Sunday, July 20, 2008

Upgrade your iPod touch to 2.0 for Free

The iPhone Software 2.0 update is free for iPhone users, but is $10 for those who have iPod touch. I found out you can get it for free.

Upgrade your iPod Touch to 2.0 for Free
Apple released their newest software update for both iPhone and iPod touch just about a week ago, July 11. It includes bug fixes and the anticipated App Store, which allows you to purchase and download third-party applications right to your iPhone or iPod. The update is free for iPhone users, but is $10 for those who own an iPod touch.

But I recently came across this method of upgrading your iPod to the latest version of the software (firmware, too). It involves tricking iTunes into restoring your iPod to software 2.0. However, it also involves wiping out your music and video collection in your iPod. Hence, the word 'restoring' your iPod. If you don't mind this, or if you have complete backup of your music collection in your PC, then this won't be an issue for you.

For this to work, you need a legitimate iPod Software 2.0 Restore file. Back in July 11 or 12, a link that directly points to an unrestricted Apple Phobos site leaked on the internet. A backdoor to the Apple Software server was available, which allowed the free download (and fast, too, as the file sharing sites give you a measly 5 kbps download rate) of the restore file. However, it's now currenly patched (as well as the link I used to get the file) and locked, and the only way to get the software restore file, iPod1,1_2.0_5A347_Restore.ipsw, is through torrents or file sharing sites. I got one from the Apple server itself, so I'm sure it's legit. I'm not so sure about those circulating in torrents and file sharing sites.

When you plug in your iPod, the little iPod window appears in iTunes. That's where the device info is shown - the iPod model, how much space it has, and how your music, videos, and photos take up that space, shown as a bar at the bottom. You'll also see two buttons - the Check for Updates and the Restore button. We're interested in the Restore button, since the Check for Update only prompts us to buy the update. We don't. We want it free!

If you hold Shift on your keyboard while clicking on Restore, a little window will appear that allows you to select which Restore file iTunes will use to restore your iPod to. Get it now? By selecting the Software 2.0 version (iPod1,1_2.0_5A347_Restore.ipsw) as a restore file, iTunes inadvertently updated your firmware version to version 2.0.

It will take a long time to prep your iPod for the restore, so be patient. There won't be any disk activity or CPU usage for that matter - just a window telling you that it's preparing your iPod for restore. Be patient.

After that, the restore (or upgrade) will happen - your iPod will reboot, and an Apple logo with a spinning throbber will appear. Wait until it's finished, and your done!

Reboot your iPod, and viola! An App Store icon right on the Home screen! Check the firmware version by going to Settings > General > About. Mine says Version 2.0 (5A347). It's only a matter of restoring your music and video files back to the iPod (as well as a restore from a backup) and you're good to go.

If you have an iTunes account, you can now purchase or download free applications for your iPod touch. Just go to the iTunes Store and download those applications.

Great! I just feel bad that Apple is forcing you to buy an upgrade now. Before (think iPod mini and nano), the updates for the firmware is free. And the discrimination between the iPhone and the iPod touch (remember, the update is free for the iPhone, original and the 3G version) is just wrong. But then again, it's just $10.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Apple Quietly Releases iPod Touch Update

If you own an iPod touch that hasn't been updated to version 2.0, Apple quietly released a free iPod touch 1.1.5 update, but we haven't seen much improvement yet.

Apple Quietly Releases iPod Touch 1.1.5 Update

While some forward-thinking individuals were dropping US$10 to purchase the iPod touch 2.0 software update, Apple quietly issued a free iPod touch 1.1.5 update. If you own an iPod touch that hasn't been updated to version 2.0 and would like the update, just plug your iPod touch into your Mac and decline the 2.0 update. iTunes will then inform you that the 1.1.5 update is available for download and installation.

Some across the Internet have suggested that the 1.1.5 update improves the touch's performance. However, applications launched in the same amount of time, Safari pages loaded identically, YouTube videos downloaded and displayed in approximately the same period of time, and stocks and weather between the two versions of the iPod software.

What purpose does this update serve? So far, Apple is mum on the subject as it hasn't issued any technical notes on the update. Therefore, until we hear differently, we'll assume that all changes take place "under the hood."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

iPhone 2.0 Software Jailbroken

The iPhone Dev Team has unlocked the iPhone 2.0 system on older iPhones

iPhone 2.0 Software Jailbroken

The iPhone Dev Team has announced that they can unlock and jailbreak the iPhone 2.0 system. This is on the old iPhones it seems, not on the new ones.

The unlocking is unsurprising. Apple seems incapable of stopping the unlocking, and there are reports that a huge percentage of iPhones are unlocked and run on other networks, especially in the Far East.

But at first the jailbreak may seem like an odd accomplishment; why would you want to jailbreak the iPhone now that they have the App Store? Because you might want to run applications not in the store I guess. Because you might want to show that nobody's telling you want you can and can't run on your phone. Stuff like that.

And the punch line is that the hack is not yet available. But this group has published these same hacks on earlier versions in the past, so I don't doubt them now.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Apple sells 1 million iPhones in first 3 days

Apple has sold 1 million iPhones in the three days after releasing the latest model last Friday.

Apple sells 1 million iPhones in first 3 days

Apple said Monday it has sold 1 million iPhones in the three days following the release of the latest model on Friday.

"iPhone 3G had a stunning opening weekend," said Steve Jobs, Apple's chief executive, in a statement Monday.

But the launch was plagued by software problems. All the new iPhones had to connect to Apple's servers for activation, which quickly overloaded them. Lines of customers built in stores as employees were unable to get the phones working.

Additionally, new software was released for the old iPhone, which required reactivation of those phones. Many owners of the older phone were left with unusable units.

The iPhone 3G was launched simultaneously in 21 countries, including the U.S.

Apple had sold about 6 million units of the first-model iPhone since it launched in the U.S. a year ago. The company has set a goal of selling 10 million iPhones by the end of 2008.

Shares of Apple rose $5.32, or 3.1 percent, to $177.90 in morning trading.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Thinking of Nabbing an iPhone Today? Wait.

Welcome to the iPocalypse.

Thinking of Nabbing an iPhone Today? Wait.

Reports are flooding in from Gizmodo (which posted that clever Apple meets Armageddon phrase), TechCrunch, the IDG News Service and pretty much any other iPhone-manic news outlet that stalwart Apple fans who rushed to buy their new iPhone today are left holding beautifully designed bricks that can't be activated.

Apple's network reportedly can't handle the huge flood of phones hitting it today to activate and pull down the 2.0 firmware. Sounds an awful lot like what happened with Firefox's Download Day last month - I bet the Mozilla folks are nodding their heads knowingly.

CrunchGear has two potentially helpful posts for eventually getting the update and fixing an iPhone that's stuck in a reboot cycle after a failed update that might help you out if you're an unlucky iBrick holder.

For the rest of us (yep, I'm jumping on the bandwagon), your best bet is to hold off until the traffic spike dies down before heading off to buy your own new iPhone. And when you do go, head to an Apple store instead of AT&T - according to Silicon Alley Insider, the AT&T stores they checked in NYC were all out, while the Apple store was still stocked. Might be just chance, or it might indicate that Apple stocked its own stores better (as SAI suggests).

iPhone Activation Woes Hit Early Buyers

Some of the first people in the U.S. to purchase the iPhone 3G walked out of an Apple Store in New York disappointed Friday when Apple's plan to activate the new devices in stores backfired.

iPhone Activation Woes Hit Early Buyers

Problems with the iTunes server caused some enthusiasts who had waited in line for hours to walk out of the store unable to use their new iPhones, according to the disgruntled customers.

"I've got two phones on me and neither of them work," said Adolfo Peralta, a Brooklyn resident who lined up to purchase the iPhone 3G at 6:30 a.m. local time for the 8 a.m. SoHo store opening. "I have to go find a pay phone to make a phone call."

Apple Store employees deactivated his original iPhone to activate his new one, but the activation could not be completed because they could not connect to iTunes, he reported.

Peralta said he felt cheated by the fact he didn't have a working iPhone when he left the store. "You wait all this time," he said. "I don't think it's worth it."

Still, he said he was "thrilled" to have been one of the first to get the 3G device.

Other enthusiasts reported similar issues as they left the store on Prince Street at around 10:30 a.m.

Anoele Perillo, who got in line at 7 a.m. outside the SoHo store to purchase her iPhone, stood outside around 10:30 a.m. smoking a cigarette while she waited for problems inside the store to be fixed.

"All of the systems are down," Perillo said, adding that she had finished two crossword puzzles while waiting for her iPhone activation to be complete. She said employees were shutting down some computers at the store to try to fix some of the problems with the iTunes network the store was experiencing.

