COMPETITION: Who killed Internet Explorer 6 campaign

INTERNET Explorer is attempting to make a comeback with the launch of Internet Explorer 9. The masterful minds at Microsoft have devised a very clever marketing strategy called “Who killed IE6?”

The campaign sees participants surfing around the web looking for clues to help them solve the Microsoft murder mystery. Here's the brief:

Internet Explorer 6 is dead! Our campaign is aimed at Internet-savvy users and we want to challenge them mentally and get them spending time on our mutual love, the Internet. In order to do this we've created a murder mystery that takes place all over the web.

And the prize? Be the first to figure out who killed Internet Explorer 6 and the R20 000 bounty will be yours!

The basic concept of the campaign is a crime scene for the death of Internet Explorer 6. Clues are being given a number of times every week and participants have to eventually get all the clues right in order to win the ultimate prize of R20 000. There are also weekly prizes of R1000 awarded to randomly selected participants.

So what are you waiting for? Round the mountain, over and under and on a yellow road to a little sleepy village... that’s where you’ll get a quote with something that will make you see things clearer.

Hint: We’re looking for pixels not pixies!

What is the Who killed Internet Explorer 6 campaign about?

The purpose of the campaign is to change perceptions of IE9 as well as educate users on the amazing features IE9 has. In order to build brand loyalty and experience of a product, you have to enable users to use the product. The campaign sends users on a hunt for who killed IE6 all over the web with the answers hidden in various websites.

How does the Who Killed Internet Explorer 6 campaign work?

Users receive clues on the website and have to enter the answer/word on the website which solves the clue. For each clue they get right, users will receive a letter for a anagram which will answer the mystery of who killed Internet Explorer 6. Once all the clues have been solved, users will have all the letters and will be able to submit their answer for the anagram.

Additionally there are two blocks which will require participants to choose an avatar and share the campaign as well as download the latest version of Internet Explorer in order to ensure that they have the latest tools in order to solve the case. All blocks need to be completed in order to unlock every letter and the entry field for users to enter their answer.

Good luck!

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THE PIRATE BAY: It's web piracy for dummies

In December 2008, I wrote an article about the mysteries and uncertainties of what is known as the Dark Net or Deep Web. I have since taken a dive into the murky online waters and have been astounded to discover how easy it is to become a web-pirate. It was like jumping into a dark lake fully expecting to sink deep, only to discover that the water barely reached my ankles.

Over the holidays, I heard of a Swedish-run website called The Pirate­ Bay (www.thepiratebay.org). The popular site has mimicked Google by offering an easy-to-use search bar on its homepage. In place of the comforting Google logo is a pirate ship and just below the search bar is a link to a step-by-step guide on how to download movies­, music, games, TV series, applications and more.

The Pirate Bay 2009 homepage

Pirate Bay 2009 Homepage (image: www.hipmag.ro)

Pirate Bay 2009 Homepage (image: www.hipmag.ro)

How The Pirate Bay works

Websites such as The Pirate Bay are known as BitTorrent trackers. BitTorrent is a file-sharing protocol whereby computer users are able to upload and download (‘share’) computer software with one another over a network. Each individual is allowed complete anonymity and does not need to register to participate.

However, there is a shared understanding among Pirate Bay users — a sort of pirating etiquette — that an individual should make a certain amount of their own content available for others to download if they wish to download software themselves. But this is not an enforced requirement.

There is no cost involved for those wishing to download content and the website earns its revenue by displaying adverts alongside torrent listings. In an investigation in 2006, Swedish police concluded that The Pirate Bay was generating roughly $150 000 per year from advertisements. This figure is likely to have tripled since.

The Pirate Bay is still primarily funded by advertisements, but users also have the option of donating money towards the pirate cause. There are also Pirate Bay T-shirts available for purchase — which, in effect, spreads pirating awareness.

I’m confident that anyone who might consider themselves as technologically incompetent would be able to engage in such activity. You only need to be able to read, write (search) and click a mouse.

