The UpStream

International Cyber Monday Effort Results in Shut Down of Counterfeit DVD Sites, Among Others

posted Thursday Nov 29, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

International Cyber Monday Effort Results in Shut Down of Counterfeit DVD Sites, Among Others

This may end up topping the confusion you get when you think of Sony selling CDs online and even Wal-Mart asking customers to bring in their DVDs to make a digital copy. We know that Cyber Monday is usually the day the media picks to hype up overpriced "deals" and consumers spend millions to break sales records each year. However, what you may not know is that federal agencies also use this day to take down criminals and scammers. For the third year in a row, US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) worked with a group of State-side and international law enforcement agencies to take down over 130 Internet domains that have all been found to be selling fake or duplicated merchandise, in an operation called "Operation in Our Sites." I have to give it to the government for being clever on this one.

Among the sites seized and taken down were an overwhelming number of sporting good operations, counterfeit Louis Vuitton shops and others, but the ones I want to focus on are the sites that were selling duplicated DVDs. ICE was able to take down three prominent sites, dvdhood.com, dvdsetshop.com and tvdvdset.com, along with other less-known names. ICE said they were able to seize the domains and make arrests from undercover purchases they made over the course of their investigation.

ICD director, John Morton, said in a statement,

This operation is a great example of the tremendous cooperation between ICE and our international partners at the National Intellectual Property Rights, or IPR Center. Our partnerships enable us to go after criminals who are duping unsuspecting shoppers all over the world. This is not an American problem, it is a global one.

The yearly event has been able to lead to the shut down of more than 1,600 sites that have been caught selling illegal merchandise since 2010. This year, Europol became a member of the IPR and joined the global hunt as well.

Europol became a member of the IPR Center this year, and I am glad to be able to announce these operational successes. IPR theft is not a harmless and victimless crime. It can cause serious health and safety risks, and it undermines our economy.

Now, while I am all for the takedown of people selling knock-off goods as described here and by no means want anyone to think I am siding with the criminals on this one, there is something I want to point out. I want to make sure we all realize there are sites out there that sell duplications of DVDs that they will mail to your house, and those sites were shut down. Now that we understand this fact, I want to also stress that there are thousands of sites out there that have this media available for free, digitally, and those sites, with the exception of MegaUpload and other file-hosting sites, have a pretty good track record of staying up and running.

There are also other, easily accessible options out there that prevent the whole "order something you could download or stream and wait for it to arrive in the mail" thing. Just like CDs I can order online and going to Walmart to place an order on UltraViolet, this is the year of 2012 and things like this shouldn't be happening anymore. So, shame on anyone who still participates in even the legal form of buying DVDs online. Even more shame on the guys in charge of dvdhood.com for not going the route of Aereo or Zediva, where you could've just streamed the one DVD you probably stole to make the copies in the first place. At least if you did that there'd be an interesting lawsuit to follow with a precedence to be set at the end. Instead, you guys just end up and jail and I have to look for another thing to make fun of.

Microsoft Sells 40 Million Windows 8 Licenses in One Month

posted Sunday Nov 25, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

Microsoft Sells 40 Million Windows 8 Licenses in One Month

For some strange reason, it seems that almost every single tech news publication has been bashing Windows 8 since its inception, citing "severe learning curves" and other nonsense. Be it their desire to love to hate great things or if it's to make up for the multi-figure check that's sitting in their back pockets from the iNeedGoodReviews company, the fact remains that consumers who read the publications have been misguided from the get-go. Despite all of the alleged reasons to not buy or upgrade to a Windows 8 machine, however, Microsoft said this week that since the launch, the company has sold over 40 million licenses of Windows 8. This outpaces Windows 7 as far as early upgrades are concerned and it also means that most people understood that you now start from the Start Screen.

Tami Reller, the new Corporate VP and CFO after Steven Sinofsky's departure, said in her presentation to investors and media at the Credit Suisse 2012 Annual Technology Conference,

The journey is just beginning, but I am pleased to announce today that we have sold 40 million Windows 8 licenses so far.

This accomplishment comes off the heels of Microsoft's previous news that the company sold 4 million Windows 8 upgrades in only three days. Of course, there's several reasons why the numbers are so high and putting Windows 7's performance to shame. First, you can upgrade from XP, Vista or 7 to Windows 8 for only $40 through January 1st. This is, in some cases, over $100 less expensive than those who upgraded to Windows 7 five years ago. Also, Microsoft has made a huge push to make upgrading to 8 as easy possible. Downloading the installer and even handing over your credit card information within the installation process is a piece of cake and is sure to entice some users who would otherwise be turned off by a more daunting upgrade procedure.

