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21 January, 2012

Google+ User Engagement Questioned Amid Facebook Rivalry


Google+ User Engagement Questioned Amid Facebook Rivalry

Google+ has 90 million users, but the search engine giant won't say how often those users come to the social network, what they do there or for how long. This makes it difficult to compare Google+ to Facebook's action.
One wouldn't think a company stocked with geniuses who excel at achieving algorithmic excellence would have trouble deliver statistics. Even so, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) managed to confound some folks with its Google+ usage statistics.

On the company's fourth quarter earnings call Jan. 10, Google CEO Larry Page was quite clear that the Google+ social network had topped 90 million total user accounts. Considering the six-month-old network only opened to the public in late September, such growth in social media is unprecedented.

Where Google's accounting gets fuzzy is in user engagement, or how many people are actively logging into Google+ to post status updates and share links, photos and videos. That's the metric social media experts are most interested in, and fairly so considering rival Facebook's social engagement disclosures.

Facebook said half of its 800 million-plus users log into its Website on any given day. That's an incredible 400 million-plus users coming to chat virtually or share info each day. Facebook offers this oft-updated stats page as a beacon against all social network challengers, loading it with such metric morsels as the fact that the average user is connected to 130 friends, family members and other people on the network.

The average user is also connected to 80 community pages, groups and events on Facebook, where some 250 million photos are uploaded each day. The fact is, we don't know how often Google+ users come to the Website each day, or what exactly they do there and how much. 

On the earnings call Jan. 19, Page further muddied the murky engagement waters when he added that "+users are very engaged with our products--over 60 percent of them engage daily, and over 80 percent weekly."

 Google Senior Vice President Vic Gundotra, who is shepherding Google+, later confirmed on Google+ that what Page referred to was that 60 percent of Google+ users sign in to use other Google products, such as Gmail, YouTube, etc. each day. And 80 percent of + users sign into Google to access those apps at least once a week.  

AllThingsDigital cut through the cluttered meaning: "So, if you registered for Google+ any time since it launched this summer, and you used any other Google product — say, search! — in the past day or week, while signed into your Google account, you got counted in those percentages."

In other words, there is no clear indication of how much people are using Google+ to share information, play games, communicate, collaborate or do any of the things they are meant to do on the platform.

Skeptics call this misdirection. Those who know Google's oft-stated agenda to seamlessly integrate and blend Google+ with its existing services to build a social super platform know that Page's statement isn't deliberately confusing.

Every single one of the 200-plus Google+ feature enhancements serve as a stepping stone to the end goal of creating a social search platform capable of keeping users engaged and, ostensibly, away from Facebook, Twitter and other like services.

"Google+ is about much more than the individual features themselves," Page explained on the call. "It's also about building a meaningful relationship with users so that we can dramatically improve the services we offer. Understanding who people are, what they care about, and the other people that matter to them is crucial if we are to give users what they need, when they need it."

This effort, which includes the controversial social search effort that injects users' personal Google+ content in their search results, is also the way Google plans to challenge Facebook for the lion's share of advertising dollars, which experts will be driven by mobile, local and social technologies in the future.

But Google+ has to produce some engagement. As John Battelle noted:

"It's pretty easy to get a lot of people signing up for Google+ if you integrate it into everything Google does (particularly if you do it the way they’ve done it with search) But can you get those folks to engage, deeply? That'd be a real win, and one I’d give full credit to Google for executing."

Wouldn't we all, assuming that win comes at the expense of incumbent Facebook.
Source: EWEEK

Should GM Kill the Chevy Volt?


Should GM Kill the Chevy Volt?
By John Rosevear, The Motley Fool Posted 10:09AM 01/21/12 Investing


