3/17/2006

U.S. Patent office launches new e-filing system

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on Friday launched a new e-filing system that allows patents to be submitted online. Unlike the previous online system, the new PDF-based e-filing system features complete support for Mac OS X.

鈥淭he great news for Apple is that USPTO listened to its customers and integrated Mac
OS X and Safari support into its new e-filing system,鈥? Susan Prescott Apple鈥檚 vice president of Pro Markets, told Macworld. 鈥淚nnovators around the world use Macs.鈥?

Part of Mac OS X鈥檚 core technology is an integrated PDF engine that allows users to easily work with documents based on this format. With the implementation of the new e-filing system, Apple has basically gone from not being supported to being one the best supported operating systems available.

Source: Macworld

Google ordered to give Web sites, not search terms

Filed under: — Galit

A federal judge on Friday denied a request by the U.S. Justice Department for specific terms customers used to search Google Inc.’s Web database but will require Google to turn over 50,000 Web addresses.

In a widely anticipated, 21-page ruling that has implications for the privacy of Internet users, Judge James Ware of the U.S. District for the Northern District of California said privacy considerations led him to deny the government demand in part.

“To the extent the motion seeks an order compelling Google to disclose search queries of its users the motion is denied,” Ware wrote.

He ruled that the 50,000 Web addresses, was a relevant request by the government for use in a statistical study it is doing to defend the constitutionality of a federal online child antipornography law that is at issue in a separate case, ACLU v. Gonzales.

“The expectation of privacy by some Google users may not be reasonable, but may nonetheless have an appreciable impact on the way in which Google is perceived, and consequently the frequency with which users use Google,” Ware said.

Source: Reuters (via Yahoo)

Softbank to Buy Vodafone Mobile Unit

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Internet services company Softbank said Friday it is acquiring British mobile phone company Vodafone’s struggling Japan unit for 1.75 trillion yen, or $15 billion, a move that will greatly boost Softbank’s foray into the cell phone business.

The purchase of 97.7 percent of Vodafone Group PLC’s Japan unit will allow Softbank to take over the more than 15 million Japanese users who have signed on to the carrier, as well as its mobile network, instead of building it from scratch.

“Through the purchase of Vodafone in Japan, Softbank can now enter the mobile phone business quickly and fully,” said Softbank President Masayoshi Son, a charismatic businessman and graduate of University of California, Berkeley.

Meanwhile, Vodafone, the world’s largest mobile phone company by revenue, has faced tough competition from the two biggest mobile phone companies in Japan, NTT DoCoMo and KDDI Corp.

That competition was expected to intensify further in the fall, when consumers in Japan will be allowed to switch carriers without changing phone numbers.

Source: AP

Senators renew call for .xxx domains

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

On Thursday, two Senate Democrats, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Max Baucus of Montana, introduced a bill called the “Cyber Safety for Kids Act of 2006.” The 11-page measure would require the U.S. Department of Commerce to work with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the nonprofit organization that oversees domain names, to develop plans for a domain name system that would house material deemed “harmful to minors.”

That material, according to the bill, includes any “communication,” image, article, recording or other “obscene” matter, including actual or simulated sexual acts and “lewd exhibition of the genitals or post-pubescent female breast.”

“By corralling pornography in its own domain, our bill provides parents with the ability to create a ‘do not enter zone’ for their kids,” Pryor said in a statement. He is also a sponsor of a legislative proposal to levy a 25 percent tax on Internet pornographers.

The bill suggests, but does not require, that .xxx serve as the domain name ending. Any commercial Internet site or online service that “has as its principal or primary business the making available of material that is harmful to minors” would be required to move its site to that domain. Failure to comply with those requirements would result in civil penalties as determined by the Commerce Department.

Source: News.com

Google Sees Microsoft As Primary Competitor

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Stung by recent criticism of the company’s actions in recent months, Google CEO Eric Schmidt held a roundtable lunch Thursday with a number of journalists in which he talked a lot about the company .

Schmidt say he saw Microsoft and not Yahoo as the long-term primary competitor, because of its money in the bank and history. However, Schmidt was quick to say that the acquisition of Writely was not meant to create a competitor to Microsoft Office, which he said solves a complicated and important problem of work productivity. Writely is a server-based editing system where you can move your files around, he said, and there are places where a rich text editor is useful in Google.

“Office is not the business we’re in,” Schmidt said, saying the company wanted to do new things.

Schmidt said he saw Writely and other server-based tools as another way to collect and organize the world’s data. “All the world’s information includes personal information,” he noted.

But Schmidt also said the company can’t possibly be doing all the things that people say it is working on. “We’re not really that exciting,” he said.

But he also noted that the company’s image also gives it a certain aura within the technology industry. “The mystique works in our benefit,” he said. “It’s an engineering recruitment tool.”

New Zero-Day Bug Crashes Internet Explorer

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser crashes when attacked through a new unpatched vulnerability, security companies warned Friday.

