July 18,2012Typing speed
»TypingWeb offers beginner, intermediate and advanced courses to improve your typing speed. After a simple registration, you can practice typing on different rows of your keyboard. You can start with letters and move on to words. Once you complete the different courses, you will find that you are able to handle the keyboard with more ease.
Many of us struggle while typing a few keys without ever realising it; TypingWeb will also help you identify them. The courses are fun as you will know how you measure on the words per minute, accuracy and total time taken. It is free but a simple registration is required. www.typingweb.com
Private notes»If you want to send a private note to someone but do not want to leave any trace behind, here is some help. Go to Privnote and write a note. Click on ‘Create’ button to get a link, which you can copy and send to anyone. Immediately after they read it, the note will self-destruct. https://privnote.com
(Contributed by Tejasvi)
|N S Soundar Rajan|
Mikogo can facilitate hosting of online meetings, free. It has quite a number of features to help conduct a near-perfect online meetings, web conferences or webinars, product demonstrations, web presentations, and offer remote support to clients and others. Mikogo’s features include: Desktop Sharing; multiple meeting participants (up to ten); switch presenter; remote keyboard and mouse control; session scheduler; session recording and playback; whiteboard; transfer files; application selection; participant pointer, and more. Mikogo is a cross-platform application, can be run both on both Windows and Macs, and participating in desktop sharing sessions from both PC and Mac computers, is possible. The 1.6MB Mikogo, free for personal as well as professional use, can be downloaded at http://www.mikogo.com/
Windows, and for Mac at
DH reader Ganesh wrote:
Please tell me about a tool which can secure email by encrypting it.
You could try 4t HIT Mail Privacy at www.4t-niagara.com/hitmail.html. The utility which encodes the message to a selected photo supports Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, and Microsoft Outlook.
28 july 2010
|DH reader T R Ganesh wrote:|
Please suggest a freeware for Mac to convert YouTube videos to iPod.
Try Tooble, at www.tooble.tv/ Tooble.dmg. Requires Mac OS X 10.4 and above. Windows version (XP+) at http://tooble.tv/installer.exe
|Up in the air: Social networking takes flight|
|Barbara S Peterson, The New York Times|
Barbara S Peterson reports how airlines like Virgin, Delta and Lufthansa are wiring internet access on their planes to help people stay connected even while flying
|On a flight from Newark to the West Coast not long ago, Jeff Jarvis, author of the book “What Would Google Do?” fell into a conversation with a fellow passenger familiar with his work. But it was not a face-to-face chat. Rather, it started as an exchange of Twitter posts at the boarding gate.|
When the plane landed, Jarvis recalled, the conversation resumed. “It was as if someone had recognised you and come up to say, ‘hello,’ on the flight.” He said it reminded him of the days when passengers could socialise in airborne lounges, “except now it’s happening digitally.”
The mobile phone and laptop are not just tools to stay in touch with the office or home anymore. As Jarvis can attest, a growing number of frequent fliers are using their mobile devices to create an informal travellers’ community in airports and aloft.
Airlines and social media providers are scrambling to catch up. Airlines are beefing up their presence on networking channels, and travelers’ groups like FlyerTalk.com have created new applications that allow members to find one another while on the road.
Business travelers can use these services to share cabs to the airport, swap advice or locate colleagues in the same city. As Jarvis puts it, “finding a like-minded person to travel with lessens the chance of getting stuck next to some talkative bozo” on a long flight.
Increasing availability of Wi-Fi at airports and on planes has made the travel networking possible. A survey of 84 of the world’s largest airports by the Airports Council International earlier this year found that 96 per cent offered Wi-Fi connections, and 73 per cent had connections throughout their terminals. About 45 per cent offer the service free; the rest charge an average of about $8 an hour.
More than 10 airlines in North America, including American, Delta and Southwest, are wiring their planes for Internet access, and major foreign airlines like Lufthansa are introducing new technology that will let customers connect on transoceanic flights.
In-flight calls are still forbidden on most flights, although several airlines, including Emirates, have been testing calling on shorter trips. As many as 1,200 commercial airliners in the United States will have Wi-Fi capability by the end of the year, according to Chris Babb, senior product manager of in-flight entertainment for Delta Air Lines.
“It’s a much different world than it was a year ago,” he said, noting that on a recent flight he exchanged e-mail messages with several colleagues who were in the air at the same time.
And Virgin America, which has wired its entire 28-plane fleet for the Internet, said about half of its passengers brought their laptops with them and 17 to 20 percent were online at any given time. On longer flights, about a third of passengers go online. Like airports, most airlines charge a fee for the service, usually ranging from $5 to $13.
Staying connected helps
Some airline passengers may mourn the loss of their last remaining refuge from e-mail intrusions. But the benefits of staying connected became clear several months ago during the eruption of the Icelandic volcano that grounded thousands of European flights.
Facebook and Twitter set up sites for stranded travelers, who swapped ideas and offered rides to ferry terminals, and Twitter had its own thread. Based on anecdotal reports, the sites helped in getting information out quickly.
For those with time at an airport, FlyerTalk.com has an “itineraries” feature that allows travellers to post their coming flights in the hope that other “flier talkers,” as they call themselves, may be heading the same way. Lufthansa said it consulted with FlyerTalk members in developing its own product to help customers tap into social networking from any location. The application works on iPhones and this fall will be available on BlackBerrys. A built-in GPS allows users to find fellow fliers who might be nearby. It also has a taxi-sharing feature that travelers can activate upon landing.
Users must already be members of the airlines’ loyalty program, and Lufthansa said it had added privacy controls for those who preferred to travel incognito. FlyerTalk’s president, Gary Leff, said that while some members had welcomed the service, others were skeptical. “Some of us just like to keep to ourselves” on the road, he said.
For those who want to connect, few airlines can match Virgin America for mingling opportunities. In addition to its Internet service, it offers seat-to-seat messaging via its seatback video screens. It has also teamed up with match.com to create a party atmosphere on specific flights (reportedly at least one couple who met this way became engaged). But there is also the potential for spurned advances and hurt feelings.
“Seat-to-seat chatting could lead to a negative form of social networking,” said Jeanne Martinet, a social commentator who writes the missmingle.com blog. “What if someone spots another passenger doing something annoying?” she asked. In the past, that person might have simply suffered in silence. Now, Martinet said, “It would be tempting to message them, ‘Can’t you get your big feet out of the aisle?’ ”
Protection against abuse
Porter Gale, Virgin’s vice president of marketing, said there were safeguards against abuse and that a passenger could simply turn off the messaging function. And she said that offering Wi-Fi access had benefits for the airline, like the ability to resolve a customer’s problem before a flight lands.
A passenger once sent an e-mail message to the airline from his seat, saying that he was not pleased with the sandwich he had just eaten, she said. A customer service representative on the ground sent a message back to the plane, and shortly thereafter, she said, the passenger was served an acceptable substitute.
This can work against the airline, too, as Virgin discovered when a New York-bound flight was diverted and some passengers sent out messages venting annoyance with the delay.
|A web site that is not afraid to pick a fight|
|The New York Times|
Jezebel is presently one of the fastest-growing site owing to its true, fearless comments on the glamour world, writes Jennifer Mascia
|When Jon Stewart announced on the June 29 episode of “The Daily Show” that “Jezebel thinks I’m a sexist,” some viewers may have been wondering: who exactly is Jezebel?|
At least a million and a half people can answer that question; that’s how many visited the site, a women’s interest blog, last month. Stewart’s comment was a response to Jezebel’s recent report on claims by women who say they faced a sexist environment when they were “Daily Show” writers and correspondents. The post garnered more than 211,000 page views, over 1,000 comments and a sharp retort from 32 female employees currently with “The Daily Show.”
Jezebel began in 2007 as a postfeminist companion to Gawker.com, the New York media insider blog, and in some ways has eclipsed its sibling, capturing an impassioned female audience and recently surpassing Gawker in monthly page views.
And Stewart is hardly the first media heavyweight the site has taken to task. Jezebel also weighs in on the sexually predatory nature of the fashion business, skewers celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Elle MacPherson, and chronicles the doctored photographs in fashion magazines in a regular feature called Photoshop of Horrors. Jezebel’s audience is 97 per cent female, and the site says it gets more than 37 million page views a month and about 200,000 unique visitors each day.
“In media, men are not a coherent sect,” said Nick Denton, owner of Gawker Media, the parent company of Jezebel and Gawker. “You go into a magazine store and see rows upon rows of women’s magazines,” but only a few men’s magazines. With women, he said, “there’s a much clearer collective.”
Jezebel’s approach seems to be paying off. Advertising Age has called the blog “one of the few genuinely intelligent repositories of media/marketing/fashion commentary/celebrity deflation.” The site’s advertisers, which typically pay $8 to $12 per 1,000 impressions, include The New York Times, American Apparel, Dentyne, Skyy vodka, Clairol, Starbucks, and premium and basic cable channels. (In contrast to magazines like InStyle and Vogue, which push expensive handbags, designer clothes, slimming undergarments and long-lasting lipstick.)
Those advertisers are appearing on a site that is certainly cutting, and frequently incendiary. Jezebel did not become one of the fastest-growing sites in the Gawker family without making a few enemies. “In its lifetime, Jezebel has received more complaints per year than any other site,” said Gaby Darbyshire, Gawker Media’s chief operating officer, adding that the posts “that discuss subjects with critical commentary usually draw the hottest fire.”
Jessica Coen, the site’s editor in chief, said that forthrightness is not a ploy to attract advertisers, but part of the Jezebel attitude.
“We’re absolutely not afraid to take on the things that need to be taken on, and we’re not afraid to say things that need to be said,” Coen said at Gawker Media’s Manhattan offices on Friday, where two dozen writers, producers and technicians design, update and moderate content for seven of the network’s 10 sites. “That’s the whole point.”
Indeed, the morning after Stewart’s on-air rebuke, Irin Carmon, the staff writer who contributed the original post, continued to hammer the show. And after 32 women who work for the show wrote an open letter in response to Jezebel’s allegations of sexism — they addressed it “Dear People Who Don’t Work Here” and signed off with an expletive-laced suggestion — Carmon defended herself in a follow-up post by pointing out that the show did not answer questions or make anyone available for comment when she approached Comedy Central before the original critique was published.
Coen continues to stand by the post. Steve Albani, a spokesman for Comedy Central, said on Friday, “The open letter posted earlier this week speaks for itself, and the show will have no further comment.”
With 50 to 60 posts published daily, Jezebel offsets weighty topics with lighter fare. One popular feature, Midweek Madness, is a tongue-in-cheek dissection of the week’s glossy tabloids; with all the chatter about celebrity pregnancies, the Jezebel staff sometimes refers to it as “Unsolicited Uterus Update Weekly.” Dress Code is a question-and-answer feature that functions as a sartorial Miss Manners; Beauty 101 provides inexpensive and practical alternatives to the cosmetic tips espoused by Vogue and Allure.
Jezebel’s founding editor, Anna Holmes, 37, worked at some of the very magazines Denton scorned, including both Glamour and Star under Bonnie Fuller. Charged with creating “the Girly Gawker,”
“I felt disillusioned by magazines to a certain degree,” said Holmes, who recently left Jezebel, “because they perpetuate this insecurity factory and present solutions to the insecurities they just created.”
A month after the blog’s inception, Holmes struck gold when someone involved with the production of Redbook sent Jezebel the July 2007 cover image of Faith Hill before the airbrush was applied. The difference between the raw photo and the final cover is jarring: Hill’s silhouette has been redrawn, under-eye lines have been smoothed out and one of her arms has been halved in size — all unnecessary alterations, Holmes said.
“Look at the picture above, and tell us that Faith Hill is not gorgeous and vibrant just the way God — not Photoshop — made her,” she wrote on the site. The ensuing controversy received national attention, officially putting Jezebel on the map and attracting a devoted fan base, one that is not shy about posting comments about past traumas like rape and drug abuse.
Because readers are actively engaged with the content, “Jezebel shows that not only are thousands of eyeballs viewing the site, but they are doing something,” said Kelli Matthews, an instructor of public relations at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. “They’re leaving comments. They’re interacting with each other.
“This helps people feel like part of the Jezebel ‘community,’ which only adds to the loyalty that the site enjoys,” she said. Last week, Emily Gould, herself a Gawker alumna, wrote a highly critical piece on Slate saying that Jezebel’s criticism of pop culture and “righteously indignant rage” are really just “petty jealousy, cleverly marketed as feminism.”
“The easiest way for Jezebel writers to be provocative is to stoke readers’ insecurities — just in a different way,” she wrote.
But Coen says that Jezebel’s audience is so loyal because its readers are not condescended to, but levelled with. “It’s great to see such a devoted audience,” she said. “You see that your work matters to people.”
With Jezebel breaking more stories and garnering more unique visitors than ever before, “Advertisers are no longer treating it as a cute new entrant,” Denton said. “This is Jezebel’s moment.”
|N S SOUNDAR RAJAN|
|Ask & Record Toolbar|
Ask & Record Toolbar works in your browser to record streaming audio and video. Its features include: Web Video Downloader: Watch and Record a video, works with many audio and flash sites.
Audio Recorder: With two different recording technologies record anything you hear, from any site, and convert them into MP3 files; File Converter: supports MP3, WMV, FLV, MPEG-4, MPEG-2, MPEG-1 formats, options provided for iPod/iPhone, PSP and Zune; Browsing Enhancements: can improve your browsing experience with an automatic pop-up blocker, and an Ask Search Box to get answers to questions in plain English. The 8.4 MB Ask & Record Toolbar for Windows 7, Vista, XP, and 2000, can be downloaded at http://applian.com/asktoolbar/download.php. FAQ at http://applian.com/asktoolbar/help.php. Demo at http://applian.com/asktoolbar/demo.php. High-speed Internet connection required.
GiMeSpace, a virtual desktop scroller, can provide an extended desktop in the horizontal direction. A small and simple program for Windows XP or later versions, GiMeSpace lets you expand the desktop without any limits. When the moused is moved to the edge of the screen you'll notice that the desktop extends beyond the borders of the normal desktop! You can keep all your windows open next to each other and move between then by just moving your mouse to the left or to the right. To revert to a stationary desktop, simply right-click the GiMeSpace icon in the notification area, and choose Exit. You can also click Collect Windows to return all open windows to the area of the original desktop. The 467 KB GiMeSpace Freeware Edition, version 220.127.116.11, (June 24, 2010), a simple and effective tool to create more desktop space, can be downloaded at
http://snipurl.com/gimespace. FAQ at http://sites.google.com/site/gimespace/faq
FlexTkis an advanced file management toolkit. It can search and classify files, perform disk space utilisation analysis, and identify duplicate files to free-up wasted storage space. FlexTk can scan drives or folders and view a report of how your storage space is utilised by file type.
It can automatically categorise the files by general types (e.g. multimedia files, executables, documents etc.) and lets you view the results for individual files types along with a list of all the files within the group. The 4.10 MB FlexTk v4.2.30 (8 Jul 2010), for Win 2000/03/08/XP/Vista/7 can be downloaded at http://www.flexense.com/flextk/setups/flextk_express_setup_v4.2.30.exe.
The Pro edition has additional features like support for long file names, advanced data migration features, recoverable copy operations, and more.
|DH reader Ashok wrote|
Can you let me know some software which can remove scratches on CD and DVDs?
You could try CD Recovery Toolbox to restore information lost as a result of some mechanical damage of the disk. It can be downloaded at http://www.oemailrecovery.com/downloads/CDRecoveryToolboxFreeSetup.exe
9 June 2010
|On newest iPhone, another camera|
|Miguel Helft and Jenna Wortham, The New York Times|
Aspiring to be the best, Apple comes out with a smarter version of iPhone with striking features like video chat and high resolution display, report Miguel Helft and Jenna Wortham
|Seeking to fend off intensifying competition from Google and others in the smartphone business, Apple introduced a new version of the iPhone on Monday that includes a front-facing camera for video chats. |
The iPhone 4 is faster and thinner than previous models, with a crisper display and a more angular look. It has a 5-megapixel camera and can shoot and edit high-definition video.
“This is our new baby,” said Steven P Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, as he presented the phone during the company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference here. “I hope you love it as much as we do.”
Analysts said the new phone came at an opportune moment for Apple. While previous versions of the device continue to sell briskly, buyers have been faced with an increasingly large array of attractive smartphones.
Some phones powered by Google’s Android- software match and in some cases exceed the capabilities and speed of the iPhone 3GS, the most recent model. The iPhone 4 should help Apple re-establish its leadership, some analysts said.
“When it ships, it will be the best smartphone on the market,” said Tim Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies, who has been following Apple for nearly three decades. “It gives Apple a year’s lead on competitors, if not more.” A Google spokesman, Mike Nelson, declined to comment on the new phone.
The iPhone 4, priced at $199 for a model with 16 gigabytes of storage or $299 for one with 32 gigabytes with a two-year contract, will go on sale June 24 in the United States and four other countries. Apple plans an aggressive international rollout after that; Jobs said the phone would be on sale in 88 countries by September.
While the iPhone 4 was greeted with cheers by the loyal Apple developers in the hall, Jobs’ presentation included few surprises.
Some of the secrets of the iPhone 4 were revealed after a prototype, apparently left behind in a bar by an Apple engineer, ended up in the hands of reporters for the technology blog Gizmodo, which published details of the device’s hardware. And Jobs did not introduce a new version of the Apple TV device or announce that the iPhone would be available on Verizon Wireless, despite speculation on technology blogs that he might do so.
Analysts and developers were particularly impressed by the iPhone’s video chat feature, called FaceTime. For now, however, chats can be conducted only with other iPhone 4 owners, and only over Wi-Fi networks. Jobs said Apple would work with carriers to bring video chats to cellphone networks.
“I think video chat is going to be something that really differentiates the iPhone from other devices,” said Charles Wolf, an analyst with Needham & Company. The phone includes a new high-resolution display and is powered by Apple’s A4 chip, the same microprocessor that is in the iPad tablet computer. And Jobs said the phone’s battery life had been improved.
At 9.3 millimetres, it is 24 percent thinner than the iPhone 3GS, and Jobs called it “the thinnest smartphone on the planet.” A gyroscope inside the iPhone 4 will allow developers to add new motion input to games and other applications.
Much of Jobs’s presentation was dedicated to demon-strating how the new iPhone would work with the next version of Apple’s mobile operating system, now called iOS 4, which will be made available free to current iPhone owners.
There were evident signs of Apple’s intensifying rivalry with Google. At one point, Jobs showed an e-mail message from a developer who said that he had made more money in the first day of sales of his iPad application than in five years of selling Google ads on his Web site.
Jobs also said existing ads that appeared in applications on the iPad and the iPhone, many of which are sold by Google-owned AdMob, were not good because clicking on them took people out of the apps and onto the Web.
Jobs said Apple’s new iAds system, which is built into iOS 4, would keep users inside the apps and allow them to go back easily to what they were doing. He said that major advertisers, including Nissan, Target, Sears and Best Buy, had agreed to spend about $60 million on iAds in the second half of the year.
Analysts said the iPhone 4 should help Apple sustain its sales momentum, appealing both to new iPhone customers and to owners of the two-year-old iPhone 3G who were looking to upgrade. They also said that less expensive plans from AT&T, which put caps on the amount of data that users can consume, would help sell the iPhone 3GS, whose price will drop to $99.
“I think they are going to sell a lot of new subscriptions to people who have held back on buying a smartphone with a data plan,” said Charles S Golvin, an analyst with Forrester Research.
Using a PC can truly be a deeply frustrating experience especially when computers become sluggish. Unless one is a power-user, the causes for the sluggishness would remain a mystery. And, well, even if you are a power-user, it could take quite some time to pin-point the causes. Soluto’s goal is to bring an end to the frustrations PC users encounter with a innovative application that tackles the sluggishness issue in two steps - Frustration detection: tells you which application is causing it. And, Power of the crowd: harnesses the power of the crowd to learn which actions really eliminate frustrations and improve user experience, and leverages this user wisdom for the benefit of all PC users.
The knowledgebase garnered and analysed by Soluto is also editable by the community. If you wish to use the wisdom of the crowd to optimise your PC and make it run and boot faster, download Soluto at www.soluto.com/ Download/
SUPERAntiSpyware can help protect computers from Spyware, Malware, Adware, Trojans, Rootkits, Homepage Hi-Jackers, Worms, Dialers and Parasites. The developers of SUPERAntiSpyware aver that the product focuses on detecting hard-to-remove spyware which other products often miss, or are unable to safely detect and remove. Features include: Advanced detection & removal of Spyware, Adware, Malware, Trojans, Dialers, Worms, KeyLoggers, HiJackers, Parasites, Rootkits, Rogue Security Products and many other types of threats. SuperAntispyware also offers real-time protection from threats- prevents potentially harmful software from installing or re-installing! Reportedly in use by nearly 30 million users the 8.51 MB freeware of SUPERAntiSpyware (v4.38.1004) can be downloaded at www.superantispyware .com /superantispyware. html?rid= 3483. Under a special offer to DH readers Super Antispyware’s pro-edition which normally costs $29.95 can be bought at a special discount of 25%. To take advantage of this offer, simply use the coupon code “friend”.
BleachBit can quickly free disk space, remove hidden junk, and also ensure your privacy is protected by erasing cache, deleting cookies, clearing Internet history, removing unused localisations, shredding logs, and deleting temporary files. BleachBit can help clean up 70 applications including Firefox, Internet Explorer, Flash, Google Chrome, Opera, Safari, Adobe Reader, APT, and others. BleachBit includes a growing list of cleaners, each one represents an application and is provided with options to make appropriate decisions.
BleachBit also includes advanced features such as shredding files Shred files to hide their contents and prevent data recovery (Shred any file such as a spreadsheet on your desktop) to prevent recovery, wiping free disk space to hide traces of files deleted by other applications, and vacuuming Firefox to make it faster. Simple operation: read the descriptions, check the boxes you want, click preview, and click delete. You can download the latest BleachBit installation packages v0.8.0 for Linux and Windows at http://bleachbit.sourceforge.net/download
|DH reader Girish wrote: |
Please suggest a software to download songs while playing them online.
You could use Audacity to download streaming music from the Internet onto your hard drive as a WAV or MP3 file. It can be downloaded at www.audacity.com
|How to remove extra paragraph marks in a word document|
|By J R Biersdorfer, The New York Times|
I was sent a Word document where every line has a paragraph return at the end. Is there a way to remove all of them except the ones that actually marks the end of a paragraph?
|A: The Replace function built into Microsoft Word comes in handy for situations like this. Before you start, make sure Word is set to show nonprinting characters like the paragraph mark; the settings can be found in the Word Options menu on Windows or in the Preferences area on the Mac.|
Depending on which version of Word you’re using, you can find the Replace option either in the Ribbon (Word 2007 and later) or under the Edit menu in older versions of the program and Microsoft Word for the Mac. In the Replace box, copy and paste the nonprinting paragraph mark into the Find What box; the paragraph mark character looks like ^p once it’s pasted into the box. Click the mouse into the Replace With area and tap the space bar to indicate that you want to replace the paragraph line with a space.
As an alternative to cutting and pasting hidden characters, you can also click the Special menu in the Replace box and select Paragraph Mark and Nonbreaking Space instead. Once you have indicated what character you want to find and what character you want to replace it with, click the Replace button in the box to convert each paragraph mark into a space. Skip the double paragraph mark at the end of each intended paragraph.
But if this a long file and you don’t feel like clicking the Replace button 500 times, you can use a shortcut. In the Find What line of the Replace box, paste in two paragraph marks. In the Replace With line, type in a nonsense string of characters like !@# and click Replace All. This converts all the intended paragraph breaks to the nonsense string.
Next, go back to the Replace box and paste in a single paragraph mark into the Find What box. Type a space into the Replace With box. Click Replace All to convert all the hard line breaks onto spaces. Finally, return to the Replace box one more time. On the Find What line, type in the nonsense string — !@# or whatever you used before — and replace it with a single paragraph mark. Click the Replace All button to restore all the originally intended paragraph marks to the file.
If you need to reformat quote marks, dashes, text copied from Web pages and other sources, you might be able to use Word’s AutoFormat command to clean things up. Just select the text in the file, go to the Format menu and choose AutoFormat; click the Options button in the box to adjust the settings.
|N S Soundar Rajan firstname.lastname@example.org|
FlyingBit Password Keeper is a secure organiser to store your passwords, serial numbers, and codes. It offers a simple way to recall / remember confidential information like passwords and all kinds of codes. As the info is kept in a special encrypted database it is virtually impossible for others to read information from it. To ensure the security of database reliable encryption algorithms such as AES, Towfish and Blowfish are used.
Here are some key features of “FlyingBit Password Keeper”: Supports various database encryption algorithms; automatically clears the clipboard; copies the value of a field with one mouse click; supports custom fields; stores notes; easy navigation with a tree-like list; works with removable media; and a simple and clear interface. The 2 MB Password Keeper V1.4.1 build 46 for Windows 98/ME/2000/XP/Vista/Seven can be downloaded at http://www.pwkeeper.com/downloads/password_keeper_install.18.104.22.168.exe.
Jaangle is a music player (audio and video) and an organiser with a difference! Known earlier as Teen Spirit, Jaangle can retrieve info from Internet such as lyrics, album reviews, artist biographies, and artist pictures. It can also maintain a history of the files you play, lets you review statistics and generate a personal hitlist based on the songs you listen to often. Jaangle can aid in discovering tracks in your large music collection with features like auto-continue or by playing the music quiz. As a music organiser it lets you catalog Hard Disks, Network drives, Data CDs/DVDs, AudioCD (with auto CDDB - FreeDB support), USB memory sticks, mp3 players in a easy way. It provides an ID3v2 tagger (and mass tagger) and an easy to use renamer (and mass renamer) with preview. The 2.2 MB Jaangle v0.98d.970 (Release date: 23 May 2010), certified by Softpedia and others as 100% free of malware, including adware, spyware, viruses, trojans and backdoors, can be downloaded at http://www.jaangle.com/files/jsetup.exe
Converting videos and juggling between the different file formats is made easy with WinFF. It is a GUI for the command line video converter FFMPEG. It can convert multiple files in multiple formats, at once. For example, you can convert mpeg’s, flv’s, and mov’s, all into avi’s all at once. Features: Easy to use interface, good quality output, converts video to audio, can convert between audio formats, no external codecs needed, easy access to common conversion options such as bitrate, frame size; a variety of preset conversion settings for common formats are available. WinFF is open source and cross platform written in Free Pascal and Lazarus. WinFF for Windows ME, NT, XP, VISTA, and Debian, Ubuntu, Redhat based GNU/Linux distributions can be downloaded at http://winff.org/html_new/downloads.html
|Competitors seize on troubles of Facebook|
|It sounds like a kamikaze mission: an upstart with a meagre number of users and no capital squaring off against Facebook, a social networking juggernaut with more than 400 million members and a $15 billion valuation. |
But despite those odds, a handful of start-ups are eyeing the social networking industry with renewed interest.
“Right now is the perfect time for us,” said Leo Shimizu, co-founder of a company called Pip.io, which he describes as a social operating system. “People are starting to understand the limitations of Facebook while we’re showing off a product with features that everybody is wanting and didn’t know existed.”
Pip.io is similar to Facebook and Twitter in that it allows its members to post status updates, send messages and connect with friends. But unlike its counterparts, the service allows its users to keep more of the information private.
The service, which completed a test phase in February, has just 20,000 registered members — a drop in the bucket compared with Facebook. But Shimizu remains undaunted.
“The market opportunity is one of a kind, and it’s up to us to capitalise on it,” he said.
Analysts and industry experts are quick to point out that Facebook has dealt with a number of user protests in its six-year history and emerged unscathed each time, continuing to add new users at a record clip. For many users, the web site is an irreplaceable nexus of friends, relatives and colleagues online, making it difficult to abandon.
But while there may not yet be any notable challengers to Facebook’s momentum, said Ray Valdes, an analyst at the research firm Gartner, the company could be accumulating enough damage to its reputation that if a worthy opponent emerges, it will have a ready base of people willing to jump ship.
“Facebook is pushing to the edge of users’ comfort zone,” he said. “It has certainly planted a seed in some users’ minds to look for an exit door.”
Also offering a note of courage to hopeful entrepreneurs is the fickle taste of web denizens. A service that is in vogue one year can just as easily be out of style the next.
“There’s always a cycle of what’s popular in Silicon Valley,” said Shimizu, citing the decline of services like MySpace, Friendster and AOL. “The Facebook experience can be better, and if we can do that, we can open up a new market.”
A primary reason that Facebook grew to become a central hub of the social networking world is its continuous effort to improve the service by adding new features, said Mikolaj Jan Piskorski, a professor at the Harvard Business School who studies social networks. “When you look back at how little MySpace changed between 2005 and 2007, it’s staggering,” Piskorski said.
“For Facebook to be taken over, there would need to be a drastic slowdown in the rate of innovation. It would take a lot of work to undermine what Facebook has achieved so far.”
Michael Chisari, a developer in Chicago, said the escalating privacy concerns around Facebook spurred him to resurrect Appleseed, an open source project to develop free software that would allow users to set up their own social networking hubs.
“In the past month, there has been a sea change in the number of people looking for alternatives,” he said. “A year ago, nobody was interested in my project, and now I have about 80 supporters signed up.”
Evelyn Castillo-Bach, an entrepreneur in Florida who created a small, subscription-based site exclusively for students called Collegiate Nation, said she was quickly introducing a version of the platform that anyone would be able join.
“As the drumbeat and awareness for Facebook’s disregard of privacy increased, I realised I shouldn’t delay this,” she said. “Clearly the time is now.”
Castillo-Bach said she was well aware of the challenges her site, which is called UmeNow and is scheduled to start this month, faces against a behemoth like Facebook. “We’re a little David,” she said. “My goal is not to become the next Facebook or Twitter but to provide a platform for people who do value their privacy but still want to connect and share information.”
It is difficult to quantify how many Facebookers are frustrated enough to hit the delete button and go searching for greener pastures. One measure is a Web site called QuitFacebookDay, which is calling for Facebook users to close their accounts en masse on May 31 and has attracted nearly 13,000 commitments so far. Another site, called FacebookProtest, which is asking disgruntled users to boycott the Web site on June 6 by not logging in, has drawn roughly 3,000 supporters. In addition, a group on Facebook created to protest recent changes has swelled to more than 2.2 million members.
