8 things Microsoft can do in 2006 to better compete against Google search and Adsense


Being the end of the year is list time, it’s my turn to weigh in. The following are 8 things Microsoft could do in 2006 to better compete against Google in the advertising and search space:

  1. Launch Adcenter for websites worldwide ASAP (no beta invite only garbage). Why can’t I sign up for this and add to our websites now? Why is Adcenter still in pilot status? If this isn’t done in Q1-2006, they can pretty much forget about this doing anything unless their pay structure blows away all competitors. Adsense and YPN are gaining market share that MSN loses every day. Also, please make sure Adcenter works in competing browsers! The newest version of Opera says: “Please Upgrade Your Browser” when navigating here.
  2. Make Adcenter a one click install to any and every MSN Spaces blogger who wants it. Google made it painless adding Adsense to every Blogger blog — yes, even splogs sadly — and add they did.
  3. Offer how-to guides on how to add Adcenter to every other popular blog software. Google has a bit of Microsoft in them as they release stuff that puts a huge spotlight on their own stuff. Case in point: Google Reader which has a post to blog function that only works with Blogger. Microsoft needs to add similar functions and also use the MetaWeblog API so that users can post to Wordpress, Movable Type, TypePad and other popular blogging platforms. MSN Spaces already allows this, but how about built-in blog integration a la Flock inside Internet Explorer 7?
  4. Adcenter API from day one public release with no usage limits or restrictions — yes, even commercial use. Tieing the hands of third party developers isn’t a wise move. Empowering them, however, can lead to some exciting creations. And don’t just make this API .NET-friendly like Microsoft does with everything and forgets that other programming platforms actually exist and developers like. Make sure real world examples exist for competing languages like PHP, Python, Java and Perl.
  5. Fix the MSN vertical length issues — use less than Google — so that they stop making users scroll in MSN searches. Aesthetically, Google search feels cleaner than MSN, and if they want to start fighting the aesthetic battle they need to clean up the search clutter today, not tomorrow.
  6. Close a significant deal with Yahoo or another major internet force. We already know AOL is out, but that leaves other choices. #2 and #3 banding together to fight #1 makes a more formidable #2. A post on MSN Program Manager Ian McAllister’s blog suggests some intriguing deals could be under consideration:
    At the end of the discussion one of the people I was meeting with threw out a blanket offer to brainstorm other ways in which our companies might work together. He then stated that his company was willing to entertain ideas for working with Microsoft that would help our Search and/or advertising business, with one of the goals being to prevent Google from dominating those spaces even more than they are now. He was essentially saying that his company would help Microsoft level the playing field with Google in search and advertising.
    The question this immediately raises is what about YPN vs. Adcenter? I think this could be one part of a deal that means a partnership with Yahoo does not make sense, but wouldn’t it be something if Adcenter and YPN joined forces? The possibilities! And let’s not forget the wildcard: Amazon. Is it possible Amazon and Adcenter could cross-pollinate somehow?
  7. Listen to Scoble and get the freaking checkbook out and buy some dominant websites/services/products and then don’t ruin them before the ink is dry. Digg and Memeorandum are there for the taking if the price is right. Another relatively small player that isn’t on many folks radars but would fit in nicely with their blog search and the webmaster space: think Adcenter (sorry I promised not to mention these folks in 2005 again, but they just fit this post too well). I’m talking about BlogExplosion (referral). One of the first things website owners and bloggers want to do is increase their site traffic and BlogExplosion is currently leading their niche market, which would give Microsoft an edge in an area where they are weak and Google is strong: delivering traffic to third party sites that are not paid advertisers.
  8. Sex. Destined to be laughed off as a ridiculous notion but think seriously about where a lot of internet revenue goes. Blogger allows adult sites while MSN Spaces doesn’t. Google has found a way to backroom adult content instead of completely shunning it. Microsoft doesn’t seem to want anything to do with it. So if Microsoft started allowing more adult content in protected areas where content was monitored then they would flirt in a space that Google has quietly been enjoying success. So how can they do this without offending existing users? Easy, buy companies which already have a roped-off adult presence and don’t change them. I’m not suggesting Microsoft should get into the porn business, no way, rather I’m suggesting that they create and allow adult content on their sites instead of treating sex like some sort of cancer. If Google can do this, why can’t Microsoft?

The waiting gameOne of the biggest problems Microsoft has is they keep making us wait too long. It seems no matter what they are working on, they are always working on something. I’ve ranted on this before, but it is probably the biggest problem they need to address in 2006 and beyond. If this means buying into smaller companies and letting them innovate and launch under the umbrella then they need to do it. We all know Vista isn’t coming until late 2006 and it might be 2007 before Microsoft can re-emerge as a now company instead of a coming soon company.

For all its strengths, Google has this edge: they are seen as a now company, not a yesterday or coming soon company. Microsoft isn’t going anywhere of course, but if they want to be a player they need to be on the court, not in the dressing room.

To change that perspective they should plan and actually execute launching something significant and new at least once every week. That means 52 key launches a year. A new product/service/upgrade every week. Yahoo has been on that pace and it has helped to resurrect some of its image problems. Hasn’t helped their stock price much though, but I believe that will come around.

I’ve got many more ideas, but am still holding out that I might possibly be invited to Search Champs v4, so for those with the invite power, consider this merely a taste. If you know someone with invites, then please send a link to this post.

Now, I’m curious what readers think would make MSN search and advertising more competitive vs. Google in 2006? Do you think my ideas suck? Why? Why not? Have at them. The comments/trackback area is ready.

Engineers Unveil Futuristic Unmanned 'Crusher' Vehicle

Carnegie Mellon University's National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) in the School of Computer Science's Robotics Institute is unveiling a unique unmanned ground vehicle that offers new strength, mobility and autonomy features for the Army's effort to keep its troops out of harm's way.

The 6.5-ton "Crusher" combines the strength and mobility of a predecessor known as Spinner with NREC-developed autonomy capabilities to create an extremely robust, unmanned vehicle that can function on its own in challenging off-road terrain. The project is known by the acronym UPI, which stands for Unmanned Ground Combat Vehicle (UGCV) PerceptOR Integration.

The UPI project, which includes extensive autonomy development, payload integration and field-testing, is funded by the U.S. Army and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) at an expenditure of $35 million to date. Experts say UPI incorporates technologies six to 10 years ahead of its time and provides an unprecedented glimpse into the future capabilities of unmanned military vehicles. The technologies developed for Crusher also have potential for commercial use in areas like construction, farming and mining.

Crusher does not carry human crews, therefore its design offers unequaled ruggedness, mobility and payload-carrying capacity.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usSince Crusher and its predecessor do not have to accommodate human crews, their novel designs offer unequaled ruggedness, mobility and payload-carrying capacity compared to manned vehicles in their weight class. Crusher's hull is made from high-strength aluminum tubes and titanium nodes protected by a steel skid plate that can absorb shocks from impacts with rocks or tree stumps. Its unique suspension enables it to move smoothly over extremely rough terrain and overcome obstacles like large ditches, man-made barriers or piles of boulders. It can carry more than 8,000 lbs. of payload and armor. Electric motors embedded in each of the vehicle's six wheels are powered with a hybrid system that uses a turbo diesel generator to recharge its batteries. Its top speed is currently 26 miles per hour.

[read more]

Russia's atomic proposal still on table - Iran

Iran on Sunday said it would be willing to discuss Moscow's proposal to move uranium enrichment to Russia if the U.N. Security Council were to send its case back to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

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"The Russian proposal is still on the table," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told a news conference.

"Within this framework it is normal that we will review different proposals on when it is carried out and under what conditions," he added.

Iran, which says its nuclear programme is for energy not weapons, could face a new resolution at the U.N. Security Council after the IAEA reported on Friday Iran has hampered its checks and rebuffed requests to stop making nuclear fuel.

U.N. ambassadors from the United States, Britain and France were expected to begin drafting a resolution on Monday they hope to introduce within a week which would obligate Iran to comply with the council's demands.

With the clock ticking towards possible Security Council action, Tehran has remained defiant and said it would continue to enrich uranium and develop its atomic energy programme.

But in the past two days Iran has suggested steps to ease the crisis.

On Saturday Iran offered to allow spot checks by IAEA inspectors if the Security Council dropped the case. On Sunday, Iran said it would consider Moscow's plan under which uranium for use in Iranian power stations would be enriched in Russia.

