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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Microsoft Readies Record Patch Tuesday - PCWorld

The current logo of Microsoft Windows, the com...Image via WikipediaMicrosoft Readies Record Patch Tuesday - PCWorld

Microsoft says it will deliver a record 17 security updates next week to patch 40 vulnerabilities in Windows, Internet Explorer (IE), Office, SharePoint and Exchange.

Among the 40 patches will be two that address a pair of bugs that hackers have already exploited.
"I really was not expecting 17," said Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Security. "I expected 10 at the most."
The 17 updates -- Microsoft calls them "bulletins" -- are a record, beating the count from October 2010 by one. The bulletins that will ship next Tuesday will include 40 patches, Microsoft said, nine fewer than the record set last October, but six more than the next-largest months of October 2009 and June and August of this year.
The total bulletin count for the year -- 106 -- was also a record, as was the number of vulnerabilities patched in those updates: 266.
Microsoft defended the blistering bug patching pace of 2010.
"This is partly due to vulnerability reports in Microsoft products increasing slightly ... [and to the fact that] Microsoft supports products for up to ten years," said Mike Reavey, the director of the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC), in a post to the team's blog today. "Older products meeting newer attack methods, coupled with overall growth in the vulnerability marketplace, result in more vulnerability reports."
But it was December's big number that caught Storms' eye.
"The sheer number is quite surprising for December," said Storms. In the past three years, Microsoft has issued no more than nine updates in December, he said. "And while Microsoft doesn't necessarily take its cues from the rest of the world, the fact is many organizations won't patch a lot of these until after the first of the year," Storms continued.

Not only will enterprise IT staffs be short-handed this month -- what with holidays and vacation time -- but they will be unlikely to risk problems that could crop up in patching during such an important time of the year for their business.
"In this case, there might be less risk involved by doing nothing," said Storms. "That's especially true of companies, like those in the financial sector, that have locked down their networks since early November."
Many firms forbid patching the last two months of the year to insure that their hardware continues to operate, said Storms.
Two of the 17 updates were tagged with Microsoft's "critical" label, the highest threat ranking in its four-step scoring system. Another 14 were marked "important," the second-highest rating, while the remaining update was labeled "moderate."
Ten of the updates could be exploited by attackers to remotely inject malicious code into vulnerable PCs, Microsoft said in its usual bare-bones advance notification . Microsoft often labels remote code executable bugs -- the most dangerous -- as important when the vulnerable components are not switched on by default or when other mitigating factors, such as defensive measures like ASLR and DEP, may protect some users.
Among the fixes slated for next week will be one that addresses an already-disclosed vulnerability in all supported versions of IE, said Reavey.
In early November, Microsoft disclosed the zero-day IE bug and confirmed that attacks were already circulating . It was unable to craft and test a patch in time to make it into that month's security update, which appeared six days later.

Next week's IE update is one of the two marked critical, and will affect all versions of the browser with the possible exception of IE9, which is still in preview mode.
Microsoft also intends to patch the last of four Windows vulnerabilities that were used by the notorious Stuxnet worm to infiltrate industrial control systems, said Reavey. As far as Microsoft knows, the bug, which lets attackers elevate access privileges on a compromised PC, has not been exploited by malware other than Stuxnet.
Exploit code for that vulnerability, however, has been available on the Internet for several weeks.
Of the 17 updates, 13 will affect one or more versions of Windows, two will patch Office and Microsoft Works on Windows, and one each will address bugs in the Exchange and SharePoint server software.

Storms was concerned about the Exchange update.
"Anytime it has to do with e-mail, it's concerning," he said, adding that because the server must face the outside world, there may be easily-exploited attack vectors. "SharePoint, on the other hand, is usually very well protected inside the network," he said.
Also of interest, Storms said, was what Microsoft today identified only as "Bulletin 2," an update that affects all versions of Windows, but was tagged as critical for newer editions, including Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Server 2008. The same bulletin was marked as important for the older Windows XP and Server 2003 operating systems.
The Microsoft patch burden this month will be especially tough for administrators to deal with, because of other events, notably the WikiLeaks release of confidential U.S. diplomatic messages, and the resulting retaliatory distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against firms like Amazon, MasterCard and PayPal.
"It is enough that IT administrators are addressing the current DDoS service attacks surrounding WikiLeaks where anyone could very quickly become a target, but now organizations also have to address this disruptive Patch Tuesday from Microsoft with 17 bulletins," said Paul Henry, a security analyst at Lumension, in an e-mail Thursday.
"There's more than enough to handle at the moment without this Patch Tuesday," added Storms. "There's the ongoing WikiLeaks attacks and then there are always zero-days released around Christmas."

