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Final Fantasy VII PS3 demo

UPI) -- Square Enix shows off the power of Cell with some RPG nostalgia.

At first, Square Enix confused Sony conference attendees with a cinematic video from their upcoming series sequel, Final Fantasy VII, as a demonstration of PlayStation 3`s backwards compatibility, only to turn around and blow away audience members with a real-time version of one of Final Fantasy VII`s most memorable cinematics.

Fan-favorite character Final Fantasy character Aeris was shown in the depths of polluted Midgar, only to have the camera draw out and show a fully-polygonal, detailed, real-time version of Final Fantasy VII`s cherished city. After the pan out, however, the camera zoomed to another area of Midgar, where Cloud leaps off a train to show his gigantic sword to the invisible camera.

When the video finished, rabid audience response prompted Square Enix president Yoichi Wada to announce the company had no intentions of developing a remake of Final Fantasy VII for the PlayStation 3, but reiterated plans to bring the popular series to the PlayStation 3 eventually.

Final Fantasy VII PS3 demo - Wednesday, March 29, 2006 -

Hi-speed Bluetooth will use WiMedia UWB

In a partnership with the WiMedia Alliance, the Bluetooth SIG (special interest group), that includes Nokia, Intel, Microsoft and Ericcson, has announced its plans for a high speed Bluetooth that will be able to support home entertainment facilities.

The SIG aims to use a UWB (ultra wide band) radio platform for high-speed wireless data transfer that will be capable of supporting high quality multimedia applications.

By 2008 the partnership aims to have developed a version of Bluetooth with greater range, which will transfer data 100 times quicker than at present.

The installed base of Bluetooth products reached 500 million in 2005 and is expected to reach one billion in 2006; these products will be compatible with the enhanced Bluetooth, which the SIG has stated will remain true to its low cost, low power values.

Bluetooth SIG executive director Michael Foley said in a statement: 'Having considered the UWB technology options, the decision ultimately came down to what our members want, which is to leverage their current investments in both UWB and Bluetooth technologies and meet the high-speed demands of their customers.'

Hi-speed Bluetooth will use WiMedia UWB - -

Panasonic heats up next-generation DVD war

WASHINGTON, DC, United States (UPI) -- The DVD war has just heated up further, as the manufacturer of the Panasonic brand announced that it will start selling next-generation players by autumn.

Specifically, Japanese conglomerate Matsushita Electric Industrial said that it will be marketing Blu-ray high-definition DVD players for under $1,500 by September. Through the player, Panasonic 'proves its commitment to providing the best high-definition entertainment experience for the home,' the company stated.

The fact that the company has finally set a date and price tag on the forthcoming DMP-DB10 player is making the battle between the DVD technologies all the more poignant. For the past two years, Matsushita and rival electronics giant Sony have been leading the rallying cry for developing Blu-ray discs, while Toshiba and NEC have led another troop that has been developing the HD DVD.

Sony was expected to drive up demand for Blu-ray discs with the launch of its much-anticipated PlayStation 3 video-game consoles by this spring, but the company announced several weeks ago that it would postpone the launch of the product until November. That has put a monkey wrench into the movement to get consumers excited about buying up Blu-ray players.

Meanwhile, Toshiba had postponed the launch of its HD DVD player in the United States until later next month at the earliest.

Of course, the battle to win customers over the latest DVD technology is nothing new. Nearly two decades ago Sony and Toshiba slugged it out to see who would win the war of videotape technology between VHS and Betamax, and the former ultimately won. There had been hopes among those in the entertainment business that the two groups could reconcile and come up with a common platform so that customers would not have to deliberate on whether to get one form of DVD over another, but such negotiations ultimately fell through last year.

The plan now is to see which side will finally win and dominate the market, and industry analysts are already worried that consumers will withhold from buying into the new technology until a victorious side actually emerges.

Still, even within the same camp, there are deep rivalries too. While Sony and Panasonic may be allies and united in promoting Blu-ray technology over HD, they are ultimately each other`s competition as they seek to lure customers to their particular player. Earlier this year Sony said it would start selling its player in the U.S. market for around $1,000 by July.

While the Panasonic player would thus be about 50-percent more expensive than its Sony counterpart, it may actually be a better buy for some as it will be able to play older-edition DVDs as well as CDs and other software. In addition, the company will be launching a 58-inch plasma screen HDTV.

Interestingly enough, though, while Panasonic is a Japanese brand, the company is refraining from announcing when it will launch the player in the domestic market, nor will it comment on what its price might be at home.

Panasonic heats up next-generation DVD war - -

US/Russian/Brazilian Crew Head to Space Station

The Russian Soyuz TMA-8 booster rocket that carried the three-man crew to the international space station
The Russian Soyuz TMA-8 booster rocket that carried the three-man crew to the international space station
A new crew is on its way to the International Space Station in a Russian Soyuz spaceship. A Russian cosmonaut and U.S. astronaut, joined by Brazil's first astronaut, took off from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, for a two-day flight to orbit. The mission will support the basic operations of the orbiting research laboratory until U.S. space shuttles fly again.

Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov, U.S. astronaut Jeff Williams, and the first Brazilian to head for orbit, Marcos Pontes, took off from the same launch pad that Yuri Gagarin did when he became the first human to orbit Earth in 1961.

The deputy space station manager at the U.S. space agency NASA, Kirk Shireman, witnessed the launch.

"Last night having dinner right next to the cottage where Gagarin stayed the night before his launch, this morning watching the vehicle roll out of the assembly building, then here on the launch pad, you certainly feel the history of human spaceflight all around you. It's great to be a part of that," said Mr. Shireman.

Cosmonaut Vinogradov and astronaut Williams will do the normal tour of duty aboard the station, six months. They will take over from astronaut William McArthur and cosmonaut Valery Tokarev, who are set to return to Earth aboard a Soyuz a week after their replacements arrive.


" src="http://www.voanews.com/english/images/ap_brazil_space_Pontes_29mar06_eng_195.jpg" border="0" height="142" hspace="2" vspace="2" width="210">
Brazilian astronaut Marcos Pontes takes part in zero-gravity training aboard a plane flying near Moscow
Brazilian crewman Pontes will return with them after conducting several days of studies on microscopic technology called nanotechnology. His presence on the outpost celebrates the 100th anniversary of Brazil's first airplane flight by aviator Alberto Santo-Dumont.

Again, Kirk Shireman.

"It's a pleasure to see all the different flags on this Soyuz vehicle," he added. "So I'm looking forward to those guys being up there and continuing the work that we have on the International Space Station."

Vinogradov and Williams are the 13th crew for the station since occupation began in 2000, and the eighth two-man crew. Crew size dropped from three to two after the U.S. space shuttle Columbia disintegrated in 2003. The almost continuous grounding of the shuttle fleet since then has left no cargo craft big enough to haul the amount of supplies necessary to support three people and the equipment required to continue station construction.

As a result, station occupants have had little time to do much more than be caretakers for the outpost, with science experiments significantly reduced. Vinogradov and Williams expect to conduct two maintenance spacewalks during their half-year expedition.

Last July's mission of the shuttle Discovery was to have ended the long flight hiatus and allowed the station's crew size to return to three shortly thereafter. But NASA grounded the fleet again because Discovery's external fuel tank shed dangerous debris during launch, the same problem that caused Columbia's demise. After a long overhaul of the tank's foam insulation covering, Discovery is expected to launch again no earlier than July.

When it does, it will bring a third station crewmember who has been forced to patiently await his chance to board it while the shuttle fleet has been grounded. He is German astronaut Thomas Reiter, the first non-American or non-Russian long-duration crewmember on the outpost.

American deputy station manager Shireman says he looks forward to the renewal of normal operations aboard the station and the resumption of its assembly.

"That's really critical to the program, to continue that building, especially when we know that shuttles are going to retire in 2010," he noted.

