Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Internet Scams At A New High

According to reports from the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) money lost in Internet crimes reached nearly $240 million.

The 2007 Internet Crime Report compiled by the Internet Crime Complaint Center states they received 206,884 complaints of crimes perpetrated over the Internet during 2007. Of the complaints received, more than 90,000 were referred to law enforcement around the nation, amounting to nearly $240 million in reported losses. This represents a $40 million increase in reported losses from complaints referred to law enforcement in 2006.

The data shows that more men than women were scammed and at a costlier rate. The average loss for men was $765; for women, $552 men lost $1.67 to every $1 lost by women in online fraud.

Age was also a key factor in relation to losses, victims in their 20s lost $385 on average while people over 60 reported lost an average $760 per scam.

Although Internet auction fraud was the most widely reported complaint, others cited in the report include fraudulent activity such as non-delivery of purchases and credit/debit card fraud, and non-fraudulent activity such as computer intrusions, spam/unsolicited e-mail, and child pornography. In an effort to raise public awareness, the report also describes the characteristics of commonly reported scams such as those involving the purchase or sale of pets, check scams, e-mail spam, and online dating fraud.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). They serve as the governments clearinghouse for all complaints involving Internet related crimes

Monday, April 07, 2008

Stephen King Speaks Out Against Video Game Legislation

Popular Horror Novelist Stephen King has criticized plans by legislators in Massachusetts to restrict or ban the sale of video games that depict violence, nudity or sexual content to buyers under 18.

HB 1423, is the Massachusetts bill that would seek the restrict or ban the sale of video games that depict violence to buyers under 18. Among other things, it seeks to define "harmful to minors" in terms of whether the game is "obscene".

(1) describes or represents nudity, sexual conduct or sexual excitement, so as to appeal predominantly to the prurient interest of minors; (2) depicts violence in a manner patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community, so as to appeal predominantly to the morbid interest in violence of minors; (3) is patently contrary to prevailing standards of adults in the county where the offense was committed as to suitable material for such minors; and (4) lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors.

Mr King spoke out against the ban in his recent Entertainment Weekly column.

"I'm no fan of videogames; pretty much gave them up in the late '70s or early '80s," says King, "so, nope — videogames are not my thing. Nor am I some kind of raving political nutcase. But when I heard about HB 1423, which happens to be a bill pending in the Massachusetts state legislature, I still hit the roof."

''What really makes me insane is how eager politicians are to use the pop culture as a whipping boy. It's easy for them, even sort of fun, because the pop-cult always hollers nice and loud. Also, it allows legislators to ignore the elephants in the living room.''

King's resentment towards government intrusion is one that is shared by many. As are his views on banning the sale of video games to minors. In fact several of these laws have recently been blocked or overturned, including bills in Minneapolis and Louisiana.

In my opinion the government needs to stop the slew of senseless legislation aimed at "parenting". Let parents be parents, they should know by now that they need to be proactive in their children's lives. We don't need government intrusion and bureaucracy telling us how to live.

AMD Announces Job Cuts

amd logoAMD announced this afternoon that it would cut 10 percent of its work force, or about 1,680 jobs.

Citing lower-than-expected sales across its business, AMD estimated revenue for the quarter which ended March 29 at about $1.5 billion, well below the average analyst forecast of $1.62 billion.

AMD has been a strong competitor fighting Intel for a share of the CPU market for years. However their newest products have fallen short of consumer expectation leading to a decline in sales. The recent $5.6 billion acquisition of graphics chip maker ATI Technologies Inc., has pushed the companies even lower. AMD recently said is worth about 30 percent less than when it was acquired.

AMD viewed the acquisition as a key way to attack Intel and incorporate better graphics capabilities into its chips. The reviews of the newly released 780g chipset show great promise, however both Intel and Nvidia have taken strangle holds on the market.

Nvidia's recent introductions, the 9600gt , 9800gtx and 9800gx2 have proven to be better, faster and cheaper than most offerings from Ati.

All the while Intel has seated itself as the top dog with several outstanding dual and quad core cpu's. Their 45 nanometer chips are trumping anything AMD has been able to release so far. Lower power consumption and higher performance are hard to beat.

Its not all roses for Intel however. They also issued warnings about the first quarter profits. In early March, Intel cut its gross margin forecast, citing weaker pricing for NAND memory chips used in consumer electronics, such as digital music players and cell phones. Intel is scheduled to report results on April 15.

Digg Back In Service

One of our favorite news/social sites Digg.com was out of service for several hours this afternoon. The following statement was posted by Digg's Eli White on the Digg Blog

Hey everyone,

We know that we are currently having some issues on Digg at the moment. Submissions, commenting, digging and other actions may sometimes fail. We have a crack team assigned to it and will be making
numerous fixes as soon as possible to get Digg back to 100% for ya.

Please bear with us …


I'm sure we are all glad to see the Digg staff got things squared away and the site is back up and running smoothly.

Blogging A High Risk Occupation?

According to a recent report from the New York Times the stressful lives that us bloggers lead may put us into the same "dangerous jobs" category as coal miners and Alaskan crab fisherman. The article says the stress accumulated from long exhaustive hours of blogging can lead to serious medical conditions, even death.

Recently well know tech blogger Russell Shaw died at the age of 60 of a heart attack. In December, another tech blogger, Marc Orchant, died at 50 of a massive coronary. A third, Om Malik, 41, survived his heart attack.

Other bloggers complain of weight loss or gain, sleep disorders, exhaustion and other maladies born of the nonstop strain of producing for a news and information cycle that is as always-on as the Internet. I can attest first hand that I often find myself spending hours reading through news and information looking for stories to post however I've never seen the types of stresses they are implying.

The NY Times is quick to point out there is no official diagnosis of death by blogging, and the premature demise of two people obviously does not qualify as an epidemic.

Michael Arrington, the founder and co-editor of TechCrunch is quoted as saying he has gained 30 pounds in the last three years, developed a severe sleeping disorder and turned his home into an office for him and four employees. “At some point, I’ll have a nervous breakdown and be admitted to the hospital, or something else will happen.”

Popular blogger John Chow has a different take on things. He writes "The only thing I have to say about this story is, you got to be kidding me? No wonder the mainstream media is losing ground so badly to the Internet. Some 60 year old has a heart attack. It must be caused by blogging! I guess the fact that Om Malik weighs something like 400lbs has nothing to do with his heart attack, right?"

Travis Hudson, from PC world writes "I'm not too surprised by this report, but it's pretty obvious. Most bloggers have the opportunity to work out of their home, which many would assume is stress-free, but it's quite the opposite. Working from home lets you work all day and all night. There is no way to easily separate yourself from work."

I would in know way put my experiences up there with Pro-Bloggers Michael Arrington or Om Malik, I don't have deadlines, I don't have advertisers breathing down my neck, I don't have any outside influences in the way I blog. The opinions of my readers is the only concern I have.

But work is what you make of it, it doesn't matter if you are at home, in the office or on the road. As John Chow once said "One of the best things about being a blogger is it gives you the option to do it from anywhere in the world." If working from home starts to be stressful find another place. If you need to get out of the office, visit a Starbucks

John made $31k in March so if it works for him it'll definitely work for me.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Your ISP Is Watching Closer Than You Think

Reading that fine print might reveal that you have fewer rights than you realize.

MSNBC.com recently published an Associated Press article that made a few interesting discoveries in the fine print that most of use usually agree to without reading.

By now everyone should be aware that ISPs such as Comcast ad ATT have been watching their users and usage of P2P/file-sharing programs. However you might not be aware that they can go even further, reading your emails, blocking you from sites they deem inappropriate. They even reserve the right to block traffic and, for any reason, cut off a service.

The Associated Press reviewed the "Acceptable Use Policies" and "Terms of Service" of the nation's 10 largest ISPs — in all, 117 pages of contracts that leave few rights for subscribers.

During their review they discovered that AT&T Inc. had a blanket provision that stated their right to block any activity that causes the company "to be viewed unfavorably by others."

Jonathan Zittrain, professor of Internet governance and regulation at Oxford University is quoted as saying, "The idea that they would ever invoke it and point to it is nuts, especially since their terms of service already say they can cut you off for any reason and give you a refund for the balance of the month."

