Thursday, December 18, 2008

Byte Into It - 17 Dec 08 - The Wrap Up Show!


Internet Explorer flaw bigger than expected - Network World
A day after its massive Patch Tuesday release, Microsoft last week warned of a new Internet Explorer vulnerability that could be used to steal user information. At the time, it was thought that only IE7 that was affected. Turns out all versions of IE are vulnerable and hackers are taking action, according to the SANS Internet Storm Center. Microsoft has not yet released a patch for the flaw, which affects everything from IE5 to IE8 beta. The company is recommending a number of risk-mitigating steps, but it might be best to use a different browser until patches are available. If you haven't yet patched IE to protect against the XML exploit, visit Microsoft's December 2008 security advisory. This Web page, which began as an announcement of the Redmond company's planned patch, changes automatically to information about installing the patch as soon as the fix is released.

Songbird - Open Source Music Player
Songbird is an open-source customizable music player that's under active development.

We're working on creating a non-proprietary, cross platform, extensible tool that will help enable new ways to playback, manage, and discover music.

Songbird: Killer Add-ons Make Songbird So Much Better
Songbird's developers chose wisely when it came to the extensions it recommends installing when you first load Songbird. iPod Device Support, QuickTime Playback and Windows Media Playback give owners of protected files, and iPods, access to their tunes with few hitches. Shoutcast Radio and integrate nicely as streaming players, and Concerts tells you whenever an artist you dig in your library is swinging by town to play a live gig. Last, but certainly not least, mashTape gives you all kinds of web-driven contextual content on your played artist, putting artist info, news, photos, and videos from a wide variety of popular sources—Flickr, YouTube, Wikipedia, Digg, etc.—in your bottom tray. All worthy of installation, and, in some cases, hard to imagine music browsing without.

Those familiar with Seeqpod's find-and-stream MP3 search engine can smile at its seamless Songbird integration. A search bar and results listing pops open in a new tab, and you can queue up over-the-net tracks or download them directly to your library or specific playlists. Downloads head into your standard Songbird downloads window, and, well, that's it—it just works, and it expands your library exponentially, assuming you're down with the kind of quasi-legality involved.

As a long-time iTunes user, this is the add-on your long-suffering editor is probably most excited about. The Exorcist adds two views to your media listing options, Ghost Tracks and Duplicate Tracks, that do exactly what you'd hope—list songs referenced in your library without a related media file, and list any songs that seem to be similar in file size or metadata. Better still, those views show you the full path of duplicate files, and offer buttons to just clear out all duplicates or find your missing tracks.

If a single play/pause button just doesn't do it for you, you can add a stop button that looks built-in with this tiny, helpful extension. Not the sexiest of extensions, for sure, but a good indicator of the Firefox-like potential to customize Songbird to whatever shape you want it in—once more add-ons make the list and get updated.

Tune Up: Your music collection is a mess, TuneUp fixes it

Best Of 2008: Most Popular Free Windows Downloads of 2008

Best Of 2008: Most Popular Free Mac Downloads of 2008

Best Of 2008: Most Popular Free Linux Downloads of 2008

Conroy and Trujillo break Mexican standoff over NBN? > Silicon Lust > Blogs > PC Authority
Sol Trujillo and his amigos at Telstra have been holding the country's technological future to ransom during the debate over who will control the next generation of Australia's internet infrastructure. Finally someone has the cojones to stand up to them.

Telstra's arrogance in filing an NBN proposal that it knew didn't meet the requirements was a strategic gamble that most people expected to pay off. Had Communications Minister, Senator Conroy conceded and accepted the proposal, it would have made a mockery of the process - giving Telstra a green light to walk all over the government.

Over the weekend Conroy delivered a rather rude shock to Sol by rejecting Telstra's bid. This would seem to put Telstra out of the race, leaving the field wide open for the five other bidders.

Google Flu Trends
It's been found that certain search terms are good indicators of flu activity. Google Flu Trends uses aggregated Google search data to estimate flu activity in US states up to two weeks faster than traditional systems

Macworld 2009 rumour mill: Windkintosh? > News > PC Authority
One rumour that seemingly won't die is the idea of a Mac OS X Netbook PC.

Apple's remaining mum, but that hasn't stopped the Hackintosh community from "porting" OS X to a variety of Netbooks, albeit with limited functionality -- most notably, a lack of Wireless functionality due to the absence of suitable drivers.

Asking a company to provide OS X drivers for their netbooks has, up until now, been met with silence, and probably a little quaking on the vendor side as they wait for the heavy footsteps of Apple's army of lawyers.

