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Brier Dudley's Blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

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December 22, 2006 2:27 PM

See you in 2007

Posted by Brier Dudley

I'm spending the next week with my family instead of my computer, I hope.

Best wishes, Brier

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December 19, 2006 1:59 PM

Climbing way beyond YouTube

Posted by Brier Dudley

I've been hooked by Discovery Channel's thrilling Sherpa Cam, and YouTube will never feel the same again.

The vivid footage beamed from the helmets of brave sherpas on top of the world, and the slick Flash presentation, is one of those reminders of the Web's amazing potential. It also makes amateur video sites seem dated and thin.

Maybe it just feels intense because of all the terrible alpine tragedies we've been having around here.

Comments | Category: Google , Web |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

December 19, 2006 1:44 PM

Another Seattle tinkering conference

Posted by Brier Dudley

Bre Pettis from Make magazine just told me that another Seattle "geek night" conference is now scheduled for Feb. 13, and four others are likely in 2007.

I mentioned the previous conference in Monday's column on tinkering.

February's event will include another building contest, but organizers aren't sharing details yet. An egg drop perhaps?

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December 18, 2006 5:13 PM

Mr. Hailstorm appears during the windstorm

Posted by Brier Dudley

Mark Lucovsky talked about life at Google, agile customer service and more in an interview that Robert Scoble posted Thursday.

Lucovsky's been pretty low profile since the chair-throwing and shipping software stuff.

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December 18, 2006 1:46 PM

Paynter scholarship fund

Posted by Brier Dudley

Should I raise money for Susan Paynter to attend this workshop on open government records in Seattle next spring?

In a column that advocates restricting public access to government records, she included an unchallenged quote saying that a name and birthday are "a running start for identity theft!"

The Web is big, scary and mysterious, but it's not the primary vehicle for identity theft. That's more likely to happen from someone stealing mail or paper files out of a personnel office.

Nor is the Web a reason to let government close even more of its public records to the public. I thought we were trying to make public information more accessible, not less.

Not to downplay concerns about identity theft, which can be an awful thing, but Paynter's chasing a tired old red herring.

Public record laws have already been updated to block the release of information that can be used for identity theft.

Suggesting that the disclosure of a person's name and birthday will lead to their being ripped off is misleading and inflammatory. It may also undermine what's left of public access to government records.

A great New York Times story in September pointed out that despite all the hoopla over lost laptops and accidental disclosures personal information, identity theft and financial fraud has not increased. It was talking about the inadvertant release of truly sensitive personal information, like social security numbers, which aren't being disclosed in the flap Paynter wrote about.

There's always tension between government employees who want to operate in secrecy and the public's right to know who their public servants are and how tax dollars are being spent.

For the press, it's a constant battle to maintain open records, especially when governments try to act more like private businesses and form relationships with secretive corporations.

It's understandable that government employees would be even more uncomfortable with public disclosure with all the hype over identity theft, but we've already been through this. The most recent change to the law was last year, when new language was inserted about personal information such as social security numbers.

That's why it was astounding to see a newspaper saying "The media may know too much" without analyzing the source of the hysteria or providing useful information about the actual risks of identity theft.

What I'd like to see a newspaper do is determine whether public records disclosures have ever led to identity theft. I've never heard of that happening, but there's plenty of evidence that closing access to public records is a problem.

A public records request is probably the last route a thief would take to get personal information, anyway. The requests generate a paper trail that could be traced if the information is misused.

The disclosure of public employee names and birthdays are what got Paynter going. But you can't open a credit card account or get a loan providing just a name and birthday. If you could, then the problem would lie with the bank that issues that account.

Instead of railing about the Web and public access to government records, perhaps we should be calling for new bank regulations and consumer protection laws. That's more important than ever since most of our personal info has already been leaked, lost or spread around.

New identity control tools are being developed by the tech industry. But I'll bet there would be no identity theft crisis if banks and merchants would just be more strict and diligent about verifying identity.

