Sunday, January 27, 2008

Bill and Steve's Dueling Keynotes End With a Whimper

With Bill Gates' upcoming retirement, January marked the last time he and Steve Jobs would deliver back-to-back keynote speeches at CES and Macworld, respectively. We're witnessing the end to one of the most interesting personal rivalries the technology industry has ever known. Both men's presentations lacked any real punch, though, and they've left us hanging.

Because the Consumer Electronics Show and Macworld run back to back, it's easy to make comparisons between the two men who headline the big tech trade shows. As a journalist, I had barely unpacked my bags, mentally speaking, before I had to move on from listening to Bill Gates to hearing Steve Jobs.

This year is the last when I can draw a timely comparison between, as the Apple ads depict, the straitlaced PC Guy and the cool Mac Guy. Gates said this year's speech was his final CES keynote before he becomes a full-time philanthropist. Jobs won't have Gates to belittle anymore. However, even with Gates gone, Apple will no doubt still find ways to belittle Microsoft . I get the sense that the needling comes from the very top. This kind of tit-for-tat sparring has gone on between the two men since the 1970s.

How Times Change

It is funny how things change. When Gates gave his first CES keynote in 1994, Microsoft was on the march and Jobs was still trying to get his little animated film company, Pixar , off the ground. Now the positions seem reversed. Jobs has more cachet than Gates. He has a Midas touch, with everything from his new operating system to the iPhone getting rave reviews. The only exception was the original Apple TV.

Gates went out with a whimper. Microsoft didn't have many new products to tout at CES. Some cool things, like the Microsoft Surface Computing table, weren't ready to ship. Gates repeated parts of his past speeches on the "digital decade," but he didn't close with any great predictions. Nor did he slam rivals or dazzle us with his intelligence.

His most scintillating quote:

"This is just the beginning. There is nothing holding us back from going much faster and much further in the second digital decade."

I got a sense that Gates didn't have his heart in everything he was talking about. Sure, he had shipped 110 million copies of Windows Vista, the new Microsoft operating system. That's a good way to go out. However, he closed with a demo of "Guitar Hero III," a video game you can get on non-Microsoft platforms. It was as if he had nothing profound to say.

The Man With the $7 Haircut

The hilarious thing that Gates did was make fun of himself in a video that depicted his "last day" of work at Microsoft, expected to happen sometime in the summer. It was as if he was minimizing his importance at Microsoft, signaling that the company could go on without him. He mocked his own celebrity status and used the cachet of his video guests -- George Clooney, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Al Gore and others -- to entertain the crowd. He apparently wants to be remembered for his sense of humor, not for wise words or stunning demos. NBC anchor Brian Williams closed the video with this:

"Let's face it, (Gates) doesn't believe in paying more than $7 for a haircut."

That's what you say about the class clown, not the world's richest man.

Proud Papa

Jobs, meanwhile, was the celebrity at Macworld. The crowd hooted and cheered every little announcement. With his showman's flair, Jobs showed off a few innovations that reflected the different styles of the companies.

Microsoft did so many demos that it diluted the impact of each one. Jobs limited himself to just four products that he treated like his babies. He looked like a proud papa when he held up the world's thinnest notebook computer, walking back and forth on stage with it so everyone could photograph it. And he touted such accomplishments as selling 5 million copies of Apple's new operating system in 90 days and selling 20,000 iPhones a day in 200 days.

Clearly, the personal style of Jobs is hands on, as if he were a Swiss-watch maker. With the dueling keynotes, I have come to expect more from Jobs than I do from Gates. Maybe that's why I was more disappointed with Jobs.

No "One More Thing"

These were evolutionary, not revolutionary, announcements by Apple standards, said Tim Bajarin, analyst at Creative Strategies.

Last year, Macworld outshone CES because of Jobs' big iPhone announcement. This time, Jobs rescued Apple TV from an early death, but he didn't close with his signature "one more thing," surprising the audience with something totally unexpected. Instead, he introduced singer Randy Newman and walked off the stage. It was as if Jobs pulled a punch and decided to keep more announcements in his pocket for another day.

Last year, Jobs and Gates appeared on stage together at the All Things D conference to reminisce about old times. Gates said he would love to have Jobs' taste in picking designs. Jobs commented on how the Mac Guy and the PC Guy need each other.

That's all the closure we'll get to the "Steve & Bill Show." We're witnessing the end to one of the most interesting personal rivalries the technology industry has ever known. In the past couple of weeks, it happened without much ado. It leaves me hanging. Like the ending of "The Sopranos."

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Adam Gilchrist announces his retirement

Adam Gilchrist, who revolutionised the role of the wicketkeeper-batsman, has retired from Tests barely 24 hours after taking the world record for dismissals. The shock news means Gilchrist will depart on a global high at the end of the fourth match against India on Monday and his last ODI appearances will come in the CB Series, which finishes in March.

Over the past couple of years Gilchrist, 36, has been worn down by the grind of international touring and has been desperate to spend more time with his wife Mel and their three children. Despite his family circumstances, Gilchrist's announcement at the end of the third day came as a surprise after he had spent much of the previous evening denying he was close to walking away.

"I'll let people know when I'm going to retire,"

he said on Friday,

"whether it's tomorrow or in 12 months. At the moment I'm going to keep focussing on giving everything I've got to this team."

He told his team-mates in the morning he was leaving and it was an emotional time.

"I've come to this decision after much thought and discussion with those most important to me,"

Gilchrist said before boarding the team bus.

"My family and I have been fortunate to have had an amazing journey full of rich experiences throughout my career."

Gilchrist played 96 Tests, the same number as Rod Marsh, and has collected 414 dismissals, currently one more than South Africa's Mark Boucher. However, his glovework, which has diminished over the past month, will not be why he is remembered as one of Australia's most significant players.

Matthew Hayden, who has been a team-mate of Gilchrist's for the past eight years, called it "massive news" and said he would be "deeply, deeply missed".

