Thursday, April 23, 2009

Byte Into It - 22 Apr 09

Ubuntu Releasing A Cloudy 'Jaunty Jackalope' -- Ubuntu Linux -- InformationWeek
The release (announced Monday and available for download on Thursday, April 23) has added little surprises since the final beta test last week. Die-hard Linux fans and even curious looky-loos have been anticipating version 9.04 or "Jaunty Jackalope" for months. Available in desktop and server versions, the software is expected to be a viable alternative to basic Windows XP PCs, especially in the category of compact laptops, called netbooks. Ubuntu's handlers boast that Jaunty Jackalope's desktop improvements will give users more time between charges along with immediate access after hibernation. Included in the bundle are the 3.0 productivity suite and support for Skype. Adobe Flash Improved switching between Wi-Fi and 3G environments also has been broadened to support more wireless devices and 3G cards.

The server version's biggest addition is its connection with Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC). The feature makes Jaunty Jackalope the first commercially supported distribution to let companies build cloud environments on an intranet or connect with an external cloud provider like Amazon. The release is compatible with Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth said.

VMware vows to overhaul data center with "cloud operating system" - Network World
Seven months after VMware began teasing the industry with previews of the "Virtual Datacenter Operating System," VMware on Tuesday dropped that moniker and is now calling vSphere a "cloud operating system" to take advantage of growing interest in cloud computing and the idea of the private cloud.

In pushing the private cloud, VMware is hoping IT shops will build highly virtualized, fault-tolerant, self-service data centers that resemble those of cloud providers such as Amazon and Google, but which exist solely within the firewall for the benefit of an enterprise's own users. VMware said it will eventually release an upgrade letting IT shops connect their private clouds to cloud services offered commercially by the likes of Terremark, Savvis and SunGard.
Palm's webOS lives up to hype, early developers say - Network World
For the mobile enterprise, Palm’s webOS and companion Mojo software development kit offer a dramatically simpler way to build sophisticated mobile applications that are highly integrated with Web-based content and services, according to several developers working with these tools since early this year.

“It’s a completely new way of thinking about an OS on mobile devices,” says Christian Sepulveda, vice president of business development at Pivotal Labs. The San Francisco software development shop is building its own webOS application as well as several for third parties. The potential power of webOS lies in three capabilities that Palm has brought together into a coherent whole. First, mobile applications are written entirely in JavaScript, HTML and Cascading Style Sheets, which are technologies that an army of Web developers has been using for years. Second, webOS was designed from the outset to run multiple applications at once and, these developers say, to minimize the well-known potential problems that arise when doing so. Third, the application model is designed in turn to fully exploit both these features, creating, these developers say, a simpler, far more intuitive user experience.
Windows 7 release candidate to tip up in two weeks - News - PC Authority
Yet another leak has sprung regarding Microsoft's upcoming Windows 7 release, this time with the firm's partner programme web site noting the release candidate will be good to go before May 5th, just two weeks from now.

The page, reading: "Partners: If you have a subscription to MSDN or TechNet, you can download Windows 7 RC now, otherwise, you can download Windows 7 RC starting May 5, 2009," came to the beady eyed attention of Tech enthusiast site Neowin on Saturday afternoon.
Windows 7 will have hobbled 'Starter Edition' - News - PC Authority
Software giant Microsoft is going to have starter version of Windows which it will sell on low-spec PCs and laptops jolly cheap.

Although the Vole has not said what it considers jolly cheap, the biggest downside is that the OS will be crippled so that it can only run three applications at the same time.

The big idea is that the Vole will help keep the price of the hardware down, but will force users who want to use it to pay for an upgrade for more usable to software.

To be fair, it would not make much sense to run more than three applications at the same time on a netbook, but it depends how the OS will count the three applications.
Apple preparing to release new Snow Leopard beta build - Ars Technica
The Snow Leopard beta process has been underway for a while now. In recent months, Apple has been releasing new test builds of the upcoming OS roughly four to six weeks apart. The schedule now appears to be changing a bit; Apple is preparing to release a new beta build of Snow Leopard at some point this week, according to AppleInsider, although it's unclear exactly how significant the new build will be.
Slashdot | RIAA Brief Attacks Free Software Foundation
"The RIAA has requested permission to file a response to the amicus curiae brief filed by the Free Software Foundation in SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum, the Boston case against a Boston University grad student accused of having downloaded some song files when in his teens. In their proposed response, the RIAA lawyers personally attacked The Free Software Foundation, Ray Beckerman (NewYorkCountryLawyer), and NYCL's blog, 'Recording Industry vs. The People'. The 9-page response (PDF) — 4 pages longer than the document to which it was responding — termed the FSF an organization 'dedicated to eliminating restrictions on copying, redistribution, and modifying computer programs', and accused the FSF of having an 'open and virulent bias against copyrights' and 'blatant bias' against the record companies. They called 'Recording Industry vs. The People' an 'anti-recording industry web site' and stated that NYCL 'is currently subject to a pending sanctions motion for his conduct in representing a defendant' (without disclosing that plaintiffs' lawyers were 'subject to a pending motion for Rule 11 sanctions for their conduct in representing plaintiffs' in that very case)."
BBC NEWS | Business | UK 'has the worst copyright laws'
UK copyright laws "needlessly criminalise" music fans and need to be updated, a consumer watchdog says.

