Episode 144

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A real tweet for Aussie music fans | Australian IT
A real tweet for Aussie music fans

 UNIVERSAL Music is being billed as the first Australian marketer to reward its online fans with a free download of Brisbane band Yves Klein Blue in return for a tweet on Twitter.

Tony Thomas, managing director of The Population, said the campaign was the first Twitter application in Australia to offer users value in exchange for re-tweeting. “The band, or people close to the band or music influencers will tweet the message to their followers (and provide) a shortened URL code,” Mr Thomas said. “You go to the campaign microsite, you re-tweet that message and it unlocks the download and it automatically starts the download.”

Grocery price monitor site abandoned | Australian IT
Grocery price monitor site abandoned

 THE Rudd Government has dumped one of its key election promises, the Grocery Choice price monitoring website.

The scheme had been due to be up and running next week.

The dumping of Grocery Choice comes after the Government last year abandoned FuelWatch after it was defeated in the Senate.

The $13 million site, which originally launched last August, was heavily criticised for displaying information that was too general and outdated to be useful.

Vodafone offers standalone pricing on new iPhone – Telco/ISP – Technology – News – iTnews.com.au
Vodafone offers standalone pricing on new iPhone


Free tethering but data more expensive than Optus.

Vodafone Australia has confirmed customers will be able to buy an iPhone 3G S without signing up to plans.

The carrier has also responded to controversy over competitor plans to charge users an additional fee for using the iPhone as a modem – offering tethering free of charge.

From Friday, customers will be able to buy the 32GB iPhone 3G S from Vodafone for $1129 up front, the 16GB model for $929 and the 8GB model for $759.

Apple’s hardcore fans leap on new offering | Australian IT
Apple’s hardcore fans leap on new offering

 Vodafone has prepaid plans at $759 for the old 8GB 3G model, $929 for the new 16GB iPhone 3GS and $1129 for the 32GB 3GS.

marketing departments have drummed up everything from Optus’s midnight store openings to Vodafone’s personal deliveries for some customers this morning by model-turned-phone-courier Lara Bingle.

Global HD PlayTV test in Australia | Australian IT
Global HD PlayTV test in Australia


SONY Computer Entertainment Australia is ready to launch its much-anticipated PlayTV here, a box that transforms a PlayStation 3 console into a video recorder.

The PlayTV hooks up to a PS3 console through a USB port and records television shows to the PS3’s hard drive for later playback.

SCE Australia chief Michael Ephraim said the high-definition version of the PlayTV would be launched in Australia by October. A standard-definition version of it has been available overseas since late last year

The unit has twin HD tuners and comes with an electronic program guide for setting up lists of programs to record. Mr Ephraim said Sony was still negotiating on which EPG to use.

At less than $200, according to Mr Ephraim, the HD PlayTV would be a cheap way to own an HD PVR for someone who already had a PS3 console.

Google mistakes Jackson queries for attack – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Google mistakes Jackson queries for attack

 A deluge of search queries for Michael Jackson led Google News, the news aggregator of Web search engine Google, to initially believe it was under attack, the internet giant said on Friday (local time).

Twitter also suffered a slowdown in performance on Thursday as users exchanged thousands of messages per minute about Jackson’s death at the age of 50.

Web portal AOL said its AIM instant messaging service was down for about 40 minutes.

Yahoo! said the news area on its front page received five times its normal traffic and its front page story “Michael Jackson rushed to hospital” was its “highest clicking story” ever with 800,000 clicks within 10 minutes.

Microsoft reveals Australian Windows 7 pricing – Microsoft, Windows 7 – ARN
Microsoft reveals Australian Windows 7 pricing


A Windows 7 Upgrade Option – which lets customers who purchase a new Windows Home Premium, Business or Ultimate PC with Vista installed from June 26 upgrade to Windows 7 for little or no cost – will run until January 31, 2010, and people can redeem the offer until the end of February 2010.

Upgrade Pricing:

  • Home Premium $199
  • Professional $399
  • Ultimate $429 (Vista costs $399)

For those customers looking to purchase the full version from October the prices will be as follows:

  • Home Premium $299
  • Professional $449
  • Ultimate $469

Compared to the prices in the US, Australians are being ripped off yet again:

Home Premium Upgrade $49.99 (until July 11)
Home Premium Upgrade $119.99 (after July 11)
Professional Upgrade $99.99 (until July 11)
Professional Upgrade $199.99 (after July 11)

Home Premium Full version $199.99
Professional Full $299.99
Ultimate Full $319.99

Microsoft Australia’s answer is that “eligible Australian families can take advantage of the Education Tax Refund (ETR) on offer from the Australian Federal Government. The ETR allows eligible parents of school-age children to claim up to 50 percent back on expenses related to their kids’ education, including Windows PCs.”

The Pirate Bay to Sue Sweden for Human Rights Violations | TorrentFreak
The Pirate Bay to Sue Sweden for Human Rights Violations

 Today the Swedish Appeal Court decided that the judge who handled the Pirate Bay trial was not biased, despite his membership of several pro-copyright organizations. In true Pirate Bay style spokesman Peter Sunde responded full force, and says they are ready to sue Sweden for human rights violations.

here will be no retrial for The Pirate Bay, the Appeal Court decided today. According to the Court the judge was not biased based on the requirements of the European Convention, a decision that can’t be appealed.

However, Pirate Bay’s spokesman Peter Sunde says that they will not give up that easily. On his blog he writes, “When people think you’re down and out, that you’ve lost and have no way to win… that’s the perfect time to hit them harder than ever before.”

On Twitter Peter announces that their next step is to “file charges against Sweden for violation for Human Rights.”

In order to do so they will have take the case to the European Court of Human Rights, who will then conduct a review to see if the Swedish legal system did indeed violate the rights of the defendants in the Pirate Bay trial.


US Patent Office backs Nvidia with Rambus rejection

Nvidia said Tuesday the US Patent and Trademark Office has initially rejected 41 claims by Rambus that accuse the graphics chip maker of aping its memory controller tech without paying.

The 41 jilted claims relate to seven of the nine patents Rambus alleges have been infringed by Nvidia. The IP-only memory company filed a formal complaint with the US International Trade Commission in November 2008 requesting an investigation it hopes will lead to barring of certain Nvidia kit if royalties or settlement money isn’t slipped its way.

“We are pleased that the USPTO decided to review the patentability of Rambus’ patents and agreed with Nvidia’s challenge to all 41 claims,” the GPU company’s chief attorney, David Shannon, said in a statement. “We will continue to vigorously defend this matter in the ITC.”

Validity of the remaining two Rambus patents being challenged are still pending with the USPTO. Nvidia expects an initial decision for the pair within 60 days.

AMD fab spin-off to break super-skinny ground • The Register

AMD fab spin-off to break super-skinny ground

Globalfoundries, AMD’s fab spin-off, has officially pledged to start construction of New-York-state plant targeting bleeding-edge 32nm and smaller-process silicon.

The company said Tuesday it sent a formal commitment letter to the state of New York for the construction of Fab 2 facilities at the Luther Forest Technology Campus in Saratoga County, New York. Globalfoundries’ missive officially initiates the construction phase of the plant, as well as lets the state know its time to start issuing bonds to pay for development of the $4.2bn plant.

Fab 2 compliments Globalfoundries’ cornerstone wafer bakery, Fab 1, in Dresden, Germany. The company reckons Fab 2 will be the world’s first 300mm fab designed for 32nm technologies and the largest economic development project in the history of New York state.

Samsung to drop 1.8in HDDs, focus on SSD? • Register Hardware

Samsung to drop 1.8in HDDs, focus on SSD?


Samsung has canned the development of 1.8in hard disks in favour of a focus on solid-state drives, it has been claimed.

The allegation was made by Taiwanese notebook-maker moles who say the move will mean there are fewer 1.8in drives available for thin’n’light laptops, currently being keenly promoted by the likes of Intel as the next big thing in notebooks.

