Thursday, December 18, 2008

6 Ways To Convert A PDF To A JPG Image

By Saikat Basu

convert pdf to jpgThe solution begs the question – why convert a PDF document to a JPG image? The answer lies in the way we view PDF documents.

  • PDF requires an external application like Adobe Acrobat Reader (or any other free variants) while JPG does not.
  • Browsers have the built-in capability to display images while handling PDF documents requires an external application or plug-in which may or may not be present.
  • An external application comes with the handicap of loading times. Plus the rendering of a PDF document happens only after the complete document is downloaded while images can be streamed in.
  • Office applications also do a better job of handling images in comparison to PDF. To cite an example, a PowerPoint presentation with an embedded image goes faster than with a PDF document.

So, in some specific cases converting your PDF documents to an image format like JPG or JPEG could be the solution we are looking for.

1. Convert PDF to JPG (The Web Way)

No installations – just browse to these websites, upload your files and it’s done.


pdf jpg

Perhaps, the most well known of the file conversion sites. Zamzar has been previously mentioned in Top Onlin File Converters. The process is simplicity personified: Choose the file to convert then choose the format to convert to (e.g. JPG) then enter your email address to receive the converted file then convert.

The minuses with the free service are that the file size is limited to 100MB with just 5 simultaneous conversions. Also, you might feel a wee bit uneasy uploading sensitive data without encryption support.

YouConvertIt (Beta)

convert pdf to jpeg

Another previous mention at MakeUseOf but just warrants a second look here because it too does a similar job of converting a PDF file to its JPG equivalent. You can upload 5 files at the same time.

As YouConvertIt is still in beta, expect some conversion attempt failures.

Neevia Document Converter


Neevia Technology has a web interface which facilitates the conversion of PDF documents to image files. Select the conversion settings and upload your file. The converted file can be rendered in the browser or can be downloaded via an email link. Two dropdowns further give you control over image quality and resolution. The only visible restriction is the 1MB file upload size limit.

If you are wary of uploading sensitive files over the net, you need to look beyond the online solutions to something much more local. Thankfully these three pieces of free software take up the task.

2. PDF to JPG Converters for The Desktop

PDF-Xchange Viewer (Windows)

PDF-Xchange Viewer is a light feature-rich PDF document reader. The free version of the software is a capable document handler with most of the standard features expected. Add comments and annotations, mark-up pages with texts and objects, type within the PDF document along with plug-ins for both IE and Firefox are also included.

But the feature which interests us is the ability of the software to export a file or a page to the supported image formats like JPEG, BMP, TIFF, PNG and more.

pdf to jpg converter free

Open the PDF file in the viewer, click on File – Export to Image and the dialog opens up where you can set the pages to convert, the image type to convert to and the destination folder. More importantly, the ‘Export Mode’ setting allows you to designate the number of image files for the subject PDF file. The ‘Page Zoom’, ‘Resolution’ and ‘Page Background’ also allow added finishing touches.

OmniFormat (Windows)


‘Omni’ means all and the OmniFormat document conversion utility lives up to the name. The free version permits active conversion and image handling of over 75 file formats including HTML, DOC, XLS, WPD, PDF, XML, JPG, GIF, TIF, PNG, PCX, PPT, PS, TXT, Photo CD, FAX and MPEG.

Using OmniFormat requires the installation of Pdf995 (it’s free too). Pdf995 is a fast and flexible PDF printer driver which makes it easy to publish PDF documents from any program. Pdf995 needs to be installed prior to the installation of OmniFormat. The free version of the software opens with a timed ad display.

This annoying part done with, the software itself is uncomplicated. It sets up a ‘Watch’ folder (or lets you set it up yourself). Any PDF file that has to be converted to JPG is copied into this folder. With the press of the ‘Single Pass’ button each single page of the PDF gets converted into the JPG format. With the ‘Start Monitoring’ button, PDF files can be repeatedly dropped into the watch folder for conversion.

Note of Caution: OmniFormat deletes the original PDF file in the watch folder after conversion…so be sure to copy the file you want to convert.

Virtual Image Printer Driver (Windows)

print pdf to jpg png

This open source application installs as an additional printer on the Printer’s applet and can convert any printable document to a BMP, PNG, JPG, TIFF or a PDF file. The Virtual Image Printer driver is based on the Microsoft universal printer driver core.

Simply, open the PDF file and print it by selecting the Image Printer Driver in the ‘Print’ dialog. The image file format and the compression range can be set in the Image Printer options box.

And When Everything Fails…

If you are away from a net connection and in want of the software’, the trusty ‘Print Screen’ button aided with any image handling application like MS Paint or IrfanView can do a stand-in job. I should know – I went this way before I came across the other six ways.

Do you know of any other methods?

Original here

Google grants outsider Chrome-coding privileges

Posted by Stephen Shankland

Thus far, the Web browser has been written largely by Google programmers, though shortly after the software's public release, Google started accepting patches from outsiders. Now, though, an outsider has become an official insider.

The search giant has bestowed upon the first non-Google programmer the privilege of adding code to the project, a process called committing. The new commiter: Paweł Hajdan Jr., a computer science student at the University of Warsaw who's submitted his own patches to Chrome almost daily, Google programmer Evan Martin wrote in a blog post Friday.

"In his free time, he's managed to write a ton of high-quality code towards making Chromium work on non-Windows platforms," Martin said.

According to Google's guidelines, becoming a Chrome committer isn't easy.

"This privilege is granted with some expectation of responsibility: committers are people who care about Chromium and want to help the project meet its goals. A committer is not just someone who can make changes to SVN (the repository where Chrome's source code is held), but someone who has demonstrated his or her ability to collaborate with the team, get the most knowledgeable people to review code, contribute high-quality code, and follow through to fix issues," the guidelines say.

More specifically, someone vying for committer status must "contribute 10 to 20 nontrivial patches, and get at least three different people to review them," according to the guidelines. Then that person must be nominated.

Stephen Shankland covers Google, Yahoo, search, online advertising, portals, digital photography, and related subjects. He joined CNET News in 1998 and since then also has covered servers, supercomputing, open-source software, and science. E-mail Stephen.

Original here

Serious security flaw found in IE

Microsoft Internet Explorer logo, file pic from 2004
Internet Explorer is used by the vast majority of the world's computer users

Users of Microsoft's Internet Explorer are being urged by experts to switch to a rival until a serious security flaw has been fixed.

The flaw in Microsoft's Internet Explorer could allow criminals to take control of people's computers and steal their passwords, internet experts say.

Microsoft urged people to be vigilant while it investigated and prepared an emergency patch to resolve it.

Internet Explorer is used by the vast majority of the world's computer users.

It's a shame Microsoft have not been able to fix this more quickly
Darien Graham-Smith
PC Pro magazine

"Microsoft is continuing its investigation of public reports of attacks against a new vulnerability in Internet Explorer," said the firm in a security advisory alert about the flaw.

Microsoft says it has detected attacks against IE 7.0 but said the "underlying vulnerability" was present in all versions of the browser.

Other browsers, such as Firefox, Opera, Chrome, Safari, are not vulnerable to the flaw Microsoft has identified.

