3/21/2006

Microsoft to Delay Windows Vista Release

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Microsoft Corp. will delay the consumer release of its new Windows operating system until January 2007, missing the holiday sales season and throwing some PC makers and retailers into turmoil.

The delay in Windows Vista — caused by Microsoft needing more time to enhance security and other functions — will come as a blow to Microsoft partners who were looking forward to a new operating system to boost holiday sales.

“It’s a much bigger deal for the computer makers than it is for anybody else,” said David Smith, a vice president with Gartner Inc.

Windows Vista is Microsoft’s first major update to the company’s flagship operating system since
Windows XP was released in late 2001, meaning partners will be left with a fifth major holiday season without a new version of the operating system to promote.

The company says tweaks to the system’s security functions have built several extra weeks into the product’s expected completion. And that makes it too late for many PC makers and retailers to be ready for the 2006 holiday season.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060322/ap_on_hi_te/microsoft_windows

Study: Casual games can help your mental health

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Who says games aren’t good for you? A new study suggests that playing casual games including puzzle games can help you maintain a healthy mind. The research is being published by PopCap Games and The Games for Health Project. The findings are being presented as part of the Serious Games Summit happening this week at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Jose, Calif.

The study cataloged research papers and media stories about cognitive exercise. According to the report, research indicates that people who maintain “healthy cognitive loads? like playing chess, doing crosswords and other activities appear to have lower rates of dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease and other cognitive problems. It’s not just about working your mind, though — it’s equally important to remain physically active and engage in social activity, according to the research.

Source: MACWorld

Trend Micro eyes fee-based security service

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Security software maker Trend Micro plans to challenge larger rivals Microsoft and Symantec with its own subscription-based service aimed at the fast-growing consumer anti-virus market, company executives said on Tuesday.

Both Microsoft Corp. and Symantec Corp. have recently announced plans to offer a one-stop service delivered over the Web that includes anti-virus, firewall and anti-spyware software amid a rising tide of cyber threats.

Trend Micro Chief Executive Eva Chen and the company’s North American President Lane Bess told Reuters that the software maker would likely have a competing service later this year as it seeks to boost its business in the key U.S. market. They did not provide specific details.

“We are not making a lot of public noise about it,” Bess said in a telephone interview. “We have been fairly successful about letting the other guys show their weapons first. We believe later on this year we will have a comparable, if not superior service.”

Source: Reuters

Toshiba delays release of HD DVD players

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Toshiba, one of the companies promoting the HD DVD standard, showed their first round of players (the HD-A1 and HD-XA1) at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. At the time, the company planned to release these models some time in March. However, Toshiba has now announced that they will not appear until at least the middle of April, in order to coincide with the release of the first batch of HD DVD movies:

“Toshiba is currently working with major studios and major retailers to finalize sales dates of our players,” the company stated. “In order to ensure maximum launch of HD DVD, we intend to synchronize launch of players with title releases from Hollywood studios.”

The earliest possible date for the release of the players would thus be April 18, which is when Warner Home Video plans to release the titles Million Dollar Baby, The Last Samurai, and The Phantom of the Opera in HD DVD format.

The company stated that it is continuing “to make pre-sale HD DVD demonstrations in 40 major cities” across the United States. Some retailers included in the tour responded in an online poll that they planned to sell HD DVD players even if the movies weren’t ready.

Source: arstechnica

Adware Pioneer, Claria, to Leave Business by June

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

A pioneer of software that delivers pop-up ads based on Web sites that Internet users browse said Tuesday it will exit that business by June following persistent criticism from online publishers, consumer groups and privacy advocates.

Claria Corp, also known as GAIN and Gator, had said last summer it was phasing out its adware business in favor of new personalization services, but it did not commit to a timeline or promise to drop such ads entirely. Tuesday’s announcement is the first such commitment.

The Redwood City company said it has hired Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. to help sell its adware assets.

Critics say adware has emerged as one of the top scourges of Internet use because it often degrades computer performance, tracks a user’s browsing habits and is installed without permission.

Despite the pledge to stop adware, critics remained wary of Claria, which generated more than $149 million from 1999 to 2003.

“If they really wanted to demonstrate a commitment to being anti-adware then the right thing to do is shut down the operation, not sell it to somebody else so they can continue what Claria started,” said Dave Kramer, an attorney at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, who has represented clients in adware lawsuits.

In a statement, Claria said it will require any buyer of its adware assets to agree to abide by a set of standards outlined by Truste and other privacy watchdog groups.

Source: AP

Don’t break DRM even if it ‘threatens lives’

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Copyright holders have collectively objected to proposed exemptions to the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in cases where copyright software causes security and privacy harm. Lawyers for the pigopolists (including the Business Software Alliance, Motion Picture Ass. of America and Recording Industry Ass. of America) also said exceptions that would allow DRM software to be circumvented in hypothetical cases where it “threatens critical infrastructure and potentially endangers lives” might create “uncertainty” in the minds of software developers.

As Ed Felten of Freedom to Tinker puts it, this extraordinary legal argument means copyright holders want to keep their options open about developing DRM software even when there are doubts about whether it might threaten lives or the systems that underpin the US economy.

“In order to protect their ability to deploy this dangerous DRM, they want the Copyright Office to withhold from users permission to uninstall DRM software that actually does threaten critical infrastructure and endanger lives,” Felten writes.

Common sense would dictate that copyright holders would ensure DRM systems pose no risk to critical infrastructure or lives before their deployment, of course, but Felten remains unconvinced good sense will enter into the US Copyright Office’s deliberations on the pigopolists submission.

Source: The Register

IRS to Allow Tax Preparers to Sell Your Info?

