Episode 120

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GLENN’S SHOWNOTES

 iTWire – British PCs can now hack your personal computer without a warrant

British PCs can now hack your personal computer without a warrant
 The friendly British Bobby has just been given the right to remotely hack into the computers of UK citizens without notifying the owners, or bothering with a search warrant, or even passing an act of parliament for that matter. 

they don’t need to inform you that they are doing it either. Nice. Apparently the ‘remote searching’ as the police call it, will cover the content of all email as well as web-browser history and instant messages. 

 the new powers stretch beyond the British Bobby. In fact, police across the EU can join in the fun. It seems that police forces across Europe can ask the Brits to snoop without a warrant on their behalf and then access that data. 

Security experts warn against pirated Windows 7
 An early build of Windows 7, labelled ‘Windows 7 Ultimate Build 7000’, was leaked onto the internet last week, and made widely available for download via several peer-to-peer networks

Rob Rachwald, director of product marketing at security vendor Fortify, highlighted an increase in software infected with malware being posted on the internet, and warned that users should only download software from a trusted source.

“The whole idea is to exploit something popular, whether it’s getting users to download porn or popular software. It’s just a clever way to spread malware, ” he said.

iTunes Store finally allowed to drop DRM – at a price

 Apple is dropping its ‘all one price’ model for music sold through the iTunes Store.

Instead of charging a flat rate of $US0.99 per track, the iTunes Store will from April list songs at $US0.69, $US0.99 or $US1.29. The prices will reflect the wholesale rate charged by the record companies.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs said that many more songs would be priced at $US0.69 than $US1.29, but it seems probable that new songs from big-name artists will initially attract higher prices than those from the back catalogues or minor performers – otherwise what is the point of variable pricing?
According to Apple officials, most albums will remain at $US9.99.
Customers will be able to upgrade previously purchased songs to unprotected versions for $US0.30 per track. 

ATO warning on refund email scam

 The Australian Taxation Office has warned Australians to immediately delete a scam email that claims to offer a tax refund but asks for their credit card details.

Motorola unveils phone made from recycled bottles

 the W233 Renew eco-friendly phone would be sold by Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile USA in the current quarter.

It did not disclose pricing for the phone, which will be showcased at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
Motorola said it was the world’s first carbon neutral phone. As well as using recycled materials for the plastic casing, the company also pledged to offset the carbon dioxide used in manufacturing, distribution and operation of the phone through investments in renewable energy sources and reforestation. 

Skype expands per-minute access to Aussie hotspots

 Aussie Mac owners can now use their Skype credit to pay for per-minute access to around 360 wireless hotspots nationwide.

 

The new feature is called Skype Access and is available in the Skype 2.8 Beta for Mac OS X, released today. 
Users of ‘other operating systems’ will find the capability built into a new version of their Skype client ‘sometime in 2009’, the company said in a statement.
Skype Access works by actively scanning for available Boingo hotspots and presenting a pop-up dialogue box displaying the price per minute to use the Boingo network. 

 

A Skype spokesperson told iTnews that the cost per-minute of using Skype Access for Boingo hotspots in Australia is $0.29 per minute (excluding VAT).

IBM unveils Lotus Notes 8.5

 The new release includes enhancements to both client and server components. On the client side, IBM said that Mac OS X users will now get the same experience as Windows and Linux users, which is one reason why the 8.5 version is being announced to coincide with the Macworld 2009show in San Francisco.

Twitter accounts of Obama, Britney Spears hacked
 Twitter founder Biz Stone, in a post on the official company blog, said a total of 33 Twitter accounts had been hacked including those of president-elect Obama and Rick Sanchez, a CNN television anchor with tens of thousands of followers.

The message from the fake president-elect Obama invited recipients to take a survey and win $500 worth of gas while the CNN anchor purportedly told followers that he was “high on crack” and would probably not be coming into work on Monday.

Twitter was also the target of a phishing attack over the weekend in which scamsters attempted to obtain passwords and other personal information from Twitter users.

Twitter, which allows users to post real-time updates of 140 characters or less, has an estimated 4-5 million users according to a recent study.

US dumps unpopular internet filter plan
 Even before a change of president, US government officials have realised that trying to block porn online is a bad way of trying to enhance the Internet. Anyone wanna tell Conroy?

While the plan isn’t identical to the Australian government’s “clean feed” proposal, there are some notable parallels. In particular, Martin’s scheme is designed to provide a basic wireless network for access by all Americans — a cable-free equivalent of Australia’s proposed National Broadband Network, albeit at much slower speeds.

China threatens to block Google

Chinese authorities have launched a fresh campaign to get rid of what they say is unhealthy, vulgar and pornographic content on the internet.

They have also published the names of 19 websites that have failed to heed requests to get rid of unsuitable material.

These include Google and China’s top internet search engine, Baidu.

Officials say these websites could be closed down if they do not delete the offending material.

aussie tech head lounge or room on ps3??
good start?? 

wondering if there is a place for us tech heads to hang out? 
oh I got guitar hero would tour on ps2 and ps3 now, but only wireless guitar for ps2, will that work on the ps3

Sexiest Geeks of 2008, as Voted by Wired.com Readers

 2008’s top 10 Sexiest Geeks are, as of Wednesday’s official tally:

 

1.) Philip DeFranco
2.) Marina Orlova
3.) Kari Byron: artist and MythBuster
4.) Jade Raymond: videogame producer and Electric Playground host
5.) Mila Kunis: actress and World of Warcraft fan
6.) Tina Fey30 Rock actress and Saturday Night Live‘s Sarah Palin impersonator
7.) Stephen Colbert: faux newsman
8.) Zooey Deschanel: actress, musician and singer-songwriter
9.) Danica McKellar: actress and math advocate
10.) Alyson Hannigan: actress

 

GoldCoast Social Media Group

 
MARK’S SHOWNOTES 
 

‘Cybergeddon’ fear stalks US: FBI – Breaking News – Technology – Breaking News
‘Cybergeddon’ fear stalks US: FBI

 

Cyber attacks pose the greatest threat to the United States after nuclear war and weapons of mass destruction — and they are increasingly hard to prevent, FBI experts said Tuesday.

Shawn Henry, assistant director of the FBI’s cyber division, told a conference in New York that computer attacks pose the biggest risk “from a national security perspective, other than a weapon of mass destruction or a bomb in one of our major cities.”

“Other than a nuclear device or some other type of destructive weapon, the threat to our infrastructure, the threat to our intelligence, the threat to our computer network is the most critical threat we face,” he added.

US experts talk of “cybergeddon,” in which an advanced economy — where almost everything of importance is linked to or even controlled by computers — is sabotaged by hackers.

Michael Balboni, deputy secretary for public safety in New York state, described “a huge threat out there” against everything from banking institutions to municipal water systems and dams.

Henry said that terrorist groups are working to create a virtual 9/11, “inflicting the same kind of damage on our country, on all our countries, on all our networks, as they did in 2001 by flying planes into buildings.”

An online attack of that scale has not yet happened in the United States but computer hacking — once something of a sport for brilliant delinquents — is rapidly evolving around the world as a tool of war.

Russian hackers allegedly mounted huge assaults on Internet networks in Estonia and Georgia last year, while Palestinian sympathizers have orchestrated attacks against hundreds of Israeli websites in the last few days.

Following years of fighting online criminal groups, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other countries’ security services know hackers as the most elusive and innovative of foes.

“It used to be we’d chase people around, literally carrying duffel bags of cash,” said Donald Codling, the FBI’s cyber unit liaison with the Department of Homeland Security.

“Nowadays the guy can use his SIM chip and he can move money all over the world and his confederates can withdraw that money from an ATM in a currency of his or her choice. It’s extraordinarily difficult for us to catch them.”

Codling, like other cyber crime fighters, expressed grudging admiration for the skills of his adversaries, who he said are highly motivated and often a step ahead.

“What the Internet has allowed you to do is make all the human frailities like greed, avarice and all those lovely things much more efficient,” he said.

“We’re seeing that the folks on the cutting edge of this tend to be the bad guys. There’s a financial reason for them to be good at this.”

