Parallels launches “Why Choose?” video contest

Ever since the launch of Boot Camp, Parallels Desktop, and VMware Fusion, Mac users have suddenly been inundated with "opportunities" to run our least favorite operating system alongside our favorite. It's been over a year now since the users of Intel Macs have been able to run Windows, and oh so far we have come. That's why Parallels is now hosting a video contest, asking the world to demonstrate one theme: "Why Choose?" HangZhou Night Net

The video can be made nearly any way—short film, animation, narration, photography—to be pieced together into a "Why Choose?" masterpiece. Parallels says that the video doesn't have to be made on a Mac necessarily, nor does it need to use Parallels anywhere. It just needs to demonstrate that we Mac users can now have the "best of both worlds."

Entries from around the world are welcome, and they must be less than three minutes long. They must also be uploaded to YouTube and then submitted, along with contact information, to [email protected] before midnight PSD on December 9. The full contest rules are supposed to be available on the website, but that URL is currently returning an error. Perhaps it will be back up later today.

Prizes? The grand prize winner of the "Why Choose?" contest will win a trip for two to Macworld 2008 along with a 17" MacBook Pro, Sony HDS-SR7 HD camcorder, and "a filmmaking software bundle." The next runner up will get a 13" MacBook with a full copy of Windows XP Pro running on Parallels, along with an 8GB iPhone. Each of the top ten finalists will win a copy of Parallels Desktop, and the first 100 submissions (regardless of how bad your video is) will get you a free "Why Choose?" t-shirt. Oh, and if the grand prize winner attends high school or college, his or her school will receive a $10,000 grant. Not bad.

I know that there are a number of you guys who are into filmmaking, and there are even more of you who are into winning some badass prizes. If you're interested, get working on that video and let us know if you win anything!

Hitachi unveils new ultra low power hard drive design

Hitachi announced yesterday that it's set to launch a new line of energy efficient hard drives under the name Deskstar P7K500. According to Hitachi, these drives consume far less power than anything else on the market while maintaining the high performance end-users expect from a high-end drive. The P7K500 series is expected to be available in high volume by the fourth quarter of 2007 and the drives will be priced competitively for their individual market segments. HangZhou Night Net

Specifications for the new series are as follows:

Capacity: 250/320/400/500GBSingle or dual platter7200 RPM w/ 4.2ms average latency8MB of cache per platter3.6/4.8W idle power6.4/8.2W under load

Where you see multiple numbers listed, the power consumption difference depends on whether the drive is a single-platter or dual-platter model. Checking around, Hitachi's claims are impressive if true—hard drive power consumption can range from 7.5-9.5 at idle, to 9.2-15W under load. If you're interested in picking up one of Hitachi's new P7K500 drives, it's a good idea to compare its power draw against whatever hard drive you're currently using.

Hitachi achieves its lower power ratings via several methods. The P7K500 relies on switching regulators instead of linear regulators for more efficient voltage conversion, and has adopted an SoC (System on a Chip) design that reduces power consumption. Drives in this family also take advantage of Hitachi's Advanced Power Management, but introduce two new operating modes (Unload Idle and Low RPM Idle) that can significantly reduce power consumption. The two modes are defined as follows:

Unload Idle: The heads are safely unloaded to the ramp and the servo is shut off; this mode delivers power savings of 11 percent better than idle
modeLow RPM idle" The heads are safely unloaded to the ramp, the servo is shut off and the spindle motor RPM is reduced; this setting achieves power
savings of 44 percent better than idle mode.

Given the growing interest in silent/low power PCs, Hitachi's new offering definitely has the potential to be in the right place at the right time as far as consumer interest is concerned. Keep in mind, however, that while every little bit helps, 7W of power isn't exactly a huge reduction compared to the total power draw of most systems. Hitachi's new P7K500 may keep your system decibals low, but don't expect to see the difference on your power bill.

EU wants new international agreement targeted at pirates, counterfeiters

Forget the existing structures: the European Commission wants the EU to bypass WIPO and the WTO and move forward on a new anticounterfeiting trade agreement (ACTA) made directly with key trading partners. HangZhou Night Net

The goal is to strengthen the intellectual property protections so important to the EU, the US, Korea, Japan, and others. Despite formidable protection offered by WIPO treaties and WTO rules, the Commission announced today that it needs to do more to protect European business, in part due to the "speed and ease of digital reproduction" and "the growing importance of the Internet as a means of distribution." Peter Mandelson, the EU Trade Commissioner, is backing the plan.

The EU, the US, Japan, Korea, Mexico, and New Zealand are the main participants in the group right now, which has the somewhat patronizing job of "setting a positive example for nations that aspire to strengthen IPR protection." Membership to those deemed worthy will expand over time, and "advanced developing countries" will be eligible to join. I'm sure such countries are thrilled at the prospect.

The new anticounterfeiting agreement is emphatically not about ganging up on China. How do we know this? The EU tells us. In its fact sheet on the agreement, the Commission says that the deal isn't meant to "point the finger" but to "share a particular vision of a path to stronger enforcement to deal with the challenges of piracy and counterfeiting today." (Groups like the WTO will still be used for enforcement as well; consider the US' recent WTO spat with China.)

Those challenges include fake drugs, luxury rip-offs, and bogus cosmetics. The situation has gotten so bad that the EU says it seized more than 2.7 million counterfeit medicines in 2006, and that nearly 10 percent of the world's total medicine supply is counterfeit.