It seems, however, that Realtek, who provide the WiFi chip found in the MSI Wind U100, are dipping their toes into the legally iffy world of the Hackintosh. Forum users at MSIWind.Net asked politely for drivers, and after a lot of patience, Beta drivers were provided.

There's still a few catches; aside from the obvious legal issues, the drivers get WiFi functionality working, but not via Airport. Instead, what you end up with looks like a Bluetooth connection to OS X, which could be interesting if you wanted to pair with a mobile phone as well.

Macworld 2009: Apple says it's the last hurrah > News > PC Authority
come Macworld in January 2009, where we're hoping to see the likes of Snow Leopard on display, Jobs will not be gracing the stage. In news bound to send dismay into the hearts of the Apple faithful, Apple says the Macworld keynote - usually where Jobs takes the glory - will this time be delivered by Philip Schiller, Apple's senior worldwide marketing vice president (that's the shortened version).

That's not all. Apple says the January 2009 event will be Apple's "last year" at Macworld, an event which began in 1985.

Yahoo: Yahoo Mail to Get Third-Party Applications
The beta version of Yahoo Mail is getting third-party applications like Xoopit, WordPress, Flixster, and Flickr—and other Yahoo products are also seeing upgrades, TechCrunch reports.

In what at first appears to be an answer to Gmail Labs, Yahoo Mail is getting third-party apps that let you do things like attach one of your Flickr images to a new messages easily. More interestingly, the new "social" Yahoo Mail will be able to prioritize your incoming email by the people with whom you have an established relationship. TechCrunch writes:

When you view your inbox, you can choose to view messages from just your “connections”, letting you filter out all of the email that ostensibly means less to you. Contacts (which includes everyone in your address book) are different than connections, which are suggested by Yahoo’s algorithm and explicitly identified by users. Invitations to connect are either generated by Yahoo’s algorithm or sent manually by your contacts. Connections appear to be like “friendships” on social networks like MySpace and Facebook, but Yahoo is insisting that the relationships will be used in a variety of ways not found on traditional social networks (such as this mail filtering).

Wikipedia: Wikipedia Officially Launches Mobile Version
Popular user-edited online encyclopedia Wikipedia has finally released a mobile-friendly version of the web site at

The site offers a trimmed down version of Wikipedia proper, supports 14 languages, and even has a mysterious Spoken Wikipedia setting that—though currently not enabled, may presumably one day read Wikipedia articles to you.

Gartner Identifies Top Ten Disruptive Technologies for 2008 to 2012 | eHomeUpgrade
Social networking technologies, web mashups, multicore and hybrid processors and cloud computing are amongst the ten most disruptive technologies[1] that will shape the information technology (IT) landscape over the next five years, according to research and advisory firm Gartner, Inc.

2008's top ten most-searched tech terms : Christopher Null : Yahoo! Tech
Some are surprises, some not so much. Either way: Here are the top 10 terms for 2008, as dictated by you.

10. Garmin - The GPS maker (with a 56% market share) considerably outclassed searches for "GPS." Competitor Tom Tom was the #13 search term.

9. iPod - Now seven years old, ye olde iPod is still a perennial top search on the web.

8. PS3 - The PlayStation 3 is crawling into its own this year, with more games, new models, and an improved online experience.

7. Skype - Though growth is slowing, interest in the leading provider of VOIP calls continues to be high.

6. BlackBerry - With the new BlackBerry Bold and the upcoming BlackBerry Storm, interest in the venerable RIM smart phone continues to surge.

5. PSP - Surprise: The PSP outranks both the PS3 and the Nintendo DS when it comes to the sheer volume of web searches.

4. Xbox 360 - Another game console on the list, no big shock. The Xbox continues its popularity this year thanks to some big price cuts, awesome games, and its upcoming new dashboard.

3. Wii - No mystery on this one. Wiimania continues its run in 2008. "Wii Fit" alone was the #12 search term of the year.

2. iPhone - Have you heard of this device? Apparently Apple has some sort of mobile telephone product out now. Sounds interesting! Must research this.

1. Digital Camera - Check this out! Never mind your iPods, your iPhones, and your gaggle of video game consoles, it's the humble, generic "digital camera" that was the top tech search term this year to date

Top 10 Best Gadgets of 2008 - Breakthrough Awards - Year's Best Toys - Popular Mechanics - which includes:
Microsoft Photosynth -This remarkable software, which can be downloaded for free, analyzes dozens (or hundreds) of photos taken of a location or subject—the Eiffel Tower, say, or a room in a museum. It looks for overlapping points in the images, then arranges the snapshots into a browsable 3D model. The result is a fresh way to organize and share photography—opening up new possibilities for a 180-year-old art form.

