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Friday, October 22, 2010

Linux Kernel Update Adds Brawn Without Bulk

A new update to the Linux kernel adds a raft of security features, driver support, and other enhancements without increasing the overall size of the kernel at all.
That's a rarity, given that enhancements in each update have tended over the years to increase the kernel's size. This time around, though, there are a number of improvements that will be visible to users, but without any extra mass.
It won't be long before this new kernel is integrated into most popular Linux distributions. Here are some of the highlights of what users can expect.
Beefed Up Security
Perhaps most notable in Linux 2.6.36, which was announced by creator Linus Torvalds on Wednesday, is the inclusion of the AppArmor security system, a Mandatory Access Control (MAC) system that has been part of Linux distributions including Ubuntu for some time. The new security extension effectively contains the potential damage that can be done by attackers who find a way to gain root access.
Tilera Support
Known also as "Flesh-Eating Bats with Fangs," the new kernel release also adds support for the Tilera chip architecture, a multicore design capable of scaling to hundreds of cores on a single chip. Linux is fully supported in the Tile-GX line of chips, and now the open source operating system offers native support in return.
In Video: How to Install Ubuntu on Any PC
An ‘Out of Memory' Rewrite
The Virtual Machine "Out of Memory (OOM) Killer" terminates a process when there's no memory left so as to keep the system from crashing. In this new release, the algorithm that decides which process to kill has reportedly been rewritten to make better decisions.
Intelligent Power Sharing
For Intel Core i3 and i5 systems with integrated graphics support, an intelligent power sharing (IPS) driver now offers dynamic power sharing between the CPU and GPU for better performance.
Better Responsiveness
Linux 2.6.36 is said to fix responsiveness issues when it comes to Virtual Machine heuristics and latency when parallel processes are claiming CPU time.
Graphics Driver Support
Version 2.6.36 includes better support for Radeon cards and Fermi graphics chips, according to a report on The H.
Despite all the visible improvements, developers have reportedly contained the kernel's size by trimming down the default configuration files. Coming up in Linux version 2.6.37 will be a raft of further improvements to look forward to, according to reports.

Google plans to launch online music service in India: report

BANGALORE (Reuters) – Google Inc plans to launch an online music service in India that would enable users to search for legal music streams and downloads, the Wall Street Journal said.
Google would soon add a music feature in its search service, which will allow users in India to search for songs. The top search results would be from Google's partners, according to the Journal.
The U.S. web search giant will partner with three digital music providers, who hold rights to hundreds of thousands of Indian tracks -- ranging from Bollywood hits to Indian classical music -- the Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter.
Google could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters outside regular U.S. business hours.
(Reporting by Sakthi Prasad in Bangalore; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

Nokia to cut 1,800 jobs as net profit euro529 million

HELSINKI – Nokia Corp. is moving quickly to restructure its lagging smart phone business under new CEO Stephen Elop, announcing Thursday it will lay off 1,800 people even as third-quarter earnings bounced back from a year-ago loss.
The world's largest mobile phone maker reported third-quarter net profit of euro529 million ($733 million). The profit compares to a net loss of euro559 million in the third quarter last year.
Net sales in the quarter grew 5 percent to euro10.2 billion.
Nokia's profits were stronger than expected and its stock jumped 7 percent to euro8.25 ($11.44) in Helsinki.
The company said it was cutting jobs as it shakes up product development in its Symbian smart phone business as it struggles to cope with competition from Apple's iPhone, Research In Motion's Blackberry and Google' Inc.'s Android software. Nokia employs about 131,500 people, with 66,000 of those at its Nokia Siemens Networks joint venture.
Nokia said it will "accelerate its transformation and increase effectiveness ... including simplifying operations in product creation in Nokia's Symbian smart phones organization" as it struggles against rivals.
The iPhone has set the standard for smart phones for many design-conscious consumers, while Research In Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerrys have been the favorite of the corporate set. More recently, Google Inc.'s Android software has emerged as the choice for phone makers that want to challenge the iPhone.
Nokia's Symbian operating system is older than Apple's software and wasn't designed from the ground up for touch screen phones. Other manufacturers that used Symbian have mainly jumped ship to Android.
Elop, a Canadian who took Sept. 10 after veteran Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo left, is the first non-Finn to run the company.
The choice of a North American executive was largely seen as reflecting the increasing dominance of U.S. and Canadian companies in the evolution of the top end mobile phone business.
Nokia, once the bellwether of the device business, has disappointed markets that had expected something fresh and new from a company that once had the innovative edge.

Although Nokia last month unveiled its new flagship touch-screen N8 model, which has been generally well received, it was too late for the third quarter and the company has pinned its hopes on the last quarter for a pickup.
But it warned that it expects lower device sales in the fourth quarter, of between euro8.2 billion and euro8.7 billion.
Nokia also slightly revised up previous estimates saying that it now expects the global device market to grow more than 10 percent this year but cautioned that it will lose market share in the full year.
"Some of our most recent product launches illustrate that we have the talent, the capacity to innovate, and the resources necessary to lead through this period of disruption," Elop said.
"We will make both the strategic and operational improvements necessary to ensure that we continue to delight our customers and deliver superior financial results to our shareholders."
Nokia sold 110.4 million devices in the period, up 2 percent on the same period in 2009.

Apple snubs Adobe again with Flash-less MacBook Air

Call me crazy, but I'm starting to get the feeling that Apple has something against Flash.
Early reviewers of the revamped MacBook Air, which Apple unveiled Wednesday at a press event in San Francisco, started noticing something funny when they tried to test the ultra-slim laptop's performance on streaming-video sites like Hulu and YouTube: a little error message, reading "missing plug-in," where the video player should have been.
That's the telltale error you get when your browser, for whatever reason, doesn't have Adobe's Flash Player plug-in installed when you visit a site with Flash-embedded videos.
Fixing the problem is a simple matter of installing the free Flash Player, a process that takes less than a minute. What makes the error notable, however, is that it marks the first time in recent memory that an Apple desktop or laptop shipped without the Flash Player plug-in installed.
So ... did someone at Apple HQ simply forget to make sure that Safari on the Air was Flash-ready? Nope, says an Engadget editor, who tweets that he's "confirmed" that "this is how they ship."
Of course, it's hard not to view the omission in light of Steve Jobs' public spat with Adobe over Flash technology, which he slammed in an open letter back in April as the "number-one reason that Macs crash," a "closed system" that "uses too much power," and a "100% proprietary" technology that generally "falls short."
Adobe didn't take Jobs' criticisms lying down. The co-founders of Adobe penned their own open letter accusing Apple of trying to "put content and applications behind walls" rather than allowing users to "freely access their favorite content and applications, regardless of what computer they have, what browser they like, or what device suits their needs."
Apple's no-Flash policy on the iPhone, the iPod Touch and the iPad is a matter of record, and Apple even tried to prevent Flash developers from porting their apps to iOS before backing down in the face of possible action by the Federal Trade Commission.
Up until now, though, Apple hasn't made any overt move to block Flash on the Mac—and strictly speaking, it still hasn't, even in light of the Flash-less MacBook Air. Indeed, Engadget points out that Internet Explorer for Windows doesn't ship with the Flash Player plug-in installed, either.
That said, it's safe to assume that the days of Steve Jobs inviting anyone at Adobe over for his birthday party—or vice versa—are long gone.

Baidu's 3Q profit more than doubles, shares rise

BEIJING – Baidu Inc., which operates China's leading search engine, said Friday its third-quarter net profit more than doubled and revenue jumped 76 percent as online advertising surged.
The Beijing-based company said it earned 1.05 billion yuan ($156.4 million), or 3.01 yuan (45 cents), per American Depositary share, versus 492.9 million yuan, or 1.41 yuan per share, in the same period a year earlier.
Revenue rose to 2.26 billion yuan ($337.2 million). Analysts expected $333.6 million.
Baidu has gained market share following Google Inc.'s decision to close its China-based search engine in March but most of its revenue gain appeared to come from the market's rapid growth rather than expanded share.
Excluding expenses for employees' stock-based compensation, the company earned 46 cents per share. Analysts had expected 42 cents per share.
"Strong execution on our initiatives to expand our customer base and enhance customer service drove another quarter of strong results," Baidu CEO Robin Li said in a statement.
Baidu's market share rose to 73 percent in the quarter ending in September, up from 64 percent in the first three months of the year, according to Analysys International, a Beijing research firm.
Google, which still attracts Chinese users to its Hong Kong-based Chinese-language search engine, saw its share fall to 21.6 percent from 30.9 percent.
China's search market grew 57 percent over a year earlier to 3.15 billion yuan ($460 million) in the third quarter, according to Analysys. China's population of Internet users is the world's biggest and is still growing fast, rising by 36 million over the first half of the year to 420 million as of June 30.
For the fourth quarter, Baidu said it expects revenue to increase 88 percent to 93.5 percent over last year to 2.37 billion yuan ($354.2 million) to 2.44 billion ($364.7 million).
Analysts were expecting $349 million.
Baidu's U.S.-traded shares rose 54 cents to $103.02 in extended trading Thursday, after the results were reported. The shares had risen $2.47, or 2.5 percent, to finish the regular trading session at $102.48.