Remember the Chevrolet Volt?
Congress sure does. In what will surely be must-see TV for fans of high Congressional dudgeon, a panel of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee plans to hold hearings next week on concerns around the Volt that caught fire days after government crash tests.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and other Republicans on the panel are probably hoping to paint a story of government ineptitude, or even cover-up, as they probe the months-long gap between the fire and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's disclosure of it.
If you were tempted to write this off as partisan grandstanding in an election year, you'd probably be on the right track ... except for this interesting development: General Motors (NYS: GM) CEO Dan Akerson has agreed to come to Washington and spend a day testifying on behalf of GM's best-known hybrid.
 And that, to my mind -- and full disclosure: I'm a GM shareholder -- brings up a question that probably needed asking a while ago.
Is the Chevy Volt really worth it?
Look, I get that nearly all of the people who've ponied up the roughly $41,000 asking price for Volts really like them. I get that GM swears that just having Volts in their dealerships has brought in lots of new potential customers and helped sell all kinds of other Chevy products. I get that, against all odds and in the teeth of a massive corporate collapse, GM's product-development crew managed to come up with a great car that pioneered a whole new technological approach while delivering on some wild-sounding promises.
The Volt was a major achievement by an unfairly maligned group of people working under impossible conditions. It's a triumph that will be remembered alongside other great milestones from GM's long history. And it's a good car that should serve its owners well.
I get that. I get all that. High marks to all involved. But I also get this:
GM isn't selling very many of them.
Depending on whom you ask and how you count, the effort to develop the Volt and put it into production cost anywhere from $750 million to nearly $4 billion, if you include the various government loans and subsidies that contributed to the effort. And despite all of that R&D, the car still costs so much to build that GM probably isn't making more than a tiny sum on each one, if it's making anything at all.
Even at a price that is way above some of the competition.
The statistic that just kills me
Late in October of last year, the first examples of Toyota's (NYS: TM) new Prius v arrived at U.S. dealers. If you haven't seen one, the Prius v is a larger version of Toyota's mainstay hybrid, sort of a station wagon -- but one that gets 44 mpg in the city. Toyota compares it to small SUVs.
It's definitely a niche product, and like many Toyotas in recent months it has been in limited supply. But in just 10 weeks, it sold more examples here (8,399) than Chevy sold Volts (7,671) in all of 2011.
That just kills me. Of course, the Prius v starts at $26,400, so it's a lot more affordable than the Volt. But it's hardly the only challenge the Volt faces. Toyota's regular Prius now comes in a "plug-in" version that you can charge up at home and drive for a while without using any gas at all, giving it Volt-like functionality with simpler, proven technology.
Worse, Ford (NYS: F) just leapfrogged the Volt with a purely electric version of its Focus compact, complete with 100-mile range -- and will be bringing its own plug-in hybrid sedan, the cutting-edge Fusion Energi, to market later this year. My guess that it'll be priced in the same neighborhood as the Volt, with similar mileage ratings and range capabilities ... except it'll be roomier, with a nicer interior, and I'll bet that Ford will be making a handsome profit on each example.
I haven't even touched on what Tesla Motors (NAS: TSLA) will be offering soon: a full-size all-electric luxury sedan at a price point not all that far north of the Volt's MSRP. As special and advanced as the Volt sounded when it was first announced a few years back, it's clear that the market is now catching up -- and may even be passing it by.
So is it time to kill the Volt?
The Volt's a great car, but I can't help wondering whether it has become more of a boondoggle than it's worth. Put simply, it's not making (much) money for GM, and its contribution to GM's corporate image has been decidedly ... mixed, at least recently.
Of course, killing it could unleash a whole new PR nightmare, with the company that famously "killed the electric car" long ago getting called out for killing another one. Dan Akerson has proved himself to be a pragmatic, hard-headed manager in many arenas, but I think it's unlikely that he'll be ending the Volt program anytime soon.
Like it or not, the Volt is almost certainly here to stay. I expect GM to continue to invest in the Volt, to improve its capabilities and efficiency while bringing down the cost, and hopefully the price. When Akerson testifies before Congress next week, I expect that he'll talk up the Volt as a triumph of American ingenuity and manufacturing prowess.
Which it is.
But I still can't shake the feeling that this relationship might not be working out.
Ford just reinstated its dividend after a five-year hiatus. While it's possible we'll see GM's return in 2012 as well, you don't have to wait to put the power of reinvested dividends to work in your portfolio. In a special new report, Motley Fool analysts identify "11 Rock-Solid Dividend Stocks," all great additions to a long-term investor's portfolio. This new report is completely free for Fool readers, but it'll be available for only a limited time, so get instant access right away.

Source:  DailyFinance: http://srph.it/w6Hpxe

Microsoft Gives Details on Windows 8 Mobile Broadband Improvements


Microsoft Gives Details on Windows 8 Mobile Broadband Improvements

Windows 8 also "learns" about the user's connection priorities based on their actions. As a result, when returning from "standby" mode, a Windows 8 machine is able to reconnect faster than Windows 7 -- in about a second.
"You do not have to do anything special for this -- Windows just learns which networks you prefer and manages everything for you. This work was a major part of the architectural work we did in the networking stack and with our hardware partners," Anders wrote.
Windows 8 has also been designed to help users be aware of mobile broadband data limits and costs. "Prior to Windows 8, we maintained consistent behavior on all types of networks relative to bandwidth usage. With Windows 8, we now take the cost of the network into consideration: we assume that mobile broadband networks have restrictive data caps with higher overage costs -- vs. Wi-Fi --, and adjust networking behavior with these metered networks accordingly," the post reads.
To help with managing mobile broadband data usage and costs, the Windows 8 task manager lists how much data specific applications have used up, so users are aware of which applications consume more data.
Juan Carlos Perez covers search, social media, online advertising, e-commerce, web application development, enterprise cloud collaboration suites and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service
Microsoft Gives Details on Windows 8 Mobile Broadband Improvements


