Foreign journalists email hacked in China

At least two news bureaux in Beiing have had their foreign reporters’ gmail accounts hacked into, according to a member email sent by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China, according to PC World.

The announcement, Monday, says that the compromised Gmail accounts had been configured to forward all e-mails to a mystery address. “We remind all members that journalists in China have been particular targets of hacker attacks in the last 2 years,” said the group’s mass email to members. The Beijing news bureaux have not been named.

Google has assured the affected users that while accounts have been accessed, the content of email documents were not.

While the hacked accounts coincide with a large scale attack on Google’s accounts and servers, the company claims that these attacks are unrelated.

And according to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China, it’s nothing to be too surprised about: “We remind all members that journalists in China have been particular targets of hacker attacks in the last 2 years.”

While accounts have been compromised, it could be in the best interest of journalists to stay with Google’s possibly soon to be pulled Gmail, as Steve Ballmer said Microsoft leaving China was unlikely, whatever-the-weather.

Nokia proposes simplified Symbian S^4 UI

Nokia has already outlined its proposals towards the advanced user interfaces (UIs) of Symbian^4 handsets, before the Symbian^3 models have even released.

Simplification is Nokia’s keyword for the Symbian^4 proposals. It promises cutting-edge features and capabilities involving autosave with less user prompts. The proposed UI also claims to have a slicker feel with simplified applications with a more uniform look and a new interface layout, with just contacts, music, photos and applications available.

Nokia has submitted its UI proposal to the Symbian Foundation, and will now undergo open evaluation. However initial thoughts from the Symbian Community Forum critisied the proposals for being too mundane. One poster called Micky commented: “I think we need more WOW factor, and be distinguished from the competition.”

Another commenter, Petteri said: “I understand that these are v0.1 drafts but we should not forget that this change is crucial to the platform success so aiming higher should be encouraged.”

With the Symbian^3, the first open source release due in a couple of weeks, Nokia is hoping to regain ground on the Iphone and Android models that are top of the sector. However the new OS can be used on iPhones, Crackberries and Androids as well.

The Symbian Developer website reckons smartphones with Symbian^4 OS will hit the shelves by 2011.

US distributor sues Samsung, AU, Chi Mei, over LCD conspiracy

A New York based distributorship has filed a case in a Brooklyn district court alleging that a large number of Asian companies conspired to fix prices on LCD displays.

Electrograph Systems Inc named the defendants in the case as Epson, Hitachi, Sharp, Toshiba, Toshiba Matsushita, Sanyo, LG Display, Samsung, AU Optronics, Chi Mei Optoelectronics, CMO Japan, Nexgen Mediatech, Chunghwa Picture Tubes, Tatung, Hannstar Display and Mitsui & Co.

The filing claims that “the defendants and their co-conspirators formed an international cartel which conducted a long running conspiracy extending at a minimum from at leasy January 1996 through at least December 11, 2006.”

It continues: “The purpose and effect of the conspiracy was to fix, raise, stabilise and maintain prices for Thin Film Transistor Liqid Crystal Display panels.

The effect of the alleged conspiracy ran into billions of dollars, according to Electrograph. The conspirators, the filing alleges, met or talked to agree on product prices and as new producers entered the market, the new producers also agreed to fix prices and to control supply.

“Defendants’ conspiracy included agreements on the prices at which defendants would sell TFT-LCD products to their own corporate subsidiaries and affiliates, as well as their co-conspirators.”

The filing pointed out that five of the defendants – LG, Sharp, Chunghwa, Hitachi and Epson have pleaded guilty to a fixed price conspiracy.

Electrograph said it bought TFT LCD products and so suffered damages and is bringing the action to recover overcharges it believes it paid during the relevant period. Electrograph Systems is a value added wholesale distributor of display technology.

Psystar appeals against Apple ruling

Psytar has filed a case in a Northern California district court appealing against a previous court’s verdict that it breached Apple’s copyright.

Last December the 16th, a judge slapped a permanent injunction on Psystar to permanently halt sales of unathorised Mac clones and from copying, selling, distributing or creating derivative works of Mac OS X without Apple’s authorisation.

But Psystar obviously isn’t taking this lying down. The judge in the case said that until Psystar appealed against his ruling, it risked further action for distributing the $50 Rebel EFI Hackingtosh patch.

Whatever happens, it’s not going to happen particularly fast.

• Three more class acts started against Apple and AT&T. The number is legion.

Apple's Newton goes online

An 18th century report of a conversation with the alchemist Sir Isaac Newton in which he first recounted the Apple falling from a tree story has gone online for the first time.

The fragile paper explains how a falling piece of Granny Smith or whatever helped Isaac Newton stop thinking about turning lead into gold, or how the Light of God divided itself, and start thinking about more weighty matters.

The document is owned by the Royal Society, which was formed as an actual attempt to form a scientific society similar to the magical Rosicrucians. These days they don’t believe in that sort of stuff, but Newton did until the day he died.  

