Wednesday, April 29, 2009

WHDI 2.0 chipset could mean wireless 1080p HDTV everywhere

We've raved about WHDI (Wireless Home Digital Interface) before, watching its astonishingly clear 1080p video through walls from 100 feet away at CES, and naming it one of the best nine products we saw at CES 2009. Now semiconductor company Amimon, the mastermind behind this high-powered HDTV technology, has created the final chipset for WHDI 2.0, improving on its 1080i predecessor so that now it can transmit 1080p video at a latency of under 1 millisecond. The best news is, outboard devices (dongles) containing this transmission/receiving tech "could be selling for $200-300 within a year," according to Amimon, and eventually, the chipset, which costs $45 now, is eventially expected to add only about $10 to the cost of a product, the company told DVICE.

What's so great about WHDI? You'll be able to connect a TV wirelessly to a home theater receiver, TV can be extra-slim TV because they don't need all of those internal electronics. Or, think of being able to watch and control a Blu-ray disk wirelessly from your home theater on any TV in the house, even 100 feet away. Imagine being able to play and control your Xbox 360 located in the bedroom, wirelessly while you sit in your home theater. That's what's coming with WHDI 2.0.

Expect to see the first improbably thin TVs loaded this 1080p wireless tech by the end of the year, and lots more TVs, AV receivers, projectors, PCs and laptops with WHDI on board at next year's CES. It's about time — we've been watching the development of this technology for three years. Now, a combination of Amimon manufacturing a final chipset, and the industry finally agreeing on a WHDI standard in the next couple of months, might mean that soon, wireless 1080p video could be everywhere.

Here's Amimon's press release:

AMIMON's Second Generation Wireless 1080p Chipset Now Available

Chips to enable HDTVs to Support the WHDI Standard

Santa Clara, Calif. - April 29, 2009 - AMIMON Inc., the market leader in wireless HD semiconductor solutions, announced today the immediate availability of its second generation baseband chipset. The second generation transmitter and receiver chips (AMN 2120/2220) are designed for the WHDI™ (Wireless Home Digital Interface™) standard and are the first chipset capable of wirelessly delivering full uncompressed 1080p/60Hz HD content throughout the entire home.

The second generation chipset is based on the revolutionary video modem technology operating in the 5GHz unlicensed band, pioneered by AMIMON and the backbone of WHDI. The robustness of AMIMON's video modem technology has been proven in consumers' homes with AMIMON's first generation chipset which was integrated into wireless HDTV products from leading TV manufactures. The second generation chipset offers significant enhancements both in quality and in feature-set.

Key features of AMIMON's AMN 2120/2220 include:

* Designed for the WHDI standard
* HD video: 1080p/60Hz & high quality computer graphics; equivalent video rates up to 3Gbps
* Range: multi-room - beyond 100 feet (30 meters) through walls
* Latency: less than 1 millisecond
* Hollywood approved HDCP 2.0 copy protection
* Low power consumption modes for portable devices
* Low cost - mass adoption price points
* 5GHz unlicensed band with support for Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS)

The second generation chipset provides CE manufacturers with a low cost HD wireless connectivity solution. The chipset is built on a programmable platform that can be tuned for conformance with the WHDI standard specification. The chipset interfaces directly with the video I/O's, saving the cost of any additional

components such as CODEC chips, memory buffers and controls.

The AMN 2120/2220 chipset can be embedded into CE devices such as LCD and plasma HDTVs, multimedia projectors, A/V receivers, Blu-ray DVD players, set-top boxes (STBs), game consoles, computers, DVRs, PCs and HD video accessories/dongles, allowing wireless streaming of uncompressed HD video and audio.

The WHDI standard, promoted by the top CE manufacturers is the only standard to enable whole home, wireless uncompressed HDTV connectivity.

"The first generation chipsets received considerable interest, as AMIMON sold over 100,000 chipsets in 2008 and we expect increased demand for the second generation chipsets," said Noam Geri, vice president of marketing and business development for AMIMON. "AMIMON's first generation chipset made wireless HDTV in the home a reality; the second generation WHDI chipset will make mass-market, interoperable standard-based wireless connectivity in every home a reality."

"Among home entertainment enthusiasts 1080p HDTVs are in high demand and ease of use technologies, such as a wireless interface alternative, are expected to see increasing demand from consumers" said Randy Lawson, Senior Analyst, Digital TV Semiconductor and Display Drivers for iSuppli. "AMIMON's technology provides an effective solution to meet the growing consumer, as well as OEM, desire for ease of use features while maintaining the high quality 1080p."

AMIMON's second generation chipsets and reference designs are available now. AMN2120 and AMN2220 interface directly to AMIMON RF transceivers AMN3110 and AMN3210 respectively. Pricing for production quantities of the WHDI transmitter chipset AMN 2120/3110 is $20 and of the WHDI receiver chipset AMN 2220/3210 is $25. Companies, engineers and developers interested in additional information should contact AMIMON at

For further technical details please visit:


AMIMON is a fabless semiconductor company pioneering wireless uncompressed high-definition video for universal connectivity among CE video devices. AMIMON is a founding member of the WHDI™ (Wireless Home Digital Interface) SIG formed by leading CE companies to define a new industry standard for multi-room wireless HDTV connectivity.

AMIMON is headquartered in Herzlia, Israel, with offices in Santa Clara, Calif., USA; Tokyo, Japan; and Seoul, Korea. More information is available at and

WHDI is a trademark of AMIMON, Ltd. All other trademarks or registered trademarks are those of their respective holders.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Computer Buyers Have to Consider System Upgrades

Computer Buyers Have to Consider System Upgrades
Published on April 22, 2009
by Walter S. Mossberg

If you’re shopping for a computer now, there’s an added factor to consider. Later this year, both of the major computer operating systems, Microsoft’s Windows Vista and Apple’s Mac OS X Leopard, will be replaced with major new versions: Windows 7 and Mac OS X Snow Leopard. And that affects what PC hardware you should choose.

So, in this annual spring computer buyer’s guide, I’ll pay particular attention to buying a machine for the new OS you may soon want.

This guide covers both laptops and desktops and is aimed at average users doing typical tasks. It doesn’t apply to hard-core gamers or video, audio or photo professionals.

Cost: Prices on Windows PCs have plummeted. You can buy a Windows desktop for under $300, without a monitor, and a low-end, full-size Windows laptop for around $500. If you are willing to settle for a so-called netbook — essentially just a small, cheap laptop running the aging Windows XP operating system — you can get a decent one for $350, or less. Even Apple, which has resisted this cut-rate trend, is offering modestly lower prices or higher specs for the same prices as before.

Timing: Despite the bargains, you may want to wait to buy, if you can, until the new operating systems emerge. That’s because it’s usually easier and cheaper to buy a new machine preloaded with a new OS. You don’t have to pay extra for the new OS or hassle with performing the upgrade. Neither Microsoft (MSFT) nor Apple (AAPL) has set a date for their new OS releases, but both are likely by the holiday buying season.

This is especially true if you are thinking of buying a Windows Vista machine. Vista is slow and filled with annoying nag screens. Based on my tests of its prerelease, or beta, version, Windows 7 will be a huge improvement.

Windows vs. Mac: Apple’s hardware is beautiful and durable, and its OS is faster, easier and more stable than today’s Windows. Plus, the Mac isn’t susceptible to the vast majority of malicious software. Windows 7 will narrow this gap considerably, but Snow Leopard could keep Apple ahead, depending on how it turns out.

