Microsoft Reeling from Low-Blow as Intel Shuns Vista

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Microsoft, it seems, is taking a beating from all sides over its much maligned Windows Vista operating system. Long-time partners Intel, according to an inside source who spoke to the New York Times, have not yet made the switch to Vista on its employees computers. The decision was apparently made after in-depth analysis of costs and benefits by Intel engineers.

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This is not good news for Microsoft, amid slow acceptance of the OS by corporate and personal PC users. Vista requires significant hardware upgrades to run smoothly and uses much more of your systems resources than previous versions such as Windows XP.

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With a relationship dating back decades, Wintel ? as they are sometimes known ? maintain that any rift with Microsoft, implied by recent reports has been blown out of proportion, and that no absolute decisions have been made about the software.

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Kari Aakre, a spokesperson for Intel, “There are some misperceptions out there. Vista is being tested and used in certain departments – just not company-wide at this point.?

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“Windows is by far the dominant OS for the bulk of our 80,000 employees,” Aakre explained. “Our IT department is constantly refreshing employee desktops and laptops, and there are a number of different factors that are considered before we chose the actual type of software for the computer.”

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So far there has been no final conclusion as to whether the company will roll out Vista to all its employees. “It’s not something we would typically announce,” she said.

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The fact that Intel hasn’t upgraded many of its systems more than a year after Vista’s release is leading to loads speculation in the industry.

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“I would file a story like this under corporate irony,” Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-It said. “The whole ‘Wintel’ platform idea is something people are so used to that when the company?s part ways on positions having to do with their own autonomous business practices, it’s a little surprising to see them diverge.”

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But why is Intel so hesitant to fully adopt the software?

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“I have to think Intel doesn’t do anything without going through a lot of analysis,” Bruce Clark, associate professor of marketing at Northeastern University College of Business Administration, said.

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“They must have had a fairly strong case from their internal IT group to say that they should delay – and I would have to think somebody in senior management had to sign off on that decision, because this was obviously something that was going to have to hit the press in a big way,” he pointed out.

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The reason is likely to do with the sate of the US economy and the cost of upgrading. It doesn?t take much to realise upgrading in not going to be cheap.

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“I can’t think of another Microsoft product that has required such a significant hardware upgrade in order to minimize problems with the operating system,” King said.

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“We’ve been drifting along the edge of a recession for the last 12 or 18 months, so buying new computers is the last thing on many consumers’ and many businesses’ minds. Businesses in particular are more focused on getting by with what they have than buying the latest and greatest,” he said.

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Users have had to decide whether the costs outweigh the benefits, and at this point the maths just doesn?t add up.

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“For a major, major upgrade, the beneficial payback has not been so overwhelming that companies have been willing to embrace it, given the other costs involved,” King observed.

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The next telling factor will be what happens when Windows 7 is released, since Microsoft has indicated an upgrade will be available only for Vista systems.

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“It creates a really interesting scenario. From Microsoft’s standpoint, doing everything they can to encourage businesses and consumers to move to Vista is obviously the strategy they want to pursue. At the same time, you can’t make people buy something that they don’t want,” King noted.

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“If the barriers to adopting Windows 7 are severe, in the worst-case scenarios, customers could start looking at alternative OS?s. I don’t think that’s a scenario that Microsoft will want to encourage,” he said.

Dell Shows its Artistic Side

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Computer manufacturer Dell has announced a new line of colourful laptops designed with the artistic customer in mind.

The new Studio line features two distinctly different laptops: the Dell Studio 15 and Dell Studio 17. Both laptops offer sleek designs, striking colour elements and personalisation options with feature such as standard built-in webcam, capacitive touch media control buttons, slot load drives, optional mercury-free LED displays and built-in mobile broadband.

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Reminiscent of the Dell XPS M1330 and M1530 laptops, the new design features a sleek, wedge-shaped profile and an iconic drop hinge design.