US/Russian/Brazilian Crew Head to Space Station - -

Russian spaceship lifts off with ISS crew, Brazilian astronaut

A Russian spaceship carrying a two-man crew for the International Space Station (ISS) and a Brazilian astronaut, was launched Thursday morning from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The Soyuz-TMA 8 capsule blasted off from the Central Asian steppe at 6:30 a.m. Moscow time (0230 GMT), carrying Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov, U.S. astronaut Jeffrey Williams, and Brazilian astronaut Marcos C. Pontes, the Mission Control outside Moscow said. The Soyuz is expected to dock with the ISS on Saturday.

Vinogradov and Williams will replace Russian cosmonaut Valery Tokarev and U.S. astronaut Bill McArthur, who have been working at the station since October. During their six-month mission, they are expected to make four spacewalks -- two on the Russian program and two on the U.S. program -- as well as conduct about 50 experiments in space.

Pontes, Brazil's first astronaut, will carry out a series of scientific experiments during his nine-day stay at the orbiting lab and return with the outgoing ISS crew on April 9.

Russian spaceship lifts off with ISS crew, Brazilian astronaut - -

Total solar eclipse seen in Turkey

A Total solar eclipse took place in Turkey's Mediterranean province of Antalya Wednesday afternoon, local media reported.

The total solar eclipse occurred at 1:54 p.m. local time (1154 GMT) in Antalya and lasted till 2:09 p.m.(1209 GMT).

The sky became darker as the moon covered the face of the sun completely. Viewers including Turks and foreign tourists witnessed the total eclipse.

A total solar eclipse occurs somewhere on earth on an average of once every 18 months. The next total solar eclipse to be seen in Turkey is expected to take place 54 years later.

Some countries in Africa including Egypt and Libya also witnessed the solar eclipse on Wednesday.

Total solar eclipse seen in Turkey - -

Apple puts limits on iPod levels

Apple puts limits on iPod levels
Apple's iPod music player
Apple sold more than 14m iPods in the last three months of 2005
Apple has introduced volume controls for iPods following fears about links between personal music players and potentially irreversible hearing loss.

The company has made available a free download update allowing users to set a personal maximum volume limit.

Parents will also be able to set a locked limit on their child's players.

Health experts want more studies into the effect on hearing of earphones and Apple is facing a US legal action claiming the iPod can damage hearing.

Greg Joswiak, Apple's IPod marketing vice president, said it was responding to "increased attention in this area".

He said: "We want to offer customers an easy to use option to set their own personal volume limit."

Legal claim

The update is available for the iPod Nano and models with video playback capabilities.

It lets parents set a maximum volume limit on a child's iPod and lock it with a combination code.

Earlier this month, the US National Institutes of Health said new studies were needed into the effects of in-ear headphones.

It was responding to calls by a US congressman into the possible long-term effects of loud music on hearing.

John Kiel Patterson, of Louisiana, is suing Apple in the US District Court in San Jose, California.

He says his iPod is capable of generating more than 115 decibels, a dangerous noise level, and is not safe for prolonged use.
Apple puts limits on iPod levels - -

Evolution of the Mac Interface

Bill Atkinson was Apple Computer's main developer of the user interface that first appeared on the Lisa and later on the Mac. A passionate photographer, Atkinson had the foresight in the late '70s and early '80s to document his UI work for Apple in a series of Polaroids. The photos were published by another Mac pioneer, Andy Hertzfeld, in his book 'Revolution in the Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made'. Through Hertzfeld, Atkinson permitted CNET News.com to reprint the photos. Similar shots here.
Evolution of the Mac Interface - -

Benchmarks: WinXP, OSX on MacBook Pro

GeekPatrol uses their GeekBench tool to compare Windows XP and OSX, both running on MacBook Pros. "Overall, there are areas where the Windows XP MacBook Pro was faster, areas where the Mac OS X MacBook Pro was faster, and areas where they were both roughly the same. Looking at these results, it’s hard to say which configuration comes out on top, although I think you could make a convincing argument for Windows XP (with Visual C++) being a bit faster overall than Mac OS X (with GCC)."
Benchmarks: WinXP, OSX on MacBook Pro - -

Mushkin XP2 PC2-5300 DDR2 – Xtreme Performance Memory

Mushkin XP2 PC2-5300 DDR2

Has the time come for DDR2 memory? Is now the time for enthusiasts to finally embrace DDR2 technology with better performance on Intel based platforms, and the promised Holy Grail of AMD's new AM2 socket with DDR2 support and built-in memory controllers?

Socket AM2, the 940 pin DDR2-ready Athlon 64 socket, will be unleashed upon consumers some time this summer, most likely by the end of July. AMD is expected to have working samples in place by the time of Computex 2006, which will be held from June 6 th to June 10 th in Taipei.

After DDR2 was first introduced for Intel, Micron D fat body chips gained enthusiast's attention in a big way, due to the lower latency timings and the ability to push performance to much higher memory speeds. Unfortunately, the Micron fat body D DDR2 memory chips are now history.

Perhaps Mushkin has discovered an alternative to the famed Fat Body IC's. While 3-3-3 at DDR2-667 is not quite as fast as the 3-2-2 timings seen with the best Micron chips, it is still among the fastest specifications that you will find for DDR2-667 memory modules. It is also worth mentioning that the older, and now discontinued, Micron Fat Body D chips were never specified as performing at 3-2-2- timings, so perhaps these new Mushkin Elpida modules will do even better than their rated timings.

With that in mind, the goal in testing was to see exactly what the new Mushkin XP2 memory could do in our memory test suite. How do the new Mushkin DDR2 with Elpida chips compare to the top Micron DDR2 memory? Is this new Mushkin DDR2 memory a worthy choice for current Intel and future AM2 enthusiasts?

Product Specifications and Information

Mushkin confirmed the use of Elpida IC's for the Extreme Performance Black Series (XP) memory modules.

Brain Power confirmed that the B62URCE PCB used in the new Mushkin XP2 PC-5300 is manufactured by them. Brain Power manufactures custom PCB modifications for their customers. They can also supply stock memory boards.

Elpida provided a data sheet for these integrated circuits, which are being utilized by Mushkin in this XP series memory.

PC2-5300 667MHz DDR2 CL 3-3-3 (CAS-TRCD-TRP)
2GB (1024MB x 2) Unbuffered
Improved Black Heat Spreader with new thermal tape Lifetime Warranty
2.1 - 2.3 Volts 240 Pin DIMM
Elpida IC: E5108AG-6E-E Brain Power PCB: MLL E186014 B62URCE

In a screen capture from the Elpida data sheet, you can see how to decode the information from the actual IC part number. We are examining the EDE5108AGSE-6E-E part. The "A" in the part number is indicative of voltage (i.e. this is normally specified as a 1.8 volt part).

The XP2 PC2-5300 DDR2 memory uses the new Mushkin heat spreader, recently designed to improve Mushkin heat spreader performance. One feature of the new design is the use of better thermal tape.

On July 28, 2005, Mushkin announced their new heat spreader for their high performance memory modules. Mushkin claimed that the new heat spreaders provided 58% more surface area than their previous designs.

Below is a photograph of the sample heat sink design, which Mushkin sent back in July 2005 for feedback.


Consumers and enthusiasts should note that the XP2 PC2-5300 DDR2 memory kits are available in either a 1 GB or 2 GB matched pair. With memory intensive games and applications such as Adobe Photoshop, the advantage of having two gigabytes of memory will be quite apparent.
Mushkin XP2 PC2-5300 DDR2 – Xtreme Performance Memory - -

Intel's Pentium Extreme Edition 965: The Last of a Dying Breed

We were given a pleasant surprise by Intel at IDF just a few weeks ago: a fully functional and benchmark-able system based on Intel's next-generation desktop processor, codenamed Conroe. The performance that we saw was stunning and the power efficiency promised is a welcome change from the Pentium 4's NetBurst micro-architecture. But after leaving sunny California and returning to reality, we found another Intel chip in our labs; it just wasn't Conroe.

