Monday, September 22, 2008

Interesting new developments in Ubuntu Intrepid Alpha 6

Although I don't use Ubuntu anymore, I still try to keep up with the news on it, and I've tested the upcoming Intrepid a couple of times recently. There have been some interesting developments which I'd like to let you know about.


I used the netboot (mini.iso) method of installation. Some of the options may not be available in the graphical install.

  1. Intrepid now offers to automatically create a private, encrypted directory within each user's home directory.

  2. There are several options for automatic updates, including an option to use Canonical's Landscape, a tool for managing clients in an enterprise environment. With this choice and the possibility of pre-seeding the installation shows that Canonical is making a concerted push into Red Hat's cherished enterprise business.
  3. There are an enormous number of tasks. Non-Debian users might consider these profiles for client machines. There are so many that they go well off of the first page. Servers. All the Ubuntu sub-projects. They're all there. The Ubuntu server project has added several new server types.

The Desktop

  1. The Screen Resolution applet now has a tag to show which monitor you're adjusting. This is extremely useful for multiple-monitor setups.
  2. Over the last few days, the logout panel applet has been completely replaced by the new user-switching agent. It offers switching to the new, limited-permission guest account. When Pidgin or Empathy are running, you can also use it to change online status.

  3. Although Intrepid still uses the Human theme by default, the darker NewHuman theme is available in the installation.
  4. Totem comes with a new plugin to access BBC videos.
  5. Although Mozilla has pulled back on its EULA requirement, it was still in Intrepid on the 20th.
  6. Rhythmbox now has a plugin to make it minimize to the notification area. This behavior is against Gnome's HIG, but it is the behavior expected by many users. This screenshot also shows that popular plugins like cover art and DAAP are now enabled by default.
Well, that's the quick look at what's changed recently. I'll update in a couple of weeks.

Original here

15 Great Quotes from Torvalds and Stallman about Free and Open Source Software

In celebration of Software Freedom Day 2008, I would like to share to you all some of my favorite quotes about Free and Open Source Software from no less than the two pillars of FOSS, Linus Torvalds and Richard M. Stallman. Enjoy and be inspired.

1. "To be able to choose between proprietary software packages is to be able to choose your master. Freedom means not having a master. And in the area of computing, freedom means not using proprietary software."
-Richard M. Stallman

2. “Software is like sex: it's better when it's free.”
-Linus Torvalds

3. “Value your freedom or you will lose it, teaches history. 'Don't bother us with politics', respond those who don't want to learn.”
-Richard M. Stallman

4. “Software patents are a huge potential threat to the ability of people to work together on open source. Making it easier for companies and communities that have patents to make those patents available in a common pool for people to use is one way to try to help developers deal with the threat.”
-Linus Torvalds

5. “If programmers deserve to be rewarded for creating innovative programs, by the same token they deserve to be punished if they restrict the use of these programs.”
-Richard M. Stallman

6. “One of the questions I've always hated answering is how do people make money in open source. And I think that Caldera and Red Hat -- and there are a number of other Linux companies going public -- basically show that yes, you can actually make money in the open-source area.”
-Linus Torvalds

7. “Control over the use of one's ideas really constitutes control over other people's lives; and it is usually used to make their lives more difficult.”
-Richard M. Stallman

8. “It just makes it even harder for people to even approach the (open source) side, when they then end up having to worry about ... public humiliation.”
-Linus Torvalds

9. “I founded the free software movement, a movement for freedom to cooperate. Open source was a reaction against our idealism. We are still here and the open-source people have not wiped us out.”
-Richard M. Stallman

10. "When it comes to software, I much prefer free software, because I have very seldom seen a program that has worked well enough for my needs, and having sources available can be a life-saver."
-Linus Torvalds

11. “If you focus your mind on the freedom and community that you can build by staying firm, you will find the strength to do it.”
-Richard M. Stallman

12. "Anybody who tells me I can't use a program because it's not open source, go suck on rms. I'm not interested. 99% of that I run tends to be open source, but that's _my_ choice, dammit."
-Linus Torvalds

13. “'Free software' is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of 'free' as in 'free speech,' not as in 'free beer'.”
-Richard M. Stallman

14. "I'm doing a free operating system just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu for 386 (486) AT clones."
-Linus Torvalds

15. "Once GNU is written, everyone will be able to obtain good system software free, just like air."
-Richard M. Stallman

If you have other quotes about free and open-source software, please share with us.

