Monday, 30 August 2010

Playboy Plays a New Game

After launching The Smoking Jacket, a marginally safe-for-work website, Playboy expects to launch a new gaming label by the end of 2010.

Peter Smith, ITworld

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If you're under 40, you probably don't realize that there was a time when the Playboy brand was relevant. Stop smirking. It was! Back in the 60's and 70's that bunny silouhette was everywhere. Playboy Magazine really did have good articles, short stories and interviews both from and about big names. There were Playboy night clubs (no, not strip joints), a Playboy book division, and even a TV show (Playboy After Dark).

But times changed and Playboy more or less faded from the mainstream public eye and went back to just being the name of a girlie magazine to most people. I assume some segment of the young male demographic still is interested but the "Playboy Empire" is a shadow of its former self. A few weeks ago Playboy launched The Smoking Jacket, a marginally safe-for-work website, in an attempt to build a broader audience (see Playboy launches website for office drones). I don't think they could've come up with a more anachronistic name than "The Smoking Jacket" and I'm worried about posting that link to the site for fear of triggering NetNanny filters. I guess if you work in the kind of office where you could sit at your desk and read Maxim without raising any eyebrows, you'd be safe heading to The Smoking Jacket. I sure wouldn't want to be caught on that site while at my office.

Research Experiment Disrupts Internet, for Some

Robert McMillan, IDG News

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An experiment run by Duke University and a European group responsible for managing Internet resources went wrong Friday, disrupting a small percentage of Internet traffic.

The damage could have been far worse however, and the incident shows just how fragile one of the Internet's core protocols really is, security experts say.

The problem started just before 9 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time Friday and lasted less than half an hour. It was kicked off when RIPE NCC (Reseaux IP Europeens Network Coordination Centre) and Duke ran an experiment that involved the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) -- used by routers to know where to send their traffic on the Internet. RIPE started announcing BGP routes that were configured a little differently from normal because they used an experimental data format. RIPE's data was soon passed from router to router on the Internet, and within minutes it became clear that this was causing problems.

"During this announcement, some Internet service providers reported problems with their networking infrastructure," wrote RIPE NCC's Erik Romijn in a note posted to the NANOG (North American Network Operators Group) discussion list. "Immediately after discovering this, we stopped the announcement and started investigating the problem. Our investigation has shown that the problem was likely to have been caused by certain router types incorrectly modifying the experimental attribute and then further announcing the malformed route to their peers."

That shouldn't have happened on systems that were properly configured to support BGP, Romijn said, but nonetheless for a brief period Friday morning, about 1 percent of all the Internet's traffic was affected by the snafu, as routers could not properly process the BGP routes they were being sent.

"Over 3,500 prefixes (announced blocks of IP addresses) became unstable at the exact moment this 'experiment' started," wrote Earl Zmijewski, a general manager with Internet security firm Renesys. "Not surprisingly, they were located all over the world: 832 in the US, 336 in Russia, 277 in Argentina, 256 in Romania and so forth. We saw over 60 countries impacted."

Security experts have warned for years that attackers could cause serious Internet disruptions by messing with BGP routes. Two years ago, YouTube was temporarily cut off from the Internet after a Pakistani BGP route that censored the video service was inadvertently spread worldwide.

Earlier this year, bad routes announced out of China ended up briefly disrupting some Internet traffic.

The damage from Friday's experiment was minimal, but if someone had been able to intentionally announce bad routes, it would have been much worse, said Paul Ferguson, a researcher with security firm Trend Micro.

It's unclear why RIPE NCC and Duke were trying out these new route formats.

One of the researchers behind the experiment, Duke assistant professor Xiaowei Yang, declined to talk in detail about the experiment, citing legal concerns. But she said that the work was for a research paper, and the BGP data that was sent was "100 percent standard compliant."

"It is an experiment initiated by my student and I," she wrote in an e-mail message. "It unexpectedly triggered some vendor bugs."

RIPE NCC could not immediately be reached for comment.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at

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Beta Watch: Chrome to Phone, Ranker, Gantto

A simple extension helps you transfer data to an Android handset. Plus: Make your own Top 10 lists, and track projects step-by-step.