Who's involved in The Pirate Bay

Initially established in November 2003 by Swedish anti-copyright organisation Piratbyrån (The Piracy Bureau) The Pirate Bay has operated as a separate organisation since October 2004. The website is run by Gottfrid Svartholm (aka anakata) and Fredrik Neij (aka TiAMO), who have both been charged with assisting in making copyrighted content available due to their involvement in The Pirate Bay.

The members of The Pirate Bay represent a broad, global spectrum of file sharers and there are currently more than four million registered users. However, because registering is optional and not necessary to download content, the total number of users is likely to be higher than this figure.

The site gets huge influxes of frequent traffic, so much so that the service is often unavailable at certain times. However, the site claims this never lasts for more than a few seconds.

Pirate Bay legal issues

The thing that I find the most astounding about The Pirate Bay is its completely fearless attitude. The creators have faced several lawsuits and have been to court on more than one occasion. Their argument is that no illegal material is stored on The Pirate Bay server. Rather, it operates as a tracker — providing users with the correct paths to find content on other users’ PCs and download directly from them.

According to their disclaimer (if one can call it that) “only torrent files are saved at the server. That means no copyrighted and/or illegal material is stored by us. It is therefore not possible to hold the people behind The Pirate Bay responsible for the material that is being spread using the tracker. Any complaints from copyright or lobby organisations will be ridiculed and published on the site”.

This last line really illustrates my point about their fearless attitude. They have received several legal threats via e-mail from companies such as Microsoft and DreamWorks, which have been published on the website along with their cheeky responses for all Pirate Bay users to see. It appears that their trump card is claiming that U.S. infringement laws to not apply in Sweden, and they seem to have Swedish lawyers on their side.

Pirate Bay rebuttal of legal threats

To illustrate, here’s what was written in response to an e-mail by DreamWorks:

“As you may or may not be aware, Sweden is not a state in the United States of America. Sweden is a country in northern Europe. Unless you figured it out by now, U.S. law does not apply here. For your information, no Swedish law is being violated. Please be assured that any further contact with us, regardless of medium, will result in:

a) a suit being filed for harassment; [and]
b) a formal complaint lodged with the bar of your legal counsel, for sending frivolous legal threats.

"It is the opinion of us and our lawyers that you are … morons, and that you should please go sodomise yourself with retractable batons."

This next snippet was part of an e-mailed response to Sega after they threatened to sue The Pirate Bay in 2006:

“Please sue me in Japan instead. I’ve always wanted to visit Tokyo. Also, I’m running out of toilet paper, so please send lots of legal documents to our ISP — preferably printed on soft paper.”

The Pirate Bay shows no signs of slowing down and remains the world’s largest file sharing server to date. I leave you with a snippet from The Pirate Bay’s 2009 Christmas letter to its users.

“We believe that we have changed something. Not just us, but all of us. The Pirate Bay has always been something extra … We wanted it to mean something. And you, our users, have helped us with that. The history of the bay is still being written. It’s way too early for a conclusion."

Shiver me timbers.

IMPORTANT NOTICE

The downloading and distributing of copywrite software IS illegal, despite what websites such as The Pirate Bay might say. The use of such websites is done at your own risk and can lead to a criminal record. Ye have been warned.

Pirate Bay News and Updates:

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MICROSOFT SURFACE: Getting to grips with new touch technology

Even as a twenty-something, I can fully understand the anxieties experienced when new technologies are released that we would like to try for ourselves, but which seem rather complex and perhaps difficult to handle. Anything that’s more complicated than a remote control has the potential to put anyone who considers themselves as “technologically illiterate” into a mild state of depression.

To generalise, teenagers seem to have a natural ability to immediately grasp and take control of new techno devices without ever having to consult a manual or use the help function. Having to touch a manual for anything digital seems like avoidable homework to me, but lately I find myself having to refer to at least three pages of one before I feel that I have at least come close to mastering it.

Technology developers know about this consumer anxiety and most go as far as they can to keep things “simple-stupid”. We don’t necessarily need to understand how a piece of tech works to enjoy the benefits of it, but in order to operate most devices effectively, we do need to know how it communicates.

