Saturday, July 25, 2009

Byte Into It - 29 Jul 09

Microsoft offers choice of Web browsers to avoid new EU antitrust fines
The EU executive has charged the company with monopoly abuse for tying the Internet Explorer browser to the Windows operating system installed on most of the world's desktop computers.

It said it welcomed Microsoft's suggestions but would have to check how they would work and whether they would ensure "genuine consumer choice." It will seek comment from other browser makers and computer manufacturers before deciding on the proposal, which could become legally binding for five years.

Regulators will also examine a new offer by Microsoft to share information with software developers who want to make products compatible with Windows and Windows servers. That aims to settle a lengthy antitrust row that has racked up nearly euro1.7 million ($2.42 million) in EU fines for Microsoft.

On the browser case, Microsoft is suggesting that users of Windows XP, Vista or its latest release Windows 7 could pick a browser from a ballot screen listing five of the most popular browsers in Europe. Existing Windows users would get the ballot screen from a software update.

It said the choice of these five browsers would be reviewed twice a year based on usage data for the previous six months. Microsoft's browser is the most widely used worldwide, but Mozilla Corp.'s Firefox is gaining in popularity.

Mozilla and Google Inc. — which recently released a browser, Chrome — are supporting the case against Microsoft.
Windows 7 Will Scream With New SSD Drives - Business Center - PC World
Intel is introducing two new X25-M SSD drives that are faster and much cheaper. It might be time to take the leap. Since you’re going to put together a new computer to run Windows 7 anyway, why not include a solid-state disk?

Windows 7 disables disk defragmentation, which is unnecessary with a SSD and shortens the device's life expectancy. It also disables Superfetch and ReadyBoost, which were designed to improve performance on traditional drives where random read performance is a serious bottleneck. Perhaps most importantly, it supports Trim, which significantly improves write performance. This article gives a great explanation on why Trim is so important. The drives use Intel’s newest 34nm technology, improve the previous generation’s write performance and reduce read latency by an additional 25 percent. Basically, they smoke the traditional spinning disk hard disk that’s in your current computer.

It’s true that the rotating platter based technology is still miles head of SSDs in terms of GB per dollar, and that’s likely to be true for years to come. Intel’s newest 2.5inch drives will cost $225 for the 80GB version and $450 for the 160GB (previous generation drives currently run close to $375 and $770, respectively). That comes to more than $3 per gigabyte, which is still expensive compared to traditional drives which give you nearly 3GB per dollar for a laptop drive and over 11GB per dollar for a desktop drive.
iPhone Security: Not Beefy Enough for Businesses? - PC World
The iPhone has evolved from a casual smart phone into one with the potential to serve businesses across the globe. Its latest iteration, the iPhone 3GS, comes packaged with an encryption feature supposedly perfect for sensitive information stored on the device.

But information has surfaced that the iPhone 3GS can be hacked in two minutes with readily available freeware. Is the business world ready to ditch the tried-and-true Blackberry in favor of Apple's offering?

Jonathan Zdziarski -- iPhone developer and hacker extraordinaire -- showed Wired how easy it is to tear the 3GS apart and expose data. "Apple may be technically correct that [the iPhone 3GS] has an encryption piece in it, but it's entirely useless toward security," Zdziarski said. He added that the iPhone 3GS is about as secure as the iPhone 3G and the first-generation iPhone, the latter two having no encryption features whatsoever.

Zdziarski's demonstration bypassed the encryption process in two minutes. As he extracted data from the phone, the iPhone itself began to decrypt everything being pulled, almost as if it wanted to be stripped bare. Hacking is done easily with available jailbreaking tools such as Red Sn0w and Purple Ra1n. Once that process is completed, hackers can then install the Secure Shell client to yank data and plop it onto a computer's hard drive.
Defamation 2.0 |
While the majority of bloggers and social media addicts take a responsible approach to the material they post, social media sites are also hosting an ever-expanding population of users publishing defamatory material under the honest belief that they are having a private conversation.

In the eyes of the law, they are certainly not.

In legal terms, defamatory material is either libellous — when it is in writing — or slanderous, when it is spoken. To qualify as defamatory, two criteria must be satisfied. Firstly, the material in question must identify the person or persons defamed in a way recognisable to someone other than the defamed party.

Secondly, the material must be published — which means that it is communicated to someone other than the person or persons defamed. Courts rely on what is known as the "natural and ordinary meaning" as the test for whether the publication conveys a defamatory meaning or imputation. Lawyers need only plead that the publication is defamatory because, while harm to a person's reputation might be important to them personally, once the other tests have been satisfied, damage to reputation is simply presumed by the court.

While the laws of defamation haven't changed recently, the ways in which individuals can publish material certainly have. Several recent examples demonstrate the vulnerability of users of social media to the suit of defamation.

In the US, as the UK's Independent has reported, Courtney Love is currently being sued for remarks made on Twitter about a clothing designer. According to the New York Post, a woman's reputation was allegedly damaged when a Facebook group implied she had AIDS, used drugs, and engaged in bestiality. And according to the New Zealand Herald, a Facebook group there maintained a page called "David Bain is guilty", which, given Bain has been acquitted by a jury in the High Court of killing his parents and three siblings, might be something they should reconsider.

Closer to home, the ABC reported that yet another Facebook group published photographs of a man charged with lighting one of the deadly Victorian bushfires and called for him to be burnt at the stake. Also in Victoria, women were harassed and bullied following publication of their names and phone numbers on a site dedicated to, among other things, the disparagement of ex-girlfriends. There is also a site warning women not to date particular men, publishing defamatory allegations about them along with photographs and other identifying remarks.What is clear is that none of these people know anything about what the law means when it decides whether something is defamatory. Also indicative of an ignorance of the legal issues involved in defamation — was a statement by the representative of one bullying site that his being the host of the site did not make him responsible for the material published on it. Others believe that by setting up a site anonymously or hosting it in a country like the US, where the laws related to freedom of expression are more liberal, they will be able to get away with posting defamatory material. These people might be perturbed to read of the case of one Joseph Gutnik, who successfully sued Dow Jones for material uploaded in New Jersey, but viewed on a computer screen in Melbourne. What all users need to understand is that the internet changes nothing. If material can be downloaded anywhere in the world, it can be defamatory according to whatever that legally means in the jurisdiction in which it was downloaded.

The world's most toxic video game consoles - News - PC Authority
The Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony Playstation 3 all failed under the Greenpeace environmental report card, in a global effort that aims to publicly name and shame the electronics companies who continue to use hazardous materials in their products.

Two years ago, the three gaming giants were added to the 'Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics', in an well-meaning attempt to show which corporations were doing the green thing and which definitely weren't.

In 2007, Greenpeace warned the video gaming cartel that they either remove BFRs (Brominated Flame Retardants) and PVC from their products or continue to damage the environment. That was then. Almost two years later, it appears very little 'green action' has happened in the gaming scene.
Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 release dates - Ars Technica
Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 had hit the Release to Manufacturing (RTM) milestone at build 7600.16385 on July 22nd. Microsoft this week also disclosed the dates for when different groups will be able to get their hands on the final builds of both Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. It seems, however, that there is some confusion for getting access to the RTM build: the dates aren't the same for both operating systems.
Paypal announces flexible, ubiquitous developer platform - Ars Technica
Paypal announces flexible, ubiquitous developer platform

Paypal has announced a brand new developer API called the Adaptive Payment Platform that will allow for monetary transactions of almost any size to take place nearly everywhere there’s an Internet connection. In addition to allowing for payments outside of the web, the new platform allows for nearly unlimited flexibility in how payments are handled.

CNET, reporting from a PayPal press conference this afternoon noted that the new API will allow developers to place themselves between buyers and sellers (and take a cut of the transaction if they like), split payments into multiple transactions, and choose which side of the transactions—buyer or seller—pays the Paypal transaction fees.

As a part of the announcement, Paypal disclosed that nearly 300 developer partners have been working with the API on a beta basis. A selection of these include Microsoft who have worked to integrate the new APIs into their cloud computing service Azure and Twitpay—a payment network that operates over the microblogging service Twitter. Others include LiveOps, MedPayOline, and Rainfall of Envelopes.
Ask Google to guarantee privacy for the future of reading - Boing Boing
As Google expands its Google Book Search service, adding millions of titles, it will dramatically increase the public's access to books. More and more people will soon be browsing, reading and purchasing books online. But Google may be leaving out the privacy we have come to expect, with systems that monitor the digital books you search, the pages you read, how long you spend on various pages, and even what you write down in the margins.

