Technology

Save Windows XP! The Clock Is Ticking!

January 22, 2008 Microsoft plans to end most sales of Windows XP on June 30, despite a deep reluctance by many business and individuals about moving to Vista . InfoWorld believes such an expensive, time-consuming shift with problematic benefits should not be forced on Windows users, so they have decided to rally XP users to demand that XP be kept available.

Microsoft will end OEM and shrink-wrapped sales of Windows XP on June 30, 2008 , forcing users to move to Vista . Don’t let that happen!

Join the 41,185 people so far who have signed InfoWorld’s online petition to demand that Microsoft not stop OEM and shrink wrapped sales of Windows XP as planned on June 30, 2008, but instead keep it available indefinitely.

Millions of us have grown comfortable with XP and don’t see a need to change to Vista . It’s like having a comfortable apartment that you’ve enjoyed coming home to for years, only to get an eviction notice. The thought of moving to a new place — even with the stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, and maple cabinets (or is cherry in this year?) — just doesn’t sit right. Maybe it’ll be more modern, but it will also cost more and likely not be as good a fit. And you don’t have any other reason to move.

That’s exactly the conclusion people have come to with Vista . For most of us, there’s really no reason to move to it — yet we don’t have a choice. When that strong desire to stick with XP became obvious in spring 2007, major computer makers such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard quietly reintroduced new XP-based systems (but just to business customers, so as not to offend Microsoft). Come June 30, however, even that option goes away.

So what to do? Let Microsoft decide where your personal and enterprise software “lives”? Or send a loud and clear message that you don’t want to move?

InfoWorld is going for the loud-and-clear option. Sign the petition, and tell Microsoft that you want to keep XP available indefinitely. Not for another six months or a year but indefinitely. Ak your friends and colleagues to join in, too. Just point them to SaveXP.com for a quick link to the petition.

Don’t think Microsoft will listen? Consider this: Although Microsoft denies that anything is wrong with Vista or that most people don’t want it, the company has already postponed XP’s demise by six months. That’s a start, but it’s just not good enough.

Microsoft doesn’t have to admit failure; it can just say it will keep XP available indefinitely due to customer demand. It can take that opportunity to try again with a better Vista , or just move on to the next version that maybe this time we’ll all actually want.

There’s a precedent for that, too: In many respects, Vista is like the Windows Millennium Edition that was meant to replace Windows 98 in 2000 but caused more trouble than it was worth. At that time, Windows 2000 was promising but didn’t support a lot of hardware, so users were stuck between two bad choices. Without admitting Millennium’s failure, Microsoft quietly put Windows 98 back on the market until the fixed version of Windows 2000 (SP1) was available. Microsoft needs to do something like that again today.

Make sure your voice is heard by Microsoft. Sign the petition to save XP today and InfoWorld will present it to Microsoft.

http://www.savexp.com

Washington Post sticks by RIAA story despite evidence it goofed…


Well, it’s late on Monday evening and the Washington Post has yet to correct a story that accused the recording industry of trying to paint law-abiding music fans as criminals.

Marc Fisher, a Post columnist, wrote on Sunday that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) asserted in a legal brief that anyone who copies music from a CD onto their computer is a thief.

The document, filed last month, was part of the RIAA’s copyright suit against Jeffrey Howell, an Arizona resident accused of illegal file sharing.

Quoting from the brief, Fisher wrote that the RIAA had argued that MP3 files created from legally bought CDs are “unauthorized copies” and violate the law. If it were true, the move would represent a major shift in strategy by the RIAA, which typically hasn’t challenged an individual’s right to copy CDs for personal use.

The problem with Fisher’s story is that nowhere in the RIAA’s brief does the group call someone a criminal for simply copying music to a computer. Throughout the 21-page brief, the recording industry defines what it considers to be illegal behavior and it boils down to this: creating digital recordings from CDs and then uploading them to file-sharing networks.

A sentence on page 15 of the brief clearly spells out the RIAA’s position: “Once (Howell) converted plaintiff’s recording into the compressed MP3 format and they are in his shared folder, they are no longer the authorized copies distributed by Plaintiff.”