"He is one of the greatest to have ever played the game,"

Hayden said.

"He was incredibly positive and his flamboyant nature equals the greats of Viv Richards and other calypso characters over the years."

"He entertained everyone globally and has done it in a statesman-like way. He changed cricketers throughout the world and is a tremendous individual."

Gilchrist brought a limited-overs approach to Tests, becoming the first man to launch 100 sixes in the format, registering the most centuries by a wicketkeeper-batsman, and scoring at a phenomenal strike-rate in the low 80s. Apart from posting almost 6000 runs, he was also responsible for the more aggressive approach to a game where three runs an over was previously considered reckless.

Growing up in New South Wales, he moved to Western Australia to collect a first-class opportunity and made his Test debut to a chorus of boos after replacing Ian Healy in Brisbane. He scored 81 against Pakistan and brought up his first century in the following match in a miracle chase in Hobart. From 1999 the Australia team was never the same, winning 16 Tests in a row under Steve Waugh, a streak that was matched by Ricky Ponting's outfit over the past three years.

One of only three players to have won a trio of World Cup titles, Gilchrist was picked to open on a Waugh hunch over a bowl of ice-cream and quickly became one of the most threatening limited-overs players of all time. Others have tried to adopt his style but none has managed it for a decade, which is a tribute to the traits developed by a country boy from northern New South Wales.

"I am now ready and excited to move into the next phase of my life, which will include much more time with Mel, Harrison, Annie and Archie,"

Gilchrist said. He thanked his state and country associations and his team-mates for the

"most enjoyable, fun career anyone could hope for".

Brad Haddin, the New South Wales wicketkeeper, has spent the past couple of years with the limited-overs team and should get his first taste of Test action if the March tour to Pakistan goes ahead.

Two more wickets need to fall before Gilchrist will appear at Adelaide Oval and he will be celebrated like Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer were last year. Adelaide has not been the normal place for farewells over the past decade, but Gilchrist has not been a traditional player.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Oscar nominations to be announced

The films and stars shortlisted for this year's Oscars will be announced in Los Angeles later.

The nominees are expected to include Daniel Day-Lewis, Johnny Depp and Cate Blanchett for movies There Will Be Blood, Sweeney Todd and I'm Not There.

There is still some doubt about the impact the ongoing US writers' strike will have on the format of the 80th Academy Awards ceremony on 24 February.

Jon Stewart, the face of TV's satirical Daily Show, is to host the event.

The nominations will be announced at 0530 Los Angeles time (1330 GMT) at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

They were selected during a two-week ballot of more than 5,800 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

A total of 24 categories will be announced, including the best acting performances of the year, technical awards in areas such as editing, design and music, and the prestigious prize for best picture.

Picket threatened

Among the other likely nominees are Atonement, the World War II romantic drama starring James McAvoy and Keira Knightley, which was named best film at the Golden Globe Awards earlier this month.

The other main winners at the Golden Globes were the Coen brothers' production No Country for Old Men and French film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

However, the results were announced during a low-key press conference rather than at the traditional glittering ceremony.

This was because members of the Writers Guild of America - on strike over royalties since 5 November - had threatened to picket the awards if they went ahead.

In a show of support, actors' union The Screen Actors Guild stated its members would not cross any picket lines, meaning any ceremony would have gone ahead with few celebrities.

It is rumoured that the Academy has a back-up plan so the Oscars can be held without the endorsement of writers or actors, the Associated Press reported, but no details have been released.

"We are planning to have our show on 24 February at the Kodak Theatre with an audience of 3,300 people and a television audience significantly larger than that,"

academy spokeswoman Leslie Unger has said.

iPhone v1.1.3 Hacked Already!

The latest craze with iPhone lovers is the v1.1.3 update that's making techies' brain cells pop with the kind of features it's brought to the device. Of course, hackers would no doubt make it their life's ambition to crack this version too... and what do you know, they have!

Hackers such as Jonathan Zdziarski (who brought the NES emulator to the iPhone) managed to jailbreak the iPhone without having to mess around with the hardware. Before Zdziarski came along, there was a hack that unfortunately required hardware manipulation.

If you're an iPhone noob, 'Jailbreaking' involves cracking the iPhone so that it will allows users to install third party applications that are not official. It allows full read/write access to the file system of the iPhone, which opens it up to manipulation for various purposes (and not just running third party apps).

You can take a look at the hacking via the YouTube video these guys have so graciously put up. Most of the other iPhone sites seem to have lost the video altogether.

Thunder Jet JF-17 production begins in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The co-production of Pak China Thunder jet JF-17 has officially begun at the Kamra Aeronautical Complex.

The project was inaugurated by Air Chief Marshal Tanveer Mehmood at Kamra on Tuesday.

The JF-17 thunder jets can also be upgraded to carry conventional and non-conventional weapons.

The Joint Fighter-17 (JF-17) Thunder, also known as the Fighter China-1 (FC-1) Fierce Dragon in China, is a single-seat multirole fighter aircraft.

The first two aircraft were delivered to the Pakistan Air Force in December 2007.
The JF-17/FC-1 is designed to be a cost-effective plane which can meet the tactical and strategic needs of the Pakistani Air Force.

Till now, it has been manufactured by the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation.

Its maiden flight took place on August 25, 2003. Its primary users are the Pakistan Air Force and the PLA Air Force. Four prototypes plu four have been delivered to Pakistan. Each aircraft costs an estimated 15-20 million American dollars.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

AOL Test IM for the Deaf

AOL has announced a new real-time text function in its popular AOL Instant Messaging, allowing deaf or hard of hearing users to see each other's text live as it is typed.

This feature, now being beta tested as AIM 6.8, was created together by Gallaudet's Technology Access Program (TAP), the Trace Center at University of Wisconsin, Madison, and AOL.

This feature allows AIM "buddies" to see each other's text, letter by letter, as it is typed, rather than having to wait until the message is complete before it can be seen.