"Research enrichment has started and it is going on and it is irreversible," Reza said.

"We want to see to it that industrial enrichment and industrial production should come from the heart of negotiations," he added.

Google Offers Free 3D Modeling Software


Google SketchUp helps create models of a variety of items--including houses, sheds, decks, home additions, and woodworking projects.

Google Inc. on Thursday launched a free version of the 3D modeling software the search engine acquired when it bought @Last Software last month.

Google SketchUp, which is free for personal use, includes simple tools for creating 3D models of a variety of items, including houses, sheds, decks, home additions and woodworking projects. The software comes with a plug in for Google Earth, so items can be posted on the service, which provides satellite views of geographical locations.

In addition, Google launched 3D Warehouse, online storage for work created in SketchUp. The service also enables users to search and share models.

Google, based in Mountain View, Calif., plans to continue selling SketchUp Pro 5 for professional designers. The software costs $495.

Google bought @Last Software, based in Boulder, Colo., in March for an undisclosed sum. The purchase was expected to add value to its mapping platform through integration with Google Earth. The technology is expected to eventually find its way into other Google services as well.

Worst USB Gadget Yet: Water-Based Air Purifier

Here's another way to abuse your USB port: Brando is selling a USB water-based AIR PURIFIER that sucks in air and processes it through the water in its tiny tank.

Google's new statistical English-Arabic translator

Google's new statistical learning translator is live for Arabic English translation. The translator learns from billions of words of text from both languages.

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The heart can remember like the brain.

A donated heart may have an amazing ability to retain the memories of its donor and transfer them to the new owner!
A 8-year-old girl who got the heart of a 10-year-old murder victim... Plagued by nightmares of the crime after her transplant, the girl used the images in her dreams to help locate and convict her donor's killer.

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Iran: A Rummy Guide

To borrow a phrase used for Iraq, there are 'things we now know we don't know.'

Back in June 2002, as the Bush administration started pushing hard for war with Iraq by focusing on fears of the unknown—terrorists and weapons of mass destruction—Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld explained that when it came to gathering intelligence on such threats, "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." Elaborating, Rumsfeld told a news conference: "There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don't know."

Now there's a crisis brewing with Iran. And the same basic problem applies: what is known, what is suspected, what can be only guessed or imagined? Is danger clear and present or vague and distant? Washington is abuzz now, as it was four years ago, with "sources" talking of sanctions, war, regime change. In 2002, despite a paucity of hard evidence, Iraq was made to seem an urgent threat demanding immediate action. "We don't want 'the smoking gun' to be a mushroom cloud" is the memorable phrase used by the then national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Given the results of Washington's rush into the Iraqi unknown, concern is growing about U.S. policy toward Iran. Yet the Iranian case is very different—and more dangerous. The latest report from the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency, released last Friday by Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei, makes it clear that Tehran is defying U.N. demands that it freeze its nuclear activities. European and American diplomats are considering resolutions calling for unspecified consequences—and, according to European sources, they have contingency plans for sanctions outside the United Nations if they're blocked by Russian or Chinese vetoes. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, lest there be any doubt about his stand, said, "The Iranian nation won't give a damn about such useless resolutions."

With the confrontation raising questions about future oil supplies, and fears growing that a seemingly crazy regime may soon acquire atomic bombs, the IAEA and Western intelligence agencies are working overtime to separate fundamental facts from guesswork and propaganda. [Read More]

By Christopher Dickey and John Barry

Soldier uses MySpace to tell friends goodbye


Before signing off his Web page on MySpace.com Monday, Army Pvt. Dylan Meyer typed a farewell note to the world.

"Jesus, I don't know if any of you have heard what has happened to me yet, but I just want to remind you not to be sad. Laugh, that's what lifes about," Meyer wrote. "When it is all said and done ... it is the ones you love who you will remember."

The next morning, Meyer was found dead in the Army barracks at Fort Gordon in Georgia. He was 20.

Because the Army is still investigating, officials would not release the cause of Meyer's death or say if he committed suicide. But the note on Meyer's MySpace page seemed to indicate that he had taken his own life.

The Web Mob

According to this article on eWeek , organized crime on the internet is rising, with a dramatic increase in rootkits, Trojans and botnets. Evidence gathered over the last two years shows that well-organized mobsters have taken control of billion-dollar crime networks, powered by skilled hackers and money mules targeting known software security weakneses.

It appears that much of the activity is connected to the Russian mafia and loosley linked groups around the world. In Russia there have been documented cases where physical torture has been used to recruit hackers, as they state:

If you become a known hacker and you start to cut into their profits, they'll come to your house, take you away and beat you to a pulp until you back off or join them. There have been documented cases of this.

They also discuss spyware that is being used that has not been detected by anti-virus, some like “MetaFisher” which spread to thousands of computers went undetected for more than a year. Black hat hackers have even setup eCommerce sites offering private exploits capable of evading anti-virus scanners. There have even been job listings on Russian-language sites offering lucrative pay for coders who can create exploits and launch DOS attacks, or the hiring of skilled hackers to steal corporate data on behalf of competitors.

22Pixels Photoshop Flock, 7000 Resources For Photoshop, One File Download!

Photoshop Flock contains 153 Fonts, that self install, 158 brush packs for Photoshop 7 and up, self install, and over 50 additional packs , self install. Photoshop Flock contains over 7000 individual presets, in addition to the 150 fonts. All in one file, one download, one install, free.

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AMD gaining more of the server's share

cnet News

IBM's top server executive is warming to Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron, eyeing the processor's business advantages and the successes Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems have had with it.

Bill Zeitler, senior vice president of IBM's systems and technology group, wouldn't comment on whether Big Blue plans to offer mainstream Opteron chips, but he indicated in an interview this week that the move would make sense.

"I don't want to speculate when and if we would expand our activities here, but there's no question HP and Sun have benefited by having a broader Opteron portfolio than we've had," Zeitler said. "There are a whole bunch of business considerations that would say we would have done better had we had a four-(processor) Opteron product."

Big Blue was the first of the four top-tier server makers to sell Opteron servers, but its models were geared only for the technical-computing niche. Later, it added blade servers that are better-suited to mainstream business computing. Zeitler said IBM was surprised by the demand for those products in the fourth quarter of 2005 but then had "very robust sales" of the blades in the first quarter of 2006.

IBM's warmer attitude puts more pressure on Dell, the lone top-tier server maker selling only Intel-based x86 servers. "Opteron's a great horse to ride. Sun and HP have done very well with it, and it's gotten the attention of IBM," said TechKnowledge Strategies analyst Mike Feibus. "You've got to wonder how long Dell can stay on the sidelines and watch."

Major Firefox 2.0 Feature Dropped

While Microsoft has become a favorite target of critics who say the company has dramatically scaled back expectations for Windows Vista, Mozilla's Firefox Web browser is about to join that crowd.

Mozilla has decided to strip out a major new feature from Firefox 2.0 in order to ensure that the update meets a Q3 2006 release target, a post in the browser's developer forum indicated earlier this week. "Places," a complete rewrite of the browser's bookmarking system, will no longer be included in the release.

While Places had made it into the first public alpha release of Firefox 2.0, codenamed "Bon Echo," it had been pulled previously. In announcing the decision, Mozilla's director of engineering Mike Schroepfer said the company wanted to ensure a quality release.

"Rather than rush it to market - we'd prefer to spend the time it takes to get it right," he wrote. Schroepfer said that it was a difficult decision, but it would ensure that when released, Places would work as Mozilla intended it to.

The removal of Places is a blow overall to the Firefox 2.0 release, which was reflected in the responses to Schroepfer's comments.

Software lets neighbors securely share WiFi bandwidth

Instead of fighting about property lines and whose dog is keeping everyone up at night, researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign want you and your neighbors to get together and share your WiFi signal in a method that supposedly delivers better performance to each individual user. Assistant computer science professor Haiyan Luo and graduate student Nathanael Thompson of the school's Systems, Wireless, and Networking Group have released a free download that analyzes local airwaves and exploits unused bandwidth from one network to complement ones experiencing heavy usage, but always gives users priority access to their own signal. Part of the two-year-old PERM project, the application uses flow-scheduling algorithms to determine bandwidth allocation, and has so-far undergone testing on Linux clients and with Linksys routers. Security is obviously a key concern in such a sharing setup, so PERM developed the software to both "preserve a user's privacy and security, and mitigate the free-riding problem."

