Google loses European GMail trademark battle (Jan Libbenga/The Register)

Google loses European GMail trademark battle  —  Google has failed to win the right to register the term "Gmail" as a wide-ranging European trademark.  —  The Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM), the body which is responsible for European community trademarks …

Source:   The Register
Author:   Jan Libbenga

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Download of the Day: Pandora Downloader (Windows)


Windows only: Free, open source app Pandora Downloader lets you save MP3s from the popular internet radio site, Pandora.

Pandora Downloader is similar to Pandora's Jar with a few important differences. It's not nearly as tightly integrated with Pandora, but it's much easier to set up and get started with. The best part of Pandora Downloader is that it keeps a running tally of all of the tracks you've played (it even shows three songs in advance), so you can download any of the songs you've heard in your session by selecting as many as you want and clicking Download.

Pandora Downloader saves all of your downloads to C:\pandora. If you want to automatically add those songs to iTunes, I'd recommend setting up iTunes Library Updater to scan C:\pandora daily for new songs to add to your library.

The interface of Pandora Downloader could use some improvement - the window won't minimize or resize - but it's dead simple to understand and use. You have to stream Pandora through Internet Explorer for it to work, but Firefox users can just use IETab if they don't want to open another window. Pandora Downloader is free (as in speech), Windows only, requires .NET 2.0.

Enjoy free T-Mobile wi-fi for three months


Almost lost in the Vista-launch shuffle was the announcement that Microsoft and T-Mobile have teamed up to offer 90 days of free Wi-Fi at various T-Mobile hotspot locations (Starbucks, Fedex Kinko's, etc.).

Considering that T-Mobile normally charges $39.99 per month for unlimited access, that's a pretty decent deal. (Actually, it just about pays for an upgrade copy of Vista.) The catch, of course, is that your notebook needs to have Vista installed. There's a rumor floating around that you can bypass this requirement, but anecdotal evidence suggests the hack doesn't work. If you've tried the free wi-fi, with or without Vista, let us know how it went in the comments!

How to get a bank loan


The Sound Money Tips weblog has put together a guide for successfully snagging a bank loan.

The basic thesis is that you need to be prepared, which is obvious enough. What won't be obvious to the first-time borrower is how to best prepare, but the post goes into excellent detail on what kind of research you should have done before you go in to meet with your bank. If you're looking for a bit of cash (mortgage, small business loans, etc.), these tips should give you a really good starting point. If you've successfully secured a loan in the past, share your experience and tips in the comments.

Is Enso the missing Quicksilver app for Windows?

enso.pngWindows only: Shareware app Enso is an application launcher and extensible command interface designed to help you perform more actions quickly and easily from the comfort of your keyboard.

To begin with, let's make the obvious comparison. Enso is intended to be a Quicksilver-like application for Windows. For starters, it's an app launcher. We've seen plenty of those for Windows, though, most notably Launchy. It's the functionality beyond app launching that should make Enso stand out over its Windows competitors. So how does it stack up?

Enso can perform calculations, manipulate text and windows, and spellcheck in any app. After reading all kinds of Enso press, and after watching the demo video on their homepage, I was eager to try it out (after all, I'm a rabid Quicksilver lover). Unfortunately I wasn't thrilled with the results.

For anyone who's actually delved into Quicksilver, Enso, quite frankly, sucks. Here's why:

Problem 1: The Caps Lock hotkey Invoking launchers with a hotkey is great. Enso takes over your Caps Lock key, meaning that not only does Caps Lock no longer work (which isn't terrible), but you actually have to hold down Caps Lock while you type commands. Suddenly you're a nine-fingered typist (apparently a, z, and q aren't that important?). Since Enso has absolutely no settings configurations, you can't do anything about it.

Problem 2: It's expensive The Enso Launcher and Enso Spellcheck and Dictionary apps are two different programs, requiring two different licenses. Launcher costs $25, Words costs $40. While they don't do everything that the Enso prodcuts do, Launchy, Colibri, or SlickRun are all great launchers with a bit of added functionality - and they're all freeware. There's less in the freeware realm for universal spellchecking, but there are available options.

