Thursday, January 29, 2009

How To Download Music From Deezer, Pandora And More

Websites such as Deezer, Pandora, imeem, (and others) all serve free streaming music - often bundled with certain restrictions that reduce their convenience to users. A number of separate various applications exist to download from specific sites (such as Freezer which exists to download from Deezer, Jiwa, and imeem only), so their range is limited.

Today we’ll show you an all-inclusive method that can grab songs from most, if not all, websites. The drawback? No automatic naming, the files are in FLV format rather than MP3, and you’ll have to drag them out of the cache yourself. However, user input is minimal, especially on playlist type websites.

The basic premise of the method is to kill the HTTP headers that tells the content to expire so that the content will be cached - where you then drag it out of the cache, convert it to MP3, and add it to your library. We’ll be using a small program called Proxomitron, and as usual, we’re focused on Firefox.

Set up Proxomitron

Proxomitron Main Window

  1. Download and install Proxomitron. When you first run it, you’ll be greeted by a rather interesting (eye stabbing) interface. To change this, click Config and select Don’t use textures.
  2. Uncheck Web Page Filters, we will not need them. If you want, you can take a selective look by clicking Web Page under Edit Filters, but at least one of the default options interferes with the ability to use music streaming websites.
  3. Proxomitron Filter Headers Configuration

  4. Click Headers under Edit Filters. Check the following, but uncheck everything else:
    • Cache-Control: always cache (in)
    • Expires: always cache (in)
  5. Hit OK. At this point, Proxomitron is all configured. The next steps will deal with setting up Firefox to use Proxomitron.

Set up Firefox and Download Songs

Firefox Proxy Setup and Cache Size

  1. Open up Firefox. Head over to ToolsOptions…AdvancedNetworkSettings, and hit Manual Proxy Configuration. Set it to use localhost and port 8080. Also check that the cache quota is sizable based on the amount of music you want to download at once (I have mine set at 50MB).
  2. Playing A Song on Deezer

  3. At this point Firefox is configured to run its connection through Proxomitron, which will filter out the unwanted HTTP headers. Head over to a music streaming website of your choice and load up a song.
  4. Head over to the cache folder once it’s finished loading. You can do this step after loading a bunch of songs, as long as the number of songs you’ve loaded doesn’t grow beyond the cache size, at which point files start getting automatically pruned.
    • On XP it’s C:\Documents and Settings\[username]\Local Settings\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\[random].default\Cache
    • Vista: C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Local\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\[random].default\Cache
    • Portable Firefox: \FirefoxPortable\Data\profile\Cache
  5. Firefox Cache Folder on XP

    Sort the list by Date Modified so that the most recent files end up at the top. Generally the Date Created is when the streaming was initiated, while the Date Modified is when the stream finished downloading. Make sure the size is realistic (you generally want something above 1000KB), then copy/paste the file to a different folder and rename it with a .flv extension.

  6. Convert the .flv file to .mp3 with a program of your choice. I prefer WinFF.

That’s the process in a nutshell. Find a website that defies this method? Tell us about it in the comments.

Original here

Gmail grows up with offline e-mail access

Posted by Stephen Shankland

Significantly increasing the utility and competitiveness of its Web-based e-mail service, Google is enabling an experimental ability to read, write, and search Gmail messages even while not connected to the network.

Google believes almost religiously in cloud computing, the idea that computer applications and data live on the Internet rather than on PCs. But there are times when the network is inaccessible, and generally Web-based applications like today's Gmail effectively seize up under those circumstances.

Offline sidesteps that problem, the classic example being a busy executive traveling on a plane. And offline Gmail access begins a new chapter for Google's ambition to appeal to business customers for services such as Google Apps, of which Gmail is a component.

"This is a feature we've heard loud and clear the enterprise wants," said Todd Jackson, Gmail's product manager.

In coming days, Google will let Gmail users test the Web-based e-mail service even when there's no network.

In coming days, Google will let Gmail users test the Web-based e-mail service even when there's no network.

(Credit: Google)

Trying to sign up business customers generally means wooing them away from the dominant e-mail products, Microsoft's Exchange server software and Outlook PC software. Google and Microsoft began in separate spheres, but are ever-closer competitive rivals, each with a strong cash-generating business that can be used to subsidize forays into other markets.

There's more, too. Google Apps customers will get another major offline option "soon," too: Google Calendar access, though not initially the ability to create new entries. If the organization's administrator enables the "New Features" option, each person within that organization will get access to the calendar, Google said.

New features help make Gmail more compelling for business customers, but for many, a bigger problem is the fact that Gmail still sports its beta tag, said Gartner analyst David Smith.

"That's one of the biggest stumbling blocks for businesses," Smith said. "You're hard-pressed to find any businesses who decide to go into production with anything that a vendor calls beta, no matter how good it is." Google promises customers will get 99.9 percent availability through a service level agreement for Google Apps, which includes Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs.

Cloud vs. PC
And Microsoft, while not turning on a dime, isn't counting on a future that consists exclusively of PC-based Office. It already has a product, Office Live Workspace that lets users share and view--but not edit--Office documents online, and the next version of Office will run in a browser.

Philosophically, though, Microsoft remains firmly tethered to the PC, while Google wants to move as fast as possible to Web-based applications.

"We think the browser is the ideal platform for deploying all kinds of applications. That's where Google is placing its bet," Jackson said. "But people are traditionally limited by the speed and connectivity of the Internet. We want to fill in those gaps."

Google already developed open-source technology called Gears that helps further this cloud computing agenda by storing Web data on PC, and Gmail, used by millions, could help coax more people to install Gears. That, in turn, could help solve the chicken-and-egg problem that currently means it's not worthwhile for most Web application programmers to build in Gears support.

Greater Gears support could help other cloud-computing companies, including Zoho, which already has offline access for its Web-based e-mail application.

It's not as if offline Gmail were completely impossible. People can set up software such as Outlook or Thunderbird to read and write e-mails, for example. But offline Gmail means people won't have to learn a new interface.

Offline Gmail has been in testing for months, though Jackson wouldn't share specifics about exactly how long.

What can offline Gmail do?
"We wanted the user experience to be almost identical to the experience you get when you're online," Jackson said.

Offline Gmail stores a copy of a user's inbox on a personal computer. Most people will have to install it, a process Google walks you through, but it's built into Google's Chrome browser.

Once Gears is installed and offline access is enabled, the software automatically detects when a person's network connection is working. If the network is good, Gmail works as usual. If it's bad, it goes into offline mode, sending unsent messages and retrieving new ones when the connection is restored.

And if the network is dodgy, a person can use the intermediate "flaky connection mode," which for example queues a message to be sent immediately by storing it to the hard drive then actually sends it as soon as it can. Google positions this as useful for coffee shops and poaching a neighbor's weak-signal wireless network, but I think of this as "tech conference mode."

When enabled, offline Gmail begins by downloading, in the background, a copy of a user's archive to the user's personal computer. But the software stores about 10,000 e-mails, so heavy users won't get a complete archive.

Gmail automatically updates the local cache of messages with new and recently read items and with messages associated with a particular label on which a person has clicked, Jackson said.