One thing to consider though is that Microsoft said that 40 million licenses were sold, leaving us to wonder how well PC, tablet and Surface sales are doing. We don't know yet exactly how many actual devices are leaving stores, although we do know that total PC sales are down 21% this month. It is completely possible more people are choosing to upgrade their existing machines to Windows 8 instead of moving to a more touch-oriented or more powerful piece of hardware. The third party manufacturers like HP and Samsung have definitely made some amazing computers that comes with Windows 8 installed; we just have to hope customers see the reason to buy a new PC as well as upgrade their old one, no matter how good that $40 upgrade deal may be.

The question now is will developers follow suit and create more apps on the platform? We know almost all of Windows 7 programs will work in the Desktop Mode, but at the end of the day, we want to see more Metro Modern UI apps and it looks like Microsoft has a an incentive for devs. Any developer who has their app see over $25,000 in revenue will be able to keep 80% of the revenue they make off downloads fore the life of their app, which is a 10% increase from their initial take when the app hits the Store. This must have convinced more developers to get onboard, along with the fact that designing for the front-end of Windows 8 is a blast (at times). It's also interesting to note that Microsoft said the Windows Store had more apps in its store at launch than any other app store at their launch.

Have you upgraded to Windows 8 yet? Do you not find the new Start Screen useful or interesting? Debate it out in the comments section below. Also, all my early adopters should check out the Podcast Publisher Play, found in the Windows Store right now. It's the best and only working podcatcher app for Windows 8!

HP Takes $9 Billion Hit from Acquired Asset, Autonomy, Citing Accounting Errors

posted Sunday Nov 25, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

HP Takes $9 Billion Hit from Acquired Asset, Autonomy, Citing Accounting Errors

HP has been unable to pick itself back up after being knocked down from its rendition of CEO roulette. Meg Whitman, former eBay CEO, picked up the slack and tried to continue on but problems continue to plague the company. If wavering on the future of webOS, deciding to make another smartphone and weathering a 30,000 employee layoff wasn't enough, HP has recently discovered a huge blunder with their $11 billion acquisiton of British software company, Autonomy. In fact, things are so bad now that the company announced this week that it would be devaluing $9 billion of the acquired assets in order to balance the sheet, citing "accounting improprieties and disclosure failures" during the purchase of Autonomy.

CEO Meg Whitman broke the bad news during HP's fourth-quarter earnings call. She said that Autonomy's books were completely wrong and way off before HP even looked to buy the company. It would appear that Autonomy's accounting team tried to hide their issues in order to sell their assets and jump ship. The earnings report (source link) explains the problem,

HP recorded a non-cash charge for the impairment of goodwill and intangible assets within its Software segment of approximately $8.8 billion in the fourth quarter of its 2012 fiscal year. The majority of this impairment charge is linked to serious accounting improprieties, disclosure failures and outright misrepresentations at Autonomy Corporation plc that occurred prior to HP's acquisition of Autonomy and the associated impact of those improprieties, failures and misrepresentations on the expected future financial performance of the Autonomy business over the long-term. The balance of the impairment charge is linked to the recent trading value of HP stock. There will be no cash impact associated with the impairment charge.

So what's next for the company? Even through all of this, Whitman emphasized that HP is still "100 percent committed to Autonomy and its industry-leading technology." I guess while the accounting team were a bunch of morons and essentially thieves, that the software is still a viable product. HP believes this too it would appear, as Whitman said the turnaround strategy on this asset will now be a "multi-year journey (that) will not be linear." I wonder what that journey will entail but I can assure you it will be an interesting story to follow as it develops. If we discover any specifics behind the falsifications of Autonomy's records, I'll be sure to share it with everyone. Until then, any guesses on what HP's next smartphone will be? Give us your best guesses in the comments below.

Intel's CEO Paul Otellini to Step Down in May After 40 Years of Service

posted Sunday Nov 25, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

Intel's CEO Paul Otellini to Step Down in May After 40 Years of Service

Intel held a conference this week to inform us that the company's CEO, Paul Otellini, is hanging up the work boots after almost 40 consecutive years of leading the processing company into the future. Otellini, being the extremely gracious and nice guy he is has given the company six months to find his replacement as he will be departing in May 2013. The next CEO has a large role to fill as he or she would be the sixth CEO since Intel incorporated 45 years ago.

Andy Bryant, Intel's chairman of the board, spoke highly of Otellini and said in a statement,

Paul Otellini has been a very strong leader, only the fifth CEO in the company's great 45-year history, and one who has managed the company through challenging times and market transitions. The board is grateful for his innumerable contributions to the company and his distinguished tenure as CEO over the last eight years.

On his departure, Otellini seemed thankful for his long tenure but said that he felt he's done all he could do for Intel and it was time for someone else to lead the company.

