MediaFile

Google’s Brin, wife donate $500,000 to keep Wikipedia going

Very few have missed Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales’ picture looming on all of the pages of the user-generated information website.

But that may soon go away, thanks to Google co-founder Sergey Brin and his wife Anne Wojcicki.

The duo donated $500,000 to the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia and its sister sites, through their Brin Wojcicki Foundation.

The popular website had kicked off its annual fundraiser this week with Wales appealing to its readers to donate toward the costs of servers, bandwidth, maintenance, development and employee salaries. His argument — donate to keep the site free of ads and other commerce.

“This is how Wikipedia works: people use it, they like it, and so they help pay for it, to keep it freely available for themselves and for everyone around the world,” said Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, thanking Brin and Wojcicki for the support.

Tech wrap: Blockbuster 2.0 – now streaming movies

There’s a new video streaming service on the block and it comes courtesy of an old, familiar name – Blockbuster. Blockbuster unveiled the video streaming service to subscribers of satellite provider Dish Network, which now owns Blockbuster, in a move to better compete against video rental giant Netflix and to lure customers from rival cable and satellite TV providers. Non-Dish subscribers will have to wait until Blockbuster launches a broader online streaming plan later this year, the company’s president told Reuters.

Called Blockbuster Movie Pass, the subscription service will start at $10 a month and includes DVD rentals by mail and at the company’s more than 1,500 stores. The service will offer up a selection of more than 3,000 movies streamed to televisions and 4,000 movies streamed to computers. The mail and store rentals include video games. Mail plus streaming with Netflix starts at about $16 a month. Will Blockbuster’s service be enough to threaten Netflix? Not a chance, argues CNET’s Roger Cheng. “Essentially, it’s a souped up Dish package,” writes Cheng. ” We were looking for something radically different from Dish, but we got an incremental new service plan instead.”

Amazon’s long-awaited tablet could be on its way soon. At least that’s the speculation that began floating around tech circles on Friday after the company announced plans to hold a press conference next Wednesday. Amazon declined to provide further details, but analysts were confident that the world’s largest Internet retailer will introduce its long-awaited tablet computer this year to expand in mobile commerce and sell more digital goods and services.

Tech wrap: HP shake-up?

A change could be underway at the top at Hewlett-Packard. The company’s board convened on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of ousting CEO Leo Apotheker after less than a year on the job and may appoint former eBay chief Meg Whitman to fill in as interim CEO, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters. HP’s board of directors has come under increasing pressure in recent months after a raft of controversial decisions has left investors uncertain of the company’s leadership.

Newly minted Apple CEO Tim Cook will try his hand as star presenter at an October 4 company event widely expected to include the launch of the latest version of the tech behemoth’s iPhone handset, according to a report on AllThingD. Sources told the website that the plan is to make the iPhone 5 available to consumers within weeks of the event. Apple has yet to officially announce or even acknowledge that the new device exists at all. For those tired of yet another story about a rumored release date, there was something akin to a confirmation on Wednesday from an unlikely source: former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. Gore, an Apple board member, apparently told a tech conference that the next-generation phone will indeed be available next month. Oops?!

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt traveled to Washington on Wednesday to face critics who say his company has become a dominant and potentially anti-competitive force on the Internet. Schmidt told a Senate antitrust hearing that his company has not “cooked” its search results to favor its own products and listings, despite accusations to the contrary from senators and other Web companies.  “Google is in a position to determine who will succeed and who will fail on the Internet,” said Republican Senator Mike Lee, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel. Google has been broadly accused of using its clout in the search market to stomp rivals as it moves into related businesses, like travel search.

Tech wrap: Google+ now open to the masses

Google has opened up its Google+ social network to anyone who’d like to give it a whirl, after a successful three-month run as an invite-only service. The company also rolled out a slew of new features for Google+, including integration of its flagship search engine into the platform, and expanded its Hangouts video-chatting feature to enable mobile use on its own Android-based smartphones. Support for Hangouts on Apple’s iOS mobile software is “coming soon”, Google promised in a blog post. Users will soon have the option to broadcast their Hangouts sessions beyond the nine allowed participants as well by opening them up to live viewing by anyone. Want to record a chat for posterity? Well, that’s coming soon too.