Spore - Few video games have built up as much anticipatory buzz as Spore, and it’s not just the game’s pedigree (it was designed by Will Wright, the mastermind behind SimCity and The Sims) or its grand scope (players guide the evolution of a universe). It’s the technology. Spore doesn’t rely on stock characters stored in a library of animations. Instead, the software uses sophisticated logic to allow players’ creations to interact spontaneously.

Amazon Kindle - Like previous e-book
readers, the Amazon Kindle relies on an easy-to-read E Ink display that
needs no backlight and draws power only when loading a new page. (It
can handle thousands of pages between charges.) The Kindle’s key
innovation—the one that blazes the way for digital paper products—is
its inclusion of a high-speed EVDO antenna and a deal with Sprint that
allow users to download books quickly, from nearly anywhere.

Livescribe Pulse Smartpen - Smart pens, which
digitize handwriting for later manipulation on a PC, have been more
like novelties than productivity tools. Not this one. The Livescribe
Pulse smart pen uses an integrated microphone and a revolutionary
method to record and retrieve audio. The user taps his or her
handwritten notes to get the pen to play the appropriate audio.

Potenko PCG1 Power Generator - The Potenco PCG1
pull-cord generator creates electricity for portable gadgets with far
greater efficiency than hand-cranked devices. The PCG1 is the geek-chic
version of a generator for the developing world. It weighs 14 ounces,
has both an internal NiMh battery and a mini-USB output jack and can
convert 2 minutes of effort into 40 minutes of cellphone talk time.

Intel Atom Processor - In addition to being a marvel of miniaturization (47 million transistors on a single 26 x 26 mm chip), the Atom processor is brilliantly efficient, with a power specification ranging from below 1 watt to 2.5 watts. Chips such as the Atom, made possible by a new Intel manufacturing process, can bring computer-level power to highly portable devices—further blurring the distinction between cellphones and computers.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Byte Into It - 10 Dec 08

BBC - Newsbeat - Technology - Facebook users hit by virus
Facebook's 120 million users are being targeted by a virus designed to get hold of sensitive information like credit card details.

'Koobface' spreads by sending a message to people's inboxes, pretending to be from a Facebook friend.

It says "you look funny in this new video" or "you look just awesome in this new video".

By clicking on the link provided they're then asked to watch a "secret video by Tom".

When users try and play the video they're asked to download the latest version of Adobe Flash Player.

If they do, that's when the virus takes hold and attacks the computer.

Guy Bunker works for Symantec, who make Norton AntiVirus, and says there are two ways Koobface gets people's credit card details.

"It can either wait for you to buy something online and just remember the details you type in on your keyboard.

"Otherwise it can search your computer for any cookies you might have from when you've bought something in the past, and take them from there."
Take Jane: a video from NO2ID on the dangers of Britain's burgeoning surveillance state - Boing Boing
The UK NO2ID group has produced a video about one of the dangers of Britain's new database state: Take Jane tells the story of a woman whose vengeful ex- is able to follow her around because she has to update the national ID database every time she moves, and any database that has that many people who are allowed to consult it will have someone her ex-husband can bribe to let him know where she's living at all time.
How the Great Firewall of Britain works - Boing Boing
Here's a flowchart showing how Cleanfeed -- the secret British national firewall that is presently restricting access to Wikipedia - operates: Translation: a third party now monitors every request made to Wikipedia from the six ISPs that participate in the Great Firewall of Britain.
IWF backs down on Wikipedia censorship - Internet - iTnews Australia
The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has lifted its ban on Wikipedia, which slowed access to the site to a crawl in the UK.

On Saturday the IWF placed Wikipedia on its watch list, a group of web sites that are identified to internet service providers as hosting child pornography. The listing came after the site was reported to be hosting a picture a young naked girl, which was the cover The Scorpions album ‘Virgin Killer’.

The IWF listing slowed access to the site to a crawl as ISPs sought to block it and stopped edits being made by British users. However, the IWF has no rescinded its ban.

“Following representations from Wikipedia, IWF invoked its Appeals Procedure and has given careful consideration to the issues involved in this case,” said the group.

“The procedure is now complete and has confirmed that the image in question is potentially in breach of the Protection of Children Act 1978. However, the IWF Board has today (9 December 2008) considered these findings and the contextual issues involved in this specific case and, in light of the length of time the image has existed and its wide availability, the decision has been taken to remove this webpage from our list.”

However, the founder of Wikipedia Jimmy Wales has now said he is investigating wether legal action can be taken against the group for its actions.

"There's no question that it's a dodgy picture, but it's an artistic protest made many years ago," he told Channel 4 News.

