Monday, September 15, 2008

10 reasons why you should use the Opera browser

Despite its low profile, Opera offers a host of features that set it apart from the browser pack. According to Jack Wallen, Opera is fast and stable — and it contains many features other browsers can’t touch.

I have gone through many browsers in my lifetime of IT. From Lynx to Mosaic to Mozilla to Netscape to Firefox to Internet Explorer to Safari to Flock. But there’s another browser that peeks its head in and out of that cycle — Opera. Opera is a browser that gets little press in the battle for Internet supremacy. But it’s a browser that is making huge waves in other arenas (Can you say “mobile”?) and is always a steady player in the browser market.

But why would you want to use a browser that gets little love in the market? I will give you 10 good reasons.

Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.

#1: Speed

It seems no matter how many leaps and bounds Firefox and Internet Explorer make, Opera is always able to render pages faster. In both cold and warm starts, Opera beats both Firefox and Internet explorer. We’re not talking about a difference the naked eye is incapable of seeing. The speed difference is actually noticeable. So if you are a speed junky, and most of you are, you should be using Opera for this reason alone.

#2: Speed Dial

Speed Dial is one of those features that generally steals the show with browsers. It’s basically a set of visual bookmarks on one page. To add a page to Speed Dial, you simply click on an empty slot in the Speed Dial page and enter the information.When you have a full page of Speed Dial bookmarks, you can quickly go to the page you want by clicking the related image. For even faster browsing, you can click the Ctrl + * key combination (Where * is the number 1-9 associated with your page as assigned in Speed Dial).

#3: Widgets

Opera Widgets are like Firefox extensions on steroids. Widgets are what the evolution of the Web is all about — little Web-based applications you can run from inside (or, in some cases, outside) your browser. Some of the widgets are useful (such as the Touch The Sky international weather applet) and some are just fun (such as the Sim Aquarium.) They are just as easy to install as Firefox extensions.

#4: Wand

Save form information and/or passwords with this handy tool. Every time you fill out a form or a password, the Wand will ask you if you want to save the information. When you save information (say a form), a yellow border will appear around the form. The next time you need to fill out that form, click on the Wand button or click Ctrl + Enter, and the information will automatically be filled out for you.

#5: Notes

Have you ever been browsing and wanted to take notes on a page or site (or about something totally unrelated to your Web browsing)? Opera comes complete with a small Notes application that allows you to jot down whatever you need to jot down. To access Note, click on the Tools menu and then click on Notes. The tool itself is incredibly simple to use and equally as handy.

#6: BitTorrent

Yes it is true, Opera has a built-in BitTorrent protocol. And the built-in BitTorrent client is simple to use: Click on a Torrent link, and a dialog will open asking you where you want to download the file. The Torrent client is enabled by default, so if your company doesn’t allow Torrenting, you should probably disable this feature. Note: When downloading Torrents, you will continue to share content until you either stop the download or close the browser.

#7: Display modes

Another unique-to-Opera feature is its display modes, which allows you to quickly switch between Fit To Width and Full Screen mode. Fit To Width mode adjusts the page size to the available screen space while using flexible reformatting. Full Screen mode gives over the entire screen space to browsing. In this mode, you drop all menus and toolbars, leaving only context menus, mouse gestures, and keyboard shortcuts. The latter mode is especially good for smaller screens.

#8: Quick Preferences

The Quick Preferences menu is one of those features the power user will really appreciate. I am quite often using it to enable/disable various features, and not having to open up the Preferences window makes for a much quicker experience. From this menu, you can alter preferences for pop-ups, images, Java/JavaScript, plug-ins, cookies, and proxies. This is perfect when you are one of those users who block cookies all the time, until a site comes along where you want to enable cookies.

#9: Mouse Gestures

This feature tends to bother most keyboard junkies (those who can’t stand to move their fingers from the keyboard.) But Mouse Gestures is a built-in feature that applies certain actions to specific mouse movements (or actions). For example, you can go back a page by holding down the right mouse button and clicking the left mouse button. This is pretty handy on a laptop, where using the track pad can take more time than you probably want to spend on navigation. But even for those who prefer to keep their hands on the keys and not the mouse, the feature can still save time. Instead of having to get to the mouse, move the mouse to the toolbar, and click a button, you simply have to get your hands to the mouse and make the gesture for the action to take place. Of course, this does require the memorization of the gestures.

#10: Session saving

I love this feature. All too many times, I have needed to close a browser window but didn’t want to lose a page. To keep from losing the page, I would keep a temporary bookmark file where I could house these bookmarks. But with Opera, that’s history. If you have a page (or number of pages) you want to save, you just go to the File menu and then the Sessions submenu and click Save This Session. The next time you open Opera, the same tabs will open. You can also manage your saved sessions so that you can save multiple sessions and delete selected sessions.

The upshot

With just the above list, you can see how easily Opera separates itself from the rest of the crowd. It’s a different beast in the Web browsing space. It’s fast, stable, and cross platform, and it contains many features other browsers can’t touch.

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10 things we would like to see in Firefox and Chrome

Chicago (IL) – Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox captured the browser headlines this week, igniting a new discussion about performance increases and possible new features that are likely to drive a new round of innovations. Here is our list of the ten features - five for Chrome, five for Firefox - which we would like to see in the next versions.


1. Browser add-ons: No browser is perfect, particularly Chrome. We want compatibility with Firefox add-ons in Chrome. Better yet, connect Google gadgets to Chrome and you have an instant add-on-galore and a powerful open-source add-on platform that extends beyond the iGoogle home page.

2. Themes: We would want o see an SDK to enable the development of themes that will make it easy to change the UI. Allow users to connect themes with custom add-ons (see previous bullet) and make it easy to apply themes with a single click and you have a winner.

3. Online repository: What about an App Store for Chrome? What about an online content repository for all things Chrome: Themes, add-ons, plugins, etc. Integrate it neatly into Chrome UI, like Apple did with the iTunes Store for the iPhone. Such a feature could also extend to saving user settings, bookmarks and history in the cloud - like Weave for Firefox.

4. Security and privacy: No need to re-invent the wheel here. Google should just copy Firefox 3's options against malware and phishing and IE8's excellent privacy settings and we won't complain. We wouldn’t mind to get highly granular security and privacy settings and on a per-site basis make provide clear warnings when malware is encountered.

5. Put Chrome in Android: Chrome is based on the WebKit rendering engine, which is easily deployed across various form-factors, so it shouldn't be difficult to get Chrome into Android. Chrome and Android sounds like a winning combination to us.


1. Code overhaul: We know, every application gets heavier with each revision, but Mozilla seriously needs to think about overhauling its base code. Take Chrome's kernel, especially the memory and process management and make it oversee everything that's happening. Isolate each tab in its own process, protect tabs from affecting each other and assign UI high priority so that it's always responsive.

2. Email client: Can we get a lightweight Thunderbird as part of the package? Think Opera, which comes with an integrated email client. And what about an option during the install to choose between browser only or browser + email client integration?

3. Omnibar: No need for a separate address and search bars anymore, those days are gone. We would like to see Chrome's Omnibar feature and control over what is sent to the chose search provider - we don't want the browser to become a keylogger for search engines.

4. Firefox for mobile phones: Why is this taking so long? 20% of online users bothered to replace their default browser with Firefox, but we're not using our desktop all the time. Can we get Firefox for Windows Mobile, the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry?

5. Re-think tabs: Microsoft had a fantastic idea when it decided to group tabs, Firefox should get this feature as well. Give each tab a thumbnail and make them fluid like in Chrome. Multi-thread the tabs provide an option to create a special page when a new tab is opened – which could include page thumbnails, search engine fields, quick access to the browsing history and downloads.

