Thursday, September 18, 2008

Top 10 Right-Click Tools

The right mouse button—beloved by geeks for its power, theoretically unnecessary on a Mac, and generally under-utilized on the average desktop. Right-clicking can be a powerful tool for automating file actions and saving yourself time and arm effort, but only if you've put your own stamp on the offerings of that secondary button. Today we're rounding up some of the best tools for adding power and precision to your right-click menu on Windows, Mac, and Linux systems, so check out what can be done from the other side of the scroll wheel. Photo by geobeo.

10. Add convenient actions to Nautilus (Linux)

The default file manager for GNOME-based Linux systems has a pretty sparse right-click menu when first installed. Install a few helper packages, however, and soon you're rotating and resizing images without an editor, popping open terminals for quick system work, and skipping the sudo command entirely with a "Run as administrator" link. Ubuntu users can install the nautilus-gksu, nautilus-image-converter, and nautilus-open-terminal packages for starters; users of other distributions should search their package manager for "nautilus" (or "konqueror" for KDE-based systems) to see what's available for quick right-click fix-ups.

9. Use two fingers for trackpad right-clicking

If you're new to Macs, or you just haven't dug deep into its configuration options, it's easy to miss this one. Mac laptops only have one button; instead of stretching your hands an octave-length to the Control key, put two fingers on the trackpad and click. To enable it, head to the Keyboard & Mouse section of System Preferences, under the Trackpad section, check this option: "For secondary clicks, place two fingers on the trackpad then click the button."

8. Get Google Map directions without a street address

You can know where "that restaurant with the good burgers" is (a few blocks over from the big intersection) without knowing an actual street address. Find the general spot in Google Maps, right-click, and click for directions to or from that area. You might find it helpful, or you might not truly appreciate it until you're on a scarcely-there Wi-Fi connection, trying to find a way across town and furiously Google-ing for possible addresses.

7. Make one-click FTP uploads with RightLoad

Anyone with access to their own web space, or with a need to do a lot of FTP transfer, should add RightLoad to their file-swapping arsenal. Set up your FTP servers in RightLoad's preferences, and sending files to the server is as easy as right-clicking and choosing a server. After you're done, RightLoad creates HTML-formatted links for quick web writing or friend-linking, and automatically renames duplicate files. Your overworked FTP client thanks you for the downtime.

6. Tweak Windows' Send To Menu

If you're not a fan of installing contextual applications or power toys on your system, Windows' built-in "Send to" menu on the right-click box can offer a lot of flexibility—you can create instant shortcuts, email or open a file, and much more. Lifehacker reader Howard Dickens explained the process for adding "Send To" actions and items in Windows 98 and XP; for the Vista method, check with the How-To Geek.

5. Customize the Mac Finder's actions with FinderPop

One of those apps that gives back the more that's put into it, FinderPop is a hugely customizable tool for cutting down the number of clicks needed to copy, move, or alias files between locations on your Mac. FinderPop can also launch applications or kill runaway processes, making the right-click (or Ctrl-click) menu a powerful launching pad.

4. Add or delete context items with ShellExView

Programs come and go from your computer, and even after they're thoroughly scrubbed, they can leave behind annoying traces in your context menu. ShellExView is where you get complete control over what shows up when you right-click a file, your desktop, or even Internet Explorer. You can add any program, delete useless links, and otherwise hook yourself up with time-saving shortcuts.

3. Roll your own right-click Mac actions with OnMyCommand

Let's face it—some of the work you do is creative, and some of it is just resizing a bunch of images to 400 pixels wide and converting them to JPEG. Automate those mandatory tasks with OnMyCommand, an AppleScript/command-line app that adds your own scripts or already-compiled offerings to Finder's right-click menu. Check out SimpleHelp's concise and clear guide for help getting started with OnMyCommand.

2. Create file-aware right-click options

Many of the tools listed above make adding custom file-wrangling options to your right-click menu easy, but only for every file or folder you click. If you want to get specific with certain file types, adding custom for-this-file-type-only actions isn't as hard as it might seem. Adam has explained the custom context menu process (pulled from a MetaFilter thread) for Windows XP; Vista users should check out FileMenuTools, detailed elsewhere in this list.

1. Combine lots of right-click tools with FileMenuTools

If you're a Windows user and only have time to try out one of the right-click tools we've gathered here, FileMenuTools is a safe bet for maximum utility. It doesn't get as in-depth as some of the utilities it rolls together, but it lets you create contextual file actions, improve your Send To menu, add super-helpful tweaks like "Run Command Line from Here" and "Copy Path," and generally geek out your right-click menu without touching the registry or hunting down obscure command line options.

Right-click menus are definitely a to-each-their-own tool, as the most useful tools depend on what you're trying to get done. So we ask our dear readers: What right-click actions, links, and tweaks help you act quickly and shuttle files more efficiently? Share your own tips in the comments below.

Original here

Is the U.S. Losing Its Edge in Tech?

The U.S. still leads the world in IT, but other countries are closing the gap, according to a new study for the Business Software Alliance

There's no place like the U.S. when it comes to creating a thriving tech sector. Or is there? The U.S. still has the world's most competitive information technology industry, but its lead is slipping, according to a new study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) for the Business Software Alliance (BSA).

The study, released Sept. 16, ranks 66 countries in six areas, including the availability of skilled labor, the "innovation friendliness" of a nation's culture, and the strength of its legal protections for intellectual property. The U.S. scored highest overall, but its rating fell from last year, and it was No. 1 in only three of the categories. "America should be proud that it's No. 1, but Americans should also be aware that it can no longer take its leadership for granted," says Robert Holleyman, president and CEO of the BSA, a Washington (D.C.)-based organization that promotes the interests of the software industry.

The EIU's analysis also weighed the quality of a nation's technology infrastructure, measuring the number of PCs per 100 people, market spending on IT hardware per 100 people, the availability of secure Internet servers per 100,000 people, and the percentage of the population with high-speed Internet access. Switzerland, ranked 11th overall, outscored the U.S. on IT infrastructure, which accounted for 20% of a country's score. The study also assessed the openness of a country's economy and the quality of government leadership on technology issues.

No. 5 in R&D Support

In a finding that's likely to vex would-be entrepreneurs, the U.S. scores even further down the list—No. 5—in support for R&D. Taiwan led the category, followed by South Korea, Japan, and Sweden. Here, the EIU scored countries based on the number of new IT-related patents, receipts from royalty payments and licensing fees, and public and private spending on R&D. Holleyman says the BSA plans to share its findings with both major Presidential campaigns and with members of Congress.

The U.S. also lags countries including Canada, Singapore, Britain, and Norway in support for IT development, which accounted for 15% of the overall score. This category covers such things as e-government initiatives, government spending on IT hardware, and access to financing.

The findings of the study will likely renew calls among both IT industry executives and politicians for the country to develop a national innovation strategy as countries such as Finland have done. "America needs a wake-up call," says John Kao, a former professor at Harvard Business School and author of Innovation Nation, a book arguing that the U.S. is losing its edge. "We don't really have a national strategy," he says. "And while I'm not a fan of top-down technocratic approach, I think that at this point in our history, having no strategy is not satisfactory."

