Wednesday, August 11, 2010

E-Utilities (source: DH)

DH Utilities

July 18,2012
Typing 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.

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.
(Contributed by Tejasvi)
11 August 2010

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
downloads/mikogo-starter.exe for
Windows, and for Mac at downloads/


DH reader Ganesh wrote:
Please tell me about a tool  which can secure email by encrypting it.

DH suggested:
You could try 4t HIT Mail Privacy at 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.

DH suggested:

Try Tooble,  at Tooble.dmg. Requires Mac OS X 10.4 and above. Windows version (XP+) at
14 July 2010
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

‘NET’ SPREADS HIGH: Virgin Airlines staff members demonstrate 
features of seat-back video screens on a plane at John F Kennedy 
International Airport in New York, on March 31, 2010. As passengers 
increasingly use mobile devices to contact fellow travellers, airlines 
and  social media providers are scrambling to catch up. NYTOn 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 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, 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 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 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

Jessica Coen, executive editor of Jezebel, a blog for women, at 
the web site’s office and newsroom in New York on July 9, 2010. Jezebel 
began in 2007 as a post-feminist companion to, the New York 
media insider blog and is recently surpassing Gawker in monthly page 
views. NYTWhen 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, 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.”

Advertisers’ view
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.”

Impartial review
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.”


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 FAQ at Demo at 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, (June 24, 2010), a simple and effective tool to create more desktop space, can be downloaded at FAQ at


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

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?

DH suggested
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

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.

Impressive features

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.

Ads system

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.

Military taps social networking skills
Beale Air Force Base, California, June 8, The New York Times:

Christopher Drew describes how networking backstage equips the armed forces on the field with a sense of alertness that brings victory closer

As a teenager, Jamie Christopher would tap instant messages to make plans with friends, and later she became a Facebook regular. Now a freckle-faced 25, a first lieutenant and an intelligence officer here, she is using her social networking skills to hunt insurgents and save American lives in Afghanistan.

Hunched over monitors streaming live video from a drone, Lieutenant Christopher and a team of analysts recently popped in and out of several military chatrooms, reaching out more than 7,000 miles to warn Marines about roadside bombs and to track Taliban gunfire.

“2 poss children in fov,” the team flashed as Marines on the ground lined up an air strike, chat lingo for possible innocents within the drone’s field of view. The strike was aborted. Another message, referring to a Taliban compound, warned: “fire coming from cmpnd.” The Marines responded by strafing the fighters, killing nine of them.

Lieutenant Christopher and her crew might be fighting on distant keypads instead of ducking bullets, but they head into battle just the same every day. They and thousands of other young Air Force analysts are showing how the Facebook generation’s skills are being exploited in America’s wars.

The Marines say the analysts, who are mostly in their early to mid-20s, paved the way for them to roll into Marja in southern Afghanistan earlier this year with minimal casualties. But there can be difficulties in operating from so far away. Late last month, military authorities in Afghanistan released a report chastising a Predator drone crew in an incident involving a helicopter attack that killed 23 civilians in February.

Military officials say analysts in Florida who were monitoring the drone’s video feed cautioned two or three times in a chatroom that children were in the group, but the drone’s pilot failed to relay those warnings to the ground commander.

Networking helps

For the most part, though, the networking has been so productive that senior commanders are sidestepping some of the traditional military hierarchy and giving the analysts leeway in deciding how to use some spy planes. “If you want to act quickly, you’ve got to flatten things out and engage at the lowest possible levels,” said Lt Col Jason M Brown, who runs the Air Force intelligence squadron at this base near Sacramento.

The connections have been made possible by the growing fleet of remote-controlled planes, like the Predators and Reapers, which send a steady flow of battlefield video to intelligence centres across the globe.

The mechanics are simple in this age of satellite relays. Besides viewing video feeds, the analysts scan still images and enemy conversations. As they log the information into chatrooms, the analysts carry on a running dialogue with drone crews and commanders in the field, who receive the information on computers and then radio the most urgent bits to troops on patrol.

Marine intelligence officers say that during the Marja offensive in February, the analysts managed to stay a step ahead of the advance, sending alerts about 300 or so possible roadside bombs. Gunnery Sgt Sean N Smothers was stationed here as a liaison to the analysts. Sergeant Smothers saw how easily the distance could melt away when an analyst, peering at images from a U-2, suddenly stuck up his hand and yelled, “Check!” — the signal for a supervisor to verify a spotting.

Sergeant Smothers said he and two Air Force officers rushed over and confirmed the existence of a roadside bomb. Nearby on a big screen map in the windowless room, they could see a Marine convoy approaching the site.

The group started sending frantic chat messages to their Marine contacts in the area. As they watched the video feed from a drone, they could see that their messages had been heard: the convoy came to a sudden stop, 500 feet from the bomb.

“To me, this whole operation was like a template for what we should be doing in the future,” Sergeant Smothers said.

Major turnaround

The effort is a major turnaround for the Air Force, which had been criticised for taking too long to adjust to different types of threats since 9/11. During the cold war, it focused mostly on fixed targets like Soviet bases. But commanders in Afghanistan and Iraq have often complained that it is hard to get help from spy planes before insurgents slipped away.

While Air Force analysts were once backroom technicians, the latest generation works in camouflage uniforms, complete with combat boots, on open floors, with four computer monitors on each desk. The chatrooms are no-frills boxes on a computer screen with lines of rolling text, and crew leaders keep dozens of them open at once. They may look crude compared to Facebook, but Lieutenant Christopher said they were effective in building rapport.

“When it’s not busy, I’ll be like, ‘Hey, how’s your day going?’ ” she said. “It’s not just, ‘What do you need?’ ”

The Air Force, which has 4,000 analysts at bases like this and is hiring 2,100 more, has sent liaisons to Afghanistan to help understand the priorities on the ground. And some analysts pick up the phone to build closer bonds with soldiers they have never seen.

At the time, the analysts were blending data from the U-2s and the drones to watch the roads into Marja and fields where helicopters might land. But as Sergeant Smothers looked over their shoulders, encouraging them to warn the Marines about even the most tentative threats, the analysts warmed up. “It was like the shy house cat that wouldn’t talk to you at first and now just won’t stay out of your lap,” he said.

As the operation unfolded, the analysts passed on leads that enabled the Marines to kill at least 15 insurgents planting bombs. Lieutenant Christopher, who loves to chat on Facebook with her family in Ohio, was so exhausted from overnight shifts during that period that she skipped Facebook and went right to sleep. And sometimes, she said, she ended up dreaming about what she had just seen in the war.

Yahoo’s site mirrors Facebook in new facelift
San Francisco, June 8, (AP):

Yahoo Inc.’s latest facelift will include a Facebook touchup. As part of changes rolling out this week, Yahoo will import personal updates from Facebook’s social network for users who want a bridge between two of the world's most popular websites. The Facebook link will need to be turned on by each Yahoo user.

The personal updates, known as a “news feed” in Facebook’s parlance, will be available throughout Yahoo’s website, including its front page and e-mail service. Other tools will empower people to automatically let their Facebook friends know what they are doing and saying on Yahoo services such as its photo-sharing site, Flickr. The additional tie-ins follow through on a makeover that Yahoo announced late last year in an effort to make its website more compelling.

Yahoo is betting that more of its visitors will stay on its website if they can simultaneously monitor what’s happening on Facebook. Connecting with Facebook is just the first step in Yahoo’s attempt to establish its website as a social hub. Later this summer, Yahoo intends to import personal updates posted on Twitter’s short-messaging service. And by the end of the year, Yahoo will begin featuring widely played Internet games such as “Farmville,” “Mafia Wars” and “Fishville,” made by Zynga.

The increased emphasis on so-called “social media” could make Yahoo more susceptible to the privacy backlashes that have plagued Facebook in recent years. Yahoo is trying to ensure people don’t inadvertently share any sensitive information by simplifying its privacy controls and urging visitors to review their settings. As part of that process, Yahoo’s identify control centre has been renamed “Yahoo Pulse.” It had been called Yahoo Profiles since its October 2008 debut.

Yahoo’s search engine is in the process of adopting Microsoft Corp.’s technology. And the company recently decided to rely on IAC/InterActiveCorp.’s as its online dating service. Bartz is turning to outsiders to lower Yahoo’s overhead and sharpen its focus on its strengths in online news, sports, finance, entertainment and e-mail.


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 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


DH reader Girish wrote:

Please suggest a software to download songs while playing them online.

DH suggested:

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

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 screen shot showing the process of removing extra paragraph 
marks.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

Password Keeper

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

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

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

26 May 2010
Competitors seize on troubles of Facebook

Jenna Wortham finds that the site’s privacy policy is driving away web denizens

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.

The newfound infusion of confidence comes, in part, from the recent scrutiny focused on Facebook over revisions to its platform and privacy policy that encourage its members to make personal information accessible to anyone on the Internet.
“Right now is the perfect time for us,” said Leo Shimizu, co-founder of a company called, 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.” 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.”

Cashing in
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.
Matthew Milan, co-creator of, said he was so disturbed by the company’s rapidly evolving privacy policy that he had decided it was time to close his account. “I’m not interested in having my data somewhere I can’t trust what is going to happen to it,” he said.

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, 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, 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 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 An FAQ can be found at wiki/FAQ

19 May 2010
Growing up: At YouTube, adolescence begins at five

Brad Stone traces the challenging journey of YouTube as it moves into its fifth successful year.

Early this year, the most popular YouTube video of all time — a 2007 clip of a British toddler gleefully biting the finger of his older brother — was supplanted by a brash newcomer.

The upstart was Lady Gaga’s slithering, sci-fi-themed music video for her hit single “Bad Romance.”

The shift was symbolic: YouTube, a subsidiary of the search giant Google, is growing up. Once known primarily for skateboard-riding cats, dancing geeks and a variety of cute-baby high jinks, YouTube now features a smorgasbord of more professional video that is drawing ever larger and more engaged audiences.

“Our biggest challenge is making sure we don’t taste too many things,” Chad Hurley, YouTube’s low-profile and low-key co-founder and chief executive, said in a wide-ranging interview last week.

Risky investment
That cornucopia of content appears to be turning YouTube — considered by many to be a risky investment when it was bought for $1.65 billion at the end of 2006 — into one of Google’s smartest acquisitions. On Monday, YouTube will celebrate its fifth birthday by announcing it has passed two billion video views a day; YouTube said it reached the one billion mark in October.

Bolstering YouTube’s growing audience is the popularity of live broadcasts, like the recent Indian Premier League cricket matches, and the integration of instructional videos directly into Google search results.

YouTube also holds a large catalog of music videos that contain advertisements, thanks to Google’s partnership with three of the four major American music labels in an effort called Vevo.

Hurley, 33, said YouTube was increasingly focused on showing users what their friends had watched, as a way of helping people navigate the tens of thousands of hours of video uploaded to the site every day.

He also contended that more rights-holders were quietly allowing fans to appropriate short snippets of their content for mash-ups and parodies, “though a lot of them might not come out and say it for business reasons.”

Hurley declined to discuss YouTube’s financial performance, though he cited overall improvement.

Google executives said in January that the site, which has perennially lost money, had increased its revenue, and that ad space on YouTube’s home pages for 20 countries was sold out every day toward the end of 2009. Many analysts say YouTube could break even this year for the first time, after five years of large losses generated by its high bandwidth and storage costs.

YouTube has faced a fight in another regard as well: it has so far failed to persuade major American film studios and television networks to view it as an outlet for anything other than promotional snippets of long-form programming.

Novel ventures

In January, YouTube introduced a movie rental store, though its only offerings are from independent film companies and Bollywood studios. James L McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research, said YouTube’s Vevo partnership with music labels “shows what YouTube can accomplish when it works with the media industry. It’s really one of the first legitimisations of YouTube as a commercial platform.”

Hurley indicated that convincing media companies to embrace YouTube was no longer an important goal, adding that chasing, the joint venture of Fox, NBC and ABC, “may have been a distraction for us.”

Hulu is “starting to have some troubles in terms of their long-term model and relationship with their owners,” Hurley said, referring to the increasing unease among broadcasters with the practice of streaming programming free on the Web, where ad rates are significantly lower than they are on television.

One possibility is that YouTube would start scouring the rest of the Internet for video, Hurley said, “indexing more video wherever it may live” and then pointing users to it, even if the video did not reside on YouTube’s servers. YouTube already has the second most popular search engine in the world, according to comScore.
One factor driving YouTube’s growth is the ever-easier availability of the Internet on the living room television through devices like TiVo and Roku set-top boxes.

Google and YouTube
Google is planning to back that trend in a big way at its annual I/O developers’ conference this week in San Francisco. The company plans to introduce Google TV, a software platform for the television that it is developing with Sony, Intel and Logitech, according to people briefed on its plans who were not authorised to talk about them publicly.

YouTube is expected to play a prominent role in bringing a variety of video to the Google TV platform, and Hurley contended that the rise of Web video on the television was inevitable. “I don’t think there’s going to be much of a difference between a phone, a computer and a television. It’s going to be size and presentation,” he said.
Although he might not have gotten the memo about the Google TV efforts, since he added, “Maybe we just have to wait until Apple releases a bigger iPhone that you can strap onto the wall,” he said.

Finally, Hurley tipped his entrepreneurial hat to a chaotic, controversial and suddenly popular site that resembles the YouTube of five years ago: ChatRoulette. The site, created by an 18-year-old from Moscow, Andrey Ternovskiy, allows people around the world to engage in random, instantaneous one-on-one conversations.
ChatRoulette “demonstrates that there is still so much more that can be unleashed with video online,” Hurley said, adding that Ternovskiy, whom he said he would like to meet, “has the spotlight and the opportunity to do great things.”
The New York Times

Now, get treated for common ailments online
Jennifer Saranow Schultz,The New York Times:

Park Nicollet Health Services Zipnosis patients using a smartphone with G.P.S. can touch a button and their prescriptions will be electronically sent to the nearest pharmacy or the pharmacy of their choice.

In a recent Bucks post, “Doctors, Let Me Pay You for E-Mail,” my colleague Ron Lieber said he would gladly pay his family doctors a flat annual fee to be able to e-mail them questions and get a timely electronic response, and he questioned why this isn’t the norm.

Well, it turns out that it’s possible now in one state, Minnesota, to pay $25 and then actually get treated for certain basic ailments online thanks to a just-introduced yearlong pilot program offered by the health care Park Nicollet Health Services and, a start-up in Minnesota.

The service is available for treatment of eight common ailments or conditions: colds, sinus infections, strep throat, seasonal allergies, cold and canker sores, quitting tobacco and bladder and yeast infections.

How it works

Residents of the state who believe they have one of these ailments can register at and provide details about their health history and their credit card, debit or health savings account card information. At this point, those patients with chronic ailments like heart disease will be screened out from the online service and directed to come in for an appointment.

Those patients who pass the initial screening then pick which of the eight common ailments they believe they are suffering from and answer a series of questions about their symptoms. This information is then passed along to the doctor in the form of a clinical note. From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, doctors at Park Nicollet Health Services will then respond to patients within an hour. Patients are notified via e-mail or text message that the response is ready to be viewed through the Web.
If the patient appeared to have the condition, the doctor would respond with diagnosis and treatment information. The patient would be charged $25. If the doctor believes the patient may be suffering from something more serious, the patient will be directed to set up an appointment and the $25 fee will be waived. For patients, the service means no more having to wait in waiting rooms just to get a prescription when they know exactly what they have.

John Misa, chief of primary care at Park Nichollet, said the service not only makes care more convenient for patients, but also may help the practice earn more revenue. Treating such common ailments online, he said, frees up doctors’ schedules to see more patients with more serious ailments that require more advanced treatment.
Having additional free capacity will also be important when the health care bill starts to take effect and more patients come in for care. In addition, the clinic can have those doctors who are free at the moment respond to the online queries.
Zipnosis plans to be in Northern California by the end of this year, Pennsylvania by early next year and hopes eventually to expand nationwide, said Rick Krieger, Zipnosis’ chief executive and a co-founder of the QuickMedx/Minute Clinic, a nationwide chain of walk-in clinics.

World’s largest social network: The open Web
Randall Stross

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.

The company’s desire now to help out “the world” — an aim that wasn’t mentioned on its “About” page two years ago — has led it to inflict an unending succession of privacy policy changes on its members.

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
Tell-all generation learns to keep things offline
Laura M Holson, The New York Times

Recent privacy issues on the social networking sites have made youth more cautious while using them, reports Laura M Holson

Living out loud on social sites may result in publicising and sharing of some of your personal and confidential information.Min Liu, a 21-year-old liberal arts student at the New School in New York City, got a Facebook account at 17 and chronicled her college life in detail, from rooftop drinks with friends to dancing at a downtown club. Recently, though, she has had second thoughts.

Concerned about her career prospects, she asked a friend to take down a photograph of her drinking and wearing a tight dress. When the woman overseeing her internship asked to join her Facebook circle, Liu agreed, but limited access to her Facebook page. “I want people to take me seriously,” she said.

The conventional wisdom suggests that everyone under 30 is comfortable revealing every facet of their lives online, from their favorite pizza to most frequent sexual partners. But many members of the tell-all generation are rethinking what it means to live out loud.

While participation in social networks is still strong, a survey released last month by the University of California, Berkeley, found that more than half the young adults questioned had become more concerned about privacy than they were five years ago — mirroring the number of people their parent’s age or older with that worry.

They are more diligent than older adults, however, in trying to protect themselves. In a new study to be released this month, the Pew Internet Project has found that people in their 20s exert more control over their digital reputations than older adults, more vigorously deleting unwanted posts and limiting information about themselves. “Social networking requires vigilance, not only in what you post, but what your friends post about you,” said Mary Madden, a senior research specialist who oversaw the study by Pew, which examines online behavior. “Now you are responsible for everything.”

Privacy at risk

The erosion of privacy has become a pressing issue among active users of social networks. Last week, Facebook scrambled to fix a security breach that allowed users to see their friends’ supposedly private information, including personal chats.

Sam Jackson, a junior at Yale who started a blog when he was 15 and who has been an intern at Google, said he had learned not to trust any social network to keep his information private. “If I go back and look, there are things four years ago I would not say today,” he said. “I am much more self-censoring. I’ll try to be honest and forthright, but I am conscious now who I am talking to.”

Mistrust of the intentions of social sites appears to be pervasive. In its telephone survey of 1,000 people, the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology at the University of California found that 88 percent of the 18- to 24-year-olds it surveyed last July said there should be a law that requires Web sites to delete stored information. And 62 percent said they wanted a law that gave people the right to know everything a Web site knows about them.

That mistrust is translating into action. In the Pew study, to be released shortly, researchers interviewed 2,253 adults late last summer and found that people ages 18 to 29 were more apt to monitor privacy settings than older adults are, and they more often delete comments or remove their names from photos so they cannot be identified.
Younger teenagers were not included in these studies, and they may not have the same privacy concerns.

Elliot Schrage, who oversees Facebook’s global communications and public policy strategy, said it was a good thing that young people are thinking about what they put online. “We are not forcing anyone to use it,” he said of Facebook. But at the same time, companies like Facebook have a financial incentive to get friends to share as much as possible. Because the more personal the information that Facebook collects, the more valuable the site is to advertisers.

Two weeks ago, Senator Charles E Schumer, Democrat of New York, petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to review the privacy policies of social networks to make sure consumers are not being deliberately confused or misled. The action was sparked by a recent change to Facebook’s settings that forced its more than 400 million users to choose to “opt out” of sharing private information with third-party Web sites instead of “opt in,” a move which confounded many of them.

But in many cases, young adults are teaching one another about privacy.
Liu is not just policing her own behavior, but her sister’s, too. Liu sent a text message to her 17-year-old sibling warning her to take down a photo of a guy sitting on her sister’s lap. Why? Her sister wants to audition for “Glee” and Liu didn’t want the show’s producers to see it. Besides, what if her sister became a celebrity? “It conjures up an image where if you became famous anyone could pull up a picture and send it to TMZ,” Liu said.

Timely alert

Andrew Klemperer, a 20-year-old at Georgetown University, said it was a classmate who warned him about the implications of recent Facebook change. Now he is more diligent in monitoring privacy settings and apt to warn others, too.

Helen Nissenbaum, a professor of culture, media and communication at New York University and author of “Privacy in Context,” a book about information sharing in the digital age, said teenagers were naturally protective of their privacy as they navigate the path to adulthood, and the frequency with which companies change privacy rules has taught them to be wary.

That was the experience of Kanupriya Tewari, a 19-year-old pre-med student at Tufts University. Recently she sought to limit the information a friend could see on Facebook but found the process cumbersome. “I spent like an hour trying to figure out how to limit my profile, and I couldn’t,” she said. She gave up because she had chemistry homework to do, but vowed to figure it out after finals.

“I don’t think they would look out for me,” she said. “I have to look out for me.”

Test flights into the Google cloud
Brad Stone The New York Times

Jordan Wing is a devoted user of Google products like Gmail, the Chrome browser and Google Docs, the Web-based word processing program. A few weeks ago, Wing, a high school student from Spokane, Wash., took another Google product out for a spin: the Chrome Operating System.

Google is not expected to unveil the highly anticipated Chrome OS until the end of the year, and the software is expected to run, at first, only on the class of low-cost PCs called netbooks. But Wing, along with a growing number of other Google fans, did not want to wait.

These people are downloading home-brewed versions of the operating system derived from the esoteric source code, which Google releases under the name Chromium. Google is developing the Chrome system as an open-source project and periodically releases the Chromium code online, to let other Web developers contribute to the project.

Several resourceful users have taken those undistilled vats of source code and done something Google says it never expected: they’ve compiled it into working versions of the operating system, tailoring it for use on dozens of computer brands and making it available to regular folks who want to preview one possible vision of their high-tech future.

“Maybe it’s because I’m still kind of a kid, but all this new stuff is exciting,” said Wing, who installed Chromium on his Dell Inspiron laptop and recently extolled its virtues. “The idea of an operating system that really only does one thing — gets you onto the Internet very quickly — is perfect for me.”

Chrome, a milestone

When officially released, Chrome OS will represent a milestone for Google. It will not only be its entry into the market for operating systems, long dominated by its archrival Microsoft, but also a new computing paradigm.

The Chrome operating system is designed to allow computers to boot up to the Web within seconds, onto a home screen that looks like that of a Web browser. Users of devices running Chrome will have to perform all their computing online or “in the cloud,” without downloading traditional software applications like iTunes and Microsoft Office, or storing files on hard drives.

Devices running Chrome will receive continuous software updates, providing added security, and most user data will reside on Google’s servers.

Some analysts are skeptical that regular folks will flock to devices that place such severe limits on their computing activities. Chrome OS “is a bet on a future in which we move beyond rich applications and everything eventually gets delivered through a Web browser,” said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at the research firm Interpret. But that time is not here yet, he said: “Chrome this year and next year is mostly a science project.”

The young programmer

But for legions of Google heads, the fact that it feels like a science project adds to the allure. Working versions of Chromium have appeared across the Web and have been downloaded more than a million times. By all accounts, the most popular and functional have been on the Web site of a 17-year-old in Manchester, England, who goes by the Internet handle “Hexxeh.”

Liam McLoughlin, as Hexxeh is known to family and friends, is a college student and programmer who has taken Google’s Chromium code and compiled it so the operating system can be downloaded to a separate USB memory stick, which can then be used to boot up a computer.

He has spent countless evenings and weekends configuring Chromium to work on various kinds of computers, including the Macintosh, and added features that Google has not gotten to yet, like support for the Java programming language.

He explained that his work on Chromium began partly as a way to demonstrate his computing skills and possibly open doors in the technology industry. It also sprang from an interest and belief in Google’s computing vision. “Many people don’t care about how PCs work and all the security software that comes with today’s computers. They just want to use the Internet,” he said. Since last fall, a small but vibrant community has formed around his work, encouraging him with ideas and supporting his efforts by providing money for servers and other programming tools.

Steve Pirk, a former systems engineer at the Walt Disney Company and now based in the Seattle area, helped to support a coding marathon this year by donating $50 via PayPal, which McLoughlin spent on a supply of highly caffeinated Jolt cola.

Pirk said he tested Hexxeh’s resulting software, code-named Flow, on a half-dozen computers; all functioned properly running Chromium from a USB drive. He says he looks forward to the day when low-powered but fully functional computers running Chrome can help lead to a new wave of telecommuting.

“The more work we do in the cloud, the less need there is for people to be in physically secure network environments,” he said.

All of the activity around these prenatal incarnations of Chrome is something of a double-edged sword for Google. The company wants developers and other companies to work beside its engineers, developing their own versions of the operating system.

But Google says it did not anticipate that regular people would start using Chromium — and evaluating it — before it was ready for prime time. Nevertheless, the Google executive in charge of Chrome OS took pains to express support for the Google fans trying Chromium and for their presumptive band leader, McLoughlin.

Sundar Pichai, Vice President of product management, said that “what people like Hexxeh are doing is amazing to see.” Though he called the Chromium releases an “unintended consequence” of the process of developing open-source software, he said, “If you decide to do open-source projects, you have to be open all the way.”

Software bug emerges on Twitter site
Nick Bilton The New York Times

If you have ever wanted Oprah Winfrey to follow you on Twitter, you might have been able to make that possible early Monday morning, when a software bug surfaced on Twitter’s Web site.

The bug allowed anyone to force another user to follow them on Twitter, giving the site its first setback in several months.

The bug was first revealed by a Turkish man who wanted to tell his friends on Twitter about a band, “Accept,” that he enjoyed listening to.

When the man typed “Accept pwns” into the update box on Twitter, he noticed that a user by the name of @pwns was now following him on the site. (“Pwns” is a slang term used online to say that you “own” or have “conquered” something.)

It didn’t take long for the bug to make its way across the Internet as several technology blogs, including Gizmodo and Mashable, wrote very simple explanations telling readers how to take advantage of the security hole.

Twitter alerted its users of the bug several hours later with a notice on a company blog. The company said it had “identified and resolved” the bug .

Although Twitter spent most of the day trying to remedy the security flaw, many users’ follower and following lists were set to zero in an effort to make the lists accurate.
Twitter is still working to fix users’ inaccurate follow lists.

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, a URL shortener and Chartbeat.

John Borthwick, left, and Andrew Weissman founded Betaworks to capitalize on new Web tools. NYTIn 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, 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 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...

Mark Zuckerberg, a founder of Facebook,  says it has  sophisticated ways to defeat fake accounts. REUTERSDuring 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

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’s response

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.

Shoppers no longer enjoy privacy
By Natasha Singer, The New York Times

Cameras that can follow you from the minute you enter a store to the moment you hit the checkout counter, recording every T-shirt you touch, every mannequin you ogle, every time you blow your nose or stop to tie your shoelaces is what is called behavioral tracking...

Web coupons embedded with bar codes that can identify, and alert retailers to, the search terms you used to find them and, in some cases, even your Facebook information and your name.

Mobile marketers that can find you near a store clothing rack, and send ads to your cellphone based on your past preferences and behavior.

To be sure, such retail innovations help companies identify their most profitable client segments, better predict the deals shoppers will pursue, fine-tune customer service down to a person and foster brand loyalty. But these and other surveillance techniques are also reminders that advances in data collection are far outpacing personal data protection.

The commission has brought several dozen complaints against companies about possibly deceptive or unfair data collection and nearly 30 complaints over data security issues. In 2009, the commission proposed new guidelines for Web advertising that is tailored to user behavior.

The problem is, the F T C’s guidelines are merely recommendations. Corporations can choose to follow them — or not. And the online advertising standards don’t apply to off-line techniques like observation in stores.

Mike Zaneis, vice president for public policy at the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a trade association based in Manhattan, says the advertising industry is not generally collecting personally identifiable data.

He says consumers can use an industry program if they want to opt out of some behavior-based ads. As for mobile marketing consumers are always asked if they want to opt in to ads related to their cellphone location.

The larger issue here is not the invasion of any one person’s privacy as much as the explosive growth of a collective industry in behavioral information, says Jeff Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a nonprofit group that works to safeguard user privacy.

As contradictory as it might sound, we need new strategies for transparent consumer surveillance. In a country where we have a comprehensive federal law — the Fair Credit Reporting Act — giving us the right to obtain and correct financial data collected about us, no general federal statute requires behavioral data marketers to show us our files, says Rich.

Europe’s privacy commissioners have generally been more forward-looking, examining potential privacy intrusions like biometric tracking, while the F T C is still trying to understand the magnitude and the implications of the Web, says Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a research group in Washington.

By early fall, the F T C plans to propose comprehensive new privacy guidelines intended to provide greater tools for transparency and better consumer control of personal information, Rich says.

In a recent documentary called “Erasing David,” the London-based filmmaker David Bond attempts to disappear from Britain’s surveillance grid, hiring experts from the security firm Cerberus to track him using all the information they can glean about him while he tries to outrun them. In the course of the film, the detectives even obtain a copy of the birth certificate of his daughter, then 18 months old.

But the real shocker is the information Bond is able to obtain about himself — by taking advantage of a data protection law in Britain that requires public agencies and private businesses to release a person’s data file upon his or her written request.

N S Soundar Rajan

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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, 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 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.”

N S Soundar Rajan

Fix It:This new Microsoft service provides a set of online and offline tools to fix common PC problems, automatically

This utility can help mobile phone users avoid unwanted calls discreetly, yes, without offending the caller! XBLOCKR features include: Incoming Calls - Duck, Drop, or Divert an incoming call; Post Conversation - options to choose to Duck, Drop, or Divert a call; Do Not Disturb - Reject all incoming calls, except for special numbers; Settings - Modify your settings for Duck, Drop and Divert options. Select the options you want to display when you get an incoming call; Number List - View the Special, Duck, Drop, and Divert numbers; Manage Numbers -You can Add / Delete/ Delete All numbers. XBLOCKR is compatible with multiple mobile platforms including Symbian, BlackBerry and Windows. It occupies minimal space in the handset memory, works in real time. The efficacy of XBLOCKR has been validated by 25,000 users across 250 types of handsets, says Aquilonis, a Bangalore based mobile technology company. You can try it out for your phone and platform at XBLOCKR can also be downloaded at application stores managed by Airtel App Central, Nokia’s OVI and Microsoft marketplace for windows phone. User Guides for Windows Mobile, Symbian and Blackberry are also available, individually, at

Advanced Uninstaller can help uninstall and remove unwanted programs and folders quickly and easily. While Standard Uninstall works as the Windows built-in Add/Remove Programs function, this utility helps to scan Windows registry and hard drive for any possible installation leftovers. Advanced Uninstaller can be a very handy tool especially when the built-in “Windows Add or Remove Programs” option fails to do what you want. Its features include: remove a program not listed in Windows built-in Add/Remove Programs; find leftovers and traces of a programme and remove them completely; Batch Uninstall - Uninstall several applications easily with just one click; Log Manager - view changes made by Advanced Uninstaller; Restore - every time a store point image is automatically set for restoration. The 687 KB Advanced Uninstaller v1.0 (20 Feb, 2010) for Windows 7, Vista, XP and 2000 can be downloaded at

Fix It
This new Microsoft service provides a set of online and offline tools to fix common PC problems, automatically. Currently in open public beta, Fix It, an extension of the year-old “Microsoft’s Fix it Solution Center”, not only finds and fixes many common PC and device problems, but also helps prevent new problems by proactively checking for known issues and installing updates. The ‘fixing’ process is automated without technical jargon and unlike a help file or online forum posts that tell you what to do, this application simply does it for you. Fix It is very much akin to Windows 7 “Action Center”, as it is built on top of it. Do note that Fix It is in Beta, could function erratically. The 437 KB Fix IT, an application for Windows, from Win XP and upwards, including Windows server installations, can be downloaded at

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’s reaction

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.

Tech companies are on cloud nine
The New York Times

Silicon Valley firms like Amazon, Microsoft and Google see a silver lining, report Brad Stone and Ashlee Vance

Kevin McEntee, vice president of engineering at Netflix, pointing, and Santosh Rau, cloud system manager. Netflix is using Amazon's network, freeing it to focus on its movie business. This year, Netflix made what looked like a peculiar choice: the DVD-by-mail company decided that over the next two years, it would move most of its Web technology — customer movie queues, search tools and the like — over to the computer servers of one of its chief rivals,

Amazon, like Netflix, wants to deliver movies to people’s homes over the Internet. But the online retailer, based in Seattle, has lately gained traction with a considerably more ambitious effort: the business of renting other companies the remote use of its technology infrastructure so they can run their computer operations. In the parlance of technophiles, they would operate “in the cloud.”

Cloud services

Ah, the cloud — these days, Silicon Valley can’t seem to get its head out of it. The idea, though typically expressed in ways larded with jargon, is actually rather simple.

Cloud providers, large ones like Amazon, Microsoft, Google and AT&T, and smaller ones like Rackspace and Terremark, aim to convince other companies to give up building and managing their own data centers and to use their computer capacity instead.

The concept of renting computing power goes back decades, to the days when companies would share space on a single mainframe with big spinning tape drives. The technology industry has matured to the point where there is now an emerging mass market for this rental model.

Led by Amazon, most cloud services have largely been aimed at start-ups, like the legion of Facebook and iPhone applications developers who found they could rent a first-class computing infrastructure on the fly.

Now cloud providers are trying to bring these types of flexible services to the more conservative and lucrative world of large corporations. Although most large companies have taken their first cautious steps into the cloud, many are anxious about data failures and slow delivery of data over a network. They also fear that their confidential information could be vulnerable on another company’s systems, out of their control.

To alleviate those concerns, Google held a daylong conference last week called Atmosphere at its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters, selling its cloud computing services, like e-mail and business software, to executives of large corporations.

Employees of the Amazon Web Services subsidiary are currently on a multicity tour to convince even those companies that might compete with Amazon, like Netflix, to stop building their own data centers and move their data onto Amazon’s servers instead.

Kevin McEntee, Netflix’s vice president of engineering, said Netflix switched in order to “focus our innovation around finding movies, rather than building larger and larger data centers.”

As for tethering Netflix’s future to a rival, McEntee said, “It’s in their interest to make us successful in the cloud. That’s why we felt comfortable.”

In Amazon’s model, businesses pay only for the computing cycles they use. Customers eliminate the upfront cost of computer hardware and can then buy more time on Amazon’s data center as needed.

Companies have also used Amazon as a backup system, either to handle sudden spikes in computing demand or to keep information in a secondary spot in case of a disaster.

In another cloud model, advocated by companies like VMware and I B M, tech companies help large businesses develop “private clouds” in their own data centers, so that various departments and employees can rent computing capacity as they need it without making big budget commitments.

Though Amazon characteristically releases few statistics about its Web Services effort, Citibank estimates that it will generate between $500 million and $700 million this year. That’s less than 3 percent of Amazon’s annual revenue.

Still, Jeffrey P Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, has predicted that its cloud computing division will one day generate as much revenue as its retail business does now. For that to happen, Amazon and other cloud providers will have to convince big business.

Thinking deep

Almost every big company is cautiously testing the waters these days. 3M, the St. Paul, Minn., conglomerate, is using Microsoft’s new Azure cloud service to allow advertisers and marketers to tap into a service that mathematically analyzes promotional images and evaluates how visually effective they are likely to be. “It took a lot of the risk out of whether to commercialize it or not,” said Jim Graham, a technical manager at 3M.

But most big organizations say they are wary of placing more critical software and business operations on another company’s computers. “We are no different than anybody else. We are concerned about privacy and security and compliance,” said Dave Powers, a senior systems engineer at Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical giant based in Indianapolis, which uses Amazon’s cloud services for some research and development efforts. “We are very careful about what we are putting out there today.”

Government agencies are looking at it too. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab currently runs various experiments on the computers of Amazon, Microsoft and Google — to avoid committing to a single company, said Tomas Soderstrom, the IT chief technology officer there. Among other experiments, the agency is using Amazon’s servers to process vast amounts of telemetry data coming from the rovers on Mars.

“There was a lot of bending on both sides,” said Soderstrom, adding that NASA settled the matter by using a new Amazon Web service called Virtual Private Cloud, which allows a customer to cordon off a collection of servers and use them exclusively as if they were its own hardware.

When given a clean slate, many new companies have chosen a full embrace of the cloud model, figuring the technology industry has matured to the point were these types of services make basic business sense.

For example, Arista Networks, a five-year-old company that makes networking equipment, runs its sales software with a cloud software company called NetSuite, its corporate e-mail on Google Apps, and other Web infrastructure with

“It’s so much easier,” said Andreas von Bechtolsheim, the co-founder Arista and Sun Microsystems and one of earliest investors in Google and VMware. “For a new company like us, you would just never build a traditional data center anymore.”


Agent Ransack

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 Agent Ransack's pro version, the FileLocator, has many more features.

Password Keeper

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.

New MS phones aim at the younger crowd

Microsoft is trying to home on in a younger, chattier demographic with two new cellphones centered on social networking.

The Kin One and Kin Two allow users to keep closely synched with sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. The start menu displays a montage of photographs from friends with notes about what they are doing rather than a more traditional menu that caters to phone functions. The Kins also have touch screens, links to the Zune music service and high-powered cameras for capturing photographs and video.

“This is aimed at 15 to 30-year-olds who are social-networking enthusiasts,” said Robert J Bach, president of Microsoft’s entertainment and devices division, who introduced the phones at a news conference here Monday.

Phone makers like Nokia and Samsung have long built a variety of models, including those aimed at younger buyers, many of which also link to social-networking sites. But in its focus on social networking, Microsoft has taken one of the more aggressive stances in going after this market, which the company believes is receptive to a fresh pitch. Microsoft could use a runaway cellphone product since it has been steadily losing market share despite selling mobile software for far longer than Apple.

Designed as per costumer’s taste
The Kin One is square and fits easily in the palm of a hand. A full keyboard slides down at the bottom of the phone. The Kin Two has the more familiar rectangle shape, an eight-megapixel camera (up from five megapixels on the One) and can take high-definition videos.

Verizon Wireless has an exclusive deal in the United States for the Kins, made by Sharp; the phones are to go on sale in May for an undisclosed price. Vodafone will sell them in Europe. Kevin Restivo, an analyst with the research firm IDC, said many phone makers and carriers had recently emphasized social networking. But he commended Microsoft for picking a clear target. “For years, Microsoft has tried to be all things to all people and it hasn’t worked,” he said. “Microsoft has regrouped and decided to form a beachhead with the teens and tweens.”

John Harrobin, a senior vice president at Verizon, said he hoped the phones would attract a new crop of customers. “R I M went after a market that they knew was big, but didn’t know how big,” he said. “They did e-mail better than anyone, and the Kin does social networking, pictures and video better than other phones.” Harrobin said he expected the video-capable Kins to cost less than the popular Flip video cameras sold by Cisco Systems, which start at about $150.

Microsoft has been in the cellphone software market for years, trying to make a mobile version of its Windows software as popular on hand-held devices as the regular version is on PCs. But the strategy has not been successful.

In February, Microsoft showed off a new version of its smartphone software, Windows Phone 7. A large number of phone makers will ship products based on this software later this year, hoping their devices will slow the momentum of Apple’s iPhone.
The Kin phones build on the same core software as the Windows Phone 7 products, although they look different. And while the Kins emphasize social networking, the Windows Phone 7 software and devices merge consumer and business functions.
The Kins are largely updated versions of products Microsoft acquired in its 2008 purchase of Danger. Sharp and Microsoft designed the phones, which will display the Windows Phone, Sharp and Verizon/Vodafone brands.

One software feature unique to the Kin phones is the Spot, a place near the bottom of the interface where users can drag photos, messages, videos, maps and other content, which can then be sent to a friend with a flick of the finger.
Microsoft has decided to retain tight control of the Kin software, meaning that there is no applications marketplace for the products, and will determine which social networks have built-in support on the phones.


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 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

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.

7 April 2010

Chinese hackers attack Indian defence sites
The New York Times

John Markoff and David Barboza tell how the spy ring made use of Twitter, Google, Blogspots and Yahoo Mail in their operation.

Turning the tables on a China-based computer espionage gang, Canadian and United States computer security researchers have monitored a spying operation for the past eight months, observing while the intruders pilfered classified and restricted documents from the highest levels of the Indian Defense Ministry.

In a report issued on Monday night, the researchers, based at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, provide a detailed account of how a spy operation called the Shadow Network systematically hacked into personal computers in government offices on several continents.

Hunters’ chase

The Toronto spy hunters not only learned what kinds of material had been stolen, but were able to see some of the documents, including classified assessments about security in several Indian states, and confidential embassy documents about India’s relationships in West Africa, Russia and the Middle East.

The intruders breached the systems of independent analysts, taking reports on several Indian missile systems. They also obtained a year’s worth of the Dalai Lama’s personal e-mail messages.

The intruders even stole documents related to the travel of NATO forces in Afghanistan, illustrating that even though the Indian government was the primary target of the attacks, one chink in computer security can leave many nations exposed.

“It’s not only that you’re only secure as the weakest link in your network,” said Rafal Rohozinski, a member of the Toronto team. “But in an interconnected world, you’re only as secure as the weakest link in the global chain of information.”

As recently as early March, the Indian communications minister, Sachin Pilot, told reporters that government networks had been attacked by China, but that “not one attempt has been successful.”

But on March 24, the Toronto researchers said, they contacted intelligence officials in India and told them of the spy ring they had been tracking. They requested and were given instructions on how to dispose of the classified and restricted documents.

The attacks look like the work of a criminal gang based in Sichuan Province, but as with all cyberattacks, it is easy to mask the true origin, the researchers said. Given the sophistication of the intruders and the targets of the operation, the researchers said, it is possible that the Chinese government approved of the spying.

When asked about the new report on Monday, a propaganda official in Sichuan’s capital, Chengdu, said “it’s ridiculous” to suggest that the Chinese government might have played a role. “The Chinese government considers hacking a cancer to the whole society,” said the official, Ye Lao. Tensions have risen between China and the United States this year after a statement by Google in January that it and dozens of other companies had been the victims of computer intrusions coming from China.

The spy operation appears to be different from the Internet intruders identified by Google and from a surveillance ring known as Ghostnet, also believed to be operating from China, which the Canadian researchers identified in March of last year. Ghostnet used computer servers based largely on the island of Hainan to steal documents from the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, and governments and corporations in
more than 103 countries.

Ghostnet investigation

The Ghostnet investigation led the researchers to this second Internet spy operation, which is the subject of their new report, titled “Shadows in the Cloud: An investigation Into Cyberespionage 2.0.” The new report shows that the India-focused spy ring made extensive use of Internet services like Twitter, Google Groups, Blogspot,, Baidu Blogs and Yahoo! Mail to automate the control of computers once they had been infected.
The Canadian researchers cooperated in their investigation with a volunteer group of security experts in the United States at the Shadowserver Foundation, which focuses on Internet criminal activity.

“This would definitely rank in the sophisticated range,” said Steven Adair, a security research with the group. “While we don’t know exactly who’s behind it, we know they selected their targets with great care.”

By gaining access to the control servers used by the second cyber gang, the researchers observed the theft of a wide range of material, including classified documents from the Indian government and reports taken from Indian military analysts and corporations, as well as documents from agencies of the United Nations and other governments.

“We snuck around behind the backs of the attackers and picked their pockets,” said Ronald J Deibert, a political scientist who is director of the Citizen Lab, a cybersecurity research group at the Munk School. “I’ve not seen anything remotely close to the depth and the sensitivity of the documents that we’ve recovered.”

By examining a series of e-mail addresses, the investigators traced the attacks to hackers who appeared to be based in Chengdu, which is home to a large population from neighboring Tibet. Researchers believe that one hacker used the code name “lost33” and that he may have been affiliated with the city’s prestigious University of Electronic Science and Technology. The university publishes books on computer hacking and offers courses in “network attack and defense technology” and “information conflict technology,” according to its Web site.

The People’s Liberation Army also operates a technical reconnaissance bureau in the city, and helps finance the university’s research on computer network defense. A university spokesman could not be reached Monday because of a national holiday.

The investigators linked the account of another hacker to a Chengdu resident whose name appeared to be Li. Reached by telephone on Monday, Li denied taking part in computer hacking. Li, who declined to give his full name, said he must have been confused with someone else. He said he knew little about hacking. “That is not me,” he said. “I’m a wine seller.” The Canadian researchers stressed that while the new spy ring focused primarily on India, there were clear international ramifications. Rohozinski noted that civilians working for NATO and the reconstruction mission in Afghanistan usually traveled through India and that Indian government computers that issued visas had been compromised in both Kandahar and Kabul in Afghanistan.

“That is an operations security issue for both NATO and the International Security Assistance Force,” said Rohozinski, who is also chief executive of the SecDev Group, a Canadian computer security consulting and research firm.

Sensitive information

The report notes that documents the researchers recovered were found with “Secret,” “Restricted” and “Confidential” notices. “These documents,” the report says, “contain sensitive information taken from a member of the National Security Council Secretariat concerning secret assessments of India’s security situation in the states of Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura, as well as concerning the Naxalites and Maoists,” two opposition groups.

Other documents included personal information about a member of the Indian Directorate General of Military Intelligence. The researchers also found evidence that Indian Embassy computers in Kabul, Moscow and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and at the High Commission of India in Abuja, Nigeria had been compromised. Also compromised were computers used by the Indian Military Engineer Services in Bengdubi, Calcutta, Bangalore and Jalandhar; the 21 Mountain Artillery Brigade in Assam and three air force bases.

Even after eight months of watching the spy ring, the Toronto researchers said they could not determine exactly who was using the Chengdu computers to infiltrate the Indian government. “But an important question to be entertained is whether the P R C will take action to shut the Shadow Network down,” the report says, referring to the People’s Republic of China. “Doing so will help to address longstanding concerns that malware ecosystems are actively cultivated, or at the very least tolerated, by governments like the P R C who stand to benefit from their exploits though the black and gray markets for information and data.”

Developers scramble to strike iPad gold
The New York Times

Jenna Wortham tells the interesting and challenging story behind the creation of new apps for the Apple iPad, that mark a revolution.

After getting their hands on an Apple iPad on Saturday morning, Igor Pusenjak and his brother Marko rushed back to Igor’s apartment in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, weaving around languid dogs and seafood deliverymen.

“Careful,” Igor called out. “This is our most prized possession in the world.” He was only half-joking. As the creators of a best-selling iPhone game called Doodle Jump, the Pusenjaks were well aware of the financial opportunity that the iPad represented. So over the weekend they joined perhaps thousands of other software developers in an unusual scramble that drew people from as far as Australia.

While many developers have spent weeks working on applications for Apple’s newest toy, only a handful were given iPads to test their software. The rest had to wait until the device went on sale on Saturday for the moment of truth: How well does our app work on the iPad? Does it look and feel right? Or do we have a lot more work to do?


