3/28/2008

Microsoft prepares ‘Albany’ to compete with Google Docs

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Facing pressure from hosted productivity suites like Google Docs and Google Apps, Microsoft is planning a new package of low-end productivity software and hosted services through a secretive project code-named Albany.

Project Albany puts together a combination of Office, Office Live Workspaces, Windows Live OneCare and the Windows Live suite of services in one package that eventually is expected to be available in retail outlets such as Best Buy, sources familiar with the company’s plans said Wednesday.

The sources, who asked not to be named, said Microsoft is asking select testers to try out the Project Albany beta but is requiring them to sign a non-disclosure agreement just to participate in the test. The main focus of the initial beta is to test the unified installer for the package, they said.

Office is Microsoft’s enormously successful productivity suite, and it’s unclear how much of that product will make it into Albany. Because of its price points and functionality, Office Home and Student 2007, which includes Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, is the most likely candidate for inclusion in the new suite, which is expected to be fairly low-cost. Office Home and Student 2007 retails for $149.95, about $250 less than Office Standard 2007 — which in addition to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint also includes Outlook and has a list price of $399.95.

Other products that are expected to be a part of Project Albany are hosted services Microsoft has developed over the last few years. Office Live Workspaces is Microsoft’s hosted service for storing and sharing documents online, while Windows Live OneCare is a security service that includes firewall and antivirus protection. Windows Live services include hosted e-mail, search, photo-sharing, and other services; it is also not certain at this time which of these services will be a part of Albany. However, one source said the Windows Live products included in Albany will be client-side applications, such as the desktop version of OneCare, Windows Live Messenger, and Windows Live Writer, not hosted services.

Through its public relations firm Wednesday, Microsoft confirmed that it sent out beta invitations for a product code-named Albany but declined to share additional details.

TorrentSpy Shuts Down

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

A little over a year ago, TorrentSpy.com was still the most visited BitTorrent site, but times have changed. After an expensive two year battle with the MPAA, TorrentSpy decided to throw in the towel and the site has now shut down permanently.

torrentspyTorrentSpy is no more, Justin Bunnell, the founder of the site writes: “We have decided on our own, not due to any court order or agreement, to bring the TorrentSpy.com search engine to an end and thus we permanently closed down worldwide on March 24, 2008.”

The main reason for the shutdown is the ongoing legal battle with the MPAA, which started February 2006. “We now feel compelled to provide the ultimate method of privacy protection for our users - permanent shutdown,” Justin writes.

U.N. agency ousts record number of “cybersquatters”

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) ousted a record number of “cybersquatters” from Web sites with domain names referring to trademarked companies, foundations and celebrities in 2007.

WIPO, a U.N. agency based in Geneva, received 2,156 complaints alleging “abusive registration of trademarks on the Internet” last year, up 18 percent from 2006 and 48 percent more than the filings lodged in 2005.

“These increases confirm that ‘cybersquatting’ remains a significant issue for rights holders,” Francis Gurry, WIPO’s deputy director-general said on Thursday.

Most complaints came from the pharmaceutical, banking, telecommunications, retail and entertainment sectors.

Drugmakers were the top filers “due to numerous permutations of protected names registered for Web sites offering or linking to online sales of medications and drugs,” WIPO said.

Google: No kids allowed

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Google’s terms of service, while ignored by the vast majority of users, contain a pretty shocking clause: Under 18’s are not permitted to use any of Google’s Web properties. That’s right, kids–no search, YouTube, Gmail, news, or images.

Under 18s wishing to watch YouTube videos of skateboarding dogs, or perform research for a school project will have to go elsewhere–Ask.com or Microsoft’s Live.com search, perhaps. The message from Mountain View seems clear: We don’t want your (underage) business.

Google’s terms of service, thick with legalese, state that:

“You may not use … Google’s products, software, services and web sites … and may not accept the Terms if … you are not of legal age to form a binding contract with Google.

The problem with this, of course, is that all 50 states in the United States require that someone be at least 18 years old to form a binding contract. As for what happens when a person under 18 attempts to agree to a click-through contract, the jury is still out on that one.