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Firefox to Embrace Porn With New ‘Private Browsing’ Mode

By Scott Gilbertson

FirefoxMozilla is jumping on the latest privacy bandwagon, with developers already working hard to ensure a new private browsing feature ships in Firefox 3.1, due to arrive at the end of 2008.

Private browsing, or “porn mode” as it’s often referred to, since that’s one of the more obvious uses, restricts the information that your browser gathers as you visit websites. Cookies are rejected, URLs are kept out of the browser history, forms are not auto-filled and pages are not cached.

The result is a browser session that — from the browser’s point of view — never happened.

While the cynical might claim that the major use for private browsing is porn, there are some other times it comes in handy — on public computers, for instance, where you don’t want the browser tracking your banking or e-mail logins.

Apple’s Safari browser pioneered the idea, shipping with a private browsing mode nearly three years ago, but more recently the Internet Explorer team announced that IE 8 will ship with “InPrivate” and Google’s new Chrome web browser offers an “Incognito” mode, which both behave similarly to Safari’s original idea.

That leaves Firefox as one of the only major browsers without a privacy mode. But fear not my porn-browsing Webmonkeys, Mozilla is on the case. In fact, private browsing mode was planned for Firefox 3, but dropped due to what Mozilla called, “more pressing issues.” Luckily, developers have already outlined their goals for a privacy mode in Firefox 3.1, which means it will most likely make the beta code freeze scheduled for the end of September. According the Mozilla wiki, Firefox 3.1 private browsing mode will offer the following features:

  • Any cookies acquired during the private session will be stored only in memory and flushed when the session ends.
  • Visited sites will not be stored to the browser’s history and visited links will not be colored as such.
  • Autofill features will be disabled and Firefox will not prompt you to save any new passwords.
  • Any downloads will be flushed from browser’s download manager.
  • All authenticated sessions will be logged out when you enter and leave private mode.

For more details on how each of the features will be handled, check out the Mozilla wiki where developers are hashing out the particulars. Gregg Keizer of ComputerWorld also has more detail on the backstory.

One very nice feature in both IE 8 and Google’s Chrome browser is the ability to have private mode tabs alongside normal mode tabs, something that currently isn’t possible in Safari and isn’t in the plans for Firefox 3.1 either.

Of course if you don’t want to wait for Firefox 3.1 to get your private browsing features, there are some Firefox add-ons that can handle the job in Firefox 3 right now. The Stealther add-on is one possibility, but Distrust offers some extra controls like per-session preferences.

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Classic.Ars: Wireless Security In-Depth

By Ars Staff

Forward and backward

If we had told you eight years ago, when 802.11b was really taking off, that one day in the future you would be able to pick up at least ten different wireless networks on any given block of a major metropolitan city, you might have believed us. But if we had also told you that many of these would be either unsecured, or secured using methods that were widely known to be flawed and easily crackable (i.e. WEP and MAC address filtering)... well, given the average user's well-known apathy toward all things security-related, you still might have believed us.

But what if I had told you that, in eight years, all the major methods available for securing your wireless network would be known to have major flaws, and that there was pretty much no way to keep a truly determined attacker off of your WAN? That claim might have raised a few eyebrows, but unfortunately it would've been true.

Nonetheless, if you take the attitude that when it comes to wireless security, "something is better than nothing," then all is not lost. In this installment of Classic.Ars, we go back into the archives to present you with two of our investigations into the whys and hows of wireless security.

Theory and practice

The first article, the Wireless Security Blackpaper, was published in 2002 as an in-depth look at the theory and practice of wireless security. Surprisingly, many of the technologies that it covers are still in widespread use, which is probably why the article remains a relatively popular one six years after its initial publication.

Our second, more recent article, focuses on the practical aspects of wireless security. The ABC's of Securing Your Wireless Network offers a crash course in securing your wireless router, with basic instructions on which options to select, and which methods work with which types of devices. If you're looking for a link to pass on to the wireless newbie in your family who's hounding you for help with their new Linksys, this is it.

Ultimately, no wireless network is truly bulletproof, but the two guides linked above will keep over 90 percent of miscreants and would-be leechers off of your WAN. And in the end, the security that you use is infinitely better than the security that you don't use.

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Court: warrant needed to turn cell phone into homing beacon

By Julian Sanchez

It just got a bit harder for law enforcement agencies to turn your cell phone into a personal homing beacon: A federal court has slapped down the Justice Department's appeal of a February ruling that required investigators to seek a probable cause warrant before acquiring historical records of a cell phone users physical movements.

In a curt opinion released late Wednesday, Judge Terrence McVerry of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania affirmed that February's decision by Magistrate Judge Lucy P. Lenihan, writing for a unanimous five-judge panel, was "not clearly erroneous or contrary to law." The Justice Department had asked the court to overturn Lenihan's order, while an amicus brief filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, American Civil Liberties Union, and Center for Democracy and Technology had urged McVerry to ratify the lower court's holding that a showing of probable cause was needed before a cell provider could be compelled to disclose geographic data about a subscriber.

The central point of contention between the government and civil liberties groups concerned whether records revealing the nearest cell tower to a subscriber's phone at the time of a call—information sufficient to pinpoint the phone's location only within several hundred feet—could be obtained using a "D order" based on "specific and articulable facts" showing its relevance to an ongoing investigation. This intermediate evidentiary standard is greater than what would be required to subpoena records, but less stringent than the "probable cause" required for a Fourth Amendment warrant.

Interestingly, both the government and civil liberties groups agreed that the lower court had erred in resolving the question by reference to language in the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act pertaining to "tracking devices." (The appeals court declined to revisit this point.) Both the civil libertarians' amicus and the government's reply memorandum argued that the controlling statute was the Stored Communications Act, governing records pertaining to subscribers. That act permits judges to issue "D orders" for records on the basis of "specific an articulable facts," but the civil liberties groups argued that this establishes a "floor" rather than a "ceiling," leaving the courts leeway to impose a higher standard when disclosure of records might implicate Fourth Amendment interests.

The government cited precedent suggesting that the use of tracking technology did not amount to a Fourth Amendment search when it disclosed no more than could be gleaned from physical surveillance of a target in public places—as when a tracking beacon is attached to an automobile on public highways. Because cell tower data provides only a very approximate location, they contended, it did not permit the sort of detailed tracking that would permit authorities to follow targets' movements in protected private spaces. Moreover, Justice Department attorneys argued, the Supreme Court has ruled that information voluntarily disclosed to third parties—as when customers provide the phone company with a dialed number—falls outside the ambit of the Fourth Amendment. Therefore, according to the government, the court should refrain from imposing a standard higher than specified by statute.

The court, however, appears to have been more persuaded by EFF and amici, who distinguished cell location data from automobile beacons, noting that it would permit law enforcement agencies to make inferences about the movements of persons—as well as about who was in possession of the phone at any given time—whether in public or private spaces. Moreover, they argued, a lax standard for seeking location data "enables dragnet surveillance" by permitting the government to acquire location records in bulk, then hunt for a particular pattern of movements. Though amici conceded that the government hadn't attempted such dragnet surveillance in the instant case, they warned that cell phone tracking nis "ripe for such use."

Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd told Ars that the government is reviewing the court's decision, but could not say whether an appeal is planned.

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How HTML 5 Is Already Changing the Web

By Scott Loganbill

HTML 5HTML 5 represents the biggest leap forward in web standards in almost a decade. Unlike the specifications that came before it, HTML 5 is not merely intended to present content to a web browser. Its goal is to bring the web into maturity as a full-fledged application platform — a level playing field where video, sound, images, animations, and full interactivity with your computer are all standardized. And it may be a long way off still, but elements of HTML 5 are already reshaping the way we use the web.