To ensure that our privacy remains at least as strong online as it is in the physical world, Google needs to do more. With the ACLU of Northern California and the Samuelson Clinic at UC Berkeley, EFF has written a letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, demanding that Google take specific steps to protect your freedom to read privately. We've asked that Google only respond to legitimate warrants when the government comes calling, for example, and we've asked that they not share your private reading data with third parties without your permission, among other things.
BBC NEWS | Business | Microsoft profits down by a third
Microsoft has reported disappointing results for the April to June quarter, with profits down by almost a third.

Net profit for the period was $3.1bn (£1.9bn), down by 29% from the same period a year earlier. Revenue came in at $13.1bn, down 17% from a year ago.

The results were worse than analysts had been expecting.

The world's largest software maker said it had been affected by weakness in the global personal computer (PC) and server markets.
Palm plays cat-and-mouse with Apple, reenables iTunes sync - Ars Technica
Palm passive-aggressively fired back at Apple in its 1.1.0 update to the Pre's webOS Thursday night. Among the handful of changes that came with the point update, the software restores syncing functionality with iTunes after Apple unceremoniously "fixed" the "problem" last week. The move is the latest in this high-profile cat-and-mouse game between Apple and Palm, and Palm seems to be willing to keep poking the fate bear—but to what end?

webOS 1.1.0 isn't all about iTunes compatibility. Among other things, it contains a number of useful updates to the Pre, including better timezone support in the Clock application, improved syncing with Google when you edit a Google contact, and the addition of emoticons in text, multimedia, and instant messages. The software also gained some enterprise features in the form of Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) support that allows for remote wipe, PIN/passwords, inactivity timeouts, and improved certificate handling.
Apple nabs 91% of "premium" computer revenue in June - Ars Technica
If you need any more reasons why Apple isn't jumping into the cheap netbook fray, a look at some analysis form NPD on recent computer sales should make Apple's point of view crystal clear. For the month of June, slightly more than 9 out of every 10 dollars spent on a computer over $1,000 went to Apple. That's a significant increase from the share of revenue Apple had of the higher-end PC market last year, which was already an impressive 66 percent.

While netbooks get a lot of attention and have rocketed Acer up the ranks of top PC manufactures by units, the inexpensive mini laptops have lowered the Average Selling Prices of Windows-based PCs. Based on NPD's data, the ASP of a Windows laptop was $520—$569 if netbooks are excluded. The ASP of a Mac laptop is $1,400. Similar trends hold for desktops as well—the ASP of a Windows-based desktop PC in June was $489, while the ASP for a Mac was $1,398.

Though Apple only holds about 8 to 9 percent of the US market share by units, its strategy of focusing on quality over quantity is paying off. The company reported increased sales of Macs in the past quarter, and is enjoying healthy profits on sales of over $8 billion for the quarter. COO Tim Cook summed up Apple's attitude during this week's earning call, saying, "Our goal is not to build the most computers; it's to build the best. And we will—whatever price point that we can build the best at, we will play there."

Microsoft, Apple, others sued over touchpad patent - Ars Technica
Apple, Microsoft, and 18 other companies are being sued for patent infringement by Texas-based Tsera which claims to have invented the touchpad. The lawsuit, filed last week in the US District Court Eastern Texas Division, claims the company owns "all right, title, and interest in" patent 6,639,584, which was filed in 1999 and granted in 2003.In the suit, Tsera singles out Apple by claiming that the company knew of the existence of the patent back in 2004 but ignored it. The fact that Tsera is aiming its guns primarily at Apple, which has undoubtedly made the most money off of portable touchpad devices, and that this suit was filed in Texas, where courts are unusually friendly to plaintiffs in patent infringement cases, suggests that this is a classic patent lawsuit. Now add that Tsera isn't even mentioned in the patent because it was granted to inventor Chuang Li of Saratoga, California, and that it is seeking triple damages from Apple, as well as royalties from all further use of touchpad technology by the defendants. It would surprise us if Tsera wasn't a patent troll.
BBC NEWS | Technology | Wireless power system shown off
A system that can deliver power to devices without the need for wires has been shown off at a hi-tech conference.

The technique exploits simple physics and can be used to charge a range of electronic devices over many metres.

Eric Giler, chief executive of US firm Witricity, showed mobile phones and televisions charging wirelessly at the TED Global conference in Oxford.

He said the system could replace the miles of expensive power cables and billions of disposable batteries.

"There is something like 40 billion disposable batteries built every year for power that, generally speaking, is used within a few inches or feet of where there is very inexpensive power," he said.

Trillions of dollars, he said, had also been invested building an infrastructure of wires "to get power from where it is created to where it is used."
Electric car charger (AFP/Getty)
Witricity claims to be able to charge gadgets large and small

"We love this stuff [electricity] so much," he said.

Mr Giler showed off a Google G1 phone and an Apple iPhone that could be charged using the system.
Forrester: Vista and Mac OS gaining in the enterprise - Ars Technica
Windows Vista is now installed on almost one out of eight corporate desktops. Mac OS X has also made recent gains, though Windows' share of corporate desktops remained dominant. Windows had 96.2 percent of the enterprise market, with much of that still accounted for by Windows XP. Nevertheless, the numbers are starting to move.

Forrester had the following summary of the good news for Microsoft and Apple:

With Windows 7 generally available on October 22, 2009, most IT operations professionals are in a holding pattern. They successfully standardized on Windows XP, couldn't justify an upgrade to Windows Vista in tough economic times — or simply didn't even attempt to given the political hot button that Windows Vista has become — and plan to start their enterprise-wide Windows 7 deployments in the late 2010/early 2011 time frame in line with the start of the next anticipated major corporate PC refresh cycle. Forrester's analysis of more than 85,000 enterprise clients [at 2,600 companies] found that Windows XP, while still king, is finally beginning its long-anticipated decline in the corporate PC market. Picking up ground are both Windows Vista, which now powers approximately 12 percent of Windows PCs, and Mac OS X, which has ramped up to an impressive 3.6 percent.
In the Future, the Cost of Education will be Zero
One vision for the school of the future comes from the United Nations. Founded this year by the UN’s Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technology and Development (GAID), the University of the People is a not-for-profit institution that aims to offer higher education opportunities to people who generally couldn’t afford it by leveraging social media technologies and ideas.

The school is a one hundred percent online institution, and utilizes open source courseware and peer-to-peer learning to deliver information to students without charging tuition. There are some costs, however. Students must pay an application fee (though the idea is to accept everyone who applies that has a high school diploma and speaks English), and when they’re ready, students must pay to take tests, which they are required to pass in order to continue their education. All fees are set on a sliding scale based on the student’s country of origin, and never exceed $100.
HOW TO: Use the Web for Socially Responsible Shopping
The idea of “ethical consumerism” or “conscious consuming” is a social movement based around the idea that people should be cognizant of the impact their purchases have on the environment and the health and well-being of the people involved in making those products. It’s very hard to be an ethical consumer if you aren’t armed with information about the products you buy, however. Who makes those products? Where did they come from? What sort of social or environmental impact does the company have?

These are questions that can be answered by utilizing the nine resources listed in this post. The sites below offer information for the conscious consumer about the companies and products we buy every day. If you know of any other places to turn for ethically savvy shopping information, please leave links in the comments.
Rudd announces Tasmania NBN links - Telco/ISP - Technology - News -
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has announced the first three regional towns that will be connected as part of the Federal Government's $43 billion National Broadband Network (NBN).

Smithton, in Tasmania's northwest, Midway Point, a coastal haven northeast of Hobart, and Scottsdale, an inland town northeast of Launceston, will be the first towns connected under the Tasmanian NBN plan.

All three towns in Tasmania lie outside of the state's major cities, but with a combined population of 5000 fall within the intended coverage area for the fibre component of the NBN, which - when completed - will cover 90 percent of Australia's population.

Both Smithton and Scottsdale are based in marginal Federal seats (Braddon and Bass).
Pirate Party's copyright reform cannon could sink copyleft - Ars Technica
Free Software Foundation (FSF) founder Richard Stallman published a statement last week expressing concern about the Swedish Pirate Party's copyright reform platform. The party's ambitious goals for copyright term reduction would blast holes in copyleft licensing, a serious blow to Stallman's Free Software movement.

The GNU General Public License (GPL), a widely-used open source software license that was originally written by Stallman, exploits fundamental characteristics of copyright law in order to guarantee that the freedoms granted by the license are extended to derivative works. The underlying legal principles that facilitate copyleft cannot function without conventional copyright.