Not everything works, though.

One big missing piece is the ability to add attachments to new messages, though attachments are visible with existing messages.

Another is the contacts tab, so forget about managing e-mail lists or adding new addresses while offline. The autocomplete option works, though, so there's no need to start remembering e-mail addresses.

English-speaking Gmail users will be able to enable offline access as Google gradually adds the ability over the next "couple" of days, said Gmail engineer Andy Palay in a blog post. "Offline Gmail is still an early experimental feature, so don't be surprised if you run into some kinks that haven't been completely ironed out yet," Palay said.

What kinds of problems occur?

"We've seen issues with the local cache getting out of sync. You have to refresh the browser, and that gets you going again," Jackson said. "In some rare circumstance, it has to be fully flushed, so we ask to disable and re-enable the feature."

But these should be unusual problems, he said: "It's been in testing for awhile on all 20,000 Googlers, so it's gotten some good testing."

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

Mozilla contributes $100,000 to fund Ogg development

By Ryan Paul

Mozilla contributes $100,000 to fund Ogg development

Open Web standards have evolved considerably over the years and browser compatibility is better than ever, but one important area where standards are just starting to catch up is support for streaming video. Proprietary browser plugins are used extensively across the web to play video from popular sites. This creates serious lock-in risk and gives proprietary software vendors like Adobe a lot of control over the medium.

Although alternatives such as Microsoft's Silverlight are beginning to change the game and force Adobe to open up, there still isn't a viable, vendor-neutral, standards-based alternative that can shift the balance of power over to end-users and tear down some of the walls that limit how video content is experienced on the Web. Mozilla and the Wikimedia Foundation have launched an initiative to help improve the quality of open, standards-based video technology.

Mozilla has given the Wikimedia Foundation a $100,000 grant intended to fund development of the Ogg container format and the Theora and Vorbis media codecs. These open media codecs are thought to be unencumbered by software patents, which means that they can be freely implemented and used without having to pay royalties or licensing fees to patent holders. This differentiates Ogg Theora from many other formats that are widely used today.

The Ogg development improvements will be coordinated by the Wikimedia Foundation. The organization uses Ogg for virtually all of its rich media, which makes it one of the largest open media format adopters on the Internet. In a statement published at the organization's Web site, Wikimedia deputy director Erik Möller expressed his support for the initiative and explained that open formats are needed to ensure the availability of free content in unrestricted formats.

"Open standards for audio and video are important because they can be used by anyone for any purpose without royalties, and can be inspected and improved by an open community. Today, video and audio on the web are dominated by proprietary technologies, most frequently patent-encumbered codecs wrapped into closed-source player widgets," Möller writes. "Wikimedia and Mozilla want to help to build a web where video and audio are first class citizens: easy to use and manipulate by anyone, without compulsory royalty schemes or other barriers to participation."

Mozilla is integrating support for the Ogg format directly into Firefox 3.1, so the next version of the popular open source web browser will be able to play Ogg media without requiring any plugins or external software. The Ogg format will be supported through Firefox's implementation of the HTML 5 video element, which allows video to be seamlessly interwoven with conventional HTML content and manipulated through the DOM. Mozilla has recently demonstrated the video element feature being used for streaming video. Opera is also integrating standards-based video support into its browser and has a working implementation of Ogg for HTML 5.

Although the technology is starting to fall into place, it will take time for the standard to be supported broadly enough to encourage adoption by sites that stream rich media. The lack of DRM support inherent in the open implementation will also likely impede adoption by major commercial content creators. Standards-based solutions may never manage to displace Flash, but the first big steps need to be taken for this to even be a possibility.

Original here

Navy Turbocharges Its Missiles

By David Hambling

HsadThe Navy is developing a new type of rocket engine to make missiles faster and more deadly.

A while back, we reported on the "killer zombie" QF-4 Phantom. It's an obsolete jet, resurrected as an unmanned drone for test-firing missiles. Now we know a bit more about the super-fast weapon fired by the killer zombie.

The Higher Speed Antiradiation Demonstrator (HSAD) is another project to upgrade the AGM-88 HARM missile, used to knock out enemy air defense radar. HARM is a modular weapon, with separate warhead, seeker, controls and propulsion. That means different elements can be upgraded separately. HSAD replaces the existing rocket motor with a "turbocharged" version.

The program has been quietly progressing since 2002, when the Navy decided to develop a missile based on new propulsion technology. Work is being carried out at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division at China Lake, CA.

The goal is to test a new propulsion system that can provide "additional range and average velocity to a next generation Anti-Radiation Missile," Jerry Kong, the Navy's HSAD program manager, tells Danger Room. To make it happen, his team is building a hybrid propulsion system called an "Integral Rocket Ramjet" -- also known as a "ram-rocket."

Ordinarily, ramjets use high-speed airflow as natural compressors for jet engines. It's a turbocharger, in effect. Kong's crew is putting together a rocket that uses its combustion chamber as a ramjet, producing a significantly increased thrust. In theory, it's simple enough. But getting the engineering right has taken a while. This really is rocket science, after all.

The IRR has the high speed and ability to start from zero velocity of a rocket with the added endurance of an air-breathing ramjet. On paper, a ram-rocket should be able to generate about twice the total thrust of a rocket. "Higher speed and range for an anti-radiation missile is important as it increases the survivability of strike aircraft," says Kong.

If a surface-to-air radar locks on to your aircraft, then your survival may depend on knocking the radar out before its missiles can hit you. Some Russian-built SAMs are huge and have a speed of mach 5 or more , so being the "fastest gun" can be a matter of life or death.

The Navy is vague about details of just how good HSAD is, suggesting only a performance of mach 3+ with a range of 100 miles. But HSAD's contractor indicates that HSAD will have "twice the range of the current HARM at two to three times the average velocity as HARM." This suggests more like mach 4+ and 150+ miles. (They quote average speed because HARM spends some its flight gliding after the rocket burns out; HSAD will have a longer burn time.)

However, HSAD itself is not a finished product or even a prototype. The result of the HSAD program is a technical data package which should prove that the ram-rocket works. This will then be taken up and developed into end products, which may be some years off.

The Air Force have also taken an interest in HSAD, and the technology might also be incorporated into all sorts of other missiles to give them greatly enhanced speed and range.

"This capability would be useful to many future weapon systems and is being studied for applications in air-to-air, air-to-ground and ground-to-ground weapon systems," says Kong.

In principle, the integrated rocket ramjet could improve the performance of all sorts of missiles. And as HSAD shows, it's possible to add it on to existing systems. Increased range is generally useful, and increased speed improves the chances of an anti-aircraft weapon. History suggests that in the longer run, it might spread even further: early satellite launches (including Sputnik and the U.S. Explorer 1) were carried out using modified military ballistic missiles. Ram-rockets may start out on radar-killing missiles, but ultimately the technology is likely to find to way into all sorts of places.

Original here

DIY Lighting Hacks for Digital Photographers

by Darren Rowse

Diy-Photography-Lighting-HacksLighting can be the difference between a good shot and a great one.