The key words there are “shared folder” and it’s an important distinction. It means that before the RIAA considers someone a criminal, a person has to at least appear to be distributing music.

The Post story, which followed similar pieces in Ars Technica and Wired.com, has spurred scores of other media outlets to repeat the paper’s erroneous assertion. Ironically, even typically anti-RIAA blogs, such as Engadget, Gizmodo and TechDirt have jumped in on the side of the RIAA.

“The Washington Post story is wrong,” said Jonathan Lamy, an RIAA spokesman. “As numerous commentators have since discovered after taking the time to read our brief, the record companies did not allege that ripping a lawfully acquired CD to a computer or transferring a copy to an MP3 player is infringement. This case is about the illegal distribution of copyrighted songs on a peer-to-peer network, not making copies of legally acquired music for personal use.”

After reading Lamy’s statement, Fisher didn’t back down. He responded in an e-mail to CNET News.com: “The bottom line is that there is a disconnect between RIAA’s publicly stated policy that making a personal copy of a CD is ok and the theory advanced by its lawyers that in fact, transferring music to your computer is an unauthorized act.”

He took one more shot before signing off: “Rather than suing its customers and slamming reporters, the RIAA might better spend its energies focusing on winning back the trust of an alienated consumer base.”

Still, Fisher received little support from respected and independent copyright experts. William Patry, the copyright guru at Google–not exactly known as a lackey for copyright holders–wrote on his blog that the RIAA is being “unfairly maligned” in the Post story.

Patry does, however, caution that recent statements made by the RIAA and included in Fisher’s story reflect the group’s growing tendency to use language as a means of control.

Fisher quoted Sony BMG’s chief of litigation, Jennifer Pariser, who testified recently in court that “when an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song.”

Patry disagreed.
“This new rhetoric of ‘everything anyone does without (RIAA) permission is stealing’ is well worth noting and well worth challenging at every occasion,” Patry wrote. “It is the rhetoric of copyright as an ancient property right, permitting copyright owners to control all uses as a natural right; the converse is that everyone else is an immoral thief.”

Washington Post Article
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/28/AR2007122800693_pf.html

See the legal brief here:
http://www.ilrweb.com/viewILRPDF.asp?filename=atlantic_howell_071207RIAASupplementalBrief

ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS A NEW PC

December 4, 2007
Decisions, Decisions, Decision

With the holidays coming up, way to quickly I might add, perhaps it’s time to investigate getting a new PC. Dell is selling its PCs in Staples office supply stores as evidenced by the Staples flyer in this past Sunday’s newspaper. The PC lineup includes Dell’s Inspiron 530 desktop PCs and two versions of Inspiron notebooks, as well as supplemental Dell products like all-in-one printers and flat-panel LCD monitors. These are consumer based PC’s with limited warranties and most likely off shore technical support. Buying through a retailer also limits the add-ons and bells and whistles available. These systems are pre-configured, cash and carry boxes with no customization is available.

Will this help Dell have a strong holiday sales push?
Dell’s deal with Wal-Mart was grand when it was announced, but since the company has given no specific performance figures on how well its retail effort in Wal-Mart has fared, it’s hard to gauge how customers will react to Dell’s brand in Staples. Does Staples even sell many PCs?Dell systems in Wal-Mart stores reflected an aura of older or overstocked parts assembled into PCs and dumped into Wal-Mart’s parking lot, rather than any specific computer build made for the retailer, and I’m not so sure customers have responded in droves to buy Dells inside those local Wal-Mart stores. Not enough time has gone by, though, so I could be jumping the gun here.

