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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Flaws Are Detected in Microsoft’s Vista - New York Times

Flaws Are Detected in Microsoft’s Vista - New York Times:
December 25, 2006

Flaws Are Detected in Microsoft’s Vista

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 24 — Microsoft is facing an early crisis of confidence in the quality of its Windows Vista operating system as computer security researchers and hackers have begun to find potentially serious flaws in the system that was released to corporate customers late last month.

On Dec. 15, a Russian programmer posted a description of a flaw that makes it possible to increase a user’s privileges on all of the company’s recent operating systems, including Vista. And over the weekend a Silicon Valley computer security firm said it had notified Microsoft that it had also found that flaw, as well as five other vulnerabilities, including one serious error in the software code underlying the company’s new Internet Explorer 7 browser.

The browser flaw is particularly troubling because it potentially means that Web users could become infected with malicious software simply by visiting a booby-trapped site. That would make it possible for an attacker to inject rogue software into the Vista-based computer, according to executives at Determina, a company based in Redwood City, Calif., that sells software intended to protect against operating system and other vulnerabilities.

Determina is part of a small industry of companies that routinely pore over the technical details of software applications and operating systems looking for flaws. When flaws in Microsoft products are found they are reported to the software maker, which then produces fixes called patches. Microsoft has built technology into its recent operating systems that makes it possible for the company to fix its software automatically via the Internet.

Despite Microsoft assertions about the improved reliability of Vista, many in the industry are taking a wait-and-see approach. Microsoft’s previous operating system, Windows XP, required two “service packs” issued over a number of years to substantially improve security, and new flaws are still routinely discovered by outside researchers.

On Friday, a Microsoft executive posted a comment on a company security information Web site stating the company was “closely monitoring” the vulnerability described by the Russian Web site. It permits the privileges of a standard user account in Vista and other versions of Windows to be increased, permitting control of all of the operations of the computer. In Unix and modern Windows systems, users are restricted in the functions they can perform, and complete power is restricted to certain administrative accounts.

“Currently we have not observed any public exploitation or attack activity regarding this issue,” wrote Mike Reavey, operations manager of the Microsoft Security Response Center. “While I know this is a vulnerability that impacts Windows Vista, I still have every confidence that Windows Vista is our most secure platform to date.”

On Saturday, Nicole Miller, a Microsoft spokeswoman, said the company was also investigating the reported browser flaw and that it was not aware of any attacks attempting to use the vulnerability.

Microsoft has spent millions branding the Vista operating system as the most secure product it has produced, and it is counting on Vista to help turn the tide against a wave of software attacks now plaguing Windows-based computers.

Vista is critical to Microsoft’s reputation. Despite an almost four-and-half-year campaign on the part of the company, and the best efforts of the computer security industry, the threat from harmful computer software continues to grow. Criminal attacks now range from programs that steal information from home and corporate PCs to growing armies of slave computers that are wreaking havoc on the commercial Internet.

Although Vista, which will be available on consumer PCs early next year, has been extensively tested, it is only now being exposed to the challenges of the open Internet.

“I don’t think people should become complacent,” said Nand Mulchandani, a vice president at Determina. “When vendors say a program has been completely rewritten, it doesn’t mean that it’s more secure from the get-go. My expectation is we will see a whole rash of Vista bugs show up in six months or a year.”

The Determina executives said that by itself, the browser flaw that was reported to Microsoft could permit damage like the theft of password information and the attack of other computers.

However, one of the principal security advances of Internet Explorer 7 is a software “sandbox” that is intended to limit damage even if a malicious program is able to subvert the operation of the browser. That should limit the ability of any attacker to reach other parts of the Vista operating system, or to overwrite files.

However, when coupled with the ability of the first flaw that permits the change in account privileges, it might then be possible to circumvent the sandbox controls, said Alexander Sotirov, a Determina security researcher. In that case it would make it possible to alter files and potentially permanently infect a target computer. This kind of attack has yet to be proved, he acknowledged.

The Determina researchers said they had notified Microsoft of four other flaws they had discovered, including a bug that would make it possible for an attacker to repeatedly disable a Microsoft Exchange mail server simply by sending the program an infected e-mail message.

Last week, the chief technology officer of Trend Micro, a computer security firm in Tokyo, told several computer news Web sites that he had discovered an offer on an underground computer discussion forum to sell information about a security flaw in Windows Vista for $50,000. Over the weekend a spokesman for Trend Micro said that the company had not obtained the information, and as a result could not confirm the authenticity of the offer.

Many computer security companies say that there is a lively underground market for information that would permit attackers to break in to systems via the Internet.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006 - Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PCs To Get Support for Office 2007 - Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PCs To Get Support for Office 2007: Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PCs To Get Support for Office 2007
by Ed Hardy - 12/6/2006

Microsoft has begun the process of rolling out Office 2007. This will be one of the most significant upgrades in this suite of applications in close to a decade, and the file formats used will change greatly.

One of the unfortunate side effects of this is that no current Windows Mobile device will work with files that have been saved in the new Office 2007 formats. However, Microsoft is not abandoning users of these handhelds and smartphones.

A company spokesperson promised today that an update for Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PCs will be released that will bring Office 2007 support to these devices.

In addition, this new version of Office Mobile will include some additional functionality, though the spokesperson declined to give any details on what this will be. He did say, though, that it will essentially be the version of Office Mobile that will ship with the next version of Windows Mobile, code-named Crossbow.

A semi-closed beta of this software will be out during the first three months of next year, and a public beta will be available during the second quarter of 2007.

Office 2007 itself is expected to be available to the general public in the first month or so of next year.

No Love for Windows Mobile 2003

Although today's announcement is good news for Windows Mobile 5.0 users, the situation is less pleasant for those with older models. Microsoft says there will be no upgrade for the Pocket Office suite on Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition devices, nor for any earlier version of this operating system.

Still, that still leaves open the possibility that developers of third-party software will step into the gap, and bring support for the Office 2007 file formats to older models.

A Short-term Solution

Until the Office upgrade for Windows Mobile 5.0 is available, users of Office 2007 who want to access their files on a mobile device will have little option besides saving their files in formats supported by Office 2003.

However, the the months just after the release of this updated suite of application, people who want to share their documents would be wise to do this anyway, as it will be quite some time before it can be assumed to a majority of users have Office 2007.

PC users, though, will have an option that handheld and smartphone users won't: Microsoft is going to distribute a free reader that will allow anyone to open files in Office 2007. However, that doesn't mean that Office 2003 will be able to open these documents; they'll have to be opened in the separate viewer.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

CBS 46: News and Weather for Atlanta, GA, WGCL, | Copyright office issues 6 new rights, including cell phone reuse

CBS 46: News and Weather for Atlanta, GA, WGCL, | Copyright office issues 6 new rights, including cell phone reuse: Copyright office issues 6 new rights, including cell phone reuse

Nov 23, 2006 01:13 PM

Associated Press photo
Associated Press photo

NEW YORK (AP) -- Cell phone owners will be allowed to break software locks on their handsets in order to use them with competing carriers under new copyright rules announced Wednesday.

Other copyright exemptions approved by the Library of Congress will let film professors copy snippets from DVDs for educational compilations and let blind people use special software to read copy-protected electronic books.

All told, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington approved six exemptions, the most his Copyright Office has ever granted. For the first time, the office exempted groups of users. Previously, Billington took an all-or-nothing approach, making exemptions difficult to justify.

"I am very encouraged by the fact that the Copyright Office is willing to recognize exemptions for archivists, cell phone recyclers and computer security experts," said Fred von Lohmann, an attorney with the civil-liberties group Electronic Frontier Foundation. "Frankly I'm surprised and pleased they were granted."

But von Lohmann said he was disappointed the Copyright Office rejected a number of exemptions that could have benefited consumers, including one that would have let owners of DVDs legally copy movies for use on Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod and other portable players.

The new rules will take effect Monday and expire in three years.

In granting the exemption for cell phone users, the Copyright Office determined that consumers aren't able to enjoy full legal use of their handsets because of software locks that wireless providers have been placing to control access to phones' underlying programs.

