Tag Archive | "Technology"

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This summer, tan from the light of the computer

Posted on 25 April 2007 by Aaron Morey

As the weather gets warmer, college students look forward to summer activities like playing frisbee, grilling or sitting on the porch and listening to some music. Here’s what you might want to know about downloading music this summer:

EMI and DRM
Apple recently announced that it will be releasing music from the EMI Group on the iTunes store without DRM, or digital rights management, security on it. In the past, the iTunes store has sold music with a security system that allows only the user who purchased the songs to listen to them. There were also limits to the number of times a particular playlist could be burned.

Most record companies have insisted on the use of DRM to prevent listeners from illegally distributing their music. But many users feel restricted by the security system and wish they could use their purchased music however they choose, without subjecting it to hacks that circumvent the DRM (hacks which are technically illegal under both American and international law).

Under a new agreement with EMI, Apple will distribute music through the iTunes store without any DRM at all. This will allow consumers to use their music in any way they see fit without having to use technical tricks to gain access. It will, however, still be illegal to share music, unless you own the copyright to the song. The reaction to this change has been almost unanimously positive.

Keep your eyes open for more labels to jump on the bandwagon in the near future. Another side note to consider is that EMI owns the rights to the Beatles’ music, which has never been released legally online before. There are rumors that Apple is negotiating to bring John, Paul, George and Ringo into the 21st century.

Colleges and Illegal Downloading
In spite of DRM security on iTunes purchases, online file sharing is still prevalent. Programs like LimeWire and Kazaa are available for users to share files, frequently copyrighted MP3s. These programs are especially prevalent on college campuses, where students have little money to buy music with and plenty of access to high-speed Internet connections.

Sales of CDs have been falling steadily for several years, including an 8 percent drop just reported on April 18. Some of that drop is due to factors such as legal online music purchases, but a significant portion is due to illegal file sharing. The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) is looking for ways to fight back.

Recently, the organization has begun suing people who download music. Because many downloaders are on college campuses, there are not always names associated with the file sharing. Frequently it can be seen coming from a college network, but there is no individual information. The RIAA then subpoenas the college for the names of the students. So far, some colleges are resisting, but many have already handed over the names of downloaders.

This summer, you will hear warnings about applying sunscreen or not swimming for two hours after eating. But take my advice: practice safe downloading.

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Program seeks to provide laptops for all

Posted on 13 February 2007 by Aaron Morey

Computers have changed the way Americans live, and it is easy to assume the whole world shares in our progress. But the way we live is not the case in many parts of the world, so the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project is attempting to change that.

OLPC is an organization devoted to building a laptop called the XO that is inexpensively distributed in third-world countries. According to a BBC report, OLPC is also considering selling the $100 laptops to the general public.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Nicholas Negroponte founded the OLPC project. He believes one of the biggest challenges facing the third-world is a lack of educational opportunity. He wrote on OLPC’s Web site, www.laptop.org, that OLPC is “an education project, not a laptop project.”

To combat the education gap, Negroponte wants to sell low-priced laptops to the governments of developing nations, who can then distribute the computers to its children.

While they haven’t made a final decision, selling these laptops to the public marks a change in the philosophy of the project. The original plan was to produce the computer only for children in developing nations. According to OLPC’s Web site the computers were customized with a distinctive green color and compact look so no one could easily sell an OLPC computer on the black market. Consumers from developed nations would not be eligible to buy or sell it.

The new plan is under consideration because the XO is turning out to be more expensive than OLPC anticipated. The computers themselves cost under $100 each, but shipping prices could raise the price as high as $150. To offset this cost, the OLPC wants to sell the XO to the public for $200. For every computer purchased at $200, the OLPC project will send another computer to a third-world child.

The OLPC project has been criticized by some technology writers and bloggers. Critics argue the last thing poor or undereducated children need is an electronic gadget. They say $100 a government would spend to buy each computer could be better used to purchase food and vaccines or be used to pay teachers and fund schools.

Initially, I agreed with this argument. I was put off by the idea of selling the XO to the general American public. Why should Americans, who have more expendable income and access to high-tech gadgets than most other countries, get to buy computers intended for the poorest people in the world? But the arguments about sharing the cost to developing countries changed my mind.

With a little more publicity, the One Laptop Per Child project could become a major force against poverty. If wealthier consumers are willing to take on part of the financial burden of educating children, why shouldn’t we let them?

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Flying Cars and Email Addiction

Posted on 13 February 2007 by Aaron Morey

Who needs drivers?
In a previous column, I complained that, in spite of all our technological advances, I still do not have a flying car. Well, cars still aren’t flying, but they may be getting closer to driving themselves.

The U.S. Department of Defense is sponsoring the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Urban Challenge, a race entirely run by computer-controlled cars. Automated car races held in the past ran in open environments, such as deserts. Now the challenge will expand racing to include urban settings.

In a desert, a car is mainly concerned with identifying obstacles and driving around them. The Urban Challenge is the first one to require the cars to simulate an urban driving environment. The cars will have to merge in traffic, change lanes and decide right-of-way.

The cars use an array of sensors to accumulate information about their surroundings. Many groups are placing laser sensors on each side to provide a 360 degree view of objects surrounding the car. The on-board computers use sophisticated artificial intelligence programs to identify obstacles and learn from mistakes.