The last update to the Hypertext Markup Language — the lingua franca of the web — was the 4.01 specification completed in September, 1999.

Quite a bit has happened since. The original browser wars ended, Netscape dissolved. The winner, Microsoft Internet Explorer 5, begat IE6, which begat the current IE7. Mozilla Firefox rose from the ashes of Netscape to take over second position. Apple and Google have released their own web browsers. The minority shareholder Opera continues to play the gadfly while pushing standards and software design forward. We even have a real web experience on our phones and game consoles, thanks to Opera, the iPhone and Google’s soon-to-be-released Android.

But all that progress threw the web standards movement into disarray. Ideas for HTML 5 and other developing standards were more or less left on the cutting room floor. As a result, HTML 5 has been in draft form ever since.

Several interested parties have banded together to form the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (simply referred to as the WHATWG), an entity charged with picking up HTML 5’s pieces. It operates separately from the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C), which oversees web standards, and it includes representatives from Mozilla, the KHTML/WebKit project, Google, Apple, Opera and Microsoft. And although the draft may not be ratified for years, work on HTML 5 continues.

So what does HTML 5 offer? Here’s a rundown of the most exciting advancements in the HTML 5 draft specification today:

  • A new, sensible tagging strategy. Instead of bundling all multimedia into object or embed tags, video goes in video tags. Audio goes in audio tags, and so on.
  • Localized databases. This feature, when implemented, automatically embeds a local SQL database websites can read and write to, speeding up interactive searching, cacheing and indexing functions, or for offline use of web apps that rely on data requests.
  • Rich animations without plug-ins. The canvas element gives the browser the ability to draw vector graphics. This means configurable, automatic graphs and illustrations right in the browser without Flash or Silverlight. Some support for canvas is already in all the latest browsers except for IE.
  • Real apps in the browser. APIs for in-browser editing, drag and drop, back button “waypoints,” and other graphical user interface abilities.
  • Content presentation tags will be phased out, and CSS will rule.

In theory, HTML 5 is a breeding ground for new ideas for web standards shared among interested developers and browser vendors. But it’s all still experimental.

“HTML 5 is kind of an overloaded term,” says Mozilla vice president of engineering Mike Shaver. “It’s both sort of an incubator (at WHATWG) and the standards-based track at the W3C.”

Mozilla’s interest, according to Shaver, is aligned with the experimentation at WHATWG. “We’re very active in the HTML 5 group, designing and doing early implementations on those specifications and the work graduates to the W3C.”

In the past year, Mozilla has released several forward-thinking projects aligned with the emerging standards, including Prism, a system for running web apps offline, and Weave, a data storage framework.

Shaver says the HTML 5 movement was born out of impatience. Many sensed activity around web standards was stagnating as the W3C started directing its attention away from HTML and to another emerging technology, XML.

“A lot of new architectures — XML based work — were designed to replace HTML in the web,” says Shaver. “We were really not convinced that was the way it should go forward. We don’t think people should be throwing (web technology) away to get (the web) to go forward.”

Experimentation is now going strong in Firefox and WebKit-powered browsers like Safari and Google’s new Chrome, but there are growing pains.

Chrome developer Darin Fisher says that while Chrome was under wraps, a few things had to go. Despite using the latest branch of WebKit (the same branch to be used in the next version of Safari), the local database features didn’t make it into Chrome’s first release. Unfortunately, the safety and performance factors of Chrome’s isolated sandbox system, which enables faster and more secure browsing by partitioning tabs in memory and CPU process, would break the built-in WebKit database functionality.

Because it was developing in secret, the Chrome team was unable to get too involved in WebKit development.

“We couldn’t be engaged in the WebKit community without being involved with keeping Chrome a secret,” Fisher laments. “We share one vision, and we’re really excited to help WebKit in some way. We have a lot of experienced web developers (at Google). It’s really interesting what kind of challenges people are facing. We can bridge that divide a little.”

With the launch of Chrome, Fisher says his team members occasionally have lunch with the WebKit team. Some are even personal friends. Fisher claims they are eager to work with the other WebKit developers to fix some of these offline functions.

Included in Chrome is the Google-born and now open-source Gears, a piece of technology used for the same purposes as HTML 5’s offline features.

“Gears has a lot of great value. It’s best thought of as an alternative API already out there,” says Fisher. “HTML 5 is great if you have a newer browser, but what about the vast majority of users that have an older browsers? Gears is a vehicle to make this API available to older browsers. We’re working to match HTML 5 versions of these APIs.”

Fisher stops short of labeling Gears a stop-gap to HTML 5. “Gears is very compatible and supportive of HTML 5. It is on a trajectory to become another implementation, another platform that is to put HTML 5 on people’s desktops.”

The majority of work thus far has been by companies like Apple (through WebKit), Mozilla, Opera, Google and Trolltech.

So, where’s Microsoft? Internet Explorer has been famously slow to adopt web standards, let along the experimentation of HTML 5. But the tide is shifting with the emergence of Internet Explorer 8.

“I’m really looking forward to the work we’re starting to do to ramp up building a test suite in the HTML Working Group,” says Microsoft Internet Explorer platform architect and WHAT WG co-chair Chris Wilson in an e-mail.

Wilson says the Internet Explorer team is still a little wary of some of the proposals in HTML 5.

“I think all the members of the Working Group, particularly the editor, would agree we still have a lot of work ahead of us to flesh out the specification,” wrote Wilson. “Parts of the specification, of course, are more polished that others.”

IE8, currently in beta, already includes several new features from HTML 5, he points out. It has a cross-document messaging system, the local data store for client-side storage, a way to insert back button “waypoints” into web history and some offline event features to detect network outages.

But some stuff isn’t on the drawing board. While Wilson says canvas looks like a useful feature, it’s not in Microsoft’s plan for IE8.

Wilson believes there’s definitely a future in the specification.

“HTML 5 is huge, and is still under a lot of development as a specification. I think that the browser implementers, though, are working together to try to agree as quickly as possible; each browser chooses when to implement what, though, and will bring pieces online as they determine their user and developer base need it.”

Web developers and browser vendors alike can agree with Wilson on one thing: “This is certainly an exciting time, and we’re really pleased to see the renewed interest in the web as an application platform.”

Original here

Microsoft’s Vista armor starting to fade

By Brian Krepshaw

HP denies that they are making an OS to rival Vista, but, they do acknowledge that they are developing software that would bypass some of its functions altogether. HP formed the “customer experience” group nine months ago in an effort to give customers a quick and easy alternative to certain applications. The team is focusing on touchscreen technology where users can watch movies or view pictures.

While HP will not go as far to say that they are developing a complete OS, Business Week claims to have sources that say employees in their PC division are doing just that. A Linux based OS could be “simpler and easier for mainstream users”.

Phil McKinney, chief technology officer in HP’s PC division says the idea is a possibility, but HP is not funding a massive move away from the Windows ecosystem:

“Is HP funding a huge R&D team to go off and create an operating system? [That] makes no sense. For us it’s about innovating on top of Vista.”

Intel and Dell have also recently made strides away from Microsoft, with both promoting Linux based systems for their netbooks.