Christopher Painter, an FBI specialist focused on building international cooperation, described another basic weakness in the fight for cyber security: the threat is largely invisible and therefore not always taken seriously.

“It’s not like a fire,” he said. “It’s hard to get your head around the threat. We often discover a company has been attacked and we tell them that and they don’t know.”

Apple bows out with a fizzle
 

Apple has drawn the curtain on its valedictory keynote address at the Macworld Conference with a mixed bag of low key announcements and no mention of health matters or regime change – not even a nod to the absent chief executive Steve Jobs.

The presentation, which is usually the highlight of the annual Macworld Conference and Expo being held here, was delivered instead by Apple’s senior vice-president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller.

The Apple executive kicked off his speech with a reference to some of the new retail stores in Sydney, Beijing and Munich which Apple opened last year.

In particular, he highlighted the Sydney store which opened in July, and threw up a dramatic shot on the large screen of the opening night on George Street.

“A beautiful city has a beautiful Apple Store,” Schiller told the audience.

The headline announcement was that Apple plans to make its entire catalogue of music available without copy protection by the end of March.

In April, Apple will also introduce flexible pricing plans for music bought through its online iTunes store, offering three levels of prices. Currently, all iTunes songs cost $1.69.

A deal struck with the key music publishers means that older song will be cheaper; current but non-hit songs, the same price as they are now; and smash hits more expensive.

The move to end wrapping songs downloaded for use on iPods and iPhones with the restrictive digital rights management (DRM) protection also means that it will become much easier for users to move their music collection to any player – including non-Apple devices.

Apple, which began the move towards offering DRM-free music downloads in 2007, will from today offer 80 per cent of its catalogue of 10 million songs without copy protection. The remaining 20 per cent will be offered DRM-free by the end of March.

The deal between Apple and the music publishers also frees up Apple to sell music downloads on the iPhone over the 3G network. Previously, users had to connect to a wireless network if they wanted to download songs directly to theiriPhones.

In addition to the iTunes changes, Apple has revamped its range of software for the Mac range of computers with extensive overhauls for iLife and iWorks.

iPhoto now includes some innovative updates that will utilise face recognition and geo-tagging technology to sort users’ photo libraries more intelligently.

And in the Garage Band application, users can now purchase music tutorials conducted by famous names such as Sting, Norah Jones and John Fogerty.

Black Balloons Energy Saving Campaign 

Tech sector jobs dwindling
 

Mitchell Bingemann | January 02, 2009

THE IT industry suffered a major decline in job advertisements for 2008 recording a 37.17 per cent fall compared to 2007 figures.

According to the Olivier Job Index, December continued the six month haemorrhage in job ad decline with a 6.85 per cent decrease. In November the technology sector reported a 7.64 per cent slump.
The IT industry was the fifth worst affected market for job advertisements according to Olivier Group director Bob Olivier. 
“The tech industry has performed worse than the general economic situation because these jobs tend to be more caught up with global organisations that are taking financial hits in all global markets,” he said.
As online IT job vacancies continued to tumble by roughly 1000 advertisements a week, Mr Olivier warned that job prospects for 2009 would remain grim.
“There’s not a lot of positive news indicating that the downward trend is going to reverse for 2009, it just depends how severe and deep the decline in the economy will be.
“While organisations won’t necessarily be growing their teams they will be looking to strengthen them. This of course could have a drain on importing skilled workers from overseas though,” he said.
Mr Olivier also warned contractors could expect to be given their marching orders in the coming year as employers attempt to stem the fallout from the global financial crisis.

Apple to sell all iTunes music without anti-piracy software
 

Mike Harvey at Macworld in San Francisco | January 07, 2009

APPLE is offering millions of songs free of copy protection on its iTunes digital music store, allowing the music to be played on any device.

 

The end of the last bastion of digital rights management – the anti-piracy lock and key system used by the music industry – comes after Apple finally made agreements with all the big music labels. 
Until now iTunes, the world’s most popular online music store, offered only a limited number of songs from the EMI label and independents. 
Apple has now signed deals with three of the big music labels, Warner Music Group, Sony and Universal Music Group, to sell DRM-free songs. 
In exchange Apple has agreed to a new system of tiered prices for the songs offered. In effect, hot new songs will cost more than back catalogue music, allowing the labels to make more money from new releases.

