“Electronic hard copy” publishing – should this only be for the iPad platform?

Since the start of this year, there has been some interest shown by traditional hard-copy media publishers and book publishers in the idea of e-books and similar technologies. This has mainly been brought about by the arrival of devices like the Amazon Kindle and the Apple iPad. This concept has interested the newspaper and magazine publishers who have fund the value of their hard-copy titles dwindling as readers place more value on Web-hosted online news sources.

“Electronic hard copy” becoming only for the Apple iPad

This has intensified with the arrival of the Apple iPad where nearly every mainstream newspaper publisher is offering a subscription-based app for this platform and moving towards placing their online content behind a subscription-driven paywall, The biggest fear that I have about the current “electronic hard copy” situation is that all of the publishers will simply develop their “electronic hard copy” projects so that they only work with the Apple iPad.

Other platforms that exist

There are touch-based Internet-tablet platforms other than the iPad that can do the job of being an endpoint for “electronic hard copy” reading. The ones that come to mind are the Google Android platform which will be evolved into a touch-based Internet-tablet form factor as well as touch-enabled computers that run Microsoft’s Windows Vista or 7 operating systems. Infact I have viewed this site through a Hewlett-Packard TouchSmart “all-in-one” desktop PC at HP’s stand during the PMA Digital Life Expo yesterday in order to show a review of one of their products that was on the stand. This unit had the ability to “click on to” links at the touch of a finger or you could stroke your finger upwards to scroll through the site.

Similarly,there could be other touch-enabled Internet tablet platforms written for other embedded operating systems like Symbian, Bada or Maemo. As well, Microsoft can also provide a “scaled-down” distributions= of their Windows 7 codebase as the basis of a touch-enabled Internet-tablet device.

A common “electronic hard copy” distribution platform

What needs to happen is for the creation of a common “electronic hard copy” distribution that allows for the support of periodical content that is provided for free, “by the unit” or on a subscription basis in a similar manner to regular hard-copy periodicals. It should allow for authenticated distribution, rich-media content such as animation or video, search and interactivity amongst other things. It should also allow the publishers to “brand” their content and see a layout in a similar manner to how the hard-copy form has been presented.

For periodical content, technologies like the RSS Web-feed platform could be used as a basis for “pushing” newer issues to the device through the life of a subscription while there could be support for content-specific paradigms. In the case of comic-strip content, there could be the ability to scroll through each frame which would be variably-sized and perhaps may be accented with multimedia. Some material could allow for searching, filtered browsing and / or dynamic typesetting, such as a “full” dictionary that can be filtered down to provide words considered “legal” for Scrabble or a dictionary that emphasises in another colour “Scrabble-legal” words.

As well, you should be able to buy content for the device from anywhere other than the device’s “app store” like the way a Nokia phone user can get an app for their phone from the developer’s Web site, the Handango app store as well as the Nokia Ovi app store. This avoids the situations that have been occurring with Apple and the way they have been approving or disapproving apps for their iTunes App Store.

Conclusion

Once a common distribution platform exists for “electronic hard copy” content that works in a manner that breeds competitiveness, then more people would be able to benefit from this new way of distributing books, newspapers and magazines.

Send to Kindle

Criminal legal action now being taken concerning “scareware”

 Articles

Scareware Indictments Put Cybercriminals on Notice – Microsoft On The Issues

Swede charged in US over ‘scareware’ scheme | The Local (Sweden’s News in English) – Sweden

US-Behörden klagen Scareware-Betrüger an | Der Standard (Austria – German language)

From the horse’s mouth

FBI Press release

My comments

What is scareware

Scareware is a form of malware that presents itself as desktop security software. Typically this software uses a lot of emphasis on “flashing-up” of user-interface dialogs that mimic known desktop security programs, whether as add-on programs or functions that are integral to the operating system. They also put up dialogs requiring you to “register” or “activate” the software in a similar manner to most respected programs. This usually leads you to Web sites that require you to enter your credit-card number to pay for the program.