Sounding the Alarm

As concerned as he is about U.S. competitiveness, Kao is not a favor of indexes that compare competitiveness among nations, saying they can misrepresent a country's true climate. "They're really abstractions of reality, and they often paint too rosy a picture," he says.

Kao isn't alone in calling the country's competitiveness into question. Judy Estrin, a former Cisco Systems (CSCO) executive, is sounding the alarm as well in a new book, Closing the Innovation Gap, published by BusinessWeek's parent, The McGraw-Hill Cos. (MHP). Estrin says that the lead America enjoys now is the result of work done decades ago, and that the same commitment to innovation and research that existed before has evaporated. "Innovation builds on innovation. We're reaping the benefits now of seeds planted 10, 20, and 30 years ago, and the problem is that we're not planting any more seeds," she says.

The study shows the U.S. still leads the world in the "human capital" category, which measures the number of students attending universities, a country's capacity to train scientists and engineers, and employment in the tech sector as a percentage of the overall workforce. Here too, though, the U.S. lead is threatened. While students from other countries still flock to U.S. universities to get their MBAs and PhDs, tight immigration policies are causing more of those students to go home after graduation. "Our own education system is not producing the innovators we need," Estrin says. "And we're not opening our doors to the best people, and our immigration policy is such that we have been making it harder for them to stay, and so they are going home and innovating elsewhere."

By highlighting vulnerabilities, the study doesn't just trumpet U.S. weaknesses; it points to areas where improvements can be made. "A strong tech industry is crucial to America's ability to address almost every economic and social challenge," Holleyman says in a statement. "Despite our current economic difficulties, the tech sector remains one of the primary engines of the U.S. economy. This index provides a guide to how we can keep that engine moving forward to ensure competitiveness in the future."

Original here

Best Buy Puzzles With Napster Acquisition

by Don Reisinger

Napster Logo

Best Buy announced today that it has acquired Napster for $121 million in cash. The company said that it will keep Napster’s executive team and will leave the Napster service and its estimated 700,000 users in place without changing much in the near-term.

During the 2008 fiscal year ending March 31, Napster had revenue of $127.5 million, and a loss of $16.5 million. The loss was an improvement over its last fiscal year, though, when it lost $36.8 million.

Best Buy ostensibly believes that it can eventually make Napster turn a profit or, at the very least, provide a service that is valued by its customers (Best Buy inked a Napster distribution deal with the company’s then-parent company Roxio for $10 million in 2004). But how does acquiring Napster help the company in any way?

Napster’s competition is simply too fierce and too far ahead for the once-popular service to stay relevant.

iTunes is the world’s largest music store and there’s no sign of that service losing the top spot any time soon. Worse, Amazon’s DRM-free MP3 store is coming on strong and now that MySpace is starting to get into the music game with free ad-supported streams, there’s little room left for Napster to cement itself in the market.

So where does Napster fit into that equation? Granted, it’s still servicing 700,000 customers and its revenue is quite high, but how much longer can it compete in an environment where at least three services are better and its user-base is minuscule compared to its competitors’?

Napster’s business model is simply too similar and too out-dated for it to compete in this market. The company uses a subscription-based model to let you download songs and also offers for those that want to stream music for free online. Of course, the only problem is the songs sound awful and paying $12.95 per month isn’t worth it to most users, given the success of iTunes and Amazon’s store.

And with new business models on the way from MySpace where it will try ad-supported streams, how can Napster regain its status as the most popular service in the industry by maintaining status quo?

Under the guise of “improving” itself, Best Buy has engaged in a mercy acquisition of Napster in the hope that somehow it will materialize into something worth using. Napster was always the haven for illegal downloads and ever since it went legit, it lost its allure and fewer people have found reason to use it.

Best Buy just wasted $121 million.

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Look Ma, No Terminal!

By Pavs

A common misconception with Linux is that you have to know how to use the terminal in order for you to use linux. The fact is you won’t have to use the linux terminal more than you would use CMD in Windows or the terminal in Mac OSX. Today we will look into some of the applications that a “normal” computer user would use without having to know the terminal. Here the term “normal” is vague; since every computer users needs are different from one another, but we will try to cover some basic applications that a normal computer user might use.

Web Browsing: Links and Lynx are great for web browsing on the terminal, especially if you like showing off; practically speaking it has little advantage over a full blown graphical web browser. Most of the popular web browsers can also be used with linux. Here is a list of 9 Web Browsers for Linux. If you are too attached to IE (why??), you could use IEs4Linux to install IE on your linux system.

Text Editors: Vim - Emacs - nano are not practical text editors. Powerful editors? Yes. Practical? No . What a “normal” computer user needs is a simple text editor for simple text editing; gedit and kate are the best text editors out there for linux. If you are too attached to windows notepad; you can use it under linux too with wine, which is installed by default.

Word Processors: For a more complex text editing options, word processors are the ideal choice and linux gives you a great list of options to choose from. Abiword and Kword is my personal choice; but you can also use a more popular word processor like Openoffice. Although I haven’t tried it myself, it is possible to use every single version of MS Office with wine .

Instant Messaging: There are many options for Wine; but one that stands above all is Pidgin; not only is it platform independent; it supports almost all major IM protocol that we know of: AIM, ICQ, Jabber/XMPP, MSN Messenger, Yahoo!, Bonjour, Gadu-Gadu, IRC, Novell GroupWise Messenger, QQ, Lotus Sametime, SILC, SIMPLE, MySpaceIM, and Zephyr.

Video Player: VLC is the most popular video player in Linux; every single video formats that you could play under windows with VLC, can do the same under Linux.

Games: The subject of this post is to identify if a regular computer user can do their day to day tasks without having to use the terminal; NOT whether Linux users can have the same experience a normal windows user have; which includes having the ability to play all sorts of games available for PC. (Blame the gaming industry and the hardware makers for not supporting linux, but that’s a different topic) It is possible to use “some” (windows) games under linux without having to tinker with the terminal, you can get the list here. Of course, for linux games all games can be played and installed without terminal, unless the game itself is a terminal based game.

E-mail Client: Mozilla Thunderbird is most widely used Linux e-mail client and my personal choice. Other options include Kmail for KDE users, Evolution, Sylpheed and Balsa .

If you consider yourself a “normal” computer user and don’t find yourself creating a custom GRUB splash image or doing something silly like playing movie in ascii art; there is very little reason for you to use the terminal.

(For the purists: Yeah yeah, “linux is actually a kernel”; spare me the argument)

Original here

Echoing the Campaign of a Rival, Microsoft Aims to Redefine ‘I’m a PC’

After a series of teaser ads, Microsoft is beginning in earnest an ad campaign to repair its image, including a spot with a diver in a shark cage.


RELAX, computer users, after only two weeks Microsoft will stop teasing you as the company begins the next phase of an ambitious — and risky — $300 million campaign intended to make over its tarnished image.

A Microsoft engineer resembling a character in Apple’s ads appears: “Hello, I’m a PC, and I’ve been made into a stereotype.”

