Sunday, September 30, 2007

Anti-Phishing Online Game Developed by Carnegie Mellon

Carnegie Mellon University has developed an online game to teach people how to spot phishing sites. The game, developed by the CMU Usable Privacy and Security (CUPS) Laboratory, takes about 10 minutes to play (could be longer if you have difficulty). You help Phil (a fish, naturally) navigate through a series of tests to identify fake sites.
Anti-Phishing Phil is an interactive game that teaches users how to identify phishing URLs, where to look for cues in web browsers, and how to use search engines to find legitimate sites.

Our user studies have found that user education can help prevent people from falling for phishing attacks. However, it is hard to get users to read security tutorials, and many of the available online training materials make users aware of the phishing threat but do not provide them with enough information to protect themselves. Our studies demonstrate that Anti-Phishing Phil is an effective approach to user education.
Most of what they teach you should be common sense, like looking at the URL, making sure you don't see IP addresses rather than a site name, Googling the site, or going to the site directly rather than using an embedded link.

Still, if you play the game, you can get one or more changes at an gift certificate. I got a perfect score. How about you readers?

Update: According to the site, Phil is being commercialized and will be moving soon. Drat.
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AT&T Terms of Service: "don't diss us or else"

Have you taken a look at AT&T's Terms of Service for High-Speed Internet (HSI) lately? Some changes they've made are downright draconian. In the section labeled "5.1 Suspension/Termination," AT&T says the normal stuff about lack of payment and so forth. But clause (c) says they can terminate your service for conduct that AT&T believes:
(c) tends to damage the name or reputation of AT&T, or its parents, affiliates and subsidiaries.
So basically if I had AT&T service, I couldn't write this blog entry because it's critical of them. Fortunately I have Comcast HSI service. Of course, Comcast has that "limited unlimited" service clause which they refuse to detail.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Stealth Microsoft update breaks Windows Update on "repaired" XP

While Microsoft said the "stealth install" of updated Windows update files --- even when users had disabled automatic updating --- which we wrote about earlier, was harmless, it turns out it wasn't quite that simple. For XP users, if you happened to do a "repair" using a repair CD, you would no longer be able to use Windows update ... period.

The basic reason for this was that the aforementioned stealth update replaced certain Windows update files. When a repair is done, that file is replaced, and Windows Update is no longer able to function. Nate Clinton, program manager for Windows Update, said on the Windows Update blog:
Here’s what we found: when an XP repair CD is used, it replaces all system files (including Windows Update) on your machine with older versions of those files and restores the registry. However, the latest version of Windows Update includes wups2.dll that was not originally present in Windows XP. Therefore, after the repair install of the OS, wups2.dll remains on the system but its registry entries are missing. This mismatch causes updates to fail installation.
I was confused at first, but what he means is the registry entries for the new wups2.dll are missing --- I think. BTW, this is the same Nate Clinton who initially said the stealth update was harmless. I'm being a little harsh here; it's really the combination of the update and the repair that cause the issue.

How do you fix it? There's a Microsoft KB article on it, KB943144. Unfortunately, while people like you and I won't have issues with the procedure, it's certainly nothing most users would be comfortable with.

To resolve this problem, register the Wups2.dll file in Windows. To do this, follow these steps:
  1. Stop the Automatic Updates service. To do this, follow these steps:
    • Click Start, click Run, type cmd, and then click OK.
    • At the command prompt, type the following command, and then press ENTER:
      net stop wuauserv
  2. Register the Wups2.dll file. To do this, follow these steps
    • At the command prompt, type the following command, and then press ENTER:
      regsvr32 %windir%\system32\wups2.dll
      Note: For a computer that is running Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, type the following command, and then press ENTER:
      regsvr32 %windir%\syswow64\wups2.dll
    • Click OK on each verification message that you receive.
  3. Start the Automatic Updates service. To do this, type the following command at the command prompt, and then press ENTER:
    net start wuauserv
  4. Exit the command prompt. To do this type exit, and then press ENTER.
This just goes to show why why it is important that Microsoft shouldn't force undocumented updates upon users --- though I will admit that if a notification popped up with an update centered around Windows Update, I most likely would have downloaded and installed it anyway.

Google dominates search, but Yahoo! gets more clicks: study

While Google clearly dominates search, it's Yahoo! that gets the most clicks, according to a study released this week by Compete, Inc., a site with a vested interest in search analytics, as it says on its site, "Compete's Search Analytics are the starting point to build search marketing campaigns that create brand awareness, drive site traffic and increase sales."

The report determined that Yahoo! did the best at "search fulfillment," which is when the results of a search are clicked on, resulting in a "referral." About 75% of searches performed on Yahoo! in August resulted in a referral. On the other hand, searches on Google resulted in a referral about 65% of the time while MSN searches resulted in a referral about 59% of the time.