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Zune's Recommendations Make Genius Look Average

By Eliot Van Buskirk

Client_mixview_white2 Microsoft showed us a sneak preview of the Zune 3.0 software it plans to release on Sept. 16 with the latest generation of Zune devices, and what we saw made iTunes' simple Genius feature look like a blast from digital music's past. While iTunes serves up a text list of recommended songs within your library and from the iTunes store, adding to the more basic recommendations its MiniStore feature used to make, Zune reinvented the recommendation concept by collapsing artists, albums and fans into the same recommendation engine, more accurately mirroring the way people think about music.

The new feature, called MixView (pictured above), displays a single album, artist or user in the center of the screen and surrounds it with related items in a graphical format (sort of reminiscent of MusicPlasma, although Microsoft says it developed MixView all on its own). You can start on an artist and instantly discover which bands influenced that artist and vice versa, by mousing over those surrounding elements in MixView. Double-clicking through to any song plays a 30-second sample, offers a chance to buy the track or, if you're a Zune Pass subscriber, plays the track in its entirety.

The same view shows Zune users who play the artist in heavy rotation and the albums that are associated with an artist. Clicking on any of these elements brings it to the center of the screen and reconfigures the relationships with new elements.

Granted, I'm not referring to the accuracy of one system's algorithms versus the other's; there will be plenty of time to compare them on those merits once the new Zune software is released. But in terms of breadth, layout and social utility, Zune sends Genius back to school.

Even if you aren't buying a new Zune or subscribing to Zune Pass, MixView and the other elements of the Zune 3 software could be reason enough to try it out as your media player (Windows only). The free application will apply MixView to MP3s ripped from CDs, downloaded via bit torrent and so on. So even if you don't plan on subscribing with a Zune Pass ($15 per month), this feature could still be useful -- if only to figure out what to torrent next.

Adam Sohn, director of public relations and events for Microsoft's Zune division, said the new feature could encourage people to subscribe, because everything in MixView becomes instantly playable and transferable to the Zune. The motto appears to be "come for the software, stay for the subscription and device." He told us that the feature is so popular with Zune developers, who have been using it to play a music-geek version of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," which at times threatened to disrupt meetings.

Another cool Zune 3 software feature that will be available to freeloaders as well as subscribers and device owners is the new Now Playing screen, which displays relevant stats about the currently playing song in a lush, full screen interface -- sort of like an automated version of the VH1 show Pop Up Video. You can switch to this view manually, or it shows up automatically if you don't touch the mouse for a while as music is playing.

Microsoft is scheduled to start offering Zune 3 software for download on Sept. 16. Sohn told us that the company plans to rehabilitate its 14-day free Zune subscription trial for users who want a taste of that service once they're exposed to new albums, artists and fans through the software.

It's undeniable that Zune's music recommendation interface is far more evolved than Apple's Genius. What's less clear is whether that matters, given that so many more people use iTunes.

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How Dropbox ended my search for seamless sync on Linux

By Ryan Paul

A few months ago, our own Jon Stokes bemoaned the frustration of managing and accessing data strewn across a multitude of personal computing devices. His description of the challenges of syncing and saving resonated with many of us on the Ars staff and with quite a few readers, too. As you can see by looking at the comments that some of you posted in response to Jon's synchronization conundrum, many of us roll our own imperfect solutions and yearn for something better.

For me, that "something better" has arrived in the form of Dropbox, a cross-platform sync tool. But I didn't discover it until I had tried everything else first.

Needlessly arcane solutions

As a Linux user, I have some pretty nice tools baked into the OS to help me get the job done. My approach is to store everything on my 4TB home NAS, which I can mount on my laptop via sshfs for secure remote access. It's a very seamless solution that works great when I have decent Internet connectivity, but it falls flat on its face when I can't connect or when my connection is unreliable. I had to augment this approach by using synchronization tools for critical files so that I still have access to important data when the tubes are clogged.

The sweet penguin juice roaring through my veins commanded me to adopt a needlessly arcane solution, so I started putting all of my article drafts into a private Bazaar repository on my personal web server. Real men use distributed version control systems for everything, right? It was unnecessarily excessive and got cumbersome quickly. I decided to scale back and try rsync, but it still wasn't transparent enough for my liking.

Then the penguin juice really kicked in. I started writing a wacky Python script that would use inotify to detect filesystem changes and automatically perform synchronization under certain conditions. During my futile struggle to get that hack into a usable condition, Ars Linux community member Whiprush saved me from myself and introduced me to Dropbox, a turnkey synchronization solution that gave me almost everything I wanted.

I began pursuing the path to computing zen by hotboxing my home office dropboxing my files.

Hands on with Dropbox

Dropbox is a cloud storage service with really smooth native platform integration on Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X. The Dropbox client software will automatically keep files synchronized between multiple computers and the user's Dropbox web storage space. It detects when files are modified on the local filesystem and will immediately upload the changes. The web service then propagates those changes to all other computers on which the user is running the Dropbox software.

The synchronization experience with Dropbox is impressively seamless and requires no user intervention. Another big win for users is that it works flawlessly across operating systems and provides the same level of fluidity on all three platforms. After suffering with rsync in Cygwin on Windows, I found Dropbox's excellent multiplatform support refreshing.

Dropbox shows a small icon in the user's system tray or notification area to indicate the current status of the service. It will display a blue arrow icon when it is in the process of synchronizing and a green checkmark icon when syncing is complete. When data is propagated over from the user's other systems, the icon will pop up notification bubbles that say which files were modified.

Dropbox synchronization is so fast that it feels almost instantaneous. After initial synchronization, it will send only the changes made to the files rather than sending the entire file every time. Dropbox also keeps each set of changes, which makes it possible for users to access previous versions of their files.

The client software also ties itself into the file manager on all three operating systems. Files and folders that are managed by Dropbox are adorned with checkmark and arrow icons to indicate their synchronization status. When a file is changed and is being synchronized by Dropbox, the icon overlay changes accordingly until synchronization is complete. Dropbox also adds a special submenu to the right-click context menu that provides access to some of the service's special features, such as revisions.

In addition to serving as a synchronization tool, Dropbox can also be used as a quick and easy way to share files with other people. Files that are placed in a user's Public folder can be accessed by other people who are given the public URL. This URL can be obtained through the Dropbox web interface or can be pushed directly to the clipboard by selecting the "Copy public link" item from the Dropbox right-click context menu.

The Dropbox web interface is minimalist, but it has a few really useful features. The main view is a list of recent events that will show which files have been added and removed. It also has a very fast file management interface that can be used to browse the files and perform some basic file operations. You can move, rename, and copy files, view and restore deleted files, and see file revisions. It will also give you a gallery view of folders that contain images. Another really nice feature is support for downloading any folder as a compressed zip archive.

During our testing process, we put the service through some rough challenges to see how it handles poor connectivity and change collisions. When the connection drops, Dropbox will wait until the connection is restored before attempting to synchronize again. To simulate a collision, I disconnected my laptop from the Internet and made a few modifications to some files in my Dropbox folder. Then I reconnected the laptop after I changed those same files on my desktop computer.

Dropbox handled the collision by creating copies of the changed files on the laptop and giving them special names to indicate they were conflicted files. Then it overwrote the originals with the latest version of those files from the cloud. The filenames of the conflicted files include the name of the computer on which they were modified and the date on which the modification was made. Dropbox can't merge different versions of modified files, but it makes it easy to see and manage conflicts.

Looking at the implementation

On Linux, the parts of the Dropbox client software visible to the end user are implemented as an open source plugin for GNOME's Nautilus file manager. The plugin is, however, just a thin shell and it doesn't handle any of the synchronization logic or communicate directly with the Dropbox web service.