Milan said that in lieu of Facebook, he planned to use Flickr for photo uploading and sharing, LinkedIn for business contacts and Twitter for news and updates.
“For all my important contacts, I’ve got their e-mails and phone numbers,” he said. “Those still seem to work.”
According to Facebook though there has been no change in the rate of deactivations in the last few weeks. Perhaps in an effort to tamp the growing chorus of complaints, the company has announced plans to simplify its complex menu of privacy controls, which currently includes more than 170 options.
Austin Chang, a New York entrepreneur, is testing a web site called The Fridge that allows people to invite friends from Facebook and Twitter to join a private “fridge” or group to chit-chat and share photos.
“There is an audience out there looking for options. We’d love to address that, and the timing is just great.”
The New York Times
|Ad engine to put ‘Mad Men’ out of work|
Businesses are turning to computer generated display ads over paper ones, reports Anee Eisenberg
|No costly copy writers or heirs of “Mad Men” are needed to write a new kind of ad for small businesses that want to advertise on the Web: computers create the ads instead. |
New software called PlaceLocal builds display ads automatically, scouring the Internet for references to a neighborhood restaurant, a grocery store or another local business. Then it combines the photographs it finds with reviews, customer comments and other text into a customised online ad for the business.
The program, developed by PaperG, an advertising technology company in New Haven, Connecticut, is aimed in part at small businesses just beginning to advertise on the web sites of local newspapers or television stations, said Victor Wong, its chief executive. Such advertisers will have a growing number of choices as national companies like ESPN create local Web franchises like ESPN New York, said Randall Rothenberg, the president and CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a trade group of more than 400 companies selling online advertising.
PaperG’s PlaceLocal is simple to use, said April Koral, co-publisher of The Tribeca Trib, a community newspaper in lower Manhattan. She tried the program to see how well it could create a display ad for a local Tribeca restaurant — a job usually done by hand at the paper. “All you have to put in is the company name and address,” she said.
Then PlaceLocal takes over, gathering basics like telephone number, hours of business, maps and directions, and adding positive comments extracted from local blogs. Samples of ads may be seen at www.paperg.com, the PaperG Web site.
PaperG’s program is up and running on 32 local media Web sites, including Time Out New York and Time Out Chicago, and on 29 network TV affiliates owned or managed by Hearst Television, said PaperG’s chief operating officer, Roger Lee.
The company has also signed up the McClatchy newspaper chain and will soon be on some of its web sites, he said. Sales representatives at the media companies who have signed up with PaperG often use PlaceLocal to build sample ads they show to small businesses, said Wong. Pricing, typically a flat monthly fee, is set by the media company and varies from about $150 a month to $500 or more, based primarily on how many times the ad is shown. PaperG takes a percentage of this fee, he said. In the future, small businesses will also be able to create their ads by going directly to the PaperG Web site, Lee said.
Shaina Park, a sales representative at Time Out New York who handles Web and print advertising by local bars and restaurants, is using PlaceLocal to sell ads. “Instead of sending customers a rate card, I send them an ad that the program has built,” she said. “It’s easier to sell ads if customers have an example in front of them.”
Because the program creates an ad in moments, it saves the time of people on the web site who might normally need to build the ad themselves, or work with the customer to build one. That can translate into lower charges, Park said.
Normally Time Out New York requires companies to submit their own ads that adhere to the specifications of the site. “Images have to be a certain size and a certain format,” she said. “But often local clients don’t have those at their disposal.” She hopes that the instant ads and lower prices will bring in new small businesses that have been put off by the difficulties of advertising. “The program makes the ads much more accessible to local clients with smaller budgets,” she said.
The program can pan over photographs in the ad, zooming in to show off images of a restaurant or real estate listing, Wong said. Even if the business has no web site, the program can usually turn up a wealth of information on it to include in the ad. “For a lawyer, we might find information in the yellow pages or on a web site that rates and reviews lawyers,” he said. For a local company that bakes dog biscuits, the program might find comments from pleased shoppers that have appeared online, rotating different quotes in the ads as they run.
Gaby Benalil, who lives in Albuquerque, recently signed up at the web site of a local TV station, KOAT, to advertise her new business offering cello and vocal performance lessons. “I’m just starting out,” she said, “and I don’t have much of a budget to invest in advertising.” PlaceLocal created the ad for Vocello Music Lessons that will run on the KOAT’s web site. It will cost $200 for its six-week run, she said.
PaperG has raised over a million dollars from, among others, Brian O’Kelley, chief executive of AppNexus, an advertising technology company.
Computers are not only creating ads; they are also adding new information to them automatically. The web site TheDigitel Charleston is offering advertisers a free updating service, said Ken Hawkins, editor. “People typically put in an ad and then don’t change it. But messages can get stale very quickly,” he said. If a customer, like a pizza shop, decides to run a special, the customer can send the revision from a blog or Facebook page, or from Twitter.
Ads that are easily updated this way will have an advantage, Rothenberg said. “It’s really important on the local ad level to make the whole process simple,” he added. “The dry cleaners, the grocery — they want the process to be easy and visible.”
The New York Times
|Through soldiers’ eyes, ‘The First YouTube War’|
|By Noam Cohen, The New York Times:|
When the whistle-blower site WikiLeaks released a classified video taken in 2007 showing an American Apache helicopter crew killing 12 civilians in Iraq, including two Reuters journalists, it rang a bell with Hayden Hewitt.
|The familiarity was not just because it was yet another “Apache video,” thousands of which are available on LiveLeak.com, the video-sharing site Hewitt helped to found in 2006.|
Videos taken from Apache helicopters can indeed be as stylistically consistent as dollar bills: there is the bird’s-eye view of an Iraqi city captured in infrared “negative,” accompanied by the clipped banter of the crew members.
Everything usually ends with “a group of people on a FLIR camera being killed,” Hewitt said, referring to infrared equipment made by FLIR Systems.
But in this case, Hewitt meant there was something familiar about that exact WikiLeaks video, which documented 38 minutes of flying above Baghdad punctuated by gun bursts that ended in carnage, including the deaths of the two journalists, whose cameras were mistaken as weapons.
“We were racking our brains — there was some sort of takedown issue,” Hewitt said in an interview by telephone on Thursday from England, explaining why the video was not currently available on the site. A number of trusted, longtime visitors to LiveLeak distinctly recalled seeing it about a year earlier, he said.
After a day of searching, Hewitt reported that he could not find any record of the original tape behind LiveLeak’s firewall, where he expected it would be. Maybe the idea of an earlier leak of the WikiLeaks video is “urban legend,” he conceded.
If you want to see the horror of war, you do not need to look far. There are sites aplenty showing the carnage, and much of the material is filmed, edited and uploaded by soldiers recording their own experiences. “There are many more types of recording devices, mounted in different ways,” said Jennifer Terry, an associate professor at the University of California, Irvine, who produced a study of military videos from Iraq and Afghanistan for the multimedia journal Vectors. “The way these videos circulate on the Internet is unprecedented, in all these different leaky ways. That is why I like to say this is the first YouTube war.”
The one commodity that is exceedingly rare, however, is context. The Internet is overrun with footage from the United States military in Iraq and Afghanistan. What can be found on sites like YouTube and LiveLeak reflects the lives of soldiers in a war zone, from boredom to the highest drama. On the silly side is a YouTube phenomenon, the remake of the Lady Gaga song “Telephone” by burly soldiers in Afghanistan, which has been viewed more than five million times. And then there are videos of deadly firefights and aerial bombings.
TreePad This is the current version of TreePad Lite, introduced to readers, a year ago. A small personal database program TreePad lets storage of notes, emails, texts, hyperlinks, etc, into one or multiple databases.
|TreePad lets you define and impose your own structure using Articles and nodes – all data is contained in ‘articles’; an article is a text shown in the right pane of the program window. Article is contained in a ‘node’ which is the most basic part of the tree (left pane). To find a previously created or imported article, you can either browse the tree, or use the internal search engine. TreePad lets you store all your notes, emails, texts, hyperlinks, etc. into one or multiple databases which use up much less disk space than storing your data in a large number of separate documents. Its Windows Explorer like interface helps to edit, store, browse, search and retrieve data easily. The 1226 KB KB TreePad v4.3 for Windows XP, 7, Vista, 200x, NT, 9x, ME, all current 64 bit Windows editions and Linux/Wine can be downloaded at http://www.treepad. com/download/|
By using an advanced algorithm, BatteryCare monitors the performance of a laptop battery to accurately record when a complete discharge cycle is performed. It provides detailed information about the battery, such as wear-level, capacities, consumption, manufacturer, CPU and HDD temperature reading in degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit. It automatically disables the graphics accelerated theme in Windows Vista and/or demanding services that impoverish battery life. And, when the laptop stops running on batteries, the theme is re-enabled and the stopped services are restored. BatteryCare’s notification area is a compact popup with the essential information like Temperatures, charge status, remaining time and power plans. BatteryCare can update itself too and consumes only a mere 0.1 per cent of processor and memory resources. The 1.2 MB BatteryCare v0.9.7.10 for Windows XP, Vista and Seven can be downloaded at http://batterycare.net/files/SetupBatteryCare.zip. Requires Microsoft .NET Framework Version 2.0/
GnuCash is personal and small-business financial-accounting software, freely licensed under the GNU GPL and available for GNU/Linux, BSD, Solaris, Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows. The easy to use GnuCash lets you to track bank accounts, stocks, income and expenses. As quick and intuitive to use as a checkbook register, it is based on professional accounting principles to ensure balanced books and accurate reports. Feature Highlights include: QIF/OFX/HBCI Import, Transaction Matching, Reports, Graphs, Financial Calculations, Double-Entry Accounting, Stock/Bon and more. GnuCash Stable release (2.2.9), can be found at http://www.gnucash.org/download.phtml. An FAQ can be found at http://wiki.gnucash.org/ wiki/FAQ
19 May 2010
World’s largest social network: The open Web
On its Web site, Facebook says it’s 'giving people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.'
|But the online world outside of Facebook is already a very open and connected place. Densely interlinked Web pages, blogs, news articles and Tweets are all visible to anyone and everyone. Instead of contributing to this interconnected, open Web world, the growing popularity of Facebook is draining it of attention, energy and posts that are in public view.|
Every link found on the open Web, inviting a user to click and go somewhere else, is in essence a recommendation from the person who authored the page, posted it or broadcast it in a Tweet. It says, “I’ve taken the trouble to insert this link because I believe it will be worth your while to take a look.”
These recommendations are visible to search engines, which do far more than just tally how many recommendations point to this or that item. The engines trace backward to who linked to the recommender, then who linked to the recommender of the recommender, and so on. It’s a lot of computation to derive educated guesses about which recommendations are likely to lead to the best-informed sources of information and then placed at the top of a search results page.
No “friending” is needed to gain access; no company is in sole possession of the interconnections. The size of the open Web — built without Facebook’s help — is hard to appreciate. In 2008, Google announced that its search engine had “crawled,” that is, collected and indexed material from, one trillion unique URLs, or Web addresses.
“The beauty of the Web is that it is open, and anyone can crawl it,” says Matt Cutts, a software engineer at Google. But Facebook does not permit Google to reach most categories of information placed on the site, says Cutts, adding, “Google can only know what it can crawl.”
Susan Herring, professor of information science at Indiana University, sees it this way: “What the statistics point to is a rise in Facebook, a decline in blogging, and before that, a decline in personal Web pages. The trend is clear, she said — Facebook is displacing these other forms of online publication.
Barry Schnitt, a Facebook spokesman, said his company provides Google with access to public profiles of members and status updates for public Facebook pages, formerly called “fan pages.” He said it also has announced plans to work with Microsoft on its Bing search engine, allowing Bing to publish the status updates of individual members whose privacy settings permit display to “everyone.”
The Facebook model of organising the world’s information involves a mix of personally sensitive information, impersonal information that is potentially widely useful, and information whose sensitivity and usefulness falls in between. It’s a tangle created by Facebook’s origins as the host of unambiguously nonpublic messaging among college students.
People often talk about the two leading social networking sites in a way that sounds like they’re a single entity: Facebook and Twitter. But the two are fundamentally different. Facebook began with a closed, friends-only model, and today has moved to a private-public hybrid, resetting members’ default privacy settings. By contrast, most Twitter users elect to use the service to address the general public.
Facebook has redefined the way its users go about obtaining information.
“Information is becoming less of a destination that we seek online,” says Anthony J Rotolo, assistant professor of practice in the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. “Instead we are expecting it to come to us in a social stream.”
Friends, the trusted sources
In the Facebook stream, friends, not search engines, are the trusted sources. “Just because someone belongs to your social network, it doesn’t make them a good source,” Professor Rotolo says. “But there’s a natural inclination to assume that a person possesses reliable information because it’s person-to-person.”
This is what Professor Herring calls a “recommender model” of getting information. And she sees it as replacing the search-engine model. She points to the recent introduction of the Facebook “Like” button at Web sites, which allows Facebook to note recommendations of those sites among one’s friends.
The record of who clicks that “Like” button, however, is not part of the open Web; it’s Facebook’s. The public visibility of users’ likes on Facebook depends on their privacy settings.
Defenders of the Facebook information stream argue that it doesn’t displace the open Web, but that it merely adds a new layer of information to it. Yet there is a cost: more time spent dispensing recommendations among friends on Facebook means less for similar contributions elsewhere. Members now spend more than 500 billion minutes a month on Facebook.
The links on the trillion Web addresses found by Google, and within the billions of Tweets that have followed, form an incomparably vast, truly worldwide, web of recommendations, supplied by fellow humans. In this sense, the open Web has a strong claim to being more “social” than does Facebook.
The New York Times
12 may 2010
|N S Soundar Rajan|
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5 May 2010
|A tech incubator becomes a hub of collaboration|
|The New York Times|
Jenna Wortham tells how Betaworks that started as a vision grew to create a wave in the tech market with its Web tools like Bit.ly, a URL shortener and Chartbeat.
|In 2008, before most people knew what a tweet was, Iain Dodsworth, a programmer in London, cobbled together a software tool that reorganized his jumbled Twitter stream into neat columns. He named it TweetDeck.|
Within a few months, it gained the kind of momentum most entrepreneurs only dream about. Tech bloggers praised it, and users flocked to it. Ashton Kutcher posted a video online showing him and his wife, Demi Moore, using the service.
It wasn’t long before inquiries from investors began pouring in.
“It was fairly scary,” he said. “I was a one-man company being thrown offers left, right and center from people I didn’t know.” But then Dodsworth received a message from a company he did recognize: Betaworks, a New York City technology firm known for its eye for emerging Web services.
“Money is nice, but I actually needed expertise more than anything else,” he said. “Betaworks had a track record in this field back when no one had a track record in this field.”
In the two years since then, Betaworks has become prominent in New York technology circles for helping entrepreneurs fine-tune and expand their companies. The company has guided some entrepreneurs to lucrative sales and helped others raise cash from notable New York and Silicon Valley investment firms.
Such incubators are familiar in more established tech hubs. Silicon Valley, for example, has the technology incubator Y Combinator, and Pasadena has Idealab.
“Historically, there have been more biotech incubators in New York than other technology incubators,” said Jonathan Bowles, the director of the Center for an Urban Future, which has studied the economic development of New York and other cities.
He added, “New York has long lacked local investors who are also rooted here and committed to building a sustainable technology community. Betaworks is starting to fill a void that’s been lacking in New York since the ’90s.”
Birth of the tech giant
The company was founded by John Borthwick and Andrew Weissman, who worked at AOL in the ’90s.
“I was there when AOL bought CompuServe and Netscape and did the first content deal with Amazon,” said Weissman, chief operating officer. “You could start to see these new ways pieces of the Internet were coming together.”
He said he watched as one AOL project, MapQuest, gradually lost market share. Google Maps grew faster because it allowed other companies to add information to a map or use the service in other tools. “You could just see that model was going to be big,” “We said, ‘We think this is it, and we want to invest in these kinds of companies.”
A little over three years ago, the two decided they wanted to create their own company aimed at that very idea. Thanks to tools like Amazon Web Services, Twitter and Google Apps, developers could more easily build and scale Web tools.
“We knew there was a big fundamental change happening on the Internet,” said Borthwick, Betaworks’ chief executive. “And we knew it was going to be social.”
They spent nine months deliberating over how to structure their company before settling on a hybrid of an investment firm and an incubator.
“The venture capital structure is banking on finding that one super-duper winner, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” said Borthwick. “But our goal is to create a network of companies with lots of connections between them that increases the likelihood of success between all of them.”
It’s not hard to see that spirit at work. The two dozen companies under Betaworks’ umbrella make a point of using one another’s creations and often incorporate them into their own services.
At a recent meeting at Betaworks, about three dozen employees of Betaworks and its portfolio of companies crowded into a room, trading feedback, updates and the occasional good-natured zinger about their various products.
Betaworks has developed some Web tools from scratch, like Bit.ly, a URL shortener, and Chartbeat, a real-time Web analytics service. But the company is looking for entrepreneurs who have more than a vision.
“Anyone who shows up with an idea on a napkin, we’re going to tell them, “Thanks, but go build a prototype,” Weissman said.
Betaworks, he said, will focus on five to 10 companies a year. The company has taken on some investors, most recently raising $20 million. The New York Times Company invested in that round of financing.
Betaworks leaves a mark
Investors rely on the keen eye of Betaworks to provide a window into the next wave of promising Web companies, said Jim Robinson, a partner at RRE Ventures, a technology investment firm.
“It’s a great sifter and feeder system for us,” he said. “We’re able to see these interesting companies when they’re young and track them as they develop.”
The best marker of Betaworks’ success is Summize, a small start-up that allowed users to search through Twitter’s ever-flowing stream of posts. Betaworks first invested in the company in December 2007 and continued helping to develop it. Twitter bought the service in July 2008 for a reported $15 million. Betaworks created Bit.ly at the request of its portfolio of companies that wanted a secure, reliable way to shorten unwieldy Web addresses.
As the service quickly ballooned beyond the network of Betaworks companies, Borthwick and Weissman raised $3.5 million in venture financing for the company and spun out into a stand-alone business, although its team still works in Betaworks’ office. “It may look like the incubators of yesteryear in here,” said Borthwick, gesturing to the scribbled-on chalkboards, the cushy lounge chairs and the fishtank shaped like the MTV logo.
“We don’t operate anything like a factory,” Borthwick said. He further added, “There’s no production line, and we’re not trying to blow out 40 companies this year.”
|Facebook’s hacked accounts for sale|
|By Riva Richmond, The New York Times|
Researchers at VeriSign’s iDefense division tracking the digital underworld say bogus and stolen accounts on the Facebook are now on sale in high volume on the black market...
|During several weeks in February, iDefense tracked an effort to sell log-in data for 1.5 million Facebook accounts on several online criminal marketplaces, including one called Carder.su. |
That hacker, who used the screen name “kirllos” and appears to deal only in Facebook accounts, offered to sell bundles of 1,000 accounts with 10 or fewer friends for $25 and with more than 10 friends for $45, says Rick Howard, iDefense’s director of cyber intelligence. The case points to a significant expansion in the illicit market for social networking accounts from Eastern Europe to the United States, he said.
Facebook says it believes that the hacker’s claims to control large numbers of Facebook accounts are bogus. The company attempted to purchase accounts as part of its investigation into the incident, said a spokesman, Barry Schnitt. However, “the hacker was unable to produce anything for our buyer,” he said. Facebook’s investigators also discovered that “kirllos” has a reputation “for wild claims,” he said.
“We would expect iDefense or anyone presenting themselves as a security expert to do this kind of verification (or any verification) rather than just reading a forum post and accepting the claims as fact and publicizing them,” Schnitt said in an e-mail message. IDefense could not be immediately reached for comment on the legitimacy of the hacker’s offer. However, it previously said that it did not purchase any of the accounts as part of its study because that would violate its corporate policy.
Criminals steal log-in data for Facebook accounts, typically with “phishing” techniques that tricks users into disclosing their passwords or with malware that logs keystrokes. They then use the accounts to send spam, distribute malicious programs and run identity and other fraud.
Why Facebook is vulnerable
Facebook accounts are attractive because of the higher level of trust on the site than exists in the broader Internet. People are required to use their real names and tend to connect primarily with people they know.
As a result, they are more likely to believe a fraudulent message or click on a dubious link on a friend’s wall or an e-mail message. Moreover, the accounts allow criminals to mine profiles of victims and their friends for personal information like birth dates, addresses, phone numbers, mothers’ maiden names, pets’ names and other tidbits that can be used in identity theft.
Last summer, Eileen Sheldon’s Facebook account was hacked and used to send messages to about 20 friends claiming she was stranded in Britain without a passport and needed money. Sheldon, who lives in California, had recently been living in London, and one friend, believing the ruse, wired about $100 to the thieves. Other friends smelled a fraud and warned Sheldon, who quickly reported the problem to Facebook. She does not know how her password was stolen.
While the accounts that were compromised and offered for sale could be legitimate ones like Sheldon’s, they most likely also included bogus accounts, Howard said. IDefense did not see the accounts themselves, but the inclusion of many accounts with small numbers of friends suggests the seller could have created fake accounts, perhaps using an automated tool, and sent out blind friend requests.
Many users are eager to amass friends and accept friend requests from people they do not know, even though Facebook discourages it.
Facebook equipped well
Facebook says it has sophisticated systems to defeat fake accounts, including tools for flagging them when they are created so they can be investigated. This allows Facebook to “disable them before the bad guys get very far,” a spokesman, Simon Axten, said.
Facebook also monitors for unusual activity that is associated with fake accounts, like many friend requests in a short period of time and high rates of friend requests that are ignored. It also investigates reports of suspicious users . The relatively low asking prices for the Facebook accounts points to the fact that Facebook accounts do not translate into instant profit. “The people that buy these things are going to have to do more work to make money,” Axten said.
|DH reader Prahlad Desai wrote:|
Please suggest a utility to hide all desktop icons
The 139 KB DeskSweeper v2.0 at http://www.photothumb.com/download/dsweep20.zip could help. It can Hide all desktop icons (including Recycle Bin, My Computer, Network Neighbourhood, etc.)
28 April 2010
|Spam, the latest in outsourcing|
|The New York Times|
Vikas Bajaj tells how people are lured to solve captchas, the security puzzle to promote spams
|Faced with stricter Internet security measures, some spammers have begun borrowing a page from corporate America’s playbook: they are outsourcing.Sophisticated spammers are paying people in India, Bangladesh, China and other developing countries to tackle the simple tests known as captchas, which ask Web users to type in a string of semiobscured characters to prove they are human beings and not spam-generating robots.|
The going rate for the work ranges from 80 cents to $1.20 for each 1,000 deciphered boxes, according to online exchanges like Freelancer.com, where dozens of such projects are bid on every week.
Luis von Ahn, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon who was a pioneer in devising captchas, estimates that thousands of people in developing countries, primarily in Asia, are solving these puzzles for pay. Some operations appear fairly sophisticated and involve brokers and middlemen, he added. “There are a few sites that are coordinated,” he said. “They create the awareness. Their friends tell their friends, who tell their friends.”
Sitting in front of a computer screen for hours on end deciphering convoluted characters and typing them into a box is monotonous work. And the pay is not great when compared to more traditional data-entry jobs.
Still, it appears to be attractive enough to lure young people in developing countries where even 50 cents an hour is considered a decent wage. Unskilled male farm workers earn about $2 a day in many parts of India.
A source of fast money
Ariful Islam Shaon, a 20-year-old college student in Bangladesh, said he has a team of 30 other students who work for him filling in captchas. (The term is a loose acronym for “completely automated public Turing test to tell computers and humans apart.”)
He said the students typically work two and a half to three hours a day from their homes and make at least $6 every 15 days; they earn more the faster and the more accurate they are. It is not a lot of money, he acknowledged, but it requires little effort and can help supplement their pocket money.
Shaon, who agreed to speak to a reporter only over an Internet chat, said he gets the work on Web sites and is paid through Internet money transfer services. He does not know the identities of the people paying him, nor does he have any interest in finding out. If he asks them, he said, “they may not give me my payments.”
Another operator in Bangladesh who goes by the screen name Workcaptcha on Freelancer.com boasts on his profile page that his firm has 30 computers, up from just five a year ago.
Three shifts of workers allow the operation to hum 24 hours a day, seven days a week. On the site, Workcaptcha has 197 reviews from other users, the vast majority of them positive. It was not possible to verify the claims made by Workcaptcha and Shaon, but Von Ahn said it was clear that Bangladesh had become a hub for paid captcha solving, as have China and India.
Internet companies’ reaction
Executives at Internet companies like Google say they do not worry a lot about people being paid to decode captchas because they are one of several tools that Web sites use to secure themselves. Some sites, for instance, might also send confirmation codes as text messages to cellphones, which then have to be entered into a separate verification page before new e-mail accounts are activated.
“It can’t be helped that paid human solvers will be able to solve captchas,” said Macduff Hughes, an engineering director at Google. “Our goal is to make mass account creation less attractive to spammers, and the fact that spammers have to pay people to solve captchas proves that the tool is working.”
Von Ahn said that the cost of hiring people, even as cheap as it may appear, should limit the extent of such operations to only spammers who have figured out ways to make money. “It’s only the people who really actually are already profitable that can do this,” he said. That view was confirmed by an executive at one south Indian outsourcing company that advertises its captcha-solving prowess on a Web site. The executive, Dileep Paveri, said his firm had stopped offering the service because it was not very profitable.His company, SBL, which is based in Cochin, got about $200 a month in revenue for each of the 10 employees it had hired to decipher the puzzles on behalf of a Sri Lankan client.
“We found that it’s not worth doing,” said Paveri, a manager in SBL’s business process outsourcing and graphics unit. Moreover, he added, “after some time, the productivity of people comes down because it’s a monotonous job. They lose their interest.”
A milestone for internet ad revenue
|The New York Times|
For the first time, marketers spent more in 2009 on Internet advertising than in magazines, according to a report from ZenithOptimedia, which said online ad spending would rapidly close ground on newspapers
|Despite a record-setting $6.3 billion fourth quarter, online advertising revenue declined 3.4 percent for the year from 2008, the first year-over-year falloff since 2002. The loss in ad spending across all media was an even steeper 12.3 percent for the year and 2 percent for the fourth quarter.|
The Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers reported that search ads posted a slight rise from 2008, comprising 47 percent of all Internet ad spending.
Display ad spending rose a similar amount, while digital video ads climbed 38 percent. Revenues for online classifieds and e-mail advertising plummeted. Although online advertising for 2009 declined slightly from 2008, it came in at $22.66 billion, the advertising bureau said. Meanwhile, ad sales at major magazines plunged to $19.5 billion, according to Publishers Information Bureau data.
21 April 2010
|Cyberattack on Google said to hit password system|
|John Markoff, The New York Times|
John Markoff tells the Google hacking story. The audacious attack was on the premier search engine’s crown jewel.
|Ever since Google disclosed in January that Internet intruders had stolen information from its computers, the exact nature and extent of the theft has been a closely guarded company secret. But a person with direct knowledge of the investigation now says that the losses included one of Google’s crown jewels, a password system that controls access by millions of users worldwide to almost all of the company’s Web services, including e-mail and business applications.|
The program, code named Gaia for the Greek goddess of the earth, was attacked in a lightning raid taking less than two days last December, the person said. Described publicly only once at a technical conference four years ago, the software is intended to enable users and employees to sign in with their password just once to operate a range of services.
The intruders do not appear to have stolen passwords of Gmail users, and the company quickly started making significant changes to the security of its networks after the intrusions. But the theft leaves open the possibility, however faint, that the intruders may find weaknesses that Google might not even be aware of, independent computer experts said.
The new details seem likely to increase the debate about the security and privacy of vast computing systems such as Google’s that now centralize the personal information of millions of individuals and businesses. Because vast amounts of digital information are stored in a cluster of computers, popularly referred to as “cloud” computing, a single breach can lead to disastrous losses.
How the attack began
The theft began with an instant message sent to a Google employee in China who was using Microsoft’s Messenger program, according to the person with knowledge of the internal inquiry, who spoke on the condition of annonymity.
By clicking on a link and connecting to a “poisoned” Web site, the employee inadvertently permitted the intruders to gain access to his (or her) personal computer and then to the computers of a critical group of software developers at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. Ultimately, the intruders were able to gain control of a software repository used by the development team.
The details surrounding the theft of the software have been a closely guarded secret by the company. Google first publicly disclosed the theft in a Jan 12 posting on the company’s Web site, which stated that the company was changing its policy toward China in the wake of the theft of unidentified “intellectual property” and the apparent compromise of the e-mail accounts of two human rights advocates in China.
The accusations became a significant source of tension between the United States and China, leading Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to urge China to conduct a “transparent” inquiry into the attack. In March, after difficult discussions with the Chinese government, Google said it would move its mainland Chinese-language Web site and begin rerouting search queries to its Hong Kong-based site.
Company executives on Monday declined to comment about the new details of the case, saying they had dealt with the security issues raised by the theft of the company’s intellectual property in their initial statement in January.
Google executives have also said privately that the company had been far more transparent about the intrusions than any of the more than two dozen other companies that were compromised, the vast majority of which have not acknowledged the attacks.
Google continues to use the Gaia system, now known as Single Sign-On. Hours after announcing the intrusions, Google said it would activate a new layer of encryption for Gmail service.
The company also tightened the security of its data centers and further secured the communications links between its services and the computers of its users.
Several technical experts said that because Google had quickly learned of the theft of the software, it was unclear what the consequences of the theft had been. One of the most alarming possibilities is that the attackers might have intended to insert a Trojan horse — a secret back door — into the Gaia program and install it in dozens of Google’s global data centers to establish clandestine entry points. But the independent security specialists emphasized that such an undertaking would have been remarkably difficult, particularly because Google’s security specialists had been alerted to the theft of the program.
However, having access to the original programmer’s instructions, or source code, could also provide technically skilled hackers with knowledge about subtle security vulnerabilities in the Gaia code that may have eluded Google’s engineers.
“If you can get to the software repository where the bugs are housed before they are patched, that’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” said George Kurtz, chief technology officer for McAfee Inc., a software security company that was one of the companies that analyzed the illicit software used in the intrusions at Google and at other companies last year.
Rodney Joffe, a vice president at Neustar, a developer of Internet infrastructure services, said, “It’s obviously a real issue if you can understand how the system works.” Understanding the algorithms on which the software is based might be of great value to an attacker looking for weak points in the system, he said.
