Thursday, August 30, 2007

Dollar gains amid anxious trading

hu Aug 30, 1:44 PM ET

LONDON (AFP) - The dollar gained slightly against the euro on Thursday as more volatile trading on global stock markets helped underpin the US currency.

In late European trading, the euro dropped to 1.3652 dollars, from 1.3676 dollars in New York late on Wednesday.

The dollar fell to 158.18 yen, from 116.13 yen on Wednesday.

"In the current environment movements in other markets, rather than data are what's driving currencies, and rising risk aversion is helping support the dollar," said Ian Stannard, currency strategist at BNP Paribas.

The dollar is seen as a safe-haven in times of financial instability and therefore tends to rise when conditions on markets are turbulent.

Choppy trading showed no sign of ending on Thursday, with a pattern established since the beginning of the month of large falls followed by large gains set to continue.

In the US on Thursday, data showed the US economy grew at a 4.0 percent pace in the second quarter, indicating strong momentum heading into the turbulence from housing and credit woes of August.

The Commerce Department marked up its estimate of gross domestic product (GDP) from last month of 3.4 percent growth, based on new data showing stronger US exports and business investment.

It was the strongest year-on-year growth spurt since the first quarter of 2006, but many economists say the world's biggest economy was slowing in the third quarter, hurt by a severe housing slump and the recent credit squeeze.

The Labor Department also reported 334,000 new jobless claims for the week ending August 25, while economists had predicted 322,000 new claims.

The figure was the highest since the 341,000 in the week ending April 14 and prompted concerns that troubles in the US housing sector were spreading to the labour market.

Sentiment on global stock markets had been buoyed on Wednesday after the release of a letter from Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke to Senator Chuck Schumer.

The letter said the Fed was "prepared to act as needed to mitigate the adverse effects on the economy arising from the disruptions in financial markets."

This led may to conclude that the Fed would cut interest rates in September.

Attention has now turned to a speech on Friday by Bernanke in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with market participants looking for hints on whether the cut will materialise.

"Bernanke is likely to leave many in the market disappointed and play down the prospect of a cut, emphasising that the Fed will only lower rates as the economy slows, and not because of what's happening in the markets," added analyst Stannard.

In France OECD deputy-director Adrian Blundell-Wignall told reporters: "To cut interest rates in response of a crisis like this would be a mistake in my opinion.

"The Fed should only cut interest rates in response to its basic objectives which is the inflation rate and the health of the US economy."

The euro was changing hands at 1.3652 dollars, against 1.3676 dollars late on Wednesday, 158.18 yen (158.84), 0.6774 pounds (0.6778) and 1.6417 Swiss francs (1.6406).

The dollar stood at 115.86 yen (116.13) and 1.2025 Swiss francs (1.1995).

The pound was being traded at 2.0154 dollars (2.0173).

On the London Bullion Market, the price of gold climbed to 666 dollars per ounce, from 664.25 dollars late on Wednesday.

10 reasons to be paranoid

Every bit of your virtual existence is being monitored -- get scared accordingly

By Dan Tynan
August 27, 2007

The truth is out there ... and so is your data. And just because there are no virtual black helicopters following you doesn't mean somebody somewhere doesn't have a bead on who you are and what you are doing.

From buttinski bosses to spies and spooks, there are plenty of reasons to be, well, a little paranoid about the vulnerability of your data and the potential loss of your privacy. To help you gauge the appropriate level of hysteria, we've rated each threat on our Paranoia Meter, using a scale of 1 (Don't worry, be happy) to 5 (Be afraid, be very afraid). Though we've taken a lighthearted approach, concerns about data privacy are not all fun and games.

“You can look at 'paranoia' as just a good way of having a long horizon,” says Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute. “Incentives exist for data practices to be abused very badly in the future. Being paranoid about them today is being rational about protecting yourself tomorrow.”

Here are 10 ways to practice your paranoia:

Paranoia No. 1: Your boss is watching
Paranoia No. 2: Google knows what you searched last summer
Paranoia No. 3: There's a spook in your inbox
Paranoia No. 4: Information brokers are bungling your data
Paranoia No. 5: The Feds are on your tail
Paranoia No. 6: Zombies abound
Paranoia No. 7: Hollywood wants to terminate you
Paranoia No. 8: Your ISP knows too much
Paranoia No. 9: Your Wi-Fi net is wide open
Paranoia No. 10: You are your own worst enemy
Dan Tynan is contributing editor at InfoWorld.

Get paranoid: Your boss is watching
Reason No. 1: Privacy and the workplace just don't mix

Ever get the feeling your boss -- or your boss's IT department -- is lurking through the network, spying on you? Odds are quite good your instinct is right. And the bigger the organization, the more likely it monitors employees' e-mail, IM, or Web surfing.

According to a 2005 survey by the American Management Association and The ePolicy Institute, three out of four companies monitor where their employees go on the Web, and more than half scan their e-mail. One out of four organizations report having terminated employees for e-mail abuse, and another 25 percent have canned workers for inappropriate Web surfing. Think that blog is safe for speaking your mind? Think again. Two percent of companies have fired workers over offensive blog entries, according to the 2006 version of the survey.

And then there’s background checks (80 percent of businesses conduct them, according to Spherion), drug tests (50 percent), surveillance cameras, and that GPS transponder in the company car.

This doesn't mean employers are evil. They do have a lot to worry about: trade secrets leaking out via e-mail, employee misrepresentation, harassment suits stemming from inappropriate e-mail or Web surfing, folks just plain goofing off on the company dime.

“There is enormous pressure on companies to expand their workplace surveillance,” notes Frederick Lane, author of The Naked Employee: How Technology Is Compromising Workplace Privacy.

“The biggest problem is that increased surveillance inevitably collects non-work-related information about employees and offers employers more opportunity to make employment decisions -- hiring, firing, promotion, etc. -- based on criteria other than qualifications and job performance,” Lane says.

“Workplace privacy”? That's just another oxymoron.

Get paranoid: Google knows what you searched last summer
Reason No. 2: Lusting after your personal data is the lifeblood of this beast

Not long ago, Google was the cuddly search engine that could. Now it's a bona fide data monster, and your personal information is its meat.

Google's pending acquisition of DoubleClick has shed new light on just how much data the G-men control, from search histories to e-mail, calendars, blogs, videos, and more. So notable is Google's stranglehold over personal data that even Microsoft claims to offer more privacy than Google, which is enough to tell you the universe has shifted.

The question is, What will Google do with this vast trove of information? Global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer points out that Google alone challenged the Department of Justice in January 2006 when the department demanded millions of search terms from the top four engines. And Google did voluntarily agree to anonymize the search data it retains after 18 months.

But privacy advocates are far from convinced. The next time everyone's favorite Uncle asks the company to display its assets, Google might not prevail. And if Google were ever acquired or chopped into bits, that data could be its most valuable commodity.

Worse, Google Desktop may represent a security risk to the data on your hard drive. In a Ponemon Institute survey of IT pros conducted in June, more than 70 percent believe Google Desktop is still vulnerable to cross-site scripting attacks.

The solution? Be very careful about how you use Google products. When in doubt, log out.

Get paranoid: There's a spook in your inbox
Reason No. 3: Every call is a could-be conference call with Uncle Sam

Remember when the CIA was a dark, malevolent force lurking in the shadows of our lives, tapping our phones, reading our mail, and planting explosive devices in Castro's cigars? Well, they're baaaack. Only now it's the National Security Agency, and they're snooping into your e-mail, cell phone conversations, and Lord knows what else.

What we do know is fairly limited. According to an account in The New York Times, the spooks are heavily involved in data mining, combing through billions of electronic records, looking for patterns that might identify the behavior of terrorists.

We know that the Electronic Frontier Foundation is suing AT&T for allowing the spooks to tap into their datacenters and that the government is trying to quash the suit by claiming such information is a state secret -- which is about as far from a denial as you can get.

We also know Attorney General John Ashcroft, Acting Attorney General James Comey, and FBI Director Robert Mueller nearly resigned over domestic spying activities in 2004, forcing the Bush administration to change tactics.

And we know that Congress recently handed the spooks a virtual blank check for spying on conversations with foreign nationals, although they promise to revisit said blank check in six months.

And even if we did tell you what the agency is doing, we'd have to kill you -- and then flush all evidence of your existence down the memory hole.

“Until recently, we didn't have to worry much about the government spying on us,” says Larry Ponemon, director of the Ponemon Institute, a privacy management consultancy. “Now somebody decides that you're a terror threat or they don't like you for some reason, and you can't get on a plane. It may not necessarily happen to you, but it could happen to someone you know.”

Bottom line: Keep your nose clean and watch the plainclothes.

Get paranoid: Information brokers are bungling your data
Reason No. 4: Shoddy report vendors put the "credit" in discrediting your reputation

Anybody who requests a background or credit check on you -- or provides them to others -- has a ton of sensitive information about you that (a) may not be accurate and (b) is highly vulnerable to spills. That includes data brokers, credit bureaus, banks, insurance companies, cell carriers, and your employer.

Report vendors have morphed into one-stop data-mining shops, selling everything from credit scores to criminal records. A 2004 study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group found that 80 percent of all credit reports contained errors and that one in four were serious enough to keep you from obtaining credit or getting a job.

Not surprisingly, report vendors' track records for protecting this information is abysmal (of course, Uncle Sam's record isn't too hot, either). According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, nearly 160 million Americans have had sensitive personal information exposed by data breaches since January 2005.

What to do? Find out what information is out there by requesting a free copy of your credit report. Correct any mistakes and opt out whenever possible. Most data brokers now give you the option of removing your name from their marketing lists (although not credit or background checks); privacy policies on their Web sites usually spell out how. In September, ReputationDefender is launching its MyPrivacy service, which will remove you from some brokers' lists for a small fee.

The moral of this story: Keep your friends close and your data brokers closer.

Get paranoid: The Feds are on your tail
Reason No. 5: That letter in your doctor's hand may be hazardous to your health

If the National Security Agency is spying on you, you're probably connected in some way to a terrorist investigation -- even if it's just because you invited your neighbor Ahmed over for a barbecue.

But the FBI can investigate you for all kinds of reasons, and you may never know it until they slap on the cuffs. Are you a vegan, a member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or part of an antiwar organization? All of these groups have been investigated for “domestic terrorism” since September 11, according to documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act.

Under the Patriot Act, FBI agents can issue NSLs (national security letters) to your employer, bank, ISP, doctor, library, or any other entity demanding your records without a warrant. Recipients of NSLs must comply with the FBI's demands and cannot notify the person under investigation. Between 2003 and 2005, the Feds issued more than 140,000 such letters, according to a March 2007 report by the inspector general for the Department of Justice.

