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    Default Tech news

    USB 3.0, ExpressCard 2.0 Products Expected in 2010

    November 17, 2008

    Two popular PC I/O standards will see updated products in two years' time, standards bodies announced Monday.

    The USB Promoter Group announced that the final 1.0 version of the USB 3.0 standard had been approved and sent over to the USB Implementer's Forum, which oversees licensing and compatibility testing. USB 3.0 is a serial protocol, and its improvement also had a domino effect, allowing the PCMCIA to announce release 2.0 of the ExpressCard standard.

    First announced in 2007, the so-called "SuperSpeed" USB 3.0 standard boosts throughput by ten times, from 480 Mbits/s in the current USB 2.0 standard to 4.8 Gbits/s. USB 3.0 controllers are expected to appear in the second half of 2009, while the USB Promoter Group estimated that consumer products will show up in 2010 and include flash drives, external hard drives, and digital cameras, among others.

    Most notebooks, meanwhile, either include ExpressCard or PC Card slots -- the two standards have a market penetration rate of 95 percent, according to the PCMCIA.

    The ExpressCard 2.0 standard will build upon the updated PCI Express 2.0 standard as well as USB 3.0; the PCMCIA said that cards and peripherals could use either protocol, meaning that throughput will increase either by a factor of two (from the throughput of PCI Express 1.0) to a factor of ten (if USB 3.0 is considered).

    "ExpressCard technology is closely tied to the PCI Express and USB specifications, and the 2.0 release of our standard takes full advantage of recent advancements in both interface technologies," said Brad Saunders, chairman of the PCMCIA, in a statement. "Now that the new SuperSpeed USB specification is ready, PCMCIA can move forward to finalize the ExpressCard 2.0 release and make it available to members in early 2009. Consumers can expect to see new, innovative products that take advantage of the enhancements offered by the ExpressCard 2.0 Standard starting in 2010."

    ExpressCard products include wireless adapters, and external storage and graphics applications, among others.
    Last edited by islamirama; Feb-27-2010 at 10:41 AM. Reason: <o:p></o:p> issue

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    Buffalo Shipping External USB 3.0 Hard Drives This Month

    October 7, 2009

    The USB 3.0 race heated up Wednesday, as Buffalo made it known that its previously announced HD-HU3 range of hard drives will be the world's first SuperSpeed drives to make it to market when they ship in Japan later this month.

    Buffalo's new range of hard drives will initially be available in capacities ranging from 500GB through 1.5TB, with a larger 2TB model planned for later release.

    Unlike other USB 3.0 hard drives, such as those from Freecom and Active Media, Buffalo's HD-HU3 line will not only be the first to market, but the devices will also be actually usable out of the box. You won't be able to take advantage of the increased performance USB 3.0 devices will provide over USB 2.0 unless you have USB 3.0 ports on your PC, so until the new standard becomes more commonplace, manufacturers will have to provide a solution. Buffalo revealed that the new drives will come with a USB 3.0-friendly PCI Express controller.

    No word on when these new SuperSpeed drives will arrive stateside, but here's hoping it's soon.

    http://www.pcworld.com/article/173282/Buffalo_Shipping_External_USB_30_Hard_Drives_This_ Month.html?tk=rss_news

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    Google's Ultra-Fast Broadband: Questions and Answers

    JR Raphael, PC World - Feb 10, 2010

    I don't know if you've heard, but Google's adding some fiber into its diet. We're talking fiber-optics here -- the stuff of high-speed Internet glory.

    Google, you see, has just announced plans to build a series of uberfast broadband networks in cities across America. The Google broadband service would bring speeds up to a hundred times faster than what we currently use, the crew from Mountain View says, and it'd all be delivered directly to our homes.

    So what's the deal? Are the days of independent ISPs behind us? Is the Internet about to change forever? Is Google finally turning evil and taking over the world?

    Hey, these kinds of questions always come up when Google reveals big plans. But not to fear, my compadres -- we've got some answers. Eleven of 'em, in fact. Read on.

    1. What exactly will Google's broadband network do?
    Google's broadband network will bring a faster form of Internet access to a handful of U.S. communities. Right now, it's described as an experimental project, so it'll reach only a small number of places to start.

    2. How fast are we talking here?

    Google says its fiber network will offer speeds of 1 gigabit per second.

    3. What cities will get access to Google's fiber network?

    That's yet to be determined. At the moment, Google is calling upon communities to express interest in participating in the trial. That window will remain open until March 26; Google says it'll then go through the submissions, make some on-site visits, and ultimately announce the cities it's selected sometime later this year.

    4. How will Google decide which cities get the broadband access?

    By seeing who offers up the best bribes, of course -- isn't that how this stuff works?

    Ah, but I jest (let's hope so, anyway). Google says it'll look for areas in which its fiber networks could be installed quickly and efficiently. The company will also consider how much community support has been expressed, what kind of resources are available, how weather conditions might affect progress, and how local regulations might play into the plans.

    Either that, or it'll hold a trivia deathmatch to see which mayor can answer the most Google interview questions.

    5. Can I submit my city to be considered, even if I'm not involved in government?

    You'd better believe it, bucko. While Google is hoping to hear from city managers and elected officials, it's also encouraging statements of interest from individual residents and community-oriented groups -- in fact, those are the very statements that'll help determine the aforementioned measurements of community support. Should you be so inclined, you can go to the Google Fiber for Communities site to get involved.

    6. Will Google's broadband service be free?

    No free rides here. Google says its service will be provided at "a competitive price."

    7. Would I end up paying Google to get on-board, then?

    Probably not directly. Like with its Android mobile phone platform, Google plans to make the broadband network "open access," meaning numerous service providers will sign on to utilize and manage the systems. You'd be able to choose from any of those independent broadband providers.

    8. So how many people will actually get this thing?

    Too soon to say. Google estimates anywhere from 50,000 to 500,000 people being involved in its trial run.

    9. What does Google hope to accomplish here?

    Officially, Google says its goal is to "experiment with new ways to help make Internet access better and faster for everyone." The company envisions the development of new kinds of "bandwidth-intensive killer apps" and other Web-based innovations that wouldn't be possible with today's comparatively turtle-like speeds.

    10. Okay, but what's Google really after?

    It's hard to gauge what the company's true long-term ambitions might be. Aside from the whole "making the Internet better for everyone" idea, one could speculate any number of potential business benefits for the big G.

    Traditionally, Google has been pretty up-front about privacy matters and how it uses our information, so odds are, we'll gain a clearer picture of how data will and won't be used as the project comes closer to fruition.

    11. When will Google's fiber network actually go online?
    No target date has been shared just yet. Google has only vaguely stated that it hopes to have the network up and running "as soon as possible."

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    Google’s Microsoft moment?
    Dominic Rushe in New York, Thursday 23 June 2011
    Google to be formally investigated over potential abuse of web dominance US Federal Trade Commission antitrust inquiry will examine heart of Google's search-advertising

    < http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/jun/23/google-investigation-federal-trade-commission/print >

    In Antitrust Probe, Google's Critics Have it Wrong
    David Balto, 06.24.2011
    Antitrust attorney
    Much of what motivates supporters of an investigation of Google at the Federal Trade Commission is not a genuine desire to protect consumers, but a desire to protect competitors from Google's intense competitive nature.

    < http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-balto/post_2155_b_884283.html?view=print >

    The Internet as a Tool for Repression
    Mark Engler - April 26, 2011 1:00 pm
    We often hear about the revolutionary power of the Internet to take down authoritarian regimes. Less often do we consider how online technologies can provide dastardly means for repressive governments to locate, monitor, and persecute dissidents.


    Apple's Pre-Emptive Strike Against Free Speech
    by Tim Karr
    Published on Wednesday, June 22, 2011 by Save the Internet
    So you think you control your smartphone? Think again.
    Late last week reports uncovered a plan by Apple, manufacturer of the iPhone, to patent technology that can detect when people are using their phone cameras and shut them down.


    Apple may have tough road in Amazon lawsuit
    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Apple Inc may face hurdles in stopping online retailer Amazon.com Inc from using Apple's App Store name through a trademark lawsuit, a U.S. judge indicated at a hearing on Wednesday.
    Wed June 22, 2011

    <http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110622/...e_amazon/print >

    What goes on in the mind of internet obsessives?
    These days it's virtually possible to live entirely online if you want to. But the real world tends to intrude eventually, says Alexander Chancellor

    < http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/23/socialnetworking-gary-mckinnon/print >

    Internet domain addresses opened up to wave of new suffixes
    By Charles Arthur, technology editor, Monday 20 June 2011
    Internet naming board approves huge expansion of approved domain extensions with .hotel, .bank, or .sport auctions likely

    < http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/jun/20/internet-domain-wave-new-suffixes/print >

    Scams: Cyber fraudsters exploit economic downturn
    By Miles Brignall and Rebecca Smithers, Friday 24 June 2011
    24 Jun 2011: Fake online jobs, flats and festival tickets are on the increase as scammers target consumers' money-saving ethos

    < http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2011/jun/24/cyber-fraudsters-economic-downturn/print >

    Typing-powered laptops 'in three years'
    By Ian Douglas, 24 Jun 2011
    Australian researchers are claiming a breakthrough in technology that could extend battery life dramatically.