Based on this, while Google just kills everyone else in terms of search engine share, Yahoo! is more satisfying to its users. 'Course, that's not going to make me start using Yahoo! search.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Apple, AT&T sued over iPhone "price discrimination"

I often wonder why lawsuits like this aren't immediately thrown out. It's not enough that Apple / AT&T have been sued over the non-user-replaceable battery (three times!); now they are being sued over the $200 price cut.

In the suit, filed Sept. 24 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Queens resident Dongmei Li claims price discrimination, in that she, if she wanted to, cannot sell her iPhone for the same profit as customers who purchased the device after price drop.

I hate to dash her hopes, but based on the blood-letting on eBay, with the generous supply of iPhones, most people were not able to flip the phones for a profit anyway.

Additionally, she waited in line the first day and bought a 4GB model when all the 8GB models were sold out. She says the price drop means she cannot trade up to an 8GB model as she intended to do, and now has a discontinued product.

This one I just don't get, because there isn't a trade-up policy.

Also in her complaint are stock graphs that show Apple's share price to have risen in between the time it released iPhone in late June and when the company instated the price cut (yeah, and I should have bought some shares, too! I should sue them for not telling me). According to the lawsuit, this means there was no real need for the price cut.

The only part of the lawsuit I might agree with is the part related to the AT&T contract, and being locked in to that carrier only. Many would agree with this section, especially those involved in unlocking the iPhone --- particularly those who supplied the open source unlock.

Anyway, while it is true that those who were early adopters kinda got the shaft, they still get a $100 iPology from Apple, and in this day and age, price cuts are frequent. I must, however, admit that a 1/3 cut in price after only a few months was a shocker.

Personally, I think she needs to talk to the battery lawsuit people ... and I really wonder how she found a lawyer to take the case. Though in our litigious society even God can be sued.

Reports: latest iPhone update turns some unhacked iPhones into "iBricks"

Apple warned that some hacked iPhones would become bricked (specificially, a bricked device is only useful as a brick or doorstop -- it does not mean recoverable data loss) with the latest update (1.1.1) which was released yesterday. Indeed, some hacked phones have been bricked. But now some reports have emerged of locked, pristine iPhones being bricked.

A search of the posts on the iPhone support forum shows that some of these reports are false, meaning that what actually happened was that all the data on the device was wiped. Recommended practice would be to backup your iPhone (or any device) before a software update. On the other hand, this is a definite annoyance, and something I would not expect from Apple, with their normally good quality control.

Additionally, there are some posts related to actual bricking (examples here and here). In some cases the phone won't boot; in other cases the phone won't accept a perfectly good SIM, and an exchange of SIM doesn't seem to fix it. It's also amusing that in many of the posts, the immediate response from other forum users is "don't hack the phone." Obviously people are jumping to conclusions (perhaps like the iPhone updater? )

Just a glance at the support forums shows a lot of anger. There's also the question of whether or not Apple is overstepping its bounds by bricking phones. IMHO, I believe all phone should be unlocked, particularly when you spend as much money as you do on an iPhone. However, I'm sure Steve Jobs and AT&T would disagree. What about you readers?

Software Updates - 09/28/2007

Ah, finally some interesting non-beta or RC freeware updates.

CCleaner 2.01.507 - AKA Crap Cleaner, it cleans a ton of garbage off your system. From the site:
CCleaner is a freeware system optimization and privacy tool. It removes unused files from your system - allowing Windows to run faster and freeing up valuable hard disk space. It also cleans traces of your online activities such as your Internet history. But the best part is that it's fast (normally taking less than a second to run) and contains NO Spyware or Adware! :)
Process Monitor 1.24 - for advanced users, Process Monitor allows you to monitor real-time file system, Registry and process/thread activity. From the site:
Process Monitor is an advanced monitoring tool for Windows that shows real-time file system, Registry and process/thread activity. It combines the features of two legacy Sysinternals utilities, Filemon and Regmon, and adds an extensive list of enhancements including rich and non-destructive filtering, comprehensive event properties such session IDs and user names, reliable process information, full thread stacks with integrated symbol support for each operation, simultaneous logging to a file, and much more. Its uniquely powerful features will make Process Monitor a core utility in your system troubleshooting and malware hunting toolkit.
DVDFab HD Decrypter - want to make an archival copy (as my friend calls it) of a DVD you own? This is a freeware version of a commercial product, which copies the DVD to your hard drive, removing all copy protection. You then have to burn it to DVD using your own DVD writing program. It's frequently updated to include new protection schemes. The only real difference between the commercial version and the freeware version is the "copying to hard drive requirement" -- the commercial version can burn its own DVDs. From the site:
DVDFab HD Decrypter is a simple version of DVDFab Platinum. It copies entire DVD movie to hard disk, and removes all the protections (CSS, RC, RCE, APS, UOPs and Sony ARccOS) while copying. It also comes with full HD-DVD and Blu-Ray support (Removes AACS).

