You decide what should you do with that old computer

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Hooray! You’ve drummed up the money to buy a new computer, and transferred all your files safely over to it. Done and dusted. The new machine is a delight – so much faster and quieter and smaller.

But now you’ve got an old computer. And it really is very old. What should you do with it? Give it to a charity such as Computeraid, for the developing world? Give it to your local school or parish council? Keep it in the house for tasks you haven’t yet thought of (nobody in the family wants it, as it’s too old)? Give it away to anyone who answers an advert?

What do you do?

Chinas consoles, Koreas weakness, smartphone tracking and more

A burst of 10 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

Korea grapples with massive personal data theft, regulatory mess >> The Korea Herald
IT experts have suggested an array of factors behind those large-scale security lapses, with some blaming government-led overregulation such as the “public key certificate” system that is supposed to prevent such security breaches.

Many Korean websites depend on Internet Explorer’s cumbersome “ActiveX” platform, posing another risk factor. KAIST professor Lee Min-hwa said, “ActiveX is a program that momentarily disarms the computer to download codes from an outside source, which can be abused by hackers seeking to plant malicious codes.”

Lee, one of the key patrons of President Park Geun-hye’s signature science and technology-based “creative economy,” said that Korea’s dependence on the ActiveX-based public key certificate system created a “black hole” in cyber security.

Between 18.6m and 105m user details have been leaked since January 2008 (it’s impossible to know if there’s overlap between the largest, Auction in January 2008, and the others). South Korea has a population of 50m – so probably plenty of overlap.

How do smartphones reveal shoppers’ movements? >> The Economist
For several months Nordstrom tested a system that tracked the movements of people carrying Wi-Fi-enabled smartphones and other devices as they wandered through 17 of its stores or merely walked by. The firm posted a public notice of the monitoring, prompting a report by a television station in Dallas in May, at which point the retailer pulled the plug. Then the New York Times picked up the story, igniting a privacy debate about passive monitoring via Wi-Fi and other technologies. The system used by Nordstrom and several other firms, provided by Euclid Analytics, can precisely track the movements of individual phones, even though they never actually connect to a Wi-Fi network. How does it work?
Helping robots become more touchy-feely, literally: Paper-thin e-skin responds to touch by lighting up >> Science Daily
A research team led by Ali Javey, UC Berkeley associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences, has created the first user-interactive sensor network on flexible plastic. The new electronic skin, or e-skin, responds to touch by instantly lighting up. The more intense the pressure, the brighter the light it emits.

“We are not just making devices; we are building systems,” said Javey, who also has an appointment as a faculty scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “With the interactive e-skin, we have demonstrated an elegant system on plastic that can be wrapped around different objects to enable a new form of human-machine interfacing.”

…In addition to giving robots a finer sense of touch, the engineers believe the new e-skin technology could also be used to create things like wallpapers that double as touchscreen displays and dashboard laminates that allow drivers to adjust electronic controls with the wave of a hand.

“I could also imagine an e-skin bandage applied to an arm as a health monitor that continuously checks blood pressure and pulse rates,” said study co-lead author Chuan Wang, who conducted the work as a post-doctoral researcher in Javey’s lab at UC Berkeley.

Should be in mass manufacturing by, oh, 2020 or so. (Thanks @HotSoup for the link.)

A lean and concise Microsoft! >> Joy Of Tech

Need to understand that Ballmer memo? Here you go.

Google settles vanity-searcher’s class-action lawsuit for $8.5m >> Mediapost
Google has agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging that it leaked the names of search users via referrer headers, according to court papers filed on Friday in San Jose, Calif.

The settlement agreement calls for Google to donate $8.5m to four schools and nonprofit organizations — Harvard Law’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Stanford Law’s Center for Internet and Society, the MacArthur Foundation, and AARP.

Google also agreed to revise its privacy policy. The settlement agreement does not appear to require Google to change any of its practices.

Exactly the same lawsuit that Chris Soghoian brought in 2010 on behalf of the ACLU (PDF) to the US FTC.

Remember that girl who got burned by her Galaxy S III? Third party battery to blame >> Android Beat
Well, the phone was sent in for inspection, the tests have been concluded, and it turns out the girl is at fault. She purchased a third-party battery for her phone, according to the Swiss publication Le Matin. In other words, Samsung is off the hook.
Korea’s FTC acquits Google of antitrust charges >> Search Engine Watch (#SEW)
The antitrust charges were originally brought about in 2011 by South Korea’s two largest search operators, NHN Corp. and Daum Communications Corp.

The dismissal is no doubt a relief for Google, which said at the time of the complaint that “Android is an open platform, and carriers and partners are free to decide which applications and services to include.”

