Thursday, December 20, 2007

Byte Into It - 19 Dec 07

Digg - Google releases Zeitgeist 2007
Anna Nicole Smith, facebook, the iPhone were all top searches in 2007. See who else made the list...

Best of 2007: Top 7 Coolest Web Apps
While everyone is trying to create their ultimate list of the winners and losers of 2007, please allow us to take a different, utterly subjective route, and choose the coolest web applications of 2007

The 15 Biggest Tech Disappointments of 2007 - Yahoo! News
From on-demand video services that were overly demanding, to underwhelming operating-system updates, 2007 was full of disappointments.

Slashdot | Vista Named Year's Most Disappointing Product
PC Magazine has declared that Windows Vista is the most disappointing product of 2007. Quoting: 'Five years in the making and this is the best Microsoft could do?... No wonder so many users are clinging to XP like shipwrecked sailors to a life raft, while others who made the upgrade are switching back. And when the fastest Vista notebook PC World has ever tested is an Apple MacBook Pro, there's something deeply wrong with the universe

Comic Life 1.4: Image Adjustment, New Styles, and More | MacApper
Comic Life, Plasq’s fantastic comic creation application has been updated to version 1.4. For the uninitiated, the Apple Design Award winning Comic Life allows you to take photos and turn them into comics–complete with speech bubbles, panels, and stylized text.

Digg - KDE 4.0 to be Released in January
The KDE Release Team has decided to release KDE 4.0 this coming January. The release was originally planned for mid-December. The KDE developers want to solve a couple of essential issues before releasing

Linux is about to take over the low end of PCs
Opinion -- Sometimes, several unrelated changes come to a head at the same time, with a result no one could have predicted. The PC market is at such a tipping point right now and the result will be millions of Linux-powered PCs in users' hands.Four trends: user-friendly Linux
desktops, useful under-$500 laptops and desktops,
broadband, and business-ready Internet office applications. Put them
together and you have a revolution.

EeePC Blog - eeeXubuntu: Ubuntu for the Asus EeePC
an enterprising soul has taken on the task of customizing Ubuntu (or more specifically Xubuntu) for use on the EeePC. While Ubuntu worked reasonably well on the EeePC before, there were plenty of additional steps necessary to get WiFi working as well as reducing the number of writes to the slightly fragile Solid State Drive. Along with these fixes eeeXubuntu also makes it much easier to install Xubuntu from a USB drive rather than an external CD-ROM drive.

Featured Windows Download: Take Control of an Unresponsive PC with AntiFreeze
Windows only: Take control of your unresponsive computer next time it freezes up with freeware system tray app AntiFreeze. After you've installed it, just wait for the next time your computer hangs and hit Alt-Ctrl-Win-Home to activate AntiFreeze, suspend your running programs, and free up your memory and CPU cycles. You can then use AntiFreeze's interface to selectively resume processes or end the process that you suspect is to blame.

Television: Watch Full-Length Television Online with OpenHulu
You may have already heard of Hulu, a closed beta, on-demand TV service from NBC Universal and News Corp. designed to stream the latest new shows from NBC, Fox, Bravo, Sci Fi, and more YouTube-style. But you may not have heard of OpenHulu, a Hulu clone that's attempting to embed every video from Hulu (which is part of how Hulu is designed to work) so you don't need an invitation to Hulu to enjoy the free, on-demand TV.

Access Linux Files from Windows with Linux Reader | Lifehacker Australia
Windows only: Dual-booters have long been able to get at their Windows-formatted files, but Windows certainly doesn't make it easy to go the other way 'round. Enter Linux Reader, a free Windows application that emulates the look and feel of the Windows XP Explorer and allows read-only access to ext2 and ext3-formatted drives, the most common formats for Linux installations. Linux Reader can also search through Linux images and mount images for browsing, and runs as a stand-alone application—for a driver-based reading tool, check out Ext2 Installable File System. Linux Reader is a free download for Windows 98 and later.

Lifehacker's 2007 Guide to Free Software and Webapps | Lifehacker Australia
As we wrap up the year 2007, it's the perfect time to put together an authoritative guide to our favourite pieces of free software and web services for common computing tasks on every platform.

Lifehacker Top 10: Top 10 New and Improved Apps of 2007
top 10 best new and improved desktop and web applications of 2007.

The ACCC shares its views on next generation telecommunications networks - Telecommunications -
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has issued for public consultation two papers related to next generation telecommunications networks.

The first is a draft decision on a 15-year special access undertaking given by the G9 for its proposed fibre-to-the-node network upgrade, with initial access prices of up to $29 to $50 per month (depending on the speed offered). This first paper also provides guidance on access to FTTN networks more generally.

Games Radar - DS news - Nintendo DS - Lumps of coal are better than these utterly disappointing gifts
the worst presents for gamers are awful games, because you know the gift giver’s hands were inches away from a title you actually would’ve wanted to play

Popular Mechanics
10 Tech Concepts You Need to Know for 2008

10 Worst Gadgets of 2007 - Palm Foleo - Apple TV - LG Chocolate - Microsoft Zune - Popular Mechanics
To responsibly critique art, wrote W. H. Auden, requires "an inclination to praise rather than blame, and regret when a complete rejection is required...."

Featured Firefox Extension: Take Online Media Offline with UnPlug
Firefox only (Windows/Mac/Linux): Save embedded media like audio, video, or even Flash games to your desktop with the UnPlug Firefox extension. Just browse to a page you want to grab media from, click the little smiling fish (or go to Tools -> UnPlug), and find and download the media on that page you want. UnPlug is similar to previously mentioned Video Downloader extension, which means it should work just as well to download videos from YouTube, MySpace, Google Video, and all the rest of your favorite video sites. UnPlug is free, works wherever Firefox does.

Second Life CTO Cory Ondrejka leaves the company - Boing Boing
citing irreconcilable differences in the technical development of SL, Chief Technical Officer Cory Ondrejka has just left the company after being there since 2000. He was a strong force behind the open sourcing of the viewer code, and was leading the effort to open source the servers that comprise the world's fabric.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Google debuts knowledge project
Google has kicked off a project to create an authoritative store of information about any and every topic.