I've been privileged to lead one of the world's greatest companies. After almost four decades with the company and eight years as CEO, it's time to move on and transfer Intel's helm to a new generation of leadership. I look forward to working with Andy, the board and the management team during the six-month transition period, and to being available as an adviser to management after retiring as CEO.

Intel said that the board of directors will be handling the hiring process and will be looking both internally and externally to find his successor. The company also noted some of the successes they've had under Otellini's reign, including a net worth of $100 billion over seven years, achieving record revenue and net income, reinventing the Ultrabook, delivering the first smartphones for sale with Intel inside and more.

With Otellini making his way out, and PC sales struggling as the market is (temporarily or permanently) shifting to mobile, can the next CEO keep pace with competitors? Who would you like to see fill this position? Let us know in the comments below.

Microsoft's New VP, Head of Research

posted Saturday Nov 24, 2012 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft's New VP, Head of Research

Shortly after the departure of Steven Sinofsky from Microsoft's Windows team and the promotion of two current executives into his former roles, Microsoft is continuing to beef up its executive team. Most likely in response to the surprisingly negative reviews from tech blogs (though the sentiment does not seem to be echoed by consumers themselves), Microsoft has brought in a new Vice President and head of Microsoft Research International, Dr. Jeannette Wing.

Joining the company from Carnegie Mellon University and the National Science Foundation, Dr. Wing will answer to Chief Research Officer Rick Rashid and will head up the international branches of Microsoft's research endeavors. She is a leader in formal methods, security and privacy, and will probably work primarily on related tasks, such as privacy policy and setting research for Skype, Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and so.cl, particularly for other countries. This could help free up some brain power to work through some of the perceived cognitive friction in the new Windows Start screen.

Dr. Wing's new boss had some very nice things to say about his new executive,

Jeannette is a leading light in the computer science research community, providing strong leadership both at Carnegie Mellon and at NSF. I have long been impressed by both her profound commitment to world-class research and her service to the research community, and I look forward to working alongside her. It's a privilege to welcome Jeannette to Microsoft Research.

Rashid is not the only one excited about the move. Dr. Wing said,

I'm excited to join Microsoft Research, a world-class research organization in computing and related disciplines, and I appreciate this unique opportunity to lead its international labs. Microsoft Research has already had tremendous impact on the field of computing, on Microsoft's products and services, and on society, with potential yet to be unleashed. I am looking forward to working with the extraordinary talent at Microsoft Research, and I am especially honored to serve the international labs, each with its own character, strengths and distinct cultures.

It will be interesting to see how she is able to work through the problems of internationalizing some very localized products while maintaining proper, legal privacy. It sounds like Microsoft is working to prevent the problems Facebook is facing now.

ICANN Tries to One-Up XXX with New Top-Level Domains

posted Saturday Nov 24, 2012 by Scott Ertz

ICANN Tries to One-Up XXX with New Top-Level Domains

Domain names have gotten more and more difficult to register with companies and individuals hijacking sites before the popularity of their content has been established. For example, a personal domain from one of our staff members was once being sold by one of these hijack organizations for $2500 and the domain for our sister company was purchased for a little over $500. One way to eliminate this problem is to offer more specialized top-level domains.

For those who don't know, top-levels are the suffixes at the end of a domain name, such as .com and .net. ICANN, the organization responsible for moderating the Internet domain, has been taking suggestions for new top-levels over the past few months. As of the closing of the requests, 1930 applications were submitted, including .cloud, .music and .lol. Personally I really like .lol and would consider purchasing one just for laughs.

Not all of the applications have been well-received, however. A panel of officials from 50 countries have given a list of 50 of these applications that they believe to be concerning either globally or regionally. For example, .patagonia has been contested because of being a name of a region and the problems that could come from assigning it to a private company. Also, some intolerant countries, such as Saudi Arabia, have protested the use of .gay because of their collective dislike of the people and the fear it might encourage more gay people to be born, I suppose.

This Government Advisory Committee (GAC) has submitted 242 "early warnings," which equate to concerns over usage. Some of the concerns are of the type mentioned above, while others are over registrations by companies that might end up owning a top-level, such as Google or Microsoft owning .search or amazon owning .book. The applicants have 21 days to respond to the warnings and, if no response or no application withdraw happens, then the GAC can lodge a formal complaint to ICANN in April.

We know that formal complaints do not always equate to canceled top-level domains. At the beginning of 2011, ICANN approved .xxx, even through massive complaints. My guess is that some of these top-levels will be approved, such as .gay, despite protest, and others, like .book, will not because of Amazon's possibility to register one for every book ever (not really, of course - that would be insane).

We probably have another six months before any of these are available to register, but if you would like to be prepared, you can check out the list here and the ones that have been marked as warnings here.

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