SciTechBlog
December 23, 2009

Court bars Microsoft from selling Office 2007

Posted: 10:23 AM ET

A federal appeals court has ordered Microsoft to strip custom XML support from Word 2007 by January 11, effectively banning the sale of Microsoft Word and Office (which includes the Word software) in their current form.

Microsoft may be forced to stop selling Word 2007.

Microsoft may be forced to stop selling Word 2007.

The injunction stems from a patent infringement lawsuit filed by the small Canadian firm i4i in 2007. The suit claims i4i owns the custom XML editing technology that is included in Microsoft Word.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas agreed, slapping Microsoft with a $290 million fine and ordering it to remove custom XML capabilities or stop selling the infringing software.

Microsoft appealed, but the lower court's ruling was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals. And now the software giant has precious little time to re-release Word and Office 2007 before being barred from selling the profitable office software.

In a statement issued yesterday, Microsoft's Director of Public Affairs Kevin Kutz expressed confidence in the company's ability to meet the injunction date.

With respect to Microsoft Word 2007 and Microsoft Office 2007, we have been preparing for this possibility since the District Court issued its injunction in August 2009 and have put the wheels in motion to remove this little-used feature from these products. Therefore, we expect to have copies of Microsoft Word 2007 and Office 2007, with this feature removed, available for U.S. sale and distribution by the injunction date. In addition, the beta versions of Microsoft Word 2010 and Microsoft Office 2010, which are available now for downloading, do not contain the technology covered by the injunction.

While speaking with Stuart J. Johnston at Datamation Microsoft analyst Rob Enderle admits the ruling "shows the increasing hostility of this market," before adding, "For Microsoft, I think it's going to be an increasingly expensive way to do business, with a lot more patent vetting."

Regardless of whether new versions of Office 2007 will appear in time to meet demand, this significant legal decision will only further the cutthroat approach technology companies apply to protect their patents.

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Filed under: Microsoft Corp. • Microsoft Office • online news


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December 21, 2009

Young kids searching Web for 'porn'

Posted: 11:44 AM ET

Yikes. According to Symantec, the fourth most popular search term for children 7 and under is "porn" - just ahead of kids' networking site Club Penguin.

Symantec's top searches for 2009 arranged by age group

Symantec's top searches for 2009 arranged by age group

Symantec recently released the anonymous results of 14.7 million searches run by users of its OnlineFamily.Norton service in 2009. The service allows parents to monitor web activities and supposedly blocks questionable sites, so let's hope the toddlers searching for "porn" were unsuccessful.

It's understandable that "sex" is one of the top searches for teens, but I was surprised to see that children as young as 7 were familiar with "porn." While services like OnlineFamily.Norton may filter most inappropriate content, they are not perfect - and are no substitute for parental supervision.

Other search terms popular with children included social-networking sites, celebrities and online games.

Interestingly, "Google" was also a top search term, which leads me to believe a lot of kids don't really understand how search engines work.

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Filed under: browsers • Google • Internet • online news


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December 18, 2009

'Operation Chokehold' takes on AT&T

Posted: 01:49 PM ET

UPDATE 4 p.m. ET: Anecdotal evidence suggests "Operation Chokehold" may have had some effect. In Web posts, users around the country reported scattered difficulty in accessing AT&T's 3G network on their smartphones Friday, although others said it was working fine. As for Lyons, he posted an item to his blog Friday afternoon saying, "As far as I can tell, there’s been no impact at all. My iPhone is working just the same as ever. I’m talking to someone on it right now."

If AT&T's wireless network bogs down today, you can blame - or maybe even thank - a fake Steve Jobs.

Complaining of poor service on his iPhone and angered by the company’s suggestion that it may take action to discourage heavy bandwidth users, blogger Daniel Lyons is pushing “Operation Chokehold.” The idea, says Lyons, is for every iPhone user to open a data-intensive application at noon Pacific time (3 p.m. ET) to overload AT&T's 3G network as a form of protest.

“Send the message to AT&T that we are sick of their substandard network and sick of their abusive comments,” wrote Lyons earlier this week. The tech writer and Newsweek columnist writes a popular mix of fact and fiction on his blog, “Secret Diary of Steve Jobs.”

AT&T, predictably condemns the effort, which has picked up steam on lots of tech-related blogs and Web sites since Lyons first wrote about it Monday.

