Monthly Archives: August 2009


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Use the same GTK theme for applications started as root

If you start a GTK GUI with root permissions and you notice that it uses the old GTK theme, you can make all applications started as root to use your current theme by doing this:
sudo ln -s ~/.themes /root/.themessudo ln -s ~/.icons /root/.iconssudo ln -s ~/.fonts /root/.fontsThis will basically create symlinks to your icons, fonts […] Continue reading

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Opera 10 browser is here

Opera 10 browser(Credit: Opera Software)

The Opera 10 browser is now ready to download for Windows, and Mac, and Linux, three months after the beta first emerged (hands-on Opera 10 beta review).

If you’ve been keeping up with the beta updates, the final build of the cross-platform browser shouldn’t surprise you. Opera Turbo, the browser’s much-publicized compression engine for slow-poke connections, remains a feature highlight. Opera claims that Opera Turbo runs the browser up to eight times faster on suffering connections than do competing browsers.

The refreshed user interface is also noteworthy. Joining the new default skin (changed from version 9.6), are changes to tab bar behavior. The conventional tabs double as thumbnail images. Double-click the thin gray bar below the tabs (indicated by dots) or click and drag to expand open tabs into preview windows that you can navigate by clicking among them.

Other enhancements include an expanded Speed Dial (a feature that has later been adopted and adapted in Google’s Chrome browser) that shows more commonly visited Web pages than in previous Opera browsers. You’re also able to customize it with a background picture. You’ll see that spell check will be applicable to any text field (for 51 languages), and that Opera’s incorporated e-mail client takes a page from Google’s books by threading e-mail conversations.

Developers get access to a newer version of Opera Dragonfly, the publisher’s online development tools, but everyone can benefit from the speedier rendering engine that, according to Opera, makes version 10 up to 40 percent faster than version 9.6–before switching on Turbo’s compression.

Despite all the additions that Opera hopes will keep Opera 10 competitive, there are still two notable omissions for this final release. The first is Opera Unite, which uses your browser as a Web server for sharing your content with others. The second is the Carakan JavaScript engine that promises to process JavaScript about 2.5 times as fast as the engine used in Opera 10 alpha.

Related story: Opera 10 browser to emerge Tuesday

Originally posted at The Download Blog

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The Good And Bad Of Banks Too Big To Fail Getting Bigger…

Ever since the whole financial crisis began, and the concept of “too big to fail” became a common phrase, I’ve been wondering why the US gov’t didn’t set up a simple provision in any bailout procedure: if you are too big to fail, and because of that need a gov’t bailout, then a part of that bailout means you need to become small enough to fail. I think it’s a perfectly reasonable suggestion that has been pretty much totally ignored.

So, when news came out that the biggest banks, the ones deemed “too big to fail,” are now getting even bigger, you might think that I’d view that as a bad sign. And… partly, I do. But not for the reasons you might expect. The issue of “too big to fail” isn’t the bottom line size of the bank, it was about how interconnected it was in the rest of the economy, and how any ripple effects of a failure would damage (significantly) other parts of the economy. But, since the government has done pretty much next to nothing to actually deal with that sort of systematic risk (and, no, putting in place a “systematic risk” manager, as we keep hearing, isn’t going to fix the problem), it should come as no surprise that these banks still have such risks.

But, the fact that, by themselves, these banks are growing isn’t a bad sign. Given what the government has done, it’s actually a good sign. You should be a lot more upset if, after the government gave these banks so much money, they went out and lost it all. Instead, many of them have at least put it to good use (and some have returned money to the government at decent interest rates — though, the amount returned still is a blip compared to the amount at risk).

The real issue isn’t the size of the banks, but how interconnected they are. But little to nothing has been done to take on that problem — which is a bad thing. However, given that, it’s at least a decent sign that these banks we’ve given so much money to are actually doing better these days.