The search giant has already started inviting people to write about the subject on which they are known to be an expert.

Google said it would not act as editor for the project but will provide the tools and infrastructure for the pages.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Weblogs rack up a decade of posts
The word "weblog" celebrates the 10th anniversary of it being coined on 17 December 1997.

The word was created by Jorn Barger to describe what he was doing with his pioneering Robot Wisdom web page.

The word was an abbreviation for the "logging" of interesting "web" sites that Mr Barger featured on his regularly updated journal.

A decade on and blog-watching firm Technorati reports it is tracking more than 70 million web logs.

Report: 95 percent of all e-mail has that spammy smell
This news will come as a shock to none, but the volume of spam has continued to rise throughout 2007. So much so, in fact, that spam researchers say that electronic junk mail has long surpassed the volume of human-issued e-mail this year, despite efforts to thwart it. One company, Barracuda Networks, goes so far as to say that spam now accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all e-mail, with no end in sight.

63 percent of US population now plays video games, says report
While most of the press reporting on games focuses on the more sensational and negative aspects of the hobby, the NPD Group has just released Expanding the Games Market, a report that shows that an increasing number of people see gaming as a viable and fun hobby. The report also notes that while gaming might be a more isolated activity for the "hardcore" market, most gamers use their hobby as a way to connect with their friends and family.

PlayForSure becomes "Certified for Windows Vista"
Microsoft's PlaysForSure has always been a model of how to run a DRM ecosystem: launch a new scheme with logo, convince device makers to sign up, launch your own online music store that uses said ecosystem, drop your music store, launch your own device which uses incompatible DRM, launch new music store with same incompatible DRM, then change branding of ecosystem logo. On second thought, perhaps there's room for improvement here.

Microsoft has just announced a change in the PlaysForSure branding
that adds even more confusion to the DRM ecosystem. Instead of looking
for the triangular PlaysForSure logo, consumers are now supposed to
look for the "Certified for Windows Vista" logo that is used for plenty
of other devices.

The obvious problem here is that PlaysForSure has nothing to do with
Vista, and has in fact been used for years on XP. While never gaining
much traction among music download stores, it has become the DRM of
choice for subscription plans. Now, users of those plans who still run
XP should look for the "Certified for Windows Vista" logo the next time
they purchase a new player. That shouldn't confuse anyone.

Hot, sexy bot sweet-talks personal data out of chatters
As if there needed to be another reason to be wary of chat rooms geared toward meeting people and having flirtatious, cyber-relations with them, doing so can now put you at increased risk of identity theft., a new site out of Russia, boasts that buyers of its software will be able to trick unsuspecting marks into handing over their personal information.'s sexy bot can allegedly drum up salacious conversations using 10 different personalities that are so life-like that the victims will hand over their photos, phone numbers, and more at the drop of a negligee. The program can also be tailored towards either gender, and be used to obtain other forms of data, says the company.

Against odds, iPhone overtakes Windows Mobile sales in Q3
Earlier this month, we learned that the iPhone's MobileSafari already claims more than twice the market share of Internet Explorer on Windows Mobile and Windows CE devices combined.

New numbers compiled by Canalys and quietly published by Symbian, however, show that the iPhone snagged 27 percent of smartphone sales from July to September, the device's first full quarter on the market. This puts it in second place in overall sales during Q3 2007, behind the number one BlackBerry but ahead of Windows Mobile.

Digg - Movable Type is Open Source
Movable Type is open source. This means you can freely modify, redistribute, and use Movable Type for any purpose you choose.

Digg - The Next Social Network: WordPress
Could open-source blogging platform WordPress serve as your next social networking profile? Chris Messina, co-founder of Citizen Agency, thinks so. He’s started a project called DiSo, for distributed social networking, that aims to “build a social network with its skin inside out.” DiSo will first look to WordPress as its foundation.

Cheat Sheets: Quick Reference to Windows Alt Codes
Need to type a women's symbol, musical note, copyright, trademark, or Greek letter on Windows? You need the right "alt code," a series of numbers you type while you hold down the Alt key. Reader Nathan writes in with a helpful PDF cheat sheet that lists characters you've never seen before, as well as the Wikipedia Alt Codes entry for bookmarking.

Slashdot | Major Australian ISP Pulls OpenOffice
Australia's largest Internet service provider Telstra BigPond has removed OpenOffice from its unmetered file download area following the launch of its own, free, hosted, office application, BigPond Office. The removal of OpenOffice was brought to TECH.BLORGE's attention by a reader, who complained to Telstra BigPond's support department about no longer being able to download OpenOffice updates. The support people were quite open about why OpenOffice was no longer available, i.e. because it was perceived to be competitive with BigPond Office

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Byte Into It - 12 Dec 07


Here comes the supercomputer on a chip - Technology -
IBM says it has made a breakthrough in converting electrical signals into light pulses that brings closer the day when supercomputing, which now requires huge machines, will be done on a single chip. Using light instead of wires to send information between
the cores could be as much as 100 times faster and use 10 times
less power than wires.

Nokia wants to ape Apple, get cut of wireless contracts
How much Nokia wants out of each contract and what happens when wireless carriers don't play along is unclear. Part of the leverage Apple surely uses to score its deal is the iPhone's buzz-worthy appeal, as up to 50 percent of iPhone buyers in the US, UK, France, and Germany are new contracts. That translates into a massive boost to wireless carrier revenues, out of which they can afford a percentage to scratch Apple's back with. Nokia, however, makes both high-end phones that are on par with the iPhone's profit margins, as well as bargain-bin or "free with contract" phones that might not rake in as many customers or offer as much negotiating headroom for the wireless carriers.