The FTC agreed in this case, stating mobile users can easily find alternatives to the Google search engine through downloadable applications provided by NHN and Daum.

“Before and after Google’s push to force the preload of the Android operating system, its domestic market share remains almost unchanged at around 10%, while Naver (the portal of NHN) still maintains more than 70%,” an FTC official said. “This does not satisfy the competition-restricting condition, which is one of the major issues of this case.”

Wonder if that’s domestic market share measured across both desktop and mobile? It’s unclear from the story. Or does Samsung preload other search engines on its Android devices in Korea?

Job Description – SR. DIRECTOR INDUSTRIAL DESIGN – WEARABLES >> Motorola Jobs

Look who’s hiring:

Specifically, the Industrial Design Team collaborates closely with our internal work partners to create compelling, usable and innovative products that define our brand with over a million consumers worldwide. The wearables design team will lead the establishment of our brand in the massive competitive and growing space of wearable connected products.

Reporting to the Senior Vice President of CXD, the Senior Director of Industrial Design will define and execute design strategies for all Motorola wearable devices.

Desired skills include “15+ years of work experience in design of tech, consumer product and/or apparel”.

The Incredible Shrinking Motorola >> Into Mobile

Useful graphic by Kelly Hodgkins showing how Motorola’s headcount has changed since Google acquired it.

Foreign game console ban to be lifted >> China Daily
Sources from China’s Ministry of Culture confirmed on Thursday that the country is about to allow foreign game console companies to sell products in China if they register in Shanghai’s new free trade zone, but denied lifting a decade-long ban on the video game hardware market in the country anytime soon.

Two officials from the ministry confirmed the accuracy of a South China Morning Post report. The story, which was published on Wednesday, quoted sources that if foreign companies agreed to register in the new free trade zone in Shanghai, they would be allowed to promote and sell their products on the Chinese mainland.

But before they start selling, foreign gaming companies have to seek approval for specific products from related regulators because the Chinese government wants to make sure the content is not too violent or politically sensitive, the SCMP report said.

…Because of fears of the potential harm to the physical and mental development of the young, seven Chinese ministries collectively banned the manufacture, sale and import of game consoles in China in 2000.

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MyDoomb targets Microsoft

“With millions of junk e-mails from the first strain of the e-mail worm still crossing the Internet, virus hunters Wednesday discovered a new variant, Mydoom.b, that reportedly targets software giant Microsoft’s Web site. If opened, Mydoom.b also blocks access to several common anti-virus sites, an attempt to make the virus more difficult to remove,” reports The Mercury News.

Microsoft has also followed SCO, the original target, in offering a $250,000 reward “to anyone who helps authorities find and prosecute the author”, adds AP.

OpenTech 2008 The Power of Information Report One Year On

I’m at Open Tech 2008, an “informal, low cost one-day conference on technology, society and low-carbon living, featuring Open Source ways of working and technologies”. One debate I attended, earlier, entitled ‘Power to the people – one year on from the Power of Information Report’ was very interesting, detailing how the British public gain access to data.

Following on from this paper’s Free Our Data campaign, launched in 2006, and which advocates British taxpayers’ data being made available to them on request, alongside pressure from Ed Mayo, Tom Steinberg, MP Tom Watson, MySociety, TheyWorkForYou and others, the Power of Information Report, published in June 2007, finally concluded that the Government would make a pledge to “meet rising aspirations of modern communications practice and improve engagement with citizens through social media”.

Has the report been a success then? A few points which the panel Richard Allan, William Perrin and Tom Loosemore highlighted, were: the government have realised that transparency in access to public information is both necessary and unavoidable; civil servants are now – as of last month – finally allowed to participate in online media; and because MPs are regularly linking to sites like TheyWorkForYou as a way to highlight what issues they are active on, this shows a small step forward for government openness. Also, as a result of this report, a variety of public data has recently been made available online:

* Neighbourhood Statistics API from the Office of National Statistics have opened up data including: 2001Census, Access to Services, Community wellbeing/Social Environment, Crime and Safety, Economic Deprivation, Education, Skills and Training, Health and care, Housing, Indicators, Indices of Deprivation, People and Society, Physical Environment, and Work Deprivation.

* Health care services and information from the NHS are giving people the chance to look at: Information about health care service providers, and “live well” health information from the NHS.

* There are now notices from the London Gazette available to view: all notices published in the London Gazette, the Government’s Official Journal and newspaper of record, in XML from February 2007 to May 2008. Notices types covered include State, Parliament, Ecclesiastical, Public Finance, Transport, Planning, Health, Environment, Water, Agriculture & Fisheries, Energy, Post & Telecom, Competition, Corporate Insolvency, Companies & Financial Regulations, Partnerships, and Societies Regulation.