UK laws that make it a copyright violation to copy a CD that you own onto a computer or iPod should be changed, says Consumer Focus.

The call came after global umbrella group Consumers International put the UK in last place in a survey of 16 countries' copyright laws.

Consumer Focus said the UK had to catch up with the rest of the world.

"UK copyright law is the oldest, but also the most out of date," said Ed Mayo, chief executive of Consumer Focus.
Optus joins ISP net filter trials - Internet - iTnews Australia
Optus has won a place in the second round of the Federal Government’s controversial internet filtering trials, whilst Telstra will now also conduct non consumer-facing technical tests of filtering technology.

The news is an about-face on Senator Conroy's decision to shun Optus from the first round in favour of six other ISPs.

It appears to add considerable weight to the technology pilot, which previously counted Primus as the largest participating ISP.

"The participation of Optus will help ensure the Government obtains robust results from the pilot which will inform the evidence-based development of our ISP filtering policy," Senator Conroy said.
Concern as Microsoft fails to patch PowerPoint flaw - Security - iTnews Australia
Security experts are expressing concern at Microsoft's failure to patch a flaw in PowerPoint that is already being exploited by malware writers.

The flaw is being used in attacks at the moment and many were expecting a patch at the last Patch Tuesday but to date there has been no sign of the fix.

“This PowerPoint exploit is in the wild right now,” said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.

“It comes in the form of a presentation showing naked Japanese girls bathing in rockpools, or as an IQ test, to lure the user in. We're hoping Microsoft will patch this soon.”

He said that so far the exploit was being used in a targeted fashion but there was serious concern that it would be spammed out as part of a botnet recruitment drive.
Analysts weigh up costs of Telstra split - Telecommunications - iTnews Australia
Macquarie Research estimates functional separation would cost Telstra five per cent in product margins and a 33 per cent hit to its share price, but the forced sale of its HFC network is a greater risk to the carrier.

In a research note released yesterday, the financial analyst group weighed up the costs Telstra shareholders would wear should the various scenarios tabled in the Federal Government's upcoming regulatory review come into effect.

Macquarie estimated functional separation would cost Telstra shareholders between six and 33 cents per share - the lower figure representing a scenario in which regulatory changes are made without a National Broadband Network (NBN) being completed by the Government, the latter including the competitive effect of an NBN.

Even without an NBN, Macquarie said, the "implementation costs" of functional separation - the setting up of two new divisions, new systems and new brands - would be significant.

Competing with an NBN, meanwhile, would result in Telstra earning five per cent lower margins on its fixed line products, "stemming from greater equivalence of inputs for access seekers versus Telstra's retail division, as well as the impact of having to provide additional wholesale services that would bring fresh competition to the market place."
VMware takes virtualisation to the next level - Software - iTnews Australia
VMware has officially launched the next version of its virtualisation platform, adding storage and network virtualisation features designed to turn corporate data centres into a single giant resource the company dubs "the software mainframe".

However, the company is also targeting smaller companies, a market it has been perceived as neglecting, with affordable entry-level editions of the new platform.

Due to ship before the end of this quarter, vSphere 4 is the successor to VMware Infrastructure 3 (VI3) and proclaimed by the company as "the first cloud operating system".

But VMware was also keen to point out it allows customers to build their own "internal cloud" based on infrastructure that they have already invested in.

"We are turning IT into a service, whether it is offered by an external service provider or offered internally," said Paul Harrapin, managing director of VMware Australia, at the launch today.
Activists rally troops against proposed EU 'Net regulations - Ars Technica
According to press reports, the EU's attempt to overhaul the Internet market within its member states has now set the EU's Parliament and said states on a "collision course." We've been reporting on the proposed telecom reforms package for several years now (most recently here), in part because its a massive overhaul and modernization of network policy, and in part because the unwieldy structure of the European political system has frequently allowed various interest groups and member states to insert their own take on issues into the package. The latest hold up arose over the handling of copyright infringers, but it has given various advocates of other issues the opportunity to mobilize against other features of the reform package.

