Current Issues in the News (2)

RIM Settles Patent Case

Canadian ISP Throttling P2P

Scenes From the MySpace Backlash

The Future of the Blog

Fast Chips Kill, Kill Kill

ID Chips for Humans Gets Approved by FDA

Passwords Passé at RSA

Literacy Limps Into the Kill Zone

In Defense of the Culture Clash

Sweet microchip love

My First Screen Kiss

Airline Security a Waste of Cash

A Censorship Solution ... Sort Of

S.F. Wants Wireless for Everyone

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear BlackBerry Case

Macs, Safe No More?

Wireless carriers plan for possible BlackBerry ban

Judge Lets BlackBerry Stay in Play for Now

China Crack Down On Junk E-mail

Google hires web pioneer

Online Game ID Theft Victimizes Thousands

Internet Users Oppose Storage of Queries

Google, EarthLink Team Up on Wi-Fi Bid

Internet Surveillance

Online Gaming as a Growing Entertainment

Microsoft Faces Fresh US and EU Antitrust Complaints

The Chronicles of a Futile Battle: HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray

How Digital Animation Conquered Hollywood

CDT Blasts ‘Government Spyware’ Program

French Cops Dump Internet Explorer

RSI from texting and ‘iPod finger’

Wiki Flu

Cyberthieves Silently Copy Your Passwords as You Type

RIM settles patent case

Mar. 3, 2006. 08:51 PMCANADIAN PRESS
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WASHINGTON — The Canadian makers of the BlackBerry agreed Friday to pay $612.5 million (U.S.) to settle a patent dispute with NTP Inc., ending a bitter standoff just before a court ruling on shutting down the wireless email service in the United States.

In return for the one-time payment, Research in Motion Inc. (TSX: RIM) received a licence agreement from the Virginia-based patent firm that covers all RIM products, ending a five-year battle that was making users nervous, especially U.S. security officials who rely on the technology.

“It’s not a good feeling to write this kind of check,” said RIM chairman Jim Balsillie. “There’s no question we took one for the team here.

“The prudent thing for all the stakeholders was to put this behind us ... It’s onward and upward.”

NTP, which sued RIM in 2001 for patent infringement and won over a jury the next year, praised the deal.
“We believe that the settlement is in the best interests of all parties, including the U.S. government and all other BlackBerry users in the United States,” said Donald Stout, who co-founded the company with Detroit inventor Thomas Campana, who died in 2004.

At a hearing last week, U.S. federal judge James Spencer blasted both sides for not settling the case, saying he’d decide soon on whether to impose an injunction on BlackBerry service for some two million clients in the U.S. The injunction would have excluded about a million U.S. federal government and emergency workers and a million customers outside the U.S., including Canada.

But Spencer was hardest on RIM, noting a jury had ruled the firm wilfully infringed on NTP’s patents although the well-known Canadian company seemed to ignore it.

And he appeared to take little stock in the fact the U.S. patent office has been re-examining the NTP patents related to the case and rejecting them.

His tongue-lashing seems to have worked, prodding RIM to lay the matter to rest after passing on chances to settle for a lot less.

Balsillie said he found it “surprising and disappointing” that Spencer apparently wasn’t going to put more weight on the fact that the patents will likely all be thrown out eventually.

“We’re caught in an ambiguous time in the patent law and the courts,” he said Friday. “It’s clear there’s going to be patent reform.”

The high-profile case shone an awkward spotlight on American laws governing ideas and so-called patent trolls that wait for another firm to develop and market a product before claiming infringement.

NTP, which exists solely to protect Campana’s wireless technology concepts, has vigorously denied the label.
“Our wireless enterprise customers are breathing a sigh of relief with this settlement,” said Rich Koch, vice-president of marketing for Apresta, wireless division of Saratoga Systems in Campbell, Calif.

“Many of these companies have invested a fortune in BlackBerrys to equip their field sales force and now they know their investment is secure,” he said.

“However, the settlement still leaves an open question as to whether patent attorneys are going to control the destiny of emerging technologies.”

Some U.S. analysts predicted RIM would end up paying $1 billion (U.S.) before all was said and done. A $450-million (U.S.) deal fell through last year.

The Waterloo, Ont.-based company said it had a technical solution to keep service running even if NTP got the court injunction it sought.

That “workaround” technology will be useful in improving future BlackBerry service, said Balsillie.

The legal dispute, which has grabbed international headlines for months, had caused uncertainty about the future of
the BlackBerry and hurt sales as wireless carriers and their customers waited for a resolution to the matter.

But Balsillie said RIM customers have been enormously patient and has talked to hundreds in the last several months.

“Not one customer said they left us. We had no notice of that happening in any way.”

He predicted a raft of launches and partnership announcements in the next few weeks.

Along with the settlement announcement, RIM warned in a separate statement late Friday that revenue in its latest quarter will be $40 million to $60 million (U.S.) lower then previously predicted.

Earnings per share, excluding the $612.5-million settlement of the NTP lawsuit, are expected to be in the range of 64 cents to 66 cents (U.S.), which is below the 76 cents to 81 cents RIM had forecast in December.

The settlement millions included funds collected by RIM and set aside in recent years after it lost a 2002 jury trial that found the Canadian company had wilfully violated NTP’s patents.

RIM had put away $450 million in escrow for a settlement. It will record the additional $162.5 million in its fourth-quarter results, the company said.

RIM shares jumped about 15 per cent in after-hours trading in the United States.

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Canadian ISP Throttling P2P

Commentary by Weifang Liu
Feb 28, 2006

Users of the ISP Rogers Cable TM will find a rather unpleasent surprise as they try to use their favourite P2P application. The dominating ISP has introduced a new Traffic Shaping technology to throttle P2P download speeds. This application is still in the testing stages but has already been implimented all over the Toronto GTA. This includes are like Mississauga Richmond Hill and Scarborough. Some P2P programs are trying to cope with the new Traffic Shaping Technology for example uTorrent and Azureus. These two BitTorrent Clients are trying to impliment some encryption to disguise the packets enabling them to bypass the TS Technology. The only drawback is that it will now render some incompatibilities between different BitTorrent clients.

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Scenes From the MySpace Backlash

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By Kevin Poulsen external image icon_story_send.gif| external image icon_story_morepgs.gif by this reporter

Feb, 27, 2006

Last December, a mischievous student used a home computer to create an account on the social networking site MySpace bearing the name and likeness of his school principal, Eric Trosch.

The profile the Hermitage, Pennsylvania, Hickory High School student bestowed on his principal was not kind. For "birthday" he listed "too drunk to remember." And for vital stats like eye and hair color he wrote, simply, "big" -- a poke at the educator's girth that he managed to weave into most of the 60-odd survey questions in Trosch's fictional profile: Do you smoke? "Big cigs." Do you swear? "Big words." Thoughts first waking up? "Too … damn … big."

The teen told some friends at school about the gag. Big mistake.

As a judge would later put it, "word of the parody … soon reached most, if not all, of the student body of Hickory High School," and the fake MySpace profile, along with several less nuanced commentaries crafted by other students, became a monster hit at the school. The administration banned student PC use for six days, canceling some classes, while they traced the profile to 17-year-old senior Justin Layshock, who promptly confessed and apologized.

"We grounded him and didn't allow him on the computer for two weeks," says Layshock's mother, Cherie Layshock. But the school had stronger medicine in mind. Layshock was suspended for 10 days, then transferred into an alternative education program for students incapable of functioning in a regular classroom.

A gifted learner who had been enrolled in advanced-placement classes and tutored other kids in French, Layshock spent the next month in a scaled-down three-hour-a-day program where a typical assignment saw students building a tower out of paper clips as a lesson in teamwork. The punishment led to an ACLU lawsuit that is ongoing, and garnered the school district a slew of critical stories in the local papers.

And that's how the thin-skinned educators of Hermitage joined the great MySpace crackdown of '06.

Similar scenes are playing out around the country, as school teachers and administrators hold community conferences or send home bulletins alerting parents to the dangers of allowing their kids to use MySpace unsupervised.

In recent weeks newspapers from the San Francisco Chronicle to the Rutland Herald have pressed out stories -- often on the front page -- with headlines like "Online Danger Zone" and "The Trouble With MySpace." An NBC Dateline show in January colored MySpace "a cyber secret teenagers keep from tech-challenged parents."

Meanwhile, schools are racing to block the site at the campus firewall. "Some argue that it's educationally valid, others say they're seeing kids beat up over it," says David Trask, a junior high teacher and technology director at Vassalboro Community School in Maine. "In my view, it doesn't have much (educational) value."

MySpace's rapid transformation into the largest community of teens and twenty-somethings in history made a backlash perhaps inevitable. In the three years since its launch, MySpace has gathered over 57 million registered users (counting some duplicates and fake profiles). As of last November, it enjoyed a 752-percent growth in web traffic over one year, according to NielsenNetRatings.

In July the site was purchased for $580 million by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., and late last year launched its own record label in partnership with Interscope Records.

Concerns over the site fall generally into two categories: unease over the type of content teens are posting, and fear of the type of people they're meeting.

MySpace CEO Chris DeWolf says to his knowledge the backlash hasn't caused any advertisers to drop their support of the site. "We get phone calls from time to time, but when we describe the safety measure that we've put into place generally the advertisers are relieved and feel good about what we're doing."

But the backlash isn't toothless. This month, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced a criminal probe into the service's practices, after reports that as many as seven underage girls in one region of the state were fondled or had consensual sex with adult men they'd met through the site, and who had lied about their age. In a press release, Blumenthal called MySpace "a parent's worst nightmare."

In a rash of similar sex abuse cases around the country, adult MySpace users are accused of preying on underage girls. This month, 26-year-old Nathan Contos of Santa Cruz, California, was arrested in charges of molesting a 14-year-old girl he met on MySpace while allegedly posing as a teenager himself. Jaime Freeman, a 22-year-old Bakersfield, California, man is facing similar charges after allegedly molesting three underage girls he met through MySpace. Last week, a 27-year-old Maine resident was sentenced to three years in prison for his relationship with a 14-year-old girl he met on the site. She claimed to be 19 in her MySpace profile but he continued to pursue the relationship even after learning her real age.

The spate of MySpace-related sexual predation stories undeniably has the feel of an epidemic, and it stands as the most persuasive evidence for the "parent's worst nightmare" viewpoint. But put in context, it's also the most overblown.
In actuality, the incidents that have been publicly linked to the site are dwarfed by the overall number of such cases historically prosecuted nationwide. An August study by the National Center for Juvenile Justice estimated there were about 15,700 statutory rapes reported to law enforcement agencies in the United States in 2000, based on an analysis of data collected by the FBI. That amounts to 43 cases per day. In fact, with a reported population of 57 million users, MySpace is arguably safer from such crime than other communities that haven't been the subject of the same scrutiny. One example: California, which averaged 62 statutory rape convictions per month in the late 90s, in a state population of 33 million.

Novelty makes news and new technologies tend to pick up and draw new attention to old problems that never went away. "It's reminiscent of some of the coverage of chat rooms when they became popularized, and there was much talk about how people were exposing themselves in chat rooms," says Kurt Opsahl, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "The notion of somebody claiming to be a teenager has been around since IRC…. How dangerous is MySpace compared to other mediums? As compared to the real world?"

UC Berkeley researcher Danah Boyd has studied the MySpace phenomenon for two years, and she concludes teen users are generally more savvy than their parents and the media give them credit for.

"I ask if they ever get e-mails from older men, and they say, 'Yeah, I just delete them. They're gross,'" says Boyd.

"There have been more articles on MySpace predators than there's been reported predators online. It's a hyped up fear, and it scares the shit out of parents."

There's a sense of déjà vu surrounding the MySpace furor. Parents in the 1950s were horrified to discover that the comic books their children were reading contained violent and sometimes gruesome cartoon imagery, leading to congressional hearings and the formation of an industry "comic book code" that held titles to wholesome standards.

In the 1980s, parents opened their kids' bedroom doors and were buffeted by heavy metal music, leading to another round of panic and "Parental Advisory" labels on albums. In the '90s, it was rap. In the wake of the Columbine massacre, wearing a Marilyn Manson T-shirt to school could be grounds for suspension.

This time, though, the target of the crackdown is content created by teens and not just consumed by them.

The very design of a teenager's MySpace page can be shocking to adult eyes. A highly customizable amalgam of blogging, music sharing and social-discovery services, a typical page is a near perfect reflection of the chaos and passion of youth: a music-filled space, rudely splattered with photos and covered in barely-legible prose rendered in font colors that blend together and fade into the background.

"The profiles are hideous," says a technology specialist at a southern Oregon school district that's recently started blocking the site for safety reasons. "I've seen yellow text on a red background before."

"It looks like a teenager's bedroom," says Boyd. "It's not parsable to most adults, because it's not supposed to be for them."

When adults do parse it, it looks pretty bad. Teens are posting provocative photos, and they frequently summon the kind of language parents would rather not see under their children's bylines, while swapping sexual banter, dishing on school faculty or peers and sharing stories about drinking and drugs.

In a trend that first came to the fore on the online diary site LiveJournal, they're posting information online that they wouldn't offer their parents or teachers, as though they can't imagine that their virtual space would ever be visited by
paternalistic eyes.

The most oft-stated concern about all this information is that predators might use it to track down the kids, then abduct or attack them. Actual cases of this happening are hard to find. Instead, like Layshock, the teens themselves are being treated as offenders, garnering punishment for writing about their teachers, school administrators or each other.

In November, a 16-year-old girl at Paramus High School in New Jersey had three days added to an existing suspension for posting mean comments about another student on her MySpace page. Last month, seven students in Lincoln, Nebraska, were suspended from their high school basketball team after a MySpace message mentioned they'd been drinking alcohol.

Early this year, administrators at Powell High School in Tennessee suspended two sophomores and a junior for as long as 30 days for posting off-color messages under a teacher's name. Last week, under threat of an ACLU lawsuit, Littleton High School in Colorado reluctantly readmitted a 16-year-old MySpace user who had been suspended for posting a satirical commentary on the school.

In many of these cases it's clearly the adults who are misbehaving. Under a 1969 Supreme Court decision Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, even on-campus student speech is afforded First Amendment protection at public schools, unless it "materially disrupts classwork or involves substantial disorder or invasion of the rights of others."

Several lower courts have applied the same standard to off-campus speech that has on-campus impact, but have held that criticism of faculty doesn't qualify as material disruption, even if the author uses four-letter-words.