Walk into most professional photographer’s studios and you’ll be confronted with truckloads of lighting equipment. To the average hobby photographer it’s enough to make your mind boggle - and for your stomach to turn as you think about the cost of it all.

Most of us can’t afford a full lighting rig - however what if there was a way to experiment with the type of lighting gear that pro photographers use without spending too much money? What if you could make it yourself.

In this post I’ve found 10 DIY Flash and Lighting Hacks that put some of these lighting techniques within the grasp of the rest of us. Some are more involved than others but all are fun and will provide you with some new lighting gear to experiment with.

1. Multi-Super-SB-Ring Light

Sb-Ring-FlashWhat can you make with six speedlight flashes, a coffee can and a little spare time?

You get a multi-super-sb-ring-light! (pictured left).

You could probably also blind a small village if you’re not careful!

Find out what it is, how to make one and what the results are like here.

This one looks like a lot of fun to play with - even if it’s just for the challenge of it and the looks you’d get when you pull it out next time you do a shoot..

2. Poor Mans Ring Flash

Poor-Mans-Ring-FlashAll you need for this one (pictured left) is a used milk bottle/jug and some scissors.

The result is that you’ll have a Poor Mans Ring Flash.

A ring flash is one that fits around the lens - it creates a wonderfully unique lighting effect. They will usually lighten your wallet by a couple of hundred dollars.

It’s so simple that I whipped one up for myself today in 5 minutes.

It worked out pretty good too - not bad for the cost of a couple of liters of milk!

If you want to experiment with other methods of making DIY ring flashes you also might want to check out this post for another method. This one is a little more involved, but I think will probably get better results.

Subscribe to our newsletter to get more weekly Digital Photography tips like this

3. Inexpensive Light Tent

Softboxresult2-1Have you ever wanted to replicate the crisp clean product images that you see in catalogs with the products seemingly floating on a white background?

If you do - you need some kind of light tent/light box.

As usual, light boxes can cost you quite a bit - but thanks to DPS reader Jeffrey Bail you might be able to achieve the results without having to spend much at all.

In our Inexpensive Light Tent tutorial Jeffrey shows you how to turn a box, fabric, tape, glue board and light into a great little light tent.

4. Party Bouncer Card

Party Bouncer SetupAnother cool DIY Hack is this Party Bouncer Card (pictured left) which is so simple yet promises to be so useful and effective.

This one is for those of you with a camera which doesn’t have the capability for an off camera flash.

It allows you to bounce some light off the ceiling while also diffusing the light going forward - this will enable you to get a less harsh flash effect that many flashes leave images with. I like this one as it pushes the light out from your flash in two directions which can lead to a more even light rather than just diffusing it - a little more sophisticated.

Another quick DIY on diffusing a flash is to put a little translucent magic tape over a flash (or a piece of white tissue paper can do it too).

Any of these methods will decrease the amount of light getting out from the flash onto your subject - hopefully resulting in a more subtle light and a less blown out image.

5. Turkey Pan Beauty Dish

Just Fab Beauty Dish 00Beauty dishes are wonderful pieces of photographic equipment to experiment with - but they can be very expensive.

Not any more (at lest if you use this DIY trick).

In this hack learn how to use a simple Turkey Pan to get some pretty amazing beauty dish results! The comparison examples in this tutorial between the turkey pan version and the real thing are pretty convincing.

I must remember to add Turkey Pans to this week’s shopping list.

Check out this tutorial here.

6. DIY Ghetto Flash Extender

Flash-ExtenderI’d not heard of this type of device before - but since I found this tutorial I’ve discovered a number of photographers who for one reason or another want to be able to extend the reach of their flash.

This is particularly useful for wildlife photographers who want to supplement natural light in tricky lighting with fill flash. Of course sometimes it’s difficult to get close to that animal and a normal flash would have no impact.

Enter the Flash Extender (one popular one is the ‘better beamer’).

Want to make one for yourself? This tutorial for the DIY Ghetto Flash Extender will tell you how.

7. Disposable Camera Flash Slave

Disp Camera Test Flash KitLately I’ve had more and more questions from readers about how to set up shots with multiple flash units to light a subject from more than one angle.

It’s not difficult to do if you have the budget to buy yourself an extra speedlight flash or two (or more) but if you don’t have the budget is there a way?

In this tutorial and author shows you how to use a disposable camera to act as a remote slave flash.

OK - this tutorial isn’t for anyone looking for a quick simple solution - but it is a challenge that I’m sure some of you will be up for!

8. Flash Mounted DIY Softbox

Sb7Another way that professional photographers diffuse the light that comes from a flash and gets a nice subtle and even light on their subject is to use a softbox

A softbox sits over a light (it’s a big box with white walls) which ensures the light is spread out evenly.

This DIY Softbox tutorial is great - it requires card, a white sheet (silk if you can), velcro, scissors, glue and the template that the tutorial provides you with.

The results look pretty good - but if you want more DIY softboxes the same site also has another tutorial for an alternative softbox.

Again - this one looks pretty good.

9. Flash Bouncers

flash-diffuserThere are a lot of DIY flash diffuser hacks and tutorials around but this one from our friend Chris at DSLRBlog is pretty cool.

It costs £1, takes 5 minutes, requires craft foam, a little elastic and some scissors.

The tutorial even includes a template for you to print out on your printer and then cut out - what more do you need?

Even the technologically challenge could make this one (speaking of myself of course).

Nice work from Chris with that one.

Another similar Flash Bouncer/Diffuser can be found over at DPReview here. This one is foam also.

Lastly - another card/paper version of the flash bouncer.

10. Full Budget DIY Lighting Studio

Image001It’s time for one last DIY lighting hack - this one attempts to bring it all together with a full DIY Budget Studio setup.

The author of it takes up the challenge of creating a full studio lighting system for under $75.

It includes lights, reflectors, diffusers and flash diffusers - all using items that you could pick up at hardware and craft stores.

It also shows you a few test shots at the end of the tutorial that compare different lighting options.

You will need your own flash unit to use the flash diffusers on - but the rest is all included in the tutorial.

I particularly light the suggestions around globes for the lights. I know a couple of DPS forum members have had similar success with these sorts of lights.

11. UPDATE: The Fring - a DIY Flash Ring

lighting-hacks.jpgI saw this one recently and I think it makes a worthy addition to this post.

It is a DIY Fibre-Optic flash extension for your DSLR’s popup flash!

It uses the light from your camera’s flash to light your subject using fibre optics arranged around your lens to give a more even light.

Of course it’s not the easiest to make (there are 37 steps) but it’s an ingenious idea and the example images taken with the setup are pretty cool considering it cost just a few dollars to make.

Original here

How would you market Windows 7?

By Emil Protalinski

How would you market Windows 7?

This week, Microsoft posted two job requests relating to Windows on their careers website. The first is for a technical writer who is interested in helping out millions of Microsoft customers via the Windows Consumer Content Team by writing "friendly, accurate responses for customers to see when a problem occurs on their computer. We write helpful responses for issues that offer information about how to fix, troubleshoot, or avoid an error in Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7."