    < http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/8596137/Typing-powered-laptops-in-three-years.html >

    Copy/Paste: How to Add Images to Your Gmail Messages Quickly
    By Erica Ho on June 14, 2011

    < http://techland.time.com/2011/06/14/...etter-techland >

    Rhodri Marsden: Boring emails that are the stuff of life
    Monday, 13 June 2011
    Unsurprisingly, my own collection of 23,549 emails over the same period is equally dull

    < http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion...e-2296774.html >

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    Default Internet and You

    Average Net user now online 13 hours per week

    by Lance Whitney - December 23, 2009

    How much time do you spend online each week? If you're an average Net user, a new poll shows, it's around 13 hours--excluding e-mail.

    The Harris Interactive poll, released Wednesday, found that 80 percent of U.S. adults go online, whether at home, work, or elsewhere. Those who surf the Net spend an average of 13 hours per week online, but that figure varies widely. Twenty percent are online for two hours or less a week, while 14 percent are there for 24 hours or more.

    The average number of hours that people spend online each week has grown over the years, hovering at 7 hours from 1999 through 2002, 8 or 9 hours from 2003 through 2006, and 11 hours in 2007. The level hit its peak at 14 hours in October 2008--after the global recession had set in and just before the U.S. presidential election.

    The jump in time spent in cyberspace likely stems from a few factors, according to Harris. More people are comfortable using the Internet. More of them are shopping and watching TV online. In addition, the number of Web sites and online applications has increased. Harris adds that the recession may also play a role since surfing the Net at home is free (after paying monthly access fees), while going out means spending money.

    The age group that spent the most time online per week: 30- to 39-year-olds, at 18 hours.

    The total number of U.S. adults on the Internet is 184 million, around 80 percent of the total population, according to the poll. That figure is virtually the same as in 2008 but is a big jump from 1999, when it reached at 56 percent, and from 1995, when the figure was a mere 9 percent.

    The number of people who surf the Net at home rose to 76 percent this year, compared with 66 percent in 2005, 46 percent in 1999, and 16 percent in 1996. In 1995, that specific question wasn't even asked.

    The Harris poll queried 2,029 people in early July and mid-October.

    Here are the poll results:

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    Internet "addiction" may fuel teen aggression

    By Amy Norton - Feb 24, 2009

    NEW YORK - Teenagers who are preoccupied with their Internet time may be more prone to aggressive behavior, researchers reported Monday.

    In a study of more than 9,400 Taiwanese teenagers, the researchers found that those with signs of Internet "addiction" were more likely to say they had hit, shoved or threatened someone in the past year.

    The link remained when the investigators accounted for several other factors -- including the teenagers' scores on measures of self-esteem and depression, as well as their exposure to TV violence.

    The findings, published online by the Journal of Adolescent Health, do not however prove that Internet addiction breeds violent behavior in children.

    It is possible that violence-prone teenagers are more likely to obsessively use the Internet, explained lead researcher Dr. Chih-Hung Ko, of Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan.

    However, the findings add to evidence from other studies that media -- whether TV, movies or video games -- can influence children's behavior. The also suggest that parents should pay close attention to their teenagers' Internet use, and the potential effects on their real-life behavior, Ko told Reuters Health.

    According to Ko's team, some signs of Internet addiction include preoccupation with online activities; "withdrawal" symptoms, like moodiness and irritability, after a few Internet-free days; and skipping other activities to devote more time to online ones.

    In this study, teenagers who fit the addiction profile generally were more aggression-prone than their peers. But the type of Internet activity appeared to matter as well.

    Online chatting, gambling and gaming, and spending time in online forums or adult pornography sites were all linked to aggressive behavior. In contrast, teens who devoted their time to online research and studying were less likely than their peers to be violence-prone.

    According to Ko, certain online activities may encourage kids to "release their anger" or otherwise be aggressive in ways they normally would not in the real world. Whether this eventually pushes them to be more aggressive in real life is not yet clear, the researcher said.

    Ko recommended that parents talk to their children about their Internet use and their general attitudes toward violence.

    SOURCE: Journal of Adolescent Health, online February 23, 2009.

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    109-Terabit Broadband Test Breaks Records, Engages Geek Envy

    By Kevin Lee - May 2, 2011

    We’ve got a new 109 terabit-per-second broadband speed to aspire to--and secretly envy. The new record holder is the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology in Tokyo. This record-setting broadband speed was not produced through any regular old fiber-optic cable, though.

    A typical fiber-optic cable pulls off its faster data transfer speeds by separating one light to carry multiple snippets of data across the same cable that end up being received as one pulse. The Japanese institute simply added 7 more of these data-guiding cables, each carrying 15.6 terabits per second to bring a total of 109 terabits per second.

    This isn't the first time researchers have managed such ridiculously high data transfer rates. Just last month, researchers at the Optical Fiber Communications Conference in Los Angeles achieved a 101.7 terabit-per-second data transfer rate by splitting the fiber light into 370 separate lasers.

    Meanwhile, the rest of us are sad-faced and wondering what’s the point of clamoring over a measly 1Gbps fiber network.


    26Tbps Transmitted with a Single Laser, Could Supercharge Internet Backbone

    May 23, 2011

    Blasting away all previous records, a data rate of 26Tbps over a single optical fiber with just one laser has been achieved by researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany. At a rate of 26Tbps, 3.3 terabytes -- 3,328 gigabytes -- can be transferred in a single second. If you had a system capable of writing that much data to storage, the entire Library of Congress could be transferred in just 3 seconds.

    While transmission speeds of over 100Tbps have already been demonstrated by researchers in America and Japan, their approaches are simply infeasible. "[Their] problem was they didn't have just one laser, they had something like 500 lasers, which is an incredibly expensive thing. If you can imagine 500 lasers, they fill racks and consume tens of kilowatts of power," said Wolfgang Freude, co-inventor of the new single-laser technique. Instead of using "brute force" wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) or spatial division multiplexing (SDM), the German researchers successfully used orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) to encode 350 separate data streams into a single laser beam. While ISPs and internet backhaulers would never use a system that requires 500 lasers, a single-laser single-fiber system could be commercially viable, and possibly compatible with their current fiber networks.

    The 26Tbps-with-a-single-laser technique uses fast Fourier transforms (FFT) to de-multiplex the data using circuitry that can be shrunk onto a standard silicon die, which means commercial applications could be just around the corner. Couple this new technique with the fact that multi-core fiber cables are both tricky to manufacture and expensive, and you can begin to see why this is such an important invention. The researchers don't say whether existing fiber networks can support their OFDM transmission method -- but if they can, then the backbone of the internet might soon get a very big boost. We might even see the wide-scale return of unlimited traffic allowances on home connections.


    Laser puts record data rate through fibre

    By Jason Palmer - 22 May 2011

    Researchers have set a new record for the rate of data transfer using a single laser: 26 terabits per second.

    At those speeds, the contents of nearly 1,000 high-definition DVDs could be sent down an optical fibre in a second.

    The trick is to use what is known as a "fast Fourier transform" to unpick more than 300 separate colours of light in a laser beam, each encoded with its own string of information.

    The technique is described in the journal Nature Photonics.

    The push for higher data rates in light-based telecommunications technologies has seen a number of significant leaps in recent years.

    While the earliest optical fibre technologies encoded a string of data as "wiggles" within a single colour of light sent down a fibre, newer approaches have used a number of tricks to increase data rates.

    Among them is what is known as "orthogonal frequency division multiplexing", which uses a number of lasers to encode different strings of data on different colours of light, all sent through the fibre together.

    At the receiving end, another set of laser oscillators can be used to pick up these light signals, reversing the process.

    Check the pulse

    While the total data rate possible using such schemes is limited only by the number of lasers available, there are costs, says Wolfgang Freude, a co-author of the current paper from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany.

    "Already a 100 terabits per second experiment has been demonstrated," he told BBC News.

    "The problem was they didn't have just one laser, they had something like 370 lasers, which is an incredibly expensive thing. If you can imagine 370 lasers, they fill racks and consume several kilowatts of power."

    Professor Freude and his colleagues have instead worked out how to create comparable data rates using just one laser with exceedingly short pulses.