Problemsalso include digital distribution of copyrighted works, and trade groups like the IFPI couldn't be happier at the thought of stronger enforcement. The music group "warmly welcomed" the new announcement and claimed that "nearly one in three music discs sold worldwide is pirate [sic] and around 20 billion songs are illegally downloaded via peer-to-peer networks annually." Frances Moore, an IFPI VP, also wants the EU to make "the fight against Internet piracy a top priority."

Because of the EU's governance structure, the Commission can't actually move forward with negotiations until it has a mandate from the member states. ACTA won't be enacted any time soon, but if it eventually is, this "path-breaking project" will add yet another layer of IP rights to the laws of the countries that sign on.

The Showdown: Can Uncharted for the PS3 make a dent this November?

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The Showdown continues. Each week we pick a topic, flip a coin to see which OT writer gets which side to debate, thenpresent it to you. Today? Whether or not Uncharted: Drake's Fortune will help the PS3 this holiday season.

Frank: Ben and I spent some time last week sorting out just what we were going to do with November. There are so many good games coming out, and we can only do so many as full front-page reviews. While the slack will certainly be picked up here in Opposable Thumbs with what I can only predict will be a veritable cornucopia of mini-reviews through November and into December, Ben and I were very divided on which four of the big holiday titles would be getting timely front page reviews. The most controversial decision revolved around Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. I lobbied for the title for the front page as I feel that it will be one of the big holiday titles and a huge get for Sony, but Ben disagreed. So, we're here to battle it out. With the great guys at Naughty Dog working tirelessly to reinvent the aged Tomb Raider formula with contemporary design and top-notch production values, I firmly believe that Uncharted: Drake's Fortune will be one of the big titles of this holiday season, and will certainly surprise a lot of people.

Ben: Uncharted might be a great game, but a killer app? Or even a burp in November's release list? Please. Next month has a ridiculous set of games that will be released for every platform, with Call of Duty 4, Rock Band, Mass Effect, BlackSite: Area 51, Assassin's Creed, Haze, Unreal 3 (well, for the PC now that the PS3 version has been pushed back), Super Mario Galaxy, Kane and Lynch… and Uncharted.

I'm even leaving a few out, because the rest of the post would be a list of games I'm looking forward to more than Uncharted. No matter which way I attack it, as a gamer personally or someone who has to made hard calls about what games to cover, I have to say that Uncharted is a medium-sized fish in a huge-ass pond. Everyone is bringing out their big guns next month, and I have a feeling Uncharted is going to beone of the games ground under the uncaring wheels of a packed month.

Frank: I think you're heavily underestimating Naughty Dog. This is the company that brought us two great franchises on the PlayStation and PlayStation 2: Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter. Working closely with Insomniac Games—one of the few developers really working the PlayStation 3 over to any significant extent thus far—Naughty Dog willattempt to prove Uncharted has more potential than some would think. Note that just about every game you mentioned is cross-platform, which has traditionally resulted in less-than-favorable ports of 360 games to the PS3. Uncharted, on the other hand, has been built from the ground up for the PS3 by a team that knows what its doing.

Recent gameplay videos show some really strong graphics withfew to no rough edges anywhere, and some compelling adventure and shooter gameplay elements look to make for agreat experience. There's no question that there are tons of other big titles this fall, but for PlayStation 3 owners looking for a great exclusive title to snuggle up by the fire with over the holidays, Uncharted may be the big winner.

Ben: My problem is that so far they haven't shown me anything that has led me to get really excited. The game looks good, I'm going to try it, but if you had me list the top five games I'm excited about this month, it wouldn't make the list, and five games a month is way above average for the normal gamer. I don't see people talking about it much on forums, and overall I just don't think it has that early buzz that would allow it to carve out space for itself.

The other games of November all have people counting down the days. Have you heard anyone saying "Oh man, Uncharted is going to be the shit!"? No, they're busy talking about everything else. It could be a great game, but with so many sure-fire hits that people are budgeting for, there isn't space for a game without a slavish following or that will pick up steam based on reviews or word of mouth. Even a good quality game can hit with a thud with the insanenumber of AAA games being released in November.

Let's hear your thoughts. Will Uncharted: Drake's Fortune make a wave in the pond or simply drown in the competition?

Would-be identity thief finds himself stumped without printer drivers

There are a few things in this world that thieves need to keep in mind in order to run a successful criminal operation. For example, don't take the cash you just stole from one bank to another bank down the street to have it deposited into your account. Don't steal someone's MacBook and take it to the Apple Store Genius Bar the next day to get help with OS X. And finally, don't steal a drivers' license printer from the DMV, only to call up the manufacturer the next day looking for drivers. That's one tip that 33-year-old Missouri resident Timothy Scott Short apparently wasn't aware of when he stole some equipment from the Missouri Department of Revenue earlier this month, only to find himself facing jail time after outing himself to tech support. HangZhou Night Net

Short stole the Digimarc printer, along with a PC containing names and birthdates, from the Department of Revenue's contract office in St. Charles. Unfortunately for Short, the PC was locked, and he was unable to access anything on it, department director Trish Vincent told IDG. But without the software installed on the PC, the printer was essentially useless. Think of the millions of fake IDs that could be created on that thing!

Short apparently couldn't stop thinking about it, as he broke down and called Digimarc for support—twice—a couple of days later asking whether he would be able to obtain printer drivers. Secret Service Special Agent John Bush told IDG that he recognized Short's voice on the recording from another, unrelated investigation and that the phone number that Short had provided matched up to another identity theft case. Here's another tip for thieves: don't use your regular phone number for all of your crimes. Get a business line or something.

Short was then tracked down a few days later and charged with possession of document-making implements with the intent to use them for fraud. He now faces a $250,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison.