Catch up on this week’s tech and science news with the latest TowleTech from our correspondent Daniel Williford.
The founder of Wikipedia, the Internet’s free, open, editable encyclopedia, launched Campaigns Wikia, a political tool for every camp that seeks to end a one-sided, television-based "broadcast politics." The site’s mission statement says "Campaigns need to sit up and take notice of the Internet, take notice
of bloggers, take notice of wikis, and engage with us in a constructive
way. …It is time for politics to become more participatory and more intelligent." The Gay Marriage page demonstrates the political focus of the site (compared to a Wikipedia entry), and also features a very active Personal Perspective discussion that allows users to add to the definition of the issue by including a point of view based on their own experience.
A group of scientists released evidence this week showing increased wild fires in the United States to be yet another symptom of global warming. "Lots of people think climate change and the ecological responses are 50
to 100 years away. But it’s not 50 to 100 years away — it’s happening
now in forest ecosystems through fire."
Google Earth offers a special download that lets you follow the Tour de France using its 3-D mapping service. "Be sure to try out the tilt feature to see the truly daunting magnitude
of all of those climbs where riders are battling it out in this year’s
Wired gives a top rating to this impressive LG cell phone. Beneath the display glass at Radio Shack, you might not give this little phone a second glance: it’s not wearing a trend-setting look or even an exclusive price tag. But it’s surprisingly packed with cutting edge features: downloadable music and video via Sprint, media-player controls on the outside cover, a wireless FM transmitter that channels music from the phone to a nearby radio, and built-in GPS. See, the unassuming, nerdy types are always the ones that are totally packin’.
AOL is considering giving away its service, joining the growing culture of free internet-based products and services. One of the first popular ISPs, AOL has been steadily losing customers in the past year (despite how hard the try to keep them), and so the company is banking that they can remain relevant and make more money if they keep customers by allowing them to use their e-mail service and premium content for free. "The company would not abandon its dial-up members but would halt efforts to recruit new customers." No more CD-frisbee with those AOL promo disks.
Now that Google is officially a verb, Merriam-Webster will consider another tech inspired definition: "eBay: hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage." One week after its launch, eBay banned Google’s competitor credit card processessor, Google Checkout, claiming that it is too new to be trusted as safe for its users. "Billing and payments have been a core part of Google’s advertising programs and online services for years," Google rebuffed.
Rumors have been flying since the New York Times broke the story that Microsoft is developing its own "iPod killer" media player, due out by the end of the year. Endgadget claims to have exclusive "blurry" photos of the new device, along with details from "a trusted insider who is party to some of the discussions Microsoft is having with potential content partners." The device will be bluetooth enabled and will also be able to connect wirelessly to the Internet to download new music (presumably from URGE, but possibly through its own iTunes-like store). The device might capitalize on this connectivity much like Xbox, with social networking and interactive features to enable users to find new muisc from friends. Microsoft may be planning a bold move to offer to re-purchase any songs that new users had purchased from iTunes, and load them onto the player for free. Finally, Engadget’s source dishes that there may also be a cell phone tie-in, which would be part of Microsofts own mobile service. Those are lots of maybes, but it seems very plausible that either Microsoft, Apple, or some other manufacturer will soon come out with an all-in-one personal media device.