    Within these pulses are a number of discrete colours of light in what is known as a "frequency comb".

    When these pulses are sent into an optical fibre, the different colours can mix together and create 325 different colours in total, each of which can be encoded with its own data stream.

    Last year, Professor Freude and his collaborators first demonstrated how to use a smaller number of these colours to transmit over 10 terabits per second.

    At the receiving end, traditional methods to separate the different colours will not work. In the current experiment, the team sent their signals down 50km of optical fibre and then implemented what is known as an optical fast Fourier transform to unpick the data streams.

    Colours everywhere

    The Fourier transform is a well-known mathematical trick that can in essence extract the different colours from an input beam, based solely on the times that the different parts of the beam arrive, and at what intensity.

    The team does this optically - rather than mathematically, which at these data rates would be impossible - by splitting the incoming beam into different paths that arrive at different times.

    In this way, stringing together all the data in the different colours turns into the simpler problem of organising data that essentially arrive at different times.

    Professor Freude said that the current design outperforms earlier approaches simply by moving all the time delays further apart, and that it is a technology that could be integrated onto a silicon chip - making it a better candidate for scaling up to commercial use.

    He concedes that the idea is a complex one, but is convinced that it will come into its own as the demand for ever-higher data rates drives innovation.

    "Think of all the tremendous progress in silicon photonics," he said. "Nobody could have imagined 10 years ago that nowadays it would be so common to integrate relatively complicated optical circuits on to a silicon chip."

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    Dell Unveils OptiPlex XE For Retail, Healthcare

    The desktop fits into medical carts, video rental kiosks, and retail point-of-sale systems and can withstand high heat, dust, and 24-hour operation.

    By Antone Gonsalves - January 12, 2010

    Dell on Tuesday introduced the Optiplex XE desktop for retailers, the healthcare industry, and original equipment manufacturers.

    The system is designed to withstand high heat, dust, and 24-hour operation. The desktop fits easily into medical carts, video rental kiosks, retail point-of-sale systems, and other custom deployments, Dell said.

    The OptiPlex XE is built to operate in enclosed spaces and can withstand heat up to 131 degrees Fahrenheit with an optional ducting kit. Standard port covers offer basic dust protection, and an optional dust filter is available to help reduce downtime associated with dust removal.

    The OptiPlex XE supports Microsoft Windows 7, Vista, and XP, along with POSReady and Ubuntu Linux. The latter is available only in China.

    The system comes with a variety of peripheral connectors, including PS/2, Serial RS-232, VGA, and up to seven USBs. Powered USB and powered serial connectors are available as options.

    To reduce downtime, the desktop is available with built-in system monitoring capabilities. In addition, Broadcom's TruManage service is available through Dell for remote systems management.

    Security options include full disk encryption, chassis intrusion alerts, and RAID 1 support. The desktop's power supply is rated as 88% efficient and the system meets Energy Star 5.0 standards.

    Besides selling direct to customers, Dell offers the OptiPlex XE to original equipment manufacturers, which can choose to customize and resell the system under a different brand. The desktop has a 3.5-year lifecycle and prices start at $709.

    Dell in December upgraded the OptiPlex line with smaller systems for space-constrained organizations. One system, the OptiPlex 780, is 22% smaller than the smallest desktop in the previous generation. The 780 mini-desktop replaced the 760. Prices for the series start at $329.

    picture slideshow:

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    HP Blows Through Final TouchPad Stock On eBay

    HP sold the last of its TouchPad tablet stock through a firesale that nearly broke eBay. Was demand sparked by HP's open sourcing of webOS?

    December 12, 2011

    Only those with a hair-trigger finger were able to score HP's $99 and $149 TouchPad tablets, which went on sale at 7 p.m. (ET) Sunday evening on eBay. The cheaper 16-GB model (mostly refurbished units) was scooped up within minutes, and it didn't take the 32-GB model long to sell out, either. Together, the sale lasted all of 25 minutes, based on the start/end times for the auction.

    According to official numbers, there weren't that many TouchPads available to begin with. In fact, the total is rather pathetic. eBay shows that 2,316 of the $99 16-GB TouchPads and 5,534 of the $149 32-GB models were sold. That's a total of just 7,850 units. (You may remember that HP held a firesale for the TouchPad back in August. Demand for the TouchPad at $99 was so much that HP ordered another production run.)

    Buyers acted so feverishly Sunday that eBay's website ran very slow during the sale. PayPal crumbled under the strain, firing off error messages when it was unable to complete transactions.
    Who bought the discontinued tablet? Holiday gift shoppers likely made up some of those eager buyers. The $99 price point is certainly attractive to those who simply want a Web-surfing and email-browsing machine. (Given the limited supply of applications for webOS, TouchPad users won't be able to do much more than that.) It wouldn't be surprising, however, if developers, coders, and tinkerers made up a significant portion of those purchasing the TouchPad.

    On Friday, HP's CEO Meg Whitman announced that the company plans to release webOS--the platform on which the TouchPad is based--to the open source community. This means that HP is making the code available to anyone who wants it. While we can argue whether or not this is a different kind of death sentence or a reprieve from the executioner, the idea of having a cheap tablet and the code to write for it surely appeals to many.

    What makes the situation even more interesting is that Whitman indicated in several press interviews Friday that the company is open to making webOS-based tablets again, though probably not until 2013.
    When asked during an interview with The Verge if HP will use webOS in future hardware, Whitman responded. "The answer to that is yes but what I can't tell you is whether that will be in 2012 or not. But we will use webOS in new hardware, but it's just going to take us a little longer to reorganize the team in a quite different direction than we've been taking it in the past. In the near term what I would imagine--and this could change, in full disclosure--is I would think tablets, I do not believe we will be in the smartphone business again."

    That statement certainly provides some hope to the TouchPad fan, though it is still fairly open-ended. Whitman left nothing to interpretation as to the future of HP smartphones, however. There won't be any more.

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    50GB FREE Upgrade of Online Cloud Storage @ AT&T Locker

    Are there limits on the size and type of file I can store in my AT&T Locker?
    There are no current limits on the size or type of file you can store in AT&T Locker as long as you don’t exceed your total storage space

    Great for storing those large backup files or any other large files you would like to share with others. I wouldn’t store confidential personal documents or pictures as nothing is safe online, especially from 3rd parties.



    • Sign up at the link above (You only need email, username and password)
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    • Click "Upgrade Plan"
    • Select the 50GB offer and confirm

    Now you have 50GB FREE storage from a reputable company.

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    Sponsored Giveaway: Free Copies of WinX DVD Copy Pro

    Have you ever wanted to backup a DVD movie so you’ll still have a copy once it gets scratched up? Or maybe your disk is already scratched and you want to make a new one. We’re giving away DVD Copy Pro, which can do those things for you.
    Note: this is a sponsored giveaway, which basically means that the company that made the software has paid us to give away free copies to you, the reader. We won’t pretend to understand their business plan, but we’re happy to be able to give away free stuff and pay our bills at the same time. (We will always disclose sponsorships).
    Giveaway Page

    You can click on the following URL to get your copy. This is an unlimited giveaway, and the license code is in the zip file download. Note that it’s only for PC users.

    PC Users: Download WinX DVD Copy Pro for PC

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    Mozilla Aims to Speed Up Slow Firefox Add-Ons

    By Jeff Bertolucci - Apr 3, 2011

    Firefox add-ons are a great way to add features and improve security in Mozilla's browser, but they can seriously slow performance too. Now Mozilla is taking action against those speed-killing extensions.

    In an April 1st blog post, Mozilla product manager Justin Scott outlines a series of initiatives designed to minimize delays caused by add-ons.

    "Firefox performance is extremely important to our users, especially how quickly it starts up and loads websites. Customization is also extremely important, and while most add-ons cause only a tiny performance impact, others can significantly slow down Firefox," Scott writes.

    Sluggish Surfing

    The slowdown can be significant, particularly if you're running several add-ons at a time. According to Mozilla, each add-on adds about 10 percent to Firefox's startup time. The company's performance data shows that installing 10 add-ons will double the amount of time it takes the browser to launch.

    In an era where speed is king--performance is the most appealing attribute of the latest versions of Google Chrome and Microsoft Internet Explorer--the move to address speed-killing add-ons is critical. Mozilla's new Firefox 4 browser promises faster graphics rendering, page loads, and startup times. Faster add-ons will help the new version succeed, too.

    So what's Mozilla doing about slow extensions? First, it's running automated performance tests on the top 100 add-ons and posting the results. The worst offenders, which currently include the FoxLingo Translator/Dictionary and Firebug, a developer's tool, will be publicly shamed. Users will know which add-ons to avoid.