Edward N. Albro, PC World

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It's a thoroughly modern dilemma: Finding information on the Web is easier with a PC--but for bringing that data with you, nothing beats a smartphone. Google has come up with a great way of moving the info you need from your computer to an Android handset. Download the Chrome to Phone extension for the Chrome browser and the matching app for your Froyo-powered smartphone (both programs are free), and then follow the instructions to link the app to your Google account. The next time you discover a Web page, phone number, map, or YouTube video that you want to access on your phone, simply click a button in the Chrome toolbar. Within seconds, the data shows up on your phone.

Ranker: List-o-mania!

Facebook for iPhone Scores 100 Million Monthly Users

Nick Spence,

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The Facebook application for iPhone now has over 100 million active monthly users, according to the latest reports.

The Macalope Weekly: Smells Like Teen Spirit

The Macalope, Macworld

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Hey, kids, you remember grunge? Well, bust out your flannel shirts and grow out your hair, because it's 1993 all over again. This week people are falling over themselves trying to point out that the smartphone wars are just like the PC wars, except with Google instead of Microsoft. Is the iPhone doomed to a tiny market share? Will Android rule supreme? And where's the Macalope's Blind Melon CD?

We'll print anything provided it's long enough

A column for Business Insider says that while Apple may be the short term winner, it'll be the long-term loser (tip o' the antlers to Daring Fireball).

There is no denying Apple has had an incredible run.

But it's all over now! Why? Ever hear of the PC wars, dude? Read a book! Windows crushed the Mac, sport. It was in all the papers.

Android, with its relative openness, seems to be playing the role Windows played for the Mac.

Sure. Google's free OS, built to promote their real bread-and-butter advertising business, is exactly the same as Windows, which Microsoft is very adamant about charging for. Go on.

Steve Jobs seems to be repeating the same mistake all over again.

Oh, no, he's right! Apple's making a dreadful mistake and should license iOS immediately! Isn't it obvious this isn't working out?!

Wait, wait, wait. Says who?

Why, Fabrice Grinda, the author of the piece.

The Macalope hears what you're saying: "OK, Business Insider, now you're just making people up." But, no!

Fabrice Grinda is CEO of OLX and posts regularly at, where this post was originally published.

Ah-ha! Fabrice Grinda runs OLX, the highly-respected free classified site that the Macalope had never heard of before, but he also posts blog post on his blog which then get picked up by Business Insider as link-bait.

Well, case closed.

Wait, what?

Grinda goes on and on with his history lesson--over 1500 words--but the ankle-deep similarities fail to take into account one historical fact: for most of the '90s, Apple was run by a revolving door of guys with the combined intellect of a block of nutraloaf.

Further, what's a "win"? Capturing the high end of the market and reaping huge margins seems pretty "winny" to the horny one. It's fine if you want to point out the similarities between the two OS wars, but your reverse crystal ball act is not as brilliant as you think. It's certainly not original.

Maybe we can get Noah Wyle to play Steve Jobs again

Both Hollywood and silly pundits love a story. They particularly love a remake of a story, because it means they can phone in their job.

Like InfoWorld's Paul Venezia. Sure, his piece isn't nearly as brain-dead as Grinda's, but it's a just a slightly better song played on the same "Classic Hits of the '90s" station. Say, Smashing Pumpkins to Grinda's Spin Doctors.

The current smartphone playing field looks amazingly familiar. In fact, I think I've seen this movie before.

Well, Paul, it's true that Avatar is just a CGI-based remake of Dances With Wolves, but they do end differently.

As with Grinda, Venezi thinks Apple is Apple and Google is Microsoft, but he also thinks Microsoft is...

...filling Novell's shoes.

The Macalope thinks this whole comparison is as dumb as a bag full of Zunes, but he did find the idea of Microsoft playing the part of Novell funny because oooh, sick burn.

What the brown and furry one found odd about this piece is that Venezia doesn't once mention the carriers. From one perspective, it's interesting that it's 2010 and you really can have a conversation about cell phones without mentioning carriers, but it's also probably premature. The carriers are not interchangeable--at least in the eyes of many consumers--and much of Android's success may be thanks to Verizon.

Which raises another point about Android. Not only are carriers and device makers shipping different versions of the Android OS, they're shipping different UIs. It's almost unfair to refer to "Android" as a single competitor to iOS since there are so many flavors.

As painfully simplistic as these analogies are, at least no one's overtly calling for Apple to license the iOS so far. They recognize that's crazy talk or at least realize that Apple's never going to do it in a million silly pundit years.

In case you're wondering how long a silly pundit years is, they aren't any longer than a regular year. They just seem longer.

Late out of the gate

Finally, what more evidence of Apple's impending long-term doomsaster do you need than the word of a competitor?

The chairman of computer manufacturer Acer predicts a bleak future for Apple's iPad, once the market for tablet devices matures.

When's that going to be? Is this a geologic timescale we're talking about? Maybe some time before the sun cools?

The interview, reported in English by DigiTimes, also quoted Wang insisting an open platform--as in Android--would always beat a closed one - such as Apple's OS.

Like with the iPod.

Acer has delayed plans to release an Android based tablet in the first quarter of 2011, likely to run an improved and updated Android 3.0.

Read: ""Acer is scrambling after getting caught with its proverbial and, strangely, literal pants down, because it believed that netbooks, like that Baja Men song, would never go out of style."

Unlike the market for cell phones, Apple owns the market for tablets and there's no carrier lock-in. Good morning, Acer. This is your third wake-up call.

More Shoppers are Eyeing Tablets Than Laptops, Netbooks, PCs

Nick Spence, Macworld-U.K.

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Fourteen percent of U.S. online customers plan to buy a tablet computer within the next 12 months according to a new study from leading market research company Forrester Research. The 14 percent was ahead of the 13 percent planning to buy a laptop, 11 percent planning to buy an eBook reader, 8 percent planning to buy a netbook, and 8 percent said to be planning to buy a desktop computer.

What the Dell/HP 3Par Buyout Really Means

Print By Michael Ansaldo, PC World

The bidding war for 3Par ramped up this week when HP raised its offer to $30 per share, a $3 increase over Dell's bid, bringing the bidding to $2 billion. Dell had launched the opening salvo in mid-August when it had offered just over $1 billion to buy 3Par. As of this writing, 3Par had deemed HP's bid "superior" and Dell was mulling over its response.

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The unlikely battle of these PC behemoths over a small Fremont, CA data-storage company emphasizes the storage market's continuing shift toward enterprise cloud computing. Thanks to the recession, more corporate clients are embracing the kind of affordable virtualized storage that companies like 3Par provide.

The fight for 3Par is undoubtedly fueled by the fact that Both Dell and HP have seen their "beige box" business falter as personal computing evolves toward handheld devices. At the same time, however, both companies have lead the growth in the server market. As that business migrates toward the promise of cloud computing, it's not hard to see why the two companies are vying for a seat at the table.

Cloud computing offers several indisputable advantages for small businesses. It reduces upfront costs, as the initial infrastructure is paid for by the cloud storage provider - no small break for small business owners, who constantly struggle to keep costs down. As it negates the need for vast on-site data centers, it also reduces the need to employ a large in-house IT staff. And because multiple customers share resources in the cloud model, it further lowers ongoing costs.

Whichever company ultimately comes out on top in the bidding war will undoubtedly incorporate 3Par's virtual storage solutions into its already robust storage portfolio. The acquisition will position either HP or Dell as a one-stop storage solution with greater production and cost efficiencies, which should make it pretty attractive for cash-strapped customers looking to pare down the number of physical servers and decentralize their data in the cloud.

It's still not clear which PC giant will end up owning 3Par. Dell has three business days beginning Monday to announce whether it will counter HP's $2 billion bid or concede. Regardless of which company triumphs, ultimately, small businesses may come out the winner.

Contact Michael Ansaldo via Twitter.

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Rustock Botnet Changes Tactics

John E Dunn,

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The Rustock mega-botnet appears to have ditched the experimental use of TLS (transport layer security) to obscure its activity, Symantec has reported.

Rustock's use of TLS is now averages between 0.1 and 0.2 percent of all spam, peaking at 0.5 percent, a tiny fraction of the levels seen in March when it reached averages of around 25 percent with a peak of as much as 77 percent.