Google+ rival Facebook also unveiled new tweaks to its service on Tuesday, introducing a new “ticker” on its users’ home pages and providing real-time notifications of what friends are doing on the service. Facebook also revamped the service’s main news feed to flag important items — such as a new baby announcement — for Facebook users who have not logged on for a few days. Facebook also changed the way photos are displayed on the site, increasing the size of pictures that appear in a users’ news feed.

U.S. prosecutors accused poker website Full Tilt Poker on Tuesday of running a Ponzi scheme in which the company’s owners and board members paid themselves nearly half a billion dollars while defrauding players. That indictment accused three Internet poker companies — Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker and PokerStars — and 11 people, including Full Tilt director Raymond Bitar, of bank fraud, illegal gambling and money laundering offenses. Read the complaint in full here.

from The Great Debate UK:

Heavy traffic on the information superhighway

-- Jeff Smith is Senior Director Infrastructure Services, Global Crossing EMEA. The opinions expressed are his own.--

For many years now, number crunchers have obsessed over the growth of data, marvelling at the way that the computer age has generated enormous amounts of content and IT types have speculated as to how disks, tapes and other storage devices would need to evolve to accommodate this. Now, however, the problem has spread and the new fear is greater: could the digitisation of the world’s information lead to catastrophic communications breakdown?

Consider this head-spinning set of numbers. According to EMC, the data created in 2010 would be 1.2 zettabytes, the equivalent of 75 billion 16GB iPads, filling Wembley Stadium 41 times. And in the age of the Internet a lot of that data doesn’t just reside on physical media but instead gets repeatedly shunted around the globe. On mobile networks alone, 8,000 petabytes will be sent in 2011, says a May 2011 report by ABI Research, and that figure is set to grow by about 50 per cent annually for the next five years. Overall, IP traffic will grow to 767 exabytes in 2014, according to Cisco. A petabyte is over one million gigabytes and an exabyte is 1,000 petabytes.

Tech wrap: ITC joins Apple-Samsung spat

The International Trade Commission agreed to investigate Apple’s complaint that mobile phones and tablets made by rival Samsung violate its technology intellectual property. The intensifying patent dispute threatens to strain a lucrative supply relationship: Apple in 2010 was Samsung’s second-largest customer, accounting for $5.7 billion of sales tied mainly to semiconductors, according to the Asian consumer electronics company’s annual report.

Google faces a total of nine antitrust complaints which EU regulators are now investigating, two sources said. Up to now, The European Commission has only confirmed four cases against Google. The increased number of complaints underscores Google’s dominant position but does not necessarily mean bad news for the company, said Simon Holmes, head of EU and competition law at law firm SJ Berwin.

“Google’s strong position means there are lots of interests involved. But there is nothing wrong per se in having a strong position,” he said.

It’s time for a social network neutrality

By Jake Levine
The opinions expressed are his own.

The network neutrality / common carriage debate is one of the most important debates of our time. At stake is the freedom to innovate, the freedom to listen, and the freedom to speak. To date, arguments for or against common carriage have focused largely on the relationship between Internet service providers and content creators, but a new threat is emerging.

Companies like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have unlocked new ways for people to connect, curate, and consume. They have changed and continue to change how we interact with the web – how content is distributed, discovered, and delivered. But with the emergence of this new social layer comes a threat that rivals that posed by the great information monopolies of the 20th century – AT&T, the Radio Trust and the Motion Picture Patents Company, companies known for price gouging, anti-competitive behavior, and the stifling of innovation.

I recently finished Tim Wu’s “The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empire.“ For anyone interested in network neutrality, this book is an incredible primer. Beyond presenting a thoughtful analysis and historical review of the information industry, Wu provides a compelling read – one might even call it a page-turner! If you haven’t yet, go buy it, and read it.

Tech wrap: New effort underway in Internet piracy fight

Can slower Internet speeds convince consumers to stop pirating copyrighted material online? That’s the assumption behind a new anti-piracy effort launched this week by a coalition of Internet service providers and groups representing movie studios and record labels.