The real-time feature in AIM adds a conversational flow to messaging and allows for interruption while maintaining the AIM look and feel, with previous messages displayed above the typing window.

Click here for installation instructions for AOL 6.8 beta.

Slide takes $50 mln in funding amid Facebook craze

Social network software maker Slide Inc said on Friday it had closed a $50 million institutional financing round, marking the rising valuations of start-ups riding fast-growing Facebook's wave of popularity.

Slide made some of the hottest programs running on Facebook and News Corp's MySpace, including media-sharing applications Slide Shows, Top Friends, SuperPoke! and FunWall.

Max Levchin, its Ukranian-born and Chicago-raised founder, declined to name the investors. But sources close to the deal said they were Fidelity Investments and T Rowe Price.

The round is nearly 10 times the size of the median round of $5.18 million for Web 2.0 firms in the first half of 2007, according to Dow Jones investment tracking unit VentureOne.

This follows the roughly $500 million recently raised by Facebook from Microsoft Corp and Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, giving it an implied $15 billion valuation.

Slide, incorporated in 2005, was originally self-funded by Levchin, 32, who co-founded online payments company PayPal a decade ago. He later took funding from Peter Thiel, the other founder of PayPal, which eBay Inc bought in 2002.

Subsequent funding for San Francisco-based Slide was provided by leading Silicon Valley venture capitalists Mayfield Fund, former Nokia venture arm BlueRun Ventures, Khosla Ventures and Founders Fund, Thiel's venture fund.

These earlier rounds of funding totaled in the "low tens of millions of dollars," one of the sources said.


Slide is among the first companies to capitalize on the success of Facebook and MySpace in becoming central stages for consumer Web use, playing the role of Windows in the personal computer era or the Netscape browser in the early Web days.

Comparing the social network software generation with the dawn of the PC era, Levchin said Slide was poised to lead in the same way that Adobe, Electronic Arts and Intuit became leaders 20 years ago in design and imaging, games and finance.

"We believe there is a huge opportunity to build this next set of businesses,"

Levchin, a self-described caffeine addict who often sleeps just two hours a night, said in an interview.

Slide is based in the heart of San Francisco's former warehouse district, now a hotspot for media and software start-ups like Six Apart, Yelp, Hi5 and StumbleUpon. T-shirted programmers work long hours huddled at rows of PC-cluttered tables, as pet dogs freely roam the Slide office.

Levchin said the new cash will fund accelerated development of products and features, both on Facebook and the soon-to-be-upgraded MySpace platform, while hiring should grow from its current 65 employees to 100 this year. Acquisitions are a low priority, he said, but not out of the question.

Slide's first popular application was a slide show application that allowed Web users to dress up digital photos with glitter and other decorations to share with friends.

That caught fire on MySpace in 2006, before being built to run on other social networks. Slide then shifted its focus to Facebook ahead of that company's move last May to let outside developers build applications to run inside Facebook.

Although MySpace still has nearly double the 61 million users of Facebook, the latter has exploded beyond its roots as a college social network, topping MySpace in terms of media buzz, daily user activity, and software developer attention.

Slide has in turn emerged as the top developer of so-called widgets for Facebook. Web traffic researcher Quantcast says Slide attracts 50 million Facebook users monthly. Slide claims 143 million active users of its programs across the Web.

YouTube Sucking In More Viewers

"There are no competing destinations to YouTube if you are measuring by volume,"
said Mike Goodman, a Yankee Group analyst. All together, Americans viewed nearly 9.5 billion online videos in November, with 2.9 billion viewed at YouTube. Fox Interactive Media ranked second with 419 million videos viewed, followed by Yahoo with 328 million, and Viacom Digital with 304 million.

Step aside, boob tube. Online videos are becoming the primary form of media entertainment for many people. Web surfers spent about an hour more per month watching videos in November compared with January, according to the latest comScore Video Metrix.

Specifically, they watched an average of 3.25 hours, or 195 minutes, of online video during the month, representing a 29 percent gain from 2.52 hours, or 151 minutes, watched in January 2007.

The average online video runs about 2.8 minutes, giving the average viewer time to consume 69 of these productions.

Google sites captured the largest online video audience with 76.2 million unique viewers, followed by Fox Interactive Media with 46.3 million and Yahoo sites with 37.3 million.

YouTube Rules

Most of the viewers trekking to Google sites, of course, actually went straight to YouTube , a big tent destination that is home to everything from purloined TV shows to battle scenes shot in Iraq to customer service protests to political messages from candidates.

Thanks to its billion-dollar investment in YouTube, Google's share of the online video market is edging past 30 percent and still climbing. In November, its share had increased by 2 percentage points from October, according to the comScore statistics.

The YouTube fan base also appears to be more devoted to the Web site: comScore found that 74.5 million people viewed 2.9 billion videos on -- averaging 39 videos per viewer. This compares with 43.2 million people who viewed 389 million videos on MySpace -- an average of nine videos per viewer.

Rising Tide

"A rising tide lifts all boats,"

said Mike Goodman, an analyst with the Yankee Group, referring to Google's effect on the online video environment. Unlike search and many of the applications it has developed in house, Google bought its way into this particular industry niche, but has since managed to leverage its investment well.

"There are no competing destinations to YouTube if you are measuring by volume,"

Goodman said. He doesn't anticipate the site losing its appeal even as Google incorporates it into its various advertising initiatives.

All together, Americans viewed nearly 9.5 billion online videos in November, with 2.9 billion viewed at YouTube. Fox Interactive Media ranked second with 419 million videos viewed (4.4 percent), followed by Yahoo with 328 million (3.5 percent), and Viacom Digital with 304 million (2.6 percent).

AMD Makes $9 Million Loss

Is it true that if you sound happy that you’ll be happy? And that happiness is contagious?