The second one is slightly more interesting. Microsoft is looking for a marketing manager for Vista's successor. It's worth noting that Microsoft started looking for a Windows 7 PR Manager about six months ago to start hyping up the product before it's even ready via blogs and other web content. A marketing manager would solely be promoting the finished product. Here's what Redmond is looking for:

We are looking for an experienced marketer to help launch, develop and drive key consumer marketing programs for Windows 7. In this core product marketing role on the Windows 7 consumer marketing team you will lead a cross discipline v-team and develop and execute programs in alignment with the marketing strategy. Key components of the initiative include:
  • Capture the consumer's imagination and spark desire for Windows 7
  • Build confidence in the Windows brand
  • Establish an understanding of the Windows 7 benefits
  • Spark positive recommendations for Windows 7
  • Deliver on the brand promise of compatibility
This specific role will lead three key aspects of Windows 7 launch and sustain marketing:
  • Develop, own end-to-end, and drive key marketing programs including an advocacy plan - a key pillar to our strategy
  • Establish the engine and rhythm for the consumer launch including project management across the 20 v-teams to insure accountability, consistency and world class marketing
  • Manage pre-release marketing
If you've ever wanted to influence how we bring a world class product like Windows 7 to market in the consumer space this is your chance.
We are looking for a senior experienced marketing professional to provide leadership among cross functional teams and build out scale marketing programs which will significantly impact both consumer preference and business results for the Windows business. This will require having a breadth understanding of each discipline, strong interpersonal and influence skills, and strong execution skills.

I have no doubt that Microsoft will find someone up for the challenge, hopefully someone who can keep the media talking positively. Before Microsoft unveils its campaign though (Vista's was "The wow starts now"), I'd like to ask you how you would market Windows 7. Got a brilliant campaign idea? Post it in the comments below.

Original here

Internet Explorer 8 Release Candidate 1 Ready for the Masses

By Michael Calore

Microsoft made the release candidate of Internet Explorer 8, the next version of its popular web browser, available for download midday Monday. This is the last stage for the browser before it's finalized, and few significant changes have been made since its last release.

Internet Explorer 8 Release Candidate 1 can now be downloaded from Microsoft's website. The free browser is available for users of Windows Vista, Windows Server and Windows XP Service Pack 2. Older Windows versions aren't supported.

Also, this version of IE8 will not run on current versions of Windows 7 — either the public beta released Jan. 10 or the pre-beta version handed out to developers last October. The final version, due in a few months, will be the default browser in Windows 7.

All users running a supported operating system who have downloaded any of the previous public betas of IE8 will eventually be prompted to update their browsers if they don't want to update manually.

This release is billed as a release candidate, meaning it's in the stage between beta and a final release. It's what Microsoft refers to as "platform-complete" — you can expect the final IE8 browser to behave like this one does. Microsoft will be on the lookout for critical issues, however. (For more technical details, see our recent overview of IE8's development.)

It also means that you won't see a whole lot of new features in the user interface or the chrome, compared to the beta releases.

We spoke with Microsoft's Dean Hachamovitch, general manager for IE, about the changes in RC1, and he told us that the new stuff is "mostly polish at this point." Probably the biggest visual change is in the favorites bar, where users can choose an icon-only view to fit more items into the bar. His team has instead been concentrating on reliability and compatibility. He also noted that early testers have commented on IE8 RC1's improved performance.

Hachamovitch also says his crew has been paying particular attention to how everyday users interact with the web — searching, sending e-mail and sharing media — and simplifying those interactions. He talks more about this on the IE8 blog.

As browsers continue to mature, he says, they've taken a lot of the dirty work out of manually stitching together the various web services you use to communicate, stay secure, keep on top of news, and share links and other media with your friends.

"With the final release of IE8, people's expectations of what a web browser does are going to go up a lot," he says.

And he's right ... as long as those people aren't already using Firefox.

As we noted when we got our first peek at the new IE8 last year, some of its new features broke new ground in the browser race, but most of them were attempts to catch up to innovations made by Microsoft's competitors — search in the location bar, smart RSS handling and easy-to-understand security protections.

But IE still attracts the lion's share of mainstream web users, thanks to the fact it comes bundled with Windows. And for those users, IE8 should improve their experience interacting with web apps, RSS and all of the other tech more-advanced users consider second nature.

Original here

6 things you need to know about Windows 7

win7_3The Windows 7 beta from Microsoft continues to generate lots of positive buzz. In fact, the word of mouth reaction is almost the polar opposite of Vista's. When it's finally released, hopefully sometime this year, it may yet turn Microsoft into the Comeback Kid of software.

As I wrote on Saturday, the beta will no longer be available for download after Feb. 10, so get it while it's out there. Meanwhile, here are five things you need to keep in mind about Windows 7 and what it means for Microsoft . . . and you!

The beta is Microsoft's best. I've worked with beta versions of Windows since Windows 95, and I don't recall a test release that was this solid and polished. It's not perfect - there are still bugs. But if the quality of this release is an indicator of what's to come, then I'd say Microsoft is going to have a huge hit. That said, I'm not sure it's going to generate the kind of marketing madness we saw for the releases of Windows 95 and XP. Those days are over, but I think there will a lot of PC users who will be more than happy to get their hands on this release, if only to ease the pain of Vista, or of being stuck with an aging OS like Windows XP.

It may halt defections to the Mac. As you know, I'm all about cross-platform computing, and I've been urging Windows users who are interested in switching to Apple's Macintosh to take the plunge. But now, I'm telling Windows users who aren't happy with XP or Vista to look at Windows 7 before switching. Yeah, it's that good, and frankly, if Apple is counting on Windows switchers to grow its market share, then Steve Jobs & Co. may have a problem on their hands. While Windows is still going to be the target of viruses and spyware, and Microsoft's focus on backwards compatibility in an open-hardware environment makes it harder to deliver a rock-solid operating system, Win7 greatly improves the Windows experience.

It still may not make business happy. Most of the things I like about Windows 7 have to do with user experience and general reliability. The fact that it's less intrusive, runs well on less-powerful hardware and is generally compatible with hardware and software that runs on Vista will make most home and business users happy. But as Paul Thurrott points out, there's not much that's new in Windows 7 to call to businesses. What is new, he says, is tied to an as-yet-unreleased version of Windows Server 2008. Microsoft needs businesses to adopt Windows 7 in a big way, but there may be little here that speaks directly to them.

It's not a step back to Windows XP. A lot of XP die-hards are hoping that Windows 7 will be a roll-back to Windows XP, but that's hardly the case. In fact, Microsoft takes Windows 7 even farther away from legacy Windows. For example, you can no longer set up the interface to look like Windows 2000 - it's the Win7 interface or nothing. (You can, with some tweaks, make it look more like Vista.) That said, it's been my experience that Windows 7 runs as well as XP, if not better, on older hardware. While the recommended specs match that of Vista - 1-GHz processor and 1 GB of memory - it will run smoother and faster on those minimums than Vista does. But it won't look or behave like XP. Oh, by the way - there will be no upgrade installation for XP users. You'll need to do a clean install of Windows 7 if you've got XP on your system.