Providers of prepaid phone services, in particular, have been trying to stop entrepreneurs from buying subsidized handsets to resell at a profit. But even customers of regular plans generally can't bring their phones to another carrier, even after their contracts run out.

Billington noted that at least one company has filed lawsuits claiming that breaking the software locks violates copyright law, which makes it illegal for people to circumvent copy-protection technologies without an exemption from the Copyright Office. He said the locks appeared in place not to protect the developer of the cell phone software but for third-party interests.

Officials with the industry group CTIA-The Wireless Association did not return phone calls for comment Wednesday.

The exemption granted to film professors authorizes the breaking of the CSS copy-protection technology found in most DVDs. Programs to do so circulate widely on the Internet, though it has been illegal to use or distribute them.

The professors said they need the ability to create compilations of DVD snippets to teach their classes -- for example, taking portions of old and new cartoons to study how animation has evolved. Such compilations are generally permitted under "fair use" provisions of copyright law, but breaking the locks to make the compilations has been illegal.

Hollywood studios have argued that educators could turn to videotapes and other versions without the copy protections, but the professors argued that DVDs are of higher quality and may preserve the original colors or dimensions that videotapes lack.

"The record did not reveal any alternative means to meet the pedagogical needs of the professors," Billington wrote.

Billington also authorized the breaking of locks on electronic books so that blind people can use them with read-aloud software and similar aides.

He granted two exemptions dealing with computer obsolescence. For computer software and video games that require machines no longer available, copy-protection controls may be circumvented for archival purposes. Locks on computer programs also may be broken if they require dongles -- small computer attachments -- that are damaged and can't be replaced.

The final exemption lets researchers test CD copy-protection technologies for security flaws or vulnerabilities. Researchers had cited Sony BMG Music Entertainment's use of copy-protection systems that installed themselves on personal computers to limit copying. In doing so, critics say, Sony BMG exposed the computers to hacking, and the company has acknowledged problems with one of the technologies used on some 5.7 million CDs.

Article written by Associated Press writer Anick Jesdanum.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

CNET Prizefight: T-Mobile Dash vs. Motorola Q - CNET reviews

CNET Prizefight: T-Mobile Dash vs. Motorola Q - CNET reviews:

T-Mobile Dash vs. Motorola Q

By CNET Staff

JUDGES: Veronica Belmont, Bonnie Cha, and Kent German

When it first debuted, the Motorola Q was undoubtedly a knockout. The Windows Mobile device was sleek and sexy, unlike any other smart phone before it, and generally delivered on performance. However, when you're sitting there at the top, there's always going to be someone who wants to knock you down, and let's just say the T-Mobile Dash is ready for a fight. This new kid on the block is throwing up some big claims, with its own slim design, productivity tools, and wireless options. But don't expect the Moto Q to just sit there and take it. Grab a front-row seat as these two smart phones duke it out for the championship title. - The Latest on the Motorola Q Pro - The Latest on the Motorola Q Pro: The Latest on the Motorola Q Pro
by Ed Hardy - 11/9/2006

The Motorola Q only debuted this summer, but Motorola has already started talking about its replacement. Last month, the company gave a few details about this upcoming model, which is currently being referred to as the Q Pro.

The most recent information on this Windows Mobile Smartphone comes in the form of a few pictures and some additional details from a Hungarian web site.

According to this source, the Motorola Q Pro will have a re-designed keyboard and gain support for UMTS/HSDPA cellular-wireless networking.

The images also clearly show the Vodafone logo, which means this will be a GSM-based device. The only version of the original Q to debut so far has been CDMA.

A 2.0 megapixel camera (vs. the Q's 1.3 megapixel one) completes the new details revealed by this source.

Despite these changes, it appears the new model will have the same general shape as its predecessor: a slim tablet with a QWERTY keyboard and a QVGA screen.

Last month, Motorola said it expects to introduce this new smartphone during the first three months of next year.

The Latest on the Motorola Q Pro

The Latest on the Motorola Q Pro:

The Latest on the Motorola Q Pro

Submitted by Ed Hardy on Thursday, November 09, 2006

Most Popular PDA
#11 HP iPAQ rx5915 Travel Companion
Low Price: Page Computer $511.78

more pricing | see popular pda
Tech Deal
Palm Treo 700p (Verizon Wireless) - $144.99 (view more deals)

The Motorola Q only debuted this summer, but Motorola has already started talking about its replacement. Last month, the company gave a few details about this upcoming model, which is currently being referred to as the Q Pro.

The most recent information on this Windows Mobile Smartphone comes in the form of a few pictures and some additional details from a Hungarian web site.

According to this source, the Motorola Q Pro will have a re-designed keyboard and gain support for UMTS/HSDPA cellular-wireless networking.

The images also clearly show the Vodafone logo, which means this will be a GSM-based device. The only version of the original Q to debut so far has been CDMA.

A 2.0 megapixel camera (vs. the Q's 1.3 megapixel one) completes the new details revealed by this source.

Despite these changes, it appears the new model will have the same general shape as its predecessor: a slim tablet with a QWERTY keyboard and a QVGA screen.

Last month, Motorola said it expects to introduce this new smartphone during the first three months of next year.

The Latest on the Motorola Q Pro

The Latest on the Motorola Q Pro:

The Latest on the Motorola Q Pro

Submitted by Ed Hardy on Thursday, November 09, 2006

Most Popular PDA
#11 HP iPAQ rx5915 Travel Companion
Low Price: Page Computer $511.78

more pricing | see popular pda
Tech Deal
Palm Treo 700p (Verizon Wireless) - $144.99 (view more deals)

The Motorola Q only debuted this summer, but Motorola has already started talking about its replacement. Last month, the company gave a few details about this upcoming model, which is currently being referred to as the Q Pro.

The most recent information on this Windows Mobile Smartphone comes in the form of a few pictures and some additional details from a Hungarian web site.

According to this source, the Motorola Q Pro will have a re-designed keyboard and gain support for UMTS/HSDPA cellular-wireless networking.

The images also clearly show the Vodafone logo, which means this will be a GSM-based device. The only version of the original Q to debut so far has been CDMA.

A 2.0 megapixel camera (vs. the Q's 1.3 megapixel one) completes the new details revealed by this source.

Despite these changes, it appears the new model will have the same general shape as its predecessor: a slim tablet with a QWERTY keyboard and a QVGA screen.

Last month, Motorola said it expects to introduce this new smartphone during the first three months of next year.

Friday, November 10, 2006

T-Mobile Dash @ Mobility Today

T-Mobile Dash @ Mobility Today: "T-Mobile Dash
By David Ciccone, posted Tuesday, Oct. 31st, 2006
Reader Comments: 49
Slim, Sleek and Powerful

I have been lucky enough to have my hands on the newly announced T-Mobile Dash Windows Mobile Smartphone for the past 8 weeks. This smartphone is definitely a Motorola Q killer. Sporting a 320-by-240-pixel display a 201 MHz OMAP850 processor from TI, 64 MB of RAM and 128 MB of ROM, Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE along with 802.11b/g.. During this overview I will go over the physical characteristics along with end user experiences.

The T-Mobile Dash by far is one of the best Windows Mobile devices I have ever used. HTC has done a fantastic job pushing the limits of a small form factor device. This baby offers almost everything anyone can ask for except HSDPA/UMTS but with the built in 802.11b/g users will like to 'spy' on open networks throughout the airwaves. During my 7 weeks of use I have to say the battery life is by far the 'BEST' I have ever used. You probably are asking 'Well how can that be with a device that has 802.11?' Very easily.. HTC has done a fantastic job with the power management console on the Dash. HTC has finally found the 'secret sauce' when it deals with the wireless card in the Dash. What they have done is created a control panel that will auto-power down the WiFi if it is not u"

Trying Out the Zune: IPod It’s Not - New York Times

Trying Out the Zune: IPod It’s Not - New York Times:
November 9, 2006
State of the Art

Trying Out the Zune: IPod It’s Not

Microsoft is probably the greenest company in all of high tech. Not green in the environmental sense — green with envy.