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December 18, 2006 10:41 AM

Tinkering links

Posted by Brier Dudley

Here's the annotation for today's column on tinkering techies in the Northwest.

I should also mention that the column was also inspired by reporting I did for a story on Jim Russell, the Bellevue engineer whose tinkering in the 1960s led to optical storage technology behind the compact disc.

Here are the information sources mentioned in the column:

MAKE magazine fetishizes tinkering.

The Ignite Conference in Seattle that MAKE publisher O'Reilly organized. Here's a recap by O'Reilly's Brady Forrest.

Boeing has great info on the company history at its Web site.

There are many sources for the story of Bill Gates and Paul Allen starting Microsoft. I think the book by Paul Andrews and Stephen Manes is the best of them.

Here is Google Code, the site where it provides tools and services to developers. Microsoft has its MSDN developer network, and here is the site for web services.

Microsoft has posted tons of information about its robotics software and XNA game developer kits.

Mark Beck, the Whitman College professor, has also posted lots of information about his quantum mechanics lab device. I wonder if he'll use those mechanical skills to build a machine for cooking pigs.

If I had time to tinker, I'd start my shopping at Boeing Surplus, which by the way is having a 25 percent off holiday sale. I wonder what I could make with a five axis gantry machining center?

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December 15, 2006 12:03 PM

Bill Gates and Bono talk politics

Posted by Brier Dudley

Apparently Gates and the U2 frontman had dinner Wednesday and talked about ways to get presidential candidates talking about global health issues in the next campaign.

Perhaps he was inspired by all the talk of Bill running for president.

I heard about this third hand, through one of the bloggers that Microsoft flew to Seattle to schmooze with Bill on Thursday. They left with some gossipy blog fodder and the gift of a Zune, but apparently no breaking news.

Below are some excerpts from a recap by Steve Rubel, one of the 14 bloggers who participated. Rubel also happens to work for Edelman, one of Microsoft's PR firms, but he's still one of the voices Microsoft was trying to influence.

Anyway, it sounds like Bill deflected questions about SCO and Linux, agreed that digital rights management needs more work, recounted how he once planned to become a lawyer, and reiterated his interested in biology and energy ventures.

Other tidbits selected from Rubel's blog:

Q) What is the most important thing we can do as tech leaders re. education/healthcare?

A) Get involved in the school where your children go.... For healthcare (and developing nations), distance is an issue. Sometimes the most we can do is vote for certain political candidates. (Gates said he and Bono discussed this over dinner last night -- specifically what they can do to surface these two issues in the upcoming Presidential campaign.)

Q) What would you be looking at today if you were an independent entrepreneur?

A) Something dramatic like artificial intelligence. Biology. Energy.

Q) What's on your Zune? (Rubel's question)

A) All of the U2 stuff plus a lot more musicals than you might expect -- for example, Wicked.

Q) Are there things on the horizon that will bring more transparency to government?

A) It should be interesting to watch online video in upcoming presidential election. People will try to outdo each other to be the online hip guy.

The internet has made it difficult to run a regime that runs on secrecy. Government is already benefiting. Government isn't open to competitive forces. All things good or bad will come more slowly to government
Q) What's on your Christmas list?

A) I am always hard to buy for; has great lectures on science topics. I didn't buy the last DVDs of (the TV series) 24. I try not to purchase these so I can receive them as gifts.

My suggestion to Melinda: The last season of 24 was awful. Bill might want one of these instead.

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December 15, 2006 11:52 AM

Seattle University giving PCs for Christmas

Posted by Brier Dudley

Here's one way to get ready for Vista: Donate your old PCs to charity.

Seattle University took 100 PCs, refurbished them and set them up with Spanish software for a Jesuit school in Nicaragua.

Expeditors International is helping to ship the PCs and other donated materials to Universidad Centroameriaca and the Fe y Alegria Jesuit elementary school system in Managua.