Under the new initiative,  AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon have agreed to send customers email or pop-up alerts if it is suspected that their account is being used to download or share copyrighted material illegally. Should suspected illegal activity persist, providers might temporarily slow Internet speeds or redirect their browser to a specific Web page until the customer contacts the company.  Time’s Techland blog calls the effort “fairly reasonable” but points out that “it’s only a matter of time before someone is falsely accused of copyright infringement and throttled accordingly.” Users accused can seek an independent review of whether they acted illegally.

A major hedge fund dumped its stake in Yahoo after an ownership dispute earlier this year cut the value of the Internet giant’s China holdings. Back in May, Yahoo revealed that Alibaba Group, its Chinese unit, had transferred ownership of its valuable online payments business Alipay to a company owned by Jack Ma, Alipay’s CEO. “This isn’t what we signed up for,” Greenlight Capital’s head David Einhorn wrote in a letter to investors. “We exited with a modest loss.”

Tech wrap: Facebook zooms into video age

Starting today, Facebook users will have the option of holding one-on-one video calls with their friends directly from their account on the social network. The new Skype-powered video service marks a renewed effort by Facebook to cement itself as the go-to communications hub on the Web and serves as a response to Google’s recently launched Hangouts app, a similar video chatting feature that lets users on its Google+ social network chat with up to 10 people at once.

Facebook’s video chat will be embedded directly into the site’s messaging platform and won’t require users to sign up for Skype separately to use it. Skype stands to see a big boost from the partnership seeing as it could open it up to a whole new set of users.  So how does Facebook’s video chat compare to Google’s? TechCrunch finds there’s little overlap at this point between the two services, arguing the former is well-designed for one-on-one pow-wows whereas the latter is better suited to group chats. In addition, Facebook unveiled a new group-messaging feature that lets users take part in text chats with multiple friends.

Remember that man who was accused early this year of hacking into AT&T’s servers and stealing personal data from 120,000 Apple iPad customers? Well, he was indicted on Wednesday by a Newark, New Jersey grand jury with one count of conspiracy to gain unauthorized access to computers and one count of identity theft. The charges come two weeks after a co-defendant in the case pleaded guilty.

Tech wrap: Verizon ditches unlimited data plan

Verizon Wireless customers, say goodbye to the days of  unlimited Web surfing for a set fee on your smartphone. The biggest U.S. mobile provider will stop offering its $30 all-you-can-surf  deal later this week, replacing it with a new tiered approach to data pricing. Customers who keep their smartphone use to 2 gigbytes (GB) of data per month or under won’t see a change to their bill, but those who go over that limit will be slapped with an extra $10 charge per GB. Heavy mobile users will have the option of signing up for a 5 GB or 10 GB plan for $50 or $80 respectively. AT&T made a similar move last year, meaning Sprint is now the last major wireless carrier offering unlimited data use. CNET reports that Verizon will also start charging for access to its mobile hot-spot service, which up until this week has been free and without bandwidth restrictions.

Aspiring cord cutters across Latin America and the Caribbean, rejoice. Netflix is on its way. The company, which offers TV shows and movies over the Internet and DVD rentals through the mail, will be expanding its online video streaming service to 43 countries in the regions later this year. Shows and movies will be available to subscribers in Spanish, Portuguese or English on PCs, Macs and other mobile devices that are able to stream from Netflix, the company said in a blog post. The overseas expansion marks the company’s second foray outside the United States. It began offering its services in Canada last year.

You’ve heard it before and now you’ll hear it again – the next iteration of Apple’s iPhone is on its way this September. Supply-side sources told Asian IT industry newspaper DigiTimes that Taiwan-based notebook maker Pegatron Technology has received an order to make 15 million iPhone 5/iPhone 4 handsets that are set to ship sometime in September.  The iPhone 5 is not expected to differ much from the previous model on the surface, according to the report. As AllThingsD’s John Paczkowski points out, the real differences are expected to be “under the hood” where you’ll find a faster processor and better rear camera among other improvements.