Jason Pinsky, a chief technology officer of a clothing company in New York, also attributed the activation problems he experienced at the SoHo store to the iTunes network.

While he could make phone calls with his new iPhone 3G -- a feature he demonstrated outside the store -- Pinsky couldn't use the iPod functionality because the iTunes part of the activation couldn't be completed in the store due to the network "bailing."

Pinsky had bought the original iPhone last year and said he didn't feel cheated by paying the premium for the original product. "I'm an early adopter," he said. "There's always a price to pay" for being first.

Apple requires customers to activate the iPhone 3G in stores where they were purchased. This was not a requirement for the original iPhone, which was released a little more than a year ago.

Apple did not immediately return requests for comment Friday morning. An Apple Store employee at the SoHo store said no one there was qualified to comment on the problem, but said that to him, things "appeared to be going smoothly."

Some customers did leave the store with their iPhones successfully activated and reported no activation problems, they said.

As customers waited for their iPhones to be activated at the SoHo store, more continued arriving to purchase the phone. The line snaked for several blocks by 11 a.m. local time.

The activation process was also slow at Apple's flagship New York store on Fifth Avenue and at the Apple Store in downtown San Francisco, customers reported.

An environmental activist group called Waiting for Apples, who were the first in line at the Fifth Avenue store -- having camped out for a week to purchase their iPhone 3Gs -- were still awaiting activation at about 11:30 a.m., reported a group member, who asked not to be named.

He added that Apple Store employees were calling the activation problem a "hiccup" and that activation would go smoothly for awhile before another hiccup occurred.

At 7:30 a.m. local time in New York at the flagship store, about 1,000 people were in a line that stretched around the corner on the same block where the famous FAO Schwarz toy store is located.

One person standing in line, who asked not to be named, said the crowd was about half the size of the throng that waited for the first iPhone. One reason for the smaller crowd, noted a few passersby, was that last year the launch was at the end of the day, giving people time to get out of work and check out the scene.


iPhone Activation Woes Hit Early Buyers (Part 2)

Some of the first people in the U.S. to purchase the iPhone 3G walked out of an Apple Store in New York disappointed Friday when Apple's plan to activate the new devices in stores backfired.

iPhone Activation Woes Hit Early Buyers

The consensus of about a half dozen people standing in line was that most users want the new iPhone mainly for the 3G (third-generation) speed. Several people said they own an iPhone, but want the speed of the new version. That was also the issue at the top of mind for some first-time iPhone buyers.

"It's 3G now, it's faster," said Ryan Tracy, the president of Cheech and Chong dot com, a retail and marketing company and Web site for the Cheech and Chong comedy team. Tracy said he was standing in line for several hours before the store opened.

"There's also a lot of other goodies you can download," Tracy said, referring to the iPhone 2.0 platform that lets users download applications from the iTunes service.

He also agreed with other people in line that the lower price was not the biggest issue. Asked whether the combination of applications, speed and lower price will make the new iPhone into a hot product, Tracy said "It's already a hit product, everyone's talking about it, everyone's here."

Software problems with the network of telecommunications operator O2 at Apple's London flagship store also caused activation delays, where the iPhone 3G also went on sale at 8 a.m. local time. O2 is the exclusive network operator for the iPhone in the U.K.

Problems with activation could affect the number of iPhone 3Gs Apple sells over the weekend if people decide to wait a few days for the problems to be resolved before making their purchases.

RBC Capital Markets projected that Apple may sell more than 1 million phones worldwide over the first weekend to meet pent-up demand, according to a report by analyst Mike Abramsky. The number could be four times more than the 270,000 iPhones that were sold at launch last year, he wrote.

But limited supplies could frustrate buyers as Apple shipped only 1.5 million iPhone 3Gs, Abramsky wrote. As supplies normalize, iPhone 3G is set for long-term success, and the company could ship up to 5.1 million iPhones in the quarter, according to the report.

More than half of current iPhone owners are likely to upgrade to iPhone 3G, according to a study from ChangeWave Research. Around 55 percent of current iPhone buyers said they are likely to upgrade to 3G iPhone, with more than half of them not planning to wait long, according to the research.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Vista Cleans Mac OSX's Clock

In absolute numbers, figures from Net Applications are not particularly impressive.

New Survey: Vista Cleans Mac OSX's Clock

Apple fans have made much of the fact that the newest figures from Net Applications show that Apple's share of the operating system market has jumped almost 32% in the past year. But they're ignoring a simple fact: Vista's market share during that same time leaped more than 355%. When you add in other Windows versions, Microsoft owns more than 90% of the market.

Net Applications reports that the Mac had 7.94% market share in June, up from 6.03% a year ago. Going from a little more than 6% to just under 8% may be a big gain when measured as a percentage of growth. But when seen in absolute numbers, it's not particularly impressive.

Vista, by way of contrast, showed far more explosive growth. In June, 2007, it had 4.54% market share. In June, 2008, it had reached 16.14% --- more than a 355% gain. Those numbers are substantial not just in percentage terms, but in raw terms as well. Apple would sell the first-born children of most of its employees if it could ever get to a 16% market share.

Net Applications says that in June, all versions of Windows were on 90.89% of computers, down from 93.34% a year ago. Both Windows XP and Windows 2000 market share shrunk, while Vista's skyrocked.

It's true that in the last year, Mac OSX has made some small inroads into the operating system market. But Windows is still on more than 90% of computers. Shaving a point or two here and there won't change Microsoft's domination.

For a chart of overall operating system trends, according to Net Applications, click here. For a chart that includes version numbers, click here.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Google's Free Web Application Security Scanner

Google has made public a beta version of one of its internal tools used for testing the security of Web-based applications.

Google Gives Away Free Web Application Security Scanner

Google has released for free one of its internal tools used for testing the security of Web-based applications.

Ratproxy, released under an Apache 2.0 software license, looks for a variety of coding problems in Web applications, such as errors that could allow a cross-site scripting attack or cause caching problems.

"We decided to make this tool freely available as open source because we feel it will be a valuable contribution to the information security community, helping advance the community's understanding of security challenges associated with contemporary web technologies," wrote Google's Michal Zalewski on a company security blog.

Ratproxy -- released as version 1.51 beta -- is quick and less intrusive than other scanners in that it is passive and does not generate a high volume of attack-simulating traffic when running, Zalewski wrote. Active scanners can cause problems with application performance.

The tool sniffs content and can pick out snippets of JavaScript from style sheets. It also supports SSL (Secure Socket Layer) scanning, among other features.

Since it runs in a passive mode, Ratproxy highlights areas of concern that "are not necessarily indicative of actual security flaws. The information gathered during a testing session should be then interpreted by a security professional with a good understanding of the common problems and security models employed in web applications," Zalewski wrote.

Google has posted an overview of Ratproxy as well as a download link to the source code. Code licensed under the Apache 2.0 license may be incorporated in derivative works, including commercial ones, but the origin of the code must be acknowledged.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

IBM Develops Audio-masking Technology

IBM India has developed audio masking technology that could protect confidential information in audio recordings.

IBM Develops Audio-masking Technology

IBM's India Research Laboratory (IRL) has developed technology that automatically detects and masks sensitive information in audio recordings.

The technology is expected to be useful for call center operations which record conversations between call center staff and customers for a number of reasons, including monitoring of service quality, said Guruduth Banavar, director of IRL, in a telephone interview on Wednesday. Some of these audio recordings are also used to train new staff, he added.

The technology utilizes a combination of speech analytics and metadata to locate and mask portions of an audio recording during playback to individuals that are not authorized to hear the sensitive information, according to Banavar. The information that is to be masked can be configured depending on the requirement, and the masked portions can be presented in many ways, such as white noise, silence or an announcement that the information has been edited, he added.

The ability to maintain customer trust requires organizations to be able to ensure the security of their customer's private information, such as credit card numbers, personal identification numbers (PIN), social security numbers and other information collected through interactions between call center staff and customers, IBM said.

IBM is currently running pilots of the technology within the company. A decision on commercializing the technology will be taken by the business units in IBM, Banavar said. The technology has applications in a number of other areas, such as medical diagnosis, where recorded information collected in one context is later used for training people, he added.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Mozilla's Firefox 3 Sets Geeky World Record

Mozilla is successful in setting the world record for most software downloads in one day with Firefox 3.

Mozilla's Firefox 3 Sets Geeky World Record

It's official: Mozilla has set possibly the geekiest world record ever with the release of Firefox 3.

The open-source company said Wednesday that the browser's 8,002,530 downloads in its first 24 hours of release set a Guinness World Record for the most software downloads in that period of time.