The panel then announced that on the Office of Public Sector Information website, there is now an “unlocking” service, where, if you are having difficulty obtaining public sector data, you can ask the civil servants who run the site, to apply on your behalf and have it made available.

Show Us a Better Way which was set up by Tom Watson and Tom Loosemore is also a government-run site, but which has a competition – with a ?20,000 prize – for people to suggest ideas for “new products that could improve the way public information is communicated” and are offering, too.

The Power of Information Wiki was also highlighted as being a useful tool for people to utilise: a sort of one-stop-shop for accessing public data.

The session concluded was that there is still a struggle between how information becomes available and licensed for open use and how the public will be able to obtain it. The challenge, then, was to not let up on demanding the data was made available, whilst also building simple architecture that allows easy access to it.

Arizona man arrested over live internet rape

Police in Arizona have arrested a 20-year-old man over allegations that he raped a woman live on the internet.

According to media reports, the man – who comes from Surprise, a suburb of Phoenix – was taken into custody on charges of sexual assault, kidnapping and taking a surreptitious photograph, after a police investigation uncovered footage of the incident.

Court documents allege that the event took place in February, following a night when the man and a female friend got drunk. According to the affidavit, the man waited until the woman had fallen asleep and then set up a webcam before streaming the assault on the internet – apparently making a series of comments and jokes throughout the 30 minute broadcast.

The East Valley Tribune reports the details of the affidavit:

“She said while he was doing this he was laughing and making comments,” the affidavit states. “She said [he] made comments about how the victim would never know what was happening to her because she was ‘passed out.'”

The woman was apparently unaware of what happened until friends alerted her, having found pictures of the incident online after it occurred. A witness who saw the stream live online reported it to police at the time, but it has taken investigators more than three months to locate any evidence of the recording.

While sex crimes have surfaced online before – often becoming part of police investigations into organised sexual abuse or paedophile rings in the process – the prevalence of video streaming services has made it easier for bragging criminals to broadcast their activities… and to get caught as a result.

Last year police in Florida launched an investigation after a 19-year-old man appeared to kill himself live online – with some viewers allegedly goading him to complete the act. While several of the 185 viewers contacted police to warn them what was happening, others encouraged him to “do the world a favour”.

In California, meanwhile, a 49-year-old woman was convicted last year of a number of charges relating to the suicide of a 13-year-old neighbour. Megan Meier, from St Louis, Missouri, killed herself in 2006 after being bullied on MySpace. Lori Drew, who lived next door to Meier, was accused of coordinating the attacks and found guilty of using a computer without authorisation for her role in the death of the teenager. She has yet to be sentenced, but could face up to three years in prison.

more on Gear, Apples FaceTime problem, Indias phablet taste, and more

A burst of 14 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

Nissan self-driving cars by 2020 >> What Car?
Nissan will have self-driving cars in showrooms by 2020, according to company boss Carlos Ghosn.

Testing of cars that drive themselves, dubbed Autonomous Drive, is due to start in Japan next year, leading to several models with the technology going on sale six years later.

The company claims that all of its Autonomous Drive models will be sold at realistic prices, and expects the technology to reduce accidents and help people with disabilities get on the road.

This doesn’t seem to be linked to Google – which would mean competition, and so choice, and so use.

This is Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smartwatch: a blocky health tracker with a camera >> VentureBeat

Christina Farr:

At about 3in diagonally, the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch is quite large. Although its screen is square, large bezels on the top and bottom give it a chunky, rectangular shape, with rounded corners.

The color is fairly basic — dark black and grey, although it may be enhanced in the final version. The wristband is clunky and masculine, large enough to hold speakers in the clasp. It’s not heavy to hold, but it dwarfed my tiny lady wrists when I tried it on. Women may instead opt for a Misfit Shine, which isn’t a watch but is a small jewel-like button.

The smartwatch prototype has Bluetooth to connect with the Galaxy S family of smartphones and tablets, although it may also connect to all Android devices. It also has Wi-Fi for Internet access, including e-mail, even when it’s not connected to a smartphone, but I didn’t see that in action.

Not forgetting the 3MP camera in the wristband. (This repeats the “10-hour battery life” spec seen last week.)

Report: After patent loss, Apple tweaks FaceTime — and logs 500,000 complaints >> Ars Technica
Apple has handed over its customer service logs from April through mid-August to VirnetX’s attorneys. At the August 15 hearing, a VirnetX lawyer stated that Apple had logged “over half a million calls” complaining about the quality of FaceTime, according to Lease.