In a random sample of nearly 300 NSLs, the inspector general found possible violations of FBI procedures or the law in 48 of them, or about one out of every six.

Worse, you can be an absolute saint and still be the target of an NSL. According to a November 2005 report in The Washington Post, “Senior FBI officials acknowledged in interviews that the proliferation of national security letters results primarily from the bureau's new authority to collect intimate facts about people who are not suspected of any wrongdoing.”

Feeling paranoid yet?

Get paranoid: Zombies abound
Reason No. 6: Hackers, crackers, and phishers -- need we say more?

We are in the midst of a zombie epidemic that shows no signs of slowing. During the second half of July, the volume of spam e-mails containing variations on the Storm worm increased tenfold. The result? A zombie network estimated by IT security company SecureWorks at more than 1.7 million PCs -- big enough to do serious damage to the Net.

The degree of your personal risk depends almost entirely on what you do and don't do online, says Bill Rosenkrantz, director of product management at Symantec.

“On one hand, the hackers are definitely out there, they are very creative, and there is significant financial gain available to them,” Rosenkrantz says. “On the other hand, you have decent control over that. If you don't randomly download files onto your system, have a full security solution on your desktop, and keep your browser and your OS updated, the risk is probably a 3 on a scale of 5. If you don't do any of that, your risk is probably closer to a 5.”

In the case of Storm, the solution is relatively straightforward. Because the zombies connect to one another via a P2P network, IT managers can mitigate damage by blocking each PC's ability to use p-to-p networking.

In short, be careful out there.

Get paranoid: Hollywood wants to terminate you
Reason No. 7: Copping the latest 50 Cent single could translate to doing time

No, the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America aren't spying on you. They've got people for that, specifically companies such as BayTSP and SafeMedia, which infiltrate peer-to-peer networks so they can record file swappers' IP addresses and the types and number of files they're sharing. An IP address isn't proof positive of your identity, but it's good enough for most civil suits -- unless, of course, it belongs to a dead person or someone who doesn't actually own a computer.

If you never visit p-to-p nets, you're probably safe. If you do, using anonymous IP networks, Web proxy services, or open Wi-Fi connections can make your identity much harder to trace, says Peter Eckersley, staff technologist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“Aside from the huge, open p-to-p networks like Gnutella/LimeWire or eDonkey/eMule, many people share files with their friends on small-scale networks,” Eckersley adds. “In those situations, copyright holders would have to send undercover agents to infiltrate those groups if they wanted to trace the participants.”

Given the revenue at stake and the history of the players involved, if you're swapping tunes with a small circle of friends, be sure to keep your attorney's phone number handy, just in case.

Get paranoid: Your ISP knows too much
Reason No. 8: Detailed logs. Of everything you've ever done online

If you think Google knows more about you than your parents do, imagine the kind of dope your ISP could drop if pushed to give up the goods.

As the gateway to all our personal Internet communications, service providers could create detailed logs of everything you've ever done online: e-mail, Web surfing, IM, file downloads, and more. The potential for using such records in criminal investigations (or worse) is huge, which is why some lawmakers have been pushing legislation that requires ISPs to retain user data for a year or longer.

“We are more trusting of ISPs than we should be,” says Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute. “You may not be able to see it, but there's a big stream of data going out of your house through your ISP. It's foolish to rely on ISPs to protect us from their own interests or the government's interests in us."

And it's that second party's interests that send the deepest shivers down most folks' spines.

“I've even heard stories that some ISPs are reselling anonymous data about their traffic,” Harper adds. “Won't that suck if we find out the anonymized data they've been selling can be de-anonymized and re-identified.”

Can you trust your ISP? Don't be so sure.

Get paranoid: Your Wi-Fi net is wide open
Reason No. 9: Oh, I'll just hop on to this FraudDaddy3 Wi-Fi connection and pay bills while I wait for the bus

Got a secure Wi-Fi connection? Good for you. But your neighbors may not be so lucky.

According to an October 2006 survey by the Wi-Fi Alliance, three out of 10 home networks are insecure. More surprisingly, one out of four business Wi-Fi networks is totally open, according to a May 2006 survey by RSA.

That same RSA survey found that 20 percent to 30 percent of access points in major cities throughout the world use the user name and password supplied by their router manufacturer, allowing knowledgeable "war drivers" to log in to the device and change its security settings.

Aside from sucking up bandwidth, war drivers can use your connection to send spam, download porn, and snoop around your shared folders.

Using an open Wi-Fi network yourself isn't exactly safe, either. You could log on to an open network in an airport or other public space and end up on an “evil twin,” a Wi-Fi network set up to mimic a legit one but operated by some creep with a laptop and a mobile access point, notes Paul Henry, vice president at Secure Computing. The crooks could then sniff your data, grab passwords and other sensitive information, and gain access to your corporate network or steal your identity.

If your home net isn't already locked down, now's the time. And if you must access open Wi-Fi nets, use end-to-end encryption for the sensitive stuff.

Get paranoid: You are your own worst enemy
Reason No. 10: Having 185 million close personal friends does have its downside

Got a MySpace page? LinkedIn résumé? Facebook profile?

When it comes to sharing personal data (sometimes a bit too personal), many people are their own worst enemy. Letting it all out online is fine, until the day of that big job interview when you're asked to explain how you ended up in that Geeks Gone Wild video.

Roughly one out of five employers look at social networks when making hiring decisions, according to a survey by Viadeo, a European business social network. And with the ongoing proliferation of the social networking phenomenon, that number is only likely to grow.

“In general, people should be more concerned about the image they portray in places like MySpace and Facebook,” says Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. “More and more employers are searching them. Or one day you want to volunteer for an organization like Big Brothers or Big Sisters. You don't want to look like a drunk on the beach.”

OK, fine, you're hot. But does the world have to know it? Consider being a little more anti-social.

Dan Tynan is contributing editor at InfoWorld.

Honeypots as sticky as ever

New developments make honeypots even more valuable

By Roger A. Grimes
August 24, 2007

Longtime readers of my column know what a honeypot proponent I am. I run several around the world, collecting information on malware and malicious hackers, and I think every company should have one.

Companies should have a honeypot, not to learn hacker and malware tricks, but as an early warning system. All computer security defenses will ultimately fail. And if they fail and a bad thing gets by your defenses, what's the next best thing? Early warning.

Take a box you're getting ready to throw away, and make it a honeypot. Stick it somewhere in your environment where it's likely to get noticed by an intruder, and tell it to page your incident response team (or you) if anything unexpected tries to connect to it. It's a fake computer asset, and nothing (once you've fine-tuned the false positives out) should ever connect to it. When something does, it's more than likely malicious. I've caught many hackers this way, identified bots that no other defenses found, and even participated in the capture of a Russian hacker. Honeypots work. They are high value and low noise. I've always been perplexed about why they haven't had stronger adoption and use in the computer security community.

Perhaps part of the problem is that the honeypot development world can be quite frozen at times. Months and months go by without any significant updates, but this month has seen a cornucopia of new developments and updates. Here are some of my favorites:

New honeypot book
Niels Provos (creator of Honeyd and senior staff engineer at Google) and Thorsten Holz have written an excellent honeypot book in "Virtual Honeypots: From Botnet Tracking to Intrusion Detection."

As a seasoned honeypot and honeyclient professional (and honeypot book author), I had high hopes for this book -- and it delivers. Niels and Thorsten provide a solid reference to beginners and more experienced honeypot users alike. The book covers how to install and use (step by step) dozens of honeypot products.

The list of what they cover is far too long to report here, but let's say they get to 95 percent of what any honeypot enthusiast would want to read about. My favorite subjects in the book are user-mode Linux, Honeyd, Honeywall, honeyclients, collecting malware with honeypots, tracking botnets, and analyzing malware.

The only downsides I could even come up with is that the book deals with a lot of Unix/Linux-only products, just like the honeypot software world, which might be a put-off for Windows-only readers. And it didn't cover Kfsensor, my favorite Windows honeypot product. Other than that, it is an excellent, excellent book that I would recommend to any honeypot enthusiast. In the end, what I really liked about this book is its coverage of a wide range of products and its practical application to capturing and analyzing malware. It's a great addition to the books on honeypots already written by Lance Spitzner and myself.

Updated Honeyd for Windows
Honeyd, originally a Unix/Linux-only product by Niels Provos, is one of the best virtual honeypot software programs in existence. It is very flexible and useful. Michael Davis did the original Honeyd port to Windows (thank you very much, Michael), but that version didn't keep up as Windows XP and later came out. Changes in Microsoft Windows and a few other notorious bugs made it hard for me to ever recommend using Honeyd for Windows over the last year or so.

Instead, I'd suggest that people use the Unix/Linux version of Honeyd, but that meant learning new skills if you were a Windows-only person. Or they could use Kfsensor.

Jesper Jurcenoks, co-founder of netVigilance, has released an updated version of Honeyd for Windows. You can get it at the netVigilance Web site. Jesper and his company took the time to do a complete rewrite and free update of Honeyd for Windows. He even corrected one bug that remains in the Linux/Unix version to make sure it didn't get replicated to the Windows version, and netVigilance offers a $99 GUI configurator, which can save you hours of configuring and troubleshooting. Thanks to Jesper and netVigilance (and Michael Davis for his earlier contributions) for allowing us Windows security types to play with Niels' excellent honeypot software.

CaptureBAT is a neat, free tool for Win32 honeypots that analyzes file, registry, and process information. It's an excellent addition to Sebek in that it provides far more information. It works on all Win32 systems, including Vista, and comes with the ability to exclude predefined types of activity (which is a must when you're doing real-time file and registry analysis).

Capture-HPC is a high-interaction honeyclient. The New Zealand Honeypot Project, which produced Capture-HPC, also wrote an excellent white paper on using Capture-HPC to identify malicious Web servers. The group includes the paper, data, and tools for anyone to replicate, and it inspected more than 300,000 URLs (nearly 149,000 hosts) found on 194 malicious servers. It's an interesting read.

If you haven't investigated the honeypot world in a while, this is the time to come back and get involved.
Roger A. Grimes is contributing editor of the InfoWorld Test Center. He also writes the Security Adviser blog and the Security Adviser column.

Monday, August 27, 2007 Shuts Down Rogue Server

By Brian Prince
August 23, 2007

As many as 1.6 million job seeker identities may have been lifted.

Officials at confirmed that they had identified and shut down a rogue server accessing contact information through the unauthorized use of compromised legitimate employer/client log-in credentials.

The server contains names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses. is currently analyzing the number of job seeker contacts impacted by the situation and will be communicating with those affected as appropriate, officials said. The company did not offer any details about the location of the server that it shut down.