Browser bait

"In this case, hackers found the hole before Microsoft did," said Rick Ferguson, senior security advisor at Trend Micro. "This is never a good thing."

As many as 10,000 websites have been compromised since the vulnerability was discovered, he said.

"What we've seen from the exploit so far is it stealing game passwords, but it's inevitable that it will be adapted by criminals," he said. "It's just a question of modifying the payload the trojan installs."

Said Mr Ferguson: "If users can find an alternative browser, then that's good mitigation against the threat."

But Microsoft counselled against taking such action.

"I cannot recommend people switch due to this one flaw," said John Curran, head of Microsoft UK's Windows group.

He added: "We're trying to get this resolved as soon as possible.

"At present, this exploit only seems to affect 0.02% of internet sites," said Mr Curran. "In terms of vulnerability, it only seems to be affecting IE7 users at the moment, but could well encompass other versions in time."

Richard Cox, chief information officer of anti-spam body The Spamhaus Project and an expert on privacy and cyber security, echoed Trend Micro's warning.

"It won't be long before someone reverse engineers this exploit for more fraudulent purposes. Trend Mico's advice [of switching to an alternative web browser] is very sensible," he said.

This could be the moment when the minnows in the browser wars finally score a significant victory
Rory Cellan-Jones
BBC technology editor

PC Pro magazine's security editor, Darien Graham-Smith, said that there was a virtual arms race going on, with hackers always on the look out for new vulnerabilities.

"The message needs to get out that this malicious code can be planted on any web site, so simple careful browsing isn't enough."

"It's a shame Microsoft have not been able to fix this more quickly, but letting people know about this flaw was the right thing to do. If you keep flaws like this quiet, people are put at risk without knowing it."

"Every browser is susceptible to vulnerabilities from time to time. It's fine to say 'don't use Internet Explorer' for now, but other browsers may well find themselves in a similar situation," he added.

Original here

The lizard roars: openSUSE 11.1 coming this week

By Ryan Paul

OpenSUSE 11.1, the next major version of Novell's community-driven Linux distribution, is scheduled for release on December 18. The new version will include updated software and some important new features that enhance the quality of the distribution.

OpenSUSE 11.1 installation media is available in several different formats. There are installable Live CD images for both GNOME and KDE. Each one provides a complete stack with the major components of its respective desktop environment. There is also a conventional DVD installer image that includes packages for both desktop environments and a significant number of other popular programs.

The DVD installer, which we used for our own tests, is extremely polished and well-designed. The installer got a fresh new visual style in 11.0, and this has been refined in 11.1 to match the new theme. Although the installer has been refined significantly over the years, it still has a few eccentric queries that might intimidate some users. For example, it allows users to customize the password encryption method that is used by the system.


The openSUSE 11.1 GNOME environment uses version 2.24, which was released in September. GNOME 2.24 introduced the Empathy instant messaging client and also added a few noteworthy enhancements to the Nautilus file manager, including support for tabbed file browsing and a new compact view. After reviewing Empathy, the openSUSE developers decided to retain Pidgin as the default instant messaging client for this version. Similar decisions were made by other distros, including Ubuntu and Fedora, because Empathy still needs a bit more time before it is ready for widespread use.

OpenSUSE includes several unique customizations that differentiate the distro's GNOME environment from the upstream version. The default configuration doesn't include the standard top panel, for example, and also replaces the regular panel menus with Novell's Slab menu. The Slab, which was introduced by Novell several versions ago after conducting desktop usability studies, provides access to recently-used applications and documents and also has an integrated search component.

The GNOME environment in openSUSE ships with the best selection of default applications. It includes Banshee 1.4, which was released last month and has some impressive new features, such as a new device management plug-in API that has enabled the developers to implement excellent synchronization support for T-Mobile's Android-based G1. OpenSUSE 11.1 also offers the latest version of the F-Spot photo management tool, tight integration of the Beagle search and indexing system, and several nifty new utilities. Some of the new additions are Tasque—a simple task management tool that integrates with Remember the Milk—and Monsoon, which is a nice BitTorrent client.


This version of openSUSE includes KDE 4.1, which serves up the first truly user-ready KDE experience in the 4.x series. KDE 4.1 is pretty usable by itself, but it's starting to feel a little bit stale compared to the latest KDE 4.2 beta. Fortunately, the openSUSE developers have backported some of the new hotness from 4.2 so that it can be included in openSUSE 11.1. A prominent KDE 4 feature that has landed in 11.1 is support for making the entire desktop behave like a folder view.

In the previous version of openSUSE, the KDE 3.5 legacy version was displayed prominently as an option on the main installation DVD. In 11.1 it has been moved so that it is accessible under the "Other" option that is displayed during the installation wizard. According to the developers, this is the last openSUSE release that will include officially supported KDE 3.5 packages in the main repositories. In the future, KDE 3.5 packaging will have to be done entirely by the community. For more details about the implications of the KDE 3.5 phaseout, see this statement by Novell's Joe Brockmeier.

OpenSUSE has traditionally given users the best possible KDE experience, and this release is really no exception. That is why openSUSE is the reference distribution for virtually all of our KDE testing.

Updated software

OpenSUSE 11.1 includes version 2.6.27 of the Linux kernel, which includes the ath9k wireless driver and brings improved compatibility with webcam devices. It also ships with Firefox 3.0.4, the latest version of the popular open source web browser.

For developers, it includes Python 2.6 and Mono 2.0, both of which bring significant improvements to their respective programming languages. Lots of great development tools are available from the openSUSE package repositories, including MonoDevelop 1.0 and Eclipse 3.4.

This version of openSUSE also includes 3.0, which was released earlier this year and added features like native support for Microsoft's Office Open XML format, a new zoom slider, and a few other features.

OpenSUSE ships a modified version of that bundles Novell's patchset, which includes some nice improvements that Sun has declined to accept upstream for various technical and licensing reasons. Many of Novell's improvements boost Linux integration by adding support for native file dialogs and other similar elements. Novell's patchset also includes some cool features like 3D animated slide transitions and support for embedding multimedia elements via the GStreamer framework.


We named openSUSE as one of our two picks for Distro of the Year in our 2008 awards because it really shines and has much to offer on the desktop. Our choice was also influenced by impressive changes that are transpiring in the openSUSE community, which is growing rapidly and is also becoming more open, inclusive, and transparent. Last month, the project announced its first community-elected board, a major milestone in its advancement towards community empowerment.

This is a very good openSUSE release and it delivers some very impressive enhancements. The distro has evolved tremendously in the past two releases and is becoming a very solid and usable option for regular users.

Original here

Prof: IP law only needs tweak to encourage open standards

By John Timmer

The technology marketplace is littered with competing standards, some open, others proprietary. A number of academics, both in the legal field and out, have argued that open standards are superior for both the market and consumers. They allow companies to produce products that compete on their merits, rather than their ability to play nice with other hardware or content, and they prevent consumers from being harmed by product lock-ins. A Berkeley Law professor, Robert P. Merges, has just released a working paper entitled IP Rights and Technological Platforms in which he argues that proprietary standards and the intellectual property that back them aren't as harmful as they're made out to be. Instead, a minor modification of IP law should be sufficient to enable a competition between open and closed standards.