The winner of this year’s race will receive two million dollars from DARPA. According to a document on the DARPA

Web site (www.darpa.mil), the agency was founded in 1958 in response to the Soviet Union’s 1957 launch of Sputnik, becoming the first nation to put an object into orbit. DARPA develops new technologies for military use. They

often do this by sponsoring competitions, like the Urban Challenge, which encourage civilian groups to work on cutting-edge technology.

E-mail addiction
You’ve been in this situation before: there’s reading to be done and a paper to be written, but you just can’t conjur up the effort to work on them. So, you check your email for the tenth time in an hour.

It’s a familiar situation, but it can be a serious problem for some. One story online mentions a businessman who lost a deal when a potential partner was put off by the man’s constant email checking during a round of golf.

In response to the growing issue, Marsha Egan, an “executive coach,” has developed a 12-step program for email addicts. According to her Web site, her goal as a coach is to “inspire individuals and organizations to maximize their potential.”

Most of the steps are rather mundane, such as recommending that you respond quickly to easily solvable problems and leave long-term projects for later. That’s common sense. Others are a little more substantial, suggesting that email addicts create a filing system or put emails into easily-sorted categories for better organization.

While most people’s email habits may not be a full-blown addiction, it can be a time waster. Now that Lent has begun, I am thinking of ways to live a simpler life. Maybe occasionally being away from email’s constant barrage of messages could be a good way to simplify things. It certainly couldn’t hurt to cut back – at least a little.

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Ready to buy a new Playstation3?

Posted on 06 December 2006 by Aaron Morey

in a move that excited gaming enthusiasts across America, both Sony and Nintendo released their newest consoles last week. As the Sony PlayStation3 and Nintendo Wii hit stores within days of each other, eager gamers camped out in front of Best Buy stores. Continue Reading

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Microsoft back in browser battle with Internet Explorer 7

Posted on 08 November 2006 by Aaron Morey

Last week, Microsoft announced that it was releasing the long-awaited Internet Explorer 7 Web browser. It’s been more than five years since the last version became available.Explorer has been the most widely used Web browser since the late 1990s when it overtook its only major rival, Netscape Navigator. Its popularity largely stemmed from the fact that it came packaged with every copy of Windows, the world’s most widely used operating system.

In the time since Explorer 6 was released, a number of free browsers have risen to popularity. The most notable of these have been the free browsers Firefox and Opera as well as Apple’s Safari.

According to statistics at W3Schools.com (a site run by the World Wide Web Consortium, the organization that regulates Internet standards), over 90 percent of Internet users were browsing with Explorer in 2002. Today that number has dropped to about 60 percent. This is an even greater trend at thewarrior.org where only about one-third of Internet traffic comes from Microsoft browsers. This is likely due in large part to the fact that college-age users are the most likely to install and use third-part software that is not packaged with their computers.

The increased popularity of these other browsers came as a result of Microsoft’s failure to upgrade Explorer. It suffered from flawed security, few popular features and poor rendering of HTML and other Web design technologies. In a “Top 25” list, the computer magazine PC World rated Internet Explorer 6 as the eighth worst technology product of all time.

With Explorer 7, Microsoft hopes to regain its grip on the browser market. The Explorer 7 includes a number of new features that it had been lacking in previous versions.

Probably the most noticeable change in Explorer 7 is tabbed browsing. For many users of Opera and Firefox, tabs have become a way of life. They allow multiple Web pages to be viewed under separate tabs of a single window. This reduces clutter onscreen and allows for quick switching between sites. As I write this article, I have Firefox tabs open for email, Wikipedia and several informational sites about Internet Explorer.

Explorer 7 also claims to have added a number of security features. Only time will tell whether this claim turns out to be true, but if it is, it would be a major breakthrough. Secunia.com, an Internet security site, said Explorer 6 had 20 unpatched security flaws. Opera, on the other hand, only had one, and it was fixed.

Among geeks, Internet Explorer 6 was a source of frustration and the target of mockery. With the release of Internet Explorer 7, Microsoft hopes to not only be the most widely used but also the most well-respected Web browser available.

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Blu-rays could make DVDs the new eight-track

Posted on 27 March 2006 by Aaron Morey

Anyone watching football recently probably noticed the number of ads for the latest, biggest high-definition TVs. High-definition has become America’s newest technology obsession. Not long ago, people were impressed with digital media like CDs and DVDs. Today, higher quality speakers and TV screens have the masses demanding higher quality audio and video. Continue Reading

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So how does it feel to be a traitor?

Posted on 01 February 2006 by Aaron Morey

Mac fanatics were shocked last June when Apple announced that it would discontinue its line of computers with Motorola’s Power PC processor chip and switch to Intel chips. Intel manufactures chips for computers running Apple’s rival, Microsoft Windows. To loyal Apple users, this seemed like the equivalent of the Bears and Packers deciding to share players. Continue Reading

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MU area to be test site for new Wi-Fi network

Posted on 01 February 2006 by Mary Ellen Burke

In about four months, Marquette’s campus will be included in a demonstration area receiving access to wireless network service as a result of the agreement between the City of Milwaukee and Midwest Fiber Networks to build a $20 million city-wide wireless network.
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Students should beware of sneaky software on Sony CDs

Posted on 30 November 2005 by Aaron Morey

The entertainment giant Sony Corporation came under fire a couple weeks ago with accusations that it put secretive software onto its music CDs. Anyone who has purchased a CD printed by Sony in the last several months probably has encountered DRM, or digital rights management.

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