The heavy lifting is done by the proprietary dropboxd daemon, which runs in the background and interacts with the Dropbox web service. Files are stored on Amazon S3, and each user gets 2GB of space. The Nautilus plugin automatically downloads the daemon and its dependencies and installs them in the ~/.dropbox-dist directory. The plugin uses the daemon as a gateway for communicating with the Dropbox web service. How it does this is not yet documented, but it is fairly easy to figure out by looking at the code.

According to the Dropbox developers, there are no plans to open the synchronization protocol, but they will document the protocol the plugin uses to communicate with the daemon. Third-party developers could use this, for instance, to create a KDE file manager plugin.

Dropbox is a real winner. The company jumped into a software space that is saturated with mediocre offerings and has delivered a better user experience and more cohesive platform integration. The Dropbox software does have some limitations right now that will make it a bit less palatable for enterprise adoption, though. There is currently no way to self-host Dropbox storage, so companies that need to manage their own data will have to wait. The Dropbox FAQ indicates that a self-hosted version could arrive in the future.

Original here

Top 7 Ubuntu GUI tips (yay, no console editing)

OK so i admit I'm a lazy ass linux user. I never had that love for the console since the Red Hat 7.2 days.
So here's my short top 10 things that you can easily tweak in Ubuntu that you can do very easily using the GUI interface tools.
I'm specifying Ubuntu because in other Linux distribution the Gnome menu layout could be slightly different.

1. Make your fonts looks spiffier.

Usually if you have an LCD display the font config isn't set correctly and you have slightly edgier fonts. You can easily fix it by going to System > Preferences > Appearance > Click on the Fonts tab > Select Subpixel Smoothing. It should update in real time. Also it will crash/close your firefox session so you have to restart it.

2. How to share your home folder / any other folder easily. (Tested in ubuntu 8.04, 8.10)

Right click on a folder. Click Share, Select the name you want for your shared folder, select if you want or not writing permissions or if someone can access that folder directly without any password (guest functionality) . For the first time only it will ask you approve to install samba. The problem is that it doesn't tell you that you have to login/logout to be able to share folders after that (i really don't know if this is a bug),

3. Configure any boot parameters

So if you don't want to see a bunch of choices in your grub editor, want to change the timeout, the colors, prompt for a grub password etc, you can easily install Startup Manager

Click on Applications > Add/Remove > Select Show All available Applications (if you didn't already), confirm that choice > type in the search bar startup manager > check the package with the same name > apply changes.

Now the application will be in the System > Administration > StartUp-Manager.

See the application homepage for more details and some screenshots.

4. Enable Ubuntu Backports

Some packages remain fairly old in Ubuntu after a release is made, but thanks to the community the most popular packages get updated once a new release is made.
To enable this is fairly easy. Go to System > Administration > Software Sources > click on the Updates tab > Check Unsupported Updates.

5. Add a nice clipboard manager

Sometimes when you close a program from where you copied some text the paste becomes unavailble. To easily fix this and also have an history of past copies you can install the lightweight Parcellite clipboard manager.
Go to Applicatiosn > Add/remove > select all available applications (if you didn't do that already) > ype parcellite in the search box > Select the package and apply changes.

The nasty part about this is that you have to manually start it each time you start the computer. You can fix this very easy by going to System > Preferences > Sessions > Startup Programs tab > Click add > Enter Parcellite as the name of the program (so you know what program starts), Click browse for the command > Select Filesystem on the left side > double click the usr folder > double click the bin folder > select an entry and start typing the programs name, the search feature should take you to the parcellite entry > Click Open. On the comments entry you could add Clipboard manager (just to respect the gnome HIG :P) > click Add and that's it.

Remember that you can change parcellite's options by right clicking on it's icon from the tray and selecting Preferences.

Update: As somebody pointed up in the comments parcellite isn't in the 8.04 repository. You can search for glipper. It's very similar and the instructions match. Just replace parcellite with glipper :)

6. Automatically open the currently started applications when you start the computer.

Go to System > Preferences > Sessions > Options tab > Click Remember currently running application
If you always want to remember the applications that you have started you can check the Automatically remember running applications when logging out option.

7. To see the weather in your current location you need to configure the clock applet from the panel
Right click the clock, select Preferences go to the Location tab and add yours. Go to General tab and check Show Weather and Show Temperature. the Configure the weather tab if you want to change different settings like temperature options or wind speed options.

This wanted to be a top 10 list but meh. I can't remember what other options an average user needs.

Original here

Italian Scientists Claim New World Record for Fastest Wireless Transmission

Fiber optics have a new competitor, if a group of Italian scientists can get their claim of a new world record for wireless data transmission confirmed by the people who confirm such things. The scientists, based in Pisa, claim that during an uninterrupted 12-hour experiment, they achieved throughput speeds above 1.2 Terabits per second. They say the speeds beat the previous wireless data transmission speed record of 160 gigabits per second, set by some speedy Koreans. The Italians also claimed these speeds were previously attainable only with fiber optics. That's fitting considering both methods involve communicating with light. Don't get too excited though, as there are major issues keeping this experiment from becoming widespread. At least, on Earth.

Via the original article, the Harvard Broadband Communication Laboratory provides this explanation of Free-Space Optical Communications and gives some insight as to why this method doesn't work very well unless used under optimal conditions:

"Free space optical communications is a line-of-sight (LOS) technology that transmits a modulated beam of visible or infrared light through the atmosphere for broadband communications. In a manner similar to fiber optical communications, free space optics uses a light emitting diode (LED) or laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) point source for data transmission. However, in free space optics, an energy beam is collimated and transmitted through space rather than being guided through an optical cable. These beams of light, operating in the TeraHertz portion of the spectrum, are focused on a receiving lens connected to a high sensitivity receiver through an optical fiber."

The hurdles with this form of "wireless" are many, and it really only gets optimal speeds in places like space. Rain, fog and snow can all affect the transmission here on Earth. Even wind has a tendency to make the beam "wander" off course. [Corriere Della Sera via Hot Hardware]

Original here

Metallica Interview Canceled after Pirate Bay Row

Written by enigmax

Metallica’s label Universal stepped in and canceled an interview with a Swedish newspaper last week after one of its writer reviewers said he got his copy of the album via BitTorrent. The writer, Jonn Jeppsson, who actually reviewed an edited version of ‘Death Magnetic’, admitted he downloaded it from The Pirate Bay.

deathmagneticIt seems that no matter how hard they try, Metallica will continue to make anti-piracy headlines. After their bloody battle with Napster years ago, they were determined to keep calm when their latest album, ‘Death Magnetic’, inevitably hit the torrents.

This time, Metallica’s Lars Ulrich shocked everyone by saying: “If this thing leaks all over the world today or tomorrow, happy days. It’s 2008 and it’s part of how it is these days.”

Despite this effort, it hasn’t taken long for people to start a dispute over piracy. According to a report, Metallica’s label, Universal Music, canceled an interview the band had planned with the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan last week, after a writer there, Jonn Jeppsson, sparked off an anti-piracy row featuring him and The Pirate Bay.

Instead of reviewing the official version of the album, Jeppsson used an unauthorized cut called “Death Magnetic: Better, Shorter, Cut”, which contains the same songs as the original, but shortened. If reviewing an unofficial copy wasn’t enough, Mr Jeppson clearly enraged Universal when he admitted in his review that he downloaded his copy off The Pirate Bay.

Metallica’s label Universal was not pleased, to say the least. Talking with Dagens Media, Universal Sweden’s Per Sundin said: “The reviewer is referring to a torrent where someone has altered the original songs. The reviewer explains exactly where one should go in order to download the file that is totally infringing copyright. It’s not only an illegal file, but an altered file. The reviewer also writes that this is how the album should have sounded.”