With the heatspreader on top of the chip, you could hardly tell it apart from a Conroe. It looked and smelled like one, but that's where the similarities end. While the fastest Conroe based processors will barely exceed 3.0GHz, this chip is clocked at a mighty 3.73GHz. Indeed, what Intel had sent us was no Conroe. It was the new dual core Pentium Extreme Edition 965, a chip that's being announced today, but one that won't actually be shipping in retail systems until next month. And yes, it's another very high clocked, deeply pipelined CPU from Intel. It's not the power efficient, high performing, competitive part that we want from Intel; it's yet another bump in the rocky road of NetBurst.

Needless to say, it's not a chip that we were too excited about, especially after having our appetites whet by Conroe earlier this month. But the new Extreme Edition did manage to surprise us in a number of areas, some of which may surprise you as well. When we last looked at the Pentium Extreme Edition 955, we found its power consumption to be a bit troubling. The move to 65nm didn't seem to do much for the Pentium 4, as AMD was still able to maintain a significant advantage in power consumption. As it turns out, the initial 65nm parts from Intel did not support all of the power management features that were introduced in later versions of Intel's 90nm silicon. Mainly, support for EIST (Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology) and the new C1E enhanced halt state, both of which were introduced over a year ago initially with C1E on the 5xxJ series of processors and later adding EIST on the 6xx series of processors. For whatever reason, neither technology made its way into the Presler EE chips (65nm dual core Extreme Edition). With the new Extreme Edition 965, Intel re-added support for C1E, but EIST is still not supported (note that C1E support was added to later steppings of the EE 955, just not the initial stepping). The two technologies vary as follows (taken from our Pentium 4 6xx review):

C1E - Enhanced Halt State
"Whenever the OS executes the halt instruction, the CPU enters what is known as the halt state. Architecturally, what's going on in a halt state is the clock signal is shut off to the CPU for some period of time. With no clock signal, none of the logic in the chip will do anything and thus power consumption is reduced. Performance is also significantly reduced; however, the halt instruction isn't usually called during application usage, so the performance aspects of the halt state aren't very important.

The problem with the halt state is that it does nothing to reduce voltage, only current draw by stopping clocks from going to the CPU. Since Power varies linearly with both current and voltage (P = I * V), you're effectively only addressing half of the problem. The Enhanced Halt State, as Intel calls it, does two things: it reduces the clock speed of the CPU by decreasing the clock multiplier down to its minimum value (on the EE 965 series, that's 14x, or 2.8GHz), then reducing the voltage. The clock speed is reduced and then the voltage is dropped, to maintain stability.

Intel insists that the enhanced halt state is a significantly lower power state than the conventional halt state, thanks to the reduction in voltage in addition to the reduction in clock speed. While the standard halt state causes a linear reduction in power, Intel's enhanced halt state causes an exponential decrease in power, potentially offering better power savings than the standard halt state. The real world impact obviously depends on how idle your system happens to be."
EIST:
"What EIST does is very similar to AMD's Cool'n'Quiet. It is demand based reduction in CPU clock speed and voltage. Using the same mechanism of adjusting clock speed and voltage, based on the application demand, the processor will dynamically increase/decrease its clock speed between its minimum clock and its normal operating frequency, as well as voltage, in order to optimize for power consumption.

Because of the way EIST (and AMD's Cool'n'Quiet) works, there's inherently a drop in performance. The idea is this: if you're performing a task that's not using 100% of the CPU, the CPU will operate at a slightly reduced frequency in order to conserve power. So, while some tasks will require that the system run at full speed, others will run at lower speeds. "
Because of the support for C1E and Intel's 65nm process, power consumption is finally competitive with AMD. Let's have a look at idle power consumption first:

System Power Consumption while Idle

Note that AMD is penalized a bit here because we're testing on an ASUS A8N32-SLI, which effectively features two North Bridges (one masquerading as a South Bridge) to offer two dedicated x16 slots. The two chips together consume more power than NVIDIA's 2 x8 single chip design, so depending on what chipset that you use, AMD's power consumption could be a bit lower.

Also, keep in mind that AMD's Cool'n'Quiet is enabled, and the EE 965's C1E support is kicking in to keep its power consumption low at idle as well.

Under load, the comparison is also very close:

System Power Consumption under Full Load

With power consumption finally very close between AMD and Intel, who is the true winner here? From AMD's perspective, the FX-60 is a 90nm chip that still consumes less power than Intel's 65nm CPU, and its power consumption will only go down further when AMD ramps up its 65nm process. From Intel's perspective, AMD won't be producing 65nm in volume until 2007, the same year when Intel will start playing with 45nm chips. Not to mention that the EE 965 is made up of 376 million transistors compared to AMD's 233 million, running on a much more power-hungry architecture. So to Intel, being able to almost equal AMD's power consumption on a NetBurst based part is pretty impressive. From our perspective, it's nice that the EE 965 brings power consumption down to a more reasonable level, but what really matters is how well it performs at that relatively similar power envelope. And that's what we'll find out next.

In our first look at Intel's Presler core with the Extreme Edition 955, we investigated the benefits of Hyper Threading with a dual core CPU as well as the performance impact of Presler over Smithfield. So, be sure to consult that article if you want a more in-depth look at Intel's 65nm dual core desktop CPU.
Intel's Pentium Extreme Edition 965: The Last of a Dying Breed - -

Google v. Microsoft: New Search Interfaces

Google and Microsoft both have new search interfaces in beta.

Google is testing a new “green bars” interface to the left of search results, allowing easy linking to search results for the web, images, groups, froogle and local. The green bar is an indication of what appears to be a result count.

Microsoft, through Live.com, is beta testing a new search interface that includes RSS feeds for each search, a much different image search (lots of results thumbnailed) and an “infinite scroll bar” that continues to refresh as you scroll down through results. I’ve written about the new Live.com search here.

Live.com is usable by anyone who visits the site; the new Google search is available only to random users. However, Google Blogoscoped (as well as Digg and Download Squad) have instructions that show how anyone can see the new Google results. Based on this, I’ve had a chance to test Google’s new search interface as well.

In my opinion, both are lacking but for very different reasons. After testing each, Google’s new interface doesn’t seem to actually do much of anything, and Live.com, while inspired, is very poor in actual performance, mostly speed.

Google first. The quick links have been moved from the top of search to the left sidebar. The green bars do communicate total results information, but that’s it. For the majority of searches, the number of results is not important to deciding whether or not to click on the link. All in all, this is a feature that didn’t need to be released outside of internal testing before being scrapped or quietly incorporated. Furthermore, it makes no sense that Google would not incorporate blog search results into the sidebar along with froogle, images, news, etc.

Live.com is a different matter. The image search is excellent in that a very large number of results appear on the screen at one time. There are also more search results than on MSN search, and each search has a RSS feeds that can be added to your Live.com home page with a single click. Finally, the infinite scroll bar is a great way to save clicks to further results pages for deeper searches. But, Live.com has unacceptably slow loading times for searches, and the infinite scroll bar is extremely slow as well. So slow it is effectively unusable.

All in all, Live.com’s effort is much more creative and head turning than what Google seems to be testing. Others might argue, of course, that Google’s clean interface has served them (and us) very well over the years and needs little, if any, tweaks at this time. As Live.com becomes more responsive and faster, it will be interesting to see if people drift away from Google Search and over to Live.com. Either way, Microsoft finds itself in a difficult position - Google controls over 40% of the U.S. search market v. about 15% for Microsoft.

Google v. Microsoft: New Search Interfaces - -

Panda discovers rootkit functions in new Bagle worm variants

Glendale (CA) - Anti-virus specialist Panda Software today said that newly found versions of the Bagle worm use rootkits to hide its activities on an infected computer. The firm expects that rootkits may become a widely used tool for cyber criminals in the near future.

According to Panda, the Bagle versions carrying rootkits are Bagle HX, Bagle HY and Bagle HZ. Using a rootkit approach, which typically are designed to hide objects, such as processes, files or Windows Registry entries, are trying to "download files from different Internet addresses" and to "disable a large number of services belonging to security tools, such as antivirus and firewall programs, among others."

The company was not reachable for comment on which files and which specific services are impacted by the recently found Bagle versions.

