Fighting anti-piracy by moving DNS off “the grid”

Domain name seizure.US authorities made more domain name seizures this month, prompting a bit of a panic among the file-sharing web. While torrent services are mostly associated with illegal content (for good reason), they are also used for all sorts of legitimate tasks.

As such, the growing ease with which the US government has been seizing domains concerns torrent users, to the point that some are ready to fight back. I’m not talking about the courts either. As TorrentFreak reports, a group of enthusiasts has started to develop a P2P-based DNS system that would make domain seizures a whole lot more difficult.

The details get a little technical from there, so I’ll refer you to TorrentFreak to sort through it at your leisure. What’s clear, though, is that technology and those who are passionate about it will continue to stay strides ahead of the people that aim to control the web.

Angry Birds highlights Android device fragmentation

Angry Birds.As cell phones continue to become more and more like what we used to know as a PC, we’ll start to see more of the problems crop up that the PC faced. Chief among, it’s becoming clear, is fragmentation. With the advent of operating systems like Android and Windows Phone 7, handset manufacturers are increasingly under pressure to put out better handsets.

With the iPhone, everyone has the same hardware, and because Apple earns profits from both the hardware and the software and controls the production of both, there’s no real rush to make a new handset. The hardware manufactures for Android and WP7, on the other hand, are in a sort of arms race. Every month it seems there’s a newer, faster Droid on the market. Something with a better camera. Something that runs Flash. Something with more RAM. Something better. That race is leading to a serious fragmentation, at least with Android, and it’s affecting the user experience.

Angry Birds has become one of the most popular games across several mobile platforms, but the developer has struggled to keep its product functional on all Android devices. The developer, Rovio Mobile, said that it will be creating a second version of the game for lower-end Android handsets, citing “severe performance issues.” While this isn’t a huge issue now, imagine two years down the road when there will be ever more hundreds of thousands of apps and a marketplace cluttered with new and old handsets. It will be a mess.

Of course Apple isn’t totally exempt from this issue. Its own handsets have changed significantly year after year, giving way to some high-performance applications that simply won’t run on the original iPhone or even the iPhone 3G. As time wears on, though, I would expect Apple will see significantly less fragmentation than the operating systems with secondary hardware manufacturers. There have been rumors though, that Apple is creating an iPhone “Lite” as well as the current iPhone 4 and a CDMA version of the phone for Verizon. Sounds an awful lot like fragmentation to me.

Netflix gets a price increase

Netflix rate hikeThere I was, late Monday night, getting ready to leave for Ohio the following evening. My girlfriend and I were going to drive through most of the night on Tuesday so we could miss the Wednesday traffic (sidebar: get it together VirginiaDOT – the 77/81 junction looks like it was designed by throwing spaghetti at a wall and letting a first grader draw the signage). As we both packed she said, “Sucks about that Neflix increase, right?” Check the email. Price increase. Back to packing.

I was worried when she first mentioned it, but really, the extra dollar a month doesn’t bother me. I’ve been unbelievably happy with my Netflix subscription, so the extra $12 a year is like a tip for good service.

On the flipside, though, I wish I could justify stepping down to the streaming-only plan. I would love a streaming video service that could rival my music service (MOG). Give me on demand everything, not just the old stuff. As it stands, I keep the DVD part of my Netflix subscription for those movies I want to watch while I work but can’t find elsewhere. I would love to get it all over the cloud, and would likely pay double my current Netflix fee to do it. Time for an industry shift, folks, and the first service to do it will get a helluva lot of subscribers.

Bullz-Eye’s Holiday Gift Guide is out

Holiday gift guide.

If you’re having trouble coming up with the perfect holiday gift this year, we have something that could help you out. Our annual Bullz-Eye Holiday Gift Guide is out, including a section (written by yours truly) specifically devoted to gadgets.

Of course, you can also check out the rest of the guide, which includes games, movies, and virtually any other category of gift you might need help with. Happy shopping!

Eric Schmidt: No Chrome OS netbooks for the holidays

Google Chrome OS.According to Google’s CEO, Chrome OS won’t be ready to go in notebooks until after the holiday. It’s a bummer, really, because the OS release could produce a glut of development from app makers looking to make web versions of their current software.

The OS was originally supposed launch well before the holidays, then it was pushed back to late November, now it’s looking like we won’t see it until next year, outside of beta anyway. Google says it will have more to share later in the year. Guess what, guys. It is later in the year. It’s very late in the year in fact, so just tell us it won’t be ready until next year. That’s all we need to know.

Several manufacturers have held a “no comment” status on launching Chrome netbooks. That can’t be a good thing. I figured there would be some excitement about a slim new OS that won’t have the crazy licensing fees of Microsoft products. Really makes me wonder why the OS has caught a delay. Is Google having trouble partnering with manufacturers? Did they back out after agreeing to support the platform a year ago?

‘Find My iPhone’ goes free

Find My iPhone.Apple released iOS 4.2 for all iPhone, iPod, and iPad devices yesterday, bringing multi-tasking and some nice folder enhancements to the world’s most magical tablet. The new OS also adds AirPlay and AirPrint and brings one very cool mobile tool to iPhone users for free. Find My iPhone can now be used for free by anyone with an Apple ID (you have one if you have an iPhone).

