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RIAA sues Limewire
Last year, the US Supreme Court ruled that technology firms were liable for any encouragement they might give to users bent on copyright infringement. Today, labels associated with core RIAA members EMI, Sony BMG, Universal, and Warner took advantage of this ruling by suing LimeWire. They claim that by failing to block access to copyrighted music, the Lime Group (who develops LimeWire) is in effect encouraging people to pirate and bases its very business model on piracy. Damages sought are certainly extreme: the plaintiff labels want $150,000 for every time a copyrighted song was downloaded without permission. LimeWire declined to comment when speaking to the Associated Press.
Microsoft, Nintendo sued
A Texas business called Anascape, Ltd. is suing Microsoft and Nintendo over their controllers, reports The Inquirer. The company charges that their controllers have violated numerous patents which were filed in 1999. A partial list includes:
Variable Conductance Sensor
Game Controller with Analog Pressure Sensor
Variable Conductance Sensor with Elastomeric Dome Cap
Remote Controller with Analog Button
Image Controller with Sheet Connected Sensors
WWDC round up
Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is set to kick off Monday with a keynote by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, where he will show off a demo of Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard". Little is known about the next incarnation of Mac OS X aside from the integration of "Boot Camp" Windows booting technology into the operating system. Several photos of posters in the building hosting the event have sparked speculation that Leopard may be a 'true' 64-bit operating system; however, most reports suggest that Apple will introduce a new Intel-based version of Apple's professional desktops. Reports indicate that while the enclosure may be similar, the computer is expected to receive a major technical overhaul. Others speculate that other products may also be introduced, as Intel recently released the 64-bit Core 2 Duo 'Conroe' desktop processor and has announced plans to ship the laptop variant of Core 2 Duo 'Merom' early next month. Recent analyst reports have called for an iPod-base phone by Apple originally fueled by reports in March claiming Apple was looking for an 'iPhone' supplier. [Photos included]
Refurb Mac minis, Nanos
Apple is selling its refurbished Mac mini 1.5GHz Intel Core Solo (512MB of memory, 60GB hard drive, Combo drive, Wi-Fi capability, and an Apple Remote) for $519, an $80 savings; as well as its Mac mini 1.66GHz Intel Core Duo (512MB of memory, 80GB hard drive, double-layer SuperDrive, Wi-Fi capability, and an Apple Remote) for $699, a $100 savings. The company is also offering the 1GB iPod nano holding up to 240 songs for $109 ($40 off) in black or white, the 2GB iPod nano holding up to 500 songs for $129 ($70 off) in black or white, and the 4GB iPod nano holding up to 1,000 songs for $169 ($80 off) in black or white. Apple certified refurbished iPods come with a standard one-year warranty and free shipping. Additionally, customers who purchase a new Mac are offered the option to receive a free printer until October 16th of 2006.
SIGGRAPH special report
SIGGRAPH 2006 wrapped up yesterday in Boston. The week-long event is regarded as the 3D industry's leading conference and exhibition show featuring its own Animation Film Festival. The winner of that festival is nominated for an Oscar, and this year that honor went to a piece titled, "One Rat Short", by Alex Weil, which won Best of Show at SIGGRAPH 2006 and numerous other awards. Besides an excellent Animation Festival with over 726 entries, SIGGRAPH features an Art Gallery and Emerging Technologies exhibit where art and science intersect -- where computing involves the leading edges of science, industrial technology and entertainment.
Universal DRM Interview
We typically think of DRM only as copy-protection meant to keep file sharers and black market factories from making it easy to get an illegal copy of a movie or album. Jerry Pierce from Universal Pictures, however, begs to differ. In a recent interview, he says that the DRM on new disc formats like Blu-Ray and HD DVD is ultimately about establishing business models, not fighting pirates. He acknowledges that buyers would rather have control over how their media is played than absolute quality, citing SACD's flop in the market compared to rougher-sounding, unrestricted MP3s. As most of us would agree, Pierce says the movie studios' challenge is to give users the flexibility they really want without compromising business.
