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iFive: Spycam-Twitter Suicide, Net-Savvy Shoppers, Microsoft Fights Patents, Government Adopts Future Net Code, iPad Tethering

It’s Thursday, it’s early, and it’s time to read today’s first bits of news:

If you’re reading this on a Nokia smartphone during your morning commute, then you’ll be pleased, and possibly jealous to know that the Nokia N8 is now shipping. It’s the company’s great white hope for turning around its ailing smartphone business, and the debut of the new Symbian 3 OS designed to rival the iPhone. Thing is, some early reviews suggest it’ll only really appeal to existing Nokia fans. Still, on to the real news:

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1. A college roommate’s use of a webcam to broadcast private moments of his friend seems to have led to a death by suicide. 18-year-old Tyler Clementi had asked for the room in private ’til midnight last week, and his roommate switched on a webcam in order to spy. He saw Clementi in a romantic encounter with another man, he Twittered the news and then tried to share the feed with the world over the Internet. Three days later Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge, and roommate Dharan Ravi is in jail charged with multiple counts of invasion of privacy. This communications technology is normally liberating, but in this case it broke someone’s civil liberties and apparently led to a death.

2. We’re all getting product research-savvy, if a new Pew survey is anything to go by. It reports that 58% of Americans research a product online before buying it “at least occasionally,” a big rise from the 49% figure reported in 2004. When Pew looked at “Internet users” who have home Net connections, the figure shot to 78% of adults. As well as being extremely interesting and important news to marketers and manufacturers, the figure demonstrates implicitly how much the Net is changing our lives in deep and subtle ways. A decade ago most purchase decisions would’ve been made via chats with friends and then in-store decisions made with staff–now we all go armed with more information than even store experts may have.

3. Microsoft (of all monopolistic, money-grabbing and business-dominates-all companies) may be leading a charge in the battle to refresh patent laws. It’s pushing to have a patent invalidated, which would decisively conclude its multi-year battle with a company called Ivi over patents on mark-up languages like XML. Microsoft’s case hinges on prior art–the systems in question had been on sale for over a year before Ivi applied for the patent, and the patent office didn’t investigate this. Even the EFF is behind MS on this one, and it could be seen as a test case at the beginning of a patent system overhaul. Trolls beware!

4. The U.S. government has set an official deadline
for adoption of the new IPv6 Net addressing protocol. If you’re
scratching your head–then know that the earlier IPv4 system has all but
served its purpose, and built-in restrictions to its design mean the
Net was running out of addresses for net connected gear. The Obama
administration had been promising it was high tech, but so far had
dragged its feet on requiring government agencies to switch to the new
protocol. Now government Net-connected equipment must use IPv6 by the
end of September 2012. Now at least we know the government is ready to
connect more things to the net in newer and more secure ways, which puts
it ahead of other bodies who’ll likely discover all sorts of technical woes.

5. Just a tiny Apple rumor here, but given the fact that millions of units have been sold, and millions more definitely will be, it’s interesting: A snippet of code inside a future iPad OS upgrade suggests the 3G version will be able to do internet tethering. Great news for users fed up of forking over piles of cash monthly for a mobile net connection–not so good news for Huawei and other makers of 3G data sticks.

To keep up with this news, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.

About the author

I'm covering the science/tech/generally-exciting-and-innovative beat for Fast Company. Follow me on Twitter, or Google+ and you'll hear tons of interesting stuff, I promise.

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