Perhaps that’s the strategy of chip maker AMD, which announced Thursday a net loss of $1.77 billion in the fourth quarter on revenue of $1.77 billion. In the period a year ago, it lost $576 million on revenue of $1.773 million.

But its performance wasn’t as bad as Wall Street expected, prompting JoAnne Feeney, senior research analyst with FTN Midwest Securities Corp., to say:

Obviously, they turned in a truly excellent quarter. … It should assuage the fears of a lot of investors about the company’s ability to execute.

The company’s results for the quarter still were heavily mired in charges from its acquisition of ATI Technologies in 2006, but CEO Hector Ruiz managed to stress that it’s driving down costs and protecting its share of the microprocessor market from Intel, according to an Associated Press story on Just last month, he said of 2007, “We blew it.”

ZDNet blogger Larry Dignan finds some reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the news. AMD said its shipments were at record levels in the quarter and its processor division posted an operating profit. And overall, on an operational basis, AMD it lost only $9 million, according to blogger Tom Krazit. He points out:

You know you’ve had a bad year when financial analysts are congratulating you on only having lost $9 million before interest and taxes.

AMD shares rose 71 cents, or 11.2 percent, to $7.05 in trading Friday morning.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Google Gets Into Philanthropy Game

Google Inc.'s philanthropic arm is making more than $26 million in new grants and investments in organizations and companies devoted to causes that the Internet search leader believes will help make the world a better place.

The financial commitments announced Thursday are the largest made by since the Mountain View-based company launched its altruistic effort with $90 million in funding in 2005.

Pasadena-based eSolar Inc., a startup specializing in solar thermal power, is getting the most money from so far - $10 million investment. also is contributing toward fighting health and environmental threats, improving public services and supporting small businesses. The foundation also plans to back efforts to accelerate the use of plug-in hybrid vehicles, which can be recharged from a regular home socket.

The philanthropic arm evolved out of a commitment made by Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin when they took their company public in August 2004.

The men, now both 34, committed to creating a foundation that
"may eclipse Google itself in terms of overall world impact by ambitiously applying innovation and significant resources to the largest of the world's problems."

Google has pledged to donate 1 percent of its prized stock and 1 percent of its steadily rising profits to Those assets are currently worth about $2 billion.

Other foundations are much larger, but has attracted tremendous attention because of its connection to one of the world's most powerful companies as well as an unusual structure allowing it to operate as a corporate division rather than a separate nonprofit entity.

The hybrid approach lets make money off investments like the one it made in eSolar, as well as lobby politicians.

Microsoft Finds Excel Security Flaw

Microsoft Corp. said hackers have found a way to use some older versions of its Excel spreadsheet program to take over control of people's computers.

Microsoft said late Tuesday that it is investigating reports of such attacks, but has not yet determined whether it will patch the hole, or when.

People who open a specially crafted Excel file from an e-mail attachment or visit a compromised Web site could be inviting hackers to take over their PCs for malicious purposes such as stealing passwords and other personal information, or sending out spam. Microsoft Office Excel 2003 Service Pack 2, Excel Viewer 2003, Excel 2002, Excel 2000 and Excel 2004 for Mac all contain the security hole.

The software maker said in a statement that users of these programs can protect their computers by using a tool that scans the files for bad code before opening, called Microsoft Office Isolated Conversion Environment.

The most recent versions of the spreadsheet program, Excel 2007, Excel 2007 SP 1 and Excel 2008 for Mac, are not thought to be affected, Microsoft said.

Facebook Urged to Give up Scrabulous

The companies that make the board game Scrabble are trying to shut down Scrabulous, an online version that is one of the most popular applications on the social networking site Facebook.

Hasbro Inc., which owns the rights to the crossword game in the United States and Canada, and Mattel Inc., which owns the rights elsewhere, believe the online game, developed in India, infringes on their copyrights and trademarks.

Scrabulous listed more than 600,000 daily active users on Facebook as of Wednesday and is one of the 10 most used applications on the site. People can also play at

Hasbro and Mattel jointly issued cease-and-desist notices to four parties involved in the development, hosting and marketing of Scrabulous, according to a letter Hasbro is sending consumers who have contacted them about Scrabulous.

In a separate written statement released Wednesday, Hasbro did not name the four parties but said it was reviewing a number of options with them and hoped to find an amicable solution.

"If we cannot come to one quickly, we will be forced to close down the site and its associated distribution points,"
Hasbro said.

Scrabulous' co-developer, Jayant Agarwalla, said in an e-mail that he usually does not comment on legal issues. Facebook did not return several requests for comment.

While there are authorized Scrabble games online, Scrabulous has gained popularity because it is free, easy to play with friends and easy to access on Facebook.

The game was developed by brothers Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla, from Calcutta, India, who say on the Web site that they created it after they could not find an online version of Scrabble that they liked.

News of the toy companies' action prompted Scrabulous fans to start a "Save Scrabulous" group on Facebook and urge others to lodge protests with the companies by posting Web links to the Hasbro and Mattel sites.

In the letter Hasbro is sending to those who protest, the company urges Scrabulous fans to switch to legal Scrabble sites.

"We are not surprised that fans have thoroughly enjoyed playing Scrabulous on,"
the letter says.
"What consumers may not realize, however, is that Scrabulous is an illegally copied online version of the world's most popular word game."

John D. Williams Jr., executive director of the National Scrabble Association, said the group was hopeful the companies could work out some sort of agreement. While most competitive Scrabble players do not play Scrabulous, he said the online game was a great way to introduce young people to the traditional board game.

"We're thrilled over anything that gets people playing more Scrabble,"
he said.
"Our goal is to recruit them from the Internet and get them playing on a Scrabble board with a person sitting across from them."

New Antivirus and Internet Security from Symantec

Symantec today launched Norton Antivirus 2008 and Norton Internet Security 2008. The latter also features Norton Identity Safe to protect users’ identities when they trade and browse online.