[Via PCWorld]

Iran 'will allow nuclear checks'

Iran will allow snap inspections of its nuclear facilities if the UN Security Council returns the case to its nuclear watchdog, an Iranian official has said.

But Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, said uranium enrichment will continue.

Iran halted snap inspections after the UN's atomic agency, the IAEA, decided to report Iran to the council.

On Friday the IAEA said Iran had failed to meet a council deadline to suspend its uranium enrichment programme.

"If the issue is returned to the International Atomic Energy Agency, we will be ready to allow intrusive inspections," Mr Saeedi told state television on Saturday.

"The enrichment will continue. But regarding the Additional Protocol, we will continue implementing the Additional Protocol as a voluntary measure."

The Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) allows inspections to be carried out at short notice. Iran halted implementation of the protocol in February.

The US and EU have accused Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, a charge Iran has strongly denied.

Test Internet Explorer 7 Without Installing It

You can test how web pages look in Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 without upgrading Internet Explorer 6.

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Microsoft blows Live Shopping Launch - No Firefox

Live.com Shopping launched today (official blog post), and all I see is a big message saying they don�t support Firefox. It doesn�t work with Safari or Opera either (same Firefox error message for all non IE browsers). The entire Mac audience has been shut out of Live Shopping. I�ll fire up my Windows machine to test it out later.

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Sri Lankan suicide bomber 'was pregnant'


A female suicide bomber who blew herself up in a bid to kill Sri Lanka's top general was pregnant at the time.

The bomber, identified as 21-year-old Anoja Kugenthirasah, had attended a maternity clinic held inside army headquarters in Colombo for the past three weeks, an investigator said last night.

It was initially reported the woman faked her pregnancy to get inside the heavily guarded compound but the investigator, speaking on condition of anonymity, said hospital records showed she was actually expecting a child.

The meticulously planned attack on Tuesday triggered military action by both government troops and the Tamil Tiger rebels, pushing Sri Lanka close to civil war after a tense four-year ceasefire.

Kugenthirasah is believed to have been a member of the rebels' Black Tigers suicide squad, the investigator said.

She targeted the car of Sri Lanka's army commander, Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka, inside the military headquarters.

Poultry worker gets eye infection from contact with bird flu


A poultry worker has contracted the H7 strain of bird flu in the form of conjunctivitis, the Health Protection Agency confirmed last night. The affected person is thought to have contracted the infection via close contact on a Norfolk farm.

An HPA spokeswoman said the worker's symptoms were limited to an eye infection. She would not release any further details about the age of the sufferer.

The worker reported his illness on Thursday. A sample was sent to a local laboratory, where the H7 virus was confirmed. He did not need hospital treatment, and, along with colleagues, was offered anti-viral drugs as a precautionary measure. He was also offered a flu vaccine to prevent the H7 flu mixing with any human viruses.

Al-Qaeda number two in new video

Al-Qaeda's number two Ayman al-Zawahiri has appeared in a video saying that Iraqi insurgents have "broken the back" of the US military.

He praised "martyrdom operations" carried out by al-Qaeda in Iraq in the video, posted on an Islamist website.

And he called on the people and army of Pakistan to fight against President Musharraf's administration.

This is the third message from prominent al-Qaeda leaders to emerge within a week.

A tape from Osama Bin Laden was broadcast on 23 April, followed two days later by a message from Iraqi insurgent Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Pakistan focus

Zawahiri, who wore a black turban and a white robe in the video, described the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq as traitors, and urged Muslims to "confront them".

He praised Iraqi militants, saying that the US, Britain and allies had "achieved nothing but losses, disasters and misfortunes" in Iraq.

"Al-Qaeda in Iraq alone has carried out 800 martyrdom operations in three years, besides the victories of the other mujahideen," he said. "This is what has broken the back of America in Iraq."

But the bulk of the 16-minute video, which was entitled "A message to the people of Pakistan", targeted President Musharraf.

"Every soldier and officer in the Pakistani military should know that Musharraf is throwing them into the burner of civil war in return for the bribes he is getting from the United States," said Zawahiri.

He urged soldiers to disobey the order of their commanders "to kill Muslims in Pakistan or Afghanistan".

Egyptian-born Zawahiri is regarded as Bin Laden's right-hand man.

The two have evaded capture since US-led forces brought down the Taleban regime in Afghanistan in 2001 following the September 2001 attacks on the US.

Microsoft's EU appeal case ends

The week-long anti-competition hearing involving Microsoft and the European Commission has finished - with neither side willing to predict the outcome.

Microsoft is appealing against a 2004 ruling when Brussels told it to change how it sells its Media Player software and fined it 497m euros ($613m; £344m).

The Court of First Instance may not deliver a verdict until early 2007.

Defeat could damage the Commission's authority as a competition regulator or Microsoft's future business model.

Microsoft lawyers spent much of the hearing arguing that its fine should be rescinded and that it should not have to produce a version of its Windows operating system without the Media Player software.

They also argued against the 2004 ruling's stipulation that Microsoft should share information about Windows with rival software companies.

The Commission's advocates told the court that the fine was needed as a deterrent and that Microsoft was abusing its market leading position in the desktop software market to stifle competition.

No predictions

Both sides left the court saying the case was too close to call.

"It would be a mistake to try and predict the outcome and I won't try to do so," said Microsoft lawyer Brad Smith.

Commission counterpart Cecilio Madero said he wouldn't "speculate about the end result".

New physics chip aims to shake up video games

A Silicon Valley start-up hopes to introduce a lot of bounce, rattle and roll into the video game industry with a new microchip that makes virtual worlds behave as realistically as they look.

For years, video games have been getting prettier thanks to increasingly sophisticated graphics processors.

But crates that don't budge, planks that don't splinter and windows that don't break are a constant complaint of gamers who crave more than just skin-deep realism.

Ageia Technologies Inc. wants to change that with its new PhysX processor, which simulates the physical properties of everything from smoke to rocks.

"What we are offering to the game industry is the ability to make physics and interactivity reach the same level of importance that graphics has," said Manju Hegde, AgeHia's chief executive.

"Physics makes games feel real the way graphics makes games look real," Hegde told Reuters in a recent interview.

Ageia faces a number of obstacles, however, from skeptical gamers grumbling at the prospect of opening their wallets for yet more hardware, to competitors that are putting physics in games using existing chips like a graphics processor.

Web 2.0 Goes To Work


"News.com is reporting on analyst predictions that Web 2.0 has begun meeting up with enterprise software in the business world." From the article: "Buttoned-down IBM, which mainly sells to businesses, on Wednesday detailed QEDwiki, for example. The project is meant to let people assemble Web applications using wikis, really simple syndication (RSS) and simple Web scripting. Similarly, the grassroots direct-marketing techniques of the consumer world are starting to be used to tout enterprise software, analysts said. The enterprise software market, once the hotbed of innovation, is starting to catch up to the consumer Web, where people are becoming used to melding data from their desktop with services online. It's a shift that could shake up the traditional enterprise-software model, experts predicted. "

Chirac calls for Palestinian aid

French President Jacques Chirac has called for international aid to the Palestinians to continue, despite the recent election victory of Hamas.

Mr Chirac said the World Bank should set up a fund to pay the salaries of Palestinian officials.

It comes after the US and EU cut off direct aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, which is struggling to pay the wages of more than 100,000 workers.

Mr Chirac was speaking after meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Washington and the EU define Hamas as a terrorist organisation and say they will not consider relations with a PA under its control unless it renounces violence and recognises Israel.

Escrow account

Following talks with Mr Abbas in Paris, Mr Chirac suggested the World Bank could pay PA officials directly, thereby bypassing Hamas.

The creation of a special account to receive funds intended to pay the salaries could be studied urgently, Mr Chirac's office quoted the president as saying.

Mr Chirac said he would raise the issue with members of the Middle East peace quartet - the EU, US, UN and Russia - at a meeting on 9 May.

The president also called for the continuation of humanitarian and technical aid to the Palestinians "for human and political reasons".

US war costs 'could hit $811bn'

The cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has soared and may now reach $811bn (£445bn), says a report by the Congressional Research Service.

It estimates that Congress has appropriated $368bn for the global war on terror, including both conflicts.

It says that if the current spending bill is approved, US war costs will reach $439bn, and it estimates that an extra $371bn may be needed by 2016.

On that basis, the two wars would cost more than the $579bn spent in Vietnam.

The future costing assumes that US troop levels will drop from the 258,000 currently engaged in all operations to 74,000 by 2010.

Budget gap

The rising cost of the war is leading to growing concerns in Congress, where attempts to control the budget deficit have been hindered by the "supplementary" requests received each year for war spending.

The CRS estimates that the US Department of Defense's annual war funding has risen from $73bn in 2004 to $120bn in 2006, with an increase of 17% this year alone.

Fall of Saddam Monthly war costs have doubled since the fall of Saddam

There have also been concerns that extra non-related appropriations are often tucked inside the war funding bill.

On Thursday Senators deleted funding for a $15m seafood promotion programme that had been tucked away in the current bill.

Earlier, Senators diverted $1.9bn in war funds to pay for increased immigration controls at US borders.

Big holes in net's heart revealed

Simple attacks could let malicious hackers take over more than one-third of the net's sites, reveals research.

The finding was uncovered by researchers who analysed how the net's addressing system works.

They also found that if the simple attacks were combined with so-called denial-of-service attacks, 85% of the net becomes vulnerable to take-over.

The researchers recommended big changes to the net's addressing system to tackle the vulnerability at its heart.

Site seizing

When you visit a website, such as news.bbc.co.uk, your computer often asks one of the net's address books, or domain name servers, for information about where that site resides.

But the number of computers that have to be consulted to find the computers where that site is located often makes sites vulnerable to attack by vandals and criminals, found Assistant Professor Emin Gun Sirer and Venugopalan Ramasubramanian from the Department of Computer Science at Cornell University.

Professor Sirer told the BBC News website that, on average, 46 computers holding different information about the components of net addresses are consulted to find out where each dotcom site is actually hosted.

But, he said, this chain of dependencies between the computers that look after the different parts of net addresses creates all kinds of vulnerabilities that clever hackers could easily exploit.

"The growth of the internet has caused these dependencies to emerge," said Professor Sirer. "Instead of having to compromise one you can compromise any one of the three dozen."

All the information gathered and analysed by the researchers has to be publicly available to keep the net's addressing system working. The research analysed information about almost 600,000 computers.

The research also revealed that 17% of the servers that host the net's address books are vulnerable to attack via widely known exploits.

Cell Phones Responsible For Next Internet Worm?


"The mobile devices you know and love are great for productivity, but they have completely changed the vulnerability state of our networks. Norm Laudermilch tells you why you should be afraid, very afraid." From the article: "The new and largely unexplored propagation vector for malicious code distribution is mobile devices. With 802.11, Bluetooth, WiFI, WiMAX, MMS, Infrared, and cellular data capabilities on almost all new models, these devices provide a wealth of opportunity for the transmission of data. With no notion of user access levels in the compact mobile operating systems, a lack of effective authentication, and no data encryption, these environments are prime targets for the incubation of malicious code."

US says world safer, despite 11,000 attacks in '05

The U.S. war on terrorism has made the world safer, the State Department's counterterrorism chief said on Friday, despite more than 11,000 terrorist attacks worldwide last year that killed 14,600 people.

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The U.S. State Department said the numbers, listed in its annual Country Reports on Terrorism released on Friday, were based on a broader definition of terrorism and could not be compared to the 3,129 international attacks listed the previous year.

But the new 2005 figures, which showed attacks in Iraq jumped and accounted for about a third of the world's total, may fuel criticism of the Bush administration's assertion that it is winning the fight against terrorism.

Asked if the world was safer than the previous year, U.S. State Department Counterterrorism Coordinator Henry Crumpton told a news conference, "I think so. But I think that (if) you look at the ups and downs of this battle, it's going to take us a long time to win this. You can't measure this month by month or year by year. It's going to take a lot longer."

IAEA: Iran Defying UN Demands

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says Iran is continuing its nuclear fuel enrichment in defiance of the U.N Security Council. The United States and European members of the Council are urgently preparing a legally binding resolution demanding a halt to the enrichment program.

Mohamed ElBaradei

The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency has concluded that Iran has successfully enriched uranium, and is ignoring international calls to stop it. That is the main finding of an eight-page report sent to the Security Council Friday by IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei.

The report says more than three years of studying Iran's nuclear program have failed to determine whether it is aimed at producing weapons, and called on Tehran to be more cooperative.

American and European members of the Security Council seized on the report to push their case for an immediate and unified diplomatic response, while China and Russia urged caution.

Iran rejects UN nuclear pressure

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says his country "does not give a damn" about UN resolutions seeking to curb Tehran's nuclear programme.

He was speaking as the UN nuclear watchdog prepared to report to the Security Council on whether Iran had met demands to halt uranium enrichment.

Iran insists it will not abandon its right to enrich nuclear fuel for what it says are wholly peaceful purposes.

The US says the UN must take action if Iran is found not to have complied.

The US secretary of state says the Security Council's credibility is on the line over its handling of the issue.

The US fears Iran will use the fuel to build a nuclear bomb and has not ruled out armed action against Iran.

'Unity and firmness'

President Ahmadinejad told a rally in north-west Iran on Friday: "Those who want to prevent Iranians from obtaining their right, should know that we do not give a damn about such resolutions."

Spacecraft seek climate clarity

Some of the gaping holes that exist in our understanding of the Earth's atmosphere will be answered by two new satellites launched on Friday.

The Cloudsat and Calipso missions will study how clouds and aerosols (fine particles) form, evolve and affect our climate, the weather and air quality.

Scientists say knowledge gaps in such areas severely hamper their ability to forecast future climate change.

Different types of cloud, for example, can help cool or warm the planet.

"We will be making the key observations that address this problem," said Dr Graeme Stephens, the Cloudsat principal investigator from Colorado State University, US.

The US space agency (Nasa) satellites were launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 1002 GMT, after a week of delays due to technical problems and unfavourable wind conditions.

They have been put in a 705km (438 miles) circular, sun-synchronous polar orbit, where they will fly in formation just 15 seconds apart.The spacecraft are part of an Earth-observation constellation Nasa calls the "A-Train".

Mystery armed men arrive in CAR

A plane carrying around 50 armed men has landed illegally in northern Central African Republic, the foreign minister has told the BBC.

Jean Paul Ngoupande said the plane had arrived from Sudan and was suspected of being linked to the rebellion in Chad.

Earlier this month, UN chief Kofi Annan said he was concerned that the fighting in Chad could further destabilise both Sudan's war-torn Darfur region and CAR.

Mr Ngoupande said he was lodging a complaint with the African Union.

Analysts say CAR is being used by Sudanese rebels as a crossing point to Chad.

Tension is rising in Chad ahead of elections due next week.

Rebel accusations

President Idriss Deby insists that the polls will go ahead despite a rebel attack on the capital N'Djamena earlier this month.

Sudan and Chad accuse each other of backing rebel groups.

Mr Ngoupande said his government was going to talk to the Sudanese authorities about the plane.

Earlier reports said that two planes had landed in CAR.

President Francois Bozize seized power in CAR three years ago, and since he stood successfully in a presidential election last year, a rebel movement has emerged in the north.

Thousands have fled the fighting, crossing into Chad.

But the BBC's Joseph Benamsse in the CAP capital, Bangui, says that military sources say CAR's rebel groups are no longer operating in the area where the plane landed.

Musharraf 'not poodle of the US'

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has denied he is fighting terrorism on behalf of the US and Britain.

In an interview with the UK's Guardian newspaper, Gen Musharraf said he was "nobody's poodle".

Gen Musharraf condemned a US air strike targeting militants in Pakistan in January in which 18 people died as an "infringement of our sovereignty".

The president has faced increasing domestic criticism over his relationship with Washington.

There were widespread anti-US protests during a visit to Pakistan last month by US President George W Bush, while opposition leaders have accused Gen Musharraf of being too closely allied to the United States.

'Democratic belief'

Gen Musharraf, who is fighting militants in Baluchistan and along the Afghan border, said stamping out terrorism was in Pakistan's interests.

"When you are talking about fighting terrorism of extremism, I'm not doing that for the US or Britain. I'm doing it for Pakistan," he told the Guardian.

"It's not a question of being a poodle. I'm nobody's poodle. I have enough strength of my own to lead."

