Sunday, March 1, 2009

Why Apple must do a Netbook now

by David Carnoy

Mac OS X loading onto the Dell Mini 9.

(Credit: Gizmodo)

My brother-in-law Ken IM'd me the other day with this message: "Did you see they're loading OS X on Netbooks?" He sent me a link to a Gizmodo article that explained how to hack a Netbook into running Apple's OS X. He also pointed me to a chart that BoingBoing put together showing how compatible various Netbooks are with OS X.

Obviously, none of this stuff is geared to the average consumer--and there are certainly some bugs to contend with--but with some tweaks, techies have gotten certain Netbooks to run OS X shockingly well. Perfect or not, those articles and some videos had my brother-in-law, who's a total Applehead, champing at the bit to get his hands on an Apple Netbook.

Here's the conversation that followed:

Ken: "Apple really needs to do a Netbook."

Me: "Yes, now. It's the biggest growth category in laptops. They're missing out on a big opportunity to take Windows' share away."

Ken: "Apple keeps saying it doesn't want to go near the low-end and make crappy notebooks with low margins. Would tarnish the brand, hurt the bottom line."

Me: "They're lying. They know they have to go there."

Ken: "Agree."

Me: "So they slap a little design flair on the thing, put one model out for $599 and another for $699. Sure, the Windows version would cost you $350-$450, but I'd have no problem paying the Apple premium on one of these."

Ken: "A lot of people would pay $599 for an Apple Netbook."

Me: "No one's buying the Macbook Air at $1,800."

Ken: "I wouldn't say no one."

Me: "OK, but it's sort of the Apple TV of laptops. It's just not that relevant. Most people would prefer buying a more powerful notebook that weighs a little more for a grand."

Ken: "I agree. I almost bought an Air when it first came out, but I'm glad I didn't pull the trigger." [Note: Ken uses a MacBook Pro but he wants a Netbook for nonbusiness travel].

Me: "Apple always talks about design--and they do have great designers--but what people want now is cheap. As I said, this thing doesn't have to be a masterpiece. I'd rather see them keep things simple and elegant and keep the cost down to $599."

Ken: "You should write a column."

Me: "I will."

I have a feeling a lot of other people are having similar conversations. And while I believe that Apple's on the verge of missing an opportunity here--and think it needs to move quickly to put out a Netbook--I also think that it's well aware of the market dynamics.

Microsoft has made it a point to say that Windows 7 is designed to run on entry-level machines, and it's clearly targeting low-cost Netbooks as the next big frontier.

At the same time, Apple is heading toward its own release of a new operating system, Snow Leopard, which is also designed to run faster and more efficiently. So, you'd think that it, too, is ultimately looking toward more inexpensive PCs, including a so-called MacBook Mini and the much-rumored next-gen Mac Mini.

As far my Netbook experience goes, I've been working on and off on a Lenovo S10 loaner unit, and like it enough to strongly consider one of these machines over the next few months.

My brother-in-law is encouraging me to convert the Lenovo into an OS X machine (the S10 is on the list of Netbooks that do pretty well with OS X), though he knows that neither Apple nor Lenovo would be too keen on me doing this. As Gizmodo says, "Hackintoshing" violates the OS X EULA, and should you want to return your hacked Lenovo S10 or Dell Mini 9 for service, you'll probably get the cold shoulder.

"I'm really tempted to buy one of these things and put OS X on it," he IM'd me last night. "I can get a loaded Dell Mini 9 Linux version for just over $400. 2 gigs of RAM and a 32GB flash-based drive."

He'd rather wait for the Apple Netbook, of course. But I have a feeling that if it doesn't come soon, he's not going to be able to wait any longer. The force is strong for the Apple lover who longs for a Netbook.

What do you guys think?

Helpful links:

CNET's best Netbooks (full reviews)

Gizmodo's step-to-step guide to turning the Dell Mini 9 into a Mac Netbook

BoingBoing Netbook compatibility chart

Wired's running OS X on a Netbook (Apple made Wired pull the video)

Wake up and restore from MSI Wind Netbook with Mac OS X (YouTube video):

Acer Aspire time trial with video running (YouTube video)

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

Why the Japanese Hate the iPhone

By Brian X. Chen

Apple's iPhone has wowed most of the globe — but not Japan, where the handset is selling so poorly it's being offered for free.

What's wrong with the iPhone, from a Japanese perspective? Almost everything: the high monthly data plans that go with it, its paucity of features, the low-quality camera, the unfashionable design and the fact that it's not Japanese.

In an effort to boost business, Japanese carrier SoftBank this week launched the "iPhone for Everybody" campaign, which gives away the 8-GB model of the iPhone 3G if customers agree to a two-year contract.

"The pricing has been completely out of whack with market reality," said Global Crown Research analyst Tero Kuittinen in regard to Apple's iPhone prices internationally. "I think they [Apple and its partners overseas] are in the process of adjusting to local conditions."

Apple's iPhone is inarguably popular elsewhere: CEO Steve Jobs announced in October that the handset drove Apple to becoming the third-largest mobile supplier in the world, after selling 10 million units in 2008. However, even before the iPhone 3G's July launch in Japan, analysts were predicting the handset would fail to crack the Japanese market. Japan has been historically hostile toward western brands — including Nokia and Motorola, whose attempts to grab Japanese customers were futile.

Besides cultural opposition, Japanese citizens possess high, complex standards when it comes to cellphones. The country is famous for being ahead of its time when it comes to technology, and the iPhone just doesn't cut it. For example, Japanese handset users are extremely into video and photos — and the iPhone has neither a video camera nor multimedia text messaging. And a highlight feature many in Japan enjoy on their handset is a TV tuner, according to Kuittinen.

What else bugs the Japanese about the iPhone? The pricing plans, Kuittinen said. Japan's carrier environment is very competitive, which equates to relatively low monthly rates for handsets. The iPhone's monthly plan starts at about $60, which is too high compared to competitors, Kuittinen added.

And then there's the matter of compartmentalization. A large portion of Japanese citizens live with only a cellphone as their computing device — not a personal computer, said Hideshi Hamaguchi, a concept creator and chief operating officer of LUNARR. And the problem with the iPhone is it depends on a computer for syncing media and running software updates via iTunes.

