Lost Packets: Networking news and trivia

Cell phones gagged by restriction ratings

As more and more multi-media content makes its way onto mobile devices, so does the call for a ratings system to control the type of content that goes on them. The cell phone industry group, CTIA, has developed a two-tiered rating system that categorizes content offered by cellphone providers as either “generally accessible carrier content” or “restricted carrier content.” This will help designate all music, video and gaming products that may be intended for adults. As well, the group also hopes to provide tools for parents to block access to adult content. Criteria for the ratings are similar to those used for movies, television, music and video games. However, a ratings system and parental tools cannot stop youths from accessing sites that contain content with sex, profanity and violence using their mobile phone’s wireless Internet connection.

The town they called Secretsanta.com

Christmas may be over, but for a small town in Idaho, the holiday will be a year-long affair. Officials in the northern Idaho hamlet of Santa (population 155) voted last month to rename the town Secretsanta.com for an undisclosed sum to promote an online gift exchange management service. Santa is not the only town to change its name to a company or service. Also last month, Clark, Tex., changed its name to Dish to promote EchoStar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network. In 2000, Halfway, Ore, renamed itself Half.com after an Internet retailer. The town in Oregon reaped some rewards with its year-long name change. US$75,000 was brought in along with 20 computers for its schools. These name changes follow the tradition set in 1950 when Hot Springs, N.M., changed its name to Truth or Consequences after a popular radio program that became a TV game show.

Commonwealth baton goes high-tech

The Queen’s Baton relay has been a tradition since the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Wales. This year’s relay will see the baton travelling to all 71 nations of the Commonwealth in a year and a day before arriving at the opening ceremonies held in Melbourne, Australia, in March. The baton’s journey symbolizes the unity and shared ideals of the Commonwealth. It also contains Her Majesty’s message to the athletes. However, what makes this baton extra special is a tracking system housed in it. The high-tech baton-tracking technology will allow children, adults, families and friends to pinpoint the exact location of the baton via the Internet and global positioning technology. The baton can then be indicated on an online map of the world, which will zoom in to its actual location. Also, the baton has a camera mounted in it to transmit footage of the relay.

Office talk turns chit-chat with podcasts

Back in August, when IBM gave its 320,000 employees the tools and corporate guidelines to create their own audio creations, little did they imagine it would result in lower phone bills and better and more informal communication. IBM launched its first official podcast with a series of programs called “IBM and the future of….” that spoke to scientists and other staffers about topics like driving, shopping, banking and urban planning. In its first three months the “Future” series logged 40,000 downloads. The biggest benefit to podcasting has been IBM’s supply chain organization, where in the past 7,000 people needed to be coordinated for a weekly conference call. Now all they have to do is download a weekly podcast at their leisure.

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