The campaign, which begins Thursday and carries the theme “Windows. Life without walls,” will move away from the enigmatic teaser commercials that featured Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld in offbeat conversations about shopping, shoes, suburbia and the potential of computing to improve life. The teaser ads have generated considerable discussion since they started on Sept. 4, not all of it positive.

What follows is an audacious embrace of the disdainful label that Apple, Microsoft’s rival, has gleefully — and successfully — affixed onto users of Microsoft products: “I’m a PC.”

One new Microsoft commercial even begins with a company engineer who resembles John Hodgman, the comedian portraying the loser PC character in the Apple campaign. “Hello, I’m a PC,” the engineer says, echoing Mr. Hodgman’s recurring line, “and I’ve been made into a stereotype.”

The strategy to use the Apple attack as the basis for a counterstrike is typical for the agency behind the campaign, Crispin Porter & Bogusky.

Crispin Porter, part of MDC Partners, relishes efforts to transform perceived negatives into positives. For another client, Burger King, the calorie-stuffed menu is portrayed to a target audience of young men as a rebellious personal choice to “Have it your way.”

Mr. Gates makes a cameo appearance in the new Microsoft spots, along with celebrities like the actress Eva Longoria, the author Deepak Chopra and the singer Pharrell Williams. (Mr. Seinfeld is gone, at least for now.)

But the stars are everyday PC users, from scientists and fashion designers to shark hunters and teachers, all of whom affirm, in fast-paced, upbeat vignettes, their pride in using the computers that run on Microsoft operating systems and software.

Among them are more than 60 Microsoft employees, who are accompanied in the ads by e-mail addresses — even Mr. Gates’s (

Apple executives have been “using a lot of their money to de-position our brand and tell people what we stand for,” said David Webster, general manager for brand marketing at Microsoft in Redmond, Wash.

“They’ve made a caricature out of the PC,” he added, which was unacceptable because “you always want to own your own story.”

The campaign illustrates “a strong desire” among Microsoft managers “to take back that narrative,” Mr. Webster said, and “have a conversation about the real PC.”

A giant advertiser responding to the disparagement of a smaller rival can be fraught with peril. Consumers may see it as a validation of the claims, or even bullying. On the other hand, ignoring the taunts can damage images and sales.

In the car-rental wars, the market leader, Hertz, long kept silent about a cheeky Avis campaign that proclaimed: “We’re No. 2. We try harder.” But after Avis revenue grew robustly, Hertz shot back: “For years, Avis has been telling you Hertz is No. 1. Now we’re going to tell you why.”

Similarly, Coca-Cola said nothing as Pepsi-Cola challenged its hegemony in the cola category — until it turned tradition upside-down in 1985 by bringing out New Coke, with a more Pepsi-like taste. Roger A. Enrico, who was in charge of the PepsiCo beverage business, celebrated by co-writing a book titled “The Other Guy Blinked: How Pepsi Won the Cola Wars.”

Riffing on the Apple ads is “a smart way of changing the dialogue,” Mr. Webster said, “without taking them through the mud.”

Charles Rosen, chief executive at Amalgamated, an agency in New York that specializes in what he calls “cultural branding” for clients like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, said it made sense for Microsoft to engage Apple.

Through its campaign, which mocks the PC as it celebrates the Macintosh, “Apple represents the ideology of Silicon Valley, taking on big business as in Microsoft,” Mr. Rosen said.

That gives Apple “badge value, identity value,” he added, among consumers who prize brands they deem populist.

Trying to gain more firepower for ads by generating talk in the popular culture is another tactic of Crispin Porter’s. For example, commercials for Volkswagen became the subject of considerable buzz because they showed something rarely depicted in auto advertising: sudden crashes.

That was what the two-week Microsoft teaser campaign accomplished, according to companies that track discussions about brands.

At first, “the ads were ambiguous and confounding to some,” said Ted Marzilli, senior vice president and general manager of the brand group at the New York office of YouGovPolimetrix, a research company, but as they continued they helped improve perceptions about Microsoft.

On Sept. 4, when the teaser ads started, the “buzz” about Microsoft was 25 percent positive and 13 percent negative, Mr. Marzilli said, and by Tuesday it was 28 percent positive and 8 percent negative. Microsoft “has been beat up pretty badly by the Apple advertisements in the last six months,” he said. “These are strong numbers, good numbers, for Microsoft.”

Another research company, Zeta Interactive, using what it calls its Relevant Noise tool to mine places online like blogs and message boards for brand conversations, found what was described as overwhelmingly positive buzz surrounding Microsoft from Sept. 3 through Monday.

Of the posts analyzed by Relevant Noise during that stage of the teaser campaign, 63 percent were characterized as positive and 37 percent as negative.

“It did what it needed to do,” said Rob Reilly, partner and co-executive creative director at Crispin Porter in Boulder, Colo., and Miami. “People who got it, got it.”

To segue from the teaser ads to the actual campaign, he added, the phrase “I’m a PC” will serve to “set up the notion the real PC is not necessarily who we’ve been portrayed as” in the Apple ads.

“You can ignore it,” Mr. Reilly said of the Apple campaign, “or you can find a clever way to embrace it, to hug it to death, to turn it to your advantage.”

The celebration of PC users is intended to show them “connected to this community,” he added, “of people who are creative, who are passionate.”

As for the risks of responding to a smaller competitor, “Apple has done a tremendous job marketing their products,” Mr. Reilly said, so “I don’t know if it’s David versus Goliath anymore.”

The theme of “Life without walls” was the concept for the Microsoft campaign “from the beginning,” he added, because it declares “that the goal of Windows is to help remove the walls in your life, now and in the future.”

In addition to commercials on television shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” on Thursday, ads will appear in local and national newspapers in addition to new content added to the Web site, which will be reachable from the microsite

Coming magazine and outdoor ads focus on how Windows can be used for mobile devices, TV sets and laptops along with PCs.

Beginning on Thursday night, visitors to will be able to upload video clips and photographs demonstrating how they, too, are PCs. Some photos will be chosen to appear on electronic signs in Times Square from Friday through Oct. 13 and others will be chosen for use in Microsoft banner ads.

“This is just the beginning, the first phase of the campaign,” said Mich Mathews, senior vice president for marketing at Microsoft. “We’re on a journey to reposition the PC.”

“The conventional wisdom may be, ‘Hey this is motivated by Apple,’ ” she added, “but there has been a re-engineering of Microsoft.”

Ms. Mathews listed several steps to improve the consumer perception of Windows, which has been tarnished by problems with the Vista operating systems. Among them are the hiring by Microsoft of hundreds of trained employees, or Windows gurus, to work at retailers like Best Buy and Circuit City.

As for Mr. Seinfeld, will he return at some point?

“Jerry is a friend of the agency and Microsoft,” Mr. Reilly of Crispin Porter said, adding in a sly allusion to Brand X, “You like to keep your friends close — and your enemies closer.”