But Apple computers cost more upfront. The cheapest Mac desktop, the bare-bones Mac Mini, costs $599. And the cheapest Mac laptop is $999. So, if price is your top priority, buy a Windows PC. If speed, ease of use and stability matter more, buy a Mac.

Upgrading: Microsoft promises that upgrading a Vista machine to Windows 7 will be a straightforward process, preserving all of your files, programs and settings.

It’s a different story for Windows XP. Upgrading from that OS will be a cumbersome, multi-step process, requiring users to offload their files, wipe out the old operating system completely, and then reload the files and reinstall their programs. This is a particular problem for buyers of netbooks, nearly all of which come with XP.

In addition, Microsoft’s version of Windows 7 for netbooks, called the Starter Edition, is crippled. It can run only three programs at any one time, and won’t allow any customization of the desktop or the use of Windows 7’s snazzy graphical features. Microsoft says netbook owners also will be able to run the main Home version of Windows 7, at extra cost, but given the weak processors and graphics chips on netbooks, the experience may not be optimal.

Apple, which doesn’t make netbooks, claims Snow Leopard will be an easy upgrade on all currently available Macs.

Memory: Neither company has released the official specs for the two new operating systems, but both are likely to require a minimum of 1 gigabyte of memory. Such specs are usually understated, so I strongly recommend 2 gigabytes, even on cheap machines.

Graphics: In the new operating systems, adequate graphics chips will be more important than ever, because the computers will offload some tasks typically performed by the main processor onto the graphics chip. So, if possible, spring for what’s called a discrete graphics processor, which has its own memory. If you can’t afford this, look for an integrated graphics chip, which shares your main memory, that’s as powerful as possible. One example is the Nvidia 9400.

Processor: Microsoft and Apple say current processors will work fine with the new operating systems. The best bet is a dual-core processor. Some bargain machines use an older single-core model, which is OK for light-duty use. Netbooks, and even some laptops and desktops, come with a much wimpier processor called the Intel (INTC) Atom, which struggles at some tasks.

Touch screens: Windows 7 will include the ability to perform many multitouch gestures on the screen. But this will require a special type of touch screen, different from the ones on most tablet PCs today. A few current models, like Hewlett-Packard’s TouchSmart desktop, support this, but not many. So, if you’d like to use multitouch on Windows 7, ask to make sure your PC can handle it.

The bottom line: Don’t buy more machine than you can afford, or need. But protect yourself by getting one that can be upgraded to the new operating systems.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Future of the Phone: The End of the Cell

The Future of the Phone: The End of the Cell
by Douglas Wolk | See Archive reports: Soon "anytime minutes," "roll-over minutes," and even your mobile-phone contract will seem as quaint as the corner pay phone.
ost Americans now have mobile phones, and a Nielsen Mobile report last year found that nearly one in five of us have cut the cord, abandoning our landline service entirely. Danny Kessler of Tempe, Arizona, is one of those people, except he has gone the next step: He recently gave up his cell-phone contract too. Kessler's no hermit: He's a 27-year-old personal-safety instructor who has to be in touch with his clients. He just does all his telephoning via the internet. Today Kessler is an anomaly, but internet telephony (a.k.a. voice-over-internet-protocol, or VoIP) is in a position to dominate the phone business of the future just as mobile usurped the throne of the hard-wired handset.

It may seem outlandish to imagine the phone networks being supplanted by VoIP, which is currently hobbled by spotty internet access and mobile carriers protecting their interests. But only a few years ago it would have seemed equally unlikely that Americans would jilt stable old Ma Bell in favor of their bulky, glitchy, expensive mobile phones. Yet VoIP has one huge factor in its favor: It is very, very cheap. Kessler pays $18 per month for his phone service, a figure that, in his words, "is a lot less expensive than a traditional phone." In the middle of this economic crunch he's not alone in his thinking, and already VoIP is starting to turn some $40 landlines and even mobile contracts into unnecessary luxuries: According to a recent Yankee Group report, 5.2 percent of Americans already use VoIP as their primary home phone.

What allowed mobiles to decimate the traditional phone market was comprehensive, reliable portability—the assurance that you could make and receive calls basically anywhere you went. Before it can replace them, VoIP will have to be a lot more portable too. At the moment, internet telephony generally works best over wired or WiFi internet connections. Recently, however, VoIP became available for the phone-contract-free iPod Touch, making it functionally as much a phone as the regular iPhone, except without the two-year AT&T contract.

The catch, however, is that to use VoIP from a mobile device like the iPod Touch (or, for that matter, an iPhone) there must be a wireless hotspot handy. Yet, there are a couple of reasons to think that WiFi may become as ubiquitous in the next few years as cell-phone coverage is now. One possibility is that omnipresent wireless internet access may come to be considered a basic public utility—something any modern city provides as part of its infrastructure. Philadelphia, for instance, has been struggling for a few years to set up a citywide WiFi network; Mountain View, California, has cracked the problem by having Google take care of it.

Another possibility is that mobile networks that already exist will open up to VoIP companies like Vonage, Skype, and Google Voice. That's a scary prospect for them, because it effectively redefines them from "the company you pay for mobile-phone service (and maybe get some data over your phone too)" to "the company you pay for your handheld computer to be connected to the internet." In other words, wireless carriers will have to lower their drawbridges and allow two-cent-or-less-a-minute VoIP calls (for which they're not getting paid at all) to compete with their current, much higher rates. Those rates would have to fall, because if one can make calls via VoIP over an internet-enabled handset, there would be no reason to pay a premium for cell-phone minutes. The mobile networks might have to get used to the new financial reality pretty soon, though: the WiMAX data carrier Clearwire is already testing VoIP phones for its network in Portland, Oregon.

In the meantime, Kessler has discovered that today's limited WiFi access already lets him be as mobile as he needs to be. "A lot of places now have free WiFi," he says. "I operate in an office affiliated with Arizona State—it's got a big WiFi hotspot. Any place there's a computer, I can log into Skype and plug in my headphones." So far, he claims, he hasn't run into any situations where he's needed to make a call but hasn't been able to get online. "It hasn't been much of an issue. I respond pretty fast to most communication, but I find after having a cell phone for 10 years I like to shut everything down and have time for reflection."

Embed powerpoint presentations into your website using Google Docs

Presentation is the prime way to success, be it in a website or in business or in real life. A nice way would be to publish your powerpoint presentation to your company website, so that you can make an impression that you are not talking crap but are serious about your work.

For embedding a powerpoint presentation on your website, Go to Google Docs and upload your presentation, then click on share and you will get the embed code.

I used this method to do an online presentation for my dad’s company website, where the presentation is embedded on the page. See example.

As mentioned, your customers will be able to read the presentation online, without downloading the files. Along with this you can leave a link to download the actual powerpoint file and leave a nice impression of professionalism on your customer/visitor.


There is another site which is quite good for sharing power point presentations, and embedding them in various sites - it is
April 21st, 2009 at 20:29 | #2
Reply | Quote

I have been using google docs for some time now and i really find it useful especially when i need to go somewhere and need to access my files. With google docs you never need to think about the compatibility of your files when you use other computers because you can already edit, share and do a lot of things right there… It’s like having your own personal computer anywhere and anytime.

Gmail accounts hacked via unpatched hole

By Scott Spanbauer

Exploits allowing hackers to break into Gmail accounts are likely to occur, if they're not already circulating, after security researchers released details of a hole that Google has reportedly declined to patch.

There are steps you can take to reduce the risk of using a webmail account, but it appears that the usual tricks won't solve the Gmail problem until Google fixes the software.

