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

Week in Microsoft: is IE8 a fast browser?

Week in Microsoft: is IE8 a fast browser?

By Emil Protalinski

Let's look back at the week that was in Microsoft news:

Running the Windows 7 beta on a MacBook. Windows 7 may still be in beta, but it's good enough on a Mac. Whether you prefer a separate partition or a virtual machine, Ars helps you install Microsoft's latest OS on Apple's latest machines and points out some pitfalls along the way.

Microsoft's own speed tests show IE beating Chrome, Firefox. Microsoft has released its own tests that show IE8 can load many websites faster than two open source browsers: Firefox and Chrome.

Will Windows Mobile 7 fix updating?. According to a recent job posting, Microsoft might be changing how updates work on Windows Mobile with the release of version 7 next year.

Bill Gates is world's richest man again. Bill Gates has once again become the world's richest man. I guess there are people who win in this recession after all, though Gates did lose $18 billion over the last year.

Rollout for Hotmail POP3 worldwide support complete. Microsoft has finished the worldwide roll-out of POP3 support for Windows Live Hotmail.

Windows 7 build 7048 outperforms build 7000, Vista, XP. According to recent tests, Windows 7 performance just keeps looking better, both on low-end systems and high-end systems.

Windows Microsoft finally underlines a useful feature in MSN Toolbar. Microsoft has finally detailed a feature in the MSN Toolbar that many users will find useful: a cashback-offer-detecting mechanism.

Windows 7 beta gets its first security update. Microsoft has released the first security update for the Windows 7 beta (both 32-bit and 64-bit) via both Windows Update and the Microsoft Download Center.

Kumo homepage screenshot leaks, shows many minor tweaks. A screenshot of the Kumo homepage has leaked, so we dive in to check out the minor changes between it and the Live Search homepage.

Windows Marketplace for Mobile details for developers arrive. Microsoft has given a bunch of details on what developers should expect with the Windows Marketplace for Mobile.

You can follow Microsoft news at Ars by using the Microsoft tab at the top of the page, the RSS feed, or Twitter.

Original here

Rollout for Hotmail POP3 worldwide support complete

By Emil Protalinski

Rollout for Hotmail POP3 worldwide support complete

The Mail Call blog has finally confirmed the conclusion of Windows Live Hotmail's POP3 rollout: "POP3 technology has now rolled out to Hotmail customers WORLDWIDE!" Hotmail has a few more features to still release soon, including Messenger integration, but for now, here are the details you need to know for POP3:

  • POP server:
  • POP SSL required? Yes
  • User name: Your Windows Live ID, for example
  • Password: The password you usually use to sign in to Hotmail or Windows Live
  • SMTP server:
  • Authentication required? Yes (this matches your POP username and password)
  • TLS/SSL required? Yes

In January, the feature trickled out to the UK, Canada, Australia, France, Japan, Spain, Germany, Italy, as well as the Netherlands, and then arrived in the US and Brazil in February.

Hotmail previously only offered DeltaSync (the protocol that Outlook, Windows Live Mail, and Windows Live for Windows Mobile use). Many of you already know that DeltaSync is more robust and might be wondering why Microsoft is bothering with POP3. Well, the latter is much more commonly used and accepted (especially on mobile devices), so if your e-mail client doesn't support DeltaSync, chances are it will be able to work with POP3. For those wondering, there are currently no plans for Hotmail supporting the IMAP protocol.

Original here

Fingerprinting Blank Paper Using Commodity Scanners

Today Will Clarkson, Tim Weyrich, Adam Finkelstein, Nadia Heninger, Alex Halderman and I released a paper, Fingerprinting Blank Paper Using Commodity Scanners. The paper will appear in the Proceedings of the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, in May 2009.

Here's the paper's abstract:

This paper presents a novel technique for authenticating physical documents based on random, naturally occurring imperfections in paper texture. We introduce a new method for measuring the three-dimensional surface of a page using only a commodity scanner and without modifying the document in any way. From this physical feature, we generate a concise fingerprint that uniquely identifies the document. Our technique is secure against counterfeiting and robust to harsh handling; it can be used even before any content is printed on a page. It has a wide range of applications, including detecting forged currency and tickets, authenticating passports, and halting counterfeit goods. Document identification could also be applied maliciously to de-anonymize printed surveys and to compromise the secrecy of paper ballots.

Viewed under a microscope, an ordinary piece of paper looks like this:

The microscope clearly shows individual wood fibers, laid down in a pattern that is unique to this piece of paper.

If you scan a piece of paper on an ordinary desktop scanner, it just looks white. But pick a small area of the paper, digitally enhance the contrast and expand the image, and you see something like this:

The light and dark areas you see are due to two factors: inherent color variation in the surface, and partial shadows cast by fibers in the paper surface. If you rotate the paper and scan again, the inherent color at each point will be the same, but the shadows will be different because the scanner's light source will strike the paper from a different angle. These differences allow us to map out the tiny hills and valleys on the surface of the paper.

Here is a visualization of surface shape from one of our experiments:

This part of the paper had the word "sum" printed on it. You can clearly see the raised areas where toner was applied to the paper to make the letters. Around the letters you can see the background texture of the paper.

Computing the surface texture is only one part of the job. From the texture, you want to compute a concise, secure "fingerprint" which can survive ordinary wear and tear on the paper, such as crumpling, scribbling or printing, and moisture. You also want to understand how secure the technology will be in various applications. Our full paper addresses these issues too. The bottom-line result is a sort of unique fingerprint for each piece of paper, which can be determined using an ordinary desktop scanner.

Original here