“We understand that fakesteve.net is primarily a satirical forum, but there is nothing amusing about advocating that customers attempt to deliberately degrade service on a network that provides critical communications services to more than 80 million customers,” the company said in a written statement.

On Friday, Lyons was both promoting and downplaying the effort.

He noted that the idea started as a joke, “[b]ut some people took it seriously and now the joke has taken on a life of its own.”

He said he and supporters have “already won” with the attention they’ve drawn to the network’s service and predicted that any “Operation Chokehold” effort won’t actually do much to cripple AT&T's service.

“This may be cathartic, but it is pointless,” he wrote. “A few thousand people are not going to make a dent in a wireless network. If you participate, you’ll most likely be wasting your time.”

We'll soon find out.

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Filed under: AT&T • smartphones


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December 16, 2009

Justin.tv defends live streaming video

Posted: 10:19 AM ET

The CEO of the popular live video site Justin.tv has been invited to testify before the House Judiciary Committee today on the topic of live sports online.

A user streams ESPNHD live on Justin.tv

A user streams ESPNHD live on Justin.tv

Justin.tv claims it is "the leader in live video and the place to broadcast and share video online." The problem, as Congress sees it, is that too many of those users choose to share copyrighted content.

I'll admit that I am a chief offender. I have tuned to Justin.tv several times in the past to watch college football games that I could not get on Comcast. The video quality is poor and I have to watch the game on my computer screen, but it beats waiting for the ESPN highlights.

Twice during a recent Tennessee game the broadcast copyright owner filed a DMCA takedown notice and the stream I was watching was removed. However, copyright owners cannot police an entire social network. The Tennessee feed I was watching had been removed, but I had dozens of other user-generated streams of the game to watch.

Janko Roettgers of newteevee.com calls live streaming "the latest battleground between sports fans that don’t want to pay subscription fees and broadcasters trying to protect their content online."

Justin.tv's online blog highlights partnerships the site has made with many copyright owners, and CEO Michael Seibel will likely insist that the company is involved in fighting piracy during today's hearing. But Mike Masnick at TechDirt doesn't see the problem.

The ability to "live stream" is something that's almost entirely brand new, and it really does change the way people can interact. But, live streaming will almost always create some sort of "copyright infringement" or "piracy," which suggests the real problem isn't with live streaming, but with copyright laws.

Whatever your opinion, today's hearing will provide an interesting look at the fight between producers who want strict control over their content and social networks that encourage sharing.

Watch the hearing on C-Span.

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Filed under: DRM • file sharing • Internet • online news • piracy


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December 14, 2009

What's the best video game of 2009 ... and 2010?

Posted: 10:48 AM ET
Uncharted 2 wins 2009 Game of the Year
Uncharted 2 wins 2009 Game of the Year

At the end of the year, we look back on the past 12 months to try to figure out what went right - and what’s coming up on the horizon. The gaming industry is no different, and gamers are trying to determine what games succeeded and which will be the sequels-to-come in 2010.

Spike TV hosted the Video Game Awards 2009 on Saturday and handed out hardware to some of the best games of the year. All the big games were nominated in 28 different categories, from best game based on a TV show or movie, to best fighting game and, finally, game of the year. Each platform also got a "best of" award voted on by fans.

Top honors went to “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves” for game of the year, beating out “Assassin’s Creed 2”, “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2”, “Left 4 Dead 2” and the only non-sequel out of the nominees, “Batman: Arkham Asylum."

“Uncharted 2” also picked up best PS3 game, while “Left 4 Dead 2” got best Xbox 360 game. “New Super Mario Bros. Wii” was chosen best Wii game and “Dragon Age: Origins” was the best PC game.

The night wasn’t all about looking back at 2009. There were enough world-premier and first-look videos to whet the appetite for 2010. “God of War III” won the award for most anticipated game of 2010.

One of the biggest surprises included a look at the debut trailer of “Batman: Arkham Asylum 2,” which features a burning Gotham City and a laughing Joker seen getting a blood transfusion. The Clown Prince of Crime obviously survived the “final” battle with Batman, but is definitely in recovery mode and homicidal as ever.

Another game goes the sequel route in 2010 was “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II.” The debut trailer features the voices of Yoda and Darth Vader trying to sway the main character from the first game to their side of the force.