UPDATE: This was delayed until noon on Thursday because of the storm. The shipping company couldn't bring the container over the weekend.

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December 14, 2006 3:57 PM

Microsoft's sassy search evangelist, Ms. Dewey

Posted by Brier Dudley

Want some lip with your search results?

Try Ms. Dewey, the zingy talking search engine/viral marketing ploy dreamed up by Microsoft's Windows Live team.

Ms. Dewey is actually actress Janina Gavankar. Enter a search term, and she gives you some sass and results from Windows Live. It gets fun when you start entering terms like Google, Apple and Playstation.

Spokesman Adam Sohn said she's part marketing, part evangelism -- and she's getting tons of traffic.

Valleywag probably helped by posting an R-rated background on Gavankar.

I wonder if she'll be on stage with Bill Gates, telling him how it's done, at the Consumer Electronics Show next month.

Either way, she's a huge improvement over Bob and Clippy.

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December 14, 2006 2:45 PM

Google's looking for more digs in Seattle

Posted by Brier Dudley

You better not pout, better not cry, Amy Martinez is telling you why, Google may be coming to town.

It's apparently given up on the ill-fated Bellevue Tower 333, which had been commonly called Tech Tower. I wonder if the University of Washington would give up its option on Safeco Tower.

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December 14, 2006 2:14 PM

Spinning iTunes this way and that, plus the iPhone

Posted by Brier Dudley

Who, besides the secretive folks at Apple, really knows whether iTunes is seeing a downward trend?

Analysts, fans and skeptics are having a field day with a provocative Forrester report disseminated Monday. It was amplified by The Register, then widely reported by the wire services. The Register is now saying that Forrester is backpedaling under pressure from hedge funds worried about Apple's stock, and comScore chimed in with a rebuttal and defense of iTunes.

What's more interesting to me is the impressive public relations jujitsu by Apple. Somehow, after the iTunes flap pushed down the stock, some key Wall Street analysts got their hands on details of Apple's upcoming iPhone. They've issued a bunch of rosy reports today and the stock has recovered.

So while the zealots scream at Forrester (and us for printing a Bloomberg story on the Forrester report), Wall Street's already moved on and is focusing on how the phone could boost Apple in 2007.

Here are the phone specs, as disclosed by Morgan Stanley and posted by Barron's:

List prices: $599 for the 4 gig; $649 for the 8 gig.
Design: slightly larger than screen size (2.8 x 2.1 inches) and ~0.4 inches thick, which would be wider than a Nano, thinner than the iPod with video. On-screen virtual click wheel.
Material: Metal, in multiple colors: Black, white, silver, maybe others.
Capacity: 12 million units in calendar 2007.
Carrier partner: Cingular in the U.S.
Functionality: 3 megapixel camera, MP3, video. E-mail and calendar functions unconfirmed.

Manufactuer: Foxconn
Application/Media processor: Samsung
Camera module: Foxconn
Case: Foxconn
Baseband: Infineon (IFX)
RF Transceiver: Infineon
Bluetooth: CSR
Wi-Fi: Marvell (MRVL)
Memory: Samsung primary; Toshiba secondary supplier
Battery: Sony, others
O/S: Apple. Duh.
Display: Sharp, others.

Funny, Apple has a habit of suing journalists who disclose info about its upcoming products, but that hasn't happened today.

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December 13, 2006 1:20 PM

Google option plan sounds awfully familiar

Posted by Brier Dudley

This Google copying thing is getting ridiculous.

The search giant's option plan was hailed as another great idea hatched in Mountain View, but it's pretty similar to the employee stock option sale that Steve Ballmer arranged with J.P. Morgan Chase back in 2003 for Microsoft employees.

Does this mean some Googlers have underwater options? If so, yikes.

Is Google already concerned that employees don't recognize the full value of their stock options? Double yikes.

