|National Edition||Volume 14 #10||October 2004|
The US Postal Service (USPS) reported net income of $2.8billion for the fiscal year ending 30 June 2004 on total revenue of $52billion. Revenue for standard mail for the quarter ending June 30 was $4.4billion, up 7% from $4.1billion last year. Standard mail volume for the period was 23billion pieces, up 8% from 21billion last year. For the year to date, revenue for standard mail was $14million, up 4% from $13million last year. First class mail revenue for the period was $8.7billion, off 3% from $9billion last year. First class mail volume for the quarter declined 23million pieces from 24billion last year. For the year to date, first class mail revenue was $27.7billion, off 2% from $28.2billion last year. First class mail volume was 74billion pieces, off 2% from 75billion pieces last year. The increases in standard mail & decreases in first class mail may both be caused by the Internet. Standard mail is largely packages & the purchases being made on the Internet may account for the increase in that area. The increased use of email may be the main reason for the decrease in first class mail.
The Ohio Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against electronics retailing giant Best Buy alleging that the retailer repackaged used goods to sell as new open box goods & failed to honor rebates, among other charges. The complaint stated that through advertisements & point of purchase (POP) promotions Best Buy offered cash rebates to consumers on certain purchases, but that those rebates were usually not given. In other instances, customers who requested rebates were given Best Buy gift cards instead. The suit, filed by the Attorney General in Franklin County OH, seeks $25,000 for each violation of Ohio's consumer protection laws. The suit was filed in response to the sheer number of complaints coupled with the types of allegations that were received by the Attorney General’s office in Franklin County. A Best Buy spokesperson said that the company was aware of the lawsuit & is investigating the claims. Best Buy cited its six-month cut-off date as a basis for denying consumer rebates regardless of whether the consumer was aware of the cut off or had submitted an earlier request for a rebate. Best Buy was also charged with failing to conspicuously disclose that open box items for sale had been used. The suit also alleges that Best Buy, based in Richfield MN, failed to honor refund & exchange programs & extended service contracts.
Cable network Arts & Entertainment (A&E) is touting its series Growing Up Gotti with street promotions in seven cities. Women dressed like Mob daughter Victoria Gotti (whose current life is chronicled in the show) visit high-traffic areas to hand out bisgotti—individually wrapped biscotti—with tune-in info. The women wear long blonde wigs, faux diamond rings, sunglasses & Growing Up Gotti T-shirts; they are hitting the streets in:
Samsung Electronics has announced what may be the world's first mobile phone to sport a tiny hard drive. With the built-in 1-inch, 1.5-gigabyte hard disk, the SPH-V5400 could store about 15 times more data than conventional handsets—everything from digital music files & photos to video according to Samsung. The telephone is equipped with a mega-pixel digital camera, camcorder, MP3 player, a high-resolution 2.2-inch display, a microphone & dual speakers. It will be available in South Korea by the end of September 2004. Samsung did not disclose a price or any plans to sell it in the United States or elsewhere at this time. Hard drives are becoming an increasingly popular component in consumer electronics to accommodate the need for more digital data storage, & makers of the mini drives have worked to squeeze more & more capacity out of the coin-sized disks. Seagate Technologies has a 1-inch drive that holds 5 gigabytes of data, while Toshiba has developed an even tinier drive—at 0.85 inches in diameter—that is able to store 2 to 3 gigabytes of data. Another consideration as the hard drives get smaller & appear more & more in portable devices is their power consumption. This is because most portable devices are battery operated & high power consumption relates to short battery life.
The world’s largest retailer has entered the battle over music downloads via the Internet. They have introduced their own online music store within the Windows Media Player. Wal-Mart's site, www.walmart.com/musicdownloads, will be a service provider within Microsoft's first Digital Media Mall using Windows Media Player 10. Songs will be offered for download for 88cents each. This will make Wal-Mart the price leader in the Internet downloading of music among any of the leading companies. Customers will still be able to purchase & download music directly from walmart.com using the existing service the store launched in March 2004. Exclusive content at the site will be offered from various artists such as:
The sixth annual geographic information system (GIS) day, www.gisday.com, will take place on Wednesday 17 November 2004. It is an annual event that is held as part of the National Geographic Society’s Geography Awareness Week & the Geography Action initiative. It is designed to promote geographic literacy in schools, communities & organizations. Last year millions of people in more than 80 countries & all fifty US states participated in various events to commemorate the event. Among the principal sponsors are:
When a lot of people in the chip industry thought that Moore’s Law was about to stop working, Intel has developed a new technology that should allow it to continue to hold true. Moore’s Law is based on the prediction, by Gordon Moore, one of the founders of Intel, that the number of transistors that can be placed on a chip would roughly double every two years. That would of course roughly double chip speed & complexity as well. Mr. Moore made the prediction during the late 1960s. His prediction has thus far held up. Intel has now announced that they have shrunk the size of the transistors that will be used in their next generation of chips. They claim to have created a fully functional 70Megabit memory chip with transistor switches that measure just 35 manometers—about 30% smaller than those found on the current family of state-of-the-art chips. The current family of chips is based on silicon. Because of the physical limits of the material, many feel that many more components could not be packed into the chips. Intel said that the new chips incorporate both new materials & technologies to work around the problems of silicon.