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Like the Inspiron range, the new Studio line offer?s several options to customise your new laptop, All well as being able to choose the colour you?d like from; new Plum Purple, Tangerine Orange, Flamingo Pink, Midnight Blue, Ruby Red, Spring Green or standard Jet Black, Dell is also offering a range of colour-co-ordinated accessories and peripherals like backpacks, slip covers, mice, and gives you the choice of a 15 or 17 inch High definition display.

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If you don?t want to be quite so gaudy, then Dell has added an optional option for those who want a solid laptop; High-gloss Graphite Grey. But truth be told, there is no escaping the colour splashes as you pick a trim for it, either blue, pink, red or ? for those whose eyes are stinging ? black.

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Optional features in the Studio line include Blu-ray disk drives and built in mobile broadband connectivity through wireless carriers like Verizon Wireless and Sprint. An optional fingerprint reader, for password management ? cool ? lets users pretend they are James Bond.

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Another neat feature is the ?Dell Dock?. This is a task based application that organises and places your most used programs and files in to user friendly categories that can be accessed by a simple taskbar. This allows users to label things in a way they relate to, and removes clutter from the desktop.

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Dell Video Chat has also been added, allowing users to use video and voice calling with up to 3 other people, among other features.

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“I think that Apple has opened up an interesting can of worms for the rest of the industry, and that’s the degree to which a computing-focused product succeeds on its technical merits versus on its design,” Charles King, president and principal analyst with Pund-IT, said.

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“Mac aficionados love to talk about the technical superiority of the Mac and its GUI (graphical user interface), but the fact is there are a lot of people who love iPods and the iPhone and other Apple products because they’re extremely stylish products,” King added. “I think there’s room for aesthetic improvement in the quality of most Windows-based laptops and desktops.”

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Overall, then, “it seems to me that Dell is looking for a sweet spot that mixes high technical qualities with aesthetics at a very compelling price point,” King concluded. “And that’s something Dell is extremely good at.”

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The new laptops are both available now from Dell starting at $799 for the Studio 15 and $999 for the Studio 17.

Report Finds RFID Chips Causes Medical Equipment to Fail

A report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests RFID chips could cause some medical devices to fail when in close contact. Radio frequency identification chips are used for corporate inventory tracking, library management and even passport data control. The chips are also used to power transit payment systems, animal identification and theft control. More recently, some hospitals have begun using the technology to monitor medical products and other hospital resources.

In the US health providers are reportedly spending $90m a year on RFID systems – an amount expected to more than double in the coming decade, according to the study’s authors.

“It’s become more popular in the last 12 to 18 months,” Dan Mullen, president of the Association for Automatic Identification and Mobility, said. Mullen’s organisation acts as the international trade association for manufacturers of RFID technology. “They’re starting to crop up in terms of asset tracking – primarily applications where they’re trying to know where equipment is. It can be utilising a WiFi network to locate equipment in most cases,” he said.

The study has focused around radio frequencies sent out by the chips. Past research found such waves in electronic anti-theft systems can interfere with certain pacemakers and defibrillators, so the authors wanted to see if hospital-based medical devices would be affected in a similar way.

Scientists set up two different kinds of RFID devices inside an empty intensive care unit room. They measured whether electromagnetic interference from the chips was reaching 41 nearby medical devices, ranging from pacemakers to dialysis systems. The researchers found 22 “hazardous” incidences of interference. These included, they say, ventilators switching off or changing rates, syringe pumps stopping, external pacemakers malfunctioning, and kidney replacement devices shutting down.

Fear not though: Most equipment affected was all within a foot of the RFID chips – much of it less than 10 inches away. The likelihood of RFID chips being placed within such a short range of hospital equipment, Mullen said is probably not high.

“It’s important to understand the interaction and the distance,” Mullen noted. “I don’t think there’s any need to panic. RFID is starting to hit more mainstream applications, and as it does so, it might interact in the hospital environment in different ways. It’s a good thing to study that,” he said.