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5 Tips to Retain Privacy on Foursquare

Al Sacco, CIO

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It's hardly practical to believe there are "right" and "wrong" ways to employ social networking services like Twitter or Facebook. However, there are "smart" and/or "safe" methods of use, especially for location-based services (LBS) that identify your whereabouts at a given time, like popular social network/LBS Foursquare.

Smartphone App Assists Epilepsy Patients

Matt Hamblen, Computerworld

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Engineers and medical experts have joined forces in Chicago to to create a small prototype device and complex software that can monitor brainwaves of people with epilepsy and then send them from a patient's smartphone to a monitoring center for analysis.

Google Maps Misplaces Lincoln Memorial


Sarah Jacobsson Purewal, PC World

A curious thing has been happening on Google Maps -- the Lincoln Memorial is being misplaced in favor of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, which is a good half a mile south of the more famous memorial.

FTC Settles with Reverb over iTunes Reviews

Jason Wilson,

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Reverb Communications settled a compliant with the Federal Trade Commission in which the agency accused the public-relations firm of having employees post reviews of video games on Apple's iTunes store.

Facebook for iPhone Scores 100 Million Monthly Users

Nick Spence,

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The Facebook application for iPhone now has over 100 million active monthly users, according to the latest reports.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Windows Phone 7 Marketing: Message More Important than Money

Print By Tony Bradley, PC World

Microsoft is reportedly set to spend half a billion dollars on a marketing blitz to promote the upcoming launch of Windows Phone 7. For the sake of the success of Windows Phone 7, hopefully Microsoft understands that getting the right message in front of the right people is more important than randomly filling media with advertising.

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Saturday, 28 August 2010

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Murder by Malware: Can a Computer Virus Kill?

Analysis: Viruses and trojans may cause suffering and empty bank accounts, but let's look at fatalities.

Darlene Storm, Computerworld

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Can malware kill? It can cause massive damages that on a dramatic day might lead you to say something like, "This %

Microsoft Pins its Browser Hopes on IE9

Analysis: Internet Explorer is under pressure to rebuild Microsoft's browser share, but a report finds it now stable but overall in 'decay.'

Robert Mullins, NetworkWorld

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I reported earlier on the operating system share gains for Microsoft Windows 7 as reported by Janco Associates. But the other half of the Janco report measured Web browser share, which I want to address in this post not just for what it says about Internet Explorer, but how it also handicaps rival browsers.(See also "As Internet Explorer Turns 15, We Take a Look Back.")

NEC Develops a Way to Go Green Inside

Veronica C. Silva,

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Japan's NEC Corporation may have found the answer to the nagging debate between saving the environment without necessarily starving the population. And NEC found the answer while addressing the demand for durable plastic for the electronics industry.

Google Drops out of JavaOne Conference

Paul Krill, Infoworld

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Citing concerns about Oracle's lawsuit against it, Google said Friday it cannot participate in the upcoming JavaOne conference. The Oracle-sponsored JavaOne conference, formerly a Sun Microsystems event, is being held in San Francisco the week of September 19. Oracle is suing Google over alleged misuse of Java patents in the Android mobile platform. In a blog post, a Google official lamented the situation.

Apple Revamps iPhone Developer Payments

Nick Spence,

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Apple has posted a note on its iPhone Dev Center website promising to pay developers sooner and more frequently in future.

Gaming Skills Become a College Course

Problem-solving skills used in one of -- if not the most -- popular real-time strategy games of all time are not unlike those used in the 21st Century real world. At least that is the song that the University of Florida is singing.

The school, located in Gainesville, Florida, is offering a two-credit honors couse titled, "21st century Skills in Starcaft." The eight-week class "does not teach about Starcraft," but combines weekly gameplay, analysis of recorded matches and "synthesis of real/game-world concepts," to develop workplace skills.

Part of the course description for the interdisciplinary honors course reads:

"With society becoming increasingly technology-based and fast-paced, it is important for professionals to be highly proficient in skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, resource management, and adaptive decision making. These skills are fundamental in Starcraft and therefore make the game a highly effective environment for students to analyze and take action in complex situations."

The course is open to twenty students that have access to a Mac or PC, Internet access outside the school labs and experience playing the popular game. (No noobs allowed.)