Iceland’s Largest BitTorrent Tracker Wins in Court

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Whilst one site may have closed its doors thanks to the MPAA, after continuous legal pressure, another has prevailed today in court. Torrent.is has won in court over the Association of film rights-holder in Iceland (SMÁÍS)

torrent icelandThe case is a study in classic big business bullying. Like similar cases in the US, SMÁÍS complained to the court about alleged copyright infringement activities on the BitTorrent site, and got a preliminary injunction, blocking the site.

However, justice works swifter in Iceland than it does in the US, and after only 4 months, the case has been to court.

The decision, however, was as surprising as it was swift. Instead of deciding for or against the defendants, the court simply dismissed the case. It is likely, however, that the plaintiffs will appeal the decision to the Icelandic ‘Supreme Court’ (Hæstiréttur).

The verdict, (available in Icelandic here) seems to hinge on the fact that under Icelandic laws, searching for files, or providing accessibility to them, is legal, as long as the files provided by the service are not themselves copyrighted. Torrent files, are not themselves copyrighted, but are instead metadata – data about data- describing copyrighted material, as indeed are reviews.

Indonesian ministry Web site hacked over porn ban

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Hackers have defaced the Web site of Indonesia’s information ministry in response to a government move to restrict access to pornographic material on the Internet, an official said on Friday.

Indonesia’s parliament on Tuesday passed a new information bill that criminalises the transmission of pornographic material on the Web.

The Southeast Asian country has had a vigorous debate over pornography in recent years, exposing deep divisions in the Muslim-majority nation.

Hackers on Thursday posted a message on the information ministry’s Web site (http://www.depkominfo.go.id) saying: “Prove that the law has not been made to cover government stupidity.”

The message was accompanied by a mocked-up photograph of a local information technology expert, who has been advising the government on the new law, depicted with a bare chest.

Screenshots of the hacked page were posted on the Detik.com news Web site and a cyber chat forum.

The message had been removed and the Web site was now running normally, said Gatot Broto, an official at the ministry.

OpenOffice.org Update Arrive

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

OpenOffice.org 2.4, the latest version of the free productivity application suite, was released and is now available for download for a number of operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X.

An open source project backed by Sun Microsystems, OpenOffice.org is widely regarded as the leading competitor to Microsoft Office. It is also the most prominent software to support Open Document Format (ODF), a set of open standards that challenges Microsoft’s proprietary Office file formats.

This release is mostly an incremental upgrade, however, and isn’t likely to do much to heat up the competition in the productivity applications market. It incorporates mostly minor new features and bug fixes for each of the applications in the suite, including Writer, Calc, the Base personal database, and the Impress presentation software.

The real sparks won’t start flying until the next major milestone for OpenOffice.org, version 3.0, scheduled to ship in September. That version is expected to bring long-awaited support for Microsoft’s Office 2007 file formats, which will make it easier for current Office users to migrate to the alternative suite. In addition, it will bring support for ODF 1.2 and user interface improvements, among other features.

Xbox Live Cheaters Hit With Penalties

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Microsoft is cracking down on players on its Xbox Live gaming service who use hacks to artificially inflate their scores.

“Today, we took action,” said Larry Hryb, Microsoft’s Xbox Live programming director, in a blog post Wednesday.

Hryb, who blogs under the pseudonym Major Nelson, said Microsoft would reset cheaters’ “gamerscore” accounts to zero and eliminate all past achievements. Their gamer profiles would also publicly show they’ve been caught cheating, according to Hryb.

Sony Reports Possible Security Breach On PlayStation Network

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Sony on Thursday reported that hackers may have penetrated security on the PlayStation network and gained access to some users’ personal information.

Sony said the security breach occurred at the PlayStation Store, a content download service of the network. “Although unlikely, it is possible that the passwords of a small percentage of PlayStation Network users may have been changed through unauthorized access,” the company said.

Comcast to modify network practices

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Cable operator Comcast Corp promised on Thursday to change how it manages its network in response to accusations it blocks some Internet file-sharing services because they require large amounts of bandwidth.

But Comcast’s move did not go far enough to satisfy the top U.S. communications regulator. Kevin Martin, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, vowed to continue investigating the management practices of broadband providers and whether they discriminate against certain applications.

Comcast, which has more than 13 million broadband subscribers, said it would adopt a new technique for managing capacity on its network by the end of 2008. The new practice will not discriminate among different applications.

The cable giant has been accused by consumer groups of blocking some file-sharing services, such as BitTorrent, that distribute TV shows and movies on the Internet.

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