Psystar wants to force Apple to open up

According to an article in Information Week, the Apple clone-maker known as Psystar Systems is counter-suing Apple, claiming that the computer company uses illegal tactics to protect its market share in personal computers, including anti-competitive measures that are prohibited by the Sherman Act, a key piece of U.S. anti-trust legislation. Among other things, the clone-maker argues that Apple employs technology that effectively “bricks” Apple clones when the software detects non-standard hardware, and also that the company is able to charge more for its computers because of such tactics.

As the Information Week article notes, in order for Psystar’s case to have any chance of succeeding, the company has to prove that Apple computers are a separate and distinct market of their own. If they are part of the much larger market known as personal computers, then Apple’s behaviour arguably doesn’t matter, because the company only has about 10 per cent market share (depending on whose numbers you look at). But Psystar claims that Apple computers are actually a separate market, thanks in part to the company’s marketing campaigns, which are aimed at creating a mystique and a feeling of superiority around its products.

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Anderson: Would you like to play a game?

I’m with Mike Arrington on this one: I think the news that Tom Anderson was a teenaged “War Games” hacker is pretty darn cool. According to old news stories that TechCrunch came across, as well as reports from a source close to the MySpace co-founder, he was a hacker known as Lord Flathead when he was just 14, and was part of a huge FBI sting operation after he hacked his way into a large mainframe computer used by Chase Manhattan Bank, where he changed passwords and reconfigured accounts to block access by bank officials. Although Anderson wasn’t charged because he was under-age, his computer equipment was apparently seized by the government.

To fully appreciate this news, of course, you have to be a fan of the movie War Games, which is about 20 years old now but is still one of the finest early tech movies. It features Matthew Broderick as a young hacker who breaks into the Pentagon’s war-games system and unknowingly gets the central computer to start a real-life war scenario with the Soviet Union, and it’s a great look at what hacking was like before the Internet, with online text-based chat rooms and modems with rubber couplings that attached to either end of an old rotary phone handset (I remember using a similar one at my first real journalism job).

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Freshbooks: 7 Ways It Almost Died

I’m a little late on this one because I’m on vacation this week, and my blogging and Twittering metabolism has slowed down, but I wanted to take note of a great post that my friend and fellow mesh organizer Mike McDerment wrote the other day, entitled “7 ways I’ve almost killed FreshBooks.” It’s a list of lessons that Mike has learned during his time as CEO and co-founder of the online invoicing company, and there are some definite pearls of wisdom in there. Among my favourites:

1. Thinking we had to move faster than we did

I remember back in 2005 feeling that if we did not blow our lights out and spend every penny we had on marketing “right now!” someone would obliterate us. I had this impending sense of doom for *years* based on our speed.

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Mozilla: The browser as operating system

Way back in the mists of time, the rise of Netscape and the Web was seen as putting pressure on Microsoft and its Windows monopoly because of what some called the “browser as operating system.” Much of that early promise — or fear — has yet to be realized, but looking at something like Ubiquity, the alpha software from Mozilla Labs, it looks as though it is coming closer. In effect, Ubiquity wants to tie together all of the Web-based software and services like Google Maps, Wikipedia and Twitter by using the browser, so that users can integrate them into things like email, instant messages and Web pages.

In the video below, Aza Raskin of Mozilla — who happens to be the son of legendary Apple designer Jef Raskin and is also the developer of the excellent music app — demonstrates some of the ways in which users could tie together different services with Ubiquity, by inserting a Google map and reviews of a restaurant quickly into an email to a friend. The app recognizes simple terms like “map these” (after a number of listings are selected), and different services can be added by simply subscribing to scripts that use Ubiquity’s code.

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Embargoes: Thanks but no thanks

There’s been a bit of a conversation going on lately — both out in the open, on blogs like Louis Gray’s and Profy and others, as well as behind the scenes on FriendFeed — about the value of embargoes. For anyone who doesn’t know, an embargo is when a PR or marketing company asks a journalist to sit on a press release and not write about it until a certain date. Companies (or their PR firms) ask me for them all the time, and I say no in almost every case. Why? Because I think that embargoes do a lot more for the companies that ask for them than they do for the journalist (or blogger) who agrees to abide by them.

