March 3, 2007
Brute Force Key Generator for Vista
KezNews.com has a key generator for the Vista operating system that allows activation. Press reports indicate that the program takes hours or days to actually generate a key. In Microsoft's favor is that most people don't have the attention span to wait that long to pirate something. The program also needs another component to verify the key.
My feeling? It would be easier just to buy and install a legitimate copy of Vista. Aside from the ease, you're not breaking the law. As of this writing the instructions are there, as well as user comments, but the download has been disabled.
YouTube Cuts Deal with BBC
YouTube's been getting some bad press over the way it's been handling potential deals with major media companies. Some companies such as Viacom have been distancing themselves from YouTube because they can't get favorable business terms. The negative stories got beat back a little when the BBC announced a deal with YouTube to place clips of favorite shows up online. Doctor Who, Top Gear excerpts, news clips and other material will show up in a BBC channel. The National Basketball Association also plans a channel to deliver clips via YouTube.
March 1, 2007
Lenovo Recalls Laptop Batteries
Pity Sanyo, as four batteries manufactured for Lenovo ThinkPad laptops are reported to have overheated. This prompted a recall of 100,000 batteries supplied with Lenovo machines. These remaining batteries are also problematic for users if the unit is dropped and the battery hits on a corner. The last recall was of 526,000 batteries manufactured by Sony that had potential to overheat or catch fire. That was in 2005.
Details of the recall are on a page at the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Update: The recall is expanded to 200,000 machines.
EU Threatens More Fines Against Microsoft
Microsoft and the EU are at it again, this time over the prices that Microsoft is charging "partners" for complete interoperability documentation for Windows on PCs and servers. The European Commission rejected 1,500 pages of documentation submitted by Microsoft as a justification for the rates. Neelie Kroes, the EU Competition Commissioner threatened $4 million in daily fines if Microsoft doesn't comply.
Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith complained that the Commission had a year and a half to consider the documentation, and the only response the company got was this development as a threat. One great Smith quote from an ABC News article on the matter: "You cannot reach an agreement if you are just talking to yourself." That may be true, but Microsoft has a habit of trying to frame the reality when it comes to legal disputes. The way the company deals with the European Commission has been no exception. Microsoft has four weeks to respond to the EU.
February 28, 2007
Photoshop Coming to the Web
That's what an article in CNET says. The application will be ad supported and essentially free. Consumers rejoice it if comes to pass with few hoops to jump through in order to use it. It will be interesting to see if this has any impact on the market for Microsoft's Creative Suite which is a Photoshop wannabe that's been in public beta for some time now.
FAIR USE Bill Introduced inCongress
Congressmen Rick Boucher and John Doolittle introduced the bipartisan Freedom and Innovation Revitalizing U.S. Entrepreneurship Act, or FAIR USE Act. A statement on Rep. Boucher's site says the bill (H.R. 1201) will allow exemptions to Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act when they do not pose a potential threat to the vendor's business model. This section prohibits anti-circumvention of copy protection systems except when allowed by the Librarian of Congress on the recommendation of the Registrar of Copyrights. These are based on triennial reviews. So far the rules are relaxed in situations where old protection systems are obsolete and there is a need to recover the data, and in other very limited circumstances, such as when a music company, let's say Sony, for example, puts DRM on a CD that compromises security on a PC. Yes, Sony's rootkit fiasco was so egregious that it warranted a limited exception to the DMCA. The full list is here. The exemptions would last three years, but the Boucher-Doolittle bill would write these exemptions into law.
The RIAA immediately railed against the bill. According to a statement quoted in an article on the PC World web site, the organization said "The difference between hacking done for non-infringing purposes and hacking done to steal is impossible to determine and enforce." This position, of course, implies that fair use rights should ALWAYS fail when confronted with DRM, and that any attempt to crack copy protection is ALWAYS illegal. This must be because you can never be sure. Perhaps I'm reading a more extreme view into this statement than the RIAA intends, but I don't think so.