According to the A.P. AT&T removed the "unfavorably by others" after being asked about the reason behind it. Most subscribers wouldn't know that unless they checked the contract word for word. Which more than likely most didn't even know it was there to begin with.

Common clauses of ISP contracts

ISPs can read your e-mail
Practically all ISPs reserve the right to read your e-mails and look at the sites you visit. Yes read your "Terms of service" carefully, their is more than likely a stipulation in there that says they can without warning, probable cause or wiretap order open and read your emails.

Some ISPs, like AT&T Inc., make clear that they do not read their subscriber's traffic as a matter of course, but also that they need little or no excuse to begin doing so.

ISPs can block Web sites you visit

While this may be a difficult task and can certainly be circumvented they do hold the right to try to block the sites you visit. Comcast for one reserves the right to block or remove traffic it deems "inappropriate, regardless of whether this material or its dissemination is unlawful." They can use their sole discretion as to what they feel is "inappropriate".

ISPs can shut you down for too much traffic

For cable ISPs, up to 500 households may be sharing the capacity on a single line, and a few traffic hogs can slow the whole neighborhood down. Most people see the effects of this during "peak usage hours" you'll notice slow downs in service when lots of people are at home using their connections.

But rather than saying publicly how much traffic is too much, some cable companies keep their caps secret, and simply warn offenders individually. If that doesn't work, they're kicked off. And trust me they aren't shy about removing and banning you.

While for the average user it might be difficult to reach these bandwidth caps users that are downloading large amounts of high-quality video from the Internet or downloading larges quantities of files might find themselves reaching that limit. With the advent of high-definition Internet video set-top boxes like the Apple TV and the Vudu this could be a much more common issue.

More bannable offenses

Off course Spam, pornography and hate related content are always going to be on the top of the list. However you might not know that you could be banned and your account removed for simply allowing others to connect and browse the net. There are terms in most contracts that stipulate you and members of your household are the only ones allowed to use your connection.

Another offense many people are unaware of is using your pc and their connection for hosting your own website, mail server or file server. Most ISPs block the ports needed to host your own sites or servers at home, however there are a few that don't. Either way in many cases ISPs have written in clauses that disallow using their bandwidth in that fashion.

The one thing all this does make clear is that we all need to learn to take our time and fully read the contracts we are agreeing to. I know I am a guilty party, I might browse through them but I never read them in full. Then once an issue arises I dig out the contracts and spend hours trying to understand the exact terms.

iPhone Pwnage 1.0 Released

The iPhone Dev Team has released version 1.0 of its Pwnage utility.

Official Press Release
April 03, 2008

The “DevTeam” would like to announce the release of the OS X version of the PwnageTool application.

The team (and especially Wizdaz) have been working hard to bring you this release in as short a time as possible.

The plan (4 weeks ago) was to release a Mac tool only. This was decided because of the lack of reliable Mac filesystem tools on Windows, and the fact that the task of porting them would be too time consuming.

With that in mind the genius that is “cmw” stepped up to the plate and offered his services to the DevTeam. He proposed to provide a tool that would give the same functionality and User Interface as the Mac tool.

cmw has done an almost unthinkable task and ported the almost complete Pwnage Tool to Windows in a little under a week, and we would like to thank him for this unbelievable work. He is currently in the final test stages and hopefully this should be finished within the next 24 hours (but even he needs sleep and family time occasionally!) We'll post a link as soon as the testing has finished.

cmw's site is at http://www.iphonelinux.org

The Mac tool is available at http://www.iphone-dev.org

Thanks to Sal Iovine for the awesome Steve parody image, this is copyrighted material and is provided to the DevTeam under a Creative Commons Attribution No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported license, you can see more of his work at http://www.saliovine.blogspot.com/


The Dev Team is a group of dedicated, “white hat” hackers trying to help the regualr folks out there get the most out of their iPhones. Their program Pwnage can do it all, unlocking, activating, and even Jailbreaking.

As you can see from their statement currently Pwnage only runs on OS X Tiger, however they have been working hard on a Windows version.

For more information checkout Crunch Gear's great article.

New Windows Coming Next Year?

Bill Gates said on Friday he expected the new version of Windows operating software, code-named Windows 7, to be released "sometime in the next year or so."

According the Reuters Microsoft has said it expected to release a new version of Windows approximately 3 years after the introduction of Vista. Last month we reported that Microsoft submitted Windows 7 for anti-trust review, that along with Gates' comments would put the numbers right in line.

I think we could probably see beta testing information popping up by the end of the year with full beta trials coming early next year.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Judge Rules Against RIAA Subponea

Federal court judge Judge Nancy Gertner has dealt a blow to the Recording Industry Association of America, finding that merely exposing music files to the Internet is not copyright infringement.

"Merely because the defendant has 'completed all the steps necessary for distribution' does not necessarily mean that a distribution has actually occurred," wrote Gertner in her order. "As noted above, merely exposing music files to the Internet is not copyright infringement."

The judge did note that an "offer to distribute" is sufficient basis for a copyright infringement claim, which means that the RIAA can continue to make that allegation in its lawsuits. There is, however, a big difference between having evidence for a copyright infringement claim and showing by a preponderance of evidence that infringement actually took place.

More information

  • The full story from Ars Technica

  • The EFF's press release

  • PDF copy of judge Gertner's decision
  • Wednesday, April 02, 2008

    Madden NFL 09 Won't Reach PCs

    EA Sports president Peter Moore confirmed last week that the latest Madden game will not be coming to PC.

    "We knew that our decision to not develop this year's Madden for the PC would be an unpopular decision in some circles," said Moore in a blog post on Tuesday. He continues to say, "But I’ll reiterate what I said a couple of weeks ago in this space…the PC presents some very serious business challenges to us in the sports category, particularly because so many of you all are playing your favorite sports games on the PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii. We are committed to shipping a limited number of our games on the PC this year, but we’ve also had to cut a few of our games from the platform. We do have ideas for how to revitalize the PC for sports games and the types of games that are best suited to the platform, and we’ll continue to explore those."

    Low game sales and rampant piracy have both contributed to waning popularity of the PC platform when it comes to gaming.

    The announcement marks the first time that EA's biggest game will not be coming to PC. The game is set to launch in North America on August 12, and marks the 20th anniversary of the Madden franchise with a special collector's edition called the Madden NFL 09 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition. The special premium priced edition will feature full versions of both Madden NFL 09 and the all-new NFL Head Coach 09, exclusive classic Madden NFL gameplay, and a library of exclusive bonus video content.

    Shane Macaulay Explains Selling PWN 2 OWN Laptop

    PWN 2 OWN contest winner Shane Macaulay listed his Vista equipped Fujitsu U810 laptop on eBay yesterday causing a big stir. Many people first thought it was an April Fool's joke but Shane was serious about selling the very laptop he won during the PWN 2 OWN contest.

    He said that a top-quality hacker could probably examine the machine's hard drive and dig up the unpatched zero-day exploit code he had used to compromise the computer. However he never intended to disclose details of a flaw, at least not before the patch was created.

    In a Tuesday interview with IDG News he explained that Adobe Systems plans to patch his Flash bug on April 8, the day his auction was set to end, and so he would have been practicing responsible disclosure, releasing details of a flaw that had already been patched.

    According to contest rules; any vulnerability that the Zero Day Initiative awards a cash prize for, becomes the property of the ZDI, and therefore the winner can not discuss or disclose details of the 0day until the affected vendor has successfully patched the issue. Any discussion of the bug prior to the public disclosure of a ZDI advisory will result in forfeiting of the prize.

    In an InfoWorld article a hacker who knows Macaulay said that the April 1 listing is "a bit coincidental," but that he may not be worried about forfeiting the $5,000 in prize money TippingPoint paid him for his hack. "He makes good money," said Marc Maiffret, an independent security researcher, in an instant message interview. "It's all just funny to him."

    However eBay thought he was in violation of their user agreement, which says that users may not "distribute viruses or any other technologies that may harm eBay, or the interests or property of eBay users," so they pulled the listing.

    When asked about it Macaulay had some funny answers when asked about these issues.

    On the eBay terms of service problem, he said that he knew "some highups," at the company and was "confident, when I speak with eBay they will grant me a waiver."

    And does TippingPoint know about what he's doing? "I believe at some level," he answered. "I'm sure things might change as the word percolates to the executives. Maybe I shouldn't have sold the [TippingPoint] bag with the laptop!!"