"Our 2008 products bring about new protection technologies to block threats before they get a foothold in the system. We have also made significant product improvements to enhance the end-user experience," said Vishal Dhupar, managing director, Symantec India.

Both products include SONAR behavioral detection technology that protects against malicious code. In Norton Internet Security 2008, SONAR (Symantec Online Network for Advanced Response) will run a full scan every time an application attempts outbound communication, further protecting identity information by improving the firewall’s effectiveness against unknown threats.

Norton Antivirus 2008 and Norton Internet Security 2008 are backed by Symantec Security Response, which provides customers with Internet security expertise. The security information is delivered to customers on a daily basis to ensure they remain fully protected.

The features of Norton Antivirus 2008 are threat interceptor browser defender, home network mapping, SONAR, enhanced internet worm protection, kernel level rootkit protection, optimized performance and one click support.

The product is available for Rs 1,719 for a one-PC license that includes a one-year service subscription to use the product and receive Symantec’s protection updates. It is also available in three, five and 10-user licenses available for Rs 2,579, Rs 3,869 and Rs 6,499 respectively.

The features of Norton Internet Security 2008 are threat interceptor browser defender, Norton identity safe, SONAR, phishing protection, SONAR smart firewall, protection for home networking, one-click support and improved performance.

The product is available for Rs 2,319 for a one PC license which includes a one-year service subscription to use the product and receive Symantec’s protection updates. It is also available in three- and five-user licenses available for Rs 3,009 and Rs 4,729 respectively.

On being asked why both the products are not integrated, Dhupar said,

"We want our users to choose whatever they want. Norton Antivirus 2008 is only for basic computer protection while Norton Internet Security 2008 is for overall Internet protection. We strongly recommend our users to buy Norton Internet Security 2008."

The system requirements for both products are:

  • Windows Vista Home Basic/Home Premium/Business/Ultimate
  • Windows XP with Service Pack 2 Home/XP Pro/XP Media Centre Edition
  • 300 MHz or higher processor
  • 265 MB of RAM
  • 300MB of available hard disk space
  • Email scanning supported for standard POP3 and SMTP-compatible e-mail clients
  • Supported instant messenger clients like AOL – 4.7 to 5.9, Yahoo – 5.x to 6.x, Microsoft – 6.0 or higher and Trillian – 3.1 or higher
  • Internet browsers (for phishing protection) – Internet Explorer 6.0 (32-bit only) and later and Mozilla Firefox 2.0 and later

CoD 4: Rank Up, Soldier!

Now that you know how the Rank and Unlock systems work, it’s time to get dirty and earn some experience points. Even with the knowledge of how things work, the game might seem a little daunting to new players. So be patient, follow our tips, and you’ll be just fine:

You might be a Counter Strike or Battlefield veteran and feel like you know your guns pretty well, but trust me when I say that the guns handle a lot different in CoD 4. For starters, while gun recoil is present, it’s much more forgiving in this game; so you can actually run around wildly with your trigger pulled down at times. This works mainly with submachine guns since they’re meant for close-quarter battles.

As usual, assault rifles are ideal for midrange combat since they’re far more accurate, but less maneuverable. What I’m trying to say is: choose the right tool for the job. After you play a whole map cycle on a particular server, you’re bound to understand the maps a little better. Pay attention to what kind of combat you’re involved in most of the time and select your weapon accordingly.

If there are long corridors or open stretches in the map, an assault rifle may be viable. In that case, I suggest you stick to the M16 and work your way to M16 Marksman Level I, II and eventually III. Doing this with this weapon (or any other) will allow you to get more than 1500 bonus experience!

If the map you’re playing has a lot of closely-knit areas (such as Shipment or, to an extent, Wetwork), using an SMG is a better option initially. Pick up the MP5 since it’s an effective weapon that's very easy to use. Again, when you decide on the weapon, use it till you complete all three Marksman Challenges (which involves getting only 150 kills; very doable if you’d ask me) with that weapon.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Hrithik Roshan come together for Jodhaa Akbar music launch

Aishwarya Rai - Jodhaa of Jodhaa Akbar on the release of music of the film.

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan the main lead female of Ashutosh Gowariker's epic romance, Jodhaa Akbar.

Jodhaa Akbar - Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Bachchan.
Release of music album of Ashutosh Gowariker's epic romance, Jodhaa Akbar.
Main leads of Ashutosh Gowariker's epic romance, Jodhaa Akbar.
Ashutosh Gowariker with main leads of his epic romance, Jodhaa Akbar
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan - Acts as Jodhaa in Ashutosh Gowariker's epic romance, Jodhaa Akbar.
Ashutosh Gowariker's epic romance, Jodhaa Akbar, starring Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as the Rajput princess, Jodhaa, and Hrithik Roshan as the Mughal emperor, Akbar, will have its worldwide soundtrack release on 15th January 2008. The stunning soundtrack of the film was unveiled with a grand star-studded event.
The ambience of created at the music launch, took one back to the moghul era with the entire place draped in maroon, gold and green with gold motifs. Most of the guests too were donning ethnic dresses. The royalty was in full force as well with Maharaj Bhawani Singh and brother, Brajraj Singh Bishambar gracing the occasion along with Maharani Padmini Singh. The Maharani said, "It gives immense pleasure to me and my family to be here. Mr. Ashutosh had given us the concept before he began the project and he has given correct facts. When I saw the audio visuals I felt I have been reliving the passage history since I am descendant of Maharani Jodhaa's family." Ashutosh thanked each and every member of his cast and crew and all the members present there.

Jodhaa Akbar Aishwarya Rai bachchan and Hrithik Roshan.

Present in the magnificent Royal tent, especially erected for the unveiling, were all the singers along with the entire cast and crew of the film including Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, A. R. Rahman, Javed Akhtar, Mrs. Punam S. Sinha, Sonu Sood, Ronnie Screwvala, Sunita Gowariker and Ashutosh Gowariker.

