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Monday, December 27, 2010

Microsoft Tablet Aimed at Fighting IPad Faces Long Odds

Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer, said to unveil new software for tablets at the Consumer Electronics Show next week, will face skeptics who say his company won’t soon narrow Apple Inc.’s iPad lead.

“By the time Microsoft gets it figured out everybody will already own an iPad,” said Keith Goddard, CEO of Capital Advisors Inc. an investing firm in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that holds Apple shares. “That train has left the station.”

Allying with ARM is Microsoft’s way of stepping up rivalry with Apple, which has garnered the largest share of the tablet market with its iPad. The new Windows version would be tailored for battery- powered devices, such as tablets and wireless handsets. Computer makers have unsuccessfully been trying to sell tablet-style computers based on Microsoft’s Windows for about a decade.

By adapting its computer operating system for a tablet, Microsoft is taking a different approach from Apple, which used a mobile-phone operating system as the basis for the iPad. Microsoft is taking software designed for use with a mouse and keyboard and adapting it to a touch screen, according to the people familiar with the matter. That will require developers to rework PC programs to make them useful on a tablet.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Skype says two-thirds of users still can't log in

Skype estimates that about two-thirds of its users are still unable to log in after an outage caused by problems with its underlying peer-to-peer interconnection system. Almost 5 million users are back online, Skype said, but that's still only around 30 percent.

Skype's initial description of the problem said many of the "supernodes" that act as directories for Skype users to find one another were taken offline by a problem affecting some versions of the Skype client.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Windows Phone 7 Ships 1.5M Devices In First Six Weeks

Microsoft announced that 1.5 million mobile devices running its Windows Phone 7 platform have been shipped to retailers in the six weeks since the operating system's launch November 8. Corporate VP for Mobile Communications, Business and Marketing Achim Berg said this number was "in line with our expectations – especially when compared to other new platform introductions" and that customer momentum and retail presence were still building.

Windows Phone 7's initial shipment rate puts the platform well behind current rates for other major mobile phone operating systems. That said, the numbers are favorable compared to those for other first-generation phone platforms. The original iPhone took 74 days to sell its first million units when it launched back in early 2007.

The sales rate for the first six weeks represents a slight slowdown from 40,000 reported sales on the platform's first day of availability.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Microsoft Unveils Upgrade to Bing Search Engine

Microsoft showed off a host of visual and search enhancements to its search engine Bing Wednesday, in hopes that better packaging will help it eat away at Google's online dominance.

Wednesday's announcements includes a new mobile app for Android and the iPhone, that brings some of the design feel of Windows Phone 7 to their competitors' devices, along with some nifty maps, real time bus directions, and an easy way to make beautiful panoramas.

Microsoft also redesigned its browser-based image search and maps and traditional search also got a slight makeover, with visual changes being made to how results are returned for musical artists, destinations and movies, among other types of search.

Perhaps most importantly, Bing now has a partnership with Facebook, and one out of five Bing users are candidates for "instant personalization," since they are logged into Facebook and haven't chosen to opt-out.

Bing now has 11.8% of the U.S. search market, a 48% hump growth since Bing replaced Live search in the summer of 2009.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gawker hack triggers password resets at major sites

Yahoo, Twitter and LinkedIn have asked users to change their details, days after gossip site Gawker was hacked. Online game World of Warcraft, which has more than 12 million subscribers, has also asked some users to reset their passwords.

Although thousands of Twitter accounts were compromised after the attack, there have been few other reports of damage directly linked to the breach.

The attack on Gawker, which runs one of the world's most popular blog networks, was carried out over the weekend by an organization calling itself Gnosis. The group - which says it was making a protest at the site's perceived "arrogance" - subsequently published account details of 1.3 million Gawker users online, including a significant number of passwords.

Documents show that the most popular password among Gawker users was "123456", followed by "password" and "12345678". Although security experts warn against the use of passwords that are easy to guess, research suggests such behavior is increasingly common online.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Seagate Unveils 1TB Enterprise Hard Drive

The 2.5-inch, 15-mm z-height Constellation.2 is geared at dense server storage applications needing high capacity and low power consumption, Seagate said. It can be used by small to midsized businesses up to large enterprise data centers that store and host data in the cloud for a number of applications in directed attached storage (DAS), network attached storage (NAS), and storage area network (SAN) environments.

Capacity choices for the Constellation.2 drive are available in 250 GB, 500 GB, and 1 TB, and with 6-GB/s SATA or 6GB/s serial-attached SCSI interface options. The Constellation.2 operates on less than 6.4 watts (and up to 54% of that during slow or idle periods); saves up to 72% over traditional 3.5-inch hard drives; and lowers data management costs by deploying a scalable and secure tiered storage system, according to Seagate.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Firefox plugs drive-by download security holes

Mozilla has shipped a highly critical Firefox update to patch 13 vulnerabilities that expose Windows and Mac users to hacker attacks.

Some of the vulnerabilities could be exploited to launch drive-by malware downloads or code execution attacks if a user simply surfs to a rigged Web page. According to Mozilla, 11 of the 13 vulnerabilities are rated “critical,” meaning that they can can be used to run attacker code and install software, “requiring no user interaction beyond normal browsing.”

The vulnerabilities affect both Firefox 3.5 and 3.6. The patch is being delivered via the browser’s automatic update mechanism. Mozilla Firefox users should immediately update the browser to Firefox 3.6.13 and Firefox 3.5.16.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Google Chrome OS May Launch Today

Chrome OS is expected to be little more than a bare-bones operating system, good enough to quickly boot into the Chrome browser. Google executives have said previously that what they're trying to accomplish is to quickly push the user onto the Web, where users can interact with Google's Web apps and services.

What's unclear is whether Google will launch Chrome OS with any hardware partners, or even launch a netbook itself. Dell has reportedly been in talks to use the Chrome OS, and Inventec, HP, Acer and HTC have all been named as potential launch partners. Google does, however, plan to introduce a slightly larger than usual netbook to accommodate more comfortable typing and viewing.

"Chrome OS is an operating system
which is in early availability and it's targeted primarily at the netbook space today," Google chief executive Eric Schmidt said in September. "Because it's free and open source, people will also use it for tablets. But I think it's too early to say exactly how it'll play out. We're looking forward to the partnership announcements later this year."

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Thursday, December 02, 2010

FTC Proposes 'Do Not Track' Option For Internet

The Federal Trade Commission has made a potentially far-reaching proposal that would give web users the option of shielding personal information from advertisers, retailers and other companies while browsing the Internet.

The commission favored giving consumers a simple mechanism for disallowing data gathering. To do that, the FTC recommended adding a button to browsers that would activate technology to prevent people from being tracked or receiving targeted advertising. The proposal would be an alternative to current browser privacy settings, which a recent study by Stanford University and Carnegie Mellon found inadequate to shield people's viewing habits.

The commission's proposed privacy framework would have companies build consumer privacy protection into every stage of development of products and services. In addition, organizations would offer a clearly defined no-tracking option at the time a consumer is making a decision that would set data gathering in motion. Finally, companies would increase transparency of their data practices through clearer, shorter and more standardized privacy notices and by providing access to consumer data they maintain.

The FTC does not have the authority to require companies to follow its framework, much of which would require an act of Congress.

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