For small developers, the stakes are high. Having an app accepted for a highly coveted Apple product means reaching a passionate group of consumers who have demonstrated their willingness to spend over and over again on applications for mobile devices like the iPhone and iPod Touch. The potential revenue is huge; the apps market for those two devices alone is already worth a billion dollars a year in sales.

Adding to the urgency was the knowledge that many of the earliest apps for the iPhone ended up being among the most successful. A slow start with an iPad app could mean getting lost in the clutter of Apple’s crowded online store.

“A lot of developers may have suffered the pain of trying to rise to the top of the 150,000 apps that are already out there,” said Charles S Golvin, an analyst with Forrester Research. “They don’t want to repeat that experience.”

Doodle Jump for the iPhone, which involves catapulting a four-legged creature up a series of platforms, is near the top of that pile, having sold more than 3.5 million copies at 99 cents apiece in a little over a year (Apple pays developers 70 percent of the revenue from app sales). The challenge for the Pusenjaks will be to recreate that success on a new device that, if it sells well, could significantly expand the market for apps.

Apple provided simulation software to developers that allowed them to mimic the look and functions of an iPad on a Mac, and it began inviting them to submit iPad applications to its App Store last month. But the Pusenjaks and many other developers were apprehensive about submitting programs without first testing them on a real iPad.

Alexandra Peters, community manager at a developer company called Firemint, flew to New York from Australia to pick up several devices, which at the moment are on sale only in the United States. She planned to hand-deliver them early this week to the company’s headquarters in Richmond, a suburb of Melbourne.

Although Firemint’s flagship titles, Flight Control and Real Racing, are already available for download on the iPad, Peters said the company would use the devices for additional testing and future development.

Peters said her colleagues at home were hoping her return flight would be on time. “They can’t wait to see it,” she said with a laugh. “We wanted to wait until we had it in hand so we could see the game mechanics in action and make sure they worked perfectly,” Igor Pusenjak said.

Change for good

The brothers’ original plan for Saturday was for Igor to wait for the delivery of two iPads in the afternoon and then consult via video chat with his brother, who would be at his home in Croatia, where both brothers grew up. But they changed their strategy after seeing that the competition for iPad applications would be stiffer than they had thought.
“Once we saw how many apps were already available for the iPad, we realized we needed to jump on it right away,” said Igor, who is 34 and also teaches at Parsons, The New School for Design.

Marko, 33, got on a plane and arrived in New York late on Friday night. The brothers spent some time working on designs for the new version of Doodle Jump, then got some sleep before lining up at the Apple store in the meatpacking district at 8 a.m.

Two hours later, iPad in hand, the lanky pair hurried up two flights of stairs to the airy apartment Igor shares with his wife. “This is the big moment,” Igor said as Marko unwrapped the iPad and connected it to a laptop. The pair took a minute to check out the competitive landscape, flipping through the iPad apps that Apple was highlighting in the store. “Wow,” Igor said, looking at a list of best sellers for the iPad. “People are buying apps already.” Soon they had loaded up the work-in-progress version of Doodle Jump and were both grinning ear to ear as the game’s whimsical characters leapt to life. “This is going to be huge,” Marko breathed.

Problems in the way

A few hours later, the scene was less jovial. Biting a knuckle while he guided the main character around the game, Marko glanced up and said, “There are a lot more technical problems than we anticipated.” “It’s harder to control the shooting,” Marko murmured. “People will be used to holding it with one hand and shooting with the other,” Igor said. “We may have to rethink that.”

While playing around with the size of elements in the game, the brothers created a version with small characters in a giant-size landscape. “Hey, maybe we have an idea for a sequel,” Igor said.

They also found that BubbleWrap, a less complex iPhone app that they had already adapted for the iPad, didn’t work properly. There were odd glitches in its graphics, and the display didn’t scroll smoothly. “This seemed simple enough to do on a simulator, but I guess not,” Igor said. “It’s definitely going to need to be fixed.” If anything, the brothers said, the problems were an additional validation that they had made the right move to wait, rather than submit Doodle Jump early.

“Plenty of people will see a nice spike in downloads today, but we’re more concerned with the long-term stability of our application,” Igor said. When the app is finally ready, there is likely to be a substantial iPad audience in place.

Although as of Sunday evening Apple had not released sales figures for the weekend, some analysts were saying that the iPad’s debut was stronger than they had expected. Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, wrote in a research note that Apple might have sold as many as 700,000 iPads on Saturday alone, double what he had predicted. By comparison, when Apple released the two most recent iPhone models, it took the company three days to sell a million phones.

“When the iPhone came out, no one realized how big of a deal the App Store was going to be,” Munster said in an interview. “But it’s a proven business model. As far as the platform goes, there is the potential for a second gold rush.”

E - Utilities


FlipAlbum Standard with a natural and intuitive interface is a digital photo album utility to organize your digital images, better. Easy to use, yet highly customizable, FlipAlbum can automatically create realistic, book-like albums. The features include - Auto Flip function; Auto Slide Show - present the contents of your book as a slide show with auto-play. The slide show options include variable time interval between slides, transition effects, number of rows and columns of photos, etc; Realistic 3D Page-Flipping provides a pleasant viewing experience, Multi-page rapid flipping for album browsing; Preview; Supported Multimedia Formats include: Image: BMP, GIF, JPG, PCX, WMF, ICO, PNG, PCD, PSD and TIF; Video: AVI, MPEG1, WMV; and Audio: MIDI, WAV, MP3 and WMA. FlipAlbum Standard v7.0.4 for Windows 2000, XP, and Vista can be downloaded at Please note the standard version (freeware) of FlipAlbum may not include all the features.

Essential PIM

Essential PIM, a Personal Information Manager, lets you keep all your information in the electronic format. The fully Netbook compatible Essential PIM can store your appointments, tasks, to do lists, notes, contacts and email messages in a graphical and easily accessible form. The freeware edition of Essential PIM offers quite a lot of features to make it an interesting and effective choice for many. Among them are an easy to use scheduler, contact and to-do lists, “EPIM Today” option, overview in a single window of a user customizable schedule timeline - all readily accessible from the navigation pane; Versatile import/export capabilities; Scheduler: Color-coded, easy to read day/week/month schedules; To Do List: Categories, priority, completion status, due date, and reminder fields; Tree-like multilevel structure, unlimited number of folders and notes; Contact Manager

Wide selection of fields - adding a new data field to a contact is easy and quick; Fast search and sorting; EssentialPIM v3.23 can be downloaded at A portable edition can be downloaded at


XMind is a brainstorming and mind mapping software to share your ideas with others. It's easy-to-use, just double-click to create and edit topics anywhere on the map. The Drag-and-drop feature helps to reorganize topics, move markers, take a mapshot, and add attachments. You can even search on topic with Google and drag images into your map without leaving the working window. Its intuitive design and powerful features lets you focus on your work and share it easily with others by exporting it through popular formats such as PDF, Word and PowerPoint. The other features include Fishbone Diagram, Spreadsheet, Markers, Inline Notes, Hyperlink/Attachments, Topic As A Map (Drill Down), Spell Checker, Legend and Filtering, and Export to Html/PNG/GIF/JPEG/BMP. XMind v3.1.1 can be downloaded at by choosing the appropriate link for your specific operating system.


DH reader L Vincent wrote

Please suggest a freeware to convert the video files to 3gp.

DH suggested

You could try Format Factory which can be downloaded at

31 March 2010

Screen Recorder BB FlashBack screen reorder can record your computer’s screen, sound, and webcam output, save them as Flash and AVI files, and also publish them on the web.

The features : edit & enhance - annotation features to add text, callouts, images and sound to your screen recording; WebCam Recording - give your movies the personal touch; Publish on the Web - upload to YouTube,, and others; 'capture driver' technology to help create high frame rate, high quality movies; Exports to Flash, QuickTime (H264), WMV, AVI, EXE and PowerPoint. To create professional quality tutorials, presentations and software demos download the 7.84M BB FlashBack Express (Date: 23 March 2010) for Win 2000/03/08/XP/Vista/7 at There are 3 editions Express, Standard and Professional. Standard edition adds annotation and WMV and QuickTime exporting, Professional edition adds audio and video editing, EXE export and zoom and pan effects. You can compare the versions at

FileWing developers aver that it's possible to restore the deleted files with it provided the files haven’t been overwritten. FileWing features include - checks out internal disks, external hard disks, and USB-drives to identify files that have been deleted and recover most of them; recovers deleted files, just name the folder from where you want to resurrect the files; FileWing can also make sure that your deleted files stay deleted - choose among 7 different algorithms to overwrite the files to be deleted with different patterns; Helpful interface and user-friendly wizards help in file recovery or its deletion. The 6934 KB FileWing for Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 can be downloaded at The Pro version features includes: Additional Overwrite Free Space, Deep scan, filters and more.

Network Scanner
SoftPerfect Network Scanner can help both system administrators and general users who are interested in computer security. Key features include: Pings computers, does not require administrative privileges, detects hardware (MAC) addresses even across routers, detects hidden shared folders (normally invisible on the network) and write accessible shares, detects internal and external IP addresses, scans for listening TCP ports and SNMP services, retrieves currently logged-on users, exports results to HTML, XML, CSV and TXT, supports Wake-On-LAN, remote shutdown and sending network messages, retrieves potentially any information via WMI. and more. The 709 KB SoftPerfect Network Scanner v4.4.6 (25 Mar 10) for Win XP/2003/08/Vista/Windows7 can be downloaded at SoftPerfect Network Scanner requires no installation, and the developers aver that it does not contain any adware/spyware/malware. Online User Manual at

A peek into Google HQ
The Guardian

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.

Winning characteristics

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

A  reflection of Google logo is seen in a woman’s glasses in front of its China headquarters in Beijing on Tuesday. REUTERSAs 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.

Total shutdown?

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,, or to its Hong Kong Web site. As of Tuesday, users who go to 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.

Viable compromise

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 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,, which was modeled on Google, with 33 per cent market share to Baidu’s 63 per cent.

The decision to shut down 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 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

Augmented reality: Fantasy meets real life

Charles Arthur investigates how the ways in which we watch sport, read media and do business could change for ever

Augmented reality on the Apple iPhone.Don’t act too surprised if, some time in the next year, you meet someone who explains that their business card isn’t just a card; it’s an augmented reality business card. You can see a collection and, at, you can even design your own, by adding a special marker to your card, which, once put in front of a webcam linked to the internet, will show not only your contact details but also a video or sound clip. Or pretty much anything you want.

It’s not just business cards. London Fashion Week has tried them out too: little symbols that look like barcodes printed onto shirts, which, when viewed through a webcam, come to life. Benetton is using augmented reality for a campaign that kicked off last month, in which it is trying to find models from among the general population.

Augmented reality – AR, as it has quickly become known – has only recently become a phrase that trips easily off technologists’ lips; yet we’ve been seeing versions of it for quite some time. The idea is straightforward enough: take a real-life scene, or (better) a video of a scene, and add some sort of explanatory data to it so that you can better understand what’s going on, or who the people in the scene are, or how to get to where you want to go.

Sports coverage on TV has been doing it for years: slow-motion could be described as a form of AR, since it gives you the chance to examine what happened in a situation more carefully. More recently cricket, tennis, rugby, football and golf have all started to overlay analytic information on top of standard-speed replays – would that ball have hit the stumps, the progress of a rally, the movement of the backs or wingers– to tell you more about what’s going on.

But those required huge systems. AR took its first lumbering steps into the public arena eight years ago: all that you needed to do was strap on 10 kg of computing power – laptop, camera, vision processor – and you could get an idea of what was feasible. The “American Popular Science” magazine wrote about the idea in 2002 – but the idea of being permanently connected to the internet hadn’t quite jelled at that point.

“AR has been around for ages,” says Andy Cameron, executive director of Fabrica, an interactive design studio which works with Benetton, “maybe going back as far as the 1970s.”

What’s changed in the past year is that AR has come within reach of all sorts of developers – and the technology powerful enough to make use of it is owned by millions of people, often in the palms of their hands.

The arrival of powerful smartphones and computers with built-in video capabilities means that you don’t have to wait for the AR effects as you do with TV. They can simply be overlaid onto real life. Step forward Apple’s iPhone, and phones using Google’s Android operating system, both of which are capable of overlaying information on top of a picture or video.

Within the small world of AR, one of the best-known apps is that built by Layar, which – given a location, and using the iPhone 3GS’s inbuilt compass to work out the direction you’re pointing the phone – can give you a “radar map” of details such as Wikipedia information, Flickr photos, Google searches and YouTube videos superimposed onto a picture you’ve taken of the scene.

The next level

Or maybe it wouldn’t need to know where it is; only who it’s looking at. A prototype application demonstrated at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February took things a little further again. Point the phone at a person and if it can find their details, it will pull them off the web and attach details – their Twitter username, Facebook page and other facts – and stick them, rather weirdly, into the air around their head (viewed through your phone, of course). “It’s taking social networking to the next level,” says Dan Gärdenfors, head of user experience research at The Astonishing Tribe, a Swedish mobile software company.

Yet it’s fashion which seems to have leapt quickest into this technology. The T-shirt with AR in London Fashion Week was developed by Cassette Playa. Adidas, too, has launched trainers with AR symbols: hold them to a webcam and you are taken to interactive games on the Adidas web site.

The process by which the strange symbols get translated into images is simple enough: the web site takes the feed from your webcam and analyses it for the particular set of symbols that the program is looking for. Videos and pictures are then sent back to you.
Andy Cameron says that the arrival of an AR tool kit has let companies build their own AR applications, using Flash “which immediately means you have huge penetration, because Flash is everywhere”. Cameron can also see huge potential which could even revive the fortunes of print advertising.

And of course where advertisers go, the publications are sure to go as well. “Esquire” magazine in the US and “Wallpaper” in Europe have done “augmented reality” editions, with Robert Downey Jr coming to life on the cover of the former, and AR text providing videos and animation in the latter.

But there are more possibilities for journalism using AR: for example if you “geotag” newspaper articles then someone visiting a site could learn about events relevant to the area via their smartphone.

Book publishers too are leaping in: Carlton Publishing will release an AR book in May, featuring dinosaurs that pop out of the pages when viewed, yes, through a webcam. Future releases include war, sport and arts titles which will also have extra AR elements.
Is there a risk that we’ll all become AR’d out – that it will become boring? “What’s hot today is ancient history tomorrow,” says Cameron.

Yet there are some who think that AR has already had its brief time in the sun. At the Like Minds conference in Exeter at the beginning of March, Joanne Jacobs, a social media consultant, described an AR application that demanded you buy a T-shirt and then go and sit in front of your webcam – so you could play Rock, Paper, Scissors. By yourself.
“It’s hopeless,” Jacobs said.

The Observer


DH reader Mahesh wrote

Could you suggest a utility to view the video cache?

DH suggested

You could try VideoCacheView V1.57 for IE and Firefox at


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 The pro edition tinySpell+ has more features.

Mp3 Ripper

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 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 v1.9.0.0 (9 March 10) can be downloaded at 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


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 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


DH reader P V Rao wrote
Please suggest a free disk defrag utility.

DH suggested

You could try the 3.83 MB Quicksys Disk Defrag at 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

Some believe that a practice called peering is fundamentally  altering the Net. Others say it is of   little consequence. NYTIn 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.

Traffic flows

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.

Developing models

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

German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks through special micromonitor glasses during her opening tour at the CeBIT computer fair in Hanover on Tuesday. REUTERSThe 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...

Internet now outranks print media and radio in popularity as a source of news.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 v2.18.0.181 (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 FinalBurner has two other versions, FinalBurner Pro, and Final MP3 Burner. You can compare the features of all the three versions at

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

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 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.

DH suggested
You could try Recuva V1.36.479 which can be donwloaded at

24 Feb 2010
For chip makers, the next battle is in smartphones
Ashlee Vance

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––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, 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 / FAQ at _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

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,”

STEVE Ballmer
CEO, Microsoft corp

Chatroulette: Voyeurs’ new friend
The Observer

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
The Guardian

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,, 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.

Famous five

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 Explorer

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
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

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


DH reader Mahadevan wrote
Please suggest a freeware utility to retouch photos.

DH suggested
You could try PhotoFiltre v6.4.0 (January 2010) at 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
The Observer

Will the future be cyber attacks and an uneasy balance of terror or cultural collaboration hosted by Google’s servers? finds John Naughton

Recent events in the cyber world, especially Google’s China episode, have added to the mystery of what lies ahead.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.

Microsoft Office 2010 packs a few tricks
Kate Bevan, The Guardian

The latest version of MS Office has lots of new bells and whistles – none of which will make either Adobe or Google happy

Already available for download to catch the buyer’s attention, Microsoft seems to be leaving no stone unturned for its new version of Microsoft Office 2010 suite which is due to hit the shelves later this year.

So what’s new in Office 2010? A hell of a lot: the reviewer’s guide that Microsoft helpfully provides for the likes of me runs to 174 pages, covering everything from the extension of the ribbon interface to Outlook 2010 to how to drill down and display data in Excel pivot tables. Other highlights include being able to slice and dice video into a Powerpoint presentation, and out-of-the-box PDF support, which Adobe isn’t going to like. Neither is Adobe going to like the fact that you’ll be able to edit images directly within Office Apps.

What’s more interesting, however, is the determination of Microsoft to make Office 2010 as widely available as possible, including online and via mobile devices. There’s no need to buy – for large sums of money – the entire suite; you will be able to access via any browser and your Windows Live login pretty much full-featured versions of Excel, Word, Powerpoint and OneNote and use them to work collaboratively. If you’re a business, you’ll be able to host the Web apps on your Sharepoint server and your minions will be able to access them via that.

This means, for example, if you’re at a conference with a Powerpoint presentation on a USB stick and no laptop, and suddenly some new data arrives via e-mail on your mobile, you’ll be able to plug the stick into any computer and update the presentation using the online version of Powerpoint. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Mac and doesn’t have Powerpoint installed; and, unlike the current version of Outlook Web Access on Exchange 2007, it doesn’t matter what browser you use, either: the Web Apps are fully featured on any browser.

Clearly a riposte to the mighty Google and its Google Docs, Microsoft’s Web Apps are, a better and richer experience than Google’s offering. Like Google Docs, they will be free for the casual user. But why offer a free version of one of your biggest cash-generating suites of software? The answer is to expose as many people as possible to Office 2010, and to hope that they’ll love it so much they’ll shell out for the entire suite.

This version of Office is very much more focused on the world outside your PC. As well as the collaborative nature of the Web Apps, you’ll be able to keep on top of what your colleagues and contacts are up to, either via your company’s Sharepoint infrastructure or via the big social networks. So, via Outlook, not only will you be able to check up on whether Jack from Accounts has said yes to the meeting, you’ll also be able to see, via Facebook, if he’s still hungover from the weekend.

Which would explain why he’s showing up in your People Pane in Outlook 2010 as “out of the office”.

As is usually the case with Microsoft, there will be lots of different flavours of the suite, ranging from the least eyewateringly expensive version aimed at students and home users – which, infuriatingly, won’t include Outlook – up to the all-singing, all-dancing Office Professional Plus.

N.S. Soundar Rajan

Remindo, acclaimed as one of the coolest web applications of 2009, can be used as Personalised Company Intranet.


CodySafe lets you use any portable drive as a computer-on-stick. It can help carry your computer programmes with you, manage your portable applications, launch them on any PC, and also leave no footprint behind. The current version of CodySafe includes a set of very useful features. With CodySafe you can add and remove portable applications, manage auto-run applications, keep your drive healthy with Drive Doctor - prevent and detect autorun viruses infection, set custom command line parameters, easily organise all your portable applications into a menu and access them quickly and easily, manage documents and pictures, music and video on your removable media, always be aware of the amount of used and free space on your portable drive, and automatic application ranking based on frequency of its usage. Another useful feature is that CodySafe can create and save your identity information onto the USB drive as a readme.txt file. CodySafe for Windows® XP or later can be downloaded at Best experience with Windows® Vista or Windows 7.

ERUNT (Emergency Recovery Utility NT) lets you keep a complete backup of your registry and restore it when needed. Yes, the standard registry backup options that come along with Windows does back up most of the registry, but not all of it. ERUNT can create a complete backup set, including the security hive and user related sections. It’s easy to use, and there are no options or choices other than to select the location of the backup files. The backup set includes a small executable that will launch the registry restore, if needed. As this programme creates a backup folder every time the PC is started, typically 30 MB plus, it ends up taking up quite a bit of hard drive space. So, it would be prudent to keep an eye on the folder C:WINDOWSERUNT. The 772 KB ERUNT, developed by Lars Hederer, for Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista can be downloaded at Users of Windows Vista and 7 do browse the ERUNT FAQ at


Remindo, acclaimed as one of the coolest web applications of 2009, can be used as Personalised Company Intranet. You can create your company branded intranet in minutes, and access it from anywhere. Among the many features are: A Personalised URL like - share this secure URL with your clients and team to give them access to information, collaborate, and manage projects. Among the many other features are: Share info via “Tweets” within the company; share large files with office & clients easily; Live activity feed instantly alerts you to activity - updating, notifying, and sending team members emails on an individual basis; Unlimited users – no sign up or usage costs, free upto 3 GB of storage; no downloading or IT hassles, and the developers assure Remindo would remain spam and virus free. To learn more on Remindo visit List of features at


A plug-in for opening .odf files with the Microsoft Office Suite can be downloaded at

DH reader Shivnarayan wrote

How to open .odf files in Word?

DH suggested
A plug-in for opening .odf files with the Microsoft Office Suite can be downloaded at Please note the installation process takes quite a bit of time, and is in three parts.

3 Feb 2010
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

Upgrading: The iPad is a scaled-up version of the iPhone than a scaled-down laptop. AfPApple’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.

Apple’s A4 chip, used in the iPad. The company’s move to design its own processor is a departure from industry norms. NYTWith 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.

Hacking for fun and profit in China’s underworld
David Barboza, The New York Times

With a few quick keystrokes, a computer hacker who goes by the code name Majia calls up a screen displaying his latest victims.

The austere bedroom of a Chinese hacker in Changsa, China. With a few quick key strokes, a computer hacker Majia calls up a screen displaying his latest victims. NYT“Here’s a list of the people who’ve been infected with my Trojan horse,” he says, working from a dingy apartment on the outskirts of this city in central China. “They don’t even know what’s happened.”

As he explains it, an online “trapdoor” he created just over a week ago has already lured 2,000 people from China and overseas — people who clicked on something they should not have, inadvertently spreading a virus that allows him to take control of their computers and steal bank account passwords.

Majia, a soft-spoken college graduate in his early 20s, is a cyberthief.

He operates secretly and illegally, as part of a community of hackers who exploit flaws in computer software to break into Web sites, steal valuable data and sell it for a profit.

Internet security experts say China has legions of hackers just like Majia, and that they are behind an escalating number of global attacks to steal credit card numbers, commit corporate espionage and even wage online warfare on other nations, which in some cases have been traced back to China.

Three weeks ago, Google blamed hackers that it connected to China for a series of sophisticated attacks that led to the theft of the company’s valuable source code. Google also said hackers had infiltrated the private Gmail accounts of human rights activists, suggesting the effort might have been more than just mischief.

In addition to independent criminals like Majia, computer security specialists say there are so-called patriotic hackers who focus their attacks on political targets. Then there are the intelligence-oriented hackers inside the People’s Liberation Army, as well as more shadowy groups that are believed to work with the state government.

Indeed, in China — as in parts of Eastern Europe and Russia — computer hacking has become something of a national sport, and a lucrative one. There are hacker conferences, hacker training academies and magazines with names like Hacker X Files and Hacker Defense, which offer tips on how to break into computers or build a Trojan horse, step by step.

For less than $6, one can even purchase the “Hacker’s Penetration Manual.” (Books on hacking are also sold, to a lesser extent, in the United States and elsewhere.)

Skilled hackers

And with 380 million Web users in China and a sizzling online gaming market, analysts say it is no wonder Chinese youths are so skilled at hacking. Many Chinese hackers interviewed over the last few weeks describe a loosely defined community of computer devotees working independently, but also selling services to corporations and even the military. Because it is difficult to trace hackers, exactly who is behind any specific attack and how and where they operate remains to a large extent a mystery, technology experts say.

And that is just the way Majia, the young Chinese hacker, wants it. On condition that he not be identified by his real name, Majia agreed two weeks ago to allow a reporter to visit his modest home in a poor town outside Changsha, and watch him work.

Slim and smartly dressed in black, Majia seemed eager to tell his story; like many hackers, he wants recognition for his hacking skills even as he prizes anonymity to avoid detection. The New York Times found him through another well-known hacker who belongs to a hacker group and vouched that Majia was skilled at what he did.

Computer hacking is illegal in China. Last year, Beijing revised and stiffened a law that makes hacking a crime, with punishments of up to seven years in prison. Majia seems to disregard the law, largely because it is not strictly enforced. But he does take care to cover his tracks.

Partly, he admits, the lure is money. Many hackers make a lot of money, he says, and he seems to be plotting his own path. Exactly how much he has earned, he won’t say. But he does admit to selling malicious code to others; and boasts of being able to tap into people’s bank accounts by remotely operating their computers.

Financial incentives motivate many young Chinese hackers like Majia, experts say. Scott J. Henderson, author of “The Dark Visitor: Inside the World of Chinese Hackers,” said he had spent years tracking Chinese hackers, sometimes with financial help from the United States government. One Chinese hacker who broke into a United States government site later lectured on hacking at a leading university, Mr. Henderson said, and worked for China’s security ministry. But recently, many have been seeking to profit from stealing data from big corporations, he said, or teaching others how to hijack computers.

“They make a lot of money selling viruses and Trojan horses to infect other people’s computers,” Henderson said in a telephone interview. “They also break into online gaming accounts, and sell the virtual characters. It’s big money.”



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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.”

Fighting Shadows
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.

Counter measures
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.

March 2006
* 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, 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
Xbox takes on television shows, cable and movies
The New York Times

Xbox Live can surf Facebook and browse online films, says Brian Stelter

The game show  '1 vs. 100' is no longer on NBC but is in its second season on Microsoft’s subscription gaming service, Xbox Live. NYT Executives at Microsoft are fond of saying that its subscription gaming service, Xbox Live, should be thought of as a cable channel.

They want Xbox to be seen not merely as a gaming machine for teenagers, but as a media portal for parents and grandparents, too. The company is even producing shows for users: it is in the middle of the second season of “1 vs 100,” an interactive version of a game show that was on NBC.

The content ambitions do not end there. Microsoft has held in-depth talks with the Walt Disney Company about a programming deal with ESPN, according to people close to the talks, who requested anonymity because the talks were intended to be private.

For a per-subscriber fee, ESPN could provide live streams of sporting events, similar to the ones available through ESPN 360, a service that is available from some high-speed internet providers. Microsoft could also create some interactive games in association with ESPN, the people said. One of the people said the deal was not imminent. The companies declined to comment. Already, video game consoles are putting a new emphasis on the video, rather than the game.

The roughly 20 million monthly members of Xbox Live can surf Facebook, browse an online mall of movies and TV episodes and, if they pay, watch Netflix.

“It’s 20 million connected living rooms,” said Marc Whitten, the general manager of Xbox Live. Similarly, users of the Sony PlayStation can tune into BBC shows and see Weather Channel updates, as well as stream Netflix. Last week, Netflix extended its streaming service to the Nintendo Wii.

Among the many companies that want to transport the on-demand qualities of the internet into the living room — the over-the-top model, in industry parlance — the console makers have a significant head start. Nearly 60 percent of American homes now have at least one console, according to the consulting firm Deloitte, up from 44 percent three years ago.

Extending value

“For both of the big guys, it’s about extending the value of the hardware platform,” said Mike McGuire, a vice president for the research firm Gartner, referring to Microsoft and Sony. “The devices are hooked to TVs and have broadband connections, and there are more and more opportunities to license movies and TV shows and deliver them in over-the-top models.” Microsoft said this month that it had sold 39 million Xbox 360 consoles around the world. About half sign into Xbox Live each month. At that size, “it starts to feel like a cable network,” said Mark Kroese, who oversees Xbox advertising sales for Microsoft. The company does not specify how many members pay for access to premium services like Netflix; basic functions of Xbox Live are free.

The company says it regularly counts more than a million concurrent users - and topped out at 2.2 million at one point during Christmas week last month. That compares favorably to some of the top channels on cable, like TBS and the Cartoon Network, which reach about one million viewers at any given time, according to the Nielsen Company.

Crude comparison

The comparisons are crude at best because many of Xbox Live’s users are playing games rather than watching video. No third-party measurement exists, because ratings companies like Nielsen do not yet track the service fully.

The addition of Netflix in late 2008 was an important step into the entertainment arena for Xbox, and perhaps a precursor to Microsoft’s current talks with Hollywood producers.
Without releasing specific numbers, Whitten said the streaming movies and TV service were “very, very popular,” including in his own household.

Whitten said Microsoft wanted to be a bigger player in television and film viewing. He declined to comment on the conversations with Disney but said more than once that “there’s going to be a ton of experimentation around business models and rights.”
Disney is not alone in showing an interest in the console market. Many companies sell TV episodes and film rentals through Microsoft’s online store, and Web video ventures are clamoring to have a place on the service.

Console makers have a long way to go to be considered replacements for cable subscriptions, but, at the very least, they could put a dent in the time spent viewing traditional TV.

The interactive game show “1 vs 100” drew well over 100,000 concurrent users at times during its first season last year, according to Microsoft’s internal data. During the second season, which began in November, two-hour TV-style trivia competitions are scheduled on Tuesday and Friday nights. A voice-over announcer, shown onscreen as an avatar, provides live color commentary.

Like the defunct NBC show, the game has a contestant, “The One,” and a “Mob” of 100 other players. Members of the audience can watch passively or play along, improving their odds of being picked to play for prizes. Unlike on the live-action TV show, every player on Xbox is represented by a cartoonish avatar.

Beyond the game show realm, Microsoft also exclusively shows “The Guild,” a sitcom that it bills as “Seinfeld” meets video game culture. It stars its creator, the actress Felicia Day, and is sponsored by Sprint.

For advertisers like Sprint, online communities like Xbox Live are another arena to pursue consumers. Within “1 vs 100” there are 15- and 30-second commercial breaks like on TV. Those spots account for about 15 percent of the service’s advertising revenue; most of the rest comes from ads on Xbox Live navigation pages, like display ads on Web sites.
In November, Nielsen started to track “1 vs 100” play and ad views. The pilot program “is the tip of the iceberg,” said Gerardo Guzman, a director for Nielsen Games; eventually, he hopes to generate TV-style ratings.

Microsoft says nearly half of Xbox Live members use its entertainment content; the rest mostly play multiplayer games. But it expects that more of its users will try the entertainment side and the line between them will blur further.

“I don’t think there’s a real difference between a game and ‘Lost.’ Or a game and ‘American Idol.’ They’re all ways we spend our leisure time,” Whitten said.
Over time, he predicted, “these narrow swim lanes — games, music, movies, etc. — will dissolve.”

War in the name of computer attacks
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...

Edward Stroz in his office in New York. 'Fighting computer crime is a balance of technology and behavioral science,' says Stros, a former agent with the FBI. NYTGoogle’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.

Ideal approach

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.”

N.S. Soundar Rajan

Fresh View can help organize and view multimedia files (images, audio, and video) in a slide show.

Skype call recorders

iFree Skype Recorder is a easy-to-use tool for recording Skype voice conversations. Its features include: free, easy to use, automatic or manual recording capabilities, can be used to record Skype2Skype calls, SkypeOut / SkypeIn calls, Conference calls, Choice to record different sides, Store calls in MP3 format using Lame MP3 Encoder, Recording Mode supports Mono/Stereo/Joint; Recording Bitrate - Choice of bitrates from 32 bits upto 256 bits; Recording SampleRate - Choice of samplerate from 16kHz upto 48kHz; Easy to track record history; and a built-in audio player. System Requirements: Skype: 3.0 or above; OS: Windows 2000/XP/2003/ Vista/2008/Windows 7 (32 or 64-bit). The 979 KB iFree Skype Recorder V2.6.6 can be downloaded at

/iFreeRecorder.exe. The other Skye Call Recorders include MP3 Skype Recorder at, Skype Call Recorder for Linux at, Skylook, an extension to Microsoft Outlook, at, and Supertinin Webcam Recorder, at, to record both audio and video streams of the Skype conversation.

Multimedia manager

Fresh View can help organize and view multimedia files (images, audio, and video) in a slide show. Image files in a folder can be displayed using a number of views, such as thumbnails view that lets you quickly see what your images are without having to open them. Fresh View also facilitates conversion of graphics from one format to another, supports 86 different formats - you can browse the entire list of Image, audio, video formats supported by Fresh View at FreshView can also be used to print, and create a HTML albums. The 1.97MB Fresh View v7.86 (27 Dec 2009) can be downloaded at Registration required before downloading Fresh View. An FAQ can be browsed at


This utility is a desktop app to upload and share screenshots easily from Windows or Mac. Harnessing the power of pre-existing and new OS screenshot taking capabilities, TinyGrab instantly uploads and allows you to share with a small URL— all very quickly. It’s as easy as Command + Shift + 4! After the upload is complete Tinygrab plays a 'ding' sound to notify that the upload is complete and the URL of the image has been shortened.The URL is immediately copied to your clipboard too to help share it instantly.

Create a free user account and you immediately have access to the full suit of TinyGrab applications – see past uploads, and delete them. The premium plan lets you organize your images in folders and upload images to a custom FTP server. Tinygrab can be downloaded at System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard or 10.6 Snow Leopard; Windows XP SP 2/3, Vista or 7. Requires .NET Framework 2 or higher.


DH reader Pankaj wrote:
Please suggest an online photo editor. I do not want to download any.
DH suggested:
Try Photobucket at It is easy to use and the features include photo hosting and a image sharing platform.

13 Jan 2010

Let your hands do the talking with your gadgets
Ashlee Vance

In contrast with the past disappointing attempts, the latest gesture-powered devices actually work, finds Ashlee Vance

Gesture revolution In this photo, taken at an electronics show, Microsoft demonstrates its Project Natal, a new way to play Xbox without touching any device.  The technology industry is going retro — moving away from remote controls, mice and joysticks to something that arrives without batteries, wires or a user manual.
It’s called a hand.

In the coming months, the likes of Microsoft, Hitachi and major PC makers will begin selling devices that will allow people to flip channels on the TV or move documents on a computer monitor with simple hand gestures. The technology, one of the most significant changes to human-device interfaces since the mouse appeared next to computers in the early 1980s, was being shown in private sessions during the immense Consumer Electronics Show here last week. Past attempts at similar technology have proved clunky and disappointing. In contrast, the latest crop of gesture-powered devices arrives with a refreshing surprise: they actually work.

“Everything is finally moving in the right direction,” said Vincent John Vincent, the co-founder of GestureTek, a company that makes software for gesture devices.

Manipulating the screen with the flick of the wrist will remind many people of the 2002 film “Minority Report” in which Tom Cruise moves images and documents around on futuristic computer screens with a few sweeping gestures. The real-life technology will call for similar flair and some subtlety. Stand in front of a TV armed with a gesture technology camera, and you can turn on the set with a soft punch into the air. Flipping through channels requires a twist of the hand, and raising the volume occurs with an upward pat. If there is a photo on the screen, you can enlarge it by holding your hands in the air and spreading them apart and shrink it by bringing your hands back together as you would do with your fingers on a cellphone touch screen.

Microsoft sets the race

The gesture revolution will go mainstream later in 2010 when Microsoft releases a new video game system known as Project Natal. The gaming system is Microsoft’s attempt to one-up Nintendo’s Wii.
Where the Wii requires hypersensitive hand-held controllers to translate body motions into on-screen action, Microsoft’s Natal will require nothing more than the human body. Microsoft has demonstrated games like dodge ball where people can jump, hurl balls at opponents and dart out of the way of incoming balls using natural motions. Other games have people contorting to fit through different shapes and performing skateboard tricks.
Just as Microsoft’s gaming system hits the market, so should TVs from Hitachi in Japan that will let people turn on their screens, scan through channels and change volume with simple hand motions.
Laptops and other computers should also arrive later in 2010 with built-in cameras that can pick up similar gestures. Such technology could make today’s touch-screen tools obsolete as people use gestures to control, for instance, the playback or fast-forward of a DVD.
To bring these gesture functions to life, device makers needed to conquer what amounts to one of computer science’s grand challenges. Electronics had to see the world around them in fine detail through tiny digital cameras. Such a task meant giving a TV, for example, a way to identify people sitting on a couch and to recognise a certain hand wave as a command and not a scratching of the nose.
Little things like the sun, room lights and people’s annoying habit of doing the unexpected stood as just some of the obstacles companies had to overcome.
GestureTek, with offices in Silicon Valley and Ottawa, has spent a quarter-century trying to perfect its technology and has enjoyed some success. It helps TV weather people, museums and hotels create huge interactive displays.
This past work, however, has relied on limited, standard cameras that perceive the world in two dimensions. The major breakthrough with the latest gesture technology comes through the use of cameras that see the world in three dimensions, adding that crucial layer of depth perception that helps a computer or TV recognise when someone tilts their hand forward or nods their head.
Canesta, based in Sunnyvale, California, has spent 11 years developing chips to power these types of 3-D cameras. In the early days, its products were much larger than an entire desktop computer. Today, the chip takes up less space than a fingernail.
“We always had this grand vision of being able to control electronics devices from a distance,” said Cyrus Bamji, the chief technology officer at Canesta. Competition in the gesture field has turned fierce as a result of the sudden interest in the technology.
In particular, Canesta and PrimeSense, a Tel Aviv start-up, have fought to supply the 3-D chips in Microsoft’s Natal gaming system.
At last week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, executives and engineers from Canesta and GestureTek were encamped in suites at the Hilton near the main conference show floor as they shuttled executives from Asian electronics makers in and out of their rooms for secretive meetings. In one demonstration, a camera using the PrimeSense chip could distinguish among multiple people sitting and could even tell the difference between a person’s jacket, shirt and under-shirt. And with such technology it’s impossible to lose your remote control.
The New York Times

Virtual world can teach kids a lot
The Guardian

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.

Rendezvous, offline Children of Generation X are web savvy, who love their parents and prefer to meet their friends offline. Getty imagesA 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.

6 Jan 2010
Smartphones not the smartest buy yet
Jenna Wortham, The New York Times

Everyone wants applications, but not everyone can afford an iPhone, says Jenna Wortham

Given the craze around the iPhone, Motorola Droid, Palm Pre and Nexus One, it might seem that nearly everyone has a smartphone. But most consumers use simpler, much cheaper phones.

According to data from the Nielsen Company, roughly 82 percent of cellphones in use are limited-function phones, the kind that typically sell for less than $50 or are given away with a two-year service contract.

The cellphone industry prefers to call them feature phones, to distinguish them from smartphones like the Pre or the Droid, but they could just as well be called “kinda smartphones.”

Although once easily identified by boxy designs and minuscule, poorly pixelated screens, many feature phones these days more closely resemble their smarter cousins because software improvements enable them to run more sophisticated mobile applications.

“Feature phones are migrating away from the tiny screens that characterised their dominance in the era of the Motorola Razr,” said Ross Rubin, an industry analyst with the NPD Group, a market research company. “They have more sophisticated operating systems, touch screens and bigger screens.”

Sleek offerings from Samsung, LG and Motorola have attracted the attention of entrepreneurs and software companies hoping to market functions similar to those found on the iPhone. One phone, the LG Vu, for example, has a three-inch touch screen with “haptic feedback” so the user feels a response when tapping on the screen, a 2-megapixel camera and up to 4 gigabytes of external memory — enough to fit hundreds of additional applications.

Another, the Motorola Clutch, has a Web browser, support for GPS functions and is Bluetooth enabled. These phones typically come loaded with a simple suite of applications selected by the carrier, like puzzle games, a mobile e-mail application, a navigation application and an instant-messaging client. “These companies are trying to raise the bar from the lowest common denominator,” Rubin said.

One such company, GetJar, offers about 60,000 applications for nearly 2,000 different mobile phones, including the Motorola Rokr. Feature phone users can find YouTube, Tetris, the restaurant locator Urbanspoon and a range of expense-tracking and calorie-counting apps. But just because consumers have simple cellphones doesn’t mean they don’t want Facebook, Wikipedia or a popular instant-messaging application like Nimbuzz on their phones, says Ilja Laurs, chief executive of GetJar, which is based in San Mateo and Lithuania.

“Everyone wants apps, but not everyone can afford an iPhone,” Laurs said. At the end of December 2009, the company said nearly 55 million applications were being downloaded each month, an increase of 260 percent from the period a year earlier. “We’re on track to hit a billion total downloads in about two months,” Laurs said.

Cellphone owners direct their phones’ browsers to GetJar’s mobile Web site, which automatically detects the model of the phone and the wireless network it is running on. GetJar then compiles a catalog of compatible applications that can be downloaded to the phone. If the phone doesn’t allow third-party applications to be downloaded to the device, GetJar creates a short link to a mobile version of the application.

These niche applications, he said, have the potential for success on a site like GetJar, which caters to a broad set of phone users outside the iPhone or Android-powered system.

This way, Laurs said, companies like Facebook that may not have a mobile application compatible with every kind of feature phone can still have a presence through his company.

Mass market

Facebook’s application has been downloaded close to 20 million times through GetJar, he said. “This is the mass market,” he said. “If companies want scale for their mobile application, this is the way.”

About a third of GetJar’s traffic comes from smartphones, the company said, and the rest is from feature phones. GetJar doesn’t process payments for the applications on its site. Instead, the company allows developers to pay for priority placement in the catalog.

Although Laurs declined to discuss specifics, he said GetJar is profitable. In addition to selling ads on the site, developers can pay for better placement on GetJar’s home page. For each download developers receive, they pay GetJar a commission.

In early 2010, the company plans to build an application storefront for its Web site and begin building a platform to process payments, similar to Apple’s App Store. The storefront will first be available on the Android platform, and will eventually migrate to others, the company said.

Historically, the barrier to developing for feature phones has been sluggish operating systems that are less integrated with other features of the phone.

Gaining share

To be sure, analysts caution that while feature phones still make up the bulk of the handset market, smartphones are rapidly gaining share. And companies like GetJar and Snac will have difficulty matching the marketing muscle of Apple and Verizon.
“It takes a lot of money to run an app store,” said Ken Dulaney, a wireless industry analyst with Gartner. And many feature phone owners do not have data plans, he pointed out.

“Until recently, smartphone devices have traditionally really been e-mail devices,” said Ed Ruth, director of strategic business development at Verizon Wireless. “Customers may not have even known about other services that might appeal to them.”

Watching television together, miles apart
Ashlee Vance, The New York Times

For the lonely couch potato, help is on the way. Simple technology, including video chatting services like Skype, is making it possible for far-flung friends to watch shows together, even if they can’t share the same bowl of popcorn.

Emma McCulloch and Jennifer Cheek, for example, used to meet to watch “Dancing With the Stars” together, but that ritual ended when Cheek moved to Hawaii.

So the women decided that McCulloch, who lives in San Mateo, California, would save the “Dancing With the Stars” finale on her digital video recorder and wait until the show was seen in Hawaii.

Then, they would get on Skype to video chat while they watched the show. “It was brilliant in that we felt like we were experiencing it together,” McCulloch said. “I feel more, sort of, connected to her because we are sharing the same frustrations and joys.”

People like McCulloch and Cheek are a full step ahead of media companies, who have toyed with the notion of making TV more of a shared interactive experience. The online streaming TV site, owned by NBC Universal, the News Corporation and the Walt Disney Company, has experimented with real-time interactive systems but has yet to make them available.

Verizon Communications offers a Facebook connection tied to its FiOS Internet service where people can post messages while they watch a program. Video-game console makers like Microsoft and Sony seem to have come closest to offering an interactive experience with their voice chat and messaging systems.

Jessica Acres, for example, gathers with a few friends, via Skype, most days to watch shows like “General Hospital,” “One Life to Live” and “Gossip Girl.”

Acres, a 29-year-old nanny outside Indianapolis, has also started a Web site with her friends called, where they post the latest twists and turns from the soaps. She is adding new layers of social networking to make TV watching even more interactive.

People have discovered other tricks for shrinking distances between far-flung friends, particularly those in different time zones who want to watch a show as soon as it goes on the air.

Using readily available adapters that cost less than $100, people can connect their cable and satellite TV lines to a computer, grab streams of live television and make them available on Web sites like Such technology has, predictably, turned the Canadian maritime provinces into popular places.

Residents of provinces like New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are in the Atlantic time zone, and therefore can see some American TV programs an hour before they start on TVs in the Eastern time zone. People in the Atlantic zone will feed streams of those programs to the Web so people in Hawaii can see them several hours earlier.

“This is part of a ‘can’t wait’ culture that gets frustrated when it takes more than two seconds to load a Web page,” said Christopher S Yoo, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who has studied the rise of live television streams on the Web.

Google PowerMeter the next big thing?
The Guardian

To save money, emissions and indulge my inner geek, I’ve tested the Google Powermeter – and it has not been an entirely pleasant experience.

Not content with dominating the way we send email, find information and navigate the real world, Google now hopes to manage your home’s energy use. In the spirit of saving some money, emissions and indulging my inner geek, I signed up to see whether its Powermeter really is the future. For the past two months, the software—which arrived in the UK in November—has been tracking and broadcasting to a web page how much electricity my early-20th-century, three-bedroom terraced house consumes.

It’s not been an entirely pleasant experience. While I had it setup in 10 minutes —using a small hub and sensor from British company AlertMe to plug into my web connection—seeing my electricity use on an iGoogle page alongside my email, news, RSS and other widgets was sometimes a scary reminder of our profligacy.
Our house typically rests at around 150 watts running a computer, fridge and a couple of lights, but it’s not uncommon for that to jump up to more like 3kW (3,000 watts) with the washing machine and dishwasher running simultaneously. In December as a whole, the Powermeter graph reminded my daily, we used a shockingly high 370 kWh – but fortunately December’s also probably our highest month for energy use, because it’s one of the darkest and the one where we’re most frequently at home.

Google Powermeter makes looking at your energy consumption almost fun – at least in comparison with deciphering cryptic energy bills. While you can download the raw data of your electricity use, a quick look at the baffling spreadsheet showed the importance of a meaningful interface such as Powermeter’s graphs.

Interestingly, while I was trialling the service, Google dropped Powermeter’s comparison feature —where you can see how your use compares with US regional averages—because it felt homes varied between regions to the point of making comparisons meaningless. I’m inclined to agree. Usage for our three-bedroom terrace house was regularly described as very good and akin to a one-bedroom apartment, which doesn’t tell me much, except how high US domestic energy use is.

I’ve also been trying British Gas’s new EnergySmart tariff, which gives you an energy monitor gadget and makes you submit monthly meter readings. Charles Arthur has reviewed a version of the monitor—he was impressed—but the most useful part of the tariff for me has been the financial incentive to save money on a month-by-month basis, knowing that each kWh saved will be reflected on that month's bank statement.