Open source software licenses grant recipients the freedom to study, modify, run, and redistribute software. Copyleft licenses are a category of open source software licenses that require linked code to be distributed under the same terms, meaning that copyleft code generally can't be used in proprietary software. This distinguishes copyleft licenses from more permissive open source software licenses such as the BSD license.

Copyleft is an important part of Stallman's vision because it compels companies that use copyleft code to open their own source code when they might not have otherwise been willing to do so voluntarily. As a license that governs the distribution of code, the GPL is enforced through copyright law. When a company fails to comply with the obligations stipulated by the license, they can be taken to court for copyright infringement.
Pirate Bay's anonymity service enters beta testing - Telco/ISP - Technology - News -
Virtual Private Network (VPN) service IPREDator has opened its doors to beta testers this week.

Operated by the developers of popular file sharing site The Pirate Bay, the service allows subscribers to access the Internet anonymously.

Web surfers typically connect to the Internet via an Internet Service Provider (ISP), which assigns each user a unique, identifying IP address.

The IP address is appended onto any network traffic to and from a user's computer. Online transactions including banking, e-mail and search engine queries may thus be traceable.

With the principle that "the network is under our control, not theirs", IPREDator grants online anonymity by substituting a user's IP address with a new address.

Besides providing anonymity, the new address also allows users to bypass ISP-defined limitations, which could include Senator Conroy's proposed ISP-level Internet filter.

Other services such as Torrent Freedom, Perfect Privacy and Witopia also offer personal VPNs for users who require privacy, want to access overseas content, or who need access to information within censored areas such as China's "Great Firewall".

Aussie net filtering trial deemed a success despite problems - Ars Technica
Although not without controversy, the initial testing of the Australian government's Internet filtering system has gone off with few problems according to reports from some of the participating ISPs. Five of the nine ISPs testing the government's filtering system reported few problems during testing, even though only 15 customers participated at one and a couple of customers at another were unable to access a completely legal porn site. The other four IPs have either yet to comment on the filter's performance or have refused to talk publicly about the results.

AT&T's 4chan Block Raises Issue of Net Neutrality - PC World
It appears some of AT&T's broadband customers across the United States were intentionally blocked from accessing the infamous forum 4chan over the weekend. The message board's founder Christopher "Moot" Poole posted a notice on the 4chan Status blog yesterday claiming AT&T was "filtering/blocking (/b/ & /r9k/) for many of [its] customers." Poole encouraged 4chan users to contact AT&T to complain. The 4chan black out lasted for about 12 hours and was reportedly over by 11 p.m. Pacific Time.
Censorship or Network Management?

It's unclear why AT&T would block 4chan, or even if it was a deliberate action, but assuming the Internet service provider was blocking the site, it's not hard to understand why. In addition to being credited with many Internet memes including the RickRoll and LOLcats, other more dubious actions have been associated with the Website including the recent Operation Sh**ter that manipulated Twitter's trending topics; the YouTube porn prank; the Time 100 poll "hack" and the harassment of the Church of Scientology by the group called Anonymous.

AT&T and 4chan Fuss Gets Ugly, Then Despicable - PC World
On Sunday AT&T blocked access to portions of, an image-board Web site that allows users to post uncensored images and content anonymously. Soon after the blockade was detected by its founder Christopher "Moot" Poole posted a statement to the 4chan site complaining about AT&T's actions and urged 4chan users to "call or write (AT&T) customer support and (AT&T) corporate immediately" to complain about the blocking.Interestingly enough, and raising serious Net neutrality issues, is the fact that Poole claimed on his site's status blog AT&T never contacted him regarding the blockade. To some 4chan users and Net neutrality advocates the blockade had the appearance that AT&T may be blocking 4chan because of content posted on the site, and not for security issues. That is claim AT&T loudly disputes.Late on Sunday, sometime midway through the ban, a report surfaced on both CNN iReport and Digg claiming that AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson was dead, this turned out to be a prank. Poole has posted an update to the saga on his 4chan site's blog. He is toning down his rhetoric explaining the AT&T and 4chan blockade was all a big mix up. He explains that in 4chan's effort to thwart a DDoS attack against 4chan (not AT&T) it unintentionally created the appearance to to AT&T network administrators that it was the source of a DDoS attack. Now Poole says he doesn't blame AT&T for blocking access to 4chan stating in the blog entry: "In the end, this wasn't a sinister act of censorship, but rather a bit of a mistake and a poorly executed, disproportionate response on AT&T's part.
Twitter Not Outlawed In The White House. And More Tweets Are Coming.
The Internet got in a bit of a tizzy this weekend when it was reported that Twitter was banned from being accessed from inside the White House. What is this, Iran, some wondered? But have no fear, despite what White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told C-SPAN, Twitter is apparently not entirely blocked and they’re working to open it up more, Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton told Mediaite today.

Here’s where the confusion apparently comes from. Access to Twitter’s website is blocked on most White House computers, but that’s only for security and recordkeeping reasons for the time-being. Apparently, the White House is working with the White House counsel and the Office of Administration CIO “to review and relax these restrictions,” Burton says. And, more importantly, it is apparently not official policy of the White House that staffers are not allowed to tweet, and some do so from their own web-connected devices.

And there are computers that can post to Twitter in the White House right now via HootSuite, which you see from time to time as the source of official White House tweets. But most of the official White House account tweets are done by the new media team (consisting of Director of New Media Macon Phillips and Online Programs Director Jesse Lee), from the new media offices are in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (which is next door to the White House). President Obama’s account is apparently handled by the DNC.
Apple's Digital Album Plan Sounds Familiar - PC World
Apple is working on a new plan to save the album, according to a report taking the Web by storm this week. The story, published Monday by the Financial Times, describes a deal involving Apple and four major record labels. It cites "people familiar with the situation" as having provided the information.

Apple and Digital Album Sales

Apple's motivation for such a program would be obvious: Record companies stand to make far more money from full album sales than from single track purchases. Right now, in the era of 99-cent song purchases, people tend to snatch up individual tracks instead of complete collections.

Still, despite the excitement the rumor's stirring up in the tech world, the idea -- said to be codenamed "Cocktail" -- may not be as innovative as it sounds. Early last year, for example, Sony BMG debuted a program called Platinum MusicPass. The program offers "complete album and bonus materials" with a full album purchase, packaging in digital booklets, videos, remixes, live tracks, and documentaries.

Compare that to the new "Cocktail" system, which is said to include interactive booklets, liner notes, photos, lyric sheets, and video clips. Aside from the fact that Apple's edition would presumably focus on Internet-based sales -- the MusicPass cards themselves are sold through physical retail stores -- the concepts sound eerily similar.
Apple Is Growing Rotten To The Core: Official Google Voice App Blocked From App Store
Earlier today we learned that Apple had begun to pull all Google Voice-enabled applications from the App Store, citing the fact that they “duplicate features that come with the iPhone”. Now comes even worse news: we’ve learned that Apple has blocked Google’s official Google Voice application itself from the App Store. In other words, Google Voice — one of the best things to happen to telephony services in a very long time — will have no presence at all on the App Store. If there’s ever been a time to be furious with Apple, now is it.

A Google Spokesperson has told us the following:

We work hard to bring Google applications to a number of mobile platforms, including the iPhone. Apple did not approve the Google Voice application we submitted six weeks ago to the Apple App Store. We will continue to work to bring our services to iPhone users — for example, by taking advantage of advances in mobile browsers.

Of course, it’s not hard to guess who’s behind the restriction: our old friend AT&T. Google Voice scares the carriers. It allows users to send free SMS messages and get cheap long-distance over Google Voice’s lines. It also makes it trivial to switch to a new phone service, because everyone calls the Google Voice number anyway.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Byte Into It - 22 Jul 09

Google to newspapers: Put up or shut up | Technology | Los Angeles Times
In a post written by Josh Cohen, senior business product manager, on the company's public policy blog Wednesday afternoon, Google said publishers can easily tell search engines to take a hike. All it takes is a two-line piece of code, which he helpfully included in his post. Tuck that on your website, and no search engine will crawl it; the stories won't show up when people look for content using search engines.

It's unlikely that newspapers will call Google's bluff. Here's why: Google's search engine and its Google News site sends 1 billion visits to newspaper websites each month. Those visitors drive up the traffic numbers that website ad rates are partially based on. More readers = higher ad rates, which is why few publishers will say no to Google's traffic referrals.

