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November 14, 2003
[ News: Software turns iTunes Into MP3 Downloader ]

 Sometimes I wonder whether it's ever going to be possible to produce a watertight way of limiting access to digital music. Take Apple's very popular iTunes, for example. CNET reports that an independent software developer has created a program that lets users of iTunes for Windows grab song files from other people on a computer network, using a streaming feature already available in iTunes. The MyTunes software fits neatly into iTunes and, unlike Apple's software which makes no permanent copy of the song, captures that "stream" of music, making a copy that can be burned to a CD, uploaded to the Net or streamed to another PC.
As CNET says, "while stream recording is not new--a myriad programs exist for recording Web radio and other streaming Net services for Windows and Macintosh computers--the ease with which the MyTunes software fits into iTunes pushes the experience to a new, and perhaps legally risky, level. Running the program makes creating your own MP3 songs from someone else's collection as easy or easier than grabbing MP3s via traditional file-swapping software like Kazaa. That could complicate things for Apple, which depends on the music industry's support--and indeed, has won unprecedented kudos from labels and artists--for its iTunes music store."

[ Update: More On Those Exploding Batteries ]

 Seems that Nokia may have been right about those exploding batteries being fakes. The Register reports that the Belgian consumer organisation which last week claimed that three Nokia batteries were unprotected against short-circuiting is to re-examine its findings. It seems that Test-Aankoop may well have been hoodwinked and tested fake Nokia batteries instead of the real thing.
Test-Aankoop is to test a new batch - this time using genuine Nokia batteries.

November 12, 2003
[ News: Nokia Confirms N-Gage Cracked ]

 Nokia has confirmed a story doing the rounds yesterday: that hackers have cracked the copy-protection codes for its newly launched N-Gage gaming device, allowing copied games to be downloaded over the Web, according to Reuters.
Nokia has high hopes for N-Gage, aiming to challenge market leader Nintendo's Gameboy Advance. A vital part of the revenue from N-Gage will come from games, which are sold separately, but Nokia said it did not expect the illegal downloads to become widespread. The cracked versions of the games can in principle be installed and played on any phone that uses the same basic operating software, Series 60, used in N-Gage. Other models include Siemens's SX1.

[ News: The Explanation Behind All Those Attacks? ]

 It seems that there's a purpose behind the viruses we've all been getting: old-fashioned extortion. Reuters reports that extortionists -- many thought to come from eastern Europe -- have been targetting casinos and retailers, but one recent high-profile victim was the Port of Houston. The attacks, which can cripple a corporate network with a barrage of bogus data requests, are followed by a demand for money. An effective attack can knock a Web site offline for extended periods.
Online casinos appear to be a favorite target as they do brisk business and many are located in the Caribbean where investigators are poorly equipped to tackle such investigations. Police said because of a lack of information from victimized companies, they are unsure whether these are isolated incidents or the start of a new crime wave.
Last week, the online payment service WorldPay admitted to suffering a major DDoS attack that lasted three days. WorldPay, owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland, has been fully restored. The NHTCU spokeswoman said the investigation into the WorldPay is ongoing.

[ News: More Banking Scam Trojan Spam ]

 There's more spam-trojan-banking scams around: these are emails that look like legit communications from your bank manager. Australia is the probably source of a new one discovered in the last 24 hours, according to MessageLabs, which at least looks plausible because it says your credit application has been rejected. (I know the feeling.)
If activated (in other words, if you click on the attachment) the trojan will try to download a further component from a free hosting website located in Russia.  After activation, this trojan copies itself to the Windows System folder and installs a .DLL file, which enables the trojan to acts as a proxy server; i.e. it allows someone to channel any Internet activities through the infected computer without the recipient's knowledge. Non of this is unusual, but I am not sure about this bit: the channel between the remote computer -- the Russian one -- and the infected computer is also encrypted. Sneaky.
Here's an example of what it looks like:
From: "Account Manager" <accounts_manager@citibank.com>
Subject: Re: Your credit application
    Dear Sir!
    Thank you for your online application for a Home Equity Loan. In order to be approved for any loan application we pull your Credit Profile and Chexsystems information, which didn't satisfy our minimum needs. Consequently, we regret to say that we cannot approve you for Home Equity Loan at this time.
*Attached are copy of your Credit Profile and Your Application that you submitted with us. Please take a close look at it, you will receive
hard copy by mail withing [sic] next few days.
Attachment: www.citybankhomeloan.htm.pif (6,176 bytes)  [NB: spelling of citybank vs. citibank]
You've been warned.

[ News: Say Goodbye To Popups ]

 Pop Up ads are doomed, now that Microsoft will make blocking them part of its browser, Internet Explorer. Explorer, ZDNet says, joins other web browsers by doing it, but because of its huge market share, it's likely to kill off the concept entirely. No bad thing, you may say, but it will also hit advertising revenues and may kill off more than a few ventures that depend on ads.
The moves by Microsoft and others are the result of deep consumer loathing of pop-ups. About 88 percent of broadband users and 87 percent of dial-up users in North America find that pop-ups interfere with their Web surfing experience, according to Forrester Research.

[ News: Trademarks, Slaps In The Face and McJobs ]

 An interesting tale that is not that technology-oriented, but illustrates how stories now tend to unfold in real time, in front of everyone, leaving less and less wiggle-room for companies and institutions involved. Merriam-Webster, The Register says, is revising a web page for its online Collegiate Dictionary after a McDonalds executive complained about the inclusion of the word 'McJob'. The publisher, however, insists that the two events are not related, and says the word remained in the dictionary and would be restored online.