Mozilla Vice President of Marketing Paul Kim thanked Firefox fans in a statement, calling them "instrumental in achieving this record."

"Our community members came together and not only spread the word, but also took the initiative to help mobilize millions of people to demonstrate their belief that Firefox gives people the best possible online experience," he said.

Mozilla unveiled a campaign on May 28 to set the record, which previously did not exist.

The company asked Firefox enthusiasts to pledge to download the browser on the day it was released -- June 17, which it dubbed "Download Day."

Mozilla also hosted a Download Day event, the Camp Firefox BBQ, at its offices in Mountain View, California, and asked other Firefox fans to host similar download parties. It also encouraged people to place "Download Day" buttons on their Web sites as reminders of the big day.

Despite its eventual success, Firefox 3 Download Day didn't go off without a hitch. Interest in the endeavor crippled Mozilla's servers on the day of the release, so the U.S. part of the download process started about two hours later than originally planned when Mozilla's site wouldn't work properly.

The European leg of the effort began a little more than an hour later than planned and marked the start of the download-logging process. There were no more problems reported once the U.S. site was back up and running.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Blizzard Announces Diablo III

The rumors were true: Blizzard Entertainment has announced Diablo III. The game is currently in development for Mac OS X and Windows.

Blizzard Announces Diablo III

Blizzard unveiled Diablo III at a worldwide invitational gaming event held in Europe over the weekend, and has posted details to its Web site, including a cinematic trailer and gameplay video that offers an in-depth look at some of the game's new capabilities and features.

A new sequel to Blizzard's action role-playing game series, this is the first new Diablo game to be announced since Diablo II was released in 2000. Since then the company has turned its attention to its Warcraft franchise, first with Warcraft III and more recently with World of Warcraft; the company is also working on StarCraft II, a followup to its enormously popular real time strategy game series.

Diablo III is set in a fantasy world populated by vicious monsters and demons. It's the world of Sanctuary, a land saved twenty years prior by the heroes of the first two games -- heroes who lost their minds by facing the armies of the Burning Hells. The game retains the familiar isometric (three-quarters perspective) view of previous installments, though graphics and gameplay have, of course, been updated to suit modern computer systems. Blizzard confirms that the game is being developed simultaneously for both Mac OS X and Windows, as the company has long done for its games.

Five character classes will be included in the game, and players who tire of single-player action will be able to participate online using Blizzard's service.

System requirements have not yet been announced, nor has a release date or pricing -- Blizzard famously tells the public that its games will be released when they're done. Look for many more details to be offered prior to the game's release.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Microsoft Patches its XP Patch

A free tool repairs PCs impaired by the XP SP3 update and a conflict with Symantec's software.

Microsoft Patches its XP Patch

Nearly three weeks after security vendor Symantec Corp. released a free tool to clean up PCs crippled by the Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) update, Microsoft Corp. issued a fix that should reestablish lost Internet and wireless connections.

Last week, Microsoft posted a hotfix for a problem users first reported in mid-May. Users of Symantec's consumer security software said that after updating their PCs to XP SP3, a bug emptied Windows' Device Driver and deleted network connections.

Although Symantec initially blamed Microsoft for the snafu, it later accepted some responsibility. In late May, Symantec acknowledged that Microsoft's updating process and a security feature in its own Norton-branded software combined to swamp the Windows registry with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of bogus and corrupted keys. That security feature, dubbed "SymProtect" by Symantec, was designed to protect the company's security software from attack by guarding against unauthorized changes to the registry.

Although Microsoft had previously declined to comment on the episode, the support document that accompanied the hotfix fingered Symantec's software. "This problem occurs when the Fixccs.exe process is called during the Windows XP SP3 installation," said Microsoft. "This process creates some intermediate registry subkeys, and it later deletes these subkeys. In some cases, some anti-virus applications may not let the Fixccs.exe process delete these intermediate registry subkeys."

The hotfix replaces the Fixccs.exe file with an updated version, but it can only be applied if the user has booted into Windows' Safe Mode, according to the support document.

Symantec has contended that other security software with registry-change monitoring defenses also caused similar problems for users updating to Windows XP SP3, but there have been few reports logged to Microsoft's support forums. Microsoft, however, intimated that Symantec might not be alone when it used the generic, and plural, "some antivirus applications" in its explanatory document.

Users can download the hotfix from the Microsoft site.

Microsoft has not yet begun serving up Windows XP SP3 via Windows Update's Automatic Updates feature, and conceivably could prevent machines that have specific security programs installed from receiving the update. It's already done exactly that by blocking other systems, notably those running AMD processors, from getting XP SP3 to sidestep an endless reboot bug.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Intel Backstabs Microsoft by Abandoning Vista

The news that Intel has decided it won't upgrade its PCs to Vista - is this the kind of payback that Microsoft expected?

Intel Backstabs Microsoft by Abandoning Vista

The news that Intel has decided it won't upgrade its PCs to Vista must be especially
bitter for Microsoft because court documents show that Microsoft may have launched its ill-fated "junk PC" Vista scheme at the behest of Intel. Is this the kind of payback that Microsoft expected?

According to the New York Times, Intel has decided that it won't upgrade the PCs of its 80,000 computers to Windows Vista. The Times reports:

the company made its decision after a lengthy analysis by its internal technology staff of the costs and potential benefits of moving to Windows Vista, which has drawn fire from many customers as a buggy, bloated program that requires costly hardware upgrades to run smoothly.

Microsoft has good reason to feel bitter about the decision. Microsoft's "Vista Capable PC" scheme may have been launched specifically to help Intel meet its quarterly earnings by selling older Intel chipsets that couldn't properly run Vista.

A refresher for those who might not remember the "Vista Capable PC" scheme: It was a marketing scheme in which people claim that Microsoft misled consumers into buying the Windows Vista Capable PCs, even though the PCs couldn't run the most important features of Vista.

According to court documents released in a suit related to the scheme, Microsoft's John Kalkman sent an email to Scott Di Valerio, who was in charge of the company's relations with PC makers, noting that the Vista Capable PC scheme was being launched on behalf of Intel:

In the end, we lowered the requirement to help Intel make their quarterly earnings so they could continue to sell motherboards with the 915 graphics embedded. This in turn did two things: 1. Decreased focus of OEMs planning and shipping higher end graphics for Vista-ready programs and 2. Reduced the focus by IHV's to ready great WHQL [Windows Hardware Quality Labs] qualified graphics drivers. We can see this today with Intel's inability to ship a compelling full featured 945 graphics driver for Windows Vista.

Kalkman makes clear in the email that it was a mistake to try and bail out Intel:

So Microsoft went out on a limb to bail out Intel, and this is the payback it gets? They're not doubt talking about back-stabbing at Redmond these days.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Expect Firefox 3.1 in July

Mozilla just released the final version of Firefox 3.0, but an alpha update is already scheduled.

Expect Firefox 3.1 in July

Just a week after Mozilla Corp. shipped Firefox 3.0, the open-source developer has proposed ship dates for the next version that, if approved, would produce an alpha release next month and a final no later than early 2009.

According to a draft schedule discussed at a Tuesday meeting, Mozilla wants to have the first Firefox 3.1 developer preview, or alpha, ready by July, then move to a beta by August. The schedule slates final code delivery in the last quarter of this year or the first quarter of 2009. A month ago, when Mozilla first started discussing Firefox 3.1 internally, Mike Schroepfer, the company's vice president of engineering, said the upgrade's target ship date was the end of 2008.

If Mozilla holds to that plan, Firefox 3.1 would be its first fast-track update, with a development timeline significantly shorter than usual. Firefox 3.0, for instance, launched approximately 20 months after its predecessor, Firefox 2.0.

Previously, Mozilla said that it would be able to meet the shorter deadlines because Firefox 3.1 would be composed of features that didn't make it into Firefox 3.0, but were "nearly complete," Schroepfer said.

In the meeting notes published online Tuesday, Mozilla listed some of the improvements it hopes to slot into Firefox 3.1, including changes to the revamped bookmarking that debuted in 3.0 and modifications to the new amped-up location bar.

Several of the proposed changes, however, rely on improvements to the Gecko engine that underpins Firefox, as well as other applications, such as Mozilla Messaging's Thunderbird e-mail client. Developers are working on Gecko 1.9.1 at the same time as Firefox 3.1, and programmers on the latter project expect some of those refinements will make it into the browser's next upgrade, including additional improvements in JavaScript performance and better compliance with the Acid3 test, which checks how closely a browser follows certain Web standards.