When Google first announced the thefts, the company said it had evidence that the intrusions had come from China.
The attacks have been traced to computers at two campuses in China, but investigators acknowledge that the true origin may have been concealed, a quintessential problem of cyberattacks.
Similarities and differences
Several people involved in the investigation of break-ins at more than two dozen other technology firms said that while there were similarities between the attacks on the companies, there were also significant differences, like the use of different types of software in intrusions.
At one high-profile Silicon Valley company, investigators found evidence of intrusions going back more than two years, according to the person involved in Google’s inquiry.
In Google’s case, the intruders seemed to have precise intelligence about the names of the Gaia software developers, and they first tried to access their work computers and then used a set of sophisticated techniques to gain access to the repositories where the source code for the program was stored.
They then transferred the stolen software to computers owned by Rackspace, a Texas company that offers Web-hosting services, which had no knowledge of the transaction.
It is not known where the software was sent from there. The intruders had access to an internal Google corporate directory known as Moma, which holds information about the work activities of each Google employee, and they may have used it to find specific employees.
The new version of Agent Ransack is a effective replacment for Windows inbuilt search function in Vista and Windows 7. Yes, there are Programs like Google Desktop Search and Copernic Search, however, unlike them Agent Ransack has virtually zero overhead as it doesn’t build and maintain search indexes. Instead it sequentially scans through the files on the hard drive and looks inside the contents of each one of them. Though Agent Ransack is quite fast for an unindexed search program, it is slow compared to the index-based ones like Everything Search. However, unlike Everything Search, Agent Ransack can search inside PDF files and Microsoft Office files (though not Outlook .PST files). And, the Print preview lets you check out the results before printing, and the search can be carried out by modified, created, or last accessed date. The 2.94 MB Agent Ransack can be downloaded at http://www.mythicsoft.com/Page.aspx?type=gen&page=download. Agent Ransack's pro version, the FileLocator, has many more features.
Many of us find it difficult to recall confidential information which can include, for example, passwords, serial numbers, and codes. Though not secure, most of us either jot them down in a small notebook or use a folder in a hard drive / pen drive to key-in. Enter FlyingBit Password Keeper which lets you store data in a special encrypted database.
The reliable encryption algorithms AES, Twofish and Blowfish keeps your password database secure and it can be read only with a password that only you know. The utility's features include Built-in random password generator, Supports various database encryption algorithms, Auto-fills, Sets passcards lifetime, Groups entries by categories, Automatically clears the clipboard, Copies the value of a field with just a click, Supports custom fields, Stores notes, tree-like navigation list, Quick passcards search, and works with removable media. FlyingBit Password Keeper for Windows, Version 1.4 build 42 for Windows 98/ME/2000/XP/Vista/Seven can be downloaded at
Internet Window Washer
Free Internet Window Washer is a free Internet tracks eraser and privacy cleaner software. With a simple click you can securely erase your Internet tracks, computer activities and programs history information stored in many hidden files on your computer. Internet Window Washer supports scores of applications. Using it you can erase Windows Start Menu Run/Find History, Recycle Bin, Temporary Files Directory, open/save history, Windows MediaPlayer / RealOne Player history, Microsoft Office history, Supports browsers like Mozilla Firefox, IE, Opera - erases cached Files, History, Cookies, typed URLs History, Index.dat Files, AutoComplete Memory, Recent Documents History, search and tool bar history.
14 April 2010
|Meet the WePad|
The German maker of a new tablet PC is setting out to rival Apple’s iPad with the promise of even more technology such as a bigger screen, a webcam and USB ports.
|It is not, however, an “iPad killer” as it has been dubbed by some blogs but an alternative to its bigger rival, Neofonie GmbH’s founder and managing director Helmut Hoffer von Ankershoffen told reporters in Berlin.|
Ankershoffen stressed the system’s openness: two USB ports allow users to connect all kinds of devices with the WePad, from external keyboards to data sticks.
People who want to put music on their WePad do not have to have any particular software, Ankershoffen said — a blow at Apple’s devices that require particular Apple software like iTunes.
The WePad’s basic version, which comes with Wi-Fi and 16-gigabyte storage, is set to cost euro449 ($600), the larger 32-gigabyte version with a fast 3G modem is euro569.
Ankershoffen claimed that given its technological superiority and greater openness, “that’s a bargain compared with the iPad.”
The iPad — which hit stores in the U S less than a month ago — is on sale there starting at $499 for the smallest version, coming with Wi-Fi and a 16 GB storage.
The WePad, with its 11.6-inch screen, is powered by an Intel chip and relies on a Linux software basis which is compatible with Google’s Android and all Flash applications, Ankershoffen said.
When it hits stores starting late July, it will also boast a complete open source office package, he said.
Small but ambitious
Berlin-based Neofonie — a small company of some 180 employees — claims it already has some 20,000 people interested in signing up for a pre-order, even though orders won’t be formally accepted before April 27.
Ankershoffen declined to give a sales estimate. “Not thousands, not tens of thousands but many more will be sold before the end of the year,” he said.
Neofonie casts the WePad as helping the media industry find a way to market paid content and hopes to appeal to publishers, some of whom are disgruntled with Apple’s pricing policy and restrictions.
The device would allow publishers to sell their content on its platform without monopolizing the customer relationship, as Apple’s iTunes or Amazon’s Kindle do, the company said.
Gruner + Jahr, one of Europe’s largest magazine publishers, already has a partnership with Neofonie, offering the company’s flagship magazine, Stern, on the platform.
“It will be the first magazine, but others will certainly follow,” Stern’s deputy chief Tobias Seikel said at the press conference.
Germany’s biggest publisher, Berlin-based Axel Springer AG, is in talks with Neofonie, but no cooperation is planned yet, spokesman Christian Garrels said.
“We want to offer our company’s brands on several platforms with a high range,” Garrels said.
The company’s flagship daily, Bild, previously had trouble with its iPhone application because Apple censors sexually explicit content, such as the paper's daily nude photo.
Apple’s iPad will go on sale in Germany at the end of April, according to the company’s Web site. This would give the iPad roughly a three month lead on its German competitor.
Neofonie seems determined to face its big California rival: The company distributed tasty red apples boasting the WePad’s logo at the press conference.
However, both companies have to prove that the touch screen device will not only amaze the tech-savvy early users, but will also appeal to mainstream consumers at a time when people have already a lot of Internet-connected gadgets — smart phones, laptops, e-book readers, set-top boxes and home broadband connections.
|After iPad, rivals offer variations on a theme|
Companies like HP, Acer, Dell, Lenovo and Google are deeply engaged in creating a stiff competitor to Apple’s iPad, report Ashlee Vance and Nick Bilton.
|Just as Apple’s iPhone shook up a complacent cellphone industry, the company’s iPad is provoking PC makers and non-PC makers to fight back with new devices.|
Google is soon expected to begin selling its version of a slate computer, like Apple’s iPad, while Nokia, the world’s biggest cellphone maker, is planning to enter the digital book market through a slate-cum-e-reader as well.
Microsoft, the maker of computer software, is flirting with the idea of selling its own version of a slate, joining traditional computer companies like Hewlett-Packard that have already committed to such products.
In part, these companies are feeling the pressure to respond to the iPad, which went on sale on April 3. But their decisions to develop the hybrid products also demonstrate their desire to expand their core businesses, and to experiment with varying kinds of business models and technologies.
For consumers, it could all be good, as more companies offer their version of the slate, a new breed of consumer electronics, in a design free-for-all. The products, which will generally cost less than $600, provide different, and in some cases unusual, features that reflect the companies’ visions of what matters most to people.
“We’re living in extremely exciting times right now,” said Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, the chief executive of Nokia. “It’s quite challenging to define what industry we are in because everything is changing.”
Historically, Microsoft has been the biggest champion of tablet computers, which let people scrawl on a computer screen with a stylus just as they would on paper. And over the last few years, the big makers of personal computers, like H P and Dell, have taken Microsoft’s software and built such tablets. But their devices have been similar, and limited in what they offer. The software, based on Microsoft Windows, never seemed flexible enough to fit a variety of mobile computers.
Now there is much more software and hardware available to build low-cost, capable, hand-held devices, called slates, that are thinner, lighter and typically omit physical keyboards altogether.
Apple, Google and Nokia all have their own software platforms, with Intel, Nvidia, Qualcomm, Broadcom and Marvell rushing to provide the chips for this next wave of products. Meanwhile, Microsoft is considering building its own slate hardware to try to offer as cohesive a package as Apple and the other competitors.
Drawbacks of Apple iPad
Apple says it sold more than 450,000 iPads in the first few days after the device was available. Consumers were drawn to Apple’s cachet and the fresh approach to computing that the iPad represents, with its elevation of a touch screen and entertainment over a keyboard and productivity.
But commentators and consumers have also been talking about what the iPad lacks — for example, a camera and the ability to display much of the Web’s entertainment content, like videos, if presented in the Flash format. The iPad has also been criticized for its inability to allow users to multitask, but the company announced on Friday that it will have that ability in the fall. Another drawback to the iPad is that it relies on a cellphone chip, with less horsepower than a computer chip.
Big names to launch iPad soon
H P’s version of the iPad is expected to be released by midyear. Notably, it will have a camera, as well as ports for add-on devices, like a mouse. Also, it will, the company says in a promotional video, “run the complete Internet,” including videos and other entertainment.
Phil McKinney, the chief technology officer in H P’s personal systems group, said in a recent interview that the company had been working on its tablet for five years. It delayed releasing the product, he said, until the price could be lower.
The company’s marketing department has been trickling out online videos of the device. This kind of early marketing is a change for H P, which rarely talks about yet-to-be released products. McKinney, however, said H P had felt little pressure from Apple’s early move and would release its slate when it was ready. “I have one sitting on my desk,” McKinney said. “We don’t react or respond to competitive timing and those types of issues.”
Acer, Dell and Lenovo all have slates in the works as well. But Apple may face the biggest risk from the offerings of nontraditional computer makers.
Google, for example, has been working with several hardware manufacturers to push its Android software, which was originally designed for mobile phones and is a direct competitor to Apple’s iPhone operating system. The company also hopes to make its own apps marketplace available for new slate-like devices. But Google is going one step further, exploring the idea of building its own slate, an e-reader that would function like a computer.
Eric E Schmidt, chief executive of Google, told friends at a recent party in Los Angeles about the new device, which would exclusively run the Android operating system. People with direct knowledge of the project, on the condition of anonymity said the company had been experimenting in “stealth mode” with a few publishers to explore delivery of books, magazines and other content on a tablet.
H P is also working on a slate that would run the Android system; this has been nicknamed “the half-pint,” because it measures about six inches diagonally, smaller than the iPad.
Microsoft has generated some Apple-esque buzz on blogs as well as through leaked videos of the prototype of its slate, the Courier. According to a Microsoft employee who has seen the device, the Courier is about as big as an ordinary paperback and folds out to reveal two screens. Users would be able to take notes on the device with a pen, and easily drag and share content between the screens.
But Microsoft engineers have concerns about the battery power needed to keep the two screens going, these people said. And internally the company is struggling to identify the right market. At first the idea was to market the Courier for designers and architects, but lately the company is thinking of a broader market of consumers and so would include e-books, magazines and other media content on the device.
Microsoft engineers have talked about getting the Courier out by early 2011, though no firm decision has been made to sell the product. At Nokia, meanwhile, a team of engineers, designers and publishers are working on designing an e-reader, with the hope of making the company dominant in the digital books and apps marketplace.
Kallasvuo of Nokia declined to comment specifically on an e-reader but said that a small laptop released last year by Nokia had been well received, and that the company continued to explore new types of “converged” devices.
“The consumer will obviously have much more choice when it comes to where or what I want to connect to,” Kallasvuo said. He argued that Nokia had more reach through its broad international sales channels to distribute content and more experience dealing with local content in countries like India and China than, say, Apple or Google.
Calibre Calibre can catalog e-books; convert e-books; view e-books; edit the metadata of e-books; download news articles from hundreds of websites or “custom sources” (i.e. feeds from websites that you must input manually) and convert them to e-books; and “talk” to various e-book readers to easily import/export e-books from/to the devices.
|You can use it to send a document to Kindle and many other ebook devices, like Sony PRS 300/500/505/600/700/900, Barnes & Noble Nook, Cybook Gen 3/Opus. The input formats supported by Calibre include CBZ, CBR, CBC, CHM, EPUB, FB2, HTML, LIT, LRF, MOBI, ODT, PDF, PRC, PDB, PML, RB, RTF, TCR, TXT. And the output formats provided by Calibre include EPUB, FB2, OEB, LIT, LRF, MOBI, PDB, PML, RB, PDF, TCR, TXT. One thing Calibre won't do, however, is read DRM protected e-books. And, though Calibre does not explicitly support the iPad (yet), but it does support the ePub format, the e-book format of iPad. Calibre is cross platform, works on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Calibre v0.6.47 [09 Apr, 2010] can be downloaded at http://calibre-ebook.com/download. Do note its whopping size, its Windows version is around 28 MB. |
StatPlanet is an interactive data visualization and mapping tool used by a range of international organizations and universities. This browser-based interactive data visualization and mapping tool is used by international organizations such as UNESCO and SACMEQ, NGOs, Fortune 500 companies, government departments, schools and universities for a wide variety of purposes.For example: it can be used to easily and rapidly create interactive thematic maps, interactive graphs, and feature-rich interactive infographics. To create interactive maps, graphs, and charts users have access to uptodate data on a plethora of development indicators/statistics on demography, economy, education, environment & energy, gender and health, for most countries in the world. StatPlanet Map Maker v2.2 can be dowloaded at www.sacmeq.org/statplanet/download.html.
Do It Again
Do It Again can be configured to make your computer automatically perform a task for you, whenever you want, the way you want.You will find this utility useful if you do something on your computer exactly the same way every time, like backing up your pictures, checking web-based email for new messages, etc. Do It Again can perform the task the way you would do yourself otherwise - will automatically click the buttons and press the keyboard keys in exactly the same way as when you created the task, while you sit back and watch the task being performed. Do It Again is also known as macro or automation software, as it lets you record a macro, then play it back to automate the actions of that macro. Do It Again can be downloaded at www.spacetornado. com/DoItAgain/SetupDoItAgain.msi. Yes, there are other programs to automate the time consuming and repetitive tasks, DoItAgain scores over them by being a free & small application, and effecting no strain on system resources.
|DH reader L Vincent wrote|
Please suggest a freeware to convert the video files to 3gp.
You could try Format Factory which can be downloaded at
31 March 2010
A peek into Google HQ
Just what makes this mighty media organisation tick? An exclusive extract from the new book about the company offers some insights, reports Ken Auletta
|To visit Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, is to travel to another planet. The natives wander about in T-shirts and shorts, zipping past volleyball courts and organic-vegetable gardens while holding their open laptops at shoulder height, like waiters' trays. Those laptops are gifts from the company, as is free food, wi-fi-enabled commuter buses, healthcare, dry cleaning, gyms, massages and car washes, all designed to keep its employees happy and on campus. Engineers – who make up half of the 20,000 employees – are granted 20% of their time to work on any project that strikes their fancy. A non-engineer attending engineering meetings would be wise to come with a translator: participants may as well be speaking Swahili.|
Even in a recession, Google’s business grows. Its annual advertising revenue – more than $21bn – equates to the total amount spent on advertising across all American consumer magazines. And appropriately for a company with such mighty ambitions, instead of one CEO decision-maker, Google has three: co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin plus their CEO, Eric Schmidt. Inside the office Schmidt is a rarity in that he usually wears a conservative white or pale-blue shirt, suit and tie. By contrast Page and Brin, like most of their colleagues, wear T-shirts, jeans and sneakers – though Brin is partial to colourful Crocs.
The road to success
The seeds for Google’s success were planted by Page and Brin when they met as graduate students at Stanford in 1995. Each of their parents were scientists and both attended Montessori schools, where they were accustomed to making their own rules. They nurtured their Google search idea in their dorm rooms, downloading the entire web and all its links (their prototype search engine used these links to chart and connect not just an island of the web, but the entire ocean). They were, though, no more breathtakingly brilliant than their Stanford peers, according to one of their engineering professors, Dr Terry Winograd. But where Page and Brin stood out, he says, was in their boldness.
They spoke of changing the world, of making all of its information available to everyone. They would sneak into the loading dock where Stanford computers were delivered to boost the computing power of their search engine. They refused to make lots of quick money by selling their search idea to corporate suitors. Then they dropped out from university in 1998 and rented space in a Menlo Park garage, a hand-lettered sign on the door announcing "Google Worldwide Headquarters’’.
I started visiting the Google planet in 2007. The company did not welcome my idea for a book, and it took many months to win the company's cooperation. I first emailed Schmidt, whom I had previously interviewed, but he was cautious, saying Page and Brin were always reluctant to give any of their time to books or journalists. From the engineers’ standpoint, time spent with writers is inefficient.
It took several trips to Silicon Valley and a torrent of emails to win tentative approval. Yet in the end, Google was extraordinarily cooperative: in all, Schmidt granted me 12 interviews over my two-and-a-half years researching the company. And I learned that Google’s audaciousness stems from Page and Brin's assumption that the traditional media world is always inefficient. Their mission is to figure out how to eradicate these inefficiencies.
It did not take long for Google, born only 11 years ago, to stop calling itself a search engine and start referring to itself as a media company. Its aim, Schmidt told me in 2008, was to become the world's first $100bn media company – twice the size of the then-largest, Disney. Little wonder that when the traditional, non-engineering led media companies finally woke up to the fact that their business model was imperilled by Google and the internet, it was very late in the day.
What is striking about Google's founders is their clarity. Before they started making money in late 2001, they were burning through a cool $25m that had been invested by two venture capital firms. Yet still they insisted on providing free meals and services to all Google employees, and rejected – to the consternation of those venture capitalists – a $3m offer from Visa for a regular ad on the uncluttered Google search page. Users would be offended, they said.
Page and Brin also rejected the idea that anyone should be allowed to pay to rank higher in the search results. They insisted that one way to build a team culture was for everyone to share an office. And they defied the conventional wisdom of the time, that portals like Yahoo! and AOL were thriving because they trapped visitors in their walled garden and could thus sell many more ads. What mattered, Page and Brin said, was building user trust. By making the average search take less than half a second and, unlike most portals, by not trying to trap users on Google content sites, they would win the public’s trust. Build it right, they believed, and the people will come.
Media mogul Barry Diller remembers arranging to see the co-founders when they were still in their second-floor offices above a bicycle store in Palo Alto. As they talked, Diller was disconcerted to see that Page did not lift his head from the keyboard of his hand-held device, and that Brin arrived late on his Rollerblades.
‘‘Is this boring?’’ Diller asked Page.
‘‘No, I’m interested. I always do this.’’
‘‘Well, you can’t do this,’’ said Diller. ‘‘Choose.’’
‘‘I'll do this,’’ said Page, not lifting his head.
At the time, Diller was insulted and conversed only with Brin. But with the passage of time, he came to think that, ‘‘more than most people, they were wildly self-possessed’’.
Brin, who is more sociable than Page, has his own quirks. He will often get lost in deep thought and forget about meetings. So focused is he on engineering and maths, he sometimes displays a fundamental innocence about how the world works. During one interview in a small conference room, down the hall from the second-floor glassed office he shares with Page, Brin playfully ribbed me for writing a book. ‘‘People don’t buy books,’’ he said. ‘‘You might as well put it online. [He meant: you might as well publish it for free.] You might make more money if you put it online; more people will read it and get excited about it.’’ There’s little evidence that free books succeed, I replied. Stephen King tried it, and gave up the effort because he thought it was doomed. The usually voluble Brin grew quiet. If there were no advance from a publisher, I said, who would pay the writer's travel expenses? With no publisher, who would edit the book, and how would they get paid for their work? Who would pay lawyers to vet it? And who would hire people to market the book, so that all those potential online readers could discover it?
‘‘I guess that's true," Brin acknowledged a little sheepishly, ready to change the subject.
But this exchange hinted at a truth about Brin and Page, and the company they have forged. Their starting predicate – that the old ways of traditional media are inefficient and scream to be changed – is one reason why Google has fundamentally misread the reaction of publishers and authors to its quest to digitise the 20m or so books ever published. While Google did reach agreement with a variety of libraries, including those of Harvard and Oxford universities, like good Montessori students Page and Brin did not first ask the permission of publishers and authors before digitising their copyrighted books – backing off only after a lawsuit was filed.
Google was very clear about the value of digitising the world's books. Such clarity was reinforced by the engineering ethos that underpins the company, of wanting to measure and quantify everything. They measure the value of adverts by the number of clicks they attract. They measure the worth of YouTube, which they acquired in 2006, by the user traffic it generates. They hire engineers by relying heavily on their SAT scores. They rejected CEO candidates who lacked engineering degrees, finally hiring Schmidt in late 2001 because, like them, he had one. Their righteous corporate slogan – ‘‘don't be evil’’ – has the virtue of clarity, at least.
Google in China
And then came China. When building its search engine business in the People's Republic, Google compromised by sanitising certain search results. Searchers seeking information about tanks in Tiananmen Square or the Dalai Lama could not find them. Google was making a corporate compromise in order to reach the largest consumer marketplace in the world. It may not have been ‘‘evil’’, but it surely wasn't ‘‘good’’.
The decision made Brin particularly uncomfortable. As a refugee from the former Soviet Union – his parents fled when he was six because they were Jewish, and scientific opportunities were closed to them – human rights was one area where he did not behave like a cold, calculating engineer.
When a resolution was introduced at the annual Google shareholder meeting in May 2008 to abandon China, the management voted it down. Schmidt, who is two decades older than Page and Brin, and often plays the role of grown-up, championed a ‘‘no’’ vote. But there was one management abstention: Brin.
Then, late last year, Google announced it was tired of compromising with China and might pull out. This position – it was not a decision – was championed by Brin, and this time Google’s management spoke with one voice, for they had learned that the Gmail accounts of Chinese dissidents were being hacked into, presumably with the support of the government. Allow such behaviour to go unpunished, and Google risked subverting the user trust that had been at the core of its success.
Clearly, Google's push for ‘‘cloud computing’’, which asks users to entrust their personal data to Google servers, would be doomed without that trust. So the threat to leave China unless the government agreed to keep its hands off search results and personal data was as much a business as a personal decision.
Accepts worldwide challenge
Today, Google confronts challenges from governments across the world. Britain and the EU are concerned about privacy and monopoly. France is alarmed about how Google books might threaten the copyrights of its authors. The US and other governments are concerned about its size. The purist engineers' dream that Page and Brin began with – that all the world's information can be placed at our fingertips, and universally shared – is colliding with nations' beliefs and values that are far from universal.
Take what happened recently in an Italian courtroom, where three senior Google executives were found guilty of violating the privacy of a boy with Down's syndrome, after a video of him being taunted by teenagers was uploaded on to the Google Video site. The court said the video was ‘‘offensive to human dignity’’ – which is what the Chinese or Iranian governments say about Google searches that yield results about a free Tibet or human rights violations. Although Google took down the video soon after complaints were lodged, the court acted as if these three executives – a senior vice-president, the global privacy counsel, and a former Google Italy board member – sit in a control room at Google Video's headquarters deciding which clips will appear. By contrast, Google regards itself as a postal service delivering information, and so should not be held accountable if a delivered ‘‘letter’’ is deemed hateful.
But again, because engineers cannot measure fears or xenophobia, Google has been slow to react. As Bill Gates and Microsoft learned when it was brought to trial for violating anti-trust laws a decade ago, governments are the 800lb gorilla – much more formidable than a business competitor.
Google's engineering culture brings great virtue, but also a vice. The company often lacks an antenna for sensing how governments, companies and people will react to its constant innovations. YouTube, for example, is brilliantly engineered and hosts around 40% of internet videos – yet it makes no money, because advertisers shy away from user-generated content that is unpredictable and might harm their ‘‘friendly’’ ads. As late as traditional media was to wake to Google, it too was late in understanding how advertisers think. In the past year, Google has paid to lure more professionally produced content on to YouTube, and is starting to charge for it. Traditional media, desperate to tap fresh sources of revenue, has suddenly found that Google may be a willing ally in charging for content after all. No Google search can tell the future. If the public or its representatives come to believe that Google favours certain companies, monopolises knowledge, invades users’ privacy, or is as guilty of hubris as were other corporate giants such as Microsoft and IBM, then it will be more vulnerable. If, on the other hand, Google maintains its deposit of public trust, continuing to put users first, and does not start to lumber like an elephant, it will be difficult to catch.
The full story
Googled: The End of the World as We Know It
By Ken Auletta
24 March 2010
|China partially blocks Google’s Hong Kong site|
Google had hoped that its Hong Kong site would let it work uncensored in China, report Miguel Helft and David Barboza
|As Google began redirecting tens of millions of Chinese users on Tuesday to its uncensored Web site in Hong Kong, the company’s remaining mainland operations came under pressure from its Chinese partners and from the government itself.|
The Chinese government moved on Tuesday to block access to the Hong Kong site, the use of which Google had hoped would allow it to keep its pledge to end censorship while retaining a share of China’s fast-growing internet search market.
But mainland Chinese users on Tuesday could not see the uncensored Hong Kong content because government computers either blocked the content or filtered links to searches for objectionable content before it reached them.
There were other signs of possible escalation on Tuesday.
China’s biggest cellular communications company, China Mobile, was expected to cancel a deal that had placed Google’s search engine on its mobile internet home page, used by millions of people daily. Businessmen close to industry officials said the company was planning to scrap the deal under government pressure despite the fact that it has yet to find a replacement.
Similarly, China’s second-largest mobile company, China Unicom, was said by analysts and others to have delayed or killed the imminent start of a cellphone based on Google’s Android platform.
Both technology analysts and the businessmen, who demanded anonymity for fear of retaliation, said that Google may also face problems in keeping its advertising-sales force, which is crucial to the success of its Chinese-language service.
Several held out the prospect that the government could shut down the company’s Chinese search service entirely by blocking access to Google’s mainland address, google.cn, or to its Hong Kong Web site. As of Tuesday, users who go to google.cn are automatically being sent to the Hong Kong address.
“It’s going to boil down to whether authorities feel it is acceptable for users to be redirected to that site without having to figure it out themselves,” said Mark Natkin, managing director of Marbridge Consulting, a Beijing-based technology research firm. At the same time, Natkin said that government might still be wary of agitating a loyal Google user base in China that tends to be highly educated and vocal. “To block Google entirely is not necessarily a desirable outcome for the government,” he said.
Xinhua, the state-controlled news agency quoted an unidentified official with the State Council Information Office on Tuesday who described the move by Google as “totally wrong.”
“Google has violated its written promise it made when entering the Chinese market by stopping filtering its searching service and blaming China in insinuation for alleged hacker attacks,” the official said.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that the government would handle the Google case “according to the law,” Reuters reported. The ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, said at a briefing in Beijing that the move by Google was an isolated act by a commercial company and that it should not affect ties between Beijing and the US “unless politicized” by others.
At Google’s office in northern Beijing on Tuesday, a few Chinese passers-by laid flowers or chocolates on the large metal “Google” sign outside, AP reported.
Zhou Shuguang, a blogger who uses the online name “Zuolam” said, “I welcome the move and support Google because an uncensored search engine is something that I need.”
The two sides had been at loggerheads since early January, when Google said it would end the voluntary censorship of its China-based search service in response to attacks by China-based hackers on its e-mail service and its corporate database.
Two months of sporadic talks failed to bridge the divide between Google and the Chinese government, which insists that its citizens’ access to the internet be stripped of offensive and some politically sensitive material.
Google declined to comment on its talks but said that it was under the impression that the move to the Hong Kong site would be seen as a viable compromise.
“We got reasonable indications that this was OK,” Sergey Brin, a Google founder and its president of technology, said. “We can’t be completely confident.”
For now, Google’s retreat from mainland China is only partial. In a blog post, Google said it would retain much of its existing operations on the mainland, including its research and development team and its local sales force.
“Figuring out how to make good on our promise to stop censoring search on google.cn has been hard,” David Drummond, chief legal officer at Google, wrote in the blog post.
“The Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self- censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement.” Drummond said that Google’s search engine in Hong Kong would provide mainland users with results in the simplified Chinese characters that are used on the mainland and that he believed it was “entirely legal.” Google’s decision to scale back operations on the mainland ends a nearly four-year bet that its search engine, even if censored, would help bring more information to Chinese citizens and loosen government controls on the Web.
Instead, specialists say, the Beijing authorities have tightened their grip on the internet. In January, Google said it would no longer cooperate with government censors after hackers based on the mainland stole some of the company’s source code and broke into the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights advocates.
“It is certainly a historic moment,” said Xiao Qiang of the China Internet project at the University of California, Berkeley. “The internet was seen as a catalyst for China being more integrated into the world. The fact that Google cannot exist in China clearly indicates that China’s path as a rising power is going in a direction different from what the world expected and what many Chinese were hoping for.”
While other multinational companies are not expected to follow suit, some Western executives say Google’s decision is a symbol of a worsening business climate on the mainland for foreign corporations and perhaps an indication that the Chinese government is favoring home-grown companies. Despite its size and reputation for innovation, Google trails its main Chinese rival, Baidu.com, which was modeled on Google, with 33 per cent market share to Baidu’s 63 per cent.
The decision to shut down google.cn will have a limited financial impact on Google. Mainland China accounted for a small fraction of Google’s $23.6 billion in global revenue last year. Ads that once appeared on google.cn will now appear on Google’s Hong Kong site. Still, abandoning a direct presence in the largest internet search market in the world could have long-term repercussions and thwart Google’s global ambitions, analysts say.
The recent hacker attacks were aimed at Google and more than 30 other US companies. While Google did not say the attacks had been sponsored by the government, the company said it had enough information about the attacks to justify its threat to leave the mainland.
The New York Times
|Mp3 Ripper can easily extract audio CD tracks to various digital audio formats.|
tinySpell can help to quickly check and correct the spelling in any Windows application. It can watch your composing on the fly and alert you about a misspelled word, almost immediately. tinySpell can even check the spelling of the text that is copied onto the clipboard. The other features of tinySpell include: lets you specify applications for either enabling or disabling; beeps on error (the beep sound can be easily set to any .wav file); displays a spelling tip; Provides easy access to on-line dictionary services on the web; replacements list with a simple mouse click or a hot-key; installs itself in the system tray for easy access. The 358 KB tinySpell v1.9.11 ( 21 March 2010) can be downloaded at www.tinyspell.m6.net/ tispp1911.zip. The pro edition tinySpell+ has more features.