"iPhone penetration is very high among the Mac users, but it has a huge physical and mental hurdle to the majority who just get used to live with their cellphone, which does not require PC for many services," Hamaguchi said.

Cellphones are also more of a fashion accessory in Japan than in the United States, according to Daiji Hirata, chief financial officer of News2u Corporation and creator of Japan's first wireless LAN.

So that would suggest that in Japan, carrying around an iPhone — an outdated handset compared to Japanese cellphones — could make you look pretty lame.

Take for example Nobi Hayashi, a journalist and author of Steve Jobs: The Greatest Creative Director. His cellular weapon of choice when he spoke to June 2008? A Panasonic P905i, a fancy cellphone that doubles as a 3-inch TV. It also features 3-G, GPS, a 5.1-megapixel camera and motion sensors for Wii-style games.

"When I show this to visitors from the U.S, they're amazed," Hayashi told "They think there's no way anybody would want an iPhone in Japan. But that's only because I'm setting it up for them so that they can see the cool features."

Kuittinen said he's predicting Apple's next iPhone will have better photo capabilities, which could increase its odds of success in Japan. However, he said the monthly rates must be lowered as well.

Otherwise, Apple might as well say sayonara to Japan.

Original here

Taking the Green, Universal Charger to the Next Level

By Matthew Wheeland

When the GSM Association last week announced that in three years all new cell phones would be powered by the same interface, it was a big win for the environment, as well as cell phone manufacturers and owners.

The move will save manufacturers millions of dollars in costs and resources for accessories that are essentially useful only as long as the original product functions; it will keep untold tons of potentially toxic waste from ending up in landfills; and it will make life significantly easier for mobile phone users.

Moving to a universal charger, especially in as large an industry as mobile phones, also heralds a big shift toward universal power in other electronics product lines, something long been hoped for in green IT and environmental arenas. Although no one type of gadget is as ubiquitous as the mobile phone, bringing a flexible, universal power supply to electronics of all types will amplify the economic and environmental savings.

The GSMA announcement was also, in a somewhat roundabout way, a big win for Green Plug, the manufacturer of smart power supplies for all types of products. We previously covered Green Plug in a feature on phantom power last year, and I got Paul Panepinto, Green Plug's executive vice president of marketing, on the phone to talk about the announcement.

While obviously excited about the move, Panepinto explained that the GSMA is following on a move the China implemented almost two years ago: As of June 2007, all cell phones designed for sale in that country will need to use the same universal charging standard, the same mini-USB technology mandated under the GSMA rule; China's Mobile Communications Associated predicted savings of the equivalent of about $300 million a year by making the shift.

Green Plug has more ambitious goals than just a universal charger: their innovation is a smart charger that interacts with a chip in the electronic device to manage power use while charging, while idling, and even in peak power situations. So they're working on a way to plug your iPod dock into the smart grid.

The group envisions a day when all devices will be enabled with their smart chip, drawing no power when fully charged but also able to put their recharging on hold if, say, the building the device is charging in happens to be in the peak hours of a hot summer day and the local utility is looking for ways to draw down electricity use.

"We've spoken with several utilities about this kind of smart grid and demand response," Panepinto told me. "The smart meters can negotiate with the smart power outlets to negotiate power usage -- it's this "language of energy" phrase we coined for our GreenTalk technology." The company believes that there are significant opportunities for energy efficiency based on dynamically changing demand.

For now, Green Plug is still working on manufacturers to take that leap into being early adopters -- to overcome the perceived risks of getting behind a new technology first -- even though the benefits to the technology seem readily apparent to manufacturers. "Vendors are recognizing that there's a huge win for them -- but why not let someone else be first?" Panepinto said.

Although he obviously couldn't share details of discussions or even which companies they are working on as early adopters, Panepinto described HP, Apple and Sony as obvious dream customers for taking on Green Plug.

Original here

Cellular providers want Nokia to drop Skype from cell phones

Two cell service providers in the UK are supposedly up in arms over Nokia's inclusion of Skype software on its N97 handset, and are threatening not to carry the device unless the software is ditched. This stance is not only annoying to consumers who are beginning to like VoIP, but it could also even hurt the carriers' business in the long run.

By Jacqui Cheng

Cellular providers want Nokia to drop Skype from cell phones

Two UK mobile operators are reportedly fuming at Nokia for including a mobile version of Skype on its N97 handset. Both Orange and O2 are so terrified that the popular VoIP service will siphon away profitable cell minutes by allowing users to make free calls that they are supposedly threatening not to carry the device unless Skype is removed.

The outrage is going on behind closed doors for the time being, though it's hardly surprising, given the power that carriers have traditionally had over handset manufacturers. They don't like customers having options that the handset maker wants to offer when they believe it might threaten their bottom line—even if they ultimately benefit consumers.

This attitude is merely reinforced by the anonymous comments made to Mobile Today about the issue. "This is another example of them trying to build an ecosystem that is all about Nokia and reduces the operator to a dumb pipe," one mobile operator told the site. "Some people like 3 may be in a position where it could make sense to accept that. But if you spend upwards of £40m per year building your brand, you don't want to be just a dumb pipe do you?"

3 is a mobile operator in the UK that can apparently see the VoIP writing on the wall; it already offers a handset with Skype capabilities, and T-Mobile has also gotten on board with support for the service. Unfortunately O2 and Orange aren't fans of it, and are visibly holding back on allowing VoIP software so they can make sure it won't hurt their business.

This is, of course, a frustrating development for customers who are increasingly buying handsets equipped with WiFi capabilities and want to be able to take full advantage of their capabilities. VoIP use on cell phones helps customers to save money and minutes by making extremely low-cost calls when on a WiFi network, without having to carry a second Skype phone with them.

Including VoIP software on mobile phones could actually lead to more sales, more new customers, and even more cell network use because of the new customers. In fact, a "senior industry source" speaking to Mobile Today suggested exactly that: "If you look at what 3 has done—chargeable calls on Skype phones is bigger than those without it."