Last month, Wal-Mart started selling a $200 Linux-based machine
(the Everex TC2052 gPC) that we spoke of a few months ago. The initial run was around 10,000 units and now Wal-Mart is sold out. Perhaps Linux has found a niche. These PC’s don’t have what it takes to run Windows Vista, but they have enough power to do pretty much everything that users want from a PC.
Dell’s latest partnership with Staples will put its PCs and products into 1,400 more retail locations, which will instantly give it more exposure to the American buying public. Perhaps that is what Dell is going after here — mass exposure (which generates a certain amount of purchases) instead of strategic, slower partnerships. Dell is expected to strike more retail agreements in the next 12 to 18 months. Dell is now significantly behind competitor Hewlett-Packard in overall computer system sales, and these retail efforts are considered by many to be a desperate attempt to win back market share. Right now, it’s too early to attribute any success or failure in that effort.As the seasons roll around so do the quarterly PC sales numbers. It will be a chilly fall for Dell. In the third quarter, the Texas-based PC company shipped 9.8 million PCs. That was an increase of less than 4% over the same period last year, and gave the company 14% of the global market, according to The Wall Street Journal.By way of contrast, Hewlett-Packard shipped 12.8 million PCs world-wide, enough for 19% of the market and a 33% increase from the year earlier period.

Ouch…..It would appear that HP is going to report especially strong PC sales when it releases its third quarter earnings. Its shares are already at almost $53, near their 52-week high.

So, Santa… your choices are varied and numerous. Be sure to do your homework before plunking down your hard earned cash. Remember, extended warranties and effective technical support are worth a little extra money.

Speed up Web Surfing with OpenDNS

Listen To Recorded Audio:
[audio:ACTSMART1106.mp3]

November 6th, 2007

OpenDNS is the cutting-edge Internet service by a San Francisco-based company. Simply put, with OpenDNS you are no longer tied to using your ISP’s slow and much overworked DNS servers.

What the heck is DNS?
Whenever you access a website your computer first contacts a domain name server (DNS) to find out what server IP address is paired with that particular domain name. By default without any configuration your computer automatically uses DNS servers provided by your ISP which are commonly overused and slow. You can experience anywhere from 50 milliseconds to a second or more when dealing with slow DNS’s before your computer can interact with the actual website.

Enter OpenDNS
By configuring your computer to use the domain name servers at OpenDNS you can benefit from more reliable and faster DNS servers and queries. But it doesn’t stop there – Block the bad sites and whitelist the good.

Phishing Protection

OpenDNS operates PhishTank.com, the world’s most trusted source of phishing data. They integrate that data into an intelligence feed on their DNS servers to keep everyone on your network safe from phony sites trying to steal personal information.

Domain Blocking

You want to secure your network and have control over what resolves. OpenDNS gives you that control by providing the tools to block any website or DNS zone on the Internet, all through an easy-to-use interface.

Adult Site Blocking

Safeguard your kids, protect your students, or limit your corporate liability by blocking adult websites. The OpenDNS adult site blocking solution can be deployed in minutes and provides granular levels of blocking. Did I mention it’s completely free?

Web Proxy Blocking
Prevent people on your network from bypassing the access restrictions you put in place. Blocking Web proxies helps ensure your network remains secure.

Domain Whitelisting
They also provide a (growing) list of Web content filtering categories to block, but sometimes there is a domain you want to make sure is never blocked, even if it’s listed in a feed. Have the final say with the Domain Whitelisting feature.

Got stats? Statistics
Understand your Web traffic with intutive stats about your network’s DNS. This is your data, and now you can view it like never before. And of course, if you don’t want stats, they won’t collect any DNS data from you, at all.

To the end user, the OpenDNS service is truly transparent. You won’t really notice that you’re using it with the exception of the speed and security improvements. It does nothing to hinder your browsing habits.

Okay so now that I’ve got your attention you’re probably wondering how you too can start browsing with OpenDNS. It’s rather simple, all you need to do is tell your computer (or router if you’re on a network) to use the OpenDNS servers whose IP’s can be found on their website. Fortunately, for those folks with no idea where to start, they offer comprehensive guides to setting it all up. Choose the brand and model router you own and follow the simple instructions.