If you have a yen for traveling but do not want to spend the money for hotel rooms, a home-stay plan may be just the thing for you. These plans allow you to stay in a home where you have traveled to as long as you will allow a traveler to stay in your home in return. Home-stay plans have been around for a long time—some that still exist were started shortly after the second world war. What is different now is that the Internet has expanded both the number of plans & their size. Some do charge an annual fee to belong but about half are free. Seven of the main home-stay plans on the Internet are:
Hewlett-Packard (HP) has begun to market a new ink system for its non-laser printers. The new system is claimed to provide color prints about 40 times faster than its predecessor does. The name HP has given to the new system is Vivera. They also claim that the prints will last close to twice as long as those produced using current technology. HP is planning to put a lot of marketing power behind Vivera ink. HP’s printing & imaging division is responsible for at least 75% of their operating profit. It should be noted that most printer companies do not earn much profit from selling printers. The profit usually comes from selling the ink within the cartridges. Lately third party companies that will refill the old cartridge at far less cost than buying new ones have hurt the selling of the new cartridges thereby hurting the profits of the printer makers. If HP is able to brand an ink that is superior to normal computer printer ink they will stop the refilling of their cartridges by the third party companies & restore their profit in that area.
The very rapidly growing voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) long distance telephone service is growing quickly. It went truly mainstream as such big players as AT&T & Cablevision got into the act. In addition, about to offer the services are Time Warner, Verizon & Qwest. Some of the advantages of the service over conventional telephone service unlimited long distance at very low cost & the ability to manage your telephones via your computer. Another significant advantage is that most of the assorted taxes & fees that traditional & mobile telephone companies are required to add to the bills do not apply to calls made via the Internet. The reason for this is that for the government Internet calls are classified as data so the various taxes that apply to telephone calling do not apply. There are some disadvantages to VoIP as well. One is that you must rely on your computer & its Internet connection for telephone service & those connections are usually not as reliable as a normal telephone line. Another disadvantage is that most normal telephone systems will keep working in a power failure but not VoIP, which must have power for at least the computer to operate. Some of the major providers of VoIP service are:
This does not include eBay since it is not listed as a retail site. It is considered an online shopping mall. The total pass-through sales on eBay during 2003 were $24billion—$10billion more than the 12 retail sites listed below—that included $6.5billion from eBay motors.
The top 12 categories for online sales in 2003 listed in alphabetical order are:
The below table listed the top online merchant in each of the 12 categories shown above with their 2003 sales in millions along with their rank among all online retailers:
|Site||2003 Sales||Total Online Rank|
|2.||Barnes & Noble||$424||19|
|12.||Toys "R" Us||$376||23|
The 12 online retailers listed above had combined online sales of just over $14billion in 2003.
Internet Retailer - www.internetretailer.com/top300 - compiled the research & it is part of their publication called Top 300 Guide.
With Longhorn, the VP said, Microsoft plans to improve the way people find things like emails, photos & documents. However, in formally announcing the release date, the company said it would not be ready to include an even more advanced system for sorting, storing & finding data. Instead, it will begin testing that system about the same time it releases Longhorn & make it available at an unspecified time later.
The ability to find & organize data on a personal computer is becoming increasingly important as people are able to amass more digital information. Right now, finding pictures, emails & a word processing document that are all related to the same topic can be very time-consuming & cumbersome. These new technologies aim to make it quicker & easier to complete that search.
Microsoft probably had little choice but to reduce Longhorn's capabilities if it wanted to deliver the by the end of 2006. However, Microsoft anticipates being able to offer the more advanced searching, sorting & storing capabilities relatively quickly, perhaps as early as 2007. Microsoft would not provide a definitive time frame.
Although the decision is not a good one for the average computer user, it should be considerably more crucial for Microsoft to have the new technology ready for the next version of the Windows Server OS software, due out in 2007. That is because servers tend to hold much more data, making advanced searching, storing & sorting capabilities much more necessary than on a consumer OS.