Last week, researchers at SecureWorks found a server containing data from 46,000 people that was stolen by hackers running ads on job hunting sites and injecting those ads with a Trojan.

When a user views or clicks on one of the malicious ads, their PC is infected and all the information that enters into their browser—such as financial information entered before it reaches SSL protected sites—is captured and sent off to servers used by the hackers, SecureWorks officials said.

The discovery seems to have been part of a larger effort by hackers to target job hunting sites, as Symantec also reported finding another remote server with more than 1.6 million entries with personal data belonging to people who had posted their resumes on Symantec dubbed the Trojan Infostealer.Monstres, and stated the Trojan was using the credentials of recruiters to log in to the Web site and perform searches for resumes of candidates in certain countries or working in certain fields.

The personal details of those candidates were then uploaded to a remote server under the control of the attackers.

"Monster is in the process of reaching out to its entire employer population to mitigate any ongoing issues," officials at the job hunting site said. "In addition, Monster is placing a security alert on the site."

PointerCheck out's Security Center for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at eWEEK's Security Watch blog.

Yahoo adds features to popular e-mail

By RACHEL KONRAD, AP Business Writer Mon Aug 27, 8:09 AM ET

SAN FRANCISCO - Yahoo Inc. will introduce new features Monday for its popular Web-based e-mail program, including software that allows computer users to type text messages on a keyboard and send them directly to someone's cell phone.

The enhancements make it easier to send e-mail, instant messages or text messages from a single Web site — no need to launch or toggle between separate applications or devices. The features will be available to users in the United States, Canada, India and the Philippines.

The most obvious beneficiaries will be parents, who will be able to use their keyboards to type messages sent to their children's cell phones — no thumb-twisting typing on a dial pad, said Yahoo Vice President John Kremer.

"We're giving you the right way to connect at the right time with right person," said Kremer, whose two preteen sons vastly prefer text and instant messages to e-mail.

The changes come amid fierce competition among providers of free, Web-based e-mail services. Yahoo and Microsoft Corp.'s Hotmail have long dominated the niche, but Google Inc.'s Gmail has grown quickly since its introduction in April 2004.

In March, Yahoo announced that it would provide unlimited storage space, and earlier this month Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft said Hotmail would increase free storage from 2 to 5 gigabytes. Time Warner Inc.'s AOL, the fourth largest e-mail provider, began offering unlimited storage last summer. Google provides nearly 3 gigabytes.

Sunnyvale-based Yahoo bills the changes as the most significant overhaul of Yahoo Mail since its launch in 1997. The new version replaces a one-year-old beta program and adds new features, including text messaging, a more comprehensive e-mail search engine and an easier to read and edit contacts database.

Users who don't want the upgrades — or whose computers are too slow to handle them — can opt to remain with the current version, which Yahoo will call "Classic."

The new version allows users to click on a contact and then select whether to send that person an e-mail, instant message or text message. You could send an e-mail or instant message if you know the recipient is at the computer — or a text message if the recipient is on the road with a cell phone.

"This gives people the ability to reach anybody in their contact database anytime," said Mike McGuire, vice president of research at industry analysis firm Gartner Inc. "For good or evil, it's going to be much easier for anybody to get a hold of you."

Teen 'unlocks' iPhone from AT&T network

By PETER SVENSSON, AP Technology Writer Sat Aug 25, 2:20 AM ET

NEW YORK - Armed with a soldering iron and a large supply of energy drinks, a slight, curly haired teenager has developed a way to make the iPhone, arguably the gadget of the year, available to a much wider audience.

George Hotz of Glen Rock, N.J., spent his last summer before college figuring out how to "unlock" the iPhone, freeing it from being restricted to a single carrier, AT&T Inc.

The procedure, which the 17-year-old posted on his blog Thursday, raises the possibility of a cottage industry springing up to buy iPhones, unlocking them and then selling them to people who don't want AT&T service or can't get it, particularly overseas.

The phone, which combines an innovative touch-screen interface with the media-playing abilities of the iPod, is currently sold only in the U.S.

An AP reporter was able to verify that an iPhone Hotz brought to the AP's headquarters on Friday was unlocked. Hotz placed the reporter's T-Mobile SIM card, a small chip that identifies a phone to the network, in the iPhone. It then connected to T-Mobile's network and placed calls using the reporter's account.

T-Mobile is the only major U.S. carrier apart from AT&T that is compatible with the iPhone's cellular technology, but smaller carriers also use the technology, known as GSM. In Europe and Asia, GSM is the dominant network technology.

The hack is complicated and requires skill with both soldering and software, and missteps may result in the iPhone becoming useless, so few people will be able to follow the instructions.

"But that's the simplest I could make them," Hotz said.

Technology blog Engadget on Friday reported successfully unlocking an iPhone using a different method that required no tinkering with the hardware. The software was supplied by an anonymous group of hackers that apparently plans to charge for it.

AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel and Apple spokeswoman Jennifer Bowcock said their companies had no comment on Hotz' exploit. Hotz said the companies had not been in touch with him.

Apple shares rose $4.23, or 3.2 percent, to close at $135.30 on Friday. AT&T shares gained 26 cents, or 0.7 percent, to close at $40.36.

The iPhone has already been made to work on overseas networks using another method, which involves copying information from the SIM chip, or Subscriber Identity Module.

The SIM-chip method does not involve any soldering, but does require special equipment, and it doesn't unlock the phone — each new SIM chip has to be reprogrammed for use on a particular iPhone.

Both hacks leave intact the iPhone's many functions, including a built-in camera and the ability to access Wi-Fi networks. The only thing that won't work is the "visual voicemail" feature, which lists voice messages as if they were incoming e-mail.

Since the details of both hacks are public, Apple may be able to modify the iPhone production line to make new phones invulnerable.

Analysts said it's unlikely Apple would overhaul the iPhone's wiring to thwart the new hack because the difficulty of the procedure is likely to keep it confined to hardcore hobbyists.

"I'm having a hard time figuring out where the real pain is going to come from in this," said David Chamberlain, principal analyst with market researcher In-Stat who follows mobile devices and services. "Just selling the piece of hardware, they've made a nice profit off that."

Apple has said it plans to introduce the phone in Europe this year, but it hasn't set a date or identified carriers.

There is apparently no U.S. law against unlocking cell phones. Last year, the Library of Congress specifically excluded cell-phone unlocking from coverage under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Among other things, the law has been used to prosecute people who modify game consoles to play a wider variety of games.

Hotz collaborated online with a large number of people to develop the unlocking process. Of smaller core group, two were in Russia.

"Then there are two guys who I think are somewhere U.S.-side," Hotz said. He knows them only by their online handles.

Hotz himself spent about 500 hours on the project since the iPhone went on sale. On Thursday, he put the unlocked iPhone up for sale on eBay, where the high bid was at $12,600 late Friday. The model, with 4 gigabytes of memory, sells for $499 new.

"Some of my friends think I wasted my summer but I think it was worth it," he told The Record of Bergen County, which reported Hotz's hack Friday.

Hotz heads for college on Saturday. He plans to major in neuroscience — or "hacking the brain" as he puts it — at the Rochester Institute of Technology.


Associated Press Writer Jordan Robertson in San Francisco contributed to this story.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Is the Internet Over?


It's old, vulnerable, and overloaded. Yeah, the Net has its problems, but the thing is, it works.

By John C. Dvorak

I used to joke around about shutting down the Internet so that its protocols and basic architecture could be rewritten from scratch. I was semiserious. More recently, Elton John, who apparently can't use a computer, said the Net should be shut down for five years so that the arts can flourish. Okay, whatever. Myself and Elton John aside, we're actually now seeing serious initiatives that may result in the closing of the Internet as we know it.

There have always been undercurrents that have tried to eat away at the foundations of the current Internet. One is Internet2, a parallel-universe Internet that would be used by academia and perhaps the military. It would have ultra-high-speed file transfer without a lot of the latency issues that we experience with the current model.

A few years ago, people were chatting up Internet2, but most of that chit-chat has died down. Begun in 1996 to much hoopla, the project seems somewhat bogged down by the academicians it aims to serve. In the meantime, another parallel project, called National LambdaRail, appeared. It promoted more new technologies and ideas to achieve ultra-high-speed international networking. It recently merged with Internet2.


Meanwhile, our old-fashioned plain-vanilla Internet is seriously planning on changing from IP version 4 to IP version 6. This is, for the most part, because of the never-ending complaint that "we're running out of IP addresses." IPv6 is supposed to be able to solve some security and spam issues, too. The problem here seems to be integrating IPv6 into the current network without causing all sorts of routing complications and other problems. From what I can tell, it's a nightmare.

Japan has just announced a 7.8 billion yen project to develop all-new security-centric architectures to replace the Internet in that country. This is supposed to be rolled out by 2020. Every so often, the Japanese get an itch to leapfrog everyone, and the results have been spotty. Their last overhyped project was the 1982 "Fifth Generation" scheme whereby Japan Inc. was going to jump past all current computer technology and develop a massively parallel architecture that actually works. It generated a lot of fretting and little else.

Not to be left out are the English. The House of Lords recently demanded that the Internet be rewritten from scratch because of the "wild West" nature of the current system. The primary concern is that of identity. The "nobody knows you're a dog when you're on the Internet" kind of thing seems to upset the upper crust in the U.K., although I doubt that many of them can even send an e-mail. Still, they are now all experts.

The fact of the matter is that the Net, as designed, is more robust and versatile than anyone imagined, and the likelihood that a new Internet would be as reliable might be sheer folly. Despite predictions that the Net was overtaxed and would collapse under its own weight, it keeps humming away.

There are four current concerns about the Internet. The main one seems to be security. How vulnerable are the Net and its users to various security attacks? This involves the anonymity factor as well. Old-line thinking does not like the idea that you can hide on the Net. They fear something bad will come from this.

The second concern is that we are out of IP addresses (as mentioned above), and we've been forced to share them.

The next serious concern is the eventuality of IPTV and the likelihood that most TV will be running over the Internet someday. This has already been predicted to triple the load on the Net from the outset, with continued increases in bandwidth demand.

Then there is simply the Net's age. It's old. We know a lot more about protocols than we did in 1969 when the proto-Internet first appeared as Arpanet. Over time, the Net has been a transport mechanism for an amazing hodgepodge of protocols and subsystems, many of them quite old. Some think that newer is always better and that we need to scrap the old and reinvent the wheel.

Reinventing the wheel is problematic when that wheel is attached to a wagon that's moving. There is more to this than merely upgrading a recent "build" of AOL. The only way any change will work is literally to roll out a parallel system that can be used jointly with the current Internet. You know, like having a Mac and a PC on the same desk, or something like that.