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Java News – August 2009 – Java SE 7 and Java-Related Acquisitions

There have been several big news stories related to Java development this month. Several of these stories are sure to have long-term impact on Java developers. These stories include more definitive information on what to expect in Java SE 7 and the c… Continue reading

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How Far Should Google Go To Protect User Privacy In Lawsuits?

We’ve already discussed the ridiculous circumstances under which a model, Liskula Cohen, ended up getting a judge to order Google to reveal an anonymous blogger who Cohen felt defamed her by calling her a “skank,” among other things. That no longer anonymous blogger, Rosemary Port, is now planning to sue Google, though it seems her chances of winning are slim to none. Still, the whole thing did raise questions about the level to which Google should go to protect the anonymity of people who use its services.

This issue is getting more attention, as Google has apparently alerted some anonymous Caribbean journalists that it may hand over their information due to a defamation lawsuit filed against the journalists, concerning their investigations into corruption in the famed vacation resort Turks & Caicos Islands. One of the people accused of being involved in the corruption filed the lawsuit, and Google sent the site a letter, saying:

To comply with the law, unless you provide us with a copy of a motion to
quash the subpoena (or other formal objection filed in court) via email at
[email protected] by 5pm Pacific Time on September 16, 2009, Google
will assume you do not have an objection to production of the requested
information and may provide responsive documents on this date.

Some are making a big “First Amendment” deal out of this, but it’s not clear that’s such a huge deal. Google, as a private company, can choose to reveal that information, and appears to be properly notifying the people in question of the legal situation and allowing them to respond. But, of course, some insist that Google should stand up for the privacy rights of its users, and there’s an argument to be made there. How far should Google be expected to go to defend the privacy of its users in the face of a court order or subpoena? Given Google’s reputation as being user friendly, many would expect it to go quite far, but is that reasonable? Is there a balance between obeying court orders and subpoenas and fighting for its users’ rights? Or should Google always default to defending its users’ rights as far as possible?

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Yahoo Messenger 10 beta: A legitimate Skype rival?

It seems as if it were just yesterday that Yahoo’s Messenger team rolled out version 9 (it was a little less than a year ago, in fact.) The upgrade was so dramatic and overdue that it’s a little surprising Yahoo has already tweaked its chat client, now parading Yahoo Messenger 10 beta to testers and curious chatters. We’re glad they did. Even though the changes may not please everyone uniformly, nor should they incite ire. The features build off Yahoo Messenger 9, emphasize social networking, and improved video calling.

You’ll be able to learn more about the social networking aspects from the photo gallery. This blog will focus on the video features.

VoIP and PC-to-landline calls aren’t new to Yahoo Messenger, but the icon that calls out video chats is. Most of the major IM clients support voice-over-Internet calls with Webcams. It is Yahoo’s attention to video quality makes this build a closer competitor to Skype for Windows, which is a VoIP client first, enriched by chatting, file sharing, emoticons, and games. Yahoo Messenger (and Windows Live Messenger, and so on, for that matter,) are chat apps at the core that have layered on other P2P features.

Skype is still ahead in terms of total features, like screen sharing, its most recent contribution to the VoIP community. However, the Web chatting experience was good enough on Yahoo Messenger 10 beta in our tests that we might prefer to use it to start a casual video call if the app is already running, rather than fire up Skype. Admittedly, our tests were limited by the callers’ proximity to each other, fast data connections, and strong computing configurations. We’ll need to keep up the calling with a cross-section of international users to get a more accurate litmus. Since the improved video calling only works with other Yahoo Messenger 10 beta users, we may have to wait for further adoption to test these theories.

Chatting on Yahoo Messenger 10 beta(Credit: Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET)

Proximity notwithstanding, there were some performance issues. The call quality was clear and the videos were as crisp as our hardware allowed. Chatting and file sharing, however, slowed to a crawl as the call progressed. This seems to be the reverse of Skype, in which chatting has, in the past, often transmitted faster than the voice packets. Again, being in the same city, let alone the same country, could at least partly explain the reversal.