Longhorn also will include new technology for enabling better visual presentation, such as three-dimensional rendering. In addition, it will include ways to communicate more easily with other systems, such as Internet-based applications or mobile devices.
However, Microsoft said users would not have to upgrade to Longhorn to use most of those capabilities because applications that use them also will be able to run on Windows XP. Microsoft probably decided to make the new technology compatible with XP so it could entice many developers to make new applications & still find a wide enough audience. This move by Microsoft could reduce the need to upgrade from the users current OS to Longhorn. In an attempt to make the OS more attractive for possible upgrade the software giant will probably add other features to Longhorn that make it more compelling.
A coalition of lawyers, researchers & software experts formed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will try to overturn 10 Internet & software-related patents that the group says are so sweeping they threaten to significantly reduce innovation.
While little-known companies hold most of the patents, two industry leaders have also been named:
Traditionally, the Patent & Trademark Office has not been able to give these kinds of patents as tough a look as those in chemistry said a lawyer with the EFF. The list of targets was drawn from 200 submissions solicited through the Internet site of the EFF, which based in San Francisco.
It includes patents covering telephone calls over the Internet, streaming audio & video, & online testing.
The foundation, which promotes digital civil rights, is not alone in questioning the patent process. A report issued this spring by the National Research Council of the National Academies called for, among other things, improvements in the system for challenging patents.
Acacia Research of Newport Beach California holds one patent the foundation dismisses as overly broad. As described by the company, the patent covers systems for the transmission & receipt of digital content via the Internet, cable, satellite & other means. The company has filed patent infringement lawsuits against adult entertainment Internet sites and, more recently, against nine cable & satellite television providers.
As with all the patents on the list the EFF team of volunteers hopes to uncover evidence that other companies had already developed the concepts covered by the patent.
If it finds such prior art, as it is known, the foundation will ask the patent office to invalidate any of the patents in question. However, a lack of documents can frequently make it difficult to discover such evidence in the case of software & Internet systems. Most software code is done, dumped & never documented.
Another patent on the foundation's list covers a way to make telephone calls over the Internet known as voice over Internet protocol (VoIP). The company holding that patent, Acceris Communications of Toronto Canada, had drawn the group's attention by filing an infringement lawsuit against a relatively small service provider, ITXC, rather than larger companies using VoIP like Vonage Holdings. Small companies rarely have the resources to fight infringement suits.
Test Central, which operates a Internet site called test.com & holds patents for online testing, is the only company to have contacted the EFF since the list's release. The testing patent is of particular concern because the company sent letters describing its claims to a number of universities suggesting it might eventually seek licensing fees from nonprofit institutions. The chief executive of Test Central, said the company did not intend to enforce its patent against nonprofit institutions. He said Test Central would try to work with the EFF to develop a formal restriction exempting nonprofit users from its patent.
Until recently I was using an analog camcorder. Although quite old, it was in good shape mechanically so I saw little reason to replace it. It did not take long for me to change my mind after using a new JVC mini digital video camcorder.
This camcorder was designed with the PC in mind. This means that all editing can be done on the PC. Of course with digital video editing can be done without any loss in quality. With an analog device every time you would edit a video you would lose some of the quality. This may be the single biggest advantage of the digital machine over the analog device. No quality need be lost during the editing process.
Another way that the JVC machine was designed for use with the PC was in the interface. They have multiple PC connection options:
Since the editing process is now so easy & quality is not lost you will be editing all your results & producing much better video. You are no longer going to hesitate shooting lots of video.
You can produce quality MPEG-4 video clips from any of your recorded footage. You are also able to use the JVC mini camcorder as a real-time Webcam. You can of course upload any recorded video footage to your PC to be emailed or further uploaded to a site on the Internet.
The tilt-able LCD monitor on the camcorder is a joy to use when compared to the viewing methods on the old analog machines. Since the monitor can be tilted to virtually any position, it allows you to use the camcorder in a crowd. This can be done by holding the machine above your head, & therefore above the heads of all around you, & tilting the monitor so it can be viewed from below.
The JVC camcorder I was using also had a LCD light. Most camcorders I have dealt with in the past had a regular light. The regular light was effective except that its use would shorten battery life considerably. The LCD light only uses about 1/10th the power of a regular light therefore having very little effect on battery life.
If you are still using an analog camcorder or no camcorder at all, you might what to take a look at the new digital video mini camcorders. They are truly versatile starting with their small size—basically they fit in the palm of your hand. I can recommend the JVC I was using, as it was feature packed & worked very well. The 2/3rd-mega-pixel camera provided high quality video & even stills. It had a 15x optical zoom lens.The JVC High Band Digital Video Camera