Microsoft is so jealous of the iPod’s success that Tuesday it will unveil a new music system — pocket player, jukebox software and online music store — that’s an unabashed copy of Apple’s. It’s called Zune.

The amazing part is that it’s Microsoft’s second attempt to kill the iPod. The first was PlaysForSure — a gigantic multiyear operation involving dozens of manufacturers and online music stores. Microsoft went with its trusted Windows strategy: If you code it, the hardware makers will come (and pay licensing fees).

And sure enough, companies like Dell, Samsung and Creative made the players; companies like Yahoo, Rhapsody, Napster and MTV built the music stores.

But PlaysForSure bombed. All of them put together stole only market-share crumbs from Apple. The interaction among player, software and store was balky and complex — something of a drawback when the system is called PlaysForSure.

“Yahoo might change the address of its D.R.M. server, and we can’t control that,” said Scott Erickson, a Zune product manager. (Never mind what a D.R.M. server is; the point is that Microsoft blames its partners for the technical glitches.)

Is Microsoft admitting, then, that PlaysForSure was a dud? All Mr. Erickson will say is, “PlaysForSure works for some people, but it’s not as easy as the Zune.”

So now Microsoft is starting over. Never mind all the poor slobs who bought big PlaysForSure music collections. Never mind the PlaysForSure companies who now find themselves competing with their former leader. Their reward for buying into Microsoft’s original vision? A great big “So long, suckas!”

It was bad enough when there were two incompatible copy-protection standards: iTunes and PlaysForSure. Now there will be three.

(Although Microsoft is shutting its own PlaysForSure music store next week, it insists that the PlaysForSure program itself will live on.)

Microsoft’s proprietary closed system abandons one potential audience: those who would have chosen an iPod competitor just to show their resentment for Apple’s proprietary closed system.

To make matters worse, you can’t use Windows Media Player to load the Zune with music; you have to install a similar but less powerful Windows program just for the Zune. It’s a ridiculous duplication of effort by Microsoft, and a double learning curve for you.

So how is the Zune? It had better be pretty incredible to justify all of this hassle.

As it turns out, the player is excellent. It can’t touch the iPod’s looks or coolness, but it’s certainly more practical. It’s coated in slightly rubberized plastic, available in white, black or brown — yes, brown. It won’t turn heads, but it won’t get fingerprinty and scratched, either. It sounds just as good as the iPod.

The Zune matches the price ($250) and capacity of the 30-gigabyte iPod. But it’s noticeably thicker (0.6 inch vs. 0.4), taller (4.4 inches vs. 4.1) and heavier (5.6 ounces vs. 4.8). Battery life is the same for music playback (14 hours), slightly better for video (4 hours vs. 3.5). The three-inch screen has the same 320-by-240-pixel resolution, but it’s larger (3 inches vs. 2.5), so movies and slide shows feel more expansive.

What looks like an iPod scroll wheel, though, is a fakeout. It doesn’t turn, and it’s not touch-sensitive. Instead, it’s just four buttons hidden under the compass points of a plastic ring.

Scrolling accelerates as you press the top or bottom button, but the iPod’s wheel is much more efficient. On the other hand, the Zune’s left and right buttons jump between menus (for example, Album, Artist, Genre) with less backtracking. The software design is beautiful, simple and graced by brief, classy animations.

The Zune’s screen is taller than it is wide — unlike the iPod’s — so you can see more of your lists without scrolling. But it’s all wrong for photos and videos. So when videos or photos play, the screen image rotates, meaning you have to turn the player 90 degrees. And just as on the iPod, portrait-oriented photos are now shrunken, crammed the wrong way on the horizontal screen.

The Zune has a built-in FM radio receiver, and even shows the name of the current song, if the station broadcasts it. Reception is fairly weak, the headphones must be plugged in to serve as an antenna, and you can’t make recordings.

The big, whomping Zune news, though, is wireless sharing. The Zune has a built-in Wi-Fi antenna. (Turning it on costs you one hour of battery life.)

During the playback of any photo or song, you can view a list of Zunes within 30 feet. Sending a song takes about 15 seconds, a photo 2 seconds; you can’t send videos at all.

Your lucky recipient can accept or decline your offering — and, if you have really terrible taste, can block your Zune permanently.

It all works well enough, but it’s just so weird that Zunes can connect only to each other. Who’d build a Wi-Fi device that can’t connect to a wireless network — to sync with your PC, for example? Nor to an Internet hot spot, to download music directly?

Microsoft also faces what’s known as the Dilemma of the First Guy With a Telephone: Who you gonna call? The Zune will have to rack up some truly amazing sales before it’s easy to find sharing partners.

Microsoft is leaving nothing to chance here. The Zune will be available in 30,000 stores nationwide — versus 10,000 for the iPod, Microsoft says. Zune commercials will run several times during each episode of popular TV shows, bearing the slogan “Welcome to the social.” (Either there’s a noun missing there, or they’re using “social” as a noun, as in “ice cream social.”)

The bigger problem, though, is the draconian copy protection on beamed music (though not photos). You can play a transmitted song only three times, all within three days. After that, it expires. You’re left with only a text tag that shows up on your PC so that — how convenient! — you can buy the song from Microsoft’s store.

This copy protection is as strict as a 19th-century schoolmarm. Just playing half the song (or one minute, whichever comes first) counts as one “play.” You can never resend a song to the same friend. A beamed song can’t be passed along to a third person, either.

What’s really nuts is that the restrictions even stomp on your own musical creations. Microsoft’s literature suggests that if you have a struggling rock band, you could “put your demo recordings on your Zune” and “when you’re out in public, you can send the songs to your friends.” What it doesn’t say: “And then three days later, just when buzz about your band is beginning to build, your songs disappear from everyone’s Zunes, making you look like an idiot.”

Microsoft says that the wireless sharing is a new way to discover music. But you can’t shake the feeling that it’s all just a big plug for Microsoft’s music store. If it’s truly about the joy of music discovery, why doesn’t Microsoft let you buy your discoveries from any of the PlaysForSure stores?

The Zune offers some niceties you can’t get on the iPod. For example, any photo can be the menu background. Album artwork automatically fills the entire screen during playback. You can “flag” any song or photo for future reference on your PC. You can plug the Zune into an Xbox 360 and use its controller to play what’s on your Zune through your entertainment system.

But the opposite list — features the iPod has that the Zune doesn’t — could stretch to Steve Ballmer’s house and back 10 times.

At the very attractive but dog-slow Zune store, for example, you can either buy songs ($1 each) or rent them (unlimited songs for $15 a month). But Microsoft’s store doesn’t sell TV shows, movies or audio books. The music catalog is much smaller — 2 million vs. 3.5 million on iTunes — a fact that Microsoft ham-handedly tries to conceal by listing stuff that it doesn’t actually sell, like Beatles albums.

The Zune store is also missing gift certificates, allowances, user-submitted playlists and so on. And believe it or not, the Zune store doesn’t let you subscribe or download podcasts. (Maybe Microsoft just couldn’t bring itself to type the word “pod.”)

The Zune 1.0 player is pretty barren, too. It doesn’t have a single standard iPod amenity: no games, alarm clock, stopwatch, world clock, password-protected volume limiter, equalizer, calendar, address book or notes module.

Incredibly, you can’t even use the Zune as an external hard drive, as you can with just about every other player on earth — an extremely handy option for carting around big computer files.

Naturally, you also miss out on the 3,000 iPod accessories: speaker systems, microphones, cases, home and auto adapters, remote controls and so on. Over 80 percent of 2007 cars will have an iPod connector option — zero for Zune. And there’s only one Zune model; there’s no equivalent of the iPod Nano or Shuffle.

Competition is good and all. But what, exactly, is the point of the Zune? It seems like an awful lot of duplication — in a bigger, heavier form with fewer features — just to indulge Microsoft’s “we want some o’ that” envy. Wireless sharing is the one big new idea — and if the public seems to respond, Apple could always add that to the iPod.

Then again, this is all standard Microsoft procedure. Version 1.0 of Microsoft Anything is stripped-down and derivative, but it’s followed by several years of slow but relentless refinement and marketing. Already, Microsoft says that new Zune features, models and accessories are in the pipeline.