Hollywood v Silicon Valley in US piracy battle


Hollywood v Silicon Valley in US piracy battle
LOS ANGELES — The anti-piracy battle gripping Washington and the Internet pits two US West Coast power bases directly against each other: Hollywood is taking on Silicon Valley over the right to make money online.
Backing two controversial pieces of draft anti-piracy legislation, the Los Angeles-based entertainment industry is calling for non-US websites to be held to the same standards as US ones.
But a couple of hundred miles up the coast, the giants at Google and Facebook are resisting at all costs moves which they claim will stifle development of the Internet -- on which their own future, and income, depends.
On Friday, US congressional leaders put anti-online piracy legislation on hold following a wave of protests led by Google and Wikipedia denouncing the bills as a threat to Internet freedom.
Senate majority leader Harry Reid said he was delaying next week's vote on the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and House Judiciary Committee chairman Lamar Smith said he would "revisit" the House version, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
In a joint statement Friday, the American Federation of Musicians, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Screen Actors Guild and other entertainment industry groups called on US lawmakers not to bow to pressure.
"We fought for this legislation because illegal Internet businesses that locate offshore expressly to elude US laws should not escape the very same rules of law that currently apply to illegal US websites," they said.
"They should not be allowed to reap in profits if they knowingly sell or distribute illicitly gained content and goods which they had no role in creating or financing to the American consumer," they added.
The draft legislation has won the backing of Hollywood, the music industry, entertainment giants like Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., angered at the enormous income lost from online streaming and downloads of their products.
But the bills have come under fire from online companies and digital rights groups for allegedly paving the way for US authorities to shut down websites accused of online piracy, including foreign sites, without due process.
"We want a world in which creators are properly compensated for their work, everybody is in favor of that," Corynne McSherry, lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which promotes free speech online.
But "the right answer to that is not legislation, that's never going to happen in Washington DC, it has to happen via innovation, not legislation," she told AFP.
And she said: "Fighting the internet doesn't work. The answer is to embrace a new business model, that's the only thing that ever worked."
She cited the case of VCR technology, followed by DVDs, which were initially fiercely resisted by Hollywood, but in the end were accepted and turned into a huge new source of revenue.
The six-strong Hollywood grouping acknowledged that the question is complex.
"We recognize that we are currently part of a complex and important debate about the future, not just of the Internet but also of creativity, the American economy, free expression, and a civil society," its statement said Friday.
"We hope a new tone can be set that does not include website attacks, blacklists, blackouts, and lies. We believe an Internet that does not allow outright stealing has to be the Internet of the future or all the promises it holds will be unrealized."
On Wednesday, the English-language version of its online encyclopedia shut down for 24 hours to protest the legislation and hundreds of other sites joined in the protest.
On Thursday, US authorities shut down Megaupload.com, one of the world's largest file-sharing sites, and charged seven people in what they called one of "the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States."
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) said last week that the US government has to act.
"On behalf of the 2.2 million Americans whose jobs depend on the film and television industries we look forward to the administration ... working with us to pass legislation that will offer real protection for American jobs," it said.
But EFF lawyer McSherry was not convinced, saying the entertainment industry needs "a new leadership that is more focussed on innovation than saving yesterday's industry."

20 January, 2012

Exhibition of 1930s crime photos in New York


Exhibition of 1930s crime photos in New York

An exhibition of photos taken by one of the top crime photographers in New York in the 1930s and 1940s opens in the city on Friday.
Arthur Fellig, who was nicknamed Weegee, used police scanners to get to the scenes of crimes first.
His pictures of the scenes of murders and mob arrests have become iconic and are now being put on show at the International Centre of Photography in New York.
Wendy Urquhart reports.

Chinese New Year sees new demand for gold


Chinese New Year sees new demand for gold

Retailers are gearing up for a round of last minute shopping as the Lunar New Year draws closer.
According to the Chinese zodiac, the Year of the Dragon starts Monday, 23 January.
And as the BBC's Ashleigh Nghiem reports, people aren't just stocking up on new clothes and food but gold as well.

Costa Concordia disaster: Cruise firm faces US lawsuit


The capsized Costa Concordia lies off the coast of the island of GiglioCosta Concordia disaster: Cruise firm faces US lawsuit

The company operating a cruise ship that ran aground off Italy is facing a class-action lawsuit in the US.

Italy's consumer association Codacons and two US law firms told the BBC they would file the suit against Costa Cruises on behalf of the passengers.

They want at least $160,000 (£105,000) for each passenger on the ship.

Costa Cruises, owned by US-based Carnival Group, has blamed the ship's captain for last week's crash, in which at least 11 people were killed.

The Costa Concordia hit rocks off the coast of the Tuscan island of Giglio with more than 4,200 people on board a week ago. Hundreds were injured and 21 remain missing.