Showing that Universal isn’t happy about piracy, even if Lars seems to have undergone a road-to-Damascus-style recovery, Sundin went on stating: “File-sharing of music is illegal. Period. There’s nothing to discuss. That fact that Sydsvenskan has a writer that has downloaded this music illegally and then makes mention of an illegal site in his review is totally unacceptable to us.”

Hinting that Universal may stop sending promo material for Sydsvenskan to review he ends: “We live in symbiosis with each other and we send them our artists’ record for free for review. But if they download the albums illegally instead, then there’s no point in doing that.”

Original here

The Secrets of a Running A BitTorrent Tracker

Written by enigmax

Most site admins go about their business in secret, which makes it difficult for enthusiastic outsiders to make the leap from user to site owner, since they can’t get the benefit of the accrued knowledge of others. Now that has changed with TorrentFries - a unique website demystifying the running of a tracker.

torrentfriesCurlyFries has been running a tracker for around two years. His site is called ‘TorrentFries’ and already you’re reading this saying “Who? I’ve never heard of this site?” and quite rightly so. Although CurlyFries is a real site admin (as are his pair of co-admins), for security reasons they’re using pseudonyms. CurlyFries describes himself as idealistic and unmotivated, OnionRings is a general Linux and security geek, while Ketchup is “the only one that isn’t too lazy busy to deal with the finances and research.”

TorrentFries is the codename for a medium-sized tracker that thousands are using right now, and the inspiration behind a brand new site which is a must-read for potential tracker owners of the future.

The TorrentFries blog is a unique insight into the inner-workings of running a tracker, via a retrospective look at the actual developments in the two year lifespan of a real-life site. “We need more trackers out there, and it’s up to you to make them,” says CurlyFries. “So, learn from my mistakes and the things I’ve accidentally done right and you’ll do just fine.”

The first post on TorrentFries sets the scene and provides some of the background, with further posts covering many aspects of running a BitTorrent tracker. From conception, to choosing the right software, staff management, contingency plans, finance, and techniques for getting traffic to the site. Further updates are promised at regular intervals.

TorrentFreak caught up with CurlyFries who told us: “I think it’s something that the torrent community has needed for a while.”

Indeed, the site truly is unique and a very interesting read, invaluable for anyone looking to expand their knowledge before taking the plunge into tracker ownership. TorrentFreak spoke with someone taking his first steps as a site admin and asked him what he thought of the site: “I’m pleased to see this blog. I’ve lurked on the TBDev site for a while but found it a bit intimidating and felt embarrassed of my noob-ness so I’m happy to get these tips.”

CurlyFries is promising an update every 5 days to the site, until he runs out of things to say.

Original here

In 1999, Google cofounder dreamed of a second startup

Ubergizmo writer Karsten Lemm visited Google headquarters in 1999 — Apt. 106 in a building on 555 Bryant Street, Palo Alto — and sometime during the interview, Google cofounder Larry Page handed him this card, printed from an inkjet printer. Check out the Google logo and its exclamation mark — an artifact of a time when the brightest future Page and cofounder Sergey Brin could imagine was "to be on par with Yahoo, or Amazon, AOL." In recognition of Google's 10th anniversary, Lemm republished the entire interview. My favorite part is when he asks the cofounders, "Where do you see yourselves in, say, five years from now?" and Brin answers in a way that reminds you Google wasn't always the obvious success it is now.

That’s a long way down the sea. There are a lot of benefits for us, aside from potential financial success. The experience, for example. If we want to start another company at some point, that would be fairly easy because we have all the contacts in the industry. Also, it’s been very exciting. I really enjoyed being a Ph.D. at Stanford, but at Google, we do lots of really different things involved in setting up a company. We take care of very many things you don’t get to see if you’re just purely focused on creating technology. There’s one more important thing, and that’s to bring what we’ve done to the world. That’s very exciting, too, of course. And we think this does have a potential to really change things forever.

Original here

Inspecting YouTube's ban on "drug abuse" videos

A shot of cannabis from the YouTube show "The Weed Report."

A lot of attention was paid this week to several categories of controversial YouTube videos. The New York Times reported on the trend of videos depicting users smoking Salvia divinorum, a highly potent natural hallucinogen. Web Scout took a look at the thriving online pot video culture, much of which lives on YouTube. And yesterday, Sen. Joe Lieberman's May demand that YouTube ban terrorist training videos was met when the site changed its community guidelines.

Among the other changes handed down was a prohibition of videos containing "drug abuse"--a phrase that, like other parts of YouTube's rule set, comes with no context, elucidation, examples, or anything else that would help users figure out what "abuse" might actually mean in practice.

Videoresults_2 Of course, the subjectivity of YouTube's language is deliberate. If you've ever moderated a busy Internet site, a task that can require you to make hundreds of judgment calls an hour, you know there's no time to ponder every yea or nay--you just gotta go with your gut.

YouTube calls its enforcement approach a matter of common sense, and partly relies on its users to flag material they consider questionable. "It's a combination of users policing the site and [the working of] our proprietary tools and technology that review videos 24 hours a day," said Chris Dale, a YouTube spokesperson. "If we come across content that does violate those guidelines as we clearly laid them out, we'll take them down."

Clear is a bit of an overstatement. YouTube keeps the details of its policy vague so it has the wide latitude it needs to police its site without the need to explain every decision. The trouble is, when enforcement decisions are not transparent, they start to look unfair and inconsistent. Users may have little sense of the reasoning (or lack thereof) that led to their video being yanked.

Salvia The Salvia videos--which Valleywag suggested might be purged under the new rule--are a good example of an enforcement grey area. The drug is still legal in most of the U.S., and its effects have not yet been thoroughly studied, let alone proven harmful. As such, it's not clear who decides whether smoking a hit of this mint-family plant counts as "drug abuse," or just use. And YouTube won't say.

The case with booze is fuzzy, too. The prohibition of "under-age drinking" suggests that of-age drinking is acceptable. Okay. But alcohol is a drug, so that means YouTube does not necessarily consider drinking "drug abuse." Slippery slope?

YouTube will also have to decide how to approach the sticky wicket of pot videos, where it can be impossible to tell if the smoker has a state-sanctioned prescription, lives in a country where the activity is legal, or is even smoking pot and not, say, banana peel.

Not until drug videos do begin disappearing will we be able to tell if there's any rhyme or reason to the application of the rule. But as far as a drug purge goes, count me as a skeptic. I doubt if YouTube tries to smoke out every last pot, Salvia, and alcohol video from its giant database. It'd be too much work, and with all that stuff already in its system, I doubt YouTube would have the motivation anyway.

— David Sarno

RIAA: Lobbyists or Law Enforcers?

Written by Ben Jones

When a story appears in the media involving piracy, it inevitably mentions how lobby groups like the RIAA get involved in helping establish evidence. Is this really needed, or does this compromise the cases? Should representatives for the victims really be used to form the basis of a criminal case, or should evidence be gathered by the police?

riaaNo matter where the story originates, be it the UK, USA, Italy, Asia, or Australia, it reads the same. A raid is carried out, assisted by members of the local anti-piracy lobby group. From Oink, to The Pirate Bay, these raids are consistently getting assistance and ‘evidence’ from those that claim to be losing out to the targets of these raids.

Some might think that this is acceptable - maybe police forces are not equipped to deal with highly technical cases like this, and so need to outsource to specialist agencies like these for help? This is certainly not the case, as many countries have specialist departments that are highly experienced and qualified in the forensic examination of computers and technology. The problem is more real. Interest groups that claim to be the victim - are allowed to participate in the prosecution of their targets.