A rare exception is a 2000 Pennsylvania case in which the court ruled against an eighth-grader whose website depicted his algebra teacher's severed head dripping with blood, an animation of her face morphing into Adolph Hitler and a solicitation for $20 contributions "to help pay for the hitman."

Compared to that, Layshock's "big" website is rarefied social commentary. "For them to punish the student by interfering with his schooling is really beyond the pale," says Pennsylvania ACLU legal director Vic Walczak. "At some point school districts need to wake up and understand that there are limits to their authority to punish students for out of school speech.… The principal can't play parent when the student is doing something at home."
School and district officials declined to comment for this article on the Layshock case.

What schools can legally do, Walczak concedes, is block MySpace from campus computers. And they're doing it. Of course, some resourceful students are finding ways around the campus firewall, typically by routing their web surfing through internet proxy servers. When officials close one hole, the kids start looking for another.

"They'll tell me straight up, 'Dude, that filter stinks, I went right around it,'" says the southern Oregon educator, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "You do what you can."

If one accepts the proposition that MySpace is dangerous, then even an effective on-campus block is a bit futile: Kids have plenty of access to computers. To address this, Trask is organizing a local "internet safety night" in early March that he hopes will be attended by 200 or more parents. He's inviting a police cyber-crime specialist to speak.

A thoughtful educator who admits to mixed feelings about blocking the site, Trask says he has never tried to punish kids for their MySpace use -- he just wants parents to know about it. His junior high students are at the youngest end of MySpace's user base. "My goal is to let parents know, 'Guess what, this is out there. And your child may be on there.'"

Not all teachers are in favor of blocking the site.

"When someone says 'You can't', to an adolescent, that means, 'This must be cool,'" says Nick Fenger, a teacher and technologist at the small Trillium Charter School in Portland, Oregon. Fenger says the MySpace furor has generated a vigorous debate among his school's administration and faculty about how to respond. In his view, the site's popularity provides a "teachable moment" that could be used to guide safe internet habits, and even to improve student writing and grammar skills.

"Maybe the MySpace medium is another channel where we can be working with our students," says Fenger. To that end, he's forming a student-teacher committee to explore positive uses of MySpace. "The reason I think a lot of schools don't go this way is it takes staff, it takes resources. It takes faculty time and it takes students' time."

Boyd argues persuasively that MySpace is serving an important role for teens who need to interact with one another away from adults as part of the normal socialization process. "We all forget that teenage years are all about hanging out," she says.

Teens are doing this on the internet, in part, because there are fewer public places they can claim as their own, and safety-conscious parents are more reluctant than past generations to let their kids go out into a real world unsupervised.

"Let your kids go hang out down the street with their friends, and they won't spend so much time online," says Boyd. "But that's not happening."

CEO DeWolfe is careful not to dismiss parents' safety concerns, and he says the company has plans to hire a full safety director -- "somebody to think about safety and security 24 hours a day, seven days a week" -- in addition to a variety of other existing safety enhancements and partnerships. But he attributes part of the backlash to the service's relative newness as a social force.

"MySpace … may be the fastest-growing site of all time," DeWolfe says. "I think any time you have that kind of social phenomenon, especially one that not everyone totally understands, sometimes I think people will lash out against things that they don't understand."

Justin Layshock started regular classes again last week, though the lawsuit continues. "The school's policies are very vague and need to be changed," says Cherie Layshock. There have already been some policy changes in the Layshock household -- Justin isn't allowed to use the home computer without asking his parents first, she says.

As for MySpace, she hadn't heard of the site before Justin was busted for the fake profile of his principal. But afterwards she thought to ask her son if he had a profile of his own. He did. "It was just general information about himself," she says. "There was nothing bad on it. It was okay."

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The Future of the Blog

BusinessWeek Online

FEBRUARY 24, 2006

It's hard to imagine the world without blogs. The publishing technology has become a cultural and political force. One of the reasons for the rapid growth of the blogosphere is the existence of user-friendly blogging software such as Moveable Type. The program was designed with simplicity in mind by Mena Trott, a former graphic designer and early blogger (she launched in early 2001), and her husband, Ben Trott, a programmer.

Mena and Ben went on to found Six Apart, the San Francisco-based company behind the blog-hosting service TypePad. In January, 2005, Six Apart acquired LiveJournal, an online community of personal blogs that today boasts 9.6 million accounts and more than 16,000 new posts per hour. In December, 2005, Six Apart and Yahoo! (YHOO) announced a partnership to build Yahoo-hosted blogs with Moveable Type.

Six Apart is currently working on a new product, codenamed Comet, that will start beta testing this quarter. "It's meant for the next generation of blogs," says Mena Trott, without revealing details. Just before setting off for Monterey, Calif., to speak at the annual TED conference -- that's technology, education, and design -- Trott spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Reena Jana about challenges in blog design -- which, she hints, Comet will attempt to address. Here are edited excerpts from their conversation:

What do you see as the next big issue in blog design?
We'll focus on the idea of more select and filtered readership, and how to allow people to read certain posts. That to me is interesting: how different people want different views of the blog. A big issue right now is how to take that idea in account when designing blogs.

Another new challenge is the trend toward adding a lot of assets. People are adding photos, video, and music to supplement the text. How do you make it possible for bloggers to present as much as they want to present without creating blogs that are too cluttered or confusing?

Do you think that blogging will supplant mainstream news Web sites and other established media?
There will be similarities. But blogging and traditional journalism play by different rules and will remain distinct. They're meant to complement each other, play off of each other in terms of the readers' attention.

What do I read when I wake up? I go to news sites. But I'm more excited right now about personal users. The 10 blogs I really care about are written by my friends. I'm interested in the community of a blog network. A lot of times, you go to your friends' blog sites to update your own self of their lives. For people who don't see each on a regular basis, blog-space may be the only location where they can leave notes, or catch-up between their friendship. I don't think blogging will supplant mainstream news Web sites because they are two different medias. People who want updated news would simply go to a online news page as opposed to say, their friend's daily blog. As the word describes itself, blogging means free-style entries, so it is completely different from news sites, or other established media. Also, content in these medium are different, and so attract different viewers.

Even if you don't think that blogs will supplant traditional news media, don't you think they have had an impact?
I think the biggest impact of blogs on mainstream journalism is the presence of a more personal voice. The popularity of the personal tone used by bloggers has caused traditional media to realize it's O.K. for some reporters to use "I."

And now many mainstream news media outlets are now incorporating blogs on their Web sites. It makes sense. A reporter's or editor's blog provides a way to include details that might not make it into an official article or TV report -- and a strong sense of personality or identity associated with that journalist.

What aspects of blog-software do you believe can be improved?
I think blog tools can get easier to use. Putting together a blog should be as easy as sending an e-mail. I foresee the next versions of blog tools as focusing less on features that appeal to early adopters. They'll be easier for people to incorporate more media and maybe mobile capabilities. This will be important, because many more mainstream users will come to blogging. I believe the interest in blogging is just starting.

And are there specific design challenges that you're focused on?
The design of the blog really influences how and if people post comments. One big challenge today is that blog tools come with default templates. So we ask ourselves, what template design appeals to the largest number of people? What are they comfortable using?

As a designer of templates, you have to keep in mind that people will see the template over and over again, but need to realize that it's not same person's blog. So it's important to design simple and bare-bones templates.

Blogs need to be accessible-looking. It would be great to offer more decorative templates. But it's important to present blogs where you can focus on content and context.

What blogs do you read regularly?
I check out the LiveJournal blogs of about 30 friends. I like Nick Denton's Gawker and his other properties. But I tend to read fun gossip, the equivalent of an Us or a Star magazine. Gofugyourself is one that I find entertaining -- it features celebrities wearing ugly outfits.

Are there any common misperceptions about blogs that you would like to debunk?
Most people think of blogs as being primarily political or tech-focused. To most people, the important things they want to learn about have to do with people they know. So I think personal blogs are really the future, and with that comes a challenge for blogs to be more friendly and welcoming.

Also, blogs are all about capturing and preserving information about our lives. And that makes me think of what might be the biggest future blog-design challenge: How do we design blogs that will archive and present 20 years worth of content?

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Fast Chips, Kill, Kill, Kill

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By Bruce Gain external image icon_story_send.gif| external image icon_story_morepgs.gifAlso by this reporter

Feb, 24, 2006

PCs with blazing-fast 5-GHz CPUs are not only feasible, they should soon be on store shelves, according to chipmakers at a conference in Silicon Valley this week.

Chip-making advances announced at the SPIE Microlithography Conference in San Jose, California, showed that Moore's Law is alive and well. Moore's Law dictates that chip densities double every 18 months, leading to smaller chips with double the processing power. But the Law has become doubtful lately as lithography and other chip-making processes butt up against the limits of physics. Naysayers say the chip industry has shrunk chips about as far as they can go.

But IBM, for example, said this week it will defy "conventional wisdom" and print circuits with 30-nanometer ridges, a third of the size of the 90-nm chips in production today, using current lithography imaging processes.

Also this week, Dutch-based lithography equipment maker ASML Holding NV demonstrated its 42-nm production process and said it had the equipment to make 35-nm chips.

Both developments followed CPU-giant Intel's announcement last month that it had produced a 45-nm SRAM, or Static Random Access Memory, chip.

The company, which already has 65-nm chips is also on track to make 30-mm wafers next year, it claimed. Rival AMD said it will be following Intel's lead shortly.

Shrinking chip ridges below today's 90-nm sizes means PCs in the near future will likely offer performance jumps equivalent to those achieved through the last 20 years (remember when a system with a 468-MHz Pentium and 64M of DRAM was considered a high-end PC?)

According to chipmakers and a technology road map from the Semiconductor Industry Association , we can expect transistor counts on CPUs to double from 1 billion to 2 billion in two years, and to an astonishing 4 billion in four years. The SIA roadmap predicts chips will continue to become smaller and denser through 2020.

Intel and AMD have said CPU clock speeds -- measured in gigahertz -- will not increase to the same degree as in years past due to constraints in power consumption and heat. However, the companies will take advantage of increasing chip densities to pack multiple cores onto each chip, resulting in performance leaps. Intel said there may be as many as 100 cores packed on a single processor within 10 years.

While CPUs with 5-GHz clock speeds in four years is probable, analyst Nathan Brookwood of Insight64 agreed that performance boosts on levels commensurate with years past will be based on multi-core CPU designs.
"Processor makers will focus on architectural approaches such as parallelism," Brookwood said. "They will go from dual core, to quad core to octal core."

Also, the amount of DRAM per chip should continue to double from a maximum of 1 Gigabit now to 4 Gigabits per chip in four years, according to memory chipmakers and the SIA roadmap.

As DDR2 memory designs become increasingly available now for 1-Gb DRAM chips, it is possible to pack in modules with high-end motherboards that can handle more than four GB of DRAM. With the advent of 2-Gb memory chips in less than two years, 4-Gb devices are expected to follow in four years.

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ID chip for humans wins approval by FDA

Commentary by Weifang Liu

WASHINGTON -- Applied Digital Solutioomote the VeriChip system to hospitals and healthcare. The VeriChip system works as a tiny microchip that can be inplanted in a patient where doctors can scan the pation and gain instant access to the patient's information. The approval of such a technology by the government is a major concern among the public that it may path the way for the intrusion of privacy.

The VeriChip technology was also implanted into pets to track lost or stolen animals. Applied Digital Solution has sold about 7000 chips for "human use".

Its plans to market this technology in the hospital may not be a good thing.
Across the years, many surveillance technologies that initially cannot be accepted by the public, starts their acceptance by promoting these technologies in the weak (prisoners, children, patients). Surveillance technologies such as the hidden camera were once strongly opposed by the public, however, after the use of this technology in prisons to track prisoners' behaviour, this technology is slowly accepted and today, it is used everywhere.

Similarly, for the VeriChip, inplanting this technology into patients in hospitals may seem like a step to advance healthcare and medical technology, however, worries arise that
"the potential for abuse" is very high.

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Passwords Passé at RSA

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By Ryan Singel external image icon_story_send.gif| external image icon_story_morepgs.gifAlso by this reporter

Feb, 17, 2006,70234-0.html

SAN JOSE, California -- Identity theft and online bank fraud were the unofficial themes of the 2006 RSA Conference, a massive security confab where Bill Gates came to announce the imminent death of the password and vendors filled the exhibition halls with iPod giveaways and promises that their product could stop everything from spam and malware to hackers and typos.

Thanks to a California law known as SB 1386 that requires companies to disclose sensitive data leaks to California consumers, companies like ChoicePoint and shoe retailer DSW became poster children for corporate negligence last year after mishandling sensitive data.

In the wake of Senate hearings and investigations from federal regulators, corporations are beefing up security, both behind the scenes and at their virtual front doors. To find out how those changes will affect consumers in their daily online activities, Wired News surveyed the offerings of the over-250 security companies packed into RSA's exhibit hall, accompanied by cryptographer John Callas, who has been attending the conference since 1993.
Callas is currently the CTO of PGP, the industry leader in encrypted communications and data storage.
Perhaps the biggest change this year will be in online banking, as financial institutions move to comply with federal oversight agencies that are directing banks (.pdf) to secure their sites with more than just user logins and passwords.

These extra fraud profiling and authentication measures are necessary, according to Callas, since the threats on the internet have changed.

"Now we are not dealing with kids having fun," Callas said. "We are dealing with criminals -- the Russian mafia. And online banking risks are there if your bank offers it, even if you don't use it."

E-trade, for instance, already offers free RSA security tokens to its most active users. Those battery-powered devices work by using a using a seed number and the current time to cryptographically generate a secure one-time code to complement the normal user login and password.

But those gadgets aren't cheap and most people don't want multiple tokens or prefer not to carry them around. That's prompted newcomers to find alternative methods of performing "two factor" authentication.
Callas likes PassMark Security's solution, which examines the device a user logs in from, looking for a number of factors including IP address and a secure cookie or Flash object the bank has previously stored on the machine, as the extra identification.

Bank of America began offering the service in May 2005. Now a Bank of America customer logging in at the usual time from her usual machine will only need to enter the user name and password. But if that person is on a different machine using a different browser in a different time zone, for example, she will be presented with challenge questions that she answered when she signed up.

Users could also be sent an additional one-time password by SMS text message or called on their cell phone by a machine using a synthetic voice to tell them an extra password.

Additionally, PassMark helps keep users from entering passwords into fraud sites pretending to be their bank by displaying a unique image and caption, such as a sailboat labeled "Dream Boat," on the real site.