That way we can make the change at our own pace—if we even want to change, that is. I'm not holding my breath that anything will happen for years to come.

IBM: Internet Threatens To Eclipse TV

Mark Long, 33 minutes ago

According to a new survey from the IBM Institute for Business Value, the amount of personal time that consumers now spend on the Internet rivals the amount of time they spend watching TV.

A total of 66 percent of the new survey's respondents reported viewing television programs from one to four hours per day, versus 60 percent who reported the same levels of personal Internet use. Moreover, researchers said the traditional TV set is increasingly taking a back seat to PCs and cellular handsets among consumers between the ages of 18 and 34.

In addition to conducting the new survey online, IBM researchers stopped young people on the streets of New York to record opinions on videotape. IBM said its informal street sample returned surprisingly similar results to its official survey.

As one of the respondents put it in an IBM video clip now available on YouTube, "If I had to pick between TV and the Internet at this point in my life, I would almost always choose the Internet." When asked why, he replied, "interactivity, for one, and No. 2, my entire life is on the Internet."

Traditional TV's Demise

So are we approaching the end of television as we have come to know it? Keep in mind that IBM's new survey was conducted online, which suggests that its results are skewed in favor of those already tasting the fruit of the Internet's vast global tree.

But with computer prices in freefall and a global push already underway to put computers into the hands of more people in developing nations, the Internet's rise to the top of media markets worldwide might not be as far off as traditional broadcasters, publishers, and advertisers would like to think.

"Just as the 'Kool Kids' and 'Gadgetiers' have replaced traditional landlines with mobile communications, cable and satellite TV subscriptions risk a similar fate of being replaced as the primary source of content access," noted IBM Media & Entertainment Strategy and Change practice leader Saul Berman.

Consolidated Content

IBM's surveyors said that today's Internet audiences are more in control than ever and increasingly savvy about finding ways to filter out marketing messages. And when it comes to mobile and Internet entertainment, consumers say what they really want is consolidated, trustworthy content.

Advertising agencies are going to have to move beyond their traditional creative roles and become brokers of these and other consumer insights, IBM's researchers said. In particular, online marketers will be forced to experiment to find new ways to make advertising more compelling, or risk being ignored.

Moreover, cable companies will need to evolve to embrace home media portals, while broadcasters and publishers will need to move to new media formats that cater to the evolving preferences of today's sophisticated online consumers, the researchers added.

Other TV Viewing Trends

Out of the 2,400 households responding to IBM's survey, which was conducted from mid-April through mid-June, 81 percent said they have already watched, or want to watch, video on their PCs, and 42 percent have watched or want to watch mobile video.

"Given the rising power of individuals and communities, media and entertainment industry players will have to become much better at providing permission-based advertising and related consumer-driven ratings services," said IBM Global Business Services Communications Sector managing partner Bill Battino.

With respect to the digital video recorder (DVR) market, 24 percent of U.S. respondents said that they have a DVR in their home and that at least 50 percent of their TV viewing takes place on replay. The good news for broadcasters is that 33 percent of U.S. respondents reported watching more television content now than before they owned a DVR.

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, however, video-on-demand services prove to be twice as popular as DVRs among UK consumers. Moreover, fewer than one-third of UK respondents said they had changed their overall TV consumption as a result of DVR ownership.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Google Sky allows users to tour galaxies

By DAN NEPHIN, Associated Press Writer 5 minutes ago

PITTSBURGH - The heavens are only a few mouse clicks away with Google Inc.'s latest free tool. A new feature in Google Earth, the company's satellite imagery-based mapping software, allows users to view the sky from their computers.

The tool provides information about various celestial bodies, from stars to planets, and includes imagery from the Hubble Space Telescope and other sources. It also allows users to take virtual tours through galaxies, including the Milky Way, from any point on Earth they choose.

"By working with some of the industry's leading experts, we've been able to transform Google Earth into a virtual telescope," Lior Ron, a Google product manager, said in a statement.

The new software also promises users the ability to see planets in motion and witness a supernova.

There are other programs that provide information and pictures of the universe, but Google Sky blends it seamlessly, said Andrew Connolly, a University of Washington associate professor of astronomy and part of Google's visiting faculty program.

"What's unique about this is you have all of the imaging data over the whole of the sky actually streaming. So I can look at something that covers most of the sky, say our Milky Way galaxy, and I can zoom right into a tiny galaxy that's in the formation cycle," he said.

Google engineers stitched together "terabytes and terabytes" of images and other data, Connolly said. A terabyte can hold the text of roughly 1 million books.

"Sky in Google Earth will foster and initiate new understanding of the universe by bringing it to everyone's home computer," said Dr. Carol Christian of the Space Telescope Science Institute.

Current Google Earth users must download a new version from The software works on computers running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows, Apple Inc.'s Mac OS X and Linux operating systems.

Google, the leading Internet search engine, already provides surface images of Mars and the Moon through its Web site, along with animated and satellite-based maps of Earth.

Google Sky was developed at the company's Pittsburgh engineering office.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

YouTube videos to have 'overlay' ads

By ANICK JESDANUN, AP Internet Writer 18 minutes ago

NEW YORK - Video advertising is coming to YouTube, but it won't be the type common at sites elsewhere. Starting Wednesday, the popular video-sharing site plans to feature semitransparent "overlay" ads at the bottom of selected video clips.

The ad disappears after about 10 seconds if the viewer does nothing; the featured clip automatically pauses if the viewer clicks on the overlay to launch the full pitch.

YouTube said it was trying to avoid pre-rolls that precede the main feature at sites like Microsoft Corp.'s MSN, which partners with The Associated Press on a video news service.

Shiva Rajaraman, product manager for YouTube, said internal tests show more than 70 percent of people give up when they see a pre-roll. By contrast, less than 10 percent decide to close an overlay, which they can exit by clicking on an "X" in a corner.

The overlay format also gives advertisers more flexibility, he said, because they aren't constrained to keeping a video ad at 15 or 30 seconds to avoid defection. Because a viewer chooses to watch, a video ad can run much longer — clicking on one pre-launch overlay launched a 2-minute trailer for "The Simpsons Movie."

YouTube, which Google Inc. bought last year for $1.76 billion, is still trying to justify its hefty sales price. Despite its huge audience, YouTube generated about $15 million in revenue last year, based on figures provided in Google's annual report.

The site already has been showing display ads, but video ads look to be far more lucrative, particularly as they attract brand-name advertisers already used to buying video spots on television.

Initial video advertisers on YouTube include Warner Music Group Corp., News Corp.'s 20th Century Fox and Time Warner Inc.'s New Line Cinema. They will accompany video clips from selected partners, including Warner Music, the band Killswitch Engage and dozens of heavy video contributors accepted into a user-partner program.

Marketers can target their ads by user demographics, location, time of day or genre, such as music videos or sports. They won't be able to buy ads by keywords, though, the way Google allows merchants to purchase text ads triggered by a user's search terms.

And unlike Google's pay-per-click search ads, advertisers will be charged by eyeball — $20 per thousand viewers — regardless of whether the user clicks on the overlay.

Revenues will be split with the video owner, although officials won't say how. The video owner can decline all ads or selected ones, such as those from competitors.

Despite differences with Google's keyword ads, which generate the bulk of the company's revenues, officials said the two share a common goal of being nonintrusive.

"Ads need to provide value to the user community," said Eileen Naughton, Google's director of media platforms. "We've proved over and over again on Google that ads are really useful information when users raise their hands and engage with them."

Apple's notebook market share climbs to 17.6 percent

Jim Dalrymple - MacCentral 1 hour, 12 minutes ago

While Apple may be focusing a lot of its attention on the iPhone lately, consumers are clearly still interested in the company’s computer offerings. Data from one market research firm shows Apple’s notebook business broke 17 percent while another research firm said Apple has moved into third place among computer makers.

According to NPD, Apple’s U.S. retail notebook market share for June 2007 was 17.6 percent, an increase of 2.2 percentage points over the same period last year when Apple posted a 15.4 percent market share.

As good as the notebooks are doing, Apple’s overall standing among computer makers is up too.

According to data from research firm IDC, Apple’s continued rise in computer sales puts it in third place overall among all computer makers in the U.S. This is the first time since 1996 that Apple finds itself this high on the list of top selling manufacturers.

Dell took the top spot with HP coming in second place of total unit sales. With Apple taking the number three spot, Gateway and Acer round out the top five.

The good news continues for Apple — with increased notebook sales pushing it forward, the company now has an overall market share of 5.9 percent, up 1.1 percentage points from the 4.8 percent it posted this time last year.

In its most recent financial quarter Apple sold 1.76 million Macs, a 33-percent rise over what it shipped in the third quarter of 2006 and 2.5 times the industry-wide growth rate published by market-research firm IDC.

Mac sales for the quarter marked a record for the company, topping the previous quarterly high of 1.61 million Macs shipped during the fourth quarter of 2006.

While there was a rise in desktop sales for the quarter — 634,000 units compared to 529,000 for the same period in 2006 — laptop unit sales skyrocketed 42 percent to 1.13 million portables. All told, 64 percent of the Macs sold during the quarter were laptops.

Update: Clarified Apple's market share was in the U.S. and fixed the language for the percentage increases. 10:20 pm ET

Core 2 E6850: The Sweetest CPU of All

Has it really been only just over a year?

Thirteen months ago, we wrote our first review of Intel's Core 2 Extreme X6800 processor. Since then, Intel has been a juggernaut, shipping new CPU models based on the Core 2 architecture, including the first quad-core desktop CPU, built by embedding two Core 2 dies on a single package and sharing the front side bus, as well as mobile and server CPUs based on Core 2.

Last month, Intel began shipping newer processors, built around the new G stepping, and increasing the front side bus speed to an effective 1333MHz. At that time, we took a look at the mainstream Core 2 E6750 and the new member of the Core 2 Extreme line, the QX6850.

Today, though, we look at the CPU that's really the current sweet spot in terms of price/performance ratios: the Core 2 E6850. Clocking in at 3.0GHz, this sub-$300 CPU runs at a marginally higher clock speed than the original Core 2 Extreme X6800, but is priced nearly 75% lower. Just as importantly, the E6850 is rated at a TDP (thermal design power) of 65W. We decided to pop in an E6850 in our standard test platform, built around an Intel P35-based motherboard, and put the CPU through its paces. We compare the results against a Core 2 E6750 and AMD's fastest mainstream desktop CPU, the Athlon 64 X2 6000+.

A Note about Motherboards
If you want to run one of Intel's new CPUs, you may need a new motherboard. Intel began shipping boards based on their new P35 and G33 chipsets back in June, which support the faster 1333MHz front side bus.