In March, when both Apple Inc. and Opera Software ASA touted gains in matching Acid3's requirements with their Safari and Opera browsers, respectively, Mozilla called the race to a perfect score "a puzzle game" and said it wouldn't divert resources from the still-under-construction Firefox 3.0 to match its rivals.

Since the June 17 launch, more than 21.8 million copies of Firefox 3.0 have been downloaded, according to Mozilla's own counter.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Firefox 3 Download Day Stumbles

Mozilla hyped today's Firefox 3 launch with a 'Download Day', but some network difficulties handling that huge rush of traffic is keeping Mozilla from reaching that goal.

Firefox 3 Download Day Stumbles

Mozilla hyped today's Firefox 3 launch with a 'Download Day' appeal to Firefox users to all come get the new version at once and shoot for a new Guinness World Record. But some network difficulties handling that huge rush of traffic is keeping many visitors from helping Mozilla reach that goal.

Mike Schroepfer of Mozilla wrote on the Mozilla developer center blog that you should head to for the new browser (you can't yet get it by going to Help Check for Updates within Firefox 2). That page appears to be coming up now, but for a good while the site was unresponsive. After a few tries on the download link on that page I was just able to start a download.

Per Melissa Shapiro on a Mozilla blog posting from earlier today, "Our servers are currently feeling the burn and should be back to normal shortly."

Kristen Whisenand, PR for Mozilla, said their servers are churning out 14,000 downloads a minute. At 7.8MB per download that's one giant flood of data, and most companies try to spread out the traffic instead of encouraging people to focus the spike. Here's hoping Mozilla gets a better grip on the reins of this digital bucking bronco.

So if you're trying to download and can't get through, or maybe get an "Http/1.1 Service Unavailable" error, keep at it. Whisenand says some individual requests may not get through because the systems are so busy, but that the servers are up.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sony working on 'break apart' motion PS3 pad

Sony Computer Entertainment is working on a new controller for the PlayStation 3which contains an accelerometer for 'Wiimote-like' motion-sensing functionality

Sony working on 'break apart' motion PS3 pad

Sony Computer Entertainment is working on a new controller for the PlayStation 3, which features the ability to 'break apart' into two separate units, each of which contains an accelerometer for 'Wiimote-like' motion-sensing functionality, reports.

It's not clear when the pad will be officially announced, but it is believed that working units have already been supplied to certain developer partners, according to sources.

The potential for new game types to be developed with the additional motion-sensing functionality should open up the PlayStation 3 to the sorts of gaming audiences that the Nintendo has been so successful at gathering with its Wii console.

Sony Computer Entertainment will therefore hope that, with the ongoing development of the PlayStation Network, the success of Blu-ray as the de facto next generation standard of video, the gradual roll-out of Home later in the year and the release of additional high definition titles over time, it will be able to overwhelmingly position the PS3 as the best all-round home entertainment unit on the market.

The original controller released with the PS3, the Sixaxis, did contain some motion-sensing ability, although it came at the expense of the popular 'rumble' functionality and was nothing like as free as the movement that the Wiimote offered. The Corporation later released a DualShock pad for the console.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

PS3 Beats Xbox 360, but Wii Outsells All

Sony eeks out another win over Microsoft's Xbox 360 console in the month of May, while Nintendo reigns supreme with Wii and DS sales.

PS3 Beats Xbox 360, but Wii Outsells All

NPD figures for the month of May show PlayStation 3 outsold Xbox 360. A mere 22k separated the two consoles, hardly putting a dent in Microsoft's huge lead over the battle for total sales. 208,000 PS3 consoles were purchased last month and 186,000 Xbox 360s were snatched up by gamers. To date, 19 million Xbox 360s have sold worldwide compared against 13 million PlayStation 3s.

Unsurprisingly, both consoles were obliterated by Wii at 675,000. Even Nintendo DS performed better than either PS3 or Xbox 360, generating more sales than both consoles combined with 452,000 handhelds sold. Nintendo pushed through over a million game systems during May, which nearly doubles PS3, Xbox 360, and PSP sales combined. Counting PlayStation 2 sales and Nintendo still boasted larger sales.

Hand-in-hand with Wii and DS were solid game sales. Seven of the top ten selling games in May were on either platform. Mario Kart Wii took second place with 787,000 copies in a photo-finish behind the Xbox 360 version of Grand Theft Auto IV with 871k. Both the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of GTA IV were the only games to make the list for those consoles.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Game Console Choice Shows Generation Gap

How much time do gamers spend playing Xbox 360, Wii, and PS3? A Nielsen consumer report takes a crack at the answer with a new technology called "polling."

Game Console Choice Shows Generation Gap

According to Nielsen respondents (via IGN), gamers between the ages of 10 and 26 spend most their time playing Xbox 360 by 63 percent, followed by 25 percent total console time playing Wii, and 12 percent playing PlayStation 3.

Conversely, gamers 27 and older spend a majority of their console time on PS3 by 52 percent, followed by Wii with 28 percent, and Xbox 360 at 20 percent.

In both demographics, both Xbox 360 and PS3 were played more consistently than Wii and for longer periods of time, supporting the widespread belief that Nintendo's latest console is lacking in deep, entrenching games.

In any case, suffice it to say that gamers love consoles.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Public's Still Not Buying Blu-ray

Despite resolution of the standard battle, the high-def DVD players and discs are posting slow sales.

Blu-ray Won, But the Public's Still Not Buying

Consumer awareness about the Blu-ray high-definition DVD format is rising, but adoption of the technology still faces challenges, according to data released last week by research company NPD Group.

Until earlier this year, consumers seeking sharper movies on high-definition DVDs had to choose between two competing standards -- Blu-ray backed by Sony Corp and the rival HD DVD, backed by Toshiba Corp.

The standards war ended in February when Toshiba threw in the towel, but NPD said Blu-ray player manufacturers still face hurdles due to price and perceptions among consumers who are content with standard-definition DVD players and content.

Hollywood and consumer electronics makers are hoping the technology would ignite a slowing $24 billion home DVD market.

NPD said 45 percent of U.S. high-definition television owners now claim to be familiar with Blu-ray, up from 35 percent in June 2007.

While just 6 percent of all consumers surveyed said they plan to buy a Blu-ray device, 9 percent of high-definition TV owners plan to buy one in the next six months, NPD said. An earlier NPD study had actually showed a drop in sales earlier in the year.

"With HDTVs now in approximately 40 million U.S. households, that percentage translates to a pool of almost 4 million potential BD (Blu-ray) player buyers," according to Russ Crupnick, entertainment industry analyst for NPD.

Earlier in the week, Wal-Mart Stores Inc said it was now aggressively promoting sales of Blu-ray players by offering from June 8-14, a $100 Wal-Mart gift card with the purchase of any Blu-ray player in its stores.

Wal-Mart has also increased the brands of Blu-ray players it sells, adding Magnavox, Samsung and Panasonic, and will sell select Blu-ray movie titles for $15 starting June 8, including "3:10 to Yuma," "Shooter" and "300."

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Microsoft Plans to 'fix' Its Online Branding

Microsoft is moving quickly to "fix" its online branding problem.

Microsoft Plans to 'fix' Its Online Branding

Now that a Yahoo acquisition is off the table, Microsoft is moving quickly to "fix" its online branding problem, an executive said Tuesday.

Microsoft has been criticized for the introduction of the Live brand, particularly because it didn't fully replace the MSN brand. That has created some confusion in the market, because some services from Microsoft, like Hotmail and Messenger, have both brands and it's difficult to determine if there is a difference between the differently branded services.

Now that Microsoft has pulled its acquisition bid for Yahoo, it plans to focus on solving its branding problem, said Kevin Johnson, president of Microsoft's platform and services division, speaking in Seattle on Tuesday at the Search Marketing Expo conference.

"When we made the bid for Yahoo, the full combination of those companies would have created a whole different set of brand opportunities for our marketing teams to solve," he said. "Since we've moved forward in not pursing a full combination at this time, our marketing teams are liberated to go solve that brand problem."

He suggested that his marketing executives essentially have free rein in deciding what to do. "Fix means fix," he said. The marketers may decide to build a new brand, and spend money to do so, and he'll support that decision, he said.

While a Yahoo acquisition is off the table, the companies do continue to discuss other alternatives, he said, despite very little comment from either company since acknowledging that talks about a more limited deal were happening. "We'll see where that dialogue leads, but there's nothing new to report," Johnson said.

Johnson also reiterated some of the themes that Microsoft executives have been talking about since the company pulled the Yahoo bid. "When you have a competitor that is entrenched, you have to focus on disruptive ways to change the paradigm," he said, referring to Google. Those changes could be in the form of user experience, the business model or the way consumers connect to the service, he said.

