Digital Radio comes of age
By Adam TURNER
After a decade of false starts, the long-running joke that is digital radio finally seems to be taking off in Australia.
If you thought digital television got off to a slow start in Australia, that's nothing compared to the antics surrounding digital radio. In 1997 at the Federation of Australian Radio Broadcasters conference, Communications Minister Richard Alston recommended digital radio broadcasts begin on January 1, 2001, in conjunction with the launch of digital television.
By the middle of 2000 they were still arguing about which broadcast format they'd use. I remember writing a story for The Age about a handful of broadcasters - including Radio Sport 927, the ABC, Australian Radio Network and Triple R - pushing ahead with trials in 2000 while they waited for the government to approve the Eureka 147 broadcast format. There was also talk of using the US developed In-Band On-Channel (IBOC) format or Japan's Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting - Terrestrial (ISDB-T).
Meanwhile Alston's office was telling me that Eureka 147 (also known as DAB) had been officially approved way back in 1997 - which was news to the radio industry. Unfortunately the supposed January 1, 2001 launch date - now only months away - was "still a topic of discussion" according to Alston's office. It's been a topic of discussion ever since.
I've lost count of how many times digital radio has been supposedly trialed and launched in Australia since I wrote that story back in 2000. It seems the technology is finally getting off the ground, although they're now using an extension of the DAB standard known as DAB+ which incorporates MPEG Surround audio. It's not backwards compatible, so any old gear is obsolete before we even started. DAB digital radios imported from overseas will not work in Australia - it's like the ludicrous introduction of digital television all over again.
Digital radio broadcasts are officially kicking off around the country in May, you'll find more details at www.digitalradioplus.com.au. I'm heading off to Pioneer's DAB+ launch in a few weeks, in conjunction with manufacturer PURE. Hopefully I'll walk away with a review unit so I can decide for myself whether it was worth the wait.
I suspect digital radio has missed the boat and I'll be interested to see how it fares in the age of cheap, high-speed internet and a raft of online music services. We'll see who gets the last laugh.
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What's in a name?
By Stephen WITHERS
The Mac news of the week is that Mac OS X 10.5.7 has been released. There's a list of security fixes as long as your arm, but apart from that it isn't very interesting.
But I reckon this is: According to a report at Out-Law.com (don't be misled by the name - it's operated by a law firm), Mac designer Jonathan Ive has lost an arbitration case aimed at gaining control of certain domains based on his name.
It seems that jonathan-ive.com, jonathanive.com, jony-ive.com and jonyive.com are all used in conjunction with a Jonathan Ive fan site, and Ive and Apple took its operator, Harry Jones to arbitration.
The arbitrator held that while Ive is famous, his name is not used in trade or commerce, and therefore had not acquired the characteristics of a trade mark. "In fact, the Complainant has actively sought to keep his personal name out of trade and commerce," the arbitrator noted.
Trade mark applications have been filed, but after the domains were registered.
If you read Jones's statement, you can conclude that he was acting in good faith. For example, he claims that he only set his asking price of $US400,000 for the domains when pressured to name a price or face litigation. He he also says his offer to "reach an amicable solution with Jonathan Ive" was ignored.
To my mind, the site is rather light on content for a five year old project (for example, the page titled "Jonathan's work" contains only the placeholder text "A discussion of Jonathan Ive's work", and the "Quotes" page presents just one quotation) but there probably is enough there to overcome any allegations of acting in bad faith. After all, the web's littered with incomplete projects that may be revived later.
(I'll leave it to the reader to decide whether Jones's claim that he "had spent a tremendous amount of time building and maintaining the website" is justified.)
But here's the thing: the arbitrator noted that "The Panel has some sympathy for the Complainant's case... The issue as to whether a person has trade mark rights in their personal name is a difficult one, and there are many previous panel decisions based on diverse records which go either way."
Holding a trade mark is not one of the conditions for registering a .com domain name. Essentially, anyone can register any name, and it's first come, first served. The Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) tries to overlay trade mark rights onto this free-for-all.
Wouldn't it make more sense if personal names were always sufficient grounds for a UDRP claim? In such a situation, anyone named Jonathan Ive would be able to successfully challenge the registration of jonathanive.com by someone with a different (personal or company) name, although any of them could still be trumped by the owner of the Jonathan Ive trademark unless they were using the domain for non-commercial purposes.
In that situation, the designer Jonathan Ive would have won against Jones, but if the case revolved around Apple (as opposed to Ive) holding the trademark "Jonathan Ive" then Jones would have been the victor as his site is non-commercial. To my mind, that would be the correct outcome.
