News In Tech Reviewed

Omar Gallaga, who covers technology culture for the Austin American-Statesman, says China is combating its own cases of Internet addiction. He also discusses plans by some airlines to offer free WiFi service and previews Beatles Rock Band.

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NOAH ADAMS, host:

And now for more on Web detox and the rest of the week's tech news, I'm joined by Omar Gallaga. He covers technology culture for the Austin American-Statesman. Omar, the first center for Internet addiction in the U.S. - should I be cynical here? Should I be more surprised that A, it's the first of its kind or B, that it's in a massage therapist's country home?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. OMAR GALLAGA (Technology Journalist, Austin American-Statesman): Well, not to get too deep into the location, but I really don't think it's been treated as much of a phenomenon as it has been in other countries like China and South Korea. In China there are several hundred Internet addiction treatment centers. And there was a study, I believe, out of the China Youth Association for Network Development in 2008 claiming that 9.7 percent of Chinese Internet users between 13 and 30 have an Internet addiction. It may be that we're just catching up to this from other countries that are much more Internet dependent, but when you think about things like Facebook and Twitter and World of Warcraft, I mean, these are very persistent things that go 24 hours a day and are constantly updating. And it's easy to see how someone can get really caught up in that and feel like they're going to miss something if they're not online all the time.

So for me, where is that line drawn between what's addiction and what's just, you know, wanting not to miss something and wanting to be constantly connected? I see that quite a lot. But I'm not sure the cure is feeding chickens outside, but we'll see.

ADAMS: Oh, you're cruel.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GALLAGA: You can feed chickens in World of Warcraft, I think.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ADAMS: Now to the increasingly unfriendly skies. There's always something -airlines charging for anything and everything. Southwest says they're going to charge $10 to let you on the plane a little bit earlier, and you get less in return on many airlines. Several airlines, though, are thinking about free in-flight WiFi service, at least free to begin with.

Mr. GALLAGA: Yeah, that actually could sweeten the deal a bit for the Internet addicted. Several airlines including Delta, United American, Virgin, and Jet Blue - they've all begun offering high-speed wireless Internet on some of their flights and routes. Southwest Airlines says it will offer the service on all flights early next year, and you might not necessarily get all of the Internet that you want. Applications like Skype and other voice-over-IP applications will probably be outlawed because they don't want you jabbering away mid-flight next to your neighbors.

Now, there was a study by the WiFi Alliance in conjunction with Wakefield Research that says that 76 percent of fliers would choose an airline based on the ability of in-flight WiFi, and that 71 percent would opt for a flight with WiFi access over one that serves meals. So you tell me whether that's something that will sell more airline tickets.

ADAMS: Let's go to music tech now and this is a big week for the Beatles. There is a thing called "The Beatles: Rock Band" that's coming out Wednesday, and you have been playing with that. What's it like?

Mr. GALLAGA: Yeah, "The Beatles: Rock Band" launches on Wednesday, 9-9-09. It'll also be the same day as the major remastered CD sets that are coming out. Now the game is - it's similar to Guitar Hero and Rock Band. It's actually the same people who did the Rock Band games, and it comes with 45 Beatles songs right out of the box. And you can download two more albums' worth of music on launch day, "Abbey Road" and "Sgt. Pepper." And yeah, we have been playing it at my house over the weekend.

(Soundbite of laughter)

My daughter and wife and I hooked it up and did the three-part harmonies which you can do in this game. You can hook up three microphones and do that on the vocals. You know, you've got a drum set and guitar, and it really does combine the whimsy of the Beatles and, you know, the brilliant song catalog with the very polished game play from Harmonix. That's the studio behind the game and the other Rock Band games. So, yeah, if you're a Beatles fan it's going to be a must play, especially if you're into video games at all.

ADAMS: Omar, thank you for catching us up here.

Mr. GALLAGA: Thanks for having me and we will be putting links to all of these stories on the NPR All Tech Considered blog at npr.org/alltech.

ADAMS: Omar Gallaga covers technology culture for the Austin American-Statesman and for All Tech Considered.

(Soundbite of song "Eight Days a Week")

Mr. JOHN LENNON (The Beatles): (Singing) Ooh I need your love babe, guess you know it's true. Hope you need my love babe, just like I need you. Hold me, love me, hold me, love me. I ain't got nothin' but love babe, eight days a week. Love you every day girl, always on my mind. One thing I can say girl, love you all the time...

ADAMS: This is NPR, National Public Radio.

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