If that’s accurate, the data will bolster VirnetX’s arguments that its patents are technologically significant, hard to work around, and deserve a high royalty rate. The judge and lawyers present at the hearing didn’t discuss numbers regarding what a reasonable ongoing royalty might be, but VirnetX is asking for royalty payments of more than $700m for the ongoing use of FaceTime, according to Lease.

Only one query on this: how do people complain about FaceTime call quality? It seems unlikely that people would make a Facetime call and then call Apple to complain.

Major TV torrent site TheBox.bz calls it quits >> TorrentFreak
One of the internet’s most-loved torrent sites for TV show content has decided to call it quits. TheBox.bz, a private site with around 90,000 members, will close its doors on Saturday. The site’s operators inform TorrentFreak that they aren’t reacting to any particular threat, but with City of London Police and other interested parties watching over the site, trouble is only just around the corner.

BitTorrent is perfect for distributing all kinds of content, from movies to music and from software to backups. However, there is one particular type of content that users rarely seem to tire of.

TV show downloading is a very popular pastime among file-sharers. The ability to grab almost any show from the present or even distant past and watch it at a time and place of a user’s choosing is a powerful lure.

They missed off “for free” as part of the attraction and “in breach of copyright” as part of the proviso.

A Brief History of Apple’s iWatch >> Anil Dash
A brief timeline of Apple iWatch’s entrance to the market.

September 10, 2013: As key members of the tech industry and trade press gather on a clear Tuesday morning, Tim Cook leads much of Apple’s senior management in the introduction of a simple, wearable touchscreen device. Priced around $300, it immediately attracts complaints that it’s too expensive, since wearable fitness devices are less than half the price; Supporters claim its support for a tightly-defined app platform differentiates it enough to justify the higher price.

Get some coffee. Enjoy.

As Android rises, app makers tumble into Google’s ‘matrix of pain’ >> Wired.com

Ryan Tate:

Navigating the matrix of pain is certainly doable. One developer likens it to writing PC software in the 1990s, when a programmer had to test against a handful of versions of the Windows operating system, along with scores of possible hardware configurations. But it means that writing Android software is significantly more complex than writing apps for iOS, where Apple keeps hardware configurations to a minimum and where the vast majority of users run the latest version of the operating system.

And it’s even more of a headache when compared to web technologies like JavaScript and HTML. These webby alternatives were supposed to replace native apps, letting developers write one version of software that runs on all devices. But consumers have largely rejected web apps.

Developers who brave the matrix of pain often have to make some compromises.
iOS and Android weaknesses allow stealthy pilfering of website credentials >> Ars Technica
The so-called same-origin policy is a fundamental security mechanism enforced by desktop browsers, but the protection is woefully missing from many iOS and Android apps. To demonstrate the threat, the researchers devised several hacks that carry out so-called cross-site scripting (XSS) and cross-site request forgery (CSRF) attacks to surreptitiously download user data from handsets.

The most serious of the attacks worked on both iOS and Android devices and required only that an end-user click on a booby-trapped link in the official Google Plus app. Behind the scenes, a script sent instructions that caused a text-editing app known as PlainText to send documents and text input to a Dropbox account controlled by the researchers. The attack worked against other apps, including TopNotes and Nocs.
April 2013: What tens of millions of Q10 sales mean for BlackBerry ?? CrackBerry.com
“We expect several tens of millions of units”, said a confident BlackBerry CEO on camera. That’s a huge statement to make, and from what we’ve seen of the man so far, he is a man of action. He is not one to exaggerate and make crazy promises.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I think the Q10 is monumentally important as a cash cow for BlackBerry over the next year.

Signs so far are that’s not the case. The scary part though is the end of the post:

If BlackBerry 10 sells north of 5 million per quarter (remember we now have the Z10 and the Q10 selling), I think analysts will be forced to massively raise their numbers.

And we all know what that means to the stock, don’t we?

The stock tanked two months later when the quarterly results came out: BlackBerry had shipped 2.7m BB10 phones and made an unexpected loss.

This is why there aren’t enough women in tech >> Valleywag
Last Friday, Valleywag published a post about the tech sector’s increasing abuse of the term “culture fit” as a way to discriminate against potential hires who don’t match the pattern of a successful startup employee. It prompted an outpouring of responses from readers about their own abysmal experiences with the euphemism.

Must-read.

Wall Street Journal digging reveals very weak Q10 demand >> CrackBerry.com

Chris Umiastowski says that Crackberry.com’s own data relating to long-tail searches agrees: the BB10 phones haven’t been a hit.