There's still no pricing or release date. The Windows 7 beta expires in August, and Microsoft has been cagey about whether testers will have a new build, or even the finished product, available by then. That's one reason not to install the beta, because it means possibly rolling back to your previous operating system before the expiration date. In addition, we don't yet know how much Microsoft will charge, or what editions will be offered. There are indications we'll have at least Home Premium, Professional (a.k.a. Business) and Ultimate. I asked a Microsoft product manager at CES earlier this month if there'd be a Home Basic, and he wouldn't say. I'm hoping that Microsoft gives upgraders a break and charges significantly less than usual. I think paying $49 to go from Vista Home Premium to Win7 Home Premium sounds about right, don't you?

There are things missing, by design. When you install Windows 7, you'll notice that it's missing some things. Gone are the Photo Gallery, Windows Mail, Windows Movie Maker and Windows Messenger. This makes for a simpler, lighter installation, but if you actually use any of those products, you'll have to go download them from the Windows Live Essentials site.

Original here

Location-aware software comes to the Linux platform

By Ryan Paul

A multitude of factors are contributing to a mobile computing renaissance. Some of these factors include the growing availability of ubiquitous mobile Internet connectivity and the rising popularity of netbooks and other Internet-enabled small form-factor devices. These changes are inspiring a renewed interest in location-aware software and web services.

A framework called GeoClue aims to enable integration of location-aware technologies in Linux desktop applications. It is an abstraction layer that makes geolocation functionality accessible through a standardized desktop-neutral API that is easy for applications to consume. It will provide a C library and also expose its functionality through D-Bus, an interprocess communication system that is widely used on Linux.

There are a lot of different technologies--WiFi triangulation, cell tower positioning, and GPS--that can be used to ascertain the location of a user. There is also a lot of variation between the individual implementations of those technologies. Although most GPS devices use the standardized National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) format for describing satellite-based positioning, different GPS devices have subtly different programmatic interfaces and different capabilities. In many cases, the way that these devices are designed to operate makes it difficult to access them from more than one application at a time.

A growing number of devices--especially cell phones--use a combination of technologies to detect location depending on the current circumstances. Managing their use together, while accounting for resource overhead and battery consumption, adds extra complexity. If every desktop application has to reinvent the wheel and handle all of these things, it would make it virtually impossible for geolocation to become a pervasive part of the computing experience.

There are already some nice Linux-based frameworks that abstract away a lot of the complexity associated with GPS. One example is Gypsy--a multiplexing daemon that sits on top of GPS devices, parses the location data, and makes it accessible to other applications on the system via D-Bus. It provides an effective solution for some of the biggest challenges associated with integrating GPS functionality into desktop applications.

Another intriguing project in this area is the GSMLoc initiative, which seeks to compile a database of user-contributed cell tower geolocation data under a Creative Commons license. A Web API on top of the database can be used to obtain estimated location coordinates from CellID values.

The GeoClue framework can leverage all of these and expose the data through a single consistent API so that applications can regard the underlying service, hardware, and protocol as a mere implementation detail. It could also eventually correlate this physical location data with information from geolocation Web services to provide a richer and more expansive assortment of functionality. For example, it could use a Web API to seamlessly provide the address of the user's location based on the coordinates.

Mapping user interface components

There are also some impressive open source frameworks emerging higher up in the stack that help facilitate the development of location-aware applications. One of these that has recently become popular is libchamplain, a GTK+ library that provides preintegrated mapping controls that can be embedded in applications. It leverages the GObject-based Clutter canvas framework for rendering and uses free map images from services like OpenStreetMap and OpenAerialMap.

The GTK+ widgets provided by libchamplain have already been adopted by several GNOME applications. A new plugin for the GNOME image viewer, for example, will display a map with markers to show the location of images with geolocation metadata. The library is also going to be used in Empathy, the GNOME instant messaging client. Empathy's new location-aware functionality uses an XMPP extension that describes a wide range of location metadata. It is built on top of GeoClue and uses libchamplain to display a graphical user interface.

EOG geolocation plugin

These frameworks clearly bring a lot of value to Linux applications on the desktop and on mobile devices. As the technology matures, mapping and location features could become a more natural and tightly-integrated part of the computing experience.

Original here

Open source question for schools

School pupils in IT lesson
It has become an essential part of the school curriculum

Andrew Miller asks whether open source software can help schools use their budgets more efficiently

Looking around the British Education Training and Technology show, BETT 2009, it was clear by the sheer size of the event, that an awful lot of money is being spent on technology in education.

With Open Source Software (OSS) freely available, covering almost every requirement in the national curriculum, a question has to be asked why schools do not back it more fully, possibly saving millions of pounds.

As the name suggests, OSS is community-driven software with its source code open to all. Anyone can modify the software according to their needs and then share these modifications with everyone else.

When many people hear OSS they think Linux - the alternative operating system that comes in many flavours such as Ubuntu, openSUSE or Fedora.

Linux has long been used to power servers, but open source extends to all manner of projects. Web browser Firefox and the OpenOffice software suite are great examples of this.

Open promotion

In the education sector, OSS is promoted and used by only a handful of self-motivated technologists looking to stretch their technology budget.

Critics say Becta - the government agency that oversees the procurement of all technology for schools - has not done enough to promote OSS.

Peter Hughes, head of procurement agreements at Becta, told the BBC that more would be done.

BETT 2009
An estimated 30,000 people visited BETT this year

"As an organisation, we have been criticised for not adequately covering open source solutions and our predominance of proprietary solutions, such as those by Microsoft.

"We have therefore responded to this pressure and in our role of strategy and delivery of technology in education, we've made an effort to stay balanced and have focused on facilitating effective choice for schools," he said.

At the end of 2008 Becta collaborated with the government's procurement services organisation to approve 12 suppliers, all of which can outfit schools with open source software.

Becta considers the appointment of Sirius a "major step forward" and that it sent a message to the community that "we're taking OSS seriously".

John Spencer, Sirius head of business development, told the BBC that there was a deep ignorance of open source, not just in schools, and that Linux suffered an image problem.

"Many schools are frozen in time from the year 2000, when it became obvious computer literacy was not going to be optional but then they haven't moved on.

"They don't want to move away from what they know, not just to Linux but equally to Vista and Office 2007 as well. Good teachers will always be looking to move forward but they are so busy that they are often conservative," said Mr Spencer.

Children in front of PC
The growth in IT is putting greater demands on school budgets

Sirius has already installed open software in many schools around the UK.

One project in a Twickenham school allows netbooks and notebooks owned by the school or a pupil to be booted up across the network to give them access to the files and programs they need.

"The network cost half that of the RM offers and the reduction in power consumption allows the system to pay for itself in under 3 years," said Mr Spencer.

Competiton time

Another Becta initiative revolves around the website which launched in late 2008. It aims to provide basic information and best practice guidelines for teachers using OSS.

However, Becta has some reservations.

"We want teachers to realise that they can be and should be considering OSS as a viable alternative," said Mr Hughes.

"That said, schools still need to do their homework. There can be just as many caveats with open source as there are with proprietary solutions."