The authentication back to the user is great, and can't easily be hacked without detection, according to Callas. And while it won't eliminate crime, it might be enough to persuade would-be fraudsters to go after a different bank, Callas said.

"It is reasonably valuable if you can convince someone to steal from other people," Callas said.

Another authentication method that caught Callas' attention was by BioPassword, a company that adds an extra layer of security by locking out users who don't type in a password with the same typing style as the original user.
Callas says he's generally not bullish on biometrics like fingerprint readers for e-commerce, since, like credit card numbers, the data can be stolen.

But he likes the typing rhythm idea, because unlike a fingerprint, the user can easily reset the system. "If you pick a new password then you will have a new rhythm," Callas said. "That's the disposable biometric."
The system does have one side effect that may or may not be a bug, admits BioPassword vice president Dean Bravos. Users who have been drinking may not be able to log in.

These two companies aren't the only ones trying to find ways to add extra authentication without requiring users to carry around security tokens.

Conference organizer RSA Security, the undisputed leader in security tokens, recently acquired Cyota, which offers financial institutions methods to authenticate users based on their usage patterns. Cyota technology looks at such metrics as users' cookies and IP address, in combination with their transaction history -- so a middle-America socker Mom sending sending $2,000 at 2:00 am to an account in Turkey might raise a red flag.

Other new offerings from RSA Security include a browser toolbar that works like a security token, and software that can turn a mobile phone or a BlackBerry into a token.

Even mostly invisible, behind-the-scenes authentication will help internet users feel safer, as banks and brokerage houses can now offer financial guarantees to their customers, according to Scott Young, the vice president of RSA/Cyota's consumer division.

"A lot of us are familiar with the experience of getting a call from a credit-card company, saying, 'Hey, did you make this transaction?,'" Young said. "Even though we don't see that going on all the time, the reassurance of having someone check with us, even if it was us making that transaction, is really valuable.

"Likewise, most of the time, consumers are not inconvenienced by (RSA/Cyota's) extra security but a decent percent will know, since they have will some interaction with the security system at some point, that they are being protected."

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Literacy Limps Into the Kill Zone

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Commentary by Tony Long external image icon_story_send.gif| external image icon_story_morepgs.gifAlso by this reporter

02:00 AM Feb, 16, 2006

Years ago, the night news editor at the newspaper where I worked got upset when his frivolous story judgment was questioned by another editor.

"We can either put out a history book or a comic book," he said, taking a defensive swipe at a rebellious strand of hair. "I know which one I'm putting out."

He was clearly a man ahead of his time.

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The Luddite

Welcome to the comic-book generation, the post-literate society. The stories that excited my news editor's imagination then -- the ones packed with lurid sex, vapid celebrity shenanigans, fallen idols -- are merely the plat du jour of journalism these days.
It doesn't matter whether you're reading your local rag, surfing the net or trying to make heads or tails of someone's inane blog -- the quality bar is set lower than ever, which is saying a lot considering it was never set very high to begin with.

But I'll save the critical examination of my profession for another column. Today, I want to talk about one of the byproducts of all this mediocrity. Today I want to talk about the all-out assault on the English language and the role technology plays in that unprovoked and dastardly attack. I especially want to talk about the ways dumbing down the language is not only seen as acceptable, but is tacitly encouraged as the status quo.

Any number of my acquaintances excuse the bad writing and atrocious punctuation that proliferates in e-mail by saying, in essence, "Well, at least people are writing again." Horse droppings. People have never stopped writing, although it's reaching a point where you wish a lot of them would.

The very nature of e-mail (which, along with first cousins IM and text messaging, is an undeniably handy means of chatting) encourages sloppy "penmanship," as it were. Its speed and informality sing a siren song of incompetent communication, a virtual hooker beckoning to the drunken sailor as he staggers along the wharf.

But it's not enough to simply vomit out of your fingers. It's important to say what you mean clearly, correctly and well. It's important to maintain high standards. It's important to
think before you write.

The technology of instant -- or near-instant -- communication works against that. But it's not as if you can't surmount this obstacle. You only have to be willing to try.

Technology conspires against language in another, more insidious way: The sheer speed with which things move these days has given us the five-second attention span, the 10-second sound bite and the splashy infographic that tells you very little, if anything, while fooling you into thinking that you are now somehow informed. (Of course, if you need more than 10 seconds to "get" Mariah Carey, well, shame on you.)
Sadly, this devalues the thoughtful essayist and the sheer linguistic joy of the exposition. And the language dies a little more each day.

Then there's the havoc wrought on spelling and punctuation by all this casual communication. You can't lay all that at the feet of technology, of course. Grammar skills have been eroding in this country for years and that has a lot more to do with lax instruction than it does with e-mail or instant messaging. (Math is a different matter. No student should be allowed to bring a calculator into a math class. Ever.)

But couple those deficient grammar skills with the shorthand that's become prevalent in fast communication (not to mention all those irritating acronyms:
LOL, WYSIWYG, IMHO, etc.) and you've just struck a match next to a can of gasoline. And people wonder why the tone of e-mail is so easily misunderstood.

On another front, we live in a world where the creep of tech and business jargon threatens to make the language indecipherable to everyone, even the spewer of this bilge water. It's amazing that any business gets done at all, with junk like this clotting our communications arteries.

Business jargon is simply the art of saying nothing while appearing to say a lot.

As a result, we have CEOs of major corporations who lack the basic writing skills to pen a simple, in-house memo in plain-spoken English. We see marketing swine get paid princely sums to lie about their products in language so bloated with jargon that their lies -- and even their half-truths -- are unintelligible. We see company flacks churning out impenetrable press releases that no editor in his right mind would consider reading, let alone using. We see business reporting reduced to the trite and formulaic because the reporter is either too uncritical or too lazy to take a hard look at what lies behind the smoke and mirrors.

Technical jargon, thankfully, is less invasive because most of it is so geeky that it has no practical application in the real world. Still, a few words and phrases manage to slip out now and then (help yourself here), especially when the business and tech boys overlap, which they frequently do. Eternal vigilance is required to nip these encroachments in the bud. While tech jargon might be very useful among engineers and programmers, it should stay among engineers and programmers so as not to frighten the children and the horses.

Apologists will argue that language isn't static, that it's ever-changing and evolving. That's true. Language does change. Idiomatic English is the product of centuries of social and cultural infusion, a fact that gives modern-day English much of its color and flair.

But when change does violence to the accepted standards of the king's English and takes the mother tongue into the realm of the unfathomable, as does almost all jargon coming out of the technology and business worlds, it's our job as keepers of the grail to drive it back into the dark little hole from whence it came.

If you've got some time to kill, you're welcome to join us, the happy few.

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In Defense of the Culture Clash

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Commentary by Jennifer Granick external image icon_story_send.gif| external image icon_story_morepgs.gifAlso by this reporter

02:00 AM Feb, 15, 2006

Citizens throughout the Arab world are protesting caricatures of Muhammad first published in Danish newspapers.

The conflict would not have occurred without a means of easily transporting information around the globe. The cartoon story is not particularly an internet story, since opponents of the depictions flew copies from Denmark to the Middle East. Yet, the internet is the biggest reason why cultural artifacts are readily available around the world today.

Because of the internet, clashes between the sensibilities of different societies will only increase. Offended parties will press publishers to keep offensive communications off the network. However, if people only publish what's acceptable to most everyone in the world, then the internet will be a far less effective tool for social and political change than it might otherwise be.

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Circuit Court
Today, as companies like Microsoft, Yahoo and Google start to do business in China, we are revisiting the issue of whether the internet will promote democracy or be used as another tool for authoritarian control.
A popular view is that the greatest tool for information publication and distribution that the world has ever seen will inevitably lead to more freedom -- even for citizens of repressive regimes. People who now only have access to state-run media will be able to both publish and read uncensored news. Interaction with a global community will create public demand for more freedoms at home. Increased productivity will increase individuals' economic leverage in pressing for more rights.

But the truth is, the internet cannot be both globally acceptable and a force for democracy.

The United States has weighed the value of protecting a community of people against the rights of publishers and readers to uncensored speech many times in the past. Without settling on a single solution, our law tends to favor free-speech interests.

In the late 1990s, legal battles centered on the issue of protecting American children from adult smut. In 1996, Congress passed the Communications Decency Act, which prohibited posting "indecent" or "patently offensive" materials in a public forum on the internet. Indecent and offensive speech is constitutionally protected in the United States (unlike obscene speech or child pornography, which was already illegal). Civil liberties groups challenged the law, and for the first time, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment applied to the internet and struck down the provisions.

This left the United States with the problem of how to prevent children from accessing inappropriate materials, a problem Congress tried to address with 1998's Child Online Protection Act, or COPA, which would restrict any speech on the web that is "harmful to minors." Again, speech advocates won an injunction against the law, leaving parents with the option of filtering or otherwise monitoring their child's computer use. (When the government recently subpoenaed customer search histories from Google, Yahoo and MSN, its explanation was that it was looking for evidence that filtering does not work as part of its fight to overturn the injunction against COPA.)

With rulings on the books that internet publications could cater to adult interests, subsequent legal challenges raised the issue of whether the laws of one country could control information published by entities located in another country. In the LICRA v. Yahoo case, France had ruled that Yahoo must comply with a French law that banned the sale of Nazi memorabilia. Yahoo's French subsidiary complied, but the company announced that its U.S. division, which was incorporated and located in the United States, would not, even if French citizens could access the site's Nazi memorabilia auctions from France. Yahoo subsequently sued in the United States for a ruling that France could not enforce its law against the U.S. portion of the company. The case is still on appeal.
Similarly, the Chinese government requires internet companies to comply with its restrictive speech laws if they want to do business in one of the world's largest markets. While Yahoo has challenged French authority over its U.S. subsidiary, Yahoo's French subsidiary has complied and its Chinese subsidiary yields to China's censorship rules, as do other U.S.-based tech companies.

Microsoft had to agree to assist the government in censoring Chinese bloggers to launch its MSN Spaces service in the country. Google has agreed to censor its search results in order to be allowed to do business in the country. Yahoo turned over information identifying a Chinese journalist who subsequently received 10 years in prison for relaying the text of a Communist Party directive. We learned last week that the company may have helped China track an online dissident who was sentenced to eight years in prison for criticizing the government.
If internet companies redesign their products for Chinese censorship, Denmark yields to economic pressure from offended Middle Eastern communities, Yahoo sanitizes its auctions in France, or U.S. websites avoid mature subjects that might run afoul of COPA, does it hobble the democratizing power of the technology?

On a visit to China last summer, friends who live there told me that the citizenry generally accepts the government's message that people are free to get rich however they can, so long as they don't try to organize politically or interfere in government affairs. Some still believe that even a hobbled internet can democratize China. Any experience in self-publication is a step forward, they argue. While China is a large enough country that most citizens may be content with a censored and regulated countrywide intranet that does not threaten governmfirewallent control over the flow of information, the tools of control are not perfect. Experienced users can use proxy servers to get around the government firewall. Just having a choice is liberating.

Still, as various interest groups and regimes impose their values on global communications, the promise of internet-fueled democratic change dims. Spraying the world with a fire hose of information may not be the answer, but it's closer to the right result than filtering the internet down to a trickle. The answer to a global culture clash has to be coexistence, not control.
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Jennifer Granick is executive director of the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society, and teaches the Cyberlaw Clinic.

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Amal Graafstra and Jennifer Tomblin have each had microchips implanted in their hands.

Sweet microchip love

Meet a couple that's never had to have the 'I guess you can get the keys to my apartment' conversation

Feb. 14, 2006. 06:32 AM

In today's paranoid dating pool, where fake cellphone numbers and multiple email identities are par for the course, Jennifer Tomblin and Amal Graafstra have made the ultimate technological romantic gesture.The duo have used RFID implant technology to create 24-hour all-access passes to each other's computers and homes — all with just a swipe of their hands. RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. An RFID implant is a tiny chip encoded with information, sealed into a glass tube about two millimetres by 12 millimetres in size, that gets sterilized with rubbing alcohol, and then inserted under the skin. You pick up some RFID compatible software, program an electronic lock to recognize that information in the chip and with a wave of the implanted hand, you're opening the door without a key. Think of it as a key swipe card, inside your hand. Along with opening doors, an implant can be used to log into a computer or to start your car, for instance. "People get implants all the time," says Graafstra, 29, who doesn't think his high-tech connection with Tomblin is that unusual. If you think about it, how many men have bought girlfriends a new set of breasts? Graafstra, who works in remote server management in Washington state, started researching RFID implants a few years ago and got hooked. He ordered a chip from, wrote some software to accompany it, and asked a client, a cosmetic surgeon, to insert his first chip in March of 2005.His family doctor put in the second with an injection needle, the same kind used to insert RFID tags in pets, last June. Tomblin, who lives in Vancouver, had her implant put in by Graafstra's doctor six weeks ago. "For me, it has a romantic appeal to it," says Tomblin, 23. "I was joking about calling it the engagement chip." She says she can't imagine living without the implant. But it wasn't an easy sell at first. "Mostly I was concerned about the medical aspects: Would it break in your hand? Does it hurt? Can you feel it all the time?" Tomblin watched Graafstra make it through the year RFID injury-free before getting her chip. Graafstra also caught her interest by creating a bunch of RFID programs, all in his upcoming book
RFID Toys, which comes out Feb. 20 (see to order). The book will reveal Graafstra's method for how anyone can implant themselves with RFID. RFID implants aren't new. A company called VeriChip, which stuck members of a Barcelona club with VIP tags in 2004, has been selling "security" implants for years. Kevin Warwick, a professor at the University of Reading in England, has also had chip implants placed into his forearm as part of his research into cybernetics. But Graafstra was the first to put one in his hand and make plans to teach people to do the same. That's not to say Tomblin's experience went as smoothly as Graastra's. "They were putting the Novocaine in and I passed out," she says.The chip took just 15 seconds to insert. Her hand healed quickly and the only evidence is a pinprick-sized mark, and a lighter key chain. The chips allow the couple to open each other's front doors and log onto their computers. Graafstra and Tomblin are on each other's "approved list." That means the programs protecting their stuff are designed to recognize each others implants. If they split, the easiest solution is that a doctor can make a cut and pop out their chips. Or they could be left in. Graafstra would then have to log onto both of their computers and re-program the security software — which he actually designed and installed — so the programs wouldn't respond to the implant. Then he would have to tackle the doors. If Graafstra wanted to keep Tomblin out, he'd have to crack open the electronic lock on his door, remove the microprocessor inside and reprogram it so it didn't recognize Tomblin's chip. And vice versa. "It wasn't designed for easy user access," admits Graafstra. But one aspect has already been taken care of. The chips are essentially invisible. "He can kind of push it up and you can see the chip," Tomblin says about Graafstra's implant. "But with mine you can't even see it or feel it. It's really imbedded. So it's like magic to me."And that's how a lot of people see it. "The physical aspect of getting it implanted is nothing special," says Graafstra. "The social reaction is huge."The surprising affordability of RFID technology might make it more common than you think Chips like the one in Graafstra's right and left hand will set you back between $2 and $5 (U.S.). He designed all his own software, so that part was free. The extra hardware, like locks, ranges anywhere from $30 to $600 (U.S.) and up. For a couple that's made such an unconventional commitment, the duo met in a surprisingly ordinary way. As Graafstra tells it "fate" had him drop in to a mutual friend's home in Vancouver in November 2004. "He just walked up the stairs and I had one of those moments," says Tomblin.So they went to a movie, checked each other out over popcorn and then traded emails. "Emails turned into books, and books into tomes and it was taking an hour to read and an hour to write back," says Graafstra. Long story short, they made more physical contact, fell in love and following that into technological convenience. Of course, Graafstra's flexibility helps as well. "He totally works around my schedule," says Tomblin, who's enrolled in 10 full-time courses in a marketing management program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. It takes an hour and a half for Graafstra to drive from Washington to Vancouver. But he's willing to make the trip. "Because I work for myself, my time and work is really flexible and allows me the freedom to visit her in Vancouver a few days a week," says Graafstra.So it's a normal, functioning long-distance relationship. With some extra technology. "It's definitely never something I thought would happen in a relationship," says Tomblin. "It did spur on a lot of deep talks about what we were in this relationship for and how long we plan on being in it, all the good stuff."So have the chips brought them closer together?"People get tattoos of each other all the time," says Graafstra. "That's more permanent, and I guess you could say more romantic than a chip."It's true. Few things say recklessly committed romantic like a huge heart with your initials on someone's appendage. But this is unique."It links you in a way that nobody else has," Tomblin says proudly. But she suggests doing a lot of research before diving into the tech end of the romantic pool. "That is a choice you need to make on your own."

