Sunday, 28 February 2010

Trouble for Win7 trial users!

Microsoft Windows 7 Release Candidate users will lose control over their computers. Their PCs will start shutting down every two hours, even if they haven’t saved their work. And, on June 1, the screens will go black.

World’s largest software maker Microsoft’s business strategy for pushing hard to sell its new Windows 7 by exerting control over users’ PCs has opened a pandora’s box.

Release candidate were the trial versions that Microsoft released last year. Most proprietary software vendors do supply beta or trial versions for a limited period, which shut down after limited use. Microsoft Office software versions also lock a user’s files after a few trials, which means all data created during the trial period becomes unusable. But, in case of an operating system, which is the brain of a PC, the risks of losing control over a PC are much higher.

“The RC is a pre-final build that is distributed with a clearly stated intent and expiration date. Thus, testers already know at the time of downloading/installing that the RC is valid for a limited period. Even now, users have over 130 days to buy the final available for sale version of the product,” says Rajiv Popli, director–Windows Client, Consumer & Online Business, Microsoft India. “It’s a normal practice in software industry,” he adds.

Open source and non-profit IT bodies have started lobbying for open source software even harder for government systems. They fear that during times of a crisis, large corporations can control private networks. Legally, users cede the right to control over their PCs when they check into terms and conditions before installation. Many IT leaders cite this loss of control, as an unhealthy trade practice, especially for government systems. “The government is unfortunately burying the cyber threats as a non-real threat by procuring critical systems from foreign parties. Some US internet search engines are also reported to use US’ National Security Agency (NSA) algorithms. The issue of loss of control by users has to be taken suo moto by competition commission. It’s a highly coercive practice,” says Prabir Purkayastha, of Knowledge Commons.

Microsoft had however denied any reports of an NSA backdoor in Windows 7, last year. IT for Change, a non-profit body working towards open software in public systems, says that public systems should use public software. “Resting the control over public systems to private parties is against the principles of universal access,” says IT for Change director Gurumurthy Kafinathan.

Public systems aside, for users, geeks have designed ingenious ways to get past the practice. Dr Zaki Qureshey, chairman E2-Labs and an ethical hacker, says that reverse engineering of software is the key to it. “Many hackers get into reverse engineering after the Beta software are made available. All they do is create a small program that stops software from expiring, by lets says stopping the date to change.”

Numerous patches are available on the internet that promises to do away with the desktop watermarks and even stop the send feedback functionality. However, for users these may come with a risk. Security updates and patches would be unavailable making them vulnerable to malware attacks. “Further some of the software developing companies can even remotely lock the PCs which are using the pirated versions,” he adds.

A software called TimerNuke counts the remaining beta test period of Windows 7. If one missed the deadline for downloading the Beta software, when it was made available, one still has the option of downloading the entire cracked version from the internet through torrents. Torrents are small files with addressees of several internet connected PCs, which act as a resource base.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Tech Budget 2010: Highlights

Highlights of 2010-11 budget presented by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in parliament:

* Mobile accessories market to get tax breaks

* Market responds positively, Sensex up 300 pts

* R&D Corp Tax break up to 200%

* 30% income tax on Rs 8 lakh and above

* 20% income tax on Rs 5 - Rs 8 lakh

* 10% income tax on Rs 1.6 - Rs 5 lakh

* No income tax upto Rs 1.6 lakh

* Saral 2 form to be rolled out for simplification of tax filing in 2010-11

* Infotech usage in tax management to be increased

* First set of UID numbers this year

* Tech advisor group under Nandan Nilekani

* UID authority given Rs 1900 cr

* Allocation for urban development up 75% from Rs 3062 cr to Rs 5400 cr

* Hike in allocation for school education

* Rs 1.73 lakh crore for infrastructure

* To establish clean energy fund

* Rs 16,500 cr capital support for PSU banks

* Gradual phasing out of stimulus

* Govt will implement direct tax code by April 1, 2011

* Economic growth slows down to 6% in Q3

* Economy stabilised in Q1 of 2009

* First challenge is to get to the high GDP growth path

* Sensex quotes 0.4% up before the Budget

* Disinvestment target:Rs 25,000 cr this year

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Sony launches SD/SDHC cards

Sony has launched a range of SD/SDHC and microSD/microSDHC cards. Providing memory capacity to consumers in compact devices, these cards can be used in cameras, mobile phones & laptops which use SD card format.