For now, though, this game is for watching, not playing. It may be quite a while before brown is the new white.


Monday, April 10, 2006

Disney to Offer Some ABC Programs Free on the Web - New York Times

Disney to Offer Some ABC Programs Free on the Web - New York TimesApril 10, 2006


In an effort to extend its broadcast economic model to the Internet, the Walt Disney Company said today that it would offer some of its most popular ABC programs free on its Web sites but with commercials that cannot be eliminated.

The shows include "Desperate Housewives," "Lost," "Commander in Chief" and "Alias." The first two would become available in May, with the others starting in June.

The shows will be available on the Web the morning after they are broadcast on ABC and will be archived so that viewers can eventually watch a whole season of shows. They will be available on the ABC and Disney Channel Web sites.

By making viewers watch commercials if they want to see the popular ABC shows, Disney is gambling that a formula that worked from the early days of broadcast entertainment can be transferred to people who get most of their information from computers, not TV sets.

ABC News reported Disney's plans on its Web site today, confirming a report published this morning in The Wall Street Journal.

The move by Disney and ABC appears to reflect a conclusion by company executives that consumer are willing to pay for so much on-demand programming and may be willing to accept commercials to see programs thy want.

In an interview last month with iMedia Connection, an online report on developments in the entertainment industry, Albert Cheng, the ABC Television Group's executive vice president for digital media, expressed that view.

"There will be a limit on the share of the consumer's wallet that can be spent on pay-per-programs," he said. "Because people may not be able to afford to purchase every show they want to view on demand, other shows could potentially be viewed online in an ad-supported environment."

To view the ABC shows on the Web, people will need a broadband Internet connection.

Disney's Soapnet cable channel is also moving to the Web, and will be available starting next Monday on the Soapnetic site.

Advertisers that are expected to sponsor the Webcasts include Proctor & Gamble, Toyota, Ford, AT&T and Unilever, The Associated Press reported.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Jackie McLean; Saxophonist Who Advanced Study of Jazz

Jackie McLean; Saxophonist Who Advanced Study of JazzJackie McLean; Saxophonist Who Advanced Study of Jazz

By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 2, 2006; C09

Jackie McLean, 74, one of the foremost alto saxophone players of the past 50 years, who also helped elevate jazz studies to a serious academic discipline, died March 31 at his home in Hartford, Conn. His family said that he died of "a long illness" and that the cause of death would be announced later.

A musical descendant of bebop master Charlie Parker, Mr. McLean developed a strong, uncompromising style in the 1950s and remained a prominent voice on his instrument for decades. He recorded more than 60 albums and was a mentor to younger musicians as a bandleader and as a teacher.

He grew up in Harlem, where his neighbors included such jazz greats as Duke Ellington, Don Redman, Nat "King" Cole and Thelonious Monk. He often recalled those heady days in interviews and was a principal interview subject in Ken Burns's 10-part documentary on jazz in 2000.

For the past 35 years, he lived in Hartford, where he established the jazz studies program at the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford, now called the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz. It was one of the country's first comprehensive jazz programs.

With his wife, Dollie, he also founded the Artists Collective, a cultural arts center in Hartford that has educated thousands of primarily African American students in music, dance, drama and the visual arts. He also maintained a long involvement in civil rights, dating from the 1960s.

His interest in education derived from his experiences with the jazz giants of an earlier era. At 16, he met bebop pianist Bud Powell, who often invited the young saxophonist to his house to study and practice. In his teens, Mr. McLean would wait at subway stops to meet Parker and walk with him to nightclubs, gleaning musical insights from his idol.

The younger musician copied both Parker's playing style on alto saxophone and his addiction to heroin. For much of the 1950s and early 1960s, Mr. McLean struggled with narcotics and often found himself in legal trouble.

After Parker's death in 1955, Mr. McLean worked with bassist and bandleader Charles Mingus, who encouraged him to find his own style, free from Parker's influence. From 1956 to 1958, Mr. McLean was a member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, where he honed his powerful searing tone, which was usually slightly sharp.

"He had his own sound," said critic Ira Gitler, who knew Mr. McLean for 55 years. "He had a cry in his playing and a lot of fire."

The late 1950s and early '60s were perhaps Mr. McLean's most fruitful musical period, during which he composed such memorable tunes as "Melody for Melonae," "Appointment in Ghana," "Dr. Jackie" and "Minor March." He also made a series of outstanding recordings, including "4, 5 and 6" and "McLean's Scene" (both 1956), "Jackie's Bag" (1959), "Let Freedom Ring" (1962) and "One Step Beyond" (1963).

After making 21 albums for Blue Note Records between 1959 and 1967, Mr. McLean turned more toward teaching and grew less active as a performer. In the 1980s and 1990s, he returned to the stage and the recording studio with renewed vigor, and he often performed with his son, saxophonist Rene McLean.

"It was my most rewarding, my most exciting and my most challenging musical experience," Rene McLean said yesterday. "I had to rise to the occasion. It made no difference if I was his son or brother.

"We had very magical musical moments together."

John Lenwood McLean was born in New York City on May 17, 1931. His father was a jazz guitarist who died in 1939, and his childhood friends included future jazz stars Sonny Rollins, Walter Bishop Jr., Kenny Drew and Art Taylor.

Mr. McLean made his recording debut in 1951 with Rollins on Miles Davis's "Dig!," often considered the first "hard-bop" album in jazz, blending bebop complexity, blues feeling and rhythmic drive.

He adopted modal and free-jazz techniques later in his career, but he retained the same intensity he had in his youth.

On one of his final efforts, "Nature Boy" (2000), he showed a more sensitive side of his musical persona with an album of ballads. In 2001, he was recognized as an American Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Mr. McLean was especially popular in Japan and once came across a tiny club in Yokohama called the "Jackie McLean Coffeehouse" that was a virtual shrine to his career. He gave his final performances during a tour of Europe and the Middle East in 2004.

"Many times, we could finish each other's ideas," said Rene McLean, who was with his father on that final tour. "It was just unique and mystical."

Besides his son, of New York, survivors include his wife, Dollie McLean of Hartford; a daughter, Melonae McLean, and son, Vernone McLean, both of Hartford; five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Long mobile phone use raises brain tumor risk @ Mobility Today

Long mobile phone use raises brain tumor risk @ Mobility Today
Long mobile phone use raises brain tumor risk

By agent680, posted 4 hours ago
Reader Comments: 0

Here we go again!
Last year, the Dutch Health Council, in an overview of research from around the world, found no evidence that radiation from mobile phones and TV towers was harmful. A four-year British survey in January also showed no link between regular, long-term use of cell phones and the most common type of tumor.

But researchers at the Swedish National Institute for Working Life looked at mobile phone use of 2,200 cancer patients and an equal number of healthy control cases.

Of the cancer patients, aged between 20 and 80, 905 had a malignant brain tumor and about a tenth of them were also heavy users of mobile phones.

"Of these 905 cases, 85 were so-called high users of mobile phones, that is they began early to use mobile and/or wireless telephones and used them a lot," said the authors of the study in a statement issued by the Institute.

Published in the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, the study defines heavy use as 2,000 plus hours, which "corresponds to 10 years' use in the work place for one hour per day".

Early use was defined as having begun to use a mobile phone before the age of 20.

There was also shown to be a marked increase in the risk of tumor on the side of the head where the telephone was generally used, said the study, which took into account factors such as smoking habits, working history and exposure to other agents.

Kjell Mild, who led the study, said the figures meant that heavy users of mobile phones had a 240 percent increased risk of a malignant tumor on the side of the head the phone is used.

"The way to get the risk down is to use handsfree," he told Reuters.

He said his study was the biggest yet to look at long-term users of the wireless phone, which has been around in Sweden in a portable form since 1984, longer than in many other countries.

