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Steven Warshak, the man behind the "natural male enhancement" product Enzyte often advertised on late-night TV, has successfully challenged the government's ability to access his e-mails without obtaining a search warrant or giving notification to Warshak. HangZhou Night Net

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that the government had acted improperly in its wire fraud and money laundering case against Warshak and his company. As part of the case (which we reported on earlier), the feds secured a court order under the Stored Communications Act (SCA)that allowedthem to access Warshak's stored online e-mail.

A court order does not require the full "probable cause" level of evidence demanded by a subpoena, but it does involve some judicial oversight. Normally, a court order of this kind requires notification so that the subject of the order can challenge it, but in this case, the judge gave the government 90 days to look at the e-mails before it needed to contact Warshak. This is allowed under the SCA, but Warshak argued that gaining access to his e-mail without 1) a warrant or 2) a court order with notification was a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The Appeals Court ruled in Warshak's favor. In the decision, the Court noted that the rules "still allow seizures of e-mails pursuant to a warrant or with prior notice to a subscriber" but that the ability to get the court order without notification was no longer allowed.

The court also responded positively to the idea that e-mails should be given the same privacy protection as phone calls. This means that getting access to an ISP's customer information database would be allowed without a warrant, but getting access to the actual text of the e-mails would not. In the telecom world, this is analogous to the "pen register" that grabs data about what phone numbers are being dialed but does not provide access to the content of the call.

The Court found that "individuals maintain a reasonable expectation of privacy in e-mails that are stored with, or sent or received through, a commercial ISP," dealing a blow to government attempts to get easier access to e-mails stored with an ISP than those stored on a suspect's own computer. Protecting the privacy of e-mail is "as important to Fourth Amendment principles today as protecting telephone conversations has been in the past."

"E-mail users expect that their Hotmail and Gmail inboxes are just as private as their postal mail and their telephone calls," said EFF staff attorney Kevin Bankston, who helped draft an amicus brief in the case. "The government tried to get around this common-sense conclusion, but the Constitution applies online as well as offline, as the court correctly found. That means that the government can't secretly seize your emails without a warrant."

With that important e-mail issue resolved, the case against Warshak will continue.

Gateway has announced that it is recalling 14,000 notebook batteries from laptops sold during the months of May and June 2003. The recall is in response to high temperatures that occur in lithium-ion batteries that could potentially cause a fire. The faulty batteries can be found in Gateway notebook models 400VTX and 450ROG and will be replaced for free. Not every model uses these batteries though, so here's how to find out if yours does. HangZhou Night Net

To find your battery number, you'll need to remove your battery from your laptop. Before doing this, make sure your LCD is closed, and your laptop is face down, back up. Unlock the notebook battery lock and slide open the battery release latch, then slide the battery out of the bay. On the battery you'll find two numbers: a serial number and a battery part number. If your battery has part numbers 6500760 or 6500761, then you have one of Gateway's faulty batteries. To exchange your battery for a new one, fill out Gateway's Battery Exchange Request Form.

Last year Sony issued a worldwide recall for Sony-manufactured lithium-ion batteries that shipped in Lenovo/IBM, Dell, Apple, and Toshiba notebook computers after battery malfunctions caused a Lenovo ThinkPad battery to burst into flames in a Los Angeles airport. Earlier this year, Lenovo recalled ThinkPad batteries for over 208,000 notebooks after overheating issues caused damage to a number of notebooks. Speaking of Toshiba, the company yesterday stepped up its own notebook battery recall after a laptop caught fire in Britain last month. Toshiba is currently in talks with Sony to discuss a reimbursement for the recall, which is expected cost Sony roughly $400 million when all is said and done.

A new battery standardization project hopes to make recalls a thing of the past. The Association Connecting Electronics Industries (IPC) Lithium Ion Battery Subcommittee said last year that the IPC expected to have a completed a lithium-ion battery standard for laptops and handheld devices by this time (it has yet to arrive). In December the IEEE said that it expected its revised IEEE 1625 standard to be completed by the end of 2007, at that rate though, we likely won't see the finished product until sometime in 2008.