Problem 3: Enso is somewhat one-dimensional While this is certainly up for debate, I found the Enso interface to be limiting. It's attractive enough, to be sure, but it doesn't provide you with an overarching framework for understanding how to operate with the tool. Enso operates exclusively with commands, meaning that there's no subject-action-object type interface provided by a truly powerful tool like Quicksilver. Additionally, Enso doesn't let you navigate your filesystem from its command line, meaning that if you are manipulating or performing actions with a file, you have to go through all the regular navigation work to do it (as opposed to Quicksilver).

The only thing I really liked about Enso was the "go" command, which indexes every window and tab (even Firefox tabs) and lets you go directly to it. So you'd press and hold Caps Lock, type go lifehacker, then release Caps Lock, and - if Lifehacker is open somewhere on your computer - you should be taken to that window/tab.

The upshot is, I'm not impressed. If there's something I'm missing, let me know, but this is one app that's not worth anyone's money yet.

Plan now for veggie-garden success


Finance (and, apparently, horticulture) blog Get Rich Slowly explains that February is the right time to start planning your vegetable garden and offers tips for beginner growers. For example, test your soil:

Many states offer free soil testing, which will tell you how to amend the soil if nutrients or organic matter are lacking, or if the pH of the soil needs to be adjusted. Your county's Master Gardener program may also offer this service.

Lots of good advice here, especially the stuff on annuals versus perennials. Mostly it just whets your appetite for winter to get the hell over with already. Come on, spring!

Edit recorded TV shows in Vista Movie Maker


If you use Vista Media Center to record TV shows, you can use Vista Movie Maker to edit them.

That's because Movie Maker now supports the proprietary DVR-MS format Windows uses for TV recordings. To edit a show, press Ctrl-I to import media, navigate to your Recorded TV folder and choose the one you want. Then drag the show down to the timeline and have at it. When you're done editing, use the Publish Movie option to save it in the desired format. This is great way to cut out commercials before archiving shows to DVD or copying them to, say, an iPod or Zune.

10 foods for a good night's sleep


Yahoo! Food posts the top 10 foods that facilitate a good night's sleep.

The list has a few of the obvious contenders, like Chamomile tea, warm milk, and turkey, but you're sure to find a new sleep-inducer on this list. The remaining 7 healthy foods are bananas, honey, potatoes, oatmeal, almonds, flaxseeds, and whole-wheat bread. As an added bonus for insomniacs, Yahoo! includes a recipe for muffins that contain several of the sleepy ingredients. Let us know what foods put you out in the comments.

Stream your MP3s with Netvibes-SlimServer mashup


Reader Charles was looking for a way to stream his music library via Netvibes, his preferred RSS reader. When he couldn't find one, he mashed up a solution using SlimServer. Now he can stream his MP3s from any web-connected PC!

To do likewise, you'll need a free Netvibes account, the free SlimServer software and about 15 minutes to follow Charles' configuration instructions. They're very clear, though I had trouble getting SlimServer to work properly on my machine (probably owing to a router problem). If you have better luck, tell us about it in the comments. This looks like a very cool method for accessing your music library from any remote computer. Of course, you could always try Avvenu.

Career How-To Roundup

How to sync Google Calendar with iCal


Google tips site Google Tutor shows Mac users how to sync iCal with Google Calendar. Or, more accurately, how to subscribe to Google Calendar from within iCal.

The process looks quite simple: Just copy the iCal URL from Google Calendar's management screen into iCal's "subscribe to" window. iCal creates a new calendar which can be automatically or manually updated, depending on your preference. Admittedly, it's a one-way synchronization, but it still seems like a fine method for pulling your Google Calendar appointments into iCal.

Download of the Day: FreeSBIE Live CD (All platforms)


All platforms: Run the FreeBSD Linux Unix distro from a CD with FreeSBIE, the latest in a growing line of live CDs.

Built around FreeBSD 6.2, FreeSBIE comes with your choice of interfaces--FluxBox or Xfce--and a whopping 450 pieces of software, including AbiWord, Audacity, GIMP and the rest of the usual suspects. As with other Live CDs, this offers users a chance to try Linux Unix without setting up partitions, installing the OS or making any changes to their systems. Just boot the CD and you've got a full-blown Linux Unix environment in which to play--or even work.

The initial 2.0 release of FreeSBIE contained a bug that caused problems with USB mice. The developers have since released an update, but that version is available only via Bittorrent (for now). See the FreeSBIE blog for details if you want that version. In the meantime, let us know (in the comments, of course) what you think of FreeBSD compared with the countless other Linux distros.