Gen Musharraf said he had a "lot of teeth" to stand up for himself, but said "sometimes the teeth do not have to be shown. Pragmatism is required in international relations".

The president, who seized power in a military coup in 1999 and has promised to hold free and fair elections next year, conceded it was "ironic that I'm sitting in uniform talking about democracy.

He said, "My popularity has gone down... but at this moment my country needs me.

"I've put a strong constitutional democratic system in place. That will throw up a successor. I'm a strong believer in democracy."

Scientists figure out why we age

Critically, blocking production of this deviant protein corrected all the problems with the nucleus. "You can take these old cells and make them young again," Misteli says.

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Google Changes Homepage based on IP

When logging in using an IP address from an institution of higher learning Google adds Scholar to the homepage.

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Apple to Begin Recycling Customers' Old Macs


Apple Computer Inc. (AAPL) will soon adopt an environmentally friendly twist for buyers of new Macintosh computers by offering to recycle their old computers for free.

The Cupertino-based company said its expanded take-back offer will begin in June. U.S. customers who buy a new Mac through the Apple store online or any Apple retail store will receive free shipping and recycling of their old machines.

Currently, Apple retail stores accept old iPod music players for free recycling. In addition, Cupertino residents may drop off old Macs at company headquarters, while others pay a $30 recycling fee to drop off or ship their computers.

Environmental advocacy organizations that have criticized Apple's recycling initiatives in the past applauded the computer maker's expanded program, saying it is now closer in line with those of other major PC makers, notably Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) and Dell Inc. (DELL).

But the environmental groups contend Apple still needs to do more and will present a proposal at Apple's shareholder meeting Thursday calling for the company to study ways to improve recycling.

Vonage Offers VoIP Mobile-Phone Calls in the UK


You've gotten rid of the wire that connects your phone to the world. Perhaps you're also paying a flat monthly fee for unlimited VoIP calls from your home or office. Now, if a move by Vonage UK becomes popular, you'll be able to make unlimited calls from your mobile phone as well.

U.S.-based Internet-phone company Vonage announced Wednesday that it is teaming up with The Cloud, a provider of wireless broadband, to offer a mobile-phone service that will rely on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology to let users make calls through Wi-Fi hotspots in the UK.

According to Vonage, there will be no cumbersome log-on to connect through a VoIP hotspot. Users near a hotspot will simply make their calls. But if those using the service move outside a hotspot's range, the call will be cut off and the user will have to revert to a conventional cellular network to make and receive calls -- complete with traditional per-minute rates.

Google Puts Money Behind Firefox Movement


Google has unveiled a new plan to spread the open-source Firefox Internet browser, starting off a new phase in the browser wars with Microsoft. An offer from the Internet search giant enables Web sites to run small ads promoting Firefox and gain a referral fee of one dollar for every downloaded version of Firefox that has a Google toolbar.

Google launched the new program Wednesday evening by running an ad for the first time on its usually ad-free home page. The campaign also represents the first time Google has offered a financial incentive for the adoption of Firefox.

Even without such help, the open source browser has steadily been gnawing away at the dominance of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser since 2004.

From a market share high of 95 percent, Internet Explorer is now down to 85 percent, as web surfers discover the smooth delights of Firefox, which offers better security and powerful features, including tabbed browsing, which allow you to open multiple windows in a single browser, and "autofill" which automatically completes form applications.

Google already employs some of the key team members contributing to Firefox and its latest initiative underlines its desire to kept Firefox's momentum building. "Google is getting serious about Firefox, and has given the upstart browser one of the most powerful marketing tools on the Internet -- a spot on the Google homepage," commented the respected Ars Technica Web site.

But Microsoft does not plan to let the erosion of its market share continue. Earlier in the week the software giant launched a new trial version of its Internet Explorer browser that, in addition to beefing up its notoriously vulnerable security, has also copied all of Firefox's best features.

Analysts say that the new browser gives Internet Explorer users a reason not to convert to Firefox. "I think IE 7 brings the browser to parity with Firefox in terms of features, and the security's a big improvement over IE 6," said Matt Rosoff, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft. "I think it will be good enough to stop some of IE's market share loss to Firefox."

But despite the upgrades, you are unlikely to see many Firefox fans switching back to Microsoft.

"Yesterday's browser -- tomorrow," is how the influential Web site SiliconValley.com announced the new product.

Other players like ExplorerDestroyer.com, a self-styled group devoted to ridding cyberspace of Internet Explorer, believe that Firefox is about to "take back the web."

It offers Web sites a number of preconfigured options to get visitors to download Firefox -- taking advantage of Google's latest offer. It also offers downloadable ads including a spoof of the Kill Bill movies with the catchy line "kill Bill's Browser. Take back the web. With a Vengeance."

But it probably is a little too early to get too enthusiastic about the prospects of Firefox.

Microsoft's history is replete with examples of the company using its financial and distribution muscle to overpower smaller competitors. It used such tactics to devastating effect in the first round of the browser wars in the 1990s, when it challenged the once dominant Netscape browser and eventually drove it out of business.

Information Week ran a comprehensive test of both browsers and concluded that Firefox was still slightly ahead -- especially for technology savvy users like programmer Mitchell Adams. "I'll never go back to IE," Adams said. "Firefox offers so many options -- and when the next version of Firefox comes out it will leave the new IE for dead."

UN nuclear body to report on Iran

The UN's nuclear watchdog is to report to the Security Council on Friday on whether Iran has complied with demands to suspend uranium enrichment.

Iran insists it will not abandon its right to enrich nuclear fuel for what it says are wholly peaceful purposes.

But the US has urged the UN to take action if Iran is found not to have complied with its demands.

The US secretary of state says the Security Council credibility is on the line over its handling of the issue.

The US fears Iran will be use the fuel to build a nuclear bomb and has not ruled out armed action against Iran.

Washington is trying to rally support from the Security Council for tougher action against the Tehran government, including sanctions.

'Worrying situation'

Speaking at a meeting of Nato foreign ministers in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the Security Council's credibility will be tested over how it dealt with Iran.

"The Security Council is the primary and most important institution for the maintenance of peace and stability and security and it cannot have its word and its will simply ignored by a member state," she said.

Her call was backed by French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, who said the world had to show "unity and firmness" towards Iran.

"The situation is serious and worrying," he said, "there is nothing to suggest that Iran is conforming to the demands of the international community."

Defiant speech

The UN Security Council demanded on 29 March that Iran comply with the demands of the IAEA for a "full and sustained suspension" of its uranium enrichment work.

Mohammed ElBaradei, the head of the UN's nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, will report back on Friday on whether Iran has complied with those demands.

Iran says it has the right to peaceful nuclear technology and denies Western claims that it is seeking weapons.

Its leaders have repeatedly said they will ignore foreign pressure to abandon their nuclear programme.

Addressing a crowd in Zanjan in north-west Iran on Thursday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran would not give in one iota to "oppression".

"We have obtained the technology for producing nuclear fuel... no-one can take it away from our nation," he said.

"If you think by frowning at us, by issuing resolutions... you can impose anything on the Iranian nation or force it to abandon its obvious right, you still don't know its power," he said, his speech carried live on state television.

Calls for restraint

China and Russia, who are both veto-holding members of the Security Council, are opposed to sanctions and have urged restraint from all sides.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the IAEA needed to continue to play a key role in the crisis.

"We believe it is the IAEA that must play a key role and not have this weight unloaded on to the back of the Security Council," Mr Putin said.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang issued an appeal for calm.

"We hope the relevant parties can keep calm and exercise restraint so as to avoid moves that would further escalate the situation," Mr Qin said.

He said the problem could still be "resolved through dialogue and diplomatic means, which is the correct choice for all parties concerned".

Windows Vista To Make Dual-Boot A Challenge?

"UK tech site The Register is reporting on security guru Bruce Schneier's observation that the disk encryption system to be shipped with Vista, BitLocker, will make dual booting other OSs difficult - you will no longer be able to share data between the two." From the article: "This encryption technology also has the effect of frustrating the exchange of data needed in a dual boot system. 'You could look at BitLocker as anti-Linux because it frustrates dual boot,' Schneier told El Reg. Schneier said Vista will bring forward security improvements, but cautioned that technical advances are less important than improvements in how technology is presented to users."