Broadcom announces new single-chip 802.11n solution

802.11n routers are the "in thing," though the standard still hasn't been ratified in anything but draft format. Still, manufacturers are pumping them out. Intensi-fi is Broadcom's implementation of the 802.11n draft specification (Atheros has the other major 802.11n solution). On Wednesday Broadcom announced the first single-chip 802.11n solution, also the first to enable Wi-Fi products to achieve over 200 Mbps of actual wireless throughput.

Additionally, the
BCM4322 will include both 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz radios on the same chip. Most 802.11n routers currently only support one of the two bands, with the exception of the Buffalo Technology Wireless-N Nfiniti™ Dual Band Gigabit Router & Access Point, the Apple Airport Extreme (but unlike the Buffalo router, it can't work in both bands at once), and the still unreleased D-Link DIR-855. The ability to have both radios on one chip would hopefully mean more routers would support both bands -- which is part of the spec, but adds cost.

The BCM4322 uses a 65nm process and is less than half the size of multi-chip 802.11n solutions and consumes up to 50 percent less power. Production quantities are expected to ship in Q1 2008.

Microsoft extends Windows XP sales through June 2008

When Microsoft launched Windows Vista, it said that Windows XP sales would be halted on January 30th of 2008. Since then, however, it's become evident that Windows XP is still in demand, as evidenced by the continued sales of the OS by OEM vendors such as Dell and others.

Now Microsoft has decided to extend Windows XP sales through the end of June 2008, in response to feedback from computer manufacturers.

Let's face it, there are still far too many incompatible programs, missing drivers, etc. etc. It's no wonder consumers still want the ability to choose XP -- and manufacturers aren't blind to that.

At the same time, Microsoft also said it plans to extend sales of the most basic Windows XP Starter Edition for very low cost computers in emerging markets until June 30, 2010. That edition was previously scheduled to phase out in January 2008 also.

Palm enters the low-end market with Centro

Palm has been struggling, and has made missteps of late (such as the Foleo) but with the introduction of this new phone, the Centro, they hope that an inexpensive PalmOS phone can still make an impact in the market.

Palm and Sprint Thursday announced the new phone, at a very attractive price: $99.99. It's much smaller than prior Palm smartphones, at 4.2 inches long by 2.1 inches wide and 0.7 inch deep and 4.2 ounces. This also translates to a much smaller keyboard, I've had a chance to use this device, and surprisingly, the keyboard, although more difficult to type on than a standard Treo, is still very usable.

It's still saddled with the same old PalmOS 5.4.9 though, which is the biggest negative. It's available in onyx black or ruby red, and Sprint has a 90-day exclusive on it ... not that it's going to sell like the iPhone did.

Aside from the price and the form factor, there's not much different between this phone and the Treo 755 -- which may be good or bad depending on your point of view. Will this phone pull Palm out of its doldrums? The stock market seems to think so, as Palm's stock rose 6.3% on Thursday.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

You were warned, but did they do it? Does the 1.1.1 software update disable iPhones?

Apple warned you ... did you listen? If you did, and didn't unlock your phone -- or if you listened to the iPh0ne Dev Team and didn't apply today's update -- your iPhone is still working. If you didn't listen, your phone may or may not be working. It appears some, but not all, are being disabled.

Conflicting reports are circulating with the majority of reports saying that the are relocked and third-party apps are removed, but the phone is not disabled.

However, Macworld reports two unlocked iPhones were hosed.

So, if you did unlock your iPhone, you might want to wait for that promised "relocker." In general, though, it looks like the update will just relock most phones.

Dell officially unleashes the XPS M1730 notebook (The Beast)

It's been rumored for some time, and, in a press release I received by email a short time ago, Dell has officially announced the Dell XPS M1730 Notebook. This notebook starts at $2,999 and is available immediately. Dell has a nice nickname for this product: The Beast. And you can see that in their link to the teaser page:

The first question I expect: does it have the funky looking keyboard setup we've seen. Yes (click to enlarge picture above). It also is the first laptop incorporate AGEIA PhysX Mobile Technology and Logitech’s GamePanel LCD, so perhaps that makes up for it.

Here's a subset of the available features:
  • Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 processor at 2.2GHz; Optional Intel Core 2 Duo T7700 (2.4GHz) or Intel Extreme Edition Core 2 Duo X7900 processor (2.8GHz) with support for overclocking to 3.2GHz (Bin+2)

  • 17-inch UltraSharp™ widescreen (1920x1200) display with TrueLife™ technology (wide viewing angle, 7ms response gray to gray, 260 nits typical brightness)

  • Logitech GamePanel LCD panel embedded above keyboard

  • Up to 4GB dual-channel DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz

  • NVIDIA® SLI® technology with dual NVIDIA® GeForce® Go 8700M GT GPUs with 256MB

  • AGEIA PhysX 100M™ processor

  • 200GB 7200 RPM hard disc drive

  • 8x DVD+/-RW

  • Intel Pro/Wireless 3945 802.11 a/b/g Wireless with WiFi Catcher™, Bluetooth® version 2.0+

  • Four wing color options: Crimson Red, Sapphire Blue, Bone White and Smoke Grey with LED backlight and LightFX support with user-configurable options
Nicely, in addition to the AGEIA support, it has the current top-of-the-line DX10 mobile cards, and as such, although you can choose Windows XP Professional or Windows Vista, I'd go with Vista.