Merges outlines the benefits of technology becoming standard, using (of all things) PowerPoint as his example. Since PowerPoint has been widely adopted, more people can view presentations prepared with it, and there's rarely a problem finding a computer to run a presentation. PowerPoint has been kept proprietary, but he also cites Adobe Acrobat (a standardized format encumbered by patents that protect proprietary authoring tools) and Linux to demonstrate that nearly all levels of intellectual property are compatible with something becoming a standard.

Berkeley's Robert Merges

Given that different levels of IP protection are all compatible with the use of something as a standard, why should we care if anything is encumbered by ownership? Merges recognizes that proprietary ownership can create consumer lock-in; there's a price to switching from a standard, both personal (replacing equipment, learning new software) and general (the loss of the network effect). When a single company owns the standards, they can engage in anticompetitive practices and extract prices that approximate the cost of changing.

Open standards, in contrast, should prevent this. Any WiFi router should work with WiFi hardware from any other company, so the ability to extract a price from consumers is limited.

Can competition cure all IP ills?

With that as the backdrop, Merges turns to legal scholarship on intellectual property, where a number of authors have used this sort of analysis to determine that open standards are a public good, and intellectual property laws should be adjusted to encourage them. He argues that much of this scholarship, however, suffers from a terminal flaw: it assumes that the worst-case scenario, where a company fully extracts the price of its intellectual ownership of a standard, will always occur. As Merges puts it, much of this analysis "focuses on granted, rather than exercised rights."

In Merges' view, his intellectual opponents have ignored the power of competition between standards, which prevents companies from exercising all of the rights they are granted. "Optimal policy in this area in my view would look very different," he writes. "It would trust competition to address many of the concerns with open access."

Professor Merges clearly belongs to the school of thought that views competition through rose-colored glasses. "Though temporary advantages, often based on lead time and (usually limited) lock-in effects, may prevail for a time," he argues, "the pressure of competition will usually erode this power in fairly short order." Although this is probably generally true, it's hardly universal—his own example, PowerPoint, hasn't seen any credible competition emerge on the PC. Merges also recognizes that pro-competitive interventions, like several pursued against Microsoft, often come years late and have mixed-to-minimal effect.

He also devotes extensive text to the digital music business, which he seems to believe supports his argument. Here, the competition between open and various DRM-encumbered formats is ongoing, but there are some obvious lessons. For one, various losers in the competitive field have threatened to shut off their DRM license servers, demonstrating how competition among closed standards can harm consumers. For another, one of the winners appears to be Apple, but its success is coming with a product lock-in that appears unlikely to erode "in fairly short order."

Oddly, Merges also highlights the music labels' use of DRM-free music as a tool to manipulate the market (offering it to Amazon, but not Apple) as a positive sign of competition. I'm not sure when I've previously seen actions performed by a cartel of suppliers, taken with the apparent intention to harm a retailer favored by consumers, portrayed in such a favorable light.

Improving IP with a targeted intervention

None of this is to say that Merges' basic point—that government shouldn't tilt the intellectual property system in a way that favors open standards—is wrong. Promoting open standards may be pro-consumer, but it's not clear that overhauling the IP system is the best way to perform that promotion. But, by pretending proprietary standards rarely cause problems and that things quickly sort themselves out when problems do arise, he seems to weaken his own argument.

Regardless of the logic that led him to the conclusion, Merges does have a compelling bit of advice for how to make a minor change to IP legislation that will favor open standards. In his view, licensing terms that promote open use, like Creative Commons, face unreasonable hurdles as a result of the fact that the ownership terms of the intellectual property system weren't designed to handle the sort of guaranteed licenses for use that Creative Commons relies on.

Instead of requiring any further variant of these licenses to jump through legal hoops, Merges suggests that the IP system be modified so it's easier to formally waive specific rights of ownership, or permanently assign them to an outside party. This would allow the developers of technology to retain rights of ownership under the current IP system, while ensuring anyone considering using that technology that the owners won't change their mind and take the IP proprietary in the future.

Although it's hard to agree with all the logic that got him there, Merges' proposal of a useful tweak of the intellectual property system appears to have a lot of merit.

Original here

The Mighty ShareReactor Returns - Now With Added Torrents

Written by enigmax

ShareReactor was one of the world’s biggest and most popular eDonkey indexing sites with over a quarter million members. The Swiss police shut down the site in 2004 but now, four years later, the file-sharing giant is set to make a full return. Supported by The Pirate Bay team, it’s adding BitTorrent to its arsenal.

sharereactorBack in 2004, no-one would dispute that ShareReactor was a file-sharing force to be reckoned with. With roots stretching back to 2001, it had amassed over 250,000 members and was a truly huge site, providing eD2k (eDonkey) links for an ever-growing and wildly enthusiastic file-sharing community.

Compared to the next largest eD2k site ‘Filenexus’, ShareReactor was twice the size, with millions of pageviews pushed through its servers before The Pirate Bay and Suprnova had even registered their domains.

On March 10th 2004, the site was shut down by Swiss police, who seized the servers and detained the site owner, Christian Riesen, aka Simon Moon, for a day for questioning. Almost immediately the ShareReactor forum reappeared but without the popular eD2k links, and it took until September 2006 for the site to make a full return under new management. However, it wasn’t to last, and within a month the site was closed again.

Of course, there are few things that the file-sharing community love more than a big comeback, and today they aren’t going to be disappointed. ShareReactor, one of the original file-sharing giants, is to return, this time with completely new management team and some serious backing in the form of The Pirate Bay, who will assist with hosting and PR.

Episode 19, in a network far, far away a lone technician plugs in the final cable into an almost forgotten big machine complex, identified by a faded green label as ‘ShareReactor’. Everything hums and comes alive. The first input from the technician is ‘But what does it all mean?’, to which the machines in unison reply: 42!

For eDonkey fans - particularly those who used the site back in 2004 - the site will immediately provide some nostalgia. Although the site has been redesigned, the team has decided to keep the original spirit of 2004 alive with a familiar theme and graphics. Additionally, all of the eD2k links the site had in its database will return, making a truly impressive library, and these are being complemented with fresh links across the whole content spectrum.

Some will argue that BitTorrent is a crucial requirement for a successful P2P site in 2008, and this fact hasn’t eluded the new ShareReactor team. The site will now index both eD2k and .torrent links, offering the very best that the world’s major networks have to offer. Indeed, some 500 new releases have been added already, with some releases on the site offered in dual format - both BitTorrent and eD2k.

‘Utopat’, who leads the four man admin team consisting of ‘chaykin’, ‘DCJoeDog’ and ‘O-MEGA, told TorrentFreak that the site will be keeping up to date with the latest TV series, with links to these being posted promptly to the site. Furthermore, each release - no matter if it relates to a TV show, movie, software or game - will not have multiple versions.

“If it’s not a private torrent site, you see the same TV show episode 20 times, the same game 50 times and with applications you might see hundreds of copies of the same thing,” he told TorrentFreak. On ShareReactor there will be just one .torrent and eD2k link for each release and these will be moderated, ensuring an easy choice for the user and guaranteeing quality.