Zayed Khan and Suzan Khan Roshan at the party of music release of Ashutosh Gowariker's epic romance, Jodhaa Akbar.

The musical score for the period film by AR Rahman has been released under the newly launched UTV Music label and consists of five songs that capture the essence and opulence of the Moghul era. Says Ronnie Screwvala on the launch of UTV Music with Jodhaa Akbar: “A film of the magnitude and caliber of Jodhaa Akbar with its outstanding music compositions is the perfect vehicle for the launch of UTV Music. This is in keeping with the vision of UTV Motion Pictures to provide quality entertainment to our audiences worldwide across all distribution platforms. For our first initiative, UTV Music is honored to have the collaborative effort of Ashutosh Gowariker, A. R. Rahman and Javed Akhtar and this is a very proud moment for all of us.”

Guests at music reales of Ashutosh Gowariker's epic romance, Jodhaa Akbar.

Jodhaa Akbar needed a distinct sound, keeping in mind the Rajput and Mughal cultures; it needed to be regal and epic in its composition but at the same time it needed to have a contemporary appeal, which these two magicians have wonderfully woven together effortlessly.” Speaking on the music, A R Rahman comments “It has always been a pleasure to associate with Ashutosh on his projects. We started off with Lagaan and then Swades, both of which gave me immense creative satisfaction as a composer. It was an honor that Jodhaa Akbar was offered to me. Working on the music of Jodhaa Akbar has been a creative challenge for me, as being an epic romance set in the sixteenth century, the music was required to bring out the nuances of that era."

The joint appearance by Aishwarya and Hrithik at the event put to rest rumors of a rift between the co-stars who wowed viewers as an on screen couple in Dhoom-2.

Dismissing tabloid speculation that the two have not been getting along lately Gowarikar says "Absolutely untrue! Aishwarya and Hrithik get along really well. Even at the wrap-up party they were fine with each other. There was no rivalry between them."

Fans can expect to see the two make more joint appearances during the lead up to the release of the film. “We now have a publicity plan for them,” Gowarikar adds.

"The music of Jodhaa-Akbar can't be bhangra and hip-hop. Just because the film has Aishwarya, please don't expect an introductory song-and-dance. It's not a star vehicle. It's about the characters. I'm showcasing Jodhaa and Akbar," says Ashutosh Gowarikar.

Gowarikar also denied that two songs were cut from the film to keep its length under 3 hours "No we recorded five songs and we've retained them all. I treasure every song that I record and wouldn't dream of cutting them for length."

All the five songs of the film were showcased to the audience and each one met with a huge applause after its conclusion. While the 2000 dancers participating Azeem-O-Shan Shahenshah was spectacularly shot and drew maximum applause, the In Lamho Ke Darmiyaan featured the Hrithik – Aish sizzling chemistry at its peak. The lead pair showed no discomfort with each other on the dias during the function and refuted rumours about their being in any problems involved with each other during the make of the film, as being reported.

Lyricist of the film, Javed Akhtar termed Jodhaa Akbar the much-needed apt film in today's times, spreading the secularity message. He told us, "500 years back, there existed an emperor, Akbar who initiated secularism much before those in the west started championing it. Being a Muslim, he never inflicted his religion on his Hindu wife, Jodhaa. She remained a Hindu till her death. Akbar was way far ahead of his times his laws prove that. He had passed an ordinance wherein girls below 16 years age should not get married and imposed taxes on casinos and used this income for the welfare of his masses."

Just as the function was to begun, Shatrughan Sinha made an entry with wife, Poonam, who is making a comeback in the film playing Hrithik's mother. As he was about to sit, Big B immediately went across to him and hugged him. It might be recollected that Amitabh had not invited the actor cum MP for son, Abhishek's wedding and post the wedding when he had sent a mithai box to those not invited, Shotgun Sinha had sent it back feeling insulted about it. Bachchan didn't leave the opportunity to make amends for it when he came face to face for the first time after that. Amitabh is associated with Jodhaa Akbar too having given his voice over for the film ala Lagaan.

Diana considered 'marrying Khan'

Princess Diana's former butler has told the inquest into her death she had considered a private marriage to heart surgeon Hasnat Khan.

Paul Burrell and Princess Diana

Paul Burrell said he spoke to his parish priest about how a Christian woman and Muslim man might marry.

Mr Burrell worked for Diana for more than 10 years.

He also said that he

"connected all the princess's friends and all her world"

and was

"at the hub of the wheel, everybody was at the spokes".

Mr Burrell said Diana told him that she had been more in love with Mr Khan than "any other man".

The "extremely serious relationship" had lasted for two years, he said, and Dr Khan had been a regular visitor to Kensington Palace until the couple parted in July 1997.

When asked by Ian Burnett QC, representing the inquest, whether she "contemplated" marriage with Mr Khan, the former butler replied: "Yes, she did.

"She asked me if it was possible to arrange a private marriage between her and Hasnat Khan."

However, it is not known whether Mr Khan was aware of these discussions.

Mr Burrell also said he had not been given the impression that her boyfriend, Dodi Al Fayed, was "the one".

He described Diana's relationship with Mr Al Fayed as

"a very new friendship which developed into something more".

He told the High Court in London that he did not believe the couple's romance had begun during a holiday on Mr Al Fayed's yacht at the end of July 1997.

Instead he thought it was only after their return that the pair became romantically linked.

Diana had taken a holiday on Mohamed Al Fayed's yacht, the Jonikal, with her sons, Princes William and Harry.

When asked by Mr Burnett about the early nature of the relationship, Mr Burnell replied:

"It was very fresh, new and exciting."

Mr Burnett also asked:

"By that stage had you any sense from the Princess that... to use a hackneyed phrase that has appeared in so many media reports, Dodi was 'the one'?"

Mr Burrell replied:

"No, I didn't have that impression.

Showered with gifts

"I certainly don't think the romance started on the first holiday. I think that would have been inappropriate with William and Harry being in attendance."

