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WWDC Leopard beta seed image gallery

While iPhone madness is reaching crescendo, Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard anticipation is at an all-time low. Justified or not? Have a look at the image gallery of the beta handed out to developers at WWDC last week over at Think Secret. Hurry over; Apple's lawyers are probably drafting a cease and desist letter claiming copyright over Leopard's looks as we speak. HangZhou Night Net

The first picture shows exactly how bad the new translucent menu bar looks. Come on, Apple, if the menu bar is so unsightly, why not make it auto-hide, like the dock? I'm reserving judgment on the new sidebar stolen borrowed from iTunes; with the collapsing triangles, it looks useful, and I just might get used to the look. About looks: is it just me or is Apple in love with cold, subdued colors these days? The iTunes icon would look so much better in red than it does in blue.

The nature section in the included desktop pictures shows no less than four new backgrounds over the ones in Tiger, so clearly, Apple is putting the extra time it has given itself to work on Leopard to good use. I wonder if the new zebra background is indicative of a new product naming convention.

The screen saver can now display the time and count down from three before locking the screen. There seems to be some actual innovation in the Spaces space, though. For instance, applications can be tied to a specific Space. It looks like two displays are treated as a single Space, however. I would have loved moving stuff from one display to the other easily using Spaces.

.Mac now has a Back To My Mac pane, which makes it possible to easily share screens or files on remote Macs or even Windows machines. When Steve Jobs demoed this in his keynote last week, I immediately wondered about the security implications. Could we have another IPv6 firewalling publicity debacle on our hands? I'm not that impressed with BTMM, as it basically looks like just a nice, $99-a-year wrapper around the Wide Area Bonjour service that already leads a hidden and not-so-easy-to-configure life in Tiger. I wonder if registering shares using dynamic DNS rather than paying for .Mac will provide the same functionality in Leopard.

The new network preference pane looks nice, and in the accounts pane, it's now possible to create admin, standard, parental control-managed, and sharing-only users. Astonishingly, the Windows drivers for Boot Camp are now included on the Leopard DVD itself and don't have to be burned to CD anymore.

Good thing Steve kept a lid on these secret features for a year; if Microsoft had copied any of it, Apple would have been in deep trouble.

Now that we've focused a bit on the music available to "help" you through your workout, let's move onto one of the most-used type of accessories for the Nike+iPod kit. For those of you who are unaware of the functionality of the Nike+iPod kit while running, the device gives you a good deal of on screen information. Shown on the screen at any given time is your pace-per-mile, total time, and the distance you have already run. When I first started running again, all this on screen information appealed to me, but it wasn't until recently that I discovered that the information was more of a distraction than a motivator. HangZhou Night Net

When I first picked up my kit, I have to admit that I took a look at the Nike armband hanging in the same display. For me, I just couldn't bring myself to spend $30 on something to hold my iPod to my arm, especially when I wouldn't be able to see all the statistics. It wasn't until recently that a friend of mine told me that the Nike armband was on sale at TJ Maxx for a mere $15.00. At the time, I dismissed the information knowing that it was the first-generation armband–the one without the clear window.

About a week or two later, I found myself in TJ Maxx, face-to-face with the aforementioned armband. However, I had forgotten that it was the first-generation model. It wasn't until I got home when I realized what I had bought. I considered returning it, but honestly, heading back to TJ Maxx seemed like too much work so I decided to give it a try.

The pleasant thing about the armband is that it is lightweight and feels pretty comfortable while you run. The material breathes fairly well and is a composite of polyester, nylon, and spandex. Sliding it on to your arm is fairly easy once you figure out that you need to "buckle" the Velcro, then slide it on to your arm rather then trying to "buckle" it while it sits on your arm. All the buttons work fine while your Nano is in the band, and even the volume scroll wheel works fairly well. I had no problems fitting the armband to my arm although your results may vary.

What I thought might be an undesirable lack-of feature (the lack of a screen "window") turned out to be a nice thing in the long run (pun intended). It turns out, at least for me, that the inability to see the screen was a good thing. I realized that I was checking the iPod far too often, to the point where it became almost like the clock-watching phenomenon that happens at schools and offices everywhere: time just seems to slow down and my runs just dragged on.