Storms was confident that Microsoft would include workarounds for the most egregious of next week's bugs that will help organizations and users protect themselves if they were unable to apply the security updates.
"That's something that Microsoft is actually been very good at lately," said Storms. "I expect that they'll deliver a decent set of mitigations."
Microsoft will release the 17 updates at approximately 1 p.m. ET on Dec. 14.
There is an easy solution. Buy a Mac.

John H. Armwood

AppleInsider | Apple's iPad tops Time's top 10 gadgets of 2010 list

Behold the iPad in All Its GloryImage via WikipediaAppleInsider | Apple's iPad tops Time's top 10 gadgets of 2010 list

Time magazine awarded Apple four slots on its 2010 top 10 gadgets list, naming the iPad the No. 1 gadget of 2010.

Apple briefly fell from grace last year when Time magazine awarded the Motorola Droid the status No.1 gadget of the year, calling it "Android's first credible challenge to the iPhone."

This year, however, Apple is back on top with the wildly successful iPad.

"It's not the first touchscreen tablet in the history of computing, but it's easily the most successful so far," wrote Doug Aamoth for the magazine. "With 3 million iPads sold in their first month alone and a market for interactive magazines and newspapers created almost overnight, Apple finally managed to make tablet computing cool."

According to Time, 2010 was a big year for Apple. The recently released 11-inch MacBook Air, which has been "flying off the shelves," came in third. The iPhone 4, Apple's fastest selling product ever, came in sixth. The new streaming Apple TV rounded out Apple's place on the list at No. 7.

Google also had a good year, and it's clear from the list that the search giant is giving Apple a run for its money. The Samsung Galaxy S Android smartphone took second prize. In fourth place was Google TV, specifically the Logitech Revue. Google's own Nexus One came in fifth, ahead of the iPhone 4.

To its credit, the iPhone did show up on another list: Top 10 iPhone Apps, of which Netflix was No. 1.

Times' list highlights the growing rivalry between Apple and Google. Apple has established a significant lead in the tablet market, and it's No. 1 spot on the top 10 gadgets list affirms that competitive answers to the iPad have yet to take off.

On the other hand, 2010 was the year where collective Android sales overtook those of the iPhone. Time acknowledged the growing success of Google's mobile operating system by awarding Android smartphones the No. 2 and No. 5 spots, ahead of the iPhone 4's sixth place finish.

All Laptops Should Be Like Google's Stark Naked Notebook

All Laptops Should Be Like Google's Stark Naked Notebook

All Laptops Should Be Like Google's Stark Naked Notebook

"Is that the Google notebook? Wow, I really like it!" That's what everybody's who's seen the Cr-48 Chrome prototype says. It's not because they love the software.

The Cr-48 is what notebooks should be like: Spare. There are no residue-streaking stickers. No stamps. No logos, no badges, no labels. Nothing shiny or blinking or twinkling. No swooshes or frivolous textures. It's pure, unbroken matte black skin.

The most remarkable design is so subtle you don't realize that it is design. And that's the Cr-48. There's nothing unnecessary here (even if it doesn't have some things that some people might say are necessary). Superfluous keys are deleted to make room for more useful ones, like search and screenshot. The trackpad is buttonless, so there's more tracking surface. It's plastic and lightweight, but sturdy. There are curves and edges exactly where they should be. Functional, beautiful minimalism. It's like a ThinkPad designed for someone under the age of 30.

Compare: Rows of laptops at Best Buy, more tattooed than flamed out rockstars. NVIDIA GTX 483958 graphics, INTEL INSIDE, MCAFEE PCONDOM, HP RECOMMENDS WINDOWS 7 HOME PREMIUM ULTIMATE AWESOME EDITION. And it's worse when you actually turn them on.

A blank slate of a laptop, the Cr-48 makes sense coming from Google, which isn't trying to sell you a bundle of parts or software. It doesn't matter who built the laptop, or what's inside. Just that your eyeballs are firmly affixed to the internet, undistracted—and the ads Google serves up. The Cr-48 is just a prototype only a few of us (like you!) will get to use, but don't be surprised if, like the Skywalkers, there is another.