Original here

Pirate Party Official Raided after Uncovering State Trojan

Written by Ernesto

The spokesperson of the German Pirate Party saw his house raided after the party published a leaked document which showed that the government uses a homemade “trojan” to wiretap Skype conversations. In addition, a server from another party member was seized.

pirate party germanyThe Pirate Party is known for it’s battle against the ever increasing government surveillance on the public. So, when an anonymous whistleblower sent them a internal document which showed that the government went as far as installing trojans on computers, they didn’t hesitate to publish it.

German authorities weren’t too happy about the leak, which might be illegal according to a criminal law specialist, and went after the source. Earlier this week police searched the home of the Pirate Party spokesperson where they hoped to find more information. In addition to the home search, a server from another party member was seized. The server, however, was fully encrypted, so chances are low that it will uncover the whistleblower.

In a response, Andreas Popp, Chairman of the Bavarian Pirate Party said: “A brave person leaks documents to the Pirate Party, to inform the public about a procedure of the Bavarian Government, which is highly likely to violate the constitution. Now this persons is hunted like a criminal. Private rooms are raided, servers get seized.”

Pirate Parties around the world will continue to speak out against these, and other privacy threats. The trojan in question (German) was able to tap into Skype calls and intercept traffic to encrypted websites.

Original here

Congress's copyright fight puts open access science in peril

By John Timmer

Backlash against open access

In recent years, scientific publishing has changed profoundly as the Internet simplified access to the scientific journals that once required a trip to a university library. That ease of access has caused many to question why commercial publishers are able to dictate the terms by which publicly funded research is made available to the public that paid for it.

Open access proponents won a big victory when Congress voted to compel the National Institutes of Health to set a policy of hosting copies of the text of all publications produced by research it funds, a policy that has taken effect this year. Now, it appears that the publishing industry may be trying to get Congress to introduce legislation that will reverse its earlier decision under the guise of strengthening copyright protections.

Under existing law, the products of federally funded research belong to the scientists that perform it and institutions that host them. Academic journals have traditionally had researchers transfer the copyright of publications resulting from this research to the journals. The current NIH policy requires that authors they fund reserve the right to place the text and images of their publication in an NIH database hosted at PubMed Central (PMC).

To protect commercial publishers, papers submitted to PMC are not made accessible until a year after publication, and are not required to include the formatting and integration of images performed by the publisher. This one-year limit is longer than that required by other governments and private funding bodies such as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Wellcome Trust. Many publishers have embraced this policy, and allow the fully formatted paper to be made available, sometimes after a shorter embargo.

Open Access meets resistance

Not all publishers have embraced it, however, and some have tried to exact exorbitant fees for allowing manuscripts to be transferred to PMC. Others have engaged in aggressive lobbying against open access efforts.

John Conyers (D-MI)
introduced HR 6845

Those efforts may be paying off. The House of Representatives has seen the introduction of legislation, HR 6845 that, depending on its final format, may significantly curtail or eliminate the NIH's ability to continue its open access policy. The current bill would prevent any arm of the federal government from making research funding contingent upon "the transfer or license to or for a Federal agency of... any right provided under paragraph (1) or (2) of section 106 in an extrinsic work, to the extent that, solely for purposes of this subsection, such right involves the availability to the public of that work." Those Section 106 rights include the reproduction of the work.

Although that would seem to rule out the existing NIH policy, there is a certain amount of legal wiggle room there. For example, the NIH could fund a private entity to maintain PMC, and thus have the right to reproduction transferred to an independent entity. Nevertheless, the bill would appear to directly target the prior legislation that put the NIH in the business of mandating public access in the first place.

The Intellectual Property Subcommittee comes up to speed

Last week, the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property held a hearing on the proposed legislation. If anyone was thinking that policies related to publicly funded scientific research were free of politicking and rampant self-interest so frequently involved in the copyright and intellectual property battles, the hearings would have erased them. Legislators questioned whether it made sense to mandate the transfer of copyrights at a time when the US government was pushing for other governments to respect those rights. At one point, hearing chair Howard Berman (D-CA) noted that the N in NIH shouldn't stand for Napster.

Howard Berman (D-CA)
chaired the hearings

It also became apparent that there was a bit of a turf battle going on. The Intellectual Property Subcommittee clearly felt that it had been ignored during the original passage of the bill that compelled the NIH's open access policy, and several members expressed displeasure at having been bypassed, and suggested the bill was useful simply for allowing them to have a voice on the matter.

That said, many of the representatives were clearly in need of a primer in academic publishing. Different members of the Subcommittee expressed surprise at various aspects of the current system, such as the fact that peer reviewers perform the function free (although, as noted, the process of arranging for peer review can be expensive). Also eliciting surprise was the revelation that authors are not paid by publishers for the transfer of copyright.

In fact, many publishers charge money for the publication of scientific research, even those that obtain copyright to the work in the process. Dr. Elias Zerhouni, director of the NIH, shocked Berman when he mentioned that the NIH hands out $100 million a year to grant recipients specifically to cover the cost of publishing their results. It would certainly have been possible for those testifying in favor of the open access policy to argue that the public pays part of the cost of nearly every stage of the publishing process, and might expect to have some access to the end product.

Original here

T-Mobile to introduce phone with Google's Android software

For those of you who have been anticipating the so-called Google Phone as if it were the next iPhone, the wait is almost over.

Google T-Mobile USA said today that it would unveil the much-anticipated mobile phone loaded with Google's Android software next Tuesday at a press conference in New York. The "G1," which is being manufactured by HTC, won't go on sale until October. But expect T-Mobile to finally divulge some key details such as pricing.

T-Mobile is just the first carrier to market the phone. Other cellphone manufacturers and carriers are expected to dial for dollars using the Google brand as bait, but they apparently have hit some snags. The Android phone is being positioned as a rival to Apple's iPhone and Research in Motion's BlackBerry.

For Google, this seems like a no-lose proposition. The Internet search giant wants to make sure that all of its services, including its lucrative advertising, are available on all cellphones. So it created software for mobile phones that does that.

Pundits have been saying for years that the mobile Web will dwarf the non-mobile Web once enough people have access to so-called smartphones and all of the bells and whistles that come with them. Already Google is readying a store for downloadable mobile software similar to the one that has proven so successful for the iPhone.

Google showed off the handset at a developer conference in London this morning.

Next week, Google and T-Mobile should start to reveal whether Android will live up to the hype.

-- Jessica Guynn

Original here

100 groups demand to see secret anticounterfeiting treaty

By Nate Anderson

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is on a fast-track process as rich nations hope to wrap it up by the end of the year. Unfortunately for everyone who cares about the outcome, it's midway through September, and no draft text has yet emerged. The secrecy and the delay have inspired many conspiracy theories, none helped by leaked sets of corporate "wish lists" and public comments making outrageous demands. A worldwide group of public interest organizations has now banded together to call on ACTA negotiators to open the process up to scrutiny and public comment.

The letter, signed by more than 100 groups, has tough words for ACTA negotiators. "The lack of transparency in negotiations of an agreement that will affect the fundamental rights of citizens of the world is fundamentally undemocratic," it says. "It is made worse by the public perception that lobbyists from the music, film, software, video games, luxury goods and pharmaceutical industries have had ready access to the ACTA text and pre-text discussion documents through long-standing communication channels."

