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Old 14-01-09, 08:59 AM   #1
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Join Date: May 2001
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Default Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - January 17th, '09

Since 2002

"We all collected classical albums, which we frequently shared on evenings when we got together to listen to music and challenge each other in wild games of hearts." – Charles Schulz

"I want to find out what it’s like to have a gigabit connection to the home. It is not because I need to watch porn in high-definition but because I want to see what you do differently." – Mark Shuttleworth

"It would make for one big badass botnet." – Mikko Hypponen

"I need Apple to be harrying Microsoft. We need someone stirring the pot. God forbid that there is no one stirring the pot anymore. We’ll become Detroit." – Stephen G. Perlman

"I have decided to take a medical leave of absence." – Steve Jobs

January 10th, 2009

Apple's Jobs to Take Leave

CEO says health issues 'more complex than originally thought,' to be sidelined until end of June.
Ben Rooney

Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs said Wednesday he will take a leave of absence because of health issues.

Jobs, who announced last week that he suffered from a hormone imbalance that was caused him to lose weight, said he will be away from the job until the end of June.

"In order to take myself out of the limelight and focus on my health, and to allow everyone at Apple to focus on delivering extraordinary products, I have decided to take a medical leave of absence until the end of June," Jobs said in a statement.

Tim Cook, the company's chief operating officer, will be responsible for Apple's day to day operations, according to the statement.

Apple shares closed down $2.38 to $85.33 in Wednesday trading. They were halted after hours pending the announcement.

Can Apple Fill the Void?
Brad Stone

It has been in the air for some time, but Apple can dodge the question no longer: How important is Steven P. Jobs to its future?

By all accounts, Mr. Jobs’s perfectionism, autocratic managerial style and disregard for conventional wisdom are at the heart of Apple’s remarkable streak of success.

Since he returned to Apple in 1996, the company has set a new standard for design in personal computers, built a chain of sleek and always-crowded stores, jump-started the sale of digital music and turned the mobile phone into a fun, flexible computer.

This is clearly the stuff of business legend. But now the company faces the real possibility that its inspirational leader may fade from the scene. Mr. Jobs, Apple’s co-founder and chief executive, said on Wednesday that he was taking a leave of absence from Apple until June because his health issues — he is a survivor of pancreatic cancer — are “more complicated” than he first thought.

That terse letter, after he had played down his illness just last week, left Apple watchers asking what might happen to the company if Mr. Jobs does not return in June as planned.

Analysts are quick to point out the strength of the company’s management bench. Timothy D. Cook, its longtime chief operating officer, will take over at least temporarily and is responsible for Apple’s manufacturing and sales operation, which are the envy of the consumer electronics industry. Jonathan Ive, Apple’s design chief, runs the team that has created much of the functional, visceral and emotional allure of Apple products, whose design ambitions extend right down to its elegant packaging.

But some Apple watchers and former employees are skeptical about Apple’s fate if it is forced to soldier on without Mr. Jobs.

“If you look at the history, Apple can coast for several years and still do very well,” said Paul Mercer, who worked for Apple in the 80s and subsequently developed software that was used to design the user interface for the first iPod. “But it’s very risky, and without Steve, the long term is untenable.”

The stories about Mr. Jobs are well known, like his insistence that even the insides of the Macintosh computer, which hardly anyone ever sees, should look good. His obsession with detail permeates everything Apple does, and that principle will certainly not disappear from the company if he is gone.

But there are other aspects of his role that do not get as much attention and may be more difficult to replace. At many technology companies, various divisions often work at cross purposes, competing with one other to develop related products. This can lead to devices and software that are sometimes incompatible, frustrating customers.

Mr. Jobs, former Apple employees say, has the authority and long-term vision to yoke Apple managers and employees together under a single cause.

“Steve is terrific at attracting and retaining people, creating an agenda and getting people to stick to it,” said Stephen G. Perlman, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who was a principal scientist at Apple in the 1980s. “It’s very hard to find somebody who is so credible, and who has such a strong following that he is able to cut through corporate politics.”

Mr. Jobs has also been Apple’s chief deal maker. After introducing the iTunes store in 2003, he persuaded entertainment companies to sell digital versions of their products when they were largely bivouacked, hiding in fear of piracy. In large part because of Mr. Jobs’s efforts, those barriers have fallen, though other challenges remain like getting the Hollywood studios to relax their restrictions on renting or downloading movies over the Internet.

In their moments of great anxiety, Apple fans look back to the late ’80s and early ’90s for a glimpse of Apple without Mr. Jobs. After he was ousted in a boardroom coup in 1985, Apple actually thrived for several years, unveiling the first Mac with a color screen, the PowerBook laptop and QuickTime, which broke ground in bringing video to personal computers.

But then, to the horror of its diehard fans, Apple withered. Its stock fell 68 percent from its 1991 peak to Mr. Jobs’s triumphant return in 1996.

In the meantime, three chief executives came and went, and Apple’s core product, the Macintosh, did not evolve as fast as computers based on Microsoft Windows.

Part of the problem, say people who were at Apple during the lean years, could be traced back to Mr. Jobs himself: he had not allowed anyone with talents similar to his own to rise at the company. Some think that may also be true today.

“Steve’s personality is such that he had not brought up other people who could do what he does. He’s the kind of person who pushes away people who are like himself,” said Ted Kaehler, who worked on the original team that developed the first graphical user interface at the research center known as Xerox Parc, and he later worked at Apple in the ’80s.

But some Apple watchers are reluctant to use the past as a guide. Andrew Hertzfeld, who helped develop the original Macintosh and now works at Google, says that Apple has had 12 more years under Mr. Jobs’s leadership to soak up his unique values.

He also notes that products already in the pipeline — which analysts say may include new iMacs and smaller iPhones — already bear Mr. Jobs’s imprint and can sustain Apple for years to come. “It will take half a decade for the absence of Steve to really show up in the products,” Mr. Hertzfeld said.

Some think Mr. Jobs’s imprint on Apple could last even longer, perhaps for decades, even if for some reason he is unable to come back in June. James W. Breyer, an influential Silicon Valley venture capitalist, sits on the board of Wal-Mart and says the values of its founder, Sam Walton, still drive the retailer 17 years after his death.

“I can’t recall a board meeting where Sam’s spirit and contribution have not been cited in some way,” Mr. Breyer said. “In the same way, I expect Steve Jobs, through his genius, will always represent the DNA of Apple.”

After the initial shock of Mr. Jobs’s letter sent Apple’s stock sharply lower in after-hours trading on Wednesday, investors were a little calmer on Thursday. The shares fell 2.3 percent to $83.38.

Still, there are those who worry that Mr. Jobs’s absence will have an impact even beyond Apple.

“The whole world is concerned about Apple. I’m concerned about Silicon Valley,” said Mr. Perlman, the entrepreneur. “I need Apple to be harrying Microsoft. We need someone stirring the pot. God forbid that there is no one stirring the pot anymore. We’ll become Detroit.”

Report Calls Online Threats to Children Overblown
Brad Stone

The Internet may not be such a dangerous place for children after all.

A task force created by 49 state attorneys general to look into the problem of sexual solicitation of children online has concluded that there really is not a significant problem.

The findings ran counter to popular perceptions of online dangers as reinforced by depictions in the news media like NBC’s “To Catch a Predator” series. One attorney general was quick to criticize the group’s report.

The panel, the Internet Safety Technical Task Force, was charged with examining the extent of the threats children face on social networks like MySpace and Facebook, amid widespread fears that adults were using these popular Web sites to deceive and prey on children.

But the report concluded that the problem of bullying among children, both online and offline, poses a far more serious challenge than the sexual solicitation of minors by adults.

“This shows that social networks are not these horribly bad neighborhoods on the Internet,” said John Cardillo, chief executive of Sentinel Tech Holding, which maintains a sex offender database and was part of the task force. “Social networks are very much like real-world communities that are comprised mostly of good people who are there for the right reasons.”

The 278-page report, released Tuesday, was the result of a year of meetings between dozens of academics, experts in childhood safety and executives of 30 companies, including Yahoo, AOL, MySpace and Facebook.

The task force, led by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, looked at scientific data on online sexual predators and found that children and teenagers were unlikely to be propositioned by adults online. In the cases that do exist, the report said, teenagers are typically willing participants and are already at risk because of poor home environments, substance abuse or other problems.

Not everyone was happy with the conclusions. Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut attorney general, who has forcefully pursued the issue and helped to create the task force, said he disagreed with the report. Mr. Blumenthal said it “downplayed the predator threat,” relied on outdated research and failed to provide a specific plan for improving the safety of social networking.

“Children are solicited every day online,” Mr. Blumenthal said. “Some fall prey, and the results are tragic. That harsh reality defies the statistical academic research underlying the report.”

In what social networks may view as something of an exoneration after years of pressure from law enforcement, the report said sites like MySpace and Facebook “do not appear to have increased the overall risk of solicitation.”

Attorneys general like Mr. Blumenthal and Roy Cooper of North Carolina publicly accused the social networks of facilitating the activities of pedophiles and pushed them to adopt measures to protect their youngest users. Citing studies that showed tens of thousands of convicted sex offenders were using MySpace, they pressured the networks to purge those people from their membership databases.

The attorneys general also charged the task force with evaluating technologies that might play a role in enhancing safety for children online. An advisory board composed of academic computer scientists and forensics experts was created within the task force to look at technologies and ask companies in the industry to submit their child-protection systems.

Among the systems the technology board looked at included age verification technologies that try to authenticate the identities and ages of children and prevent adults from contacting them. But the board concluded that such systems “do not appear to offer substantial help in protecting minors from sexual solicitation.”

One problem is that it is difficult to verify the ages and identities of children because they do not have driver’s licenses or insurance.

Industry Peers Slam Govt File Sharing Filter
Darren Pauli

A federal government move to stamp-out illegal file sharing via the national Internet content filtering scheme will be impossible, experts say, without blanket ban on peer-to-peer traffic.

Communications minister Stephen Conroy issued the furtive announcement last month in a government blog that ISPs may be required to block illegal file sharing in peer-to-peer networks -- used by the likes of LimeWire, Kazaa and BitTorrent clients.

"Technology that filters peer-to-peer and BitTorrent traffic does exist and it is anticipated that the effectiveness of this will be tested in the live pilot trial," Conroy wrote in the blog.

The national clean feed Internet scheme, part of the government's $128 million Plan for Cyber Safety, will impose national content filtering for all Internet connections and will block Web pages detailed in two blacklists operated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

Penetration testing firm Assurance.com.au director Neal Wise said blocking illegal content over peer-to-peer traffic is too resource-intensive and detrimental to legitimate traffic to be feasible.

"It is one thing to use a proxy server to ban a list of Web sites, but other application protocols are a whole other thing -- many peer-to-peer [networks] are particularly cunning and get around firewalls and packet filters," Wise said.

"[Both filters] can be easily defeated. The Internet routes around damage and people will get around it if it becomes mandatory... the hackers always win.

"In all likelihood the practical way this will be implemented is by blocking or throttling all peer-to-peer, rather than doing it selectively."

He said enforcement will be difficult because current technology cannot effectively filter the huge reams of data travelling over the networks and ISPs are unwilling police users.

The announcement follows criticism that Web filtering will not block the large amount of illegal material distributed across peer-to-peer networks.

Pure Hacking senior security consultant Chris Gatford said ISPs lack the resources to block only illegal material which requires potentially billions of shared files to be verified.

"It will be an extremely arduous task and I don't believe there is technology capable of filtering the huge amount of data," Gatford said.

"It is too much of a challenge to filter the networks and the government won't be able to block a whole protocol unless we go the way of China.

"Data re-packed and re-seeded 40 times can't be located and torrent trackers aren't reliable enough... the government should really walk away from it."

Internode network engineer Mark Newton said wide-spread use of peer-to-peer encryption will require the entire protocol to be blocked to stop illegal file sharing.

Experts say legitimate uses of peer-to-peer protocols mean a blanket ban is not feasible despite the fact it is used to circulate copyright-protected and illegal media.

Wise said commercial organisations will overtake illegal file sharers as the heaviest users of peer-to-peer networks within five years for the dissemination of media-rich content.

"It is a logical way to distribute media en masse; illegal sharers have proven this," he said.

Open Source Industry Australia CEO Damian Hickey said the protocols are being recognised by commercial and open source communities as the fastest way to distribute and store large files such as software and video.

"We are considering making a GPL license our video solution and converting it to peer-to-peer so it is held on computers run as servers... it would be an absolute killer for us if video was filtered while we are running it.":

"Filtering is an impediment to business -- we often have designers working for us who will deliver their work to us via BitTorrent.

"It would be a total pain in the arse if peer-to-peer was filtered [because] of how it would affect distributed version control.

"I don't think they want to filter distributed version control but you can put video up on it and it becomes just another way of getting around it."

Optus and iiNet confirmed participation in the live content filtering trial, scheduled for completion sometime this month, but said the government has yet to advise whether peer-to-peer filtering will be included.

"We are very committed to ensuring illegal content is eliminated as much as possible from the Internet and we want to work with government to make sure it is done in the best possible way," Optus director of government and corporate affairs Maha Krishnapillai said.

German Family Minister Requires Internet Filtering

U.S. service providers are "still in this legislature" to start, Internet addresses with child pornography content to block. That gave Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen announced in Berlin. The BKA will be updated daily block lists.

"I have," said Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen in Berlin, "with my colleague Wolfgang Schäuble and Michael Glos agreed." According concrete fell at the beginning of a press conference at the von der Leyen to Berlin had loaded, its conclusion on the future dealing with child pornography content on the Internet: "Even in this legislature" will be a filtering system by the German service providers (ISPs), which future access to such sites and offers to prevent.


Federal Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen: Placed within a very short time a filter against child pornography by
By early March, a "binding agreement" with all the major German internet providers are available. Now, together with the Interior Department and the economy is a necessary legal clarification in Telemediengesetz prepared.

From filters wanted von der Leyen, however, do not say: She prefers the term "blocking access", that is blocking access. Should be done through a list, updated daily by the BKA to the service provider is committed. These have to be implemented.

Concerns that such a system could also be an instrument of censorship for other themes and topics are wanted von der Leyen not accept: "We must not dilute the issue." Child pornography is a problem issue and "clearly identifiable." You can not exclude what future federal governments "for" needs and develop plans. "

As experts had von der Leyen one of the Norwegian police investigators invited to a similar block lists system against child pornography begins. In Norway, covers the block list at any given time about a thousand addresses, however, frequently changed: The need for a constant updating is correspondingly large. Every day would be using this access-blocking about 18,000 hits on preventing child pornography sites. Also in Norway, said the expert, it had a social debate on the block list and feared as censorship. This debate, however, was soon gone, and from the simple reason: "Most people will stop this side never see."

Translated from German by Google

RIAA Backs Down In Austin, Texas

In November, 2004, several judges in the federal court in Austin, Texas, got together and ordered the RIAA to cease and desist from its practice of joining multiple "John Does" in a single case. The RIAA blithely ignored the order, and continued the illegal practice for the next four years, but steering clear of Austin. In 2008, however, circumstances conspired to force the record companies back to that venue. In Arista v. Does 1-22, in Providence, Rhode Island, they were hoping to get the student identities from the College of Rhode Island. After the first round, however, they learned that the College was not the ISP; rather, the ISP was an Austin-based company, Apogee Telecom Inc., meaning the RIAA would have to serve its subpoena in Austin. The RIAA did just that, but Apogee — unlike so many other ISP's — did not turn over its subscribers' identities in response to the subpoena, instead filing objections. This meant the RIAA would have to go to court, to try to get the Court to overrule Apogee's objections. Instead, it opted to withdraw the subpoena and drop its case.

US Court Asks Govt. View on Cablevision DVR Case

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday asked for the federal government's views of an appeal by film studios and television networks of a ruling that would allow a new digital video recorder service by New York cable operator Cablevision Systems Corp (CVC.N).

At issue in the case is a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York that Cablevision's proposed service would not directly infringe the copyrights of the media companies that produce movies and television programs.

Cablevision in 2006 announced plans to offer a network-based DVR system, called Remote Storage Digital Video Recorder -- or RS-DVR -- which would allow subscribers to store TV programs on the cable operator's computer servers and then play them back at will.

A number of film studios and major television networks, including Time Warner Inc (TWX.N), News Corp NWSa.O, CBS Corp (CBS.N) and Walt Disney Co (DIS.N), sued in seeking to block the new service for violating copyright laws. They won before a federal judge, but lost before the appeals court.

"We interpret the Supreme Court's step to ask the Justice Department for their thoughts on this case as a slight negative for Cablevision and to a lesser degree, other cable operators," said Thomas Eagan, an analyst at Collins Stewart.

Other cable companies including Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) and Time Warner Cable Inc (TWC.N) have said they would launch similar systems over time if Cablevision's is upheld as legal.

Industry analysts estimate cable companies could save tens of millions of dollars spent on DVR boxes and installation expenses if the remote technology is approved.

Eagan said Cablevision could save up to $100 per set-top box but also $50 per customer on the cost of sending out a service representative for home service, and help reduce the rate of customer losses by 30 percent.

Cablevision serves over 3 million customers in the New York metropolitan area. Its annual outlay on DVR boxes is one of its largest expenses.

The Supreme Court asked the Justice Department's solicitor general to file a brief expressing the views of the federal government. It could take several months for that brief to be filed.

After it is filed, the Supreme Court then will decide whether to hear or reject the appeal.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito did not take part in considering the case. Such recusals often happen when a justice owns stock in one of the companies involved in a case. (Reporting by James Vicini and Yinka Adegoke, Editing by Maureen Bavdek and Brian Moss)

Comcast Installs Cable In Your Gutter, Across Your Driveway
Meg Marco

For more than a year, says the Baltimore Sun, there were Comcast cables laying in the gutters, and across the driveways of a neighborhood in Hanover, MD. Why were they laying there? Because that's where Comcast installed them.

Instead of being routed underground between two pedestals that house cables, the wires were strung along the gutters next to the sidewalk, crossing two driveways on the 2600 block of Fairbourne Court. Cables from the pedestals spilled out onto the grass as well.

"I just came home from work one day, and that's how it was," [homeowner, Nicky] Frantz said.

"It's not a huge defect, but we like to keep our area looking nice," she said. "We figured they've got to come back and fix it eventually, and they never did."
Ms. Franz tried showing the cables to some techs who came to repair her family's service over the summer. They didn't fix it. She also tried contacting Comcast's Twitter team — they at least called her back — but didn't fix the problem. Finally, it took a call from the Baltimore Sun before any Comcast trucks showed up.

Comcast's spokesperson told the paper that cable is sometimes installed that way temporarily, and apologized for the delay.

AT&T Peppers Customers’ Phones With ‘Idol’ Ads
Matt Richtel

Some AT&T Wireless customers have voted an emphatic no on a promotion for “American Idol” that popped up on their phones this week.

AT&T, a sponsor of the show, said it sent text messages to a “significant number” of its 75 million customers, urging them to tune in to the season premiere on Tuesday night.

But some recipients thought the message was a breach of cellphone etiquette, and gave it the kind of reaction that the “Idol” judge Simon Cowell might give an off-key crooner.

The online service Twitter had a steady stream of complaints. “AT&T just sent me a text message advertisement about ‘American Idol.’ Evil,” a Twitter user named Joe Brockmeier wrote on Tuesday. “The economic downturn definitely means a spam upswing.”

Another user named Nick Dawson wrote: “Seriously AT&T? Did you just text me twice during a meeting to tell me about ‘American Idol?’ Very professional!”

Mark Siegel, a spokesman for AT&T Wireless, said the message was meant as a friendly reminder. “We want people to watch the show and participate,” Mr. Siegel said. He added, “It makes perfect sense to use texting to tell people about a show built on texting.”

Because AT&T is a sponsor of “American Idol,” only its customers can use their cellphones to vote for their favorite singers via text message — so viewer participation means more revenue for AT&T.

In the advertisement, AT&T told recipients to “Get ready for American Idol” and pointed them to a company Web site promoting an “Idol”-related sweepstakes. It noted that recipients were not charged for the message, and that they could opt out of future advertisements by responding with the word “stop.”

Mr. Siegel said the message went to subscribers who had voted for “Idol” singers in the past, and other “heavy texters.” He said the message could not be classified as spam because it was free and because it allowed people to decline future missives.

“It’s clearly marked in the message what you need to do if you don’t want to participate,” he said. “It couldn’t be more open and transparent.”

Richard Cox, the chief information officer for Spamhaus, a nonprofit antispam organization based in Britain, countered: “It’s absolutely spam. It’s an unsolicited text message. People who received it didn’t ask for it. That’s the universal definition of spam.”

In general, sending unsolicited advertisements to phones has been more frowned upon — and far less common — than sending e-mail ads. That is in large part because recipients and senders of texts pay for the service either piecemeal or in bulk; in general, the more you send and receive, the more you pay.

Mr. Cox said that in Europe, AT&T could wind up in court for sending such missives because they would violate the law.

Claudia Bourne Farrell, a spokeswoman for the Federal Trade Commission, said the message had not appeared to violate the commission’s rules or the law. It would do so only if it cost recipients or was deceptive in some way, and did not allow recipients to turn off future messages.

Mr. Siegel of AT&T defended the use of the medium given that voting by text message had played a big role in “American Idol.”

“Text messaging is the perfect way for us to tell people about this wildly successful show and to watch it,” he said.

Girl, 13, Sends 14,528 Texts in a Month

A California father says he discovered his 13-year-old daughter sent 484 text messages per day last month -- one message every 2 minutes of every waking hour.

Greg Hardesty of Silverado Canyon, Calif., told the New York Post his 440-page cell phone bill revealed his daughter Reina had sent an astonishing 14,528 text messages.

"First, I laughed. I thought, 'That's insane, that's impossible,'" said Hardesty, 45, a reporter for The Orange County Register. "And I immediately whipped out the calculator to see if it was humanly possible."

Hardesty said Reina had messaged a core of "four obsessive texters," all girls between the ages of 12 and 13. Luckily, he was on an unlimited text messaging plan or his bill would have been $2,905 at a rate of 20 cents per message, the Post reported.

Hardesty told the newspaper he and his ex-wife have placed restrictions on Reina's cellphone use, ruling she cannot text after dinner.

When it comes to texting, it appears Reina has much in common with a New Zealand teenager. It was reported last month that Hannah Brooke, 16, of Wellington frequently uses up the 6,000 messages she's allowed each month and borrows phones from friends to keep on texting.

Democrats Sneak Net Neutrality Rules Into 'Stimulus' Bill
Declan McCullagh

The House Democrats' $825 billion legislation released on Thursday was supposedly intended to "stimulate" the economy. Backers claimed that speedy approval was vital because the nation is in "a crisis not seen since the Great Depression" and "the economy is shutting down."

That's the rhetoric. But in reality, Democrats are using the 258-page legislation to sneak Net neutrality rules in through the back door.

The so-called stimulus package hands out billions of dollars in grants for broadband and wireless development, primarily in what are called "unserved" and "underserved" areas. The U.S. Department of Commerce is charged with writing checks-with-many-zeros-on-them to eligible recipients, including telecommunications companies, local and state governments, and even construction companies and other businesses that might be interested.

The catch is that the federal largesse comes with Net neutrality strings attached. The Commerce Department must ensure that the recipients "adhere to" the Federal Communications Commission's 2005 broadband policy statement (PDF)--which the FCC said at the time was advisory and "not enforceable," and has become the subject of a lawsuit before a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C.

One interpretation of the "adhere to" requirement is that a company like AT&T, Verizon, or Comcast that takes "stimulus" dollars to deploy broadband in, say, Nebraska must abide by these rules nationwide. (It's rather like the state of Nebraska demanding that a broadband provider filter out porn nationwide in exchange for a lucrative government contract.)

In addition, recipients must operate broadband and high-speed wireless networks on an "open access basis." The FCC, soon to be under Democratic control, is charged with deciding what that means. Congress didn't see fit to include a definition.

The Bush administration has taken a dim view of Internet regulations in the form of Net neutrality rules, warning last year that they could "inefficiently skew investment, delay innovation, and diminish consumer welfare, and there is reason to believe that the kinds of broad marketplace restrictions proposed in the name of 'neutrality' would do just that, with respect to the Internet." A report from the Federal Trade Commission reached the same conclusion in 2007.

In addition, a recent study from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says that the absence of Net neutrality laws or similar federally mandated regulations has spurred telecommunications companies to invest heavily in infrastructure, and changing the rules "would have a devastating effect on the U.S. economy, investment, and innovation."

Now, perhaps extensive Net neutrality regulations are wise. But enough people seem to have honest, deep-seated reservations about them to justify a sincere discussion of costs and benefits--rather than having the requirements stealthily injected into what supposed to be an emergency save-the-economy bill scheduled for a floor vote within a week or so.

Net neutrality requirements can, of course, always be imposed retroactively on broadband "stimulus" recipients. As recently as one day ago, a Democratic Senate aide was saying the topic would be addressed in the Judiciary Committee in the near future; there seems little reason to rush to lard up this particular legislation.

But it always seems to happen. Last fall's TARP bailout bill included IRS snooping. A port security bill included Internet gambling restrictions; the Real ID Act was glued onto a military spending and tsunami relief bill; a library filtering law was attached to a destined-to-be-enacted bill funding Congress itself.

It's enough to make you want to force our elected representatives to actually read the bills they pass.

South African IP Bill Locks Down Innovation
Audra Mahlong and Siyabonga Africa

Unintended consequences

President Kgalema Motlanthe has signed the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) from Publicly Funded Research and Development Bill into action.

The legislation forms part of science and technology minister Mosibudi Mangena's initiatives to increase innovation in the public sphere. The minister hopes to do this by ensuring publicly-funded researchers get a return on their research through marketable patents and collectable royalties.

Nhlanhla Nyide, chief communications officer for the DST, says the law provides an enabling environment for intellectual property creation, protection, management and commercialisation.

CSIR support

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) says it supports the objectives of the IPR Act and, at the same time, it points out the complexities of promoting effective technology transfer.

“We hope that implementation of the legislation will see the right balance struck between stimulating the desired behaviour, while avoiding over-regulation,” says CSIR senior intellectual property manager Rosemary Wolson.

The CSIR explains that technology transfer is just one way of strengthening linkages in the National System of Innovation, the network of players in a country interacting to constitute the country's innovation system.

It believes the impact of this legislation will be maximised if other elements of the system are simultaneously addressed, in conjunction with partners in the public and private sectors, academia and civil society.

Unintended consequences

According to the Bill, inventors working within the public sector are obliged to hand over new inventions to an incentive officer, such as a lecturer, who is obliged to patent the invention or hand it over to a government official who will then patent the invention.

“The impact of this law is that there is now a barrier to innovations which will save lives,” says Andrew Rens, intellectual property fellow at the Shuttleworth Foundation. He notes that by moving away from the open sharing of inventions and information, more people stand to lose out than gain from the system.

Rens notes the Bill works on false premise that patenting leads to profit, and cases in other countries working on a similar system of IP rights have shown this. “SA also has no patent examination system where previous patents are checked against each other. There is no assessment which is done to see whether the idea has any merit or not,” explains Rens.

The Bill will have wide-ranging consequences for the South African research community, he notes, saying the country could see a decline in research co-operation from international consortia with universities, a decline in philanthropic funding and a move away from open access.

“This is not a solution. Do we want to see research which benefits the ordinary South African, or do we want to contribute to jobless growth? The solutions are in open access and increased access to venture capital funding for companies,” states Rens.

A Software Populist Who Doesn’t Do Windows
Ashlee Vance

THEY’RE either hapless pests or the very people capable of overthrowing Windows. Take your pick.

In December, hundreds of these controversial software developers gathered for one week at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. They came from all over the world, sporting many of the usual signs of software mercenaries: jeans, ponytails, unruly facial hair and bloodshot eyes.

But rather than preparing to code for the highest bidder, the developers were coordinating their largely volunteer effort to try to undermine Microsoft’s Windows operating system for PCs, which generated close to $17 billion in sales last year.

All the fuss at the meeting centered on something called Ubuntu and a man named Mark Shuttleworth, the charismatic 35-year-old billionaire from South Africa who functions as the spiritual and financial leader of this coding clan.

Created just over four years ago, Ubuntu (pronounced oo-BOON-too) has emerged as the fastest-growing and most celebrated version of the Linux operating system, which competes with Windows primarily through its low, low price: $0.

More than 10 million people are estimated to run Ubuntu today, and they represent a threat to Microsoft’s hegemony in developed countries and perhaps even more so in those regions catching up to the technology revolution.

“If we’re successful, we would fundamentally change the operating system market,” Mr. Shuttleworth said during a break at the gathering, the Ubuntu Developer Summit. “Microsoft would need to adapt, and I don’t think that would be unhealthy.”

Linux is free, but there is still money to be made for businesses flanking the operating system. Companies like I.B.M., Hewlett-Packard and Dell place Linux on more than 10 percent of the computers they sell as servers, and businesses pay the hardware makers and others, like the software sellers Red Hat and Oracle, to fix any problems and keep their Linux-based systems up to date.

But Canonical, Mr. Shuttleworth’s company that makes Ubuntu, has decided to focus its near-term aspirations on the PCs used by workers and people at home.

The notion of a strong Linux-based competitor to Windows and, to a lesser extent, Apple’s Mac OS X has been an enduring dream of advocates of open-source software. They champion the idea that software that can be freely altered by the masses can prove cheaper and better than proprietary code produced by stodgy corporations. Try as they might, however, Linux zealots have failed in their quest to make Linux mainstream on desktop and notebook computers. The often quirky software remains in the realm of geeks, not grandmothers.

With Ubuntu, the devotees believe, things might finally be different.

“I think Ubuntu has captured people’s imaginations around the Linux desktop,” said Chris DiBona, the program manager for open-source software at Google. “If there is a hope for the Linux desktop, it would be them.”

Close to half of Google’s 20,000 employees use a slightly modified version of Ubuntu, playfully called Goobuntu.

PEOPLE encountering Ubuntu for the first time will find it very similar to Windows. The operating system has a slick graphical interface, familiar menus and all the common desktop software: a Web browser, an e-mail program, instant-messaging software and a free suite of programs for creating documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

While relatively easy to use for the technologically savvy, Ubuntu — and all other versions of Linux — can challenge the average user. Linux cannot run many applications created for Windows, including some of the most popular games and tax software, for example. And updates to Linux can send ripples of problems through the system, causing something as basic as a computer’s display or sound system to malfunction.

Canonical has tried to smooth out many of the issues that have prevented Linux from reaching the mainstream. This attention to detail with a desktop version of Linux contrasts with the focus of the largest sellers of the operating system, Red Hat and Novell. While these companies make desktop versions, they have spent most of their time chasing the big money in data centers. As a result, Ubuntu emerged as a sort of favored nation for those idealistic software developers who viewed themselves as part of a countercultural movement.

“It is the same thing companies like Apple and Google have done well, which is build not just a community but a passionate community,” said Ian Murdock, who created an earlier version of Linux called Debian, on which Ubuntu is based.

Mainstream technology companies have taken notice of the enthusiasm around Ubuntu. Dell started to sell PCs and desktops with the software in 2007, and I.B.M. more recently began making Ubuntu the basis of a software package that competes against Windows.

Canonical, based in London, has more than 200 full-time employees, but its total work force stretches well beyond that, through an army of volunteers. The company paid for close to 60 volunteers to attend its developer event, considering them important contributors to the operating system. An additional 1,000 work on the Debian project and make their software available to Canonical, while 5,000 spread information about Ubuntu on the Internet. And 38,000 have signed up to translate the software into different languages.

When a new version of the operating system becomes available, Ubuntu devotees pile onto the Internet, often crippling Web sites that distribute the software. And hundreds of other organizations, mostly universities, also help in the distribution.

The technology research firm IDC estimates that 11 percent of American businesses have systems based on Ubuntu. That said, many of the largest Ubuntu customers have cropped up in Europe, where Microsoft’s dominance has endured intense regulatory and political scrutiny.

The Macedonian education department relies on Ubuntu, providing 180,000 copies of the operating system to children, while the Spanish school system has 195,000 Ubuntu desktops. In France, the National Assembly and the Gendarmerie Nationale, the military police force, rely on Ubuntu for a combined 80,000 PCs. “The word ‘free’ was very important,” said Rudy Salles, vice president of the assembly, noting that it allowed the legislature to abandon Microsoft.

Without question, Ubuntu’s rapid rise has been aided by the fervor surrounding Linux. But it’s Mr. Shuttleworth and his flashy lifestyle that generate much of the attention Ubuntu receives. While he favors casual attire matching the developers’, some of his activities, including a trip to space, are hardly ordinary.

“Look, I have a very privileged life, right?” Mr. Shuttleworth said. “I am a billionaire, bachelor, ex-cosmonaut. Life couldn’t easily be that much better. Being a Linux geek sort of brings balance to the force.”

The first installment of Mr. Shuttleworth’s fortune arrived after he graduated from the University of Cape Town in 1995 with a business degree.