Ultimately, the really interesting stuff for this technology will come when all this data gets shared socially – and results in the sharing of advice and the application of peer pressure to make people change their habits. While iGoogle and Powermeter doesn’t let you publish your energy use direct to Twitter or Facebook, AlertMe offers a personal “Swingometer” to post a basic image of your energy use on Facebook, Twitter or your blog.

Meantime, the best way for most people to try an energy monitor—without spending £69 plus an ongoing £3 monthly subscription for AlertMe and Powermeter—will be to borrow one from their local library. A trial that started in Lewisham has since spread across the country, from libraries in Leicester and Brentwood to Cardiff and York. Not for the first time, old-fashioned institutions of learning could trump new-fangled technology and gadgets.


FreeCommander is an easy-to-use alternative to the standard windows file manager.


Deleted files in a Windows computer are moved to the recycle bin from where it’s possible to recover them. But, in an external drive, like a USB thumbdrive, they are purged straightaway, and indeed a bother to recover them. The solution? Install iBin on your pen drive and run. Whenever you delete a file, you’d be asked whether you want to move it to the iBin or not. On your choosing iBin the file(s) get moved to an iBin folder, and can be recovered using the iBin interface. The Dumping Management interface offers option to select any file or folder to be restored to its original path.

And, the user can change the size used by the iBin container, activate the use of hotkeys, and program the Auto-Cleaner routine to keep the iBin empty whenever necessary. Its also possible write a entry in the Autorun.inf file to start up the iBin when the user connects the device. The 685KB iBin v2.7a can be downloaded at A user guide can be browsed at


MusicBee can help find, play and manage extensive music collections on your computer, portable devices or on the web. It is easy to use and has a lot of features. These include - Organising music files and editing tags in your library with a easy to use interface; Automatically look up album art, lyrics and tag other metadata from the web. Have a track identifed by its digital sound signature; Create dynamic playlists based on your own rules; Have new music files automatically added to your library from monitored folders, with the option to tag the files from an Inbox beforehand; Play MP3, FLAC, Vorbis, WMA files, etc. Play on the web - playlists are created from MP3 blogs you visit; Auto-DJ to create a playlist and discover new music tracks from the web (or old ones from your collection you might have forgotten!); Securely rip CD tracks as individual files or as a single album with embedded cuesheet, with validation; lay and sync iPods and MP3 players, convert and level tracks on-the-fly. MusicBee 1.1 RC2 for Windows XP/ Vista/ Win7 can be downloaded at To know more on MusicBee features visit


FreeCommander is an easy-to-use alternative to the standard windows file manager. Main features include: Dual-panel technology - horizontal and vertical; Tabbed interface; Optional tree view for each panel; Built in file viewer to view files in hex, binary, text or image format; File viewer to view archives; Built in archive handling: ZIP (read, write), CAB (read, write), RAR (read), Nested archive handling; Built in FTP client; Easy access to system folders, control panel, desktop and start menu; Copy, move, delete, rename files and folders; Multi rename tool; Wipe files; Create and verify MD5 checksums; File splitting; File searching (inside archive also); File properties and context menu; Calculation of folder size; Folder comparison / synchronization.The 2.29MB FreeCommander v2009.02a (Nov 16, 2009) for Windows 2000, XP and Vista can be downloaded at


DH reader Nagarajan wrote
Please suggest resources to help fix Mac Problems.

DH replied
You could browse the article "8 Troubleshooting Resources to Help You Fix Your Mac Problems", at

30 Dec 2009
UK website archives to be fast-tracked
The Guardian

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
The Guardian

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.

Apple’s recipe for 2010: Add iPhone, iPod to TV
The Guardian

The device, likely to be called the iSlate, has no keyboard and allows users to watch TV shows and read online magazines, find Richard Wray and Charles Arthur

Apple is expected to start the new year with the launch of its latest gadget: a tablet computer that will allow users to surf the web, watch TV shows and read the next generation in online magazines and newspapers.

Speculation is rife that the Californian technology group will unveil the device, which has no keyboard and resembles a large iPhone, at an event on 26 January in San Francisco. Some technology bloggers have already christened the touchscreen device the iSlate after it emerged that Apple has registered the internet domain name.

Apple has used the month of January to launch revolutionary products before, in part as a way of diverting attention from its rivals presenting their latest inventions at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which Apple does not attend, and that takes place the same month. In January 2008, Apple unveiled its ultra-slim MacBook Air computer, and the previous year saw Steve Jobs, Chief Executive, announce the first version of the iPhone.

Pushing out rivals
Apple has previously investigated the possibility of producing a tablet computer but shelved the idea at the last minute, and there are already tablets available in the market from rival PC manufacturers. France’s Archos, which pioneered digital music players but saw its market lead stolen by Apple, has already created an internet tablet based on Google’s Android software. Microsoft’s latest tablet prototype, codenamed Courier according to rumours, involves two 7in multi-screens side by side in the form of a booklet.

But the explosion of legitimate digital content services, the rise of downloadable applications – fuelled by the iPhone – and the widespread availability of wireless broadband has created a market for a tablet PC that is more of a multimedia device than merely a “keyboardless” computer. It would essentially be a cross between the iPhone, Apple’s TV service and an iPod.
Apple refuses to comment on speculation about new products, but there is talk that it is working on two versions of the iSlate, one with a 10in screen and a smaller version with a 7in screen.

Users would be able to download applications produced by third-party developers onto the device just as they can for the iPhone.
There are also a number of content deals in the works that would make the iSlate a valuable platform for media groups. Apple is rumoured to be trying to cement a deal with American TV companies including Disney and CBS that would see top shows appear regularly on the device.

Several American publishers, meanwhile, have got together to create an iTunes for magazines. Condé Nast, owner of Vogue and Vanity Fair, has teamed up with Cosmopolitan owner Hearst, Meredith, News Corp and Time to set up an open magazine platform that will allow readers to buy and browse titles on so-called e-readers. The iSlate would be a perfect device for the next generation of digital publications, not least because it will be in full colour, unlike the current generation of electronic books such as the Amazon Kindle.

In a recent note on Apple, Piper Jaffray, an analyst at Gene Munster, estimated that there is “a 75 per cent likelihood that Apple will have an event in January and a 50 per cent chance that it will be held to launch the Apple Tablet … if Apple announced the Tablet in January, it would likely ship later in the March quarter.”
Speculation about the arrival of the latest Apple creation helped shares in the company close Christmas week at a new record high of just over US $209, making Jobs’ stake worth more than $1.1bn.

The shares have gained almost 150 per cent this year as the iPhone, and its success in persuading users to download applications from the iTunes store, has cemented Apple’s position as the world’s leading consumer electronics brand.
The company has rented a stage at the Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts in San Francisco later in January. It is the same venue that the company used in September for Steve Jobs’ to make his first public appearance since his recovery from illness, when he launched a new range of iPods.

War? There’s an application for that
The Guardian

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 Chrome
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.

Slim Browser
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.

AOL Explorer
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.

Avant Browser
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 Guardian

The secret to dealing with email overload
The Guardian

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.
Graham Snowdon

16 Dec 2009
The 100 essential websites
The Guardian

The latest list of the 100 best websites sees short attention spans, the rise of Twitter, more browser wars and celebrity gossip sites setting the news agenda

Andy Warhol talked of a time when everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. With hindsight, however, he might have wanted to revise that down to about five minutes. On today’s web, phrases such as “here today, gone tomorrow” seem to involve ridiculously long timescales.

People who moaned that blogging represented a move to shorter attention spans — 250-to-350-word posts rather than 1,000-word stories — have now seen blog posts start to look big and, frankly, old-fashioned. Today’s trendsetters are using “microblogging” sites such as Tumblr, Posterous and, which are taking the opportunity for creative “borrowing” to new heights.

But the smash hit of 2009 has been Twitter, where 1,000-word stories are reduced to 140-character tweets.

Twitter’s rapid growth and open programming interface have given the site a wide impact. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of ancillary sites and services have been launched to help Twitter users post pictures, track followers, or — more usefully, from a commercial point of view — find out what the “hive mind” is thinking.

Twitterfall is just one example. More recently, Listorious stepped in to make it easier to find and explore lists made using Twitter’s new list feature, while The Twitter cleverly turned selected tweets into a personalised newspaper. How many of these sites will survive is, of course, open to question. Some are less like standalone sites than parasites.

Facebook, Google

Major web players such as Facebook, Google, and Microsoft also got involved. Both Google and Microsoft signed deals for Twitter searches, while Facebook paid it the ultimate compliment of more or less copying its service. Or, perhaps, copying FriendFeed, which many users link to both Twitter and Facebook.

Facebook was another big player in 2009, reaching more than 350 mn users. And through Facebook Connect, it has extended its presence across the web.

Those in search of their five minutes of fame or, more likely, five minutes of fun, headed for YouTube. Although it has been challenged by rivals such as Vimeo and Microsoft’s Soapbox (RIP), its dominance has not been seriously threatened. Only the pornographers have been able to build much of a following outside YouTube.
Which is not to say that YouTube owns the web video market. The BBC has made a huge impact with its iPlayer catchup service, and in the US, Hulu has enjoyed great success with TV series and movies.

Music, the big player

Music has been a significant player in the growth of the web since Napster, and its influence continues to grow. Spotify has made the biggest impact this year, gaining mindshare lost by and Pandora. Meanwhile, Pitchfork has expanded its role as the web’s authoritative music magazine, and The Hype Machine came to prominence as a source of instant erudition by tracking the music blogs.

Almost finally, it may be that we are seeing the return not just of the browser wars but of the search engine wars as well. Google still rules the world, but in Bing, it now has a competitor that does some things better and many things a lot worse.

Tumblr: Multimedia microblogging plus Twitter-style following.

Goes from instant microblogging into lifestreaming.

Soup: A “super-easy” tumblelog for scrapbook keeping and lifestreaming.

Fast way to start blogging; training wheels for Wordpress.

Bloglines: For reading web feeds. Smart and clean.

Free, and most importantly spam-free, blogging.


Do we all need five browsers nowadays?

Now here for Mac, and anticipating future world domination via Chrome OS.

Everyone’s favourite is under attack from all sides.

Based on IE code. If it stays “hip in China” it could reach a large global audience.

Everyone needs some relaxation. This is a visual one.

It wouldn’t be so funny if it wasn’t so true.

Stick-figure strip poking fun at geek topics and relationships.
Celebrity gossip

Possibly the most contentious part of this year’s list is celebrity gossip. The argument against would be summed up by a Wikipedian in two words: “not notable”. The argument for is that sites such as Perez Hilton and AOL’s TMZ are now helping to drive the news agenda. Even if you aren’t interested in MJ’s death, Tiger Woods’s affairs or whatever, this stuff has become impossible to avoid.

TMZ: Rose to fame when it broke news of Michael Jackson’s death.

Perez Hilton: Among the bitchiest of goss sites and often involved in ‘interesting’ celeb baiting.

Gawker: New York-based media alert and gossip blog network, with fingers in many pies.


Your to-do lists, news, weather and photos on one page.

Shares 35bn words online: they can’t all be wrong.

YouTube for PowerPoint decks.

Zamzar Useful: converts files from one format to another.

Sites to see before heading for the latest blockbuster at your local multiplex.
IMDb: The most authoritative site about all things film and TV, now owned by Amazon.

Rotten Tomatoes: Collects online film reviews, aggregates a score out of 100 and rates the film “fresh” or “rotten”.
/Film: Said to be the favourite film blog of directors Jason Reitman and Darren Aronofsky, /Film features news, reviews, interviews and a special UK update each Friday.

Cinematical: Terrific film blog with a Hollywood focus.

Eurogamer: Reportage, with breadth, if not always depth.
The Independent Gaming Source: A great place to pick up on tomorrow’s breakthrough Xbox Live Arcade, WiiWare and PSN hits.

Pocket Gamer: Still by far the best site on handheld gaming.
Gamasutra: Where professional games creators hang out, and sometimes get jobs
Geek squad

Stack Overflow: Where programmers gather to try to solve their problems.
The Daily WTF: Daily dispatches from the coding warzone.
Joel On Software Essays by a former Microsoftie, now head of Fog Creek Software.
Government/public services/ politics

Recycle Now: Winner after a slight false start of the government’s Show Us A Better Way competition. What can you recycle close by?

British and Irish Legal Information Institute: A database of laws. Only survives hand-to-mouth on voluntary donations.

What Do They Know?: Makes filing a Freedom Of Information request as easy as sending an email. Too easy, some in power think.

Upmystreet: All the detail on your area you could ever want.
They Work For You: A site set up by volunteers to keep tabs on our elected members of parliament – and our unelected peers.

Link economy

Digg: Still the reigning champion of where the latest internet memes are though not always polite.

Delicious: The thinking person’s link aggregation site. We use it.

Popurls: Aggregating the aggregators: the web in a window.

Metafilter: Living if isolated proof that a site can be successful without pictures or video, and can also host thoughtful conversations.

Slashdot: Now looking venerable and old, but “News for nerds” site with a jokey name (/.) still attracts a big, and often knowledgable, audience.

Techmeme: Technology news chosen by computer, though its now refined by human editors.


Dopplr: “Share your future travel plans with friends and colleagues”, then find out if others will be there too.

Qype: Localised search for pubs, restaurants, etc; also a bit of a social network.

Loopt: “Transforms your mobile phone into a social compass”.

Brightkite: A “location-based social network”.


OpenStreetMap: A rights-free map created by people like you. Remarkably detailed and precise.

Google Maps: Street View Virtual tourism with practical applications, too.
Money/finance/consumer fightback

Money Saving Expert: Does what it says on the tin. British-made, now CBS-owned, music recommendation station.

Hype Machine: Picks up the latest news by tracking the music blogs.

Pitchfork: The magazine of the music web, now with video, and lots of great lists.

The Onion: Still the satirical newspaper of record. If it’s not in the Onion, it’s probably happened.

B3TA: Beyond classification; its forum has spawned many memes … and more than its fair share of trolls.

Lolcats: Respite from stress with daft captioned cats and other animals.

News Lite: Great source of news that’s much too trivial to print.

Oddee: Setting an internet standard for sets of curious and amusing pictures, not

PostSecret: Notes of secrets sent by people who want them posted. So they are.

Passive-Aggressive Notes: Would it be too much trouble for you to have a look?

Flickr: The granddaddy of photo-sharing sites.

Picnik: Photo editing in your browser.

Picasa: Google’s photo organisation and editing tool.

DPreview: The web’s best guide to cameras. Now Amazon owned.

CIA Factbook: All the data you need on pretty much anywhere.

Wikipedia: User-edited encyclopaedia is still a first port of call on most topics.
Internet Archive/Wayback Machine: The web in aspic. Useful for research into how
the web used to look.

Metacritic: Aggregates reviews of movies, TV programmes, music and games

Wikileaks: Anonymous source of a huge range of leaked documents.

Social software

Two years ago it was nascent; now it’s embedded in our culture.

Facebook: Growing to become not just your home on the web, but your ID provider.

LinkedIn: Contact for business users.

Ning: One place to start your own social network, though it has yet to really take off.


Google: Almost synonymous with search.

Bing: Its “decision engine” still has a long way to go.

Wolfram Alpha: Delivers when it has the data, but not that easy to use.

Expedia: Still the daddy of travel sites, and particularly good if you can bundle a flight with a hotel and other services.

TripAdvisor: Essential reading for the user reviews of hotels, but it now covers much more.

Laterooms: Specialises in hotel discounts.

Twitter, and associated

From the Chinese earthquke to the Mumbai attacks, Twitter has proved itself as a vector for news.

Twitter: The ur-site, where you can create an identity (or several).

Twitter Creates your personal newspaper based on your friend's tweets.

Twitterfeed: Posts blog contents to Twitter.

TwitterCounter: Graphs the growth in your followers.

Twitterfall: Tracks trending topics; enables custom searches.

Listorious: Twitter lists make it simple to follow large groups of Twitter users, and
Listorious makes it easy to find the best lists.


YouTube: Dominant provider of video content online.

Vimeo: Better rights control than YouTube and a cleaner interface

BBC iPlayer: The king of the online catchup services.

Hulu: The networks fight back with their own video site.

Videojug: The motherlode of instructional videos, all in one place.

Virtual worlds

Second Life: Continues to exist and is, apparently, still popular, but not the media
darling it was.

Entropia Universe: Set in a distant future on the untamed planet of Calypso.

Club Penguin: Minigame-tastic virtual world for youngkids.

Moshi: Monsters “Educational” virtual world for kids.

Visual arts

Art Daily: The first online “art newspaper”.

Culture 24: Everything about UK galleries and museums.

Visualisation An archive of some of the finest examples of “information aesthetics”.

DabbleDB: Create online databases and analyse them.

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.
Brad Stone

N S Soundar Rajan

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 mobileMediaConverterDown.htm. A FAQ can be browsed at FAQ at


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, 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 It can also precompress executable files added to a ZIP archive through the UPX compressor. The 7.04 MB ZipGenius v6.2.0.2010, developed by M.Dev Software, for Win XP/2003/ Vista/Windows7 can be downloaded at ZipGenius

9 Dec 2009

Google goes real time
Brad Stone, The New York Times

The new Google features are most useful for breaking- news events, says Brad Stone

Unveiling significant changes to its dominant search engine on Monday, Google said it would begin supplementing its search results with the updates posted each second to sites like Twitter, Facebook and MySpace.

As part of its much-anticipated entrance into the field known as real-time search, Google said that over the next few days its users would begin seeing brand-new tweets, blog items, news articles and social networking updates in results for certain topical searches.
Previously it took a few minutes for updates from social networks and blogs to filter into Google’s results.

“Clearly in today’s world, that’s not fast enough,” Amit Singhal, a Google fellow, said at a press conference at the Computer History Museum here. “Information is being posted at a pace we’ve never seen before, and in this environment, seconds matter.”

A search for “Copenhagen” on Google, for instance, where global climate talks are under way, produces the standard Web results, but with a box in the middle of the page where blog items, press releases, news articles and tweets scroll past.

The box updates every few seconds. A tweet from Tom Nguyen (@tomng) in the Bay Area read: “It’s snowing in North Beach. Explain that, Copenhagen.” Searching for “Pearl Harbor” on Monday, the 68th anniversary of the attack, turned up tweets from people who were memorializing those who died there, while the live results for “Tiger Woods” were less family-friendly.

Formal partnership

Google struck formal partnerships with Twitter, Facebook and MySpace to quickly bring updates from those services into its search index. The companies did not disclose terms of those deals. Facebook has said publicly it is not earning money from the deal, and is giving Google updates only from the public profile pages on the service, which can already be seen by anyone on the Web.

Twitter makes a search tool available on its own site. But Biz Stone, a Twitter co-founder, said that Google would be better able to provide Tweets that were relevant to a particular user’s questions. “We’re not good at relevancy right now, and they are,” he said. “More people will get more value out of Twitter because we are doing this with Google.”

Twitter has also struck a separate deal with Microsoft to make live updates available in the Bing search engine. The new Google features are likely to be most useful for breaking news events like earthquakes, when people want constantly updated information without having to scan multiple sources, said Danny Sullivan, editor of the blog Search Engine Land.

In other situations, Sullivan said, the live scrolling is likely to be little more than diversions, since the information was always present in Google search results but just took slightly longer to get there.

Google introduced several other products at its event on Monday. The most ambitious, called Google Goggles, allows people to send Google a cellphone photograph of, say, a landmark or a book, and have information about the contents of the image returned to them instantly.

The technology has one potentially provocative use: someone could conceivably send Google a photo of a person—if they fail to remember an acquaintance’s name, for example—and get enough information about him or her to avoid an awkward encounter.

But Google said image recognition technology would have to improve and the privacy implications would have to be more fully considered before it would make that possible. Google Goggles works on phones running Google’s Android operating system and will be available for other phones soon.

Google also outlined developments in voice search, which will make it easier for people to search the Web from a mobile phone. It said it would now allow people to speak their queries to Google in Japanese, in addition to English and Chinese. The company plans to add new languages next year.

Demonstrating the feature, a Japanese-speaking Google employee spoke a long query into a Motorola Droid phone, asking for the best restaurants near Google’s offices in Tokyo. In response, the Droid phone returned a detailed map of the area, with restaurants pinpointed on the page.

“We are just in the third decade of the personal computer revolution, and it may be only now that our eyes open to what the possibilities may be,” said Vic Gundotra, a vice president for engineering at Google, citing improvements in wireless connectivity and Internet services.

Gundotra also demonstrated a tool that would let a person speak a request into her phone in English and have it read back in another language. He said the feature could be introduced next year.

It’s official: AOL ends ties with Time Warner

AOL is shaking loose from Time Warner Inc and heading into the next decade the way it began this one, as an independent company.

Unlike in the 1990s, though, when AOL got rich selling dial-up Internet access, it starts the 2010s as an underdog, trying to beef up its Web sites and grab more advertising revenue.

Despite a few bright spots in its portfolio of sites, such as tech blog Engadget, AOL has a long way to go until Web advertising can replace the revenue it still gets from selling dial-up Internet access. One especially popular property, entertainment site TMZ, is a joint venture with a Time Warner unit that will keep TMZ and its revenue after AOL splits off.

AOL will initially be worth about $2.5 billion, based on the value of preliminary AOL shares that have been trading ahead of the formal spinoff this week. In the past year, AOL hired Armstrong, a former Google advertising executive, to engineer a turnaround that eluded the company while it was part of Time Warner.

Company’s struggle

In those years, AOL struggled to complete its transition away from relying on its dial-up business. The service peaked in 2002 with 26.7 million subscribers, and has declined steadily as consumers switched to broadband. In the third quarter, AOL had 5.4 million dial-up subscribers, who paid an average of $18.54 per month.

Even with the decline, this business brought in $332 million during the quarter, or 43 percent of AOL’s total revenue. But that’s down from $1.8 billion, or 82 percent of revenue, during its peak quarter seven years earlier.

AOL has tried to offset the fading service by moving away from its origins as a “walled garden” with subscriber-only content to a network of online destinations with free material, supported by ads. AOL even began giving away e-mail accounts.

The results have been mixed. After initially showing promise, AOL’s ad revenue fell last year and in each of the first three quarters of this year. Another problem: AOL’s more than 80 Web sites are struggling to keep their viewers. By contrast, Google and Yahoo both showed gains.

AOL has responded partly with plans to shed up to 2,500 jobs, or more than a third of its employees, in an effort to save $300 million a year. That comes on top of thousands of other cuts in recent years and will leave the company at less than a quarter the size it was at its peak in 2004. The cost-cutting has allowed AOL to stay profitable despite shrinking revenue.

AOL also is trying to produce online material far more cheaply. It plans to launch dozens of new sites next year and populate much of them with work done by freelancers. These freelancers will be paid by the post- some with a flat rate, some with a share of revenue based on the amount of traffic the post generates.

Ned May, an analyst with Outsell Inc, believes AOL can use this low-cost method to experiment with building lots of new sites and see what sticks with viewers. To stimulate the process, AOL is counting on a content-management system it calls Seed. It shows information about the kinds of things people are searching for online so that writers and editors can quickly create material people presumably want to read.

Gabelli & Co analyst Christopher Marangi believes AOL will have to figure out how to better integrate social networking into its sites. AOL owns a social site called Bebo, which is popular overseas but gets about 6 percent as many visitors as Facebook does in the US, according to comScore data.

Being its own company again means AOL will regain the freedom to use its resources solely for its own benefit, rather than worrying about how they fit into the Time Warner empire. If the stock performs well, it could become a currency AOL can use to snag employees and acquire other companies.

Of course, now the world also will be able to more closely follow whether AOL is making progress on its strategy. “That may be a challenge,” Armstrong said, “but I think it’s a challenge we knew we were signing up for whether we were public or private.”
Boxee, a start-up, to offer a device to put web video on television
Brad Stone, The New York Times

Boxee, a start-up that is trying to bring the boundless selection of Web video to the living-room television, said on Monday that it would put its software into a set-top box that will go on sale next year.

At an event in New York City, the company announced a partnership with D-Link, a Taiwanese manufacturer of networking equipment, which will make a device that will allow people to browse Internet videos on their TVs. The companies hope to keep the price of the device under $200.

Boxee collects videos and music from Web sites like Netflix, MLB.TV, Comedy Central and Pandora, and presents it in a visually friendly format that resembles a television directory, while adding some features from social networks.

The service has caught on with Internet aficionados who say it represents a future in which the wide selection of content from the Web wins out over a more limited television experience controlled by big media companies.

Up until now, Boxee’s software has only worked on a PC or Mac, although some savvy users have installed it on Apple’s set-top box, called Apple TV. Boxee now wants to move beyond that limited user base. “Today the reality is that hooking up your laptop to your television, or putting Boxee on an Apple TV, is not a mainstream experience,” said Avner Ronen, Boxee’s chief executive.

Ronen said the relationship with D-Link was the first of many deals with consumer electronics companies. “A growing number of companies see a real need to bring Internet to the TV, and they realise people will pay a premium for devices like connected Blu-ray players and HDTVs,” he said.

Boxee is facing an increasingly crowded market for such devices. More and more Blu-ray players, video game consoles and HDTVs can connect to the Internet and access streaming media services from Netflix, and other companies.

Set-top boxes that perform similar functions have not been mainstream hits. Roku, a company that sells a box that primarily receives videos from Amazon and Netflix, says it has sold only a few hundred thousand devices.

But Boxee and its backers believe that these kinds of devices are too limited, and they draw comparisons to older mobile phones that receive only the Web services chosen by a particular wireless carrier.

Although Boxee has forged its own relationships with Web video sites, any company can make its videos available through the service. “This is all about consumer choice,” Mr. Ronen said.

Boxee also said it would introduce a more polished test version of its software by the beginning of next year. Boxee, backed by $10 million in venture capital, has tried to bring into its service the network television shows posted on, a joint venture between NBC, Fox and ABC.

But those networks do not want people able to receive the Web videos on their TVs, instead of watching actual broadcasts, which carry more valuable advertising.


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2 Dec 2009
Dark side of Internet
The Guardian

In the ‘deep web’, Freenet software allows users complete anonymity, says Andy Beckett

Fourteen years ago, a pasty Irish teenager with a flair for inventions arrived at Edinburgh University to study artificial intelligence and computer science. For his thesis project, Ian Clarke created “a Distributed, Decentralised Information Storage and Retrieval System”, or a revolutionary new way for people to use the Internet without detection. By downloading Clarke’s software, which he intended to distribute for free, anyone could chat online, or read or set up a website, or share files, with almost complete anonymity.

“It seemed so obvious that that was what the net was supposed to be about – freedom to communicate,” Clarke says.
His tutors were not bowled over. “I would say the response was a bit lukewarm. They gave me a B. They thought the project was a bit wacky … they said, ‘You didn’t cite enough prior work.”

In 2000, Clarke publicly released Freenet. “At least 2m copies have been downloaded from the website, primarily in Europe and the US. The website is blocked in countries like China, so there, people tend to get Freenet from friends.” Last year Clarke produced an improved version: it hides not only the identities of Freenet users but also the fact that someone is using Freenet at all.

Installing the software takes barely a couple of minutes and requires minimal computer skills. You find the Freenet website, read a few terse instructions, and answer a few questions. Then you enter a previously hidden online world. In utilitarian type and bald capsule descriptions, an official Freenet index lists the hundreds of “freesites” available. There is material written in Russian, Spanish, Dutch, Polish and Italian. There is English-language material from America and Thailand, from Argentina and Japan. There is all the teeming life of the everyday Internet, but rendered a little stranger and more intense. One of the Freenet bloggers sums up the difference: “If you’re reading this now, then you’re on the darkweb.”

The modern Internet is often thought of as a miracle of openness. “Many users think when they Google they’re getting all the web pages,” says Anand Rajaraman, co-founder of Kosmix, one of a new generation of post-Google search engine companies. He adds: “I think it’s a very small fraction of the deep web which search engines are bringing to the surface. No one has a really good estimate of how big the deep web is.”

Unfathomable and mysterious
The “darkweb”, “the deep web”, “beneath the surface web” – the metaphors alone make the Internet feel suddenly more unfathomable and mysterious. Other terms are “darknet”, “invisible web”, “dark address space”, “murky address space” and “dirty address space”. While a darknet is an online network such as Freenet that is concealed from non-users, with all the potential for transgressive behaviour that implies, much of “the deep web” consists of unremarkable consumer and research data that is beyond the reach of search engines. “Dark address space” often refers to Internet addresses that have simply stopped working.

Beyond the confines of most people’s online lives, there is a vast other Internet out there, used by millions. How was it created? What exactly happens in it?
Michael K Bergman, an American academic and entrepreneur, is one of the foremost authorities on this other Internet. In the late 90s he undertook research to try to gauge its scale. In 2001 he published a paper on the deep web. “The deep web is currently 400 to 550 times larger than the commonly defined world wide web,” he wrote.

In the eight years since, the use of Internet has been utterly transformed in many ways, but improvements in search technology by Google, Kosmix and others have only begun to plumb the deep web. “A hidden web (search) engine that’s going to have everything – that’s not quite practical,” says Professor Juliana Freire of the University of Utah, who is leading a deep web search project called Deep Peep.
But sheer scale is not the only problem. “When we’ve crawled (searched) several sites, we’ve gotten blocked,” says Freire.

“There’s a well-known crime syndicate called the Russian Business Network (RBN),” says Craig Labovitz, chief scientist at Arbor Networks, a leading online security firm, “and they’re always jumping around the Internet, grabbing bits of (disused) address space, sending out millions of spam emails from there, and then quickly disconnecting.”

The RBN also rents temporary websites to other criminals for online identity theft, child pornography and releasing computer viruses. What had been less understood until recently was how the increasingly complex geography of the Internet had aided them. “In 2000, dark and murky address space was a bit of a novelty,” says Labovitz.

Defunct online companies; technical errors and failures; disputes between internet service providers; abandoned addresses once used by the US military in the earliest days of the internet – all these have left the online landscape scattered with derelict or forgotten properties, perfect for illicit exploitation, sometimes for only a few seconds before they are returned to disuse. How easy is it to take over a dark address? Says Labovitz: “But it just takes a PC and a connection. The Internet has been largely built on trust.”

Open or closed?
In fact, the Internet has always been driven as much by a desire for secrecy as a desire for transparency. The network was the joint creation of the US defence department and the American counterculture – the WELL, one of the first and most influential online communities, was a spinoff from hippy bible the Whole Earth Catalog – and both groups had reasons to build hidden or semi-hidden online environments as well as open ones. “Strong encryption (code-writing) developed in parallel with the Internet,” says Danny O’Brien, an activist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a long-established pressure group for online privacy.

The Onion Router, or Tor, is an American volunteer-run project that offers free software to those seeking anonymous online communication, like a more respectable version of Freenet.

Tor’s users, according to its website, include US secret service “field agents” and “law enforcement officers . . . Tor allows officials to surf questionable websites and services without leaving tell-tale tracks,” but also “activists and whistleblowers”, for example “environmental groups that are increasingly falling under surveillance in the US under laws meant to protect against terrorism”. Tor, in short, is used both by the American state and by some of its fiercest opponents.
The hollow legs of Sealand
In 1975, only half a dozen years after the internet was created, the science-fiction author John Brunner wrote of “so many worms and counter-worms loose in the data-net” in his novel ‘The Shockwave Rider’. By the 80s “data havens”, at first physical then online locations where sensitive computerised information could be concealed, were established in discreet jurisdictions such as Caribbean tax havens. In 2000 an American internet startup called HavenCo set up a much more provocative data haven, in a former Second World War sea fort just outside the British territorial waters off the Suffolk coast, which since the 60s had housed an eccentric independent “principality” called Sealand.

HavenCo announced it would store any data unless it concerned terrorism or child pornography, on servers built into the hollow legs of Sealand as they extended beneath the waves.

In 2007 the highly successful Swedish filesharing website The Pirate Bay – the downloading of music and films for free being another booming darknet enterprise – announced its intention to buy Sealand. Last year it was reported that HavenCo had ceased operation.

Services such as Tor and Freenet perform the same function electronically; and in a sense, even the “open” Internet has increasingly become a place for concealment: people posting and blogging under pseudonyms, people walling off their online lives from prying eyes on social networking websites.

“The more people do everything online, the more there’s going to be bits of your life that you don’t want to be part of your public online persona,” says O’Brien.
To libertarians such as O’Brien, the hidden internet is constantly under threat from restrictive governments and corporations. “Child pornography does exist on Freenet,” says Clarke. “But it exists all over the web, in the post . . . At Freenet we could establish a virus to destroy any child pornography on Freenet – we could implement that technically. But then whoever has the key (to that filtering software) becomes a target. Suddenly we’d start getting served copyright notices; anything suspect on Freenet, we’d get pressure to shut it down. To modify Freenet would be the end of Freenet.”

Always recorded
According to the police, for criminal users of services such as Freenet, the end is coming anyway.
The Internet, for all its anarchy, is becoming steadily more commercialised; as Internet service providers, for example, become larger and more profit-driven, the spokesman suggests, it is increasingly in their interests to accept a degree of policing.

Search engine companies are restlessly looking for paths into the deep web and other sections of the Internet currently denied to them. Says Anand Rajaraman: “Tonnes and tonnes of stuff out there on the deep web has what I call security through obscurity. But security through obscurity is actually a false security. You (the average internet user) can’t find something, but the bad guys can find it if they try hard enough.”

As Kosmix and other search engines improve, he says, they will make the internet truly transparent. The internet as a sort of electronic panopticon, everything on it unforgivingly visible and retrievable, suddenly its current murky depths seem in some ways preferable.
Ten years ago Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist credited with inventing the web, wrote: “I have a dream for the web in which computers become capable of analysing all the data on the web – the content, links, and transactions between people … A Semantic Web’, which should make this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines.”
Says Bergman: “It’s really been the holy grail for 30 years.” One obstacle, he continues, is that the Internet continues to expand in unpredictable and messy surges. “The boundaries of what the web is have become much more blurred. Is Twitter part of the web or part of something else? Now the web, in a sense, is just everything.

Gold rush

It seems likely that the internet will remain in its gold rush phase for some time yet. And in the crevices and corners of its slightly thrown-together structures, darknets and other private online environments will continue to flourish.
They can be inspiring places to spend time in, full of dissidents and eccentrics and the internet's original freewheeling spirit. But a darknet is not always somewhere for the squeamish.

On Freenet, there is a currently a “freesite”, which makes allegations against supposed paedophiles, complete with names, photographs, extensive details of their lives online, and partial home addresses.
In much smaller type underneath runs the disclaimer: “The material contained in this freesite is hearsay . . . It is not admissable in court proceedings and would certainly not reach the burden of proof requirement of a criminal trial. For the time being, when I’m wandering around online, I may stick to Google.

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

Good life under siege at SAS
Steve Lohr, The New York Times.

The company faces the challenge of being the innovative pioneer, says Steve Lohr

A tour of its carefully tended, 300-acre corporate campus here leaves little doubt why surveys, year after year, rate the SAS Institute, the world’s largest private software company, among the best places to work.

There is the subsidised day care and preschool. There are the four company doctors and the dozen nurses who provide free primary care. The recreational amenities include basketball and racquetball courts, a swimming pool, exercise rooms and 40 miles of running and biking trails. There is a meditation garden, as well as on-site haircuts, manicures, and jewellry repair. Employees are encouraged to work 35-hour weeks.

Academics have studied the company’s benefit-enhanced corporate culture as a model for nurturing creativity and loyalty among engineers and other workers. Six years ago, in a report on “60 Minutes,” Morley Safer called working at SAS “the good life.”

But that good life is under threat today as never before. SAS’s specialty, a lucrative niche called business intelligence software, is becoming mainstream. Free, open-source alternatives to some of the company’s products are increasingly popular. On the other end of the spectrum, the heavyweights of the software industry—Oracle, SAP, Microsoft and, especially, IBM—are plunging in and investing billions of dollars.

Credit card companies, for example, use SAS to detect unusual buying patterns in real time, and to spot potentially fraudulent charges. Giant retail chains use SAS to tailor pricing and product offerings down to the store level. Telecommunications companies use SAS to identify the few thousand customers, among millions, most likely to switch to another cellphone carrier, and to aim marketing at them. SAS software is also used to parse sensor signals from North Sea oil rigs, combined with weather and structural data, to predict failure of parts before it happens. Of the 100 largest companies worldwide, 92 use SAS software.

But as the stream of companies’ collected data turns into a torrent, SAS and other software companies are trying to find new ways to harness it. The information is generated not only by computerised systems for tracking operations, customers and sales. It also comes from new data sources like Web site visits, social network chatter and public records accessible over the Internet, as well as genome sequences, sensor signals and surveillance tapes, all in digital form.

This data explosion, experts say, is an untapped asset at most companies, which lack the tools and skills to exploit it. Yet the long-range potential, they say, is to use this data for far more fine-grained analysis of markets, customer behaviour and operations, making business more of a science and less a seat-of-the-pants art.

“Now, the data is available so business can move toward evidence-based decision-making,” says Erik Brynjolfsson, an economist and director of the Centre for Digital Business at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “This market is a huge opportunity.” Indeed, no one underestimates SAS’s technical prowess. The big question is whether the company’s seemingly pampered culture can embrace the higher-octane institutional metabolism that it will need to succeed.

The company traces its roots to a time when computing was costly and for the few. Originally called Statistical Analysis System, it was founded in 1976 by Goodnight and three colleagues from the agricultural statistics department at North Carolina State University. Its techniques were initially used to calculate the intricacies of soil, weather, seed varieties and other factors to improve crop yields.

“That was pretty much an ‘aha’ moment for us, that it was time to expand beyond the university,” Goodnight recalls. “It was a little scary, cutting the academic umbilical cord. But I was convinced we could do it.”

He and his colleagues at SAS developed their own programming language and software tools, and designed them for eggheads like themselves. Users were analysts with PhD’s, working with programmers and employed by the largest companies at the forefront of using computing in their businesses, including banks, national retailers, insurers and drug companies.

SAS invested heavily in research and development, and even today allocates 22 percent of the company’s revenue to research. The formula has paid off in steady growth, year after year. Revenue reached $2.26 billion in 2008, up from $1.34 billion five years earlier.
Yet the company also faces the classic challenge of being the innovative pioneer — enjoying rich profit margins but facing new competition from rivals seeking to gain market share with lower prices and substitute technology.
In the last two years, the major software companies have scooped up companies in the business intelligence market. Among the larger moves, SAP bought Business Objects for $6.8 billion, IBM bought Cognos for $4.9 billion and Oracle picked up Hyperion for $3.3 billion.

Still, those companies compete in the broad swath of the business intelligence market for reporting and analysis products. Such data on sales, shipments, customers and operations amount to a numbers-laden portrait of the recent past.

The SAS stronghold is a more sophisticated kind of software typically called “advanced analytics and predictive modelling,” which uses historical and current data to try to peer into the future and model likely outcomes. To counter IBM and others, SAS is looking to forge a tighter relationship with a big technology services company. It is also shortening product development cycles to 12 to 18 months, down from 24 to 36. “That’s what the market expects,” Davis says.

The most sweeping change is the company’s move toward the Internet model of software delivery — as a service that customers tap into over the Web, much as Google and other Internet companies do. SAS has dipped its toe in, with some initial products. But a major expansion is planned, supported by a sprawling $70 million data Centre scheduled to begin operating next year.

To be sure, the corporate cocoon can breed insularity. SAS, for example, was slow to recognise the brewing challenge from free, open-source alternatives to some of its products. A free programming language and set of software tools for statistical computing, called R, has become increasingly popular at universities and labs.

The company shifted course earlier this year and modified its software so programs written with R work seamlessly with SAS technology. “Shame on us for not engaging more with the open-source community,” says Keith Collins, senior vice president and chief technology officer. “But we’re committed to doing that now.”

The architect of the SAS culture is Goodnight, a lanky, laconic billionaire. The benefits have built up gradually over the years as a series of pragmatic steps, he says. The day-care program began after a valued employee was about to leave to take care of her young child. The on-site medical checkups grow out of the belief that “good health is good business,” he says.

Today, SAS estimates that its health care Centre saves the company $5 million a year, by providing care more cheaply than an outside insurer and by not having employees leave the campus for doctor’s visits. Employee turnover at SAS averages 4 percent a year, versus about 20 percent for the overall software industry.

The office atmosphere is sedate. There are no dogs roaming the halls, no Nerf-ball fights, no one jumping on trampolines — no whiff of Silicon Valley. The SAS culture is engineered for its own logic: to reduce distractions and stress, and thus foster creativity. During the technology boom at the start of this decade, SAS considered a drastic change in its model: going public. Goldman Sachs bankers were brought in as advisers, and in 2000 SAS recruited a former Oracle executive, Andre Boisvert, as its president.

Under Boisvert, SAS installed a new financial reporting system and paid the sales force incentive commissions rather than salary only. Goodnight recalls those days as a brief period of New Economy surrealism, and going public as a path wisely avoided. SAS, he says, is a culture averse to the short-term pressures of Wall Street, which he characterises as “a bunch of 28-year-olds, hunched over spreadsheets, trying to tell you how to run your business.”

Unlike many other tech companies, SAS has had no recession-related layoffs this year. “I’ve got a two-year pipeline of projects in R & D,” Goodnight says. “Why would I lay anyone off?”

Goodnight regards his new rivals the way a confident card player might. He likes the odds, and he likes his hand. “We’re pushing as fast as we can to stay ahead — on the cutting edge of everything,” he says. “We’ll do fine.”

Spam has now got new flavours
Bobbie Johnson, Nov 24, The Guardian

Filtering is keeping more unwanted messages from our inboxes, writes Bobbie Johnson

When Luis von Ahn gives talks on his work fighting spam, he likes to start by asking the audience a question. “How many of you have had to fill out one of those web forms that asks you to read a distorted sequence of letters or a word?” he asks. “How many of you found that annoying?” As the hands shoot up, he breaks into a grin: “I invented that.”

Von Ahn is a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University and was the recipient of a MacArthur “genius grant” worth $500,000 in 2006. His work on the “captcha”—those irritating automated tests that help distinguish humans from computers—is probably one of the most important advances in spam-fighting since the birth of email.

Since he helped invent it nine years ago, the system has helped prevent countless billions of spam messages. And as captchas are now combined with advanced filtering techniques, von Ahn suggests that, at least from his point of view, email spam is now a problem more or less contained.

“Maybe five years ago there was a crapload of spam I got in my inbox because the filters were so bad,” he says. “But it’s changing a lot – spam email seems to be much less of a problem than it was, because filters have become a lot better … I personally see very little actual email spam.”

Not everybody feels so certain, however. While users are probably exposed to fewer spam emails than ever, thanks to the rapid improvement of services such as Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo Mail, the picture behind the scenes is not so rosy.

“It is worse than ever,” says Richard Cox of Spamhaus, which tracks the world’s worst spammers and runs blacklists to help block them. “The fact that it’s growing, I don’t think anyone can exactly miss out on … we’re getting to the stage now when any email containing a [Chinese] domain is likely to get rejected. Is that good for China at the commercial level, internationally? No, it is not, but they don’t seem to recognise that.” The totality of spam is hard to gauge, but Cisco produced an estimate late last year of around 200bn junk emails a day.

Experts believe so. In Technology Guardian over the past two weeks, we have examined the current state of web security and computer security, but it remains the case that spam—in all its forms—is the main method of transmission for a wide variety of attacks.

Emails loaded with malware, where users click on a link that downloads a virus to their computer, are becoming more common, with many such attacks creating networks of compromised computers to send out yet more spam.

Phishing emails, designed to solicit logins or other personal details, are getting more convincing every day. And then there are the fraudulent products and illegal offers that most of us associate with unwanted email. Perhaps it remains crude, but the near-zero cost of sending spam messages by the billion has turned it into an intractable problem.

Though China and Russia continue to rise up the charts, the worst offender remains the US. Despite passing a law on unwanted email, the CAN-SPAM act, as long ago as 2003, it is still responsible for around 30% of all junk messages. But with improvements in filtering technology, the more pressing concern could be that spammers themselves are moving into new territory.

Fraud goes social

Some of the most damaging attacks are happening in other areas of the web, as criminals apply their experience to potentially more lucrative new arenas. “There’s an increase in spammy behaviour,” says von Ahn. “We’re talking about things like comments on blogs, or in social networking sites … even friend requests can be spam.” Spammers have spent recent years discovering a variety of new tools. Fake websites, or even networks of fake sites, are constructed in order to help them boost criminal activity, while great effort goes into polluting search engines and invading your social networking profile. Spammers have learned not only that there is more to be gained from such activities, but also that they are harder for users to fight.

“There are a few really large email providers and as long as they do a good job of stopping email spam, everybody's happy,”says von Ahn. “But with these other type of things like comments on blogs, that’s a little harder because it’s much more decentralised – all these different services, each of which can be spammed in their own little way.”

He believes that the more intimate nature of social networks means that the chances of a spam message succeeding are higher. If receiving a spam email has become the equivalent of junk mail landing through your letterbox, social network spam is somebody ringing the bell – or even walking into your house and planting their junk mail in your hands.

The good news, if there is any, is that social networks have had unprecedented success in hitting spammers where it hurts: their pockets. In the past 18 months both MySpace and Facebook have won spam cases – including an $873m fine against a Canadian, Adam Guerbuez, and a total of more than $1bn against Sanford Wallace, who in the 1990s dubbed himself the “spam king”. The awards vastly outstrip the $4m fine that Wallace received for email spam in 2006.

Global standard

Spamhaus’s Cox suggests that other countries should follow the lead of Australia and New Zealand, which have tough, strictly enforced anti-spam laws and have won a series of cases against high-profile offenders. “It’s not insoluble – there are various things that can be done that will reduce the risk and reduce the impact,” he says.

“If the UK and US would actually follow the Australia and New Zealand example, this would set up a pretty strong coalition across the world … all of a sudden there would be a standard."

He recognises the difficulty of making it happen, however. A House of Lords report on computer crime two years ago suggested the British government had an approach to spam and security that was “inefficient” and “outdated” – but pressure from campaigners has so far failed to have any impact on government policy.


GloboNote is a platform independent desktop note-taking application.

