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Taking a second look at the news so you don’t have to

The Mobile Linux Challenge

Big news for the Linux community: Motorola plans to put Linux in 50 to 60 percent of its mobile phones over the next couple of years. The company already uses it in its popular ROKR E2 phone and will soon deploy it on a number of other moderately priced consumer models.

While Motorola’s large-scale buy-in is a momentous step forward, its success could be limited by the many competing versions of Linux, which could fragment the market for applications that run on it. To address this problem, Motorola launched the Open Platform Initiative, which aims to standardize the operating system among the growing list of handset manufacturers that use it. Two other groups that promote mobile Linux standards, Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) and Linux Phone Standards Forum (LiPS), recently announced plans to collaborate. This could make it difficult for the Motorola effort to gain traction.

One thing is clear: Without a standardized platform, it will be difficult for software vendors to create the large, vibrant ecosystem of mobile Linux applications essential for Linux’s success.

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Google not into Googling

In a somewhat uncharacteristic move, Google has written to media organizations requesting that they refrain from using the now widespread verb form of the company’s name: “to google.” In the letters, the company included examples of appropriate and inappropriate usages of its trademark, worded in a playful vernacular that one might expect of the independently minded tech juggernaut.

Why this apparently serious concern over googling? One reason could be the perception that generic use of the term might dilute Google’s brand image. Or perhaps the company is concerned about efforts by other companies to piggyback on the brand (see TV ad with screen shot: “Don’t take our word for it, google ‘Pontiac’ to find out!”). Another possibility is that in light of Google’s ever-expanding line of products and services, the company wishes to avoid being associated with just search.

Despite its efforts, the company is unlikely to stop the spread of googling. Both the Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster Online include the verb “google” (albeit with full credit to the word’s trademark etymology), and short of any Orwellian scenario, stemming casual use is impossible. But beyond considerations of the feasibility of Google’s crusade, many question its advisability. After all, isn’t it a mark of success to be perceived as the final word in search?

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Keeping Online Video Legit

As video sites such as YouTube grow in size and popularity, concerns are mounting over copyright infringement. With thousands of files being added per day, it’s becoming harder and harder to police, so new technological solutions are springing up to combat the problem.

One solution is video fingerprinting, which extracts unique bit streams, or fingerprints, from video files and loads them into a database. Software then scans incoming video files and matches them against the database. A match means someone is trying to post copyrighted material and the file will be blocked. Video site Guba is already using its homegrown fingerprinting software and Philips will soon release its commercial solution.

It’s still too early to tell how effective the technology will be at fighting copyright infringement. Pirated video often is cropped or converted to different compression formats, which could be difficult for the software to detect. And even if the matching process is fast and accurate, the technology must meet the original challenge of keeping up with the endless stream of copyrighted video content. Then again, it need not be perfect, just good enough to protect these sites from being seen as safe havens for pirates.

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Originally published in Queue vol. 4, no. 8
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