Original here

The Pirate Bay Tops 15 Million Peers

Written by Ernesto

Today, The Pirate Bay reached a new milestone, as they now have more than 3 million registered users. On top of that, they track close to 15 million unique peers. The largest BitTorrent tracker just keeps growing and growing, and there is no sign that this will be put to a halt anytime soon.

pirate bayWhen this article is published, The Pirate Bay now tracks nearly 1,288,514 torrents and 14,786,539 unique peers. As a comparison, in December 2006 they tracked 576,080 torrents and 4,274,698 peers, so today’s figures represent quite an increase.

TiAMO, one of Pirate Bay’s co-founders and the one responsible for keeping the hardware up and running, is happy with the traffic increase, and writes:

“A big thanks to all our users helping to make the site what it is. We’ll keep growing for as long as you keep using the site, filing it with content, sharing.”

This traffic increase is apparently placing quite a lot of stress on their server park. In July, the site went offline for more than a day, as the server setup had trouble keeping up with the ever-growing demand. It is estimated that The Pirate Bay currently returns results to between 7 and 8 million searches per day, roughly 230 million a month.

The popularity of The Pirate Bay hasn’t gone unnoticed with artists either. Timbuktu, a well known Swedish rapper released his latest single exclusively on The Pirate Bay earlier today. Free of DRM, high quality and free to share and remix of course.

Original here

Analysis: new spying lawsuit asks "can computers eavesdrop?"

By Julian Sanchez

A second front

The Electronic Frontier Foundation Thursday opened what attorney Kevin Bankston called the "second front in our battle to stop the NSA's illegal surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans," with a lawsuit targeting top administration officials who approved or implemented the National Security Agency's program of warrantless surveillance. At the heart of the suit is a surprising and complex question that legal experts say remains radically unsettled: Can a computer eavesdrop?

The first front in this fight is EFF's ongoing lawsuit against telecom firms believed to have participated in the NSA program, which the group once thought would be the quickest way to get at the underlying question of whether the NSA program was itself lawful. But that litigation spurred Congress to pass the FISA Amendments Act this summer, granting retroactive immunity to the defendant companies, provided the Attorney General certifies that they received assurances from the government that the surveillance was lawful. While EFF believes the immunity provision to be unconstitutional, Bankston acknowledged in a press teleconference this afternoon that "litigating that question is going to slow us down." They've therefore decided to cut out the middleman and target the government directly.

The new suit, Jewel v. NSA, seeks both injunctive relief—the cessation of the program and the destruction of records obtained through it—and civil damages from the officials most responsible for the program. EFF's complaint alleges that the program violates the Constitution, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Wiretap Act, and the Stored Communications Act. Bankston believes the new suit is likely to be shunted to the docket of California judge Vaughn Walker, who has heard both the consolidated telecom lawsuits and a number of other cases implicating the NSA program.

President Bush is a named defendant

In addition to government agencies—the Department of Justice and National Security Agency—the lawsuit names a number of administration officials as defendants, in both their official capacities and as private individuals: President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Cheney's chief of staff David Addington, as well as the the attorneys general, NSA directors, directors of national intelligence, and an indeterminate number of unknown "John Does" who played some role in authorizing and implementing the warrantless wiretapping. Bankston said that EFF is asking for civil damages from all of these officials—with the exception of the president, who enjoys immunity from civil liability for actions in office—in order to secure "personal accountability from the architects of the program, and to provide a strong incentive against future lawbreaking by these or other government officials."

The plaintiffs are the same as those in the telecom case, Hepting v. AT&T, with one more added for good measure. All are ordinary citizens of a "nationwide class of customers of all AT&T residential phone and internet service providers," and their standing to bring suit relies not on any contention that they were specific targets of NSA surveillance, but on the claim that the government was indiscriminately vacuuming up vast quantities of data, to be filtered by the government according to algorithms known only to them.