Mp3 Ripper can easily extract audio CD tracks to various digital audio formats. Its key features are: Rip audio CD tracks to WAV, MP3, WMA and OGG; On-the-fly ripping - quite fast, no temporary file generated; Build-in latest Lame MP3 encoder, acknowledged as the the best MP3 encoder; can retrieve album info from remote and local CDDB (Compact Disc Database) servers; Write metadata of the output audio files and create M3U playlist file; All kinds of CD and DVD drives supported, like IDE, SCSI, and USB; All events are logged for future diagnosis; and has a intuitive user interface.
The 1.68 MB Mp3 Ripper (15 March 2010) can be downloaded at http://www.freecdtomp3.com/Files/Mp3RipperSetup.exe. The developers aver that Mp3 ripper is free of virus, spyware, advertisement, and nag screen.
Xcelerator is a download-accelerator. Among its featurs are: automatically resumes interrupted downloads, automatically performs checksum check up to prevent corrupted downloads, files completely downloaded or incorrect are removed automatically, facilitates multiple searches, saves the configuration from the last run, auto loads at system start-up, and rests in the system tray for easy access.
Xcelerator’s interface makes the program easily-manageable, reveals useful information about your Internet connection, duration of acceleration, profile, the number of bytes sent and received and more.
The developers claim Xcelerator can help to manage the bandwidth effectively and is a powerful combatant of slow downloads, disconnections and traffic congestion. The 5781 KB Xcelerator v126.96.36.199 (9 March 10) can be downloaded at http://www.goforsharing.com/downloads/xcelerator-setup.exe. System Requirements: P2P client such as LimeWire, Shareaza, BitTorrent,uTorrent installed.
10 Mar 2010
|Google’s computing power betters translation tool|
|The New York Times|
As Miguel Helft finds out, Google’s ‘Machine translation’ shows that the company’s strategic vision is ahead of the market
|In a meeting at Google in 2004, the discussion turned to an e-mail message the company had received from a fan in South Korea. Sergey Brin, a Google founder, ran the message through an automatic translation service that the company had licensed. The message said Google was a favourite search engine, but the result read: “The sliced raw fish shoes it wishes. Google green onion thing!”|
Brin said Google ought to be able to do better. Six years later, its free Google Translate service handles 52 languages, more than any similar system, and people use it hundreds of millions of times a week to translate Web pages and other text.
“What you see on Google Translate is state of the art” in computer translations that are not limited to a particular subject area, said Alon Lavie, an associate research professor in the Language Technologies Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.
Google’s efforts to expand beyond searching the Web have met with mixed success. Its digital books project has been hung up in court, and the introduction of its social network, Buzz, raised privacy fears. The pattern suggests that it can sometimes misstep when it tries to challenge business traditions and cultural conventions.
But Google’s quick rise to the top echelons of the translation business is a reminder of what can happen when Google unleashes its brute-force computing power on complex problems.
The network of data centres that it built for Web searches may now be, when lashed together, the world’s largest computer. Google is using that machine to push the limits on translation technology. Last month, for example, it said it was working to combine its translation tool with image analysis, allowing a person to, say, take a cellphone photo of a menu in German and get an instant English translation.
“Machine translation is one of the best examples that shows Google’s strategic vision,” said Tim O’Reilly, founder and chief executive of the technology publisher O’Reilly Media. “It is not something that anyone else is taking very seriously. But Google understands something about data that nobody else understands, and it is willing to make the investments necessary to tackle these kinds of complex problems ahead of the market.”
Creating a translation machine has long been seen as one of the toughest challenges in artificial intelligence. For decades, computer scientists tried using a rules-based approach — teaching the computer the linguistic rules of two languages and giving it the necessary dictionaries. But in the mid-1990s, researchers began favouring a so-called statistical approach.
They found that if they fed the computer thousands or millions of passages and their human-generated translations, it could learn to make accurate guesses about how to translate new texts. It turns out that this technique, which requires huge amounts of data and lots of computing horsepower, is right up Google’s alley.
“Our infrastructure is very well-suited to this,” Vic Gundotra, a vice president for engineering at Google, said. “We can take approaches that others can’t even dream of.” Automated translation systems are far from perfect, and even Google’s will not put human translators out of a job anytime soon. Experts say it is exceedingly difficult for a computer to break a sentence into parts, then translate and reassemble them.
Google hits the nail
But Google’s service is good enough to convey the essence of a news article, and it has become a quick source for translations for millions of people. “If you need a rough-and-ready translation, it’s the place to go,” said Philip Resnik, a machine translation expert and associate professor of linguistics at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Like its rivals in the field, Microsoft and IBM, Google has fed its translation engine with transcripts of United Nations proceedings, which are translated by humans into six languages, and those of the European Parliament, which are translated into 23. This raw material is used to train systems for the most common languages.
But Google has scoured the text of the Web, as well as data from its book scanning project and other sources, to move beyond those languages. For more obscure languages, it has released a “tool kit” that helps users with translations and then adds those texts to its database.
Google’s offering could put a dent in sales of corporate translation software from companies like IBM. But automated translation is never likely to be a big moneymaker, at least not by the standards of Google’s advertising business. Still, Google’s efforts could pay off in several ways.
Because Google’s ads are ubiquitous online, anything that makes it easier for people to use the Web benefits the company. And the system could lead to interesting new applications. Last week, the company said it would use speech recognition to generate captions for English-language YouTube videos, which could then be translated into 50 other languages.
“This technology can make the language barrier go away,” said Franz Och, a principal scientist at Google who leads the company’s machine translation team. “It would allow anyone to communicate with anyone else.”
Och, a German researcher who previously worked at the University of Southern California, said he was initially reluctant to join Google, fearing it would treat translation as a side project. Larry Page, Google’s other founder, called to reassure him. “He basically said that this is something that is very important for Google,” Och recalled recently. Och signed on in 2004 and was soon able to put Page’s promise to the test.
While many translation systems like Google’s use up to a billion words of text to create a model of a language, Google went much bigger: a few hundred billion English words. “The models become better and better the more text you process,” Och said. The effort paid off. A year later, Google won a government-run competition that tests sophisticated translation systems.
Google has used a similar approach — immense computing power, heaps of data and statistics — to tackle other complex problems. In 2007, for example, it began offering 800-GOOG-411, a free directory assistance service that interprets spoken requests. It allowed Google to collect the voices of millions of people so it could get better at recognising spoken English.
A year later, Google released a search-by-voice system that was as good as those that took other companies years to build. Later last year, Google introduced a service called Goggles that analyses cellphone photos, matching them to a database of more than a billion online images, including photos of streets taken for its Street View service.
Och acknowledged that Google’s translation system still needed improvement, but he said it was getting better fast. “The current quality improvement curve is still pretty steep,” he said.
|At home with the android family|
|Lucy Tobin, The Guardian|
Work going on in Hatfield could create robot home helps or even one day robot girlfriends and boyfriends, reports Lucy Tobin
|On a weekday morning in a Hertfordshire street, people are knocking on the door of an ordinary-looking house. Inside, a living room hosts a sofa, bookshelves, coffee tables and a TV. Through an archway, the kitchen kettle is boiling up, ready for the first of many cups of tea.|
So far, so normal –– but there’s something different about this home: it’s stuffed full of more technology than your average branch of PC World. Sprawled around its ground floor rooms are a family of robots belonging to the University of Hertfordshire’s school of computer science. This is probably the UK’s only robot home.
It’s part of a project that began in 2005, when Kerstin Dautenhahn, professor of artificial intelligence at Hertfordshire, was working on a European-wide piece of research called Cogniron. The aim was to create a “cognitive robot companion” for humans, and the team began building and modifying the machines. When they were ready for testing, the team invited people to their lab, where they were monitored while they interacted with the robots.
“It didn’t work well, because the participants didn’t feel very comfortable in such an artificial context,” Dautenhahn explains. She decided to take the project out of a campus setting and into the home, so the academics could investigate how robots work as personal companions in one of mankind’s most natural environments. The robotics faculty first decamped from their laboratory into a local flat, but that soon became too small.
“So, in 2008, the university bought a two-storey house with a large ground floor area, so our robots and participants have a lot of space to move around,” Dautenhahn says. “All the furniture makes the house look comfortable, giving research participants the feeling of visiting a friend –– it’s not their home, but they could imagine living there.”
With the testers relaxed, the robotics team could carry out a range of experiments to develop their robots’ ability to work with – and for – humans. The projects differ depending on the particular issue the researchers are working on.
In one, a person sits at a writing table, triggering a robot to fetch a pen. In another, robots try to negotiate rooms without crashing into moving humans. A further trial programmed a robot to persistently interrupt TV-watching participants to ask if they wanted a diet Coke. If the tester said no, the robot repeatedly returned to offer alternative drinks, checking what kind of robotic interruptions participants would bear.
Now Dautenhahn is working on a “proxemics system”, controlling how close robots should get to people when approaching them. Earlier research found that humans felt alarmed when robots approached head-on, so the robots now approach from the side. Trials suggest that people are often happy for robots to get nearer than humans.
Like people, the robots vary: Dautenhahn’s arsenal includes human-sized mobile machines and a humanoid, toddler-like robot called Kaspar, whose rubber face and realistic features are reminiscent of the characters of the animation film “Up”. Dautenhahn is using Kaspar for the Aurora project, which looks at how robots can become therapeutic toys for children with autism.
“The children generally respond very well to the robots, playing with them, and exploring their abilities and physical characteristics,” says Dautenhahn. “Our goal is to help the children to interact and communicate with other people, so we’ve focused on using robots as social mediators: using a robot that encourages an autistic child to engage in interaction.” That, Dautenhahn says, is the ultimate target of all her social work on robots: she aims to develop machines that help people.
“It’s not about replacing people, it is about allowing robots to provide help in their homes. That’s especially important for elderly people – our work could allow them to stay in their own homes for longer.” To that end, the research team busily records all the robot-human interaction in the Hatfield house, with the academics watching participants from a small control room on the ground floor.
The tapes, plus the surveys the participants complete about their experience with the robots and their personal background, help the team work out how best to improve the robots and make them more like social animals. Although other researchers, mainly in Japan, focus on robotic engineering, the Hertfordshire work is distinctive in its focus on how robots can adapt to social behaviour.
Dautenhahn now has a team of 20 working with her, including PhD students and research assistants, with backgrounds ranging from robotics and engineering to psychology and computer science.
She thinks companion robots, with realistic human-like features and intelligent functions that allow them to speak and understand speech will be available within 100 years. She also expects robot girlfriends and boyfriends to be creatable, but worries of “a danger that people will then find it too hard to have real relationships, when it’s so much easier to have a robot that can be switched off when making annoying comments, and replaced so easily without arguments.”
In her own home, however, Dautenhahn gets a break from her metallic friends. “My house isn’t suitable for useful robots like robotic lawnmowers and vacuum cleaners,” she admits. “They can’t cope well with rooms cluttered with children’s toys and unusually shaped and uneven gardens, like mine.” And as for the worry that robots will take over the world, Dautenhahn thinks we can relax.
|N S Soundar Rajan|
xVideoServiceThief can help download video clips from a lot of web sites, currently supports 75+.
ControlPad can help turn the numeric keypad on your keyboard to a Windows command execution system –– Execute any program, open any document, open any web address or send any series of keystrokes to the OS. It’s easy to use, press and hold the * key on the numeric keypad, for about a second, enter any keyword or numeric code into the pop up window. Pressing the code followed by Enter will execute the associated command.
Commands can be easily configured through this interface, and instead of numeric codes words can be used. For laptops (without a numeric keypad), there is a special Laptop Mode feature which uses F12 (press and hold) instead of * as the launch key. ControlPad is highly customisable. You can: Configure the location of your commands file - for easy backup, Change almost every aspect of the user interface (colours, transparency, size, font), Change sounds / add your own sound sets. ControlPad is equipped with a simple installer and uninstaller, does not register anything in the Windows registry. ControlPad v0.66 can be downloaded at http://sector-seven.net/downloads/controlpad/ControlPad_Setup.exe
xVideoServiceThief can help download video clips from a lot of web sites, currently supports 75+. It also facilitates conversion of each video to most popular formats like AVI, MPEG1, MPEG2, WMV, MP4, 3GP, and MP3. Its other features include Drag & Drop functions: Drag and Drop the video link directly to the xVideoServiceThief; Session Manager to save and restore download lists; Pause and resume downloads; Simultaneous downloads; Download Log: Save a list with all downloaded video (Date + Title + URL); Children protection; Choice of web sites for download; and Tray Icon functions - xVideoServiceThief can work in background mode. The 7.27 MB xVideoServiceThief v2.3.5 for Windows XP/Vista, Linux, and Mac OS X can be downloaded at http://xviservicethief.sourceforge.net/index.php?action=downloads. The xVST is developed under the GNU General Public License.
PIXresizer is a photo resizing program to easily create web and e-mail friendly versions of images. The reduced files are saved in a different folder, the originals remain unaltered as they are retained in a separate folder. PIXresizer offers several different resizing methods to choose from, and can automatically recognise image sizes to calculate the best fit. It can also convert between image formats (JPEG, GIF, BMP, PNG and TIFF), rotate images, convert to grayscale and resize multiple images in a batch mode.
The other features of PIXresizer are Simple Four-Step Workflow; Easy 'Apply recommended' option to make it even more user friendly; Works with single files as well as with multiple files, all at once; Can be used to create thumbnails (takes one move on a slider); Smart Ratio Calculation (image proportions can be overruled by the user); EXIF support, JPEG compression, and TIFF compression, DPI settings. The 3.3. MB PIXresizer for Windows 98/ME/NT4/2000/2003/XP/ Vista/7 can be downloaded at http://bluefive.pair.com/PIXresizer.zip.
|DH reader P V Rao wrote|
Please suggest a free disk defrag utility.
You could try the 3.83 MB Quicksys Disk Defrag at http://www.qdiskdefrag.com/qdiskdefrag_setup.exe. It uses QSICA (Quicksys Intelligent Clusters Allocation) for clusters optimization.
3 Mar 2010
|Struggling to map the shape-shifting internet|
What does the net look like now? Is it stronger or weaker in terms of its resistance to failure? John Markoff finds out
|In a dimly lit chamber festooned with wires and hidden in one of California’s largest data centres, Tim Polar is changing the shape of the Internet.|
He is using what Internet engineers refer to as a “meet-me room.” The room itself is enclosed in a building full of computers and routers. What Polar does there is to informally wire together the networks of different businesses that want to freely share their Internet traffic.
The practice is known as peering, and it goes back to the earliest days of the Internet, when organisations would directly connect their networks instead of paying yet another company to route data traffic. Originally, the companies that owned the backbone of the Internet shared traffic. In recent years, however, the practice has increased to the point where some researchers who study the way global networks are put together believe that peering is changing the fundamental shape of the Internet, with serious consequences for its stability and security. Others see the vast increase in traffic staying within a structure that has remained essentially the same.
What is clear is that today a significant portion of Internet traffic does not flow through the backbone networks of giant Internet companies like AT&T and Level 3. Instead, it has begun to cascade in torrents of data on the edges of the network, as if a river in flood were carving new channels.
Some of this traffic coursing through new channels passes through public peering points like Pozar’s. And some flows through so-called dark networks, private channels created to move information more cheaply and efficiently within a business or any kind of organisation. For instance, Google has privately built such a network so that video and search data need not pass through so many points.
By its very nature, Internet networking technology is intended to support anarchic growth. Unlike earlier communication networks, the Internet is not controlled from the top down. From the start, the information moving around the Internet was broken up into so-called packets that could be sent on different paths to one destination where the original message, whether it was e-mail, an image or sound file or instructions to another computer, would be put back together in its original form. It made delivery of a message through a network possible even if one or many of the nodes of the network failed. Indeed, this resistance to failure or attack was at the very core of the Internet, part of the essential nature of an organic, interconnected communications web with no single control point.
During the 1970s, a method emerged to create a network of networks. The connections depended on a communication protocol known as TCP/IP. The global network of networks, the Internet, transformed the world, and continues to grow without central planning, extending itself into every area of life, from Facebook to cyberwar.
Everyone agrees that the shape of the network is changing rapidly, driven by a variety of factors, including content delivery networks; the growing popularity of smartphones leading to the emergence of the wireless Internet; and the explosion of streaming video as the Internet’s predominant data type.
“When we started releasing data publicly, we measured it in petabytes of traffic,” said Doug Webster, a Cisco Systems market executive who is responsible for an annual report by the firm that charts changes in the Internet. “Then a couple of years ago we had to start measuring them in zettabytes, and now we’re measuring them in what we call yottabytes.” One petabyte is equivalent to one million gigabytes. A zettabyte is a million petabytes. And a yottabyte is a thousand zettabytes.
A study presented last year by Arbor Networks suggesting that traffic flows were moving away from the core of the network touched off a spirited controversy. The study was based on an analysis of two years of Internet traffic data collected by 110 large and geographically diverse cable operators, international transit backbones, regional networks and content providers.
Arbor’s Internet Observatory Report concluded that today the majority of Internet traffic by volume flows directly between large content providers like Google and consumer networks like Comcast. It also described what it referred to as the rise of so-called hyper giants — monstrous portals that have become the focal point for much of the network’s traffic: “Out of the 40,000 routed end sites in the Internet, 30 large companies — ‘hyper giants’ like Limelight, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and YouTube — now generate and consume a disproportionate 30 per cent of all Internet traffic,” the researchers noted.
The changes, though, are not happening just because of the growth of the hyper giants.
At the San Francisco data centre 365 Main, Pozar’s SFMIX peering location, or fabric, as it is called, now connects just 13 networks and content providers. But elsewhere in the world, huge peering fabrics are beginning to emerge. As a result, the “edge” of the Internet is thickening, and that may be adding resilience to the network.
At AMS-IX, based in Amsterdam, 775 gigabits of traffic is exchanged per second.
“The rise of these highly connected data centres around the world is changing our model of the Internet,” said Jon M Kleinberg, a network theorist at Cornell University. However, he added that the rise of giant distributed data centres built by Google, Microsoft and others as part of the development of cloud computing services is increasing the part of the network that constitutes a so-called dark Internet, making it harder for researchers to build a complete model.
All of these changes have sparked a debate about the big picture. What does the Internet look like now? Is it stronger or weaker in terms of its resistance to failure because of random problems or actual attack.
Researchers have come up with an array of models to explain the consequences of the changing shape of the Internet. Some describe the interconnections of the underlying physical wires. Others analyse patterns of data flow. And still others look at abstract connections like Web page links that Google and other search engine companies analyse as part of the search process.
One of the first and most successful occurred a decade ago, when Albert-László Barabási and colleagues at the University of Notre Dame mapped part of the Internet and discovered what they called a scale-free network: connections were not random; instead, a small number of nodes had far more links than most. The consequences of such a model are that although the Internet is resistant to random failure because of its many connections and control points, it could be vulnerable to cyberwarfare or terrorism, because important points, where the connections are richest, could be successfully targeted.
Dr Barabási said the evolution of the Internet has only strengthened his original scale-free model. “The Internet as we know it is pretty much vanishing, in the sense that much of the traffic is being routed through lots of new layers and applications, much of it wireless.” In other words, the more the Internet changes, the more it stays the same.
Other researchers say changes in the Internet have been more fundamental. Last year, Walter Willinger, a mathematician at AT&T Labs, David Alderson, an operations research scientist at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, California, and John C Doyle, an electrical engineer at California Institute of Technology, criticised the scale-free model as an overly narrow interpretation of the nature of modern computer networks.
They argued that the real-world Internet is not a simple scale-free model. The Internet is an example of what they called “organised complexity.” In such systems, both economic and technological trade-offs play an important role. The result is a “robust yet fragile” network that they said was far more resilient than the network described by Dr Barabási.
For example, they noted that Google has built its own global cloud of computers that is highly redundant and distributed around the world. This degree of separation means that Google is insulated to some extent from problems of the broader Internet. Another consequence was that even if Google were to fail, it would have little impact on the overall Internet. So, as the data flood has carved many new channels, the Internet has become stronger and more resistant to random failure and attack.
|World’s top high-tech fair goes 3-dimensional|
There is a host of futuristic devices on display at CeBIT. These underline that it is not all work and no play
|The world’s biggest high-tech fair opened on Tuesday with IT giants aiming to bounce back strongly from a terrible 2009 by wooing consumers with trendy gadgets.|
“Connected Worlds” is the theme of this year’s CeBIT fair, with companies showcasing energy and labour-saving devices that use wireless technology to communicate with each other and with users far away. But, as ever, the CeBIT is not all work and no play.
A host of futuristic devices were on display, from mobile phones that can open your front door to “silent sound” devices that measure the movements of your lips and transform them into sound.
And hot on the heels of the stunning success of James Cameron’s 3D film adventure “Avatar,” this year’s CeBIT was definitely best viewed in three dimensions.
From screens that transform two-dimensional images into three by monitoring a viewer’s eye patterns to 3D Internet that allows shoppers to “try on” the latest fashions, 3D is the show buzzword.
This year, however, the CeBIT takes place against a tricky backdrop for the high-tech sector, as the industry recovers gingerly from a crisis 2009 and cautiously eyes better days ahead.
According to German IT industry lobby, BITKOM, turnover in the sector will be flat this year, before growing by around 1.6 per cent in 2011 to $193 billion dollars.
After a catastrophic 2009, where turnover shrank 4.3 per cent, “demand is taking off significantly, especially in the IT sector,” said BITKOM President August-Wilhelm Scheer.
The CeBIT fair itself has also seen better days. This year, fewer than 4,200 companies are at the event, in Hanover, northern Germany. This is around half the number attending in the halcyon days of the dotcom boom.
But opening the fair, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spain’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero both stressed the importance of the sector for Europe.
“The future of Europe is digital,” said Zapatero, whose country is the partner country for this year’s CeBIT.
Surrounded by around 200 journalists and officials, Zapatero and Merkel visited some of the more high profile stands, such as IBM, Microsoft and Telefonica, during a traditional opening-day “walkabout”.
Despite the crisis, the digital sector in Germany still enjoys a captive audience.
A survey published on Tuesday in the “Die Welt” daily showed that 93 per cent of Germans aged 20-24 are members of social networking sites like Facebook –– “what’s wrong with the other seven per cent. Are they living in a wood?” the paper commented.
A BITKOM poll showed that nearly one in four Germans would be prepared to have a microchip implanted into their body if they thought they would derive concrete benefits from it. But not everyone is convinced by the relentless march of technology.
“Machines were invented primarily to make life easier. Since that time, they have overtaken our everyday lives more than we should be happy with,” wrote the Berliner Zeitung in an editorial.
“The time that we save by checking on our smartphones when the next bus leaves is wasted by double and triple-checking the Facebook status of people we have met maybe twice.” The CeBIT wraps up on March 6.
|The new news junkie is online and on the phone|
|By Claire Cain Miller, The New York Times|
The new news junkie looks very different from even five years ago. Now, she is likely to scan the headlines on her phone in the morning, check a handful of different Web sites over the course of the day and click on links that friends have e-mailed or posted on Facebook or Twitter...
That is the picture painted in a new report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project examining how people consume news. Ninety-nine per cent of American adults get news each day, but they are getting it from a wider variety of sources and in many different forms.
The Internet now outranks print newspapers and radio in popularity as a source of news. Sixty-one per cent of Americans said they read news online, while 54 per cent said they listen to news on the radio, 50 per cent read a local newspaper and just 17 per cent read a national newspaper. One-third of cellphone owners read the news on their phones.
Only TV news stations are more popular than the Internet. About three-quarters of Americans say they get news on TV. That is despite the fact that the networks are laying off reporters. (The networks are worried about shrinking viewership as more people go online, as “The Times” reported on Monday. Still, print and radio news organisations need not pack up their computers. Just 2 per cent of people read the news exclusively online. Fifty-nine per cent get news from both online and offline sources.
Many start-ups, investors and news organisations have been making a push into local news online. Surprisingly, only half of Internet users told Pew that they read local news on the Web (unless you count the weather, which is the most popular topic for online readers), while three-quarters said they read national news online.
Friends as editor
Readers are turning to their friends to serve as their editors. People have always read the news in part for fodder for dinner party or water-cooler conversations. Today, conversations about the news are happening all over the Web.
More than 80 per cent of people receive or share links in e-mail messages or on social networks. A quarter discuss the news of the day in the comment sections on Web sites. People want to be their own editors, too. About 40 per cent of Internet users said it is important to them that news Web sites let them customise the type of news they get and 36 per cent said they like multimedia features, like graphics and quizzes, that they can manipulate themselves.
Still, even though readers and their friends are increasingly acting as their own editors, they would appreciate even more culling of the news. Despite today’s easy access to news, 70 per cent of people reported feeling overwhelmed with all the screens and speakers and pages offering up an endless stream of stories.
|N S Soundar Rajan|
M8 is the simplest of all multi-clipboard programs which can store upto 25 clips.
The freeware version of FinalBurner can be a decent alternative to expensive CD and DVD burners. It can help burn data, audio, and video onto CD R/RW, DVD+R/RW, DVD-R/RW, DVD DL. An ISO image of a disk can be created as well. Designed with no bells and whistles, FinalBurner’s simple user interface makes the process of CD recording quite easy. Its main features include: Burn Data CD/DVD (CD R/RW, DVD+R/RW, DVD-R/RW, DVD DL, HD-DVD, Blu-Ray, etc.); Autorun menu designer; Burn Audio CD (Import *.wav; *.mp3; *.ogg; *.mid; *.wma; *.aac; *.mp4; *.m4a; *.xm; *.mod; *.s3m; *.it; *.mtm; *.mo3 audio files.); Burn Video DVD (Import AVI, DIVX, XVID, MP4, MPG, WMV, ASF, MOV, FLV, etc; Capture from Web cam, TV tuner, DV, etc.); and Audio Cd Ripping. The 9 MB FinalBurner v188.8.131.52 (February 19, 2010) for WinXP, Windows2000, Windows2003, Windows Vista, WinNT 4.x, Windows Media Centre Edition 2005, Windows Vista, Windows Vista x64, can be downloaded at http://www.videodvdmaker.com/download/fb_free.exe. FinalBurner has two other versions, FinalBurner Pro, and Final MP3 Burner. You can compare the features of all the three versions at http://www.protectedsoft.com/fbprovsfree.php
ProcessEye, a free process manager for Windows, has quite a number of features. It can reveal all the running processes with their respective PID and location. The other main features include: Startups Service shows the list of programs that use common services to start with Windows; Startups Registry shows the list of programs that use common registry keys to start with Windows; Drivers List shows the list of drivers with the
respective file location, file publisher and the description of the driver.
There is also an option to “Show only unknown drivers”; Loaded DLLs shows the list of non-Microsoft DLLs located in suspicious folders that are loaded by running processes; Hosts Editor lets you edit or backup your hosts file on Windows; and You can also upload a process file to VirusTotal on the web for a virus scan, or access its folder. The refresh of the running process of ProcessEye is automatically carried out every 2 seconds. ProcessEye V1.0 can be downloaded at http://www.processeye.altervista.org/setup.exe.
M8 Free Clipboard
M8 is the simplest of all multi-clipboard programs which can store upto 25 clips. Running in the background it captures everything that is cut or copied from other programs. When you want to paste one back, all you have to do is restore M8 and click on the clip you want. If you prefer to work entirely from the keyboard, you can choose a hot key to restore M8 and then paste any clip by typing the letter shown next to it. When you move the mouse over the clips, you can see them in the viewer.
If the clip is text, you see several lines and if it is a graphic, only a thumbnail. You can also capture the entire screen by pressing Prt Scr, capture the active window by pressing Alt+PrtScr, capture an individual graphic right click and select “Copy” from the drop down list. M8 Free Clipboard v12.03 can be donwloaded at http://dl.filekicker.com/send/file/170390-1QA0/freeclip.exe. This version includes a minor fix for compatibility with Windows 7.
|DH reader Abdul Azeez wrote|
I need a utility to recover accidentally deleted files.
You could try Recuva V1.36.479 which can be donwloaded at
24 Feb 2010
|For chip makers, the next battle is in smartphones|
Manufacturers will fight to supply silicon for the next phase of computing, finds Ashlee Vance
|The semiconductor industry has long been a game for titans. The going rate for a state-of-the-art chip factory is about $3 billion. The plants typically take years to build. And the microscopic size of chip circuitry requires engineering that practically defies the laws of physics.|
Over the decades, legions of companies have found themselves reeling, even wiped out financially, from trying to produce some of the most complex objects made by humans for the lowest possible price.
Now, the chip wars are about to become even more bloody. In this next phase, the manufacturers will be fighting to supply the silicon for one of the fastest-growing segments of computing: smartphones, tiny laptops and tablet-style devices.
The fight pits several big chip companies—each trying to put its own stamp on the same basic design for mobile chips—against Intel, the dominant maker of PC chips, which is using an entirely different design to enter a market segment in which it has a minuscule presence.
Consumers are likely to benefit from the battle, which should increase competition and innovation, according to industry players. But it will be costly to the chip manufacturers involved.
“I worry about that,” said Ian Drew, an executive vice president at ARM Holdings, which owns the rights to the core chip design used in most smartphones and licenses that technology to manufacturers. “But ultimately, these chip makers are all pushing each other, and if one falls over, there are still two or three left.”
Intel, based in Santa Clara, California, has long been held up as the gold standard when it comes to ultra-efficient, advanced chip manufacturing plants. The company is the last mainstream chip maker to both design and build its own products, which go into the vast majority of the PCs and servers sold each year.
Most other chips, for items as diverse as cars and printers, are built by a group of contract manufacturers, based primarily in Asia, to meet the specifications of other companies that design and market them. Traditionally, these companies, known as foundries, have trailed Intel in terms of manufacturing technology and have handled chips with simpler designs.
But with mobile technology, an expensive race is on to build smaller chips that consume less power, run faster and cost less than products made at older factories.
For example, GlobalFoundries plans to start making chips this year in Dresden, Germany, at what is arguably the most advanced chip factory ever built. The initial chips coming out of the plant will make their way into smartphones and tabletlike devices rather than mainstream computers.
“The first one out there with these types of products is really the one that wins in the marketplace,” said Jim Ballingall, vice president for marketing at GlobalFoundries. “This is a game changer.”