The free FreeSBIE live CD is distributed as an ISO file; you'll need a program like Nero or ISO Recorder to burn it to a blank CD. It works on all platforms.

Update: Several commenters correctly pointed out that FreeBSD is not technically Linux, but rather an OS derived from Unix. My bad.

Access and save Zoho Office documents in Microsoft Office


Open your Zoho Writer documents from within Word. Save Excel spreadsheets directly to Zoho Sheet. Do that and more with the Zoho Plug-In for Microsoft Office.

The plug-in not only allows you to save documents from Word and Excel to their Zoho counterparts, but also to open Zoho-hosted documents from within Word and Excel. In other words, it bridges the gap between online and offline document management. And it works like a charm. Suddenly Zoho Writer and Zoho Sheet are looking a lot more attractive than Google Docs, which currently lacks any kind of Office synchronicity. The plug-in is free and, of course, requires Word and/or Excel.

Geek to Live: Windows Vista upgrade power tips

by Gina Trapani

After using Windows Vista for awhile, even the most begrudging upgrader will find that it's got a lot more features and options for the power user compared to Windows XP. After weeks of test-driving Windows Vista full-time, there are several tips and tweaks I'd wish I'd known before I started.

In the spirit of saving you the time when it's your turn, today I've got a selection of useful Vista pointers for power upgraders.


Dual-boot Vista: It's still early in Vista's life, and you should probably wait to pull the trigger for a seamless Vista transition. But, for those of you throwing caution to the wind: if you're concerned about incompatibilities - or you just want to dip your toes in Vista without fully committing - consider dual booting your current PC with Vista. Here's a rundown of how to dual boot Windows XP and Vista.

Currently you'll need the full installation (not the upgrade disks) to do this the way Microsoft intended, but big brother site Gizmodo just posted a tip on how to install a Vista upgrade on a blank hard drive..


Once you've go t dual-booting set up, you can set your primary boot partition (the default OS at startup) right inside Vista.

Hardware drivers: Before you start your Vista installation, do try to have all your current drivers downloaded or on disk and easily accessible. Vista's pretty good at detecting devices and installing the drivers itself, but just in case you get stuck with an unrecognized device, here's a good place to find missing drivers for Vista.

System checks

Grade your PC's Vista capabilities: Once Vista's installed you want to see how your hardware stacks up against the new OS, and maybe identify where a little upgrad e here or there could improve your PC's performance. Here's how to get your PC's "Windows Experience Index." (We don't like the name either.)


Get a system health report: Admins who want more details on their PC's health and status from head to toe should run a System Diagnostics report. There might be more information here than you ever wanted to know, but this thing comes in handy when there's something awry.

Useful tweaks

readyboost-narrow-short.pngSpeed it up with a flash drive: Perhaps one of my favorite performance-improving strategies, using Windows Vista's new ReadyBoost technology, you can speed up your PC on the fly by simply plugging in a USB drive with some spare megabytage. Nifty.

Disable UAC: Roast me over the hot, user-specific coals if you want for this one, but Vista's annoying "Windows needs your permission to continue" dialogs are nothing short of a total nuisance during your PC's initial setup, especially since they appear every time you try to install software. Here's how to disable User Account Control to install your favorite proggies in peace. Should you turn it back on when you're don e? Well sure. It is a big part of Vista's new security strategy. But you know what you're doing, so I trust you'll make the right decision either way.

Repartition your hard drive in Vista: Once Vista's installed, and you decide you want to store all your data or music on a separate partition, you can create that partition on the fly right inside Vista. Here's a step-by-step on expanding, shrinking and creating disk partitions with Vista.


Trick out the Windows Task Manager: Finally! As compared to XP, the Windows Task manager in Vista can actually give you useful information about running processes. Windows guy Chris Pirillo explains:

The Windows Task Manager gives you a lot more troubleshooting information in Vista. Flip to the Processes tab, and in the View menu, click "Select Columns" and add Description, Command Line, and Image Path Name. Moreover, when you right-click a process, you can select either "Go to Service(s)" or "Open File Location." These are all long overdue options.


Run DOS games: If Vista's inability to run your classic DOS game in fullscreen mode on Vista takes the air out of your tires, check out Hackszine's workaround using the free, open source DOSBox.