$2,999 is the starting price, as indicated, but it will be easy to crack $6K without trying hard. Oh, and the dang thing isn't available on the Employee Purchase Program, either -- and based on the configuration I made quickly (without paying too much attention) it looks like ship dates are at least 2 - 3 weeks out.

Pro-Choice Text Alerts? Not on Verizon

If you're pro-choice you can opt-in to receive pro-choice text messages from NARAL Pro-Choice America, a Washington, D.C. abortion rights group. Not, however, if you have Verizon Wireless as your carrier. Other leading wireless carriers have accepted NARAL's request to use their networks.

Verizon's reason is that they choose to ban anything that "may be seen as controversial or unsavory to any of our users.” Now, while that may be their right, it's not like this is spam or anything. You have to opt-in.

While they may believe that some of their users may object to this content, why should it matter, if it's opt-in? Shouldn't the user be able to make that choice, instead of having it taken away from them?

“No company should be allowed to censor the message we want to send to people who have asked us to send it to them” said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL. “Regardless of people’s political views, Verizon customers should decide what action to take on their phones. Why does Verizon get to make that choice for them?”

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hey iTunes, I thought you stopped selling NBC shows

When NBC Universal said it would not renew its deal with iTunes, Apple upped the ante by saying it would not sell any NBC shows once the new season started, so as not to "confuse" customers.

Yet visitors to iTunes today could download NBC shows ... in fact, Chuck (see above), was #4 on the list of popular TV shows as this is written (no, I didn't have iTunes on the PC I wrote this on).

So here's why Chuck showed up: this show is not produced by NBC, and iTunes is under contract with Warner Bros. to sell it. Similarly, you will find Journeyman (Fox Television) but you won't find Heroes.

Using Excel 2007 may not add up

Shades of the Intel Pentium floating point bug (not only do I remember that bug, I even recall receiving a replacement Pentium). A Microsoft developer has confirmed on the Excel blog yesterday that there's an issue with certain calculations in Excel 2007 that result in the number being displayed improperly (as opposed to being calculated improperly; you could multiply the result by a number to see the value itself was correct). Prior versions of Excel are not affected.
The key here is that the issue is actually not in the calculation itself (the result of the calculation stored in Excel’s memory is correct), but only in the result that is shown in the sheet.

So what, specifically, are the values that cause this display problem? Of the 9.214*10^18 different floating point numbers that Excel 2007 can store, there are 6 floating point numbers (using binary representation) between 65534.99999999995 and 65535, and 6 between 65535.99999999995 and 65536 that cause this problem. You can’t actually enter these numbers into Excel directly (since Excel will round to 15 digits on entry), but any calculation returning one of those results will display this issue if the results of the calculation are displayed in a cell.
As I previously wrote the recomputation engine on a spreadsheet (it was a major player at the time, but I'm not going to tell you the name as it'd date me ) I can tell you that recomputation engines as well as the display engines of spreadsheets are no simple task. You are not just trying to get the answer correct, but quickly (quicker than competitors, if possible) and with minimal recomputations of individual cells.

That said, I find it amusing that they say they "take calculation in Excel very seriously." Well, duh, it's basically a calculator.

Australian version of Halo 3 Limited Ed. includes high-tech anti-scratch system

Microsoft has admitted it screwed up when it released the U.S. version of the Halo 3 Limited Edition --the discs were able to unseat themselves and get scratched up in the case. You'd think with all the technology today they could figure out how to keep a disc seated.

Well, if you look at this YouTube video, it looks like the Australian versions get a "high-tech" foam insert that keeps the disc in place, despite the fact the user seemed to be sure it would be scratched (sarcasm, anyone?).

My guess would be these inserts will be in U.S. Limited Editions soon if not already.

Washington State University Linux Users Group to have "Nerd Auction"

You might have heard of the concept of a bachelor auction. Usually a group of hunks is auctioned off for a good cause, to whichever woman can "buy him." (Even Frasier and Cheers had episodes featuring such auctions). It's usually for charity. Well, they say charity begins at home, right?

The Linux Users Group at Washington State University must be pretty desperate. They have planned their own version, called a "Nerd Auction." However, since they are geeks, they're going to ask sorority members to help them with makeovers.

The makeovers will be video-ed, the video shown at dinner, and then the auction will take place. As their website says:
You can buy a nerd and he'll fix your computer, help you with stats homework, or if you're really adventurous, take you to dinner!
Well, they may get "bought," but I don't expect any lasting relationships to come out of it. And I'm saying this as a lifetime geek!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

iPhone "relock" promised, to prevent iPhone update problems

On Monday, Apple indicated that the next iPhone software update may render any unlocked phone inoperable -- they said possibly forever.