 

 

Eight million songs will be available from the iTunes store DRM-free, rising to more than 10 million by April, it was announced at the Macworld expo in San Francisco by Apple head of marketing Phil Schiller. DRM-protected songs prevents music being copied – an option insisted on by recording studios – effectively meaning that iTunes tracks could only be played on Apple products such as iPods. 
Steve Jobs, the Apple chief executive who did not make the keynote speech for the first time in 12 years as he undergoes treatment for a hormone deficiency that has led to a dramatic weight loss, predicted that DRM-free would be available by the end of 2007. But it has taken this long for the music companies, which have offered DRM-free music via other outlets including Amazon for more than a year, to hand over the rights to Apple’s hugely influential music store. 
iTunes has sold more than 6 billion tracks, with 75 million account holders. Even with DRM-protected songs, it is the biggest music retailer in the United States.

 

Australian users can upgrade their already purchased tracks to DRM-free via the store as they become available for 50 cents a track.

 

Shares of Apple fell 1.2 per cent to $US93.44 after the MacWorld presentation ended without the company making any revolutionary product announcements. 
Mr Schiller did unveil the new 17 inch MacBook Pro laptop with a new longer-life battery which, controversially, users will not be able to remove easily. 
In a 90-minute presentation he also announced a raft of new software updates for Mac users including new features for iMovie, the home movie making suite and iPhoto. 
Apple also announced that iPhone users will be able to download tracks from iTunes over the 3G network as well as wifi at the touch of a button. 
With no really big product announcements such as past Macworld unveilings like the iPod, reaction among Apple watchers was muted. 
Most said Mr Schiller did a creditable job as keynote speaker with little material. 
An online campaign for a “silent keynote” in protest at Apple’s decision to pull out of Macworld next year failed to materialise as sections of crowd whooped and applauded various announcements. But the biggest cheer was probably reserved for singer Tony Bennett who came on at the end to serenade the audience with “The best is yet to come”. 
“There were some innovative products, but no true blockbusters,” said Robert Francello, head of equity trading for Apex Capital hedge fund in San Francisco.

 

Eds note: Apple US says that in April, based on what the music labels charge the company, songs on iTunes will be available for $US0.69, $US0.99 or $US1.29, with most albums still priced at US$9.99. Apple Australia has yet to confirm local pricing for the three-tier structure.

Steve Jobs has “hormone imbalance”
 

Correspondents in San Francisco | January 06, 2009

APPLE’S iconic chief executive Steve Jobs, dogged by speculation about his health, announced yesterday that he is being treated for a “hormone imbalance” but will remain head of the company.

 

