Tuesday, March 24, 2009

AT&T: New iPhone will be hot, son

We can’t tell you where or who, but pretty high up in AT&T’s food chain, the following was reported to be said:

  • New iPhone announcement around mid-June (duh)
  • New iPhone will be faster and have a more seamless experience unmatched by any device (could be just talking about 3.0, but we think it’s also a new iPhone)
  • U-Verse iPhone application; will allow control of your home DVR (play, pause, rewind, etc.)
  • The annual iPhone launch is “becoming a tradition.”
  • Nothing official is being confirmed, but they said that people should prep for an exciting time this summer.
  • AT&T is said to be working with Apple to create a unified product with an unparalleled experience across all their products and services.
  • Apple’s 3.0 software should tell us where the iPhone platform is going… uh, k?
  • They said customers shouldn’t need to choose from AT&T’s high-end devices because of features, they should choose based on preferences. The gap in capability should be filled with the new iPhone. Ok, bets on slide out QWERTY, autofocus camera, video sharing, blah blah?
  • Seems like the higher speed HSDPA (7.2Mbps) is being hinted at too which should confirm the earlier rumors of the new Infineon chipset.
  • The $99 3G netbook will start selling this summer, and the first one won’t be a Windows OS.

For clarification, the above is 100% confirmed.

Thanks, Stephanie!

Original here

Meet Nurse iPhone

Tim Bajarin

The iPhone and iPhone OS 3.0 will make a surprisingly competent medical assistant, blazing a healthy trail that all smartphones will surely follow soon.

Apple iPhoneLast week Apple announced a new version of the iPhone OS, adding features to the best-selling platform. Cut and paste, global search, voice navigation, peer-to-peer connectivity for multiplayer games, enhanced Bluetooth, and multimedia messaging will be just a few of the capabilities in iPhone OS 3.0 when it comes to market this summer.

Two apps from the demo last week at One Infinite Loop take advantage of this new OS in a very important way: These apps underline the emerging role of the iPhone as a medical assistant. I'm sensitive to the medical side of things, since I've dealt with hypertension and diabetes for over 18 years. And I'm interested in the role technology plays in helping me and millions of others deal with various health issues. The PC and the Internet itself have been phenomenal tools for anyone with health questions; since sites like WebMD,, and others inform us and help people ask their doctors more intelligent questions. At the event in Cupertino, we learned that the smartphone is becoming an important tool in our medicine cabinets, too, letting people research and locate medical information anytime and anywhere. These new apps from Apple add the dimension of real-time monitoring to the iPhone and can play a part in our quest for healthier lives.

The first demo involved a blood-pressure cuff that plugged into the connector on the bottom of the iPhone. An application on the iPhone delivered all the controls needed to inflate the cuff for measuring a person's blood pressure. Since an iPhone is always connected via the integrated 3G modem, it could potentially send that data to your doctor for real-time monitoring of your condition. This will become possible with OS 3.0, which will finally enable the iPhone to talk to third-party peripherals.

This isn't just a cool app—it has real implications for the doctor/patient relationship. Other digital monitoring systems download data to a PC before sending it to the doctor for review. This app breaks new ground, allowing testing in real time and letting doctors adjust medication needs far more proactively.

Although I am a type 2 diabetic and control my diabetes mostly through food, exercise, and oral medications, the second demo was just as interesting to me, since I take blood glucose tests two to three times a day to monitor my blood sugar level. A representative from Johnson & Johnson's LifeScan division showed an app that could tie a blood glucose testing device, such as the company's OneTouch system, to an iPhone. With such a connection, one could download test results to an app on the iPhone to chart various readings graphically. Since it's connected, the device could give real-time information that a person might need to adjust his medicine or insulin. This particular app will also be tied to a community of folks with the same condition, so people can compare treatments, get feedback, and share their own ways of dealing with this disease.

These two applications are good examples of what can happen if you add connectivity and new levels of intelligence to something like the iPhone, turning it into an indispensible medical assistant. It will be interesting to see what the broader medical community will do with this new SDK. Will health-care manufacturers apply their knowledge and expertise to a lot of other medical problems and monitoring devices in the future?

But smartphones aren't assistants only to those with hypertension or diabetes. These devices are indispensible for the hearing-impaired, too. According to Julie Tsoukalas, a friend whose husband is deaf, text messaging has revolutionized communication in the non-hearing world. Those with total hearing loss use sign language to communicate when they are together, but until they had text messaging and e-mail, they couldn't communicate when apart. Now, my friend can "call" her husband anytime and keep in touch night or day when apart.

The iPhone is important to the sightless as well. A phone is already an important communication gateway for the visually impaired; such people can also use audiobooks to deliver information and entertainment. In addition, Apple's new voice-based turn-by-turn navigation could be helpful to pedestrians going from point A to point B in new surroundings. Also, voice communication and the potential of text-to-speech could play an important role in making these devices even more useful someday.

To date, the iTunes App Store has the best repertoire of medical applications for smartphones. In fact, there's an entire section that offers over 230 applications—heart-rate monitoring tools, drug information apps, and even training programs for medical students. But I fully expect to see similar apps popping up on the BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Palm Pre, and Symbian platforms in the near future.

I'm sure the folks who invented the cell phone never envisioned the device as a medical assistant. But that is exactly what is happening. And I bet they'd be proud of the new capabilities.

Tim Bajarin is one of the leading analysts working in the technology industry today. He is president of Creative Strategies (, a research company that produces strategy research reports for 50 to 60 companies annually—a roster that includes semiconductor and PC companies, as well as those in telecommunications, consumer electronics, and media. Customers have included AMD, Apple, Dell, HP, Intel, and Microsoft, among many others. You can e-mail him directly at

Original here

Scammer shuffles Apple out of 9,000 iPods

by Darren Murph

For whatever reason, Apple's iPod ends up in the middle of quite a few crimes. The latest story, however, is even more extreme than usual. Nicholas Arthur Woodhams, a 23 year old from Kalamazoo, Michigan, was recently slapped upside the gord with federal charges of fraud and money laundering after he managed to con Apple into shipping him around 9,000 iPod shuffles. As the story goes, he managed to somehow correctly guess thousands of valid shuffle serial numbers and have replacements shipped to him; once they arrived, he sold them for less than MSRP to excited buyers, all while giving Apple a prepaid VISA number that would reject the charges after he failed to send back the nonexistent "original" shuffle. It's rather amazing to us that he was able to pull this off for so long without being noticed, but even if it works for awhile, we've learned yet again that crime doesn't pay. In fact, the feds have already seized a half million bucks from one brokerage account, some real estate and a trio of vehicles. Tragic, yeah?