The company, a new player in the contract chip-making business, was formed last year when Advanced Micro Devices, Intel’s main rival in the PC chip market, spun off its manufacturing operations. GlobalFoundries, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., has been helped by close to $10 billion in current and promised investments from the government of Abu Dhabi.
The vast resources at GlobalFoundries’ disposal have put pressure on companies like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, United Microelectronics and Samsung Electronics, which also make smartphone chips. The message from GlobalFoundries is clear: as the newcomer in the market, it will spend what it takes to pull business away from these rivals.
At the same time, Apple, Nvidia and Qualcomm are designing their own takes on ARM-based mobile chips that will be made by the contract foundries. Even without the direct investment of a factory, it can cost these companies about $1 billion to create a smartphone chip from scratch.
Recently, these types of chips have made their way from smartphones like the iPhone to other types of devices because of their low power consumption and cost.
For example, Apple’s recently introduced iPad tablet computer will run on an ARM chip. So, too, will new tiny laptops from Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo. A couple of start-ups have even started to explore the idea of using ARM chips in computer servers.
“Apple was the first company to make a really aspirational device that wasn’t based on Intel chips and Microsoft’s Windows,” said Fred Weber, a chip industry veteran. “The iPhone broke some psychological barriers people had about trying new products and helped drive this consumer electronics push.”
Companies like Nvidia and Qualcomm want to get their chips into as many types of consumer electronics as possible, including entertainment systems in cars, and home phones with screens and Web access.
At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, last week, manufacturers displayed a wide range of slick devices based on ARM chips, including a host of tablets and laptops. In addition, HTC released its Desire smartphone, built on a Qualcomm ARM chip called Snapdragon, which impressed show-goers with its big touch-screen display.
Meanwhile, Intel is about to enter the phone fray, both to expand its market and defend itself against the ARM chip makers. Its Atom line of chips, used in most netbooks and now coming to smartphones, can cost two to three times as much as the ARM chips, according to analysts. In addition, the Atom chips consume too much power for many smaller gadgets.
Intel executives argue that consumers will demand more robust mobile computing experiences, requiring chips with more oomph and PC-friendly software, both traditional Intel strengths.
“As these things look more like computers, they will value some of the capabilities we have and want increasing levels of performance,” said Robert B. Crooke, the Intel vice president in charge of the Atom chip. “We’re seeing that from our customers in a number of spaces, including digital TVs and hand-held devices.”
Intel also has deep pockets. As of December, the company had more than $9 billion in cash and short-term investments.
Crooke said that Intel’s manufacturing expertise would allow it to produce a new crop of chips every 18 months or so that would be cheaper and use less power. As rivals shift to more cutting-edge chip-making techniques, he said, they are likely to run into problems that Intel solved years ago.
At the same time, competition from other chip makers will pressure them to lower their prices.
“I don’t know whether it will make it harder for these guys to invest in the future, but you certainly would think so,” Crooke said.
|Status updates passe, now Blippy your credit card bills|
By asking what’s happening or what’s on our minds, Facebook and Twitter have prodded people to broadcast just about anything, from what they ate for lunch to what movie they’re going to see. Now a new site wants to unearth more––by asking people to automatically reveal things they buy.
|Blippy, which is backed by a Twitter co-founder, asks people to share their spending habits. If you register a credit card with the site, every transaction bought on the card would be displayed to your friends on Blippy.|
It might sound like ridiculous oversharing, but Blippy is serious. While there already are plenty of Web sites focused on what people are purchasing, the site’s founders think it offers a new way to learn about deals and new products. And knowing your spending habits are being transmitted to a flock of friends might make you think twice before spending $500 on a pair of designer shoes. Charities could use Blippy to show the public that their donations are being used responsibly, too.
Co-founded by entrepreneur Philip Kaplan, Blippy encourages you to connect credit cards and accounts at e-commerce sites like eBay and Apple’s iTunes Store to your profile on the site. Then, whenever you buy something in person or on the Web––a cup of coffee at Starbucks or, say, a pair of boots at Zappos.com––the purchase is immediately posted for your friends to see and comment on. They’d see something like “Joe1234 spent $2.98 at iTunes.”
Some purchases are more descriptive than others. If you buy an iPhone game Blippy can show its name, not just how much you paid. But––at least for now––if you spend $250 at a grocery store using a linked credit card, Blippy would just indicate the total amount rather than everything you put on the conveyor belt. Users can enter more details about their transactions on their own.
Blippy doesn’t store its users’ credit card numbers. Instead you give the site the username and password that you use to access your credit card account online. Other sites, such as the popular personal finance site Mint.com, have a similar setup. For those wary of baring all, Blippy lets you hide individual purchases from your activity stream or make it so only approved friends can see your transactions.
The idea for the site emerged late last year when Ashvin Kumar and Chris Estreich, the site’s other founders, started thinking about how people are comfortable sharing all sorts of information on social networking sites, but not financial transactions. They decided to see what would happen if people could easily share that information with others.
At first, it was a tough sell. Kumar said they needed to convince a handful of friends to try an early version of the site. Even Kaplan admits that at first he shared only one credit card that he didn’t use that much.
“There is a hump people need to get over, including me, before you feel comfortable sharing this information,” he says.
But since launching publicly in January, Blippy has gotten more than 13,000 consumers to do the same.
Chris Broyles, a Blippy user who works as a litigation consultant in Chicago, understands the site isn’t for everyone––including his wife. Still, he sees it as a way to keep track of what he’s spending while saving up to move his family of five to a new home.
Broyles shares two different credit cards and several online accounts on Blippy and says it has helped him cut down on nonessential purchases. He was recently tempted by a $300 Blu-ray disc player from Best Buy, but hesitated when he thought about how the information would be shared and where the money could go instead.
Kaplan thinks there are several ways Blippy could make money. Companies might pay to mine the posted data in order to get in touch with their best customers. Blippy also could link to products that users have bought online and get a fee when another Blippy user clicked through and purchased the same thing. Kumar noted that people were initially wary of sharing such detailed information on sites such as Facebook, but now it’s common.
|Selling a celebrity look|
|By Claire Cain Miller ,The New York Times:|
The paparazzi tracked down Angelina Jolie and four of her children in Venice last week, snapping photos of them eating ice cream. Her fans analysed the photos, looking for the presence of Brad Pitt, at her new blond highlights and for clues to what she was wearing.
|On some blogs, those fans could also click on the clothes or accessories in a photo and buy a French Connection scarf, J Crew wool coat or Luella oversize sunglasses similar to those Jolie wore.|
Fashion lovers have always scoured magazines about gossip and fashion to steal trendy ideas from the rich and famous. (And fashion magazines have long maintained that readers view ads as news.) The Internet has made it easier for readers to shop for celebrities’ looks, and it has the added advantage of producing advertising and a little e-commerce revenue in the process.
Readers click on or scroll over a celebrity photo on sites like JustJared, INFDaily or CelebStyle to see what kind of clothes Jessica Biel or Nicole Richie are wearing and where to buy them.
Print magazines often list stores where readers can buy the clothes shown in the magazine, but they appear in tiny print in the back. Identifying items celebrities wear has been a popular feature on fashion blogs and on Web sites of fashion magazines, but they do it with only a handful of photos. And very few use it as a way to bolster e-commerce and advertising revenue.
Companies like GumGum and Pixazza tag the paparazzi photos with links for buying them. They hire people to look at photos and match the clothes they are wearing with the same or similar, more affordable items from retailers like Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and Zappos. The companies get a small fee from retailers when a shopper clicks on or buys an article of clothing.
“Publishers and readers look at it as this really informational resource,” said Ophir Tanz, chief executive of GumGum, which tagged the photo of Jolie with one of its “Shop this look” badges. “We look at it as an ad unit.”
Celebrity sites are an obvious place to start with this business, but photos all over the Web could be turned into ads or e-commerce portals, said Bob Lisbonne, chief executive of Pixazza. The idea is attracting investors looking for a new way to advertise to readers online. Pixazza has raised $5.8 million from investors, including Google Ventures, and GumGum has raised $3.9 million from First Round Capital and others.
Sugar Inc, which publishes celebrity gossip and fashion blogs, was being flooded with reader e-mail messages asking what celebrities were wearing in pictures, so it started a site that gives this information called CelebStyle. When readers click or buy, Sugar gets a small payment from the retailer. CelebStyle plans to do the same with photos of room interiors, said Lisa Sugar, Editor-in-chief of Sugar.
How good a business proposition celebrity fashion photos are remains to be seen. Though many people look at the outfits, it is not clear how many buy the clothes from the sites. Even when they do, the publishers and ad companies receive only a small fraction of the sale.
Kate Mitchell, 27, peruses gossip blogs to get fashion ideas from celebrities, but she rarely makes a purchase. Instead, she uses the ideas to come up with new ways to wear things she already owns, she said. She recently saw a photo of Kate Winslet walking down the street in a navy shift dress with a white cardigan. “I was so excited because I was like, ‘I own that dress and it was like $40,’ ” she said. She recreated the outfit.
Joey Ly, 28, a controller at a Philadelphia hotel, recently bought a Gustto handbag for $645 after seeing a photo online of Halle Berry carrying it, though she went to another site to buy it. “I definitely bought the bag based on the fact that Halle Berry had the same bag,” Ly said.
Close All Windows This little tool lets you close all running applications with just one click. Close All Windows works just as if you were pressing the close button for each application.
|It doesn’t use system resources because it only flashes a ‘close’ signal to all open windows on the desktop and then ceases. It can be really handy utility if you are running many applications and want all of them to close instantly. Close All Windows is a simple utility and doesn’t require installation. No settings are stored in the Windows Registry or file system. Here are some simple steps to follow – Download the ZIP archive and extract it somewhere on your hard drive, Open the extracted folder, right-click CloseAll.exe and choose Send To -> Desktop (create shortcut) from the context menu; Switch to the Desktop and rename the created shortcut to “Close All” or whatever you want; Now you can drag this shortcut to the Quick Launch Bar or to the Windows 7 Taskbar for quick access. Option to prevent certain applications from being closed by Close is provided. The 36 KB Close All Windows v1.3 (18.2.10) for 32-bit and 64-bit can be downloaded at http://www.ntwind.|
Wireless Key View
When the password details to the wireless network are forgotten or misplaced, it can be quite frustrating to recall them. But not anymore. NirSoft’s smart little tool Wireless Key View can expose saved Wireless Passwords. This utility reveals in plain text all the wireless passwords that have been stored by Windows’ Wireless Zero Configuration and WLAN AutoConfig service. Once run, its pop-up window shows all the stored passwords on your computer – both WEP and WPA. Please note that revelation is restricted to passwords that have been stored by the Windows network management utility, and not any other. Another feature helps to delete pass phrases that are no longer required. Wireless Key View, a portable software, runs without any installation. Wireless Key View, a freeware, works on any version of Windows from XP (SP1) to 7. WirelessKeyView v1.33 can be downloaded at http://nirsoft.net/utils /wirelesskeyview.zip. FAQ at http://nirsoft.net/utils/wireless_wep _key_faq.html.
It takes a lot of time to re-install the programs that get deleted during the reformatting. Ninite solves this problem by letting the user choose the programs and applications for installation and automatically installs them one by one. There’s no need to hang around as Ninite carries out a hands-free installation of the chosen programs. Ninite repertoire includes a range of freeware – various browsers, instant messengers, media players, word processors, PDF software, security tools, utilities, compression tools, developer tools, and others. Features: Ninite installs software fast with default settings and says “no” to browser toolbars and other junk; Ninite checks your PC's language and 64-bit support to install the latest, best version of each program; The list of programs and applications represents the A-list of the freeware and open-source world; All Ninite does is automatically download and install the chosen applications, Ninite itself is not installed! Ninite runs on Windows XP/Vista/7 and works in the background unattended and 100 per cent hands-free. To get started, go to Ninite’s Web site at http://www.ninite.com
17 Feb 2010
|Microsoft unveils new mobile software platform|
|Ashlee Vance, The New York Times|
MS, Intel and Nokia team up in hope to give Apple and Google a run for their money, finds Ashlee Vance
|The frenetic pace of the mobile phone industry has forced some of the technology world’s largest players to make a break with the past.|
Microsoft, Intel and Nokia—all leaders in their respective markets—have struggled to capitalise on the rise of a new class of smartphones that can tap into a vast pool of software. So these companies have come to the world’s largest mobile technology conference here with a message of change. They’re willing to abandon tradition if it means getting another shot at the fast-growing mobile device market and blunting the advance of companies like Apple and Google.
On Monday at the Mobile World Congress, Microsoft unveiled a new version of its flagship smartphone software, which was called Windows Mobile but has now been dubbed Windows Phone.
Steve A Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, took the stage for a few minutes before a demonstration of the new software began. “We debated a lot about how much we should position and talk about from whence we have come and what we will show you,” Ballmer said. “At the end of the day, we said, ‘Let’s get on with the show.’”
Windows Phone 7 Series has a cleaner look than most of today’s phone software, with bright blue icons on a black background. One version of the initial screen has four large, square icons for Phone, People, E-Mail and Text functions that Microsoft calls Live Tiles.
Underneath, a rectangular box pulls in calendar information. And below that Microsoft is highlighting its Zune music and video software and its Xbox Live gaming service.
The product marks a rare moment when Microsoft scrapped previous versions of its software in favour of building something new from scratch. Microsoft has spent the past 18 months trying to add gloss and sophistication to a product that had suffered ridicule as being clunky and too wedded to the company’s personal computer roots.
“We think there is a really big opportunity for a fresh start,” said Todd Peters, the vice president at Microsoft in charge of mobile product marketing. “Consumers have an amazing capacity for retrying things.”
Intel and Nokia too have opted for a fresh start. The companies have decided to create a new software platform called MeeGo that they hope will make its way into cars, home phones, smartphones and computers.
At its core, MeeGo stands as a broad attempt to outflank mobile phone software from Google, Apple and Microsoft by creating a product that can bring a similar interface to a wider range of computing devices.
“The next evolution of mobile computing, which is way beyond smartphones, tablets and netbooks, will require a truly open platform,” said Kai Öistämö, Nokia’s head of devices. Historically, Microsoft and Intel have dominated the computing industry hand-in-hand, with Microsoft producing the most-used software and Intel building the most popular chips. But this Wintel duopoly, as it’s sometimes called, has failed to carry over to the mobile world.
Instead, Microsoft finds itself taking yet another crack at building phone software and trying to play the role of the innovator rather than an also-ran mimicking Apple and Google.
For its part, Intel has been forced into the software game so that it can ensure that enough solid applications exist for the company’s Atom chips, which sit in laptops today but have yet to make their way into mobile phones.
So different is this new world order that Microsoft has thus far refused to offer a version of its mobile operating system for the Atom chips, focusing instead on building software for rival ARM chips. Nokia emerged as a natural partner for Intel given the company’s recent struggles in the smartphone arena.
While its leads in overall smartphone market share, Nokia has watched interest in Apple’s iPhone and phones based on Google’s Android software skyrocket. The iPhone, in particular, also opened up the market for mobile applications through Apple’s App Store, which has served up more than 3 billion software downloads.
Intel and Nokia look to team on attracting software developers to MeeGo, and Intel has even backed the idea of running MeeGo on rival chips if it helps the software gain broader interest. Analysts contend that the mobile market remains in a state of flux, leaving plenty of room for these companies to build momentum if they can create something that catches the consumers’ eye.
Microsoft has intended to do just that by reorganising its mobile division and presenting people a phone interface quite unlike anything else on the market. More than two years ago, Microsoft started plucking top executives away from companies in a wide variety of industries, hoping they could revitalise its mobile software group. Mr. Peters brought some marketing muscle over from Staples, where he helped to create the popular “Easy Button” campaign.
Other executives arrived from Procter & Gamble and Nike, as Microsoft sought to find a new way of talking to consumers, since about 86 percent of phones running Windows are sold through retail outlets.
While studies show that consumers tend to react favourably to the Windows brand, they’ve been less enamoured with the way Microsoft’s phone software works. “We need to have a degree of humility as we go about our business,” Peters said. “It has been painful, but it’s getting better.”
Microsoft has also pulled some of its top engineers from other divisions over to the phone group, hoping the workers could provide inspiration and structure around the processes needed to make a polished product on time.
“We debated a lot about how much we should position and talk about from whence we have come and what we will show you,”
CEO, Microsoft corp
|Chatroulette: Voyeurs’ new friend|
A new web site that has been described as ''addictive'' and ''frightening'' is proving a sensation around the world–-and attracting a reputation as a haven for no-holds-barred, explicit material.
|Chatroulette, which was launched in November, has rocketed in popularity thanks to its simple premise: internet video chats with random strangers.|
When users visit the site and switch on their webcams, they are suddenly connected to another, randomly chosen person who is doing precisely the same thing somewhere else in the world. Once they are logged in together, chatters can do anything they like: talk to each other, type messages–or just say goodbye, hit the “next” button and move on in an attempt to find somebody more interesting.
Chatroulette describes itself as a “brand new service for one-on-one text, webcam and microphone-based chat with people around the world”, but no one is sure who started the site. The owners did not respond to an attempt to contact them by email, and they have gone to great pains to protect their identities. This may be because Chatroulette appears to operate largely as an unregulated service and, as a result, has rapidly become a haven for exhibitionists and voyeurs.
A large contingent of people seem to use the service’s string of random connections as the basis for some sort of sex game. Users regularly describe unwanted encounters with all sorts of unsavoury characters, and it has become the defining aspect of the site for some. Veteran blogger Jason Kottke, who tried the site, wrote, “I observed several people drinking liquor, two girls making out, many, many guys who disconnected as soon as they saw I wasn’t female, [and] several girls who disconnected after seeing my face.”
Spending time inside Chatroulette is becoming a peculiar form of entertainment, particularly among students around the world. From just a handful of visitors at launch, it now boasts of more than 10,000 concurrent users at any one time. Although the site says that it “does not tolerate broadcasting obscene, offending, pornographic material” and offers users the option to report unsuitable content, the restrictions do not seem to prevent users from broadcasting explicit videos of themselves online.
|Apple is elusive, but everywhere|
|Kevin J O’Brien, International Herald Tribune|
The biggest gathering in the global mobile phone industry opened on Monday in Barcelona, and much of the talk has been of Apple and its groundbreaking iPhone.
|And its effects can be seen in the products of competitors. Samsung, Nokia, LG and Research In Motion are all promoting touch-screen devices and their own software application stores, two innovations popularised by the iPhone.|
In another corner of the sprawling Fira de Barcelona convention grounds in the city’s centre, more than 50 small software developers, many of whom make applications for the iPhone, praise the device’s capabilities in a specially dedicated hall called App Planet.
Just about the only company that is not talking up Apple is Apple.
Apple has never attended most industry events, including the Mobile World Congress, the biggest in the mobile phone industry. Secretive, tight-lipped and focused, Apple rarely ventures beyond its own well-staged promotions. The company has sent executives to Barcelona but has never taken centrestage.
Yet Apple remains ubiquitous during the show, which runs through till Thursday. In part, its pervasiveness despite its absence is the fruit of the company’s marketing strategy, which emphasises hip, viral advertising and word-of-mouth buzz.
After about a year of rumours and leaks, Apple introduced its iPad tablet computer last month at a theatre in California jammed with journalists and Apple faithful. While the iPad is not a mobile phone, its influence can be felt in Barcelona as well. Makers of small laptops known as netbooks, like Acer, ASUS and Hewlett-Packard, are being called on to explain their plans for making their own tablets. A host of competing iPad-like devices have also surfaced at the show.
But the Apple-centric vibe in Barcelona this year mostly reflects the American company’s growing influence on the global mobile industry, which until the introduction of the first iPhone in 2007 had struggled to convince consumers of the benefits of wireless data.
Since then, Apple has leapfrogged its Asian rivals to become the world’s third-largest maker of smartphones, the fastest-growing part of the mobile phone market. As of December, Apple had a 16.4 per cent share of the market, behind Nokia and Research In Motion, which makes the BlackBerry, according to Strategy Analytics. But Apple is growing faster than either one.
“With the iPhone, Apple has changed the paradigm of the mobile phone industry, just as Apple changed the MP3 industry with the iPod,” said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Gartner, a research firm. “They have shifted the focus from the technology to the services.”
Besides hardware sales, the iPhone has given birth to a booming side business for Apple in mobile software applications. Last year, Gartner estimated consumers had spent $4.2 billion.
Apple divides the revenue from applications with the software’s developers who keep 70 per cent of sales. That left Apple with about $1 billion in application sales in 2009, a figure the company, based in Cupertino, California, would not confirm and does not disclose in its financial reports.
Apple has collected 133,000 applications in its application store, by far the most of any company. With mob application sales seen rising 62 per cent this year to $6.8 billion, according to Gartner, Apple’s own sales prospects are considered solid.
Besides application developers, mobile network operators, which are Apple’s key iPhone sales agents, are the company’s biggest defacto representatives in Barcelona. The newest iPhone, the 3GS, will be part of the official display of T-mobile, the wireless unit of Deutsche Telekom, which sells the device in 12 countries and is the exclusive seller in Germany.
Michael Hagspihl, a T-Mobil vice president in Bonn in charge of relations with cellphone makers, said the iPhone had brought T-Mobile 1.2 million new customers in Germany alone. Should Apple ever decide to sell the iPhone through multiple operators in the United States, T-Mobile would definitely be interested, Hagspihl said.
|YouTube reaches 5th birthday|
It’s hard to believe that YouTube, which now streams more than 1 billion videos a day, only registered its domain name five years ago.
YouTube has become so ingrained in everyday life online that people who want to see the latest viral videos, very old TV commercials and pop videos, great sporting moments or almost anything else flock immediately to the video-hosting web site that delivers in a brief video.
The startup registered its internet domain name, youtube.com, on 14 February 2005, as co-founder and chief executive Chad Hurley recalled on the company blog. However, it was still some way from providing a service, and YouTube wasn’t officially launched until December. No doubt there will be more fifth birthday celebrations then.
Although there were other online video services around at the time, YouTube took off. It made it easy to upload and view videos, and also to embed them on blogs and other web sites, so you didn’t have to go to YouTube to watch them: it was “like Flickr for videos”.
Google bought the company for $1.65 billion in 2006, less than a year after its launch, but is still working on ways to make money out of it.
YouTube has upset some movie studios, TV stations, music companies and other content providers because users often upload clips that they may regard as violations of their copyrights, rather than as free publicity. However, it has also helped lots of ordinary people to reach a vast audience, and achieve some species of fame.
1. Charlie bit my finger - again ! (160,150,052 views to date)
2. Evolution of Dance (137,007,826 views)
3. Miley Cyrus - 7 Things - Official Music Video (HQ) (110,524,702 views)
4. Jeff Dunham - Achmed the Dead Terrorist (106,529,954 views)
5. Hahaha - Small daring boy (107,357,309 views)
Shadow copy, which is automatically turned on in Windows Vista, creates copies on a scheduled basis of files that have changed. This feature which can help recover a file if accidentally deleted is enabled only in Ultimate, Business, and Enterprise editions of Vista, and not in the Home Basic or Home Premium editions.
To enable Shadow Copy Service, included by default, in all editions of Windows® Vista ShadowExplorer can help. It can access the shadow storage and make the point-in-time copies accessible to the user,andd let browsing and retrieval of versions of files and folders. ShadowExplorer v0.7 can be downloaded at http://www.shadowexplorer.com/uploads/ShadowExplorer-0.7-setup.exe.
Please note ShadowExplorer can be a good addition to regular backups, surely not a replacement as a disc failure can cause all data vanish, including the Shadow Copies.
It becomes onerous to search a file if we do not efficiently manage our documents And, our inability to remember the correct name of the file makes it worse. No problem, DocFetcher can help if you have a good idea about the contents of the file/s your are looking for. It can peek and search documents for words to find exactly what you want.
Click the file types that you want to be included in the index, then right-click inside the search scope and choose Create Index.
Choose the folder you want to index and DocFetcher will create an index for all the documents inside that folder. Whenever you want to search just type the term in the search box and hit Enter DocFetcher will present you the results, almost instantaneously.
A click on any of the result opens up a preview of the file, and a double click results in the launch of the file itself. DocFetcher works with Windows and Linux. DocFetcher 1.0.2, an Open Source desktop search application, can be downloaded at http://sourceforge.net/projects/docfetcher/files/
Check out your ISP
ICSI Netalyzr is a service maintained by the Networking Group at the International Computer Science Institute, an affiliate with the University of California, Berkeley. It’s a free service that lets you test and find out more information about the Internet connection you’re subscribed to. Netalyzr can provide you with the inside scoop about your connection and its capabilities by analysing various properties of your Internet connection that you should really care about–-blocking of important services, http caching behaviour and proxy correctness, your DNS server’s resilience to abuse, NAT detection, as well as latency & bandwidth measurements—all the data in a detailed report. The simple 3-step process requires that you have Java installed and takes only a few minutes to complete.
I tried it out and the report I got indicates a serious vulnerability–-DNS cache poisoning–-enables an attacker to intercept and modify effectively all communications of anyone using my ISP! Find out how your ISP is faring at ICSI Netalyzr’s page hosted by UC-Berkley at http://netalyzr.icsi.berkeley.edu/index.html
|DH reader Mahadevan wrote|
Please suggest a freeware utility to retouch photos.
You could try PhotoFiltre v6.4.0 (January 2010) at http://photofiltre.free.fr/utils/PhotoFiltre-en.zip to do simple or advanced adjustments to an image, and also apply a vast range of filters.
10 Feb 2010
|Internet’s future: Next cold war or flying high|
Will the future be cyber attacks and an uneasy balance of terror or cultural collaboration hosted by Google’s servers? finds John Naughton
|The future”, wrote the novelist William Gibson in a justifiably famous aphorism, “is already here: it’s just not evenly distributed”.|
The challenge is to spot those unevenly distributed peeks into our future. The Apple iPad launch provoked a storm of peeking: optimists saw it as a sign that the computer industry had finally got the message that most people can’t be bothered with the mysteries of operating systems and software updates and want an information appliance that “just works”; pessimists saw it as a glimpse into an authoritarian world dominated either by governments or a few powerful companies; sceptics saw it as just another product launch.
Last week provided yet another enigmatic glimpse of what may lie in store. “The Washington Post” said Google, still reeling from the sophisticated cyber attack that allegedly prompted a rethink of its activities in China, had turned to the US National Security Agency for help. The Post reported that there are delicate talks on teaming up with the spooks with the goal of “fortifying Google’s defenses against the kind of espionage-oriented hacking attacks launched from China against it and dozens of other US companies in December”.
If you think this is creepy, then join the club. In terms of collective IQ, Google is the smartest company in cyber space: for five years it’s been taking the cleverest graduates from elite universities and the most experienced computer engineers. It’s been such a magnet for talent that even Microsoft is enraged. In 2005, for example, an ex-Microsoft engineer named Mark Lucovsky alleged in a sworn statement to a Washington state court that Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, became so enraged on hearing that Lucovsky was about to leave Microsoft for Google, that he picked up his chair, and threw it across his office. (Ballmer called this a “gross exaggeration”.)
So Google is unlikely to be turning to the NSA for technical advice. Why then is it calling in the spooks? One reason could be that the world’s dominant internet company is now in the crossfire of early skirmishes of the next cold war.
This thought was reinforced by “Financial Times” columnist Gideon Rachman. He’d been to the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London for a briefing on its annual survey, Military Balance. “The thing I found most interesting,” he said, “was the confirmation that cyber-security is the hot issue … John Chipman, the head of the IISS, says the institute is about to launch a study of cyber-security which raises all sorts of issues. What if a country’s infrastructure could be destroyed as effectively by a cyber-attack as by an invasion of tanks? How do you defend against that? How do you identify the culprits? What does international law have to say – might we have to revise our definitions of what constitutes an act of war?
“Chipman argues, plausibly, that we are now at an equivalent period to the early 1950s. Just as strategists had to devise whole new doctrines to cope with the nuclear age, so they will have to come up with new ideas to cope with the information age.”
Another glimpse of a possible future comes from the British Council. A surprising source of such insights, you might think: One used to associate the council with cultural imperialism and heritage-fuelled nostalgia.
But things have changed. The British Council has got technology. “Learn, share, connect worldwide” is the slogan on its web site. It commissioned Charles Leadbeater to think about the cultural implications of “cloud computing” – i.e. when the network, rather than the PC, becomes the computer.
His report, “Cloud Culture: the future of global cultural relations”, is being launched on Wednesday with a debate at the ICA. It’s a well-informed, provocative sketch of a world in which most cultural products will be published online and held in the “cloud” enabled by the huge server farms of Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, etc. As a primer on the debate between optimists and pessimists about the cultural implications of ubiquitously available internet access, it’ll be hard to beat.
Leadbeater calls himself a “realistic optimist” and thinks a cloud-based approach to cultural relations will build communities of collaboration around shared interests and ideas on an unimaginable scale. Any realistic pessimist will hope he’s right. But the question still hangs there: who controls the cloud? And where does the NSA fit into this?
|Google to add social features to Gmail|
|Ashlee Vance, The New York Times|
This will allow it to mimic the status updates that have driven FB and Twitter to success
|Google is trying once again to capture some of the momentum surrounding social networking companies like Facebook and Twitter by adding new features to Gmail, its popular e-mail service.|
Later this week, Google will introduce add-ons to Gmail that let users post and view messages about their day-to-day activities, according to a person at Google briefed on its plans. This simple tweak to Gmail will allow Google to mimic the status updates that have driven much of the success of Facebook and Twitter, as people return to the services again and again to check out what their friends and co-workers are doing.
To date, Google has allowed users to post only a brief message about their status through its chat system, which is linked to Gmail. The new features would allow a more vibrant back-and-forth among Gmail users. It is not clear whether Google will link the new Gmail features to rival social-networking services.
The Gmail move signals that Google remains serious about becoming a social media force at a time when some of Silicon Valley’s younger start-ups have stolen some of its thunder. “It might look like a minor feature advance, but this is another blow in the war against Facebook,” said Jeremiah Owyang, a partner at Altimeter Group, a technology consulting company.
Google already has a social networking service called Orkut that has proved especially popular in Brazil. It also has a Web browser add-on called Sidewiki that lets people jot down and share information about a web site, and a Profile service where people can post information about themselves.
These efforts have done little to put Google on centre stage when it comes to social networking. Google, in fact, finds itself in a similar position to Microsoft, as a company struggling to figure out how to move into new areas by stretching its traditional strongholds and brand.