Without an official standard for lithium-ion batteries, manufacturers like Matsushita have taken matters into their own hands. Last December Matsushita developed a safer lithium-ion battery for notebooks that uses a heat-resistant insulator between the cathode and the anode of a battery that prevents punctures from short-circuiting batteries.

After a few runs, I began to ask whether I was pushing myself hard enough. I could always try to up my personal best, but that isn't always the best indication of whether you are working as hard as you should be. Ideally, I would use a heart rate monitor, but that is significantly more money than I'd already spent. Second best would be a personal trainer to motivate me to work my hardest, but unfortunately that would be even more expensive than the heart rate monitor.HangZhou Night Net

So what am I (and you) to do? Luckily for us, Nike has us covered. On the iTunes Store, the shoe company has a variety of different workouts available to help keep your running steady. Today we will look at Improve our Endurance 1.

There is the saying "Nothing in life is free." Well, these workouts are no exception. Some might even consider them a poor value, but hold any judgment until the end. For $14.99, you get ten full-length songs from the hip-hop genre, including tracks by Obie Trice, Busta, and the Pussycat Dolls. You also get an additional track entitled the "Continuous Mix," which is the full workout track, and a digital booklet. The "Continuous Mix," which changes songs to go along with the speed in which you are supposed to run at any given time, also features a voiceover with training instructions (the continuous mix only works with iPod nanos, by the way). Here, the instructions say to do a ten-minute warmup, four sets of three-minute speed intervals, and then ten minutes of cool-down.

I know what you are asking: "If that's the workout routine, why not just do that? Why not just use music you already have and a stopwatch?" For some, that method might be enough, but for those of us that like the encouragement and time updates that a personal trainer, a coach, or a voiceover track provides, this workout works well. There is something to be said for a voice telling you that you are halfway there or that there are "only three minutes" remaining. The change of tempos and intensity throughout the workout does a lot for your mindset during your run, too. If the 42:49 running time seems like too much or doesn't fit into your schedule, you can always do what I do and tailor it to your ability or needs. For me that means not using the entire 42 minutes but instead using the track for a given distance.

Here is the bad: if you are to the point where you can run intervals more than twice a week, and this is the only interval training track you have, this music will get pretty boring pretty quickly. If you run this interval training once a week, it isn't so bad, but you will begin to feel some hatred for the Pussycat Dolls after a while. Be warned!

Packed parties go hand-in-hand with big conferences like Macworld and WWDC, and this year's WWDC has been no different. One of the largest parties this week (aside from Apple's own WWDC Bash tonight) was the Delicious Generation party last night at the After Modern art gallery. Although the party itself was named after (and sponsored by) the controversial new "generation" of Mac developers, the party attendance wasn't limited to such. Developers from all sides came to schmooze, have a good time (and a few too many drinks), and gossip about Leopard. HangZhou Night Net

Phill Ryu: creator, organizer, hyperactive entrepreneur

There was a laundry list of development celebrities in attendance last night, from almost every independent company to bigger ones like Apple, YouTube, Microsoft, Parallels, Google, Adobe, Elgato, the Mozilla Foundation, and more. People were anxious to talk about the newly-released Leopard beta: that reflective dock has quite a few people confused, and the translucent menu bar even moreso.

Insanely Great Tees was there giving out shirts:

Parallels' Ben Rudolph receiving a t-shirt

…and a lot of people ended up leaving with a completely new wardrobe. Almost.

Most of all, though, people were there to schmooze with each other and talk to other developers about their products.

John Casasanta chats with Sophia Teutschler

There were also demos of a number of third-party applications. Some of the demos shown to the crowd included Nocturne, Skitch, Picturesque, Pulp Motion, Mouseposé, Cha-ching, Konfabulator, and others.

All in all, the party was a success in bringing developers together and providing endless networking opportunities. Some demos had to get canned because they were Leopard-only and the group was unable to project Leopard-only features onto the wall, but overall the demos went over well. And of course, the open bar went over even better. Wil Shipley (of Delicious Library) even told me that he brought "some girls" with him, perhaps to take some of the pressure off of Sophia Teutschler of Sophiestication, Felicia Williams of YouTube, myself, and a couple of others who had popped up.