Microsoft has begun executing on this vision already, he said. The company's recently introduced Cashback service gives online shoppers money when they buy products from advertisers in Live Search. That's an effort to change the business model and the user experience.

In addition, on Monday Microsoft announced a deal with Hewlett-Packard that will result in a Live Search toolbar on HP PCs sold in North America starting next year. That deal will help distribution of the service, Johnson said.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Bluetooth, IE to Get Critical Microsoft Patches

Microsoft plans to issue seven sets of security patches next week for Windows.

Bluetooth, IE to Get Critical Microsoft Patches

Microsoft plans to issue seven sets of security patches next week, including critical fixes for DirectX, Internet Explorer and Bluetooth wireless software for Windows.

The updates are due Tuesday, the day Microsoft had previously scheduled to release its security patches. Fixes are also slated for Active Directory, the Windows Internet Name Service (WINS) and the Pragmatic General Multicast (PGM) protocol, used by Windows to stream media to many recipients. These updates are all rated "important."

A seventh update, rated "moderate," is listed as a "Kill Bit" update for Windows. This type of patch will disable code that is known to have a security bug.

"The Kill Bit will more than likely be for a third-party application," said Andrew Storms, director of security operations with security vendor nCircle.

Lately, Microsoft's security group has had to pay more attention to software that runs on top of Windows, as attackers have increasingly looked to products like QuickTime, Adobe's Flash and other media players when devising their attacks.

Last Friday, Microsoft warned that a widely publicized flaw in Apple's Safari browser could be combined with another Microsoft bug to let attackers run unauthorized software on a victim's PC.

It's not clear whether Microsoft plans to patch that bug. The IE update could include a fix, although it's unlikely that Microsoft has had enough time to run this software through its testing process, Storms said.

It is unusual for Microsoft to patch Bluetooth, a protocol used to connect devices like headsets to Windows, but added that "the more interesting question is will this patch and/or the bug extend into Windows mobile where it will more than likely have a greater impact?"

Microsoft announced the planned patches in a note posted to its Web site on Thursday.

World's Most Dangerous Domain

Hong Kong's ".hk" is now the world's most dangerous domain for surfing according to a report released by McAfee

McAfee Names '.hk' World's Most Dangerous Domain

Hong Kong's ".hk" is now the world's most dangerous domain for surfing and searching, according to a report released Wednesday by security company McAfee, but the survey's methodology may mean it is not as risky as its seems.

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) moved from number 28 in 2007 to the top of the company's "Mapping the Mal Web" survey, edging out its northern neighbor China's ".cn," which placed second. Finland's ".fi" was the safest, followed by Japan's ".jp."

Just over 19 percent of ".hk" contain malware, viruses, have a high rate of spam or feature aggressive pop-up ads, McAfee said, as determined by a survey of 74 top-level domains using its SiteAdvisor software. Over 11 percent of ".cn" sites for China were similarly found to be dangerous. Comparatively, only 0.05 percent ".fi" sites were found to be hazardous.

However, one Hong Kong-based security analyst said the survey did not demonstrate any real risk as emanating from the SAR. "McAfee are only looking at the top-level domain bit, they are not looking at the location of the server," said Richard Stagg, director and managing consultant at Handshake Networking, a vendor-independent security consultancy. "They're not paying attention to where sites are actually hosted."

The report is also not specific on the degree of "badness" of the sites using the ".hk" domain, Stagg said, as McAfee puts risks such as malware and annoyances like pop-up ads together.

Malware purveyors and spammers choose their top-level domain registrations based in part on where it is difficult to get a domain name shut down, Stagg said. There are "huge, huge numbers of organized crime Web sites and porn Web sites are registered with .cn domains, but most of them are not hosted in China," he said.

Purveyors of malware and spam choose top-level domains in part based on how difficult it is to shut those domains down. For example, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation can ask Network Solutions to close a .com domain, hosted in the U.S., within days, Stagg said, whereas it would have no jurisdiction with foreign domain registrars.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

PDF May Embed Flash Content

Adobe announced that the next iteration of its Acrobat line of product, but may be taking the wrong direction by adding the ability to add Flash Content to PDFs.

Has Adobe Taken a Wrong Turn with Acrobat 9?
Niel McAllister

This week, Adobe announced details of the next iteration of its Acrobat line of products, due in late June or early July. Perhaps the most prominent new feature of Acrobat 9 will be the ability to embed live Flash animation and video directly into PDF documents.

But while this capability sounds appealing, I can't help but be skeptical. PDF stands for Portable Document Format. It seems to me that this new direction that Adobe is taking in some ways flies against the original idea of what PDF is all about.

For starters, adding Flash to PDF documents is instantly going to make them a whole lot less portable. Flash support is nearly ubiquitous on the Windows and Mac OS platforms, but Adobe's track record with Flash on Linux leaves something to be desired. Also, there are a whole lot of handhelds and other devices that can render PDF documents just fine, but lack the power to render video animation.

Second, if something is moving, dancing, and singing across the screen, is it still a "document"? Historically, PDF has been a way to deliver nicely formatted, graphically rich pages in an electronic way. One of the most popular uses of PDFs, in fact, is to print them out on plain, old-fashioned paper. What happens when you go to print a document with embedded video? If nothing else, the printout will not be an accurate representation of the original file.

One of PDF's strengths has been that it has been somewhat less of a moving target than online file formats, such as Flash. By wedding the two, Adobe risks lessening the value of one of its strongest properties.

What's more, if Adobe is now positioning PDF as primarily an online (or mixed-media) file format, what message does that send to the print publishing community, which has long relied on PDF to manage prepress workflows? Will Adobe continue to act with their best interests at heart?

Though the distinctions are subtle, the new features of Acrobat 9 seem likely to create confusion about PDF in the minds of customers. I wonder if, in its zeal to be viewed as a major player in the online content creation business, Adobe might be taking a wrong turn here.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Microsoft Clarifies XP SP 3 Flash Issue

Amid concerns that users of its Window XP SP 3 may be vulnerable to online attacks, Microsoft has finally explained XP users need to upgrade Adobe Flash Player

Microsoft Clarifies XP SP 3 Flash Issue

Amid concerns that users of its Window XP Service Pack 3 operating system may be vulnerable to online attacks, Microsoft has finally broken its silence and explained which XP users need to upgrade their Adobe Flash Player software.

The confusion started Monday, when handlers at the Internet Storm Center pointed out that Microsoft had quietly noted that the recent XP SP 3 was vulnerable to five Flash bugs patched in November 2006. Some took this to mean that if an XP system was updated to Service Pack 3, it would somehow wind up with an older, buggy, version of the Flash Player.

Microsoft originally declined to comment on the matter, but on Tuesday it reconsidered and said that this is not the case.

"Microsoft does not ship any version of Flash in the Windows XP Service Pack 3 update that customers use to update existing SP2 machines," the company said in a statement.

However some people who build new XP systems using SP3 will need to update their software. "A new system built using a copy of Windows XP with SP3 integrated will install the original Flash 6 that shipped with Windows XP Gold and will need MS06-069 installed from Windows Update," Microsoft said.

They should, however, be running the latest version of the player,, which includes bug fixes that protect against an attack currently being used by criminals.

Just last week Symantec mistakenly reported that attackers had discovered an unpatched zero-day flaw in the Flash Player. The bug turned out to be something patched in April, but nevertheless, it is being exploited in a fairly widespread attack, so having a vulnerable version of Flash is a dangerous proposition.

But that incident, combined with Microsoft's initial silence on the XP SP 3 issue, has made things tough for Windows users, said Susan Bradley, a Windows blogger who is chief technology officer with Tamiyasu, Smith, Horn and Braun, Accountancy Corp. "It is very confusing," she said. "First we were really freaking out because we thought we had a zero-day," she said, "Now we've got this bulletin that says if you apply this, you're [in trouble]."

Users can find out if their PCs are running the latest version of the player by checking with this Adobe Web site.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Microsoft Extends XP Deadline for Low-Cost PCs (Part 1)

Microsoft has extended the life of Windows XP so that computer makers can include the operating system on low-cost PCs

Microsoft Extends XP Deadline for Low-Cost PCs
Part 1

Microsoft has further extended the life of Windows XP so that computer makers can include the operating system on low-cost desktop PCs, the company announced at the Computex trade show on Tuesday.

Microsoft has been under pressure from computer makers to provide a version of its OS for an emerging class of very low-cost laptops and desktops. Its new Windows Vista OS is widely seen as too resource-hungry for those machines.