The study’s authors did not recommend removing or banning the RFID technology from hospitals, noting that it does have a strong potential to help healthcare providers. They did, however, suggest moving forward with additional testing and efforts to create standards for how these devices should be used.

“The intensity of electronic life-supporting medical devices in this area requires careful management of the introduction of new wireless communications such as RFID,” the researchers concluded. “Implementation of RFID in the ICU and other similar healthcare environments should require on-site EMI tests in addition to updated international standards.”

Such standards may be an asset to both hospitals and the companies creating the technology – and may become a more common consideration as different kinds of electronics enter all facets of our lives.

“These sort of studies are important to understand the potential impact of any electronics in the hospital environment,” Mullen said. “Right now, I don’t see any kind of major concern. Best practices, standards, guidelines — as technology is matured and the use of it is moving forward, I think you’ll see more of those sorts of things.”

Microsoft Will Support XP for Six more years

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Microsoft has announced that while its plans to discontinue sales of Windows XP are going ahead, it intends to offer support for the software for a further six years.

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In 2007 Microsoft announced that it would extend the sales period for Windows XP until June 30, 2008. With the deadline due in a week?s time, the company had to keep its customers who shunned the shoddy Windows Vista happy.

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Gary Chen, a Yankee Group analyst said, “Many users are happy with XP and have been pressuring [original equipment manufacturers] and Microsoft to let them keep using it without being forced to upgrade to Vista.”

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?The extension of tech support will impact both enterprise-level customers as well as average users,? he said.

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“I think there are many users in both areas that are happy with XP. I think enterprises will be impacted a bit more as they have more compatibility requirements and would like to keep XP longer than the typical consumer,” Chen added.

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Although the OS officially stops selling on June 30th, customers will be able to get their hands on it for several months.

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Computer manufacturer Dell announced that they would continue to sell some systems with a pre-installed copy of XP until June 18th, but subsequently pushed the date back to June 26th.

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Michael Silver, a Gartner analyst said, ?A lot of this is semantics. Microsoft set the end of support date for XP as soon as Vista shipped; XP extended support ends in April 2014. This is based on Microsoft’s five-plus-five support life cycle. XP would be supported in mainstream phase until two years after Vista shipped.?

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“Microsoft uses the Jan. 30, 2007, launch as that date and rounds it up to the first Patch Tuesday following the end of the quarter, so mainstream support ends in April 2009. The five years of extended support starts on that date, meaning that they will support XP with security fixes until April 2014, or two years after Windows 7 ships, whichever is later,” he added

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Yankee Groups Chen believes the move is ?both good and bad? for Microsoft.

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“[It's] good that Microsoft is listening to its customers and trying to satisfy them, but [it's] concerning for the Windows franchise. It is increasingly getting harder to motivate people to upgrade to new versions. Microsoft is really going to have to innovate and produce some ‘must-have’ features for future Windows versions,” he explained.

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?The decision may also cause a slowdown in sales of Windows Vista in the short term,? Chen noted.

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“It will allow the existing XP users to hold off upgrading for awhile. But in the long term, upgrading to Vista is inevitable, so it’s just really a matter of when. At some point, your PC hardware is going to fail or get terribly outdated before 2014, and that will dictate buying a new machine, which will come with Vista,” he concluded.

Is the Writing on the Wall for Google Android?

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According to The Wall Street Journal, Google?s Android platform is being pushed back to late 2008 or early 2009. Google has downplayed the suggestion.

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If the delay proves true it could cause problems for carriers like Sprint ? which according to the Journal, may not be able to release its Android-powered phone at all this year. Other carriers may miss their target dates for 2009 releases as well.

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Google has remained calm about the claims and says there is no cause for concern.

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“We remain on schedule to deliver the first Android-based handset in the second half of 2008,” Google spokesperson Lauren Birnbaum said. “We’re very excited to see the momentum continuing to build behind the Android platform among carriers, handset manufacturers, developers and consumers.”