Todo Backup

EASEUS Todo Backup is a free and comprehensive backup utility for system backup & restore, hard disk or partition backup & restore, and disk cloning - OS, data, applications, and settings. Features of EASEUS Todo Backup include - Backup system partition to image: Backup the entire system partition, including the system state and all files to an image file - a very useful feature if you wish to upgrade without reinstalling the OS and and applications, again; Restore the system partition by a bootable CD, would be a great help whenever a boot failure occurs; Compresses image file: The image file can be made smaller to save space, easy to store and transfer; Disk Cloning - Clone a disk to another one with fast file-by-file clone method; and Mount and Unmount - Mount the backup image file as a virtual physical partition. EASEUS Todo Backup for Windows 2000 Professional /XP/Vista and Windows Server 2000/2003/2008, can be downloaded at

SafeHouse Explorer

This free utility can hide everything - make confidential documents, files and folders invisible until you enter your password. Its features include - fully-featured stand-alone security solution; hides, locks and encrypts documents, spreadsheets, photos, videos and others, just drag and drop; ideal for USB memory sticks and other portable media, including iPods; Super strong 256-bit Twofish advanced encryption; unlimited number of large private storage vaults; Graphical password strength meter to choose strong passwords; runs directly from USB memory sticks without prior Windows installation; and creates self-extracting EXE encrypted storage vaults. The 3.4 MB SafeHouse Explorer v3.00 for XP/Vista/Win7 can be downloaded at, just click and run. For more details you could view the video guide at


GloboNote is a platform independent desktop note-taking application. The saved notes can be accessed in any OS, using this program. Among its features are: Organize notes in group, Customize notes; Change color, font, behavior of your note; Save/Load customized note preference and assign hotkey(Alt+1~4); Supports
insertion of images on notes; Restores deleted notes; Option to make note stay on top of other windows; Option to auto rollup when not used; Lock note to prevent its editing or deletion; support rich text editing with bold, italic, colour etc; Supports URLs handling, Hide/Show, Find/Replace, Search notes and export note as plain text. GloboNote can be run in Windows or Linux platform(J2SE 6.0 or higher required). GlobeNote, a free software - can be redistributed or modified under the terms of the GNU General Public License. Windows version at, others at


DH reader KN Shankar wrote

Please suggest me a freeware tool for converting videos of
different formats to others.

DH suggested

Have you tried Format Factory? It can be downloaded at

Shankar wrote

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?

New tricks

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.

Bigger game

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. 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.

Online Maps: Everyman offers directions
Miguel Helft, The New York Times

They don’t know it, but people who use Google’s online maps may be getting directions from Richard Hintz.

Hintz, a 62-year-old engineer who lives in Berkeley, California, has tweaked the locations of more than 200 business listings and points of interest in cities across the state, sliding an on-screen place marker down the block here, moving another one across the street there. Farther afield, he has mapped parts of Cambodia and Laos, where he likes to go on motorcycle trips.

Hintz said these acts of geo-volunteerism were motivated in part by self-interest: he wants to know where he’s going. But “it has this added attraction that it helps others,” he said. Hintz is a foot soldier in an army of volunteer cartographers who are logging every detail of neighborhoods near and far into online atlases. From Petaluma to Peshawar, these amateurs are arming themselves with GPS devices and easy-to-use software to create digital maps where none were available before, or fixing mistakes and adding information to existing ones.

Like contributors to Wikipedia before them, they are democratizing a field that used to be the exclusive domain of professionals and specialists. And the information they gather is becoming increasingly valuable commercially.

Google, for example, sees maps playing a growing strategic role in its business, especially as people use cellphones to find places to visit, shop and eat. It needs reliable data about the locations of businesses and other destinations.

“It is a huge shift,” said Michael F Goodchild, a professor of geography at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “This is putting mapping where it should be, which is the hands of local people who know an area well.” That is changing the dynamics of an industry that has been dominated by a handful of digital mapping companies like Tele Atlas and Navteq.

Google is increasingly bypassing those traditional map providers. It has relied on volunteers to create digital maps of 140 countries, including India, Pakistan and the Philippines, that are more complete than many maps created professionally. “They have coverage in areas that the big mapping guys don’t have,” said Mike Dobson, a mapping industry consultant who once worked at Rand McNally.

Some people think map data is so valuable that it should be free. OpenStreetMap, a nonprofit group whose mission is to make free maps that can be reused by anyone, has some 180,000 contributors who have mapped many countries in varying levels of detail.

The maps are used on a White House Web site that tracks community service opportunities and in many iPhone applications, among other places. Another collaborative project called WikiMapia is creating its own annotated maps, layered on top of Google’s. Traditional mapmakers are seeking to adapt by tapping their own citizen cartographers. Tele Atlas, which TomTom bought last year for $4.3 billion, now uses feedback from users of TomTom’s navigation devices to update its maps.

But Tele Atlas says its customers, who might be in delivery trucks or emergency vehicles, can’t rely fully on community-created maps, any more than historians can rely on Wikipedia. Defenders of the amateur approach point out that professionally created maps often have errors and can be slow to add road closures and other updates. Google has moderators who try to verify the accuracy of users’ changes, unless they are very minor, while OpenStreetMap relies on its members to police changes.

John L Kittle, a 55-year-old engineer, was one participant. In the past, Kittle has corrected street names in Atlanta and improved the map for his home town of Decatur, Ga. Recently an acquaintance mentioned that she lived in a new condo development, and Kittle added it to the map.

Some of the most remarkable efforts of amateur map makers are in countries where few, if any, digital maps existed. Google first tested a tool called Map Maker in India, where people immediately began tracing and labeling roads and buildings on top of satellite images provided by Google.

When Google released the tool more broadly last year, Faraz Ahmad, a 26-year-old programmer from Pakistan who lives in Glasgow, took one look at the map of India and decided he did not want to see his homeland out-mapped by its traditional rival.

So he began mapping Pakistan in his free time, using information from friends, family and existing maps. Ahmad is now the top contributor to Map Maker, logging more than 41,000 changes.

Maps are political, of course, and community-edited maps can set off conflicts. When Ahmad tried to work on the part of Kashmir that is administered by Pakistan, he found that Map Maker wouldn’t allow it. He said his contributions were finally accepted by the Map Maker team, which is led by engineers based in India, but only after a long e-mail exchange. A Google spokeswoman, Elaine Filadelfo, said Google sometimes blocked changes to contentious areas “with an eye to avoiding back-and-forth editing.”


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.


Piwigo, a photo gallery software for the web, easily customizable. It's free and opensource, equipped with distinctly different features to publish and manage your collection of pictures.

Quick Config

Quick Config is a convenient tool to help change quickly various settings of your computer. This is a useful utility especially for those who travel with their laptops and wish to change network connection settings, set default printer and etc, with just a click. All one needs to do is to create one or more configuration profiles, set the required settings for each profile, and when a change is needed activate the profile by double clicking on it. Features: The current version of Quick Config can change - TCP/IP settings (IP address, mask, gateway, DNS server, MAC), state of network connection; computer name, domain or workgroup membership; map, unmap network drives; share, unshare local resources; Hosts file; Routing table, Sound volume and theme; Set default printer; Start, stop, restart system services; IE, FireFox and Opera network connection settings, Desktop- Display screen dimensions, color depth; and change default applications such as E-Mail client and others. The 2942 KB Quick Config v1.1.6.55 (24 Oct 09) can be downloaded at


Piwigo, a photo gallery software for the web, easily customizable. It's free and opensource, equipped with distinctly different features to publish and manage your collection of pictures. Piwigo has a snappy interface, and and amongst its features the "tree" takes the cake. This feature lets users create photo categories that expand and flatten the tree structure to view all the photos. Visitors can also set up user permissions and also create rating tabs for each photo, or groups of photos. Started in 2002, the project is now supported by an active community of users and developers. Piwigo supports numerous galleries of all sizes all over the world, from an individual ten-photos party to the images stock of an agency. This scalability is supported by smart browsing capabilities based on categories, tags and chronological search. Various extensions make Piwigo even more scalable and customizable to suit your own needs and desires. Piwigo v2.0 is compatible with computers running Mac OS 10.3 or newer or Windows 95 and newer. Piwigo is both web and photo standard compliant. For more details visit


ooSooM is a task/todo management tool, free for personal use. It lets the person get on with the job on hand after securely logging the thoughts, ideas, etc in such a way that they can be found whenever needed. ooSooM does not attempt to force a predetermined 'methodology', it's a free format, lets you use it the way you want. You can prioritise and categorise your Todo Information, and each Todo or Vault Item can have it's own Colour Scheme, Font Size and Style. ooSooM has a Easy to use interface, requires no installation, no Modifications made to computer, Requires no additional Runtime installation, and can be run from a USB drive.

Developed by Arten Science, UK, the 32 MB ooSooM for Mac OSX, Windows XP, Vista, 2003 and 7 can be downloaded (for Windows), and for Mac at After downloading ooSooM and deciding that you would like to get rid of the nag screens, you need to contact Arten Science for a Serial Number (


DH reader Jagadeesh wrote

Please suggest a utility to back up installed drivers.

DH suggested

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

11 Nov 2009
Murdoch could block Google search entirely
Bobbie Johnson, The Guardian

Media baron accuses the search engine of kleptomania, says Bobbie Johnson

Rupert Murdoch says he will remove stories from Google’s search index as a way to encourage people to pay for content online. In an interview with Sky News Australia, the mogul said that newspapers in his media empire – including ‘The Sun’, ‘The Times’ and ‘The Wall Street Journal’ – would consider blocking Google entirely once they had enacted plans to charge people for reading their stories on the web.

In recent months, Murdoch and his lieutenants have stepped up their war of words with Google, accusing it of “kleptomania” and acting as a “parasite” for including News Corp content in its Google News pages. But asked why News Corp executives had not chosen to simply remove their websites entirely from Google’s search indexes – a simple technical operation – Murdoch said just such a move was on the cards.

“I think we will, but that’s when we start charging,” he said. “We have it already with the Wall Street Journal. We have a wall, but it's not right to the ceiling. You can get, usually, the first paragraph from any story - but if you're not a paying subscriber to all you get is a paragraph and a subscription form."

The 78-year-old mogul’s assertion, however, is not actually correct: users who click through to screened articles from Google searches are usually offered the full text of the story without any subscription block. It is only users who find their way to the story through the Wall Street Journal’s website who are told they must subscribe before they can read further.

Murdoch added that he did not agree with the idea that search engines fell under “fair use” rules – an argument many aggregator websites use as part of their legal justification for reproducing excerpts of news stories online. “There’s a doctrine called fair use, which we believe to be challenged in the courts and would bar it altogether... but we'll take that slowly."

Murdoch’s attitude towards the internet – which appeared to have thawed when he bought social networking site MySpace for $580m in 2005 – has stiffened more recently.
New announcements

Over the summer, Murdoch had announced that he planned to introduce website charges by next year – but last week it emerged that his controversial plans had been delayed, saying that “I wouldn’t promise that we’re going to meet that date.”

Additionally, it emerged that MySpace, which has struggled in the face of competition from Facebook in recent years, was due to fall short of its targets in a lucrative search deal with Google – a slip that could cost the site more than $100m in payments from the internet advertising giant.

In the Sky News Australia interview, Murdoch underlined his feelings towards those companies by listing a litany of names of those that he felt were overstepping the boundaries.

“The people who simply just pick up everything and run with it – steal our stories, we say they steal our stories - they just take them,” he said. “That’s Google, that’s Microsoft, that’s, a whole lot of people ... they shouldn’t have had it free all the time, and I think we’ve been asleep."

Scrabble away the Indian way
Subrahmanyan Viswanath

Crosswords, word puzzles are a daily do with readers of regular newspapers as also magazines.

Testing and teasing one's vocabulary strength and supremacy in play of words, as also their association with synonyms, antonyms and anagrams is an enduring exercise. Likewise, scrabbles are a religion and ritualistic passage of rite for the avowed wordsmiths and aficionados of the word game matching wit with wit.

What better pleasurable pastime that provides food for thought as also lets you while your precious time wisely and wonderfully. Further, with newspapers, magazines, books et al going the cyber way and tablet PCs, e-paper, the new digital order, it got the likes of Hareesh Viriyala too seriously thinking: Does word games mean only English? What about the country's larger populace who have no such luxury of the Queen’s English?

Well, cashing in on this craze among large sections of English-speaking diaspora and believing that a similar taste and thirst exists among regional language people is New Delhi- based Out-Bok Edutainment Pvt Ltd, Hareesh Viriyala's brainchild.

Speaking to Deccan Herald about the company’s word game products in Indian language script, both online and offline, Founder & Director Hareesh Viriyala said the project was born out of a desire to make available the “magic of words” and the benefits of creative and entertaining word play to people in their own languages. And with mobile virtually shrinking the class divide and seamlessly breaking all barriers among people, Joro could not have come at a more appropriate time.

According to Viriyala, while there exists a plethora of word game products in English, there is no “total” word game in Indian languages that takes into account the maatraas and “half consonants” that are indispensable in Indian languages.

The company, through its, decided to change that perception by indigenously developed word games in Indian languages! Born out of the entrepreneurial spirit, as also wanting to provide the sheer fun of playing be it on social occasions and among friends and relatives, in one’s own / mother language like never before is reason, he said, behind the creation of Jodo products.

The offerings

Explaining the concept, he said, the different characters that constitute the script are represented on building blocks (tiles) of appropriate shapes. Words are formed by putting these tiles together. It's pretty straightforward and logical. Currently, he said, their website - offers two online options of playing the word game in four Indian languages - Hindi, Tamil Telugu and Marathi. The first is ulaT-palaT ke joRo. They carry the name of TuniTu joDinchu (Telugu), taavi taavi joDicer (Tamil) and ulaToon-palaToon joDA (Marathi)

This is a basic anagramming game wherein one finds as many words as possible using a given set of tiles, within a given time limit. There is an incentive to form longer words and use more dependent characters. It can be played as both single player and multiplayer game.

The second is ghoom-phir ke joRo. In Telugu: (chuTTu tirigi joDinchu) Tamil: (cuRRi vA joDicer) and Marathi: (phiroon-phiroon joDA) Here, one connects tiles of the same or adjacent grid cells in sequence to form words and score as many points as possible within the given time limit. Tiles can be used with main tiles in an adjacent grid cell. Playable as both single player and multiplayer game.

The company, he said, is planning two more (joRo) - a crossword building game played with assorted-shaped tiles (each representing a language character) on a game board that has strategic and tactical elements built into it.

To be available as an online game and as a physical board game. (jaldee meM joRo) - uses the same tiles as (joRo), but there is no game board. Each player has a linear contraption where they will place their best possible word within a given time limit.

The benefits

The products, he said, will help in learning more about one’s own language (and therefore culture and roots) on the benefits side. Indian languages offer plenty of flexibility for creative word play and you can do things in Indian language scripts that you can’t do in Roman scripts, he says, adding they help in not only educational aspects but also in socialising and educational tool as well.

The (joRo) family of word game products, he says, have been adjudged the Best Software Product in the Start-up category by the Hyderabad Software Exporters Association Product Showcase & Awards 2009.

The jodo products will soon make their way into mobiles as also in board forms and in newspapers as well, he added. Well, if words and wordplay are your idea of spending fruitful evening with friends and family, then the game is afoot with Jodo - the magic of words.

Sony to offer film on internet television
Tim Arango, The New York Times

In a nod to its vision of the future, Sony will make its animated hit ''Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs'' available to consumers directly through Internet-enabled televisions and Blu-ray players before the movie is released on DVD.

It is the latest experiment in Hollywood’s effort to find a way to compensate for the steep decline in profits from home entertainment.

The move is significant because it represents the latest tinkering with the movie industry’s release windows, something Hollywood has long been reluctant to do out of fear of upsetting the profitability of DVD sales and angering its most important retailer, Wal-Mart.

But with the decline in DVD sales, off as much as 25 percent at some studios, finding new ways to distribute movies has become a necessity. The price of the film, $24.95, is high enough not to alienate retailers, Sony said.

“We don’t need a war with Wal-Mart or any other organization, and I don’t think they’re hostile to this,” said Howard Stringer, the chief executive of Sony. “It will make televisions more valuable, and that’s a good thing.”

Sony Pictures Entertainment, the only Hollywood studio tethered to a major hardware manufacturer, is in a unique position to experiment with selling movies directly to consumers through television sets, in this case Sony’s Bravia Internet-enabled sets. As part of this experiment, “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” will also be available through Sony’s networked Blu-ray Disc players, which came on the market last month.


You need no more worry about the indiscriminate sharing of data, thanks to OneSwarm, a new peer-to-peer tool. OneSwarm can help you decide to share data in a variety of ways, like sharing it with some and not with all and sundry.


Disk Fragmenter, a built-in tool with almost every version of Windows, can pre-arrange all the “fragmented” pieces of a file close together to help reduce the time it takes to open files or load programs on your computer. Usually, the built-in disk defragmenter will defragment the entire hard-drive at once and tend to ignore files that are smaller than 64 MB. But, now, Microsoft offers another free utility Contig (short for contiguous) that lets you have better control over the defragmentation process. Contig, at, lets you defragment individual files, folders, or the entire hard drive. You can run Contig from the command prompt, or try Power defragmenter, at, an easy and more visual interface for Contig. Power Defragmenter which internally uses Contig to perform the defragmentation process. You can also run Contig, online, at Unlike others Contig uses Windows’internal defragmentation APIs, hence, won’t cause disk corruption, even if the programme is terminated suddenly. Please note you’ll need to run the utility as an administrator as it will throw an “Access denied” error. Defragmentation is recommended for traditional hard drives only.


FreeFileSync is an Open-Source folder comparison and synchronization tool. It is optimized for highest performance and usability without restricted or overloaded UI interfaces. Its features include Compare files (bytewise or by date) and synchronize them; No limitations: An arbitrary number of files can be synchronized; Support for multiple folder pairs with distinct configuration; Full support for Windows/Linux Symbolic Links and Windows Junction Points; Create Batch Jobs for automated synchronization with or without GUI; Support for filesizes larger than 4 GB; Filter functionality to include/exclude files from synchronization (without re-compare!); Create sync jobs via GUI to synchronize automatically (can be scheduled or executed directly); Subfolders are also synchronized, including empty folders; Progress indicators are updated only every 100ms for optimal performance!; Delete before copy: Avoid disc space shortages with large sync-operations; Network support; many advance features for the techie/professional. The 2.1 MB FreeFileSync v3.1 can be downloaded at


You need no more worry about the indiscriminate sharing of data, thanks to OneSwarm, a new peer-to-peer tool. OneSwarm can help you decide to share data in a variety of ways, like sharing it with some and not with all and sundry. Features of this friend-to-friend (F2F) data sharing utility are Privacy preserving - OneSwarm uses source address rewriting to protect user privacy. Instead of always transmitting data directly from sender to receiver (immediately identifying both), OneSwarm may forward data through multiple intermedaries, obscuring the identity of both sender and receiver; User friendly: web-based interface supports real-time transcoding of many audio and video formats for in-browser playback, this eliminates the need for casual users to master a new application’s interface or search for custom media codecs; Open: OneSwarm data sharing features are built on cryptographic standards, e.g., X.509 certificates and SSL encryption; OneSwarm can operate as a fully backwards compatible BitTorrent clien, and more. OneSwarm, a free and open source software, v0.6.7– 10 October, 2009, for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera, can be downloaded at


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."

Sam Altman, left, and Alok Deshpande, centre, co-founders of Loopt, met Patrick Chung, right, when they were testing their newest release.
This search service can feel your ‘pulse’
Claire Cain Miller, The New York Times

Big Web companies and start-ups alike are scrambling to create the best applications to allow users to search for surrounding businesses and events from a mobile phone.

Loopt, a service that lets people find their friends on the go, is now entering the crowded field. Loopt introduced a new search service, Pulse, on its Website on Tuesday. An updated application for Apple’s iPhone will be available soon.

Mainstream search engines from Google and Microsoft already offer local business listings, and the popular user review sites Yelp and Citysearch have mobile phone applications. Smaller sites like NearbyNow and Metromix are also jumping into mobile search, which uses the GPS capability in many cellphones to figure out where a person is and show ads for nearby businesses.

“Everybody’s got an eye on the mobile space and location as a central part of the search experience, but I don’t think there is some definitive application,” said Greg Sterling, an analyst on local mobile search. “It’s very elusive because it’s such an unwieldy segment.”

Loopt aims to distinguish itself by making its service comprehensive. It incorporates feeds from 20 sources, including listings and review services like Zagat, Citysearch and Eventful as well as content sites like DailyCandy, Thrillist and The Village Voice.

Pulse produces a personalised and ever-changing list of recommendations based on where you are, the time of day and Loopt’s own data on where you and your friends have been. It shows editorial descriptions and reviews from the partner sites and averages the ratings a business has received.

Pulse also factors in more subjective factors, like which places are particularly popular with Loopt users at a given moment. That will help Pulse come up with recommendations that a site like Google might not, said Sam Altman, a Loopt co-founder.

“One thing we’ve tried to do is strike a nice balance between purely algorithmic search and saying, “This is a brand-new and hot coffee shop that just opened in this city,’ ” he said.

Pulse is a new direction for Loopt, which has been focused on helping people find friends who are nearby and checked into the service. Unlike competitors like Foursquare, Loopt gets some revenue from cellphone carriers, which include its service in their data plans or buy its technology to run their own location-based applications.

Pulse lists businesses like gyms and gas stations and events like movies and farmers’ markets, in addition to the usual bars and restaurants. It hopes to become partners with more sites, so users might be able to book tickets or make reservations from within the application. It also plans to include data from Twitter’s future location-based service.
The pitch to advertisers is compelling, Altman said, because Pulse knows where someone is, what they are looking for and what they previously liked. Retailers like Jack in the Box, Target and Chili’s have already agreed to offer coupons on Pulse. Users can save coupons to their phone to show the cashier.

Mobile coupons can get seven times as many responses as those in print or online because people do not need to write down a code or print the coupon, said Maria Mandel, executive director of digital innovation at Ogilvy, the advertising agency.
Still, Ogilvy does not have many clients that are interested in location-based promotions, she said. “The issue with mobile right now is you don’t have a large enough audience size at the moment. That will change as the media channel grows.”

Pulse will also share revenue with content partners like Citysearch. When a user reads a Citysearch review on Pulse and then clicks on the restaurant’s Web site, both Citysearch and Loopt will earn money. Yelp, one of the most popular sites for searching local businesses, is notably absent from Pulse.

That is because Yelp was not convinced that Loopt would clearly show that its reviews and information came from Yelp, said Stephanie Ichinose, a Yelp spokesperson. Altman said he hoped to cooperate with Yelp in the future. “I have huge respect for Yelp, and they’re probably the leader in the local content space right now, but I don’t think they’re better than everything else put together,” he said.

E-Utilities: Nov 4-Nov 10

Security Essentials is a free antivirus from Microsoft. It is a light-weight anti-virus & anti-malware tool for users who run a genuine Microsoft Windows(XP, Vista, 7) OS on their PCs.


DocPad can be an alternative to Notepad. In addition to Notepad features DocPad has many more : block indent/unindent, bookmarking, case conversion, customizable toolbar, encoding conversion, file history, jump to line/offset, keyboard macros (unlimited in size and number), print preview, skinnable interface, spell checking, statistics, variable pitch font, and much more. It also has a built-in calculator, calendar, and character map.

Among the other features are: Alphabetization of paragraphs, File drag & drop, Text drag & drop, Convert to lower/upper/title/sentence case, Search and replace, including case-insensitive, whole-word, and wildcard searches, Undo up to 100 changes, Toolbar, Status Bar, Selectable character set, Recent file history, Statistics on characters, words, lines, and paragraphs, Variable-pitch fonts support, and a Help file. DocPad version 8.0 (October 20th, 2009) for 2000, ME, XP, 2003, Vista, 2008, or 7 can be downloaded at The 3.5 MB DocPad takes up approximately 7 MB of hard disk space.

Security Essentials

Security Essentials is a free antivirus from Microsoft. It is a light-weight anti-virus & anti-malware tool for users who run a genuine Microsoft Windows(XP, Vista, 7) OS on their PCs. Features of Security Essentials: Least system requirements - unlike other antivirus tools, Security Essentials puts a minimum load on your system configuration, claims Microsoft; works on netbooks as well as older computers having limited hardware support; and a more speedier experience for users. It can also operate in a virtual environment, like Virtual PC.; Easy to use Interface; Installation file is only 10Mb in size & installs quickly; Protection mode activated as soon as the installation is completed; Automatic Updates; Microsoft’s Dynamic Signature Service looks for the latest virus definition updates as soon as it senses a threat - these include malicious or potentially unwanted software on the computer; and is active against all kinds of threats. The 4 MB+ Security Essentials can be downloaded at

My Lockbox

If you wish to keep file(s), folder, or directory away from prying eyes, My Lockbox can help. It is a secure application that lets users to lock an important and otherwise unsecured folder from being accessible except with a secure password. The salient feature of My Lockbox is that not only will the newly locked folder be accessed directly, but it will also disappear completely from view - a feature not found in similar applications.

The other features include - any folder can be password protected; Instant protection; folders can remain inaccessible to system administrators, and in Windows safe mode; and Hotkeys support. Installation is simple, make sure to enter in a secure password! To create secure passwords you could check out PassPub, an online password generator at The My Lockbox Control Panel also lets you change basic lockbox parameters like lockbox location, protection status, and password. My Lockbox (Windows only) can be downloaded at A Quick Start Guide at

Cyberstop: Nov 4-Nov 10

DH reader Nagesh wrote

Please suggest a screen zoom tool, preferably with annotation feature.

DH suggested

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

Office Live

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

Areca Backup

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 A tutorial at, users' manual at, FAQ at

Twitter serves up ideas from its followers

Twitter gets ideas from software developers, says Claire Cain Miller

In the next several weeks, Twitter users will  discover two new features, Lists and Retweets, that had the same user-generated  beginnings. REUTERSCompanies big and small monitor Twitter to find out what their customers like and what they want changed. Twitter does the same.

It started two years ago as a bare-bones service, offering little more than the ability to post 140-character messages. Then, it outsourced its idea generation to its users. The company watches how people use the service and which ideas catch on. Then its engineers turn the ideas into new features.

In the next several weeks, Twitter users will discover two new features, Lists and Retweets, that had the same user-generated beginnings.

“Twitter’s smart enough, or lucky enough, to say, ‘Gee, let’s not try to compete with our users in designing this stuff, let’s outsource design to them,’ ” said Eric von Hippel, head of the innovation and entrepreneurship group at the Sloan School of Management at MIT and author of the book “Democratising Innovation.”

Economists have long thought that producers — the people making products and running companies — are naturally the ones coming up with new ideas, Professor Von Hippel said. In fact, he said, consumers often come up with ideas for products, and companies wait on the sidelines to see if they have mass appeal.

Technology companies have been the most active in relying on others to innovate for them. This is in large part because the Internet lets people exchange ideas easily and rapidly with large groups, and computing tools let people design new products cheaply.
The photo-sharing site Flickr started as a small part of a big online game. When the founders realised that the photo-sharing feature was more popular than the game, they scrapped the game and built Flickr. Open-source software companies leave innovation up to users, and companies like Bug Labs let people build their own hardware.

Start-ups are more likely to take this approach because they are still defining their products and have the flexibility to change direction. It can be much harder for older companies to make the shift, both culturally and logistically.

And some big, nontechnology companies are embracing user-generated innovation. Ford Motor noticed that people were modifying Sync, its voice-activated system for playing music and getting directions. Ford has invited university students to come up with new features for the in-car system. Lego started a site called Design byME, where fans can use Lego design software to create their own models. Lego then sells the designs, effectively offloading the design cost to fans.

Twitter, though, may rely on user-generated innovation more than any other company. Early on, Twitter users started referring to others by typing the @ symbol before their name. For example, Biz Stone, a Twitter founder, recently wrote about his wife: “Wow, @Livia just took her homemade vegan lasagna out of the oven — I’m hungry!” “That one really took us by surprise,” said Evan Williams, Twitter’s chief executive and a founder. Since then, Twitter has added a section to the site where people can see every time they are mentioned with the @ symbol. It began hyperlinking the names so others can click on them to see the subject’s profile page.

Twitter also gets ideas from the software developers who build Twitter applications. It was not focused on letting people search Twitter messages until a start-up, Summize, created a search engine. Twitter bought Summize in 2008, and search is now a central part of the company, which signed search partnerships with Microsoft and Google last week.

“Most companies or services on the Web start with wrong assumptions about what they are and what they’re for,” Williams said. “Twitter struck an interesting balance of flexibility and malleability that allowed users to invent uses for it that weren’t anticipated.” But it was a learning process for the company. The founders did not like several user-generated Twitter features at first, but accepted them once they saw that others were adopting them, Williams said. When people started referring to Twitter posts as “tweets,” Twitter resisted until a few months ago, when it applied for a trademark on the term.

In 2007, Chris Messina, an early Twitter user, came up with another idea, inspired by a convention used on other Web sites, to mark conversations about a certain topic with the # symbol. “I begged and pleaded for them to support this feature, and they said, ‘No, it’s only for nerds, no one will get it,’” said Messina, an open-source advocate who runs a technology consulting firm, Citizen Agency.

But Twitter users caught on fast. Many conferences, for example, announce the so-called hash tag at the start of the event so attendees can mark all their posts the same way and people can search Twitter for everything written on the conference.

Now, Twitter hyperlinks the hash tags so readers can click and see all the other posts on a topic. Many of these appear in the list of trending topics on Twitter, another new addition. Twitter could add other hash tag features, like more clearly grouping all the posts about a certain event, Williams said.

Up next are two new features that were also inspired by users. One is called Lists, available to a small group now and to all Twitter users soon. People can create lists of all the tweets written by Hollywood celebrities or politicians, for example. Lists will help new users figure out whom to follow and help avid users filter their overflowing streams of posts, Williams said.

The idea was inspired by those who were confused about how to use Twitter and by ideas from software developers, he said. TweetDeck, for example, makes a Twitter desktop application that lets users group posts based on who wrote them. Lists also echo Follow Friday, another feature that users invented. Every Friday, Twitter users write posts recommending other people to follow on Twitter.

Also, when Twitter users wanted to send a post by another Twitter user to their own set of followers, they wrote “retweet,” which they shortened to RT. Twitter is now privately testing an official retweet feature that will fix some of the problems with retweets by eliminating redundant posts, clarifying who wrote the original post and preventing people from changing other people’s words, Williams said.


DH reader Mahesh Natarajan wrote

I have a large monitor, please suggest an application to split it into 3 or 4 sections.

DH suggested

You could try Acer GridVista to divide the screen into two, three or four sections.
It can be downloaded at

Helping laptop overcome its age
Noam Cohen

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.

Preventive medicines

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 and AdAware (at, 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 or 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
Subramani L

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.

21 oct 2009
Forecast for Microsoft: Partly cloudy
The New York Times

In an effort to continue remaking its image, Microsoft is courting young software developers and cloud computing start-ups, says Ashlee Vance

Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's chief software architect in his office in Redmond, Washington. NYTRay Ozzie, the chief software architect at Microsoft, bristles when asked whether people think that new versions of his company’s flagship software — like Windows and Office — are exciting.

According to Ozzie, we have entered an age that’s a far cry from that of the PC enshrined on his altar to beige-box antiquity. Consumers and workers have been gripped, he says, by a “gizmo revolution.”

But gizmos are only half the battle for Microsoft. True, fashionistas obsess over whether a new laptop will fit into their purses and what type of fashion statement the device will make. Corporate road warriors, meanwhile, exude pride as they whip ultrathin computers with exotic finishes out of their satchels. Yet the most desirable devices these days are those that also allow information addicts on the move to untether themselves from the desktop PC and communicate through the so-called “cloud.”

With the arrival this week of Windows 7 and a host of complementary, slick computers, Microsoft intends to undermine those Apple ads that mock PCs and their users as stumbling bores. Ozzie, who plays the role of visionary and strategist at Microsoft, says Windows 7 will let PCs keep pace with other computing devices and, in short, finally make them sexy.

For many years, Microsoft and its leaders could make sweeping statements like this with little public pushback. Microsoft embodied the technology industry and was the grand arbiter of the tools people used to conduct business and navigate the digital era.

These days, however, Microsoft has legions of doubters. “Microsoft sort of disappeared from the scene,” says Regis McKenna, a Silicon Valley marketing and strategy expert. “Every once in a while, they have a delayed Windows release or something like that. By and large, I think the marketplace is focused on what Google and Apple are up to.”

Critics of Microsoft say it has hugely underestimated market changes and plotted a long and winding course toward irrelevance.“They are trapped in their own psychosis that the world has to revolve around Windows on the PC,” says Marc Benioff, the CEO of, which competes against Microsoft in the business software market. “Until they stop doing that, they will drag their company into the gutter.”

The current breed of consumer has shown an ability to turn something like the Apple iPhone into an overnight sensation, then demand that companies embrace it. Google, meanwhile, uses its influential Web search and YouTube properties to introduce people to its e-mail, document and Web browser software, and Facebook now provides inspiration to business software makers.

For Google, winning over consumers is crucial to its strategy of infiltrating corporations and deflating Microsoft’s core businesses. “We are the next generation,” says Dave Girouard, the president of Google’s business products division. “The big difference in technology here is the pace of innovation.”

“They are not the company they once were in terms of market position,” says Bruce R Chizen, a former Microsoft employee and former CEO of Adobe Systems, the publishing software maker. “They no longer have a monopoly that is critical to the future of computing.”

Ballmer, Ozzie and others at Microsoft see things rather differently, and for the last year have argued that coming software releases for PCs, data centres, mobile devices and game consoles will confirm exactly how Microsoft will remain a pivotal force on the tech landscape.

Ballmer contends that Microsoft is the only company prepared and positioned to merge computing from both ends — the desktop and the cloud. “We’re just investing more broadly than everybody else,” he says, adding that, when it comes to software, “I want us to invent everything that’s important on the planet.”

Microsoft does, in fact, have a dazzling array of long-term bets. In Internet search, Microsoft has unveiled a well-received engine called Bing and has pledged to spend what it takes to make a meaningful dent in Google’s main business.

Some investors contend that Microsoft has its fingers in too many pies, developing too many products. The company is struggling to please consumers and workers at the same time. Despite its hunt for the next big thing in so many areas, Microsoft more often than not finds itself playing the role of follower, trying to buy its way into markets that other companies dominate.

“We were trying to do too much change in too rapid a fashion,” Ballmer says. “And so, for me the issue isn’t that we know how to make hardware and software work together and the like. The question there was I think we attempted too much.”

Facing hurdles

Microsoft also faces hurdles in the mobile phone market. For many years, it has sold software for a broad array of phones, but Ballmer has been disappointed with his mobile division, particularly when devices like the iPhone blindsided his company.

Even worse, Microsoft’s top executives have fretted recently about the potential fallout with customers when the company lost personal data tied to T-Mobile USA’s phone services — especially any doubts the incident raised about its mobile, cloud and security claims.

But Microsoft can point to places where its big bets have paid off. Bing takes a new approach to search by giving customers a glossier interface and, often, more detailed results than they will find with Google. And the Xbox game console and Xbox Live service have put Microsoft at the forefront of online gaming. Microsoft says the cloud acts as a natural complement to its traditional software products, and the company often talks about the “three screens and a cloud” strategy — which covers computers, phones and TVs all connected to common services.

But the cloud presents Microsoft with a host of challenges to its time-tested model of selling desktop and computer server software for lucrative licensing fees. Fast-paced rivals like Salesforce, Amazon and Google hope to undercut its prices while adding software features every few weeks or months rather than every few years, as Microsoft has done.

Microsoft executives acknowledge that the company had perhaps stalled, licking its wounds and trying to figure out how to behave while under scrutiny after years of antitrust court battles.

“We’ve moved to be a mature company, but maybe too nice a guy in some senses, and not maybe moving fast enough in things,” says Bob Muglia, a 20-year Microsoft employee and president of its server software business.

Rivals now simply dismiss Microsoft as a laggard rather than hitting it with the Evil Empire criticisms so familiar in the 1990s. In its place stands Google, which now has Microsoft’s mantle as a game-changing technology behemoth and is also increasingly perceived as a dominant competitor whose power warrants concern. Google’s rise has cast Microsoft at least partly in the unfamiliar role of a white knight.

“Until recently, Microsoft was the only empire,” says Nicholas G Carr, an author who has chronicled the rise of cloud computing. “Now, I think there are empires of the Internet as well as of the PC, and they are colliding.”

In an effort to continue remaking its image, Microsoft is courting young software developers and cloud computing start-ups. Company executives acknowledge losing touch with these crucial audiences as open-source software turned into the standard for people looking to create the next wave of applications and services.

Microsoft executives freely take swipes at Google’s online office applications and its planned operating system, Chrome OS. They’re also quick to remind anyone who will listen that it’s still early in the cloud computing era, and that things like Amazon’s online data centre services are but a nifty curiosity.

According to Ballmer, the public has a tendency to get caught up in the success of a device like the iPhone or Google’s search service and to underestimate the complexities that arise from trying to connect consumers and workers in today’s world.

Microsoft’s investors have started to put the company on the clock, expecting its traditional software to thrive and pay for a grander vision that needs to materialise sooner rather than later. “I am willing to give the present management another 15 months,” says Dicks-Riley at the investment firm. Even Microsoft’s loudest critics consider the company itself durable. “They won’t fade away as long as there are PCs,” Benioff says. “But they are not delivering the future of our industry, either.”

Executives at Microsoft talk in far more pragmatic terms. Slick laptops, cloud services and fancy cellphones all play into its strengths of making software that hundreds of millions of people can use. The trends come and go, but Microsoft’s reach and ability to play on the grandest scale remain constant.

“We can never become complacent, because just when the services transformation has gotten to this point, the next transformation comes,” Ozzie says. “That’s the way our company works.”

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?

Emily Woolf, far right, with friends in Brooklyn. Woolf uses the site Foursquare, which is available in 31 American cities, to find her friends when she wants to meet. NYTFor 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
Training to climb an Everest of digital data
Ashlee Vance

Computer scientist should think in terms of Internet scale, says Ashlee Vance

It is a rare criticism of elite American university students that they do not think big enough. But that is exactly the complaint from some of the largest technology companies and the federal government. At the heart of this criticism is data.

Researchers and workers in fields as diverse as bio-technology, astronomy and computer science will soon find themselves overwhelmed with information. Better telescopes and genome sequencers are as much to blame for this data glut as are faster computers and bigger hard drives.

While consumers are just starting to comprehend the idea of buying external hard drives for the home capable of storing a terabyte of data, computer scientists need to grapple with data sets thousands of times as large and growing ever larger. (A single terabyte equals 1,000 gigabytes and could store about 1,000 copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica).

The next generation of computer scientists has to think in terms of what could be described as Internet scale. Facebook, for example, uses more than 1 petabyte of storage space to manage its users’ 40 billion photos. (A petabyte is about 1,000 times as large as a terabyte, and could store about 500 billion pages of text).

It was not long ago that the notion of one company having anything close to 40 billion photos would have seemed tough to fathom. Google, meanwhile, churns through 20 times that amount of information every single day just running data analysis jobs. In short order, DNA sequencing systems too will generate many petabytes of information a year.

“It sounds like science fiction, but soon enough, you’ll hand a machine a strand of hair, and a DNA sequence will come out the other side,” said Jimmy Lin, an associate professor at the University of Maryland, during a technology conference held here last week. The big question is whether the person on the other side of that machine will have the wherewithal to do something interesting with an almost limitless supply of
genetic information.

At the moment, companies like IBM and Google have their doubts. For the most part, university students have used rather modest computing systems to support their studies. They are learning to collect and manipulate information on personal computers or what are known as clusters, where computer servers are cabled together to form a larger computer. But even these machines fail to churn through enough data to really challenge and train a young mind meant to ponder the mega-scale problems of tomorrow.

“If they imprint on these small systems, that becomes their frame of reference and what they’re always thinking about,” said Jim Spohrer, a director at IBM’s Almaden Research Center.

Two years ago, IBM and Google set out to change the mindset at universities by giving students broad access to some of the largest computers on the planet. The companies then outfitted the computers with software that Internet companies use to tackle their toughest data analysis jobs.

And, rather than building a big computer at each university, the companies created a system that let students and researchers tap into giant computers over the Internet.
This year, the National Science Foundation, a federal government agency, issued a vote of confidence for the project by splitting $5 million among 14 universities that want to teach their students how to grapple with big data questions.

The types of projects the 14 universities have already tackled veer into the mind-bending. For example, Andrew J Connolly, an associate professor at the University of Washington, has turned to the high-powered computers to aid his work on the evolution of galaxies. Connolly works with data gathered by large telescopes that inch their way across the sky taking pictures of various objects.

The largest public database of such images available today comes from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which has about 80 terabytes of data, according to Connolly. A new system called the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope is set to take more detailed images of larger chunks of the sky and produce about 30 terabytes of data each night. Connolly’s graduate students have been set to work trying to figure out ways of coping with this much information.

Purdue, meanwhile, looks to carry out techniques used to map the interactions between people in social networks into the biological realm. Researchers are creating complex diagrams that illuminate the links between chemical reactions taking place in cells.

A similar effort at the University of California, Santa Barbara, centers on making a simple software interface — akin to the Google search bar — that will let researchers examine huge biological data sets for answers to specific queries.

Lin has encouraged his students to illuminate data with the help of Hadoop, an open-source software package that companies like Facebook and Yahoo use to split vast amounts of information into more manageable chunks.

One of these projects included a deep dive into the reams of documents released after the government’s probe into Enron, to create an analysis system that could identify how one employee’s internal communications had been connected to those from other employees and who had originated a specific decision.

Lin shares the opinion of numerous other researchers that learning these types of analysis techniques will be vital for students in the coming years. “Science these days has basically turned into a data-management problem,” Lin said.

By donating their computing wares to the universities, Google and IBM hope to train a new breed of engineers and scientists to think in Internet scale. Of course, it’s not all good will backing these gestures. IBM is looking for big data experts who can complement its consulting in areas like health care and financial services. It has already started working with customers to put together analytics systems built on top of Hadoop. Meanwhile, Google promotes just about anything that creates more information to index and search.

Nonetheless, the universities and the government benefit from IBM and Google providing access to big data sets for experiments, simpler software and their computing wares. “Historically, it has been tough to get the type of data these researchers need out of industry,” said James C French, a research director at the National Science Foundation. “But we’re at this point where a biologist needs to see these types of volumes of information to begin to think about what is possible in terms of commercial applications.”

It’s Symantec’s turn to take security to the cloud
L Subramani

With the emergence of cloud computing, security too seems to be going the ‘cloud’ way.

A few months back McAfee announced the release of Artemis, a cloud-based threat-prevention system that deals with software in the system based on their reputation. Observing how a piece of software interacts with the Operating System, the threat prevention system could decide if the software is benign or malicious.

Putting the knowledge of all the pieces of software, not just the bad ones, makes threat prevention system to act in a pre-emptive way in stopping a software from corrupting the system. And the fact that it operates on the cloud -not on the hard disk of the system- means that users of anti virus systems need not worry about applications occupying large amounts of space.

After McAfee, it is now Symantec’s turn to announce a similar technology in their latest release: Norton 2010. If assertions of Symantec were to be believed, Norton 2010’s “reputation-based identification” is far smarter than Artemis. “Unfortunately, our product has the same name as McAfee,” said David Freer, Vice President, Consumer Business Unit, Symantec Asia Pacific and Japan.

“What McAfee offers is basically ‘old wine in new bottle’. They have taken all their old anti virus systems on the cloud and offers it as reputation based identification. On the contrary, we have worked on our technology for three years from ground-up and have made it more comprehensive threat protection with 100 per cent security to systems.”

Norton 2010, Symantec says, has been created with complete understanding of the new-generation challenges. With cyber attacks focussed more on stealing financial information and selling it online, security over the internet has assumed more importance. With certain newer features, it is also possible for users to monitor activities such as downloads.

“Over the last few years, our design philosophy has been to create a light weight, faster and agile security system which doesn't slow down or interfere with the way a user works,” said David Hall. Norton Download Insight - one of the technologies available in Norton2010- uses extensive online intelligence systems based on reputation to pre-empt attacks on PC. It also analyses reports on the safety of new files and applications before users install and run them. Another technology, Norton Threat Insight, provides details on threats that have been detected on the PC , including useful information on its origin and when it was initially encountered.

Symantec has also said that several independent labs have evaluated Norton 2010 for faster performance and robustness. “, one of the most reputed third-party testers, have said that Norton 2010 has produced 'excellent results’ in their testing of traditional detection methods like heuristics and signatures and dynamic detection against tougher zero-day threats, which escapes traditional methods,” Freer said.

Low expectations and Windows 7
Robert Cyran and Una Galani

The new operating system appears better than Vista, say Robert Cyran and Una Galani

If the key to happiness is low expectations, then Microsoft’s customers and investors have it in spades. Most of the software giant’s users simply skipped the company’s last big operating system launch, Vista. And its shares have spent a decade in purgatory.

Yet Microsoft has made progress on a variety of fronts. It has gained market share with its new search engine, Bing; it got the better side of its partnership with Yahoo; and it even appears close to settling nagging European Union antitrust problems. Now it’s preparing to roll out its new operating system, Windows 7. Given Microsoft’s recent track record, turning the release into even a mild hit would offer a pleasant surprise.
The new operating system appears much better than Vista, even if its advertising is unremittingly clunky (a video for enthusiasts interested in hosting Windows 7 launch parties has provoked unexpected mirth on YouTube). Windows 7 is faster to start up from hibernation and less prone to unexpected delays.

However, global sales of PCs, a big driver of operating system sales, are expected to slump about 1 percent this year, according to IDC, a market research firm. Even Microsoft’s ever-ebullient boss, Steve Ballmer, has said the impact of Windows 7 on PC sales “won’t be huge.” As a result, Wall Street expects Microsoft to post flat revenue for the fiscal year ending June 2010.

Yet consider this. There are more than 1.2 billion PCs worldwide. Of these, analysts estimate just one-fifth use Vista. For every 2 percent of those that upgrade to Windows 7 without buying new machines, Microsoft would reap about $500 million in additional revenue, according to estimates from Deutsche Bank. Moreover, about four-fifths of PCs use Windows XP, introduced eight years ago, or older operating systems.

Once companies become comfortable with the new system, many will want new machines, if only because the average PC is currently more than six years old, which is a record.

Yet investors seem indifferent. In the last year, Microsoft stock has essentially tracked the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index. It trades at 15 times estimated earnings for the fiscal year ending in June 2010, a slight discount to the overall market.

At worst the company’s solid finances — $25 billion of cash and about $18 billion of free cash flow over the next 12 months — provide lots of support should Windows 7 perform as did its lackluster predecessor. But should it take off, Microsoft’s stock could, too.

N.S. Soundar Rajan

IClippy can copy anything into webmail or online documents from screen, camera, or scanner to an online clipboard without having to save the pictures to the local computer first.