We are all naturally adept at reading body language and understanding hand gestures, which is something that is now being taught to computers. Touch technology is becoming a revolutionary method of naturally communicating with computers and represents a fundamental change in the way we interact with digital content. This is all becoming possible with Microsoft Surface.

Microsoft Surface - touch technology

Microsoft Surface Touch Technology

What is Microsoft Surface?
Microsoft Surface is a multi-touch computer that responds to natural hand gestures and real-world objects - helping people interact with digital content in simple and intuitive ways. With a large, horizontal user interface, multiple users can collaboratively and simultaneously interact with data and each other.

It’s as easy as grabbing digital content with your hands and moving information with simple gestures and touches. Surface is also able to “see” and interact with objects placed on the screen, allowing you to move information between devices such as cellphones and cameras with a light touch and drag.

The technology has been increasingly employed by businesses worldwide as it has proven to be a more efficient method of delivering information and services to customers. Because the interface is so intuitive, people generally find it easy to learn. The multi-touch and multi-user capabilities also help create a collaborative experience, helping to rid one of any anxieties.

How does Microsoft Surface work?
As I mentioned, one doesn’t usually have to know how a piece of tech works in order to enjoy the benefits of it, but I can relate to those who have a burning desire to know how everything works.

Microsoft Surface - touch technologyMicrosoft Surface uses cameras and image recognition in the infrared range to recognise different types of objects, such as fingers, tagged items and shapes. This input is then processed by the computer and the resulting interaction is displayed using rear projection. The user can manipulate content and interact with the computer using natural touch and hand gestures, rather than using a typical mouse and keyboard.

Microsoft Surface represents a leap ahead in digital interaction, with the ability to wirelessly connect with several other devices such as printers, networks, mobile devices, card readers and more. The sophisticated camera system of Surface sees what is touching it and recognises fingers, hands, paintbrushes, tagged objects and a myriad of other real-world items.

Key touch capabilities
Microsoft Surface has four key capabilities that make it such a unique experience. (The following is adapted from the Microsoft Surface website):

  • Direct interaction: users can grab digital information with their hands and interact with content on-screen by touch and gesture — without using a mouse or keyboard.
  • Multi-user experience: the large, horizontal, 75 cm display makes it easy for several people to gather and interact with Microsoft Surface — providing a collaborative, face-to-face computing experience.
  • Multi-touch: Microsoft Surface responds to many points of contact simultaneously — not just from one finger (as with a typical touch screen), but from dozens of contact points at once, 52 to be exact.
  • Object recognition: users can place physical, digital objects on the screen to trigger different types of digital responses — providing for a multitude of applications, such as the transfer of digital content to a mobile device.

Under the hood (software specs)
Microsoft Surface is based on the Windows Vista operating system. The rugged table-top structure has powerful processors, a streamlined operating system and intuitive interface, which makes it unlike any computer on the market today.

The current version for the software platform is Microsoft Surface 1.0 Service Pack 1, which gives Surface an enhanced user interface, improved manageability to help reduce the cost of ownership, broader international support, and faster, easier ways to design innovative applications.

Tagged object recognition
TOR is a particularly innovative feature of Microsoft Surface. The tag is what allows Surface to uniquely identify objects — helping the system tell the difference between identical-looking bottles of wine, for example.

Applications can also use a tag to start a command or action. By simply placing a tagged object on the screen, the tag can tell Surface to display unique information about that tagged object, such as showing more information about a bottle of wine, the wine grower, and even the type of grape and vintage.

A tagged object might also identify a cardholder so they can charge purchases. There is a video I saw of Bill Gates demonstrating this by ordering drinks for himself and an awestruck reviewer, and then paying for them by placing his credit card on the computer’s surface.

With capabilities such as direct interaction, multi-touch, multi-user, and object recognition, as well as the means for application deve­lopment, Microsoft Surface certainly represents the next stage of touch computing. Microsoft is currently at the forefront of touch technology. It is also certainly one new piece of technology that we can all get to grips with.

Related article: The Apple of my iPad

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GADGET BLESSINGS: Shinto Priests Protect Electronics From Bad Mojo

I have always had a fascination for religions other than the one that I was force-fed at school. I am not an unruly atheist, but simply feel that one should understand or at least lightly explore the views of religions other than your own before deciding what to believe.