Via Reuters

Friday, March 24, 2006

US government supports Apple stand on French law - Engadget

US government supports Apple stand on French law - EngadgetUS government supports Apple stand on French law

Posted Mar 23rd 2006 6:30PM by Marc Perton
Filed under: Portable Audio
In what's shaping up to be the biggest Franco-American battle since US lawmakers renamed their favorite side dish "Freedom Fries," the US government has now declared its support for Apple in the company's dispute with France over DRM interoperability. US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, questioned about the case on CNBC, declared that he would "compliment [Apple] because we need for companies to also stand up for their intellectual property rights. At issue is a draft law that would require Apple and other companies to open up their DRM to competitors or allow consumers to do so on their own, so that music purchased in an online music store could be played in any manufacturer's digital audio player. Earlier this week, Apple referred to the French bill as part of a "state-sponsored culture of piracy." While Guiterrez didn't say whether the US government would do anything specific on Apple's behalf, he did say that it's a good policy to "have the government work with other governments." We assume this will continue to escalate, and it'll only be a matter of days before French students start burning iPods in the streets and Americans retaliate by torching Archos Gminis. And it looks like the cafeteria in Cupertino will have to start serving iToast for breakfast.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Windows Vista for Consumer in January 2007

Windows Vista for Consumer in January 2007
Microsoft Corp. has confirmed that Windows Vista, the next generation of the Windows client operating system, is on target to go into broad consumer beta to approximately 2 million users in the second quarter of 2006. Microsoft is on track to complete the product this year, with business availability in November 2006 and broad consumer availability in January 2007.

The company says Windows Vista will deliver greater value to businesses by seamlessly connecting people to information, enabling increased mobile and remote productivity, significantly reducing deployment and support costs, and providing a more secure and compliant desktop platform.

More than half a million customers have received the latest community technology preview for Windows Vista.

Microsoft will start distributing the new operating systems to businesses first, saying that the way businesses test and deploy software is a factor. Microsoft volume licensing customers will receive windows Windows Vista starting in November of this year. Availability for consumers and on new PCs will follow in January 2007.

Monday, March 20, 2006

BBC NEWS | Technology | Google ordered to hand over data

BBC NEWS | Technology | Google ordered to hand over data Google ordered to hand over data
A federal judge has ordered internet search engine Google to turn over some search data, including 50,000 web addresses, to the US government.

However, Judge James Ware denied a request that Google hand over a list of people's search requests.

The Justice Department had wanted access to search records to help prevent access to online pornography.

The judge said privacy considerations led him to deny part of the department's request.

"This concern, combined with the prevalence of internet searches for sexually explicit material, gives this court pause as to whether the search queries themselves may constitute potentially sensitive information," he said in his ruling.

Google lawyer Nicole Wong said it was reassuring that the judge's decision had "sent a clear message about privacy".

"What his ruling means is that neither the government nor anyone else has carte blanche when demanding data from internet companies," she said.

Public perceptions

The ruling said the request for 50,000 web addresses, or URLs, was relevant for use in a statistical study the government is undertaking to defend the constitutionality of its child anti-pornography law.

Earlier, the government had reduced its request to just 50,000 web addresses and roughly 5,000 search terms from the millions or potentially billions of addresses it had initially sought.

"The expectation of privacy by some Google users may not be reasonable," Judge Ware wrote, "but may nonetheless have an appreciable impact on the way in which Google is perceived, and consequently the frequency with which users use Google."

The case has focused attention on the issue of personal information held by internet companies.

The US Government is seeking to defend the 1998 Child Online Protection Act, which has been blocked by the Supreme Court because of legal challenges over how it is enforced.

It wants the data from the search engines to prove how easy it is to stumble over porn on the net.

Three of Google's competitors in internet search technology - AOL, Yahoo and MSN - have complied with subpoenas in the case.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Tuesday, March 14, 2006 - Magazine Article - Magazine ArticleMarket Scan
Google Still Has Long-Term Potential
03.14.06, 8:51 AM ET

Google shares still have long-term potential despite recent negative news, according to Bear Stearns.

"We continue to believe that the Street’s perception of Google as just a search company is too narrow," wrote analyst Robert Peck in a research note today.

The analyst said page views on Google owned sites in the U.S. increased 56% over the past 15 months but continue to trail far behind the major portals like Yahoo!, Microsoft MSN and AOL, a unit of Time Warner.

"However, Google's page views have increased 45% year-over-year so far this year while its competitors' page views have declined," the analyst said.

Last week, Google settled a click-fraud class action suit that alleged the company had improperly billed advertisers. Google also disclosed it had accidentally published revenue guidance figures for 2006.

Google's stock price declined approximately 11% last week due these announcements.

Bear Stearns lowered the year-end price target on Google to $525 from $550, citing increased capital expenditures and increased stock-based compensation

The research firm slightly lowered the full-year 2006 and 2007 pro-forma earnings-per-share estimates on Google to $8.91 and $13.08, respectively, from $9.00 and $13.10.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

As Internet TV Aims at Niche Audiences, the Slivercast Is Born - New York Times

As Internet TV Aims at Niche Audiences, the Slivercast Is Born - New York TimesMarch 12, 2006
As Internet TV Aims at Niche Audiences, the Slivercast Is Born

ANDY STEWARD, a successful London computer consultant and sailboat racer, became exasperated when trying to watch his favorite sport on television. There were a few half-hour recaps of some major sailing races, but they were always shown late at night.

Mr. Steward looked into creating a sailing channel on the Sky satellite service in Britain, but his idea was soon dead in the water. He would have had to pay £85,000 (nearly $150,000) to start the channel and £40,000 a month (nearly $70,000), as well as the production costs. That was a lot of money for an untested concept.

But in January, he did introduce a sailing channel, one that is rapidly filling with sailing talk shows, product reviews, programs on sailing techniques and, most important, intense coverage of the sort of smaller races that don't make it onto traditional television.

His new channel, however, will not be available over the air. And it won't be found on cable or even on satellite, at least not yet. The channel, called, is broadcast only on the Internet, which enables video to reach a much larger worldwide audience at a much lower initial cost than a satellite channel. Because "we didn't have any idea how big the audience would be," Mr. Steward said, he wanted to keep his expenses as low as possible. "Internet television is an investment we can grow into," he said.

In the last six months, major media companies have received much attention for starting to move their own programming online, whether downloads for video iPods or streaming programs that can be watched over high-speed Internet connections.

Perhaps more interesting — and, arguably, more important — are the thousands of producers whose programming would never make it into prime time but who have very dedicated small audiences. It's a phenomenon that could be called slivercasting.

In 2004, Wired magazine popularized the phrase "the long tail" to refer to the large number of specialized offerings that in themselves appeal to a small number of people, but cumulatively represent a large market that can be easily aggregated on the Internet. Plotted on a graph along with best sellers, these specialized products trail off like a long tail that never reaches zero.

Indeed, the Internet's ability to offer an almost infinite selection is part of what makes it so appealing: people can find things that don't sell well enough to warrant shelf space in a neighborhood music store or video rental shop — think of the obscure books on The ease of digital video production and the ubiquity of high-speed Internet connections are sending the long tail of video into the living rooms of the world, live and in color.

"The next wave of media is to unleash the power of serving people's special interests," said John Hendricks, the chief executive of Discovery Communications, which is developing a series of specialized video services. "Every time I walk into a Borders bookstore, I spend a lot of time looking at the magazine rack — because staring at you are all the passions of America. The bride who is about to get married, there is a magazine for her. And for the person who is a little older, there are wonderful travel and leisure magazines."

Already, there are specialized video services serving hundreds of specialties, including poker, bicycling, lacrosse, photography, vegetarian cooking, fine wine, horror films, obscure sitcoms and Japanese anime. There is also a growing market for Webcasts of local news and entertainment from every country and in every language, aimed at expatriates.

"We're adding two or three new channels a week," said Iolo Jones, the chief executive of NarrowStep, a company in London that provides technology and support for specialized Webcasts. Among his clients is, which says it attracted 70,000 viewers in its first month.

NEARLY 15 years ago, when the advent of digital cable offered the possibility of 500 channels, many people were skeptical that there would be enough programs to fill them. But then came specialized broadcasters — including the Speed Channel (for auto racing fans), the Military Channel and Home and Garden Television — and now cable and satellite systems are largely full.

