Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Wanted: Web-Wide Cops

The Internet needs to be globally regulated if it is to have any chance of stopping scams such as security 'scareware', a researcher has suggested.

According to Mary Landesman of ScanSafe, the recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) injunctions against two companies accused of distributing fake anti-virus programs is a step in the right direction but against a backdrop of widespread abuse.

Landesman was referring to the recent case against US outfits, Innovative Marketing and ByteHosting Internet Services, both of which were said to have peddled bogus anti-virus programs designed to tempt users into paying to clean their PCs of non-existent malware.

The problem is that piecemeal action is fighting against a rising tide of such scams, fuelled by the release of automated tools in 2007 that made it simple for criminals to set up such cons.

"Large numbers of users are trusting 'scareware' scams as fraudulent companies are using increasingly sophisticated techniques to lure users into downloading the software. Some of the scams we have seen are branded Anti-virus 360 and look extremely convincing," said Landesman.

Part of the problem dated from the de-regulation of Internet registration nearly a decade ago with the removal of the monopoly enjoyed by Network Solutions, she agreed. That had allowed a multitude of unregulated companies to decide who was and who wasn't allowed to set up shop, making official oversight almost impossible.

"Hosts and registrars need to be held accountable. [At the moment] security researchers report sites but get no response," she said.

Researchers would complain about rogue ISPs and find that it was taking months to get them de-peered or even investigated, mainly because it was not the responsibility of any individual body to carry out such investigation.

Global regulation looks to be a nearly impossible task in today's Internet, though more informal action by ISPs could still form part of the answer. The recent takedown of spam-spewing ISP McColo is a case in point. It was nobody's job to put a stop to McColo, but that didn't stop ISPs from deciding to de-peer the company as a last resort.

"The FTC should be applauded for their recent progress; however, there is still a considerable amount of work to be done in the regulation of these bogus scams," said Landesman.

Patent image

U.S. patent application number 20080319910, published on Christmas Day, details Microsoft's vision of a situation where a "standard model" of PC is given away or heavily subsidized by someone in the supply chain. The end user then pays to use the computer, with charges based on both the length of usage time and the performance levels utilized, along with a "one-time charge."

Microsoft notes in the application that the end user could end up paying more for the computer, compared with the one-off cost entailed in the existing PC business model, but argues the user would benefit by having a PC with an extended "useful life."

"A computer with scalable performance level components and selectable software and service options has a user interface that allows individual performance levels to be selected," reads the patent application's abstract. The patent application was filed June 21, 2007.

"The scalable performance level components may include a processor, memory, graphics controller, etc. Software and services may include word processing, email, browsing, database access, etc. To support a pay-per-use business model, each selectable item may have a cost associated with it, allowing a user to pay for the services actually selected and that presumably correspond to the task or tasks being performed," the abstract continues.

Integral to Microsoft's vision is a security module, embedded in the PC, that would effectively lock the PC to a certain supplier.

"The metering agents and specific elements of the security module...allow an underwriter in the supply chain to confidently supply a computer at little or no upfront cost to a user or business, aware that their investment is protected and that the scalable performance capabilities generate revenue commensurate with actual performance level settings and usage," the application reads.

'A more granular approach'
According to the application, the issue with the existing PC business model is that it "requires more or less a one chance at the consumer kind of mentality, where elasticity curves are based on the pressure to maximize profits on a one-time-sale, one-shot-at-the-consumer mentality."

Microsoft's proposed model, on the other hand, could "allow a more granular approach to hardware and software sales," the application states, adding that the user "may be able to select a level of performance related to processor, memory, graphics power, etc that is driven not by a lifetime maximum requirement but rather by the need of the moment."

"When the need is browsing, a low level of performance may be used and, when network-based interactive gaming is the need of the moment, the highest available performance may be made available to the user," the document reads. "Because the user only pays for the performance level of the moment, the user may see no reason to not acquire a device with a high degree of functionality, in terms of both hardware and software, and experiment with a usage level that suits different performance requirements."

By way of example, the application posits a situation involving three "bundles" of applications and performance: office, gaming, and browsing.