This claim rests in large part on evidence provided by AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein, who has provided documentation attesting to the existence of a secret room in AT&T's Folsom Street facility in San Francisco, where fiber optic cables were diverted through a sophisticated Narus traffic analysis machine. As EFF attorney Cindy Cohn notes, this is a hub facility through which both purely domestic and international traffic are routed, whereas a program targeting exclusively international or domestic-to-foreign communications should be situated at the point where "the wire hits the beach." The Folsom Street room is believed to be only one of many similar interception stations. According to a March report in the Wall Street Journal, "current and former intelligence officials confirmed a domestic network of hubs, but didn't know the number."

This is where things get murky.

The case EFF plans to make—and, indeed, their plaintiffs' standing to bring suit—rests on the premise that the wholesale diversion of domestic communications to the government's filtering device in itself constitutes a search or seizure beyond the bounds of both the Fourth Amendment and federal wiretap statutes—including the new FISA Amendments Act, which gave the Attorney General broad discretion to authorize the collection of communications, including domestic-to-international communications, provided the "target" of the investigation is a foreign person or group.

But the government has never accepted that premise. During the 2000 controversy over the FBI's use of (now superseded) packet-sniffing software dubbed "Carnivore," officials argued that the ephemeral copying of data into memory for the purpose of filtering out targeted material did not itself impinge upon privacy interests. Sifting that took place "inside the box" did not amount to a Fourth Amendment "search" until data was actually recorded in a human-readable form.

Judge Richard Posner applied this argument to still more intrusive data mining practices in a much-discussed 2006 article in The New Republic. "A computer search does not invade privacy or violate FISA, because a computer program is not a sentient being," wrote Posner. "But, if the program picked out a conversation that seemed likely to have intelligence value and an intelligence officer wanted to scrutinize it, he would come up against FISA's limitations."

Filtering and search

So when does computer filtering of traffic become a search? To answer that question, Ars turned to one of the foremost experts on national security surveillance law: David Kris, formerly the top foreign intel surveillance lawyer at the Department of Justice, and author of the definitive legal text on the subject.

"There isn't much in the way of case law on this," Kris acknowledged right off the bat. There is, as EFF's Bankston is quick to point out, a fair amount of precedent at the statutory level supporting the contention that—as one of the cases cited in EFF's reply brief to Verizon in the telecom suit puts it—"it is the act of diverting, and not the act of listening, that constitutes an 'interception.'" But the Department of Justice's own internal guidelines have always maintained that a communication is "collected" or "acquired" at the moment it is fixed in a human-readable format—a definition that would exclude the ephemeral copies of data made by NSA's filtering devices, unless they were ultimately flagged and recorded.

David Kris

It is helpful, Kris suggests, to consider two contrasting "easy cases" before wading into the thornier space between them. Suppose, he says, that the NSA takes a snapshot of the whole Internet to search and filter at its leisure—every Web page, every e-mail, every phone conversation. That, argues Kris, would clearly violate the Fourth Amendment, a range of wiretap statutes, and the government's own internal guidelines.

An equally easy call, Kris believes, is the judgment that something like Carnivore, which "may or may not resemble the splitter at Folsom Street, is not a seizure." Carnivore, crucially, was concerned with scanning the traffic stream for header data—the e-mail address of a specific target that the government had probable cause to believe was up to no good. Since the courts have traditionally made a strong distinction between "content" (that is, the "meaning or purport" of a communication) and "non-content" (encompassing information about the communication, such as the two phone numbers connected by a given call), the government should be considered to have "searched" or "seized" only what is copied into some more permanent storage medium, not everything that is filtered "inside the box."

"If EFF wants to say that a packet sniffer 'seizes' or 'acquires' every packet that it sniffs," argues Kris, "that's just not going to fly; nobody's going to believe that, and it just makes life too difficult for everybody. Not that the argument is crazy; I just think it's wrong and that it will not prevail. If all they were doing was splitting a fiber optic pipe, mirroring it, running it through some kind of packet sniffing or filtering device, and then keeping permanently whatever hit the filter, I think they 'seized' or 'acquired' only what met the filters or was copied permanently, not the entire thing."

But Kris thinks the situation changes if, as many have speculated, the NSA is capable of filtering the content of a communication in order to select a target. "It's not normally the case that you could justify a search according to what you find in the search," he said. "There is something I think the judges will find very problematic about justifying a search by what the filters produce, taking the 'dog sniff' principle [that a drug dog's sniff is not a 'search' because it only reveals contraband] to the point where you can literally review, albeit instantaneously, every communication everywhere with no justification."