“There are so many viruses, fake torrents or simply not-working torrents, it’s hard for many users to find what they want. Sure, the seasoned users know how to spot the bad apples, but let’s face it, that’s not the majority,” Utopat told us. These problems won’t be appearing on ShareReactor.

The core of many file-sharing sites lies in the strength of its forum community, and ShareReactor will be no different. The site will have a dedicated standalone forum and for ex-members looking for immediate membership, all they have to do is enter their previous username and password, since they have all been retained. Anyone with a shorter memory or simply new to the site can create a new login with ease.

For those looking to make a few friends and maybe meet up with some faces from the past, ShareReactor has an IRC channel - #ShareReactor on EFNet.

Original here

Firefox Issues Eight Patches for Web Browser

Jeremy Kirk, IDG News Service

Mozilla has issued eight patches for its Firefox Web browser, three of which fix problems classified as critical.

The patches come after security experts have recommended using a browser other than Microsoft's Internet Explorer 7 and older versions of IE due to a dangerous vulnerability. Microsoft is due to release an emergency patch for that problem Wednesday.

Two of the critical Firefox problems could allow an attacker execute a cross-site scripting attack, in which scripts or commands from one Web application that shouldn't run in another are successfully executed. The third problem relates to Firefox's browser engine, and could make it crash or possibly allow someone to remotely execute code on a PC, Mozilla said in its advisory.

Mozilla defines a critical vulnerability as one that could allow an attacker to run code on a machine in the course of normal Web browsing.

The patches are for Firefox version numbers 3.04 and Mozilla has said this round of patches will be the last for Firefox 2, which it will now stop supporting. The update also removes the phishing filter in Firefox 2 because the browser uses an outdated version of a protocol used to import a blocklist of phishing sites supplied by Google. Firefox 2 users are being promoted to upgrade to Firefox 3.

Firefox's auto-update mechanism should automatically download these latest patches, and users will be prompted to restart the browser to complete the process.

Original here

Walmart iPhone on sale the 28th for a lot more than $99

by Thomas Ricker

At this point, it's clear that the $99 iPhone 3G rumor was just that: rumor. We have a letter that we believe to be authentic from a source within Walmart that says the iPhone will launch in the house that Sam built at 9am December 28th. At launch, only the 8GB ($197) and 16GB ($297) iPhone 3Gs will be available with a required signature on a 2-year AT&T contract. An internal pilot program kicks off today at 488 stores across the nation. The iPhone 3G and a sack of garden manure all under the same roof... heaven.

Original here

Social networks grapple with the money question

By Caroline McCarthy

When it came to the news headlines, it was a terrific year for social networks. Mostly.

True, the security holes and safety concerns are far from gone, and likely won't go anywhere any time soon. Nor will the existing copyright and trademark issues, like the whole Scrabulous debacle. But the likes of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and Digg were riding high on one big victory: Barack Obama, whose presidential campaign rocketed to victory on many of the social-media tools that were still getting denounced as fads just a year ago.

Facebook and MySpace, the world's two biggest social networks, launched elaborate voter outreach initiatives. Digg's traffic soared as political news reached a fever pitch. An official Twitter account for Obama became the microblogging site's most popular. Widget development companies, which rose to fame in 2007 when Facebook kickstarted the social platform craze, were getting contracts left and right to create election apps.

Obama at MySpace event

Credit: Caroline McCarthy/CNET News

President-elect Barack Obama, who amassed
a strong online following during the campaign,
was enthusiastically received in February as
he addressed a MySpace-MTV event.

It all provided some uplifting news for social-media sites as the economy began to crumble in September. But now that Obama is poised to take office, the election party's over and it's back to reality. As buzzworthy as it remains, the social-media industry still hasn't proven itself in the business viability department. This was a concern in Silicon Valley even before the financial downturn began to grow truly alarming: Twitter has not yet produced a business model. Facebook and Digg are not yet profitable. MySpace appears to be doing better, likely due to the fact that it's been owned by News Corp. since 2005 and has big-media advertising connections at its disposal.

Perhaps because of the financial climate, or perhaps because the era of Web 2.0 was drawing to a close anyway, there were no truly splashy new entrants into social media--no nascent company created the kind of sensation that a Facebook, or even a Twitter or Digg, had in previous years. Location-based mobile social networks didn't create the sensation that many had expected. And indeed, the recession's effects first hit the second and third tiers of social media, with companies like Imeem and Buzznet announcing layoffs. Pownce, a would-be Twitter rival, closed up shop entirely and sold its assets to blog software company Six Apart (which had itself gone through a round of layoffs). The beleaguered Yahoo shuttered its social-networking experiment, Mash.

On the bright side, there were some acquisitions: AOL bought Socialthing and Goowy--and in a whopping $850 million deal, acquired Bebo, a social network that counts most of its popularity in the U.K. and Ireland. Also, Twitter bought Summize, Comcast bought Plaxo, and social-app companies like the Social Gaming Network started amassing portfolios of widgets purchased from independent developers.

Facebook, meanwhile, tied up a few of 2007's loose threads. Putting the Beacon advertising snafu behind it and filling its executive ranks with former Googlers and Washington insiders, the company announced Facebook Connect in May and unveiled Engagement Ads in August. ConnectU, the onetime start-up that sued Facebook for code theft, received some sort of settlement--and two of its founders, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, placed sixth in an Olympic rowing event shortly thereafter.

Late in the year, a few of the data-portability and "universal log-in" initiatives that had been announced earlier in the year actually launched: Facebook Connect went live, as did Google Friend Connect and Viacom's Flux, and MySpace began its "Data Availability" project by helping to develop an extension that manages the OpenID universal log-in standard for the Flock browser.

But as with so much else, the year 2008 in social networking ends on a fairly low note. The recession recently stalled Facebook's plan to allow some of its employees to cash out stock options. MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe has expressed concern about his company's ability to continue growing its ad-revenue footprint. Twitter and Digg, along with other players in the market like RockYou, Meebo, Yelp, LinkedIn, and Ning, have filled their coffers with venture funding and are hoping to keep growing while they wait out the storm.

As Facebook and MySpace keep scrambling for the top spot in social media, it's clear that this is no fad. The profitability issue, however, will be a sobering one in '09.

Original here

Internet or sex, which would you choose?

Posted by Dawn Kawamoto

ust how reliant are you on the Internet?

Nearly half of the women questioned by Harris Interactive said they'd be willing to forgo sex for two weeks, rather than give up their Internet access, according to a study released Monday by Intel, which commissioned the survey.

Sex v. Internet(Credit: CNET Networks)

While 46 percent of the women surveyed were willing to engage in abstinence verses losing their Internet, only 30 percent of the men surveyed were willing to do likewise.

The U.S. survey, which queried 2,119 adults last month, found that the gap grew even wider for both men and woman who were 18 to 34 years old. For woman, the percentage of those willing to skip the sheets in favor of the Web rose to 49 percent, while it climbed to 39 percent for men.

And for women 35 to 44 years old, the figure jumped to 52 percent.