It's just unfortunate that Google might be the only company that could give us this kind of laptop, because it's the kind of machine that some people clearly want: One that lets us just focus on what's in front of us.

WikiLeaks Attacks Illegal Says Internet Society - PCWorld

WikiLeaks Attacks Illegal Says Internet Society - PCWorld

Takedown attempts against WikiLeaks undermine what the Internet stands for, says the nonprofit group dedicated to open use of the Internet.

Dec 11, 2010 9:11 am
Takedown attempts against WikiLeaks undermine what the Internet stands for, and those responsible should be tracked down and prosecuted, says the Internet Society, a nonprofit group dedicated to the open use of the Internet.
Could Wikileaks spawn troubles for the IT industry?

In its December newsletter, ISOC says it recognizes that WikiLeaks' posting of diplomatic cables is a worry to some, but knocking the site offline is illegal.
"Unless and until appropriate laws are brought to bear to take the domain down legally, technical solutions should be sought to reestablish its proper presence," ISOC says, "and appropriate actions taken to pursue and prosecute entities (if any) that acted maliciously to take it off the air."
Wikileaks has suffered distributed DoS attacks and in response supporters of WikiLeaks have launched DDoS attacks of their own against Visa, Mastercard, and
"The Internet Society is founded upon key principles of free expression and non discrimination that are essential to preserve the openness and utility of the Internet," ISOC writes. "We believe that this incident dramatically illustrates that those principles are currently at risk.
"Free expression should not be restricted by governmental or private controls over computer hardware or software, telecommunications infrastructure, or other essential components of the Internet."
WikiLeaks has managed to continue posting the leaked documents and fresh ones with help from mirror sites around the world.
ISOC notes that due to the very resilient design of the Internet, the attempts to keep WikiLeaks offline have failed, but they have had a negative effect on the Internet in general.
The cooperation among several organizations has ensured that the impact on the Wikileaks organizational website has not prevented all access to Wikileaks material," ISOC says. "This further underscores that the removal of a domain is an ineffective tool to suppress communication, merely serving to undermine the integrity of the global Internet and its operation."

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Using Google's Chrome OS Laptop of the Future

Image representing Google Chrome as depicted i...Image via CrunchBaseUsing Google's Chrome OS Laptop of the Future

The Chrome Cr-48 netbook might just be a reference design—as in, most folks won't ever be able to use it—but it is what Google thinks a Chrome laptop should be. And it has some pretty nice touches. Updated.

Here are some quick impressions on the hardware and software that we gleaned from about an hour's worth of usage.

• Plain matte finish both inside and outside the lid feels nice—the antithesis of shiny MacBooks
• The trackpad really does not like having two fingers on it at once. It's not multitouch, but you can use two fingers for right clicking.
• Window switching with Alt+Tab is fast, and feels like switching workspaces (Spaces on OS X)
• Fairly light and fairly thin
• The keyboard keys are separated like MacBook and Envy, so I'm definitely used to typing on it
• No function keys, instead, you have actually web-useful keys like back, forward, reload, fullscreen, next window and several standard laptop keys
• Shutdown and resume really is almost instant
• The screen doesn't get incredibly bright, but it gets bright enough for indoor use
Gmail calling works! It's only slightly laggy, and I sound like I'm in a closet, but otherwise, it works

No likey
• It's definitely still a netbook—there's an Atom processor inside—so heavy duty computing is out of the question
YouTube is limited to 480p, even on 1080p videos. There's just no option to select the higher quality
• Hulu is choppy, but it's not unwatchable
• Gmail noticeably is slower than on a MacBook Pro
• There's only one USB port

Update: Extended impressions. Google really wants people to use the web, and having a web-only computer pretty much forces you to do so. I've been using the Cr-48 for a few hours now, and I can both say that it's the best netbook I've ever used, as well as the most limiting computer I've ever used.

The experience of using a web computer

Being locked into a browser for everything you do on a computer can be frustrating. It's modal computing—something that Apple seems to be pushing with their OS X Lion—so you're always working in one maximized window. You can still multitask in the sense that things are going on in tabs and windows that you're not looking at, but you can't really see more than one thing at once. Except, as a notable example, the fact that GChat windows pop up no matter where you are, effectively enabling web-based apps to transcend the window they belong to.

