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ExtraBITS for 30 August 2010

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As school starts for college students, we note that iTunes U downloads have passed the 300 million mark and that Seton Hall University is relying on Art Authority for iPad for several art history classes. Also, Garmin is recalling 1.25 million nüvi GPS navigation units, and Lex Friedman opines at Macworld about the effect of royalty-free H.264 video.

iTunes U Downloads Exceed 300 Million -- Apple last week announced that iTunes U content downloads have rolled past the 300 million mark. iTunes U doesn't get much press, but the division of the iTunes Store brings together audio and video educational content from hundreds of universities; it now contains over 350,000 lectures and other content from institutions of higher learning around the globe. Apple deserves kudos for providing iTunes U content for free, and if you haven't yet checked out the iTunes U section of the iTunes Store, we encourage you to do so.

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Will Royalty-Free H.264 Revolutionize Web Video? Over at Macworld, Lex Friedman spends more than 1,000 words talking about video codecs. But it's not all nerd-speak. MPEG LA has announced that it will never charge royalties for free H.264 videos. That's important because HTML5 video, which lets you watch Web video without requiring plug-ins like Flash, is currently difficult for publishers and consumers alike, with different browsers providing limited support for different codecs. While H.264 - which Apple already supports in both Safari and Mobile Safari - already has buy-in from major media companies like CNN, Major League Baseball, and YouTube, this announcement could very well spark a unification of HTML5 video formats.

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Garmin Recalls 1.25 Million nüvi GPS Devices -- Garmin is voluntarily recalling about 1.25 million nüvi GPS devices, nearly 800,000 of which were sold in the United States. The recall is to address a problem with the battery that could cause the device to overheat and become a fire hazard. Affected units include the nüvi 200W, 250W, 260W, and 7xx (where xx is a two-digit number), though apparently not the 255W we reviewed in 2008. Fewer than 10 cases of overheating have been identified, but Garmin will replace the battery and insert a spacer before returning your GPS, free of charge.

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Art Authority for iPad Helps Seton Hall Students -- Seton Hall University, which is providing free iPads to all fulltime students, has now announced a collaboration with We-Envision.com, creators of the Art Authority for iPad app, under which art history students will use the app as an integral part of classes this semester. Seton Hall's pilot program is aimed at understanding how the iPad can be used to aid, extend, and transform the traditional learning environment, and it will be interesting to see how Art Authority enables the students to go beyond the usual uses of the iPad as a stand-in for a paper textbook.

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