    Mozilla is asking developers of slow add-ons to improve the speed of their software. In addition, its add-on gallery will show warnings of programs that slow Firefox's startup time by 25 percent or more. A future version of Firefox will display these warnings in the browser's Add-Ons Manager too.

    Third-party software is notorious for installing performance-killing browser toolbars and other add-ons without your permission. To prevent that, an upcoming version of Firefox will not allow the installation of third-party add-ons in the browser without your consent.

    "We expect this to have a huge impact on Firefox performance, as well as giving users back the control they should have over their add-ons," Scott writes.

    What Firefox Users Can Do

    If your version of Firefox is running slowly, the best way to speed it up is to disable add-ons you aren't using. These instructions from Mozilla tell you how to disable or uninstall add-ons. By turning off an add-on, you're preventing it from loading (and slowing) the browser. Since you haven't uninstalled it, however, you can always reactivate the add-on later, if you need it.

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    Google's G-Drive: Super Cheap Hard Drive in the Sky

    Google's cloud-based storage will hold up to 1 GB of any type of file for free. After that it will cost you 25¢ per GB per year.

    Seth H. Weintraub - Jan 13, 2010

    Google today announced the meat of its mythical G-drive, the Cloud hard drive in the sky for both regular Gmail users and corporate Apps users. While Google wasn't as ceremonious as my title, they've laid out what will eventually be their Google hard drive or G-drive.

    "Now accessing your work files doesn't require a connection to your internal office network. Nor do you need to email files to yourself, carry around a thumbdrive, or use a company network drive – you can access your files using Google Docs from any web-enabled computer.

    "Combined with shared folders in Google Docs, the upload feature is a great way to collaborate on files with coworkers and external parties. Instead of using cumbersome email attachments, you can upload files to a folder and share it with coworkers, who can then access and edit the files from a single place. You can even have your sales team securely share contracts with external clients for review."

    The update is rolling out over the next few weeks and will allow you to store 1 GB of any type of file on your 'G-drive' for free. After that it will cost you $.25/per GB/year/

    The single file size limit is a pretty impressive 250MB or one quarter the size of the free storage

    "This is a natural extension and progression of what we've been doing with Google Docs," said Vijay Bangaru, Google Docs product manager.

    So this isn't going to be a good place to put that 100GB music collection of yours. And it isn't going to be a good place to back up your computer to the cloud like Amazon's S3 or various cloud backup solutions. Google doesn't want to be your backup, it wants to be your whole file system.

    As with all things Google, there will be an expectation of expanding storage. This feature will also likely tie in with Google's ChromeOS which will be Cloud based.

    While there is still no official desktop client or virtual drive component - that would allow you to map your hard drive to the Google shares, there are various utilities put out by third party companies to help you upload and access your data directly from the computer.

    Memeo Connect for Google Apps is a new desktop application that offers an easy way to access, migrate, and synchronize files to Google Docs across multiple computers. (PC and Mac)

    Syncplicity offers businesses automated back-up and file management with Google Docs. (PC)

    Manymoon is an online project management platform that makes it simple to organize and share tasks and documents with coworkers and partners, including uploading files to Google Docs.

    This feature will go up against Apple's $99/year MobileMe platform and Microsoft's Office Live services which offer online Cloud storage as well.


    This doesn't mean, you upload your personal private files....if you want to protect your privacy

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    Most Popular PC World Stories of 2009

    Sarah Jacobsson, PC World Sarah Jacobsson, Pc World – Thu Dec 24, 9:00 pm ET

    new operating systems, a bunch of would-be iPhone killers, and Blu-ray disc players for less than $100. These news items struck us as fairly significant announcements, but how popular were they with our readers? We spent some time identifying and analyzing the ten most widely read PCWorld.com articles published in 2009--and found that readership was higher for pieces on violent video games and strange Google Street Views than on Google's new OS. Without further ado, here's the list (counting down from number 10):

    10. Snow Leopard Versus Windows 7

    Any article that compares an Apple product to a Microsoft product is sure to yield tons of hits, "hates," and controversy in the comments section (often degenerating into a Mac-fanboy/Windows-fanboy/Linux-fanboy flame war), so it's hardly surprising that the tenth-most-popular story of 2009 was about those two companies' new operating systems. "Snow Leopard Versus Windows 7," which received half-a-million page views, compares the two OSs side-by-side, highlighting their new features (such as "ridiculously big icons," which appears in both; the "Windows 7 preview pane"; and Apple's "improved window management"). A quick look through the slideshow reveals what we already sort of knew--Apple and Microsoft have been "borrowing ideas" from each other for years, and their newest operating systems uphold that tradition.

    9. The Ten Greatest PC Games Ever

    Tech nostalgia conquers us all--"I remember when my cell phone used to be bigger than my real phone." "Mom, what's a real phone?"--and at PCWorld we offer as exhibit A, "The Ten Greatest PC Games Ever," which drew more than 500,000 hits. This nostalgic slideshow lists the ten best games that owe most of their prominence to a PC platform (which is why Tetris didn't make the cut). The list of immortals begins with text-based Trade Wars 2002, and continues through the confusing-yet-serene world of Myst, the real-time strategy of StarCraft, the empire-building mindset of SimCity...all the way to the time-sucking, life-encapsulating MMORPG that is World of Warcraft.

    8. 40 Fantastic Time-Wasting Web Sites

    PCWorld readers are known for their diligence, hard work, and endless hours spent surfing the Net--and our eighth-most-popular story of 2009 was a list of the best Websites to waste time on. "40 Fantastic Time-Wasting Web Sites," which got over 600,000 page views, is a fantastic list for those in need of, erm, motivation to not work. It includes click-through venues like FailBlog, Texts From Last Night, and There I Fixed It; game and video sites, such as Homestar Runner and Virtual NES; and even some useful sites, such as Lifehacker (be more efficient!), Slashdot (news for nerds!), and FreeRice (improve your vocabulary and give to charity!). These and 32 other digital time sinks await your perusal, so get clickin'!

    20 Games That Changed Gaming Forever

    If you thought World of Warcraft was a life-changing experience, you're not alone. "20 Games That Changed Gaming Forever," a syndicated slideshow from our sibling publisher GamePro, was our seventh-most-popular article of 2009, with more than 650,000 views. The slideshow details 20 of the most innovative games across all platforms. Dance Dance Revolution, Bioshock, Final Fantasy VII, Call of Duty 4, and Super Mario 64 all make the cut, as does World of Warcraft (of course). And the number-one most innovative game--the greatest of the greatest--according to GamePro? Doom!

    6. World's Most Outrageous PC Cases

    Since the creation of the first PC tower, people have been modifying ("modding") their computer cases to suit their aesthetic tastes. They are, in all likelihood, the same people who install neon lights under their cars and slap stickers all over their laptops--the same people who asked themselves, "Why should I settle for a boring black tower when I can have an adorable Wall-E sitting on my desk?" "World's Most Outrageous PC Cases," which received more than 700,000 hits, presents some impressive examples of beyond-the-pale case mods--in particular, the steampunked Mac Mini and the R2-D2. Still, the most vivid impression that these monuments to obsessive behavior may convey is of how much downtime their creators seem to have.

    5. The 10 Dumbest Tech Products So Far

    Have you ever taken a look at some wild gadget and wondered who, exactly, paid someone to make this crackpot invention into a reality? We most certainly have, as "The 10 Dumbest Tech Products So Far" attests. This slideshow, which drew almost 750,000 disbelieving views, presents a collection of tech products that will leave you wondering "What were they thinking?" An animated, singing trophy deer head; a USB finger dance mat capitalizing on the Dance Dance Revolution craze; a wacky keyboard with shortcuts for phrases like "BRB" and "CYA"?! Say hello to some of the craziest products ever to hit the market.

    4. Best Products of CES 2009: Let Us Introduce You

    The International Consumer Electronics Show, held annually in early January in Las Vegas, is where much of the year's hottest new technology--everything from products to rumors--is unveiled. So, it's no wonder that our readers gravitated toward "Best Products of CES 2009: Let Us Introduce You" (with over 750,000 views). Among the hot items announced were the Palm Pre, Boxee (an open-source program designed to stream Internet content to your television), and the Kodak Zx1, as well as a slew of other pocket HD camcorders to rival the Flip Mino HD.

    Facebook Pages We'd Like to See

    Every now and then, PCWorld dispenses with the straight-arrow product assessments and how-to articles for which we're famous and indulges in a just-for-fun story. One such departure was "Facebook Pages We'd Like to See," which collected almost 800,000 page views; it displays fictionalized Facebook pages of an array of famous characters--from Steve Jobs and Bill Gates to Hillary Clinton to Satan to Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen. Though all of these pages are fictional, a few of the figures (not Satan) do have their own real Facebook pages.

