Thursday, June 19, 2008

Byte Into It - 18 Jun 08

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New Trojan targets business bankers - Security - iTnews Australia
Security provider RSA is reporting a new and unfamiliar Trojan attack that exploits business bank account holders’ heightened awareness of security and uses it against them.
Customers receive an email claiming to be from their bank and are asked to download a “certificate” under the guise of a security update.
The certificate contains a Trojan that proceeds to launch a multi-staged attack, looking for not just usernames and passwords, but chat room credentials, secure downloads, and anything the attackers believe may be useful.
“The attackers are targeting the top sectors of banking customers, so they can find much more secure information than they would with retail customers,” said Geoff Noble, RSA’s Banking and Finance Specialist.

AMD says new graphics chip makes games seem real | Technology | Los Angeles Times
the new family of graphics card, which AMD code-named the RV770. AMD says it will sell two models starting June 25: The ATI Radeon HD 4850 will cost $200 and the more powerful ATI Radeon HD 4870 will cost $300. AMD's Cinema 2.0 site has a few more details.

Second, you wanted to see the clip.

Groklaw - Red Hat Makes History With Patent Settlement - Compatible with GPLv3
there is news about a patent settlement between Red Hat and Firestar and DataTern in the JBoss litigation. It's because I wanted to be positive I was correct that this is the first known settlement involving patents that is harmonious with GPLv3. It is.

It's also harmonious with GPLv2, of course, but this is history in the making, friends. They settled a lawsuit brought against them in a way that licenses patents without violating the GPL. I'll show you how, but first, so you know I'm not just dreaming, here's the answer I got from Richard Fontana, Open Source Licensing and Patent Counsel, Red Hat, to my question about whether this is the first known GPLv3 patent agreement that works:

Most patent settlements and similar agreements are confidential, but to my knowledge this is the first patent settlement that satisfies the requirements of GPL version 3. Indeed, it really goes further than GPLv3 in the degree to which upstream and downstream parties receive safety from the patents at issue here. (And this is not a case of trying to find a loophole in the GPL, but rather a desire on our part to reach an agreement that provided broad patent protection for developers, distributors and users, while complying fully with the conditions of the licenses of the software we and our community distribute.)

You know what this means? It means that those who claim the GPL isolates itself from standards bodies' IP pledges are wrong. It *is* possible to come up with language that satisfies the GPL and still acknowledges patents, and this is the proof. That means Microsoft could do it for OOXML if it wanted to. So who is isolating whom?

BBC NEWS | Technology | 'Darlings' of UK games honoured
Two of the pioneers of the UK video games industry have been recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

David and Richard Darling, co-founders of game developers Codemasters, were both made Commanders of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).

They built up their company from a bedroom enterprise into one of the best known games developers in the world.

The firm is behind well established titles including the Colin McRae Rally series and Sensible Soccer.

More recently the firm has ventured into online games, releasing Lord of the Rings Online.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Behind the scenes of Firefox 3.0
Alongside the speed improvements goes the "Smart Location Bar" - a feature known as the "Awesome Bar" internally at Mozilla.
Mr Schroepfer calls this novel feature: "The biggest user experience change... since tabbed browsing."

The feature gives the browser's address bar a mechanism for quickly returning to web pages without bookmarking them, even if a user doesn't remember the address. It can also search "tags" - keywords that users associate with a particular page.

"Arms race"

Security was also high on the development team's list of improvements for the new version.

Mr Schroepfer told the BBC: "It's an arms race between the good guys and the bad guys. This is not scare tactics or boogie man kind of stuff.

"We have seen a huge uptick in malware attacks because they are financially motivated," he said.

"This is billions of dollars a year. There are clear incentives for people to do this because they make money so you need some good guys on your side to block them out."

Included in Firefox 3.0 are malicious software spotters that tell users when they are on a website that has been compromised. A red box will pop up in the middle of the screen warning users of the danger.

Firefox 3.0 warns when users stray on to a booby-trapped page
Mr Schroepfer said: "This new type of attack where people are hijacking legitimate websites and using them as mechanisms to try and install software on your machine is truly worrying.

Behind the warning system is a list of infected sites that is updated every 30 minutes to keep up with the pace of web attacks.

