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Google's secret IPv6 plans

arin.gifGoogle Operating System reports on Alex Lightman's theory why Google is buying up "dark fiber" — to pursue IPv6 initiatives. According to Lightman, Google has a huge block of "slash 20" addresses — exactly what is needed to be a large scale service provider.

That got me wondering — what does it take to get a block of IPv6 addresses? I turn to ARIN to find the answer — the information I found seems to provide some confirmation to Lightman's speculation.

To qualify for an initial allocation of IPv6 address space, an organization must:
a) be an LIR;
b) not be an end site;
c) plan to provide IPv6 connectivity to organizations to which it will assign /48s, by advertising that connectivity through its single aggregated address allocation; and
d) be an existing, known ISP in the ARIN region or have a plan for making at least 200 /48 assignments to other organizations within five years.

If you take ARIN's policies at face value, these statements must be true:

a) Google is an LIR (Local Internet Registry). LIRs are generally an ISP whose customers are typically end users or other ISPs.

b) Google is not considered an "end site" (therefore must be a service provider)
c) Google has plans to provide IPv6 connectivity to organizations.
d) Within 5 years Google will provide connectivity to at least 200 organizations.

How do we know that Google falls under these policies? Well, if we look up "Google" on ARIN, we can see that in March 2005 they registered a block of IPv6 addresses. The parent of that block is ARIN.

Google's secret IPv6 plans - Sunday, June 25, 2006 -

Firefox 1.5 vs. Opera 9

I’ve been a diehard Firefox user sense before Beta 1. I wrote my Firefox Guide earlier this year, once that page hit Slashdot there were several comments about how Opera does all of that and more, without the need of the extensions that Firefox has. I put a mental note that I should check this out. Well a few months later and Opera 9 has been released. Well I guess now is a good time to look at this Opera vs. Firefox talk that everyone flamed about. So the goal in this article is to see what is better under different environments. So let’s give it a go.

Both Firefox and Opera have many more features than Internet Explorer. This isn’t about tabbed browsing, having a search box on the right of the navigation bar, added support for extra features, or anything else we’ve come to expect in these browsers. My goal in this is to go into the features that Opera is showcasing and to see how well Firefox holds up.

Features

BitTorrent Client – Well I am honestly not sure what the point of this feature is, none the less it is a feature. I am usually not the type of person that goes for a once size fits all application. I like to have a different application for each use, web, email, irc, ftp, and more. I do tent to leave programs open for a century or two and I only reboot my box when it’s totally necessary. I am currently using uTorrent as my default torrent application so I went to grab a CentOS ISO file. I do not have the exact memory usage of both applications but I can say the memory usage jumped a bit on Opera and I think uTorrent was around 10-12MB. Well Opera has Firefox on this, 1 this feature is built in, and 2 there isn’t an extension that adds a BT client to Firefox.

IRC – Setting up IRC was very straight forward. I actually liked it a lot. I am not going to go into details on how to configure an IRC client, but it works great. For an IRC client in Firefox the extension ChatZilla works well, but I honestly have to say I like this much better, and would actually use it. I currently use mIRC.

IRC Screenshot

Add Favorite Search Engines – This is a very standard feature although I do like how they did the layout of the menu.

Content Blocker – This I thought was an awesome idea, just not implemented very well. An example I was on Digg and wanted to see if I could remove the ads on the homepage. I right clicked, and went down to the content blocker; well in short it said hit the shift key when clicking on the time. It didn’t work. Firefox doesn’t have a built in feature that does this, but the extension AdBlock/AdBlockPlus does this very well. You are able to block any element of the page.

Thumbnail Preview – When browsing with lots of tabs I often wonder what one tab is when I am trying to find a certain page. I often use the Ctrl-Tab shortcut in Firefox to browse through tabs. Well Opera has gone many steps above Firefox in solving this problem by showing a thumbnail of the webpage when you hold the mouse over the tab. Check out the screenshot below. There is an extension for Firefox, Viamatic foXpose that displayed thumbnails of all the pages on a separate tab. I used that a few times but found it to be slow and cumbersome and removed it very soon afterward. In writing this article I have already found this feature to be very useful.

Transfer Manager – This is very similar to the Download Manager in Firefox, except its in a tab. Very cool implementation and reduces the number of windows open.

Fast Forward – This is a very interesting item. I am not quite sure what to say about this, I haven’t found it very useful at all. Fast Forward will detect the most likely "next page" link and greatly simplify navigation in multi-page documents such as search results and image galleries. Although I must admit I haven’t been on forums, Digg, Slashdot, photo galleries, or Google much this afternoon. Maybe when I start browsing those sites I’ll fall in love with this feature.

Notes – Save text from web pages or write notes for later viewing. I’ve been looking for something like this forever. I’m in love.

Sessions – Saving sessions is very important to me. Incase you don’t know what it is, saving sessions basically allows the user to have for example 5 tabs open. Close Opera. Open it again and all your pages are where you left them. This is a wonderful tool, although right now I rarely close Firefox because it lacks this feature. I do use an extension, SessionSaver, but in some instances I have found it to be very unreliable. The only time I use it is when I need to restart Firefox after a few days to recover the memory lost in leaks.

Mouse Gestures – I personally haven’t ever been a fan of these features. There is a Firefox extension, Mouse Gestures that basically has the same features that Opera has out of the box. For the people that love this feature this probably kicks totally ass to have it built it. For me it’s cool but I don’t use it.

Trash Can – I know that whenever I close a tab I didn’t mean to a few words start coming to my memory. Well Opera has what they call the Trash Can. The extension in Firefox I use for this is TabMixPlus, I also use that to drag and drop tabs around. Opera has drag and drop support built in, as well as the feature to drag and drop tabs across different windows. I’ve even used that today a few times.

Speed / Memory Usage

When running Firefox I usually have at least 10-20 windows open at any given time. Therefore memory usage is a big deal to me. I have been using Opera for about 8-9 hours at this point so my experience is nothing like my experience with Firefox. When browsing I noticed the CPU usage was very minor compared to Firefox rendering the same page. RAM usage with 28 tabs in Firefox and 22 in Opera was 89MB and 69MB. Opera as you can tell was much better on ram usage, and over time seemed to stay lower even though I had more tabs open.

Screenshot of the 28 tabs I opened.

Innovations

There are a few innovations that I really found handy and useful. First off when clicking on the address bar this nice box drops down with Hope, Top 10, Bookmarks, Search Box, and Price Comparison. This saves a bit of time of having to move the mouse all over the place to find these items.

Using Ctrl-Tab to switch menus is very fast, but often I will fly right past the window I need or have to go through them all when searching for a window. Opera has a nice menu that drops down to display all the page titles for you to see and browse.

Disappointments

I often double click on a word to highlight it so I can copy the text or for some other usage that isn’t coming into my brain right now, but in Opera a menu pops up. For some reason I find this very annoying and unwanted.

I love the scroll wheel on my mouse. I often use it when trying to find something on a long webpage where scrolling is required. Duh. However in Opera whenever I click the scroll wheel on my mouse the cursor jumps the exact center of the page and then starts scrolling. Another annoyance is when I am middle clicking links to open then up into a new tab and I miss the link and the cursor jumps to the center of the page.

Safari, the web browser bundled with OS X and Opera both have the button to close the window on each tab. I personally love having it on the right side of the window, like Firefox has it, unless you use an extension to have it on each tab. I wish there was a way to change it to be like Firefox, but then again I guess it’s something that in time will grow on me.

I am sure there is a way to turn these annoyances off, I just haven’t found out how to, yet.