(Our poll, right, lets you weigh in on the issue, although we've upped the time-frame from two weeks to one year, just for kicks.)

These figures were just some of the tidbits that came out of the Intel's broader commissioned study on Americans' reliance on the Internet in today's economy.

Though not as sexy but equally interesting, the survey also found that 87 percent of respondents said the Internet saves them money.

Specifically, 84 percent of those surveyed found the Internet saved them money by comparing prices online and searching out the best deals, while 65 percent said it aided them in finding coupons, discounts, and special promotions.

And TV, which has been losing its share of eyeball time to the Internet over the years, found that the majority of adults would be willing to go two weeks of watching TV, verses losing one week on the Internet.

Of course when it comes to TV, perhaps size matters, at least according to a different survey earlier this year of Britons conducted by electronics retailer Comet. Almost half of the men polled said they would give up sex for six months in return for a 50-inch plasma TV, according to Reuters. That compared with just over a third of women who were willing to make the same sacrifice for the big-screen television.

Dawn Kawamoto covers enterprise security and financial news relating to technology for CNET News. E-mail Dawn.

Original here

Computing Without a Whirring Drive


SHERMAN BLACK, a senior vice president at Seagate Technology, a leader in hard drive manufacturing, lies awake at night worrying that his teenagers are part of a new generation of computer users who don’t care if their data is stored locally or in the Internet “cloud.”

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The Intel X25-M SATA solid-state drive is used in laptop and desktop PC storage. It is an alternative to hard-disk drives.

It matters to the hard drive industry, because a growing number of consumers are eagerly eyeing a new wave of solid-state drives. Made from arrays of flash memory chips, these new drives are smaller and many times faster than traditional hard drives that read and write magnetic 1s and 0s on a rotating disk or platter. They are also, of course, more expensive. Small 2-, 4- and 16-gigabyte solid-state drives are now already standard components of the so-called netbook laptops being sold by Dell, Hewlett-Packard and others, and a 128-gigabyte drive now sells as a $500 upgrade to the MacBook Air from Apple.

This shift in storage technology is now possible because of the growth in flash chip usage. They are now ubiquitous in hand-held devices like digital cameras and MP3 players. The other reason the shift is happening now is that these solid-state drives (so called because, unlike magnetic-disk drives, they have no moving parts) are being designed to fit in the same space in laptops currently used by the industry-standard 2.5-inch and 1.8-inch disks used in hard drives.

There are many benefits to this newer technology. Information can be stored permanently in flash chips even when power is turned off, and the chips can be electrically erased and reprogrammed. They make no noise, give off little heat and consume far less power, while transferring data on average many times faster than rotating hard disks.

Of course, there are caveats. While solid-state drives can read information more quickly than hard drives, some models write information more slowly. That means that, on average, performance comparisons may depend on a particular manufacturer’s design or running a specific application or style of computing. There are also big differences in quality within the solid-state market, and there can be extreme differences among drives in the number of times that 1s and 0s can be stored and erased. Because individual transistors can fail over time, flash chips come with extra transistors that can be turned on automatically in the event of failure. Perusing the reviews on Web sites like and suggest a wide range of consumer satisfaction — from awestruck to angry.

Caveats aside, a properly designed solid-state drive can make a world of difference. Windows can boot in just seconds, and switching to a solid-state disk can add roughly 30 minutes to the battery life of a common laptop computer.

The need for speed in the laptop market is now being satisfied by more than 40 manufacturers, including chip-making giants like Intel, Samsung and Toshiba. Storage capacities have now soared to 256 gigabytes — although currently at a staggering cost. Such a drive from Axiom is currently selling online for $7,426 to $9,125. Prices, however, are collapsing.

For example, it is now possible to buy a 128-gigabyte, 2.5-inch internal drive from the consumer electronics reseller OCZ for as little as $299. Although that price might be twice as much as a comparable hard drive with rotating storage, the combination of faster speed, lower power consumption and heat generation — as well as potentially better reliability — is enticing.

Such a drive might not be just for executive road warriors looking for eye candy in the form of an ultralight MacBook Air. (A 64-gigabyte solid-state drive was $999 extra when the computer was first announced in January.) It is now worth considering as a performance boost on an existing, long-in-the-tooth laptop. And next year, when 128-gigabyte solid-state drives become even more affordable, they will increasingly be offered by laptop makers at a more reasonable add-on price.

In addition to making a play at the high end of the laptop market and as an upgrade option, solid-state drives are sweeping the new consumer-friendly market for so-called netbooks, the under-10-inch portables selling for $300 to $600 that have become the rage in the past six months. These machines come with as little as two gigabytes of solid-state drive storage, helping to fortify the new generation of cloud-oriented computing that Mr. Black of Seagate is concerned about.

“I don’t think they care about having their data with them,” he said of the younger computing generation like his teenagers. “They have faith that the cloud will always be accessible.”

Laptop makers are making the process of swapping drives easier, which makes the idea of upgrading even more tempting. Turn over one of the new aluminum Apple MacBooks and a single lever opens a compartment revealing a disk that is held in place by a single screw. I had already upgraded the standard MacBook 250-gigabyte drive with a faster (but still old-fashioned magnetic) 300-gigabyte Hitachi drive for which I paid just $99.

However, for the purpose of testing the speed of the new solid-state category, I chose an 80-gigabyte Intel X25-M SATA. The Intel drive is expensive — about $540 online — but comes with higher performance specifications and a three-year warranty. Swapping drives was easy; it took less than a minute. The hard part was cloning all of my programs and data to the solid-state drive before swapping it in for my mechanical Hitachi hard disk.

For that I used another peripheral — a hard-disk USB docking station made by Thermaltake (around $33 at Amazon). With this device, you simply snap the new hard drive into a dock and connect it to your PC via a USB cable. You can then copy all your software and data — a time-consuming proposition, to be sure, but many backup programs can make this a straightforward procedure. I used SuperDuper, a $28 Macintosh utility program made by Shirt Pocket that can be used to make bootable drives. The process was made simpler because I had partitioned my original Hitachi drive (that is, created a digital “wall” between different kinds of files) into two spaces: one for work and one for music, video and images. That division may suggest what is likely to become a standard computing style for many home computer users in the future: a laptop with a fast solid-state drive and an external high-capacity standard hard drive for storing media and other large files. (Unless, of course, you belong to the new generation of computer users who have come to trust the cloud of Internet computer servers to store their personal data.)

In any case, the results were impressive. Using a standard Macintosh performance measurement utility called Xbench, the Intel solid-state drive increased the computer’s overall performance by almost half. Disk performance increased fivefold. The computer started more quickly and applications seemed to open nearly instantaneously. Most laptops do have small fans, but the computer was definitely quieter; gone was the telltale whirring of the drive motor.

Solid-state drives are obviously an expanding niche in the world of laptop computers. Still, there is apparently no reason to mourn the hard drive industry. The explosion of digital data is so overwhelming that even if our notebook disks become smaller, we will still have to keep our data somewhere.

“I rest easier every time I hear that someone buys one of those netbooks,” said Mr. Black of Seagate, whose company is focusing in part on drives for large corporate data centers. “I know all of that data will be stored in the cloud.”