If it's hard to follow what's going on, that's hardly surprising. The reforms package has been making its way through the European Parliament, a legislative body, under the direction of members of the European Commission, which is the executive branch. Commissioner Viviane Reding of Luxembourg, the Telecoms Commissioner, has had primary responsibility for the text. But, to actually be implemented, the reforms also need to be approved by the European Council, which is comprised of the individual union members' heads of state. Getting everyone on board for a single document has proven challenging.

Those challenges have been made greater by the fact that the proposed legislation takes different approaches to handling differences in the laws of member states, depending on the subject. So, for example, it demands interoperability among the networks of different EU countries, regardless of local laws. In contrast, when it comes to issues of network management and net neutrality, member states are permitted to set their own standards; nevertheless, the legislation states that companies throughout the EU are required to disclose any limits they place on traffic to their customers.

Confused yet?
Big Content seeks injunction as Pirate Bay appeals verdict - Ars Technica
The Pirate Bay verdict is in, but the site operators aren't in jail, haven't paid any fines, and continue to run the site. They have also filed their promised appeal in the case, ensuring that the whole episode will drag on for quite some time. That's just fine with The Pirate Bay's administrators, though, who today speculated that the case will take another two to three years to wrap up. In the meantime, "The site will live on!"

The fact that the site lives on is a little weird, given the guilty verdict, the 30 million kronor fine, and the year of jail time for all defendants. What's missing from the collection of penalties? An injunction shutting down The Pirate Bay.

A spokesperson for the Motion Picture Association said after the verdict, "We now look to the Swedish authorities to end this criminal enterprise," but that apparently won't happen without another win in court. John Kennedy, head of international music trade group IFPI, told the New York Times last week that his group "planned to file additional litigation to try to get The Pirate Bay shut down."
Study: pirates biggest music buyers. Labels: yeah, right - Ars Technica
Those who download illegal copies of music over P2P networks are the biggest consumers of legal music options, according to a new study by the BI Norwegian School of Management. Researchers examined the music downloading habits of more than 1,900 Internet users over the age of 15, and found that illegal music connoisseurs are significantly more likely to purchase music than the average, non-P2P-loving user.

Unsurprisingly, BI found that those between 15 and 20 are more likely to buy music via paid download than on a physical CD, though most still purchased at least one CD in the last six months. However, when it comes to P2P, it seems that those who wave the pirate flag are the most click-happy on services like the iTunes Store and Amazon MP3. BI said that those who said they download illegal music for "free" bought ten times as much legal music as those who never download music illegally. "The most surprising is that the proportion of paid download is so high," the Google-translated Audun Molde from the Norwegian School of Management told Aftenposten.

Record label EMI doesn't quite buy into BI's stats, though. EMI's Bjørn Rogstad told Aftenposten that the results make it seem like free downloads stimulate pay downloads, but there's no way to know for sure. "There is one thing we are not going away, and it is the consumption of music increases, while revenue declines. It can not be explained in any way other than that the illegal downloading is over the legal sale of music," Rogstad said.

Rogstad's dismissal of the findings don't take into account that the online music model has dramatically changed how consumers buy music. Instead of selling a huge volume of full albums—the physical media model—the record labels are now selling a huge volume of individual, cherry-picked tracks. It's no secret that the old album format is in dire straits thanks to online music, which is a large part of why overall music revenue is going down.

BI's report corroborates data that the Canadian branch of the RIAA, the Canadian Record Industry Association, released in 2006. At that time, the organization acknowledged that P2P users do indeed buy more music than the industry wants to admit, and that P2P isn't the primary reason why other people aren't buying music. 73 percent of of respondents to the CRIA's survey said that they bought music after they downloaded it illegally, while the primary reason from the non-P2P camp for not buying music was attributed to plain old apathy.
Digging up dirt: Facebook spies for hire - web - Technology -
Large companies and government departments are employing a new Sydney-based company to dig up dirt on staff by spying on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube posts.

SR7 specialises in "online risk and reputation management" and claims to be the only company in Australia that actively monitors social networking sites on behalf of companies.

It was formed about eight months ago in response to the growing trend for people to take conversations they would have traditionally had with mates at the pub on to their social network profiles.

Few people realise these seemingly private sites are still public spaces. If controversial posts leak to the media, it can lead to brands suffering immense damage to their reputations.

SR7 director James Griffin said business was booming following recent public relations disasters sparked by the stupid social network behaviour of a few rogue employees. The firm's clients included "a number of blue-chip companies in a variety of industries" and "government departments and agencies".

This week, two Domino's employees were sacked and arrested after they published videos of themselves on the web fouling up customers' food. Late last year, three scantily clad Californian teens were fired from their jobs at KFC for publishing photos of themselves on MySpace bathing in a KFC basin.

But these are extreme cases, and there are scores of other instances where staff have been disciplined for seemingly innocuous posts, such as announcing in their Facebook status that they are tired of work.