Software Lets Programmers Code Hands-free

New Scientist is reporting about a new speech recognition tool that promises to let programmers write clean code without ever having to lay a finger on their keyboard. 'The tool, called VoiceCode, has been developed to help programmers with repetitive strain injury (RSI). This is a common affliction for people who spend a lot of time using a keyboard or mouse and causes pain in muscles, tendons and nerves in a sufferer's arms and back. Some estimates suggest 22% of all US computer programmers, or 100,000 people, suffer from the condition.'

AT&T, Yahoo Team Up for VoIP Offering


AT&T and Yahoo have joined forces to offer subscribers of their high speed Internet service an integrated voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) application, United Press International (UPI) reports.

The two companies will release a dual-branded edition of the Yahoo messenger service with voice capabilities, according to UPI.

AT&T firms will now be Yahoo’s network termination providers of choice for the VoIP services, UPI reports.

AT&T Yahoo messenger with voice enhances and adds value to our broadband service, said Scott Helbing, chief marketing officer with AT&T’s consumer unit, according to UPI. It also underscores our commitment to lead the industry in delivering the next generation of integrated communications and entertainment services.

Most Web Users Unable to Spot Spyware

According to a Spyware Quiz conducted by McAfee SiteAdvisor , a staggering 97% of Internet users are just one click away from infecting their PCs with spyware. One interesting conclusion from this study showed that even users with a high "Spyware IQ" have a nearly 100% chance of visiting a dangerous site during 30 days of typical online searching and browsing activity

Visa, Nokia Launch Phone Payment Project

Visa International and Finnish cell phone maker Nokia Corp. jointly released the world's first credit card payment pilot system in Malaysia, allowing consumers to shop and pay using their mobile phones.

The "Mobile Visa Wave Payment Pilot" project marks the first step in plans to turn mobile phones into electronic wallets for consumers, officials said.

It builds on the Visa Wave smart card technology that uses radio frequencies to eliminate the need to swipe credit card into a reader. Customers wave cards in front of the reader to make payments, similar to "touch and go" cards used in transport systems.

During the four-month trial period, 200 Visa Wave cardholders in Malaysia will be given a specially designed Nokia phone that can be used to make payments in 2,500 outlets nationwide that have Visa Wave readers, officials said.

"It's a natural progression. There are more mobile phones in the world today than plastic cards. We see this as a good marriage," said Paul Jung, Visa Asia-Pacific's regional head for emerging products and technology.

The Visa Wave payment system was introduced last year and there are now some four million such cards globally, mainly in the United States. This represents a small fraction of the 1.4 billion Visa brand cards worldwide.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Visa Wave is available in Malaysia, Taiwan and South Korea and will be expanded to Japan and Southeast Asia this year, Jung added.

Nokia's business development senior manager Risto Sipila said there is vast market potential for such services because mobile phone users worldwide are expected to surge to 3 billion by 2008, nearly half of the world's population.

"This new technology won't replace your wallet entirely but it is very promising because it will make life easier for everyone," he said.

He said the Nokia 3230 prototype phone to be used in the Visa pilot project is embedded with a chip using the latest cryptography, security and smart card technologies, making it highly secure and difficult to counterfeit.

If the trial is successful, the phone could be made available for commercial use as early as next year, he said, adding that Nokia is also working on developing more models for such usages.

Opinion: Why Linux May Never Be a True Desktop OS

By Rob Enderle

With Linux, the customer often expects to get the product for free and wants the retail price of Windows deducted from his/her purchase price. There are no funds passed back to the vendor and, because Linux is different, customers tend to place more service calls -- at $85 a call. As a result, the vendor generally ends up losing money.

This week I'm speaking at the Desktop Linux Summit in San Diego on why the PC OEMs don't, and probably never will, fully support Linux on the desktop. This is somewhat of a deja vu for me since a decade ago my team made a similar presentation at IBM (NYSE: IBM) Latest News about IBM on OS/2 and why it wouldn't beat Windows in its time. For the purpose of this piece I'm using the word "Linux" as an open source OS catch-all so I don't have to call out every distribution or variant.

Now, as it was then, the core of the argument wasn't the technology, the strength of Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) Latest News about Microsoft, or anything, really, outside IBM's control. The reason was that IBM would simply not do what was necessary to take the market away from Microsoft.

When I look at Microsoft these days I recall something former Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) Latest News about Hewlett-Packard Chairman Lew Platt once said: "My biggest problem is finding people who will tell me the truth." I've never seen Microsoft as weak, from an execution standpoint, before, but currently the firm appears weak. Taking advantage of that weakness remains elusive for both Linux players and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) Latest News about Apple, however. Let's take a look at the reasons why it's been difficult for them to move dramatically into the business or consumer desktop computer spaces.

Doing What Is Necessary

When it comes to competition, typically you have the folks who are willing to do what is necessary to win and the folks who aren't. In my personal experience, I've seen again and again scenarios where a team would lay out a plan for what they deemed was needed in order to be successful in a market and then they'd watch as the executive in charge cherry picked the things he/she wanted to do. As a result, the project failed, often disastrously.

People like to put filters over their eyes and ignore important steps they don't want to perform on the road to achieving a goal. All of us have seen examples of when this derails the plan. With OS/2, the last major challenger to Windows, IBM had a list of things it needed to do in order for the product to be successful. This list laid out staffing levels, marketing expense, structural changes to the company and partnerships, and its foundation was one of the most extensive pieces of research that company ever did.

However as these recommendations went up the chain of command they were changed or in some cases, ignored. The end result? OS/2 failed.

The requirements for OS/2's success included broad third party hardware Powerful Yet Simple: HP ProLiant ML110 G3. Just $688 with the Intel® Pentium® 4 Processor. and software operating system support, developer support, and Windows 32-bit support. In order to get into the hardware, however, OS/2 couldn't come from IBM. This was probably the single biggest deal breaker. Compaq, HP and others wouldn't support an OS from a competitor and, much like it was with Sun and Java Latest News about Java and Netscape and Navigator, the biggest weakness that OS/2 had was IBM not doing what the market required of it to be successful.

After reading up on a subject that speaks to a likely OEM desktop requirement -- strong vendor supported drivers -- I deeply doubt whether the folks working on Linux will make the difficult tradeoffs needed to assure success. Think of the iPod, for example. In order to achieve success Apple had to support Windows, as distasteful as that must have been for the firm.

The OEM Cost of Linux and Windows

Windows is free to the OEMs. In fact, not only is it free, but Microsoft, in effect, pays them to take it. Regardless of the cost, Windows is a logical choice, and a straight pass. Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) Latest News about Dell pays about $80 for it and typically charges about $80 for it. There is rarely much of a mark up. If Microsoft were to lower its price that lowered price would be reflected in virtually all desktop hardware immediately.

Microsoft provides a number of services which include development support, service support, marketing support, technicians, classes, databases and support materials, and it picks up a lot of the service load as well. In addition, it provides marketing co-op dollars, incentives for early adoption of new products, and ensures a somewhat level playing field (which could be good or bad) for the vendors.

Linux, on the other hand, is often viewed as "free." Even when it comes with a fee, that fee is also passed through without any mark up. However, the hardware vendor must now provide all of the things that Microsoft has been providing, too. Particularly painful are services, as customers expect a similar experience with open source that they have with Windows and will often call the vendor to help troubleshoot. The vendor takes all of the related costs; there are typically no dependable (on-site) resources, unless the vendor supplies some of its own.

With Linux, the customer often expects to get the product for free and wants the retail price of Windows deducted from his/her purchase price. There are no funds passed back to the vendor and, because Linux is different, customers tend to place more service calls -- at $85 a call. As a result, the vendor generally ends up losing money on average with Linux.

This is the primary reason vendors don't want to do desktop Linux, unless there is an extremely lucrative services contract tied to it. Given services revenue often flows to the services division, the desktop hardware divisions still do their best to throw their bodies in front of these efforts.

Too Many Versions

An old rule of the desktop is that support costs go up by the square of the number of different products you have to support. This may actually understate the problem now that much of this support is done in remote sites like India.

For each version of a product the support team has to be trained, support scripts have to be created and updated; patches have to be collected, tested and deployed; and line changes have to be tested against every operating system version shipped. This is part of the reason that IBM hardware was not competitive in the early nineties; the extra cost of supporting OS/2 was theirs and theirs alone while IBM software got the largest portion of OS/2 revenue (that division was profitable, though OS/2 wasn't).

