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 Songza.com — 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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