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Microsoft

Submission + - M$ Has it's First Hiring Freeze. (networkworld.com)

twitter writes: "Network News broke the now hotly denied story of a M$ hiring freeze.

Microsoft has instituted a hiring freeze, likely spurred by the worsening economic conditions in the U.S., according to a source close to the company. ... On Friday, the software giant started sending a note to employees informing them of the decision, according to an employee who saw the letter but asked not to be named.

The denial story shows that the original email was genuine and has more details:

On Friday, some employees received a note saying that the company was re-evaluating open headcount and wouldn't be adding new headcount.

But Gellos [M$ spokesweasel] said the company intends to continue hiring new workers. "This year we expect lots of growth and that we will hire lots of people," he said. "I think the nuance is in the fact that in light of the economy it's important that we do the prudent thing and evaluate projects that we're working on."

It is important not to blame this move on the economic climate alone. Healthy companies will prosper and grow in the adversity, especially as M$ loses their ability to interfere. Companies that don't have anything people want to buy will sink into debt and fail.

Anyone think this will hurt Steve Ballmer's chances for a $20,000,000 bonus?"

Education

Submission + - OLPC Success in Brazil (slashdot.org)

twitter writes: "BBC reports OLPC's success in bridging the digital divide in Brazil. Rodrigo Assumpcao, minister of inclusion, and Roseli Lopes from the University of Sao Paulo are quoted.

Assumpcao, "this difference between who commands this technology and who is commanded by technology determines in our society who rules and who is ruled, who has access to money and who hasn't and who has access to rights and who hasn't. ...

"The Brazilian government has a profound conviction that free software is the way to go, so we are demanding that there is a whole suite of free and open-source software installed in these computers. The whole idea of having closed software on public computers is something which strikes me as wrong"

"It's active learning, they take part in the search for information and they are not waiting for the teacher," said Prof Lopes. "They are having more fun using this technology, not only to read and write but to make videos and take pictures"

Broadband is being delivered to schools, so the project is working as planned. Information is flowing cheaply. There was some talk about Intel Classmates and the need for "interoperability" but that is easy to meet with a resurgent Sugar."

Privacy

Submission + - Nation Wide Driver Tracking Planned for US. (stallman.org)

twitter writes: Astute blogger, RMS, noticed that companies want to extend Big Brother tracking of all car travel to the U.S.. From the linked article:

Private companies in the US are hoping to use red light cameras and speed cameras as the basis for a nationwide surveillance network similar to one that will be active next year in the UK. Redflex and American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the top two photo enforcement providers in the US, are quietly shopping new motorist tracking options to prospective state and local government clients.

The article quotes plans and sales pitches from both companies, then cites a case of police abuse of a previous database to track and intimidate a reporter.

So now the real reason for traffic cameras comes out. The catching of red light runners was and excuse barely sufficient to overcome massive public opposition and then only for a short time. We already knew from a Virginia study that cameras actually increased injury accidents, without considering the influence of corruption. Anyone who gave the issue more than a passing thought concluded that the cameras were a nation wide spending pork barrel project that can easily be used to track and harass political opposition.

Feed Techdirt: MPAA Asks FCC To Allow It To Block DVR Recording Of Certain Movies (techdirt.com)

The entertainment industry lobbyists are basically working ever possible angle to get more "control" over its content. We've already seen how they mess with the legislation process and the international treaty process, and now they're trying to use the FCC as well (not for the first time, either). The latest is that the MPAA is asking the FCC to remove certain restrictions that forbid it from blocking the recording of certain movies and from downgrading the ability to record certain movies. Basically, the MPAA is asking the FCC let it make use of "Selectable Output Control" to keep its rapidly disappearing "release windows" business model possible.

As you probably know, the movie business has worked for many years on the model of "release windows," where films first show up in theaters, then at special locations (hotels/airplanes), followed by video, then PPV, cable and finally network TV. This is a legacy of an old business model, where the studio had a lot more control over content -- but it makes less and less sense these days, in a world where people have a lot more options for their entertainment time and money. These "windows" have been shrinking, because that's exactly what the customers demand -- and it actually has worked out well for the studios, because with shorter windows they actually get more benefit from a single advertising campaign plus consumers are happier since they have more options about how they consume the content. But the industry is so focused on these windows, that when anyone dares to upset the norm, they freak out.

The latest situation is because the studios want to keep this totally unnecessary window process in place. So they're asking the FCC to let it either degrade recordings or block recordings of movies if they occur before the movies go to DVD/video rental. The MPAA reasoning behind this is pure bunk, claiming that it would encourage more people to buy HDTVs, speeding up the transition to digital TV. There are multiple inaccuracies in this claim by the studios. First, while HDTV's are digital, one does not need to upgrade to HDTV to switch to digital TV. More importantly, basically, the studios are pretending that it's someone else's fault that they're unwilling to put good HDTV content on TV. They're basically saying "oh, if you let us block copying, then we'll put much more good content on TV." That's hard to believe for a variety of reasons. There's plenty of demand for content on TV, and if the studios aren't willing to put on good content, then others are finding plenty of ways to fill in the gaps.

Furthermore, there's nothing stopping the studios from releasing movies earlier. Claiming that they need this extra copy protection is a myth. The copy protection won't actually stop copies from being made. "Professional" pirates will easily get around the protection schemes. The only people who won't are your average home family user, who the industry is trying to screw over by making them pay over and over again for the same content. Besides, even the FCC knows that the MPAA's argument is incorrect. In its own report, it stated:

"In particular, we are concerned that selectable output control would harm those 'early adopters' whose DTV equipment only has component analog inputs for high definition display, placing these consumers at risk of being completely shut off from the high-definition content they expect to receive."
In other words, for every person that "more HDTV content" encourages to upgrade, you're probably going to get more than one person pissed off that their DVR can't record that content. Hopefully the FCC tells the MPAA that its regulatory power isn't designed to let it prop up an obsolete business model.

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