Boon-docks may get digital cable, high-speed Internet via WiMAX

Pace Micro Technologies, a developer of digital TV technologies, announced today that it has developed a solution which provides cable TV, internet, and phone service to people who might not otherwise be in range. Once content is delivered to the home, 802.11n technology will distribute it throughout the whole house. HangZhou Night Net

Pace's solution is based on WiMAX, which is part of the IEEE 802.16 standard. WiMAX is the solution of choice for a number of reasons. First, it has range. The WiMAX Forum claims that it can carry acceptable throughput up to 30 miles, but admits that realistically, "service ranges up to 10 miles are very likely in line of sight applications," and that ranges beyond ten miles are possible but not "desirable for heavily loaded networks." Second, WiMAX has the throughput that would be required in order to deliver cable, phone, and high-speed internet; WiMAX is expected to deliver about 75Mbps of throughput per channel, although the rate drops as range increases.

Pace worked with Metalink, a wireless and broadband silicon solutions provider, on its 802.11n technology. In order to receive content, each home will be equipped with a server unit, which then connects wirelessly to a WiMAX base station by using Pace's Connections Suite Software. Once customers are connected to the station, they can spread the signal throughout their home using Metalink's WLANPlus, an 802.11n compliant technology that claims to provide "a reliable foundation for the provision of wireless triple-play and entertainment networks with multiple simultaneous HD video streams and extended coverage." I imagine this "technology" is simply an 802.11n router with some form of password protection so that your neighbor doesn't leech your video feed.

Of course, many would argue that the throughput rate of 802.11n or WiMAX is not nearly enough to deliver a full uncompressed 1080p video stream, so the company's dreams may be a bit far-fetched. Pace also isn't the first to consider WiMAX as a solution; Clearwire announced in June that it was planning to do the same thing. Still, Pace's plan should certainly help people out in the country that currently have no way of getting high-speed internet.

Get your Grooveshark on: new P2P service will give users a cut of the sales

A new peer-to-peer music service developed by a "team of enterprising college students" has a novel twist on the music sales business: give users a cut of the sales. Grooveshark is currently in beta and claims to have signed a number of independent labels up for its service. All the sales traffic will go over a P2P network, and users will be "rewarded" for sharing their music. HangZhou Night Net

P2P-based music stores are nothing new. Indeed, a number of P2P networks have tried to go legit after running afoul of the RIAA, none with any notable success. The most recent example is LimeWire, which recently announced plans to begin selling MP3s encoded at 256Kbps. LimeWire has managed to sign on a couple of notable distributors, including Nettwerk Productions, home to Avril Lavigne, Sara McLachlan, and the Barenaked Ladies, among other acts.

There are a couple of significant differences between LimeWire and Grooveshark's business models, however. First, LimeWire will start out as a direct-download site, with the P2P component coming later. Also, Grooveshark's virtual tip jar feature appears to be unique among the P2P music stores.

Grooveshark is banking on users being attracted to the idea of getting a cut of the action when someone downloads a track from their PC. At 99¢ per non-DRMed MP3, the user's cut isn't going to be much more than a few cents after the artist, label, and Grooveshark take their share, but it may be enough to convince some music fans to sign up for the service and share some of their bandwidth.

It's a novel concept, but it may have a difficult time gaining traction. Those looking to scratch the indie music itch have many other options, including the very popular eMusic, which has a large selection of DRM-free MP3 files available, as well as the upcoming Amazon DRM-free music store. The loosening of DRM restrictions from the likes of EMI and Universal gives consumers who are looking for music that will play on the devices of their choosing without restrictions new alternatives. It also makes life for upstarts like Grooveshark that much harder.

AMD sees price leaks, public support from Dell in run up to Barcelona

This week has brought a whole raft of AMD stories with all sorts of headlines swirling about the company in the run-up to next week's make-or-break Barcelona announcement. Here's a brief look at the very latest in AMD news before the big day on Monday. HangZhou Night Net

Dell sticks by AMD

In a speech at the 14th Annual Citigroup Technology Conference, Dell CEO Michael Dell insisted that his company would continue offering AMD processors. Dell cited the need for diversity in processor suppliers, as well as the complementary strengths of Intel's quad-core "Clovertown" Xeons and AMD's quad-core Barcelona. Dell, who could be citing either real in-house benchmarks or someone's marketing materials, claimed that Barcelona has a 30 percent lead in floating-point performance over Clovertown, while Clovertown has a 30 percent lead in integer.