He had been paying bills by operating a small technology consulting company, setting up Linux servers for companies to run their Web sites and other basic operations. His business leanings and technology background inspired him to try to capitalize on the rising interest in the Internet.

“I’m more of an academic than a cut-and-thrust wheeler-dealer,” he said. “I was very interested in how the Internet was changing commerce and was determined to pursue it.”

Mr. Shuttleworth decided to start a company called Thawte Consulting (pronounced like “thought”) in 1995 that provided digital certificates, a security mechanism that browsers use to verify the identity of companies. As a 23-year-old, he visited Netscape to promote a broad standard for these certificates. Netscape, then the leading browser maker, bought into it, and Microsoft, which makes the Internet Explorer browser, followed.

As dot-com mania surged, companies became interested in this profitable outfit, based in South Africa. In 1999, VeriSign, which manages a number of Internet infrastructure services, bought Thawte for $575 million. (Mr. Shuttleworth had turned down an offer of $100 million a few months earlier.)

Having owned all of Thawte, Mr. Shuttleworth, the son of a surgeon and a kindergarten teacher, became very wealthy at just 26.

So what’s a newly minted millionaire to do? Mr. Shuttleworth looked to the stars. Paying an estimated $20 million to Russian officials, he secured a 10-day trip to space and the International Space Station on the Soyuz TM-34 in 2002 and became the first “Afronaut,” as the press described him.

“After selling the company, it wasn’t a blowout yachts and blondes situation,” he said. “It was very clear that I was in a unique situation where I should choose to do things that were not possible otherwise.”

In the following years, Mr. Shuttleworth set up venture capital and charitable organizations. Through investments in the United States, Africa and Europe, he says, he has amassed a fortune of more than $1 billion.

He spends 90 percent of his time, however, working on Canonical, which he considers another project that challenges what’s possible.

“I have done well with investing, but it has never felt very fulfilling,” he said. “I fear getting to the end of my life and feeling you haven’t actually built something. And to do something people thought was impossible is attractive.”

CANONICAL’S model makes turning a profit difficult.

Many open-source companies give away a free version of their software that has some limitations, while selling a full-fledged version along with complementary services for keeping the software up to date. Canonical gives away everything, including its top product, then hopes that companies will still turn to it for services like managing large groups of servers and desktops instead of handling everything themselves with in-house experts.

Canonical also receives revenue from companies like Dell that ship computers with Ubuntu and work with it on software engineering projects like adding Linux-based features to laptops. All told, Canonical’s annual revenue is creeping toward $30 million, Mr. Shuttleworth said.

That figure won’t worry Microsoft.

But Mr. Shuttleworth contends that $30 million a year is self-sustaining revenue, just what he needs to finance regular Ubuntu updates. And a free operating system that pays for itself, he says, could change how people view and use the software they touch everyday.

“Are we creating world peace or fundamentally changing the world? No,” he said. “But we could shift what people expect and the amount of innovation per dollar they expect.”

Microsoft had an estimated 10,000 people working on Vista, its newest desktop operating system, for five years. The result of this multibillion-dollar investment has been a product late to market and widely panned.

Canonical, meanwhile, releases a fresh version of Ubuntu every six months, adding features that capitalize on the latest advances from developers and component makers like Intel. The company’s model centers on outpacing Microsoft on both price and features aimed at new markets.

“It feels pretty clear to me that the open process produces better stuff,” Mr. Shuttleworth said. Such talk from a man willing to finance software for the masses — and by the masses — inspires those who see open source as more of a cause than a business model.

In his spare time, Agostino Russo, for example, who works for a hedge fund at Moore Europe Capital Management in London, created a program called Wubi that allows Ubuntu to be installed on computers running Windows.

“I always thought that open source is a very important socioeconomic movement,” Mr. Russo said.

Ultimately, however, parts of Mr. Shuttleworth’s venture continue to look quixotic. Linux remains rough around the edges, and Canonical’s business model seems more like charity than the next great business story. And even if the open Ubuntu proves a raging success, the operating system will largely be used to reach proprietary online services from Microsoft, Yahoo, Google and others.

“Mark is very genuine and fundamentally believes in open source,” said Matt Asay, a commentator on open-source technology and an executive at the software maker Alfresco. “But I think he’s going to have a crisis of faith at some point.”

Mr. Asay wonders if Canonical can sustain its “give everything away” model and “always open” ideology.

Canonical shows no signs of slowing down or changing course anytime soon.

“We already have a sense of where we need to compete with Windows,” Mr. Shuttleworth said. “Now the question is if we can create something that is stylish and stunning.”

In his personal life, he continues to test what is possible, requesting that a fiber-optic connection be installed to his house on the border of London’s affluent Chelsea and South Kensington neighborhoods.

“I want to find out what it’s like to have a gigabit connection to the home,” he said. “It is not because I need to watch porn in high-definition but because I want to see what you do differently.”

He says Canonical is not just a do-gooder project by someone with the time, money and inclination to tackle Microsoft head-on. His vision is to make Ubuntu the standard for the next couple of billion people who acquire PCs.

In Venting, a Computer Visionary Educates
John Markoff

BEFORE the personal computer, and before the Web, there was Theodor Holm Nelson, who almost half a century ago understood how computers would transform the printed page.

Mr. Nelson anticipated and inspired the World Wide Web, and he coined the term “hypertext,” which embodies the idea of linking a web of objects including text, audio and video.

In his self-published new book, “Geeks Bearing Gifts: How the Computer World Got This Way” (available on lulu.com), Mr. Nelson, 71, takes stock of the computing world. The look back by this forward-thinking man is not without its bitterness. The Web, after all, can be seen as a bastardization of his original notion that hyperlinks should point both forward and backward.

Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, organized all the world’s content through a one-way mechanism of uniform source locators, or URLs. Lost in the process was Mr. Nelson’s two-way link concept that simultaneously pointed to the content in any two connected documents, protecting, he has argued in vain, the original intellectual lineage of any object.

One-way links can be easily broken, and there is no simple way to preserve authorship and credit, as was possible with a project called Xanadu that Mr. Nelson began in the 1960s. His two-way links might have avoided the Web’s tornado-like destruction of the economic value of the printed word, he has contended, by incorporating a system of micropayments.

A generation of young computer enthusiasts who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s was deeply influenced by Mr. Nelson’s ideas. In 1974, his book “Computer Lib: You Can and Must Understand Computers Now,” was a call to arms to reinvent computing.

The book was written as a pastiche, in the tradition of the “Whole Earth Catalog” and as a paper-based placeholder for the Xanadu system that he believed would inevitably take hold. The book was seductive fun. It was actually two books in one: beginning on opposite covers, it could be read forward and backward, with the book on the opposite side titled “Dream Machines: New Freedoms Through Computer Screens — a Minority Report.”

The book provided an exhilarating peek into the world foretold by the arrival of personal computing, which was just then being invented at the Palo Alto Research Center of Xerox. It offered the first hint that computing would become something more than the control systems associated with the mainframe computing era of “do not bend, fold, spindle or mutilate.”

Computers, we learned, would no longer be hulking behemoths controlled by a priest class — they were something we could get our hands on. They would become fantasy amplifiers, and would augment our pencils and papers and electric typewriters.

Three and a half decades later, the cover of “Geeks Bearing Gifts” certainly grabs the eye.

There is a shaggy, grinning and bespectacled Bill Gates in a mug shot. It was reportedly taken in 1977 in the wake of a speeding arrest, several years after Mr. Gates helped found his software business. Like others of his generation, Mr. Gates borrowed many of Mr. Nelson’s ideas and implemented them in what would become the world’s largest software company.

On the inside cover of “Geeks,” Mr. Nelson asks why Mr. Gates is smiling in the photograph. The reason, he concludes, is that the young entrepreneur hasn’t a care in the world — and that he already knows the future will be bright.

His intent is not to malign Mr. Gates, he said. “This is perhaps the most charming and winsome picture of him,” he said, “radiating sweetness and warmth and confidence.”

“However, you can also tell he’s up to something — and the cops don’t have a clue what it is,” Mr. Nelson added. “Only we, looking at this picture in hindsight, know what his gifts were going to be.”

What then of Mr. Nelson, who was also a computer industry pioneer, but who did not become the world’s richest man?

Despite the fact that he had an original and prophetic vision of the future, Mr. Nelson has remained an outsider in an industry that has showered great wealth on many of his contemporaries.

The son of the director Ralph Nelson and the actress Celeste Holm, he grew up in Greenwich Village, went to college at Swarthmore in the 1950s and then studied sociology with Talcott Parsons at Harvard.

His unfinished software project, Xanadu, grew out of his 1960 insight that paper would inevitably be replaced by computer screens. For several decades he continued to labor on the project — for a while at Autodesk, the engineering-oriented software publisher. More recently he has lived in Asia and Europe, where his work has generally been more deeply appreciated than in his native country.

Last year, he returned to the United States to finish his history. In “Geeks,” he settles some old scores and sets down his own version of the history of computing.

He wrote in a recent e-mail message: “I have long been alarmed by people’s sheeplike acceptance of the term ‘computer technology’ — it sounds so objective and inexorable — when most computer technology is really a bunch of ideas turned into conventions and packages.” His quarrel is with the dominance of “packages” like Microsoft Office and Windows, which he argues are the arbitrary result of business practices and not the inevitable result of technology evolution.

Some readers might regard Mr. Nelson as railing against those he sees as golddiggers who cherry-picked and perverted his ideas while ignoring his grander ideals. Years later, he is still obviously wounded by an unsympathetic 1995 profile in Wired that belittled his quest for Xanadu and suggested that it was quixotic.

The computing world, however, forgets its past at its peril. Indeed, it may be worthwhile for the self-congratulatory computing industry not only to read Mr. Nelson’s new book closely, but also to take another look at his more recent software design ideas. They may still point the way forward.

Consider Zig-Zag, Mr. Nelson’s foray into the world of databases. When I saw it years ago, it seemed to offer only an impossibly baroque interface. Only recently did I realize that he had simply anticipated the emergence of the semantic Web, now viewed by many computer researchers as the next step past Internet search. Mr. Nelson also has an intriguing redesign of the basic text editor that merits more exposure.

Why not? You are already using one very compelling invention, one that he calls a “tchotchke” and claims that he came up with decades ago. It’s the Web browser back button.

Apple Allows 3rd Party Web Browsers into App Store
Arnold Kim

Over the past 24 hours, Apple has begun to approve 3rd party web browsing applications for the iPhone. A number of new web browsing apps have suddenly appeared with original submission dates ranging as far back as October.

While Apple has made no official acknowledgements, it appears these applications were likely in a special queue awaiting for approval. We had seen a similar "group" delays with other categories of apps. The most notable example involved flatulence applications such as Pull My Finger and iFart Mobile. Once Apple decided to allow the category within the App Store, a backlog of apps quickly appeared.

Web browsing applications were previously charged with "duplicating functionality" of other iPhone apps and was felt to be the reason why Opera would never be approved by Apple.

A partial list of these new applications include:

- Edge Browser (Free) - No loss of screen real estate to the address or navigation bars.
- Incognito ($1.99) - Now you can browse without leaving a history of any kind.
- WebMate:Tabbed Browser ($0.99) - Web Mate simplifies browsing by queuing up all the links you click on, then allowing you to view them one by one when you're ready.
- Shaking Web ($1.99) - adds a sophisticated algorithm to compensate for small hand shaking to allow for easier reading.

This could open the door for mobile versions of prominent web browsers such as Opera and Firefox, though there remain other SDK restrictions that could prevent full-featured versions of those browsers from appearing. Still, Apple appears to be loosening some early restrictions they had applied to the App Store approval process.

Wired Takes Down Hackintosh Video
Tom Krazit

Update at 11:30 a.m.: It seems that Chen did not understand exactly what happened regarding his article. Updates throughout.

Wired has confirmed that Apple contacted the publisher about a blog post with step-by-step instructions on how to get Mac OS X running on a non-Apple Netbook and decided to remove the offending video.

Earlier in the day, Brian Chen, who writes for Wired's Gadget Lab blog, posted a message to Twitter spotted by Gizmodo saying "just found out Apple is suing Wired for my video tutorial on hacking Netbooks to run Mac OS X."

It turns out, however, that Apple merely contacted the Conde Nast division regarding the post in question, and after reviewing the post, Wired decided to remove the video from its site, a company representative confirmed. Chen updated his Twitter feed to that effect shortly after we contacted Wired.

The video no longer appears on Wired's site. The original article with step-by-step instructions on how to circumvent Apple's restrictions on where Mac OS X can be installed is still up as of this moment, and Wired is currently reviewing it but plans to leave it up for now, the representative said.

Apple has appeared to gently tolerate the "Hackintosh" community that sprung up after the company decided to adopt Intel's x86 processors for the Mac, so long as the project didn't advance much beyond science fair mode. But it has shown a clear interest in protecting its licensing agreements for Mac OS X this year, through its legal battle against Psystar, a clone maker selling generic desktop PCs with Mac OS X preinstalled.

In its article, Wired admitted that the practice is illegal, requiring the installation of hacked software, linking to well-known torrent site The Pirate Bay to provide a source for the software. It also offered the following disclaimer: "Disclaimer: The following process potentially violates Apple's End User License Agreement for Mac OS X. Please ensure you own a copy of Mac OS X Leopard, if you wish to follow the procedure."

An Apple representative declined to comment on the situation. Evan Hansen, editor-in-chief of Wired.com, did not return calls and e-mails seeking comment.

Updated 12:25pm - Our friends at ZDNet were able to get a hold of Hansen, who had the following to say. "We made a determination that the video...we're more comfortable taking down the video." Hansen also told ZDNet that Wired tries "to default to the most conservative position we can in terms of removing content ... but we don't want to pull content (needlessly)."

Mumbai Police to Look Out for Unsecured Wi-Fi Connections

MUMBAI: City policemen will be soon seen roaming in the streets with laptops in their hands in search of unsecured Wi-Fi connections.

In an initiative taken by the Mumbai police, in the backdrop of terror mails sent before blasts and terror attacks, policemen will be sent to various locations in the city in search of unsecured Wi-Fi connections.

"If a particular place's Wi-Fi is not password protected or secured then the policemen at the spot has the authority to issue notice to the owner of the Wi-Fi connection directing him to secure the connection," DCP Sanjay Mohite said.

The notice will be issued by the police under section 149 of the Criminal Procedure Code which is to prevent the commission of a cognizable offence.

The step was taken at a conference today where around 80 police personnel were present to learn about Wi-Fi connections and cyber crime.

Terror mails were sent through unsecured Wi-Fi connections prior to the Delhi and Ahmedabad blasts.

While the mail sent before the Ahmedabad blasts was traced to the residence of US national Kenneth Heywood in Navi Mumbai, the mail sent prior to the Delhi blast was traced to a residence in suburban Chembur.

The Wi-Fi connections in both the cases were unsecured, which was used to send the terror mails.

Senators Say No Witch Hunt Aimed at Spy Agencies
Pamela Hess

While eager to find out more about the Bush administration's harsh interrogation and detainee policies, Senate Democrats are hinting that spy agency veterans need not fear that the groundwork is being laid for punishing those who carried them out.

People working in intelligence agencies worry that they may find themselves pursued in criminal and civil courts over their actions now that a Democratic administration critical of President Bush's policies is coming into power.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein told The Associated Press in an interview this week that there is a clear distinction between policymakers and those who execute the policy.

"They (the CIA) carry out orders and the orders come from the (National Security Council) and the White House, so there's not a lot of policy debate that goes on there," said Feinstein, D-Calif. "We're going to continue our looking into the situation and I think that is up to the administration and the director."

Feinstein declined to comment on whether her committee would take specific action to offer legal cover to those involved in harsh interrogations that some critics say amount to torture.

President-elect Barack Obama has not indicated his stance on what information should be declassified and released or whether he thinks those who conducted harsh interrogations should be protected from lawsuits. But when he introduced his intelligence advisers at a news conference Friday, he expressed gratitude for the work and professionalism of intelligence agency employees and promised them pragmatic leadership.

"The men and women of the intelligence community have been on the front lines in this world of new and evolving dangers," he said. "They have served in the shadows, saved American lives, advanced our interests, and earned the respect of a grateful nation."

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said he is interested in revealing the origins and sweep of the Bush administration's controversial interrogation program and is willing to sponsor legislation if necessary to release many of the documents about the program.

Scores of secret documents have been assembled for the Senate Intelligence Committee's bipartisan investigation into the CIA's destruction of videotapes that showed U.S. interrogators conducting waterboarding of two terrorism suspects.

Wyden, a Senate confidant of Obama's, wants to declassify many top-secret documents that would reveal how the program came to be, whether severe methods have been effective in yielding useful intelligence, and what the legal arguments were for allowing them.

"I think the U.S. has got to come clean on this," he said. "It's about a program that goes right to the heart of what's needed to keep America safe and keep our moral authority in the world."

Vice President Dick Cheney told the AP that waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning since banned at the CIA, produced valuable intelligence.

"It's been used with great discrimination by people who know what they're doing," he said.

Current and former intelligence officials have expressed concern that a release of the classified documents — which civil liberties and human rights groups as well as some in Congress have been clamoring for — could be used to mount lawsuits against agency employees. Some have advocated a process like the 9/11 Commission to investigate what was authorized, what was done and by whom, which could also form the basis for civil rights lawsuits.

Last year, the CIA announced it would pay the full cost of legal liability insurance for agency employees and expanded the pool of those eligible to about two-thirds of the work force.

Wyden said those fears of a surge in lawsuits are unfounded. With Republican Sen. Kit Bond, Wyden got legislation passed last year requiring the CIA to release an internal investigation into the agency's activities in the months before the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. One of the reasons three CIA chiefs resisted doing it voluntarily was the prospect of prosecutions, Wyden said.

"You know how at Langley they are saying, 'People are going be prosecuted with all this,'" he said in an interview. "Think about what happened. ... I didn't push anyone to be prosecuted after the CIA's report was released on 9/11."

"No one's talking about some witch hunt," Wyden insisted.

He added there is little appetite in Congress to prosecute government employees who engaged in "enhanced" interrogations authorized by the White House. The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which prohibited cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners, also called for the protection of those employees from civil lawsuits or criminal prosecutions if they believed in good faith they were acting on lawfully. The bill passed with an overwhelming majority.

Obama pledged Friday that Leon Panetta, his nominee to head the CIA, would be a strong advocate for the agency's interest inside the White House, and his selection for national intelligence director, retired Adm. Dennis Blair, would continue "the good work that is being done."

And he signaled his clear intention to abandon the Bush administration's more controversial practices.

"I was clear throughout this campaign and was clear throughout this transition that under my administration the United States does not torture. We will abide by the Geneva Conventions. We will uphold our highest ideals," he said. "We must adhere to our values as diligently as we protect our safety with no exceptions."


Associated Press writer Erica Werner contributed to this report.

Chinese Version of Wikinews Gets Blocked in China
From Wikinews, the free news source you can write!

Wikinews has learned that access to the Chinese Wikinews website has been blocked in China. Wikinews can also confirm that the English version of the website is still available in China.

Users using the social networking site called Twitter have reported that the site was "blockade[ed] today by the mainland" of China. Others, writing on the Wikimedia Foundation's mailing list also state that the Chinese version of Wikinews is blocked in major Chinese cities such as Beijing.

The reason for the blockade is not yet known. Wikinews contacted the Chinese government for a statement, but so far there has been no reply.

The Chinese government has already blocked the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia, but later in July of 2008 the government began to allow users to access the the site during the Summer Olympics. Wikipedia was then blocked once again after the games had ended.

Wikipedia had previously been blocked for over a year in 2005, but in November of 2006, the site was unblocked. The Chinese government then re-blocked only a month later. The block was an attempt to contain information relating to sensitive topics in China, such as Tibet and Taiwan. The Chinese government has an active policy of blocking websites they consider harmful.

As Promised - My NSA Polygraph Experiences

I just got back from my poly yesterday, and wanted to write all this down while it was still fresh in my mind...

I was flown in on Wednesday evening and put up in a fairly nice hotel near the FANX (Friendship Annex) building at BWI. No big secrets here - in fact, there's a giant sign that says "FANX >", and it's the only building with fences and razor wire on the street .

Thursday morning came, and I was a bit nervous. Got there promptly at 7:00. It looked like for the people who drove, they were searching their cars with K-9 units... glad I didn't have to go through that. They tell you to get there really early, but it's not so bad - the waiting lobby at FANX has a large plasma TV with the news on, plus a lot of magazines ranging from "Diversity Today", "Men's Health", and even "Country Living". I chose a National Geographic - no idea if they're going to analyze this, but I figure there's no harm in reading the most intellectual choice on the rack.

There's about 13 of us there for the first time. They take us into a computer lab and talk for a bit about what the psych test is about, then they let us have at the 250+ questionnaire. I got questions like:
"I sometimes think people can read my mind"
"I sometimes see in black and white"
"Drugs help me cope with stress at work"
"I feel as though I may kill myself soon"

With available answers of "Never true", "Sometimes true", "Mainly true", and "Always true". You should answer these as accurately as possible. The system is measuring how many character flaws you "admit" to, and the first score on the printout is how accurate it believes you are. I have no idea what this score is based on, so don't over analyze it and just answer!

Keep in mind that the PBT is shared with the polygraphers! The psych doctor who evaluated me after the test did mention this, but I wanted to make sure people realized that this test is NOT aggregated - they can tell what you answered on every single question! You'd better not go in claiming that you've never had problems with alcohol, and then indicate on your test that you "sometimes" go overboard with alcohol.

After the test is done, you then have to fill in a questionnaire that kind of summarizes the security questionnaire - drug use, alcohol use, military service et al. The last page is a "fill in the blank" response, with phrases starting off like:
"I feel that most men _______"
"I wish my father__________"
"I frequently feel __________"
I believe there were about 16 of these.

After all the testing, you spend an hour with the psych doctor. He basically talks about every single response on the questionnaire ( why even bother writing this stuff if they just ask you AGAIN?!), and then will discuss anything they find "interesting" on the 250+ PBT. The system will 'flag' any unusual response. I had two questions that I was asked about. NOTE: They also asked about any downloading/copyright infringement. I admitted to downloading music a few times in high school, and was asked if I sold it. After indicating I hadn't, that was the end of their interest on that topic. This is also where they asked some sexual questions like if I'm into bestiality, child porn, group orgies etc. Not fun, but not nearly as bad as I was expecting. These were not asked at all in the polygraph.

After all the questioning, the doctor showed me a chart of my results. It said that I had a high "accuracy" rate (meaning it felt I answered very truthfully), and then about 8-10 character ratings. Actually, this test was incredibly accurate. He described how I probably reacted in social/work/personal settings, and was spot-on all of them.

The Polygraph
Let me preface this by saying that, from what I read on here, some parts of the poly were called exactly right, and some seemed way off. Your mileage may vary with this... but it was one of the most stressful situations of my life.

My polygrapher was maybe two years older than me (late 20's), and about three inches shorter. He was very cordial with me - not too chummy, but not detached, either. I signed a document that said the polygraph was voluntary, I still retained my constitutional rights, and was not being held against my will. After this, he proceeded to explain that the polygraph measured my body's "flight or fight" response to his questioning - I was pretty impressed with this guy's representation of the device actually, because he never really painted the polygraph as something that detected lies. He was always very careful to indicate that it measured responses, and that they were looking for sudden changes in my response. He showed me all the instruments, and then went over the "days of the week" directed-lie test, instructing me to say no when he asked if today was Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday etc. I was to say "no" for every single one of these. I was attached to the polygraph, and did the test. He showed the printout to me with the day I had 'lied' about, and said that my bodily responses clearly indicated when I was uncomfortable with an answer, and that I clearly felt that telling the truth was important.

He unhooked me from the polygraph, and then talked about the security questions. He said he would ask me a number of "easy response" questions like "Is your name X", "Were you born in 1986", "Did you grow up in XXXXX", "Is your father's name X", "Is this now the year 2010", and "Is this the month of December". He actually asked all these several times to make sure I would 'get it'. He then went into the "important questions", which for my first phase was:
"Are you engaged in espionage against the US?"
"Are you secretly involved with foreign nationals?"
"Have you engaged in acts of terrorism against the US?"
"Have you ever mis-handled US-classified information?"

He proceeded to meticulously explain the meaning of every single one of these questions for the next half-hour, defining things like 'terrorism', 'sabotage', 'secret', 'classified', 'foreign nationals'... just about everything, in fact. He then asked me to summarize what I felt the definitions were after this. He asked me the questions about three times, just to make sure I was clear, and then asked them again with the "unimportant questions" thrown in. I was beginning to feel like they thought I was an idiot!

After all the 'dry run' questioning, I was hooked back up to the polygraph, and he moved my chair to face the wall. He pumped up my pressure collar, warned me that the test was beginning and not to move, and then asked me the questions the first time. After asking about 7 or 9 questions, he deflated the collar, told me I could move, and then wrote some things on my printout. We repeated this two more times - with him asking me before the third time to define what all the questions meant AGAIN. Sheeesh!

By this point, I was feeling great. The test was going fast (except all the stupid repetition), I was passing with flying colors, and my heart wasn't beating so fast that I felt like I was going to pass out. He then went over the second phase questions, which were:
"Have you ever committed a serious crime"
"In the last 7 years, have you used an illegal drug"
"Have you witheld/lied about anything on your security forms"

He was very careful to define serious crime as being "rape, murder, molestation, child exploitation, larceny, any tickets over $250, or anything you could be fired for. I'm not looking for file sharing, downloading stuff off the internet, underage drinking, cheating in college, or things like that." He then defined the illegal drug question as "Use, distribution, inhalation - ANYTHING of substances like marijuana, crack, cocaine, LSD, PCP, methaphetamines, sniffing glue" and on and on.

At this point, I was really quite pleased. I looked at my watch, and was going to get out a full two-and-a-quarter hours earlier than they had scheduled me to. He started the test, asked the questions, and scored the computer printout, and then did it a second time.

This is when things got ugly.

He said "One of the questions is really bothering you, X, and I think you know which one it is." I blinked twice and was trying to think - actually, NONE of the questions bothered me, and I was feeling much better than I had when I came in! I told him that I had no clue. He showed me both tests he had just taken, pointed to two spikes on both of them, and said "You're having trouble with the drug question. Something is bothering you about it. X, you need to tell me what's on your mind." I told him nothing was, and that I was really shocked because I had been feeling so good. He said "Well, something is obviously bothering you about your response to this question, and you need to tell me what it is, because at this point, you've failed the polygraph. We can't go any further. If you want me to go to bat for you with my superiors {gesturing out the door}, we need to work through this. You need to let me have it all. I have to be able to explain this to the folks in the security office. I'm on your team here, and you've got to help me help you." In case you hadn't recognized this, this is almost verbatim from the "Lie Behind the Lie Detector" PDF on this site. At this point, I wanted to puke. Out of all the questions on the second phase, the drug one was the one I was LEAST concerned about. I haven't so much as taken aspirin when I really didn't need it, let alone sniff glue or smoke pot. I reaffirmed my answer, and he started to get irate with me. This is when the true interrogation began. For the next hour and a half, I was strapped to this chair and he was asking if I had maybe swallowed some accidentally, or maybe it was because I was blocking it out because I was ashamed, or maybe I had found religion, become saved, and felt like the drug use was in my "old" life. He said "We know everyone has used drugs. We KNOW that. We just need to know that you can be honest and completely forthright with us about it." I poured my soul out. I let him know about the small eraser I stole when I was nine from the Scholastic book fair, that I felt like the Old Testament was boring and I hated to read it, that I had downloaded a couple of songs in high school, and that I had resented my dad for years for making me move in the middle of 9th grade halfway across the country. He kept pressing me for more, yelling a couple of times, and leaving twice. I was pretty much on the verge of tears for 10-15 minutes or so, and I'm not the crying type.

After all this, he told me "X, I appreciate your honesty. I know what you've done here was hard today. Let's keep going". He asked me the second set of questions two more times, and then - completely cordial again, of course - told me "Great! We're done with everything today. We've collected a good amount of data, which will make it easier during our analysis." He indicated that at this time, I should discontinue any illegal drug use from this point forward (umm... were you even HERE for the last two hours, buddy?), and that if I obtained a clearance, the NSA reserved the right to deny me travel outside of the US and limit my association with foreign nationals. He shook my hand, escorted me back to the waiting area, and that was that - like none of it had even happened.

My total time in there? Four hours and eight minutes.

Some things I noticed:
* The 'spike' on the directed-lie days-of-the-week test and the spike on the supposed "drug question" looked COMPLETELY different. Not even remotely similar. Also, the "days of the week" test had the point at which he had asked the questions clearly labeled, whereas the second charts he showed when I was accused of doing drugs had no such markings. In retrospect, this spike could've been when he asked if I had really been born in the year 1986 for all I know.

* He was clicking things and typing on his computer keyboard - quite a bit, actually - during the test, even when I was answering (not just between questions). I have absolutely no way of knowing what he was doing there, and wondered if he had the ability to "enhance" certain results to make me nervous.

* Filesharing came up twice in two branches. Both times, they eagerly asked me if I had sold the few songs I downloaded, and when I answered no, they became totally disinterested on the topic.

Anyway, after describing this to the HR rep and a few other NSA employees afterward, they told me it sounded like I had passed. I have no idea what could've led them to believe that, as I felt absolutely awful!

William Zantzinger, Villain in Dylan Song, Dies

William Zantzinger, a wealthy Maryland landowner whose fatal beating of a black barmaid was recounted in a Bob Dylan protest song of the 1960s, was buried Friday. He was 69.

Zantzinger died Jan. 3. His family did not provide further details of his death, the Brinsfield-Echols Funeral Home said.

The tobacco farmer served six months and was fined $500 for manslaughter in 1963 for striking the 51-year-old barmaid with his cane for taking too long to serve him a drink. Hattie Carroll later died of a stroke. In the "Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll," Dylan criticized different standards of justice meted out to whites and blacks.

Zantzinger was allowed to delay the start the sentence two weeks so he could harvest his tobacco crop and served the time in the Washington County jail, working in its kitchen.

"There is something wrong with this city when a white man can beat a colored woman to death and no one raises a hand to stop him," the Rev. Thomas C. Jackson said in his sermon at Gillis Memorial Church the Sunday after Carroll's death.

News accounts at the time said Zantzinger had been seen drinking with his wife at a dinner before a ball. While dining, Zantzinger told jurors he began hitting waitresses with the cane.

"I'd been smacking—tapping—waitresses on the tail, and they didn't say anything. I was just playing," Zantzinger told the jury in Hagerstown, where the case was tried.

"I had no other purpose than to have a good time," Zantzinger testified. "The last thing I intended was to harm or injure anyone. I never even thought about it."

Zantzinger, who later became a foreclosure auctioneer, didn't answer questions about Dylan's song for years. In 2001, he spoke with Dylan biographer Howard Sounes about the singer, saying he "should have sued him and put him in jail. (The song is) a total lie."

Larry Jenkins, a publicist for Dylan, said the songwriter was not available for comment.

Reply-All E-Mail Storm Hits State Department
Matthew Lee

Many "reply all" fiascos result in mere embarrassment, but American diplomats have been told they may be punished for sending mass responses after an e-mail storm nearly knocked out one of the State Department's main electronic communications systems.

A cable sent last week to all employees at the department's Washington headquarters and overseas missions warns of unspecified "disciplinary actions" for using the "reply to all" function on e-mail with large distribution lists.

The cable, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, was prompted by a major interruption in departmental e-mail caused by numerous diplomats hitting "reply all" to an errant message inadvertently addressed and copied to several thousand recipients.

"Department staff hitting 'reply to all' on an e-mail with a large distribution list is causing an e-mail storm on the department's OpenNet e-mail system," says the unclassified cable that was sent Thursday by Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy.

He said the result was "effectively a denial of service as e-mail queues, especially between posts, back up while processing the extra volume of e-mails."

The cable orders employees to "take immediate action" to ensure they and their colleagues are "aware of the negative impact of hitting 'reply all'" and to delete e-mails addressed to large numbers of people that they might receive in error.

"Anyone who disregards these instructions will be subject to disciplinary actions," Kennedy wrote in the cable, which begins: "Please ensure widest distribution of this message."

Officials said the storm started when some diplomats used the 'reply all' function to respond to a blank e-mail sent recently to many people on the department's global address list.

Most demanded to be removed from the list while others used 'reply all' to tell their co-workers, in often less than diplomatic language, to stop responding to the entire group, the officials said.

Some then compounded the problem by trying to recall their initial replies, which generated another round of messages to the group, they said.

USB 3.0 is Ten Times Faster; Get it in 2010
Gareth Powell

USB 3.0 is being demonstrated at CES. It is ten times faster that USB 2.0 but will not be available on products until next year.

The annual Consumer Electronics Show is a showcase in one sense and an indicator of future trends in another. The show is held in Las Vegas and getting around all the stands puts a serious strain on the physical and nervous systems. This year you can do it quite a lot as press conferences on the Internet are streamed live.