Granted, most of those readers don't pay for the stories they read. And that leads to statements like this one from the Hamburg protocol, which was signed by James Murdoch of News Corp., Robert Thomson of the Wall Street Journal and Ian Smith of Reed Elsevier, among others:

Numerous providers are using the work of authors, publishers and broadcasters without paying for it. Over the long term, this threatens the production of high-quality content and the existence of independent journalism.

Sam Zell, whose Tribune Co. owns the Los Angeles Times, has said much the same thing, if only in more colorful terms. "If all of the newspapers in America did not allow Google to steal their content, how profitable would Google be?" he told a group of incredulous Stanford University students in 2007.
New Zealand moves forward with child porn filtering system - Ars Technica
New Zealand is hopping on the child porn filtering bandwagon after it apparently went over so well in Australia (*cough*). The proposed scheme will involve filtering at the ISP level, comparing Internet requests against an unpublished blacklist maintained by New Zealand's Department of Internal Affairs.

The department announced earlier this week its official plans to launch the Digital Child Exploitation Filtering System, though it had begun discussing the system earlier this year. The program has been tested in trials across the country, and now a number of major ISPs are looking into the implementation. This list includes Yahoo!, Xtra, TelstraClear and Vodafone—when combined, these ISPs cover some 93 percent of New Zealand's Internet connections. Use of the blacklist is voluntary.
New Zealand proposes new "3 strikes" process for P2P users - Ars Technica
New Zealand's first attempt at passing a "three strikes" law fell apart as rights holders and Internet service providers were unable to agree on a voluntary code of practice. One of the biggest concerns was the lack of due process; how could New Zealand avoid presuming that the accused were guilty yet still develop a means of judging accusations that was cheaper and faster than the country's High Court?

Given the rancorous debate over the subject, the government scrapped its law earlier this year and went back to the drawing board. It convened a working group of "intellectual property and Internet law experts" to advise it on a fair solution to the problem of repeated online copyright infringement. That group has now concluded its work, and New Zealand's Ministry of Economic Development yesterday issued its policy proposal (PDF) for public comment.
The Hidden Cost of Microsoft's 'Free' Online Office Suite | BNET Technology Blog | BNET
It’s true that Microsoft will offer consumers a free “lightweight” version of Office 2010 through their Windows Live (formerly Hotmail) accounts. But that largess doesn’t extend to business customers, who will either have to pay a subscription fee or purchase corporate access licenses (CALs) for Office in order to be given access to the online application suite. Microsoft already does this with email – the infamous Outlook Web Access (or OWA, pronounced ow!-wah! because of the painful user experience).

But wait – there’s more! A Microsoft spokesperson told me that customers will need to buy a SharePoint server, which ranges from $4,400 plus CALs or $41,000, all CALs included if they want to share documents using the online version of Office 2010.

So let’s recap this notion of a free online Office suite for business:

* You need a SharePoint server and license in order to collaborate, and either:
o You need to pay license fees for an on-premise version of Office 2010 or
o You need to pay an as-yet-unspecified subscription fee.
12% of e-mail users have actually tried to buy stuff from spam - Ars Technica
Be honest: have you ever responded to a spam e-mail? Do you know anyone who has? If you're like most of us at Ars, you can't fathom why anyone would respond to most of the messages we get, but a new study released by the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG) shows that there are just enough people responding to make spamming worthwhile—especially since most spam these days is sent by botnets.

According to the group's latest report, a disturbing number of e-mail users respond to spam, and not just because they're dumb—some of them did so because they were actually interested in the product or service. Shocking, we know.
Los Angeles - Style Council - Is All of Hollywood the Bitch in Twitter "Sex Tape," or Just P. Diddy?
Regardless of what you think of Techcrunch founder Michael Arrington's ethics, what has been revealed via the Techcrunch #twittergate is some of the most fascinating information to have hit the mediasphere in a long time. As Cult of the Amateur author A.J. Keen puts it, referring to the leak, technology start-ups have become the "hottest celebrities in America... receiving the same kind of obsessionally intimate coverage from the media that was once reserved for kings of pop like Michael Jackson or Elvis."
Twitter's security breach: a reminder to choose and use web passwords wisely. - Boing Boing
This seems as good a time as any to remind everyone about choosing and managing passwords wisely. The New York Times' Gadgetwise blog has a helpful post up today along those lines. Snip:

The lesson Twitter employees are learning the hard way is a lesson for us all. If you use cloud services for personal or work purposes, you need to:

* Use strong passwords
* Use a different password for each of your accounts
* Pick tough security questions
* Keep your passwords and answers to security questions to yourself.

If you use Gmail, here are tips on how to keep your account secure. There are also instructions on securely retrieving a forgotten password with a text message to your phone.)

If you find it difficult to remember multiple strong passwords, choose a secure way to store them.

Twitter Gets Hacked. Can It Happen to You? (NYT Gadgetwise)
Why Amazon went Big Brother on some Kindle e-books - Ars Technica shocked customers yesterday when it reached out to hundreds, if not thousands of Kindles and simply deleted texts that users had not only purchased, but had started to read. A literary coitus interruptus, Amazon spoiled the readers' descent into Orwellian masochism with nary a warning or apology.

Sometime on Thursday, users had an eerie feeling that they were being watched, receiving emails stating that their purchases were being refunded. When they connected to the Kindle's WhisperNet, the purchases in question were automatically deleted. Some could only wonder: how often could this happen? Perhaps the Thought Police Amazon Customer Service team could cut off your books whenever they wanted to.
Australian Police To Go Wardriving
Some Australians who haven't secured their wireless networks may soon be getting a (relatively friendly) visit from the police. It seems that a few officers intend to do a little wardriving in order to find unsecured networks and warn the owners of possible problems.
Report: music fans cling to CDs, but discover music online - Ars Technica
Despite the popularity of music downloads and streaming, music fans still seem to love an old standby: the CD. A new survey conducted in the UK by The Leading Question and Music Ally Speakerbox has found that music customers of all ages still prefer the CD to downloading, a pattern that extends into the lucrative teenage demographic. That's not to say online offerings aren't important, though—those who use subscription or streaming services tend to buy more CDs than others, so online music discovery is clearly helping to keep those sales alive.

The firms conducted a thousand face-to-face interviews with UK music lovers between the ages of 14 and 64, all of whom have broadband connections. Seventy-three percent of the group reported being happier buying CDs than downloading, with 66 percent of those between the ages of 14 and 18 being among that group. Over half (59 percent) reported listening to CDs every day.
Slashdot Technology Story | Kazaa To Return As a Legal Subscription Service
"One of the most recognizable brands in the history of illegal downloading is due to officially resurface, perhaps as early as next week, sources close to the company told CNET News. Only this time the name Kazaa will be part of a legal music service. Altnet and parent company Brilliant Digital Entertainment attached the Kazaa brand to a subscription service that will offer songs and ringtones from all four of the major recording companies. For the past few months, a beta version has been available. The company tried recently to ratchet up expectations with a series of vague, and what some considered misguided, press releases. The site will open with over 1 million tracks." The NYTimes has a related story about how the music industry is trying to convert casual pirates by offering more convenient new services.
BBC NEWS | Technology | Symbian to develop mobile apps
Symbian, the operating system on nearly half the world's smartphones, is to become involved in the development of mobile applications, or apps.

Symbian will be a one-stop location for app developers, standardising and testing software and then making it available to existing app storefronts.

Called Horizon, the approach follows the lead set by other operating system makers such as Microsoft and Apple.

The not-for-profit Symbian Foundation will launch the service in October.
Survey: 41 percent of IT admins to adopt Windows 7 by 2010 - Ars Technica
Windows Vista was well-known for the poor adoption it saw in the business sector, even though consumers were choosing it over XP more often than not. Will the situation change with Windows 7? A new survey by ScriptLogic, a company that helps other companies manage their Windows systems and security, claims the majority of corporations have no plans to quickly move to Windows 7. Relax, it's not as bad as it may seem at first glance.