Microsoft, a rival to Google in several areas, has invested in Facebook. “You can see the factions starting to line up,” Owyang said. Analysts remain sceptical as to whether this new twist will do much to elevate Google’s position in the social networking realm. That said, the market remains relatively new, and there is room for companies to challenge the likes of Facebook, they said. Google is also expected to create strong ties between Gmail and its YouTube video site and Picasa photo gallery service.
|A plug-in for opening .odf files with the Microsoft Office Suite can be downloaded at http://www.sun.com/software/star/odf_plugin/get.jsp.|
|DH reader Shivnarayan wrote |
How to open .odf files in Word?
A plug-in for opening .odf files with the Microsoft Office Suite can be downloaded at http://www.sun.com/software/star/odf_plugin/get.jsp. Please note the installation process takes quite a bit of time, and is in three parts.
|IPad will choke innovation, open internet advocates|
|Bobbie Johnson, The Guardian|
The Apple iPad’s closed, iPhone-like environment could shut out the next computing revolution, says industry veteran Bobbie Johnson
|Apple’s new iPad tablet computer could hamper innovation and cause long-term damage if it becomes a hit, according to experts.|
Just as Steve Jobs tries to wow the world with the “magical” new device - unveiled on Wednesday at a media-saturated launch event in San Francisco – leading industry figures have told the Guardian that the machine marks a fundamental shift in the way the computer industry works.
The iPad, a 10-inch touchscreen computer that will cost upwards of £300, was greeted by many admirers as a significant step forward. But in developing it using the closed model of the iPhone, industry insiders said, Apple could wrestle even more power away from its rivals and partners.
“It’s chilling,” said Brewster Kahle, a technology veteran and director of the Internet Archive. “We may be seeing the iPhone-ification of the Macintosh.”
The concerns come because — contrary to the predictions of many pundits — the iPad is more like a scaled-up version of the iPhone than a scaled-down laptop computer. That means it can only run one program at a time, and even then those applications must be approved by Apple before they can be loaded on to the machine. This is the opposite of the traditional model used by the computer industry, where the makers of operating systems have little or no control over what software their users buy or download.
Kahle told “The Guardian” that such a lockdown would prevent major innovation from software developers.
“They really control the horizontal and the vertical by going with the iPhone platform... I think it’s discouraging,” he said. “The future is controlled, and it’s controlled by Apple."
Referring to some major innovations like web browsers, email and instant messaging, he added that Apple could easily block in favour of developing a competing product or simply limiting new ideas.
“All of those started out as independent applications by independent organisations that were not in the plan of any of the platform makers,” he said. “If you were to come up with these now on the iPhone, you couldn’t even get out of the starting gate.”
Kahle, whose organisation is trying to assemble a vast library of digital assets for access by the public, is not the only person concerned that the move to what Harvard professor Jonathan Zittrain calls “tethered appliances” could have long-lasting effects on modern culture.
The Free Software Foundation staged a protest at the launch event and argued that the iPad could set a precedent that would fundamentally change the way we related to technology.
“This past year, we have seen how human rights and democracy protesters can have the technology they use turned against them by the corporations who supply the products and services they rely on,” said Peter Brown, executive director of the FSF.
“Your computer should be yours to control. By imposing such restrictions on users, Steve Jobs is building a legacy that endangers our freedom for his profits.”
Apple has previously come in for criticism for its seemingly arbitrary approval policy for applications submitted for use on the iPhone – a system that has seen some applications banned from going on sale for containing “sexual content”, while allowing others get through.
Last summer, Google accused its Silicon Valley neighbour of unfairly blocking rival companies from putting their software on the iPhone, a claim that led to an investigation by US regulators.
Kahle, who oversees the OpenLibrary project that aims to put millions of books online, also said that he hoped Apple’s iTunes model would not become as dominant as it has in the music world – and that the company would open up the system to benefit everyone.
“Apple is going towards having a single store and aggregating everyone into that store. That is not the web, that is a pre-web world. We think that you not only want interesting applications that weren’t predicted and weren’t previously approved by Apple, but you want people to be able to set up and sell and lend books. Does this do that? I see no indications yet.”
|Can ‘do-it-yourself’ chip do it for Apple?|
|By Ashlee Vance and Brad Stone, The New York Times|
Sure, the screen is nice. But the iPad’s most important component, at least for Apple’s future, may be the A4, the fingernail-size chip at the tablet’s heart.
|With the A4, Apple has taken another step toward challenging the norms of the mobile device industry. Device makers typically buy their primary chips from specialised microprocessor companies. But for the iPad, Apple chose to design its own -creating unique bonds between the chip and Apple’s software. |
The do-it-yourself approach gives Apple the chance to build faster, more battery-friendly products than rivals and helps the company to keep product development secret.
But designing its own processors burdens Apple with additional engineering costs and potential product delays. It also forces the company to hire — and retain — experienced chip designers. Several who joined the company in 2008 after an acquisition have already left for a secretive start-up.
Though chip industry experts have yet to put the iPad through their customary rigorous tests, Apple’s demonstrations left them underwhelmed.
“I don’t see anything that looks that compelling,” said Linley Gwennap, a chip analyst at the Linley Group. “It doesn’t seem like something all that new, and, if it is, they are not getting far with it.”
As he unveiled the iPad last week, Steven P Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, discussed the A4 with his customary hyperbolic flair. He heralded it as “the most advanced chip” Apple had ever used and said it was crucial to the iPad’s speed, reliability and 10-hour battery life.
“We have an incredible group that does custom silicon at Apple,” Jobs said, adding that the A4 has “everything in this one chip, and it screams.” Apple declined to discuss details of the chip beyond what it had said publicly.
Apple bought its way into the chip business in 2008, acquiring the 150-employee start-up PA Semi. That company had been working on chips that could handle large volumes of data while consuming very low amounts of power.
PA Semi’s engineers, most of them veterans from other chip companies in Silicon Valley, had just the type of expertise that a company making music players, laptops and phones would want. Over all, the A4-powered iPad’s battery life and speed seem similar to those of computers running on competing chips. A wave of tiny laptops known as smartbooks will arrive shortly after the iPad starts selling in March, running at the same speed as the iPad while offering up to 16 hours of battery life when playing video. These will run on chips by Nvidia and Qualcomm that have designs reminiscent of the A4.
Apple has a history of trying to ostentatiously best the competition. It promoted the MacBook Air, introduced in 2008, as the thinnest laptop ever. By building the A4 into the iPad, Apple appears to have bought a small lead over rivals — or at least kept pace with them — in this emerging class of mobile devices.
“From what we have seen so far, Apple’s product seems to stack up evenly with the competition,” said Dean McCarron, a chip analyst with Mercury Research. “Clearly, Apple is using their own metric for whatever ‘best’ is.” Apple’s laptops and desktops run on Intel chips, while Samsung has been selling Apple the primary chips for the iPhone.
Analysts believe Samsung is actually manufacturing the A4 as well, using a common industry design for the core of the chip, while Apple has tweaked other parts of the processor package to suit its needs.
Apple’s other mobile devices like the iPhone and iPod Touch could conceivably all run on Apple-designed chips someday. Analysts point out that it often takes about two years for chip designers to create something from scratch, test it and have a finished product arrive from a factory.
Some of the chip engineers Apple gained in its purchase of PA Semi appear to have already left the company. According to partial records on the job networking site LinkedIn, at least half a dozen former PA Semi engineers have left Apple and turned up at a start-up called Agnilux, based in San Jose. The company was co-founded by one of PA’s leading system architects, Mark Hayter.
NeitherHayter nor other onetime PA workers who left Apple for Agnilux were willing to discuss either company’s plans. According to two people with knowledge of the two companies, who were unwilling to be named because the matter is delicate, some PA engineers left Apple a few months after the acquisition because they were given grants of Apple stock at an unattractive price.
Apple still appears committed to its chip plans. Even the analysts who dismiss the A4 as a “me too” product say Apple’s decision to give it a name and discuss it so publicly indicates that custom chips are a priority.
Smereka is a personal freeform database and a Personal information manager. It can help organize data in an hierarchical and searchable database. Yes, we could use “Word” to store data, but, we all know how cumbersome it can be to launch the massive "Office" software to view just a paragraph or two of the text. Smereka stores files and notes in a single file - Smereka database. The details get indexed on the fly, yes, you can search for them immediately after adding them to the database. The hierarchical system of item storage of “Smereka” facilitates sorting out the items in a tree-like structure. The items can be moved, copied from branch to branch, or icons assigned. As soon as a tree item is clicked the stored info is displayed on the screen, and in most of the cases you would not need an external program. If you have admin rights on your PC you can download the 2.9 MB Smereka v1.1.1 (10 January 2010 athttp://yp.lviv.ua/smereka/download/smereka_setup.exe. Otherwise, the 2.7 MB self-extracting archive (limited functionality) can be downloaded at http://yp.lviv.ua/smereka/download/smereka_archive.exe.
This is the current version of CCleaner mentioned in this column more than two years ago. It is a system optimization, privacy and cleaning tool, its features include clean up of details lodged in browsers - removes details of temporary files, history, cookies, autocomplete form history, and index.dat. of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, and Safari; and Windows - Recycle Bin, Recent Documents, Temporary files and Log files. CCleaner can also perform the role of registry cleaner as well - can remove unused and old entries, including File Extensions, ActiveX Controls, ClassIDs, ProgIDs, Uninstallers, Shared DLLs, Fonts, Help Files, Application Paths, Icons, Invalid Shortcuts and more; and Third-party applications: Removes temp files and recent file lists (MRUs) from many apps including Media Player, eMule, Kazaa, Google Toolbar, Netscape, Microsoft Office, Nero, Adobe Acrobat, WinRAR, WinAce, WinZip and. CCleaner has a comprehensive backup feature too. The 3.20 MB CCleaner v2.28 (28 January 2010), affirmed by its developers as 100% Spyware free, can be downloaded at http://download.piriform.com/ccsetup227.exe.
DiskSmartView can retrieve the S.M.A.R.T information (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) from IDE/SATA disks to help assess whether there's a problem in the disk drive. This information would include the disk model/firmware/ serial number, cylinders/heads, power-on hours (POH), internal temperature, disk errors rate, and in particular the count on the number of reallocated sectors which can give an idea when the drive is likely to crash! DiskSmartView doesn't require any installation process or additional dll files, simply run the executable file - DiskSmartView.exe. You can save all S.M.A.R.T information and attributes retrieved from your IDE disks to HTML/ text/ xml/csv file (Ctrl+S) or copy them onto the clipboard (Ctrl+C) and paste them to Excel or other spreadsheet. The mere 39 KB DiskSmartView v1.02 (14 Jan 2010) can be downloaded at http://snipurl.com/disksmartview. To know more about how to analyze the S.M.A.R.T information you could browse S.M.A.R.T page at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S.M.A.R.T. N S Soundar Rajan
27 Jan 2010
|Pentagon toys with options to deter further Chinese digital attacks|
|In cyber war, US has no easy deterrent|
On a Monday morning earlier this month, top Pentagon leaders gathered to simulate how they would respond to a sophisticated cyberattack aimed at paralysing the nation’s power grids, its communications systems or its financial networks.
The results were dispiriting. The enemy had all the advantages: stealth, anonymity and unpredictability. No one could pinpoint the country from which the attack came, so there was no effective way to deter further damage by threatening retaliation. What’s more, the military commanders noted that they even lacked the legal authority to respond — especially because it was never clear if the attack was an act of vandalism, an attempt at commercial theft or a state-sponsored effort to cripple the United States, perhaps as a prelude to a conventional war.
What some participants in the simulation knew — and others did not — was that a version of their nightmare had just played out in real life, not at the Pentagon where they were meeting, but in the far less formal war rooms at Google Inc. Computers at Google and more than 30 other companies had been penetrated, and Google’s software engineers quickly tracked the source of the attack to seven servers in Taiwan, with footprints back to the Chinese mainland.
After that, the trail disappeared into a cloud of angry Chinese government denials, and then an ugly exchange of accusations between Washington and Beijing. That continued on Monday, with Chinese assertions that critics were trying to “denigrate China” and that the United States was pursuing “hegemonic domination” in cyberspace.
These recent events demonstrate how quickly the nation’s escalating cyberbattles have outpaced the rush to find a deterrent, something equivalent to the Cold-war era strategy of threatening nuclear retaliation.
So far, despite millions of dollars spent on studies, that quest has failed. Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made the most comprehensive effort yet to warn potential adversaries that cyberattacks would not be ignored, drawing on the language of nuclear deterrence.
But Clinton did not say how the US would respond, beyond suggesting that countries that knowingly permit cyberattacks to be launched from their territories would suffer damage to their reputations, and could be frozen out of the global economy.
There is, in fact, an intense debate inside and outside the government about what the US can credibly threaten. One alternative could be a diplomatic démarche, like the one the State Department said was forthcoming, but was still not delivered, in the Google case. Economic retaliation and criminal prosecution are also possibilities.
Inside the National Security Agency, which secretly scours overseas computer networks, officials have debated whether evidence of an imminent cyberattack on the United States would justify a pre-emptive American cyberattack — something the president would have to authorise. In an extreme case, like evidence that an adversary was about to launch an attack intended to shut down power stations across America, some officials argue that the right response might be a military strike.
“We are now in the phase that we found ourselves in during the early 1950s, after the Soviets got the bomb,” said Joseph Nye, a professor at the Kennedy School at Harvard. “It won’t have the same shape as nuclear deterrence, but what you heard Secretary Clinton doing was beginning to explain that we can create some high costs for attackers.”
When the Pentagon summoned its top regional commanders for meetings with President Obama on January 11, the war game prepared showed a simulated cyberattack.
And the participants emerged with a worrisome realisation. Because the Internet has blurred the line between military and civilian targets, an adversary can cripple a country, say, freeze its credit markets, without ever taking aim at a government installation or a military network, meaning that the Defence Department’s advanced capabilities may not be brought to bear short of a presidential order.
“The fact of the matter,” said one senior intelligence official, “is that unless Google had told us about the attack on it and other companies, we probably never would have seen it. When you think about that, it’s really scary.”
William J Lynn III, the deputy Defence Secretary, who oversaw the simulation, said in an interview after the exercise that America’s concepts for protecting computer networks reminded him of one of defensive warfare’s great failures, the Maginot Line of pre-World War II France.
Lynn, one of the Pentagon’s top strategists for computer network operations, argues that the billions spent on defensive shields surrounding America’s banks, businesses and military installations provide a similarly illusory sense of security.
“A fortress mentality will not work in cyber,” he said. The Pentagon simulation and the nearly simultaneous real-world attacks on Google and more than 30 other companies show that those firewalls are falling fast. But if it is obvious that the government cannot afford to do nothing about such breaches, it is also clear that the old principles of retaliation — you bomb Los Angeles, we’ll destroy Moscow — just do not work.
“We are looking beyond just the pure military might as the solution to every deterrence problem,” said General Kevin P Chilton, in charge of the military’s Strategic Command, which defends military computer networks. “You could deter a country with some economic moves, for example.”
But first you would have to figure out who was behind the attack. “You have to be quite careful about attributions and accusations,” said a senior administration official deeply involved in dealing with the Chinese incident with Google.
Nonetheless, the White House said in a statement that “deterrence has been a fundamental part of the administration’s cybersecurity efforts from the start,” citing work in the past year to protect networks.
In nuclear deterrence, both the Americans and the Soviets knew it was all or nothing: the Cuban missile crisis was resolved out of fear of catastrophic escalation. But in cyberattacks, the damage can range from the minor to the catastrophic, from slowing computer searches to bringing down a country’s cellphone networks, neutralising its spy satellites, or crashing its electrical grid or its air traffic control systems. It is difficult to know if small attacks could escalate into bigger ones.
Clinton went down that road in her speech on Thursday, describing how a country that cracked down on Internet freedom or harboured groups that conduct cyberattacks could be ostracised. But though sanctions might work against a small country, few companies are likely to shun a market the size of China, or Russia, because they disapprove of how those governments control cyberspace or use cyberweapons.
That is what makes the Google-China standoff so fascinating. Google broke the silence that usually surrounds cyberattacks; most American banks or companies do not want to admit their systems were pierced. Google has said it will stop censoring searches conducted by Chinese, even if that means being thrown out of China. The threat alone is an attempt at deterrence: Google’s executives are betting that Beijing will back down, lift censorship of searches and crack down on the torrent of cyberattacks that pour out of China every day. If not, millions of young Chinese will be deprived of its search engine, and be left to the ones controlled by their government.
John Markoff, David E Sanger and Thom Shanker
The New York Times
* A series of coordinated cyberattacks hit the US government. The attacks, known as “Titan Rain,” may have been organised by China, but there is no conclusive evidence that the government was involved.
March 29, 2009
* A vast Internet surveillance system aimed at South Asian countries is uncovered by Canadian researchers. The system, called “Ghostnet,” is largely based on Hainan Island off the coast of China, but there is no evidence that the Chinese government is involved in the espionage.
July 4, 2009
* A rash of cyberattacks hits US and South Korean targets. South Korea blames North Korea, but no evidence is forthcoming.
January 12, 2010
* Google announces it is prepared to withdraw from China, citing attacks from hackers based in China. The attacks were aimed at Google, along with 34 other companies or entitles, many of them located in Silicon Valley.
January 8, 2008
* President Bush approves a national security directive that formalises efforts to defend the federal government against cyberattacks.
* The Department of Homeland Security sponsors a war game called Cyber Storm II. which simulates a large-scale cyberattack against the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The study finds that such an attack could cause major damage to the global financial system.
February 9, 2000
* Melissa Hathaway, an analyst in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, is asked to lead a study to develop a US cyber-deterrence strategy. The classified project has been completed, but has not yet been used by the Obama administration.
May 29, 2009
* The Obama administration announces the creation of the United States Cyber Command, a major new military force for the Department of Defence. The command was supposed to be operational fast October, but has been delayed by bureaucratic infighting.
December 22, 2009
* President Obama makes Howard A Schmidt the White House cyber-security coordinator.
In an address on January 21, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called on to China to investigate the attack on Google.
|Media chew on Apple’s tablet for revival|
With the widely anticipated introduction of a tablet computer at an event here on Wednesday, Apple may be giving the media industry a kind of time machine — a chance to undo mistakes of the past.
Almost all media companies have run aground in the Internet Age as they gave away their print and video content on the web and watched paying customers drift away as a result.
People who have seen the tablet say Apple will market it not just as a way to read news, books and other material, but also a way for companies to charge for all that content. By marrying its famously slick software and slender designs with the iTunes payment system, Apple could help create a way for media companies to alter the economics and consumer attitudes of the digital era.
This opportunity, however, comes with a sizable catch: Steven P Jobs.
Jobs, CEO, made Apple the most important distributor of music by imposing its own will on the music labels, bullying them into accepting Apple’s pricing and other terms. Apple sold lots of music, but the music labels claimed that iTunes had destroyed the concept of the album and damaged their already deteriorating bottom lines.
With the new tablet, media companies could be submitting themselves to similar pricing restrictions and sacrificing their direct relationship with customers to Apple.
For now, at least, the technology and media industries are looking at the brighter side. “Steve believes in old media companies and wants them to do well,” said a person who has seen the device and is familiar with Apple’s marketing plan for it, but who did not want to be named because talking about it might alienate him from the company. “He believes democracy is hinged on a free press and that depends on there being a professional press.”
The tablet will run all the applications of the iPhone and iPod Touch, have a persistent wireless connection over 3G cellphone networks and Wi-Fi, and will be built with a 10-inch colour display, allowing newspapers, magazines and book publishers to deliver their products with an eye to the design that had grabbed readers in print.
Their optimism for the tablet also stems from consumers’ willingness to spend money using mobile devices. In the last decade, while people downloaded music illegally to their desktop computers, they happily paid small amounts of money on their cellphones to download ring tones and send text messages.
The iPhone has provided further proof that the economics of mobile devices are unique: the Apple App Store is expected to generate an estimated $1.4 billion this year, according to an analysis by Piper Jaffray.
And already big media companies are all over the concept of a tablet. The New York Times Company, for example, is developing a version of its newspaper for the tablet, according to a person briefed on the effort, although executives declined to say what sort of deal had been struck.
On Monday, “The Times” also announced that its media group division had created a new segment for “reader applications,” and named Yasmin Namini, the senior vice president for marketing and circulation, to head it. Executives said the timing was coincidental, prompted not by the Apple device specifically, but by the growing importance to “The Times” of electronic reading devices in general.
Two magazine publishers, Condé Nast and Time Inc, have also created mockups of their magazines for tablets, even before such devices have hit the market. “Apple upended the smartphone market with the introduction of the iPhone, and it’s likely that they will, if they enter the tablet market, lead the pace there,” said Thomas J Wallace, editorial director of Condé Nast. He said that “2010 is going to be the year of the tablet, and we feel we are in a very good position for it.”
To successfully sell their material on the coming wave of tablets from Apple and other hardware makers like Hewlett-Packard, media companies may first have to adjust other parts of their digital strategies — so consumers don’t simply use the tablet’s browser to get the same content free on the web.
Such shifts are under way.
In October, “The Wall Street Journal”, which is owned by the News Corp, began charging for access for certain elements of its iPhone application. “Esquire” and “GQ” have taken steps toward charging for digital content, offering iPhone versions of their magazines for $2.99 for each issue.
The December issue of “GQ” was downloaded from the apple store almost 7,000 times, and twice as many times for its January issue. Last week, “The New York Times” announced plans to begin charging, by 2011, frequent web site visitors who are not also newspaper subscribers to read the online version.
Media companies may have to swallow hard before tethering their futures to any high-tech company, let alone Apple. Many publishers believe their economic health depends on finding a direct line to their customers, and it is not clear whether Apple — and other aggregators of Internet content — will allow that.
However, Apple, which makes most of its money selling devices, not content, has shown itself in some cases to be a more benevolent warden of online content, than, say, Amazon.com. Unlike Amazon with the Kindle, Apple allows application makers to set their own prices; some, like “The Financial Times,” give away applications for the iPhone, but then bill customers directly for repeat use.
Nevertheless, concern over preserving the customer relationship is one reason, late last year, that major publishers including Time, Condé Nast, Meredith, the News Corporation and Hearst announced they had formed a consortium, called Next Issue Media, that plans to run its own online store selling digital issues and collecting consumer information.
One branch of big media whose fortunes may not be lifted by an Apple tablet, at least initially, is the TV. Apple has also talked to TV networks about offering access, for a monthly fee. But perhaps smarting from their experiences with Apple, many of the old-line media companies shrugged at (or totally dismissed) Apple’s offers.
Brad Stone and Stephanie Clifford
20 Jan 2010
|By Steve Lohr, The New York Times|
The recent computer attacks on Google left every corporate network in the world looking a little less safe...
Google’s confrontation with China — over government censorship in general and specific attacks on its systems — is an exceptional case, of course, extending to human rights and international politics as well as high-tech spying. But the intrusion into Google’s computers and related attacks from within China on some 30 other companies point to the rising sophistication of such assaults and the vulnerability of even the best defenses, security experts say.
“The Google case shines a bright light on what can be done in terms of spying and getting into corporate networks,” said Edward Stroz, a former high-tech crime agent with the FBI who now heads a computer security investigation firm in New York.
Computer security is an ever-escalating competition between the black-hat attackers and white-hat defenders. One of the attackers’ main tools is malicious software, known as malware, which has steadily evolved in recent years. Malware was once mainly viruses and worms, digital pests that gummed up and sometimes damaged personal computers and networks.
Malware today, however, is likely to be more subtle and selective, nesting inside corporate networks. And it can be a tool for industrial espionage, transmitting digital copies of trade secrets, customer lists, future plans and contracts.
Corporations and government agencies spend billions of dollars a year on specialised security software to detect and combat malware. Still, the black hats seem to be gaining the upper hand.
In a survey of 443 companies and government agencies published last month, the Computer Security Institute found that 64 percent reported malware infections, up from 50 percent the previous year. The financial loss from security breaches was $234,000 on average for each organisation.
Security experts say employee awareness and training are a crucial defenses. Often, malware infections are a result of high-tech twists on old-fashioned cons. One scam, for example, involves small USB flash drives, left in a company parking lot, adorned with the company logo. Curious employees pick them up, put them in their computers and open what looks like an innocuous document. In fact, once run, it is software that collects passwords and other confidential information on a user’s computer and sends it to the attackers. More advanced malware can allow an outsider to completely take over the PC and, from there, explore a company’s network.
Other techniques for going inside companies involve exploiting weaknesses in website or network-routing software, using those openings as gateways for malware.
To combat leaks of confidential information, network security software looks for anomalies in network traffic - large files and rapid rates of data transmission, especially coming from corporate locations where confidential information is housed.
“Fighting computer crime is a balance of technology and behavioural science, understanding the human dimension of the threat,” said Stroz, the former FBI agent and security investigator.
As cellphones become more powerful, they offer new terrain for malware to exploit in new ways. Recently, security experts have started seeing malware that surreptitiously switches on a cellphone’s microphone and camera. “It turns a smartphone into a surveillance device,” said Mark D Rasch, a computer security consultant in Bethesda, who formerly prosecuted computer crime for the Justice Department.
Hacked cellphones, Rasch said, can also provide vital corporate intelligence because they can disclose their location. The whereabouts of a cellphone belonging to an investment banker who is representing a company in merger talks, he said, could provide telling clues to rival bidders.
Security experts say the ideal approach is to carefully identify a corporation’s most valuable intellectual property and data, and place it on a separate computer network not linked to the internet.
“Sometimes the cheapest and best security solution is to lock the door and don’t connect,” said James P Litchko who is a manager at Cyber Security Professionals, a consulting firm. Some companies go further, building “Faraday cages” to house their most critical computers and data. These cages typically have a metal grid structure built into the walls, so no electromagnetic or cellphone transmissions can come in or out. defenses contractors, aerospace companies and some automakers have built Faraday cages, named for the 19th-century English scientist Michael Faraday, who designed them to shield electrical devices from lightning and other shocks.
But in the Internet era, isolationism is often an impractical approach for many companies. Sharing information and knowledge with industry partners and customers is seen as the path to greater flexibility and efficiency.
Most of that collaboration and communication is done over the internet, increasing the risk of outside attacks. And the ubiquity of internet access inside companies has its own risks. In a case of alleged industrial theft that became public recently, a software engineer at Goldman Sachs was accused last year of stealing proprietary software used in high-speed trading, just before he left for another firm. The engineer, who pleaded not guilty, had uploaded the software to a server computer in Germany, prosecutors say.
The complexity of software code from different suppliers, as it intermingles in corporate networks and across the internet, also opens the door to security weaknesses that malware writers exploit. One quip among computer security experts is: “The sum of the parts is a hole.”
The long-term answer, some experts assert, lies in setting the software business on a path to becoming a mature industry, with standards, defined responsibilities and liability for security gaps, guided by forceful self-regulation or by the government.
Just as the government eventually stepped in to mandate seat belts in cars and safety standards for aircraft, says James A Lewis, a computer security expert at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, the time has come for software.
Lewis, who advised the Obama administration about online security last spring, recalled that he served on a White House advisory group on secure public networks in 1996. At the time, he recommended a hands-off approach, assuming that market incentives for the participants would deliver internet security.
Today, Lewis says he was mistaken. “It’s a classic market failure - the market hasn’t delivered security,” he said. “Our economy has become so dependent on this fabulous technology — the internet — but it’s not safe. And that’s an issue we’ll have to wrestle with.”
|DH reader Pankaj wrote:|
Please suggest an online photo editor. I do not want to download any.
Try Photobucket at photobucket.com. It is easy to use and the features include photo hosting and a image sharing platform.
13 Jan 2010
Tom Chatfield argues that gaming imparts a range of new, vitally important skills
|What does playing computer games do to us? A YouGov poll has stirred up familiar worries about the effects of new media on children’s communication skills, saying that one in six children under the age of seven in England has difficulty talking – a problem that will have many worried parents looking at games consoles and wondering how far their children’s onscreen delights are implicated in this decline.|
Anyone who has played video games, or watched their children playing, will know that they are an exceptionally compelling medium. As Jean Gross, the government’s new communication champion for children, noted, overbusy parents can spend dangerously little time talking to their children. Far easier to plonk them down in front of a mesmerising screen.
A lack of parental time and engagement is self-evidently a bad thing, as is the excessive use of any one medium. Yet this vision of gaming as a passive, inert activity does little to help struggling parents. For perhaps the most remarkable thing about modern video games is the degree to which they offer not a sullen and silent unreality, but a realm that’s thick with difficulties, obligations, judgments and allegiances.
If we are to understand the 21st century and the generation who will inherit it, it’s crucial that we learn to describe the dynamics of this gaming life: a place that’s not so much about escaping the commitments and interactions that make friendships “real” as about a sophisticated set of satisfactions with their own increasingly urgent reality and challenges.
Take the idea of scarcity. In the real world, there isn’t enough of everything to go round and people suffer as a result. In the digital world, there is suffusion: anything can be duplicated almost endlessly at negligible cost. We are free to indulge ourselves to the utmost degree. Except, it turns out, people are rather attached to scarcity – and to difficulty, and to hard work, and to all those things that the narcissistic digital realm allegedly teaches us to avoid.
We are deeply and fundamentally attracted, in fact, to games: those places where efforts and excellence are rewarded, where the challenges and demands are severe, and where success often resembles nothing so much as a distilled version of the worldly virtues of dedicated learning and rigorously co-ordinated effort.
The very first virtual worlds were indeed utopias. Places like The Palace, which opened its doors in 1995, offered users a kind of enchanted chatroom where they could interact with each other within graphical locations (“palaces”) that they had themselves created.
Within the limitations of the technology, you could have and do anything you liked. It was a utopia, and it was boring. Not only did people prefer virtual worlds in which there were brutally strict limits on available resources, and where vast amounts of effort had to be expended to obtain these resources; they were actually prepared to pay money to spend time in these scarce worlds.
People liked other things, too: banding together to earn greater rewards; the escalating prospect of greater and greater challenges, involving levels of achievement at the top end only attainable by hundreds of hours of effort. Take the processes involved in playing Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console in its own online arena, Xbox Live – a digital destination that now boasts more than 20 million users.
Thanks to the way Xbox Live works, anyone playing on Microsoft’s network isn’t just trying to beat individual games; they’re also working, often very hard, to earn cumulative “achievement” points for meeting particular targets in each and every game on the system, in an effort to lift their individual score ever higher in the global rankings. It’s this pattern of effort and reward, validated by a networked community of players, that makes modern games such an awesome engine for engagement.
A virtual world is a tremendous leveller in terms of wealth, age, appearance, ethnicity and such like – a crucial fact for anyone who isn’t in the optimum social category of being, say, attractive and affluent and aged between 20 and 35. It’s also a place where “you” are composed entirely of your words and actions: something that breeds within and around many games an often extraordinarily complex network of conventions and debates that are integral to a community held together only by voluntary bonds.
Visit any website devoted to hosting player discussions of games like World of Warcraft, for instance, and you’ll find not hundreds but tens of thousands of comments flying between players who debate every aspect of the game, from weapon-hit percentages to mathematical analyses of the most efficient sequence in which to use a character’s abilities. It will range from the sublime to the ridiculous, and will be riddled with private codes, slang, trolls, flames, and everything else the internet so excels at delivering.
|GenNext: Tech savvy with a touch of tradition|
They’ve never known a world without the Internet, but they still prefer to meet their friends offline.
|A new survey of eight to 14-year-old Europeans by Walt Disney Co showed that the children of Generation X are web savvy, videogame-playing environmentalists who love their parents. |
The survey of 3,020 children across Europe – who Disney has dubbed “Generation XD” – said they embraced cutting-edge technology and traditional family values at the same time, using the Internet as a toy and a tool for homework.
“Generation XD kids have a heightened understanding of socio-economic issues, deep family values and are already demonstrating behavioural patterns that will have a deep impact on the future,” Victoria Hardy, executive director of EMEA Research for Disney Channels, said.
Despite the prevalence and popularity of social networking sites like Facebook, almost a third of respondents said that they preferred to meet friends face-to-face, although 44 per cent said the internet made it easier to keep in touch with them.
More than seven in 10 children said their most common use of the Internet was for gaming, while 59 per cent said that they used the web in the course of doing their homework.
The youngsters from Britain, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Poland also expressed a strong sense of social responsibility, with 90 per cent saying it was important to look after the planet, and 74 per cent saying they recycled regularly.
Traditional values shone through with 70 per cent of respondents saying that saving pocket money was important to them and that the people they most admired were their parents.
Professions which have been around a lot longer than the information superhighway continued to attract the aspirations of today’s European youths. Respondents said their top five professions were veterinarian, teacher, professional soccer player, doctor and police officer.
“As the kids of Generation X, who embraced all mod cons in their twenties, you’d expect Generation XD to be fully versed in how the internet can help them,” said Tom Dunmore, consulting editor of gadget and consumer electronics magazine Stuff.
“What’s interesting though, is how they are embracing both cutting edge technology and traditional family values in their approach to life.”
Oxford Centre for Research into Parenting and Children Director Ann Buchanan said that some studies have made the case that prolonged exposure to TV and computers can result in increased obesity and violence in children.
“The technology revolution has been a huge benefit to children enabling them to socialise and access information - provided they know how to use it,” she said.
|DH reader Nagarajan wrote|
Please suggest resources to help fix Mac Problems.
You could browse the article "8 Troubleshooting Resources to Help You Fix Your Mac Problems", at http://snipurl.com/fixmacproblems
30 Dec 2009
|UK website archives to be fast-tracked|
New legal powers to allow the British Library to archive millions of web sites are to be fast-tracked by ministers after the Guardian exposed long delays in introducing the measures.
|The culture minister, Margaret Hodge, is pressing for the faster introduction of powers to allow six major libraries to copy every free web site based in the UK as part of their efforts to record Britain’s cultural, scientific and political history.|
The Guardian reported in October that senior executives at the British Library and National Library of Scotland (NLS) were dismayed at the government’s failure to implement the powers in the six years since they were established by an act of parliament in 2003.
The libraries warned that they had now lost millions of pages recording events such as the MPs’ expenses scandal, the release of the Lockerbie bomber and the Iraq war, and would lose millions more, because they were not legally empowered to “harvest” these sites.
The powers are very similar to copyright laws which require every publisher in the UK to provide the libraries - chiefly the British Library and the NLS, but also the National Library of Wales, the Bodleian in Oxford, Cambridge University library and Trinity College Dublin - with copies of every printed book, magazine, journal and newspaper.
The internet is fast becoming the dominant form of publication in the UK: about a third of all works currently published are only in digital form and that number is increasing dramatically. Ministers predict the UK will host 15m web sites by 2016 but under existing powers the British Library would be able to archive only 1 per cent of them.
Ministers originally decided to postpone all the new powers until after the next general election, blaming their advisory panel and internal hold-ups for the delay. The libraries feared this would mean further lengthy delays as the Tories, widely thought to be favourites to win the election, have so far refused to announce any plans to enact these powers.
In an attempt to head off criticism, Hodge has now launched a consultation, due to end in March, which would allow the libraries to copy and archive free sites using the .uk domain name and all other UK-based sites. There are more than 4m free websites active in the UK and proposed new domain names such as .sco for Scotland and .cym for Wales will also be included.
Hodge has conceded she is unlikely to get these powers in force before the next election but officials from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: “We will make as much progress as we can in the time available.”
However, paid-for web sites – which may soon include the Times, The Sun and all other News International titles under plans for paywalls outlined by Rupert Murdoch - will still be closed off to the copyright libraries.
Hodge has again delayed introducing legal powers to harvest websites which charge to access them, or have restricted access, until after the election. She said there are still legal and technical issues to resolve.
Martyn Wade, Scotland’s national librarian said: “We hope that it will lead to meaningful and rapid progress being made towards implementation of legislation which will enable us to collect the published knowledge of Scotland in electronic form; knowledge which is currently being lost.”
Lynne Brindley, chief executive of the British Library, said: “By 2020, the British Library must collect, preserve and provide access to that material. I very much welcome this consultation.”
|Twitter adds location tracking to the mix|
Twitter, the micro-blogging service, has bought Mixer Labs, a startup created by two former Google employees.
|Twitter, the micro-blogging business, is buying a startup called Mixer Labs in an effort to pinpoint the locations of people posting messages on its service.|
Mixer Labs, founded by two former Google employees, has developed a location-tracking tool called GeoAPI. Twitter Chief Executive, Evan Williams, believes GeoAPI could prove helpful by showing where people are as they share what they are seeing or experiencing.
Twitter co-founder Biz Stone wrote in a blog: “When current location is added to tweets, new and valuable services emerge – everything from breaking news to finding friends or local businesses can be dramatically enhanced.”
“Our efforts in this area have just begun. Today, we’re excited to announce a major new step into the location-aware future.”
Financial terms of the deal, which was announced last week were not disclosed.
Twitter has recently signed agreements with Microsoft and Google to allow the two technology companies access to its data for use in their search engines, Facebook has also agreed a similar deal. Silicon Valley speculation suggested that the site could be charging Google $15m and Microsoft $10m for use of the data – leading to the idea that the startup could be making a profit.
The speculation has countered online criticism about Twitter’s lack of a business model and difficulties in making money.
About 58 million people around the world use Twitter, which accommodates messages of no more than 140 characters. The company which is based in San Francisco, has raised about $155m from investors since its inception in 2006.
In little more than a year, applications for Apple’s popular iPhone have become a sensation - with more than 100,000 downloadable programs that do everything from stargazing to virtual farting.
But now one of America’s biggest military contractors is taking the concept to extremes, by building a series of apps for use on the battlefield.
At a conference in Arizona on Wednesday, US defence company Raytheon announced its plans to launch a new range of military-oriented programs that can turn the popular touchscreen mobile phone into a tool for use in war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
The first application in its plans, called One Force Tracker, uses satellite positioning and mobile networks to give soldiers constantly updating field maps that track the position of friendly troops and enemy fighters in real time.
The program—dubbed a “situational awareness application” by Raytheon executives—would combine data from many sources to try and give an accurate picture of hotspots such as sniper hideouts and vantage points.
Troops could also use their iPhones for secure communication, said the company.
“We are committed to providing innovative technology solutions for warfighters and all of our customers,” said Jay Smart, chief technology officer of Raytheon’s intelligence and information systems business.
The application can run on ordinary iPhone handsets – a decision that came, Smart said, because building software for the gadget was cheaper and simpler than some of the expensive options specifically designed for military use.
“Raytheon’s experience with mobile communications in the tactical environment and the government customers’ need for low-power, simple plug-and-play applications led to the development of a real-time situational awareness application using Apple’s touch technologies,” he said.
It is not the first time the iPhone has been linked with military uses, however. Earlier this year Knight’s Armament Company, an American weapons maker that supplies rifles to the Pentagon, launched a $12 ballistics application called BulletFlight which helps snipers and sharpshooters to hit their intended target.
Although it is most notorious for hi-tech weapons such as the Silent Guardian— Raytheon, which based in Massachusetts, has a history of using popular technology for military purposes. Among its innovations are systems used in the unmanned aerial vehicles that are based on video games consoles.
One Force Tracker is not only for the battlefield, though. Raytheon told the Intelligence Warfighting Summit that the software could also be used —with some tweaks—by emergency workers such as doctors and firefighters responding to major incidents.
23 Dec 2009
|With new rivals out, browser war gets fiercer|
Internet Explorer has 63.62 per cent of the global browser market. So what are the alternatives that consumers get, asks Richard Wray
Created by the Mozilla Corporation, which in turn is owned by the not-for-profit Mozilla Foundation, Firefox can trace its roots back to Netscape, which was effectively killed off in the so-called ‘browser wars’ of the late 1990s when Microsoft successfully got Internet Explorer pre-installed in virtually all PCs. When Netscape made the code for its Navigator browser available to everyone, a community of developers snatched it up and created Firefox. It was launched five years ago and introduced now de-facto standard browser functions such as tabs. There remains a mammoth developer community behind the browser, ensuring that it is constantly updated so it always allows for safe browsing.
Also based on the open source technology that underlies Firefox, Flock is designed to unashamedly jump on the social networking bandwagon. The latest version, launched earlier this year, integrates a range of social networking and other online services – including MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, Blogger, Gmail, Yahoo! Mail – directly into the browser through a People bar on the left hand side of the screen. Users can instantly share their web browsing with their contacts by dragging and dropping content to the People bar. It also allows users to ‘flockcast’ – sending status updates to more than one social network – straight from the browser.
Google’s entry into the browser market in 2008 seriously stirred up the internet world not least because Google also has a deal with Mozilla to be the default search box on its Firefox browser. Obviously unhappy with the bloated state of some other browsers on the market, which slows down performance, Google stripped Chrome down to the essentials while still retaining a high degree of security (it maintains blacklists of sites responsible for phishing or malware attacks so users can be warned before visiting them).
But as with so many things involving Google, questions have been raised about the amount of information the company retains about what users are doing with Chrome.
Very popular in its home market of China but relatively unheard of in the west, Maxthon is a fast web browser specifically designed for Windows and comes loaded with features which on other browsers the user would have to download themselves including content filtering and ad-blocking.
At first glance this effort from Shanghai-based Flashpeak looks anything but slim.
The browser window heavily resembles Internet Explorer and looks quite busy at first glance, but all the elements are customisable so the user can move or remove any of the buttons.
Now in its 10th iteration and with well over a decade’s worth of innovation and work, Opera has never quite lived up to its potential. It’s a fast – in tests it has beaten Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox – and feature-rich browser with a lot of fans despite its relatively modest share of the market. The Norwegian company behind Opera has had more success recently in the mobile phone sector with a slimmed down version of the browser becoming a very popular downloadable ‘app’ this year.
This browser from AOL, recently spun off from Time Warner, is all about security, in keeping with AOL’s rather nanny-ish character. It’s built on Internet Explorer so users should see no change in the way they view the web, but it is full of security features including pop-up blocking and a Spyware Quick Scan to ensure nothing dodgy gets downloaded from the web. AOL, however, is moving away from browsers and recommends its users download a special tweaked version of Internet Explorer 8.
One of the more popular lesser known browsers, tech bible CNet describes Avant as like Internet Explorer “if it were being produced by a small firm instead of Microsoft”.
In fact it was originally produced by a Chinese programmer named Anderson Che and leans heavily on the technology that IE uses to render web pages. Browser staples such as tabs, auto form-filling and pop-up blocking are all present but it has some compatibility issues with Microsoft's Vista operating system, according to reviewers.
Based on Firefox but designed specifically for Windows users, K-Meleon is almost a decade old and is highly customisable but requires a certain amount of technical knowledge to get the best out of it.
Designed in Japan and owned by Osaka-based Fenrir, Sleipnir has done very well in its home market and again relies heavily on Internet Explorer for its look and feel – it also uses the same page rendering technology as IE so users should see no difference in the way that pages appear.
Customisation is the name of the game with a wide variety of plug-ins for the browser, including a simple-to-use screenshot generator.
Steve Jobs and Safari
Originally designed by Apple for use with its Mac OS X operating system, two years ago the Californian giant launched a version for Windows which many reviewers thought ‘undercooked’. After several updates, the new version 4 of the browser is reliable and relatively fast – it is based on the same open source technology as Google’s Chrome – but lacks the customisation of other Windows-compatible browsers.
Apple got into hot water last year when it tried to boost PC users of Safari by bundling it into software updates of iTunes and QuickTime.
|The secret to dealing with email overload|
Ping! Ever feel like you can’t seem to knuckle down and focus on a task in hand because (Ping!) one email after another keeps unloading itself (Ping!) from your computer or handheld device?
A study found that a worker’s IQ test score drops briefly by an average of 10 points when juggling phones, emails and other electronic messages — a more pronounced effect than after smoking marijuana or losing a night’s sleep. So if you spot the creeping symptoms of “infomania”, what can you do to combat them? Filter out unwanted email.
Any email client worth its salt will have filters built in to exclude mail by sender, subject or recipient. Go through your inbox and weed out anyone who persistently sends you extraneous material. Googlemail has a great function called “Skip the inbox” which diverts certain email to a side folder where you can register its presence without it cluttering up your inbox. Spend half an hour setting up a few of these and watch your inbox clear magically. Beat spammers at their own game. Don’t fall for the biggest trick in the book and click on “unsubscribe” at the bottom of a marketing email. Spammers use this to work out if addresses are active, resulting in yet more spam.
Schedule unplugged times. Put aside certain times of the day, evenings or weekends where you will block out all incoming traffic: no phone, no computer, no PDA, nothing. Turn off your email when working on important projects, or set it to only check mail once an hour. Keep to the point. The subject line is your headline, and the email’s purpose should be clear in the first two lines. The action expected of the recipient should be explicit.
Cut out clutter by discouraging the sending of one-word “Thanks” or “OK” emails. An instant message or even – shock horror – a face-to-face greeting, would be better.
16 Dec 2009
Viruses that leave victims red on Facebook
|The New York Times|
It used to be that computer viruses attacked only your hard drive. Now they attack your dignity.
|Malicious programmes are rampaging through Web sites like Facebook and Twitter, spreading themselves by taking over people’s accounts and sending out messages to all of their friends and followers. The result is that people are inadvertently telling their co-workers and loved ones how to raise their I.Q.’s or make money instantly, or urging them to watch an awesome new video in which they star.|
“I wonder what people are thinking of me right now?” said Matt Marquess, an employee at a public relations firm in San Francisco whose Twitter account was recently hijacked, showering his followers with messages that appeared to offer a $500 gift card to Victoria’s Secret.
Marquess was clueless about the offers until a professional acquaintance asked him about them via e-mail. Confused, he logged in to his account and noticed he had been promoting lingerie for five days.
“No one had said anything to me,” he said. “I thought, how long have I been Twittering about underwear?”
The humiliation sown by these attacks is just collateral damage. In most cases, the perpetrators are hoping to profit from the referral fees they get for directing people to sketchy e-commerce sites.
In other words, even the crooks are on social networks now— because millions of tightly connected potential victims are just waiting for them there.
Often the victims lose control of their accounts after clicking on a link “sent” by a friend. In other cases, the bad guys apparently scan for accounts with easily guessable passwords. (Marquess gamely concedes that his password at the time was “abc123.”)
After discovering their accounts have been seized, victims typically renounce the unauthorised messages publicly, apologising for inadvertently bombarding their friends. These messages — one might call them Tweets of shame — convey a distinct mix of guilt, regret and embarrassment.
“I have been hacked; taking evasive maneuvers. Much apology, my friends,” wrote Rocky Barbanica, a producer for Rackspace Hosting, an Internet storage firm, in one such note. Barbanica sent that out in November after realising he had sent messages to 250 Twitter followers with a link and the sentence, “Are you in this picture?” If they clicked, their Twitter accounts were similarly commandeered.
“I took it personally, which I shouldn’t have, but that’s the natural feeling. It’s insulting,” he said.
Earlier malicious programmes could also cause a similar measure of embarrassment if they spread themselves through a person’s e-mail address book.
But those messages, travelling from computer to computer, were more likely to be stopped by antivirus or firewall software. On the Web, such measures offer little protection.
Getting tangled up in a virus on a social network is also more painfully, and instantaneously, public. “Once it’s delivered to everyone in three seconds, the cat is out of the bag,” said Chet Wisniewski of Sophos, a Web security firm. “When people got viruses on their computers, or fell for scams at home, they were generally the only ones that knew about it and they cleaned it up themselves. It wasn’t broadcast to the whole world.”
Social networks have become prime targets of such programs’ creators for good reason, security experts say. People implicitly trust the messages they receive from friends. Sophos says that 21 per cent of Web users report that they have been a target of malicious programs on social networks. Kaspersky Labs, a Russian security firm, says that on some days, one in 500 links on Twitter point to bad sites.
|N S Soundar Rajan email@example.com|
|Mobile Media Convertor|
Mobile Media Converter (MMC), an audio/video converter, facilitates conversion between various formats. Among its features are: Supports a variety of formats like MP3, wma, Ogg Vorbis Audio (ogg), Wave Audio (wav), MPEG video, AVI, Windows Media Video (wmv), Flash Video (flv), QuickTime Video (mov) and commonly used mobile devices / phones formats like AMR audio (amr) and 3GP video. iPod/iPhone and PSP compatible MP4 video are also supported; Drag and Drop support; Cross-platform; FFMPEG - using ffmpeg ensures maximum compability with PC and mobile formats as well as fast conversion times; Advance settings to change the output bitrate, codec, channel, size, etc.; supports batch conversion of videos/audios; Integrated YouTube downloader to download and convert, straightaway; Trimming of clips for ringtone creation, and cropping videos to edit; and simple UI, common to Windows, Linux or Mac. Mobile Media Converter, v.1.5.0, from Cyprus based MIKSOFT, can be downloaded at http://www.miksoft.net/ mobileMediaConverterDown.htm. A FAQ can be browsed at FAQ at http://www.miksoft.net/mobileMediaConverter.htm#faq
BleachBit frees disk space, removes hidden junk, and guards your privacy. You can erase cache, delete cookies, clear Internet history, remove unused localisations, shred logs, and delete temporary files. Designed for both Linux and Windows systems, BleachBit wipes clean 70 applications including Firefox, Internet Explorer, Flash, Google Chro-me, Opera, Safari, Adobe Reader, APT, and more. Among its features are: Simple operation: just browse the descriptions, check the boxes you want, click preview, and delete; Separate cleaners for each application such as Firefox or IE, each cleaner with options to clean cache, cookies, and log files; Advanced cleaners can help clear the memory and swap on Linux and delete broken shortcuts on Linux. BleachBit can also vacuum Firefox, Google, Liferea, and Yum databases, and shrink files without removing data to save space and improve; BleachBit can shred files to hide contents and prevent data recovery; Overwrite free disk space to hide previously deleted files; run it without installation; frequent software updates; and free of adware, spyware, and malware assure the developers. BleachBit can be downloaded at http://bleachbit.sourceforge
ZipGenius is free and easy to use, supports more than 20 formats of compressed archives, including RAR, ARJ, ACE, CAB, SQX, OpenOffice.org documents. However, not every format can be used to create new archives, they can only be used to extract files from archives. To know more on how ZipGenius treats a given format check out the table at http://www.zipgenius.com/index.php?id=16. It can also precompress executable files added to a ZIP archive through the UPX compressor. The 7.04 MB ZipGenius v184.108.40.2060, developed by M.Dev Software, for Win XP/2003/ Vista/Windows7 can be downloaded at ZipGenius http://www.zipgenius.com/index.php?id=33.
9 Dec 2009
|DH reader Bujanga Rao wrote|
I want the icons on the desktop stay in a fixed position. Please suggest a utility.
You could try the 37.5KB DesktopOK v1.57 at http://www.softwareok.com/?Download=DesktopOK.
2 Dec 2009
Guarding against dangers of cybercrimes
Combat phishing threat by giving a second piece of information when you log in, says Randall Stross
|The email message from the bank looks real. It isn’t. Law enforcement agencies that oversee computer security are well versed in the many permutations of “phishing,” the scam in which fraudsters try to lure people to a counterfeit replica of their bank’s website, for example, and have them part with their user names and passwords.|
But even the professionally wary can be gulled — or close to it. Just ask Robert S Mueller III, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Mueller recently received an email that seemed to be from his bank. He clicked on the link and began to follow the instructions to “verify” his account information. Before completing the procedure, however, he realised that he had been led to a counterfeit site — so he left. It’s the aftermath that is of most interest. After Mueller told his wife about his close call, he said she drew this conclusion from the experience: simply having online access to bank accounts is unacceptably risky.
“No more Internet banking for you,” she told him. The FBI director related the story in a speech to the Commonwealth Club of California in October. “Too little attention has been paid to cyber threats — and their consequences,” Mueller said.
An audience of civilians would naturally wonder, “What chance do we have of keeping our pockets from being picked?”
I’m not convinced, however, that online banking carries the high risk that Mueller implies. I know that as ordinary computer users, we are offered unlimited bait from phishers. But I’m not particularly worried: I’m not on the hook for losses from fraud — my bank is. I could not find any online financial service that stops short of promising to make a victimized customer whole.
Mueller, encouraging his audience to invest in “cybersecurity,” raised a terrifying spectre when he spoke of guarding “against losing everything.” But how could I suffer “losing everything” at the hands of online criminals when my bank has this policy posted on its Web site: “We guarantee that you will be covered for 100 per cent of funds removed from your Wells Fargo accounts in the unlikely event that someone you haven’t authorised removes those funds through our Online Services.”
Banks would like for us to use more sophisticated security than a password to protect our accounts. One way to combat the phishing threat is to require that online customers supply a second piece of information when they log in, a one-time-only numeric code that is either generated by a little gizmo built for this purpose or is sent to the customer’s cellphone.
Your password is “something you know,” as security experts describe it, and the temporary security code is “something you have” — and something that a phishing fraudster would not. Requiring two dissimilar things is the essence of “two-factor authentication.” I don’t know whether Mueller has persuaded his wife to lift the household ban on online banking. If he hasn’t, he should deploy the two words that have the magical power to put the most anxious online bank customer at ease: Zero liability.
The New York Times
25 Nov 2009
|DH reader KN Shankar wrote|
Please suggest me a freeware tool for converting videos of
different formats to others.
Have you tried Format Factory? It can be downloaded at http://www.formatoz.com/.
Thanks for the suggestion for Format Factory, it is an amazing software, converts
18 Nov 2009
|War beneath the web|
|Charles Arthur, The Guardian|
Hacking websites used to be a way to show off. Now, as Charles Arthur reports, it’s a lucrative crime.
|The email from Google in June was the first sign: it warned that the Free Our Data site seemed to be host to a set of hidden spam links – or as Google put it, “techniques that are outside our quality guidelines.” It took more than two months to discover the true extent of the hacking, which had planted links all over the website to an “online pharmacy” selling dubious products.|
More surprising, on digging into the problems, was the realisation that Free Our Data was only one of a network of sites that had been hit in a similar way by exploiting a subtle, hidden flaw. Others with similar spam links included the Montserrat Volcano observatory site, a European research site, a Minneapolis-based artist, an Australian website for singers, a recruiting company in California, the personal webspace of a maths professor at the University of Texas in San Antonio, and a medical devices website run by a large healthcare company.
A search for “online/canadian” will certainly turn up hundreds more sites that have been compromised in the same way, such as the Imperial Ice Stars website. Nor was this some Windows server exploit; the hacker seemed to have found holes in the open source content management systems (CMS) of each of the blogs, exploiting them to alter the sites at will.
I found two separate “control panels” inserted into Free Our Data, their names disguised to make them seem like innocuous pieces of site code; instead, they gave the hacker complete control to add any file to the site, and insert any content into its related databases. The code carries text claiming to be by a Chinese hacker called “4ngel”, though it's most likely that the hacker responsible simply bought or copied it. The password – “yahoo” – also gives a clue to its owner's likely email address.
That so many apparently diverse sites could each be attacked by the same method gives one pause for thought. While PCs running Windows are increasingly the target of better-designed security exploits – as we explained last week (Enemy of the state, 5 November) – what about the millions of sites on the web that are either hosted by individuals or run by companies for whom staying ahead of server and CMS security issues is not top priority? What can we say about the state of web security?
The web seems a different place than in August 2001, when the “Code Red” (or “Nimda”) virus ravaged the web – automatically infecting Windows servers, seeking out more to infect and putting an infected file onto webpages so that any machine reading it with Internet Explorer 5 would also be infected. But that doesn’t mean security has become tighter.
The addition of spam links to a webpage is a comparatively low-key problem. The bigger risk now is from “drive-by” downloads – malware (malicious software) that will try to infect Windows machines that visit a particular website by exploiting vulnerabilities in the browser.
Experts agree that the change is due to one critical factor: money. Hackers generally don’t now aim to make a mess; they do it to get cash. “The difference is that in about 2003 people realised they could use these weaknesses to make money,” explains Richard Clayton, a security researcher at Cambridge University. “There are three ways they do it: drive-by downloads, which enlarge a botnet [which can be hired to send spam, assist in the theft of personal details, or attack websites to extort their owners]; hosting a phishing site, so they can collect login details; and putting spam links on the site to raise the spam's search engine ranking.” The hacking of Free Our Data and the other sites had the latter purpose.
Part of what’s changed is the point at which a site’s vulnerabilities are exploited. Lloyd Brough, a managing consultant at NCC Group Secure Test, has been in web security for about 10 years. “Nowadays, it’s application-based,” he explains. Exploits such as those used for Nimda targeted the web server software itself. Generally, that has now been hardened.
So instead the target is the databases or associated software through which sites’ content and user requests and contributions are managed. These are frequently attacked though a method called “SQL injection”. If the code that handles a submitted form, for example, doesn’t create exceptions for particular strings, it can be used to subvert the site. “We first noticed that about six years ago,” says Brough, “and people are still writing code that isn't properly excepted.”
Search and destroy
Nowadays, attacks at that application layer – on databases, the web scripting languages such as PHP and ASP, or even on cookies (items of data stored on users’ machines) issued by the website – are commonplace. But what might be surprising is the methods used to identify sites to break into.
Clayton and his team have done extensive research into phishing sites hosted on cracked web servers. “We found the same sites would get hacked. Our insight was that people were using Google to find websites to break into, by doing specific searches for particular versions of software that they knew had particular vulnerabilities – Wordpress 1.3.1 or Drupal or whatever. So they’d do a Google search, find those sites and then hack all 50 sites using the same method.”
Clayton’s team could demonstrate that this was how it was done by studying the sites’ logs. And that wasn’t the end of it: sometimes the same site would be hit by more than one team of hackers, who would each put their own exploit onto it. And the worst of it was that the Google search method meant that, if the site wasn’t cleaned, updated and hardened extensively after the break-in was discovered, says Clayton, the chance of being compromised again in the next six months was 50%. “It’s like cleaning up after a burglary but not fixing the open window downstairs,” he says.
The targets are getting bigger, too. In the past couple of months, both the New York Times and the gadget site Gizmodo have seen their online advertising compromised to try to create “drive-by” infections; and the growing use by criminals of “iframes” – invisible or tiny webpages-within-webpages which may take their content from anywhere on the net – has increased the risk to the casual browser.
But is there an endpoint? Might it level off? The consensus is no.
“It’s a big problem and getting worse,” says Dave Jevans, chief executive of IronKey and chair of the Anti-Phishing Working Group. “When I have tracked website attacks, I’ve found it convenient to look at the Zone-H statistics. Zone-H.org reports on website breach defacements, as reported by bragging hackers. The exact same attack methodologies are used to make a website host malware or a phishing site.
“Today they reported 1,110 defacements so far. For the month of October 2009 they reported 47,560. So that's about half a million defaced websites per year. Now keep in mind that this is reporting by hackers themselves. Imagine the number of sites that are attacked and breached that are not reported to Zone-H.”
It’s a scary thought: can we trust the web? Bruce Schneier, a security consultant and columnist for the Guardian, thinks the important thing for the web user is to stay aware. “You need to have a good bullshit detector when you’re out there,” he says. “I lock down my browser. I don’t have stuff that I haven’t asked to be running – audio, video, whatever.” But as to when it will end, Schneier is not hopeful. “It’s an arms race,” he says simply.
Sage, who provide business management software and services to small and midsize businesses in India, has announced the new ACT! by Sage 2010 contact and customer manager.
|Adobe Systems to provide data capturing for Life Sciences industry |
IntraLinks, provider of critical information exchange solutions, has announced a strategic partnership with Adobe Systems Inc. to develop comprehensive solutions that will automate cross-organization data capture and submission based-business processes within the life sciences industry.
The initial solution IntraLinks and Adobe are bringing to market addresses the document-intensive clinical trial process. The solution combines the strengths of IntraLinks' solutions, which facilitate the secure, compliant, and auditable exchange of critical information inside and outside the enterprise, and the Adobe® LiveCycle® Enterprise Suite (ES).
Sage announces new customer manager
Sage, who provide business management software and services to small and midsize businesses in India, has announced the new ACT! by Sage 2010 contact and customer manager. New features include integration with social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Plaxo, compatibility with a subscription-based ACT! E-marketing service, and fully customizable opportunities to support various sales models.
Tektronix unveils network intelligence products
Tektronix Communications, a worldwide provider of Network Intelligence and Communications Test Solutions, has unveiled a suite of new Network Intelligence products that effectively collect, correlate and analyze media and signalling data from next-generation IP telecommunication networks, turning data into actionable information that drives better operational and business results. Designed to meet the needs of both legacy and next-generation converged IP networks, the Iris suite of products consists of the GeoProbe G10, a new high-speed 10GE probe; three new analyzer applications; and a common platform that provides a single, integrated framework for current and future applications.
Xilinx out with IBIS-AMI model for FPGA transceivers
Xilinx, Inc, has announced the availability of the industry's first IBIS-AMI models for FPGA transceivers. Xilinx is the first FPGA provider and among the first silicon vendors to release IBIS-AMI models for its transceiver technology that will enable designers to reduce simulation time from hours to minutes.
Using Xilinx’s IBIS-AMI models and SiSoft’s Quantum Channel Designer software, systems designers can experiment with different combinations of channel, connectors, via designs and transmit / receive equalization to quickly determine which configurations provide adequate operating margin and which don’t.
Quest out with Performance management products
Quest Software, Inc, has announced two significant product releases in the SQL Server performance management space, at PASS Summit in Seattle. The new release of Spotlight® on SQL Server Enterprise, now featuring business intelligence (BI) monitoring and the debut of Foglight® for SQL Server, enables database administrators (DBAs) to proactively detect, diagnose and resolve SQL Server performance issues.
|DH reader Jagadeesh wrote|
Please suggest a utility to back up installed drivers.
Double Driver enables viewing all the drivers installed on a system. The utility also lets you backup, restore, save and print all the chosen drivers. It can be downloaded at http://www.boozet.org/download.htm
11 Nov 2009
Sybase 365, a subsidiary of Sybase, Inc and a provider of mobile messaging and mobile commerce, has announced the release of its mobile banking application for the iPhone available to financial institutions worldwide through the Sybase mBanking 365 platform.
|MSI announces new netbook |
Micro Star International (MSI) has announced the India availability of the Wind U210 - its true 12.1-inch display netbook. With a wide-screen 16:9 aspect ratio, the Wind U210 provides 14% greater display area as compared to other netbooks in its size class. Weighing only 1.3 kilograms including the battery and sporting a super svelte form factor, the ultra-thin MSI Wind U210 is convenient, highly portable and allows users to easily carry it in a hand bag.
Despite its portability, Wind U210 perfectly integrates a widescreen, LED backlit high-resolution 1366 x 768 display that provides a picture which is wider, brighter, and has better colour saturation-giving you an awesome visual experience. With its Eco Engine technology, the battery life of the Wind U210 is pushed to the edge to provide you with an extended power supply. The MSI Wind U210's 6-cell battery used in tandem with unit's Turbo Battery mode achieved a battery life of 4 hours - twice the stamina of standard 12" notebook batteries.
QlikTech joins with Humanitics to deliver BI
QlikTech, provider of Business Intelligence (BI) solutions, has announced a new OEM partnership with Humanitics, a professional software company specializing in delivering 'Model Driven Architecture' (MDA) based software solutions.
Targeted at organizations that want to validate BI applications, Humanitics will market and distribute the QlikView Suite to application developers so that teams involved in application development can identify issues early in the development process by simulating real-world Internet conditions. In effect, QlikView Suite will enable teams to effectively test, detect, diagnose, and report on application performance.
F5 completes d integration testing for Oracle
F5 Networks, Inc, specialists in Application Delivery Networking (ADN), has announced that it has completed validated integration testing of its BIG-IP® Local Traffic Manager ™ (LTM™) and WebAccelerator ™ products with Oracle applications, through the Oracle® PartnerNetwork Application Integration Architecture for Partners (AIAP) initiative. F5 achieved Oracle Validated Integration for BIG-IP LTM and WebAccelerator with Oracle® E-Business Suite 12.0, Oracle's PeopleSoft Enterprise 9.0, and Oracle's Siebel CRM 8.0.
By choosing Oracle Validated Integration solutions, customers can be confident that these F5/Oracle product integrations: have been tested and validated as functionally and technically sound; are integrated with Oracle Applications in a reliable, standards-based way; and that the integrations operate and perform as documented.
Sybase announces mobile banking for iPhones
Sybase 365, a subsidiary of Sybase, Inc and a provider of mobile messaging and mobile commerce, has announced the release of its mobile banking application for the iPhone available to financial institutions worldwide through the Sybase mBanking 365 platform.
The new application serves as a turnkey mobile banking solution for financial institutions, allowing them to quickly and easily roll-out full-service banking capabilities to their customers with Sybase 365 managing the entire infrastructure. Sybase 365 also announced BBVA Compass as one of the first adopters of the solution.
Unisys announces secured private cloud solution
As part of their effort to expand the full spectrum of secure cloud computing options, Unisys Corporation has announced Unisys Secure Private Cloud Solution, an innovative solution for organizations to realize the operational and economic benefits of cloud computing in their internal data centres. Unisys also announced significant enhancements - including a disaster recovery service - to Unisys Secure Cloud Solution, the company's managed public cloud offering.
CSC offers cloud adoption assessment service
Expanding on its current Cloud service offerings, CSC has announced that it will launch a Cloud Adoption Assessment Service to help companies across the world identify the right business process and IT services when moving to the Cloud.
CSC's Cloud Adoption Assessment gives businesses an understanding of the Cloud Computing ecosystem. Using a suitability scorecard, a process-centric analysis of a company's existing technology set-up is done before strategising on moving the IT infrastructure over to the cloud.
By focusing on business processes, rather than on infrastructure, CSC creates a top-down assessment that maps to the company's strategic objectives.
4 Nov 2009
|How laptops took over the world|
|Charles Arthur, The Guardian|
The rise of portable computing has forced companies to rethink how they let staff work – and is shifting the balance of power in the IT industry, says Charles Arthur
The rise of portable computing has forced companies to rethink how they let staff work – and is shifting the balance of power in the IT industry. In January 2003, Steve Jobs announced to a slightly surprised Macworld audience that "this is going to be the year of the notebook for Apple". There was a clear ambition to push up the sales of portables – on which margins tend to be better than on desktops.
Jobs was right in spotting an unstoppable trend: the rise of the laptop. This is a category that now includes not just "notebooks", as Apple always refers to them, but also, since 2008, the smaller "netbooks". As Moore's Law – a halving of cost for the same spec – has applied to processors, RAM and even disk storage, laptops have become not just an interesting option for a second computer, but the primary machine for a lot of people.
Apple didn't quite manage to make 2003 the year in which sales of laptops exceeded those of desktop; it was July 2005 before that happened, and April 2006 before it began to happen consistently. But now laptop sales always exceed desktop sales for the company; in the past quarter, when it sold a record 3m computers, nearly three out of every four was a laptop. And though Apple is the leader in this trend, laptops are taking over computing, especially with the rise of netbooks.
Looking at the trends in computer sales, you may wonder when laptop sales will overtake those of desktops worldwide. The answer is simple: they already have. For 2009, 159m portable machines (a segment that includes both notebooks and netbooks) will be sold, compared with 124m desktop machines, according to the research company IDC. Gartner says that in the first quarter of 2009, desktop sales declined 16% year on year; laptop sales fell by 3%, but netbook sales leapt sixfold, so that they now make up 20% of all laptops sold.
Leaving your desk behind
For computer makers, the shift to laptops offers a chance to increase profit margins – although all but Apple still struggle in what has become a commodity market. (Apple is estimated to have around 75% of the share of laptops sold in the US priced over $999.) Netbooks have once again eroded those margins, but the fact that you can't build your own laptop, while it is comparatively easy for anyone to take a chassis and build a desktop machine, leaves more margin in that sector. Those are the bald numbers – but they hide a much more subtle and far-reaching shift in the way we now live our lives, says Richard Holway, the veteran analyst who is chairman of TechMarketView.
"The obvious and banal answer [to why laptops are selling better and better] is that people don't sit at desks any more," says Holway. "In about 2002 or 2003, we started to talk about 'mobile internet devices' which were, at that stage, only available in one form – your laptop. Which, I would remind you, weighed about 3kg, cost £1,500, and was something that was at best luggable even then.
"But we said then that the world was moving towards a situation where 'knowledge workers' would do things on the move, from a number of different devices, which had to get smaller and be able to link to the net at broadband speeds, anywhere. I called it the 'Holway Martini moment' after the old Martini ad 'Any Time, Any Place, Any Where'. This is 'any time, any where, any device.' " The point, Holway says, is that people don't just want to do computing anywhere in the world – they also want to do it with a multitude of different devices.
That change could have dramatic effects on how companies think about their investments in computers, and how they expect people to work. The spread of mobile internet access has changed approaches to connectivity. Just as mobile phones evolved over the past 20 years from being a luxury, to an expensive alternative to the landline, to a cheap necessity, so internet access on the move is evolving too: from a near-impossibility to a pricey extra to something that is becoming more affordable, driven by the widening access to 3G networks, Wi-Fi connections and even WiMax, a sort of long-distance Wi-Fi.
But that doesn't only have implications for the makers of laptops, it also affects companies that have relied in the past on desktop machines for revenues. That means, for example, Adobe, whose clients tend to be those in graphics-heavy environments, who need powerful desktop machines to do their tasks – and Microsoft. It may be significant that both have announced significant falls in revenue and profit; in July, Adobe even introduced short-time working for its staff as a cost-cutting measure, while Microsoft has announced expense reduction measures. True, Microsoft receives money for Windows licences; but it has been hit hardest by netbook sales, because it got less money per installation than for a full-sized notebook or desktop; and netbook sales have exploded, especially in Europe. Arguably, every netbook sale until the launch of Windows 7, even if it has a Windows XP licence, represents lost money for Microsoft; on a notebook or desktop, it could charge the maker for a pricier Vista licence.
In January, Microsoft announced falling results in which revenue from sales of Windows fell by 8% "as a result of PC market weakness and a continue shift to lower-priced netbooks". On the latter, Microsoft is hoping that Windows 7, released last week, will pull it out of a financial hole; but netbooks still represent a serious threat to that model, and the launch, expected next year, of Google's Chrome operating system – targeted, again, at netbooks – could begin to eat into Windows revenue if it gains any significant traction.
A moveable feast
The trend towards laptops has been growing for a long time. In the US, laptops first outsold desktops in the retail market for a full month in May 2005, according to the research firm Current Analysis. NPD Group, which looked at revenue rather than units, saw the crossover happen two years earlier, in May 2003.
Laptops had inched towards that crucial measure a few times, but in 2008 the US swung over wholesale towards them; the Los Angeles Times noted in January 2008 that the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway had bought 4,000 Dell machines – of which 60% were laptops, in order that rail inspectors could file reports from trucks, and other staff could work from home.
Holway thinks that this is our future and we should adjust to it, because device makers, and those providing accommodation, will cater to it. "I've just been on holiday on a ship which had Wi-Fi in every cabin. And no, it wasn't an oligarch's yacht – just a cruise ship.
And then I was on the Jordanian desert, where we drove for five hours into the middle of nowhere, to meet some Bedouin and spend the night there. You could see the stars and everything. I started wondering what the strange glow near the ground was. It was all their mobile phones. And in the morning, on the way out we passed a mobile phone mast about the size of the Eiffel Tower – which they all used to keep in touch."
Banking on change
Mobility isn't just for knowledge workers. Almost everyone needs it, Holway contends: "I had a man come to fix my front door lock, and he was able to send the invoice and my credit card payment through from the doorstep via his phone." Where the mobile phone, used for a voice call, used to be the method used for constant connectivity, now it is a mobile internet device, used with data connectivity, that does the same tasks – or multiple ones, such as finding a location, checking details before doing a job, checking details while on the job, sending an invoice, and processing a credit card transaction. The only places where you might still need desktop machines? "Banks," Holway allows. "But at the end of the day, the number of jobs that are purely static is going to fall and fall."
For that reason success in the future is likely to lie with companies that can make the best mobile internet devices, as those are the ones that have the best chances for growth. That, is not encouraging for Microsoft, which has been pushed into third place in the smartphone market by RIM and Apple, and now faces a significant challenge from Google's Android: the Taiwanese handset maker HTC, previously responsible for more than 80% of Windows Mobile sales, is switching to Android. Losing with netbooks, losing on mobiles: Microsoft may have a problem with the mobile workforce.
In fact, all sorts of expectations are changing. "Which company sold the most portable computers in the UK last year?" Holway asks, and leaves the answer hanging. "HP? Dell? No – Acer. It's because of netbooks. Everybody's buying them."
Cyberstop: Nov 4-Nov 10
|DH reader Nagesh wrote|
Please suggest a screen zoom tool, preferably with annotation feature.
ZoomIt v4, by Mark Russinovich, perhaps, could help meet your needs.
The 267 KB ZoomIt (August 5, 2009 ) can be downloaded at
30 Oct 2009
SetPower can be set to turn the display off, go to sleep mode, and hibernate by time of day and day of week for any of the three modes - Balanced, Power Saver and High Performance.
Fences can help clean up the Windows desktop, a program to organise it, and hide the icons when they're not in use. In the first place why do our desktops become messy? They do because we love to put the files on the desktop as they are easy to find. Well, the mess part can be a thing of the past, thanks to Fences, a one-of-a-kind program which lets us draw labelled shaded areas (boxes /fences) on our desktop, and these are movable & resizable containers for the desktop icons. Labelling these boxes helps keep programs, photos, files, and Web links together, all of them you can group (fence) them under a project or file type, just by drag and drop. A quick-hide feature - Double click your desktop to make your icons fade out, double click again for their return! The 8844 KB Fences v1.0 for Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7 (On Vista and Windows 7, both 32bit and 64bit versions are supported), free for personal use, can be downloaded at http://snipurl.com/dhfences
By signing up at the Microsoft Office Live website small business owners can get a company domain name, web design tools, hosting of the website, traffic reports, a contact management system, email, and online business applications to help manage the business, all for free! Though the OfficeLive does not provide the Microsoft Office suite as a subscription or hosted online the small businesses can have over 20 internet-based applications that can help to automate common business tasks such as management of customers, projects and documents. You can store up to 5 GB online, view, edit, and share documents, all with password-protection. And, if need be, you can purchase additional features to suit your needs. Signing up for the Office Live Small Business at http://www.officelive.com/hi-IN/
Areca Backup is an Open Source backup solution, released under the General Public License (GPL) v2. It basically allows you to select a set of files / directories to back-up, choose where and how they will be stored, and configure the post-backup actions.
Backup Engine Features include : Archives compression (Zip & Zip64 format),
Archives encryption (AES128 & AES256 encryption algorithms), Storage on local hard drive, network drive, USB key, FTP / FTPs server (with implicit and explicit SSL / TLS), Source file filters (by extension, subdirectory, regular expression, size, date, status, with AND/OR/NOT logical operators), Incremental, differential and full backup support; Support for delta backup (store only modified parts of your files); Transaction mechanism : All critical processes (such as backups or merges) are transactional. This guarantees your backups' integrity; Backup reports : Areca generates backup reports that can be stored on your disk or sent by email; Graphical and Command-Line User Interface. Areca Backup can also track different versions of a specific file, browse archives, recover or view specific files, and merge a set of archives.The 4.8 MB Areca Backup v7.1.5 can be downloaded at http://snipurl.com/dhareca. A tutorial at http://www.areca-backup.org/tutorial.php, users' manual at http://www.areca-backup.org/documentation.php, FAQ at http://www.areca-backup.org/faq.php.
Helping laptop overcome its age
|I’m about to tell a tale of woe that I haven’t told anyone else, one that befits this ghoulish season. As new parents, my wife and I installed a system of locks on our cabinets and drawers. The locks contained magnets and could be unlocked using a larger, more powerful magnet, thus hermetically sealing the drawers — and keeping their contents safe from little hands.|
One evening, after a day of diaper changes and running after toddlers, I picked up the heavy unlocking magnet. Then, in the same hand, I picked up my laptop. For those familiar with computers, the next part of the story will elicit a groan: the magnet came close to the hard drive inside the computer and I gasped. The magnet interfered with the hard drive’s internal machinery and it immediately stopped whirring. The screen froze and no number of reboots would bring it back. My laptop was dead. When a desktop computer loses its horsepower or, worse, crashes entirely, it seems a shame to throw it away, and often unnecessary: even the most timid computer user can add a USB hard drive or connect a new monitor. But when a laptop dies, it seems like it’s the end of the line. However, new online stores and easy upgrades mean that wounded laptops can, like mine, be healed.
Doing a good cleanup is usually a good idea when trying to give an older laptop a new lease on life. Compressed air is great for blowing out stray strands of hair or dust in the keyboard and DVD drive, and rubbing alcohol will clean up most surfaces.
Now that the outside is clean, you can look at the operating system. Most systems fail or slow down because of faulty software. Windows 7, the new operating system from Microsoft arriving on Thursday, will include virus and spyware removal software. But if you have an older system, you can download Avast antivirus software (at avast.com) and AdAware (at lavasoft.com), two free programs that work to clear up unruly computers.
Mac users, luckily, have little to fear from spyware and viruses. If things are still broken — or you’re not happy with the results — a fresh installation of the operating system may be in order. However, if the problem is deeper in the hardware — perhaps a balky hard drive or too little memory — there is hope.
First let’s talk about laptop architecture. Most laptops consist of a motherboard hidden underneath the keyboard, and thus inaccessible to mere mortals, and peripherals intended for easy access. The meaning of “easy access” varies according to manufacturer, but generally the memory and hard drive are accessible through panels on the bottom or side of the case.
A word of warning: many do-it-yourself upgrades can void warranties and, given the wide variety of laptops out there, there is no defined set of steps to follow in order to perform these improvements.
If you are dealing with a hard-drive problem, the symptoms will include start-up failure as well as slowness and “grinding” — essentially unnecessary reading and writing to the disk — as well as warnings that you’re running out of disk space. If you have a more severe problem, the system will fail to boot or start up completely, giving you an error about a missing operating system.
The first step is to find your laptop model online and divine what type of memory and hard drive it takes. For Apple laptops, check out sites like ifixit.com or macsales.com. IFixIt offers step-by-step instructions for adding memory and hard drives to almost any Macintosh model.
Windows users might face a bit more trouble trying to find tear-down manuals for their laptops. A quick online search, however, will bring up the size and models compatible with your particular laptops.
Hard drives are a bit trickier, but there are only two types to worry about: Parallel ATA (PATA) and Serial ATA (SATA). One rule of thumb: older computers run PATA; newer ones run the more compact SATA standard. If your computer has been around for over two years, chances are you have a PATA hard drive. .
You will need to restore your files and applications from your old drive. So you will need a USB to IDE/SATA adapter, a device that plugs into your old hard drive and connects to the computer via USB.
The old drive then appears as an external USB drive, allowing you to drag off important files. If you have a backup drive, however, you can simply restore your data as the software instructs.
More complex repairs require a bit more planning and care. But keyboards, trackpads and screens are probably within the realm of possibility for consumers who want to do at-home repairs. Once I found my laptop under the sofa with a large, decidedly male footprint on it. I won’t say whose boot it was that stomped my laptop, but the resulting pressure cracked the laptop’s screen and drove me to eBay, where I found a new part for quick installation.
Not everyone has a knack for home laptop repair. But with a little research — along with a few fine screwdrivers and plenty of patience — even a misstep or powerful magnet doesn’t have to mean the end of your laptop’s long and fruitful life.
|Metamorphosis of virtualisation technology|
|For the past few years, nearly all companies who have to deal with ever-expanding data centres have been talking about virtualisation. The concept became popular at a time when IT departments were getting anxious about adding more servers to their data centres which subsequently increased maintenance cost. |
For companies who were just getting to adopt IT, virtualisation is more a god-sent solution to build an effective but not so costly data centres, as it allowed them to deploy fewer servers and helped them optimise their usage. According to Aman Dokania, Vice President and General Manager, Infrastructure Software, Technology Solutions Group, HP, the last two years have been a maturing phase for the technology.
“Initially virtualisation was seen as the best means to solve infrastructure challenges at the data centres,” Dokania said. “From 2006 to 2008, the emphasis was more on consolidation, but as virtual environments become complex now, we are seeing the emphasis is getting to management. It now needs a single-stack solution to effectively manage both physical and virtual resources.”
While virtualisation in X86 environment has been fairly new, Dokania said it was introduced in Unix about 15 years ago. Almost 70 to 80 per cent of resources in Unix have been virtualised.
“We took the Virtual Server Environment (VSE) technology and introduced it in X86 architecture and the approach had several advantages,” Dokania said.
“Since we did mission-critical virtualisation and automation on Unix for many years, we could bring it over to the X86 architecture using VSE. The stack is also integrated with our storage replication software and therefore when you do the back up of your applications the data is also backed up.”
The single stack, integrated management strategy can be used across the data centre to manage both virtualised and physical servers. Virtual machines are regarded the same way as the physical ones and are given all management capabilities. As virtualisation is becoming complex, Dokania says this approach is important.
“The most important reason for adopting virtualisation has been to stem the server sprawl,” he said. “But as the virtual space started to acquire much of the same complexities as the physical space, they are left with the task of managing the virtual sprawl. A technology like VSE helps to simplify that.”
HP’s strategy has been broad-based With a firm focusing on management rather than merely looking at the hypervisor.
Last month, the IEEE -the body for networking standards- ratified 802.11n, the new standards for wireless Local Area Network (LAN). With additional definition for security and reliability, the standard is expected to make wireless LANs much more popular and commonplace than it has already been.
“First-generation wireless networks are fairly basic and do not address security a great deal,” said Hitesh Sheth, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Aruba Networks, who are providing wireless and secured network solutions for enterprises and branch office connectivity.
“802.11n is going to be the inflection point for wireless adoption across the world both in enterprise and in other verticals such as education. Most of the industry has long been aware of the need for wireless networks but had been waiting for 802.11n and the production/services that would be rolled out along with it,” he said.
About 50 per cent of the end point devices launched in 2009 were 802.11n access -a probable indicator of the speed with which the standard will be adopted in India and across the world. Sheth said this is just the beginning of the end of wireless dominance.
Besides these issues, the changing phase of technology has been contributing to the transition from wired to the wireless network. Corporate offices and college campuses were once populated with desktops which had made wired networks inevitable.
In the last few years, this has started to change with employees getting increasingly mobile and wanted to access applications once available inside offices on the move. Even in colleges, students find it better to go through lessons and take notes using laptops, forcing campuses to go the wireless way. Studies have suggested that adoption of wired networks have declined from 45 per cent to a meagre 11 per cent in the last five years, with experts predicting that it is likely to drop further. “Users are also getting hungrier for access and for availability of multimedia applications. Given that wireless are also going to be cost effective and simple to manage, it is easier to see why they would be attractive,” Sheth said.
Now, socialising starts with a mobile
|Jenna Wortham, The New York Times|
Twitter and Facebook ask users to answer the question: What are you doing right now? But for many urbanites in their 20s and 30s, two other questions are just as important: Where are you, and can I come join you?
For them, a fast-growing social networking service called Foursquare is becoming the tool of choice. A combination of friend-finder, city guide and competitive bar game, Foursquare lets users “check in” with a cellphone at a bar, restaurant or art gallery. That alerts their friends to their current location so they can drop by and say hello.
“It’s planned serendipity,” said Emily Woolf, 24, a strategic planner living in Brooklyn who checks in on Foursquare when she wants to grab coffee or a drink with friends. “At this point, I don’t even bother texting or calling my friends. I just check Foursquare to see if they’re nearby and go meet them.”
Just seven months old with about 60,000 users so far, Foursquare is still getting off the ground — especially when compared with supersize services like Facebook and Twitter, which have millions of members. But that underground status is part of Foursquare’s appeal, its fans say. It is not yet cluttered with celebrities, nosy mothers-in-law or annoying co-workers.
“On Twitter, there are more than 3,000 people that follow me, and Facebook is more of a business community now,” said Annie Heckenberger, 36, who works at an advertising agency in Philadelphia. “Foursquare is more of the people that I actually hang out with and want to socialise with.” It is akin to knowing about a hip new club before everyone else, said Deborah Schultz, an analyst with the Altimeter Group who specialises in trends in social media.
“There will always be people who love new technology and want to test it out, kick the tires,” she said. “Once those services become too big and the bridge-and-tunnel crowd shows up, they can lose some of that initial interest.”
One factor that might help Foursquare retain its intimate feel is that most of its members are picky about who can see the real-time footprints that they are leaving across the cities in which they live.
Foursquare emerged from the ashes of an earlier mobile service called Dodgeball, which was introduced in 2004 by Dennis Crowley and a classmate from New York University and was sold to Google in 2005.
After Google killed the service, which relied heavily on text messages, Crowley revived the concept. He and his business partner, Naveen Selvadurai, introduced Foursquare in March during South by Southwest, an annual technology and music conference that draws media types, Internet entrepreneurs and technology fans.
Other companies, like BrightKite, Loopt and Google Latitude, are also offering services aimed at helping friends find each other on the go. But Foursquare has attracted more attention than the others, in part because it incorporates elements of gaming and social competition.
The system awards points and virtual badges to players depending on how often they go out and which places they visit. Users who frequent a particular place enough times are crowned “mayor” of that particular location. “People are very territorial about their mayorships,” Crowley said. “It’s almost like bragging rights.”
Heckenberger says she once even leapt out of bed to reclaim the title at her local watering hole, the Swift Half Pub, where another player had briefly wrested away the honour. “Foursquare has become like an obsession for me,” she said.
So far, Foursquare has no revenue, and the company is still developing its business model. Crowley and Selvadurai say they are focusing on trying to build up the infrastructure, expand the user base and develop a database of locations. They see the service as developing beyond a nightlife game into a “service that encourages people to do new things and get rewarded,” Crowley said. Foursquare is available in 31 cities in the United States, including New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston and Washington. The service is also operating in London, Amsterdam and three Canadian cities. Crowley said the fierce competition of Foursquare players to claim the mayorship of their favourite haunts suggested that corporate sponsorships could be a lucrative source of revenue.
Some small businesses, like Sugar Mama’s Bake Shop in Austin, Texas, are starting to advertise special deals on the service, although Crowley has yet to begin charging businesses to put deals in the database. “For a small business with a limited advertising budget, it’s a great way to promote ourselves,” said Olivia O’Neal, owner of Sugar Mama’s. The shop offers Foursquare mayors a free cup of coffee each time they come in, and regular patrons receive their 10th cupcake free. “There are about 67 people currently working on those offers, and for a small family-owned business like ours, that’s a really big number,” O’Neal said.
Eventually, Crowley said, he would like to work with businesses on sponsored badges. For example, Starbucks might agree to give a player who visits 10 different Starbucks locations in a week a special badge and a free coffee drink. Foursquare’s potential has intrigued some notable entrepreneurs and investors. In September, the company landed a US$ 1.35 million round of venture financing, led by Union Square Ventures, which previously backed Twitter and Meetup.
Also contributing to the financing round were Kevin Rose, founder of the social news site Digg; Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter; and Ron Conway, an angel investor who had backed Google and PayPal.
“Being the hot new thing is a factor, but that’s not totally the driving force behind Foursquare,” said Fred Wilson, general partner at Union Square Ventures. “There’s a part of it that’s just fun, and you can’t ignore how important that is in terms of usage.”
|14 Oct 2009|
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26 Aug 2009
DH reader Subramanian wrote:
Is there a utility to help create strong passwords?
To create strong passwords you may read a Microsoft primer on Strong Passwords at http://www.microsoft.com/protect/yourself/password/create.mspx
19 Aug 2009
12 Aug 2009
DH reader Vani wrote:
Is there a way to find out whether my computer’s hardware will work with Windows 7.
To check out whether your computer will work with Windows 7 you could download Microsoft Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor at http://snipurl.com/windows7upgradeadvisor.
5 Aug 2009
Can you suggest a utility to save searh processes as clickable links?
You could try Search Pad (Beta), a note-taking application that automatically tracks and organises sites you find on Yahoo! Search. For more details visit http://help.yahoo.com/l/us/yahoo/search/searchpad/
29 Jul 2009
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24 June , 2009
Postbox, a new cross platform e-mail client for Windows and Mac computers, brings to the desktop some web e-mail features.
This utility can resize the windows to open as maximised or as per a specific size. Features: can automatically resize application windows; supports most softwares and applications; choice of a specific size for an application—sizes chosen can lie between maximum and minimum; Always On Top system tray menu helps to quickly position specific programs over all others. It does not require any installation; easy to use - Just click any one of the window name and press ‘AutoSize’ and select the option under ‘Action To Perform’. The 280 KB AutoSizer v.1.71 for Windows Vista, XP, 2003, 2000, NT, Millennium Edition, and 98 can be downloaded at http://www.southbaypc.com/download/assetup.exe. The developers aver that Autosizer is free from spyware and malware.
Postbox, a new cross platform e-mail client for Windows and Mac computers, brings to the desktop some web e-mail features. These include: Easy search and retrieve—Postbox automatically analyses and catalogues messages, documents, photos, and even links to web pages; Easy-to-use tagging to organise messages; View messages by conversation; Edit messages; Create to-do items, Search Tabs to find attachments, images, links, and contacts; Sidebar for quick access to emails, Inspector Pane highlights interesting content; Tabbed Mail Browsing; organise messages and content by topics; Thumbnail gallery; Web Connector connects to online services; Fast access to address book data and a palette of useful searches and actions; Anti-Phishing and Malware protection - database automatically updated every 30 minutes, and much more. Postbox, for Windows XP SP2, Windows Vista, Mac OS X 10.4 and later G4 or G5 PPC or Intel processor, can be downloaded at http://www.postbox-inc.com/download_success/win. Requirements: 1.5 Ghz Pentium 4 or comparable, requires at least 200 MB HD space, large email accounts may require more for
Opera Software’s Opera Unite has some great features. Just enable Opera Unite when you start Opera. The features are: Built-in BitTorrent client - search for and download torrent files; Cross-platform syncing - sync bookmarks, speed dials, bookmark bar, notes, etc; Customised search—quick access to Google, eBay, Amazon and others; Web server within browser - The features make each computer accessible from anywhere on the web. The services are: Media Player—Access your local music collection from anywhere; Web Server—Host a web site from the local computer; Photo Sharing —Share photos directly without uploading to Photobucket or Flickr; File Sharing—share files directly—no emailing or torrent sites; The Lounge—a chat interface; and Fridge—to leave notes on your computer. Opera Unite can be browsed at http://snapshot.opera.com/windows/o100s_1589m.exe, for Mac at http://snapshot.opera.com/mac/o100s_6510.dmg, and for Linux at http://snapshot.opera.com/unix/10-unite/
N S Soundar Rajan