Royal Society librarian Keith Moore said the apple story explains how modern science works, and contains an implicit reference to the solar system and even an allusion to the Bible.

When Newton describes the process of observing a falling apple and guessing at the principle behind it “he’s talking about the scientific method,” Moore said.

The incident occurred in the mid-1660s, when Newton retreated to his family home in northern England after an outbreak of the plague closed the University of Cambridge.

The Royal Society’s manuscript was penned by Newton’s contemporary William Stukeley who said that on a spring afternoon in 1726 the famous scientist told him the yarn over tea and biscuits  “under the shade of some apple trees.”

Stukeley said that Newton told him that it was exactly the same situation, as when he worked out the idea of gravity.

“It was occasion’d by the fall of an apple, as he sat in contemplative mood. Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground, thought he to himself … Why should it not go sideways, or upwards? But constantly to the earth’s centre? Assuredly, the reason is, that the earth draws it. There must be a drawing power in matter.”

Stukeley’s account joins the long-lost notes of Newton’s 17th-century scientific rival Robert Hooke on the Royal Society’s Web site here.

Rippers abandon DivX

One of the bigger DVD ripping software outfits has ditched support for DivX files.

Handbrake, which is popular among users of Apple’s range of fruity toys, has released a 0.9.4 update which kills off DivX support.

HandBrake was ported to Windows a few years ago and is also available for Linux but is more popular with Apple fans.

Now the developers are only allowing punters to convert DVDs and other media to MKV or MP4 files – with the option to save as Apple-friendly M4V files. DivX is universally accepted on DVD players.

According to the developers, ditching support for AVI files using DivX and XviD made sense, as the technology was out of date.

It does not support modern container features like chapters, muxed-in subtitles, variable framerate video, or out of order frame display.  If Handbrake keeps its AVI muxer then it will have to maintain  a convoluted data pipeline, full of conditionals that make the code more difficult to read and maintain, and make output harder to predict.

But it is a little strange in that you generally want a DVD you have ripped to be seen by your player.  While MKV and MP4 are becoming increasing popular with device makers, they cannot be seen by some gear.

Yahoo branded reckless over China crisis stance

Siding with Google over the Chinese government’s censorship plans has left Yahoo’s number one business partner behind the bamboo curtain with a red face.

Last week Yahoo said it was “aligned” with Google’s position that the violation of internet privacy was deeply disturbing and something that had to be opposed.
But a spokesman for Yahoo’s business partner in China,  the Alibaba Group, said over the weekend that it did not think this was a good idea.

Beijing has tried to play down Google’s threat to pull out of China because of attacks by hackers and censorship.

Yahoo pulled out of China several years ago when it sold much of its business there to the Alibaba Group, in which owns 39 per cent. Alibaba runs Taobao, China’s largest online retailer, as well as the country’s largest e-commerce site,

John Spelich, Alibaba Group said Yahoo was reckless when it made such statements and “communicated to Yahoo that Yahoo’s statement that it is ‘aligned’ with the position Google took last week was reckless given the lack of facts in evidence”.

Yahoo has not said if it is considering flogging its Alibaba shares.

Creationists use DMCA to silence critics

People who believe that children should be brainwashed into a literal interpretation of the Biblical view of creation have been using US copyright law to stop people taking the mickey out of them.

The Discovery Institute is apparently so miffed that people make jokes about it on YouTube  that it has accused its critics of piracy in cyberspace.

Using a law which is supposed to protect people from having their content published online, the Discovery Institute issued a DMCA take down notice against a YouTube video which mocks their insistence that evolution never happened and God made humanity in his own image.

The DCMA is issued on the basis that the video which took the Michael used the name of the Discovery Institute in vain and was in breach of the outfit’s trademark.

We are not sure who is advising the Discovery Institute on US trademark law, but it is probably the same loony who tells them that God looks in the mirror every day and sees a right wing born again Christian looking back.

Wanna hack into your friend's Facebook account?

A woman in Georgia and her two daughters have exposed a security flaw in the World Wide Wibble that effects everyone and not just visitors to the social notworking site.

Candace Sawyer, 26, was taken to  an account that didn’t look like hers and seemed to be owned by a bloke who was a different colour from her.

She got her sister and her mum to try and the had the same problem on their phones  and they got some Yankee Facebook accounts.

After some digging it turned out that the problem was not their phones but a  flaw in AT&T’s routing infrastructure connecting the phones to the Internet.

Somehow misconfigured equipment, poorly written network software or other technical errors could have caused AT&T to fumble the information flowing from the Sawyers’ phones to Facebook and back.

The vulnerability means a hacker can access one account at a time, which is of limited use.  But probably a good start to a wider campaign.

It is somehow managed by a “misdirected cookie.”  But no one is really sure how. It has something to do with the fact that all the mobile Internet traffic for a particular area is routed through the same piece of networking gear. A site which used encryption would be immune to it.