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Tech's indelible images

By Tito Estrada

The year 2008 provided a cornucopia of cool new technologies and discoveries. CNET News staffers culled this bountiful harvest, chronicling everything from Mars insights to the Android launch.

Gadget and computer-related galleries were pleasing eye candy. Apple kicked off the year by unveiling new versions of the Mac Pro and Xserve. The company added multitouch controls and power to MacBooks, and it showcased the iPhone 3G, new iPod Nanos, and more.

Google garnered plenty of attention as well. The search giant made waves with Chrome, its foray into Web browsers, and with a mobile operating system called Android whose smartphone-installed prototype led the new-phone parade at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

T-Mobile USA in September unveiled the first smartphone to run Android, the G1. In October, the phone made its grand arrival.

Apple's iPhone got down to business with the launch of the company's iPhone software development kit in March. The App Store has since become extremely popular with independent developers, and CNET has put several made-for-iPhone applications to the test.

Cell phones, as well as digital-music players and other gadgets, also caught the green-tech bug. A growing number of products are using solar power to charge up.

Green technology continued to be a major driver of the automotive sector. The Cadillac Provoq concept car, which runs on a hydrogen fuel cell and a lithium ion battery, made its premiere at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. Makers of Hummers and muscle cars similarly decided that green is cool.

Meanwhile, the cross-country Hydrogen Road Tour promoted hydrogen-powered vehicles. And one enterprising start-up showed how to make your car run on tequila--well, sort of. The green-car year finished with a look at electric vehicles, present and future.

Aerial vehicles also made for some awesome visual highlights. The Oshkosh, Wisc., air show and Airship Ventures' 246-foot Zeppelin brought life to the skies. And CNET News' Daniel Terdiman took to the air in a 1991 Grumman Tiger.

Going higher, space was the place for heavenly images. The International Space Station marked a decade aloft, the Hubble telescope served up photos of giant red storms on Jupiter, and we got to see the Phoenix Mars Lander uncover ice on the Red Planet.

Of course, space isn't just a place for NASA astronauts and their colleagues anymore. Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic proved to be a real mover and shaker in the space tourism industry when it launched the high-altitude WhiteKnightTwo aircraft carrier, designed to fly the SpaceShipTwo passenger vehicle, into Earth's upper atmosphere.

The skies also became host to consumer Wi-Fi connections this year. Intel CEO Paul Otellini's vision of an always-on, always-connected experience for consumers reached lofty heights with the expansion of airborne connectivity for airplane passengers, courtesy of such carriers as Virgin America.

Back on Earth, Terdiman connected with legions of followers as Road Trip 2008 took him across the southern United States. Terdiman filed dispatches from such spots as Houston, New Orleans, and Nashville.

CNET's Kara Tsuboi joined the photographic fun, donning a motion capture suit to play the lead Iron Man character for a day.

Motion capture technology led to some other cool photo galleries. Hockey star Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets and San Francisco Giants Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum slipped into mo-cap suits to model for upcoming 2K Sports video games.

At the E3 game expo, Microsoft, among other companies, showed off goods such as the multitouch computer Sphere and space exploration software WorldWide Telescope.

Finally, there was an ending that loops back to the year's start: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates may have given his last keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show back in January.

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Yahoo puts meat on Open Strategy bones

Posted by Stephen Shankland

SAN FRANCISCO--After months of preamble, Yahoo on Monday flipped the on switch for a massive project to increase activity--and advertising--on its Internet sites through social connections and online applications.

The company has been working mostly behind the scenes to build what it calls the Yahoo Open Strategy, but now the strategy's changes will become evident to U.S. users of some of Yahoo's main properties such as Yahoo Mail, My Yahoo, and Yahoo's music and TV sites. In addition, the company will begin previewing a new Yahoo Toolbar later this week.

John Kremer, vice president of Yahoo Mail

John Kremer, vice president of Yahoo Mail

(Credit: Stephen Shankland/CNET News)

"We wanted to establish a social dimension," Ash Patel, executive vice president of Yahoo's audience products division, said of the Yahoo Open Strategy goals. And to attract programmers who can build applications on Yahoo properties, "We wanted to engage with the developer community and to open up the power of Yahoo's products and platforms."

Yahoo Mail, which according to ComScore has about 275 million active users each month, gets some significant changes, with more to come. First is a new welcome page that now spotlights messages from people in a person's Yahoo social network and invitations from others to join their networks. And the in-box page now includes a new "from connections" button that shows e-mail only from those social connections.

Second is the arrival of online applications tied to Yahoo Mail. One inaugural program from Xoopit lets you view all the photos in your e-mail archive, even expanding links to online galleries. Another lets you convert an e-mail message into a WordPress blog post in two clicks.

"The opening of the mail platform is a huge benefit to users in terms of the additional forms of sharing and communication we can build in and to the developers who can build applications," said John Kremer, vice president of Yahoo Mail, speaking to reporters at a launch event here.

More mail changes are coming, he said. Among them will be birthday reminders and the ability to exchange large files, Kremer said.

The new mail abilities require a the cooperation of Yahoo users' contacts: they must agree to be listed as your contact before they can become a part of Yahoo social activities. That's because of privacy considerations, Kremer said. For example, the right-hand side of the new Yahoo Mail welcome page also shows contacts' activity such as photos posted, movies recommended, or applications added, and that's information those people might not want to share with just anyone.

Yahoo Mail's new welcome page spotlights activity from a person's social connections.

Yahoo Mail's new welcome page spotlights activity from a person's social connections. (Click to enlarge.)

(Credit: Yahoo)

Leapfrogging the Joneses
It's not all fun and games. Building use of Yahoo into members' social lives and letting them use applications housed on Yahoo sites means more advertising for Yahoo. That was important earlier this year when the company was stagnating financially, but it's even more important now that the recession has put extreme pressure on the ad market. And Patel believes the ads that can be delivered with the social context--for example clicking on the Yahoo Music page for an album a friend just rated highly--will provide valuable context for advertisers.

"Targeted (ad) inventory sells better than untargeted inventory," Patel said.

The Yahoo Open Strategy theoretically could help Yahoo not just keep up with the Joneses, but leapfrog them. Although Yahoo capitalized on the first generation of online social activity, e-mail and instant messaging, it lagged rivals such as Facebook when it comes to letting people build online communities of friends and business contacts. Yahoo's new strategy, though, is tuned to its own assets.

Google has got a powerful search engine, but its online community is nascent compared to Yahoo's. Facebook and MySpace have got social ties, but not Yahoo's breadth of finance, sports, entertainment, news, and communications. Yahoo Open Strategy is a recipe not easily reproduced in full by Yahoo competitors.

The hard part will be bringing the transformation to fruition fast enough.

For the Yahoo Open Strategy to pay off, the company must encourage its members to register new profiles and to link their friends into their social network. And it will have to coax a lot of programmers to build good applications then coax Yahoo members to activate them. All this takes time, and Yahoo, with Microsoft and Google breathing down its neck, doesn't have the luxury of time.

Getting people to sign up for yet another social service--Yahoo strenuously objects to calling its work just another social network--is another hurdle.

"There is going to be some fatigue on that process," Kremer said of people getting inundated with a new round of online service invitations. "It may slow down the virality of what we're doing."

But the company believes it will spread because people will find it useful. And unlike some services, Yahoo hopes people only set up their service with a small number of important contacts rather than compete for the biggest networks.

"I don't want my users to sign up for 500 connections," Kremer said. "I want this to be for the tight inner circle--those five or ten or fifteen people they scan for" when checking their in-box.

Yahoo Mail is getting a Flickr application that lets people upload photos from the e-mail application.

Yahoo Mail is getting a Flickr application that lets people upload photos from the e-mail application. (Click to enlarge.)

(Credit: Yahoo)

Other changes
The Yahoo Mail change is one of a host announced Monday. Among others:

• Yahoo also announced changes to its customizable home page, My Yahoo, that lets people add applications and customize the page's appearance. For example, Yahoo showed a wine-themed page with its own background and content.

• A new toolbar for Web browsers also gets drop-down interactivity that can show what a person's contacts are doing, what e-mail has been received, and other information. A preview version of the toolbar will be available later this week for download.

• Yahoo's media properties can spotlight contacts' activities, such as when they assign a five-star ranking to a particular song. "Our media properties monetize really well," Patel said.

Stephen Shankland covers Google, Yahoo, search, online advertising, portals, digital photography, and related subjects. He joined CNET News in 1998 and since then also has covered servers, supercomputing, open-source software, and science. E-mail Stephen.

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5 Inventions That Enhanced Laziness

Floss books
by Floss books

Although it’s hard to fathom why people bothered to go on living, there was once a time when folks had no choice but to sit up straight in their chairs, fiddle with buttons and zippers, climb stairs, hike to the outhouse, and add numbers with pencil and paper. Below, a paean to the inventions that made it easier to enjoy the simple pleasures of sinful idleness.

1. The Escalator

escalator.jpgIn 1891, Jesse Reno patented the first moving staircase, paving the way for today’s world, in which we choose not to use staircases, just StairMasters. Reno’s invention was more of an inclined ramp than the escalator we know today; passengers hooked into cleats on the belt and scooted up the ramp at a 25-degree angle. Fairly soon after, he built a spiral escalator—the mere thought nauseates us—in London, but it was never used by the public. Reno’s first escalator, however, was widely used, albeit not practically. In a testament to how utterly unamusing amusement parks were in the 1890s, 75,000 people rode Reno’s “inclined elevator” during a two-week exhibition at Coney Island in 1896. Let’s be clear: The escalator was not the means by which one traveled to a ride. It was the ride itself.

2. La-Z-Boy

la-z-boy.jpgIn 1928, when he was a mere lad of 21, Edwin Shoemaker forever blurred the distinction between sitting up and lying down by developing the world’s first reclining chair. His initial model, a wood-slat chair intended for porches, was fashioned out of orange crates and designed to fit the contours of the back at any angle. It took an early customer, appreciative of the concept but rather unexcited about the prospect of lying down on bare slats of wood, to suggest upholstering the chair. Shoemaker and his partner (and cousin) Edward Knabusch then held a contest to name the invention. “La-Z-Boy” beat out suggestions like “Sit ’n Snooze” and “The Slack Back.” The next time someone tells you an active lifestyle is the key to long life, reply with this tidbit: The man who invented the recliner lazed his way up to the ripe old age of 91.

3. Velcro

a.velcro2.jpgIsaac Newton beneath the apple tree. Archimedes shouting “Eureka!” in the bathtub. And Georges de Mestral going for a walk in the woods. The greatest discoveries often stem from mundane observations, and while gravity (Newton) and measurable density (Archimedes) are cool and everything, nothing beats the sweet music of parting Velcro. Mestral, a Swiss engineer, returned home after a walk in 1948 to find cockleburs stuck to his coat. After examining one under a microscope, he noted that cockleburs attach to clothes and fur via thin hooks. Eureka! It took Mestral eight years to develop his product. But in the end, the twin nylon strips worked precisely like a cocklebur on a coat—one strip features burr-like hooks and the other thousands of small loops to which they attach, forming an unusually strong bond.

4. The Calculator

29-Calculator-Jumbo.jpgAh, the calculator—a handy device that makes 55378008 look like a naughty word when you turn it upside down. Oh, and it also makes math class a whole lot easier. Oddly enough, it was a 19-year-old boy named Blaise Pascal (yes, that Pascal) who invented the first mechanical adding machine. But Pascal’s device was cumbersome and couldn’t record results, so the vast majority of people continued calculating by hand until 1892, when William Seward Burroughs patented the first commercially viable adding machine. Although Burroughs died before reaping much profit from his invention, his grandson (also William Seward Burroughs) was one sure beneficiary. The younger Burroughs became famous for writing Naked Lunch, a book that would likely have been impossible if Burroughs hadn’t had all that inherited calculator money to waste on heroin.

5. The Toilet

toilet.jpgContrary to popular belief, we do not have Thomas Crapper to thank for the conveniences of the flushing toilet (more on him in a moment). Toilets with drainage systems date to 2500 BCE, but Sir John Harrington invented the first “water closet” around 1596 (it was also used by his godmother, Queen Elizabeth I). However, toilets never caught on until Alexander Cummings invented the “Strap,” which featured a sliding valve between the bowl and the sewage trap. As for Mr. Crapper (1837–1910), he was a plumber who sold, but did not invent, a popular type of toilet, although he did hold several plumbing-related patents. Not surprisingly, Crapper has been unfairly linked to the less-than-pleasant word “crap.” The two, however, are unrelated. In 1846, the first time “crap” is recorded as having been used in English, little Tommy-poo was just nine years of age.

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Control freak Steve Jobs's chaotic Macworld no-show news

By Owen Thomas

Steve Jobs is a famed perfectionist. The way word leaked out he wouldn't keynote at Macworld was anything but controlled, raising concerns that his health had taken an unexpected turn.

As with Sarah Palin's baby rumors, the scurrilous media forced Jobs's hand. Arik Hesseldahl, a BusinessWeek reporter, noticed a blog post which pointed out Jobs had not yet been confirmed as a speaker for the annual event, which serves as an international showcase for Apple's products, a massive blogosphere buzz builder, and an orgy of media obsession.

As Hesseldahl put it to me, he wasn't thinking of a story as much as whether he should book his flight for the show. He called Apple last Friday, and got no response — typical for Apple's tight-lipped PR operation. But on Monday, he managed to reach Paul Kent, the general manager of Macworld Expo, who told him he had "no reason to believe that plans are not moving ahead," which Hesseldahl took as confirmation that Jobs would show up.

When Hesseldahl published a story on Monday with the headline "Steve Jobs Will Be at Macworld," all hell broke loose. Kent called back, saying he meant that the show would go forward, not that Jobs was a sure thing. Hesseldahl changed "will" to "may" in his headline and updated the story — but Kent's PR firm kept calling to backpedal. The story spread, and the drumbeat of speculation grew ever louder.

Then, late Tuesday, came Apple's announcement that Jobs would not deliver the keynote address at Macworld, a tradition he's maintained since he returned to the company a decade ago. The cover story was plausible enough: Trade shows were an outdated way to sell Macs and iPhones. But Apple investors didn't buy it, sending the stock down in after-hours trading.

