Archive for June 18th, 2012
SAN FRANCISCO: Political commentary remains a prime target as governments increase the number of requests for Google to remove material from the reach of Internet users.
The Internet giant on Sunday released its fifth semi-annual Transparency Report providing insights into requests by countries around the world to “take down” content from search results or Google venues such as YouTube.
“Just like every other time before, we’ve been asked to take down political speech,” Google senior policy analyst Dorothy Chou said.
“It’s alarming not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect – Western democracies not typically associated with censorship.”
The number of requests from the United States doubled in the second half of last year. Ukraine, Jordan and Bolivia showed up for the first time on the list of countries out to have online material removed, according to Google.
Google reported that it went along with slightly more than half of the approximately 1,000 requests it received to remove material or links.
The transparency report doesn’t provide insights regarding countries such as China where tight Internet controls allow for blocking of content, eliminating the need to ask Google to take down content.
From the start of July through December of last year, Google complied with approximately 65 per cent of the more that 467 court orders to remove material and with 47 per cent of the more than 561 request without judicial backing.
“We noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services,” Chou said.
Google said the number of requests has grown steadily during the past two years.
Spanish regulators asked Google to remove 270 search results that linked to blogs and articles in newspapers referencing private individuals or public figures, including mayors and public prosecutors.
In Poland, a public institution asked Google to remove links to a website criticizing it. Chou said that Google did not comply with those requests in either country.
An electoral court order from Brazil resulted in Google removing four profiles from its Orkut social network for political content.
Broad defamation laws in Brazil allow for obtaining court orders to remove even truthful information from the Internet, according to Google.
The law there also reportedly bans showing parodies of candidates during elections, leading to requests for removal of material such as bits by celebrity comedians.
Among the requests turned down by Google was one from Canadian officials for the removal of a YouTube video of a Canadian citizen peeing on his passport and flushing it down a toilet.
The number of content removal requests received by Google in India was 49 per cent higher in the second half of last year than in the first six months.
Pakistan’s Ministry of Information Technology asked Google to remove six YouTube videos that satirized the country’s military and senior politicians. Google did not comply with that request.
Google said it did terminate five YouTube accounts at the behest of the United Kingdom Association of Police Officers, which contended they promoted terrorism.
The Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology in Thailand asked Google to remove 149 YouTube videos for allegedly insulting the monarchy there. Google restricted 70 per cent of the videos from view online in Thailand.
Requests from Turkish information technologies officials centered on videos of the founder of modern-day Turkey, and Google responded by making the targeted clips unavailable in that country.
“We realize that the numbers we share can only provide a small window into what’s happening on the Web at large,” Chou said.
“But we do hope that by being transparent about these government requests, we can continue to contribute to the public debate about how government behaviors are shaping our Web.”
HOUSTON: Global chip-maker AMD announced the launch of a new graphics card in the FirePro professional range designed specifically for powering digital walls.
The FirePro W600 professional graphics is AMD’s first professional graphics card to make use of the company’s 28-nanometer architecture and Graphics Core Next – technology previously found on the Radeon HD 7000 series graphics products.
While launching the card at its Fusion Developer Summit, AMD’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Mark Papermaster described the FirePro W600 as “the ideal solution for powering display walls designed to attract, inform and engage audiences or foster collaborative interaction and decision making”.
The FirePro W600 is capable of powering up to six screens or displays thanks to mini DisplayPort connectors, and supports a maximum resolution of 4096 x 2304 per screen or projector. Two FirePro W600 graphics cards can be combined to drive up to 12 displays.
“Whether we are checking flight times at the airport or watching the latest ads on massive screens in city squares, digital signage has quickly become an important and ubiquitous part of our lives,” said Matt Skynner, corporate vice president and general manager of AMD Graphics.
“To enable these displays, the digital signage industry demands technology that can be regularly refreshed with new, feature-rich content. With the launch of the AMD FirePro W600 professional graphics card, AMD is helping advance the digital display wall industry by providing suppliers and developers with impressive display density, performance and exceptional value”.
FirePro W9000 is powered by a Tahiti graphics processing unit. Additionally, the adapter will possess 6 GB of GDDR5 memory. Professional graphics adapters are often used in video and 3D graphics design, so a large VRAM capacity is a must.