In reality, they are simply another form of Trojan Horse that is in a similar manner to the easy-to-write “fake login screen” Trojans that computer hackers have created in order to capture an administrator’s high-privilege login credentials. Some of the scareware is even written to take over the computer user’s interactive session, usually with processes that start when the computer starts, so as to “ring-fence” the user from vital system-control utilities like Task Manager, Control Panel or command-line options. In some cases, they also stop any executable files from running unless it is one of a narrow list of approved executable files. They are also known to nobble regular desktop anti-malware programs so that they don’t interfere with their nefarious activities. This behaviour outlined here is from observations that I had made over the last few weeks when I was trying to get a teenager’s computer that was infested with “scareware” back to normal operation.

Who ends up with this scareware on their computer

Typically the kind of user who will end up with such software on their computer would be consumers and small-business operators who are computer-naive or computer-illiterate and are most likely to respond to banner ads hawking “free anti-virus software”. They may not know which free consumer-grade anti-virus programs exist for their computing environment. In a similar context, they may have found their computer is operating below par and they have often heard advice that their computer is infested with viruses.

What you should do to avoid scareware and how should you handle an infestation

The proper steps to take to avoid your computer being infested with scareware is to make sure you are using reputable desktop security software on your computer. If you are strapped for cash, you should consider using AVG, Avast, Avira or Microsoft Security Essentials which have the links in the links column on the right of your screen when reading this article on the site.

If you have a computer that is already infected with this menace, it is a good idea to use another computer, whether on your home network or at your workplace, to download a “process-kill” utility like rkill.com to a USB memory key or CD-R and run this on the infected computer immediately after you log in. It may alos be worth visiting the “Bleeping Computer” resource site for further information regarding removing that particular scareware threat that is affecting your computer. This is because I have had very good experience with this site as a resource when I handled a computer that was infested with scareware.

If you are at a large workplace with a system administrator, ask them to prepare a “rescue CD” with the utilities from the “bleeping-computer” Web site or provide a link or “safe-site” option on your work-home laptop to this site so you can use this computer as a “reference” unit for finding out how to remove scareware from a computer on your home network.

How the criminal law fits in to this equation

The criminal law is now being used to target the “scareware” epidemic through the use of charges centred around fraud or deception. Like other criminal cases involving the online world, the situation will touch on legal situations where the offenders are resident in one or more differing countries and the victims are in the same or different other countries at the time of the offence.

This case could raise questions concerning different standards of proof concerning trans-national criminal offences as well as the point of trial for any such offences. 

Conclusion

Once you know what the “scareware” menace is, you are able to know that criminal-law measures are being used to tackle it and that you can recognise these threats and handle an infestation.

Disclaimer regarding ongoing criminal cases

This article pertains to an ongoing criminal-law action that is likely to go to trial. Nothing in this article is written to infer guilt on the accused parties who are innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law. All comments are based either on previously-published material or my personal observations relevant to the facts commonly known.

Send to Kindle

Criminal legal action now being taken concerning “scareware”

Articles

Scareware Indictments Put Cybercriminals on Notice – Microsoft On The Issues

Swede charged in US over ‘scareware’ scheme | The Local (Sweden’s News in English) – Sweden

US-Behörden klagen Scareware-Betrüger an | Der Standard (Austria – German language)

From the horse’s mouth

FBI Press release

My comments

What is scareware

Scareware is a form of malware that presents itself as desktop security software. Typically this software uses a lot of emphasis on “flashing-up” of user-interface dialogs that mimic known desktop security programs, whether as add-on programs or functions that are integral to the operating system. They also put up dialogs requiring you to “register” or “activate” the software in a similar manner to most respected programs. This usually leads you to Web sites that require you to enter your credit-card number to pay for the program.

In reality, they are simply another form of Trojan Horse that is in a similar manner to the easy-to-write “fake login screen” Trojans that computer hackers have created in order to capture an administrator’s high-privilege login credentials. Some of the scareware is even written to take over the computer user’s interactive session, usually with processes that start when the computer starts, so as to “ring-fence” the user from vital system-control utilities like Task Manager, Control Panel or command-line options. In some cases, they also stop any executable files from running unless it is one of a narrow list of approved executable files. They are also known to nobble regular desktop anti-malware programs so that they don’t interfere with their nefarious activities. This behaviour outlined here is from observations that I had made over the last few weeks when I was trying to get a teenager’s computer that was infested with “scareware” back to normal operation.