Nokia's unlimited "Comes With Music" plan misses the boat due to DRM
Universal announced a promising new business model last month that will allow
device manufacturers to offer an all-you-can-eat music subscription
service with devices. Called Total Music by Universal, the label's plan
is to charge manufacturers or wireless carriers a subscription fee of
about $5 per month for each device sold, which then gets rolled into
the cost of a device or any accompanying service charges, thus
appearing as a free one-year music subscription to the consumer. Today,
Nokia announced that it has become the first device manufacturer to hop
on board this new plan, branding it "Comes With Music." The only
problem is that the potential for a revolution has been deflated by the
same recurring villain: DRM. Ars learned that Nokia's Comes With Music
implementation will still be handicapped by DRM. In fact, Nokia chose
Microsoft's PlaysForSure DRM, a system even the Redmond software maker
itself has chosen not to support on its Zune and Zune Marketplace DRM
ecosystem. This means that even though users can keep tracks after
their subscription runs out, Comes With Music tracks won't be
compatible at all with the iPod and Zune.Tracks can be downloaded via Nokia's phones or PCs, and the DRMed
tracks will remain playable even after the one-year subscription period
finishes. Here's the kicker though: In order to renew the subscription
and regain access to new music for another year, Nokia says consumers
can purchase a new device. Burning a CD of any track(s) will require an
upgrade purchase for each track.

Nokia wants W3C to remove Ogg from upcoming HTML5 standard
The World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C, a group devoted to publishing web
standards, recently moved to approve the Ogg video and audio formats
for inclusion into the forthcoming HTML5 standard. Nokia, maker of
mobile phones and mobile multimedia services, has taken exception to
this proposal, writing a position paper (PDF) and raising a formal
issue at the W3's web site, claiming that Ogg support should be
"deleted" from the spec in order to "avoid any patent issues."
Most people, if they recognize Ogg at all, would consider it to be an
open-source counterpart to proprietary multimedia technology, so what
exactly is going on here?

Western Digital network drives crippled -- no serving any multimedia files - Boing Boing
Western Digital is disabling sharing of any avi, divx, mp3, mpeg, and many
other files on its network connected devices; due to unverifiable media
license authentication'. Just wondering -- who needs a 1 Terabyte
network-connected hard drive that is prohibited from serving most media
files? Perhaps somebody with 220 million pages of .txt files they need
to share?

Drive cradle makes it easy to swap around SATA drives - Boing Boing
StorageDepot's SATA Hard Drive Cradle lets you plunk drive in it, write/read with
them, unmount them and yank 'em out, then stick in the next one. The USB SATA cradle is an
external hard drive cradle, for hot swapping 2.5" and 3.5" SATA hard
drives. It works with both types of hard drive, and both SATA I and
SATA II hard drives.

ClearPlay DVD player censors sex scenes - Hardware -
US firm ClearPlay has launched a content-filtering DVD player which can
automatically remove 'objectionable' scenes from movies..
The ClearPlay DVD player allows parents to edit out content such as
profanity, violence, sex and nudity during DVD playback.
The device creates filtering information on a movie-by-movie basis, and
parents can load the filters into the DVD player using a USB stick.
Filters for the latest DVD releases can be constantly updated,
providing adults with control over what they and their children watch.
The ClearPlay DVD player includes more than 2,500 ClearPlay movie
filters and a subscription to 12 months of unlimited updates as new
titles are released.

Microsoft says Vista SP1 won't fix compatibility issues - Operating Systems -
"Applications that have compatibility issues with Windows Vista today will most
likely continue to have the same issues with Windows Vista with SP1,"
Microsoft warns in a new whitepaper on Vista Service Pack 1.
As a result, Microsoft says businesses needn't bother waiting for SP1's
final release -- slated for early next year -- to test new applications
on Vista, because the results won't change much.

Microsoft's changes to how WGA handles flagged installs don't go far enough
Microsoft has announced some much-needed changes to how Windows Genuine Advantage
will handle PCs suspected of running pirated software. Beginning with
Vista's first Service Pack, due during the first quarter of 2008,
failed WGA checks will no longer result in having the PC's
functionality disabled. Instead, users will get what Microsoft
describes as "clear and recurring notices" that they're using
counterfeit software.It's great to see Microsoft making changes to how WGA works, but the
fundamental problems arising from forcing users to undergo periodic
checks to ensure that they're running legitimately-acquired software
are still there. Despite the name, there's no Genuine Advantage for
users who pass WGA's tests—that clean bill of health for your Vista
install can still be erased by what should be innocuous hardware

Wireless keyboard encryption easily broken, say researchers
Security researchers at Dreamlab Technologies AG and have documented a method for eavesdropping, decrypting data, and
sniffing keyboard strokes when using a wireless keyboard transmitting
at 27MHz. The team validated its test results using Microsoft's
Wireless Optical Desktop 1000 and Wireless Optical Desktop 2000, and
believes the same method would work on the Wireless Optical 3000, 4000,
and the Wireless Laser Desktop series. Logitech models are still under
investigation, but the general—and troubling—implication of the paper
is that such vulnerabilities are likely to be widespread. When the keyboard transmits a data packet to the base receiver, only the actual keystroke data is encrypted—both the metaflag (use of Alt, Shift, or Ctrl) and identifier bits are sent in the clear. As for the keystroke data, it's encrypted in a one-byte USB Hid code and a single byteof random data generated when the k eyboard synchronizes with the receiver. Encryption keys are not changed at any time interval, save when an end-user reassociates the keyboard. Because there are only 256 possible key values, intercepted keystrokes can be translated by brute force without any need to actually break the encryption key; the research team was able to decrypt the transmitted data and recover the encryption key within only 20-50 keystrokes. This has the practical effect of rendering keyboard encryption meaningless—it's literally simpler to ignore it than it is to break it.

Microsoft's Office Live Workspace nets mixed reviews
Microsoft has finally tossed its hat into the ring with Office Live Workspaces. Marketed towards home, small business and educational users, Office Live Workspaces more or less endows Microsoft's cash cow Office suite with a free hosted service for sharing and collaborating on Office documents.