    Read the IGN interview and more about Shane at InfoWorld

    PWN to OWN Sponsors Say Linux Not Immune To Hacking

    PWN to OWN sponsors say it was actually a lack of interest in hacking Ubuntu not its immunity that saved it from falling victim to the hacking contest.

    "There was just no interest in Ubuntu," said Terri Forslof, manager of security response at 3Com Corp.'s TippingPoint. She continued to say, "[Shane Macaulay's] exploit would have worked on Linux. He could have knocked it over. But [the contestants] get a lot more mileage out of attacks on the Mac or Windows."

    Finding vulnerabilities for Mac and Windows are the ones that are going to get the press so obviously those are the ones you'd go after. there isn't a big draw to hack Linux machines, you don't get a lot of notoriety.

    Last week we reported that the MacBook Air was the first victim of the contest. With the Vista equipped laptop falling second. However the Ubuntu equipped laptop could just have easily been the second victim leaving Vista unhacked.

    Everyone has been quick to jump aboard Ubuntu and Linux and say its unhackable. In this case it simply isn't true. No one managed to crack any of the operating systems alone. It wasn't until the attack exposure was expanded that we saw any of the machines breached. First to any client-side application installed by default with the operating system, then to a larger group of third-party applications added to the machines.

    Hacking operating systems is a lot hard to do than attacking applications. For the most part finding those types of vulnerabilities is also going to net you a lot more money than the contest offered. So it was unlikely that even if the contestants knew about any that they'd use them. Using application vulnerabilities found, and exploited, in applications such as Internet Explorer, Microsoft Word, Firefox, Adobe Reader and others is faster and easier.

    According to ComputerWorld Vista Service Pack 1 was a lot tougher to hack than Shane Macaulay first thought.

    "SP1 was a huge challenge to him," said Forslof. "When he walked in, he was strutting, he was going to own [that machine], he was going to break it in two minutes, he was going to wow the crowd."

    Hover it didn't happen that way. Macaulay had prepared an exploit, but had very little time to test it on SP1. So he had to use a few more tricks and tactics to get the ball rolling.

    "Microsoft has built a lot of things into its OS to make exploiting vulnerabilities more challenging," Forslof said, ticking off several defensive technologies, including ASLR (address space layout randomization). "Shane had to use some tricks to get that exploit to work on SP1."

    According to Forslof, the Flash vulnerability Macaulay exploited on the Vista SP1 notebook is multiplatform and is present on both Mac OS X and Linux. So his exploit could have worked to bring down either of those machines as well.

    If you'd like to read more about the contest checkout ComputerWorld's article Linux ignored, not immune, says hacker contest sponsor

    Tuesday, April 01, 2008

    Is Mahalo Having An Identity Crisis?

    According to a recent article by Allen Stern over at CenterNetworks Calacanis and crew have made another change of direction. Now the "human-powered search" is a "research engine".

    The move as I see it can only be a direct response to leaked Google documents regarding spam and the amount of original content per page.

    "Final Notes on Spam
    When trying to decide if a page is Spam, it is helpful to ask yourself this question: if I remove the scraped (copied) content, the ads, and the links to other pages, is there anything of value left? if the answer is no, the page is probably Spam."

    According to CenterNetworks an email was sent to greenhouse workers last week with Jason demanding a few changes. They are now mandating a minimum of 300-400 word guide notes, a direct attempt at adding some of their own content to each page. Jason reportedly stated, "No guide notes, no google/yahoo rankings, and no traffic. No traffic, no money. No money, we all go home."

    Aaron Wall over at SEOBook.com recently used the "Best Computer Speakers" page from Mahalo as a point of reference for his article "Official - Mahalo is Spam, According to Google's Internal Spam Documents" so to be fare we'll take a look at the same page.

    In response to the article Jason defends the page as being "sort of experimental" and adds "Over time I think you’ll see our pages grow to be over 50% original content, 20% links, and 20% UGC (i.e. reviews, votes, comments)."

    Several issues arise here but one is being that they are counting on 20% of their content to be user generated. If you look at the page in question (which has been revised since the article) you'll see there is zero UGC, zero Mahalo generated content on the main context of the page and what little original(ish) (thanks Aaron) content they do have is relatively unrelated to the rest of the page.

    The page is supposed to be about the "best computer speakers" however all we see is a list of 5 speaker sets and where to buy them. Reviews are listed but there is no factual based information provided that tells me why or by whom the speakers were selected. Mahalo generates zero information in relation to what makes these the "best" they simply scrape tid bits.


    So what makes Mahalo a "research engine"? Clearly it can't be seen in any of their recent pages looking over a few newly created pages listed on the daily serp list shows that. If they are going to scrape content to add to the guides notes to extend them to 400 words then they are missing the point of "original content".

    Aaron Wall said it best, "Scraping content is not just about how many unique words are on the page. It is more about weather or not you add value. If you felt your original content added any *real* value (or was actually *here to help* - as your slogan suggests), I would suggest placing it in the left rail above all the ads."

    Obviously time will tell, I'm sure Jason will will probably shift gears yet again and Mahalo will don a new label before long. The question is what is next? Obviously Mahalo is generating traffic, and even though Jason original said they had enough money to last years without advertising he must be worried about revenue generation. 75% of their traffic comes from Google, fear of loosing that will obviously force the team to get creative and make some changes.

    For more reading I suggest checking out "Jason Calacanis and his human powered spam" from derekville.net and "What Is Going On At Mahalo?" posted on Profy.com by Michael Garrett.

    Some Final Thoughts

    After writing this post I noted a few things that raised some rather interesting questions.

    Search engines don't typically index SERPs from other search engines, you don't get a Yahoo results page in your Google search and vice versa. So why do Google and Yahoo index Mahalo pages? Shouldn't they be excluded in the search results? What will happen to Jason's little pet project once they are excluded, after all 75% of their traffic is Google generated?

    The second thought was the direct correlation between Jason's blog post about the example page and the pages Google ranking. I thought it was rather funny Jason's blog post ranked as high or higher than their SERP. Obviously Jason's not going to "nofollow" his links from his blog to the Mahalo SERPs, he wants to lend his PR to their pages. But that page and Jason's blog post are hardly the best results out there for the subject. Hell I'd go so far as to say Jason's blog post could be considered SPAM, which we all know he loathes so much!

    Software News: Wireshark 1.0, Snort Alpha 3.0 Released

    After ten years two widely popular network tools are finally getting makeovers.

    After almost 10 years of work the Wireshark team has announced the release of Wireshark 1.0. Wireshark is a very handy, free packet sniffer. It is used for network troubleshooting, analysis and communications protocol development.

    Visit the Wireshark download page to get Wireshark for free.

    Snort 3.0 Alpha

    Snort 3 is now in beta, to try out the new beta release visit the Snort 3 beta site.

    Marty Roesch, who wrote the first version of the software nearly 10 years ago, has rewritten the software from top to bottom in the next-generation Snort 3.0 release, due in beta next month and early next year in its final release.

    Snort is a free and open source Network Intrusion prevention system (NIPS) and network intrusion detection (NIDS) capable of performing packet logging and real-time traffic analysis on IP networks.

    Snort performs protocol analysis, content searching/matching, and is commonly used to actively block or passively detect a variety of attacks and probes, such as buffer overflows, stealth port scans, web application attacks, SMB probes, and OS fingerprinting attempts, amongst other features.

    Snort Security Platform (SnortSP) 3.0 Beta

    We’re pleased to introduce our first beta release built on the new Snort 3.0 architecture. The Snort 3.0 architecture consists of two primary components: a software platform called the Snort Security Platform (SnortSP) 3.0, which is shipping in beta form in this release, and traffic analysis engine modules that plug into SnortSP. This beta test release contains one engine module which contains the Snort 2.8.2 detection engine implemented as a SnortSP engine module. SnortSP is an open-source platform for running packet-based network security applications. It provides many of the common functions required by programs that deal with packet processing such as configuration loading, event generation and traffic logging, data acquisition, protocol decoding and validation, flow management, and more.

    Major features:

    • Shell-based user interface with embedded scripting language
    • Native IPv6, MPLS and GRE support
    • Native support for inline operation
    • More subsystem plugin types such as data acquisition modules, decoders and traffic analyzers
    • Multithreaded execution model - multiple analysis engines may operate simultaneously on the same traffic
    • Performance increases

    The purpose of this beta release is to allow people to get exposure to the technology and to use the code in real-world environments - and as an opportunity to solicit feedback on the design and user experience of the new Snort code.