The new range of memory cards are all class-4-speed for high-definition recording and include unique benefits like x-Pict story and File Rescue software.

Speaking on the launch, Masaru Tamagawa, MD, Sony India said “The new memory cards range SD/SDHC and microSD/microSDHC will complement Sony’s existing Memory Stick line up, satisfying the needs of a broader range of users, and strengthening Sony’s position as a full line media supplier. In addition to the current models, Sony also intends to expand the product line-up to address the price conscious customers and capture 35% share in the SD card market by 2010-11."

Class 4 data transfer speed means stable HD video recording and better speed to cope with the advanced functions of compact digital cameras. Sony’s SD/SDHC memory card range features storage capacity of up to 32GB, while the microSD/microSDHC memory cards are able to store up to 8GB of data.

With File Rescue software, users can retrieve photos, videos, or music files that were damaged or deleted by mistake. The same is available as a simple download which is free of cost. Then there's x-Pict story, which will let them combine their choice of music with their favorite pictures.

Priced between Rs 600 to Rs 1500, the new range of Memory cards will be available across all Sony Center stores and other major electronic outlets across India.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Sandisk launches 64GB SD card

SanDisk Corporation has begun shipping the 64 GB SanDisk Ultra SDXC card. The company's highest capacity SD card ever offers up to 15MB/sec read speed2 and Class 4 speed rating.

The new card is ideal for capturing and storing massive 1080p High-Definition video files and then transferring them quickly to a computer.

SDXC cards are based on the new SD 3.0 specification, which makes it possible to manufacture cards with storage capacity up to 2 terabytes (TB)3. The SDXC card's exFAT file structure helps consumers record long-duration HD videos. The 64GB SanDisk Ultra SDXC card can store more than eight hours of such video.

“SDXC is the successor to the world’s most popular card format,” said Susan Park, director, retail product marketing, SanDisk. “The 64GB SanDisk Ultra SDXC card delivers the speed and capacity consumers need for extended HD video recording and improved rapid shooting of still images. The card is an ideal complement for recently-announced SDXC-compatible cameras and camcorders.”

The 64GB SanDisk Ultra SDXC card comes with a lifetime limited warranty.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

3D TV to go mainstream soon

Researchers from ITU say that down the years, there would be such 3D systems that would accurately mimic the way our eyes and brains perceive the visual world. They call it the 'stereposcopic 3D' technology, and are certain that soon viewers would be watching their favourite programs and even feature films in 3D.

The study group has outlined the future of television, citing three kinds of 3D TVs which they call as three generations of 3D television.

The first generation — 'plano-stereoscopic television' — calls for two views to be delivered to viewers’ TV sets. Wearing special glasses similar to those used to watch 3D cinema, viewers will be able to see depth in the picture, although the view will remain the same when they move their heads (in real life, our view changes when we move our heads).

The second generation will provide for multiple views, with head movement changing the view, for a viewing experience that more closely mimics real life.

The third generation will feature systems that record the amplitude, frequency, and phase of light waves, to reproduce almost completely human beings’ natural viewing environment. These kinds of highly advanced systems are technically some 15-20 years away.

"This new ITU report establishes a clear framework for the development of new types of systems that will totally change the way we experience broadcast and multimedia content," said Valery Timofeev, Director of ITU’s Radiocommunication Bureau. "It maps out an exciting vision that won’t just change the look of entertainment, but open up a whole range of exciting new possibilities in sectors from education and healthcare to traffic management."