Mr Jobs, 53, in a letter to the “Apple Community,” noted that his recent weight loss and decision not to give the keynote presentation at the Macworld Expo in San Francisco tomorrow had set off a “flurry of rumours about my health, with some even publishing stories of me on my deathbed.” 
“I’ve decided to share something very personal with the Apple community so that we can all relax and enjoy the show tomorrow,” said Mr Jobs, co-founder of the California company behind the Macintosh computer, iPhone and iPod. 
“As many of you know, I have been losing weight throughout 2008,” said Mr Jobs, who underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer in 2004 and looked extremely gaunt at his last public appearance in September. 
“The reason has been a mystery to me and my doctors,” he said. “A few weeks ago, I decided that getting to the root cause of this and reversing it needed to become my number one priority. 
“My doctors think they have found the cause — a hormone imbalance that has been ‘robbing’ me of the proteins my body needs to be healthy. 
“Sophisticated blood tests have confirmed this diagnosis. The remedy for this nutritional problem is relatively simple and straightforward, and I’ve already begun treatment. 
“But, just like I didn’t lose this much weight and body mass in a week or a month, my doctors expect it will take me until late this spring to regain it,” Mr Jobs said, adding: “I will continue as Apple’s CEO during my recovery.” 
The Apple chief said he “will be the first one to step up and tell our board of directors if I can no longer continue to fulfil my duties as Apple’s CEO. 
“I hope the Apple community will support me in my recovery and know that I will always put what is best for Apple first,” he said. “So now I’ve said more than I wanted to say, and all that I am going to say, about this.” 
In a statement released simultaneously with Mr Jobs’s letter, the Apple board described him as “one of the most talented and effective CEOs in the world” and said “if there ever comes a day when Steve wants to retire or for other reasons cannot continue to fulfil his duties as Apple’s CEO, you will know it. 
“Apple is very lucky to have Steve as its leader and CEO, and he deserves our complete and unwavering support during his recuperation. He most certainly has that from Apple and its board.” 
Apple’s share price rallied in reaction to the announcement, gaining 4.22 per cent in New York to close at $US94.58 ($132.53). 
Apple has been notoriously secretive about Mr Jobs’s health and was criticised by some analysts for failing to acknowledge his medical issues sooner. 
“It’s an announcement that could have been made last month and, given the way that Jobs and Apple have traded on his reputation to pitch the company, it should have been,” wrote Staci Kramer on paidContent.org. 
Hormonal imbalance is a common symptom of pancreatic cancer and could signal that Mr Jobs isn’t done battling the often terminal illness, said Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group in Silicon Valley. 
“Steve Jobs is not immortal or super human,” Mr Enderle said, adding that the board of Apple is shirking its duty if it isn’t grooming a successor. “The people Apple has on the bench cannot take the place of Steve Jobs,” he said. 
NPD analyst Stephen Baker disagreed, saying that while Mr Jobs is the driving force at Apple, they have “plenty of talented people to take over” the helm. 
Mark Margevicius of research firm Gartner said Mr Jobs has “great people working for him” but “Apple very much needs him to drive, innovate and lead. 
“The thing that differentiates Apple is him … he’s a man of great vision.” 
Speculation about Mr Jobs’s health had been rampant since it was announced last month that for the first time in 11 years he would not give the keynote speech at Macworld, the annual cult-like gathering of Apple devotees. 
Marketing vice president Phil Schiller is to give the keynote at Macworld, which runs from January 6-9 and features more than 450 companies promoting gadgets, gear, software or services tailored for Apple products. 
Born in San Francisco on February 24, 1955 to a single mother and adopted at a young age, Mr Jobs founded Apple in 1976 with engineer Steve Wozniak after dropping out of college. 
He left the company in 1985 after an internal power struggle but returned in 1996 and is credited with reversing Apple’s fortunes by launching the iPod and the iPhone. 
Under Mr Jobs, Apple has also made its Macintosh computers more compatible with Windows-based PC programs and boosted its share of a market long ruled by machines based on Microsoft software.

 

Sony boss ready to combat old guard

Leo Lewis | January 06, 2009

JAPANESE electronics group Sony is on the brink of a corporate upheaval that could include job cuts and sweeping changes to management and manufacturing processes.

Company sources have told The Times that operations across the group are braced for a series of “sacred cow-slaying” measures expected to abolish or fundamentally alter many of Sony’s long-established business practices. 
The expected restructuring — considered by many analysts to be occurring far too late — is likely to be announced early next month, with the lion’s share of the changes imposed on Sony’s domestic Japanese operations in the form of factory closures and the abolition of several major divisions. 
The restructuring comes as analysts are warning that Sony faces years of multibillion-dollar losses unless its president, Sir Howard Stringer, is given free rein to take on the company’s old guard. 
Analysts are bluntly warning of an impending flood of red ink. Their calls for deep changes in the company — supported by large investors — predict an imminent all-or-nothing moment for both Sir Howard and the company, of which he took charge in 2005. 
Koya Tabata, a Credit Suisse analyst, recently warned investors the restructuring of Sony was overdue and must be radical. 
Sony management needed to make a rapid shift in its business model to one driven by earnings in the content business, he said. 
The focus of research and development must be on software, he said. “The most important thing is that, to improve organisational strength in the areas of development, purchasing and marketing, it will be necessary to further concentrate power” in the hands of Sir Howard. And unless this is achieved, Sony will be unable to close the gap with competitors such as Apple and Nintendo. 
Sony has already flagged possible changes to its business model. 
A thinly detailed statement last month focused chiefly on short-term cost-cutting, cuts to about 16,000 permanent and temporary staff, and a vow to re-examine the role of non-core or non-profitable businesses. The announcement did not say what these were. 
Deutsche Bank analysts described the restructuring plans as “insufficient in scope and scale” and, along with other observers, noted that Sir Howard’s longer term plans would have to be fairly spectacular to restore investors’ faith in the stock. 
Despite the promise of reform inherent in the appointment of Sony’s first non-Japanese head, sources close to Sir Howard described three years of frustration, as the company’s British-born chief tried to impose changes on an unwilling, entrenched management.  

Free calls to Gaza

 

Fran Foo | January 06, 2009

AUSTRALIA’S largest telecommunications provider says it won’t charge for phone calls to the Gaza Strip, but the offer could be in vain as the region’s telecommunication services teeter on the verge of collapse in the face of the military assault by Israeli forces.

Israel began its attack on Gaza on December 27 after Hamas had declared an end to a shaky six-month truce between the two sides. More than 500 Palestinians have been killed during the campaign. 
Telstra says it will offer free phone calls for more than a week to the affected area. The offer applies to calls with the 0011 970 8 area code and is valid from January 7-15. 
“Telstra customers in Australia will be able to call free of charge from their home phones to check on the wellbeing of immediate family members in the Gaza area,” Telstra chief executive officer Sol Trujillo said. 
“We appreciate that many of our customers are concerned about the welfare and wellbeing of their families in the region. 
“Our thoughts are with those who have been affected by the unrest and especially people who may have been displaced or lost loved ones.” 
Telstra advises customers to keep their calls brief as telecommunication networks in the Gaza area are likely to be under stress. 
Two days ago, the Palestinians’ main phone company, Paltel Group, warned that Gaza could be disconnected from the outside world as a result of the air strikes and ground assaults. 
Paltel, which lost several workers in the attacks, said 90 per cent of Gaza’s mobile phone service had been crippled, while a significant number of fixed lines were damaged. 
“We have lost three technicians in the attacks, several technicians were injured during their efforts to repair some technical damage, numerous switchboards, mobile masts, and transmission alternatives were totally damaged and destroyed in air raids and the ground attack,” the company said. 
“Despite all obstacles, we’re taking all possible efforts to keep the services functioning in Gaza Strip even at minimum capacity.”

Blue skies for Webjet
 

Steve Creedy | January 06, 2009

ONLINE airfare portal Webjet is defying the industry gloom, predicting increased profit this financial year on the back of a 14 per cent rise in first-half revenue.

The company announced yesterday that preliminary figures for the six months ending December 31 indicated total transactions rose to $180 million compared with $158 million a year ago. 
It said that a generally reported downturn in Australian air travel had not prevented the number of first-half transactions rising 19 per cent on a year ago. 
It believed this reflected a substantial reduction in airfare ticket prices as airlines reduced ticket prices by cutting fuel surcharges and through pricing aggressively. 
“Despite the general gloom, we expect that the profit for the period will show a similar level of increase on last year,” Website managing director David Clarke said. 
Mr Clarke said that early holiday-period January bookings had continued strongly, driven in part by a television media campaign. 
Webjet delivered a 134 per cent rise in annual net profit to $9.4 million in 2007-08 but this included a one-off boost from a $2.7 million tax credit. 
The company’s profit rose 68 per cent without that boost.

Teens flaunt sex, drugs on MySpace
 

More than half of teenagers mention risky behaviors such as sex and drugs on their MySpace accounts, US researchers have said.

They said many young people who use social networking sites such as News Corp’s MySpace do not realise how public they are and may be opening themselves to risks, but the sites may also offer a new way to identify and help troubled teens.

“We found the majority of teenagers who have a MySpace account are displaying risky behaviors in a public way that is accessible to a general audience,” said Dr. Dimitri Christakis of Seattle Children’s Research Institute, whose studies appear in the journal Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine.