Hands on: Flock 2 steps up the social browser game
As the Flock 2 beta is based on the shiny new Firefox 3 code base just released today, it inherits new features and stability while presenting some of the typical bugginess found in betas. Probably Flock 2's most significant enhancement is Firefox 3's revolutionary and responsible memory management.

Since Flock is such a media-intensive browser, Flock 1.x can quickly gobble up 300-400MB of RAM (or more) after just a couple hours of medium-to-heavy usage. Browse your friends' social timelines, peruse some photos at Flickr, open half a dozen tabs, and watch a YouTube video or two, and Flock 1.x joins nearly every other browser in hogging what has always felt like way, way too many CPU and RAM resources.

With Firefox 3 under the hood now, Flock 2 is a far more responsible resource citizen after heavy usage. Flock 2 also feels generally snappier and more responsive, even on my comparatively slow MacBook Air with 2GB of RAM.

"Cubit" P2P search protocol could one day sink The Pirate Bay
In popular perception, BitTorrent is a decentralized protocol; after all, all that data is coming from other peers and not from a central server, right? But because searching for particular files on BitTorrent networks can be a dodgy proposition, most BitTorrent users rely on torrent indexes like those provided by, ahem, The Pirate Bay, giving the system a central choke point. Shut down the torrent aggregators and files become much more difficult to find, so it's no surprise that content owners have recently targeted aggregators like Demonoid, OiNK, and the aforementioned The Pirate Bay. Now, a new project out of Cornell hopes to provide good quality, approximate keyword searching directly through BitTorrent networks—a truly decentralized system that doesn't rely on aggregators.

iDisk now unsupported by Firefox 3, Safari for Windows
With all the discussion of the new MobileMe service that will be arriving on July 11, it's easy to forget that .Mac will be hanging around until that time. Since many of .Mac's features will simply be renamed and rolled over into MobileMe features, changes to .Mac in the coming weeks may offer some insight into what's coming up. The MacObserver has pointed out one recent change to .Mac that may be significant, such as the introduction of browser requirements for accessing iDisk.

In the past, Apple hasn't been too picky about the browser used to access the iDisk web interface, but now users of unsupported browsers are being sent to a page listing out specific browsers browsers. Both Firefox 3 and OmniWeb are curiously absent from the list, but Camino, OmniWeb, Firefox 2, Opera, and most versions of Safari still work. Over on the Windows side, Safari for Windows is mysteriously missing from the supported browsers list, but people using most versions of Firefox and Internet Explorer should be good to go.

The requirements seem to be confined to the iDisk web interface for the time being, but are fairly similar to the list of suggested browsers for MobileMe that can be found hiding at the bottom of the migration page. Safari for Windows does appear on the MobileMe browser list, though, so it's unclear why the browser can't be used to access iDisk right now. As the .Mac to MobileMe changeover progresses, the browser requirements will be appearing for other services, so hopefully Apple will add Safari for Windows (and perhaps Firefox 3) compatibility soon.

Adobe still hanging on to Flash on iPhone thread
this spring, at the annual shareholder's meeting, Jobs panned Flash, saying the full version was far too slow for the iPhone (if you ask me, it's too slow on the desktop as well) and that Adobe's Flash Lite just isn't the "real" web. Jobs lamented, "There's this missing product in the middle."

Adobe's comments don't specify if the company is working on such a middle product or what kind of support, if any, it is getting from Apple. For its part, Apple has continued to push using current web standards, including HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for browser-based interaction, and continues to work on defining and supporting future standards, like HTML5. If Apple intends to support any version of Flash in the iPhone, neither its words nor its actions point in that direction.

Acrobat gets 'Flashier' - Upgrade - Reviews - Technology -
The biggest advancement in Adobe Acrobat 9 is that Flash is now baked into the entire Acrobat family, including the free reader. This opens all kinds of possibilities, such as embedding audio and video into a PDF document without relying on third-party software to play back. Acrobat is now so feature-rich that it's moving towards the look and feel of Microsoft's Powerpoint. It lets you create Powerpoint-like interactive multimedia presentations, such as training materials.