Mitchell Proner, a lawyer with Proner & Proner, said: "Along with Codacons, we have formed an association and our firms are collectively going to be filing a suit in Miami, by Wednesday next week, on behalf of all the victims of the Costa Concordia disaster."

'Rogue captain'

Mr Proner said claimants would be seeking compensation for continued medical care, loss of earnings as well as the psychological impact they had suffered while trying to get off the ship.
He said that some of the claimants - currently 110 - would seek two or three times the minimum claim, while the worse cases could seek as much as 1m euros.

Costa Cruises said it was open to the concerns of all consumer associations and individual passengers.

"The company understands those concerns and will respond in due course, but for now, it wants to concentrate on dealing with the immediate tragedy," said a spokesman for the company.

"As an initial gesture, it has already sent letters to all those passengers on board asking them to detail their expenses and any costs they might have incurred so reimbursements can be made."

The firm has blamed Capt Francesco Schettino for committing "grave errors of judgement" by steering the ship too close to Giglio on an "unauthorised manoeuvre".

Capt Schettino is currently under house arrest suspected of manslaughter, which he denies.

The firm has begun the process of launching a civil claim against him in Italy. But Mr Proner said that the firm could not pin all responsibility for the disaster on a "rogue captain".

"It's easy to say this captain acted alone," he said.

"There are indications that there have been regular route deviations in the past. There should have been safeguards on board, where were the alarms?

"At the time of the Titanic it might have been easy to say that radars didn't exist. Nowadays, with all the technology, it isn't. There had to be a failure in the system that allowed this to happen."

'Protecting rights'

The president of Codacons, Marco Ramadori, said Costa Cruises' offer was insufficient.

"They are offering to refund the cost of the ticket as if you had missed a plane and lost your luggage. You cannot compare the two," he said.

Costa passengers are reported to have signed a contract when buying their cruise that any litigation will take place under Italian law.

But Mr Proner said that he thought it likely that the US courts would accept the case.

"The US has a long tradition of protecting rights and not only is Costa owned by an American company but they have brought themselves into our stream of commerce," he said.

"There were 120 Americans on board and they will demand access to their rights."

The rescue operation was suspended for the third time on Friday. For several hours, choppy conditions threatened to shift the wreck into deeper water.

The operation resumed on Friday evening, but hopes are fading that the 21 still missing will be found alive.
Source: BBC

Rupert Murdoch Sopa attack rebuffed by Google


Rupert Murdoch Sopa attack rebuffed by Google

Google
Google has hit back at Rupert Murdoch after he branded the search giant a "piracy leader".

The News Corporation chairman tweeted that Google "streams movies free" and "sells [adverts] around them".

In response, Google said that it fought pirates and counterfeiters "every day".

Mr Murdoch was tweeting in response to the White House's apparent opposition to some aspects of the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa).

If passed, the act would give content owners and the US government the power to request court orders to shut down websites associated with piracy.

Some opponents to Sopa are set to partake in an internet "blackout" on 18 January, temporarily removing access to their sites.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said on Monday the website would be "protesting bad law" on Wednesday.

Recommendation site Reddit is also said to be on board with the protest.

'Silicon Valley paymasters'
However, the bill's main opponent in Congress, Republican Representative Darrell Issa, is now reported to have said the bill would not be brought to a vote in the House of Representatives.

"I am confident that flawed legislation will not be taken up by this House," Mr Issa said in a statement, citing assurances from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
"Majority Leader Cantor has assured me that we will continue to work to address outstanding concerns and work to build consensus prior to any anti-piracy legislation coming before the House for a vote."

On Saturday, a statement from the White House appeared to side with critics of both Sopa and Protect IP Act (Pipa) - a similar bill due to be put before the Senate.

In response to an anti-Sopa petition, the White House said online piracy needed a "serious legislative response" but that it must not "inhibit innovation".

It added: "We will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global internet."

The stance is likely to anger many companies who have publicly supported Sopa.

Among them is News Corporation. Mr Murdoch's Twitter comments accused the Obama administration of bowing to "Silicon Valley paymasters".

"Piracy leader is Google who streams movies free, sells [adverts] around them. No wonder pouring millions into lobbying," the 80-year-old wrote.

He was referring to Google's indexing of sites offering illegal downloading of movies and other copyrighted content.

'Nonsense'
To back up his complaint, he later added: "Just been to google search for mission impossible. Wow, several sites offering free links. I rest my case."

Google told technology website Cnet that Mr Murdoch's comments were "nonsense".

A spokeswoman told the BBC: "Google respects copyright - and we've worked hard to help rights holders deal with piracy.

"Last year we took down five million infringing web pages from our search results and invested more than $60 million (£40m) in the fight against bad ads."

Google, an opponent of Sopa, said it believed there are better methods of protecting against copyright infringement.