The classic argument in favour of embargoes — as described by Rick Turoczy in a guest post on Centernetworks a while back — is that they “give journalists and bloggers time to research a story” before they write about it. In most cases, to be honest, that is complete crap. In other words, that might be a nice justification for the embargo, but in practice I would argue that it rarely happens. What happens is that everyone who abides by the embargo comes out with a nicely-packaged story that hits all the points from the press release, and they all come out at the same time. How does that really help anyone?

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Blatchford pines for the monologue

At the risk of causing an inter-office brouhaha, I can’t resist commenting on the piece that my Globe and Mail colleague Christie Blatchford wrote for the paper today, about her dislike of this whole “blogging” phenomenon, and how it is ruining journalism (at least I think that’s her point). Ms. Blatchford has carved out a reputation at both of Canada’s national newspapers for being a crusty, “things were better back in my day” kind of columnist, so this is very much in that spirit — but it’s more than that. You can tell by reading it that Blatch really believes that something special about journalism is dying.

It’s more than just not having time to blog after writing newspaper stories, although that’s part of her complaint, and it’s more than just the fact that blogs are filled (she believes) with meanderings and ephemera of little value. There are two key portions of her rant, as far as I’m concerned. The first is where says that:

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Video: The “gridlock economy”

I don’t like to delve too deeply into economic theory and that sort of thing on this blog — I leave that to my friend Paul Kedrosky and his gang — but this video, which Paul wrote a post on recently, was so fascinating that I watched the whole thing, and it’s over an hour long. Michael Heller, a lawyer and professor at Columbia who used to work at the World Bank, isn’t exactly the world’s most thrilling speaker, but his talk about what he calls the “tragedy of the anti-commons” and how it has led to a “gridlock economy” in many specific markets — including pharmaceuticals, the cellular telecom business and the airline industry — is really thought-provoking. My favourite part is when he talks about going to Moscow after the fall of communism to advise the Russian government on how to create a market economy as quickly as possible.

Twitter: A micro-financing vehicle?

Jason Goldberg, founder of aggregation service Socialmedian — and the controversial former CEO of Jobster — set off a bit of a hand grenade via Twitter today, when he posted a message saying that his company was looking to raise some money. The full text of his message (which he later deleted, but which is still available on FriendFeed) was:

“socialmedian is raising some more angel investment now. $25k-$100/investor, up to $500k. Interested parties can contact me directly.”

Within minutes, the eagle-eyed Michael Arrington — a former securities lawyer specializing in IPOs, and therefore intimately familiar with the rules — had put up a post on TechCrunch about the message, saying Goldberg was effectively soliciting investment without filing a registration statement and issuing a prospectus, something that is prohibited by the Securities Act (specifically, Section 5). As Mike points out:

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Video: the Tiger Woods “Jesus” shot

I have to agree with Steve Rubel of Micropersuasion, whose post I came across on Twitter: this video by Electronic Arts and Tiger Woods — a response to a YouTube video posted by a fan of the EA Tiger Woods golf game about a seemingly impossible shot — is a great idea, and a great ad for the game as well. Kudos to whoever came up with it.

Google knows what bloggers want

Boy, does Google know the way to a blogger’s heart or what? According to the Wall Street Journal, the company is setting up an 8,000 square-foot blogging playground at the Democratic National Convention (and at the subsequent Republican convention), complete with food, massages, smoothies, a candy buffet and couches to nap on — all for the measly sum of $100 for access to the “Big Tent.” The money quote in this particular story goes to Micah Sifry of, who says that there isn’t really much news out of the partisan conventions once the vice-presidential candidates are picked, but “it’s a target-rich environment for bloggers.” Especially the candy-fueled kind. Simon Owens has more on the Big Tent at the MediaShift blog.