    2. Strangest Sights in Google Street Views

    Since Google introduced its maps with "Street Views," people all over the world have been spotting strange and interesting sights (and demonstrating once again how much free time they do have). Of course, some people (829,891, to be exact) couldn't afford to spend hours scouring the virtual streets of Fuchu City, Japan, for unusual snapshots. So they read "Strangest Sights in Google Street Views," our second-most-popular article of 2009. In this article, you can see all sorts of crazy things, from a car covered in post-it notes to dinosaurs breaking out of a museum.

    1. The Most Violent Video Games Ever Made

    Well, it looks like video games are a hot topic among our readers--and what could make a hot topic even hotter? Gratuitous violence, of course! Our most popular 2009 article, with over 1 million hits, was "The Most Violent Video Games Ever Made." This gorefest samples 15 of the most violent video games ever to hit the shelves--"M for mature" ratings, bloody spatters, and creepy zombies abound. The list, assembled by PCWorld with help from the GamePro crew, includes Doom (again!), the ever-popular Grand Theft Auto franchise, and the unbelievably creepy, monster-ridden Silent Hill.

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    Four Intriguing New Smart Phones

    By ConsumerReports.org

    At Consumer Reports, we're continually testing the latest smart-phone offerings. And recently, several of the most promising and even ground-breaking cell phones we've seen in a while have come into our labs for testing: The Samsung Infuse 4G, T-Mobile G2x, Sony Xperia Play, and Nexus S 4G. Here's a rundown on each phone and why Senior Editor Mike Gikas thinks it stands out from the crowd.

    Samsung Infuse 4G
    This AT&T phone features a big, brilliant display at 4.5-inches. And in our tests of the Infuse 4G, colors popped, and videos were smooth and sharp. The phone also features an 8-megapixel camera with 720p video recording and HDMI playback, so you can view videos on your TV. The Samsung Infuse has accomplished an impossible task: Squeezing one of the largest and perhaps best displays in telecom land into an incredibly slim, pocket-friendly package—seemingly without making any compromises regarding performance. $200 after rebates with a two-year contract.

    T-Mobile G2x
    This sharp-looking device is one of the first smart phones with the ability to record video at 1080p. And it has one of the best HD video recorders we’ve ever seen on a phone--on a par even with some standalone camcorders The camera, which includes a flash, has more than the usual amount of manual controls, including ISO adjustments and other image settings. And the G2x has an HDMI connector—so you can hook it up to your TV and view your photos and video. $200 after rebates with a two-year contract.

    Sony Xperia Play
    This hybrid gadget combines a portable gaming console with a smart phone, and does an admirable job of balancing those disparate demands. Gaming on the Play is very much like using one of the non-phone Sony portables: Its controls will be instantly familiar to PlayStation veterans. It also offers built-in Wi-Fi, so you can engage other gamers via the Web. Over 50 games were available at launch, and more are on the way. And it’s a top-notch Android phone, as well. $200 after rebates with a two-year contract.

    Samsung Nexus S 4G
    The Nexus S 4G give Sprint customers a leg up for key Google services. Significantly, it’s the only device that will work with Google Wallet—the company’s upcoming pay-by-phone system—at launch. Another is Google Voice, which lets you manage up to six different phones through one number with intelligent call routing. The phone also features a 4-inch touchscreen and a 1-GHz Samsung processor with a dedicated graphics processor, which can enhance performance for mobile games, Web browsing, and videos. And finally, the Nexus S 4G can serve as a 3G/4G mobile hotspot for up to six Wi-Fi enabled devices simultaneously. $200 after rebates with a two-year contract.

    Attached Files

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    Samsung Solar Netbook Great Where Power Is Scarce

    By Michael Kwan - May 11, 2011

    While we focus on innovations like Super AMOLED touchscreens and high-resolution cameras, there’s another concern for developing countries: having the power to juice up these gadgets. Samsung is apparently working on a solution to that and it’s going to be a solar-powered netbook.

    I’m not entirely sure that some small solar panels are going to be able to absorb enough power to run a netbook for a substantial amount of time, but I’ll be more than happy if Samsung proves me wrong. We’ve seen solar panels as supplemental power on concept devices before, but if they can step it up even further, it’d be fantastic for places like Kenya where wall plugs aren’t exactly as accessible as you might think.

    And that’s precisely where Samsung is holding a forum this week. They’re in Kenya showing off their usual array of notebooks, tablets, and other electronics for Africa, but the solar netbook is really going to be the media darling if it holds up. That sure beats the hand crank we once saw the OLPC.


    Typing-powered laptops 'in three years'

    Australian researchers are claiming a breakthrough in technology that could extend battery life dramatically.

    By Ian Douglas - 24 Jun 2011

    Piezoelectric materials - substances that generate electricity when subjected to pressure or concussion - have been known since the 1880s when they were discovered by Pierre Curie, husband of Marie. The researchers from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology have become the first to be able to accurately measure the energy generated by thin pizoelectric films, which they hope will be easier to incorporate into electronic devices such as laptops, mobile phone chargers and pacemakers.

    The research, published in the journal Advanced Funtional Materials, does not go so far as to say that the films will be able to power the devices entirely, but does hope for the development of what it calls ‘integrated microscale energy scavenging systems,’ which would improve efficiency and extend battery life without having to wait for improvement in the batteries themselves.

    Dr Madhu Bhaskaran led the research. She told ABC News in Australia: ‘Currently the energy levels we’re able to generate is around ten times less than what’s required, so that’s the next step, to amplify it by ten times, so we can produce an everlasting battery or replace exisiting batteries. If we can amplify the power, which we think will take three years, it should be fairly quick to commercialise it.’


    Samsung Transparent 46-inch LCD Powered by Solar Energy

    by Mihai Sandru - March 6, 2011

    Samsung has recently revealed a transparent 46-inch LCD screen powered by solar energy. It is an upgraded model of a see-through LCD panel showed at the SID 2010 in Seattle, in May last year.

    You don’t need to put the screen outside to have it powered up. It is able to get the energy just from “ambient lighting”, being also energy efficient.

    Demoed at CeBIT 2011, the prototype supports full HD resolution (1920×1080 pixels) as well as providing a full ten finger touchscreen surface and a viewable size of 46 inches.

    According to company officials, commercial models based on the technology will soon hit the market. Samsung has not yet revealed any details regarding the position of the backlight unit as well as the power consumption.

    It will be interesting to find out how the panel could be compared to existing traditional models in terms of price, color reproduction and refresh rates. The company also has great plans for the future, by planning to expand such green power technologies to other gadgets, as well.

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    Firefox 9 released, JavaScript performance improved by 20-30%

    By Sebastian Anthony on December 19, 2011

    Ahead of an official release tomorrow, Firefox 9 has winged its way to various mirrors across the web and is now available to download from the official Firefox website — no messing around with a hammered Nightly FTP server this time, oh no!

    The most significant change over Firefox 8 is the addition of type inference to the JavaScript engine, which singlehandedly improves JS execution speed by 20 to 30%. Without getting into the complexities of this change, type inference basically brings JavaScript one step closer to compiled languages (like C or C++) in terms of speed and optimization. For more information, see our type inference explainer. As far as we’re aware, Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Safari all lack this rather juicy feature. It’s a bit too early to say that Firefox now has the fastest JavaScript performance of the Big Four, but it’s definitely very close.

    If you’ve been using either IE or Chrome because of their superior JavaScript performance, now would be the time to give Firefox another spin; you’ll be surprised at how well it deals with JavaScript-heavy sites, like Gmail, Facebook, and Google+.

    Along with a bunch of bug and stability fixes, and overall speed increases, the Mac OS X version of Firefox 9 now allows for “two finger swipe navigation,” (after playing with Firefox 9 on Mac for half an hour, we’re not sure what this entails — leave a comment if you find out) and deeper theme integration (presumably some themes couldn’t skin some parts of the Mac UI, but they can now). Finally, there’s some additional HTML5 and CSS support, and new hooks that allow developers to query your Do Not Track status via JavaScript.
    Download Firefox 9 now (Windows / Mac / Linux) or see the full release notes

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    Lenovo Could Unset iMac as Top All-in-one PC

    By Ben Camm-Jones - Dec 10, 2011

    Apple is currently the world's number one vendor of all-in-one PCs but is likely to lose that crown next year to Lenovo, according to research.

    Digitimes' figures give Apple's iMac a leading share of the all-in-one PC market for 2011, with 3.7 million units sold, ahead of Lenovo's 2.9 million and HP's 2.4 million.

    Next year, though, Apple is likely to sell 3.8 million iMacs while Lenovo could shift four million all-in-one PCs, Digitimes reckons.

