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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Activists upset with Facebook -

Activists upset with Facebook -

Grass-roots activists organizing boycotts against large corporations like Target stores and BP now find themselves directing some of their ire at another corporate monolith: Facebook.

The boycotters turned to the popular social media site to spread word about their pressure campaigns and keep participants up to date on the latest developments, but those efforts became much more difficult last week when Facebook disabled key features on the boycott pages.

As the number of Facebook members signed up for the “Boycott Target Until They Cease Funding Anti-Gay Politics” page neared 78,000 in recent days, Facebook personnel locked down portions of the page — banning new discussion threads, preventing members from posting videos and standard Web links to other sites and barring the page’s administrator from sending updates to those who signed up for the boycott.

“It slices the vocal cords,” complained Jeffrey Henson, who ran the Facebook page, calling for a boycott of Target over its $150,000 donation to a group supporting a candidate some view as hostile to the gay community, Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. “The page is now outraged” over the website’s action, Henson added.

Participants in the boycotts complain Facebook’s actions have created an uneven playing field in which ad hoc citizens’ groups face hurdles to online organizing — obstacles that corporations using social media have little trouble surmounting.

“Facebook is interfering with the function of a page dedicated to individuals organizing in response to corporate action to which they object,” said Nicholas Lefevre, a promoter of the Target boycott. “With the limited avenues for such expression and organization and the importance of the Internet to that ability, anything that threatens that expression is dangerous.”

Another Facebook page “liked” by even more people — a boycott of petroleum giant BP that attracted more than 847,000 fans — was also hit by a similar clampdown last week. Those who use the BP page to communicate about the gulf spill reacted angrily.

“It all smells fishier than the gulf to me,” said one comment on the page from a member called “Triple Bottomline.”

Organizers of the Target and BP boycotts quickly started new pages, but their followers have been slow to locate and join the new pages. By Friday, only 1,450 members had signed up for the new page from BP boycott organizer Lee Perkins and 2,507 had signed up for a new Target boycott page.

In response to a query from POLITICO, Facebook said the earlier pages were restricted because they ran afoul of the social media site’s terms of service, limiting so-called pages to individuals and entities that have some real structure in the bricks-and-mortar world.

“Facebook Pages enable public figures, organizations, businesses, and brands to share information, interact with interested people, and maintain an engaging presence on Facebook,” said a Facebook spokesman, who asked not to be named. “They're … optimized for official entities’ needs to communicate, distribute content, engage people and capture new audiences. To protect people from spam and other unwanted content, we restrict Pages that represent ideas or positions — rather than discrete entities — from publishing stories to people's News Feeds.”

“This policy is designed to ensure Facebook remains a safe, secure and trusted environment for the people who use it,” the spokesman said.

The written guidance published on the Facebook site is somewhat vague about who can sponsor a page. The official policy says pages “may only be used to promote a business or other commercial, political, or charitable organization or endeavor (including nonprofit organizations, political campaigns, bands, and celebrities).”

Officials from Target and BP told POLITICO they made no requests to Facebook to act against the boycott pages.

Henson said he got a notice from Facebook about a month ago that he needed to “authenticate” his page. He said he tried to answer every question the site asked.

“I never heard back. Next thing I know: I’m locked out of the page,” Henson said. “I’m hoping they do the right thing and unlock it.”

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Bing nudges out Yahoo Search -- but mobile holds the key

Bing nudges out Yahoo Search -- but mobile holds the key
The Nielsen Company reports that Microsoft's Bing has just barely exceeded Yahoo Search [1] in U.S. market share. Google continues as top dog, but Bing's showing some growth, while Yahoo's fading ever so slightly.
While Nielsen's numbers rate a short perusal, the drama unfolding behind the scenes shows a much larger shift than the numbers would have you believe. Here's the rest of the story.
Search engine market share numbers run all over the place, with different sites moving up and down a fraction of a percentage point every month. The terminology and methodology vary, but Nielsen pegs [1] Google's U.S. market share in August at 65.1 percent, comScore puts [5] Google's U.S. July market share at 65.8 percent, and Hitwise shows [5] Google's U.S. August share at 71.59 percent -- yes, to two decimal places.
Nielsen says that Yahoo lost a considerable amount of market share in a month, falling from 14.3 percent share in July to 13.1 percent in August. Conversely, MSN/Windows Live/Bing went from 13.6 percent in July to 13.9 percent in August. Thus, the headline that Bing has overtaken Yahoo.
No big deal. Why? Bing and Yahoo numbers don't matter. They're smoke 'n' mirrors, Tweedledee and Tweedledum. According to an agreement that took effect Aug. 24, Bing (with a few small exceptions) is now the search engine behind Yahoo. As Nielsen says, "If we combined Bing-powered search in August pro-forma, it would represent a 26 percent share of search."

