
Computer spies have broken into the Pentagon’s $300 billion Joint Strike Fighter project—the Defense Department’s costliest weapons program ever—according to current and former government officials familiar with the attacks.
Similar incidents have also breached the Air Force’s air-traffic-control system in recent months, these people say. In the case of the fighter-jet program, the intruders were able to copy and siphon off several terabytes of data related to design and electronics systems, officials say, potentially making it easier to defend against the craft.
Even scarier is the fact that snooping on the jet project appears to have been going on since 2007.
Read Write Web reports on a cool—and a tad creepy—breakthrough out of the University Wisconsin-Madison:
[B]iomedical engineering doctoral student Adam Wilson has successfully tested a “brain wave monitor” to Twitter publishing interface, allowing him to compose a message merely by thinking and publish it to the arguably too-popular microblogging service.
Either the gates of Hell have begun to open or this is a grad student who really knows how to publicize his work by riding the bandwagon of popular culture. Both are probably true.
Are the days of keyboards numbered? Probably not—at least not soon—but the sci-fi fantasy of controlling computers simply by thinking may not be fantasy after all.
For years, the idea of allowing states to collect online sales taxes—regardless of where companies are located—has continued to percolate. And as Business Week reports, a major push is now afoot:
In the next week, legislators are expected to introduce bills in the House and Senate promising to do away with the “physical presence” requirement. If a bill passes — and that’s a big “if” — it would require all online retailers, except for the tiniest companies, to collect sales taxes in the 23 states that are part of the Streamlined Sales Tax Project. The states would compensate the retailers for the trouble, while promising not to sue them for tax collection mistakes that are made.
Major online retailers like Amazon and Apple are, of course, fighting the bill—and given their financial strength, chances are they’ll succeed.
Monday, April 20
Last Saturday, President Obama announced his pick for U.S. Chief Technology Officer: Aneesh Chopra, the current Secretary of Technology for Virginia. As Business Week reports, the pick was a but of a surprise:
Obama’s choice comes after months of speculation, during which many of the Valley’s most prominent figures, including Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and other names were thrown out as possible candidates. But after speaking with Chopra I think he could make a smart choice, because he has shown an ability to bridge the divide between government and technology.
Chopra, who has been Virginia’s top techie for the last four years, is not an engineer by training. He’s more a policy wonk, having earned a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1997, and a B.A. degree in public health from The Johns Hopkins University in 1994. But a pure technologist with little to no government experience would likely get lost trying to navigate the Washington bureaucracy. Chopra has deep experience in three key tech priorities of the Obama Administration: broadband, healthcare technology, and government efficiency.
Over at App-Rising, Geoff Daily has taken a look at a somewhat neglected portion of the federal broadband stimulus: $250 earmarked to increase demand for broadband. Writes Daily:
If you want people to go online you need to give them a reason to do so. If we want to reach the 50% or so of households without broadband access we can’t get there by talking bitrate and bandwidth. We need compelling local content that they either can’t get anywhere else or that it’s at least more convenient to watch online.
That content could be anything, from local sports to local government meetings to local music to local healthcare information and beyond. The idea is having content that’s relevant to someone living in a particular geographic area, and then making that content available online on-demand.
Read the whole thing.
A Pew study found that people age 64 to 72 account for 7% of the Internet-using population (almost equal to their 9% slice of the U.S. adult population).
Elizabeth Holmes, “Seniors Take Job Hunt to the Web,” Wall Street Journal Digits [blog]. February 26, 2009.
More facts about broadband adoption.
Friday, April 17
On Thursday, April 2, the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet held a hearing on broadband and its role American Recovery Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Bringing together witnesses from both the private and non-profit sectors, the full hearing is available in audio form on the Subcommittee’s site. And compiled below are some selections from the hearing:
Oversight of the American Recovery Act: Broadband - Opening Statements
The Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet held a hearing titled, “Oversight of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009: Broadband” on April 2nd, 2009. This podcast contains the opening statements by Chairman Rick Boucher (D-Va), Cliff Stearns (R-Fl), John Dingell (D-Mi), and Zack Space (D-Oh) concerning deployment and access to broadband in urban, rural, under-served and unserved areas across the country.
Oversight of the American Recovery Act: Broadband - Nicol Turner-Lee
Nicol Turner-Lee, Senior VP, External Affairs of One Economy Corp., discusses strategies for getting broadband into low income housing communities.
Oversight of the American Recovery Act: Broadband - Rachelle Chong
Rachelle Chong, Commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission, discusses the broadband mapping project in California and how a mapping initiative should be prerequisite for receiving funds from the NTIA and RUS.
Oversight of the American Recovery Act: Broadband - Brian Mefford
Brian Mefford, Chairman and CEO of Connected Nation, discusses the importance of broadband mapping. He also addresses the fact that many people have access to broadband but choose not to adopt it because they do not see the value in it.
More and more Hollywood content is being distributed online, causing cable companies like Time Warner threatening tiered pricing out of to fear of losing cable customers to online viewing. And now, via the New York Times comes word of on a major new deal:
In another step in its transformation from an online jumble of amateur videos to a destination for mainstream TV programs and movies, YouTube said Thursday that it had signed deals with Hollywood studios to showcase thousands of TV episodes and hundreds of movies on its Web site.
And Google, which owns YouTube, said it might eventually bring another innovation to the site: payment for some premium content.
The agreements with the studios, which include Sony, Lions Gate, MGM and others, are significant because YouTube dominates online video. Nearly two-thirds of all video views in the United States occur on YouTube, according to the measurement firm Nielsen. Last month the site had more than 90 million visitors, 10 times as many as the next biggest site, comScore said.
Meanwhile, Miami New Times has the scoop on another big deal potentially in the works:
CBS, which will broadcast next year’s game, is hoping to persuade the NFL to bring the big game into the Internet age. The network made $30 million off streaming the recent NCAA basketball championship and is eager to apply the model to the Super Bowl.
The NFL has yet to agree to the deal, but given the success of NBC’s experiment streaming games last year, they’d be crazy to turn it down.
In the ongoing war between the entertainment industry and online pirates, four members of the online site Pirate Bay have been found guilty by a Swedish court of “making copyright content available” for illegal downloads. As Torrent Freak reports, each defendant received a one year jail sentence, with fines levied at the group totaling over $3 million.
In response to the verdict, TechDirt has this to say:
[B]asically, the entertainment industry will gleefully declare victory, and make statements about how this is a major victory against “piracy.” But, in actuality, the exact opposite of that will occur. Unauthorized file sharing continues (or even increases) and it becomes that much more difficult for the legacy industries to win back customers and embrace these new, useful and efficient tools of distribution and promotion. It’s a classic case of winning the battle and losing the war. The ultimate problem, of course, is that the entertainment industry still (amazingly) thinks this is a legal issue, not a business model one. It can win as many legal battles as it wants, but in thinking it’s a legal issue, it will never recognize how its business models need to change.