This fear of VoIP is certainly not limited to the UK; mobile operators in the US have also been extremely cautious in allowing handsets to be equipped with Skype or other VoIP software, though some are taking baby steps. AT&T sort of tolerates VoIP apps on Apple's iPhone, though they must be restricted to WiFi-only—no VoIP calls over the cell network for you! Additionally, T-Mobile has launched HotSpot@Home here in the US, which allows users to make VoIP calls over WiFi networks that automatically switch to the cell network when users wander outside of WiFi range.

As VoIP becomes more pervasive, customers will put more pressure on cell operators to let them make those calls when they want to. It seems like a better idea for carriers to get on board now—even in a limited sense with WiFi-only VoIP—than to put it off until customers get really irritated.

Original here

Yahoo Teams With Newspapers to Sell Ads

Hilary Schneider and Lem Lloyd of Yahoo, which has formed an alliance with newspapers.


Terry Widener has been selling newspaper ads for 35 years. But until last fall, Ms. Widener, a 53-year-old saleswoman at The Knoxville News Sentinel in Knoxville, Tenn., had never sold an Internet ad.

Then in a two-week sales “blitz” intended to test an innovative partnership between newspapers and Yahoo, she persuaded advertisers to buy $200,000 in online ads that ran on the paper’s Web site and on Yahoo. That represented about a seventh of the amount she typically sells in an entire year.

“I’m pretty much from the old school,” Ms. Widener said. “It was such a learning experience. Hopefully I am going to sell more and more online.”

Many newspaper owners and publishers have similar hopes. They say that the partnership with Yahoo is one of the only bright spots in an otherwise horrible advertising market.

Through the partnership, ad salespeople at newspapers pitch local businesses on advertising packages that let them reach visitors to the newspapers’ Web sites and Yahoo users in the area. The newspapers also use Yahoo technology that lets them charge more for ads on their sites.

A similar sales blitz at The Ventura County Star, a small daily north of Los Angeles, netted nearly $1 million in sales in the run-up to Christmas, or roughly 40 percent of what the paper sold in online ads in 2008. The Naples Daily News in Florida did even better: The late-January blitz generated $2 million in sales, or more than half what the paper sold online in 2008. Some larger newspapers have had similar successes.

“If we could do just shy of $1 million in two weeks in a horrible economy, what does it mean for us when the economy turns?” asked George H. Cogswell III, publisher of The Ventura County Star.

Yahoo, which has been struggling with internal turmoil and slowing growth, is also hailing its alliance with the newspaper consortium as one of its most important efforts. The consortium has grown to nearly 800 dailies, up from 176 in 2006.

“It seems to be hitting the sweet spot for both newspapers and Yahoo,” said Lem Lloyd, a Yahoo vice president for the partnership.

No one expects that the partnership will make up for what’s ailing Yahoo or the newspaper industry any time soon. Consider that on Friday E. W. Scripps, the owner of the Knoxville, Ventura and Naples newspapers, closed The Rocky Mountain News, one of its flagship properties. The San Francisco Chronicle, one of the first papers to make use of all parts of the Yahoo alliance, is being threatened with closure by its owner, the Hearst Corporation.

Yahoo’s bet on the newspaper consortium will not give a meaningful lift to its finances this year or tilt the balance in its fight with Google, which dominates the online ad business.

“In 2009, this partnership is not material,” said Hilary Schneider, executive vice president for North America at Yahoo, who is one of the driving forces behind the alliance. “If you look at the long-term opportunity, it is material, and it continues to exceed our expectations.”

The partnership began in 2006 and was initially focused on sharing employment classifieds. But over the last year, about half of the newspapers in the alliance, including some smaller newspapers owned by The New York Times Company, have agreed to begin testing two new elements of the relationship.

One is a new ad system from Yahoo, currently installed at about 100 newspapers, that allows them to sell graphical ads on their sites that are aimed at specific audiences, like car buyers or sports enthusiasts. The system puts users into those groups based on the pages they visit online, a technique known as behavioral targeting.

This allows publishers to sell, say, high-priced travel ads not only on travel pages but also on any page visited by a user interested in travel. An advertiser may have paid 50 cents to reach every thousand visitors to a high school sports page, for example, said Leon Levitt, vice president for digital at Cox Newspapers. “Now it doesn’t matter where the page is on the site,” Mr. Levitt said. “All of a sudden we can sell that page for $15” for every 1,000 visitors who are interested in travel, he said.

The other new element of the partnership allows newspapers to sell ads on Yahoo pages, with the two sides sharing the resulting revenue. That lets newspapers promise advertisers that their messages will reach a larger portion of the local audience, helping the newspapers compete more effectively with television.

Between its print and online editions, The Ventura County Star, for example, reached about 56 percent of its local audience. With the addition of the Yahoo pages, it now reaches 85 percent of Ventura residents, and it can also tell advertisers that they can reach Yahoo’s audience in the larger Los Angeles market.

“It is certainly a new opportunity,” Mr. Cogswell said.

Yahoo benefits too, by being able to tap into some 7,500 sales people at newspapers across the country. The additional ads translate into higher rates for pages that typically command low ad prices, like those on Yahoo’s mail service, Mr. Lloyd said.

Some newspaper executives have been worried that a management shake-up at Yahoo could put the partnership at risk. Ms. Schneider said Carol Bartz, Yahoo’s new chief executive, is squarely behind the alliance. “Carol looks at this partnership as core to Yahoo’s future,” Ms. Schneider said.

Ken Doctor, a newspaper industry analyst with Outsell, said losing Yahoo’s support would be a blow to newspapers. “For the companies that are in it, this is the No. 1 growth initiative in 2009 and 2010,” Mr. Doctor said.

For now, however, that growth provides only a small dose of relief for an ailing industry.

“It’s a new source of revenue that we think is going to be a growing source of revenue,” said William Dean Singleton, the chief executive of the MediaNews Group, which owns 54 dailies and is one of the original members of the consortium. “It is still small compared to the recessionary print declines we are seeing.”

Original here

Report: RIAA Undergoing Massive Layoffs

By David Kravets

Picture_3_2 The Recording Industry Association of America is firing scores of workers, a "bloodbath" as some have described it.