Seven specific concerns are cited, all based on leaked documents or public comments from various trade groups, many of which seem bent on turning an anti-counterfeiting agreement into something more wide-ranging. It's unclear what the negotiators themselves think of most such requests, but that's part of the problem. According to the letter, ACTA might:

  • Require Internet Service Providers to monitor all consumers' Internet communications, terminate their customers' Internet connections based on rights-holders' repeated allegation of copyright infringement, and divulge the identity of alleged copyright infringers possibly without judicial process
  • Interfere with fair use of copyrighted materials
  • Criminalize peer-to-peer file sharing
  • Interfere with legitimate parallel trade in goods, including the resale of brand-name pharmaceutical products
  • Impose liability on manufacturers of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), if those APIs are used to make counterfeits
  • Improperly criminalize acts not done for commercial purpose and with no public health consequences
  • Improperly divert public resources into enforcement of private rights

Signatories of the letter include everyone from the EFF to the Australian National University to the Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic to Korea's Christian Media Network to the Dutch Consumentenbond to Thailand's Drug Study Group (DSG) to the Ecologist Collective from Guadalajara, México to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. It's a dizzying list with worldwide backing, but the more important question is whether it will have any effect.

To date, ACTA negotiators have proved themselves supremely resistant to involving stakeholders in the process, and many of these groups are from countries not even involved in the negotiations. Different national negotiators have followed different strategies, though, and credit has to be given to the office of the US Trade Representative, which requested (and then published) a lengthy series of public commentary on the treaty.

Without much to go on apart from some leaked documents, though, the comments became a set of "we like/we hate" lists. Because of the secrecy, it remains unclear which of the suggestions USTR is pushing in its negotiating sessions. However, up in Canada, news over the summer suggested that the recording business, movie studios, and video game makers were welcome to advise ACTA negotiators in private. Meanwhile, privacy groups, NGOs, and other stakeholders are forced to wait in the hallway.

Original here

Apple wants to tie your shoes to your clothes with DRM

By Jacqui Cheng

If you're a Nike+iPod Sport Kit fan, you may eventually find yourself being restricted to using it with Nike-branded sportswear, thanks to a recently-published Apple patent application. The patent, filed for in March of 2007 and published last week, describes a "Smart Garment" that would allow a gadget to authenticate to a specific garment—whether that garment is shoes, pants, or a jacket. When the garment is authenticated, however, unapproved garments would be blocked from being able to use the device.

In this patent, Apple makes no attempt to hide the fact that it's essentially an attempt to enforce something like DRM on the pairing of clothing with technology. The company specifically cites the Nike+iPod system as an example of a system that works with a specially-made shoe: Nike+ shoes that have a little crevice cut out under the sole that allows you to place the transmitter inside the shoe, which wirelessly sends data to your iPod about your walk or run. "However, some people have taken it upon themselves to remove the sensor from the special pocket of the Nike+.TM. shoe and place it at inappropriate locations (shoelaces, for example) or place it on non-Nike+.TM. model shoes," writes Apple.

Indeed, since the launch of the Nike+iPod Sport Kit in 2006, there have been numerous accessory makers that have created pouches, clips, and everything in between that allow users to attach the shoe sensor to non-Nike shoes. After all, even the most casual of runners tends to have a preference for a certain brand of running shoe, even if they otherwise love being able to track their stats using the iPod that they already carry with them. But the number of runners using their Nike+ sensors with non-Nike shoes can't be that high—most people would prefer to just use the gadget with the shoe it was made for. Is Nike really suffering that much from users buying the sport kit but not buying Nike shoes? And if so, why is Apple the one selected to enforce this pairing?

Apple argues that the system is meant more for preventing thieves or "a recalcitrant finder" from taking the device and attempting to use it with unauthorized garments. This would "markedly [reduce] the incentive to steal (or keep) the sensor resulting in vastly improved security than would otherwise be possible." Of course, for a little gadget and dongle that costs $29 and is more likely to get lost on your coffee table than stolen, such "security" measures could be considered a little excessive.

Naturally, Apple's patent doesn't just aim to limit the garment choices of Nike+iPod users—it attempts to offer extra features along with the garment authentication system. For example, one embodiment could make use of a sensor within the garment itself in order to provide more data to the user, such as the rate of wear of a running shoe. "[I]n many cases, a runner will not notice that a running shoe has been worn down to the point where crucial support (arch support, for example) has eroded thereby increasing the likelihood of injury. In this way, by providing a notification that one or both of the running shoes should be replaced, the runner may be better able to avoid injuries related to outworn equipment," writes Apple. And, if a GPS unit is involved, then the system could also track location and elevation data in order to provide more detailed statistics, or it could give on-the-spot information to the user, like the location of nearby restaurants.

Some of these proposed features do indeed sound cool—especially for someone like myself who actually uses (and likes) her Nike+iPod Sport Kit. However, it would be nice if we weren't forced to choose between DRM for our clothing and these possible new features.

Original here

T-Mobile to Sell Android 'Dream' Phone Sept. 23?


android_logo2.jpg How many days are you willing to wait in front of a T-Mobile store to be the first to own a gPhone? You might have to decide soon. According to the Reuters news agency, T-Mobile is set to announce availability of its mobile phone based on Google's Android operating system as soon as September 23.

According to sources the T-Mobile phone, called "Dream," will be available "within weeks." Those same sources say T-Mobile plans to hold a press event in New York City on September 23. Reuters, however, is not clear in its report as to whether the actual T-Mobile Dream phones will go on sale that date. If the sources are correct in estimating actual phones being available in "a couple weeks," then September 23 could be the date the Dream becomes a reality.

Dreaming of the Dream

android-HTC-T-Mobile.jpg Last month The New York Times reported sources at HTC, the makers of the Dream hardware, as saying T-Mobile would only hold a press conference in September showcasing the Dream smartphone. HTC sources told The New York Times that the actual Dream phone wouldn't go on sale until October or "before Christmas."

Last month the U.S. Federal Communications Commission certified that the Google software and the HTC phone met network standards, giving T-Mobile the green light for U.S. sales. According to documents filed with the FCC there was a strong indication the phone wouldn't hit the U.S. market until November.

In early August the debut of T-Mobile's Dream phone was rumored to be delayed until 2009.

Original here

DRM of Any Kind Will Always Lose

by Steven Hodson

Digital Rights Management (DRM) sounds pretty innocuous and not something that you would think could be the biggest deal breaker between consumers and the entertainment industry. After all, DRM could have meant ways for you to manage all the entertainment media you have paid for.

Instead though, it has been used as a weapon by the entertainment industry and parts of the software industry, like gaming, to brow beat us into using the product the way they want us to. It doesn’t matter that we pay a pretty penny for these products or that we have this belief that when we buy something we own it and can do what we want with it.

No, when it comes down to the bottom line, anything like DRM is only meant to increase the profit of those supplying the product while removing our rights as to what we can do with the product.

One of the biggest players in DRM has always been Microsoft. Whether releasing software or creating means by which other companies could enforce an MS brand of DRM, the Redmond giant has been a proponent of digital rights management.