Test Systems and Benchmarks

We installed a Core 2 E6850 into a system consisting of an MSI P35 Platinum motherboard, using DDR2-800 memory.


Why buy this 2 core chip when i could buy a Q6600 and overclock it using the stock fan to over 3 GHz, and get 4 cores for the same price. I dont see how this is a sweet spot when almost ALL the Core 2 processors with a decent motherboard will run stably at over 2.8 GHz - ive built about ten such systems in the past 9 mths and they all run stable with the intel box fans at over 2.8 GHz. And dont give me that "for those who dont overclock" as the latter will probably be buying a dell and reading PC Magazine. In my opinion "those who dont overclock" a Core 2 duo chip is really an education issue. If you go to newegg and read the thousands of customer reviews on Core 2 Duo Chips 95% of them are talking about overclocking - so how is this chip a "9" and the sweetspot and you dont even mention the word overclock in your article

Question: Which revision of the MSI board did you use?

Comment: The price/performance is a tough argument for me. We are talking about a 40%+ increase in price over the E6750 with only about an average performance increase of around 10%. On the other hand, it's likely to add only around 10% or less to the overall cost of the system. Still, tough for me to say it hits the price/performance sweet spot. I would still give that to the E6750.

Suggestion: I would have loved to have seen the Q6600 thrown into the mix. Wilmark makes a good point about the potential benefits of quadcore. It would be nice to see the current performance gap between the E6850 and Q6600.

While it's true the E6850 and Q6600 are about the same price, you're missing a key point (which Loyd clearly mentions) ==> the thermal design power of an E6850 is only 65w ... so it will run VERY cool relative to a Q6600 (with a TDP of 105w). And there are still some of us who elect to run systems at their designed specs rather than overclock them Smile I have two fundamental requirements for systems I build: (1) QUIET, and (2) STABLE. An E6850-based system with an Intel chipset and a good 3rd party heatsink/fan combo (Zalman 9500) easily meets both of these criteria. A Q6600 solution will also ... which I would use depends very much on what use the system is for. At the moment I'm building two new systems => one in an HTPC case (for which I'll use the E6850 since the cooling in a crowded case like that is a factor) and one for my study (for which I'll use the Q6600 ... since the Antec P182 case I'm using has much better airflow). Bottom line: I'd say BOTH the E6850 and Q6600 are at "sweet spots) in price/performance ... it simply depends on the projected use of the system.

As for the arguement that the E6750 is more of a "sweet spot" ... clearly that's a matter of opinion => and just how price-sensitive you are. If the $75 or so savings is important to you, then by all means use an E6750 ... but for the small price differential many of us would prefer to get the E6850. The performance of either is not likely to disappoint Big Smile

Hello again Loyd. You know how to get us to chatter about your CPU reviews.

I am still waiting and eager to see you put an overclocked E4400 or E4500 into the comparison. Flight simulator supports up to four cores and therefore the Q6600 overclocked will yield better performance than the E6850, although most games will benefit from the latter CPU if overclocking is not in the mix.

Any good P35 motherboard that cost over $115 can yield over 3GHz from the E4xxx CPUs. Using stock Intel cooling, with the FSB set at only 300MHz an E4500 will be at 3.3GHz, compare that to the non-overclocked E6850 and let us know which is the winner, in performance and cost.

Clearly there are some trade offs between the Q6600 and E6850. I would never suggest overclocking as a primary method of comparison (that comment came for Wilmark). What I think would be interesting is to see an analysis of the tradeoffs. Clearly the E6850 is a more energy efficient processor, and it should have an overall performance advantage in single benchmarks. However, since most of us are running multiple apps, the question is: How much multitasking does it take before the Q6600's 4 cores pass the E6850's 2 cores in performance?

Now that there is a quad-core CPU at such a reasonable price, I would love to see at what point it's multi-core design offers a practical advantage over a comparably priced dual-core CPU.

Perhaps you've already seen this, but if not it comes pretty close to what you are asking for:

As for the overclocking, if you're going to compare, I think you have to compare overclocked to overclocked. Otherwise, you're really just saying: "I'm going to buy the cheaper CPU and want to know if OC'ing gets me the same performance as the stock speed of the higher priced CPU. BTW, I've seen the E6750 top 4GH on air cooling, although not stock cooling.


Perhaps you've already seen this, but if not it comes pretty close to what you are asking for:

As for the overclocking, if you're going to compare, I think you have to compare overclocked to overclocked. Otherwise, you're really just saying: "I'm going to buy the cheaper CPU and want to know if OC'ing gets me the same performance as the stock speed of the higher priced CPU. BTW, I've seen the E6750 top 4GH on air cooling, although not stock cooling.

Thank you for the link, I had not read that one from Tom's Hardware.

I agree with your overclocked to overclocked suggestion, and that is one of the problems with the article from Tom's Hardware, they did not include a comparison that included the same hardware, with just swapping out the CPUs.

As in this thread, when I write to Loyd, I already know the answers to any questions or suggestions, I make them for the benefit of the readers of this forum. While Core 2 Duo CPUs have been pushed to over 5GHz it takes special cooling and extra cost, which negates the reason that people purchase inexpensive CPUs. Also, most people are unaware of overclocking or how to do it, therefore those people will purchase components or computers based upon stock CPU speed and a price they can afford. Often overclocking is done for cost reasons, to save money and have a more powerful computer.

As to overclocking my own CPU, I want my computer to be able to last for years, so I only use very slight or no voltage increases [for the CPU only, none for RAM, chipset, and etc.], and I use Intel's supplied cooling if appropriate. Also, the FSB is important as this impacts more than the CPU. In my above example, an E4500 at a FSB of 300 would yield 1200MHz quad pumped. The E6850 or E6750 is already quad pumped at 1333MHz, which can limit further overclocking especially price/performance overclocking, which many overclockers use as a reason to overclock. So, a P35 motherboard will be very happy running an E4xxx CPU at a 50% overclock while using inexpensive DDR2 800 RAM and stock Intel cooling.

Most people overclock to either make their $115 Core 2 Duo yield more performance than a $1000 CPU, while a few [including some companies] use a $1000 CPU overclocked to yield performance yet unseen from non-overclocked CPUs.

Thank you for your input, your points are valid.

In Japan, 3D images in your pocket

TOKYO (AFP) - Japanese mobile phones already let users shoot films and share them with friends. It may not be long before the images go another step -- becoming completely three-dimensional.

Japan's Hitachi, Ltd. has developed a lightweight 3D display that can potentially be adapted for mobile devices such as telephones.

The gadget, using what is known as stereoscopic vision display, weighs only one kilogram (2.2 pounds) and resembles an upside-down, multiangular pyramid full of mirrors on top of a liquid crystal display.

"It's very small and portable," Rieko Otsuka of Hitachi's Advanced Research Laboratory said Tuesday.

Taking advantage of the portability of the display, the company expects it can be put to use to show museum pieces at schools so they will appear as if they are standing up right in front of students.

Otsuka expects to put the device to further use.

"I'd like to see the technology eventually applied to mobile phones, so people could see images three-dimensionally from their handsets," she said.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Review: New iMac tempts a Windows user

By PETER SVENSSON, AP Technology Writer Wed Aug 15, 4:16 PM ET

NEW YORK - Apple Inc. has dropped "Computer" from its name, but its computer business is still growing, even if the iPod player is the company's real star.

Apple's resurgence started with the first iMac, in 1998. Little by little, Apple has been persuading people to opt for Macintosh computers over Windows PCs.

After Apple refreshed its iMac line last week, I decided to test one from the perspective of a Windows user. I found it to be a powerful if not completely irresistible enticement to switch.

If you haven't looked at iMacs in a while, they now look like half a laptop — the display half, with the processor and other components built into the flat-panel screen. The new iMacs ditch the plasticky look that's been a hallmark of the line since the beginning, replacing it with an aluminum casing that's even thinner than before.

It's very sleek-looking, but do you remember the first iMacs? They resembled colorful television sets and looked more fun than a pack of bubble gum. Then there was a special edition with a transparent gray cover, through which you could see the copper coils on the back of the cathode-ray tube. That was hot.

With the latest models, the iMac has grown up, gone to business school and now wears a suit — a very well-cut suit. It won't look out of place anywhere, but it's not as exciting.

The basic model costs $1,199 and has a 20-inch screen. Another $300 gives you a faster processor and graphics card and a bigger hard drive. The top model, for $1,799, has all those components but a 24-inch screen instead. All have one gigabyte of memory. The prices are roughly $300 less than the previous line, for the same size screen.

I tested the middle model, but with an extra gigabyte of memory, which costs $150. When I removed the extra memory, I didn't find a difference in how fast the unit started up, switched between programs or rendered a high-definition movie in iMovie.

That tells me that most users will probably be fine with the cheapest model and the standard 1 GB of memory, because processor speed is not that important anymore. Apple's operating system clearly makes good use of memory; Microsoft Corp.'s new Windows Vista will barely give you the time of day on 1 GB.

I found the iMac very easy to get working on, even though I haven't used a Mac intensively for some time. Getting online through my home wireless network using the built-in Wi-Fi card was a cinch, as was video chatting using the built-in camera and my AOL Instant Messenger account. The iMac's iTunes software immediately found the iTunes music library on my home PC and gave me access to the songs.

Along with the new computers, Apple updated its iLife suite of software, which normally sells for $79 but comes free with the iMac.

The iMovie program, in particular, has been thoroughly revised, with a new and very handy interface. Despite little experience with movie editing, it took me just half an hour to boil down an hour of footage into a 2-minute high-definition movie of my baby, shot with a brilliant camera from Panasonic, the HDC-SD1 (street price $750). Uploading the movie to a gallery on Apple's .mac Web service took only a few more steps.

That's the Apple experience in a nutshell: Tight integration of hardware, software and Web services, along with great interface design, allowed me to download, edit and upload the video without ever going to the user manual.

So why am I not completely sold?

Well, I found some flies in the ointment. I'd call them "maggots in the apple," but that's trite and makes too big a deal of them.

I had problems accessing files on my home PC via the wireless network. The iMac would only sometimes show the PC's shared folders. There's probably a fix for this, but this is something that should work out of the box.

Like many other computers, the iMac has three different modes of inactivity: display off, sleep mode and shut down. The trouble is, there's no clue which state your iMac is in, and different inputs can be used to wake the computer up. If the display is off, moving the mouse will turn it on. But if it's in sleep mode, you need to click the mouse. If it's off, neither of those will work, and you have to press the power button.

Turning on a computer shouldn't be a guessing game. Sure, minimalism is great, but it wouldn't have killed the design to put in an LED that indicates the computer's state of relaxation.