David Vaile, executive director of UNSW's Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre, believes SR7 may be acting unethically and said he suspected companies were using dirt gathered from social networking sites as an excuse to fire people due to the challenging economic climate.

He said the practice could backfire when the economy turns around as people would refuse to work for or trust companies that spied on staff.
The Internet Kill Switch - Network World
A bill, currently in draft, which is sponsored by Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), is a great example of how watching political sausage making will cause you to lose all respect for those cranking the handle.
Is your ATM card safe anymore? Hackers crack PIN data covertly without skimming - News - PC Authority
Hackers have apparently found a way to decipher the PIN code data from millions of ATM cards without the need for external skimming devices at the ATM
Is your ATM card safe anymore? Hackers crack PIN data covertly without skimming - News - PC Authority
According to this Wired story, the code breakers are here and they're actively seeking more efficient ways of pulling the PINs from customer accounts without their knowledge.

Until now, it was believed that after you had entered your PIN, the code would be transmitted to the bank, completely encrypted and invisible to third parties. It was once assumed to be impossible to grab PIN data in the system, but a number of academic reports, including one from Israel have shown it is not only possible, but actively happening in various hacker circles.

In simple terms, the hack has been made possible due to a breakdown in the security process, where certain contractors have different systems in place for the data process that's transmitted from the ATM (or merchant) to the branch. In between, the PIN data must flow through a series of hardware security modules, known as HSMs and according to Wired's report, it's across these HSMs that the hack on encrypted PIN data is occurring.

One of the more troubling aspects of this emerging threat, is that unlike credit card transactions, it's very hard for the customer to prove the fraudulent activity has taken place. If cash is removed from a customer's account using a secure PIN (that has been compromised covertly), it becomes very hard for the customer to prove they are not at fault, due to the lack of evidence.

Although it's not clear how this impacts the Australian banking industry, it's clear that this won't be the last time we'll be hearing about PIN fraud.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Byte Into It - 15 Apr 09

Twitter Worm Attack Continues: Here's How to Keep Safe - Network World
The malicious worm affecting Twitter over the weekend has now mutated and continues to invade the popular micro-blogging network. Although Twitter is taking action against the problem, security analysts fear that further mutations of the worm will continue to wreak havoc on the network over the week.The worm, appearing as "" or "StalkDaily", was created by the 17-year-old Mike Mooney "out of boredom" and is now generating thousands of spam messages containing the word "Mikeyy". This is the fourth attack by the worm in the last four days, which sends Twitter messages from infected accounts, without the owners' knowledge.

First of all, experts advise Twitter users not to click on any links from messages containing the words "Mikeyy" or "Stalkdaily". It is recommended you use third-party Twitter desktop clients like Twhirl or TweetDeck (both PC and Mac) and that you do not use the web-based version of Twitter, especially for viewing user profiles (as this is where the attack seems to originate).

As an additional security measure, you can disable JavaScript in your browser. Firefox users can use the no-script add-on, which stops any unwanted scripts from running.

How to remove Mikeyy

If you've noticed any suspicious activity from your profile that includes the words above, then most certainly you're infected. It is very important for users not to retweet (RT) any of the fake messages.

Clear your browser cache and turn off JavaScript. Log into Twitter and delete any messages your profile automatically posted that contain the word "Mikeyy". You can turn JavaScript back on so you change your bio, URL and reset your color scheme from your profile. Additionally, changing your password could be a safe measure.

After all the steps above were completed, log out of your account and you can continue using Twitter via a desktop client.

How will Telstra respond to Rudd's fibre optic level playing field? - Silicon Lust - Blogs - PC Authority
Paul Montgomery, former Internet industry journalist and founder of Australian fantasy football site FanFooty, summed up Telstra's strengths nicely in a recent conversation;

"The problem is that Telstra is still an all-powerful monopoly with much better weapons that everybody else put together, so it is in a great position to out-compete the NBN on deployment and price. Telstra Wholesale is the biggest in the business with the shiniest toys and the most soldiers. You just know Telstra is going to beat the NBN to every market, delaying launch until just before the NBN on an exchange-by-exchange basis, just like it did with ADSL. And they'll be particularly evil in marginal seats just to hurt the Government," he said.

Of course you can add to this an army of dodgy door to door salesman, which previously marched one suburb ahead of competing ADSL rollouts to lock suckers into two year Telstra contracts just before true competition reached their exchange. Telstra now has almost a decade to reinforce its battlements before the NBN arrives on the scene. The government is going to need a thick skin, a massive marketing campaign and a gaggle of lawyers if it wants to ensure it doesn't waste more than $20 billion taxpayer dollars on a white elephant.