What it speaks to is a control freak who's lost control. Are we to believe that Jobs, who's known for minutely orchestrating every aspect of his keynotes, whimsically decided to abandon Macworld three weeks before the event? That defies reason. Apple was apparently stringing Macworld along, delaying and delaying the announcement, and hoping no one would notice.

Put that in the context of Jobs's ghastly gauntness at this summer's launch of the iPhone 3G, and the ongoing speculation about his health. It's generally understood that the surgery to treat his pancreatic cancer rewired his digestive system, giving him difficulty in digesting some foods. (I've heard he can no longer drink his favorite beverage, a nonalcoholic grape juice from California's Navarro vineyards.) And fears persist that his cancer might return. I keep hearing apocryphal rumors that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who is among Jobs's closest friends, once broke down in tears and said, "My best friend is dying."

Amidst that kind of worry, why would Jobs take the stage again? He'd have the fit of his jeans and the flushness of his cheeks debated on blogs in the kind of minute detail that used to be reserved for a new Apple laptop. Showing up in the wrong condition might be as bad for Apple as not showing up at all.

That's why I think there must have been a ferocious debate within Apple about whether he should go on with his keynote, which was brought to a head by the BusinessWeek story. It's the opposite of how Jobs likes to operate — smoothly, in secrecy, with no chinks in the armor of Apple's publicity machine. And it's the clearest sign that something is wrong with Jobs. The ultimate control freak is not himself.

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Analysis: Is Apple about to have an enterprise moment?

By Eric Bangeman

Apple and the enterprise—two words that have historically gone together like peanut butter and cheese curds. For much of its history, the computer-cum-iPhone maker has been on the outside of enterprise computing looking in. In fact, it's debatable how much Apple was even looking in. The company has shown little interest in doing what is necessary to woo corporate IT departments and make its case to CIOs.

When I visited the topic of Apple and the enterprise a bit over five years ago, I concluded that Apple had a long, long way to go in order to get its foot in the door. At the time, Mac OS X was still relatively immature, a lot of business software wasn't yet running native on Apple's newest OS, and its machines stood out like sore thumbs among the x86 beige boxes with their PowerPC processors. But nowadays, my, how things have changed.

Apple now has Intel Inside. A larger number of business-oriented apps like Microsoft Office and Lotus Notes now run on Mac OS X, and the increasing number of web applications make the operating system an afterthought for many users. The iPhone is not only the sexiest smartphone around, it's one of the most popular. Most importantly, Macs can do Windows, either through Boot Camp or virtualization. So times have definitely changed, but have they changed enough to get Apple anything more than a toehold into the enterprise?

Some new data from the Information Technology Intelligence Corp. shows that all of these factors have had an impact on Apple's enterprise uptake. ITIC surveyed 700 IT managers and executives and discovered that 80 percent of the respondents had Macs in their corporate environment. Half of those taking the survey said they were ramping up their iPhone integration over and against the popular BlackBerry. And around 30 percent of them are running Windows on their Macs via virtualization products such as VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop.

Still, a stroll through your average cubicle farm turns up little other than Dells, HPs, and other commodity boxes. Is that going to change anytime soon? Not in a meaningful way. There are definitely some opportunities present, but Apple still seems disinclined to follow up on them.

Forces working in Apple's favor

There are three Important trends right now that are giving Apple a foot in the enterprise door: the consumerization of IT, Microsoft's botched Vista launch, and the increasing popularity and visibility of Apple products, especially the iPhone.

In October, Citrix decided to give its employees a $2,100 stipend so that they could purchase a laptop of their choice to use for business and home. Other companies are taking similar steps, and with Apple's US market share growing steadily, consumers who have become accustomed to having a Mac at home are now getting the chance to bring them to work. Mac OS X plays nicely in mixed environments, and the vast majority of Windows-running mission-critical apps can easily be accommodated via virtualization solutions.

If IT consumerization takes off as some expect, it's going to open the door even wider for Apple. Still, it's not going to open the floodgates.

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Apple Always Wanted to Get Out of MacWorld

By Jesus Diaz

Apple bowing out of MacWorld after January 2009 comes as a shock to many. But, really, according to a source at Apple, they've been planning to get off MacWorld for a long, long time.

They are not lying in their press release. NAB, MacWorld Tokyo, AppleExpo in Paris, and Summer MacWorld at New York/Boston were the path to this not-really-that-shocking event. They almost quit in 2002, but about two years ago I was sharing some wine with a friend from Apple and he told me: "We are going to phase out all trade shows". "Even MacWorld?," I asked. "Yes," he said, "MacWorld will go too. I don't know when, but it will."

I was a bit shocked then, but I understood. The effectiveness of these events in terms of media impact is not as important as it used to be. In fact, the impact is no different from the smaller press- and analyst-only events. These generate the same amount of buzz as a big fair. The first time I went to the Apple campus was for the first truly specialized Apple event: They presented the Xserve to a group of trade journalists and analysts. They got exactly the impact they wanted in exactly the media they wanted. In addition to this, the special events dates are set by Apple. They don't have to depend on other people's schedules.

But none of these reasons explain why Steve Jobs is not giving the final keynote himself. If any other thing, Steve Jobs retiring from active duty at Apple sooner than expected is the factor that has precipitated this cancellation. The company is not going to have a showman like him, capable of keeping the crowd with their mouths open during a two-hour long MacWorld presentation, so why do it? And with smaller events centered on single product families—where Steve absence won't be so hard to cover— who cares?

On the other side, it could all just be that they don't have anything to announce this time and Steve has had enough of this stupid yearly big bang that crushes everyone at engineering and marketing.

However, all the signs point to Steve preparing to transfer the company to new hands. The simplest explanation, following previous events, is that canceling MacWorld and having Phil Schiller to present it is just another part of His Plan. This doesn't mean that he is leaving the company tomorrow, however. it is just one more step towards that goal, as I explained back in October.

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Apple announces final MacWorld, Steve Jobs won't deliver keynote

by Joshua Topolsky

Watch this space folks -- it's the end of an era. Apple has just issued a press release stating that this coming MacWorld in January will be its last, and Steve Jobs won't be on hand to say goodbye. Instead, Phil Schiller will be heading up the proceedings, thus marking a quiet end to a conference that's been the launching point of some of the most important pieces of consumer tech in recent memory. In Apple's words:

Apple is reaching more people in more ways than ever before, so like many companies, trade shows have become a very minor part of how Apple reaches its customers. The increasing popularity of Apple's Retail Stores, which more than 3.5 million people visit every week, and the website enable Apple to directly reach more than a hundred million customers around the world in innovative new ways.

Apple has been steadily scaling back on trade shows in recent years, including NAB, Macworld New York, Macworld Tokyo and Apple Expo in Paris.

Update: Oh, and just to clarify, this is merely Apple's last MacWorld, not the last MacWorld. IDG just made a statement confirming that it's on for an Apple-free MacWorld 2010 at the Moscone Center -- January 4th through 8th if you're planning ahead.

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