There is a downside to the armband, however; the setting up and, in turn, the careful slide you must do prior to your run. Since you can't see the screen, you must set your run up outside the band and then ever-so-carefully slide it into the tight-fitting pouch so you don't accidentally start your workout prematurely. It is somewhat a pain but its nice to be able to grab my sides again without dropping the iPod.

Your results may vary, but the arm band has, thus far, improved my runs.

Despite what was originally feared when the Wii was announced, the many "Wii-makes" that the system has been privileged with have fared pretty well on average. Naturally, there have been a few duds here and there but, for the most part, the newfangled Wii controller has helped to make previously so-so games all that much more enjoyable. HangZhou Night Net

There are exceptions to the general rule, of course. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is arguably the best and worst example. While the game has been critically acclaimed by many who dare not speak ill of the franchise, I find it hard to deny the game's Wii-mote slashing was anything other than a gimmick, one that was foreshadowed when the Revolution first surfaced. This same problem has struck Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition: it's a great game that simply doesn't benefit at all from the added motion control.

At the core of RE4 Wii is the original Gamecube masterpiece. Arguably one of the best games of the last generation and easily the Cube's finest title, the original adventures of Leon and Ashley remain intact. For those who haven't played the PS2 port, this version includes all of the extra content that the original didn't have: 16:9 widescreen mode, new costumes, new weapons, and the Ada Wong side missions, specifically. If the expanded RE4 experience is all you're after, then the Wii version is a perfect quasi-budget priced way to play with the new content on a Nintendo console.

However, the Wii version is not without its faults. While the content may be intact, the control most certainly is not. It is my opinion that the Wii control, in fact, detracts from the experience and makes clumsy that which was previously smooth. Perhaps I'm a bit of a purist, but the original RE4 was lauded for finally bringing tight control to the series, and the Wii version seems to take a step back from that.

From the outset, it's apparent that the controls in the game are far from intuitive. As with most Wii titles, you spend the first ten minutes or so fumbling around with the controls, testing the waters and getting your bearings. Unlike the better Wii games, though, the control continues to be a pest for as long as you play.

The most noteworthy addition to the game's control scheme is the ability to aim at any time with an on-screen cursor. Rather than dragging Leon's arms around to shoot, you simply point and click. While this does make aiming from a distance generally easier, controlling the camera with the analog stick while aiming with the pointer leads to some fairly nauseating moments—especially in close-quarters combat. In the Gamecube version, camera control and aiming were not independent. In the Wii version, they are. Complaints about the Wii's general adherence to "bounding box" aiming must have intimidated the developers, but the omission of drag-look makes for an unpleasant experience.

The rest of the motion control doesn't fare much better. The addition of the ability to flick the Wii remote to swing your knife or reload really adds nothing to the experience. Reloading with a shake, in particular, causes your aimer to go astray and becomes utterly pointless once you realize you can just use the d-pad for the same function. Likewise, the cut-scene button presses have been replaced with motions, but this ultimately adds very little to the experience.

While the underlying game may be one of the best in recent years, the subpar adoption of Wii control does nothing but distract from the otherwise stellar experience, a fact punctuated by the game's native support for the Wii's classic controller in place of the motion control. With the included PS2's bonus content rebuilt for the Wii (Gamecube) engine and the lower price, the remake might seem like a compelling purchase for those who really love the game or haven't played it before. However, it's hard to recommend this rehash over the solid $20 PS2 port. Ask yourself: does this game really need to be on the Wii? The answer is no.

Verdict: Skip
System: Nintendo Wii
Price: $30
Rating: Mature
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
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I've used Safari since day one. But after a long and beautiful relationship, I recently made a more permanent commitment to Firefox, that saucy little minx I'd been seeing on the side. After having it in the back of my mind for weeks, what finally pushed me over the edge was Firebug, a great little Firefox extension that allows you to inspect and debug HTML and JavaScript from within the browser. If you design websites in any capacity, it can be an invaluable resource. So it should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with my own special brand of luck that Safari 3 will have its own extremely capable web inspector. HangZhou Night Net

The Surfin' Safari Blog (the official blog of Safari's open-source heritage) has announced that the new version of the Web Inspector has popped up in the latest in WebKit Nightly Build. A form of the web inspector has been available in the WebKit nightlies for quite some time, but I found the HUD (those little semi-transparent windows that pop up in all the iApps) version to be more trouble than it was worth. The new version, accessed just by right-clicking and choosing Inspect Element, can operate in a separate window (which uses the iTunes/Leopard dark metal window style I might add) or in a very Firebug-esqe pane at the bottom of your browser window.