What to do?
The best thing to do is sign up for an OPENDNS account. It’s absolutely FREE so make a positive move towards a faster, safer and more secure internet for your home, family or business.

https://www.opendns.com/start

Brit's are always on Candid Camera

October 23, 2007

“There was, of course, no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment…. You had to live-did live, from habit that became instinct-in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.” –George Orwell, 1984

It used to be that troublemakers could lounge on the planters outside the McDonald’s there and pick apart the geraniums to their hearts’ content. A hamburger server or customer could complain, but these days, Big Brother does the job.The closed-circuit television camera lurking down the street from the fast-food restaurant bellows menacingly at the first sign of danger to the flora, or a cast-off cigarette butt or fast-food wrapper. “Pick it up,” commands a booming voice from . . . where, exactly?

The closed-circuit cameras in Gloucester and several other British towns now come equipped with speakers, meaning Big Brother is not only watching, he’s telling you what to do.

“When people hear that, they tend to react. They pick up the litter and put it in the bin,” said Mick Matthews, assistant chief police constable in this old cathedral city of 110,000 in the rolling Cotswold Hills .

For all the increased antiterrorism security measures in the United States , there is probably no society on Earth more watched than Britain . By some estimates, 4.2 million closed-circuit cameras, or one for every 14 people, quietly, and sometimes not so quietly, monitor the comings and goings of almost everyone – an average person is caught on camera up to 300 times a day.

Thanks in part to Britain ‘s history of terrorist attacks by the Irish Republican Army, some early, high-profile law enforcement successes helped imprint the potential benefits of closed-circuit television on the popular imagination.

With more than $200 million in funding since 1999, closed-circuit cameras were a fixture in British cities long before terrorist attacks began prompting other governments to step up surveillance of their populations.

Cameras are fixed on lampposts and on street corners, above sidewalks, in subways, on buses, in taxis, in stores, over the parking lots, in mobile police vans, and in some cities, even perched in the hats of police officers walking their beats.

Surprisingly clear images of Britons engaged in apparently nefarious activities have become a staple on the evening news there; few of the country’s many terrorism trials unfold without the jury being presented with multiple images of the defendants carrying alleged backpack bombs or driving up to a storehouse of explosives.

Pub patrons in one town last year had their fingerprints scanned as they walked in (bringing up their criminal records on a computer screen); some cities are talking of putting electronic chips in household trash cans to measure output; a toll-free “smoke-free compliance line” takes snitch reports on violators of the new national ban on smoking in public places.

The DNA profile of every person ever arrested – even those briefly detained for, say, loitering and released without charge – is on file in what is believed to be, per capita, the largest such database in the world, with 3.9 million samples. It includes the genetic markings of an estimated 40 percent of Britain ‘s black male population.

For the majority of Britons, polls indicate, there is nothing wrong with the monitoring.

Public acceptance of closed-circuit television skyrocketed after the murder of toddler James Bulger near Liverpool in 1993. In closed-circuit camera footage that shocked the country, the killers, a pair of 10-year-old boys, were shown leading the trusting boy away from a shopping center.

So, how do YOU feel about closed-circuit cameras? I’ve searched the web and cannot find even an estimate of how many cameras might be watching us in the USA .  Is it a good thing? Let me know your thoughts.

As reported in the Boston GLobe and many newspapers across the country.

Get Your 15 Minutes of Fame For Under $150

THe Flip

Listen To Recorded Audio:
[audio:ACT Smart 1002.mp3]