Monday, 15 February 2010

Kodak sues Apple, BlackBerry

Eastman Kodak Company is suing Apple and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) for infringement of its imaging technology by the two giants in digital cameras in their iPhone and BlackBerry devices.

In a lawsuit filed with the US International Trade Commission (ITC), Kodak claims that digital cameras in Apple's iPhones and RIM's BlackBerry devices infringe its patent that covers technology related to previewing images.

Laura G Quatela, vice president of Eastman Kodak Company, said they "had discussions for years with both companies in an attempt to resolve this issue amicably, and we have not been able to reach a satisfactory agreement.

"In light of that, we are taking this action to ensure that we protect the interests of our shareholders and the existing licensees of our technology.''

Urging the trade commission to bar Apple and RIM from shipping infringing devices, including mobile phones and wireless communication devices featuring digital cameras, Quatela said, "Our primary interest is not to disrupt the availability of any product but to obtain fair compensation for the use of our technology.

"There is a basic issue of fairness that needs to be addressed. Those devices use Kodak technology, and we are merely seeking compensation for the use of our technology in their products."

Kodak also filed two separate suits against Apple Thursday for alleged infringement of its patents related to digital cameras and certain computer processes.

In the first lawsuit, Kodak alleges infringement of two patents related image preview and the processing of images at different resolutions.

In the second suit, it alleges infringement of patents that describe a method by which a computer programme can 'ask for help' from another application to carry out certain computer-oriented functions. The infringement allegations apply to any Apple product that uses the processing method described above.

"We remain open to negotiating a fair and amicable agreement with both Apple and RIM, which has always been our preference and our practice with other licensees,'' said Quatela who is also chief intellectual property officer of Kodak.

"We seek to avoid litigation in our licensing programmes whenever possible. But when the infringement is persistent, we will act to defend the interests of our shareholders and licensees, and to promote the fair compensation that is the bedrock of innovation.''

Based at Rochester in New York State, Kodak invented the first digital camera in 1975 and claims to have more than 1,000 digital imaging patents.

The photographic and optical equipment maker employees more than 20,000 people worldwide.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

IBM's new server to counter Oracle

International Business Machines (IBM), the largest computer-services provider, is introducing new server systems today, aiming to bolster its leading position as software rival Oracle Corp enters the market.

The Power7 systems will be tailored for specific projects, such as running electrical grids or financial analytics, Rodney Adkins, senior vice president for systems and technology, said last week in an interview. The systems, made of integrated servers, software and storage, will start selling this month.

The release marks the first new systems since Adkins took over IBM’s hardware division in October, after predecessor Bob Moffat left the company amid the Galleon Group insider-trading scandal. IBM’s focus on project-specific systems, along with investments in research and development, will help it gain market share even as Oracle starts selling similar servers with its acquisition of Sun Microsystems Inc., he said.

“It’s easy in this industry to say, ‘I have this piece, I have this piece, I have this piece, now I have it all,’” said Adkins. “It really requires innovation.”

With the purchase of server maker Sun, Oracle Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison has said he plans to challenge IBM by selling computers packaged with software customized for industries, such as retailing.

Global sales of high-end servers will be about $14 billion this year, according to Framingham, Massachusetts-based researcher IDC. IBM held 40 percent of that market in the third quarter, IDC’s most recent report. Hewlett-Packard Co. had 27 percent, followed by Sun with 26 percent.

Hardware Sales
Hardware sales make up 17 percent of Armonk, New York-based IBM’s total revenue, which topped $95 billion last year. The company is the world’s third-largest software maker, trailing Microsoft Corp. and Redwood City, California-based Oracle.

IBM offered to buy Sun for about $7 billion last year, according to people familiar with the matter. Oracle ultimately acquired Sun for $7.4 billion, and the deal closed last month.

IBM rose 52 cents to $123.52 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading on Feb. 5. The shares had fallen 5.6 percent this year before today.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Google plans superfast internet

Google plans to build a fibre optic broadband network that will connect customers to the internet at speeds 100 times faster than most existing broadband connections in the US, the company announced on its corporate blog.