Widgets

Just like in MacOS X 10.4, Opera has the ability to have them to. I browsed around the Widgets page on Opera’s website and didn’t find anything (yet) that really struck me. I think widget support is needed, but not nearly as powerful as the extension support in Firefox.

Conclusion

I am sure many of the shortfalls in Firefox that have been fixed via extensions will be added in Firefox 2.0. Firefox 2.0 is currently in Alpha and Beta, but I am not including anything on because I want this base fully on finished products.

In short when I first opened Opera I expected another Firefox. After using Opera most of today, and going through all the features I can think of I am starting to like it more and more. Maybe it’s time I start an Opera Guide like the Firefox Guide.

I am officially torn on what browser to use; only time will tell. What I can see if Opera being a replacement to Firefox due to the amount of built in features, but Firefox has many powerful extensions that might take some time looking for replacements. Look for an addition to this article with widgets to replace some of my beloved Firefox
Firefox 1.5 vs. Opera 9 - -

Microsoft: Vista Most Secure OS Ever

Microsoft senior vice president Bob Muglia opened up TechEd 2006 in Boston Sunday evening by proclaiming that Windows Vista was the most secure operating system in the industry. But a bold statement can only go so far, and much of this week's conference has been spent reinforcing that point.

From the network perimeter to deep inside the Windows client, the significance of security has permeated into every facet of technology. Norman Mailer said that 20th century man's default status was anxiety. We have barely dipped our toes into the 21st, and our default status has already been elevated to outright fear.

Consumers are being plagued with spam, phishing attacks and spyware, while the corporate world fends off data and identity theft. Microsoft believes its new wave of software will be the panacea for such problems, thanks to the Security Development Lifecycle (SDL) and technologies such as BitLocker and smart cards.

Windows Vista is the first operating system from Microsoft to be built from the ground up using the SDL development model. Every bit of code is scrutinized for Common Criteria Certification and security compliance checkpoints must be met along the way.

Services are now run with reduced privileges that contain profiles specifying allowed file system, registry and network activities. Further below the surface, the Vista kernel makes it harder for rootkits to elude detection, while better protecting against unauthorized patches.

Spyware and malware threats, meanwhile, are contained by the operating system's built-in scanning engine that is based upon Windows Defender. In addition, the Vista firewall extends the functionality added in Windows XP Service Pack 2 to provide full directional filtering and application blocking.

Potentially malicious applications are also restricted with Vista's new User Account Control feature, which has spurred a great deal of complaints from beta testers. UAC forces programs to run in a specific Integrity Layer, with a default of medium, and request elevated privileges from the user when performing system commands or writing to sensitive directories.

Internet Explorer 7 in Vista runs in a low Integrity Level known as "Protected Mode" in order to prevent malicious Web sites from compromising an entire system. Features such as a phishing filter and security status bar add further safety checks for users.

UAC additionally enables file and registry virtualization for programs needing administrator access. This capability will ensure backwards compatibility without sacrificing the security of Windows Vista. For example, a program trying to write files to the root of the hard drive will actually be writing to a special folder called the virtual store.

On the hardware level, Microsoft has implemented BitLocker full disk encryption. Using a TPM chip located on the motherboard or USB stick, BitLocker literally encrypts data while it is being written to the disk. If a laptop were stolen, the hard drive would be inaccessible without a recovery key.

Microsoft says the 256-bit AES encryption technology only causes a single-digit slowdown when communicating with the disk, and the majority of users would never notice it was running.

Vista will also support smart cards with its user-based file and folder encryption technology known as EFS. Moreover, integrated rights management (RMS) enables organizations to enforce access policies for individual documents, which would prevent them from falling into the wrong hands.

But Microsoft acknowledges that nothing is infallible when it comes to computer security. In turn, the company has employed black hat hackers for what is called a penetration, or pen, test team. This group has only one duty: to break the security in Windows Vista and help the company develop fixes for the vulnerabilities.

Microsoft is also looking outside to shore up its defenses. The Redmond company at TechEd 2006 announced the formation of the Microsoft Security Response Alliance. MSRA builds upon five other alliances currently helping to organize security efforts, and will offer a portal for collaboration along with a communication framework for sharing security response information.

All of these security changes won't be easy on application compatibility, but Microsoft says it is doing its best to mitigate any problems by the time Windows Vista ships early next year. The company is working closely with developers to add custom "shims" that will ensure their programs are compatible with User Account Control.

Still, Microsoft admits that antivirus software, games and some applications will continue to have problems. Work to streamline the experience for consumers will not stop with the final release, however, as Microsoft already has compatibility improvements planned through Windows Vista Service Pack 1.

Microsoft: Vista Most Secure OS Ever - Friday, June 16, 2006 -

Linux Coming to Mobile Phones


A group of the world's mobile operators and handset makers said today they are joining together to develop an open-source Linux-based operating system that could to be used in phones by the end of 2007.

Mobile network operators Vodafone and NTT DoCoMo and handset makers Motorola, Samsung, NEC and Panasonic, said they would form an independent not-for-profit group to share the costs and speed up mobile software and handsets and cut the number of operating platforms on the market.

A world-class Linux-based platform aims to provide key benefits for the mobile industry including lower development costs, increased flexibility, and a richer mobile ecosystem - all of which contribute to the group's ultimate objective of creating compelling, differentiated and enhanced consumer experiences.

To help guide these efforts, the companies are also announcing their intent to form an independent foundation. The founder companies' objective is to realize the development of the platform based on the contributions of all interested stakeholders through an open and transparent process. Focusing primarily on the joint development and marketing of an API specification, architecture, supporting source code-based reference implementation components and tools, the foundation intends to leverage the benefits of community-based and proprietary development.

Foundation members also intend to work on the following:

- Implementation of a fair, balanced, transparent contribution and participation process across the current and future membership
- Establishment of safeguards to minimize fragmentation
- Collaboration on a mobile Linux developer ecosystem
- Coordination with existing industry organizations
- Seeking participation from all interested companies across the value chain, including device manufacturers, operators, chipset manufacturers, independent software vendors, integrators and third-party developers

Once established, the foundation aims to provide an API specification, architecture, references to open source code, new source code-based reference implementation components (to be developed and committed by foundation members) and specifications for referenced third party software. The foundation also plans to provide a test suite to assess and demonstrate product conformance to the platform specification.

While the initial foundation members plan to be primarily responsible for delivering the development of the first reference implementation of the mobile operating platform, they will also actively encourage membership participation of other companies committed to its development. More information about how others can join the foundation will be made available at a later date.
Linux Coming to Mobile Phones - -

Robot Hall of Fame inducts 5 new members

Robots Made Their Marks in Film, Factories and Research

PITTSBURGH—A robotic pet, an industrial robot and three robot stars of classic movies will be inducted into Carnegie Mellon University's Robot Hall of Fame® in a June 21 ceremony at the Sheraton Station Square in Pittsburgh.

Actor Anthony Daniels, who played the robot C-3PO in all six "Star Wars" films, returns as master of ceremonies and Daniel H. Wilson, author of "How to Survive a Robot Uprising," published in 2005, will be the keynote speaker.

This year's class of inductees, announced in April, include Maria, the art deco star of the 1927 silent film classic "Metropolis"; Gort, the metallic giant sent to Earth to establish peace in the 1951 sci-fi thriller "The Day the Earth Stood Still"; David, the boy-like android who bonded with his adoptive mother in Steven Spielberg's "Artificial Intelligence: AI"; Sony's AIBO, a dog-like entertainment robot that became a research and education workhorse; and the Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm (SCARA), an industrial robot that helped make inexpensive consumer electronic devices commonplace.

