Apple sues student web site

In a reversal of Apple Computer’s traditional stance as a hip, cool company supportive of student technology endeavors, Apple is suing Harvard University student Nicholas Ciarelli’s web site, www.ThinkSecret.com, alleging it illegally published company trade secrets. The Jan. 4 lawsuit also targets the web site’s unnamed sources for the leaks.

Ciarelli, whose identity as the site’s publisher and editor was published only this week, is not named as a defendant. But he says he hopes to find free or low-cost legal help to argue that he deserves First Amendment protection and used proper newsgathering techniques to break news about the Mac mini computer and other inside information about Apple. (See “Apple unveils two bare-bones devices“.)

Harvard student Nicholas Ciarelli, who broke news about two Apple products before they were released, has been publishing a controversial web site about the company since he was 13 years old. (Associated Press photo)

“A lot of lawyers are interested in my case, but few are able to do it for free or low cost,” Ciarelli, of Cazenovia, N.Y., said in an eMail interview with the Associated Press (AP). “I’m seeking representation.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based civil liberties group, said on Jan. 24 it would not defend Think Secret, even though it is defending two other sites, AppleInsider.com and PowerPage.org, that Apple is trying to subpoena to reveal sources. Unlike the Think Secret case, those sites are not being sued.

SPECIAL REPORTS

Learn about technologies that are revolutionizing school administration and classroom instruction in eSN Special Reports. Each report offers a comprehensive overview of a hot topic in the education field.

  • School Safety and Security
  • Informed Instruction
  • IP Telephony
  • Accessible Technologies
  • Data-Driven Decision Making
  • “In addition to being subpoenaed for sources, [Ciarelli is] being directly sued for trade secret misappropriation,” said Kurt Opsahl, a staff attorney with the organization. “We’re trying to find him counsel.”

    Ciarelli, who described himself as “an enthusiastic fan of Apple’s products since an early age,” started www.ThinkSecret.com in 1998 when he was 13. The site, which accepts advertising, is read by Apple enthusiasts and industry analysts because of its exclusive stories about company developments.

    On Dec. 28, the web site published an article, citing “highly reliable sources,” that revealed details of an inexpensive, bare-bones Mac mini computer that would be priced at $499–two weeks before the Mac mini was unveiled at Apple’s MacWorld conference.

    Another Think Secret story on Jan. 6 correctly predicted Apple’s rollout at that show of a $149, 1-gigabite flash-memory version of the company’s popular iPod music player. The web site got some of the details wrong, however, citing sources suggesting Apple would also offer a 2-gigabyte version for $199.

    In a statement Jan. 14, Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple said the web site “solicited information about unreleased Apple products from these individuals, who violated their confidentiality agreements with Apple by providing details that were later posted on the Internet.”

    Apple declined to answer questions about whether Ciarelli, who called himself Nick dePlume online instead of using his real name, would also be sued.

    Ciarelli’s identity as the site’s editor and publisher had circulated recently on the internet, but the information became widely known only on Jan. 12, when The Harvard Crimson, the university’s student newspaper, confirmed it.

    The Think Secret case is the third intellectual-property lawsuit that Apple has filed recently. Apple also sued two men who allegedly distributed pre-release copies of an upcoming version of Apple’s Mac OS X software, as well as unnamed individuals for allegedly leaking details about a future and as yet-unannounced music product, code-named Asteroid.

    At the MacWorld show, Apple executives told AP the company is merely defending itself.

    “Innovation is what Apple is all about, and we want to continue to innovate and surprise and delight people with great products, so we have a right to protect our innovation and secrecy,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide product marketing.

    Links:

    Think Secret
    http://www.ThinkSecret.com

    Apple Computer Inc.
    http://www.apple.com

    tags

    Award assists educators in the purchase of SMART products

    This grant is an educational award that assists educators in the purchase of SMART products for their classrooms. Developed by the SMARTer Kids Foundation, the grant helps tens of thousands of K-12 schools, higher-education facilities, and technical institutions acquire interactive technology by increasing its affordability. The SMARTer Kids Grant for SMART Products is available to all public or private, accredited, not-for-profit educational institutions, authorized homeschoolers, museums, science centers, and libraries involved in K-12, college, university, vocational and technical instruction or administration. Institutions must provide educational programming, which is recognized by your local school district and be located in the United States or Canada. Grants will be awarded based on the feasibility, originality, and innovative elements provided on the grant application, as judged by a committee appointed by the Foundation. Homeschoolers must supplement their application form with a copy of the letter of intent or registration form that was submitted to the local school board or department of education declaring homeschooling status. Additionally, we require a copy of the confirmation letter from the school board or department of education acknowledging the applicant has declared homeschooling as a primary method for instruction. Grant amounts are 15 to 70 percent of the suggested list price for the purchase of qualifying SMART products. To receive pricing, please contact the SMART Education Reseller in your area or the Foundation.

    tags

    Apple unveils two bare-bones devices

    At its Macworld Conference and Expo Jan. 11, Apple Computer announced two new products of possible interest to educators: a computer meant to compete with budget desktop PC providers and a less expensive version of the popular iPod music player.

