The iPhone has changed the face of computing by putting the Internet in the palm of your hand. While the iPhone is an amazing device, users of the iPhone and phones running Google’s Android operating system have been frustrated by a very limiting aspect of these top-of-the-line smart phones. While users pay for unlimited Internet access from these phones, they are unable to connect their notebooks to the phones for Internet access. Connecting a computer to the Internet through a cell phone is called tethering and is a technology that has been around for a while, over many cell phones. Software vendors have proved that It’s possible to tether to an iPhone and G-Phone as well, but tethering software has been banned by Apple and Google at the request of their cell phone service partners – AT&T and T-Mobile respectively. If you are an iPhone user and wish to connect your notebook PC to the Internet through AT&T, you’ll have to fork over $60 a month for an additional line and a connect card, bringing your monthly bill to $160 per month or more. This is why the carriers are requiring Apple and Google to block the ability to tether, they want customers to have to purchase a second line instead of sharing one between phone and PC.
Free Press, a national, nonpartisan organization that works to reform the media, is pressing the FCC to force wireless carriers to follow the same open Internet policy as landline networks. Landline networks, those that provide phone service over wires, are required by law to allow Internet services from other providers to use their network – even if the service competes with its own. So, for example, you might sign up for high speed DSL Internet from AOL which is delivered over your AT&T phone lines. If he FCC goes along with open Internet for wireless carriers, tethered connections, Internet phone services like Skype, and other Internet services will be allowed over wireless cell phone networks, dramatically impacting how cell phone carriers earn revenue and conduct business.
For the first time since the .com bust Computer Science degree programs are experiencing growth in student enrollment. In 2002, CS departments across the US saw dramatic reductions in majors, sometimes as great as 70 – 80 percent. The 2007-2008 school year saw an eight percent increase in CS majors. This increase indicates a change in student perception regarding the chance of getting good-paying jobs in the technology industry. This is good news for tech companies who have been concerned about the shortage of computer science graduates from US schools. The increase in CS majors may be the result of the increasing popularity of technologies like the iPhone, Facebook, and YouTube. President Obama’s emphasis on technology in the economic stimulus package may also help to boost confidence in the industry.
Wikipedia is the 10th most popular Web site in the US, with around 58.3 million unique visitors last month. What makes the site so unique is that it has experienced phenomenal success without advertising revenue by relying on its users to create, edit, and maintain its content – an approach known as crowd-sourcing. WIkipedia has not been without its detractors however. Some criticize the site’s “free-for-all” approach that they say provides the Internet community with misinformation posted without a formal editorial or fact-checking process. Recently the flaws inherent in crowd-sourcing have been the focus of media attention as wiki pages on U.S. Senators Edward Kennedy, and Robert Byrd incorrectly stated that the senators had died.
Wikipedia is responding by experimenting with a new approach called “Flagged Revisions.” In this scenario, edits proposed for pages on some topics will be placed in a holding queue where a “trusted editor” will approve or reject the change within a week. Trusted editors are drawn from the community of users based on the person’s past participation on the site. The new system will provide a cushion that will hopefully reduce instances of misinformation and embarrassment for the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation.
The use of flagged revisions, points to a new direction for Wikipedia, an organization that has historically put its faith fully in the crowd. One can’t help but think that this decision may have been helped along by Encyclopedia Britannica recent announcement of its plans to open its doors to the wisdom of the crowd. Competition is a good thing! In this case, it is my hope that competition between Wikipedia and Britannica will provide us with an online encyclopedia of everything that is accurate, up-to-date, and trustworthy.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs has announced that he is taking a 6 month leave of absence to recuperate from health problems -the health issues he described two weeks ago as a minor hormonal imbalance. Most tech analysts are reporting that Steve’s health issues are probably more than minor, and perhaps a recurrence of the pancreatic cancer he battled in 2004.
Apple shares plunged 10.8 percent upon the announcement, with some speculation as to whether Jobs will be able to return to his job at all. Most analysts believe that Apple will be able to sustain its momentum even if Steve is unable to return. Still, Apple and the tech industry would suffer a grave loss if the man that brought us the Mac, the iPod, and the iPhone were no longer driving innovation. Get well soon Steve!