Who ends up with this scareware on their computer

Typically the kind of user who will end up with such software on their computer would be consumers and small-business operators who are computer-naive or computer-illiterate and are most likely to respond to banner ads hawking “free anti-virus software”. They may not know which free consumer-grade anti-virus programs exist for their computing environment. In a similar context, they may have found their computer is operating below par and they have often heard advice that their computer is infested with viruses.

What you should do to avoid scareware and how should you handle an infestation

The proper steps to take to avoid your computer being infested with scareware is to make sure you are using reputable desktop security software on your computer. If you are strapped for cash, you should consider using AVG, Avast, Avira or Microsoft Security Essentials which have the links in the links column on the right of your screen when reading this article on the site.

If you have a computer that is already infected with this menace, it is a good idea to use another computer, whether on your home network or at your workplace, to download a “process-kill” utility like rkill.com to a USB memory key or CD-R and run this on the infected computer immediately after you log in. It may alos be worth visiting the “Bleeping Computer” resource site for further information regarding removing that particular scareware threat that is affecting your computer. This is because I have had very good experience with this site as a resource when I handled a computer that was infested with scareware.

If you are at a large workplace with a system administrator, ask them to prepare a “rescue CD” with the utilities from the “bleeping-computer” Web site or provide a link or “safe-site” option on your work-home laptop to this site so you can use this computer as a “reference” unit for finding out how to remove scareware from a computer on your home network.

How the criminal law fits in to this equation

The criminal law is now being used to target the “scareware” epidemic through the use of charges centred around fraud or deception. Like other criminal cases involving the online world, the situation will touch on legal situations where the offenders are resident in one or more differing countries and the victims are in the same or different other countries at the time of the offence.

This case could raise questions concerning different standards of proof concerning trans-national criminal offences as well as the point of trial for any such offences.

Conclusion

Once you know what the “scareware” menace is, you are able to know that criminal-law measures are being used to tackle it and that you can recognise these threats and handle an infestation.

Disclaimer regarding ongoing criminal cases

This article pertains to an ongoing criminal-law action that is likely to go to trial. Nothing in this article is written to infer guilt on the accused parties who are innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law. All comments are based either on previously-published material or my personal observations relevant to the facts commonly known.

Send to Kindle

Why buy a network-enabled printer instead of a direct-connected printer?

Most printer manufacturers are supplying printers and multifunction printer (all-in-one) devices that can connect to computers via a network as well as via a USB port in price ranges that most consumers and small businesses can afford.

This function has initially been provided to higher-end business-grade equipment primarily as a way of integrating them in to the business’s network and allowing them to be used by all the computers in that workplace. Now that home networks are becoming increasingly common primarily due to broadband Internet and Wi-Fi networking, this function is becoming commonly available in all but the cheapest equipment in most manufacturers’ product ranges.

You may think that a direct-connect printer is the only type of printer that you need for your home or small-business computer but it may be worth thinking about the advantages of the network-connected units now that this feature is available at an increasingly-affordable price. Similarly you may think of using a direct-connect printer with a print server such as the functionality integrated in to many recent-model routers. But there may be limitations in how this setup works, especially with the multifunction devices that are increasingly being deployed.

Many computers – few printers

You will typically end up with many computers but fewer printers in your home or small business and may find that there are particular printers that offer capabilities that are unique to them.

A network printer allows each computer to benefit from that printer’s capabilities without any need to shift the unit around or disconnect and reconnect USB cables. You also move away from the temptation to buy and maintain many cheaper printers for each computer and end up saving money in the long run.

This can allow you to invest in printers that are good for particular needs rather than a fleet of machines that effectively do the same job. A good example of this would be a medical clinic’s setup where there is a networked monochrome laser printer that turns out health-insurance forms, patient receipts and similar documents very quickly for a group of reception-desk computers and a networked colour inkjet multifunction printer that does general-purpose printing where speed isn’t necessary.