The recession, and its announced pullback of its 5-year-old litigation campaign, are among the reasons. reports dozens of RIAA workers are being let go. The "RIAA as you know it is probably history by Tuesday of next week," the site says. The site predicts the group is likely to merge with the International Federation of the Phonographic Industries, the RIAA's European counterpart which is part of the ongoing trial against The Pirate Bay in Sweden.

Cara Duckworth, an RIAA spokeswoman, says in an e-mail to Digital Media News that: "Can't confirm number but I can confirm there were layoffs."

The move comes two months after the music industry's litigation and lobbying front announced an end to its 5-year litigation campaign, in which more than 30,000 individuals had been sued for file sharing. The RIAA, which defeated Napster and Grokster in court, said instead of litigation it would work with ISPs to suspend file sharing copyright scofflaws – a plan that has not materialized.

Duckworth did not immediately return e-mails or phone calls for comment.

The Motion Picture Association of America, the film studio's litigation and lobbying arm, announced layoffs weeks ago.

Original here

Pirate Bay Witness’ Wife Overwhelmed With Flowers

Written by Ernesto

When Professor and media researcher Roger Wallis left the stand yesterday, the court asked whether he wanted to be reimbursed for his appearance. “You are welcome to send some flowers to my wife,” he responded. In the hours that followed, many Pirate Bay supporters took this suggestion to hand.

Professor and media researcher Roger Wallis appeared as an expert witness at the Pirate Bay trial yesterday. He was questioned on the link between the decline of album sales and filesharing. Wallis told the court that his research has shown that there is no relation between the two.

He was heavily attacked by industry lawyers Danowsky, Pontén and Wadsted who did everything they could to discredit and slander his reputation. When Wallis was asked whether he wanted to be reimbursed for travel expenses etc, he light-heartedly suggested sending some flowers to his wife.

His statement was picked up by the large audience listening in to the live audio from the trial and flowers soon began arriving at the Wallis’ house.

Mr. and Mrs. Wallis and their flowers.

wallis flowers

Roger’s wife, Görel Wallis, wasn’t surprised by her husband’s whim in court:

“We have been married for 38 years. He proposed half an hour after we met and I said maybe. After a day, he had convinced me”, she said.

At a local flower store in Stockholm they had received 100 orders by 20.30 last night. Owner Kristian Skald said that two nearby stores had received an equal amount of orders.

“Last delivery was 33 bouquets Thursday night. There will be more to come on Friday,” the owner of the flower shop commented.

Today, Friday, the couple celebrates their wedding day anniversary and on Saturday it’s Görel’s birthday. Roger Wallis feels she is worth all the flowers she gets.

“She was very worried before the trial. They questioned my competence and that made her very sad. She hadn’t slept for two days,” Roger said.

A web page has been set up that collects what has been given so far, complete with an ever-growing stack of CDs that show how many sales the music-industry has lost by slandering the Professor.

Thus far, in an amazing show of generosity from a section of society labeled by the music industry as ‘thieves’, more than 4100 Euros worth of flowers, chocolate and gifts have been sent to the couple.

The Wallis’ soon ran out of vases for the flowers but Görel knows that sharing is caring and will distribute the flowers to all residents in their apartment building.

“We will make sure it will be beautiful here.”

Original here

Safari 4: Eye candy, or seriously useful?

image_2[1] Despite the fact that I use Macs, I've never been a big fan of Safari, Apple's browser. It doesn't always properly view some of the Web pages I use regularly, and it has what I consider odd interface quirks.

For example, if you prefer not to see underlined links, there's no checkbox for that option in its preferences - instead, you have to find and edit an arcane configuration file.

Over the last few years, Apple has been putting considerable effort into advancing Safari, and that's one of the reasons for the renewed browser development landscape. Competition between Safari, Mozilla's Firefox, Google's new Chrome and Microsoft's dominant Internet Explorer has been good for Web users because it's resulted in seriously useful innovations.

Apple fired its latest salvo on Tuesday with the surprise release of a public beta of Safari 4, which is available for both Windows and Macintosh systems. It includes some interesting features that are worth exploring, but whether you'll consider them eye candy or innovation is likely to be a matter of personal preference.

At the moment, I lean more toward the former. Safari 4's biggest change borrows from the Cover Flow display style that first appeared in iTunes and then later found a home in the Finder in Mac OS X 10.5. It previews Web pages via thumbnails set against a black backdrop in two separate features.

Whether this is useful or merely looks cool will depend on how you use a Web browser.

The first time you see the effect, it's in a feature called Top Sites, which shows your most-visited sites via a series of stacked thumbnails.


A similar feature is found in Chrome, Google's Windows-only (for now) browser, but it doesn't look half as cool. At first, most of the sites shown are placeholders that are commonly used by many people. Over time, as you use Safari, the thumbnails will change to reflect where you go on the Web.

The Top Sites page appears by default when you open a new blank tab. You can also access it via a button in the bookmark/history manager.

And that's where you next see the Cover Flow feature in Safari 4. Here, it looks even more like Cover Flow in iTunes or the Mac's Finder, with bookmarks and pages you've visited marching across the "stage" with a flick of your mouse cursor.


The Cover Flow display is available in both the Mac and Windows versions, with one exception: If your Windows PC's video card doesn't support Microsoft's DirectX 9 graphics system, you won't see this.

If you're visually inclined, searching through bookmarks and history in this way may make sense to you. I'm more likely to browse through a text list sorted by recent visits or alphabetically - I find I don't use Cover Flow that much, either in iTunes or the Finder. I'm probably not apt to use it much in Safari, either.

There's one other interface tweak worth noting. In both the Windows and Mac versions, Apple has moved the tab bar to the very top of the browser window, another feature borrowed from Chrome.


I don't care much for this layout in Chrome, and still don't like it in Safari. I prefer my tabs to be atop the browser's display pane, where the action is. Fortunately, there are hidden settings you can tweak in Safari to put the tabs back where they belong.

Safari 4 is also noticeably faster to load pages, particularly those that use Javascript, than its predecessor. Although I've not run any benchmarks, those who have say its quantifiably faster than even Firefox 3, and certainly faster than Internet Explorer - which is not hard to do.