To totally refute the beliefs of other religious groups is, as history will tell, sadly often the cause of futile conflict. It always seems that people who want to share their religious views with you never want you to share yours with them...

ShintoismAnyhoo, I have recently developed an interest in the religions of the Far East, specifically Japan’s Shinto religion. A core belief of Shinto is that all objects — living or not — have spiritual properties, and can thus be blessed. With the increasing introduction of electronics to Japan, there has been an interesting fusing of technology with the practices of Shinto.

Specifically since the introduction of Windows XP to Japan, more and more consumers have been taking their laptops and electronic devices to Shinto priests to be blessed against system crashes and technical failures.

A writer for Wired Magazine took his cellphone to a Shinto Priest to witness this phenomenon first-hand and provides a first-hand account of the whole experience ...

Blessed are the Geek

'My cellphone sits in a lacquer tray waiting to be blessed by a Shinto priest. Late last year, I visited the ancient Kanda shrine, located in the heart of Tokyo’s consumer electronics district. The shrine does boffo business offering charms and ceremonial purifications that protect cellphones and laptops and even blogs and ISP services from bad mojo' (image: www.wired.com)

'My cellphone sits in a lacquer tray waiting to be blessed by a Shinto priest. Late last year, I visited the ancient Kanda shrine, located in the heart of Tokyo’s consumer electronics district. The shrine does boffo business offering charms and ceremonial purifications that protect cellphones and laptops and even blogs and ISP services from bad mojo' (image: www.wired.com)

Brian Ashcraft

Boom! … Boom! My chest reverberates with the thumping of a huge wooden drum as two robed holy men shuffle across tatami mats. They kneel in a vermilion-coloured alcove, while an assistant announces that the ceremony has commenced.

The priests begin bowing and chanting rhythmically. I’ve been given a white “robe of cleansing” to wear. Actually, it’s more like a smock. I’m not sure what I should be doing. I bow a couple of times.

I’ve come to the 1 270-year-old Kanda Shrine in Tokyo to purify and bless something very near and dear to me: my cellphone. I’ve had hellish luck with cellphones over the past year. I left one on a ride at Universal Studios Japan. Its successor suddenly (and mysteriously) died. The next one accompanied my pants into the washing machine, and its replacement went awol in less than a week. Divine intervention was needed, and pronto.

Japan’s Shinto religion holds that nearly every object in the world, animate or inanimate, has a spiritual essence. Therefore, anything can be blessed, from a newborn child to an automobile. Priests at the Kanda Shrine, which overlooks Akihabara — Tokyo’s Mecca for consumer electronics — offer prayers for the well-being of gadgets.

Kanda found its calling in metaphysical IT work seven years ago, when Microsoft XP went on sale in Japan. The shrine created talismans to prevent system crashes, and they were snapped up by the throngs of nerds who prowl Akihabara for the latest gizmos and porn comics.

Soon requests were pouring in for priests to perform purification rites on laptops, cellphones, even web-portals. Today Kanda offers microchip-shaped good-luck charms for ¥800 (about R64) and private ceremonies for ¥5 000 (about R400).

Back in the great hall, an older priest waves a giant wand — essentially a mop of white parchment streamers — over his counterpart. Thus cleansed, the younger priest rises and carries my phone on a tray to the main altar. He begins a low-pitched chant, invoking the shrine’s deities to “watch over and protect Brian Ashcraft’s cellular phone”.

As the sound of plucked koto strings echoes through the hall, the assistant jingles gold bells over my head. I’m told to approach the altar and am given a tree branch — an offering to the shrine’s deities. A priest painstakingly instructs me to turn the branch 180° —no, no, clockwise— and place it on the altar. I am then told to bow deeply twice —that’s good — and clap twice.

Most Japanese people would probably stumble through this intricate ceremony as clumsily as I do, but the tenets of Shinto are deeply ingrained in their consciousness. It occurs to me that this must affect how they view their little electronic helpmates. Perhaps gadgets really do have souls. Maybe my problem isn’t bad luck, maybe I simply haven’t been giving my phones the respect they deserve. I bow again, and the ceremony concludes.