Does that mean content filtering is ruled out altogether as an investigative technique? Kris thinks the agencies might have a "decent chance of pulling that off constitutionally if a judge approved the search terms." But he also doubts that, under the FISA Amendments Act, "targeting procedures are going to be that granular; they'd have to be going back to the court way too often, and they want speed and agility."

When the Bush administration finally consented to submit its surveillance program to the supervision of the FISA court, it cited recent legal developments that would allow it to craft innovative orders providing just that kind of speed and agility. Some observers, such as George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr, have speculated that the development in question was the Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Grubbs, which gave the Court's imprimatur to "anticipatory warrants"—in other words, warrants sketching out abstract conditions that, if satisfied, would constitute probable cause for a search.

That would dovetail with the pointed omission in the FISA Amendments Act of language requiring that surveillance orders describe a "specific" target—meaning some particular individual implicated in terrorism, whether or not his name is known, as opposed to a series of general traits or properties that would constitute grounds for considering anyone a terrorist suspect. All this suggests an attempt to shift toward a surveillance regime in which huge quantities of data are "filtered" but only those that trip the computer's alarm bells are "acquired."

Bankston, however, argues that the colloquial definition of "acquisition" must prevail. Under a theory that denies a "search" has taken place until a call or e-mail is recorded for human review, Bankston told Ars, the communication's "availability for scrutiny is hinged solely on how the government chooses to configure the device. The government has acquired that communication. There's nothing in the law indicating that how they handle the communication after they've acquired it makes any difference for whether they've violated the Fourth Amendment or the surveillance statutes." Less important than whether the government is able to inspect your message in any particular instance, he says, is that "they've acquired it in such a way that you've lost your control over how to dispose of that communication."

In support of his argument, Bankston invokes a Harvard Law Review article by Paul Ohm on the "right to delete." A target whose data is copied, writes Ohm, "is dispossessed of one of the bundle of rights in his property, and to deny that this is a seizure stretches the plain meaning of the word." The subtle but salient point here is that the moment of copying is the moment at which the individual loses control of his data to the government, and must rely on their scrupulousness to prevent the misuse of that information.

Judge Walker, who is likely to hear the new suit, appears to be sympathetic to this view. He has already ruled that "the alleged dragnet" in the telecom litigation "here encompasses the communications of 'all or substantially all of the communications transmitted through [AT&T’s] key domestic telecommunications facilities,'" and therefore "it cannot reasonably be said that the program as alleged is limited to tracking foreign powers." As a result Walker concluded, participation in the NSA wiretap program violated established constitutional rights, such that "AT&T cannot seriously contend that a reasonable entity in its position could have believed that the alleged domestic dragnet was legal."

Still, many questions remain, and many of them would appear to turn on sensitive operational details of the NSA program—details the government is sure to claim are protected by the state secrets privilege. Where, for example, does the line between "content" and "non-content" lie? What if a computer filter is able to detect, at some level of reliability, the voice of a particular suspected terrorist? What if it is able to detect the signature elements of a particular national accent, then combine that with other suggestive data? Are these and other features of a person's verbal or prose style elements of the communication, or merely facts about it?

While the experts Ars spoke with differed on what they felt was the most reasonable answer to these questions, all conceded that there are, at any rate, no well-established answers. That means EFF's lawsuit is wading into a realm where the NSA program has long resided: the unknown.

Original here

Dual-core comes to Atom line with launch of Atom 330

By Joel Hruska

Intel's new integrated, dual-core nettop Atom 330 solution has launched; the updated motherboard/CPU combo should be available from retail outlets in the immediate future. Atom 330 ships with an improved version of Intel's original Atom board; the D945GCLF2 includes support for DDR-2 667 (up from DDR2-533), adds six-channel HD audio, and features gigabit Ethernet instead of the 10/100TX solution that its predecessor offered.

Atom 330 and Atom 230 share the same feature set and clockspeed, but Atom 330 is a HyperThreading-enabled dual-core part. The performance difference between the two processors could be significant—Atom 230's performance in any given benchmark varies by up to 50 percent depending on whether or not HT is enabled. Adding a full second core should improve performance by an even greater amount, though the exact benefit will always vary from scenario to scenario. It's safe to assume, however, that Atom 330 will generally outperform Atom 230 while consuming only slightly more power (as measured at the wall).

As we've mentioned before, the Atom 330+D945GCLF2 motherboard is strictly a desktop/nettop solution. Intel will undoubtedly release a low-power dual-core Atom N370 (assuming Intel keeps to its current naming conventions) at some point, but it may not do so for some months yet—netbooks, it seems, will continue to use the single-core, low-power N270 up through Christmas. As far as the netbook market is concerned, Intel's N270 has no current peer, but both the Atom 230 and Atom 330 could face significant competition in the coming months. Sales of systems in this space only comprise a small fraction of total Atom sales, but for the two companies in question (AMD and VIA) even a fraction of sales in a fraction of a given market can translate into meaningful revenue.

In order to effectively compete against Atom—even desktop Atom—both AMD and VIA must overcome challenges of their own. VIA's Nano outperforms Atom 230 (we've not compared it against Atom 330), but we've yet to see even one Nano-powered device, motherboard, or system. VIA initially indicated that such systems would be on the market late in the third quarter; if the company intends to keep that goal it has precious little time left in which to do it. As for AMD, it reportedly intends to fight back against Atom with a series of ultra-low-power Athlon 64 processors. The question, in this case, isn't whether AMD can manufacture and supply said processors, but to what degree OEMs and motherboard manufacturers will choose to back AMD's nettop/desktop solution over Intel's.

As things stand today, the only company with a shipping, available solution in this market area is Intel, and Atom 330 should offer significantly improved performance over Atom 230. To date, Atom has exceeded all expectations; Intel always thought the chip would do well, but the company has repeatedly revised its estimates for total Atom shipments in 2008 upward as the netbook craze has shown no signs of slowing. These new chips may not directly drive netbook sales, but they could prove strong (and cheap) enough to entice buyers who were put off by Atom 230's low performance.

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Android: Google's Dream, Apple's Nightmare?

By Anita Hamilton

The HTC Dream
One photo circulating on the web that is reported to be of the HTC Dream. T-Mobile will unveil the first Android handset on Sept. 23

A new smartphone is debuting on Sept. 23, and, no, it's not just another iPhone clone. The HTC Dream from T-Mobile will be the first handset to run Google's new mobile operating system, Android. And while it won't look as sleek as the iPhone, it promises to give mobile-phone users a lot more freedom and flexibility.

Many of the Dream's features are under wraps until launch, but based on leaked photos and videos along with screenshots released by Google, we already have a pretty good idea of what to expect. The biggest departure from the iPhone design is the inclusion of a physical keyboard, which apparently slides out from underneath the Dream's touchscreen. The Dream will also allow users to run multiple applications at once and more easily share contacts and data between them. And if reports from developers TIME interviewed prove true, mobile-phone users will finally be able to cut and paste text in emails — a function that's frustratingly absent on the iPhone. The Dream, which is expected to go on sale in late October, will also reportedly cost the same as the 3G: $199.

The sweetest part of the Dream is the add-on applications available from the Android Market — Google's answer to the Apple App Store. Whereas many Apple apps cost money (typically anywhere from $.99 to $9.99), at launch all Android Market apps will be free. That includes BreadCrumbz, a picture-based navigation program that doesn't just give you a drawing of your route, but also includes real-world photos to keep you on track. Another interesting app, TuneWiki, is a tricked-out music player that encourages mobile karaoke, by synchronizing written lyrics onscreen to the song's YouTube video. It also shows you what songs other TuneWiki users near you are listening to in real time. Since Android is better than the iPhone at running multiple programs at once, you won't have to choose between apps: As Breadcrumbz helps you find your way to a party, TuneWiki can play your favorite Rihanna video and get you in a groovy mood. When it's time to make a right turn, Breadcrumbz will cut in and alert you.

Android has several other key advantages over Apple. While Apple takes a top-down approach to app development — the company must approve every app that makes it into its App Store — Google will allow creators to upload any application to the Android Market without its review. Sure that means some duds will make it in, but it will also allow for a much more open and democratic way for favorites to evolve. Perhaps more significantly, users will not be limited to a single phone or carrier for long. While T-Mobile's HTC Dream will be the first phone to run Android, Google is inviting all carriers to develop handsets for the platform. Expect to see other compatible devices early next year.