There are still many improvements needed but there is little doubt that, say, five years from today few journalists will bother with all the hassle and expense of being at these shows. They will sit and watch the presentations at home.

Every year CES shows something which points the way to the future. This year one of the pointers is the new USB 3.0.

Seagate and Symwave are jointly demonstrating the first consumer applications of USB 3.0, showing a Seagate FreeAgent drive running through a Symwave USB 3.0-compatible storage controller device. According to a Symwave press release, this will result in ’speeds previously unattainable with legacy USB technology.’ Which means, if you understand PR-write, it will be much faster.

How much faster is that? A serious amount. Probably ten times faster.

This is a very quick move from specification to working model. The USB 2.0 Promoter Group only completed the USB 3.0 specification in November. Now it is being demonstrated. However, that speed will not mean the product will be on sale real soon now. In fact, although it works it will not become mainstream until 2010.

The new standard, also known as SuperSpeed USB 3.0, will manage transfer speeds of up to 5 Gbps — more than ten times the transfer speed of USB 2.0. Which was thought was very quick when it was first introduced, ten years ago.

But the public demand for quicker, better is ever with us and this new standard is a major step forward. Not just in terms of speed of data transfer but in it ability to send more electricity to devices, and control them intelligently. For instance, USB 3.0 will not poll devices, which will allow them to enter a sleep-like mode.

USB 3.0 will be backward-compatible with USB 2.0 and 1.1.

Not connected with CES but related is the fact the Chinese government has declared its intention to force all digital phone makers to use a standard USB connector from the charger. That would mean that a single charger would do for all of your devices and would save an immense amount of wastage and frustration.

The mobile phone companies are fighting it tooth and nail. They are saying if the Chinese government implements these changes then they will take their bat and ball and play elsewhere. ‘Twas ever thus.

Note carefully the illustration is USB 2.0. You will have to wait a year before you can see the new standard in real life. Worth the wait.

Twitter’s Massive 2008: 752 Percent Growth
Adam Ostrow

There’s little doubt that Twitter was one of the most talked about startups over the past year. But just how much did it grow in 2008? The final numbers are in, and according to Compete, they’re astounding: 752%, for a total of 4.43 million unique visitors in December.

After starting the year with only around 500,000 unique monthly visitors, Twitter saw its most dramatic growth in the back half of ’08, picking up more than one million additional visitors in December alone. And that’s all just in the US.

Also notable in the just-updated Compete stats: Facebook closed ’08 by passing MySpace in US traffic by the slimmest of margins. While other stats services still show MySpace with a significant lead, the report we most frequently cite – Nielsen Online – has also shown a rapid closing of the gap in recent months. Look for those stats on Mashable in the next week or two.

Hollywood Finds Headaches in Its Big Bet on 3-D
Brooks Barnes

The imminent full-bore return to 3-D filmmaking, upon which the movie industry is placing many of its hopes, is in danger of becoming Hollywood’s latest flub.

Some of the mightiest forces in film — Jeffrey Katzenberg, James Cameron, John Lasseter — think the multiplex masses will soon demand that all movies be shown in newly available digital 3-D. Mr. Katzenberg, in particular, has pushed the format, trotting the globe to herald the technology as a transformative moment for cinema akin to the introduction of sound.

His bandwagon has plenty of passengers, at least in Hollywood. The Walt Disney Company alone has 15 three-dimensional movies in its pipeline. Twentieth Century Fox is betting an estimated $200 million on “Avatar,” a 3-D space adventure directed by Mr. Cameron and set for December release, his first nondocumentary film since 1997’s “Titanic,” still the biggest moneymaker in movie history, without counting inflation. All told, the movie factory has over 30 3-D pictures on the way.

But analysts are starting to warn that all of that product could find itself sitting on a loading dock with no place to go. Studios, thrilled by 3-D’s dual promises of higher profits and artistic advancement, have aggressively embraced the technology without waiting for movie theaters to get on board. And without those expensive upgrades to projection equipment at the multiplex, mass market 3-D releases are not tenable.

“It’s starting to look like there will be a lot of disappointed producers unable to realize the upside of these 3-D investments,” said Harold L. Vogel, a media analyst and the author of “Entertainment Industry Economics.” Filming in 3-D adds about $15 million to production costs, he said, but can send profit soaring because of premium ticket pricing.

Only about 1,300 of North America’s 40,000 or so movie screens support digital 3-D. (Imax adds 250.) Overseas, where films now generate up to 70 percent of their theatrical revenue, only a few hundred theaters can support the technology. It costs about $100,000 for each full upgrade.

Studios require about 3,000 screens in North America for most new releases. Popcorn movies like “Avatar” or “Monsters vs. Aliens,” a 3-D entry from DreamWorks Animation, typically open on more than 4,000 screens.

“The crunch has everybody scrambling,” said Chuck Viane, president for domestic distribution for Walt Disney Studios. “We had expected many more screens to be available by now, no doubt about it.”

Upgrades have lagged primarily because of industry infighting over who will shoulder the cost. Studios expected theaters to take the lead because digital equipment would allow them to raise prices — tickets to the new crop of 3-D movies run as high as $25 each — and lure consumers away from their big-screen living room TVs. Exhibitors, hurt by soaring real estate costs, wanted studios to pay for similar reasons.

Movie chains and four of the six major studios agreed in September on a plan to convert upward of 15,000 theaters using $1 billion in debt financing arranged through JPMorgan Chase. But the squabbling took too long: The financing plan came together just as the credit markets froze.

Studios and exhibitors say the upgrade plan is not in jeopardy.

“This is a long-term commitment and a long-term strategy,” Mr. Katzenberg, the chief of DreamWorks, said recently.

Meanwhile, the Digital Cinema Implementation Partners, a consortium of exhibitors and studios, is pursuing alternative financing to allow the plan to proceed in steps. “Rather than just being patient, we are aggressively exploring all options,” said Rich Manzione, the group’s vice president for strategic planning.

Other participants seem less optimistic. Will the credit markets thaw in the first quarter, as Mr. Katzenberg predicts? “Your guess is as good as mine,” said Mike Campbell, the chief executive of the Regal Entertainment Group, which owns the nation’s largest movie theater chain.

Meanwhile, the shortage of 3-D theaters is upsetting profit projections at various studios, with three-dimensional movies probably leaving millions of dollars on the table. When DreamWorks Animation releases “Monsters vs. Aliens” on March 27, it will have to settle for half the number of 3-D screens it wanted. While acknowledging the shortage, Mr. Katzenberg recently told analysts there were enough theaters available to “recover our upfront investment and make a profit.”

To get an idea of how much money is at stake, DreamWorks Animation recently estimated that one of its hit titles, released entirely in 3-D, would earn an additional $80 million in profit.

The shortage is sending mixed messages to moviegoers, many of whom are already skeptical of the claims about 3-D. Because of a shortage of outlets last summer, Warner Brothers had to scramble to change the marketing for “Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D” — dropping “3D” from the title — and offer a two-dimensional release in tandem. Lionsgate will have just 900 3-D theaters available for “My Bloody Valentine 3D” on Jan. 16, forcing the studio to show a standard version on about 1,600 screens.

The delay is also threatening to undercut one of the primary benefits for theaters — the ability to deliver an experience that consumers cannot replicate at home. But the home entertainment market is rapidly catching up, with companies developing 3-D options for the home.

RealD, a California company that is the lead provider of 3-D technology for theaters, last week demonstrated a similar product for televisions at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Michael Lewis, the chief executive of RealD, said in an interview that he expected Americans to own 10 million 3-D-capable television sets within five years.

People who remember 3-D from the 1950s roll their eyes at Hollywood’s renewed fascination with the medium. They associate 3-D with cheesy films (“Creature From the Black Lagoon”), stiff cardboard glasses and jerky, stomach-turning camera movements.

This time, movie executives insist that everything has changed. Digital projectors deliver the images with perfect precision — eliminating headaches and nausea — while plastic glasses have replaced the cardboard.

Most important, say filmmakers, new equipment allows movies to be built in 3-D from the ground up, providing a more immersive and realistic viewing experience and not one based just on visual gimmicks.

The DVD Blend: Digital Padding
Rafe Telsch

My first DVD purchase was motivated by the release of Ghostbusters, a DVD that rocked videophiles with some awesome, never-before-seen bonus materials, including using one of the subtitle overlay tracks to create an interesting MST3K commentary silhouette. At the same time, my wife picked out Con-Air, a DVD release that had nothing. The comparison between the two was instant. They both looked cool, but what was the purpose in picking up a DVD without bonus features if I already had the movie on VHS? My DVD purchasing strategy was formulated that very weekend: no DVDs that didn’t have something to offer beyond the movie.

I guess studios picked up on that buying strategy pretty quickly, because it suddenly became the trend to pad DVD content descriptions. Things that should have been normal inclusions, surround sound, subtitles, alternate language audio tracks, suddenly became special features on a DVD. Even worse was when “interactive menus” became an offering. Keep in mind, any DVD menu that has you press a button to start the movie is interactive. It may not look good, but it’s interactive. Saying that was a bonus offering was a clever way of padding a menu that took quite a few people some time to see though. Yes, I honestly heard people in stores saying, “Hey look honey, this movie has interactive menus,” a phrase that usually included a butchered pronunciation of “interactive.”

Keep in mind, this was all when DVD was relatively new. As VHS was phased out and DVDs became the primary purchase point, studios managed to get away with putting less on discs without having to pad the menus. After all, if it’s the only game in town, you don’t have any choice but to pick up the DVD, even if it is a bare-bones release. I can’t help but notice that the menu padding has started up again. Even worse, we’re not just getting a menu padded, but the new trend means describing a DVD release as having more discs than it actually has as well.

Digital Copies: Useful feature or package padding?

It used to be that a two or three-disc DVD set meant something really special. Extra discs meant extra space for another cut of the movie, or a ton of bonus materials, and usually these releases had the absolute best contents (see releases like Terminator 2: Judgment Day: The Ultimate Edition DVD for a comprehensive movie making school, The Abyss: Special Edition or Clerks X for awesome presentations of alternate versions in one package, and, of course, the Lord of the Rings Extended Editions - possibly the most complete DVD sets ever put out). The more discs, the more space for content, and the more entertainment to view.

Unfortunately, a new trend has started that is adding to the number of discs a set can brag about having, without actually adding new content: the digital copy. Using the digital copy, movie fans can (legally and legitimately) copy the movie of their choice to their laptop, iPod, or other portable accessory, and have a movie available on the go. It’s a nifty feature, but I have to wonder just how often its used, and if it’s really worth the bragging rights most DVD producers are laying claim to.

I have both a laptop and an iPod, but I rarely use either to watch full length movies. Sure, when I’m traveling cross-country or for an extended period of time I’ll put a movie or two on my iPod, but they wind up taking up space for longer than they get used. Typically I won’t put epic scope movies on their either. The small screen just doesn’t lend itself to epic storytelling like The Dark Knight or Wall-E. So my use of digital copies is pretty limited, making it close to useless as a bonus feature.

I like the idea of a digital copy, especially one offered legally. The tools have been around for years to rip a copy of your favorite movie for replay on your iPod or laptop, but I’ve always been a proponent that honesty is the best policy, and that the tools should serve as a message to studios that something like digital copies are what consumers want. Once studios are offering that legally, I think it’s only right to take advantage of that.

Should a digital copy really be counted toward a disc’s bonus materials? Absolutely! It’s a nice offering that still isn’t offered with every movie. Until it completely becomes status quo, I completely understand counting it among the pros of picking up a DVD. Should it count toward a release’s disc count and bragging rights? That’s where I take issue with the studios’ strategy. You see, as much as I love my copy of the three disc version of The Dark Knight, the truth is it’s only two discs of actual content. The third disc is that digital copy - a copy that may never get used by many people, and technically just repeats the exact same material that’s on disc one. It just lets you watch it through a different medium.

Don’t get me wrong. I think the idea of offering a digital copy is a grand concept and I applaud studios for continuing it. I frown upon the marketing bragging rights its giving certain releases though. Should anyone think they are buying a Two-Disc Special Edition if both discs only hold the movie and nothing else? It’s just as deceptive as “interactive menus.” Unfortunately, it will probably take just as long for the average consumer to realize they are getting conned by the label, and that the disc they just bought doesn’t have as much as they think it does.

DivX 7 Adds Support for Blu-Ray Rips
Steve O'Hear

DivX looks set to continue to be the video format of choice for ‘grey’ content, with the company announcing that version 7 adds support for H.264 video and, more significantly, the Matroska (MKV) container.

Anybody familiar with Blu-ray rips found on BitTorrent sites or other filesharing networks will instantly recognize the MKV file format in combination with the H.264 codec as a popular way to deliver High Definition video on a PC. And now that DivX is throwing its weight behind the Matroska container, MKV support should increasingly find its way on a range of non-PC devices, such as Blu-ray players, HD televisions and set-top boxes.

Look out for the “DivX Plus HD certified” badge and you should be good to go, says the company.

“The H.264 video standard offers great performance and visual quality and has gained traction throughout the industry for a variety of applications”, said DivX CEO, Kevin Hell, in a press release. “With the release of our DivX 7 software and the corresponding DivX Plus HD certification program, we hope to speed the adoption of H.264 by offering a high-quality, consumer-friendly solution that will let consumers playback their HD videos on the PC, in the living room and on the go.”

With its new DivX Plus HD certification program, like MPEG4 and AVI before it, DivX is clearly hoping to be the consumer-facing brand for the H.264 and MKV format. However, non-DivX certified devices that support MKV have already hit the market, such as the Popcorn Hour media extender or the recently announced Digital Entertainer Elite set-top box from Netgear.

To Connect to the Internet, Just Turn on Your TV
Saul Hansell

If there was one overarching theme from the Consumer Electronics Show here last week, it was that absolutely every device in our lives is becoming a computer connected to the Internet.

The sleek little Palm Pre phone promises to make it easy to call your friends by looking up their numbers on Facebook.

A new version of the Ford F150 pickup truck will let contractors check service manuals by browsing the Web from an in-dash computer.

New televisions from LG, Samsung and others will let viewers watch movies from Netflix and other Internet sites.

In two years, 90 percent of all Sony products will connect to the Internet, Howard Stringer, the chief executive of Sony, predicted.

These developments can be seen as more of the electronics industry’s constant quest for something new to tantalize gadget lovers.

But there is a darker side, too, for the companies that make the devices. If the most exciting thing about your phone or truck or TV is the Web sites you go to and the software applications you download, then the device itself is less important.

That is what happened to the computer industry, with its relentless price pressure and indistinguishable products. It is hardly an attractive business model, even for consumer electronics companies already accustomed to low profit margins.

“We are commoditizing new technology,” said William Wang, the chief executive of Vizio, which has become the country’s third-largest seller of televisions after Samsung and Sony. Now that flat-screen high-definition televisions have become commonplace, he said, “the technology shifts are not that dramatic.”

Other, more established brands beg to differ, of course. Their screens are thinner and their pictures are brighter, they advertise. So consumers will inevitably be drawn to them, they argue. And they are working on what they hope will be another technology on view at the show, one that makes mere high-definition sets seem passé: Three-dimensional televisions.

But the more established brands know the battleground is shifting. Increasingly what will differentiate one TV from another is the software it runs and the Internet services it connects to.

Even Nokia, which sells more cellphones than its three nearest competitors, says that much of its future success will come from selling services, ranging from music to maps, that operate on the phones.

Another approach is to try to embed computer chips with Internet connections, all of which keep getting cheaper and smaller, into ever more unusual devices. Sony introduced an Internet-connected alarm clock that will wake you up with your favorite music videos and traffic forecasts for your commute.

Asustek, the giant Taiwanese electronics company, has developed a touch-screen computer that hangs on a wall. It also has built a PC into a keyboard that lets users surf the Net on their TVs . In the future, according to Jonney Shih, the chairman of Asustek, everything in your house, even your bedroom mirror, will be a computer display.

So even as electronics makers struggle with the extremely sluggish economy and the relentless competition, they can look forward to finding ever more shapes and sizes in which to embed their gadgets.

Here are some edited excerpts from interviews with top executives who attended the electronics show. More of these interviews, along with other articles about the electronics show, can be found at nytimes.com/ personaltech.

Services via Devices

“For a long time, our business was defined as cellphones. Hardware is not enough. We need to have a wider array of services and content. This is a major change for us.”

Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, chief executive of Nokia

“In the next five years, we are not only going to provide hardware, but content through our devices, in an easy, more convenient way. TV is no longer just TV. TV is interactive TV these days. You will use the same TV and the same remote control, but have completely different functionality.”

Jong Woo Park, the president of Samsung’s digital media business

“You ought to expect that to be more and more unified — three screens: TV, phone, PC — one cloud-based experience. Live, essentially projecting through consistently, and appropriately, to the three screens.”

Steve Ballmer, chief executive of Microsoft

The Evolving Television

“Think of Internet on the TV like the Web browser. One view is that the Web, a browser like Firefox, Chrome or I.E., will be right on the television in the next couple years. Another view is, no, a PC-based Web is just too complex. The second one is the phase that we’re in now.”

Reed Hastings, chief executive of Netflix

“Three-D television. That’s really a major, major revolution coming into consumer electronics. That’s one area where we are placing our bets”.

Woo Hyun Paik, chief technical officer and a president of LG Electronics

“Over five years, the big concept that changes for a consumer is, ‘Gosh, do I have to track whether I have my content on my PC, on my phone, on my TV and how do I move it around?’ ”

Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft’s entertainment and devices business

New Computer Shapes

“A fraction of what we sell, a much bigger percentage of it, will be lower-priced client form factor. It may have all the functionality of a PC, but maybe it’s smaller. Maybe it is just an LCD display with PC functionality in the back, that is sitting on a desk or hanging on a wall.”

Dirk Meyer, the chief executive of Advanced Micro Devices

“To make the whole digital home possible, in the eventual state, every wall becomes a display. The mirror should become a screen. You already watch the mirror.”

Jonney Shih, the chairman of Asustek

Coping With Recession

“Customers are spending less, but they are still buying. They are putting off vacations, so they can buy TVs and stay at home. Last year, customers bought $900 and $1,000 laptops. This year they are buying $500, $600, $700 laptops. They are not buying cars, so they’ve got to buy something.”

Gilbert Fiorentino, chief executive of CompUSA and TigerDirect

Boxee, Used to View Web on TV, Generates Buzz
Brad Stone

Piping Internet video into a television seems as if it should be simple — after all, a screen is a screen. But consumer electronics and media companies have been moving toward that combination with painstaking caution, both because of technical limitations and to protect their existing business models.

Now, with an Internet start-up’s hubris and whimsical name, an 11-employee New York company called Boxee is barging into the fray. It is treading over the carefully negotiated business arrangements of much larger companies and garnering accolades from tech-heads for doing what the big guys have failed to do.

Boxee bills its software as a simple way to access multiple Internet video and music sites, and to bring them to a large monitor or television that one might be watching from a sofa across the room.

Some of Boxee’s fans also think it is much more: a way to euthanize that costly $100-a-month cable or satellite connection.

“Boxee has allowed me to replace cable with no remorse,” said Jef Holbrook, a 27-year-old actor in Columbus, Ga., who recently downloaded the Boxee software to the $600 Mac Mini he has connected to his television. “Most people my age would like to just pay for the channels they want, but cable refuses to give us that option. Services like Boxee, that allow users choice, are the future of television.”

The software, which is free and available for download at www.boxee.tv, works on Mac and Linux computers, and on Apple’s set-top box, Apple TV. A version of Boxee for Windows PCs is being tested among a limited group of users.

Boxee gives users a single interface to access all the photos, video and music on their hard drives, along with a wide range of television shows, movies and songs from sites like Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, CNN.com and CBS.com.

Unlike the increasingly long and convoluted channel directories on most cable and satellite systems, Boxee offers a well-organized directory, which can be navigated using the remote controls that now ship with most computers.

The most ardent Boxee fanatics — almost all of its 200,000 early adopters seem to have turned into online evangelists for the company — then connect their computers to their living room televisions.

The buzz around Boxee is creating ripples of curiosity among the people who have built billion-dollar businesses delivering television and movies into the home the old-fashioned way. On the first day of the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month in Las Vegas, two dozen chief technology officers from the country’s largest cable operators visited the company’s demonstration area. Then they told their colleagues, who swarmed Boxee’s booth over the next three days of the show.

Several cable companies declined to comment on their impressions of Boxee. One executive at a major cable provider said the Boxee service was intriguing and garnering an impressive amount of attention. But he noted that the company’s business prospects appeared limited.

“The real money in this business is made by serving the masses. There is a lot about Boxee that doesn’t work, like the business model, which is really nonexistent right now,” said the executive, who did not want to be named while criticizing another company.

Avner Ronen, Boxee’s 33-year-old founder and chief executive, said the company could make money after it built up its user base, perhaps by licensing its software to consumer electronics companies like TV manufacturers — which are clearly not experts at creating elegant interfaces or simple remote controls.

Mr. Ronen also shared what he called his “politically incorrect” vision of how the Internet would upset the television business by giving people on-demand access to the array of Web content.

“The challenge for the cable industry is how they grapple with the fact that this is in some way a substitution for some of the things they do,” he said.

At the very least, Boxee may spur consumer electronics companies to move faster to bring the Internet to their devices. The Consumer Electronics Show this year was full of announcements by companies bringing some pieces of Internet content to the television. For example, LG Electronics, the Korean TV maker, said it would bring Netflix’s Watch Instantly movie service to a new line of high-definition TVs. Samsung said it would bring Internet content, in the form of widgets from Yahoo, to some of its televisions.

Boxee is betting that consumers accustomed to the freedom of the Internet will not be interested in a dribble of online services on their televisions but will want more comprehensive access to Web video.

“Consumers and developers aren’t going to put up with the idea of one piece of hardware talking to only a few services,” said Bijan Sabet, a partner at Spark Capital, one of two East Coast venture capital firms that invested a total of $4 million in Boxee last year. “It would be like getting a Verizon phone you can only use to call other Verizon subscribers. It’s not a natural thing.”

Because its software is open source and can be modified and improved by any user or developer, Boxee can theoretically move quickly to add new video or music sites to its service, or to tailor itself to other electronic devices.

For instance, three months ago, Web developers in North Carolina created a special program to allow people to put Boxee on their Apple TV boxes. The program has since been downloaded more than 100,000 times, but primarily by people with some level of technical sophistication and patience. It must be reinstalled on the device every time Apple updates its software.

In developing its service, Boxee is not always asking for permission. Apple, for example, appears to prefer that Apple TV users get their content from iTunes, the company’s media store. Apple has shown little interest in giving third-party developers the freedom to create programs for the device, as they are allowed to do for Apple’s iPhone. An Apple spokesman said the company would not comment on Boxee.

Lawyers say that Boxee does not appear to be doing anything illegal, but that companies like Apple could try to take steps to prevent Boxee from accessing their content or working on their devices.

Mr. Ronen said that like many start-ups, Boxee was definitely leaping without looking. “Don’t assume we have lawyers. That’s expensive,” he said.

But he also noted that Boxee was giving consumers something they have long asked for: true access to Internet-style breadth and depth of content from their living room sofas. “The users and the technology will always move faster than the industry by definition,” Mr. Ronen said.

Do Tough Times Draw TV-Viewers to Web?
Eric Auchard

In the first global recession of the Internet Age, budget-conscious consumers are showing they no longer have an endless appetite for every new gadget or media service.

Many users are looking to eliminate overlapping services that offer more of the same old formula entertainment in a different package or on another device.

With iPods, digital TVs, video recorders, multimedia PCs and broadband connections in many households, consumers considering their options now find a range of cost-effective online substitutes for broadcast, cable or satellite TV.

TV programming, not just short-form entertainment, is served up on video sites in markets around the globe at Google Inc’s YouTube, Daily Motion, Joost or at Hulu in the United States.

Could 2009 then be the year we seriously ask “What’s on the internet?” rather than “What’s on television?”

A study released last week by the consulting group Deloitte on media consumption habits suggests that this digital switchover may be occurring before our eyes.

The survey, completed in October, of U.S. consumers aged 14 to 75 found that a majority of consumers already see their PCs as more of an entertainment device than they do TVs.

The data is part of a five-country study of nearly 9,000 consumers that found parallel shifts toward online entertainment formats from TV, albeit with a more pronounced focus on mobile phone usage outside the US. In Brazil, consumers spend an average of 19.3 hours online for personal use versus 9.8 hours watching TV.

In the United States, three-quarters of so-called “millennials” — young consumers aged 14 to 19 raised entirely in the Internet Age — say PCs offer more entertainment than TVs.

About half of Baby Boomers agree that PCs offer more. Even a surprising 42 percent of the “Reading generation,” people aged 62 and above, see PCs as more entertaining than TVs.

U.S. “millennials” typically spend 18.8 hours a week online, nearly twice as much time as they spend on TV, the report finds.

They watch DVDs on computers for an average of almost two hours. They are nearly five times as likely to listen to music on a PC, phone or music player than to the radio, the data shows.

This all may come as news to “mature” adults — those over 62 — which the U.S. survey found watch 21.5 hours of TV per week, double the time they spend online.

But the shift has already happened, however long it may take older generations to catch up, says Ed Moran, Deloitte’s director of product innovation in New York, who led the study.

Digital Substitutes

Forced to consider budgeting their once free-spending media habits, consumers may find getting better connected online to be the best way to cut their entertainment and communication costs.

Market researchers have seen a pick up over the course of the past year in switching behaviors as consumers cut back on premium movie or music packages or video rental subscription services.

For active consumers looking to watch more for less, there are abundant alternatives, albeit ones that may require several hours of battling “customer service” operators to extricate yourself from subscription traps, or in Europe, TV licensing fees.

Savvy consumers are finding “good enough” digital substitutes online that allow them to forego subscribing to pay TV or online video rental services.

That’s true already among the young, but is likely to spread among other age groups as they see the value for money.

To be be sure, only as these older generations with far greater discretionary spending power switch will the trend spell the end of older media models.

Gartner analyst Mike McGuire says young people with newer PCs are increasingly taking over the functions of programming their own media, given the amount of TV, movie and music content they can stream or download.

TV over the Internet is sneaking up on us, slowly, unlike the music revolution set in motion by online file sharing service Napster a decade ago and laid low the music industry. Internet bandwidth limitations probably limit how many can be channel surfing online at any one time.

But Broadcasters are getting into the act. In Britain, the BBC iPlayer lets Web users replay the last week of broadcast TV and radio programs and ranks as the second most popular multimedia site behind YouTube. For now, overseas users can only hear BBC radio on the iPlayer.

True, watching TV on the web will be held back until consumers can pick and choose on what device and when they see any particular program. Regulators could do more to help break down media bundling in favor of a la carte pricing that allows consumers to pick and choose what they watch while freeing up programming for the Web.

While “live TV” is still a work-in-progress on the web, a growing amount of legitimate news and entertainment is free to view, via laptops or on smaller digital TV displays hooked up to computers.

For all but the most premium film or sports content, there is a growing variety of quality online substitutes.

It’s not high-definition on a fat screen but it’s playing when you want, at a price that’s hard to beat.

Black Directors Look Beyond Their Niche
Gene Seymour

IT’S been 10 years since Spike Lee, entrepreneur, provocateur and role model for aspiring directors of color, declared in The New York Times that it was an era of unprecedented possibility for African-American filmmakers. At the tail end of the 1990s there was plenty of evidence backing Mr. Lee’s optimism.

Beginning in 1991, a year that had impressive debuts from disparate black directors like John Singleton (“Boyz N the Hood”), Carl Franklin (“One False Move”) and Julie Dash (“Daughters of the Dust”), it seemed as though each successive year yielded promising starts from African-American talents: Albert and Allen Hughes ( “Menace 2 Society,” 1993), Darnell Martin (“I Like it Like That,” 1994), F. Gary Gray (“Friday,” 1995), Kasi Lemmons (“Eve’s Bayou,” 1997) and Malcolm D. Lee (“The Best Man,” 1999).Varying degrees of critical acclaim and, most important, financial success came in the wake of these films, solidifying Hollywood’s consciousness of a lucrative African-American audience for films while promising a sweeping, solid and diversified presence of African-American talent in cinema for years to come.

But at the close of yet another decade, the promise still awaits fulfillment. Though some of the aforementioned directors have met or exceeded most of the critical expectations shown in their debuts, they have had mixed-to-sporadic success in getting their subsequent projects into theaters.

“All those people have done stunning, brilliant work,” said Warrington Hudlin, a producer (“House Party”) and co-founder of the Black Filmmaker Foundation. “But the appetite for and expectations of what sells for black filmmakers remains very narrow. It’s always been about what sells, which is as true for mainstream movies as it is for African-American movies.”

You could now literally count on one hand (using two fingers) the number of black directors who can get their projects made and distributed at a steady rate. One is Mr. Lee, whose 19th theatrical feature, the World War II story “Miracle at St. Anna” was released last fall, while the other is Tyler Perry, the Atlanta-based, one-man multimedia conglomerate whose latest blend of low comedy and moral uplift, “Madea Goes to Jail,” is set for release on Feb. 20.

Momentum for African-American cinema, it would seem, has been curtailed or at least stalled in part by studio executives’ preconceptions that black films are “niche product” with limited appeal. Yet at the same time black directors and producers still express optimism that they not only can continue to cultivate their black audiences but also can reach out further and wider to the mainstream, especially when contemplating Will Smith’s all-but-unchallenged supremacy as a box-office draw throughout the world as well as the impact of Barack Obama’s impending presidency.

Ms. Martin’s career trajectory in some ways reflects the erratic fortunes of the African-American filmmaker. Her smart, sexy romantic comedy, “I Like It Like That” won the 1994 New York Film Critics Circle award for best first film. And “Cadillac Records,” her musical history of Chess Records, the rhythm-and-blues label, was released last month to respectable reviews and box-office returns. But the intervening years were dominated by television work and one very frustrating film experience, “Prison Song,” which never went past the audience-testing stage in 2001.

Ms. Martin places much of the blame for her sporadic career in the feature-film business on the conflicts she had over the promotion of “I Like It Like That.” “They insisted on making me the poster child for the film, the ‘female Spike Lee,’ and I said, ‘Look, I don’t mind that. I’m proud to be a black woman director, and I want that out there.’ But we’d gotten some great reviews, and I felt that was what they should be leading with. If it had been a white director, they would have emphasized the reviews, but instead they were trying to get people to see it only because I was black.

“So I fought pretty hard over that. Actually it was more like a head-on collision. And I was told, ‘If you continue like this, you will never work again.’ And I thought, ‘That’s O.K., I paid off my student loans, what’re they going to take away from me?’ So I was getting known for being someone you couldn’t control.”

She also held on to a stubborn selectivity. “I was offered a lot of things that were about women of color, but I didn’t know yet how to make those things good. It was easier for me, at the time, to make things like, say, the pilot for ‘Oz,’ where the harder things were those that seemed like a more obvious fit, like ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God,’ ” she said, referring to her 2005 made-for-TV adaptation of the Zora Neale Hurston novel. “Loved the book, but it had been a challenge for me to make this inner story work.”

The one movie she was involved in during the 14-year break — “Prison Song,” a “hip-hop opera” with the rapper Q-Tip in 2001 — ended badly too, once again, in her view, a victim of pigeonholing.

Its fate was sealed, Ms. Martin recalls, when it was tested for audiences at the Magic Johnson Theaters in Los Angeles, which draws predominantly black audiences. “I told the studio, ‘If you test it there, it will go no further because it is an art film.’ Sure enough, the audiences didn’t get it; the movie never made it to wider distribution.”

The years of exile from the feature-film world, however, have had their benefits. The television work, Ms. Martin said, sharpened her directing chops and helped her mature. Life itself intervened too, helping her play the industry game. “Being a mother, I know now there are ways you can fight for things and get your way without being so overt about it.”

Life intervened as well for Gina Prince-Bythewood, who first achieved fame in 2000 with the romantic comedy “Love & Basketball” but did not direct another movie until 2008, “The Secret Life of Bees,” based on Sue Monk Kidd’s coming-of-age novel in which a white girl bonds with a trio of beekeeping African-American sisters in the 1960s.

“I had two boys, so that took some time, and then I helped produce my husband’s film,” she said, referring to the screenwriter Reggie Rock Bythewood’s 2003 film, “Biker Boyz.” “And I developed two different projects that didn’t go through, one of which was the adaptation of the Wally Lamb book, ‘I Know This Much Is True,’ and that was a shock when that didn’t come about.”

But some self-imposed pressures also weighed on Ms. Prince-Bythewood. Though the critical acclaim and box-office success of “Love & Basketball” brought many scripts her way, “you still felt that as a black director, you had to prove yourself even harder, no matter what people were saying about this great renaissance of black film.”

