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Friday, January 13, 2006

18-year-old blogger

Teen blogging is definitely on parents', educators', reporters' radar screens now (it has been on law-enforcement ones a while longer). Stories about it - good, bad, and somewhere in between - are popping up in local news sites nationwide. In my newsletter this week, you'll find a sampler of the latest news and resources on the subject and, much more interesting, a blogger's own perspective on it all - that of Amanda, 18, an American au pair in The Netherlands and user of three blogging sites. She emailed me in response to "A mom writes: Teen solicited in MySpace," a feature I ran last August.

Student reporters catch sex offender

A 22-year-old man occasionally visits a Minnesota high school and poses as a 17-year-old "prospective student" and British royalty - until smart school newspaper reporters do a little Web research on him. That's the story told by KARE TV in the Twin Cities. "At the school newspaper, they thought, if Caspian's story were true, it certainly would make an interesting feature." They found his page, headed the "Earl of Scooby." Next he turned up in Florida's registry of sex offenders. He turned out to be Joshua Gardner, of Austin, Minnesota, "convicted of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in Winona County in 2003." Though the principal said there were no reports of any student harassment during his three visits to the school, KARE reports that he's been charged for violating probation, and " his probation officer is recommending that he go to prison for 21 months, which is the sentence that was stayed after his conviction back in 2003."

iTunes issues

Privacy concerns have surfaced with the latest version of iTunes, CNET reports. In the new iTunes, when you click on a song in your playlist, a little "MiniStore" window on your screen turns up links to tunes you might like to buy. "To provide those recommendations, the software sends information about the selected song, such as artist, title and genre, back to Apple," according to CNET, which adds that the iTunes software is also sending Apple "a string of data that is linked to a computer user's unique iTunes account ID." There's speculation it includes info like credit card numbers and email addresses. However, an Apple representative told CNET that the company "does not save or store any information used to create recommendations for the MiniStore." Meanwhile, because video iPod users are going to be more and more itchy to download video beyond the so far meager offerings in iTunes, CNET's Declan McCullagh looks at the software options for otherwise downloading TV shows or copying ("ripping") them from DVDs (it looks like, for now, the options are either pricey or legally murky).

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Whither childhood?

If you're one of many parents a bit puzzled about "KGOY" ("Kids Getting Older Younger" - kids wanting iPods at age 8 is part of it), you might find two New York Times commentaries interesting. In her "Domestic Disturbances" blog, Judith Warner (author and XM Radio host) writes about how girls are ditching (sometimes violently so) their Barbies at younger and younger ages. She asks, "With competitive soccer now starting in kindergarten, academic tutoring beginning in preschool, and catty parlor games now a part of girl life as early as the third grade, what’s left of the years that can properly be called childhood? Does little-girlhood end now at 4?" [Don't miss the many parents' responses below her post.] And in a column about how we took the child out of childhood, Peter Applebome asks the questions: "How did we get to the point where few kids ever get to play with friends outside of a play date, to walk to a neighbor's house without parental escort or to have free, unsupervised time in which they're not tethered to a television set, computer or Xbox? How is it that Mr. Bernstein's friends in their 40's go out to play soccer every Saturday but their children wouldn't know how to organize a game on their own without parents around?

The thing about texting

…is it's asynchronous, teens will tell you. When they're on the fly and don't want to talk to somebody because that could suck up sooo much time - but there's something brief they *have* to tell that person - they'll text. That's what 16-year-old Cybil told the Sacramento Bee, in a story that starts out being about the jaw-dropping cost of teen texting to parents not yet familiar with its attractions to teenagers. So, as with phone bills for parents, ironically, texting is all about control and predictability for teens. They can control the length of the connection when they're busy - they don't get sucked into the black hole of a phone conversation. As for parents' control over phone bills? Well, there's the prepaid option, so that when the communicator runs out of minutes and text messages paid for upfront, that's it. Parents can actually budget for that amount. The other option, which I looked for but didn't see in the article, is not allowing texting. I asked my service (Verizon) to turn off texting on our family plan, so we don't have to pay the $.02 for every incoming message, the $.10 for every outgoing one, or the $7-10-or-so/month for unlimited texting. Something to look into, anyway. [See also "The appeal of text to teens."]