Expect some video clips from the party to show up here on Infinite Loop within the next several days. We are majorly backlogged with videos to encode over the last few days, so please be patient. Thanks!

Carlos Guerreiro of Nokia Multimedia posted a message to the GNOME mobile development list late last month to explain that Nokia is interested in pushing the Hildon framework upstream to make it an official part of the GNOME development infrastructure. HangZhou Night Net

Hildon is an open source, GTK-based user interface toolkit originally developed by Nokia for use on its mobile web tablet devices. Hildon is currently managed under the aegis of the open Maemo project, but the potential exists for broad adoption of Hildon in an expansive variety of mobile and embedded contexts beyond the scope of Maemo. Moving Hildon upstream to the GNOME project will make it easier to further harmonize Hildon and GTK while also increasing the transparency of Hildon governance and making it easier for companies, independent open source software developers, and members of the GNOME community to adapt and improve the framework.

The decision to start moving Hildon under the GNOME umbrella was largely precipitated by the recent announcement of a new mobile Linux project under active development by Intel and Canonical. Nokia always intended to make Hildon development as inclusive as possible and Intel’s interest in using Hildon on its upcoming Linux-based mobile devices created the immediate need to move Hildon to a place where it would be more universally accessible.

The process of making Hildon a more central part of the GNOME ecosystem is now well underway. In a recent blog entry, Hildon developer Lucas Rocha points out that a Hildon page has been created at the GNOME Live wiki with a roadmap, a migration plan, and page for discussing release planning. A new mailing list for Hildon development has also been created at mail.gnome.org.

Quim Gil, Nokia’s development platform product manager, also provides some insight into the upstream migration process with an informative collection of slides from a LinuxTag presentation about Maemo.

As we were promised, a new Gears patch hit today that has introduced a variety of new achievements and some much needed fixes. The achievements are based on the "Annex" update, as well as the "Hidden Fronts" map pack that was just recently released. HangZhou Night Net

The eight new achievements are fairly straightforward; five relate to the the map pack's new levels and three to the "Annex" game mode. Here's a run down of what you'll have to do to score the extra 250 points:

THIS! IS! ANNEX! – Complete 100 multiplayer matches of 3+ rounds in Annex and capture 3 objectives in each match. (40GS)Inconceivable – Win 20 rounds of multiplayer matches in Annex by fewer than 5 points. (30GS) Nub Pwn3r – Win 20 rounds of multiplayer matches in Annex by shutting out the opposing team. (30GS) You Down With E.P.I.C? – Win a multiplayer match of 3+ rounds in any game type on 6 different downloadable maps. (30GS) Green Thumb – Win 20 multiplayer matches of 3+ rounds in any game type on the Garden multiplayer map. (30GS) Mind the Gap – Win 20 multiplayer matches of 3+ rounds in any game type on the Subway multiplayer map. (30GS) All That Juice – Win 20 multiplayer matches of 3+ rounds in any game type on the Process multiplayer map. (30GS) Purdy Mouth – Win 20 multiplayer matches of 3+ rounds in any game type on the Bullet Marsh multiplayer map. (30GS)

The coyly-referenced "THIS! IS! ANNEX!" rewards a ridiculously low amount when compared to the point rewards for the other achievements, but otherwise the achievements are pretty uninspired; a sly way at tempting gamers to buy the new content. Then again, achievement whores will be happy with the fact that you can unlock these achievements easily in player matches.

As for the alleged housekeeping and exploit fixes, I spent some time tonight testing the game out to see if there were any noteworthy changes. A lot of you were quick to complain about the last update's "fix" for the Roadie Run, and you'll be happy to note that Epic has finally managed to tune the run properly; that is to say, it's pretty much back to how it was when the game shipped. The "attachment angle" to walls and objects is modest—nowhere near as bad as it was with the last patch, but still not perfect. At this point, I think it's obvious that the issue is one of an underlying design decision with the "sticky walls," rather than one that can be fixed by tweaking.

With regard to the other fixes, there's really not much to report. The Lancer was given a slight damage buff, but the rest of the house-keeping wasn't obvious during my short play-time tonight. Outside-the-map exploits, moving pick-ups and the lots of popular bugs remain intact.

The final word? A fairly boring, achievement-focused patch. At least it was free.

