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Friday, September 02, 2005

Students' dream (tech) set-up

As a new school year begins, it's interesting to look at education technology from students' perspective (we hear so much from grownups!). Thanks to NetDay, a nonprofit organization supporting smart use of ed tech, the Departments of Commerce and Education, and their just-released joint study, "Visions 2020.2," we now have a clear, very interesting picture of kids' expectations of technology in school. More than 55,000 students in grades K-12 in all 50 states responded to the question: "In the future, you will be the inventors of new technologies. What would you like to see invented that you think will help kids learn in the future?" Please click to this week's issue of my newsletter for their response.

12 of 'Kutztown 13' get a break

They didn't get off too easy, but felony charges were off the table for most of the 13 high school students in Kutzdown, Pa. (see "Student hacks: Criminal?" for the original story). For using school-supplied laptops (with easy-to-guess passwords) to download chat programs and monitor school administrators online, they'd been "charged as juveniles with computer trespass and computer theft, both felonies, and could have faced a wide range of sanctions, including juvenile detention," the Associated Press reports. What most of them got was the requirement of 15 hours of community service, a written apology, a class on personal responsibility, and a few months' probation. "One student who has had prior dealings with the juvenile probation office was not offered a deal and the case was expected to proceed," the AP added. [Thanks to BNA Internet Law for pointing this news out.]

Music-player virus

We're seeing the future, and it's not pretty. Cellphone viruses have been in the news, but this is the first report I've seen of MP3 players getting infected. It's not good because people connect their computers and music players to move music around. The news, however, comes from Asia, and this time the problem is restricted to a player, the 5BG Creative Zen Neeon, that's only sold there. The virus is Wullik.B, which first appeared early last year, spreading through Windows PCs via email, CNET reports. "According to antivirus companies, it's unlikely - although not impossible - that users will transfer the worm from an infected Neeon to their computer. For a PC to be potentially infected, a Neeon user would have to connect their MP3 player to the computer, browse the files and copy the worm to the PC's hard drive." On the phone front, the BBC reports that anti-virus protection is coming. Finnish security firm F-Secure has created the software for cellphones, which will soon go on sale in the UK. "In recent months, more viruses for mobile phones and variants of old ones have started to appear," says the BBC, but so far only on about 10% of them - on smartphones using the Symbian operating system and spreading via the Bluetooth short-range radio system on these phones. "Infection can be avoided by turning off Bluetooth on smart phones." [Smartphones are next-gen phones with multimedia features, e.g. email, Web browser, camera, calendar, music, etc.]

Thursday, September 01, 2005

iTunes phone

Hmmm. Tunes on phones. I can just hear it: "But, Mom, then I won't need an iPod." Yeah, right. It will store a decent number of songs, according to the BBC (with two models, 512MB or 1GB of storage, the latter holding up to 240 songs), but I hope the sound quality will be better than that of my Samsung's ringtone! "The handset due to be unveiled will reportedly be the first in a series of iTunes equipped phones made by Motorola that will be given the name 'Rokr," the BBC reports, adding that "what is unclear as yet is whether the phone will allow for music to be downloaded via wireless services or only when the gadget is connected to a computer." The UK's Times Online reminds us that there are other tune phones on the market. "Earlier this month Sony released its first Walkman phone, an attempt to revive the iconic brand that dominated the 1980s in the same way as the iPod has become the must-have gadget of the 2000s."

Katrina disaster: Help *carefully*

Victims of the disaster deserve so much help, but anyone wanting to provide it via the Web needs to make sure it's a legitimate charitable Web page before acting. The Washington Post reports that there are already plenty of phishers and other online scammers preying on people's good intentions. Avoid Web sites with names like,,, the Post says, and other sites that "ask for money to be sent through Paypal, [where] there is no way to verify who is getting the money." Also beware "phony e-mails pretending to solicit money from well-known charities." A good list of charity links is provided at Investors Daily, and there's advice at CBS News.

Phones & kids 6-12

It seems to be a trend: kid surveillance. takes a sweeping look at all the options, from RFID chips in amusement park wristbands to monitoring their every keystroke in cyberspace. The New York Times reports on GPS on schoolbuses and Webcams at school, and the Christian Science Monitor editorializes on how much surveillance is too much. More and more the focus seems to be on keeping tabs with phones. Even the Wherify people, who had put GPS-tracking in kid wristwatches, have shifted the technology to phones. After all, 57% of US 15-to-16-year-olds and 18% of 12-year-olds have cell phones, according to Pew Internet & American Life figures MSNBC cites. Then there are parents who get their kids phones for a different kind of peace of mind: no more begging. Take for example Jennifer Walker finally giving in to her 10-year-old, referred to in the San Francisco Chronicle, or the 7- and 8-year-olds who got phones, mentioned at, which added that "in the 1990s, the debate was whether high-school students should own cell phones. Today, the buzz is all about keeping grade-schoolers connected." The Wall Street Journal suggests that phones and "talk time may be about to replace the weekly allowance as a reward for good grades and clean rooms." The Arizona Republic also looked at the 6-to-12-year-old phone "market." If parents want more control over kid talk time than the family plans will allow, here's a New York Times survey of the prepaid phone plans available. Here, too, are ClickZstats on high school and college student cellphone use.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Soda pop & free Xboxes

If your child has an unusual thirst for Mountain Dew all of a sudden, it's not necessarily due to its superlative taste. "Pepsi will give away as many as 9,222 Xbox 360 game consoles in a bid to whet appetites for its drinks and the first new version of the Microsoft gadget in five years," CNET reports. Gamers will be able to enter special codes found under the caps of Mountain Dew, Pepsi, and Sierra Mist bottles, into an online account at, the article says. To enter, players must enter a unique code printed under caps of Mountain Dew, Pepsi and Sierra Mist bottles into an online account at Winners will get their Xbox 360s before they go on store shelves (probably before the holidays). Part of the 360's appeal is that it'll be able to access the Web (oh great, some parents will sigh), "allowing players to purchase and download game trailers, new game levels, weapons and vehicles for their games online. The machine also features a wireless controller and a 20GB hard drive for storing games and music."

