The end of Time Warner + AOL... White MacBook gets bolder... Windows 1, Linux 0

What's Now | What's Next main bannerIt's a term first popularized by R. Buckminster Fuller just after World War II: synergy. I could present his own definition here, but you wouldn't have time to read it. But it's essentially the idea that, at least in nature, all living, breathing entities were designed to exist in a kind of interdependent harmony (his "Synergetics" was the study of how that worked). That term was leveraged by Steve Case's AOL and Jerry Levin's Time Warner repeatedly, to discuss the reason for their little get-together. This morning, that term is finally proven to have been a misappropriation of the highest degree.

Time Warner minus AOL

8:05 am EDT May 28, 2009 · AOL will become a completely free and independent company, in a deal "jointly" announced this morning. Ironically, it was Google that helped keep this marriage together, and that will help put it asunder.

Back in 2005, you'll recall, Google purchased a 5% stake in AOL, originally so Google could get an inexpensive channel for keywords on AOL's service. But it never seemed worth the investment. Now, with Google one of the largest shareholders in AOL, it was a key player in the breakup arrangement. According to this morning's "joint" press release, Google will sell its 5% stake back to Time Warner in the third quarter. This way, Time Warner can then effectively redistribute AOL shares among its shareholders.

This way, shareholders become the "acquirer" of the entity. Time Warner shareholders will also be AOL shareholders, and what they do with those shares becomes their own business.

This morning, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes read aloud the handwriting on the wall: "We believe that a separation will be the best outcome for both Time Warner and AOL. The separation will be another critical step in the reshaping of Time Warner that we started at the beginning of last year, enabling us to focus to an even greater degree on our core content businesses. The separation will also provide both companies with greater operational and strategic flexibility. We believe AOL will then have a better opportunity to achieve its full potential as a leading independent Internet company."

Apple juices up its white MacBook

8:30 am EDT May 27, 2009 · Quietly, Apple has upped the specs on its low-end White MacBook. The 13-inch model, available at the moment for $999, gets boosted to the 2.13 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Processor, the 800 MHz 2 GB / 4 GB DDR2 SDRAM, and a 160 GB hard drive. In addition, not that most college students are even out of the previous year's classes yet, but those who are ready to order next year's computer can get a free 8 GB iPod touch with their new machine. There are discounts now, too. Doesn't Cupertino handle its sales slowdowns elegantly?

McAfee pinpoints the "most dangerous" search terms

Morning of May 27, 2009 · Looking to make some extra cash in tough times? Watch out -- the searches you execute in pursuit of that cash could wreak havoc on your machine. According to research undertaken by McAfee, clicking on search results that include the word "free" runs you a 21.3% chance of infecting your machine with some variety of malware. And searches seeking work-from-home gigs -- "free work from home," for example -- can be as much as four times riskier than average, the study says.

"Teaching Copyright" curriculum heads for the schools

Morning of May 27, 2009 · The Electronic Frontier Foundation announced that it has compiled a teaching packet designed to counterbalance information from the RIAA, MPAA, and other entertainment-industry groups that might now have the best interests of Fair Use or digitally savvy kids in mind.

The "Teaching Copyright" curriculum, as EFF activist Richard Esguerra put it in a written statement, "encourages inquiry and greater understanding. This is a balanced curriculum, asking students to think about their role in the online world and to make informed choices about their behavior" when downloading, remixing content, or engaging in other digital pursuits. The "Think First, Copy Later" packet, in contrast, has attracted widespread criticism for overstating the reach of copyright controls, in one memorable instance comparing downloading music to stealing a bicycle.

ATDT 1964 (a buzzy blast from the past)

The video making the rounds of a lovely 1964-vintage acoustic coupler modem in action is not to be missed. The Livermore Data Systems "Model A" box -- literally, it's a wooden box -- actually predates the Hayes command set referenced in our headline, but Kenneth Budd, to whom the pretty thing was entrusted by the widow of an IBM engineer, gets it talking to a Linux box just fine. Special bonus cameo appearance by the Lynx browser. (Don't act like you aren't feeling all warm and nostalgic right now.)