"It has become almost impossible for a channel to increase its distribution the old way," said Lauren Zalaznick, the president of Bravo and Trio, two cable channels owned by NBC Universal. "To get distribution it takes a lot of effort and negotiation. You have to give up a lot to get very little."

Indeed, after DirecTV dropped Trio, a channel devoted to pop culture, among other things, Ms. Zalaznick decided to move it from pay-TV systems to the Internet. "To survive we had to find a new way," she said. The new way, she quickly realized, could also help Trio resolve its identity crisis. The cable channel mixed documentaries about pop culture, original music programming, reruns of obscure television shows and a fair bit of programming aimed at gay and lesbian viewers.

Moving to the Internet allowed her to break Trio into three distinct sites; they will be introduced over the rest of this year. One, called, will have the music and pop culture programming. Another,, will have the old TV shows. And the third,, will have gay and lesbian programming created in conjunction with PlanetOut, a media and entertainment company focused on that audience.

Other big media companies are also creating narrower Internet extensions of their channels. Scripps Networks, which runs the HGTV network, for example, created HGTVPro, with programming aimed at contractors and builders.

Discovery Communications, which has been a master of the current system, creating 15 different cable channels including Animal Planet and Discovery Health, is now exploring even more specialized services over the Internet. One will be introduced tomorrow for $9.95 a month. It will offer 30,000 video clips excerpted from its library of documentaries and other educational programs to help grade school and high school students with their homework. In the future, other services will offer content focused on narrow topics in travel, science and health.

Discovery, Mr. Hendricks says, is in a good position to create such services because of its large archive. "We have a wealth of programming just related to cancer, just related to Alaska and so on," he said.

In addition to offering Internet distribution, Discovery will start to broadcast some of these programs late at night on its regular channels and encourage people to record them, he said.

To be sure, there are doubters. "I've never been a believer that we should create channels for all these niches like beach volleyball," said John Skipper, a senior vice president of ESPN, a unit of the Walt Disney Company. "They just don't pencil out. Because if you have 12,000 people, you can't afford to do it. And if you can't afford to do it, you can't make any money on it."

One reason that ESPN has shied away from this sort of niche programming, he said, is that its brand stands for a level of high-quality visual production that would be difficult for small channels to afford. Indeed, ESPN has been investing millions of dollars to produce programs in high-definition formats.

But reticence by some big media companies is making room for independent programmers to explore all sorts of niches.

Marie Oser, a vegetarian cooking writer and food promoter, has been creating television programs for cable networks for several years. She is now working on developing a site,, which features 160 clips, mainly cooking demonstrations, as well as coverage of events like the Tofu Festival in Los Angeles and interviews about vegetarianism with celebrities including Jane Goodall and Daryl Hannah. The most popular viewing times, perhaps not surprisingly, are at lunch time and just before dinner.

Viewers call up about 1,000 videos each day, Ms. Oser said. "That's not huge," she said, "but it's growing." She makes money promoting her books, the food products she creates and the products of paying sponsors.

She offers her video by way of the Roo Group, a New York company that handles the technology for storing and sending the video to users; it also sells advertising on behalf of VegTV and a stable of other specialized sites. In the past, Roo has brought American Express, Honda and other national advertisers to Ms. Oser's site, although no major campaigns are running now. Roo also provides links to her programming from some other sites it works with, including, the site of WPLG, a Miami television station, which supplements clips from its local news with additional video from Roo.

Another Roo-based slivercaster is Yuks TV (, started by Dailey Pike, a Los Angeles comedian who earns most of his money these days warming up studio audiences for sitcoms. Mr. Pike said he was outraged when he saw a Comedy Central poll asking viewers to rate the 100 best comedians of all time. "Bob Hope was well below Bill Maher," he said.

He decided to create programming around clips from classic comedy television shows that have fallen into the public domain, including routines by Jack Benny, Red Skelton and George Burns with Gracie Allen. Mr. Pike also has some exuberant classic commercials, like ones featuring the dancing Lucky Strike cigarettes and the skydiver who delivered a can of Colt 45.

At first, he, too, made a program for late-night cable television, but in 2004 he switched to the Internet. The site has had as many as 200,000 visitors in a month, he said, but only if he buys advertising to attract them. "I can't make enough money to cover my costs at this point," he said. But he hopes that this will change, he said, as Roo builds up its advertising sales prowess.

Robert Petty, Roo's chief executive, has been trying to build an Internet broadcast system for years, but the idea has attracted attention only recently. "In the last few weeks, we've had a lot of people in saying they want to build out five TV stations for broadband," said Mr. Petty, a former executive at Telstra, the Australian telephone company. "We went for a lot of years without any attention at all. We're really enjoying it now."

He added that viewers were quickly warming up to Internet video. "Now we are talking about three- to five-minute videos," he said, "but there's no question that in a year's time we are talking about 22-minute to one-hour videos." Roo works with 100 sites, which show 40 million videos a month, Mr. Petty said.

While advertising on small video sites has been sporadic so far, many companies, including Roo and NarrowStep, say they see an opportunity to match video commercials to specialized audiences, as Google does with Internet searches and Web pages.

"The real analogy here is not with television but with magazine publishing," said Mr. Jones of NarrowStep. "Narrow publications can get very high rates."

In any case, companies that have thrived largely by selling specialized DVD's, often through obscure mail-order dealers, are now turning to the Internet as well. One company, Brain Damage Films, which produces and distributes horror films too obscure to show in theaters, has started renting its movies through Akimbo, a service that uses the Internet to distribute video programming. (Brain Damage's biggest hit so far has been "Death Factory," which involves an accident in a chemical plant and a worker who starts to mutate.) Akimbo can send programs either to a specialized set-top box that it sells for $69 or to a PC with Microsoft Media Center software.

Darrin G. Ramage, the chief executive of Maxim Media Marketing, which runs Brain Damage, says the company has no choice but to move to online distribution. "The bottom line is that for independent horror movie fans — people from 18 to 25 — the Internet is where they are," he said. "Anything they want to know about, they go on the Internet. If they want a movie, they go on the Internet."

Online distribution now accounts for 10 percent of Brain Damage's revenue, he said, and the company plans to start selling downloadable versions of its films directly from its Web site.

Kostas Metaxas is also shifting his video production online, although he serves an older audience more interested in diamonds than blood. Mr. Metaxas runs Exero, an Australian company that produces interviews with jewelers, fashion designers, chefs and others who cater to the preoccupations of the rich. "It's eyeball candy, basically," he explained.

He has accumulated 500 such interviews and packaged them for cable networks, DVD sales and in-flight viewing on Malaysia Airlines. Exero, too, is now finding a new audience through Akimbo, offering some programs free and selling others.

Instructional videos are also becoming available on the Web. TotalVid, which is owned by Landmark Communications, the parent of the Weather Channel, offers 2,300 programs for download, many of them videos teaching everything from how to play a guitar to the best techniques in tae kwon do. "There is a huge group of men who aspire to do martial arts," said Karl B. Quist, TotalVid's president. "They are not going to take lessons at a dojo, but they will watch a 60-minute video."

Viewers can pay for limited-time access to individual TotalVid programs, which include videos on extreme sports, music, parenting and travel, or they can pay $9.95 a month for a subscription that allows unlimited viewing of its films.

"I offered to help my son's basketball team, and I wound up as head coach," said Michael Katz, a marketing consultant in Hopkinton, Mass. A friend recommended TotalVid, and Mr. Katz used it to find a 45-minute video about how to coach youth basketball.

"The production quality wasn't great, but I could actually see the demonstrations of how to do the drills," he said, boasting that his team finished third in its league.

Looming over all of the smaller companies that distribute specialized video is the question of Google's ultimate role. Google's early video service was criticized as hard to use, but it is nonetheless attracting a lot of programming from major networks as well as independents — and of course, it has a huge traffic flow that no independent site can match. Google allows programmers to offer video free, to rent it or to sell copies that viewers download to their computers; Google gets a commission for videos that are sold and rented. Eventually, it plans to sell advertising on some videos as well, sharing the revenue with the producers.