"But my concern isn't so much about the image. It's the ambiguous way that they are behaving. It's not clear if they are over-reaching their authority."

"As a result of their actions, the image is actually being seen by more people, it's appearing on thousands of blogs today. It will continue to be passed on. What are they going to do? Are they going to block all of the web if it continues to be spread?
Open source USB key to $2bn laptop plan - Hardware - iTnews Australia
The Rudd Government’s promise of a laptop for every child could fail without at least $2 billion in public funding, but an alternative USB ‘computer’ system pioneered in France may be its saviour.

Speaking to iTnews, Cybersource CEO Con Zymaris said a $2 billion funding injection – double the original commitment – would be needed to put some four million netbooks on the desks of Australian school students.

The Federal government estimates the total cost per laptop to be up to $2,500 over four years.

But that amount could be too high to put one in the hands of every student unless the government doubles its financial commitment or alternate proposals are considered, according to Zymaris.

“With the costs the states are putting forward, there’s no way a billion dollars will buy a laptop for every student,” said Zymaris.

“The current approach will mean one netbook between every five or ten kids.”

Cybersource is proposing a variation of a model adopted by French schools , where students are issued with a 2-4 GB USB key that contains a self-booting Linux operating system ‘and all the core applications they need’.

The USB key can be plugged into any computer – personal or shared – and the student’s data can be accessed either directly from the key or the cloud.

Under the Australian variation, students would receive a USB key and either a personal netbook or a laptop that can be shared between two students, depending on the final amount of government funding to be made available.

Cybersource has created a free online kit that state education departments and schools can use to assess and implement its proposal.

“Everyone is proposing a plan with one laptop and one set of systems and data per person,” said Zymaris.

“We’re saying you can shift away from that model in schools. You can still give students something that’s intrinsically theirs [the USB key] – essentially a ‘computer’ without a netbook terminal – and then provide terminals that are interchangeable.
Microsoft Patch Tuesday for December 2008: eight bulletins
Microsoft will issue eight Security Bulletins on Tuesday, and it will host a webcast to address customer questions on these bulletins the following day (December 10 at 11:00 AM PST, if you're interested). Six of the vulnerabilities are rated "Critical," and two are marked as "Important." Seven of these earned their rating through a remote code execution impact, meaning a hacker could potentially gain control of an infected machine. At least four of the eight updates will require a restart.
Microsoft pledges to purge search info - Security - iTnews Australia
Microsoft is pledging to become the first company to meet European Commission guidelines on search anonymisation.

The company said in a letter to the commission earlier this week that it would be willing to undertake a programme which reduced the retention time of search information to just six months.

The commission first introduced the suggestion in an April report and has been pressing the major search providers to meet the guidelines.

Google did announce a plan to significantly cut its retention time in September. The nine month mark, however, was still too long for the EC's tastes.
Telstra out of Conroy's filtering trial: News - Communications - ZDNet Australia
Telstra has decided not to participate in the government's controversial ISP filtering trial, for which expressions of interest were due today.


The company said its decision had been reached "primarily due to customer management issues" and stressed that Telstra would keep working with the government on filtering outside of the trial, including evaluating technology to block blacklists, since it had "no fundamental difficulties with a legislated regime for blocking a defined ACMA blacklist of illegal sites".

The six-week trial, which was scheduled to start 24 December, involves either just blocking access to websites on the Australian Communications and Media Authority's black list or additionally filtering non web-based applications such as peer-to-peer networks.

There have been concerns about the costs involved and the accuracy of filtering technology with many other service providers opting out of the trial. rang around to see who had put in an expression of interest to be part of the trial and who had not.
Australians Against Internet Censorship
The Australian government is currently quietly going ahead with plans to filter all Australian's access to the internet in a manner similar to the People's Republic of China and Iran.

This is despite the facts that

* The filter will significantly slow down the internet for all Australians
* The filter will not be able to prevent distribution of illegal material anyway
* The filter represents a dangerous erosion of our freedom.

So, before this terrible idea is enacted we call on Australians to

get informed.
get connected.
get organised.
and Stop The Clean Feed.

Nationwide protests on the 13th of December - Click here for details
Hundreds protest net filtering on Conroy’s new blog - Internet - iTnews Australia
Just 24 hours since its launch, hundreds of people have used Senator Conroy's new blog as a place to protest against his proposed net filtering scheme.

The Digital Economy Future Directions blog was launched by Senator Conroy yesterday as a place for people to comment on various areas of digital policy.

Conroy noted that an upcoming blog post, "How do we maintain the same civil society we enjoy offline in an online world?", would touch on the issue of filtering. "We welcome your feedback about the [filtering] issue in response to this post," he said.

But readers didn’t wait for that post to go live, instead flooding Minister Tanner’s welcome post with over 400 posts in less than 24 hours.
Digital Economy blog | Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Conroy has announced that the Australian Government will develop a Future directions paper for the digital economy—a roadmap for Australian businesses, households and government to maximise participation in the digital economy. And we would like you to help us create the roadmap.
The National Human Rights Consultation provides an opportunity for you to share your views on human rights in Australia.
GetUp! Campaign Actions
This government consultation is a once in a lifetime chance to call for a Human Rights Act to permanently protect human rights in Australia.

Make your submission below - it can be as long or as short as you wish. We have included some handy talking points below help you out, but try to put your thoughts in your own words, and feel free to talk about how human rights protection might affect you.
Online journalists now jailed more often than other media
If you think it's tough to be a blogger because your Google AdWords revenue has been in the toilet lately, the Committee to Protect Journalists wants to remind you that Internet journalist—including bloggers—can and do suffer much more around the world. According to the group's new report, Internet journalists now make up the largest single group of imprisoned journalists.

Of the 125 journalists imprisoned around the world for doing their jobs, 45 percent are "bloggers, Web-based reporters, or online editors." China continues its ten-year winning streak when it comes to tossing writers into jail, with Cuba, Burma, Eritrea, and Uzbekistan next in line.
Australia's Internet filtering too ambitious, doomed to fail
It's tough being a government these days; who has the energy to clean up the Internet after a hard day's work bailing out the financial sector? Not the Australian government, it seems. Rather than actually doing something about illegal content, they just make a list of it and tell ISPs to filter everything that's on the list. Sidestepping the murky political details and—for the moment—the civil liberties problems inherent in this approach, let's take a closer look at the technical aspects of such a plan.
Government, EFF spar in court over telecom immunity
Lawyers for the Electronic Frontier Foundation faced off against government attorneys Tuesday, as Judge Vaughn Walker heard arguments in a legal fight over telecoms' role in warrantless wiretapping that began almost three years ago. At issue is the constitutionality of the FISA Amendments Act, passed by Congress this summer, which could end the suit against the telecoms by retroactively immunizing them for their participation in the controversial National Security Agency eavesdropping program.
Danish court says ISP must block The Pirate Bay
The Pirate Bay has made a habit out of pointing and laughing at Big Content serving up thousands of links to copyrighted content to its 25 million+ users. The MPAA, IFPI, and other industry organizations have been left fighting skirmishes in courts around the world in an attempt to get TPB taken offline, or, at the very least, have access to it blocked. Big Content won a minor victory on Thanksgiving Day as a Danish court upheld a lower court decision forcing a Danish ISP to keep its customers from accessing the BitTorrent site.
Does the Drew verdict make ToS breakers potential felons?
The guilty verdict against Lori Drew, prosecutors crowed, would send an "overwhelming message" to online bullies. Though she escaped conviction on felony charges, the 49-year-old Missouri mom could still face three years in prison or fines of up to $300,000 for launching an online harassment campaign that ended in the suicide of a teenage neighbor. But the "message," legal observers worry, may be that anyone who uses a Web site without paying close attention to those ubiquitous Terms of Service risks committing a federal crime.
Patent suit targets iPhone, all mobile web pages ever
It's a new week, which means yet another lawsuit has been filed against Apple. The latest lawsuit comes in the form of patent infringement accusations from EMG Technology, LLC regarding Mobile Safari's viewing, zooming, and scrolling capabilities on the iPhone.

EMG asserts that Apple's built-in software on the iPhone violates patent number 7,441,196, titled "Apparatus and method of manipulating a region on a wireless device screen for viewing, zooming and scrolling internet content." In brief, the patent describes a method by which a website would be rendered to create a "sister site" so that it can be presented on a TV, handheld device, or cell phone, and blocks of the site would be broken up in the code so that they could be zoomed in on easily when the user selects it. Sound sort of like Mobile Safari when you double-tap a section of the page? EMG thought so too.

But that's only part of it. According to statements made by EMG attorney and "IP expert," Stanley Gibson, the company is suing Apple over various other companies making mobile versions of their websites for easy display and navigation on the iPhone. "For example, to access NBC on a computer the URL is For the mobile site on the iPhone, the URL would be," Gibson said in a statement. "The '196 patent covers the simplified interface of reformatted mobile content to provide optimum viewing and navigation with single touches on a small screen." Which is totally why EMG is suing Apple and not, say, NBC. Or Motorola, which also displays mobile-formatted web pages. Or Palm. Or Microsoft. Or anyone, really.