What would really be interesting is if Google takes the next step, as Microsoft did three years ago, and phases out stock options altogether. It's no longer a startup, after all...

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December 13, 2006 1:10 PM

Sony PlayStation 3 at Costco, briefly

Posted by Brier Dudley

Apparently the Issaquah retailer is getting more consoles.

They were listed at today under "video game bundles." I clicked to put one in my virtual shopping cart but they sold out before I could complete the purchase. So much for my budding career as a Craigslist PS3 reseller.

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December 11, 2006 2:03 PM

Chris Pirillo takes the cake, and the ring

Posted by Brier Dudley

Great looking cake at the Seattle blog personality's wedding to fellow blogger Ponzi on Saturday.

They even streamed a transcript of their ultimate link.

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December 11, 2006 1:46 PM

Video Vista tour

Posted by Brier Dudley

KING 5's Robert Mak did a show on Windows Vista that aired yesterday and is available as streaming video.

I was one of the talking heads, giving a quick rehash of the Vista preview column, along with analyst Sid Parakh.

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December 11, 2006 11:51 AM

Gregoire: A tiny fraction more for K-12 math and science

Posted by Brier Dudley

It's better than nothing, but the math and science education boost that Gov. Gregoire proposed today seems pretty puny for a state that's a world center for software development.

The spending boost is hardly enough to be trumpeted as a way "to grow our economy and secure a bright future for our students."

Gregoire's calling for $197 million in additional spending over two years. That may sound like a lot, but it's just a 1.4 percent increase in K-12 spending over the same period. It works out to another $98.50 per student per year. Total spending per student would then go from $6,900 to $6,998 per year.

The money would also come from the state's surplus, so it doesn't sound like a permanent commitment. If the surplus dwindles, will class sizes get bigger again?

Apparently the gov didn't take my suggestion to limit R&D tax breaks and give schools some of the $259 million she's giving back to Microsoft and other companies every two years.

Parents of public school children already pay far more than $98.50 a year out of their pocket to compensate for the state's weak education funding.

Gregoire's proposal is a start and it seems to say all the right things about class sizes, curriculum and teachers, but the money's not enough to start quoting Tom Friedman.

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December 11, 2006 9:57 AM

Bionic biotech at UW

Posted by Brier Dudley

Here are some links with more info on the neuroengineering work in today's column, and a little more ranting about misdirected subsidies.

Professor Yoky Matsuoka came from Carnegie Mellon University ,where she ran the Neurobotics Laboratory.

Carnegie is a leader in robotics, and also has lots of connections with Microsoft, which is increasing its focus on robotics and the use of computers in medical research.

UW's dean of engineering, Matthew O'Donnell, has a background in bionengineering and previously directed the program at the University of Michigan.

Other local players include Northstar Neuroscience and a new startup, Neurobionics. I interviewed the founder of Neurobionics last summer for the Enterpreneurs & Innovators show I do for SCCTV; I'll post a link to a Web version when it's posted.

I was a little snarky about Paul Allen's biotech office and condo developments in South Lake Union, but he's also doing some really cool things a few miles away from at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Fremont.

Maybe it confuses things to talk about real estate subsidies and new research areas at the UW. But I think it's worthwhile go discuss whether the public subsidies for tech office parks are appropriate, given our region's ongoing failure to adequately fund education and the mixed record of biotech job creation.

Public resources may be better spent on education and research at schools like the UW, preparing people and hatching ideas that will create tomorrow's companies. There will always be people willing to build more offices and condos if there's demand.

Here's a more eloquent plea to sharpen our focus on nurturing biotech companies.

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December 7, 2006 5:14 PM

Zune discounting already?

Posted by Brier Dudley

A mass mailer from Dell is offering 10 percent off Zunes purchased at "your local Dell store," which around here means the stores at Northgate, Southcenter, Tacoma and Alderwood malls.

Is Dell eating this discount, or is Microsoft using selective price cuts to move more Zunes?

Ten percent doesn't seem like much, but a Zune at $225 starts to really undercut Apple's $250 30 gigabyte iPod.

Then again, Dell may tack on shipping and handling fees that make the discount a wash.

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December 7, 2006 4:54 PM

A little CES at Seattle Center

Posted by Brier Dudley

If you'd like a taste of the Consumer Electronics Show, the HD-DVD Promotion Group has set up a tent and semi-trailer packed with Xboxes, laptops and a home theater showing off the new DVD format.

It's free and open to the public from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Saturday. The setup is between the fountain and the patch of grass that used to the Flag Pavilion.

HD-DVD is a high-capacity format backed by some movie studios, consumer electronics companies and tech companies like Microsoft and Intel. It's competing with the Blu-ray format backed by other studios and electronics companies, notably Sony and Panasonic.

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December 7, 2006 4:23 PM

Exchange '07 to RTM in another New York minute

Posted by Brier Dudley

Steve Ballmer launched the 64-bit spambuster at a little shindig in New York, but the product wasn't quite done. A spokeswoman just told me that Microsoft will release it to manufacturers tomorrow.

Highlights include speech recognition, improved security and support for 11 languages. Free 120-day trial versions are available here.

Garage party time?

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December 6, 2006 11:45 AM

MSFT shares to reach $55, GOOG $650?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Those were the most optimistic estimates by a group of techies who made 2007 predictions during a WSA dinner event Tuesday night.

Five of the six panelists expect Microsoft shares to rise 10 percent or more, reaching $35 to $37. The sixth, Sun Microsystems principal engineer Fulup Ar Soll, said he has "no idea" where the stock will go next year.

Soll was also the skeptic about Google, which he said is valued at much more than it would cost to rebuild the company. "I don't think it's logical,'' he said.

Ray Wang, a Forrester Research analyst who predicted Microsoft will hit $55, expects Google to reach $550.

Local futurist Glenn Hiemstra predicts Google will reach $650. Accenture consultant Robin Murdoch said it will go "well over $600, maybe even $650" by the end of 2007.

IBM Linux architect Gerrit Huizenga said $620 to $650 because "the growth to me is obviously there."

Even former Microsoft strategist T.A. McCann expects Google to hit $620. "They'll just continue to take share of advertising dollars that come online, and more are coming online," he said.

There was a consensus that Microsoft's not going to produce another operating system like Vista, but they had different takes. Huizenga said another five-year deployment won't work, and pointed to open source projects like Apache, Linux and Eclipse where people get features they want faster. "We have to be able to deliver it on a frequent and regular schedule in terms of advancements,'' he said.

Wang predicted a shift to a more distributed development approach, similar to the way Boeing dispersed 787 development. "People are going to build these things off social networking sites, code's going to be created, shared,'' he said.

What's overhyped and likely to decline in 2007?

Wang: Software as a service. It will morph, so you'll see software delivered as a service, but you won't hear as much about SAAS.

Hiemstra and Huizenga: Blogs and other user generated content. "The vast majority of people will get worn out ... and say I can't keep up, I can't do that anymore,'' Hiemstra said.

Foll: Proprietary technologies, including Skype and Microsoft's Word format.

Murdoch: Wireless streaming of TV to cellphones.

McCann: AOL.

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December 6, 2006 11:27 AM

Yahoo!'s internal reorg email, sounds familiar

Posted by Brier Dudley

Valleywag posted the whole memo from Terry Semel.

An annotated excerpt:

We see a huge opportunity to leverage our size and scale, industry-leading sales team, and audience insights to become the premier advertising network, whether we are selling ads on or off Yahoo!-owned entities. ... No other company is as well positioned to achieve this goal because of our unmatched breadth of both customers and services.

Semel also posted a public note at the company's official blog. His best line: "Now, I know what you're thinking - this is all about peanut butter."

Clearing the fog by reorganizing into three groups. Where have I heard that before?

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December 6, 2006 11:22 AM

Get in line now: Sony PS4 coming

Posted by Brier Dudley

But not before 2010. A Sony exec clarified things after an analyst speculated a PlayStation 4 was unlikely after the PS3 debacle, according to a report in The Register.

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December 5, 2006 5:07 PM

South Sound Tech conference on Friday

Posted by Brier Dudley

Opportunities for new energy businesses in Washington and healthcare technologies will be the main focus of SST 2006, a daylong event at the University of Washington Tacoma campus hosted by U.S. Rep. Adam Smith.

Here's the agenda and list of speakers.

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December 5, 2006 4:40 PM

Free samples of Microsoft's new Web design tools

Posted by Brier Dudley

Adobe loyalists may decline the offers out of loyalty, but if I were a curious Web designer, I'd be downloading the trial samples of Microsoft's new Expression Web design tools and the test preview of its "WPF/E" version of Windows Presentation Foundation.

Expression Web and Expression Media are now on sale. Expression Web is a tool for designing sites, and Expression Media is a tool for managing digital assets.

Coming next quarter are Expression Design, an illustration tool, and Expression Blend, a tool for creating Web applications based on the new .Net Framework 3.0.

WPF/E is much more than Microsoft's worst code name. Scott Guthrie, general manager of the development team, on his blog described it as "a small client runtime that enables AJAX developers and designers to deliver richer, cross-platform, interactive web experiences. It will allow applications to go beyond what can be done with pure HTML today, and will enable sites to significantly improve the client user experience by blending HTML UI, Dynamic Vector Graphics, Animation and Media into a seamless cross-platform browser experience."

It's also available for both Windows and Macs, even PowerPC Macs.

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December 5, 2006 12:22 PM

Coming soon: 100 gig iPods, and Zunes perhaps

Posted by Brier Dudley

Next month Toshiba will start producing 1.8-inch 100 gigabyte drives that will be used in the next generation of MP3 players and portable computers, according to this ComputerWorld report pegged to the Consumer Electronics Show.

Apple is one likely customer. But Toshiba's also close to Microsoft -- it's building the first generation Zunes and using Windows Portable Media Center software in Toshiba branded players. So who will sell the first 100 gig player?

Toshiba says the drives can accommodate more video on personal devices. They may also be used to produce even smaller computers, perhaps Ultra-Mobile PCs.

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December 5, 2006 12:03 PM

The Web's astounding growth

Posted by Brier Dudley

Talk about overload.

This year saw 30.9 million new Web sites created, surpassing the previous one-year record of 17.5 million added in 2005, according to the Netcraft research firm.

Overall the Web grew by 41.5 percent this year, to 105,244,649 sites. The growth rate still trails the year 2000, though, when Netcraft's Web server survey found the number of sites increased 160 percent, from 10 million to nearly 26 million.

The latest Netcraft survey found most Web servers are still running the open source Apache platform, which has 60 percent of the market. Microsoft has 31 percent of the market, followed by Sun and Zeus.

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December 5, 2006 11:00 AM

Did Google Maps lead CNET editor astray in Oregon?

Posted by Brier Dudley

That's the suggestion of this story about missing editor James Kim.

The message is you can only put so much faith in online map services. The free services can still be pretty crude, especially when you get outside of metro areas where the services have the most customers.

What I'd like to know is whether police asked Google about the Kims' last map searches. Police checked to see when the family last made cellphone calls and used credit cards. Why couldn't they also learn from Google that the family used Google Maps to plot their ill-fated drive through the mountains? They could have checked with the handful of major map services pretty quickly.

Perhaps the online map providers ought to think about response plans for missing persons, developing a way to expedite requests similar to the way they have protocols for responding to subpoenas. How hard would it be to change their terms of service, or ask users if they want to opt-in to a provision that would let the companies provide search histories if there's a personal emergency?

Update: The latest wire story clarifies that the couple used a plain old paper map. The accuracy of online maps is a still an interesting topic, but accuracy and completeness of information is not an issue unique to online services. Another question coming up is whether the map the Kims used had a warning about winter conditions. From the latest AP story at 10:23 a.m. Wednesday:

"Kati Kim told officers they were traveling south from Portland on Interstate 5 and missed the turnoff to a state highway, Oregon 42, that leads through the Coast Range to Gold Beach, where they planned to stay at a resort.

Officers said the couple used a map to choose the road they were on. ``They got the map out _ a regular highway map _ that showed the route,'' Anderson said.

However, it wasn't clear whose map the couple used. The 2005-2007 state highway map distributed by the Oregon Department of Transportation has a warning in red print, inside a red box: ``This route closed in winter.'' A Rand-McNally map did not have a similar warning."

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December 4, 2006 3:46 PM

Top rated local cell provider: T-Mobile

Posted by Brier Dudley

A survey reported in the January edition of Consumer Reports ranks T-Mobile USA as the best cellphone service in Seattle.

On a zero to 100 scale, T-Mobile ranked 70, followed by Verizon Wireless at 68, Cingular at 63 and Sprint at 62.

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December 4, 2006 3:04 PM

Turbulence at Portland Linux center

Posted by Brier Dudley

OSDL CEO Stuart Cohen is out and nine employees were let go in a restructuring announced today, but Linus Torvalds still works there, according to this story at that was picked up by Slashdot.

OSDL is a cornerstone of Portland's huge open source community.

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December 4, 2006 9:52 AM

More info on wireless music streaming devices

Posted by Brier Dudley

Here's some more info on the Logitech Wireless DJ that I described in today's column, and other devices for streaming music wirelessly around the home.

Wireless DJ works on Windows XP machines, but it requires a lot of system memory. Logitech recommends at least 512 megabytes of RAM, and said 1 gigabyte is even better. It worked for me on a laptop with 256 megs of RAM but it slowed things down, especially at startup. Here's a link to Logitech's page with more details, screen shots and system requirements.

I didn't mention the battery. Wireless DJ comes with a rechargeable battery built into the remote, which charges when it sits in the dock by your stereo.

Logitech prices the system at $250, but I'm starting to see lower prices around the Web. I recently saw Dell selling them for $150, but it may have been a mistake, and prices there are back to $250. Elsewhere on the Web they're down to around $220.

There are many devices for streaming digital music around the home. Some connect to a TV, and use the TV's screen to display the list of songs on your PC, what's playing, etc.

Others have small displays like an iPod. The Wireless DJ is in that category, as are a number of Wi-Fi devices in the same price range: the Roku SoundBridge, Slim Devices' Squeezebox, Creative Soundblaster Wireless Music product and the apparently discontinued Netgear MP101.

(Logitech, by the way, recently bought Slim Devices. I see that as more evidence that streamers are moving from enthusiast devices to the mainstream. It could also lead to Logitech doing some interesting product mashups, maybe a Squeezebox with a better remote control, or a Harmony all-in-one remote that also streams content.)

Higher-end options include the Sonos and Olive's line of hard-drive streaming devices.

Some stereo manufacturers have also added streaming features to receivers. I haven't tried these, but they seem expensive and don't have great displays. They include Onkyo's Nettune receivers, Yamaha's Musiccast system and the new Marantz DAvED system.

I'm guessing stereo companies will show some cool new options next month at the Consumer Electronics Show, but I'd be amazed if any were in the $250 price range.

Microsoft's Zune could someday evolve into a home music streamer, since it has Wi-Fi built into the player, but the company isn't saying whether this is part of its plans for the current or future Zunes.

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Gadgets and games | Fun stuff I've written about lately includes Apple's iPhone, Hewlett-Packard's HDX laptop and Microsoft's Halo3. Also on the radar are new digital video boxes such as the Tivo HD and the Vudu.