PATH: BS | Technology | Computers

The Truth About Why Videogames Are Male-Centric

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Have you ever wondered why the computer/console video game industry is so male-dominated? Are computer games inherently "male" in design and appeal? It wasnt always this way, and the story about how the gender bias happened is fascinating...

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Apple's SIRI System Stores And Shares All Your Queries

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It came as a surprise to some folks at a recent SXSW talk that Apple’s Siri “personal assistant” isn’t just working for us, it’s working full-time for Apple too by sending lots of our personal voice and user info to Apple to stockpile in its databases. Take a peek at Siri’s privacy policy (which, by the way, is pretty difficult to find) and you’ll realize what’s happening behind the scenes.

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Symantec Asks Users To Disable Their Products For Protection

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Symantec, one of the world's largest purveyors of "security software" asked its users to disable pcAnywhere, unless it is needed for business-critical use, because malicious users with access to the source code could identify vulnerabilities and launch new exploits.

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Latest Windows Update Adds Vulnerability To Firefox

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In an incredible act of hubris, the latest Windows Update patch secretly installs a plug in to Firefox what implements the exact kinds of vulnerabilities that prompted users to abandon Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser!

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Will Wright's Spore Gets Rule 34'd

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[Vanity]
We're making up a new word: SPORN

We've been reporting on the evolution of Sims creator Will Wright's mega-epic game, SPORE for some time now. While still not released, this week they did make the character creator available, and in record time, the Internet community Rule 34'd SPORE. If you don't know what that means, read further...

READ MORE | 4 comments since 2008-08-18 11:01:35 | Comment on this Article

White House Fights To Avoid Backing Up Their Computers

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The White House has three days to explain why it shouldn't be required to copy its computer hard drives to ensure no further e-mails are lost, a federal judge ordered Tuesday.

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White House: Destroying Evidence Is Industry Best Practice

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The White House has acknowledged "recycling" its backup computer tapes of e-mail before October 2003, raising the possibility that many electronic messages — including those pertaining to the CIA leak case — have been taped over and are gone forever.

The disclosure came minutes before midnight Tuesday under a court-ordered deadline that forced the White House to reveal information it has previously refused to provide.

Before October 2003, the White House recycled its backup tapes "consistent with industry best practices," according to a sworn statement by a White House aide.

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Minesweeper, The Movie

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[Movies]
What else can they make into a movie these days? How about the Windows game, Minesweeper?

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Revenge Of The Nerds: For Real

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What happens when a local television news station (one in Canada where they actually have real news) stages a computer problem and calls in 10 computer repair companies to diagnose the problem? NERDS!!!!

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When does 77.1 * 850 not equal 65,535?

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When you're using Microsoft Excel.

It seems recently, a flaw has been found in Microsoft Office Excel, in which certain calculations don't produce the right answers. Open up Excel and put the value '=77.1*850' into A1, and I'm sure you will be surprised to find Microsoft doesn't seem to think the correct answer is 65535. In Excel, it shows up as 100,000.

READ MORE | 1 comment since 2008-08-18 15:54:03 | Comment on this Article

Microsoft Quietly Offers Vista-To-XP Downgrade

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You know your latest operating system is a real dog when you're forced by your customers to give them an option to use the previous version.

Microsoft has reportedly begun offering a downgrade option to PC makers who want to allow their customers to have the option of using XP over the pre-installed Vista software.

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Oklahoma Video Game Violence Law Struck Down

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Oklahoma is the latest state to have a video game law permanently thrown out. Following a preliminary injunction against the unconstitutional law last year, the court has issued a new decision to permanently enjoin Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry's law, which singled out video game companies for games with "inappropriate violence" while not putting such restrictions on other media.

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TD Ameritrade's User Database Compromised

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Financial trading company, TD Ameritrade announced that some of its databases may have been compromised. The company discovered the security breach after their customers complained that they started to receive spam.