In the iMac's favor, power consumption in operation is low, at around 75 watts according to my meter. That's comparable to a laptop, and about half of what a powerful desktop PC will draw, excluding the monitor (Remember: the iMac's power usage includes the built-in monitor). In Sleep mode, the iMac draws just 2 watts.

My other complaint is with how the screen displays small type, like the body text of Web sites. It looks faint and blurry on the iMac screen. This isn't unique to the iMac, as it has to do with how Apple's operating system places text relative to the pixel grid on LCD monitors.

Microsoft's ClearType technology produces text that has better contrast and is more legible. It's less faithful to the design of the font, which is why Apple resists it. But I'm not a graphic designer and not particularly appreciative of the beauty of fonts, and I should have the option to engage something like ClearType on the iMac.

These are minor complaints.

The iMac deserves to be a strong contender for any PC user looking to get a new computer. If I was looking to replace my PC right now, I would be sorely tempted. Even the Windows software I've accumulated over the years isn't a real reason not to switch, because Macs can now run Windows, too (with some additional software purchases).

However, unless you're shopping for a computer in preparation for the fall semester, wait to get an iMac in October, when Apple is to roll out a new version of its operating system, called "Leopard," with improvements to the user interface. If you've already bought a computer, the upgrade will cost $129.

From VCR to DVD: Update Your Oldies

From VCR to DVD: Update Your Oldies

By Neil Randall

With the VCR approaching extinction, this is a very good time—maybe even an essential one—to convert your old VHS tapes to DVD. Your kid's first steps, for instance, or that shown-only-once holiday movie you taped off a local channel.

The easiest way to make the conversion is to purchase a standalone DVD/VCR combo recorder that lets you dub from one medium to the other. Sony, Toshiba, and Panasonic (among others) offer such models, with easy interfaces for performing the conversion. But do you really want to buy a piece of dying technology?

Another way is to connect your VCR to a standalone DVD recorder and follow the manufacturer's instructions for both units. But you may already have a DVD recorder—your PC. And, in fact, your PC offers something the standalone hardware does not: the ability to edit the video. You might want to do this not only for videos you made yourself—to cut out the extraneous material—but also to combine two copies of a favorite movie (if a different portion of each one has deteriorated, for example).

The entire process takes 5 to 6 hours, but in the end you'll have a DVD version of your movie and, even better, a copy of the video stored on your drive. And unlike tapes, these copies won't degrade with multiple plays. —

1 Equipment
The goal is to transfer the video from the videotape to the hard drive, edit it, and then burn it onto a DVD. So first you need a tape player. Either a VCR or a camcorder that plays your tapes will do, but here we'll assume the former. You also need a video card with video capture capabilities, which several manufacturers offer (the ATI All-in-Wonder X1900 ships with the device shown at left, which lets you connect your VCR to the card itself), or a separate video capture card or device, available from companies such as ADS Tech (its Video Xpress is pictured above), Hauppauge, or Pinnacle. You'll also need appropriate patch cables for the capture, software to import the video and edit it, and software to burn it to DVD. And, of course, you need a DVD-recordable drive and blank DVD discs.
ADS Video Express.

On the software side, your capture card or device will almost certainly include a feature for capturing video, and third-party apps are also widely available. Regardless, Microsoft Windows XP and Vista both come with Windows Movie Maker (WMM), a decent-enough utility for this purpose, especially when you're dealing with amateur video from camcorders. WMM also lets you edit your video—experiment with it using video clips you already have on your PC, even before getting a capture device.

Connect The Source

2 Connect the Source
First, install the video capture card or connect the capture device to your PC (via USB, FireWire, or standard RCA cables). Next, connect the VCR (with the tape inside it) to the capture hardware by running the appropriate cables between them, and then start the capture software. The next step depends on the actual software, but the basic procedure involves playing the tape in the VCR and pressing the Record or Capture button in the capture program's window. I'd recommend halting the process after a minute or so and checking to make sure you're satisfied with the volume. Happy? Then start over, and simply wait until all the video footage you want has been fully captured. — From Raw to Burn

3 Now You Have Got Raw Video
Load the video into the editing software and edit it as you wish, using the software's interface. (For a library of PC Magazine video-editing tips and tricks, see WMM provides a storyboard along the bottom of the screen from which you edit and preview your video. Add titles, effects, and transitions if you want to do so, and save often.
Burn, Baby, Burn

4 Burn, Baby, Burn
When finished, launch your DVD creation software. (With many packages, the editing and creation software work together.) DVD creation software is readily available from third parties, but if you have Vista, Windows DVD Maker (which I use here) will do the trick. In fact, if you edit your video in WMM, DVD Maker launches automatically when you instruct WMM to publish a movie project to DVD. If you merely want a copy of a movie from your VCR, you won't need to add anything, although you can divide the movie into scenes for easier navigation (a process that takes considerable time). Of course, you can also add menu titles, graphics, and any other elements you want.

Once you've finished, put a disc into your DVD drive and record. The DVD encoding process can be a lengthy one—several hours is not uncommon—so this is a very good time to get some work done or, better still, leave the computer and go watch a movie.

Compact Disc celebrates 25th anniversary

By TOBY STERLING, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 51 minutes ago

EINDHOVEN, Netherlands - It was Aug. 17, 1982, and row upon row of palm-sized plates with a rainbow sheen began rolling off an assembly line near Hanover, Germany.

An engineering marvel at the time, today they are instantly recognizable as Compact Discs, a product that turns 25 years old on Friday — and whose future is increasingly in doubt in an age of iPods and digital downloads.

Those first CDs contained Richard Strauss' Alpine Symphony and would sound equally sharp if played today, says Holland's Royal Philips Electronics NV, which jointly developed the CD with Sony Corp. of Japan.

The recording industry thrived in the 1990s as music fans replaced their aging cassettes and vinyl LPs with compact discs, eventually making CDs the most popular album format.

The CD still accounts for the majority of the music industry's recording revenues, but its sales have been in a freefall since peaking early this decade, in part due to the rise of online file-sharing, but also as consumers spend more of their leisure dollars on other entertainment purchases, such as DVDs and video games.

As the music labels slash wholesale prices and experiment with extras to revive the now-aging format, it's hard to imagine there was ever a day without CDs.

Yet it had been a risky technical endeavor to attempt to bring digital audio to the masses, said Pieter Kramer, the head of the optical research group at Philips' labs in the Netherlands in the 1970s.

"When we started there was nothing in place," he told The Associated Press at Philips' corporate museum in Eindhoven.

The proposed semiconductor chips needed for CD players were to be the most advanced ever used in a consumer product. And the lasers were still on the drawing board when the companies teamed up in 1979.

In 1980, researchers published what became known as the "Red Book" containing the original CD standards, as well as specifying which patents were held by Philips and which by Sony.

Philips had developed the bulk of the disc and laser technology, while Sony contributed the digital encoding that allowed for smooth, error-free playback. Philips still licenses out the Red Book and its later incarnations, notably for the CD-ROM for storing computer software and other data.

The CD's design drew inspiration from vinyl records: Like the grooves on a record, CDs are engraved with a spiral of tiny pits that are scanned by a laser — the equivalent of a record player's needle. The reflected light is encoded into millions of 0s and 1s: a digital file.

Because the pits are covered with plastic and the laser's light doesn't wear them down, the CD never loses sound quality.

Legends abound about how the size of the CD was chosen: Some said it matched a Dutch beer coaster; others believe a famous conductor or Sony executive wanted it just long enough for Beethoven's 9th Symphony.

Kramer said the decision evolved from "long conversations around the table" about which play length made the most sense.

The jump into mass production in Germany was a milestone for the CD, and by 1982 the companies announced their product was ready for market. Both began selling players that fall, though the machines only hit U.S. markets the following spring.

Sony sold the first player in Japan on Oct. 1, with the CBS label supplying Billy Joel's "52nd Street" as its first album.

The CD was a massive hit. Sony sold more players, especially once its "Discman" series was introduced in 1984. But Philips benefited from CD sales, too, thanks to its ownership of Polygram, now part of Vivendi SA's Universal Music Group.

The CD player helped Philips maintain its position as Europe's largest maker of consumer electronics until it was eclipsed by Nokia Corp. in the late 1990s. Licensing royalties sustained the company through bad times.

"The CD was in itself an easy product to market," said Philips' current marketing chief for consumer electronics, Lucas Covers. It wasn't just the sound quality — discs looked like jewelry in comparison to LPs.

By 1986, CD players were outselling record players, and by 1988 CDs outsold records.

"It was a massive turnaround for the whole market," Covers said.

Now, the CD may be seeing the end of its days.

CD sales have fallen sharply to 553 million sold in the United States last year, a 22 percent drop from its 2001 peak of 712 million, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Napster and later Kazaa and BitTorrent allowed music fans to easily share songs over the Internet, often illegally. More recently, Apple Inc. and other companies began selling legal music downloads, turning the MP3 and other digital audio formats into the medium of choice for many owners of Apple's iPods and other digital players.

"The MP3 and all the little things that the boys and girls have in their pockets ... can replace it, absolutely," said Kramer, the retired engineer.

CDs won't disappear overnight, but its years may be numbered.

Record labels seeking to revive the format have experimented with hybrid CD-DVD combos and packages of traditional CDs with separate DVDs that carry video and multimedia offerings playable on computers.

The efforts have been mixed at best, with some attempts, such as the DualDisc that debuted in 2004, not finding lasting success in the marketplace.

Kramer said it has been satisfying to witness the CD's long run at the top and know he had a small hand in its creation.

"You never know how long a standard will last," he said. "But it was a solid, good standard and still is."


Associated Press Business Writer Alex Veiga contributed to this report from Los Angeles.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Mexico City pollution harms child lung growth: study

Wed Aug 15, 3:19 PM ET

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Contaminated air that hangs over the Mexican capital, one of the world's biggest cities, does more damage to children than cigarette smoke and may cause chronic lung diseases when they are adults, a study showed on Wednesday.

In a study of 3,170 eight-year-old children at schools in the city, scientists found the pollution prevented young lungs from growing and working properly.

"Strikingly, the effect of pollutant exposure ... among the children in (the) study was slighter greater than the effect of exposure to maternal smoking among children in the United States," researchers at Mexico's National Public Health Institute wrote in the August issue of American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Perched at 7,300 feet in a bowl-shaped valley where the air is thin and vehicle fumes get trapped, Mexico City has tried to cut its smog levels by closing factories, hauling old cars off the roads, modernizing aging buses and promoting bicycle use.

But contamination in the metropolitan area, home to some 18 million people, is still a problem.

"Although we could not identify specific sources (of the pollutants), the effect is likely to be due to vehicular exhaust," the researchers who led the three-year study wrote.

Their research is considered a step beyond previous studies that documented reversible, short-term breathing problems that big polluted cities can cause children.

Microsoft ups Hotmail storage to 5 GB

By JESSICA MINTZ, AP Technology Writer Wed Aug 15, 4:18 PM ET

SEATTLE - Microsoft Corp. will soon let users of its Hotmail service store 5 gigabytes of photos and other e-mail messages, more than double the previous limit.

Of course, only a small number of Hotmail users will ever approach that threshold, a reality the software maker acknowledged in a blog post this week outlining the storage boost and other upgrades to the free, Web-based service.

"Just when you were wondering how you'd ever fill up 2 or 4 GB of mail, we've given you more storage," wrote Ellie Powers-Boyle, a program manager for Windows Live Hotmail.

Microsoft's new limit, from 2 GB currently, will leapfrog Google Inc.'s nearly 3 GB. Yahoo Inc. and Time Warner Inc.'s AOL e-mail services already include unlimited free storage.

Yahoo has the most active users in the United States among Web-based e-mail services, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. Hotmail ranks second, followed by AOL at third and Google's Gmail at fourth.

Microsoft said Hotmail will also get faster in coming weeks thanks to performance improvements. E-mail users will also see a new "report phishing" button and a way to combine duplicate contacts in the address book.

When Hotmail users log in, they currently see a page filled with news headlines and photos from Microsoft's MSN sites — not their inbox. Soon, Microsoft will let users choose to go straight to their e-mail and skip the extra content.

"We know this is going to be a big hit with a lot of you out there in blog land," Powers-Boyle wrote.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Nine in 10 Americans say ban texting while driving

Tue Aug 7, 10:36 AM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Ninety-one percent of Americans believe sending text messages while driving is as dangerous as driving after having a couple of drinks, but 57 percent admit to doing it, a poll released Tuesday said.

The Harris Interactive survey commissioned by mobile messaging service Pinger Inc. found 89 percent of respondents believe texting while driving is dangerous and should be outlawed.

Even so, 66 percent of the adults surveyed who drive and use text messaging told pollsters they had read text messages or e-mails while driving. Fifty-seven percent admitted to sending them.

The state of Washington in May passed the first ban in the United States on texting while driving and at least six other states including New York, California and Florida are considering similar legislation, Pinger said in a statement releasing the survey results.

The survey found that men and women sent text messages while driving at equal rates but that the young did so more frequently. Sixty-four percent of those who admitted to sending text messages while driving were aged 18 to 34 while 6 percent were 55 or older.

The poll surveyed 2,049 U.S. adults from June 29 to July 3, giving the survey a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

5 Free Online Video Editing Sites Reviewed

Some people would be surprised that you can edit photos online without locally installed software, but surely video editing is too resource-intensive to be done over the web, right? Wrong! We review five online services that let you do things like scene transitions, cuts, splices, loops, audio overlays—and they're all free. We tested the following:

* Cuts
* Eyespot
* JumpCut
* Motionbox
* One True Media

None of these free services is going to put installed video editors like Pinnacle Studio or the $800 Adobe Premier out of business. If you're willing to spend about $50, you can go with Pinnacle Studio or Ulead VideoStudio. But these free online services offer a way for regular Joes to have fun manipulating their multimedia digital content and also give them an easy way to share them with friends and the world at large.
Online Video Editors

Let's begin with our first video editing site in this roundup: Cuts.


Cuts, the most recent entry in the online video editing game, states its mission as enabling "easy control of the video experience." This is contrasted with what networks and cable offer you. As the name implies, the web app, still in beta, lets you edit out the boring parts, add captions, insert sound effects, and produce loops. It also lets you share your creation via email or by embedding the video into your blog. The service doesn't actually perform the edits on the original video, but creates sort of an overlay that presents your edits.

Cuts works on online video, not directly on your home camcorder creations. Of course, you can upload your video to YouTube, MySpace, or Google Videos and then use Cuts on it. They plan to regularly add video hosting/sharing sites to this list, but that's it, at time of review.

Working with Cuts involves three major steps:

* Bring a video—enter the URL of the video
* Make the edits—cut scenes, add captions, add sounds
* Share it.

In addition to entering a URL from one of the three sites mentioned above, you can also edit a video for which you have the direct FLV (Flash Video) URL, such as those provided by FLV is the format used by YouTube, Google Videos, Yahoo! Videos, and MySpace.

Once you've entered your video URL, the service loads it (the time it takes, of course, depends on the length and quality of the video), and then you're taken to the Cutter:

You create all effects by dragging their buttons onto the timeline at the bottom. A feature that will let you zoom in on the timeline is labeled "coming soon." When you move the time indicator along the timeline, the video window doesn't show what will appear at that moment, but the first frame of the next scene. Note you can't use your own sounds, but must choose from the 28 prerecorded ones on the grid of buttons. We find the choices rather juvenile (think fart) and wish we could use sounds we created or found. We'd think it's very likely that people would want to add some music track to their video, as other sites reviewed here can do.

Adding captions is also simple: You go to the Captions table, drag the one button there to the timeline, enter some text, and you're done. Captions can be up to 50 letters long. You can control how long the caption appears by dragging the edge of its bar on the timeline.

The skipping and looping tools require the web app to analyze your video, which only took six seconds on a video that was 1.5 minutes long, but the time varied, probably depending on how busy the server was. This analysis finds and marks "scene changes" with a vertical rule on the timeline. You click the Skip/Loop tab again, and then you can drag buttons for either of those functions to one of these vertical lines on the timeline.

When you choose Loop, a dropdown list gives you a choice of how many times you want the scene to loop, up to five times.

We were surprised that Cuts doesn't offer scene transitions, especially since it has a tool that determines scene changes in the video you're editing.

When you go to save your edited video, you're required to enter a title and description, and given the option to add tags and make the video visible to the world. After the cut is saved, it is added to your My Cuts page (which, of course, requires you to have signed up).

When you click on a video in My Cuts, it loads all your captions, sound effects, cuts and loops for it, and then you can re-edit it or share it via an HTML snippet for your blog, a URL to cut and paste, an email button that opens your default email client. There are also buttons to send your Cut to social sites Digg,, furl, BlinkList, and reddit.

If there's a YouTube video you like, but think it just goes on too long or needs captions to illustrate or comment on what's going on, you'll have fun with Cuts. All the effects worked for us without a hitch. We think it's pretty limited compared with other services, however. We think the site's claim that it's easy is true, but as is often the case, that ease comes at the expense of capability.

Cuts' developers have plans in the works to offer similar editing for DVDs and longer downloaded videos such as TV shows. We have to wonder what people will want to cut out of those? The company also wants to work with cable and satellite providers to enable them to air edited versions of show. We thought they already had that capability, but maybe Cuts plans to make it easier and give them a way to keep the original content intact while displaying the edited versions.


Eyespot's tagline is "Movie Making for All of Us." It's pretty much a YouTube with editing: It hosts your uploaded videos and makes them available (optionally) for all to see. Eyespot goes beyond Cuts in allowing you to add music of your own choice and to apply scene transitions, though there are only two of these—fade and dissolve.

A simple signup asking for your email, a username and password is required before you can do anything.

After you finish this simple signup, your choices are

* Upload files
* Get free videos and music
* Start mixing
* Watch movies
* Manage your account

The service accepts lots of video file formats, including ASF, AVI, DivX, DV, FLV, MOV, MPEG, MPG, MP4, RM, WMV, 3GP, and 3G2—most everything you'd probably use. It also lets you upload picture files in the usual formats, including BMP, GIF, JPEG, JPG, PNG, and TIFF. Finally, for your soundtracks, you can upload audio in AAC, MP3, MP4, RM, WAV, and WMA file formats. One WMA file we tried uploading didn't appear in our Eyespot media; we suspect DRM was to blame. A progress bar appears when you choose a file to upload, which can take several minutes for video. The maximum file size is 100MB, and you can actually upload 10 at a time, though that does slow things down.

One very slight oddity was that after you choose the file from a standard File>Open dialog, you have to hit a green Download button, which on our test system appeared below the bottom of the browser window; since the progress bar is already showing, this at first led us to think something was broken. If you don't have any media of your own, you can use clips from Eyespot's partner sites, accessible from the Saved Media link on the Media page. For example, Paramount makes some clips available for your mixing pleasure.

Once you've uploaded your videos and photos, it's time for the Mixer:

The "timeline" in this service is just a row of rectangles for your videos and images, which you drag onto the rectangles in the order you want them played. You can have up to 100 of these rectangles. There are a bunch of effects, as you can see in the screen above: In addition to monochrome colorizing, there are slow and fast motion, and video distortion options. The latter include fun things like 1970s, 1940s, and 1890s looks, as well as effects called mosaic, trance, and Warhol—all in all there are 32 choices. Clicking Transition on the left menu gives you just three choices: Fade In, Fade Out, and Dissolve. These you drag into their own rectangles between the clips you've entered. The same goes for titles: You type your text in, you get a title rectangle, and then drag it where you want it in the mixing rectangles.

If one of your video clips is going on too long or has some boring parts you want to cut out, you can choose Trim/Play, right under its thumbnail, which brings up a popup that lets you do just that:

Soundtracks get their own bar below the rectangle, onto which you drop your tracks. We could only get one song to play per mix, and the sound in the video clip plays as well as the audio file you've overlaid.

After you've got all you clips, effects, dissolves, and music in the mixer, it's time to hit "Mix and Play" if you've entered anything in the rectangles that don't make sense, you'll get a message box telling you to fix it. An example would be a dissolve without a clip before and after. When all is correct and you've hit mix, the display will look something like this:

The Mix Time is how long it takes to create your mix, not the play time of the resulting mix. If Eyespot's servers are busy, you'll get a message like "There are five mixes ahead of yours." But we didn't experience much delay. We could only apply one effect at a time. For example, we weren't able to get slow motion and "Warhol" on the same clip.

After you're happy with your multimedia creation, it's time to share it with the world. On your Media page, you can choose to have your video Public or Private; it's Public by default, so be sure to choose Private when you upload or change it on the media item's page. Eyespot lets you share content in several ways: You can publish it on your blog via a button (we're not sure how Eyespot knew about our LiveJournal blog, but there it was in the choices), add it to groups you belong to in Eyespot. Joining these is as simple as going to the Groups link, clicking on a group (or starting a new one) and clicking Join. Thereafter, your joined groups with appear among your Publish choices. Finally, you can one-click upload the video to video sharing sites Veoh and

Alternatively, EyeSpot lets you download your creation in Mac, PC, iPod, PSP, and DivX formats.

For any type of editing, an Undo feature is nice, but Eyespot unfortunately doesn't have it. In place of a specifically named "Help" feature, there's a FAQ link, which effectively serves the same purpose. A very minor complaint is that the anchor links on this page didn't take us to the chosen topic in Firefox. Otherwise everything worked fine in that browser.