Thursday's tech headlines

The New York Times

- David Pogue didn't like the Cool-er e-book reader as much as he likes the Kindle. Elsewhere on the NYT, Brad Stone got an early glimpse of e-readers from Plastic Logic.

- Farhad Manjoo has a nice roundup of note-taking programs -- including one that works on multiple platforms, a major reason some of us haven't committed to a digital notepad. (And then again some of us just like paper and pen.)

The Wall Street Journal

- Steve Wozniak says Steve Jobs is sounding "healthy" and "energetic" a month before his return to Apple.

- Nick Wingfield, filling in for Walt Mossberg, says he's been testing an assortment of Linux-running netbooks and they're just not as functional as netbooks running Windows.

- (subscription required) Smartphone manufacturers are working to roll out midrange phones geared toward social networking. The challenge is building sufficient memory and processing power into cheaper gear. (The article doesn't mention it, but battery life is also a serious concern; more on that in What's Next.)


- The browser is the computer is the desktop is the walrus... something like that, as Eric Schmidt kicked off Google I/O 2009 by describing what online life will be like with HTML 5's newer functionalities, such as canvas tags, video tags, geolocation, and better database handling. Koo-koo-ka-choo.

- IBM's suing David Johnson, its former head of mergers and acquisitions, to keep him from jumping ship to Dell with (potentially) Big Blue's vast cerulean trade secrets.

- The March shutdown of SpiralFrog hasn't ended the troubles associated with that ad-supported music site, Greg Sandoval reports. Investors say that the company's assets are being dumped for well below market value, while former users are angry that they lost access to their tunes post-shutdown.

- Your daily earnings-call dose: TiVo reported a loss of $4.1 million, or four cents per share, on Wednesday's Q1 '10 call; larger losses are expected next quarter. This time last year the DVR pioneer was finally making a profit.

- At a tech showcase in Seattle Wednesday, Josh Lowensohn grabbed icanhazcheezburger's Ben Huh for five questions. I have a sixth: Seriously, cheezburger night at Safeco Field? Is this a shark I see before me?


- Christopher Null gives MSI's X340, built to be a "MacBook Air killer," eight dots out of ten, calling it "an amazingly credible knockoff."

- Lifelock, that outfit with the commercials with the trucks with the Social Security numbers on the side? A federal judge just ruled that their fraud-alert service operates illegally, dumping hundreds of thousands of alerts into the credit-bureau system even if no fraud has actually been reported on a specific accounts.

- OH NOES HACKERZ IN TEH LIGHT SWITCHES!!!1 Except no, they weren't -- the video of two crews purportedly seizing control of two Munich office buildings was an ad produced some time ago. That didn't stop a McAfee blogger from publicly using the video a springboard for grumbling ominously about potential hacks on utility systems. (No security person is saying those systems aren't getting owned up on a regular basis, but dude, way to trivialize the problem.)

- A California videogame developer hand-built an 8-bit CPU from 1,253 pieces of wire. It's just so beautiful.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

- Send boatloads of money, kthx: Brian Chin blogged Carol Bartz's talk at the D7 conference, in which the Yahoo head explained to Kara Swisher what it would take to make a deal happen between Microsoft and the beleaguered search site. And there's video, so you can see for yourself that she really did say BOATloads. This time.

- Ready for another mobile browser? Ryan Kim takes a quick look at Skyfire 1.0, available for Windows Mobile and Symbian. (Your reporter will wait 'til the BlackBerry version leaves alpha to try her hand.)

- The tragic and messy Amanda Knox trial is apparently developing a sideline in engendering cyber-bullying investigations. Basically, take every unkind thought you've ever had about online discussion threads and add a pretty coed murder suspect.

WHAT'S NEXT: Too-smart phones?

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