Stories by Bill Snyder

Make Your Laptop Battery Last Longer: 3 Tips

I never give the battery in my laptop much thought. I charge it when I need to and forget about it. That changed a couple of weeks ago when I couldn't get to the Web at home, and was reduced to working at an Internet café. Since there's lots of competition for seats with power outlets here in blogger-heavy San Francisco, I made sure my laptop was charged before I left the house.

Apple attacks its developer lifeblood

I supported Apple CEO Steve Jobs when he trashed Flash and banned it from the iPhone's and iPad's iOS. I agreed with him when he was tough on the website that purchased (probably illegally) a lost iPhone 4 prototype. But Apple has crossed the line at least twice last month, prohibiting app developers from using AdMob and Google's advertising services on the iPhone and censoring sexual content in iPhone and iPad apps.
Taken together, Apple's moves threaten to deprive developers of needed income, and they place Jobs & Co. in the role of dictating what types of content users will access on their own hardware. Neither action is good for Apple's business and they smack of monopolistic bullying.
So how did Apple, which ran the famous ad of a hammer-throwing rebel smashing an image of Big Brother, become a Big Brother wannabe?
Late last year, Google purchased AdMob, the leading seller of ads inside iPhone apps. The $750 million acquisition raised antitrust concerns, but the Federal Trade Commission decided that the deal isn't likely to harm competition in the emerging mobile advertising market.
No sooner was the deal done, then Apple turned around and used its monopolistic power against AdMob and developers who work with it. ("Monopoly" is not a dirty word. Remember: It is not illegal to have a monopoly; it is only illegal to use that power to unfairly restrain trade.)
"Apple proposed new developer terms that, if enforced as written, would prohibit app developers from using AdMob and Google's advertising solutions on the iPhone," AdMob CEO Omar Hamoui wrote in a blog post. "Let's be clear. This change is not in the best interests of users or developers."
Interestingly, the new language in the developer terms makes it OK for some developers to build ads inside iOS apps, but not others. Here is what it says: "An advertising service provider owned by or affiliated with a developer or distributor of mobile devices, mobile operating systems or development environments other than Apple would not qualify as independent." And only "independents" have that right.
Sure, Google is Apple's competitor in the mobile ad space, and there is a limit to how much cooperation it is reasonable to expect. However, given Apple's grip on the platform, locking out a competitor could well be seen as a restraint of trade.
Suppose Microsoft made it impossible for a competitor to place ads within an application that runs on Windows? It would be denounced as outrageous. And what about the promise by Jobs, who last month said earlier, "We are not going to be the only advertiser. We are not banning other advertisers from our platform?"

Five technology security myths, busted

Think you can hide behind the privacy of an 'unlisted' cell phone number? Think again. Maybe you believe you don't need security software on a Mac or iPad. You'd swear that Firefox is the safest browser in town. Wrong on both counts.

Drowning in Passwords: Tips to Stay Safe and Sane

Who the heck am I? Am I shopper-Bill, flyer-Bill, reader-Bill, buyer-Bill, potrero-Bill, or this that and the other Bill on the 30 or more sites that comprise my online life? And which of my many passwords do I need right now?

EU's stance on MySQL raises questions for Oracle

Pretend you are Oracle CEO Larry Ellison for a minute (forget about the yacht and designer suits, though). You're spending $7.4 billion to buy Sun Microsystems and all of a sudden the EU antitrust posse frets about the fate of MySQL, the popular, open source database. Would you risk the acquisition because you want to remain the proud owner of a product that may or may not have revenue potential, or would you throw it overboard?
If you are a Wall Street investment analyst, the answer is pretty clear: Give it the heave-ho.
"MySQL is a baggage, not an asset," says Trip Chowdhry of Global Equities Research. Given the EU investigation and MySQL's paltry revenue growth, Oracle's only smart option is to spin it off, he says. But spin off to where?
There's another way forward, however, and it has been championed in a blog by Matthew Aslett, who follows open source for the 451 Group. "Oracle is well aware that it has little to gain from killing off MySQL. We expect MySQL to become the scale-out database for nontransactional web applications and to compete with SQL Server in departmental deployments."
Perhaps he's right. But it is far from clear that Oracle would do much with MySQL beyond channelling users toward its own larger and more expensive products.

Why Moblin won't save the netbook from Microsoft

I'd like to believe that Intel and the open source Moblin platform (based on Linux) for mobile devices will stop Microsoft's nakedly monopolistic ploy to slow netbook sales. But they won't.
No matter what you may have read, Moblin is part of Intel's strategic move into the smartphone market, not a ploy to challenge Microsoft's hold on the netbook operating system market. Intel, which is facing increasing scrutiny from regulators in Europe and the United States, isn't in a position to tell PC makers what to do with its chips. And PC makers, who are terrified that netbooks will cannibalise sales of more profitable true notebooks, won't act either. So everyone in the industry "is happy to let Microsoft do the dirty work," says Nathan Brookwood, a principal analyst at Insight64.

The top 7 underreported tech stories of 2008

Did you know that a vicious price war is threatening to upset the wholesale bandwidth market? If you didn't, you might not be prepared when your provider is "de-peered," leaving your website as isolated as a tiny Pacific atoll. Or maybe you haven't heard much about application virtualisation, a technology that could change the way you manage networks of PCs.

Is the new Microsoft? CEO Marc Benioff has railed against Microsoft for years as he wages his self-described war on software. With more than a little justification, he has called the software giant on its bullying tactics and offered his vision of affordable, nimble software on demand against the ancient regime's insistence on cumbersome, Windows-only applications. And he's been an articulate advocate of the move to cloud computing.
Sure, his outsized ego and penchant for lavish marketing displays are a turn-off. But because has changed the industry for the better, I've been willing to cut him quite a bit of slack.
But now he's crossed a line by trying to strong-arm a tiny company into killing its most important product after it turned down his offer of a buyout. And that puts him in our Bozo Hall of Fame.