These images can be pasted onto email, online document, blog, instant message, twitter, facebook, or others. The images in iClippy library are searchable and shareable, both from the web and from the local sidebar, and are automatically scaled down to the size that's appropriate for online resources. iClippy is docked as a sidebar to provide quick

access to the clipboard, doesn’t store contents locally, which means both its memory footprint and how it uses the system resources are efficient. The basic version of iClippy is free and comes with a 100 image storage limitation. Though the images are stored indefinitely please note the old images can get replaced with the later ones, unless pinned. The 12.4 MB iClippy v2.5.0 for Windows XP/Vista can be downloaded at iClippy, the Internet clipboard, uses Google accounts for sign-in, and is in no way affliated with Google.

Livebrush is a drawing application. It employs an easy-to-use brush tool that reacts to gestures. LiveBrush offers a fun and unique way to create graphics, is as easy as drawing a line. The brush tool combines simple motion controls with styles and decorations - toss graphics around the screen or elegantly swing the brush around your cursor. The other features include: Brush Styles - Styles let you customize how your brush reacts and how it looks, each setting in realtime using the convenient style preview. Decorations - create graphics that can be stamped onto the screen or dynamically added to your line. Each creation can be converted to a decoration, like graphics for websites, posters and t-shirts, wallpaper and textures. Create your own styles and decorations to produce completely unique and original art, share your styles and projects, see how others remix your work.

Livebrush runs on all major operating systems. As it is an image creation tool the type of image you're trying to create would depend on the how the software supports it. Registration required before LiveBrush can be downloaded,

StaxRip can help convert DVD's, DVB captures and many more formats into MPEG-4 like DivX, XviD and x264. Features: Video Output Formats: DivX, XviD, x264, Audio Output Formats: MP3, AC3, AAC, Ogg Vorbis and Container Output Formats: AVI, MKV, MP4, DIVX; Convenient cutting outfacilities, e.g. to remove ads; No registry bloat, settings are saved in files within the application's directory or within the user directory. No spyware, adware or any other form of malware, assure the developers.

As an open source application the 20.5 MB StaxRip Beta for Windows Vista, Windows XP (October 9th, 2009), is completely free. It can be
downloaded at .NET Framework 2.0 required.

7 Oct 2009

Soon, Bloggers Must Give Full Disclosure
Jenn Ackerman,The New York Times

New regulations are aimed at rapidly shifting new media age, says Jenn Ackerman

On Monday, the FTC said it would revise rules about endorsements and testimonials in advertising that had been in place since 1980. The new regulations are aimed at the rapidly shifting new-media world and how advertisers are using bloggers and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to pitch their wares.

The FTC said that beginning on December. 1, bloggers who review products must disclose any connection with advertisers, including, in most cases, the receipt of free products and whether or not they were paid in any way by advertisers, as occurs frequently. The new rules also take aim at celebrities, who will now need to disclose any ties to companies, should they promote products on a talk show or on Twitter. A second major change, which was not aimed specifically at bloggers or social media, was to eliminate the ability of advertisers to gush about results that differ from what is typical — for instance, from a weight loss supplement.

For bloggers who review products, this means that the days of an unimpeded flow of giveaways may be over. More broadly, the move suggests that the government is intent on bringing to bear on the Internet the same sorts of regulations that have governed other forms of media, like television or print.

“It crushes the idea that the Internet is separate from the kinds of concerns that have been attached to previous media,” said Clay Shirky, a professor at New York University.
Richard Cleland, assistant director of the division of advertising practices at the FTC, said: “We were looking and seeing the significance of social media marketing in the 21st century and we thought it was time to explain the principles of transparency and truth in advertising and apply them to social media marketing. Which isn’t to say that we saw a huge problem out there that was imperative to address.”

Still, sites like Twitter and Facebook, as well as blogs, have offered companies new opportunities to pitch products with endorsements that carry a veneer of authenticity because they seem to be straight from the mouth — or keyboard — of an individual consumer. In some cases, companies have set up product review blogs that appear to be independent.

One such case involved Urban Nutrition, a seller of supplements, that ran Web sites like and The National Advertising Review Council, which governs the industry’s self-regulatory programs, said the sites were “formatted as independent product-review blogs.”

Jonathan Zittrain, a professor at Harvard Law School and co-founder of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, said, “the rules are looking ahead to a quite possible future when there is a market to buy ‘authentic’ public endorsements.”

Some marketing groups fought the changes. “If a product is provided to bloggers, the FTC will consider that, in most cases, to be a material connection even if the advertiser has no control over the content of the blogs,” said Linda Goldstein, a partner at Manatt Phelps & Phillips, a law firm that represents three marketing groups, the Electronic Retailing Association, the Promotion Marketing Association and the Word of Mouth Marketing Association. “In terms of the real world blogging community, that’s a seismic shift.”

Goldstein added, “We would have preferred the FTC to work closer with the industry to learn how viral marketing works.”


The new guidelines were not unexpected — the commission gave notice last November that it would take up the matter. They will affect scores of bloggers who began as hobbyists only to find that companies flocked to them in search of a new way to reach consumers. About three-and-a-half years ago Christine Young, of Lincoln, Calif., began blogging about her adventures in home schooling.

It led to her current blog,, about mothers and families. The free products soon started arriving, and now hardly a day goes by without a package from Federal Express or DHL arriving at her door, she said. Mostly they are children’s products, like Nintendo Wii games, but sometimes not. She said she recently received a free pair of women’s shoes from Timberland.

Young said she had always disclosed whether or not she received a free product when writing her reviews. But companies have nothing to lose when sending off goodies: if she doesn’t like a product, she simply won’t write about it. “I think that bloggers definitely need to be held accountable,” said Young. “I think there is a certain level of trust that bloggers have with readers, and readers deserve to know the whole truth.”

Internet dating is passe, online shaadi is in
Sarfraz Manzoor, The Guardian

Jayasree Sen Gupta wanted to get married. In her mid-30s but living on her own in Leeds, she rarely met suitable men.

She knew her ideal man would, like her, have an Indian heritage and, also like her, be a music lover. But how to find him? In the past Gupta may have left that question to her mother and father, settling for an arranged marriage and, possibly, a life empty of love and filled with unhappiness. But her parents live in India, and she was not keen to emulate her friends by trawling the bars and clubs of the city in search of her elusive Mr Right. So, in May 2007, Gupta signed up with While internet dating is commonplace, is a more serious proposition; one of the most successful matrimonial websites and increasingly popular with Asians looking for a life partner.

When she wrote her profile, Gupta was very clear about the type of man she was looking for – from the qualifications she expected him to have, to the enthusiasms she wanted him to share. "I'm a musician, so the man I was looking for had to share my passion", says Gupta. "I didn't want someone who just did a nine-to-five job." Among the hundreds of responses was one from Sanjoy Dey, who read her profile at his home in Calcutta. "When we started emailing I found he was a composer and singer," Gupta recalls. "So that was how it started and it went on very quickly." The couple spoke on the phone for the first time on 10 August when Dey asked Gupta to sing a song for him down the line. Duly impressed, he left India the following month for Leeds. They were married five months later. “Without a website like there is no way I would ever have met my Sanjoy,” says Gupta, “and he is without doubt my soulmate.”

While Gupta and Dey are in Leeds celebrating their good fortune, thousands of miles away the man who unwittingly played Cupid to their love story is in an air-conditioned office in Mumbai. Anupam Mittal is a younger member of the ludicrously wealthy Mittal clan, and although he is in his mid-30s and still unmarried, I suspect it is out of too much choice rather than too little. “I was looking for business ideas,” he told me, “and I started thinking about matchmakers: in India, the choice of a life partner could literally be limited to who a matchmaker knows and how much paperwork they have. So I started thinking about how to take the spatial and geographic limitations away and the answer was simple: the internet.”

Since its launch in 1997 around 15 million people have signed up to (“shaadi” is Hindi for marriage) with five million using it at any given time. The site has 300m page views a month; 6,000 new profiles are added every day and Mittal claims that his site is responsible for a million marriages around the world.

The secret to its success is the almost comical specificity that members can indulge in. As well as nationality and religion you can look for someone who is childless or divorced. And while the new technology allows users to find matches from across the globe, the site is tailored to the typical criteria of traditional matchmakers, with questions about family values (traditional, moderate or liberal), profession and even complexion. So if you are looking for a doctor from a Muslim background living in Birmingham with moderate family values who eats meat and is fair, you can adjust the search accordingly. By allowing members to be so detailed in their search, matrimonial websites put power in the hands of single Asians and not their parents. Yet the men and women I spoke to who have used the website were still conforming to the hopes and expectations of their family.

“The young people on the site want to exercise choice,” Mittal says, “but not without the blessing of their parents.” In practice, they are still imprisoned by the idea that finding an ideal partner is about creed and career rather than chemistry. Most would only speak to me on the condition that their identity was protected. When I ask 38-year-old Zeenat in Manchester what she is looking for in a husband, she says he has to be “British Pakistani, educated, job, non-smoker, born and bred in the UK.” What about their personality? “That doesn't come into it at all,” she says. Manpreet, a turbaned 25-year-old from London, tells me he would prefer his bride to be a fellow Sikh. “There is so much politics that surround Asian families,” he explains, “you just can’t beat it.” So even online you are still trying to please others? “Yeah, basically,” he says.

In the past when parents chose potential partners, one of the first questions would be: does he or she come from a good family – one with a solid reputation? In the murky, unreliable world of the internet it is difficult to know the true intentions of the person tapping into your inbox. Naveed, 32, who works in IT in Manchester, recalls one girl who had one fake profile she used to attract men initially, before showing them her real profile. may claim a million marriages, but for every fairytale there are countless horror stories. Hema claims the men she was contacted by “always wanted to talk about sex and nothing else”. Zeenat agrees: “The site is for marriage purposes but people abuse the system. I met people and obviously their agenda was not marriage. I had one man tell me he was married and he just wanted me for an additional wife.: Hema, a 48-year-old from Nottingham, was suspicious when a 31-year-old man from Pakistan contacted her, but married him anyway. Her husband is an asylum-seeker whose status in this country is uncertain. “He was so incredibly romantic,” she tells me. “He wanted to get married on the first day we met – he just said let’s go straight to the mosque.”

Although her children are less convinced by the match, she insists, “He is an open-hearted person and I trust him completely.” The search to find one’s life partner is not easy, but it is arguably harder for second-generation British Asians, burdened by their parents’ expectations but looking for more than marriage to a stranger. I was struck by how pragmatic the people I spoke to were in their ambitions. There was much talk about marriage, but little talk of romance; the notion that love was maddeningly unpredictable, that it could strike and make the most unlikely couples deliriously happy, carried little resonance. They were interested in solidity and stability, and hoped that by choosing someone similar in background and faith there was more chance of finding someone to share one's life.

With the exception of Jayasree Sen Gupta, everyone I spoke to had been disappointed in their online experiences, and it led me to wonder if perhaps the problem was not with them but in the very idea that the search for a partner should be defined by race or religion. That was also the conclusion that led Rekha, a 34-year-old project manager from south London, to abandon after only three months. “By the time I was in my early 30s all my female Asian friends – the ones who had spent their 20s dating white guys – were returning back to their roots and marrying Asian guys,” she tells me. “I thought maybe the reason I have failed in my relationships is that I was trying to be something I am not. Maybe I need to meet an Asian guy who is a bit like me.”

After a series of disappointing dates from, Rekha left the online search and is now relying on the old-fashioned method of making new friends. “The blunt truth is that I am not all that Muslim,” she says, “so there isn’t really any reason why my husband should be. If I meet someone I fall in love with I won’t care what his background is – and now, finally, I am ready to tell my family that they shouldn’t care either.”

Some names have been changed.

Shuttling PC data at the speed of light
By Brooke Crothers, The New York Times

Are you still waiting for that ''last mile'' of fiber optic cable to reach your home? It could reach your laptop first.

Sometime next year, says Intel, the first components will appear that use fiber to shuttle data between your computer and other devices, such as digital cameras. The technology, which Intel calls Light Peak, will be enabled via a small chip and separate optical module.

There are a lot of reasons for going optical, the most obvious being speed: data can be delivered faster on optical cable than on current metal-based cables. Light Peak can carry data at 10 gigabits per second in both directions simultaneously, and Intel expects it will reach 100 gigabits per second in the next decade. By comparison, the ubiquitous Universal Serial Bus (U.S.B.) connectors on virtually all PCs today deliver data at a maximum speed of about 480 megabits per second — or about 1/20th the initial speed of Light Peak.

“What that means to a consumer is they will be able to transfer video, for example, much faster,” said Jason Ziller, director of Intel’s optical input-output program office. “At a 10-gigabit-per-second transfer rate, you can transfer a full-length Blu-ray movie in less than 30 seconds,” Ziller said. But that’s not the only potential benefit of Light Peak. Today, most PCs come with a jumble of connectors of different shapes and sizes, identified by a babel of.

“Consumers will be able to connect to a broader array of devices with the same connector and cable — for example, displays, storage, peripherals, phones, and docking stations,”. Ziller said. For example a U.S.B. device theoretically could work over a Light Peak connection, obviating the need for a separate connector, said Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies.

The ultra-thin fiber, about the width of a human hair, could also allows for skinny cables and small connectors. That would be a godsend for laptops, whose thinness, in some cases, is limited by the size of the connectors on the edge of the laptop. But whether all of this promise ultimately becomes reality depends to a large extent on computer makers.

The next generation of USB, 3.0., might provide enough performance improvements to satisfy most hardware manufacturers. And even in the best case, a transition to Light Peak will take years, Intel said.

Kay said it will take a big company like Apple to drive adoption. “Remember when you had keyboard and mouse connectors that were purple and green? Well, Apple one day with the iMac just said, ‘We’re getting rid of all of that. USB is what you gotta have. Because they were Apple, they could do that,” he said.


DH reader Sadiq Ahmed wrote

Please suggest a utility to manage passwords, preferably with a password generator.

DH suggested

You could try PList, a password management tool. It can also generate passwords based on the words in a sentence. PList v.2.6 (updated June 2009) can be downloaded at

30 Sept 2009
Mobile networks are not designed for heavy traffic
Data both blessing and curse for mobiles

Dongles are often sold with a flat-rate data plan, or with a subscription allowing a certain number of megabits of data to be used.

‘Dongle” may sound a bit goofy, but the innocent-seeming technology is emerging as one of the biggest challenges to the mobile telecoms industry in coming years.
Alongside smartphones, these 3G cards or sticks that allow people to get online via the mobile network from anywhere have come to symbolise how a goldmine of surging data traffic risks becoming a nightmare for mobile operators.

Dongles are often sold with a flat-rate data plan, or with a subscription allowing a certain number of megabits of data to be used. They are fuelling a boom in mobile data traffic that is so heavy it is putting unprecedented stress on networks.

Yet even as traffic explodes, revenues from these new services aren’t keeping up because of the intense pressure on prices -- so investment in improvements risks squeezing margins. “Mobile broadband is manna from heaven for consumers, but it is hell for operators,” said John Strand, who has consulted for global mobile operators for more than 12 years.

As more people access the internet over mobile phone networks using laptops with 3G cards, Apple’s iPhone or Research in Motion’s BlackBerry, data traffic is doubling every six months globally and growing even more rapidly in some countries.
On the day pop star Michael Jackson died, data traffic on Australian telecom operator Telstra's network jumped 170 percent.

“Everyone wanted to know what was going on at the same time,” said Mike Wright, Telstra's director of wireless engineering. “It put an enormous stress on the system.”
A laptop equipped with a dongle consumes 450 times more bandwidth than a classic mobile phone, said Pierre-Alain Allemand, who oversees the mobile network at France’s second largest operator SFR. Yet competition is so intense, few operators increase rates.

The situation is putting mobile operators from India to Sweden in a bind: they have to invest heavily in their networks to prevent congestion and outages, yet doing so risks hurting their long-term profitability.
Many have taken to rationing bandwidth by slowing down the traffic of the heaviest users.

Unexpected rush

“You can easily lose money on mobile broadband if you do it in the wrong way,” said Bjorn Amundsen, director of mobile network coverage for Norway's Telenor.
“We have had to be careful not to invest too much -- because the only thing that would happen if we did would be to increase in data traffic without an increase in our profits,” he said.

Few mobile firms expected the changes to user behaviour brought about by 3G cards. For example, the technology allows a banker to follow the progress of his portfolio from his laptop in the back of a New York taxicab, or a photographer to upload pictures of a Paris soccer match instantly from the side of the field.
But even in areas where 3G technology has been rolled out, mobile networks weren't designed for such heavy traffic.

Base stations can only handle a certain amount of data, which must be shared by all users in a given area. So if everyone on Wall Street uses their iPhone at lunchtime to watch video, the network can experience slower connections or service outages.
Michele Campriani, CEO of Accanto Systems, which markets software to track data traffic in telecom networks, says the company has signed 15 contracts with mobile operators in the past year to monitor problems due to traffic overload.

He says telecom executives see the data explosion as a serious threat: “They’re all very concerned. If they don't manage this moment carefully, some mobile operators will run into major problems that threaten their very profitability and viability. Some may not survive.”

Network can’t take it

Complicating life for the networks are people like Cherif Paul, a university student in Paris who does all his internet surfing via mobile because he doesn’t have a fixed-line phone or broadband connection at home.

“I use my laptop and dongle for everything,” said the 23 year-old. “It saves me money and it’s more convenient when I am on the go.” Such practices make mobile operators nervous, especially when customers are on flat-rate plans.

Since 2005 the number of fixed lines globally has fallen 0.9 percent to reach 1.24 billion lines, according to IDATE, a telecom market research firm. Over the same period, the number of mobile subscribers has gone up 95 percent to 4.22 billion.
About 10 percent of mobile users -- who are often players of bandwidth-intense video games or music and movie pirates -- account for 80 percent of the data traffic, according to operators.

“The dongles cause people to use the wireless network just as they would use their fixed broadband line at home,” said Accanto’s Campriani. “But the network just can't take that.” Operators are trying to educate customers that mobile broadband should be the secondary method of access, not the main one. “If we don’t succeed in sending this message, then we’ll have to spend such a huge amount to boost the network capacity that it would be very hard to make ends meet,” said Telenor’s Amundsen.

In France, dongles and the expanded use of smart phones caused data traffic on SFR's mobile network to increase tenfold last year while revenues increased 30 percent, Allemand said. SFR is a unit of Vivendi.

Operators have already started responding to the data crush with new investments, phasing out flat-rate plans, and introducing techniques to curtail the heaviest use.
One approach some have adopted is to shift some mobile traffic over to the fixed-line network, which is more stable and can handle heavier traffic.

Networks in Japan and Korea, two of the countries with the most advanced mobile broadband, are also built this way and face less severe congestion problems. When Telstra invested $1 billion to beef up its mobile network three years ago, it used this strategy.

In France, SFR linked many of its mobile base stations with fixed fibre lines to better handle data traffic. In addition to investing, most operators are implementing systems that slow or stop internet access once a subscriber exceeds an allotted amount of bandwidth.

“We have to do this otherwise only a few users will end up straining the whole network,” said Telenor’s Amundsen. To keep up with data traffic, Telenor has undertaken 800 projects in its Norwegian mobile network in the past six months, he added.

Esa Rautalinko, who heads TeliaSonera’s mobile network in Finland, warned that such challenges were not going to disappear.

“We are closer and closer to a situation where we reach the limits of our capacity,” he said.

Broadband blues

*Dongles, smartphones, spur mobile data explosion
*Operators didn't expect it; networks et clogged
*Fierce cost competition hampers expansion
*Measures taken include bandwidth-rationing

Beware, humans. The era of automation software has begun
Ashlee Vance,The New York Times

The dominant story in the technology services industry in recent years has been the rise of massive, low-cost Indian workforces. And, now, according to Hewlett-Packard, we’re ready for a new mega-trend in services: the rise of automation software.

“The last five years have had a heavy component of labor arbitrage,” said Ann M. Livermore, the executive vice president in charge of H.P.’s vast enterprise business. “You could move work anywhere in the globe where you find good quality labor at a good price.”

“The next five years will all be about who can best use technology to automate the delivery of services,” she said.
As far as self-serving arguments go, this one nestles right into H.P.’s wheelhouse. Before it bought Electronic Data Systems, H.P. spent billions of dollars on management software companies like Mercury Interactive, Opsware and Peregrine Systems. These companies sold products that place software on servers and storage systems, move applications around data centers and fine-tune the performance of the whole shebang using policies set by a customer.

H.P. bills this software as a sort of secret sauce for keeping data centers running smoothly.

“People make errors,” Ms. Livermore said. “Not technology. We’ll have software that will automate all sorts of things that had to be done by humans.”

It seems fair to say Ms. Livermore is not a devotee of “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Of course, as statements like those arrive from Ms. Livermore, H.P. continues to deal with the labor arbitrage issues. It’s in the midst of laying off 24,500 people, about half of them in North America, from the the old E.D.S., while hiring people in lower cost regions.

Thanks to such cost-cutting, H.P.’s services operating margins hit 13.8 percent last quarter – the highest such mark for the company in a decade. But I.B.M. and Accenture boast operating margins nearing 15 percent for their consulting and outsourcing services businesses, while Indian companies range from 19 percent to 30 percent, according to A. M. Sacconaghi, an analyst for the investment research firm Sanford C. Bernstein.

Will automation software that helps boost H.P.’s margins also save customers money? Well, that’s the massive question of the day. Companies large and small have touted the panacea that automated management software brings for many years now without the software really living up to expectations. H.P.’s own services group seems to have a mixed opinion about how great its software products are.
Before it was bought by H.P., E.D.S. was in the process of rolling out BMC’s management software across its data centers, according to Bob Beauchamp, the chief executive of BMC.

“E.D.S. stood up and said that it would move as fast as possible away from H.P. automation software to BMC software,” Mr. Beauchamp said. “A few months later, H.P. bought them, and I don’t think they’ve said anything like that subsequently.”
Still, H.P. placed the largest order for BMC’s integration software during the company’s fourth quarter, Mr. Beauchamp said.

As H.P. has bulked up in areas like services and networking equipment, BMC has unsurprisingly made a host of closer friends. Cisco Systems and Dell, in particular, have put BMC at the heart of their software automation plays.

According to analysts, it makes perfect sense for the services and hardware companies to hit on automation tools as their next major marketing push.
“Labor costs are often the largest operating expense line item for many data centers,” said Dan Olds, an analyst with the Gabriel Consulting Group.

“Replacing labor with software automation, or at least using software to reduce the need for new headcount, is one of the easiest ways to reduce overall I.T. costs. Where you have to have labor, getting it done in places where time is cheap is also a solid strategy.”

According to Mr. Olds, H.P. has hit on a decent mix of labor and automation.
As for data center operators? Well, even the fanciest software has a ways to go before it starts doing away with administrators en masse. Still, it would seem that the major technology companies are dead set on making sure that software trumps labor eventually.

“This is the circle of life in the global economic jungle and has been happening for generations as machines do things that people used to do,” Mr. Olds said.


JDVoiceMail, a file compression utility, can help email voice messages - full length voice messages via email that are super compressed and therefore are very small attachments.

The USP of JDVoiceMail is that it can reduce the size of a normal audio file by 10 to 16 times. JDVoiceMail is easy to use - Click the Rec button and begin recording your voice email message, and when you are done click on Stop. You can either send the voice message using your default email client or save it as a MP3 or WAV file. You can also choose the codec you want to use for compression using the configuration/Codec Options. The compression codecs can really reduce the size of files, for example: 30 seconds of audio with the DSP True Speech Codec is only 32 KB, and 30 seconds of audio with the GSM 6.10 is only 50 KB. As the the output of the file would be in MP3 or WAV formats the receiver can play the audio messages using the Windows Media Player or any other. JDVoiceMail can be downloaded at

WinX DVD Ripper Platinum

WinX DVD Ripper Platinum, an advanced version of WinX DVD Ripper, is a DVD ripping and converting tool. It offers fast ripping speed, stable ripping process, and satisfactory video/audio quality, Integrates all DVD ripping functions together, compatible with normal DVDs, CSS protected DVDs and region 1-6 DVDs.
It can rip different kinds of DVDs to personal computers or popular portable devices like Sony PSP, Apple iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, PDA, Zune, or mobile phones - rips to all popular video formats like AVI, FLV, WMV, MPEG, MP4, RMVB, 3GP, etc.
Other features: Easy-to-use and user-friendly interface, video and audio parameters can be set to desired aspect ratio, video resolution, video frame rate or output video size. Priced at $24.95, the 6553 KB
WinX DVD Ripper Platinum v3.5, for NT, 2000, 2003, XP, Vista 32bit & 4bit, Windows 7 32bit & 64bit, can be downloaded as a freeware, no registration code required, till the 30th of September 09, at


There are two useful ways to deploy 2Peer application - 2PeerDesktop and 2PeerWeb. The former is an application that you install on your computer in order to fully communicate, share media, and download folders and files from your friends. And, the latter, a web-based tool designed only to download files while on the go.
The developers of 2Peer say that it is a Safe, Secure and Private way to connect, chat and share, and transfer large files. All these activities are conducted within the safety and comfort of your own network of friends and family. 2Peer for Windows can be downloaded at, and for Mac at Currently 2Peer works with Firefox, IE, Safari, Chrome and Opera browsers.


Robert's Podcatcher can download podcasts audio/video files to your computer. The podcatcher is designed with both a user interface, and a background service. The latter is better and is less intrusive, provides automatic timed podcatching. The podcatcher's user interface is intuitive, useful. It registers no DLL's, does not require .NET, and can be installed to, and run from, your MP3 player. It downloads all new podcasts in a given RSS feed, not just the top one. The Random MP3 Loader manages these songs, does not mix them them up with the other songs, keeps the random ones in separate directories on your player. Robert's Podcatcher for Win2K / WinXP / Vista has been released as freeware, can be downloaded at


Is there a tool to know whether a website is down?

DH reader Damodar wrote

Is there a tool to know whether a website is down?

DH suggested

You could check out the website at Just enter the name of the site and click on the "or just me?" link.

23 Sept 2009

Laptops come of age

Notebooks and netbooks are becoming razor-thin and colourful.

Say goodbye to the “black brick” laptop. The era of the plain, dowdy PC is officially over. As computer makers roll out their new notebooks and netbooks ahead of the end-year holiday shopping season, razor-thin, sleek and colorful are most definitely in, as are arresting designs in an ever-expanding array of choices.

Hewlett-Packard Co and Dell Inc are now more likely to point to subtle etchings in the exterior shell, or a famous artist behind a new design, than to the “speeds and feeds” that PC makers used to tout when they wrestled for technological superiority. It was only a few years ago that most laptops were some variation of a dull box that came in gray or black, with the exception of Apple Inc, which was making distinctive laptops back in the 1990s.

Now, design is permeating the PC market like never before as the increasing commoditization of machines leaves few major differentiators on performance, so a stylish case is one of the last remaining areas of competition.

Ed Boyd, vice president of design for consumer products at Dell, the world’s No 2 PC maker, arrived at the company nearly two years ago from Nike Inc. He said the PC market is transforming in the way that athletic shoes did. Nike “took a commoditized product -- sneakers -- and made it hip and cool and relevant,” he said. "What you're witnessing is the same transformation in the PC business ... this phenomenon is crossing both the enterprise and the consumer space” As PCs have become ever more light and portable, consumers and businesses are placing a premium on the look of machines that are now more likely to travel out of the home or office. Stacy Wolff, director of notebook product design at HP, said the world’s largest maker of PCs took a “big gamble” when it began to focus on design in 2005 -- one that he said has paid off. Prior to that, HP notebooks were essentially “technology in kind of a nondescript container,” he said. Wolff said HP's new focus was immediately evident in its income statement: “Once we made it a strategic element of any development, our financials have just skyrocketed.”

Plastic slabs

At the dawn of personal computing in the early 1980s, the first mobile PCs began to emerge from companies like Tandy, Osborne, NEC, Epson and others. Many of the early models resembled slabs of beige plastic, bulkier than desktops today.
The early 1990s saw the launch of Apple’s PowerBook line, which helped set the standard for design, along with IBM’s ThinkPad. Sony’s sleek Vaio notebooks followed later in the decade, along with Apple’s colorful iBook line. But PCs 10 years ago were still largely seen as vessels for technology, rather than design or fashion statements. Jeff Barney, general manager of Toshiba America’s digital products division, said the company introduced color in PCs earlier this decade, but they failed to catch on. “We were just ahead of the trend,” he said.

As components became cheaper and lighter, PC vendors found more room to explore their creative side, bringing in new materials and finishes, and paying closer attention to design details to catch the eye of buyers.

“We think that design is one of the key buying criteria in retail for laptops,” said Barney. Thin and slick is one of the hottest trends, and the category is growing ever more competitive with Apple’s MacBook Air, Dell’s Adamo and HP’s new Envy line.
A PC buyer today can choose from a dizzying array of colors, textures and designs. “Personalization” is the order of the day.

IDC analyst Richard Shim said the market began to shift around 2005 with lower PC prices. “Consumers started to become the overriding voice in the PC industry and what they were saying is: ‘Look there’s enough performance here for me to do what I need to do ... but what I want is a PC that doesn’t look like everyone else’s,’” he said. PC makers are first and foremost technology companies, he said, but they have realized that many buyers are more interested in what a notebook looks like than what’s inside.


Wind River has announced that Wind River Linux 3.0 for MIPS® architectures complies with the Carrier Grade Linux (CGL) 4.0 specification from the Linux Foundation, a critical requirement for the telecommunications and high-end data networking markets.

Wind River Linux 3.0 for MIPS is CGL 4.0 compliant

Wind River has announced that Wind River Linux 3.0 for MIPS® architectures complies with the Carrier Grade Linux (CGL) 4.0 specification from the Linux Foundation, a critical requirement for the telecommunications and high-end data networking markets.
This includes MIPS-based multicore processors from Cavium Networks and RMI Corporation, and also extends existing CGL 4.0 support for PowerPC and x86 architecture-based processors from Freescale and Intel.

Kobian announces 'Mercury Xpress' cabinets

Kobian, manufacturer of IT peripherals like Motherboards , Cabinets, TFT , Speakers , etc under the 'Mercury' and 'IXA' brand names, has announced the launch of their latest Casings- Xpress Series. Mercury Xpress Cabinets are designed for the value segment consumers.
Mercury Xpress Cabinets are powered with Mercury SMPS which carries a 3 YEAR Warranty at all Kaizen Service centres , the service arm of Kobian Pte Ltd. The Xpress Series Cabinets comes in attractive colour options of Black , Silver and Red.

Dolby Digital encoding available on Xilinx FPGAs

Xilinx, Inc has announced that multi-channel Dolby Digital professional
encoding is available on field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs).
This capability has been implemented on Xilinx® Virtex®-5 devices, providing broadcast equipment developers with the flexibility to adapt to rapidly evolving design requirements for
higher performance, lower power systems, and a simplified bill of materials to reduce costs.
Xilinx collaborated with Coreworks S.A., a leading provider of reconfigurable multimedia and communications intellectual property (IP) blocks, to port and certify the Dolby Digital 5.1 channel professional encoder in Virtex-5 FPGAs.

Sybase and Verizon team to serve mobile workers

Sybase Inc, an enterprise and mobile software solutions provider, and
Verizon, who deliver and manage communications innovations for enterprise customers, recently announced they are teaming up to enable multinational companies to effectively manage the deployment and ongoing support of their growing mobile workforce.
Verizon's new offering, Managed Mobility Solutions, utilizes Sybase's proven mobility services expertise and best-in-class enterprise device management platform to help global businesses manage the complexities surrounding the increasing number of mobile information workers.

Soundar Rajan
Hybrid internet TV makes progress
The New York Times

Project Canvas would be open to rival providers, says Eric Pfanner

Internet television has become so popular that some European broadcasters want to put it on TV — the one in the living room.

In Britain, the BBC and several partners are working on a more ambitious project to bring what is called catch-up TV and a variety of other programming and interactive services to television sets as soon as next year. Why would viewers, who already get dozens of channels over the air, via cable or satellite or through their telephone lines, need yet another way to watch television?

Catch-up services, like the iPlayer of the BBC in Britain and Hulu in the United States, have attracted millions of users on the Internet, allowing them to fit TV viewing into busy schedules. But they have been available only on computers. The new technology, called hybrid television because it uses over-the-air transmission as well as broadband connections, would do more.

Supporters of the technology say it will open up possibilities like those enabled by the iPhone from Apple, which allows independent developers to create customized applications. Imagine watching a cooking program that ended with a page of links to similar, archived ones, for example, or to the Web sites of online retailers selling the ingredients.

“This crosses the Rubicon,” said Gavin Patterson, chief executive of the retail division of BT, the British telecommunications company, which has joined the BBC and two other broadcasters, ITV and Five, in the hybrid TV enterprise called Project Canvas. “It is truly the moment when the Internet and the television come together.”

Many broadcasters have been wary of embracing the Internet for fear of cannibalising their audiences and undermining more lucrative television advertising. But now, with TV ad revenue plunging anyway during the recession, some broadcasters are reconsidering. And even European public television providers, which are less reliant on advertising — or, in the case of the BBC, entirely free of it — worry about how they will maintain audiences when other media options are proliferating.

Richard Halton, who leads the BBC’s work on so-called Internet protocol television, said Project Canvas, as the hybrid TV partnership is called, was a natural outgrowth of Freeview, a digital, over-the-air TV system that beams out dozens of channels, much like cable and satellite services, but for no charge. It is the main TV system in 10 million of the 25 million British homes with televisions.

Indeed, Canvas is called a hybrid technology because it would use the Freeview system to provide regularly scheduled programming, while a broadband connection would deliver Internet services as well as on-demand content. While some of these programs might require payment, nobody would have to subscribe.

Before Canvas supplants Freeview, though, it faces regulatory scrutiny. The BBC’s involvement in the project could face opposition from British Sky Broadcasting, the leading pay-TV provider in Britain, which resents the BBC’s expansion into new areas. The BBC Trust, which oversees the BBC, is set to rule this autumn on whether Project Canvas will proceed.

Each of which could offer its own package of movies, sports or other programming. All of this would be organized in a single electronic program guide, controlled by one remote device and accessible via a search engine. To use these services, viewers would need new set-top boxes, which the partners aim to have on the market next year.

The German-led hybrid TV project, which has lined up support from several French broadcasters and a range of technology companies, is less far-reaching, seeking simply to create a set of hybrid TV standards for broadcasters and makers of TVs and set-top boxes. Broadcasters could then create and market their own hybrid services.

Klaus Merkel, project manager for Hybrid Broadcast Broadband Television, or HbbTV, at the German Institute for Broadcast Technology, a partner in the project, said it would be easier to bring new services to market if no “gatekeeper” were involved.

Some televisions soon to be introduced in Germany will be able to connect directly to the hybrid services, he said. Mr. Halton at the BBC says he hopes that Canvas will be in use for the 2012 Olympic Games. “You open up this huge world of potential content and services,” Mr. Halton said.

On IP, TV viewing is more exciting

For a long time, the industry has been talking about the idea of convergence — amalgamating the richness of information available on the internet over the wealth of visual and audio information wafting around in the radio waves. IPTV, the concept of broadcasting television programmes over the Internet Protocol (IP) platform, has been the answer many were looking for.

A maturing television market and the growing need amongst the operators to make their services appealing has made this the right time for IPTV to take-off in Bangalore.
Among many cable operators, Atria has taken the lead in terms of packing in their services with more features certain to increase the numbers of couch potatoes.
ACTV (the re-branded cable services of the Atria group)launched its IPTV service a few months ago with the promise of adding more attractive features and it seem to have done precisely that now, as we enter the festive season.

Besides familiar things like Video-On-Demand, which lets users choose from a long list of movies and songs to play at their convenience, the operator has now brought internet over television. Through the compact set top box (STB)installed at the user's end, they can browse the net with the help of the remote that accompanies the STB. The operator's patented convergence technology allows users to watch virtually any channel across the world available on the IPTV platform.

YouTube tie-up

The operators have also tied up with YouTube to let users play thousands of videos on the YouTube site, from songs to college lectures. Unlike in the PC, ACTV claim that YouTube videos start playing in no time.

The “spot record” feature could be something many television viewers would welcome, since they can choose to record one of their favourite programmes while they watch another, or switch on the record button while they step out for work. The “My personal media”feature, users can transfer all their pictures and videos on to their television and watch them or even play the personal music collection.

ACT Television Pvt Ltd (ACT), the flagship of the Atria group, a triple play multi-service operator (MSO) based in Bangalore, has been providing cable TV, Digital TV, IPTV and other broad band services. For the past nine years, ACT has been serving over a lakh customers in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. ACT is spearheaded by Sunder Raju who has founded computer firms and hotels.


ObjectDock can also be used to replace the Start bar entirely, freeing up valuable screen space.


ObjectDock™ can help organize shortcuts, programs and running tasks into an attractive and fun animated Dock. With ObjectDock™ users decide where the icons and shortcuts ought to be on the desktop, all with an unique style. ObjectDock can also be used to replace the Start bar entirely, freeing up valuable screen space. Many interaction modes are available, you can choose the dock availability that's right for your kind of work. Among the features are: Easy to use shortcut organizer, Simple drag & drop operation, Convenient autohide and "keep in background" modes, Fully customizable - backgrounds and images freely available, Smooth animations, Super-smooth minimize animations in Vista, Low system resource usage, and many more. Version 1.9 of ObjectDock™ , one of the most popular program of its kind - 3.5 million users to date, can be downloaded at


BUDDI, developed by Wyatt Olson, is a software to manage personal budgets. It is a programme which can be used even by people who have little or no financial background. Buddi is easy to use, has useful functions, for example the way it can display statistics to present a quick overview, would satisfy most home users. Though not a professional account software, Buddi is indeed great for the quick overview it provides. Several plugins are available that can add import and export functions. Buddi requires a Java Virtual Machine which means it can be run on most operating systems including Microsoft Windows, Linux and Apple Macintosh. If you have been using an Excel sheet to record your earnings and expenses, Buddi is the next step up. To download Buddi, released under the GNU General Public License, visit A tutorial can be found at, and an FAQ at

Sonarca Sound Recorder

Sonarca Sound Recorder Free is a handy sound recording software to record various sound inputs to WAV and MP3 audio formats. Its features include: supports multiple sound input, audio/video files playback, CD player, line in, microphone, internet radio, even the obsolete tape/VHS cassette, CD quality sound recording (claims the developer), uses latest Lame MP3 encoder; On-the-fly recording -no temporary file generated, Intuitive output file management, Diagnose and print detailed sound device info, Supports majority of modern sound cards: multi
channel/professional/external USB sound cards, Supports several sound cards, Fully visualize the recording process, Supports global hotkeys, start recording anywhere.


Floorplanner is easy, quick, and a great way to create and share interactive floor plans. Using point-and-click, drag-and-drop tools, you can make your house plan in minutes, and rearrange it as often as you want.
You can save, send, and print your designs to share them, or place them on your own website. It is easy to use and works in any modern browser, no extra downloads required. You can create only one plan, and save up to five designs in either 2D or 3D. To watch a demo visit, and to know what others say about Floor Planner you may visit


Can you suggest a tool to seach folders/files?

DH reader Janardhan wrote

Can you suggest a tool to seach folders/files?

DH suggested

You could try David Carpenter's Everything Search Engine, a very quick, find-as-you-type, file locater. You can download the 334 KB utility for Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, 2008 and Windows 7, at

Can you suggest a tool to search folders/files?

DH reader Janardhan wrote

Can you suggest a tool to seach folders/files?

DH suggested

You could try David Carpenter's Everything Search Engine, a very quick, find-as-you-type, file locater. You can download the 334 KB utility for Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, 2008 and Windows 7, at

16 Sept 2010

E-reading to get easier, thanks to Google

“Fast Flip” is meant to duplicate the look and feel of perusing a printed publication

Google Inc. is testing a new format that is supposed to make reading online stories as easy as flipping through a magazine, a shift that eventually could feed more advertising sales to revenue-starved publishers.

The Internet search leader unveiled the experiment, called “Fast Flip,” on Monday at a conference hosted by TechCrunch, a popular blog.

The service is meant to duplicate the look and feel of perusing a printed publication. The stories are displayed on electronic pages that can be quickly scrolled through by clicking on large arrows on the side instead of a standard Web link that requires waiting several seconds for a page to load. Readers can sort through content based on topics, favorite writers and publications.

For now, Fast Flip will only show the first page of a story. Readers who want to continue will have to click through to the publisher’s site, where the display reverts to a traditional Web page.

More than three dozen publishers, broadcasters and Web-only outlets have agreed to share their content on Fast Flip. The participants include two major newspapers, The New York Times and The Washington Post, as well as large magazines like Newsweek and BusinessWeek.

The publishers providing the stories to Fast Flip will get most of the revenue from the ads that Google intends to show in the new format.
That’s a switch from Google’s main search page and its news section, where the Mountain View-based company keeps all the money from ads shown alongside headlines and snippets from stories.

Latest step

Fast Flip is the latest step that Google has taken to improve its relationship with newspaper and magazine publishers, many of whom have railed against the company for profiting from their articles without sharing the wealth.

The acrimony has escalated as a three-year decline in the print medium’s ad revenue accelerated during the past year. The newspaper industry’s ad sales plunged 29 percent during the first half this year while Google’s crept up 4 percent.

In another example of cooperation, Google recently offered to help newspaper publishers set up a system to charge readers for access to parts of their Web sites.
While the notion of Google funneling more sales to publishers is appealing, news executives also want to ensure that Fast Flip doesn’t become too popular.
Publishers still want readers to come to their Web sites, where they can sell ads without giving Google a piece of the action.

Balancing act

“It's a balancing act,” said Martin Nisenholtz, who oversees The New York Times Co.’s digital operations. “(Fast Flip) has a richer interface, which is part of its appeal. But creating a powerful new aggregator is not in the Times’ interest.”

The Times Co.’s online operations are among the newspaper industry’s most successful, with Internet ad sales of $136 million during the first half of this year.

Fast Feed won’t be a big moneymaker right away. As a test service, it’s starting out in Google’s “Labs” department, a part of the Web site that doesn’t get heavy use like the main search engine and the standard news section. Google, though, is hoping Fast Flip will make reading online more enjoyable.

If that happens, Google should be able to show more ads to more people, with most of the money going to publishers, said Krishna Bharat, the inventor of the search engine’s news section. “The publishing industry is facing a number of challenges right now, and there is no silver bullet,” Bharat said. “We think increasing the viewing engagement is part of the solution.”

Facebook goes for some Twitter sensibility
The New York Times

Facebook has been slowly introducing features that mimic Twitter says, Claire Cain Miller

Like a balding hipster who imitates a young trendsetter’s style, Facebook is updating itself to look a lot more like Twitter.

Unlike Facebook, where friends mutually agree to let one another into their online lives, Twitter lets people share updates and links with anyone who cares to read them.
That has turned Twitter into a tool for people to peer into the collective mind and see what people are talking about in real time. It is also a tool for businesses to reach customers and monitor what their customers are saying about them.

Facebook seems to be very interested in those features. Since last fall, when Facebook tried and failed to acquire Twitter, it has been slowly introducing features that mimic Twitter.

Last week, Facebook added two new, Twitter-like features. Users can now “tag” friends or companies that they mention in status updates, and they can use a pared-down version of the site called Facebook Lite that resembles Twitter’s stream of status updates.

Meredith Chin, a Facebook spokeswoman, played down the changes. “We’ve been making iterations to our product over time to reflect the rapid evolution of how people share information online,” she said.

But others see another force at work. “Twitter envy: Facebook has it, absolutely,” said Jeremiah Owyang, a social media consultant at the Altimeter Group, which advises businesses on using new technologies. “Facebook absolutely recognizes that Twitter is a threat, and they’re doing what they can to replicate the features before Twitter gets mainstream adoption.”

To tag another Facebook member in a status update, users type the @ symbol before the friend’s name. The @ symbol is a convention that Twitter users started. In response, Twitter added a section on its site where people can see any tweets that mention them. The mentions are hyperlinked so others could click on them to see the subject’s profile page.

Andrew Huang, a product manager at Facebook, said it is “a common Internet mechanism,” and he expects Facebook members to use it more for storytelling than Twitter users do.

Facebook has long allowed people to tag friends in pictures, but until now, not in status updates. When people are tagged, they get notified by e-mail, the update appears on their profile pages and their names are hyperlinked to their pages.

Huang, who developed the new tagging feature, said it would enable users “to talk about their real-world connections” and “interact with each other more.” It will also enable people and businesses to monitor what others are saying about them on the site, which was previously much harder to do. That has been one of Twitter’s vital selling points to businesses.

Adoption by businesses is a revenue-generating opportunity for both companies. Twitter, which does not yet have any significant revenue, has said that it will soon introduce features that help businesses interact with customers. Facebook offers businesses special pages and the option to buy ads to show to users who like similar companies.
Luna Park, a chain of three restaurants in San Francisco and Los Angeles, uses both Facebook and Twitter to send out promotions. Chuck Meyer, Luna Park’s general manager in San Francisco, said Facebook is more useful because the restaurant can post photos and longer updates. But he said customers use Twitter more because they think of it as a place to follow businesses and Facebook as a place to chat with friends.

Luna Park has about 1,580 fans on Facebook and 2,350 followers on Twitter. Meyer is pleased that Facebook added a tagging feature similar to Twitter’s because when people mention Luna Park, their friends can go to Luna Park’s profile page with a single click and Luna Park will get an alert. The new feature will also lure people to the site with e-mail notifications that they have been tagged.

“A lot of companies are envious of Twitter because people spend a lot more time there, and this allows Facebook to do the same thing — it gives them another opportunity to get people to come back to the site,” said Jason Keath, a social media consultant in Charlotte, N.C.

The second new feature, Facebook Lite, is meant for people with very slow Internet connections or new users who want an introduction to the core features of the site, Chin said. But it might also appeal to veteran Facebook users who like the simplicity of Twitter.
Facebook Lite is essentially a stream of updates, like Twitter. It includes photos and comments, which are not available on Twitter, but disposes of other distracting sections that clutter the traditional Facebook homepage.

Facebook has made other Twitter-like changes. In March, it updated users’ homepages to show the full stream of updates from all friends in real time, instead of just the updates selected by an algorithm. And last month, Facebook allowed brands and celebrities to send status updates directly to Twitter without visiting Twitter’s site. Twitter users can send tweets to Facebook.

Twitter says it is happy to share with Facebook. “Twitter continues to reduce friction between many services,” said Biz Stone, a founder. “Our services are complementary to mobile networks, social networks, search engines, software platforms, television networks and maybe a few other areas we haven’t thought of yet.”

No matter how many features they share, it is unlikely that Facebook will make Twitter unnecessary for its users — or vice versa, Keath said. “I don’t think that divide is going to close soon. There’s going to be certain aspects where Facebook can compete or maybe take over Twitter, but over all, they are safe in their niches.”

Microsoft testing ‘Visual Search’

US software giant Microsoft unveiled a twist on the Internet search experience on Monday with a new feature which allows Web surfers to search using image galleries instead of text links.