HangZhou Night Net

Over the last few days, the Internet has been abuzz with the discovery of three mysterious men in the hologram of the Windows Vista Business DVD. The image was first discovered by a Spanish blogger who captured the evidence with his Nikon 5700. As word spread around the web, many people contacted Microsoft to get to the bottom of the story. However, the company's public relations department refused to comment on the strange image.

While non-believers wrote the picture off as a Photoshop job, many formulated their own conspiracy theories. One Engadget reader wrote, "I'm fairly certain those guys in the holo developed some kind of awesome BBQ sauce or a dry rub that the MS folks really dug." Another person on Neowin's forums jested, "It's the Vista Police!" As it turns out, that Neowin reader had the right idea—yesterday Microsoft admitted that there was in fact a photograph of three men in the hologram.

According to Nick White of the Windows Vista Team Blog, the image is just one of many used to make counterfeiting Vista DVDs more difficult.

The photo displays members of the team who worked on the Windows Vista DVD hologram design. Microsoft’s Anti-Piracy Team designed a counterfeit-resistant digital "watermark" for the non-encoded surface of Windows Vista DVDs. The photo in question is only one of multiple images contained in the hologram design, all of whose inclusion serves to make it more difficult to replicate a Windows Vista DVD. The other images are of old master works of art that are in the public domain.

White continues on saying that, although the image is posted across the Internet, the DVDs and their packaging contain several other measures which help prevent counterfeiting. As holographic designs are already difficult to replicate, including obscure images in them adds yet another layer of security. "These security measures were never intended to be impossible to find, but rather difficult to reproduce."

If you were readying your Vista hologram conspiracy theory for Conspiracy Planet, this is probably disappointing news. Still, there has to be other secrets embedded in the DVDs. Maybe there's a hidden message in the Windows logo, or maybe there's something about the DVD's color. Just keep looking.

HangZhou Night Net

When Safari for Windows was announced, I have to admit that I was curious. Being a Windows user at work, I was one of the many that downloaded the beta. It wasn't that I was unhappy with my current browser—quite the opposite: Firefox for Windows is fantabulous on so many levels. I just wanted to see what was going on. In all honesty, I don't even use Safari in OS X, so I wasn't expecting much regardless of Apple's claims of creating the fastest browser "[email protected][email protected]!"

Needless to say I wasn't very impressed, I quit using the newly downloaded browser as soon as it showed an ugly bug where it would crash after printing. The opinion here at the Orbiting HQ didn't differ much from person to person: everyone was unmoved by Apple's port.

Today Apple released a press release reporting that there were over 1 million people who downloaded the beta software in the first 48 hours. When you first see it, the number seems like a big deal (Apple's press release helps with that impression). But what if we look at the numbers in a historical context? If we compare this release to Mozilla's debut of Firefox 1.0 back in 2004, we see that Apple's 1 million in 48 hours fails in comparison to Mozilla's 2.5 million in the same period of time. One might argue that Firefox 1.0 was a final version, and Safari is merely a public beta, and that is a very valid argument. The numbers, however, still hold some value nonetheless. I'm inclined to think that by releasing a public beta of their browser, Apple may hurt their final download numbers. Early adopters may be turned off by bugs and interface issues that Ryan touched upon in his review, resulting in their return to Firefox.

Game Review: Rainbow Six Vegas (PSP)

I'm going to cut right to the chase here: I love Rainbow Six: Vegas. As far as current-gen shooters go, Ubisoft's tactical thriller is easily my favorite. I've logged an exorbitant number of hours with the Clancy-fueled shooter. My problem with the game, though, was that it was tied down to my Xbox 360. I pined for the days when I could actually take it about with me and strategically frag while on the go. HangZhou Night Net

Thus, the arrival of Rainbow Six: Vegas on the PSP seemed to be the answer to my prayers. Despite the relatively poor showing of FPS games on the PSP to date, I had hope that Ubisoft could impress me with their from-scratch handheld incarnation of the Vegas lineage. Alas, my prayers remain unanswered: Rainbow Six: Vegas is just not a good game, and the developers apparently learned nothing from the better shooters on the system like Medal of Honor Heroes and SOCOM: Fireteam Bravo.