Google: Chrome will be 60 times faster | Browsers - InfoWorld

Image representing Google Chrome as depicted i...Image via CrunchBaseGoogle: Chrome will be 60 times faster | Browsers - InfoWorld
No, that's not a typo in the headline: In a post at the Chromium blog, software engineers James Robinson and Gregg Tavares say that early versions of Chrome 7 are boasting speeds 60 times faster than Chrome 6. The key, they say, is hardware acceleration -- the same technology that's giving Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 beta such a boost.
The new feature, say Robinson and Tavares, "picks the best graphics API to use on each OS that Chromium supports: Windows XP/Vista/7, Mac OS and Linux."

Twitter 2.0 Is Aimed at Readers - PCWorld

Twitter 2.0 Is Aimed at Readers - PCWorld
Using Twitter is like being trapped in an elevator with someone who has a severe case of attention deficit disorder and just consumed three pots of truck-stop coffee. It's a nonstop diet of sometimes useful, sometimes funny, but mostly semi-coherent and self-serving banalities, served up in 140-character spoonfuls.
Though I use Twitter on a semi-daily basis, I rarely spend more than five minutes on at any one time. More than that and my brain starts to melt.
Last night, Twitter unveiled a new design it hopes will entice people to stay on the site until their gray matter turns into guacamole.
Want to see the new Twitter in action? Good luck. As I write this, one of the biggest trending topics on Twitter is "Where the heck is the new Twitter?" The Twit-heads say they will be rolling the new version out over the next month.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Replace iTunes 10's gray color-scheme | Music and Audio | Mac OS X Hints | Macworld

Replace iTunes 10's gray color-scheme | Music and Audio | Mac OS X Hints | Macworld
In iTunes 10, the icons in the sidebar have gone from colorful to drab light-gray; to some eyes, that change makes the icons harder to distinguish. If you're one of them, you might be interested in a tip from an anonymous Mac OS X Hints reader that implements an alternative color scheme:
If you are struggling with the new low-contrast icons in iTunes 10, here is a hint to change their appearance. After quitting iTunes, open Terminal and enter:
"defaults write high-contrast-mode-enable -bool TRUE"
When you restart iTunes, you'll have a high-contrast sidebar and list pane. To undo it, repeat the command but change the TRUE to FALSE.
By "high-contrast," this tipster means, "stark black and white." Many users who have tried this tip say they like the results less than the new all-gray and so undo it. It doesn't look great in the new default Album List view (View -> As Album List or Option-Command-4); it looks better (relatively speaking) in plain List View (View -> As List or Option-Command-3).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Editorial - Microsoft and Russia -

Editorial - Microsoft and Russia -
Microsoft made the right decision to stop helping Russian authorities use claims of software piracy to harass and silence dissenters. On Monday, it announced that it is barring its lawyers from taking part in such cases and will provide a blanket software license to advocacy groups and news media outlets in Russia, undercutting the Kremlin’s tactic.
Still, Microsoft’s willingness to lend itself to politically motivated investigations — it changed course only after an article by Clifford Levy in The Times on Sunday — suggests a shocking failure of corporate responsibility. The Times said lawyers for Microsoft bolstered state police in politically tinged cases across Russia. They made statements suggesting the company was a victim and called for criminal charges. After police seized a dozen computers from a Siberian environmental group, the group said all its software was legally licensed and asked Microsoft to confirm this. Microsoft would not. The police used information from the computers to track down and interrogate some of the group’s supporters.
Before changing policy on Monday, Microsoft executives said the company was required under Russian law to take part in such inquiries.
Unfortunately, Microsoft is not the only American company that has failed to stand up for the rights of its customers in undemocratic countries.
In China, all search engines have helped the state control access to the Internet. In 2004, Yahoo helped Beijing’s state police uncover the Internet identities of two Chinese journalists, who were then sentenced to 10 years in prison for disseminating pro-democracy writings online. Skype’s Chinese partner, Tom Online, scanned text messages for politically sensitive words and stored them alongside user information on servers that could be accessed easily by the Chinese government.
The one company that has stood up to China is Google. In March, after five years of complicity with Beijing’s censors, it began redirecting searches to its unfiltered engine in Hong Kong. By contrast, Microsoft’s founder and chairman, Bill Gates, defended the company’s continued collaboration with China’s censors. “You’ve got to decide: Do you want to obey the laws of the countries you’re in, or not?” he said during Beijing’s fight with Google. “If not, you may not end up doing business there.”