These are all good reasons to stick by AMD, but there's another factor behind Dell's newfound love of Intel's archrival that you won't be hearing about from company executives. Namely, the fact that Dell no longer gets the steep discounts and advertising subsidies that it allegedly once received from Intel when it was an Intel-only company. In the post-Conroe world, Intel has cut prices across the board for its processor lineup. So whatever discount Dell may still get, it's not worth losing any potential business over.

AMD serves up Barcelona prices

Someone in the channel squealed, and now DailyTech has its hands on the launch prices and clockspeeds for Barcelona. In line with previous announcements, Barcelona's launch speeds top out at a piddling 2.0GHz across the board, in both two- and four-socket variants. On the two-socket side, there's the 2.0GHz (95W TDP) Opteron 2350, a processor that sells for $372 (presumably in lots of 1,000). There's also a 1.9GHz 68W part for the same price, as well as a 1.7GHz (68W TDP) for $206.

The four-socket Opteron 8000 series is significantly pricier, with the top-end 2.0GHz model going for $1,004, and the bottom-end 1.8GHz model going for $688.

AMD officially pries open ATI driver code

First on the list of AMD headlines is the major announcement that the chipmaker has finally reversed ATI's long-standing and much-hated stance toward Linux support. AMD announced on Wednesday that they would at long last provide Linux support for the HD 2000 series of GPUs by bringing the Catalyst 7.9 drivers to Linux. The company also had previously promised to support the development of an open-source driver by releasing specifications and the source code for a basic driver, a promise that it delivered on today with a formal announcement.

Today's official open-source announcement states that next week, following the Barcelona launch, AMD will not only provide the tools and information necessary to develop open-source drivers for the HD 2000 series, but the Radeon X1000 series will be supported as well. AMD also got Novell's SuSE engineers to contribute to the initial release, which the open-source community can then build upon.

As ZDNET points out, the HD 2000 series' DRM-enabling features, like the High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) protocol and others that I described in my launch coverage, won't be exposed to the open-source community. This means that support for these features will come only after a hefty bout of reverse-engineering and hacking—something that ATI users on Linux are used to anyway.

AMD miscellany: 32nm production; dissed by marketing types; a new gaming site

Theo at The Inquirer reports that AMD and Qimonda have talked the German Ministry of Research and Education into footing the US$12 million bill for some next-generation process research. The idea is for AMD's and Qimonda's engineers to work together with young German engineers in order to look at ways to simulate chips at 32nm and smaller process nodes.

Speaking of the Europeans and AMD, Frenchman and former AMD marketing exec Henri Richard has announced that after leaving AMD he's headed all the way across the street to Freescale. He can do the same thing at a different Texas semiconductor company, and he won't even have to buy a new chateau.

Also leaving AMD's marketing department prior to Barcelona's launch is VP of worldwide sales, Richard Hegberg.

I hope the seeming exodus of marketing VPs at AMD in the run-up to Barcelona isn't indicative of serious problems at the company, but I'm not going to worry about it unless a third one goes. Like they say in the military: once is bad luck, twice is coincidence, and three times is enemy action.

Last on the list of AMD news bits is the company's new gaming site, which is aimed at selling you AMD hardware. They even have a handy system upgrade tool that tells you that you need to buy new AMD products to play X or Y game, along with various community features like clan sites, forums, etc.

My favorite feature of the gaming site has to be the gray tabbed browsing box on the right, which has little white icons that you can click to move to a new tab. Where have I seen this before….?