The company suggested "targeted legislation that would require ad networks and payment processors - like ours - to cut off sites dedicated to piracy or counterfeiting".

Backers of the bill say it will make it easier for content creators to protect their copyrighted material in the face of online piracy.

However, critics say it will hinder freedom of speech and innovation on the internet.

If further debate on Sopa continues this month, it is still unlikely a vote will be passed before the US presidential elections in November.
Source: BBc.Co.Uk

Google revenues worse than expected

Google revenues worse than expected
Google

Google reported a 27% increase in revenues for the last three months of 2011, but even that was not good enough to meet Wall Street estimates, sending the shares tumbling.

Google shares fell 10% in after-hours trading to $575.

It reported 3-month revenues of $10.6bn (£6.8bn). Its net profit rose 6.4% to $2.7bn.

"Google had a really strong quarter ending a great year," said chief executive Larry Page.

"I am super excited about the growth of Android, Gmail, and Google+, which now has 90 million users globally - well over double what I announced just three months ago."

It came as fellow technology firms Microsoft and Intel also posted results for the same period.

Microsoft posted flat earnings of $6.62bn in the same quarter, seeing strong business demand for software and services.

Intel, the world's largest chipmaker, posted a better-than-expected 6% rise in earnings to $3.36bn, even though floods in Thailand knocked out factories that produce hard drives and components.

'Pressure' outside US
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live, Graham Palmer, head of Intel, said: "We're seeing strong growth in the merging PC markets.

"China now has 20% consumption of the personal PC market - there are about one million PCs 'consumed' every day globally and there is still lots of growth, especially the emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China."

But analysts were less impressed with Google's figures.

"Expectations were very high and they have missed that," said Trip Chowdhry, from Global Equities Research.

"Unlike Microsoft and Intel, estimates for Google have been rising for a few months."

The number of clicks on Google's search adverts rose significantly in the fourth quarter, but the amount that Google was able to charge advertisers for each click fell 8%.

"Expectations had got ahead of themselves for Google, largely because investors don't have a good feel for what happens outside the US," said Jordan Rohan from Stifel Nicolaus.

"North America has remained strong, but there are parts of the world where there's a lot of economic pressure. I would have to assume Europe, particularly Germany and some others, undergoing austerity measures. The underlying demand in those countries is weak."

For the full year, Google reported a 29% rise in revenue to $37.9bn, with net profit up 14% to $9.7bn.
Source: BBC.CO.UK

Microsoft quarterly profits fall slightly


Microsoft quarterly profits fall slightly

Microsoft's Windows.jpg
Microsoft's profits in the three months to the end of December fell slightly as lower computer sales hit its core Windows business.

The world's largest software firm made a net profit of $6.624bn (£4.27bn), against $6.634bn for its second quarter last year.

Revenues rose 5% to $20.89bn, slightly down on some analysts' expectations.

Revenue at the Windows operating system division fell, but rose at its server, Xbox 360 and online services arms.

Wall Street welcomed the figures, with Microsoft's shares rising 2.1% in after-hours trading.

Colin Gillis, an analyst with BGC, said: "People were afraid it was going to be much, much worse."

Tighter cost control and a continuing reduction of losses at the Bing search engine helped boost the figures, he said.

Analysts were expecting a fall in business at the Windows division due to slower sales of PCs.

The computer industry is facing a worldwide shortage of hard disk drives due to flood devastation in Thailand hitting suppliers.

But Windows is also facing competition from the growth of tablet computers such as Apple's iPad and mobile devices using Google's Android system.

However, Microsoft is hitting back with the release of Windows 8, an operating system for PCs and mobile devices.

Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said in a statement: "We delivered solid financial results, even as we prepare for a launch year that will accelerate many of our key products and services."

During the quarter the Windows and Windows Live division posted revenue of $4.74bn, a 6% fall on the previous year.

The Entertainment & Devices division saw the sharpest revenue rise, up 15% to $4.24bn.
Source: BBC.CO.UK

Hackers retaliate over Megaupload website shutdown


Hackers retaliate over Megaupload website shutdown
Megaupload
By Leo Kelion
Technology reporter

Hackers have targeted the US government and copyright organisations following the shutdown of the Megaupload file-sharing website.

The Department of Justice (DoJ), FBI and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) among others have been bombarded with internet traffic.

Web links have been been distributed which, when clicked, make the user's computer part of the attack.

A statement attributed to Anonymous claimed responsibility.

Blackout protest
The DoJ announced on Thursday that it had taken action to force Megaupload and related domain names offline, and had charged the firm's co-founders and others with violating piracy laws.

Four of the employees have been arrested in Auckland, New Zealand, at the request of the US authorities.

They appeared in court on Friday. One of their lawyers initially objected to media requests for photographs, but the accused said that they did not mind "because we have nothing to hide".