US networks block shows from Google TV

Some US networks have blocked their content from the Google TV service, in what is widely viewed by industry insiders as an attempt to assert their authority and protect existing business models
It means that hit television shows, such as The Office and CSI cannot be viewed through Google TV, a new service from the search giant that makes it easier for people to access on-demand content, scheduled television and the best of the internet through special set-top boxes or enabled TVs.
The reasons for the action remain unclear, but it is thought that some broadcasters are concerned Google TV will cannibalise existing revenue streams, and could tip the balance of power away from broadcasters and the networks in favour of Google.
“Everybody knows the lock that Google has on internet traffic in terms of advertising,” Van Baker, an analyst with Gartner, told Reuters.
“If you take that model and extend it to television, suddenly Google’s power becomes enormous in the advertising space and the broadcasters don’t like that idea.”
All three networks confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that they were blocking content from the platform. None gave a reason for the action. ABC and NBC are still allowing programme trailers to appear on Google TV.
Google said the decision about what programming to license to the platform lay solely with content owners.
“Google TV enables access to all the web content you already get today on your phone and PC, but it is ultimately the content owners’ choice to restrict their fans from accessing their content on the platform,” said Google in a statement.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Microsoft: 240 million licenses of Windows 7 sold in its first year

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the launch of Windows 7. To celebrate, Microsoft is releasing new numbers, claiming that the company has sold 240 million licenses of the product to date.
From an October 21 blog post to the Windows Team Blog:
“Windows 7 is the fastest selling operating system in history. As of September, Windows 7 was running on 93% of new consumer PCs and has over 17% global OS market share (according to Net Applications as of October 1st). There is an amazing array of great PCs out on the market today. Six months after launch, 100% (over 18,000) of our OEM partners were selling Windows 7 PCs versus 70% for Windows Vista PCs at a comparable time period.”
Earlier this year, analysts were estimating that Microsoft might hit the 300-million-sold number with Windows 7 licenses by the end of this calendar year. It’s looking possible….
I bought a Windows 7 PC last October and it has treated me well. (Like Microsoft PC evangelist Ben Rudolph, I love my super-long-battery-life ASUS UL30 (I have the UL30A).
For all the uptake of Windows 7, it’s worth remembering there is still a lot of Windows XP out there. The latest Net Applications data showed XP’s market share at 60.03%, which was down from 60.89% in the month before.
No updated word today from Microsoft on Windows 7 Service Pack (SP) 1. Last we heard, it will be out before mid-2011. Should be about time for another beta refresh of it, I’d think. And also no word (new or otherwise) on Windows 8, Windows v.Next or any other version of Windows which may be coming to PCs and slates by 2012 or so….

Apple patches Summerc0n Java for Mac security hole

Apple has rushed out a Java for Mac update to fix multiple security vulnerabilities, including a critical flaw discussed three months ago at Summerc0n by researcher Dino Dai Zovi.
The Java for Mac update rolls up fixes for extremely critical security holes in Java 1.6.0_20.  The most serious flaws allows an untrusted Java applet to execute arbitrary code outside the Java sandbox. These could be exploited to launch drive-by download attacks.

Apple also fixed two additional remote code exection issues, including one that was publicly released by Dai Zovi in June (see slides - PDF).
Here’s Apple’s description of the issue:
CVE-2010-1826 – A command injection issue exists in updateSharingD’s handling of Mach RPC messages. A local user may be able to execute arbitrary code with the privileges of another user who runs a Java application. This issue is addressed by implementing a per-user Java shared archive. It only affects the Mac OS X implementation.
A separate memory corruption in Java’s handling of applet window bounds could also be exploited via web pages containing a maliciously crafted Java applet tags.   This may lead to an unexpected application termination or arbitrary code execution with the privileges of the current user, Apple warned.
The Java for Mac updates are available for Mac OS X 10.5 and Mac OS X 10.6.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Newsweek colors Dell, IBM, HP the greenest

Tech firms proved dominant in Newsweek's rankings of the greenest companies around the world, with Dell, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard among those singled out.
Out today, Newsweek's rankings looked at the most environmentally friendly companies in the U.S. alone and throughout the world. The goal of the study was to zero in on three factors: environmental impact, policies, and reputation.
Among the 500 public companies tracked in the U.S., Dell came out on top. The PC maker was lauded by Newsweek for its environmental policies, such as free product recycling and a ban on the export of e-waste to developing countries. The company has also been able to drive in customers and sales by designing computers that consume 25 percent less energy than those made a couple of years ago. Dell estimates that it's helped customers save more than $5 billion in energy costs since 2006 through the energy management features on its OptiPlex business computers.
"Dell's focus on environmental stewardship and sustainability helps us to be a more responsible partner to our customers," CEO Michael Dell said in a statement. "The efficiencies we can all achieve through the use of greener products, solutions, services and programs should be an integral part of every corporate culture."
The top 10 in the U.S. also included such tech players as HP, IBM, Intel, Sprint Nextel, Adobe Systems, Applied Materials, and Yahoo. Certain companies were applauded for devising unique ways to cool their data centers, a process that typically demands a huge amount of energy. Yahoo, for example, has been able to build greener data centers, including one in New York that consumes 40 percent less energy and 94 percent less water than conventional data centers.
One company that generally seems to be on the forefront of greener tech is Google. The company has been behind several environmentally friendly initiatives, from an investment in a power backbone for a wind farm to its lawn-mowing goats. But the search giant ranked only 36th on Newsweek's U.S. list, scoring lower than one might expect on its environmental impact and policies.
Looking beyond the U.S. to the entire world, IBM took the top spot among the 100 greenest global companies, followed by HP in second place.
Big Blue has actually been ahead of the curve in looking to cut its use of electricity and water. Between 1990 and 2000, the company was able to reduce its energy consumption by 5.1 billion kilowatt hours, enough to power a medium-sized town, according to Newsweek. IBM has also embarked on a number of green projects, including its Sustainability Management System, which looks to help customers operate their commercial buildings in a greener way.
For many companies, including HP, the effort to create products that cost less to make and use is also saving energy and reducing waste as a result. HP's current IT systems use 66 percent less energy than the ones it designed in 2005.
"A lot of the innovation in this space is coming out of business pressure," Michael Mendenhall, HP's chief marketing officer, said in a statement.
To devise a "green score" for each company, Newsweek worked with some key environmental organizations. The score was based on three factors:
• Environmental impact, which included greenhouse-gas emissions, water use, and solid-waste disposal.

• Green policies, an analysis of a company's environmental policies and initiatives. • Reputation, which was based on a survey of academics, environmental officers, and CEOs.

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New iPad docking mode on the horizon?

A subtle but important change could be in store for the iPad.
Though the touch-screen tablet can be used in both portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal) mode, it can only be placed in its charging dock in portrait mode. There's just one 30-pin connector on the bottom of the short side of the rectangular iPad.
But according to documents Apple filed with the Trade Marks and Designs Registration Office of the European Union earlier this year and made public last week, a horizontal docking option may be on its way. The blog Patently Apple found the documents submitted by Apple that include drawings of an iPad with dock connectors on two sides, to allow horizontal and vertical docking orientation. The design is credited to, among others, CEO Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive, Apple's industrial design chief.
It's a subtle addition, but one that would be welcomed by users who want another way to take advantage of some of the productivity apps on the iPad. Using the iPad docked in horizontal mode with the physical keyboard accessory would simulate the wide-screen experience of working on a laptop, as well as allow users to view and access additional settings menus that only appear when the device is tipped sideways, which can be found in the company's Pages, Numbers, and Keynote apps.
It's not clear when the new design would be introduced. Perhaps when iPad version 2.0 is expected to be introduced sometime early next year?