Vegas on the PSP is a completely different game than its console counterparts. Unlike the console version, the PSP version focuses on Brian Armstrong and Shawn Rivers, who are working alongside the team of Keller, Park, and Walter (console versions) to save Vegas from terrorist activity. The campaign charges you with the task of switching between the two characters—one a field agent and one a sniper—to accomplish a variety of different objectives with the typical Rainbow Six gadgets and gear in tow. Each of the game's five levels takes place in Vegas as would be expected, though they are not the same as those seen in the console versions.

For the most part, the game plays similar to Medal of Honor Heroes, though the focus is of course on slow and methodical movement along with precise shooting. Unlike Heroes, though, Vegas on the PSP maintains the cover system of the console versions which allows you to temporarily switch the game to a third-person view to get a better vantage point from behind cover. Surprisingly, the cover system remains relatively intact and functions pretty well.

The real heart of the game's problems shows itself once you open fire. Vegas features a lock-on system that sounds like it would work well in theory but, in practice, proves to be more frustrating than any other system seen on the handheld before. Once you lock on to an enemy with the left shoulder button, you have to press the triangle button to target the head. Then, it's just a matter of luck whether or not you manage to pull off a head shot. You can adjust the lock-on's dominance, but the low draw distance makes manual precision shooting almost impossible. Given that Rainbow is a series built on per-bullet precision, Vegas on the PSP cannot and does not live up to its heritage.

The fact that the game has limited content doesn't help matters. With only five main campaign levels (each taking about 20-30 minutes) and a fairly limited online offering, Vegas feels quite a bit lighter than similar titles in the genre. Combined with the control woes, and the fact that the game looks drab and sounds horrible, the title really has nothing to offer for all but the most staunch Rainbow fans. I may love Vegas, but not enough to overlook this game's countless issues. Skip it.

Verdict: Skip
System: PSP
Price: $40 (shop for this game)
Rating: Teen
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft
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Can baseball player names and statistics be copyrighted? Major League Baseball tried to make that case before a three-judge panel at the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit today. HangZhou Night Net

Last year, Major League Baseball was sued by fantasy sports site CDMsports.com after MLB told the company that it could not use player names and statistics in its fantasy leagues without MLB's permission—and a royalty payment. CDMsports.com's lawsuit was intended to guarantee that it could continue using the data in the absence of an agreement with MLB. Further muddying the situation was MLB's decision to sever ties with smaller fantasy outlets in favor of larger outlets—and larger rights fees.

Last August, a US District Court judge agreed with the fantasy league, ruling in a summary judgment that First Amendment concerns trumped any "right of publicity" MLB might have. "The names and playing records of major league baseball players as used in CBC's fantasy games are not copyrightable," wrote Judge Mary Ann Medler in her opinion. "Therefore, federal copyright law does not preempt the players' claimed right of publicity."

In announcing plans to appeal the case, MLB decided that focusing on the stats was the wrong way to go. "We've agreed that the stats and names are in the public domain," MLB Advanced Media spokesman Gallagher said after the ruling. "But when you start to use team's logos and other images as CBC did, you need a license, it's that simple."

Instead, MLB's lawyers once again made the argument that publicity rights were of paramount concern, according to the AP. One of MLB's attorneys said that a fantasy league using names and stats without permission was analogous to a company printing posters or coffee mugs with pictures of players on them without permission. The judges appeared to be skeptical of MLB's arguments. "MLB is like a public religion. Everyone knows (the players') names and what they look like," opined U.S. Judge Morris Arnold. "This is just part of being an American, isn't it?"

Fantasy sports are a multimillion-dollar business, and MLB—and other professional sports leagues—are intent on protecting their properties in order to wring every last bit of licensing revenue out of them. If the appeals court upholds the ruling, fantasy sports will be one avenue of exclusivity closed to the leagues.

Ars Technica's Clint Ecker sat down with Gus Mueller of Flying Meat Software this past Wednesday to talk about his company, his products: Voodoo Pad, Fly Sketch, and Fly Gesture, as well as how the independent developer life is treating him and other topics. Click the play button above to watch the entire interview. HangZhou Night Net

NB: This interview marks our first attempt to use an alternate recording method. While it did produce superior sound quality, it looks like we were having a serious issue with parts of the sound from the interview being lost from the device. In those instances when good audio was lost, we've attempted to replace it with the less-than-stellar audio from the camcorder. I apologize for the harshness of the transitions, but we felt that this was a good interview and some good audio is better than nothing.

