Thursday, May 27, 2010

Why Legalizing Internet Gambling Just Won't Work

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The battle over Internet gambling that has been taking place in the past fifteen years now even has legislators divided between both sides of the issue.  On one side some elected officials see Internet gambling as an easy source of new tax revenue.  On the opposing side are those legislators who still have concerns grave enough to keep existing bans on Internet gambling in place.

Surely enough most web sites that let people play poker for free wouldn't exist if there is at least some potential that they will some day be allowed to let people to play for real money.  Despite the potential for new tax revenue and high paying IT jobs there would be more pitfalls than benefits from lifting bans on Internet gambling. 

Games in real world casinos are tested by government regulators to ensure that players have a fair chance of winning.  Their online counterparts are not scrutinized to ensure that odds are not unfairly tilted in favor of the house.  The rigorous video security used in casinos doesn't just check for players who are cheating but dealers as well.  It's this system of checks and balances insures that casino gaming is being played fairly, Internet gambling has no such system.

Casinos, Lotteries, Bingos, and Horse Racing are all regulated to prevent minors from partaking in gambling.  Internet gambling has no definite way to ensure that all players are of legal age.  While bets are made with a credit card which is a method of age restriction since one has to be eighteen to hold a credit card, but anybody who can get a hold of a credit card even if it's somebody else's credit card can make a bet.  In most jurisdictions in the United States the legal age for gambling is 21 years of age.  For those between 18-20 they can legally hold a credit card but legally cannot gamble makes using a credit card as a method of age verification ineffective.

The new tax revenue from Internet gambling that legislators want use to fill government coffers with may not be as generous source of new money that legislators make it out to be.  Internet gambling companies like any other business can find the jurisdiction with the lowest tax rates, tax rates low enough to attract online gambling operators will probably be found in the island nations of the Caribbean or Eastern Europe where they operate from now.

Legalizing Internet gambling will open a Pandora's box of pitfalls both known and unknown.  A decision to allow people to bet online must not be made blindly.    

Thursday, May 20, 2010

It's Your Fault if Google Spied on Your WiFi

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 The gathering of WiFi network information by the vehicles that gather pictures that comprise the pictures that used in Google's street view feature on Google Maps has lead to the latest privacy furor Google faces.  While driving through cities around the world the Street View cars gathered the SSID's and MAC addresses of every WiFi router found.  Google originally claimed that they did not capture any WiFi network traffic, but a review of the captured data did contain data transferred from WiFi networks.

The only data that was captured that could be reassembled is data from WiFi networks that run totally in the clear with no encryption at all.  Users of WiFi networks that run in the clear are just lazy or foolish not to set up good WiFi security.  For those who insist on running their WiFi networks with no security on the public airwaves cannot expect data to remain private.  The only way that keep computer network traffic private is to go to an exclusively hard wired Ethernet network or secure a WiFi network with WPA 2 encryption.

Keeping WiFi network traffic private or letting it go to everybody who can receive it is a conscious choice that WiFi network owners make.  Keeping WiFi networks in the clear doesn't leave a person open to getting their Internet service mooched off of, but their other data to be collected by Google or anybody else.  That's a choice people made to keep their WiFi in the clear, they only have themselves to blame how their data is used.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Shaw's Wireless Wait And See Game - Redux

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In a previous entry to this blog I speculated about when and why Shaw Communications is waiting until next year to launch their own cell phone service.  I thought that Shaw was going to buy up another emerging cell carrier Wind Mobile or Mobilicity at a bargain basement price when one of those new service providers crumbles when the debt stacks up.  Other industry analysts believe the Shaw is going to be using Long Term Evolution technology for their wireless network.  Shaw is waiting the year to let that technology mature and to let LTE wireless products come to market.

LTE based networks have so much bandwidth that client connections can move so much more data than what is needed for cell phone calls and mobile Internet use.  Internet access using LTE is fast enough to challenge other ISP's using hardwired infrastructure.  In areas where Shaw isn't an incumbent ISP, that could give them a foothold in those markets.  Using an LTE network to deliver IPTV television service in areas where Shaw isn't the local cable company would give Shaw access to subscribers to TV service with on demand programming, something that even Shaw's own satellite TV service can't deliver.

It may seem like a year is a long time to wait to launch a wireless network especially given how much Shaw had to pay to get the license from the CRTC, it may be a small price to pay to build a network that has potential to go beyond cell phones.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

EA To Lock Out Buyers of Used Games, Unless They Pay

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Electronic Arts the giant publisher of games for just about every device for with a microprocessor has a new plan to stem the tide of what they claim to be lost revenue from those who buy copies of their games second hand.  staring with the 2011 versions of the EA's popular sports games on both PC's and consoles there will be a code that will unlock online features of those games.  For those buying previously enjoyed copies of future games from EA, they will need to hand over an additional ten dollars to play online and unlock other online features.

Those wanting to play Madden 11 or Tiger Woods PGA 11 will have to buy a brand new copy, pay the extra 10 dollars if they buy a second hand copy or don't play online since EA has exclusive licenses with the NFL and PGA.  Puckheads on the other hand have another option, Online players who wish to play with a second hand copy will get to do so at no additional charge with NHL 2K11. 

Demanding more money from people just because they choose to buy a second hand copy of a game is a form of digital extortion.  As much as the music and movie industries would like to people to buy used CD's and DVD's to pay the big record labels and movie studios they can't.  Firstly there isn't the technical means to detect a used CD or DVD and report it to get people to pay up.  Secondly the RIAA and MPAA face consumer animosity because of the heavy handed approach to fight piracy of music and movies.

EA's Online Pass isn't even an anti-piracy move, it's just a way of collecting yet more money from people who are buying legitimate copies of their game software even if it's not brand new.  It would be different if they were collecting money from people borrowing copies of games to make it more of rental but that would still be heavy handed and greedy.  This just shows how heavy handed and greedy EA is.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Who Will End Up Saving SCN?

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Saskatchewan Communications Network, the provincially owned cable network that was slated to fade to black on the 30th of April was given a stay of execution when twelve interested parties stepped forward to acquire the broadcast license from the provincial government.  It would only seem natural that other broadcasters or broadcast distributors would be interested in a channel that is normally carried on analog cable on one of the lower channel numbers.  Here's some likely candidates of potential both local and national companies that could become the future owner/operator of SCN:

Access Communications: Saskatchewan's cable television co-operative has a large amount of locally produced programming through the many community channels they operate.  By amending the SCN license to turn SCN into an advertising driven network, would give Access a revenue stream apart from subscriber fees.

Shaw Communications: That other Cable TV operator in the province could be looking picking up the SCN license as yet another troubled broadcaster they they can use to build their broadcasting empire.  Shaw is already in the process of buying Canwest Global for more than two billion dollars.

Sasktel: The government owned telco is already getting SCN's broadcast assets handed over to them for free why not get the license to and own the whole thing?  It would be another channel to plaster with Little Red Riding Hood commercials but that would probably lead to SCN getting dropped by cable and satellite companies.

SMPIA: The membership Saskatchewan Motion Picture Industry Association produces a large portion of the programming on SCN.  Getting the license for SCN and running it as a commercial network would give members a place for their shows and feature length productions to be seen and a revenue stream that could be put back to fund new productions.  Saskatchewan made productions both present and past would fill the SCN schedule,  and you thought The Comedy Network was full of Corner Gas reruns.

CTVGlobeMedia: Getting SCN's broadcasting license would allow CTVGlobeMedia to replicate in Saskatchewan what they did with Access Alberta, the educational cable channel that CTVGlobeMedia got when they acquired ChumCity television. 

CBC: On the surface there may not seem to be much value in getting SCN's broadcast license, after all the CBC is supposed to be everything to all Canadians in both official languages, but given the political climate what it is, getting the cable network license and move CBC's french language television to spot on cable and satellite TV where SCN used to be, and shutting down the transmitters that spread CBC french television across the province would save a lot of money.  The cost of Electricity to run those transmitters is very high given the very small size of Saskatchewan's french speaking community.  Any bean counters looking to save their jobs could do exactly that.

Those are just a few of the most likely suspects that could save SCN, it will only take another three weeks to find out if somebody can save SCN.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Could Microsoft's Kin Phones Make It In Canada?

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Next week, Verizon Wireless subscribers will be the the first to get new phones that implement Microsoft's new mobile phone strategy, out with the downscaled version of Windows, and in with an interface similar that used by Microsoft's Zune portable media players.  On the 13th the Kin One and Kin Two will be available through Verizon Wireless stores.  Both the Kin One and Two are both are slider type phones, that do more than a regular cell phone but not as much as a smartphone. 

According to leaked information obtained through some reverse engineering on other blogs, there are provisions in the Kin phones' operating system for both the CDMA version that Verizon will be carrying but also for a GSM version that will be compatible with both AT&T and T-Mobile.  For Canadian subscribers looking at the Kin as their potential next cell phone, the same information extracted from the firmware of the Kin shows Fido as the only Canadian carrier for the Kin.  That's not to say that Fido will have the Kin as an exclusive.  It would just take a Firmware update to add other carriers to the Kin, since Rogers owns Fido, Rogers could end up with the Kin as well.

Bell and Telus could carry the Kin as well, since their new HSPA networks are compatible with that version of the Kin that Fido and potentially Rogers would carry.  Bell and Telus' older CDMA networks are also compatible the version of the Kin that Verizon will be carrying but for their main branded services launching new CDMA handsets would be highly unlikely since a GSM/HSPA version of the phones would also be available.  If the CDMA version of the Kin ends up anywhere it would be on the discount brands offered by Bell and Telus.  The lineups of phones offered by Telus' Koodo Mobile and Bell's Solo Mobile are still CDMA.

The CDMA version of the Kin phones can also find homes at the smaller regional CDMA networks of MTS and Sasktel. Microsoft is trying to market the Kin phones as having a younger cool factor, it's the young cool phones that the regional carriers have been lacking for a very long time. 

Monday, May 3, 2010

What HP Will Need To Do To Make Palm Successful

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Silencing technology industry analysts last week when announcing their 1.2 billion dollar purchase of smartphone pioneer Palm Inc Hewlett Packard made the move beyond computing and printing and is going into the mobile device market in a way unlike other PC manufacturers that are getting into smartphones.  Instead of producing yet another Android or Windows Mobile device, HP has gone an entirely different direction.  It's a bold step but one that some say will be impossible to compete with the iPhone or Android, while it will be an uphill climb with the right steps HP can make WebOS a formidable challenger to Apple and Google, which is something Palm was unable to do an an independent company, to be successful with WebOS HP will need to:

1: Get WebOS phones on all be big carriers but don't forget about the small carriers

One of Palm's missteps when launching WebOS as picking Sprint as the first carrier to sell WebOS, Palm was getting ready to launch the Pre and Pixi on Verizon but that came as too little too late. Palm needed to be on AT&T and T-Mobile as well.  That's where HP needs to get the Pre and Pixi as well.  Ask any subscriber leaving smaller regional carriers such as Cricket, Metro PCS, MTS or Sasktel and chances are poor choices of phones and especially smartphones is going to to be the top reason for switching to a national carrier.  Offering WebOS as an alternative to the Blackberries and Windows mobile devices that these regional carriers were traditionally stuck with will help the regional carriers keep existing subscribers and maybe even attract some new ones.

2. Bring some more developers, developers, developers to the WebOS platform

Palm Pre and Pixi owners can buy and download apps just like people with iPhones and Android phones, but they don't have too many apps to choose from.  There are 150,000 apps available for the iPhone, 50,000 apps for Android, but less than a thousand for WebOS.  HP is huge company with thousands of developers in house which will help bulk up the selection of Apps which should help bring more subscribers which will help attract third party developers.

3. WebOS Tablet

In order to expand the user base for WebOS it will need to move from the smartphone to something else.  Since everybody else has been taking pages from Apple's book, why not take WebOS and build a Tablet around it.  It can be marketed at those who want the iPad but may not be ready to pay Apple's price.  Maybe even throw in some Verizon 3G and it should be able to sell.

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