    More Software News

    Vlite releases 1.1.6 beta 2
    Vlite is the very popular Windows Vista installation customizer, slipstreamer. It can be used for Vista SP1 integration and OS customizations.
    Vista users can download Vlite here, for Windows Xp users we suggest Nlite

    Adobe releases alpha of AIR for Linux
    The alpha of the AIR runtime platform for Linux, and the alpha of the SDK for AIR for Linux, are available as separate links on this page. The public alpha of the Flex Builder 3 environment for Linux is available from this page.

    Gamers for Net Neutrality Launches

    A grassroots movement featuring a joint undertaking of the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA), SavetheInternet.com and Games for Change was announced today.

    Gamers for Net Neutrality seeks to raise awareness and get gamers together to fight for Net Neutrality. The mission is to engage video game players in the real world fight to protect a free and open internet.

    Stand up for your gaming rights and join more than 1.5 million Americans of every political persuasion in the fight for Net Neutrality — the principle that ensures that gamers are free to go where they want, do what they like, and connect with whom they choose online.

    Without Net Neutrality, your Internet Service Provider is free to charge you extra for playing World of Warcraft®, to interfere with Xbox Live®, or to completely shut off your ability to access your favorite Web sites. Net Neutrality affects your entire online experience!

    Join Gamers for Net Neutrality. Together, we'll fight to protect Internet freedom and find innovative ways to educate the entire gaming community about the importance of this issue.

    “Gamers make up a large percentage of internet users, so our goal with the launch of Gamers for Net Neutrality is to raise awareness and increase advocacy within this space,” said Jennifer Mercurio, ECA Director of Government Affairs. “Today’s roll out is the culmination of a tremendous amount of collaboration and good will between the ECA, SavetheInternet.com, Games for Change, and other leading non-profit voices working together to protect consumer rights and keep the internet unbiased and unchanged. We’re extremely proud of this initiative, and look forward to its continued growth and progress.”

    "Net Neutrality is the single biggest public policy issue facing our communities today - as educators, non-profits, small businesses and the arts, we all deserve open and equal access to the internet," says Suzanne Seggerman, President and Co-founder of Games for Change. "Why let the telecom giants dictate what speed we play our games, view our video, or listen to music? Gamers, as one of the largest audiences on the internet, need to act now - before it's too late."

    For more information on Gamers for Net Neutrality, please visit www.GamersforNetNeutrality.org.

    Monday, March 31, 2008

    Virgin Media Sends File-Sharers Mixed Messages

    UK broadband provider Virgin Media says they'll be the first UK ISP to voluntarily track their users' pirated file-sharing transfers, and will terminate the accounts of repeat "three strike" offenders.

    The UK broadband firm has agreed to a test project that will scan for illegal copies of music and other media across the service. The monitoring will follow a three-strike rule that will see users receive a letter for a first violation; a second violation will result in a temporary suspension of Internet access, while a third will force the customer to cancel their service altogether.

    However in a complete 180 of tracking file-sharing Virgina announced it will offer an enhanced service which will provide customers get free Usenet binaries access, untraceable by the ISP, music industry or nay other snoops out there.

    Skype International CallingAccording to Reuters a Virgin spokesman said: “We’re delighted to be working with Highwinds to build out our newsgroup service. Our expanded access to newsgroups will give our customers a free news feed to newsgroups with exceptional retention, providing one of the best free newsgroup services in the UK.”

    The British government has been pushing for legislation requiring ISPs to take action against users using their networks for illegal file-sharing. Virgin media would simply be taking a preemptive stance by teaming up with the UK's version of the RIAA, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).

    According to The Telegraph, "the BPI has teams of technicians to trace illegal music downloading to individual accounts. It will hand these account numbers over to Virgin Media, which will match them to names and addresses."

    News like this saddening, it means a break down in the nature of the internet. While I don't condone nor do I participate in illegal file-sharing I whole heartedly disagree with content filtering, internet censorship or any other infringement on the free and open use of the web.

    Having Vista Issues, Blame Nvidia MS Does

    According to documents released from the ongoing Microsoft "Vista Capable" lawsuit 48 percent of Vista crashes where related to graphical drivers. Thirty percent of those Vista crashes were attributed to Nvidia software drivers.

    While this information puts Nvidia directly in the spot light it doesn't take blame away from Microsoft, who has been accused of caving to pressure from Intel and others to lower its requirements specifically its graphics to include less-than-optimal graphics drivers. Microsoft itself was to blame for nearly 18 percent of graphical issue, while Intel and AMD were said to be responsible for 9 percent.

    All this has come to via the 'Vista Capable' lawsuit. The suit claims that the labeling of computers as "Windows Vista Capable" misled consumers because many of the machines weren't powerful enough to run all of Vista's features, such as the Aero user interface.

    In 2006 when Vista first made its big splash 'Vista Capable' was a huge marketing strategy. One that led many unknowing, unsuspecting consumers to buy machines they thought were powerful enough to run any version of Vista. However many of the computers touted as Vista Capable could run only the stripped-down "Home Basic" version.

    What does this mean to Nvidia, probably not much, I highly doubt they will be named in any part of the lawsuit anytime soon. Nvidia PR director Derek Perez has said "These issues are a year and a half old." Noting the company took a number of steps in response to the issues, including establishing a Web site where people could report such issues and said the company made significant progress in reducing those errors.

    Sunday, March 30, 2008

    Forbes: Youngest Billionaires

    Forbes "In Pictures" features ten of the worlds youngest billionaires. Names like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, German prince Albert von Thurn und Taxis and China's richest person Yang Huiyan are all featured, along with how they had made there way on the list.

    For instance 23 year old Mark Zuckerberg, number 785 on the "World's Billionaires" list. Mark is the founder of Facebook, which we all know is one of the web's most popular social networking sites. Forbes estimates his net worth at being somewhere near $1.5 bil.

    For the full list of young billionaires visit Forebes.com Youngest Billionaires

    Forbes: Concept Cellphones

    Forbes in pictures lists some of the latest in Cool Future Phones.

    Some of these cool "concept" phones are pretty wild in design, but then again the iPhone was said to be a wild idea. Concepts included are videophones, nanotechnology phones that change shape, clean itself, capture solar energy and intelligently analyze its environment. Phones powered by fuel-cell technology and a "wellness" phone which has a built in pedometer and meters that can read your pulse, body fat and even bad breath.

    Most of the concepts are from Nokia, which spends nearly $4 billion annually to research and development projects. "It's a way to go from theoretical to concrete," says Nokia spokesman Keith Nowak. "We can show it to people, get feedback and start conversations." However Nowak does concede that some of the designs are a bit outrageous and may not make it to production, "None of this is on a particular roadmap, some concepts may never come to pass. But some may very well change the way we make devices in the future."

    For more information read Forbes' article "Innovative Cellphones"

    TorrentSpy Says Its Goodbyes

    TorrentSpy shut down last week following a two-year copyright battle with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)

    The site that was once one of the most popular indexes for Torrent files was forced to shut down after a costly battle which saw them being accused of copyright infringement in a 2006 lawsuit.

    Friends of TorrentSpy,

    We have decided on our own, not due to any court order or agreement, to bring the Torrentspy.com search engine to an end and thus we permanently closed down worldwide on March 24, 2008.

    The legal climate in the USA for copyright, privacy of search requests, and links to torrent files in search results is simply too hostile. We spent the last two years, and hundreds of thousands of dollars, defending the rights of our users and ourselves.

    Ultimately the Court demanded actions that in our view were inconsistent with our privacy policy, traditional court rules, and International law; therefore, we now feel compelled to provide the ultimate method of privacy protection for our users - permanent shutdown.

    It was a wild ride,

    The TorrentSpy Team

    I must note the shut down of the site was a voluntary decision, the court ruled in favor of the MPAA however the ruling only addresses the fact that TorrentSpy admins were guilty of hiding and the destruction of evidence made that made a fair trial impossible.

    "The court finds that plaintiffs have suffered prejudice, to the extent that a rightful decision is not possible," the ruling said. "Defendants' conduct during discovery in this case has been obstreperous," the court concluded. "They have engaged in widespread and systematic efforts to destroy evidence and have provided false testimony under oath in an effort to hide evidence of such destruction."