Luis Corrons, director of Panda Labs, said that the creation and sale of rootkits in fact already has become a "real" business model for malware authors. Due to their capacity to slip past traditional security solutions and their versatility to hide on the system and carry out all types of malicious actions, rootkits have become an opportune tool for cyber criminals looking to earn them high profits," he was quoted in a prepared statement. "For this reason, it is highly probable that rootkits will become one of the main threats of the Internet."

Rootkits recently have become more visible with Sony using rootkit-like technology to enforce digital rights management of audio CDs and reports that the system BIOS could be the target of virus authors to hide malware.

Panda discovers rootkit functions in new Bagle worm variants - Tuesday, March 28, 2006 -

Interoute Takes On Skype With Secure VoIP Service

LONDON (Reuters) - Pan-European network operator Interoute plans to offer a Skype-type free Internet-based voice calls service to corporations, hoping to replicate Skype's success in the business market and expand its core data business.

Skype, owned by online auctioneer eBay Inc, has in three years built up a base of around 75 million users who use its software to make free calls from their computer to another computer anywhere in the world.

Interoute said on Tuesday its iSiP service, which like Skype uses the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, will also allow companies to offer free Internet calls, free national calls and cheaper calls to mobiles, but without any security concerns.

Companies are increasingly adopting VoIP, in which a voice call is broken up into data bits and carried over the Internet, to cut communication costs, but have shied from embracing some of the cheaper and popular consumer applications for fear it could expose their networks to hackers and viruses.

"iSiP is like Skype without the 'Skypemares'," Interoute's Executive Chairman James Kinsella told Reuters, adding that it could be safely deployed by companies as corporate IT departments would have full control over its use.

Companies could use the service to cut communication costs with their staff, customers or suppliers anywhere in the world. Interoute plans to offer iSiP for a flat fee of 1,500 pounds ($2,620) a month to companies, with no limit on the number of users.

Kinsella said Interoute, which is controlled by the Swiss-based Sandoz Family Foundation, was hoping to get existing customers to spend more and sign up new business with the new service.

Unlike some of the traditional telecoms companies, Interoute said it had no voice revenues to protect and it hoped to use its cheap voice calls service to sign up more corporations for its data services.

"For us voice is also data. That's our pitch to customers," said Kinsella, the man who sold Dutch Internet service provider World Online -- another Sandoz investment -- near the market's peak in 2000.

Interoute, which posted revenues of 86 million euros in 2005, was taken into administrative receivership by key French creditor and supplier Alcatel and emerged from administration three years ago.

The firm runs a 30,000 km (18,750 mile) long network that stretches from New York to Bratislava and Stockholm to southern Italy, connecting 61 cities in 19 countries. The firm counts planemaker Airbus and the Italian military among its roughly 14,000 customers.

Interoute Takes On Skype With Secure VoIP Service - -

Manufacturer moves to Linux for stability

Automotive electronics manufacturer and a supplier to big names like General Motors Holden, Australian Arrow has migrated half its servers to Linux in two years to gain greater stability.

Arrow systems administrator William Wheatley brought Linux skills into the company prompting all systems from SAP to those for manufacturing lines to be run on the open source operating system.

"There is a cost saving with Linux, but that's a bonus because, if [systems] go down it's millions lost every day," Wheatley told Computerworld. "Talk about saving money is a bit pie-in-the-sky, but Linux is definitely [saving] us from buying more software. Next year we will be able to remove or reuse some licences."

Arrow went from all Windows servers in two years and will increase Linux server use to 75 percent over the next 18 months.

"Stability is the number-one concern and our operations span the region, so there is always someone using the systems," Wheatley said. "We've had 100 percent uptime with Linux and management notices the difference."

Arrow is using CentOS, a Red Hat derivative, as its main Linux distribution with "a couple of legit copies of Red Hat where we can't afford the downtime, for example with CRM".

"We've had IBM techs come out and I didn't tell them it wasn't Red Hat and they went ahead and updated it as if it was," Wheatley said, adding the company was severely over-licensed with Microsoft products and even bought them to ensure its 'safety'.

Arrow is in the testing stage of a SAP ERP migration from Windows to Linux involving three servers. The two systems are running in parallel and will be cut over to production Linux at the end of the year as "it's looking really good".

There are no plans to move to Linux on the desktop as "we're a very archaic organization in many ways and it would take time", but the system administrators run it on their desktops.

"We are using Microsoft Exchange and Active Directory so it would be a big migration from the Windows desktop," Wheatley said. "The IT manager was initially mistrustful, but quickly noticed the stability. Some people still believe open source is less secure, but you just need to prove them wrong."

Arrow has also adopted the Common Unix Printing System, or CUPS, to prevent losing SAP's barcoded dockets.

"We used to lose dockets all the time but CUPS gives transparency," Wheatley said. "We also use Samba, MySQL, Apache, PHP, and authentication is done via Kerberos. The end user doesn't even know it's Linux."


Manufacturer moves to Linux for stability - -

Google zaps official blog by mistake

Google has pie on its face after staffers accidentally deleted the company's main official blog Monday night and a user unaffiliated with Google temporarily took possession of the Web address.

This is just the latest in a recent string of embarrassing mistakes made by Google employees while handling company data.

While no big firm is immune to mistakes of this type, Google has experienced a string of them in recent weeks, and this is concerning, an analyst said. "It makes it look like Google can't run its own shop and it lowers your confidence in the firm. That's not good for Google's valuation nor for its customers. Google needs to get its house in order," said analyst Rob Enderle from Enderle Group.

Earlier this month, Google accidentally posted a confidential financial forecast on its Web site, which negatively affected the company's stock price. It also prompted Google to file a note with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission saying the information was outdated, not for public consumption and shouldn't be relied upon for financial planning purposes.

Also in early March, Google had to scramble to remove some presentation slides from its Web site because they contained confidential information about unannounced products. The slides had been put online to complement presentations given by Google's top executives, including Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt, at the company's annual meeting with Wall Street analysts.

The latest gaffe was acknowledged Monday at about 11:15 pm Pacific Time, when a Google product manager confirmed that the Google Blog, as it is officially called, had earlier been deleted by mistake and that the blog address was temporarily claimed "by another user."

This faux pas could have caused chaos for Google. This main official blog, at http://googleblog.blogspot.com/, is one of the company's main communication vehicles. Because its postings are vetted, official corporate information, they often trigger immediate reaction, like news reports, analyst recommendations and investor decisions.

Luckily for Google, the user who snapped up the address didn't seem to have bad intentions. His only posting read in part: "Google, fix your blog pleeasssee! P.S. Just to clear things up, I'm not associated with Google at all. I just wanted to take advantage of this before someone else with less worthy intentions did." He has identified himself as a 19-year-old University of Texas student.

The Google errors are particularly damaging to a company whose business revolves around managing information.

Not only could the user have distributed misinformation about Google, he could have used the site to propagate malware, Enderle said. "He could have done a substantial amount of damage in a very short time," he said.

So far, Google's only official reaction to the mistake is the official note posted Monday night. "The blog was mistakenly deleted by us (d'oh!) which allowed the blog address to be temporarily claimed by another user. This was not a hack, and nobody guessed our password. Our bad," reads the posting in part. The Google Blog is hosted on the Blogger service, which Google owns.


Google zaps official blog by mistake - -

JBoss unveils messaging, Web server projects

JBoss released a new messaging system on Tuesday that it hopes will extend the reach of its open-source enterprise middleware platform into the high end of the market. It also announced a new open-source Web server, which will be released to the public in June.

The JBoss Messaging 1.0 component is now available as a stand-alone product, and will become the foundation for JBoss ESB 1.0, the company's Enterprise Service Bus project, due out later in 2006. JBoss will also make JBoss Messaging the default Java Message Service (JMS) technology in JBoss Application Server 5.0, also due later this year. Applications designed for JBossMQ, the JMS system built into the existing version of JBoss Application Server, will run unchanged on JBoss Messaging 1.0, the company said.

JBoss Messaging implements the JMS 1.1 and 1.02b specifications through its JMS Facade module, and includes support for "facades" that can handle other messaging protocols, JBoss said.