I'm a big fan of really useful search built into a browser - which is one reason why I love Firefox 3's "awesome bar" - and Safari has added a feature first seen in Opera that I really like. When you search your recent browsing history, it not only searches URLs and page titles, but also the text recently found on the pages in your browser's cache. This means if you can remember a line of text on a page, you can find it again even if you don't know the site name or page title.

I'm going to try living with Safari 4 for a while and see if it grows on me. I'll report back either here or in a future Computing column.

And if you've got some first impressions of Safari 4, either on a Windows or Mac system, please leave 'em in the comments.

Original here

Windows 7 to kill off QuickTime on PCs?


This sight could be a thing of the past once Windows 7 hits Release Candidate

Microsoft has some good news for movie fans. If you want to watch .mov files in Windows 7, you don't need to install Apple's QuickTime. Bye, bye annoying system tray icon! Adios, Apple update!

The support for .mov files was mentioned deep in a long list of changes that are coming to the Windows 7 Release Candidate.

On the Engineering Windows 7 blog, in a post entitled 'Some changes since beta for the RC', Chaitanya Sareena, Senior Program Manager on the Core User Experience team, talks up improved playback support for video content from digital camcorders and cameras:

"We've since added support for Windows Media Player to natively support the .mov files used to capture video for many common digital cameras," writes Sareena.

While this may delight owners of cameras which output in the .mov format, it's also good news for anyone who enjoys watching movies on their PC, as movie trailers, particularly those on Apple Movie Trailers, come in .mov format, and so require QuickTime (or a freeware player such as VLC) to view.

Windows users who install QuickTime are then nagged with pop-ups from the Apple update software prompting them to install other Apple software such as iTunes and Safari.

And while this move brings wider camera support, and rids Windows users of those annoying nag screens, it also has the added benefit for Microsoft of making one Apple application less necessary to download.

Original here

Bridging the gap between companies and communities for OSS

GNOME Foundation executive director Stormy Peters discussed ways to bridge the gap between companies and open source software communities during a presentation at the Southern California Linux Expo.

By Ryan Paul

In a presentation at the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE), GNOME Foundation executive director Stormy Peters discussed the differences between companies and communities and how to bridge the gap. This issue is becoming increasingly important for open source software projects that are trying to build close ties with corporate adopters and contributors.

Peters developed extensive expertise in this area during her time at HP, where she played a central role in establishing the company's open source program. In her current position as the head honcho of the GNOME Foundation—the non-profit organization behind the open source GNOME desktop environment—she works to build bridges between the development community and the growing roster of companies that participate in the vibrant GNOME ecosystem.

The underlying premise of her presentation is that open source software communities and the companies that leverage open source software are interdependent and need to cultivate sustainable relationships in order to advance their mutual goals. This effort is often impeded by conflicts between corporate and community culture. Peters explained many of these conflicts and described how companies can benefit from adopting certain aspects of open source culture.

She laid out some of these ideas in a blog post earlier this month and invited feedback while she was preparing for her SCALE talk.

"The goal should be for companies and individuals who use and support open source software to work effectively together. And part of working effectively together means making sure that the open source model is sustainable. Which means interacting for the good of the project, not just taking or using open source software," she wrote.

Open source culture

There are numerous factors that contribute to the success of open source software. Passion, she says, is one of the key factors that drives development. Voluntary open source development is often self-motivated and conducted without need for management. Schedules are fluid and people work as needed to complete their own desired goals.

The collaborative development process has built-in peer review and ensures that developers receive constant feedback. Peters comments that there is an important distinction between the kind of peer review that is inherent in open development and the kind of performance evaluations that are common to corporate environments. In an open source project, the quality of code is judged as it is written and is constantly improved or rejected as needed to produce a better product.

Why don't companies get it?

Peters contends that companies are less trusting of employees because employees are more likely to be motivated by the desire for monetary compensation rather than personal commitment to the company's projects. This creates a less team-oriented atmosphere. She says that companies are also hesitant to adopt meritocracy—which is one of the core values of community-driven development—because they are afraid of the changes that it will bring to management structure. This could potentially be mitigated, she suggests, by peer-based systems in which groups organically choose their own leaders.

Transparency is also difficult in a corporate environment, Peters says, partly because so many companies are afraid that transparency heightens the risk of disclosing trade secrets. She believes that these fears are largely unwarranted and that trade secrets, as a result of the fast pace at which industry evolves, don't provide as compelling an advantage as they once did.

Another important aspect of transparency is internal communication. The distributed nature of open source development generally encourages robust interaction and highly transparent communication. She believes that face-to-face interaction often makes people communicate in a way that is lazy and not conducive to transparency. As an example of this, she explains that when coworkers are just a cubicle away and easily available for quick questions, people tend to be less inclined to document and discuss details in venues that are broadly accessible to everyone who is participating on a project. This problem can be addressed by making company wikis and mailing lists the preferred mediums for work-related interaction.

Boosting transparency and moving towards self-governance could help companies benefit from some of the values of the open source development model and could also help companies improve relations with open source software communities. As companies become more tightly integrated with the open source ecosystem, these cultural changes will help build bridges and facilitate more productive relationships.

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Microsoft suit over FAT patents could open OSS Pandora's Box

Microsoft has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against TomTom alleging that the device maker's products, including some that are Linux-based, infringe on patents related to Microsoft's FAT32 filesystem. This marks the first time that Microsoft has enforced its FAT patents against the Linux platform, a move that some free software advocates have long feared could be disastrous.

By Ryan Paul

Microsoft has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against navigation device maker TomTom. The suit alleges that several of TomTom's products, including some that are Linux-based, infringe on a handful of Microsoft's patents. Several of the patents in question relate to car computing systems and navigation, but there are also two that cover Microsoft's FAT32 filesystem. If Microsoft begins to systematically enforce its FAT32 patents, it could have broad ramifications for the Linux platform and for mobile device makers.