The zero-day bug occurs within the “mshtml” library when a malformed HTML tag with an abnormally large number of script handlers is fed to the browser. According to the researcher who posted the initial description to the Bugtraq security mailing list, attackers can easily crash IE by flooding its buffer.

The researcher, Michal Zalewski, also released proof-of-concept code that crashes the latest IE release on a fully-patched edition of Windows XP SP2.

Symantec noted in an alert to customers of its DeepSight system that its staff had confirmed the proof-of-concept code crashed IE in some, but not all, situations. Also on Friday, rival McAfee released a new signature to anti-virus customers that detects the proof-of-concept exploit.

Because the vulnerability can be exploited by a single malicious HTML tag, IE could be brought to its knees if its user simply surfed to a nasty Web site. Symantec, however, warned that the bug may be even more serious. “Further investigation in the details of exploiting the vulnerability to determine the possibility of code execution are currently under way,” the company’s advisory read.

If that’s the case, IE users may face a new major hijack risk.

There are no known work-arounds, and Microsoft did not immediately respond to questions about its plans for the vulnerability.

Source: informationweek

Sony Electronics to start selling Blu-ray Disc player in July

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Sony Electronics Inc said Thursday it will begin selling its first player of the Blu-ray Disc, capable of storing a large quantity of moving images, in North America in July for $1,000 per unit.

The Blu-ray Disc is a next-generation optical disc for storing movies, games, photos and other digital content. The Blu-ray Disc format is competing with the High-Definition DVD format to become the technological standard for next-generation DVDs.

Source: crisscross

Fidelity Investments opens shop on Amazon

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Fidelity is turning to Amazon.com as it fights to maintain its leadership position in the mutual funds industry, becoming the first vendor to sell goods on the online retailer’s new financial services store.

Boston-based Fidelity Investments hopes to tap Amazon’s 55 million active customers as competitors American Funds and Vanguard jockey for its title as the mutual fund family with the most assets under management.

“This is part of our effort to give customers access to our products in ways that convenient to them,” Sean Belka, senior vice president at Fidelity Personal Investments, told Reuters on Friday.

Source: Reuters (via Yahoo!)

Go to jail, play video games?

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Prison isn’t all fun and games, but a new program in Oregon finds that some games actually produce better prisoners. A recent incentive program allows inmates to purchase a US$35 game console after 18 months without disciplinary problems, and to play their choice of 50 preloaded games. Thanks in part to the program, which also offers small televisions and “cell-block ice cream socials,” discipline problems in the prison system have dropped even as the inmate population has increased.

Source: arstechnica

Visa Issues Cash-Register Flaw Warning

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

The U.S. arm of credit and debit card giant Visa International has issued an alert for flaws in cash-register software made by Fujitsu Transaction Solutions that could put sensitive cardholder information at risk.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the bug can cause the inadvertent storage of customer data鈥攊ncluding secret PINs鈥攚ithin the point-of-sale software installed in retail locations.

The report said Visa USA sent the warning to “merchant acquirers” that process card transactions for some of the biggest names in retail and urged users to apply a software upgrade from Fujitsu to fix the flaw.

According to a recent research report by Gartner analyst Avivah Litan, retailers in the United States incorrectly store PIN information and data on point-of-sale terminals instead of destroying the data as required by card industry guidelines.

Although the data is encrypted into PIN blocks, Litan explained that the decryption keys are usually stored on the same network, meaning that a malicious hacker can break into a computer system and steal thousands of PINs tied to sensitive customer information.

Source: eWeek

Will Apple make a touch-screen iPod?

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Around seven patents have recently been filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office on behalf of Apple for touch-sensitive screens. In particular, US Patent Application No. 20060053387 from 9 March 2006 is for “operation of a computer with touch screen interface”. Patent No. 20060007222 filed on 12 January 2006 is for an “integrated sensing display”.

The touch-screen technology should have applications with the iPod. But how? Rumblings on sites such as Think Secret speculate on a new video iPod with a larger screen that could be released in April, to coincide with Apple’s 30th anniversary. Some expect to see two versions of the next video iPod: one that keeps the existing 60GB hard drive, and a slimmer, solid-state version that uses one or two 8GB or 12GB compact flash cards.

Source: C|Net

California gang members to be tracked by GPS

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

California prison officials have begun using Global Positioning System anklets to track known gang members.

The gritty suburb of San Bernardino, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles, this week became the first California city to use the GPS satellite navigation system to track gang members when the devices were strapped onto three parolees, state Department of Corrections spokeswoman Jeanne Woodford said.

Six California counties began using GPS to monitor sex offenders in 2005 and some have already been arrested for violating parole after they were tracked to off-limits areas.

“GPS tracking is just another tool in the bag; we will still use ground personnel to track gang members,” said Sarah Ludeman, another spokeswoman for the corrections department.

Under an arrangement between prison officials and San Bernardino, high-risk parolees known to belong to street gangs will be released from custody on the condition that they wear a GPS bracelet on their ankles at all times.

Source: Reuters

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