It’s actually hard to hit Google, search for anything related to BlackBerry, and not find a CrackBerry result near the top. As Kevin [Michaluk] points out, the surge of new visitors related to the Z10 and Q10 launch traffic has now disappeared. Traffic is back to where it was prior to the launch of BlackBerry 10. There’s still a BIG audience on CrackBerry, it’s just not growing the way you’d expect it to grow if a lot of people were buying and using their BlackBerry 10 phones on a continued basis (conversely, CrackBerry’s sister site AndroidCentral.com is seeing this type of long tail growth on the back of the launch of the S4 and HTC One).
Why Apple and Google can’t sync right — and don’t care if you suffer >> ReadWrite

Matt Asay:

I’ve dumped iCloud for everything but synchronization of Notes from my MacBook Air to my iPhone and iPad. It mostly works. Sometimes. Cloud is Apple’s Achilles Heel.

Which is why I have turned to Google to handle synchronization of my most important data across devices. But even Google’s sync has started to falter, though in its case the problem seems to have less to do with technical ability and more to do with political maneuvering.
Phablets account for 30% of all smartphones in India, 67% smartphones priced below $200 >> BGR India

Rajat Agrawalj:

Phablets or smartphones with displays between 5in and 6.99in accounted for 30% of all smartphones shipped in India in Q2, 2013, according to the latest IDC figures. Phablet shipments increased 17 times year-on-year with smartphone shipments hitting 9.3m units compared to just 3.5m units in Q2, 2012. The magic formula for India seems to be having a sub-$200 smartphone with a large display and dual-SIM slots.

Local vendors continue to dominate the Indian smartphone space with Micromax shipping over 2m smartphones in the quarter making it the second largest player with a market share of 22% behind Samsung’s 26% share. IDC claims that local vendors now account for over half of the total smartphone market in India.

It’s not a big market in volume terms, but the choice of phablets seems to point to a trend: countries with low PC penetration go for maximum screen sizes along with connectivity. Anecdotally, the Galaxy Note is very popular there.

Nokia unveils its connected car platform: Here Auto — Tech News and Analysis
Nokia head of location and of commerce and Here EVP Michael Halbherr – who will be speaking at GigaOM’s Mobilize conference in October — recently shared the Finnish phone maker’s broader connected car vision, which will eventually include autonomous driving and integrating the vehicle into future “smart city” networks. Today’s release of Here Auto is its first step down that path.

It’s hardly the self-driving car, but it’s Nokia entry into the growing field of internet-linked entertainment and navigation systems.
Dell drops $299 Windows RT tablet, cheapest offer now $479 >> ITworld

From mid-August:

Shoppers who tried to buy a Windows RT tablet at Dell’s website Friday morning would have seen one listed for US$299. By the end of the day the cheapest tablet came bundled with a keyboard for $479.

Dell made several changes to the RT offers on its website. By Friday evening it had eliminated all the options for a standalone tablet and now only sells the product, called the XPS 10, bundled with a keyboard.

In some ways it bucks a recent trend. Dell has been lowering prices for its Windows RT tablet since May, after the company admitted it was selling poorly. When it was introduced last October, the XPS 10 was priced at $499, and it had dropped to $299 in May.

Two likely reasons: keyboards may make more profit for Dell (so make them non-optional); Windows RT is a car crash.

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How I taught my son to love vinyl

Recently I watched the film Almost Famous with my two teenage children, Ariella, 15, and Noah, 13. Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical film includes one of the best scenes depicting the sheer joy of listening to vinyl when the young aspiring music journalist has his mind set free by his older sister, who leaves him her LP collection under his bed when she leaves home.

I have seen the film before, but never with my children, and love that particular scene; watching it again not only brought back my own memories of playing records – but a bunch of questions from my son in particular, a “digital native” who simply could not grasp the whole vinyl experience.

The following scene when the young protagonist plays the first track off The Who’s Tommy and we see a close-up shot of the needle hitting the vinyl with a crackle before the music starts triggered the first and most pertinent question: “How do you know what track is playing?”

You have to refer to the back of the album cover and look at the track listings for a number, then making sure you have the correct side of the record on the turntable, count the wide grooves on the vinyl to bring the needle down on the song you desire, I replied.

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Pinterest Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon Photograph: Alamy On the dark side of the moon

My teenage children looked at me as if I had grown up on the dark side of the moon, never mind using that kind of rigmarole to play Pink Floyd’s classic concept album with its iconic gatefold sleeve.

“Well, how do you pause a track?” asked my son. By lifting up the needle by its arm and locking it, which was followed by the quite reasonable query: but how does it know where it left off to resume playing the the track if the record is spinning around?”

As a member of the MP3 generation, and an iPod owner, this is not surprising as he is used to a fast-scrolling wheel on a device with a backlit LCD display, an iTunes interface, 8GB of space with playlist support, making it very fast and easy to go through a list of up to 7,000 songs.

