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Monday, June 21, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
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Microsoft gets digital pep talk

Compiled by Times technology Staff

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Should Microsoft dump its digital-rights management system?

Cory Doctorow, a London-based writer and outreach coordinator for the Electronic Freedom Foundation, gave a talk last week at Microsoft's research division proposing just that.

DRM systems, designed to prevent unauthorized use of music and other files, don't work and are bad for society, Doctorow said, according to a transcript of the speech he posted online. Microsoft's customers don't want their music locked on to computers, only to disappear when the hard drive crashes, he said.

Microsoft has stood up for its customers and for progress in the past, and it should do it again by making a music player that plays songs in any format, he said.

"This is a company that looks the world's roughest, toughest antitrust regulators in the eye and laughs," he said. "Compared to antitrust people, copyright lawmakers are pantywaists. You can take them with your arm behind your back."

It's a good thing he wasn't talking to Microsoft's legal department, which might not be too keen on pantywaist nose-thumbing.

One big check

The spread of wireless

By the end of 2007, an estimated 1.78 billion will use wireless and mobile services worldwide.

What's more than half a million worth to a startup these days?

A handful of 42-inch plasma televisions, matching stereos, laptop and desktop computers, and $500,000 in operating budgets.

Bellevue-based 180solutions held a contest asking employees in groups of six to come up with a realistic business plan. The company's current business plan is to give consumers incentives to download software that tracks their Web searches. The company then sells advertising based on the user's preferences.

The winning team would be given $500,000 to implement the plan, and for participating each winning team member had the choice of picking two $2,500 items: a 42-inch plasma TV, a new home laptop or desktop, a stereo system, or $2,500 in 180solutions stock.

The second-place team members were each awarded one item.

On Friday, the winning team, named "Workers Republic of Ireland," received an oversized check. Its idea was a way to allow content owners to make money from content they are now giving away. The second place team, "nextBigthing," had an idea to create customer-management tools for online advertisers.

In any language

More people speak German than Japanese in Washington state, according to an interactive map recently posted online by the Modern Language Association, the academic organization for the study of language and literature.

The map, online at, shows the number of speakers of different languages nationwide and in any state in the country.

In Washington state, the top five languages spoken other than English are, in order, Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese and German. Nationwide, the top languages other than English are Spanish, Chinese, French, German and Tagalog.

One-name wonders

Elsewhere in this section, San Jose Mercury News columnist Mike Cassidy cheers having Bono, the U2 frontman and now part-time venture capitalist, associated with Silicon Valley: "It's way past time we have our own one-name wonder," he writes. "Hollywood has Cher. Alaska has Jewel. And we have Bono."

What about the Puget Sound area?

We could have a one-named business wonder too, if the names weren't, well, so boring. There's Bill (as in Gates), Steve (as in Ballmer), Jeff (as in Bezos) and maybe Rob (as in Glaser). If only Ichiro would take an interest.

Download, a column of news bits, observations and miscellany, is gathered by The Seattle Times technology staff. We can be reached at 206-464-2265 or

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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