The noose is tightening around Russian website Allofmp3.com. The record industry, which now has the site on its radar screen, won a small victory in the UK this week that will allow it to file suit against the site. The British Phonographic Industry (the UK’s version of the RIAA) received permission from London’s High Court to “serve proceedings” against the website. When that happens, the Russian judicial system will be obligated by international agreement to look into the matter, which means another legal headache is developing for Allofmp3.
The site already has to contend with two legal cases against its director and former director, and additional pressure from the UK won’t make things any easier for a service that finds itself in the crosshairs of the international community’s Piracy Sniper Rifle. The Americans have been leaning hard on Russia to do something about the site, but Allofmp3 just keeps chugging along, offering up new Dashboard Confessional, Keane, and Red Hot Chili Peppers for under US$2.
The site has weathered Russian legal scrutiny before, but the newly politicized claims from abroad could make it harder to stay in business. Allofmp3 claims to operate with a valid license, of course, but none of the money they make trickles back to artists or labels abroad. The BPI plans to argue that even if the license is legal under Russian law, it is certainly not legal in the UK, where Allofmp3 now accounts for 14 percent of all legal downloads.
Despite the emphasis that the music industry often places on sites like Allofmp3.com, it’s worth remembering that most music found on portable players is legitimate.
Are the site’s days numbered? It’s too soon to tell, but prudence would suggest that if you have any credit at the site, now’s the time to use it.
I've said it before, I'll say it again: brains are strange things. The fact that we, as humans, have comparatively large and complex brains accounts for our dominance on the planet, our language, technology and all the other things that make it possible for me to sit in front of my powerbook and write this column, and for you to read it. But there's much that happens within our skulls that we don't fully understand yet, and by and large brains are fragile things. It doesn't take much to stop one working–a few minutes without oxygen is enough to destroy a brain.
There is a common assumption that brains are also not very good at repairing themselves. By and large this is true. Unlike the liver, which has an enormous capacity for self-repair, neurons that die are often never replaced, making spinal cord or traumatic brain injuries permanent conditions. But not always. Such is the remarkable case of Terry Wallis, who suffered a traumatic brain injury that left him in a minimally conscious state (MCS) for 19 years.
Over this time, Terry's brain slowly rewired itself in a way that has not been observed before, and Terry emerged from his MCS able to speak and with a limited ability for movement that has since improved. It must be stressed that the Hollywood image of a man waking from a coma and taking up where he left off could not be further from reality in Terry's case. Despite regaining the power of speech, Terry is still disabled following his brain injury.
More after the jump
Over the course of his recovery, doctors used a new imaging technique called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to follow the way his brain rewired itself, and compared it to an MCS patient showing no signs of recovery. The findings are published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, along with a commentary. Terry's accident severed a lot of neuronal connections between different brain areas. The growth of new axons reconnected these areas, but in doing so created pathways and structures never normally seen in brains.
I imagine that these findings are going to be seized upon by bioconservatives to support their position over the sad affair of Terri Schaivo, but the only similarities between these cases are the patients' first names. Terri Schiavo suffered from a persistent vegetative state (PVS), a different condition to MCS, where patients experience infrequent but real periods of conciousness. Terri's case was reviewed time and time again, and each diagnosis confirmed the PVS, as did her autopsy. Recovery from MCS remains rare, especially after more than 12 months. Terri Schiavo had lost most of her cerebral cortex, a much more severe injury than that of Terry Walker.
Another neuro-related news item caught my eye the other day, and it serves to reinforce my original point. Natives of the British Isles will be familiar with the Geordie accent – I'm not sure if I can think of any Geordies that might be well known to US readers, but suffice to say those who hail from Newcastle have a rather distinctive way of speaking. This was true for one Linda Walker, up until she she suffered a stroke at the age of 60. Following the stroke, Linda's Geordie lilt was gone, to be replaced by a Jamaican accent. Strange as it sounds, there have been around 50 cases recorded of foreign accent syndrome, which results from damage to the speech centers of the brain.
Well we can't say we saw this coming. Apple, who was expected to come out with a new Mac to target the education market, has done just that, but it's not what you think.
Apple has begun offering, through educational channels, a new low-priced Intel iMac. At US$899 the new iMac is priced US$400 cheaper than anything available to the general public and just US$100 more then the high-end Intel Mac mini. One might expect a horribly crippled machine at this price but the US$899 model actually compares fairly well to the US$1299 model. Both machines use the Intel 1.83 GHz Core Duo and sport a 17-inch widescreen LCD. The only major differences are that the EDU iMac comes standard with a 80GB drive (vs. 160GB), a 24x Combo Drive (vs. 8x Super Drive), and Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics with 64MB of shared memory (vs. ATI Radeon X1600 with 128 MB). The consumer model also sports built in Bluetooth and an Apple Remote which the new low-end EDU model lacks.
