Joe Lavin

December 20, 2005

The Year Online: A Comprehensive L-W Guide

Lyric Piracy -- Not only can you get in trouble downloading songs, you can now get in trouble downloading sheet music and song lyrics. As part of their "21st Century Initiative to Rid Ourselves of Our Customers So We Don't Have to Do Work When We Get to the Office," the Music Publishers Association plans to go after anyone who publishes sheet music or lyrics online. As part of the "They Can't Make Us Do Any Work If All Our Customers Are in Jail" theory, the spokesperson even advocated prison time for offenders. At any rate, you'd better watch out the next time you start singing in the shower, because soon that could be copyright infringement too.

MIT's $100 Laptop -- The MIT Media Lab announced plans this year to create a $100 laptop. These will only be offered to children in the developing world, so don't plan on lining up at Wal-Mart next Black Friday. Still, it's only a matter of time before Wal-Mart starts offering its own $100 laptop for the developing world. Granted, their laptop will really cost $900, with $800 worth of manufacturer's rebates that will require eight different UPC codes and also require the developing world to print out its rebate form in triplicate. Let's just hope the developing world already has its own printer, not to mention the ability to get a letter postmarked at a US post office by the end of the month!

Never Pay for a Book Again -- Thanks to Amazon's search within a book feature, it's now possible to read an entire book online. It does require a great deal of refreshing, pushing the back button, squinting, and optometrist appointments, but in many cases you can read the whole book there. Meanwhile, Google is working on a project with major university libraries to make academic books available online, much to the chagrin of academic authors who don't want to lose any possible revenue streams from works like "The Philosophical Physical Paradigm: String Theory and Its Effects on The Work of Soren Kierkegaard."

Online Gaming Deaths -- Many have long suspected that violent computer games lead to real-life violence. This may or may not be true, but sadly these games can directly cause death. In Asia this year, at least three people have actually died from exhaustion while playing computer games in Internet cafes. They went days without moving from the computer, and eventually their bodies just collapsed. As a public service, here's a quick word of advice for any gaming addicts out there: try to get up from the computer every 24 hours or so for a refreshment and a bathroom break. It'll help your real life, and it might even help your character. After all, when you die playing a computer game, remember that not only do you die, but more importantly so does your character.

Pringles -- It turns out that you can do any number of things with an empty can of Pringles. These include a Macro lense for your camera, a pinhole camera, a solar oven, and Wi-Fi antennas. Amazingly, it can also double as a handy container for salt-based snacks. I like the Salt and Vinegar ones the best.

Questionable Content -- What would the Internet be without it?

Radio That No Longer Involves Radio Waves -- Between podcasting and satellite radio, will we even listen to the regular radio anymore? This has forced radio stations to resort to tired gimmicks like "Phil FM - Hundreds of songs, no DJ's, it's almost as if you had a giant jukebox and happened to be some guy named Phil." As we're all gradually moving towards personalized radio anyway, I think the FCC should just open up the radio band and give everyone their own frequency. All we need to do is build more precise radio tuners: "You're listening to Joe FM, 93.76495921 on your FM dial."

Sony Is Watching You -- Okay, I don't really know what a rootkit is either, but apparently it's spyware and was installed by Sony whenever anyone copied a Sony CD to their computer. Yes, somehow, installing spyware on the computers of their customers seemed like a good idea to Sony. With business savvy like that, it's no wonder that whole Betamax thing didn't work out for them.

Time Capsules -- Thanks to sites like, you can now send an e-mail to the future you. You can set e-mail to be delivered up to thirty years from now, sort of like sending an 8-track audio recording of yourself from 1975 to 2005. FutureMe recommends that you try writing three to five years in advance. Write about your dreams and aspirations, tell yourself what's important to you today, or just remind yourself to pick up some milk at the supermarket on the way home. It sounds like a great idea, though I haven't tried it out myself. Frankly, I'm afraid that I might write back.

Untethered Television -- The new Slingbox device allows you to watch your television on a computer from anywhere in the world. You could be on vacation in Florida and actually control your Boston television from your laptop. This has to be either the coolest or most useless new toy of the year. Frankly, if you're on vacation in Florida, one would hope you have better things to do than watch Boston television. Incidentally, with Slingbox, you could also theoretically watch your television from the comfort of your office computer, thus proving that you could be doing much worse now than reading an online humor column from work.

Video on your computer -- Speaking of television, there might be entirely too much of it online. For example, now available at iTunes for $1.99 an episode: Knight Rider, because thankfully NBC noticed a need online and acted on it.

Double-U Double-U Double-U -- Don't look now, but I think this whole World Wide Web thing is really going to take off.

For Part One, click here.

©2005 Joe Lavin

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