There is broad diversity among Linux buyers, and Red Hat (Nasdaq: RHAT) Latest News about Red Hat, which is the closest to a standard Linux OS, isn't yet dominant enough to claim victory. The OEMs might be able to handle one version of Linux but until there is only one they have to handle they will probably avoid doing it.

Excessive Advocacy

A few years ago I recall getting a note from an Apple guy who said something to the effect of, "I'm sure glad all of the crazy Apple supporters moved over to Linux." While I seriously doubt all of the crazy Apple zealots moved to Linux, I can say that they were instrumental in getting Apple out of large enterprises.

Zealots, regardless of cause, have a tendency to treat very poorly those who don't share their beliefs, and, historically, they have been much more likely to misuse e-mail Integrate BlackBerry with your CRM Solution or take a dispute to a public forum. They tend to be human resource nightmares and anyone wanting to create a powerful argument against either platform has only to take the decision maker to any of a number of fan Web sites to create the impression of significant risk.

This can be particularly problematic now with employee blogs starting to spread and more internal disagreements being made public. Management typically does not want to create an environment where company dirty laundry is aired or where employees organize to fight executive orders. Yet zealots appear to do this as a matter of course: their beliefs come first, even though this is technology, not religion.

With all this in mind, IT executives want to be able to decide to abandon a Linux or Apple trial with faith that the employees would follow those orders and not revolt. They also want to feel in control with regard to how the technology is used and not cede that to an external or internal employee advocacy group without conscious thought.

In conclusion, there are a few key requirements for alternative platforms to be successful, success being measured by significant market share, in the general market.

A Reliable Road Map to Linux Desktop Success

The list of clear requirements includes:

  1. Clear OEM resources to match or exceed those currently provided by Microsoft. This would include R&D support and co-marketing dollars.
  2. Embrace existing desktop requirements (roadmaps, application support, proprietary drivers, consistent patch releases schedules and documentation, clear escalation lines for support).
  3. Seek out reasonable advocates who will take direction from their executives and not from other advocates.
  4. Make it profitable for the OEM.

Recall that for Microsoft it took about 5 years, US$10 billion and Y2K to move the majority of the installed PC base to another kernel -- and they had to kill the old one off to do it.

In the end, I look at this short list and still doubt it is reasonably achievable. I also wonder if Linux were actually modified to be able to comply with this list whether it would even be Linux anymore. That deserves a little thought. Generally speaking, you have to give something up in order to get something else. However there are times when what you sacrifice is actually more important than what you gain.

Yahoo Launches DVR Service: Yahoo Go


Yahoo launched Yahoo Go today, a DVR and general Microsoft Media Center competitor based on the recently acquired Meedio technology.

The feature list is comprehensive: Use Yahoo Go to manage photos, search Yahoo videos, watch stored movies on your hard drive, listen to music and manage television shows via a full DVR (like Tivo or Microsoft Media Center). Yahoo Go is only available for Windows machines.

It’s going to be hard for Yahoo Go to compete with Microsoft’s Media Center for the simple reason that it won’t be built into millions of PCs like Media Center is. But at least they are now in the game. More from GigaOm (my head still hurts from drinking scotch with you last night, Om) and Dave Zatz.

Screen shots below.

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The oldest living creature on earth, over 200 million years old.

Scientists found a salt crystal and within it contained a droplet of water holding life inside serving as a time capsule for these microbes. Video Inside.

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Valve Announces 360 Development


The developer will be throwing their weight behind Microsoft's next-gen console it appears.

Valve, one of the most revered development houses around with titles such as the Half Life series under their belts, and the maker of the Source engine has announced today that they are developing several unannounced games for Microsoft's Xbox 360 console. No details were given regarding what these titles are or if they are ports of existing games.

Whatever they are, they will be made on the 360 using a customized version of the Source engine specifically tailored to the 360's graphical powers and its engineering design.

Valve President and co-founder Gabe Newell gave comment on this latest announcement. "The combination of Source and the 360 provides game designers the chance to create powerful entertainment experiences. Whether developing a traditional FPS, RTS, RPG or delving into new genres, the Xbox 360 is a great platform for expanding Source and our game experiences."

Future Valve 360 games are expected to make good use of the Xbox Live network for online play and other features. We'll have more news on Valve's future titles the moment we receive

IE7 For XP Beta 2: Has Firefox Met Its Match?

The new public release of Internet Explorer Beta 2 is, according to Microsoft, more stable and ready to be used. But is it ready to go up against Firefox?

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Google Video to include outside content


Google is to expand its video service to include content hosted outside its server network, director of Google Video Jennifer Feikin said during a roundtable discussion about online video at the Churchill Club in San Francisco.

"We do not want to aggregate [online video content]," Feikin said in response to a question as to whether Google is seeking to become the online equivalent of a television network.

"We started it in that way to help people who have no means to have their content online to bring it online. We are now at a point where we'd love to link to other people's sites. It's all about helping people find that content."

Google Video currently indexes and searches content hosted on the search engine's servers, but does not allow users to find content hosted on individual websites or from video hosting services such as YouTube or Revver.

An expansion of Google Video with outside content would be in line with the search giant's stated mission to "organise the world's information".

Feikin did not specify how long it would take for the company to develop its video service.

Robot Runs Over Water


A robot that can speed across the surface of water like a lizard could open the door for multi-legged amphibious robots.

The Water Runner, being developed by assistant professor Metin Sitti at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, could search for victims in flooded disaster areas, be equipped with biochemical sensors to monitor water quality, or use tiny cameras to survey coastline security zones or ports.

Sitti, who also heads the university's NanoRobotics Lab, regularly takes inspiration from bugs, beetles, and bacteria to build his robots.

Ultimately, he'd like to create a machine that can move over land, water, fly and perhaps even climb.

"My dream is to make all-terrain robots," said Sitti. That way, "the same robot can reach a much wider range of environments for searching."

Microsoft Office users ready to jump ship: poll


Microsoft may want to rethink its intention to inundate users of pirated versions of Office with unwanted alerts. A recent poll shows most users are likely to defect to the free open source equivalent, Open Office.org, rather than pay for Office 2003.

An iTWire poll taken in the past day asked the question: Would you try Open Office.org instead of buying MS Office 2003?” Of the 441 respondents which voted in the space of 18 hours, 381 (86.4%) voted yes while just 60 (13.6%) voted no.

Microsoft believes it will be able to convince pirate Office users to pay to upgrade to legitimate versions through its proposed Office Genuine Advantage (OGA) program. OGA, modelled on the Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) program, which Microsoft claims has been a success over past months, identifies users of pirate copies of Microsoft software when they download the necessary critical security updates. Once identified, Microsoft sends continual alerts nagging users to chuck their illicit software and pay for the real thing.

While WGA may have been a success, however, there is one big difference between sending users verbal barrages to pay for Windows and sending similar alerts to Microsoft Office users. The difference is that Microsoft Office 2003 users can easily download Open Office.org 2.0 and be up and running with a similar product, with a similar look and feel and all their data and functionality intact, for absolutely free. So most would prefer to give that a try rather than shell out hundreds of dollars for MS Office.

With Windows, however, the story is radically different. To date, there has been no viable alternative to Windows XP that would enable users to switch painlessly to an equivalent operating environment – the efforts of Novell, Red Hat and others notwithstanding. Thus, the only choice is to receive continual alerts or pay up for a genuine copy of Windows.

This of course presents a huge problem for Microsoft because about one third of its revenue comes from MS Office sales. No doubt with Office 2007, which Microsoft has promised will be radically different to the point that it will involve a learning curve, the software giant hopes that it will once again convince users to open their pockets. Whether it succeeds is open to question. Until then, however, users appear to be unwilling to part with money when something similar can be had for free.

Look, no hard drive: flash only

Samsung has developed a higher-capacity version of its solid-state disk (SSD), a flash-memory based replacement for hard-disk drives, and is showing it at the CeBIT trade show in Hanover, Germany, this week.

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The drive packs 32Gb of flash memory into a case the same size as a 1.8in, hard-disk drive. That capacity is double the 16Gb of a prototype device announced by Samsung last year and was made possible by the continuing miniaturization of flash-memory chip technology.

At CeBIT the solid-state disk is being demonstrated inside a Samsung laptop computer. Because the SSD is the same size and shape as the computer's hard drive it was relatively easy to replace the hard drive with the SSD, said Yun Mini, a spokeswoman for Samsung.