The lawsuit, which was reported today at Todd Bishop's Microsoft blog, is thought to be the first time that Microsoft has directly targeted Linux with patent litigation. In an interview with Bishop, Microsoft deputy general counsel for intellectual property Horacio Gutierrez claims that this is not the beginning of a broader intellectual property campaign against Linux. Gutierrez characterizes the lawsuit as a last resort option that Microsoft is pursuing after attempting to negotiate a private settlement with TomTom for over a year.

Two of the patents in question are #5,579,517 and #5,758,352 which cover techniques for implementing a "common name space for long and short filenames." The patents basically cover a backwards compatibility hack that Microsoft implemented in its filesystem to preserve compatibility with the filename munging scheme that was used in MS-DOS where filenames were limited to 11 characters in length. The software methods described in the patent are used in modern variants of Microsoft's FAT filesystem.

Microsoft's FAT patents have been vigorously challenged in court, but were finally upheld in 2006. Eben Moglen—a Columbia University law professor and the chairman of the Software Freedom Law Center—once described the FAT patents as a "proverbial Sword of Damocles hanging over the open source community" and warned that Microsoft could use them to do immense damage to the Linux platform. Indeed, Microsoft's filesystem format is used broadly on external storage devices such as camera memory cards.

TomTom publishes a list of GPL-licensed software that is used in the company's products. One of the items on that list is dosfstools, a package of tools that are used to perform various checking and repair operations on FAT filesystems. It's not clear yet if dosfstools itself is the source of the patent infringement, but it seems likely that FAT support in general is problematic. The dosfstools package is also used on Amazon's Kindle, Google's Android platform, and Nokia's Maemo platform.

If Microsoft attempts to broadly enforce this patent against Linux users and vendors, the Open Invention Network (OIN) might decide to invoke the so-called "nuclear option" and retaliate with its own massive arsenal of software patents. The OIN, which was founded to assemble a defensive patent portfolio for protecting Linux and some open source technologies, includes patents on basic principles of computing including networking, e-business, and bytecode compilation.

Microsoft has previously made broad threats against the Linux kernel and the broader open source application ecosystem, alleging that the Linux desktop stack infringes on over 200 of the company's patents. These claims have never been substantiated and Microsoft has never disclosed specific details about which patents it believes have been infringed.

Other Microsoft patents that TomTom allegedly infringes inlcude #6,704,032, which covers "Methods and Arrangements for Interacting with Controllable Objects within a Graphical User Interface Environment Using Various Input Mechanisms", and #6,175,789 which covers methods for creating a "Vehicle Computer System with Open Platform Architecture." Microsoft is asking the court for an injunction against TomTom and treble damages for willful infringement.

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UK government backs open source

Computer keyboard
Open source software allows users to read and alter code

The UK government has said it will accelerate the use of open source software in public services.

Tom Watson MP, minister for digital engagement, said open source software would be on a level playing field with proprietary software such as Windows.

Open source software will be adopted "when it delivers best value for money", the government said.

It added that public services should where possible avoid being "locked into proprietary software".

Licences for the use of open source software are generally free of charge and embrace open standards, and the code that powers the programs can be modified without fear of trampling on intellectual property or copyright.

According to some in the open source industry, the shift from proprietary standards could save the government £600m a year.

Simon Phipps, chief open source officer for Sun Microsystems, said the UK government's stance was part of a "global wave" of take up for open source in governments.

Open source can help avoid many of the hidden costs of proprietary software
Steve Shine, Ingres

"We waste a fortune on proprietary computer software because of paying for licences and promises up front and not demanding value," he said.

Mr Phipps said schools, government departments and public services would have a "crucial freedom" because of the choice of whether to pay for support and training when using open source software.

The government's action plan could see a wave of open source software being deployed in areas such as office applications (word processing and spreadsheets), document management and database infrastructure, the backbone of many large-scale IT systems.

'More teeth'

Steve Shine, European vice president of Ingres, an open source support vendor, said the government's action plan had "more teeth" than policies being adopted in other countries because the plan was tied into policies regarding how IT managers procure new software.

He said the move had partly been driven by a series of high-profile IT failures in recent years that had relied on proprietary software.

He said: "Open source can help avoid many of the hidden costs of proprietary software such as making organisations re-pay for licences if they want to shift use of a particular piece of software from one place to another.

"This is irrelevant in the open source world."

Announcing an open source and open standards action plan, the government said it would:

  • ensure that the government adopts open standards and uses these to communicate with the citizens and businesses that have adopted open source solutions
  • ensure that open source solutions are considered properly and, where they deliver best value for money are selected for government business solutions
  • strengthen the skills, experience and capabilities within government and in its suppliers to use open source to greatest advantage
  • embed an open source culture of sharing, re-use and collaborative development across government and its suppliers
  • ensure that systems integrators and proprietary software suppliers demonstrate the same flexibility and ability to re-use their solutions and products as is inherent in open source.

Government departments will be required to adopt open source software when "there is no significant overall cost difference between open and non-open source products" because of its "inherent flexibility".

Expected backlash

Mr Phipps and Mr Shine said they expected a backlash from proprietary software firms.

"I am absolutely certain there have been communications extremely high-up in proprietary vendors with management high up in government," said Mr Shine.

Mr Phipps added: "Measured over the short term traditional vendors will cut prices back, end load contacts and do everything to appear cheaper.

"But the real value with open source comes from giving users a new flexibility."

He said the widespread adoption of open source software in public services could also have a knock on effect to the ordinary consumer.

"It's already happening to significant extent in the UK. Lots of homes are using Firefox and

"It is becoming acceptable and expected."

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Ballmer: Linux Bigger Competitor than Apple

posted by Thom Holwerda

Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer had some interesting things to say yesterday about which companies Microsoft sees as its competitors in the client operating system space. You'd think Apple was their number one competitor - and you'd be wrong. Microsoft sees two other competitors as their primary adversaries.

During a speech for investors, Steve Ballmer showed the following slide to his audience:

As you can see, Microsoft sees piracy as its biggest competitor. "Number two market share goes to Windows pirated, or unlicensed," Balmer said, "That's a competitor that's tough to beat, they've got a good price and a heck of a product, but we're working on it." This isn't exactly new information, but it's interesting to see it spelled out so clearly.