Well, the iPhone Dev Team, developers of the AnySIM open source software unlocking program, said they will provide a "relock" program, as early as next week, which will return your iPhone to "locked" status, so that the next update will not break the phone.

At the same time, they indicated they would start the unlocking process on the new software.

The post was on TUAW, and said (note, emphasis mine):
The removal of the lock, a bug, was a major step forward in the iPhone development. It made the iPhone free and useful to anyone, not only to those in certain countries.

We will provide you with a tool in the next week which will be able to recover your nck counter and seczones and even enables (sic) you to restore your phone to a Factory-like state.

In the meantime we advise you not to update your free iPhone with the upcoming firmware. Wait for the next version to be fixed to work properly with your carrier and not break your phone.

It seems like the battle between Apple and iPhone unlockers will continue, back-and-forth, for an interminate time, with each side escalating the battle on every software update.

Microsoft admits Halo 3 Limited Ed. scratch problem; offers free replacement

Yesterday reports surfaced of what appeared to be a scratched disc problem with Halo 3 Limited Editions. It seemed that the plastic used to hold discs in place wasn't designed too well.

At any rate, today Microsoft acknowledged the issue, and in a small note on the official Xbox webpage regarding disc replacement, indicated that Halo 3 L.E. discs will be replaced free of charge. Of course, using this program, you'll be waiting for a while.

If you really want it fast, go back to the retailer ... but there's always the chance those'll be scratched (during shipping to the store) as well ... Launches Public Beta of Amazon MP3, its DRM-free music store

Last month I wrote that would be launching their digital music store in September. Well, they made it. Here it is Sept. 25th, and they have announced the public beta of their store, named Amazon MP3.

As I said previously, because of the DRM-free nature of the downloads, you won't find any Sony BMG or Warner Music Group titles here (you will find EMI). But that's no different than the DRM-free music on iTunes, with prices lower than at iTunes.

DRM-free music at iTunes runs slightly higher than their normal prices (well, when you map out it percentage-wise, it's not so slight) at $1.29 vs 99¢. At Amazon MP3 songs range from 89¢ to 99¢, with more than half of the 2 million songs priced at 89¢. And the top 100 songs will be 89¢ (unless otherwise marked). Meanwhile albums will run from $5.99 to $9.99, with the top 100 best-selling albums at $8.99 or less (once again, unless marked otherwise).

In a statement from their press release, Bill Carr, Vice President for Digital Music said:
"Amazon MP3 is an all-MP3, DRM-free catalog of a la carte music from major labels and independent labels, playable on any device, in high-quality audio, at low prices. This new digital music service has already been through an extensive private beta, and today we're excited to offer it to our customers as a fully functional public beta. We look forward to receiving feedback from our customers and using their input to refine the service."
What do I think? It's cheaper than iTunes, right? And what does everyone want (sometimes to the detriment of our health, in terms of lead-laden toys)? Cheaper, cheaper, cheaper. is also a pretty popular online store (to make an understatement). Though it won't make a serious dent overall because of the lack of some of the big record labels, it will most likely dent the DRM-free sales at iTunes.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Apple: unlocked iPhones may break with next update

In a press release today, which may be a lot of bluster, Apple said that a future iPhone update, planned for later this week, may cause unlocked phones to become inoperable. The press release said:
Apple has discovered that many of the unauthorized iPhone unlocking programs available on the Internet cause irreparable damage to the iPhone's software, which will likely result in the modified iPhone becoming permanently inoperable when a future Apple-supplied iPhone software update is installed.
Did Apple discover this, or did they actually create this situation by writing the firmware update in that way? Or is it all an empty threat? I, as well as most people, figured it was possible for the phone to be re-locked with the next update, but certainly not disabled. I wonder what the reaction will be among iPhone users? They certainly reacted strongly to the iPhone price cut.

Many feel that, particularly with an unsubsidized phone, users should be able to do whatever they want once they purchase the phone, and I would agree.

Microsoft releases Windows Vista SP1 to beta

Microsoft announced today, on the official Vista blog, that the Windows Vista SP1 beta has been released to a private set of beta testers. Yep, private, sorry guys (although who wants to bet how long it will be before it leaks?). The blog entry says, in part:
Today we release the Beta of windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) to a private group of Beta testers via Brandon over on the Windows Experience blog has installed and regularly uses SP1 on all of his machines (as do I) and discusses the more notable elements of it. We'll review some of the changes made in SP1 later this week on the blog; what’s more, our VP of Product Management, Mike Nash, answers questions about Windows Vista and SP1 in a video on Channel9. Meanwhile, I invite you to read the SP1 white paper we published last month.
As you may recall, Microsoft officially announced the beta at the end of August, saying beta testing would begin in a few weeks -- and here we are.

Starbucks to give away 50 million iTunes songs

Earlier this month Apple and Starbucks announced their partnership, whereby customers can wirelessly browse, search for, preview, buy and download music from iTunes while at Starbucks, without a connection fee.

