Google Docs rolls out student-oriented features

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Google Docs’ summer interns this summer were tasked with working on improvements and additions to the service geared toward students.

The results of their work, now available to try out, include new features such as an equation editor, superscripts and subscripts, document translation, improvements to surveys, and more outlining options.

iPod Volume Restrictions On The Way

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

iPods in Europe are about to get a lot more quiet. Regulators have released a new set of standards governing how loud portable music players can go, and that means the default max volume is going take a big dip from where it currently sits.

The European Commission’s new policy will require iPods and other MP3 players to have a default maximum volume of 80 decibels. That’s considered a “very loud” level by most sound rankings; anything above that mark can be potentially dangerous. Presently, most MP3 players go as loud as 115 to 125 decibels.

For some fun comparisons, we turn to the U.S. National Institute On Deafness And Other Communications Disorders (apparently, every shorter agency name was already taken). According to the, er, USNIODAOCD:

• 80 decibels is equivalent to the level of noise you’d hear on a busy city street;

• 90 decibels is lawnmower-like loudness;

• 110 is as ear-shattering as a loud rock concert;

• 120 to 130 matches the level of an airliner taking off — or, in less technical terms, “GET USED TO PEOPLE ALWAYS HAVING TO SHOUT AT YOU!”

Microsoft Security Essentials Launches Tuesday

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

If you can’t wait to get your hands on Microsoft’s upcoming free antivirus app, and you missed the limited public beta period, you won’t have to wait any longer. Microsoft has confirmed that its Security Essentials antivirus software will be publicly available tomorrow, September 29.

The download is available and you can get it from Microsoft’s Security Essentials site here. It is avaliable for users of Windows XP, Vista, and 7.


Ignoring RIAA lawsuits cheaper than going to trial

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Jammie Thomas-Rasset and Joel Tenenbaum captured the nation’s attention when they were defendants in the RIAA’s first two trials against accused online infringers. But here’s the mind-warping reality: both defendants would have been far better off monetarily if they had simply ignored the complaint altogether and failed to show up in court.

That counterintuitive logic played out again this week in Massachusetts, where federal judge Nancy Gertner issued four default judgments against accused P2P file-swappers who never bothered to respond to the charges against them. Their failure to appear meant an automatic loss, and though the judge does have some discretion in setting penalties, judges often pick the minimum awards in such cases.

That was true in all four cases, where Gertner accepted the record labels’ claims and awarded them the minimum statutory damages of $750 per song. The defendants were accused of downloading an average of ten songs, putting total awards in the $7,500 range, in addition to a few hundred more for court costs.


Nintendo cutting Wii price by $50 to $200

Filed under: — Aviran

Nintendo on Sunday will cut the price of its popular Wii console by $50, in a bid to broaden its appeal among potential new customers as it prepares to release the Wii Fit-Plus and New Super Mario Bros. games.

The Wii, whose game control senses motions without having relying solely on buttons and levers, is the top selling console worldwide. The new $199.99 Wii will include the Wii Remote controller, Nunchuk controller and Wii Sports software.

“Our research shows there are 50 million Americans thinking about becoming gamers, and this more affordable price point and our vast array of new software mean many of them can now make the leap and find experiences that appeal to them,” said Cammie Dunaway, Nintendo of America’s executive vice president of sales & marketing, in a statement late Wednesday.

Sony to launch new motion controller next spring

Filed under: — Aviran

Sony is planning a spring release of its new motion controller for the PlayStation 3 video game console.

The controller, a prototype of which Sony unveiled in June, will work with the existing PlayStation Eye camera, which can track players’ voices, faces and body motion. The controller, in turn, has on its end a light-emitting sphere that can be recognized by the PlayStation Eye camera.

Sony did not say how much the controller will cost.

Motion controllers let people play video games without complex buttons and levers. They were popularized by Nintendo Co.’s Wii when the console launched in 2006.

Now Sony Corp. is pushing past that technology, as is Microsoft Corp. with its own motion control device, “Project Natal.” Natal, which combines a camera, depth sensor, microphone and processor, eliminates the need for any button-mashing device. Microsoft has not yet set a release date for Natal.

Sony’s announcement came in the heels of Nintendo’s decision to cut the price of the Wii by $50, to $200 beginning Sunday.


Google suffers second email disruption in a month

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Google Inc’s Web-based email service on Thursday suffered its second technical problem in a month as users reported difficulty accessing their contacts.

The disruption, which took 2-1/2 hours to resolve, followed a two-hour outage of Google’s news website this week. Earlier this month, a majority of its email users were unable to access the service for more than an hour after routers got overloaded during a routine server upgrade.


Waze rolls out crowdsourced traffic data app

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Using smart phones as navigation tools is all the rage these days, what with a slew of applications available for the iPhone and Android platforms that utilize those devices’ built-in GPS systems in determining users’ real-time location.