Some quirks and pains of using a web browser are more significant when you're using one as an operating system. The search button, Google's "replacement" for the caps lock key, brings up a new tab. Logically, you'd assume the search button allowed you to say, search in Gmail, if you were in a Gmail window, or search your previous chat transcripts if you were in GChat.

Also, Flash has crashed a lot. It doesn't take down the tab that it's in when it crashes, but you have to reload every single tab that you have that uses Flash.

But overall, working entirely in a web browser isn't too bad, as long as you have web-based versions of things you need to do. I'm not quite there, but I'm convinced that with a few weeks effort, I can be.

The prototype hardware
Again, because Google doesn't intend this particular Cr-48 model to be an actual product, there's no need to review the hardware. However, there are touches, ideas and themes that Google has put in that they would like their hardware partners to carry on.

The SD card reader on the side is quite handy, as is the existence of a USB port. The keyboard is also matted and nice to type on, and matches the rest of the finish. And I can't emphasize enough how cool it is to be using an unbranded, unmarked, totally generic laptop. This is like the Nexus One/S of notebooks.

I suppose the fact that this is running an Atom processor is holding it back from being a blazing fast experience, even if all you're doing is web-based computing. Alt-tabbing may be fast, but everything else, like Google docs, Gchat, and other things that are supposedly lightweight will run slower than you're used to. I mean, when was the last time that Google Docs lagged on keypresses for you?

So, hopefully the third-party manufacturers that do do Chrome OS notebooks find a way to balance extended battery life with the need for slightly more powerful hardware. It's a very good secondary machine, or travel machine, but in order for it to be a primary machine, you're gonna need more juice.

Adobe vows fix for sluggish Flash in Chrome OS | Electronista

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBaseAdobe vows fix for sluggish Flash in Chrome OS | Electronista

Adobe's Senior Director of Engineering Paul Betlem apologized on Thursday for the state of Flash in Chrome OS on the Cr-48 netbook. Following criticisms (and Electronista impressions) that Flash on the netbook is very sluggish and often unusable for video, Betlem acknowledged that hardware video acceleration and optimization wasn't in place. He declined to give a timeframe but did say the update would come automatically.
"In terms of Chrome notebooks specifically, as with many aspects of the device, Flash Player 10.1 support remains a work in progress," he said. "Video performance in particular is the primary area for improvement and we are actively working with the engineers at Google to address this. Enabling video acceleration will deliver a more seamless experience on these devices."

Linux has received the least attention of all platforms where Adobe supports Flash, but the current state of the plugin potentially creates trouble for those part of the early access program for Chrome. With many of the titles in the Chrome Web Store based on Flash and web apps a central focus, the rough condition could leave testers with limited functionality for a long time.

A fix should be in place by the time finished Chrome OS computers ship from Acer and Samsung in mid-2011, but the lack of polish has underscored concerns about attempts to drive Flash on to low-end platforms. Flash for Android already uses hardware acceleration but still suffers from performance issues in some areas. Versions of Flash for BlackBerry, webOS and other platforms also haven't reached any publicly known test phases despite being promised early in 2009, outside of the yet to be released PlayBook.

Apple is one of the few holdouts refusing Flash on low-end hardware and has pointed to performance and long development times for suitably fast Flash as some of its key reasons.

By Electronista Staff

Chrome OS puts the cloud in your hands | The Download Blog -

Chrome OS puts the cloud in your hands | The Download Blog -

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

AppleInsider | Google delays netbook plans for Chrome OS to mid 2011

Image representing Google Chrome as depicted i...Image via CrunchBaseAppleInsider | Google delays netbook plans for Chrome OS to mid 2011

Google's plan to bring a web-centric, open operating system to netbooks has been delayed until the first half of 2011 as the company continues to work on Chrome OS, originally expected to launch this summer. The OS is held up on a wide variety of problems, from missing hardware support to Android-like fragmentation.

In an announcement earlier today, Google noted that its free Chrome browser, based on the WebKit open source project maintained by Apple, has tripled from 40 million to 120 million users. The Chrome browser is the basis for Google's forthcoming Chrome OS, which pairs the Linux kernel with a web-based app environment.

Google originally intended to ship Chrome OS on both Intel x86 and ARM-based netbooks by the middle of 2010 in a parallel effort to the company's Android operating system, which uses native and Java-like apps rather than being a web-based platform.

