Saturday, September 1, 2007

Giant Spider Web in Texas Baffles Experts

Giant Spider Web in Texas Baffles Experts

Remember the famous episode in the X-files series, when David Duchovny aka Agent Mulder was nearly killed during a night attack of some strange web-weaving fireflies?

Well, the same scenery witnessed by agent Scully and agent Mulder in that episode revealed itself to the public and to entomologists recently, in a region of Lake Tawakoni State Park, situated in Texas. Although not as gruesome and frightening as the one depicted in the X-files episode, the giant spider web is definitely one of the top attractions for some tourists, although others reject even the idea of standing anywhere near it.

The web is now the final destination for thousands of insects, most of them mosquitoes, whose combined death-screeches can sometimes be heard loud and clear.

"At first, it was so white it looked like fairyland," said Donna Garde, superintendent of the park about 45 miles east of Dallas. "Now it's filled with so many mosquitoes that it's turned a little brown. There are times you can literally hear the screech of millions of mosquitoes caught in those webs."

Scientists have two hypotheses for this “sticky” appearance: they said the web could be either the result of a “massive” collaboration between spiders- called social cobweb spiders- or it could be the result of a mass dispersal in which the arachnids spin webs to spread out from one another.

However, the second option seems to be more plausible, since the creation of a web with such dimensions by the cobweb spiders would require an enormous amount of time (and the naissance of the web has only been signaled recently).

Robb Bennett, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief at The Canadian Entomologist said: “ would not surprise me if this is the result of another mass dispersal event rather than the result of theridiid communal activity. The web page [describing the discovery] states that the web only appeared recently - in my experience communal spider webs take a considerable time to achieve this sort of size.”

"I've been hearing from entomologists from Ohio, Kansas, British Columbia- all over the place," said Mike Quinn, an invertebrate biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department who first posted photos online.

John Jackman, a professor and extension entomologist for Texas A&M University and author of "A Field Guide to the Spiders and Scorpions of Texas," didn’t seem surprised or enthusiastic about the discovery:

"There are a lot of folks that don't realize spiders do that, [but] until we get some samples sent to us, we really won't know what species of spider we're talking about." He said similar cases were witnessed in other parts of the world too.

For example, the world’s largest communal spider web was spotted in the northern parts of British Columbia, where Brian Thair, a retired biology professor of the College of New Caledonia, saw on October 27, 2002, a silky, white web stretching 60 acres across a field, whose tensile strength was enough to hold a handful of coins without letting them fall. He said that there were "in the order of tens of millions of spiders running frantically back and forth."

"Somebody needs to come out that's an expert. I would love to see some entomology intern come out and study this," Donna Garde said of the Texas spider web.

Lake Tawakoni State Park is a 376.3-acre park in Hunt County with 5.2 miles of shoreline along the south central shore of the main body of the water reservoir.

Battle brewing between States, DoJ over Microsoft settlement expiration

California and several other states have authored a report evaluating the efficacy of the Department of Justice's 2001 settlement with Microsoft. California's attorney general and representatives of other states that make up what is called the California Group believe that the government's scrutiny of Microsoft should extend beyond the November 12 expiration date stipulated in the settlement. The group will have a conference with Judge Kollar-Kotelly on September 11 to discuss their objections.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice Friday gave Microsoft an okay for changes it has made to the Windows Vista operating system aimed at addressing the complaints registered by Google earlier this year. The DoJ also said that Microsoft was generally in compliance in other areas of monitoring, too. The DoJ's report was not a response to the California Group, but it does highlight the disparity in assessment of the settled.

Hence, we have a bit of a stand-off forming, with the DoJ and Microsoft on one side, and several powerful states on the other. In what follows, we examine the California's Group's complaint as well as Microsoft's response to it.

Microsoft to be a repeat offender?

The settlement, which was reached in 2001 after Microsoft was found by the courts to be in violation of the Sherman antitrust act, established a consent decree agreement which requires Microsoft to allow original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and end users to easily replace or remove standard Microsoft "middleware" products like Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, and Windows Media Player. The consent decree agreement also prohibits Microsoft from retaliating against vendors that bundle or distribute third-party software. Microsoft's compliance with these terms has been monitored by court-appointed officials that investigate complaints issued by other companies.

According the report issued by The California Group, Microsoft's operating system market share, which still exceeds 90 percent, is evidence that the terms of the settlement negotiated by the Department of Justice have not adequately remedied the detrimental impact of Microsoft's prior anticompetitive behavior. Although the California Group report acknowledges that Microsoft has adequately complied with the requirements of the consent decree agreement, the states believe that Microsoft would resume using anticompetitive behavior if the terms of the settlement are permitted to expire in November as scheduled. Additionally, the California Group argues that pushing back the expiration date of the agreement is further necessitated by the recent release of Windows Vista, which they argue warrants further scrutiny.

"When the remedial regime imposed by the Court expires in large part in November 2007, the principal constraint on Microsoft's ability to abuse its market power will be gone," the report states. "There is no way of knowing whether Microsoft will continue to refrain from engaging in the anticompetitive conduct enjoined by the Final Judgment once it has expired and plaintiffs are no longer able to enforce it... Termination of Microsoft's obligations and of plaintiffs' oversight, including plaintiffs' ability to investigate complaints and review Microsoft's internal records, will remove a significant constraint on Microsoft's behavior."