Video production is exploding and sites such as You Tube are driving the market.
Pure Digital Technologies CEO Jonathan Kaplan had a simple idea: Video cameras were too hard to use. Last year, this 6-year-old San Francisco-based company introduced a $129 point-and-shoot-style camcorder, initially sold just at Target stores. Recently, the company unveiled the revamped successor to its first video camera which has allowed Pure Digital to quietly snag major market share from rivals Sony, Panasonic and Canon.
Meet The Family – Life Now Has A Play Button
Pure Digital’s Flip Video is currently the No.1 best-selling video camera at Amazon and Target.com. Selling for $119 and $149, the new Flip Video Ultra touts improved video resolution, a better microphone and a slot for a tripod. The Flip comes in two flavors: 30-minute or 60-minute and it’s also available in five colors: orange, red, green, white and black.
Pure Digital has sold over 350,000 camcorders and predicts sales will top 1 million by early next year. It’s not just added distribution that will enable them to triple sales in just a few months, it’s also better exposure in stores as Wal-Mart and Costco have agreed to give Flip merchandising space. Pure Digital’s first product was a one-time-use digital still camera that you had drop off at a photo finisher (mostly drugstores) equipped to process the images. Many of those early customers requested a camera they could own — which led to the development of the Flip.Convenience Trumps Quality
Not that the Flip will appeal to your inner Spielberg. It shoots video the same way digital cameras do, using the image sensor to transform pictures into video. The quality is generally described as good, but not as good as a Mini-DV or a DVD camcorder.
At first glance, the new and old Flip look remarkably similar. Both are made of plastic, but the new version touts a higher-grade material and a sleeker, more contemporary feel. One noticeable improvement: a bigger and brighter LCD preview screen. On the earlier version, one of the complaints was that seeing anything on the screen in bright sunlight was virtually impossible.Pure Digital is having an easy time reaching low-end or entry level consumers, because most manufacturers don’t care about that market; companies like Panasonic emphasize high-definition and better video quality. Paul Ryder, vice president of consumer electronics for Amazon, says the Flip struck a chord with Amazon’s audience. “Online, the customers tell the story about how easy the camera is to use,” he says. “That really helps sell it.” In refreshing the camera, the engineers kept it simple. Most companies have a tendency to throw more and more into the product for new versions and then it gets more complicated to use. The Flip is still simple to use and the audio and video quality is improved. For everyday use, it’s a great camera at a reasonable price. Expect the price to come down as distribution goes up – this could be a great holiday gift this year.Check it out: The Flip

The Pudding

Company Will Monitor Phone Calls to Tailor Advertising
Big Brother Is Listening?
September 25th, 2007

Listen To Recorded Audio:
[audio:ACT Smart 0925.mp3]

This has to be one of the wackiest business ideas I’ve heard of in years (and there’s certainly been some doozies). Companies like Google scan their e-mail users’ in-boxes to deliver ads related to those messages. Will people be as willing to let a company listen in on their phone conversations to do the same?

The Company: Pudding Media
Pudding Media, a start-up based in San Jose , California , is introducing an Internet phone service today that will be supported by advertising related to what people are talking about on their calls. The Web-based phone service is similar to Skype’s online service — consumers plug a headset and a microphone into their computers, dial any phone number and chat away. But unlike Internet phone services that charge by the length of the calls, Pudding Media offers calling without any toll charges.

The trade-off is that Pudding Media is eavesdropping on phone calls in order to display ads on the screen that are related to the conversation. Voice recognition software monitors the calls, selects ads based on what it hears and pushes the ads to the subscriber’s computer screen while he or she is still talking.

A conversation about movies, for example, will elicit movie reviews and ads for new films that the caller will see during the conversation. Pudding Media is working on a way to e-mail the ads and other content to the person on the other end of the call, or to show it on that person’s cellphone screen.

What THEY say: “We saw that when people are speaking on the phone, typically they were doing something else,” said Ariel Maislos, chief executive of Pudding Media. “They had a lot of other action, either doodling or surfing or something else like that. So we said, ‘Let’s use that’ and actually present them with things that are relevant to the conversation while it’s happening.”

The company’s model, of course, raises questions about the line between target advertising and violation of privacy. Consumer-brand companies are increasingly trying to use data about people to deliver different ads to them based on their demographics and behavior online.

Why will Pudding Media flop?
Free or nearly free phone calls are already available from dozens of companies, including Skype. The difference between 2 cents a minute and 0 cents a minute (for SkypeOut users) is negligible.

Except for people trying the service to see how relevant the targeted ads are (of which there will be many, especially after the New York Times article), users will be absolutely freaked out by the idea that someone/something is listening to their phone calls.

I think it’s a safe bet that advertisers will be extremely cautious fearing potential consumer backlash
Want to give it a go? http://www.thepudding.com/

See the full New York Times article:
Company Will Monitor Phone Calls to Tailor Ads

If you want to weigh in on this article add your comments

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