EFF goes after Volomedia podcasting patent

Remember the announcement earlier this summer about how a Silicon Valley company had patented podcasting?

Not surprisingly, the EFF is none too thrilled about this:

EFF and the law firm of Howrey, LLP aren’t willing to just sit by and watch. This patent could threaten the vibrant community of podcasters and millions of podcast listeners. We want to put a stop to it, but we need your help.

The Volomedia patent covers “a method for providing episodic media.” It’s a ridiculously broad patent, covering something that many folks have been doing for many years. Worse, it could create a whole new layer of ongoing costs for podcasters and their listeners. Right now, just about anyone can create their own on-demand talk radio program, earning an audience on the strength of their ideas. But more costs and hassle means that podcasting could go the way of mainstream radio — with only the big guys able to afford an audience. And we’d have a bogus patent to blame.

VoloMedia awarded patent for podcasting

So this Sunnyvale ad company, VoloMedia, has been awarded U.S. patent 7,568,213 for podcasting.

The abstract:

A personalized media service provides, e.g., user customization of radio channel selections, immediate availability of multiple preprogrammed and/or customized channels, the ability to intersperse different types of content including periodically refreshed information content, availability of personal radio functions on devices such as car audio systems, PDAs, smartphones, MP3 players, etc. Available channels include, e.g., pre-programmed channels selected for the user based on an interest profile, user-owned content, user-specified recorded content, etc. An audio user interface facilitates user selection of programming and user purchase of currently played audio material. An overall radio experience is thus provided that combines the customization and flexibility of digital media with the immediacy and ubiquity of radio. Video materials may also be accommodated.

This is potentially pretty big. I’m trying to get a company rep on the line to explain to me how this is possible — given that Dave Winer and Adam Curry invented podcasting back in 2001 (two years before this patent was filed) — and what they intend on doing with it. If VoloMedia starts suing left and right, podcasting could get ugly really fast.

More soon.

My foray into chemistry reporting

My new freelancer buddy Mia Lobel asked if I wanted to do a story for her new chemistry podcast, Distillations, sponsored by the Chemical Heritage Foundation.

I filed a piece about using Second Life to teach chemistry, and the efforts of Prof. Jean-Claude Bradley of Drexel University, who has set up an online world with larger than Second Life in-world molecules.

Have a listen here — my story starts at the 7:20 mark.

Macworld Podcast #19: CES Report


by Cyrus Farivar

With Macworld Expo less than a week away, whet your technology trade show appetite with talk of January’s other major event, the Consumer Electronics Show. Intrepid editors Jonathan Seff and Christopher Breen are spending this week in the oasis that is Las Vegas, driving Macworld’s coverage of this massive trade show.

Jon took a few moments out of pounding the pavement of the Vegas Strip to report on the Mac-compatible products on display at CES.

Download Macworld Podcast #19 (7.1 MB – 15.5 min)

Macworld Podcast #18: Expo preview


by Cyrus Farivar

No final 2005 podcast would be complete without a look forward as to what to expect from Apple in 2006. The next big event is Macworld Expo—to be held Jan. 9 – 13 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco—so the Macworld editors have been pondering what they might see at the biggest Mac-related trade show of the year.

I spoke with Paul Kent, Vice President of IDG World Expo, one of the head honchos in charge of this year’s conference.

In addition, I checked in with some of my colleagues, Jason Snell, Editorial Director and Jonathan Seff, Sr. News Editor. They discussed what Apple may be doing at this year’s Expo, including the major shift to Intel-based Apple hardware.

Download Macworld Podcast #18 (10.6 MB – 23 minutes).

Macworld Podcast #17: Eddy Awards


By Cyrus Farivar

Around the Macworld offices, we don’t need a calendar to tell us when we’re getting close to the end of the year. All we have to do is take a look around at all the Eddy Award statues waiting to be doled out to the makers of the best Mac hardware and software of the past 12 months.

It’s that time of year once again, as we’re devoting this week to unveiling the winners of our 21st Annual Editors’ Choice Awards. And the Macworld Podcast is getting into the act as well, featuring interviews with three recipients of 2005’s honors.

First up, we talk to a relatively new Mac developer, Whitney Young, author of Senuti.

Senuti, for the uninitiated, is a convenient (and free) way to get your digital music files off of your iPod and to your Mac. Keep up the good work, Whitney.

Young is a 20-year-old sophomore majoring in computer science at Northwestern University. He’s had a nice little streak going lately, having won one of Playlist’s 2005 Plays of the Year just last week.

I also spoke with Dave Nanian of Shirt Pocket Software, developers of the great backup utility, SuperDuper. And this podcast wraps up with an interview with Rich Siegel of Bare Bones Software, which is receiving its third consecutive Eddy Award. This time around, Bare Bones takes home the prize for TextWrangler, one of the best text editors out there. Plus, it’s now free!

Download Macworld Podcast #17 (11.4 MB – 25 minutes).