If you’re tired of picking on Comcast for the way it throttles back peer-to-peer traffic, you can now direct your angry gaze to Cox Communications. Cox does the same thing, according to researchers at the Max Planck institute.
In fact, it’s one of three ISPs they caught engaging in P2P management. The second is Comcast and the third is StarHub in Singapore. At least Cox is somewhat transparent about it — its user policies do say that it will manage network traffic for the good of the whole.
What’s more interesting is that the study found both Cox and Comcast managing P2P traffic during all hours of the day, not just during peak usage times. Imagine driving around a small town at 3 a.m. and coming to an intersection with a cop standing in the middle directing traffic. You’re the only car on the road, but he’s still telling you to stop and waving everyone else through, even though there is no one else. It’s kind of like that.
Listen to the podcast (14:04 minutes).
A while back, iPhone users in Starbucks coffee shops were momentarily treated to free AT&T WiFi. All they had to do was type in their phone numbers to prove they were legit AT&T customers, and there you go, free WiFi on the iPhone. And it was good.
Then, all of a sudden, it disappeared. At the time, it probably seemed like a mass hallucination brought on by a collective caffeine overdose — people went back to business as usual. Days later, though, a small note was added to the page on AT&T’s Web site where customers go to choose an iPhone service plan. It said all iPhone plans allowed access to AT&T hotspots — that’s 17,000 hotspots in the U.S. alone.
But then, just as iPhone users were about to go ahead and get happy, the note was pulled from the site — leaving everyone wondering whether it was a mistake or some sort of tease about the shape of things to come. Who knows — maybe AT&T is really lousy at keeping secrets, or maybe Apple is using its partner to leak out tidbits of interesting information in order to generate a little more buzz — as if the iPhone needed any help.
MacBook, Rescue Thyself
Here’s a crime story with a satisfying end: As a thief was toying around on a MacBook he lifted a few weeks earlier, the victim — who happened to be an Apple store employee — signed onto another computer and used Apple’s Back to My Mac feature to activate the stolen MacBook’s camera.
She then used Apple’s PhotoBooth software to take his picture as he busied himself with her computer. The guy turned out to be easily identifiable — a friend recognized him as someone who had attended a party at the victim’s house, which he evidently decided to turn into a crime scene.
The owner of the purloined MacBook took the photos to the police and gave them the thief’s name. Two men were arrested, and the police recovered a bunch of other property they had stolen from the woman’s home, along with her MacBook.
For the uninitiated, Back to My Mac is part of Apple’s .Mac service. At a cost of about a hundred bucks a year, it lets owners connect remotely to their Macs, as long as they’re running the Leopard operating system.
Apply Direct Pressure
Billionaire investor Carl Icahn is applying CPR to Microsoft’s takeover bid for Yahoo, and he’s giving the deal a real chest-thumping.
Icahn intends to lead a proxy fight at Yahoo’s July 3rd annual shareholders meeting to replace its 10 directors with his own slate of Microsoft-friendly nominees. The stellar cast includes another famous billionaire — basketball team owner-slash-HDNet Chair Mark Cuban.
Unlike the coy mixed signals that characterized the tentative negotiations between Microsoft and Yahoo, Icahn’s signaling is loud and clear.
In a letter to Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock, Icahn said, “It is irresponsible to hide behind management’s more-than-overly-optimistic financial forecasts.”
Stay tuned to find out if the dead bid comes back to life — and if Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Icahn do the monkey dance together.
CBS’ New Skin
CBS is shedding its old media skin and getting serious about the Internet ad market. The media giant has purchased Cnet, a network of technology-oriented Web sites, in an effort to expand its Internet presence.
CBS will pony up $1.8 billion for the firm. Both companies have moved to increase their shares of the online advertising market in recent weeks.
Cnet announced a new content, advertising and search-marketing partnership with Yahoo, while CBS unveiled its Local Ad Network, which lets CBS TV stations syndicate local news widgets to bloggers and social media Web sites.
Gunning for IBM
HP is buying EDS for a whopping $13.9 billion in a bid to wrest a piece of the tech services outsourcing market from IBM. Under the terms of the deal, EDS investors will receive $25 for each share they own — a 25 percent premium on the stock price the day before the acquisition was announced.
Right now, HP’s strength — or at least its brand identity — is its line of PCs. Yet based on the company’s actions over the past year or so, it is clear it has been moving toward this goal for some time. HP decided to expand its service and product portfolio for a number of reasons.
For starters, a recession does not bode well for its line of desktops, laptops, printers and related computer hardware. Services, by contrast, tend to be multi-year contracts that can buttress a company’s earnings during off cycles. The most immediate gains, though, would be the cross-sell opportunities and cost savings resulting from a merger of the two companies.