In one of two studies, Christakis and Dr. Megan Moreno of the University of Wisconsin analysed 500 randomly chosen MySpace profiles of 18-year-olds in 2007.

Overall, 54 percent of the publicly available accounts they checked contained information about high-risk behaviors: 41 percent mentioned substance abuse, 24 percent sexual behavior and 14 percent violence.

Christakis said many teens are unaware of how public and permanent Internet information can be, while parents often do not know what their kids are up to.

“No one says, “Whoa! Why are you putting that up there?'” Christakis said.

In a second study, the researchers identified 190 individuals aged 18 to 20 whose MySpace accounts displayed multiple risky behaviors. Half were sent a message from “Dr. Meg” from Dr. Moreno’s MySpace profile.

The message warned about the risks of disclosing personal details online and offered a link to a site with information about testing for sexually transmitted diseases.

Three months after this single message, many of the young people had withdrawn references to sex and substance abuse and tightened security controls.

“It really provides the opportunity to reach millions of potential at-risk teens and try to modify their behaviors or at least prevent them from disclosing them to the entire world,” Christakis said in a telephone interview.

The e-mail was most effective at curtailing references to sex, with 13.7 percent of profiles in the group that received the warning deleting all references, compared with 5.3 percent of those who were not sent the message.

Christakis said displaying sexual information online can expose a teen to advances from sexual predators. Employers and universities may also check those sites.

Record high for videogaming sales
 

Sales of videogames in the UK hit an all time high of 82.8m in 2008, figures from the industry trade body show.

The Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) said that consumers spent £4.03bn on video game hardware and software.

Total video game sales were in excess of £1.9bn, 23% more than the previous year and more than double the total earnings over the past five years.

Console sales accounted for another £1.422 billion.

Figures from ELSPA suggest that video games for the Nintendo Wii made up almost a quarter of all software sales, with more than 20m games sold. This was an increase of 112% on the previous year.

Software for the firm’s handheld game console – the Nintendo DS – also proved popular, with more than 19.1m copies sold.

Games for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 also did well, with a 51% rise in sales.

And there was some good news for Sony.

Sales of software for its PlayStation 3 console role by 145%, selling 10.4 million units – more than double the 4.2m games sold in 2007.

Woman shopping for a Nintendo Wii 

Nintendo’s console was pitched squarely at non-gamers

ELSPA’s managing director, Michael Rawlinson, said the growth of games pitched at the casual user had help fuel the growth.

“Videogaming is increasingly bringing families together with the introduction of so many outstanding family-based console titles.

“These have really opened up the market to those who may never have even considered playing a videogame before,” he said.

But with economic worries, and a shortage of blockbuster titles, some experts think 2009 may not be so rosy.

Speaking to the BBC, veteran game designer Peter Molyneux said he had concerns.

“While there is stuff in 2010 we can look forward to, off the top of my head, I cannot think of anything this year that really excites me.”

“Everyone says games are good value for home entertainment, despite the relatively high price. I’m not so sure.

“I think we’re going to see a lot of price pressure put on games,” he added. 

 

Macworld cult gathering without iconic Apple leader 

Correspondents in San Francisco | January 05, 2009

APPLE faithful are making pilgrimages to San Francisco for the start of Macworld, an annual cult-like gathering that this year is expected to lack revelations and iconic leader Steve Jobs.

 

