Nokia: Four new handsets for developing world, bike charger

So it’s a holiday here in Germany, it’s a beautiful day outside and I’m still in my PJs, scrolling through my RSS reader, and two Reuters headlines scream out at me: “Nokia unveils 4 cheap phones” and “Nokia unveils bicycle mobile charger“.

Sadly, Reuters doesn’t provide any details, but CNET’s Crave blog does:

C1 phone (far left): Two SIM slots, only one line active at a time, six-week standby time (longest by far of any Nokia handset). Built-in LED flashlight! Available Q3 for €30.

C2 (far right): Two SIM slots (hot-swappable), both lines can be active simultaneously, microSD card slot (up to 32GB). Available Q4 for €45.

Nokia’s got more details on the other two models on its blog.

As for the bicycle charging device, CNET reports that “the dynamo starts charging when the speed of the bicycle reaches 6 kph and stops when it hits 50 kph”. Reuters adds that it’ll cost €15 and will be available “later this year.”

I think what’s really interesting about these new products is that they seem to be designed for the developing world but I think would actually be quite popular in the developed world too. I know lots of people that would love a cheap phone that includes six-week standby time, a built-in flashlight (who doesn’t use their phone as a flashlight?). Plus, for those of us who are globetrotters, dual-SIM slots is pretty sweet.

Now here’s my only question: why not combine the functions of the C1 and C2? Or does the simultaneous dual-SIM use suck up a lot of battery?

DW English: iPad combines American panache with Euro technology

by Cyrus Farivar

After seemingly endless weeks of rumors, Apple finally released its tablet computer, calling it the iPad.

The device, which will sell worldwide at a starting price of $499 (€356.65) later this year, represents something in between the company’s extraordinarily popular iPhones and its line of laptops.

“If there’s going to be a third category of device, it’s going to have to be better at these kinds of tasks than a laptop or a smartphone; otherwise it has no reason for being,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs at the special event in San Francisco.

The basic model comes with 16 gigabytes of flash memory storage and WiFi — it will go on sale in two months. For an additional $130, users can buy an iPad with third-generation (3G) wireless capability, for high-speed access from nearly anywhere. The most advance model on offer will top out at $829.

For more, click here.

July 15: Cyrus on PRI’s The World

Dear Friends,

I’ve been informed that my radio piece on the rise of the Pirate Party in Europe (including France, Switzerland, and yes, Estonia) is airing today.

It will be available on any of these stations (and their Internet streams):

NYC – 3 pm Eastern – WNYC – 820 AM –
Washington, DC – 8 pm Eastern – WAMU – 88.5 FM –
Los Angeles – 12 pm Pacific – KPCC – 89.3 FM – www.kpcc.opg
Boston – 4 pm Eastern – WGBH – 89.7 FM –
San Francisco – 2 pm Pacific – KQED – 88.5 FM –

You can also find it on The World’s site later in the day and on my site if you miss the broadcast.

Also, don’t forget about The World’s Tech Podcast, hosted by my boss, Clark Boyd. It comes out every Friday.

Lemme know if you hear it!

EU: Mobile use up, consumer prices down: Europe’s telecoms sector weathering economic downturn, says Commission report

Europe’s Information Society:

Europe leads the world in mobile phone services with the number of subscriptions in 2008 at 119% of the EU population (up 7 percentage points from 2007), well ahead of the US (87%) and Japan (84%). This is a finding of today’s Commission progress report on the single telecoms market. Despite the economic crisis, the EU’s telecoms sector (worth about 3% of EU GDP) continued to grow in 2008 with revenues estimated at above €300 billion, up 1.3% compared to 2007 and outperforming the rest of the economy (up by 1% only).

AdaLovelaceDay09: Viviane Reding (#ALD09)

Today is the first annual Ada Lovelace Day, a day where we honor women in technology. I pledged in January that if 1,000 other people agreed to blog about a woman that they admire in technology that I would do the same.

Ada Lovelace was a 19th century Englishwoman who is often considered to be the first programmer. The daughter of Lord Byron, she worked on Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine, a very early computer.