The SSD technology has three major benefits over hard drives, said Yun. The first is that data access is faster. This could be seen when the SSD-based laptop was booted up alongside the same model machine with a standard hard drive. The desktop appeared on the screen of the SSD laptop in about 18 seconds while the hard drive-based computer took about 31 seconds to reach the same point.

The second advantage comes in durability. Because there are no moving parts in the SSD it is much better at withstanding shock and unlikely that data will be lost if the laptop is dropped. The third major advantage is that it works silently, said Yun.

Microsoft fights to keep secrets

Microsoft lawyers have argued that the European Commission is forcing the firm to give up valuable trade secrets, a move that would handicap its future.

The claims were made during the third day of an anti-competition hearing where the software giant is appealing against a landmark ruling from 2004.

Brussels fined Microsoft 497m euros ($613m; £344m) and ordered it to change how it sells its Media Player software.

Microsoft argues that adhering to the ruling will hurt its business.

The Commission wants Microsoft to provide rivals with enough information to develop software that could run as smoothly as its own on Microsoft's Windows operating system.

Changing tack?

Microsoft's lawyer Ian Forrester claimed on Wednesday that the ruling would handicap the market leader "in perpetuity".

"The Windows source code is copyright. It is valuable, the fruit of lots of effort," he said.

Microsoft has come out fighting and wants to protect its secrets

Thomas Vinje, one of the lawyers arguing against Microsoft, said that the software company was trying to change the parameters of the dispute.

"Microsoft are trying to turn this into an intellectual property case when it's not," he said.

"This is a case about abuse of a dominant position, about refusing to provide information to vendors."

Microsoft's challenge at the EU's Court of First Instance could have widespread ramifications for future competition rulings by the Commission if the court's 13-member panel rule in its favour.

Microsoft's appeal is being heard over five days, although a decision in the case is not expected for months, or possibly a year.

It could be further appealed to the European Court of Justice on a point of law.

In the meantime, Microsoft is facing fines of up to 2m euros a day if it is found to have delayed its compliance with the anti-competition ruling.

Robotic Legs Instead of Wheelchairs

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"Atsuo Takanishi, an engineering professor at Tokyo's Waseda University, has demonstrated a pair of robotic legs that may one day eliminate the need for wheelchairs. At the demonstration in Tokyo, one of Takanishi's students rode the robot -- which bears some resemblance to the mechanical "Wrong Trousers" of Wallace and Gromit fame -- up and down a staircase and along a pebbly path outdoors. A picture of the demonstration may be found here " Still waiting for my Gundam but that's a good start.

Study: India, China closing digital gap

The digital divide is narrowing as citizens in emerging markets get online via computers and mobile phones, with some regions now on a par with developed nations, a ranking of Web-savvy nations showed on Wednesday.

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"Encouraging is the apparent narrowing of the digital divide," said the annual study published by U.S. computer company International Business Machines Corp. and the intelligence unit of British magazine The Economist.

"This is particularly evident in basic connectivity: emerging markets are providing the vast majority of the world's new phone and Internet connections," the study found.

Within China and India, regions such as Shanghai and Bangalore have almost the same level of Internet and mobile phone connections as developed nations, said Peter Korsten, European director at IBM's Institute for Business Value.

"This is the first time we see a level playing field between developed and developing nations in terms of connectivity. It's up to governments to take advantage with education and other initiatives," he said.

The survey looks beyond basic connections and also studies how the Internet is being used to improve productivity and reduce costs, including online access to public services.

"Virtually all countries have improved their scores over the past year. The improvement is greater in the lower tiers of the rankings than at the top. As a result, the distance separating the best from the rest has declined," the study said.

The difference between the world's Web-savviest nation Denmark and the least "e-ready" country Azerbaijan remains nevertheless huge, with respective scores of 9.0 and 2.9 out of a possible 10.

EU and Microsoft agree: EU remedy is a dud


In the antitrust dispute between Microsoft and the European Commission, they have agreed on at least one thing: The commission's remedy for restoring competition in the market for software that plays music and videos has failed.

Microsoft was ordered two years ago to create a second version of its Windows system without Media Player. On Tuesday, the two sides took turns denouncing each other's interpretation of events that resulted in the 2004 antitrust ruling against Microsoft. The company's appeal of that ruling and its penalties is being heard this week at the European Court of First Instance.

The product minus Media Player, called Windows XP Edition N, has been on sale since last summer, but no personal computer manufacturers have installed it on the machines they sell, Microsoft told the court, and retailers ordered fewer than 2,000 copies.

On Monday, the commission's top lawyer, Per Hellstrom, said a reason for the small number could be that the commission did not order Microsoft to sell the unbundled Windows at a discount to the full version. He hinted that the commission might revise the order to the company to include a price break for the second version.

"If Microsoft now sells these versions at the same price," Hellstrom said, "the commission will have to examine this new policy in the context of the present market conditions."

Microsoft has argued that Edition N's failure illustrates that the market does not want an unbundled version of Windows, while the commission says its lack of appeal reflects that the market for media players has already tipped in favor of Microsoft. Microsoft spent much of its second day in court on Tuesday dismissing the idea of discounting Edition N.

"It wouldn't have made sense asking for a price differential because media players are free," said Jean-François Bellis, a lawyer who represents Microsoft.

TransMedia Puts File Sharing On Phones


Sun claims, "The network is the computer." For social computing company TransMedia, the computer is the phone.

On Wednesday, TransMedia plans to open its secure file sharing environment Glide Effortless to mobile phones.

Glide Mobile turns mobile handsets into what amounts to a limited portable desktop. Subscribers will be able to access and share the same files available to them through their Glide accounts and their PCs.

Glide is a hosted file storage and social networking service that lets users store, edit, and share media files -- contacts, documents, E-mail, images, music, video -- through a Flash-capable Web browser. Consequently, it works equally well on Macs and PCs, and now on mobile phones.

"There's nothing even remotely close to this out there," says TransMedia CEO Donald Leka. "This is revolutionary in the sense that what we've done is basically removed the borders between platforms."

TransMedia's transcoding technology makes cross-platform harmony possible. It converts file formats including Windows Media Video, MP3, QuickTime, and the like into streams calibrated for whatever bandwidth is appropriate for the destination device.

The result is the ability to share a massive 40 GB video in the form of a tiny 5KB or less reference file that points to the sender's Glide source file. Mobile phone users and PC users can view or listen to the source file at whatever bandwidth their devices can handle without having to provide storage for a large download.

Downloading is an option if the sender grants the appropriate rights and there's enough storage capacity on the device in question.

"Is it worth abiding by atomic rules?" Iran asks UN

Iran has asked the U.N. nuclear watchdog to explain why Tehran should abide by international atomic protocols when it gets so little in return, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday.

Iran is a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) but often grumbles that it does not benefit from the treaty's entitlement to shared technology.

"We have asked them (the U.N. watchdog), and we are waiting for an answer: what have they given us in reward for doing our duty? What sort of help have they given us?" he told reporters after meeting Sudan's president in Tehran.

The president's remarks come two days before Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), will deliver a report on Iran's nuclear activities to the U.N. Security Council.

Tehran faces possible sanctions in the council after failing to persuade the international community it is enriching uranium for power stations and not for warheads.

Western diplomats argue Iran's demand for shared know-how under the NPT is spurious as this entitlement would only be valid if it were certain that Tehran's ambitions were peaceful.

Ahmadinejad reiterated his view that Iran could reconsider its commitment to the NPT and its co-operation with the IAEA if it felt it were being short-changed.

"We hope they fulfill their duties and make it unnecessary for the Islamic Republic of Iran to reconsider its relations with them," he said.

"Our scientists have mastered this technology with their own brains, their own might and their own hands," he added.

Despite always insisting the atomic program is home-grown, Iran has been heavily reliant on Russian expertise and on black-market trade linked to the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb Abdul Qadeer Khan.

Iran has flouted calls from both the IAEA and the U.N. Security Council that it halt enriching uranium. Ahmadinejad stressed these two bodies did not necessarily represent the law.

"They should know that they cannot impose any decisions upon us by using the name of the IAEA and U.N. Security Council because illegal decisions do not become legitimate just by using the name of the agency and Security Council."

Although Iran says it bases its nuclear policy on the NPT, it has pulled out of the Additional Protocol to the treaty, which allows snap inspections of atomic facilities.