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Anti-Piracy Windows 7 Update Phones Home Quarterly 819

Lauren Weinstein sends in news of a major and disturbing Microsoft anti-piracy initiative called Windows Activation Technologies, or WAT. Here is Microsoft's blog post giving their perspective on what WAT is for. From Lauren's blog: "The release of Windows 7 'Update for Microsoft Windows (KB71033)' will change the current activation and anti-piracy behavior of Windows 7 by triggering automatic 'phone home' operations over the Internet to Microsoft servers, typically for now at intervals of around 90 days. ... These automatic queries will repeatedly — apparently for as long as Windows is installed — validate your Windows 7 system against Microsoft's latest database of pirated system signatures (currently including more than 70 activation exploits known to Microsoft). If your system matches — again even if up to that time (which could be months or even years since you obtained the system) it had been declared to be genuine — then your system will be 'downgraded' to 'non-genuine' status until you take steps to obtain what Microsoft considers to be an authentic, validated, Windows 7 license. ... KB971033... is scheduled to deploy to the manual downloading 'Genuine Microsoft Software' site on February 16, and start pushing out automatically through the Windows Update environment on February 23. ... [F]or Microsoft to assert that they have the right to treat ordinary PC-using consumers in this manner — declaring their systems to be non-genuine and downgrading them at any time — is rather staggering." Update: 02/12 02:08 GMT by KD : Corrected the Microsoft Knowledge Base number to include a leading 9 that had been omitted in the pre-announcement, per L. Weinstein.

NASA Solar Probe Blasts Toward Rendezvous With Sun 90

coondoggie writes "NASA this morning used a United Launch Alliance Atlas rocket to blast its 6,800lb Solar Dynamics Observatory into an orbit 22,300 miles above Earth. The $808 million spacecraft will ultimately study the Sun and send back what NASA called a prodigious rush of pictures about sunspots, solar flares and a variety of other never-before-seen solar events. The idea is to get a better idea of how the Sun works and let scientists better forecast the space weather to offer earlier warnings to protect astronauts and satellites, NASA said."

StarCraft II Beta To Begin This Month 182

mrxak writes "It's official; Activision Blizzard's much-anticipated sequel to 12-year-old StarCraft is going to enter closed beta 'this month,' according to company President Mike Morhaime during an investor conference call. This comes in the wake of the SC2 beta forums showing up briefly on Battle.net. If you've got a Battle.net account, it's probably not too late to opt-in for upcoming Blizzard beta tests."

RIAA Insists On 3rd Trial In Thomas Case 280

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "Not satisfied with the reduced $54,000 verdict which the Judge allowed it in Capitol Records v. Thomas-Rasset, representing approximately 6500 times the amount of their actual damages, the RIAA has decided to take its chances on a third trial, at which it could only win a verdict that is equal to, or less than, $54,000. Since a 3rd trial in and of itself makes no economic sense, and since the RIAA's lawyers inappropriately added 7 pages of legal argument to their 'notice', it can only be assumed that the reason they are opting for a 3rd trial is to hope that they can somehow bait the Judge into making an error that will help them on an appeal."

Australian Senate Hears Open Source Is Too Expensive 365

schliz writes "The Australian Government Information Management Office says that a platform change to open source could cost more than it saves. It was pushed to investigate open source software to reduce its AUD$500m budget at a Senate meeting yesterday. From the article: 'Agencies are obliged to consider value for money on each occasion they apply a software,' spokesperson Graham Fry said. 'If the cost of assessing it [open source] was greater than the cost of the software, you would have to think twice.'"

Big Dipper "Star" Actually a Sextuplet System 88

Theosis sends word that an astronomer at the University of Rochester and his colleagues have made the surprise discovery that Alcor, one of the brightest stars in the Big Dipper, is actually two stars; and it is apparently gravitationally bound to the four-star Mizar system, making the whole group a sextuplet. This would make the Mizar-Alcor sextuplet the second-nearest such system known. The discovery is especially surprising because Alcor is one of the most studied stars in the sky. The Mizar-Alcor system has been involved in many "firsts" in the history of astronomy: "Benedetto Castelli, Galileo's protege and collaborator, first observed with a telescope that Mizar was not a single star in 1617, and Galileo observed it a week after hearing about this from Castelli, and noted it in his notebooks... Those two stars, called Mizar A and Mizar B, together with Alcor, in 1857 became the first binary stars ever photographed through a telescope. In 1890, Mizar A was discovered to itself be a binary, being the first binary to be discovered using spectroscopy. In 1908, spectroscopy revealed that Mizar B was also a pair of stars, making the group the first-known quintuple star system."