Then today we hear from Mary Jo Foley that Microsoft is further muddying the DRM waters by announcing the fact that they are joining the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE). This consortium of businesses that includes Cisco, Warner Brothers, Sony, Best Buy among a host of other companies; with the exception of Apple, proposes a policy of buy once, play anywhere.

Before you get all excited at the prospect of a time when you might actually be able to do what you want with something you have paid for, you might want to ask the same questions that Ms. Foley did:

Will the DECE come up with some kind of new DRM scheme, one that will require brand-new, DECE-enabled devices? And will Windows somehow be part of this new mix? Engadget is reporting there will be some kind of “rights locker,” where digital purchases will be stored. If that is the case, what does that mean for the forthcoming “Skymarket” Windows Mobile 7 app store, the Zune VideoX initiative or even Live Mesh?

The problem is that nobody is answering those questions at this point.

The thing is that no matter what kind of consortium all these companies might want to create to protect their profit margins, none of them will work in the long run. As quickly as each effort at new forms of DRM are thought up, they are just as quickly broken.

The fact is that people quite rightly feel that if they pay out good money for something then it is theirs and they will do what they want with it. This mentality has has also been compounded by the increasing attitude that stuff available on the Internet should be free.

It doesn’t matter whether or not someone has spent months or years on a product - the moment it hits the Internet it is suppose to be free and if it isn’t is will soon be made that way - especially for the more net savvy people. It doesn’t matter if we block the ads that are supposed to pay for the product you have downloaded - it’s free and it’s your right to have it without any cost.

We are building this attitude of entitlement into the very fabric of the Web and there isn’t a company around that is going to be able to combat that with any type of DRM.

Just as there are people who say that the advertising supported business model is headed down a slippery hill, the same can be said of companies who are relying on any kind of DRM technology. It’s just a matter of time.

Original here

MediaDefender, One Year After the Email Leak

Written by Ernesto

Exactly a year ago, the anti-piracy company MediaDefender was put to shame after a hacker gained access to their systems. Many of the deepest secrets of the company were published online, and now, twelve months on, the company is walking the plank to bankruptcy as its shares are worth less than one cent each.

revision3For years, MediaDefender has been known for their notorious anti-piracy efforts, flooding torrent sites with fake files and decoys. It was therefore no surprise that the filesharing community was delighted when a hacker gained access to the company’s servers.

The hacker, a high-school student using the pseudonym Ethan still lived with his parents when he first accessed they company’s servers by exploiting a weakness in their firewall. This was at the end of 2006, at a time when business was still good for MediaDefender, with its revenue standing at nearly $16m.

Soon after that, Ethan got access to the company’s email, its networked resources and even its telephone system. Logging in a handful of times each month through the summer of 2007, he started to get bored with “Monkey Defenders” - his pet name for the anti-piracy outfit. Deciding to go out with a bang, he and the Media Defender-Defenders gathered thousands of the company’s internal emails and published them on web.

The rest is history. On September 15, 2007 the database containing thousands of emails was uploaded to several BitTorrent sites. In the release note Ethan and friends wrote: “By releasing these emails we hope to secure the privacy and personal integrity of all peer-to-peer users. The emails contain information about the various tactics and technical solutions for tracking p2p users, and disrupt p2p services,” and “A special thanks to Jay Mairs, for circumventing their entire email-security by forwarding all your emails to your gmail account.”

The emails contained a wide range of information including server passwords, social security numbers, spoofing strategies and vacation pictures. And it didn’t end there. In the days after the email leak, Ethan and friends released a private telephone conversation between MediaDefender and the New York attorney general’s office, a P2P tracking database, which was followed up a few days later by all of Media Defender’s anti-piracy tools. The effect on the company and its operations was dramatic.

In a SEC filing, the financial damage started to become clear. As a result of the hacking, by November 2007 MediaDefender had lost nearly $1,000,000, which affected the stock price of parent company ArtistDirect significantly. Before the email leak, stock was around the $2.25 mark. Three months later stock plummeted to $0.63. Now, a year after the leak the stock price has hit rock bottom, at less than $0.01 per share.

Meanwhile, BitTorrent sites witnessed a decrease in MediaDefender activity following the leak. The Pirate Bay’s Peter Sunde, who sued some key players in the entertainment business for using MediaDefender, told TorrentFreak that there has been a significant decrease in activity from BitTorrent spoofers and decoyers. “It’s strange that no one has given much regard to the fact that the way MediaDefender works is probably illegal in most countries. Even in the US. I might even say, especially in the US,” Sunde added.

Decrease in activity or not, this spring the company still managed to make the tech headlines by sabotaging the BitTorrent tracker of the popular Internet TV network Revision3. Revision3 lost thousands of dollar in revenue because of the DDoS attack, but decided not to take any legal action. Meanwhile, the stock price on MediaDefender’s parent company continued its freefall.

So what does the future hold for MediaDefender? Currently, they have decreased their anti-piracy efforts, and started to explore options to use filesharing networks for marketing purposes. Eric Pulier and Teymour Boutros-Ghali, two former members of ArtistDirect’s board of directors who resigned last month announced that they were interested in buying MediaDefender, but it’s not clear what path they intend to take.

Perhaps a more realistic option, is for the company to file for bankruptcy, as The Pirate Bay predicted they would, long before the emails leaked.

Original here

PC Don't trash it! 15 great uses for your old PC

How to turn an old computer into a media server


Media server, hardware firewall, or in the case of this old beast, the recycling centre



Are you looking to trade in your old PC for the latest all-singing, all-dancing model? If you haven't yet earmarked it for a role in your household, don't rush to bin it: we Britons produce over 1.8 million tonnes of electric and electronic waste every single year, and even if you don't care about the environment per se, we're fast running out of landfill space.

Here are 20 different ways of finding a new role for your old PC or disposing of it responsibly, either to raise a small amount of cash or to provide someone else with the opportunity of using it. We'll cover everything from turning it into a backup device, a moving photo frame, or a vintage games machine, to looking at other ways of offloading it at little or no effort for yourself.

1. Use it as a video recorder

Many modern TV tuner cards, such as the Hauppauge WinTV GO-Plus, only require a 100MHz processor to play live TV, although your chip will need to be capable of around 700MHz if you want to use your old system as a video recorder, too. If it's up to scratch, then you can record shows at DVD quality, plus schedule recordings by using online programme guides. TV tuner cards are supplied with software to play and record live TV in Windows, but you'll probably want to watch shows over a TV rather than a monitor. Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition would ordinarily be the best option for this, but you can't buy it on its own and your old PC won't be able to cope with it anyway. Thankfully, there are alternatives. If you want a freebie, try MediaPortal or check out either ShowShifter (£30) or SageTV ($80, around £40) – all designed to work on a TV screen.

2. Help find a cure for cancer

Distributed computing is one of the most philanthropic uses for an old computer. Essentially, it's for scientific projects that require a huge amount of processing power to crunch the reams of data they generate, such as analysing DNA to help find cures for diseases such as cancer, or reports from space telescopes scanning interstellar static for signs of alien life. A computer signed up to one of these projects receives data to analyse over the internet and then dedicates its spare processing cycles to the task.