Schizophrenia may be a side effect of complex brains

A naive view of schizophrenia might leave someone wondering why it persists in human populations. The disease has a strong genetic component, and it strikes individuals during their peak reproductive years, radically reducing their ability to function socially. Selective pressures would be expected to have reduced its incidence, yet it persists at a prevalence of nearly one percent in a broad range of societies. A new analysis in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B suggests that the disease may simply be a consequence of genetic features that are useful in building and maintaining a complex brain. HangZhou Night Net

The clearest models for this sort of behavior are the mutations that affect the hemoglobin genes, such as the one that causes sickle cell disease. In these cases, mutations that can be debilitating persist because they provide a strong selective advantage—resistance to malaria. The researchers set out to find out whether some of the genes implicated in schizophrenia were also under positive selection by looking for evidence of both selective sweeps and positive selective pressure on protein sequences. The authors looked at a panel of 76 genes that have been linked to schizophrenia; a set of 300 neural genes acted as controls. They also looked broadly at primate evolution, comparing values across the human/chimp split, those two vs. other primates, and among primates in general.

Fourteen of those genes showed signs of having undergone a recent selective sweep; this was about double the rate of the control set of neural genes; a few others showed signs of more ancient sweeps that occurred prior to humans forming a distinct lineage. One gene, DISC1, also showed powerful evidence of positive selection at the protein level. Just this week, evidence was published that suggests that this gene helps new neurons integrate into the mature brain, something that might help make sense out of the adult onset of the symptoms.

Assuming these figures hold up as more information comes in, the lingering question is what positive things these genes are doing in healthy populations. The authors explicitly suggest that the schizophrenic mind is at the extreme end of a spectrum of increased creative thought; that schizophrenics are simply thinking too far outside the box. I don't find this entirely convincing, especially given the sickle cell model, where the feature under positive selection has nearly nothing to do with the actual disease state. I expect that each gene will have its own evolutionary story, with no general theme. Still, the data look good, and the general model makes a reasonable suggestion as to why the human population is burdened with a high rate of schizophrenia.

Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 2007. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2007.0876

ISO reforms proposed in response to OOXML shenanigans

Late last month, evidence emerged indicating that Microsoft has used financial incentives to influence the outcome of Office Open XML (OOXML) fast-track approval in various national standards bodies. Although ISO ended up voting against fast-track approval for OOXML, the company's efforts have created doubts about the reliability of the standards process. In response to these revelations, Freecode CEO Geir Isene has proposed several ISO reforms and calls for an "investigation" to determine if OOXML "was unduly put on the ISO fast track." HangZhou Night Net

Isene argues that Microsoft's ability to influence the standards process at the national level reflects fundamental problems in the standards process itself. In a blog entry, Isene outlines some of the problems that have emerged in countries where Microsoft allegedly manipulated standards approval bodies, including Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Portugal, and Malaysia. "Even if this is the tip of an iceberg," writes Isene, "the examples should warrant a thorough examination of the national processes."

Isene's first suggested reform is establishing a clear process for national standards bodies. "The fact that ISO enforces no standard for national bodies opens the standardization process for manipulation or corruption," Isene argues. "I strongly urge ISO to adopt a strict policy for its members detailing the rules for how a national body shall determine its vote in ISO and that it enforces such policy vigorously." The JTC1 procedural directives already provide some guidance on the matter, but individual national standards bodies are given much latitude in choosing how they determine their vote.

The problem with mandating a consistent process for all ISO member countries is that countries have very different governmental structures and different industry dynamics. Allowing the national standards bodies to choose their own processes for determining their vote is probably necessary because no single process will work for all countries.

Isene also calls for reevaluating "the one country one vote principle." He implies that the vote of large countries—like China—should potentially carry more weight than the vote of small countries like Trinidad and Tobago, Columbia, and other latecomers.

Finally, Isene suggests that ISO "would greatly benefit from adopting the IETF requirement of two independent reference implementations for passing a standard." Obviously, this isn't applicable to all ISO standards (there are ISO standards for paper sizes, for instance), but it does make sense for technical formats and programming languages. Indeed, having support for a particular format in products created by two separate vendors before the format reaches the standards process would answer a lot of questions about the viability of the format as a standard. The question, however, is how complete the implementations would need to be before they count.

"The strength, integrity and scalability of ISO have been tested," writes Isene. "The organization's agility and adaptability will now be measured." Indeed, the ISO fast-track approval process for OOXML has revealed some weaknesses in the standardization process and illuminates the need for potential reform. The viability of Isene's reforms are debatable, but national standards bodies certainly need to make an effort to reduce the potential for direct manipulation.

