Cybernaut 

Canada gets the iPhone

Canada has had the iPhone unofficially for as long as the U.S., with users unlocking the software restrictions and simply buying a cell service plan compatible with iPhone’s capability. In that sense it was no different than purchasing a Blackberry, then shopping for a plan after the fact.

However, the average person isn’t up to the technical challenge of unlocking an iPhone, and there is always the risk that unlocked phones will be bricked (locked out rendered about as useful as a brick) by Apple updates until you either reinstall the original software or load a software workaround.

As a result most Canadians haven’t bothered to get iPhones, and we can expect the official national release of the iPhone to be a big freakin’ deal — not because it’s the only kind of phone out there that does what it does (there are a dozen credible iPhone clones out there by now), but simply because the iPhone is so damn cool. Few companies design products that make you yearn for them like Apple does, or make tech geeks drool. At an Apple store in Hawaii last November I watched a grown man practically threaten to hold his breath unless his wife would let him buy an iPhone — she didn’t give in, but I’ll never forget his hangdog look as he left the store, giving the iPhone one last sad glance.

Here’s what we know so far about the Canadian iPhone launch. The cost of the next generation (3G) iPhone has been cut to $199 for the 8GB unit, and to $299 for the 16GB unit — a price drop of around $100.

The new iPhone offers e-mail support with Microsoft Exchange, and can read Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF formats. It will also only work on Rogers’ highspeed packet access (HSPA) wireless network, which means your service plan options will be limited to Rogers and Fido in the beginning. When you purchase a phone you’ll have to sign on to a three-year contract, and, like the U.S., there are probably stiff penalties for dropping out early — not that there’s anywhere else to go if you want to use your phone.

The exact details of the plan or the monthly costs are still unknown at this point, but three years is probably longer than most marriages these days and the plans could cost users thousands.

It’s also been rumoured that it will be illegal to unlock the phones, and that any unlocked phones will be regularly bricked.

Which leads us to…

 

Why you should fear the Copyright Act

Naturally when you buy your iPhone, you’re going to want to load some of your music on it. However, the new Canadian Copyright Act presented last week creates new restrictions for downloading music, copying songs to CDs, unlocking cellphones and time-shifting television shows (e.g. watching a Ontario network in B.C. to see Letterman three hours earlier). The legislation would also make it illegal to break technical locks on media, which means that you can’t even copy CDs protected by digital right management software to your computer, or record certain television programs with security coding.

I can see Pay Per View stations wanting to prevent people from recording new movies, but there’s nothing in the legislation to stop television networks from adding locks to just about everything to prevent you from recording shows and fast-forwarding through the commercials. The lock used doesn’t even have to work or make any sense, it just has to be there.

This is the same Act that stirred up a minor firestorm last year when some of its content was still just a rumour, prompting artists, librarians, telecommunications businesses, and a 40,000 member strong Facebook group to protest. It opens the doors for all kinds of civil actions that could have a negative effect on arts and culture in the country.

Canada’s current Copyright Act actually expired in May after being written in 1985 (with amendments through the 90s and 00s), and obviously a lot has changed since then. There’s no question that the legislation needs to be updated, but you have to wonder who the government talked to when creating the update — The music industry, which has long lobbied for the right to sue downloaders and ISPs for illegal music sharing? The film industry, which has accused Canada of being a bootlegger’s paradise? Foreign governments that want Canada to sign on to ACTA, making it illegal to transport illegally copied material like MP3s across the border on your laptop or iPod?

It’s a safe bet that the new Copyright Act will never pass without some give and take on both sides, but I get the feeling that Canadians will have to be content to move sideways instead of forward when it comes to issues of copyright.

 

Website of the Week

There are a number of important releases to mention. One is the release of the Opera 9.5 browser, which I’ve never personally used but is getting rave reviews from people who know far more than me. It’s apparently the only browser to pass the Acid 3 test, which basically means it reads more formats, programming languages and plug-ins than other browsers, and does it all very fast. It’s also apparently very secure, and very user-friendly. To try it, visit http://my.opera.com.

Also worth noting is the official release of the Firefox 3 browser on June 17. I’ve been a Firefox user for a while now, and while I don’t necessarily find it faster than Safari or Explorer I like the features it comes with and the ability to add a variety of plug-ins. The plug-ins I use the most are the Wesabe uploader (www.wesabe.com), StumbleUpon (www.stumbleupon.com) and a feature called Read It Later that is available through the Firefox add-on portal. For your copy, visit www.firefox.com.

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