The gloves will be off and Telstra will come out swinging, perhaps as a more effective opposition than the Liberals leading up to the next election. Lets hope KRudd's Fibre to the Home survives the onslaught. taken offline by German registry - Ars Technica
Update: Despite the statement posted on, the disappearance of appears to be the result of nothing more than a terminated contract. The contract to host ended at the end of 2008 (, via Slashdot), and the site was taken offline after a three-month window during which the registrant could have moved it elsewhere.

Original story:

Germany and Wikileaks may be going at it again. The latest kerfuffle comes courtesy of German registration authority, DENIC, which has removed the domain registration for The domain, which is still unavailable as of publication, is held by Theodor Reppe of Dresden, Germany, whose home was raided last month by German police.

The raid came shortly after Wikileaks published a blacklist reportedly used by the Australian government to block banned websites. The list is closely guarded by the Australian Media and Communications Authority, and is reportedly distributed to ISPs and makers of filtering software as part of Australia's ambitious (and unrealistic) content filtering initiative.
BBC NEWS | Business | EBay plans Skype public listing
Online auction site eBay is planning to spin off internet call service provider Skype and list shares in the firm in the first half of 2010.

EBay said Skype was a "great stand-alone" firm but had "limited synergies" with the online auction firm.

When eBay bought Skype for $2.6bn (£1.7bn) in October 2005, many analysts thought the price was too high.
BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Tate art made available on iTunes
The Tate galleries have made hundreds of video and audio downloads available for free on iTunes.

More than 400 files are now on iTunes U - a section of the online store which features educational content.

Projects include a series of films that use social networking site Twitter to bring the audience's questions directly to artists like David Hockney.

There are also recent interviews with contemporary artists including Jeff Koons and Louise Bourgeois.

Clips of Turner Prize-winning artist Martin Creed and his band performing at the Tate Modern are featured alongside debates about his work.

Audio recordings of leading academics, teaching resources and multimedia guides for the latest Tate exhibitions will also be made available.
BBC NEWS | Programmes | Click | Hunting Easter eggs in software
Easter eggs have been around since the dawn of personal computing and often take the form of a hidden credits list to programming teams.

"Historically Easter eggs are just a chance for software programmers to really show off what they can do," said Tom Royal from Computer Active magazine.

"Quite often they are working on quite dull office products and it's their way of getting their names in the finished product," he added.

Microsoft's Excel 97 contained a weird psychedelic flight simulator which led the user to a black monolith down which scrolled the names of the programming team.

Excel 2000 went a step further by hiding an arcade style driving game in the code of its spreadsheets.

Plus, typing "Google Easter eggs" into the search engine of the same name and hitting the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button takes uses to an Easter themed game.

Call of Duty 5: World at War contains an entirely new game - just complete the single player campaign mode to unlock a creepy zombie shooter.

The film world has embraced the notion of the Easter egg too - some secret and special bonus material can often be found in DVDs hidden in among the production notes and photo galleries.

But accessing Easter eggs on DVDs can be a real test of the film lover's patience because these may require pressing the right sequence of keys on menu screens or hitting the play button at a certain time.

However, persevering through trial and error could reveal bonus material such as outtake reels, more behind-the-scenes features, or even entire re-edits of films.

Occasionally the odd hidden feature exists in hardware too - Nokia's N95 mobile phone has a little-known accelerometer that can enable motion controlled applications.

It can be activated by downloading a plug-in from the Nokia research website. This means the handset can used for motion sensitive applications, for example as a pedometer.

Lifehacker - New Tab King Adds Recently Used Items to the New Tab Page - Firefox
Firefox on Windows only: Firefox extension New Tab King adds a useful dashboard with recently used bookmarks and links to the Firefox blank tab page, so you can quickly access frequently used web sites.

Using the extension is simple enough—just use the Ctrl+T shortcut key, and the new tab page will show up with shortcuts to launch applications, the most used web sites and recently closed tabs—very similar to Google Chrome's new tab page, but in a list instead of a grid. Although you can customize the background image, there aren't a lot of other options to choose from—but it's an interesting extension that will hopefully get better over time.

New Tab King is a free download, works in Firefox for Windows only. If you'd rather have the Google Chrome new tab page in Firefox, you can do so by grabbing the latest version of the Google Toolbar for Firefox.
Lifehacker - Jump Quickly to Text Fields in Firefox - Firefox
Some websites automatically place the cursor in important text boxes for you. Others are not so courteous. A quick Firefox tweak makes it easy to jump right to the text boxes.

At the technology blog gHacks, they've shared a simple about:config tweak to make text box navigation easier. Unfortunately there is no hack for making the first text box on a page automatically in focus. You can however make jumping to the first text box really keyboard friendly.