    "Although Apple's iMac series has advantages in industrial design, the product series has shown only limited room for change in specifications. However, HP and Lenovo have delivered above-the-standard industrial design in their products, while offering better hardware specifications, price and a variety of choices. Therefore, Apple's leading position in the AIO PC market will be taken by Lenovo in 2012," Digitimes says in its report.

    Overall, 13.5 million all-in-one PCs will be sold in 2011, which will rise to 15.8 million in 2012, Digitimes reckons. In 2011, all-in-one sales will account for 9.3 percent of the desktop market, whereas they will account for 10.5 percent of the overall desktop market in 2012, according to Digitimes' projections.

    China is seen to be one of the key markets for all-in-one PCs and Lenovo's foothold in this market, combined with lower prices than Apple's, will be key to its growth in 2012.

    "AIO PC models that feature a Wintel structure and have a lower price than iMac will continue to penetrate into advanced countries due to many brand vendors entering into the AIO PC market in 2011. Meanwhile, Lenovo's aggressive planning for AIO PC market in China will become another key driver that helps drive market growth."

    HP, however, "has been affected by a lack of stability in its PC department, which may mean it will have difficulty expanding its share of the AIO PC market."

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    Despite US opposition, UN approves rights to privacy in the digital age

    November 27, 2013

    Summary: Despite last week's US-led opposition to the United Nations' "Rights To Privacy In The Digital Age," the resolution put forward as a reaction to US surveillance activities was passed.

    The United Nations on Wednesday approved 18 draft resolutions, notably "The right to privacy in the digital age," despite opposition from the U.S. government.

    It is the first such document to establish privacy rights and human rights in the digital sphere.

    Sponsored by Germany and Brazil, it is specifically concerned with the negative impact of surveillance, "in particular when carried out on a mass scale, may have on the exercise and enjoyment of human rights."

    Brazil's representative said: "Through this resolution, the General Assembly establishes, for the first time, that human rights should prevail irrespective of the medium and therefore need to be protected both offline and online."

    The draft was approved without a vote.

    According to The Guardian, the major concession made to the US, UK, and Australia was to include a reference linking "human rights violations" to extraterritorial snooping.

    No countries moved against the measure, though last week the United States lobbied its fellow so-called "Five Eyes" nations of the UK, Australia and New Zealand to weaken the language of the resolution.

    A leaked copy of the US negotiating position prior to today's announcement revealed that the US does not feel that its surveillance activities and practices are illegal.

    According to the AFP news agency, as a result of the US-led efforts, language stating that foreign spying would be a rights violation was weakened.

    "The right to privacy in the digital age" will have the UN General Assembly "call upon Member States to review their procedures, practices and legislation on the surveillance of communications, their interception and collection of personal data, including mass surveillance, with a view to upholding the right to privacy by ensuring the full and effective implementation of all relevant obligations under international human rights law."

    According to the UN's General Assembly press release today: "Following the approval, some delegates stressed the need for agreed international human rights mechanisms in relation to ensuring privacy and freedom of expression.

    The statement added: "Some expressed regret over the lack of a specific reference to such mechanisms in the draft, while others applauded the consensus as a clear international reaction to the national and extraterritorial electronic surveillance activities conducted by the United States."

    Sweden expressed disappointment regarding the outcome of the resolution's language regarding human rights.

    The representative of Sweden said he "would have preferred a reference" to the enjoyment of all human rights — online and offline — including the freedom of expression and the right to privacy.

    The representative of the US suggested that information collection was linked to privacy saying, "seeking, receiving and imparting information were linked to the right to privacy."

    According to the UN, "The representative of the United States said her country had long championed the right to privacy and to freedom of expression as pillars of democracy and reaffirmed the relevant human rights instruments, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."

    It added: "Privacy and freedom of expression should be promoted online and offline, she said, adding that seeking, receiving and imparting information were linked to the right to privacy."
    Korea: US talk of democracy "hypocritical"

    The representative of North Korea (DPRK) said the draft was timely and had been tabled in the appropriate forum.
    The reclusive country's representative told the Committee that it was a reaction to "the massive electronic surveillance activities conducted by one country that had shocked public opinion."

    He stressed that, "infringements of State sovereignty should no longer be tolerated," and, "massive espionage activities were targeting Heads of State, who were symbols of State sovereignty, resulting in rampant violations and interference in internal affairs."
    Talk of democracy by the U.S. was "hypocritical," he said, saying that it should therefore abstain from talking about human rights violations in other countries, especially in light of its use of drones against civilians.
    Resolution to strengthen human rights against drone use

    The Committee next went onto vote and approve a resolution specifically aimed at the use of drones and human rights violations, with an urgent stress on the legalities of drone use.

    Pakistan's representative told the Committee the use of drones against innocent civilians is a clear violation of international law, stressing that drone strikes were counterproductive in the fight against terrorism.

    He called for an end to illegal drone strikes against his country’s territories, emphasizing that the use of armed drones against innocent civilians was a clear violation of international law.

    The resolution regarding drones titled, "Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism," was also passed without a vote.

    The international bloc of nations said in a statement: "By that text, the General Assembly would take note of the report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, which referred to the use of remotely piloted aircraft."

    "The Assembly would also note the urgent and imperative need to seek agreement among Member States on legal questions pertaining to the use of remotely piloted aircraft," it added.
    Passed: Resolution to protect journalists against intimidation and arbitrary detention

    Next, the Committee passed a resolution to protect journalists worldwide, specifying that the arbitrary detention, harassment and intimidation of journalists would now be universally condemned — bringing to mind the UK's recent detention of David Miranda, partner to journalist Glenn Greenwald.

    The Committee approved "Safety of journalists and the issue of impunity" without a vote.

    The UN said: "By its terms, the General Assembly would condemn unequivocally all attacks and violence against journalists and media workers, such as torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention, as well as intimidation and harassment in both conflict and non-conflict situations."

    "It would also decide to proclaim 2 November as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists," it added.
    The UN's document noted, "the representative of Qatar, noting that her delegation had co-sponsored the draft, stressed the critically important role of journalists and the need to safeguard their work."

    By far, the most impressive piece of today's announcement is the passing of the UN's "Rights to privacy in the digital age."

    It was created in a committee comprised of 193 member states and is the biggest demonstration against mass digital surveillance by the United States as revealed by former government contractor Edward Snowden.


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    Data Mining: How Companies Now Know Everything About You

    Three hours after I gave my name and e-mail address to Michael Fertik, the CEO of Reputation.com, he called me back and read my Social Security number to me. "We had it a couple of hours ago," he said. "I was just too busy to call."

    In the past few months, I have been told many more-interesting facts about myself than my Social Security number. I've gathered a bit of the vast amount of data that's being collected both online and off by companies in stealth — taken from the websites I look at, the stuff I buy, my Facebook photos, my warranty cards, my customer-reward cards, the songs I listen to online, surveys I was guilted into filling out and magazines I subscribe to. (See pictures of a Facebook server farm.)

    Google's Ads Preferences believes I'm a guy interested in politics, Asian food, perfume, celebrity gossip, animated movies and crime but who doesn't care about "books & literature" or "people & society." (So not true.) Yahoo! has me down as a 36-to-45-year-old male who uses a Mac computer and likes hockey, rap, rock, parenting, recipes, clothes and beauty products; it also thinks I live in New York, even though I moved to Los Angeles more than six years ago. Alliance Data, an enormous data-marketing firm in Texas, knows that I'm a 39-year-old college-educated Jewish male who takes in at least $125,000 a year, makes most of his purchases online and spends an average of only $25 per item. Specifically, it knows that on Jan. 24, 2004, I spent $46 on "low-ticket gifts and merchandise" and that on Oct. 10, 2010, I spent $180 on intimate apparel. It knows about more than 100 purchases in between. Alliance also knows I owe $854,000 on a house built in 1939 that — get this — it thinks has stucco walls. They're mostly wood siding with a little stucco on the bottom! Idiots.

    EXelate, a Manhattan company that acts as an exchange for the buying and selling of people's data, thinks I have a high net worth and dig green living and travel within the U.S. BlueKai, one of eXelate's competitors in Bellevue, Wash., believes I'm a "collegiate-minded" senior executive with a high net worth who rents sports cars (note to Time Inc. accounting: it's wrong unless the Toyota Yaris is a sports car). At one point BlueKai also believed, probably based on my $180 splurge for my wife Cassandra on HerRoom.com, that I was an 18-to-19-year-old woman.

    RapLeaf, a data-mining company that was recently banned by Facebook because it mined people's user IDs, has me down as a 35-to-44-year-old married male with a graduate degree living in L.A. But RapLeaf thinks I have no kids, work as a medical professional and drive a truck. RapLeaf clearly does not read my column in TIME.