But probably the brightest light for 2010 will be shining on the newest incarnation in the Halo franchise. The first ever in-game footage of "Halo: Reach" highlighted the group interactions as players will be taking on the role of Lieutenant with the call sign Noble Six.

Other announcements included the addition of Green Day to the “Rock Band” game, a new “Prince of Persia” game and a “Tron: Evolution” game that will obviously be tied in to the upcoming movie.

If you were hoping to catch your breath after this year’s blockbuster games, time’s up. Make sure your platforms are ready because this is going to be a wild, exciting ride in 2010.

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Filed under: Games • Gaming • video games


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December 11, 2009

Tiger's one-sided Web conversation

Posted: 08:40 PM ET

When they're not trolling TMZ, people surfing the Web for updates on the Tiger Woods' scandal go to Woods' own Web site, where on late Friday afternoon he posted a statement saying he is taking an indefinite hiatus from professional golf "to focus my attention on being a better husband, father, and person."

The site, which has seen a huge spike in visitors since Woods' post-Thanksgiving traffic crash, is also where Woods posted a much-publicized Dec. 2 apology under the euphemistic headline, "Tiger comments on current events."

If you're scoring at home, in the past nine days that makes two comments by Tiger - and more than 24,000 comments by fans and other visitors to the site, which has become perhaps the leading Web forum for people expressing their support or disgust over his behavior.

Twenty-four thousand comments - considering that a popular blog or news site is lucky to get 500 comments on a post, that's pretty remarkable. They run the gamut, from "Let the healing begin" to "I will not look up to a disgrace like you!" to "please read some Deepak Chopra." Most of the comments, however, have been supportive.

Is Tiger reading any of them? Who knows? Either way, it's pretty much a one-way conversation. But until Woods emerges from seclusion to discuss his sorry situation, it's a conversation that plenty of people seem more than willing to have.

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Filed under: Internet


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Tech Torture with Topher, Day 5: Back to cable TV?

Posted: 05:06 PM ET

Editor’s note: This is the latest in CNN.com’s ongoing “Tech Torture With Topher” video-blog series, in which we “torture” CNN.com staffer Topher Kohan by depriving him of a technological convenience for a week to see how he copes with it. This week, Topher is trying to watch all his beloved TV shows online instead of on his TV.

Hey all,

So today ends this week's experiment. Here are the 4 things I've learned from this one:

1. I watched less TV this week and I really liked it, so hopefully that will continue.
2. I won't give up watching TV on my cable box and DVR, but I will start to supplement it more and more with TV online.
3. Hulu is my favorite site for watching TV.
4. And the downside? I couldn't find a way - legally, that is - to watch live sports and premium channels like HBO online.

So can you watch all your broadcast TV online? Yes - if you're not a sports fan and don't care about watching a show the night it airs.

Thanks for reading and for being part of my blog. If you can take the time, leave a comment below on what you like and don't like about this week's "Tech Torture with Topher." And please suggest ideas for future "tortures" I can try.

Also, don't forget to hop over to my Twitter feed (TopherAtl) and join the conversation there.

Editor’s note: Topher Kohan is the search engine optimization (SEO) coordinator for CNN.com, a “Star Wars” aficionado, a tech dork and an all-around good guy. (No, really, he is — just ask him.)

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Filed under: Tech Torture with Topher


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December 10, 2009

Tech Torture, Day 4: I bow to the Hulu

Posted: 06:28 PM ET

Editor’s note: This is the latest in CNN.com’s ongoing “Tech Torture With Topher” video-blog series, in which we “torture” CNN.com staffer Topher Kohan by depriving him of a technological convenience for a week to see how he copes with it. This week, Topher is trying to watch all his beloved TV shows online instead of on his TV.

Hello all,

It's Day 4 of this little experiment and I thought it would be good for me to expand my online TV viewing and look at some sites other than Hulu.

So I checked out Fancast.com and was very disappointed. I decided to watch the season finale of "White Collar," clicked on the link and found out it was just the show's embed from Hulu. The user experience was terrible - they added more ads and the full-screen option was pixelated.

So for comparison, I went back to Hulu and watched the same show again. It looked great.

I also checked out a show using Netflix's instant-watch feature, which I thought was really good. There are no commercials and it buffers really well.