"The office bundle may include word-processing and spreadsheet applications, medium graphics performance and two of three processor cores," the document reads. "The gaming bundle may include no productivity applications but may include 3D graphics support and three of three processor cores. The browsing bundle may include no productivity applications, medium graphics performance and high-speed network interface."

"Charging for the various bundles may be by bundle and by duration. For example, the office bundle may be $1.00 [68 pence] per hour, the gaming bundle may be $1.25 per hour and the browsing bundle may be $0.80 per hour. The usage charges may be abstracted to 'units/hour' to make currency conversions simpler. Alternatively, a bundle may incur a one-time charge that is operable until changed or for a fixed-usage period," the document reads.

Microsoft's patent application does acknowledge that a per-use model of computing would probably increase the cost of ownership over the PC's lifetime. The company argues in its application, however, that "the payments can be deferred and the user can extend the useful life of the computer beyond that of the one-time purchase machine."

The document suggests that "both users and suppliers benefit from this new business model" because "the user is able to migrate the performance level of the computer as needs change over time, while the supplier can develop a revenue stream business that may actually have higher value than the one-time purchase model currently practiced."

"Rather than suffering through less-than-adequate performance for a significant portion of the life of a computer, a user can increase performance level over time, at a slight premium of payments," the application reads. "When the performance level finally reaches its maximum and still better performance is required, then the user may upgrade to a new computer, running at a relatively low performance level, probably with little or no change in the cost of use."

Report: Music companies mull YouTube rival

Major music companies are reportedly considering plans to launch a video site that would compete with Google Inc.’s YouTube.

The Financial Times reported Sunday that the plans under consideration are modeled after Hulu, the video site owned by NBC Universal and News Corp., which is the paper's parent company. Hulu users watch TV shows after seeing a short ad.

The news comes after videos from Warner Music were pulled from the site after it couldn't come to terms on a new contract with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG).

The three other big music owners in talks with Google are EMI, Sony and Universal. They now get a fee each time one of their videos is watched on YouTube, but Google reportedly is pushing to reduce that fee and offer more of the ad revenue associated with the videos.

The Times said a variety of plans are being discussed by the music companies, including a partnership with Hulu, creating a premium service on YouTube, or creating a standalone venture.

Pew survey shows online news overtaking print in the US

People who have followed the development of the Internet are probably well aware of the Pew Charitable Trust, which has tracked the growth of the web through its Internet & American Life Project. But a separate arm of the Pew, the Research Center for the People & the Press has uncovered some data relevant to the online world when surveying the US population about the sources of its news. According to the group's latest survey, performed in early December, the use of Internet news sources has passed that of newspapers for the first time.

The survey was performed from December 3rd through 7th, and it involved 1,489 adult participants. Most of the questions involved perceptions of the major news stories of the year, but several focused on the participants' source of news. Here, Internet news sources had very significant gains, with 40 percent of the population saying it's where they get "most" of their national and international news. That's a significant leap from September of 2007, when only 24 percent had called it the source of most of their news.

The use of newspapers as a source has held steady in the mid-30s for the last several years, and came in at 35 percent of the survey population this time around. This steady performance, combined with the significant rise in the use of Internet, has meant that this is the first time since data collection started in 2001 that the newspapers have been pushed out of their second-place slot. Because of the wording of the survey, users could name more than one source for "most" of their news (which is why I keep putting it in quotes); this allowed TV to hold on to its first-place slot, being the choice of 70 percent of respondents. That's actually the lowest result ever, and the first time it's dropped noticeably since 2004, when it was at 74 percent.

These results may have been driven by a major shift in the 19-29 year old age group. In the last year, their news jones has been less satisfied by TV, dropping from 68 percent to 59 percent. The same fraction (59 percent) looked to the Internet for information, a huge rise from the September 2007 survey, when the figure was 34 percent. At the same time, the use of newspapers was up slightly in this population. The Pew report doesn't indicate what percentage of the total survey population fell into this age group, but the usage patterns for the past several years show a fair bit of variability; it's not clear whether an of the changes beyond the rise in Internet use should be viewed as significant.

It would be easy at this point to engage in a bit of Internet triumphalism, and there is some justification for this. It's easier to find specialized news content online, and many papers have responded to declining ad revenues by cutting back on this. In terms of one of my own interests, the death of science content in traditional media (as exemplified by CNN, which recently axed its entire science staff) has definitely left me less interested in getting my news from TV.