The survey, which received feedback from 1,000 IT administrators (20,000 surveys were distributed), found that 41 percent of organizations plan a wholesale migration to Windows 7 by the end of 2010 (after just over 14 months). 5.4 percent of respondents said they expected to move to Windows 7 by the end of 2009 (after just over two months). To give you some perspective, Windows 7 is expected to RTM by the end of the month and to hit General Availability (GA) on October 22, 2009. ScriptLogic pointed out that this is actually a strong adoption rate when compared to the 12 to 14 percent adoption rate of Windows XP in its first year.
Pre developers, start your engines; users, submit your ideas - Ars Technica
After stressing that it planned to open up its App Catalog to all comers since the day the Pre was unveiled, Palm has finally released the Mojo SDK to the public and will begin taking App Catalog submissions from one and all. The announcement was posted on Palm's blog today, and it boasted that 1.8 million apps have been downloaded from the beta store so far.
Week in Apple: Palm Pre on iTunes, iTablet rumors, Snow Leopard - Ars Technica
The latest iPhone beta was released to developers this week as well as new builds of Snow Leopard. Apple may have blocked push notifications to unlocked iPhones, too, and 3D CSS transforms are coming to Safari under Leopard. Curious? Check out our roundup of the top Apple news for the week.
Might Apple TV Morph into Games Console? - PC World
In a week when rumors that Apple is working on a 9.7-inch ultraportable laptop netbook run riot, a report suggests Apple also has an eye of the potentially lucrative video gaming market.

According to an analyst, Apple is working toward adding games to the Apple TV. The device currently lets you watch, rent and buy movies and TV shows, view HD content, listen to music and display photos on your TV.

Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Morgan and outspoken commentator on the games industry, told Web site IndustryGamers Apple had a clear strategy to turn the Apple TV, hardly a best seller, into an all-around entertainment system.

"I think Apple has a deliberate strategy. They want to see what they can do with the handhelds -- iPod Touch and iPhone -- first, then move into console games," Pachter said in a Q&A. "Apple TV is the device that they can turn into a console, and they have essentially the same goals as Microsoft -- to turn Apple TV into an entertainment and Internet hub."

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Byte Into It - 15 Jul 09

Better Gmail 2 Updated for Gmail’s Label Enhancements - Better Gmail - Lifehacker
Firefox only: Google's recent improvements to Gmail's labels broke one of Better Gmail 2's most-loved features: Folders4Gmail. Grab the newest version 0.8.3 of Better Gmail 2 to get back Folders4Gmail functionality as well as Hide Spam Count. Until Mozilla Add-ons approves the newest version of Better Gmail 2, check off "Let me install this experimental add-on" next to version 0.8.3 at Mozilla Add-ons.

Inside Gazelle, Microsoft Research's "browser OS" - Ars Technica
It builds on the concept of multiprocess browsing but uses more fine-grained isolation to expand on the security advantages that are already delivered by existing multiprocess browsing models. But is it an operating system, Microsoft Research's analogue to Google's Chrome OS? Not quite.

Wang's characterization of Gazelle as a "multi-principal operating system" for the Web has been widely misinterpreted by the press. Although Gazelle's architecture is loosely modeled on the underlying concepts of operating system design, it is not actually an operating system, it's not intended to replace Windows, and it won't compete with Chrome OS. It is a browser prototype that runs on Windows Vista, is coded in C#, and has a conventional user interface that is built with .NET's WinForms framework.

Multiprocess browsing, which is supported in Google's Chrome Web browser and recent versions of Internet Explorer, uses separate operating system processes to isolate the rendering of individual pages. As we have recently discussed in our coverage of multiprocess browsing, this approach generally boosts security and stability. It prevents a rendering bug that affects a specific page or plugin from tanking the whole browser.

Multiprocess browsing is advantageous, but it does have some downsides. Processes tend to generate a lot of resource overhead, especially on Windows. In order to minimize the impact of using multiple processes, Chrome and IE try to use some number of processes that provides a good balance between resource efficiency and stability. For example, if you have multiple tabs open that show different pages from the same website, the browser might put them all into one process.

The Gazelle project casts aside that balance and aims to maximize security and stability by using more processes. Instead of just using a separate process for each site or tab, it will use separate processes for individual page content elements that originate from other domains. For example, if you have an iframe in a page, the iframe will be managed and rendered in its own process separate from the rest of the page.
How Much Does Google Like Twitter?
That’s 44 accounts by my count. Where are all those Jaiku accounts?

Still think they have no interest in the micro-messaging service? Of course they do. It just may cost them more than a billion dollars to satisfy their fixation. And Microsoft is starting to get a fixation too. Remember when the two had a bidding war over a stake in Facebook?

The Future is Now: Multi-touch Wall Comes to Cannes (Video)
Just in time for the 2009 Cannes Advertising Festival, Schematic, an interactive agency who helped come up with the futuristic advertising seen in Minority Report, is debuting their large multi-touch wall. It's a 12-foot by 5-foot display
Best Party Trick Ever: Multi-Device Wireless Broadband from Sprint MiFi
It's the length and width of a credit card. It's the thickness of a couple nickels. It'll let you and a few friends get an Internet connection just about anywhere with no wires whatsoever.

It's a MiFi, Sprint's new wireless broadband device - when do we see these things in Oz?
Weave Now Syncs Firefox Preferences, Auto-Logins - Weave - Lifehacker
Firefox 3.5: Weave, Mozilla's add-on to synchronize bookmarks, passwords, and now preferences and automatic logins across Firefox browsers, updated to a 0.4 beta, just in time for the release of 3.5.

We've previously covered Weave's major release, albeit still as an experimental product, and found ourselves intrigued at its plans to provide automatic web site logins. This release includes those automatic logins and OpenID support, for sites that support it, and can sync your browser preferences across systems, giving it a leg up on cross-browser solutions like Xmarks. This version of Weave also works with the Fennec mobile browser 1.0 beta 2, just released for (touchscreen) Windows Mobile and Maemo devices. The big missing feature is syncing for add-ons and their preferences, but you can get halfway there by creating your own add-on collection and using the Add-on Collector to keep it updated.

Mozilla Weave is a free download, works wherever Firefox 3.5 does.
Speed Up Firefox 3.5 Start-Up on Windows - Firefox 3.5 - Lifehacker
Firefox 3.5 pulls data from certain file locations for randomized security purposes. Sometimes, though, that can lead to annoying slow start-ups in Windows. You can speed things up by cleaning out certain folder locations.

For whatever reason, having too many temporary, history, or recent document files sitting in your Windows locations slows down Firefox 3.5's data generation processes, as has been reported as a bug. The Mozilla Links blog recommends cleaning out these folders to move the browser's work along:

C:\Documents and Settings\*user*\Local Settings\History
C:\Documents and Settings\*user*\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files
C:\Documents and Settings\*user*\My Recent Documents
C:\Documents and Settings\*user*\Temp\

On Vista or Windows 7 systems, simply replace "Documents and Settings" with "Users." Setting up Firefox to automatically clean out your temporary files after browsing, as explained at the link below, helps prevent the accumulation from building again, but users who trade browsing time with Internet Explorer may have to occasionally work this manual method to wipe out those files.
Australian anti-censorship video trying to get on Qantas - Boing Boing
Itsumishi sez, "Remember that absurd Internet Filtering Scheme Stephen Conroy and the Australian Government has been continuing to push onto the Australian population? Well GetUp the amazing organisation that has been involved in a lot of great campaigns in Australia has created a very hilarious advertisement they're hoping to get onto every Qantas flight in the country while for next sitting in Parliament. The idea is that most politicians will be flying at some time during this time and they'll be a captive audience. Anyway, the ad is brilliant and they need donations to get it on air, please help!"
Creative Commons comes to Google Image Search - Boing Boing
Fred sez, "Image search on Google has just become a bit easier and a little less scary: Google officially launched the ability to filter search results using Creative Commons licenses inside their Image Search tool. Searches are also capable of returning content under other licenses, such as the GNU Free Documentation License, or images that are in the public domain."
Universal/TuneCore deal opens major doors for indie artists - Ars Technica
Independent musicians who want to retain the rights to their own songs will now have the opportunity to do so while marketing their offerings through a major label—Universal Music Group. UMG announced a partnership today with TuneCore, a company that represents independent artists and allows them to sell their music directly to fans through major online stores. The deal will let artists essentially have their cake and eat it too by letting them call all the shots while having access to major opportunities.
Apple proposes HTTP streaming feature as IETF standard - Ars Technica
When Apple discussed the new features of the forthcoming iPhone OS 3.0, SVP of iPhone Software Engineering Scott Forstall said that the iPhone would be capable of streaming video and audio directly over HTTP. Apple also advertised HTTP streaming as a feature of QuickTime X, the update of its media architecture coming in Snow Leopard. What it failed to explain, at least publicly, is how this streaming would be accomplished. Fortunately, Apple submitted its proposed protocol last month to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in the hopes that it will become a ubiquitous standard.