Microsoft responds

Microsoft filed its own report with the courts in response to the report issued by The California Group. In its own report, Microsoft notes its compliance with all of the requirements of the consent decree and argues that the significant changes in the technology industry that have transpired since the settlement indicate the presence of broader competition.

"Fundamental changes have taken place in the information technology ('IT') industry that The California Group fails to note. Those changes reflect dynamic competitive forces at work," Microsoft's report argues. To support this, the report points out that web-based applications have "impacted the applications barrier to entry said to protect Microsoft's leading share in PC operating systems," and that OEMs now "distribute numerous non-Microsoft software products on their new personal computers."

Microsoft also argues that the Windows operating system market share isn't an appropriate metric to use for evaluating the efficacy of Microsoft's settlement with the Department of Justice. Microsoft argues that the company's dominance in the operating system market wasn't obtained illegally, and that anticompetitive practices were, according to the court's findings, only used to maintain that dominant position. Microsoft further argues that since the company no longer uses any of those practices-and even The California Group acknowledges that fact-the terms of the settlement have succeeded in equalizing competition.

"The Final Judgments have done exactly what they set out to do, i.e., remedy practices engaged in by Microsoft that were found to be anticompetitive by this Court and the Court of Appeal," the report states. "The Final Judgments were never designed to reduce Microsoft's share in any putative market...That 'metric' misconstrues the purpose of the Final Judgments and overlooks significant changes that have occurred in the IT industry since the Court entered the Final Judgments almost five years ago."

Misguided solutions?

It is arguable that the factors that have most contributed to increasing competition and leveling the playing field in recent years have come in the form of radically innovative business models like those used by open-source software companies. Looking back at the various regulatory remedies that governments have attempted to use to rein in Microsoft to spur competition, it would appear that they have no led to a consensus on their efficacy.

"To the best of The California Group's knowledge, no major OEM has taken advantage of the OEM flexibility provisions of the Final Judgment to designate a web browser other than Microsoft's IE as the default on the Start Menu of its new PC systems," the report says. "Moreover, there is no reason to believe that any decline in IE's usage share is attributable to the Final Judgment."

A big question, of course, is what are the outward signs of increased competition, and a reformed Microsoft? Need there be OEMs shipping Firefox as the default browser for the government to consider Microsoft defanged? A bigger dip in market share for Windows or IE? How do you know when it works?

That is the question which must be answered, for how else can the government judge whether or not it has succeeded, or whether or not it should extend oversight? To complicate matters, if The California Group's report is read as an indictment of the entire settlement process, it raises the question of what methods, if any, could have made a difference.

Comparing 2007 to 2001, it's hard to say that there isn't more competition. In the world of Windows web browsers, Firefox has done very well, and even Apple brought Safari to Windows. Large OEMs like Dell now sell Linux directly to end users, and Microsoft can't stop them. Yet, if we believe The California Group, Microsoft may very well try once it thinks that the DoJ isn't watching.

RIAA denies copyright misuse in the wake of antitrust, monopoly accusations

One of the common defenses against the music industry's lawsuits is to accuse the record labels of copyright misuse by collusion and acting as an illegal cartel in their legal campaign. In UMG v. Lindor, the labels are attacking that defense in a motion filed earlier this week, asking a federal judge to either strike the defense or force Marie Lindor to amend it to include something other than "mere conclusions and buzzwords."

What has the record labels upset is the accusation that the they are acting in violation of antitrust laws in their legal campaign against consumers. Here's how Marie Lindor's fourth affirmative defense reads: "The plaintiffs, who are competitors, are a cartel acting collusively in violation of the antitrust laws and of public policy, by tying their copyrights to each other, collusively litigating and settling all cases together, and by entering into an unlawful agreement among themselves to prosecute and to dispose of all cases in accordance with a uniform agreement, and through common lawyers, thus overreaching the bounds and scope of whatever copyrights they might have." By acting in such a manner, Lindor argues, the record labels are guilty of misusing their copyrights.

The fact that the record labels act together to advance their litigation agenda is unquestioned. At this point, the record labels have filed over 25,000 lawsuits, and since some very early setbacks, they have gone about them in the exact same manner. From the use of Media Sentry as its investigative arm and subsequent John Doe lawsuits to the boilerplate complaints with identical wording, the one thing that the RIAA has demonstrated is a stunning uniformity in its approach to file-sharing cases.

In a way, it makes a lot of sense. The record labels are all attempting to address what they perceive to be a big problem: file-sharing. With the vast majority of the 25,000+ cases settled in the RIAA's favor either via favorable settlements or outright victories, the strategy has proven to be devastatingly effective in the court of law—even if it is a dismal failure in the court of public opinion.

The downside to the record labels' strategy is that they are ostensibly competitors, vying for sales from the music-consuming public. But instead of adjusting their business models to compete more effectively against one another and bolster their sales, competition is laid to the side in favor of a united front in the courtroom.

In its motion to strike the monopoly accusation from the lawsuit, the RIAA argues that its conduct is protected by the First Amendment and Lindor's affirmative defense doesn't hold up to scrutiny. "The Second Circuit has not recognized the affirmative defense of copyright misuse," argues the record labels. And when it has been recognized in courts outside of the Second Circuit, its scope has been limited. "Specifically, those courts that have recognized the existence of such a defense have found it to exist only where a copyright owner 'has impermissibly extended the copyright monopoly in a manner which constitutes an unreasonable restraint of trade.'"