A preliminary version of the Web server, JBoss Web 1.0, is available now, and JBoss will release a production version in June. Built on the Apache Tomcat container for JSP (Java Server Pages) and Java Servlets, JBoss Web can handle over 10,000 concurrent connections, the company said.

The Web server can handle SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) secure data connections, and as well as its support for J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) can execute CGI and PHP scripts and ASP.NET applications, JBoss said.

The two packages are free to download and use under the LGPL open source license, the company said.

JBoss will offer a subscription-based support service for the messaging software, initially at its "Silver" level with a two-day response time for questions, and at "Gold" and "Platinum" levels later this year, the company said. The higher-level subscriptions offer extended operating hours, faster response and online monitoring services for systems running JBoss software.

Once the final version of JBoss Web is released, it too will be covered by the subscription support service, the company said.


JBoss unveils messaging, Web server projects - -

Sue Google, not us, Torrentspy tells Hollywood

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) might just as well have sued Google for copyright violation rather than pick on Torrentspy, the smaller company said in a court filing this week seeking dismissal of the case.

In February, the MPAA filed seven lawsuits against Torrentspy and other search companies that help visitors find content or instruct them how to download it. It was the first time that the MPAA had charged such companies with copyright infringement.

In its filing Monday seeking to dismiss the case, Torrentspy argued that the MPAA might as well have sued Google, since Google does what Torrentspy does, only better. Torrentspy is a search engine that helps visitors find torrent files, which are often music or movie files stored in an easily shared file format.

"There is nothing alleged to distinguish defendants' website from that maintained by Google," Torrentspy said in its filing. "Everything alleged about defendants' website is true about Google, and even more so, because Google outperforms the allegations in the complaint," the filing reads.

Torrentspy argues that its site doesn't contain any copyright works or links to copyright works, does not promote copyright infringement and can't be held liable for the actions of visitors once they leave its Web site. The MPAA suit charges the company with secondary copyright infringement., Torrentspy said.

The MPAA's charges against Torrentspy go beyond the U.S. Supreme Court's opinion against Grokster, Torrentspy said. In that decision, the Supreme Court ruled that someone who offers a tool and promotes the use of that tool to infringe copyrights is liable for the user's infringement.

Grokster shut down after the decision was made and other peer-to-peer file sharing sites also closed or began to discuss changes in their business models to avoid running foul of the Supreme Court ruling.

When the MPAA filed its suits against the seven companies in February, it said it aimed to shut down major pirate networks by thwarting their supply of illegal material and their means of distribution.


Sue Google, not us, Torrentspy tells Hollywood - -

Linuxworld: Linux continues Unix bloodbath

Even the most mission-critical, Unix-based central business systems are being replaced by Linux running on commodity hardware, according to delegates at Linuxworld 2006 conference and expo in Sydney yesterday.

Only last week the company behind Steggles chicken, Bartter Enterprises, went live with its order management, shipping, and inventory applications on an Oracle and Red Hat Linux cluster, and later this year it will add in its supply and demand planning applications.

Bartter had previously used HP's Alpha-based Tru64 Unix systems, and despite initial concern, the company decided to migrate to Linux "based around Oracle", business systems director Janelle Endacott said.

"The concerns [about Linux] we had were too great, but [because of] benefits like scalability and cost we investigated it further," she said. "I didn't see Linux as a true enterprise solution. I was concerned about reliability and speed [as] we paid an awful lot of money for Unix and how could Linux compete? Was I going to need to up-skill the IT team to support the environment, and how much would it really cost?"

However, after a phased implementation, Endacott soon discovered the benefits of commodity, standards-based computing. Bartter did a proof of concept in 2004 with HP and Rich Computing, which copied the live system from one SAN to another, clustered four servers, and did functional and performance testing. Failover testing was also done by turning some servers off at random.

"The outcome was very successful; when we powered-off a server the rest continued to run," Endacott said. "The new system was 10 times faster than the old system. We were more than overjoyed. And we found that it [possible] to add another node within a day with no outage."

Endacott said the support and upgrades were a "turning point" for her with Linux, and entering into an agreement with Red Hat was no different to a proprietary agreement for its legacy Unix environment.

"We have six servers instead of two so it does involve more support effort [but] the Unix guys transitioned easily to Red Hat with some training," she said. "And we are achieving a 20 percent saving. We were heading for 30 to 40 percent, but 20 is still a good result."

With one-third of all chickens eaten in Australia supplied by Steggles, Bartter's transaction volumes are not -trivial.

"We are a national company which distributes 2.4 million chickens a week," Endacott said. "We have 3500 customers, 4500 inventory items, more than 100,000 sales items per week, and distribute 600,000 cartons, so scalability was a must and cost is always a consideration."

Endacott said most of the challenges so far were around the Oracle applications.

Cybersource CEO Con Zymaris also detailed a Unix to Linux migration which took place at Melbourne's Chisholm Education College which has some 37,000 students.

The main backend was Oracle 8i on HP-UX, the hardware cost was set to quadruple and adding necessary disks would cost around $50,000.

"The school didn't want to lose functionality and decided Windows just wouldn't cut the mustard," Zymaris said. "It is now running Novell SuSE 8 for core applications including payroll. The school had worked with Novell so the migration was relatively painless and was done overnight."

Zymaris said a big plus for Chisholm was the ability to standardize hardware suppliers as the existing system's maintenance was "quite substantial" at $360,000 for three years.

"The new cost is $17,000 over three years so the ROI was nine months," he said.

Linuxworld: Linux continues Unix bloodbath - -

40+ Suggestions for Better Desktop

Here are my few suggestions to make better desktop (making it simple but powerful). Most of them are for Gnome and related applications but for other desktop environments and applications could be also useful.

This suggestions are not of type make it faster (what is also important) but of type make it more useful. Some of them are my own thoughts but some suggestions are inspired by existing programs. And even some are not real suggestions.

If you found any mistake here or have any other suggestion please drop me line and send e-mail to suggestions{@}chabada.sk. If you thing that these suggestion are realy usefull and you know a developer who might to implement some of them send him/her link to this page.

My english is far away from perfect so try to imagine what I meant. I applogize for that inconvenience.

Better properties dialog

properties dialog (small)

Properties dialog can be very powerful tool if wisely designed. It can show metadata but it could be able to modify metadata (id3 tags, image comments...). Some most useful metadata information should be on first tab. Note/comment will nobody use until it will be on first tab. Note (and other metadata) should be also searchable (e.g. in Beagle). On image thumbnail could be two arrows (or two buttown) to make lossless image rotation...

Now Gnome completely miss feature of multirename when user can rename selected files from "something.JPEG" to "*.jpg" or renaming vacation photos from camera format "DSC000000.JPG" to more human "Vacation ###.jpg" (which will expand to "Vacation 001.jpg", "Vacation 002.jpg"... on multiple files). For advanced users there could be full regular expressions support.

And even more if user tries to rename "image.jpg" to "image.png" why not offer conversion (if file was really jpeg and not mistakenly named file)? Same for renaming "sound.wav" to "music.ogg" or even video files. Of course warn user if conversion means loss of quality and ask for conversion parameters (and ask whether to keep original). Ability for simple but quality resize should be also fine.

Don't forget about properties of multiple selected files. On all selected files you can change artist or album tag once, you can rotate multiple images and even you can rename/convert multiple files! Renaming (with conversion) on multiple files should be able not only from properties but also directly from Nautilus.

Date fields should understand values such as "+ 2 hours", "+30s" or "-one day". For one file it seems to be unnecessary but for multiple files it can be useful. Maybe it would be nicer if fields become editable when get focus or on mouse over event.

There should be possibility to change properties for root-owned files including changing file owner. System will simple ask for password (with gksudo or gksu for real file owner). Sometimes can user want that, so make it easy.

Nautilus improvements

Browsing through files in nautilus with keyboard right arrow key should not have "hard" edges and should allow user go to next row.