The weakness that researchers say afflicts Gmail, a free e-mail service hosted by Google, belongs to a class of attacks known as cross-site request forgery (CSRF, pronounced "sea surf").

Besides Gmail, CSRF holes affecting YouTube, Netflix, and have also been found and repaired in the past. CSRF attacks use security flaws in cookies, password requests, and other interactive Web components to intercept communications between your browser and a Web site's server.

The first report of the Gmail problem within security circles was written by Vicente Aguilera Díaz of Internet Security Auditors (ISA) on July 30, 2007. The next day, ISA issued an alert and included a proof of concept illustrating how the exploit could be used to change a Gmail account password.

After more than a year during which, according to ISA, Google was repeatedly contacted privately about the problem researchers publicly released a detailed description of the exploit on March 3, 2009, according to a Secure Computing article.

The magazine quoted an unnamed Google spokesman as saying, "We've been aware of this report for some time, and we do not consider this case to be a significant vulnerability, since a successful exploit would require correctly guessing a user's password within the period that the user is visiting a potential attacker's site."

Considering that an automated attack can test thousands of passwords in a matter of seconds, you might not be very reassured by Google's position. Many PC users select weak passwords that consist of common names or dictionary words, leaving them susceptible to brute-force discovery. And the general release of the CSRF technique makes it easy for hackers to write opportunistic code, if actual exploits aren't already in the wild.

The March 3 public disclosure should not be confused with an earlier Gmail CSRF flaw that was first reported on Jan. 1, 2007. Google repaired that problem by the following day, according to a blog post by software consultant Hari Gottipati.

CSRF attacks — which are also referred to as session-riding — are different from the more-widely known cross-site scripting (XSS) exploits. XSS holes allow a malicious Web site that's open in one browser window to inject JavaScript into another site's page that's open in a separate window or tab. Once the unwanted script is running on a PC, the code can try to collect private data and passwords and transmit them back to the attacker's server.

XSS vulnerabilities have recently been discovered and patched in many browsers and on many sites, including Yahoo Mail and Hotmail as well as Gmail.

Provide some protection for webmail with https

Google, Yahoo, and other Internet services cover themselves by stating that you use the services at your own risk. A major threat of using any webmail service is that a hacker could swipe or guess your password and take over your account.

If your Google account includes such personal information as stored credit card numbers (for Google Shopping, for instance), a contact list, photos, and business or financial documents, having your account hacked could be more than just an inconvenience.

One way for an attacker to steal passwords — especially given the ubiquity of open, unencrypted Wi-Fi networks — is to use software that "sniffs" Internet traffic. If you enter your username and password on a Web page without encryption, your inputs are transmitted as plain text, not just over a Wi-Fi connection but also through every router that happens to be located between you and the service's machine.

Fortunately, the Big Three webmail services — Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Hotmail — and many other Web sites provide protection for their sign-in sessions using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption. SSL enables a Web browser to scramble any sign-in data before pumping it out naked across the Internet's plumbing.

To determine whether a site encrypts its sign-in procedure, look in your browser's address bar. The page's URL should begins with https (Hypertext Transfer Protocol over SSL), as shown in Figure 1. Unencrypted pages use the http protocol.

Secure https connection to Gmail
Figure 1. Look for the https protocol in a browser's address bar, which indicates an encrypted connection.

Seeing the https protocol or the well-known "lock" icon in a browser's status bar is no guarantee that a particular site is legitimate, of course. The Anti-Phishing Working Group offers information on how these indicators can be spoofed by hackers as well as some tips to help you avoid scams.

If a sign-in page uses the https protocol, however, it's unlikely that your password will be sent as plain text across the Internet.

Gmail's sea-surf hole can't be closed by SSL

Some reports on the Web, such as an article at, say using https during your Gmail sessions blocks CSRF attacks on the service.

Unfortunately, that's not the case for this Gmail hole, according to ISA's Aguilera. In an e-mail interview conducted in Aguilera's native Spanish, he said the flaw allows a hacker to take advantage of an encrypted session (the following is my translation from the original language):

* "In this vulnerability, the attacker causes the victim to generate, invisible to the victim, a request to the server (in which request the victim's authenticated session cookie is also transmitted).

"When the server receives the request, it sees that it comes from an authenticated session (the victim's), and thus is unable detect that, in reality, the request was instigated by the attacker.

"In other words, it's as if the victim/user actually created the request to the server, and the fact that the communication is encrypted is unrelated and doesn't prevent the attack."

Using https does prevent traffic sniffing and so-called man-in-the-middle attacks, so you should enable it regardless of whether Gmail's CSRF hole is ever patched.

To benefit from encryption when accessing Gmail, you should configure the service to use SSL by default. To do so, click Settings in the top-right corner of the main Gmail window, select Always use https in the "Browser connection" section at the bottom of the General tab, and click Save Changes.

Using encryption will slow Gmail's performance slightly, but this small price is worth it. The https protocol will encrypt not just your sign-in sessions but also the contents of your e-mails when they're sent between your browser and Google's servers.

POP3 and IMAP protect Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail

Sadly, Yahoo Mail and Hotmail don't provide a similar Always use https setting. But you can protect these two services' data, and also defeat Gmail's CSRF hole, by using a PC-based e-mail reader and retrieving your messages via the long-established POP3 or IMAP protocols.

When you use a PC-based client like Mozilla Thunderbird to read and send webmail, SSL encryption can prevent eavesdropping. Using IMAP or POP3 also gives you the option to delete sensitive messages that would otherwise remain on the remote server. (I rated Thunderbird and other free e-mail clients in a July 31, 2008, comparative review.)

IMAP and POP3 are supported by the free versions of both Gmail and Hotmail. Yahoo supports POP3, but only in the paid version of Yahoo Mail (U.S. $20 per year).

For instructions on using a PC-based client to retrieve messages from a webmail service, using Hotmail as an example, there's a step-by-step article on the subject at

Using https when signing in — and encryption when processing your webmail — makes it less likely your password or other personal information will be sniffed. This makes your webmail safer, no matter how long it may take before Google fixes the CSRF hole that has security researchers in a huff.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Coming War Between Netflix And Comcast (NFLX)

Dan Frommer|Apr. 22, 2009, 7:00 AM|comment16
Tags: Media, Cable, Telecom, Video, Netflix

NFLX Apr 22 2009, 09:37 AM EDT
45.85 Change % Change
-0.75 -1.61%
Someday, online streaming could be very important to Netflix's (NFLX) business. But that's not in the immediate future. And as the digital movie rental business develops, Netflix will likely compete more with cable companies like Comcast -- and less with online video upstarts like YouTube.

Netflix shares, which have been shooting through the roof since last November, closed down 6% Tuesday -- dropping as much as 9.7% -- while the Dow and Nasdaq closed up 2%. Why the sudden drop? In part because of a negative report Tuesday morning from a Wall Street analyst.

Lazard Capital's Barton Crockett launched coverage with a SELL rating and a $34 price target, according to a summary by Barron's. One reason: Crockett thinks Netflix's standing in the streaming movie market "will be meaningfully eroded in coming months" by YouTube and Hulu.

Crockett -- at least from the summary on Barron's -- seems to be warning investors about the wrong rivals. When digital delivery matters in a few years, instead of worrying about YouTube and Hulu, Netflix will need to worry more about cable companies like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, and AT&T. Why? Because while Google's YouTube is a popular Web video site for goofy clips, and it's starting to make deals to put feature films on its site, it is not going to be a huge movie site any time soon. Why not?