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Anti-piracy in Windows

It's a ways off, but Microsoft's next version of Windows will have strong anti-video piracy safeguards, CNET reports. See the article for details, but "PCs won't be the only ones with reinforced pirate-proofing. Other new consumer electronics devices will have to play by a similar set of rules in order to play back the studios' most valuable content," CNET paraphrases Microsoft as saying. The reason CNET cites? "Microsoft believes it has to make nice with the entertainment industry if the PC is going to form the center of new digital home networks, which could allow such new features as streaming high-definition movies around the home." So it may be that, by late 2006 - when "Vista," the next version of the Windows operating system is expected to ship on new PCs - the era of media companies suing file-sharers will be over. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) last week filed lawsuits against 286 US file-sharers "for the first time using peer-to-peer companies' [P2P sites shut down earlier in the year] own data to track down individuals accused of trading movies online," CNET reports. "Most of those sites were hubs connecting people using the BitTorrent technology." The Los Angeles Times editorializes that, "as an educational tool, this type of lawsuit leaves something to be desired."

Music videos in cyberspace

If parents are concerned about what kids see in music videos, the Internet has good news and bad news. The bad news, depending on your POV, might be that music videos are accessible 24x7 online. The good news is that they're much more bare-bones and about the music and the artists than all the sexy, peripheral dramatics of those huge-budget videos of the MTV days, USATODAY reports. The good news for music fans is choice and control (what the Internet is increasingly all about for just about any kind of media consumer): They don't have to wait 'n' see what a broadcaster will dish up for them. They can find just about any video they want, when they want to see/hear it. And the fans themselves - not MTV - are putting bands on the charts these days. Music videos are still No. 2 in popularity, after movie trailers, according to USATODAY, but the numbers it cites point to nothing but growth. AOL Music and MTV Overdrive "maintain thriving video-on-demand vaults online. MSN is building one. Pulling roughly 24 million visitors monthly, Yahoo Music ranks first among digital music sites, and its video component is booming, with users glimpsing more than 350 million clips each month."

Monday, August 29, 2005

Young (alleged) worm writers

You know that IM worm I mentioned last week? An 18- and a 21-year-old were arrested for its dissemination. The teenager, Farid Essebar, was arrested in Morocco and Atilla Ekici was picked up in Turkey, the BBC reports. "They are believed to be responsible for the Zotob worm" that exploited a flaw in Windows 2000 computers, according to the BBC, which added that "more than 100 firms were affected, including CNN and the New York Times." Notable was the speed of the arrests halfway around the world - less than two weeks - which might suggest growing computer-security cooperation between tech companies and law enforcement. CNET has further details.

eDonkey passes up BitTorrent

One thing about file-sharing (tunes, films, games, etc.) has changed and one thing hasn't. What's the same, despite thousands of entertainment-industry lawsuits against file-sharers around the world, is the amount of P2P activity worldwide. What's different, according to UK P2P-traffic-management firm CacheLogic, is that eDonkey is now file-sharers' favorite P2P program, CNET reports. A year ago CacheLogic found that BitTorrent file-sharing accounted for half of all file-sharing activity, and file-sharing accounted for 50-70% of all "data traffic on ISP networks," surpassing even Web use. New No. 1 eDonkey is "a rival with more power to search for content," but with "speedy download features" similar to BitTorrent's. Edonkey "has been translated into local languages in many countries around the world, aiding its spread overseas," CNET adds. The Good Morning Silicon Valley blog points out that lawsuits do seem to cause migration from one P2P technology to another (Gnutella, once considered dead, is back in the running), but do not seem to affect overall file-sharing numbers. See also "File-sharing realities for families."

MySpace: The new MTV

Last week the Wall Street Journal called it a kind of alternate-reality game. This week the New York Times depicts it as a combination virtual bar (with lots of beautiful people and wannabes) and MTV (there will soon be a MySpace record label). Another metaphor relevant to this readership: "Even with many users in their 20's MySpace has the personality of an online version of a teenager's bedroom, a place where the walls are papered with posters and photographs, the music is loud, and grownups are an alien species." The Times also provides fresh (fairly staggering) numbers: about 27 million members, with nearly 400% growth since the start of the year. MySpace passed Google in the number of pages viewed/month, according to comScore MediaMetrix traffic figures the Times cites, and users spend more than three times as much time at MySpace than they do at (here's my latest item on this), according to Nielsen/NetRatings numbers. MySpacers' pictures are a big part of the draw, its founders tell the Times, probably because there's this sense that this is where the musically hip beautiful people gather and network. Remember my item about Well, founders Chris DeWolfe (39) and Tom Anderson (29) were brilliant to create that kind of illusion but make it completely open (probably too much so for minors) to all comers and add the blogging element, classifieds like the phenomenally popular, online invitations as at, and "the come-hither dating profiles of," as the Times puts it. Parents might want to ask any MySpacers at their house to show them what they have in their user profiles and how they've configured the privacy features in their blogs on the site.