Trying to explain to my son that the thin grooves embedded on the vinyl played recorded music from the vibrations picked up by a stylus that delivers a sonic message through an amp and speakers must sound as alien to him as automobiles with starting handles were to my generation.

It just does, I replied. The truth was I didn’t exactly know myself, but of course part of the fun and enjoyment of playing records is that magical moment when the arm drops onto the vinyl with a crackle.

The first single I bought was Hot Chocolate’s You Sexy Thing when it was in the charts way back in 1975. I was 12 years old. The first LP I owned was T Rex’s Electric Warrior, acquired around the same time because I liked the cover.

That same year I got my first record player for Christmas, a mono Fidelity model with a red lid and a big spindle so you could stack up to seven 45s – the equivalent these days of a playlist.

Records were a thing of my past, like Advocaat snowballs at Christmas, Oxford bags (flared-trousers) and the NME – or so I thought.

Time to bring out the vinyl

After 25 years of listening to CDs and MP3s it was time to bring out the vinyl again. Not only so my children could experience how recorded music should be played, but also for me. I was approaching my 50th birthday and as a present to myself I decided it was time to invest in a turntable.

After an investment of roughly ?100 on an amp and speakers and a free turntable advertised by a friend on Facebook, I was set.

I still owned all my LPs; they were stored safely, or so I thought, at my parent’s house but after a recent visit I was horrified to discover that all my Who albums (most of their catalogue, including a very rare copy of the My Generation album on the Brunswick label) and some Led Zeppelin LPs were missing – and still haven’t been located.

As a teenage working class boy from the north, music proved to be my salvation and listening to The Who in particular with my two friends Al and Olly in our bedrooms inspired us to form our own band.

Then came punk and coloured vinyl and bands such as The Jam, Sex Pistols, The Ruts showed us the way.

Our Who-influenced punk band never really got going and, rather bizarrely, I ended up playing drums in a jazz band in Austria when I was 19 and started listening to cats such as Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Weather Report, Frank Zappa and Sun Ra.

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Pinterest VINYL RECORD ON A TURNTABLE RECORD PLAYER DETAIL OF ARM LP LONG PLAY DECK MUSIC STYLUS Photograph: Andrew Drysdale/Rex Features
I still have my jazz and blues vinyl, and reconnecting with John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme in its original gatefold sleeve on the Impulse label was the nearest I’ll come to a religious experience.

Moved to tears

Playing the record after almost 25 years I was almost moved to tears as my living room was filled with music of such warmth, fullness and richness you simply don’t hear on digital. I felt I was in the studio with the band as they put the tracks down.

Even turning over the album to side two was like a spiritual act. I felt an intimacy; that Coltrane had recorded this piece of music solely for my listening pleasure – I could touch it, feel it and smell it. And I could read the sleeve notes including Coltrane’s A Love Supreme poem and his note to the “Dear Listener” acknowledging his faith in God and how his masterpiece recording was conceived.

I had played A Love Supreme a thousand times before on CD and MP3 but I never felt that emotional connection before: why would I when these days all it takes is to press play on a digital device?

The download generation that my children belong to with their touch-screen devices and never ending playlists are losing out on the sheer joy of holding a record, book, magazine or newspaper in their hands and engaging with its content the way I did.

And this makes me sad, even though through my work as a tech journalist I am very much apart of this mobile revolution.

Listening to the Who’s Tommy again with my son stirred up similar emotions. It was another important album to me when I was growing up and Noah had been listening to it on iTunes after we watched Almost Famous.

Priceless father-son moments

Watching him play the record, and being mesmerised and intrigued by analogue technology, gatefold sleeves and surfaces that you have to wipe with a static cloth, and blow dust from a needle before you even listen to the music, is one of those father-son-moments that become priceless.

Now he understands the importance of music in its purest form, he has his own tastes of course and the bands he listens to are releasing their music on vinyl. A recent report from international music industry body the IFPI says that 12m vinyl records were sold last year in the UK, four times as many as in 2006.

On weekends we go “crate digging” at car boots, charity shops and independent record stores, unearthing recent gems such as Roxy Music’s For Your Pleasure, Steely Dan, Joe Jackson, the Clash and the first Dire Straits album, which I remember owning on cassette.

Music set my mind free and was the reason why I ultimately became a journalist. For my son, his journey is just beginning but I know that vinyl is now part of his musical path and when that stylus hits the record he feels the same way as I do now: supreme.

As Henry Rollins succinctly sums it up: “Sitting in a room, alone, listening to a CD is to be lonely. Sitting in a room alone with an LP crackling away … is enjoying the sublime state of solitude.”

