1/17/2008

Yahoo Embraces OpenID 2.0 Spec

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Yahoo is moving in a big way to embrace the new OpenID 2.0 specification, which eliminates the need for Web surfers to create separate IDs and logins at each of the Web sites, blogs and profile pages that they may visit during an online session.

Beginning Jan. 30, Yahoo’s 248 million active registered users worldwide will be able to use a new beta test version of Yahoo ID to seamlessly sign in to hundreds of OpenID-compatible Web sites, the search engine giant said.

“Supporting OpenID gives our users the freedom to leverage their Yahoo ID both on and off the Yahoo network, reducing the number of usernames and passwords they need to remember and offering a single, trusted partner for managing their online identity,” said Ash Patel, Yahoo executive vice president of platforms and infrastructure.

Once a Yahoo registrant has enabled a login account for OpenID access, the user can tell any OpenID-enabled Web site or blog page that he or she is a Yahoo user. The user will be automatically sent back to Yahoo to enter his or her Yahoo login information. Upon completion, the user will be routed back, and signed in to, the original site.

Should AT&T police the Internet?

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

A decade after the government said that AT&T and other service providers don’t have to police their networks for pirated content, the telecommunications giant is voluntarily looking for ways to play traffic cop.

For the past several months, AT&T executives have said the company is testing technology to filter traffic on its network to look for copyrighted material that is being illegally distributed. James Cicconi, senior executive vice president for external and legislative affairs for AT&T, reiterated the carrier’s plans last week during a panel discussion at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

“We are very interested in a technology-based solution and we think a network-based solution is the optimal way to approach this,” Cicconi said in a New York Times article. “We recognize we are not there yet but there are a lot of promising technologies. But we are having an open discussion with a number of content companies, including NBC Universal, to try to explore various technologies that are out there.”

Microsoft seeks patent for office ’spy’ software

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Microsoft is developing Big Brother-style software capable of remotely monitoring a worker’s productivity, physical wellbeing and competence.

The Times has seen a patent application filed by the company for a computer system that links workers to their computers via wireless sensors that measure their metabolism. The system would allow managers to monitor employees’ performance by measuring their heart rate, body temperature, movement, facial expression and blood pressure. Unions said they fear that employees could be dismissed on the basis of a computer’s assessment of their physiological state.

Technology allowing constant monitoring of workers was previously limited to pilots, firefighters and Nasa astronauts. This is believed to be the first time a company has proposed developing such software for mainstream workplaces.

Microsoft submitted a patent application in the US for a “unique monitoring system” that could link workers to their computers. Wireless sensors could read “heart rate, galvanic skin response, EMG, brain signals, respiration rate, body temperature, movement facial movements, facial expressions and blood pressure”, the application states.

The system could also “automatically detect frustration or stress in the user” and “offer and provide assistance accordingly”. Physical changes to an employee would be matched to an individual psychological profile based on a worker’s weight, age and health. If the system picked up an increase in heart rate or facial expressions suggestive of stress or frustration, it would tell management that he needed help.

The Information Commissioner, civil liberties groups and privacy lawyers strongly criticised the potential of the system for “taking the idea of monitoring people at work to a new level”. Hugh Tomlinson, QC, an expert on data protection law at Matrix Chambers, told The Times: “This system involves intrusion into every single aspect of the lives of the employees. It raises very serious privacy issues.”

Ubuntu releases ten lessons for the desktop

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

In the latest Ubuntu weekly newsletter the Ubuntu folks announced the release of the Ubuntu 7.10 Desktop Course. The modular course should take two days to complete all 10 of the lessons offered, but it is possible to cover topics and lessons independently of each other, learning whatever is of interest.

Coming in two versions, both downloadable as PDFs, there is a student guide and an instructor guide. The instructor guide comes with instructor notes and answers to the exercise questions together while the student guide has no instructor notes and the answers are provided separately.

The ten sections of the course include: introducing Ubuntu; exploring the Ubuntu desktop; using the Internet; using OpenOffice applications; Ubuntu and games; customising the desktop and applications; making the most of images and photos; playing music and videos; ubuntu help and support; and partitioning and booting.

Microsoft Warns of Excel Zero-Day Attack

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Redmond activates its security response process after learning of a zero-day attack against a new, undocumented Excel spreadsheet vulnerability.

A new, undocumented vulnerability in Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet program is being used to launch computer attacks against specific targets, according to a warning from the software maker.

The vulnerability, rated “extremely critical” by Secunia, is being exploited to load a keylogger Trojan on select targets, according to an anti-virus analyst tracking the latest attack.

The attackers are using booby-trapped Excel documents, sent by e-mail to the target’s mailbox. If a rigged .xls document is launched, the exploit happens silently in the background, infecting the machine with a Trojan downloader that opens a backdoor and waits for instructions from a server controlled by the attacker.

Panasonic shows long-lived AA battery

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Japan’s Panasonic is introducing a double-A household battery that will keep gadgets running 20 percent longer than rivals do, so long that Guinness World Records has dubbed it the world’s longest-lasting alkaline battery.

The new Evolta - whose name is derived from “evolution” and “voltage” - has proved its mettle against products from Duracell and Energizer, as well as its own upscale Oxyride batteries, according to Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., which makes Panasonic brand products.

Evolta’s longer life results from more material being packed inside it, the new materials it’s made with and its sturdier seal than predecessors had.

Guinness certified it in Tokyo Tuesday as “the longest-lasting AA alkaline battery cell,” based on testing under guidelines set by the industry’s International Electrotechnical Commission.

Evolta’s 10-year shelf life - up to 60 percent longer than rivals’ - also makes it more attractive to store in disaster preparedness kits. Other batteries last five to seven years on the shelf, Panasonic officials said.

Evolta goes on sale in April in Japan, and is planned for overseas markets later this year, Matsushita said. A pack of four will cost about $5.40 in Japan, about 15 percent more than regular batteries and 3 percent more than Oxyride. Prices outside Japan aren’t set.

Companies launch gadget buyback services

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

We think a lot about getting new gadgets, but not so much about getting rid of old ones. The result: old cell phones, defunct laser printers and Pentium III computers gathering dust.

A couple companies want to help us clear out those old gadgets, while feeding our upgrade habit, helping the environment and making a buck for themselves.

Instead of being hit up for an extended warranty next time you buy a gadget, you may find yourself hearing a pitch from TechForward Inc., a Los Angeles-based company selling a “guaranteed” buyback plan for electronics.

For a fee paid when you buy a device - $9 for an iPod, for instance - you get the right to sell it to TechForward at a predetermined price that depends on how long you keep it. If you sell an iPod after a year, for example, you would get $40; after another year, $20.

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