Greece , Japan, Germany, Swizerland ban Google’s Street View

27 08 2009

The Swiss joined a growing chorus of nations by demanding that Google Inc. stop its “street view” service in Switzerland.

Google has been taking photographs in Switzerland and started offering the service a week ago, according to news reports. Though it used software to blur out faces and license plates, some could still be distinguished, and the Swiss government has asked Google to stop the street view feature.

Greece, Japan and Germany have all made similar protests recently because of concerns about privacy.

Google uses a vehicle with multiple cameras above its roof to take the photos while driving. Pictures have captured people in embarrassing moments or have even revealed the inside of homes — this was the sticking point for the Japanese government, which insisted Google retake the pictures from a lower height so as not to peek over fences and walls.

Comments: Does anyone like Google’s Street View? As a real estate professional, I find this feature to be very useful. However, I agree with the complaints that captured pictures sometimes reveal too much information. Privacy laws have to be observed as well.





U.S. is 15 Years Behind South Korea in Internet Speed

27 08 2009

A surprising report on Internet speed in the U.S. finds the country isn’t likely to catch world leader South Korea for 15 years or longer. At current growth rates, the U.S. will only reach South Korea’s speed today in 15 years.

The report, by the Communications Workers of America, details Internet download and upload speeds all over the U.S. and some of its affiliated territories. In the last year, the average upload speed in the U.S. “barely changed,” the report noted, and download speed only grew a little, from 4.2 megabits per second in 2008 to 5.1 megabits per second in 2009.

In South Korea, average download speed is four times faster — 20.4 megabits per second. The U.S. also lags Japan (15.8 mbps), Sweden (12.8 mbps), the Netherlands (11 mbps) and 24 other countries.

At average U.S. speed, it takes about 35 minutes to download 100 family vacation photos, and four hours to upload them.

The report said U.S. speeds aren’t sufficient for the needs of in-home medical monitoring, distance learning programs or to run a modern business from home.

“People in Japan can upload a high-definition video in 12 minutes, compared to a grueling 2.5 hours” at the average U.S. speed, the report said.

The report found Florida’s average download speed was 5.8 megabits per second, ahead of the U.S., but significantly behind the aforementioned countries. The state’s upload speed was 1.1 mbps.

The report calls for more investment in the nation’s Internet infrastructure. It also suggests shifting the outdated universal service payments that support voice telephone service over to pay for better and cheaper high-speed Internet service for everyone.

I can’t help but agree with the report. We need faster Internet speed and better Internet infrastructure in this country.





U.S. Housing Prices Inch Upward

27 08 2009

Housing prices in the U.S. increased in the second quarter, the first quarterly increase in three years and an indication the market is rebounding.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Home Price Index rose nearly 3 percent from the first quarter to 133, and June’s index was up 1.4 percent from May.

The monthly index of 20 major cities increased to 142, the second straight month it climbed. The index, which does not include Jacksonville, registered gains in all 20 markets except Las Vegas and Detroit. The two Florida markets tracked, Miami and Tampa, registered gains of less than 1 percent.

The gains have come just in the last few months. The Florida Association of Realtors reported last week that median sales prices of existing single-family homes in July were down 40 percent in Miami and 29 percent in Tampa compared to July of 2008.

Source: Jacksonville Business Journal





New Home Sales Up 9.6%

27 08 2009

There’s more promising news from the housing front.

The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that sales of new homes rose 9.6 percent in July, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 433,000. That’s above the revised June rate of 395,000, but 13.4 percent below July 2008’s rate of 500,000.

The median sales price of a new home sold in July was $210,100, while the average sales price was $269,200.

The seasonally adjusted estimate of new homes for sale at the end of last month was 271,000, representing a 7.5-month supply at the current sales rate. In the South, the seasonally adjusted estimate of new homes for sale at the end of last month was 222,000.

Home sales in the South rose 16.2 percent in July over June. Only the Northeast fared better, with home sales up 32.4 percent in the same month-over-month period.

Source: The U.S. Department of Commerce








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