Microsoft feeling heat from Linux in budget flash PC market
Microsoft announced plans today to expand support for Windows XP on budget
flash-storage computing devices with an eye towards getting Windows XP
running on the OLPC. Microsoft's newfound interest in this space is
largely a response to growing demand for inexpensive subnotebook
hardware that uses flash-based storage. Manufacturers of such devices
are increasingly adopting Linux instead of Windows because Linux is
free and easier to adapt for use on systems with limited computing
power and storage capacity. Microsoft likely views the rising
popularity of Linux-based budget mobile hardware in the developing
world as a significant competitive threat.

Adobe's PDF now an ISO standard
At the end of January 2007, Adobe submitted its Portable Document Format
(PDF) to the ISO. Now, as the year winds to a close, Adobe has
announced that PDF 1.7 has been approved by the ISO and will become the
ISO 32000 standard (DIS). According to a blog post by Adobe PDF
architect and senior principal scientist Jim King, the standard was
approved by a vote of 13:1From
this point forward, the ISO, rather than Adobe, is in charge of the PDF specification and any changes that are
incorporated into it.

LinkedIn Opens Up - Business -
LinkedIn, the networking site for business professionals, has opened its service
to outside developers to create business applications.
It hopes to attract developers through a new program called its
Intelligent Applications platform. The program will let outside
developers create software for LinkedIn as well as embed features of
LinkedIn, such as finding business contacts, directly from partner Web
LinkedIn is also participating in Google's OpenSocial developer network
that seeks to create a way for all developers to write software that
will work on all platforms. MySpace is also a member of OpenSocial.

Lifehacker Gift Guide 2007 | Lifehacker Australia
It's not easy finding the right gift for everyone on your list, especially
if you've got a lot of people to buy for, so today we're taking a look
at gifts small and large—from under $10 to the over $50 set—perfect for
the life-hacking loved one on your list (even if that's you).

Avoid signing your rights away with EULAlyzer | Lifehacker Australia
It's a little app which you can use to scan End User License Agreements (you
know those things that most people just scroll through and hit
'agree'). Simply cut and paste the EULA into the program, and it will
flag any suspect phrases for you to check.

IFPI's European Christmas list: content filtering and P2P blocking
In a recent memo to European legislators, the worldwide music lobby laid out its vision of a world in which all ISPs adopted three "feasible and reasonable options" to help address copyright infringement on their networks.It's a familiar troika: content filtering of audio files using fingerprinting technology, protocol blocking of "specific P2P services that are known to be predominately infringing," and blocking access to specific web sites such as AllOfMP3 (as in Denmark) and The Pirate Bay. The plan is neither "burdensome or expensive," says IFPI, and it doesn't cause any problems for "regular service." Sadly (and shockingly!), ISPs in question haven't warmed to the plan voluntarily. As IFPI so delicately puts it, "This cooperation has not been sufficiently forthcoming from ISPs in Europe so far." trying to get trademark on "Not Safe For Work"
Abbreviations, acronyms, and memes fall in and out of fashion on the Internet all of the time. Some stand the test of time, including phrases like "not safe for work" (NSFW), which is used in forums, chatrooms, and blogs across the world to warn folks that something they're about to see could give the boss fits. Late last month, offbeat news site filed for a trademark on the phrase with the US Patent and Trademark Office.Fark is seeking exclusive rights over the phrase as it's currently used across the Internet.

Verizon hit with GPL copyright lawsuit over router software
Open-source software is very attractive for companies looking to expand their services or quickly get new offerings to market, in part because it's free. Unfortunately, some companies tend to overlook the software license commonly attached to open-source software, the GPL. Verizon is the latest company to do so, and its use of an OSS package in a wireless router has led to a copyright infringement lawsuit from the Software Freedom Law Center.

Congress' copyright reform: seize computers, boost penalties, spend money
A bipartisan group of Congressmen (and one woman) introduced a major bill aimed at boosting US intellectual property laws and the penalties that go along with them. While much of the legislation targets industrial counterfeiting and knockoff drugs, it also allows the government to seize people's computers. In addition to strengthening both civil and criminal penalties for
copyright and trademark infringement, the bill
proposes creation of the Office of the United States Intellectual
Property Enforcement Representative (USIPER). This is a new executive
branch office tasked with coordinating IP enforcement at the national
and international level. To do this work internationally, the bill also
authorizes US intellectual property officers to be sent to other
countries in order to assist with crackdowns there. In addition, the
Department of Justice gets additional funding and a new unit to help
prosecute IP crimes.

Judge refuses to entertain Lime Wire conspiracy theories against RIAA
P2P provider Lime Wire found itself on the receiving end of a judicial beatdown yesterday as a federal judge tossed the company's claims against the RIAA.The case began back in 2006, when the RIAA sued Lime Wire just days after the music and movie businesses settled with Kazaa. Lime Wire decided to fight the case, and as part of the resulting legal battle, countersued the music industry for a host of antitrust violations

Facebook's Beacon was illegal as well as dumb - Boing Boing
James sez, "Everyone knows that Facebook's Beacon application was a privacy disaster. But it was also probably illegal. I've written up an analysis of Beacon under a 1988 law that flatly prohibits video stores from telling people what their customers rented. Every time Blockbuster spammed your friends list with an announcement about your latest online video purchase, it was violating that law. At a minimum $2,500 fine per violation, this could be a pretty serious legal problem for Blockbuster and Facebook

Patent Office upholds key TiVo patent at issue in EchoStar lawsuit
TiVo sued EchoStar in 2005 over the DVRs the satellite company manufactures and sells for its Dish Network. In April 2006, a jury found EchoStar liable for patent infringement and awarded TiVo $73 million in damages. In August of that year, TiVo obtained an injunction against EchoStar, ordering it to stop selling DVRs and disable the DVR functionality on its products within 30 days. The judge also upped the damage award to $90 million.