Type about:config in the address bar within Firefox. Use the filter function to search for accessibility.tabfocus. The default value is 7 which means when you hit the tab key the focus jumps to any form or link element on the page. That isn't particularly efficient when you're trying to keep the focus on the text fields. Changing the value to 1 makes it so the tab key will only jump the focus to text fields. With that simple tweak a tab stroke or two will jump you right to the text field, no wasted key strokes or mousing required.
Lifehacker - Top 10 Must-Have Firefox Extensions, 2009 Edition - Firefox Extensions
Our new list keeps some, tosses others, and remains our go-to, Grandmaster list of the best Firefox add-ons. Includes:

10. AutoCopy

We like it because we're bloggers, having to quote and copy links and code every day, but anyone who does a fair amount of copying to and from the web will dig AutoCopy. The basic use: It copies anyt text you select on the web as soon as you select it—no Ctrl+C necessary. For pasting into text forms, you simply hit the middle mouse button rather than Control+V. If that's all it did, hey, we'd recommend it to anyone who writes, copies, or pastes a lot, but we also have to point out that it fixes really long, wrap-broken URLs automatically. Three cheers for fewer pinky-finger stretches!
Telstra open to break-up - The Australian

AmazonFAIL: How Twitter can trash a brand's reputation in hours - mUmBRELLA

Fairfax is keeping its readers locked in the cellar - mUmBRELLA

Open source news:

Going to work on the hill - Pia Waugh

OSIA to host talk on Open Source PR tomorrow night.


Dreamwidth - a new open source project forked from the LiveJournal project

Writing talking applications for Android - Google Open Source blog

Drupal used for some cool UN websites:

World Food Programme

Human Rights Watch

Sociable plugin for WordPress

The latest version of the sociable plugin for wordpress includes a post-to-identica button. (via @jdub)

Mashing Twitter and Following the Conversation - Silicon Florist

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Byte Into It - 08 Apr 09

Internet industry welcomes NBN re-think - Internet - iTnews Australia
The Federal Government's National Broadband Network, announced today, has been widely welcomed by ISPs and ICT industry groups.

The Federal Government has announced it will build its own 100 Mbps fibre-to-the-home broadband network, spending $43 million in conjunction with private investors over the next eight years.

Internode has welcomed the plan subject to reading the fine print - "and there will be a lot of it", managing director Simon Hackett posted to Whirlpool.

"I'm gobsmacked," Hackett said.

"If they do what they promise, they've actually got it right, and we might just turn into a broadband front-runner country ten years from now after all."
Business Spectator - Taking aim at Telstra - Robert Gottliebsen
The government has abandoned the fibre-to-the node system and is going to take fibre directly to the home which means that an estimate $10 billion in node costs have been saved. Fibre-to-the-home is a better system than fibre-to-the-node because its all fibre but it was thought to be too expensive.

However if the plan included an eventual upgrade then all the expenditure on the nodes would have been a waste of money. So the government believed that they were creating a $10 billion credit by taking fibre all the way. They are also likely to have been forced to pay Telstra compensation if they replaced the nodes.

A fibre-to-the-home system does not involve any Telstra compensation because there is already a provision for access to the tunnels. On the government calculations $30 billion was taken as the theoretical amount of compensation which consumers would have had to pay. Telstra would have wanted a lot more because their copper wires have to be cut to connect the fibre-to-the node system.

So on government calculations around $40 billion would have been 'wasted', which made the economics behind the fibre-to-the-home network work
BBC NEWS | Business | IBM-Sun takeover talks 'collapse'
IBM's talks to acquire computer hardware maker Sun Microsystems $7bn (£4.7bn) takeover have broken down, media reports say.

The talks were said to be in their final stages in recent days and it is not clear whether the collapse in negotiations is final.

News that the tie-up was in trouble sent Sun shares lower, to close 23% down, while IBM shares slipped 0.65%.

Buying Sun would have been IBM's biggest purchase to date.
Twitter downplays Google purchase rumors - Internet - iTnews Australia
Twitter co-founder Biz Stone has issued an informal response to reports that his company was about to be bought by Google.

In a posting to Twitter's official blog, Stone dismissed the reports of an imminent acquisition with the phrase 'sometimes we talk.'

"It should come as no surprise that Twitter engages in discussions with other companies regularly and on a variety of subjects," wrote Stone.

"Our goal is to build a profitable, independent company and we're just getting started."

Stone's update comes after reports broke late last week claiming that Stone's company was in the late stages of working out a deal with Google.
Apple seen readying huge Wi-Fi boost for iPod Touch, iPhone - Network World
Apple seems to be laying the groundwork to introduce high-capacity, low-power 802.11n Wi-Fi to the iPod Touch, and presumably to its 3G-enabled companion, the iPhone.