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Mavis Bacon is alive and well
By David HAGUE
In the West Australian newspaper on the weekend was a mini-interview with PJ O' Rourke. He commented that he still uses an old IBM Selectric typewriter for the simple reasons that a) he cannot get sidetracked by emails arriving, b) there are no Twitter-like distractions and so on. To use a Selectric properly (children, ask your grandad :)) you need a specific skill.
You may remember I used to mention a favourite TV show on Fox is the now defunct Lab With Leo. One of the co-presenters on that show, Ryan Yewell, has become a good friend, and even produced a bed of work for me in the last 18 months, and we have some further projects on the go as we speak. I have a new publication in germination called “The Compendium which is designed to show an older demographic how to make stuff work in a step 1, step 2, step 3 way, with supporting photographs, screen shots and so. Think setting nup wireless networks, Skype, MySpace among other tasks including digital photo manipulation, getting the best from a mobile phone and so on.
Ryan commented to me that we had missed one important section; think about it.
The personal computer has been with us for nigh on 30 years now, and the whole idea is to increase productivity (in business anyway). But how many can actually touch type and take maximum advantage of the time saving of the PC? I know many people who can still handwrite faster than they can type. We have raised a whole generation of kids to adults and continue to do so, with a device that is meant to be used in the best way possible, and yet most still cannot use the most important interface between man and machine properly!
It's like being given a car and never learning how to go into 5th gear or reverse. Or a TV remote control and never knowing how to change channels.
There can be no argument that the necessary tools to learn are too expensive; I saw a very good Touch Typing teaching program in Dick Smith today for $9.95.
I venture that in the future, the ability to touch type as against not, could be a deal breaker in the employment stakes. It has certainly opened my eyes to the skill (or lack of) and will be addressed in Chez Hague as soon as I can.
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Nokia takes aim at BlackBerry
By Ian GRAYSON
When it comes to mobile email, BlackBerry's pretty much had the game to itself. But now a new offering from Nokia might just sparked some competition.
The Finnish handset giant has taken the wraps off its latest offering – a ‘push’ email service that can collate the contents of up to 10 email accounts and deliver them to your mobile phone.
Apart from shuddering at the thought of having to manage 10 email accounts, I think the service is a positive step forward in the growing arena that is mobile email.
For me, the key feature needed to make mobile email a useful part of my day is simplicity - it has to just work. No complicated configuration, no manual synching, and no torturous connection processes.
Initial impressions are that Nokia may have got it right. The service, packaged with the company’s gleaming new E75 smartphone and available as a download for other selected models, appears simple and easy to use.
Nokia is in discussion with mobile carriers around the world to develop plans that will incorporate email traffic as part of a monthly allowance. So, rather than worrying about how many megabytes you’re chewing up, you'll be free to send and receive email as and when required - essentially for free.
Now Blackberry users will point out that they've had this ability for years, but Nokia adds the benefit of being able to corral multiple accounts from multiple services into a single interface. That’s got to be appealing.
Nokia also has a corporate version of its email offering designed to appeal to businesses currently running their own email servers.
So it seems the gloves are off in the mobile email space, and it will be interesting to watch what sort of market share Nokia is able to grab.
The bottom line? Anything that makes keeping up with email while on the road simpler has got to be worth a closer look. And if you can do it for a fixed monthly cost, it's even better for business.
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Star Trek deserves the big screen experience
By Adam TURNER
Do yourself a favour, don't download the new Star Trek movie before you see it at the cinema.
I went to the Star Trek premiere at IMAX last night with the crew from Tech Talk Radio and it was incredible. Awesome plot, awesome picture, awesome sound. I saw every star in the sky. I felt the sound of every phaser blast pass through my body. I had tears in my eyes during the opening sequence. I thought I was going to burst from sheer exhilaration when young Kirk punched the stereo on that vintage Corvette and fired up The Beastie Boys.
In short, it was an experience. A once in a lifetime experience you can never recreate in your lounge room. You only get to watch a movie for the first time once. If you watch the new Star Trek first on some dodgy cam job downloaded from the internet, you're cheating yourself out of something special.
This is not a paid plug for the copyright police, regular readers will know my views on downloading from the web. This is rather a piece of advice from one sci-fi fan to another. Our faith in J. J. Abrams was not misplaced. Just this once, gather together a few friends and put your faith back in the cinema experience. You won't regret it.
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