As the launch nears (October 2nd) Starbucks has announced a promotion running from October 2nd to November 7th, in which customers at participating locations can download the "Song of the Day" (selected by Starbucks, naturally), free from iTunes.

The press release says:
From October 2 to November 7 at more than 10,000 Starbucks locations, customers may receive "Song of the Day" cards redeemable on the iTunes Store for Mac or PC for a complimentary song hand-selected by Starbucks Entertainment. Throughout the promotion, Starbucks will give away 1.5 million downloads on iTunes per day for a total of more than 50 million free songs.

"Song of the Day" kicks off Starbucks exclusive partnership with Apple, which lets customers use the T-Mobile HotSpot Wi-Fi Network at participating Starbucks to wirelessly download music onto their iPhone, iPod touch or laptop from the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store with no Wi-Fi connection fees or HotSpot login required.
I also like the "Now Playing" feature, that lets you seamlessly preview, buy, and download the music currently playing in the Starbucks you are at. As long as it's not muzak, that is.

Startup displays contextual ads by monitoring VOIP, cellular calls

Ads in games. Ads I can't skip (they hope) on my Tivo. Pop-ups all over the place. Do I really need more ads? Well, no, I don't need them, but as a revenue driver for VOIP and cellular carriers, it might be useful.

Today, Pudding Media announced a new way to monetize VOIP calls: contextual ads which are served up based on monitoring the conversation, and then displaying them on your PC screen. They don't plan to see voice call services themselves, but rather license the speech-recognition technology. Although the beta test (which you can try yourself, for free) is computer only, the press release indicates handsets are something they are thinking about. They also mention the inbox, so does that mean I get "consentual spam?"
Users can experience a beta version of these calls in a Web site that showcases how the Pudding Media platform displays interesting, timely information and offers during a conversation. Consumers can simply visit, enter a phone number and make a free call to any number in North America. When certain keywords are spoken, interesting and timely news, entertainment, and offers are displayed on the screen. For example, a consumer talking about movies may see links to trailers, reviews and show times for nearby theaters. A sports fan talking about a favorite team may see commentary and game statistics on a computer or handset screen.
On the front page of their website, they also say:
The proof of The Pudding is in the fun, relevant content we add to your calls.
Funny, I always thought the relevant content should come from the other end of the phone line.

Seriously, though, it's possible this could be use to subsidize VOIP services, making the cost come still down, and perhaps even cellular phone calls. Though I do hope they realize that turning off their ads is a monitor "off switch" away, and that generally when I make a cell phone call it's up to my ear (so I can't see the screen) or on my belt clip (when using Bluetooth).

"One Laptop per Child" Foundation announces "Give 1, Get 1 Program"

Following up on their prior announcement that they were mulling over public sales of the XO-1, the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Foundation has announced the "Give 1, Get 1 Program." Starting on November 12th, for a limited time, you can pay $399 to buy two XO-1 OLPC laptops -- one for yourself, and another which will be sent to a child in a developing nation.

From the OLPC Foundation's website today:
Starting November 12, One Laptop Per Child will be offering a Give 1 Get 1 Program for a brief window of time. For $399, you will be purchasing two XO laptops—one that will be sent to empower a child to learn in a developing nation, and one that will be sent to your child at home. If you're interested in Give 1 Get 1, we'll be happy to send you a reminder email. Just sign up in the box to the left and you'll receive your reminder prior to the November 12 launch date.
If you prefer, you can also donate an XO-1, from the same page above. There's no indication of the exact length of the "brief window" on the Foundation's but some sources have been saying as little as two weeks, so hurry, hurry!

Missing Sync synchronization software for OS X, Symbian announced

Mark/Space has announced The Missing Sync for Symbian. Expected to ship in Q1 2008, it will allow users of Symbian-based phones to synchronize their data with Mac OS X.

Mark/Space already supplies Missing Sync software for the Blackberry, Windows Mobile devices, Palm OS devices, and the Sony PSP. The software will synchronize contacts, calendar, QuickTime videos, iPhoto albums. etc.

The price will be $39.95 and a full list of supported devices is on the information page linked above. Some examples of phones are the Nokia E60, E61, and E62, and the Motorola Z8.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Apple ships games for new iPods

Apple's iTunes store now has games for sale that work with the newly released third-generation iPod nano (with video), iPod classic and fifth-generation iPod (with video).

Currently only Tetris, Ms. Pac-Man, and Sudoku will work with the new models.

Oh, and BTW, if you already purchased these games for your fifth-generation iPod, don't expect a free upgrade. You'll have to buy the game again for any new models, since they were "reformatted" for the new models.

Not really a surprise, considering Apple wants you to pay 99¢ for a song, then 99¢ more to turn it into a ringtone, unlike many phones, which allow you to use any MP3 as a ringtone.

Software Updates - 09/23/2007

It's been a while since I posted one of these, mostly because there hasn't been anything that exciting lately. But here we go.