The change would be a huge jump in performance for users of both devices, which now use a Wi-Fi chip that supports 802.11b/g, with a throughput of less than 25Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. But the change would almost certainly mean having to buy a new Touch or iPhone with the 11n chip, and some observers say Apple also needs to upgrade the CPU to enable both handhelds to fully exploit 11n performance.

Speculation about 11n support has been rife. But programmers sifting through the recently unveiled beta code of the iPhone 3.0 operating system uncovered some radio component specifications that show a shift to a different Broadcom Wi-Fi chip, the BCM4329, for a future iPod Touch model.

The 3.0 firmware is due to be released this summer, and speculation is circulating that it may coincide with new models of the iPhone 3G and iPod Touch
Evidence of video recording, hardware upgrades in iPhone beta (Updated) - Ars Technica
The next version of the iPhone will not only have video recording capabilities, but may also include autofocus and digital compass hardware. These latest finds, as well as voice control capabilities, have cropped up in the latest iPhone OS 3.0 beta, as detailed by MacRumors.

If there was any doubt that iPhones will gain video recording capabilities, the latest evidence uncovered should quell that. Modifying the iPhone's configuration files to indicate that video recording hardware is present gives the Camera app a new interface with a toggle to switch from stills to video. There also appears to be a small preview window in the interface as well. According to MacRumors' sources, the actual video recording capability isn't yet functional.

Further digging into the various configuration files turned up references to "auto-focus camera," "magnetometer," and "Voice Control." Along with rumors of updated sensors, auto focus would certainly improve the quality of iPhone images. A magnetometer is essentially a digital compass, which would bring improvements not just to the Maps app, but also any apps for way-finding or real-time navigation. And voice control would be great for voice dialing and hands-free use, especially while in the car.

Conroy the Barbarian to crackdown on premium SMS services - Silicon Lust - Blogs - PC Authority
f you've ever been blinded by late night television ads featuring naked college girls and love match quizzes, you know what I mean by "premium" SMS.

The technical term for it is "crap". The kind of crap that horny idiots buy late at night without reading the fine print - which says the provider will keep sending them messages, at five bucks or more a throw, until they tell them to stop.

Surely their dollars would be better spent at an adult book store. Umm, not that I'd know about that kind of thing.

Moving right along, the communications industry knew this day was coming. The Communications Alliance, a telecommunications industry lobby group, released a draft Code of Conduct late last year for premium mobile services.

The draft Code seems to contain some good points such as;

- A premium SMS or MMS service cannot be provided until the customer has sent an opt-in SMS message from the mobile phone, regardless of the mechanism that the customer originally used to request the service.

- Stricter obligations in subscription advertising requirements, including greater prominence of the word "subscription".

- For non-mobile subscription mechanisms, a requirement that, in all cases, a provider must send an SMS subscription request message to the customer's mobile phone including details of cost and frequency of services. In typical Rudd government style, Conroy says he is considering perhaps thinking about doing something about the problem.

"There is strong evidence that suggests consumers do not have confidence in their telecommunications service providers," Conroy said in a classic understatement at this week's recent CommsDay Summit.

"The protracted development of the Mobile Premium Services consumer code has highlighted clear deficiencies with the co-regulatory framework. Improving the code development process is only one piece of the puzzle and effective consumer protection should be supported by an increased emphasis on enforcement. We need to provide the Australian Communications and Media Authority with faster, more effective incentives to encourage compliance with codes and regulations."

Conroy announced an "examination of the consumer code development process and the implementation of new code enforcement powers for the Australian Communications and Media Authority".
Chinese cyber spy network, Vast cyber spy plot uncovered
A CYBER spy network based mainly in China has tapped into classified documents from government and private organisations in 103 countries, including the computers of Tibetan exiles, according to Canadian researchers.

The researchers, who are based at the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto, had been asked by the office of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader whom China regularly denounces, to examine its computers for signs of malicious software, or malware.

They said they could not say conclusively that the Chinese Government was involved.

Their sleuthing opened a window into a broader operation that, in less than two years, has infiltrated at least 1295 computers in 103 countries, including many belonging to embassies, foreign ministries and other government offices, as well as the Dalai Lama's Tibetan exile centres in India, Brussels, London and New York.

The researchers, who have a record of detecting computer espionage, believe the spying system, which they called GhostNet, was also focused on governments in South Asian and South-east Asian countries.
How Windows 7 touch-support lets you ditch your mouse - News - PC Authority
The official videos demonstrate how the iPhone-style multi-touch control is being built into Windows 7, with an emphasis on multiple finger twists and taps taking the place of left and right mouse clicks. Recently, Microsoft have also been pushing touch technology with products such as Secondlight.