Although the acquisition will solidify the gains HP has made in tech services, it is unlikely to get it past the No. 2 slot — at least in the mid term. The numbers alone suggest HP has its work cut out for it, if overtaking IBM is indeed its ultimate goal. IBM registered $48 billion in business service revenues last year. The combined earnings of HP and EDS in this sector are about $10 billion off that mark.
Some House Democrats are digging up a 94-year-old antitrust law to help push along a new Net neutrality bill.
The Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 carves out new territory by leveraging the provisions of the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914, which prohibits charging different prices to different buyers for the same products.
Given that potential penalties from antitrust cases can run the gamut from heavy fines to the forced breakup of companies, the bill could give neutrality some real teeth. It would require that ISPs interconnect with other network access providers on a reasonable and nondiscriminatory basis, and that they take a similar approach to ensure that all content, applications and Web services are treated equally.
The legislation came just days after the House Energy Committee heard a debate on another neutrality-related bill. The Internet Freedom and Preservation Act would direct the FCC to find ways to force neutrality onto broadband providers, while also requiring them to maintain basic network standards on privacy, pornography and other matters.
Big, Angry Texas
It took a Dallas newspaper and a job search site to convince Texas that it was in fact the home of an Amazon warehouse, and now Texas is one big, red, angry state.
Its department of taxation is suing Amazon, alleging the e-tailer owes it sales taxes going back to 2000, when it opened a distribution center in the Dallas area.
Why is the distribution center pivotal to the case? In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could collect sales tax from a company not headquartered there — if the company had a physical presence in the state.
The warehouse — a physical presence in Texas since 2000 — went unnoticed until the enterprising folks at the Dallas Morning News took a look at Amazon’s Web site, which lists Dallas as the location of one of its fulfillment centers and even includes job listings for the site.
When Aliens Attack
Dell has developed a reputation for selling basic computers that don’t cost very much. That started to change when it bought Alienware, which is well-known for selling very expensive gaming computers with unique designs and loads of power.
But Dell also has a line called “XPS” — and XPS computers have become more and more advanced as the line has matured. So now Dell is apparently worried that Alienware and XPS are going after the same market and cannibalizing each other.
I think we can all relate to that — who doesn’t worry about getting eaten by aliens?
Dell is getting ready to significantly cut down the XPS line and steer buyers toward Alienware instead, according to The Wall Street Journal. Dell piped up to deny the report — sort of.
It said that XPS gaming systems will remain part of its portfolio, but that it will indeed start pushing Alienware harder.
Maybe Verizon Wireless is actually serious about openness. The company became the first U.S. wireless carrier to join the LiMo Foundation, a consortium that’s developing a Linux-based software stack for mobile phones.
The move was widely portrayed as a snub of Google, which has butted heads with Verizon over openness since before the Great Spectrum Auction of 2008.
You might recall that Google forced the whole mobile-network-openness debate in the first place by Jedi mind-tricking the FCC into requiring an open network for the coveted C block of wireless spectrum it was auctioning off.
Then it went and formed the Open Handset Alliance, which is developing the Android mobile platform that is also based on Linux. Google then entered a bid for the block that was just big enough to trigger the requirement for open networks, but was outbid by our friend Verizon, which pledged to accept any device and any application on its C block network.
Google has since criticized Verizon for backsliding on its commitment to openness — so what does Verizon do? It joins the other Linux phone club, saying it’s actually more open than OHA. Take that, Android!
Look, Don’t Touch
In the year since the iPhone made its debut, competing phone makers have been busy kicking their own smartphone projects into high gear. A lot have focused on building touch-screen phones, but not Research In Motion.
The BlackBerry Bold is the first new BlackBerry design in a year, and it has a QWERTY keypad. That means the screen is smaller, but it does display at a very high rate of resolution — 480 by 320 pixels showing 65,000 colors.
It also has something the iPhone does not — 3G capabilities. But Apple is expected to come along with a 3G iPhone any day now. The Bold will be available later this summer.
Ask and Receive
One of the earliest promises of Internet search is that you could ask a question and get the answer. Here we are, years later, and you still can’t really do that.
A new company, Powerset, has a search engine that uses natural language logic to bring that ideal a little closer to reality. The engine behind Powerset’s search was developed at Xerox’s PARC R-and-D lab, and Powerset licensed it last year.
The company has released a proof-of-concept that searches only Wikipedia and Freebase, but it’s already raising some eyebrows. Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land, found it “interesting that it actually comprehends the words that it reads.”
We couldn’t get it to offer a good explanation of the meaning of life, but I’m sure they’re working on it.