Most of the Dream's other features are expected to go toe-to-toe with the iPhone, including built-in GPS, a tilt sensor for gaming, and a camera. What's more, T-Mobile recently expanded coverage for its 3G data network to 27 major cities. The faster bandwidth promises to make watching videos and downloading websites go smoothly, but if the spotty 3G coverage offered by AT&T for the iPhone is any indication, buyers should treat this promise with deep skepticism.

On the downside, don't expect the Dream to be anywhere near as slick and shiny as the iPhone. T-Mobile may be much loved among teens for its colorful, flip-screen Sidekick, but the HTC Dream will likely have a more staid look that lacks the iPhone's panache. Plus, no one can turn on the hype machine quite as well as Steve Jobs. But whatever the Dream may lack in flair, it's no less of a breakthrough when it comes to giving mobile-phone buyers more ways to connect on the go.

Original here

8 CSS Techniques for Charting Data

There are many ways you can present numerical, chartable data by styling elements using CSS. Using CSS to style your data prevents you from relying on static images and increases your content’s accessibility.

Below, you’ll read about 8 excellent techniques for styling elements into beautiful, accessible charts and graphs.

1. CSS for Bar Graphs

CSS for Bar GraphsView Demo

This tutorial showcases three ways of graphing data. The Basic CSS Bar Graph example involves a

to contain the graph, and styling a element as a block element and using percentage widths to adjust the width. A great modification of this technique is to use a paragraph

element instead of a tag for semantically-correct HTML. The two other examples use a definition list and unordered list to graph multiple bars.

2. Accessible Data Visualization with Web Standards

Accessible Data Visualization with Web Standards - screen shot.View Demo #1View Demo #2View Demo #3

Author Wilson Miner discusses the concept of accessible, standards-compliant techniques for data visualization mentioning the benefits, limitations, and alternatives in brief. The A List Apart article shows you three data visualization techniques using a basic structure of unordered lists.

3. CSS Vertical Bar Graphs

CSS Vertical Bar Graphs - screen shot.

Eric Meyer shows us another technique for graphing vertical bar graphs using unordered lists similar to the "CSS for Bar Graphs" technique from Apples To Oranges.

4. Creating a Graph Using Percentage Background Images

Creating a Graph Using Percentage Background Images - screen shot.

In this technique, you use pre-made background images to shade in the appropriate data. The downside of this technique is that you’re limited by the pre-filled background images that you have and making more to suit your needs will increase the amount of classes you assign to your data - increasing the file size of both your CSS and HTML file as well as increasing the number of HTTP connections needed to render the page because of the background images.

5. Pure CSS Data Chart

Pure Css Data Chart - screen shot.View Demo

This example uses a definition list for mark-up. A element inside the

definition list item serves as the element that gets adjusted in height to shade the appropriate area. An element is used to display the numerical representation of the shaded area, absolutely-positioned in the middle of the bar.

6. CSS Scatter Plot

CSS absolute positioning scatter plot - screen shot.

A scatter plot is another great way to graph two-dimensional data. In the example, each data point is clickable, so a possible modification to this technique is to use a modal window that displays extra information about a particular data point.

7. Definition List Bar Chart

Definition List Bar Chart - screen shot.

This technique shows two examples of styling definition lists into horizontal bar charts. Each definition list item is assigned a class that adjusts its width using percentage units.

8. Accessible Bar Chart

Accessible Bar Chart - screen shot.

This technique showcases a method for semantic, accessible bar charts by using a table as the basic structure of the bar graph and using CSS to stretch a background image to its appropriate width.

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This week in Apple: Virtualization, iPhone apps, and 10.5.5

By Jacqui Cheng

Another week in Apple news has gone by, and a lot of smallish (aka "not iPhone/iPod launch") news has been keeping the Mac web buzzing. Here are some of our top Apple-related posts for the week in case you missed them:

iPhone, iPod 2.1 jailbreak tools released: Apple's major 2.1 software updates for the iPhone and iPod touch have been jailbroken once again, allowing you to install unapproved native applications on the devices. The iPhone process requires you to get your hands a little dirty, though.

Report: Apple now sixth among worldwide PC manufacturers: Worldwide sales are up, according to Gartner, but analysts still warn that a tough economy, and Apple's affinity for designing premium machines, may not fit together for much longer.