Original here

iPhone Sales Hit 17 Million

Apple has sold a total of 17 million iPhones -- including sales of both the original iPhone and iPhone 3G -- since launch, according to the company's vice president of iPod and iPhone product marketing.

Speaking at the launch of Apple's iPhone 3.0 software last week, Joswiak said the figure -- which includes 13.7 million iPhones sold in 2008 -- beat Apple's target of 10 million by a wide margin.

Including sales of the iPod touch, Apple has sold 30 million devices running the iPhone OS.

Other successes including Apple's iPhone developer programme, which boasts 50,000 members, while the number of applications available via the company's App Store now exceeds 25,000. There have been 800 million total downloads on the App Store so far, Apple said.

Original here

"Feel" the Movies With Philips' Tactile Jacket

by Daniel A. Begun

Not counting tasting popcorn or soda or whatever yummy morsels you might have snuck into a movie theater, the only human senses that are typically engaged in "watching" a movie are seeing and hearing--someone sitting behind you, kicking your seat, doesn't count, as that is not part of the "film's world" (or diegesis as film scholars like to call it). Not that some innovators haven't tried to engage the sense of smell for movies, such as the short-lived Smell-O-Vision or John Waters' tongue-in-cheek, Odorama. But what about the sense of touch? What if someone kicking your seat or a similar sensation was actually part of the film's world and the intended viewer's experience?

That's that question that researchers from Philips Electronics are asking, and they're trying to get their answers using a special jacket they created that contains 64 embedded vibration motors. Each motor can be independently controlled, and the actuators are divided into 16 different arrays, with each four-motor array controlled by a dedicated processor. All the actuators are linked to each other on a serial bus and they are distributed through the jacket's arms and torso.

Photo credit: Steve Brewster
via IEEE Spectrum
The purpose of this exercise is not necessarily to reproduce physical sensations from the film. Such haptic devices already exist, such as TN Games' 3rd Space Gaming Vest and its upcoming HTX Helmet. The Philips researchers are more interested in determining what sort of emotional responses touch can elicit from a viewer. They call this "emotional immersion," and it is more akin to providing a sensation such as a "causing a shiver to go up the viewer's spine and creating the feeling of tension in the limbs" or "create a pulsing on the wearer's chest to simulate... [an] elevated heartbeat." This added sensation could serve to make viewers associate more intimately with characters and even empathize with them in. The researchers posit that touch can be a powerful emotional catalyst; Paul Lemmens, a Philips senior scientist, says: "People don't realize how sensitive we are to touch, although it is the first sense that fetuses develop in the womb."

Lemmens has a Ph.D. in cognitive science and is "experienced in experimental psychological research focusing on human information processing that is related to resolving conflicting information in a perceivers environment and the role of emotion in information processing." Lemmens is giving a presentation on research Philips has done with the jacket at the World Haptics conference this week in Salt Lake City, Utah. IEEE Spectrum reports that Philips has previously engaged in similar devices meant to increase viewers' sensations, such as "lighting-effects devices and wind machines that together can simulate the sensation of a gentle breeze or a bomb blast."

If the mind wanders long enough (and for some of us, it doesn't take that long at all), the idea of placing actuators into items of clothing that cause viewers to feel sensations leads to an obvious question. Interestingly, it is a question that Lemmens has already given some thought to:

"Asked if he and his colleagues have any plans to make a matching set of pants, Lemmens says no, but that the possible applications of this technology are limitless and that the emotion-inducing actuators could go anywhere."

Original here

Report: Apple leaks 17-inch iMac for $899?

by David Carnoy

It's kind of funny when an Italian-language site breaks a wee bit of English-language-based Apple news, but that's what happened when SetteB.IT spotted a small mention of an $899 17-inch iMac for the education market on Apple's own Web site.

Currently, Apple is offering iMacs only in 20- and 24-inch screen sizes. The 20-inch model starts at $1,199, and the 24-incher starts at $1,499.

No word on when the "new" 17-incher will arrive (or if it's really new), but we'll await official confirmation from Apple.

Anybody interested? In this economy, I think the sub-$1,000 market is a good spot for Apple to play in--especially when it comes to cash-strapped parents of students.

(Source: Gizmodo via SetteB.IT)

Update: Wired's Gadget Lab is reporting that the "new" 17-inch iMac isn't really new and is just a reference to the old white plastic iMac 17-incher. Of course, Apple could very well do a 17-inch aluminum iMac at some point, so we'll see how this all plays out.

Hunkered down in New York City, Executive Editor David Carnoy covers the gamut of gadgets and writes his Fully Equipped column, which carries the tag line "The electronics you lust for." He's also the author of Knife Music, a novel that's available as a print and Kindle book at, as well as a free e-book download for the iPhone/iPod Touch and the Sony Reader. E-mail David.

Original here

Monster "HDMI Difference" scam still kickin' in Fry's Electronics

by Darren Murph

Man, this is just sad. Over a year after the internet was set ablaze with rage after seeing Monster's HDMI cable scam, we've just been notified that the tactic is still being used in at least one Fry's Electronics store. For those unaware, the rig works as such: two TVs are set beside each other along with a sign that says "See the Monster HDMI Difference." Trouble is, the "Monster set" (on the right) is connected to its source via an HDMI cable, while the "non-Monster set" (on the left) is connected via composite cable. As in, the lamest looking signal next to using an RF modulator. So, is anyone with any amount of power paying attention to this? We get the feeling "false advertising" is a real understatement of the situation.

Original here

Pirate Bay Announces IPREDATOR Global Anonymity Service

Written by enigmax

As the online battle against file-sharers heats up with governments and ISPs forced into the arena, those opposed to being monitored are investigating counter-measures. Soon the Pirate Bay team will introduce IPREDATOR, a service that promises to make global Internet users more anonymous than with existing VPN services.

As the entertainment industries turn their lobbying power towards ISPs and governments in their on-going battle against file-sharers, more and more people are looking at neutralizing the effects of monitoring and new legislation.

Many file-sharers already pay a few dollars each month for a VPN service. This type of facility allows the user to protect his Internet connection with encryption while “tunneling’ data in privacy through the servers of a VPN provider, usually located in another country. The user’s ISP-designated IP address remains hidden, revealing only a second IP address provided by his VPN company.

This type of service hinders outsiders from finding the identity of an individual behind an IP address, while helping Internet users effectively side-step laws which may prove inconvenient or unpalatable in their home country.

For those who like to share files, one country set to introduce an extremely unpalatable law is Sweden. Due to come into force in just over a week, the controversial Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED) legislation will make it easier for copyright holders to get their hands on the personal details of suspected illicit file-sharers.