College sues Google for patent infringement over distributed search
The patent in question covers technology developed by Dr. Kenneth Baclawski, a computer science professor at Northeastern. Baclawski's patent was filed back in 1994 and was approved in 1997, and it described as "a distributed computer database system including a front end computer and a plurality of computer nodes interconnected by a network into a search engine."The system's "home node" accepts search queries and breaks each query down into fragments that are sent out to various other backend nodes for processing. Each node runs a search on its particular fragment and then sends the results upstream to the home node, which reassembles them all and returns a result to the user.

Why the RIAA may be afraid of targeting Harvard students
Factor in hostility towards the RIAA's campaign on the part of Harvard Law School
professors Charles Nesson and John Palfrey, who run the law school's Berkman Center for Internet & Society.
Responding to the RIAA's claim that its litigation strategy has
"invigorated a meaningful conversation on college campuses about music
theft, its consequences and the numerous ways to enjoy legal music,"
the profs called on Harvard to not betray the "trust and privacy" of its students.Should the RIAA decide to send prelitigation settlement letters to Harvard, chances are good that 1) the letters will not be passed on, and 2) some of the best and brightest at Harvard Law School will get involved in a big way. That doesn't look too appealing, especially when the campaign isn't going as smoothly as the RIAA would like.

RIAA: Those CD rips of yours are still "unauthorized"
MP3 and AAC files that you've ripped from your CD collection are still
"unauthorized copies" in the eyes of the recording industry. In a brief
filed late last week, the RIAA said that the MP3 files on a PC owned by
a file-sharing defendant who had admitted to ripping them himself were
"unauthorized copies."

Report: EMI looking to slash funding for RIAA, IFPI
One of the Big Four labels is apparently unhappy with its return on investment when it comes to funding industry trade groups such as the IFPI and RIAA. British label EMI, which was recently purchased by a private equity fund, is reportedly considering a significant cut to the amount of money it provides the trade groups on an annual basis.

Cover-up? Special investigator "cures" virus with 7-stage hard drive wipe
The head of the Office of Special Counsel who is currently leading an investigation into allegations against Karl Rove is taking fire over allegations that he improperly and illegally disposed of documents and files. The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is an independent federal agency
tasked with protecting the rights of whistleblowers or other
complainants that work for the federal government, investigating
whether or not government employees have properly followed restrictions
on their political activity, and defending the reemployment rights of
returning war veterans.On April 23, 2007, Scott Bloch, the head of the OSC, launched a wide investigation into the political activities of Karl Rove. Scott Bloch, however, hasn't risen to his current position without
controversies of his own. Although no findings of fact have been
released as of this writing, Bloch has been under investigation since
2005 for improperly dismissing issues brought to the OSC's attention by
whistleblowers and then failing to protect said employees from

FCC asked to bar cellular carriers from blocking SMS traffic
In September, Verizon caused an uproar when it refused to provide short codes (used to send messages to multiple subscribers at once) to NARAL Pro-Choice America so that the group could send out opt-in alerts. Verizon initially cited its policy prohibiting "highly controversial" messages from being distributed on its network, but quickly reversed course in the wake of massive public outcry. A Verizon spokesperson called it an "isolated incident."

SneakPeek Pro: a Quick Look plug-in for design types
SneakPeek Pro opens Quick Look's eyes by adding support for Illustrator, InDesign, and EPS files, but it also adds some useful metadata for those who need to see more than just a pretty picture. Users can choose to view what fonts, swatches, and images are used in the document, and SneakPeek Pro even brings simple file icon previews for these formats to the rest of the Finder.To make all these features easy to adjust, SneakPeek Pro installs as a System Preferences pane and allows you to toggle just about every feature, including which file types it previews and whether to include all the extra file info in Quick Look. One drawback, however, is that SpeakPeek Pro requires files to be made with CS3 apps if you want to view things like fonts and swatches in Quick Look.

That said, SneakPeek Pro comes with a 15-day unlimited demo period, and a full license can be had with a $5 discount during its introductory period for $14.95.

Win a Wii to go with your Wii Transfer for Mac
Wii Transfer, made by Riverfold Software allows Wii owners to view pictures, and listen to music and videos stored on their Macs from their Wii console. The software also allows users to convert video for playback on their Wii directly from an SD card. For those obsessive savers, the software also allows users to back up their saved game files.

Google thinks different by opening Mac Developer Playground
Google unveiled its officially unofficial sandbox for Mac developers today. Dubbed Mac Developer Playground, it's more or less a specific section of Google Code at which various projects from Google's Mac-oriented developers are highlighted. The company is clear, however, on just what is going on here: save for the mature and supported MacFUSE file system project by Amit Singh, this truly is just a playground; everything else is unsupported experimentation and needs to be approached as such.

Coolest IPhone App Ever: ProRemote Pro Tools Controller May Be Coolest iPhone App Ever (UPDATED)
ProRemote converts the iPhone or the iPod touch in a wireless control for Pro Tools LE with realtime feedback. While this may seem limited to the audio world, it shows that having this kind of power in such a tiny package could solve the problems of many users.

RIAA: Those CD rips of yours are still "unauthorized"
Those MP3 and AAC files that you've ripped from your CD collection are still
"unauthorized copies" in the eyes of the recording industry. In a brief
filed late last week, the RIAA said that the MP3 files on a PC owned by
a file-sharing defendant who had admitted to ripping them himself were
"unauthorized copies."

Exclusive Lifehacker Interview: Quicksilver's Creator on the Future of QS
Quicksilver as an Open Source Project and Its Roadmap

Apple’s secret weapon: Apple TV 2.0 | The Apple Core |
Apple is rumored to be close to announcing movie rentals via the iTunes Store and Apple TV is perfect platform. Add a 1TB hard drive and BitTorrent downloading technology and you have the beginnings of a great living room experience. Enable the iPhone and iPod touch as a remote control for Apple TV 2.0 to replace the bogus “gum stick” remote and they’ll surely have a hit on their hands.

8 Predictions for Macworld 2008
Predictions are fun

Mac Rumors: Apple Ultra-Portable MacBook Rumor Roundup
As rumors start to build for Macworld San Francisco 2008, the most consistent rumor appears to be one of an ultra-portable Apple notebook computer.