Microsoft, which teamed up with Yahoo! in July in a bid to challenge Internet search giant Google, rolled out a beta, or test, version of the feature at the TechCrunch50 technology conference in San Francisco.

Microsoft senior vice president Yusuf Mehdi described “Visual Search,” which is being built into the company's recently launched new search engine Bing, as a “more graphical way to search and discover information.” “Visual Search” allows users to conduct certain searches faster than the traditional image search offered by rival Google and other search engines. Microsoft, in a blog post, said a study conducted by Microsoft Research found that consumers can process results with images 20 percent faster than text only results. “It’s like searching through a large online catalogue,” Microsoft said.

The feature currently offers galleries in nearly 50 categories from consumer products to travel destinations to movies to music. A search at for “digital cameras,” for example, returns a gallery of thumbnail pictures of digital cameras which can then be filtered by manufacturer or by price, displaying a new set of images.

Hovering over a particular image or clicking on it will provide information about that particular product and the images rearrange themselves on the page as a search query is refined. A search for books, for example, displays an image gallery which can be refined with filters such as author or category. Google is the overwhelming leader in a Web search and advertising market which the research firm Forrester estimates will grow by 15 percent a year to more than 30 billion dollars in 2014 in the United States alone. With their tie-up announced in July, Microsoft and Yahoo! are hoping to steal market share — and advertising dollars — from Google. The agreement calls for Yahoo! to use the Bing search engine on its sites and handle Web ad sales


Fotobounce can help download your Facebook Photo albums or that of your friends. It’s a free Windows-only utility to help manage photos in your Facebook and Flickr accounts, right from the desktop.


Fotobounce can help download your Facebook Photo albums or that of your friends. It’s a free Windows-only utility to help manage photos in your Facebook and Flickr accounts, right from the desktop. You can download old photos, upload new ones to the web or simply view your existing photo albums as a slideshow without downloading them locally. Fotobounce also includes built-in face recognition to quickly tag photos on the
desktop and upload them onto Facebook. Fotobounce can help share photo albums with family members who aren’t very active on social sites. Just download a local copy of your Facebook albums and send them as email attachments or burn a DVD. You can browse your photo library on the go from your BlackBerry, iPhone, or iPod Touch, too.

Nero 9

Nero now offers a free version with data disc burning and copying capabilities for your CDs and DVDs. You can download, after registration, the 55 MB Nero v. (Release Date: August 28, 2009) for Windows® XP SP2 or SP3, Windows Vista®, Windows® 7, Windows® XP Media Center Edition 2005 with SP2, Windows® XP 64 bit,
Windows Vista® 64 bit, and Windows® 7. The 64 bit versions are supported via 32 bit emulation mode.

For hardware requirements, other details, and download visit at

IDrive-E Basic

Drive-E Basic version provides a complete hands-free automated backup for your files and folders. It offers 2GB of free online backup space, no restrictions on backup, restore, file type or bandwidth.With IDrive-E all you have to do is to download and install it on your computer, schedule files and folders to secure your backups, that's all. All data transfer is encrypted with 128-bit Secure Socket Layer (SSL) Strong. It also has a 256-bit AES encryption on storage with an encryption password key provided by the user
while installing the application. IDrive-E is intelligent, carries out only incremental backups that transfer only portions of file that have been modified or changed since the last backup. More details on 1Drive-E Basic
v.1.1.6 at

Live Mesh

Live Mesh can help synchronize files with all of your devices, your work computer, home laptop, your Mac, and the mobile phone. Devices live in multiple places. Access your files from any device or from the web, easily share them with others, and get notified whenever someone changes a file. The Live Mesh Remote Desktop can
provide access to another computer in your mesh - access to even those folders you haven’t synchronised.

You can also use any programs on your remote computer, even if you don’t have them installed on your local computer. Copy and paste files between your remote computer and your local computer, and even connect from almost any web browser. More details on Live Mesh Beta at


DH reader Upendra wrote

I need a tiny cleanup utility, not a bloated one, please!

DH suggested

You could try Madavan's ByteWasher, it's a mere 13 KB in size!
ByteWasher can remove temporary files, backup files, cache files,
cookies, recent document shortcuts and more! ByteWasher v2.0
can be downloaded at

9th Sept 2009

Firewalls won’t help fend off viruses that come via e-mail messages says, Riva Richmond
Keeping that new PC clean and pure
The New York Times

Anew PC, whether you know it or not, may well have freed you from many malicious programs that steal credit card numbers and other valuable information or otherwise obstruct your safe and private use of the Internet.

Now is the time — while you’re getting everything set up just the way you like it — to take some steps to keep your new machine clean and free of malware. Here is what you need to do before you do anything else.

Check your firewall settings
Do this before you even connect your computer to the Internet. Firewalls prevent certain unwanted traffic from reaching your computer, including worms that spread through network connections. New laptops and desktops with Windows Vista (and, come Oct 22, the next version of the operating system, Windows 7) and netbooks using Windows XP SP2 or higher have a firewall that is built in and turned on by default. You can make sure all is well by going to the Windows Security Center, clicking Start, then Control Panel, then Security Center and Windows Firewall.
Mac users can check and adjust their firewall settings by clicking on the Apple icon and going to System Preferences and clicking on Security and then Firewall. At a minimum, choose “allow only essential services.”

A better option is to select “set access for specific services and applications” and play gatekeeper, allowing programs to connect as you need them, said Rich Mogull, founder of the security consultant firm Securosis.

Update your software
Even though you have a new machine, chances are that security fixes have been issued since the manufacturer loaded the software, so you will want to download those as soon as you get online.
Your new PC may prompt you to check for updates from Microsoft, but, if not, open Windows Update by clicking the Start button, then All Programs and then Windows Update. On the left pane, click “check for updates.” (For more information about Windows Security, see
To help you keep Microsoft products up to date, Windows will prompt owners of new machines to sign up for automatic updates. You will see a screen asking if you want to “Help protect Windows automatically.” Choose the first option, “Use recommended settings,” so you get everything and don’t have to worry about it again.

Barring an urgent problem, updates come out on the second Tuesday of the month. To schedule exactly what time your updates are installed — say at 3 am, when you are asleep — open Windows Update and select Change Settings and make your choices. This is also a good time to turn on the Internet Explorer Phishing Filter, which can help keep you from turning over personal information to the wrong people.
For Mac users, your computer will automatically check for updates once a week. If you are a paranoid person, have it check more frequently by clicking Software Update in the System Preferences panel and then choose Daily.

Add security software

Firewalls won’t help fend off viruses or Trojan horses that can come through e-mail messages, Web sites and pop-up ads. Given the frightening number of malicious programs that aim for Windows PCs, owners of these machines really need to use some security software. There are several free antivirus programs, like AVG 8.5 Free, Avast Antivirus and the forthcoming Microsoft Security Essentials, so even penniless students have no excuse to go without. Note that Vista comes with Windows Defender, which blocks spyware and pop-up ads, and that program can be downloaded free by Windows XP SP2 machines.

Since a lot of malicious programs now come through Web sites, you will also want to use one of the many free tools available to help you avoid malicious sites. Microsoft’s newest browser, Internet Explorer 8, will warn you if you try to visit sites it deems unsafe, deceptive or carriers of a common Web attack type called “cross-site scripting” attacks. Other browsers, including Chrome, Firefox and Safari, also warn users about potentially unsafe sites, using a blacklist kept by Google. There is also McAfee’s SiteAdvisor, a free add-on for the Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers (the latter works on both Windows and Mac), that shows site reputation information within search results pages, including warnings about potentially dangerous sites.

There are few malicious programs that aim for Macs, so an antivirus program isn’t essential at this point. That said, some Mac experts think that the days of peace and security for Macs may be waning. There have a been a few Trojan horses recently, and some Web attacks don’t care which operating system you use. If you frequent file-sharing sites, or your employer requires it, buy a Mac antivirus program.
Sort out the applications

New Windows PCs typically come loaded with all kinds of third-party programs, many of which you will never use.
“In a lot of cases, that’s extra software that might have vulnerabilities” that hackers could exploit, says Chad Dougherty, a vulnerability analyst at the CERT Program at the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute.
To avoid problems, eliminate the programs you don’t need by clicking the Start button and choosing Control Panel and then Programs to see a list of what is on your machine. Select unwanted programs and then hit the Uninstall button at the top of the program list.

Then sign up for automatic updates from the makers of any software you intend to keep — or that you later install yourself, for that matter. To help you make sure you have checked out everything, download Secunia PSI, a free tool that will help you make sure that all the programs on your PC get security patches.
Speaking of that, always be careful about which software you install from the Internet, whether you have a PC or a Mac. These programs can contain vulnerabilities, and pirated programs and random add-ons may be outright malicious.

Software is the key in smartphone fight

As smaller smartphone brands slug it out to set their phones apart from the now standard set-up of camera, email access and games, software is emerging as the lynchpin in the battle for dominance in the fast-growing sector.

Stand Alone Software in Chicago programs applications for a variety of hand-held devices, including the Palm Pre, left, and the iPhone, right. Palm's new Pre smartphone is elegant and powerful. But in a world crowded with iPhones, BlackBerrys and other smartphones, success for the Pre—and possibly the survival of Palm itself—will take more than a well-designed device. These days, it is all about the apps. NYT
Second-tier vendors such as Samsung Electronics, Motorola and HTC may be worst hit as they could go the way of their bigger cousin, the PC, with little to distinguish one brand over another.
These players have to choose between the high cost of developing their own systems, or selling phones that look and behave the same as any other on the market.

Developing their own platform allows brands to offer applications such as social networking sites and software unique to the phone, helping them attract users.
“It's really a must-do for all smartphones brands at this point,” said Andrew Chang, an analyst at the Daiwa Institute of Research. “If you don't have your own interface, your phone is going to be relegated to the cheap corner where everything looks the same with low brand recognition and very thin margins.”
Many of the low-tier brands are likely to turn to Google’s Android operating system as this will allow them to benefit from the search giant’s brand name and take advantage of the myriad of applications already available.

HTC is the only phone maker that has launched its phones running on Android, on top of other phones it already has that run on Microsoft's Windows Mobile.
Android’s open-source nature, meaning developers can customise the software to meet their own needs, is set to attract more brands, as it allows them to design their own system without having to do so from scratch.
“Android is really the way to go for the smaller smartphone brands,” said Richard Ko, an analyst at Jih Sun Securities, who said any brand with less than 10 percent of the market should not try designing their own software. “There's the software support that Google can provide, and it already has some form of an ecosystem around it.” Some brands are already turning to Google.

After losing market share for years, Motorola has made what is viewed as a make-or-break bet on Google’s mobile software, hoping the partnership with the giant Web company can help it win back customers.
About half of all smartphones run on Nokia’s Symbian operating system, with Research in Motion and Windows Mobile coming in at second and third place, respectively. The one-year-old Android system remains a relatively small player in the field right now, with most analysts putting its share of the market at less than 1 percent.

Smaller players worst hit

Nokia, Research in Motion and Apple dominate the smartphone market, with about 70 percent of all users using one of those three brands, with others including HTC and LG Electronics holding a market share of less than 5 percent each.
Besides development costs, second-tier smartphone companies face the further challenge of convincing third-party software developers to design applications to run on their platform, to ensure their system does not exist in isolation.
These development costs are likely to whittle away at the fat profit margins smartphones provide, with gross margins at 20 percent or more for the higher-end models but in the low teens for cheaper mass-market cellphones.
Most analysts have also been dismissive of any attempt by software makers and cellphone brands to create their own brands, pointing to the technical difficulties and competition.

“It’s not just developing your own system, it’s about getting others to support your system,” said Anshul Gupta, an analyst at data tracking firm Gartner. “Users are also looking for applications such as Facebook, and that’s a factor that is going to push the edge for many users.”
Apple's App Store already has tens of thousands of applications available for users of its iPhone to download, while rivals Research in Motion and Nokia both have thousands in their respective online stores.


Kingston introduces large, external drives Kingston has launched DataTraveler 200 USB Flash Drives that has capacities of 32GB, 64GB, 128GB and 256GB.

Amongst them, the 128 GB model is said to be the first-of-its-kind, rugged external drive targetted at customers looking for a large-size and compact storage device.
The data traveler's large storage capacity is great for storing complete libraries of music, photos and videos. The DataTraveler 200 also features password protection for critical data, ReadyBoost, a five-year warranty and 24/7 tech support. Kingston appears to be the first to release a 128GB flash drive to the consumer market. The price of 128GB is Rs. 21,999/- and 256 GB is Rs. 42,999/-

Tez launches equalisers for application balancers
Tez Networks, the leading IT Solutions Company in India with domain expertise in Internet infrastructure, networking and network security has launched Coyote Point Equalizer appliances for growing Application Load balancers and Application Acceleration market in India.

The Equalizer products guarantees availability of mission critical applications by monitoring servers and applications and ensures that users are sent to the best performing and available server for each request. These appliances accelerate applications by sending traffic to the application running on the fastest responding server. introduces 'contact manager', the enterprise cloud computing company, has announced Contact Manager Edition (, a new edition from that provides the essential tools needed to manage business contacts and customers in the cloud.
Contact Manager Edition introduces to an entirely new audience, very small businesses and individuals, ensuring that everyone can enjoy the benefits of cloud computing for only $9 per user, per month.

Cyber-shot from Sony Ericsson phone comes with facebook built-in
Sony Ericsson has introduced the feature rich 5 MP C903 Cyber-shot™ phone. With a standby Facebook application, the C903 Cyber-shot™ instantly updates the user's status, pictures and receives friends' status. For those fond of photography, the device comes with 5 megapixel camera, premium imaging tools like 'Smile
Shutter' , Face detection, Active lens cover, BestPic™ and dedicated camera keys.
The device enables users to bring alive their images with the in-built
Snapfish by HP application using which they can order prints and have them delivered directly to their doorstep.

Citrix provides virtual HD desktop for pro graphics environments
Citrix Systems Inc has announced a new breakthrough addition to its HDX Technology™, ensuring a high-definition virtual desktop experience even for the most demanding high-end professional graphics environments.
The new HDX 3D technology,
available as a feature of Citrix® XenDesktop™, delivers rich, high-definition
desktop experience applications to users in any location, over any network.


TubeMaster TubeMaster++ can help capture multimedia files like FLV, MP3, and MP4 hosted on YouTube, DailyMotion, MySpace, Google Videos, and some others.

Videos can be watched and captured if the HTTP protocol is used, and MP3 files directly downloaded. Captured files can be saved directly onto your computer or converted to other popular video and audio formats like AVI, MPEG, MP3, MP4, IPod, PSP and others.

TubeMaster++ also integrates search engines to find videos or MP3 files. The 6.71MB TubeMaster++, v1.3, for Windows 2000/XP/Vista/Seven can be downloaded at You would be required to to run the programme as an Administrator on Vista systems or greater. System Requirements : WinPcap & Java Runtime Environment (Included in the package). TubeMaster++ for Linux, tested on Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope), at,

LicenseCrawler can scan the Windows Registry to ferret out the details related to licenses and serial numbers of all the software programs which have been bought and registered. LicenseCrawler can prove handy if you need to reinstall an application but unable to do so as you do not know its serial number or key code. LicenseCrawler can help service engineers too, instead of asking clients to find serial and license keys they can simply run License Crawler and get the details icenseCrawler is a portable application that can be run from any location and most ideal for an USB stick. The 71.3 KB LicenseCrawler v0.0.40 for Windows 2000, XP, 2003, and Vista can be downloaded at FAQ at

This is the latest version of a very useful utility which was brought to the attention of DH readers a year ago.
PC Tools ThreatFire differs from traditional antivirus software. Instead of only looking for known threats It can continually protect the PC against attacks by detecting malicious behavior, such as capturing your keystrokes or stealing your data, like normal antivirus software. ThreatFire features include: based real-time behavioral
analysis technology-Protection from viruses, worms, trojans, spyware, rootkits, buffer overflows & more; Automatic Smart updates; Advanced custom rules; Informative program alerts; Free online support, and more.

ThreatFire can be a standalone behavioral based point solution that seamlessly coexists with alternative security software solutions. The 8.17 MB ThreatFire, v.4.5.0, chosen as an integral feature of PC Tools’ Internet Security, for Windows Vista or Vista SP1, Windows XP SP1, SP2 or SP3 (Home, Pro & Media Center Editions), Windows 2003, or Windows 2008, can be downloaded at tp:// An FAQ
can be browsed at The 9.74MB PC Tools ThreatFire 4.6.0 Beta (21 Aug 09) can be downloaded at

03 Sept 2009
Design your own website

Creative writing on the net makes a virtue out of innovation, says Marianne de Nazareth

Creative writing on the net makes a virtue out of innovation
Today the options open for writing on the web are huge and can be well paying. However, learning to write for the web is an art in itself.

Not all writers have the ability or desire to be constrained within prescribed writing formulae, but writing for the web welcomes fresh and ‘surprising’ writing. In fact creative writing on the net makes a virtue out of innovation, and much of it is designed to shock; and to subvert our usual expectations.
Thus it means that on the web, writers play with language and also design units to be visually appealing. This article brings forward some useful writing principles which can be extrapolated effectively for the web.

There are several techniques to increase readability on the web. One must remember that reading from the screen is far less efficient than reading from paper. This could even happen if you or your publisher have planned a clear page with Acrobat or Microsoft Reader. Although a reader can zoom the text size up and down, to suit their eyesight requirements, there is awkwardness with monitors that can slow the reader down.

* If the reader zooms up text, fewer words appear on the screen, so they will begin to skim read.
* Turning over a physical page is easier than scrolling, zooming and clicking.
* The distance between reading material and the reader affects reading efficiency as does the angle of the screen.
* However slight, any flicker on the screen affects the eyes and the ability to read for a long time off the monitor.
With all these negative aspects for a web writer, work with your graphic design artist so you as a writer can write in a way that makes it easier for the reader to read. Compromise is the key, with the number of words worked out for each line to avoid these pitfalls.

Work your colour concepts with your designer who understands the concept of ‘web safe’ colours. RGB or Red, Green and Blue are Nature’s three primary colours. Monitors transmit RGB, after all colour is light so the only colours available are the ones that standard monitors can transmit. There are 216 web safe colours and other may look different. In fact there is no guarantee that your monitor will show the same hue of red as mine does. So when writing for the web:
* The contrast between the characters and the background should be as sharp as possible. Most research shows black lettering on white or cream is the easiest to read. White on black also has a high contrast.
* Keep the colour of your hyperlinks blue. Most readers connect with blue and a hyperlink.
* Avoid watermarks. They were fashionable at one time, not any more as the brain considers anything extra as an impediment.

Typesetting as one is familiar with on print is not the same on the web. Forget about kerning (removal of hairline spaces between alphabets in words in print), orphans and widows (words and short lines hanging on the top of the page) and the subtleties of leading. However, there are simple things to improve reading on the web:
* Hyphenation at the end of lines slows down reading and best should be avoided.
* Reading with just lower case letters is a problem on the screen, so regular capital initial letter only, sentences are better.
* Fonts with strong ascender and descending strokes show up better than skimpy fonts.
* Preferably use 10 to 12 words a sentence.
Finally, planning a website needs an actual master plan to be most effective. Draw a whole overview of what you would like in your website on paper, especially the Home page and your menu headings. That way you can plan what it will actually look like on screen and you can decide your menu with ease.
(The writer is adjunct faculty at St. Joseph’s College, Christ University and COMMITS)

2 Sept 2009
A hired gun for Microsoft, in pursuit of Google
Miguel Helft, The New York Times

Qi Lu, a self-effacing engineer, is one of the most atypical executives in the upper ranks of the Internet industry says, Miguel Helft

Genius: Qi Lu at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington. Lu calls his search work, taking on Google, “an unfinished mission.” NYTQi Lu knows as well as anyone just how difficult it is to take on Google. For nearly a decade, Lu played a leading role in building Yahoo’s Internet search and advertising technologies. The effort was so important that Yahoo backed it with billions of dollars to acquire companies, hire armies of engineers and develop and run its own systems. Yet Yahoo fell further and further behind and many analysts said the company was simply outgunned by Google.

Lu, who is 47, left Yahoo 14 months ago, but now finds himself once again leading the charge against Google. This time, he is backed by a patron that vows to spend even more than Yahoo did on the mission: Microsoft. “It’s an unfinished mission that I would like to work on,” he said.

The challenge for Lu and his team remains enormous, and success appears improbable. But since Steven A Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, tapped him to become president of the company’s online services division in December, Lu, a self-effacing engineer who is one of the most private and atypical executives in the upper ranks of the Internet industry, has earned the confidence of Microsoft’s troops and helped to bring a dose of optimism to a beaten-down team.

Possessing unusual stamina and a maniacal work ethic, he has pushed his team hard to give Microsoft an important victory. In nightly 9:30 meetings over several weeks, he leaned on his managers to find creative ways to structure a sweeping and complex partnership with Yahoo. The deal, signed in July, will give Microsoft something it has coveted for years: a vastly larger audience that will make Bing, its search engine, the runner-up to Google.

But Lu and his team will have a lot of running to do. Even after adding Yahoo’s search traffic, Bing’s share of the search market will be less than half as big as Google’s. Closing that immense gap will be difficult, in part because most users are happy with Google, which is constantly improving its search service.

In a lengthy interview last week at Microsoft’s headquarters, Lu said he was not underestimating the challenge. But over time, he said, Microsoft has a chance to offer a service that is different and compelling enough to compete effectively. For Microsoft, succeeding in search is vital to the company’s long-term health. For Lu, it is a mission he felt obligated to take on.

“I do think that this is answering a call to duty,” he said. Wearing a Bing T-shirt tucked into jeans held up by a black leather belt and wearing brown sandals and white socks, the wiry Lu looked more like an engineer than a senior executive.

And with an engineer’s logic, he laid out his reasons for returning to the fray. Search determines where users go online, and search advertising is the most powerful economic force on the Internet. The business is too important to be controlled by a single company, he says.

Having grown up poor in China, Lu said, he feels duty-bound not to squander the rare opportunity he was given. He was raised by his grandparents in a rural village with no electricity or running water. His intelligence got him into Fudan University in Shanghai. After finishing his master’s degree in computer science, he attended a talk given by Edmund M Clarke, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon. Impressed by Lu’s questions and research, Professor Clarke invited him to apply to a doctorate program.
Lu, who earned about $10 a month teaching at the university, could not afford even the application fee, so the professor arranged for the fee to be waived and Lu was admitted. Lu says the challenges he faced growing up turned out to be a blessing: “You can say it’s harsh, but it teaches you so many things.” After earning his Ph D in 1996, he went to work at one of IBM’s prestigious research labs.

Lured to Yahoo


Freez Screen Video Capture

This utility is a screen-capture & screen-recording tool to create screen demos, training videos, animated tutorials, animated presentations etc. Freez Screen Video Capture can record screen activities and sounds and produce a standard AVI video file. Any part of the screen’s activities can be recorded along with a narration.Freez Screen Video Capture features include: Choice of output video’s compressor, like Microsoft Video 1, MPEG-4, DivX quality, framerate, audio format, like PCM, ADPCM, MP3, OGG, and volume. Hotkeys to pause, and stop screen recording. It can be downloaded at


Photoscape, a photo editing tool, can help fix and enhance photos. Its features include: Viewer - View your folders photos in a slideshow; Editor: resizing, brightness and colour adjustment, white balance, backlight correction, frames, balloons, mosaic mode, adding text, drawing pictures, cropping, filters, red eye removal, blooming; Batch editor: Batch editing multiple photos; Page: Merge multiple photos into one page frame; Combine: make a single photo by attaching multiple photos; Animated GIF: an animationphoto with multiple photos; Print: Print portrait shot, carte de visite, passport photo; Screen Capture: Capture and save it; Color Picker: Zoom in screen on images, search and pick the color; Rename: Change photo file names in batch mode; and Raw Converter: Convert RAW to JPG. The 15.45 MB Photoscape can be downloaded at Help can be found at

DH reader Natesk Nayak wrote:
Could you suggest a utility to compare and sychronise folders?

DH suggested:
You could try the 1.9 MB FreeFileSync (FFS) v2.2, an Open-Source folder comparison and synchronisation tool. Do make sure that the folders you’ve listed in FFS are not the wrong way around, lest you end up deleting files. FFS can be downloaded at

As Internet turns 40, barriers threaten its growth
The Associated Press

Goofy videos weren’t on the minds of Len Kleinrock and his team at UCLA when they began tests 40 years ago on what would become the Internet.

Internet pioneer Len Kleinrock poses for a portrait next to an Interface Message Processor in Los Angeles. The Processor was used to develop the internet. APNeither was social networking, for that matter, nor were most of the other easy-to-use applications that have drawn more than a billion people online.

Instead the researchers sought to create an open network for freely exchanging information, an openness that ultimately spurred the innovation that would later spawn the likes of YouTube, Facebook and the World Wide Web. There’s still plenty of room for innovation today, yet the openness fostering it may be eroding. While the Internet is more widely available and faster than ever, artificial barriers threaten to constrict its growth.

Call it a mid-life crisis.

A variety of factors are to blame. Spam and hacking attacks force network operators to erect security firewalls. Authoritarian regimes block access to many sites and services within their borders. And commercial considerations spur policies that can thwart rivals, particularly on mobile devices like the iPhone.

“There is more freedom for the typical Internet user to play, to communicate, to shop – more opportunities than ever before,” said Jonathan Zittrain, a law professor and co-founder of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. “On the worrisome side, there are some longer-term trends that are making it much more possible (for information) to be controlled.”

Few were paying attention back on September 2, 1969, when about 20 people gathered in Kleinrock’s lab at the University of California, Los Angeles, to watch as two bulky computers passed meaningless test data through a 15-foot gray cable.
That was the beginning of the fledgling Arpanet network. Stanford Research Institute joined a month later, and UC Santa Barbara and the University of Utah did by year’s end.

The 1970s brought e-mail and the TCP/IP communications protocols, which allowed multiple networks to connect — and formed the Internet. The ‘80s gave birth to an addressing system with suffixes like “.com” and “.org” in widespread use today.
The Internet didn’t become a household word until the ‘90s, though, after a British physicist, Tim Berners-Lee, invented the Web, a subset of the Internet that makes it easier to link resources across disparate locations. Meanwhile, service providers like America Online connected millions of people for the first time.

That early obscurity helped the Internet blossom, free from regulatory and commercial constraints that might discourage or even prohibit experimentation.
“For most of the Internet’s history, no one had heard of it,” Zittrain said. “That gave it time to prove itself functionally and to kind of take root.” Even the US government, which funded much of the Internet’s early development as a military project, largely left it alone, allowing its engineers to promote their ideal of an open network.

When Berners-Lee, working at a European physics lab, invented the Web in 1990, he could release it to the world without having to seek permission or contend with security firewalls that today treat unknown types of Internet traffic as suspect.
Even the free flow of pornography led to innovations in Internet credit card payments, online video and other technologies used in the mainstream today.

“Allow that open access, and a thousand flowers bloom,” said Kleinrock, a UCLA professor since 1963. “One thing about the Internet you can predict is you will be surprised by applications you did not expect.”

That idealism is eroding.

An ongoing dispute between Google Inc and Apple Inc underscores one such barrier.
Like some other mobile devices that connect to the Internet, the iPhone restricts the software that can run on it. Only applications Apple has vetted are allowed.
Apple recently blocked the Google Voice communications application, saying it overrides the iPhone’s built-in interface. Skeptics, however, suggest the move thwarts Google’s potentially competing phone services.

On desktop computers, some Internet access providers have erected barriers to curb bandwidth-gobbling file-sharing services used by their subscribers. Comcast Corp got rebuked by Federal Communications Commission last year for blocking or delaying some forms of file-sharing; Comcast ultimately agreed to stop that.

Net neutrality

The episode galvanised calls for the government to require “net neutrality,” which essentially means that a service provider could not favour certain forms of data traffic over others. But that wouldn’t be a new rule as much as a return to the principles that drove the network Kleinrock and his colleagues began building 40 years ago.

Even if service providers don’t actively interfere with traffic, they can discourage consumers’ unfettered use of the Internet with caps on monthly data usage. Some access providers are testing drastically lower limits that could mean extra charges for watching just a few DVD-quality movies online. “You are less likely to try things out,” said Vint Cerf, Google’s chief Internet evangelist and one of the Internet’s founding fathers. “No one wants a surprise bill at the end of the month.”

Dave Farber, a former chief technologist at the Federal Communications Commission, said systems are far more powerful when software developers and consumers alike can simply try things out.

Farber has unlocked an older iPhone using a warrantee-voiding technique known as jail-breaking, allowing the phone to run software that Apple hasn’t approved. By doing that, he could watch video before Apple supported it in the most recent version of the iPhone, and he changed the screen display when the phone is idle to give him a summary of appointments and e-mails.

While Apple insists its reviews are necessary to protect children and consumer privacy and to avoid degrading phone performance, other phone developers are trying to preserve the type of openness found on desktop computers. Google’s Android system, for instance, allows anyone to write and distribute software without permission. Yet even on the desktop, other barriers get in the way.

Steve Crocker, an Internet pioneer who now heads the startup Shinkuro Inc, said his company has had a tough time building technology that helps people in different companies collaborate because of security firewalls that are ubiquitous on the Internet. Simply put, firewalls are designed to block incoming connections, making direct interactions between users challenging, if not impossible.

Malicious behaviour

No one’s suggesting the removal of all barriers, of course. Security firewalls and spam filters became crucial as the Internet grew and attracted malicious behaviour, much as traffic lights eventually had to be erected as cars flooded the roads. Removing those barriers could create larger problems.

And many barriers throughout history eventually fell away -- often under pressure. Early on, AOL was notorious for discouraging users from venturing from its gated community onto the broader Web. The company gradually opened the doors as its subscribers complained or fled. Today, the company is rebuilding its business around that open Internet.

What the Internet’s leading engineers are trying to avoid are barriers that are so burdensome that they squash emerging ideas before they can take hold.

Already, there is evidence of controls at workplaces and service providers slowing the uptake of file-sharing and collaboration tools. Video could be next if consumers shun higher-quality and longer clips for fear of incurring extra bandwidth fees.

Likewise, startups may never get a chance to reach users if mobile gatekeepers won’t allow them. If such barriers keep innovations from the hands of consumers, we may never know what else we may be missing along the way.

26 Aug 2009
Online education beats classroom
Steve Lohr, The New York Times

Web-based video, instant messaging and collaboration tools have improved online experience, says Steve Lohr

Arecent 93-page report on online education, conducted by SRI International for the Department of Education, has a starchy academic title, but a most intriguing conclusion: “On average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.”

Noah Berger for ‘The New York Times’ Tyler Kennedy, 9, searches the Web at home in California.

The report examined the comparative research on online versus traditional classroom teaching from 1996 to 2008. Some of it was in K-12 settings, but most of the comparative studies were done in colleges and adult continuing-education programs of various kinds, from medical training to the military.

Over the 12-year span, the report found 99 studies in which there were quantitative comparisons of online and classroom performance for the same courses.

The analysis for the Department of Education found that, on average, students doing some or all of the course online would rank in the 59th percentile in tested performance, compared with the average classroom student scoring in the 50th percentile. That is a modest but statistically meaningful difference.

“The study’s major significance lies in demonstrating that online learning today is not just better than nothing — it actually tends to be better than conventional instruction,” said Barbara Means, the study’s lead author and an educational psychologist at SRI International.

This hardly means that we’ll be saying good-bye to classrooms. But the report does suggest that online education could be set to expand sharply over the next few years, as evidence mounts of its value.

Until fairly recently, online education amounted to little more than electronic versions of the old-line correspondence courses. That has really changed with arrival of Web-based video, instant messaging and collaboration tools.

The real promise of online education, experts say, is providing learning experiences that are more tailored to individual students than is possible in classrooms. That enables more “learning by doing,” which many students find more engaging and useful.

“We are at an inflection point in online education,” said Philip R Regier, the dean of Arizona State University’s Online and Extended Campus program.

The biggest near-term growth, Regier predicts, will be in continuing education programs. Today, Arizona State has 5,000 students in its continuing education programs, both through in-person classes and online. In three to five years, he estimates, that number could triple, with nearly all the growth coming online.

But Regier also thinks online education will continue to make further inroads in transforming college campuses as well. Universities — and many K-12 schools — now widely use online learning management systems, like Blackboard or the open-source Moodle. But that is mostly for posting assignments, reading lists, and class schedules and hosting some Web discussion boards.

Regier sees things evolving fairly rapidly, accelerated by the increasing use of social networking technology. More and more, students will help and teach each other, he said. For example, it will be assumed that college students know the basics of calculus, and the classroom time will focus on applying the math to real-world problems — perhaps in exploring the physics of climate change or modeling trends in stock prices, he said.

“The technology will be used to create learning communities among students in new ways,” Regier said. “People are correct when they say online education will take things out the classroom. But they are wrong, I think, when they assume it will make learning an independent, personal activity. Learning has to occur in a community.”

Wikipedia to censor changes
Noam Cohen, The New York Times

Now, as the English-language version of Wikipedia has just surpassed three million articles, that freewheeling ethos is about to be curbed.

Wikipedia, one of the 10 most popular sites on the Web, was founded about eight years ago as a long-shot experiment to create a free encyclopedia from the contributions of volunteers, all with the power to edit, and presumably improve, the content.

Now, as the English-language version of Wikipedia has just surpassed three million articles, that freewheeling ethos is about to be curbed.

Officials at the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit in San Francisco that governs
Wikipedia, say that within weeks, the English-language Wikipedia will begin imposing a layer of editorial review on articles about living people.

The new feature, called “flagged revisions,” will require that an experienced volunteer editor for Wikipedia sign off on any change made by the public before it can go live. Until the change is approved — or in Wikispeak, flagged — it will sit invisibly on Wikipedia’s servers, and visitors will be directed to the earlier version.

The change is part of a growing realisation on the part of Wikipedia’s leaders that as the site grows more influential, they must transform its embrace-the-chaos culture into something more mature and dependable.

Roughly 60 million Americans visit Wikipedia every month. It is the first reference point for many Web inquiries — not least because its pages often lead the search results on Google, Yahoo and Bing. Since Michael Jackson died on June 25, for example, the Wikipedia article about him has been viewed more than 30 million times, with 6 million of those in the first 24 hours.

“We are no longer at the point that it is acceptable to throw things at the wall and see what sticks,” said Michael Snow, a lawyer in Seattle who is the chairman of the Wikimedia board.

“There was a time probably when the community was more forgiving of things that were inaccurate or fudged in some fashion — whether simply misunderstood or an author had some ax to grind. There is less tolerance for that sort of problem now.”
The new editing procedures, which have been applied to the entire German-language version of Wikipedia during the last year, are certain to be a topic of discussion this week when Wikipedia’s volunteer editors gather in Buenos Aires for their annual Wikimania conference. Much of the agenda is focused on the implications of the encyclopedia’s size and influence.

Although Wikipedia has prevented anonymous users from creating new articles for several years now, the new flagging system crosses a psychological Rubicon. It will divide Wikipedia’s contributors into two classes — experienced, trusted editors, and everyone else — altering Wikipedia’s implicit notion that everyone has an equal right to edit entries.

That right was never absolute, and the policy changes are an extension of earlier struggles between control and openness.

For example, certain popular or controversial pages, like the ones for the singer Britney Spears and for President Obama, are frequently “protected” or “semi-protected,” limiting who, if anyone, can edit the articles.

And for seven months beginning in November, ‘The New York Times’ worked with Wikipedia administrators to suppress information about the kidnapping of David Rohde, a correspondent in Afghanistan, from the article about him.

The Times’ argued that the censorship would improve his chances of survival. Rohde escaped from his Taliban captors in June, but the episode dismayed some Wikipedia contributors.

The new system comes as some recent studies have found Wikipedia is no longer as attractive to first-time or infrequent contributors as it once was.

Ed H Chi of the Palo Alto Research Center in California, which specialises in research for commercial endeavours, recently completed a study of the millions of changes made to Wikipedia in a month. He concluded that the site’s growth (whether in new articles, new edits or new contributors) hit a plateau in 2007-8.

For some active Wikipedia editors, this was an expected development — after so many articles, naturally there are fewer topics to uncover, and those new topics are not necessarily of general interest.

But Chi also found that the changes made by more experienced editors were more likely to stay up on the site, whereas one-time editors had a much higher chance of having their edits reversed. He concluded that there was “growing resistance from the Wikipedia community to new content.”

To other observers, the new flagging system reflects Wikipedia’s necessary acceptance of the responsibility that comes with its vast influence.

“Wikipedia now has the ability to alter the world that it attempts to document,” said Joseph Regale, an adjunct professor of communications at New York University whose PhI thesis was about the history of Wikipedia.

Under the current system, it is not difficult to insert false information into a Wikipedia entry, at least for a short time. In March, for example, a 22-year-old Irish student planted a false quotation attributed to the French composer Maurice Jarre shortly after Jarre’s death. It was promptly included in obituaries about Jarre in several newspapers, including ‘The Guardian’ and ‘The Independent’ in Britain. And on January 20, vandals changed the entries for two ailing senators, Edward M Kennedy and Robert C Byrd, to report falsely that they had died.

Flagged revisions, advocates say, could offer one more chance to catch such hoaxes and improve the overall accuracy of Wikipedia’s entries.

Foundation officials intend to put the system into effect first with articles about living people because those pieces are ripe for vandalism and because malicious information within them can be devastating to those individuals.

Exactly who will have flagging privileges has not yet been determined, but the editors will number in the thousands, Wikipedia officials say. With German Wikipedia, nearly 7,500 people have the right to approve a change.

The English version, which has more than three times as many articles, would presumably need even more editors to ensure that changes do not languish before approval.

“It is a test,” said Jimmy Wales, a founder of Wikipedia. “We will be interested to see all the questions raised. How long will it take for something to be approved? Will it take a couple of minutes, days, weeks?”

Wales began pushing for the policy after the Kennedy and Byrd hoaxes, but discussions about a review system date back to one of the darkest episodes in Wikipedia’s history, known as the Seigenthaler incident.

In 2005, the prominent author and journalist John Seigenthaler Sr discovered that Wikipedia’s biographical article connected him to the assassinations of John F Kennedy and Robert F Kennedy, a particularly scurrilous thing to report because he was personally close to the Kennedy family.

Since then, Wikipedians have been fanatical about providing sources for facts, with teams of editors adding the label “citation needed” to any sentence without a footnote.

“We have really become part of the infrastructure of how people get information,” Wales said. “There is a serious responsibility we have.”


SUMO Paint, a free online image editor, is built with Adobe Flex and can run from your browser.


When the Blue Screen Of Death happens on your computer it would be a good idea to identify the device driver that is causing the problem and take necessary steps to resolve it. In order to help zero-in on the ‘culprit/s’ which caused Blue Screen Of Death of your Windows, BlueScreenView, a free utility, can help. It is a tiny utility that scans the dumps of BSOD, analyses the data and provides useful information to understand the crash. For every crash this application can display Device driver or module ((filename, product name, file description, and file version) that possibly caused the crash of the system, date and time of crash, the device drivers that were loaded during the crash, and crash details on a blue screen. No installation required.

The application works with Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista, and Windows 7, as long as Windows is configured to save minidump files during BSOD crashes. BlueScreenView can be downloaded at

SUMO Paint

SUMO Paint, a free online image editor, is built with Adobe Flex and can run from your browser. SUMO Paint has a Photoshop look alike interface - the floating toolbar, palettes and color bars are fartoo familiar. All the required tools to create a professional image are provided onlline - Ink, Pencil tools, brushes, filters, customise shapes for vector work, and multiple layers for various effects. You can either upload the image from your computer or type-in the url of an online image. You can also create a SUMO account to upload your images. Once done you can download the edited images to your computer in jpg/png format or store it online with your SUMO account. If you wish, you can set the image that you save in your SUMO account to made be available for public viewing. Sumo Paint can prove to be a useful image editing and painting software in your browser. More details of SUMO Paint v1.0 at At you can also get to know the features of SUMO and the tricks you can do with it.


XSearch can search files on your computer quite quickly. To search you just use the word options, like, “any of the words”, “all of the words”, “exact phrase”, “without the words” and others. To search by words separate the words by using the space character, to separate names and folders use the “;” character. For example: Words: “StringA String B”, Names: “*.a;*.b;kk*.*”, Folders: “C:Test;D:MyFolder”. You can enable the context menu for XSearch, to help search for files in any folder by right-clicking at the folder in Windows Explorer and choosing the “XSearch” menu item.

XSearch also supports search words in files in unicode or UTF8 formats. You can carry out search in hexadecimal, and provides a tool to view the contents. XSearch supports search for files in specified size, date and time - search files that were created at noon on 1st Aug 2009, or by the exact size in bytes, KB, MB or GB. The search results can be saved. Search histories are recorded, however, you can also clear them too.

XSearch supports most of the file operations in Explorer such as Copy, Cut, Rename, Drag and drop etc. The freeware version of XSearch can be downloaded here. No installation required.

DH reader Subramanian wrote:

Is there a utility to help create strong passwords?

DH suggested:
To create strong passwords you may read a Microsoft primer on Strong Passwords at

19 Aug 2009
The corporate lab as a ringmaster
The New York Times

It’s role is to be more of a integrator of innovation, from both outside and inside the company walls, says Steve Lohr

Under Prith Banerjee, Hewlett-Packard’s laboratories have placed larger bets on fewer projects, and have systematically sought outside ideas.The Internet has changed many things, of course, but one of its more far-reaching effects has been to transform the economics of innovation.

America’s big corporate research and development laboratories — at IBM, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard and a handful of other companies — have their roots and rationale in the industrial era, when communication was costly, information travelled slowly and social networks were fostered at conferences and lunchrooms instead of over the Web.

Crowdsourcing and other new, more open models of innovation are really byproducts of the low-cost communication and new networks of collaboration made possible by the Internet.

So, in the Internet era, what is the continuing role and comparative advantage of the corporate R&D lab?

Its role will be smaller and its advantage diminished, suggests Michael Schrage, a research fellow at the Center for Digital Business at the Sloan School of Management at MIT. The idea-production process, according to Schrage, will continue to shift away from the centralised model epitomised by large corporate labs, going from “proprietary innovation to populist innovation.”

Much of traditional corporate R&D spending, he said, has been subsidised by profits that are increasingly under Internet-era pressures. “The economic case for a lot of in-house R&D no longer makes sense,” Schrage said.

The best bet for corporate R&D labs, he said, is to adopt a “federated” model that leverages all the innovative work by outsiders in universities, start-ups, business partners and government labs. The corporate lab’s role, then, is to be more of a coordinator and integrator of innovation, from both outside and inside the company walls.

Though hardly alone, Hewlett-Packard has aggressively adopted that approach in the last two years, after Prith Banerjee became the senior vice president for research. Under Banerjee, former dean of engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago, HP Labs has not only narrowed its focus, placing larger bets on fewer projects, but has also systematically sought outside ideas.

HP now runs a yearly online contest, soliciting grant proposals from universities worldwide. The company lists eight fields in which it is seeking advanced research, and scientists suggest research projects in those fields. The HP grants are typically about $75,000 a year, and many of the collaborative projects are intended to last three years. In June, the company announced the 61 winners from 46 universities and 12 countries, including 31 projects receiving a second year of funding. “We are tapping the collective intelligence, selectively, of leading academics around the world,” Banerjee said.

Alan E Willner, an electrical engineer at the University of Southern California, is one of those academics. He is an expert in photonics, using light photons instead of electrons to transmit information. The goal of the project with HP is to cut power consumption and increase data-transmission speeds between computers in data centers, and eventually even inside of chips.

The HP project, he said, supports a research student, provides insights from HP scientists and has helped double the productivity of his research team, whose members have co-authored 21 conference and journal papers related to the project in the last year.
Another name on all those papers is Raymond G Beausoleil, an HP research fellow. The USC team, Beausoleil said, has helped fill a gap in photonics expertise in the company’s research program and accelerated its progress. He noted that HP Labs has long worked with university professors, but that the outreach tended to be informal and ad hoc. “Before,” he said, “there wasn’t necessarily a mandate to collaborate.”

Opening up is a good approach to some problems. But tight-knit teams inside corporate labs, experts say, can outshine the open model when working on multidisciplinary challenges in projects soon heading to market.

GE built up a biosciences unit, starting in 2004, to help push its diagnostic imaging technology to new commercial frontiers. Last year, GE and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center developed a prototype scanner that sharply cuts the time needed to digitise images on pathology slides.

Now, the GE researchers are working on the software and data analysis tools to look into such images for a deeper understanding of diseases. GE is collaborating with Eli Lilly and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. But the core is a 15-person team at GE Research that includes computer scientists, molecular biologists, chemists and statisticians.

“It really helps to have the close and constant communications loops within the team, because engineers have to learn a lot of biology and biologists have to learn a lot of engineering,” said Fiona Ginty, a bioinformatics scientist who leads the project.

Probably more than any other company, IBM has successfully reinvented its R&D labs over the years, analysts say. Jolted by its early-1990s tailspin, IBM opened its labs to the outside world and to customers. Since the mid-’90s, it has sharply shifted its research focus toward its growth engines of software and services.

IBM is a major underwriter of open research in universities, but also collects more patents for its own use than any other company, year after year.

The open innovation model, says John E Kelly, senior vice president and director of research, has many advantages. But he points to several innovations that became products after originating in IBM labs.

“You can’t leave discovery completely to others and to chance,” he said.

Bing keeps rising in the United States
Miguel Helft, The New York Times

It may be far too early to pop the champagne on the Microsoft campus, but a celebration with a round of beers — the good stuff — may be in order.

For the second month in a row — and the second month since its release — the company’s new search engine, Bing, has increased its usage and market share in the United States.

According to comScore, Bing accounted for 8.9 percent of search queries in the United States in July, up from 8.4 percent in June and 8 percent in May. The July gains appear to have come at the expense of both Google and Yahoo, which each saw their market share decline by .3 percent, to 64.7 percent and 19.3 percent.

For Microsoft, the results are no doubt encouraging. But it is still not clear whether the initial lift for Bing, which is backed by a massive marketing campaign, will extend into the future.

“Although Bing took a bit of share from both Google and Yahoo, we are reluctant to extrapolate this into meaningful long-term share gains,” wrote Benjamin Schachter, an analyst with Broadpoint AmTech, in a note to investors. Schachter noted that despite its slight drop in July, Google still had its second highest share of monthly queries ever.
In a note to investors, Christa Quarles, an analyst with Thomas Weisel Partners, repeated a cautionary statement from a month earlier: “While the data indicates a very modest near-term bounce, we will be watching closely to see if any query pickup is sustainable,” she said.

For Microsoft, which is poised to take over search at Yahoo, a loss of share at Yahoo is hardly good news. ComScore is now reporting combined results for Yahoo and Bing: they inched up very modestly to 28.2 percent, up from 28 percent in June.