Students often look to consolidate features to save money; that's why countless numbers of them buy laptops that double as media centers or use their game consoles for watching DVDs. Dictionary creators Merriam-Webster know this and are gambling that at least some college-goers would appreciate a "free" MP3 player at the same time as they buy an electronic dictionary. The MWD-480, made by Franklin, stores 274,000 words as well as 119 MB of music through its internal storage; there's also an SD card slot if you need more space for music than what's included. An alarm clock, a crossword puzzle solver, and five games are also part of the package. Few people might think of the 480 as their first choice for a music player, but at $80 it's less expensive (and cumbersome) than buying two separate units.
Move to net publishing
The signs and portents are all around us: ultimately, physical game distribution is going to die. With the rise of networks like Steam and Xbox Live, Wired's David Kushner argues, there seems to be little reason to spend millions on physical publishing infrastructures. "Even as the videogame industry's sales have eclipsed movie box office take in the US, the industry remains hostage to Hollywood's blockbuster mentality: big budgets, bigger production teams, sweeping prerendered cinematics, slavish photorealism. But, as with Hollywood, the game business is not booming. Total US sales - which include console and handheld titles, hardware, and accessories - have flattened since 2002, and major gamemakers, like Electronic Arts and Atari, are posting big losses."
Merom Macs in September?
Apple may be receiving mass shipments of Intel's Core 2 Duo 'Merom' processor in early September, according to one report. The company currently uses Intel's Core Duo 'Yonah' processors in its Intel-based Macs, and the new Merom processor is the mobile successor of Yonah. Boasting a 4MB L2 cache, 667MHz FSB, 64-bit processing, and clock speeds up to 2.33GHz, the new chip is a vast improvement over the original Core. A small number of PC makers have already begun to announce their Core 2 Duo 'Conroe' offerings; however Apple wants to be among the first to announce its lineup based on Merom, according to AppleInsider.
Avoiding timeouts in SFII
Some players are apparently having real trouble getting Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting to stay connected during their matches. Until Microsoft resolves the problem, a forumgoer from Cheap Ass Gamer seems to have discovered a trick: "...click on quick match, and when it finds a person and starts the 5 sec timer, click the center [Guide] button. Then hit the center button again when the character select screen pops up. Easy as pie, and I did it 10 times in a row without getting a timeout." Other posts in the thread seem to back Mooky's statements. Can any Scanners verify the truth of this?
Fenetres Volantes 1.0b (free) directly translated as 'flying windows' is a screen saver for Mac OS X that causes windows to "fly around" when the system is idle, snapping back to their original positions when interaction is detected. This update allows users to customize time before activation, the number of windows, float speed, and the frame rate display. FenÍtres Volantes requires Mac OS X 10.4.6 or later.
[Download - 113KB]
Switchblade 1.0 ($10) is an application switcher allowing users to create a list of the most popular and most recently used applications provided in a system-wide menu form. The utility focuses on one task that it is attempting to perfect by featuring hot key access, icon size selection, and a learning engine. Switchblade requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later. [Download - 328KB]
eOrdering Complete 3.3 ($70) allows users to create Web forms that support product ordering online with shopping cart technology. Version 3.3 adds support for Google checkout beta, improved button creation, enhanced user commenting, better image management, and improved final checkout page. The utility requires Mac OS X 10.1 or later. [Download - 4.0MB]
Sandvox 1.0.4 ($50) makes websites the "Macintosh way" by featuring drag-and-drop content, the ability to preview sites as they are created, and publish a site with several simple clicks. The update adds German localization, document restoration, toolbar menus for text-only mode, an improved 'Web View' mode, music support in media browser, and several bug fixes. Sandvox 1.0.4 requires Mac OS X 10.4.4 or later. [Download - 21.0MB]
Launch2net 1.3.9 ($100) allows users to use a mobile phone, USB-modem, or PC datacard as wireless internet connection without the need to enter cryptic data such as APNs, GPRS parameters, or modemscripts. This update adds support for Nokia N93, E50, 6233, Samsung SGH-P300 and Sony Ericsson phones. Launch2net requires Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later. [Download - 8.9MB]
Cybercrime Treaty Ratified
Yesterday, the US Senate ratified the Convention on Cybercrime treaty, reports the Associated Press. Initially launched in 2001 and signed by over forty nations, the treaty is meant to encourage international cooperation in fighting malware writers, sexual exploitation rings, and terrorism by making it easier for countries to collaborate on and unify their Internet-related laws. The Convention is not without its legitimate concerns, however. Organizations such as the EFF have described it as "the world's worst Internet law" because it could theoretically let nations with more oppressive laws pressure the US into identifying and extraditing people solely because they are vocal political opponents. Even so, the treaty also contains exceptions that allow countries to refuse cooperation on political offenses or in situations that would compromise sovereignty and core interests.
Analyst on probe concerns
Analyst firm Merrill Lynch today said Apple's future would not be affected by the company's ongoing stock irregularities investigation. Although Apple yesterday said such issues could lead to a restatement of its earnings, the analyst firm maintains its "buy" rating with a price target of $72 for Apple shares, reinforcing another report from American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu who said Apple will remain largely unaffected by the possible changes. "Clearly this is a negative development that reflects poorly on the integrity of the managers involved," wrote Merrill Lynch analyst Richard Farmer. "Despite this negative development in the options investigation, our forward looking view of fundamentals is not affected, so long as disruptive management changes are not required."
Mah Jong Quest released
iWin has released Mah Jong Quest for Mac OS X, a casual puzzle game offering more than 150 layouts challenging players to vanquish dragons and restore the land. "Kwazi needs your help! Three terrible dragons have appeared without warning, wreaking havoc on the once peaceful village. With the guidance of twelve spiritual animals, solve the mysteries of the ancient tiles to restore balance to the Empire. You must find and match Yin and Yang to proceed through each of the 60 puzzles. This is your destiny, this is Kwazi's Quest." The numerous layouts allow players to shuffle the boards, or play in one of many different game modes. Mah Jong Quest is available via Macgamestore.com for $20, and requires Mac OS X 10.2 or later.
MediaCentral 2.1 released
Equinux today released MediaCentral 2.1, an update to the media solution for Mac OS X offering seamless Skype integration, as well as an active on-screen display with dynamic content. The software is designed to turn a Mac into a home theater system with support for numerous audio, video, IP TV, TV, IP radio, games, and multimedia formats. MediaCentral 2.1 displays dynamic background information for the current media in a new translucent window, improves reliability of initializing TV devices, supports faster TV channel switching, and enables users to resume DVD playback from the last viewing point. Users can disable unneeded features, and can place commonly used functions at the top of the main navigation area. MediaCentral 2.1 is priced at $30, and requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later with an active internet connection.
FlipSkin case iPod ships
Speck Products today began shipping its FlipSkin case for 30GB and 60GB fifth-generation video iPods. The case features a two-toned black and grey design, as well as an adjustable stand to watch videos without holding the device. "Not everyone has control over their viewing environments, like if you're using your iPod on a plane or train," said Tim Hickman, general manager of Speck Products. "This new FlipSkin case gives control back to the user, by letting us choose how to set the angle of the screen for the best picture quality, any time or place." The FlipSkin offers easy access to all iPod controls, includes a removable screen protector, and is priced at $35.
Circuit City DVD Copying
While it's unclear as to whether or not the service is officially sanctioned, at least one store in the Circuit City chain is offering shoppers a service that lets them transfer the content from original DVDs to formats suitable for portable media players, such as the iPod with video, the iRiver Clix, and the PSP. The pricing scheme encourages bulk transfers, letting users pay $30 for converting 5 DVDs. The move is likely to invite legal action from the MPAA and other organizations. Though fair use rights should in theory allow video copying for backup purposes, the only way to extract the video is to violate the DMCA and work around copyright protection. Movie studios have typically preferred that customers buy separate copies for each format.
Saints Row Review
Yesterday, we decided to take the new Saints Row demo for a quick spin. Weighing in at over 900 MB, it was a good hour before we could begin causing mayhem on the 'Row. The demo video was interesting and showed off some of the stuff - like rocket launchers - that was unfortunately not included in the demo. After taking a brief look over the control layout, it was time to take the leap and press "Play Now."