Disable the Sidebar: I'm not saying you shouldn't try out the Sidebar, explore different gadgets, and see if it all works for you. I'm just saying if it doesn't? Here's how to disable it.

Set up Favorite folders: Stop unnecessarily exploring the file tree! Easy access to folders you use often is essential for quick Open and Save As dialog action and Windows Explorer usage. Here's how to set up your favorite locations in Vista.

Quick Launch bar keyboard shortcuts: The Quick Launch bar in Vista is the same thing as in XP - except it's got built-in keyboard shortcuts! Here's how to open your favorite apps and documents from the Quick Launch bar with a key combination.

Saved searches: Finally, the most powerful and interesting thing Windows Vista can do is save folders based on search criteria, ala iTune's Smart Playlists and Mac's Spotlight. This one will get more ink once we figure out how to use all of Vista's file metadata well, but in the meantime, here's how to save your searches in virtual folders on Vista.

What have been your favorite power user discoveries in Vista? Let us know in the comments.

Gina Trapani, the editor of Lifehacker, enjoys a good operating system upgrade. Her semi-weekly feature, Geek to Live, appears every W ednesday and Friday on Lifehacker. Subscribe to the Geek to Live feed to get new installments in your newsreader.

LH Birthday Celebration: T-shirt sale, scavenger hunt and book giveaway!


Exactly two years ago today we popped the proverbial cork and let Lifehacker out of the bottle. Time sure flies when you're having fun, and we had no idea what a hyperlinkin' blast Lifehacker would turn out to be. In celebration of our birthday today, we've got a few gifts to give you as a way to say thanks for a great couple of years.

First things first: All Lifehacker tee-shirts are on sale today only, for $15.99 each (that's 20% off!). The blue Geek to Live shirt is no longer in print, so snag one of the limited editions left in stock while you still can. Our red Productively Lazy robot is going strong, and there's a new Men's XXL size available. Only orders placed TODAY, Lifehacker's birthday, will get the discount.

Next! I've got a few lonely copies of Lifehacker the book just crying out to be in your hands. After the jump, win yourself an autographed copy in our First Annual Lifehacker Archives Scavenger Hunt.

I've got 4 books to give away, and thousands of you I'd like to give 'em to. So this is how this is gonna work. There are 4 sets of Lifehacker trivia questions listed below. All the answers, my friend, can be found in the Lifehacker archives.

Choose one hunt and get to scouring the site archives for answers. The first reader to post all three correct answers for a single hunt in the comments below will win an autographed copy of Lifehacker the book. I've got exactly 4 books to give away, so only one book will go to a reader who answers one set of questions correctly first. So don't go trying to answer all 12. In your comment, list the hunt number and your answers.

Got it? Good. Let's play!! (Cue Jeopardy music.)

LH Scavenger Hunt #1:

  1. What breakfast food did one Lifehacker editor try preparing in an unconventional way and photo-documented the whole adventure on the site? Include the link to the post in question.
  2. Name one of Gina's favorite command line tools.
  3. What common household cleanser can smooth over a skippy DVD? (Include the link, please.)

LH Scavenger Hunt #2

  1. When zombies take over the earth, what will at least one Lifehacker headline read? (Include the link, please.)
  2. What's Rick's favorite music player application?
  3. How do you make fire with a bar of chocolate and a soda can? (Link required.)

LH Scavenger Hunt #3

  1. Multiple choice: which ailments has Adam suffered from at one point or another?
    (A) RSI
    (B) Insomnia
    (C) Compulsive operating system installations
    (D) All o f the above
  2. What did the third comment ever posted to Lifehacker say? (Link, please.)
  3. You're standing in a kitchen with a failed hard drive in your hand. What should you do? (Cite the post with a link.)

LH Scavenger Hunt #4

  1. At the end of 2006, what was fourth most-used tag of the year? (Provide link.)
  2. What feed reader does Gina currently use? (Link please.)
  3. Provide a link to a photo of the Lifehacker mascot model on without the green LH on her cap.

Alrighty, get to posting your answers! Remember, the first three unique readers to leave the correct answers to each set of questions gets an autographed copy of Lifehacker the book. Get to hunting!

And thanks, from the bottom of our nerdy hearts, for a fabulous first 2 years.