First, because it does not have any compelling content on it. Have you seen the full-length movies and TV shows on YouTube? They are the kind of titles you'd buy for $3.99 at Walgreen's. And that's not likely to change soon. Movie studios don't get much money from Internet ads, and they still get a lot of money from DVDs, so they're not in a hurry to put anything great online for free.

And second, because people still want to watch feature films on their big, flat-panel TVs, not their laptops. YouTube and Hulu -- and, indeed, Netflix -- require people to buy a new gadget to watch movies on their TVs. That's one of a few important areas where cable has an edge.

* Cable companies already have digital set-top boxes in tens of millions of living rooms, where people want to watch movies.
* Cable companies own their own networks, fine-tuned for video -- while Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu ride over the public Internet, which cable companies control access to -- and want to make more expensive.
* And cable companies already have long-standing, lucrative deals with movie studios, which they can leverage to get the best content, availability dates, etc.

Anything's possible, so maybe YouTube will someday offer a $20 plastic thing that hooks into the back of your TV, connects to a free Google WiMax network, and can stream free, ad-supported, first-run movies to your TV set.

But the more likely future is that cable companies will dominate digital movie delivery, with companies like Netflix, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft fighting for scraps, and YouTube and Hulu still mostly PC-based services.

* Share:
* Buzz Buzz
* Facebook Facebook
* Twitter Twitter
* Digg Digg
* Reddit Reddit
* StumbleUpon StumbleUpon
* ShareThis

Sponsored Link:
Video chat with more people, more chat rooms & more group video calls - Only with
See Also:
Why People Hate Cable Companies (TWC)
Time For Cable Companies To Fix Their Awful User Interfaces
Pay TV Survives Housing Crash, Hulu's Rise
Dan Frommer is Senior Editor of Silicon Alley Insider.
Contact him by

Work Phone:

Subscribe to his RSS feed | twitter feed
Recent Posts

* AT&T Wireless Strong, U-Vers...
* AT&T Activated 1.6 Million i...
* CHART OF THE DAY: Apple's Ma...

Matt Fisher said:
Apr. 22, 7:47 AM
I agree that Youtube and Hulu don't provide sufficient competition due to limitations on movie content and the quality of the streamed video. Hulu is the notable exception when it comes to TV show content. It is important to note that cable companies have been offering movies to rent for many years through services like Comcast's On Demand and Netflix managed to still become a dominant movie provider in that same time. Cable companies would have to change their business model to subscription based system in order to really challenge Netflix's dominance as it comes down to how much value you get per dollar spent.

I have Comcast, so I can't answer for other cable providers, which charges a fairly hefty rental fee for each video on top of the monthly charge for the On Demand service. I'm paying for the priviledge to have the option to pay for a 24 hour rental on a new release. If I changed my viewing habits to On Demand, not only do they lack the library of Netflix, I would be spending $50 to $100 per month with Comcast versus my $15 per month for Netflix. Basically, Netflix is a bargain with no tiered pricing for newer releases and you get to keep it for longer than what Comcast offers.

The value proposition that Comcast offers is one of immediate gratification, but that gratification may be limited in it's appeal to only certain customers. Most people I know are happy to be spending $15 instead of $50 to $100 per month for their movie viewing habits.

Finally, in defense of the streaming services you don't have to buy any fancy equipment to hook up your laptop or PC to your flatscreen TV, just a simple monitor cord as most mid-range flat panel TVs offer PC input connections. It's not HD quality, but a cheap and effective way to easily stream Netflix, Hulu, Youtube or any other site directly to your flatscreen TV. I don't need the $100 box from Netflix, the AppleTV or any other pointless device to bring me free web-based streaming videos, which look good even using a simple monitor cord.

Cable companies only become a viable threat if they decide to get into a price war, which will probably not happen as the movie studios will be very reluctant to give up their profit margin they receive for the On Demand service. Right now On Demand videos are more of a luxury compared to Netflix's inexpensive subscription service.
D.S. said:
Apr. 22, 7:48 AM
My family made the jump off of comcast and onto pure internet television for the positive. Better content, but no streaming news channels.... yet.

The big issue is price. Comcast cost $189 a month which included internet. We already had the flat panel TV and occasionally watched itunes movies on it. So adding FIOS, a mac mini and a wireless keyboard and then subscribing to netflixs for $9/month to get access to the streaming films was a perfect set-up. Add in hulu, veoh, itunes, and other sites and we get more as compared to just comcast. The net is 1 years subscription cost for cable (not internet) will pay for the mac mini... after that it's $9 a month for content. Seemed like a good deal as compared to $100+ a month for comcast.

I think the author is forgetting cost. Comcast is a good service, but unless you are hooked on live TV channels.... you can get all you need for free.....

Nathan S. said:
Apr. 22, 7:59 AM
I am actually pretty impressed with Netflix. I think that they have made a large step forward after they introduced streaming movies through the Xbox 360. This allows subscribers to access instant movies that are displayed on a TV of their choice. This choice was incredibly smart, because it taps in to the millions of people who already own 360s and will have virtually no hardware fee. I think if Netfilx can expand on this kind of service with other gaming consels, they will be greatly successful.
Dan Frommer (URL) said:
Apr. 22, 8:03 AM
Interesting points so far. Price is definitely an issue.

And I forgot that every time I write about this, tech-savvy people jump on me about hooking up your laptop to the TV with a monitor cord. Unless I'm crazy, I can't imagine the majority of people doing that.
David said:
Apr. 22, 8:03 AM
I will never go to comcast. Here is Cape Coral, FL, they have the worst service and when you need their help, they take forever to come to your house. Netflix, i like because it's simple and if i get a wrong DVD, they send the right one out, no questions ask. I prefer DirectTV. Better custmer service and fast response to any problems i have yet to see.
waldo said:
Apr. 22, 8:20 AM
I've got Charter. Suck on that Comcast!
Ray R said:
Apr. 22, 8:25 AM
I am not sure why you can't picture more people hooking a monitor cord from a laptop or PC to their TV. I know many who have done this. Remember it isn't just to watch online movies but to play games surf from your living room, show all those digital pictures to relatives, and much more. It is the new migration of digital content from your home PC to the family/living room. Yes to your point many adults may not have the tech savvy to do this but a large percentage of middle schoolers are perfectly capable of doing it or figuring it out .
I recently ditched my HBO, CINEMAX,SHOWTIME subscription in favor of Netflix. It has reduced my expense of movie watching considerably is only a small effort to use.
jammydevil said:
Apr. 22, 8:32 AM
Lazard Capital's Barton Crockett - Clueless!

Comcasts OnDemand is terrible. You have to PAY EXTRA for any good movies and the free ones are a joke.

I pay Netflix 14bucks a month I get my DVDs when I like and they have a great (and growing selection) of streamable content NOW.

A $99 box to connect netflix to my TV and I get all the content I need.
Don K said:
Apr. 22, 8:34 AM
Nobody mentioned RedBox ....

Dan Frommer (URL) said:
Apr. 22, 8:42 AM
Comcast will likely have to adjust its on-demand pricing and add a lot more free stuff.

Don K: Talking about streaming here, not kiosks.
gene said:
Apr. 22, 8:51 AM
Dan F like Henry B don't know what they are talking about. I look periodically at Silicon Alley Insider and it is amazing how much they are wrong. They seem to think that the more they say the better they look.