Their Hong Kong-based site had around 150 million users and 50 million daily hits. It had received celebrity endorsements from the model Kim Kardashian and singers Alicia Keys and Kanye West among others, making it one of the net's most high-profile file sharing sites.

The business had said it had been diligent in responding to complaints about pirated material.

News of the arrests came the day after thousands of websites had taken part in a "blackout" to protest against proposed anti-piracy laws; however, the DoJ suggested the two matters were not related.

A statement from the department noted that a grand jury indictment against the Megaupload employees was issued on 5 January.

'Unwanted traffic'
Hours later a statement linked to the @AnonymousWiki twitter account announced: "We Anonymous are launching our largest attack ever on government and music industry sites. Lulz. The FBI didn't think they would get away with this did they? They should have expected us."

It said that 10 sites had been taken offline in response to the Megaupload shutdown including the FBI, Universal Music, RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and Hadopi - the French government agency responsible for "protecting creative works on the internet".

On Friday, Universal's webpage said: "This site is under maintenance. Please expect it to be back shortly."

Hadopi was also offline, reporting "technical problems". However, the other sites on the Anonymous list all loaded.

Security firm Sophos's blog said that the attacks were carried out by spreading links via Twitter and other parts of the internet which carried out distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

"If you visit the webpage, and do not have Javascript disabled, you will instantly, without user interaction, begin to flood a website of Anonymous's choice with unwanted traffic, helping to perpetuate a DDoS attack," it said.

It noted that such attacks were illegal, meaning that users taking part in the action were breaking the law.

A tweet from one of the accounts associated with Anonymous suggested that efforts were also being made to resurrect Megaupload.

The attached link intermittently directed users to a site that resembled the shut down service.

Confusion
Analysts say that there is a risk that the Anonymous campaign could become confused with the broader campaign against the House of Representatives' Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) and the Senate's Protect Intellectual Property Act (Pipa).

"The action against the US bills was based on websites voluntarily censoring themselves in order to protest the restriction and damage to the internet that these laws would cause," Dr Joss Wright, a fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, told the BBC.

"In one sense the actions of Anonymous are themselves, anonymously and unaccountably, censoring websites in response to positions with which they disagree.

"The goals of many Anonymous activists are a free and open internet, but the regular and blanket denial-of-service campaigns could easily be counter-productive if pro-Sopa and pro-Pipa advocates can portray these actions as representative of those who are against this legislation."

Piracy debate
Elsewhere, the inventor of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, added his support to the campaign against Sopa.

He told the Inquirer the internet needed to be protected as an open space, adding that: "Folks in the UK should not be complacent. There are plenty of laws they should look at out for already on the books that also have issues."

His comment may be a reference to the UK's Digital Economy Act, passed in 2010 but not fully implemented, and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) which has the backing of the EU's Council of Ministers but has yet to be ratified by the European Parliament.

Candidates for the Republican Party's presidential nomination also weighed in on the matter at a debate on Thursday night.

Newt Gingrich said: "The bill in its current form is written really badly and leads to a range of censorship that is totally unacceptable."

Mitt Romney added: "A very broad law which gives the government the power to start stepping in to the internet and saying who can pass what to whom - I think that's a mistake."

Ron Paul, who has long opposed the law, said he was pleased to see other Republicans support his stance.

"This bill is not going to pass, but watch out for the next one," he added.

Rick Santorum said he did not support the law in its current form, but said: "I'm for freedom, but I'm not for people abusing the law and that's what's happening right now."

The MPAA defends the legislation saying that the bills will "encourage innovation while preserving millions of jobs that depend on intellectual property protection".
Source: BBC.Co.Uk