Participants in the ceremony will include SCARA inventor Hiroshi Makino, an emeritus professor at the University of Yamanashi in Japan, and actor Billy Gray, who played actress Patricia Neal's young son in "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and later became a boomer icon as Bud in the hit '50s TV show "Father Knows Best."

The affair will cap the RoboBusiness Conference and Exposition, a two-day international business development event for mobile robotics and intelligent systems, produced by Robotic Trends Inc.

This is the third induction for the hall of fame, which was founded in 2003 by James H. Morris, dean of Carnegie Mellon West, the university's four-year-old campus in Silicon Valley. It highlights the contributions of robots to society by honoring robots that are technological landmarks, as well as fictional robots that captured the public imagination and inspired roboticists to make dreams reality. Inductees are chosen by an international panel of researchers, educators and enthusiasts.

"When C-3PO was inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame, he felt his existence had finally been given the validation it deserved, rather than the brush-off usually awarded him by characters like Han Solo," said Daniels, a veteran of stage and screen who served as emcee when the golden android was inducted in 2004. "Now, I've been asked to return to Carnegie Mellon to host this year's awards. I feel validated as a human."

Wilson, who earned a doctorate in robotics at Carnegie Mellon's famed Robotics Institute, will tell "The Truth About Robots" in his keynote address. A film version of his tongue-in-cheek guidebook, "How to Survive a Robot Uprising," starring comedian Mike Myers, is slated for release by Paramount Pictures next year.

The ceremony will feature video clips of each of the robots in action and commentary by people who have been involved in their creation or their nomination to the hall.


SCARA (Click on these images to download high resolution versions)
Matthew T. Mason, director of Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute, will join Makino in paying tribute to SCARA, a type of industrial robot arm that was introduced to commercial assembly lines in 1981. SCARA robots excel in picking up components from one place and placing them rapidly and precisely in a product.


AIBO
Katsumi Moto, vice president of corporate planning for Sony Supply Chain Solutions, Inc., will accept the induction on behalf of AIBO. Though Sony halted their commercial production earlier this year, the four-legged robots remain important tools for research and education.


Maria © copyright Kino International Film Distribution, 2006.
Anne Balsamo, professor of interactive media and gender studies at the University of Southern California, will welcome Maria of Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" to the hall of fame. The transformation of human to robot — in this case, making the robot resemble the film's human heroine — has been repeated often in science fiction and the influence of Maria's art deco design can be seen in robots such as C-3PO.


David © copyright Artificial Intelligence: AI, Dreamworks/Warner Brothers, 2001.
Hall of fame juror Sherry Turkle will induct David, an android played by actor Haley Joel Osment. Turkle, professor of social studies of science and technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, contends the emotional bond between David and his adoptive mother raises questions of what relationships are appropriate between humans and machines.


Gort © copyright The Day The Earth Stood Still, Twentieth Century FOX, 1951.
Gort, one of the most memorable pop culture images from the Cold War era, will be celebrated by his co-star Gray and by Don Marinelli, director of Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center. The eight-foot-tall robot — whose mission of destruction was halted by the famous command "Klaatu barada nikto!" — remains a symbol of the lethal consequences of human conflict.

Carnegie Mellon's Robot Hall of Fame® is a joint project of its Robotics Institute and its Entertainment Technology Center. For more information, visit
Robot Hall of Fame inducts 5 new members - -

How to jam your neighbor's Wi-Fi legally

Have you ever get frustrated with your neighbor hogging all the Internet bandwidth on the block? Tired of your neighbor using his Wi-Fi gear on channel 1, 6, or 11 (that's all the possible choices) on the 2.4 GHz spectrum? Well now's your chance to get even! Introducing Draft N and Pre-N Wi-Fi! They might not interoperate at high speeds with each other but they're FCC legal and they're guaranteed to shut your neighbor down or your money back!

While Airgo's third generation product achieves record breaking throughput, it annihilates any legacy 802.11 b/g product in the vicinity and effectively shuts them down. Ok that's not an actual advertisement, but it might as well be one. Our friend Tim Higgins has been at it again testing so called "Draft N" and "Pre N" Wi-Fi gear (implied compatibility with 802.11n) and he has some very interesting results about the interoperability and interference characteristics of these products. Earlier this month, Tim ran a battery of tests on these wannabe 802.11n Wi-Fi products to see if they lived up to the kind of throughput and range being promised by the Wi-Fi vendors.

What the first set of tests reveals is that Airgo's product still beats the "Draft N" competition from Broadcom and Marvell hands down with their third generation MIMO product in range and throughput. Note: The results showing the Cisco business-grade 802.11g gear performing so well on range may not be a good test of chipset efficiency since it can use 100 mW of transmit power which may be higher than the consumer gear tested. One could also easily quadruple the range on a Cisco Access Point with the right kind of high-powered antenna but that wouldn't be a fair measurement on how good the radio and chipset design is.

In the second set of tests examining interoperability and interference characteristics on neighboring 802.11g Access Points, the results are alarming. While the Draft N and Pre N products technically work with each other, it would seem that most of them don't interoperate at the higher speeds. Broadcom announced that their Draft N products will interoperate at high speeds with Atheros Draft N products, but the Atheros based products weren't available for testing yet at the time of the review. Broadcom and Atheros feeling the heat from relative newcomer Airgo have put their fiercely competitive past behind them though I'm not sure if this will help if they can't post good throughput versus range numbers against Airgo. When I asked Broadcom's representative if they were guaranteeing future compatibility with 802.11n in writing, I couldn't really get a straight answer and was told that their Draft G product was eventually compatible with 802.11g and that they are using a flexible design that can change if the 802.11n draft standard changes. I finally got them to admit that there are no such guarantees for actual 802.11n compatibility.

Airgo is a very interesting story by itself. I've praised them in the past for having the cleanest design in terms of staying in a single 20 MHz channel while retaining the speed crown. Airgo's competitors eventually pushed past the performance of Airgo's first and second generation products by hogging two radio channels and Airgo quickly answered with their third generation product that also used a 40 MHz wide signal and regained a massive lead in throughput which holds today. The problem is that Airgo when from being the nicest single-channel neighbor in town to being the absolute worst Wi-Fi neighbor in town.

While Airgo's third generation product achieves record breaking throughput, it annihilates any legacy 802.11 b/g product in the vicinity and effectively shuts them down. The other products from Broadcom and Marvel weren't quite as devastating to the neighbors, but the damage is still severe. What's crazy is that these products are FCC legal and are being sold on store shelves today. This is a serious problem in the city where town homes and condominiums are right next to each other and it's even a problem for businesses which primarily uses 802.11 b/g. While these products are aimed at the home market, they're also sometimes used in a small office environment and these radio jamming characteristics are intermittent (when data is being sent) and difficult to track down.

So who is to blame for all of this? Airgo to its credit pushed for spectrum efficiency among the 802.11n standards body as long as it could and tried to lead by example while everyone else was spectrum hogging. Once it was clear that the 802.11n draft standard wasn't going to be swayed on spectrum efficiency, Airgo turned to the dark side and became the biggest spectrum hog of all. The industry was moving the right direction with dual band 2.4/5 GHz products which mitigate interference issues until the arrival of the 802.11n MIMO type products because customers are easily seduced by higher speeds when what's really needed is less interference and better range.