For music-loving families

Making iPods work when there are several in one house is not an easy task. Out of the box, it won't help copy a music collection to multiple computers, and it won't help you put multiple music collections on a single computer. But the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg reviews low-cost software programs that can help. For the multi-computer problem, he explains how these apps help: CopyPod for Windows, PodWorks for Mac, and PodUtil for both. For the problem of copying parts of a family music collection to Mom's, Dad's, and Junior's iPods, he suggests a workaround or a $10 utility program called Libra. BTW, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced this week that 42 million iPods have been sold so far, 14 million of them just in the last few months, the Washington Post reports. In the UK, a study by researchers at Leicester, York, and Surrey Universities found that, because of easy and constant exposure to music (via iPods and the Internet), people today don't value it as much as they did in the past. Reporting on this, a commentator at The Register writes that the findings were predictable. "Still, it's good to have it down in black and white, all statistically verified and everything. And it keeps academics off the streets."

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

iPod-compatible jeans

Jeans and iPods are now sharing more than their universality, according to news reports from the US, UK, India, Romania, Germany, Australia, the fashion industry, and That last media outlet says this new line of Levi's jeans (due out next fall) will include "a watch pocket with a special joystick that allows for the operation of an iPod within." The iPod itself will have its own special pocket that includes a built-in docking cradle. The BBC adds that the jeans will also sport retractable headphones. But never fear, parents, they're washable (after the iPod's removed). What is a little scary is the price: about $200. I can't resist quoting Levi Strauss's own description (from the iLounge, news site for iPod users): “The new Levi's RedWire DLX jeans have been developed to be practical and leading-edge in their aesthetic. A crisp white leather patch and joystick, bluffed back pockets with hidden stitching, and clean minimalist buttons and rivets allude to the iPod's famously pure design.” But what the fashion-conscious will *really* be glad to hear, thanks to, is: "Levi Strauss has designed the jeans to hide the iPod 'bump,' so as not to injure the aesthetic appeal of the jeans." Whew!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

More 'everywhere TV'

The trend snowballs (already). We're barely into the "Everywhere TV" era, and already there are tools for putting TV on the video iPod and Playstation Portable, The Register reports. First it cites TiVoToGo and To Go, adding that "four other US companies, Hauppauge Computer Works, InterVideo, Proxure and Bling Software have launched products this week that do something similar, mostly citing the Video iPod, but all able to work just as well targeting the Sony PSP." [Watch out, programmers! Only TiVo provides any copyright protection so far.]

Monday, January 09, 2006

Microsoft to debug its software

Last week's PC security flaw that caused a storm of confusion and controversy, as well as an early patch from Microsoft, is causing the company to treat such flaws differently from now on. MS said it will scour all its software for similar bugs, ZDNET reports. Last week's flaw was different from anything that went before in the world of Windows PCs, Microsoft says. "Typical flaws are unforeseen gaps in programs that hackers can take advantage of and run code. By contrast, [this flaw] lies in a software feature being used in an unintended way." So MS is "pledging to take a look at its programs, old and new, to avoid similar side effects." Here's my latest coverage of how PC security has gotten even more complicated (and don't forget the 3 basic rules: firewall, anti-virus, and up-to-date patches on family PCs!).

Everywhere TV

Move over, iTunes - now there's Google Video. The online video store, already offering popular CBS programs like "Survivor" and NBA basketball games 24 hours after they aired, is bringing the goal of everywhere TV a little closer. But with Google Video, TV-producer wannabees can also upload their own video and set their own prices for their shows (including free). It's a remarkable opportunity for creative young media mavens to experiment with TV as they're learning to be actors or journalists or animators. And they can do so in the comfort of their own homes, as well as other places, where parents may not be aware of what they're uploading. As with all technology there's a huge upside, but also a downside of which parents will want to be aware. Here's the BBC on the Google development, and a 1/6 item in my newsletter about several Web sites where video can be uploaded and stored for free (Google says it screens all videos, the other two have anti-porn policies but do not screen).