Skinny laptops tend to use 1.8in drives for their size, trading capacity and speed for slim, 5mm-high casings that can be squeezed into kit like Apple’s MacBook Air.

Samsung’s decision – if true – means that Toshiba will be left as the world’s prime producer of 1.8in HDDs, the sources said. Certainly, Hitachi no longer lists 1.8in hard drives on its website, and nor do Fujitsu, Seagate or Western Digital.

Samsung lists 16 1.8in Spinpoint N drives, presumably all still available to laptop manufacturers. The moles said they expect shortages to bite in the next quarter as Samsung’s stocks run down.

That said, even if Samsung is phasing out such drives in favour of SSDs, that doesn’t guarantee it’ll stop manufacturing them, especially if thin’n’light laptops become as popular as many in the industry hope.

This week the company announced new Sata mini-card SSDs for netbooks. Offering 16GB, 32GB and 64GB of storage, the new line have optional full-disk encryption.

Ten of the best… iPhone beaters • Register Hardware

Round-up The iPhone 3G S is now upon us, bringing with it incredible new things like MMS, video recording, laptop tethering, stereo Bluetooth and the marvel of cut and paste. Hang on. Haven’t other smartphones been doing this sort of thing for ages?

While iPhone mania shows no sign of dissipating among the faithful, another big difference between the original iPhone and the latest version is that there are now a lot of very credible alternatives out there, all with touchscreens, fancy new interfaces, HSDPA 3G, Wi-Fi, A-GPS and the ability to expand and improve with downloadable apps.

At Reg Hardware we’ve had a rummage around to bring you ten of the best of these iPhone substitutes. Our ratings are based on comparing iPhone-style features and don’t reflect how each phone would be rated in a standalone review.

HTC Magic
Click here for the full review


HTC Magic

It has that love it or hate it little chin at the bottom (we don’t see the point of it ourselves) but otherwise the UK’s second smartphone to run on Google’s Android OS is one of the most serious contenders for the iPhone’s crown. Losing the slide-out keyboard of its predecessor, the G1, makes it considerably more pocket-friendly at 113 x 56 x 14mm and 116g and its 3.2in capacitive touchscreen with 320 x 480 resolution looks great, as does the widget-based UI. You can get Street View with Google Maps and use it with the digital compass to find your way around, but the 3.2Mp camera is nothing special and like the iPhone, you’ll be tied to one network, in this case Vodafone. If you can’t bear Windows Mobile, Android is shaping up to be OS that’s best placed to challenge the iPhone.

Google mocks Bing and the stuff behind it • The Register

Google mocks Bing and the stuff behind it


Structure 09 Google has questioned Microsoft’s entire approach to online infrastructure, while taking some wonderfully sly shots at the company’s new decision engine search engine.

The undeniable highlight of Thursday’s cloud-happy Structure 09 conference was Vijay Gill, Google senior manager of engineering and architecture. As he described how Google’s famously distributed infrastructure shames the Redmond competition, he would occasionally point his audience to relevant online materials using a deadpan line that put Microsoft’s incurable Mountain View envy is sharp relief. “If you Bing for it,” he would say, “you can find it.”

Apple MacBook Pro firmware fritzes third-party HDDs • Register Hardware
Apple MacBook Pro firmware fritzes third-party HDDs

Apple’s firmware upgrade, which restores the 3Gb/s Sata link speed to MacBook Pros, has also caused some ‘unauthorised’ hard drives to fail.

An Apple Discussion board thread has 65 comments about the issue, which may occur when the Apple-shipped drive in the MacBook Pro is replaced with a third-party drive and the fast Sata firmware upgrade is applied.

One poster, Ian Burrell, first noticed the issue with a WD Scorpio Blue drive. His MacBook Pro froze randomly and he suggested that there were intermittent data errors. Unfortunately, there seemed to be no way to revert to the previous firmware and so recover from the problem.