I have cable and netflix. Cable is too greedy to ever compete.
Bob H said:
Apr. 22, 9:01 AM
Everyone here has it wrong. The competition is not based upon content but BANDWIDTH! Broadband companies are working hard to end net neutrality and institute caps and packet inspection. Time Warner almost got away with a horrendous 40 GB/month, but they just said, "not yet." I was on Comcast until they started to implement their 250 GB cap, which currently could do maybe 100 movies at best per month on netflix (which is acceptable, but not fantastic considering the average family watches 4 hours a day of TV). But those are based upon LOW RES movies. In a few years, offering 1080p streaming will be expected. Do you actually think Comcast is going to cannibalize its own on demand by offering higher bandwidth caps? The other thing they have been doing is throttling traffic based upon the content. So my surfing experience was fast, but as soon as I started a netflix movie, I found myself getting 50 KB/s. That is not fast enough and I would turn off the movies. Comcast has a lot invested in their expensive to maintain on demand service. The general trend is toward the Internet for everything from phone, to data, to entertainment. American broadband companies desperately don't want this because at current internet prices vs other services they sell, they would lose big. That is why they are instituting caps and throttling. So when the consumers ultimately demand better service, it will be offered, but at a much higher price, such as $120 / month. But we won't blink an eye because we will justify it by cancelling our cable and telephone bills and everything will come out in a wash. DON'T BE FOOLED, THIS BATTLE IS NOT OVER CONTENT, BUT OVER BANDWIDTH! THOSE THAT CONTROL IT INTEND TO MAKE THEIR COMPETITION IRRELEVANT WITH CHOKED OFF BANDWIDTH!
Peter Nush said:
Apr. 22, 9:19 AM
Dan, regarding your follow-up comment: "And I forgot that every time I write about this, tech-savvy people jump on me about hooking up your laptop to the TV with a monitor cord. Unless I'm crazy, I can't imagine the majority of people doing that."

Something to keep in mind is the growing integration of Internet video viewing into HDTV's (i.e., Sony's BRAVIA, Samsung's 46B750, LG's 47LH50, etc.). This eliminates the need for consumers to hook up their PC to their HDTV, no matter how simple it becomes, and makes the barrier to adoption substantially lower/easier for the general consumer.

What impact does this integration trend have on your assessment of cable companies position in the market?

Krishna Boppana said:
Apr. 22, 9:20 AM
We are big fans of watching movies on demand. I got Roku for about 4 weeks now, got to tell you it is the best so far in the market for on demand movies. I was a Comcast subscriber and now Fios. Both of these providers charge hefty fee for movies on demand, only thing they eliminate is a trip to Blockbuster or waiting for movies to show up in the mail. Netflix On demand service is HD quality where available depending on movie and the Network speed. Best of all it is included in monthly subscription fee. With new Blue Ray DVD players capable of Networking (Samsung, LG), it is not going to be too long before you don't even have to buy $100 box for Netflix streaming. Also, Amazon Video On Demand is available if you have Roku, personally I won't pay $5 every time I watch an old movie. With providers fighting over winning the streaming set top boxes, technology, it is best to stay with a neutral box like Roku.
Jeff said:
Apr. 22, 9:26 AM
Dan, do you have Comcast? Do you understand how terrible that company is? I for one am waiting for U-Verse to improve here in MI and then it is so long and good ridence to Comcast. Their pricing is ridiculous, their service is horrendous, and their customer service makes me want to commit a crime.

How can you write an article and not consider cost as a factor? I will reiterate the rest of the commentors; Comcast rips you off for On-Demand rentals and will jack the price up once more people start to use the service (Economics is apparently not their strong suit). Not to mention their ridiculous pricing for "extras" along with their already bloated pricing i.e. Cable Modem rental, DVR service (the Motorola box is the biggest piece of junk on the planet), HD programing, Internet download limits, etc.

I for one have Netflix and Comcast. I love Netflix, and use their Mail and Streaming service reguarly. For $18.01 a month (including tax) for unlimited streaming, and 3 Discs at a time it's a bargin compared to getting HBO, Cinemax, or another Movie channel with Comcast. Note that I would be subjected to whatever titles those channels dictate, rather than my own selection.

As for your arguements about connecting to Netflix, Hulu (which I also use), etc you have forgotten about the latest technological releases. Several of the recently released Blu-ray players are now Netflix/streaming media ready. All they require are an Ethernet connection or wireless network. Also, as another commentor stated, the Xbox 360 and the most likely the new Wii have these connections built in as well. Most, if not all, of cable households have a gaming system or DVD player. Once these households decide to upgrade their technology (as was done with VHS to DVD and Playstation to Wii) they will have this new outlet for their media input buil-in.

In the end I do not care who wins the media delivery war, as long as Comcast losses. One can tell they there is a shift coming to the cable business e.g. the rise of Netflix, Hulu, U-Verse, and FiOS. I just hope they learn their ways, repent, and stop raping their customers with ever rising costs. I suggest that you do more research on your next articles, since you it is obvious you did 0 for this one.
Ed Fardos (URL) said:
Apr. 22, 9:43 AM
Netflix is fine. Comcast can't deliver basic television services, let alone network, video-on-demand, etc. I wonder if the analyst subscribes to a comcast service? Even with regional monopolies, comcast is a failure.

Maybe we'll be stimulated into FiOS everywhere!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

How To Convert Audio Cassettes & LPs to MP3 in 5 Easy Steps

What You Need Equipment 1. Computer with a sound card. Check that your sound card has a LINE IN jack (generally blue), and ensure that you have the latest drivers for your sound card. how to convert lp to mp3 2. Cassette Deck/Turntable. This is your audio source. You can use a tape deck, or an amplifier or receiver connected to a turntable. Whatever you use, the audio source should have RCA LINE OUT jacks (preferred) or at least a stereo-mini headphone jack. Clean the audio head and pinch roller of your tape deck with a clean cloth dabbed in alcohol. Also, forward and rewind your unused cassettes to remove residual moisture and ensure smooth playback. If using records, clean them to reduce clicks. 3. Audio Cable. One end of your cable will be a stereo-mini. Depending on the jack you use on the audio source, the other end should be either RCA or stereo-mini. Use a cable with gold-plated jacks for best results. convert lp to mp3 Software 1. Download and install Audacity 1.3 (Beta). We use the latest Beta version as it has better noise removal features. 2. Download and install the Lame Encoder. This is required for exporting to MP3 format. Steps 1. Connect your equipment Connect the deck’s LINE OUT or PHONES jack to the LINE IN jack on your computer using your audio cable. 2. Setup Audacity Start Audacity, select Edit-Preferences. In the Audio I/O section, set both playback and recording devices specifically to the sound card in which your cable is plugged. Do NOT use Microsoft Sound Mapper on Windows PCs. convert audio cassette to mp3 with Audacity Start playback from your audio source and adjust the volume level in Audacity. Click the down arrow next to the microphone icon and select Start Monitoring. While playing the loudest part of your audio track, adjust the input level slider on the Mixer Toolbar such that the meters almost reach the right end of the scale. If they actually reach the end such that they ‘hold’, reduce the input level to avoid distortion. convert lp to digital 3. Record Create a new project by selecting File-Save Project As. Start recording with the red Record button and start playback from your audio source. Use the blue Pause button between tracks or sides. When finished, press the yellow Stop button and save your project using File-Save Project. 4. Edit You will probably have unwanted noise in your recording, such as background hum, tape hiss, or vinyl record clicks. For removing noise, select the beginning of your recording where the playback has started with the hum and hiss, but the music is yet to start. To select, simply use the mouse to click and drag at the start of the track. Select Effect-Noise Removal, and click Get Noise Profile. Now, select the entire track by choosing Edit-Select-All, and choose Effect-Noise Removal again. Set the Noise Reduction (dB) slider to around 10 to 20 depending upon the level of noise in your source, set the other two sliders in the middle, and click OK. You can review the result by playing the track, using Edit-Undo and trying with different noise samples and slider levels. Removing Noise If you are using vinyl records as your input, you may want to try using Effect-Click Removal to remove unwanted clicks. Always feel free to experiment and undo as needed to get the best results. When you are satisfied, use File-Save Project to permanently save your edited track. 5. Export To export a single audio file, use File-Export As. Most likely, you will have multiple tracks or songs in your recording, and it makes sense to export them as multiple files. Ensure you have all the tracks recorded, using the Fit Project button on the Edit Toolbar. The number of ‘boxes’ or ‘balloons’ should correspond to the number of tracks. Using the zoom controls, click in the gap between songs, choose Tracks-Add Label at Selection. Name the labels as per your song titles. how to convert lp to digital Select File-Export Multiple, choose MP3 Files as the Export format. Click Options to use the built-in presets to select the quality of the MP3. Higher quality produces larger MP3 files. You can repeat the export several times with different options and check the results. You can also specify metadata tags to make it easier to organize your tracks in iTunes. Export Multiple Tracks That’s it, you’re done! You can discard those cassettes/LPs or gift them to your Grampa, now that you’ve got your favorite oldies music on your iPod. Let us know which record or tape albums you created in the comments! If you’re familiar with some other tool that can be used to convert LPs to MP3 please share it with others in comments as well. (Note: Some images are taken from the Audacity 1.3.7 Beta Manual, available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.)