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IPv4 Net addresses now 95 percent used up

The final stages of the squeeze are arriving: of the 4.3 billion Internet addresses possible with today's Net mainstream technology, 95 percent are gone.
That's the word Monday from the Number Resource Organization, a group representing the world's five regional Internet registries (RIRs) that dole out the numeric addresses.
"This is a major milestone in the life of the Internet and means that allocation of the last blocks of IPv4 to the RIRs is imminent," Axel Pawlik, chairman of the Number Resource Organization, said in a statement.
ARIN, one of five registries that allocate Internet addresses, shows the steadily diminishing number of available "/8" blocks of 16.7 million IP addresses. In June, it was down to 16, but today, 12 remain.
ARIN, one of five registries that allocate Internet addresses, shows the steadily diminishing number of available "/8" blocks of 16.7 million IP addresses. In June, it was down to 16. Today, 12 remain.
(Credit: American Registry for Internet Numbers)
Text-based Internet addresses, such as, are a convenient label for the numeric addresses that actually do the behind-the-scenes work when it comes to sending data such as a Web page across the Internet. Using today's IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4), though, the number of numeric addresses are dwindling. This is why Pawlik and many others are urging those with Internet operations to start supporting the more capacious IPv6.
A single IPv4 numeric address can be shared by multiple computers through a technique called network address translation. But NAT has its limits, so it's no surprise that IPv4 addresses are in high demand.
Major companies including Comcast, Google, and Facebook are working to adapt to an IPv6 world, but countless smaller companies have yet to begin taking the plunge. Although IPv4-based Internet operations will continue to work, those with IPv4-only technology won't be able to reach the IPv6 realm.
It was only last January that IPv4 exhaustion, as it's called, crossed the 90 percent mark. Despite that rate and the difficulties of migrating to IPv6, the NRO does not believe there is a last-minute rush for IPv4 addresses. Meanwhile, the NRO is urging IPv6 action to head off fears of a "chaotic scramble for IPv6, which could increase Internet costs and threaten the stability and security of the global network."
The entire IPv4 address space is divided into 256 blocks, each called a slash-8 or /8. There are now 12 /8s remaining. After seven more are allocated to the five RIRs, each RIR will get one of the last remaining five.
Those last five /8 blocks likely will be handed out to the registries in early 2011, NRO said.
That won't be the complete end of IPv4 addresses, though, as the RIRs allocate the numbers to direct and indirect customers downstream.
IPv4 addresses are divided into four 8-bit chunks that together mean an IPv4 Internet address is a 32-bit number. IPv6 addresses, in comparison, use four 32-bit chunks for a 128-bit number. If you're not conversant with binary math, that means there are 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 IPv6 addresses. So while the transition to IPv6 has been painful, IPv6 isn't likely to run out of room any time soon.

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How Google tested Google Instant

Google's John Boyd (standing) and LaDawn Jentzch, user experience researchers at Google, explain to CNET's Tom Krazit how Google's usability lab works, as seen from the observation room.
Google's John Boyd (standing) and LaDawn Jentzch, user experience researchers at Google, explain to CNET's Tom Krazit how Google's usability lab works, as seen from the observation room.
(Credit: James Martin/CNET)
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--In a world of data-obsessed number-crunching engineers, Google's John Boyd is the people person.
Boyd is responsible for testing user-experience changes to Google Search, the company's most important product. While Google is famous for obsessing over statistical differences in user clicks between one shade of blue versus another, Boyd's team focuses on studying how real people interact with products under development inside Google through the company's usability lab.
This mission took on great importance as Google prepared to make perhaps the biggest change to its search experience it had ever contemplated: Google Instant. Google surveyed 160 people--divided equally between Googlers and the general public--as it developed "Google Psychic," the internal code name for what would become Google Instant.
Over the course of several weeks, Google continued to tweak Instant in front of new testers until it was finally confident in the product. It claims those users became fans: of the 160 people who tested the product, just one said they didn't plan on using Google with the Instant feature turned on, Boyd said, which he called "unheard of in lab testing."
So just how does Google make sure its new ideas are ready for the real world? CNET got a tour of the company's usability labs to find out.
Watching what they eat
Google, like just about every technology company, employs a bevy of eager and captive testers--employees--when getting ready to roll out a new product. However, there are clear limits to what "dogfooding" (as the process is known) can predict about how the general public will receive a product, especially at a company like Google where employees are selected in part because they are "outliers" compared to the general population, Boyd said.
"The user research team is instrumental in understanding how users interact with the design we're creating," said Irene Au, director of user experience across all of the Google-branded product efforts, which excludes things like Android and YouTube.

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Ray Ozzie stepping down from Microsoft

Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's chief software architect
In a surprise move, Microsoft announced today that Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie is leaving the company.
The move, which raises questions about the company's future technology direction, was announced in an e-mail to employees from CEO Steve Ballmer. Ozzie is leaving after an unspecified transition period, expected to be several months.
"With our progress in services and the cloud now full speed ahead in all aspects of our business, Ray and I are announcing today Ray's intention to step down from his role as chief software architect," Ballmer said in the memo, which was posted to Microsoft's Web site. "He will remain with the company as he transitions the teams and ongoing strategic projects within his organization--bringing the great innovations and great innovators he's assembled into the groups driving our business. Following the natural transition time with his teams but before he retires from Microsoft, Ray will be focusing his efforts in the broader area of entertainment where Microsoft has many ongoing investments."
Ozzie's departure is just the latest in a string of high-level exits from Microsoft. Business Division President Stephen Elop left Microsoft last month to become CEO of Nokia, while Entertainment and Devices unit president Robbie Bach announced in the spring his plans to leave. (Bach has not left Microsoft's employ as yet, but is expected to leave later this fall.)
Ozzie joined Microsoft when the company bought Ozzie's Groove Networks back in April 2005. Initially, he was one of three chief technical officers and was named to his current role in 2006, at the same time the company announced Bill Gates plan to retire.
Microsoft said it has no plans to fill the chief software architect role.
Ozzie was already a computing industry legend by the time he joined Microsoft, having worked on several early PC programs before creating Lotus Notes. Ozzie ventured out on his own after IBM acquired Lotus, creating Groove, a collaborative document creation engine.
"Ray contributed significantly to the early success of Windows," Ballmer noted in his memo to Microsoft employees. "Since being at Microsoft, both through inspiration and impact he's been instrumental in our transition toward a software world now centered on services."
Microsoft's acquisition of Groove was widely seen as the cost of bringing in Ozzie.
During his time at Microsoft, Ozzie is best known for his Internet Services Disruption memo five years ago, which outlined the need for all of the company's businesses to move to the cloud. Since then, Microsoft has launched plans for Windows Live, Windows Azure, and Office Web Apps, among other cloud efforts.
However, Ozzie's tenure has also been marked by clashes with various product teams over both resources and technical direction.
As Ballmer noted, one of Ozzie's final projects will focus on the company's entertainment strategy. Microsoft has been trying to flesh out its notion of a "personal cloud," which is in many ways the consumer parallel to the business cloud strategy that the company has laid out.
One of Ozzie's pet projects at Microsoft was Live Mesh, a technology incubation that aimed to offer people the ability to have their content automatically synchronized with the Web and their other devices. Parts of Live Mesh are now part of Windows Live, although more work is needed to fulfill the broader vision, including securing broader rights from Hollywood to allow users to take purchased content, such as movies and TV shows, to whichever device they are on.
Microsoft declined to make Ozzie available for an interview, nor did it have any comment on his plans once he leaves the company. Ballmer left the door open to continuing further work with Ozzie.
"He's always been a 'maker' and a partner, and we look forward to our continuing collaboration as his future unfolds," he said.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Online Games Tournament Yearning

Many people around the world patronize the gaming industry. And like in Olympics, there are several events where in they compete in an array of games based on the what games are being participated. The essence of sportsmanship and unity are the common themes organizers would always promote. Aside from exhibits and product launchings, game developers can go hand and hand with organizers to further put up meaningful tournaments. It’s something the game developers and publishers way of giving back to the players. Recognizing the biggest contribution to a success of game development. How can a game would be a game without players involved. I know that sounds stupid but I’m having a point here. Appealing to the game developers that online game tournaments should be propagated further with it and  publishers have the first initiative. Just  in the case of all budding events, procedures should be taken into consideration.
The following initiatives and suggestions maybe followed:
Put up a governing body that would regulate, institute and enhance the online gaming sports. A committee consists of organizers and representatives from the game developers. One can adapt the way WCG (World Cyber Games) is handling the gaming tournament. These events are sponsored by electronic giant Samsung from South Korea. Every year the company organizes the event that is usually being participated through regional eliminations.  So each country has their own participants. Its a very tough task to do and WCG should have a helping hand. Drafting rules and regulations to maintain the integrity of events may also be made by the committee.
An Event Calendar will be imposed so that players have time to prepare. It may be patterned to every year. Different tournaments will be at stake. The whole committee must draft a tournament guidelines and procedures also for qualifying events . A sample case can be that WCG can act as a major circuit and other tournaments may be qualifying event  for the, shall we say like, CYBER OLYMPICS. It will be held every 4 years  There are lots of beautiful cities in the world that can host such an event. Qualifying tournaments for the cyber Olympics can be held in each continent every 2 years. It will be the World Cup of Online Games. Where teams that finished from first to third place after the one round elimination will be qualifying to the cyber Olympics The game event can happen maybe in a summer season of the hosted country preferably Jul. and Aug.. Academics will not be affected for the younger participants.