In most police investigations, if a police officer is directly involved in a crime, he or she is usually unable to participate in the investigation as being involved reduces (or even eliminates) that person’s objectivity. Justice is meant to be blind, not fueled by thoughts of personal redemption or vengeance. However, time and time again we see ‘investigators’ for the MPAA or RIAA pop up in cases. Often they will state they (or their members) have had losses, thus making them the victim. If you believe that someone has caused you or your members a loss, are you going to act from that basis when gathering evidence, or will you work as hard to find the person innocent as you will to find them guilty?

While the problem is growing worse, it is doing so in only a limited way. It is only apparent in the gray area that is copyright infringement. Could you imagine the outcry in the UK, if anti-speed organization BRAKE was involved in investigating road traffic accidents? If they were, would a large percentage of accident investigations involving them find causes related to the organizations policy and positions? No police department anywhere in the world would consider requesting a Greenpeace investigator when looking into flytipping. So, why are media industry groups treated differently, when it comes to anything involving copyright?

The reason we’ve raised this is because of an incident in the US that caught our eye. A motorist driving in Park Forest, Il – a town some 30 miles south of Chicago – was pulled over for speeding. With an apparent suspended license he was arrested. The car was searched, and that’s where a few spindles of CDs and DVDs were found. The spindles had handwritten markings, labeling them as movies and music.

Surprisingly enough police called in the RIAA, a rather biased lobby group, to investigate the incident. As a result, the speeding motorist’s house was searched, and two of the 6 charges against him are relating to copyright. Whether the motorist turned out to be a commercial pirate or not is irrelevant, the fact that the police and the RIAA cooperate like this is what worries us. They might be searching iPods next.

Requests to Park Forest Police Chief Thomas Fleming have gone unanswered, and no trace of the RIAA investigator can be found either. It proves though, that no matter where you are, there is little chance of of a fair investigation if you’re accused of copyright infringement.

Original here

Yahoo plans a more social, open homepage design

By David Chartier

Yahoo may be planning for social network domination, but that hasn't stopped the struggling search and content portal from announcing a major redesign of its homepage. It's the first redesign in over two years, during which time Yahoo has taken a financial beating, so it's safe to assume that the company has high hopes that this will rejuvenate one of its fundamental properties.

The most significant change Yahoo will offer is a much more customizable version of its homepage, powered by the "widgets" that are popular on similar content portals and social networking sites like iGoogle and Facebook.

More importantly, though, Yahoo is going to allow its home page and these widgets to interact with third-party sites and services, and it offered the example of a Netflix widget that can display customers' queues and ratings on Yahoo's homepage. These changes sound very similar to the features and functionality rolled out in a large update to its MyYahoo 2.0 customizable start page last July.

Yahoo's redesigned and customizable MyYahoo 2.0 start page, from which its upcoming homepage redesign may take inspiration

Yahoo offered no ETA for when these changes will arrive, only saying that they will appear gradually over the next few months. "You will see a rolling thunder kind of thing," Ash Patel, Yahoo's Executive Vice President its Audience and Product division, told the Associated Press. Yahoo is hosting a conference today to get third-party developers interested in building more widgets and integrating other services for its homepage.

In a departure from current practices, Yahoo will begin incorporating more content from third parties in major areas of its site. In the wake of its decision to close its DRM music store and refund money to customers, it will open a redesigned music section featuring content from new partners like the iTunes Store, Amazon, and presumably Rhapsody, which is Yahoo's official music partner. In order to populate Yahoo's news section, it will develop partnerships that will see it feature much more local content from newspapers around the US.

Yahoo hopes its upcoming advertising partnership with Google (assuming the DoJ lets it fly) can boost annual revenue by $800 million alone, and it clearly hopes that opening its doors to other content and services will better leverage its 500 million worldwide user base, and perhaps draw in a few more. Considering the social, syndicated nature of the web, the adaptations of its competitors, and the bruised and battered state a failed Microsoft buyout attempt left it in, these sound like positive changes that could help to retool Yahoo in a way that makes it a valuable content and social networking hub.

Original here

Ex-Intel Engineer Charged in Trade Secrets Theft

Sharon Gaudin

A former Intel Corp. design engineer has been charged with theft of trade secrets from the chipmaker while secretly working for rival Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.

Biswamohan Pani was charged in U.S. District Court in Boston in late August.

According to an affidavit filed with the courts, Pani began working at the Hudson, Mass. Facility, where Intel does research and product development, in 2003. One of the projects Pani worked on was the design of the Itanium processor.

According to the affidavit, investigators found no reason to believe that AMD was involved in the alleged theft of trade secrets.

"At this point, there has been no evidence that AMD knew that Pani had downloaded Intel's files, had encouraged Pani to do so or that it received those files at all," wrote FBI Special Agent Timothy Russell in the affidavit. "It appears at this point that Pani obtained Intel's trade secrets to benefit himself in his work at AMD without AMD's knowledge."

Michael Silverman, a spokesman for AMD, said in an email to Computerworld that the company is cooperating fully in the investigation. AMD no longer employs Pani.

Intel spokeswoman Claudine Mangano said the company cannot comment on an ongoing investigation. "We're aware of the charges," she added. "Upon learning of the potential issues involving this individual, Intel asked the Department of Justice and the FBI to investigate. We will continue to cooperate."

Pani resigned from Intel in late May, saying that he was going to work at a hedge fund and take accrued vacation time until his last official day on June 11, according to the affidavit. However, Pani began working for AMD on June 2, during that vacation period when he was still employed by Intel, according to the affidavit.

Between June 8 and June 10, while working for both chipmakers, Pani allegedly remotely accessed and downloaded 13 top secret documents from an encrypted system at Intel. Some of the downloaded documents allegedly include design details on Intel's newest chips.

The FBI allegedly found eight Intel documents totaling more than 100 pages, and 19 computer-aided design drawings - all classified as confidential, secret or top secret -- during a search of his house on July 1, according to the affidavit.

"It is critical for Intel's success that the designs and manufacturing methods for its future products remain secret," wrote Russell, who works with the Cyber Crimes squad in the FBI's Boston Office. "Intel's competitors could benefit greatly from this secret knowledge by knowing what benchmark they will need to compete against and by possibly using Intel's secret methods and designs themselves without incurring the research and development costs that Intel has expended

The affidavit noted that during an interview with the FBI, Pani admitted to downloading the files but said he wanted the information to help his wife, who an Intel employee being transferred from California to the Hudson, Mass. facility. Russell said in the affidavit that Pani's wife was assigned to a project at Intel that had no connection with the files.

Intel discovered the problem when another employee heard a rumor that Pani was working at AMD while still working at Intel. That employee pulled up a report showing Pani's access and download history on the encrypted system.

Original here

Podcaster Developer Uses Little-Known "Ad Hoc" Mode To Distribute Banned iPhone App

Over the weekend, a debate raged across the tech blogosphere concerning the risks involved in developing for the iPhone platform.
What prompted the debate in the first place was Apple's decision to reject an app known as the Podcaster, which would have permitted you to listen to podcasts without first downloading them in iTunes. Because the app "duplicates the functionality of the Podcast section of iTunes," says Apple, they decided to reject it from inclusion in the App store.

To get around what many people consider to be an unfair ban, Alex Sokirynsky, the developer of the Podcaster app, decided to utilize a little-known feature of the iPhone/iPod Touch: "Ad Hoc App Distribution." This largely unknown feature allows any developer to distribute apps themselves, without using the App Store to do so.

Unfairly Rejected?