Chrome OS imagines an iPad-like future

"Google Chrome OS is being created for people who spend most of their time on the web, and is being designed to power computers ranging from small netbooks to full-size desktop systems," the company blogged last summer.

"We hear a lot from our users and their message is clear — computers need to get better. People want to get to their email instantly, without wasting time waiting for their computers to boot and browsers to start up," the company explained.

"They want their computers to always run as fast as when they first bought them. They want their data to be accessible to them wherever they are and not have to worry about losing their computer or forgetting to back up files. Even more importantly, they don't want to spend hours configuring their computers to work with every new piece of hardware, or have to worry about constant software updates. And any time our users have a better computing experience, Google benefits as well by having happier users who are more likely to spend time on the Internet."

While Google continues to work the bugs out of Chrome OS, Apple has already answered the problems Chrome OS was intended to address with the iPad, a simple new rethinking of the the PC which has vaulted Apple into position as the first place US mobile PC maker and third in mobile PC sales worldwide.

Apple also delivers a range of Mac notebooks from the light MacBook Air to professional MacBook Pros and its desktop line of Mac mini, iMacs and Mac Pros. Unlike the Chrome OS, these machines can run native Mac apps, can host X11 Linux apps, and can even run Windows apps in a virtualization environment.

New beta Chrome OS hardware

In anticipation of the launch of Chrome OS with partners Acer and Samsung next year, Google is making available test hardware for interested users. Noting that "some of the features of Chrome OS require new hardware," Google will offer its Chrome OS testers netbooks with "full-sized keyboards and touch pads, integrated 3G from Verizon, eight hours of battery life and eight days of standby time."

Hinting at new hardware-level security, Google's Chrome Blog also states, "even at this early stage, we feel there is no consumer or business operating system that is more secure" than Chrome OS. Part of that security may also come from the fact that Chrome OS lacks (by design) core support for typical operating services, as well as basic support for hardware, ranging from printing to USB devices.

The company's description of its netbook-like test hardware for Chrome OS also muddles the idea of whether Google plans to take on the iPad with Chrome OS tablets (as many pundits have projected), or whether it still plans to resurrect the netbook, a form factor that was all the rage when the company first announced the Chrome OS as an initiative back in July 2009, before the iPad deflated the netbook as a market segment and began eating into conventional PC sales.

Google may attempt both, allowing its licensees to experiment with a variety of devices to see which can gain traction. Such an effort would likely fractionalize Chrome OS as a platform just as it enters the market in competition against the second generation of iPad. Apple is also working to deliver a new Mac App Store to deliver apps driving sales of the thin, light MacBook Air and its full sized notebooks and desktops.

The difference is that Apple already has a large installed base of Mac users to market apps toward. Chrome OS will only run web apps, and offers no backwards compatibility with Android, or Windows, or even existing Linux apps.

Opinion: Comcast-NBC: The real dangers - Josh Silver -

Opinion: Comcast-NBC: The real dangers - Josh Silver -

Regulators are due to decide on Comcast’s purchase of NBC Universal in the next few months. If approved, it would contradict the tough talk from Barack Obama-the-candidate, who, in 2008, promised a “reinvigoration of antitrust enforcement.” “I strongly favor diversity of ownership of outlets,” Obama said during the campaign.
If you’re trying to reconcile Obama’s rhetoric with the fact that Washington oddsmakers predict the merger will be approved by his Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission, you’re not alone.

Comcast is the nation’s largest residential Internet provider and the largest cable television company. If the merger is approved, it will own one of the nation’s largest content providers. That means that Comcast will exercise enormous control over what you watch and how you watch it – online, on cable and over the air.

Comcast’s pre-merger market power is already stunning. Today, in 97 percent of American communities, consumers have two or fewer broadband providers — the result of decades of corporate-friendly changes by the FCC, which gradually eased competition policies.

In this evolving media landscape, the United States has slipped from No. 4 to No. 22 internationally in broadband adoption, and dropped to 19th in speed over the last 10 years. While our speeds are slow, the costs are high — leaving us neck and neck with tiny Estonia.

This slide threatens the future of U.S. innovation, education and economic growth. And it makes the potential Comcast/NBC megalith an even bigger threat to our media and technology future.