But not if the crew of The Pirate Bay have anything to do with it.

Timed to coincide with the introduction of IPRED on April 1st 2009, a brand new service designed to neutralize the effects of the law will be launched. Dubbed ‘IPREDATOR’, this brand new anonymity service from The Pirate Bay promises to make subscribers “more anonymous” than when using traditional VPN services.

Peter Sunde, aka brokep told TorrentFreak that the service is currently in beta and will be slowly opened to around 500 users. When those users are experiencing the service bug-free, it will be opened up to everyone.

Fortunately the service won’t be limited to just Swedish users. Brokep confirmed that anonymity will be available globally for a modest fee of around 5 euros ($6.77) per month.

The weak link in any VPN/anonymity service is always their willingness (or otherwise) to hand over your customer data when pressured under the law. However, with IPREDATOR this should not be an issue since the service is promising to keep no logs of user activity whatsoever.

Anyone who would like to participate in the beta should sign up here.

Stay tuned for further updates.

Original here

Obama Sides With RIAA, Supports $150,000 Fine per Music Track

By David Kravets

Commiepics_2_2_2 The Obama administration for the first time is weighing in on a Recording Industry Association of America file sharing lawsuit and is supporting hefty awards of as much as $150,000 per purloined music track.

The government said the damages range of $750 to $150,000 per violation of the Copyright Act was warranted.

"The remedy of statutory damages for copyright infringement has been the cornerstone of our federal copyright law since 1790, and Congress acted reasonably in crafting the current incarnation of the statutory damages provision," Michelle Bennett, a Department of Justice trial attorney wrote (.pdf) Sunday to a Massachusetts federal judge weighing challenge to the Copyright Act.

The position -- that the Copyright Act's monetary damages are not unconstitutionally excessive -- mirrors the one taken by the Bush administration and should come as no surprise.

Two top lawyers in President Barack Obama's Justice Department are former RIAA lawyers: Donald Verrilli Jr. is the associate deputy attorney general who brought down Grokster and fought to prevent a retrial in the Jammie Thomas case. Then there's the No. 2 in the DOJ, Tom Perrilli. As Verrilli's former boss, Perrilli argued in 2002 that internet service providers should release customer information to the RIAA even without a court subpoena.

Presidential administrations often intervene in lawsuits in which the constitutionality of a federal law is in question. This case concerns a former Boston University student challenging a peer-to-peer file sharing case.

Still, parts of the government's brief sounded as if it was taken from the RIAA's public relations playbook.

"Congress sought to account for both the difficulty of quantifying damages in the context of copyright infringement and the need to deter millions of users of new technology from infringing copyrighted work in an environment where many violators believe that their activities will go unnoticed," Bennett wrote.

The RIAA has sued more than 30,000 individuals for file sharing the last five years. It is winding down the campaign and is lobbying internet service providers to discontinue service to copyright scofflaws.

Original here

Why Microsoft Continues to Chase Internet Search

Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
Steve Ballmer, chief executive of Microsoft.

If you are making something that is growing and profitable, why throw billions at something else that has kept losing money and market share?

That was the last question I had for Steve Ballmer, the chief executive of Microsoft, when he came by The Times on Thursday. I wrote earlier about most of our conversation, which was about the company’s plans to offer computing services from its network of data centers to corporate customers. While I wondered about the complexity of Microsoft’s software design, it has the advantage of a strong position in the corporate software market, which it won over the last 10 years.

But I asked Mr. Ballmer, why bother with trying to catch up to Google in search when it looks as if the enterprise market has much better potential return given the risk?

He flatly rejected the premise of the question.

“I don’t feel like I have to make the choice whether to do foo or to do bar,” he said, using the language of computer jocks of a certain generation. (Wikipedia traces the word “foobar,” meaning “placeholder,” to the Digital Equipment Corporation in the 1970s.)

Mr. Ballmer wants to be in search because that’s where the money is.

Internet Explorer 8: How not to launch a new browser

Opinion – Microsoft is the company that invented the concept of launching a beta product in order to build up traction for the final product. And still, the introduction of Internet Explorer 8 shapes up to be a complete train wreck as far as customer adoption is concerned.


Sure, journalists are no marketing whizzes, at least not typically. And I don’t claim that I am smarter than Microsoft’s marketing and PR strategists. But I have spent my fair share in software marketing in my career and I can say with certainty that I would have been in trouble if I had messed up a product launch as much as Microsoft messed up the launch of its new web browser.

Last week, I spent some time on the relatively slow launch pace of IE8, which topped out at a market share of 1.86% by Friday afternoon, according to data provided by Net Applications. For a company with the reach of Microsoft, this was a bit of a disappointment. But browsers like Internet Explorer 7, Firefox or Safari hit their market share highs on weekends, while Internet Explorer 6, still a browser that has a fairly high market share during the week, declines.

If we believe the market share numbers provided by Net Applications, IE8 climbed above the 2% mark when U.S. users went into their weekend – or around 5 pm EDT last Friday. Over the past two days, the market share climbed as high as 2.59% (Sunday, 3 am EDT), before dropping into the 2.3% neighborhood later that day. It is too early to say which browser had to give up market share to enable IE8’s gain, but as far as we can see from Net Application’s data, it does not appear that IE7’s and Firefox 3’s market share numbers have suffered. It will take some time until we can see whether IE7 users are upgrading or Firefox users are returning to IE.

But the heart of the matter is that, in a best case scenario, IE8 has gained less than 1% of market share over the weekend and may have seen somewhere between 5 and 7 million downloads between Friday evening and Sunday night. Since launch day, the market share has increased by less than 1.3% - if Net Applications’ numbers are correct.

Let’s look at what Mozilla accomplished with Firefox. Firefox 3 gained 2.76 percentage points over its first four days of availability – and we are talking about a browser that had less than 20% overall market share at the time of its release. Microsoft’s IE is still well above the 65% mark. You do the math on the performance discrepancy – and it is now even more impressive how Mozilla handled the launch of Firefox 3.

I have no idea what happened at Microsoft, but I can just imagine the questions that are already asked by some executives. It is mind boggling to compare ingenious campaigns such as the launch of IE4 and the quiet launch of IE8. Just like IE4 was designed to surpass Netscape’s Navigator/Communicator browser back then, IE8 is a critical product that Microsoft needs as supporting software for its cloud computing strategy. I personally would have missed the launch, had I not been told about it by TG Daily in-house browser expert Christian Zibreg.

Given the circumstances, especially IE declining market share, I just don’t believe Microsoft can afford such half-baked product launches.