    The iPod shuffle music player is already shipping, while the Mac mini CPU goes on sale in the U.S. on Jan. 22 and worldwide on Jan. 29. It’s unclear how these lower priced Apple alternatives will affect budget decisions in education–but their release brings two new Apple products, traditionally more expensive than PCs, within range of the smaller school and university budgets.

    The stripped-down Mac mini CPU is sold at a standard retail price of $499 for the 40-gigabyte (GB) version. An 80 GB version costs $100 more. The unit comes with the Mac OS X Panther operating system, a combination CD/DVD drive and CD-only burner, and the Apple iLife software bundle that includes music and movie-making software, Quicken 2005, and AppleWorks 6 “to compose a spreadsheet or write the next literary classic,” as the company puts it.

    SPECIAL REPORTS

    Learn about technologies that are revolutionizing school administration and classroom instruction in eSN Special Reports. Each report offers a comprehensive overview of a hot topic in the education field.

  • School Safety and Security
  • Informed Instruction
  • IP Telephony
  • Accessible Technologies
  • Data-Driven Decision Making
  • The mini, however, does not include a monitor, keyboard, mouse, or any peripherals at that price. Selecting the cheapest monitor shown on Apple’s web site and the recommended mouse and keyboard boosts the system’s price to at least $700 with any education discount.

    Apple says it will sell the Mac mini at a discount of $479 to educators via its web site. That price does not appear to include any education-specific software.

    Jai Chaluni, senior product manager for consumer desktops for Apple, said that the Mac mini was inspired entirely by customer feedback. “It is our universal product,” Chaluni said. “Customers want a full-feature, powerful Mac, with up to a gig of memory. You can add many features, airport, and BlueTooth [wireless technology], at a price comparable to many PCs.”

    The new Mac mini, Chaluni said, “allows schools and institutions to squeeze out everything they can get from systems they already own,” adding that educators will be able to re-purpose all of their existing peripherals for the mini.

    The company, however, says the mini should be of great interest to educators who are frustrated with viruses, spyware, and other problems specifically targeting PCs. Apple says schools can buy the Mac mini as is, use previously purchased monitors, keyboards, and other gear, and affordably solve such problems.

    The mini costs $120 less than Apple’s entry-level eMac, the company’s signature desktop machine for schools, which starts at $599 for a 40-GB version but also includes a built-in monitor and student software bundle. A CD/DVD burner costs extra for the eMac.

    The iPod shuffle is a $99 alternative to the model in the next price category, the iPod mini, which retails at $249. Given the recent interest in iPods as educational tools, the shuffle could prompt educators to take a closer look at the technology for their schools.

    Described by Apple CEO Steve Jobs as “smaller and lighter than a pack of gum,” the standard shuffle model has 512 megabytes (MB) of flash memory and holds about 120 songs–or up to 12 hours of continuous playback time. A 1-GB version of the shuffle with twice the memory is available for $149. Space can be made in the device’s memory to store other types of files, providing students and teachers with just as much memory for transporting homework and other documents.

    Unlike other iPod models that feature a display screen, the shuffle includes only a circular control switch on one side with options to play, pause, skip, repeat, and hold. A toggle slide on the other side of the device permits the user to reset the device’s “random” feature and change the order of the songs. The user must either listen to the songs in random order or arrange them on a Mac or PC before uploading them to the device.

    Last August, Duke University gave its incoming freshmen new fourth-generation 20-GB Apple iPods as part of a project with Apple to study and promote “creative uses of technology in education and campus life.”

    Duke’s iPods were uploaded with campus maps, school contact information, calendars, and other useful information for students. Students can update this information from the Duke web site, and the university also has started a program to loan out iPods to upperclassmen.

    Spanish instructor Lisa Merschel has used the iPods extensively with her introductory Spanish students. According to Duke’s web site, Merschel has students listen to digital recordings of excerpts from Spanish-language books; review the pronunciation of each week’s vocabulary words; and listen to audio exercises inside and outside of class. She also provides students with Spanish-language songs for additional instruction on anguage and pronunciation.

    Other students and instructors at Duke are using the iPods for various purposes in classes ranging from introductory economics, to music and writing courses, to a German-language course called “Berlin in the 20th Century.” Students use the iPods to listen to music, record lectures, download and listen to digital recordings of historic speeches, do language exercises, and even to “collect and analyze pulse rate data.”

    High schools might not want to give their incoming freshmen iPod shuffles. But a loaner program similar to the one Duke has established for upperclassmen could be useful in secondary education. While the shuffle’s limited playing options and memory could pose a problem for obsessive audiophiles, the device gives educators and students plenty of memory for downloading exercises and assignments onto the devices for use and transport. The devices also could be issued to students with special needs who, for whatever reason, need to listen to lectures from a remote location.