Users will also be able to use their fingers to flick, hold, twist, rotate and press and hold pictures and applications within the Windows 7 desktop
Windows 7 testers asked to go back to Vista - Operating Systems - iTnews Australia
In a posting to the Engineering Windows 7 blog on Tuesday, Microsoft developers said that users testing the new release candidate builds of Windows 7 would be asked to revert their machines back to Windows Vista rather than the beta releases which testers are currently running.

The reasoning behind the move, said the company, is that nearly everyone who buys and installs Windows 7 will be doing so from a Vista machine, rather than a beta release of Windows 7. In order to obtain correct feedback, testers will be asked to install the release candidate from Vista.

"We're just trying to be deterministic and engineer the product for the real world," the developers explained.
Windows XP support runs out next week - Operating Systems - iTnews Australia
Windows XP will pass another milestone on the road to retirement next week when Microsoft withdraws mainstream support for the operating system.

While the company said that it will continue to provide free security fixes for XP until 2014, any future bugs found in the platform will not be fixed unless customers pay for additional support.

Mainstream support for XP will end on 14 April 2009, over seven years after the operating system originally shipped.

However, the passing of the deadline will place Microsoft in the unusual position of no longer offering mainstream support for its most widely used product.

Windows XP accounts for about 63 per cent of all internet connected computers, according to March 2009 statistics from Hitslink, while Windows Vista makes up about 24 per cent.

Windows XP also continues to be sold with low-cost mini laptops, otherwise known as netbooks, as Vista is too heavy on system resources for this level of hardware.

The key message, according to Microsoft, is that the company will continue to provide security support for XP users.
David vs Goliath: CSIRO takes on big business over wi-fi patent - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
The CSIRO's legal win against Hewlett Packard over the use of its patented wireless technology could mean big bucks for the Australian science agency, says a patent attorney.

The four-year lawsuit was brought by the CSIRO over the use of its Wi-Fi technology, which has been widely used as industry standard in computer products by major international corporations.

The CSIRO was granted patent for its IEEE 802.11a and 802.11g Wi-Fi products in 1996, but since has been used extensively, regardless.

The companies have agreed on an undisclosed settlement amount and Davies Collision Cave patent attorney, Neil Shoot, says it is highly likely there will be a similar outcome in the other litigation cases the CSIRO is involved in.

CSIRO spokesman Luw Morgan earlier said legal action was continuing against 13 companies: Intel, Dell, Toshiba, Asus, Netgear, D-Link, Belkin, SMC, Accton, 3-Com, Buffalo, Microsoft and Nintendo.

In 2007, a Texan court imposed a permanent injunction on Buffalo Technologies using the wireless technology.
BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Cinema's third attempt at 3D
To the audience, the main change is aesthetic - those cheesebucket red-and-green glasses have been replaced by cool, durable Aviator-style shades.

But the real breakthrough has been in digital projection. Cinema staff no longer have the tricky task of positioning and synchronising two projectors - one for each eye.

3D glasses
The old-style glasses (modelled by David Tennant) have been updated

Nowadays, 3D films arrive on a 500GB hard drive while a special adapter fits onto the front of a single projector to separate the left and right images.

The lack of moving parts gives the film extra clarity, and helps to eliminate migraines and motion sickness, explains Nik Blair, technical manager for Odeon Greenwich.
Free Software Foundation announces GNUPhone - News of the News
he Free Software Foundation (NASDAQ: RMS) has announced the Free Software alternative to the evil, DRM-infested, locked-down, defective-by-design iPhone: the GNUPhone.

The key technical innovation of the GNUPhone is that it is completely operated from the command line. “What could be more intuitive than a bash prompt?” said seventeen-year-old Debian developer Hiram Nerdboy. “The ultimate one-dimensional desktop! Just type dial voice +1-555-1212 –ntwk verizon –prot cdma2000 –ssh-version 2 -a -l -q -9 -b -k -K 14 -x and away you go! Simple and obvious!”
The 10 Worst Microsoft Product Names of All Time - Network World
1996-present: Every name ever associated with handheld devices running Microsoft software. At first, they were called Handheld PCs, and ran an OS known as Windows CE. Then they morphed into Palm PCs--until the PalmPilot people complained, whereupon they became Palm-Size PCs. But only briefly: Soon, Microsoft wanted us to call them Pocket PCs, and the software they ran was renamed Windows Mobile.

That name stuck around when the OS migrated from PDAs to phones, although it bifurcated into two editions: Windows Mobile Pocket PC and Windows Mobile Smartphone. Then Microsoft declared that there were three Windows Mobile variants--Windows Mobile Classic, Windows Mobile Professional, and Windows Mobile Standard. As for the devices themselves, Steve Ballmer declared in February of this year that they'd be known henceforth as Windows Phones--scratch the "Mobile." Except for the fact that the OS is still Windows Mobile. Got that?

What they should have been called: Melvin. Or just about anything else, really, as long as it didn't keep changing.