    The ruling means there is no direct U.S. legal precedent in relation to BitTorrent tracking sites. The central legal question of whether such sites violate U.S. copyright law for solely pointing to where users can download copyrighted works from others is still under question.

    While the shutting down of TorrentSpy is a victory for the MPAA it is not the clear victory they were looking for. They want a full legal trial that sets legal precedence. If they achieve such a victory then both they and the RIAA could go on a legal rampage and have any and all Torrent sites shut down.

    Saturday, March 29, 2008

    Vista Laptop Becomes Pwn to Own's Second Victim

    A laptop running Vista Ultimate, was compromised by a previously undiscovered flaw in Adobe's Flash software making it the second victim to be hacked by Pwn to Own contestants.

    Shane Macaulay and Derek Callaway of Security Objectives along with Alexander Sotirov, were able to gain control of the Fujitsu laptop using an Adobe Flash zero day vulnerability. They are the second successful team to hack a machine at the PWN to OWN contest at the CanSecWest security conference. However, since the rules had been relaxed, they only get $5,000 and the laptop of course.

    Yesterday ISE security researchers Charlie Miller, Jake Honoroff, and Mark Daniel used a zero-day vulnerability in Apple's Safari 3.1 Web browser to hack the MacBook Air in just two minutes.

    It looks like at the end of the last day of the contest, only the Sony VAIO laptop running Ubuntu, a popular linux distro, was left standing.

    Friday, March 28, 2008

    MacBook Air Hacked In Just Two Minutes

    ISE security researchers Charlie Miller, Jake Honoroff, and Mark Daniel used a zero-day vulnerability in Apple's Safari 3.1 Web browser to hack the MacBook Air in just two minutes.

    The researchers from Independent Security Evaluators (ISE) were participating in the "PWN to OWN" competition at the CanSecWest security conference, which began Wednesday in Vancouver, British Columbia.

    Contest participants had their choice of trying to hack an Apple MacBook Air running OS X 10.5.2, a Sony Vaio VGN-TZ37CN running Ubuntu 7.10, or a Fujitsu U810 running Vista Ultimate SP1. During the first day, when attacks were limited to network attacks on the operating system, no one managed to compromise any of the systems.

    That changed Thursday when attacks on default client-side applications -- Web browser, e-mail, IM -- were allowed. Using an attack code already set up on a Web site the ISE team "tricked" the judges using the MacBook into visiting the site and retrieving a file.

    The team won $10,000 from security firm TippingPoint Technologies for compromising the MacBook Air.

    The undisclosed vulnerability in Safari 3.1 has been shown to Apple and no further information about it will be revealed until Apple can issue an update, TippingPoint said.

    The contest rules stipulated that winners immediately sign a nondisclosure agreement relating to their technique, so that the vulnerability could be disclosed to the vendor, and TippingPoint said Apple has been informed of the vulnerability.

    Thursday, March 27, 2008

    EBay's Robert Kagle To Stand Down

    EBay Inc said on Thursday that early venture capital backer and long-time board member Robert Kagle plans to stand down as a director of the company at its next annual shareholder meeting.

    Kagle made one of his earliest investments in eBay of between $5 million and $7 million as a partner with Silicon Valley venture capital firm Benchmark Capital. At its high point the investment was worth upward of $5 billion.

    eBay has said that Kagle was leaving solely for personal reasons and time considerations and did not involve any disagreement with the company, the company's management or the board of directors. But one has to wonder given the inauspicious timing.

    Earlier this week eBay announced the cut of 125 jobs. That along with the retirement of CEO Meg Whitman, and recent issues with a sellers strike leads on the believe there might be more going on at eBay than they are letting on to.

    It looks to me like everyone is abandoning ship while the getting is good. Its definitely something Geek-News.Net will be keeping an eye on.

    Comcast Decides To Work With BitTorrent And P2P Users

    In a shocking announcement, Comcast and BitTorrent have said they will partner to address issues of network management and architecture, as well as content distribution.

    According to the Wall Street Journal Comcast and BitTorrent are negotiating to allow BitTorrent's peer-to-peer software to run more effectively on Comcast's network.

    The companies are in talks to collaborate on ways to run BitTorrent's technology more smoothly on Comcast's broadband network, and allow Comcast to transport video files more effectively over its own network in the future, said Tony Warner, Comcast's chief technology officer.

    The announcement might come to as a major shock to many users, especially given Comcast's previous stance of blocking P2P content. Several lawsuits have been filled over the past few years over Comcast's alleged blocking of P2P applications and protocols.

    The FCC has been looking into issues with Comcast and its content filtering practices. The ongoing inquiry looks into what constitutes "reasonable" network management practices--and, specifically, whether it should find fault with Comcast's special treatment of file-sharing traffic

    "This deal is the direct result of public pressure -- and the threat of FCC action -- against Comcast," Marvin Ammori, general counsel of Free Press, said in his statement. "But with Comcast's history of broken promises and record of deception, we can't just take their word that the Internet is now in safe hands. The issue of net neutrality is bigger than Comcast and BitTorrent."

    The agreement doesn't protect other P-to-P companies or other "innovative" applications and services, and it doesn't prevent other ISPs from blocking or slowing Internet traffic, Ammori said.

    AMD Launches New Phenoms, Adds Triple Core CPUs

    amd x3 logo
    Thursday AMD announced the launch of two new AMD Phenom X3 processors.

    AMD Phenom triple-core processors are the world’s first PC processors to integrate three computational cores on a single die of silicon. That’s an improvement over Intel's quad-core processors that have two dual-core silicon chips inside a multi-chip package that does not include the memory controller.

    “In 2007, AMD committed to delivering AMD Phenom triple-core processors in Q1 2008 and today the company makes good on that promise,” said Bob Brewer, corporate vice president, strategic marketing, AMD. “AMD understands that today’s PC applications are best accelerated with a range of multi-core products from quad- to triple- to dual-core processors, and that’s why we now deliver the broadest multi-core desktop lineup in the industry.”

    Labeled AMD Phenom X3 8400 (2.1GHz) and 8600 (2.3GHZ), the new processors are intended to be paired with the new AMD 780 series chipset.

    "The value proposition is simple. Three cores versus two cores. You make the choice," Pat Moorehead, VP of Advanced Marketing at AMD said, according to CNET News.com. "When you've maxed out your two cores...(this is an) extra core to do background tasks," he added.

    In addition, the company announced its first 65W quad-core desktop processor, the AMD Phenom X4 9100e.

    Overall AMD released seven new CPUs, four of the which are the new 50-series CPUs (also known as the "B3 stepping") that fix the TLB (Translation Lookaside Buffer) erratum that plagued the first batch of Phenom processors out of the gate. The TLB erratum necessitated a fix on the affected system's motherboard BIOS (turning the TLB "off") resulting in some reduced performance.

    The new 50-series processors have similar model numbers and have the same speed clock-for-clock: i.e. the Phenom 9500 and 9550 are both 2.2-GHz quad-core processors. The new processors are the Phenom X4 9550 2.2 GHz ($195 per unit in 1,000 unit lots), the Phenom X4 9750 2.4 GHz ($215), and the unlocked Phenom X4 9850 "Black Edition" 2.5 GHz ($235, unlocked and overclockable).

    MaximumPC tested the new 2.5GHz Phenom X4 9850 in a side by side comparison with the Intel Core 2 Q9300 and the Core 2 Q6600. As you can see from their results the Q9300 owned both the Q6600 and the Phenom X4 9850. While the Phenom is still fastest AM2 chip available today Intel still has the upper hand in the quad core performance market.

    Legit Reviews has a more comprehensive comparison featuring eight different CPUs, the QX9775, QX9770, QX6850, Q6600, E8500, E6750 from Intel and the Phenom 9850 and Phenom 9600 from AMD.

    Adobe Launches Free Photoshop Express

    Adobe announced on Today the launch of the long-awaited Web component to its digital imaging line, Photoshop. Debuting today in public beta, Adobe Photoshop Express is a free online photo sharing, editing, and storage site.