Tony Myers is editor and founder of smartmoviemaking.com

World Cyber Games gets new sponsor Microsoft

Microsoft has signed up to sponsor the World Cyber Games competiton for 2006-08, and will exclusively supply all the equipment used. This isn’t too surprising since almost all competitive gaming is already on Windows. However, it raises speculation that this will lead to an emphasis on Xbox 360 games. As Ars Technica notes:

At the 2005 World Cyber Games, competition covered 6 PC titles (Counter-Strike: Source, FIFA Soccer 2005, Need for Speed: Underground 2, StarCraft: Brood War, WarCraft III: The Frozen Throne, and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War) and 2 console games (Dead or Alive Ultimate and Halo 2). The move to official Microsoft sponsorship may lead to an increased focus on console-oriented titles. The Xbox 360 is the crown jewel of Microsoft’s gaming division right now, and it’s reasonable to expect that the competition will be expanded to cover additional Xbox 360 titles–at least once there are more games that would make for good competitive fodder.

As Ars Technica might have mentioned, Seattle will host the 2007 World Cyber Games Grand Final — an announcement made when Samsung Electronics was still the worldwide sponsor. With the backing of the Microsoft publicity machine, the 2007 finals could turn into a very visible event.

Comment: Nintendo of America is also based in Redmond. When Microsoft was first being accused of world domination, a Softie friend of mine used to describe Microsoft as “the second biggest software company in Seattle”.

New ereader to carve out Android nook

US bookseller Barnes & Noble has unveiled an e-reader in the US, called the nook, to compete with Amazon’s Kindle and Sony’s Reader.

Like the Kindle, it uses a 16-level e-ink display for text from Vizplex. The device measures 7.7 x 4.9 x .5 inches (19.6 x 12.4 x 1.3 centimetres). However, unlike most other e-readers, it has a separate 3.5 inch (8.9 cm) colour touchscreen that allows you to either scroll through your book collection or pull up a soft keyboard for input to search through the text. It has 2GB of onboard memory and has a Micro SD expansion slot for adding up to 16GB of additional memory.

Like the Kindle, the nook has 3G wireless provided by carrier AT&T. AT&T is one of the GSM providers in the US, so from a technical standpoint, it should be easy to launch the reader internationally. The device also sports WiFi. From a business standpoint, the AT&T wireless tie-up makes sense seeing as the telecoms giant provides free Wi-Fi in Barnes & Noble stores.

Keen watchers of the US newspaper industry and its trials and tribulations will note that the nook will offer subscriptions to more than 20 newspapers including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. “Barnes & Noble expects to offer, in digital form, subscriptions to every major US daily.” Digital subscriptions will also be available on the device.

Under the hood, the nook is running Android 1.5. This isn’t the first ebook to run Android. California-based Spring Design announced its own Android-powered e-reader, named Alex, just days before the nook was launched.

The nook will also support Android apps, although apps requiring internet access will be limited to working over Wi-Fi, according to Gartner Inc analyst Allen Weiner. The 3G wireless access is limited to book transactions, which makes sense considering there is no need for a monthly 3G subscription and AT&T is already struggling to support bandwidth-binging iPhone users on its 3G network.

Not only is the OS more open than other e-readers, but the device supports more open file formats. The nook supports PDF and e.pub, the International Digital Publishing Forum’s open e-reading format. (More information about e.pub is also available at Wikipedia and at the IDPF site). Barnes & Noble has more than 1m ebook titles for sale and half a million free ebooks.

Lending e-books to friends

The new e-reader also allows people to lend ebooks for up to 14 days to friends. The LendMe technology works with not only with nook but also lend to and from any iPhone, iPod touch, BlackBerry, PC or Mac, running the free Barnes & Noble eReader software.

While this might cheer users, it has upset some authors. Writing on a book blog at the San Francisco Chronicle, author Michelle Richmond says the lending technology:

… means that authors, like musicians, will have no way to protect our intellectual property from being distributed ad infinitum, without compensation.

As she points out in the post, Barnes & Noble didn’t go into details of how many times an ebook could be shared, but one could assume that the lending policy would be similar if not the same to their current e-book policy, which is:

You can lend many of your ebooks one time for a maximum of 14 days. When you lend an eBook to your friend, you will not be able to read it while it is on loan.

Richmond believes the lending feature will harm authors.

What is clear is that, if all you have to do is wait for your friend to send a copy of a book to your nook or to your iPhone, why buy? And if no one is buying, then fewer and fewer writers will be able to make a living, or even supplement their income, by writing.

Look out Amazon (and Apple)

The nook is a “game-changer”, says Gartner Inc analyst Allen Weiner. The device “should not only throw a scare into Amazon but also put somewhat of a damper on the ereading capabilities of planned tablets/devices from Apple and Microsoft”, he added.