On, Sokirynsky wrote how he doesn't understand why Apple can reject his app for duplicating iTunes functionality when similar apps do the same. Specifically he mentions how any calculator app duplicates the functionality of the Apple calculator. Yet what's even more strange, he notes, is the fact that there are already several apps that allow you to listen to a podcast outside of iTunes. For example, popular apps like Diggnation and Mobility Today are designed just for streaming podcasts. Those apps are not banned from the App Store, so why is his?

Working Around Apple: Ad Hoc Distribution

Designed for use in the enterprise environment, Ad Hoc distribution was created so I.T. departments would have the option to distribute apps from their company's own servers. This allows a business to maintain security and save on external bandwidth, while making it simpler to update and remove apps from users' phones. In order to utilize this method for distribution, a developer needs to register 100 iPhones and/or iPod Touch devices.

Obviously, an app distributed this way will have less chance for success than one made publicly available in the App Store, but it appears to be not only a perfectly viable workaround for getting past the Apple censors, but a perfectly legal one as well.

How To Sign Up For Podcaster

Alex has set up a web page at where he's signing up those interested in downloading the app. Here you must enter your email address and UDID as the first step in the Ad Hoc distribution process. The UDID, or Unique Data Item Description, is available from within iTunes. To see your UDID, you have to click on the word "serial number" which displays beside the picture of your iPhone/iPod Touch when it's connected. The UDID is a long string of alphanumeric characters which will appear in place of the serial number. You can copy this number to your clipboard by using "Ctrl + C" or "Command + C."

After you enter your email address and UDID on the web page, you'll receive a confirmation email within 24 hours. (Mine came much quicker - only minutes). Upon receiving confirmation, you can then return to the web page and re-enter your email address. At this point, you'll be prompted to make a donation of $9.99, payable via PayPal. After the donation is received, you'll receive an email with a download link to the application, which is distributed as a .zip file. Installation involves unzipping the files and dragging them to iTunes, but be sure to read the included instructions, especially if you're a Windows user, as there are some technical details you'll need to know.

Will Apple Shut This Down, Too?

Alex appears to be the first application developer who thought to use the Ad Hoc method to distribute a banned app. (If you know of others, please comment). However, given that Apple has confirmed the existence of a "kill switch," we wonder if they will start using it to wipe banned, but distributed, apps such as this from our iPhones. If that's the case, you can bet the uproar over that decision will be even greater than it was over the original ban.

It seems like Apple is stuck between the proverbial "rock and a hard place." If they choose to ignore this, Ad Hoc distribution will almost certainly become the method of choice for distributing banned apps. But if they pull the "kill switch," they could then potentially alienate their community of developers. What do you think Apple will do? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

To learn more about what the Podcaster app does, you can view this video:

Original here

Review: Nike+ iPod Touch Workout App

Despite looking forward to the iPod touch/iPhone integration of the Nike+ running dongle for over a year now, we can't help but feel slightly disappointed at the way this app is executed on the latest iPod touch. The Nike+ iPod software itself looks great—the red and white UI design matches up perfectly with Nike's own workout site—but there's just something missing. First, where's the grandfathered support for iPhone, iPhone 3G and first-gen iPod touch? More importantly, where are the expanded features that make great use of the touch's accelerometer, touchscreen or internet connection? Nowhere.

The app itself works perfectly. As a longtime sporadic Nike+ iPod user on the old iPod nano, we can say that all those features we expect to be there are ported over with the right amount of care for the larger screen. But there's nothing really all that revolutionary. Custom workouts, where you can pre-set options for time, distance or playlist are a nice addition, and it's nice to look at your workout history in a clearer fashion, but how come we couldn't get charts and graphs like on the Nike site? Something like the chart below, fetched from our own online history, would have been an easy addition to the feature set. And where, my fit readers, is the communication between your iPod touch and your online Nike account?

Our other complaint is that you're forced to buy the 2nd generation iPod touch in order to take advantage of the app. Plugging in the dongle to your iPhone, iPhone 3G or 1st generation touch isn't even an option. Even with firmware 2.1, you still get the "This accessory is not supported by iPhone" error. Why? The dongle solution works fine on iPod nanos, why couldn't Apple copy over the Nike+ app and make use of the transmitter?

Despite our gripes about the lack of device support and lack of new features, we still love the app. It's much prettier and readable when running than the version on even the iPod nano 4G (which have the equivalent red and white larger icons), and if you're already a serious Nike+ iPod user, the touch is a slightly better way to do what you're already doing. It's not quite good enough for you to upgrade from your current device, but think of it as an added bonus if you were thinking about getting an iPod touch for yourself so you can pass off your old iPod nano to your spouse so he or she can get into shape too. [Amazon]

Original here

iPhone: Big trouble in the App Store

Last month, Apple triggered a minor rebellion among iPhone developers when it was revealed that the company was rejecting submissions to its App Store retail outlet without explaining why.

This week the company faces a full-scale revolt. The issue: Apple’s summary rejection of a program on the grounds that it duplicated a function on one of its own programs.

“Apple has gone too far,” writes Paul Kafasis for O’Reilly Digital Media. “Rejecting an application because it might compete with Apple is simply indefensible.”

If this is truly Apple’s policy, it’s a disaster for the platform,” says Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, one of Apple’s most influential supporters.

“I will never write another iPhone application for the App Store as currently constituted,” writes Fraser Speirs, developer of a popular iPhone app called Exposure. His post is titled “App Store: I’m Out.”

The battle lines were drawn when an Apple representative reviewing submissions for the App Store rejected a program called Podcaster. According to its developer, Alex Sokirynsky, Apple turned his program down on these grounds:

“Since Podcaster assists in the distribution of podcasts, it duplicates the functionality of the Podcast section of iTunes.” (link)

But as nearly every commentator has pointed out, Podcaster went an important step beyond Apple’s program. iTunes requires that you plug the iPhone into your computer to sync it before you can get the latest broadcasts. Podcaster, by contrast, would have let you update your podcast subscriptions directly, using the iPhone’s Wi-Fi receiver.

“I’d buy that app in a minute,” writes Speirs, echoing the opinion of most of the two dozen bloggers who by Sunday morning had weighed in on the issue.

Part of the problem is that Apple’s policy lacks consistency. The iPhone comes with many built-in functions — a calendar, a calculator, a clock and a weather program — that are duplicated by apps the company has already approved.

Moreover, it’s not as if iPhone programmers have another option besides the App Store, a formidable market place that now carries more than 3,000 programs and has racked up more than 100 million downloads (link). Unless they release it as freeware for jailbroken iPhones, there is no other outlet for a program once it has been rejected by Apple.

“If they don’t approve it you can’t sell it,” writes Dave Winer, the developer who pioneered the RSS blog syndication system. “You can’t even give it away.”

[UPDATE: It turns out there is another way to distribute applications. As ReadWriteWeb's Sarah Perez explains, Sokirynsky has turned to Apple's little-used Ad Hoc App Distribution system to make Podcaster available. You can get it here. Sokirynsky is asking for a $9.99 donation, and adds: "The program should work for a minimum of one year but since Apple can turn it off remotely, the 1 year installation is not guaranteed."]

Speirs has called for Apple to issue some “clear and unambiguous rules” about what will and will not be accepted, and to put in place a pre-approval system so developers can get a sense of whether their idea will fly before they go out and borrow money or hire talent or put in long days and nights of coding.

“The sad thing,” writes Chuq Von Rospach, a long-time Apple systems developer, “is [that] it wouldn’t take much effort from Apple to deal with this. A little communication. Not even a LOT of communication, and they could sort most of these issues out.”

Even sadder, Von Rospach adds, “is that they don’t seem to care (or notice).” (link)

Apple (AAPL) has yet to comment on the issue.

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