Friday, February 13, 2009


Updates, and other shorts

A couple of weeks ago, I said that we shouldn’t delay the conversion to digital TV, because a delay would cause more confusion than benefit. The bill to delay it for four months passed, and President Obama signed it. And look: the first sign of confusion is already here, as AP reports that more than 25% of the country’s broadcast stations intend to convert on the original date, next week, because they already have their plans and schedules in place.

When I reported on Paris’s program of loaner bicycles for people to use around the city, back in the summer of 2007, I wondered about theft and vandalism:

What a great idea! At least for the startup, people are loving it. We’ll have to see how it works in the long run, with issues of theft and vandalism (reasons that I’d be skeptical about its success in New York City). This is something I’m going to keep an eye on.
Well, it turns out that we didn’t have to wait for it to come to New York to see those problems; they’re right there in Paris:
Of the 15,000 bicycles originally disbursed for the program, more than half have disappeared, reports the BBC, presumed to be stolen. Some Velib customers have even taken to filming their Velib (mis)adventures and posting the destruction of the bikes on video-sharing sites like YouTube (here’s one). The practice apparently even has its own catchy nickname: “Velib extreme.”

Nearly all of the original bikes have been replaced. At an estimated cost of roughly $500 each, the cost for replacing the entire fleet of 20,000 bikes would run about $10 million.

It’s long been a thorn in the paw of Washington, DC, that the city, home to the United States federal government, has no vote in the government. When I originally reported on this, the House of Representatives had passed a bill to change that. That bill was not expected to pass in the Senate, and it didn’t.

Now, nearly two years later, a new bill has finally cleared the Senate’s Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, and will go to the full Senate soon. Passage is not certain, but much more likely this time, and President Obama supports it. So do I.

In the “things are tough all over” department, a common problem in tough economic times — that companies (and individuals) don’t replace or upgrade things as often as they might otherwise — is affecting BlackBerry devices also:

The BlackBerry maker Research in Motion on Wednesday forecast profit at the low end of expectations because businesses are not buying its latest smartphone upgrades in the economic downturn.


New smartphones like the touch-screen Storm or high-end Bold were attracting new sales, the company said, but existing customers, mainly businesses, were not upgrading as frequently as expected, crimping profit margins.

Of course, the fact that the BlackBerry Storm is a big disappointment (and see the follow up) might also have something to do with that.

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