Network-capable multifunction printers expose all of their functions to the networks rather than just the printing function. This can allow for increased flexibility when it comes to scanning or “drawing-down” images from memory cards because these functions end up being shared by all the computer users. If the machine has fax functionality, there is the ability to “print-to-fax” via the network whenever you want to send a fax from one of the computers.

The “new home-computing environment”

We are also starting to see the arrival of the “new home-computing environment” where the computers in the household are laptops that are connected via Wi-Fi wireless to a wireless router. This has allowed users to use the computers anywhere in the house rather than just in the study or home office.

A network-enabled printer can allow you to avoid the need to locate the printer and connect laptop computers to it whenever you wish to print anything. Rather, you can start a print job from the laptop that you are using at the location you are using it at. You also benefit from the increased flexibility of locating the printer wherever you wish, especially if you use Wi-Fi wireless or HomePlug powerline networking to connect the printer to the network.

Conclusion

So if you are wanting to choose a printer that provides for flexibility in your network environment, it would be worth it to consider units that are network enabled.

Send to Kindle

Why buy a network-enabled printer instead of a direct-connected printer?

Most printer manufacturers are supplying printers and multifunction printer (all-in-one) devices that can connect to computers via a network as well as via a USB port in price ranges that most consumers and small businesses can afford.

This function has initially been provided to higher-end business-grade equipment primarily as a way of integrating them in to the business’s network and allowing them to be used by all the computers in that workplace. Now that home networks are becoming increasingly common primarily due to broadband Internet and Wi-Fi networking, this function is becoming commonly available in all but the cheapest equipment in most manufacturers’ product ranges.

You may think that a direct-connect printer is the only type of printer that you need for your home or small-business computer but it may be worth thinking about the advantages of the network-connected units now that this feature is available at an increasingly-affordable price. Similarly you may think of using a direct-connect printer with a print server such as the functionality integrated in to many recent-model routers. But there may be limitations in how this setup works, especially with the multifunction devices that are increasingly being deployed.

Many computers – few printers

You will typically end up with many computers but fewer printers in your home or small business and may find that there are particular printers that offer capabilities that are unique to them.

A network printer allows each computer to benefit from that printer’s capabilities without any need to shift the unit around or disconnect and reconnect USB cables. You also move away from the temptation to buy and maintain many cheaper printers for each computer and end up saving money in the long run.

This can allow you to invest in printers that are good for particular needs rather than a fleet of machines that effectively do the same job. A good example of this would be a medical clinic’s setup where there is a networked monochrome laser printer that turns out health-insurance forms, patient receipts and similar documents very quickly for a group of reception-desk computers and a networked colour inkjet multifunction printer that does general-purpose printing where speed isn’t necessary.

Network-capable multifunction printers expose all of their functions to the networks rather than just the printing function. This can allow for increased flexibility when it comes to scanning or “drawing-down” images from memory cards because these functions end up being shared by all the computer users. If the machine has fax functionality, there is the ability to “print-to-fax” via the network whenever you want to send a fax from one of the computers.

The “new home-computing environment”

We are also starting to see the arrival of the “new home-computing environment” where the computers in the household are laptops that are connected via Wi-Fi wireless to a wireless router. This has allowed users to use the computers anywhere in the house rather than just in the study or home office.

A network-enabled printer can allow you to avoid the need to locate the printer and connect laptop computers to it whenever you wish to print anything. Rather, you can start a print job from the laptop that you are using at the location you are using it at. You also benefit from the increased flexibility of locating the printer wherever you wish, especially if you use Wi-Fi wireless or HomePlug powerline networking to connect the printer to the network.

Conclusion

So if you are wanting to choose a printer that provides for flexibility in your network environment, it would be worth it to consider units that are network enabled.

Send to Kindle

Could this e-government initiative be upsetting the applecart in Europe as far as the Browser Choice initiative is concerned?