Windows 7 is being spared by Microsoft’s monthly security fixes

Latest Microsoft computer OS has survived for the initial few weeks on the market with no need for security fixes.
Several security holes has been plugged by Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday, but none of them are aimed at Windows 7, which was released at 22 Oct.
That’s to be expected, said Ben Greenbaum, a researcher at the Symantec Corp. the famous antivirus software company. “It will require more time from the attackers to find ways of breaking into Windows 7,” he said.
Users can get the patches through Microsoft’s automatic-update service, or by visiting
One of the fixes Microsoft marked “critical,” its highest severity rating, would thwart an attacker from infecting all the PCs on a local network after gaining access to just one. In other words, even if most people in the office are good at avoiding clicking on unknown links or opening mysterious documents, if one person’s computer is compromised the attacker he could take over the rest.
The software maker also fixed flaws in its software’s of Excel and Word that would give an attacker control of a PC if its owner opened a tainted spreadsheet or document.
It also patched problems in several older versions of Windows, including XP and Vista, that would give an attacker who already has control of a computer access to a lot of its functions.

Lightweight windows 7

Forget netbooks – feel the full power of the new Operating system
Netbooks have had all the limelight for too long. They’re great if you like restricted low-resolution screens, low-powered processing and a small amount of storage and memory – but hardware that inspires words such as ‘fine’ and ‘adequate’ is hardly exciting.
Raise your sights a little, however, and devastatingly powerful laptops with desktop levels of power leap into view.
It’s not even the case that you are forced to choose between the brick-shaped laptop on the left and the block-shaped laptop on the right.
Designs that boast razor-thin edges and weights that push the 1kg mark are now becoming the norm.
This low weight is partly due to new lithium-ion batteries that are lighter and can be made into almost any shape, compared to old technologies.
Many of these laptops also omit an optical drive, taking advantage of the additional weight savings and reduced chassis thickness gained by dropping these rarely used devices.
If the lack of one worries you, keep an eye out for laptops that come with bundled external options.
Another slimming technology is displays that take advantage of LED backlights. Not only lighter and thinner than the older cathode-lit displays, they also consume far less power.
As you’ll see, Intel still rules the roost with mobile technology. While AMD offers perfectly capable processors, it’s the sheer efficiency of Intel’s Centrino architecture that AMD finds hard to match.
Its ultra-low power processors tend to deliver the best battery life but, of course, this costs you more, and AMD systems are usually the best value options.
To help choose between the systems, we test for high definition media handling capabilities, 3D gaming speed and overall battery life.
All the systems are more than capable of day-to-day productivity tasks, so it’s more a case of whether you want good battery life, high-definition handling or decent gaming features that can really sway your buying decision.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Energy hub is fascinating – but the thrill of your changing energy usage will soon wear off
Energy Hub
It’s well known that putting an instant digital readout of your miles per gallon on a car dashboard makes people drive more economically, even if only unconsciously.
Now something like that idea has come to watching how much energy we use, and British Gas is now offering customers who sign up to its (free) EnergySmart service a dynamic electricity usage monitor worth £35 for free, plus a consumption history and loyalty bonus.
But more relevant is that it says trials have shown that customers can save £110 annually by seeing the real-time information on their monitor, and changing their behaviour.
You don’t have to be a British Gas customer to try it out – the meter is available from Green Energy Options, where it’s the cheapest in its range, at £39. Installation is fabulously simple: find your meter, clip the supplied magnetic loop around an input wire, pair with your readout meter, take the meter somewhere and start fretting about how much energy you’re using. (The device itself, by the way, uses about 0.25kWh annually.)
The meter offers lots of different settings. The standard one is an immediate readout of how much energy you’re using at the moment, with a total for the day below it. You can also see how much carbon dioxide you’re producing to power that TV.
You can set yourself a daily consumption target. Or, more attention-grabbingly, how much money you’ve burned today, or this month, or in this billing cycle, or against a target.
To figure out your monetary consumption, you have to enter your tariffs, which is easy enough – except if, like me (with E.ON) you have tariffs that don’t begin and end at times of day, but after you’ve used a certain number of kilowatt hours. Simple enough, though: take your last bill, put in the average price per kilowatt, you’re away.
So now you now much how energy you’re using, and how much it costs. And this will obsess you. The numbers will harass you. Put the kettle on? Are you mad? That’s 3 kilowatts in a burst!
The most dangerous time is when you are left alone in the house, just you and the monitor. You will watch its ebb and flow and wonder: what the hell is using all that energy? It will certainly get you leaping to replace your incandescent bulbs with low-energy ones (and in time those with LEDs). Then you’ll be wandering around turning off things to see how much energy they’re using. (Sky+ boxes use more than 100W while on standby, I found to my surprise.)
Will this change your behaviour? It may, but unlike the car dashboard readout, you have surprisingly little control over a lot of your energy use beyond a certain point. The fridge, the lights, some TV … sure, it adds up, but you can’t do it more efficiently per se, unlike driving. Over time, you’ll probably ignore it for the most part, and only notice it if something jumps in the consumption.
In short: wonderful at first, and then part of the wallpaper. Which isn’t to say that it’s not useful.
Many people around the world patronize the gaming industry. And like in Olympics, there are several events where in they compete in an array of games based on the what games are being participated. The essence of sportsmanship and unity are the common themes organizers would always promote. Aside from exhibits and product launchings, game developers can go hand and hand with organizers to further put up meaningful tournaments. It’s something the game developers and publishers way of giving back to the players. Recognizing the biggest contribution to a success of game development. How can a game would be a game without players involved. I know that sounds stupid but I’m having a point here. Appealing to the game developers that online game tournaments should be propagated further with it and  publishers have the first initiative. Just  in the case of all budding events, procedures should be taken into consideration.
The following initiatives and suggestions maybe followed:
Put up a governing body that would regulate, institute and enhance the online gaming sports. A committee consists of organizers and representatives from the game developers. One can adapt the way WCG (World Cyber Games) is handling the gaming tournament. These events are sponsored by electronic giant Samsung from South Korea. Every year the company organizes the event that is usually being participated through regional eliminations.  So each country has their own participants. Its a very tough task to do and WCG should have a helping hand. Drafting rules and regulations to maintain the integrity of events may also be made by the committee.
An Event Calendar will be imposed so that players have time to prepare. It may be patterned to every year. Different tournaments will be at stake. The whole committee must draft a tournament guidelines and procedures also for qualifying events . A sample case can be that WCG can act as a major circuit and other tournaments may be qualifying event  for the, shall we say like, CYBER OLYMPICS. It will be held every 4 years  There are lots of beautiful cities in the world that can host such an event. Qualifying tournaments for the cyber Olympics can be held in each continent every 2 years. It will be the World Cup of Online Games. Where teams that finished from first to third place after the one round elimination will be qualifying to the cyber Olympics The game event can happen maybe in a summer season of the hosted country preferably Jul. and Aug.. Academics will not be affected for the younger participants. now Owned by Apple – the mystery deepens