WinRAR 3.71 - Shareware, but pretty inexpensive and worth it. If you want the ability to write RAR achives, this is the only way to go. Other software is able to read RAR files (RARlabs licenses it), but not write them. I will admit, if you compare performance of WinRAR vs. WinZIP for extracting ZIP files, WinZIP wins hands-down.

Firefox - if you're not using this browser, why not? At any rate, this update fixes a potential QuickTime exploit.

AVG Anti-Virus Free 7.5.488a1138 - A minor update to a free, well-respected AV product.
AVG Anti-Virus offers maximum virus protection, product customization, and free virus database updates and technical support. The core of the testing engine is a Virtual Device Driver which loads into memory on Windows startup.

Fox signs up for free season premieres on iTunes

It's free download week! Following free download moves by NBC Universal and ABC, it seems Fox is following the trend -- but not really. The freebies will be a set of season premieres, and will only be for the next two weeks. Sources say there are only seven shows in the mix, as the real purpose is to promote shows that Fox viewers will either start watching or pay to download from iTunes, later in the season.

"Prison Break," "Bones," "American Dad" and "K-Ville" are included, but I wouldn't expect to see "The Simpsons" or "Family Guy" on the list. Also, these shows will be commercial-free (figures, as this is a promotion).

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Celebrate OneWebDay!

Today is the second annual OneWebDay (OWD). From the official website:
The Web is worth celebrating.

OneWebDay is one day a year when we all - everyone around the physical globe - can celebrate the Web and what it means to us as individuals, organizations, and communities.

As with Earth Day - an inspiration and model for OneWebDay - it’s up to the celebrants to decide how to celebrate. We encourage all celebrations! Collaboration, connection, creativity, freedom.

By the end of the day, the Web should be just a little bit better than it was before, and we’ll be able to see our connection to it more clearly.

Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the WWW, has a video here. It's been transcribed into several languages, which can be selected through the player.

What does OneWebDay mean to me? A lot of things, but one of my biggest concerns is the fostering of net neutrality. The Internet was founded on equal access for all, and that should
continue ... despite what archaic people like Ted Stevens (tubes!) think.

Hacked iPhones "Blacklisted" by Apple

Hacking a device, iPhone or anything else, whether it be a hardware or a software hack, is likely to end up voiding your warranty. That should come as no surprise to anyone -- well, it probably does, and will, to some of those who will try to get their hacked iPhones serviced.

A colleague of ZDNet writer Jason D. O’Grady recently tried to return an iPhone which had been hacked and was using T-Mobile service. They said they would blacklist the phone, so that he could not take it anywhere for service or return in the future. Only after sweet-talking the manager was he able to return it, but with a 10% restocking fee.

Now you can see the beauty of a software unlock, right? Of course, he didn't remember to restore iPhone, as he should have, but it's a lesson learned.

BTW, it's pretty clear from the iPhone warranty that hacking will void it:
This warranty does not apply: ... (c) to damage caused by operating the product outside the permitted or intended uses described by Apple; (d) to damage caused by service (including upgrades and expansions) performed by anyone who is not a representative of Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider (“AASP”); (e) to a product or part that has been modified to alter functionality or capability without the written permission of Apple ...

Facebook Used to Find Woman Exposed to Rabies

Here's a new use for a social networking site: finding someone exposed to a dangerous disease.

In Toronto, the Toronto Public Health officials had been seeking a woman who had taken an injured bat to the Toronto Wildlife Center on Sept. 4. The prior evening, a bat flew at or was struck by a woman standing at a bus stop in northwest Toronto. A second woman picked up the injured bat and brought it to the wildlife center. The bat later tested positive for rabies.

They knew the woman's name and address, but the information was out-of-date. Despite putting out a press release and contacting the media, they were unable to find the woman who dropped off the bat.

After the normal avenues of finding her failed, including Google -- funny how Google is now a "normal avenue" -- someone got the idea to use Facebook. Messages were sent to a number of women on Facebook with names similar to the person they were seeking.

"Once we tried a few different spellings on Facebook, we had the individual within an hour," manager of communications Mary Margaret Crapper said.

The first individual still has not been found. A press release regarding her has been released, here.

Ironically, Facebook is banned for City of Toronto employees.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Halo 3 Ending Video (spoilers)

Microsoft's Halo 3, the final chapter in the series, has been leaked to the Internet, though it doesn't even release until 9/25. The ending has been leaked as well, onto YouTube. If you don't want to wait, and want to see the end early, go ahead and watch below.

Study: DRM violates Canadian privacy law

Earlier, I wrote about concerns that Google Street View may break Canadian privacy law. This week the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) released a report (.PDF) which investigated DRM used in 16 different products and services. The conclusion was that many DRM technologies fail to comply with basic requirements of Canadian privacy law.