Nevertheless, some are arguing that the decline of print is nothing to be celebrated. Although the many eyes of the Internet community can identify stories that might otherwise slip under the radar, few websites have the resources to do the depth of investigation that can be carried out by an experienced news staff. Internet content may have the advantage of being free, but that low price may come at a cost.

Private Messages On Twitter

If you are the kind of person who can’t help but look when you drive by an accident scene, DMFail is for you. The site, which has been all the rage on Twitter for the last few days, shows direct (private) messages that were sent improperly on Twitter and are therefore public.

If you want to send another Twitter user a message that only she or he sees, you type [D + username + message]. But a lot of people accidentally type DM (for Direct Message) instead of D, and when that happens you pay the price of having your message pop into your Twitter stream for everyone to see.

DMFail grabs all those messages and reprints them on its site for everyone to see, which can be quite a horrible experience for the people involved. Thus the accident scene analogy.

It would be fairly trivial for Twitter to change things so that DM also sends a private message, but so far they haven’t. On average, a couple of messages per hour over all of Twitter end up hitting DMFail.

Direct messages on Twitter don’t seem to be all that secure in general. They’re available to third parties through the API, for example, and there has been at least one case where confusion led to making some direct messages public.

Anyhow, from now on I’m just going to start all my Twitter messages with DM. I suggest you do the same.

Go Vote For The 2008 Crunchies Finalists

The finalists for the 2008 Crunchies awards, brought to you by VentureBeat, GigaOm, Silicon Alley Insider and TechCrunch went up for vote earlier this evening. Vote here for your favorite startups, products and entrepreneurs.

Nearly 180,000 total nominations were made across the various categories.

Voting will continue until end of day on January 5, and the winners will be announced at the award ceremony and party on Friday, January 9 at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco. We released another 200 tickets for the event this evening as well, get them at Amiando. This ticket also gets you into the after party.

This year’s Crunchies would not be possible without the generous support of our sponsors. Thanks to ceremony and after-party co-hosts: Microsoft, MySpace and Founders Fund; award benefactors: Charles River Ventures and Mayfield; streaming partner, Ustream; after-party game-room partner, Garage Games; ticketing partner, Amiando; photo host, PicApps; hosting partner, Media Temple; wine partner, Cannonball wines; and event patron, Institutional Venture Partners. Please contact or if you’re interested to learn more about creative (and very reasonably priced) sponsorship opportunities.

Smartphones drive mobile markets

Blackberry Storm
Fans of high-end phones were spoiled for choice in 2008

There is no doubt that 2008 was the year of the smartphone.

The last 12 months has seen the launch of iconic devices such as the iPhone 3G, Google G1, Blackberry Storm and Nokia N97.

It also saw the emergence of the electronic ecosystems needed to get the most out of such handsets.

But all is not rosy in the smartphone garden. The popularity of these devices has brought to light several problems that look set to become acute in 2009.

Customer control

"It was a goodish year," said Andrew Bud, chairman of mobile firm Mblox and director of the Mobile Entertainment Forum.

One of the high spots, he said, was the knock-on effect the launch of innovative smartphones had on the mobile market.

Many were using them to get at popular social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Bebo, said Mr Bud.

"We've also seen the emergence of applications as a whole new content category," he added.

Alongside the launch of the Apple and Google smartphones went shops that gave away and sold applications to run on the high-end handsets.

Nokia Remix event, Nokia
Nokia's Comes With Music could set trends for 2009

Apple said more than 100 million applications had been downloaded from its App Store between July and September.

For Steven Hartley, senior analyst at Ovum, the popularity of the smartphone was a signal that older technologies were coming of age.

"3G has really started to deliver on its promise," he said. "That's again something that has been talked about for a long time."

The success of 3G has been attributed to the use of a technology known as High Speed Packet Access (HSPA).

Dan Warren, director of technology at the GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) Association, described HSPA as: "the original 3G service on steroids".

Mr Warren said data rates looked set to get a further boost in 2009 thanks to a follow-up technology known as HSPA+.