Boucher's own statement notes that fair use rights are under attack as never before and wants this legislation to restore some balance between consumer rights and media vendors. Similar bills were introduced in the last two congresses without much headway. The electoral power change may see this one get a little further along, but don't be surprised if business lobbying dollars don't win the day again for the vendors. In the meantime, piracy runs rampant on the web, and even the vaunted protection systems on high definition DVDs are broken even before one comes out on top. MP3s and other music files are available from a variety of sources and DRM systems are broken in spite of regular updates to fix the holes. The RIAA may win the battle on this piece of legislation but lose the war of the market. This may change if the organization members offered customer convenience for their product. However, that word does not appear much in their vocabulary
February 27, 2007
Apple Delays Shipment on Apple TV by Three Weeks
Apple is delaying shipment on its Apple TV product. The home entertainment hub that streams digital content to the living room from a computer running iTunes was scheduled to ship on February 28th. The new ship date is now March 20th. Details on the product are at the Apple Store page (which plays down the delay) here.
WordPerfect Lighting Public Beta Avaiable
Corel is getting into the act by offering a free public beta of WordPerfect Lightning, a word processing application that combines the writing tool with online collaboration and storage. Users get 200 megabytes of space from Corel along with "free" email and calendaring. After all, one still has to ultimately buy the program to get the features. WP Lightning is compatible with the Vista operating system.
U.S. users can check out the free trial here.
Sony Blu-Ray Price Cuts and European PS3 Differences
Sony has released a new Blu-Ray player that is about $400 cheaper than the previous model and adds the ability for consumers to play CDs on it, a feature that the earlier model lacked. The BDP-S300 will sell for $599 in the United States compared to the BDP-S1 that sells for $995.95. At this price, the Blu-Ray player is still about $100 more expensive than a comparable HD DVD player. From one perspective, it may be a better value to buy a PlayStation 3. A consumer gets a Blu-Ray player with an advanced game player for the same amount of money. That is, unless you live in Europe.
Once the PlayStation 3 is released there it won't be the same as those sold in the United States or Japan, or other NTSC countries. Sony promised backwards compatibility with PS1 and PS2 games. The necessary components were added as hardware elements for the U.S. and Japanese models. European models will emulate compatibility through a combination of software and firmware updates. Other commentary suggests that European gamers may reconsider their desire for getting a PS3 under these circumstances. Still, it comes with a Blu-Ray player, if that is in fact an attraction. Price cuts on HD anyone?
February 26, 2007
Google Apps Premier Edition
Google announced last week that it was offering a business version of its free Google applications. For $50 per employee per year, businesses would get email, word processing, spreadsheets, 10 Gigabytes of storage and no ads. The free consumer package is ad supported and comes with 2-3 Gigabytes of storage. There's also GoogleTalk (IM) and calendaring. Google also offers 24x7 support for critical issues with extended business hours telephone support for administrators, and a 99.9% uptime promise with customer credits if that level is not met.
One thread that's not running on the commentary about this offer is that its an Office killer. Microsoft has over the last 15 years or so killed or marginalized competitors such as Lotus and WordPerfect to be pretty much the only game in town when it comes to integrated office applications. Each successive version of Microsoft Office has newer and richer features, some of which get used and some of which do not. That's actually the strength and weakness of Office. It can do so much, but most users don't need all of the features Microsoft crams into the applications.
Take PowerPoint for example. It can weave web links on slides, embed media, and screens are programmable. However, most presentations using it are flat and static, acting only as an outline of the talk. That's the fault of the presenter, not Microsoft. But still, the ultimate cost of Office reflects the inclusion of those features whether used or not.
Google says they're not competing with Office, rather suggesting that it makes a great compliment to the suite. That's true to some extent. The behemoth corporations that are Microsoft's bread and butter for Office sales are not the likely target for Google Apps, although Proctor & Gamble and General Electric are taking a look. These companies get substantial discounts from Microsoft. There are, however, mid-sized businesses that still pay between $350 and $400 for an Office license. Companies such as these may evaluate the feature set per cost and may pull back their MS dollars in favor of Google.
Microsoft points to other Office alternatives that have failed to build traction, StarOffice and OpenOffice among others. Sure, these are free or low cost alternatives, but they come with a "you're on your own" support system. Google on the other hand is pretty established and can respond to customer issues. Google can leverage its reputation and ubiquity in a way these past Office alternatives cannot. And unlike Office, Google Apps are not platform dependent. The same version shows up if the machine is a Mac, Linux, or the variations of Windows. File format looks not to be an issue as XML documents are becoming standard.
Microsoft may not have anything to worry about when it comes to selling Office to GM, but it may have problems with the smaller markets and individuals. If that's the case, then competition is good.