The law in question is the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. In the report, CIPPIC tested:
  • Apple, iTunes Music Store
  • Apple, iTunes Video Store
  • Azureus, Zudeo
  • eReader, The Da Vinci Code
  • Disney/InterActual, Pirates of the Caribbean (DVD)
  • Intuit, QuickTax
  • Microsoft, Office Visio
  • Napster
  • Ottawa Public Library, OverDrive digital audio book
  • Universal Studios, Ray (DVD)
  • Sony BMG, Our Lady Peace, Healthy in Paranoid Times
  • Symantec, Norton SystemWorks 2006
  • Telus Mobility, Spark
  • Ubisoft, Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones
  • Valve, Half-Life 2
  • Warner Music Group, Nickelback, All the Right Reasons
The report lists a host of privacy issues with DRM, including:
  • Inappropriate purposes
  • Excessive collection, use and disclosure of personal data
  • Inadequate notice
  • No opt-out of unnecessary collection, use or disclosure
  • Failure to appreciate reach of privacy law
  • Failure to respond to Access to Information requests
The conclusion of the report is:
"This report confirms that DRM is currently being used in the Canadian marketplace in ways that violate Canadian privacy laws. DRM is being used to collect, use and disclose consumers’ personal information, often for secondary purposes, without adequate notice to the consumer, and without giving the consumer an opportunity to opt-out of unnecessary collection, use or disclosure of their personal information, as required under Canadian privacy law."
Most consumers are not fans of DRM, especially when anyone thinks about last year's Sony debacle. If it is derailed in Canada because a law, that will give additional ammunition in the United States to get companies to listen to consumers, and hopefully eliminate it (or at least give us the option of paying more for DRM-free products).

Thailand seeks to block YouTube videos again

It hasn't been that long since YouTube and Thailand kissed and made up, but Thailand's already upset again. The government is seeking a court order to block two video clips currently on YouTube.

The last incident was over clips deemed offensive to King Bhumibol Adulyadej; these two clips, linked here and here (I figure they'll might be taken down soon - maybe everywhere, not just blocked in Thailand - so I'm not bothering to link the video directly) are a two part "series" called "The Crisis of Siam."

These clips accuse former Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda of plotting the September 2006 coup, not the generals who took credit.

As I said, the links are still up (at least outside Thailand!); there has been no comment from YouTube yet.

Google wants you to "Share Stuff"

Literally, too, but not in the P2P way. Google has added yet another new service, Shared Stuff. Similar to, you share links with a browser bookmarklet that you drag onto your bookmarks toolbar.

When you visit a page, you click the bookmarklet and a pop-up window (or tab, depending on yuor browser settings) allows you to share the link.

One nice thing is not only can you share it via email or simply to your Shared Stuff page, but you can post to, Facebook, Reddit, Digg, Furl, or Social Poster, with just a click. This makes the service more of a complement to some of these services, rather than a competitor.

There's also a way to view the most popular Shared Stuff. If you have a Gmail account, of course, you get to see what your contacts share. As is normal with anything Google, this will probably be in testing for a long, long time (we're still in Gmail beta, right?), but go ahead and jump in and test the water.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

ABC / AOL Partnership to offer free primetime downloads

Less than a day after NBC Universal's announcement of its free download service, ABC and AOL have jointly announced a similar service (I'd say "copycat!" but there's no way something like this could be set up in 24 hours ). The service launched today and is available at

Episodes will be offered the day after the original telecast and, according to the press release, four episodes of each series will generally be available at one time. Shows that are currently slated for download are: The Bachelor;” Big Shots;” Brothers & Sisters;” Carpoolers;” Cavemen; Dancing with the Stars; ” Desperate Housewives;” Dirty Sexy Money;” Eli Stone; Grey's Anatomy;” Lost;" MEN IN TREES;” October Road;” Private Practice;” Pushing Daisies;” Samantha Who? and Ugly Betty."

You'll recall that CBS shows are already available at AOL. As with NBC Universal's shows, you won't get away without advertising. You'll see one locally targeted ad and three national ads for every hour of programming. It doesn't appear they have NBCU's subscription service though, which is sort of like a Tivo Season Pass for a show.

Cell phones, headsets to standardize on micro-USB connector, says OMTP

On Monday the Open Mobile Terminal Platform (OMTP) forum, whose membership includes a number of wireless carriers and cellular phone manufacturers agreed on a charging adapter standard for future devices, sort of like "One charger to charge them all" (yes, corny LOTR pun).

The good news: standardization on one connection will eliminate the maze of cables and the multiple chargers many have. The bad news: they are not standardizing on the already fairly ubiquitous mini-USB connector, but the new micro-USB connector. This connector was introduced earlier this year and had been promoted as the new standard by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF).

This will eliminate the one-off adapters I have, such as the adapter for my Samsung Blackjack, which is annoying since my wife's cell phone has mini-USB as does my Bluetooth headset. On the other hand, there are devices, such as some Motorola phones, which take mini-USB cables, but require specific adapters - they won't work with just any charger. I'm not sure this will fix that problem, or even addresses it.

You can read the full press release here.