Mr Burrell also said a ring bought by Mr Fayed for the princess was

"not an engagement ring, it was a friendship band".

He said that to make sure no-one, including Mr Al Fayed, would be misled into thinking it was anything else, Diana wore it on the fourth finger of her right hand instead of on her left.

Mr Burrell said this was his idea, made to the excited princess as she was being showered with gifts of "very expensive" Bulgari jewellery by her new beau that included a necklace, earrings, a bracelet and a watch.

Mr Burrell said he told Diana:

"You know what is coming next. The next gift you are going to receive will be a ring and it could be misconstrued as an engagement ring.

'On the rebound'

"She said 'If he gave me a ring, what should I do with it?' and I said 'Put it on the fourth finger of your right hand and immediately he will see that it is a friendship ring, not an engagement ring' and that's when she said 'I need marriage like a rash'."

Mr Burrell said the couple were definitely not engaged and rubbished rumours that they planned to wed.

"This was only a 30-day relationship. The princess had just finished a long-term relationship with someone she had cared deeply about. I know that because I was there and saw it.

"And on the rebound from that relationship, (she) had met someone who was very kind, generous and spoiling. The princess enjoyed it."

He said that if Diana had got engaged she would have told close friend Lucia Flecha de Lima or "someone she trusted as much as me".

Unrivalled knowledge

Coroner Lord Justice Scott Baker has previously said the jury may think Mr Burrell had unrivalled knowledge of intimate aspects of Diana's life as he "plainly had a close professional relationship with Diana."

Diana died along with her lover Dodi Al Fayed and their driver Henri Paul in a car crash in Paris in 1997.

Mr Burrell is likely to be questioned about a note from the princess to him in which she said that her husband Prince Charles was "planning an accident in my car".

He may also be asked about a conversation he had with the Queen in which he claims she warned him:

"There are powers at work in this country about which we have no knowledge."

In 2002 Mr Burrell, who worked for the Royal Family for more than 20 years, was cleared of stealing Diana's possessions after an Old Bailey trial collapsed.

EU rethinks biofuels guidelines

Europe's environment chief has admitted that the EU did not foresee the problems raised by its policy to get 10% of Europe's road fuels from plants

.A labourer at a palm plantation in Indonesia - file photo

Recent reports have warned of rising food prices and rainforest destruction from increased biofuel production.

The EU has promised new guidelines to ensure that its target is not damaging.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said it would be better to miss the target than achieve it by harming the poor or damaging the environment.

Clampdown promised

A couple of years ago biofuels looked like the perfect get-out-of-jail free card for car manufacturers under pressure to cut carbon emissions.

Instead of just revolutionising car design they could reduce transport pollution overall if drivers used more fuel from plants which would have soaked up CO2 while they were growing.

Corn being harvested in Germany - file photo
Fuel made from plants like corn are driving up food prices
The EU leapt at the idea - and set its biofuels targets.

Since then reports have warned that some biofuels barely cut emissions at all - and others can lead to rainforest destruction, drive up food prices, or prompt rich firms to drive poor people off their land to convert it to fuel crops.

"We have seen that the environmental problems caused by biofuels and also the social problems are bigger than we thought they were. So we have to move very carefully," Mr Dimas told.

"We have to have criteria for sustainability, including social and environmental issues, because there are some benefits from biofuels."

He said the EU would introduce a certification scheme for biofuels and promised a clampdown on biodiesel from palm oil which is leading to forest destruction in Indonesia.

Some analysts doubt that "sustainable" palm oil exists because any palm oil used for fuel simply swells the demand for the product oil on the global market which is mainly governed by food firms.

US expansion

Mr Dimas said it was vital for the EU's rules to prevent the loss of biodiversity which he described as the other great problem for the planet, along with climate change.

On Monday, the Royal Society, the UK's academy of science, is publishing a major review of biofuels. It is expected to call on the EU to make sure its guidelines guarantee that all biofuels in Europe genuinely save carbon emissions.

In the US the government has just passed a new energy bill mandating a major increase in fuel from corn, which is deemed by some analysts to be useless in combating rising carbon dioxide emissions.

The bill also foresees a huge expansion in fuel from woody plants but the technology for this is not yet proven.

Mid-East talks on 'core issues'

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have begun talks in Jerusalem on what are seen as the most intractable issues in the peace process

Tzipi Livni, Ahmed Qurei, Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert (27 December 2007)

These include the status of Jerusalem, the borders of a Palestinian state, Jewish settlements in the West Bank, refugees, security and water resources.

The talks are being led by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and former Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei.

Three Palestinian militants died in an Israeli strike in Gaza on Sunday.

The vehicle in which the men were travelling through the Shati refugee camp near Gaza City was struck by an Israeli Air Force missile.

If we reach an agreement on all these issues, then we can say that we have reached a final agreement
Mahmoud Abbas
Palestinian Authority President

The raid had targeted militants involved in attacks on Israel, the Israeli military said.

One of the men has been named as Nidal Amudi, who was a senior member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a militant group linked to the Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Another was identified as Mahir Mabhuh, who belonged to another group, while the identity of the third militant was unknown.

'Final agreement'

During a speech in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday, Mr Abbas said the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams would begin discussion of the core "final stage issues" in the peace process at their meeting on Monday.

"If we reach an agreement on all these issues, then we can say that we have reached a final agreement," he said, adding that any peace treaty would have to resolve the disputes over all issues.

Palestinians wheel the body of a militant into hospital following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City
The talks come in the wake of an Israeli air strike in Gaza

Mr Abbas added that both sides would at the same time have to implement the first phase of the "road map" formulated by the Middle East Quartet in 2003, which suggests how a final settlement might be approached, and resolve economic and security issues in the West Bank.