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NJ Teen Unlocks iPhone From AT&T

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[Get-Rich-Quick]
A 17-year-old from New Jersey has managed to unlock the iPhone and allow it to be used on different cellular providers. Remember that whole spiel about the Telco Act in the 1990s offering more competition and cheaper prices for consumers? No, it never happened, but the closest we come is when enterprising young kids thwart corporate mafia who lock down the latest technology.

Unlike other sites, we have all the details, including a DIY on unlocking the phone and a link to the eBay auction where the unlocked phone is up for sale... check it out before "the man" starts making this stuff go poof.

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Windows Vista Slows Down When You Play Music

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It's no secret many users have complained that Vista is slower than XP but now users are reporting an unusual "feature" of Microsoft's new Vista version of Windows: apparently when you play music on your computer, your Internet/network performance is severely degraded!

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Will The New Spore Game Be Bundled With Duke Nukem Forever?

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[Biotech]
Will Wright, developer of The Sims series gives another demo of the upcoming evolution-type sim game, "Spore" that has been promoted as coming now for no less than three years. Maxis' response? It's in ALPHA stage. What? Originally the game was going to be released in 2007. Now they're talking about 2009. Here's a collection of recent videos on the game's progress.

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California Voting Machines Are Totally Hackable

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State-sanctioned teams of computer hackers were able to break through the security of virtually every model of California's voting machines and change results or take control of some of the systems' electronic functions, according to a University of California study released Friday.

The researchers "were able to bypass physical and software security in every machine they tested,'' said Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who authorized the "top to bottom review" of every voting system certified by the state.

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Symantec: Our Software Screwed Up Your PC? Here's Another Copy!

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One month after tens of thousands of PCs in China were disabled by a bug in its Norton antivirus software, Symantec has offered to compensate the owners. However, the compensation – more copies of the software that caused the problem – has sparked outrage.

Imagine that.

At this point, even if you reject the local Geek Squad's invitation to watch the Star Wars Trilogy at their parents' house, they still wouldn't recommend using Symantec security products.

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Windows Vista Protection System Doesn't Offer Much Protection

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Microsoft Windows latest version, Vista, supposedly provides a "much more secure" environment to make using your computer safer. In Vista, MS has created a new scheme where Microsoft-approved applications are "protected" and cannot be altered or tampered with by other applications. You might think this is a nice security feature, but many feel this was done mainly as a way to integrate DRM (digital rights management) to keep people from playing songs and movies without proper rights.

In any case, Microsoft is playing Vista up as a big, more secure version of Windows.

There's only one problem... Hackers have already figured out how to circumvent Microsoft's security, and they can make their own malware run in protected mode so software like Antivirus programs can't remove it. Oh Goody! Microsoft's new feature can actually make it even harder to remove bad software from your system.

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Unpatched Microsoft Security Hole Being Exploited Online

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Reason # 45,234,101 to switch to Firefox: Yet another major vulnerability in Windows which affects Internet Explorer and Outlook. Users can become infected by merely visiting the wrong web site -- no interaction necessary, or under Outlook, viewing a message. Beware!

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Cats and Dogs Protect Web Sites From Spammers

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[Eureka!]
If you've been online for any length of time you know that many web sites now have a system called CAPTCHA which is a "human recognition system" that tries to stop automated programs from posting messages online. This is usually done by tossing up an annoying image with distorted numbers and letters and asking a user to repeat the phrase. Sometimes even humans can't read the stupid images.

Enter Microsoft with their Asirra project. They're working on a new human-detection technology which also has the added benefit of promoting animal adoption. In combination with Petfinder, they display images of animals and ask the user to identify the difference between cats and dogs. This system is apparently much harder to defeat than regular CAPTCHA, and you could end up with a fuzzy new companion in the process!

READ MORE | 1 comment since 2008-08-18 16:18:40 | Comment on this Article

MPAA Caught Pirating Software

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The Chairman of the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America). You remember the MPAA right? This is the high-and-mighty organization that is in charge of convincing and threatening people with legal action if they violate copyright or licensing terms of movies and music.

It turns out the MPAA blog is run by a piece of software called "Forest Blog" - a Freeware blog, and one of the few things the author asks is that if you use the software in a commercial environment, pay about $40 for the registration, and don't remove the links to the author's original site.