Apple, of course, is the centre of rumours about what one might consider an overgrown iPod touch or a media tablet. The tablet is rumoured to run iPhone OS and not only display text and play MP3 audio files, which is common on e-readers, but also will play video as current iPods do.

The nook is available for pre-order for $259. You can get a refurbished first generation Kindle for $149. If you want a new one, the international edition of the Kindle sells for $279 and the Kindle DX for $489, just to keep everything in dollars. Now, it might be taking a rumour a step too far, but according to one super-secret source leaking Steve-Jobs-would-murder-you-with-a-dull-spoon details, the Apple tablet will cost $700 to $900.

It must be stressed at the moment only exists in the feverish minds of Apple fans and possibly in the lead-lined, spy-proofed meeting rooms at 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, California, but the price definitely suggests something a little more than an e-reader but a little less than a notebook.

We’ll have to wait for the Apple iPod Mega, but for now, we have another e-reader with some new features that, at least on paper, gives the Kindle a run for its money.

National Rail Enquiries clams up, a walled wide web, and more Media Th

A quick burst of seven links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

‘Open’ UK Rail Data: Media Coverage & Broken Appeals Process >> mockyblog

National Rail Enquiries, owned by the train operators which have just whacked up rail fares and which get about a sixth of their money directly from the government, think that their data should not be free. At all. Especially not if you point out how difficult they are about licensing it.

Verizon to Offer iPhone Users Unlimited Data >> WSJ.com

“Verizon Wireless will offer unlimited data plans when it starts selling the iPhone, a person familiar with the matter said, providing a key means of distinguishing its service from rival AT&T Inc.” If true, this ups the ante. Would Verizon feel confident enough to offer unlimited plans had the FCC net neutrality bill not been so favourable to them?

Tablets at CES 2011: Honeycomb, Windows 7, and all the rest >> Engadget

They reckon 35 – I’m certain that if you add in the dozens and dozens from Shenzhen companies you’d be tipping 100. And they haven’t found the British company making the iTablet – which runs Windows 7 – yet either.

A Walled Wide Web for Nervous Autocrats >> WSJ.com

Fascinating analysis by Evgeny Morozov, who always looks below the surface of government proclamations relating to the internet: “Governments are taking a closer look at who is providing their hardware, software and services – and they are increasingly deciding that it is dangerous not to develop independent national capabilities of their own. “Open-source software can allay some of these security concerns. Though such systems are more democratic than closed ones, they are also easier to manipulate, especially for governments with vast resources at their command.”

Steve Ballmer’s opening keynote at CES 2009: liveblog >> TechRepublic.com

Very interesting to compare this, from two years ago in 2009 (Ballmer’s first keynote at CES) with this year’s. What’s changed? Barely anything: most of the promise remains unfulfilled, especially relating to Windows uniting the TV and PC.

Gizmodo tries the Viera Connect Tablet. Tears ensue >> Gizmodo.com

“It runs Android 2.2. Poorly. Very poorly. I had a hard time getting literally anything to open without it either crashing or running with all the responsiveness of a tranquilized horse. It seemed like it was running in slow motion. And not the good, Baywatch kind, but twitchy, choppy slow motion. It was devoid of effort.” Interesting to note that running Android – even 2.2 – isn’t a guarantee of a good software experience. Why?

CES: Intel exec at CES: Microsoft’s tablet OS too long in coming >> CNET Blogs

“‘Hey, we tried to get [Microsoft] to do a tablet OS (operating system) for a long time. Us, and others like Dell,’ said Tom Kilroy, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s Sales and Marketing Group, speaking to CNET at an Intel function last night.” Hard to overstate how keenly Microsoft’s decision not to go with Atom processors is felt at Intel. It will be interesting to see if Intel suddenly gets a lot more interested again in Meego.

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Microsoft to Google we know anticompetitive behaviour when we see it

? With regulators receiving complaints about Google, the company’s competitive. So who better to offer advice than Microsoft? In a post on the Microsoft blog one of the company’s most senior competition lawyers makes a series of digs at its rival – and ultimately tries to bolster its own opinion that Microsoft never did anything wrong, while simultaneously suggesting that if Google falls foul of competition law, it will only be getting what it deserves: “Microsoft would obviously be among the first to say that leading firms should not be punished for their success… our concerns relate only to Google practices that tend to lock in business partners and content… and exclude competitors”.

? The Operation Aurora attacks – those ones that hit Google, Adobe and others – may have been more widespread than previously thought. Research by security company ISEC suggests that more than 100 companies may have been targeted. The web woven around these strikes just keeps getting bigger.

? And a piece of Monday morning reading courtesy of Ars Technica, which takes a look at the A4 chip that will power the iPad (or more accurately, what we do and don’t know about it and what it can do).

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