One such service is from Waze, which in August released its iPhone app after being available on Android for several months. Waze’s service is meant to help drivers figure out where they are and how best to get where they’re going, all with the help of a large community of other motorists.

Among the information that Waze provides are traffic flow, road reports, and warnings about where drivers might run into speed traps.

At DemoFall 09 in San Diego on Tuesday, Waze plans to unveil its latest steps forward, which include rolling out its service on every major smart phone platform (except BlackBerry) and offering, for the first time, voice prompts for directions.

That could be good news for users of, say, Symbian-based smart phones, in cities where AT&T service is spotty. And that’s important because even in a city like San Francisco, using Waze on an iPhone–with AT&T as the only service provider–meant being subject to areas where there was a significant delay in information showing up on the screen.

Further, because the service will now be available on other platforms, it means that the overall amount of data available to drivers–via the crowdsourced nature of the system–will be broader. And, because users until now have had to occasionally look at their small screens to see where they need to go, the voice prompts may well mean an easier–and safer–way to get to a destination.

Waze’s application begins as a standard turn-by-turn directions tool and also offers a slew of other features, many of which give drivers something fun to look out for as they make their way to wherever they’re going.

“At the end of the day,” said Di-Ann Eisnor, Waze’s community geographer, Waze is “about a community of drivers helping to build this map.”

AV Tests Find That Reputation Really Does Count

Filed under: — Aviran

New reputation-based antivirus systems are doing a better job of blocking malicious software than did their predecessors.

That’s what testing and certification company NSS Labs discovered when it looked at how good antivirus software really is at blocking Web-based attacks.

NSS tested nine antivirus products by installing the software and then directing the PC to a battery of more than 3,000 Web sites that were known to be actively downloading malicious software to PCs. For two products — built by Trend Micro and McAfee — the tests took a look at how much so-called reputation-based malware detection systems really helped block malware. These reputation systems use a variety of techniques to size up a program and get a sense of whether it’s trustworthy.

According to NSS President Rick Moy, antivirus products that ship with reputation systems tended to do better in the tests. “Not all AV is the same,” he said. “There are huge differences between anti-malware products, and the reputation systems are making a considerable impact.”

With Trend Micro Internet Security and McAfee Total Protection, NSS compared how the software did with reputation-based detection turned both on and off. Trend Micro’s software improved by 23 percent with the system active; McAfee’s improved by 8 percent.

The top 4 consumer AV products, as rated by NSS based on the percentage of malware caught, were as follows:

1) Trend Micro Internet Security 2009 / 96.4%

2) Kaspersky Internet Security 2009 / 87.8%

3) Norton Internet Security 2009 / 81.8%

4) McAfee Total Protection Suite 2009 / 81.6%


Adobe Launches Flash Platform Services

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Adobe Systems has announced the availability of Adobe Flash Platform Services for Distribution, a new service that enables advertisers and content publishers to promote, measure, and monetize applications across social networks, desktops and mobile devices.

Adobe Systems has announced the availability of Adobe Flash Platform Services for Distribution, a new service that enables advertisers and content publishers to promote, measure, and monetize applications across social networks, desktops and mobile devices.

Adobe Flash Platform Services are online, hosted services that allow developers to add innovative capabilities to Web applications with a predictable, cost efficient deployment model, said Adrian Ludwig, group manager for the Flash Platform at Adobe. Developers, advertisers and publishers are now using Adobe Flash Platform Services to make Web applications sharable, social, and collaborative, he said.

“What we are doing is announcing the first of a series of platform services for the Flash Platform,” Ludwig said. “This service makes it easy for developers to make their applications and Flash-based content shareable.”


Google Releases A Nuke. Apple Won’t Win This Fight.

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Well, something clearly broke down behind the scenes in the ongoing Apple/Google negotiations over Google Voice on the iPhone, because Google released one of two nukes it has been holding back. In a letter to the FCC today, Google disclosed previously unpublished information about Apple’s rejection of their Google Voice application.

There’s no longer any question – either Google or Apple is flat out lying to the FCC:

Apple: “Contrary to published reports, Apple has not rejected the Google Voice application, and continues to study it.”

Google: “Apple representatives informed Google that the Google Voice application was rejected because Apple believed the application duplicated the core dialer functionality of the iPhone”

Our position is that Apple is the one full of it, which we stated way before this new information from Google. And it isn’t just he said/she said – Apple’s story doesn’t add up.

But Apple is standing firm, and even today told press that they haven’t rejected the Google Voice application, despite what Google says.


Microsoft: No TCP/IP patches for you, XP

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Microsoft late last week said it won’t patch Windows XP for a pair of bugs it quashed Sept. 8 in Vista, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008.

The news adds Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) and SP3 to the no-patch list that previously included only Windows 2000 Server SP4.

“We’re talking about code that is 12 to 15 years old in its origin, so backporting that level of code is essentially not feasible,” said security program manager Adrian Stone during Microsoft’s monthly post-patch Webcast, referring to Windows 2000 and XP.

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