    Along with with an easy-to-use, one-click editing tools like cropping, red eye correction, sharpening, touchup and more, including a set of advanced effects for changing colors, distorting images and converting photos to black and white, users will be provided with 2GB of free storage and integration with popular Web apps like Facebook, Photobucket and eventually Flickr

    "Photoshop is trusted technology that has changed the visual landscape of our world. Now, Photoshop Express allows anyone who snaps a digital photo to easily achieve the high-impact results for which Adobe is known," the company's vice president of Consumer and Hosted, Doug Mack said. "Photoshop Express is a convenient, single destination where you can store, edit and share photos whether you're at home, school or on the road."

    Wednesday, March 26, 2008

    1.2 Million Year Old European Fossils Found

    National Geographic News reports the prehistoric fossils were excavated last June at Atapuerca in northern Spain, along with stone tools used for butchering meat.

    At the time, scientists announced that they had dated one of the jaw teeth to 1.2 million years ago but that more research was needed before the find could be reported in a scientific journal.

    An analysis of an ancient jaw and teeth has confirmed that humans reached Western Europe well over a million years ago, far earlier than previously thought.

    Read more at NationalGeographic.com

    $29 Intel Atom 230 CPUs

    DigiTimes has reported that Intel is planning on pricing its entry-level desktop Atom 230 processor down to a price around $29 in thousand-unit tray quantities.

    In an attempt to prevent AMD from grabbing a strong hold in the low-cost desktop Laptop and PC market share Intel intends to ship out its new line of low-end desktop and laptop CPUs at incredibly low prices.

    The Atom 230 is based on the 45nm Silverthorne platform, featuring a single-core 1.6GHz CPU with 512KB L2 cache and a 533fsb. Similarly Intel plans to price the Atom N270, a Diamondville based laptop CPU, at $44. The 45nm processor will come in various speeds up to 1.8 GHz with a 533fsb and 512KB L2 cache.

    Asus has already confirmed that they will adopt the Atom 230 chip in its forthcoming Eee PC-branded E-DT desktop. The E-DT is scheduled to launch at $199 in the May-June time frame. Asus intends to put Atom processors in forthcoming 8.9" Eee PC notebooks due in May, as well.

    Laptops Of The Future

    Ever wonder what laptops will look like three to five years? Well thanks to Computerworld and a handful of designers, engineers and marketers we get a sneak peek of how laptops will change over the next seven years.

    "Between now and 2015, we expect to see a series of big changes that will redefine what a notebook is and what it looks like," said Mike Trainor, Intel Corp.'s evangelist for mobile products.

    While some of these designs are down right wild some are extremely innovative. Take for instance the screenless Siafu. A touch based concept for the visually impaired. Because the blind can't see what's on the screen, Siafu converts images into corresponding 3-D shapes that are created with Magneclay, an oil-based synthetic material that instantly forms shapes in response to electrical fields.

    More Power

    While the current laptop models are running dual and in some limited instances Quad Core Cpus, the next generation will be running six to eight computational cores.

    Storage will no longer be a concern, as the typical mainstream notebook could be outfitted with a 2TB hard disk drive. Lower costs in SSD's will also mean more mainstream push to the faster lighter devices. We can look to having something like 250GB of super fast flash memory.

    Powering all this will still likely fall to lithium-ion cells as batteries will continue to dominate the power scene. However they will become smaller, lighter and will be formed in a variety of shapes and sizes. Meaning designers will be able to pack more into a smaller space, providing more power.

    Brighter, lighter displays

    OLEDs with touchscreen capabilities that draw far less power and, when powered from a battery, can operate longer will be the main stay. OLED's are flexible, brighter and lighter than today's LCD screens. All making for a much more portable, much more viewable laptop.

    Checkout more on the article at Computerworld.com

    Xbox Live Gamerscore Corrections

    For any of you that have been cheating, or more commonly known as “game-saving”, for gamerscore on Xbox Live, your days of having a high gamerscore are limited, at least that is what the Director of Programming for Xbox Live, Larry Hryb has said in a few of his recent blog posts.

    xbox gamerscore correction

    Larry Hryb, aka Major Nelson, explains in a blog post what his team is doing to the accounts of the most serious offenders:
    • Resetting the entire Gamerscore for an account to zero
    • The account will be unable to regain all previously obtained achievements and Gamerscore, however, the players will have the ability to gain future Achievements by earning them fairly, like the majority of the Xbox LIVE community does.
    • The account will be clearly labeled as a cheater for the community to view on xbox.com, see below for a screenshot. In dash, the personal view of the gamercard will be labeled too.

    The vast majority of Xbox LIVE members play games legitimately to earn Achievements and are unaffected by this. Anyone who plays inside the actual game to get Achievements does not fall into the category we are taking action on.

    Xbox.com has a Q&A on the topic, answering some questions, including:

      Under what circumstances does LIVE correct a specific gamerscore? Specific and automated criteria are used to determine if a player has earned achievements by using tools that circumvent the game or avoid game play entirely. A player who meets these criteria has their gamerscore corrected. How does LIVE know a player has been cheating on their gamerscore versus another player? We look for abnormal achievement and gamerscore activity using criteria that identifies users who have used external means to earn achievements without really playing the game. Users who play games legitimately to earn an achievements are unaffected by this.

    Back in October Larry and the XBox team informed users that they will no longer be tolerating account sharing and Gamesave tampering, stating:
    "If you decide to employ some nefarious techniques to artificially increase your Gamerscore or obtain achievements by manipulating the Xbox software without playing the game, bad things will happen. What type of bad things? For one thing we may remove the entire Gamerscore for an account that contains manipulated gamerscore. Let me be more clear: If you use tampered gamesaves to boost your Achievements and Gamerscore, you may sign in to Xbox LIVE one day and discover that we have removed your Gamerscore. Once we do that, you will never be able to re-earn those achievements on that account. Even worse, you might have your account and/or console banned from Xbox Live."

    Tuesday, March 25, 2008

    Nvidia 174.53 GeForce 9 ForceWare Drivers Released

    A mere week after the launch of the newest top dawg in the graphics world, the GeForce 9800 GX2, Nvidia has released drivers for both the new dual-GPU graphics card and its more affordable (and in my personal opinion best price to performance nvidia card) GeForce 9600 GT.

    This new 174.53 release is the first GeForce 9800 GX2-compatible driver set to have received Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) certification from Microsoft, and it includes support for Quad SLI technology, new PureVideo HD features, and new Nvidia Control Panel functionality for Windows Vista.

    The new control panel features include "Manage Custom Resolutions," "Adjust Television Color Settings," "Adjust Screen Size and Position," and "Move CRT Position." Users can also look forward to the following new PureVideo HD functionality:
    • Dynamic Contrast Enhancement
    • Dynamic Blue, Green & Skin Tone Enhancements
    • Dual-Stream Decode Acceleration
    • Microsoft Vista Aero display mode compatibility for Blu-ray & HD DVD playback
    Of course Aero isn't available for Windows XP and Nvidia doesn't list Quad SLI support as a feature for the XP version of the new drivers, either. (Although who would want blow $1,200 on DirectX 10 graphics processors and then run Windows XP, which only supports DirectX 9.)

    You can find the 174.53 drivers on Nvidia's website.

    Man loses everything in Craigslist hoax

    According to the Associated Press a pair of hoax ads on Craigslist cost an Oregon man much of what he owned.

    The ads popped up saying the owner of a Jacksonville, Oregon home was forced to leave the area suddenly and his belongings were free for the taking.

    But Robert Salisbury had no plans to leave.

    Jackson County Det. Colin Fagan says Salisbury was on his way home when he stopped a truck loaded down with his work ladders, lawn mower and weed eater. Salisbury informed them he was the owner, but they refused to give the items back, showing the Craigslist printout and sped away.

    "I informed them I was the owner, but they refused to give the stuff back," Salisbury told Associated Press. "They showed me the Craigslist printout and told me they had the right to do what they did."

    When Salisbury got to his house he found around 30 people rummaging through his home looking for things to take. Again he told them that the advert was a hoax but again they refused to accept his word.

    "They honestly thought that because it appeared on the internet it was true, " he said. "It boggles the mind."

    Fagan says prosecution was likely for anybody caught with Salisbury's property unless they return the items with no questions asked. Detectives have contacted Craigslist's legal team to try to trace the ad.

    My thoughts

    I had read this story yesterday, and honestly wasn't shocked.