He said: "HSPA+ will start to become prevalent in 2009. It takes you up to 42Mbps but the maximum at the moment is 7.2Mbps in the UK."

Switch off

But despite the good news for the mobile world 2009 is unlikely to see that success continue.

For a start, said mobile analysts CCS Insight, 2009 will see sales of handsets shrink.

"This will be the first time the market has contracted since 2001," said an end of year report from CCS.

The firm said this slowdown could be blamed on the global economic downturn that will hit every part of the mobile industry.

The only place to buck these trends will be markets in developing nations, said the report. In particular, it said, India, sub-Saharan Africa and China still have low penetration rates by the standards of mature economies such as the UK.

Handsets production line, AFP/Getty
Handset sales look set to dip in 2009 following years of growth

But, said Mr Hartley from Ovum, more customers in some markets will be a mixed blessing.

"As more and more people get a mobile you are going down the value pyramid," he said. "You get a lot of people but every single one is not going to be generating a lot of revenue."

The important thing that mobile operators have to get right in 2009 is increasing the numbers of people paying for data traffic, he said.

But, added Mr Hartley, the problem with pushing people towards using more data on the move is the knock-on effect it has on the infrastructure operators need to support those customers.

The global downturn could mean operators will find it hard to raise the capital needed to cope with significant growth, he said.

For Mr Bud from Mblox the growth of mobile broadband highlights another pressing issue for operators - how they price data plans.

Research by Mblox showed a huge discrepancy between the amounts people using different operators in different countries will pay when downloading or browsing the web.

In the UK, it found, some folk will pay about £10 to download a two megabyte music track. By contrast in Germany, on some tariffs, customers will only pay 24 cents (22p) a megabyte.

The confusion that results was holding back the growth of mobile data services, said Mr Bud. Few people were willing to risk downloading as they were worried about racking up huge charges.

In some cases, he said, their fears were being justified. In the summer of 2008 one unlucky Vodafone customer returned home from a holiday in Portugal to a phone bill in excess of £31,000.

He racked up the bill by using his phone to download an episode of Prison Break and several music tracks while on holiday abroad.

"The price consumers see should be the price they pay," said Mr Bud.

It's Time For An Apple Tablet: Where's My iPod Touch HD? (AAPL)

steve-jobs-next.jpgApple's (AAPL) iPod touch is a hit, and PC makers like Dell (DELL) and Asus are doing good business selling cheap, small "netbook" laptops. It's time for Steve Jobs to smash them together into a killer multi-touch tablet. We're calling ours the iPod touch HD for now, and we're hoping we can buy it before next Christmas.

What is it? A tablet computer with a 7- or 8-inch multi-touch screen -- about four times the iPod touch screen area -- with Apple's OS X built in. This includes wi-fi access to iTunes for music and movies, optional 3G service (or wi-fi/Bluetooth tethering to an iPhone for Internet access), and access to the App Store.

Important: No keyboard. Keyboards add bulk and weight, and are hardly useful in miniaturized form. If anything, let us hook up an external Apple wireless keyboard for another $79. But an on-screen, multi-touch keyboard will be more than enough for typing short messages, filling out Web forms, and reading.

What will we use it for? Everything we use the iPhone for, except phone calls. And many things we use our computer for, except everywhere. This includes: Listening to music, watching videos, surfing the Web, reading e-books and Instapaper articles, playing games, writing blog posts, etc. We won't use it for Photoshop or anything we need a real file system for. But that's okay -- that's why we have a computer at work and at home.

How much? We're hoping for $600, or $700 with more memory. Halfway between the MacBook and the iPhone, right where it belongs. But it's likely Apple would charge another $100 or $200. That'll probably fly with early adopters for long enough until Apple can make them cheaper.

Sure, we've seen this before. Remember the Palm Foleo? Or the big, bulky tablets that PC companies are selling with swivel keyboards?

No worries. The Foleo was a dud -- mostly because it was designed to complement a Palm (PALM) Treo, which was already a dinosaur. And PC companies are trying to ship bulky tablets that run bulky copies of Windows Vista -- overkill, but that's all they have.

Apple's multi-touch, lightweight edition of OS X, iTunes sync, and App Store are exclusive. And they're exactly how to make a tablet computer work. So when can we buy ours?