She is slightly more optimistic now in the afterglow of the success of “The Secret Life of Bees,” Which earned nearly $40 million. Except for Tyler Perry’s last, “The Family That Preys,” no film directed by an African-American has performed better at the box office in the past year.

“I’m getting scripts, probably not as many as you think,” she said. “But I’m now focused on writing and rewriting something that I was working on before ‘Secret Life of Bees’ came my way two years ago, and I know now that I can get my script read by everybody, and the doors will be opened wider.”

For that Ms. Prince-Bythewood can thank the true African-American powerbroker in the film world, one more powerful than Mr. Perry or Mr. Lee: a onetime rap-music performer and television sitcom star named Will Smith. He, along with his wife, the actress Jada-Pinkett Smith, and his African-American producing partner, James Lassiter, produced “The Secret Life of Bees.”

“Will Smith has already made a huge difference, and he’s really just begun,” said Bob Berney, a movie production and marketing analyst who once headed Picturehouse, the now-defunct independent film distributor (and consultant for “Cadillac Records”). “He now has the clout to green-light whatever he wants to make, and he has the power to pick and choose whomever he wants to direct.”

Though the success of movies like “The Secret Life of Bees” perpetually makes black filmmakers more hopeful about their prospects, African-American films still have barriers to break. “The biggest,” Mr. Berney said, “is outside the U.S. where the perception remains within the industry that the international audience for African-American product is close to zero. And yet when you consider the global popularity of hip-hop culture and by extension, black culture, you have to wonder whether this perception comes from outmoded thinking from international buyers who aren’t in tune with today’s audience.”

There are also those who wonder whether the paradigm for success for African-Americans in film has changed to the point where the very notion of “black-oriented product” needs revising.

“Twenty, even 10 years ago, the only way you could see actors like Denzel Washington or Cuba Gooding or even Will Smith was in an African-American movie,” said Zola Mashariki, senior vice-president for production at Fox Searchlight, which distributed “The Secret Life of Bees.” “Now you find that almost every mainstream movie has a black presence, whether in a big-budget action movie or even a comedy geared towards mass audiences.

“So to some extent, that’s a foregone conclusion. What this means for movies whose core target audience is black is that we have to give them something that they’re not getting in the mainstream, which are stories that reflect back their own direct experience, and I think that’s something Tyler Perry has done. This doesn’t mean you’re not hoping for some crossover success. You always want that. But you don’t want that core audience to feel left out, that the movie’s not speaking to their own lives.”

The “Obama factor” could have an impact too.

“I don’t think it means there’s necessarily going to be this flood of black films,” Ms. Prince-Bythewood said. “But I think it will help retrain audiences to be more open to different kinds of black experience. The fact that the most prominent family in America over the next four years will be a black family will help broaden the perception among nonblack audiences that they’re just like them in many cases. And this can only help in terms of crossover, which is something that needs to happen to take African-American film to the next step.”

Yet Ms. Prince-Bythewood and other black directors still temper such utopian thoughts. In hard times like these, struggling to transcend conventional boundaries can be a color-blind struggle. “You could get caught up by racism in Hollywood and everywhere else,” said Lee Daniels, a producer of “Monster’s Ball” and whose adaptation of Sapphire’s novel, “Push,” about the struggles of a Harlem teenager for self-respect, will have its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this month. “But it’s as difficult for me as it is for white independent filmmakers to get stuff made. So it’s not about black or white, and the minute you wrap yourself up in these concepts, you’ve put yourself out of the running. I just look for material that’s truthful, and I have to believe that if I can identify with it, the audience will too.”

Death, Drugs Tarnish Motown's Legacy
Dean Goodman

Some time during the 1970s, Marvin Gaye reflected on his turbulent career in an obscure tune called "Dream of a Lifetime."

"I thank God for my wonderful life," sang the Motown Records enfant terrible. "I've had my ups and downs, but I thank God."

Gaye's life ended violently in 1984. His father, a former preacher, shot him dead during a domestic dispute the day before the singer turned 45.

As Motown celebrates its 50th anniversary throughout 2009, the record label and music fans will no doubt focus on the upbeat songs and fresh-faced performers who brought joy to millions of people around the world.

Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder have become legends in their own lifetimes, but fortune was not as kind to other artists and composers who toiled in the spartan studio at "Hitsville U.S.A." near downtown Detroit.

Drugs, poverty, suicide and murder claimed many Motown figures. Gaye, a tortured soul whose stardom was marked by drugs, divorce, label disputes and bankruptcy, is probably the highest-profile casualty.

A year before Gaye was killed, virtuoso bass player James Jamerson died in obscurity. A raging alcoholic who played on Gaye's landmark 1971 album "What's Going On," Jamerson has since been deified by aficionados.

Suicide in Car

Others remain less well known.

Roger Penzabene, the co-writer of the Temptations' mournful masterpiece "I Wish It Would Rain," committed suicide in 1967. Hard-partying drummer Benny Benjamin, the backbeat of the Motown sound, was silenced by a stroke in 1969 after battling drugs and alcohol.

Temptations co-founder Paul Williams, the heart of the group and lead singer on "Don't Look Back," turned to alcohol and was eventually unable to perform. Two years after quitting, he shot himself dead in 1973, while sitting in a car parked two blocks from Motown.

Another troubled former Temptation David Ruffin, who sang lead on "My Girl," died of a drug overdose in 1991.

Early Motown star Mary Wells of "My Guy" fame died the following year of throat cancer. She endured poverty in her dying days, as did former Supreme Florence Ballard, who succumbed to a coronary thrombosis in 1976.

Of course, most labels have a lengthy list of casualties, and creative people do have their frailties. But Motown, initially at least, treated its artists like family, taking care of all their personal and professional needs.

Yet it also was run like an auto assembly line, with heavy pressure on everyone to keep churning out hits and to tour relentlessly.

"Those who drank or did drugs became alcoholics and addicts because of the stress of the road," said Billy J. Wilson, head of the Detroit-based Motown Alumni Association. "They become depressed, and the depression was based around the environment of the entertainment business."

Some evidently thrived, like the Four Tops, whose lineup remained unchanged until 1997. But others had existing conditions exacerbated by the demands of stardom.

"Jamerson was hellbent on drinking himself to death," said Alan Slutsky, whose Jamerson biography "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" inspired the 2002 documentary of the same name. "He had issues going on in his head that had nothing to do with Motown."

Ruffin, Slutsky added, "was a just a lunatic. He would have been crazy anywhere." And Gaye, he said, "was tormented by a gazillion phobias."

Motown Records founder Berry Gordy did warn his stars about the perils of showbiz and the necessity of saving money, "but you just can't watch all the adults," Wilson said. "Trying to babysit adults, forget that."

Wilson, who was friends with Ruffin, said he refused Motown's offers of help. Ballard, another friend, was miserable on the road, broke her contract with Motown, and accordingly never received any royalties.

"She screwed up," Wilson said. "Everybody that died in a tragic way, they all regretted their actions."

(Reporting by Dean Goodman; editing by Steve Gorman)

Ricardo Montalban, TV's Mr. Roarke, Trek's Khan, Dead at 88
Joal Ryan

Tributes, everyone. Tributes.

Ricardo Montalban, who presided over TV's original Fantasy Island as the all-knowing, white-suited Mr. Roarke, revealed an impressive chest while provoking Captain Kirk in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and seduced potential car buyers with "Corinthean leather," died today. He was 88.

Montalban's death was announced by a city council member from Los Angeles, the city where a landmark Hollywood theater bares his name and where the Mexican-born actor had worked in, and starred in, for more than 60 years.

Montalban was—offscreen as he was on—elegant.

"I often wear white even when I'm not working," he told the New York Times during his 1978-84 stay on Fantasy Island. "White immediately spells cleanliness. It makes me feel fresh and clean.''

Born Nov. 25, 1925, Montalban was already a movie star in his native country when he was recruited by Hollywood in 1945. Beginning in the late 1950s, television became his main source of screen work.

One show he guested on, among the dozens, was Star Trek. In a 1967 episode titled "Space Seed," Montalban introduced the genetically supercharged warrior Khan Noonien Singh. Fifteen years later, Montalban was called on to revive the role in Star Trek II. The 1982 film became noted for revving up the franchise, eliciting an impressive "Khaaaan!" roar from William Shatner, and giving a grand showcase to Montalban's sixtysomething chest.

In his biography, I Am Spock, Trek star Leonard Nimoy wrote of how fans debated whether Montalban stuffed Khan's low-cut costume with a fake breastplate.

"I'm here to tell you: It most defintely wasn't!" Nimoy attested. "Those were Montalban's enviable pecs."

Montalban also endeared himself to sci-fi fans as the kindly circus owner from 1971's Escape From the Planet of the Apes and 1972's Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.

In the mid-1970s, Montalban was tapped to pitch the Chrysler Cordoba. The commercials, in which Montalban cooed over the sedan interior's "soft Corinthean leather," spawned a thousand parodies, and more than a little confusion: What exactly was Corinthean leather?

In the 1980s, Montalban was pressed on the subject by David Letterman.

"They found a leather that was very durable, very pliable and very durable, so Corinthean!" Montalban said.

"But does it mean anything?" Letterman asked.

"Nothing," Montalban conceded.

After Fantasy Island, Montalban did prime-time soaps (Dynasty, The Colbys), more guest shots (but not on the 1990s Fantasy Island revival in which Malcolm McDowell inherited the Mr. Roarke moniker) and movies (the Spy Kids franchise).

Montalban won one Emmy, for the 1978 miniseries How the West Was Won, and was presented with the Screen Actors Guild's Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994.

Patrick McGoohan, Star of ‘The Prisoner,’ Dies at 80
Douglas Martin

Patrick McGoohan, a multifaceted actor who spun television legend by creating and starring in the 1960s program “The Prisoner,” a mysterious allegory about a mysterious man in a mysterious seaside village that became a cult classic, died on Jan. 13 in Los Angeles. He was 80.

His death was announced on the Web site of Six of One — the Prisoner Official Appreciation Society, netreach.net/~sixofone, of which Mr. McGoohan was the honorary president for 32 years. His agent, Sharif Ali, said Mr. McGoohan had died suddenly after a brief illness.

Mr. McGoohan’s career ranged from success on the stages of London’s West End to starring in a popular spy series called “Secret Agent” in the United States. He was critically praised for his King Edward I in Mel Gibson’s 1995 film “Braveheart” and won Emmys as a guest star on “Colombo” in 1975 and 1990.

But it was as the lead character in “The Prisoner,” identified only as No. 6, that he struck a remarkable chord with audiences, one that has continued to reverberate in re-runs, festivals, university courses, doctoral theses and a quarterly magazine — all on the strength of just 17 episodes. The show’s legions of interpreters have perceived elements of the cold war, mob mentality, mind control and more in the show.

Broadcast on CBS in 1968 and 1969, “The Prisoner” tells the story of an unnamed spy who resigns his position and is then gassed in his apartment as he packs his bags. He wakes up in the Village, a resortlike community that is actually a high-tech prison. In each episode, No. 6 struggles with the camp authority figure, No. 2, who pressures him to say why he resigned. No. 2 is played by a different actor each time.

At the beginning of each episode, No. 6 declares: “I am not a number. I am a free man.”

“The Prisoner” remains “one of the most enigmatic and fascinating series ever produced for television” the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago said on its Web site, adding that some critics believe it to be “television’s first masterpiece.”

A question that has long intrigued fans is whether “The Prisoner” grew directly out of “Danger Man,” as “Secret Agent” was known in Britain. “Danger Man” began in London in 1960, then ran briefly on CBS in 1961 as a half-hour show before becoming an hourlong show on CBS in the mid-1960s.

A 1964 episode had Mr. McGoohan’s character, John Drake, infiltrating a spy school in the middle of nowhere that the instructors had scant hope of leaving. Did Drake later materialize as No. 6?

Mr. McGoohan always said no, although three episodes of “Danger Man” were shot at the Hotel Portmeirion resort, a series of fantasy buildings on the Welsh seacoast, which he acknowledged was an inspiration for the Village. He said in 1977 that boredom with “Danger Man” had inspired him to create “The Prisoner,” for which he wrote and directed some episodes.

Patrick Joseph McGoohan was born on March 19, 1928, in Astoria, Queens. When he was 6 months old, his parents returned to their native Ireland, then to Sheffield, England, when farming proved unprofitable. He dropped out of school at 16 and took jobs where he could find them, like working on a chicken farm.

Aspiring to the theater, Mr. McGoohan started as a stagehand at the Sheffield Playhouse and worked his way up to leading man. He went on to become well-known for Ibsen and Shakespeare roles and earned praise for his performance in 1955 in a West End production of “Moby Dick Rehearsed,” written and directed by Orson Welles. In 1951, he married Joan Drummond, an actress. She survives him, along with three daughters, Catherine, Anne and Frances; five grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

In the 1950s, Mr. McGoohan did a series of films for the Rank Organization, a British movie company. By the time he was the popular star of “Danger Man,” Mr. McGoohan was the highest-paid television actor in Britain.

Mr. McGoohan’s many film roles included a doctor in David Cronenberg’s 1981 film “Scanners,” itself a cult classic. In 1977, he starred in the television series “Rafferty” as a retired Army doctor adjusting to civilian life. He appeared on Broadway only once, in 1985, as a British spy in Hugh Whitmore’s “Pack of Lies,” for which he was nominated for a Drama Desk award as best actor.

In 2000, Mr. McGoohan reprised his role as No. 6, at least in voice, in an episode of “The Simpsons.” Homer Simpson, as No. 5, stole No. 6’s boat and escaped.

Injecting a Taste of the Flush and Flashy ’80s Into Sundance
Michael Cieply

From a glass-walled penthouse above the Sunset Strip it is impossible not to observe that times have changed.

Just down the street, the original Spago restaurant, that emblem of the flush 1980s, is an empty shell. And here in the penthouse offices of Senator Entertainment, Bret Easton Ellis, another symbol of those super-slick times, is sprawled in a soft chair, wearing decidedly unslick running shoes and sweats.

Mr. Ellis, now 44, was 21 when he chronicled this city’s high life in “Less Than Zero” (1985), his debut novel.

Asked last week whether he missed any of it — the heat, the flash, the coke-blurred frenzy of Los Angeles past — he shuddered. “Oh, no,” he said, and appeared to mean it. “I don’t miss it at all.”

Still, Mr. Ellis and Senator are bringing a bit of that lost world to the Sundance Film Festival next week.

On Jan. 22 they are planning a premiere screening of “The Informers,” directed by Gregor Jordan and based on Mr. Ellis’s collection of stories of the same title. Written during his college years, the stories describe the beautiful wreckage of lives in and around the expensive part of Los Angeles, about 1983.

The film has sex. “I think Amber Heard wears a dress once in the entire movie,” Mark Urman, Senator’s president of distribution, said. He was speaking of a young actress, last seen in “Pineapple Express,” who spends much of “The Informers” undressed, and in bed.

The movie — “a guilty pleasure,” Mr. Urman calls it — also has drugs, alienation and enough glam-rock to set it apart from other work at this year’s festival, which begins on Thursday in Park City, Utah, and runs through Jan. 25.

The slate of festival films, both in and out of competition, promises to be heavy with environmental angst (as in “Dirt! The Movie,” a documentary about the destruction of the earth’s soil), rage against oppression (as with “Heart of Time,” a drama set against the Zapatista struggle in Chiapas, Mexico) and emotional engagement (in films like “The Greatest,” about a family and the loss of its teenage son).

“The Informers” — part morality tale, part voyeuristic time trip — has little or none of the above.

Geoffrey Gilmore, the festival’s director, predicts that not everyone at Sundance will like the movie. “If you want to take a shot at it, it’s a full target,” he said in a phone interview last week.

Yet Mr. Gilmore said he was delighted to showcase the film as evidence that Sundance, in its 25th year, has not succumbed to the earnestness of which it is sometimes accused. “We’re a platform for the full range of aesthetics,” he said.

As it happens, Mr. Jordan’s last Sundance experience was also slightly off-center.

In 2003 the festival screened his “Buffalo Soldiers,” about corrupt American soldiers. It had been sold earlier to Miramax Films, at the Toronto International Film Festival, in a heated bidding war on the eve of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. It was then kept on a shelf for fear that its subject matter was too controversial for the times, and resurrected at Sundance before a brief commercial release.

This time around, Mr. Jordan arrives with a cast that matches young actors like Ms. Heard and Lou Taylor Pucci (who is also in “Arlen Faber,” a comedy, at the festival) with more experienced players, including Mickey Rourke, Kim Basinger, Winona Ryder, Billy Bob Thornton, Chris Isaak and Brad Renfro, in his final role.

The actors knew a thing or two about fast times and damaged lives. “You’ve got to be worried when I’m the sanest person on the set,” Mr. Thornton, who counts a stormy marriage to Angelina Jolie among his past adventures, told Mr. Jordan during a first costume fitting.

Mr. Renfro, who had been convicted of driving while intoxicated and attempted possession of heroin, was still under court supervision when he auditioned for his role in “The Informers”: an apartment concierge who cannot quite touch the glamorous lives around him.

“To see him fallen that far was a shock,” said Mr. Jordan, who years earlier had found Mr. Renfro — famous for his debut role as a child star in “The Client” — beyond his reach when assembling the cast of “Buffalo Soldiers.”

Mr. Rourke, Mr. Jordan said, took Mr. Renfro, with whom he had many scenes in the movie, under his wing. But about a month after shooting ended in Los Angeles and Uruguay, Mr. Renfro, then 25, was found dead of an overdose of heroin and morphine.

Mr. Ellis is credited with the script for “The Informers,” along with Nicholas Jarecki, brother of the filmmakers Andrew Jarecki (“Capturing the Friedmans”) and Eugene Jarecki (“Why We Fight”). (Mr. Ellis had written other scripts based on his books, but none were ultimately used, he said.)

In Mr. Ellis’s account, Mr. Jarecki first conceived the idea of carving a movie from “The Informers,” a book of interlocking stories that was largely written in the early 1980s, but first published in 1994. The two eventually wrote a screenplay of 150 pages — much too long, by Hollywood standards — that included among its subplots a tale about vampires who appear, in the stories, to be quite real.

Marco Weber, president of Senator Entertainment and a producer whose credits include “The Thirteenth Floor” and “Igby Goes Down,” adopted the project, but urged Mr. Jarecki — who wanted to direct — to let it go to the more experienced Mr. Jordan.

The vampires were dropped. The resulting film, set to be the first release from Senator, next April, now centers on a pair of fractured families, of the sort that once met for dinner at Spago.

It also takes side trips into the lives of a television newscaster, played by Ms. Ryder, and a particularly reprehensible character played by Mr. Rourke in his last role before starring in “The Wrestler,” a picture that has unexpectedly pushed him toward the front of this year’s Oscar race.

In all, it is strong stuff.

“I know it will be polarizing, it isn’t for everyone,” Mr. Weber said during a joint interview with Mr. Jordan and Mr. Ellis in Senator’s penthouse offices along Sunset Boulevard.

Mr. Ellis, for his part, said he was glad to be headed toward Sundance with some on-screen sex, drugs and anomie — if only to break the festival’s current mold.

“When people tell you something’s ‘a real Sundance movie,’ that’s more negative than a compliment,” he said.

A Big Night for ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and Winslet
Brooks Barnes and Michael Cieply

“Slumdog Millionaire,” Kate Winslet, HBO and its “John Adams” mini-series and NBC’s comedy juggernaut, “30 Rock,” were the big winners Sunday night at the 66th Annual Golden Globe Awards here.

“Slumdog Millionaire” won best dramatic picture, an honor that informally makes the film the little-movie-that-could of this year’s award season. Danny Boyle won the award for directing the uplifting tale, presented partly in Hindi, which also picked up awards for best screenplay and score. Best comedy was Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”

Ms. Winslet won not only best actress in a drama for “Revolutionary Road,” a film directed by her husband, Sam Mendes, but also best supporting actress for “The Reader,” only the third time in Globes history that a person has won two acting awards in the same year.

“Is this really happening?” an emotional Ms. Winslet said in accepting her second award, pledging true love for her co-star, Leonardo DiCaprio.

Mickey Rourke, making a stunning comeback after seeing his acting career all but disappear, was named best actor in a drama for “The Wrestler,” about an over-the-hill athlete. “Several years ago, I was almost out of this business,” he said. Bruce Springsteen won for best original song for his theme song to “The Wrestler.”

Hollywood put aside a dismal economy and the threat of an actors’ strike to focus on the awards, an important stop on the road the Oscars but one that is as much about putting on a show and putting away some Champagne as it is about building awards consensus. The stars who drive the industry certainly seemed ready to celebrate. The room laughed easily, applauded lustily and then trotted off to a menu of parties at the Beverly Hilton.

While the Globes did their best to keep grimmer realities at bay, there was a flash of reality in the victory of “Waltzing With Bashir” for best foreign film. In an oblique reference to the current Israeli invasion in Gaza, its director, Ari Folman, dedicated the award to the eight babies born to crew members during the production and said he hoped that when the children grew up, they would see the film as “an ancient video game that has nothing to do with their life whatsoever.”

In the early awards, Sally Hawkins was named best actress in a comedy or musical film for her role as a relentlessly upbeat schoolteacher in Mike Leigh’s “Happy-Go-Lucky.” In perhaps the evening’s biggest surprise, Colin Farrell took the best actor in a comedy award for playing a hit man with a soft heart in “In Bruges.”

The association had nominated a wide range of movies, with no one film dominating as in years past. The leading entries were “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “Frost/Nixon,” both nominated for five awards, including best dramatic picture. “Doubt” also received five nominations but did not get a best-picture nod.

None of those three films took home an award. Notably, the awards went to small films and not more expensive movies like “Mamma Mia!”

Ms. Winslet had suggested on the red carpet on the way in that she believed she had very little chance of winning supporting actress, but less than half an hour later she was standing onstage reading a lengthy acceptance speech that singled out her fellow nominees, her agents, her family and even the hair stylists who worked on the film. “I’m sorry I was so mental,” she said. Later she gave another long list of thank-yous for the best-actress award.

Heath Ledger, who died last January at 28, was named best supporting actor in a film for his role as the Joker in “The Dark Knight,” the year’s biggest success at the box office. The film’s director, Christopher Nolan, accepted the award on Ledger’s behalf as the audience rose in a standing ovation.

“Wall-E” from Disney’s Pixar Animation unit was named the year’s best animated film.

HBO was the big winner on the television side, as expected. “John Adams” was on fire, picking up best mini-series, best actress (Laura Linney), best actor (Paul Giamatti) and best supporting actor (Tom Wilkinson). Gabriel Byrne won for best actor in a television drama series for playing a therapist on HBO’s “In Treatment,” and Anna Paquin won in the same category for her role in “True Blood,” the network’s vampire saga.

NBC’s “30 Rock” was named best comedy, and its star and creator, Tina Fey, was named best actress in a comedy, while her co-star, Alec Baldwin, won for best actor. “Mad Men” was best drama, with its creator thanking “his friends” at AMC. The cable network announced last week that the series would return for a third season this summer — with or without its creator and executive producer, Matthew Weiner, who is locked in a contract dispute with the cable network.

“If you ever start to feel too good about yourself, they have this thing called the Internet,” Ms. Fey said in accepting her award. “You can find a lot of people who don’t like you.” Then she added, “I’d like to address some of them now,” rattled off a series of Web screen names of people who had written unkind things about her this year and gave each of them a salty response.

A rambunctious Tracy Morgan, a member of the “30 Rock” cast, accepted the award on behalf of the show by cracking that he made a deal with Ms. Fey: “If Barack Obama won, I would speak for the show from now on.” He added that he was pleased with the victory because “a black man can’t get no love” from the Emmy Awards.

The Golden Globes — given by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a group of about 90 freelance writers — are not taken seriously as artistic milestones and have a history of voting idiosyncrasies. Still, the best-picture Oscar has mirrored the association’s choice for best drama or best comedy-musical in 14 of the last 21 years. And a Globe nomination is viewed as vital to maintaining momentum in the Oscar marathon.

So with Oscar nominations due to be announced next week all eyes were on the International Ballroom at the Beverly Hilton, where a coterie of Hollywood luminaries gathered at a sea of circular tables to eat, drink and see who walks away with a trophy.

Dozens of entertainment figures — among them Martin Scorsese, Sigourney Weaver and Johnny Depp — presented awards during the ceremony. The Golden Globes were televised in more than 160 countries this year, and more than 20 million people in the United States were expected to watch the telecast even though it faced heavy competition from the season premiere of “24” on Fox.

Steven Spielberg received the annual Cecil B. DeMille Award for “outstanding contribution to the entertainment field.”

Films that had much to gain from the Globes included “The Reader,” from the Weinstein Company, and “Revolutionary Road,” from Paramount Vantage and DreamWorks, both nominees for best dramatic picture, and “Milk,” from Focus Features, with a star, Sean Penn, nominated for best dramatic actor.

Because the awards recognize movies and television shows, the Golden Globe ceremony is one of the most star-studded events of the year, and because it is a dinner party with wine and Champagne, it is often more relaxed than the Oscars. But given the nation’s sour economy, Hollywood had been unsure of how to handle the self-congratulation-a-thon.

In the end, the Globes decided to pour on the glitter whether it fit the cultural mood or not, driven in part by last year’s dreadful experience, in which the gala was replaced by a drab news conference because of a writers’ strike. NBC lost viewers and millions of dollars.

The production featured more elaborate sets than in past years, a redesigned statuette (more detailing) and a more extravagant dinner (“aromatic Asian spice marinated sea bass with sherry yuzu pepper sauce”). Dick Clark Productions, which produced the telecast for NBC, said that more than 200 celebrities were expected to attend and that the red carpet — more of a zoo than normal, certain Hollywood watchers observed — was stocked with at least 500 microphones and cameras to capture celebrity fashions and beam chit-chat to the masses.

The press association had tried to curate a show that featured a younger set of stars, something that it had hoped would attract younger viewers. To that end, Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens, the stars of Disney’s “High School Musical” franchise, were presenters along with the Jonas Brothers. Many nominees were notable for their youth this time around, with Miley Cyrus receiving a nomination for best song and James Franco nominated for his acting in the comedy “Pineapple Express.”

The walk-up to the Globes over the weekend included the usual assortment of parties and frolic, with Paramount hosting a party at the Chateau Marmont on Saturday night for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and Miramax and Walt Disney Studios inviting the throngs to the rooftop at the Beverly Wilshire in honor of films that include “Doubt” and “Wall-E.”

As Sunday dawned — sunny and warm, with temperatures in the Beverly Hills 90210 zone pointed toward the upper 70s — it became clear the audience still had a large appetite for a legend like Clint Eastwood, even if those who vote for the Globes largely bypassed him this year. The morning box office reports put his “Gran Torino” on top with about $29 million in ticket sales, as it spread from a handful of theaters to more than 2,800 locations around the country.

Inside the awards banquet, Ms. Linney and Meryl Streep were all hugs, and Mr. Spielberg schmoozed like a new kid in town. “It’s a reunion for these people,” said one waiter who has worked the event before.

Ms. Winslet made a beeline for the hotel’s door to get off the throbbing red carpet. “This event is wonderful, but there is so much pressure, so much madness out here, you don’t know where to look,” she said.

Her co-star in “Revolutionary Road,” Mr. DiCaprio, stopped to talk about the country’s economic woes.

“There are a lot of problems out there in the world, many of them serious, many of them that I care deeply about, but who am I, or any other actor, to get in the way of tradition?” he said. “I think it’s O.K. to take a night off and have some fun.”

Not everyone was joining in the frolic. When Kristin Scott Thomas, the English actress, was asked who or what she was wearing, she said, “My skin.”

David Carr contributed reporting.

Springsteen Wins Second Golden Globe For "The Wrestler"

Bruce Springsteen won at last night's 66th Golden Globe Awards for Best Original Song from a Motion Picture for "The Wrestler," the title track to the critically acclaimed Mickey Rourke flick. The Boss had previously won the same award in 1994 for "Streets Of Philadelphia" from Philadelphia.

In his acceptance speech, Springsteen joked "This is the only time I'm gonna be in competition with Clint Eastwood," who was nominated for his own song from the film Gran Torino. He thanked Rourke, who had personally reached out to Springsteen to write the song. Springsteen said, "Thank you brother, for a beautiful performance, thank you. Thanks for thinking of me." He also wished a happy birthday to his longtime sax player Clarence Clemons.

Wrestler director Darren Aronofsky recently told MTV News that Rourke did indeed write a letter to Springsteen, "a very long, heartfelt letter - and sent him the script," to convince the Boss to write a tune for the film. Springsteen wrote the song and a month later, performed it backstage at Giants Stadium for Aronofsky and Rourke. The director also revealed that since the movie was on a tight budget, "he gave us the song for free."

Rourke also won for Best Actor for the movie and revealed in his acceptance speech that Axl Rose donated "Sweet Child O Mine" to The Wrestler for free as well.

Listening to Schroeder: ‘Peanuts’ Scholars Find Messages in Cartoon’s Scores
April Dembosky

In a “Peanuts” strip from the mid-1950s, Charlie Brown walks through the first panel and finds Schroeder sitting in front of an adult-size hi-fi, his ear to the speaker. “Shh,” Schroeder says, “I’m listening to Beethoven’s Ninth.” Charlie Brown inspects Schroeder’s outfit. “In an overcoat?” he asks. Schroeder leans even closer to the speaker and responds, “The first movement was so beautiful it gave me the chills!”

In the world of “Peanuts,” of course, Schroeder was the Beethoven-obsessed music nerd who lost patience when Lucy interrupted his practice and who called time-outs as a baseball catcher to share composer trivia with the pitcher. Yet musicologists and art curators have learned that there was much more than a punch line to Charles Schulz’s invocation of Beethoven’s music.

“If you don’t read music and you can’t identify the music in the strips, then you lose out on some of the meaning,” said William Meredith, the director of the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies at San Jose State University, who has studied hundreds of Beethoven-themed “Peanuts” strips.

When Schroeder pounded on his piano, his eyes clenched in a trance, the notes floating above his head were no random ink spots dropped into the key of G. Schulz carefully chose each snatch of music he drew and transcribed the notes from the score. More than an illustration, the music was a soundtrack to the strip, introducing the characters’ state of emotion, prompting one of them to ask a question or punctuating an interaction.

“The music is a character in the strip as much as the people are, because the music sets the tone,” Mr. Meredith said. To understand what gave Schroeder chills, he said, you have to listen to the musical passage. “When you actually hear the symphony, the whole thing feels completely different.”

That linkage is the central theme of “Schulz’s Beethoven: Schroeder’s Muse,” an exhibition at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center here, which was jointly organized with the Beethoven center. (It continues through Jan. 26 at the museum and will reopen on May 1 at the center in San Jose.)

Mr. Meredith spent more than a year identifying the compositions, gathering recordings and reinterpreting the strips; Jane O’Cain, the museum’s curator, researched Schulz’s artistic process and music-listening habits.

In the resulting show visitors can gaze upon the Beethoven strips, then tap a number into their audio guide and hear the music Schroeder is playing.

In a strip from 1953 Schroeder embarks on an intensive workout. He does push-ups, jumps rope, lifts weights, touches his toes, does sit-ups (“Puff, Puff”), boxes, runs (“Pant, Pant”) and finally eats (“Chomp! Chomp!”). In the last two panels he walks to his piano with determination and begins playing furiously, sweat springing from his brow.

The eighth notes above Schroeder’s head are from the opening bars of Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata (Op. 106), a piece so long, artistically complex and technically difficult that it is referred to as the “Giant” Sonata. When Beethoven delivered it to the publisher in 1819, he is believed to have said, “Now you will have a sonata that will keep the pianists busy when it is played 50 years from now.”

According to the exhibition notes, classical music was as much a priority for Mr. Schulz as drawing was when he attended art school in the 1940s. He once said of his classmates, “We all collected classical albums, which we frequently shared on evenings when we got together to listen to music and challenge each other in wild games of hearts.”

Sue Broadwell, who worked as Schulz’s secretary from 1963 to 1967, said he played classical and other records — “he had a weakness for country western,” she said — in his studio while he worked. “He encouraged me to take a music appreciation course, which I did,” she said. “Every once in a while, as I was learning different pieces, he’d whistle some for me and I had to guess them.”

Mr. Schulz also regularly attended classical music concerts here with his family.

“He could sit almost perfectly still the whole time, without squirming, without crossing his legs,” said Jeannie Schulz, the cartoonist’s widow, who helped found the museum and serves as president of its board.

During concerts, she said, “he would pull a notebook out of his breast pocket and write something down,” adding: “Later in the car, he would say, ‘How would it be if Marcie and Peppermint Patty were at a concert, and ...’ He was always thinking about his characters.”

Although Schulz greatly admired Beethoven, his favorite composer was actually Brahms. He simply found that the name Beethoven — the way it sounded and the way it looked on the page — was funnier, the exhibition notes remark.