The comScore results have been made available to analysts and other clients of the firm. They are expected to be distributed publicly on Tuesday.

Google, search that satisfies
The New York Times

It keeps users hooked on by providing them all the info, says Miguel Helft

Some pundits talk about Internet users having a “Google habit” that keeps them hooked on Google and keeps Google the no. 1 Internet search engine. That habit is far from harmful, and consumers don’t feel a need to kick it for a simple reason: Google gives them what they want.

That meme appears to be confirmed by the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, the University of Michigan’s well-known barometer of consumer satisfaction, which once again gave Google top marks among Internet search engines and portals.

Since it was first included in the study in 2002, Google has topped the rankings in seven of eight yearly surveys.

This year Google received 86 points, out of a possible 100, the same as a last year, and far above its nearest rival, Yahoo, with 77 points, also unchanged from last year. Microsoft and followed close behind with 75 and 74 points respectively, and AOL was last with 70 points.

The survey was conducted before the release of Bing, Microsoft’s new search engine, and before Microsoft’s search alliance with Yahoo, which will make Bing the search engine on Yahoo. But those behind the survey say that consumers’ happiness with Google suggests that, despite early gains, Bing may have a tough road ahead.

“Bing gives Yahoo and Microsoft a chance to compete again,” said Larry Freed, president and chief executive of ForeSee Results, which collaborates with the university on measurements of Internet companies. But Freed said Bing would not succeed unless it did something different enough to cause users to think about changing their Google habit. “The biggest challenge for Bing will be changing people’s perceptions,” he said.

(Bing’s market share rose to 8.9 percent in July, from 8 percent in May, according to comScore. Microsoft, which changed its search engine’s name to Bing two months ago, is backing the change with a massive advertising campaign. It is not certain that it can sustain, let alone extend, its initial gains.)

Relying on studies to predict market conduct can be risky, and the University of Michigan survey, while well regarded, has not always been successful at pinpointing future user behaviour.

In 2007, for instance, Yahoo topped Google in the rankings, but that did not translate into gains in the marketplace. Similarly, that year, did a thorough overhaul of its service that resulted in a large jump in consumer satisfaction but no discernible gains in the market.

Freed noted that the gap Google enjoyed over rivals was so significant that the company had little to fear, for now. “Google does a great job of managing consumers’ expectations,” he said. “They don’t overinflate them with a lot of marketing. They keep innovating and adding new features quietly, and the new features get out through word of mouth. It is really a brilliant strategy.”

Other surveys, however, show that by some measures, the gap between Google and Bing is not that large. So while Bing may face an uphill battle, it could still become a viable challenger to Google.


Using Internet Explorer’s rendering engine, Maxthon has a rich set of features to improve one’s surfing experience.


Printee, an Internet Explorer extension, is designed to remove extraneous elements of a webpage to create a printable page - without ads or extra information (e.g sidebars, unrelated images. Features: Reduce any web page down to just the content you want, save paper and ink; What You See Is What You Get; Support Ecofont; Improve Readability, and more. After installation add the “Printee” icon to your IE toolbar, to edit a page manually - right click and drag the mouse over the page elements to start selecting; or double click CTRL, then left click on page elements to start selecting them, or click on the Printee button in the IE toolbar, then left click elements to select. After selection, just right click to browse a useful context menu which can help refine your selection. You may also like to try CTRL+G, a single-click wizard, for an automated and quick stripping of all the text and images. The 45 KB Printee, v1.5.3 (09/08/2009), for Windows 2000, 2003, XP, Vista, can be downloaded at Requires Internet Explorer 6, 7, or 8. Firefox users may like to try Aardvark, a firefox extension, which can be downloaded at

Maxthon Browser

Using Internet Explorer’s rendering engine, Maxthon has a rich set of features to improve one’s surfing experience. Lots of features, and among them are: Tabbed Browsing, Mouse Gestures - to go back forward, refresh or close tabs, or set up your own; boost browsing speed of frequently visited websites; built-in Feed Reader to subscribe and read RSS 0.9/1.0/2.0 and Atom 0.3/1.0 Feeds; URL Aliases - name your favorite website, and visit them by simply typing it in the address bar; Ad Hunter; Web Sniffer to find the actual urls of FLV video files; Super Proxy; Screen Capture; Undo List - Back/Forward History also saved in the Undo List, split-screen browsing; Magic Fill to fill all the forms with just click; Super Drag & Drop- type the keywords in Address Bar to perform a search, Anti-Freeze, Security Updates, Trusted Website Check, Online Favorites Service, Web Bar, Filter Packs to remove ads or implement a special feature and much much more. Developed in China, Maxthon v2.5.4 can be downloaded at At the time of writing this column, Maxthon, chosen as one of the top 6 international products of 2008, has been downloaded a whopping 244,133,789 times.


doPDF can convert documents to searchable PDF files. doPDFIt installs as a printer driver and helps to generate PDF files by simply selecting the "print" command from any application like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, AutoCad drawings. The PDF files can be viewed on any computer with a PDF viewer (reader) installed. Features of DoPDF include: modify the paper size, modify the resolution (from 72 to 2400 dpi), change page orientation (portrait, landscape), change the quality settings and lots more.

The 1.72 MB doPDF, v6.3.308 (12-August-2009) for Windows 2003, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows 7 can be downloaded at


DH reader Nagaraja wrote:
Can you suggest a YouTube to MP3 Converter?

DH suggested:
You could try the Free YouTube to
MP3 Converter v., for Windows XP or Vista, which can be downloaded at

12 Aug 2009
Breakfast can wait, the day’s first stop is online
The New York Times

Technology has altered the once predictable rituals at the start of the day, says Brad Stone

Karl and Dorsey Gude of East Lansing, Mich, can remember simpler mornings, not too long ago. They sat together and chatted as they ate breakfast. They read the newspaper and competed only with the television for the attention of their two teenage sons.

That was so last century. Today, Gude wakes at around 6 am to check his work e-mail and his Facebook and Twitter accounts. The two boys, Cole and Erik, start each morning with text messages, video games and Facebook.

The new routine quickly became a source of conflict in the family, with Ms Gude complaining that technology was eating into family time. But ultimately even she partially succumbed, cracking open her laptop after breakfast.

“Things that I thought were unacceptable a few years ago are now commonplace in my house,” she said, “like all four of us starting the day on four computers in four separate rooms.”

Technology has shaken up plenty of life’s routines, but for many people it has completely altered the once predictable rituals at the start of the day.

This is morning in America is the Internet age. After six to eight hours of network deprivation — also known as sleep — people are increasingly waking up and lunging for cellphones and laptops, sometimes even before swinging their legs to the floor and tending to more biologically urgent activities.

“It used to be that you woke up, went to the bathroom, maybe brushed your teeth and picked up the newspaper,” said Naomi S Baron, a professor of linguistics at American University, who has written about technology’s push into everyday life. “But what we do first now has changed dramatically. I’ll be the first to admit: the first thing I do is check my e-mail.”

The Gudes’ sons sleep with their phones next to their beds, so they start the day with text messages in place of alarm clocks. Mr Gude, an instructor at Michigan State University, sends texts to his two sons to wake up. “We use texting as an in-house intercom,” he said. “I could just walk upstairs, but they always answer their texts.” The Gudes recently began shutting their devices down on weekends to account for the decrease in family time.

In other households, the impulse to go online before getting out the door adds an extra layer of chaos to the already discombobulating morning scramble.

Weekday mornings have long been frenetic, disjointed affairs. Now families that used to fight over the shower or the newspaper tussle over access to the lone household computer — or about whether they should be using gadgets at all, instead of communicating with one another.

“They used to have blankies; now they have phones, which even have their own umbilical cord right to the charger,” said Liz Perle, a mother in San Francisco who laments the early-morning technology immersion of her two teenage children. “If their beds were far from the power outlets, they would probably sleep on the floor.”

The surge of early risers is reflected in online and wireless traffic patterns. Internet companies that used to watch traffic levels rise only when people booted up at work now see the uptick much earlier.

Arbor Networks, a Boston company that analyses Internet use, says that Web traffic in the United States gradually declines from midnight to around 6 am on the East Coast and then gets a huge morning caffeine jolt. “It’s a rocket ship that takes off at 7 am,” said Craig Labovitz, Arbor’s chief scientist.

Akamai, which helps sites like Facebook and Amazon keep up with visitor demand, says traffic takes off even earlier, at around 6 am on the East oast. Verizon Wireless reported the number of text messages sent between 7 and 10 am jumped by 50 percent in July, compared with a year earlier.

Both adults and children have good reasons to wake up and log on. Mom and Dad might need to catch up on e-mail from colleagues in different time zones. Children check text messages and Facebook posts from friends with different bedtimes — and sometime forget their chores in the process.

In May, Gabrielle Glaser of Montclair, NJ, bought her 14-year-old daughter, Moriah, an Apple laptop for her birthday. In the weeks after, Moriah missed the school bus three times and went from walking the family Labradoodle for 20 minutes each morning to only briefly letting the dog outside. Moriah concedes that she neglected the bus and dog, and blames Facebook, where the possibility that crucial updates from friends might be waiting draws her online as soon as she wakes. “I have some friends that are up early and chatting,” she said. “There is definitely a pull to check it.”

Some families have tried to set limits on Internet use in the mornings. James Steyer,
founder of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that deals with children and entertainment, wakes every morning at 6 and spends the next hour on his BlackBerry, managing e-mail from contacts in different parts of the world.

But when he meets his wife, Liz, and their four children, ages 5 to 16, at the breakfast table, no laptops or phones are allowed.

James Steyer says he and his sons feel the temptation of technology early. Kirk, 14, often runs through much of his daily one-hour allotment of video-game time in the morning. Even Jesse, 5, has started asking each morning if he can play games on his father’s iPhone.

And James Steyer said he constantly feels the tug of waiting messages on his BlackBerry, even during morning hours that are reserved for family time.

“You have to resist the impulse. You have to switch from work mode to parenting mode,” Steyer said. “But meeting my own standard is tough.” .

For today’s graduate, statistics is the rule
The New York Times

The rising stature of statisticians is a byproduct of explosion of digital data, says Steve Lohr

Carrie Grimes, senior staff engineer at Google, uses statistical analysis of data to help improve the company’s search engine.At Harvard, Carrie Grimes majored in anthropology and archaeology and ventured to places like Honduras, where she studied Mayan settlement patterns by mapping where artifacts were found. But she was drawn to what she calls “all the computer and math stuff” that was part of the job.

“People think of field archaeology as Indiana Jones, but much of what you really do is data analysis,” she said.

Now Grimes does a different kind of digging. She works at Google, where she uses statistical analysis of mounds of data to come up with ways to improve its search engine. Grimes is an Internet-age statistician, one of many who are changing the image of the profession as a place for dronish number nerds. They are finding themselves increasingly in demand — and even cool.

“I keep saying that the sexy job in the next 10 years will be statisticians,” said Hal Varian, chief economist at Google. “And I’m not kidding.”

The rising stature of statisticians, who can earn $125,000 at top companies in their first year after getting a doctorate, is a byproduct of the recent explosion of digital data. In field after field, computing and the Web are creating new realms of data to explore — sensor signals, surveillance tapes, social network chatter, public records and more. And the digital data surge only promises to accelerate, rising fivefold by 2012, according to a projection by IDC, a research firm.

Yet data is merely the raw material of knowledge. “We’re rapidly entering a world where everything can be monitored and measured,” said Erik Brynjolfsson, an economist and director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Digital Business. “But the big problem is going to be the ability of humans to use, analyse and make sense of the data.”

The new breed of statisticians tackle that problem. They use powerful computers and sophisticated mathematical models to hunt for meaningful patterns and insights in vast troves of data. The applications are as diverse as improving Internet search and online advertising, culling gene sequencing information for cancer research and analysing sensor and location data to optimise the handling of food shipments.

Even the recently ended Netflix contest, which offered $1 million to anyone who could significantly improve the company’s movie recommendation system, was a battle waged with the weapons of modern statistics.

Though at the fore, statisticians are only a small part of an army of experts using modern statistical techniques for data analysis. Computing and numerical skills, experts say, matter far more than degrees. So the new data sleuths come from backgrounds like economics, computer science and mathematics. They are certainly welcomed in the White House these days. “Robust, unbiased data are the first step toward addressing our long-term economic needs and key policy priorities,” Peter R Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, declared in a speech in May. Later that day, Orszag confessed in a blog entry that his talk on the importance of statistics was a subject “near to my (admittedly wonkish) heart.” IBM, seeing an opportunity in data-hunting services, created a Business Analytics and Optimisation Services group in April. The unit will tap the expertise of the more than 200 mathematicians, statisticians and other data analysts in its research labs — but that number is not enough. IBM plans to retrain or hire 4,000 more analysts across the company.

In another sign of the growing interest in the field, an estimated 6,400 people are attending the statistics profession’s annual conference in Washington this week, up from around 5,400 in recent years, according to the American Statistical Association.

The attendees, men and women, young and graying, looked much like any other crowd of tourists in the nation’s capital.

But their rapt exchanges were filled with talk of randomisation, parameters, regressions and data clusters. The data surge is elevating a profession that traditionally tackled less visible and less lucrative work, like figuring out life expectancy rates for insurance companies.

Grimes, 32, got her doctorate in statistics from Stanford in 2003 and joined Google later that year. She is now one of many statisticians in a group of 250 data analysts. She uses statistical modeling to help improve the company’s search technology.

For example, Grimes worked on an algorithm to fine-tune Google’s crawler software, which roams the Web to constantly update its search index. The model increased the chances that the crawler would scan frequently updated Web pages and make fewer trips to more static ones.

The goal, Grimes explained, is to make tiny gains in the efficiency of computer and network use. “Even an improvement of a percent or two can be huge, when you do things over the millions and billions of times we do things at Google,” she said.

It is the size of the data sets on the Web that opens new worlds of discovery.

Traditionally, social sciences tracked people’s behaviour by interviewing or surveying them. “But the Web provides this amazing resource for observing how millions of people interact,” said Jon Kleinberg, a computer scientist and social networking researcher at

For example, in research just published, Kleinberg and two colleagues followed the flow of ideas across cyberspace. They tracked 1.6 million news sites and blogs during the 2008 presidential campaign, using algorithms that scanned for phrases associated with news topics like “lipstick on a pig.”

The Cornell researchers found that, generally, the traditional media leads and the blogs follow, typically by 2.5 hours. But a handful of blogs were quickest to quotes that later gained wide attention.

The rich lode of Web data, experts warn, has its perils. Its sheer volume can easily overwhelm statistical models. Statisticians also caution that strong correlations of data do not necessarily prove a cause-and-effect link.

For example, in the late 1940s, before there was a polio vaccine, public health experts in America noted that polio cases increased in step with the consumption of ice cream and soft drinks, according to David Alan Grier, a historian and statistician at George Washington University. Eliminating such treats was even recommended as part of an anti-polio diet. It turned out that polio outbreaks were most common in the hot months of summer, when people naturally ate more ice cream, showing only an association, Grier said.

If the data explosion magnifies longstanding issues in statistics, it also opens up new frontiers.“The key is to let computers do what they are good at, which is trawling these massive data sets for something that is mathematically odd,” said Daniel Gruhl, an IBM researcher whose recent work includes mining medical data to improve treatment. “And that makes it easier for humans to do what they are good at — explain those anomalies.”



Quotpad, a handy notepad for Windows, is different. It is a good alternative if you don’t need a larger notes organizer, like Evernote. It saves the text selected on the screen without forgetting its source. Just select some text in any application, press Ctrl+Shift+Q and the selected text will be saved to QuotePad together with the URL of the webpage(?) it was copied from. Features Include: Reminders, Quick filtering, Automatic backup, Multilanguage interface, Time stamping, Checklist, and print. PrintQuotepad docks to the side of your screen as a thin vertical line. QuotePad runs under Windows 2000/XP/Vista/Windows 7 and has a multilingual interface. It can be downloaded at A help file can be browsed at


PicPick could prove useful to software developers, graphic designers and home users. It is a all-in-one design tool with a plethora of features which include: Captures - Full Screen (Support for Dual Monitors). Active Window, Window Control (Scroll a page automatically), Region, Fixed Region, FreeHand, and Repeat Last Capture; Image Editor - similar to Microsoft Paint, but you can do more, provides an effect like selection opacity, blur, sharpen, brightness, contrast, hue, saturation, flip, rotate and etc; Color Picker; Color Palette; Magnifier; Pixel Ruler; Protractor; Crosshair, and Whiteboard. PicPick with an intuitive interface, is a portable ware, so doesn’t need any installation. The 1.21 MB PicPick (27 Jul 2009) for Win XP/2003/Vista/Windows7 can be downloaded at


Flock is a browser designed to enhance the active online social user’s experience. Managing multiple social networks, web mail, media, news feeds and blogs, is no more a hassle. With Flock you can instantly discover, enjoy and share the relationships and content. It has the capability to let you ‘broadcast’ to multiple locations at once, eliminating duplicate effort. Posting and promoting your own blogs into Facebook is effortless, just drag and drop content and ask Flock to do the rest. You can download Flock at

Easy Time Control

Easy Time Control offers workforce management solution to fit any size budget and organisation. It can be a good choice for small to medium sized organizations which are looking for an affordable time and attendance solution. Recent Changes incorporated include: Job Costing - Recalculate Employee Hours - Export - Logging - Users and Roles - Daily/Weekly overtimes - Overtime Approval - Auto Punches - Wizards - Offers major time tracking features. To try it out you can download the 31 MB Easy Time Control v5.2.127 (9 Jul, 09) for WinXP, Windows 2000, 2003, Vista Starter, and Vista at

DH reader Vani wrote:

Is there a way to find out whether my computer’s hardware will work with Windows 7.

DH suggested:

To check out whether your computer will work with Windows 7 you could download Microsoft Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor at

5 Aug 2009
Home, smart home
V R Raman

The humble house will be transformed into a media hub with intelligent devices, reports V R Raman

The humble house will be transformed into a media hub with intelligent devicesLet’s leave our bricik and mortar homes and move into digital homes. Your humble home will soon be transformed into a digital and media and entertainment hub. All appliances will be intelligent, transforming your experience by having things work radically simple, together.

In the forefront of this revolution is HP which believes that every analog process will eventually become digital, virtual, mobile and personalised.

Says Balu Doraisamy, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, HP Asia Pacific & Japan: “Soon all activity will become services.” The trend, according to him, is to deliver services “wherever, however and whenever you need them”.

HP officials say that the cost of digitising a home is subject to the extent of adoption. For instance, if a consumer were to implement a digital home on a draft standard, then the cost and ease of interconnection among appliances could be high and more complex.

According to HP officials, the International Telecommunication Union, along with over 20 industry players ranging from manufacturers, chipset makers and consumer electronics companies, have created homeGrid in collaboration towards standradising home network technologies.

By developing a worldwide standard using a unified MAC/PHY for coaxial, phone line and powerline networking, ITU enables operators to deploy home networks most effectively.

Besides, it enables consumer electronics manufacturers to develop cost-effective connected home equipment for the worldwide market; consumers also get a range of interoperable products.

ITU also has a working agreement with ratified standards such as the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA). DLNA began in 2003 when a collection of companies from around the world agreed on compatible products.

HP officials believe that efforts like this will ensure that the barrier to entry to the digital home will be somewhat lower and much simpler.

What will a digitised world look like, say, for the housewife, the executive, the student and children?

The unfolding vision is a world where services meet the physical world, where humans are mobile, devices and services are context-aware, and everything has a web presence, say HP officials. Technology will transform the user experience by making things work radically simple, in concert.

A visit to HP’s Cooltown in Singapore recently provided a fascinating peek into tomorrow’s digital world. Set up in late 2001, the innovation centre provides practical demonstrations of HP technologies for those looking for insight and inspiration.

Cooltown provides glimpses of the products that not only cover full Enterprise IT
hardware and software but also most of the consumer technologies to make up the DNA of a full digital lifestyle at home and work. Two significant areas where HP will lead the way to your digital home are: HP Procurve: Home networking infrastructure (switches, routers, wireless access points and firewalls).

Personal systems: Media storage servers, PCs, notebooks, TouchSmart PCs and imaging and printing products.

Cooltown also showcases the use of Radio-frequency identification (RFID) at home.

According to an HP official, with RFID, an internet of things will be created where products have an identity and you know where they are and it would be possible for one to know what to do with them.

Apart from creating a revolution in supply chain management, it can bring in many innovative applications in the home: an RFID-enabled washer or microwave that will make them intelligent, for instance. Asked about India’s contribution to HP’s tech strides, officials said the conglomerate has a lab in India which has come up with successful products like the Gesture-based Keyboard and Script Mail.

Several HP entities in India have collaborations with leading educational institutions including the IISc and the IITs. HP Labs India has many ongoing collaborations with Indian universities as part of the worldwide focus on open innovation.

According to HP officials, it has strong relationships with IITs, especially IIT Bombay, in areas of web-enabled technologies and quantitative search queries. There is a strong network on multimodal interactions and there are numerous universities such as all the IITs, the IIITs, IDC Mumbai, NID Bangalore and Ahmedabad which are working closely with HP Labs on this.

For image processing work there are very good linkages with the IISc. There are special arrangements with IIIT Bangalore and BITS Pilani for PhD sponsorships too.

HP Halo

HP has unveiled its state-of-the-art telepresence solution that brings those attending meetings from around the globe into an environment that gives the feeling of being in the same room.

Designed by DreamWorks Animation in alliance with HP, Halo runs on a private network designed specifically for video collaboration.


The web services-based technology provides mobile users the ability to easily print documents, presentations, reports and photos to the nearest network printer — in the office or on the road. Sridhar Solur, one of the key brains behind the project, said from London via Halo that the service is “printer-agnostic and driverless, requiring only simple internet access.

The facility is available on Blackberry phones. A whole lot of regulatory and participatory issues need sorting out before CloudPrint turns into a torrent.


CurrPorts displays a list of all currently opened TCP/IP and UDP ports on your local computer.


Clipboard helps to view clipboard history. It is a free, open-source clipboard utility for Windows, a simple tool with minimal resource usage. It holds text that you have copied, writes to disk immediately on copying, works well with large chunks of text, removes duplicates. The advantage of writing to disk is that you can recover copied data whenever you need it. ClipBox works alongside the regular windows clipboard and remembers every piece of data, even dozens of them. ClipBox Pro can handle many screen capture tasks, allowing you to capture the whole screen or any area of screen. The 119.9 KB Clpbox free edition (, v5, can be downloaded at It is portable software and does not require installation.


CurrPorts displays a list of all currently opened TCP/IP and UDP ports on your local computer. It provides details related to Process Name and ID, Protocol, Local Port Local Port Name and address, Remote Port, Remote Address, Remote Host Name, State, Process Path, Product Name, File Description and version, Company, Process Created On, User Name, Process Services, Process Attributes, Added On, Module Filename, Remote IP Country, and Window Title. CurrPorts allows you to close unwanted TCP connections, kill the process that opened the ports, and save the TCP/UDP ports information to HTML file , XML file, or to tab-delimited text file. CurrPorts automatically marks with pink color suspicious TCP/UDP ports owned by unidentified applications (applications without version information and icons). You can download CurrPorts at Please note CurrPorts and IPNetInfo, the utility which follows, work best when both programs are in the same folder.


IPNetInfo is a small utility to retrieve IP Address from the message headers. It can displays the information about these IP addresses. Information along with the owner of the IP address, the country/state name, IP addresses range, contact information (address, phone, fax, and email), and more. This utility can be very useful to find out the origin of unsolicited mail – simply copy the message headers from your email software and paste them into IPNetInfo utility. IPNetInfo v1.19 can be downloaded at


As many viruses, trojans, bloated softwares tend to reside in the start up items it would be prudent to watch the StartUp Menu carefully. However, choosing which one to load or not at Windows start up is not an easy task. Chameleon, a start up manager, is a good one at that. Chameleon Startup Manager controls programs that run at Windows startup. Chameleon makes it easy for users to find out more idetails about these files/applications/programmes, and what they do. There are three versions of Chameleon, the free Lite one and the non-free Standard and Pro ones, for everyday use the lite one should be just fine. It can be downloaded at

Serendipity, lost in the digital deluge
Damon Darlin, The New York Times

A sneak peek at the bookshelves, CDs and video collections of a person helped shed light on the owner’s tastes and discover something we never knew we wanted to find, says Damon Darlin

We’ve gained so much in the digital age. We get more entertainment choices, and finding what we’re looking for is certainly fast. Best of all, much of it is free.

But we’ve lost something as well: the fortunate discovery of something we never knew we wanted to find. In other words, the digital age is stamping out serendipity.
When we walk into other people’s houses, we peruse their bookshelves, look at their CD cases and sneak a peek at their video collections (better that than their medicine cabinets).

It gives us a measure of the owner’s quirky tastes and, more often than not, we find a singer, a musician or a documentary we’d never known before.

But CDs have disappeared inside the iPod. And shelves of videos are rarely seen as we get discs in the mail from Netflix or downloaded from Vudu. And, one day soon, book collections may end up inside a Kindle. With an e-book reader, the person on the subway seat across from you will never know what you are reading.

Ah, the techies say, no worries. We have Facebook and Twitter, spewing a stream of suggestions about what to read, hear, see and do. We come to depend on it to lead us to the funny article on or the roving food cart serving goat curry. It’s useful.

But that isn’t serendipity. It’s really group-think. Everything we need to know comes filtered and vetted. We are discovering what everyone else is learning, and usually from people we have selected because they share our tastes. It won’t deliver that magic moment of discovery that we imagine occurred when Elvis Presley first heard the blues, or when Michael Jackson followed Fred Astaire’s white spats across the dance floor.

And there is just too much information. We can have thousands of people sending us suggestions each day — some useful, some not. We have to read them, sort them and act upon them. As we pay for them with our time, the human need for surprise presents an opportunity for new businesses. Can someone sort the information and provide the relevant thoughts to the specific person who doesn’t yet know he needs it? Facebook is providing some tools to subdivide friend lists, so posts from the cat-video coterie won’t interfere when you’re jousting with political-news fanatics.

An entire ecosystem has been built up around Twitter in an attempt to cash in on its popularity and its unwieldiness. Services like TweetRiver, Tweepular, TweetSum, TwitZap, TwitHive, Tweenky, Tweetree, Splitweet and CoTweet, to name just a few, have proliferated in order to manage the incoming information.

Twitter itself has bought a few of them. This week, it redesigned its site around the search engine of one such company. And the reason for the redesign was mainly to give its users tools that encourage serendipity.

Biz Stone, a Twitter co-founder, wrote to the Twitterati, “Repositioning the product to focus more on discovery is an important first step in presenting Twitter to a wider audience of folks around the world who are eager to start engaging with new people, ideas, opinions, events and sources of information.”

Still, those are solutions for information management, not for encouraging welcome randomness. It probably won’t help the quirky new television show or a new blog find an audience.

Many software developers are trying to recreate serendipity.

StumbleUpon is a Web service that steers users toward content they are likely to find interesting.

Readers tell the service about their professional interests or hobbies, and it serves up sites to match them. It’s a good try, but it is still telling readers what they want to know.

UrbanSpoon, one of the most popular applications for the iPhone, tries for randomness with a slot-machine widget. Shake the phone and three dials — for location, cuisine and price — spin to find a random restaurant.

It gets about a million shakes a day, said Ethan Lowry, one of the co-founders of the company, which is based in Seattle and now owned by IAC/InterActiveCorp.

“It was designed with a real serendipity problem in mind,” he said, recalling that his friends were once heading for the same old place for lunch when he held up his cellphone and said, “Imagine if you shook this like a Magic 8 Ball and it gave you an answer.”

For them, it was one of those magic moments because they identified a need that demanded a new business. “You get bored. It gets itchy and gets worse over time,”
Lowry said. “You want a new experience.”

But a funny thing happens with frequent users of the application. They start relying on its search engine or the “Talk of the Town” feature, an algorithm that generates suggestions that uncannily echo local sentiment. The algorithm is high-tech crowdsourcing, substituting for the serendipity that customers are seeking. We’ll have to keep hoping that someone chances upon the solution.

DH reader Rangarajan wrote:

Can you suggest a utility to save searh processes as clickable links?

DH suggested:

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

29 Jul 2009
Virtualisation makes automation a reality

Automation is the next step in the evolutionary chain writes Manjunath Kashi

The recent global meltdown has impacted most sectors, markets and countries around the world. With uncertainty about the depth and duration of the economic slowdown, companies are crafting survival strategies for their businesses. As a result CIOs are being forced to slash their IT budgets and optimise IT infrastructure to save costs and increase efficiency. Organisations are opting to leverage their existing IT resources to maximise business efficiency. This has accelerated the demand for versatile computing that can manage multiple applications and servers running at the right time, with the right capacity to support the business.

Previously, capacity was increased by simply adding new server hardware, but this resulted in a ‘server sprawl’ - an inefficient set-up of multiple servers with low utilisation rates, requiring enormous resources and consuming vast amounts of greenhouse-gas producing power. Now Organisations are looking for ways to make their IT infrastructure do more.

Why virtualisation?

Initially, virtualisation on its own was touted as the way to combat server sprawl. The virtualisation and consolidation of servers can improve physical server utilisation rates. But CIOs still have the complex challenge of ensuring the right applications are running at the right time with the right capacity to support the business.

It is the increased automation possible in a virtualised server environment is the key to managing IT infrastructure in a way that supports the real demands of the business. virtualisation was the first step to solving capacity constraints, now automation addresses the management constraints.

Moving towards automation – from conscious to subconscious The complexity of managing modern IT infrastructure without automation is like the human body operating without the intervention of the conscious brain to pick up an object. Similarly, automating a business’s IT infrastructure to run the critical and mundane aspects of IT management will allow it to effortlessly, quickly and seamlessly respond to changes.

An automatic infrastructure can rapidly change servers, applications, connectivity to network and storage needs of the system. It can re-purpose machines according to the real-time demands of the business and enable capacity to be “dialled up” or “dialled down”.

What makes automated infrastructure reliable is its ability to bring up a failed server on new hardware, with the same network and storage access within minutes. This process is augmented without making any changes to physical machine, cable, LAN connection or SAN access.Fortunately, we are now at the stage where automation tools and expertise is available. While mainframes have been automated for some time, the Wintel environment has become increasingly standardised, making the processes more consistent and suited to automation. For instance, some of the biggest issues in the data centre are around managing patches, capacity and security. By identifying underlying consistent process and variables upfront, many of these processes can be automated to negate the need for constant human intervention. This frees up resources and funds to invest in other areas of business. This is bound to become increasingly relevant in India as small and mid-sized companies gradually expand and diversify.

In automated infrastructure, powerful workflow automation and management systems with strict policy control can:

*Allocate resources to the applications and users that need them automatically in real-time

*Continually monitor service levels to ensure business performance is on target
nProvide a dynamic, on-demand environment, with support for the industry's leading virtualisation, provisioning and re-purposing tools; and

*Support major third-party servers, software, and devices

The ultimate business dashboard

On the governance side, the CIO will have tools to monitor and report on the performance of the automated infrastructure, its applications and services, and to set policy and demand planning. These governance tools will enable them to view and manage the IT infrastructure by creating composite applications based on business priorities and activities, such as payroll, accounts, and online sales. In collaboration with other components of the automated infrastructure, they can dynamically change the infrastructure to respond to changing business conditions.

In conclusion

Automation is the next step in the evolutionary chain, enabling technology to help drive growth, innovation and profitability. This will enhance cultural change within Organisations as constraints are removed and management can drive innovation and growth knowing that IT can respond to the ever changing priorities of the business. The technology underpinning automation is actually available today, although it will become increasingly sophisticated in the coming years. As always, adoption will lag the cutting edge capability, but there are early adopters and it is predicted that the techniques will become mainstream in 2010 as the competitive gains reaped by the first movers become apparent.

(The writer is Director, Enterprise Computing Group, Unisys India)


DH reader Raghavendra wrote

Please suggest a software to broadcast video clipping live through a webcam.

DH suggested

You could the try the service provided at to broadcast a LIVE or On Demand channel to a global and interactive audience, via the Internet.

Texting drivers at greater risk of deadly collisions

Many know the risks of texting while driving and do it anyway, says Matt Richtel

The first study of drivers texting inside their vehicles shows that the risk sharply exceeds previous estimates based on laboratory research—and far surpasses the dangers of other driving distractions.

The new study, which entailed outfitting the cabs of long-haul trucks with video cameras over 18 months, found that when the drivers texted, their collision risk was 23 times greater than when not texting.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, which compiled the research and plans to release its findings on Tuesday, also measured the time drivers took their eyes from the road to send or receive texts. In the moments before a crash or near crash, drivers typically spent nearly five seconds looking at their devices — enough time at typical highway speeds to cover more than the length of a football field.

Even though trucks take longer to stop and are less maneuverable than cars, the findings generally applied to all drivers, who tend to exhibit the same behaviours as the more than 100 truckers studied, the researchers said. Truckers, they said, do not appear to text more or less than typical car drivers, but they said the study did not compare use patterns that way.

Compared with other sources of driver distraction, “texting is in its own universe of risk,” said Rich Hanowski, who oversaw the study at the institute.

Mr. Hanowski said the texting analysis was financed by $300,000 from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which has the mission of improving safety in trucks and buses. More broadly, the research yielding the results represent a significant logistical undertaking.

The overall cost was $6 million to equip the trucks with video cameras and track them for three million miles as they hauled furniture, frozen foods and other goods across the country.

The final analysis of the data is undergoing peer review before formal publication.
Tom Dingus, director of the Virginia Tech institute, one of the world’s largest vehicle safety research organisations, said the study’s message was clear.

“You should never do this,” he said of texting while driving. “It should be illegal.”
Thirty-six states do not ban texting while driving; 14 do, including Alaska, California, Louisiana and New Jersey. New York legislators have sent a bill to Gov David A Paterson. But legislators in some states have rejected such rules, and elected officials say they need more data to determine whether to ban the activity.

One difficulty in measuring crashes caused by texting drivers—and by drivers talking on phones—is that many police agencies do not collect this data or have not compiled long-term studies. Texting also is a relatively new phenomenon.

The issue has drawn attention after several recent highly publicised crashes caused by texting drivers, including an episode in May involving a trolley car driver in Boston who crashed while texting his girlfriend.

Over all, texting has soared. In December, phone users in the United States sent 110 billion messages, a tenfold increase in just three years, according to the cellular phone industry’s trade group, CTIA.

The results of the Virginia Tech study are buttressed by new laboratory research from the University of Utah. In a study over the last 18 months, college students using a sophisticated driving simulator showed an eight times greater crash risk when texting than when not texting.

That study, which is undergoing peer review and has been submitted for publication in The Journal for Human Factors, also found that drivers took their eyes off the road for around five seconds when texting.

David Strayer, a professor who co-wrote the University of Utah report, offered two explanations for the simulator’s showing lower risks than the Virginia study. Trucks are tougher to maneuver and stop, he noted, and the college students in his study might be somewhat better at multitasking. But the differences in the studies are not the point, Mr. Strayer said. “You’re off the charts in both cases,” he added.

“It’s crazy to be doing it.” At Virginia Tech, researchers said they focused on texting among truckers simply because the trucking study was relatively new and thus better reflected the explosive growth of texting. But another new study from the organisation is focusing on texting among so-called light-vehicle drivers, specifically teenagers.

Preliminary results from that study show risk levels for texters roughly comparable to those of the truck drivers. The formal results of the light-vehicle study should be available later this year. By comparison, several field and laboratory studies show that drivers talking on cellphones are four times more likely to cause a crash than other drivers. And a previous Virginia institute study videotaping car drivers found that they were three times more likely to crash or come close to a crash when dialling a phone and 1.3 times more likely when talking on it.

Researchers focused on distracted driving disagree about whether to place greater value on the results of such a so-called naturalistic study or laboratory studies, which allow the scientists to recreate conditions and measure individual drivers against themselves. But, in the case of texting, laboratory and real-world researchers say the results are significant—from both scientific methodologies, texting represents a much greater risk to drivers than other distractions.

A new poll shows that many drivers know the risks of texting while driving — and do it anyway. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety plans on Tuesday to publish polling data that show that 87 per cent of people consider drivers texting or e-mailing to pose a “very serious” safety threat (roughly equal to the 90 per cent who consider drunken drivers a threat).

Of the 2,501 drivers surveyed this spring, 95 percent said that texting was unacceptable behaviour. Yet 21 per cent of drivers said they had recently texted or e-mailed while driving.

About half of drivers 16 to 24 said they had texted while driving, compared with 22 per cent of drivers 35 to 44. “It’s convenient,” said Robert Smith, 22, a recent college graduate in Windham, Me. He says he regularly texts and drives even though he recognises that it is a serious risk. He would rather text, he said, than take time on a phone call.

“I put the phone on top of the steering wheel and text with both thumbs,” he said, adding that he often has exchanges of 10 messages or more. Sometimes, “I’ll look up and realise there’s a car sitting there and swerve around it.”Smith, who was not part of the AAA survey, said he was surprised by the findings in the new research about texting. “I’m pretty sure that someday it’s going to come back to bite me,” he said of his behaviour.

The New York Times

N S Soundar Rajan

Moovida is a free open source media player for Windows and Linux.


TreePad Lite, a small personal database program, lets you store notes, e-mails, texts and hyperlinks in multiple databases, instead of storing in a large number of separate documents. All data is found in ‘articles’; an article is a text shown in the right pane of the program window. Any article is found in a ‘node’, the most basic part of the tree (left pane). Find 465 KB Treepad lite or TreePad Asia, which supports non-western / Asian fonts for Windows, at, and for Linux at


Moovida is a free open source media player for Windows and Linux. It
brings you movies, videos, TV shows, music, tunes and photos, all of them gathered at one place. Moovida supports HD and almost all file formats like divX, mkv, flv, h264, mov and ogg. The features can be viewed at The 34573 KB Moovida v1.0.5 for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7
can be downloaded at Moovida for Linux can be downloaded at FAQ at

GgSofts’s TubeMaster++ is a useful tool to capture multimedia files being watched or listened to at YouTube, DailyMotion, MySpace, Google Videos, LastFM, Deezer, Jiwa, and Songza,. The files—FLV,MP3,MP4—can be saved directly onto a computer / converted to other popular video or audio formats like AVI, MPEG, MP3, MP4, WAV, WMA, MOV, Ipod, PSP, Blackberry, Neuros, Palm, and others. Search engines have been integrated to find videos or audio (mp3) files directly from the application. The 7111 KB TubeMaster++ , v1.1,for Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7 can be downloaded at LibPcap (WinPcap for Windows) required to help capture with TubeMaster++.


Inkscape is an Open Source vector graphics (SVG) editor. It has capabilities similar to applications like Illustrator, Freehand, CorelDraw, or or Xara.

Inkscape also imports formats such as JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and exports PNG as well as multiple vector-based formats. The 36.4 MB Inkscape for Windows, stable version: 0.46 , can be downloaded at Inkscape FAQ at, and Inkscape tutorials at

22 July 2009
Super Twitter: The virtual Internet revolution
The Guardian

Twitter reflects a modern world where things happen with amazing speed, writes Bobbie Johnson

Twitter is the hottest Internet startup on the planet. Over the last few months, the messaging service it provides has morphed from a social networking tool into an instrument of revolution. So what’s life like for the 52 employees at its San Francisco headquarters?

It’s a sunny, breezy afternoon in San Francisco, and I’ve just stepped inside the offices of one of the city’s many, many web companies. Indeed, the first thing you notice is how much the large, open space looks just like any other dotcom. To one side there’s a huge flatscreen TV that staff can use to play videogames during their breaks; in one corner stands a lonely red British telephone box; a pair of life-sized, green plastic deer stand in another, for no discernible reason. It definitely has all the hallmarks of a web startup.
It’s so quiet that it feels like it could be the weekend—the only real noise is the murmur coming from a trio of workers, laptops out, sitting on a sofa in the corner. But behind the calm lies the astonishing truth: the staff here are holding up the systems behind the world’s hottest internet startup. They are responsible for a sprawling website on which 35 million people from all over the world fire out vast numbers of messages every second. This isn’t just any normal office. This is Twitter.

Right now, the company’s 52 employees are part of the biggest media story on the planet. Their online messaging service—which encourages people to share their thoughts with the world in short, bite-sized morsels—has rocketed into the public consciousness over the past year.

It began as the kind of thing a hip young iPhoner would do, then won endorsements from people such as Stephen Fry and Oprah—who knew celebrities would want to let their fans know every time they left the house?—and then, most extraordinarily, it began to play a role in times of extreme crisis, getting information out of countries such as Iran and China where the authorities were tightly controlling the news. And to top it all, this amazing journey—from plaything to instrument of social change—seems to have happened in a matter of months.

How does it feel to be at the heart of all that? “It’s a little bit like being in the eye of the storm,” says Biz Stone, one of the company’s co-founders. “It’s not hectic per se.”
I am meeting Stone—an amiable 36-year-old designer who is now the company’s creative director—to try to understand what life at Twitter has become since the team first started working on it early in 2006.

New messaging system

Back then, everything seemed like a happy accident: the team was working on a different project called Odeo—a set of tools for podcasters. It was making slow progress, but during a brainstorming session, programmer Jack Dorsey came up with an unrelated idea: a quickfire messaging system that helped people share information with groups of friends using their mobile phone.

Chief executive Evan Williams and Stone —10-year dotcom veterans—knew they were on to a winner: within a year, the podcasting company was being sold off and the team was concentrating full-time on Twitter. The idea was simple: to build a website that let someone tell their friends what they were doing.

What’s most strange about the calm in this office today is that it is such a polar opposite to the frenzied activity on the website they have created. At any given moment, millions of people are sending messages from their computers or mobile phones, or reading the messages left by others. Twitter lets you choose who you want to keep up with; they, in turn, can choose whether to listen back. The conversations are largely held in the open, allowing anyone to point to somebody’s messages or rebroadcast ones that are interesting, funny or (in the case of Iran) important.

Easy to use

Twitter is many things to many people, but most of all it is lightweight, easy to use and transparent. Its swirl of activity is like a huge party full of hundreds of conversations you can tap into—not, like Facebook, an exclusive club where you need to know the right people to join in. All of this makes it catnip to users—and to the media, which dutifully reports every twist and turn on the site. “We have to stay focused on what we’re working on and not to get too caught up in the spotlight,” says Stone. “There’s a knowledge that these things go up, and they come down again. No matter what, we’ll just keep working on trying to make Twitter better ...we like to have fun and stay humble.”

It’s an admirable sentiment, but the company can’t quite ignore its current status. It has courted the celebrity world to an extent (in one meeting room, there’s a photograph of rap mogul Sean “P Diddy” Combs, taken in the building’s lift one day after he turned up to express his gratitude and excitement). And Twittermania has led to a sequence of high-profile moments in which they have mixed with some of the world’s most famous and powerful people. Notably, there was an appearance on Oprah for Williams, who also spent the last week with Rupert Murdoch, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates at the Sun Valley conference—a notorious deal-making hangout for the media industry’s biggest players.
Stone, meanwhile, has seen his face splashed across numerous magazines and was recently the star guest on The Colbert Report—the spoof chat show that is adored by millions of savvy young Americans. Does the attention get too much? Or worse, does it become intoxicating?

“They are definitely memorable moments,” says Stone. “I happen to be a huge fan of Colbert, so when I was sitting there at the table watching him before he came over to interview me, I was thinking, I’m watching Colbert, he’s funny. And then suddenly I realised I’m not watching, I’m on the show.” Part of his job, he says, is to try to help everyone at the company keep these things in perspective—making sure that Twitter does not become a gang of egotists who gloat over their status as part of the Next Big Thing, but instead maintains a “general level-headed, unassuming, humble, humourous, funny atmosphere”.

He says: “We focus a lot on culture specifically at Twitter because of this spotlight. We don’t want to end up like the child actor who found success early and grew up all weird and freaky. We want to remain OK; just because we found success early and in many ways got lucky doesn’t mean we’re all a bunch of geniuses. It means what it means.”
This all means that staying simple and understated is not an accident, but a philosophy. As a result, no one in the team could be described as flashy: Stone, like most of the company’s employees dresses in the uniform of new media—T-shirt, carefully messed-up hair and black-rimmed glasses.

Of course Twitter doesn’t actually make proper money right now. It does have $55m in the bank, though, from a variety of investors, which is being spent on propping up the service and its growing staff.

Focus on audience

Twitter is concentrating on building up a large audience with the idea that the cash and profits will eventually follow. With so much money in the bank, Twitter does have breathing room, though—and major ambitions. “There are 4 billion mobile phone users in the world that are all carrying around with them Twitter-ready devices,” he says.
“It can be very transformative when you realise that people can have access to this real-time network when all they have is a cellphone,” he adds. The team tries to concentrate on keeping things running smoothly, not interfering. If enough people talk about something it bubbles to the top of Twitter’s hot topics—a list that lets users see what everyone else is talking about.

Stone points to the success of companies who use the service to communicate with customers—whether it is big names offering discounts or smaller businesses who send messages to customers telling them about the latest products. “Think about that with a street vendor in India, asking, ‘If I get a watermelon, will you buy it?’ There’s a transformative power in SMS that’s extremely inspiring for us, and we’re going to bring that online worldwide.” Suddenly it’s not just about searching for information; it’s about letting the news find you—offering people anywhere the chance to get their messages out to anyone who is interested.

Humble beginnings

That world-spanning vision is certainly a long way from where the company’s founders started out. Williams, who grew up on a farm in Nebraska, dropped out of college and packed his bags for Silicon Valley. Stone, a Massachusetts native, also quit university to take up a design apprenticeship. Dorsey grew up in Missouri and moved to California, ending up working for a taxi dispatching company in Oakland.

None of them were obvious candidates for success—but Stone says part of their inspiration comes courtesy of people with similar global drive: Google chief executive Eric Schmidt is “super-smart”, he says, and he also lauds Barack Obama.

“One of the things I like so much about President Obama is his vision that it’s not a zero-sum game, where one country is going to win the game of earth. That fits with Twitter.” And Twitter doesn’t just admire Obama; it played a part in the election campaign as his team used the service to send out messages to hundreds of thousands of supporters.


“Something unbelievable happens every week,” he says. “Things do get increasingly weird as we become part of a global stage. It’s intimidating, but it’s a great opportunity.” In the grand scheme of things, he says, Twitter is just one part of a larger movement in which Google, Facebook, the mobile phone industry and the internet all play a part. How does Twitter compare to any of the previous startups that he’s worked at, I ask.