Mac OS X 10.5.5 update now available with tons of fixes: The fifth update to Leopard, version 10.5.5, landed this week and includes numerous bug fixes and security patches. Be warned, though, that the update includes changes to Spotlight indexing that apparently causes a re-indexing of all Spotlight-indexed volumes.

VMware Fusion 2.0 goes final: free update to existing users: Fusion 2.0 for the Mac has finally been released in its final form, with a plethora of feature updates for your virtualization pleasure. Enjoy Unity 2.0 support, better Linux support, multiple snapshots, 1080p HD playback, and of course, Leopard Server support.

Mac virtualization software sales skyrocket: Speaking of VMware, both VMware and Parallels are seeing booming sales of their Mac products in the North American market, which makes you wonder what Apple is missing out on.

Whither Mac Quicken? Nine months after unveiling Quicken Financial Life for Mac, a public beta had begun. Unfortunately, it could be 2009 before product ships, and maybe not worth the wait.

Apple re-releases iTunes 8 to fix Vista crash: Following the release of iTunes 8, many Windows Vista users reported that the application was causing a "blue screen of death" whenever an iPod or iPhone was connected. In response, Apple re-released the software in order to fix the problem.

Review: Spore Origins, an evolutionary leap in casual gaming: Finally, a game worthy of the potential of Mac OS X on a portable device. Spore Origins looks great and plays great, but only on the iPhone and iPod touch.

Interview digs into iPhone "Koi Pond craze": Koi Pond is a beautiful iPhone and iPod touch application that does nothing but let you interact with a pond full of fish. An interesting interview with the creators of the popular iPhone application has now surfaced, giving insight into the development of the strangely-popular app.

Here are a few other important things that happened this week:

That's it for this week! Have a great weekend, and keep checking Infinite Loop for your constant stream of Apple news.

Original here

12 essential internet apps for your Mac

Whatever you need to do online with your Mac, the chances are there's a free or inexpensive program to do it. Here are 12 of the best...

€30, Mac OS X 10.4+
Selling on eBay is incredibly popular, and yet the website's interface itself can be tedious and long-winded to use with any frequency. Enter GarageSale, a slick and fully featured eBay listing client for the Mac. Compose attractive auction pages using templates or your own designs, drag photos directly from iPhoto and upload your sale items much faster than before.

Freeware, Mac OS X 10.4+
RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is today's preferred way of disseminating news headlines across the web. RSS readers are able to aggregate these feeds in one place and let you see and access them from a single window. NetNewsWire not only lets you do this, but also view the pages within its browser. It integrates with Spotlight, iCal, Address Book and iPhoto, and you can email links. To cap it all off, it's now free to download as well.

Freeware, Mac OS X 10.3+
There are several Mac browsers available as alternatives to Safari and the best is Camino, a lightweight but powerful browser based on the Gecko rendering engine. With simple but effective pop-up and advert blocking, as well as ways to control web page behaviour, it also features RSS feeds, spell checking, session saving and more. It's altogether more stylish, Mac-like and quicker than Firefox.

Freeware, Mac OS X 10.2+
Many web-based email providers only enable access to mail through a browser, which can be quite limiting. MacFreePOPs allows you to set up access between your email client, such as Mail, Entourage or Thunderbird, and such web-based email services. This lets you take advantage of the benefits of a dedicated mail client while keeping your old address.

$30, Mac OS X 10.3.9+
FTP is the standard way of moving data across to web servers – from iWeb, for example. Transmit is a fully featured FTP client with a range of advanced features, including iDisk integration, a special Dashboard widget, Dock integration, tabbed working and much more. This $30 tool is an extremely slick and, we're pleased to say, Mac-like way to smoothly get items between your Mac and remote servers.

Audio Hijack Pro
$32, Mac OS X 10.4+
Streaming audio over the web is commonplace, but what if you want to record it? It could be iTunes, iChat, RealPlayer, Skype or QuickTime that you want to capture for archiving or listening later. Audio Hijack lets you grab an application's audio stream and record, without interrupting it, to multiple formats, including MP3. You can set recording timers and even use effect plug-ins. Never miss a web radio broadcast again!