Original here

The four stages of programming competence

One of the basic pillars of the study of human psychology is the analysis of the subconscious and conscious mind. Sigmund Freud was one of the first to clearly identify and characterize the ‘areas’ where our psychic energy flows. During the first part of his notable life he stated that these were the ’subconscious’, ‘preconscious’ and ‘conscious’ mind.

If we wanted to get an idea of how each of them is involved in our ideas, feelings, thoughts, decisions and motivation (which are key in our daily and professional lives), we should picture ourselves as an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg, the only part we see from the surface, is the conscious mind. It’s logical, organized, and we can control it, but still small. The vast and voluminous underlying mass is the unconscious mind. It’s disorganized, illogical, irrational, but defining in how we act.

Modern psychology has attempted to classify how good we are at a certain skill by observing how deep it perforates that iceberg. It thus describes four stages of competence an individual can achieve. In this article I’ll try to apply this simple scheme to the skill we practice everyday: programming.

Stage 1: Unconscious incompetence

John is a young web developer. He used to be a law student, but he thought that wasn’t where the money’s at, so in the blink of an eye he made the switch. He was always good at fixing his buddies computers, so he figured it would be easy. He quickly looked up a few places (near his home, naturally) where he could learn the job. After six months he claims to be a Web Development expert, and his resume lists every programming language, software application and platform known to man.

John, in reality, is a ruthless copypaster. He thinks succeeding at displaying an alert window is all there’s to Javascript. PHP? Piece of cake: he installed Wordpress. Linux? He booted an Ubuntu LiveCD, he could surely set up a cluster of load-balanced Apache web servers. His knowledge knows no frontiers.

The problem here is that John is unaware of all he could learn, so he simply doesn’t. He’s in a bubble that no one at the online forums or mailing lists he usually visits can burst, when they try to gently explain the root of his problems is his superficial knowledge. And sadly, his hourly rate is bigger than yours and mine combined.

John is unconsciously incompetent.

Stage 2: Conscious incompetence

Mark is a math teacher. He works at a small downtown university which he wishes had at least five times the resources it currently has. He believes they’re a few steps back from other institutions when it comes to technology, so he decides to get hands to work. He wants to build an online platform to share the material of the courses with the community.

Mark has a naturally logical mind. He knows that in order to execute that task he’ll need to do his research, get information. His quest starts in Wikipedia, but at the end of a long browsing session, he’s learned that a few groups of people around the world offer Open Source solutions to his problem.

He picks the project he thinks best suits his needs. He proceeds to read the documentation and tutorials he finds on the website, and finally downloads the program. All his excitement fades away when he sees that ‘Database connection error’ issue. He tries and tries, even triple-checks his steps, to no avail. Mark is not irritated, he knows it’s not his field of expertise.

He heads to the mailing list and describes his solution with all the exactitude his knowledge allows, which is little. He warns everyone that he’s not exactly sure of what he’s doing, so he’ll welcome more documentation to read, or any tips people can spare. He won’t have to wait long for a solution, because he’s doing the right thing.

Mark is consciously incompetent.

Stage 3: Conscious competence

It’s been two years since Adrian picked up his first HTML book. It clearly has been a one-way ride, for all Adrian thinks about every day is how to improve at what he loves. A few months ago he picked up his first freelance jobs in a website, which he executes passionately despite how low the pay and how basic the task is, even to him.

Of one thing he’s convinced: the best way to learn is to persevere, try and fail, and try again. He always researches how to best execute a task, since it doesn’t come naturally to him. He has to try hard to produce secure code, so he audits it time after time. He fixes it time after time.

The other day he wrote 30 or 40 lines of code for a personal project of his. He can’t help but feel a little disappointed when, browsing the net a few days later, he sees an effortless and much more elegant execution in half as many lines. He wonders when he’ll be able to write solutions of that quality on his own, straightforwardly. However, after a bit of thought, he’s searching his files. He knows he has to rewrite that piece or he won’t sleep well that night. He won’t be copypasting it.

Adrian’s on his way to become an excellent professional, but he’s not giving himself titles, he can wait.
Adrian is consciously competent.

Stage 4: Unconscious competence

This is the ultimate stage of programming mastery. It’s not only the result of accumulated knowledge, but the result of a set of logic rules that have been slowly imprinted on the individual’s mind through the years.

We know we’re dealing with such a person when one cannot help but admire the ease with which extremely complex solutions are provided. This type of programmer seems to smell, not think, his way to a solution.

Writing optimized, maintainable and secure code, applying design patterns and picking the right set of tools he’ll be working with come naturally. This guy can work with ease on multiple languages and platforms.

Closing thoughts

After reading these examples I hope you’re as convinced as me of the validity of applying this model of thought to this particular field.

It’s worth mentioning that some authors suggest a fifth stage, which is reflective competence, described as the ability to teach and convey that what was learned and now is known unconsciously. We may see this in talented individuals who can teach and explain (even in front of crowds) as an apparent second-nature (John Resig quickly comes to mind).

Original here

'Smart Grid' may be vulnerable to hackers

By Jeanne Meserve
CNN Homeland Security Correspondent

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Is it really so smart to forge ahead with the high technology, digitally based electricity distribution and transmission system known as the "Smart Grid"? Tests have shown that a hacker can break into the system, and cybersecurity experts said a massive blackout could result.

If someone hacked into the Smart Grid, experts say it could cause a blackout that stretches across the country.

If someone hacked into the Smart Grid, experts say it could cause a blackout that stretches across the country.

Until the United States eliminates the Smart Grid's vulnerabilities, some experts said, deployment should proceed slowly.

"I think we are putting the cart before the horse here to get this stuff rolled out very fast," said Ed Skoudis, a co-founder of InGuardians, a network security research and consulting firm.

The Smart Grid will use automated meters, two-way communications and advanced sensors to improve electricity efficiency and reliability. The nation's utilities have embraced the concept and are installing millions of automated meters on homes across the country, the first phase in Smart Grid's deployment. President Obama has championed Smart Grid, and the recent stimulus bill allocated $4.5 billion for the high-tech program. Video Watch CNN report on Smart Grid »

But cybersecurity experts said some types of meters can be hacked, as can other points in the Smart Grid's communications systems. IOActive, a professional security services firm, determined that an attacker with $500 of equipment and materials and a background in electronics and software engineering could "take command and control of the [advanced meter infrastructure] allowing for the en masse manipulation of service to homes and businesses."

Experts said that once in the system, a hacker could gain control of thousands, even millions, of meters and shut them off simultaneously. A hacker also might be able to dramatically increase or decrease the demand for power, disrupting the load balance on the local power grid and causing a blackout. These experts said such a localized power outage would cascade to other parts of the grid, expanding the blackout. No one knows how big it could get.

The utility industry has made significant improvements to the power grid since the blackout of 2003, which disrupted power to an estimated 50 million people in the eastern United States and Canada. The utility industry said it is now better able to detect and isolate outages, and some elements of Smart Grid technology will enhance that capability.

Also, industry representatives said, they have no intention of putting an unsafe grid online.

"We are not going to manufacture this car without a seat belt," said Ed Legge, a spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute.

But as of now there are no clear-cut Smart Grid cybersecurity standards.

"There are a lot of discussions about where the requirements will come from and who will be ultimately responsible," said a Department of Homeland Security official, speaking on background.

Itron, a major manufacturer of automated meters, said its products are secure. Matt Spaur, a senior product marketing analyst, said his company tried to make hacking a meter "unappealing and unrewarding if you do it. And it is very traceable." But Spaur acknowledged that the Smart Grid is vulnerable.

"Any network can be hacked," he said.

One expert said security concerns have put "the fear of God" into the utility industry, vendors of Smart Grid products and the federal government. They have been working cooperatively to detect and mitigate vulnerabilities.

"Industry is working to make meters more secure. They have done a good job," said Joe Weiss, an expert on utility control systems.

Still, experts like Skoudis recommended that Smart Grid deployment be slowed until security vulnerabilities are addressed. Otherwise, he said, Smart Grid equipment deployed now may have to be replaced later.

Utility managers are taking heed.

Garry Brown, chairman of New York's Public Service Commission, said he believes the benefits of Smart Grid outweigh the risks, but his state is taking a hard look at cybersecurity before making large investments in the technologies.

"Before we go rushing headstrong into a Smart Grid concept, we have to make sure that we take care of business, in this case cybersecurity," he said.

William Sanders, principal investigator for the National Science Foundation Cyber Trust Center on Trustworthy Cyber Infrastructure for the Power Grid, concurs.

"I don't think the sky is falling," he said. "I don't think we should stop deployment until we have it all worked out. But we have to be vigilant and address security issues in the Smart Grid early on."

Original here

10+ Best Firefox Addons for Security and Privacy

Security and privacy are some of the major concerns these days while choosing a web browser to use. So much so that all the major players in the “browser wars” are providing or developing a private browsing mode.

Firefox with the myraid of add-ons that it has to offer is never far from action. Here are some of the top Firefox addons that you should install for better privacy and security


Stealther - Stealther provides you with what can be called a private browsing mode. It allows you to browse the web without leaving any trace. The addon disables browsing history, cookies, cache, recent tabs and sending of referrer header for as long as you want. It’s lot like the incognito mode in Google chrome. Distrust is another similar addon that allows you to acheive the similar results.

Close ‘n’ Forget

Close ‘n’ Forget - While Stealther and Distrust require you to turn on private browsing explicitly, what if you happen to stumble upon a site that you wished you would have known to turn on the private browsing mode for? Close ‘n’ Forget comes to your rescue. Just hit the special close button once you are finished and that site will be deleted from history and cookies cleared as if you had never visited the site.


WOT - We all know about the threats which surfers suffer like viruses, spywares, adware, malicious spam, phishing etc., but here Web of Trust comes to rescue. WOT warns you about risky websites that try to scam surfers before they enter in them using a safety rating of 21 million websites, WOT combines evidence collected from multiple sources. Not only does it help surfers but also sets a protection level for children by blocking inappropriate content.


NoScript - An absolute must have security addon for your browser. NoScript gives you the power to specify the sites you trust and only those sites will be allowed to run active content like Javascript, Java code and other executable code. The addon thus protects you from cross-site scripting attacks and clickjacking attacks.


Panic - Panic allows you to instantly close all the open tabs and replace it with another tab of your choice. So next time while you are on facebook and your boss drops to check in just hit Alt + ` and you would be taken to predefined page in no time.


hideBad - Hides bad things! Saves all the tabs, closes them and opens your home page. Allows you to clear history, cookies, cache and passwords at your will and then restore them later.

TabRenamizer / Page Title Eraser

TabRenamizer and Page Title Eraser - Do your tabs give you away? Why not change their names with TabRenamizer or remove the names all together with Page Title Eraser? Both these addons let you play with the tab titles so that you can change them according to your will.

Gish It / tEMPORARYiNBOX / spamavert

Gish It!, TemporaryInbox, spamavert - These addons allow you to protect your inboxes from Spam by getting throwaway email addresses to be used with web forms while registering for sites you are not sure about.


BetterPrivacy - Now you don’t need to worry from anything like ‘you are being tracked..!!’ BetterPrivacy is a Super-Cookie Safeguard which protects from usually undeletable Flash-Cookies. It blocks long term tracking on Google, YouTube, Ebay to name a few.


Ghostery - It keeps an eye on the websites that are keeping an eye on you i.e. it finds out that which web sites which are tracking you and would alert you about the same.


Torbutton - It provides a button to securely and easily enable or disable the browser’s use of Tor. Tor can be used for anonymous browsing and has been covered on makeuseof in detail.


FoxyProxy - FoxyProxy automatically switches an internet connection across one or more proxy servers based on URL patterns and switching rules defined by you.


JSview - Allows you to view the source code of external files like javascript and CSS files. Although it would require a bit of knowledge and looking through the code to determine if it really is harmful, it can be quite useful to see if there is some malicious code sending off your passwords to somewhere else.

If privacy and security are on top of your list check out how to remain safe on public computers and how to set up firefox to automatically clear sensitive data.

Did I miss any addon that you use for similar purposes? (I am sure I have, there are just so many or them!) Fire up a comment and share your Firefox knowledge with us!

Original here

5 Freeware Photoshop Alternatives and Web-based Photo editing

by Sietse Smith
Photoshop, is there any good, free alternative out there?

Photoshop, is there any good, free alternative out there?

Because my own PC got screwed and died on me a couple of months ago, I’ve been using my girlfriend’s Vista Home Basic laptop ever since. It is this laptop that’s seen every beginning stage of this very blog and because of using it, I never really came to desiging it myself. Everything you see on here is part of what other people have made through Wordpress themes, plugins and some random buttons.

This morning I thought I’d try and spice this blog up a little by making my own logo and then I realised why I never did it before: this laptop is godd*mn slow! This is why I never got to installing Photoshop, the program I’ve been using for years to create my own stuff.

So here, quest was created: to find a good, free, application as an alternative to Photoshop and able to run on low-end systems. And here’s a list of what I’ve come across so far!

1. GIMP, GNU Image Manipulation Program


The first one I tried was a good hit right away. It’s a name I remembered from quite some time ago and I figured it

would still be around. It still is and they’ve now developed it up

to version 2.6. Developing it ever since 2005, it is now available for most used platforms like Windows, Mac and some versions of Unix.

In short: the light-weight GIMP software offers a free way to enhance/alter your digital photos, manipulate existing graphics and create your own graphics. Using the regular tools such as a paintbrush, the pencil and cloning, this application can actually be compared to it’s bigger (expensive) brothers like Adobe Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro.
Instead of the regular full-sized window, you get several widget-kinda windows with the seperate functions and tools attached. It’s something to get used to, but it offers an easy way to work on your graphics and in the meantime keep an eye on the rest of your desktop. Quite dynamic!

A screenshot of my desktop using GIMP. I know it's Dutch.

A screenshot of my desktop using GIMP. I know it's Dutch.

Feel free to give it a spin and download your version below. Get stuck? Visit the GIMP tutorials page! Download version 2.6 for Windows here (other versions and platforms, click here

2. Digital Photo Editinglogo-paintnet

Another freeware application is for Windows (and Windows only!).

Instead of the widget windowed layout of GIMP, uses the traditional full-size window with the same kind of windows inside. A comprehensive and very adjustable layout gives you the means to optimize it to your liking.

I got lazy, couldn't bother to provide my own screenshot

I got lazy, couldn't bother to provide my own screenshot

At first when I tried to install, it failed for no apparent reason, giving some kind of blank error and then shutting down. After a quick glance on the software’s website, I figured out I needed an updated version of the .NET Framework by Microsoft (v3.5 SP1). From there it worked like a charm! It’s easy to use, it’s light-weight which means it’s dodgy laptop-friendy and best of all: it’s free!

Download it for Windows here.

3. Artweaver, das Deutsche kreative Programm!logo-artweaver

Yes, know your German!
Artweaver is another one of those creative applications with a fair amount of choices to edit or create your works of art. Loads of options like different brush styles, standard effects such as sharpen, blur and embos and it offers good pen tablet support. Ofcourse the ability to work with Layers is also present.

I feel sorry for all those unfortunate Mac users, because just like, Artweaver only supports Windows usage.

Just looks like any other graphics application!

Just looks like any other graphics application!

Download Artweaver 0.5.7 for Windows right here.

4. Photoshop Express, free web-based photo editingpx-logo-300x300

Kind of a different category, but it’s quite fun and useful. Especially for those who don’t want to install previously mentioned, more advanced applications. This online version of Adobe’s Photoshop offers you the ability to upload your photos and edit them to your liking. Enhancing it with better lighting and shadows or spicing it up with cool special effects, Photoshop Express hands the tools in a neat, comprehensive package.

Don’t want to give Adobe all your information right away? Understandable! These days you cannot trust a soul! Adobe understands this as well and lets you take a ‘test drive’ of the whole system without the need of registering or logging in. Try it right here.

Adobe Photoshop Express' start page

Adobe Photoshop Express' start page

One major lack to this application is the fact you can’t use layers to edit your images a bit more professionaly, but I guess that’s okay, because they make up for it by offering you free 2gb hosting of you (edited) images.

So give it a spin at the test track without having to register, or register right away and start editing!

5. Aviary, a powerful online Tool Suite!aviary-logo

Definitly a very worthy mention. The Aviary tool suite has been mentioned on this blog before and now it’s up for an explanation of what these tools can really do! Coming from a suite of tools, I’ll just put these in together:

Aviary's Phoenix

Aviary's Phoenix

Phoenix, layer-ready image editorPhoenix is mostly like what Photoshop is all about. Offering usage of layers, a rich toolset of brushes, paint buckets, cloning and such and cool blending modes for some great special effects!

Everything is based on Adobe Flash so it’s all very smooth and pretty. It runs quite fast, even on my previously mentioned crappy notebook and ofcourse that’s a huge plus for me!

Because it doesn’t require any installation of files on your PC, it’s all very easy to use and this makes for a very fun experience, just fooling around with the vast amount of effects and drawing tools.

Have a look at this introduction movie, showing how a cute kitty gets a new jacket.

Aviary's Raven

Aviary's Raven

Raven, awesome vector graphics creator!What’s cooler than vector art? That’s right: NOTHING!

Well, maybe that’s a bit over the edge, but you have to agree that vector art really does look cool and is also very useful for creating logo’s for prints and such.

Vector basically means that your creations aren’t based on pixels, but on variable equations. Because of this you can create something small and then later size it down or up without losing any of the details. If you would do this with your regular JPG image, it will get all blurry or edgy, especially when it comes to small text.

So here’s Raven! A tool much like Adobe Illustrator by the awesome clan of Aviary. According to the creators, Raven is the only free online Vector creation tool on the entire internet! A bold statement to say the least, but try looking for anything like it and I think you might find out they’re right.

Go have a look-see right here.

So if you would like to have a look at what else they have created and maybe even look at the upcoming software releases, have a look at the Aviary website or go directly to their Tools page. There’s a whole community out there showing off their creations through the use of Aviary tools and also a fair share of tutorials on how to work with it.

Do you think I left out an application that’s definitly worth a mention in this list? Don’t hessitate to comment below or throw me an e-mail.

6. Visitor submissions

  • Picknik, online photo editor

Submitted by teddY from teddY-risatioN.

Picknik is another Flash-based online photo-editing service. Looking very slick, this site offers a good basic photo-editing station for resizing, removing red eyes, editing colour saturation and a couple more of those. I just tried one, just to see how it works and I must say it’s very easy and pretty cool to do! The program doesn’t require any registration, although if you do, you get some more features like a Library of your photos, easy submission to social networks such as Facebook and Flickr and the ability to upgrade to a Premium account at any time.

Premium you say? Yes, Premium. In addition to the normal, free features on Picknik, with Premium you can edit your photos in full screen, keep an infinite number of photos in your editing history, more easy-appliable effects and a whole lot more.

Logged in to the starting page of Picknik, DuckbillJones is my username

Logged in to the starting page of Picknik, DuckbillJones is my username

I´d say it´s worth a peek! Go there now and try it out!

Thanks for the hint teddY!

  • SUMO PAINT, Online Image Editor

Submitted by tim from

Here’s a good one! SUMO Paint is actually another flash-based web image editor, but instead of putting emphasis on enhancing photos, SUMO hands you the tools to create awesome graphics! Have a look at the gallery of wicked Top rated submissions right here to see what I’m talking about.

Since the latest v1.1 release, SUMO’s based on the latest version of Flash (10) and having tried this awesome online application, I must say it’s one of the fastest, most advanced and yet easiest free image editor I’ve come across yet! SUMO definitly offers a lot of those most used tools and ‘filters’ you see in Photoshop and the likes and all this without a second of registration or installation acking. Ofcourse, just like Picknik, you do have the ability to register and take advantage of a lot of image storing and posting options.
This way, you can get your stuff noticed and participate in a whole community of online artists. Pretty neat!

Instead of pure photo editing, SUMO Paint puts the emphasis on creating cool digital works of art!

Instead of pure photo editing, SUMO Paint puts the emphasis on creating cool digital works of art!

Again, thanks to timmy for the recommendation of this cool app!

Keep submitting your suggestions people!

Original here

Monday, March 16, 2009

Apple holding back on web-based 3D graphics for the desktop

Apple has added 3D position and transform capabilities to WebKit, along with the 2D CSS-based transform abilities added some time ago. However, Apple allows access to these advanced 3D abilities only via Mobile Safari. If Apple enables the features on the desktop, they could kickstart the development of a whole new class of visually rich web applications... without Flash.

By Chris Foresman

Apple holding back on web-based 3D graphics for the desktop

Apple has created a series of specifications for performing two-dimensional transforms via CSS, as well as animating those transforms over time. The Safari 4 beta highlights some of these CSS-based transforms, along with Safari's support for HTML 5's video and audio tags, in the "welcome page" that's loaded on Safari 4 beta's first launch. But flying much lower under the radar is an addition to Apple's CSS Transforms that gives web app developers some powerful 3D graphics capabilities—so long as that web app is made for an iPhone.

The WebKit team added CSS Transforms to nightly builds of WebKit back in October 2007, transforms that included scaling, rotation, skewing, and translation in 2D space. As the specification matured, 3D and animation capabilities were added. Eventually, the 3D transforms were broken out into a specification of their own. Though WebKit has had these 3D transform capabilities for some time, only Mobile Safari on the iPhone and iPod touch has them enabled. Currently, neither Safari 3.2, Safari 4 beta, nor WebKit nightly builds can take advantage of these advanced 3D transforms.

The 3D transforms, it should be noted, only apply to 2D elements. However, the transforms allow a web developer to translate, scale, rotate, skew, and change the perspective of almost any DOM element in 3D space, resulting in some rather spectacular effects. Below are two examples—provided by Apple on the Mobile section of its Safari Dev Center site—loaded in iPhone Simulator.

Though many of the 2D transforms and animations are possible to replicate with JavaScript, and Mozilla is experimenting with some JavaScript-based 3D effects, WebKit's CSS transforms offer a serious performance advantage.

"It's hardware accelerated, and all the timing and intervals needed for the animations are handled more efficiently by Safari itself instead of Safari's JavaScript engine," Peter Zich, a Chicago-area developer, told Ars. "The framerate for JS animations on the iPhone usually doesn't get past 5fps, for instance, while with CSS it is far more."

Apple promotes these capabilities as a way for iPhone web app developers to achieve near native speed 3D effects. So why isn't Apple bringing the technology to the desktop? "I talked to Vicki Murley, a Safari Tech Evangelist at Apple, about why they left 3D off of non-Mobile Safari," Zich said. "She said they didn't really have a reason for it... they just hadn't done it."

A ticket in the WebKit team's bug tracker, opened in July of 2008, requests that the transforms be enabled in desktop builds of WebKit.

Zich would like Apple to take browser 3D even further. "I'm hoping they make a 3D canvas," he said. He's been experimenting with the capabilities, making a simple model of a van using PNG files for the faces, which are then placed in 3D-positioned divs.

"What I'd like to do is make something where you throw in a set of points, and it makes a 3D model," he says. His 3D van demo model, though, certainly opens up the imagination to the possibilities.

If you needed further evidence that Apple will never allow Flash to sully its portable Internet devices, then 3D CSS transforms are it. Along with WebKit's support for HTML 5's advanced media handling capabilities, advanced Nitro JavaScript engine, and CSS-based transforms and animations, Apple is readying WebKit to be the best tool for providing web-based applications on a wide variety of platforms. Enabling the 3D capabilities on the desktop would go a long way towards generating interest in making Apple's currently-proprietary CSS extensions into a de facto, or even official, web standard.

Original here

We found the chip inside the new iPod headphones...but is it DRM?

You'd never guess it was there—a tiny chip, barely a millimeter square, hidden inside the headphone module on the third-gen iPod shuffle. If you dismantle the module itself, you still won't see it: it's underneath a board containing a few simple copper traces, itself minuscule, and glued to the plastic. Even the traditional iFixit teardown gallery missed it.

We decided to take a closer look after iLounge reported that the third-generation iPod Shuffle's headphones had an "authentication chip" that Apple could use to turn something as basic as headphones into a proprietary licensing scheme.

By adding such a chip to headphones, Apple could force third-party manufacturers to pay fees to make headphones for its iPod Shuffle—after all, the device has no controls, so normal headphones are useless.

"This is, in short, a nightmare scenario for long-time iPod fans," wrote iLounge's Jeremy Horwitz. "Are we entering a world in which Apple controls and taxes literally every piece of the iPod purchase from headphones to chargers, jacking up their prices, forcing customers to re-purchase things they already own, while making only marginal improvements in their functionality?"

Even if someone invented headphones that worked without a licensed chip, that could amount to circumvention of a digital lock: Apple could shut them down using the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, provided the signal sent from the headphone buttons to the iPod itself is encrypted.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Fred von Lohmann followed up, exhorting gadget reviewers to looks closer:

One final thought: why have so many of the reviews of iPods failed to notice the proliferation of these Apple "authentication chips"?


What we found is a mystery to us: we're not electrical engineers. For all we know, it could be something the FCC made them put in so that it doesn't interfere with whalesong.

But it's an honest-to-god chip inside the proprietary headphones required to listen to the latest iPod, and it's hard not to wonder if Apple, with its 70% market share, just tried to eat the headphone industry whole.

If so, they've been planning it since at least the last update of the iPod line. According to the product page for the new "Apple Earphones with Remote", the new controls will also work with the most recent iPod Nano, iPod classic, and second-generation iPod Touch. That means that whatever sort of signal is being sent from the new headphones, it's been in the works before the latest Shuffle. And while the new headphones do not work with the iPhone 3G, it can be expected that they will be compatible with the next version of the iPhone.

