Intel’s super-thin laptop sets the bar a little higher

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Now this — this is a sexy laptop. A mere 0.7 inches thick, it’s nearly as thin as a Motorola RAZR phone yet still manages to pack in an impressive set of features. Inside the 2.25-pound body are all Intel components, including always-on connectivity that keeps you hooked up to Wi-Fi hotspots, EV-DO networks, or even WiMax connections, depending on what’s available.

In addition to the insanely thin form factor, there will be magnetically attached skins to give it different looks, and it even has an external screen on top to let you see information without opening the computer.

So the real question is: When can I get one? Maybe as soon as the end of the year. It’s merely a concept design by Intel, but the company seems serious about making it a reality. Don’t expect the price to be anything but astronomical, however. If the price manages to get down to MacBook levels, Intel will have a serious contender on its hands.

Business Week, via Gizmodo

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China accused of information warfare

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is contining to develop viruses to attack computer systems, warned the US Department of Defense (DoD).

“The PLA has established information warfare units to develop viruses to attack enemy computer systems and networks,” the annual DoD report on China’s military warned. At the same, Chinese armed forces are developing ways to protect its own systems from an enemy attack, it said, echoing similar warnings made in previous years.

These capabilities are part of China’s ongoing military modernisation efforts, which have seen the country add dozens of high-tech fighters and ballistic missiles to its arsenal. China isn’t alone in building the capability to attack an enemy’s computer systems. The US and other countries have developed similar abilities.

The PLA’s virus-writing efforts have been underway for years, reflecting the importance that China apparently attaches to information warfare. As early as 2000, the DOD warned, “China has the capability to penetrate poorly protected US computer systems and potentially could use CNA [computer network attacks] to attack specific US civilian and military infrastructures.”

In recent years, the PLA has begun training more seriously for computer attacks, including them as part of larger military exercises in 2005.

The main focus of China’s military modernisation efforts are Taiwan, an island nation that China views as a renegade province. China has long threatened to attack Taiwan if the island formally declares independence, and the expansion of China’s military capabilities are largely geared towards a possible attack against Taiwan.

“A limited military campaign could include computer network attacks against Taiwan’s political, military, and economic infrastructure to undermine the Taiwan population’s confidence in its leadership,” the report said.

But the US, which would likely intervene in a Chinese attack on Taiwan, is also a potential target, it said.

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Google Wireless – does it have a ring?

Google LogoRumor is spreading today that perhaps we got it wrong about the Google Phone, perhaps Google was thinking bigger (like Google is known to do). Perhaps they were thinking of being a carrier.

This is inline with my interpretation of Google honcho’s remarks about cell phones being free. I believe he meant the service should be free, advertising can support the business model (or so I theorize). Phones are already “free” from wireless providers. They may not be the hippest, but they are free with a commitment, so Google saying “phones should be free” doesn’t move the bar any.

A free wireless network does. How would Verizon and AT&T react to something like that? They’d be scrambling to devise a new business model.

Boy Genius Reports says According to Richard Whitt, Washington telecommunications and media counsel at Google, there’s a chance that they will make a play for licensee rights to the upcoming 700 MHz band that the FCC is going to auction off. “We have not ruled in or out participating in the auction as a licensee,” says Whitt. “Whether or not we do get involved [in the auction], we see some value in creating these kinds of platforms.”

Take it with a grain or two of salt, but imagine the possibilities. There are lots of folks I know who would love to stop paying big bucks for service.

Read [BoyGenius] via [Computerworld]

Military pumps up China’s influence, Pentagon says

(CNN) — China’s modernizing military will make it a more muscular player in world events, a U.S. Defense Department report says.

China’s developing capabilities “will increase Beijing’s options for military coercion to press diplomatic advantage, advance interests or resolve disputes,” the Pentagon says in its annual report to Congress on China.

The Pentagon says that Beijing remains preoccupied with military contingencies in the Taiwan Strait — but adds that the Chinese military is also improving its ability to win possible conflicts over resources or territory. (Watch how China has become a modern, high-tech adversary Video)

To that end, the report says, the Chinese army is transforming itself from a force designed to fight wars of attrition on its own territory to one capable of winning short but intense campaigns against high-tech adversaries.