The interface is very well designed, nicely managing to show you a wealth of information while at the same time easily letting you zero in on specifics. Especially handy is the ability see the tags in context, or in a hierarchal view of the tags and styles that apply to them. Missing from Firebug is the ability to edit directly in the pane. Also the network panel (pictured above) is a really nice way to find bottlenecks in your site.

Additional features in the new version include (from the blog post):

Works with any WebView inside third-party applications, not just SafariShows all resources included by the page, sorted into categoriesGlobal search through all text-based resourcesConsole to show errors and warnings with live JavaScript evaluationResource size and load time summary graph in the Network panelSyntax highlighted HTML sourceInline JavaScript and HTML error reporting

Oh Safari, I was a fool. Let's never fight again.

Not all AT&T stores in all markets will have the same number of iPhones upon launch, according to a report in today's USAToday. The newspaper cites AT&T's senior VP of sales, Larry Carter, as staying tight-lipped on exact stock numbers in different markets, but pointing out that large concentrations of iPod users are the "natural market" for smartphones. Therefore, stores located in metro areas that contain the largest iPod-using populations will have more stock of iPhones than tiny towns in Nowheresville. HangZhou Night Net

That means markets like New York, Chicago, and "much of California" will be pretty well covered.

Does that mean that those stores will have more iPhones than stores in, say, Richmond, Va., or Florida? "Yes," he says. "It's just common sense."

If I lived in Florida and was dying to get an iPhone on launch day, I'd be a little nervous right now.

Carter also points out that if the local store sells out, they will be happy to take (get this) mail orders for the devices which will ship in roughly 3 to 5 days, "inventory permitting." He does, however, reaffirm that they will meet demand for all customers who want an iPhone some way or another.

The USAToday article also outlines a few other details, such as the fact that AT&T plans to announce the service plans for the iPhone on June 29 alongside the launch. According to Carter, the plans won't be anything AT&T is currently offering, but custom-tailored to the iPhone itself and will include fees for both voice and data use (like everything else).

Update: Everyone's favorite AT&T spokesperson Mark Siegel told iLounge that the USAToday report is inaccurate regarding the date at which the company will disclose the new data plans. "We will disclose before the 29th," he told them, noting that "it’s not going to be anything exotic." I didn't really expect it to be, Mark.

A number of Internet radio stations will be participating in a Day of Silence on June 26 to protest the retroactive royalty rate increases due to go into effect on July 15. Organized by Kurt Hanson, publisher of the Radio and Internet Newsletter, the protest is designed to remind listeners that silence is "what the Internet could be reduced to on or shortly after" the royalty increase begins. HangZhou Night Net

In March, the Copyright Royalty Board announced that it would raise royalties for Internet broadcasters, moving them from a per-song rate to a per-listener rate. The increase would be made retroactive to the beginning of 2006 and would double over the next five years.

After the announcement, a group of broadcasters spearheaded by National Public Radio petitioned the CRB for a rehearing, but a panel of judges denied the request less than a month later.

In early May, legislation was introduced into the Senate and House of Representatives that would overturn the CRB's decision and mandate a royalty rate of 7.5 percent of total revenues. Neither version of the Internet Radio Equality Act has yet to make it to the floor for a vote. A coalition of webcasters has also asked a federal appeals court to delay the rate hike.

Daunted by the prospect of legislation, SoundExchange—the licensing authority backed by the major record labels—offered Internet broadcasters an olive branch. Under SoundExchange's latest proposal, smaller webcasters would remain exempt from the new royalty schedule until 2010. Large, commercial webcasters would have to still have pony up beginning in mid-July. SaveNetRadio criticized SoundExchange's offer, saying that it amounted to throwing large webcasters under the bus while simultaneously ensuring that none of the small webcasters would ever see significant growth.