The new machine also comes standard with keyboard and mouse making this truly an affordable all-in-one solution for education, something the 'budget priced' Mac mini cannot offer. It should also be noted that this new iMac spells the long-awaited end for the crufty old eMac:
The 17-inch iMac for education is available immediately and will replace the eMac®, Apple’s last CRT based computer, providing students and teachers everything they need to learn and create in today's digital classroom, all in the ultra-efficient iMac design.
This new low-priced iMac is enough to encourage awkward glances in the general direction of my credit card; I have always admired the price point/value of iMacs and the slightly lower specs of this machine doesn't hinder that. This would be an ideal way for a lot of people to jump on board the Intel bandwagon. The question is: what does this mean for the consumer line? Speed bumps ahoy?
Paris has just announced an ambitious new push in its révolution numérique, the city’s plan to make itself into one of the world’s most wired capitals. At the moment, nothing says “wired” quite like “wireless,” so Paris plans on blanketing the city with a free WiFi network operated by private companies.
The socialist mayor of Paris (that’s not a perjorative statement; he’s actually a card-carrying member of the Socialist Party), Bertrand Delanoe, wants the system up and running by the end of next year. “We will act fast and firmly… to create the most favorable conditions for Paris,” he told reporters. “It is a decisive tool for international competition and thus important for the city.”
But free WiFi is hardly a “decisive tool for international competition.” After all, more than 60 percent of Parisian households already have high-speed ‘Net access and businesses aren’t likely to be excited by the prospect of trusting the company’s access to a sometimes-flaky wireless signal with all of its security woes. Some cities are also learning the hard way that reliable WiFi is easier dreamed up than implemented. Still, the system promises Internet access in public places like parks and libraries, and it’s hard to imagine anything better than reading Ars from a bench in the Jardin du Luxembourg on a fine spring day.
What’s more intriguing than the WiFi announcement is the second part of the plan, which is designed to ensure that 80 percent of Parisian addresses are wired with fiber by 2010. The ambitious goal will be aided by a government tax cut on companies that lay fiber over and through city-owned rights-of-way (think sewers). The resulting system should deliver super-fast ‘Net connections to citizens and businesses across the City of Lights.
The city also plans to open Espaces publics Numériques in many arrondissements that will allow people to use computers and take classes on computing and Internet technology. The goal is to make Paris one of the top digital cities on earth in the next decade, a move that could help the city stay competitive in the global labor market.
Paris isn’t alone in its ambitions. It faces competition from most major cities, including London, San Francisco, Chicago, and others, though most cities have so far only announced plans for WiFi. Paris’ aggressive fiber rollout plans could give it an edge, potentially making the “Socialist City” one of the best places in Europe to do high-tech business.
Sony’s E3 announcement of motion-sensitive capability for their PlayStation 3 controller took everyone by surprise. The biggest surprise, however, was that the developers of Warhawk had only two weeks to implement motion control into their demo. The idea that Sony would keep their own developers in the dark about such a crucial new feature caused many to wonder if the electronics giant was flailing around looking for a winning strategy.
Now, in an interview at IGN, Sony Santa Monica Studios Game Director Brian Upton has revealed a little more information. According to Upton, his development team, Incognito, has “secretly been working with Sony on the tilt technology for a while, but it wasn’t until the last few weeks before E3 that they received a working controller.”
The question that comes to this reporter’s mind is: how long is “a little while”? Is it before or after Nintendo announced their motion-sensitive controller in September of last year? And if a “little while” was that long, why did it take until a few weeks before E3 to get a working controller to developers?
As we have argued before, the answer to the second question may be found by taking a closer look at Sony’s legal battles with Immersion over their patent for “rumble” technology in game controllers. Other companies, such as Microsoft, settled with Immersion and continue to provide rumble functionality in their game consoles. Sony decided to play tough with the little company, but the company failed to defend itself against infringement charges and has already lost one of two pending appeals, making it seem likely that Sony will eventually have to open its pocketbook and write a substantial check to Immersion.
Sony’s official policy is that rumble was removed from the PS3 controller because it interferes with the motion sensors. This statement doesn’t stand up for a number of reasons. For one, Nintendo has demonstrated their motion-sensitive controllers that include rumble technology. Even if Sony couldn’t manage to make both work simultaneously, it would be easy enough (from an engineering standpoint, that is) to automatically turn the motion sensors off while the controller is rumbling. A more likely answer is that Sony was hoping to include rumble right up until the last minute, pending a successful appeal. However, having suffered a tremendous legal defeat instead, it appears as though the company has decided that Immersion’s involvement with the PlayStation brand is finished.
One important thing to remember is that although both the PS3 and the Nintendo Wii can claim “motion sensor ability” as a bullet point on their spec sheets, the two systems are really not very similar. The Wii features absolute position sensing via a control strip of three LEDs arranged below the television, whereas the PS3’s controller merely senses relative motion, primarily involving tilting over the three axes of motion. Games written specifically for the Wii’s controller will not be able to be ported to the PS3 without significant modification.