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However, the Wall Street Journal says otherwise. ?Focus on the fourth-quarter launch of T-Mobile’s Android phone is taking up a wealth of Google resources and may result in other companies’ late launches,? it said

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This news does not come as a great surprise to the some in the mobile phone industry. Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group said, ?This is [Google's] first big platform rollout. Very few people hit their dates the first time out of the gates.?

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?It’s always better to do it right the first time than to do it quickly. People remember their first impression, and their first impression has to be a good one,? he noted.

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With the release of the new iPhone, any delay of Androis could cause problems for carriers relying on cutting-edge competition. Still, the two systems may not be as big of direct rivals as were often led to believe.

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?The iPhone’s primary competition will be against other phones with similar form factors rather than with the keyboard-enhanced Android devices currently in development,? Enderle predicted.

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?It certainly doesn’t hurt Apple that Google may be late, but the Google impact on Apple was probably going to lag behind the impact from other phone manufacturers that are already rolling out second- and third-generation phones,? he added.

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Android also has issues to face in the form of carriers hesitant to give up data service control. Sprint is said to be pushing for its own individually branded services for the platform instead of the Google-based services currently being created. The Journal report suggests the company may be looking at pulling out of the Android protocol altogether to develop its own alternative.

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?The operators might not want to let users utilise Google’s platform,? Tomi Rauste, president of Movial Creative Technologies said. ?They might want to have their own platforms – their own services distributed.?

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Companies like Movial – which recently released its own Linux-driven open source mobile platform – are hoping the hesitation can create an opening for them in the highly competitive market.

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“I think it might open up possibilities for the competition, other ways to do the same stuff that Android is seeking to do,” Rauste said. “It might open up new opportunities.”

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Still to be seen, though, is if the mobile market is open to the idea of open source – whether it’s from a tech giant like Google or a lower profile company like Movial. The demand, some speculate, could be there – and Google is certainly known for breaking down barriers and delivering.

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“The limitation the iPhone has is the limitation that Apple’s always had: There’s only one manufacturer and a limited setup of configurations,” Enderle said “The Google platform, like the Microsoft platform, can go multiple ways.”

Apple in Trojan Warning

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With the popularity of Apple?s Mac computers rising steadily, dangerous malware viruses and Trojans are now being targeted at the OS X operating system. The most recent indication of the growing problem came courtesy of a security advisory release by SecureMac, warning that multiple variants of a new Trojan horse is read to run wild all over OS X 10.4 and 10.5.

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SecureMac has noted that while the Trojan, which is based on AppleScript and currently called ?ASthtv05,? it is only being distributed by a hacker website at this point, discussions have been asking how it could spread more widely.

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Up till now, Mac has been pretty much safe from viruses, Trojans and security vulnerabilities that have often overrun Windows-based PCs. This new Trojan, however is giving some serious cause for concern.

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Nicholas Raba, president of SecureMac, said, “We classified this risk as critical. The reason is that it takes advantage of an exploit that was discovered for Apple’s operating system, the Apple Remote Desktop Agent, which allows the user to escalate privileges to root. This Trojan takes advantage of that, therefore it doesn’t need to enter any administrative user names or passwords – it bypasses all of that. Once it’s launched, it gains root privilege.?

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SecureMac gave a brief on what the Trojan does to an Apple system: ?The Trojan runs hidden on the system, and it allows a malicious user complete remote access to the system, can transmit system and user passwords, and can avoid detection by opening ports in the firewall and turning off system logging. Additionally, the AppleScript.THT Trojan can log keystrokes, take pictures with the built-in Apple iSight camera, take screenshots, and turn on file-sharing.?

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The 60 kilobyte ASthtv05 Trojan is distributed as either a compiled AppleScript or as an application bundle called ?AStht_v06?, which is 3.1 MB in size. The user must download and open the Trojan in order for their Mac to become infected. Once running, the Trojan moves itself into the /Library/Caches/ folder and adds itself to the System Login Items.

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Sound pretty worrying for Mac users.