During the Day of Silence next week, Internet broadcasters will broadcast static or silence interspersed with public service announcements asking listeners to contact their congressional representatives and ask them to support the IREA. According to the Radio and Internet Newsletter, webcasters such as Live365.com, AccuRadio.com, and NPR affiliate KCRW will participate. Hanson said that he hopes that larger stations such as NPR, Pandora, Yahoo, and Real Rhapsody will also participate.

Intel knows your pain: you're playing an online game, and there is one player who seems to have preternatural reflexes and near omniscient understanding of the map. You pop up from behind a crate, and he headshots you. You're sneaking down an alley, and he stabs you from behind. His sniper rounds always hit, no matter the range or how quickly you're moving. In other words, you're getting owned. There is a little voice in the back of your mind saying "This guy is cheating! It's not fair!" The problem is that there is no way to know for sure, and while admins can view demos to look for evidence of cheating, you still feel like a whiner when you accuse someone of the practice. This is why Intel is researching technology that will be able to detect cheating in online games and hopefully shut it down. HangZhou Night Net

The software demoed to our own Jon Stokes at [email protected] Day would monitor data sent from the player's computer to the server and would be able to detect anomalies, peg the players as cheaters, and then notify the server or admin so that the offending player could be kicked out of the game. Exactly how this would happen is still unknown, nor is it clear if Intel's software would take the form of firmware or a piece of software that can be installed or taken off (the project is still in the research phase). Based on Stokes’ experience of the demo, it seems as if only one computer on the server would need to be running the program for it to be effective. The server may also have to be set up to "cooperate" with the order to ban a player, which is another layer of software gamers would have to install.

There are many unanswered questions, and the idea of Intel placing something in my gaming box that can kick players for cheating makes me uncomfortable. The potential for abuse exists with a system like this, and it's possible that it would result in increased lag, the bane of online gamers everywhere. Hardcore PC gamers want to control every aspect of their computer in order to maintain a competitive edge, and anti-cheating technology by its definition has to take control from someone in order to be able kick alleged cheaters.

This could be a hard sell, as most hardcore gamers belong to self-policing communities and could be uncomfortable with this sort of automated process running on their gaming rig. Anti-cheating technology is an intriguing idea, but it feels too much like "Big Brother" gaming for me to be comfortable with it.

A Florida appeals court has upheld a lower court decision that denies requests for an independent source code audit of voting machines used by Florida's 13th district, which suffered election irregularities in a highly controversial congressional race. The appeals court has chosen to support a lower court decision which asserts that forcing voting machine maker Election Systems and Software (ES&S) to provide source code access to independent security auditors would amount to "gutting the protections afforded those who own trade secrets." HangZhou Night Net

It all started when candidate Christine Jennings lost to Rep. Vern Buchanan by only 368 votes in a House race last year, the slimmest margin of any congressional race in the country. Irregularities in the election, particularly high undervote rates, caused Jennings to express doubts about the validity of the outcome. During the election, approximately 15 percent (or 18,000) of the total ballots cast in the district did not include a vote in the disputed race. By comparison, the absentee ballots in the same district and regular paper ballots used in neighboring districts only exhibit a 2 percent undervote rate for congressional races. The high undervote rates have been attributed to the ES&S iVotronic machines used in the 13th district.

Although efforts to get the state to force ES&S to submit to additional independent code audits have failed, a bipartisan congressional task force working closely with the Government Accountability Office is actively scrutinizing the circumstances surrounding election irregularities in Florida's 13th district, and may decide to subpoena ES&S. The congressional task force plans to issue a progress report late next month, but the entire investigation is expected to last until September.

Could the iVotronic systems be responsible for the voting irregularities? A growing body of evidence indicates that electronic voting machines, particularly those that use touch-screens, lead to higher undervote rates. Touch-screen voting machines made by major vendors also frequently exhibit serious technical flaws and poor reliability. In response to widespread voting machine problems, Florida governor Charlie Crist is encouraging the state legislature to pass a law that would prevent districts from buying most kinds of touch-screen voting machines.

A bill that was approved by the House Committee on Administration last month includes source code disclosure requirements which stipulate that voting machine makers would be required to disclose their code to independent third-party auditors who may be required to sign nondisclosure agreements. As Tim Lee pointed out in his article on the subject last month, independent code audit requirements are important for election transparency, but nondisclosure agreements would prevent broad public analysis of source code and could potentially be used to intimidate security analysts. Considering the high level of vulnerability exhibited by mainstream electronic voting technology, Congress needs to do all that it can to help the states protect themselves from faulty products.

After many months of deliberation, the Trusted Computing Group has finally announced that it has finalized the draft specifications for incorporating built-in encryption and security services directly into hard drives and other storage devices. Trusted Storage is part of a new generation of security protocols that are built directly into hardware, and includes devices such as Intel's Trusted Platform Module (TPM). While the Trusted Storage Group says that the specs for Trusted Storage may change slightly from the draft version, they are final enough for both hardware and software developers to start building devices and applications that support the specification right now. The official specs are referred to as "Version 1.0, Revision 0.9—draft" in accordance with traditional storage-related standards. HangZhou Night Net

The new spec allows the creation of "trusted storage units" on hard drives and other media, where only approved applications are allowed to read and write data. These units are stored on hidden partitions that are not viewable by standard drive partitioning software. Data stored on the trusted partitions can only be accessed when the drive receives a signal from the CPU that it is authorized to access the data on the hard drive. The drive then responds with a signal that confirms that it is in fact the same hard drive that the computer believes it is accessing. The drives do not require that the computer in question have a TPM module on the motherboard, but if one is present it extends the "trust boundary" of the platform, providing additional security against tampering.

The new guidelines include built-in encryption and decryption, handled by hardware on the hard drive itself. Security functions in the specification include public-key encryption, digital signatures, hashing functions, and random number generation. Of course, these sorts of technologies are not new, and software-based encryption schemes have been around for a while now: some of the more interesting ones even have the concept of hidden partitions that can't easily be discovered by casual inspection. Still, the idea of creating hardware-based solutions such as Trusted Storage is to make such technologies more mainstream and acceptable for business users, who are often concerned about the leaking of confidential data. Data removed from a Trusted Storage unit by traditional means cannot be read on other computers.

The Trusted Storage specification was developed by 60 of the Trusted Computing Group's 175 member companies. Devices ranging from hard drives to optical storage that support Trusted Storage are expected to appear on the market in the upcoming months. IBM and Lenovo, two of the biggest promoters of the Trusted Computing Group, are expected to be among the first to release devices that support Trusted Storage. No other companies have as of yet announced support for the standard, but other members of the TCG such as Hitachi, Seagate, SanDisk, and Western Digital are likely to incorporate support into their products as well.

The subject of altruistic behavior amongst chimpanzees is one that we've addressed a few times in the past here at Nobel Intent. Traditional dogma has it that only humans are capable of acting altruistically, putting others' needs before one’s own, and that this is one of those abilities that separates man from other animals. As is often the case with arguments that attempt to elevate mankind above the other animals on the planet, recent research shows that’s not really true. HangZhou Night Net

The most recent study, from a team at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, has analyzed the degree of altruistic behavior of both chimpanzees and young children. In one test, the chimpanzees or children were confronted with an unfamiliar human adult, who was trying to reach a stick through some bars, but the stick was just out of reach. In some cases the human adult would offer a food reward in exchange for help reaching the stick, but in other cases there was no benefit accrued for helping.

Despite this, both the human infants and the chimpanzees helped out the adult the majority of the times. The next series of tests put a price at helping the adult human; the chimpanzees had to climb up 2.5 meters onto a ledge to help, and the human infants had to get past a series of obstacles. Again, the chimpanzees showed the same degree of altruism as the human infants.

In a final set of experiments, designed to test whether chimpanzees would show altruistic behavior towards members of their own species, the subject chimpanzees were presented with a test where another chimpanzee was trying to get into a chamber containing food. The only way this chimpanzee could get the food was if the subject pulled a chain, opening the door to the chamber. In this case, the subject chimp received no reward at all, other than that hearty sense of self-satisfaction one gets from being a nice guy. As with the other experiments, the subject chimpanzees would help out another individual even if there was no benefit to themselves.

The research papers will be published this week in PLoS Biology; Warneken F, Hare B, Melis AP, Hanus D, Tomasello M (2007) Spontaneous altruism by chimpanzees and young children. PLoS Biol 5(7): e184. doi:10.1371/journal. pbio.0050184.