    The shuffle’s lack of a display screen will not permit students to download visual information as they can with higher priced versions. The absence of a screen also limits an educator’s ability to give an assignment that must advance sequentially from one exercise to another, because students would not have the option of scrolling through labeled files. But teachers could have students download exercises onto the shuffle in order, followed by copies of homework assignments and other materials.

    As is the case with iPod, Apple has not developed its own recording feature for the iPod shuffle–although other companies might eventually offer a compatible product. For its part, Apple has not announced whether it will develop additional accessories for the iPod shuffle in the future.

    Related story:

    Duke to provide freshmen with iPods

    Links:

    Apple Computer Inc.
    http://www.apple.com

    Duke University’s iPod initiative
    http://www.duke.edu/ipod

    tags

    Teen safety group asks high-schoolers to build its web site

    The Concord Journal of Concord, Mass., reports that a local nonprofit group devoted to teen safety has enlisted a classroom of high school students to build its web site. Concord-Carlisle High School teacher Jim Moriarity has been working with 11 students in his web design class to launch a site for the teen safety group, which is saving money on the project while giving area teens some valuable experience.

    tags

    Vending-machine industry telling kids all about nutrition

    The Washington Post reports that the vending-machine trade association hopes to counter negative publicity about vending machines in schools by promoting information about the nutritional value of its food. The association hired former NFL star Lynn Swann as a spokesman for a campaign against childhood obesity that encourages kids to eat the healthier foods stocked in school vending machines. (Note: This site requires registration.)

    tags

    $40 million software grant program to improve education in U.S.

    The Learn.com software grant program was designed to support U.S. educational institutions with their continued quest to develop truly engaging and interactive computer-based training and eLearning courseware. Learn.com grant recipients will receive single user licenses for the award-winning, CourseMaker Studio authoring suite. CourseMaker Studio is a rapid eLearning development and delivery tool that uniquely enables the creation of full screen, fully synchronized interactive multimedia with “streaming” graphics, animation, text, and audio. Finished courses can be delivered over the internet and intranet using minimal bandwidth or via CD-ROM. CourseMaker Studio is ideal for Subject Matter Expert (SME) authoring or high-end developers. Individuals and organizations that qualify for this grant will receive the software download instructions via eMail. If you would prefer that the software be sent on CD-ROM, then applicable shipping costs will apply. Commercial technical support is also available through this Grant Program via training manual. The Learn.com software license is not transferable. Use of the Learn.com software must be according to the terms of the Learn.com end-user software license. The department of the academic institution intending to use the Learn.com software must apply for the grant. (No third-party grant applications will be accepted). There is no fee to join this program.

    tags

    $10,000 in savings bonds for winning science projects

    What will technology look like in another 20 years? That’s the question thousands of students in grades K-12 will answer as they compete in the annual ExploraVision Awards program–one of the world’s largest K-12 science and technology competitions. Students work in teams to research a technology, or an aspect of a technology, that is present in the home, school, and/or community, or any other technology relevant to their lives. Students may choose something as simple as a pencil or as complex as a quantum computer. They have to explore what the technology does, how it works, and how, when, and why it was invented. The students must then project what that technology could be like 20 years from now. Finally, they must convey their vision to others through both a written description and five graphics simulating web pages. Students from the four first-place teams will each receive a $10,000 U.S. Series EE savings bond. Second-place winners receive $5,000 U.S. Series EE savings bonds. First- and second-place Canadian winners receive Canada savings bonds purchased for the equivalent issue price in Canadian dollars.

    tags

    Texas district earns high praise from state’s consultant

    The Herald-Zeitung of New Braunfels, Texas, reports that New Braunfels’ schools are being called a model for other districts by Texas Education Agency consultant Kay Abernathy. TEA will post a video about New Braunfels’ use of technology on TEA’s official web site. “This says a lot for our teachers,” said the district’s instructional technology director, Jennifer Faulkner. “They make sure our students are actively engaged in learning.”

    tags

    NASA teaching resources, plus $17,500 to buy technology

    Schools from across the country are now eligible to apply online for an opportunity to partner with NASA in a program designed to bring engaging mathematics, science, and technology learning to educators, students, and families. Each year, the NASA Explorer Schools (NES) program establishes a three-year partnership between NASA and 50 school teams, consisting of teachers and education administrators from diverse communities across the country. While partnered with NASA, NES teams will acquire and use new teaching resources and technology tools for grades 4-9 using NASA’s unique content, experts, and other resources. Schools in the program are eligible to receive up to $17,500 (pending continued funding) over the three-year period to purchase technology tools that support science and mathematics instruction.

    tags

    Superintendent urges computer labs for all elementary schools

    The Daily Review of Towanda, Pa., reports that local superintendent Ray Fleming says the failure of local school officials to equip four elementary schools with computer labs hurts students when they reach high school. The students from these four schools lag behind their peers when it comes to computer literacy, but the district is committed to rectifying the situation.

    tags