Update (6/27/2007): Transcript has been added! Read the transcript after the jump.

CE: We're here with Gus Mueller for Flying Meat Software. Hi Gus.

GM: How it's going?

CE: Pretty good. We're going to be interviewing you today about your software Voodoo Pad, Fly Sketch, Fly Gesture and just talking about development in general.

So the first thing I want to ask is, Voodoo Pad is probably one of your biggest products, right?

GM: Yes.

CE: What did you set out to make Voodoo Pad? What was your goal for it? I know it's kind of evolved into a lot of different things to a lot of different people? How did you set out?

GM: When I originally started it, I was just playing around with some Cocoa technologies and I found out I could do links in the text widget and I said "This is pretty cool," and I had my own peronal wiki online. And I put one and one together and I was like "I'll just make a little wiki here," cause I like Cocoa so much better than having to click edit. And I started doing that and I had something that night working. And then a couple weeks later I added some more and sent it out and some people liked it and I said "Oh, feedback!" And eventually it just snowballed from there.

CE: So what do you consider the application to be? Do you consider it to be a Wiki or a text editor or…

GM: It's everything!

CE: It's everything.

GM: It's a text editor first. I've got all the rich text formating in there, you can have images, you can have tables and lists and stuff like that. The wiki stuff is a very, very, very close second to that.

CE: Okay. Building off that, what have you found is the most creative use you've heard of? I know I've heard of some creative things, I'm sure you've heard of a lot more.

GM: Well the ones that make me happiest are people doing research with it, like PhD students who just think it's perfect…

CE: …to link up all the different…

GM: Yeah, but people do some funky websites with it too, because you can export to the web.

CE: I actually used Voodoo Pad when you first came out with it in college to take notes and stuff. It really helped me out.

GM: Yeah, a lot of students use it.

CE: You went independent… two years ago?

GM: Yeah, it's just a little over two years ago.

CE: So how has that been so far? Is it still working out for you?

GM: Oh it's been great. Yeah, it's working out fine.

CE: Do you still think there's space for developers who haven't gone independent to still do that?

GM: Oh absolutely. There's so many more Mac users coming along every year. And just more of those people are buying software. And we're seeing a lot more of the same apps nowadays than we used to, but that's fine because there's more users. Competition is awesome.

CE: What would be the one biggest piece of advice, besides the goals thing you told us about, for people who are looking to make that crossover into independent development?

GM: Just make sure what you're doing, you're putting some passion into it. Cause that's going to make sure that you're not going to burn out that way and you're going to be able to make a good product that way.

CE: You have three pretty mature apps: Voodoo Pad, Fly Sketch and Fly Gesture. Do you find that it's more exiting and fun or interesting for you to have three mature apps and work on those day-to-day and adding incremental features, or to be in that stage where you're starting something from scratch like we talked about with Voodoo Pad, or working with new stuff and building it out from the beginning, but where it might not be as stable and you're working out a lot of bugs?

GM: Right. One of great things about having three apps is if I get tired of doing one thing, I can move to the other. I really do like starting out new apps, it's awesome. And even adding new features is like writing a new app sometimes. I love doing it, but eventually I get tired, but that's okay cause I can move onto this other thing. So it creates this nice little cycle.

CE: Do ever get a chance, like today, are you still coming up with new ideas and putting together little things?

GM: Yeah. My projects folder is littered with tons little things. And some of them are going to bubble up and make something.

CE: Cool. I think that's all the questions we have for today.

GM: Cool

CE: Thanks for talking to us.

GM: No problem.

VO: We'd like to thank Gus Mueller again for taking time out of his schedule to talk to us. Keep your eye on ArsTechnica.com for more updates from WWDC throughout the week.