Comment Baen Books is Great (Score 1) 468

I like the philosophy at Baen Books - let people sample the work for free, and sales will flow in. They have a great library of free ebooks in a number of formats. I have personally purchased a lot of books from Baen after I sampled from their free library and found authors whose works I enjoyed.

Valve Takes Optimistic View of Piracy 509

GameDaily recently spoke with Jason Holtman, director of business development and legal affairs for Valve, about online sales and piracy. Holtman took a surprising stance on the latter, effectively taking responsibility for at least a portion of pirated games. Quoting: "'There's a big business feeling that there's piracy,' he says. But the truth is: 'Pirates are underserved customers. When you think about it that way, you think, "Oh my gosh, I can do some interesting things and make some interesting money off of it." We take all of our games day-and-date to Russia,' Holtman says of Valve. 'The reason people pirated things in Russia,' he explains, 'is because Russians are reading magazines and watching television — they say "Man, I want to play that game so bad," but the publishers respond "you can play that game in six months...maybe." We found that our piracy rates dropped off significantly,' Holtman says." Attitudes like this seem to be prevalent at Valve; last month we talked about founder Gabe Newell's comments that "most DRM strategies are just dumb."

The Art of Downloadable Game Development 32

The Guardian's Games Blog looks at how the development of downloadable games has shifted over the past several years. As an example, they point to Capcom, its recent reinvention of the Mega Man franchise, and an upcoming game called Flock. Quoting: "[CEO Paddy Sinclair said], 'The first thing we realised was, it wouldn't be as easy as we thought. Luckily we're funded privately so we had the luxury of getting it wrong. It was very... educational. We learned very quickly that, no, you can't write a game in three months. We also realized we'd need a bigger team than just two or three.' 'The XBLA market has really evolved,' continues business development head, Chris Wright. 'If you look at the very early games they were simple ports — single-player, retro emulation titles, and you can kick those out very quickly. That market is disappearing. If you're going to do retro remakes you have to extend it, you have to add multiplayer. If you're going to do something new, it has to be bigger. We've got a team of 10-12 people working on this title. If you look back, it's what we would have had on PS1, and the game is probably of the same sort of size. It's not the huge budgets of a retail title, but it's not a trivial undertaking, either.'"

Distributed "Nuclear Batteries" the New Infrastructure Answer? 611

thepacketmaster writes "The Star reports about a new power generation model using smaller distributed power generators located closer to the consumer. This saves money on power generation lines and creates an infrastructure that can be more easily expanded with smaller incremental steps, compared to bigger centralized power generation projects. The generators in line for this are green sources, but Hyperion Power Generation, NuScale, Adams Atomic Engines (and some other companies) are offering small nuclear reactors to plug into this type of infrastructure. The generator from Hyperion is about the size of a garden shed, and uses older technology that is not capable of creating nuclear warheads, and supposedly self-regulating so it won't go critical. They envision burying reactors near the consumers for 5-10 years, digging them back up and recycling them. Since they are so low maintenance and self-contained, they are calling them nuclear batteries."

Comment Mercedes E350 - Battery in Trunk (Score 1) 520

I am surprised that mercedes, who goes to so much trouble to isolate the battery from the rest of the engine, does not move the battery to the back. Perhaps there is some power limit for a sealed battery.

Actually, Mercedes does make cars with batteries in the trunk - my friend's 2006 E350 is one example. We had to take a look at the owner's manual to figure out how to jump start the thing.


Submission + - Return of Sony's Robotic Dog 'Aibo' Circulating (engadget.com)

Xight writes: "There is a rumor going around that Sony's popular robotic dog Aibo will be returning. From Engadget's post "First and foremost, the re-upped model will be tailored to interface wirelessly with your PSP and PS3, will have a built in headcam which utilizes a motion sensor and facial recognition, and can stream its POV video over WiFi to your system. In addition, you'll apparently get to remotely trigger the bot with your handheld and control its movements"."

Submission + - Nokia to offer unlimited music downloads 1

superash writes: Nokia's plan to offer unlimited music downloads challenges the dominant pay-per-track sales model and is likely to upset carriers already worried that Nokia is poaching their customer relationships. The world's biggest cellphone maker announced a deal on Tuesday with top record label Universal that will give customers buying particular Nokia devices unlimited access to millions of tracks for a year and allow them to keep the music afterwards.
Nokia and Universal did not disclose financial terms but Universal's digital operations chief, Rob Wells, told Reuters in an interview: "Unless there was enough money for the world's biggest record company we would not have agreed to the deal."

Is this a the start of a new era where music download costs are gulped by the mobile/music_player companies and hidden in the device costs?

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