Article

E-Government-Offensive im Microsoft-Browser | news.ORF.at (Austria – German language)

My comments and brief interpretation

Judging from my basic understanding of the German language together with use of Google’s machine translation, I had “got the gist” of this situation which would be considered hostile to the European Commission’s agenda concerning Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser.

What I was reading here was that the federal government in Austria were placing heavy emphasis on Internet Explorer 8 as part of their “e-government” initiative. This was including a downloadable toolbar add-in amongst obvious page-optimisation for this browser.

Most likely, I would suspect that, like most large organisations, the Austrian government uses Internet Explorer 8 as part of their standard operating environment and they expect that most users in that country may have stuck with IE8 even during the “Browser Choice Screen” switchover. One could say that this government could get away with this practice because many public and private organisations supply iPhone client apps to make their “front-end” useable on an iPhone which may be platform-specific.

What I would like to see with this is that if the government sites become less useful or unable to fulfil their function because of the preference for a particular browser is concerned, then the sites should be organised to at least fulfil their function no matter the desktop-computer user agent.

Send to Kindle

Not just fibre-to-the-cabinet but fibre-to-the-premises in two rural Lincolnshire villages

Article

thinkbroadband :: Two rural Lincolnshire villages to get fibre-to-the-home

My Comments

Another step has occurred in the right direction for providing homes and small businesses in two rural England villages with city-grade next-generation Internet service. Again, this initiative has been undertaken by a small operator and has allowed the village to be competitive with the city.

Here, Fibrestream are two-thirds of the way there with gaining interest from the potential users which will open doors to establishing the basic infrastructure and “lighting up” the villages. One of the bonuses that have been offered is that there is the option of helping with the installation to your premises as a way to defray provisioning costs.

They have also provided for a cheaper fixed-wireless-last-mile delivery option if they can’t raise enough money for the full fibre-to-the-premises option. Any monies saved from this option would be reinvested so they can establish the infrastructure for the full fibre-to-the-premises deal. This could still be factored in to villages with farms and similar large properties surrounding them so as to service these properties with high-speed Internet.

Like what has happened with other British villages like Lyddington in Leicestershire, this has become another way of bringing these rural villages in to the online age. Come on everyone who is in the country or underserved outer-urban and regional areas and work together to establish local-broadband initiatives.

Send to Kindle

Hitachi-LG optical-reader / solid-state drive combo for laptops

Articles

Hitachi-LG teases HyDrive: an optical reader with loads of NAND (video) – Engadget

Web site

http://www.mysterydrive.net

My comments

The main thing that impressed me about this was that both the tray-load optical drive and the solid-state drive wore integrated in to the same low-profile chassis that would suit installation in to a laptop. There are many benefits that I see with this.

One would be that you could have a laptop specification that has both a large-capacity hard disk that is used for data and a lower-capacity solid-state drive used for the operating system and applications. It could then allow for battery economy and quick starts while the high capacity on the hard disk can exist for the user’s data and this hard disk is only spun up when the user’s files need to be loaded or saved.

As well, if Hitachi and LG move towards higher solid-state capacities, this could allow for low-profile laptops like the “thin-and-light” segment to have the SSD as the main system drive while supporting an optical drive.

Send to Kindle

Product Review – Hewlett-Packard ProBook 4520s

I am reviewing the Hewlett-Packard ProBook 4520s business-class notebook which may be the first such computer that has come across in this blog. It is one such machine that I am assessing as whether it fits the purpose of a “work-home” laptop for a small-business owner or not.HP ProBook 4520 Series laptop

The unit I am reviewing has a recommended retail price of AUD$1299 but you may be able to get the the same specification for a bit less if you shop around. Cheaper models in this lineup would have a smaller hard disk, run Windows 7 Home Premium rather than Professioamnal, come with a standard battery which has a shorter runtime amongst other differences.

The laptop itself

The unit is finished in a brushed satin-bronze finish on top of lid and keyboard surround, but some variants have a dark-satin black finish. There is a a black screen escutcheon which also hides the Webcam for face-recognition security and Skype communications.

The large keyboard has a feature that is not seen on may laptop computers – a separate numeric keypad. This will please accountants and others who work with figures. It is of a “chiclet” square-key stile but is spaced enough so as to permit accurate touch-typing.