Camera-less iPhone 4, iPhone 4S on sale in Singapore


Camera-less iPhone 4, iPhone 4S on sale in Singapore

Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, set for Cup of Nations


Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, set for Cup of Nations

By Nick Reeves | AFP News – 36 minutes ago
For lovers of the beautiful game focus over the next three weeks falls on Gabon and Equatorial Guinea where from Saturday the oil rich neighbours co-host the 28th Africa Cup of Nations.
Like a lord mayor's banquet without the principal guest this feast of football takes place bereft of continental kings Egypt, winners of the last three editions.
Adding further intrigue in a topsy turvy qualifying race African superpowers Cameroon, Nigeria and South Africa have also failed to turn up.
In this quartet's absence World Cup quarter-finalists Ghana and Didier Drogba's Ivory Coast are favourites to claim a prize that has alluded both for far too long.
The 2012 Nations Cup cast list is full of surprises, not least Libya, who qualified against the backdrop of the bloody overthrowing of Moamer Kadhafi's regime.
Plaudits too should be flung at Niger and Botswana's feet, these two minnows with Equatorial Guinea taking their place at the high table of African football for the first time.
Gabon and Equatorial Guinea have invested massively in improving or building from scratch stadia, roads and hotels to prepare for their sojourn in the spotlight.
Both nations have met the deadline, but it has been a close run thing - the keys to Gabon's stadium in Franceville were only delivered on Monday.
"We have two objectives," said Laure Olga Gondjout, secretary general to Gabon President Ali Bongo.
"For the people of Gabon to win the 'palme d'or' for organising a successful Africa Cup of Nations and for the senior team to emulate the juniors (the title winning under-23 side) and lift the trophy."
Equatorial Guinea get the show on the road against the Libyans in Bata on Saturday with far more than national pride at stake.
The son of the country's autocratic president Teodoro Obiang is offering the players' a stunning $1 million cash incentive to win the Nations Cup curtain raiser, and $20,000 for every goal they score.
President Obiang wants the Nations Cup to serve as a shop window for his country.
"The only reason for winning (the right to host) the Cup is to present the best image of our country, to sell our image," he declared.
Pride, not money, is what is motivating Ghana and Ivory Coast.
Ghana last grabbed gold 30 years ago when pipping hosts Libya in a Tripoli penalty shootout.
Coach Goran Stevanovic says: "We were runners-up at the last Cup of Nations in Angola two years ago and a repeat of what has already been achieved is not good enough."
Ivory Coast have earned the unwanted reputation as 'chokers' after fluffing their lines in the quarter-finals in the last two Cups.
"Our ambition is to improve on two years ago when we were eliminated in the quarter-finals," said Chelsea star Drogba.
Newcastle United's Ivorian midfielder Cheik Tiote paints a more dramatic picture for a country whose sole success came two decades ago.
"We have great players so we have to win something -- we have to win this Cup of Nations.
"Every time there is an African tournament people tell us that we are favourites to win, but when you look at our trophy cabinet there is nothing there. Absolutely nothing."
A plethora of Premer League stars have answered their countries' call to African arms, often at the frustration of their club managers back in England.
Manchester City are harder hit than most, with coach Roberto Mancini glumly resigned to losing Ivorian brothers Yaya Toure and Kolo Toure at a crucial part of the season.
As well as Tiote Newcastle will miss in-form Demba Ba, the big centre-forward who has scored 15 goals in 19 appearances since his arrival.
If fortune smiles on Ba or new recruit Papiss Demba Cisse's Senegal or Tiote's Ivory Coast and they manage to make it to the February 12 final they can expect a familiar face in the crowd in Libreville.
"The one thing I will do is that if either is in the final I’ll be going out to make sure they come home," promised Newcastle manager Alan Pardew.
"They won’t be partying for a week after or anything -- they’ll definitely see me in the stand if they get to the final."
Source: Yahoo News

19 January, 2012

Pakistan v England: Andrew Strauss's team facing crisis of credibility after batting fails again in hefty first Test defeat


Pakistan v England: Andrew Strauss's team facing crisis of credibility after batting fails again in hefty first Test defeat

Desert storms do not come any more sudden or spectacular than this after England lost the first Test by 10 wickets inside three days.