Adobe has also created a new document-sharing format known as "PDF Portfolio", a Zip-like container which can hold a variety of document formats including JPG, DOC, SWF, PPT, XLS, CAD and PDF. Previously you would have attached the documents to an email (perhaps zipped into one file). PDF Portfolio lets you embed all those documents in one file and create a menu to display them. You can create an intro screen and add extra details to present an organised overview of a project rather than just a collection of documents. Acrobat Pro users can create customised PDF Portfolio templates to maintain corporate branding. PDF Portfolio files can be read with the free Acrobat Reader 9.0 and are backwards compatible with Reader 8.x, although some of the polish is missing. Recipients with Reader 9.0 can open and edit documents within the portfolio and save changes back into the portfolio.

SproutCore: rich web apps in JavaScript, no Flash needed
One session at last week's WWDC featured featured a JavaScript application framework called SproutCore, which has generated quite a bit of buzz since then. The framework was used by Apple to develop .Mac's Web Gallery feature and is likely being used to develop the web-based applications that are part of Apple's MobileMe service. With Apple standing up for web standards—supporting standards in WebKit, working with W3C and WHATWG to develop next-gen standards, even remaking its web site in pure HTML, CSS, and JavaScript—SproutCore is being promoted by Apple as a recommended framework for creating rich, standards-based web applications that have a "native look-and-feel."

The developers at Sproutit originally came up with SproutCore, a complete framework for building rich Internet applications, because they wanted to rewrite their first application, Mailroom, to run completely via the browser. Since the framework is open source, anyone can freely take advantage of the framework to build desktop-quality applications that run in all major browsers. Anyone, including Apple.Apple's interest also lies in being able to deliver a rich applications without relying on proprietary plug-ins, like Flash. Roughly Drafted's Daniel Eran Dilger wrote yesterday that Apple is also adopting the framework for its MobileMe service set to launch in the next few weeks. The MobileMe service will include an e-mail client, address book, calendar, web gallery, and web disk apps that all run cross-platform in all modern browsers. These apps are almost identical to the native Mac OS X apps they mimic, all without the use of Flash. This same technology makes it possible to create iPhone-optimized versions, which has no way to access Flash content.

Spore Creature Creator for Mac OS X
The premise of Microcosmic God Spore is both simple and complex: life from start to finish. Will Wright of Sims fame has created a game so sweeping that you really have to wonder if it can be pulled off. Broken into five distinct phases of game play: tide pool, creature, tribal, civilization, space, you play god—though it's more the watchmaker than the Zeus-type throwing lightning bolts and taking the shape of animals to have sex.

Spore has also been in the news for the Mac this year. A mobile component of the game was previewed for the iPhone as part of the Apple Event in March. Before that, at Macworld Expo 2008 the Creature Creator was up and running, and now it's available as a demo to download. That's the good news. The bad news is the system requirements will be keeping more than a few Mac users from playing iGod.

* Mac OS X 10.5.3 Leopard or higher
* Intel Core Duo Processor
* 1024 MB RAM
* ATI X1600 or NVidia 7300 GT with 128 MB of Video RAM, or Intel Integrated GMA X3100
* At least 260MB of hard drive space for installation, plus additional space for created creatures.

PPC Graybeards, no Spore for you. And not for you Mac mini owners, and anyone who purchased a MacBook before late last year, as "this game will not run on the GMA 950 class of integrated video cards." For those left, you can run the Spore demo

Friday, June 6, 2008

Byte Into It - 5th June 08

It's raining cheap laptops

Two major Taiwan computer sellers have launched low-priced mini laptops at Asia's biggest computer show on Tuesday, both forecasting the shipment of millions of units this year.

Asustek Computer announced improvements to its successful "Eee PC" family at the opening of the five-day exhibition better known as Taipei Computex.

"We've made some adjustments following the suggestions of users over the past year," Asustek chief executive officer Jerry Shen told reporters, referring to specifications including 23-25cm screens, compared with the 18cm screen of the previous versions.

Intel's Atom chip to ride portable PC wave

Intel says the market for smaller, low-cost personal computers, some of which can fit in one's pocket, could be as big as $US10 billion, driven by demand from emerging and matured markets.

The world's largest semiconductor maker has launched its smallest ever processors - the Atom range - to power what it calls mobile internet devices, as well as ultra-small PCs, called Netbooks and Nettops.