In honor of Ada, I have selected Viviane Reding, the Luxembourger who currently serves as the European Commissioner for Information Society and Media.

Reding has been a longtime advocate for improved conditions in the EU telecom market and is working to make telecom work more smoothly across the entire European Union.

Just yesterday, she called for a European consumer right to be able to change their fixed or mobile telecom operator in a single day.

As she wrote in a press release (and a related video message) yesterday:

While consumers in all 27 Member States currently have the right to change their (fixed and mobile) phone operator while keeping their number, at the moment not everyone can expect it to happen in one day, and some face a wait of two to three weeks, reducing the impact of this important right on competition and consumer choice. On average across the EU, it takes 8.5 days for a mobile number and 7.5 days for a fixed number to be ported.

That’s a bold plan, and one that I’d like to see — even if I’m not an EU citizen.

Last year, Reding worked on the issue of capping the amount of money that EU consumers pay for text messages, voice calls and mobile data. This issue went before the European Commission in September 2008.

The new proposal for reducing roaming prices:

Euro-SMS Tariff introduced: from 1 July 2009 sending an SMS from abroad would cost no more than 11 cents (excluding VAT). Receiving an SMS in another EU country will remain free of charge.

Improved transparency: customers travelling to another Member State should receive an automated message of the charges that apply for data roaming services. On 1 July 2010, operators must provide customers with the opportunity to determine in advance how much they want to spend before the service is “cut-off”.

Merci Viviane, for all your hard work! I hope to see all of these great ideas enacted soon!

The Baguette Theory of Europe

It’s a quiet, early Sunday morning in Lyon. I probably should head down to the baker, buy a couple of perfectly balanced crust and crumb baguettes and get my day started. I looked outside my window and all I see is fog. I didn’t even know fog existed this far inland. I take in a pasty white ambling mass of fuzziness and cold just hovering above and beyond the houses a short distance from my window. I can’t see towards Lyon’s downtown like I usually can.

I got up early this morning to make sure that our new friends, Amber and Michael, got out ok. They’re roaming Europe for a few months before they take over running the Pastorius Haus in Bad Windsheim, Bavaria (Southern Germany). They’re a 29-year-old married couple from Ohio and Iowa (although they’ve spent the last four years in Arkansas) who uprooted themselves at the opportunity to become houseparents (read: managers) of a small, non-profit 50-bed house named for Francis Daniel Pastorius, a 17th-18th century German immigrant to America who founded Germantown, Pennsylvania. They take over in January 2009 and will be there “for at least a year.”

There’s this strange romanticism that even we are guilty of having about Europe, which in some ways is sort of the reverse of the romanticism that probably Pastorius and other European immigrants to the US had back in the day. Europe is a land that’s largely figured it out. Everyone gets high-quality quasi-free health care and education. There are bike-sharing programs, and trains that run across entire nations in mere hours, and when they don’t, they connect right to the airport. Sure, there are problems, but overall, there’s this idea that things just make sense here, and that there’s an unparalleled joie de vivre fueled by French wine, German bread, Polish sausage, Dutch cheese, Belgian beer, Italian olives, Greek beaches, Austrian pastries, British music, Croatian coastline, Estonian forests and Finnish vodka.

When we actually come here, and see for ourselves, the surface cracks a little bit. How is it that our students have studied English for eight years and can’t string a sentence together? What’s up with the constant strikes? Why is every shop closed on Sunday, and 2-3 hours in the middle of the day? And why does every bureaucratic office require half a dozen photos to fill out any form?

I’m sure the reverse is true. Why don’t Americans get more vacation? Why does our bread suck so bad? Why does it take 12 hours to ride a train 400 miles between Los Angeles and San Francisco? Why are Americans so fat and gun-crazy?

To Europeans, it’s shocking that we had slavery until the 1860s and racist laws until well into the 20th century. To us, it’s astonishing that Europe doesn’t know how to apply the lessons of multiculturalism and Obama’s campaign to its own societies. French magazines couldn’t believe it: “Could he lose because he’s black?” To Europeans, America represents creativity, inventiveness, openness, popular culture and at the same time, atrocious poverty and racism bubble to the surface during and after events like Hurricane Katrina of 2005 or the Los Angeles Riots of 1992. Meanwhile, Americans are slowly learning how Europe brushes its inter-ethnic and inter-religious problems with a broad veneer of secularism and the theory that everyone is all the same, or at least should be. Oh, and don’t pay any attention to those Muslims.