Keeping user interface simple shouldn't lacks information about files. In statusbar or in tooltips should be more information - filename and size is not enough. Filename is shown bellow file's icon so in statusbar should be size, modification date and if there is place metadata information (image resolution, data from ID3 tag...). In tooltips should be permissions and owner.

Image icons should use exif preview instead of image itself. I'm not sure if it is implemented or not, but subjectively showing previews from digital still camera is slower than in Windows. Maybe I am wrong.

Because of image thumbnails Nautilus works as a image browser so there should be way (icon or context menu) for lossless image rotation.

For some types of folders should be in toolbar one context icon for most common task. Some examples: start slideshow for images, play folder as playlist for audio and video files, import photos for digital still camera, eject for removable media...

There should be undo function. If you accidentally rename or delete (to trash) some file you could get back.

Multi-seat desktop

Modern computers are able to host multiple terminals. With dualhead graphic card, two displays, two keyboards and two mouses connected to one computer, it should be possible to setup two terminals so two users could work on one computer in same time.

Best way should be easy. If system detects possibility for multiple terminals wizard with two questions (press key X, click on Y) should be enough to pair devices and everyone will be happy.

Xorg 6.9/7.0 provides multi-seat capability. There is only missing GUI. This might be "killer" application for certain purpose use, e.g. in schools or in internet cafes.

double desktop

Look also on linuxgazette.net/124/smith.html.

Pivot

Many today's LCDs are able to rotate display. It is called pivot. Linux can do that, but Gnome lacks easy way to make it. Keyboard shortcut should be fine too because it is the most common way to invoke pivot.

Note 3D applications (e.g. screensavers) moreover does not know correct screen resolution when pivot is used (this is really a bug).

Burning

Burning in Gnome is intuitive and good enough for many people. But some people like standalone application for burning. Gnomebaker is suitable burning application for Gnome desktop. In same cases is loading full user interface not necessary (e.g. copying disk, blanking disk...). I suggest using launchpad with most common tasks at application startup. Also there should be simplification in terms that for user shouldn't be difference between copying audio or data disk, between burning CD or DVD image... Everything necessary should be done by application. If user tries to burn CD image, application will ask for empty CD, but when user tries to burn DVD image, application will ask for empty DVD (same when copying disk). There should be also possibility to burn image to another image (e.g. cue to iso).

Gnomebaker's new UI

Easy multimedia codecs installation

installation of codecs (small)

Most distributions does not provide full multimedia playback capability out of the box. It's due to licensing problems. Although multimedia support can be installed manually from internet.

When user tries to play e.g. mp3 song application shows useless "Unsupported file" error message. Better would be showing dialog from which user can install appropriate codec:

Same principle can be used for not out of the box supported archives like rar.

Automatic pause of music playback

In same cases user mutes sound. In present every music player still plays music, but no one can hear it. Better will be pause music playback until user unmutes sound. Advantage is that user wouldn't miss a song :-).

mute Mute also means pause. pause

Notifications

Better current song notification

Notification of current song in Rhythmbox is very fine but can be even better. Also on mouse notification should be similar (and tooltip is ugly). Two different styles of notifications are not good.

song notification

New message notification with preview

Mail client should notificate user about new mail with short preview. Instant message client too. One image is better than thousand words:

new mail notification

Audio notifications

Some system notifications like, such as low disk space, updates available... should be audible. It's more human related and it is directed to the future. I know that there will be many problems in localization and there isn't perfect text-to-speech engine for most languages so human recorded messages messages will be fine although it will take a disk space.

Note: It is nice idea but spoken messages can be scary for many so beep may be enough.

Better notification for progress of long time operations

Some operations takes a long time to proceed. Typically downloading big files, burning CD, ripping music... In the meantime is user usually doing something another and window with long time operation is hidden. User need to switch windows if wants to known progress. Little improvement should be if program icon in taskbar shows progress, e.g.: Icon showing burning progress - icon showing burning progress. This is per application issue.

Long time operations usually have progressbar. For this case could be usable showing progressbar on taskbar. Maybe this is not for perfect for every applications progressbar, so there should be widget which will be same as progressbar but which will cause showing status on taskbar. Here is obligatory image:

progressbar on taskbar

Tooltip over taskbar's button should also show percentage and estimated remaining time.

Look also on hagemaenner.de/stuff/index.php?fpp=10&did=6.

Editing root-owned files

When user tries to edit root owned file (e.g. from /etc/ directory) in Gedit or similar editor program should warn that the file cannot be saved and should offer to enter root password (or sudoing) or whether to open file read only.

Something like that:

if [ -w $1 -o -O $1 ]; then
/usr/bin/gedit $1
else
gksudo -m "To edit file $1 you need to authenticate" -k "/usr/bin/gedit $1"
fi

Spreadsheet improvements

Free office suits are nowadays usable but still needs lots of improvements. While wordprocessing abilities are sometimes better than MS Word, spreadsheets are worser then MS Excel.

Note: Issues in my suggestions also can be done in Gnumeric or Openoffice but no so productive.

Filtering lists

When you try to filter lists in Openoffice or Gnumeric you don't know how many rows you get. This is useful and valuable information. I suggest show this in status bar (like MS Excel) or in tooltip. Also aggregation functions (sum, average...) below sorted selection should show values only for visible part of list (maybe with comment on affected cell).


Moving selection

If you move selection in spreadsheet to cells containing data only you can do is replace data. Moving selection with some modifier (shift or ctrl) should move existing cells down or right like in MS Excel. This does not work in Gnumeric nor in Openoffice.

moving selection

Drag-and-drop with context menu

I also miss (against MS Excel) contextual menu when dragging filling mark (little box in bottom right corner of selected cells) with secondary mouse button (in Linux is usually used middle button for that purpose - try dragging file in Nautilus with middle button). Through this menu in MS Excel I am able to fill only formats/values, make geometrical sequence... It's easy and fast. In Openoffice and Gnumeric it is not so straightforward.

Spellchecker

In some applications, e.g. Evolution and Gedit spellcheck's suggestions aren't directly in context menu (they are in submenu). This is not very convenient. Better is standard use as in Openoffice or Abiword.

Other question is why do we need 3 or more different spellcheckers (aspell, ispell, myspell)? One is enough! Please do something with it.

Integration

Integration between applications is need to make easy-to-use desktop. Functions in all programs should be integrated so fine that user will not even know if is running another program. Some examples: in addressbook I will see who is online and even more I will see that user who sent me mail is online; when I try to search something it will be done seamless with another application (e.g. Beagle) with same UI from all applications; when reading document in web browser it should be easy for user to start editing it with his/her favorite application (gedit, leafpad, scream, bluefish)...

When user see information that is possible to change, it should be possible to change it. Even if changing it is out of the scope of that application. At least there should be option (icon/button/link/context menu...) to invoke program that has ability to change it. Application should also give option to change properties that can change only administrator. In that case it should ask for administrator's password and property could be marked with keys or lock icon. Clicking on that icon will ask for password and unlocks property.

Every desktop tries for integration but all needs to do much more. They are just on the way.

Multimedia center

I am dreaming about one fine application that will integrate everything needed for home entertainment (music, video, tv, photos, audio and video chat). Something like Windows Media Center or even better like Apple's Front Row and iLife. It doesn't need to be single application but all applications should be very well integrated (user shouldn't know that uses different application) and simple enough to control with six-button Apple remote.

There are many perfect multimedia applications. But it's very hard to put Linux PC in living room and invoke and control them with remote control far from keyboard. What I meant is integrate them to something like MS's Media Center or Apple's Front Row applications. Easy is to play/pause/forward/rewind, hard is to choose what to play. Behind could still be Rhytmbox, Banshee, Totem, Mplayer...

Look also on www.apple.com/macmini/frontrow.html.

Cellphone/PDA synchronization

cellphone synchronization

Synchronize cellphone with addressbook can be problem. There exist Multisync application but it works only with evolution and its use is not very convenient. The most comfortable way to synchronize is from addressbook not from external application. There should be also option for automatic synchronization whenever is cellphone in range.

Mail/IM client should be able send SMS through the connected cellphone.

Its still about desktop integration.