"Our goal is to experiment with new ways to help make internet access better and faster for everyone," two Google product managers, Minnie Ingersoll and James Kelly, wrote in the blog post.

They said that Google plans to build and test the network in trial communities around the country starting later this year and that the tests could encompass as many as 500,000 people. They cited 3-dimensional medical imaging and quick, high-definition film downloads among the applications of such high-speed internet access.

"We'll deliver internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today with 1 gigabit per second, fibre-to-the-home connections," the post said. "We plan to offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people."

"We're doing this because we want to make the web better and faster to everyone," said Kelly, who also promised that the network would operate on open access network, in which users could choose various internet providers and which would not give preference to any one kind of content. Kelly appealed to local officials who were interested in having their community participate in the trial to contact the internet giant.

The announcement continued Google's recent initiative to expand into market sectors beyond its core web search speciality. In the last year it has made a splash in the mobile phone market with its Android operating system and Nexus One handset, and Tuesday announced a social networking feature aimed at taking on Facebook and Twitter.

While broadband industry incumbents may fear the entry by Google, Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski welcomed the move, the Washington Post reported.

"Big broadband creates big opportunities," he said in a statement. "This significant trial will provide an American testbed for the next generation of innovative, high-speed internet apps, devices and services."

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Yahoo, Microsoft scoff at Google Buzz

Google's fired another salvo in its quest to rule the Internet space. The company launched Google Buzz that brings social networking right into users mail boxes (Gmail) and takes on social networking giants Facebook and Twitter right on their turf.

Though the verdict is still not out if Google Buzz will be able to usurp users from Facebook and other social networks, Google's rival seem little impressed by Google's new launch.

Just minutes after Google unveiled Google Buzz, both Yahoo and Microsoft said that they have been running a similar service for years.

"Busy people don't want another social network, what they want is the convenience of aggregation," Microsoft said in a statement. "We've done that. Hotmail customers have benefited from Microsoft working with Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and 75 other partners since 2008."

Yahoo tweeted a similar scoff.

"Two years after #Yahoo! launched #Buzz, Google follows suit. Check out the original:"

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Gmail adding features to rival Facebook

Google is gearing up to give serious competition to Facebook, Twitter and other networking sites. The search giant's free email service Gmail is reportedly planning to make Gmail more social by allowing users to exchange status updates with friends and share Web content links.

According to a report in Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the change will add a module to the Gmail screen that will display a stream of updates from individuals a user chooses to connect with.

These status updates are expected to eventually include content shared by a users' Google contacts through other Google properties, such as YouTube and Picasa.

Presently, Gmail users can only post a brief message about their status through its Chat system, which is linked to Gmail.

Last year, Yahoo too added a similar feature to its mail allowing users to see if their friends have uploaded a photo or put a new staus message.

Gmail has been trying to integrate social features in various ways. Google users can chat via Jabber or AIM, make video calls, and send SMS messages from Gmail's web interface.

A report in Financial Times says that Google will soon be holding a press conference at its Mountain View, California, office to show off the new features.

Google is still far and away the No. 1 most-visited website, with 173 million US visitors in December, according to measurement service ComScore Media Metrix, up 16% from the previous December. But Facebook is close behind. The social network was the fourth-most-visited site in December, with 111.8 million visitors, up 105% from the prior year.

PayPal suspends India services

US online payments company PayPal has temporarily suspended personal payments to and from India and transfers to local Indian banks.

PayPal, in a weekend blog post on the company website, said the operations were on hold "while we work with our business partners and other stakeholders to address questions they have about the service."

PayPal, which is owned by online auction giant eBay, did not provide any further details about the move.

It said customers "can still make commercial payments to India but merchants cannot withdraw funds in rupees to local Indian banks."

"We're trying to resolve the situation as quickly as possible and we're really sorry for the inconvenience that this may cause our customers in India and around the world," PayPal said.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Google warns Chinese Goojje

Google has warned a copycat Chinese website to stop using a logo that resembles the US Internet giant's or face possible legal action, state media reported Monday.

