Edupage, April 7th and 10th 2006

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  • Date: Tue, 11 Apr 2006 09:33:25 -0400

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  EFF Calls for Patent to Be Invalidated
  Google, EarthLink to Take San Francisco Wireless
  MIT Researchers Build Micro Batteries

EFF CALLS FOR PATENT TO BE INVALIDATED The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has called on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to invalidate a patent that broadly covers technologies that allow tests to be posted and taken online. In 2003, the USPTO granted the patent to, which has since contacted a number of colleges and universities, as well as businesses, that conduct online testing, saying those services violate the patent. Many of those approached by believe that the idea of putting tests on the Web is too obvious to warrant a patent. Now, the EFF says it has evidence that, even if the idea justifies a patent, was not the first to develop the technology to make it happen. According to the EFF, the IntraLearn Software Corporation began selling products with online testing capabilities in 1997, two years before applied for its patent. Jason Schultz, staff lawyer for the EFF, said that the USPTO would address the validity of the patent, which could take as long as a year or more. If the office determines that a patent is appropriate, said Schultz, it will "a tiny insignificant patent" rather than the very broad patent granted to Chronicle of Higher Education, 6 April 2006 (sub. req'd)

GOOGLE, EARTHLINK TO TAKE SAN FRANCISCO WIRELESS San Francisco has chosen Google and EarthLink to build a wireless network that will cover the city. The companies submitted a joint bid, which was selected over five other bids by the San Francisco TechConnect committee. Under the terms of the bid, Google will provide free service at 300 Kbps, while EarthLink will manage a paid service that will cost at most $20 per month and will operate at 1 Mbps. A report recently released by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Electronic Privacy Information Center argued that the Google-EarthLink proposal was the worst of the bids in terms of protecting user privacy. Others had questioned whether the Google-EarthLink network would sufficiently penetrate buildings to reasonably provide full coverage. Chris Vein, executive director of the Department of Telecommunications and Information Services for San Francisco, said that he had not read the report on privacy and that the city would negotiate with the companies to provide as much access as possible. The deal must be approved by the city of San Francisco and reviewed by the Board of Supervisors. CNET, 6 April 2006

A team of researchers led by a group at MIT have put viruses--the
biological kind--to work in the manufacture of nanowires, which the
researchers said can be used to make extremely small batteries. The
project involved modifying the genes of the virus such that its outer
surface would bind to certain metal ions. Researchers then bred the
virus in a cobalt chloride solution, which resulted in the production
of cobalt nanowires just 6 nanometers wide by 880 nanometers long. The
wires, which also included small amounts of gold so they could
adequately transmit electricity, were then used as positive electrodes
for batteries. The researchers hope that with this technology they can
create batteries as small as a grain of rice.
ZDNet, 6 April 2006

  Google, Graduate Student Devise New Search
  Service Feeds Blog Content to Mainstream Media
  IBM Adds Security to Hardware
  Cable Companies Round Out Offerings

GOOGLE, GRADUATE STUDENT DEVISE NEW SEARCH Google is working to develop a new approach to Web searching that displays not just the topic searched but resources for related topics. The approach is the brainchild of Ori Allon, a doctoral student at the University of New South Wales. In describing his idea, known as the Orion search engine, Allon said a search for the term "American Revolution," for example, would return Web pages with that phrase as well as Web resources on terms such as "American history," "George Washington," and "Declaration of Independence." "The results to the query are displayed immediately in the form of expanded text extracts," Allon said, "giving you the relevant information without having to go to the Web site." A spokesperson from the University of New South Wales noted that Google has hired Allon, making him an employee of the company, but that the search technology he is working on "is still a university project." CNET, 10 April 2006

A new syndication service will provide blog content to mainstream media
outlets. BlogBurst, the new service from Pluck Corp., will review and
edit content before sending it to news publishers in an attempt to
address the quality problems that have so far kept many newspapers and
other resources from publishing blog content. Many blogs are focused on
niche topics for which a news outlet might not have a dedicated
reporter, according to Dave Panos, chief executive of Pluck. By
offering blog content, the news sources can broaden their coverage
while maintaining their level of quality. Initially, BlogBurst will
provide content to Gannett Co., the "Washington Post," the "San
Francisco Chronicle," the "Austin American-Statesman," and the "San
Antonio Express." Pluck hopes to expand its list of customers to
specialty and overseas publications.
Wired News, 10 April 2006,70631-0.html

IBM ADDS SECURITY TO HARDWARE IBM has developed technology that adds hardware-level encryption to data on a range of electronic devices. Researchers at the company said that the technology, called Secure Blue, encrypts and decrypts data as it passes through a processor. Data are encrypted in RAM, as well, resulting in a high level of security for devices such as personal computers, cell phones, digital media players, and electronic organizers. The flip side to the protection that Secure Blue provides to users is a new level of control offered to other owners of content, such as media companies. Digital rights management (DRM), which dictates how content may be used, could be bolstered by IBM's new technology, allowing music producers, for example, another tool to restrict unauthorized usage of their intellectual property. Secure Blue has been demonstrated with IBM's PowerPC processor and is said to be compatible with processors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, though IBM said it is not currently in talks with those companies to add the technology to their chips. ZDNet, 9 April 2006

A set of new deals signals even tighter competition among communication
services providers, as cable companies work to expand their offerings
to align more directly with those of phone companies. The goal for
cable companies is to be able to offer TV, telephone, computer, and
wireless services, all from the same provider. Most notably, Comcast,
Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, and Bright House Networks have
announced a deal with Sprint Nextel that will allow cable customers
access for wireless devices. Although some of the details remain to be
decided, under the arrangement, consumers will be able to access TV
programming over cellular networks and possibly to use handsets that
use cellular networks outdoors and Wi-Fi networks indoors. Analyst
Aryeh Bourkoff noted that cable companies already have an advantage
over phone companies, such as Verizon and AT&T, in that phone companies
have an uphill path to being able to enter the TV market. "The phone
companies have the advantage of wireless today," Bourkoff said, "but
they have to build video, and that's going to be very expensive."
New York Times, 9 April 2006 (registration req'd)

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