Multiple data reduction based on standards

In various application are used same data, e.g contacts in e-mail addressbook and contacts in IM addressbook. Sometime can this databases be synchronized, sometimes not. It is bad situation. Some standards how and where to store some type of information should be helpful. If it will be done you should use yesterday Kmail, today Evolution, and tomorrow Thunderbird with same data without need to export/import anything. But more important will be that if someone wants to write application which will use contacts it will work well with any mail client's addressbook (because it will be always the same addressbook).

Other example of applicable situations:

  • addressbook - for Evolution, KMail, Thunderbird, Mutt, Gaim, Kopete...
  • mailbox - for Evolution, KMail, Thunderbird, Mutt...
  • IM archive - for Gaim, Kopete, Sim...
  • calendar - for Evolution, KMail
  • browser bookmarks - Firefox, Epiphany, Konqueror...
  • music database - Rhythmbox, Banshee, Muine, Amarok, Songbird...
  • video database - ???
  • photo database
  • thumbnails database (some applications does not use ~/.thumbnail/ folder)
  • news feeds
  • cddb (why do I have both ~/.cddb and ~/.cddbslave folders with same format)

Importing/exporting isn't best way to handle this data because it multiplies data and makes soon or later different versions of it. It's only poor's man solution.

Distribution vendors should settle standards and help modify existing applications. Some standards already exists (e.g. freedesktop.org's bookmark storage standard XBEL) but many applications (e.g. Firefox) doesn't use it. Respecting these standards should be condition to enter program into distribution's repositories (this need cooperation between distributions). If there wouldn't be pressure from at least five major distribution vendors (Ubuntu, Suse, Red Hat, Mandriva, Debian) there will be still mess.

One configuration place

When you look inside home directory for hidden files you realize that there is absolutely mess of configuration files. Better will be if all user configuration files will be inside one hidden directory e.g. ~/.config/ (or ~/.etc/).

One configuration database like gconf is important for enterprise use but some programs doesn't use it.

Distribution vendors should help polish this mess and path for as many applications as possible and not using other place should be also condition to enter program into distribution's repositories.

One proxy configuration

proxy icon

In my desktop I can setup proxy on several places - Gnome proxy, Firefox proxy, Synaptic proxy, environment proxy... Each of them is valid only for few applications and none of them is valid for whole system. Please, keep only one and make it valid everywhere.

Help making safer e-mail

SMTP server extension for digital signatures

secure mail

SMTP server should store digital signature certificates for their users. This will affect also users' mail clients.

When user tries to configure his mail client, client will check used SMTP server if is able to store digital signature certificates. If yes mail user client should offer user to upload his certificate (e.g. issued by some certification authority) or to generate one (if no certificate exists). When someone tries to send mail and haven't recipient's certificate mail client should ask recipients smtp for certificate (if there is one) or to check stored certificate validity.

Based on who is issuer of certificate and if server has it's own trusted certificate it will be trusted or not trusted certificate/signature.

This should be new RFC to extend smtp server but it will help to make e-mail more secure. Upon a time (e.g. after two or three years of RFC validity) will be able for user to tell his smtp server not to receive unencrypted e-mails, which will help spam fighting (although it's not intended to that).

I am skeptic about this suggestion because it will require to upgrade mail clients for all users in all systems but RFC can be very strong (upgrading server will not be required but its users will not take advantage of this). Second point for skeptics is that for governments it will be harder to read everyone's e-mails and possibly will try to make this not valid.

Using SPF

Mail user client should also implement Sender Policy Framework (SPF). SPF is designed to verify whether SMTP server from witch we receive e-mail is approved sending mail for senders domain. If server is not approved to send mail for that domain it is safe to reject mail as a forgery.

Implementing SPF should be done in DNS server (and verifying in SMTP server) but is used rarely. Implemented SPF in mail client should make it more used. I suggest that mail client will check if sender domain is using SPF and if not (and if e-mail is not digitally signed) it could warn user that mail authenticity cannot be verified and why. This little notification will help forcing server administrators to implement SPF (it would be shame not using it).

Look also on www.openspf.org.

Linguistic search

Searching is usually done with exact word phrase. It should be fine if search engine (e.g. Beagle) will be able with help of spellchecker and guess all possible word variants (e.g plurals) and use them for search (thesaurus can help guessing synonyms). English grammar is simple other languages are often very difficult so use of spellchecker for guessing word variants is the easiest way.

In searchbox should be able use keyword lang:xx for using different language than user's environment.

Search also in archives

searching archives

Standard search in Gnome lacks option to search inside archives (e.g. zip). One checkbox should be enough and user does not need to look for another program.

Beagle should allow searching archives too, if it does not yet.

Treat archives like regular folders

Archives are opening in applications like File Roller. Why? When you thing about you realize that archive is nothing less than special type of folder (and folder is special type of file with defined structure dependent on filesystem). But archives can be presented as compressed folders and opens in same windows as regular folders. Why do we need to confuse user with different windows?

Working with archives will be easy as in Midnight Commander or in Total Commander or in Windows XP. And if it will be implemented like VFS (zip://path/archive.zip/subdirectory/file) or as kernel driver it will be easier due to be transparent to any application.

Archive managers should be used only for creating archives with non common attributes, e.g. encrypted, splitted to multiple volumes (to fit DVD, CD, ZIP drive, Floppy)...

archive treated like folder
archive.zip

Note: When you try to drag big file out from the archive from File Roller you need to wait to fully uncompress file before releasing mouse button (once it started to uncompress it). It's bad and very annoying.

Extended filesystem attributes

Mainly but not only for enterprise use is important to support extended filesystem attributes such as encryption and compress file/directory flags.

For encryption it could be implemented by some symmetrical cipher with random key stored encrypted by user's password in /etc/shadow (or some new file). The only way how to get key will be successful login with proper password. When user change password, key will be reencrypted and all files with encryption flag will remain untouched.

Enabling transparent encryption will be as easy as making file read only and user will not need to have another password.

Especially for notebook users is useful to mark their home folders as private/encrypted and nobody can read their documents even if computer get stolen. How many users do that now and how many users will do that if it will be on one click? It can be easy and secure.

file with encryption flag
document.odt
(encrypted)

LUKS based on dm-crypt looks promising but still is not upstream and user still needs to know extra password even for not removable disks.

Look also on www.linux.com/article.pl?sid=06/03/13/1656228 and blog.fubar.dk/?p=64.

New authentication methods

Using password is boring. That's why users choose week passwords. New authentication methods can help solving this problem. I suggest this methods:

  • passwords
  • usb keys
  • bluetooth cell phone id
  • any combination of these

In user preferences should be ability to pair blootooth with user and to create authentication file and save it to usb disk. Authentication file will be based on asymmetric cryptography for combination of user and computer.

Imagine situation that you come to computer and you are logged in immediately after plugging usb key. Another example is that someone guess your password but cannot authenticate because your cell phone (bluetooth) is not near computer...

Note: Security could be also improved if user choose to encrypt his/her home folder and on usb key will be stored key to decrypt it. Data will remain private even if computer/notebook is stolen. If it has to be used it must be easy as one click.

Network settings

Network is Tux's home. In Linux can network be setup to everything you can imagine but Gnome's network settings dialog lacks some necessary options like easy internet connection sharing setup, firewall, bridge, ipsec, VPN...

For me is easy to setup NAT with iptables but home user doesn't even know what NAT is. Besides it can be as easy as clicking on one checkbox. System will setup NAT, enable forwarding and starts some micro DHCP (and potentially DNS server too). And other connected computers are ready for using shared internet connection without need of any configuration (using DHCP is simple).

It's always a good idea to have firewall enabled. Best way how to do it is from network settings. It simple tool for most common use which allows outgoing traffic and blocks every incoming connection except few checkboxes for most common services (samba, ftp, smtp, pop3..., other) per network device would be enough.

Naming connection ethernet is not user friendly. It should be named like Wired connection, Encrypted wireless connection, Modem connection... Two separate buttons for activate/deactive device are not necessary (only one is applicable in one time). Deactived connections should be shaded. Default gateway device should be renamed to default internet device (gateway) (I know it is less accurate but more understandable what it usually means)...

network names

Part of the network profile should be also proxy settings to avoid need of setting proxy each time user change network profile (e.g. home and work network profile).