He widely rumored Apple tablet, a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, has just gotten a little more interesting.
Thanks to some crack reporting, discovered that the domain “” was bought by Apple back in 2007.
What we know that: was registered to Apple in 2007, through an intermediary (to disguise its true owner). At the moment, that domain doesn’t seem to lead anywhere–and there are a few possible explanations. First, Apple bought it as a protective measure, to stop anyone else from using that “i” prefix with that particular word. Second, Apple had or has plans for either a product or a project by that name. Third, it’s the tablet. Or fourth, it’s Apple’s take on
Maybe we’ll find out just what that means in January, when the tablet is rumored to be announced.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

iPhone appears in South Korea

SEOUL, South Korea -
Tech-savvy South Koreans began getting their coveted iPhones on Saturday amid fanfare and expectations the communication and entertainment device will shake up a local mobile market dominated by domestic giants Samsung and LG.
Hundreds of customers lined up to get their pre-ordered iPhones at an official launch event in Seoul, some waiting overnight. A twnety five-year-old university student was the first to get one, as music blared and strobe lights flashed.
“I’m so happy” said Huh Jin-seok, tsaid he first recipientline more than 26 hours and admitted to being “a little bit tired.”
A band played loud rockabilly music outside the venue near a clock that counted down the time until the launch. Those receiving their phones were among about 65,000 people who placed orders since November. 22.
South Korean mobile carrier KT Corp., Apple Inc.’s local partner, said about 850 people picked up iPhones at the event. Others were receiving them via delivery at their homes or offices.
“We’re hoping that this iPhone will be a trigger point for the smartphone market in Korea,” said Yang Hyun-mi, KT’s chief strategy officer, who said smartphones make up just 1 percent of all cell phones in the country. Smartphones are advanced cell phones with computer-like capabilities.
She declined to offer a sales forecast, but said the company was optimistic given higher-than-expected advance orders.
“We just think it will be really huge,” she said.
Lee Bo-ra, who designs beauty tools such as nail clippers and trimmers, said she plans to use her iPhone mostly to access maps and play “Guitar Hero,” the popular game in which users simulate playing rock and roll hits.
“Very,” she said when asked if she was satisfied with her iPhone so far.
The iPhone’s arrival after a long delay has generated excitement among South Korean consumers and industry analysts, who say it is likely to expand the domestic smartphone market and pose a challenge to local manufacturers Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc.
The sleek smartphone, which has grabbed headlines around the world and solidified Apple’s status as a purveyor of cutting-edge consumer electronics, was already available in many other Asian countries including Japan, where it launched last year. It made its official debut in China last month.
Regulatory hurdles had delayed its arrival in South Korea. Final approval by the Korea Communications Commission came earlier this month with the granting of a license to Apple to offer so-called location-based services, which include functions such as maps and direction finders that are available on the iPhone. South Korean law requires companies that provide such applications to obtain government permission.
The commission earlier this year also abolished a rule that required all mobile devices to carry special software adapted to South Korea’s wireless Internet platform, which was an added cost for foreign manufacturers and viewed as a trade barrier.
KT’s Yang said another factor contributing to the delay was a complicated negotiating process with Apple over what she described as the Cupertino, California-based company’s strict standards and policies. “There was a lot of negotiations back and forth,” she said.
Samsung and LG dominate the local market for cell phones. They are also major players globally, ranking No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, behind Finland’s Nokia corporation.
KT also offers serCorp.or smartphones made by Samsung, LG, Nokia and a Taiwanese manufacturer, said KT spokeswoman Alice Park.
Moon Chang-soo, a computer programmer, said he plans to mostly use the iPhone to keep his life organized.
“It’s amazing,” he said after finally getting one. But despite its fame as a smartphone, Moon used it for the time in a more basic way.
“I just made a call to my wife,” he said with a laugh.

New Safety Panasonic’s Battery

Panasonic declared on Tues that the company has started manufacturing a new, safer laptop battery, which will hopefully cut down the number of battery recalls we have seen in recent years.
Numerous companies, including Packard Bell , HP, Dell , and others, have recalled laptop batteries due to them posing a fire hazard. Panasonic’s new battery design hopes to reduce the risk of batteries short-circuiting and leading to a fire.
The new standard-size battery design (pictured) makes use of a new metal oxide layer placed in between the battery’s cathode and anode. Acting as an insulator, the new metal layer keeps the battery from overheating should it short-circuit.

only safer, but it also has a longer run time. Battery cells found in laptops currently store an average of 2.9Ah per cell, whereas the improved cells can now store 3.1Ah of power.
Have you experienced troubles with your laptop battery? Share your story in the comments.

Googlers Gift: $2.3 billion

Like many companies, Google has a tradition of giving holiday presents to its employees–an Android phone last year, $1,000 net of taxes the year before. This year, they got Google’s soon-to-be-released phone.
The phone is not yet available to the public, so the gift could make some gadget aficionados jealous. But most Googlers got another holiday gift far more worthy of envy.
In March, Google allowed nearly all employees to swap their stock options for new ones. Since Google shares had plummeted from more than $740 in late 2007 to around $300 by early this year, about 85 percent of employees held options that were under water, and Google executives said they needed to do something nice to retain employees.
To say the company has thrived since is an understatement. Google’s shares have been on a tear for most of the year. They crossed $600 earlier this week for the first time in nearly two years. On Thursday, they were trading at around $617. That’s more than twice the value of early March, when the old options were swapped for new ones with a strike price of $308.57. March was also the low point for the broader stock market.
Since employees exchanged 7.6 million shares, the potential windfall to Google’s work force is more than $2.3 billion, assuming stock prices stay at these levels as the options vest. That’s more than $117,000 on average for each of Google’s roughly 20,000 employees. (Not all employees participated in the exchange, so the windfall for those that did is actually higher, on average.)
The timing of the option exchange was nearly perfect. After dipping slightly below the exchange price, Google’s shares have been on a steady climb for the remainder of the year.
Google initially estimated the cost of the exchange to shareholders would be about $460 million. In later filings, it said the charge was approximately $360 million.
Many shareholder advocates frown on this kind of option exchange, arguing, among other things, that it is not available to average shareholders. In this case, they might also say that with the sharp climb in Google shares, the exchange was not necessary in the first place. Employees, no doubt, will beg to differ.
DUBAI (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates will not suspend BlackBerry services on October 11 after resolving a dispute with its Canadian maker Research in Motion over access to email and other data, state news WAM agency said on Friday.
The UAE had said it would suspend BlackBerry Messenger, email and web browser services to about 500,000 subscribers from October 11 unless Canadian BlackBerry maker RIM works out a way to locate encrypted servers in the country, so that the government can seek access to messages.
"The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has confirmed that Blackberry services are now compliant with the UAE's telecommunications regulatory framework," a statement on WAM said.
"Therefore all Blackberry services in the UAE will continue to operate as normal and no suspension of service will occur on October 11, 2010," it said.
Saudi Arabia and India also threatened to cut off services but have reached an agreement with RIM, and an UAE official said in September the country was "very optimistic" about reaching a deal before the October 11 deadline.
Before the dispute, Information sent to and from BlackBerries had been encrypted and handled by servers outside the UAE.
The UAE had voiced concerns over its inability to access the information through legal means, citing security and sovereignty issues, and had emphasized it was not able to reach a deal since new telecoms regulations took effect three years ago.

Monday, October 4, 2010

10/4 Technology: Technology blog |

    Technology: Technology blog |    
The Technology newsbucket: fighting cybercrime, N8 launch pics, HTML5 win and more
October 3, 2010 at 5:36 PM

Plus Google Translate v lorem ipsum, Microsoft patent reaction, iPad in your browser and more

Crime. On your computer. Geddit? Photo by alancleaver_2000 on Flickr. Some rights reserved

A quick burst of 11 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

Fighting Cybercrime Today >> TrendLabs
Anthony Arrott: "For example, in just one day—September 14, 2010—we received 6.2 billion reputation queries for email. We blocked 4.4 billion. For Web reputation, we received 41 billion queries. We blocked 585 million. With this amount of information, we're able to acquire in-depth data that helps protect our customers and provides insight into the current threat landscape." Fascinating view of spam- and cybercrime-fighting.

Nokia N8 hits the streets (photos) >> Nokia Conversations
"Today [Oct 1] was a special day for many folk as they were the first to get their hands on the brand new Nokia N8. Stores in Helsinki, Beijing, Shanghai and Moscow were packed as eager customers queued up to get their hands on the new N8."

The new stats pages on AMO, or how I learned to love HTML5/CSS3/new JS APIs >> Mozilla Webdev
"A lot of the demos of HTML5 and its associated trappings spend great effort trying to visually dazzle, and it's way too easy to write it all off as nothing but eye candy. What people forget is that a lot of the new features in modern web browsers have practical ways to make the development process cleaner, the user experience faster, and the end-result more sophisticated."

'The Social Network': A Review Of Aaron Sorkin's Film About Facebook And Mark Zuckerberg >> Larry Lessig
Writing in the New Republic, the highly rated law professor isn't impressed.

stop @mentions >>
While it's nice for some people to know that they have a mention in the "" daily "papers", others don't like it so much - and this is the page where you can stop them.