Apple identified what it considers a few issues with standard streaming, which generally uses the Real Time Streaming Protocol originally developed by Netscape and Real in the late '90s. The biggest issue with RTSP is that the protocol or its necessary ports may be blocked by routers or firewall settings, preventing a device from accessing the stream. As the standard protocol for the Web, though, HTTP is generally accessible. Furthermore, no special server is required other than a standard HTTP server, which is more widely supported in content distribution networks, and more expertise in optimizing HTTP delivery is generally available than for RTSP.
Cameras: a solution for multiple cameras in Mac OS X - Ars Technica
If you have multiple cameras and a Mac and are tired of having the same software launch for your different uses, Flexbits may have a solution for you. Cameras acts as a preference pane that lets you decide which app to launch for which device—very helpful for people who use point-and-shoots, DSLRs, and iPhones all on the same machine.

20 Totally Overused Words in Game Names - Video Game Features, PC Game Features
There are roughly a million officially recognized words in the English language, but these 20 crop up everywhere when it comes to naming video games. Is it due to a lack of originality or just a set of universal themes? Flip open your dictionaries and join us for a definitive look at the most overused words in game names.
Australias Net Will Filter MA15+ Games
I was feeling bad for Germans as there was a proposed banning for all violent games but Australia is about to take it much harder. To further complicate things, Australia does not have even have a R18+ rating. For video games, MA15+ is as high as it goes while movies and such has R18+ and X18+. Games will be required to modify the their content to meet the MA15+ guidelines in order for distribution.

So far, this has only applied to local stores selling physical copies of games, but a spokesman for Senator Conroy confirmed that under the filtering plan, it will be extended to the net and the filter will be set at the ISP level blocking all flash games, downloadable games and all web games that does not meet the MA15+ standards.

From our understanding, if a website hosts questionable content the Classification Board believes exceeds the MA15+ standard, it’ll be blocked. Same goes for MMOs and even worst, overseas online retailers. I wonder how this would effect sites such as eBay, GameStop and all the large distributors.

Businesses will get Windows 7 'by end of July' - News - PC Authority
Windows 7 will be available to business users who have bought volume licenses with Software Assurance contracts, before the end of July, according to reports overseas.

A report cites a tweet by Microsoft enthusiast “Deeper2K”, who posted a picture on the micro-blogging site of an official Microsoft mailing to its reseller partners, in Russian.

Next to the twitpic Deeper2K writes, “Yay! Windows 7 RTM will be available to SA customers by the end of July!”

According to the report, Deeper said that Microsoft will extend a special Windows 7 promotion, whereby users who purchase SA before 31 August will “have the rights to upgrade to Windows 7 on PCs they purchased starting on August 1, 2008”, with 15 per cent off. At the time of writing Microsoft Australia had not made any announcements regarding this.

For its part, Microsoft said last week that it is still on track to release its new operating system to manufacturing before the end of July.
Internet is broken says original designer - News - PC Authority
Lawrence (Larry) Roberts, who designed the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, or ARPANET, has said that the current system of packet data isn't suitable for the uses to which the internet is being used currently. Rather than viewing data as packet it needs to be seen as a flow, and this will require fundamental retooling.

“The Internet is broken. I should know: I designed it,” he writes in the IEEE's Spectrum.

“Directing traffic in terms of flows rather than individual packets improves the utilization of networks. By eliminating the excessive delays and random packet losses typical of traditional routers, flow management fills communication links with more data and protects voice and video streams. And it does all that without requiring changes to the time-tested TCP/IP protocol.”

Traditional routing technologies are unsuited to modern applications like VoIP or video transmission he says because the routing protocols were never designed to handle that kind of traffic

Microsoft releases Office 2010 details, test code | Beyond Binary - CNET News
However, the release of the software will be limited. Attendees of this week's Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans, as well as the recent TechEd show, will gain access to the desktop versions of Office 2010. Microsoft has also been taking sign-ups via its Office 2010: The Movie teaser Web site.

Also, it won't show off the program's biggest change--the addition of browser-based versions of Excel, PowerPoint, Word, and OneNote.

Those so-called Office Web Applications are being demonstrated on Monday, but the technical preview of the Web apps won't come until later this year. For consumers, Microsoft plans to make the browser-based versions a free part of Windows Live next year, but hasn't decided whether they will include advertising.

The applications, which run in Safari, Firefox, and Internet Explorer, are aimed at both expanding the number of Office users within businesses as well as holding the ground threatened by Google Docs and other Web-based productivity programs.

On the desktop side, Microsoft plans a broader beta of the software later this year, with a final release in the first half of 2010
TwInbox Adds Twitter To Microsoft Outlook | Lifehacker Australia
Windows only: Microsoft Outlook add-on TwInbox lets you update, reply, search, and archive your Twitter messages right from your Outlook inbox.

Once you’ve installed the add-on into Outlook, you’ll need to take a trip to the Options panel to enter your Twitter account details, and you’ll probably want to choose a new folder to place incoming Twitter messages so they don’t get mixed in with your regular email. Once you’ve completed that step, you should be able to start sending, replying, or retweeting messages easily—but the really interesting feature is the ability to track keywords with a search term, and filter through those messages locally.
A tech bill of rights to curb public gadget faux pas - Jul. 10, 2009
If a recent survey by Intel (INTC, Fortune 500) is any guide, the first commandment of cell phone behavior would be "Thou shalt not use text or email while driving."

According to a poll conducted for the company by Harris Interactive, more than 90% of us are frustrated with how our neighbors use their phones. Almost three quarters of the 2,000 people surveyed said they were most annoyed by people who text or email while driving. More than 60% said people talk too loudly in public. More than half have been annoyed by people on phones in restaurants, and close to half felt the same way about what transpires in movie theaters.
0:00 /2:39Almost mobile TV

Forty one percent mentioned use of phones in grocery stores as a pet peeve, and 26% were grossed out by others who talk and text in public restrooms. (Interestingly, only 38% of respondents admitted to having any annoying cell phone habits of their own.)
Google Apps to become OpenID provider - Software - Technology - News -
The move will allow web users to sign into numerous sites using their Google Apps login details.

"Google Apps can now become an identity and data hub for multiple software-as-a-service [SaaS] providers," said Eric Sachs, senior product manager for Google security, on a public OpenID board.

"The service is important not only to the individuals in those organisations who can interact with a variety of consumer web sites with a single credential, but to the organisations themselves who are increasingly reliant on multiple SaaS solutions from different vendors.

"The Google Open ID Federated Login API enables a single Google Apps login to provide secure access to services like, SuccessFactors and WebEX, as well as business-to-business partners, internal applications and, of course, consumer web sites."
3 Reveals iPhone 3GS Pricing | Lifehacker Australia
On 24-month contracts, you can choose between $39, $49 or $79 caps, but you’ll pay an extra per-month charge for the phone on everything except the $79 cap, and even on that option you can’t have a 32GB model for nothing.

The extra data packs (priced per month and only available with a new phone) cost $6 for 500MB, $10 for 1GB or $20 for 3GB. The latter seems a reasonable deal if you plan on tethering.

At $929 for the 16GB 3GS or $1,129 for the 32GB, outright prices are again a little higher than from Apple itself.

3 is also allowing customers who pre-registered for its deals to buy the phones on July 16, while existing customers can migrate their existing plan to an iPhone for between $35 and $45 a month, depending on model. (This is a lousy deal for an older 3GB iPhone, frankly, especially if you’re near the end of your contract, but OK for the newer 3GS models.)

Swiss Postal Service lets users check snail mail online - Ars Technica
Imagine a world where your snail mail would be converted to digital form before cluttering up your mailbox, allowing you to trash those coupon and credit card offers with a single click while having the important stuff forwarded directly to you. If you live in Switzerland, this dream is even closer to a reality thanks to a partnership between the Swiss Postal Service and a startup called Earth Class Mail.

First, an explanation of what Earth Class Mail does. The company allows customers in 170 countries (including the US) to sign up for an address where they will have their mail delivered. When the mail starts coming in, its outer packaging/envelopes are scanned—without being opened—and an image is e-mailed to you. From there, you can decide to recycle the junk (according to the New York Times, Earth Class Mail customers recycle 90 percent of their mail), have the mail forwarded, or have it opened and the contents scanned.
live-android - Google Code
Welcome to LiveAndroid, a LiveCD for Android running on x86 platforms.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Byte Into It - 08 Jul 09

China backs down from web filter plan
In a rare reversal, China's government has given in to domestic and international pressure and backed down from a rule that would have required personal computers sold in the country to have internet-filtering software.

