October 17th, 2007

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RIAA Attacks my old neighborhood -- USENET

The RIAA is going after USenet.com.

The basis for the lawsuit is essential the same as the lawsuit by Viacom against YouTube. Usenet.com is not a bad choice on the "inducement" prong of Grokster because they apparently promise access to MP3s (which, as we all judges know, is a code word for "pirated music").

I am not knowledgeable enough about Usenet architecture these days to know what happens if carrying Usenet becomes a liability. Google just developed a content match system for YouTube (although, as the recent flap over Moveon and Google ads highlights, there are still a few bugs and unintended consequences of the system). Maybe that can extend to Google Groups. But I do not know if the binaries groups are severable from the rest of Usenet, or if a court will even understand the distinction, or if a company will want to risk carrying it.

In a very fundamental way, I owe my career to Usenet, which educated me very early on about why a world of open communication with no intermediaries was way cool. I should be sad to see the RIAA kill it.
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The DTV Transition and Y2K

Best Buy is dropping analog tuners. http://www.eetimes.com/rss/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=202403970&cid=RSSfeed_eetimes_newsRSS

In point of fact the FCC has been making it increasingly difficult to sell analog only tuners. Under a recent FCC Order, it requires big signs that say "Warning, this TV will stop working after February 19, 2009" (unless you do special stuff).

Having been involved in digital television transition issues since 1999, I keep forgetting that lots and lots of people still don't realize that we are switching off our existing analog broadcast system February 19, 2009. It reminds me a lot of the lead up to Y2K. I knew about Y2K stuff and Y2K prep for years, but most folks suddenly noticed it in the later half of 1999.

Most people I talk to seem pretty grumpy about the DTV transition. Me, I'm less sure. For one thing, it will free up some very useful spectrum. For another, the question of how you push forward on major infrastructure or embedded technology is damn hard. The government struggled between 1996 and 2005 to figure out a way to do t via market fores and voluntary transitions, then finally gave up and set a hard date because we needed the auction revenue.