So what do the big software firms think about open source software encroaching on their patch?

Steve Beswick, director of education for Microsoft UK, told the BBC that while open source software may, on face value, offer savings, there could be hidden costs, both financial and otherwise.

Schools and colleges must be able to make an informed choice about the software they need
Jim Knight MP
Schools Minister

"A lot of people are trained in Microsoft-based technologies, so there may be increased costs in re-training to learn how to use open source solutions," he said.

Mr Beswick claimed that Microsoft was not against open source, and was "committed to interoperability" illustrated, he said, by the support for the Open Document Format in Service Pack 2 of Office 2007.

He also mentioned the work Microsoft has done getting IIS, its flagship web server software, to work with the PHP web scripting language.

The Schools Minister, Jim Knight, echoed Becta's view. In a statement, he said: "Schools and colleges must be able to make an informed choice about the software they need - be it open source or proprietary - and to be aware of the total cost of ownership of that software, including sustainable support and training.

"I see it as Becta's role to work with open source and proprietary software providers to ensure that schools and colleges can make the most effective use of that software to support teaching and learning."

So what does the open source community make of this?

Gerry Gavigan, the chairman of the Open Source Consortium, told the BBC that a shift to open source software would require a change in thinking.

"Ongoing training costs don't go away merely because of a change from proprietary software to free and open source software.

"What does change is liberation from the training costs associated with an externally encouraged or enforced upgrade cycle," he said.

Another issue frequently raised is that of technology lock-in, one of the biggest arguments used by open source advocates as to why Windows is still prevalent.

Moodle screen shot
Moodle has more than 24m registered users

"Something that isn't always taken into account when calculating software procurement costs, is the ongoing costs costs arising from licensing or technology lock-in," said Mr Gavigan

Mr Gavigan felt that the free nature of open source software sometimes worked against it.

"Announcing you have spent amazing sums of money trying to tackle a problem has more impact with your audience than saying you have used a free solution. There is an unfortunate myth that if it doesn't cost anything, it isn't worth anything" he said.

Web world

However, some schools are taking on OSS. Highworth Grammar School, in Ashford, is offering both licensed and open source software to students.

The school's network manager, Marc Blake, said that while it was important for pupils to be aware of alternatives to Windows, it was worth acknowledging that pupils live in a world dominated by Microsoft.

But, he told the BBC, significant savings could be made by using some open source alternatives.

"We offer both Office 2003 and OpenOffice, so that people have a choice. I'd estimate 98% of people choose Microsoft Office over OpenOffice, but at least that choice is there," said Mr Blake.

"For our school to upgrade to Office 2007, it will cost around £27,000 as a one-off cost, but that doesn't include the cost of re-training and updating all the associated worksheets and teaching material."

Back of switchboard
Linux has proved popular with web servers across the globe

"To get the equivalent of Moodle [a free source of e-learning software] for our 1200 students would have cost in excess of £3,000 per year. You don't get the professional support, but if you're willing to take that on, it's great money saving," he added.

One of Mr Blake's main concerns with moving to Linux was whether it would work with some of the newer web technologies. However, although the school does have several Linux-based Asus EeePCs which are used predominantly for Web 2.0 projects.

At this years BETT, a significant proportion of educational software went Web 2.0, in an attempt to stay cross-platform compatible.

Schools could make significant savings by using open source, but this also requires a significant investment of time, research and training. But using a combination of both commercial and open source, such as that employed by Highworth School, can help to reduce costs while still giving students a choice. That's got to be good news for any school's report card.

Original here

Google Joins Fight Against BitTorrent Throttling ISPs

Written by Ernesto

Hundreds of ISPs all over the world limit and restrict BitTorrent traffic on their networks. Unfortunately, most companies are not very open about their network management solutions. With a newly launched website, Google is now helping out by supporting applications that distinguish the good ISPs from the bad.

measurement labISPs have been throttling BitTorrent traffic for years, but only recently has this become a hot topic. In collaboration with New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute and the PlanetLab Consortium, Google is helpng ‘the cause’ by launching Measurement Lab (M-Lab), a site that helps users determine if their ISP is interfering with BitTorrent traffic.

Among other tools, M-Lab will run the Glasnost application developed by the Max Planck Institute. Last year, tests performed with the Glasnost tool revealed that Comcast and Cox were actively interfering with the BitTorrent transfers of their subscribers.

The Java applet developed by the Glasnost project uploads and downloads data via BitTorrent for a few seconds, and compares that to your regular download speed. It detects if your ISP is limiting all BitTorrent traffic, or just the flow of data through well known BitTorrent ports. All in all this tool should be able to tell you whether your ISP is messing with BitTorrent traffic or not.

In their quest for Net Neutrality, Google is backing the M-Lab project with 36 servers in 12 locations. Google will also provide network connectivity for the tools hosted on M-Lab. The servers Google has promised will be rolled out over the next few months, while the PlanetLab Consortium manages the tools hosted on the site.

The project aims to reveal the throttling practices of ISPs worldwide and put an end to all the secrecy. “Transparency has always been essential to the Internet’s success, and everyone can agree that Internet users deserve to be well-informed about what they’re getting when they sign up for broadband,” says M-Lab, explaining the ideals behind its website.

Among the other Net Neutrality tools hosted on M-Lab is a diagnostic tool which allows user to test their connection speed and receive sophisticated diagnosis of any slowdowns. More tools will be added soon, Google powered.

Original here

Report: Symantec CEO is top commerce secretary candidate

Posted by Elinor Mills

Symantec CEO John Thompson

Symantec CEO John Thompson speaking at a 2006 event.

John Thompson, outgoing chief executive of security company Symantec, is being considered for the post of secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, according to a news wire report on Tuesday.

"He (Thompson) is the leading candidate," Reuters quoted an unidentified senior Democratic source as saying. "He is still being vetted."

Thompson, who announced in November that he would step down in April, held several fund-raisers for Obama at his Silicon Valley home.

"John has always kept his political activities personal in nature and separate from him activities as head of Symantec," a Symantec spokesman said in an e-mail. "He hasn't commented in the past and hasn't been making himself available this time around, either."

Several tech industry representatives in Washington, D.C., said Thompson would be a good choice in the government role, particularly given his experience as CEO of a large technology company.

"He is highly qualified and has the necessary background to be an outstanding commerce secretary and effective advocate for the United States on a global basis," said Dean Garfield, president of the Information Technology Industry Council. "His work on diversifying the corporate ranks bodes well for his willingness to think broadly about advancing our competitiveness on a global basis."

"It's critical to have someone who has experience in industries that are global, competitive, and technology-based. That is what the U.S. economy will need going forward," said Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. "If you look at the commerce choices under the Bush administration, the industries there were oil and gas. Those are not necessarily industries of the future or highly innovative, and in some cases, not even global. It's better if your commerce secretary is from the industries that will be critical to the U.S. future."

Thompson joined Symantec in 1999 and oversaw the company's acquisition of more than a dozen companies, including the $10.5 billion purchase of Veritas Software in 2005.