The setup for free use is a little convoluted. First, you need to go to your Mail settings and add a MobileMe account. Sign in to the account using your Apple ID (the same ID you use to download any application) and then flick the enable switch for Find My iPhone. You can then download the Find My iPhone application from the app store to your phone and set things up from there.

The future of the point-and-shoot (there isn’t one)

Point and shoot use on Flickr

MG Siegler at TechCrunch has put together another interesting article, this time on the future of the point-and-shoot camera. His basic point is that the industry is behind the curve and needs to evolve quickly to catch up in the social game. Though he makes some good points, I think it’s too late.

Siegler starts his article with an anecdote about his latest camera purchase, a high end Canon point-and-shoot, the S95, which he also says he uses five percent of the time. I can’t imagine why you would spend $400 on a camera you would use so little, particularly when the impetus behind most point-and-shoots is having pictures you can share. There are plenty of options at the prosumer DSLR level that can take better pictures for hardly more cost. If you need something more social, get a decent phone.

Siegler mentions all of this, but I think it’s actually too late for the point-and-shoots to make the necessary changes. Phones are just too far ahead. Sure, the S95 takes vastly superior pictures to my iPhone, but the times I want to take decent pictures I plan ahead. The rest of the time, I don’t want to be carrying another device with me. My phone is plenty sufficient if it means I don’t have to keep track of another device.

As cell phone cameras continue to improve, point-and-shoots will be more and more marginalized. Sure, there are still people buying them – a fairly significant part of the market – but dedicated devices rarely do well for everyday use. This is the same reason we aren’t going to see the Peek take off. Yes, it’s nice for checking email or tweeting, but do you really want to carry around the same device. Granted, a good point-and-shoot offers much more functionality than the Peek does, but it’s the same physical limitation. I don’t always want to have a bag with me, or worry about whether I’ll break something important if I put my camera in my pocket. I want something quick and usable, not something for taking super high-quality pictures. If I want that, I’ll take my DSLR. I don’t need an in-between.

Of course, that’s also where Siegler’s article ends. It seems for him that the dream of a connected point-and-shoot is truly a dream, and one that won’t be realized before smartphones have killed the market segment.

My open letter to streaming music services

I got a bug in my ear to listen to a song from Glee today. Stay with me; I know you want to click away but I promise this post is about streaming services. I looked up the song – an a cappella version of Katy Perry’s ‘Teenage Dream’ (again, please keep reading) – and was pleasantly surprised to see that MOG had it. I turned it on, turned it up, then realized I should be doing some dishes.

No problem – I’ll fire it up on my phone and run it through a Bluetooth speaker system in the kitchen. There’s just one problem with that – logging into MOG on my phone logged me out on my computer. Come back to the computer later and log back in, go out to get some coffee and log out and in on the phone for the car ride and then back home, log back in, blah blah blah, you get the picture. It’s too much, and it could be so easily solved. Build a feature into both the web app and the iPhone app that allows me to tie my account to my phone so that both can be logged in.

So begins my letter to companies that dream of providing a music streaming service. You absolutely have to make a smooth experience across devices. I’ve been so pleased with MOG that I’ve gone through and deleted a shload of my own digital library, the stuff I just didn’t listen to much or was so ubiquitous I could always get it on MOG (do I really need MP3s of Aerosmith’s Big Ones?). I’m so annoyed with the device situation, though, that I’m ready to jump the MOG ship the moment someone else can do it better.

Another simple thing – make the app more like a music player. I want access to my player all the time from anywhere. I don’t want to have to play a song to see my player, which already has songs queued up by the way. Yes, I could make playlists, but I shouldn’t have to. The whole advantage of the cloud isn’t a cumbersome experience. It’s the opposite. I want your streaming service because I don’t have to keep hundreds of gigs of music around in case my taste changes. I literally dumped 30 gigs of songs last night because the cloud is so convenient. I’d love to dump 30 more.

What to make of Facebook’s new messaging system

Zuckerberg speaking this week.Earlier this week Mark Zuckerberg held a press conference to announce a new messaging service. I say service because it’s not the email program that everyone was expecting. That’s part of the package, but it’s a small part and an optional one.

This new system is actually about conglomerating all of your message services – email, SMS, chat – in one place. The big issue, as Facebook sees it, is that we have too many places to look for our text-based communication with one another. By building the system into Facebook, Zuckerberg hopes Facebook can become your complete social hub for the web.

It’s more than that, though. While working on this project, Zuckerberg talked to high school students about the way they’re using email. Turns out, they aren’t. It’s too formal, which I can totally understand. I can get upwards of a hundred emails a day, and that’s a far cry from the deluge that other tech professionals will see. I don’t need to see, “Hi Jeff,” or “Hello Jeff,” or “Jeff, how are you today?” from promoters and marketers or even my coworkers. I need information, and I prefer that it’s short and to the point.

Zuckerberg is obviously pointing at the end of email, or at least the kind of formal, subject-line message system we understand as email today. He can’t say that, though, if only because he’s Mark Zuckerberg.

The power behind Microsoft’s Kinect

Microsoft’s Kinect has some undoubtably cool technology, but cooler than its game applications could be the power behind the camera. This video shows what Kinect is capable of once it has been hacked to allow a little input. The results are astonishing.