Google lateris nescis >>
"Lorem ipsum" is how placeholder text begins when you want to fill a page with meaningless but apparently English-like text. But now that Google Translate can translate Latin to English, we can find out what it means.. right?

First reaction to Microsoft patent infringement action against Motorola over Android >> FOSS Patents
Unimpressed is the short version. Plenty of good links there makes it informative.

Microsoft Files Patent Infringement Action Against Motorola >>
"Microsoft filed an action today in the International Trade Commission and in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington against Motorola, Inc. for infringement of nine Microsoft patents by Motorola's Android-based smartphones."
Ah, and so it begins.

ZBot gang suspects arrested in the Ukraine >> Graham Cluley's blog
"It's certainly encouraging to see the computer crime cops around the globe working closely in partnership to tackle the increasingly organised nature of international cybercrime rings.
"After all, these crimes are no small beer. The scam being investigated by the authorities is said to have resulted in more than $200 million being stolen from consumers and businesses."

cssPad: an iPad made with CSS using Quplo >> Quplo
"I made it so I can use HTML and CSS for prototyping interactive apps before building them in XCode, as HTML and CSS are an ideal and flexible way to prototype."

Some Android apps caught covertly sending GPS data to advertisers >> Ars Technica
"The results of a study conducted by researchers from Duke University, Penn State University, and Intel Labs have revealed that a significant number of popular Android applications transmit private user data to advertising networks without explicitly asking or informing the user."

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Saturday, October 2, 2010

10/2 Technology: Technology blog |

    Technology: Technology blog |    
The Technology newsbucket: mobile malware, shorter Google, Yahoo sheds and more
October 1, 2010 at 10:56 AM

Plus open data (or not) and its attitudes, mobile development trends and more

Google has been collecting its Street View photos for Antarctica for some time. Photo by National Library NZ on The Commons on Flickr. Some rights reserved

A quick burst of 11 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

Making money with mobile malware >> Graham Cluley's blog
"Earlier this year I described the Terdial Trojan horse, which was distributed posing as a Windows mobile game called "3D Anti-terrorist action", but made calls apparently to Antarctica, Dominican Republic, Somalia and Sao Tome and Principe without the owner's permission.
So how did it make money for the hackers?
"Well, it transpires that although the Trojan did make phone calls to numbers associated with various far-flung corners of the world, the calls never made it that far."

Google URL Shortener Gets a Website >> Google Social Web blog
"There are many shorteners out there with great features, so some people may wonder whether the world really needs yet another. As we said late last year, we built with a focus on quality. With, every time you shorten a URL, you know it will work, it will work fast, and it will keep working." Ooh, take that, er.. whichever URL shortener gave up a while back. An API is coming, Google says.

Gallery: JPEG vs Google WebP images
"Since browsers do not currently support WebP, we used a PNG container to allow users to see these WebP images in a browser." Yes - while it's good to have a more efficient image container, it's a bit of a problem if browsers can't view it.

Yahoo Losing More Top Execs >> AllThingsD
"This entire mess–and that's precisely what it is–calls into question the tenure of Bartz, a tough-talking, cost-cutting exec who was brought in to clean up Yahoo after the maelstrom around the failed takeover attempt by Microsoft several years ago."

How The Guardian is pioneering data journalism with free tools >> Nieman Journalism Lab
We are, you know.

Payments to Suppliers over £500 (in PDF only..) >> Birmingham City Council
"At Birmingham we are committed to making our finances clear, so that everyone can see exactly how we are spending money." Which is why we put it in PDFs and redact some data which you'll need an FOI request to get at.

Local government data and the armchair auditors: are you sitting comfortably? >> Public Finance
David Walker: "A government committed to evidence might, in theory, have researched the prospect for armchair auditors and other dimensions of the Big Society before they became policies. What do we know about people's enthusiasm and capacity? Ben Page of Ipsos Mori says his surveys imply a 'seismic shift' would be necessary to get the involvement the government envisages.
"Gillian Fawcett, head of public sector at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, says: 'The reality is that very few members of the public currently look at local authorities' accounts – even though that opportunity is available to them. In many cases, where people are interested in accounts at all, their interest will be restricted to a specific issue, often to an area of personal interest.'"
Just remind us how the government could have researched the evidence for armchair auditors? Or where we could audit items of spending above £500 before Eric Pickles's order? Chickens and eggs come to mind.

What Platforms Will Have Mobile App Devs in 12 Mos? >> GigaOm
"Where it gets interesting is when we ask which platforms developers plan to create apps for in the future. While most will continue working on iOS, we saw over a 50 percent increase in those that said they plan to work on Android apps (from 39 percent to 61 percent) and a doubling of interest in Windows Phone apps (from 9 percent to 18 percent). BlackBerry also saw increased focus 12 months out: 19 percent up from 12 percent today. It should be noted this survey was taken before RIM's news this week." Note though that this is extremely US-centric, so Nokia (Symbian) is significantly under-represented. Flash developers for mobile phones - not that we're sure that's a big crowd - may start feeling lonely soon, though.

Distilling the W32.Stuxnet Components >> Symantec Connect
In-depth post from July analysing this intriguing piece of malware.

ACS:Law: This is what regulatory failure looks like >> TechnoLlama
"..the more harm would come from the unlawful processing, the more security there should be. ACS:Law and the ISPs are therefore in blatant breach of the Seventh Principle [of the Data Protection Act]. This is unforgivable, and the Information Commissioner should make a stand and send a clear message to other data processors. Otherwise the DPA is just reduced to a bunch of fancy words on paper."

A user's guide to websites, part 1: If it wasn't broken why fix it? >> Rev Dan Catt's Blog
Of Flickr (and GuardianRoulette) fame: "Everyone still loves feature X but hates using Perl [in which it's been re-written], it gets re-written 3 times in PHP, it still doesn't scale.
"Someone re-writes it in an afternoon in Python but it only works and scales if sub-feature "x" gets left out. 98% of users don't notice, 1.9% of users form a protest #hashtag on twitter. 0.1% of users argue about the merits of scaling in PHP vs Python vs Their Favourite Language, they write a blogpost about it (using their own blogging platform they wrote themselves in 1997) slashdot links the post and ironically declares the original site "over"."

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Local council spending over £500: full list of who has published what so far
October 1, 2010 at 9:25 AM

Ask every local authority in England to publish all its spending over £500 in an open format and what do you get? A whole load of PDFs. See our list of the best and the worst
Get the data

It's an open data revolution. Every one of the 326 local authorities in England has to publish every item of spending over £500 by the end of this year.

In the event, only 66 councils have put their data online so far - despite huge pressure from the DCLG, which published its own spending data yesterday. It's worth reading is reading Chris Taggart's piece on this yesterday

Birmingham … published theirs as a PDF on a confusing and messy page. However, not only is it not reusable as data without manually extracting it from the PDF file, there's none of the richness of the Trafford council data. No department names, no supplier ids, no descriptions of what the payment was for, and no classification. Comparison by category or by department is therefore impossible. They also seem to have silently redacted information, meaning that it's impossible to challenge whether a payment to supplier should have been redacted, as you'll never know it was made

The Liberal-Conservative coalition government has been pretty explicit about what it expects. First the prime minister David Cameron wrote a letter to government departments in which he told them he expected to see government to:

ensure that any data published is made available in an open format so that it can be re-used by third parties

In case there's any doubt, that means excel or CSV files or even XML. Then Eric Pickles told all local authorities in England (he has no authority over Scotland and Wales) that

I don't expect everyone to get it right first time, but I do expect everyone to do it

In September, the government published its guidance for local authorities. See the guidance here.

Councils have until January to comply but in the meantime, a number have already started to release their data. But it's not quite working out.

It should be a fantastic journalistic resource. In theory, councils will publish their data so that we can compare how they spend their money and pick up on the good and bad in public spending.

We wanted to start listing all the councils that have complied so far - and give you the links so you could check for yourself.

And what it shows is a disturbing lack of awareness among councils as to what they're doing. Of the 66 councils in England who have published so far:

• Many - 36% at last analysis - have published their spending in PDF format only, including East Herts, Broxtowe, Fareham and Hammersmith & Fulham
• Some are available in monthly, some are annual and some are quarterly - making it difficult to compare different councils. One, East Herts, publishes them weekly
• Most of them are Conservative councils
• A quarter of them are from London and the South East
• A number of councils have published their data using Spotlight on Spend, a service from Spikes Cavell which was controversial earlier this year because of a perceived lack of openness

The PDF issue is the biggest problem. While PDFs are fine for displaying documents, they are the worst possible format for any kind of analysis - publishing on PDF allows you to appear open without actually being open.

