Microsoft Readies Office 2003 SP3 for February Release

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Microsoft plans to start pushing out the third service pack for Office 2003 via its automatic update service beginning Feb. 27.

That means that the service pack will be automatically installed on the machines of those customers who have signed up for Microsoft Update and who have not yet installed Office 2003 Service Pack 3.

Should customers not want the service pack to be automatically installed, they will have to opt out of the update service, as Microsoft is not providing a way to block Office 2003 SP3 exclusively

EU court says file sharers don’t have to be named

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

European Union countries can refuse to disclose names of file sharers on the Internet in civil cases, the EU’s top court said on Tuesday in a blow to copyright holders trying to fight digital piracy.

The European Court of Justice ruled on a dispute between Spanish music rights holders association Promusicae and Spain’s top telecoms operator Telefonica.

Telefonica argued that, under a national law based on EU rules, it only had to disclose the name of an Internet subscriber for criminal actions, not civil ones.

“Community law does not require the member states, in order to ensure the effective protection of copyright, to lay down an obligation to disclose personal data in the context of civil proceedings,” the court said in a statement.

Promusicae wanted names of Telefonica Internet clients who shared copyright material on the Web using the KaZaA file exchange software, so it could start civil proceedings against them.

Civil proceedings are cheaper than criminal proceedings which typically require a higher burden of proof.

Man arrested in eBay sale of historic documents

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

A New York state employee who had access to government-owned archives has been arrested on suspicion of stealing hundreds of historic documents, many of which he sold on eBay, authorities said on Monday.

Among the missing documents were an 1823 letter by U.S. Vice President John C. Calhoun and copies of the Davy Crockett Almanacs, pamphlets written by the frontiersman who died at the Alamo in Texas.

Daniel Lorello, 54, of Rensselaer, New York, was charged with grand larceny, possession of stolen property and fraud. He pleaded innocent in Albany City Court on Monday.

He was found out by an alert history buff who saw the items posted on the online auction site and alerted authorities, the state attorney general’s office said in a statement.


Delver Comes Out Of Stealth With a Twist on Social Search

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

What if a search engine knew who your friends were and delivered results based on their actions and content across the Web? Today at the DEMO conference, an Israeli startup called Delver (formerly Semingo) is coming out of stealth and announcing its upcoming launch as a semantic social graph search engine.

Delver is attempting to solve two key search-related problems. The first is that current search engines do not take into account the identity of the searcher. For example, a teenager and a senior citizen performing the same query will get exactly the same results. The second is that current search engines do not allow users to search for information created and referenced by their own social graph. This is an important point because, let’s face it, social networking doesn’t offer much functional value beyond allowing people to connect with one another. The fact that you have 300 friends on Facebook, 200 on MySpace and 100 connections on LinkedIn doesn’t actually help you locate information. This is where Delver comes in. Search for “New York,” and the results that will pop up will be blog posts from people you know that mention or are about New York, or Flickr photos, YouTube videos, Delicious bookmarks, and the like.

‘100% accurate’ face recognition algorithm announced

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Psychology researchers at Glasgow University say they have increased the accuracy of automated face recognition to 100%. If the claims are true, this development will have far-reaching consequences for privacy and security in modern society.

Mike Burton, Professor of Psychology at Glasgow, and lecturer Rob Jenkins say they achieved their hugely-improved results by eliminating the variable effects of age, hairstyle, expression, lighting, different camera equipment etc. This was done by producing a composite “average face” for a person, synthesised from twenty different pictures across a range of ages, lighting and so on.

According to the two researchers:

We modelled human familiarity by using image averaging to derive stable face representations from naturally varying photographs. This simple procedure increased the accuracy of an industry standard face-recognition algorithm from 54 per cent to 100 per cent, bringing the robust performance of a familiar human to an automated system.

The Glaswegian psychologists may be hot stuff at face recognition, but plainly aren’t engineering types - an engineer who said he’d produced a system with 100 per cent reliability would be laughed out of the room. In this case the duo mean that their system got it right every time in their tests, not that they have actually increased its accuracy to 100 per cent.