Quake 4 demo released
Aspyr Media today released a free demo of Quake 4, which runs natively on Intel-based Macs as a Universal Binary. The Quake 4 Demo presents the introduction portion of the Single Player game, where players, as Matthew Kane, battle with Rhino Squad to clear a landing zone for the main earth forces. Quake 4 is the first game to utilize id Software's DOOM 3 technology. "Survival will not be easy in this colossal war between worlds, the only way to defeat the Strogg is to become one of them." QUAKE 4 begins only moments after the events of QUAKE II, with the Earth's fleet launching a massive offensive to the planet Stroggos. As Matthew Kane, gamers invade the alien stronghold, fighting alone, along side other Marines, and in mechanized walkers and hover tanks as they encounter the Strogg and their disturbing amalgamations of man and machine.
iTunes music on DVDs?
Warner Music is reportedly close to a deal with Apple [subscription required] that would make digital tracks--essentially identical to those the computer company sells through its iTunes Music Store service--on DVD albums, a new format the company hopes will replace the popular CD and spur more retail music sales. The Wall Street Journal reports that Warner is in the final stages of securing technical licenses that will enable it to sell a bundle of music and extra features on a single DVD: the DVD would include a music album that plays in both stereo and surround-sound on a standard DVD player as well as include video footage that plays on a DVD player or a computer. The report says that the DVD album will include song remixes, ring tones, photos and other digital extras that can be accessed on a computer, although it is unclear whether the non-music content will support Macs. The music, however, will likely be provided by Apple, as Apple has been reluctant to license its FairPlay digital rights management (DRM) technology, which helps copy-protect songs sold through iTunes. T
Jobs not implicated
Following Apple's after-hours announcement on Thursday, one analyst believes that Apple CEO Steve Jobs is not liable for recently discovered stock irregularities and that any impact on its financial status will be minor. While Apple has not been formally charged by the SEC and has the company received a formal inquiry, American Technology Research (AmTech) senior analyst Shaw Wu was not surprised by the update. "We continue to believe that even in the worst case scenario where Apple is found guilty of improper options granting, we do not believe Steve Jobs is liable, the reason being the compensation committee at Apple is run by an independent board that is not comprised of employees of Apple," Wu wrote in a research note obtained by MacNN. The firm maintains a "buy" rating on Apple shares with a price target of $75.
Black Hat Vista Secure
One of Microsoft's more embarassing moments was its overconfident challenge to hackers to try and compromise a Windows 2000 server, the "most secure Windows ever," while it was in beta testing. Within hours, Windows had been compromised and Microsoft spun the story by claiming that the challenge helped them discover vulnerabilities before the official launch. A wiser and more hardened Microsoft arrived at the Black Hat convention with much more respect, says the Seattle Post Intelligencer. Hackers at the gathering were invited to test Windows Vista and found that while Microsoft is still slow to respond to security threats, the company is less arrogant and has made Windows Vista much more secure than past versions.
The Mouse BT II released
MacMice has released The Mouse BlueTooth II, an alternative to the new Bluetooth laser Mighty Mouse from Apple. The Mouse BT II features an updated design which removes the previous generation's clear shell surrounding white interior -- much like the Apple's wireless mouse. It now features a shiny white exterior without gloss and has two physical buttons (however, there is no click function on the scrollwheel). The Bluetooth transceiver included with The Mouse BT II supports the latest Bluetooth (1.2) standards, offering better battery life than its predecessor. In addition, it adds a new USB cradle for the mouse which now uses rechargeable AAA Lithium-Ion batteries. For scrolling, The Mouse II uses a notchless "Micro" scrollwheel stating that it eliminates the "the frustrations of a tiny trackball." It will ship in the US on August 9th for $70.
MOTOFONE F3 Cool
Normally, the phone market revolves around trumpeting new features and giving exotic design treatment only to the higher-end models. The low-end models that pervade the market tend to be design afterthoughts, begrudgingly released to keep first-time buyers and the developing world happy. Not so the MOTOFONE F3: journalists recently had an opportunity to try the new phone, and it's evident that Motorola lavished the unit with the same attention to detail it gave to the RAZR and SLVR. Not only is it thin and attractively designed, but the interface is designed with an accessibility that Motorola itself could learn from. There's no daunting main menu, and all main data appears in large print. The company even offers cutting-edge technology: an electrophoretic (also known as electronic paper) display replaces the usual LCD, which makes the monochrome screen perfectly readable in sunlight. At a price of $50 or less without contracts, this phone could be useful for more than just its intended developing-world market. Many parents here would undoubtedly like to give their children a first cellphone that can easily be replaced if it's lost.