The Department for Communities and Local Government plans to publish full guidelines which will tell councils how to do this in the next few days. "The deadline is not until January," says a spokesman adding that open data formats will be expected. "We want this to be the case for all data."

In the meantime, we will monitor councils right here, adding more as they publish. If you know of any, please let us know in the comment field below. The spreadsheet is attached too, so let us know if you perform any analysis.

Data summary

Download the data

DATA: download the full spreadsheet

World government data

Search the world's government with our gateway

Can you do something with this data?

Flickr Please post your visualisations and mash-ups on our Flickr group or mail us at

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Google gets into the URL shortening business - in its own quiet way
October 1, 2010 at 7:55 AM

No API yet, but it does have a very neat addition in the form of QR codes to take you to web pages. We road-tested it, though not on a road.

Just what the world needs: another URL shortener. Though this time it's from Google - which as Jeff Atwood (half the brains behind the wonderful Stack Overflow) points out, might actually be one of the best places to have a shortener, seeing that it must already have a vast table of lookups for URLs all over the web.

The shortener is at present pretty basic: just a text box where you enter the URL to be shortened. If you're not signed into a Google account you always get the same shortened URL back for a given URL entry, but if you're signed in you'll get a different shortened URL particular to you back. That's like unlike, say, which has the idea of "users" (so that you can shorten a URL that someone else has shortened, but get your own result, which means that you can see if people are clicking on your link, or other versions of the same link. [Corrected: I'd forgotten to sign in to test the Google shortening.]

Thus,, and all go to the same place, but the one will give you more granular statistics: compare and contrast and and, and which are the respective pages for the statistics about each shortened version. (You get the info page for links, as with links, by adding a + to the end of the shortened URL.)

There also isn't an API for yet, though the company promises that it's coming.

One very neat thing that it does do: QR codes. These are the two-dimensional forms of bar codes which can contain lots more data - nearly 3K of binary data at most.

To generate a QR code using, you simply add ".qr" to the end of the shortened link. Thus: - which looks like the image at the left.

QR codes being useful to mobile phones, which can read them via their cameras. (Yes, we have heard the suggestion that we should use QR codes in the paper to link to the website. Can we consider it a little longer?)

It's worth noting that Atwood (among others) isn't a fan of shorteners - and he quotes Joshua Schachter, who notes that

"The worst problem is that shortening services add another layer of indirection to an already creaky system. A regular hyperlink implicates a browser, its DNS resolver, the publisher's DNS server, and the publisher's website. With a shortening service, you're adding something that acts like a third DNS resolver, except one that is assembled out of unvetted PHP and MySQL, without the benevolent oversight of luminaries like Dan Kaminsky and St. Postel. "

For this reason, most shorteners won't let you shorten an already-shortened link (because such double obfuscation is generally used by spammers or for malicious reasons).

But as he said in 2007,

"I often wonder why Google doesn't offer an URL redirection service, as they already keep an index of every URL in the world. The idea of Google disappearing tomorrow, or having availability problems, is far less likely than the seemingly random people and companies who operate these URL redirection services-- often for no visible income. "

Well, now it has. It will be interesting to see how much Twitter traffic (since that's the main avenue for URL shorteners) goes to it.

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How to be a data journalist
October 1, 2010 at 6:00 AM

Data journalism trainer and writer Paul Bradshaw explains how to get started in data journalism, from getting to the data to visualising it
Guardian data editor Simon Rogers explains how our data journalism operation works

Data journalism is huge. I don't mean 'huge' as in fashionable - although it has become that in recent months - but 'huge' as in 'incomprehensibly enormous'. It represents the convergence of a number of fields which are significant in their own right - from investigative research and statistics to design and programming. The idea of combining those skills to tell important stories is powerful - but also intimidating. Who can do all that?

The reality is that almost no one is doing all of that, but there are enough different parts of the puzzle for people to easily get involved in, and go from there. To me, those parts come down to four things:

1. Finding data

'Finding data' can involve anything from having expert knowledge and contacts to being able to use computer assisted reporting skills or, for some, specific technical skills such as MySQL or Python to gather the data for you.

2. Interrogating data

Interrogating data well means you need to have a good understanding of jargon and the wider context within which data sits, plus statistics - a familiarity with spreadsheets can help save a lot of time.

3. Visualising data

Visualising and mashing data has historically been the responsibility of designers and coders, but an increasing number of people with editorial backgrounds are trying their hand at both - partly because of a widening awareness of what is possible, and partly because of a lowering of the barriers to experimenting with them.

4. Mashing data

Tools such as ManyEyes for visualisation, and Yahoo! Pipes for mashups, have made it possible for me to get journalism students stuck in quickly with the possibilities - and many catch the data journalism bug soon after.

How to begin?

So where does a budding data journalist start? An obvious answer would be "with the data" - but there's a second answer too: "With a question".

Journalists have to balance their role in responding to events with their role as an active seeker of stories - and data is no different. The New York Times' Aron Pilhofer recommends that you "Start small, and start with something you already know and already do. And always, always, always remember that the goal here is journalism." The Guardian's Charles Arthur suggests "Find a story that will be best told through numbers", while The Times' Jonathan Richards and The Telegraph's Conrad Quilty-Harper both recommend finding your feet and coming up with ideas by following blogs in the field and attending meetups such as Hacks/Hackers.

There is no shortage of data being released that you can get your journalistic teeth into. The open data movement in the UK and internationally is seeing a continual release of newsworthy data, and it's relatively easy to find datasets being released by regulators, consumer groups, charities, scientific institutions and businesses. You can also monitor the responses to Freedom of Information requests on What Do They Know, and on organisations' own disclosure logs. And of course, there's the Guardian's own datablog.

A second approach, however, is to start with a question - "Do speed cameras cost or save money?" for example, was one topical question that was recently asked on Help Me Investigate, the crowdsourcing investigative journalism site that I run - and then to search for the data that might answer it (so far that has come from a government review and a DfT report). Submitting a Freedom of Information request is a useful avenue too (make sure you ask for the data in CSV or similar format).

Whichever approach you take, it's likely that the real work will lie in finding the further bits of information and data to fill out the picture you're trying to clarify. Government data, for example, will often come littered with jargon and codes you'll need to understand. A call to the relevant organisation can shed some light. If that's taking too long, an advanced search for one of the more obscure codes can help too - limiting your search, for example, by including filetype:pdf (or equivalent limitations for your particular search) at the end.

You'll also need to contextualise the initial data with further data. Say you have some information about a government department's changing wage bill, for example: has the department workforce expanded? How does it compare to other government departments? What about wider wages within the industry? What about inflation and changes in the cost of living? This context can make a difference between missing and spotting a story.

Quite often your data will need cleaning up: look out for different names for the same thing, spelling and punctuation errors, poorly formatted fields (e.g. dates that are formatted as text), incorrectly entered data and information that is missing entirely. Tools like Freebase Gridworks can help here.

At other times the dataset you need will come in an inconvenient format, such as a PDF, Powerpoint, or a rather ugly webpage. If you're lucky, you may be able to copy and paste the data into a spreadsheet. But you won't always be lucky.

At these moments some programming knowledge comes in handy. There's a sliding scale here: at one end are those who can write scripts from scratch that scrape a webpage and store the information in a spreadsheet. Alternatively, you can use a website like Scraperwiki which already has example scripts that you can customise to your ends - and a community to help. Then there are online tools like Yahoo! Pipes and the Firefox plugin OutWit Hub. If the data is in a HTML table you can even write a one-line formula in Google Spreadsheets to pull it in. Failing all the above, you might just have to record it by hand - but whatever you do, make sure you publish your spreadsheet online and blog about it so others don't have to repeat your hard work.

Once you have the data you need to tell the story, you need to get it ready to visualise. Trim off everything peripheral to what you need in order to visualise your story. There are dozens of free online tools you can use to do this. ManyEyes and Tableau Public are good places to start for charts. This poster by A. Abela (PDF) is a good guide to what charts work best for different types of data.

Play around. If you're good with a graphics package, try making the visualisation clearer through colour and labelling. And always include a piece of text giving a link to the data and its source - because infographics tend to become separated from their original context as they make their way around the web.

For maps, the wonderful OpenHeatMap is very easy to use - as long as your data is categorised by country, local authority, constituency, region or county. Or you can use Yahoo! Pipes to map the points of interest. Both of these are actually examples of mashups, which is useful if you like the word "mashups" and want to use it at parties. There are other tools too, but if you want to get serious about mashing up, you will need to explore the world of programming and APIs. At that point you may sit back and think: "Data journalism is huge."

And you know what? I said that once.

Paul Bradshaw is founder, Help Me Investigate and Reader in Online Journalism, Birmingham City University and teaches at City University in London. He publishes the Online journalism blog © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Is cyberwarfare a genuine threat?
September 30, 2010 at 11:28 AM

Suggestions that the dangers of computer warfare have been overdone don't stand up to the emerging realities

The video is a generator tearing itself apart after a cyberattack. Happily, it's a simulated one set up by the US Department of Home Security in 2007 – but it shows the sort of things that cyberwar, and in particular the Stuxnet worm, the first one known to be attacking machinery in this way, is aiming to do.

What's quite scary about the video is that (sanctioned) hackers who did it were only told the domain of the system.

The Stuxnet worm would do much the same to the generator: it interrupts the processes which monitor events, so that high-speed machinery effectively goes unmonitored and out of control.

Is that real? In 2009 Fox News (yes, we know) reported that: "The US power grid has been hacked by foreign spies … Russian and Chinese cyberspies not only got into our electrical system but left behind computer programs that could be used for future attacks." The Department for Homeland Security issued a vaguely denial-based denial – "not aware of any incidents where the grid was compromised", but it was hardly convincing: "the vulnerability is something we have known about for years". See below:

Cyberwar isn't new – Russia is believed to have used it before its invasion of Georgia to knock out websites and, perhaps, infrastructure. Napoleon famously said that an army marches on its stomach, but these days it thinks over the internet.

And in the US, Lockheed Martin has put this (rather flashy) video together about cyberwar – in which it says that one of the biggest enemies is "foreign governments".

"Economic espionage has always been a threat", explains Eric Cole, chief scientist of cyber security at Lockheed Martin. Which recalls, of course, the Titan Rain attacks against the US and UK governments in 2006/7. Cole is confident, by the way, that he's going to have work for the next 30 years in advising on how to evade these attacks.

Is Stuxnet the way forward? And if it is, what does that imply?

One cause for slight concern in all this is the fact that Siemens's SCADA system, as targeted by Stuxnet, runs on top of Windows – which offers all sorts of openings for zero-day vulnerabilities. One can't help feeling that North Korea's decision to try to develop its own operating system based on Linux was wise: not only does it save money, but it might have some resistance to attempts to infiltrate its systems via worms like this. Though if you're dealing with national spy agencies determined to infect your systems, that may be a futile hope. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

The TechCrunch/AOL deal - immortalised in song
September 30, 2010 at 8:46 AM

I've had some curious conversations about AOL acquiring TechCrunch (I nearly inadvertently wrote TechCrunch acquiring AOL... perhaps file that under Arrington/wishlist) but tech blogs have been eerily devoid of deeper comment on analysis on the deal beyond backslapping and congratulations.

As Kellan tweeted: "Could TechCrunch after 5+ years writing about the biz, possibly be naive enough to believe, "Nothing will change, just more resources!"?

I expect most entrepreneurs would feel they were taking their professional life in their hands if they spoke out against TechCrunch. And while, yes yes, it is a powerhouse for the startup community as I said yesterday, many people have said that they question how healthy it is for one blog to have so much influence. Arrington is so woven into the startup scene that this deal represents success for 'one of us'. No-one wants to poop that party, especially when star struck by MC Hammer. Seriously.

Check out ilovepopula's TechCrunch AOL anthem on Soundcloud: "TechCrunch belongs to us," he sings.

Privately, those in the know are questioning whether Arrington will survive the three year tie-in he's signed. "Three years is to long," one said. "I give him a year, even with the money on the table."

Om Malik, who broke the story about the deal, last night wrote that Arrington is both a ruthless competitor and extremely loyal friend, which I think means that the only way he can cover news about TechCrunch itself is to do it 'straight as a straight thing'. That's much the same for the rest of the tech blogs.

Malik did give us a good infographic on Arrington's road to millions, as well as the nugget that the price was at least $25m, and possibly as much as $60m. The really interesting story will be finding out what Arrington does next. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Local Council Spending Data: The Good, The Bad, and The Downright Obstructive
September 30, 2010 at 8:15 AM

The brains behind the OpenlyLocal site assesses where we've got to with local government spending. It's a mixed bag - and some of the worst is really bad
Datablog: see who has released what

Oh no, not you again. Photo by Cristóbal Cobo Romaní on Flickr. Some rights reserved

By Chris Taggart

Now that the guidelines for the publishing of local council spending data have been published, it's a good point to take stock of how councils are actually, well, publishing the data. And the picture is none too pretty.

Out of the 66 councils (of a total of 434) publishing data (they have until January to start doing it), only 32 are publishing it in the correct format – as a comma-separated file which means it's easy to open in spreadsheets or import into database, or reuse in mashups. The rest are using a variety of tricky formats (e.g. Word, Excel files) that make it problematic at best to use the information as data, and to combine it with other data, so that it can be compared it over time, and with other authorities.

The worst offenders are those publishing it as PDFs, a document format that is ideal for printing (which was what it was designed for), and terrible for extracting data from.

I've been told privately by some staff working for those authorities that they've been instructed to use PDFs precisely because it will make reuse more difficult.

I should declare an interest here. I run OpenlyLocal, which opens up local government data, and also helped draw up the guidelines on behalf of the Local Pubic Data Panel on which I sit. We're also importing all the spending data and matching it up against companies and charities, and releasing the result as open data.

A good example of how two councils can take completely different approaches to the same thing comes with Trafford Council and Birmingham City Council. Both have published their information within the past couple of days.

Trafford published theirs as a CSV file, and using standards set out in the guidance, which means that it can be instantly compared with any other council using the same guidance (and, incidentally, published on their excellent open data page listing large amounts of data that can be reused without restriction). They are also looking at publishing previous years' spending in the same format, to make it easy to see how spending has changed over time.

Birmingham on the other hand published theirs as a PDF on a confusing and messy page. However, not only is it not reusable as data without manually extracting it from the PDF file, there's none of the richness of the Trafford council data. No department names, no supplier ids, no descriptions of what the payment was for, and no classification. Comparison by category or by department is therefore impossible. They also seem to have silently redacted information, meaning that it's impossible to challenge whether a payment to supplier should have been redacted, as you'll never know it was made.

[Charles Arthur notes: with some effort, though, it has been transformed into a spreadsheet by Paul Daniel.]

The scary thing is, however, is that Birmingham is by no means the worst., and in fact there are many councils publishing the information not only as PDFs, but as PDFs with no licence for reuse, and with very little data in it. Special mention here should go to Hammersmith & Fulham which trumpeted its publication in June of spending information for Jan-Mar, albeit as a near unusable PDF, but since then hasn't published a thing.

However the award for the council with the most useless spending data is the London Borough of Wandsworth, in south-west London. First, the information is stuck in a PDF (and for the techies out there: it's been published with headings on each page, meaning that extraction is more tricky than usual).

Second, there is no licence for reuse, meaning that the website Terms & Conditions apply, in this case "Intellectual property rights arising from this site and its contents belong to the council. Use of the contents is limited to private and non-commercial use purposes only and may not be further exploited without prior written permission of the Council."

Third, the information consists of a supplier name and an amount (presumably a total for the month). No date. No reference. No department. No category. No supplier id. No description. No classification.

Somehow, this is not what the Secretary of State had in mind, I think when he ordered councils to open their books to the public.

One ray of hope: Eric Pickles, the secretary of state, is expected to make an announcement on Friday telling councils that they must obey the guidelines. It will be interesting to see if it is retrospective - and how quickly it has to be implemented. But something really needs to change in some places.

Charles Arthur adds: one of the points of the Free Our Data campaign was that publishing data like this would create opportunities for organisations like OpenlyLocal to create businesses doing things with the data that councils couldn't or wouldn't do. Look at what's happened with the number of apps for finding Boris Bikes in London, for example: that's a commercial opportunity for app writers created entirely from making the data free. (And it has the byproduct of encouraging the use of the bikes, so everyone wins.)

When local councils try to obstruct that, it holds back the private sector - and nobody benefits, not even the councils. We'll seek an interview with Mr Pickles on this matter in the future to see whether he sees it the same way - and what action he might take. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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