If the court decides that the plaintiffs' alleged copyright misuse is a valid defense for Lindor, the RIAA wants her to be forced to amend her defense. As it stands now, the RIAA argues, her defense consists solely of "mere conclusions and buzzwords... that are meaningless in this context."

As copyright attorney Ray Beckerman notes, this is the first time the RIAA has attacked the copyright misuse claim when used solely as a defense by one of the record labels' targets. Typically, the charges of monopolistic behavior and copyright misuse are made as part of a counterclaim, and the RIAA is all too happy to challenge those charges when they come up.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

SCO Unix Suit Bites the Dust and Novell Gets Closure

While SCO has issued a statement indicating that the ruling against SCO in its legal fight with Novell does not mark the end of SCO's legal strategy, Joe LaSala, Novell's general counsel, said the ruling against SCO vindicates the position Novell has taken since the dispute's inception, and settles the issue of who owns the copyrights of Unix.

The Linux camp is celebrating. The SCO Group's attempts to lay claim to Linux seem to have run out of gas after years of legal wrangling.

For four and a half years, SCO has vehemently claimed that it owns the copyrights to Unix. SCO implicated Linux by alleging the free operating system relies on code stolen from Unix. But a Utah judge has ruled against SCO, deciding that SCO does not own the copyrights to Unix, making the Linux allegation moot in this case.

SCO acknowledged its disappointment in a statement issued on August 10. However, that statement more than hinted that SCO is refusing to give up without an even longer fight, which means that Novell might find itself back in court with SCO again.

SCO's Tenacity

"The court clearly determined that SCO owns the copyrights to the technology developed or derived by SCO after Novell transferred the assets to SCO in 1995," SCO said in its statement.

"What's more," the statement continued, "the court did not dismiss our claims against Novell regarding the non compete provisions of the 1995 Technology License Agreement relating to Novell's distribution of Linux to the extent implicated by the technology developed by SCO after 1995. Those issues remain to be litigated."

The way SCO sees it, although the district judge ruled in Novell's favor on important issues, the case has not yet been fully vetted by the legal system. SCO plans to continue to explore its options.

A Tangled Web

The tangled Web began in 2003, when SCO sued IBM for taking code from Unix and putting it into Linux. In a case-changing twist, Novell stepped up and claimed it owned Unix copyrights. That forced SCO to take on Novell before taking aim at IBM.

Big Blue could not immediately be reached for comment, but Joe LaSala, Novell senior vice president and general counsel, commented on the ruling in his blog. Today's court ruling, he wrote, vindicates the position Novell has taken since the inception of the dispute with SCO, and it settles the issue of who owns the copyrights of Unix in Novell's favor.

"The court's ruling has cut out the core of SCO's case and, as a result, eliminates SCO's threat to the Linux community based upon allegations of copyright infringement of Unix," LaSala continued. "We are extremely pleased with the outcome."

SCO Surprises

The analyst and legal communities seem unsurprised by the SCO ruling. "Folks in the know in the open-source intellectual property communities have sensed -- at least from the evidence and findings they had seen -- that Novell had a pretty solid case," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. "SCO can say they are going to keep fighting, but it's unclear to me what they are going to be fighting for."

Indeed, the ruling suggests Novell has the right to pursue its own sanctions against SCO, but SCO has no basis to pursue copyright-infringements remedies against Novell on the Unix side. It's a potentially devastating outcome for SCO, which has sunk considerable resources into litigating the case at the expense of its own reputation.

Linux users, meanwhile, waited for the possibility of lawsuits against them. Some purchased indemnification insurance to guard against litigation. "It's definitely a tough time for SCO," King noted. "But a lot of champagne was probably spilled in various open-source community offices over the weekend."

Sony Ericsson Speaks on Possibility of PlayStation Phone

Sony Ericsson says PlayStation Phone will come before Christmas of unknown year

Given the feature-filled mobile phones Sony produces as part of its partnership with Ericsson, it wouldn’t surprise many if the Japanese electronics giant eventually released a hybrid product that incorporates both communications and gaming functions into one unit.

The release of the Apple iPhone has further fueled speculation that Sony may be preparing a competing product that will be a mix of a Sony Ericsson phone and a PSP handheld console.

In a Pocket Gamer interview with Sony Ericsson’s gaming guru Peter Ahnegard at the Leipzig Games Convention, hints were dropped regarding the possibility of a PlayStation-branded mobile phone.

“Gaming is probably the most mature content area we have today in mobile phone and Sony Ericsson has always reflected that, having games embedded on our handsets for many years,” said Ahnegard, who also conceded that Sony Ericsson hasn’t yet put the same focus on gaming as the company had on music and imaging features as it has on its Walkman and Cyber-shot phones.

Despite not having specifically targeted a gaming brand as of yet, the power of the latest phones are beginning to catch up to previous generation consoles. “The power of the phones we're creating now is phenomenal,” added Ahnegard. “Smartphones like the W960, P1 and associated families have hardware acceleration and OpenGL ES and are capable of providing gaming experiences on a level similar to PSP, certainly somewhere between PS1 and PS2.”