3. Make some money from it

Old PCs lose value at an incredible rate, so if you do have something to sell, don't sit on it. If you have a component that's relatively rare, you might be able to fetch a few bob for it on eBay. Your best bet for getting slightly more than the pitiful online rate for a second-hand system is to advertise in local newspaper classifieds and the like, because their audience is a lot less tech-savvy than eBay's. As a result, you might be able to get a higher price for your old equipment.

4. Assist a silver surfer

Why not bequeath your dear old computer to your dear old great-aunt? Never mind that it can't play back high-def video, as long as it can browse the web, display digital photos and run a word processor. For a beginner, it'll make the perfect entry point to the world of everyday modern computing.

5. Recycle it responsibly

According to a UN study, the manufacture of a new computer and monitor uses 240kg of fossil fuels, 22kg of chemicals and 1,500 litres of water. To make matters worse, the government estimates around 1.8 million tonnes of electrical and electronic waste is generated every single year.

That's an awful lot of material, so it makes sense to keep as much of it out of landfill as possible.

To find a computer recycling centre near you, visit If all of this sounds like too much hard work, you might like to consider giving the PC away via Freecycle, or even taking it to your local household waste centre so that it can be disposed of responsibly on your behalf.

6. Use it as a television

Your decrepit computer itself may be next to useless, but its old 19in CRT monitor could be perfect to use as a second television. Get yourself an external TV tuner, such as the AVerTV DVB-T STB7, plug an aerial cable into one end and the VGA lead from your monitor into the other – and you've got yourself a fully functional TV. The STB7 is a digital tuner, so it will work after the analogue switch-off, but you can pick up both analogue and hybrid models from AVerMedia too.

7. Deter thieves

A ten-year-old, coffee-splattered beige PC with a 486 sticker, placed in a highly visible spot in your home, will appear so valueless that thieves won't think you have a computer worth nicking… Just make sure that the real one's kept out of sight of prying eyes.

8. Make a jukebox

Even the hoariest processor is capable of playing digital music in WMA or MP3 format, and a venerable 40GB hard drive will quite happily store thousands of tracks. So rig up your old PC to your hi-fi and you've got yourself a jukebox. If it's an old laptop you're using, that's perfect, but one thing you don't want is a giant CRT sat on top of your amplifier if you're using a desktop PC.

Here's an alternative. Put a shortcut to Windows Media Player (WMP) in the Startup folder on your Start Menu, so the program will autoload. Create a new playlist containing every song on the PC and then set WMP to random playback mode (Play > Shuffle or [Ctrl] + [H]).

9. Give it to charity

We may be living in the internet age, but that doesn't mean for a moment that everyone in the UK, let alone the world, is computer-enabled. Ask if any local schools or charities would be able to make use of your old PC. Ensure your computer's in good working condition beforehand, because if they have to spend money, resources and time getting a broken machine back on its feet, it will be counterproductive. There are also various organisations dedicated to collecting old PCs for the disadvantaged, such as Express Link Up.

One thing to look out for before disposing of your PC is the data stored on your hard drive. Even if you format the drive, the data can still be recovered, so use a tool such as Eraser to delete all your personal details.

10. Make a games server

If you play online multiplayer games with a group of mates, it's preferable to play on your own server rather than hop onto a random one that's probably a continent away, thus introducing lag and the whim of moderators you don't know.

Enter your PC: use it as a dedicated server that only has to deal in web traffic, so it doesn't have to load the game itself and doesn't need a fancy 3D card or a beefy CPU. Most games have an option for a dedicated server in their Start menu folder – load it up and you're away.

11. Set up a home security system

Any old webcam can be used for makeshift CCTV. The latest Creative models include software to capture video or pictures upon motion detection, go to its website to view the entire range. Just make sure you pick a model that uses the Live! Cam software, such as the Live! Cam Video IM (£20) or Live! Cam Optia (£40). If you already own another make of webcam, try webcamXP, which runs on Windows XP or above.

12. Convert it into a test machine

If you regularly fall foul of viruses and the like, consider pressing your old PC into service as a test machine. You could even use it specifically for opening attachments or downloading programs from the internet, thereby creating another layer of security and removing your main PC from the front line. It's also worth using your test machine for installing software, whether you want to compare a number of programs without cluttering up your main machine or you need to make sure a program won't cause any problems.

13. Play classic games

Classic PC games from the 1980s and early 1990s don't always run on Windows XP because they're designed for the archaic text-only DOS operating system. So have that old PC dedicated to running DOS. If you have the original install floppy discs or can find them on eBay, great; otherwise give FreeDOS a try. You'll find that most old videogaming systems can now be emulated by special software.

MAME is the most widely used and recreates old arcade machines and their games. Download the latest version of MAMEUI, connect up a USB gamepad and, if your CPU can muster 100MHz or above, you're away. You'll need to supply your own game ROMs – a number of legitimate ROMs can be found at Other ROMs on the internet haven't been cleared for use, so they're illegal. If you're really keen, you could even buy a classic arcade machine (for around £200 on eBay) and then fit your old PC into it.

14. Use it as a backup device

Rather than ending up with an ever-growing, 20ft pile of CD-Rs, simply copy all of your important files from your main PC to your old one regularly – a £10 USB flash drive will do the job nicely. Alternatively, if your PCs are on the same network, you can use the free version of SyncBack from (click Downloads > Freeware) to back up your files automatically every day.

15. Turn it into a firewall

Even the dustiest old 486 can be used as a hardware firewall, standing as a permanent barrier between the internet and your main computer to prevent any undesired information requests from reaching your important data in the first place.

Give m0n0wall a try. Setup is too lengthy to explain in just a few words, so follow the helpful guides on the site to get it up and running. There are a few things you'll need to know about your internet connection, such as which category it falls into. Most broadband ISPs in the UK use either static IP or PPPoE.

This is the kind of information you'll usually find on your ISP's website, but if you have no luck there you'll have to contact them directly. M0n0wall's system requirements aren't excessive: it requires a minimum of 64MB RAM, a Pentium-class processor (you can get away with a 486 CPU if your internet connection is less than 10Mbps) and minimal hard drive space; in fact, the firewall can be run directly from a bootable CD/floppy drive (the latter is used to store your settings).

Servers at Sea: Google Ships Could Soon Set Sail

Written by Marshall Kirkpatrick

googlelogo6.jpgA Google patent application filed two years ago but published this fall is getting some new attention because it's just too interesting to ignore. The patent (link) is for putting data centers on ships at sea and harvesting the energy in waves for power.

The biggest benefit for the company, though, could come from changed legal and tax status by placing the ships outside of national jurisdiction. It's a thought both fascinating and frightening, although it also may end up as just another crazy patent filed for the sake of filing it.

Called a Water-Based Data Center, the idea was written up by the UK's Times Online today with slightly misleading verbiage like the following:

Google refused to say how soon its barges could set sail. The company said: "We file patent applications on a variety of ideas. Some of those ideas later mature into real products, services or infrastructure, some don't."