There is also the presence of six DirplayPorts to consider. It takes more than the average amount of virtual memory to display high-resolution images across so many screens, not to mention to ensure that visuals are rendered smoothly.
The card includes 2GB of RAM and can decode two simultaneous HD video streams. However, despite this power, the card only takes up a single slot in a PC and has a maximum power consumption set at a very modest 75W.
TV viewing Distances
Most people sit too far away from flat panel televisions. In order to provide an immersive viewing experience, the TV needs to occupy a certain minimal field of view. Plus, sitting too far away means that your eyes will not be able to view the extra detail that a high definition set offers. Recommendations can vary, but as a thumb rule, take the screen size in inches, multiply it by 1.5 and you get the ideal viewing distance (in inches). For instance, for a 40-inch HD set, you need to sit about 60 inches (5 feet) away for the optimum viewing experience with HD content.
Custom Keyboard Shortcuts in iOS
To make typing simpler on your iOS device, you can assign keyboard shortcuts to oft used phrases or sentences. Go to Settings > General > Keyboard and tap on Add New Shortcut – just type out the phrase you want to use, the shortcut for it and click save. Now when you are typing in any app, enter the shortcut and it will automatically enter the phrase it is assocciated with.
Using Gmail Aliases
Your one Gmail ID is actually many. Gmail aliases are a great way to filter incoming mails. The first way is to add a “+” icon after your username followed by text of your choice. For example , you can register on shopping sites with the ID “yourusername +firstname.lastname@example.org” and then set a filter for emails to this ID. The other way is to use dots. If your ID is username@gmail, mails sent to user.name@gmail or even us.er.na.me@gmail will still get delivered to your inbox.
The call barring feature, present in almost all phones now, allows you to restrict incoming or outgoing calls. This is useful when you are roaming out of your network or when you are handing your phone over to someone else and want to prevent misuse. Usual settings include restricting all incoming /outgoing calls, outgoing international calls or calls when roaming. Go to Settings > Call Settings and open the sub menu for call barring. Here you can set a restriction of your choice. If available, set a password so that no one else can change the settings.
Volume levels on iPod
Many songs have different volume levels, especially when they’re different audio formats and obtained from different sources. You’ll notice that when listening to songs using earphones, levels can keep changing, forcing you to adjust the volume. On most iPods, Apple has included a setting called ‘Sound Check’ – when switched on, it automatically adjusts (normalises) volume levels of different tracks to similar levels. To activate this feature, head to Settings > Music > Sound Check. Note that Sound Check only works with the default music player.
Leave a CD inside your DVD player
It’s an unfortunate (and completely overlooked) design flaw, but almost all CD/DVD players have their lenses facing upwards. And the biggest enemy of the lens is dust, which always settles down. Accumulation of dust on a lens leads to several issues – slower loading times, read errors (skips, pops) or a complete failure to read. The easiest way to prevent this is to simply leave a disc inside the player at all times. The disc completely covers the lens and acts as a shield that prevents dust from settling. If you haven’t used your CD player for a long time, make sure to eject the disc first and clean it before playing.
How to Tweak Equalizers
When tweaking audio equalizers, almost everyone increases the levels to boost certain frequencies . However, it’s way better if you first move all the frequencies to the zero position (flat) and then lower the ones you want reduced. For instance, if you want more bass, leave the lower frequency bars (often denoted by Hertz or Hz) at the zero or flat level and move the higher frequency (often denoted by KiloHertz or KHz) bars down. To compensate, simply increase the volume a bit. These settings will give you ‘sweeter sound’, protect your speakers from damage, reduce overall distortion and prevent the automatic limiter (found in most audio systems now) from kicking in.
USB Drive as RAM
On a Windows PC (Vista and later), you can use a highspeed USB flash drive to increase performance. The feature, called ReadyBoost, can be enabled by right clicking a connected USB drive in ‘My Computer’ and selecting ‘Properties’. It works best if you dedicate a 4GB drive for this purpose (don’t use the same drive to store files).
8 More Quick Tips
1) You can find out details about the owner of any particular website from www. whois.com/whois.
2) You can send emails with attachments within Facebook – compose a new message & enter the email ID in the ‘To’ field.
3) As long as an HDMI cable works, you won’t be able to tell the difference between one that costs 200 & 2,000.