One potential challenge is that Sony Ericsson is facing is the ergonomics of melding together phone and game. Ahnegard explained, “It's a tricky balance. The latest craze for slim handsets doesn't really go hand-in-hand with gaming comfort. Console controllers are bulky for a good reason and have been designed with specific elements in mind, e.g. the need to be hardwearing, ergonomically comfortable, etc. The same considerations go into our phones and there are lots of elements that affect gaming performance, from the spacing between buttons to joypad position. We have to accept that some devices simply won't be appropriate to drive some games and, in many cases, gaming or other entertainment content isn't the prime concern behind the design.”

With Sony’s other cross-branding of its other product lines into its mobile phones, it’s almost expected that a PlayStation phone will appear sometime in the future. “Up until today we haven't felt we could launch a PlayStation phone because it wouldn't be recognized as a true continuation of that brand of products,” said Ahnegard, who then coyly added, “It's obviously something that we're looking at but right now I can't really comment. Before Christmas, certainly... but exactly which Christmas I can't confirm!”

Microsoft Gets Official With Vista SP1 Details

(Source: Microsoft)

(Source: Microsoft)
Microsoft spills the beans on Vista SP1

After months of leaks and speculation, Microsoft is finally ready to talk about Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1). Nick White, a product manager for Microsoft, posted today on the Windows Vista Team Blog that Vista SP1 will be released during the first quarter of 2008.

"We improve the Windows Vista experience by continuing to work closely with software partners to ensure application compatibility," said White. "We likewise align efforts with partners on the hardware side of the business to broaden the range of devices that work with Windows Vista and to constantly improve device driver quality."

"We didn’t design SP1 as a vehicle for releasing new features; however, some existing components do gain enhanced functionality in SP1," White added.

A new beta release of Vista SP1 is scheduled to be made available to a select group of testers during the first half of September. This is in addition to an even smaller pool of testers who have been testing a private beta of Vista SP1.

In keeping with its full disclosure on Vista SP1, Microsoft has posted a white paper on the SP1 beta. The white paper details the improvement that Microsoft has made in application compatibility and driver support as well as improvements to security and reliability.

The white paper also notes that there will be three ways of delivering Vista SP1: Express, Stand-alone and Slipstream. The Express install will require a 50MB download from the Internet. System-specific updates will then be downloaded from Microsoft’s servers.

The Stand-alone package will be roughly 1GB in size for x86 systems. Customers, however, will be able to deploy SP1 to any Vista installation with the Stand-alone package and it will be compatible with the System Center Configuration Manager 2007 software.

Finally, Slipstream versions of Windows Vista with SP1 included will be made available to Volume Licensing Customers (and later in retail packaging). Microsoft does note, however, that "customers cannot apply SP1 to offline Windows Vista images." This could mean that customers will not able to make their own personal Slipstream copy of Windows Vista SP1 from an existing Windows Vista disc.

Installation of Windows Vista SP1 regardless of which method chosen will require a minimum of 7GB free disk space on x86 machines and 12GB free disk space on x64 machines. Microsoft does state that "most of this space will be reclaimed after installation."

As previously stated, Microsoft is targeting a Q1 2008 release time frame. That could change depending on a variety of factors according to Microsoft. "We’re first and foremost focused on delivering a high-quality release, so we'll determine the exact release date of SP1 after we have reached that quality bar," remarked White.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

DX9 and DX10 performance compared

THERE ARE two evaluations of DX9 v DX10 image quality and performance out today, both of which make for interesting reading for graphics fanboys.

The first is here on FiringSquad, and compares BioShock in the two iterations of Microsoft's 3D spec, running on the GeForce 8800 and Radeon 2900. In terms of image quality, the guys were barely able to distinguish any difference whatsoever except when it comes to particle effects, such as fog and smoke. So much for new paradigms in PC gaming.

In terms of performance, what we find is that ATI is lacking behind substantially. The 1GB 2900 XT, under DX10, is given a beating by the 8800 GTS in every test except for the 2560x1600 resolution, where the numbers all flatten out due to the poor performance. In most cases, the DX10 path is marginally faster than the DX9, presumably down to performance enhancements baked in.

The second test is here at HardOCP, where Brent and Kyle put the ringers on Call of Juarez, the DX10 game that ATI has bundled with a number of 2900 XT cards. Unlike Bioshock, Juarez offers big differences in visual quality between the two DX paths. Texture quality is much higher under DX10, and the difference is likened to playing two different games. There is also a much nicer HDR lighting implementation in DX10, as well as some shinier water effects with better blending.

So, it seems, there is some difference to crow about - although it is our suspicion that, given the time and inclination, most of the flasher DX10 features could be retro-fitted without much hassle, and the differences are more a product of time and money than capability.

Under DX9, the Radeon 2900 is faster than the 8800 GTS, even the 640Mb version. The same is true under DX10, although performance overall is lower - performance drops off by as much as 30% with the high-end path enabled. Obviously, the 8800 GTX kicks them both into touch, especially when you get to higher resolutions, but it's interesting to see DAAMIT's strong showing here.

The conclusion is that not only do ATI and Nvidia share identical image quality (certainly something to be pleased about) but also that 512MB is swiftly becoming the new minimum spec for cards when talking about DX10 compatibility at any resolution above 1280x1024. All those effects need them some memory space, we suspect.

Nokia 6555 3G phone preview

The new Nokia 6555 features a smooth-back fold design and original analog timepiece

The Nokia 6555 meets the desire for aesthetic appeal with an external analog clock echoing the timeless elegance of high-end luxury.