Of course, the MPAA apparently installed the software, didn't register and removed the links and credits from it before they let their executives use the blog software to rant and rave about the evils of piracy.

To make matters worse, the MPAA ignored the author's initial requests to legitimize the software, until it became public, then they pulled the site and sent him a letter saying the blog they installed was a "proof of concept" and didn't have its own domain, so therefore it wasn't an issue. Even though then, they didn't pay for the software!

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Microsoft Windows Vista May Destroy iPods

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If you have an iPod, Apple is now recommending that upgrading to Microsoft's new Windows Vista may be a big mistake -- aside from the previous rants about the software nerfing your XP license, not allowing downgrades and other issues, the latest is, according to Apple, Vista could destroy your iPod!

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Nintendo Worried About Uncoordinated Wii Users

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[Faulty Products]
With the Wii console due to be released in Europe tomorrow and already out in other major territories, Nintendo execs have acknowledged media reports of uncoordinated gamers causing damage to televisions, furniture, and even fellow players.

The next-generation, motion-sensitive controller that Nintendo's new videogame uses is apparently causing gaming nerds to flail about in their living rooms, causing damage.

Nintendo's response to the issue? It's telling gamers to "calm down."

Calm down? After you stood in line for several days in the freezing cold to pick up these units, maybe they're just flailing about to bring circulation back to their limbs?

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Just When You Thought Your Network Was Secure

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Check out this video from England demonstrating what people can find out from you in very short order... and you thought you were taking precautions so nobody could get access to your computer or data right?

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Adobe PDF "features" Leave Users Vulnerable

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[Faulty Products]
A British security researcher has figured out a way to manipulate legitimate features in Adobe PDF files to open back doors for computer attacks.

David Kierznowski, a penetration testing expert specializing in Web application testing, has released proof-of-concept code and rigged PDF files to demonstrate how the Adobe Reader program could be used to launch attacks without any user action.

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Microsoft Dares Hacker Community To Expose Vista

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After suffering embarrassing security exploits over the past several years, Microsoft Corp. is trying a new tactic: inviting some of the world's best-known computer experts to try to poke holes in Vista, the next generation of its Windows operating system.

I'm not sure this means much, considering Microsoft has already issued several security patches to vista over the last six months, and it's still probably a year or more away from release. Chances are it'll take the hacker community about six seconds to divulge vulnerabilities. Our guess here at BSAlert is that Microsoft is asking the tech community at large to help it solve it's own security problems.

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Dude, You're Gettin' A Fireman

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[Faulty Products]
A person attending a conference in Japan sat just feet away from a Dell laptop computer that suddenly exploded into flames, in what could have been a deadly accident.

"The damn thing was on fire and produced several explosions for more than five minutes".

Should you witness such an event, his advice is, "Don't try anything courageous/stupid, stay away, away, away!"

Imagine this happening on a plane? Imagine them banning laptops from airplanes.

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Washington D.C. Employee Data Stolen

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A laptop containing the Social Security numbers and other personal data of 13,000 District of Columbia employees and retirees has been stolen, officials said.

The computer was stolen Monday from the Washington home of an employee of ING U.S. Financial Services, which administers the district's retirement plan.

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Major Vulnerability Found in Symantec Norton Antivirus

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Yesterday, it was publicly disclosed that users running versions of Symantec Norton Antivirus have a serious remote-code-execution vulnerability condition. No user intervention is even required. Peoples' PCs can be taken over without any action on their part. Good one Symantec! Reason #78,454,320 to not use Norton's Antivirus.

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Real Life Super Mario Bros

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[Humor]
Some students at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts put together a really creative and entertaining skit for their talent show. A live reinactment of Nintendo's Super Mario Bros game.

My only question is, I don't remember Ninjas being in the game, do you?

READ MORE | 2 comments since 2006-04-27 16:32:35 | Comment on this Article

New "Hearse" Worm May Be Worst Yet

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As a data security specialist, Jeremy Pickett sees all kinds of digital tricks. So on Mar. 20, when he was tracing the origins of a computer worm that had been blocked the night before from entering a client's computer network, Pickett wasn't too surprised that it tried to connect with four sleazy Web sites, most of them, he believes, in Russia. Or that it then tried to load victims' PCs with as many as 30 new pieces of "malware," ranging from spam programs to those that automatically dial in to expensive phone-sex services.

But the real shock came when Pickett decided to test another bug by infecting his own PC with it. Out slithered a program that promptly installed itself deep inside his computer. There it became virtually immune to detection from the basic antivirus software that scans for dangerous code. The bug -- known as a "Trojan," which in turn was hidden inside a "rootkit" -- was designed to activate whenever a Web surfer typed in a user name or password for bank accounts or Web sites for dating, social networking, or e-mail. Pickett went to a bank site and entered fictitious log-in information. Right before his eyes, those data were sent streaming back to Russia, joining the IDs of thousands of real victims. His reaction: "absolute horror."

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McAffee Antivirus Goes Amok, Shuts Down Legitimate Apps

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Anti-virus vendor McAfee is scrambling to contain the damage from a faulty definition update that incorrectly flagged hundreds of legitimate software programs as W95/CTX, a low-risk Windows 95 virus that was first detected in 2004.

The erroneous .DAT file (4715) was shipped late on March 10 with definitions for a wide range of new malware threats, but when the update was installed, it quarantined or deleted several widely deployed applications, including Microsoft Excel, Macromedia Flash Player, Adobe Update Manager and the Google Toolbar Installer.

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Homeland Security Gets F in Computer Security

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After Katrina, maybe we shouldn't be surprised to learn that the Department of Homeland Security--in charge of setting the government's agenda on cyber security--scored an F for its own cyber protection, for the third year in a row. Overall, government computer systems remain at roughly the same level of security that they had in 2004--an average score of a D+.

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Malfunctioning BMW Becomes 120mph Death Trap

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[Faulty Products]
A motorist was trapped in his car driving at almost 130mph for 60 miles after the accelerator jammed.

Boy those fancy computer-controlled cars now sure are cool!

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Hackers Change Voting Results Four Times In Florida

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In another outlandish expose of the security of Diebold's new electronic voting machines, which the mainstream media continues to un-report, election officials in Florida test the security of new Diebold voting machines.

Four times over the past year, Leon County supervisor of elections, Ion Sancho told computer specialists to break in to his voting system. And on all four occasions they did, changing results with what the specialists described as relatively unsophisticated hacking techniques. The results showed the vulnerability of voting equipment manufactured by Ohio-based Diebold Election Systems, which is used by Leon County and many other jurisdictions around the country.

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Symantec Security Software Makes PCs Insecure

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A serious security flaw was announced today, discovered by an independent analyst which even Symantec acknowledges as "high risk". The flaw exists in a vast array of their security and anti-virus products across all major platforms, and could compromise PCs with no activity required of the user.

Mac users are especially up in arms over this because the Mac version of Symantec's software makes their otherwise rock-solid OSX extremely vulnerable.

At present, there is no patch for the vulnerability. Thanks Symantec!

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Microsoft Bug Up For Auction on EBay

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In an amusing jab at Microsoft and their lackluster ability to promptly identify and fix vulnerabilities in their software, an IT guy has placed up for auction on eBay "One 0-day Microsoft Excel Vulnerability".

Interestingly enough, eBay had the auction pulled, meanwhile they let several other auctions run where people misled others by selling an empty XBox360 carton.

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Microsoft Enlists Outside Aid for New IE7 Browser

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Microsoft has enlisted some outside help for one of the most anticipated new features of its updated web browser: the ability to alert people that they may be about to enter a fraudulent website.

It was announced today that Microsoft has retained the services of anti-fraud expert, LARRY ODOGWU of the Nigerian National Petroleum and Computer Security Corporation.

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North Carolina Whores Itself to Dell for 1600 Jobs

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Winston-Salem politicians wanted so much to woo Dell to their state they gave away land, then created a phony payback scheme to cover their tracks.