Just hours before the rule was to have taken effect on Wednesday, the government said it would postpone the requirement for the "Green Dam Youth Escort" software. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said it made the decision partly because some PC makers were having difficulty meeting the deadline. It did not say whether the plan might be revived.

The change of course averted a possible scuffle with Washington. Senior US officials had protested against the plan after it was imposed abruptly in May, calling it a barrier to trade. Angry web users circulated online petitions condemning Green Dam, while industry groups warned the software might create computer security problems.

Joost, Meet The Competition. Magnify.Net Sees Growth In White Label Video Platform The video hosting and sharing platform, which launched in 2007, is rapidly growing its white label service and is expected to be cash-flow positive by the end of the year, according to co-founder Steve Rosenbaum.

Magnify has recently partnered with several sites to power their video aggregation platforms, including deals with Etsy, CarsonDaly.TV, and Magnify has also created white label video channels for Zappos, New York Magazine and The Weather Channel. recently decided to shift from Magnify’s competitor Brightcove to power its platform for original content. The cycling site is launching its Magnify-powered site in conjunction with its coverage of the Tour de France, which starts July 4th. It was attracted by Magnify’s social features, such as the ability to pull UGC videos from sites like YouTube and updates from Twitter. online editor David L’Heureux plans to integrate Twitter streams onto the platform from cycling all-stars like Lance Armstrong. Magnify also allows the online magazine to aggregate a mix of videos and makes it easy for the site to offer readers external videos and internal media that is created by
How wide is the world's digital divide, anyway? - Ars Technica
it's worth taking a step back every once in a while to consider the global picture: much of the world has broadband penetration rates under 20 percent, and the largest single group of countries has penetration rates of between 0 and 5 percent.

The consultants at TeleGeography track broadband deployment in 127 countries and have released a chart that shows world broadband deployments by percentage of households that have service. Out of the 127, only 10 countries are above 80 percent—mostly small places like Hong Kong, Singapore, Denmark, and South Korea. Together, the ten countries in this bracket account for only two percent of the world population.

Fifty-three countries fall into the next two categories, with household penetration rates of between 20 and 80 percent (most are on the lower side of that range).

But it's the final two categories that are most enlightening. 64 countries—just over half of all countries tracked—have broadband penetration rates of under 20 percent (most are in the 0-5 percent category).

Eighty-eight more countries aren't even tracked by TeleGeography, since they have essentially no home broadband deployment at all.

"Broadband represents the most extreme example in the gulf between the 'haves' and the 'have nots'," said TeleGeography Executive Director John Dinsdale. "Less than 2 percent of African households have broadband compared with 68 percent of North American homes."
How To Communicate Securely in Repressive Environments « iRevolution
Nonviolent resistance movements are typically driven by students, i.e., young people, who are increasingly born digital natives. With expanding access to mobile phones, social networking software and online platforms for user-generated content such as blogs, the immediate financial cost of speaking out against repressive regimes is virtually nil. So resistance movements are likely to make even more use of new communication technology and digital media in the future. In fact, they already are.

At the same time, however, the likelihood and consequences of getting caught are high, especially for those political activists without any background or training in digital security. Indeed, recent research by Digital Democracy research suggests that organizational hierarchies are being broken down as youth adopt new technologies. While this empowers them they are also put at risk since they don’t tend to be as consequence-conscious as their adult counterparts.
Bing Keeps Its Foot On The Gas, Adds Tweets To Results
Bing is something of a rarity for Microsoft these days: It’s a product that actually has good natural buzz. And for good reason too, it’s a solid product. For certain queries, it seems more useful than even, yes, Google. (And not just porn queries.) And Microsoft isn’t squandering away this opportunity, it’s keeping its foot on the gas, today attacking what is perceived to be Google’s weakness: Real-time search results.

While that’s a little misleading — Google actually does have plenty of data that gets into its system almost immediately — what everyone seems to mean by real-time results these days is Twitter results. And that’s exactly what Bing is adding. Kind of. As it notes on its blog:

Today we’re unveiling an initial foray into integrating more real time data into our search results, starting with some of the more prominent and prolific Twitterers from a variety of spheres.

But it’s important to note that Bing will not be crawling every tweet that runs through Twitter. Instead, it will focus on only those from people it deems important based on follower counts and volume of tweets. As they note:

We’re not indexing all of Twitter at this time… just a small set of prominent and prolific Twitterers to start. We picked a few thousand people to start, based primarily on their follower count and volume of tweets. We think this is an interesting first step toward using Twitter’s public API to surface Tweets in people search. We’d love to hear your feedback as we think through future possibilities in real time search.

Sarah Palin, via Twitter: God told me to sue the internet - Boing Boing
the point seems to be that a "higher calling" has directed her to file anti-defamation lawsuits against a number of news websites for having reported the news that she quit her post as governor of Alaska

Windows 7 testers have long path to upgrade | Beyond Binary - CNET News
the upgrade versions of the Windows operating system (the cheapest way to move to the final version) check for a previous paid version of Windows on the drive. That means, if a user did a clean installation of Windows 7 on their test system (as recommended by Microsoft), that same user will have to back up their data, reinstall their original operating system (XP or Vista), then install Windows 7, restore their data, and then reinstall their applications.

For testers who were running XP, that means doing a clean installation of Windows XP over their Windows 7 test build and then a clean installation of Windows 7 over that. Vista users have the option of reinstalling that operating system and then doing an in-place upgrade or a clean installation of Windows 7.

Testers looking to move from a test version of Windows 7 to the final product may find the move not only costly, but time consuming.
(Credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft says that, for what it's worth, that's roughly the same thing that was required for those moving from pre-release versions of Windows Vista to the final release.

Even so, it's an unfortunate burden for those who have provided lots of feedback and indeed been some of the operating system's biggest champions. Users were also pushed to do a fresh installation when moving from Windows 7 beta to the latest test version, although some users found ways around having to do this.
Robot invented to crawl through veins - News - PC Authority
Scientists from Israel's Technion University have unveiled a tiny robot, made using Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) technology, purportedly able to crawl through a person's veins in order to diagnose and potentially treat artery blockage and cancer.

The little robot - with a diameter of just one millimeter - has neither engine nor onboard controls, instead being propelled forward by a magnetic field wielded on it from outside the patient's body.

Controlling the tiny bot externally means boffins have been able to shrink it to a previously impossibly tiny scale, allowing it to crawl its way through the typical human body's veins and arteries using miniscule outstretched arms which grip the vessel walls. Yes, that made us shudder too.

Scientists reckon the mini bot can even withstand massive blood flow and is able to push forward regardless of the magnetic field actuation direction, doing away with any need for exact localisation and direction retrieval.As if getting under people's skin wasn't enough, Technion researchers say they're also looking at putting the ant-like creature to work in urban water distribution systems, to look for any leaks that need plugging.

Google Maps | property | real estate | search | Australia
Google wants a bigger slice of the real-estate search business
An example of a property search in the US version of Google Maps.

An example of a property search in the US version of Google Maps.
Stephen Hutcheon
July 6, 2009

In a move that has raised eyebrows among established players in the classified real-estate business, Google Australia has unveiled a new tool on its mapping service that will directly link buyers and renters to available property.

The Google Maps feature, which launched today in Australia and New Zealand, will host free listings supplied by real-estate agents and publishers.

Although many existing publishers and real-estate agents offer map-based searching, the maps on Google's new service will reflect real-time changes in search criteria and location.

The technology behind this enhancement was developed by engineers at Google's Sydney office and is also being rolled out on the company's existing property search service in the United States.

Google's offering is open to all comers, potentially giving renters and buyers a much bigger choice.

But this development is likely to be viewed by existing publishers as a grab for their business at a time when margins are under pressure and paid listings are being affected by the prevailing economic climate.

The service is launching with listings provided by the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia and, the free property listing service owned by Michael Hannan's Independent Print Media Group.
Decoding the HTML 5 video codec debate - Ars Technica
One of the harbingers of the open Web renaissance is HTML 5, the next major version of the W3C's ubiquitous HTML standard. Although HTML 5 is still in the draft stage, several of its features have already been widely adopted by browsers like Safari, Chrome, and Firefox. Among the most compelling is the "video" element, which has the potential to free Web video from its plugin prison and make video content a native first-class citizen on the Web—if codec disagreements don't stand in the way.

In an article last month, we explored the challenges and opportunities associated with the HTML 5 video element. One of the most significant of these challenges is the lack of consensus around a standard media codec, a contentious issue that has rapidly escalated into a major controversy. The debate has now stalled without a clear resolution in sight.