Thompson, whose mother was a teacher and father was a postman, rubbed elbows with politicians and activists like Jesse Jackson but wanted to keep his focus on growing Symantec, according to 2002 BusinessWeek profile.

As a salesman in the 1970s at IBM, he sported polyester suits, a mustache and an afro hairdo instead of the clean shaven, blue button-down uniform that was universal at Big Blue, the article said.

With annual revenue of nearly $6 billion, Symantec is the largest security software provider in the world.

Obama initially chose New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson for the post, but Richardson withdrew his nomination amid a federal investigation into a state contract involving a political donor.

White House officials declined to comment for this story.

(CNET News' Stephanie Condon contributed to this report.)

Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service, and the Associated Press. E-mail Elinor.

Original here

10 seriously useful Photoshop tutorials


A take on on East meets West by Hoang Nguyen. Discover how this was made in 'Create striking portraits'

Hoang Nguyen

Our colleagues over on Computer Arts magazine have been handing down Photoshop wisdom for over a decade.

Their website is a mine of information and not just for Photoshop tips, but for llustrator, InDesign, web design apps and much more.

We've had a poke around and chosen 10 of our favourite Photoshop tutorials. You can download free PDFs and accompanying files for every single one of these guides from the links in the article below.

1. Transform a dull stock image into great looking artwork
A series of techniques for coping with boring stock art that you're supplied with for ad design. Discover how to give the images some life, but still leave room in the composition for copy and logos.
Read more

2. Boost your images with Lab colour
Lab colour is a useful colour space in Photoshop that enables you to separate luminance information from colour information. This allows you to achieve amazing colour treatments that aren't possible in RGB, all without compromising the luminance, contrast or detail of the image.
Read more

3. Create striking portraits
This tutorial shows you how to compose a portrait so that the viewer's attention is directed onto the subject without being distracted by the background. It also demonstrates how to define the light source, which ties the whole image together. These principles apply to landscapes and still life as well.
Read more

4. Retouch mediocre photos
Using just the standard filters and tools in Photoshop, with no add-ons or plug-ins, you can make a photo look however you want it to. The techniques demonstrated here will help you get the best possible result from any image. As the tutorial notes, "in Photoshop there are no rules to break - just different ways to accomplish your goals."
Read more

5. Combine textures with vectors
Vector art can sometimes appear a little too crisp and that's where Photoshop comes in. Blending modes, masks and Alpha Channels can give a convincing distressed effect to your vectors. This guide uses a number of real-world image resources as a basis for the effect, achieving a tactile imperfection.
Read more

6. Combine photos to create surrealist landscapes
One trend in photo manipulation is to use several stock images to create a composition. But to make your efforts convincing, you'll need to understand how lighting, colours and shadows work in the real world. This project will show you how.
Read more

7. Create fake photo-real scenes
Remember the Smirnoff 'bottle as lens' ads? Now you can make your own. In this guide, you'll learn how to compose an image using three photographs shot in different places at different times. The result is a rhino in a bottle!
Read more

8. Dress up fashion photography
If you're working on a fashion project, you can have some real fun. In this project, you'll use Photoshop, plus raw materials such as card and paper, to develop a strongly themed result.
Read more

9. Create graffiti stamp art
To create cool graffiti stamp art, you need to go against the conventional idea of how to use the Brush tool. Using a piece of artwork as your brush tip can produce some stunning results.
Read more

10. Defringe hair
Selecting fine strands of hair in order to cut out a model from a background is enough to drive most Photoshop users mad - but there is a solution. The answer lies in using channels to make a detailed alpha mask for your image, as well as in harnessing the Layer Matting features to refine your final extraction.
Read more


Now read 11 WordPress plug-ins every blogger needs

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iPhone Software Update Breaks 3G Unlock

By Charlie Sorrel


Apple has squeezed out the latest software update for the iPhone and the iPod Touch, v2.2.1. As always with Apple updates, the release notes are maddeningly sparse:

This update contains bug fixes and improvements, including the following:
- Improved general stability of Safari
- Fixed issue where some images saved from Mail do not display correctly in the Camera Roll
- Fixed issue that caused some Apple Lossless (ALAC) audio files to skip during playback.

What Apple fails to mention is that the update break Yellosn0w, the hack which unlocks the iPhone from the official carrier and lets you slip in any SIM card. If you're a dirty, jailbreakin', unlockin' hacker, you're used to holding off updates anyway, and this time should be no different.

Original here

Apple gets censory on iBoobs'... ass

By Bill Ray

Apple has ordered the developer of the iPhone Wobble application to remove the words "boobs" and "booty" from his publicity, despite selling more than 20,000 copies of the epically pointless app.

Jon Atherton took a call from a "nice fellow in developer relations" at Apple who told him those two words are not acceptable promotional terms and must be removed. However, a quick search of iTunes reveals 161 titles with the word "boobs" and more than we could be bothered to count featuring the word "booty", though interestingly "Bulgarian airbags" doesn’t get a single hit.

When questioned about the disparity between music tracks and applications, the Apple rep told Jon that he was only calling to discuss the Appstore and couldn't comment on iTunes policy. He did, however, make it clear that Apple would prefer to see the company rethink their promotional video, despite the fact that it doesn't limit itself to boobs and booty (featuring as it does "one for the ladies").

Apple has also offered to rewrite the company's Japanese promotional material at no cost, to remove any offending Kanji (or would that be rōmaji).

So Wobble remains available, albeit described in the neutered form: "You can make two (censored) and (censored) jiggle and bounce like real when you shake your phone."

Original here

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Apple can now swing +6 mace of multitouch at enemies

By Chris Foresman

Apple can now swing +6 mace of multitouch at enemies

When COO Tim Cook told analysts last week that Apple would "not stand for having our IP ripped off," he was likely referring to the company's all-encompassing iPhone patent. The patent, titled "Touch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics," was granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office last week and assigned patent number 7,479,949.

The abstract describes a "computing device, comprising: a touch screen display; one or more processors; memory; and one or more programs" and specifically mentions a variety of methods and heuristics for interpreting the touch input and translating it to commands for scrolling, flipping from page to page in the SpringBoard, zooming webpages, and other commands. In addition, it also details the combination of components that the iPhone represents, including Bluetooth, WiFi, cell, and GPS radios, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, and touch-sensitive screen.

The patent lists Steve Jobs, Scott Forstall, and a number of other Apple engineers, including Wayne Westerman. Westerman, who became an Apple engineer when Apple acquired his FingerWorks, Inc in 2005, is responsible for a lot of the multitouch gesturing and on-screen keyboard technology used in the iPhone.

