Sunday, August 17, 2008

An Army of Ones and Zeroes

How I became a soldier in the Georgia-Russia cyberwar.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker. Click image to expand.

As Russian and Georgian troops fight on the ground, there's a parallel war happening in cyberspace. In recent weeks, Georgia's government Web sites have been besieged by denial-of-service attacks and acts of vandalism. Just like in traditional warfare, there's a lot of confusion about what's going on in this technological battle—nobody seems to know whether this is a centralized Russian attack, the work of a loose band of hackers, or something else. Having read so many contradicting accounts, I knew that the only reliable way to find out what was really happening was to enlist in the Russian digital army myself.

Don't get me wrong: My geopolitical sympathies, if anything, lie with Moscow's counterparts. Nor do I see myself as an Internet-savvy Rambo character. I had a much simpler research objective: to test how much damage someone like me, who is quite aloof from the Kremlin physically and politically, could inflict upon Georgia's Web infrastructure, acting entirely on my own and using only a laptop and an Internet connection. If I succeeded, that would somewhat contradict the widely shared assumption—at least in most of the Western media—that the Kremlin is managing this cyberwarfare in a centralized fashion. My mission, if successful, would show that the field is open to anyone with a grudge against Georgia, regardless of their exact relationship with state authorities.

Not knowing exactly how to sign up for a cyberwar, I started with an extensive survey of the Russian blogosphere. My first anonymous mentor, as I learned from this blog post, became frustrated with the complexity of other cyberwarfare techniques used in this campaign and developed a simpler and lighter "for dummies" alternative. All I needed to do was to save a copy of a certain Web page to my hard drive and then open it in my browser. I was warned that the page wouldn't work with Internet Explorer but did well with Firefox and Opera. (Get with the program, Microsoft!) Once accessed, the page would load thumbnailed versions of a dozen key Georgian Web sites in a single window. All I had to do was set the page to automatically update every three to five seconds. Voilà: My browser was now sending thousands of queries to the most important Georgian sites, helping to overload them, and it had taken me only two to three minutes to set up.

But now I knew that there must be other more sophisticated options out there. After some more investigation, I unearthed two alternatives, one creative and one emotional.

The creative option was to write my own simple program. Although my experience with software development is nonexistent, the instructions looked manageable. All I had to do was create a blank text file, copy and paste the URLs of any Web sites that I wanted to attack, specify how many times these sites should be pinged, and copy and paste a few lines of code from the original instructions. The last bit was to rename it with a .BAT extension, instantly converting it into a file that Windows recognizes as an executable program.

My e-Molotov cocktail was ready to go. I just had to double-click the file, and all those sites that I listed would be inundated with requests. The original blog post also encouraged me to run my program at certain times of the day to coincide with attacks launched by others, thus multiplying their effectiveness.

So far, it looked as if my experiment was succeeding. In less than half an hour, I already had two options that could potentially cause some damage, if I hadn't stopped after the first few seconds of testing. What I found missing in my first two trials, though, was a sense of priorities. If I were truly interested in destabilizing the Georgian sites, how would I know whether to focus on the Ministry of Transportation or the Supreme Court? What if other volunteers like me were attacking one but not the other? Were my resources more vital on other e-fronts?

Faced with these dilemmas, I turned to the site StopGeorgia for help. This was the emotional option. Branding itself as a site by and for the "Russian hack underground," StopGeorgia declared that it wouldn't tolerate "aggression against Russia in cyberspace." In addition to this militaristic rhetoric, the site offered a very convenient list of targets—Web sites that either belonged to Georgian government agencies or to potential friends of the country (including those of the U.K. and U.S. embassies in Tbilisi). This list included plus and minus signs to indicate whether the sites were still accessible from Russia and, for some reason, Lithuania. The sites with the plus signs were, logically, the primary target; there was no point in attacking the sites that were already down.

The administrators of StopGeorgia did not stop there; they also offered visitors a virtual present. The treat was a software utility called DoSHTTP, which the site encouraged all readers to download. DoSHTTP's creators bill it as a program to "test" the so-called "denial-of-service attacks" that have become synonymous with modern cyberwarfare. But if you believe the rhetoric on StopGeorgia, its capabilities extend far beyond mere testing—the site encouraged all visitors to use the program to launch attacks, not test them.

Original here

For Microsoft, not all is neighborly in Cambridge

By Casey Ross

Microsoft Corp. moved to Cambridge last year looking to set the world afire with innovation. Instead it got sued.

It's a case that pits a home-grown tech firm called InterSystems Corp. against an out-of-town competitor that wants to build a first-of-its kind research center. But the legal battle has nothing to do with cutting-edge technology - rather, it's all about bricks and mortar and an outdoor sign.

InterSystems, a longtime tenant of One Memorial Drive, says it has the rights to the space where Microsoft plans to open a laboratory and is seeking to block the behemoth from expanding. Adding to the rub, Microsoft wants to put a sign on a building where InterSystems grew from a tiny start-up to an international company.

"We want to stay in our building. It's very much our home," said Paul Grabscheid, vice president of strategic planning for InterSys tems. "The idea of coming to work every day under a Microsoft sign is not so appealing to us."

InterSystems occupies 88,000 square feet in the 17-story building along the banks of the Charles River. Microsoft currently occupies 80,000 square feet and wants to add 60,000 more next year. To block its rival's expansion, InterSystems filed suit in Middlesex Superior Court, asking a judge to prevent Microsoft from moving into the upper floors.

InterSystems has also sued the building owner, Equity Office Partners, a subsidiary of The Blackstone Group, contending that it conspired with Microsoft to lease space that InterSystem had rights to, and sought to drive up rents in the process.

Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., said in a prepared statement that it intends to move forward with its laboratory. "Microsoft has a valid lease at the building that was negotiated in good faith," said company spokesman David Bowermaster. "Microsoft is committed to its partners and employees in Massachusetts and looks forward to expanding its strong R&D presence in Cambridge."

The lawsuit over One Memorial Drive reflects broader competitive tensions in the Cambridge office market as high-tech powerhouses battle for talent at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In addition to Microsoft, Google and Yahoo Inc. have also opened offices in Kendall Square. Another firm, VMware Inc., a player in the hot market for virtualization software, now occupies space above Google.

Amid all the maneuvering, InterSystems, a leading provider of software for healthcare institutions, has maintained a quiet existence in the neighborhood, steadily expanding its operations with little fanfare.

The company was founded in 1978 by MIT graduate Phillip "Terry" Ragon, who graduated with a degree in physics and soon began exploring the then emerging field of database software. In 1978, he founded InterSystems and bounced around offices until the company settled at One Memorial Drive. The firm now has $220 million in assets and offices in 22 countries.

In court papers and interviews, InterSystems executives allege that the landlord, Equity Office Partners, was quick to overlook its success and immediately gravitated to Microsoft, which had heady plans for its Boston Concept Development Center, where it would create new Internet businesses.

InterSystems said Microsoft was also offering more money - $75 per square foot, nearly double the $40 per square foot it was paying for space in the building. Equity Office, which was acquired by Blackstone in February 2007, signed a lease with Microsoft in June of that year.

"After Blackstone took over, their intent seemed to be to clear the building out," said Grabscheid. "From their perspective, making it the Microsoft building is probably a lucrative investment strategy."

Blackstone declined to comment for the story. In court papers, the company denies the allegations, declaring that it committed no "unfair or deceptive acts" in leasing space in the building. It also argues that InterSystems missed a deadline for notifying the firm of its intent to lease the space that went to Microsoft.

In its filing, Blackstone's attorney, Stephen Oleskey, notes that a meeting with Ragon in the middle of the dispute ended up focusing not on the lease, but on the prospect of InterSystems having to share space with Microsoft.

Ragon "asserted that Microsoft's presence would be a threat to the Internet security of InterSystems [and] claimed InterSystems would now have to operate its business differently," Oleskey wrote. He also wrote that Ragon indicated that plans to upgrade common areas in the building would not benefit InterSystems, because its employees would have to fraternize with competitors from Microsoft.

Original here

Will Netbooks Pave the Way for Linux?

posted by Thom Holwerda

As we all know by now, netbooks are the latest craze in the computing world. Small notebooks, perfect for on the go, and relatively cheap. The interesting thing is that these netbooks are often offered with Linux pre-installed instead of Windows, and this prompts many to believe that it is the netbook niche where Linux will gain its first solid foothold among the general populace. "It does a lot to level the playing field. In fact, Linux looks to be quick out of the gate," said Jay Lyman, analyst with the 451 Group. However - is that really happening?

Personally, I am not so convinced that the netbook market will be a Linux stronghold. This isn't due to Linux not being ready or anything - in fact, for a netbook, Linux is 'readier' than Windows, if you ask me. As I explained in the review of the Acer Aspire One, it can run a full Linux installation with Compiz Fusion running smoothly, playing Flash and video files without a single hitch. Windows XP, on the other hand, would need more RAM, special tweaks to make it work properly on the solid state drive, and you won't get a hardware accelerated desktop.

It is not the readiness that makes me doubt the stronghold assertion. What does make me doubt is opening my eyes and looking at the reality of the internets. What are the most popular threads on netbook community websites? What requests are most often made? Which blog posts get the most comments? Which howtos and guides are read the most?

Exactly, the ones that detail how to install Windows XP on netbooks that ship with Linux (and threads that detail with issues concerning XP after installation). Like this one. Or this one. Or this one. Oh, and over here. And so on, and so forth.

I stumbled upon all of these while finding ways to wreck my One doing research for the One review, and it quickly dawned on me. A lot of people keep saying that Microsoft's sales figures are misleading since you never know how many PCs pre-installed with Windows are in fact turned into Linux machines (or Vista into XP). I think the situation in the netbook market is the exact opposite: I firmly believe that many, many of the Linux netbooks are in fact turned into Windows XP netbooks. In other words, it is hard to say just how many netbooks are out there running Linux.

In case you are wondering - yes, my One still runs Linux, and will continue to do so. I mean, fat32 just to get acceptable performance out of the SSD drive? And no wobbly windows? You must be kidding me.

Original here

How Adobe can stop Microsoft

John C. Dvorak

By John C. Dvorak

BERKELEY, Calif. (MarketWatch) -- If you've gone online to watch the Summer Olympics on your computer, you've found the elaborate NBC Web site done in conjunction with Microsoft Corp. featuring videos from almost all the events, using a new online-video presentation technology called Silverlight.

