Merry Christmas to one and all!

We're taking a bit of a break to be with our loved ones over the holiday, and we hope you are too. A very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you, and we'd like to pass along a heartfelt "Thank You" for your readership. We'll be back posting again tomorrow once we can burn off some of the egg nog!

New Jersey issues subpoensas to companies over sharing of calling records with NSA

The controversy over the sharing of calling records by phone companies with the National Security Agency (NSA) has reached a new high (or low, depending on your perspective) with the announcement that the state of New Jersey has issued subpoenas to AT&T, Verizon, Qwest, Sprint Nextel, and Cingular Wireless to see if they violated the state's consumer protectiong laws by sharing information with the NSA.

The NSA has instituted a strategy to track possible terrorist activities by compiling phone records of people they deem "suspicious," but critics say this program is ripe for abuse and that innocent people could have their cellular and landline phone activity, as well as their general rights to privacy, scrutinized without clear probable cause.

Obviously, this issue has been debated back and forth, and it'll be interesting to see if the federal and various state governments can come to a consensus as to how this program can proceed with it being abused.

Taking Apart the RIM BlackBerry Workaround

Well, it all comes down to emails (tens of millions a day, probably) meant for RIM customers to be moved off of RIM's NOCs (Network Operations Centers) and stored on different networks most likely not owned or operated by RIM. At the heart of the RIM/NTP lawsuit is the specific way RIM fetches, stores and sends email traffic to each of its subscribers, regardless of cellular carrier. So, perhaps RIM wants to just take the largest portion of this purported patent infringement and actually come up with their own solution - and, while they are at it, maybe just make this the default solution going forward.

I've read NTP's case and they actually do have a pretty strong case against RIM. But, in this day and age when facts are rarely facts, who knows which party is on the offense and which is on the defense here. There is a reason RIM is the best in the niche push-email mobile space - their solutions fits a huge customer need and is very streamlines against what I think at this time is pseudo-competition. This could change pretty quickly though, as everyone wants a bite of the RIM pie. So, if RIM's workaround solution to avoid interruption of service involves "outsourcing" the tightly-controlled email back-end infrastructure to outside parties, we will see how this solution works in the real world of "millions-of-users using every day" scene. We will know shortly, like February 24th.

Verizon's EV-DO and "Tethering" to Your PC of Choice

It looks like Verizon is *finally* (finally!) giving in to its customer's demands and will officially allow you to use your new and shiny EV-DO handset as a wireless modem for your laptop computer or PDA. The strange this is that Verizon's stance is that this is only available is you use a USB cable to your phone (no mention of Bluetooth). Of course, Verizon's stance on Bluetooth has been sketchy and sticky in the past (remember the Motorola V710 fiasco and class-action lawsuit?).

This bodes well for those road warriors who want to be able and use broadband-type speeds anywhere they have Verizon coverage (with EV-DO support, of course). This has to be a rather large market of business professionals and it is good to see Verizon wising up to demand. So, if you have a dead spot in the airport you're at - with WiFi - you can plop out your Verizon phone and keep on truckin'. Or surfin'.

  

Is Your WiFi Home/Business Network Really Secure, Even with WEP/WPA? Well...

Many of us have home networks using the most prevalent WiFi standards in use today for run-of-the-mill consumers, 802.11b or 802.11g. I can, as I type this, "see" some of my neighbors unsecured WiFi networks as clear as day. Three of them, to be exact - all completely unsecured and free for anyone to browse with just a little know-how. How disturbing. This is serious!

If you haven't already, turn on your WEP or WPA wireless router encryption and "hide" your SSID from broadcasting itself. Wow, that's a lot of acronyms. Even with these two main -- and often overlooked -- safeguards in place, your system may still be vulnerable to the overzealous hacker, but the chances are reduced drastically if you make it past these two checkpoints.

And then you read something like this.

Standalone DAP Stereo Bluetooth Using A2DP - Circa 2007 Maybe?

One thing that seems to me like standard Bluetooth 1.0 was back in 1999 (when it seemed the old Ericsson /// was the only manufacturer, well, of almost any wireless Bluetooth phone) is why the DAP industry has not embraced stereo Bluetooth as a feature on mid-range and high-end digital music players. Sure, the dangling, white, hyper-kinetic earbuds Apple advertises it's iPods (or yours or mine) with makes the industry seem vibrant (I guess). And, the standard earbuds (and higher-end in-ear buds) Apples uses are probably the most least-prone earphones to tangle I have ever seen. It seems all other earphones I have used have a cord casing made of some kind of rubber (butyl rubber, maybe?) that tangles and is hard to manage. Yet Apple, like everything it does perhaps, apparently paid attention to the actual cord casing on the iPod earbuds - they don't tangle that bad at all and seem to just work as intended with no side effects. Until...they get yanked out of my ear on accident (mosh pitting, the usual).

So, I'll get of my earbud *rant* and get back to why there is not a *mainstream* DAP with stereo Bluetooth implementation. When I workout or do other activity that requires my arms to be in what seems to be constant motion, it would be nice to not let go of the tunes (or podcasts) but let go of the wires that deliver those tunes (or podcasts). When I say mainstream, I'll define that as something I can go get at a local Best Buy or Circuit City in the U.S. and buy, not some off-brand (but heck, I would investigate it!) or a player not sold in the U.S. (hello eBay). I'm not sure how expensive stereo Bluetooth implementation would be, but I have to think standard Bluetooth 1.2 is now pretty cheap since it *is* mainstream.

Anyone have a suggestion to solve this dilemma? Maybe in 2007 we will see something, or maybe before that. It seems a DAP maker/marketer could corner this relatively niche market need. I would be the first in line since I am now on my third pair of standard Apple earbuds (note to self: DO NOT make sudden arm movements with the wires dangling in front of you. Bad, very bad). I am anxiously awaiting the Motorola ROKR E2 (with A2DP), but a standalone player alternative would be grand.

Landline Phones On the Road to Extinction?

A recent study from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) indicates that more people are turning to their cellphone as their primary means of communication while simultaneously ditching their landlines. According to the CEA, 17 percent of consumers who bought cellphones during a 90-day period said they were using their phones exclusively. Most of this group consisted of younger adults, singles, and people who rent their homes.

The trend to going all-cellphone is definitely rising. For example, in Wisconsin, one out of every three AT&T residential landlines were lost, translating into 340,000 lines lost. Of course, this does not accurately reflect the entire situation throughout the country, and AT&T has had more than its share of problems in recent years. But the fact remains that people are increasingly using their cellphones as their main phone number because of portability as well as economic reasons.

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