Apple crowned “Best PC” in Australia’s biggest tech survey - Hardware -
Apple has edged out PC stalwarts Dell and HP to take the “Best PC” award in Australia’s biggest ever consumer technology survey.

Featured Mac Download: Anxiety Task Manager Integrates with iCal and Mail
Despite its unfortunate name, task manager Anxiety is a slick, good-looking, lightweight way to keep track of your to-do lists. Since Leopard now includes a "calendar store," or central repository of tasks from both iCal and, Anxiety taps into those lists and displays the items on your desktop. Add, change or check off a to-do in Anxiety, iCal or Mail? And the info updates across all three applications. Neat. Anxiety is a free download (donations encouraged) for Mac OS X Leopard only.

Featured Mac Download: Speed Up iCal Entries with Do-It
Do-It provides a quick and simple way to create new iCal appointments without the clicking frenzy required with iCal's default interface. Just launch it whenever you want to add a new appointment, fill out the details (the form is completely Tab-friendly), hit enter and go back to whatever you were doing. It's a simple but wonderful improvement to iCal if the default behavior has ever gotten on your nerves. Do-It is a free download, Mac OS X only.

Mac OS X Leopard
Undocumented code in Leopard looks like it's set up to load Windows application files—prompting rumors that that Mac of yours will be able to run Windows programs natively someday.

Featured Mac Download: Sync Your Windows Mobile Device and Mac with SyncMate
Sync Your Windows Mobile Device and your Mac with freeware application SyncMate. In addition to syncing (which includes Address Book, iCal, bookmarks, notes, music, and photos), SyncMate boasts application installing, SMS management, and video and image conversion when copying to the device. Previously the go-to software for a Windows-Mobile-to-Mac sync was an application called Missing Sync, and despite its great features and interface, it costs a hefty $39.95. SyncMate—though still in beta—promises most of the same features but won't cost you a dime.

Digg - New VLC 0.8.6d Looks Awesome in Leopard
If you aren't using VLC to play video files, you should be, and if you are, you need to check out this update! The transition to and from full screen playback is also a nice touch.

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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Byte Into It - 05 Dec 07


BBC NEWS | Europe | Rise in broadband use in Europe
A total of 42% of households in the EU now have a broadband connection, according to an official survey.That represents a 12 percentage point rise on the figure for 2006.

The survey, carried out by national statistics offices across Europe, also appears to confirm a gender gap in use of the internet as people become older.

Almost one-third of men over the age of 55 use the internet at least once a week while the figure for women is less than one-fifth.

MPAA's University wiretapping product taken down for violating copyright - Boing Boing
The MPAA's "University Toolkit" (a piece of monitoring software that universities are being asked to install on their networks to spy on students' communications) has been taken down, due to copyright violations. The Toolkit is based on the GPL-licensed Xubuntu operating system (a flavor of Linux). The GPL requires anyone who makes a program based on GPL'ed code has to release the source code for their program and license it under the GPL. The MPAA refused multiple requests to provide the sources for their spyware, so an Ubuntu developer sent a DMCA notice to the MPAA's ISP and demanded that the material be taken down as infringing.

Windows XP SP3 to include Vista elements, researchers say - Operating Systems -
Windows XP SP3 does ship with all-new features, not just patches and hotfixes," said researchers at NeoSmart, a nonprofit group that tracks computer technology. Most of the new features are "backported from Windows Vista," according to NeoSmart.Specifically, product keys don't need to be entered during setup.

Vista's Network Access Protection modules also will show up in XP SP3. The system verifies a computer's "health" before allowing it access to a network.

XP SP3 also will include the Microsoft Kernel Mode Cryptographic Module, which is meant to "provide easy access to multiple cryptographic algorithms,".

Microsoft is in a bit of a Catch-22 with XP. The more it strengthens the OS, the less reason users have to upgrade to the newer Windows Vista.

Adobe unveils Flash Media Server 3 product line - Networking -
Adobe Systems on Tuesday introduced the Flash Media Server 3 product line, cutting prices on the software used to stream applications and Flash-encoded video to Web sites..The platform upgrade, scheduled to ship in January, comprises a streaming server edition and an interactive server edition.

The latest platform supports the video compression standard H.264, which provides higher quality video. In addition, FMS 3 supports the AAC audio format used in Apple's iTunes software.

In general, FMS 3 provides the tools for streaming video and audio to Adobe's Flash player and Flash Lite, which is the player edition for mobile phones and other handheld gadgets.

Apple QuickTime exploit goes wild - Security -
Attackers have begun targeting an unpatched flaw in Apple's QuickTime multimedia player. Researchers at Symantec reported that an exploit for the vulnerability was discovered on a pornographic website over the weekend. The security firm believes that other sites are also serving the attack.The vulnerability lies in the way QuickTime handles Real Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP) data from streaming media files. When the user visits the pornographic site, a small iframe tag within the HTML code redirects the user to the exploit site, which then launches the RTSP attack and installs malware on the user's system.

Symantec urged users to turn their browsers to the highest security settings and use a player other than QuickTime to run streaming media files. Advanced users can also set their firewalls to block outgoing traffic from common RTSP ports. see:

Apple has yet to release an update to patch the flaw. The company has a policy of not commenting on security vulnerabilities until a fix has been issued.

Microsoft warns of web proxy flaw - Security -
Microsoft said that the problem occurs when the WPAD servers for third-level domains (such as and deeper cannot be found. The user is then redirected to a WPAD server for a higher domain.This can eventually lead the user to access a WPAD server outside the intended domain, possibly to one that has been compromised by a hacker.

All current versions of Windows and Internet Explorer are affected by the flaw, which was discovered by researcher Beau Butler. Microsoft has not received any reports of attacks targeting the vulnerability in the wild.

Users can mitigate the problem by disabling 'automatically detect settings' in Internet Explorer. Microsoft noted that users whose ISP uses a connection specific DNS suffix are not affected.