Radmind 1.7 released
The University of Michigan's Research Systems Unix Group has released Radmind 1.7, an update to its suite of Unix command-line tools, a server designed to remotely administer the file systems of multiple Unix machines, and GUI-based application for Mac OS X. The software is able to detect changes to any managed filesystem object, e.g. files, directories, links, etc. and can optionally reverse the change. According to the company, each managed machine may have its own loadset composed of multiple, layered overloads, allowing the operating system to be described separately from applications. Loadsets, stored on a remote server, can be automatically pushed to managed machines. Version 1.7 offers performance improvements, automated building of universal binaries on Mac OS X, and other improvements and bug fixes. It is available for free under the BSD-style license.
Lasso Developer free trial
OmniPilot software has released Lasso Developer 8.5 as a free download.--the first time that the company has released a trial of the developer edition of Lasso for free. Lasso is a tool for Web professionals that uses high-level Lasso syntax to write database-agnostic code, or pass db-specific queries without requiring any re-programming. Lasso offers a wide range of compatibility with native support for FileMaker, JDBC, LDAP, MySQL, ODBC, Microsoft SQL, OpenBase, Oracle, PostgreSQL, and SQLite databases. Lasso Developer 8.5 now supports five IP addresses and 200 connections per minute, providing developers with a way to create a Lasso development environment. Solutions developed will require a server running LP 8.5 for deployment. To receive a free trial copy, customers must fill out a form on the product site.
Stranglehold on hold
Speaking of Midway, release of the collaboration between John Woo and the company's Chicago studio has been delayed until Q1 2007, Eurogamer says. Due out for the PC, 360 and PS3, the title is a sequel to Woo's 1992 film Hard Boiled, in which a cop named Tequila takes on the Hong Kong triads. Gameplay should be similar to the Max Payne series, which famously based its own style on Woo's movies.
Napster loses subscribers
Napster's falling subscription base may be the first sign that the struggling company is ready for sale. On a conference call with analysts, Napster told anlaysts that its future was not as bright as previously thought and that it had lost about 7 percent of its subscriber base as it focused on promoting a new free Web site. Reuters repors that Chief Executive Officer Chris Gorog would not rule out a sale of the company. "We do not have our heads in the sand regarding an M&A (merger and acquisition) transaction. We continue to receive a lot of interest in the company. We will always carefully weigh any valuation alternative against the opportunity and risk associated with continuing as a stand-alone company," Gorog told analysts on a conference call. While facing the a growing prospect of a sale, The company said it was still looking for a "working business model"--a bad thing for the company's operations, the CEO acknowledged.
OS X Flash screen savers
ScreenTime Media has announced Screentime for Flash 3.2, which allows users to easily convert Macromedia Flash SWF files into full-featured screen savers by creating a single click installer. The utility features a WYSIWYG interface, screen saver preview, printable reports, project file creation, support for ActionScript, screen saver interaction, and customizable icons. Version 3.2 adds support for Intel-based Macs, introduces new STF functions enabling developers to create custom animations for multiple monitor systems, enhanced support for contextual content, improved file downloads, and several bug fixes. Screentime costs $200 but this update free to those who purchased a license within 12 months -- those who did not must pay $100 for update. Mac OS 9 or Mac OS X 10.2 or later with an SWF file created by Flash 3.0 or later.
DAZ debuts Carrara 5.1
DAZ Productions this week announced it will begin shipping Carrara 5.1 for Intel-based Macs on August 8, 2006. Carrara 5.1 offers a suite of modeling, animation and rendering tools that take advantage of the Universal Binary architecture, delivering significantly improved performance over Carrara 5 running on PowerMac G4 systems, according to the company. "DAZ is proud to make this important Carrara update available, enabling current and future users to fully benefit from the latest technological advances Apple has to offer," said Dan Farr, President of DAZ Productions. "We are dedicated to advancing all of our solutions and this update to Carrara 5.1 is further proof of that commitment." Carrara 5.1 for Intel-based Macs will be available as a free update for current owners. Carrara 5 is priced at $250, and Carrara 5 Pro is priced at $550. Upgrades from previous versions start at $70.
Midway takes a hit
Midway has posted net losses of $31 million for the financial quarter ending June 30th, while recording earnings of just $25.9 million, Next Generation is reporting. CEO David Zucker credits the European reception of Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War as an important source of income during the period. The company's outlook may be rosier in the long-term, with projected yearly earnings of $155 million, this based on expectations of success for Happy Feet and Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. Yearly losses are projected to be $70 million.
Antivirus High Miss Rate
Windows users are often admonished to get an antivirus program to keep their systems safe. They're told that a fully-updated virus definition list is extremely important. But a recent report by Australia's CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team) says that most common antivirus software - including that of McAfee, Norton, and Trend Micro - now fails to intercept 80% of malicious code that reaches users' systems. The fault rests not in the antivirus software's quality, says Graham Ingram of AusCERT, but rather that malware writers are finding more effective ways to avoid detection by antivirus tools. Using a smaller vendor's antivirus software can help, but ultimately the best solution is to prevent malware from reaching your computer in the first place. Implement a firewall and avoid downloading files you don't know you can trust.
An Xbox Symphony
When it comes to naming the best Castlevania games, the most frequently cited is Symphony of the Night for the PS1 and Sega Saturn. 1UP.com and Electronic Gaming Monthy have confirmed that in early 2007, Konami is bringing the PS1 version of the side-scroller to Xbox Live Arcade, along with other classic titles such as Contra and Frogger. Less famous releases will include Scramble, Super Contra, Time Pilot, and Track and Field.
EGGE Digital Audio Player
Though its origins in a smaller Korean company make it doubtful as to whether or not it will ever appear on this side of the planet, Playengine's EGGE player at least deserves mention for its unique (and arguably convenient) design. Its features are relatively standard, if good for the relative size of the player. There's a 1-inch OLED display whose orientation you can flip with a button. It only supports audio through MP3 files and an FM radio, but it does handle AVI, MPEG, and WMV video. Battery life is short at 10 hours, though anyone likely to buy an EGGE is more likely to use it as an exercise companion than for an epic road trip. The player is slated to ship in October for an as-yet undetermined price.
Neverwinter Nights 2 beta
BioWare's forums offer info on how to sign up as a potential beta tester for Neverwinter Nights 2, the sequel to the company's highly customizable PC RPG. The test will be multiplayer-only and players are expected to contribute feedback on bugs and game balancing. Meanwhile, Blue's News is saying that a toolset beta is also planned, though BioWare is discouraging casual gamers from joining that one. The title is set in the Dungeons & Dragons realm of Faerun, and will use the "3.5" edition rules.
Dead Rising demo out
The extremely anticipated Dead Rising demo has been released to the Xbox Live Marketplace. It weighs in at over 1 GB, and play is limited to 15 minutes in a single section of the game's shopping mall. The Xbox 360 title is an unusual brawler based on famous zombie movies - most notably George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, which was also set in a mall. Players are challenged to survive a growing zombie infestation while using only things found in the mall as weapons, from guns and chainsaws to cooking utensils.
Warner DVD Music Albums
CD sales are tumbling rapidly. Whether the cause is a shift to online music sales, file sharing, or the quality of the music published, the major labels are increasingly aware that CDs alone aren't nearly as attractive as they once were. One solution has been to offer CD/DVD hybrids, where music and video coexist on opposite sides of a single disc. Warner Music wants to take things one step further, reports the Wall Street Journal. The label wants to make the DVDs albums in themselves: users could listen to music in a regular DVD player (including surround sound), watch concert footage or music videos on TV, or access ringtones and other special features from a computer. Retailers are excited by the format, though this is partly out of desperation as they seek anything which will get buyers to return to physical formats. Sources for the article even suggest that Apple is in talks to use a variant of the AAC format used in the iTunes Music Store as the model for the audio portion of these DVDs. This would be at odds with the iTunes store, however, as Apple already offers music videos and other extras with the purchase of some albums.
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