How To Scan and Fax Documents Online for Free

Popular in the 1980’s, faxes are still around in many organizations and are the fastest and most reliable way to communicate via physical media. To give an example, PayPal requires you to verify your identity by sending a fax with copies of bank statement and government ID if it can’t process your card automatically.

In these kinds of situations, sending a fax for free as quickly as possible would certainly be useful. In this article, we’re taking a look at 4 websites that let you send fax online and come with a free or trial version.
1. faxZERO

The first one on our list is faxZERO. faxZERO allows you to send two free faxes a day, to the United States or Canada, as long as they don’t contain more than three pages each. Plus there is an ad on the cover page. Out of all the services we tested, faxZERO is the easiest to use and the only one that didn’t require creating an account.

faxzero - send fax online free

faxZERO also has a premium service that charges 1.99$ for each fax and limits the number of pages per fax at fifteen. If you need to send more than two faxes a day and you don’t want to pay for the premium service, you could consider deleting your browser cache and cookies and using another IP address, either through the TOR network, proxies or simply by resetting your router.
2. Qipit

Qipit is a more comprehensive service when compared to faxZERO. Instead of being just an online faxing service, Qipit helps you upload photos of documents, business cards or receipts from a mobile phone or digital camera, and improves the image quality through a patented technology called Realeyes3D. Next images can be emailed or faxed.

send fax from computer

The images you upload are stored online on Qipit’s servers and are also accessible online via the website.

You can upload photos via MMS, email or directly from your computer using the web interface.


Once your document is on Qipit, you can choose to either view a PDF version of it, email the document or fax it. Qipit’s image optimization technology proved to be quite powerful. I never expected that a photo taken with a mobile phone camera could actually be put to use.

The great thing about Qipit is that it’s free:

Qipit is a free service; this includes sending domestic and international faxes. The costs that you have to bare are related to what your wireless carrier charges you if you are using Qipit with your mobile device. –Qipit FAQ.

3. ScanR

ScanR, a service similar to Qipit. The trial subscription gives you only one upload and fax, but the premium account is only 4,99$/month or 29,99$/year. ScanR features OCR (optical character recognition), a slightly better designed interface and sharing capability.


An interesting quote from their help pages suggest that some fax numbers are restricted:

scanR currently sends fax to most phone numbers in East Asia, North America and Western Europe. scanR may block certain premium phone numbers and countries[…] –ScanR Help

You get the same uploading capabilities, via email, MMS or web interface.

Another cool feature of Scanr is that you can use is to convert document pictures that were obtained using you cell phone camera to a properly formatted document. Very useful for things like page captures from library books and lecture notes.

send fax from pc

Another faxing service is eFax. With eFax, you can also receive faxes, but unfortunately it requires you sign up for a 30 day trial using a credit card.

10 Youtube URL Tricks You Should Know About

Youtube - You know that site with videos and all. Yeah! It turns out that its quite popular and you happen to visit and use it quite often. Instead of just searching and playing here are some top Youtube URL tricks that you should know about:
1. View high quality videos

Youtube gives you the option to switch to high quality videos for some of the videos, however you can check if a video is available in high quality format by appending ‘&fmt=18′(stereo, 480 x 270 resolution) or ‘&fmt=22′(stereo, 1280 x 720 resolution) for even higher quality.
2. Embed Higher Quality Videos

While the above trick works for playback, if however you want to embed hig quality videos you need to append “&ap=%2526fmt%3D18″ and “&ap=%2526fmt%3D22″ to the embed url.
3. Cut the chase and link to the interesting part

Linking to a video where the real action starts at 3 minutes 22 seconds, wondered if you could make it start at 03:22? You are in luck. All you have to do is add #t=03m22s (#t=XXmYYs for XX mins and YY seconds) to the end of the URL.
4. Hide the search box

youtube url start time

The search box appears when you hover over an embedded video. To hide the search box add ‘&showsearch=0′ to the embed url.
5. Embed only a part of Video

youtube url to mp3

Just append ‘&start=30′ to skip first 30s of the video. In general you can modify the value after start= to the number of seconds you want to skip the video for.
6. Autoplay an embedded video

Normally when you embed a Youtube video and load the page, the player is loaded and it sits there waiting for you to hit the play button. You can make the video play automatically by adding ‘&autoplay=1′ to the url part of the embed code.
7. Loop an embedded video

Append ‘&loop=1′ to make the video start again without user intervention after it reaches the end.
8. Disable Related Videos

youtube url downloader

Publishing your content in the form of Youtube video? Don’t want people to see other people’s content that may be related but may as well be in competition to you? Just add ‘&rel=0′ to the end of the url part of the embed code and you just turned off the related video suggestions!
9. Bypass Youtube Regional Filtering

Some videos are only available in certain parts of the world. Your IP Address is used to determine your location and then allow or deny access to the video. Change the url from to
10. Download Video

Although not inherently a youtube trick but useful all the same for downloading videos. Just change youtube to kickyoutube in the url of the video and it will take you to with all the options for downloading the video you were watching.

Do you know of some similar Youtube URL tricks and hacks? Fire them in comments!

24 Comments Add Comment
2009-04-18 11:39:27

I also used
Change the url from

Reply to this comment
2009-04-18 23:39:39
Television Spy

Try out to download videos - it makes it easier, batch downloading and no downloads.

Reply to this comment
2009-04-18 11:40:23

KeepHD ( ) offers various download formats, in fact all those available:
“KeepHD is a sweet tool that lets you download HD videos off Youtube! Not only can you download HD copies of your movies, you can also download the mobile 3GP version for your mobile devices plus the standard MP4 and FLV format. Just enter your Youtube video URL below, and KeepHD will automatically grab each version of the video you want to download.”

Reply to this comment
2009-04-18 11:58:13

the bypass regional filtering doesn’t work. It still shows “Content not available in your country”

Reply to this comment
2009-04-18 15:26:35
Varun Kashyap

it seems to be working fine here.

Reply to this comment
2009-04-18 12:45:03
Aravind Jose T.

You can KISS youtube to download too.
If you aren’t good with kicking, that is :P

Reply to this comment
2009-04-18 12:49:10

I have found few… Check this blog

Reply to this comment
2009-04-18 14:00:06

installing the latest internet download manager also gives the download link of youtube videos.