Mr. Quist, for one, says he plans to deal with Google as a partner rather than as a competitor by making much of the TotalVid's accumulated content available for rent through Google Video. Some producers who license programs to TotalVid can cut out the middleman, of course, and deal with Google directly. Mr. Quist said he hoped to help these producers market their programming on Google as well as on Apple's iTunes and other online video stores.

Among the niche audiences that are considered both large and attractive to Internet broadcasters are immigrants and expatriates seeking news and entertainment from their home countries. But arranging cross-border deals, especially those in less-developed countries, can be difficult, complex and sometimes harrowing.

Kaleil Isaza Tuzman was reminded of this last month when someone stole his watch while he was taking a shower in a shared bathroom at his hotel in Khartoum, Sudan. Still, Mr. Tuzman said he considered the trip a success because he was able to secure the rights to broadcast Sudan TV, the national television station, on JumpTV, the company he runs.

JumpTV, which is based in Toronto, has evolved into a service that offers live Internet transmission of television station broadcasts from more than 60 countries to expatriates around the world. Among its channels are VTV4 from Vietnam, Channel 10 from Greece, Amazon Sat from Brazil and, perhaps most notably, the original Arabic-language version of Al Jazeera, the news channel based in Qatar.

This service has made a great difference to Joe Wityk, 83, of Calgary, an immigrant from Ukraine.

His son, Steve Wityk, said, "My dad has been bugging me for 20 years to get TV from the Ukraine." The younger Mr. Wityk did not want to buy a receiver to get the specialized satellite channels, which could have cost as much as $1,000, he said. So he was delighted to find that he could subscribe to TV5 from Ukraine through JumpTV. He installed an inexpensive computer in his home that he connected through a hole he drilled in his ceiling to the television set of his father, who lives above him.

"He had subscribed to Ukrainian newsletters but by the time the news got to him it was old," the son said. "The TV is much better."

MR. TUZMAN travels the world to manage relationships with television stations and oversee construction of the global network of satellite receivers and Internet servers needed to operate the system. He declined to say how many subscribers he had, but each typically pays $9.95 a month for a single channel, or up to $26 a month for a package of related channels.

Mr. Tuzman — a founder of during the dot-com boom, allowing people to pay parking tickets and otherwise deal online with local governments — faces competition from cable and satellite services. That is especially the case in the United States, where there is already much programming for the largest ethnic groups. So he focuses on smaller groups.

"The Bengali community in the U.S. is not the size of Dominicans'," he said. "But guess what? They can't watch Bengali TV anywhere else." Moreover, the audience for the Internet is worldwide.

"If you are a Mexican in North America, you are much better served by cable and satellite than if you are a Moroccan in Europe," he said. "Our company is a very exciting company because we aggregate a lot of different audiences, but any one of those audiences is a very small niche."

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Lenovo ThinkPad T60 review by PC Magazine

Lenovo ThinkPad T60 review by PC Magazine Lenovo ThinkPad T60
REVIEW DATE: 03.06.06
Once again, the ThinkPad continues its winning streak of Editors' Choices for business notebooks, this time with the Lenovo ThinkPad T60. It's an expensive system, but the Intel Core Duo processor, built-in EV-DO, and long battery life justify the price.

Intel Core Duo processor. Better performance. Built-in EV-DO capability. Solid management utility. Three USB ports. Good battery life.

The tested configuration is pricey. Battery is no longer compatible with previous ThinkPads.


Price: $2,599.00 Direct
Type: Business
Operating System: MS Windows XP Professional
Processor Name: Intel Pentium M T2500
Processor Speed: 2 GHz
RAM: 1024 MB
Hard Drive Capacity: 100 GB
Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon X1400
Primary Optical Drive: Dual-Layer DVD+/-RW
Wireless: 802.11a/g
Screen Size: 15 inches
Screen Size Type: standard
System Weight: 6.2 lbs

By Cisco Cheng

For years, the Lenovo (formerly IBM) ThinkPad T series has been racking up our Editors' Choice awards for business notebooks—and this year is no different. The ThinkPad T60 is Lenovo's newest corporate dream machine. Not only has the addition of the latest Intel Core Duo technology increased the performance monumentally, but Lenovo integrates 3G wireless with Verizon's EV-DO, so now you can get broadband access almost anywhere at any time you want.

The T60 comes in the traditional black, which may disappoint those who were anticipating a titanium cover like the one found on the Lenovo ThinkPad Z60m. In general, the design doesn't deviate from that of its predecessor, the ThinkPad T43. The only subtle differences are the EV-DO antenna protruding from the right side of the screen and the base, which is now covered with magnesium alloy (while the cover still uses a titanium composite), making the T60 a very durable notebook.

The "Access IBM" blue button is now a "ThinkVantage" blue button, which accesses a critically acclaimed abundance of management utilities. The Alt key has shrunk by half to accommodate the addition of a Windows key, which can be combined with other keys for Microsoft Windows and Office shortcuts. The keyboard feels stiffer, but it's still the best keyboard out there for typing. Lenovo's TrackPoint technology is also the best in the business, and we prefer it over the touchpad, both of which are included. Our T60 review unit is on the heavy side, tipping the scales at 6.2 pounds. But the extra weight is mostly due to the 15-inch screen and the 9-cell battery, which sticks out about an inch from the back. The display's resolution (1,400-by-1,050)is higher than that of the Z60t's widescreen (1,280-by-768).

* Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi
* Dell Inspiron E1705
* HP Pavilion dv4000
* IBM ThinkPad T43

We are happy to see three USB ports, instead of the two that come in the T43. The T60 still doesn't have a FireWire port or a memory card reader, which we can forgive, considering that this is a business-focused machine. The 100GB hard drive is plenty of storage for basic documents and productivity files—not to mention the occasional video for when you travel—and the dual-layer DVD±R drive can burn up to 8.5GB of data, provided you have the right media.

The T60 uses the Intel Core Duo T2500 (2.0 GHz) processor and 1GB of RAM, making it a very powerful system. Its configuration is similar to that of the Dell Inspiron E1705, and it performed about the same on our SYSMark 2004 SE tests. The Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi, which also includes an Intel Core Duo, surpassed the T60 by a 10 percent margin, thanks in part to its whopping 2GB of RAM. But more important, at least to ThinkPad diehards, the T60's performance improved drastically over that of the single-core T43, by 55 percent. Of course, some of that is due to the doubling in RAM (the T43 has 512MB); nevertheless, it's an impressive gain.

The T60 uses discrete graphics with the ATI Mobility Radeon X1400, which is a step down from the Radeon X1600 loaded on the Acer. The T60 could not complete any of our gaming tests, but it's not meant for gaming—you probably won't be playing Doom 3 on it.

The ThinkPad T60 beats the Acer on battery life. It lasted 5 hours 16 minutes on our MobileMark 2005 tests; the Acer system lasted 3:47. Unfortunately, the T60 is using a new battery design that is not backward-compatible with previous ThinkPad models.

The protruding antenna we mentioned is your ticket to broadband access using Verizon's EV-DO network. On our throughput tests, the EV-DO antenna showed downstream rates at expected levels, with an average rate of 650 Kbps when measured from our Manhattan offices. We were able to get around 600 to 680 Kbps throughout various locations in New York (Manhattan and Queens), which approaches the 1 Mbps threshold for true broadband throughput.

Verizon's VZAccess Manager client utility is preconfigured with the EV-DO wireless module, and the interface is simple to use, but it doesn't manage your Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections. We actually prefer managing the EV-DO connection through Lenovo's Access Connections, along with our other wireless connections. Access Connections lets you create user profiles and switch between an EV-DO profile, a Wi-Fi profile, and a wired profile. It's the only management utility that lets you do this. The EV-DO subscription price is still steep ($59.99 for unlimited service if you already have a Verizon voice plan), but if you travel frequently, pay for hotel Wi-Fi, and need to be constantly connected, the plan will pay off.

Access Connections is part of the impressive ThinkVantage management suite. The new interface launches as quickly as the Windows Start menu, and every utility is conveniently tied into the interface. You can choose to back up your drive or restore it to factory defaults if it goes bad. The maintenance utility runs your hard drive cleanups, virus scans, and disc backups when you're away from your computer. Enabling Whisper mode lets the user control the how much of the system's resources are used by a particular program. That is helpful with something like a virus scan, which runs in the background and can leave you short of resources for your other programs.

This particular configuration is rather expensive at $2,599, but simpler versions start at $1,299. The Lenovo ThinkPad T60 gives you a big bump in performance with the Core Duo technology, and it has built-in EV-DO. It's our pick for the ultimate boardroom companion.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Huge Phone Deal Seeks to Thwart Smaller Rivals - New York Times

Huge Phone Deal Seeks to Thwart Smaller Rivals - New York TimesMarch 6, 2006
Huge Phone Deal Seeks to Thwart Smaller Rivals

The AT&T Corporation, in announcing plans yesterday to buy BellSouth Corporation for $67 billion after months of speculation, took the offensive against low-cost rivals in the free-for-all for phone, wireless and television customers.

With cable providers and technology companies entering the phone business, the former Baby Bells starting to sell television programming and more and more services available on mobile phones and on the Internet, companies like AT&T are trying to bulk up and turn themselves into one-stop shops for all communications needs.

"We literally have hundreds of competitors coming in every day; it's nothing like the old days," said Edward E. Whitacre, Jr., the chairman and chief executive of AT&T, the country's largest phone company. "If we're going to have the strength to compete, we better get our companies together."

The new company, with $120 billion in sales, about 317,000 workers and 71 million local phone customers in 22 states, would recreate a big chunk of the former AT&T monopoly that was broken up a generation ago. With the deal, only three Baby Bells would remain: AT&T, the former SBC Communications that provided service in the Southwest and elsewhere; Qwest and Verizon, the $90 billion company which is AT&T's chief rival. The latter two might now face renewed pressure to build themselves up.

The merger, one of the dozen largest deals ever, was long the subject of speculation and got a major push in January when the chiefs of both companies went bird hunting together in Georgia.

The deal still must pass muster with regulators and it will probably face close scrutiny from consumer groups and AT&T's main competitors who argue the merger would give AT&T too much power and will ultimately lead to higher prices.

But while AT&T — which was formed last year when SBC bought the long-distance carrier, AT&T — might look much like its old self, the landscape where it competes is completely different. In 1984, when the old Ma Bell was broken up, the Internet and cellphone service barely existed and the cable industries was far smaller.

The new, more complex environment is a big reason why anti-trust watchdogs have not blocked large phone deals in recent years. Regulators in the Bush Administration have also been generally sympathetic to mergers, which has not escaped AT&T's attention, analysts said.

Indeed, AT&T and BellSouth consider themselves complementary partners because they compete very little for local phone and Internet customers, and they jointly own Cingular Wireless.

As a result, consumers buying services from AT&T, BellSouth and Cingular are unlikely to see much immediate impact. Ultimately, the companies hope that their new size will help them hold down their prices and potentially undercut cable and satellite companies with cheaper television programming, which they are just beginning to introduce.

Any benefits to customers notwithstanding, consumer groups expressed concern about a deal to merge the two companies.

"Things were already quite bad, but this eliminates any possibility of phone companies competing against each other," said Gene Kimmelman, the vice president for federal policy at Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports. "The bottom line for consumers is that you can kiss goodbye the declining cellphone and long distance prices that people have become used to." Investors have considered a union between AT&T and BellSouth likely because of their mutual stake in Cingular and because of their shared history as Baby Bells.

Mr. Whitacre has not been shy about paying top dollar for rivals to scare away other bidders. In the past decade, he bought three other local phone companies, Pacific Telesis Group, Southern New England Telecommunications and Ameritech Corp.

In 2004, Cingular bought AT&T Wireless for $41 billion, and last year, SBC bought AT&T for $16.8 billion and adopted its name.

"The empire-building continues," said Jeffrey Halpern, an industry analyst at Sanford Bernstein. "He has a track record of gobbling competitors at premium prices."

AT&T said it would pay $37.09 for BellSouth's shares, which is 17.9 percent above the closing stock price on Friday. The company, whose headquarters will remain in San Antonio, said it expected to save about $2 billion a year by buying BellSouth, some of which would come from an unspecified number of job cuts. AT&T planned to keep its name if the merger is approved, and Mr. Whitacre would remain at the helm.

With the deal, Duane Ackerman, the chairman of BellSouth, and several of his top lieutenants stand to collect hefty special payments, according to the terms of their employment contracts. Mr. Ackerman, who 63 years old and nearing retirement, could sell $28,374,000 worth of restricted stock and options if he is asked to leave the company, according to publicly filed documents.

Mr. Whitacre and Mr. Ackerman have been inching closer to a deal for years. In the fall of 2004, the companies held extensive negotiations, but the talks collapsed after BellSouth pushed for a price that included a premium of more than 30 percent, people involved in those talks said.

Mr. Whitacre then turned his attention to buying AT&T. Just days before that deal was signed, BellSouth tried to return to the bargaining table, seeking a premium of slightly more than 20 percent, these people said. But it was too late for Mr. Whitacre to turn back.

When SBC absorbed AT&T in November, Mr. Whitacre turned once again to BellSouth because, among other reasons, the two companies were having trouble managing Cingular. In mid-January, Mr. Whitacre sent one of his bankers, Roger Altman, who worked in the Treasury Department under President Clinton, to approach Mr. Ackerman again and make an informal proposal. The next day, Mr. Whitacre and Mr. Ackerman went bird hunting, these people said.

After their day out, the men promised to go to their boards and pursue a deal. Several weeks later, the executives met again privately and shook hands on a deal, setting off another three-week marathon of conference calls and meetings.

The deal was given the code name Project Mountain, while AT&T was referred to as Aspen, BellSouth was called Birch and Cingular Cedar. The mountain theme was chosen because, as one person put it, "This deal has been a long climb."

Over the last three weeks, both sides camped out at the midtown Manhattan offices of Sullivan & Cromwell, which represented AT&T. Mr. Whitacre called in from Turino, where he was watching the Olympics. On Saturday, the boards of both companies met to approve the transaction.

The new company would dwarf its nearest competitor, Verizon, which has in the past reacted to Mr. Whitacre's deals by following with ones of its own. After SBC bought AT&T last year, for example, Verizon outbid Qwest Communications for control of MCI Inc., the long-distance carrier.

Verizon's next move will probably be to try to dissolve its relationship with Vodafone, which owns 45 percent of Verizon Wireless. Verizon has expressed interest in buying Vodafone's share, but the price tag is likely to be steep because Verizon Wireless is extremely profitable.

Less likely, Verizon could also pursue Qwest, the primary local phone provider in the western United States, which is saddled with heavy debts. Verizon may also look more closely at Alltel, the country's fifth-largest wireless carrier.

"Verizon's business plan remains unchanged," said Peter Thonis, a Verizon spokesman. "We are focused on integrating MCI, divesting our directories business and working to acquire from Vodafone the remaining 45 percent of Verizon Wireless."

Verizon, like AT&T, is also trying to head off its rivals by offering its own television services. But the construction of the networks to carry their programming is proving expensive and the carriers have had to acquire permission from municipalities to sell their service.

The Bells have asked lawmakers in Washington to help them streamline the process, alarming cable companies that have moved closer together to defend themselves.

In addition to selling home phone lines, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and other cable companies are working with Sprint-Nextel, the third-largest cellphone company, to introduce mobile phone services that compete with Cingular and Verizon Wireless.

Cable companies are also using Sprint's long-distance network to carry its phone calls to rely less on AT&T and Verizon.

"Cable and Sprint are the counter force to the Bells," said Daniel Berninger, an analyst at Tier 1 Research. "The cable guys may get more aggressive and stick it to the Bells" as a result of an AT&T-BellSouth deal, he said.

Mr. Berninger said cable companies might distance themselves from a plan by the Bells to charge content providers like Amazon and Yahoo to guarantee that their content is delivered to customers faster. Consumer groups, technology companies and lawmakers worry that such a service would destroy the open nature of the Internet.

Andrew Ross Sorkin and Eric Dash contributed reporting for this article.