Original here

iFart developer makes $40,000 in 2 days

iFart, therefore I am (the #1 iPhone app). Or something like that. iFart is fast becoming one of the most popular iPhone/iPod Touch applications out there. The developer of iFart, Joel Comm, has been pretty forthcoming with sales figures, and on his blog he noted that over Christmas Eve and Christmas day, more than 58,000 people purchased a copy of iFart, netting him over $40,000 dollars in just two days.

iFart, as the name suggests, is a $.99 novelty iPhone app that plays a wide variety of fart sounds. It was initially released on December 12th, and has since skyrocketed up the app store charts, and is now the #1 paid program in the app store. In the two weeks following its release, it’s been downloaded 113,865 times, netting the creators $78,908 in the process. 78 grand is higher than the average income per capita for every country in the world - and this guy surpassed that in two weeks. Incredible.

iFart, though, isn’t the only app that’s making noise (sorry) in the app store this holiday season. MacRumors is reporting that a number of other developers have also seen sales of their apps triple and even quadruple over the past few days. The sudden surge in app downloads can most certainly be attributed to the large number of iPhone and iPod Touch’s that were sold during the holiday season, and also to people cashing in their iTunes Store gift cards to load up on apps.

Interestingly, iBeer is currently the #3 paid app in iTunes. I wonder if there’s a correlation.

Original here

Leaked Snow Leopard image potentially indicates a 32 / 64-bit divide

by Nilay Patel

Apple's said it's taking a break from adding flashy features to OS X to focus on the foundations and stability of the system with Snow Leopard, and this latest leaked screenshot might indicate that those foundations are moving to 64 bits -- it shows System Preferences saying it needs to restart in 32-bit mode to open the Network panel. That's certainly interesting, given the rumors that Apple's dropping support for non-Intel machines and maybe even 32-bit Intel processors with this release, but it could also just mean that whoever took this screenshot doesn't have a 64-bit-friendly version of that preference pane installed. (We're guessing the latter, since there are a lot of 32-bit only Core Duo Intel Macs out there.) Restarting apps to change modes seems pretty clunky, though -- shades of System 7 and the 32-bit Enabler, for the olds -- so we're hoping Apple's got a more elegant solution in the works. Macworld's just around the corner, we're sure we'll hear more from Steve Phil soon.

Original here

7 Reasons Why the iPhone nano Is a Bad Idea

Posted by Aviv

Apple rumors commonly take on a life of their own. The iPhone was this way, the multi-touch Mac is this way, and now the iPhone nano. However, unlike the original iPhone, and the excitement of a multi-touch Mac, an iPhone nano would overall just be a misplaced product.

stock1Prior to Macworld 2007, where Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone, heated rumors were swirling much in the same way about the device. Nearly every analyst, blog, website, news publication and magazine had an inside tip, or what they thought was “credible” information about the rumored iPhone. Much in the same way the industry regards an Apple netbook or multi-touch Mac, a rumored iPhone nano has gained some major notoriety lately.

Even though a smaller device may appeal directly to a different market, we can’t help but label such a device as a bad idea. Here are a few of our reasons:

App Store

Apple would never sell an iPhone without the app store installed, or without the possibility of gaining access to the app store. The same goes for the iPod touch. In its relatively short existence, the app store has already been proven a smash success. RIM and Google have been left scrambling trying to spring up “app market” clones, but none have had anywhere near the impact of Apple’s app store. To assume that Apple would scale down the app store, or limit applications that would run on an iPhone nano is preposterous. Developers and designers spend massive resources both programming and designing applications exclusively for the iPhone. We can’t image that Apple would suddenly scale down the graphics of these applications, or dramatically alter the hardware that is running them which could in turn harm performance.

Virtual Keyboard

Some people love the iPhone’s virtual keyboard, other people loathe it. The keyboard definitely takes some getting used to, however even the most experienced iPhone user will tell you it can be an incredible drag to use. Especially if you don’t whole heartedly trust the iPhone’s spell check. An iPhone nano would require an even smaller virtual keyboard than what the current iPhone has. We just can’t see this being within Apple’s realm of possibility. For a company as focused on the end user experience, a smaller virtual keyboard doesn’t make sense.