Reply to this comment
2009-04-18 18:03:17
Subscribed to comments via email

sry trick 9 doesnt work….

Reply to this comment
2009-04-18 18:07:35
Kevin Montgomery
Subscribed to comments via email

Interesting info. Can you please show me an example of the “autoplay” used in a complete url? Before and after? I was just having trouble visualizing where to put the:
Thank you! Kevin

Reply to this comment
2009-04-18 18:35:34

Add &flip=1 to flip it all over. Not exactly useful but great for confusing people.

Reply to this comment
2009-04-18 18:42:52

yeah number 9 doesnt work for me also

Reply to this comment
2009-04-18 19:02:24

Thx kewwwww

Reply to this comment
2009-04-18 19:44:18
Edward de Leau
Subscribed to comments via email

Not really a trick but if you regularly post youtube vids to your weblog it would we worthwhile to cache the thumbs for performance reasons like e.g. here: there would no be any calls to youtube or google video.

Reply to this comment
2009-04-18 20:38:58

most of your tips make it less useful rather than more. Lower quality loads faster, autoplaying makes it annoying and not letting people explore ever videos just makes you lame.

Reply to this comment
2009-04-18 20:59:36

I’ve always been watching and downloading videos on youtube. But there are many things on this list I didn’t know about. I’ll have to check them out.

Reply to this comment
2009-04-18 21:17:25

If you use Safari, the easiest way to download youtube videos is to do the following:

1. Go to the youtube video of your choice on
2. Click on ‘Window’ in the menu, and select ‘Activity’
3. Under the youtube address, which will be recognisable by its name, double click on the address with the largest file listed (it should be the only one in the megabytes, but the size varies depending on length of video)
4. A new window should open and, after a few seconds, the video should begin to download to your computer

Note: You may need to use a program to convert the file into a watchable movie file. My computer used to not recognise the file at all until converted, but for some reason it’s recently started downloading them as flash video files (.flv).

Reply to this comment
2009-04-18 22:19:58

Greasemonkey script “YouSable” gives you download options as well, zoom and more features. A must if you find yourself “youtubbing” often.

Reply to this comment
2009-04-18 22:54:59
Juan Carlos Llanos
Subscribed to comments via email

Excelent. One question
How embed Googlevideo in YouTube. I have some video of more than 10 minutes and I can’t upload in YouTube. Can you help me?
Thanks, from Peru.

Reply to this comment
2009-04-18 23:09:51
Subscribed to comments via email

I have used tubetv on Mac. It downloads the video and then automatically converts it to the format you set.

Reply to this comment
2009-04-19 04:42:56

Also works fine. Just add pwn infront of the video url.

Reply to this comment
2009-04-19 04:50:16
Subscribed to comments via email

Hi I am from UK. I tried viewing the new youtube shows and films categories (avail. only in US). There is no watch? part in these url? Any suggestions how to bypass this problem?

Reply to this comment
2009-04-19 05:04:19

Thank you very much!
I will use this information for when I embed videos on my website Best Instrumentals.


Reply to this comment
2009-04-19 07:52:20

add ‘&flip=1′ to the end of a url to trick your friends.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

YouTube to Feature Movies, Premium Content


Google Inc.'s video-sharing site YouTube is expected to announce on Thursday a new area of the site to distribute premium shows and movies along with some new full-length content, according to people familiar with the matter.

A spokesman for YouTube, which already offers a very limited number of full-length shows and movies, declined to comment.

The move is designed to help YouTube better highlight its growing catalog of full-length shows while keeping its focus on user- generated clips, said one person familiar with the matter.

The move is also a big step for studios, which in the past have limited their content to tightly controlled sites, such as iTunes or CinemaNow, where consumers could purchase movies and other studio content. They have gradually evolved to making content available free on a number of studio-run Web sites such as Hulu along with making it available through agreements with dozens of independent sites.

How to intercept a cellphone?

Beware - Illegal software allows anyone to tap your cell phone

Device Spies On Text Messages - Even Deleted Ones As Seen On CBS 13

With This Hidden DVR Wrist Watch Camera, No One Will Suspect You Are Recording Them On Video

Costs $199.95

Windows Genuine Advantage is still genuinely bad

By Ryan Russell

Microsoft's system for validating Windows before users can download most updates continues to be a problem for legitimate customers and for Internet security as a whole.

Despite claims of offering better security, Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) serves only Microsoft's marketing interests — but you can eliminate the need for WGA if you know the trick.

Microsoft has long been considered a marketing bully, but with WGA the company has taken its lack of consideration for its customers to a new low.

Windows Secrets has been tracking the WGA story for years. Editorial director Brian Livingston aptly labeled an earlier version of WGA as "Microsoft spyware" in a June 15, 2006, Top Story.

More recently, Brian remarked in a March 30, 2009, news update that PCs failing WGA validation don't automatically receive all available patches from Microsoft. That spawned a critique from a Microsoft spokeswoman which was printed, along with Brian's response, in technical editor Dennis O'Reilly's Known Issues column on April 2. (There's also an Office Genuine Advantage program, which you hear less about but has the same problems as WGA.)

We all want Windows systems throughout the world to be patched for security problems as soon as fixes are released. As a result of the fuss raised by the articles mentioned above, I decided to take another look at WGA.

Here's what happens if a Windows machine fails WGA validation (or the PC's owner, based on tales of disabled machines, is too frightened to run WGA):

* Automatic Updates. If the machine is configured with Automatic Updates (AU) enabled, Microsoft installs only those security patches that the company rates as "Critical." Security patches rated "Important," "Moderate," and below are not installed by AU, and no other updates of any kind are installed.

* Windows Update and Microsoft Update. Microsoft's on-demand patching programs, known as Windows Update (which updates Windows) and Microsoft Update (which updates Windows and other Microsoft products) will refuse to run.

* Manual downloads. Security patches of all levels of severity can be downloaded manually from various Microsoft Web pages and installed individually, if you know where to look.

The third point is the trick to updating a Windows system, regardless of whether it passes WGA validation or you run WGA at all.

Let's examine how various people and companies are using this method.

How companies patch Windows and avoid WGA

An individual who wants to avoid WGA hassles could visit Microsoft's current security bulletin page and browse every new patch and advisory. However, it's unreasonable to expect average Windows users to read each bulletin and decide which patches to install.

A better solution is to use patch-management (PM) software. Every day, dozens of third-party vendors obtain patches from known locations that Microsoft hosts on the Internet. Once the patches are downloaded by the vendors, their software can push the patches out to PCs on a LAN with no worries about WGA. (Disclosure: The company I work for, BigFix Inc., sells a patch-management product that does this for large enterprises.)

Corporations should install a PM solution that resides on a server and pushes patches to individual PCs across a LAN. Network Computing publishes a Rolling Reviews page that analyzes several major PM applications.

Individual PC users have several options to install all security patches — whether rated "Critical," "Important," or any other level of severity — without WGA hassles. The following are a few examples:

* The Software Patch. You can do without Automatic Updates and Windows Update/Microsoft Update, which can be hamstrung by WGA, by using The Software Patch. This is a free Web service that WS contributing editor Scott Dunn reviewed — along with a handful of other alternative update services — in his Oct. 4, 2007, Top Story.

* Online Software Inspector. My Dec. 18, 2008, column described's Online Software Inspector (OSI). This free service scans your PC on demand. OSI then enumerates the security patches that are needed by your copy of Windows, in addition to patches for dozens of applications from Microsoft and other software vendors.