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“As more users are switching over to the Mac environment, so are the researchers,” Raba said.

“As far a wake-up call, this definitely shows that people are out there researching it. There are 47 pages of discussion on this Trojan. The source code is available for it, so we know we are going to see variants of it – once you make the source code available, people come up with new ideas for it, and you’ll see an instant spread,” he added.

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SecureMac?s own product, MacScan 2.5, will detect and remove the Trojan, users will wonder if Apple can patch this problem.

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“The script itself uses an exploit in Apple’s operating system — I’m sure they will patch it in a timely manner,” Raba said, noting that the original post was made to Slashdot, which means that Apple didn’t get a vendor heads-up on the issue ahead of time. Some security researchers – as opposed to outright “hackers” – will either alert vendors of problems or attempt to sell the problem for profit.

Yahoo Launch two new Domains

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Yahoo has launched two new domain names, rocketmail.com and ymail.com as options for personalised e-mail addresses.

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With 266 million active e-mail accounts, Yahoo is the worlds largest e-mail service. The company is hoping the new domains will give users more selections for simple and more memorable addresses that may already be taken on the primary yahoo.com domain.

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The decision to add the new domains came about because Yahoo found that more and more users were complaining about not being able to get the address they wanted.

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John Kremer, Yahoo Mail?s vice-president, shed some light on the issue: “You add it all together and you’ve got a pretty remote chance of finding something you’re not going have to append a number onto. This addition of the two new domains will effectively triple the name space,” he said.

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After a few months analysing customer feedback, Yahoo decided to go with ymail.com ? the brand used for Yahoo Mail on mobile devices ? and rocketmail.com, a name that his historical significance to the company.

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“It’s kind of a hip and retro e-mail name for us here,” Kremer explained.

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Back in 1997 Rocketmail was a service owned by a company called ?411?. Yahoo acquired them when they launched. The domain has lain mostly dormant since that time with only a few users still holding an account.

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“We’ve owned these domains for quite some time. The majority [of our users] really wanted to use these two domains and already associated them in some way, shape or form with Yahoo,” Kremer noted.

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Although the expansion offers Yahoo?s users more options, critics are quick to claim it will shift focus from the Yahoo brand.

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“The people who offer free e-mail do so specifically for one reason: to garner brand awareness for their domain name,” Barb Rechterman, executive vice-president of GoDaddy, said. “Now Yahoo launches these two new ones and all its doing is diluting away from the Yahoo brand. I’m not quite sure what value that subsequently brings to Yahoo other than perhaps they get to say that they provide more e-mail addresses,” she said.

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The added domains will likely cause ea headache for Yahoo?s marketing department, now that they essentially have three brands to market.

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“There’s the question of what are you going to do with the ‘rocket’ brand — how are you going to make that sub-brand do anything particular for you that’s not going to be done as well or better by the master brand?” Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates, said. “You have to spend money turning it into something people care about. Since it doesn’t do anything distinctly different from Yahoo, why would you spend that money rather than doing something more with the master brand?” he asked.

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Yahoo executives are taking this in to account however and believe the added user benefit will, in the long run, pay off.

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“We love having people have Yahoo accounts and Yahoo names because that, in a way, advertises our service to everybody they communicate with,” Yahoo’s Kremer told said. “There was a hesitation to expand the namespace, [but] the level of customers complaining in our surveys got to a point where we said we need to make this happen.”

The House that Disney Built

HP and Microsoft formed a team to develop the high-tech home of the future. The two companies revealed their innoventions Dream Home at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, this week. The home uses some of the newest developments in communications technology and is now open for the public to tours.

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In true Disney style ? larger than life and all a bit magical – a fictional family guides you through the rooms of the house, and lets you see all the high tech gadgetry inside. Located in Disneyland?s Tomorrowland, everything in the house is just a little bit fantastical.

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This is no ordinary house. A touch screen lets the imaginary family change the home?s outer appearance instantly. Walking through the front door, the computer recognises and greets each and every member of the family including the dog. Using this recognition technology, the computer adapts the look and feel of the room according to the preferences of the person standing in it. Everything from digital pictures, the temperature and the music in the background changes to suit the individual person.

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“It’s a really cool space because it’s unlike other things I’ve seen,” Ray Aldrich, HP marketing and programs manager, told TechNewsWorld. “A lot of times … technology visions of the future are kind of roped off with a guy giving you the demo and that’s it. What’s nice here is you’ve got a way to explore the entire space [yourself],” he said.

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The fun doesn?t stop in the kitchen. A virtual bulletin board helps you with your list of chores, wireless connections let all the appliances talk to each other and eliminates the need for shopping lists by telling you what you have run out of. A virtual assistant named Lillian will even help you when your stuck for an idea at dinner time.

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“It’s a great example of the magic of Disney being applied to big technology companies like HP and Microsoft — taking a lot of our existing products and applying them in a special way in this environment,” Aldrich said.

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In the dining room, the touch screen technology lets family members interact with the table and view media content from their phones right on to the surface. The living room sports a home cinema, the boy?s bedroom has a peter pan theme, and ? something even my wife would kill for ? the girl?s bedroom has a magic mirror that lets you try out different outfits and hairstyles without lifting a finger.

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It might all sound like a fairy tale, but fear not ? this technology is either currently available or soon-to-be released.

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“We really believe in developing what we call the digital lifestyle,” Aldrich said “We’re excited to have Disney park guests come see this and explore this vision with us.”

Man Clears His Name From Child Pornography Allegations

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Months after an investigator with the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) was arrested for having child pornography images on his state issued lap-top, prosecutors dropped the charges when a defense-sponsored forensic investigation showed that his poorly configured laptop that had become riddled with malware was to blame.

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Michael Fiola?s troubles began when he was given a badly configured replacement laptop running Windows XP with SP2 in November 2006. He was fired from his job in early 2007 when his IT department found the illegal pornographic images on his hard drive. After he was charged in August of last year, Fiola lost his friends and family; his wife however stood by his side.

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Tami Loehrs, a forensic investigator hired by Fiola?s lawyers and president of Law2000, said that Microsoft?s Systems Management Server (SMS) software on the laptop was the first red flag that should have been noticed by DIA?s IT team.

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“When they gave him this laptop, it had belonged to another user, and they changed the user name for him,” Loehrs explained.

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“In the SMS software, they forgot to change the user name, so SMS was trying to connect to a user that no longer existed. So the day he walked out with the laptop, the SMS logs were red. If the IT department would have taken a single look at it, they would have seen that it was red and wasn’t connecting to the server. It was set up to do all of its security updates via the server, and none of that was happening because he was out in the field,” she added.

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Fiola used a Verizon wireless card that was constantly, connected wirelessly to the Internet, set up for him by DIA. With undermined security, the laptop was letting all sorts of malware and infections to continue operating – including some that could literally take over the computer’s behavior without the user knowing.

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“What I found is, he would log in to the state’s Web site, he’d be on for five or 10 minutes and during the exact same time that he’s filling out a form, an image shows up, out of nowhere. No typed [Uniform Resource Locator], no search, no Web site activity, just bam, a cached image shows up on his computer,” Loehrs said. The offending images were located in the laptop’s browser cache directory.

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“He’d have 40 Web sites hitting his computer in a minute — who’s the IT guy who looked at this and said, “Wow, this guy is pretty active on the Internet?’” Loehrs said. “It’s physically impossible!”

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Loehrs found a script file that was set to go out and run its own searches on foreign Web sites, she said. “And once you get into some of these foreign sites, you’ll get all kinds of stuff you don’t want to see.

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“Actually, the child pornography was just a very small portion of it. The majority was just bizarre porn. He was being hit with everything,” she added.

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It does raise pretty big concerns about government security. Why a state-run IT department has the neither the care nor inability to ensure their own equipment is secure ? what can he average home computer user do to protect themselves.

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“All of the technical people know you can get spammed with pornography; viruses can bring up stuff you don’t want. And while people want to think you can’t possibly be hacked, of course there are Trojans and ways for people to get into your computer,” Loehrs said.

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“Trojans are written by tech-savvy people. What’s the first thing they are going to do? They’re going to disable the protection,” she added, noting that Fiola’s Symantec-based logs were missing from the compromised laptop.

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“Clearly, something went in and whacked the virus protection. So, if you’re not a technically savvy person, how do you even know that it’s working? I don’t know – from what I’ve seen, how anyone can really protect themselves,” she noted.

Nvidia goes toe-to-toe with AMD

Yesterday two major providers released their latest Graphic Processing Unit?s (GPUs); Nvidia?s GeForce GTX 200 line and AMD?s FireStream 9250.

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The company claim that Nvidia?s 200 series offers PC gamers fifty percent better performance over Nvidia?s previous GeForce 8800 Ultra GPU and 9800 series GPU.

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The GPU features parallel and multi-threaded architecture, and is aimed primarily at the series enthusiast, according to Nvidia.

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Intended to boost performance for DirectX 10 games, the chips are the first to use Ageia?s PhysX technology. PhysX is a nifty bit of middleware which is designed to allow ?physical responses? during gaming, for example a car getting shot by a bullet would respond in the same way as the real world.

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The company is also about to unleash its GeForce PhysX technology very soon, according Jason Paul who is the senior product manager at Nvidia.

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“Within a couple weeks, we’ll be rolling out our GeForce PhysX driver, which is going to allow the GPU to basically do a PhysX simulation to bring a whole new class of gaming effects on to the processor,” he said

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Featuring twice as many transistors as the GeForce 9800 GPU line, the GTX 200 series uses the bulk of its 1.4 billion transistors to perform the necessary mathematical calculations for 3D rendering. The chip uses the 280 million transistors remaining to help boost the number of cores on each processor from 128 to 240 (on the GYX 280) and 192 (on the GTX 260).

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This extra power enables GeForce GTX 200 chips to not just enhance graphics and gameplay, but when combined with Nvidia?s Compute Unified Device Architecture (CUDA), allows developers to design high calculation computing applications that run using a GPU.

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“One of the things we’re doing beyond gaming is introducing a whole new set of non-graphic applications that are running on the GPU using the compute architecture inside the GTX 200, as well as our CUDA technology,” Paul explained.

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For example, Folding@Home is a distributed computation program created at Stanford University that gathers computing power from millions of consumer’s GPUs to perform complex calculations.

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Folding@Home and other similar applications run upwards of 140 times faster on the Nvidia processor than on traditional CPUs, Nvidia said.

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“This is due to the much more highly parallel and multi-threaded nature of the architecture and the raw floating point processing power available in the architecture,” Paul said.

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“The CPU is very good at doing serial instruction intensive operations. Graphics processors are very good at doing data-intensive, highly parallel operations. So, the key here is getting a good mix of graphics processor and CPU on your system to handle all of these applications that really have a combination of serial and parallel operations,” he added.

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The GeForce GTX 280 goes on sale June 26th with a price of US$649. The GTX 260, priced at $399, is already available.

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Let?s not forget about Nvidia?s rival AMD, and their FireStream 9250. This Processor is designed with a distinctly different architecture to Nvidia chips.

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AMD?s latest chip is a stream processor designed to boost critical algorithms in high-performance computing (HPC) as well as more mainstream applications.

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FireStream features include 1 GB of Graphics Double Date Rate 3 (GDDR3) memory and include a second-generation double-precision floating point hardware implementation that enables 200 gigafFLOPS, according to AMD.

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The compact size GPU is designed for small 1U servers, desktops, workstations and larger servers.

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The FireStream 9250 and its supporting SDK (software development kit) goes on sale in the third-quarter of 2008 with a price of $999.