Twitter unveils 'faster, richer' | Geek Gestalt - CNET News

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBaseTwitter unveils 'faster, richer' | Geek Gestalt - CNET News
SAN FRANCISCO--Twitter on Tuesday unveiled a major redesign of its home page, one its executives say will give users a better, easier, and faster experience.
Though site redesigns are often underwhelming, the new is tantamount to a fundamental relaunch of the popular microblogging service's Web-based interface, mainly because it introduces a new interface build around a second viewing pane in which users will be able to see all kinds of content--from photos and videos to user profiles to geolocation information and more.
Twitter CEO Evan Williams said that the new version of the site (see video below) is available to some users immediately, while others will see it implemented in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Technolog - Creepy Google stalker proves your privacy is an illusion

Technolog - Creepy Google stalker proves your privacy is an illusion
David Barksdale lost his job at Google after parents complained that the 27-year-old Site Reliability Engineer violated the online privacy of at least four minors, reports Gawker. According to the story, Barksdale used his elite position to tap into Google voice phone logs, accessed Google contact lists and chat transcripts, and in at least one incident, unblocked himself from a Google Talk buddy list after the teen account owner blocked him.
It's not clear whether Google was aware of Barksdale's activities before receiving complaints from parents of the minors. Gawker reports that several complaints were received and acknowledged by the company before Barksdale's July 2010 firing.
Adrian Chen of Gawker writes that the site "obtained an e-mail exchange between one person who complained about Barksdale to Google and Eric Grosse, an Engineer Director in Google's security group at the company's Mountain View, Calif. headquarters. Grosse quickly responded to the complaint with a curt e-mail: 'Thank you very much for reporting; we'll investigate quietly and get back to you if we need anything more.' "
Barksdale, a self-described "hacker," reportedly met the minors through a Seattle technology group — one from which he was barred after evidence of his abuses emerged.

Monday, September 13, 2010

YouTube launches two-day live streaming trial | Web | Playlist | Macworld

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBaseYouTube launches two-day live streaming trial | Web | Playlist | Macworld
YouTube is to begin a two-day trial of live video streaming in the US.
The Google-owned video-sharing site is working with four broadcasters in the U.S.Howcast, Next New Networks, Rocketboom and Young Hollywood—to allow Web users to watch videos on the site as they are broadcast live and even comment on them with other users.
“This new platform integrates live streaming directly into YouTube channels,” said Joshua Siegel and Christopher Hamilton in a blog.
“Included in the test is a ‘Live Comments’ module which lets you engage with the broadcaster and the broader YouTube community. Based on the results of this initial test, we’ll evaluate rolling out the platform more broadly to our partners worldwide.”
This isn’t the first time YouTube has streamed live broadcasts. Last year the video-sharing site offered U2 fans the chance to watch the group perform live from LA.

Microsoft Changes Policy In Response To Russian Raids : NPR

Microsoft Changes Policy In Response To Russian Raids : NPR

Microsoft announced Monday new measures aimed at protecting non-governmental organizations from government harassment. In January, Russian police raided the offices of an environmental group, claiming it was using pirated Microsoft software. The group denies the charge. Clifford Levy, the Moscow Bureau Chief for the New York Times, talks with NPR's David Greene about his article on the raid, how this tactic is not new, and Microsoft's response.