The HTML 5 working group is split between supporters of Ogg Theora and H.264. Their inability to find a compromise that is acceptable to all stakeholders has compelled HTML 5 spec editor Ian Hickson to "admit defeat" and give up on the effort to define specific codecs and media formats in the standard itself. This is problematic because the lack of uniform codec availability will make it impossible for content creators to publish their videos in a single format that will be viewable through the HTML 5 video element in all browsers.
BBC NEWS | Technology | Microsoft offers free anti-virus
A trial version of Microsoft's free anti-virus software has been launched in the US, China, Brazil, and Israel.

Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) promises to provide people with basic protection against viruses, trojans, rootkits and spyware.

The software giant has been criticised in the past for failing to include free security software with Windows.

Its first security package, Windows Live OneCare, failed to attract many customers and will be discontinued.
VirtualBox 3 brings 3D graphics support - Ars Technica
Sun announced this week the availability of VirtualBox 3, the latest version of its open source virtualization solution. The new version introduces experimental 3D graphics support and the ability to expose multiple CPUs to guest operating systems.

VirtualBox was originally developed by InnoTek, which was acquired by Sun last year. InnoTek launched an open source edition of VirtualBox in 2007, releasing most of the program's code under the GPL. Alongside the open source version, the company has continued to sell a commercial version that has additional features, such as a built-in RDP server and full USB support. VirtualBox is cross-platform compatible and is available for Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X.
Be patient with NBN investment returns: Hackett - Telco/ISP - Technology - News -
Economic contributors to the National Broadband Network should view their return on investment over a 50-year timeframe, Internode managing director Simon Hackett has said.

Speaking at the AFR broadband conference in Sydney, Hackett urged investors to expand their view from a "five-to-10 year dotcom return to a 50-year utility return".

"The new network will have a 50 year plus lifespan," Hackett said.

"People that think this is a 10 year investment aren't thinking about the lifecycle [of this type of infrastructure]. In the utility context, a $43 billion investment is cheap."

Hackett said his "cynical side" suggested the network would take ten years alone to be built. And he said the case study of ADSL in Australia showed that saturation of NBN connections could take just as long.
Vale Internode Unwired customers - Telco/ISP - Technology - News -
The ISP resold Unwired until August, 2006, after which it said customers would be supported.

The final day for Internode customers of the wireless internet service is 17 August.

"We've written to the few remaining Internode customers left on an Unwired tail circuit to inform them that we'll be shutting the service down fully by August this year," said Internode managing director Simon Hackett.

Internode offered those affected discounts on its ADSL and a $50 credit on its NodeMobile 3G services.

Hackett said Internode may again resell Unwired.

"We'll be very happy to consider returning Unwired to the Internode service portfolio should [it] be successful with [its] long-mooted, wide-scale deployment of mobile WiMAX services," he said.
Apple sued over iTunes pricing and "fraudulent" gift cards - Ars Technica
An Illinois couple has filed a class action suit against Apple for selling "fraudulent" iTunes gift cards. At issue is the language printed on some cards that reads, "Songs are 99¢," and as we all all know, a variety of tracks on the iTunes Store are now sold for $1.29.

The couple alleges that such language constitutes deception and fraud on Apple's part, and that the gift cards end up being "worth less than what was represented" because some songs after April 7 of this year cost more than the 99¢ price.
Mobile uploads to YouTube up 400% after iPhone 3GS launch - Ars Technica
Mobile uploads to YouTube have increased by 400 percent since last Friday's release of the iPhone 3GS, Google announced today. The device is the first iPhone with video capabilities and is able to upload videos directly to MobileMe or YouTube, even over the 3G network. With the ability to send videos to the Internet almost immediately, it's no surprise that users are taking the opportunity to upload videos on-the-spot from their iPhones.
BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Twitter to give bushfire alerts
Australia is to use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to give people early warning of bushfires.
Aussie firm sells Twitter followers - Strategy - Business - News -
Australian media marketing firm uSocial is offering a new paid service allowing organisations to buy Twitter followers to aid their marketing campaigns.

According to the firm, a single Twitter follower could be worth $0.10 a month. It is selling followers in various packages, starting at 1,000 for $87, which is delivered in seven days, and going all the way up to 100,000 followers at a cost of $3,479, delivered over a year.

USocial says it profiles Twitter users to ensure a good fit with their clients, then suggests they follow the Twitter feed of that client – the user then decides whether to follow or not.
BBC NEWS | Technology | Cash for Pirate Bay file-sharers
The new owners of file-sharing website The Pirate Bay say users will be paid for sharing files.

Global Gaming Factory (GGF) paid 60m kronor (£4.7m) to take over the site.

In an exclusive interview with the BBC, GGF's Hans Pandeya said that the only way to beat illegal file-sharing was to make something more attractive.

"We are going to set up a system where the file-sharer actually makes money," he said.

According to Mr Pandeya, GGF's chief executive, the business model for The Pirate Bay would be that it continued to be a file-sharing site. The only difference - at least in terms of content - would be that the files would be hosted legally, rather than stolen from copyright holders.

"We're a listed company so everything we do has to be legal; content providers need to be paid and have their wishes and demands met," he said.
Dell launches digital forensics service for police - Technology - News -
Dell, the world's second-biggest maker of personal computers, launched a package of hardware, software and services on Tuesday designed to help police convict more criminals as digital evidence proliferates.

The company said its digital-forensics package would help police reduce backlogs that can be as long as two years as it would allow multiple analysts to work simultaneously on the same data while preserving an audit trail of evidence-handling.

The package, launched with partners including Intel, gives customers tools to build and host their own data centre, meaning they can have the convenience of so-called cloud computing while keeping control of it themselves.
Jammie Thomas challenges "monstrous" $1.92M P2P verdict - Ars Technica
It was only a matter of time: Jammie Thomas-Rasset has asked the federal judge overseeing her file-sharing lawsuit to toss the $1.92 million damage award, reduce it to the statutory minimum of $18,000, or grant her a new trial.

The motion, filed today in Minnesota federal court, is blunt. "The verdict in this case was shocking," it begins. "For 24 songs, available for $1.29 on iTunes, the jury assessed statutory damages of $80,000 per song—a ratio of 1:62,015. For 24 albums, available for no more than $15 at the store, the jury assessed statutory damages of $80,000 per album—a ratio of 1:5,333. For a single mother's noncommercial use of KaZaA, and upon neither finding nor evidence of actual injury to the plaintiffs, the judgment fines Jammie Thomas $1.92 million. Such a judgment is grossly excessive and, therefore, subject to remittitur as a matter of federal common law."

These shocking ratios—1:62,015 and 1:5,333—appear throughout the filing, though they're largely irrelevant. Thomas-Rasset wasn't sued simply for violating the "reproduction right" found in the Copyright Act; she was also accused of violating the "distribution right" by putting the songs up on KaZaA for millions of others to download. How many people did so? No one knows—which is one sort of situation that statutory damages were created to address. The real ratios can never be known.

That doesn't change the fact that the jury's verdict was nuts—or, in the words of the filing, "excessive, shocking, and monstrous." (Richard Marx, who wrote and performed one of the 24 songs at issue in the case, agreed.) Thomas-Rasset's lawyers argue that the $1.92 million damage award is, on its face, an unconstitutional breach of the Due Process clause and should be thrown out or reduced to the $750 per song minimum.
Phone ringtones a "public performance"? EFF, AT&T say no - Ars Technica
It isn't often that you find AT&T and the Electronic Frontier Foundation in agreement, but consensus has been reached on one matter: ASCAP's demand that wireless companies pay it license fees for ringtones is, well, ridiculous.

On Wednesday EFF called the move "outlandish" and "a ploy to squeeze more money out of the mobile phone companies." The advocacy group filed a friend of the court brief with the United States District Court for the Southern District New York this week, which is hearing the dispute between ASCAP, AT&T, and Verizon over whether the telcos have to pay the music licensing body royalties for wireless ringtones. Joining the amicus brief are Public Knowledge and the Center for Democracy and Technology. Meanwhile CTIA - The Wireless Association, to which the big telcos belong, has also filed an amicus brief in the case.

Prezi - The zooming presentation editor
Create a map of your ideas, images, videos, then show overview, zoom to details, amaze, convince, take the day.
Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3)
Amazon S3 provides a simple web services interface that can be used to store and retrieve any amount of data, at any time, from anywhere on the web.

Official Google Blog: Introducing the Google Chrome OS
Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010. Because we're already talking to partners about the project, and we'll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve.

Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We're designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don't have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.