RIAA seeks extension in attempt to revive Doe subpoenas in campus P2P case

As we've pointed out before, the RIAA's attempts to sue college students for file-sharing have not gone as smoothly as it would like. The latest evidence comes from the US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, where the record labels are looking for more time to respond to a motion from a group of Oklahoma State University students to quash a subpoena issued to the school. HangZhou Night Net

The RIAA is seeking to find out the identities of 11 students in Arista v. Does 1-11. After filing the lawsuit, the RIAA sought to perform ex parte discovery, which would enable them to perform an end run around the legal system by beginning discovery and issuing subpoenas without the defendants' knowledge. The students learned of the subpoenas, most likely from the school, and filed a motion seeking to quash them.

In their motion to quash, the students take a route similar to a student at the University of Tennessee, who is arguing that the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act prevents the school from providing the data the RIAA seeks. Unlike that student, the Does here argue that the sections of FERPA dealing with "illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, or demeaning behavior" as well as "legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians, and ministers" override any factors the RIAA can cite in support for the subpoenas. As we noted in our earlier coverage of the case, the students also have enlisted the support of a security expert who has attacked the RIAA's investigative methods and oversimplifications.

Under the original schedule, the RIAA's response was due on August 24, but the trade group obtained a 17-day extension. The RIAA then said it would miss the new September 10 deadline, asking for another 14 days to file its response. The plaintiffs cite an illness in the family of one of the attorneys involved in the litigation, but the defendants point out that he is not one of the attorneys of record the case, and should have provided his "work product" to one of the "very competent" attorneys who is. The Does also argue that they will continue to be haunted by the litigation during the additional extension.

Other judges have taken a dim view of the RIAA's ex parte tactics when it comes to suing college students. In July, a federal judge in Virginia blocked the labels from using it in a case brought against seven Does associated with the College of William and Mary. The month previous, a different judge gave students at the University of New Mexico a chance to respond to another John Doe lawsuit before allowing any discovery to take place.

The OSU students' defense attorney is Marilyn Berringer-Thomson, who successfully defended Debbie Foster against a copyright infringement lawsuit, winning a sizable attorneys' fees award in the process. Like copyright attorney Ray Beckerman, Berringer-Thomson knows her way around the file-sharing litigation landscape, so this particular John Doe case is one that bears watching. Given the novelty of the students' defense, including their attacks on the record industry's investigative tactics, it wouldn't be surprising to see the judge give the RIAA its desired extension.

Apple, partners announce iTunes Tagging for HD radios

Apple's iTunes Store sure has made it easier to shop for and discover new music. Nearly every track and album you browse in the store can take you on a musical journey with those who have similar interests, thanks to that "Listeners Also Bought" section. But what if you hear great music, say, on your car's radio while out on the town? It probably isn't a good idea to jot down artist and song names while your eyes should be on the road, so what's a music lover with a thirst for more to do? Why, buy a new HD radio, enabled with a Tag button, of course! HangZhou Night Net

Apple has announced a new partnership with providers of HD radio content and manufacturers of HD radios to bring a new, free iTunes Tagging service to a dashboard near you for the 2008 holiday season. On the new Polk I-Sonic(R) Entertainment System 2 and the JBL iHD, users will find a "Tag" button that will allow them to mark the currently playing song for preview and purchase later in iTunes once they get home.

While this smells in part like a ploy to upsell people into buying HD Radios, it makes sense that this new feature can only debut with such services and devices. Traditional radio just isn't capable of passing the information needed to make a service like this work. Fortunately, if the prospect of tagging radio songs on the go is making your wallet sweat with anticipation, there are apparently over 1,400 stations in the US already broadcasting HD Radio, and that number seems to be steadily climbing. You can find more information at hdradio.com, and we'll have more on radio pricing, availability and how this iTunes Tagging actually works once more information is announced.