We found the AJAX and Flash-powered Eyespot to be a fun piece of webware to fool around with. The collection of special effects can keep media junkies happily creating and remixing for hours. It's quite easy to figure out.


The beta Jumpcut, a 2007 Webby Award nominee and Yahoo acquisition, is another YouTube-type site with the added capability of letting you mix and mash up your media. After a simple signup, you get started by either uploading your video files (they can be in .MPG, .MP4, .MOV, .FLV, .AVI, or .WMV format), remixing a video already hosted on the site, or play with a demo clip. Like Eyespot, the maximum accepted file size is 100MB. You can upload pictures in .JPG, .BMP, .PNG, .GIF, or .TIFF formats, while audio file uploads are limited to .MP3 and .WAV files. Choosing the Public or Private option for you uploads is clearer in JumpCut than in Eyespot, and you can assign tags at upload time. There's no progress bar during the uploading, just a spinning wheel, so you're in the dark as to how much long the upload will take. An alternative is to upload via an email address, which the service assigns you when you sign up.

There's also a Multiple Upload option that boasts another award; it is nice looking, but we're not sure why it's not just the default, as it doesn't offer drag and drop. This method actually does show a live percent uploaded for each file. If you upload multiple still images, this method will create a little slideshow movie of them. Some of the transition styles are amusingly titled: None, Smooth, Ken Burns, Slide Across, Diagonal Wipes, Net Love, Quiet. We couldn't actually tell the difference between Quiet and None.

Right off the bat, we got an error uploading a 500KB .WMV file that we had no trouble uploading to Eyespot. We then tried uploading a smaller file, with the same result. Switching from Firefox to Internet Explorer fared no better, and finally, we decided to go over to a Mac and try it in Safari. Same result, with the download stalling at the same exact percent completion—58%. We figured that maybe our wireless Internet connection had something to do with it, and so we plugged directly into the Ethernet connection. Same result.

We were sorry to experience this problem in this beta product, because it's one of the nicer looking and full-featured services. We hope it was just a beta hiccup. So we continued testing its capabilities with videos already on the site, successfully uploaded by others.

A wizard can walk you through the process of creating your movie, or you can go directly to the editor. Mashups with Flickr and Facebook get you started, but the one with Flickr didn't find our pictures after we allowed access.

In the JumpCut editor, you add videos to the mix by dragging them to the bottom of this window:

You can drag them around to get the order you want.

When you add a clip, a progress bar shows it loading into your movie; doesn't take long. You get a choice of 13 transitions—wipes, fades, dissolves, circles, L Cut, and Ken Burns among them. And Jumpcut gives you 31 effects to apply—things like messing with colors, many overlays of shapes and figures, rain. Titles for you movie come in many fonts and presentations such as zooming, scrolling across the screen, and more.

You upload audio files to use in your movies. We had no problem doing this, and we could add music to play in the background of over movie, and we could adjust the volume of the song and the clip audio individually for a good mix of levels.

Help is in the form of a searchable blog, a Tips page, and a Quick Guide. We didn't find an entry for the Slice choice. There's also a Tips button, which brings up a panel of the editors basic operation.

Since Jumpcut doubles as a video sharing site á la YouTube, it's easy to give your work of art some exposure. At the bottom right-hand side of the Create page, you can press Publish, to bring up this page:

The place anyone visiting Jumpcut can find published videos is called the Wall:

As you can see from the left-hand sidebar, there are lots of ways to select the videos you want to see: by popularity, newness, and so on. One sweet option is Most Loved. Each movie's page has a heart below the video, which you can click to show that you love it; the number of people who love the movie appears next to the heart:

Jumpcut offered the most effects of the tools we looked at, a clean, clear interface, and community features. We only hope they'll work out the upload problems (we noticed other users having problems uploading on the site's help blog, so we're not alone in experiencing this). Yahoo! doesn't seem to have changed Jumpcut or integrated it into the main Yahoo set of sites yet, but the movie editing site will add some slick tools to the personal portal giant's arsenal.


Motionbox's tagline is "Personal video sharing made easy," and the implication is that it's more like aYahoo! Photos or Picasa Online for videos—a way to make your videos available to friends and loved ones without sending huge files. It's about taking those little movielets from your digital still camera with a bit of movie capability or from your cell phone that can do the same. We're not talking about major feature-length productions, here.

One nice difference with Motionbox is that when you sign up, you can designate a default of Private for your media. The supported file formats for your uploaded videos are AVI, MOV, DV, MPG, MP4, WMV, ASF, and QT. It also assigns you an upload e-mail address to send videos from you phone or other mobile device.

The uploader lets you choose multiple files for simultaneous uploading:

During uploading, it displays a progress bar for each individual file as well as for the overall upload status. Unlike some other online video editing services, Motionbox is not about mixing still pictures with video and sound, so there's no uploading photos or audio.

After you've uploaded some video, you can move over to your My Videos page:

Note the nice use of tooltips on the right that augment the menu choices. Note also the "video e-card" choice, showing Motionbox's goal of getting your vids to family and friends. A number of cutesy formats can be applied to the background in your cards:

On the page for an individual video clip, you'll see text boxes with code that you can use on your blog and a direct URL link to the video.

The service has the simple goals of letting you combine, trim, and reorder your video clips into one movie, so, for example, you could send a friend one video instead of three of the same event. The mixer has a nice timeline that shows an exact moment in the video (note the triangle and pointer in the thumbnail below the video window):

The slider on the right just above the "timeline" lets you choose how many seconds each thumbnail represents. So you order and trim the videos in a mix, and that's it. It would be nice if you could add more video clips from this mixing page; you have to have selected them ahead of time, though you can remove one.

Your options after this editing process are the same as for videos you've merely uploaded: Share (via email ), video e-card, mixer (again), group (which lets you add the video edit to any Motionbox group you've joined), Favorites, Playlists, and Delete. At the time of review, there were 56 groups, with diverse names like Activism and Social Justice, Critters!, and Toilets of the World.

Help consists of a small FAQ and some nicely presented How To guides.

Motionbox is a nice looking service, but it just doesn't do very much. A few special effects—even just transitions and loops—would make it more appealing.

One True Media

Like Motionbox, the free One True Media is primarily about creating montages by splicing your uploaded video clips. But it turns out to offer a lot more than Motionbox: transitions, music backgrounds, and text frames among them. The site also offers a premium version for $39.99 annually or $3.99 a month, and some options you'll see in the free service are labeled "Premium" and are only available if you pony up. Premium does more transitions, special effects, fonts, themes. It also enables DVD burning, gives you 20GB storage for your media, and lets you download your edited video to iPod or QuickTime file formats. We're looking at free here, so look for an in-depth review of that paid service at a later date.

The site accepts the following file formats: MPEG (.MPEG, .MPG, .MP4), QuickTime (.MOV), Audio Video Interleave (.AVI), Windows Media Video (.WMV), 3G Mobile Phone Video (.3GP), and JPEG (.JPG or .JPEG). When you create a video montage with the free version of One True Media, you get the option of having the work's title display at the beginning. This is even before you upload video clips. By default, the uploader supports multiple files, which we think makes sense. When you start uploading, you see a small, spinning, circular arrow and the percent complete, one file at a time. Uploading was fast compared with the other services.

When you've got some files uploaded, you click Done, and you're taken to your video's page:

Note the options to burn a DVD or photo book on the right. When you click on the DVD option, you get this page, showing a choice of case art for your DVD:

But it turns out to be a bit of a come-on, since you have to pay for the Premium service to actually burn a CD. Still, for 40 bucks it's not exorbitant for DVD burning software.

Back to stuff you can do with the free version. Here's the editor, which lets you crop your video, change the background song and its length, add more video clips, text slides, and remove stuff:

You can drag and drop each clip to the position you want. To make cuts, you click "clip this video" and you get a screen showing a frame for each second of the video, each of which can be designated as the new start or end of the clip. There are six free transitions—random, dissolve, reveal, push, and fade through black or white (Premium adds 12 more, such as Swirl and Pixelate).

Back on the video's main page, you can also change the music, choose a thumbnail, and choose one of seven "Themes" to apply. These offer cute intro scenes and different music, such as one appropriate for Valentines Day, friendship, or Offbeat.

For sharing your creations, you can click on Post next to a video in your My Studio page to get a URL link, code for your blog, an email option, and direct posting to YouTube, TypePad, or your TiVo channel. You can also add it to the One True Media gallery from here, or try out the beta Share to Mobile to send it to someone's phone. The site's Gallery can be sifted into 15 categories, with names like Birthday/Anniversary, Funny, and Vacation/Travel. This service seems less aggressive about getting you to put your videos into its own community.

You can also download your movie to iPod or QuickTime format, and the service offers to send you a DVD of it if you get the Premium account; the first one is free with a Premium upgrade, after that they cost from $10 to $20 based on the number you order.

Finally, One True Media offers a Collections feature, which lets you group together related videos and photos for easy, organized access. Oddly, it seemed that you had to upload directly into a collection rather than being able to move your content from My Studio.

Help is in the form of a fairly thorough FAQ, but the ability to search it would be nice.

We found One True Media to be one of the more capable and well-working web services in this review roundup. You can do quite a lot without spending any money on the Premium version.

Final Thoughts: Roll 'Em!

Among the free services we tested for this review roundup, JumpCut offered the most editing tools and effects. Unfortunately, this site gave us uploading headaches on both a Windows PC and a Mac, so it's hard to recommend unconditionally, unless you're just interested in editing videos you find on the site. Jumpcut also has one of the nicest interfaces, though all the services we tested were pretty slick looking. One True Media was another relatively full featured service, with several transitions, simple text frames, and the ability to download your movies, and even burn a DVD if you pay for it. Eyespot offered a good number of fun effects though only two transition styles, plus the ability to download your creations.

Most of these sites weren't just concerned with letting you edit video, but also were heavily about getting your creations shared in the larger world. They all gave your URLs and emailing capability for your edit, but varied in the strength of their own community or group features. We thought that Jumpcut, with its Wall and nice-looking Groups page with many ways to slice and dice public videos did the best job making videos findable and accessible to the world.

Pointer Graphic for FingerlinksRead our roundup of Free Online Photo Editors.

Online video editing is just getting started. In fact, we've read that several more video sharing sites—The N, Grouper, and VMIX—are about to add the capability, and there are technology companies out there ready to offer them the tools they need, Videoegg and Movie Masher among them. We definitely haven't finished coverage of online video editors, as more and more video sharing sites with this capability keep popping up.

To conclude our roundup, here we present a comparison table of each service reviewed today: