Archive for the ‘IT and Web’ Category

The first sites with the new .XXX web domain name, denoting pornography, are now being allocated to companies.

Dot Triple-X, was approved by the international Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), which administers millions of internet addresses. It had been pending since 2003 and was resisted by the Bush government but progressed without opposition from the Obama administration.

Use of the domain name is voluntary and is designed to shut out child porn and incorporate heightened security barriers, making it harder for children to stumble on sexual content online.

Around 1,500 .xxx domains have already been allocated to 35 porn companies, and many could go live ahead of the official general launch on 6 December. A preregistration period found nearly 900,000 “expressions of interest” for 650,000 names.

But there are many names that will not be allowed.

ICM Registry, the firm managing the new domain, has reserved 15,000 Dot Triple-X domain names on the request of international governments and child protection agencies.

These include commonly used underage sex terms and the names of cities and well-known politicians, such as the US president, the British prime minister and former prime ministers.

But Stuart Lawley, the chief executive of ICM Registry, could not say whether all British prime ministers would have their names permanently reserved on the register. Nor was he able to confirm which celebrities were covered by the ban, or what the criteria for their inclusion was. But he said there would be a rapid take-down process for anyone targeted by .xxx cybersquatters.

Lawley said: “The reason we banned the celebrities’ names was because it’s very difficult for them to trademark their names. We didn’t want to have the embarrassment of AngelinaJolie.xxx coming up at the launch of the new domain.”

The idea of prime ministers and porn going together may not be an obvious one. But one thing about this juxtaposition is quite disturbing. You see, Lawley confirmed that there will not be a .XXX site named after Margaret Thatcher.

Now who would possibly want to visit a Thatcher porn site? There are some bizarre, disgusting and downright obscene sites on the web, but that’s just taking things way too far.

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Search engine giant Google has moved heavily into the hardware market by buying mobile phone maker Motorola Mobility for $12.5bn – around £7.7bn. A joint statement said the boards of both companies had unanimously approved the deal, which should be completed by the end of this year, or early in 2012, subject to regulatory approval..

The move means that Google will follow Apple’s model by controlling the software, hardware and content on its devices. Microsoft also moved towards a similar solution earlier in the year. While it did not go as far as buying Nokia, it struck a deal that would make Windows Phone the sole smartphone platform on its handsets.

Google is effectively betting that the future lies in mobile computing devices rather than desktop PCs. And as smartphones are now effectively small computers that can also make phone calls, it seems a good call.

But where will the deal leave other manufacturers, such as Samsung and HTC, who use Google’s Android system on their phones? They will fear that Motorola will have a clear advantage and may get first access to new features or software releases.

Industry analyst Stuart Miles cautioned that if Motorola was seen to get too much preferential treatment – such as early access to new versions of Android, it might alienate the broader community of hardware manufacturers. But would that bother Google?

Larry Page, Google chief executive, said: “Motorola Mobility’s total commitment to Android has created a natural fit for our two companies. Together, we will create amazing user experiences that supercharge the entire Android ecosystem for the benefit of consumers, partners and developers. I look forward to welcoming Motorolans to our family of Googlers.”

The Android ecosystem? Don’t you just love techno-speak?

The smartphone market is highly competitive has escalated into a bitterly fought patents war between the major manufacturers and software giants. Microsoft and Apple are suing Motorola and Google over a string of alleged patent infringements relating to Android.

Monday’s deal means that Google now owns Motorola Mobility’s swathe of patents, thought to total about 17,000, and strengthens its position in the market.

Android phones are becoming increasingly popular and this move puts Google in a position to capitalise on the success of its operating system. Apple and RIM, which manufacturers BlackBerries, must be looking at this deal and assessing its impact on their own businesses.

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Facebook has launched an instant messaging service for mobile phones, initially in the US. It will rival BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), which is currently used by more than 45 million people, including a fair few rioters according to recent news.

BBM allows anyone with a BlackBerry handset to chat with any other Blackberry user anywhere in the world for free. Very handy if you have a pay as you go contract and are charged for every text you send.

Facebook hopes that it will be able to build on the messaging features that its 750 million users already enjoy. The new dedicated app, for iPhones and Android devices, allows users to contact individual friends or groups of people across platforms – so someone with an Android device can chat with friends who are using iPhones.

“More and more of us rely on our phones to send and receive messages. But it isn’t always easy to know the best way to reach someone on their phone. Should you send an email or text? Which will they check first? Did they even get your last message?” wrote Facebook engineer Lucy Zhang in a blog post introducing the new app. “We think messaging should be easier than that. You should be able to write a message, click ‘Send’ and know that you will reach the person right away.”

Yes, that’s why it’s called instant messaging, Lucy.

Apple has recently announced its own instant messaging service. Called, almost inevitably, iMessage it will be launched later in the year. It is also thought that Google will introduce a similar service for Android phones as part of its Google+ service, which is currently being trailed by users.

For many people, texting is now a very common use of their mobile phone: the average person sends five texts every day. There are times when sending a quick message negates the need for a lengthier telephone call, or where it simply isn’t possible to talk.

So texting can still meet a large proportion of users’ needs. But it can cost money. And while you probably have the mobile numbers of close friends and family safely stored in your contacts list, does this cover everyone you might ever need to send a message to?

Facebook’s application will allow messages to be sent to anyone you have as a friend – for most people this will be a much larger list.

In a world where instant contact and quick response appear to be so crucial, Facebook Messaging could be the next big thing.

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The number of illegally downloaded films in the UK has gone up by almost 30% in the last five years.

Research from internet consultancy firm Envisional has found that the top five box office movies were illegally downloaded in the UK a total of 1.4 million times last year.

The research also shows a big rise in TV shows being pirated online. The top five most popular shows were illegally downloaded a total of 1.24 million times in the UK last year. That’s a 33% increase from 2006 figures.

Dr David Price, who led the team that conducted the research, said that there are four main reasons for the increase: faster broadband speeds, better technology for handling torrents and other types of download, a growing belief among younger people that piracy is harmless and the desire of many to watch top US shows long before they make their way to UK televisions.

The Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) exists to fight all types of piracy, from software and games to film and television.

“Research for the government has shown that film piracy costs the industry about half a billion pounds a year,” said FACT spokesperson Kieron Sharp. “About a third of that is due to illegal downloading of film and TV content.”

The research shows that downloads of pirated software and games hasn’t increased anywhere near as much as films and television. It seems that the ability to download and watch television on computers has created a whole new industry.

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Simon Cowell is angry after internet allegations that Britain’s Got Talent is fixed have led him to contact the police.

An anonymous blogger, claiming to be an employee of Cowell’s record company, Sony Music, posted that the competition was rigged in favour of twelve year old Ronan Parke. And like all good internet stories, it soon spread like wildfire across the net.

Syco, Cowell’s management company, and Sony Music have said they would take legal action to “prevent further publication of these unfounded allegations”. And lawyers acting for Cowell made the complaint at a police station in west London on Thursday.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said, “An allegation of malicious communications was made to Kensington and Chelsea police on Thursday June 2.The allegation is being considered.”

The blogger claimed that Parke already had a management deal in place with Cowell and had been moulded by him to win the competition, rather than being just another contestant.

Syco said in a statement: “There has been speculation on the internet that Britain’s Got Talent finalist Ronan Parke was known to and worked with Syco/Sony Music before entering the show. There is no truth in this story whatsoever.”

And Parke’s mother Maggie also dismissed the allegations. “It’s laughable, to be perfectly honest with you, and it couldn’t be further from the truth,” she told BBC Radio Norfolk. “There’s no foundation in it whatsoever.”

The final of Cowell’s programme takes place this evening.

Now they say that there is no such thing as bad publicity. And having every media outlet talking about the programme in the days leading up to the final will surely only increase audience ratings.

Not that I’m suggesting that the whole thing is a set up of course. I’m just pointing out the inevitable result of this extra media attention. Nothing wrong with that, is there?


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Technology giant Cisco has predicted that the number of internet connected devices will rocket in the next four years to over 15 billion – twice the world’s population by 2015.

With tablets, phones and other mobile devices now so common, is it any wonder? How many different ways of connecting to the internet do you have? Sitting here at my desk I have a PC, laptop and BlackBerry all connected to my home network.

Cisco’s Visual Networking Index also estimated that at the same time more than 40% of the world’s projected population will be online, a total of nearly three billion people. The company predicts that consumer video will continue to dominate internet traffic, and that by 2015, one million minutes of video will be watched online every second.

And Cisco estimates that by that by 2015 internet traffic will reach 966 exabytes a year. An exabyte is equal to one quintillion bytes – or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes.

But this level of traffic could cause real problems for the internet as it runs out of what are known as internet protocol version 4, or IPv4, addresses. Each individual device must have an IPv4 address to connect to the internet.

When IPv4 was created back in 1977, it was thought that its 4.3 billion addresses would be more than enough. But at that point no one could predict the level of internet use we are now seeing and the number of different devices that are capable of going on line.

The solution is the adoption of a new standard, IPv6 which has space for trillions of individual addressed. The gradual switch to the new protocol over then next couple of years is a massive undertaking, but it simply has to be done.

Or else no more new devises could be connected to the internet!

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Twitter has been forced to hand over the personal details of a British user following a landmark legal ruling in California.

This is thought to be the first time that Twitter has been forced to identify an anonymous user. It comes at a time when online privacy is a major issue following the leaking of names involved in so called super injunctions through Twitter.

This case started in South Shields after a number of allegedly libellous tweets were posted about senior councillors and council officials of South Tyneside Council. The main suspect was an independent member, Cllr Ahmed Khan, but the local authority was unable to prove that he was the author.

So the Council took a case against San Francisco based Twitter to the Superior Court of California. They won and the judge ordered the user’s private details to be handed over.

Council spokesman Paul Robinson said information had been disclosed by Twitter to its lawyers, and was, “being analysed by technical experts.”

Cllr Khan has always denied being the author of the remarks. He said he was told by Twitter that IP identities, mobile phone numbers and e-mail addresses related to two Twitter accounts would be handed over to the Council.

“It is like something out of 1984,” Khan told the Guardian. “If a council can take this kind of action against one of its own councillors simply because they don’t like what I say, what hope is there for freedom of speech or privacy?”

Media lawyer Mark Stephens, who represented Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, said, “I am unaware of any other occasion where somebody from this country has actually gone to America and launched proceedings in a Californian court to force Twitter to release the identities of individuals.

“The implications are that people who have had their name released can actually now go to California and begin proceedings.”

This case has profound implications for anyone who thinks that posting online behind an anonymous user name will protect them against the legal consequences of their remarks. A previous British ruling established that tweets are public information, but now it seems that they are not protected in law.

And if Ryan Giggs wants to know who has been making comments on his love life it looks like he now has a way to find out.

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In the latest high tech law suit, Paypal, which is owned by E-bay, is suing Google over its new Google Wallet technology.

The issue is the development of the technology behind a system that will allow consumers to buy goods in shops via their mobile phone rather than a credit card.

Paypal claims it had been developing a system to run on Android mobile phones using what is known as Near Field Communication (NFC), which is basically a secure way of allowing phones to communicate with sellers’ terminals.

Earlier this year Paypal executive Osama Bedier left the company after nine years to join Google, where he is now Vice President of Payments. And Paypal alleges that Bedier “misappropriated PayPal trade secrets by disclosing them within Google and to major retailers”.

The suit was filed at Superior Court of the State of California just hours after Google unveiled its plans to allow people to pay for shopping with their mobiles. Google had no comment, saying it had not seen a copy of the lawsuit.

NFC technology is already used in Japan, and is predicted to become popular around the world. Google Wallet is to be launched in the USA this summer. At its launch Google said the service would be open to all businesses and invited banks, credit card issuers, payment networks, mobile carriers and merchants to work with it.

This is basically the next step on from the chip and pin technology now used in most direct credit card transactions. Google Wallet will require a PIN, as will each transaction. The payment credentials will be encrypted and stored on a chip, called the secure element, inside the phone.

If a phone was stolen, the credit cards inside could be remotely disabled. And Google assured potential users that consumers would have the same “zero liability” for unauthorised transactions made with their phone as they would with their plastic cards.

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Microsoft has confirmed that it has agreed an $8.5bn (£5bn) cash deal to buy internet telephony service Skype, the largest acquisition in its history.

The deal will see Skype established as a separate business division inside Microsoft, dubbed Microsoft Skype, alongside XBox Live, Kinect and Windows Phone. Skype Chief Executive Tony Bates will continue to lead the business, reporting directly to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

Skype has 663 million global users. Internet auction house eBay bought the company for $2.6bn in 2006, before selling 70% of it in 2009 for $2bn. In August last year Skype announced plans for a share flotation, but this was subsequently put on hold.

Calls to other Skype users are free, while the company charges for those made to both traditional landline phones and mobiles.

Steve Ballmer was understandably upbeat about his company’s purchase, saying, “Skype is a phenomenal service that is loved by millions of people around the world. Together we will create the future of real-time communications so people can easily stay connected to family, friends, clients and colleagues anywhere in the world.”

Industry analysts largely see this as a good deal for Microsoft, if it can merge the technology into existing services such as Windows Phone and Xbox.

Skype will once again bring Microsoft into competition with its two largest rivals, as Google has Google Voice while Apple is building up Facetime. And MS Skype is likely to be a key part of Windows 8, the next generation of the operating system.

Giles Cottle, senior analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, said, “Microsoft undoubtedly has overpaid for Skype in the short term but potentially not in the long term. Buying Skype gives Microsoft the ability to do whatever it wants with voice to an audience of 700 million users. This kind of scale does not come cheap.”

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Google has been found guilty in a Texas court of infringing a software patent and fined $5m (£3.2m).

The software, related to the Linux kernel, is used by Google for its server platforms and may also be used in its Android mobile platform. Google had claimed that all of the software is open source, that is available for anyone to use.

The case resulted in a victory for a firm called Bedrock Computer Technologies which has also sued some of the biggest names in the IT world including Yahoo, MySpace, Amazon, PayPal, Match.com and AOL

But what does this decision actually mean? I’m sure Google wouldn’t miss $5m, but there are wider issues.

“The implication here is really that there is a huge number of Linux users who will be required to pay royalties if this patent holder knocks on their doors in the US. This is definitely a major impediment to the growth of Linux and makes companies, including Google, that rely on open source code particularly vulnerable to patent threats,” said intellectual property activist Florian Mueller.

But Google has said it will continue to use open source software and will fight the judgement.

“The recent explosion in patent litigation is turning the world’s information highway into a toll road, forcing companies to spend millions and millions of dollars defending old, questionable patent claims and wasting resources that would be much better spent investing in new technologies for users and creating jobs,” said a Google statement.

There are a whole raft of high tech cases due to come to courts, many relating to technologies in the rapidly expanding smart phone market, where Apple is facing challenges from Android and Windows phones.

Oracle is also suing Google, claiming that Android technology infringes on its Java patents. Apple is suing Samsung for copying its designs, while Samsung is countersuing for violation of patents. Other suits may follow from Apple, which is said to be ready to sue other manufacturers who use Android in their products.

And, not to be left out, Microsoft has lodged a suit focusing on the Nook e-reader and Nook Colour tablet which both run the Android OS.

It seems that the biggest technology companies spend a great deal of time and money on legal issues. Maybe between them all they could get together and invent a computer program that sorts all this stuff out without the need for court cases.

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