    Intellidyn, a company that buys and sells data, searched its file on me, which says I'm a writer at Time Inc. and a "highly assimilated" Jew. It knows that Cassandra and I like gardening, fashion, home decorating and exercise, though in my case the word like means "am forced to be involved in." We are pretty unlikely to buy car insurance by mail but extremely likely to go on a European river cruise, despite the fact that we are totally not going to go on a European river cruise. There are tons of other companies I could have called to learn more about myself, but in a result no one could have predicted, I got bored.

    Each of these pieces of information (and misinformation) about me is sold for about two-fifths of a cent to advertisers, which then deliver me an Internet ad, send me a catalog or mail me a credit-card offer. This data is collected in lots of ways, such as tracking devices (like cookies) on websites that allow a company to identify you as you travel around the Web and apps you download on your cell that look at your contact list and location. You know how everything has seemed free for the past few years? It wasn't. It's just that no one told you that instead of using money, you were paying with your personal information.

    The Creep Factor

    There is now an enormous multibillion-dollar industry based on the collection and sale of this personal and behavioral data, an industry that Senator John Kerry, chair of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, is hoping to rein in. Kerry is about to introduce a bill that would require companies to make sure all the stuff they know about you is secured from hackers and to let you inspect everything they have on you, correct any mistakes and opt out of being tracked. He is doing this because, he argues, "There's no code of conduct. There's no standard. There's nothing that safeguards privacy and establishes rules of the road."

    At Senate hearings on privacy beginning March 16, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will be weighing in on how to protect consumers. It has already issued a report that calls upon the major browsers to come up with a do-not-track mechanism that allows people to choose not to have their information collected by companies they aren't directly doing business with. Under any such plan, it would likely still be O.K. for Amazon to remember your past orders and make purchase suggestions or for American Express to figure your card was stolen because a recent purchase doesn't fit your precise buying patterns. But it wouldn't be cool if they gave another company that information without your permission

    Taking your information without asking and then profiting from it isn't new: it's the idea behind the phone book, junk mail and telemarketing. Worrying about it is just as old: in 1890, Louis Brandeis argued that printing a photograph without the subject's permission inflicts "mental pain and distress, far greater than could be inflicted by mere bodily harm." Once again, new technology is making us weigh what we're sacrificing in privacy against what we're gaining in instant access to information. Some facts about you were always public — the price of your home, some divorce papers, your criminal records, your political donations — but they were held in different buildings, accessible only by those who filled out annoying forms; now they can be clicked on. Other information was not possible to compile pre-Internet because it would have required sending a person to follow each of us around the mall, listen to our conversations and watch what we read in the newspaper. Now all of those activities happen online — and can be tracked instantaneously.

    Part of the problem people have with data mining is that it seems so creepy. Right after I e-mailed a friend in Texas that I might be coming to town, a suggestion for a restaurant in Houston popped up as a one-line all-text ad above my Gmail inbox. But it's not a barbecue-pit master stalking me, which would indeed be creepy; it's an algorithm designed to give me more useful, specific ads. And while that doesn't sound like all that good a deal in exchange for my private data, if it means that I get to learn when the next Paul Thomas Anderson movie is coming out, when Wilco is playing near my house and when Tom Colicchio is opening a restaurant close by, maybe that's not such a bad return.

    Since targeted ads are so much more effective than nontargeted ones, websites can charge much more for them. This is why — compared with the old banners and pop-ups — online ads have become smaller and less invasive, and why websites have been able to provide better content and still be free. Besides, the fact that I'm going to Houston is bundled with the information that 999 other people are Houston-bound and is auctioned by a computer; no actual person looks at my name or my Houston-boundness. Advertisers are interested only in tiny chunks of information about my behavior, not my whole profile, which is one of the reasons M. Ryan Calo, a Stanford Law School professor who is director of the school's Consumer Privacy Project, argues that data mining does no actual damage. (See "How Facebook Is Redefining Privacy.")

    "We have this feeling of being dogged that's uncomfortable," Calo says, "but the risk of privacy harm isn't necessarily harmful. Let's get serious and talk about what harm really is." The real problem with data mining, Calo and others believe, arises when the data is wrong. "It's one thing to see bad ads because of bad information about you. It's another thing if you're not getting a credit card or a job because of bad information," says Justin Brookman, the former chief of the Internet bureau of the New York attorney general's office, who is now the director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a nonprofit group in Washington.

    Russell Glass, the CEO of Bizo — which mines the fact that people are business executives and sells that info to hundreds of advertisers such as American Express, Monster.com, Citibank, Sprint and Google — says the newness of his industry is what scares people. "It's the monster-under-the-bed syndrome," Glass says. "People are afraid of what they really don't understand. They don't understand that companies like us have no idea who they are. And we really don't give a s — -. I just want a little information that will help me sell you an ad." Not many people, he notes, seem to be creeped out by all the junk mail they still get from direct-marketing campaigns, which buy the same information from data-mining companies. "I have a 2-year-old daughter who is getting mail at my home address," he says. "That freaks me out."

    Why That Ad Is Following You

    Junk mail is a familiar evil that's barely changed over the decades. Data mining and the advertising it supports get more refined every month. The latest trick to freak people out is retargeting — when you look at an item in an online store and then an ad for that item follows you around to other sites.

    Last year, Zappos was the most prominent company in the U.S. to go all out in behavioral retargeting. And people got pissed off. One of the company's mistakes was running ads too frequently and coming off as an annoying, persistent salesman. "We took that brick-and-mortar pet peeve and implied it online," says Darrin Shamo, Zappos' director of direct marketing. Shamo learned, the hard way, that people get upset when their computer shows lingerie ads, even if they had been recently shopping for G-strings, since people share computers and use them in front of their kids. He also learned that ads that reveal potential Christmas gifts are bad for business.

    Since then, Zappos has been experimenting with new ads that people will see no more than five times and for no longer than eight days. Zappos has also dumbed the ads down, showing items that aren't the ones you considered buying but are sort of close, which people greatly prefer. And much like Amazon's "Customers who bought 1984 also bought Brave New World"–style recommendation engine, the new ads tell people what Zappos knows about them and how they got that information ("a company called Criteo helps Zappos to create these kinds of personalized ads"). It also tells them how they can opt out of seeing them ("Some people prefer rainbows. And others prefer unicorns. If you prefer not to see personalized ads, we totally get it").

    If that calms the angry 15% of the people who saw these ads, Zappos will stick with them. Otherwise, it plans on quitting the retargeting business. Shamo thinks he'll just need to wait until the newness wears off and people are used to ads tailored for them. "Sometimes things don't move as fast as you think," he says.

    They're not even moving that much faster with the generation that grew up with the Internet. While young people expect more of their data to be mined and used, that doesn't mean they don't care about privacy. "In my research, I found that teenagers live with this underlying anxiety of not knowing the rules of who can look at their information on the Internet. They think schools look at it, they think the government looks at it, they think colleges can look at it, they think employers can look at it, they think Facebook can see everything," says Sherry Turkle, a professor at MIT who is the director of the Initiative on Technology and Self and the author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less From Each Other. "It's the opposite of the mental state I grew up in. My grandmother took me down to the mailbox in Brooklyn every morning, and she would say, 'It's a federal offense for anyone to look at your mail. That's what makes this country great.' In the old country they'd open your mail, and that's how they knew about you."

    Data mining, Turkle argues, is a panopticon: the circular prison invented by 18th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham where you can't tell if you're being observed, so you assume that you always are. "The practical concern is loss of control and loss of identity," says Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. "It's a little abstract, but that's part of what's taking place."

    The Facebook and Google Troves

    Our identities, however, were never completely within our control: our friends keep letters we've forgotten writing, our enemies tell stories about us we remember differently, our yearbook photos are in way too many people's houses. Opting out of all those interactions is opting out of society. Which is why Facebook is such a confusing privacy hub point. Many data-mining companies made this argument to me: How can I complain about having my Houston trip data-mined when I'm posting photos of myself with a giant mullet and a gold chain on Facebook and writing columns about how I want a second kid and my wife doesn't? Because, unlike when my data is secretly mined, I get to control what I share. Even narcissists want privacy. "It's the difference between sharing and tracking," says Bret Taylor, Facebook's chief technology officer.

    To get into the Facebook office in Palo Alto, Calif., I have to sign a piece of physical paper: a Single-Party Non-Disclosure Agreement, which legally prevents me from writing the last paragraph. But your privacy on Facebook — that's up to you. You choose what to share and what circle of friends gets to see it, and you can untag yourself from any photos of you that other people put up. However, from a miner's point of view, Facebook has the most valuable trove of data ever assembled: not only have you told it everything you like, but it also knows what your friends like, which is an amazing predictor of what you'll like.

    Facebook doesn't sell any of your data, partly because it doesn't have to — 23.1% of all online ads not on search engines, video or e-mail run on Facebook. But data-mining companies are "scraping" all your personal data that's not set to private and selling it to any outside party that's interested. So that information is being bought and sold unless you squeeze your Facebook privacy settings tight, which keeps you from a lot of the social interaction that drew you to the site in the first place.

    The only company that might have an even better dossier on you than Facebook is Google. In a conference room on the Google campus, I sit through a long privacy-policy PowerPoint presentation. Summary: Google cares! Specifically, Google keeps the data it has about you from various parts of its company separate. One category is the personally identifiable account data it can attach to your name, age, gender, e-mail address and ZIP code when you signed up for services like Gmail, YouTube, Blogger, Picasa, iGoogle, Google Voice or Calendar. The other is log data associated with your computer, which it "anonymizes" after nine months: your search history, Chrome browser data, Google Maps requests and all the info its myriad data trackers and ad agencies (DoubleClick, AdSense, AdMob) collect when you're on other sites and Android phone apps. You can change your settings on the former at Google Dashboard and the latter at Google Ads Preferences — where you can opt out of having your data mined or change the company's guesses about what you're into.

    Nicole Wong, deputy general counsel at Google, says the company created these tools to try to reassure people who have no idea how all this information is being collected and used. "When I go to TIME.com as a user, I think only TIME.com is collecting my data. What I don't realize is that for every ad on that page, a company is also dropping a code and collecting my data. It's a black box — and we've tried to open up the box. Sometimes you're not even sure who the advertisers are. It's just a bunch of jumping monkeys or something." Google really does want to protect your privacy, but it's got issues. First, it's profit-driven and it's huge. But those aren't the main reasons privacy advocates get so upset about Google. They get upset because the company's guiding philosophy conflicts with the notion of privacy. As the PowerPoint says right up top: "Google's mission: to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." Which is awesome, except for the fact that my information is part of the world's information. (See "Quilting for Data: How Google Gets Information from Inside People's Heads.")

    Tracking the Trackers

    To see just what information is being gathered about me, I downloaded Ghostery, a browser extension that lets you watch the watchers watching you. Each time you go to a new website, up pops a little bubble that lists all the data trackers checking you out. This is what I discovered: the very few companies that actually charge you for services tend not to data mine much. When you visit TIME.com, several dozen tracking companies, with names such as Eyeblaster, Bluestreak, DoubleClick and Factor TG, could be collecting data at any given time.

    If you're reading this in print as a subscriber, TIME has probably "rented" your name and address many times to various companies for a one-time use. This is also true if you subscribe to Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan or just about any other publication.

    This being America, I don't have to wait for the government to give me an opt-out option; I can pay for one right now. Michael Fertik, the CEO and founder of Reputation.com, who nabbed my Social Security number, will do it for me for just $8.25 a month. His company will also, for a lot more money, make Google searches of your name come up with more flattering results — because when everyone is famous, everyone needs a public relations department. Fertik, who clerked for the chief judge of the Sixth Circuit after graduating from Harvard Law School, believes that if data mining isn't regulated, everyone will soon be assigned scores for attractiveness and a social-prowess index and a complainer index, so companies can avoid serving you — just as you now have a credit score that they can easily check before deciding to do business with you. "What happens when those data sets are used for life transactions: health insurance, employment, dating and education? It's inevitable that all of these decisions will be made based on machine conclusions. Your FICO score is already an all-but-decisional fact about you. ABD, dude! All but decisional," says Fertik.

    Even if I were to use the services of Reputation.com, there's still all the public information about me that I can't suppress. Last year, thousands of people sent their friends a Facebook message telling them to opt out of being listed on Spokeo.com, which they described as the creepiest paparazzo of all, giving out your age, profession, address and a photo of your house. Spokeo, a tiny company in Pasadena, Calif., is run by 28-year-old Stanford grad Harrison Tang. He was surprised at the outcry. "Some people don't know what Google Street View is, so they think this is magic," Tang says of the photos of people's homes that his site shows. The info on Spokeo isn't even all that revealing — he purposely leaves off criminal records and previous marriages — but Tang thinks society is still learning about data mining and will soon become inured to it. "Back in the 1990s, if you said, 'I'm going to put pictures on the Internet for everyone to see,' it would have been hard to believe. Now everyone does it. The Internet is becoming more and more open. This world will become more connected, and the distance between you and me will be a lot closer. If everybody is a walled garden, there won't be an Internet."

    I deeply believe that, but it's still too easy to find our gardens. Your political donations, home value and address have always been public, but you used to have to actually go to all these different places — courthouses, libraries, property-tax assessors' offices — and request documents. "You were private by default and public by effort. Nowadays, you're public by default and private by effort," says Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocacy group for digital rights. "There are all sorts of inferences that can be made about you from the websites you visit, what you buy, who you talk to. What if your employer had access to information about you that shows you have a particular kind of health condition or a woman is pregnant or thinking about it?" Tien worries that political dissidents in other countries, battered women and other groups that need anonymity are vulnerable to data mining. At the very least, he argues, we're responsible to protect special groups, just as Google Street View allows users to request that a particular location, like an abused-women's shelter, not be photographed.

    Other democratic countries have taken much stronger stands than the U.S. has on regulating data mining. Google Street View has been banned by the Czech Republic. Germany — after protests and much debate — decided at the end of last year to allow it but to let people request that their houses not be shown, which nearly 250,000 people had done as of last November. E.U. Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding is about to present a proposal to allow people to correct and erase information about themselves on the Web. "Everyone should have the right to be forgotten," she says. "Due to their painful history in the 20th century, Europeans are naturally more sensitive to the collection and use of their data by public authorities."

    After 9/11, not many Americans protested when concerns about security seemed to trump privacy. Now that privacy issues are being pushed in Congress, companies are making last-ditch efforts to become more transparent. New tools released in February for Firefox and Google Chrome browsers let users block data collecting, though Firefox and Chrome depend on the data miners to respect the users' request, which won't stop unscrupulous companies. In addition to the new browser options, an increasing number of ads have a little i (an Advertising Option Icon), which you can click on to find out exactly which companies are tracking you and what they do. The technology behind the icon is managed by Evidon, the company that provides the Ghostery download. Evidon has gotten more than 500 data-collecting companies to provide their info.

    It takes a lot of work to find out about this tiny little i and even more to click on it and read the information. But it also took people a while to learn what the recycling symbol meant. And reading the info behind the i icon isn't necessarily the point, says Evidon CEO Scott Meyer, who used to be CEO of About.com and managed the New York Times' website. "Do I look at nutritional labeling? No. But would I buy a food product that didn't have one? Absolutely not. I would be really concerned. It's accountability."

    FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz has been pleased by how effective he's been at using the threat of legislation to scare companies into taking action and dropping their excuse that they don't know anything about you personally, just data associated with your computer. "We used to have a distinction 10 years ago between personally identifiable information and non-PII. Now those distinctions have broken down." In November, Leibowitz hired Edward Felten, the Princeton computer-science professor famous for uncovering weaknesses in electronic-voting machines and digital-music protection, to serve as the FTC's chief technologist for the next year. Felten has found that the online-advertising industry is as eager as the government is for improved privacy protections. "There's a lot of fear that holds people back from doing things they would otherwise do online. This is part of the cost of privacy uncertainty. People are a little wary of trying out some new site or service if they're worried about giving their information," Felten says.

    He's right: oddly, the more I learned about data mining, the less concerned I was. Sure, I was surprised that all these companies are actually keeping permanent files on me. But I don't think they will do anything with them that does me any harm. There should be protections for vulnerable groups, and a government-enforced opt-out mechanism would be great for accountability. But I'm pretty sure that, like me, most people won't use that option. Of the people who actually find the Ads Preferences page — and these must be people pretty into privacy — only 1 in 8 asks to opt out of being tracked. The rest, apparently, just like to read privacy rules.

    We're quickly figuring out how to navigate our trail of data — don't say anything private on a Facebook wall, keep your secrets out of e-mail, use cash for illicit purchases. The vast majority of it, though, is worthless to us and a pretty good exchange for frequent-flier miles, better search results, a fast system to qualify for credit, finding out if our babysitter has a criminal record and ads we find more useful than annoying. Especially because no human being ever reads your files. As I learned by trying to find out all my data, we're not all that interesting.
    With reporting by Eben Harrell / London

    Freeing Its Data, London Turns Access into Apps

    The London Datastore urges the city's agencies and civil servants to put their data into a public repository where anyone can access it, graph it, map it or track it, making the city more friendly, transparent and efficient

    Read more: http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,2040574,00.html#ixzz1GGlV2A30


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