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My First Screen Kiss

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Commentary by Momus external image icon_story_send.gif| external image icon_story_morepgs.gifAlso by this reporter

02:00 AM Feb, 14, 2006

Walking through Tokyo's Ginza district one Friday evening last month I saw an extraordinary sight that will soon become an ordinary one: A businessman was talking into his keitai (the Japanese word for cell phone), holding it out in front of him rather than to his ear. Suddenly, smiling, he raised the device to his lips and kissed the screen.
It wasn't hard to piece together an explanation -- the man was making a video call to his lover. His lover had asked for a screen kiss, or perhaps they'd synchronized one. It was my first glimpse of this behavior, and it happened in Tokyo, but I knew it wouldn't be my last. Soon enough we will see this scene repeated in New York, London, Paris, Berlin and San Francisco.

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As we've read by now in countless articles, the
keitai isn't just a new technology, it's a new culture. New cultures bring new sights to the streets. Today I want to make a list of some of the ways keitai culture has made itself apparent in the two months I've been here in Japan.
First, though, I should explain that I'm very much a laptop guy. I like the big screen, the fully-featured internet with pictures. If I'm at home, I'm almost always on my laptop, surfing Wi-Fi. When I go out, I want to escape the web's sticky threads. I want to see people, and I want to see life.

But there's a problem. Increasingly, when I go out here in Osaka, what I'm observing in public places is people silently surfing on their i-mode
keitais. I tear myself away from the internet only to enjoy endless vistas of other people using it.

I shouldn't be surprised. Japan Media Review tells us that there are 89 million
keitai subscriptions in Japan. Seventy percent of the population owns at least one keitai.

This saturation has a very literal impact on my movements through the city: it's not unusual to have to jump out of the way of a young man wobbling along Osaka's narrow backstreets on a bicycle, concentrating on the glowing screen of his
keitai. Perhaps he's lost and consulting a GPS navigation service, or, who knows, he may even be reading a Wired News column in translated, stripped-down Hotwired i-mode format. He may be reading me, which would be great, but has he seen me?

Xeni Jardin, reviewing a book called Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life, compared the dextrous multitasking skills of Japan's
oyayubi zoku (literally "thumb tribe") to Japanese folk heroes. Sontoku Ninomiya and Prince Shotoku Taishi were medieval multi-taskers so intelligent that they could, so the story goes, listen to what 10 people were saying, all speaking at once. But could they ride bicycles at the same time?

It's also a little worrying to see two girls in a cafe running out of things to say and sitting face to face in silence, each reading their
keitai screen. The massive success of keitai culture in Japan is largely due to the decision, taken in the late '90s, to market the phones to women and young people. It would be sad if their online conversations had silenced their cafe conversations.

Then again, information ubiquity is great. You can sew facts into conversations on the fly. It's great, for instance, when you're in the middle of a si- or seven-hour drinking and eating session in a reggae //izakaya//, and someone mentions an island where there's an art installation, and with a few clicks you can call up and save the details of exactly how to get there.

It's also wonderful to see
keitais being used for art themselves. My favorite Japanese photographer, Rinko Kawauchi, shows her photographs (taken with conventional cameras and mounted on gallery walls) all over the world. But if you can't get to one of her exhibitions, you can still see the photo diary Rinko keeps online, each day illustrated with one of her beautiful, subtle and understated keitai phone-camera snaps.

It may be a while before I see scenes like the ones I've been describing outside Japan; researcher Cho-Nan Michael Tsai estimates that "although the US was a dominant player in the telecommunication industry, today its cellular phone service industry is about 3 to 5 years behind Asia." Meanwhile, every day seems to bring more convergences and innovations:
Keitais become mp3 players, they become e-wallets (you can now pay for goods in Japanese convenience stores by placing your phone against a reader), they become portable Playstations.

Given the theme of my last Wired News column about a return to the simple life, you might not be too surprised to hear that my favourite new
keitai is one that comes full circle back to the simplest sort of telephone. Marketed to old people scared by today's increasingly complex everything-but-the-kitchen sink phones, the Tu-Ka S dispenses with all the frills. There's no camera, no mp3 player, no Playstation, no GPS, no e-cash, not even a screen. There's just voice service, a mike, an earpiece, a red Stop button, a green Go button and the numbers.

Don't be surprised if you see me kissing one.

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A Censorship Solution ... Sort Of

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Associated Press 08:00 AM Feb, 01, 2006

Microsoft says it is setting new policies on shutting down web journals after its much-publicized squelching of a well-known Chinese blogger at the request of Chinese officials.

The Redmond software company, operator of a popular blogging technology called MSN Spaces, said Tuesday that it will endeavor to make blogs available to users elsewhere even if Microsoft decides it is legally obliged to block them in a particular country.

The company also pledged to provide users with a clear notice that it has shut down a website when the decision to do so stemmed from a legal mandate. Previously, it has simply said the content was unavailable.

Brad Smith, Microsoft's top lawyer, said in an interview that the circumstances of a shutdown will dictate whether a blog's archived content alone will continue to be available elsewhere, or whether the person can continue posting information to users outside the country that ordered the blockage.

"Some of this, I think, we just have to recognize is evolving technology and changing law," said Smith, speaking by phone from a Microsoft-sponsored government conference in Lisbon, Portugal.

MSN Spaces, which allows users to post journals, pictures and other content on the internet, boasts 35 million users, including 3.3 million in China.
The company has maintained that it is important to be able to provide users across the globe with such tools even if local laws constrain what it can make viewable in specific countries.

"We think that blogging and similar tools are powerful vehicles for economic development and for creativity and free expression. They are tools that do good," Smith said. "We believe that it's better to make these tools available than not, but that isn't the end of the discussion, either."

Late last year, Microsoft shut down the site of a popular Chinese blogger at Beijing's request. The blog, written under the pen name An Ti by Zhao Jing, touch on sensitive topics such as China's relations with Taiwan and press freedoms in China.

Microsoft rivals, including Google and Yahoo, also have grappled with — and received criticism surrounding — how they censor their offerings in foreign countries.

Google said last week that it would filter sensitive topics from web searches in China. Yahoo came under fire last year after it provided the government with e-mail account information for a Chinese journalist who was later convicted for violating state secrecy laws.

Smith said Tuesday that Microsoft hopes to build industry and government support for more formal policies on dealing with content censorship requests from foreign governments, but he wouldn't say whether he had spoken with competitors such as Google and Yahoo directly.

John Palfrey, executive director of Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, lauded Microsoft's moves as an important first step.

But he expected Microsoft to face considerable government pressure if it does start disclosing government censorship and makes good on its pledge to show censored data outside the country in question.

"Where we'll see whether the policy is meaningful or not is the first time the state comes to Microsoft ... and says, 'So you're publishing to the world the subversive political statements of somebody online. Who is it?'" he said. "Does Microsoft fold or stand pat?"

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Airline Security a Waste of Cash

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By Bruce Schneier Bruce Schneier external image icon_story_send.gif| external image icon_story_morepgs.gifAlso by this reporter

2005-12-05 18:06:00.0

Since 9/11, our nation has been obsessed with air-travel security. Terrorist attacks from the air have been the threat that looms largest in Americans' minds. As a result, we've wasted millions on misguided programs to separate the regular travelers from the suspected terrorists -- money that could have been spent to actually make us safer.
Consider CAPPS and its replacement, Secure Flight. These are programs to check travelers against the 30,000 to 40,000 names on the government's No-Fly list, and another 30,000 to 40,000 on its Selectee list.

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Security Matters
They're bizarre lists: people -- names and aliases -- who are too dangerous to be allowed to fly under any circumstance, yet so innocent that they cannot be arrested, even under the draconian provisions of the Patriot Act. The Selectee list contains an equal number of travelers who must be searched extensively before they're allowed to fly. Who are these people, anyway?
The truth is, nobody knows. The lists come from the Terrorist Screening Database, a hodgepodge compiled in haste from a variety of sources, with no clear rules about who should be on it or how to get off it. The government is trying to clean up the lists, but -- garbage in, garbage out -- it's not having much success.

The program has been a complete failure, resulting in exactly zero terrorists caught. And even worse, thousands (or more) have been denied the ability to fly, even though they've done nothing wrong. These denials fall into two categories: the "Ted Kennedy" problem (people who aren't on the list but share a name with someone who is) and the "Cat Stevens" problem (people on the list who shouldn't be). Even now, four years after 9/11, both these problems remain.

I know quite a lot about this. I was a member of the government's Secure Flight Working Group on Privacy and Security. We looked at the TSA's program for matching airplane passengers with the terrorist watch list, and found a complete mess: poorly defined goals, incoherent design criteria, no clear system architecture, inadequate testing. (Our report was on the TSA website, but has recently been removed -- "refreshed" is the word the organization used -- and replaced with an "executive summary" (.doc) that contains none of the report's findings. The TSA did retain two (.doc) rebuttals (.doc), which read like products of the same outline and dismiss our findings by saying that we didn't have access to the requisite information.) Our conclusions match those in two (.pdf) reports (.pdf) by the Government Accountability Office and one (.pdf) by the DHS inspector general.

Alongside Secure Flight, the TSA is testing Registered Traveler programs. There are two: one administered by the TSA, and the other a commercial program from Verified Identity Pass called Clear. The basic idea is that you submit your information in advance, and if you're OK -- whatever that means -- you get a card that lets you go through security faster.

Superficially, it all seems to make sense. Why waste precious time making Grandma Miriam from Brooklyn empty her purse when you can search Sharaf, a 26-year-old who arrived last month from Egypt and is traveling without luggage?

The reason is security. These programs are based on the dangerous myth that terrorists match a particular profile and that we can somehow pick terrorists out of a crowd if we only can identify everyone. That's simply not true.

What these programs do is create two different access paths into the airport: high-security and low-security. The intent is to let only good guys take the low-security path and to force bad guys to take the high-security path, but it rarely works out that way. You have to assume that the bad guys will find a way to exploit the low-security path.
Why couldn't a terrorist just slip an altimeter-triggered explosive into the baggage of a registered traveler?

It may be counterintuitive, but we are all safer if enhanced screening is truly random, and not based on an error-filled database or a cursory background check.

The truth is, Registered Traveler programs are not about security; they're about convenience. The Clear program is a business: Those who can afford $80 per year can avoid long lines. It's also a program with a questionable revenue model. I fly 200,000 miles a year, which makes me a perfect candidate for this program. But my frequent-flier status already lets me use the airport's fast line and means that I never get selected for secondary screening, so I have no incentive to pay for a card. Maybe that's why the Clear pilot program in Orlando, Florida, only signed up 10,000 of that airport's 31 million annual passengers.

I think Verified Identity Pass understands this, and is encouraging use of its card everywhere: at sports arenas, power plants, even office buildings. This is just the sort of mission creep that moves us ever closer to a "show me your papers" society.

Exactly two things have made airline travel safer since 9/11: reinforcement of cockpit doors, and passengers who now know that they may have to fight back. Everything else -- Secure Flight and Trusted Traveler included -- is security theater. We would all be a lot safer if, instead, we implemented enhanced baggage security -- both ensuring that a passenger's bags don't fly unless he does, and explosives screening for all baggage -- as well as background checks and increased screening for airport employees.

Then we could take all the money we save and apply it to intelligence, investigation and emergency response. These are security measures that pay dividends regardless of what the terrorists are planning next, whether it's the movie plot threat of the moment, or something entirely different.
- - -
Bruce Schneier is the CTO of Counterpane Internet Security and the author of Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World. You can contact him through his website.

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S.F. Wants Wireless for Everyone

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Wired News Report Wired News Report null external image icon_story_send.gif| external image icon_story_morepgs.gifAlso by this reporter

10:37 AM Aug, 17, 2005 EDT

San Francisco wants ideas for making the entire 49-square-mile city a free -- or at least cheap -- Wi-Fi zone.
Taking a step toward bridging the so-called digital divide between the tech-savvy and people who can't afford computers, the city government issued guidelines for a plan to "ensure universal, affordable wireless broadband access for all San Franciscans."
The city is soliciting ideas for an ambitious system that would put Wi-Fi in the hands of people whether they are working in a high-rise office tower, riding on a cable car or living in a low-income housing project.
According to an annual ranking compiled by Intel, San Francisco already ranks just behind Seattle as the most "unwired city" in America, thanks to a ubiquity of cafes and restaurants that offer Wi-Fi.
Last year, the city erected antennas to make one of its most popular tourist destinations, Union Square, a free hot spot, and three others are set to go up later this year.
Commentary: This article is a great example of how we might see the internet accessible world in the near future. As more and more people use the internet, companies and governments will reinvent themselves by providing cheaper and more easily accessible internet services. A prime example to this is the use of cell phones. Not that long ago cell phones and their services were extrmely expensive, and hardly anyone owned one. As their use becames more widespread the services have become more competitive and along with that more affordable. With time every digital innovation that becomes used more widely by the general public has become cheaper and more productive.----

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear BlackBerry Case

By Carmen Nobel
January 23, 2006

The U.S Supreme court has officially refused to hear an appeal in the ongoing battle between Research in Motion (RIM) and holding company NTP that threatens to shut down BlackBerry wireless e-mail service in the United States.