After pumping North Carolina for more than $270m, Dell decided it wasn't done yet. Actually pay for the land its new factory will sit on? Hell, no!

In a confusing exchange deal, Dell will "pay" the city of Winston-Salem $7m for land in return for $7m worth of roads and grants from the city to Dell, so it gains the 200-acre factory site for free. Dell currently faces a massive lawsuit over other parts of the North Carolina package.

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AMD Suing Intel Over Claim Their Compiler Sabotages AMD Software

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AMD has filed suit against Intel claiming the company is employing monopolist-like powers in sabotaging AMDs efforts to be competitive. Among the many claims is that Intel's compiler which prepares software to run on both Intel and AMD machines, checks to see which CPU is being used and intentionally generates less-efficient and slower code for machines running a non-Intel/AMD CPU.

IMO, considering how much faster and more-efficient AMD CPUs are over Intel, we may be looking at even more performance gains when using AMD CPUs if this claim is proven true and Intel has to correct their AMD-sabotaging code.

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Dell Shuts Down Part Of Its Online Customer Service

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Want to complain on Dell's website about its customer service? Too late - the Customer Support Forums, operational until last Friday, have been shut down, apparently to try to quell bad publicity there about Dell products and especially after-care service.

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Online Gamer Murdered Over Theft of Virtual Sword

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[Mean People]
You know you're taking gaming too seriously when you go out and stab someone because they snatched a sword from your fictional role-playing-game character, but that's exactly what happened in China.

Qiu Chengwei stabbed Zhu Caoyuan in the chest when he found out he had sold his virtual sword for 7,200 Yuan (~ $700).

The sword, which Mr Qiu had lent to Mr Zhu, was won in the popular online game Legend of Mir 3. Qiu was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in China. I guess Zhu didn't have time to buff before the melee started.

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BSA Publishes Fantasy Figures on Software Piracy

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[Dubious Research]
The Business Software Alliance, a group dedicated towards controlling software piracy, has come under fire for releasing a report claiming that 35% of software installed on computers is pirated and costs companies more than $33 Billion a year in lost revenue.

The Economist and others have blown the lid off the BSA's research methodology, which is apparently based on the illogical premise that any program someone would pirate, they would otherwise pay for.

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Anti-Virus Update Wipes Out Hundreds Of Thousands of Computers

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A faulty update to anti-virus software released over the weekend by Tokyo-based Trend Micro has caused PCs to slow down or stop working around the world.

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Transparent Wallpaper

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[Art]
Is it an amazing new monitor technology, or just some nerds with a little too much time to kill?

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Java Flaw Exposes Firefox Users to IE Vulnerabilities

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In an ironic technological twist, users who have switched from IE to Firefox for their browser may find they can still be infected by rogue Java programs that can spawn an instance of Internet Explorer to download a malicious program. However, the user will still need to approve via a dialogue box, the execution of the Java applet. In this day and age, I still don't understand why anybody would want to use Java. Most users should be *highly suspicious* of any Java application which needs any special permissions on your system to run.

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Blow Yourself Up

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[The "Buzz"]
Are you feeling a little small? Maybe you want to blow yourself up? Maybe you and some friends or your favorite subject?

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Symantec's Antivirus Products Become Prey For Viruses

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Symantec, makers of annoying mafia-ware anti-virus software was dealt a further blow when independent teams published a security advisory showing Symantec's products to have vulnerabilities that would allow viruses to compromise PCs.

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SCO's Days Are Numbered

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SCO, the company suing IBM claiming that Linux infringes on their intellectual property, narrowly escaped a summary judgement in what most call a grossly bogus case brought by the ailing software company that is desperate to litigate itself back into solvency.

"Despite the vast disparity between SCO's public accusations and its actual evidence - or complete lack thereof - and the resulting temptation to grant IBM's motion, the court has determined that it would be premature to grant summary judgment," Judge Kimball wrote.

However, any time now, SCO's song-and-dance will end.

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