The Tininess

Unless Apple is specifically designing the iPhone nano for the tiny-obsessed masses in Japan, what is the point of such a small phone? We have absolutely no complaints when it comes to the iPhone’s size, aside from hoping we get one with a bigger screen. As far as a gaming device, Apple is pushing the iPod touch and iPhone platform hard. In all honesty, it’s still a ways behind the likes of the Sony PSP (if only because of the lack of a directional pad). An iPhone nano would make gaming on the device even harder. And what would happen to games that have been developed specifically for the current iPhone? Would the graphics be scaled down? Or would the developers have to design new ones? Either way, the rumored tiny size of such a device doesn’t make sense.

Stripped Features

When we say Apple should diversify its iPhone line, we don’t mean for them to introduce a new model with less features. Instead, expanding the top line of the iPhone family while making the current models cheaper would make more sense. Taking away GPS, 3G or any of the core technologies users currently rely on would only backfire. The iPhone nano would be stripped down of a lot of the features current iPhones have, and we simply can’t see Apple making this move. As the partnership between AT&T and Apple progresses, the 3G network has become a staple in both of the company’s advertising campaigns. Making an EDGE only iPhone nano doesn’t seem very plausible.

Less Storage

Yes, less storage can fit into the “Stripped Features” category, but we’re talking about portable media devices here, storage should be increasing not decreasing. Apple dropped the 4GB iPhone models leaving 8GB at the low-end and introducing a 16GB iPhone. The iPod touch tops out at 32GB and we expect new iPhones to do the same. Storage is after all what makes downloading apps, playing music and videos, storing photos, and playing games possible.

Worse Battery Life

The iPhone isn’t all that great when it comes to battery life. Its got an okay amount of standby time, but Apple claims nearly 300 hours. That’s completely different when you’re using the device though, and under normal circumstances a charge is needed daily. Apple claims 5 hours of talktime while using 3G, and 10 hours while using the EDGE network. Throw in web browsing, maps, and some music/video playback, and 5 hours would be a dream. An iPhone nano would have a more disappointing battery life than current iPhones, and Apple’s lack of including a user replaceable battery doesn’t help.

Cell Contract

A cheaper, smaller iPhone is still a phone shackled to a cell contract. Making the device smaller and cheaper would not change AT&T’s coverage rates. An iPhone nano as a gift would still be like giving someone a puppy, with an immense amount of responsibility tied to the gift. Unlike a cute iPod nano, if Apple is hoping to appeal to a new market with a less expensive iPhone, AT&T’s plans better be altered accordingly as well.

The bottom line… An iPhone is not a keychain. Instead of focusing on such a niche device with limited features and storage, we expect Apple to leave this one for the cloners.

Original here

SimCity for iPhone: A week later

Last week, Electronic Arts finally released SimCity for the iPhone. Like Rolando, which came a day later, SimCity was an eagerly anticipated game with a lot of high expectations. On the surface, it looks fantastic. The graphic capabilities really shows off what the capacity of the iPhone is capable of and it's very addicting.

One reader comment stated that our initial review wasn't really a full-on review, and that it only scraped the surface. In a way, he was correct. A game like SimCity is something that you play over time on the iPhone, and you actually can dedicate a lot of effort to it. Last week's review was based on observations after only a few hours of play. SimCity is a game where certain effects on the system can't be felt until you've played it longer than a day. In this case, it's been eight days since my previous review, and a lot of the game's faults have started springing up during that time.

So, what's the game like after a week?

Frequent crashes

This problem has plagued some TUAW readers since SimCity was released. I was lucky. After restarting my iPhone, the game was stable for six days. Now, the game crashes every five minutes or so. The crashing persists after both soft and hard resets of the iPhone and probably has to do with how large the file size for my small city of Saillune has become. On their SimCity page in iTunes, EA has acknowledged that there are crash issues and that a later patch will resolve this.

Lengthy load time
The more I play the game, the longer it takes to load. In a way, it makes sense. I have two saved cities and one of my cities is growing. It takes, on average, 90 seconds to two minutes for the game to load and the music usually starts a good 30 seconds before the actual game controls appear.