The range issues could have been easily solved with higher gain antennas which ironically are frowned upon by the FCC but don't do nearly as much damage to the neighbors. Since larger antennas are optional, people won't resort to them unless they really needed the longer range in which case no one's nearby to begin with. With these N based products, they come off the factory floor ready to jam everything within its operating radius and this seems to be what the 802.11n standards body is encouraging with its decision to allow for wider channels. The fact that almost none of these new "N" products interoperate with each other and none of them guarantee future compatibility with 802.11n is sad. The best solution for anyone wishing to avoid the radio jam is to move to 802.11a and the 5 GHz band as soon as possible.

How to jam your neighbor's Wi-Fi legally - -

Social networks--future portal or fad?

LAGUNA BEACH, Calif.--Social networks like MySpace and Facebook are the zeitgeist for online executives and investors, just as they are for millions of young people.

But attendees at the Piper Jaffray Global Internet Summit here still can't decide if these companies are next-generation portals, or merely flash-in-the-pan communities that will eventually fade from popularity like one-time high-fliers Geocities or AOL.

Telling evidence stacks up on both sides.

On the one hand, MySpace's scope of services and member traffic rivals that of many major portals. Since launching three years ago, MySpace, now owned by News Corp., has added e-mail, instant messaging and blog services, as well as jobs, video, book and music stores. According to founding MySpace member Colin Digiaro, who spoke here Tuesday, the company is talking to "all the usual suspects and unusual suspects" about licensing Web search technology to accommodate a growing demand among its 50 million members for that functionality. (It currently uses Yahoo search for internal site search and displays Overture ads for Web search results.)

"We're trying to find the best-of-breed search functionality," Digiaro said.

I used to be into MySpace and now I'm getting over it.
--Monica, 18, who will attend UCLA this fall

What's more, MySpace's monthly traffic figures have trumped those of MSN and AOL, according to ComScore Media, and they comprise about 75 percent of Yahoo's, the No. 1 site on the Web. Anecdotally, the time teens and college kids spend on MySpace is stealing time they would otherwise spend watching TV, according to an informal focus group of young and older teens interviewed at the conference.

MySpace's "goal was to become a next-generation portal," Digiaro said. "I think we're there."

Trouble ahead for MySpace?
On the other hand, these social communities could turn out to be fads among capricious Web surfers, skeptics say. After all, rudimentary social networks have always been around in communities like AOL and Geocities. And if comments made during the same focus group of young and older teens are any indication, MySpace could be headed into trouble with a thriving portion of its members. The aging kids talked about tiring of MySpace and moving on to other social networks or activities, much the way some kids have left AOL's instant-messaging service.

"I'm starting to get over it," said Juliana, a 21-year-old living in Orange County, who said she's now into Faceclick, another, newer social network for college kids.

Monica, an 18-year-old who's enrolled at UCLA in the fall, said she's further along with MySpace, opting to spend her more than eight hours a day online at sites like photo-sharing site Photobucket.com and Acidplanet.com, a music-hosting site. "I used to be into MySpace and now I'm getting over it."

Still, younger teens interviewed said that they were big users of MySpace, spending hours honing their member profiles. And 80 percent of MySpace's demographic skews over 18 years old.

Yet, Safa Rashtchy, a senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray, compared the social networks to the walled garden environments of AOL and eBay, two companies that have lost favor among investors. He asked whether people ultimately like to stay within these online walled gardens.

Also, it's unclear whether advertisers are spending enough with social networks to make their free services profitable. During a panel discussion of advertisers, ad executives said that many marketers don't want to associate their brands with the sometimes risque or inappropriate material that can surface on the social networks from their members.

When pressed by industry observers, executives at MySpace and Facebook declined to say whether they are profitable. As part of Newscorp., MySpace is not required to report its finances. Owen Van Natta, COO of college-focused social directory Facebook, which is privately held, joked that it's a "definite maybe."

Some panelists still took this as a sign that these companies, despite hosting user-generated content that generally doesn't cost as much to support as staff editorial, were not profitable. The cost of advertising rates at these sites aren't typically at a premium, either, making it unclear how much MySpace and Facebook are benefiting from growing online ad sales.

In defense, Digiaro, MySpace senior vice president of sales and business development, said that the company works with all major advertisers in various vertical markets, including the Cokes and Ford Motors of the world. MySpace also commands ad premiums for such areas within its music and video stores, he said.

He said to retain teen surfers, which comprise about 20 percent of its total audience, MySpace has introduced new features faster than rivals and has developed a lasting social connection with members that increases as their history of blog posts and e-mail amasses. The company also plans to expand internationally, starting with the U.K. and Ireland, and get on mobile handsets across the United States.

He also suggested that MySpace could eventually introduce a transportable persona that members could take with them to other services.

"Social networks will continue to evolve," he said.

Social networks--future portal or fad? - Thursday, June 15, 2006 -

eBay Wiki released - world's largest commercial wiki

ebay_wiki_logo.jpgAs I wrote in my Read/WriteWeb blog, eBay and JotSpot have just released a new community wiki - making it almost certainly the world's largest wiki platform for a commercial website (Wikipedia is bigger, but it's non-commercial). eBay Wiki is described as "a collection of fact-based articles written and maintained by eBay Community members" and is powered by JotSpot's innovative wiki technology.

eBay Wiki "It's a kind of Wikipedia for eBay" is located at www.ebaywiki.com and the wiki topics are categorized and tagged. You must be logged in as an eBay member to edit a wiki page, which then presents you with an easy-to-use wysiwyg HTML editor. eBay Wiki also has article history and ratings, the editor's user details and seller/buyer ratings (i.e. their eBay reputation), RSS feeds and other easy-to-use social features.

So why did eBay choose to add a wiki? eBay has a buyer and seller community of more than 193 million members - a huge community that is thriving with conversations and activity. Their message boards get over 100,000 messages per week and eBay users are very knowledgeable on their topic niches. Having a Wiki on eBay will serve to refine and formalize the cream of the content in its user forums. It will also help eBay in the search engine rankings, as its user-generated content coffers will increase significantly over time!

I spoke to JotSpot co-founder and CEO Joe Kraus about the new eBay wiki yesterday. He described eBay Wiki to me as "a kind of Wikipedia for eBay and about eBay". He said its main focus is to give "tips and tricks on how to get the most out of eBay". The eBay Wiki will complement and build on the eBay forums, in that the wiki will be a "single point of reference" on topics.

Joe sees eBay Wiki as another step towards wikis coming of age and becoming mainstream. I agree, the use of wikis from one of the Internet's biggest consumer companies may be vital to the growth of wikis outside of tech and enterprise circles. Joe said eBay will promote the Wiki as part of their community hub and eBay CEO Meg Whitman is announcing it in her keynote address at the eBay Live! user conference in Las Vegas today.

Image Gallery of eBay Wiki

eBay Wiki released - world's largest commercial wiki - -

Google to Launch Government Search Site

It's finally happening: The ever-expanding Google Inc. is making its move on the federal government.

Today the company plans to announce a new online product aimed at being a one-stop shop for searching federal government Web sites. The launch of Google U.S. Government Search, http://usgov.google.com , targets federal employees who often need to search across several government agencies.

The site is also designed to help citizens navigate convoluted pages of government-speak and tailors news feeds to their interests. Users can customize the layout of their page to remain updated on government-related news from official and commercial sources, including the White House, Department of Defense, The Washington Post and CNN. Google is also working with agencies to increase the frequency of news updates to keep content current.

"People are moving away from directory access to enter these sites," said Kevin Gough, product manager for Google U.S. Government Search. "They just want to type in a few words to pinpoint the information they need."

The product is an outgrowth of the company's flagship site, which has the largest share of the U.S. search market -- 50 percent in April, according to Nielsen-NetRatings. It aims to "unify disparate Web sites," Gough said, so people have a single source to find everything from Social Security policy to income tax forms.

The government search site joins similar engines that target the same audience. The five-year-old FirstGov.gov, a government-sponsored site powered by Microsoft Corp.'s MSN, is geared to help citizens locate federal, state and local information without sifting through individual agency sites.

Other similar search engines include http://govspot.com , http://searchgov.com and http://govengine.com .

Gough said he expects Google's product to "complement" FirstGov without directly competing with it.

But Google's name recognition, especially among first-time users, may give it an edge over FirstGov, said Larry Freed, president of ForeSee Results Inc., a Michigan firm that measures customer satisfaction of Internet sites.

The new site could actually drive traffic away from other government-related search engines that buy ads on Google's main search engine, he said.

"Google drives a fair amount of traffic to those sites," he said. Now that Google has its own portal that serves the same purpose, "they could potentially be creating competition for their customers."

Many government employees access documents and information through agencies' intranets, or inter-office Web sites, and through FirstGov, said Stephanie Zaiser, communications director for the National Association of Government Employees.

But they may switch to the new engine if it is easier to use, she said. Zaiser expects federal employees to use the Google site because of the company's "ubiquitous presence" in the search-engine market.

More than 87 million unique visitors used Google's search engine in May, compared with 443,000 that searched FirstGov, according to Nielsen-NetRatings.

In recent years, Google has launched several specialized search engines to help users narrow their results. In addition to heavily used sites geared specifically for news, directions and maps, newer sites search the contents of scholarly journals, books and blogs. Yesterday, Google Book Search launched a Web site geared toward searching Shakespearean plays.

"There is a trend toward developing more finite, category-specific searches," said Deborah Fallows, senior research fellow at the Pew Internet and American Life Project. "Government employees are among the heaviest users of government Web sites, so there's a market."

A November 2004 Pew survey found that 54 percent of Internet users have looked for information from government Web sites, and 10 percent of users will look for such information on any given day.

Google to Launch Government Search Site - -

Robot soccer World Cup kicks off


A football tournament played by teams of robots has kicked off in Germany.

The 10th annual RoboCup, being held in Bremen, will see more than 400 teams of robots dribbling, tackling and shooting in an effort to become world champions.

Machines compete in 11 leagues including those designed for humanoid and four-legged robots.

The organisers of the tournament hope that in 2050 the winners of the RoboCup will be able to beat the human World Cup champions.

"RoboCup 2006 is the first step towards a vision," said Minoru Asada, president of the RoboCup Federation.

"This vision includes the development of a humanoid robot team of eleven players, which can win against a human soccer world champion team."

Emotional game

Teams from 36 countries have flocked to Bremen to take part in the tournament.

As well as providing a visual spectacle on the pitch, some robots will be helping out in other ways.

Live commentary of a number of matches is provided by a pair of robots developed by scientists from Carnegie Mellon University in the US.

Sango and Ami, as the duo are known, will explain the rules of the game and dissect fouls for spectators using synthesized voices.

"They don't talk at the same time," said Manuela Veloso, the Herbert Simon Professor of Computer Science and head of Carnegie Mellon's RoboCup teams.

Robot dogs play football
More than 400 teams will compete during the five day tournament

"But if one is explaining a rule and a nice goal is made, the other has the ability to interrupt."

Sango and Ami also have very different personalities. Sango provides a very sober account of the game while Ami provides a more emotional response to proceedings.

Both celebrate by pumping their arms when a team scores.

Future strategy

As well as having novelty value and, the RoboCup has a more serious side.

It is a chance for 2,500 experts in artificial intelligence and robot engineering to meet and trial their latest ideas.

Football is a useful test for robotics because it has so many different elements including movement, strategy and vision.

Researchers come to assess their sensors, artificial intelligence and software on the pitch.

"After 50 years within artificial intelligence, it has been determined that these things can be better researched using soccer than the game of chess," said Hans-Dieter Burkhard, the Vice President of the RoboCup Federation.

This year all eyes are on a team from Japan who are expected to do well in the humanoid category, while the current world champions from Germany are a force to be reckoned with in the four-legged tournament.

The championships run until 18 June and are then followed by a conference for two days where the teams can dissect their play and work on improvements before the big game in 2050.

Robot soccer World Cup kicks off - -

Google Earth zooms in

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--Google unveiled on Monday a new version of its Google Earth application, which features greater coverage and higher resolution, even showing people walking in some locations--detail you get with aerial photography and not usually satellites.

The downloadable Google Earth 4.0 runs on PCs, Macs and Linux-based machines and is available in localized versions in French, Italian, German and Spanish, according to Michael Jones, chief technology officer of Google Earth. Jones, speaking here at Google Geo Developer Day, said the improvements will eventually show up in the Web-based Google Maps site.

Developers can use Google's SketchUp 3D modeling software to make the images as lifelike as possible, such as adding texture to buildings. Users can also overlay different data on top of the same view. In a product demonstration, Jones showed a 3D view of San Francisco from 2005, and with a click, showed the same view of San Francisco in the 1940s.

"Developers can place images on top of (the map) that span the whole Earth," Jones said, half-jokingly calling it a "time travel" application. "I think people will use it to share ancient maps (and share) information about possible future developments."

Mark Limber, product manager for Google's SketchUp modeling software, demonstrated how to create a 3D building and insert it into a Google Earth map. Realtors can use SketchUp to build models of homes and put them into maps to show prospective buyers, he said. A repository of links to geographic- and nongeographic-referenced objects that can be used is located here.

Jones also showed off the Google Earth Community, which he described as "participatory mapping," in which individuals can add personal placemarks to information on the map.

More than 30,000 developers around world are using the Google Earth application programming interface, and there have been 100 million downloads of Google Earth, said John Hanke, Google Earth and Maps product director.

Google representatives also demonstrated how people can easily overlay geographic data on top of a Google map without hosting a map on a Web site to create a map "mashup." Google is adding geographic-coding support to Google maps so developers can easily get the coordinates for an street address.

The company also introduced Google Maps for Enterprise, which can be used by companies internally and includes service and support. Pricing starts at about $10,000 per year.

Greg Sterling of Sterling Market Intelligence said he was impressed with the improvements in resolution and coverage. "Google is trying to make all these tools more accessible to ordinary people and get them engaged in content," he said. "In addition, the idea of a geobrowser is fascinating, as is the eventual merger of gaming and mapping."

Google Earth zooms in - Monday, June 12, 2006 -

Top Microsoft blogger to resign

Screengrab of Robert Scoble's blog, Robert Scoble
The blog became a regular read for hi-tech industry watchers
A business blogger who changed the wider world view of Microsoft is leaving the software giant for a Silicon Valley start-up.

Robert Scoble's blog about his life and events inside and outside Microsoft became the unofficial corporate voice of the company.

Many turned to his blog to find out how the firm reacted to big news events.

His blog won praise for its neutrality and readiness to point out Microsoft's mistakes or praise its rivals.

Conversation piece

Mr Scoble's blog, called Scobleizer, is widely seen as helping to humanise Microsoft and shift its stance from arrogant and aloof to one that is more inclusive and accepting of criticism.

It also commented on broader changes in the net world and how they affected the company.

I love Microsoft and Microsoft did not lose me, at least as a supporter and friend
Robert Scoble
The blog was seen as a pioneer in the way that companies present themselves to the world by giving a human voice to what can be faceless corporations.

The success of Scobleizer kicked off a number of copycat blogs which aimed to expose the inner workings and opinions of other companies to more public scrutiny.

Within Microsoft, Mr Scoble helped to run the Channel 9 news site that aired video interviews with hundreds of employees to gain an insight into the projects they were working on.

Mr Scoble will stay at Microsoft until the end of June and then move to start-up PodTech.Net. He joins as vice-president of content and will help prepare video interviews with the great and good of the technology world.

In a fitting twist, the news about Mr Scoble's departure broke on another blog before he had chance to tell regular readers via his own journal.

In a posting on 10 June, Mr Scoble explained the reasons for his departure and said it has not arisen because he had fallen out with his employer.

"I love Microsoft and Microsoft did not lose me, at least as a supporter and friend," he wrote in the entry.

Top Microsoft blogger to resign - -

The Internet's Future

Congress should stay out of cyberspace.


THE SENATE will hold hearings tomorrow on "net neutrality," the idea that the pipes and wires that form the Internet should treat all content equally. An alliance whose membership ranges from the Christian Coalition to MoveOn.org is demanding that Congress write this neutrality into law; the groups fear that the pipe owners -- cable companies, phone companies and so on -- might otherwise deliver corporate content at high speed for high fees, while consigning political Web sites and hobbyists to a slow information byway. These arguments are amplified by the big Internet firms -- Google, Microsoft, eBay -- that want their services delivered fast but don't want the pipe owners to extract fees from them. Although this coalition lost a House vote last week, its prospects are stronger in the Senate. (The Washington Post Co. owns broadband networks that might charge Web sites for fast delivery. It also produces Web content that might be subject to such fees, so it has interests on both sides of this issue.)

The advocates of neutrality suggest, absurdly, that a non-neutral Internet would resemble cable TV: a medium through which only corporate content is delivered. This analogy misses the fact that the market for Internet connections, unlike that for cable television, is competitive: More than 60 percent of Zip codes in the United States are served by four or more broadband providers that compete to give consumers what they want -- fast access to the full range of Web sites, including those of their kids' soccer league, their cousins' photos, MoveOn.org and the Christian Coalition. If one broadband provider slowed access to fringe bloggers, the blogosphere would rise up in protest -- and the provider would lose customers.

The cable TV analogy is doubly wrong because media culture reflects technology. Cable TV has been the province of Hollywood studios because making a sitcom is expensive and hard -- though, with cheap digital camcorders, this is changing. Equally, the Internet is the province of experimenters and hobbyists because creating your own Web site is cheap and easy. Thanks to technology, the Internet will always be a relatively democratic medium with low barriers to entry.

The serious argument for net neutrality has nothing to do with the cable TV boogeyman. It's that a non-neutral net will raise barriers to entry just slightly -- but enough to be alarming. To use a far better analogy: Competitive supermarkets aim to please customers by offering all kinds of goods, but the inventor of a new snack has to go through the hassle of negotiating for display space and may wind up on the bottom shelf, which dampens his incentives. Equally, if the owners of Internet pipes delivered the services of cyber-upstarts more slowly than those of cyber-incumbents, the incentive to innovate might suffer. Would instant messaging or Internet telephony have taken off if their inventors had had to plead with broadband firms to carry them?

This concern should not be exaggerated. Cyber-upstarts already face barriers: The incumbents have brand recognition and invest in tricks to make their sites load faster. The extra barrier created by a lack of net neutrality would probably be small because the pipe owners know that consumers want access to innovators.

Meanwhile, there are powerful arguments on the other side. If you want innovation on the Internet, you need better pipes: ones that are faster, less susceptible to hackers and spammers, or smarter in ways that nobody has yet thought of. The lack of incentives for pipe innovation is more pressing than the lack of incentives to create new Web services.

You can see this imbalance in Wall Street's low valuation of Internet infrastructure firms such as Verizon (price-to-earnings ratio: 12) and its infatuation with Internet service firms such as Google (price-to-earnings ratio: 69). You can see it, too, in the fact that U.S. broadband infrastructure lags behind that of East Asia and Europe. Allowing builders of Internet infrastructure to recoup their investment by charging the Googles and Amazons for use of their network would balance the incentives for innovation more closely. Ironically, a non-neutral net would accelerate the spread of zippy broadband that can deliver movies, allowing hobbyists with camcorders to take on Hollywood studios. The neutrality advocates who criticize corporatized cable TV should welcome that.

The weakest aspect of the neutrality case is that the dangers it alleges are speculative. It seems unlikely that broadband providers will degrade Web services that people want and far more likely that they will use non-neutrality to charge for upgrading services that depend on fast and reliable delivery, such as streaming high-definition video or relaying data from heart monitors. If this proves wrong, the government should step in. But it should not burden the Internet with preemptive regulation.

The Internet's Future - -

Yahoo e-mail under worm attack

Symantec warns of mass-mail worm that exploits a vulnerability in Yahoo's Web e-mail

A mass-mail worm that exploits a vulnerability in Yahoo's Web e-mail is making the rounds but the impact appears to be low, security vendor Symantec said Monday.

The worm, which Symantec calls JS.Yamanner@m, is different from others in that a user merely has to open the e-mail to cause it to run, said Kevin Hogan, senior manager for Symantec Security Response. Mass-mail worms have usually been contained in an attachment with an e-mail note encouraging a user to open it.

The worm, written in JavaScript, takes advantage of a vulnerability that allows scripts embedded in HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) e-mail to run in the users' browsers. Yahoo users should be able to modify their settings to block the zero-day exploit, Hogan said.

Symantec rated the worm a Level 2 threat, one notch above its least harmful ranking. Hogan said the worm did not appear to be spreading widely, and he did not anticipate the threat level rising.

When activated, the worms then sends itself to other users in the victim's address book who also use Yahoo e-mail with the suffixes of @yahoo.com or @yahoogroups.com. The worm mimics a function within Yahoo's Web mail called "Quickbuilder," which allows a user to add contacts in an address book from received e-mail, Hogan said. The process, however, is transparent to the victim, he said.

The harvested e-mail addresses are sent to a remote server. Users of Yahoo Mail Beta do not appear to be affected, Symantec said.

The worm also opens a browser that displays a Web page that does not appear to contain malicious content.

Although Yahoo's Web e-mail has not been fixed, users are advised to update virus and firewall definitions and block any e-mail sent from av3@yahoo.com. The subject line of the e-mail with the worm says "New Graphic Site," and the body says "this is test."

Yahoo officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Yahoo e-mail under worm attack - -

Robot with the human touch feels just like us


A TOUCH sensor developed to match the sensitivity of the human finger is set to herald the age of the robotic doctor.

Until now robots have been severely handicapped by their inability to feel objects with anything like the accuracy of their human creators. The very best are unable to beat the dexterity of the average six-year-old at tying a shoelace or building a house of cards.

But all that could change with the development by nanotechnologists of a device that can “feel” the shape of a coin down to the detail of the letters stamped on it.

The ability to feel with at least the same degree of sensitivity as a human finger is crucial to the development of robots that can take on complicated tasks such as open heart surgery.

Once the hurdle of touch is solved, robots have the potential vastly to increase their role in human society, whether as mechanical GPs, automated bomb disposal experts or astronauts who need not worry about getting back to Earth.



The touch device has been created by researchers in America who used nanoparticles to sense the contours of a coin. It is accurate enough to detect the outline of Abraham Lincoln’s face on a 1c coin and the letters TY in the word Liberty.

To make the sensor, the researchers built up a film consisting of alternate layers of gold and cadmium sulfide nanoparticles with a thin plastic sheet on top and glass below.

An object is placed on the plastic and an image sensor beneath the glass reads the changes in electrical current and electroluminescence caused within the nanoparticle layers.

The strength of the changes in electric charge and electroluminescence depends on how much pressure is being used. The more pronounced the shape on the coin, the stronger the signals emitted by the nanoparticles.

Analysis of the results, published in the journal Science, show that the sensitivity of the device is almost the same as that of a human finger.

Vivek Maheshwari and Ravi Saraf, of the University of Nebraska, say: “Variation in stress distribution caused by the embossing on a 1c coin leads to significant change in local current density.”

The ability to feel an object, whether a coin or a scalpel, would enable robots to improve their ability to grasp items. It would allow them to detect the texture of an item and judge whether it was slipping or being held so firmly that it was being squashed.

Richard Crowder, a senior lecturer at the School of Electronics and Computer Science at Southampton University, said the device could represent a breakthrough for robotics.

“Today’s state-of-the-art dextrous robotic hands cannot achieve tasks that most six-year-old children can do without thinking,” he said. “A key component needed for these new robots is the development of a sensor or set of sensors that can replicate the human sense of touch.”

He added: “The thin-film design permits the [researchers] to produce a single tactile sensor. The challenge is to extract the information efficiently — something the human nervous system does with supreme efficiency.”

One of the device’s big advantages over previous attempts at developing robotic touch, apart from the degree of sensitivity, is that it has the potential to be easy to use.

The nanoparticles are so thin, at 10 nanometres, that they can be brushed on to a surface such as a robotic finger without getting in the way.

They also have the potential for great durability because even if the film containing the particles gets torn, it can be quickly replaced with another.



Robots, once suitably dextrous, are widely regarded as having the potential for improving surgery because they would be more accurate. Nor would they sneeze during an operation.

Although a handful of basic “minimally invasive” medical procedures can be carried out by robots, their dexterity is too limited at present for them to be entrusted with more serious operations.

A robot that could feel the difference between healthy tissue and a cancerous tumour, however, would be an enormous step forward for medicine.

Robot with the human touch feels just like us - Saturday, June 10, 2006 -

Google Video: Movers, Shakers and history

googlevideo.jpgGoogle Video was given a couple new features today (also spotted by users of the blogoscoped forum) — the addition of Movers & Shakers, recently uploaded videos, search history, and also the main page was rearranged once again.

Movers & Shakers is a section that breaks video popularity down by country. I'm not exactly certain what makes a video a "mover and shaker", or how they are ranked. I am guessing it's basically the top 100 for each country rather than for the entire collection of videos.

googlevideomoversshakers.jpg

The "recently uploaded" section is a nice addition too — one that was only a matter of time since making their publishing speed comparable to YouTube. As the title implies, it shows you random videos that were uploaded recently (seems to be within the last week).

For those who are paranoid about Google keeping search history, one more Google service has added the ability to track your searches. Google now records your video search history and keeps it in the same location as Google search history. I guess now finding that video you watched a week ago is a bit easier.

The final change I noticed today was the rearrangement of the main page. "Featured" videos are all the way at the bottom now — a bit ironic isn't it? You would think featured videos should be the most visible, but I guess they have figured out people would rather see the popular and recent videos than the featured ones.

Google Video: Movers, Shakers and history - -

Google Minesweeper Launches

minesweeper_logo.gifContinuing it's attack against the entrenched Microsoft application monopolies, Google Labs today launched a new Ajax version of the venerable Minesweeper application. The application is not open to the public yet, but I was able to secure a screenshot which you can see below.

Coming on the heels of the Writely acquisition and launch of Google Spreadsheet, the addition of Minesweeper looks like it may finally end the MS monopoly on the desktop.

Larry Ellison of Oracle lauded the innovation, saying, "Finally, our employees have no more excuses for running Windows on their PC's! And I can work completely on my new Mac now when I'm at the office."

Google Minesweeper includes a number of impressive innovations including:

  • Online collaboration - cooperate with co-workers to uncover mines
  • Online game storage. Now you can finish that game at home.
  • Integrated GTalk for real-time trash talking.

Not everyone is so excited about this launch though. Sam Kinelson, CEO at the Sequoia-backed startup Minestrr, complained "This is just another example of Google quashing competition in a new market segment. They're just sweeping the field to keep out fast moving up-and-comers. What's next? Google Notepad?!?!" Google is already launching into a crowded field, with established startups including Minestrr, mine.sweep.er, 37mines.com, minetube, and technominer.com.

The launch is being covered over at Techcrunch ("Google changes the game") and by Om Malik ("Google sweeping up the competition").

google_minesweeper_453px.png

Google Minesweeper Launches - -

Hollywood and the hackers

Motion Picture Association President Dan Glickman locks horns with Electronic Frontier Foundation's John Perry Barlow over big media's war with the internet.

EFF website
The Electronic Frontier Foundation campaigns for 'digital freedoms'
The biggest pirate movie site on the Internet was raided by police a few days ago. Within 48 hours it was up and running in a different country. It's just another week on the barricades of the information revolution.

Over and again we at geek central find ourselves reading about the latest skirmish between the copyright cops and the darknet without ever hearing that there might be a war going on.

The hackers want to break Hollywood on the wheel of their collective ingenuity and show the suits who is in charge.

Big media wants to make money from the internet like it does with every other outlet, or at the very least not have piracy forever draining away their profits.

And they have been hammering away at each other for years now.

Grateful Dead

But could there ever be peace between these two warring tribes? Have they got anything to teach one another, or will they spend yet another decade 'not getting' each other's point of view?

DVD
Copying and sharing films has never been easier
Newsnight decided to track down the two most powerful voices on either side of the divide and ask them about their own philosophies and what they thought of their opponent.

John Perry Barlow used to be the lyricist in the US supergroup 'The Grateful Dead.' He went on to co-found the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the pressure group that's placed itself front and centre in the fight to keep the tanks of government and corporation off the lawns of cyberspace.

Congressman Dan Glickman became US Secretary for Agriculture under Bill Clinton. Nowadays he's the President and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, the body that wields the collective political and legal muscle of the Hollywood studios.

Here's an edited highlight of what they have to say about one another:


John Perry Barlow: The entertainment industry is as it always has been. It's a rough bunch of people and a rough industry. I don't think that the movie industry is any more ready than any other part of the information industries to adapt itself to the information age. But it's going to go there one way or the other.

And whatever its cries of protest and growing pains, it'll make it eventually - it's just going to do everything it can, as the record industry has done, as the publishing industry has done, to stop progress in that direction until it gets its act together.

There are a lot of kids out there copying and distributing movies... because they want to stick it to the movie business
John Perry Barlow, Electronic Frontier Foundation
And I fear that it's done grave harm to itself and to the future in the process of trying to slow down progress, but it'll go there inevitably.

Dan Glickman: John Perry Barlow is the one who's doing a disservice to the consumers, because you see if you don't adequately compensate the artist, the director, the creator, the actor, they won't do it in the first place so people won't get movies.

So, yeah, we should be protecting our copyright but it doesn't mean that we shouldn't be looking for new ways to get that content to people in modern ways - particularly young people who [understand] computers and electronic equipment and the internet very well.

John Perry Barlow
Barlow believes the studios will ultimately lose the digital battle
JPB: These are aging industries run by aging men, and they're up against 17-year-olds who have turned themselves into electronic Hezbollah because they resent the content industry for its proprietary practices. And I don't have a question about who's going to win that one eventually.

There are a lot of kids out there copying and distributing movies not because they care about seeing the movies or sharing them with their friends but because they want to stick it to the movie business. It's widely assumed that you can't compete with free and that seems like a reasonable thing to think. But this has not been my experience. I mean I've made a fair amount of money over the years writing songs for 'The Grateful Dead' who allowed their fans to tape their concerts.

We were at one point the biggest grossing performing act in the United States, and most of our records went platinum sooner or later.

It's an economic model that has worked in my experience and I think it does work. It's just that it seems like it wouldn't. It seems counter-intuitive.

DK: It is ridiculous to believe that you can give product away for free and be more successful. I mean it defies the laws of nature.

All of us kind of need to chill out
Dan Glickman, Motion Picture Association of America
Would a clothing store give all their clothes for free? Would a car dealership give all its cars for free? Of course not. If they don't make a profit in this world they're out of business. That's just the laws of human nature.

JPB: If I were to encounter Dan Glickman on the street and we were to have a civilised conversation about this subject, which would be a long shot, I'd tell him to relax.

I'd tell him to spend less of the resources of his industry on fighting the inevitable and more on learning about the conditions that they find themselves in and recognising the opportunities, which I think are vast and very encouraging. But they can't get to those opportunities until they quit trying to stop progress.

Dan Glickman
Dan Glickman says if consumers do not pay the product will not exist
DK: First of all I'd tell John Perry Barlow that I'm very relaxed and if we met each other we'd probably have a very good time. But all of us kind of need to chill out.

The fact of the matter is that people who create content for movies and television have to make a profit. If they don't you won't see all this wonderful stuff and listen to it.

But he is right to the extent that we need to be finding new and different ways to get our content to people, whether it's internet or whether it's iPod or whether it's remotely accessed in various parts of the world. If [we] don't the consumer will not be satisfied and in this business the consumer is king and queen. If you don't make them happy they won't buy your product.

JPB: I've got good news and bad news and good news. And the good news is that you guys have managed to buy every major legislative body on the planet, and the courts are even with you. So you've done a great job there and you should congratulate yourself.

But you know the problem is - the bad news is that you're up against a dedicated foe that is younger and smarter that you are and will be alive when you're dead. You're 55 years old and these kids are 17 and they're just smarter than you. So you're gonna lose that one.

But the good news is that you guys are mean sons of bitches and you've been figuring out ways of ripping off audiences and artists for centuries.....

Hollywood and the hackers - Friday, June 09, 2006 -

Microsoft releases public download of Vista

After months of limited testing, Microsoft late Wednesday made a beta version of Windows Vista publicly available for download.

The company kicked off what it called its "Customer Preview Program," a testing period in which the software maker hopes millions of tech enthusiasts will kick the tires on the new operating system.

"Microsoft today kicked off the Windows Vista Customer Preview Program (CPP), providing the broadest access yet to pre-release test versions of Windows Vista," the company said in a statement. Microsoft is aiming to wrap up testing and development of Vista later this year in hopes of a broad launch in January. The company released Beta 2 last month to a more limited group of testers and had promised the broader test would come shortly.

The software maker is still cautioning that Vista is not ready for the average consumer, pitching the CPP as suited for developers and tech workers, as well as hard-core enthusiasts who don't mind a few bugs and have a spare machine for testing. Microsoft also recommends those interested in the CPP run its recently released adviser tool, which helps detect how Vista-ready a PC is.

People can either download the software from Microsoft's Web site or pay a small fee to get it on DVD.

Although Microsoft is looking for millions of testers, it has said it may cap the test program at some point.

Microsoft releases public download of Vista - Wednesday, June 07, 2006 -

Survey: iPods more popular than beer

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Move over Bud. College life isn't just about drinking beer. In a rare instance, Apple Computer Inc.'s iconic iPod music player surpassed beer drinking as the most "in" thing among undergraduate college students, according to the latest biannual market research study by Ridgewood, N.J.-based Student Monitor.

Nearly three quarters, or 73 percent, of 1,200 students surveyed said iPods were "in" — more than any other item in a list that also included text messaging, bar hopping and downloading music.

In the year-ago study, only 59 percent of students named the iPod as "in," putting the gadget well below alcohol-related activities.

This year, drinking beer and Facebook.com, a social networking Web site, were tied for second most popular, with 71 percent of the students identifying them as "in."

The only other time beer was temporarily dethroned in the 18 years of the survey was in 1997 — by the Internet, said Eric Weil, a managing partner at Student Monitor.

Though beer might soon regain its No. 1 spot, as it quickly did a decade ago, the iPod's popularity is still "a remarkable sign," Weil said. "For those who believe there's an excessive amount of drinking on campus, now there's something else that's common on campuses."

Student Monitor conducted the survey the week of March 6, interviewing full-time undergraduate students at 100 U.S. colleges. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.

Survey: iPods more popular than beer - -

Google admits being compromised over China

Google has admitted for the first time that it compromised its principles when it entered the Chinese market and agreed to toe Beijing’s strict line on censorship.

Speaking in Washington, Sergey Brin, Google’s billionaire co-founder, said the company, which operates under the motto "do no evil", had adopted "a set of rules that we weren’t comfortable with".

In a hint that Google could adjust its stance in China in the future, he added: "Perhaps now the principled approach makes more sense."

Google’s decision to launch its Chinese site, Google.cn, last year met with a barrage of criticism when it emerged that search results for politically sensitive topics such as the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre would be censored.

The pact made between Google and China’s leaders led to the internet company being branded "a megaphone for communist propaganda" at a US Congressional hearing called after the move.

Critics including Reporters Without Borders, the press freedom group, have called China "the world champion" of internet censorship. The country has invested heavily in a sophisticated filtering system, dubbed "The Great Firewall", which allows the authorities to search out dissidents and block their sites.

Mr Brin said: "We felt that perhaps we could compromise our principles but provide ultimately more information for the Chinese and be a more effective service and perhaps make more of a difference."

The lure of the massive Chinese market has also seen Google's arch-rivals Microsoft and Yahoo! dragged into the controversy. In particular, Yahoo! has been condemned for handing over e-mail details that led to several outspoken Chinese bloggers being jailed.

However, it is questionable whether Google could afford to turn its back on China's explosive economy.

Yesterday, Times Online revealed how the company has struggled to compete in businesses outside its core search service. Failures to break into fields such as news and financial information could up the pressure on Google to extend the reach of its search tool – already the world’s most popular – into new territories.

In April, Google rebranded itself as "Gu Ge" - or "Harvesting Song" - in China, a move it said demonstrated its commitment to its controversial entry there. Speaking in Beijing at the time, Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive, said: "We believe that the decision that we made to follow the law in China was absolutely the right one."

Commenting on the massive growth of the Chinese online advertising, Mr Schmidt said: "I don’t know where [Chinese] revenue growth will be, but it will obviously be large."

The attraction of Chinese cyberspace and its massive pool of potential consumers for America's internet giants has long been clear.

Dr Charles Zhang, the chief executive of Sohu.com, China's largest web portal, said there are at least 150 million Chinese internet users, and there could be as many as 200 million. Those figures would place China neck-and-neck with the US in terms of internet users.

Mr Brin was in Washington to ask US senators to approve a plan that would safeguard "net neutrality" – the current online system which means all internet content is handled equally.

In meetings with Republican John McCain, a member of the Senate committee that oversees telecoms issues, he argued against a system that would allow telephone and cable companies to collect premium fees from companies such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! for faster delivery of their services

"The only way to have a fast lane that is useful – that people will pay a premium for – is if there are slow lanes," he said.

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