Sony Ericsson cuts deals with 10 music labels

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Mobile phone maker Sony Ericsson said it had signed deals with 10 music labels to add content to its PlayNow service, which lets users download music via their mobile phones.

Sony Ericsson, owned by Ericsson and Sony Corp., said the deals added 5 million new tracks to its catalogue.

The venture said in a statement late on Sunday it had signed deals with Sony BMG, Warner Music Group, EMI, The Orchard, IODA, The PocketGroup, Hungama, X5Music, Bonnier Amigo and VidZone.

Study shows eBay buyers save billions of dollars

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Buyers save billions of dollars each year bidding on eBay auctions, according to a new study that quantifies the benefits online consumers enjoy over and above what is derived by sellers, or eBay itself.

The independent research by two statisticians from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business found buyers saved $7 billion that they might have otherwise been ready to pay in a study of eBay auction behavior in 2003.

Applying the same analysis to 2004 buyer data, consumers saved $8.4 billion, said Wolfgang Jank, one author of the study. A linear projection of the research findings would mean consumers saved around $19 billion during 2007, Jank said.

Amazon says will begin int’l roll-out of its MP3 store

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Online retailer Amazon.com Inc said on Sunday it will begin an international roll-out this year of its digital music store that offers songs without copy-protection technology known as digital rights management.

Amazon said it is the only retailer to offer DRM-free MP3s from all four major music labels as well as thousands of independent labels.


Sweden to charge Pirate Bay in copyright case

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Sweden plans this week to charge the people running Pirate Bay, one of the world’s most visited Web sites, with being accessories in breaking copyright law.

Pirate Bay helps Web surfers share copyrighted music and film files, which is illegal in many countries, including Sweden.

Public prosecutor Hakan Roswall said last week he will charge the Swedish site’s organizers with accessory and conspiracy to break copyright law, which could lead to fines or up to two years in prison.

The charges will be filed in a district court on January 31.

The Motion Picture Association of America and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) are among those who have called for action to shut down the site.

‘BusinessWeek’: Don’t link to us

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

BusinessWeek apparently doesn’t need anyone to help it boost its Web traffic.

According to a blog post on Gawker, BusinessWeek not only asks people not to link to its site, it specifically directs them to its user agreement which prohibits the practice of “deep linking.”

Gawker points to the example of SmugMug CEO Don MacAskill, who writes in his blog that after being interviewed for a feature story in BusinessWeek, he was expressly told not to link to the story. “Yes, that’s right, an ad-driven publication doesn’t want us to drive traffic to them,” he says in his blog. In addition, he was urged to review the company’s user agreement.

Legal file-sharing service touts free music with ads

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Qtrax, a new legal online file-sharing service that allows fans to download songs for free, said on Sunday it will launch with 25 million to 30 million copyrighted tracks with backing from major labels.

The free service will be funded through advertising revenue that Qtrax will share with the music companies.

Qtrax executives said the company’s digital rights management technology will count the number of times each song has been played in order to fairly compensate artists and rights’ holders, without restricting consumer use.

The company has focused on ensuring that its network is free of spyware or adware such as pop-ups common on many peer-to-peer networks to improve the customer experience.


DRM in latest QuickTime cripples Adobe video editing code

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

The latest version of Apple’s QuickTime media player has video production people venting their spleens after discovering that new digital rights management features have crippled the use editing software from Adobe.

Shortly after updating to QuickTime 7.4, legions of people charged chat groups to report they were unable to access files created with Premier and After Effects, two pricey Adobe programs used for editing video. A product manager for After Effects is suggesting users hold off installing the QuickTime update until Adobe and Apple get things straightened out.

Those After Effects users unfortunate enough to have installed the update get a DRM-related error when trying to access their video files. It reads: “After Effects error: opening movie - you do not have permission to open this file (-54).”

The error is the result of periodic checks QuickTime carries out on video files for piracy violations. Videos created using Adobe products don’t supply the needed headers until the movies are rendered, prompting the overly protective QuickTime to conclude they are contraband that should be barred.

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