In a move that has upset Apple followers and investors, marketing vice president Phil Schiller will replace Mr Jobs on stage Tuesday for a keynote presentation traditionally considered a Macworld highlight. 
Mr Jobs has given the Macworld keynote for the past 11 consecutive years, drawing hordes of Macintosh computer devotees eager to hear about Apple’s newest innovations. 
Attendance at last year’s Macworld climbed to a record high of approximately 50,000 people as Apple’s iPod MP3 players, internet-linked iPhones, and Macintosh computers gained popularity worldwide. 
Many analysts say Apple’s transformation from a niche computer company to a mainstream purveyor of consumer electronics could be behind its decision to make this its last appearance at Macworld. 
Apple has shown that it can summon legions of reporters and bloggers to its California headquarters for announcements by merely sending out cryptic email invitations. 
And over the years Macworld has evolved from an Apple computer pep rally into an event at which the firm is expected to unveil products as awe-inspiring and culture-shifting as iPods and iPhones. 
Such expectations this year are unrealistic given product development and production cycles, setting Apple up to disappoint its public despite even outstanding efforts by the company, analysts say. 
Bowing out of Macworld is a shrewd way to avoid an expectations game. 
However, the announcement that an Apple executive that has long played sidekick to Mr Jobs will take the master’s place on stage has reignited rumours that he is dangerously ill. 
Mr Jobs and Apple have repeatedly declined to discuss his health, saying it is not a concern. 
“There is a lot of pressure on Apple to come up with a succession plan,” said analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group in Silicon Valley. 
“They claim to have one. This might be a good time to talk about one.” 
Apple is downplaying its decision to pull out of Macworld, saying that its popular real-world and online stores have made it easy to connect with fans without having to spend money on an expo. 
Macworld is run by event management firm IDG, which vows that the show will go on without Apple. IDG is inviting this year’s attendees to a “town hall” meeting to discuss how best to shape the gathering in 2010 and beyond. 
“While there is no question that Macworld is going to evolve and change in 2010, the fundamental importance of the event remains the same,” said Macworld vice president Paul Kent. 
“(It is) the unique ability to put exciting new Apple-related products directly into the hands of users and to inspire those users to put their products to work in new and innovative ways.” 
The event, running from January 6 through 9, will feature more than 450 companies promoting gadgets, gear, software or services tailored for Apple products. 
For example, startup Vestalife will show off iPod speaker docks shaped like fireflies, lady bugs, jewellery boxes and butterflies, while Posit Science will demonstrate software for keeping Macintosh users’ brains fit. 
Major Macworld sponsor Uniea, based in Hong Kong, will tout stylish cases for iPhones, iPods and Macbook computers. 
Mr Schiller is expected to shine the Macworld keynote spotlight on a Snow Leopard operating system being crafted to follow in the paw prints of Leopard software released for Macintosh computers in 2007. 
Apple is also likely to debut improved versions of iMac computers and an Apple TV set-top box for streaming video from computers to home entertainment systems. 
Apple also could showcase special pricing or product deals, aimed at wooing customers in these tough economic times, according to Mr Enderle.

 

 

Networks ‘not serious’ about multi-channelling

Nick Tabakoff | January 02, 2009

THE three commercial free-to-air networks were, from yesterday, finally permitted to launch a new digital channel — but none will have the new channels operating for several months.

The January 1 inaction on multi-channels by the Seven, Nine and Ten networks has been interpreted as a lack of enthusiasm for the new channels, and prompted a new round of hostilities from the pay-TV sector.

Foxtel says the lack of action in starting the new channels indicates the networks are not “serious” about multi-channelling.

From yesterday, the three networks were each legally permitted to launch an additional standard-definition channel, to add to the high-definition multi-channels they are already allowed to launch.

This means the commercial networks alone have the combined potential from now on to offer a total of nine stations with distinct programming.

But the only one so far to have announced plans for programming distinct from its main free-to-air station is the Ten Network, which in late October announced it was launching the 24-hour HD digital sports channel, One.

Ten’s new channel will not be set up until April, but it has announced its content. “One” will be a direct competitor to pay-TV’s Fox Sports channels, with sports including golf, Indian Premier League Twenty20 cricket, AFL, boxing, swimming, netball, MotoGP and F1 events.

Nine and Seven have not yet announced what programming will be on their new digital channels, which are expected to launch no earlier than April.

This is despite the fact the main networks have had since October 2006 — when the Howard government first passed legislation that allowed the commercial networks to launch the standard-definition multi-channels.

Adam Suckling, Foxtel’s director of policy and corporate affairs, said the lack of action so far by the commercial free-to-air networks was telling. “Seven, Nine and Ten have had more than two years to plan and launch one new digital channel each on January 1, 2009 — which they are now allowed to provide under government rules,” he said.

“But they have chosen not to do so … If the free-to-air networks were serious about driving digital take-up, they would have launched their new channels from the day they’re allowed to.”

 

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