In addition to both parties needing Yahoo Messenger 10 beta on their Windows computers, there are some basic system requirements. You’ll need Windows XP or better with a 1GHz CPU processor and 512MB of RAM. Your broadband internet will require a minimum of 300Kbps download speed and a minimum of 128Kbps upload (test both here). Then there’s the video card. You’ll need at least 96MB memory. A Webcam is mandatory to output video calls, but not to see a buddy’s video. However, you will receive an alert if you don’t have a Webcam. The final ingredient we’ll mention is that the latest version of Microsoft DirectX must be installed. Yahoo provides a full list of specs and tips in its help topics. Yahoo’s Messenger team provides some common FAQs and video tips here

Briefly, some of the other video features include toggling the sound on and off and shifting the position of the Webcam windows on your screen. These convenience tools worked well and gave the application some depth; we also liked being able to transfer files in full screen mode, even though photo transfers were slow.

Bug encountered from an IM initiated in Yahoo Messenger 10 beta and received in Digsby.

This bug reminders us that beta software is often a work-in-progress.

(Credit: Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET)

One more complaint: The new Yahoo Messenger 10 beta doesn’t appear to play nicely with all third-party IM clients. We noticed when chatting with a buddy who uses Digsby, that each line we type was replicated in the chat window. Odd, yes, and also irritating over time. But not all users chatting between Yahoo Messenger 10 beta and a different chat client will encounter problems, but if you do, let us know.

Want to see more screenshots and feature details? We have plenty in the Yahoo Messenger 10 beta gallery. .

Originally posted at The Download Blog

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BSA Jumps Onto The Three Strikes Bandwagon

So, this was really weird. I was having an instant messenger chat with a colleague here about the various “three strikes” proposals that have been popping up around the world, and he asked me whether or not the BSA had taken a stance on the issue. I noted not remembering hearing anything from them on it, and assumed that it was because the BSA mainly focuses on business users, for which a three strikes policy is not really an issue, and that the BSA would hopefully realize that cutting people off from the internet would almost certainly hurt the software industry a lot more than help it. But, literally 10 seconds after I sent that last text, I flipped over to my RSS reader and up popped an article about how the BSA has come out in favor of a three strikes plan. Freaky.

Guess I should have known better than to assume the BSA was smarter than the RIAA on this issue. As the article at Ars explains, the BSA tries to put in a bunch of caveats about due process and judicial oversight, but spends a bunch of time in its statement explaining how ISPs can get around all that due process and judicial oversight by simply putting three strikes into their contractual language — meaning that they can just decide on their own to cut users off. Good luck with that.

More troubling, however, is that when questioned about the new statement by Ars Technica, the BSA said it was necessary because “last year our industry lost over $50 billion (USD) worldwide.” Hmm. It’s really quite troubling that the BSA still stands by these numbers when they’ve been debunked so thoroughly over and over again. They count the “retail value” of every piece of software as being “lost,” which is clearly a lie. Five years ago, the research company that runs these studies for the BSA, IDG, flat out said that the BSA was wrong in claiming that “the retail value” of the software is the same as “losses.” So why does the BSA continue to get away with claiming it?

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Google reforms Chrome for Snow Leopard

Google released an update for Chrome to fix compatibility problems with Snow Leopard on Monday, which along with other fixes shows the gradually maturing state of the Mac OS X version of the browser.

Chrome for the Mac is only a couple notches up the version ladder than the version it replaces, but there are some significant changes in the developer-preview software. For Snow Leopard compatibility, programmers fixed a garbled text bug, said Jonathan Conradt, a Chrome engineering program manager, in a blog post Monday.

Google began Chrome on Windows but has been gradually moving it to Linux and Mac OS X. Those versions so far are still only developer-preview incarnations not ready for prime time yet, though I find myself gradually slipping over to Chrome on my Mac system now that it’s getting mature enough for me. I suspect a beta version isn’t far off.

Google is fleshing out some basic features, though. One user-interface tweak enables support for command- and shift-clicking.

Another feature coming to the Mac is support for the tab-to-search feature in the omnibox. That lets you perform a site search directly from the address bar by typing a URL, for example, then the tab key, then search terms.

