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Cybernaut

Telus gets into digital music

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Telus, Canada’s second largest telecommunications company, made the leap into digital music sales last week with the announcement that its ISP division would be offering Puretracks to customers.

Puretracks, created by Toronto-based Moontaxi Media, offers a list of 175,000 songs which are available for 99 cents each. Entire albums retail for $9.99.

Although there are more than a dozen digital music services offering online music sales, the partnership with Moontaxi expands the list of Web services that Telus can offer to its growing list of ISP subscribers – 4.9 million network access lines and 3.3 million wireless customers in Canada and counting.

The convenience of billing song purchases to the same account as your phone, ISP or wireless service is expected to be a strong selling point, even though Puretracks has a smaller catalogue of songs than Microsoft, Apple and Napster. Puretracks also offers a wide selection of Canadian and independent music.

P2P downloading legal

After weighing the myriad of issues surrounding the use of peer-to-peer file swapping services on the Internet, the Copyright Board of Canada ruled that downloading copyrighted content from P2P services is legal in this country – although uploading content is not.

The decision is on par with other Canadian decisions to allow gay marriages and decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana – which means it’s bound to anger U.S. authorities. South of the border, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is actively hunting down P2P users with the help of the government and suing them for thousands of dollars.

The Copyright Board also imposed a new government fee of $25 on MP3 players like Apple’s iPod, similar to the taxes imposed on blank tapes and CDs. That money will go to a fund to pay musicians and songwriters for lost revenues due to file copying.

The Copyright Board is not the final word, but their findings – that downloading is legal – will be weighed whenever Canadian courts get to the problem.

Toshiba unveils smallest hard drive

The actual disk in Toshiba’s new hard drive is about the size of a nickel – two centimetres in diameter – but it can stores between two and three gigabytes of information.

The new disks will hit the market in early 2005, where they will be included in cell phones, PDAs and other devices. The disk will be able to hold about 30 hours of music and possibly games, but cannot yet hold a movie-length video.

Previous to Toshiba’s announcement, the smallest hard drive title belonged to Hitachi U.S. which created a 2.54 cm unit.

DVD recorders the next revolution?

For many the Sony PSX will be a disappointment, released later than expected and offering less capability than Sony originally advertised. Still, the new product which is part game console and part DVD techno-gadget, should do well among buyers that are looking for the latest combination – a hard drive that can record television coupled with a DVD player and burner that can store them indefinitely, like VCR tapes of old.

The PSX, which was being rolled out in Japan last week in time for the holidays, functions as a Playstation 2 console, a TV tuner, a CD player and music file jukebox, a digital photo album, and a DVD television recorder with 160 and 250 gigabyte hard drives that can store days and days of televised content. Retail prices start at about $740 U.S.

Although the appeal is lessened for the 63 million people out there who already own PS2 consoles, the PSX engages the emerging market for DVD recorders that finally do everything a VCR could and more.

Pioneer, Panasonic and Toshiba led the way with models readily available in North America, but Sony is catching up.

Although the prices are still high, the feeling in the tech world and among consumers is that this is the next big technology. Christmas sales should tell the whole story.

Net summit leaves future up in the air

The inaugural global Net summit held in Switzerland last week to discuss the future of Web governance and Internet standards was a mixed bag at best, leaving several key issues up in the air.

Some 13,000 people participated in the World Summit on the Information Society conference sponsored by the United Nations, which addressed several issues regarding the future of a wired world.

The successes were few – a declaration of principles and an action plan to ensure freedom of speech and open debate while bringing computers and technology to the Third World.

And although very little was resolved outside of these two items, several days of debate also clarified the growing issues of Internet governance and standards – specifically the future of IP address systems and Web protocols. Those questions will have to wait another year.

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