The Nokia 6555 is the first WCDMA phone with a smooth-back fold design with recessed hinge creating a seamless line when open. The phone's gentle curve ensures a smooth and ergonomic user experience.

The Nokia 6555 features a QVGA 16 million color internal display - twice as many colors as the human eye can see - for a brilliant, crisp resolution on a large 240x320 screen, making it perfect for viewing photos and videos.

The camera featuring a 6x zoom gives even greater versatility and full screen portrait viewfinder. The self-portrait function on the camera and video sharing ability ensures that special moments are easily shared with family and friends.

From the thin, narrow form factor with smooth lines to the 30MB user memory (with capacity for microSD expandable memory) and Bluetooth wireless connectivity, the Nokia 6555 sets the standard in its class.

Nokia 6555 Key features:
- Original smooth-back design
- Elegant external analog timepiece display
- Brilliant 16 million color display
- Video sharing
- WCDMA and quadband GSM functionality

Microsoft set to kill Windows XP

Windows XP will stop being available on new PCs from the end of January 2008.
Microsoft is keeping to a plan to stop selling the operating system even though surveys show a lukewarm response to Windows Vista among consumers.

PC makers will be forced to stop selling machines running the legacy operating system by the end of the year. As of 31 January 2008, you will have to put up with Vista, despite it having compatibility and performance issues that make gaming not terribly good on the new OS. After that, support for the old OS will continue until the end of April 2009.

If you still want to get your hands on a machine running XP then Dell will sell you a business system as its said there is still a strong demand from small business through its "Customise with Windows XP" scheme.

"Dell recognizes the needs of small business customers and understands that more time is needed to transition to a new operating system," said Tom West, director of small business marketing at Dell, on the company's blog. "The plan is to continue offering Windows XP on select Dimension and Inspiron systems until later this summer."

Also, people running pre-release versions of Vista will find that it will stop working on 1 June. The company said that these version of Vista had a limited life and were only there to help people see what the new OS was like and iron out any last minute problems.

Oh my, thousands of IT Managers will hate Microsoft for it's decision to kill XP and force them to replace it with Vista. Any Linux fans out there

AllofMP3 Gearing Up For Comeback

Screen shot of as of February 2007 (Source: Wikipedia)
Look out World Trade Organization, AllofMP3 has big plans for the rest of 2007

Down-but-not-out Russian MP3 dealer is gearing up for a comeback, according to an official announcement on the beleaguered company’s “music news” blog. In an unexplained twist, however, the announcement is dated August 31, 2007, and is identical to a similar posting to the company’s official news blog, dated July 24.

The site was originally shut down on July 6, after the Russian government alledgedly caved in to pressure from the United States government and the World Trade Organization. Shortly thereafter, it reappeared as, and even allowed users to log in using their old username.

Over the years, faced considerable heat for offering DRM-free MP3 downloads under the guise of a “blanket license,” in which it claims to be offering legally -- albeit under “questionable interpretations” -- within Russian law. The music industry contends that had never licensed any of the music it sells, despite the fact that it has consistently refused royalties offered to it via the Russian royalties processor ROMS.

Then, in December 2006, the four largest record labels – Warner Bros Records, Capitol Records, UMG Recordings, and Arista Records – filed a whopping $1.65 trillion lawsuit in New York against’s parent company MediaServices, claiming $150,000 in damages per infringement.

Prior to the New York suit, was already knee deep in legal and financial woes:

The announcement mentioned no specific dates regarding AllofMP3’s return, however Russian courts had recently acquitted’s previous owner and determined that the company was operating within Russian law.

Report: Xbox 360 "Falcon" to Feature 65nm CPU, 90nm GPU

Upcoming Xbox 360 hardware to have cooler IBM CPU, but not the revised ATI GPU

The Mercury News’ Dean Takahashi reports that the first Xbox 360 CPUs manufactured on the 65nm process are now on ships in the Pacific bound for North America. Should the consoles, which are made in China, arrive soon, then they could be on retail shelves sometime this fall.

Last month, Takahashi reported that the 65nm Xbox 360 chips would come in a revised hardware version that Microsoft has coded “Falcon.” The new chips are not only smaller and roughly 50 percent cheaper to produce than their 90nm counterpart, but they are also cooler – and presumably less prone to the Red Ring of Death defect.

Those expecting the 65nm die shrink to affect the two main chips inside the Xbox 360 will be disappointed to learn that only the console’s main processor will be the manufactured on the new process.

“Falcon is the name for the board that houses the 65-nanometer microprocessor from IBM,” wrote Takahashi. “The board does not include a 65-nanometer version of the ATI graphics chip for the Xbox 360. That version of the graphics chip is coming later.”

The new 65nm chip from IBM will work with both the current 90nm and the future 65nm iteration of the 65nm ATI GPU, according to Takahashi.

Oddly enough, it appears as though the main culprit behind the Xbox 360 reliability woes may be linked to the ATI GPU rather than the IBM CPU. As part of a recent fix to all 90nm-based consoles, Microsoft has been adding additional cooling measures into the Xbox 360. Found first in a repaired European Xbox 360 was a new heatsink with a heatpipe that leads to a secondary “daughter” heatsink helps to further cool the GPU.

The latest Xbox 360 Premium consoles with the HDMI-enabled “Zephyr” motherboard also features the extra heatsinks, providing further evidence that an overheating GPU is the main cause behind the Red Ring of Death.

Unlocking the iPhone could invite DMCA suit

Hackers who unlock Apple’s iPhone from the AT&T network and share the method with 10 million of their closest Internet friends are inviting a lawsuit from the two companies, several intellectual property lawyers said Monday.

Apple and AT&T may have a legal case against unlockers under the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), especially if they try to sell software code or devices that unlock the iPhone, the lawyers said. But the legal landscape gets a bit complicated — there’s a legal exception to the DMCA’s anticircumvention provisions that allows individual mobile phone users to unlock their devices for use on other networks.

So figuring out how to unlock the iPhone yourself is not likely to be a DMCA violation, most of the IP lawyers said. But posting instructions or code online, even for free, may earn you a cease and desist letter from an unfriendly lawyer, and selling software or a device that unlocks the phone is inviting trouble, most of the lawyers said.

But there’s plenty of disagreement among IP lawyers about the interpretation of the DMCA.

“It’s an extremely grey [area], because I don’t think the exemption was altogether clear,” said Bart Showalter, an intellectual property lawyer in Dallas with the Baker Botts LLP law firm. “The idea of trying to use copyright to, in a sense, establish exclusivity in a service contract … is going to be an interesting thing to watch.”

John McLaughlin, founder of Uniquephones, based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, had planned to release software Saturday that would allow users to unlock their iPhone. But early Saturday morning, McLaughlin said he received a phone call from a man saying he was from a law firm representing AT&T. The caller said McLaughlin could be sued for copyright infringement.

Two other groups have claimed to have unlocked the iPhone.

Representatives of both AT&T and Apple declined to comment Monday on possible legal actions against unlockers.

Showalter suggested that unlocking the iPhone and posting code or instructions for free would likely fall under the exception to the DMCA’s anticircumvention provisions, thus protecting the unlocker from legal action.

The exception allows circumvention of device controls “for the sole purpose of lawfully connecting to a wireless telephone communication network,” according to language from the U.S. registrar of copyrights. So if a hacker unlocks the iPhone, then posts the unlocking code for free, he’s engaging in a legal activity and enabling others to engage in the same legal activity, said Michael Lewis, an IP lawyer with Fox Rothschild LLP.

If that hacker is sued, he could probably argue that posting of the unlocking code is protected by free speech provisions in U.S. law, according to Lewis.

Other IP lawyers disagreed. Movie studios have successfully sued Web site operators for distributing the DeCSS DVD-copying code, noted Carole Handler, an IP lawyer with Foley and Lardner LLP. The unlocker of the iPhone who posts code online could be held liable for secondary copyright infringement, she said.

“I don’t see that [Apple and AT&T] have a choice,” Handler said. “They have to do something. If you don’t protect your intellectual property, it’s gone.”

Lewis’ colleague, Gerry Norton, agreed, saying the unlocking exception was narrowly written. “The exception was just for the end user,” he said.

Most of the lawyers agreed that selling software to unlock the iPhone, as McLaughlin was planning to do, would invite a lawsuit under the DMCA. “The courts seem to have less sympathy for people who are doing things to make a buck,” Lewis said.

But there wasn’t even unanimous agreement on the legal liability of selling unlocking software. If the software being distributed targeted only the network lock on the iPhone, the developer could have a defense, Showalter said.

“It does seem a little unusual to me that they say somebody can unlock their phone, but if someone tells them how to do it, that’s a violation of the DMCA,” he said. “If the software that’s being sold is only doing the minimum amount that’s necessary to allow it to interoperate with other services, you may have some support in the DMCA exception.”

Beyond the legal questions about unlocking the iPhone, Apple and AT&T could face their own legal challenges, Handler said. The exclusive contract between the two companies could lead to an antitrust lawsuit if a competitor or customer could successfully argue there’s no other device like the iPhone available on the market, she said.

“Consumers want new technology,” she said. “This is the era of the consumer controlling the media. When the consumer is told he or she can’t do something, they get pretty upset, and they start claiming conspiracy, antitrust and the whole bit.”

Wii Sales Surpass Xbox 360 Lifetime Shipments

Nintendo's Wii has met incredible success due to multiple factors that brewed a perfect storm, according to Ted Pollak, president of EE Fund Management. "The revolutionary controller was obviously an important part of the buzz surrounding the Wii," he said. Another important factor in Wii's success is power of the Nintendo game characters.

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Wii worldwide sales are making history. According to VG Chartz, Wii sales passed up lifetime Xbox 360 sales in less than a year. That makes the Wii the fastest-selling console in the chronicles of video games.

VG Chartz's assessment is based on sample data from retailers all over the world. That data shows the Wii sold 10.57 million consoles as of August 23. By comparison, the Xbox 360 has sold 10.51 million units by that date. The figures look close until you consider that the Wii was launched one year later than the Xbox 360.

The accomplishment is a double honor, marking the first time since 1994 the same company has been the leader in the home console and handheld markets. Nintendo is repeating history, then, as its Super NES and Gameboy dominated their respective markets in 1994.

What's Behind Wii Success?

The Nintendo Wii has met incredible success due to multiple factors that brewed a perfect storm, according to Ted Pollak, president of San Francisco-based EE Fund Management, a video game industry focused investment partnership. Pollak has been following the sector for 20 years and is also senior game industry analyst at Jon Peddie Research.

"The revolutionary controller was obviously an important part of the buzz surrounding the Wii -- being the first worldwide-recognized gaming input device to utilize accelerometers," he said. "Beyond the buzz, the controller has delivered being an effective and fun input device."

Another important factor in Wii's success is the "evergreen franchise" power of the Nintendo game character intellectual property. Many fans would purchase almost any machine Nintendo manufactured just so they can play the games with Mario and Zelda, Pollak explained. Of course, the Wii's low price didn't hurt its chances in the marketplace, either.

The Many Wii Factors

Not all of the elements contributing to the perfect storm are so obvious, though. Some subtle factors are also at play, such as slower-than-anticipated adoption of HD televisions by console gamers. Both the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 offer high-resolution graphics. While both of these machines will work with a regular TV, gamers cannot experience the high-res graphics without an HD television.

"Assuming an HD television costs $350, this effectively increased the 'real cost' of the systems to around $700 for the 360 and $850 for the PS3," Pollak said. "The high-res consoles in my opinion are incredible values even with the cost of the HD TV, but there are tens of millions of console gamers who I believe simply can't afford that price level. The Wii was built for a standard-definition television."

The Wii also has a wide appeal. The games and the act of playing games on the Wii appeal to females, nongamers, and seniors -- significantly expanding the potential market for this console, according to Pollak. What's more, Pollak said he believes all the analyst predictions about a two-horse race between Sony and Microsoft Relevant Products/Services gave Wii the underdog advantage.

Weekend WGA Failure Locked Out Legit Windows Vista Users

Many users of Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage were agitated by a server problem over the weekend that falsely accused them of running pirated software. "I was and still am quite mad at Microsoft," wrote michaelosity. "I'm pretty sure I'm going to switch to a Mac because of it. I certainly don't feel like I've been rewarded for being a good citizen and actually buying my copy of Windows."

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A server problem at Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) Latest News about Microsoft over the weekend caused the company's Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) validation system to falsely accuse legitimate users of Windows Vista and XP of running pirated software, resulting in the disbanding of some features for those users until the problem was fixed.

The problem began around 8 p.m. Friday, causing users to begin posting messages about it on Microsoft's forums. Vista's Aero graphical interface was among the features disabled for users accused of running pirated software, and user frustration reached significant levels before the problem was fixed.

At one point, Phil Liu, a Microsoft program manager in the Windows Genuine Advantage group, had to remind posters of the language policy that is part of the forums' terms of use.

"Please use acceptable language," Liu said. "While many of these forum posts are cross-linked throughout many several news/blogs/etc. I would prefer not to remove posts for inappropriate content at this time as it is very important for me to ensure everyone knows that we are working to resolve this issue."

Cause Unknown

By about 3 p.m. EDT on Saturday, the problem was fixed and affected users were instructed to revalidate at The cause, however, is still not entirely clear. "I know you all are looking for an explanation/root-cause," Liu wrote. "We are aware it is a server-side issue -- the cause is unknown at this current time."

Though the problems lasted only some 19 hours on a weekend, users did not seem inclined to forgive Microsoft for the inconvenience.

"I was and still am quite mad at Microsoft," wrote michaelosity. "I'm pretty sure I'm going to switch to a Mac because of it. I certainly don't feel like I've been rewarded for being a good citizen and actually buying my copy of Windows.

"Microsoft just doesn't understand how WGA affects real customers that are legally trying to use their software," michaelosity added. "I appreciate that this happens rarely and that they need to make money, but that money doesn't have to come from me anymore."

Pirates' Advantage

Other users pointed out the irony that the validation software actually gave users of pirated software an advantage during the outage.

"You really ought to work on making WGA actually an advantage," wrote a user named mhornyak. "Right now, users of pirate copies of Windows had an extra couple days of use."

WGA has been controversial since Microsoft implemented it roughly two years ago in the hopes of stemming the widespread piracy of its applications. It checks users' PCs and sends data back to Microsoft to ensure licenses are valid.

Users have vociferously protested the technology, with some even filing class action lawsuits against Microsoft last year for what they claimed is essentially a form of spyware Webroot AntiSpyware 30-Day Free Trial. Click here. that violates consumer protection laws.

Bad Timing

"It's very unfortunate," Yankee Group analyst Laura DiDio told TechNewsWorld. "There's no doubt Microsoft has the right to protect its intellectual property, but they can't have it causing problems for customers. Microsoft is so ubiquitous, this will bite a lot of people."

The timing of the problem is particularly unfortunate given the recent host of widely publicized glitches that have been plaguing Vista, DiDio added.

Indeed, "Vista has been pulling bad news like a magnet pulls iron," Rob Enderle, principal analyst with Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld. "This is just one more thing on top of what has been string of bad news for that product. They clearly will fix it as fast as they can, but this doesn't help move more product."

Reverse Effect

Beyond the negative publicity, the problem could have a reverse, and unintended, effect, DiDio noted, echoing the comments of several users.

"Honest people could ask why they're bothering to be honest," DiDio explained. "This could have the unintended consequence of turning people to the dark side, as they throw up their hands and say, 'I tried.'"

In the future, Microsoft will have to be more vigilant, DiDio concluded. "There's no doubt the people working on WGA are doing their best, but now people are asking if their best is good enough," she said. "When you're Microsoft, the bar is higher."

Manhunt 2 Receives "M" Rating, Release Set for Halloween

Rockstar Games gets Manhunt 2 green lighted for release

Rockstar Games’ much maligned horror title Manhunt 2 appears to be on track for a release this Halloween.