Near the great hall’s exit, I am presented with a wooden plaque certifying that my cell has been purified. Over a cup of sake, senior priest Katsuji Takahashi chuckles as he tells me, “I’ve lost my phone twice, but both times it turned up.”

Seven months later, my blessed cellphone is still with me.

Editor: We really do live in a weird wired world.

www.wired.com

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GOOGLE WAVE: The clash of the computer titans is on. Google has taken on Microsoft by announcing that it's launching its own operating system — free of charge. The war between the two software giants is likely to change the world of the Internet forever

Alistair Fairweather

IF business is war then two of the world’s biggest companies have finally stopped skirmishing on their borders and brought out the heavy artillery. On July 7, Google fired the first shell by announcing that they will begin offering their own operating system in mid 2010.

Bling bling babyThe warhead — called Chrome OS — is aimed straight at the heart of Microsoft who have built their entire business around operating systems since the 70s, first with MS DOS and then the globally-dominating Windows series.

But while Microsoft have always charged for their software, Google plan to give theirs away free of charge. What’s more, Google are starting from a completely fresh perspective — one with the potential to undermine Microsoft’s entire business model and loosen their foothold on the software market.

If the name "Chrome" sounds familiar, that’s because it’s also the name of Google’s web browser. And this isn’t just a case of lazy naming. By evolving Chrome into an operating system, Google are planning to turn the entire software world on its head and make browsing the centre of computing.

An Introduction to Google Wave
There is a full 1 hour 20min presentation on YouTube which Philc7753 has kindly and painstakingly edited down for our short attention spans

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANtLSoISnHA]

Hang on, isn’t an operating system a lot more complicated that a browser? Doesn’t a browser need an operating system to, well, operate? That’s the whole genius of the plan. Google are betting that the centre of influence in computing is moving out of personal computers and into the massive computing power of the Internet, known as the "cloud".

That means that in future, computers will be dumber and cheaper. They will rely on the enormous banks of computers that power the Internet to do much of their thinking for them.

This is already happening. One of the fastest growing sectors in computing is netbooks — smaller, cheaper, less powerful portable computers with speedy connections to the Internet that focus on tasks like e-mail and browsing the net.

The wave is coming...Currently, Microsoft is tussling with free operating systems such as Linux for ownership of this market, and Google wants its own share of the pie. So what? There’s nothing particularly revolutionary about a free operating system. They have been around for longer than Microsoft have been in existence, let alone Google. And some of them are backed by huge companies such as IBM and SAP.

Yet none of those other companies is as heavily invested in cloud computing as Google. And it’s cloud computing that poses the greatest risk to Microsoft’s dominance.

Microsoft’s bread and butter has always been its desktop applications —  programs such as Word, Outlook and PowerPoint. Operating systems are like plumbing — expensive but necessary — and Microsoft have lost money on them for years. This was justified because they knew that by owning the platform they would be able earn it all back on desktop applications.

Google Docs, on the other hand, is nearly as good as Microsoft’s Office but is free and requires no hard-drive space and much less power (and therefore can run on a cheaper computer). It’s a true “cloud” application  — its platform is the Internet.

So Google have, in effect, pulled Microsoft’s own trick on them but in reverse, and for free. And given how quickly Microsoft are losing market share in the browser market (it’s now just above 50%), they have real cause for concern. If Chrome OS takes off, Google will start to hurt more than Microsoft’s pride.

That’s still a big "if" though. For all their mistakes Microsoft are still the top dog of software. Despite the current media hyperbole about Chrome OS, Windows still commands 90% of the market share in operating systems. Even if Chrome lives up to the hype, it will still take years to get a foothold. Only one thing is certain about this battle — peace talks are unlikely to begin anytime soon.

We’re in for a long slog and I don’t think anyone can accurately predict a winner. What we can be sure of is that the conflict will change software (and the Internet) forever.

- Alistair Fairweather writes for The Witness
newspaper in Kwa-Zula Natal, South Africa

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