The warning issued to the "Goojje" website comes as Google is contemplating its future in China after saying it would no longer obey government censorship rules and could pull out entirely over alleged cyberattacks.

Google accused Goojje of infringing on its trademark rights, saying the logo of the Chinese website could make users believe it was authorised by or linked to the US company, the Shenzhen Economic Daily reported.

In a letter sent to Goojje by Google's lawyers, the US Internet firm demanded the Chinese site stop using the logo by Monday, the report said.

Google China did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment.

Reports have said Goojje was launched last month by a 20-strong team led by a college student identified only by the surname Wen, after Google issued its threat to pull out from China.

The operators of Goojje have posted vague statements on the website construed by some media as offering support for Google.

Goojje's homepage imitates Google's design and its Chinese name ends with a character that means "big sister". Google's Chinese name, meanwhile, ends with a character that is a homonym for "big brother".

Google said last month it would no longer abide by Chinese government censorship and was mulling leaving the country with the world's largest number of online users, citing cyberattacks on it and more than 20 other companies.

The Chinese government has denied any involvement in the cyberattacks.

The Google row has added to tensions between Beijing and Washington on a range of other issues including trade, US arms sales to Taiwan, and Tibet.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Adobe lashes back at Apple’s on lazy remark

Adobe has lashed back at Apple CEO Steve Jobs' comment where he characterised Adobe as "lazy". According to Wired, at an event on January 30 Steve Jobs remarked that Adobe is lazy, Flash is buggy, and the world is moving toward HTML5 anyway. Whenever a Mac crashes, it is most frequently because of Flash, Jobs asserted.

A blog entry by Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch responds to Job's comments. The blog begins taking a hit at Apple's just launched iPad, "Some have been surprised at the lack of inclusion of Flash Player on a recent magical device."

Lynch then goes on add that Flash was originally designed for "pen computing tablets, about 15 years before that market was ready to take off." He writes that Flash is currently used in more than 85% of the top Web sites, including Nike, Hulu, BBC and Major League Baseball. Also, Flash is a critical part of the smartphone market; Adobe is "on the verge of delivering Flash Player 10.1 for smartphones with all but one of the top manufacturers. This includes Google's Android, RIM's Blackberry, Nokia, Palm Pre and many others across form factors including not only smartphones but also tablets, netbooks, and internet-connected TVs." "Even the Nexus One will be Flash 10.1-equipped," according to Lynch.

Regarding HTML5 replacing Flash, he wrote, "If HTML could reliably do everything Flash" can, it would "certainly save us a lot of effort." But because Flash is still enabling more than 75% of Web video, Flash will be around "even as HTML advances."

Incidentally, this is not the first time that Apple and Adobe have clashed. Apple's been resisting user demands to add Flash to the iPhone for more than three years now. On March 6, 2008, Steve Jobs reportedly made another public jab at Adobe, saying that the Flash Lite Player wasn't "advanced enough" for use on the iPhone, and that it performed "too slow to be useful."

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Sun CEO's last tweet

In a tweeted goodbye, the chief executive of Sun Microsystems bowed out with a haiku.

Jonathan Schwartz's haiku on Twitter reads as follows: "Financial crisis/Stalled too many customers/CEO no more."

Within Twitter's 140-character limit, Schwartz tells his followers on Thursday that it's his last day at Sun. And that he'll miss it.

He had been expected to leave after Oracle Corp. closed its $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems Inc. on Jan. 27.

Schwartz's following on Twitter swelled by at least 1,000 Thursday, to some 9,000, on the day of his post. Oracle declined to comment or confirm that Schwartz resigned.

Schwartz has been an avid blogger, and in 2006 asked federal regulators to allow companies to disclose significant financial information through blogs.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Yahoo to sell HotJobs to Monster

Yahoo! Inc plans to sell its HotJobs employment Web site to Monster Worldwide Inc. for $225 million in cash as the company focuses on its traditional properties, including the home page.

As part of the sale, Monster will become the provider of career and job content on Yahoo’s home page in the US and Canada for three years, Monster said today in a statement. The company expects the transaction to close in the third quarter.

Yahoo Chief Executive Officer Carol Bartz has reduced expenses and shuttered underperforming businesses, such as the GeoCities Web-hosting site. In July, she struck a deal with Microsoft Corp. to collaborate in Web search and advertising, cutting engineering and capital costs.

“It’s housekeeping step one,” said Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC Financial LP in New York, who recommends buying Yahoo shares and doesn’t own them. “It’s the first part of the non-core divestitures that the company and management has to go through. The real notable part is it took a year to get this done.”

Yahoo paid about $436 million for HotJobs in 2002. The business, the No. 3 U.S. career and development site, had 11.1 million users in December, down 22 percent from a year earlier, according to ComScore Inc. in Reston, Virginia. Monster, ranked No. 2, had 16.5 million users in December, down 10 percent from a year ago. CareerBuilder ranked first.

Last month, Yahoo agreed to sell Zimbra, an e-mail and online collaboration unit, to VMware Inc. for an undisclosed amount.
Yahoo, based in Sunnyvale, California, paid $350 million for Zimbra in 2007.

‘Refocusing Yahoo’
“Carol has definitely done a good job in terms of refocusing Yahoo,” said Aaron Kessler, an analyst with Kaufman Brothers LP, who recommends buying the stock and doesn’t own it. “Whether longer-term they can really turn around the core growth is another issue.”

With the three-year agreement, Monster will make annual payments to Yahoo, based partly on traffic from users, Monster said.

In addition, the company will be able to pursue similar agreements in areas outside of Canada and the U.S., including Europe and Asia. New York-based Monster also will expand its network of newspapers with the addition of HotJobs, which has more than 600 newspaper partners.

“Essentially, the transaction positions Monster to add high-quality, relevant job seekers efficiently, while at the same time significantly expanding our customer base,” Sal Iannuzzi, CEO of Monster, said in a conference call.

Yahoo rose 29 cents to $15.46 today on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The shares have fallen 7.9 percent in 2010. Monster, down 5.6 percent this year, climbed 38 cents to $16.42 on the New York Stock Exchange.

“HotJobs and Monster believe the transaction will benefit job seekers and recruiters alike by allowing them to have access to a larger and more diverse pool of job seekers and recruiters,” Yahoo said in an e-mailed statement.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

How to build battery-powered USB charger

You might have noticed by now that whenever you really need your iPod, it is always out of juice. A computer or a wall charger may not be around either, especially if you are travelling. Why not build your own portable battery powered USB charger? It’s easy.

Components required: An Altoids tin or any other metal container of the same size. A 9-volt battery. A voltage regulator (available at any electrical/hardware shop). A female USB port (available at any local computer shop).

Make a hole on one end of the tin using a cutter and fit the USB port into it. Use tape to hold them together. Place the battery in the tin. Solder its wires to the regulator and the USB port using the following diagram. Be careful. Use double-sided tape and make sure the battery and the regulator are secured in the tin. Connect one end of your USB cord to the female USB port and the other end to your iPod and you are done. This charger can be used with any USB enabled device.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

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Monday, 1 February 2010

Twitter blocked in China?

Twitter co-founder Evan Williams today said he had been told that his microblogging service has been partially blocked in China but had no confirmation.

"That's what I've been told," he said, adding that he had "heard reports on that" but that the company did not have direct confirmation.

Williams said that China can use a firewall to block access to the service.

"There are ways for users to get around it, but I'm not an expert on that," he said, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos.

When asked about media reports that Twitter was developing ways to get around the firewall, Williams said he had been "misquoted."

"We're not actively developing any way to get around it," he said, although he stressed that "we're for the free exchange of information."

Asked if his company had noticed any cyber attacks, such as those launched against search engine giant Google from China, he said that no such moves had been detected.