Optus’ iPhone elites get upgrade discount

update Select Optus iPhone customers have been offered a 40 per cent discount on to-be-determined “early upgrade fees” for Apple’s new iPhone 3GS.

Some Optus iPhone customers were sent this message this morning:

“We know you are only partway through your 24-month plan so because you pre-registered for iPhone info we’re offering you the chance to upgrade to the new Apple iPhone 3GS and we will discount 40 [per cent] off your early upgrade fees from your current mobile plan when you take up a new 24-month iPhone plan.”

Exactly what the 40 per cent will amount to, however, is yet to be determined. The telco has outlined iPhone pricing for new customers, but is yet to release upgrade pricing.

The offer, which was made to select Optus customers via email and text message today, may be applicable to non-recipients however who will need to pass an in-store assessment by qualified staff, Optus spokespeople told ZDNet.com.au.

Criteria include the length of time the customer has been with Optus, time left on an existing contract, and current spend, the spokesperson said.

The offer comes on the eve of the new device’s launch. Optus announced yesterday that it will open city stores at midnight tonight in aide of the device’s launch.


Microsoft hikes Win7 prices for Australia

Australian buyers of Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 7 operating system will pay between AU$50 and AU$150 more in real terms than US residents for the software, the company revealed this morning.

The most popular version of Windows 7 is likely to be the full Home Premium version, which has an estimated retail price of US$199.99, or AU$248. But Australians will pay AU$299 for the software. Microsoft has cut that amount down by AU$50 compared to the same version of Windows Vista.

Australians will pay AU$199 to upgrade from Vista Home Premium to Windows 7 Home Premium, whereas Americans will only pay US$119.99, or approximately AU$149.

The Professional version of Windows 7 will come with an even higher cost.

Australian users will pay AU$449 for the full retail version of Windows 7 Professional, whereas Americans will pay US$299.99, or AU$372. And Australians will pay AU$399.99 to upgrade to Windows 7 Professional, whereas Americans will pay US$199.99 or AU$248.

The ultimate version of Windows 7 will go for AU$469 in Australia, or AU$429 for an upgrade, compared to the respective US prices of US$319.99 (AU$397.03) and US$219.99 (AU$273.38). Microsoft has hiked the prices of Windows 7 Ultimate slightly compared to Vista Ultimate.

Broadly speaking, Australian prices for Windows 7 remain on par with their Vista equivalents, albeit with some small changes around the Home Premium and Ultimate versions.

“Our prices vary by region and are determined based on a variety of market specific factors including, but not limited to exchange rate, local taxes, duties, local market conditions and retailer pricing decisions,” said a Microsoft spokesperson via email.

Microsoft is not the only software vendor to slug Australians with higher prices than their US counterparts for the same software; Adobe’s estimated local prices for its Creative Suite 4 package follow the same model.

Microsoft globally has also announced a limited pre-order program for Windows 7, under which customers in the US, Canada and Japan will be able to get the software at more than 50 per cent discount; but no such program has yet been announced in Australia.

Microsoft has also announced that customers who purchase PCs with Vista Home Premium, Business or Ultimate versions from today will be able to upgrade to Windows 7 “for little or no cost” when it launches on 22 October. This upgrade option will run until 31 January 2010, with buyers being able to redeem it until the end of February, Microsoft said.

Hewlett-Packard announced this morning it would be participating in the offer, and would start offering Windows 7 on PCs starting from 22 October.


HP’s Linux-based Printer connects to the web

Can Amazon’s Kindle cripple printing? HP’s not standing by to watch that happen.

When the first wave of e-book readers were introduced, one sector was expected to absorb the brunt of its impact — the printing industry. Then earlier this year, what Amazon hopes to be a tidal wave arrived: the larger-sized Kindle DX. By partnering with major newspaper & magazine companies Amazon is hoping to revolutionize the way people read, which may eventually cripple printing in general. Naturally, printing company HP has other plans.

Last June 22, HP announced its new all-in-one printer, the Photosmart Premium with TouchSmart Web. Aside from cramming a fax machine, copier, scanner, and a printer into one device, run of the mill technology by today’s standards, this new printer can actually print straight from the Web using on-device applications fashioned specifically for this purpose.


Windows 7 to push up netbook prices

Anyone putting off purchasing a netbook until the next-generation Atom processor, the N450, arrives in October, should expect to pay a premium thanks to the extra cost of Windows 7.

Netbook makers are currently lobbying Microsoft to reduce the price of its upcoming operating system revision, which, DigiTimes reports, is currently priced at $45-55 a pop, depending on the vendor’s negotiating skills and the size of its order.

By contrast, Windows XP costs $25-30, so insiders are planning to stick with Windows XP unless Redmond relents and reduces Windows 7’s pricing – which, we suspect, wouldn’t bode well for anyone hoping the entry level 7 won’t be feature-limited after all.

But here’s the thing: DigiTimes mentions that vendors are nonetheless looking at tying their upcoming N450-based offerings to Windows 7 – they’ll just use XP for current N270- and N280-based machines.

So buyers will be paying a premium for the new CPU and chipset, which will surely be priced above the current products, and the extra $20 or so (plus mark-up) for Windows 7. That probably means a price of at least £400 over here.

Of course, competition may force them to swallow the cost and price Windows 7-equipped N450 machines at current netbook prices, which are high enough, or just put them out with XP.

We’d suggest the even cheaper option: Ubuntu. ®


EA merges Bioware, Mythic into single RPG gamehaus

Electronic Arts is combining its top RPG maker, Bioware, with its top MMO maker, Mythic, to make one massive roleplaying studio group.

While it’s not apparent why EA is squeezing the video game houses together, the publisher is keeping Bioware’s reins in the same hands.

The newly-formed RPG/MMO group will be helmed by Ray Muzyka, co-founder and general manager of Bioware. The developer’s other co-founder, Greg Zeschuk, will become the studio group’s new creative officer. Mythic co-founder Rob Denton will become the general manager of the group’s Mythic side of things, reporting directly to Muzyka.

The odd man out is Mark Jacobs, co-founder of Mythic and the studio’s current general manager. He’ll depart EA on June 23, 2009. Mythic said in an announcement that Bioware’s studios will remain unchanged and continue to report to Muzyka.

Bioware is best known for RPGs like the Star Wars romp, Knights of the Old Republic, and its popular original IP, Mass Effect. Mythic currently runs the MMOs Warhammer Online and Dark Age of Camelot.

With Bioware currently developing the MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic, the deal does make strategic sense. Bioware has a great track record with single-player RPGs, but lacks experience with managing a massive multiplayer environment unlike Mythic. Getting the best of both worlds makes for a solid business plan, assuming the two developers can mesh well.

Windows 7 RC downloads to end 15 August

Microsoft has confirmed its Windows 7 release candidate download program will expire on 15 August.

After that date testers won’t be able to get their hands on the download via Microsoft’s website, although it will undoubtedly be available elsewhere on the interwebs.

From 1 July Microsoft said the beta would start to reboot every two hours before being snuffed out altogether on 1 August.

A fortnight later Redmond will bring down the shutters on its RC download program, but testers will still be able to install the near-ready version of Windows 7 and get a key if they need one too.

Like the beta version of the OS, Microsoft will also eventually kill off the release candidate. But it has a longer shelf life and won’t expire until 1 June 2010.

Microsoft has set the date for the final version of Windows 7 to land on 22 October.

It’s understood US retail giant Best Buy will begin pre-selling Vista’s successor later this week. Customers will be able to buy Vista-based computers and subsequently qualify for a free upgrade to Windows 7.

Microsoft has previously told El Reg that customers who buy Vista-based computers won’t have any trouble upgrading to its new operating system. The firm came unstuck with its last big pre-sale, upgrade push to convince users to drop XP in favour of Vista.

Some individuals have attempted to sue the software giant for allegedly misleading consumers with Microsoft’s Vista Capable campaign. The case has been suspended while the plaintiffs appeal a federal judge’s ruling. ®




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