Sticky controls
While the controls felt very intuitive at first, that feeling decreases over time. What should have been simple navigation using the built-in controls becomes difficult, especially on a small scale.

Back to the map
Whenever you answer a petitioner or talk with an adviser, you're taken all the way back out to the main game instead of going back to the adviser screen. This also happens when picking a building for construction. You have to go through several sub-menus every time you make a selection and that gets tedious.

Missing features
As the years in my city progressed and various features unlocked, I found myself missing some of the standard options from SimCity 3000 Unlimited and other SimCity games. There are no subways or highways, and no neighbor deals. It's very hard to build a bridge as the game rejected all but three locations where I tried to build one. The same thing happened when trying to string power lines over a body of water. You do not have the ability to raise or lower the terrain here, something that winds up hurting the game because it makes it so hard to build those bridges.

Massive battery drain
You need to have a full battery when playing this game and even then, it drains very quickly. SImCity keeps draining the battery even after connecting the iPhone to a power source, so it's better to let it rest while you charge your phone.

Yes, Virginia, there is an international version
For those of you who expressed concern about the lack of an international version of SimCity, there actually is one. It's called SimCity International in the non-U.S. iTunes stores. It may not be in every country, but it is in the U.K. store and readers have commented that they've seen mention of it in other iTunes stores as well.

Is the game still worth the US$9.99 price tag? It all depends on the mileage that you get out of it. For the features that it currently has, it's a good game until it begins crashing. The lack of stability is a disappointment, as well as some of the missing features. Hopefully, these will be addressed in a future patch. What has the experience like been for all of you after a week?

Original here

Apple Employee Fired For Thinking Different

CUPERTINO, CA—Brent Barlow, 27, a software analyst and beta-tester at Apple Computer headquarters in Cupertino, was fired Monday for "thinking a little too different."

Enlarge Image Apple Employee Fired

A 1998 photo of Apple software analyst Brent Barlow, who was recently fired for "thinking too far outside the box."

Apple spokespersons said the firing was necessary because Barlow "consistently failed to adhere to the normal standards of conduct and daily routines expected of employees of Apple Computer."

Among the floutings of convention cited in Barlow's Apple employee file: developing a pulley system to store his mountain bike above his workstation, listening to Bob Dylan on his headphones while testing software, and taking barefoot walks around the Apple campus to "feel more connected to the creative energy of others."

"It's okay to think outside the box," said Avie Tevanian, Apple senior vice-president of software engineering. "In fact, we very much encourage that sort of thing here at Apple. But in Mr. Barlow's case, he went just a bit too far."

Barlow was first written up in September 1996, when he was cited for "unprofessional and inappropriate personal modifications to his workspace." In addition to taped-up pictures of Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein and R. Buckminster Fuller, Barlow painted a large red question mark on the side of his monitor, scanned and displayed a non-approved desktop screen image of Jim Henson, and replaced his computer's trademarked Apple system beep with a snippet of the John Lennon song "Imagine."

"I like to explore problems from unusual angles," said the ponytailed Barlow, cleaning out the desk he has occupied since joining Apple in 1995. "And being in a free-form environment of my own creation really helps me get in the right frame of mind."

Barlow's most recent formal write-up came last Thursday, when his team supervisor caught him doing a headstand.

"I was stuck on this bug I discovered in the new Mac OS X system software that Apple's developing. No matter what I tried, nothing worked," Barlow said. "So I thought to myself, what I need to do is turn my whole approach to this problem upside-down. And what better way to do that than by standing on your head?"

In an effort to prevent such incidents of "excessive iconoclasm" in the future, Apple has developed a manual outlining the company's rules and regulations regarding individualism. Permitted will be such unorthodox activities as removing shoes when seated or within four feet of a desk; whistling when given prior written permission from a direct supervisor; and kicking puddles, provided the kicking is conducted during one's lunch hour and the puddle is one of the 35 on the Apple campus specifically designated for such a purpose. Prohibited will be such "gratuitously idiosyncratic" behaviors as singing out loud, flying kites and catching butterflies.

"Of course, we want our employees to be individuals and 'do their own thing,' so to speak," Apple director of corporate communications Michael Landau said. "But Mr. Barlow's behavior consistently crossed the line. If he wants to think that different, he can do it on his own time."

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