Friday afternoon Apple links, iPod hangover edition

I made up the phrase "iPod hangover." I think it's a good way to describe the feeling of overindulging on iPod news for a few days, then once again getting exposed to other Apple-related news, and hey, it's catchy. So if you've got an iPod hangover and are looking for a cure, here are some (mostly) iPod-free bits and pieces: HangZhou Night Net

In case you were wondering, the iPhone headphones can apparently survive a wash and dry cycle, for a while at least. I don't think anyone is advocating iPhone accessory abuse (*cough*), but if you, too, happen to wash your earbuds, you might be able to get lucky and convince a kindly Apple Store employees to replace them for free, as the unfortunate fellow in the story did.For the serious news item this week, let's talk about patent reform. It turns out Apple has spent a cool $720,000 on patent reform in the first half of 2007, presumably hoping that spending money now will mean less patent lawsuits filed against them in the future. It's a noble cause, but I feel like they should spend some of that money settling all their lawsuits out of court, instead.In case you missed it, there was a bit of a stir over a Google contextual ad for the phrase "iPhone price drop." The ad was related to a Nokia ad, and congratulated iPhone late adopters. As it turns out, the ad was a fake inspired by the Nokia ad, since I'm sure Steve Jobs doesn't want to annoy people more than he already has.If you're looking to replace your iPod hangover with a real hangover, but still want an iPod to be involved in some way, check out the iDrink. It's not the most creative name, but it is an iPod-shaped bottle opener with a fake scroll wheel, which will make you look even classier when you break it out at parties.

Sorry about that last one. I know I said no iPods, but I couldn't resist. Today also marks the seventh anniversary of the founding of Google, so happy incorporation birthday to those guys. And as always, have a safe, fun, pleasant, and blacksnake-free weekend.

KDE 4.0 release schedule revised, libraries to be released early to speed up porting

HangZhou Night Net

After initially deciding to push the KDE release schedule back from October 23rd, the release team entered several weeks of debate to produce a new schedule. Much of the debate centred around the fact that the libraries are already nearly stable, and that by pushing the date back, it would discourage third party developers from porting their applications to KDE 4 already. In addition, if the tagging dates were pushed too far into December, the developers responsible for tagging the release would be on holiday, making tagging the release nearly impossible. The compromise was to have an early release of the stable underlying libraries and components, while pushing back the release of the KDE 4.0 Workspace into early December.

Here is what the new schedule looks like, subject to change for show stopper bugs and other unforeseen problems:

KDE 4.0 Beta 3: tagging on September 26th, releasing on October 2nd.Total Release Freeze (the so called Deep Freeze): October 19thKDE 4.0 RC1: tagging on October 24th, releasing on October 30th. The kdesupport, kdelibs, kdepimlibs and kdebase/runtime modules will be considered to be fully released at this point, known as the KDE Development Platform.KDE 4.0 RC2: tagging on Novermber 7th, releasing on November 14thKDE 4.0.0 Final: tagging on December 5th, releasing on December 11th

While there are a number of KDE 4 applications that will be quite stable by the time the December release rolls around (some have been perfectly stable for months already), there are still a number of applications that will be late in arriving, such as Kopete, KDE's instant messaging program. Fortunately there is work underway to ensure that KDE 3 and KDE 4 can peacefully coexist on any system. This entails renaming some executables (some have simply had the number '4' appended to the name) and ensuring that library versions do not conflict. This should ensure that your favourite KDE 3 applications are still available well into the KDE 4 series, as well as allowing distros to ship KDE 4 components in their stable releases (like the forthcoming Kubuntu LTS) without worry.

Obviously KDE 3 and KDE 4 components will be able to interact on a basic level, such as icons embedding themselves in the system tray normally. This is possible since KDE 3 and KDE 4 both follow inter-desktop standards, although this is a somewhat unique case as the two desktops are both KDE desktops. However, KDE 4 has also introduced and revamped a huge number of old KDE technologies like switching from their in-house DCOP (Desktop COmmunications Protocol) to the DCOP-inspired D-BUS standard that is being rapidly adopted by other desktop environments. Since the high level of integration between various KDE applications relies on the communication system, this means that KDE 3 applications will not integrate as smoothly into the KDE 4 environment until they are properly ported.