Since the original iPhone launched in June 2007, competitors have scrambled to emulate its success by releasing touch-based mobile devices. Recent entries include RIM's BlackBerry Storm, the HTC/Google/T-mobile G1, and Palm's announced but as-yet unreleased Pre. When asked pointedly about the Pre's touch interface similarities to the iPhone, Cook responded:

I don't want to talk about any specific company. I'm just making a general statement that we think competition is good. It makes us all better. And we are ready to suit up and go against anyone. However, we will not stand for having our IP ripped off, and we'll use whatever weapons that we have at our disposal. I don't know that I can be clearer than that.
iPhone patent, Figure 4

That could be easily interpreted as a threat to Palm, though Cook made it clear he wasn't singling out any company in particular. But Palm, which hired Apple's former head of hardware engineering, Jon Rubenstein, and other former Apple engineers to develop the Pre, felt it necessary to respond to Cook's statements:

Palm has a long history of innovation that is reflected in our products and robust patent portfolio, and we have long been recognized for our fundamental patents in the mobile space. If faced with legal action, we are confident that we have the tools necessary to defend ourselves.
That's tough talk from both parties, but Apple has a long list of patents related to the iPhone and its multitouch technology, as well as a history of vigorously defending its innovations in a courtroom. With its "iPhone" patent granted, it would behoove Palm or any other mobile device maker to either make sure that their designs aren't stepping on Apple's toes, or start looking for prior art to challenge the patent. And though Cook says Apple welcomes competition, being able to enforce the patent (which would be a long and costly process) might encourage the competition to try and out-innovate Apple on other fronts.

Original here

Apple releases iPhone Software 2.2.1

Apple on Tuesday released a software update for its iPhone and iPhone 3G devices.
According to notes provided with the update, the new version addresses two issues. First, Apple says the update provides improved stability for the Safari Web browser and secondly, an issue was fixed where some images saved from Mail do not display correctly in the Camera Roll.
The update is available to all iPhone and iPhone 3G users by plugging the iPhone into your computer and clicking on the Check for Update button in iTunes.

Man buys used iPod, gets 60 pages of sensitive military data

By David Chartier

The buzz from scoring an iPod for $15 undoubtedly wore off quickly for one New Zealand man. Instead of a working MP3 player that could be loaded up with tunes, Chris Ogle found a broken iPod filled with 60 pages of US military data and personally identifying information.

The files Ogle found on the iPod contain the names and personal details of US soldiers, including some who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. There are no details on exactly how many personal records are contained within the documents (most of which date back to 2005), but they do also have information on mission briefings and equipment deployment.

This incident is probably not the worst breach of military data in recent memory. About a year ago, a UK military recruitment officer's notebook containing over 600,000 personally identifying, unencrypted records was stolen from his car. In 2007, the US military began clamping down on "milbloggers" who may have inadvertently been giving away too much information to the enemy by posting about day-to-day base operations on increasingly popular public blogs. Of course, there is also Gary McKinnon, who is responsible for the "biggest military hack of all time." While McKinnon wasn't exactly snooping for the bad guys, he did manage to break into various systems across the US Army, Navy, Air Force, NASA, Pentagon, and Department of Defense in search for proof that aliens exist.

Still, Ogle's situation is a bit bizarre in that no one knows how or why this sensitive information was stored on an iPod, or how that iPod slipped out to a used hardware vendor. According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), some of the phone numbers from the iPod's records still work, and the identified individuals indeed picked up on the other end.

"The more I look at it, the more I see and the less I think I should be [seeing]," Mr Ogle told ABC. He says he will hand the iPod over to the US Defense Department should it ever ask.

Original here

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Does Apple Really Own Multi-Touch?

By: Chris Dannen

The Macintosh turned 25 years old this past weekend, and Apple [AAPL] seems to be celebrating the occasion by unleashing its blood-lusting attorneys on Palm [PALM] in a potential patent infringement suit.

The intellectual property in question is Apple's multi-touch software, which enables iPhone and iPod Touch users to interact with their devices using more than one finger; it's the technology that allows that nifty zoom-in, zoom-out pinching gesture. Palm's new Pre sports similar functionality, complete with pinching.

Jonathan Ive, Apple

While the lawsuit hasn't been filed yet, Apple COO Tim Cook made statements during his discussion of the company's financial earnings report that made legal action sound all but imminent. When asked about competition from other smartphone-makers, Cook said, "We like competition. As long as they don't rip off our intellectual property. And if they do, we're going to go after anybody that does."

While he didn't name Palm as the specific aggressor, industry reporters connected the dots. Cook then said he'd be willing to use Apple's entire legal arsenal to pursue the charge, adding, "I don't know that I can be any more clear than that!"

But Palm isn't the only platform seeking to democratize multi-touch. A savvy Google [GOOG] Android user has hacked his G1 phone to use multi-touch too, albeit with a lot of tinkering. After inserting a new string of code into the kernel of his G1, he was able to get two-fingered zooming up and running as a kind of proof-of-concept. He admits it needs optimizing, but the potential for fluid multi-touch on Android is clearly present.

So if Apple has a patent on this functionality, are Palm and the G1 hacker walking straight into a legal bear-trap? Actually, no. They probably know that Apple and its legal team will have dubious legal grounds for prosecution. Thanks to a recent federal circuit court case discrediting the patentability of financial products, all "business method" patents have been rendered largely indefensible. Such patents consist of any non-hardware-based intellectual property; that rubric includes formulas, language, and yes, software. Since the actual touchscreen -- the hardware itself -- the iPhone and iPod use to enable multi-touch is a commodity, salable to any smartphone maker, they'll have a tough time proving they're the only ones that should be able to write multi-touch software for it.

Of course, Apple could stand to lose the multi-touch battle and do just fine. With new, promising software being developed by third parties all the time, the iPhone and iPod will retain an edge over Palm's late-to-the-game Pre for quite some time. Take for example the new VOIP application that is rumored to be released for iPhone and iPod on the iTunes Store come February 1st.

The WiFi-enabled app, called De-Fi, will allow users to pay a flat fee to talk anywhere in the world over Wi-Fi, eschewing exorbitant global roaming charges. (Talking to users on Skype or GoogleTalk will be free.) The subscription-based service will also assign up to three international numbers to each iPhone or iPod, allowing business users to provide their overseas contacts with local numbers.

Until the rumored announcement of De-Fi, world travelers with iPhones were stuck with massive roaming bills. Since the iPhone is a locked device, users can't pop in a prepaid overseas SIM card to save money. And since the iPhone is constantly checking in with its towers, it liberally uses its data access and voice minutes without notifying the user. If software can be a write-around to short-comings in hardware, shouldn't those write-arounds take place on a level playing field? Toss a cool app like that on the growing pile of must-have iPhone software, and Apple doesn't need to be litigious to be on top.

Sadly for Palm, it doesn't have to lose a suit against Apple to be in deep trouble; the Cupertino-based technology company could easily bleed the little company dry by attrition, dragging out legal action and costing both companies millions. As Reuters reported today, recession is finally hitting Silicon Valley hard, causing thousands of layoffs and waves of renewed caution. This is not the time for Palm to fight one of the best-capitalized companies in the sector.

Coincidentally, Apple's fearsome reputation for innovation is the subject of a new documentary to be screened at the South by Southwest film festival in March. Made by the same documentarian who created Helvetica, a short history of that inescapable typeface. Objectified will take viewers into areas of Apple's design studio normally off limits even to most Apple employees, to inspect the company's prototyping equipment and talk with head designer Jonathan Ive.

Poor software guys; the industrial designers always get all the love.

Original here