Sites which use a top-level domain, such as .com or .gov, are not at risk neither are those with a trusted WPAD server.

Facebook backs down on ad plans - Internet -
Social networking site Facebook has cancelled its advertising program, that showed what members were purchasing from ecommerce web sites..The advertising system, dubbed Beacon, let partner sites like eBay and Sony advertise the fact that someone had bought something from them. Users can click on a Beacon box on the site if they want to keep their purchases secret, but in many cases the box disappears after 20 seconds and consent is assumed to have been given.

This aroused the ire of campaign groups like, which organised a Facebook group with over 59,000 members protesting the system. Protesters complained that the system assumed consent, and Facebook has said user will actively have to opt into the system in the future

Google claims drop-off in Gmail spam - Security -
The number of spam advertising messages sent to email users is levelling off, according to a software engineer at Google's Gmail service..Brad Taylor said that the percentage of spam transmitted through Gmail had waned over the past year, although he declined to release any figures.

Taylor has overseen Gmail's spam filter since the service launched in 2004

Microsoft drops details on Silverlight 2.0 - Software -
Microsoft is planning a major update to its Silverlight Web presentation technology designed to take better advantage of the company's .NET development environment -- a move that should make it easier for programmers to create rich media applications for the Internet..Silverlight 2.0 "will include a cross-platform, cross-browser version of the .NET Framework," confirmed Scott Guthrie, a Microsoft general manager, in a blog post this week.

With .NET support built into Silverlight, developers will be able to use Visual Studio and other Microsoft tools to create multimedia applications compatible with a number of Web browsers

TiVo partners to enter PC TV tuner market - Software -
Nero, a maker of DVD-burning software, has agreed to develop software that will bring TiVo's popular digital video recording software and program guide to the PC, a move that would create a competitor to Microsoft's Windows Media Center.The partnership announced is the latest example of how TiVo is trying to move into other markets as sales of its DVR machines are increasingly threatened by cable, satellite, and telephone companies offering similar devices with their television subscription services.

Apple's Tiger upgrade causing 'catastrophic failure', users report - Software -
Users of Apple's Tiger operating system -- predecessor to the more recent Leopard OS -- are reporting that the software grinds to an unrecoverable halt when upgraded to the latest version.According to posts appearing in the discussion forum on Apple's support Web site, Macs upgraded to version 10.4.11 of Tiger are freezing up and refusing to reboot without a clean installation.

The culprit, according to some posters on the forum and published reports, may be Boot Camp -- a utility that allows Mac users to run Microsoft Windows on their computers. Some users recommend eliminating the utility before upgrading to the latest version of Tiger.

Gmail: Gmail Adds Colored Labels (Without Greasemonkey)
Colored labels do more than look pretty, of course—a well-arranged variety enables your eye to jump quickly to important emails and know when certain types of messages are becoming clutter. The web interface has also been updated with "x" buttons available to quickly remove labels from individual messages. Finally, the Official Gmail Blog notes that the development team is working to add "folder-y-ish functionality." Time will tell how labels, folders and filters will mesh together

Gmail: Gmail Adds AIM Support to Chat
Not only did Google add colored labels to Gmail today, they're rolling out AIM compatibility in chat, too. The new AOL Instant Messenger support lets you log into your AIM account to chat with your AIM buddies right inside Gmail.

Digital Video: Xbox 360 Update Supports DivX and XviD Video Playback
Microsoft released an update to the Xbox 360 today that introduces several feature updates to the Xbox, most notably support for DivX and XviD video playback without the need to transcode the video to WMV format

Slashdot | Verizon Embraces Google's Android
BusinessWeek has up an article on Verizon's decision to fully support Android. After passing on the iPhone, the company says they're going to open their network to more devices, move their network to GSM-based radio technology (LTE), and now support Android. 'In an open-access model, though, Verizon Wireless won't offer the same level of customer service as it does for the roughly 50 phone models featured in its handset lineup. Though the company will insist on testing all phones developed to run on its network in the open-access program, Verizon plans only to ensure the wireless connection is working for customers who buy those devices.

Slashdot | Crime Wave Thwarted in Second Life
The Mercury News reports that a vulnerability in the way Second Life protects a user's money has been identified. Risks for users are reportedly limited because the researchers say the flaw can be quickly patched. The flaw exploits a known problem with Apple's QuickTime - when a virtual character passes by an infected object planted by hackers, the Second Life software activates QuickTime so it can play the video or picture. Hackers can direct the Second Life software to a malicious Web site that then allows them to 'take over the user's avatar and force it to hand over its Linden cash. Second Life is recommending that users disable streaming video playback in the Second Life viewer except when you are attending a known and trusted venue.

Really, truly official: Google to bid on 700MHz spectrum
Chris Sacca, Google's head of special initiatives, stressed again in a blog post what Google has been saying throughout the year: "open access" rules on some of the spectrum will make this auction one of the most important in recent memory."Regardless of how the auction unfolds, we think it's important to put our money where our principles are," he wrote. "Consumers deserve more choices and more competition than they have in the wireless world today. And at a time when so many Americans don't have access to the Internet, this auction provides an unprecedented opportunity to bring the riches of the Net to more people."

TiVo to bust out of the living room and onto your PC
TiVo is poised to break out from the confines of the set-top box and into the PC. The DVR maker and Nero, creators of the popular CD- and DVD-burning software, are partnering to bring TiVo to upcoming versions of Nero. The newly announced agreement means that TiVo's much-loved interface and ease of use will be available to owners of any PC with a TV tuner card or USB dongle.

Google Maps for mobile gains location-seeking abilities sans GPS
it has rolled out a new beta to its mobile mapping service that will allow users to automatically determine their location without GPS.Called "My Location," the feature comes as part of the release of version 2.0 of Google Maps for mobile. My Location uses cell tower ID information to determine (approximately) where you are. Google says that it uses special "Google-developed-algorithms" to determine this, which sounds like fancy talk for triangulation (a supported phone can determine how far it is from the three closest cell towers and then pinpoint the approximate spot of the caller).