The early release of the KDE 4 Development Platform will help to ensure that the simpler applications (code-wise) can ported in time for the December release. At the same time, this delay allows applications such as the Plasma workspace some additional time for development and testing to ensure that it is ready for a release that the KDE team can feel confident in shipping.

A glimpse at HPs iPAQ line, ultra slim desktop, and the Voodoo Envy line

At the HP Your life is the Show event, Blackbird 002 wasn't the only product on display. HP also showcased a bunch of its upcoming products that will be released throughout the year. I wandered around, tripping over camera cables and supermodels, to get you some shots of what's to come. HangZhou Night Net

The HP Compaq dc7800 Ultra Slim desktop PC was one of the machines on display. First impressions? It's not that slim and looks like a monitor with PC for a backpack. It could probably be a bit more attractive, too. I think a product like this with HP's black-gloss finish would look much more modern.

Like an iMac, the PC and monitor are attached, except instead of being tied to a specific display, you can add your own using four mounting screws. Of course, this begs the question: what happens when you attach a 30 inch monitor or larger? Seems like it would be hard to reach around.

Unlike to the iMac, you can also simply remove the monitor and use the PC like a standard tower. The dc7800 Ultra slim will come with either a 80GB, 160GB, or 250GB hard drive, is Energy Star 4.0 compliant, and has 1GB of PC2-5300 DDR2 667MHz RAM. According to CMP Media, who got an early review unit, the dc7800 can be purchased with a choice between an Intel Core 2 Quad, Intel Core 2 Duo, or Celeron processor and can be purchased with RAID 1 pre-configured. There's also a side-mounted DVD optical drive, two USB ports on the front, six USB ports on the back, and headphone jacks. The product was in the "Integrated Work Center" part of the HP event, so it probably doesn't have a ton of video power for gaming under the hood, and was designed for standard work-place desks without a ton of room (it's for cubicle monkeys).

I also got a taste of HP's upcoming iPAQ 100 series smartphone, which features integrated WiFi 802.11 b/g, a Marvell PXA310 624MHz processor, Bluetooth support, Windows Mobile Classic, Windows Media Player 10, 64MB of SDRAM and 256MB flash ROM. The large 3.5 inch 240×320 pixel touch-screen was attractive, and the unit itself is skinny—just 13mm thick—but there really isn't much new here that you can't find in other hand-helds. It'll be available shortly for $299.

Also among the announcements of new phones was the iPAQ 900 3G Business Messenger smartphone, which has integrated quad band GSM/GPRS/EDGE, tri-band HSDPA, as well as support for 802.11b/g networks. Instead of a touch screen/stylus setup like the iPAQ 111, the higher-end 900 has a QWERTY keyboard and a smaller 2.46 inch 320×240 pixel screen. The phone is clearly designed for businesses instead of individual users, as it also has HP's Enterprise Mobility Suite software, which provides push management, diagnostics, and other IT related capabilities. Also among its features list is a 3 mega pixel camera with 4x digital zoom.

Lastly, I got a glimpse of HP's new iPAQ 300 series travel companion. Basically, it's a 4.3-inch 800×480 pixel touch-screen personal GPS system running Windows CE 5.0 that lets you view from 10,000 feet above where you are, down to street level with 3D buildings. Since it's a "travel companion" and not just a navigational device, it also has other functions. You can use the device for viewing pictures, or listening to Windows Media DRM tracks. HP also mentioned that it supports video and games, although there was no word on formats or titles that are available.

The iPAQ line also includes the 200 and 600 series, titled the "Enterprise hand-held" and "business navigator," respectively.

HP Voodoo was also showcasing a few of its latest Envy laptop gaming machines. They had a few on display in a variety of colors including turquoise, purple, pink, orange, pearl-white, and maroon. My favorite out of the Envy lineup was probably the F:121 because of its size. Instead of being a huge lap monster, like the rest of the Envy line, it has just a tiny 12.1" 1280×800 pixel screen. It's available with an AMD Turion 64 X2 mobile TL-56, 60, 64, or 66, up to 2GB of PC2 5300 RAM, and a 250GB 5400rpm hard drive. Sadly, the entry level model starts at $3,000, which I consider a bit ridiculous. Not a ton of power, but a nice package and awesome looking laptop—for those with the dough.