This list of reasons that the merger should be blocked is long, and Comcast’s involvement in particular should raise even more red flags. The company has a long history of bad behavior, including blocking Internet traffic, bullying competition, jacking up prices and lying to lawmakers.

A “Chicken Little” warning? Consider the facts:

Think your cable bill is sky-high? Brace yourself for the post-merger reality. Comcast already raises its prices with alarming regularity, but soon it’ll have more power to charge its competition (and the public) for NBC content and to charge advertisers far more for space on Comcast platforms. The merger is likely to result in $2.4 billion in costs to consumers over the next decade, according to a study by William Rogerson of Northwestern University for the American Cable Association. That’s 10 times the estimated benefits ($204 million) Comcast claims that consumers will reap

As online products like video and gaming take up more and more bandwidth, phone companies’ DSL service will soon be obsolete — leaving Comcast and its cable brethren with a natural monopoly in broadband access.

It is estimated that, in the near future, more than 75 percent of Americans will have access to just one provider of video-quality high-speed Internet: cable. For many, Comcast – with its 24 million subscribers nationwide – will be it.

Worried yet? Post-merger, Comcast is predicted to control one in every five television viewing hours. It would have both a powerful motive and newfound leverage to prevent Internet TV upstarts from challenging its distribution of television service.

In fact, it’s already happening. Recently, the Internet company Level 3 alleged that Comcast demanded additional fees to deliver content requested by Comcast’s own customers. By no coincidence, this demand came soon after Level 3’s agreement to carry Netflix’s streaming online video services.

See how it works? Comcast demands higher fees for Level 3; Level 3 passes those costs on to Netflix. The next thing you know, you are paying more for cable, more for Internet access and more for streaming services like Netflix.

By far the biggest problem with the pending merger is Comcast’s new market dominance and its adverse affect on online video and independent voices. The company can use its vertically integrated power to refuse to license NBC-Universal TV and film content to both existing and emerging online TV providers -- like iTunes. If Comcast were to overcharge or starve these businesses of the content they need to secure a foothold in the marketplace, it could be able to stifle competition -- and lock consumers into the old cable model.

Comcast can also use its control over the broadband pipe to degrade its customers’ connection to competing Internet TV providers and to enhance access to Comcast’s own online video platforms like Fancast Xfinity TV. If Comcast customers have to choose between access to rival online video services that sputter or to Comcast’s own online video service, which runs smoothly – which do you think they’ll choose?

If you believe in competition, innovation, and independent voices, you should be concerned about this merger. If you believe that television channels are already heavy on cheap-to-produce programs, infomercials and low quality news, you should be worried – consolidation increases profit pressures, which lead to newsroom layoffs, more commercials and mediocre, mind-numbing programs.

This could be the new face of media consolidation – a dangerous trend that has gutted commercial journalism and left citizens with fewer choices and less information from a dwindling number of sources.

The bogeyman in this scenario is the hallucinatory claim that the public is likely to benefit from tighter corporate control of the nation’s media platforms.

Josh Silver is the president and chief executive officer of Free Press, a national nonprofit group to help reform media.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Google launches Chrome Web Store, shows full Kindle for Web | Electronista

Image representing Google Chrome as depicted i...Image via CrunchBaseGoogle launches Chrome Web Store, shows full Kindle for Web | Electronista

Google today formally launched the Chrome Web Store, its portal for web apps on both the Chrome browser and Chrome OS. The section lets users buy apps that they can access from a central launcher and which behave more like traditional apps, in some cases working offline. Many work with Flash but can use strict web standards and work for all platforms.

Among the apps on show are ones from Amazon, the New York Times, NPR, Sports Illustrated and many games. Chrome 9 will come with EA's Poppit already installed, and other EA games will come through the store. Many apps will be enhanced from their usual web versions and will sync their data with Chrome OS or any other version of Chrome.

As promised, Amazon showed a full version of Kindle for the Web, now given special treatment in the web store: the new version has a heavily visual browser that includes a Cover Flow-style book browser. All the reading settings, highlights and other details should carry over to the new app.

The Chrome Web Store should be ready now with about 500 titles and is designed for Chrome 8. Chrome 9 when it ships will have a prominent tab for the store and a streamlined way to pay for apps. Kindle for the Web adapted to the Web Store should arrive in early 2011.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Google Makes A Play For A Piece Of The E-Books Market : All Tech Considered : NPR

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBaseGoogle Makes A Play For A Piece Of The E-Books Market : All Tech Considered : NPR

The market for electronic books just got a little more competitive. Google is rolling out an online retail store that will sell e-books from some 9,000 publishers, including all of the major houses.