Tab-to-search also works with Amazon, Google, Google News, and Yahoo, The New York Times, but not Bing yet. I search a lot, and this saves me one step and waiting for a page to load just so I can click in its search bar.

The tab-to-search feature has arrived on Chrome for Mac OS X, too.

The tab-to-search feature has arrived on Chrome for Mac OS X, too.

(Credit: Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET)

The most annoying issue I’ve found–and let me know if I’m missing something obvious here–is that I lose the file-upload dialog box while using Gmail with Chrome on Mac OS X if I switch away from the application while halfway through. If I don’t attach a file immediately, that tab’s instance of Gmail becomes useless because I can’t get back to it.

Performance still is an issue with the Mac version, though. I was pleased to see some work on new-tab creation speed, with programmer Mark Mentovai using various changes to work the time from 1-3 seconds down to a fifth of a second.

Google is working hard to spread Chrome, though it has small market share at present. It’s now installed as the default browser on some Sony laptops, as Endgadget noticed in July with the Vaio NW, and I heard about earlier in August.

Google has been advertising the browser as well and is at work making it the foundation of its Chrome OS.

Originally posted at Deep Tech

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TweetSaver makes a personal archive of Twitter

I’m always intrigued by backup tools for Web services that don’t really need backup. TweetSaver is no exception. This paid service backs up (almost) everything you’ve ever posted to Twitter, along with private messages and replies from other users. It then adds an extra layer of utility on top of it, like a search tool that’s limited to just your messages, simple sharing options for each message, as well as a way to assign a tag to each tweet for categorization.

Of course the usefulness of all of this hinges on Twitter being down and/or somehow losing all of your data. However, based on Twitter’s uptime over the past year, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth the cost of $20 a year. That’s pretty steep considering there are some free Twitter backup solutions like TweeTake and TweetBackup that do many of the same things.

It’s also worth pointing out why you wouldn’t need this service for some of the features it’s advertising. For one, Twitter’s search tool can be limited to just your tweets if you use the from: operator. TweetSaver is also only capable of retrieving your last 3,200 tweets, so if you’ve got more than that, they’re not going to be archived. This in itself is a limitation of Twitter’s API, but should be noted if you have 40,000 tweets and think it, or any other service, is going to be able to grab them all.

I do like the idea of tagging tweets though. Crafty Twitter users have already found subtle ways to tag their Tweets by using hashes (#’s), although there’s no way to go back to old messages and add them in. It can also be impossible if you’re running out of space in an outgoing tweet. Below is a demo of how it works. I’m getting access later tonight and will update if it’s got any hidden goodies that make it worth the price:

Originally posted at Web Crawler

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NFL Doesn’t Get It: Blocking Fans Doesn’t Make Them Like Teams Any More

I knew this was common years ago, but I honestly had no clue that modern sports leagues were so clueless as to think that it made sense to blackout local TV broadcasting if the attendance at the event wasn’t a sell-out. Those rules were from a time (apparently still existing for some) where people actually thought that being able to see a game on TV would mean fewer people coming out to the actual game. Of course, as any sports fan knows, there’s a massive difference between watching on TV and “being there.” But allowing fans to watch their favorite team on TV does seem to encourage fans to care more about their team, making it more likely that they’ll go out and see the team live when they can. But… not according to the NFL, who still has such blackout rules in effect, and is suddenly worried that attendance this season is dropping (thanks Carlo) due to the economy, meaning that many more games won’t be shown to local fans. It’s difficult to see how that makes any sense at all. All it does is piss off the biggest fans, and give them reasons not to pay attention to the team, and to cut out the most compelling local TV for many fans (harming ad revenue). On top of that, you risk a sort of death spiral. Teams that don’t get enough fans at the live event piss off their fans who can’t watch the games on TV — and without the games on TV, they’re less interested in following the team… leading to less interest in going to the game… leading to more empty seats… leading to even fewer games getting on TV.

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