The iOS 4.1 Update Fixes Most Things, Breaks a Couple | MacNews

iPhone 4 launched June 7th, 2010Image by k-ideas via FlickrThe iOS 4.1 Update Fixes Most Things, Breaks a Couple | MacNews
I was VERY HAPPY to see the iOS 4.1 update hit the streets last week. Although I had already had my iPhone 4 replaced for the yellow photo white balance issue, I was still having annoying proximity sensor issues and sometimes people would complain that my voice was very garbled while talking on my bluetooth headset. iOS 4.1 really hit the spot in a big way. First off, for most people it corrected the "taking an indoor shot coming out all yellow problem". I did some tests with another iPhone 4 here at my house that hand't been replaced and I took a shot while it was running iOS 4.0.2 and then took the same shot after applying the iOS 4.1 update and well, see for yourself:

Anti-US Hacker Takes Credit for 'Here You Have' Worm - PCWorld

Anti-US Hacker Takes Credit for 'Here You Have' Worm - PCWorld
A hacker who claims he was behind a fast-spreading e-mail worm that crippled corporate networks last week said that the worm was designed, in part, as a propaganda tool.
The hacker, known as Iraq Resistance, responded to inquiries sent to an e-mail address associated with the "Here you have" worm, which during a brief period early Thursday accounted for about 10 percent of the spam on the Internet. He (or she) revealed no details about his identity, but said, "The creation of this is just a tool to reach my voice to people maybe... or maybe other things."
He said he had not expected the worm to spread as broadly as it had, and noted that he could have done much more damage to victims. "I could smash all those infected but I wouldn't," said the hacker. "I hope all people understand that I am not negative person!" In other parts of the message, he was critical of the U.S. war in Iraq.
On Sunday, Iraq Resistance posted a video echoing these sentiments and complaining, through a computer-generated voice, that his actions were not as bad as those of Terry Jones. Jones is the pastor at a small Florida church who received worldwide attention this week for threatening to burn copies of the Koran.
Security experts agree that the worm could have caused more damage. However, it did include some very malicious components, such as password logging software and a backdoor program that could have been used to allow its creator to control infected machines. But because the software was not terribly sophisticated, it was quickly shut down as Web servers that it used to infect machines and issue new commands were taken offline last week.
This is a fortaste of our future. This is scary.
John H. Armwood

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Adobe PDF Flaw Remains Unpatched - PCWorld

Logo of Adobe Systems IncorporatedImage via WikipediaAdobe PDF Flaw Remains Unpatched - PCWorld
The exploit for a critical unpatched bug in Adobe Reader that's now circulating is "clever" and "impressive," security researchers said this week.
First uncovered last week by Washington-based researcher Mila Parkour, attackers are using rigged PDF documents that include code to exploit a zero-day vulnerability in the widely used Reader PDF viewer as well as in Acrobat, Adobe's PDF creation software.
The sophisticated exploit bypasses two important defenses that Microsoft erected to protect Windows, ASLR (address space layout randomization) and DEP (date execution prevention), researchers have confirmed.
"It's pretty clever," said Chet Wisniewski, a senior security adviser with software security firm Sophos. "It circumvents protections like ASLR and DEP. "Its techniques are certainly out of the ordinary and a lot more sophisticated than the garden variety [PDF] exploit."

Microsoft, Adobe: PDF security flaw treatable | Security - CNET News

Ubuntu 5.04 + AdobeĀ® ReaderĀ® 7.0Image by Nano Taboada via FlickrMicrosoft, Adobe: PDF security flaw treatable | Security - CNET News
Microsoft and Adobe Systems have announced that a recently released Microsoft toolkit can be used to block zero-day attacks targeting a security flaw in Adobe's Acrobat and Reader programs.
In an advisory published Friday, Microsoft detailed how its Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit 2.0 could be used to short-circuit the threat. Adobe, which has not yet released a patch, updated its original advisory to reflect the new information.
Adobe considers the flaw to be "critical"--it could let an attacker take control of any of the millions of computers running what is far and away the most popular PDF (portable document format) viewing system.
On Thursday, security company Trend Micro said it had found malicious files in the wild related to the flaw.
In its advisory, Microsoft says the following:
"In order to enable EMET for Adobe Reader and Acrobat you have to install EMET and run the following simple command line as an Administrator. Please note the path to the Adobe Reader and Acrobat could be different in your system (especially if you are not using a 64 bit system).
C:\Program Files (x86)\EMET>emet_conf.exe --add "c:\program files (x86)\Adobe\Reader 9.0\Reader\acrord32.exe"
The changes you have made may require restarting one or more applications