The big thing I have come to realize this week is that I am watching a lot less TV then if I was just sitting on my couch in front of my cable TV.

OK, so tonight is Thursday Night Football on the NFL network. I'll try to follow along on NFL.com, which offers real-time updates. But I'd love to hear from you about your favorite places to follow live sports for fee on the Web.

Thanks for reading and watching, and please keep up the comments - the conversation on this topic has been great. Also, don't forget to hop over to my Twitter feed (TopherAtl) and join the conversation there.

Remember I'm working with the great folks at CNN's iReport to challenge our audience to try this tech torture themselves this week, then report back to us on how it went. View their challenge here.

Editor’s note: Topher Kohan is the search engine optimization (SEO) coordinator for CNN.com, a “Star Wars” aficionado, a tech dork and an all-around good guy. (No, really, he is — just ask him.)

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Filed under: Tech Torture with Topher


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AT&T rethinks unlimited iPhone data plans

Posted: 02:37 PM ET

Unlimited iPhone data plans and popular high-bandwidth video offerings are causing headaches for AT&T. In some saturated markets, such as New York City and San Francisco, the company's wireless network is unable to keep up with demand and transfers slow to a crawl.

AT&T President and CEO of Mobility and Consumer Markets Ralph de la Vega

AT&T President and CEO of Mobility and Consumer Markets Ralph de la Vega

According to the Wall Street Journal, AT&T's head of consumer services Ralph de la Vega blames high-bandwidth users for these network shortages, and, in a recent meeting with investors, hinted at the end of unlimited data packages.

“This is going to get fixed,” Mr. de la Vega said. “In both of those markets, I am very confident that you’re going to see significant progress.”

With about 3 percent of smartphone customers driving 40 percent of data traffic, AT&T is considering incentives to keep those subscribers from hampering the experience for everyone else, he said.

De la Vega did not elaborate on what "incentives" AT&T plans to enact, but you can bet the agenda will have more in common with data caps and speed limits than free toasters.

Bandwidth-hungry iPhones may be the cause of AT&T's network problems, but they are hardly to blame. iPhone users are forced into unlimited data packages costing at least $30 a month. I don't think AT&T has any right to complain when a few of those users fully utilize their purchase.

Who do you feel is responsible for the struggling wireless networks? AT&T, high-bandwidth users, or both?

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Filed under: Apple • cell phones • consumer tech • iPhone • Uncategorized


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December 9, 2009

Tech Torture, Day 3: I don't miss my TV

Posted: 05:56 PM ET

Editor’s note: This is the latest in CNN.com’s ongoing “Tech Torture With Topher” video-blog series, in which we “torture” CNN.com staffer Topher Kohan by depriving him of a technological convenience for a week to see how he copes with it. This week, Topher is trying to watch all his beloved TV shows online instead of on his TV.

Hello all,

So I flew back to Atlanta from Chicago last night, and with all the delays I got home after midnight on the East Coast. That meant I was able to watch Tuesday night's TV on Hulu.

So I watched the season premiere of "Better off Ted" and my first-ever episode of "The Good Wife," which came recommended by friends. One of the great things about watching TV online is that I can go back and catch past episodes of a show that I've heard good things about.

Correction from yesterday: Viewers, you are correct - CBS is not on Hulu. Some CBS shows are listed there, but the link takes you to CBS.com to watch them. I watched three shows on CBS.com the other night and the experience was not as good as Hulu - there were more ads, and the video player crashed twice.

Thanks for reading and please keep the comments coming! Also, don't forget to hop over to my Twitter feed (TopherAtl) and join the conversation there.

Remember I'm working with the great folks at CNN's iReport to challenge our audience to try this tech torture themselves this week, then report back to us on how it went. View their challenge here.

Editor’s note: Topher Kohan is the search engine optimization (SEO) coordinator for CNN.com, a “Star Wars” aficionado, a tech dork and an all-around good guy. (No, really, he is — just ask him.)

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Filed under: Tech Torture with Topher


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Are you a gadgethead? Do you spend hours a day online? Or are you just curious about how technology impacts your life? In this digital age, it's increasingly important to be fluent, or at least familiar, with the big tech trends. From gadgets to Google, smartphones to social media, this blog will help keep you informed.

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