It says China’s military expansion is in part designed to protect its access to raw materials around the world, especially coal and oil supplies. At present, the report says, “China can neither protect its foreign energy supplies, nor the routes on which they travel.”

The report notes key developments such as China’s testing of an antisatellite missile in January and the greater accuracy and range of its missile forces, including intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“New air- and ground-launched cruise missiles that could perform nuclear missions will similarly improve the survivability and flexibility of China’s nuclear forces,” it adds.

It also says that China continues to modernize its Navy with better air-defense systems and new submarines, while its offensive air power has been improved with the acquisition of Su-30 strike aircraft and F-10 fighters.

Military spending continues to grow more quickly than the expansion of the economy, with Beijing announcing an increase of nearly 18 percent in its defense budget in March.

Looking at the situation with Taiwan, the report says the balance of forces continues to shift in the mainland’s favor, with military exercises and deployments contributing to an atmosphere of intimidation. The report adds that tension could also increase as Taiwan prepares for its next presidential election, planned for March 2008.

Despite the pace of modernization, the report says, the People’s Liberation Army remains untested in modern warfare and most of China’s leaders lack military experience.

That gives rise to a greater potential for miscalculations, according to the report, which “would be equally catastrophic whether based on advice from operationally inexperienced commanders or from ‘scientific’ combat models.”

• Beijing modernizing force, strategy, according to report to Congress
• Development “will increase Beijing’s options for military coercion,” report says
• Army gaining capability to fight high-tech adversaries
• Successful missile tests of particular concern, Pentagon says

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Halo 3 Beta Gaffe Angers Gamers

Microsoft has fixed some early issues in its Halo 3 beta offering for those who purchase the game Crackdown, as well as agreeing to extend the beta period by one week to June 10..

The beta of the next Halo game has been much hyped by Microsoft since November of last year when plans were first announced. Crackdown was released in February with the promise that those who had the disk would be rewarded with first access to the code.

On May 16 at 5:00am Pacific, game owners were to receive access, but it failed to materialize. In fact, by all accounts, it was nearly 14 hours later — around 7:00pm Pacifc — before the issue was finally addressed.

Angry gamers began lashing out both at Bungie and Realtime Worlds (the maker of Crackdown. Most blamed Bungie for the issue, who worked quickly to assure those concerned that it had alerted Microsoft’s Xbox Live team to the error.

Some even blamed Realtime, although they had no direct involvement other than allowing the key on their discs. Spokepeople for the company said they were pleased with the way Microsoft had handled the problem and did not have further comment.

So what happened? According to Microsoft, it was an issue with Xbox Live itself. Even though an update for the Crackdown game was issued to remedy the problem, the error was with Xbox Live’s systems handing the Halo 3 beta.

As a result of the problems surrounding the release of the beta, Microsoft and Bungie have decided to extend the beta test period to June 10 at 11:59pm Pacific. However, complete details beyond Microsoft’s public statements on what occurred have not been released.

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The New HD-DVD/Blu-Ray Hack: What It Might Mean For Us

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That’s the so-called “Processing Key” that unlocks the heart of every HD-DVD disk to date. Happy Valentine’s day, AACS.

AACS, a DRM scheme used to encrypt data on HD-DVD and Blu-Ray disks, would appear to be cracked wide open by that short string of hexadecimal codes, as previously, only disk-specific Volume Keys were compromised. The new hack is the work of Arnezami, a hacker posting at the doom9 forums, fast becoming the front line in the war on DRM.

“The AACS is investigating the claims right regarding of the hack,” said AACS spokesporson Jacqueline Price. “It is going to take a appropriate action if it can be verified.”

Price said she could not disclose what their investigation might entail, or what “appropriate action” might be.

“We’ve just learned of this claim today and are checking into it,” said Andy Parsons, chair of the Blu-ray Disc Association and senior V.P. of product development at Pioneer Electronics, in an email.