In April Microsoft extended its deadline for selling Windows XP licenses for low-cost laptops like the Asus Eee PC. It had originally planned to stop selling most XP licenses on June 30.

At Computex on Tuesday it said it has now also extended the deadline for low-cost desktops. PC makers can now include Windows XP in those systems until 2010, the same as the deadline for low-cost laptops, said Rob Young, a senior director with Microsoft's OEM group.

In a statement, Microsoft said the extension applies to "nettops," a term coined by Intel to refer to low-cost desktops that have limited system configurations and are intended for simple tasks like surfing the Internet and sending e-mail. Examples include the upcoming Asus Eee Box, which is on show here at Computex.

It was unclear what limitations Microsoft may put on PC makers to prevent them from installing Windows XP on more capable machines. Young said Microsoft and PC vendors are in general agreement over what constitutes a nettop and suggested that Microsoft won't specify the hardware configurations that vendors can use with XP.

Microsoft said it was responding to the growing popularity of nettops and netbooks, and to demands from PC makers to provide a suitable OS for those machines.

"We've had a lot of feedback from customers and partners, and they're very interested in seeing these devices with Windows on them," said Steve Guggenheimer, the head of Microsoft's OEM business, during a speech at Computex.


Microsoft Extends XP Deadline for Low-Cost PCs (Part 2)

Microsoft has extended the life of Windows XP so that computer makers can include the operating system on low-cost PCs

Microsoft Extends XP Deadline for Low-Cost PCs
Part 2


It was unclear what limitations Microsoft may put on PC makers to prevent them from installing Windows XP on more capable machines. Young said Microsoft and PC vendors are in general agreement over what constitutes a nettop and suggested that Microsoft won't specify the hardware configurations that vendors can use with XP.

Microsoft said it was responding to the growing popularity of nettops and netbooks, and to demands from PC makers to provide a suitable OS for those machines.

"We've had a lot of feedback from customers and partners, and they're very interested in seeing these devices with Windows on them," said Steve Guggenheimer, the head of Microsoft's OEM business, during a speech at Computex.

Microsoft's statement was ambiguous, saying only that it would extend the deadline for "the Windows offering" to include nettops. Young confirmed that the extension applies to Windows XP.

"We have seen much demand for Windows on the Eee PC," Jerry Shen, CEO of Asustek Computer, said in the statement. "It is great that Microsoft is addressing this customer demand and providing a Windows solution on these devices, which will provide a familiar computing experience."

Intel has said nettops and netbooks are intended as a second PC for the home or for people in developing countries who can't afford a full-featured PC. However, Guggenheimer acknowledged Tuesday that no one knows yet where the devices will prove popular.

"We've had standalone Internet devices come out before, not too many of them have been successful, but now we are getting towards the right price points," he said. "How they'll land and who will buy them we don't really know yet, but we'll wait and see."

Netbooks and nettops are intended to be powerful enough to consume content, such as streaming video, but not powerful enough for content creation tasks like video editing. Many will use Intel's new Atom chips or Via's low-power C7 processor.

The Eee Box is due to go on sale in July for about $300 and will be offered with Windows XP or Linux. It will come with a maximum hard drive capacity of 250GB and use 802.11n Wi-Fi for Internet access.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Safari Flaw Worse Than First Thought

Microsoft is warning that a previously disclosed flaw in Apple's Safari browser could have dire consequences for Windows users.

Safari Flaw Worse Than First Thought, Microsoft Warns

The Safari bug, originally disclosed on May 15 by security researcher Nitesh Dhanjani, allows attackers to litter a victim's desktop with executable files, an attack known as "carpet bombing."

It turns out that if this flaw is exploited in combination with a second unpatched bug in Internet Explorer, attackers can run unauthorized software on a victim's computer, according to Aviv Raff, a security researcher. Raff says he originally reported the IE flaw to Microsoft more than a year ago, and then told them about how it could be combined with the carpet bombing bug just over a week ago.

IDG News Service tested Raff's demonstration attack code, which runs Windows Calculator on a victim's system. For the attack to work, a victim must first visit a maliciously crafted Web page with the Safari browser, which in turn will trigger the carpet bombing attack and exploit the IE flaw.

Both the Safari and IE bugs "are moderate vulnerabilities that, combined, produce a critical flaw, which allows remote code execution," Raff said in an instant message interview.

Microsoft is taking the issue seriously. It released a security advisory on the problem late Friday, a sign that it may be working on a patch for the IE flaw. The advisory says that the vulnerability has to do with the way Windows handles desktop executables and recommends that Windows users "restrict use of Safari as a web browser until an appropriate update is available from Microsoft and/or Apple."

The attack reportedly affects all versions of Windows XP and Vista, Microsoft said.

Apple may not be rushing out to patch this bug, however. Dhanjani says that Apple has told him that it is not treating the Safari bug as a security issue, a response that has generated criticism from the security community. Last week, for example, the consumer advocacy group urged Apple to reconsider this stance.

According to Raff, unless Apple patches the bug, more attacks like the one he found in IE are likely to pop up. "This is not the only issue that can be combined with the Safari vulnerability," he said. "If Microsoft fixes this, Safari users will still be vulnerable."

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mozilla Shooting for Record Books With Firefox 3 Release

The company started a campaign asking users to pledge to download the next full release of its browser on the day it is available so the release can set a Guinness World Record

Mozilla Shooting for Record Books With Firefox 3 Release

Mozilla is aiming to create what may be the geekiest world record ever with its upcoming Firefox 3 browser release.

The company on Wednesday started a campaign asking users to pledge to download the next full release of its browser on the day it is available so the release can set a Guinness World Record for the largest number of software downloads in 24 hours.

Mozilla has not yet unveiled exactly when Firefox 3 will be available, but expects it could be as soon as mid-June. A test release of Firefox 3 is currently available online.

The company is deeming the day of its release "Download Day" and is asking fans to not only pledge to download Firefox 3, but to host parties to encourage friends to download with them, and place "Download Day" buttons on their Web sites as reminders of the big day.

Currently there is no world record for software downloads; Mozilla is trying to create one with Firefox 3 and its Download Day festivities.

According to the campaign's Web site, once Download Day is over, Mozilla plans to provide the Guinness Book of World Records a signed statement of authentication from its judges showing that it followed rules for breaking records; the company also will confirm download numbers.

Mozilla also plans to send video footage and photographs of Mozilla users hosting download parties as well as download logs for a sample size of Firefox 3 downloads to prove it has set a world record.

While the fanfare may seem a bit geeky, Firefox -- released in November 2004 -- has inspired a significant and rather fervent fan base. This is in part because it was the first browser in years to give Microsoft's Internet Explorer viable competition. The browser even has its own fan page (sign-in required) on the Facebook social-networking site, with 79,174 fans signed up and counting.

According to Mozilla, there are more than 175 million users of Firefox, which is available in more than 45 languages and used in more than 230 countries.

More information about how users can participate in Download Day is available on the campaign's Web site.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Windows 7 to Include Multitouch

Microsoft is finally opening up about when Windows 7 will ship, but the company continues to share just a few, yet tantalizing details of what the eagerly anticipated OS update will be all about.

Microsoft Windows 7 to Include Multitouch Features

The latest tidbit to drop is multitouch interface support. At the Wall St. Journal's D Conference Tuesday evening in Carlsbad, Calif., company founder and chief software architect Bill Gates and chief executive Steve Ballmer are scheduled to unveil a laptop with a touchscreen that accepts multiple, simultaneous touches. The effect is quite reminiscent of what's possible with the world's most popular, commercially available gesture-based interface device: the iPhone.

Officially, Windows 7 is scheduled to ship three years after the general availability of Windows Vista, according to Microsoft. Vista's business editions launched on Nov. 30, 2006, which would mean the software could ship as early as that date in 2009, with a beta release in advance. Vista's editions for the home market launched Jan. 29, 2007.

To be fair, this is not Microsoft's first foray into the multitouch arena. The company's innovative "Surface" computing platform, which combines cameras to sense the gestures and touches of either a single user or multiple users, allowing them to interact with a table-top full of digital objects. Surface then uses a projector to project the image onto a screen. Windows 7 would use touchscreen technology to achieve similar effects.

Microsoft would not say specifically whether the OS will support gestures as well as multitouch support, like Surface does. Given the gesture support in Apple's products, however, something similar is likely.

A video posted on Microsoft Windows Client Communications Team Director Chris Flores' blog shows the interface on a laptop and table-mounted LCD screen. During that demonstration a user edits and manipulates photos with his fingertips, navigates a map and plays a virtual piano.

A spokesperson for Microsoft said the company is "working closely with OEMs, IHVs and ISVs to bring the best touch experiences to Windows PCs. The Windows and Surface teams are also working together closely to deliver the best and most innovative touch experiences to customers."

"Touch is quickly becoming a common way of directly interacting with software and devices," Flores wrote on his blog, in something of a validation of the touch and gesture based platform introduced on Apple's iPhone. "Touch-enabled surfaces are popping up everywhere including laptop touch pads, cell phones, remote controls, GPS devices, and more."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

LaCie Doubles Blu-ray Burner Speed

The d2 Blu-ray Drive features dual FireWire 400 and USB 2.0 interfaces and is compatible with the Mac and Windows

LaCie Doubles Blu-ray Burner Speed

LaCie has introduced a faster version of its d2 Blu-ray Drive, available now for US$649.99.

The d2 Blu-ray Drive features dual FireWire 400 and USB 2.0 interfaces and is compatible with the Mac and Windows. It ships with Roxio's Toast Titanium software for Mac OS X and Easy Media Creator for Windows, and it lets you burn Blu-ray, DVD and CD media.

In addition to the faster drive mechanism -- which now operates at 4x Blu-ray burning speed -- LaCie has also augmented the drive with an updated aluminum alloy case and better software.

Blu-ray Disc is the high-capacity optical medium used by the Sony PlayStation 3 and other high definition drives. It's the successor to DVD and the heir apparent to the HD throne following Toshiba's withdrawal of HD DVD from the market earlier this year. Double-layer Blu-ray Discs can store up to 50GB, more than 10 times the capacity of a single-layer DVD disc.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Future Apple Devices May Be Solar-Powered

Employees at Apple have filed a patent for integrating solar cells into portable devices

Future Apple Devices May Be Solar-Powered

Employees at Apple have filed a patent for integrating solar cells into portable devices by placing them underneath the layers of a touch-sensitive display, according to the filing.

Solar power could help make devices truly portable, freeing from the need for wires to connect them to a power supply.

When generating electricity from solar panels, the larger the panel the better -- but as the patent "Solar cells on portable devices" warns, after allowing space for buttons, screens and a way to hold the device, only a small area is left on most devices for solar cells.

One of the ways around that suggested in the patent is to stack a touch-sensitive layer, a display and solar panel on top of one another. That could make Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch good candidates for such a power supply, as the display occupies almost the entire face of those devices.

The use of solar powered charging in portable devices is starting to get more attention, for more immediate consumer use as well.

When Vodafone announced its plan in April to reduce its emissions of the greenhouse gase CO2 by 50 percent by 2020, it also announced plans for solar-powered phone chargers and universal phone chargers for Vodafone-branded handsets.

At the recent ITU Telecom Africa 2008 conference, Ugandan Minister for Communications and Information and Communication Technologies Ham-Mukasa Mulira talked about trials of solar-powered charging conducted there, which had showed promise.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Newest Firefox Beta has Critical Flaws

Mozilla has identified 10 high-priority bugs in Firefox 3.0 but won't decide until next week whether to release the browser or issuing a second release candidate (RC2).

Newest Firefox Beta has Critical Flaws, Mozilla Admits

Mozilla has identified 10 high-priority bugs in Firefox 3.0, three of them pegged "critical," but won't decide until next week whether to release the browser anyway or restart the final stretch by issuing a second release candidate (RC2).

"We are making a go/no go decision early next week, as we are still collecting feedback [on Release Candidate 1]," Mike Schroepfer, Mozilla's vice president of engineering, said in an e-mail Thursday.

Firefox 3.0 Release Candidate 1 (RC1) launched a week ago, but Mozilla has not yet committed to RC2. Previously, the company has only said it is targeting June as the release window for the final code.

On the "" newsgroup, Schroepfer also said that on May 27 Mozilla will either call Firefox 3.0 finished with RC1, or build RC2 with fixes for the 10 bugs that have been collected.

In the meantime, testing will begin on the 10 bugs. "If we need to do an RC2, they'll be ready to go," he said. "If we ship RC1, we can get them in the 3.0.1."

The bug list includes three marked "critical" on Bugzilla, Mozilla's bug-tracking database and management system. Eight of the bugs affect Firefox on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, while two afflict only Linux.

One of Linux bugs has caught the eye of some Firefox users, in part, because of a short blog post that garnered attention on . The blogger, Jason Clinton, who works for Advanced Clustering Technologies Inc., a Kansas City company that specializes in cluster-based systems and Linux servers, took Mozilla to task.

On Tuesday, Clinton called Mozilla's support for Linux "second-class" and blasted the open-source developer over a bug. "Release managers just made the call that Firefox 3.0 will release with a known bug which brings Linux systems to their knees."

The bug Clinton referenced, tagged as "421482" in Bugzilla, is one of the 10 on the list that Mozilla's using to decide whether to release Firefox 3.0 as is or craft RC2 for another go towards final code.

In Bugzilla, developers argued over the extent of the problem -- which some Linux users said seriously affected Firefox's performance, as well as their systems overall -- and where the fault lay -- in the browser or in SQLite, the database Firefox uses for its revamped bookmark and history feature, dubbed "Places."

On Wednesday, in a separate e-mail, Schroepfer said that Mozilla developers were looking into the bug and were confident a solution had been found. "You can see that a couple different issues have been accidently confused," he said. "Overall, I think we have some good options to make this work well."

Firefox 3.0 will be the first major upgrade to the browser since October 2006. But Mozilla may ship another version before the end of the year, Schroepfer has said, in order to add features that weren't ready in time for Firefox 3.0.

Firefox 3 RC1 can be downloaded for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux in 41 languages from Mozilla's site.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Google Steals Search Share From Rivals

Extending its dominance in the search market, Google grew its share of queries in April at the expense of rivals Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL and

Google Steals Search Share From Rivals

Google's U.S. search query share in April grew to 61.6 percent, up from 59.8 percent in March, comScore announced Thursday. Google accomplished this although the number of search queries dropped 2 percent overall in April to 10.58 billion, compared with March, comScore said.
So even with the overall monthly decline, Google managed to increase its search queries by 1 percent, from 6.44 billion to 6.51 billion.

Meanwhile, the other four major search-engine players saw their queries and their market share drop in April, compared with March, not a great situation for them to be in, considering that search advertising accounts for about 41 percent of U.S. online advertising, according to the latest report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

Yahoo's market share of queries dropped to 20.4 percent, and its number of queries fell 6 percent. Microsoft's market share shrunk to 9.1 percent, while its queries fell 5 percent. AOL, down to a 4.6 percent share, saw its queries drop by 6 percent., whose share slid to 4.3 percent, had the biggest fall in queries percentage-wise with 9 percent.

A desire to improve its position in search was a primary driver for Microsoft's now-abandoned acquisition bid for Yahoo. However, Microsoft is reportedly trying to strike a search deal with Yahoo, which is also in similar negotiations with Google. It's not clear whether Yahoo would be open to selling its search-advertising business outright or instead seek a deal to outsource part of it to Microsoft or Google.

Whatever happens, comScore's figures for April leave no doubt that Microsoft and Yahoo have resoundingly failed to slow down Google in search, and that Google remains well-positioned to use its search dominance to continue boosting its revenue and profits.

In a research note commenting on the comScore report, Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney wrote: "As Google continues to take share, we continue to believe a deal between Yahoo and Microsoft would be necessary -- though not sufficient -- to compete effectively with Google."

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Yahoo Postpones Board Meeting, Director Resigns

Facing a battle for its board, Yahoo on Thursday pushed back its annual meeting until the end of July and announced the resignation of a board member.

Yahoo Postpones Board Meeting, Director Resigns

The annual meeting, during which the entire board is up for re-election, had been scheduled for July 3. Yahoo did not yet set a particular date for the annual meeting but said that it will be around the end of July.

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn has been scooping up Yahoo shares and has told the company he is nominating 10 candidates to replace the entire board. He has said that in doing so he hopes to reignite talks with Microsoft, which recently pulled its acquisition bid for Yahoo.

In addition to the change in the annual meeting, Yahoo said Edward Kozel resigned from the board. In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Yahoo said Kozel had planned to leave the board in February but decided to stay on following the acquisition proposal from Microsoft.

As a result of his resignation, Yahoo has reduced the size of its board to nine directors, it said.

Friday, May 23, 2008

ODF Wins the Office Document Format War?

Office 2007 Service Pack 2 will bring improved XML support to the office suite -- but it will be ODF, and not Microsoft's own format.

ODF Wins the Office Document Format War?

Good news for those of you who have been following the XML office document standards battle. Microsoft today announced that Office 2007 will support ODF (Open Document Format), the document standard used by and other open source productivity suites, with the release of Microsoft Office 2007 Service Pack 2, due sometime in early 2009.