That brings us to the next point: My Location won't work on all phones (sorry, RAZR users), although the technology is supported in most smartphones, all color BlackBerrys, all Symbian Series 60s (third edition), most Windows Mobile devices, newer Sony Ericssons, and some Motorolas. My Location also works in conjunction with GPS

EFF proves Comcast is screwing with BitTorrent, releases instructions for testing your own ISP - Boing Boing
A pair of new Electronic Frontier Foundation reports prove that Comcast is degrading and interfering with BitTorrent, and shows how you can use free software to test your own ISP to see if it is doing the same

Speaking: Learn to Pronounce Words with HowJSay
Pronunciation search site HowJSay offers instant audio of a huge catalog of words correctly read. Although the words seem to be read mostly by British speakers, American English alternatives are provided for most words

Featured Windows Download: Schedule Startup Programs with Startup Delayer
Windows only: Freeware application Startup Delayer does exactly what it sounds like—it allows you to force programs that normally load at Windows login to wait a specific amount of time before starting. That means larger applications that drag down the boot process can wait until the system's a bit more responsive, and the wealth of utilities some folks use can be spaced out to help you start actually working faster. Startup Delayer also serves as a straight-ahead startup manager for those who dislike the built-in Windows version, giving you control over process priority and window sizes. Startup Delayer is a free download (with requests for donation on closing) for Windows 98 and later only

Featured Windows Download: Put PuTTY in the Tray with PuTTY Tray
Windows only: Manage your PuTTY sessions from the tray with freeware stand-alone app PuTTY Tray. In addition to sending sessions to the tray, PuTTY Tray adds transparency, URL hyperlinking, always on top and automatic session reconnects. Though subtle, everyday users of PuTTY should find these enhancements very refreshing. PuTTY Tray carries the same look and feel as the original PuTTY with the aforementioned features spliced throughout the configuration pane. PuTTY Tray is a free download for Windows only.

Featured Windows Download: Decrypt Your DVD's Copy Protection with DVD43
Windows only: Freeware application DVD43 decrypts DVDs and CDs, removing most copy protections schemes so you can interact with the media using whatever ripping or copying application you please (similar to the shareware alternative AnyDVD). DVD43 runs in your system tray, detects when you've inserted a new DVD, and automatically removes the encryption (the smiley face turns green when it succeeds).

Featured Windows Download: Keep Track of Drivers the Easy Way with DriverView
Windows only: See your device drivers and their versions at a glance and back up your "just works" drivers list with DriverView, a free application for Windows systems. The all-in-one-window view is itself a helpful upgrade from looking through devices individually in the Device Manager, but the real value here is in the list generation. Create an HTML-formatted backup list for your future troubleshooting needs or export to text to show friends or forum members just what's gone wrong. DriverView is a free download and works with Windows Vista, XP and 2000.

Featured Windows Download: Synchronize Folders with SyncToy 2.0
Windows only: Synchronize the contents of two folders, either across your home network or on the same PC with a free utility from Microsoft, SyncToy. The 2.0 beta's been released and gotten smarter since the first time we pointed out SyncToy, adding smart drive letter detection (for when your USB drive gets assigned a different drive letter when you plug it in) and a more robust mechanism to include or exclude files from the synchronize action. Great for sync'ing files from your desktop to a USB drive or between two different computers on your home network

Sony PS3 tops Nintendo Wii in Japan for first time - Hardware -
Sony's PlayStation 3 outsold Nintendo's Wii game console in Japan in November for the first time, raising the prospect that Sony might regain its dominance in the global videogame market.

Slashdot | Heavily Discounted Zune Outpacing iPod Sales
Yahoo Tech is reporting that the Microsoft Zune, having been heavily discounted for the holiday season, 'is currently Amazon's top-selling music player, beating out the new iPod Nano and the 80GB iPod on the 'Bestsellers in Electronics' list.

Geek to Live: Top Windows tweaks
by Gina Trapani - I've got a list of the most important Windows customizations that make my PC feel like a place I can get work done in more smoothly and easily. Hop in for a quick ride around Windows dialogs, tabs, menus and toolbars to get your XP fitting like a glove.

Digg - Open source hardware gift guide
Looking to give gifts this year that are open source? Here's MAKE Magazines "Open Source Hardware" gift guide. Open source 3D printers, TV-turn-off devices, iPod chargers, music players, Wi-Fi companions, educational electronic kits and more.

Digg - Engadget's Holiday Gift Guide: for Her
Engadget's guide on what to get for her. Everything from a Wii Play to a Pink iPhone. Worth checking out if you need some ideas

Ars Technica 2007 Gaming Gift Guide: Page 1
the hardware and software that caught our eye this year from each of the big boys, and we'll cover PC gaming at the end.

Gaming monolith birthed with merger of Activision and Blizzard
Activision has announced that the gaming giant would be merging with Vivendi Games to form one monolithic gaming company called Activision Blizzard.

Gamasutra - Eidos Announces Deus Ex 3 , Talks New Montreal Studio
Developer-publisher Eidos has revealed that its new studio in Montreal, Québec, first announced earlier this year, has opened its doors to the public, and the company is inaugurating the facility with the announcement of its first project: a third installment of the futuristic first person-shooter/RPG Deus Ex.

BUSTED: 27 Most Dangerous Gaming Myths Feature on
GamePro shatters 27 video game myths in this popular reoccurring series. This article: HD-DVD versus Blu-ray, HDMI versus component, the PS3 as a failure, and more!

Slashdot | Adverjournalism - The Role of Ad Dollars in Media
The Gamer 2.0 site has a look into the role of advertising in gaming journalism, with a few reflections especially topical given the Jeff Gerstmann controversy. From the article: 'It should come as no surprise that just about every gaming forum on the internet is ablaze right now following the news of GameSpot's termination of long-time editor, Jeff Gerstmann. This article, however, is not an exposé or look into what really happened at GameSpot this week. Rather, consider this a look at the direction of gaming journalism, advertising, and how this all plays a role in the content you read.

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