Articles like Zero to IPSec in 4 minutes shows why normal users (not powerusers) thinks that Linux is difficult. If it is so simple why there isn't easy configuration in network settings? Again there should be simple dialog (or wizard) which will help setup IPSec, VNP, bridge... in a while. Network settings dialog (and of course any other dialog too) will be perfect only when all users (even powerusers) will use it rather than powerful commandline tools (ifconfig, iptables...).

Continue stopped/broken downloads

download

Sometimes happens that you cannot download a huge file, e.g. network gets down or you have to shutdown/suspend/hibernate your computer. You become unhappy if you did not use download manager (e.g. d4x, wget...) and you had 90 % of 2 GiB file. Any browser should be able to restore connection and continue downloading only remaining 10 %.

Incremental upgrades

upgrade

Upgrading system is very important. Why if there is little bug which change source only slightly I need to download entire application? In huge packages like Gnome or Openoffice it means to download tons of megabytes. Why not to update only affected file? I mean binary packages update and not source packages.

Exporting downloaded packages from upgrade

It should be possible to export packages downloaded when upgrading system to allow other computers on network to upgrade from this exported location to save bandwidth. For debian-based distributions it means to generate Packages.gz and export it with /var/cache/apt/archives/.

For enterprise use is also necessary some administrative console for managing users and computers with ability to install packages on remote computers (apt-put :).

Incremental upgrades will be also fine.

Global keyboard shortcuts

windows key

I like to set up global keyboard shortcuts (in Gnome) for many programs with use of windows logo key. Some of them works (e.g. [win]+[t] for open terminal) but some doesn't (e.g. [win]+[c] for calculator). I don't know why. Maybe there is possibility to set it up but I (user) expects functionality out of the box.

In application launcher properties should be also option for shortcut.

And one more question. Why is key with windows logo named like meta4, super, hyper...? For almost everyone it is simple win key. How many users know super key and how many users know win key?

Look also on marius.scurtescu.com/?p=62.

Note: this is more bugreport than suggestion.

Initial numlock state

This is obsolete. It seems to be done in Gnome 2.14. Thanks Gnome developers.

numlock key

Initial state of numlock set to off is good initial state option for notebook users. But many other users wants to set numlock to on. In Gnome keyboard properties isn't option to set it up. Power user can install numlockx but many users doesn't know this program. Solution is simple. Add one checkbox into keyboard preferences or even better make system to remember numlock state between sessions.

Enable optical drive eject button

Lock optical drive eject button isn't good idea. If the button is there user expects it is working. If not user thinks that something is wrong!

Default should be to leave drive unlocked (e.g. sudo sh -c 'echo "dev.cdrom.lock=0" >> /etc/sysctl.conf') and handle button via HAL.

Hibernation and power management

shutdown

Hibernation and power management need to improve. When I try to hibernate or suspend with nVidia binary drivers I cannot wake computer. It is possible to setup but again user expects it's working out of the box.

Another issue is weird behavior of hibernation. It shuts down my disk, after while it wakes, and only after that shuts down entire computer. Why needs my disk to be shut down twice?

Look also on wiki.ubuntu.com/NvidiaLaptopBinaryDriverSuspend and ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=79295.

Note: this is more bugreport than suggestion.

Say goodbye to old technologies

I thing that we should stop using old libraries as fast as possible but we still have e.g. gtk1 and applications based on it. If we get them out of the repositories (or at least put them in new not supported repository obsolete) programmers will faster move to use new technology (in this case gtk2) and desktop will be more consistent. And if it is really obsolete and not developing program someone will write new one. Help them be ported or let them die. It's an evolution.

I also dislike even when I found that program is even using old gtk2 file open/save dialogs (e.g. gtraslator, inkscape...). It seems to be not professional to have two different dialogs for same thing.

Compiz/Xgl improvements

Compiz and Xgl are not ready for everyday use but I suggest few improvements.

First of all window switching is very messy. If there are many windows, the bottom one is not clear visible through semitransparent other windows. Please raise selected window or resize windows like in compose effect.

Other issues are problems with accelerated video playback, lack of on-top windows attribute, steeling F10 from Midnight commander...

Other

Shortcut [Alt]+[F4] on desktop should invoke shutdown/logout dialog.

Integrate mouse gestures to the whole desktop. Many users will not use it but for many it could be used like accessibility tool and on small portable devices (PDA's, tablet PC's, cellphones...) it will improve usability with stylus.

In windows can two windows be align side be side (horizontally or vertically) on right clicking on taskbar. Similar functionality is missing in Gnome.

Sizing buttons on gnome-panel should be better. Now is one button sometimes larger sometimes smaller even if there is enough space on panel. Button should have always same size if there is enough space and should shrink only if there is not enough space. Also too wide buttons like in XFCE panel are not good.

Services settings dialog should also contain some not installed services to be ready for installing them (like installing samba or nfs from Shared Folders dialog).

With Shared Folders settings you can easily setup samba share but who can access this share? No one and there isn't possibility in that GUI to change it. For newbies it's hard to solve.

40+ Suggestions for Better Desktop - -

Gates on the speed of Windows updates

Nobody ever said software development was easy.

In the wake of Microsoft's decision to delay the widespread release of Vista, Chairman Bill Gates met with CNET News.com and discussed the software company's struggle to ship Vista, the burden of backward compatibility, and how new features will be constantly added to Windows. Below is an excerpt--for the full interview, click here:

Q: Microsoft did a lot of work to combine the consumer and business versions of Windows into one code base with Windows XP, and most people find it a lot more stable. Some folks, after last week's decision to delay Vista were saying maybe Microsoft should go back to having more releases for consumers and fewer for businesses. Do you have a sense of what it is that people want in the next version of Windows? Is it different for consumers than businesses?

Gates: Well, businesses often move in waves where they'll upgrade many things at the same time, their own applications, Office, Windows. They like to roll things out in groups so that the business processes or user training, the support, gets aligned around a whole stack of software. And so you have businesses that are very quick to get everything out and you'll have businesses that tend to lag in getting things out, and then you'll have other businesses, just because of the rhythm they'll hit our cycles when they want to make changes or they'll be off our cycle. So sometimes they'll be very state-of-the-art and sometimes they'll be a few years behind.

Security issues have made it more imperative to get up on the latest technology, and so that's really meant us making it simpler to test what pieces you have in your environment, how easy it's going to be to make that transition. There's a lot we're doing to make the transition easier, and there's more we can do to really make it rote for somebody to say, OK, I have this in my installed base, let's see which of those Microsoft has already tested, let's see which of those are unique to us--let's have things to automate the testing that we feel we need to do for those things that are unique to us.

Q: Does it make sense to have Windows be something that is updated like Office on a pretty regular basis, regardless of the level of innovation that's there? Should there be a new version of Windows every 18 months?

Gates: (Features) like the browser user interface, the media capability, some of those things you can have updates more often than even every 18 months and users who want that can download those things because they don't affect compatibility. Whereas the file system or the scheduler, the rights protection pieces, the device driver interfaces--those you're never going to modify more often than every three years, or in many of those cases you want to leave those things alone for way longer than that.

Take device-driver interfaces. You might let there be additional APIs, but you're going to still need to run most of the drivers that were written 10 years ago. So layering is the key here, and consumers may upgrade some of these things like the browser more often than businesses. That's hard to characterize. The one nice thing we've seen with consumers is they really use Auto Update, and so we're sort of their IT department in terms of updating. It's more complex for businesses. But even there the progress over the last four years of getting SMS (Systems Management Server) to be deployed and used and understood--how they take the updates in and when they pass them along to their systems--we've done super well on that, but it's not as simple as somebody just choosing to have Auto Update come from us.

To read the full text of the interview with Gates, along with Doug Burgum, chairman of Microsoft Business Solutions, click here.

Gates on the speed of Windows updates - -


 


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