Much more interesting is Microsoft's idea of Linux and Apple, According to Microsoft, Linux is a bigger threat to the company than Apple, placing Linux above Apple in the marketshare figure pie chart thing. "Linux, you could see on the slide, and Apple has certainly increased its share somewhat," Ballmer said. He went on to explain how the company views Apple:

I think depending on how you look at it, Apple has probably increased its market share over the last year or so by a point or more. And a point of market share on a number that's about 300 million is interesting. It's an interesting amount of market share, while not necessarily being as dramatic as people would think, but we're very focused in on both Apple as a competitor, and Linux as a competitor.

As much as I find Ballmer a rather annoying figure, he does score a major point here. About 300 million PCs were shipped worldwide in 2008. Round and about 9-10 million of those were Macs. Apple's market share might be increasing, but it's still relatively irrelevant compared to the bigger picture. As we said yesterday, Apple might be doing swell in the United States, but on a worldwide scale, Cupertino still falls a bit to the wayside.

In any case, it appears that Linux (and piracy) is a larger blip on Microsoft's radar than Apple, and it's not hard to see why. With an economy that's not doing very well, people will opt for cheaper products. Apple cannot offer those, but Linux and piracy can.

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Eye Candy: Pimping the Gnome Desktop on Ubuntu

by Blair Mathis

If there's one thing Linux is better at than any other operating system, it's allowing you to pimp the desktop.

There seems to be two different types of users: those who love eye candy, and those detest it. This article is for those who love to see the glitter, glamour, and special effects and want to pimp their Gnome desktop.

Enable Compiz

Compiz is the mother of all eye candy efforts. Allowing you to add multiple desktops in a spinning cube, fading/whizzing/shrinking/exploding windows, rain effects, painting fire, and a 'huge' array of other features, you can't get better than Compiz effects.

If your system can handle the high end effects, enable them by downloading CCSM from Add/Remove in the Applications menu, and then configure it in System > Preferences.


Themes are the staple of every good design; they allow you to change the entire window design, color scheme, fonts, and in some cases, even more. Your default installation likely comes with a few themes, none of which are fancy or exciting.

Gnome themes are easy to download and install. There are a number of websites to get free themes from, but arguably none better than You will immediately be shown a wide range of fun themes and other eye candy for your system.

There are different types of themes. One of the best places to start looking is the GTK 2.x themes, where the entire look and feel of your system will be changed. There are also Compiz themes, which are a favorite for many.

If you want to experiment further, you could also try out Emerald as an alternative window decorator; to install it, open a terminal and type 'sudo apt-get install emerald' and then 'emerald --replace' to try it out. If you want to enable it permanently, you can change default window decorator via Compiz Fusion Icon (available via add/remove applications if you don’t have it already).


If anything can betray your theme, it's the icon set you use. If you're using default icons on your system, it's just going to look out of place. Downloading and installing a new icon package is as simple as downloading a new theme. You can find icon packages all over the web, but a good place to start is Gnome Look. Individuals have also posted icon packages on Deviant Art and other places.


They aren't called widgets in Linux, but that's the most common name. In Linux, they are known as Desklets and Screenlets. You can use either/or, but I prefer Screenlets. These are more interactive than icons--you can get system monitors, weather screenlets, calendars, even pets that crawl over your screen.


Many individuals like the (Mac OS X-inspired) launch dock. There are a few available: Cairo, Kiba, AWN, Wbar, Sim, etc. If you don't want a dock to launch apps from, there's also a simple minimized-window screenlet dock that holds your running programs, thus allowing you to delete the lower taskbar. These can make a desktop look modern and sleek.

Cairo-dock is one of the best-looking alternatives – it resembles the Leopard dock more than a little, only it’s fully customizable and has lots of themes/skins and plugins. To install it in Ubuntu, you have to add the cairo-dock repository manually to your list of sources. This is quite easy and fully described in the official Ubuntu documentation found here.

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10 Things Windows 7 Must Do To Succeed

I recently attended a briefing where Microsoft explained some of the new features in Windows 7 to reviewers from different publications. At the end of the meeting, the MS folks asked the half-dozen of us present what it will take for the new OS to be a success.

"Injecting about three trillion dollars into the economy to end this recession," was my initial response. It's hard to imagine any new OS will be a success, especially with business customers, until the economy improves. What we are already using works just fine, thank you. It will have to see us through.

So, let's fast forward in the economic cycle to the inevitable uptick, when investing in business computing becomes easier. Here are 10 things Windows 7 will have to do.

1. Windows 7 should not be positioned in relation to Windows Vista, which is nonexistent in most businesses. Windows 7 needs to be related back to Windows XP, to which I think it is the legitimate successor.

2. I don't see Windows 7 as Vista SP2 or Vista Lite or anything like this. Windows 7 looks like a new OS to me and deserves to be treated as such. (Readers: Give Windows 7 a chance, OK?)

3. Windows 7 needs to run just fine on hardware the runs Windows XP just fine today. My sense, playing with Windows 7, is this is possible. Vista grabbed an early reputation as a resource hog. Windows 7 must avoid this.

4. Because Windows 7 cannot upgrade an existing Windows XP installation, Microsoft needs to provide easy transition tools. A copy of Windows 7 and a flash drive or small stack of DVDs needs to move all my data and my applications and my settings to the new OS. This may mean Microsoft needs to send an applications disc with Windows 7.

5. Just for emphasis: If I have to reinstall my applications, Windows 7 will not be a welcome upgrade.

6. If Microsoft does not or cannot accomplish the previous items, then it should not promote Windows 7 as an upgrade and offer it on new hardware only. This will avoid one of the major factors in Vista's failure: It's inability to run well on what people already owned.

7. Fortunately, the Windows 7 user experience is not wildly different from XP the way Vista is. This will make it easier for companies (or households) to have a mix of Windows XP and Windows 7.

8. I like what I have seen of Windows 7, but have yet to hear Microsoft offer a good reason besides "a wide range of improvements" for me to upgrade. If it comes only on new hardware, that's fine. And, yes, some people will then decide they like the new OS and upgrade older machines as a result. But, if Microsoft hopes to sell an upgrade it needs to look at how Apple sells its upgrades.