Accuracy and authenticity are hallmarks of the strips, whether they deal with music, sports or medical conditions, Ms. O’Cain, the museum’s curator, said. “With figure skating, he would carefully study books to make sure the jumps or spins that he had characters portraying, that they were correct,” she said. He would add subtle twists or inside jokes for readers familiar with skating or surfing or shorthand.

Mr. Schulz also mined Beethoven’s life for material. He had numerous books in which he underlined details about Beethoven’s love life, clothing, even his favorite recipe (macaroni with cheese).

“I have read several biographies of Beethoven — being strangely fascinated by the lives of composers, much more so than the lives of painters,” he said in 1975. As a result, Schulz fans like to point out, the strips are as educational as they are entertaining.

“What you thought was a funny tagline was an absolutely true story out of Beethoven’s life,” said Karen Johnson, the Schulz museum’s director.

Beethoven’s birthday was a perennial “Peanuts” event. Schroeder appeared in “Peanuts” for 49 years, and the composer’s birthday was acknowledged in 27 of them. Sometime in the 1960s Mr. Schulz hosted a real-life birthday party for Beethoven in his home in Northern California, according to Ms. O’Cain’s curatorial research. He drew Beethoven sweatshirts for each of the guests, two of which have been tracked down. One with the composer’s portrait is in the show.

The other, owned by Lee Mendelson, the producer of the Peanuts animated specials, features a full-body drawing of Beethoven — in a Schroeder sweatshirt.

How "Green" Are Your Gadgets?
Anupreeta Das

Green is in like never before at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, with 3,000 square feet of dedicated floor space and companies touting the energy-saving, earth-friendly attributes of their gadgets.

On display are "eco-buttons" that reduce your computer's power consumption, e-lanterns that produce an hour's worth of light if you crank them for a minute, luminous TV screens that use far less energy than standard TVs and even mercury-free batteries that are 94 percent recyclable.

But in the absence of a uniform global standard that certifies a product as "green," are environment-conscious consumers buying more green hype than green engineering?

Not necessarily, said Jeff Omelchuck, director of the Green Electronics Council, which provides an Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) certification for computers. The EPEAT provides manufacturers with a set of criteria against which to measure their products' environmental impact.

"Electronics are in fact much more environmentally friendly today than even five years ago," Omelchuck, an engineer, told Reuters.

But that does not mean gadgets are "sustainable" -- leaving no adverse impact on the environment as they make their way from the factory to a recycling unit -- which would make them truly green, Omelchuck added.

"Companies are making products greener because the market expects them to," he added.

Green Dollars

This year, manufacturers are also touting the energy efficiency of their products to draw consumers who are spending fewer dollars on discretionary products due to the recession.

While that is a start, environmental activists and analysts say any energy savings from a so-called green device will be offset if it uses highly toxic batteries or cannot be recycled.

Gadgets will be truly green when companies employ more eco-friendly manufacturing processes, packaging, design and recycling programs as part of a holistic approach to sustainability, they added.

"Consumers shouldn't have to choose between products that are incredibly green in one area, but grey in another," said Casey Harrell, a toxics campaigner for Greenpeace International.

On Friday, the pro-environment group held a news conference at CES to share highlights from a December green electronics survey.

Harrell said at the conference the electronics industry has taken "encouraging strides" toward improving green features on some gadgets in the past year. But the absence of an international standard makes it tough for consumers to decide which gadgets are greenest.

Greenpeace's assessment of about 50 electronics products found Lenovo Group Ltd's L2440x wide computer monitor, Sharp Corp's LC-52GX5 television, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd 's F268 mobile phone, Nokia's 6210 smartphone and Toshiba Machine Co Ltd's Portege R600 laptop were the greenest in their categories.

Screen Technology

Earlier this week, Samsung Electronics introduced a flat- screen TV that uses 40 percent less energy because it uses light-emitting diode technology rather than the traditional cathode lamps.

"The advantage of LED TVs is that they are environmentally friendly, can save a lot of power, use no mercury or lead and have a high picture quality," said Jongwoo Park, Samsung's president of digital media.

LG Electronics Inc devoted part of its CES display to showcasing green products, including a Bluetooth solar car kit and recyclable packaging materials. Toshiba showcased an ion battery designed for bicycle maker Schwinn's electronic bike, which gives up to 30 miles on a single charge.

Parker Brugge, vice president of environmental affairs at the Consumer Electronics Association, said companies have an inherent incentive to go green because it produces better gadgets. Making a television more energy efficient also makes it last longer and heat up less, he said.

What is more, the show host, has itself gotten greener by reducing brochures and paper usage, and offering booths made of recyclable parts.

"Everyone has to do their part," he added.

(Editing by Tiffany Wu and Andre Grenon)

Revealed: the Environmental Impact of Google Searches

Physicist Alex Wissner-Gross says that performing two Google searches uses up as much energy as boiling the kettle for a cup of tea
Jonathan Leake and Richard Woods

Click here for how to reduce the footprint of the Web | Google's response to the story

Performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea, according to new research.

While millions of people tap into Google without considering the environment, a typical search generates about 7g of CO2 Boiling a kettle generates about 15g. “Google operates huge data centres around the world that consume a great deal of power,” said Alex Wissner-Gross, a Harvard University physicist whose research on the environmental impact of computing is due out soon. “A Google search has a definite environmental impact.”

Google is secretive about its energy consumption and carbon footprint. It also refuses to divulge the locations of its data centres. However, with more than 200m internet searches estimated globally daily, the electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions caused by computers and the internet is provoking concern. A recent report by Gartner, the industry analysts, said the global IT industry generated as much greenhouse gas as the world’s airlines - about 2% of global CO2 emissions. “Data centres are among the most energy-intensive facilities imaginable,” said Evan Mills, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. Banks of servers storing billions of web pages require power.

Though Google says it is in the forefront of green computing, its search engine generates high levels of CO2 because of the way it operates. When you type in a Google search for, say, “energy saving tips”, your request doesn’t go to just one server. It goes to several competing against each other.

It may even be sent to servers thousands of miles apart. Google’s infrastructure sends you data from whichever produces the answer fastest. The system minimises delays but raises energy consumption. Google has servers in the US, Europe, Japan and China.

Wissner-Gross has submitted his research for publication by the US Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and has also set up a website www.CO2stats.com. “Google are very efficient but their primary concern is to make searches fast and that means they have a lot of extra capacity that burns energy,” he said.

Google said: “We are among the most efficient of all internet search providers.”

Wissner-Gross has also calculated the CO2 emissions caused by individual use of the internet. His research indicates that viewing a simple web page generates about 0.02g of CO2 per second. This rises tenfold to about 0.2g of CO2 a second when viewing a website with complex images, animations or videos.

A separate estimate from John Buckley, managing director of carbonfootprint.com, a British environmental consultancy, puts the CO2 emissions of a Google search at between 1g and 10g, depending on whether you have to start your PC or not. Simply running a PC generates between 40g and 80g per hour, he says. of CO2 Chris Goodall, author of Ten Technologies to Save the Planet, estimates the carbon emissions of a Google search at 7g to 10g (assuming 15 minutes’ computer use).

Nicholas Carr, author of The Big Switch, Rewiring the World, has calculated that maintaining a character (known as an avatar) in the Second Life virtual reality game, requires 1,752 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. That is almost as much used by the average Brazilian.

“It’s not an unreasonable comparison,” said Liam Newcombe, an expert on data centres at the British Computer Society. “It tells us how much energy westerners use on entertainment versus the energy poverty in some countries.”

Though energy consumption by computers is growing - and the rate of growth is increasing - Newcombe argues that what matters most is the type of usage.

If your internet use is in place of more energy-intensive activities, such as driving your car to the shops, that’s good. But if it is adding activities and energy consumption that would not otherwise happen, that may pose problems.

Newcombe cites Second Life and Twitter, a rapidly growing website whose 3m users post millions of messages a month. Last week Stephen Fry, the TV presenter, was posting “tweets” from New Zealand, imparting such vital information as “Arrived in Queenstown. Hurrah. Full of bungy jumping and ‘activewear’ shops”, and “Honestly. NZ weather makes UK look stable and clement”.

Jonathan Ross was Twittering even more, with posts such as “Am going to muck out the pigs. It will be cold, but I’m not the type to go on about it” and “Am now back indoors and have put on fleecy tracksuit and two pairs of socks”. Ross also made various “tweets” trying to ascertain whether Jeremy Clarkson was a Twitter user or not. Yesterday the Top Gear presenter cleared up the matter, saying: “I am not a twit. And Jonathan Ross is.”

Such internet phenomena are not simply fun and hot air, Newcombe warns: the boom in such services has a carbon cost.

Revealed: The Times Made Up That Stuff About Google And The Tea Kettles
Jason Kincaid

Yesterday an article in The Times of London set the web abuzz over new findings that every Google search contributed 7 grams of CO2 to the atmosphere - half the amount produced when heating a tea kettle (heaven forbid!). I criticized the article for being overly alarmist, with a lack of perspective and possible bias. Google also responded, effectively denouncing the claim.

At the heart of the story was a young physicist named Alex Wissner-Gross, who, according to the article, says “that performing two Google searches uses up as much energy as boiling the kettle for a cup of tea”. This sentence alone was enough to rile up reporters around the globe, and has now been repeated in hundreds of articles worldwide.

Unfortunately, according to Wissner-Gross he never said anything of the sort. For starters, he says he would never refer to any sort of measurement having to do with tea (he’d go with coffee). But his findings have nothing to do with Google as a company, either - they’re concerned with much more generalized stats, like your computer’s rate of CO2 production when you look at a webpage.

Wissner-Gross says that the widely circulated 7 gram/search figure came from some other source (he’s not sure where), and notes that if you read the article carefully it only makes it sound like it’s from his data. He has confirmed that he did make some vague statements regarding Google, including “A Google search has a definite environmental impact” and “Google operates huge data centers around the world that consume a great deal of power”. But the “tea kettle” statistic that has been repeated ad nauseum simply isn’t his. After learning of the misleading story, Wissner-Gross says that he contacted The Times and was assured that it would be fixed by Sunday morning. No corrections have been made.

Another concern I had with The Times article was that it neglected to accurately describe Wissner-Gross’s company, CO2Stats. The startup allows companies to purchase renewable energy to neutralize their website’s environmental impact and get “Green Certified” badges to display on their homepages. Because of this potential conflict of interest, Wissner-Gross’s affiliation with the company should have been described in the article, but was only mentioned in passing. Again, it seems like The Times was at fault here, as Wissner-Gross says that he described the purpose of CO2Stats and his role there in detail, though it seems to have been largely ignored by the reporters in question.

He may have been misquoted, but Wissner-Gross hasn’t failed to capitalize on the article - he’s spent the majority of the day conducting interviews with news publications as well as radio and television shows, and CO2Stats will likely see a boost (as will the Green IT movement in general).

This isn’t the first time in recent memory that The Times has been mistaken about a tech story - in late November the newspaper incorrectly reported on a complicated and fictional Yahoo/Microsoft search arrangement.

Once Mighty PC Makers Succumb to Slowdown
Kelvin Soh

The global PC industry stood tall for most of last year as other technology sectors foundered, but it too has caught the bug of a deepening economic downturn that has hit demand from both consumers and corporate buyers.

As recently as November, J.T. Wang, chairman of Acer, the world's No. 3 PC seller, was confident PCs were immune to global downturns due to the growing importance of computers in everyday life.

"Children will still need to go to school. They will need computers! Businesses will continue running. They too will need computers!" Wang had said.

Fast forward two months, when a slew of recent sales warnings and cuts in business forecasts signal the sudden downturn will last through most of 2009, if not longer.

"Demand is weak, and I don't think we're alone in forecasting negative growth in 2009," said Pranab Sarmah, an IT analyst at Daiwa Institute of Research.

"We may see demand picking up only in the second half of 2009, when the traditional back-to-school season begins and consumers start spending again."

Analysts' forecasts for global PC shipments in 2009 vary, but many expect sales to fall. Research firm IDC expects spending on PCs could drop 5.3 percent this year to about $267 billion, versus its previous forecast of a 4.5 percent increase.

Brands such as Dell and Lenovo, the world's No. 2 and 4 PC sellers, could face more pain mostly due to their reliance on sales to businesses, which have cut back their spending more sharply than consumers, said Gartner analyst Lillian Tay.

"They've already been shifting their focus toward the consumer space, but can they reform in time? Anyway, even consumer spending is seasonal, trending upwards only during the festive and back-to-school periods, which is not now," she said.

Shares in global leader Hewlett-Packard and Acer, both of which have a strong presence in the consumer sector, outperformed their benchmark indexes in 2008.

Downward revisions to 2009 shipment forecasts from leading data tracking firms IDC and Gartner were the first hint of problems in the system. Those were followed by analyst downgrades and reorganization announcements by Dell and Lenovo.

The latest bombshell came last week, when top chipmaker Intel Corp -- whose chips are the "brains" behind more than 80 percent of the world's PCs -- issued a revenue warning, saying demand for PCs was even worse than it feared.

Q4 Slowdown

PC shipment growth in the fourth quarter of 2008 is likely to be soft, as the global recession led both companies and consumers to cut back on an item viewed as a discretionary item for many.

Brands catering to corporate customers may be taking a harder hit than those chasing consumers with a wide array of low-cost computers, as companies reduce or delay new technology spending in the brutal economic slowdown, analysts said.

HP and Dell have both lost market share recently to consumer-focused competitors such as Acer and Asustek, both of Taiwan.

Last week, Lenovo forecast a quarterly loss as China's slowing economy hit sales, and said it will axe 2,500 jobs as part of a restructuring to cope with falling demand for computers.

Lenovo has also been hit by its purchase of IBM's PC business in 2005, which focused on corporate customers.

As times get leaner, Acer and Asustek have scored success with a new category of low-cost notebooks, called netbooks, which many others initially dismissed.

With the dramatic slowdown in corporate spending, the big brands are also racing to focus more on consumers. Smaller players such as NEC and Sony have also embraced computers aimed at budget-conscious shoppers.

"Growth in the market has been in the consumer side, and Lenovo has been bogged down by their commercial business," said Bryan Ma, an IDC analyst.

"That's not to say they're doing badly, they're still great, but compare them to what Acer was doing on the consumer front and that's where you can see the difference."

But even consumer-focused names are beginning to hurt.

Asustek, widely credited with helping create the wildly popular netbook market, said last week it will miss its shipment targets for the fourth quarter of 2008 as it reported a 20 percent year-on-year drop in December sales.

Many analysts say the current climate is too volatile to forecast a specific recovery. That could mean good news in the form of lower prices for consumers but bad news for PC makers who will see their already-thin margins erode further.

"The price of technology will always go down, that goes without saying," said Daniel Chang, a PC analyst at Macquarie Securities.

"But with demand so weak, if PC brands want to sell their products, they're going to have to depress their average selling price even further sometime soon."

It's a prospect many consumers at Taiwan's popular Kuanghwa computer mart are eagerly waiting for.

"I'm going to hang in there for a while more," said student Nick Chen, as he examined one of Asustek's newest releases: the Eee Top touchscreen-enabled desktop.

"If nobody's buying, they'll just have to cut prices even more."

(Editing by Doug Young and Anshuman Daga)

Netbooks Take Center Stage at CES
Gabriel Madway

Netbooks were everywhere and on everyone's lips at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, expanding as a category of small laptop PCs that are rewriting the rules for the struggling computer industry.

While nearly every major PC makers had a new netbook on display at the four-day show ending on Sunday, no two companies seemed to agree on what the rules are to define this segment of tiny, ultra-portable notebooks.

Some netbooks are stripped-down PCs optimized for Internet use and costing a relatively affordable $300-$400. But others are fancier, like Sony Corp's $900, 8-inch device with all the bells and whistles of full-sized notebooks.

It is early enough in the game -- netbooks did not take off until last year -- that their ultimate place in the PC universe is still unknown. If netbooks are, as many PC companies hope, a companion product to a traditional laptop or desktop computer, then they have discovered a new avenue to grow sales.

If, however, netbooks are replacement laptops, then they would eat into the notebook market in a substantial way and pinch the margins of PC makers.

Forrester analyst J.P. Gownder calls netbooks the "third form factor in the consumer PC space, in addition to laptops and desktops" and said in a research report that companies should emphasize them as a complementary product.

Phil McKinney, chief technology officer for Hewlett-Packard Co's personal systems group, said the company continues to view netbooks as a companion device. "We kind of look at the minis as what we call a tweener product," he said.

What is certain is that netbooks are one of the few bright spots for PC makers being punished by reduced IT spending and falling consumer demand due to the global economic slowdown.

CES saw big names such as HP, Dell Inc, and Sony introduce new pint-sized models. Meanwhile, netbook pioneer Asustek showed off flashy innovations on its line-up of netbooks, including a tablet model.

Definition OF Netbook Changing

As originally conceived, netbooks were small, lightweight, commodity PCs that offered consumers the ability to do simple tasks such as Web-surfing, email and chat at a very attractive price below that of a budget standard laptop.

The first netbooks to strike a chord with consumers were models from Asustek and fellow Taiwanese PC maker Acer Inc. The two companies still hold a commanding share of the market, according to research firm DisplaySearch.

But with the bigger PC players now in the netbook game, the market should get more competitive. Dell's and HP's models are generally a little pricier, but still quite affordable.

Toshiba Corp is also preparing to bring a netbook to the U.S. market, said Carl Pinto, vice president of marketing for digital products at Toshiba America.

He conceded that netbooks do eat into the notebook segment, but dismissed the reality. "Even if there's some cannibalization, it's still complementary," he said.

Asustek Chairman Jonney Shih said he sees a netbook cannibalization rate of around 10 percent, but said they are the key to his company's future: "Those kinds of products are the growth opportunity for us."

Many PC makers are also rolling out so-called ultra-light notebooks, and they are careful to not lump them with netbooks. Ultra-lights generally boast higher performance, a slightly larger screen and a heftier price tag.

The category was essentially launched by Apple Inc and its MacBook Air. However, Dell has now entered the space with its lower-cost dv2 and dv3 models. Dell also gave CES a sneak peek at its Adamo model, an ultra-light "luxury" offering whose price tag has yet to be disclosed.

(Reporting by Gabriel Madway, editing by Tiffany Wu, Bernard Orr)

What Your Computer's Drive Will Look Like in 5 Years

Hard disk drives may soon be replaced by solid-state disk (SSD) drives
Lucas Mearian

As solid-state disk (SSD) technology closes in on hard disk drive (HDD) capacity and price, experts say it may not be long before spinning disks are a thing of the past and a computer's storage resides in flash memory on the motherboard.

By making the drive part of a system's core architecture -- instead of a peripheral device -- data I/O performance could initially double, quadruple or more, according to Jim McGregor, chief technology strategist at market research firm In-Stat.

"Instead of using a SATA interface, let's break that and instead of making it look like a disk drive, let's make it look like part of the memory hierarchy," McGregor said. "Obviously, if you break down that interface, you get more performance."

Currently, Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) is the bus used to transfer data between a computer and storage devices, be it HDDs or SSDs in a 1.8-in., 2.5-in. or 3.5-in. disk drive form factor. SSD manufacturers have been fitting SSDs into a hard disk drive case to fit it into existing computer architectures.

Within three years, McGregor said SSDs with 256GB capacity -- already on the market -- will be close to the same price as hard drives. (A 256GB SSD for the new 17-in. MacBook Pro from Apple is a $900 build-to-order option, for instance. A 250GB HDD goes for about a tenth that price.) That will signal to manufacturers that it's time to consider an interface change. And, while SSDs will be lagging behind the 500GB to 1TB capacities of hard disk drives for some time to come, McGregor argues that users don't need that much storage anyway.

"We've already seen this trend in the netbook space, and we will see it more in the notebook platform. Storage will begin to look more like a memory module than a hard drive," said Dean Klein, vice president of Micron Corp.'s SSD group. "There's a move afoot to make it more like a card-edge connector, so the SSD would not have the cost of a mechanical connector. It would just have gold-plated fingers on the edge: No enclosure, just the circuit board."

Disk drive vendors are doubling the capacity of drives every 12 to 18 months, but In-Stat's data indicates that the average storage requirements of users increase in a more linear way. And, while HD video can drive a huge swing in storage requirements, the advent of online libraries and storage services tend to even out the trends, McGregor said.

According to In-Stat, SSD prices have been dropping 60% year over year. Currently, the price of consumer-grade SSD costs from $2 to $3.45 per gigabyte, with hard drives going for about 38 cents per gigabyte, according to Gartner Inc. and iSuppli Corp.

"Two years ago, SSDs cost $17.50 per gigabyte, so it's obvious that consumer NAND flash memory will soon be a true contender to hard disk drives -- it's just not there yet," Gartner analyst Joseph Unsworth said. "I think you need to get to 128GB for around $200, and that's going to happen around 2010. Also, the industry needs to effectively communicate why consumers or enterprise users should pay more for less storage."

Klein argued that using an SSD in its native state, as NAND chips on a board without an enclosure, will reduce cost, weight, power use and space.

In January last year, IBM launched the Lenovo ThinkPad X300, the industry's first mainstream notebook designed not to take a hard drive, but a 64GB SSD. Dell followed IBM with its all-SSD Latitude D420 ultra-mobile and D620 ATG semi-rugged notebooks.

"Moving forward people will design the entire notebook around SSD. You could spread SSD out over the mother board. So moving forward there will be a lot of custom notebooks with custom SSDs," said Brian Beard, marketing manager for Samsung's flash memory group.

Samsung, which sells laptops, not only manufactures and sells HDDs, but it's own line of SSD as well as selling flash memory to other vendors to resell.

Beard expects SSD penetration in the laptop market will only reach 30% by 2012, but he also believes around the same time HDD and SDD will reach price parity.

Within the next year, Micron expects to bring to market a high-end SSD that could achieve 1GB/sec. throughput by using a PCIe interface rather than traditional SATA or SAS. The transfer speed is four times that offered by Intel's newest, enterprise-class SSD, the X25-E.

In a video on Micron's blog site, Joe Jeddeloh, director of the vendor's Advanced Storage Technology Center, demonstrated the technology using a two-processor, eight-core Intel Xeon PC and a card with two SSDs and 16 flash channels. A blurry readout showed the SSD reaching 800MB/sec. throughput, with Jeddeloh claiming that it "will be hitting a bandwidth of 1GB/sec. and at least 200,000 IOPS," or I/O operations per second.

The card was directly connected to a PCI Express (PCIe) slot, bypassing SATA or Serial Attached SCSI interfaces. While PCIe has the same throughput as SATA II -- 3Gbit/sec. -- PCIe offers more channels.

Using file transfers ranging from 2KB to 2MB, Jeddeloh demonstrated 150,000 to 160,000 random reads per second in the video. "That's what flash can do when it's managed correctly," he said.

NAND flash boards
While Micron's SSD technology is aimed at high-end applications that would run on Fibre Channel SANs, such as transactional databases or streaming video, Klein said consumer-grade computers using SSDs directly connected to a PCIe bus with four lanes (x4 slots) could soon achieve similar results.

Physical PCIe slots may contain from one to 32 lanes of data. Currently, PCIe Generation 1 offers 250MB/sec. throughput per lane. The second generation of PCIe is expected out next year and will offer twice the throughput, or 500MB/sec. per lane. While SATA 3.0, expected out this year, also doubles throughput, it only offers one lane.

"Each lane of that x4 PCIe is as fast as a SATA 3.0's 6Gbit/sec. bus," Klein said. "So I can be four times as fast on that one slot as an SSD could be on a SATA 3.0 connection. That's really the direction things are going."

Seagate Offers Fix, Free Data Recovery for Bricked Barracudas
Cyril Kowaliski

Well, how about that. Seagate has acknowledged the bricking issue surrounding Barracuda 7200.11 hard drives, and it's trying to make things right by offering a firmware fix and data recovery services. Here's the full statement we received from company spokesman Mike Hall:

Seagate has isolated a potential firmware issue in certain products, including some Barracuda 7200.11 hard drives and related drive families based on this product platform, manufactured through December 2008. In some circumstances, the data on the hard drives may become inaccessible to the user when the host system is powered on*.

As part of our commitment to customer satisfaction, we are offering a free firmware upgrade to those with affected products. To determine whether your product is affected, please visit the Seagate Support web site at http://seagate.custkb.com/seagate/cr...p?DocId=207931.

Support is also available through Seagate's call center: 1-800-SEAGATE (1 800 732-4283)

Customers can expedite assistance by sending an email to Seagate (discsupport@seagate.com). Please include the following disk drive information: model number, serial number and current firmware revision. We will respond, promptly, to your email request with appropriate instructions. There is no data loss associated with this issue, and the data still resides on the drive. But if you are unable to access your data due to this issue, Seagate will provide free data recovery services. Seagate will work with you to expedite a remedy to minimize any disruption to you or your business.

For a list of international telephone numbers to Seagate Support and alternative methods of contact, please access http://www.seagate.com/www/en-us/about/contact_us/

*There is no safety issue with these products.
The free data recovery for already-bricked hard drives seems like a nice touch, especially considering the cost of third-party services. According to the knowledge base entry, though, the issue may affect a fairly large number of drive models—not just the 1TB four-platter drive we talked about earlier this week. Seagate recommends that users with 1.5TB, 750GB, 640GB, 500GB, 320GB, and 160GB Barracuda 7200.11 drives, along with some Maxtor and ES.2 models, all install the firmware update.

Update: Seagate has amended its statement to remove the following sentence: "Retail products potentially affected include the Seagate FreeAgent® Desk and Maxtor OneTouch® 4 storage solutions." We've put up the new statement above.

China Cites MSN, More Web Sites for Vulgar Content

China has expanded its campaign against pornography and vulgar content online, naming more than a dozen Web sites, including Microsoft's MSN, that it says need to clean up.

The Web sites contained a large amount of vulgar material that "violated society's morals, and harmed the health of young people," said a notice posted late Thursday on China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Center's Web site.

The government-backed body that monitors the Internet urged the sites to eliminate offensive content and Internet users to monitor the process.

On Monday, seven government agencies launched a one-month campaign to clean up China's Internet content. The same day, the center criticized 19 Web sites, including Google and China's most popular search engine Baidu, for allegedly carrying vulgar or pornographic content.

Many of the Web sites issued apologies and vowed to clean up, setting up hot lines for complaints.

The Chinese government blocks access to many Web sites it considers subversive or too political, and Internet companies regularly self-censor to keep from running afoul of the authorities who often launch clean up campaigns.

The center said MSN China's movie channel and bulletin board contained a large amount of vulgar images.

Microsoft China could not be immediately reached for comment.

Also included in the list is Tom Online's Internet portal. The company has a venture with Internet-based phone provider Skype for the Chinese market.

The center said Thursday that Google has begun cleaning up its content but needs to continue. It said Baidu has completed a cleanup but it has been ineffective and much vulgar content still exists.

Officials at Google Inc. were not immediately available for comment. A notice on its Web site Tuesday said it had started checking for links that contained vulgar content.

At Baidu's public relations office, a woman surnamed Zhang said she had not seen the report yet. She referred questions to Baidu's overseas department, where the phone rang unanswered.

TOM Online said in a statement on its Web site Thursday that it was "deeply regretful" and posted a number and e-mail address for complaints.

"Regarding this vulgar content, TOM staff have already responded instantly, proactively and thoroughly," it said.

China has the world's largest population of Internet users with more than 250 million.

China Shuts 91 Sites in Porn Crackdown: State Media

China shut down 50 additional websites over the weekend as authorities crack down on online porn, ordering Internet giants such as Google to cut links with such material, state-run media said Sunday.

A total of 91 sites have been shut down or blocked since Thursday as part of a month-long campaign that the government says is aimed at stamping out online pornography, the Xinhua news agency said.

Distributing pornography is illegal in China and authorities urged law-breakers to turn themselves into police, warning that tougher measures would come in the following days, the report said.

The report gave few details on which sites were shut down.

China's Ministry of Public Security and six other government agencies launched the drive against sites that post or link to content that "harms public morality" and corrupts the nation's youth, Xinhua said.

They have included Google, MSN and Baidu, the most popular Chinese search engine.

Companies that ignore government warnings to remove obscene content or links to such material have been threatened with closure.

Google, Baidu and other Internet portals have since issued apologies and moved against online porn.

Google said Wednesday it had deleted all links to vulgar material from its search indexes and would go all-out to prevent such material re-appearing.

"Google is willing to be a law-abiding citizen in China," it said in a statement.

China has launched Internet crackdowns on pornography, con artists and political activists in the past but officials have warned the latest campaign would include tougher measures, without giving specifics.

China has the world's largest online population at more that 250 million, according to official figures, and it is growing rapidly as computer use rises along with income levels.

China's communist rulers generally exercise strict control over the Internet, blocking sites linked to many politically sensitive subjects.

RealNetworks Confident of Winning DVD Copying Suit
Rachel Metz

RealNetworks Inc. Chief Executive Rob Glaser is still confident that people will be able to use the company's RealDVD software to copy DVDs to their personal computers _ just not now.

In an interview with reporters at the International Consumer Electronics Show, Glaser said he expects that the digital entertainment company will win a suit filed against it in October by six major Hollywood studios.

He also said that if the company needs to make small changes to its software so that it can be sold, it will, "but we don't anticipate any," he added.

The studios argue that the software allows video pirating. The program was launched at the end of September and let consumers copy DVDs that could then be played on up to five computers per user.

Seattle-based RealNetworks has said the software does not remove or alter the "content scrambling system," or CSS, encryption that is included on commercial DVDs. It filed a suit against the studios at the same time they brought their joint suit against the company.

RealNetworks is currently subject to a temporary prohibition on the distribution of the software, which a federal judge in San Francisco put in place in October. Glaser said Friday he expects an injunction hearing will be held in that city in March.

Glaser also said that before it released RealDVD, RealNetworks "assessed there was some risk" of a lawsuit from Hollywood studios regarding the software, but "tried to avoid it."

The studios that sued RealNetworks are Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures, Sony Corp.'s Sony Pictures, News Corp.'s Twentieth Century Fox, General Electric Co.'s Universal, The Walt Disney Co.'s Disney studio and Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros.

A spokeswoman for the Motion Picture Association of America Inc. could not immediately be reached for comment.

Guitar Hero III First Game to Reach $1 Billion in Sales
Michael Thompson

It's no secret that Activision has been making some impressive profits lately, thanks in large part to a reliable business strategy: take a popular franchise, and mine it for all it's worth. Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick was frank about the fact that Activision wasn't interested in pursuing games that could be developed into $100 million dollar franchises, but now it seems that he might want to up that number to over $1 billion; it was revealed that Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock has become the first single video game to surpass that amount in sales.

During his keynote speech at CES, Activision Publishing CEO Mike Griffith announced the news, and went on to discuss how the Guitar Hero franchise has affected the music industry. Of particular note was that, aside from the fact that Guitar Hero: Aerosmith had sold three times as many copies as the band's last album during their respective first weeks, musicians whose music is featured in the game has seen a rise in music sales to the tune of 15-843 percent.

According to BBC News, Griffith went on to claim that video games are destined to outshine other forms of media, citing a drop in sales of movie tickets and music over the past few years, as well as a decrease in television viewership. "Movies, recorded music, and TV—these are all stagnating or contracting entertainment sectors," he said, before adding, "video games are poised to eclipse all other forms of entertainment in the decade ahead."

This is, of course, the second time that the Guitar Hero franchise has surpassed a billion dollar mark. Approximately a year ago, Griffith announced that the series itself had earned over $1 billion in sales. The fact that a single game has caught up with that benchmark is beyond impressive.

A & R?: Teaching The Lost Art Of Music Business' Arts-And-Repertoire
Randy Lewis

Once upon a time, A&R were the sexiest letters in the music industry's alphabet.

Executives in the artists-and-repertoire division of every major record label were charged with discovering and nurturing new acts, setting them on the path toward gold and platinum albums and Grammy Awards.

These high-powered talent brokers would spend their nights scouring nightclubs and street corners after days combing through stacks of homemade recordings in their quests for pop music's next big thing.

In an era of record-label retrenchment, however, many labels have reduced or even eliminated A&R staffs. Most companies are looking only to sign acts that come to them spit-shined and ready to market, or perhaps plucked from a TV talent contest, no nurturing required.

But Don Grierson isn't going to let the trade die without a fight. Grierson, a record industry veteran who helped shepherd acts including the Beatles, Little River Band, Heart and Tina Turner, maintains that the skill set he teaches in A&R classes at Hollywood's Musicians Institute continues to be vital, even as the traditional music industry faces a daunting and uncertain future.

"The key question I always ask new students is, 'What is the first and foremost responsibility of an A&R person?' " Grierson said recently at the institute, where he's part of the music business program staff at the largest independent music school in the West. "Most of them say, 'Signing new bands.' That's important, but it's not the most important thing."

What is critical, he and the other instructors say, is training students to anticipate trends and harness new technologies to better serve artists and connect them with an audience. Bringing people together has long been an essential A&R function, and it is just as important in the modern music era.