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

The IRS is quietly moving to loosen the once-inviolable privacy of federal income-tax returns. If it succeeds, accountants and other tax-return preparers will be able to sell information from individual returns - or even entire returns - to marketers and data brokers.

The change is raising alarm among consumer and privacy-rights advocates. It was included in a set of proposed rules that the Treasury Department and the IRS published in the Dec. 8 Federal Register, where the official notice labeled them “not a significant regulatory action.”

IRS officials portray the changes as housecleaning to update outmoded regulations adopted before it began accepting returns electronically. The proposed rules, which would become effective 30 days after a final version is published, would require a tax preparer to obtain written consent before selling tax information.

Critics call the changes a dangerous breach in personal and financial privacy. They say the requirement for signed consent would prove meaningless for many taxpayers, especially those hurriedly reviewing stacks of documents before a filing deadline.

“The normal interaction is that the taxpayer just signs what the tax preparer puts in front of them,” said Jean Ann Fox of the Consumer Federation of America, one of several groups fighting the changes. “They think, ‘This person is a tax professional, and I’m going to rely on them.’ “

Source: philly.com

VeriSign service warns businesses of cyber threats

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

VeriSign Inc. introduced a new broad-based security service on Monday that helps businesses monitor cyber threats and warns companies where they are most vulnerable to a crippling attack.

The Security Risk Profiling Service gives organizations a way to quantify threats and decide what immediate measures they need to take to plug specific security holes that could lead to loss of financial or other sensitive information.

John Pescatore, an Internet security analyst at Gartner, said the offering will help differentiate VeriSign from rivals like Symantec Corp. and AT&T Inc. in the estimated $1 billion North American market for managed security services.

He said VeriSign’s tool for the first time gives companies the ability to determine what would happen if a business made security changes such as altering its firewall or downloading a security patch to plug a vulnerability.

“The idea is how do you model the threats to your organization and the risks if you make a change?” Pescatore said. “This is something that puts them ahead of their competition.”

VeriSign is offering the service in partnership with privately-held Skybox Security of San Jose, California, which is providing the underlying technology for the offering.

Source: Reuters

French Lawmakers OK Bill To Open iTunes DRM

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

French lawmakers approved an online copyright bill Tuesday that would require Apple to break open the exclusive format behind its market-leading iTunes music store and iPod players.

The draft law — which also introduces new penalties for music pirates — would force Apple Computer Inc., Sony Corp . and others to share proprietary copy-protection technologies so that rivals can offer compatible services and players.

Lawmakers in the National Assembly, France’s lower house, approved the bill 296-193. The legislation now has to be debated and voted by the Senate — a process expected to begin in May.

Apple has so far refused to comment on the bill or on analysts’ suggestions that the Cupertino, Calif.-based company might choose to withdraw from the French online music market rather than share the proprietary technology at the heart of its business model. Representatives for Apple France did not return calls Tuesday.

Under the bill, companies would be required to reveal the secrets of hitherto-exclusive copy-protection technologies such as Apple’s FairPlay format and the ATRAC3 code used by Sony’s Connect store and Walkman players.

That could permit consumers for the first time to download music directly to their iPods from stores other than iTunes, or to rival music players from iTunes France.

Source: AP

Microsoft Readying Windows Live Shopping

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

In seeking developers for its service, Microsoft said it’s building “the largest structured commercial catalog in the world, ingesting data from hundreds of thousands of retailers.”

Currently, all that’s available is a site announcing that a beta version is “coming soon.” Linked to the homepage is a help-wanted ad that gives some insight as to what’s planned for the latest Live service.

In seeking developers for Windows Live Shopping, Microsoft said it’s building “the largest structured commercial catalog in the world, ingesting data from hundreds of thousands of retailers.” The company said it is also tackling user-generated content platforms for “reputation and incentive services,” which apparently would include buyer ratings of sellers.

In addition, the company said it plans to run the product in more than 50 international markets.

In an emailed statement, Microsoft confirmed plans to launch a new shopping site, but declined to provide further details

Source: InformationWeek

Saudi frees activist held over Web article

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Saudi Arabia on Tuesday released an Islamist activist who was arrested earlier this month after criticising a cabinet minister in an Internet article, Islamist Web sites and Arab media said.

Mohsen al-Awajy was taken into custody more than a week ago after writing an article on his Web site in which he also said a liberal clique of ministers and officials had become the real power behind the scenes with a direct line to King Abdullah.

Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera said Awajy was released earlier on Tuesday. Islamists who use a leading Saudi Web site also reported his release.

“I called him to congratulate him after he was released this morning,” one user said. Awajy was not answering phone calls later in the day.

Paris-based media rights group Reporters Without Borders called on King Abdullah last week to ensure Awajy’s release and accused the authorities of blocking Web sites that had reported his arrest.

Source: Reuters

Bug In TiVo Has Been Cutting Out Shows

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

The first episode in the new season of “The Sopranos” ended in a classic cliffhanger moment, with Tony on the floor after being shot by his uncle Junior. But some viewers who recorded the show on their TiVo digital video recorders to watch later might not know how close Tony came to being whacked.

Because of a software glitch in some machines, TiVo customers have been discovering over the last few months that some of the shows they had set to record were cut off before the programs ended.

“I lost the last 15 minutes of ‘Lost,’ as well as ‘C.S.I.,’ ” said Monica Sharma, a marketing solutions manager in Piscataway, N.J. “Regrettably, the big things happened at the end.”

The engineers first suggested a temporary fix that is the high-tech equivalent of hitting the side of a TV: pull the plug on the machine and then power it back up. It seemed that the abrupt cuts happened only on machines that had been in use for a long time and had never been rebooted.

TiVo says it has since created an upgrade to its operating system — which is being downloaded automatically to all Series 2 TiVo boxes — and that it should solve the problem permanently.

Source: NY Times

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