By Derek Pringle, Dubai7:46PM GMT 19 Jan 2012
andrew strauss
Undone by Pakistan’s mystery spinner in the first innings, Andrew Strauss’s side forgot to heed the other bowlers and were dismissed cheaply for the second time in the match.
It was an unexpected shellacking by a Pakistan team without a home and rebuilding their reputation match by match. England head the Test table but with two more series in Asia this year they face a crisis to their credibility unless their batting, which failed miserably for a second time in the match, can find quick solutions to making proper runs in these conditions.
Chief among them will be to find a way to pick Saeed Ajmal, whose teasing mix of doosras and off-breaks brought him match figures of 10 for 97.
Ajmal is a tricky opponent but his skills are not the only cutting tool Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, has at his disposal. England’s fixations on Ajmal allowed Umar Gul and Abdur Rehman to join the feeding frenzy with four and three wickets respectively.
As much as England were poor, Pakistan were excellent, with scarcely a duff move from the players or their captain. In the wake of the recent spot-fixing trial which resulted in three former Pakistan Test players being jailed for corruption, this result will be seen as redemption for both them and Test cricket, which needs as many teams as it can muster to challenge for the top prize.
The large margin of defeat meant this was England’s worst since the innings loss against South Africa at the Wanderers two years ago. It was probably the last time they faced a consistently good bowling attack too and certainly the last time Andy Flower, the team director, complained to the match referee about a decision by the television umpire, something he did again on Thursday after Andrew Strauss was first out after allegedly tickling a catch down the leg side.
Good teams like England – and they will be trying to convince themselves this was an aberration – get into good habits, one being to follow defeat like this with a win. They have managed this after each of their four previous losses, something, given the general excellence of the bowlers here, they could do again in next week’s second Test in Abu Dhabi, providing the batsmen get enough runs.
This match was lost because of their collective failure, twice, and not because Strauss batted first or did not pick Monty Panesar. England’s bowlers did well, and unless the next pitch suggests otherwise, there is no need to change them.
Well behind after two days, England began well on Thursday with Gul’s prompt dismissal bringing them hope of keeping Pakistan’s lead below 110. But a brave and feisty innings of 61 from Adnan Akmal, the wicketkeeper, meant Pakistan’s first innings lead climbed to 146, and that was always going to require more than 150 overs of batting to nullify completely, something Gul immediately compromised when he had Strauss caught behind in the fifth over of England’s second innings.
Taken by Akmal down the leg side, Strauss did not refer Billy Bowden’s out decision straightaway. When he did, there was scant visual evidence from either Hotspot or the slow-motion replays. But the television umpire, in this case Steve Davis, had audio from the stump microphone and that apparently suggested contact had been made.
The confusion, and why Flower saw fit to seek further clarification from Javagal Srinath, the match referee, is because the International Cricket Council appears to have shifted the protocol of the system to protect its umpires. Whereas the Decision Review System was previously used to achieve the right decision, irrespective of the on-field umpire’s call, now it only overturns it if there is conclusive evidence that the original ruling was wrong.
It does so even when there is no conclusive evidence that it was right, either, as in the case of Strauss and England’s dismissal of Ajmal, who did not appear to make contact with the ball after being given out off Graeme Swann to a catch off glove and pad. If it is to be used, technology, in whatever guise, should be used to give justice to the players, not umpires.
Strauss’s departure precipitated a slew of meek dismissals. The next was Alastair Cook, another caught down the leg side off Gul, this time after flapping at a short ball too close to him to hook. It was an ungainly end only trumped when Kevin Pietersen hooked Gul to Abdur Rehman at deep backward square, a shot that sprung the trap set for him with all the dumb naivety of a Dodo befriending a hungry sailor in the days before pot noodles.
Arriving on a king pair, Ian Bell did not hold Pakistan up for long, falling lbw again to Ajmal, and again to a doosra delivered from wide on the crease. Only Jonathan Trott, with 47, and a sprightly 39 by Swann later on, inconvenienced Pakistan on their victory stroll which came after Mohammad Hafeez struck the 15 runs required in their second innings.
As Trott showed on Thursday, and Matt Prior on the first day, there were no unexpected gremlins in the pitch, just those that come with being the No 1-ranked Test side in the world.
That burden was also felt by the 2005 Ashes-winning side and they quickly fell to earth, a trajectory Strauss’s team could soon follow unless the batsmen can free up the inhibitions that seem to afflict them east of Mecca.
Source: telegraph UK

Pakistan v England: defeated captain Andrew Strauss says tourists will learns from first Test mistakes


Pakistan v England: defeated captain Andrew Strauss says tourists will learns from first Test mistakes

Andrew Strauss insisted England will learn from their mistakes and not panic after Pakistan condemned his team to one the biggest defeats of his captaincy career in the opening Test in Dubai.

By Telegraph staff and agencies2:55PM GMT 19 Jan 2012
andrew strauss
Strauss’s first Test defeat since losing in Perth 13 months ago was caused by two abject batting performances with only some late hitting by Graeme Swann preventing England from losing by an innings.
“We have plenty of things to ponder but we are not going to push the panic button,” said Strauss. “We need to come back strongly and show our character and resilience. We need to learn our lessons and we will be coming back better in the second Test.
“Our preparation has been very good and we played some good cricket in the warm-up games but we did not react well enough to the conditions here.
“To lose five wickets early in the first innings was a massive blow. Their spinners put our batsmen under pressure and we could not release that pressure. We are not going to make any excuses. We just did not play very well.”
Strauss’ side bounced back from the defeat in Perth to win the next two Tests against Australia by an innings but the conditions in the UAE mirror those in the sub-continent where England teams have struggled for more than a decade. It was this weakness Strauss hoped to conquer this year.
“The bowlers did exceptionally well to bowl Pakistan out on that surface and that is not really where we are focussing our attention,” he said. “We needed to get around 300-400 on the board in the first innings. They were very solid and they have good balance in their bowling attack so full credit to Pakistan. We were caught of guard in that first session on the first day and Pakistan never let us back in.”
For Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, this victory is the biggest of his career and builds on a successful 12 months since the spot fixing scandals of 2012. While Strauss was trying not to get too carried away in defeat, Misbah was equally level headed in victory. “We are trying to be one of the best teams in the world but we have a long way to go,” he said. “We are on the right path and just trying to keep doing what we are doing well at the moment. It was a wonderful performance by our bowlers. They stucj to their task and it was a the variations of Saeed Ajmal that made England’s batsmen make mistakes.”
Source: Telegraph UK

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