Just before Monday morning's launch, I got a look at the new website. On the surface, it doesn't look much different from the Amazon or Apple e-book sites.

"We're really sticking with the classic reading platform," Scott Dougall, part of the team that developed Google's new service, told me.

Google's e-books are nothing fancy — no bells and whistles. They don't have 3-D pictures or social networking. You can't just put your finger on a word and get the dictionary definition like you can with the iPad. Dougall said Google doesn't want to interfere with the reading experience "because ultimately the book and the story are ... the most valuable property."

What sets Google's service apart from the other two retailers is that its e-books are stored online, so they can be read on almost any Internet-connected device — a desktop computer, a laptop, a smart phone. Once you buy a book, you just sign into your account and read.

Mike Shatzkin, a book industry consultant, says he thinks that will open up e-books to a lot more people. "What Google is doing is enabling anybody with a Web browser to have an e-book experience. That means probably that we're going to see far more titles than made sense in the previous e-book world."

WikiLeaks: China Pressured Google on Internet Censorship - PCWorld

WikiLeaks: China Pressured Google on Internet Censorship - PCWorld

Google's struggles to operate its search engine in China worsened after a high-ranking Chinese official Googled himself only to find "results critical of him," according to a new cable released by WikiLeaks on Saturday.

A member of China's top ruling body believed the company's main search engine at was illegal after discovering the site provided uncensored search results, according to an unnamed source in a released cable dated May 2009. The official then demanded the search giant remove a link to from the company's censored China-based search engine at

The name of the official is redacted in the released cable. But according to a New York Times report, the official in question is Li Changchun, a member of China's Politburo Standing Committee.

Li, 66, is considered to be the propaganda chief for China. A WikiLeaks cable also names Li as the government official who oversaw the December 2009 hacking attack on Google's computer systems, the Times reported.

The release of the cables come months after Google decided to pull back some of its operations in the country. In March, Google announced it would stop censoring its search results in the country, a requirement brought on by the Chinese government. Now the company's page simply redirects users to Google's Hong Kong search engine, which provides unfiltered results. The Chinese government, however, continues to censor out searches from the page.

The newly released cable, along with another dated July 2009, claim that the Chinese government took repeated efforts to force Google to meet its demands on Internet censorship. From 2007 to 2009, Google received numerous request for the company to remove the link from the page.

At one point Chinese officials even asked the country's three state-owned telecommunication companies to stop working with the search giant as a form of retribution, an unnamed source in one of the cable's claimed. An unidentified source in another cable believed Google was being "harassed" following the company's three-year history of facing periodic blockages of its services by the Chinese government.

Google, however, held its position on not removing the link, with the company's lawyers believing they found "no legal basis for China's demands."

"While the government has called an illegal website to justify its request for removal of the link, Chinese law does not explicitly identify the site as illegal, the site is not blocked by China, and thousands of other Chinese websites include links to," according to one of the leaked cables.

Google further explained that keeping the link on the page was a principle the company said it would uphold when it testified to U.S. Congress about entering the China market.

China also wanted Google to take action on its Google Earth images. The country asked the U.S. government to force the company to reduce the resolution of Google Earth images of China's military, nuclear and space installations, as well as another sensitive government facilities. An unnamed source said there would be "grave consequences" if terrorists used the images for attacks, according to the November 2006 cable.

Google offered no comment on the released cables. China's Foreign Ministry also refused to give comment on the cables' content when asked at a press briefing last week.

But the challenges Google faced in China according to the released cables are nothing revelatory, but "business as usual", said Mark Natkin, managing director for Beijing-based Marbridge Consulting.

"WikiLeaks is just laying bare what most people in the industry already knew," he said. "Authorities in China have a particular policy agenda and they pursue that in a variety of ways. It applies to both foreign and Chinese companies."

Chinese authorities often require that Internet firm place their servers within the country, which can lead to conflicts for foreign companies such as Google, Natkin added. Currently, Google has until July of next year to apply for a necessary license with the Chinese government in order to continue operating its online mapping service within the country.

Google, however, must locate its online mapping servers within China to meet the license requirements. So far Google, has yet to apply, according to the Chinese government.