Freeware, Mac OS X 10.3+
Viruses and Trojans for the Mac are thankfully extremely scarce, and you're unlikely to run into one. However, that doesn't mean this situation will last forever, and there's always the risk of unwittingly passing on Windows viruses to PC users in email by accident. ClamXav is an excellent free virus scanner with regularly updated definitions and watch folder capability, so you can have peace of mind when it comes to internet nasties.

$25, Mac OS X 10.3.9+
Usenet is the web's oldest message board system, stretching back to 1981. As such, it contains tens of thousands of news and discussion groups on every conceivable topic, and it's still active today. So how do you make full use of that functionality? Unison is a client that lets you access these groups and download text, pictures or other files on any of a huge range of topics. Its slick appearance belies a very powerful program.

Freeware, Mac OS X 10.4+
This is one for news-addicted Mac users who like to stay up to date. NewsFire is an RSS reader for the Mac, which can manage any number of news feeds, podcast feeds, and anything else syndicated by RSS for that matter. It supports smart feeds matching criteria that you set, groups, searching, integration, and has an integrated audio player for podcasts and export to iTunes. There's no need to ever miss another breaking news story!

Freeware, call costs vary by destination, Mac OS X 10.3+
Skype was the first app to pioneer internet telephony on a global scale in a way that was usable and understandable to everyday users. Still the big kid on the block, it allows instant messaging and free calls to other Skype users. You can obtain Skype In and Out numbers to make/receive calls and voicemail from anywhere in the world at good rates.

£27, Mac OS X 10.4.3+
Web design and construction is still a fairly fiddly process for non-professionals, so it's lucky that there are programs like RapidWeaver around, making things easier. With a simple interface, it lets you build sites for blogging and podcasting, create Flash slideshows from your own photos, use customisable themes and publish straight to .Mac or an FTP server.

Freeware, Mac OS X 10.4+
Adium is an excellent multi-protocol, instant-messaging client that lets you collect all your IM accounts in one place. If you have friends on MSN, AIM, iChat and Jabber, you no longer need to open four programs to talk to them: Adium can display them all at once. It supports extensive customisation, file transfer, tabbed messaging and obscure messaging protocols.

Apple recalls millions of iPhone 3G power adapters

If you have an iPhone 3G power adapter that looks like the photos at right, stop using it immediately.

That’s the word from Apple Inc. (AAPL), which is warning users that in certain conditions those little metal prongs can break off, get stuck in the power outlet and give you a very bad shock.

According to a press release issued Friday:

“Apple has received reports of detached prongs involving a very small percentage of the adapters sold, but no injuries have been reported.” (link)

The adapters were supplied with every iPhone 3G sold in the United States, Japan, Canada, Mexico and several Latin American countries (see list here). Anybody who bought an iPhone in one of those countries received the bad adapter.

Analysts estimate that Apple has sold more than 4 million iPhone 3Gs since it was introduced in July.

Along with its tersely worded safety warning, Apple on Friday announced the details of a power adaptor exchange program:

“There are two ways to exchange your current ultracompact Apple USB power adapter for a new, redesigned adapter.

  • Order a replacement adapter via the Web. These replacement adapters will ship within three weeks of your order, starting on Friday, October 10.
  • Exchange your adapter at an Apple Retail Store starting on October 10.”

Apple will replace the old adapters with the one pictured here, identified by a small green dot. The old adapters must be turned in at the same time; iPhone owners who order their replacement via the Web are being asked to give an address so Apple can send them a mailing packet.

Product recalls are not unusual in the computer industry, although they usually involve defective batteries. In August 2006, Apple recalled 1.8 million notebook batteries manufactured by Sony (SNE) because they had a tendency to overheat and, on occasion, catch on fire. See here.

Original here

Apple prepping a 32GB iPhone update, bringing back at-home activation?

We're not particularly inclined to believe them, but the whispers that Apple is about to bump the top-end iPhone capacity to 32GB are getting harder to ignore -- especially since 8GB inventory is drying up, leading to speculation that's it's going to be dropped as soon as next week. We think the timing's a little odd on the heels of the Let's Rock iPod refresh, but considering the rampant speculation that Apple was forced to bump the nano to 16GB and drop the "limited edition" 4GB model entirely at the last minute in response to the new Zune lineup we suppose it makes competitive sense. AppleInsider also says customers will once again get the option to activate in-home, but we haven't heard anything about that -- we'll see what happens in the next few days.

[Thanks, Harry]

Original here