Silverlight is a direct attack on Adobe Systems Inc. (ADBE:
Adobe Systems Incorporated
Last: 45.21-0.25-0.55%
6:09am 08/20/2008
Delayed quote data
Sponsored by:
45.21, -0.25, -0.5%)
and its ubiquitous Flash technology. The clips you watch on YouTube are in Flash.
Adobe gives the Flash viewer away free and sells development kits to make millions on the technology originally developed by San Francisco-based Macromedia, bought by Adobe in 2005.
Microsoft (MSFT:
Microsoft Corporation
Last: 27.81-0.10-0.36%
4:00pm 08/15/2008
Delayed quote data
Sponsored by:
27.81, -0.10, -0.4%)
thinks it can unseat Flash with Silverlight, which has characteristics that may allow it to beat Flash in the market -- maybe. Right now, Silverlight is immature, although you would never know it from the Olympics site.
Microsoft has attacked Adobe before by adopting TrueType font technology over PostScript around 1989, an announcement that sent Adobe founder John Warnock into shock. Fear of Microsoft may have resulted in the fast-paced and never-ending upgrade cycle of Adobe Photoshop -- out of real concern that Bill Gates and company might develop a real competitor.
Now we have this Silverlight situation, and Adobe has to do something other than run away from Microsoft. It should attack Microsoft with a Linux initiative.
Adobe could port its Creative Suite to Linux as a shot across Redmond's bow.
Adobe has never developed its cash cows Photoshop and Illustrator for Linux. This stems from the fact that the aforementioned Warnock, now semiretired from the company, disliked open source, specifically a PostScript clone called Ghostscript.
Not wanting to help a movement, little was done for the platform that might damage Adobe. But part of the reason Linux has not moved to the desktop and impinged on Microsoft is its lack of a Photoshop-grade, high-end graphics- and image-editing program.
(I am aware that Adobe's been a member of various open-source groups and has experimented in the Linux community with both Flash and Air. Furthermore, there is a semiprofessional Photoshop-like product called GIMP for Linux.)
Adobe could port its Creative Suite, which includes Photoshop, Illustrator, In-Design and other subsystems, to Linux as a shot across Redmond's bow. Then the company should embrace Linux in-house and develop a complete, optimized Linux OS designed to run a high-performance version of its Creative Suite on Linux optimized for Adobe products, to be sold as a bootable bundle for multicore-workstation hardware.
The idea is to produce a near-dedicated Adobe computer designed to use all the power of the newest chips to run the Adobe software under Linux. Since Linux is under the hood, users could exit the Adobe programs and run their word processors and whatever else on the Linux boxes.
Having complete control of a high-powered OS would make all of the performance-demanding Adobe software run rings around any other implementation, if engineered correctly. It would become the viable desktop alternative to both the PC and the Mac.
To further tweak Microsoft, the company could embrace the Silverlight Linux clone, Moonlight software, and give it away as an alternative for people who insist on using Silverlight.
Adobe never has fully confronted Microsoft when the software giant steps on its turf. Its strategy has been to simply run faster, letting Microsoft kill the laggards -- like the famous Silicon Valley bear joke told incessantly by VCs and Valley lecturers:
"Two campers see an encroaching and hungry bear heading their way. One camper quickly grabs his tennis shoes and puts them on, while the other asks: "Why are you putting on those shoes? You can't outrun a bear!" To which his friend replies: "I don't have to outrun the bear, I have to outrun you!"
Maybe it's time to give up on this model and grab a gun and shoot the damned bear. Adobe has a gun and should use it.

Original here

5 Anti-Linux Sites You Must Follow!

Written by Pavs


Ever since I read Jeremy Allison’s blog post about why we need to hear criticisms from people who dislikes Linux, I have been thinking a lot about what he said and how it hits very close to my own philosophy about life: In order to improve, you need to be open to criticisms; even from your enemies. One of the (many) things that most people dislike about Microsoft is that they don’t have any real communication between the developers and the users; so when you discover a bug or have opinions about a feature that can be improved or added, there is no real easy way to directly (or indirectly) communicate with a developer. However, recently they have showed some improvement by opening up blogs for IE8 beta and Windows 7, where product developers actively communicate with users. So why should we turn a blind eye towards Linux critics?

Here are some of the popular sites who are active critics of linux:

1) Why Linux Sucks: They are not really anti-linux, they just hate linux. :)


“This site’s purpose is to bring to light a lot of issues that Linux users run into that they shouldn’t run into: Issues that occur for both experienced and new Linux users. It also focuses somewhat on issues that severely need attention in order for the Linux Desktop (GNOME, KDE, etc) to become as much as it can be.

We are not against Linux - quite the contrary! - but we are over the misinformation, lies and downright idiocy that surrounds and impedes the progress of a lot of Linux’s Desktops, Applications and Subsystems.”

2) Linux Hater’s Blog: The subject of Allison’s blog post. This is a very active blog, with comments ranging from several hundred per post; most of the comments are back and forth arguments about who is right and who is wrong. The comments are rightfully named as “flames”. Most interesting of all, he has a shop selling anti-linux shirts and coffee cup. :)

Click for larger View

3) Promoting Linux: This is probably a parody site. But if you want some good laugh, this is the site for you :). Some quotes from the site:

“I tried Linux and it burned me. Badly. Now I use Windows because “it just works.”

“The freedom to write our own device drivers and recompile the kernel is no freedom at all.”

“WE kNoW WhO YOU aRe. WE ArE GoInG To kILL yOU!” — Linux Kernel Team

4) LinSux: A Forum devoted to linux suckiness. :). 92 members so far…

5) Jerry Lee Cooper: Ok this hasn’t been updated for while, but this blog, titled: “Gems from the net guru”, is full of posts on how linux sux and windows rocks. For total awesomeness (and good laughs), skip the first couple of posts and read the rests.

Ok this is all I could come up with. With all the windows hating sites out there, linux haters have a lot of catching up to do…

Original here

Legal P2P Music Service Doomed to Fail

Written by Ernesto

If you can’t beat pirates, join them. This is Playlouder’s philosophy, a music download service that allows subscribers to download music from BitTorrent and other filesharing networks, while reimbursing the copyright owners. The concept sure is interesting, but the current setup is naive, flawed and doomed to fail.