U.S District Judge James Spencer ruled in favor of NTP in 2003, instructing RIM to halt sales of BlackBerry devices and services in the United States until NTP’s patent runs out in 2012. The ruling is under appeal, which allows RIM to continue offering and selling BlackBerry devices.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been evaluating the validity of NTP's patents; the office initially rejected NTP's claims in March, and it has been re-evaluating them for months. The USPTO has indicated that it intends to reject all of NTP's claims eventually, in which the case will be null and void.

However, the makers of BlackBerry RIM say they are about to reveal a workaround “very soon” that it could ship latent in future products and that the workaround is “different at the absolute fundamental aspect, meaning it will not violate any of NTP’s patents

Works Cited

Carmen Nobel (2006) Supreme Court Refuses to Hear BlackBerry Case. Consuted on: February 20th, 2006. Online At:,1759,1914438,00.asp?kc=EWNKT0209KTX1K0100440

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Macs, Safe No More?

News Analysis
By Arik Hesseldahl
February 21, 2006

Recent malware outbreaks suggest that Apple's computers are now targets of viruses and trojans. Here's the lowdown.
For years, owners of Macintosh computers from Apple Computer (AAPL) have lived in a computing version of the Garden of Eden, free from the worries over viruses, trojan-horse intrusions, and other digital nastiness that crops up every day for users of Microsoft (MSFT) Windows.

Could it be that those days are coming to an end? Two malicious bits of software showed up on Macs in as many days in mid-February. And while neither appears to be all that harmful when compared with the worst threats to hit Windows, they may indicate more worrisome days are in store -- just as the Mac, newly powered by Intel (INTC) chips, gains added popularity and attention.

Here's a rundown of what's known about these threats.

Exactly what form is the malware taking?
One, called Leap-A, is a trojan disguised as a jpeg image of a coming version of the Mac OS. Once it's inadvertently downloaded and installed, it replicates in wormlike fashion by sending copies of itself to people on a user's iChat buddy list.

iChat is an instant-messaging program for Apple users that connects primarily to America Online's (TWX) AOL Instant Messenger Network. It also goes by the name Oompa-A, or Oompa Loompa Trojan. The files check for the presence of an attribute called "oompa," a reference to the diminutive chocolate-factory employees of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fame.

How serious of a threat is it?
Not terribly. Beyond replicating itself, it's not considered harmful, says David Cole, director of Symantec's (SYMC) Security Response. "This is a very garden-variety kind of threat," he says. "Had this appeared on the Windows platform, we wouldn't even be talking about it." It's also not thought to carry any threat to Windows users who may appear in the buddy lists of Mac users.

How widespread is it?
Symantec (SYMC) says the program has spread to only a "handful" of users, perhaps numbering in the hundreds.

What can I do to protect myself against it?
Here's what Apple says: "Only download and install applications from trusted sources, such as well-known application publishers, authorized resellers, or other well-known distributors. It is also advisable to use antivirus software to scan any files before installation."

And the other?
The second is a worm known as OSX.Inqtana.A. Once introduced to a targeted Mac, probably via a user's download, it tries to replicate itself via the computer's Bluetooth wireless data connection. Most recent Macs have Bluetooth wireless technology built in for working with Bluetooth-friendly headsets, printers, and other devices.

Is it a big concern?
This worm's ability to spread has been hobbled by several factors. First, in order to spread to a second computer, it has to come within close physical proximity of the first computer's Bluetooth transmitter, which is generally limited to about the size of a large room. Moreover, this worm takes advantage of a security vulnerability in Bluetooth wireless technology that has been documented for more than eight months.

What can be done to stop it?
An Apple spokesman says the vulnerability was addressed in a software security update issued in June, 2005. Any Mac users who have used Apple's "software update" feature on OS X since then have nothing to worry about. "It's unlikely that most users would even get this," Symantec's Cole says. "And it doesn't appear to be carrying a payload that does any damage."

Are the two related?
Probably not. They seem to have been developed at roughly the same time, independently.

But ultimately, what does this mean for Mac users? Are the days of not worrying about security threats like malicious software over?
If nothing else, these two programs show that there are some new efforts underway by those who like to create malicious software to establish new inroads on the Mac. These efforts have so far shown little success, and in truth, created very little trouble for Mac users.

And generally speaking, Macs have historically suffered less from viruses, trojans, and other security threats over the decades. Still, the Garden of Eden didn't last forever.

Business Week-Macs, Safe No More?

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Wireless carriers plan for possible BlackBerry ban

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
Link to this Article


North America's biggest wireless carriers are preparing in case Research In Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry service is shut down south of the border, but they're keeping a tight lid on those contingency plans. At stake is an important revenue generator. The BlackBerry has become a must-have device for the corporate set because it allows constant e-mail contact. But Waterloo, Ont.-based RIM's lengthy patent dispute with patent holding company NTP Inc. of Arlington, Va., has put the future of that service in question. So it's safe to assume wireless carriers, whose networks carry BlackBerry messages, will be watching closely this Friday when a U.S. judge holds a hearing on whether to impose an injunction on RIM that would shut its service in the United States. RIM says it's come up with a way, through special software, to work around the patent problem so U.S. customers can continue to use their BlackBerrys. Canadian users would need the workaround solution when visiting the United States. "We're working with RIM to ensure our clients aren't disadvantaged," said Chris Langdon, vice-president of wireless solutions at Vancouver-based Telus Corp. He said Telus is doing testing and certification to understand software changes that need to be made, and ensure they work on the network and devices. Other carriers say they're taking a close look at RIM's so-called workaround solution. "Obviously we've been evaluating the workaround contingency that RIM has provided for implementation for BlackBerrys," said Mark Siegel, a spokesman for Atlanta-based Cingular Wireless LLC. The workaround solution will require customers to download the new software to their BlackBerrys, while corporate customers' information technology departments will have to upgrade the software on their BlackBerry servers. Wireless carriers say some older BlackBerry models, such as the 5810, won't be able to use the workaround solution because there isn't enough memory.
Sprint Nextel Corp. of Kansas City, and Rogers Wireless Communications Inc. of Toronto have confirmed they'll likely turn to the workaround solution if there is an injunction. "We're confident that things are going to continue operating as usual, or that the workaround is going to be an effective solution for us," said Matt Sullivan, a Sprint Nextel spokesman. But some observers warn the workaround solution is not risk-free. In a note to clients earlier this month, RBC Dominion Securities Inc. analyst Mike Abramsky wrote that glitches could arise with its implementation. That could open the door to rivals. RIM is one of a number of mobile e-mail software providers whose services these wireless carriers offer. Nevertheless, observers aren't predicting a mass exodus of BlackBerry users. Many companies have made significant investments in this technology. John Boynton, chief marketing officer at Rogers Wireless, says corporate customers aren't necessarily turning to other alternatives. Rogers says it has the largest base of BlackBerry customers in Canada. "Many of our corporate clients have a wireless e-mail strategy," Mr. Boynton said. "I don't think a lot of people are going to change midstream just because something may occur that they may have a workaround anyway for. It's not feasible to change your entire strategy."
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February 25, 2006

Judge Lets BlackBerry Stay in Play for Now

RICHMOND, Va., Feb. 24 — Owners of BlackBerry wireless e-mail devices can continue to use them, at least for now.

A federal judge Friday declined to immediately stop the service, which is at the heart of a long-running patent dispute. That gave another reprieve to the company that makes the BlackBerry, Research in Motion, and its estimated 3.2 million customers in the United States.

Judge James R. Spencer of Federal District Court in Richmond expressed disappointment that Research in Motion and the company that is accusing it of infringing on its patents, NTP, had not been able to reach a settlement.

"I am absolutely surprised that you have left this incredibly important and significant decision to the court," he said toward the end of an almost four-hour hearing on whether to issue an injunction, which would halt the use of the service in the United States. "I have always thought that this decision, in the end, was a business decision."

The judge did not give a timetable for ruling on the injunction, nor did he indicate which way he might be leaning, saying only that any legal decision would be imperfect. He said he would first rule on damages owed by Research in Motion stemming from a jury verdict in 2002 that found that it had infringed on NTP's patents.

The hearing capped a week of verbal jousting between the companies. It came on the same day that Research in Motion, which is based in Waterloo, Ontario, said that it had received a final rejection notice from the United States Patent and Trademark Office covering one more of the NTP patents at the center of the case. That decision, the company said, means all three NTP patents that are still related to the lawsuit have been found invalid.

NTP plans to appeal its findings to the Patent Office Board of Appeals. If the company disagrees with that body's finding, it can take the issue to the federal court. The appeal process could continue for months, if not years.
Judge Spencer, however, has said the appeals will not influence the progress of the case he is overseeing.

"You've got this real disconnect between the skepticism that the patent office has shown toward NTP's applications and the judge's willingness to take these patents and give them a really broad interpretation," said Josh Lerner, a professor at Harvard Business School who has followed the case.

During the hearing, Judge Spencer heard arguments from lawyers for both companies, as well as from a Justice Department lawyer, John Fargo, who represented the government's interest in the case. Many federal agencies use BlackBerry devices, as do police and fire departments, not to mention bankers and brokers.

NTP asked the court for $126 million in damages and an immediate injunction on existing users, with the exception of government and emergency personnel, as well as a halt to new sales and service.

"We want to keep you in business," said James H. Wallace Jr., who represented NTP. "It's just time to pay up. What we've got here is a squatter."

In the event of an injunction, Research in Motion has a workaround solution that would require close to two million hours to carry out, said Henry C. Bunsow, one of the company's lawyers. "NTP's request for an injunction should be denied," he said. "It will frustrate the public interest."

Although Judge Spencer said the case should have been settled, he made it clear that he would accommodate the concerns of the Justice Department. "If an injunction is ordered by the court, I want to make very sure that these exclusions and exemptions are met," he said.

After the hearing, James L. Balsillie, the chairman and co-chief executive of Research in Motion, sought to give assurances that the BlackBerry devices would continue to work.

"We have to plan our life that we go ahead with the workaround," he said. "The cost is far less than any settlement."
"No matter what, BlackBerry service will continue operating seamlessly," he added.

Wall Street responded positively to the outcome of the hearing. Shares of Research in Motion rose $4.52, or 6.5 percent, to $74.05.

"The market hates uncertainty and it wants R.I.M. to put this issue behind it," said John Slack, an equity analyst for Morningstar. "I think the fact that they didn't get an injunction today is a positive."

Ian Austen contributed reporting from Ottawa for this article,and Vikas Bajaj from New York.

Brockman, Joshua. "Judge Lets BlackBerry Stay in Play for Now." The New York Times 25th February 2006. 28th February 2006. <>

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China Crack Down On Junk E-mail

Associated Press
Link to this Article

BEIJING — China is cracking down on junk e-mail and "illegal" mobile phone text messages, the official Xinhua News Agency said Tuesday. A new regulation will ban sending e-mail for advertising purposes to people without their permission, and all advertising e-mail must be titled "advertisement" or "AD," the agency said. It also said that mobile phones must be registered under users' real names, and that text messaging will be controlled more tightly due to the spread of "illegal messages." The government was vague on details, however. For instance, the report did not describe what constituted illegal messages or how they would be controlled, nor did it specify any penalties or say when the new rules would take effect. It's also not clear how well the rules could be enforced. Several countries and U.S. states have anti-spam laws, yet junk e-mail continues to be an on-line pest, with much of it coming from or through computers in China and other Asian countries. China now has 111 million Internet users, second only to the United States, and Xinhua said Tuesday that each e-mail subscriber in China received an average of 16.8 pieces of junk e-mail a week from August 2004 to April 2005.
"China has become seriously affected by junk e-mail," said Li Guobin, an official with the country's Ministry of Information Industry. On the mobile phone rules, state media already reported in December that China would soon require that all mobile phone users — including the large number who use prepaid phone cards — register with telecom providers or face a service cutoff. They said the measure was aimed at fighting unspecified telephone fraud, and the use of counterfeit and otherwise illegally obtained mobile phones. It was also expected to help authorities control "improper political commentary," the December report said. Furthermore, China published last fall an update to Internet regulations that the state-run China Daily said would cover text messages, a fast and efficient communications means available to anyone with a mobile phone.
It was not immediately clear whether the mobile rules described Tuesday refer to those announced earlier. Either way, it appears part of China's efforts to discourage protests and restrict dissidents. Analysts say people in China and elsewhere have successfully used text messaging to organize, spread information and rally crowds of protesters.
China's government already operates what is widely regarded as the world's most sweeping effort to monitor and control Internet use, with all on-line traffic passing through state-controlled gateways. Filters block access to foreign Web sites deemed subversive or pornographic, and Web sites in China are required to remove prohibited content.
Some U.S. Internet companies and search engines have been criticized by U.S. lawmakers and free-speech advocates for co-operating with Chinese government controls.

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Google hires web pioneer

Associated Press
Link to this Article

Mountain View, Calif. — Google Inc. has hired on-line pioneer and veteran philanthropist Larry Brilliant to run a charitable foundation that's trying to fulfill the Internet search engine leader's promise to make the world a better place. Brilliant's appointment as executive director of was announced Tuesday at a technology conference in Monterey.
Google has pledged to give its philanthropic arm the equivalent of 3 million company shares — a commitment worth $1.1-billion (U.S.) as of Tuesday. The Mountain View-based company started the foundation with a $90-million donation late last year.
Brilliant, 61, is best known in Silicon Valley as the co-founder of the Well, an on-line community started in the mid-1980s — long before most people became comfortable with electronic communication. The Well quickly evolved into an eclectic hangout peppered with the musings of high-tech geeks, iconoclasts and artists. Before starting the Well, Brilliant, a physician, spent years working with the World Health Organization to eradicate smallpox in India and prevent blindness in Africa. In 1979, he founded the Seva Foundation, which has given away more than $100-million, according to Brilliant.
The charitable commitment recently has been overshadowed by Google's decision to censor its search results in China to adhere to the country's restrictions on free speech. Several human rights groups and U.S. lawmakers have sharply criticized Google for cooperating with China's Communist government, arguing the company's concessions contradict its vow to "do no evil." In a show of its support for Brilliant, has agreed to donate $2-million to Berkeley-based Seva, which listed $1.9-million in assets through its last fiscal year ending in June 2005.