9. Speaking of which: Apple sells features and applications that are included with the OS as major upgrade benefits. If Microsoft included more significant applications with the OS, maybe it could make them as important as the iApps are to Apple customers. Apple manages to charge its best customers up to $300-a-year for upgrades of some sort.

10. I think we have solved the problem of linking Windows 7 too closely to the release of Office 14 now that the timing between two seems clearly offset. Delays, economic or technical, should not bring the two releases back together. At least, not until its clear from seeing the software that one won't drag down the other.

I won't say those are the "top 10" things Microsoft needs to do to make Windows 7 a success. My experience with the OS is too limited for me to feel I've considered all the angles, but these suggestions are a good place for Redmond to start.

David Coursey has already installed Windows 7 in a virtual machine on a Mac. And it works quite nicely, so far. Write him at

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Microsoft said shipping Windows 7 in Sept.

Microsoft could have Windows 7 on shipping PCs by September, Compal president Ray Chen said today at an investor's conference. The PC contractor executive understands from plans that the software should be available in either late September or early October. The news would corroborate word of an April release candidate that would let Microsoft finish, manufacture and deliver Windows 7 well ahead of the holidays.

Compal builds systems on behalf of Acer, HP and other major PC makers.

Amelia Agrawal, a spokeswoman for Microsoft, maintains the official company position that Windows 7 will be available within three years of when Vista shipped. However, the company's upgrade program plans and other leaks have increasingly suggested that the public goal, which would put the release in early 2010, is deliberately conservative and meant to avoid embarrassment in the event of an unexpected delay. Microsoft has acknowledged a shortened development track that includes just one public beta and one readily available release candidate before the ship date.

While Windows 7 itself has proven stable in testing, the company is believed under significant pressure to release it this year. One of the first significant declines in Windows revenue surfaced in Microsoft's most recent financial quarter as continued hesitation over Vista as well as a preference for Windows XP in netbooks have both hurt the company's core business. Windows 7 improves both performance and user interface elements, and is explicitly designed to run more smoothly on netbook-level hardware.

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How To Turn Customers Into Pirates

Written by Ernesto

In the past we’ve given plenty of examples of how DRM hurts paying customers instead of the people it is meant for. Still, many software companies prefer to see their customers as potential ‘thieves’ but what they don’t realize, however, is that they are actually breeding pirates instead of stopping them.

Meet Mark, an IT guy at a small company who occasionally has to renew licenses for the software utilized by the business. Recently, he had to activate a copy of PaperPort, the scanning and document management software from Nuance. In order to free up another activation slot, he had to uninstall the old one first while being online. Like most activation licensed software, this doesn’t always work properly.

To resolve the issue Mark contacted Nuance’s support. To his surprise however, they didn’t want to help him straight away, instead asking him to take pictures of the CD in order to prove that the company owned a legitimate copy.

“I couldn’t believe my ears,” Mark told TorrentFreak. “After arguing with support for a while on how ridiculous it was, I still had to have the license within the day. To make a long story short I finally got them to unlock 2 licenses after 2 days of repeated calls and sending the picture of the CD multiple times.”

Upset at how he was treated by customer support, Mark decided to send an email to Nuance’s CEO Paul Ricci to inform him that alienating customers like this is not going to help him sell more products. The picture of the CDs that Mark had to supply was also sent to Ricci.

Dear Mr Ricci,

Our company has been using your product for nearly a decade. We have estimated that it is safe to say we have spent $3000 over the years on your product. We are by far not the biggest customer but in today’s economy we think every customer counts. We recently bought several PaperPort 11 licenses which we have used. We have upgraded our computers and the procedure is to uninstall paper port (While online) in order to free a license for the new computer. Sadly this did not work. My efforts at consulting with your technical support department were very time consuming, confusing, and ultimately pointless. To my surprise, they wanted me to take a PICTURE of the CDs we have. As an IT professional, I found this archaic exercise in futility to be absolutely appalling. Not only do your anti-piracy methods completely fail (There is no known anti-piracy method that works to this day, anything can be downloaded) but they cost me; the legitimate customer time and frustration. Attached is the picture I had to send in. This is to let you know that we are completely disgusted with your company’s procedures, and are no longer going to do any business with Nuance.

Just to let you know, being a computer engineer, I can guarantee you these statistics:

Pirates Stopped = 0
Legitimate Customers totally alienated = Thousands.

You may want to take a look at your stock trends of late, Mr. Ricci. Perhaps this poor customer service MIGHT explain some of that.

Here’s the Picture Mark sent, along with a personal note.
customers pirates

Ricci received the email in good order, and passed it on to the chief marketeer at Nuance, who wrote back to Mark. “I appreciate your note and will use it as a flashpoint for us to reevaluate this processes that you have correctly pointed out as archaic,” was his reply, and he offered some free copies of PaperPort, PDF and OmniPage “as a gesture of goodwill.”

Nuance has clearly recognized that they made a mistake and although it’s probably too late for some customers, we hope they’ve learned from it. Mark said that in hindsight his email to Ricci might have been a little bit over the top. But, it did make them realize that they were making a mistake, asking people to take pictures of their CDs.

“I was very upset and under a lot of pressure. My job is to solve problems in the quickest amount of time.. and taking pictures of CD’s or sticking them in a copier isn’t something anyone should ever have to do with their software,” Mark said.

“It just doesn’t make sense.”

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Photoshop update fixes slowdowns, crashes

by Stephen Shankland

Adobe Systems released an update to the flagship CS4 version of Photoshop to squelch a number of bugs that could crash or slow down the image-editing software.

The 11.0.1 update (downloads available for Windows and Mac OS X) deals with the following issues, according to Adobe:

• A number of issues that could cause slow performance have been addressed.

• Pen barrel rotation with Wacom tablets now works correctly.

• Photoshop now correctly recognizes 3D textures edited by a plug-in.

• The quality of the results of Auto-Blend Layers (Stack Images) has been improved.

• A problem that could result in a crash when pasting formatted text has been fixed.

• A crash that could result from a corrupt font no longer occurs.

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

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