If it's not an "authentication chip", then, what could it be? The current in-line click remote for the iPhone works by dropping the resistance on the second ring of the headphone's TRRS minijack connector, which the iPhone recognizes as a simple on or off. One click pauses. Two clicks fast forward.

It is possible the new Shuffle headphones simply send a pulse or other analog electrical signal to the headphone jack of the Shuffle, but we do not have the equipment to determine that ourselves. (Put a multimeter on the second ring of the new headphones, though, and you'll at least be able to see if different button presses causes different resistance, implying the controls work with analog controls, not a digital scheme.)

But it is also possible the signals are digital. "Digital" does not mean "encrypted", however. If the signals are not encrypted, then there would be no legal impediment to manufacturers making compatible and unlicensed headphones that work with the new controls. (Either way, regular audio headphones still work, although without controls they're useless on the Shuffle.)

If the signals are encrypted, it would mean that headphones with in-line controls compatible with Apple's latest (and future) iPods would have to be made with chips* available exclusively from Apple. Manufacturers attempting to reverse-engineer the simple three-button controls could be prosecuted under the DMCA.

New iPods have DRM on the headphone interface
Old inline iPod/iPhone adapters don't work in new Shuffle

* Labelled in the headphones we have as "8A83E3", not currently listed in Octopart.

Update: Hideki Francis Onda opened his up, and found that his one has a different number. o0540036010153032485.jpgOriginal here

Would you buy an Intel smartphone?

by Brooke Crothers

Intel concept wide-screen mobile device

Intel concept wide-screen mobile device

Intel smartphone and mobile Internet device concept designs have potential. So, as Intel prepares to enter the smartphone market with LG Electronics and others, will these designs be realized? And would you buy one?

One thing is certain. A re-badged Apple iPhone running Windows isn't going to upset the Apple cart (pun intended).

So, one obvious challenge is for Intel to get its considerable weight behind a new smartphone or mobile Internet device (MID) design that resets the market.

Just so happens there's a design that Intel has been brandishing for a couple of years now (see photos). It's essentially a high-end wide-screen smartphone or MID (choose your favorite device category nomenclature).

A series of videos demonstrating the Intel Moorestown-based mobile device pretty clearly show how--by virtue of the wide screen--the device would be different.

Intel concept device, with virtual keyboard

Intel concept device, with virtual keyboard

(Credit: Intel)

Now, if that device could run a browser and basic applications faster than my BlackBerry Storm (which I gauge has circa 1995 PC performance) on a bigger screen, that would be enough for me to buy one.

At least one analyst expects big things from Intel in this market. Doug Freedman of Broadpoint AmTech upgraded Intel to a "buy" this week, partially on expectations that Intel may flourish in the system-on-a-chip market as a result of the chip production deal struck earlier this month with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing. Intel's upcoming Moorestown chip--the linchpin of the deal--is a system-on-a-chip that's targeted, not coincidentally, at high-end smartphones, among other devices.

Freedman had this to say in a research note about Intel: "The TSMC (deal) likely opens the door to highly integrated (system-on-a-chip) solutions for target markets such as consumer, wireless, communications and networking infrastructure, and automotive," he wrote. "Though we cannot assign a value to future business opportunities without specific customer announcements or end-market intentions...We note that a minor incremental opportunity would not have triggered a press release event for Intel or TSMC."

Original here

The Pirate Bay User Pages Blocked by Google, Firefox

Written by enigmax

A few hours ago, certain sections of The Pirate Bay were flagged by Google as containing malware and were subsequently blocked. Similar warnings are being shown by Firefox, which states that the world’s largest tracker is an “attack site”. The Pirate Bay team are working on the problem now.

Right now, trying to access certain sections of The Pirate Bay via Google or using the Firefox browser is proving worrisome. While other parts of the site appear to function normally, the ‘user’ sections of the site (such sections are identifiable via this type of URL: appear to have some significant problems. Accessing the site via Firefox generates the following message;


A Google search on the same pages returns, “This site may harm your computer.”

So what exactly is the problem? TorrentFreak spoke with Peter Sunde (brokep) who told us that right now they don’t have a clear idea of what is causing the problem although they are working hard on fixing it. Current thinking by some says that the problems are being caused by malicious ads from third parties which are embedded in the site.

Google has made its own analysis and is reporting that the /user sections of the TPB site were listed once for suspicious activity, yesterday 14th March 2009. Of 699 pages tested, it found that 2 pages resulted in malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent. Google goes on to say that the malicious software includes 68 scripting exploits although they report that a successful infection resulted in zero new processes on the target machine.

The malicious software in question is said to be hosted on 3 domains;,, and, with another 6 reported as distribution intermediaries including, and

This type of problem is nothing new on torrent sites. Last year we reported how Google and Firefox blocked Empornium, the world’s largest porn tracker, when they suffered similar problems at the hands of outsiders. Just yesterday, the torrent site suffered a similar problem, but that now appears to be fixed after we tipped off the staff there.

We will add to this post during the day to include the latest updates.

Original here

Second generation Surface coming

By Darren Waters
Technology editor, BBC News website, Texas


Microsoft Surface is helping re-think how we interact with computers

A second generation of Microsoft's Surface computing device is two to three years away, the South by SouthWest Festival has heard.

Developer Joe Olsen, whose company Phenomblue writes applications for the Surface, said he had been told the device was still in the development stage.

"They haven't even got to point where they are going to commercialise," he said.

Chris Bernard, user experience evangelist for Microsoft, said he could not confirm a release date.

Surface is a multi-touch computer in the shape of a table, with a flat screen that can "read" multi-touch gestures, as well as content from printed material placed onto the device, thanks to five cameras inside the machine.

It is being developed with enterprise, tourism and public-facing solutions in mind and launches in the UK next week.

Dubbed Second Light, the Surface 2 will build on the original model and have a second projector inside the table computer that can project images onto a layer above the surface of the screen.

In effect, the device will be able to overlay secondary images above those on the screen - such as satellite imagery over a street map, or more detailed contextual data on top of images.

Shift in interaction

Surface computer
Devices like the Surface are changing how we interact with computers
The machine will also have infrared sensors that can interpret gestures and movements without having to touch the screen.

Mr Olsen said Microsoft staff at Redmond had told him that the device was still in being worked on within Research and Development.

Erik Klimczak, creative director of Clarity Consulting, which also produces applications for the Surface, said he expected the next generation to have high-definition cameras.

"Right now they are limited to how much detail they can pick up," he said.

Devices like the Surface, as well as Apple's iPhone, are at the vanguard of a shift in how we interact with computers.

"Everything is moving to touch and multi-touch so you had better jump on that bandwagon," Mr Klimczak told the conference of web developers.

Original here