The new crack follows that from earlier this year, when a hacker by the name of muslix64 broke the AACS system as it applied to each movie. While the earlier hack led to 100 HD-DVD titles and a small number of Blu-Ray movies being decrypted one-by-one, the so-called “processing keys” covers everything so far made.:

“Most of the time I spend studying the AACS papers,” Arnezami said in his forum post revealing the successful assault on the next-gen DRM system. “… what I wanted to do is “record” all changes in this part of memory during startup of the movie. Hopefully I would catch something insteresting. … I now had the feeling I had something. And I did. … Nothing was hacked, cracked or even reverse engineered btw: I only had to watch the “show” in my own memory. No debugger was used, no binaries changed.”

It’s not yet clear what it means for the consumer’s ability to copy movies, or, for that matter, that of mass-market piracy operations. The short form is that the user still needs a disk’s volume ID to deploy the processing key and break the AACS encryption — but getting the ID is surprisingly easy.

Arnezami found that they are not even random, but often obvious to the point of foolishness: one movie’s Volume ID turns out to be it’s own name and the date it was released. There isn’t yet an automatic system, however, that will copy any disk, in the manner of DeCSS-based DVD copying systems.

Even so, the new method completely compromises HD-DVD in principle, as it relies on AACS alone to encrypt data, even if there are other parts of the puzzle that are yet to fit together. Blu-Ray has two more levels of protection: ROM-MARK (a per factory watermark, which might revoke mass production rights from a factory but not, it seems individuals) and BD+, another encyption system, which hasn’t actually been used yet on sold disks (but which soon will be), meaning that its own status seems less obviously compromised.

How might the companies respond? The processing key can now be changed for future disks. However, the flaws inherent in the system make it appear easy to discover the replacement: the method of attack itself will be hard to offset without causing knock-on effects. For example, revoking player keys (in advance of obfuscating the keys in memory in future revisions of the system) would render current players unable to view future movies. Revoking the volume and processing keys that have been hacked would mean that all movies to date would not run on new players.

Publishers could randomly generate Volume IDs in future releases (as they are still needed for the current hack to work), which would make them harder to brute-force. That said, it’s claimed that the “specific structure” of the Volume ID in memory makes it feasible to brute-force randomized ones anyway.

Following are links to the current discussion at the doom9 forums, in which Arnezami and other provide regular updates on their progress. We don’t offer any warantee that the software implementations so far produced won’t blow up your computer or get you thrown in jail and whipped with wet towels by MPAA lawyers:

Proof of concept code for the process key hack is here: http://forum.doom9.org/showthread.php?p=953484#post953484

Implementation for Windows: http://forum.doom9.org/showthread.php?p=953496#post953496

Implementation for OSX: http://forum.doom9.org/showthread.php?p=953516#post953516a

HP’s new gaming notebook is a monster

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How big does a laptop have to be before it’s just a computer that can fold up? After all, if it’s too heavy and bulky to carry around and, well, use on your lap, then it’s just a desktop computer in a fancy case, right?

That seems to be the case with HP’s new 20-inch (!!) Pavilion HDX Gaming Notebook. Weighing in at an obscene 12 pounds, this thing is far from portable. But hey, it’s not really designed to be. It’s a gaming notebook, so that’s why you’ll get the ludicrously large 20-inch screen, and it’s loaded with hardware to run all your favorite games. It also has a built-in Windows Media remote next to the keyboard as well as an HDMI output if you want to send video to your HDTV. No word on pricing, but this thing is going to be as cheap as it is portable.

Gizmodo, via Mobile Mag

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Large Hadron Collider slideshow shows future of physics

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The European organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) has been building the Large Hadron Collider for many years, but it’s finally taking shape and prepping to operate at full power in 2008. The New Yorker has a great feature and slideshow on the collider, which it describes as the best and possibly only hope “for testing the theories of ‘new physics’ against material reality.”

The superconducting collider is located in a circular tunnel with a 17-mile circumference on the Swiss French border. When it’s fully functional, it’ll speed up atoms to velocities never before achieved, smashing them into each other with the hopes of finding particles never seen before, including the one that gives matter its mass. That particle, called the Higgs boson, would show that “the void of space is not really void but is permeated by an invisible field that acts a bit like cosmic molasses.” Still with me? No? Go take a look at these pictures anyway: Scientists have built something enormous and crazy underground.

Via The New Yorker