There's lengthy and sometimes well informed discussion of the data-ship patent over at Slashdot today as well. Jeff Nolan does his best to debunk the the idea too. The whole thing also brings to mind the plans by the website Pirate Bay to buy retired British naval platform turned "micro-nation" Sealand. Those plans were not well received by authorities.

Image from the patent application.

This Might Just Be a Pipe Dream

Two years ago I wrote about another Google patent, for software that would capture the ambient audio in a room and serve up contextual ads and content. That product hasn't come to market yet, as far as we know. (We kid, sort of.)

It's hard not to want to sound the alarm, though, on such strange plans. Google's huge, centralized store of data about so much of our lives is inherently cause for concern - but put that data out to sea and outside of ostensible government oversight and it's downright frightening. In some places that could be a positive development but generally speaking we're not sure it's a gamble we'd like to take.

We don't know about the ecological impacts or the technical feasibility, but we imagine this idea would be a pretty hard one to resist if it could be implemented.

Original here

19 Really Cool Gadgets for Your Office or Cubicle

The office can be a cold, hard, unfeeling, life-sucking place to spend your working days, but then again you don’t have to live in Dilbertsville. For all the stigma surrounding “the office,” you’re getting unique opportunities to interact with people and your environment in between filing TPS reports.

Here are 19 gadgets that will help to turn that day job prison into a techy heaven!

  1. Newton’s USB Cradle

    A new take on an old office classic, the USB Newton’s Cradle from Boynq gracefully suspends 4 USB cables aloft like the classic Newton’s cradle, affording you great functionality in a slick form factor.
  2. The Stealth Switch - Tap It With Your Foot To Hide Your Games or MySpace Windows At Work

    What fun would work be without a little procrastination? This foot pedal attaches to your Windows machine and sits on the floor while you play your games or browse around, carefully avoiding your work. If the boss walks into the room, simply stomp the pedal and it will hide your troublesome open windows! You can snag one now for $39.95.

  3. Nappak - Portable Sleeping Cube

    A well rested employee is a productive employee. Either that or they’re just lazy! Either way, this portable sleeping cube dubbed the Nappak is sure to provide some peaceful office Z’s for those who need it. Hey, it works for Google!
  4. USB Coffee Warmer
    Technological convergence can be a great thing. For those of you who require their caffeine fix, this little USB-powered hot plate is your newest best friend. While it won’t bring your cup o’ joe (or favorite tea) to a bubbling boil, it will keep it nice and warm around 104� F right next to your computer!
  5. Carpet Skates

    These were too funny not to include! Just slip these guys over your shoes and their sheer surfaces will reduce the friction enough to allow you to glide at blinding speed across your office carpet! Late for that 3 o’clock meeting on the other side of the floor? No problem any more! Note: Speed skating/ninja suit not included, though strange glances from your coworkers are something you’ll be sure to attract. (Of course, you’re productivity will probably skyrocket as well, so you’ll have the last laugh at your mid-year review!)
  6. USB Beverage Chiller
    USB ports are a great thing and should be put to use! Maybe the beverage warmer above isn’t your, ahem, cup of tea. In that case, why not cool down with this USB Beverage Chiller. It’s guaranteed to keep your favorite drink at a nice, frosty 45� F.
  7. Optimus Popularis - A Keyboard With LCD Keys


    After a long period if use, the standard office keyboard can become a pretty boring thing to look at. Well you can just get this guy and you will have the hottest keyboard in your office. Each key on this keyboard is actually and LCD screen and it allows you to customize each one to fit your preferences.

  8. myKey0 Keyboard and Stash Box
    Maybe cleanliness isn’t your primary concern when it comes to picking a keyboard. But perhaps the office is a bit cramped? No worries, the myKey0 Keyboard comes with an added tray underneath for easy storage of all your desktop essentials.
  9. Babble Voice Privacy - Stops Eavesdroppers
    An interesting concept for sure, the Babble Voice Privacy system is comprised of a base unit and two speakers which emit a prerecorded track and white noise, to cancel out your confidential conversations that the overeager ears of your coworkers wish to eavesdrop on.
  10. USB Tape Dispenser Hub
    You can never have too many USB ports, so why not stick them into what has become a staple (no pun intended) in nearly every office worldwide? The best part? Since your USB tape dispenser hub is tethered to your computer, it’s virtually guaranteed to never leave your desk!
  11. Portable Office Workstation
    This modular station has got some really great functionality built in. What happens is that the unit starts out as a big, draggable block on rollers. Lock it in place and unfold it to reveal space for two fully loaded workstations with plenty of storage space. Instant modular workstations - perfect!
  12. The Three Stage Cubicle Security System

    This security system for your office or cubicle is equipped with a motion sensor. First it flashes and sounds a siren. Then it sends a signal to the second stage which is a louder alarm. The third stage is then triggered and it will fire two foam missiles at the intruder.

  13. Office Multitool
    You’ll suddenly find yourself in Milton’s predicament as everyone drools over your stapler… and scissors, measuring tape, paper-clip holder and calculator that are all wrapped up in one handy multitool. If they only sold it in red…
  14. Bright Blinds
    Not everyone gets the glorious office in the corner with the big windows. Natural selection (or nepotism, depending on how you look at it) in the workplace will often mean that the higher-ups get the best view. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to do without. These Bright Blinds mimic the look of a well lit window and give your office that bright, gentle, diffuse glow. Now if they made these with full spectrum lighting, then you’d really be mimicking outdoor light!
  15. Aeron’s Ultimate Self-Adjusting Office Chair
    If you’re going to spend hours on your kiester in front of a computer, you might as well be comfortable. Other office chairs require you to make adjustments every time you move. This chair adjusts for you. Each section of the chair is designed to adjust with your body to help you maintain good posture. Counterweights provide appropriate resistance to prevent back pain. Neat!
  16. The Webble
    Your chair already has wheels, so why keep your feet stationary? This skateboard-looking device dubbed the “Webble,” from Yanko Design is described as the world’s first active footrest. This wheelie cushion is covered in a tough membrane and rolled on four casters for omni-directional turning. It’s currently available for $139.95.
  17. High Dexx USB Flash Drives
    Executives: consider this as your next corporate gift. Designed to be ordered in bulk, this group of seemingly innocuous cubes contains three highlighters and one USB flash drive. Capacities of up to 2 GB are available, making it perfect for carting around documents and other important files.
  18. Ubiko, the Corporate Robot

    UBIX, a Japanese company, has built this guy, nicknamed Ubiko. While he is no astromech droid, Ubiko is designed to serve in corporate environments and perform specific tasks like welcoming clients and promoting products. The robot speaks and also responds to voice commands. How soon until everyone’s jobs are replaced by robots? Not too soon, I hope. It would be tough to do that anyway, seeing as a 2 hour rental costs nearly $1000.
  19. USB Humidifier with Aromatherapy

    This USB powered humidifier generates cool, moisturized air to help you breathe easier at work. It also has an aromatherapy option which means you’ll have the best smelling space at work.

Thanks for checking out our list of 19 Really Cool Gadgets for Your Office or Cubicle. We hope you enjoyed it! (on your own spare time, not the company’s, right?) Do you have any really cool gadgets in your office that you want to share? Let us know in the comments below!