But those baguettes. Dude, those baguettes.

AFP: Estonia fears English too dominant in its schools

Agence France Presse:

TALLINN (AFP) — Education authorities in Estonia Thursday warned that the hands-down dominance of English in its schools is depriving the Baltic state of the language specialists it will need in the future.

A hefty 84 percent of pupils in this country of 1.3 million people opt to study English, according to official statistics.

Some 41 percent take Russian as a foreign language. Russian is also the native tongue of around a third of the population.

German and French, meanwhile, come in a distant third and fourth, studied respectively by just 18 percent and three percent of pupils.

“As a result, Estonia is now lacking and also likely far into the future to lack a sufficient number of specialists able to work in other official languages of the European Union,” Kersti Sostar, head of the language department of Estonia’s state examination and qualification centre, told AFP.

NYT: Kosovo Declares Its Independence From Serbia

So Kosovo is independent now.

The last two lines in this NYT story make no sense to me:

European Union officials said Britain, France, and Germany were expected to recognize Kosovo 24 hours after the declaration, to try to stop prevent Moscow and Belgrade from trying to rally opposition to the independence declaration. The recognition of Kosovo by the United States [and] other European Union member states was expected to follow in the coming days.

President Bush, speaking Sunday in Tanzania on a tour of Africa, said the United States would continue to work to prevent violence in Kosovo in the wake of the proclamation, while reaching out to Serbia. “We will fight in each and every international forum,” he said. “Kosovo is part of Serbia.”

So wait, Bush is against a free Kosovo but the US is ok with it? Huh?

Update: Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly attributed to President Bush a statement that he did not make. The president did not say “Kosovo is part of Serbia.”

Slate: How To Steal a European Painting

By Cyrus Farivar
Posted Friday, Feb. 15, 2008, at 12:57 PM ET

Last Sunday, an art museum in Zurich, Switzerland, was robbed of four paintings worth $160 million. The crooks managed to overpower the staff at gunpoint shortly before closing time and make off with a Van Gogh, a Monet, a Degas, and a Cézanne, which were easily visible in the trunk of their fleeing car. Similar heists have taken place in other European museums in recent years. Why is it so easy to steal art in Europe?

Smaller galleries and no guns. Europe has an especially high concentration of world-class art collections, many of which are housed in modest institutions. The art in Zurich was housed in a 19th-century villa, as opposed to a large-scale museum with a complicated entrance. Further, most security personnel in European museums aren’t armed, mostly due to a culture of openness and trust, but also for reasons of expense and liability—you wouldn’t want bullets flying around an enclosed space with lots of frightened tourists and precious objets d’art. While many galleries have alarms, guards, and other staff to prevent off-hour thefts, they don’t always take precautions to avoid the most obvious scenario: armed criminals walking right through the front door.

As Earth Warms, Virus From Tropics Moves to Italy


After a month of investigation, Italian public health officials discovered that the people of Castiglione di Cervia were, in fact, suffering from a tropical disease, chikungunya, a relative of dengue fever normally found in the Indian Ocean region. But the immigrants spreading the disease were not humans but insects: tiger mosquitoes, who can thrive in a warming Europe.

Aided by global warming and globalization, Castiglione di Cervia has the dubious distinction of playing host to the first outbreak in modern Europe of a disease that had previously been seen only in the tropics.

“By the time we got back the name and surname of the virus, our outbreak was over,” said Dr. Rafaella Angelini, director of the regional public health department in Ravenna. “When they told us it was chikungunya, it was not a problem for Ravenna any more. But I thought: this is a big problem for Europe.”

The epidemic proved that tropical viruses are now able to spread in new areas, far north of their previous range. The tiger mosquito, which first arrived in Ravenna three years ago, is thriving across southern Europe and even in France and Switzerland.