The first phase of the road map requires:

  • Both sides to issue statements supporting the two-state solution
  • The Palestinians to end violence, act against "all those engaged in terror", draw up a constitution and hold elections
  • The Israelis to stop settlement building activities and act with military restraint

A spokesman for the Israeli government, Mark Regev, also confirmed the negotiating teams would meet on Monday, and that they had received a mandate to discuss the core issues.

Hamas offer

Prospects for a comprehensive settlement were given fresh impetus by the US peace conference at Annapolis, Maryland, in November, after which Mr Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed to restart talks after seven years.

Jerusalem holy sites

US President George W Bush, who visited Israel and the West Bank last week, has said Israel and the Palestinians could sign a peace treaty within a year.

"I believe it's going to happen, that there will be a signed peace treaty by the time I leave office," he told reporters in Ramallah on Thursday.

In his speech, Mr Abbas said he had warned the president that the Palestinians could not move ahead in the negotiations while Jewish settlements continued to be built in the West Bank.

"We can't have negotiations while they are building houses all over," he added.

The Palestinian leader also said he was willing to restart talks with the Islamist movement, Hamas, if it relinquished control of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas ousted Mr Abbas's Fatah movement from the coastal territory in June following a week of violent clashes.

"I am ready to negotiate with Hamas even if the United States does not accept it," he said. "Such a dialogue is very important."

A Hamas statement denounced Mr Abbas's speech as "full of lies and fabrications".

Russia summons UK envoy over row

The Russian foreign ministry has summoned the UK ambassador amid an escalating row over the reopening of two British Council offices.

British Council's St Petersburg branch on Monday 14 January 2008

The Council's branches reopened on Monday despite a government ban.

Russia called the move a "provocation" and said it would not issue new visas to British Council staff.

The offices were ordered to shut last month in the latest clash over the fatal poisoning of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko in London.

The branches which reopened are in St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg. The ban does not apply to the British Council's Moscow office.

'Inflaming tensions'

A statement on the Russian foreign ministry's website said: "Russia views such actions as an intentional provocation aimed at inflaming tensions in Russian-British relations.

Nov 2006: Alexander Litvinenko dies in London
May 2007: UK accuses ex-KGB agent Andrei Lugovoi of murder
July: Russia refuses UK request to extradite Mr Lugovoi
July: UK expels four Russian diplomats
July: Russia expels four British embassy staff
December: Russia tells British Council to shut two offices
Jan 2008: British Council re-opens both offices

"The Russian side will not issue visas to new employees sent to work in the (British) consular offices of St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg to carry out British Council work."

The UK embassy in the Russian capital declined to comment on the schedule of the ambassador, Sir Tony Brenton.

But BBC Moscow correspondent Richard Galpin says the envoy will appear at the Russian foreign ministry on Monday afternoon.

He says the escalating diplomatic crisis between the two countries is now coming to a head and it is not clear if either side is willing to back down.

The British Council, which aims to promote cultural and educational ties, was accused of violating Russian tax rules.

A spokesman for the Council insisted on Monday that its activities were "fully compliant with Russian and international law".

"We believe we're caught up in a political matter," the spokesman told the BBC News website.

'Valuable work'

The British Council's chief executive, Martin Davidson, said they would continue talking to the Russians in the hope of continuing their work.

He told the BBC: "We have to understand the issues, the problems they have with our work, but we believe [our work] is enormously valuable.

British Council in Moscow
Russia has linked its action to wider British-Russian tensions

"We know ordinary Russian people believe it is of real value to them, as well of course to us here in the UK, to have that relationship with Russia."

The offices in Yekaterinburg are on the premises of the UK consulate-general.

The row came on top of continuing tensions over the death of former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko in London in November 2006. He had been given a fatal dose of radioactive polonium 210.

The UK wants Russia to hand over businessman Andrei Lugovoi, whom UK investigators suspect of murdering Mr Litvinenko.

When Russia refused to extradite Mr Lugovoi, Britain expelled four Russian diplomats and Moscow followed suit.

Russian officials have described the action against the British Council as a retaliatory measure.

Yahoo! Maps Introduces Driving Directions

Yahoo! India, has introduced driving directions and community search on its existing Yahoo! India maps offering at

Users can search for directions between 179 cities, 4767 towns, and 226114 villages and also search for about 3 million points of interest marked by Internet users from around the web.

Yahoo! India Maps understands queries in a conversational style like "From Hard Rock café, Mumbai to Lower Parel Railway Station, Mumbai" or "ATMs near Forum Mall, Bangalore". It also provide landmarks along the route, the count of roads between turns and the areas that they will enter and leave. Apart from calculating the distance and time taken for travel, the instruction set also takes care of One Ways and even Auto Rickshaw fares in major cities. Users of Yahoo! India Maps can send Driving Directions to their mobile phones as an SMS. They can pan and zoom to any point on the map, right click and ask for directions from or to that point.

Sharad Sharma, Chief Executive Officer, Yahoo! India, R&D, said
"At Yahoo! India R&D, we are constantly innovating to develop product and services that make the lives of our users easier. Driving directions & Community Search will make Yahoo! India maps more compelling and deepen our engagement with users."

Upcoming Games of 2008: Part VI

Iron Man

Platform: PC, Xbox360, PS3, PS2, Wii
Release Date: May 2008
Based on the upcoming movie of the same name, the Iron Man game will plant players firmly in the boots of billionaire industrialist Tony Stark AKA Iron Man as he embarks on a quest to stub out all things evil just like any other self-respecting superhero. The game will take place from a third person perspective and a major chunk of it will focus on aerial combat; something all of us have been looking forward to ever since the crapfest that was Superman Returns graced consoles.


Platform: Xbox360, PS3
Release Date: TBA 2008
I’m not a big fan of American football but the only reason this game’s managed to catch my eye is because it’s being made using Natural Motion’s Euphoria engine along with AGEIA’s PhysX engine – which means that not only will tackles look highly realistic (and painful) but each tackle will play out differently... or so the developers claim.