“Everything about Twitter goes faster,” Stone says. “It’s grown faster, we move faster... any decision you think we’re going to need to make two years from now, we’ll probably have to make it tomorrow.” That, he suggests, reflects modern life—a world where we expect things to happen with increasing speed. Perhaps, after all, Twitter is not just a symptom of a jump to light speed—but also a participant in taking us there. Biz Stone smiles.

Yahoo unveils revamped home page
The New York Times

The page will have more status updates from various social networks, says Miguel Helft

After multiple rounds of testing and nearly a year of painstaking development, Yahoo is unveiling a thoroughly overhauled home page, a major step in the struggling company’s efforts to remake itself for users, advertisers and investors.

The outlines of Yahoo’s approach to redesigning the most popular home page on the Internet have long been known. The company has said time and again that it wanted to provide something of a dashboard that offered its users a view not only into their favourite Yahoo content and services, but also into third-party applications and sites that they use frequently, like Facebook, eBay or Gmail. The idea was also to make it easy for users to customise that experience. Jerry Yang, Yahoo’s co-founder and former chief executive, had described the goal as making Yahoo into a “starting point” for users on the Web. In the Carol Bartz regime, the preferred catchphrase appears to be putting Yahoo at the “centre point of people’s lives online.” That’s how Tapan Bhat, a senior vice president at Yahoo who oversees the home page, put it in an interview.

But the specifics of the redesigned have changed several times, and the final release, which remains in “beta” testing, appears to have taken some elements in a new direction. Perhaps the most singular feature is how Yahoo integrates third-party applications and sites into its home page. Those applications, which are chosen by users, appear in a right-hand rail called My Favorites. When users hover over one of them with their mouse, a preview of that application, be it their Facebook page, the front page of The New York Times, or their Gmail in-box, pops up. That makes an easy way for users to check in with their favourite services.

In early tests, some executives complained that the third-party apps took traffic—and with it, revenue opportunities—away from Yahoo. Now Yahoo is including targeted ads in the preview window.

Yahoo’s home page receives massive amounts of traffic, Bhat said. “The thing that has been missing is context and brand advertisers want to buy context,” he said. “The contextual advertising in the My Favorites area starts giving us chance to do that.” Yahoo users will be able pick My Favorites apps from a list of more than 65 apps. They will also be able to create new apps for sites that are not included in that list. Yahoo promises that it will soon make it easy for users to keep their PC and mobile selections in sync. Other features of the new home page include more personalised news and “status” updates from various social networks like Facebook and MySpace.

Bhat said the overhaul represents “the most fundamental change to the home page in Yahoo’s history.” He said the company was trying to walk a middle road between sites that broadcast a single home page to all their users — the old or a newspaper home page — and services that allow users to customise their experience, like My Yahoo or iGoogle.

User tests show that a growing number of people say they like a custom experience, but the number who bother to program their home page remains relatively low, Bhat said. The new home page will not be imposed on users automatically — at least not yet. Bhat called it an “opt-in beta,” meaning that users will have to click on a link to select the new design. The new home page will be available in the US on Tuesday, and in France, Britain and India later in the week, with other countries to follow next month.


Inquisitor can help speed up your web search. Once installed Inquisitor replaces the search bar


HJSplit is a file-splitting and joining program. As a splitter HJSplit can split files of any type and size. To execute the programme just click on hjsplit.exe. It lets you split a large file into smaller chunks, which can be much more easily sent and stored. It can even handle files which are larger than 10Gb—can split the file into 640 Mb parts. HJSplit can join these split parts, so that the original file is restored. HJSplit can also be run directly from a floppy or CD-Rom. The 335kb HJSplit v2.4 for Windows 2000/2003/XP can be downloaded at


Inquisitor can help speed up your web search. Once installed Inquisitor replaces the search bar. It gives several configuration options, which include - Auto-complete settings, Instant result setting, Display count, and choice of Search Engine—The default search engine is Yahoo, but, can also be set to Google. The website result search will cease to work—only keyword suggestions can be viewed in the dropdown list. Inquisitor is compatible with Safari, Firefox and Internet Explorer 7, 8.
It works with Mac, PC and iPhone. It can be downloaded at

System Spec

System Spec provides system information related to your PC. These include: Windows Version, Memory (Ram), CPU Information, CPU Speed, Sound card, Display Adapter, Monitors, Screen Resolution, Network Connection, Network Adapters, CD / DVD Drives, COM Ports, LPT Ports, Hard disks, USB Controllers, Manufacturer, Product Make, Serial Number, Mouse, Battery Status, BIOS Info, Motherboard, Modem, plus lots more system information in the sub sections such as Memory, Display, Startup, BIOS, Services, Processes, CPU Meter, Internet, Personal, Sound, Network Adapters, Network Users, Devices, and others. The 2.54 MB System Spec v2.68 (09-07-09) can be downloaded at

On you can share your ideas and thoughts with the world. The aim is to bring Web 2.0 concepts on community sharing into a popular desktop application. Just a double-click to create and edit topics anywhere on the map; Drag-and-drop works for reorganising topics, moving markers, taking a mapshot, and adding attachments; carry out a search on a topic with Google and drag images into it.
To brainstorm ideas with selected friends, you would need to upgrade to XMind Pro. The Pro features include: inline presentation, exporting to PDF/Word/PowerPoint and Gantt charts with task topics.


Please advise a software to convert the videos taken by Handicam in mpeg2 format, to view it in the Mobile Phone ie Nokia Phone.

DH reader Nurani S. Venkatraman wrote

Please advise a software to convert the videos taken by Handicam in mpeg2 format, to view it in the Mobile Phone ie Nokia Phone.

DH suggested

You could try the 14.5 MB Format Factory, a Universal Transcoder, at

15 July 2009
Bing gives credibility to MS
The New York Times

The new search engine has earned praise for the quality of its results, says Miguel Helft

In late May, Microsoft unveiled Bing, its new Internet search engine, in front of an audience of skeptics: technology executives and other digerati who had gathered near San Diego for an industry conference.

To that crowd, Microsoft’s efforts to take on Google and Yahoo in the search business had become something of a laughingstock, and for good reason. Microsoft’s repeated efforts to build a credible search engine had fallen flat, and the company’s market share was near its low.

Six weeks later, Bing has earned Microsoft something the company’s search efforts have lacked: respect.

As a result, analysts say, the once-dubious prospect that Microsoft could shake up the dynamics of the search business, which is worth $12 billion in the United States alone, has become just a bit more likely.

With Google and others trying to challenge Microsoft’s traditional software business, Steven A Ballmer, the chief executive, last year bid a staggering $47.5 billion in an unsuccessful effort to take over Yahoo, the No 2 player in search. That defeat forced Microsoft to redouble its homegrown efforts, leading to the release of Bing. The new service received favourable write-ups from influential reviewers and technology bloggers for the quality of its results, as well as its features and design. Studies showed many people preferred its look and feel to Google’s. Marketing experts said the Bing brand was a good choice that resonated with users.

“They have achieved a degree of respect they haven’t had,” said Danny Sullivan, a veteran search analyst and editor of the industry news site SearchEngineLand. With a tone that suggested surprise, Mr Sullivan added: “They’ve rolled out a product that is good. When people spend time on it, they do like it.”

Anna Patterson, who helped design and build some of the foundations of Google’s search engine and later co-founded Cuil, a search start-up that has yet to attract much of an audience, said: “I think they put together something that is really compelling. They made significant progress.” That is music to the ears of Microsoft’s long-maligned search team, which has watched the company’s market share in search fall by half, to about 8 per cent in May, since it introduced its first search engine in 2005.

“We have had a great start and some good buzz,” said Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president for Microsoft’s online audience business group.

“We’re settling in for a big long run.” But if succeeding in search is Microsoft’s Mount Everest, as some executives there have suggested, Bing’s success so far has merely put the company at base camp.

Reports from more than half a dozen companies that measure search and search advertising all point to upticks in Microsoft’s business since the release of Bing. Microsoft said on Monday that its internal numbers showed its search traffic growing 8 per cent in June. (ComScore, whose reports are closely watched, is expected to release figures for June on Tuesday.)

Still, Bing remains a distant third in the search race. It would have to triple its audience to catch Yahoo—and grow eightfold to tie Google, which accounts for 65 per cent of searches in the United States.

Sustaining Bing’s early momentum will be harder for Microsoft after the intense marketing campaign fades.

“It is going to be a difficult and long-term challenge,” said Scott Garell, president of Ask Networks, a subsidiary of IAC that includes the search engine. Ask has long been praised for its innovations, and it too spent more than $100 million to market its search engine in 2006 and 2007, yet the company’s small market share has barely budged in recent years.

But analysts say Bing’s solid start gives Microsoft a chance to finally sharpen its assault on the search business. No one suggests that Google faces any immediate threat. With many people using more than one search engine, however, some believe Bing has a shot at dislodging Yahoo as the logical alternative to Google. (Google declined to comment for this article, other than to say in a statement that it takes all competitors seriously.)
“Yahoo doesn’t seem as aggressive as it has been in the past,” said Mark Mahaney, an analyst with Citigroup. Mahaney cautioned that whatever gains Bing achieves in the coming months, he still expected Bing to trail Yahoo a year from now. Yahoo disputed Mahaney’s characterisation. Larry Cornett, the company’s vice president for consumer products for search, said in the last year alone, Yahoo had unveiled technologies that allow publishers to better showcase their sites in search results and tools that make it easier to conduct extensive research.

He said other companies were using an innovative Yahoo technology, allowing them to build their own search services, which collectively garner nearly as many queries a day as Microsoft.

“What we have accomplished in the last year shows an incredible commitment and focus,” Cornett said. Other analysts say if Bing can sustain its early gains, it could have another important effect on the industry: Yahoo and Microsoft could be pushed into a search partnership. Since Microsoft dropped its takeover attempt more than a year ago, the two companies have discussed a more limited alliance to take on Google but have been unable to reach an agreement.

The talks continue apace, according to a person briefed on them. “If Bing can have some momentum, I think it makes a deal more likely,” said Benjamin Schachter, an analyst with Broadpoint AmTech. Schachter said continued momentum would make Bing a bigger threat and a more attractive partner for Yahoo. For now, Microsoft continues to fight alone, but with more vigour than in years past, according to analysts. Less than a month after Bing’s release, Microsoft beat Google and Yahoo to a hot new area in search: it became the first major search engine to index new postings from popular Twitter users almost immediately. The move helped amplify the buzz around Bing.

“I feel like they are a little more daring,” Sullivan said. “They popped this thing out in a few weeks. That’s very Googley.”


Exl-Plan Free is an Excel-based business finance planner. It can generate integrated projections - income statements, cashflows, balances sheets etc - for six months ahead.

Recover Files

Recover Files can undo/recover deleted files. It recovers files from the Recycle Bin, files deleted from a network share, DOS command prompt, Shift+Delete is used, when Move or Cut commands are used, from Hard drives, floppy disks, external USB disk / flash drivers, deleted by other applications or by viruses, and much more; Supports FAT16, FAT32, NTFS and NTFS 5 file systems; Performs non-destructive and read-only scan and file recovery; Restores original creation and modified file dates; Supports unicode and non-alphabet languages; Filters files by name, extension, folder and file type.

The 1.16 MB Recover Files, version 3.10 for Windows Vista, Windows 2003, Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows 95, 98, ME and Windows NT 4 can be downloaded at

Exl-Plan Free

Exl-Plan Free is an Excel-based business finance planner. It can generate integrated projections - income statements, cashflows, balances sheets etc - for six months ahead.

Exl-Plan Free comprises extensive formulae and pre-programmed menus and buttons.

Exl-Plan Free is adaptable to UK/International and US/Canadian accounting conventions.

The 5633 KB Exl-Plan Free for Windows 3.1 or 95/98/Me/NT/2000/XP can be downloaded at


TeamViewer can be a one-stop solution to share desktop for remote access and support over the Internet. Its features include: take control over a computer anywhere on the Internet, even through firewalls; File transfer, chat, fast and secure claim the developers, and no installation required. It can be used to present your desktop to a partner on the Internet. TeamViewer is available for multiple platforms, from Windows to Apple Mac OS X - and can even be used for cross-platform connections from Windows to Mac and back, More details on TeamViewer v4.1.6320, free for non-commercial, personal use, can be found at


BookTome can catalog and manage your library or personal book collection, and sort/search it in a variety of ways. The features of bookTome include: add and edit books manually or using web services, sort and organise your books by author, series, category, reading status or tags, search your books with free-form text searching and links, keep track of books that you want to read with the wish list, print out book lists, book information and wish lists. Details about new books can be downloaded from Amazon, and tags can be assigned to describe/categorise each book. The 2.99 MB BookTome V1.61 (June 28th, 2009) for Win2K / WinXP / Vista can be downloaded at

The importance of real-time search
The Guardian

Google’s Marissa Mayer believes real-time searching could revolutionise the way we navigate the Internet, says Charles Arthur

Net Navigator:  Google’s vice-president of search product and user experience, Marissa Mayer. Photo: The GuardianDon’t let Marissa Mayer worry you, but she would like your camera, phone and surroundings to tell Google a bit more about you and the world around you – and do it more often. As vice-president of “search product and user experience” at the search giant, she thinks we’ve only just got started on search—and that sensors, such as those built into those objects you may own, are the way forward.

Presently, search is limited to what is strictly online, put there by people: “What we offer today is very different from, say, (what) a friend of yours who might have access to a lot of facts or information (could), so the interaction is a lot less human and prompt and responsive,” she explains. The first stage of search involved text on web pages; the second stage, which we’re in now, does involve humans, who are helping identify images and adding context to web pages, which makes the web appear knowledgeable.

Mayer, 34, gives an example of the latter: “We’re starting to see things (in search) that appear intelligent but actually aren’t semantically intelligent. So, for example, if you type GM into Google, you’ll probably get General Motors. But if you type GM foods, we actually give you pages about genetically modified foods and General Mills.”

But there’s a potential third form of search, she explains, which uses the sensors built into devices around us. “I think that some of the smartphones are doing a lot of the work for us: by having cameras they already have eyes; by having GPS they know where they are; by having things like accelerometers they know how you’re holding them.” Buildings and infrastructure typically have sensors built in too. Strain gauges on bridges tell how well they are handling the stresses of their everyday existence; there are temperature sensors on cars, while rain gauges and gas samplers at any location will give you a picture of the world.

Real-time revelations

Which leads us to real-time search—a space where Twitter, in particular, has pulled ahead of the bigger company. Although it’s emphatically unsaid, it’s clear from studying the reactions of Mayer—and other senior people at Google—that the little company has unsettled its bigger, broader rival. Of course, Google had its own attempt at real-time many-to-many messaging: Jaiku, which it bought in October 2007. But Twitter was already riding the rising wave, and Jaiku quickly fell by the wayside; its developers open-sourced the code in March and have moved on to other things. Which, until those phones, cameras and gauges start announcing their data over the web, doesn’t leave many sources of real-time information.

Mayer says: “We think the real-time search is incredibly important, and the real-time data that’s coming online can be super-useful in terms of us finding out something like, you know, is this conference today any good? Is it warmer in San Francisco than it is in Silicon Valley? You can actually look at tweets and see those sorts of patterns, so there’s a lot of useful information about real time and your actions that we think ultimately will reinvent search.”

Spot it? “Tweets”. It’s the only time in the conversation, and the half-hour talk Mayer later gives to an audience of entrepreneurs, where she mentions by name any rival product or brand. She never says Microsoft or Bing or Internet Explorer when asked about the rival’s search or about browsing. Tweets implies Twitter, the company Google is often expected to be sniffing around to replace its missed chance with Jaiku.

Making tweet music together?

So is Google talking to Twitter about integrating real-time search, which Twitter got by buying Summize last year? Mayer stonewalls. “I can say that we think that real-time search is very interesting,” Mayer says.

She would know. She is a key player at Google; one of its earliest employees. “...the company tries to keep its teams small, she says, adding: “By keeping smaller you avoid a lot of that bureaucracy that tends to snuff out an idea early.” But there is also the fact that Google is stuffed full of people who just love to experiment on its users. Google Mail uses a very slightly different blue for links than the main search page. Its engineers wondered: would that change the ratio of clickthroughs? Is there an “ideal” blue that encourages clicks? To find out, incoming users were randomly assigned between 40 different shades of links—from blue-with-green-ish to blue-with-blue-ish. It turned out blue-ness encouraged clicks more than green-ness. Who would have guessed? And who would have cared? Google, of course, which wants to get people clicking around the net.

Clicking, of course, ideally using its browser, Chrome, launched last year. Launched why? “Our engineers noticed that browsers didn’t seem to be evolving very much any more. No one was paying any attention to Javascript, even though pages were using more and more Javascript.” Chrome focuses on running Javascript (such as you find in Google products..) really quickly. So has it lived up to expectations? What were those expectations? “We have our goals in terms of users, numbers of versions.” And has it met them? “Yes”. Exceeded them? “It’s been pretty much on par. We’ve become pretty good at predicting how users will respond to something with original installs and downloads.”

Recognition factor

And finally is she surprised by how slowly image recognition has evolved, given the effort put into it, compared to voice recognition? After all, Google Image still asks for human help. Why haven’t the computers figured it out yet? “For voice, language is language.

Sometimes a new word crops up, and then you have to figure out how to recognise that.

With images, the problem is fundamentally changed.... Now, with the dawn of YouTube and digital photography and 100bn images being uploaded to the web every year, you actually need to be able to identify all 6 billion people....”

What’s also lost in a still photo is the contextual information—movement, location, voice—that reality offers. “With a still image all you have are the pixels, and those pixels might look a lot like a photo of someone else, so I do feel for the image recognition people because their problem has become significantly harder in the internet age. We’re not getting closer to a solution. The solution just moves further away.”

The areas of success are where photos get metadata—geotagging—or where humans help: “You take one picture of your family at Christmas and tag this little red spot as ‘Meredith’, and the system says: ‘Every time we see something that’s the same shade of red intensity, in all of their pictures, those are Meredith.’ A lot of people think that’s cheating, but I don’t really think it is because that’s what humans do.

“So, image recognition is really trying to harness those things; and the sensor revolution we’re seeing—GPS that’s attached to your phone, to a camera—really can help us develop image technologies that work a lot better. It means we make the problem simpler.”


DH reader Aaron wrote

Can u suggest a user friendly image resizer plz?

DH suggested

You could try Al Image Converter at

8 July, 2009
N S Soundar Rajan

JDownloader, open source and platform independent, can help download files from file hosters like, and oathers.


JDownloader can be used by both kinds of users - those who have a premium account and those who don't subscribe. Features: Support for many file

hosting sites, decrypt plug-ins for many services. e.g., UCMS, WordPress, skips the limits of Filehosting websites, downloads in multiple parallel streams, download with multiple connections, captcha recognition, automatical file extraction, can download Youtube, Vimeo, clipfish video, and Mp3 files; 24-hour support, integrates with Firefox, no installation needed, and more. The 15.6 MB JDownloader, v.0.6.193, cross-platform - works on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X, can be downloaded at Runs on Java 1.5 or higher.

jGnash is a free personal finance manager with many features available in commercial versions. Main Features include: Double-Entry Based Transactions, Single Entry Transactions, Split Transactions, Memorised transactions, Account Reconciliation, Report Generation in PDF Format, Quick Auto-Completion of Form Fields, Schedule Recurring Payment Reminders, Support for Multiple Currencies, Track Investment
Accounts and Transactions, OFX Import, QIF Export, Accurate calculations, no loss of precision or rounding errors, Sortable account registers, Time-stamp backup files on exit, and more. The 11.7 MB jGnash v2.3.0, cross-platform and will run on any operating system that has a working Java 1.6.0 Runtime Environment, can
be downloaded at An FAQ can be browsed at
Network Monitor

Spiceworks with easy-to-use interface lets you Inventory Your Network & PCs, Monitor & Manage your network, Manage the IT assets, Manage changes & configurations, Map your network, Audit the software, Troubleshoot the network, Run an IT help desk, Create & view alerts for Windows events, Monitor the health of your MS Exchange server, Monitor - network bandwidth, disk space, software installs, anti-virus
subscriptions, toner levels, offline servers & more. The 18 MB Spiceworks Network Monitor for Windows XP Pro SP2, Windows Vista, Windows 2003 Server SP1, SP2 and R2, & Windows 2008 Server, can be downloaded at to download. Browser Requirements: Firefox 2.0 - 3.0 and
Internet Explorer 7.0 - 8.0
Live Planet

Windows Live Planet, at, hosted by Microsoft India, looks like a Social Networking platform. It lets you get connected to with friends instantly with your windows live ID or Hotmail ID. To access you can also use your Gmail, Yahoo or any other ID . However, you need to sign up. Live Planet is integrated with Live messenger toolbar to facilitate chatting with your live messenger friends. 'Import' of friends from other social networks including Facebook, My Space, LinkedIn, Hi5 and Tagged to your planet in live planet. To add to your planet you can use the search facility provided. The looks of the home page suggest that this site is mainly intended for Indian users.


DH reader Dr Mruthyunjaya H S wrote
Please suggest a freeware which can be used to split a folder of required sizes.
DH suggested
Please browse this page on folder splitters at

Products, Processes

QlikTech, the Business Intelligence (BI) Company, has announced a strategic partnership with Path Infotech, provider of software solutions and services in India.

QlikTech, Path Infotech to give BI solutions

The partnership is expected to combine QlikTech’s ability to enable customers to derive intelligence from business data with Path Infotech’s expertise in software services to benefit several Indian companies.

QlikTech’s business analysis solution, QlikView, is a whole new class of business intelligence software that puts business users in control, lets them explore their data with unprecedented freedom, and get the answers they need to take immediate action.
CSC to resell MS Business Productivity suite

CSC has announced a global agreement to resell the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite, part of Microsoft Online Services, through its cloud. Designed to help businesses easily and securely adopt cloud computing solutions across public, private and hybrid cloud networks, this agreement will allow customers to reduce the costs of managing and maintaining business systems and give them access to Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online, Microsoft Office Communications Online and Microsoft Office Live Meeting.
Lenovo announces seven new products

Lenovo recently announced the launch of 7 new products across multiple segments. The ambitious product line-up caters to a broad segment of consumers —from Lenovo C300, the ultra-sleek, affordable, All-in-One PC, to the trendy, thin and light Lenovo IdeaPad U350, Y450 and Y550 notebooks that are loaded with cutting-edge features, to the aggressively priced Lenovo G Series notebooks, and the Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 netbook.
HP’s ExSO portfolio promises cost savings

HP has launched the HP Extreme Scale-Out (ExSO) portfolio. The solution is designed to deliver a new magnitude of cost and resource savings for businesses involved in Web 2.0, cloud and high-performance computing. HP ExSO portfolio includes a new lightweight, super-efficient, modular systems architecture and spans data centre solutions, services and support.

At the core of the HP ExSO portfolio is the HP ProLiant SL server family, which uses a “skinless” systems architecture that replaces the traditional chassis and rack form factors with an extremely lightweight rail and tray design. Customers can dramatically reduce capital, facilities and shipping costs while using a fraction of the space normally required in a data centre. Additionally, its ultra-efficient, modular design enables customers to quickly and easily build solutions that meet extreme scale-out workload requirements.
Symantec, McAfee in ‘arms race’
The New York Times

The two rivals are on a mission to ward off malicious e-mail viruses and Internet worms, says Ashlee Vance

The two leading makers of computer security software, Symantec and McAfee, are like preachers who conduct duelling tent revivals.

They boast and frighten and denounce each other while trying to convince the crowd that their particular brand of salvation will ward off the devil—in this case, malicious e-mail viruses and evil Internet worms. Recently, the competition between the two became fiercer, as both tried to get their software tied to more new personal computers, Web sites and Internet service providers. McAfee has been particularly aggressive, using a string of deals with large PC makers in a bid to usurp Symantec’s leadership position.

“It’s like an arms race,” said Albert A Pimentel, the chief financial officer of McAfee.
Security companies must constantly persuade customers and partners to renew subscriptions or switch from a competitor with similar products. The company, based in Santa Clara, suffered from a decade of legal and accounting problems.

Things, however, have changed in the last two years since David G DeWalt succeeded George Samenuk to run McAfee. Under DeWalt, the company has expanded well beyond antivirus software, acquired some niche security players and increased sales. Symantec, based in Cupertino, California, remains the overall security market leader, with just about double the market share of McAfee. In the consumer market, Symantec holds an even larger lead, with 52 per cent share and $1.8 billion in revenue last year, compared with 18 per cent of the market and $624 million in revenue for McAfee. A host of smaller players like Trend Micro, CA and Kaspersky Lab round out the field. “It is really Symantec and the seven dwarfs,” said Enrique T Salem, the chief executive of Symantec.

McAfee has tried to win over PC makers with something they all like: lots of cash. Last year, it spent $55 million, more than any of its rivals, to get McAfee security software preloaded onto new computers. It now counts Dell, Acer, Toshiba, Sony and Lenovo as partners. Up to 40 per cent of all computers bought by consumers this year will include McAfee’s software, the brokerage firm Jefferies & Company estimates.

Hewlett-Packard has an exclusive deal with Symantec on its consumer PCs. DeWalt said the deal should come up for bids within the next year, and Symantec will have to fight to keep it.

Salem shrugs off DeWalt’s tough talk. He said: “We need to be on as many computers as possible without being irrational.” If McAfee bids too high, Symantec will walk away from the deal. But, in another breath, Salem boasts that Symantec has won eight out of the nine PC deals up for bid so far in 2009. Symantec, for example, has chipped away at parts of Dell not covered by McAfee, like gaming PCs.The payments that both companies make to partners have their own byzantine accounting, and critics complain that the companies are not being straightforward with shareholders. Quite often, the deals with the PC sellers require the security companies to make upfront payments. Both parties then share revenue over the lifetime of the deal, as some people extend their subscriptions beyond the initial free trial period and begin paying annual fees for the software. McAfee incurs larger upfront costs than most for its deals while waiting months before it can begin booking subscriptions as revenue.

Gartner shows McAfee gaining just 0.5 percentage points of market share in the consumer security software market in the last year, with Symantec losing about 4 percentage points. DeWalt says McAfee will begin showing more significant market share gains and higher deferred revenue totals as the trial and payment process plays out. McAfee says the upfront payments are small compared with the total potential value of the PC deals and that conversion rates had been strong to date. The company says it has tried to explain the deals to Gradient and characterises the firm as shaping its research in a sensationalistic way that is meant to attract short-sellers.

McAfee’s shares fell in the last year, but at $41 last week. Executives from McAfee and Symantec say the partner deals are minor items. McAfee makes more money selling corporate security products. At $6.2 billion a year in revenue, Symantec is one of the largest software companies in the world. Both companies are in a part of the market that has done well in the global technology spending slump. According to Gartner, McAfee has proved particularly resilient to the downturn, with revenue rising 22 per cent last year to $1.6 billion.

One long-term risk for both companies is the popularity of free basic security software packages offered by some vendors, including Symantec’s PC Tools brand.

McAfee and Symantec argue that true deliverance from malicious software requires more commitment and more money. Both companies try to persuade customers to buy whole suites of security software, including firewalls and online backup services. “Last year, we saw a 500 per cent increase in malware,” said DeWalt. That’s a lot of demons to ward off.

A router so complete, and very much vexing
The New York Times

D-Link DIR-685 turns your house into a Wi-Fi hot spot with its ability to blast through floors and walls, writes David Pogue

Even before someone coined the term “mashup,” mashups were popular in the technology world. Some are made in heaven, and are now standard pairings: clock+radio, refrigerator+freezer, cellphone+camera.

Others are still on the early-adopter fringe: TV+Internet, camera+Internet, fridge+Internet.

This month, D-Link, the networking equipment company, will offer a mashup that nobody’s ever tried before: wireless router + home backup hard drive + digital picture frame or the D-Link DIR-685 ($300 list price). The 685’s inventors have noticed that our high-tech homes are becoming cluttered with network-related gadgets and their associated cable creep. As long as people are going to buy all these different network gadgets, D-Link figures, why not combine them into one?

It’s the right idea. Unfortunately, D-Link is the wrong company to make it a reality.
First, the good news: once you get the 685 set up, it works very well. It broadcasts your Internet connection wirelessly—a fast, strong Wi-Fi signal (802.11n). This single router turned my entire house into a Wi-Fi hot spot, thanks to its ability to blast through floors and walls.

Every conceivable home router feature is on this machine’s configuration screens: port forwarding, Application Rules, individual Web site blocking, a sophisticated firewall, UPnP, Multicast Streams, Wake on LAN, users and groups, network access lists, scheduled lockouts, logs, security formats like WPA and WEP, remote management and much more. You can get a much less expensive router with these features. The 685 has some unique tricks. One of them is a tiny (3.2 inch) colour screen. It is useful for inspecting the router’s settings, but it can also display dozens of Internet information widgets: weather, New York Times headlines, stocks, sports scores, stocks, Twitter posts and photos from your Flickr or Facebook accounts.

The 685’s widget feature is so cool that you might be tempted to set the thing on your desk and glance at its parade of Internet info-bits throughout the day. Unfortunately, nobody will do that; this thing has a really, really loud fan. If you’re close enough to the router to see your photos and widgets, you’re also close enough to be driven mad by its jet-engine whirring. The 685 also has a slot on the side for a hard drive, which is not included. That way, you can buy your own hard drive online, in the capacity you desire. (Shop for a “2.5-inch SATA” hard drive.) Once you click it into place, the router’s screen offers you the chance to format the hard drive.

Why would you want a hard drive in your Wi-Fi base station? Because now it’s a NAS drive (network-attached storage), which is geek-speak for “a hard drive that every computer in the house can access at once, wirelessly.”

For example, the whole family can use it as a backup hard drive. You can use it as a central storage repository for files that everybody needs—including your whole family’s iTunes music collection. That’s right: put your iTunes folder on this drive, and now all computers can play whatever music is in it. The router’s name shows up at the left side of the iTunes window as if it’s an iPod. You can even teach the 685 to download BitTorrent files in your absence. That’s right, software pirates, you can have it download huge TV and movie files even while you and your laptop are out of the house. You have to know the Web address of the file you want, and you have to paste that into the router’s technical configuration pages in your Web browser.

The cherry on top is a feature called SharePort. It lets you connect a U S B scanner, hard drive or printer—and once you do, any Mac or PC on the wireless network can use it. All of this is great, right? So what’s the problem?

User-friendliness is the problem. The frustration begins with the bright orange sticker that’s been slapped across the network jacks on the back. The sticker says “STOP—Do not proceed until you’ve run the setup software CD.”

What’s wrong with that? First, it’s directing you to work through a multistep, complex, user-hostile procedure—wiring the D-Link router to a PC that already has a wired Internet connection, then running the pointlessly protracted installation software—that’s actually unnecessary. The router works just by plugging it into power and your modem.

Second, the setup software CD works only on Windows. Third, when you finally try to remove the orange sticker, it shreds, leaving gummy residue and paper fragments precisely where they shouldn’t be: in the Ethernet jacks. It goes on. For example, the Quick Start sheet instructs you to connect a cable to the router’s WAN port—but that port is not identified anywhere. There are five identical featureless and unlabeled Ethernet jacks on the router. Which one’s the WAN port? Let’s play Ethernet roulette!
Above all—and this is the mind-blowing part—D-Link is selling this very complex piece of consumer technology without a single word of instructions for the features that make it unique.

The user guide is a PDF document on the CD—you don’t get a printed book, of course—so what would it have cost D-Link to write up these features?

D-Link’s PR person suggested that the elusive instructions might be on the company’s Web site. (They weren’t.) In the end, it took a D-Link product manager a day to figure out how to work these features himself and supply me with the instructions. He says he will have them posted on D-Link’s Web site by the time the 685 goes on sale.

Isn’t it amazing that, after all these years, it still hasn’t dawned on companies like D-Link that simplicity sells? Spending a little money up front—on hardware design, streamlined software, better manuals—would save a fortune in tech-support calls and store returns. Not that D-Link is spending much on tech support anyway; my call was answered by clueless agents who gave me incorrect instructions. D-Link has gone to the considerable expense of inventing, designing and marketing a smart machine that could save a lot of people a lot of cost and complexity. The DIR-685, in other words, is a very cool mashup—but at the moment, it’s also a bit mashed up.

1 July, 2009
N S Soundar Rajan

Social network updating is made easy by ShoZu. The process for uploading pics, video or text is now simple.


Social network updating is made easy by ShoZu. The process for uploading pics, video or text is now simple.
Just drag and drop the media you want to share. After the picture or video shows up, type a short caption in the small box and or any additional text into the big box, and off you go.
ShoZu CCs your email and/or other destinations you choose. This feature saves time. The program prevents duplication—you don’t end up posting the same thing on the same site, multiple times. It can also help transfer content from your phone directly to many content sharing sites. ShoZu can be used to enable your phone to receive online content too. The ShoZu desktop app runs with Adobe Air and the most recent version of Adobe Flash. To know more on ShoZu visit

Video calling

Logitech’s Vid, an Internet video calling software, is for the “non-techie”. With a really easy-to-use interface, Vid makes it easy using a webcam and Internet connection. Vid is based on a person’s email address. It, presently, does not connect to Skype, AIM etc.
Vid is a straightforward way to make video calls. Just add a friend using his or her email address; wait for your friend’s acceptance of your invitation and make a video call simply by clicking on your friend’s picture. Vid for Windows XP/Vista and Mac OS X can be downloaded at A CPU that’s 2.5GHz or faster is recommended for enhanced performance.

Free OCR is a free online OCR (Optical Character Recognition) tool. This is used to perform OCR on any image you upload. The service is free, and no registration is necessary. Upload a PDF or image file (JPG, TIFF, BMP). Free OCR processes the document/image in a few seconds transforming them into plain text format. Currently, images larger than 2MB, wider or higher than 5000 pixels are not accepted for conversion. Also, there is a limit of 10 image uploads per hour. No need for any pre-processing of images except that these images are not skewed right or left. The recommended DPI for the images is 150. You can try out the Free OCR service at

Broadband Helper

Imran’s Broadband Helper Utility may be found useful by readers who use BSNL DataOne broadband connection, Plan—Home 500, Home 500 C, Home 500 Combo plus etc (or any other connection which uses ADSL Router and having the “free usage time” concept) and want to utilise the free usage time efficiently.
Features: disable connection from 09:00-02:00 so that there would be ZERO usage during this period; reboot your ADSL Modem at 02:01, so that a new connection starts in the free usage time; ShutDown the PC at 08:00 AM; determines your IP address, before and after every Reboot; can schedule any application like uTorrent to automatically start at some specified time, and more. All the features are configurable, according to your needs.

Imran’s Broadband Helper Utility can be downloaded at


DH reader Mahesh wrote:
Please suggest a utility to watch TV programmes.

DH suggested:
VeohTV, a desktop application, lets you watch, upload and download video from popular video sites including ABC, CBS, FOX, and MTV.

VeohTV can be downloaded at NSS

Storehouse of answers online
The Guardian

Hunch will soon be a repository for the web’s collaborative wisdom, writes Jack Schofield

Aplayful new site can help you make decisions, as long as someone has written up the topic in its question-and-answer format. If not, you could have a go yourself, and then let other people improve it.

If you want to know whether to buy a Palm Pre or an Apple iPhone, where to go on holiday, which TV show to watch, or whether or not to get a tattoo, you could try asking Hunch. It’s a sort of “decision engine” or, as Caterina Fake told Mercury News, “like a really awesome Magic 8-Ball on steroids”.

Hunch was only launched last week, so it only answers a couple of thousand questions. However, members can add topics, or improve other people’s. In a few years, it could become a repository for the web’s collaborative wisdom. If you’ve done Internet quizzes such as “Which superhero/super villain am I?” or “Which Greek god am I?” then you already know how Hunch works–and both of those questions are already on the site.

You’re taken through a series of screens, each of which has one question and a small set of answers to choose from. At the end of the “decision tree” you are given the best answer. With Hunch you are usually given three or four answers, one of which might be a Wild Card. Sometimes the answers are rated, if Hunch thinks you are 79% certain (or whatever) to prefer its first answer. Options at the end include “Why did Hunch pick this?” (which lists your answers), and “Is Hunch wrong about this result? Fix this Hunch”.

To be allowed to mess around, you must have created at least one topic, and played at least five topics all the way through.

Hunch uses personalisation and collaborative filtering. The personalisation is based on Hunch giving you questions to answer, and keeping track of the topics you play. The more it knows about you, the better its answers should be. “Collaborative filtering” means that you will probably like the sorts of things that people like you like. It’s how Amazon’s recommendation system works. However, Hunch makes it easy for you to delete a stored answer, or all of them, from your profile.

Hunch has numerous social aspects, too. You can leave comments, and using Hunch earns you Banjos – a bit like earning stars on eBay. You can earn Impact Badges by creating topics that get positive feedback, and Personality Badges for various actions.
Hunch was developed by a group of a group of computer scientists from MIT, which has been working on collaborative filtering and artificial intelligence.

Fortunately, the Hunch team met Caterina Fake, the co-founder of Flickr. She joined as co-founder and took charge of the product design. Her participation also ensured that Hunch got a lot of press coverage. It might not be the next Flickr, but if she’s involved, it’s certainly worth a look.

Products, processes

HP announced new releases of its application security software designed to help companies save costs and protect their IT assets from hacking.

LSI announces 40 NM read channels

LSI Corporation has announced the TrueStore® RC9500, the industry's first 40-nanometer (nm) read channel. Now sampling to hard disk drive (HDD) manufacturers, the RC9500 is designed to support notebook through enterprise HDD form factors and capacity points. The RC9500’s next-generation low-density parity check (LDPC) iterative decoding technology enables a greater than 10 per cent increase in the data storage capacity of HDDs, reduces read channel power consumption and delivers industry-leading performance with data rates exceeding 4.0Gb/s.
Decoding battery life for laptops
The New York Times

Consumers look at cell as a crucial buying factor, says David Pogue

This is a story of truth, greed and the American Way. Oh, and also laptop battery-life benchmarks. Two things about battery-life measurements for laptops: First, they usually bear little relationship to reality. I don’t know about you, but my “five-hour” battery often dies halfway between JFK and LAX. Second, laptop ads always use that essential tool of wiggle-roomers everywhere, “Up to.” As in, “Up to five hours.”

Folks, “up to” is one of the greatest cop-outs in the English language. You know what? I’ve got a laptop that gets “up to” 1,000 hours on a charge! Because “up to” just means “something below this number.”

Well, so what, right? Why pick on laptop makers? Every industry does it, right?

In 2003, the digital camera industry had a similar problem. Every company was advertising its cameras’ battery life in overblown terms. Each had its own testing protocol, none representative of real life. Pretty soon, consumers realised that the battery statistics were basically meaningless.

Eventually, CIPA (the Camera and Imaging Products Association), a camera-industry trade group, took action. It developed a standardised battery-life test. You take one photo every 30 seconds—half with the flash on, half with the flash off. You zoom all the way in or all the way out before every shot. You leave the screen on all the time. After every 10 shots, you turn off the camera for awhile. And so on.

In other words, you test the camera pretty much the way people would use it in the real world, erring on the side of conservatism. Nowadays, all cameras are tested and advertised this way. And CIPA ratings now match up with reality.

But laptops are more complicated, right? Many more factors determine battery life: what you’re doing, how bright the screen is, what wireless features are turned on, and so on. Yet other industries have faced this problem, too. Cellphones, for example: The battery dies a lot faster when you’re making calls than when you’re just carrying the thing in your pocket. Cars: You generally get much better mileage on the highway than in the city. Even iPods: You get much better battery life when you’re playing music rather than video.
So their manufacturers do the only logical thing — they give you the worst-case/best-case numbers.

When you shop for a cellphone, you see, “4 hours talk time/300 hours standby.” When you shop for a car, you see “26 mpg city/32 highway.” When looking over an iPod, you see “24 hours of music playback/6 hours of video.” And everybody’s happy.

But with laptops, what do we get? “Up to five hours.” This is important, because battery life has become a huge selling point. People have finally managed to unlearn the Megahertz Myth (hallelujah!), so they’re looking at battery life as a crucial buying factor.
Why doesn’t the computer industry invent a standard battery test?

Actually, they have. Those “up to” numbers are the results of a test suite called MobileMark 2007. There are a few problems with the MobileMark test. One of them is the identity of its inventor. It’s Bapco (Business Application Performance Corporation), a trade group led by Intel and composed primarily of laptop and chip manufacturers.

Let’s see: a benchmark developed by precisely the companies who profit if battery life looks good. Isn’t that like putting the foxes in charge of henhouse inspections?
Another problem: Unlike CIPA’s camera tests, the MobileMark test protocol doesn’t reflect real-world use. For example, the screen. It’s the most power-hungry component of a laptop, so specifying how bright it is during your test is extremely important. Well, the MobileMark test specifies that you have the screen set to 60 nits (a brightness measurement). The screens on modern laptops put out 250 to 300 nits. The MobileMark test, in other words, specifies setting the screen at a fraction of full brightness — a setting that few people use in the real world. (Advanced Micro Devices says that 60 nits is about 20 per cent brightness on most laptops. Intel says it’s closer to 50 percent. Either way, it’s too low.)

The MobileMark test doesn’t specify whether battery-eating features like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are turned on during testing. That decision is left up to the manufacturers when they test their own laptops.

Finally, there’s the actual MobileMark test. Actually, there are three of them.
In the DVD test, you play a DVD movie over and over until the battery’s dead — a worst-case, shortest-life situation.

In the Productivity test, an automated software robot performs business tasks like crunching numbers in Excel, manipulating graphics in Photoshop and sending e-mail. This ought to be the most realistic test—except that it doesn’t include any use of Web browsers, iTunes, Windows Media Player, online TV shows or games. Oops.
In the final test, called Reading, an automated script pretends to read a PDF document, pausing two minutes on each page. This, clearly, is the best case; it’s not wildly different, in fact, from leaving the laptop unattended.

So which of those tests gets reported in the laptop ads?

Intel says it’s the Productivity test, but why aren’t we allowed to see all three results?
All of this brings us to Advanced Micro Devices, which has spent several weeks blogging about all of this silliness and bringing it to the attention of tech writers like me.
AMD thinks the industry should adopt a much more realistic benchmark for laptops—and then represent the results in a style that matches cellphones, iPods and cars. It’s proposing a new logo that clearly shows the best-case/worst-case numbers. Your laptop’s box might say, “2:30 Active Time/4:00 Resting Time.”
And, predictably, AMD reports it is meeting with “considerable resistance” from the big industry players.

Intel, AMD’s archrival, seems especially annoyed by all this muckraking. A spokesman, Bill Kircos, says MobileMark is “a well thought, well debated and very sound benchmark.” Besides, if a shopper doesn’t like it, “there are a wealth of independent tests, reviews, magazine articles and company information to see what people are getting on battery life, in addition to the three-faced MobileMark benchmark.”

Wait — consumers are supposed to make up for MobileMark’s failings by spending hours hunting online for realistic battery tests?

Wouldn’t it save effort all around to have a realistic, reliable test? That’s how the cellphone, auto and music-player industries do it; why not computer makers?
That one’s easy: because there are big dollars at stake. People pay more when they think they’re getting better battery life. By misleading the public with bogus battery statistics, stores and computer and chip makers make more money. No wonder cynics call it “benchmarketing.”

(Intel’s spokesman also told me AMD has yet to propose a better battery-testing regimen to Bapco, of which AMD is also a member. AMD retorts that’s not necessarily true: “All Bapco discussions are confidential.

If Bapco is willing to waive these confidentiality obligations or make its meeting minutes public, AMD will be happy to discuss what it has or hasn’t presented to Bapco.”)
It’s pretty obvious why Intel wants to keep the status quo. But what’s AMD’s motive in stirring up this hornet’s nest, anyway? According to tests by Laptop magazine and others, AMD laptops in general have shorter battery life than Intel laptops.

But in more realistic battery-life tests, the gap between AMD and Intel laptops closes somewhat. So yes, everybody’s got an agenda on this one. But yours should be to support AMD’s campaign It’s logical, it’s fair — and it’s long overdue.

HP’s new application security software
HP announced new releases of its application security software designed to help companies save costs and protect their IT assets from hacking.

The releases include HP Assessment Management Platform 8.0 -that mitigates application risk across the enterprise through a distributed, scalable web application security testing platform, Web Inspect 8.0 that helps customers analyse complex web applications, and HP Software-as-a-Service (Seas) Project Services for Application Security Centre.

Xerox unveils new colour printer

Xerox India, the world’s leading document management technology and services enterprise, announced the launch of Xerox Phaser 6280 colour printer, designed specifically to suit the requirements of small and medium businesses (SMBs). The Xerox Phaser 6280 is built on Xerox technology and offers outstanding colour capabilities at an affordable price. The colour printer is priced at Rs 48,179/- (N), 60,858/- (DN) and is available in two variants- Xerox Phaser 6280 N and Xerox Phaser 6280 DN.
Some of PHASER 6280’s features include automatic two sided printing, 600x600x4 dpi print resolution, EA-HG colour toner, colour correction technology, PANTONE® Colour approved solid-colour simulations, 10/ 100 Base T Ethernet and USB connectivity, user-friendly front panel etc.

Netgear launches new wireless router

NETGEAR, Inc, has launched RangeMax Wireless-N Router, the WNR3500. It brings faster wireless speeds and enhanced range of connectivity for the Internet. It allows users to surf, email, stream HD video, play on-line game and make Internet phone calls concurrently. The Wireless-N technology and Gigabit Ethernet port deliver exceptional range and enhanced wired network connections. The users can connect up to four other wired devices by using the built-in 4-port switch. With Push ‘N’ Connect feature, it allows wireless connection to new devices easily and provides advanced wireless security encryption for your data. Compatible with 802.11n, 802.11b and 802.11g standards, this wireless router is all you need to work for you, without the hassle of connecting to range extenders, repeaters or external antennas.

Bay Talkitec’s new voice authentication solution

Bay Talkitec has announced the integration of ‘Caller Voice authentication’ technology to its Smartcall unified contact centre platform. The new biometric voice authentication facility will enable contact centres improve caller experience by streamlining the log-in process and help banks, financial institutions and insurance companies increase security, doing away with forgettable PINs and passwords.

Nivio releases online PC

Nivio has unveiled the nivioCompanion-a tiny US$100 set-top box device. Users will have to just pay for the usage. All files are backed up instantly to prevent data loss. Users can also access their personal PC from the nearest cyber café using the user name and password. Nivio has tied up with Bharti Airtel Ltd to offer the service in India.

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 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 Requirements: 1.5 Ghz Pentium 4 or comparable, requires at least 200 MB HD space, large email accounts may require more for

Opera Unite

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, for Mac at, and for Linux at


DH reader Hanumanthappa wrote:
Please suggest a freeware to send an encrypted email message.
DH suggested:
You could try Lockbin, a free service, at Lockbins
cryptographic algorithm uses a secret word chosen by you to encrypt messages

N S Soundar Rajan