Laptop keyboard with numeric keypad

Laptop keyboard with numeric keypad

There is a multi-touch touchpad which may take some time to get used to for people who haven’t used this kind of control before. It has the primary and secondary buttons as part of the bottom margin in the same way that the HP Envy has for its touchpad.

It is powered with the Intel Core i5 processor “engine” and is supplied with 4Gb RAM with 1Gb set aside for display memory. The graphics “engine” is a highly-robust ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4350 series which would be good enough for most business tasks, even video playback.

The secondary storage options are on a par with a current-issue laptop of this class. It has a 500Gb hard disk with 1.8Gb partition for HP software. It also has a tray-load DVD burner that can label LightScribe optical discs and a memory-card reader for removeable storage.

You also get good things when it comes to connectivity with 3 USB ports and 1 eSATA external-disk port as well as an ExpressCard 34 slot for additional functionality. External displays can be connected using a VGA or HDMI connector.

Business software complement

The operating system for this laptop is Windows 7 Professional which is the version of Windows or7 I would recommend and have recommended in this blog for small business and professional use. It has the features of Windows 7 Home Premium plus other features that make it  business-friendly.

The unit is supplied with a very good business software complement with an inplace ready-to-enable distribution of Microsoft Office Professional, McAfee Total Protection web-managed desktop security software as well as WinZip 12. Hewlett-Packard have also put in their own branded system-protection tools which are developed by Digital Persona, which provide password management, facial-recognition, secure-erase, device-usage control amongst other things.

Observations and Ecperiences

The computer doesn’t run hot too quickly after extended periods of use, thus allowing it to be comfortabie to use. If it gets hot, the heat is passed out the left hand side rather than being felt on the bottom of the machine.

Its battery has a lump which can tilt the laptop up slightly also to allow better cooling and comfortable use. This lump has a rubber ridge to protect the good dining-room table but the design could extend to full width of battery for better protection

The extra-length battery that came with this machine allowed it to complete a feature move on DVD with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled. Infact there was 41% of power available after the movie was completed and these tests were done with Windows Media Player playing “Munich” and the computer running on the HP-defined default power configuration. This then would mean that it could run a long time without you needing to look for a power

The other thing I also admired about this machine is that the metal finish keeps its look even if it is well used unlike a lot of the glossy finishes used on laptops that attract fingermarks and the like. It also feels cool to handle and is the kind of finish that would cope with long-time use.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

The main limitation with this computer is that it is too heavy for frequent public-transport travel, which may cut it out for frequent air travellers. Some people may find that the long-run battery’s large size and lump may be a limitation for packing and could be improved with a battery that is more cell-dense.

Other than that, there aren’t any other limitations that would impact on its positioning as a business-home home laptop computer.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

I would recommend this as a business-home laptop or desktop replacement for professionals and small-business operators who are likely to take the unit between home and their place of work. It also comes with business-grade security software that is available at prices and licensing quantities that small business can stomach.

Send to Kindle

Heads-up: Google Chrome is now at version 5.0

Articles

Chrome 5.0 en version finale | Le Journal du Geek (France – French language)

Google veröffentlicht Chrome 5 für Windows, Mac OS und Linux | Der Standard (Austria – German language)

Google ships “fastest-ever” Chrome out of beta | The Tech Herald

Download link

http://www.google.com/chrome

My comments

Google have updated their Chrome browser to the next major version. It has been fine-tuned “under the hood” for speed in a similar way to what has happened with Windows 7 and MacOS X “Snow Leopard” and is intended to be faster than the prior versions.

There is also improvements in how it handles the new HTML5 language, which will make it ready for the Web’s new direction. Other improvements include “experience synchronisation” between different computers, a must have if you are upgrading computers constantly or operating two different computers like a desktop and a laptop.

At the moment, there isn’t a stable Adobe Flash plugin for this version but it will be provided as part of the browser’s update process.

This may appeal to you if you have jumped from Internet Explorer to Google Chrome, whether directly or through the Browser Choice screen in Europe.

Send to Kindle