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ExtraBITS for 1 August 2011

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We have four more stories for you this week: news of AT&T limiting data throughput for heavy data users on unlimited plans, problems a few users are having with multiple Mac App Store charges for Lion, the FDA seeking public input on medical app regulations, and a fascinating proposal to heat residences with “data furnaces.”

AT&T to Limit Throughput for Heaviest Data Users with Unlimited Plans -- Bandwidth may be getting cheaper and more available all the time, but you wouldn’t guess it from AT&T’s latest announcement. The company says that, starting 1 October 2011, it will limit throughput rates for the top 5 percent of data users with unlimited plans — whose use is what AT&T calls an “extraordinary” amount of data. AT&T takes pains to point out that this will not apply to the 15 million smartphone customers with tiered data plans or 95 percent of those with unlimited data plans.

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Beware Multiple Mac App Store Charges for Lion -- We’re not surprised that there have been some glitches in the Mac App Store distribution of 1 million copies of Lion in one day, but it’s worth paying attention when you download, since some people — undoubtedly a very small proportion — are seeing multiple charges for Lion. Most of the problems appear to be related to using PayPal to pay for the transaction. Some people are having no trouble getting refunds; others are getting the runaround. There’s nothing special to do; just stay alert after placing your order to make sure that if multiple charges do happen, you’ve documented everything for customer service at Apple, PayPal, and your bank.

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FDA Seeking Public Input on Medical App Regulations -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is seeking public comment on new proposed guidelines for mobile medical apps to ensure they don’t pose a risk to patients. But the proposal is quite narrow; it’s aimed only at apps that are used as an accessory to an FDA-approved medical device or turn the mobile device into something that would otherwise be regulated by the FDA. Still, if you’re interested in this field, now is your chance to register your comments.

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Heat Your Home by Hosting Servers (PDF) -- While an increasing amount of data and computing power is moving into the cloud, this paper by Microsoft Research and researchers at the University of Virginia proposes relocating the servers that host cloud services into residential dwellings, where the heat produced can be used to heat the home during the cold months. Most interesting is the researchers’ calculation that using their “data furnace” concept could result in savings of up to $300 per server per year, in comparison to traditional data centers. Regardless of whether the numbers would bear out in reality, I can say with assurance than a single Mac Pro and two 24-inch monitors makes my office significantly more comfortable in the winter.

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