Even more surprising, however, was the corollary to the announcement. While the Office programmer bees are busy buzzing away at ODF, OOXML (Office Open XML) is being put on the back burner. Don't expect Office to support a fully ISO-compliant version of OOXML until the next major release of the suite, currently codenamed Office 14, release date unknown.

Exactly why Microsoft is backpedaling its support for OOXML is not known. But open standards maven Andy Updegrove blogs that it may have something to do with Microsoft's current regulatory troubles in Europe and with the standards bodies that now govern OOXML. It appears likely that Microsoft actually can't implement a fully-compliant version of the standard just yet.

Instead, according to reports, users of Office 2007 Service Pack 2 will have the option to make ODF the default file format for word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation documents, the same way they can choose Office 2003 or several other formats. Office users can already import and export ODF files using third-party filters, but it doesn't make sense when only a small number of users have installed the filters or even know that they exist. Having support for ODF "baked in" to the Office suite will mean that everyone will be able to save and access these files with no extra effort.

Any way you slice it, this is a big step toward shaking off Microsoft's dominance of the office software market and ensuring that we can all preserve our files for years to come.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Phishers Point Scam at Apple's iTunes

Phishers have targeted users of Apple's music store with sophisticated identity theft attacks for the first time

Phishers Point Scam at Apple's iTunes

Phishers have targeted users of Apple Inc.'s iTunes music store with sophisticated identity theft attacks for the first time, a security company said Tuesday.

People began receiving spammed messages Monday telling them that they must correct a problem with their iTunes account, said Andrew Lochart, an executive with e-mail security vendor Proofpoint Inc.

A link in the spam leads to a site posing as an iTunes billing update page; that phony page asks for information including credit card number and security code, Social Security number and mother's maiden name.

The theft attempt is a new twist on the usual phishing attack, said Lochart. "We've gotten used to seeing the usual companies and brands attacked," he said, "like PayPal, eBay and Citibank. But we've never seen Apple as the target."

In a way, said Lochart, the phishing campaign is almost a compliment. "It's probably indicative that the bad guys see Apple's online presence as large enough to be a target. It's part and parcel of the success that Apple has enjoyed lately."

Lochart also speculated that the identity thieves aimed the new attack at iTunes users because of the service's perceived demographics. "I wonder if the bad guys are thinking that [iTunes users] are younger than those for some of the other phished sites, like banks and eBay," said Lochart. "The way that teenagers and young adults use the Internet, they show a certain level of trust or openness when they post their name and age and school on MySpace."

On one hand, Lochart added, young people who grew up with the Internet are considered technologically savvier than their elders. "But then you see the way they use something like MySpace in a way that's considered risky behavior."

Although the phoniness of the link to the bogus iTunes account page might be overlooked in the spam e-mail, the URL is clearly not part of the official iTunes domain. "They've actually done a pretty poor job," Lochart, said of the phishers.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Google Holds Meeting on Microsoft-Yahoo Deal

Executives of Google Inc. held an emergency meeting last night to discuss the implications of revived talks between Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc.

Google Holds Meeting on Revived Microsoft-Yahoo Deal

Executives of Google Inc. held an emergency meeting last night to discuss the implications of revived talks between Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc., according to a report in The Times in the U.K.

Over the weekend, Microsoft said it might be interested in buying part of Yahoo, but not all of it.

For the past month or so, Google has been in talks with Yahoo to extend a two-week test whereby Yahoo would deliver Web advertising from Google alongside its own search results. According to various reports, that deal could be solidified this week.

Google and Yahoo could not be reached for comment at deadline. Microsoft declined comment

Speaking at the Google Zeitgeist conference in Hertfordshire, which was hosted by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the company CEO Eric Schmidt said, "After this press conference, the three of us will meet and decide what our response is," according to The Times.

The renewed talks between Microsoft and Yahoo come as billionaire investor Carl Icahn gears up to launch a proxy fight to replace Yahoo's board of directors. Icahn and other investors are angry that Yahoo snubbed Microsoft's initial offer to purchase the company for US$44.6 billion.

In addition, according to The Times, Brin said Monday that he would give Yahoo's CEO, Jerry Yang, "refuge within Google" if he were forced out of the company. Brin also said Google had not yet ruled out a deal with Yahoo, The Times said.

For more enterprise computing news, visit Computerworld.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

GTA IV Sales Set Guinness Record

A week after Take-Two announced that GTA IV had broken launch day records, the Guinness Book of World Records confirmed.

GTA IV Sales Set Guinness Record

According to Guinness, Grand Theft Auto IV sold an impressive 3.6 million units in its first 24 hours, totaling a record-setting US$310 million in gross sales.

The figures easily push the Rockstar game above all other entertainment record holders, including Halo 3 with $170 million in day one sales, Spiderman 3 with $60 million, and Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows at $220 million.

"The record establishes GTA IV as the most profitable entertainment release of all-time, far surpassing other video game, film and book releases," said Guinness.

Last week, GTA publisher Take-Two purported, "we believe [GTA IV] retail sales levels surpass any movie or music launch to date."

Monday, May 19, 2008

Microsoft Puts New Yahoo Deal on the Table

Microsoft said on Sunday that it has raised the possibility of a new deal with Yahoo, one that may involve buying a part of the company but not all of it.

Microsoft Puts New Yahoo Deal on the Table

"Microsoft is considering and has raised with Yahoo an alternative that would involve a transaction with Yahoo but not an acquisition of all of Yahoo," Microsoft said in a brief statement.
The company did not elaborate on the proposal. It said it did not plan at this time to make a new bid to acquire all of Yahoo, but that it was continuing to explore its options to expand its online services and advertising businesses.

Microsoft withdrew its offer to buy Yahoo on May 3 after the two sides failed to agree on a price. Since then, the activist investor Carl Icahn has said he will launch a proxy battle to replace Yahoo's board and force it back to the negotiating table with Microsoft.

Microsoft could not immediately be reached for comment, although published reports said the company is not discussing its plan further in public.

"There of course can be no assurance that any transaction will result from these discussions," Microsoft said in its statement. It said it reserved the right to reconsider its decision not to buy Yahoo outright, depending on any future talks with Yahoo, third parties or the shareholders of either company.

Meanwhile, Yahoo issued a statement later on Sunday confirming that Microsoft isn't at this time interested in acquiring the entire company.

"Yahoo and its Board of Directors continue to consider a number of value maximizing strategic alternatives for Yahoo, and we remain open to pursuing any transaction which is in the best interest of our stockholders," the statement said. "Yahoo's Board of Directors will evaluate each of our alternatives, including any Microsoft proposal, consistent with its fiduciary duties, with a focus on maximizing stockholder value."

That Microsoft is discussing a new deal could be a sign that Yahoo's leadership wants to avoid the spectacle of a proxy battle ahead of its annual meeting on July 3, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Yahoo responded to Icahn's threats on Friday, arguing that its own board has gave Microsoft's offer fair consideration, and that the current board, led by Chairman Roy Bostock, can best manage Yahoo's future.

It was unclear Sunday what type of alternative deal Microsoft has in mind. It said it issued its statement "in light of developments" that have taken place since it withdrew its offer.

Microsoft indicated earlier that it had moved on from the deal and that it was looking for other ways to grow its online business, internally or through smaller acquisitions.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Wii Expected to Beat Xbox 360 U.S. Sales in May

With Nintendo's 714,200 units sold in April it would need to sell only 500,000 consoles this month to surpass Microsoft's self-imposed milestone

Wii Expected to Beat Xbox 360 U.S. Sales in May

It appears as though the Wii will surpass the Xbox 360 in North America a bit earlier than expected, as Nintendo announced last week that 9.5 million units have sold in the U.S. alone since launch.

The announcement puts a new light on Microsoft's peculiar chest-thumping press release from earlier in the week, when that company said it had reached an arbitrary 10 million unit sold boundary and would therefore "win" the console war. With Nintendo's 714,200 units sold in April, according to NPD, it would need to sell only 500,000 consoles this month to surpass Microsoft's self-imposed milestone, in less time. The Xbox 360 launched a year before the Wii or Sony's PlayStation 3 console.

A total of 188,000 Xbox 360s were sold in April, meaning that Nintendo would need only sell approximately 688,000 units in May to equal its rival's numbers. WiiFit also launches this month, and many analysts believe the balance board peripheral it is bundled with will inflate Nintendo's sales number even more. The console outsold all non-Nintendo systems in April, combined, according to NPD.

Overall, hardware sales were healthy at US$426 million, which was up 26% from $339 million in April 2007.