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Beach Reading

August 5, 2008 - 2 Comments

Blackbeard in the Outer BanksHeading for vacation on the Outer Banks, and enjoying How to Read a North Carolina Beach. I suppose my inner engineer likes to know how things work, even the sand and waves.As with many people soon to appear on a public beach in a swimsuit, I wish I’d remembered to exercise more and eat less. An article in the Stanford alumni magazine describes how mobile devices can help remind people to maintain their fitness regimen. A study by Dr. Abby King showed that “hand-held computers may be effective tools for increasing initial physical activity levels among underactive adults.” The participants equipped with a PDA that reminded them to go walking exercised twice as much as the control group. A similar study prompted users to eat more vegetables and whole grains. Considering most of us carry mobile devices everywhere we go, using it for fitness reminders and diet recording makes sense.Inspired by this research, a company called Wellsphere offers the Wellphone service, which allows any mobile phone user to receive exercise reminders, log meal choices, and access other health and fitness resources. Meanwhile, the new iPhone App Store on iTunes shows seven choices when searched for “fitness” and nine for “diet,” ranging in price from free to $19.99. Similar diet and exercise software is available for Windows Mobile devices. And phones are available that feature a pedometer, to measure just how mobile you are. For the truly obsessed, NTT DoCoMo offers a wellness phone that counts your steps, measures your body fat, and even detects bad breath!Of course, just downloading software to your mobile phone won’t make you fit, any more than just joining a health club. You still have to exercise more and eat less to have that beach-friendly body. Darn.Paging through another alumni magazine, I saw an opinion piece by Steve Marks, general counsel of the Recording Industry Association of America. As you’d expect, he inveighs against piracy, sharing music in violation of copyright law, particularly on college campuses. Marks was an undergraduate and law student at Duke, so presumably he’s particularly pained by piracy at his alma mater. Certainly, I agree that copyright violations are wrong. But this sentence caught my attention: “What’s more, piracy harms the thousands of regular, working-class individuals who rely on a healthy music business to sustain their livelihoods…[including] the father of three logging a long shift in a CD manufacturing plant.”This argument seems to capture how the recording industry muddled the issue of copyright violation (clearly wrong), with the trend that digital distribution was obsoleting its traditional business model (amoral economic reality). For too long, they framed the choice as piracy vs. buying entire albums on plastic disks. As iTunes shows, plenty of people are willing to pay for music, if they can buy the songs they want in digital form. In fairness, Marks also describes the “bright, young technologist working to build the newest innovative (and legal) platform for enjoying music.” But legal arguments often thinly disguise the defense of entrenched business interests, a tactic used in the telecommunications industry as often as the recording industry.The Outer Banks has its history with pirates of the more traditional variety. Perhaps I’ll find a good beach book about the pirate Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. He reportedly yelled”Damnation seize my soul if I give your quarters, or take any from you!” during an attack by the Royal Navy, which proved his final battle. Definitely not a man prepared to debate the finer legalities of his business model!

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  1. The RTP campus has some definite perks when you want to bug out for the weekend :)However, I’m not sure how much escape”” you’ll have from wireless broadband on the way there or when you arrive.”

  2. Another piece that got some attention this past year that I thought of when I saw the name Steve Marks…”