Linux distributor Linspire is the latest company to enter into a collaboration agreement with Microsoft. Like the controversial deal between Microsoft and Novell and Microsoft's more recent deal with Xandros, the agreement between Microsoft and Linspire involves collaborative interoperability efforts and a covenant not to sue over patent infringement. HangZhou Night Net

Linspire, formerly known as Lindows, has some bitter history with Microsoft. Back in 2004, the two software companies butted heads in an acrimonious trademark dispute that cost Linspire tens of millions of dollars and forced the company to adopt its current name. Under the terms of the new agreement, the two companies will now work together to develop software tools and frameworks that facilitate translation between Microsoft's Office Open XML format and the OpenDocument format. Linspire also hopes to improve interoperability by licensing Microsoft's instant messaging audio codec in order to incorporate support for Windows Live Messenger voice chat into the Pidgin instant messaging client. Linspire also licensed Microsoft's Windows Media 10 codecs, which will make it easier for Linspire users to view Windows Media files. Linspire also agreed to make Microsoft's Live Search service the default browser search engine for Linspire users.

"Linspire has always been about choice, and this announcement continues our tradition of offering options for improved interoperability, enhanced functionality and confidence," said Kevin Carmony, Linspire CEO. "Over the years, in an effort to expand choice, we have entered into dozens of agreements with commercial software vendors. It certainly made sense to collaborate with Microsoft, one of the most important partners in the PC ecosystem."

Like Microsoft's deals with Novell and Xandros, this agreement with Linspire also includes a controversial patent covenant. Critics of Microsoft's patent deals have expressed concern that Linux vendors are adding credibility to Microsoft's unsubstantiated claims regarding Linux patent infringement and undermining the principles of unrestricted distribution promoted by open-source software licenses. An upcoming revision of the widely used General Public License aims to block Linux distributors from making deals that include patent covenants. The latest draft includes a grandfather clause for Novell, but that won't apply to Linspire or Xandros. It is unlikely that the license will be altered again to extend the grandfather clause so that it covers and Linspire.

This agreement will make Linspire the latest company that will face an inevitable onslaught of criticism from a vocal faction of Linux users.

Watching the course of the PlayStation 3's life has been interesting. Things are getting much better for the system in terms of media playback, and we can now name a few must-have titles for the system such as Resistance: Fall of Man, MotorStorm, and Virtua Fighter 5. The problem is the hardware still isn't selling as well as its competitors; the 360 and especially the Wii are strengthening their lead month after month. This is bad news if Microsoft and Nintendo are able to use their higher installed base and deep pockets to woo away developers: something Microsoft has been trying when with Namco Bandai with great success. According to Level Up, Namco Bandai has just made a very telling move: the next-generation Katamari Damacy game Beautiful Katamari may be a 360 exclusive. HangZhou Night Net

The original title was a PS2 exclusive, as was the sequel We Love Katamari. The portable version, Me and My Katamari, was only released on the PSP. While these games aren't exactly system-sellers, they are strongly tied into the Sony brand. Moving the next game over to Microsoft's platform is bad enough, but if N'Gai Croal's source is correct and the game is actually an exclusive, then Sony should begin to worry about their other star franchises.

Namco Bandai has already announced that Ace Combat 6 will be a 360 title, so the move isn't completely unprecedented. Pac-Man Championship Edition, the fun and competitive update to the classic Pac-Man formula, was also only released via the 360's Live Arcade service. While none of these games is a deal breaker or a system-seller by itself, together they give the 360 a strong roster of exclusive games from Namco Bandai and may cause long-time fans of these franchises to turn away from Sony.

Why would Sony have problems with developers? The answers are straightforward. By their own admission their platform is more expensive to develop for, the architecture is trickier, the online infrastructure isn't as strong or mature as Xbox Live, and the installed base is much lower. Until Sony sells many, many more PS3s or decides to write checks for games developers, we are looking at a platform with a higher cost of entry and lower possibility of sales. The PS3's early lack of momentum may be hard to overcome in this regard unless Sony is willing to dig deep into its pockets, a hard decision when the PS3 is already costing the company so dearly.

Success or failure for the PS3 may simply come down to how many developers and publishers are willing to weather this early rough patch, or how many will jump ship to the more accessible and profitable alternatives. Sony needs to start selling systems and writing checks, and it needs to begin soon.