4) In Windows machines, use hibernate instead of sleep or shut down – it’ll start up faster and won’t use up the battery.
5) If a CD is too scratched to read, cleaning it with white toothpaste or Brasso can get it working once or twice.
6) You might be able to temporarily revive a non-functional hard drive by placing it inside a freezer for 12 hours.
7) Use proxy sites like as www. vtunnel.com or http://www.graph. ws to access a website that has been blocked by your ISP.
8) Even on standby, most devices consume a small amount of power (vampire power). Unplug them to save money in the long run.
For decades, Microsoft has made the software that runs a majority of the world’s personal computers, leaving a gang of outside hardware companies to design the machines. Apple, its rival, makes it all.
Microsoft is about to concede that Apple may be onto something.
On Monday, Microsoft is expected to introduce a tablet computer of its own design that runs a new version of its Windows operating system, according to people with knowledge of Microsoft’s plans who declined to be identified discussing confidential matters. It is the first time in the company’s 37-year history that it will offer a computer of its own creation. The device is aimed squarely at Apple’s blockbuster iPad, which has begun to threaten Microsoft’s hegemony in the computer business.
Microsoft’s move is another example of how Apple has demonstrated that the most effective way to create easy-to-use consumer gadgets is by building the whole package — upending the longstanding practice in the technology industry of companies’ devoting their energies to either hardware or software. Google, too, has made a big concession to Apple’s approach, signaling with its acquisition of Motorola Mobility last year that it will also design its own devices.
Frank Shaw, a Microsoft spokesman, declined to comment.
For Microsoft, the decision to make its own tablet would once have been almost unthinkable. Microsoft swallowed the PC market in the 1980s and 1990s by letting any hardware maker pay licensing fees to put Windows on its machines. That business was so lucrative for Microsoft that there was no reason for the company to make its own PCs and compete for computer sales with its own partners.
The stunning success of Apple, now the most highly valued company in the world, has shown its rivals that they can no longer rely entirely on the business models that were so successful during an earlier era of the tech industry.
With the iPad, Apple coupled hardware and software together in an elegant package, producing longer battery life, a more responsive touch screen and other features competitors have not been able to match.
“If it’s true that Microsoft is going to produce its own tablet, it’s a major turning point for the company and shows just how breathtakingly the landscape has changed in a just a few years,” said Brad Silverberg, a venture capitalist in Seattle and former Microsoft executive, who said he had no knowledge of the company’s plans. “The stakes are enormous.”
In the smartphone business, Google initially followed Microsoft’s playbook by making its Android operating system available to any hardware maker who wanted it, a move that helped turn Android into the top operating system for smartphones. The search company’s hardware partners were far less successful, though, in selling Android tablets to the public, which were often criticized for being inferior to the iPad.
Last year though, Google announced plans to pay $12.5 billion to acquire Motorola Mobility, a maker of Android smartphones and tablets. That deal, which was completed last month, was seen as a big shift in strategy for Google that will help it create better Android smartphones and tablets.
Microsoft and Google are not entirely embracing Apple’s approach. Even as they design their own devices, they both will continue to make their software available to hardware companies that want to base their products on them. Microsoft has already publicly demonstrated devices from hardware makers like Samsung running Windows 8, the next version of its operating system.
Microsoft has invited the media to an event in Los Angeles Monday afternoon, where it is expected to show its tablet device. The entertainment industry Web site The Wrap earlier reported that Microsoft planned to announce a tablet at the event.
For Microsoft, making a tablet is a risky venture. Even with the emerging competition from the iPad, Windows remains one of the greatest franchises the technology industry has known, accounting for $4.6 billion in sales during the most recently reported quarter. Those sales are rooted in Microsoft’s alliance with its hardware partners. The plans could erode the commitment those partners have to Windows since Microsoft will effectively be competing with them for sales.
Also, Microsoft has a mixed track record in making hardware. It makes the popular Xbox 360, but that device sustained years of losses and manufacturing problems before it became a success. Microsoft failed with the Zune, a music player that was designed to compete with the iPod.
But there is also great risk for Microsoft in betting entirely on its old way of working with PC companies. The iPad has already begun to steal sales from low-end Windows laptops, though most people still aren’t using tablets for hard-core tasks like writing long documents and building big spreadsheets.
Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, has repeatedly predicted that tablet computers will eventually outsell traditional computers in part because of their simplicity.
In its most recent quarter, Apple’s revenue from the iPad was $6.59 billion, more than Microsoft’s sales of Windows.
Microsoft’s move is a vindication of sorts for Steve Jobs, Apple’s late chief executive and long the technology industry’s most vocal advocate for making both hardware and software. Mr. Jobs often said that the only way to create superior technology products was to “make the whole widget.”
Many technology executives these days have come around to thinking like that, saying that conceiving hardware and software together is especially important with consumer devices like the iPad because of how things like poor battery life and unresponsive touch screens can ruin consumers’ enjoyment of the devices.
“In consumer technology, tight integration of hardware and software produces a demonstrably better platform,” said Roger McNamee, a veteran technology investor with Elevation Partners, a Silicon Valley private equity firm. “But that is only the first step in competing with Apple. Now Microsoft has to deliver functionality superior to iPad in a package consumers want to buy.”
A longtime Microsoft executive, Steven Sinofsky, is leading the company’s tablet effort. Mr. Sinofsky took over the company’s Windows division several years ago, helping to lead a turnaround in the business after the release of Windows Vista, which was widely criticized for early technical flaws.
Mr. Sinofsky’s first step in responding to the iPad was to oversee the most drastic change in the design of the operating system in years so that it could take better advantage of touch screens. That new version of the software, Windows 8, is expected to be released this October on an array of devices, including more traditional-looking computers.
The Microsoft tablet is expected to use a variation of Windows 8, known as Windows RT, that is designed specifically for tablet devices based on a class of microprocessors called ARM chips. That is the same class of chips inside the iPad and other mobile devices.
NEW YORK: It knows who you are. It knows where you live. It knows what you do. It peers deeper into American life than the FBI or the IRS, or those prying digital eyes at Facebook and Google.
If you are an American adult, the odds are that it knows things like your age, race, sex, weight, height, marital status, education level, politics, buying habits, household health worries, vacation dreams – and on and on.
Right now in Conway, Ark, north of Little Rock, more than 23,000 computer servers are collecting, collating and analysing consumer data for a company that, unlike Silicon Valley’s marquee names, rarely makes headlines. It’s called the Acxiom Corp, and it’s the quiet giant of a multibillion-dollar industry known as database marketing.
Few consumers have heard of Acxiom. But analysts say that it has amassed the world’s largest commercial database on consumers – and that it wants to know much, much more. Its servers process more than 50 trillion data “transactions” a year. Company executives have said its database contains information about 500 million active consumers worldwide, with about 1,500 data points per person. That includes a majority of adults in the United States.
Such large-scale data mining and analytics – based on information available in public records, consumer surveys and the like – are perfectly legal. Acxiom’s customers have included big banks like Wells Fargo and HSBC, investment services like E(AST)Trade, automakers like Toyota and Ford, department stores like Macy’s – just about any major company looking for insight into its customers.
For Acxiom, based in Little Rock, the setup is lucrative. It posted profit of $77.26 million in its latest fiscal year, on sales of $1.13 billion.
But such profits carry a cost for consumers. Federal authorities say current laws may not be equipped to handle the rapid expansion of an industry whose players often collect and sell sensitive financial and health information yet are nearly invisible to the public. In essence, it’s as if the ore of our data-driven lives were being mined, refined and sold to the highest bidder, usually without our knowledge – by companies that most people rarely even know exist.
Although Acxiom employs a chief privacy officer, Jennifer Barrett Glasgow, she and other executives declined requests to be interviewed for this article, said Ines Rodriguez Gutzmer, director of corporate communications.
In March, however, Barrett Glasgow endorsed increased industry openness. “It’s not an unreasonable request to have more transparency among data brokers,” she said in an interview with The New York Times. In marketing materials, Acxiom promotes itself as “a global thought leader in addressing consumer privacy issues and earning the public trust.”
But, in interviews, security experts and consumer advocates paint a portrait of a company with practices that privilege corporate clients’ interests over those of consumers and contradict the company’s stance on transparency. Acxiom’s marketing materials, for example, promote a special security system for clients and associates to encrypt the data they send. Yet cybersecurity experts who examined Acxiom’s website for The Times found basic security lapses on an online form for consumers seeking access to their own profiles.