Yahoo Planning to Add 100 Web Sites for Entertainment (Miguel Helft/New York Times)

Yahoo Planning to Add 100 Web Sites for Entertainment  —  Yahoo said Tuesday that it planned to build individual Web sites around 100 entertainment "brands" this year that would pull together content from Yahoo's sprawling array of online properties.  —  The effort, called Brand Universe …

Source:   New York Times
Author:   Miguel Helft

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Photoshop Tip: Remove objects from photos with Vanishing Point


Photoshop how-to site shows you how to make objects disappear from photos using Photoshop's Vanishing Point tool.

This is actually an excerpt from one of the site's video tutorials. The three-minute clip demonstrates the use of the Vanishing Point tool, which, when combined with the clone tool, enables you to quickly and easily scrub almost anything out of a photo. The results are quite impressive, especially the way the lines in the floorboards stay completely intact. Worthwhile viewing for anyone learning Photoshop (specifically, Photoshop CS2).

New Technorati "WTF" Feature Clones Digg (Steve Rubel/Micro Persuasion)

New Technorati "WTF" Feature Clones Digg  —  Technorati has launched a new feature called Technorati WTF.  No, it doesn't stand for "what the..." It's short for "Where's the Fire?"  —  Basically, Where's the Fire appears to be a digg clone.  It allows users to share what's hot.

Source:   Micro Persuasion
Author:   Steve Rubel

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The widgets and gadgets showdown

The Yahoo! Widgets blog provides a detailed comparison of the crowded desktop widget/gadget area, weighing the pros and cons of Google Gadgets, Vista Sidebar, Mac's Dashboard and Yahoo!'s Widget Engine (oh, let's just call it Konfabulator). One interesting point is about OS-specific widgets/gadgets (like Sidebar and Dashboard), which use browser-specific DHTML to run:

DHTML is great for those people who only care about one platform, or have a strong needs or desires to use DHTML. It's familiar and fairly simple. Plus, these systems are built-into the OS, so no extra software is required. But the resources required to drive such a Widget can be a bit excessive, and you're limited to the one platform.

The conclusion is very Konfabulator-positive (this is their blog) but overall makes a lot of informative comparison points for developers and users. What's your favorite gadget/widget engine right now, if any? Let us know in the comments.

Daily news roundup

PC World says farewell to floppy (BBC)

PC World says farewell to floppy  —  The time has come to bid farewell to one of the PC's more stalwart friends - the floppy disk.  —  Computing superstore PC World said it will no longer sell the storage devices, affectionately known as floppies, once existing stock runs out.

Source:   BBC

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MacGyver Tip: Use your knuckles to remember each month's days


The web site Innovations and Insights offers this clever way to remember which months have 31 days and which have 30:

Count the months on your knuckles and the grooves between your knuckles. Leave out your thumb knuckle. Every month that lands on a knuckle is 31 days, every month that lands on a groove between knuckles is 30 days (or 28 for February).

You know what? It's silly, but it works. Finally, a more peaceful use for knuckles.

Has Yahoo Picked Marketing as Its Game? (Liz Gannes/GigaOM)

Has Yahoo Picked Marketing as Its Game?  —  Yahoo is cooking up new media model — one that involves creating little-to-no content.  The company is harnessing its ability to build online audiences around brands, something it trumpeted at a media lunch held Tuesday at its Sunnyvale headquarters.

Source:   GigaOM
Author:   Liz Gannes

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Going Small - How the MumboJumbo Merger Will Affect Ritual (Ritualistic)

Going Small - How the MumboJumbo Merger Will Affect Ritual  —  Last week, to the surprise of industry observers and gamers alike, MumboJumbo acquired Ritual Entertainment in order to reinforce its own army of developers and further strengthen its hold on the casual games market.

Source:   Ritualistic

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Alleged porn spammer settles with FTC (Joris Evers/CNET

Alleged porn spammer settles with FTC  —  An alleged marketer of online porn has agreed to pay a $465,000 penalty to settle spam charges, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday.  —  Under a proposed settlement, TJ Web Productions has also agreed to adhere to federal spam laws, the FTC said in a statement.

Source:   CNET
Author:   Joris Evers

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Speed reading with Zap Reader and Spreeder

Spreeder lets you read text at full speedI've been an on again off again speed reader for some time. Every couple of years I find myself in the book store going through the discount bin and finding, buying, and reading yet another speed reading book. I'm addicted to the idea of speed reading, even if the art itself somewhat escapes me.

Spreeder and Zap Reader are two tools designed to help you improve your speed reading ability on the web. The basic idea behind each tool is that you copy content from the web (an article from the New York Times, for example) into the tool on the website. Then you click the play button and "read" the article one word at a time. Controls let you adjust the speed at which each word is shown to you so that you can read faster or slower.

Both of these tools work well for speed readers because they let you work through an article more quickly by resting your eyes at the same place on the screen as the application churns through the content for you. And, since speed reading is really the art of recognizing words and phrases instead of just letters, the focus on a single word acts as a kind of flash card system to help you memorize both small and large words quickly.

Continue reading Speed reading with Zap Reader and Spreeder

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Office 2007: The Rumors are true

Office 2007Remember when we told you that Microsoft was giving away copies of Vista and Office 2007 as part of their "Power Together" campaign? They weren't blowing smoke. I received my copy of Office 2007 yesterday in the mail. It didn't come with an actual CD, only a license key and the URL to download it, but I did get it in the end. If you had been wondering if you would ever get yours, that is if you ever got the website to work at all, and completed the 3 webcasts you had to watch, you should get it soon (if you haven't already). I just thought you should know that Microsoft did live up to what they said, which makes this geek happy. I feel like I stuck it to the man, getting their softw are (which is usually expensive) for free, legally, and all shiny to boot.

Oh, did I mention that if you weren't able to get the site to work or couldn't complete the offer to get Vista, we are giving away a few copies of it. Sadly, we don't have copies of Office to give away.

Drupal 5, a major update to a major player

The field of Content Management Systems (CMS) mirrors what my grandfather always said, "Cream rises to the top." Scores of open source products jockey for position among the field and only a very few rise to the occasion. Joomla (formerly Mambo), Typo, and Drupal stand out among the field and, of those, Drupal mostly wins the overwhelming support of the FOSS community. Drupal can be seen in action at sites like OurMedia, SaveThe76Ball, and Spread Firefox, all of which receive regular traffic poundings.

Michael Stutz of has taken Drupal 5 for a thorough test drive and put together a medium-depth look at installation, changes to the new version, Drupal's new CSS caching engine and other wide ranging upgrades.

It's an impressive overhaul, over 500 developers submitted 1000 patches to the popular framework. The final verdict? Drupal is easier but, still not easy. Stutz writes, "Installing and running Drupal is fairly easy now, but configuration of a first-class site still takes work and ultimately a programmer's hand -- you have to know your PHP and CSS, and you have to spend time learning how it all interacts in Drupal." Fortunately for the brave souls tasked with developing first-class CMS backed websites and web applications, Drupal's community is strong, and very helpful.

[Thanks Dolores!]

Microsoft takes aim at license dodging users

Companies with Volume License Keys (VLKs) should watch out, according to recent statements from Microsoft's license police monitors. Spokespeople for Microsoft say they're on the lookout for situations which don't add up, such as companies with several server licenses and a few hundred employees but with only a small number of client access licenses.

According to PC Advisor magazine, a popular outlet in the UK, "Most companies comply, but up to 3 percent don't. Under the new programme, if Microsoft doesn't receive a response after 14 days, the company will send a succession of three "escalation" letters over three weeks. The last two letters warn the case could be turned over the BSA, which could pursue lega l action."

The BSA claims as much as 27 percent of software used by businesses is unlicensed and, when it finds violations, issues fines that are many times the cost of valid licenses. Audits are no fun, and given the complexities of software licensing for large numbers of employees, it's not unusual to find small discrepancies in any large audit.

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Windows Vista Gaming Performance - NVIDIA and ATI Compared (Ryan Shrout/

Windows Vista Gaming Performance - NVIDIA and ATI Compared … Introduction  —  Introduction  —  Chances are you might have heard of some software package that was released today; a new version of Windows or something like that.  It's only the biggest software release in the last five or so years …

Author:   Ryan Shrout

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Web giants ask for feds' help on censorship (Anne Broache/CNET

Web giants ask for feds' help on censorship  —  WASHINGTON—Google, Yahoo and Microsoft representatives on Tuesday implored the U.S. government to help set ground rules for complying with demands by foreign law enforcement agencies for user records or censorship.

Source:   CNET
Author:   Anne Broache

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'Le Web' is tres useful in French politics

France is in the midst of a presidential election, so what does that have to do with computing, the web or software? This election season 'Le Web' is playing an unprecedented role in courting and motivating younger French voters and, this site promoting candidate Nicolas Sarkozy shows exactly how web crazy French politicians can get.

In an effort to eschew a slightly stodgy public persona, Sarkozy's DiscoSarko lets visitors make the Presidential hopeful dance in a number of interesting and goofy ways, to a few choice selections of music. It's well built, totally campy and, absolutely endearing.

We're anxiously anticipating the next U.S. election and, candidates are already turning up the PR machine. Who knows, we might see some crazy political web marketing ala-DiscoSarko by the time 2008 rolls around. As the web has become an irreplaceable force in political campaigns, and web technologies allow for more complex and engaging displays, its impossible to predict what we might see. As much as I enjoy DiscoSarko, I implore Hillary Clinton's campaign web team, please don't make Sen. Clinton into a dancing machine, that's something no one wants to see.

The history of the personal computer in TV commercials

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QuickTime vulnerability patched

apple itunesWoops, seems like our friends at Apple had left a back door open for hackers to enter through QuickTime. It seems like no matter what companies do, hackers always find a way to penetrate and drop harmful code in. Don't worry, Apple has it fixed now with a patch, but the issue in question stemmed from a concern about a buffer overflow. When QuickTime processes a Real Time Streaming Protocol URL it directs the player to a streaming file, and allows the user to play a nd pause the file. During the buffer overflow, a hacker could have penetrated through a malicious RTSP URL embedded into a web page that would open a door to run code on the user's machine.

You can grab the patch now at Apple's download page, or through the Apple Software Update service.

Vista fires warning shot at JPEG images

There are few file formats ubiquitous as JPEG (ASCII text comes to mind). It's almost universally compatible, available in every image handling application you could possibly want to use and, it works swimmingly well. Who could possibly want to change all that? Microsoft, that's who.

Last year Microsoft began promoting its Windows Media Photo format, recently renamed HD Photo (ostensibly to gain a little street cred from public familiarity with HDTV), as a "better" alternative to the standard JPEG. According to Microsoft's specification literature, HD Photo gives twice the quality compared to JPEG at similar file sizes. Vista includes built-in support for HD Photo and, Microsoft has been actively promoting HD Photo to camera m anufacturers as a superior alternative to the aging JPEG specification.

Sounds great, where's the catch? Licensing. Patents surrounding JPEG have expired, meaning if you want to include JPEG support in your application, and be universally compatible with other applications supporting JPEG, you don't have to pay fees to any company or individual. HD Photo is a published standard, but it's owned by Microsoft lock, stock, and barrel. If you want your application to be compatible with cameras that use HD Photo, you'll need to sign a deal with the boys in Redmond, and pay the license fees they demand for the privilege. If widely adopted, HD Photo could spell big trouble for compatibility on Open Source platforms, or any platform Microsoft feels presents an undue competitive threat.

Update : HD Photo is licensed under the Open Specification Promise, under whic h Microsoft vows not to enforce its patent rights as long as developers conform to the specification. Thanks to Bob for straightening me out!

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Flickr to require Yahoo! accounts on March 15th

Flickr Sign inThe last time Flickr tried this there was such a backlash that they supported both the old Flickr IDs and corporate overlord ones. But that was then, and this is now...
The Flickr News blog just announced that as of March 15th, the only access to your Flickr account will be via a Yahoo! ID. So, the last holdouts in denial of the acquisition will either have to quit the service or link to a Yahoo! ID. This official thread has been created to voice your concerns \ questions to the Flickr staff and community.

We're told that this change is in preparation for some large projects later this year (ohhh - anyone have any ideas??). We've seen this requirement already with the recent updates to Flickr Mobile and Yahoo! Go that only allow Yahoo! accounts.

The same post also mentions the addition of a couple of limits:

  • Maximum number of Contacts will be 3000
  • Maximum number of Tags per picture will be 75
These changes are pitched to improve system performance. Flickr has started an official thread for any comments about the limit changes.

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