Manhunt 2 was originally slated for release on the Wii, PlayStation 2 and PSP on July 10 but was temporarily suspended from release following ESRB rating the game AO for adults only. Rockstar Games was left with few options as it is Nintendo and Sony’s policy to not allow AO content on its systems. (Microsoft also carries the same policy, though there is no Manhunt 2 planned for the Xbox 360.)

Publisher Take 2 Interactive and developer Rockstar Games last week announced that it had submitted a modified version of Manhunt 2 to the ESRB, who has now rated the title "M" for Mature for ages 17 and older. The new rating is now acceptable by Sony and Nintendo, which paves the way for the game’s upcoming release this fall.

"Manhunt 2 is important to us, and we're glad it can finally be appreciated as a gaming experience," said Sam Houser, founder and executive producer of Rockstar Games. "We love the horror genre. Manhunt 2 is a powerful piece of interactive story telling that is a unique video game experience. We think horror fans will love it."

Microsoft Substitutes

Don't expect new programs with improved usability from the upcoming version of the World's favorite OS Windows XP. Why? Because its the same old Microsoft operating system with added eye candy. Stick to XP, along with all your devices that are not compatible with Windows Vista, and run your favorite non-Microsoft software!

We all heard about the new Vista and I think its not an upgrade most of us will make anytime soon. Microsoft loaded it with immature features that people will switch off after they use it for a while. For example, why in the world would anyone want the borders to look semi-transparent for? Give me one way it could be useful.. apart from sitting around (in the RAM eating precious resources) and looking pretty!

Likewise, Windows XP also came loaded with many useless built-in programs that you ended up dumping for a better alternative. People hate it and love it at the same time. Its great that we don't have to re-install a fresh OS every few months like it used to be with Windows 9x every time the BSoD appeared. This meant a lot of time saving as there is no need to re-install all other programs as well. Did you notice how we started using more and more applications that we can't do without? Here is a list of a few programs (plus annoying features) that substitute for better and free (some open source) programs:

0. Internet Explorer = Mozilla Firefox
First thing I install on a fresh Windows XP. Simply the best Internet browser. Ever! :)

1. Windows Explorer = ExplorerXP
Tabs, groups and a toolbar with only the useful things. The way explorer should have been.

2. Windows Messenger = IMVU
Chat using 3d digital personalities. I rarely chat, so why not make it interesting?

3. Windows Media Player = VLC Player
Plays almost everything. This is just what I needed with its functional basic skin.

4. Windows Media Encoder = Media Coder
Converts between almost every type of media files. Compress videos to save space!

5. Windows Firewall = Sunbelt Kerio
Prevents hackers from breaking in. Seems to be working well. No known issues with security so far.

6. Windows Defender = Spybot
Erase spyware that always find its ways in everyday. If something can go bad, it will go bad!

7. Disk Cleanup = CCleaner
Cleans unnecessary rubbish that accumulate in your hard drive. Speeds up your system.

8. Image Viewer = MaxView
Simple and very useful for big archives. I tried so many alternatives but this is a keeper.

9. WordPad = Abiword
Fully equipped word processor. Extra: Ditch Microsoft Office altogether for free Openoffice!

10. Paint = GimpShop
If you are not playing with pixels then you need
a better program to edit your photographs.

11. Sound Recorder = Audacity
Very powerful little tool with lots of featu
res. I mostly use the large record button and save file.

12. Screen Saver = Google Pack SCREENSAVER
Displays your photo collection in a smooth fading manner or a vitual Polaroid collage. Nothing flashy.

13. Run = Launchy
Search for programs loaded in your co
mputer fast with a touch of a key: Press in the middle of Alt+Space!

14. Desktop = Deskview
Turn your desktop icons into a list. The right thing is now more visible with the filenames sorted.

15. Shut Down = Switch Off
Set a time to shut down or restart so yo
u can go on a holiday while your computer works at home.

16. Print Screen = Capture
Capture full screen, active window or a specific region. Also includes magnifier and color picker.

17. Recycle Bin = Restoration
Restore files that you delete permanently. I disabled the Recycle Bin to save some drive space.

18. QuickLaunch = RocketDock
Launch your most used applications in a different bar to free up more
area in the taskbar for them.

19. Font Viewer = Font Lister
Quickly view your fonts in a list and choose the one you will be using. Otherwise look for it one by one.

20. ClipBook Viewer = ClipX
Track multiple entries in your clipboard and ac
cess them easily when you need. Happy copy-pasting!

21. Compressed Folders = 7 zip
Better compression for your files and folders. Supports almost every type of files.

22. Disk Defragmenter = Disk Defrag
Faster defragmentation of your hard drive to keep your computer running fast.

23. Task Switcher = TaskSwitchXP
Switch between your running application with their screenshots. Uses low resources as well.

24. Virtual Memory = CachemanXP
More settings to control your virtual memory and RAM. Adds a tiny icon next to the clock indicating the amount of free RAM.

25. CPU Speed = SpeedSwitchXP
Change the speed of your CPU according to your needs. Mainly for laptop users. Adds another nice tiny icon showing your CPU load!

BONUS. Startup Screen = BootSkin
Optional application for those who are bored looking at the same thing everyday for 5 minutes.

Finally, the ones that I decided to keep:

Notepad = The only reliable Microsoft software!
Calculator = Don't use it much but still there..