"There's been a massive shift in A&R," added Jeff Blue, the newest member of the institute's A&R staff and a seasoned pro who has been closely involved in the careers of dozens of acts as a record producer, songwriter and publisher. "It's evolving -- and devolving -- and more and more artists have to be their own record label."

Indeed. A&R professionals once spent time polishing musicians' sound and image, frequently locating potential hit songs for them to record, pairing them with compatible producers and then serving as liaisons with other divisions of the record company that would market, promote and publicize acts and their music. These days such tasks are carried out by independent consultants or the musicians themselves.

The harsh reality is that few record companies, among the major labels anyway, have either the time, money or interest to nurture an act for four years, as Blue did with Linkin Park before the band became a platinum-selling smash.

Grierson, Blue and colleagues Kenny Kerner and Barry Squier are hoping to equip a younger generation with the skills they'll need to succeed in a more demanding professional climate. Instead of partnering singers, instrumentalists or composers with producers, they might pair them with a music supervisor working on a popular television series or a video game franchise, media that have become great ways to break artists.

By adapting bedrock A&R principles to a new media landscape, they're mining rock history to shape the future.

Kerner just might be the perfect person to oversee a school of rock. This beefy, no-nonsense industry veteran with an old-school East Coast accent spent nearly 40 years in the music business -- in the 1970s, he discovered now-legendary band KISS. He heads up MI's A&R staff, working with Grierson, Blue and ex-Columbia and Geffen executive Squier.

Instruction goes beyond textbook theory, or even the real-life examples Kerner, Grierson, Squier and Blue are always ready to supply. Students are assigned to set up virtual record companies. They have to find a band they would like to sign (some use fellow MI instrumental or vocal music students; others recruit them from local clubs or the Internet), make a recording and then promote, market and publicize it.

Matthew Williams, a 25-year-old heavy-metal singer who moved with his guitarist brother, Jason, from Minneapolis to Los Angeles a couple of years ago, didn't have to look far to find a project. Both enrolled at MI to hone their chops, and after a few quarters in the school's guitar program, the brothers' aspiring metal group landed a song in a movie that's due to be released next spring.

Matthew Williams decided he needed to know more about the industry, so he signed up for the two-quarter music business program, in which students earn a certificate after 30 units of course work. It can be combined with one of the instrument or voice courses for an associate's degree or taken independently. At any one time, 100 to 150 students are enrolled in the program.

Williams said that Grierson's A&R class and Squier's guest lecturer series opened his eyes to realities that have been valuable in helping him navigate the initial steps in his career.

"I don't know if it's vital for a musician to learn this stuff," Williams said. "A lot of musicians do fine without it, but I just think it's smart. It was really interesting to learn about the differences between indie label A&R and A&R at the major labels.

"The majors can't take that many chances anymore because there's so much on the line, and people will lose their jobs if an act they sign isn't successful right away. But the indies have to sign more acts to build their rosters, so a heavy-metal band like ours will probably go with an indie. Stuff like that has been useful for us to know."

Katie Scanlon, a 26-year-old 2007 graduate of MI's business program now working as a management and marketing assistant at Nettwerk records, said she's been able to apply much of what she learned at the institute in her day-to-day encounters.

She stressed the importance of having artists truly understand the role they must play in their own success.

"If someone develops an artist on the label or management side," Scanlon said, "there are still a handful of fans who react positively to that — especially if it's a pop artist like a Britney Spears. But there are quite a few fans for whom it's more important to get that personal connection from a grass-roots marketing campaign through the Internet. And those fans really gravitate more toward the proactive bands who know how to effectively use their websites and MySpace pages."

One of the key changes Kerner and his staff make sure students are attuned to is the ever-increasing churn rate for bands with record deals. Between fans' shorter attention spans in looking to make new discoveries themselves on MySpace or other Internet portals and record companies' heightened focus on immediate financial returns, it's harder today for musicians to get the foothold that can lead to a long-term career.

It's not impossible, of course, but Blue and the others note that, despite evolving technological ways for artists to connect with fans, it's still true that the best way to get a gold record is to shake 500,000 hands through touring and personal appearances. And no amount of live Web chats or Facebook activity will substitute for good old songwriting skills.

Perhaps the big lesson for those involved in any facet of the music business is to get used to living with less — less profit and fewer multimillion-selling acts.

"There will always be record labels, even though the nature of the business is changing so much," Grierson said. "I just think we're going to be seeing a lot more small levels of success rather than the giant levels of success we've had in the past."

iTunes Plus: Everything You Need to Know
Nate Lanxon

Apple's iTunes Store is almost completely DRM-free, and will be entirely DRM-free from spring. This means files downloaded from iTunes work on heaps of devices that aren't from Apple. What better way to celebrate the final bullet to the living corpse of copy protection than by reading everything you need to know about iTunes Plus? There isn't one. And anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar, and not your friend.

Be warned: your account information is stored in every file
Although iTunes Plus files feature no copy protection, files downloaded still contain the email address you have registered with iTunes. So although files can physically be shared with, and played by, friends and family, any of your purchases that end up on file-sharing networks, for example, can be traced back to you.

If you're interested in an easy way to check your own files, find an iTunes Plus file on your computer. Then choose to open it with a text editor (Windows Notepad works fine). It'll take a while to open and will appear to be full of nonsense text, but if you choose the 'Find' option and type in the email address you have registered with the iTunes Store, you'll find that your DRM-free music is not personal information-free.

iTunes Plus files aren't MP3s
iTunes uses a format called AAC, which is a more modern alternative to MP3, with the file extension '.m4a'. Many players support this format, however, and you can create MP3 versions of the files within iTunes if you want to, so don't worry -- it's like petrol versus diesel in the car world, except your player's engine won't break if you put the wrong format in.

Players that support iTunes Plus
Unlike the old downloads from iTunes, the new files are supported on a range of devices. Devices that support AAC include the Creative Zen and Zen X-Fi, the Sony A series, S series and E series, the Archos 605 WiFi and Archos 5 (with optional plug-in), the Sony PSP and PlayStation 3, the Nintendo Wii, Sony Ericsson's Walkman phones and Nokia's XpressMusic handsets, the Logitech Squeezebox systems and the Sonos streamers.

Upgrading your library to iTunes Plus
As all your previous iTunes downloads are now available in DRM-free format (or will be within the next few weeks), Apple lets you upgrade them -- at a cost. It'll cost you 20p per song, or 25 per cent of the cost of the album, which is usually £2 a pop.

CNET UK's chief slave-driver editor Jason Jenkins had a smashing moan about this the other day. But not just about the cost: Apple doesn't let you choose which songs you upgrade -- you either upgrade it all, or not at all.

If you do upgrade, however, your new DRM-free songs have twice the audio quality of the originals, and replace the originals within your library. Any playlists they appear in, or any ratings you've given them, remain unchanged. Whatever you think about the cost issue, you can't argue with the simplicity.

The final word
Eighty per cent of music in the iTunes catalogue is DRM-free already, and you'll probably find that very little of what you search for remains in the old DRMed format. At the time of writing, 90 out of the top 100 songs on iTunes are in iTunes Plus format.

You can tell which songs are in iTunes Plus by looking for a little plus symbol next to each song in search listings. Or look above the 'Buy Album' button at the top of an album's page for the words 'iTunes Plus'.

Any questions, come and talk to us in our dedicated iTunes Plus discussion forum. Whatever you want to know, we're here to help.

Apple Shows Us DRM's True Colors
Richard Esguerra

At this week's Macworld Expo, Apple announced that by April, music from the iTunes Store will no longer be shackled by digital rights management (DRM). Finally, DRM is good and fully dead for digital music -- gone from CDs, gone from downloads, and largely dead for streaming.

Apple's announcement comes nearly a year after Amazon.com's DRM-free MP3 deals went live, demonstrating that the record labels were holding the DRM card until they could wring business concessions from Apple (in the form of variable pricing). This just underscores that DRM is not really about stopping piracy, but rather about leverage over authorized distributors.

In fact, an inventory of Apple's remaining DRM armory makes it vividly clear that DRM (backed by the DMCA) is almost always about eliminating legitimate competition, hobbling interoperability, and creating de facto technology monopolies:

• Apple uses DRM to lock iPhones to AT&T and Apple's iTunes App Store;
• Apple uses DRM to prevent recent iPods from syncing with software other than iTunes (Apple claims it violates the DMCA to reverse engineer the hashing mechanism);
• Apple claims that it uses DRM to prevent OS X from loading on generic Intel machines;
• Apple's new Macbooks feature DRM-laden video ports that only output certain content to "approved" displays;.
• Apple requires iPod accessory vendors to use a licensed "authentication chip" in order to make accessories to access certain features on newer iPods and iPhones;
• The iTunes Store will still lock down movies and TV programs with FairPlay DRM;
• Audiobook files purchased through the iTunes Store will still be crippled by Audible's DRM restrictions.

The majority of these DRM efforts do not have even an arguable relation to "piracy." And even where things like movies and audiobooks are concerned, DRM is not only futile, but will likely be counter-productive, making the "legitimate" alternative less attractive than the Darknet options.

This week's announcement is another step in the meltdown of DRM for music. But it is also a stark reminder that Apple remains at the forefront of employing DRM to shove competitors to the fringes and wrest control out of the hands of users.

A World Free from DRM, Copyrights and Patents
Rick C. Hodgin

What would it be like to wake up tomorrow and have the ability to take everything that exists and recreate it as needed absolutely free from royalty or limitation? If people and companies could copy anything in existence, rolling it into whatever product they can design, and then attempt to sell it to others ... what would that world look like?

No DRM: All forms of audio, video and multimedia content can now be utilized in any way for any purpose, profitable or otherwise. Every song, every track, every movie, every picture, everything that has DRM today ... now completely free without limitation. What would that look like?

No Copyrights: Everything that has been created by man exists now as a raw set of tools or resources capable of being utilized or molded into anything new that can be thought of, for profitable purposes or otherwise and without limitation. See a cool picture? Use it. See a great poster? It's yours! What would that look like?

No Patents: Every idea that anyone has ever developed - no matter how clever, unique or helpful, all of it is given untethered unto humanity for all to utilize in whatever way we deem necessary, for profitable reasons or otherwise and without limitation. What would that mean?

Is mankind capable of living in such a world? What if right now it happened? What is it this very moment that's keeping you from carrying out your dream in life? What’s preventing you from leading the life you’d want to lead? Is it because you can't sell the thing you really like? Or is it because someone else might steal your idea?

Suppose you're into model airplanes and would like to build and sell those craft for a living, but don't know as much as you should about design? Why not take someone else's design, copy it and sell it? They have just as much opportunity to sell it as you do. It now becomes a matter of building skills and production. Could you do it?

What if it was a software endeavor? Suppose all of Microsoft's operating systems were suddenly free and some rogue programmer at Redmond released all of the source code for every version (including service packs) unto the world for free. It was now in some public software channel like Linux. Could the developer community grab hold of Windows and turn it into something truly usable and amazing? Or do we need the Microsofts of the world controlling their code, only rolling out to us that which they want to give - at the speed they want to give it? Is it possible to operate without such limitations - successfully?

Is a world without DRM, Copyrights or Patents even conceivable? Would it be of benefit knowing that everything we see, everything we're exposed to, everything we obtain, everything we learn, everything we teach, that all of it can be used by anyone at any point for any purpose, completely free of charge and without limitation? Would it be a worthwhile world to recognize that at such a point it would only be the fruits of our labor sold for whatever the market will bear which sustains us? It would not be some grand idea first exploited and then capitalized upon for years as fortunes are made. Only by working and doing would we gain. Is it possible? And is it desirable?

I'm wondering what such a world would be like, and I realize this article is not near long enough to consider all possibilities. But I would like to know what our readers think about it.

Would a DRM-free, Copyright-free and Patent-free world be desirable to you? And what would it mean?

YouTube Now Mutes Videos With Unauthorized Copyrighted Music
Stan Schroeder

Perhaps this has been going on for a while, but I’ve never noticed it before. YouTube users often create an original video using their favorite popular song as the audio. I’m afraid that they won’t be able to do that much longer, since YouTube has started muting videos that use unauthorized copyrighted music (and that pretty much means all user-created videos.)

The official notice from YouTube under the video says the following:

“This video contains an audio track that has not been authorised by all copyright holders. The audio has been disabled.”

If YouTube starts being thorough about this, you can expect to see a significant percentage of all YouTube videos muted. The implications are a bit different than with removing copyrighted professionally produced content, like an official music video; we’re talking about tens of thousands of fan made videos, funny spoofs, remixes and the like being pretty much destroyed, and I’m guessing users will be less than thrilled about it.

The Music Industry's Digital Reversal

Apple unlocks iTunes, lowers prices
Michael Geist

Canadians focused on hockey success and economic doom-and-gloom over the past month may have missed a series of events that suggest a dramatic shift for the recording industry. For much of the past decade, the industry has relied on three pillars to combat peer-to-peer file sharing – lawsuits, locks, and legislation.

The lawsuits, which began in 2003, targeted more than 35,000 alleged file sharers in the United States. The locks, which refers to digital locks that impose copy-controls on music files, was a requirement for online services such as iTunes before it was given the green light, while the lobbying for legislative reforms to support the use of copy-controls led Canada to introduce the failed Bill C-61.

In weeks, the foundation of each of these pillars has either crumbled or shown serious signs of cracking.

The changes began with the announcement last month that the industry was abandoning the lawsuit strategy. While cases already filed will continue, the Recording Industry Association of America indicated that it plans to shift its attention to discussions with Internet service providers that it hopes will lead to the adoption of a controversial "three strikes and you're out" policy for repeated cases of unauthorized file sharing.

The decision to drop the lawsuit strategy was long overdue as it did little more than engender significant animosity toward the industry. In fact, the approach had recently come under legal fire with courts challenging the industry's contention that liability flowed merely from making files available on a shared hard drive (some courts have demanded evidence of actual downloads) and a Harvard law professor using one case to question the constitutionality of damage awards that can run into the millions of dollars for a handful of songs that sell for 99 cents.

The Canadian situation was similarly unsuccessful as the courts rejected lawsuits against 29 alleged file sharers in 2004. The failed cases were particularly damaging since they led to the perception that all file sharing is legal in Canada (it is not) and helped convince some Canadain artists to speak out against the practice.

The crumbling of the locks pillar came last week when Apple Inc., the top online music seller, announced it will soon offer millions of songs without digital locks. Apple had long supported the removal of the locks but faced resistance from some record labels.

The about-face reflects the recognition that frustrating consumers with unnecessary restrictions is not a good business model. Moreover, the interoperability problems (songs locked to a single device) and security threats (the Sony rootkit fiasco that led to class-action consumer lawsuits) associated with the locks made their use more trouble than they were worth.

With lawsuits and locks on the way out, cracks are now also showing in the legislative pillar. In addition to the privacy, security and consumer concerns with such legislation, laws to protect digital locks seems increasingly unnecessary given the decision to abandon their use in the primary digital sales channel.

Nielsen Soundscan data released last week also undermine a key argument for such reforms. The industry has long claimed the legislative changes are needed to support the development of a digital marketplace in Canada. Canadian sales data from 2008 reveal laws are not the issue as Canada experienced a 58 per cent increase in sales of digital tracks last year. That figure is more than double the U.S. growth of 27 per cent and, incredibly, marks the third consecutive year Canada has outpaced the U.S. in digital music sales growth.

The data – along with the crumbling of the lawsuits and locks strategy – reinforce the view that it is innovation, not intervention from governments and courts, that will ultimately determine the digital winners and losers.

Warner Music Adding Social Networking to Websites
Antony Bruno

After years of watching music fans flood online social networks to interact with their favorite recording artists, the music industry is starting to get serious about adding community features to its own websites.

Hoping to become a big player in that effort is networking giant Cisco, which during the Consumer Electronics Show, January 8-11 in Las Vegas, introduced its Eos platform -- a set of hosted online tools designed to enable media and entertainment companies to build social networking functions into websites.

For record labels, that means adding fan community services to artist sites. Warner Music Group (WMG) is the first label partner signed on to use the Eos platform, and it already plans to add such functionality to the sites for Atlantic artists Laura Izibor and Sean Paul. Other artist sites will migrate to the platform over the course of the year.

"As the Web shifts from the enterprise to the consumer in terms of where the traffic is coming from, the social media revolution -- which is all about fans interacting with artists -- is going to provide an enormous opportunity," said WMG executive vice president of digital strategy and business development Michael Nash. "This is a recognition that having a social media strategy is not just about partnering with social networks, but it's also about what we do with our direct-to-consumer efforts."

Eos features include data analytics, content management and site administration capabilities, but it's the social networking that gets Cisco's foot in the door. That a company the size of Cisco is dedicating an entire division of resources to the effort speaks volumes on how significant an opportunity it expects the field to present in the years ahead.

According to the company's internal market research, 36 percent of fans seek entertainment content directly from the branded site of the provider -- be it a music artist or a TV show. Today, that traffic is largely promotional, with few opportunities for fans to interact the way they do on MySpace or Facebook.

Several site development tools with a social networking focus have been around for years, particularly one called Ning, which powers several existing artist-focused social networks. But outside of a few pioneering artists like 50 Cent and Kylie Minogue, few labels or artists have made much of an effort to turn it into a standard practice.

"A lot of the interaction around artists occurs on MySpace or Facebook, where neither the label or the artist particularly monetizes those types of things," said Dan Scheinman, senior vice president/general manager of Cisco's Media Solutions Group.

Exactly how WMG or other labels plan to monetize their artists' sites using the platform remains to be seen, but Scheinman said it will build the system with online advertising and sponsorship models in mind.

"This is really about managing these websites as businesses," Nash said.

Microsoft's Fear Of BitTorrent
Dave Methvin

Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) finally delivered a public beta of Windows 7 on Friday. This should be cause for great rejoicing, but somehow Microsoft managed to take the genuine excitement around this public unveiling and turn it into a sour experience.

Microsoft initially said it would only make the beta available for only 2.5 million downloads. This caused a predictable rush to download the files and brought the Microsoft servers to their knees. On Friday afternoon, it was nearly impossible to get to the download site or even to the blog entries that announced it. On Saturday, Microsoft relented and said it would allow unlimited downloads through Jan. 24.

So why does Microsoft even care how many people download the Windows 7 beta? One concern may be the cost to the company. If 4 million people download the 2.5-GB ISO file during the next two weeks, it would require about 10 petabytes of bandwidth. Microsoft has a lot of network infrastructure, but Friday's disaster shows that it wasn't enough. Adding more capacity means adding more cost.

There is, of course, a solution that would cause less stress to both Microsoft and the Internet in general: BitTorrent. With a peer-to-peer protocol such as BitTorrent, other downloaders that are close by can send you the parts of the file they already have. That's faster than delivering the file exclusively from a small number of expensive servers, or paying to use a content delivery network like Akamai (NSDQ: AKAM). Unlike Microsoft's current infrastructure, a BitTorrent network performs better with heavy loads because peers can service each other.

Because BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer networks have primarily been used to distribute software, music, and video without the permission of their creators, many companies -- it seems this includes Microsoft -- treat them as pariahs. Yet there's nothing illegal or immoral about the BitTorrent protocol itself. There are already plenty of unofficial torrents of the Windows 7 beta available, and some impatient users have decided to download them because Microsoft's own response was so dismal these past few days. However, those users are taking serious risks. Since the files are not directly from Microsoft, there's always a chance that a virus or other malicious software has been added to the package.

The Windows 7 beta process isn't just a straightforward download; Microsoft requires you to log in to a Passport account and get a license key in order to get to a download link. Then you must use Microsoft's download manager ActiveX control to download the file. I had to use IE for the download; Firefox wouldn't do anything when I clicked the download button. It's good that Microsoft is using a download manager for a 2.5-GB file, but the app itself is pretty sparse. You can't set bandwidth-usage limits, for example. A BitTorrent client like uTorrent would be much better.

Even if Microsoft took advantage of a peer-to-peer network, it could still require users to get the license keys if that's part of the control it insists upon. I would point out, however, that several of the torrents available on sites such as The Pirate Bay claim that they have been "pre-activated" and don't require a separate license key, or they include several license keys already. At this point, Microsoft should be happy that so many people were anxious to see its next operating system and use all the tools it can find to get it into users' hands.

The PC World Challenge: 72 Hours of Windows 7!

We challenged one blogger to make the switch: a full conversion from Windows Vista to Windows 7 for three days. From gaming, to business, to screwing around on the Internet: Did our intrepid upstart make it through until the bitter end? And what's up with that buffalo?
David Murphy

Switch from Windows Vista to Windows 7 completely. No going back to work with compatible programs. No jumping ship if a driver keeps you away from your Warhammer Online character. No tears. Windows 7 is your new home for 72 hours, starting from your initial download of the software.

Microsoft doesn't know how to manage digital downloads. Nor does Microsoft know how to title its own applications--this isn't Windows 7, not by any means. It's Windows Vista SP2.

Having completed my 72 hours in Windows 7 land, I'm going to adopt the same mindset and cap the writing of this post at one hour's length. Having seen no less than 40 different articles about Windows 7 over the past three days (if not three months), I'm not about to bore you with a list of the 89 most important features Windows 7 brings to the table. What I am going to chat about is what the actual process of jumping to Windows 7 is like. What happens? How do the new features of Windows 7 affect the general usage patterns of an operating system? What's the speed like? Why would I buy this to replace Vista?

I'll start with a cursory note that this article was actually supposed to run Monday morning--the whole concept of "72 hours in Windows 7 Land" being a fun little weekend activity that I would write up and post for all the people who gave up on downloading the beta on its horrible Friday release. About that. Seeing as Microsoft has no idea what "busy servers" entails, and apparently refuses to release its beta clients across a peer-to-peer distribution method a la Blizzard game patches, I waited. And waited. And waited, until I finally acquired a copy of Windows 7 well into Saturday afternoon. Leading the charge into the digital future, that's Microsoft.


I fired up Windows 7 on a drive I had pre-partitioned in preparation for the event. On one half sat a fresh installation of Windows Vista featuring all the latest updates and drivers I could get my hands on. On the other would sit Windows 7, as I wanted to compare the two's initial performance before installing a ton of my typical junk on either. I fired up my Windows 7 ISO and let 'er rip.

Installing Windows 7 (x64) brought a tear to my eye, for I do love nostalgia and this installation routine is virtually a carbon-copy of Windows Vista's. Save for the addition of a new setup screen for establishing a Homegroup--Windows 7's answer to network file-sharing--there's nothing dramatic about the installation in the slightest. Compared to Windows XP, both Vista and 7's installation procedure (side note: I hope this never becomes the nickname for the operating system) are a godsend. But I'd love to see a more streamlined installation: Perhaps a way to set all the options you need to set up-front, so you can just sit back and let the 24:01-minute process do it's thing. I love making customized slipstream OS installation discs for this very fact. Convenience, Microsoft. Convenience!

Both installation processes forced two resets on my computer. And for those keeping score at home, the Vista installation took all of three minutes, twenty-six seconds less time than the Windows 7 installation. That's not a lot minute-wise, but it's still 16 percent more time than its predecessor. I'm also running a pretty souped-up PC--a stock-clocked Intel QX9650 running at 3.0GHz, four gigabytes of RAM, a speedy Western Digital terabyte hard drive, and an ATI Radeon HD 4850 video card. I can only imagine how long Windows 7 might take for a machine of less prowess.

As mentioned, my first act upon installing Windows 7 was to fire up some benchmarks to get a direct, bare-bones impression of OS performance between Vista and Windows 7. I ran PCMark Vantage on an untouched Windows 7 installation and an untouched Vista SP1 installation (both fully updated with all relevant drivers installed). Go figure, Windows 7 is the faster operating system--10 percent faster than Windows Vista, with a PCMark Vantage score of 6557 to 5919 respectively.

A nice touch of Windows 7 is that it installed with more drivers configured than its predecessor. My Windows Vista installation came with five unknown devices attached, requiring me to find and install drivers for the video card and Ethernet drivers for the motherboard in particular. Windows 7 set itself to the highest resolution my monitor supports using what appeared to be Microsoft-friendly ATI drivers. My Internet connection "worked" immediately, allowing me to fetch whatever I needed without having to first find the CD that came with my motherboard. Nice.

(Ethernet woes aside, I like how Windows 7 now gives you a "files processed per second" time instead of a "Megabytes of speed" value.)

Further inspection of the Ethernet drivers revealed that these were less than stable for my system. I had horrific problems trying to make multiple connections to either the Internet or my network devices. The operating system froze up every time I tried to grab more than one batch of files from my NAS, download files from the NAS and Steam at once, or generally do anything but surf the Web. Frustrated, I went back to the my motherboard's CD drivers and that seemed to fix the problem just fine. This now-stable OS was ready to get used!

One of the core problems with Windows 7, which Microsoft will invariably not fix, stems from its utter similarity to Windows Vista. Sure, the taskbar is a little different, Windows Explorer has a newer feel to it, and the desktop looks like it requires a GPU of its own for all the fun little transparent gimmicks and what-have-you. But at its core, this is Windows Vista. Windows Vista (remix), perhaps, but still Windows Vista. I found it difficult to figure out the actual changes to the OS save for the obvious differences in appearance. Sure, browsing through the help file pointed out some, but it was also extremely unexciting to do. The final release of Windows 7 needs some kind of snappy, orchestrated pop-up that tells you when a feature you're accessing has new elements "nearby." For example, you pull up Windows Explorer for the first time. A one-time popup tells you something like, "Hey, did you know that Libraries are totally awesome? Here's how they work." Or you're surfing the control panel and hovering over the various icons when poof!, up pops a tiny, 15-second animation to let you know about the wonders of PC Safeguard.

(Poof! Libraries are a useful way to organize the contents of your computer without having to worry about maintaining a traditional folder architecture)

Would this get annoying, Clippy-style? For the power user, yes. But if there was a way to establish that you were either a new Windows 7 user or a transfer Vista user upon installing the OS for the first time, surely Windows could then give you a bit more of a walk-through than what this beta delivers: A bright blue background of a fish and a pat on the bum for good luck.

I rip all the applications and games I own to their own mountable .ISO files. I hate scratched discs, but more than that, I hate having to look for that one, mission-critical disc (like, say, Gigabyte motherboard drivers) that's somewhere about the stack of junk in my room. Not only can I install the actual programs faster this way, but I can sleep easy knowing that I'll always be able to access my Planescape: Torment CDs no matter where the physical media might be (Ohio, last I checked). Windows 7 did not like this plan. Specifically, it did not like the various applications I use to mount CDs, like Daemon Tools.

Basically, any application that uses a SPTD layer to access virtual optical devices utterly fails in this Windows 7 beta. I hope this is fixed by either Microsoft or the various application developers for the final launch, as it took me forever to find a suitable replacement for disc mounting. Which brings up an interesting point of its own: What happens when Windows 7 launches? Will developers have to support XP, Vista, and Windows 7 versions of their applications?

(I found no difficulties whatsoever in using a common barrage of applications and games on Windows 7, including Microsoft Office, Steam games, Adobe CS4, Hamachi, UltraVNC, Revo Uninstaller, et cetera)

I venture so, at least for the Windows 7 part of the equation. While I'm still coming to terms with the new icon-based toolbar, it's obvious that some legacy Vista programs just don't cross over very well. Take Steam, for example. When I'm running Valve's games platform, a little icon appears in the taskbar to let me know the program's running. Normally, I'd right-click on this icon to access the context menu for pulling up your friends window, games window, community window, et cetera. Only, that's not how it works. The actual icon for this is now hidden somewhere in the right-hand part of the taskbar near the clock, buried in an arrowed context menu. In a perfect world, one icon would handle all. But here I have two. And I don't like clutter.

Similarly, I look forward to the day when I can make use of the new context-menu-bearing icons in the start menu. For Microsoft apps like Paint and Word, there's a little arrow icon to the right of the icon and name combination you'd normally use to launch the program in the start menu. This gives you added context for the action you want to undertake, be it opening said program's recent items to new documents, et cetera. I long for the day I can launch my Steam games directly out of one of these menus.

I'm not a betting man--at least, not one to make too stupid of bets. This is exactly why I would not have placed money on Apple's iTunes working with Windows 7. But I never expected the installer mechanism to outright die. I began installing iTunes somewhere toward the top of this article. As of this sentence's writing, it's still hung at three-fourths completion. If Apple can release a version of iTunes that's fully-functional, installs perfectly, and doesn't muck up CD burning for both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows 7 installations... well, I might just buy a hat and eat it.

I'm running out of time on my self-imposed limit, so I'll make this quick. There are indeed some unique elements of Windows 7 that make it appear rather dashing when compared to Windows Vista. Gone is the hideous network lag that makes me wait 30 seconds every time I try to connect to my NAS. Windows 7 pulls it up as if it was just another folder: A++, I say to that. I'm a geek for good looks in an operating system, and I really dig the fun new features of Windows 7 in that regard. I love the slide-show background option, even though some of its choices for scenery are downright laughable:


Seriously. A buffalo? Anyway, I also enjoy the fact that you can now drag maximized windows around to your leisure. They're no longer locked to all four corners of your screen, and re-maximizing them is as easy as dragging them to the very top of your monitor. I'm not sure why you'd ever use it, but you can now invert the picture to your display completely upside-down. I can now hang my 30-inch display from the ceiling with joyful confidence, I suppose.

Everyone's talking about it, so here's my five seconds: UAC is back. You can turn it to different levels of annoyance with a slider, and that's that. Windows Firewall has received a substantial upgrade in its capabilities, so much so that I actually considered--for the briefest of moments--fiddling around with its extensive new inbound and outbound limits before promptly switching it off. But still, I considered. This will be a fantastic upgrade for those of you who don't surf the Internet via hardware firewalls.

I don't have friends who use my desktop, but the new ability to completely wipe out a user's changes via PC Safeguard is a must-have for anyone who wants their computer to remain crap-free when significant others, younger siblings, or drunk friends are around.

Other than that, there are plenty more articles that go over the extensive, feature-by-feature differences found in Windows 7. Those are just a few of the major ones I noticed offhand and felt the need to comment on. Remember, I'm flying blind into Windows 7 (no press previews, no articles read, nothing. Just a plain ol' user), and didn't really have a way to find a ton of new features throughout the course of my normal weekend's worth of work.

I phrase that last paragraph as I do, because it relates to my ultimate point. As it stands, Windows 7 is not a new operating system. It's SP2. Rightly, it's what Vista should have been, but I'm willing to compromise on this just existing as a significant, service-pack-worthy upgrade to the core Vista OS. A mainstay of the new experiences you will actually encounter are cosmetic in design or function: the new desktop functions are pretty, Windows gadgets are an exploded version of the Vista sidebar, Homegroup is just a rebranded way to set up network sharing, the Taskbar uses icons instead of icons and words, et cetera.

Truly novel innovations: an extensive Firewall system, a brand-new Backup and Restore tool that would actually keep me from buying an off-the-shelf solution, PC Safeguard... these are all neat applications. At its core, I really like the direction Microsoft has gone with Windows 7. There's no question in my mind about that.

But as a paying customer, I have to ask myself: when this OS hits the market, is there enough packed in there to warrant its $125 price (or thereabouts)? From XP to Vista, I definitely pulled the trigger and didn't look back. I don't believe that, at this stage in the game, the pretty functionality and intriguing applications are worth the eventual cost. I can mimic a lot of Windows 7's new functionality with common freeware applications. And while the graphics are pretty, I'm not about to shell out a ton of cash just so I can shift around my desktop windows and giggle.

(To be fair, the new graphical elements like full Window transparency just by hovering your mouse over "Show Desktop" make up some awesome features.)

Had Microsoft the gall, it would release Windows 7 as a free upgrade for Windows Vista users. It's not going to, nor can I see the software giant doing anything but slapping a standard pricing model on this "brand-new" OS. It'll be curious to see what this does to Vista support, given the inherent similarity between the two platforms. I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft officially killed Vista development and made Windows 7 its default, go-to operating system. Sounds crazy? Eh. So is the hype around this operating system.

As for me? I think I'll go back to Vista for now...

Windows 7, MP3 Killer

When MP3 files are added (either manually or automatically) to either the Windows Media Player or the Windows Media Center library, or if the file metadata is edited with Windows Explorer, several seconds of audio data may be permanently removed from the start of the file. This issue occurs when files contain thumbnails or other metadata of significant size before importing or editing them.

To avoid this, take the following steps: To protect your MP3 files

1. Before you install this beta release, back up all MP3 files that might be accessed by the computer, including those on removable media or shared network resources.

2. Ensure that all MP3 files are set to read-only. To do this, in Windows Explorer, find the files, right-click them, click the General tab, and then select the Read-only check box.

3. Install this beta release of Windows 7.

4. Read the article and install the update available at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=139391.

5. Once you have installed the update, you can safely reset the read/write status of your MP3 files to your preference.

6. If you do not want to install the update, you can avoid this issue by setting all MP3 files that might be accessed to the computer to read-only as in Step 2.