* Personal Software Inspector. My previous column on OSI also described Secunia's Personal Software Inspector (PSI). This is a free download that you install and run on your PC. At present, its primary purpose is to inform you of security updates for hundreds of applications, and you should run PSI in conjunction with Windows Update or Microsoft Update.

It's beyond the scope of today's article to rate the pros and cons of every patching alternative. I hope to bring you a new review of the latest products and services in the coming weeks.

The third-party services mentioned above are compelled by Microsoft to get Windows patches directly from Microsoft's own servers. That means these services can only install security patches and other updates whose files will install without requiring WGA validation.

Fortunately, almost all Windows security patches (of all severity levels) and many other Microsoft updates install fine — regardless of WGA — if you download the files directly or via a third-party service. Microsoft currently lists on a Genuine Software page a few of its apps that do require WGA, such as Windows Defender, Windows Media Player, and Calculator Plus.

In fairness, Microsoft should get credit for posting all of its security patches (of all levels of severity) on publicly available URLs. At least this policy does provide the files to patch-management professionals who know these locations. By contrast, such firms as Red Hat, Sun, and IBM require contracts and log-in credentials before you can obtain some of these companies' Linux, Solaris, and AIX patches, respectively.

The big question is this: why would Microsoft cripple its consumer patching tools — Windows Update and Microsoft Update — by disabling them if a PC doesn't pass WGA validation? The only logical reason I can think of is because Microsoft wants to push WGA, and denying updates to users is the best stick the company can come up with. I believe this decision is a huge mistake.

Windows Update is a crucial service that must remain free from chicanery, because Windows Update is the default program for on-demand security checkups. In computing, defaults are everything. Windows Update is installed and available in every recent copy of Windows on the planet, whether those machines are correctly licensed or not.

Many people disable Automatic Updates because it's intrusive and has been used in the past to install WGA and other nonsecurity updates. If users can't run Windows Update as an alternative to AU, there's a massive problem on the Internet. The battle against malware is already bad enough, and we don't need anything to make the problem worse. When millions of computers become infected, the attacks from these machines become a problem for you, the paying customer of Microsoft.

DRM exists at the expense of paying customers

Call it what you will: WGA, Digital Rights Management (DRM), anti-piracy, or copy protection. It abuses the hospitality of paying customers in an attempt to thwart those who don't want to pay. I don't object one bit to paying Microsoft for the software I use. I do object to being forced to help a company in futile efforts to combat copyright violators.

Copy-protection harms legitimate users who are inconvenienced at best and forced to cope with nonfunctional software at worst. The bad guys, by contrast, aren't harmed much at all. Pirate operations have the money and time to defeat every copy-protection mechanism. Once pirates have broken a DRM scheme, the unlocked software might be salable for months without the pirates' needing to deal with the protection any further.

Do you dislike having to insert a CD into a drive to update Microsoft Office or play a game? Guess what: users of the pirated versions of those programs generally don't have to deal with that. Only the legitimate buyers are inconvenienced.

I've been analyzing flavors of copy protection since the early 1980s. During those nearly 30 years, it's always been the same. Copy protection primarily hurts legitimate users while giving bad guys merely a short period of entertainment.

I do recognize the gray area between the two extremes. There are many users who might violate a software publisher's copyright if it were convenient to do so. But I still believe that the punishment imposed on a software company's best customers is not worth the tiny impact on the real pirates.

I'm not saying Microsoft has to give away its products for free. I'm saying that a copyright owner's battle against piracy is not my problem, so please quit making my life hard in a vain attempt to resolve your legal issues.

Microsoft's lack of support for its best users, in the name of protecting intellectual property, sometimes reaches absurd levels. A recent example of this is Microsoft's refusal to support its software on virtual machines unless the VM software is Microsoft's own. (You can read the details about this in my blog entry posted April 2.)

Microsoft has gotten really aggressive about license protection. The pendulum needs to swing back in the direction of making things easier for the company's customers.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

3-D Headed To Your Living Room

People in 70 million homes will soon be able to watch 3-D TV, destroying Hollywood's selling point that 3-D movies offer an experience you can't get at home.

Signet International Holdings is turning AMG TV into the first 3-D broadcast network. The network has more than 200 affiliates and is partnering with Kerner Broadcast Co. to use its 3-D TV technology.

AMG TV reaches 70 million homes, meaning that soon 3-D TV will reach more people than can see 3-D movies (currently available in roughly 2,300 theaters). One of the biggest arguments studios have been using to sell consumers and theater chains on 3-D movies is that those films provide an experience you can't get at home. Who knows how well their argument will hold up once people are able to watch 3-D programming in their living rooms?

AMG ultimately wants to be broadcasting in 3-D fulltime but will begin by airing a few hours of in-your-face shows between late November and the end of 2009. In order to make it possible for viewers to see the images in 3-D, Kerner plans to introduce a $50 add-on that will turn an HD TV into a 3-D TV. The cost of glasses is included in the $50 fee.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Ebay`s Stupid Policy on Optional Insurance

EBay is merely running on the fumes of its early entry in the Internet. If it were entering the field today, given its complete contempt for its sellers, it would fail miserably. Ask any power seller on eBay and he'll no doubt have more than a 100 complaints about what's wrong with the company that seems to be run completely by idiots.

I will focus on one item today: eBay's policy on optional insurance.

Here's how it works. let's suppose you just sold a one hundred dollar watch and your listing says, "Shipping Insurance US $2.00 - Optional".

Now let's also suppose that the buyer decides not to take insurance and the package is lost - who is out the watch?

If you guessed the buyer - BUZZZZ - wrong answer. According to eBay the buyer never received the package and therefore, the seller is out the money.

But wait, if that's true, then no buyer should ever pay for insurance if the seller advertises "Optional Insurance."

Likewise, since insurance is the responsibility of the seller, sellers should always pay for insurance.

So here is my advice to my readers who are buyers: If you see "optional insurance" never pay for it since you cannot lose anything if the package is lost.

Here is my advice to my readers who are sellers: Always advertise optional insurance because not everyone reads my blog. If your buyer is smart enough not to take the optional insurance than insure it yourself. In this way you always get some money from buyers who are not familiar with eBay's' policies.

Of course, in time, eventually every buyer will know never to pay for optional insurance and therefore eventually every buyer will find even posting the words "optional insurance" as pointless and the feature should disappear since it is really a moronic piece of business.

Now you may object that eBay is right that the seller is always responsible for insuring the package. I happen to agree, the seller should be the one insuring the package; however, by allowing the words "optional insurance" eBay is facilitating a situation where a seller can con uninformed buyers into paying for insurance they shouldn't be paying for. There are also, no doubt, quite a number of sellers who have gotten burned because they thought that if buyers turned down "optional insurance" and the package got lost, that the buyer would be responsible.

Now take this situation: The buyer opted out of "optional insurance" - you the seller is now out the watch and the money because eBay made you give it back when the package was reported lost. A week later, UPS found the package and delivered it to your buyer who has already had his money returned. Now you are forced to beg the buyer to pay you for the watch. If he decides not to pay, what are you going to do, leave a negative feedback? You can't, which is a topic for another stupid business practice by eBay.

Then there are unscrupulous sellers who list "Optional Insurance" during the sale, but send an invoice to the final bidder as "insurance required".

If eBay simply announced that no one can put up an "optional insurance" feature then sellers won't get stuck in a situation as above, and buyers won't be fooled into paying for something the seller must always pay for anyway.

EBay shows contempt for both ends of its customer base. And that, my dear readers, is a business run by idiots.