Reports about the new and upcoming legal P2P service “Playlouder” are all over the news - again. Just like three years ago, Playlouder co-founder Paul Sanders manages to generate buzz for his legalized filesharing service. “We are confident that we will have something quite good to announce in the next couple of months,” he said, claiming that his company made a deal with one of the top ISPs in the UK.

The idea is simple; Playlouder plans to offer subscribers of one of the larger ISPs in the UK a service that will allow them to pirate as much music as they want, for a flat fee. Customers will be allowed to use the BitTorrent sites and filesharing applications they are used to. Through Deep Packet Inspection, Playlouder will check what tracks you download, so they can pay the rights holder accordingly.

The idea of creating a service where users can use BitTorrent sites without having to worry about legal repercussions is interesting. However, despite 5 years of development, the Playlouder team is overlooking some of the most basic features of file-sharing, which will render the service useless. Playlouder will allow its subscribers to download content from BitTorrent, but they won’t allow them to share the files with others who do not use the service. This restriction is needed because they want to prevent copyright infringement, but it causes a few problems too.

Thou shalt share

The number one rule for BitTorrent users is: Share. If you don’t share - upload files to others - your download speeds will reduce dramatically. This means that it could take hours instead of minutes to download an album from your favorite BitTorrent site. What Playlouder will offer is a highly degraded version of BitTorrent, and subscribers will not be able to get the great download speeds they are so accustomed to.

BitTorrent Abusers

Torrent sites are not too fond of people who aim to abuse the system. It wouldn’t surprise me if most trackers ban Playlouder customers from accessing the service, as they will seriously hurt the download speed of the swarm, and thus the average downloader. What they’re technically offering is a Freeleech service, one which doesn’t share back to the community. Together with the decreased download speeds, this means that Playlouder users will not get to enjoy the BitTorrent experience that everyone else gets. In fact, it will be almost impossible for them to download anything from BitTorrent.


Another issue, not so much related to the user experience, is that Playlouder will not be able to track what people are downloading when they enable protocol header encryption. A significant number of BitTorrent users are using encryption to prevent ISPs from throttling their traffic, but since encryption obfuscates the protocol headers, Playlouder can’t track what their users are downloading. This then means that artists and labels will not be fully compensated for the tracks these users download.

Let us be clear, we do encourage the search for new business models here at TorrentFreak, where ideally, both artists and consumers benefit. However, in its current form the Playlouder service is not going to be a great success, if it is more than just another “vaporshare” service in the first place.

Original here

4 Scary Toys in Big Brother’s Toolbox

by guest BLOGSTAR

BY MEGHAN HOLOHAN. It seems like government agencies are ready to party like it’s 1984. In its zeal to prevent another terrorism attack, the U.S. has relaxed laws that protect our privacy, making it easier for the government to keep an eye on you. The following four products could help Big Brother keep watch.

1. Wristy Business: Monitors for Airline Passengers

Picture 96.pngA senior official at the U.S. Department of Homeland security supposedly has his eye on a new accessory—an EDM security bracelet made by Lamperd Less Lethal, Inc. The scary notion is that this bling will be mandatory for airline travelers to wear on their wrists (at least according to this agency letter on the Lamperd web site). A microchip in the bracelet would contain the passenger’s personal information, including: departure and destination locations and times, boarding passes, social security number, name, address, and phone numbers. More importantly, the GPS unit in it helps the government know where passengers are during their entire journey. The strangest part is that the bracelets are also equipped to restrain passengers: in the case of a hijacking, the flight staff can actually activate the bracelet to shock passengers much like a Taser. The friendly DOH is reassuring the press that law abiding citizens need not worry—personal data is only stored in the jewelry during flight and only airline staff will be able to stun wearers.

2. Cell Phone Tracking (aka That thing Morgan Freeman Refused to Do)

Picture 103.pngRemember that thing Morgan Freeman almost quit his job over in The Dark Knight? Well, it’s already happening. Albert Lazlo Barabasi has been using cell phones to track people, so that he could better understand human social habits. For a year, the Northeastern University physics professor and his colleagues’ monitored 100,000 people in a country outside of the United States, described only as “a large industrialized nation.”

The exciting news from this study? That most people stay within 20 miles of their homes. More evidence that we aren’t as spontaneous as we like to think. Ethicists balked at the research because tracking people through an item like a cell phone clearly violates U.S. citizens’ ideas of privacy. Barabasi says his research included several layers of anonymity so researchers had little idea who they were watching. He claims the upswing of this technology is that transportation could be changed to meet the real needs of people and that it might help doctor’s track contagious disease or bioterrorism outbreaks in the future. The downfalls are obvious: the tracked citizens of this industrialized country have no idea they were being watched. Worse still, Big Brother now knows he can track large groups of people for at least a year without anyone being suspicious.

3. Electronic Leashes for Dogs (and why they’re coming to humans)

Rocco the beagle’s 10-year old owner was delighted when her beloved pet was brought back home. The furry scoundrel had escaped from the backyard, and his return was due mainly to a microchip implanted in his neck. Most pet microchips use RFID and GPS technology, and are smaller than a grain of rice. They also contain huge amounts of data on them that can be accessed by scanner (i.e. where Rocco lived, his owner’s phone number, and if his shots were updated when the chip was installed).

This technology won’t just be limited to pets though. Applied Digital Systems has applied for and earned the first patent for human RFID chips, called VeriChips. The company says the VeriChips contain a person’s complete medical record and will save lives. For example, if someone’s allergic to penicillin, a doctor will just scan the person, access that information immediately and prevent a medical error. Genius. Because many of these RFID chips come with GPS capability, you too will be traceable just like Rocco. ADS reps say it has no plans to track people—unless they’re lost and families are desperately searching for their loved ones.

Amazingly, the technology is being used to track other things as as well. Food manufactures already use RFID in products, allowing grocery stores to track consumer-purchasing habits, reduce theft, and keep accurate inventory. They claim that as soon as consumers check out, the RFID becomes inactive, but many worry that the companies are tracking where their products go. In the future, expect RFID in clothes—to reduce theft, of course.

4. Online tracking: making the Internet a giant mouse trap

Internet Service Providers have been searching for ways to make extra revenue, and they haven’t always been ethical about it. Embarq, a Fortune 500 telecom company, sold its users’ personal information to other businesses. The company tested out technology created by NebuAd, without informing its subscribers. Unfortunately the plan wasn’t foolproof and the U.S. House of Representatives has been investigating whether this is a privacy violation.

NebuAd works in the ISP, recording every click, creating a consumer profile so that it can send users targeted ads. DoubleClick does the same thing, but only from select web pages. Because NebuAd works within the ISP framework it lurks in the system and sees everywhere you click your mouse. For it to work, ISPs install a sniffer box, which catalogs user behavior as it monitors communication between the user’s computer and web sites. Free Press and Public Knowledge contend that NebuAd also includes fake information at the end of a Yahoo or Google search that directs users to a NebuAd website that inserts cookies on your browser. The process supposedly improves the nefarious company’s ability to monitor everything you search on the web. NebuAd reps argue that the information they collect is anonymous and web users can opt out at any time. Unfortunately most users don’t know if their ISP is using NebuAd.

Original here

U2 Tracks Leak After Bono Plays Stereo Too Loudly

Written by enigmax

U2 manager Paul McGuinness, who wants file-sharers to be disconnected from the Internet, has something else to complain about today. Four songs from U2’s upcoming album ‘No Line On The Horizon’ have been leaked online after Bono played them too loudly on his stereo - and a fan recorded them.

bonoThere’s little file-sharers like more than news of a little payback. Ever since U2 manager Paul McGuiness suggested that people using P2P should have their connection to the Internet severed, he has elevated himself into the ranks of ‘fair game’ in file-sharing circles - and therefore ripe to be pwned. After today, he’s going to want file-sharers executed - or worse.

Proving that if media can be seen, heard or touched it can be copied, songs from U2’s forthcoming album have been leaked online. Four tracks from the album, provisionally entitled ‘No Line On The Horizon’, have appeared on the Internet. The mechanism of the release is pretty comical - Bono blasted the tracks from a stereo in his villa in the South of France so loudly, that a passer-by recognized his voice and recorded them.

Four songs have been put online including the title track, the first single from the album ‘Sexy Boots’, ‘Moment of Surrender’ and ‘For Your Love’.

There’s no doubt that these cam-quality recordings will be particularly poor, but a large section of the file-sharing U2 fans won’t care about that. They have something that they’re not supposed to have and Mr McGuiness has had a bit of egg rubbed in his face - which probably holds more value to file-sharers than a pre-release FLAC rip of the entire album….

…which will appear online too of course, probably before the scheduled November release date.

Original here

IFPI Hijacks Pirate Bay Traffic

Written by Ernesto

Last Friday, Italian ISPs started to prevent their customers from accessing the Pirate Bay. Strangely enough, Pirate Bay traffic is not redirected to Italian authorities, but to the IFPI, the infamous anti-piracy lobby of the music industry. Pirate Bay’s Peter Sunde is not happy, and says it’s a scandal.

the pirate bayFor now, potential Italian Pirate Bay users are denied access to the BitTorrent tracker, and Italian authorities are investigating whether the site should be blocked indefinitely. The block totally missed its purpose though, as The Pirate Bay saw an increase in traffic from Italy instead of a decline.

The Pirate Bay has already taken several countermeasures to make sure Italians can access the site. These don’t work across all ISPs yet, and those users are redirected to the following page by their ISP. Interestingly, this page is hosted on a server that belongs to IFPI - a reverse IP lookup shows that the page is linked to, IFPI’s legal music site.

“I think it’s a scandal,” Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde told TorrentFreak in response to this remarkable finding. “I hope that people start noticing that IFPI gets more and more into bed with the police. It’s really disturbing that one side of an ongoing fight gets more authority without a legal basis.”

Peter finds it hard to believe that the IFPI now gets all the traffic destined for the Pirate Bay, without any legal grounds, and he urges Italian users to clear their cookies before the IFPI decides to steal them. We have to agree with Peter here, it is indeed very disturbing that the traffic is redirected to a site which belongs to an anti-piracy lobby, instead of diverting neutrally to the ISP or local authorities.

The IFPI was contacted for a response several days ago, but hasn’t replied so far. It’s not the first time that they’ve “hijacked” traffic from a torrent site. Last October they did the same thing with the OiNK domain. That instance was even worse, as they used the opportunity to threaten members of the BitTorrent tracker, in advance of any trial.

Last October, the IFPI lost their .com domain, which was mysteriously transferred to the Pirate Bay, who started International Federation of Pirate Interests. Even though the IFPI managed to get the domain back in their possession, the incident marked an increase in efforts from the organization to take out The Pirate Bay.

Thus far, only John Kennedy, chairman and chief executive of the IFPI, has responded to the Italian move against The Pirate Bay stating: “This decision sends out a clear message that The Pirate Bay’s activities are illegal under Italian law. The Pirate Bay facilitates the mass infringement of copyright across music, film, television and games. Its very name shows the contempt its operators hold for the creators of legitimate content.”

Italy is trying hard to get rid of their fascist label, and some Italians were quite upset about the Pirate Bay calling their country a fascist state, but scandals like this don’t help to improve this image. Things get even worse if you take into account that the IFPI covered up the fact that the organization was founded in Rome, Italy, under the watch of Mussolini, one of the greatest fascist dictators. Enough said.

update: A great video for our Italian speaking friends

Original here

Spin flip trick points to fastest RAM yet

Do you wish your computer was faster? Engineers and physicists from Germany have demonstrated the quickest prototype yet of an advanced form of RAM tipped by hardware manufacturers to be the future of computing. The device is so fast it brushes against a fundamental speed-limit for the process.

Magnetoresistive random access memory (MRAM) is a faster and more energy efficient version of the RAM used in computers today, and hardware companies think it will in a few years dominate the market. Its speed and low power will in particular boost mobile computing.

Whereas conventional RAM stores a digital 1 or 0 as the level of charge in the capacitor, MRAM stores it by changing the north-south direction of a tiny magnet's magnetic field. Each variable magnet is positioned next to one with a fixed field. Reading a stored value involves running a current through the pair to discover the direction of the variable magnet's field.

Spin flips

The MRAM that IBM and most other manufacturers are betting on uses the spins of electrons to flip the magnetic fields, called spin-torque MRAM.

Now researchers in Germany have built a spin-torque system that is dramatically faster than any other. Santiago Serrano-Guisan and Hans Schumacher of the Physical-Technical Federal Laboratory of Germany worked with University of Bielefeld and Singulus Nano-Deposition Technologies researchers to build it from tiny pillars 165 nanometres tall.

The top end of each pillar acts as a variable magnet that stores data, whereas the bottom ends are fixed magnets. A current passing through a pillar from bottom to top has the spin of its electrons lined up by the permanent-magnet region.

When those electrons reach the pillars' other end, they flip the variable magnet region's field to match. The field can be flipped back by reversing the current.

Usually when the field is flipped it takes some time to settle into its new orientation. The north-south axis draws a few circles in the air before settling into place.

Wobble control

But theoretical work says it needs to draw only one circle before finding its new position, making the process faster. The German team achieved that, developing a way to observe and control the field’s wobble during and after the flip.

By adjusting the duration and strength of the electrical pulse that flips the field, only a single "wobble" is allowed to take place, matching the theoretical limit.

The result is a device many times faster than any before. "Present MRAM are programmed by pulses of about 10 nanoseconds duration," said Serrano-Guisan. "So we are ten times faster." The very best conventional RAM needs around 30 nanoseconds for an equivalent operation.

Robert Buhrman, an expert in nanomagnetics at Cornell University, New York, is impressed but notes that a full MRAM device has not yet been made.

The current used by the German device is at present too electrically dense to be supplied by the transistors used in MRAM circuits. "The next thing that needs to be done is to get the switching currents down to a scale that is compatible with the [standard] CMOS (complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor) transistor," said Buhrman.

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Seattle relieved to lose its high-tech toilets

A man waits for his turn to use an automated public toilet, near Seattle's famous Pike Place Market. The five high-tech self-cleaning toilets cost Seattle $5 million but sold online for just $12,549.
By Ted S. Warren, AP
A man waits for his turn to use an automated public toilet, near Seattle's famous Pike Place Market. The five high-tech self-cleaning toilets cost Seattle $5 million but sold online for just $12,549.

SEATTLE (AP) — City officials have finally gotten rid of five high-tech self-cleaning toilets that cost Seattle $5 million — but sold online for just $12,549.

The city installed the modernistic stand-alone toilets four years ago, hoping they would provide tourists and the homeless a place to do their business while downtown. But the automated loos became better known for drug use and prostitution than for relief.

Neighbors and analysts said they were less cost-effective than regular public restrooms, and in May, the City Council voted to sell them on eBay. After a failed first attempt, when a $89,000 minimum failed to attract a single bid, the city revised its strategy in hopes of sparking a bidding free-for-all.

But despite more than 9,000 combined page views, only 148 bids were cast.

One of the five toilets, which currently graces the downtown waterfront, sold for $4,899, but the average sale was just over $2,510.

A Rochester, Wash., business, Racecar Supply, won all five auctions, which ended Thursday. Butch Behn, the owner, said he plans to use two of the units at the South Sound Speedway and sell the other three.

"It'd probably be good to have a couple around for spares," he said. "We get pretty busy at the track sometimes."

Pat Miller, the city's surplus manager, said the city will recover just over $2,080 per toilet after Bidadoo, the company that listed and sold the units online, takes its 17% cut.

The money will go into the city's utility fund.

"The bottom line is that you're getting rid of the stuff," Miller said.

Finding a home for self-cleaning potties that had lived a hard city life was difficult, Miller said, but he's faced bigger hurdles.

"Most cities are strange in the sense that periodically, we have very unique things to get rid of," he said. "Luckily, the Internet is making it easier for us to find these things a home."

Eight years ago, he was scratching his head over the city's 66-foot topiary dinosaurs, which stood guard outside the Seattle Center.

"We didn't know what to do. They weighed about 5 tons; they were just huge," he said. "There were rumors for a while that Michael Jackson had expressed interest in them, in bringing them down to Neverland."

The dinos ultimately found a home with a Seattle neighborhood foundation.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Apple's iTunes Store pays tribute to Isaac Hayes

By Jeff Smykil

When Isaac Hayes died last week, the world lost an iconic figure of African American culture. Perhaps best known as his music for Shaft, Hayes also played a pivotal role in the success of Stax Records, what many consider to be one of the two original major Soul record labels. Naturally, he also played the character of Chef in the TV show South Park.