Release Notes

Thousands of Viewer Comments, Phone Calls About Ubuntu Computer Story

Our original story on Tuesday was only trying to help.

A young woman from McFarland called the 27 News Troubleshooter after she says she accidentally ordered a laptop with Ubuntu, instead of Windows.

As a result, she says she canceled her online courses at Madison Area Technical College because she couldn't get her Verizon internet to work or install Microsoft Word.

27 News helped her resolve those problems.

However, the story didn't stop there.

Ubuntu is an operating system that contains Linux. It's free and part of what's called open source software. Ubuntu also, clearly, has an extremely passionate fan base.

The original story on our website, www.wkowtv.com, received more than 120,000 page visits on Thursday. To put that in perspective, our main page got about 15,000 hits.

Ubuntu fans read our story and linked to it on Linux fan message boards and other technology blogs. By Thursday morning, several major technology websites featured WKOW's article on their front pages.

That's also when the comments - many of them angry, rude, and hateful - started pouring in.

Some Ubuntu users accused 27 News of "unscrupulous reporting," hitting a "new low for local news," and writing an "atrocious article."

Many Ubuntu users also wrote very personal attacks about the young lady who was having trouble using the operating system. They called her "lazy," "a dumb girl," and "not worthy of a college degree."

The young woman also contacted 27 News to report she's being harassed on her Facebook account by Ubuntu users.

This story has gotten so much attention, computer experts are calling us.

"They're mad because it puts Ubuntu in a bad light," said Adam Wiesenfarth, a technology consultant at UW-Madison.

Wiesenfarth said Ubuntu has many good points and is considered stable, but he also stressed it's not for everyone.

"If you're not a computer tinkerer, and you're not willing to do research and digging, it may not be for you."

Meanwhile, Dell contacted 27 News to say its representatives would contact the young woman to help her deal with her computer situation.

Let’s Invent an iTunes for News
David Carr

Last Tuesday, iTunes, Apple’s ubiquitous online music store that sold more than 2.4 billion tracks last year alone, changed its own tune, announcing that songs would no longer be sold with copying restrictions and that they would be available at various prices.

The digerati crowed over the collapse of the hated digital rights management (which Apple never liked, either) and record companies kicked up their heels at the thought of leaving behind the tyranny of the 99-cent price point.

But lost in the hubbub was the fact that Steve Jobs and Apple had been able to charge for content in the first place. Remember that when iTunes began, the music industry was being decimated by file sharing. By coming up with an easy user interface and obtaining the cooperation of a broad swath of music companies, Mr. Jobs helped pull the business off the brink. He has been accused of running roughshod over the music labels, which are a fraction of their former size. But they are still in business.

Those of us who are in the newspaper business could not be blamed for hoping that someone like him comes along and ruins our business as well by pulling the same trick: convincing the millions of interested readers who get their news every day free on newspapers sites that it’s time to pay up.

For a long time, newspapers assumed that as their print advertising declined, it would be intersected by a surging line of online advertising revenue. But that revenue is no longer growing at many newspaper sites, so if the lines cross, it will be because the print revenue is saying hello on its way to the basement.

As a report by Craig Moffett of Bernstein Research stated last year, “The notion that the enormous cost of real news-gathering might be supported by the ad load of display advertising down the side of the page, or by the revenue share from having a Google search box in the corner of the page, or even by a 15-second teaser from Geico prior to a news clip, is idiotic on its face.”

With newspapers entering bankruptcy even as their audience grows, the threat is not just to the companies that own them, but also to the news itself. Michael Hirschorn, writing in the January-February issue of The Atlantic, used some fatuous math to foretell the end of The New York Times and then added that it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, that tweets, blogs and stripped-down news aggregators could fill the gap in reporting out the terrible events in Mumbai or New Orleans.

Mr. Hirschorn is a smart guy — I used to work for him at a Web-based media site — and while there is nothing sacred about The New York Times, the experienced, and yes, expensive journalistic muscle it deploys on events big and small is not going to be replaced by a vanguard of unpaid content providers. It’s not that journalism is impossibly difficult; it’s just that it takes enormous amounts of time and a willingness to stay with the story.

“Free is not a business model,” said Mr. Moffett of Bernstein. “It sounded good and everybody got excited about it, but when you look around, it is clear that is creating havoc and will not work in the long term.” (He pointed out with a laugh that his report on print for Bernstein, a proprietary piece of research, was quickly passed around as Web samizdat.)

Other print publications have looked directly to the reader to help bear that cost. Cook’s Illustrated is a delightfully retro magazine that takes a modern approach to food. And its approach to publishing? Cook’s Illustrated takes no ads and charges for access to the databank of recipes. Apart from its 900,000 print subscribers, in addition to 100,000 or so newsstand buyers, the company has 260,000 digital subscribers at a cost of $35 a year, and that group grew by 30 percent in 2008.

I get Cook’s Illustrated at the office and don’t have access to the deep digital archive of recipes, but I’ve thought about how handy online access would be in the kitchen. Similarly, I subscribe to Consumer Reports because it has valuable content that I can’t get anywhere else. Both Cook’s and Consumer Reports have set a trend in part because they had no ads to begin with, so turning toward their readers to pay for operations and future growth made sense.

But I also subscribe to The Wall Street Journal, one of the few pay newspaper sites. I could cobble together a free version — you can get behind the firewall at The Journal if you go through Google News and know exactly what you are looking for — but I chose to pay the freight. To me, paying for content I want online is not all that different from paying for a DropSend account, which allows me to send and receive large files: the paid option outweighs the hassle and time of the free ones.

Is there a way to reverse the broad expectation that information, including content assembled and produced by professionals, should be free? If print wants to perform a cashectomy on users, it should probably look to what happened with music, an industry in which people once paid handsomely for records, then tapes, then CDs, that was overtaken by the expectation that the same product should be free.

Mr. Jobs saw music as something else — as an ancillary software business to generate sales of the iPods and iPhones. That’s not a perspective that flattered people in the music business, but it did persuade listeners to pay for their wares.

Then again, a friend in the business sent me a link to an item in TechCrunch (yes, it was also free) that described a gadget that actually might work for newspapers.

“Expect a large screen iPod touch device to be released in the fall of ’09, with a 7 or 9 inch screen,” the item suggested.

The device would allow scanning of pages with a flick of the finger. It sounds promising for newspapers and magazines. Now all we need is a business model to go with it.

Radio Active

Indie 103.1 Goes Off the Air to Keep Intregrity - Damn the Man!

Wow! You know Indie 103.1 is probably the closest we’ll ever see to a real life Empire Records? Anyone who lives in LA, knows that this is probably one of the best radio stations to listen to. They are known for playing great music, from great musicians no matter what the artists status or income. I have always wondered how they avoided the corporate radio BS that all the other stations have given into. Apparently, they have had to deal with the same problems, only instead of giving in they have decided to keep their Indie integrity and go off the air.

As of NOW Indie 103.1 will cease broadcasting immediately and take their music to the Internet, where real music belongs!

Damn the man! Check out the message just posted on Indie’s website…

This is an important message for the Indie 103.1 Radio Audience -

Indie 103.1 will cease broadcasting over this frequency effective immediately. Because of changes in the radio industry and the way radio audiences are measured, stations in this market are being forced to play too much Britney, Puffy and alternative music that is neither new nor cutting edge. Due to these challenges, Indie 103.1 was recently faced with only one option — to play the corporate radio game.

We have decided not to play that game any longer. Rather than changing the sound, spirit, and soul of what has made Indie 103.1 great Indie 103.1 will bid farewell to the terrestrial airwaves and take an alternative course.

This could only be done on the Internet, a place where rules do not apply and where new music thrives; be it grunge, punk, or alternative - simply put, only the best music.

For those of you with a computer at home or at work, log on to www.indie1031.com and listen to the new Indie 103.1 - which is really the old Indie 103.1, not the version of Indie 103.1 we are removing from the broadcast airwaves.

We thank our listeners and advertisers for their support of the greatest radio station ever conceived, and look forward to continuing to deliver the famed Indie 103.1 music and spirit over the Internet to passionate music listeners around the world.
Support Indie 103.1 and listen to them live on their website 103.1.com!

Public Broadcasters Agree to Web Music Royalties

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and a group that collects royalties for artists and recording copyright owners said Thursday they've agreed on payment terms for streaming music online.

The agreement between CPB and SoundExchange establishes the royalties that will be paid on behalf of the public radio system for streaming sound recordings on a variety of public radio Web sites from Jan. 1, 2005, through Dec. 31, 2010.

The deal covers about 450 public radio Web sites including CPB-supported stations, National Public Radio, NPR members, National Federal of Community Broadcasters members, American Public Media, the Public Radio Exchange and Public Radio International.

SoundExchange, a nonprofit group that collects royalties for recording copyright owners and artists from Internet radio stations and other digital radio services, will receive a single upfront royalty payment of $1.85 million.

In addition, SoundExchange will receive consolidated usage and playlist reporting from CPB on behalf of the public radio system. That move is designed to improve the efficiency of the payment process, helping to ensure that performers and sound recording copyright owners are accurately paid, CPB and SoundExchange said in a combined statement.

NPR also has agreed to withdraw its appeal of a May 2007 Copyright Royalty Board royalty rate decision.

Both sides said the agreement reinforces the value of artist performances and recognizes the mission of public radio stations.

"This important agreement will ensure that the artists heard on public radio station Web sites will receive compensation and will enable public radio webcasters to continue to meet their public service, nonprofit missions," Pat Harrison, chief executive of CPB said in the statement.

SoundExchange director John Simson said the agreement broadens the landscape of music available to public radio. "SoundExchange's 35,000 artists and 4,000 plus labels look forward to our continued partnership with public radio," he said.

Kurt Hanson, who operates AccuRadio.com, a multichannel Internet radio station, said the deal appears to be reasonable. Hanson said he hopes other groups representing nonpublic Internet radio stations can reach fair royalty agreements with SoundExchange.

SoundExchange has said it is moving closer to a deal with big webcasters, including those represented by the Digital Media Association (DiMA), a trade group made up of companies that operate online audio and video services.

Traditional AM and FM broadcasters are currently exempt from copyright royalty rates for over-the-air radio play since — under the logic of the current law — that airplay is thought to provide free promotion for artists and labels. But the broadcasters are subject to the new rates for any songs streamed over radio station Web sites.

The National Association of Broadcasters, which represents those traditional stations, said it looks forward to sitting down with SoundExchange "to craft equitable streaming rates that enhance the online music experience and expose more artists to our listeners."

Obama to Tap Tech Adviser as FCC Chief
Amy Schatz and Laura Meckler

President-elect Barack Obama intends to nominate his technology adviser, Julius Genachowski, to head the Federal Communications Commission, a Democratic source close to the Obama transition team said.

Mr. Genachowski, 46 years old, is a former Harvard Law School classmate of Mr. Obama. He previously worked at the FCC during the Clinton administration. More recently, he co-founded LaunchBox Digital, a Washington, D.C.-based venture capital firm. He worked at Barry Diller's IAC/InterActive Corp. in various executive positions for eight years after leaving the FCC.

Mr. Genachowski couldn't be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for the Obama transition team declined to comment.

During the campaign, Mr. Genachowski served as the top technology adviser to Mr. Obama, putting together a detailed technology and innovation plan that expressed support for open Internet or "net neutrality" protections; media-ownership rules that encourage more diversity; and expansion of affordable broadband access across the country.

An early supporter of the president-elect, Mr. Genachowski also served as a bundler for the campaign, raising more than $500,000 in donations.

If confirmed, Mr. Genachowski will take over an agency that has had rocky relations with Congress and major companies in the telecommunications industry under current FCC Chairman Kevin Martin. The agency may also still be coping with the U.S.'s transition to digital-only television, which is scheduled to take place Feb. 17 but could be pushed back to the summer.

While at IAC, Mr. Genachowski served several roles at the media and e-commerce conglomerate, first as general counsel and later as head of business development and part of the top core of executives.
—Shira Ovide contributed to this article.

Book Is Rallying Resistance to the Antivaccine Crusade
Donald G. McNeil Jr.

A new book defending vaccines, written by a doctor infuriated at the claim that they cause autism, is galvanizing a backlash against the antivaccine movement in the United States.

But there will be no book tour for the doctor, Paul A. Offit, author of “Autism’s False Prophets.” He has had too many death threats.

“I’ll speak at a conference, say, to nurses,” he said. “But I wouldn’t go into a bookstore and sign books. It can get nasty. There are parents who really believe that vaccines hurt their children, and to them, I’m incredibly evil. They hate me.”

Dr. Offit, a pediatrician, is a mild, funny and somewhat rumpled 57-year-old. The chief of infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, he is also the co-inventor of a vaccine against rotavirus, a diarrheal disease that kills 60,000 children a year in poor countries.

“When Jonas Salk invented polio vaccine, he was a hero — and I’m a terrorist?” he jokes, referring to a placard denouncing him at a recent demonstration by antivaccine activists outside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

In recent years, the debate over vaccines and autism, which began in fear and confusion, has hardened into anger. As Dr. Offit’s book details, numerous studies of thimerosal, measles virus and other alleged autism triggers in vaccines have been conducted, and hundreds of children with diagnoses of autism have undergone what he considers sham treatments and been “cured.” Both sides insist that the medical evidence backs them.

As a result, “a few years ago this ceased to be a civil scientific discourse and became about crucifying individuals,” said Dr. Gregory A. Poland, chief of vaccine research at the Mayo Clinic, who says he has had threats against his children. “Paul is a lightning rod, a figure who goes charging into the fray.”

Those backing Dr. Offit say he was forced into the role. Opponents of vaccines have held rallies, appeared on talk shows like “Oprah” and “Imus in the Morning,” been the heroes of made-for-TV movies and found a celebrity spokeswoman in Jenny McCarthy, the actress and former Playboy model who has an autistic son. Meanwhile, the response from public health officials has been muted and couched in dull scientific jargon.

“If the surgeon general or the secretary of health or the head of the C.D.C. would come out and make a really strong statement on this, I think the whole thing would go away,” said Dr. Peter J. Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, who has a severely autistic daughter whose disease, he argues, is genetic.

Asked why public health officials have been reticent, the acting surgeon general, Dr. Steven K. Galson, issued a statement saying that “childhood immunizations are one of the greatest achievements of all time” and that “scientific evidence clearly shows that vaccines do not contribute to autism.” He has spoken on issues like obesity, tobacco, air travel and exercise, but his office said he had not been questioned by journalists about vaccines and autism.

Dr. Offit’s book, published in September by Columbia University Press, has been widely endorsed by pediatricians, autism researchers, vaccine companies and medical journalists who say it sums up, in layman’s language, the scientific evidence for vaccines and forcefully argues that vulnerable parents are being manipulated by doctors promoting false cures and lawyers filing class-action suits.

“Opponents of vaccines have taken the autism story hostage,” Dr. Offit said. “They don’t speak for all parents of autistic kids, they use fringe scientists and celebrities, they’ve set up cottage industries of false hope, and they’re hurting kids. Parents pay out of their pockets for dangerous treatments, they take out second mortgages to buy hyperbaric oxygen chambers. It’s just unconscionable.”

His opponents dismiss him as “Dr. Proffit” because he received millions in royalties for his RotaTeq vaccine. One group he criticizes harshly in the book is Generation Rescue, which advocates treating autistic children with wheat- and dairy-free diets, vitamins and chelation to remove mercury from the body. Ms. McCarthy, her companion, the actor Jim Carrey, and Deirdre Imus, wife of the radio host, are all on its board.

J. B. Handley, who founded Generation Rescue in 2005, rejected Dr. Offit’s attacks, saying: “We have hundreds of fully recovered children. I’m very frustrated that Dr. Offit, who’s never treated an autistic child, is spending his time trying to refute the reality of biomedical recovery.”

He scoffed at the idea that Dr. Offit had had numerous death threats but condemned threats generally, saying he had received some himself. “No one should ever do that to another human being,” he said.

Dr. Offit now has his own celebrity ally, the actress Amanda Peet, who was introduced to him through a brother-in-law, a doctor at his Philadelphia hospital.

“Where I live in L.A.,” she said in a telephone interview, “there’s this child-rearing trend — only feed your kids organic food, detoxify your house. And there’s a lot of anticorporate fervor, anti-pharmaceutical company fervor.”

When she was pregnant, she said, “I’d have lunch with my friends who were moms, and they’d say they wouldn’t vaccinate, or would space out their vaccinations and hadn’t I heard?”

After quizzing several doctors in her family and Dr. Offit, she eventually agreed to become a spokeswoman for Every Child by Two, a vaccine-advocacy group founded by Rosalynn Carter, the former first lady.

In an interview with Cookie, a magazine for parents, Ms. Peet called antivaccine parents “parasites” because they relied on other children’s immunity to protect their own. She later apologized for the word but emphasized that parents should get their medical advice from doctors, “not from me or any other celebrity.”

Dr. Nancy J. Minshew, a neurologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a leading autism expert, said she had begun telling any parent asking about vaccines to read the Offit book. A brain-imaging specialist who gets no money from vaccine companies, she said she had never met or spoken with Dr. Offit.

Autism, she said, is one of many diseases, like dyslexia, Elephant Man’s disease, tuberous sclerosis and schizophrenia, that are caused by genetic flaws but show no symptoms for years.

She blamed journalists for “creating a conspiracy where there was none.” By acting as if there were two legitimate sides to the autism debate, she said, “the media has fed on this — it’s great for ratings.”

Many doctors now argue that reporters should treat the antivaccine lobby with the same indifference they do Holocaust deniers, AIDS deniers and those claiming to have proof that NASA faked the Moon landings.

Dr. Offit’s book traces the history of autism theories, starting with the child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim’s blaming “refrigerator mothers.” It describes early false cures, including “facilitated communication,” in which assistants helped mute children type their thoughts; head-squeezing by osteopaths; cod liver oil; diets; and a 1998 fad for secretin, a pig hormone. It sums up 16 epidemiological studies showing no link between autism and either measles or thimerosal, a vaccine preservative.

To the newer argument that vaccines overwhelm babies’ immune systems, Dr. Offit notes that current shots against 14 diseases contain 153 proteins, while babies cope with thousands of new foreign proteins daily in food, dirt and animal hair, and that the smallpox vaccine that nearly every American over age 30 got as a child contained 200 proteins.

Arthur Allen, the author of “Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine’s Greatest Lifesaver” (W. W. Norton, 2007), has publicly debated other journalists who argue that vaccines cause autism. Six years ago, he wrote a seminal article in The New York Times Magazine titled “The Not-So-Crackpot Autism Theory.” He later changed his mind and now “feels bad” about the article, he said, “because it helped get these people into the field who did a lot of damage.”

Dr. Offit’s book “needed to be written,” he said. But he is skeptical that it will end the struggle.

“There are still people who believe fluoride is dangerous, who think jet contrails cause cancer,” he said. “I’m waiting for the debate to get beyond that, but you’re not going to convert some people.”

Researchers Have Hope of Cheap, Distributed Zero-Day Worm Defense

Software would calculate the cost of damage the worms might cause and respond accordingly
Tim Greene

Shutting down zero-day computer attacks could be carried out inexpensively by peer-to-peer software that shares information about anomalous behavior, say researchers at the University of California at Davis.

The software would interact with existing personal firewalls and intrusion detection systems to gather data about anomalous behavior, says Senthil Cheetancheri, the lead researcher on the project he undertook as a grad student at UC Davis from 2004 to 2007. He now works for SonicWall. (Learn more about intrusion detection and prevention products.)

The software would share this data with randomly selected peer machines to determine how prevalent the suspicious activity was, he says. If many machines experience the identical traffic, that increases the likelihood that it represents a new attack for which the machines have no signature.

The specific goal would be to detect self-propagating worms that conventional security products have not seen before.

“It depends on the number of events and the number of computers polled, but if there is a sufficient number of such samples, you can say with some degree of certainty that it is a worm,” Cheetancheri says. For that decision, the software uses a well-established statistical technique called sequential hypothesis testing, he says

The detection system is decentralized to avoid a single point of failure that an attacker might target, he says.

The task then becomes what to do about it, he says. In some cases, the cost of a computer being infected with a worm might be lower than the cost of shutting it down, in which case it makes sense to leave it running until a convenient time to clean up the worm, he says.

In other cases, the cost to the business of the worm remaining active might exceed the cost of removing the infected machine from the network, he says.

That cost-benefit analysis would be simple to carry out, he says, but network executives would have to determine the monetary costs and enter them into the software configuration so it can do its calculations he says.

End users would not program or modify the core detection engine, he says. “We don’t want to have humans in the loop,” he says.

He says he and his fellow researchers have set up an experimental detection engine, but it would have to be modified to run on computers in a live network without interfering with other applications and without being intrusive to end users, Cheetancheri says.

So far no one he knows of is working on commercializing the idea.

The software would be inexpensive because it would require no maintenance other than to enter the cost of each computer being disconnected from the network.

Researcher: Worm Infects 1.1M Windows PCs in 24 Hours

It would make 'one big badass botnet,' says Finnish security company
Gregg Keizer

The computer worm that exploits a months-old Windows bug has infected more than a million PCs in the past 24 hours, a security company said today.

Early Wednesday, Helsinki, Finland-based security firm F-Secure Corp. estimated that 3.5 million PCs have been compromised by the "Downadup" worm, an increase of more than 1.1 million since Tuesday.

"[And] we still consider this to be a conservative estimate," said Sean Sullivan, a researcher at F-Secure, in an entry to the company's Security Lab blog. Yesterday, F-Secure said the worm had infected an estimated 2.4 million machines.

The worm, which several security companies have described as surging dramatically during the past few days, exploits a bug in the Windows Server service used by all supported versions of Microsoft Corp.'s operating system, including Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Server 2003 and Server 2008.

Microsoft issued an emergency patch in late October, fixing the flaw with one of its rare "out of cycle" updates.

The soaring number of infections by Downadup -- also called "Conficker" by some security companies -- prompted Microsoft to add detection for the worm to its Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT), the anti-malware utility that the company updates and redistributes each month to Windows machines on Patch Tuesday. The MSRT scans for known malware, then scrubs the system of any it finds.

Like researchers at firms such as Symantec Corp. and Panda Security, Microsoft blamed lackadaisical patching for the infections. "A number of our customers have contacted our support team for assistance with containment in environments that were, largely, not patched when the worm was released," said Cristian Craioveanu and Ziv Mador, two researchers at Microsoft's Malware Protection Center, in a Tuesday blog entry. "Either Security Update MS08-067 was not installed at all or was not installed on all the computers."

Craioveanu and Mador said that the highest number of infection reports had come from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Korea and several European countries, including the U.K., France and Germany.

Yesterday, F-Secure also reported that it was spying on Downadup's command-and-control process by registering domains it thought the worm would try to use to download additional malware to infected PCs. The worm generates hundreds of possible domain names daily using a complex algorithm, said Mikko Hypponen, F-Secure's chief research officer.

"This makes it impossible and/or impractical for us good guys to shut them all down," acknowledged Hypponen in a blog entry. "The bad guys only need to predetermine one possible domain for tomorrow, register it and set up a Web site, and they then gain access to all of the infected machines. Pretty clever." Even so, F-Secure has registered some of the possible hosting domains so that it can eavesdrop on the attackers and get an idea of the number of infected PCs.

Other security firms have tried to preempt hackers by registering domains that they may use, but with mixed results. Last November, FireEye Inc. tried to stay ahead of criminals operating the "Srizbi" botnet by registering several hundred domains being used to resurrect the infected PC army, but had to give up the game when it got too costly.

"We have registered a couple hundred domains," said Fengmin Gong, chief security content officer at FireEye, at the time. "But we made the decision that we cannot afford to spend so much money to keep registering so many [domain] names."

As soon as FireEye conceded, the hackers were able to re-establish communication with their bots.

Microsoft recommended that Windows users install the October update, then run the January edition of the MSRT to clean up compromised computers.

It's not clear whether the hackers behind Downadup are building a botnet of their own, said Joe Stewart, a senior security researcher at SecureWorks Inc., in an interview today. For the moment, they seem satisfied with feeding victims fake security software, which pesters users with pop-ups until they pay for the worthless program.

However, F-Secure's Hypponen sounded worried about the possibility that machines infected with Downadup would be converted into bots. "It would make for one big badass botnet," he said.

British Prosecution Could Save Hacker from Extradition to US
Duncan Campbell

Gary McKinnon, the computer hacker facing extradition to the US for hacking into the Pentagon and Nasa systems, could now be prosecuted in Britain.

The Crown Prosecution Service is considering a request from McKinnon's lawyers in which they have said their client would plead guilty to an offence under the Misuse of Computers Act. If McKinnon were to be prosecuted and punished in Britain, it would make any extradition to the US unlikely. McKinnon, 42, who has Asperger's syndrome, has resisted attempts to extradite him to the US on the grounds that the offence was committed in the UK.

McKinnon's lawyer, Karen Todner, has written to the director of public prosecutions, the recently appointed Keir Starmer QC, stating that McKinnon acknowledged his guilt. With clear evidence of an offence being committed, she said, the DPP could now initiate proceedings against McKinnon in Britain. The CPS also confirmed that the matter was under consideration.

The action is the latest in the long-running attempt to halt the extradition of McKinnon, who fears for his safety and his chances of a fair trial in the US.

He is accused of hacking into the US defence and Nasa systems in 2001 and 2002 and causing an estimated $800,000 (£525,000) damage. McKinnon admits the hacking, after which he left messages, including the observation that "your security is crap", but denies the damage. Last year, he lost his appeal against extradition in the House of Lords.

McKinnon's mother, Janis Sharp, said there were precedents for British-based computer hackers to be tried in this country. In a letter to the DPP, Sharp wrote: "Many people with Asperger's have a heightened sense of justice and have obsessions, which can sometimes get them into trouble. Gary's obsession was computers."

He has received support from the National Autistic Society (NAS), which has offered to provide evidence about the diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome, and there is also political support. About 80 MPs have signed an early day motion tabled by his MP, David Burrowes.

Royal Navy Warships Lose Email in Virus Infection
Lewis Page

The Ministry of Defence confirmed today that it has suffered virus infections which have shut down "a small number" of MoD systems, most notably including admin networks aboard Royal Navy warships.

The Navy computers infected are the NavyStar (N*) system, based on a server cabinet and cable-networked PCs on each warship and used for purposes such as storekeeping, email and similar support functions. N* ship nets connect to wider networks by shore connection when vessels are in harbour and using satcomms when at sea.

The system is supplied by Fujitsu, with most of the Navy's fleet being equipped in the early years of the century. N* is intended to stay in service, coming under the Defence Information Infrastructure now being rolled out.

N* hardware varies in detail depending on when a ship had the system installed and when it has last had dockyard maintenance, but is based on industry-standard PCs with ruggedised cases and shock mounting (to cope with combat damage) and strict emissions certification to avoid interference with other systems.

Various MoD computers and N* nets aboard warships including the carrier Ark Royal have suffered N* outages over the past fortnight, caused by virus infection. A major impact has been the loss of email service, which in recent years has come to be a routine way for sailors to stay in touch with friends and family.

An MoD spokesperson supplied the Reg with a statement this afternoon:

Since 6 Jan 09 the performance of the MOD IT systems in a number of areas was affected by a virus. Immediate action was taken to isolate the problem to stop the virus from spreading. This meant that some people were without regular IT access (i.e. email, internet). There have been no infections detected on any networks with sensitive information.

A solution to prevent re-infection has been tested and implemented. The majority of systems are working normally. This is an ongoing process which we are working urgently on so for those people who are still off line normal business will resume as quickly as possible.
The MoD insisted that no command or operational systems had been affected, though many of these are based on similar hardware. Spokespersons also stated that "no classified or personal data has been or will be at risk of compromise" due to "pre-existing security measures".

The MoD refused to discuss details of the virus, transmission methods, countermeasures or other specifics of the incident "for security reasons".

U.S. Plots Major Upgrade to Internet Router Security

Millions to be spent adding cryptography to BGP
Carolyn Duffy Marsan

The U.S. federal government is accelerating its efforts to secure the Internet's routing system, with plans this year for the Department of Homeland Security to quadruple its investment in research aimed at adding digital signatures to router communications.

DHS says its routing security effort will prevent routing hijack attacks as well as accidental misconfigurations of routing data. The effort is nicknamed BGPSEC because it will secure the Internet's core routing protocol known as the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP). (A separate federal effort is under way to bolster another Internet protocol, DNS, and it is called DNSSEC.)

Douglas Maughan, program manager for cybersecurity R&D in the DHS Science and Technology Directorate, says his department's spending on router security will rise from around $600,000 per year during the last three years to approximately $2.5 million per year starting in 2009. (Read about "4 open source BGP projects being funded.")

"BGPSEC is going to take a couple of years to go through the process of development and prototypes and standardization," Maughan says. "We're really talking . . . four years out, if not longer, before we see deployment."

Experts hailed the move, saying BGP is one of the Internet's weakest links.

"The reason BGP problems are so serious is that they attack the Internet infrastructure, rather than particular hosts. This is why it is a DHS-type of problem," says Steve Bellovin, a professor of computer science at Columbia University who has worked with DHS on routing security.

BGP is "one of the largest threats on the Internet. It's incredible -- the insecurity of the routing system," says Danny McPherson, CSO at Arbor Networks. "Over the last 15 years, the security of the Internet routing system has done nothing but deteriorate."

McPherson says routing security has been a chicken-and-egg problem for the Internet engineering community.

"There doesn't exist a formally verifiable source for who owns what address space on the Internet, and absent that you can't really validate the routing system," McPherson says.

With its extra funding, DHS hopes to develop ways to authenticate IP address allocations as well as router announcements about how to reach blocks of IP addresses.

"The hijacking attempts that have gone on with routing are much more nefarious than the ones in the DNS," says Mark Kosters, CTO of the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), adding that DNS attacks tend to get more press. "People don't realize how open for attack the BGP structure is. The DHS effort is trying to close that all up."

BGP security targeted in 2003

The U.S. federal government first discussed the vulnerability of the Internet's routing system in its "National Strategy to Security Cyberspace," which was issued in 2003. The Presidential directive identified two Internet protocols -- BGP and DNS -- that require modifications to make them more secure and robust.

Since then, the feds have made progress on adding authentication to DNS. Last fall, the U.S. federal government announced that it would adopt DNS security extensions known as DNSSEC across its .gov domain by the end of 2009. The feds also are exploring ways to deploy DNSSEC on the DNS root servers.

The federal push for DNSSEC gained momentum last summer after a significant DNS vulnerability was discovered. Security researcher Dan Kaminsky discovered a DNS bug that allows for cache poisoning attacks, with which a hacker redirects traffic from a legitimate Web site to a fake one without the user knowing.

DNSSEC prevents hackers from hijacking Web traffic by allowing Web sites to verify their domain names and corresponding IP addresses using digital signatures and public-key encryption

Now the feds are looking to add digital signatures and a public-key infrastructure to routing information, which is vulnerable to attack when it is shared between numbering registries, ISPs and enterprises.

New BGP security measures would prevent incidents such as when Pakistan Telecom blocked YouTube's traffic in February 2008.

Bellovin says most famous router-security breaches, including the Pakistan incident, were accidents.

"More and more of them, though, are malicious," Bellovin adds. "Every few weeks, there will be a posting to [the North American Network Operators Group] about some prefix hijacking."

DHS to fund multiple efforts

DHS is funding two key initiatives related to enhancing routing security: Resource Public Key Infrastructure (RPKI), which adds authentication to the delegation of IP address blocks by the registries to ISPs and enterprises; and BGPSEC, which adds digital signatures to BGP announcements. (Maughan says he's modeling the BGPSEC initiative after the agency's DNSSEC effort, which has involved the National Institute of Standards and Technology [NIST] and the Internet Engineering Task Force [IETF].)

With RPKI, the regional Internet registries are putting together a public key infrastructure to authorize IP address delegations from the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) to the five regional Internet registries, including ARIN. Then the registries would authenticate the assignment of IP addresses and IP routing prefixes known as autonomous systems that are used by network operators.

"The idea here is that you'd like the delegation of address space to be secure or signed so it is not forgeable," Maughan says, adding that the RPKI initiative deals with the administrative side of IP address delegation. "The reason that's important is that when you start to do the routing protocol [security], you want the registry or registrar or ISP to be able within the protocol to authenticate that the address space they're claiming to have is theirs."

APNIC, the Asia Pacific registry, and the European registry RIPE NCC are running RPKI prototypes. ARIN plans to offer a beta RPKI service in the second quarter, Kosters says.

Production-quality RPKI deployment is "still a couple of years out," Kosters adds.

"By the end of this year, the four biggest [registries] will be offering certificates to their members at least as a managed service," says Stephen Kent, chief scientist for information security at BBN Technologies. "The next big issue is getting the big ISPs who are their members involved. . . . The good news is that what we're talking about here requires no router hardware or software changes. That's an important thing to make it viable for the ISPs."

