edadams sends in a story about the legal questions that are starting to crop up over property disputes in virtual worlds. A lawsuit in March 2008 that stopped one Second Life user from selling a virtual product created by another user marked the beginning of a significant amount of casework for several law firms, in large part due to the way Second Life's currency interacts closely with real money. (And yes, apparently the product in that particular case was for cybersex — did you have to ask?) "As transactions grow in volume, it's inevitable that disagreements will crop up. Linden says that although it will enforce its terms of service, including its ban on violating other users' intellectual property, it can't settle most disputes for users." A lawyer for one intellectual property firm handled a case in which the co-ownership of virtual real estate had to be determined, ending with a financial settlement given to two users who helped a virtual land developer run a group of Second Life islands. As virtual worlds get more popular and their business models more directly affect real-life finances, we can expect these legal issues to become more common as well.
holy_calamity writes "New Scientist reports on the different flavors of Turing Test being used by AI researchers to judge the human-ness of their creations. While some strive only to meet the 'appearance Turing Test' and build or animate characters that look human, others are investigating how robots can be made to elicit the same brain activity in a person as interacting with a human would."
Hugh Pickens writes "The San Fransisco Chronicle is running a story about Brian Malow, a stand-up comedian who has showcased his science-centric stand-up humor for more than a decade in comedy clubs, at conventions and for corporate clients across the country. Fortunately, club patrons don't need a degree in quantum mechanics to appreciate one-liners like 'I used to be an astronomer, but I got stuck on the day shift,' 'I just started reading, "The Origin of Species." Don't tell me how it ends!' or that he 'attended a magnet school for bipolar students.' While his show is very rational and based on hard science, Malow cleverly infuses it with an abstract or surreal comic twist."
narramissic writes "The National Security Agency has patented a technique for figuring out whether someone is messing with your network by measuring the amount of time it takes to send different types of data and sounding an alert if something takes too long. 'The neat thing about this particular patent is that they look at the differences between the network layers,' said Tadayoshi Kohno, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Washington. But IOActive security researcher Dan Kaminsky wasn't so impressed: 'Think of it as — if your network gets a little slower, maybe a bad guy has physically inserted a device that is intercepting and retransmitting packets. Sure, that's possible. Or perhaps you're routing through a slower path for one of a billion reasons.'"
secmartin writes "Belgian ISP Scarlet scored an important victory in the first major European test of copyright law. The interim decision forcing them to block transfers of copyrighted materials via P2P has been reversed, because the judge agreed with Scarlet that the measures the Belgian RIAA proposed to implement proved to be ineffective. A final decision is expected next year."
VideoGamer sat down with Randy Stude, president of the PC Gaming Alliance, to talk about the state of piracy and DRM in today's gaming industry. He suggests that many game studios have themselves to blame for leaks and pre-launch piracy by not integrating their protection measures earlier in the development process. He mentions that some companies, such as Blizzard and Valve, have worked out anti-piracy schemes that generate much less of a backlash than occurred for Spore . Stude also has harsh words for companies who decline to create PC versions of their games, LucasArts in particular, saying, "LucasArts hasn't made a good PC game in a long time. That's my opinion. ... It's ridiculous to say that there's not enough audience for that game ... and that it falls into this enthusiast extreme category when ported over to the PC. That's an uneducated response." Finally, Stude discusses what the PCGA would like to see out of Vista and the next version of Windows.
arcticstoat writes "It's sometimes easy to forget that the PC graphics market isn't owned by ATI and Nvidia, and the company that first gave us 3D acceleration, S3, is very much still around. So much so, in fact, that it's now even developed its own GPGPU technology. S3 claims that its Chrome 400 chips can accelerate gaming physics, HD video transcoding/encoding and photo enhancement. To demonstrate the latter, S3 has released a free download called S3FotoPro, which enhances color clarity and reduces haze in photos. However, the company hasn't yet revealed whether it plans to support OpenCL in the future." The Tech Report also points out that this could allow S3's parent company, VIA, to compete with Intel and AMD in graphics processing technology.
SNate writes "After a grinding three-year development cycle, the OpenOffice.org team has finally squeezed out a new release. New features include support for the controversial Microsoft OOXML file format, multi-page views in Writer, and PDF import via an extension. Linux Format has an overview of the new release, asking the question: is it really worth the 3.0 label?"
Many readers reminded us of what no-one can have failed to hear: that the Congress passed and the President signed a $700B bailout bill in an attempt to avert the meltdown of the US economy. The bill allocates $700 billion to the Treasury Department for the purchase of so-called "toxic assets" that have been weighing down Wall Street balance sheets. This isn't particularly a tech story, though tech will be affected as will virtually all parts of the economy, and not just in the US. Among the $110B in so-called pork added to the bill to sway reluctant legislators are extensions of popular tax benefits for business R&D and alternative energy, relief for the growing pool of people subject to the alternative minimum tax, and a provision raising the FDIC's ceiling of guaranteed deposits to $250,000. Some limits were also imposed on executive compensation, though it's unclear whether they will be effective.
tmalone writes "The New York Times is running an end of year piece about the most interesting people who have died this year. One of their picks is Joybubbles, also known as Josef Engressia, or 'Whistler.' He was born blind and discovered at the age of 7 that he could whistle 2600 hertz into a phone to make free long-distance calls. He was one of the original phone phreaks, got arrested for phone fraud, and was even employed by the phone company. The article deals more with his personal life than with his technical exploits, but is a very interesting story."
Dr. Eggman (932300) writes "GamePolitics.com has the story the Florida Bar has ordered Jack Thompson to undergo psychological testing and have suspended his license for 91 days. According to his 2005 book, he has been asked to undergo such testing by the bar before, but sued and successfully settled with the bar for $20,000."
gavint writes "In the first 12 hours since "Landrush" registration of .eu Domains begun at 11:00 CET, over 1 million have been registered. Predictions of .eu becoming the second biggest domain after .com look like they may become true, with Nominet being responsible for "over four million" .uk domains, the second biggest namespace. The UK initially led the way during Landrush but have since been overtaken by Germany, with over a quarter of all registered domains. Meanwhile many "Sunrise" period applications where businesses are able to protect domains where they hold a prior right remain unprocessed, although these domains cannot be registered yet during Landrush. Over 1,000 registration agents were only allowed one connection each to EURid's servers in order to prevent problems and ensure fairness."
Anonymous Coward writes to tell us that a new release of the popular open source backup tool Amanda is now available fixing many of the limitations of previous versions. From the release: "Overall the focus of the release is on security of the backup process & backed up data, scalability of the backup process and ease of installation & configuration of Amanda."
theodp writes "In a cover story, Newsweek takes a look at the new wave of start-ups cashing in on the next stage of the Internet by Putting The 'We' in Web. Sites built on user-generated content like YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, Digg and Facebook have all taken a page from Tom Sawyer's playbook, engaging the community to do their work, prompting Google CEO Eric Schmidt to suggest he finds MySpace more interesting than Microsoft."