[ News: Is Wi-Fi A Health Threat? ]

 An Illinois lawsuit against a school district is bringing attention to the possible health effects of wireless networks. Wi-Fi Networking News takes a closer look at concludes that while a study used by the parents in the case "should certainly disturb those in the cell industry, it?s applicability to Wi-Fi is very very low."

[ News: Microsoft Turns Its Guns On Blogging, RSS Etc ]

 Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Microsoft have got their eye on blogs, RSS feeds and all those things that we love down here at Loose Wire. Microsoft Watch reports a prototype of software code-named "Wallop" -- the company's foray into social-networking software. While part of the application is a blogging tool, it also includes Sapphire, technology for simplifying and unifying data storage/retrieval; Stacks, technology for organizing photos; Personal Map, technology for organizing contacts; and MS Connect and Point-to-Point, which show connections between people (via Active Directory), as well as between individuals and groups.

November 11, 2003
[ News: Another Shot In Foot For Apple ]

 It never rains but it pours for Apple. Its stuff seems to be selling well, but it still seems to run into trouble. Britain's TV standards authority the Independent Television Commission has banned an ad for the the PowerMac G5 which claims it was "the world's fastest, most powerful personal computer". Viewers (well, eight of them) said it was misleading because the main claim was based on the results of limited tests in which the specification of the computers used was configured to give Apple the best results.
An expert looked into it and agreed: He found that the claim was not supported by independent reviews and that at best "the G5 was generally as fast as the best Intel-based workstations currently available". Judgement: the advertising was misleading and required that it should not be re-shown in its current form. Discussion on Slashdot here.

[ News: Sony (Nearly) Gets It ]

 Sony is taking the route I (and I'm sure, hundreds of others) have been pushing for: offer the consumer a reward, or compensation, for going legit. But they still don't get it right. Reuters reports that Sony Music will introduce new CD technology in Germany that prevents users from copying songs to file-sharing sites, but allows them to make copies for their personal use.
The important bit is the extras they offer on the CD: Naturally Seven's new German CD will have a "second session." The disc can be played on almost any device conventionally, and also contains a compressed digital copy of the music that can be quickly copied onto any computer. The CDs also allow users to connect to Web sites with exclusive features such as bonus songs and concert tickets. The features are only available if you have the original CD.
Sadly, however, Sony still don't get it, thinking we all live in a world that looks like a Sony ad: The digital files will only play on Sony-licensed digital music players. And to copy the music to the Sony portable player, the technology requires an extra step to copy the files to a separate program to transfer the music to the portable player.
When will they learn?
Somewhat bizarrely,  the piece quotes Sony Music Chief Technology Officer Phil Wiser as saying, "All copy-protections can be hacked. But if give people what they are asking for in terms of value, they won't go out and steal it. It's called trusting the consumer."

November 10, 2003
[ News: Offline Smut Goes Way Of All Flesh ]

 Seems there's only room for so much porn. Offline, hardcopy pornography -- porn mags, to you and me -- is going the way of all flesh. AP quotes veteran pornographer Al Goldstein as saying he has "stopped publishing Screw magazine and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, giving him a chance to cut costs, relaunch the magazine and refocus attention on his Web site."
Founded in 1968, Screw was a hit for a while, but now, Goldstein says,  "we are an anachronism; we are dinosaurs; we are elephants going to the bone cemetery to die. ... The delivery system has changed, and we have to change with it if we want to survive."

[ Update: Nokia Not In The Clear Over Exploding Phones ]

 A Belgian consumer watchdog reckons Nokia's claims that exploding batteries in their phones -- more than 20 cases this year, according to Nokia -- are non-original replacements is not necessarily true. Test-Aankoop, The Register says, claims that some Nokia batteries are also unprotected against short-circuiting.
Rubbish, says Nokia. But then it would.

[ Software: A New Search Toolbar ]

 Not the catchiest name, but Practisearch seems to do a lot of what the Google Deskbar does: Select the text you want to search, press a hotkey, and a Google web page will open already with the search results for that text. It also does other stuff. It costs $20.

[ News: The MP3 Party Is Over? ]

 CNN reports that more than a million households deleted all the digital music files they had saved on their PCs in August, a sign that the record industry's anti-piracy tactics are hitting home. It quoted research company NPD Group as crediting the ongoing anti-piracy campaign by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and said publicity about the move led more consumers to delete musical files. In August, 1.4 million households deleted all music files, whereas prior to August, deletions were at much lower levels, according to Port Washington.

[ Software: Spam Blocker Or Spammer? ]

 It sounds good in theory, but I have my qualms. Smartalec Internet Security Suite 2004 combines a firewall, and anti-worm block, and a spam blocker, all for $20. But when I click on the main link to buy it from their online website, Live Wire Media, I'm diverted to a website inviting me to get paid for doing surveys. Is this a mix-up, an elaborate scam, or is the company that makes Smartalec also on the other side of the spam business? I like to use software which isn't from the big boys, but nowadays it pays to check the provenance of even the most kosher-sounding programs.
(This, in case you're interested, is the page advertising the product, and this is the link inviting you to go for more information, which then seems to default to the PayForSurveys.com website.)

about loose wire
musings, snippets, grievances and links on personal technology by dow jones columnist jeremy wagstaff. I want to hear from users -- technology-related stories, complaints, thoughts, ideas, brickbats -- so please email me

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