    There are lots of people out there on Craigslist that are genuinely good hearted people, but as with any community there are also those that are out only for themselves. I've personally seen many instances where people have been kind enough to offer a few specific items only for Craigslisters to come and take more than they should.

    Its sad when you see the kindness of strangers being mistreated. I've been a long time member of the popular Freecycle Network and have seen time and time again people that use and abuse the system for personal profit and gain as much as possible. Instead of thinking of people that could actually use the hand up they think only of themselves.

    Yahoo, Google, MySpace form non-profit OpenSocial Foundation

    Google, Yahoo, and News Corp.'s MySpace.com announced on Tuesday that they have formed the OpenSocial Foundation, a non-profit group to support the OpenSocial initiative that Google kick-started last year as a way to promote a universal standard for developer applications on social-networking sites.

    "OpenSocial has been a community-driven specification from the beginning," Joe Kraus, Google's director of product management, said in a joint statement from the three companies. "The formation of this foundation will ensure that it remains so in perpetuity. Developers and websites should feel secure that OpenSocial will be forever free and open."

    The OpenSocial Foundation is expected to be formed within 90 days, with more OpenSocial partners from across the Web on board in addition to the three responsible for the announcement.

    The specific purpose of the new non-profit, according to a release, is "to ensure the neutrality and longevity of OpenSocial as an open, community-governed specification for building social applications across the web." It's a particularly crucial move for Google, which has been eager to emphasize that OpenSocial is a community standard, not a Mountain View project.

    The only major social network not to commit to OpenSocial in one way or another has been Facebook, the site that started the social-networking platform craze in the first place.

    And Facebook won't be joining the OpenSocial Foundation, either. "As the largest contributor to the memecached system, Facebook has long been a leader and supporter of open source initiatives but will not join the foundation," a statement from the company read. "The company will continue to evaluate partnership opportunities that will benefit the 300,000 Facebook Platform developers while improving the Facebook user experience."

    Read more from CNET News.com

    eBay Cuts 125 Jobs In North America And Europe, Could This Mean Tough Times Ahead?

    eBay logoeBay Inc. said it's cutting 125 jobs in Europe and North America, including 70 positions at the company's San Jose headquarters, according to a news report from the Associate Press.

    Jose Mallabo, an eBay spokesman, told the Associated Press that the workforce reduction was not a cost-cutting measure, but part of a reorganization needed to streamline operations. The cuts amount to less than 1% of the 15,500 people who work for the company worldwide, according to Mallabo.

    According to the report, eBay said it was making the job cuts in Europe to centralize its corporate functions. However, Mallabo declined to give the AP any information about the layoffs at the company's headquarters.

    "It's more of a streamlining, particularly on the customer service front," Mallabo told the AP.

    eBay has announced the cuts as John Donahoe is set to take over the company from CEO Meg Whitman, who will retire March 31. The timing of these cuts leaves a lot of speculation that eBay may be facing tough times.

    Last month, the company announced a new fee structure and changes to eBay's feedback system, that prompted a sellers strike by many of its top sellers. The strike reportedly forced a 13% drop in new listings.

    Here at Geek-News.Net we reported earlier this month that "eBay is facing more business challenges" with many power sellers revolting and many more people moving to sites like Amazon.com.

    One thing is for sure, eBay has had a busy few months. First the retirement of their long time CEO, then the pricing and policy changes and more recently the creation of the "eBay Partner Network" dropping Commission Junction and ValueClick as affiliate partners.

    Monday, March 24, 2008

    How Accurate Are First-Person Shooter Weapons?

    How Accurate Are First-Person Shooter Weapons?

    With a spate of new military shooter titles hitting the market, PopularMechanics' resident geeks get the inside story on gaming's next-gen guns from top developers, who have to balance coolness with correctness for every M-16 they recreate.

    In real life, people rarely want to get into a firefight. But in many video games, particularly military-themed first-person shooters (FPS) like the just-released Rainbow Six Vegas 2, you can’t wait to step into the line of fire. After all, you’re an elite commando, and there’s no way not to fight—no button to press to call your nervous wreck of a wife or go hang out with the kids. It doesn’t matter how many bullets you take while gunning down whole platoons of terrorists and mercenaries, because this is red-blooded escapism at its geekiest. So shut up and starting shooting guys.

    But unlike sci-fi FPS games such as Halo or Doom, military shooters have a tradition of so-called realism. Most of the in-game weapons are available now—or at least loosely based on designs that could eventually reach the likes of Iraq and Afghanistan. In other words, as optimistic as game developers might be about a high-tech replacement for the M-16 assault rifle, there are no plasma rifles or rail guns in your arsenal. Firefights look and sound like something out of Blackhawk Down, with that unnerving, staccato crackle of modern-day warfare. And the damage inflicted feels more accurate, too: In games like Call of Duty 4 or Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, most enemies are vulnerable to a single burst, and a few incoming rounds can kill you easily. So as this successful genre continues to deliver best-selling titles, will increasingly powerful PCs and game consoles allow military shooters to become more realistic than ever?

    Read more from PopularMechanics

    24 Ultralight Notebooks

    "Ultralight portable laptops from Dell, Toshiba, Panasonic, and Fujitsu promise mobile productivity in a slender package, but can this crop of lightweights get the job done?"
    Read the full article by Bill O'Brien at InformationWeek

    NBA In 3-D

    What’s the next best thing to being at a live NBA game? How about watching it in 3D? Mark Cuban is using his NBA team, the Dallas Mavericks, and the Magnolia Theatre in Dallas to orchestrate a rare 3-D broadcast of a live event.

    "I think 3-D will play a huge role in out-of-home entertainment for the next few years," said Cuban, founder of HDNet. "It will be a unique experience for watching sports, concerts and special events that only theaters will be able to offer."

    Tuesday’s game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Los Angeles Clippers will still be televised in traditional 2D, but will also be broadcast in 3D using the same technology used to shoot the “Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour” movie.

    FSN Southwest is producing the event along with 3-D production innovator Pace, which supplied its Fusion 3-D camera system and mobile unit as well as the production crew. The game will be displayed at the Magnolia Theatre in Dallas on a 40-foot screen. Two Sony SXRD 4K 10,000 lumens digital cinema projectors will also be used.

    Pace and the NBA began testing 3-D theatrical broadcasting about a year ago when they presented invitation-only live 3-D HD viewing parties of the NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas.

    In addition, the NBA's Cavaliers and Pace offered a live screening in Cleveland's home arena of the NBA Finals from San Antonio in 3-D HD. The March 25 broadcast will be the first NBA game to go to a theater.

    Read more from the Reuters article.

    Gibson Sues Over Guitar Hero And Rock Band

    Gibson Guitar Corp has announced that it has filed its second patent infringement lawsuit in realtion to to the wildly popular "Rock Band" video game and Harmonix's previously developed game, "Guitar Hero."

    The lawsuit, filed against Viacom Inc's MTV networks, Harmonix and Electronic Arts, relates to the same patent involved in another suit Gibson filed earlier against various retailers of "Guitar Hero," a competitor to "Rock Band,".

    The original lawsuit filed last week against Wal-Mart, Target Corp., Kmart, Amazon.com, GameStop Corp. and Toys "R" Us claims the retailers should stop selling the games. Claiming they too closely match a musical virtual-reality patent from 1999.

    Activision contends Gibson's patent assertions have no merit. Gibson has said it wants Activision to stop selling Guitar Hero until it gets a license under the patent.

    "Our Guitar Hero retailing partners have done nothing wrong," Activision said in released statement. "We will confront this and any other efforts by Gibson to wrongfully interfere with Activision's relationship with its customers and its consumers."

    The "Guitar Hero" series, published by Activision, has sold more than 14 million units in North America and raked in more than $1 billion since its 2005 debut, while "Rock Band" is a newer rival.

    Microsoft Offers Free Vista SP1 Support

    Amidst a barrage of gripes over Vista SP1 driver issues, blue screens of death and other related malfunctions Microsoft has announced it will be offering free support to any Windows Vista user experiencing problems with installing Service Pack 1 (SP1).

    "[Anyone] needing technical support regarding your installation of Windows Vista SP1, please go to the following URL and choose the bottom option that says, 'Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (All Languages),'" said Brandon LeBlanc, a Microsoft employee who posted several comments to the company's Vista blog. The link LeBlanc pointed users to led to a Vista SP1-specific support site.

    The SP1 support site offers support via e-mail, online chat and telephone during operation hours. Free phone support is available from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Pacific time on weekdays and from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Pacific time on weekends. The free support will be available for one year, and it covers installation and compatibility issues.

    Normally, Microsoft offers no-cost support only to users who bought Windows at retail. Users who obtained the operating system already installed on a PC are referred to the computer manufacturer or reseller; the company's for-fee support runs $59 per request unless the user or business has a prepaid support plan with Microsoft.

    Ubisoft Buys Tom Clancy Name Rights

    With games series such as Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, and the Splinter Cell all featuring the Tom Clancy name, Ubisoft made a bid to secure its continued use.

    "After ten years of a highly successful collaboration which has seen the creation of blockbusters that set standards in the videogame industry, such as Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon, and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six, today, acquiring the perpetual property rights of the Tom Clancy name for video games and related projects is a major event,” stated Yves Guillemot, Chief Executive Officer at Ubisoft.

    In a move that will undoubtedly save the company a bit of money, Ubisoft acquired the intellectual property rights to the Clancy name. While the actual sum paid for the rights has not been disclosed, the purchase is thought to be giving Ubisoft around US$7.8 million a year in profits, however, making it a worthwhile investment.

    The deal not only secures the use of the name on games, but also “ancillary products including books, movies and merchandising products.” So, you can pretty much guarantee Ubisoft is going to publish a lot more supporting products for its games series as well.

    “The future of our industry lies in our capacity to create and develop brands that captivate consumers and that present myriad of opportunities for the full spectrum of entertainment, be it video games, books, movies or other media. The Tom Clancy brand is recognized around the world for offering exciting video games, films and books. The most recent example of such value creation through brand management is the EndWar book, based on the video game story, which has been in the NY Times top 10 Paperback Mass Market Fiction bestseller list for the last four weeks. Capitalizing on the strong franchises that we’ve built over the past 10 years, we will take the Tom Clancy game brand to the next level of the global entertainment industry."

    Read more at GamesIndustry.biz and the Ubisoft press release.

    Sunday, March 23, 2008

    Online 3-D Interactive Human Body

    Update: The visible body is now a subscription only service however Google now offers a free service called the Body Browser which is a nice interactive tool that provides many of the same features. Information about Google Body can be found here

    The "Visible Body", is a new free interactive human anatomy visualization experience from Argosy Publishing.

    The fully interactive, 3D human anatomy model provides users with detailed 3D models of over 1,700 anatomical structures, including all major organs and systems of the human body, with dynamic search capability.

    Screen Shots:

    I must note, you must register before using, the tool is for PC users only with Internet Explorer (no firefox). And XP is probably your best bet since Vista users have apparently reported some glitches when using the beta version of this very cool new interactive tool. If you enjoy checking out the human anatomy you'll dig this.

    Buyback programs turn electronic trash to cash

    Leave it to the gadget industry to turn concern over electronic waste into a sales opportunity. Simply put, they're offering to buy back old devices to recycle or resell, in return for cash or in-store credit.

    Coming to consumer electronic retailers nationwide this spring is the ecoNEW program from NEW Customer Service Cos., the company that provides extended warranty plans and protection programs for such retailers as Best Buy and Wal-Mart.

    Under the program, consumers can return any electronics products they own to participating retailers (which have not yet been announced) -- even if they weren't purchased at the store. In return they'll receive an in-store credit gift card for a predetermined amount based on the type and condition of the device. EcoNEW handles all the collection and evaluation details and issues the gift cards directly.

    Read more of the story from Reuters

    Thursday, March 20, 2008

    Windows XP Lifecycle Coming To A Close

    We all knew it would happen eventually, and the date has been set by Microsoft. But can the end truly be near, are we really ready for forced migration to Vista? According to Microsoft's timeline, XP is on its way to becoming our ex-operating system.

    XP is the most widely used operating system on the planet, and Microsoft is planning a coup. A sort of "forced" upgrade to Vista. This in spite of recent issues with the Vista's new SP1 update.

    Microsoft has already been forced to push back its timetables: Last year, the company extended the sales lifecycle to June 30, 2008 and said it will stop selling XP altogether on January 31, 2009. And it extended the mainstream support period for XP to April 14, 2009. So this time next year it might be burdensome for users to get legit copies of XP.

    XP Timeline
    June 30, 2008
    PC manufacturers and system builders stop selling computers with XP installed.

    January 31, 2009
    Microsoft stops selling XP altogether.

    April 14, 2009
    Mainstream support (free live support and warranty support) ends. Free maintenance is limited to security fixes.

    April 8, 2014
    All support for XP ends.

    Anyone that recently purchasing a PC or Laptop wanting to revert back to XP have already felt the stinging reality. In many cases drivers for XP are not available, and in cases where they are users are having to hunt them down. I know I've spent a few hours on Google tracking drivers for people asking for support.

    So what does this all mean for the user? Extended support means that your XP machine will still have some life expectancy after the loaming lifecycle termination. However don't expect widespread application support to continue. When some of your favorite programs are updated they might not be XP compatible. Some of the newer gadgets on the market might not have widespread XP support. And well once the software stock pile is depleted you simply won't be able to get your hands on a legitimate version.

    Unlimited Music For iPod/iPhone

    Apple is reportedly mulling unlimited music bundle. The new business model would give customers free access to its entire iTune music library in exchange for paying a premium for its iPod digital music players and iPhones.

    The Financial Times reported on Wednesday that Apple is supposedly in negotiations with big music publishers to provide a "all-you-can-eat" service for its customers.

    According to the Financial Times, research has shown that consumers would pay a premium of up to $100 for unlimited access to music for the lifetime of the device or a monthly fee of $7 to $8 for a subscription model. According to Ars Technia Apple wants to make the premium about $20, arguing that it should cover the "average" consumer's downloads. However sources cited by the Financial Times say music labels are looking for numbers closer to the $80 users pay for Nokia's "Comes With Music" program.

    Tuesday, March 18, 2008

    2008 New York Auto Show Highlights

    Popular Mechanics has some great layouts from this years New York Auto show, here a few links to some of my favorites stories, videos and pictures.

    Design Students Mod 3 Custom Nissan Cube EVs
      To celebrate the announcement, Nissan turned to New York's Pratt Institute of Industrial Design to create some innovative and aesthetically pleasing exterior and interior treatments that will communicate the Cube's personality and style to the masses attending the show here this week. Nissan is calling the project "Automobile Meets Art."

    Saleen S5 Raptor Concept
      The Raptor runs on E85 and is a showcase for Saleen's next-gen supercharged 5.0-liter V8. Theodore said the Raptor will hit 60 mph in the low 3-second range and uses an all aluminum frame with lightweight composite body panels. Top speed? The Saleen folks say it will run past 200 mph.

    2008 Ferrari 612 Scaglietti
      Named in honor of legendary Modenes stylist and coachbuilder Sergio Scagletti,, the 612 features a massive V12 engine capable of developing 540 hp and a tire shredding 434 lb.-ft. of torque. The six-speed, F1-style gearbox features a new SuperFast technology that cuts shifting times to just under 100 milliseconds (put that in perspective: F1 vehicles shift times range from 40 to 60 milliseconds). Ferrari also equipped the 612 with a twin-plate clutch to reduce weight and rotating masses, plus thermal and mechanical inertia. This sled’s top speed is a blistering 198 mph, and it zips from 0 to 62 mph in under 4.0 seconds.

    2009 Dodge Challenger
      The 2008 Challenger SRT8 that was unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show offered a glimpse of Dodge’s top-dog muscle car, but we’re finally able to take a closer look at the entry and mid-level 2009 SE and R/T models here at the 2008 New York Auto Show. While the 425-hp 6.1-liter V8-powered SRT8 is the clear choice for tire-melting enthusiasts, we’re guessing Dodge will sell far more of the affordable SE and R/T models—just as Ford does with its successful V6 Mustangs.

    Maserati Gran Turismo S
      The Gran Turismo S has an all-new V8 engine that develops 440 hp and torque of 361.4 lb- ft. It accelerates from 0 to 62 mph in just 4.9 seconds and has a maximum speed of 183 mph—the highest ever reached by a production Maserati.

    For more hot cars from this years show check out the official vehicle galleries, you won't be disappointed! PopSci.com has also updated their gallery of the best and brightest cars.