Despite its promise, RPKI is controversial because it gives unprecedented operational authority to IANA and the regional Internet registries. For example, RPKI opens up the possibility that the registries could purposefully stop routing traffic to a particular block of IP addresses from a rogue nation such as Iran or North Korea.

"If you use RPKI with BGP [security], you're fundamentally changing the Internet infrastructure. You're going from a distributed, autonomously operated routing structure to one with a root and authoritative sources," McPherson says. "We're going to have to accept that trade-off to secure the routing infrastructure.’’

The next step is securing BGP so that routing announcements are authorized. BGP maintains a table of IP routing prefixes that shows how blocks of IP addresses can be reached. Today, there is no way in BGP to tell whether a route announcement is real or spoofed.

BGP is used by ISPs as well as enterprises that multihome their networks, which involves using more than one carrier for continuity of operations.

At issue is how to add digital signatures to BGP so that ISPs and enterprises can authenticate BGP updates and prevent man-in-the-middle attacks that allow someone to redirect BGP traffic.

"Every instance of routing hijacks that have happened over the last several years are proof that [securing BGP] needs to be done," Maughan says. "The way that the bad guys can do this is essentially advertise that they own the address space, and if people have no way to prove otherwise, then the protocol supports the hijack."

The Internet engineering community needs to develop a standard for securing BGP that involves as little cryptographic overhead as possible. The two existing proposals -- Secure BGP (S-BGP) by BBN's Kent and Secure Origin BGP (SoBGP) by Cisco -- haven't been deployed because they require routers to manage too many layers of digital certificates, experts say.

Maughan says DHS plans to fund research related to S-BGP and SoBGP as well as new standards work within the IETF.

"There hasn't been any new work in BGP security in a few years," Kent says, adding that he hopes to receive some of the new DHS funding. "DHS is attempting to re-initiate this work."

A secure routing infrastructure will require enterprises to operate a certificate authority function so that they can digitally sign and certify that they own a particular IP address block and have the authority to subdelegate it, outsource it or make some other decisions about how its traffic is routed.

What securing BGP does is that "when somebody sends out an update that they are now routing traffic for a particular autonomous system, you can validate that because those BGP updates will be signed," Maughan says.

Major BGP attack needed?

Despite the federal efforts, some experts say the Internet engineering community needs a massive threat akin to the Kaminsky DNS bug before it will take action to secure BGP and the rest of the routing infrastructure.

"The real barrier to securing BGP is that we just haven't had a serious enough attack," Maughan says. "If people start losing significant money because there's some type of attack on the routing infrastructure, I think you'll see a whole lot more interest."

At last August's DEFCON show, a pair of security researchers detailed a BGP exploit that would allow an attacker to eavesdrop on unencrypted Internet traffic by tricking routers into re-directing traffic to the attacker's network. However, this type of BGP eavesdropping incident is rare.

"The most sophisticated attacks as was demonstrated at DEFCON are things that probably are not occurring very frequently because the bad guys have easier ways to accomplish what they are trying to do," Kent says.

The new BGPSEC funding falls under DHS’ Secure Protocols for Routing Infrastructure program. Maughan says the agency received an additional $12.5 million appropriation for cybersecurity R&D in the federal 2009 budget, and between $2 million and $3 million of that money will go to improving router security.

U.S. Visitors Required to Register Online
Stephanie Condon

Starting Monday, travelers from the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Australia, and a host of other countries will have to register online with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security before they can travel into the United States.

As part of its efforts to use technology to improve border security, the DHS is mandating that travelers from any of the 35 countries in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program apply online for an Electronic System of Travel Authorization before boarding a plane to the U.S. Previously, visitors from those countries were only required to fill out the I-94W form on flights to the U.S. for trips shorter than 90 days.

The ESTA applications collect the same information as the I-94W form and check it against DHS databases to determine whether a traveler poses a law enforcement or security risk. That information includes biographical data like birth date and passport information, as well as information regarding communicable diseases, arrests, convictions for certain crimes, and mental disorders that spur behavior that may pose a threat to others.

ESTA is a "key security element" of the Visa Waiver Program, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff wrote on the DHS Leadership Journal blog.

"By requiring travelers to register online before their journey, ESTA gives authorities more time to screen for threats and ensure that a traveler isn't a known security risk," he said.

The Web-based program lets an applicant know within minutes if their application has been approved. If it is not, the traveler can still attempt to enter the U.S. by acquiring a visa. Travelers can submit ESTA applications up to two years in advance, even without a specific destination in mind.

If a traveler does not have Internet access, the DHS says in its ESTA FAQ that "a third party, such as a relative, friend, or travel agent, may submit an ESTA application on behalf of the traveler."

DHS began accepting voluntary applications through the ESTA site in August 2008. Since then, more than one million people have used the system without any problem, Chertoff said, though some organizations say the program could have been better implemented.

Advanced screening of travelers from countries in the Visa Waiver Program is required through the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, but the DHS introduced rules for the ESTA program in June 2008 without seeking public comment on it.

"By missing an opportunity for public or stakeholder input, DHS has circumvented a process that could have resulted in a much improved program," the Air Transport Association of America said in a statement at the time.

Elizabeth Merida, a spokesperson for the ATA, said it was too early to tell how well the program is running now that it is mandatory for all Visa Waiver Program countries. The ATA, however, has been working with DHS to make sure it is implemented smoothly.

In October, when the ESTA program became mandatory for citizens of certain countries, the International Air Transport Association warned against the lack of mechanisms in place to deal with travelers who will inevitably reach an airline ticket counter without an approved ESTA application. More than 15 million people last year traveled through the United States from Visa Waiver Program countries, according to the DHS.

To deal with unprepared travelers, airlines may have to collect sensitive information for ESTA applications--"something that the industry does not wish to do, even if a technical solution is possible," the IATA said.

Once that information is collected, the DHS will retain it for two years in order for travelers to enter the U.S. After that, the DHS archives the information for 12 years--limiting the officials who can access it--so it can be retrieved for law enforcement, national security, or investigatory purposes. When ESTA applications are used in lieu of the I-94W form--which is the ultimate goal of the program--the data will be retained for 75 years, in accordance with the I-94W retention schedule.

CES: See Sony’s Flexible OLED Screen in Action
Julian Prokaza

Sony had a prototype flexible OLED display on show at its monumental CES stand this year, along with a few flexible OLED concept devices. The video-playing OLED was small and not quite a roll-up screen, but it shows the kind of display we can look forward too in a few years once someone figures out how to make cheap, large OLED panels.

Unfortunately, there was an angry official on hand to shoo away photographers should they try to snap Sony’s OLED concept gadgets, but Endgadget has somehow managed to bag a few shots (maybe one of its 20-strong CES crew distracted Mr Angry).

The mock-up concept devices showed a folding ultraportable with no hinge and a single OLED display on the inside – presumably the idea is that the screen can fill the whole area, or the bottom half can be used for a touch-sensitive keyboard.

Sony’s ebook reader concept looked a good deal slicker than its current PRS-505 Reader and the idea is that a flexible OLED screen will give a closer feel to that of a paperback book – albeit without anywhere to stick your thumb when you want to save a page. Last up was a flexible OLED watch that looked more like a fashion bracelet.

Why the Mediterranean is the Achilles' Heel of the Web
Colin Barras

Internet users in the Middle East and India might be glad to see the back of 2008 - it was bookended by cable breaks under the Mediterranean Sea that disrupted access across the region.

Repairs to damage caused in the most recent incident, in December, were completed last week and normal service finally restored. But more incidents are likely in what can arguably be called the internet's Achilles' heel.

The world's oceans are criss-crossed with cables to carry data, but just three span the Mediterranean in a tight bottleneck that links Europe, North Africa and Asia.

Plague of problems

On 30 January 2008, two of the three cables were cut somewhere in the eastern Mediterranean near Alexandria, Egypt. With only one cable still connecting Europe and the Middle East, the volume of voice and internet data between India and Europe plummeted by 75%.

Repairs fully restored service within a few weeks. But on 19 December, two of the three cables were severed again and the other seriously damaged between Sicily and Tunisia. At the same time, a minor cable linking Malta with Sicily was broken.

Internet access in Egypt was almost entirely halted, the Egyptian Ministry of Communications said, and the country lost 50% of its voice traffic, according to France Telecom. But the effects spread wider - other Middle Eastern countries and India also suffered severe cuts in bandwidth.

Repairs were reportedly set back when one of the main cables was broken again nearby a few days later.

Shipping and shaking

The cause of the first breaks is still unknown. Although a stray anchor from busy shipping connecting to the nearby Suez Canal was blamed, Egyptian authorities remain adamant that video footage shows no sign of ships at the time of the breaks.

Ships' anchors can certainly break cables, and will continue to threaten those under the Mediterranean. And the likely cause of the second round of breaks - one or more underwater landslides caused by earthquakes - is not going away, either.

"In the past, [such] underwater landslides have been associated with cable breaks," says Roger Musson at the British Geological Survey. The Mediterranean is an active boundary between tectonic plates, making it prone to quakes. "You do get major earthquakes in the area - the largest Greek earthquakes go up to around magnitude 8.0," he says.

Land route?

Quakes of this magnitude cause considerable damage, but are vanishingly rare. Yet the Mediterranean's cable bottleneck means that much smaller, and more frequent, quakes can now do tangible damage.

The 2008 outages hit local economies hard and a stronger quake could plausibly bring Mediterranean economies to their knees, by denying them access to crucial global markets for days or weeks.

A 2005 study at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich calculated that a nationwide internet blackout would cost Switzerland 1% of its GDP per week.

Musson thinks that quakes somewhere in the region of 5.5 to 6.0 have the potential to cause damage. And the Mediterranean Seismological Centre suggests that such quakes are not uncommon in the region. The Mediterranean cables may be sitting ducks.

Efforts are underway to reduce the effect of future cable breaks, says Alan Mauldin, research director with Washington-based telecommunications analyst TeleGeography Research.

"One option is to bury them deeper and deeper, so they are not exposed to anchors." But that does not protect against quakes. Alternative, overland, connections between Europe, the Middle East and Africa could, though.

Here the problem becomes one of politics, not engineering. "It's possible to have a cable from Europe via Turkey, Iran and Iraq, down to Saudi Arabia, but who wants to put a cable through Iraq, Iran and Turkey?" says Mauldin. "If you think cables are at risk in the ocean, just wait till you put them across the land."

Strength in numbers

Instead, cable companies plan to put more cables along the existing Mediterranean route. Four are currently planned within the next 18 months, with the first possibly online by summer, Mauldin says.

That may not help much, though - the seven undersea cables connecting Taiwan to China were thought sufficient until an earthquake in December 2006 severed six of them at once.

Undersea data cables are, in fact, surprisingly delicate. Most are just a fraction of an inch thick and more than 50 Atlantic cables alone were severed or damaged in 2007, according to Global Marine Systems, a firm that repairs marine cables.

Yet those had little effect on internet traffic because trans-Atlantic bandwidth is not squeezed into a small area.

Weakest link

By contrast, the Mediterranean is an example of what physicist Hans Herrmann at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich recently showed mathematically to be the most vulnerable kind of network link.

With colleagues he removed links at random from virtual networks, recording how they gradually become ineffective. The team found that removing links that connect two nodes each with a large number of connections has a disproportionately large effect on a network's performance.

The Mediterranean cables are just like this, he says, connecting as they do highly connected nodes in Europe and the Middle East. They should be protected and better constructed, Herrmann says.

That strategy is in fact already in action. FLAG Telecom has announced its plans to lay down stronger cables between Egypt and France this year, and along a different route.

So, once the work is completed, the world's data network may be a little less precarious.


IFPI Publishes Digital Music Report 2009
Press release

The music industry has transformed its business models, offering consumers an increasing range of new services with leading technology partners. Yet generating value in an environment where 95 per cent of music downloads are illegal and unpaid for is still the biggest challenge for music companies and their commercial partners.

The digital music business internationally saw a sixth year of expansion in 2008, growing by an estimated 25 per cent to US$3.7 billion in trade value. Digital platforms now account for around 20 per cent of recorded music sales, up from 15 per cent in 2007. Recorded music is at the forefront of the online and mobile revolution, generating more revenue in percentage terms through digital platforms than the newspaper (4%), magazine (1%) and film industries (4%) combined.

At the same time, a new generation of music subscription services, social networking sites and new licensing channels is emerging. These were led in 2008 by services like Nokia Comes With Music, MySpace Music and a raft of partnerships with Internet Service Providers (ISPs), such as TDC in Denmark, Neuf Cegetel in France, TeliaSonera in Sweden and BSkyB in the UK.

Despite these developments, the music sector is still overshadowed by the huge amount of unlicensed music distributed online. Collating separate studies in 16 countries over a three-year period, IFPI estimates over 40 billion files were illegally file-shared in 2008, giving a piracy rate of around 95 per cent.

IFPI's Digital Music Report 2009, published today, gives a comprehensive overview of trends in the music business internationally. It shows an industry that has shifted its approach from one based only on unit sales of music to "monetising" access to music across a multitude of channels and platforms.

Single track downloads, up 24 per cent in 2008 to 1.4 billion units globally, continue to drive the online market, but digital albums are also growing healthily (up 36%). The top-selling digital single of 2008 was Lil Wayne's Lollipop with sales of 9.1 million units - 1.8 million more than the 2007 best selling digital single.

The Report also shows how the digital age is expanding the role of music companies in developing and marketing artists and it outlines the progress being made internationally in getting ISPs to cooperate to curb mass-scale copyright infringement on their networks.

John Kennedy, chairman and chief executive of IFPI, says: "The recorded music industry is reinventing itself and its business models. Music companies have changed their whole approach to doing business, reshaped their operations and responded to the dramatic transformation in the way music is distributed and consumed.

"There is a momentous debate going on about the environment on which our business, and all the people working in it, depends. Governments are beginning to accept that, in the debate over "free content" and engaging ISPs in protecting intellectual property rights, doing nothing is not an option if there is to be a future for commercial digital content."

New business models

New "music access" services, such as Nokia's Comes With Music phone, Sony Ericsson's PlayNow plus and Danish ISP TDC's new music service PLAY, emerged in 2008. TDC reports that "churn", the rate at which customers switch to a competitor, dropped significantly since bundling music with its mobile and broadband services.

Partnerships with broadband providers are likely to become more important in the future. TeliaSonera has launched a bundled music service in six countries; Neuf Cegetel runs a similar service in France and BSkyB has announced plans to launch a bundled broadband and music offering in the UK and Ireland.

Advertising-supported services that are free to consumers are also opening up. One of the highest-profile moves in this area was the launch of MySpace Music in the US in September 2008. Several leading music companies have also signed licensing agreements with YouTube, the global market leader in video streaming.

A-la-carte music downloads continue to grow, with AmazonMP3 joining the European market, broadening consumer choice. An increasing number of stores are licensed to sell DRM-free music tracks. In January 2009, iTunes, the leading download store, announced it was making eight million DRM-free tracks available at flexible pricing points.

Music companies are also increasingly licensing music to third parties. One notable success is the games sector, where music games were responsible for 15 per cent of overall game sales in the US in the first half of 2008 (NPD Group). Guitar Hero and its sequels have sold more than 23 million copies in three years, generating more than US$1 billion in North America alone (PWC).

Tackling the problem of digital commerce in the era of "free"

Despite these changes, the Report highlights the critical problem of online piracy, and in particular the impact it is having on the local music sector in markets such as France and Spain. In France in the first half of 2008, album releases by new artists fell by 16 per cent and local repertoire accounted for 10 per cent of albums, compared to 15 per cent in the first half of 2005. In Spain, just one new local artist featured in the Top 50 albums from January to November 2008 - compared to 10 in 2003.

Progress on ISP cooperation

Cooperation from Internet Service Providers holds the key to this problem - something that is increasingly accepted by governments internationally. In 2008 a tipping point was reached, with governments in France and the UK leading the way in looking to ISPs to help bring piracy on their networks under control. In France a draft Creation and Internet Law sets up a system of "graduated response" by which ISPs will write to persistent copyright abusers to educate and warn them about their actions, as a last resort sanctioning them with loss of internet access for between one and 12 months.

Research suggests the graduated response scheme will be effective. Seven in ten (72%) of UK music consumers would stop illegally downloading if told to do so by their ISP (Entertainment Media Research, 2008). Seven in ten (74%) French consumers agree internet account disconnection is a better approach than fines and criminal sanctions (IPSOS, May 2008)

In July 2008 the UK government brokered a joint 'Memorandum of Understanding' between the recording and film industries and the six largest ISPs, binding the parties to work to achieve a significant reduction in unauthorised file-sharing. At the same time, the government initiated a consultation on legislative options to deal with internet piracy.

The momentum for ISP cooperation extends beyond France and the UK. New Zealand will start requiring ISPs to implement a policy of terminating the accounts of repeat infringers in February. Governments are also involved in discussions of the issue in the US, Italy, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea.


Judge Calls RIAA Objections "Specious," Will Stream Hearing
Nate Anderson

A federal judge has agreed to a novel request: streaming parts of an upcoming file-sharing trial over the Internet. Judge Nancy Gertner has granted the request of Harvard Law professor Charles Nesson and students to put the gavel-to-gavel footage on the Internet for any non-commercial use, over the RIAA's objections. But only on a one-time basis.

Joel Tenenbaum's first strategy for dealing with an RIAA settlement letter wasn't real helpful: he called them up and offered $500 instead of $3,500. His offer was rejected. When the case actually went to court, Tenenbaum tried to settle again, this time for $5,000, but by then the RIAA wanted $10,500.

Tenenbaum's next strategy has worked far better. He attracted the attention of law professor Charles Nesson and the students in his CyberOne class. The group has been a boil on the music industry's smooth skin already, launching such media-worthy initiatives as a Twitter feed about the case and a brand-new website, and now agitating for online streaming of the entire trial.

Yesterday's ruling doesn't grant that (yet, anyway), but the judge is clearly disposed towards making what happens in the court as public as possible, so long as it doesn't interfere with jury anonymity or her courtroom proceedings. To start, though, the judge has only allowed video at a January 22 hearing.

The RIAA objected to this, but the judge noted in her ruling that "their objections are curious. At previous hearings and status conferences, the Plaintiffs have represented that they initiated these lawsuits not because they believe they will identify every person illegally downloading copyrighted material. Rather, they believe that the lawsuits will deter the Defendants and the wider public from engaging in illegal file-sharing activities. Their strategy effectively relies on the publicity resulting from this litigation."

Because the hearing will take place before jury selection in the case—which is scheduled to go to trial at the end of March—the RIAA countered that streaming the hearing could prejudice some jurors. The judge called this "specious" and noted that there was already a system in place to "ferret out those jurors who have followed a case, whether it be through newspapers, television, or now, the Internet."

Courtroom View Network will work with the court's IT department to stream video footage from cameras already installed in the courtroom to the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, which Nesson helped to found some years ago. Berkman will cover all costs for the streaming and the video feed acquisition, and the footage will be placed on the web for all to watch.

Internet Piracy Regulations Planned for UK
Ben Fenton and Tim Bradshaw

Ministers intend to pass regulations on internet piracy requiring service providers to tell customers they suspect of illegally downloading films and music that they are breaking the law, says the draft report by Lord Carter.

It would also make them collect data on serious and repeated infringers of copyright law, which would then be made available to music companies or other rights-holders who can produce a court order for them to be handed over.

With the creation of a body called the Rights Agency to be paid for by a small levy from the internet service providers and rights-holding organisations, these measures would form the spine of a new code of conduct for the internet industry. The draft report says the code would be overseen by Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator, according to people who have read it.

The guiding philosophy of the report is that the internet and music industries have failed to sort out the problems of illegal downloading between them, and the government sees this as its preferred solution.

It says the two sides should share responsibility and hope the new agency will encourage them to find common cause.

The need for government intervention was apparently underlined yesterday when the department for business said none of its own proposals for regulation had won “widespread support”.

The music industry and broadband providers were polarised over how to solve the problem, it said.

Last July, the British Phonographic Industry and the UK’s largest broadband providers signed a memorandum of understanding to write thousands of educational letters to alleged online song-swappers, but only after the government forced co-operation.

Kids Face Summary Trials for Copyright Violations
Kang In-sik

In an effort to save youngsters from indiscriminate litigation for copyright infringement, the Daejeon Jungbu Police took an unprecedented step yesterday by referring young offenders to summary trials.

The first such case involved an 18-year-old high school student who was accused of a copyright violation last October after she posted music files in her blog without obtaining permission from the song’s owner. A law firm representing the accuser told her the suit could be settled if she forked over 1 million won ($725).

The teenager’s family was reluctant to pay, citing financial hardship. In negotiations, the law firm cut the amount to settle for 800,000 won.

Police, however, decided to recommend a summary trial. In Korea, a summary trial normally handles misdemeanors subject to fines of less than 200,000 won. The court slapped the teenager with a 50,000 won.

A copyright violation can be punished up to five year imprisonment or up to 50 million won in fines, but the police and the court treated the case as a misdemeanor because she was a minor and it was her first time offence.

Police argue that summary trials are important to keep lawyers off the backs of minors and their families. Lawyers and copyright holders, however, see things differently. They fear police are taking a serious matter too lightly.

According to police, lawyers have found a lucrative new market in suing teens for illegally sharing digital files. There were 13,114 such petitions in 2006. The number leapt to 78,538 in 2008. Police said the petitions were filed indiscriminately and youngsters, not those who violate copyright with malicious intent or for profit-making, have become victims. “Law firms even hired part-time staffers to track down copyright violators on the Internet,” said an official of the Daejeon police. “And then, they contacted the copyright holders to notify them about the cases and volunteered to represent them.”

Though many youngsters are unaware of their offense while maintaining their blogs or homepages, parents are often left to foot the bill. They want to prevent their children from becoming convicts, the police official said.

“About 10 such complaints are filed every day,” a police officer of the Dongdaemun Police in Seoul said. “We have no time to do other tasks. And it becomes even more serious because the youngsters commit crimes to come up with settlement money.”

“We have struggled to find a way to stop the abuse of the justice system,” said Hwang Un-ha, Daejeon Jungbu Police chief. “So we decided to exercise the right of police to refer cases for summary trial. It was a solution to save kids.”

The Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office, the National Police Agency and the Culture Ministry are currently discussing other measures to protect both copyright holders and youngsters.

Copyright holders, however, are upset, claiming that the matter must not be treated lightly. “We agree that the law firms’ abuse of litigation is inappropriate,” said Yu Hyeong-seok, legal affairs team head of the Korea Music Copyright Association. “But the fundamental problem is the portal sites, which turn a blind eye to the kids’ copyright violations while raking in enormous profits. The companies that host blogs and other Internet communities must be held accountable.”

Franz Ferdinand Sends Web-Sheriff After Pirates

Confessed pirates themselves, Franz Ferdinand have recently taken a pro-piracy stance, encouraging fans to download some of their work. It was therefore quite a surprise to hear that the band has recently hired the infamous Web-Sheriff to stop people from downloading their recently leaked album “Tonight”.

Franz Ferdinand are a band from Glasgow, Scotland, and were formed in 2001. The band has had quite a few hits, and received NME awards for the best album and track of 2005, and for the best live act in 2006.

Last year, the band were working on their yet-to-be-released studio album “Tonight”. Like many other albums, however, a copy of “Tonight” leaked out before the official release date, and it is now widely available online. Given the previous pro-piracy stance of the band, which got them on the front page of Digg, you wouldn’t expect that they would make a big deal out of it.

The contrary is true. The band, together with the record label, have instructed the one and only Web-Sheriff - who also works for Prince, Michael Jackson and Village People - to take on the sites that posted the album, or links to it. One of the sites that received a takedown notice recently is Scene Releases. Web-Sheriff wrote in an email to the site:

On behalf of Domino Records and Franz Ferdinand, we would kindly ask you not to post copies of ‘Tonight’ on your site. We do appreciate that you are fans of / are promoting Franz Ferdinand, but the label and artist would greatly appreciate your co-operation in removing your links to the pirate files in question.
Web-Sheriff, who sent similar emails to dozens of other sites, is known for his politeness - if you cooperate, that is. Normally, this takedown request would hardly be newsworthy, but this one is special. Only a few months ago, Franz Ferdinand openly encouraged its fans to pirate one of their new tracks, advocating downloading using LimeWire. They even confessed to being pirates themselves, by admitting copying CDs for use on their iPods - currently illegal in the UK. So, understandably, the partnership with Web-Sheriff comes as quite a surprise.

Faolan, one of the editors of Scene Releases, was as baffled as we are, and decided to ask the sheriff for an explanation. Instead of explaining why Franz Ferdinand performed this 180, Web-Sheriff replied with a list of threats, claiming that Scene Releases could be held liable for putting links up to the unreleased album. He replied:

Joking aside, you are currently acting as a de facto digital distributor of this (unreleased) album and, if you do not remove / de-activate the links that you have published, our clients shall be obliged to take legal action both to stop what you are doing and to seek compensation for the (extensive) commercial losses directly arising from your illegal activities.
Furthermore, the sheriff stressed that the email should not be shared with third parties, a tactic also employed by UK lawyers Davenport Lyons, in an attempt to stifle discussion. Faolan told TorrentFreak that the reply from the sheriff inspired him to keep the conversation going. He believes that he didn’t break any laws by merely linking to files that are hosted on other sites. In fact, the links that Scene Releases posted at the bottom of their article were already dead (removed by the associated hosting sites) by the time Web Sheriff sent his reply.

Scene Releases was not the only release blog that was contacted by Web-Sheriff, the conversation that he had with RLSLOG is just as entertaining. After RLSLOG pointed out to Web-Sheriff that he misspelled the domain name, he didn’t back off, and sent the following demands:

You must also arrange for the following apology to be published on the relevant page of the site for a period of seven (7) days : “RSLOG wishes to apologies to Franz Ferdinand, Domino Records and Web Sheriff for the disruption caused to their sales, marketing and promotion plans by our publishing of pirate file details relating to the unreleased album “Tonight”.
Yes, you’re reading it correctly, the Web -Sheriff is asking RLSLOG (or RSLOG) to make an apology, and he repeated his spelling mistake. The admin ignored all his requests, and replied with the following email:

Thanks for good laugh, i will probably publish this whole conversation somewhere, it’s too good to remain unknown! Once again, learn to type instead of drinking brandy in saloon.

Yours, Old Shaterhand
The question remains - does Franz Ferdinand know about the involvement of Web Sheriff and his threatening tone towards the site admins, or is it all orchestrated by the record label? We hope that it’s the latter, but thus far the band hasn’t responded to our inquiries. Franz Ferdinand’s new album Tonight will be available in stores on January 26th.

Meet DtecNet - RIAA’s New Anti-Piracy Partners

DtecNet, the anti-piracy outfit replacing MediaSentry as the RIAA’s chief evidence collector, also operates in several other countries. The Danish company is working for the BPI in Britain in support of its drive to force a “3 strikes” regime, and helping in Australian investigations against alleged pirates. We take a closer look.

Earlier this month it was confirmed that the RIAA was dumping its anti-piracy partner, MediaSentry. After five years of legal action and mass lawsuits it decided its relationship with the notorious tracking company should come to an end. Some commentators believed that this signaled the end of the RIAA’s legal action against file-sharers, but that is definitely not the case.

The RIAA will now be working with DtecNet, a Danish anti-piracy tracking company which employs largely the same techniques as MediaSentry, but the aims will be slightly different in the majority of cases. The new tactic for the IFPI-headed music industry is to target ISPs instead, lobbying governments to implement the dreaded “3 strikes” or “graduated response” scheme reported so often in recent months.

Interestingly, DtecNet is far from an objective investigating firm. In fact, it originally stems from the anti-piracy lobby group Antipiratgruppen, which represents the music and movie industry in Denmark. There are more direct ties to the music industry though. Kristian Lakkegaard, one of DtecNet’s employees, used to work for the RIAA’s global partner, IFPI. Unsurprisingly, the RIAA has now chosen DtecNet to gather the evidence that will cost alleged filesharers their Internet connection.

One country in the thick of the “3 strikes” proposals is the UK. Led up by the BPI, the British music industry signed a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the country’s six largest ISPs. They agreed to send out letters to alleged pirates on behalf of the music industry, warning them that their illicit sharing habits had been monitored and they should discontinue their actions.

Of course, even without individual prosecutions, an anti-piracy company still has to do the tracking, but despite our requests the BPI refused to tell TorrentFreak how they were achieving this. Some months ago we put it to Matt Philips of the BPI that if their system was robust, there should be no problem in revealing it to us. Unfortunately he wouldn’t tell us who they were using or how they carried out their tracking. But of course, we found out in the end.

It turns out that in common with the RIAA and IFPI, the BPI are also using DtecNet. However, there appears to be no particular magic behind this company’s techniques. Just like most (if not all) anti-piracy outfits, they simply work from a list of titles their client wishes to protect and then hunts through known file-sharing networks to find them, in order to track the IP addresses of alleged infringers.

Their software appears as a normal client in, for example, BitTorrent swarms, while collecting IP addresses, file names and the unique hash values associated with the files. All this information is filtered in order to present the allegations to the appropriate ISP, in order that they can send off a letter admonishing their own customer, in line with their commitments under the MoU.

DtecNet is also active in Australia. Hired by Hollywood studios, DtecNet helped to build the case against ISP iiNet, by gathering evidence which they say proves that iiNet authorized the copyright-infringing activities of its own subscribers.

It is unclear why the RIAA finally dumped MediaSentry, but the fact that its techniques were heavily criticized in court couldn’t have helped. The switch to DtecNet is unlikely to prove any more fruitful, since no anti-piracy company is capable of identifying uploads to anyone but itself, which makes mass-infringement almost impossible to prove. It might be some time before DtecNet’s evidence is scrutinized in court but when it is, it will be a big surprise if it’s of a greater ‘quality’ than the data provided by MediaSentry.

Meet the new boss…..

It’s Time for Apple to Come Clean
Joe Nocera

Last week, when Steve Jobs announced that his recent weight loss was due to “a hormone imbalance,” I got calls from reporters and others (which, I must admit, I ducked) asking me if that was the medical problem he had confessed to when he and I had had our infamous phone call last summer — the one where he called me a slime bucket and denied that he had a recurrence of cancer. The answer is no, it wasn’t. It was something else — which of course I still can’t disclose because the conversation was off the record.

I said at the time that I knew I was being spun by Mr. Jobs. But I didn’t think I was being lied to. Now, I’m not sure what to think. It is certainly possible that he had the condition he described to me last summer. It is also possible that he did, in fact, have “a hormone imbalance,” as he announced last week, as rumors swirled again about his health. And it is even possible that a few days later he discovered that his problems were “more complex” — whatever that means — and that he only just realized that he needs to take a medical leave. It is possible, in other words, that he and Apple are telling the truth.

Possible — but unlikely. Apple’s stock was hammered in after-hours trading on Thursday because, to be blunt, investors simply don’t believe Mr. Jobs. Charlie Wolf, the Apple analyst at Needham & Company, wrote a note to clients, describing Mr. Jobs’ e-mail to employees, in which he said he was taking a temporary medical leave, as “a can of worms.” He added: “The fact that Mr. Jobs did not resign nor did the board call for his resignation suggests that he may well be telling the truth.” The clear implication of that sentence is that most people (including, perhaps, Mr. Wolf himself) think Mr. Jobs is not telling the truth.

The most indispensable chief executive in the United States, beloved by customers and investors for his magnificent turnaround of the company he founded — and for the amazing gadgets his company produces — can no longer be trusted on the subject of whether he is healthy enough to continue running the company. Although Mr. Jobs says he will return in June, Mr. Wolf wrote in his note that investors were likely to “assume the worst — at the extreme, the possibility that Mr. Jobs will never return to Apple as full-time C.E.O.” And Mr. Wolf has always been a big supporter of Steve Jobs. Incredible.

It is really hard to write about Steve Jobs and his health. Nobody wants to see another human being suffer a recurrence of cancer. Everybody — myself very much included — hopes that Mr. Jobs will get well and come back to work. I can even understand why he doesn’t want to disclose details about his medical problems to the world — it’s very distasteful, and Mr. Jobs also believes strong that it’s nobody’s business except his and his family’s.

But he’s wrong. There are certain people who simply don’t have the same privacy rights as others, whether they like it or not. Presidents. Celebrities. Sports figures. And, at least in terms of his health, Steve Jobs. His health has become a material fact for Apple shareholders. His vagueness about his health, his dissembling, his constantly changing story line — it is simply not an appropriate way to act when you are the most important person at one of the most high-profile companies in America. On the contrary: it is infuriating.

Enough is enough. If Apple refuses to talk more openly about Mr. Jobs’s health, it will continue to be “a distraction,” as he himself put it in his e-mail to employees. The time has come for Apple’s board to take control of this subject from Mr. Jobs and do the right thing by the company’s investors. Tell us, once and for all, what is going with Mr. Jobs’s health. Put the subject to rest. End the constant rumor-mongering. And then get back to the business of making the coolest products on earth.

Until next week,

- js.

Current Week In Review

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