It is because of his past accomplishments that it should come as no surprise that Apple has created a "Remembering Isaac Hayes 1942-2008" page of the iTunes Store. While you can't rent Shaft, you can download a songs from any of the twenty albums present on the store, a music video for Thing For You, rent the South Park movie, purchase Hustle & Flow, or take a look at his Celebrity Playlist.

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On disabling voicemail on the iPhone

By Iljitsch van Beijnum

If Steve Jobs says the iPhone comes with Visual Voicemail, the iPhone really comes with Visual Voicemail. We simple users of the device don't get to disable it. That is unfortunate for those of us who travel internationally, because voicemail is really expensive when roaming abroad. The problem is that phone networks are also really dumb. All calls have to go through your home country, where they're forwarded to the roaming network, incurring international charges. Then, when the roaming network decides your call needs to go to voicemail, it sends the call back to you home network—incurring international charges a second time. You would normally call your voicemail box for the hat trick, and most of the time, the message is "Can you call me back?" or, after a long story, "I'll just e-mail you." (Can you tell that I'm not a big fan of voicemail?)

With Visual Voicemail, the first two steps and the last one are the same, but the good part is that you normally don't have to call voicemail: it's delivered to your iPhone where you can admire it in full visual glory. It turns out that the iPhone downloads voicemail messages over its 3G (or 2G) data connection, but not over WiFi. So, when I was in Dublin (where I turned off 3G data roaming to avoid the insane data roaming fees), I was presented with a badge on my phone icon that told me I had a message. But because the iPhone couldn't, well, phone home, it couldn't download the message—or even tell me how many messages I had. The badge was just a sad, empty circle. Strange.

However, if I had investigated a bit more, I would have known that even though the iPhone GUI doesn't let you disable voicemail, you can do this using industry standard GSM codes. If you look here or here you can find long lists of these codes. Experimenting with these codes shouldn't be harmful, except for one thing: you may "unregister" your voicemail forwarding in a way that it's not possible to manually enable it again unless you know the number. (The iPhone will probably do this for you if you restore it, but I didn't test this.)

The first thing you want to do is discover the number of your voicemail box. You can do this by typing *#61# and pressing "call." The iPhone will now tell you if voicemail is enabled and the number of your voicemail box. Copy down this number and keep it in a safe place.

Now that you know your voicemail box number, you should be able to forward all calls to it using Settings - Phone - Call Forwarding. This is—among other things—useful when roaming internationally: because this type of forwarding isn't conditional, the incoming calls don't have to go through the network where you're roaming, saving you a lot of money. (This is all in theory, and your milage may vary.) However, this didn't work for me. In fact, I was unable to set up call forwarding at all, regardless of the number.

And now, finally, disabling voicemail on the iPhone: type #004# and call. Enabling it again is done with *004# and call. I made two contacts for these numbers and made them favorites, so I can just "call" "VM disable" and "VM enable" from my list of favorites. You can also forward calls to a different number, or selectively enable/disable diverts for no answer (61 rather than 004), not reachable (62), or busy (67), and there are some other tricks as well. See the lists linked above.

Post scriptum: These codes generally work on all GSM-type networks, but there are no guarantees. I asked Jacqui, our fearless editor, to try this on her AT&T iPhone in the US, and it didn't work for her. Deactivation seemed to work, but both the "activate all conditional diverts" (*004#) as well as the individual ones (*61#, *62#, and *67#) resulted in errors. Despite all this, her voicemail kept working. Apparently, AT&T (and other US carriers) don't let their users disable voicemail—the only way to get this done is to call customer service.

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Back to the Future: Google Fares Better Than Apple

By Felix Salmon,

Apple is worth more than Google. Huh? This doesn't make sense to me.

Let's start with the obvious: Google makes more money than Apple does. It had earnings of $10 billion over the past 12 months, compared to $8 billion for Apple. And while both companies' earnings are growing fast, Google's are growing faster.

But here's the clincher: Google's earnings were on less than $20 billion of revenue -- that's what I call a profit margin. Apple, by contrast, needed more than $30 billion of revenue to get its $8 billion of gross profit.

Of course, when it comes to stock valuations, the present doesn't matter nearly as much as the future. So what does the future hold for these two franchises?

They're both strong technology giants with very large "moats." But Google is stronger, and its moat is bigger. It owns search, certainly in Europe and the Americas, and it's making strong inroads into display advertising as well. Sam Gustin might be kvetching about "the toll being inflicted on Web advertising by the slowing economy," but the growth rates are still pretty torrid for what is now a reasonably mature industry:

Karsten Weide, an analyst at IDC, told Bloomberg that online ad spending grew 18.9 percent in the second quarter, a growth rate 7 percentage points lower than a year ago. Were it not for the slumping economy, web ad spending would have grown by more than 20 percent, she said.

19% market growth? I think Apple would be very happy with that. And remember that Google is increasing, not decreasing, its share of total online ad spending. Over at Apple, by contrast, the iPod/iTunes duopoly can't help but see its market share eroded going forwards, as DRM-free online music stores start competing on price, the record labels try to cut Apple down to size, and the marginal utility from buying your fourth or fifth iPod starts to decline.

Apple's phone business looks great right now, but the industry is notoriously cutthroat, Apple doesn't have the degree of control it's used to elsewhere, and in any case handset margins are never going to be as big as margins on iPods or MacBooks. Yes, the iPhone app store is a very promising business model -- but it's going to be quite some time, if ever, before it makes a significant contribution to Apple's bottom line.

And then there's the computer business. Macs are selling well, at very high margins. But Google's muscling in on the computing business too: over the long term, it makes sense to do all your computing in an ever-improving cloud than it does on specific, individually-owned pieces of hardware which always, eventually, break. The more important the cloud, the less important the computer, and the less important the computer's operating system, too.

Howard Lindzon, by contrast, thinks the stock market is right, and that Apple should be worth more than Google. Two of his arguments are weak: that "social search" will make Google obsolete (I'll believe it when I see it), and that "MacBooks are getting cheaper" (no they're not: Apple's entry-level laptop has been priced between $1,000 and $1,100 for years, and it's going to stay there).

Howards best argument is that a falling Google share price could become self-fulfilling: "if the stock lingers between $500 or worse yet, drifts lower, you will see a brain drain of epic proportions," he says. Google's competitive advantage has long been that it was smarter and richer and one or two steps ahead of the competition. As it matures, it might not have the same ability to attract the very best and the brightest.

But if Google has job risks, Apple has Jobs risk -- which is much bigger and probably just as imminent. No one at Google is even as important to the company as Jonathan Ive is to Apple, let alone Steve Jobs. If I'm holding a stock as a long-term investment (which is the only sensible way to hold a stock) then I don't want to run the risk that the company will founder the minute the CEO exits.

And talking of the long term, the option value of all those crazy Google projects which never make any money is huge. There's a good chance that, eventually, one of them will take off in a big way, and if it's energy-related, it could make Google's present business look positively puny.

Google stock is volatile, just as the founders said it would be in their prospectus. But if I was going to sleep today to wake up in ten years' time, I'd be much happier with Google stock under my mattress than Apple.

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First Google Android phone sighting reveals awkward iPhone rival

By Kasper Jade

The first smartphone based on Google's Android mobile platform could hit the U.S. market as early as October, according to new reports, but a video of the handset leaked on the Internet reveals a device which lacks the elegance that's already drawn millions to Apple's iPhone.

People briefed on the search giant's plans tell the New York Times that the HTC-manufacturered handset, know amongst Internet circles as the "Dream," will go on sale by the holidays -- possibly even earlier depending on how long it takes the Federal Communications Commission to weigh in with approval.

It's expected to be the only Android phone available in the U.S. this year and will be sold exclusively through T-Mobile, the nation’s No. 4 wireless carrier. A video (below) of the supposed device making the rounds on the Internet is said to match the one seen by the Times' sources, confirming its authenticity.

Like the iPhone, the Dream has a full touch-screen and will be able to run a slew of applications written by third-party developers for the open-source Android operating system. Conversely, it will also feature a physical "full five-row keyboard" that's exposed by sliding the display component upwards, mimicking the functionality of T-Mobile's Sidekick handset.

While the Dream is "apparently a hot item to show off in Google's cafeterias these days," those familiar with the device describe it as "big and bulky," and nowhere near as sleek as iPhone that's forever altered the landscape of the mobile industry. The Android software itself is similarly not up to par with standards set by Apple, leaving it feeling "less-elegant, less-user-friendly" just months before its slated to be unleashed into the wild.

Still, the Dream is just one of "several devices" Google is testing with its new mobile software, offering hope that other smartphone makers will be able to compensate for the inadequacies of the initial HTC handset when they begin rolling out their Android phones sometime next year. The more pressing issue appears to be whether Google is adequately prepared to provide its ring of developers with the support and expertise they need to go head-to-head with an already thriving fleet of software makers that have hitched onto Apple's mobile platform.

Some early Android supporters have already expressed frustration with the company for favoring a small subset of developers with advance releases of Android's Software Developer Kit, exposing them to newer features and bug fixes ahead of the general community. Meanwhile, those carriers and hardware manufacturers that do have access to the latest Android codebase haven't experienced a clear path to success either.

Among their complaints have been language translation problems with software and an overall lack of support from Google, whose emphasis on the anticipated launch of the Dream through T-Mobile has crowded out other carrier's attempts to get help launching their own array of Android devices.

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Listen To Your Home Music Library On Your iPhone With Simplifymedia


Simplify Media is an extraordinary new application which allows you to wirelessly connect to up to 30 people's computers in order to stream their music. And now with an iPhone version of the application, you can wirelessly listen to your home (or friends' home) computer music on-the-go. It's amazing!


The Simplify Media app allows you to enjoy your home music collection from work (or from anywhere) on the go. More importantly, you can access the music collection of up to 30 of your friends, and they can access yours -- as long as you approve each other first.

Here's a demo video:

The service is free, easy, universal, and fast. All you need to do is create a free account.

To access all your music from your iPhone & iPod Touch:

1. Download the Simplify Media app from the App Store [iTunes Link - free for first 100,000 users - $3.99 after that].

2. Start the app on your iPhone


3. Download Simplify Media onto your computer here (works with Windows, Mac, Linux)

4. Install the application and create a free account (remember your username and password)

5. Choose which music libraries you'd like to share (iTunes, WinAmp, your "Music" folder, etc...)

6. Log in on your iPhone using the same username and password from step 4


7. You will now see your library and the libraries of your added friends (Step #10 explains how to add friends)


8. Choose a library (your own or one of 30 friends), artist, and song


9. Ta Da!!! You are wirelessly listening to music from your home (or friend's home)! You can toggle between artist bio and lyrics.

Yes -- the app provides you with instant lyrics for every song.

10. To add a friend, press "Invite" and simply enter his Simplify Media screen name. You can also send an invite to a newbie via e-mail. All your incoming requests are displayed right in your Simplify Media window on your computer.

That's it for Simplify Media. It comes as no surprise that such an application was rated "Top 10 Downloads of 2007" by CNet. Just remember one thing. Before you accept friend requests, make sure you go and delete your old Backstreet Boys albums (or atleast hide them).


Developer of Tris (Tetris like Application) thanked hackers in the "about box" section of his application. Keep in mind that this application is part of the Apple's app store. [image]
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