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Online Game ID Theft Victimizes Thousands

By JAE-SOON CHANG, Associated Press Writer

SEOUL, South Korea - More than 220,000 South Koreans have been victims of online identity theft in connection with a popular Web-based fantasy game, a sign of growing problems with information protection in one of the world's most wired countries.

The victims have filed complaints with the operator of "Lineage" in the past week after discovering that accounts for the game had been set up in their names without their knowledge, the Seoul-based game company NCSoft said.

To sign up for a game account, Internet users must provide their name and resident registration number, which is the main form of national identification. Police are investigating who stole the personal information.
Although there have been no reports of any financial losses, the case has raised concern that such leaked personal information could be used for more serious crimes.
South Korean firms have been criticized for demanding too much personal information from customers for online transactions while not protecting them properly.

Now this scandal has awakened South Korea
with the highest per-capita rate of broadband connections in the world — to the need for better information security.
"Lineage" is based around the story of a prince and five knights fighting to regain a lost throne. As players progress through the game, they can win special abilities, called "items," which can be sold to other online players.

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Internet Users Oppose Storage of Queries

By BRIAN BERGSTEIN, AP Technology Writer
BOSTON - Most Americans are uncomfortable with the fact that Internet search engines record their users' queries, according to a survey released Wednesday that examined perceptions about federal authorities' demands for such records
Search engine companies recently sparked the debate by responding differently to the Justice Department's subpoena for records on what their users had been looking up.
Google Inc. refused to comply, citing privacy along with a desire to protect its trade secrets. But Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO - news) and other rivals have handed over their data, which the government says will be useful in an online pornography crackdown.

Equally contentious, however, is whether the search engine providers even should be storing such records.

In the new survey of 800 Americans by the University of Connecticut, 60 percent said they opposed the storage of users' search queries. Just 32 percent supported the practice, which the companies say is necessary to improve the performance of their services.

Similarly, when asked whether the government should monitor the Internet search behavior of "ordinary Americans," 65 percent said no and 30 percent said yes.

Apparently, even some opponents of having these records stored and mined believe that the subpoena ought to be followed. Some 44 percent of all respondents said the records should be turned over. Half sided with Google and said the files should remain secret.
The random survey was conducted by telephone from Jan. 31 through Feb. 5 and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
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Google, EarthLink Team Up on Wi-Fi Bid

By MICHAEL LIEDTKE, AP Business Writer
SAN FRANCISCO - Google Inc. is joining EarthLink Inc. in a bid to build a wireless network in San Francisco that would offer basic Internet access for free and charge about $20 per month to surf the Web at higher speeds.

The partnership, revealed late Tuesday night, represents the first time that Google has acknowledged it wants help in its quest to provide free wireless, or Wi-Fi, service throughout San Francisco, where the hills could make reliable Internet connections more difficult.

Google, which runs the Internet's leading search engine, and EarthLink, a major Internet service provider, had been bidding against each other but recently decided it made more sense to team up.

Under the partnership, EarthLink would pay for most of the projected $15 million cost to build and maintain San Francisco's Wi-Fi network over 10 years, said Don Berryman, EarthLink's president of municipal networks.

EarthLink would recover some of its expenses by charging about $20 per month for Internet access about 20 times faster than dial-up service, Berryman said during a Wednesday interview. Google's free Wi-Fi alternative would be about five to six times quicker than dial-up.

EarthLink has won a similar 10-year contract to provide Wi-Fi coverage to Philadelphia. There, EarthLink will sell the service wholesale to Internet service providers for $9 per user per month.

In San Francisco, the joint bid by Google and EarthLink is competing against five other proposals. The other finalists are: Communication Bridge Global; NextWLAN; Razortooth Communications LLP; MetroFi and SF Metro Connect, a partnership that includes SeaKay, Cisco Systems Inc. and IBM Corp.

San Francisco hopes to pick a winning bid in April, paving the way for its Wi-Fi network to be switched on late this year.

Several other large cities, including Chicago and Minneapolis, are working with the private sector to build Wi-Fi networks, but the San Francisco project has been among the most closely watched because of Google's interest in blanketing the 46.5-mile-square city with free Internet access.

If San Francisco picks the proposal from Google and EarthLink, it would become the largest U.S. city yet to offer a free Wi-Fi service.

The San Francisco bid has spurred speculation that Google some day hopes to build a national Wi-Fi network to ensure more people have Internet access so they can view the moneymaking ads distributed by the company's search engine. Online advertising accounted for the bulk of Google's $1.5 billion profit last year.

Under Google's San Francisco proposal, the free Wi-Fi access will be financed by ads.
Google so far has stressed that it's only interested in building large Wi-Fi networks in San Francisco and about 35 miles to the south in Mountain View, where the company's headquarters is located. Google hopes to launch the Mountain View network in June.
Google didn't explain its reasons for joining EarthLink in a Wednesday statement.

This isn't the first time that Google and EarthLink have worked together. Google has been running the search engine on EarthLink's Web site since 2002.

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October 3, 2005
by Martin McKinney
The Financial Reporter (U.K.)
Washington- The American-based internet giant, AOL, wholly-owned by Time-Warner, has formed a working partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to permit unlimited surveillance of the millions of AOL online members, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
AOL works ‘closely with the DHS’ to supply information on any AOL customer and allows agents from these entities ‘free and unfettered’ access to AOL Hq at Dulles, VA for the purpose of ‘watching over and keeping surveillance ’ on the millions of AOL customers,’ according to the report.
The legal basis for this is the recently Congress-approved Patriot Act which permits warrantless searches of persons and property. While information gleaned from delving into personal computer messages is supposed to be kept confidential, it appears that the DHS has exceeded their brief and obtained what appears to be strictly personal information which is then circulated to entities outside the DHS.
The Department of Commerce report also states that news of this surveillance has leaked out and is causing serious concern in the American, and European, business communities who are fearful that trade secrets may be given to other business entities, considered as “friendly” to the Bush Administration.


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Online Gaming As A Growing Entertainment

Dutch Gamer Uses $232K CPL Winnings To Splurge On First White Castle Burger
11.23.2005 2:44 PM EST

Sander Kaasjager lost to Johnathan Wendel in Tuesday's final, but earned the most prize money this season.
Johnathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel
Photo: MTV News
NEW YORK — In a week in which many gamers have pondered shelling out hundreds of dollars to play new games, Johnathan Wendel ended a first-person-shooter death match Tuesday with a $150,000 check for his efforts.

Wendel was competing in the Cyberathlete Professional League finals, gunning through a showdown in the game "Painkiller" against Sander "Vo0" Kaasjager. Wendel, who games under the name Fatal1ty, had been defeated by Kassjager earlier in the three-day tournament and had to climb to his victory from the loser's bracket. But on Tuesday night he proved unstoppable, pulling off four straight wins in 15-minute death matches to take the victory.

The players faced off onstage at the Nokia Theatre in Times Square, manning computers set right against each other. They could have been opposing chess grandmasters, if not for the announcers shouting about "kills on Meatless" through the PA. Above the gamers two big screens switched back and forth from the first-person perspective of both players' characters. They played at blazing speed, darting down corridors and pulling off kills at a blurring pace.

"I didn't know I had him until the last minute," Wendel said. "I was up 20 to 10 [kills], but anything can happen in this game." He trained for eight hours a day during the last two weeks and knew he had to keep his cool. "I thought, 'Dude, play smart, play slow. Don't mess around. This is serious. One hundred fifty grand, on the line.' "

The CPL finals marked the end of a weeklong string of pro-gaming events. Last weekend Singapore hosted the World Cyber Games, an Olympics-styled event where Team USA took first prize (see "Gamers Travel All The Way To Singapore To Play 'Halo' ").

The CPL event was actually the conclusion of the league's nine-month season, over the course of which $500,000 in prize money had been doled out. Another $250 was won during the first two days of the New York competition. The final quarter-million would be the spoils of Fatal1ty and VoO.

League founder Angel Munoz considered the Tuesday finals a breakthrough, in part because a mainstream network — MTV — was there to film the event.

"This is one of the happiest days of my life," he said. He expects competitive gaming to become a mainstream televised sport and says he thinks getting more pro gaming on TV will shatter stereotypes. "I like when people say it will be like a chess match or a poker match. But it's not — it's a virtual boxing match."

Competitive gaming is mainstream entertainment outside the U.S. In Korea pro gamers play at live events that resemble rock concerts. Tuesday's event played to a half-full Nokia Theatre, the empty seats perhaps a sign that pro gaming still has some growing to do in the States.

Despite losing the finals, Kaasjager was awarded an MVP trophy from Intel, an accolade for having racked up the most victories during the tour (he scored 3306 frags; Fata1ty nailed 3191). For that he won $20,000 and took $100,000 for his CPL second place for a total season earnings of $232,000. Still he wanted to win and was kicking himself for failing to take out Fata1ty during a late-match round that his opponent had forced into overtime.

He tried to wash the taste of defeat from his palette with his first-ever bite of a White Castle burger. Minutes after suffering a fatal frag, Kaasjager was surrounded by supporters armed with the miniature burgers, a delicacy the gamer hadn't experienced in his native Holland.

If burgers weren't enough, there was that other consolation. "I still won more money this year than he did," he said. Fatal1ty had "only" won $230,000 for the season. "So that's kind of a relief."

Watch "From Game to Fame," MTV's coverage of the CPL finals, right now on MTV Overdrive. The special also airs Saturday at 8 p.m. on MTV.

— Stephen Totilo

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Microsoft faces fresh US and EU antitrust complaints

Computer Business Review Online
23rd February 2006By Staff Writer

Both complaints accuse Microsoft of failing to change its business methods since the company was found guilty of anti-competitive behavior in 2000 and breaking European Union competition law in March 2004.

The US complaint has been filed by a Tangent, a small Burlingame, California-based hardware vendor that says it is a Microsoft certified partner, but has still been "caused significant harm" by "Microsoft's exclusionary and restrictive practices".

In a filing with the US District Court for the Northern District of California, Tangent claimed Microsoft continues to engage in anticompetitive conduct and has caused it damages by "increasing, maintaining or stabilizing the price [Tangent] paid for Microsoft's operating system software above competitive levels."

Tangent claimed relief under the Sherman Act and cited recent US Department of Justice and European Commission criticism of Microsoft's failure to provide third parties with relevant technical documentation, as evidence that the company continues to prevent interoperability with non-Windows systems.

Tangent also claimed Microsoft is guilty of exclusionary conduct in bundling its .NET platform with Windows, and in withholding information that would enable third party applications from accessing Microsoft Office documents.
Other examples of anticompetitive behavior cited by Tangent include bundling of Outlook with Office and Active Directory with Windows Server, as well as the bundling of Windows Media Player and Windows Media Server with its desktop and server operating system respectively.

Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment on Tangent's complaint, other than to acknowledge that it was being reviewed, but was more forthcoming in responding to a fresh complaint lodged with the European Commission by the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS).

"ECIS is a front for IBM and a few other competitors who constantly seek to use the regulatory process to their business advantage. When faced with innovation, they choose litigation," said a Microsoft spokesperson in response to reports of a complaint relating to the way Windows interoperates with Office applications.

ECIS was formed by IBM, Nokia, Oracle, RealNetworks and Red Hat, amongst others, in April 2005 to provide assistance to the European Commission in its fight against Microsoft. The membership roster is also reported to include Sun, Linspire, Opera and Corel.

While the new complaint could pose problems for Microsoft with its appeal against the Competition Commission's antitrust remedies due to be heard by the European Union's Court of First Instance between April 24 and April 28, the company is unmoved by it.

"We have come to expect that as we introduce new products that benefit consumers, particularly with the kind of breakthrough technologies in Office 12 and Windows Vista, a few competitors will complain," Microsoft's spokesperson added. "We will respond quickly and comprehensively to any requests for information from the Commission on this complaint, but no such requests have been received so far. "

Suggestions of fresh complaints against Microsoft in the US and EU have been brewing for some time. Last week the US DoJ revealed that it is investigating antitrust complaints related to Microsoft's forthcoming Vista operating system, while in September 2005 the European competition commissioner, Neelie Kroes, revealed that the EC was reviewing fresh antitrust complaints made against the company.

link to article

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The chronicles of a futile battle: Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD

Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD at

While the CD, as data storage and delivery media, lasted successfully for decades and seems to be alive and kicking as we speak, we can't say the same about the DVD. On the market for a mere few years, the format is not very much taken into account when it comes to store and deliver video and audio content.

Although at the beginning of the decade, the DVD seemed like a major discovery, it shortly proved itself unable to solve some of the most important problems that lead to its very creation.

As far as entertainment is concerned, the maximum video resolution DVD could provide, 720x480, was shortly overcome by the technological progress pace and technical features of new TVs, multimedia projectors or other image display devices. But the main problem remains the poor security. DeCSS and DivX came as major surprises, and lessened the DVD enthusiasm.

The IT industry wasn't very excited either by the new disc, all things considered. The DVD+R/RW vs. DVD-R/RW battle, born, all in all, still in the entertainment area, generated a lot of confusion and lead to a much lower than expected PC technology implementation ratio. Combining both technologies in combo devices was a last resort solution, unable to generate much enthusiasm either.

The future of DVD is still unclear, but what is certain is that a replacement is already needed and looked upon. And the favorite candidates seem to be Blu-Ray and HD-DVD. But things are far from being settled yet, as far as these two formats are concerned.

A real battle or beforehand publicity?

Although it will take a while till they become largely accessible - probably towards the end of 2005, but most likely in 2006 - the formats believed to replace the DVD generated several debates and the last CES (Consumer & Electronics Show) only proved that the two discs are really at war.

Besides, if you're looking for information on Blu-Ray and HD-DVD, the first data you are most likely to obtain would be who's backing one format or the other, or who is undecided yet. Oh, and maybe the promised storage capacity for each format.

If you're to confide in this data, then Blu-Ray promises 25 GB for single-layer and 50 GB for dual-layer, compared to HD-DVD's 15 GB for single-layer and 30 GB for dual-layer, and it's backed by the most important audio-video entertainment and IT companies, so we have a winner... Then why is there a battle, and, most importantly, is it really necessary?

The answer is yes! The battle is inevitable, and it's not necessary about who is going to sell more units or who is going to get more popular, it's about information control.

The final stake: movies

One of the data broadly available on the Internet is the maximum supported resolution: an amazing 1920x1080 pixel. In brief, the movies offered on such a support would have incomparable image clarity, judging against DVD's present capabilities. And whoever wins the battle dictates the format for the new big movie, and, financially speaking, will control a hundred, maybe thousand billion dollar industry. And the sale increase of TV and other compatible displays adds to this.

The big award for the winning format has so many zeros as even the companies used to astronomic figures would get dizzy with the taste of unlimited success.

On the other hand, the two formats are incompatible with each other, so it's certain that a similar solution to that adopted in the case of DVDs is not feasible, since a device able to operate both technologies would require separate reading lasers and mechanisms, and would be, in the end, too expensive and bulky for the average user.

The battle is hazardous and, if the industry won't settle soon for a direction or the other, the adopting of a format will be delayed and all the experts analyzing the phenomenon cite the end of another battle, the '80s confrontation between VHS and Betamax, which only brought disadvantages to all those involved.

Apart from financial and other sort of estimates, at the end of the day, it's about competitors' egos. So whoever controls the way you watch movies in the future remains to be seen.

But which are each format's arguments?

Blu-Ray - winner before the race is over?

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As I was saying, the discussion about which format is more technologically advanced pales to the list of those supporting the format, on the "majority has to be right" principle... But let's keep in mind past examples in which the majority was wrong.

Anyway, Blu-Ray is presently supported by its inventor, Sony, and Dell, Hitachi, Hewlett-Packard, Panasonic, Pioneer, Philips, Samsung and other IT equipment producers. But, as the format will have a big word to say in the movie industry, the movie studios supporting it are also important. So far, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Walt Disney declared their support for Blu-Ray. The format had also two of the major game companies announcing their support: Electronic Arts and Vivendi

Overall, the figure behind this association, with Apple the most recent joining member, is around 450 billion USD. But things are not very clear. The movie studios support is not exclusive, so if the rival format manages to get ahead sooner, we may witness important forsakings.

Beyond the financial aspects, Blu-Ray is a more important technological development compared to the DVD. The laser ray used for reading CDs and DVDs belongs to the red spectrum, with wavelengths of 708, respectively 650 nm.

Blu-Ray uses a blue spectrum laser (violet-blue, in fact), which operates on a wavelength of 405 nm, meaning a bigger quantity of information can be written on the same surface as a CD/DVD.

But the minimum "spot size" that a laser can be focused is limited by diffraction, and depends on the wavelength of the light and the numerical aperture of the lens used to focus it. By decreasing the wavelength (moving toward the violet end of the spectrum), using a higher dual-lens system, and making the disk thinner, the laser beam can be focused much more tightly at the disk surface. This is, in a few words (in addition to the optical improvements), the technological advancement proposed by Blu-Ray.

The protecting layer for CDs and DVDs (cover layer) is 0.6 mm. in thickness, while Blu-Ray's cover layer is only 0.1 mm. thick, which, roughly, means a better access to the recording area.

The advantage? On the same 12 cm. surface (standard dimension of a CD/DVD), 25 GB of data can be stored (single layer), which translates to 2 hours of HDTV video and audio content. And this, with MPEG-2 encoded data, the same as for DVDs.

And while using MPEG-4 H.265/AVC or VC-1, a codec derived from Windows Media 9, up to 4 hours of HDTV content can be stored.
The transfer rate for such a disc is 36 MB/s, compared to the 5MB DVD can provide, and Blu-Ray discs 2x (72 MB/s) are already under study.

And Blu-Ray is not going to stop here. 100 and 200 GB discs are under study, evolving from dual-layer to 4 or 8 layer.

For greater mobility, the 8 cm. disc will be implemented, to use with portable devices.

HD-DVD - a cheaper alternative?

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Blu-Ray's direct competitor, HD-DVD (High-Density Digital Versatile Disc) didn't gather in its corner so many IT producers: only Toshiba, the inventor and main supporter, and NEC, but, on the other hand, it's backed by more movie studios: Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros and New Line Cinema.
The sum behind it is of only 221 billion USD, but the involvement of the four major movie producers could definitely make a difference.

Like Blu-Ray, HD-DVD uses 405 nm. blue laser, but it has more similarities with the DVD format. The numerical aperture of the lens is the same as on the case of the DVD, such as the protective layer thickness, of 0.6 mm.

As for the supported codecs, there is no competition between the two formats, although the technological differences could impose the HD-DVD sooner.
HD-DVD is supported by the DVD forum, which already crowned the format as the DVD successor. The transfer rate is 19 MB/s, the biggest speed so far.

On the other hand, the reduced storage capacity will rise numerous problems to HD-DVD. The Hollywood studios know that a 135 minute movie with a compression rate of 12 Mbps means around 12-13 GB just for the video data. Add to this around 5 GB for a DVD quality soundtrack, space for supplementary soundtracks (either for other languages or other sound compressions), and the 30 GB a HD-DVD can hold become more than crowded.

Beyond technical data

This entire story about storage capacities, layers, wavelengths, lenses and all the technological talk is, after all, just publicity.

Why? Because the judges, in this case, the Hollywood studios, don't care too much about storage and other technical data, and the race will be decided, in the end, by the copy protection.

Both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD wait for the new copy protection system, Advanced Access Content System, to be completed. This system assures of extra-security, which is all the producers, who want their audio-video content safe and sound, want to hear. And, above all, it promises not to be so easy to fool as CSS proved to be.

While HD-DVD already declared its support for AACS, the Blu-Ray supporters still dream for their own protection system, but if AACS becomes stronger, they will have to adopt it.

So the first competitor which will succeed to include AACS or other protection system in its technology will win the race, at least for the first six months.

And, as peculiar it may sound, both competitors are holding their breath to see what the pornographic industry will decide. With over 10,000 titles per year, this industry has a big word to say and, by January this year, it didn't express its support to neither format.

If everything goes according to plan, the first HD-DVD players should be commercialized worldwide from this autumn, while the Blu-Ray products won't be available sooner than the end of this year or the beginning of the next.

Obviously, winning the battle doesn't mean eliminating the competitor, each of the formats already having its supporters and partisans.
But whoever wins the hundreds and thousands of billion of dollars and whoever remains on the side, we can't possibly know yet, especially since...

The war is futile

... because both formats, so debated since the beginning of 2004, may find themselves outrun by the Holographic Versatile Disc (HVD).
While Blu-Ray and HD-DVD use the same laser, other producers thought of combining the two lasers (red and blue), in a single ray and thanks to Optware , on a disc the size of a CD or DVD, 1 TB of data could be stored (20 times more than on a Blu-Ray disc), with a transfer rate of 1 Gbit/s.

The format is developed by the Japanese company Optware, in collaboration with Fuji Photo and CMC Magnetics. The three companies allied with Nippon Paint, Pulstec Industrial and Toagosei and "HVD Alliance" was born.

The problem is that, while Blu-Ray and HD-DVD still allow the reading of present DVDs, along with the passing to the holographic storage era, the DVD days are over.

So, all in all, this famous "disc format battle" could be won by a surprise competitor. Will Blu-Ray and HD-DVD sell, in these 4 years while the HVD is expected to pass its prototype stage? Hard to tell, since many believe that the DVD is dying, but never surrenders!

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How Digital Animation Conquered Hollywood

By Matt Brady

Feburary 24, 2006

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Old-timers in Hollywood sometimes talk about a golden age of animation, seven or eight decades ago, when cartoons were funny, beautiful, and perfect. But the truth is, toons have always been a bit of a backwater - the province of Disney kiddie flicks, Looney Tunes, maybe a rudimentary special effect.

Until recently. These days, animation is everywhere. Some of the most popular movies these days contain much animation. Pixar masterpieces like Toy Story and The Incredibles prove that a digitally animated movie can have more heart than a live-action film. Animation added to a movie sometimes makes the movie seem more real. Depictions of the fantastic - flying superheroes, ferocious velociraptors, battling starships - rely on software to maintain the audience's suspension of disbelief. Even the most realistic movies call on animators to simulate an ungettable shot or to make a moment just a smidge more perfect. Think about it, not all actions can be done by physical actions, in fact, some are impossible. Many actions are only possible with the help of computer animation.

Fifty years ago, there were about 1,000 animators in Hollywood - half of them at Disney. Today, there are countless digital animators, effects specialists, and videogame makers in every major city. Whole categories of filmmaking professionals, from set designers to cinematographers, have been supplemented - or supplanted - by computer-generated images, motion-capture, and digital compositing. From the wackiest cartoon to the grittiest docudrama, the true golden age of animation has just begun.


Ice Age 2: The Meltdown (March 2006)

What's animated: Characters, backgrounds, objects everything

How they did it: "For a character like Scrat, we've got a lot of effects in the finished product, even though he's a fairly simple concept," says the film's director, Carlos Saldanha. "But for us, what matters are the subtleties." The process starts the same way as it has for almost a hundred years - with an artist's sketch. Then the digital animators at Blue Sky Studios have to figure out how to make a 3-D model of a squirrel expressive. "Once we have that, we add the fantasy fur, the water, the background, and the other effects," Saldanha says. "We may have technology that older animators could never have dreamed of, but our goal is just the same as theirs was - we want to squeeze every drop of emotion out of the character and make sure the audience connects."


King Kong (December 2005)

What's animated: The giant monkey (duh!)

How they did it: Animators and the effects team used actual gorillas as reference, but they also needed Kong to do things that gorillas don't do. That's where actor Andy Serkis and the performance-capture suit came in. "We went beyond a real gorilla to get the character," says senior visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri, "but it's pretty firmly grounded in reality." Serkis acted out Kong's scenes, and cameras recorded his movements; software transposed the motion of reflectors placed at strategic points on the suit onto the digitally created body of the King. The key to fitting it all together: scale. "The most important thing for Kong's size was how he looked in relation to Ann. We didn't do what the original film did and have different-sized Kongs for different scenes," Letteri says. "Kong stays consistent throughout the film and, more important, stays in scale with the world around him."


Sin City (April 2005)

What's animated: Backgrounds, props, sets nearly everything but the actors

How they did it: To re-create a particularly graphic panel from the original Sin City comics, director Robert Rodriguez needed absolute control over every aspect of every frame. F/x guys put a real car up on blocks in front of a greenscreen; an actor was suspended from wires to simulate being dragged. Once the live stuff was in the can, 3-D artists replaced the green with an illustration of the street and added the illusion of camera movement. Artists working in 2-D helped create a speeding background and spinning tires. The wires were erased, and particle animation, which conveys the impression of wind, was added. A reflection of the street was animated onto the car door and paneling. Finally, the lighting was fixed, enriching the grays, blacks, and whites to evoke graphic novelist Frank Miller's noir artwork. The nine-second scene took three hours to shoot, but two weeks to finish. "Aside from the acting," says effects producer Keefe Boerner, "the only effect that was done during filming was the guy's shoe flying off as Marv dragged him along."


X3 (May 2006)

What's animated: Angel's wings

How they did it: Visual effects supervisor John Bruno faced a contradiction: How do you take something as patently impossible as a guy with mutant superpowered wings and make him look believable? Especially when that guy is supposed to jump out of a window and fly away? "To make it look as real as possible, we had the actor on wires and later attached computer-generated bird wings to him," Bruno says. To get the wings right, Bruno and his team outsourced to specialists: Framestore CFC, which created the flying hippo­griff in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. "They made sure they looked correct in terms of weight and anatomy," he says."We didn't want to use a fully animated Angel in any of those shots. The more time the actor - the actual, human actor - is onscreen, the better and more believable it is."

V for Vendetta (March 2006)

What's animated: Small details that add up

How they did it: Just as you'd expect from producers Larry and Andy Wachowski and director James McTeigue - Matrix-makers all - digitally animated effects pervade Vendetta. In a knife fight, "we put in a wisp of a light trail from the knife to show that V moves faster than anyone else," says effects supervisor Dan Glass. "The actor 'threw' the knife but never let it go, allowing us to paint it out of his hand and put in a CG one." The blade then whizzes straight at the viewer (and perilously close to where a camera operator would have been, had the knife been real). "As a small homage to the graphic novel, we added a reflection of the victim's face in the blade. It's there for a flash frame, and most people won't see it." Cut to an actor with a prop knife in his chest, and you've got the shot. "You couldn't have filmed that knife fight for real with the detail we wanted," Glass says. "But in the end, the effects we added are virtually transparent."

Munich (December 2005)

What's animated: Glass and reflections

How they did it: Director Steven Spielberg didn't want any old explosion - he wanted a particular blast, one that would convey a sense of overkill. "Right before a bomb explodes, the windows kind of suck in and crack, and then explode out," says effects supervisor Pablo Helman. "But that's very difficult to get, and it's also very dangerous." Spielberg shot a real explosion on location, with the camera aimed upward at the building. Helman's animators added glass that implodes and then shatters. "We also broke the frame of the window," Helman says. "And I told Steven that it would be great if we could see some reflections of other buildings, so when it did explode, we could see those reflections moving in the flying glass."

Jarhead (November 2005)

What's animated: The oil inferno

How they did it: When the film crew scouted locations in Mexico and San Diego in the fall, the desert terrain looked like a perfect stand-in for Kuwait. Then it rained, and by the time shooting started, the desert had bloomed into green. Even worse, the climactic scenes of the movie take place amid the black smoke and flame of an oil field on fire but the production's permit allowed only one 400-foot-tall gas plume (which meant no black smoke). "I had a camera crew, and I would go around the fire to film at different distances, different lighting conditions, different lenses, different angles, so I could create a library of fires," says Pablo Helman, who handled the effects. "In postproduction, I replaced all the horizon lines, filled everything with the fires, and created a smoke canopy to change the lighting of the scene." The end result: A forest of fires.

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CDT Blasts ‘Government Spyware’ Program

A public-advocacy group says two popular and increasingly ubiquitous digital technologies – Web-based e-mail and location awareness – inadvertently give the U.S. government unprecedented access to Americans' personal data. As such, it believes stronger laws are needed to control the growing levels of official surveillance practices.
In a just-issued 48-page report, the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) suggests technology is making government surveillance easier, not harder, and that stronger protections are needed if innocent Americans are to retain their privacy rights. The group claims recent government-surveillance stories aren't isolated incidents, but instead reflect a widening gap between the technology that collects sensitive personal data and the laws designed to protect that data against government misuse.
According to Digital Search & Seizure: Updating Privacy Protections to Keep Pace with Technology, the National Security Agency's domestic spying program, the Justice Department's efforts to obtain millions of Internet search records, the government's use of cellphones to track suspects and spyware developments highlight the law's failure to keep pace with technological advances.
The report also says user information connected with Web-based e-mail is vulnerable because all of it sits on the computers of service providers. Under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act – drafted in 1986 – messages and documents stored with Web mail providers have weaker protections than those stored on users' computers. While the government needs a judicial warrant to search a personal computer, it may be able to access Web mail accounts with only a subpoena issued without judicial review, the report adds.
The CDT’s research also maintains mobile phones serve as tracking beacons because they regularly seek out the nearest antenna and they send out identification numbers. It says legal standards regulating the government's ability to use the constant stream of data, however, haven't kept pace with the technological reality because no existing law lays out explicit standards for government location tracking. As things stand now, the government's use of location technology is governed by a patchwork of laws and court precedents.
The report also discusses the emergence of what it calls "government spyware:" keystroke-logging technology that can record everything one does on a computer. Here, too, the technology has far outpaced the legal protections, giving the feds a uniquely intrusive surveillance tool with inadequate legal controls.
"The government complains that new technology makes its job more difficult, but the fact is that digital technology has vastly augmented the government's powers,” says Jim Dempsey, CDT policy director and principal author. “The capacity of Internet technology to collect and store data increases every day, as does the volume of personal information we willingly surrender as we take advantage of new services. Meanwhile, the laws that are supposed to prevent the government from unfairly accessing personal information haven't changed in two decades. The gap between law and technology is widening every day, and privacy is eroding.”

[French cops dump Internet Explorer]

Arrested development
By [[javascript:doPostBack('article_body$lnkEmailForm','')|Nick Farrell]][[|]]: Monday 06 February 2006, 07:55
external image serve.cgi?pid=THEINQUIRER&g=1&m=11&j=0&k=1&id=823552external image adlog.php?bannerid=26&campaignid=26&zoneid=23&source=&block=0&capping=0&session_capping=0&cb=44b00df335 external image trpix.gif?&rdm=19901833&dlv=175,14113,136193,106960,235460&kid=106960&chw=9106960-&tcs=&bls3=111111A&bls4=11&uid=1&,,,1,,,,,,,0,5,0,9220,9112,9093,3102,0&iid=136193&bid=235460external image adview.php?zoneid=23&n=af2d6ba1FRENCH POLICE are abandoning Microsoft's Internet Explorer and will go for Firefox.
General Christian Brachet, IT director of the French police force said that more than 70,000 desktops will be converted to Firefox and its email client Thunderchicken because it was more reliable, secure and worked better with other state services.
Brachet said that IE will be off all machines by the end of the year. He said the main reason for the change was because Firefox was based on the W3C standard, an international norm for the world wide wibble, and works equally well under Microsoft, Mac or Linux.
Brachet wants people to be able to report a theft to the police via the Internet and this is possible if everyone is using the WC3 standard. Although we would have thought that sending an email to the emergency services is a little like a scene from the 'IT crowd' to be practical.
The move to Fireferret follows a move from VoleOffice to OpenOffice. The change is likely to save the French coppers more than two million Euro a year.
More here


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N-able updates SpamXIT

Globe and Mail Update
Ottawa-based N-able Technologies, a provider of software and business transformation services for resellers servicing small- and medium-sized businesses, has teamed with integrated message management provider Postini to offer partners SpamXIT On-line, a remote anti-spam service that helps block spam.
SpamXIT On-line is designed for MSPs who have or want to develop a managed desktop services practice. It helps MSPs reduce customer downtime and increase productivity and satisfaction.
Additional service features and benefits include: advanced content filtering of all Internet-based e-mail bound for customers' e-mail server; full automation, management reporting; a flexible policy framework; real-time monitoring, and legal and regulatory compliance
SpamXIT On-line is available immediately.

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RSI from texting and ‘iPod finger’

Published by **GadgetSpy** February 26th, 2006

There have been previous warnings about iPod finger (we think this should be iPod thumb - excessive use of the scroll wheel) Virgin Mobile said this week that almost 4 million Brits suffered from text message related injuries.

The survey found that 38% of texters suffer from sore wrists and thumbs which equates 3.8million cases of RSI per year.

10% of those surveyed also sent over 100 texts a day. (which does sound a little excessive, get those RSI exercises done asap text addicts!)

Last October a 19 year old **racked up a four thousand pound bill** by sending over 700 texts a week
Virgin Mobile have setup a dedicated site @ ****
Safe Text Exercises
Stop these exercises if you feel any pain otherwise you can do more harm than good.
In your texting hand:

  • Tap each finger with the thumb of the same hand. Repeat five times.
  • Pull your thumb firmly with the other hand. Repeat five times.
  • Wrap an elastic band around the tips of fingers and thumb and open your hand against the resistance. Repeat 20 times.
  • Palms down wrap an elastic band around each thumb and force apart. Repeat 20 times.
  • Tap the palm and back of your hand on your thigh as quickly as you can. Repeat 20 times.
  • Massage thumb web, back of forearm and front of forearm. Two minutes.
  • Press and rub in a circular motion the painful nodules in those muscles. Thirty seconds for each nodule.
  • Reach up high with both arms and shake your hands. Reach down low with both arms and shake. Repeat three times.
  • Arms at 45 degrees, squeeze them behind you.
  • If it still hurts after a week of doing exercises, wrap an ice pack on sore hand and arm parts. Do not put ice directly on the skin but wrap in a thin cloth or piece of kitchen roll. Ten minutes on, 10 minutes off. Repeat three times.
And some other advice
  • If texting starts to hurt. Stop. Use the other hand or call instead.
  • Vary the hand you use.
  • Vary the digits you use.
  • Don’t text for more than a few minutes without a break.
We assume the person who wrote the above is an expert texter, have you tried texting with your ‘wrong’ hand?
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A new website has spawned called the Flu WIki, which is very much like Wikipedia that lets anyone contribute anonymously. While some are questioning the validity of the website, the web developer insists the information is trustworthy. "I'm working with some of the best scientists in the country on the subject of pandemic influenza," said Melanie Mattson, the website developer. "If I have a question about what's going on I ask them." <Source>
The field includes not only an official U.S. government site,, but also others from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. The only difference between Flu Wiki and other websites is, Mattson argues, that it provides an alternative to giant corporation’s websites confuse and may mislead you. Wiki Flu lets people ask questions and others to answer them and because all the bogglers are anonymous this ensures complete privacy without the fear of stepping on anyone’s toes.

The Website averages up to 5,000 hits per day, since its launch last June and has impressed some flu experts who examined it recently. Volunteers have also translated information into French, Spanish and Turkish. Norwegian is next in line.
Dr. Arnold S. Monto of the University of Michigan said he found the site's information reliable in general. Such sites can provide "a single place for people to go who want to get information which they may have to troll for in some of the official sites," he said//. <Source>

Mattson states her reason for launching this site was because not enough people knew exactly what was going on and not a lot of information was given to the public, and the public has a right to know in order to be better prepared.<Source>

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Cyberthieves Silently Copy Your Passwords as You Type

By TOM ZELLER Jr.Published: February 27, 2006
Most people who use e-mail now know enough to be on guard against "phishing" messages that pretend to be from a bank or business but are actually attempts to steal passwords and other personal information.

But there is evidence that among global cybercriminals, phishing may already be passé.
In some countries, like Brazil, it has been eclipsed by an even more virulent form of electronic con — the use of keylogging programs that silently copy the keystrokes of computer users and send that information to the crooks. These programs are often hidden inside other software and then infect the machine, putting them in the category of malicious programs known as Trojan horses, or just Trojans.

Two weeks ago, Brazilian federal police descended on the northern city of Campina Grande and several surrounding states, and arrested 55 people — at least 9 of them minors — for seeding the computers of unwitting Brazilians with keyloggers that recorded their typing whenever they visited their banks online. The tiny programs then sent the stolen user names and passwords back to members of the gang.

The fraud ring stole about $4.7 million from 200 different accounts at six banks since it began operations last May, according to the Brazilian police. A similar ring, broken up by Russian authorities earlier this month, used keylogging software planted in e-mail messages and hidden in Web sites to draw over $1.1 million from personal bank accounts in France.

These criminals aim to infect the inner workings of computers in much the same way that mischief-making virus writers do. The twist here is that the keylogging programs exploit security flaws and monitor the path that carries data from the keyboard to other parts of the computer. This is a more invasive approach than phishing, which relies on deception rather than infection, tricking people into giving their information to a fake Web site.

The monitoring programs are often hidden inside ordinary software downloads, e-mail attachments or files shared over peer-to-peer networks. They can even be embedded in Web pages, taking advantage of browser features that allow programs to run automatically.

"These Trojans are very selective," said Cristine Hoepers, general manager of Brazil's Computer Emergency Response Team, which runs under the auspices of the country's public-private Internet Steering Committee. "They monitor the Web access the victims make, and start recording information only when the user enters the sites of interest to the fraudster." She added: "In Brazil, we are rarely seeing traditional phishing."

According to data compiled by computer security companies in 2005, the use of "crimeware" like keyloggers to steal user names and passwords — and ultimately cash — has soared. The crimes often cross international borders, and they put Internet users everywhere at risk.

"It's the wave of the future," said Peter Cassidy, the secretary general of the Anti-Phishing Working Group, a consortium of industry and law enforcement partners that fights online fraud and identity theft. "All this stuff is becoming more and more automated and more and more opaque."

Mr. Cassidy's group found that the number of Web sites known to be hiding this kind of malicious code nearly doubled between November and December, rising to more than 1,900. The antivirus company Symantec has reported that half of the malicious software it tracks is designed not to damage computers but to gather personal data. Over the course of 2005, iDefense, a unit of Verisign that provides information on computer security to government and industry clients, counted over 6,000 different keylogger variants — a 65 percent increase over 2004. About one-third of all malicious code tracked by the company now contains some keylogging component, according to Ken Dunham, the company's rapid-response director.

And the SANS Institute, a group that trains and certifies computer security professionals, estimated that at a single moment last fall, as many as 9.9 million machines in the United States were infected with keyloggers of one kind or another, putting as much as $24 billion in bank account assets — and probably much more — literally at the fingertips of fraudsters. John Bambenek, the SANS researcher who made the estimate, suggested that the infection rate was probably much higher.

In most cases, a keylogger or similar program, once installed, will simply wait for certain Web sites to be visited — a banking site, for instance, or a credit card account online — or for certain keywords to be entered — "SSN," for example — and then spring to life.

Keystrokes are saved to a file, Web forms are copied — even snapshots of a user's screen can be silently recorded. The information is then sent back to a Web site or some waiting server where a thief, or a different piece of software, sifts through the data for useful nuggets.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, responding to the growing threat of cybercrime to the financial industry, stiffened its guidelines for Internet banking in October, effectively ordering banks to do more than ask for a simple user name and password. But it stopped short of requiring, for instance, the use of electronic devices that generate numeric passcodes every 60 seconds, which many experts say would help foil much online fraud, including the use of keyloggers.

Technology for grabbing text and screen images is not new — or particularly sophisticated. Keyloggers are even sold commercially, as tools for keeping an eye on what children are doing online, or what a spouse might be doing in online chat rooms. And while most experts agree that data-swiping software is spreading rapidly, there are some who say the problem has been exaggerated.

"I get concerned that we're scaring people off the Internet," said Alex Eckelberry, the president of Sun-Belt Software, a maker of antispyware software based in Clearwater, Fla. Mr. Eckelberry believes that the infection rate is probably far lower than most estimates indicate, in part because the trend is hard to measure and so many computers are already protected.

"There's a lot of hyperbole out there," he said, adding that his company has identified only about 30 keyloggers over the last six months, most being variations on a piece of code known as Winldra.exe.

That code proudly bears the copyright signature of its creators, "Smash and Sars," who also happen to be the proprietors of a Russian site,, which is well-known among traders at online swap meets like and that traffic in confidential personal data — or the means to steal it.

"Smash is one of the revolutionaries," said one member of a trading site, who insisted on anonymity because the sites are often watched by law enforcement. "If you're entry-level and want a keylogger, that's who you're going to go to," he said, adding, "It's a simple, cheap way to make money."

In fact, keylogging's simplicity may be why it is suddenly so popular among thieves. "Phishing takes a lot of time and effort," said David Thomas, the chief of the computer intrusion division at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. "This type of software is a much more efficient way to get what they're after."

The programming, too, is often trivial. "These can be developed by a 12-year-old hacker," said Eugene Kaspersky, a co-founder of Kaspersky Labs, an international computer security and antivirus company based in Moscow.

Being wary of unfamiliar Web links sent via e-mail is a first-line of defense, according to experts, as is avoiding questionable downloads and keeping up to date with Windows patches and antivirus updates.

It is worth noting, however, that in a test of major antivirus programs conducted by Ms. Hoepers's group in Brazil last fall, the very best detected only 88 percent of the known keyloggers flourishing there. In this country, victims of fraudulent money transfers are typically limited to $50 in liability under the Federal Reserve's Regulation E, so long as they report the crime quickly enough — within two days. If they report it within 60 days, their liability is capped at $500.

One Florida man has had trouble getting that kind of protection. In a closely watched case, Joe Lopez, the owner of a small computer supply company in Miami, sued Bank of America after cybercrooks were able to use a keylogging Trojan planted on his business computers to swipe bank account information and transfer $90,000 to Latvia.

Bank of America says it does not need to cover the loss because Mr. Lopez was a business customer — and because it is not the bank's fault that he did not practice good computer hygiene. Mr. Lopez claims he did, and that in any case, Bank of America should have done more to warn him of the risks of computer crime. That risk is one that Mr. Kaspersky believes is in danger of getting out of hand.

"I'm afraid that if the number of criminals grows with this same speed, the antivirus companies will not be able to create adequate protection," said Mr. Kaspersky, who added that the time has come for increased investment in law enforcement and far better cross-border cooperation among investigators, who are overwhelmed by the global nature of cybercrime.
"There are more criminals on the Internet street than policemen," he said.

Zeller, Tom Jr. "Cyberthieves Silently Copy Your Passwords as You Type." The New York Times 27th February 2006. 28th February 2006. <>

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