Preliminary iPhone 1.1.1 jailbreak announced

And so the game of cat and mouse continues. First, Jobs reaffirmed Apple's stance of keeping the iPhone locked down. Then the iPhone 1.1.1 firmware landed—it was as if millions thousands of voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. Unless you've been living under a rock for the last couple of weeks, the new firmware did exactly what Apple warned us it would: it shut out third-party software and, shall we say, "didn't play nicely" with unlocked iPhones. 老域名购买

If you were one of those silenced voices, TUAW's Erica Sadun may have a glimmer of hope for you with today's announcement of a preliminary iPhone 1.1.1 jailbreak. Once again, the iPhone Dev Team—a group of hackers not to be confused with Apple's engineers—has snuck into the iPhone to poke around in places that Apple would prefer them not to.

So far it sounds like at least some third-party apps can run, though many might require some changes to account for new frameworks and any booby traps that Apple may have left. Workaround iPhone activations are also up and running, meaning users around the world can enable an iPhone more or less as a WiFi tablet without having to sign up for any wireless contract (note: this is different from unlocking the iPhone). Finally, it sounds like the hacking team has the iTunes Wi-Fi Store "barely running" on 1.0.2 firmware, though not without "major hacking."

From Erica's post, it sounds like the handy, one-click apps like AppTapper and Installer.app are a ways off, and a SIM unlock for firmware 1.1.1 could be even farther out. If you're waiting for Leopard along with the return of third party iPhone apps, you might be out of even more luck: it stands to reason that Apple may to drop another iPhone firmware update on or around the OS's release. Aside from bringing general compatibility, there are some rumored-but-obvious syncing features that Leopard could enable for the iPhone.

Rocks found in place of girl’s brand new iPod… twice

Nearly every teenager either has an iPod or wants one. There are a few exceptions, but the vast majority of teens sport (or pretend to sport) Apple's wildly-popular digital audio player. So imagine yourself, for a moment, as a 14-year-old girl in your first year of the exciting, terrifying, and unforgiving world that is high school. It's your birthday and all you really wanted was a brand new iPod. You unwrap your gifts fervidly and you hit pay dirt. The iPod you wanted—no, you needed! You open the packaging with great anticipation, only to discover that there is no iPod. Only rocks. Not even good rocks, or iRocks, just rocks. This scenario unfolded recently in the life of a 14-year-old in Texas. 老域名购买

It turns out that the parents weren't merely mean, and to our knowledge the kid didn't have it coming. And we must say, rocks are a much better prize than, say, rotten meat.

It turns out that this iPod was replaced with rocks somewhere before the sale. Like any consumer would, the family went to the Target store where the "iPod" was purchased in order to replace the non-music-playing rocks. Apparently, Target's return policy for customers using their Target cards is to issue store credit only—despite the family asking for their money back, it was rocks or store credit, period. Unfortunately, the store in Fort Worth had no other iPods. The employees did, however, call around to other area Target stores and found one that had the product in Grand Prairie, 20 miles away.

The Grand Prairie store's employees, perhaps unforgivingly after hearing the sob story, insisted that the new iPod had to be purchased before opening it. The family finally agreed, purchased the iPod, and opened it in front of Target employees. Again, the box that should have contained an iPod contained rocks. The woman once again asked for her money back, but again was denied. She then, according to the article, had her daughter pick out other items in order to use the store credit.

So far, Target hasn't been apologetic—its employees were following store policy and the company is "looking" into the matter. It seems likely that both stores get their merchandise from the same distribution warehouse, and that is most likely where the problem lies. Bets on whether or not Apple intervenes before this gets resolved?

Hard drive technology wins the 2007 Nobel Prize for physics

Albert Fert of the Université Paris-Sud inOrsay, France, and Peter Grünberg of theForschungszentrum in Jülich, Germany, have been awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in physics for theirdiscovery of the phenomenon known as giant magnetoresistance (GMR). The two scientists independently discovered the phenomenon and published their results in 1988 and 1989, respectively. This work has previously been recognized by the American Physics Society and awarded the 1994 James C. McGroddy Prize for New Materials. 老域名购买

Magnetoresistance is nothing new in science—it is the change in electrical resistance of a material when it is in the presence of an external magnetic field. It was measured150 years ago by W. Thomson (Lord Kelvin), who found that the resistance of iron and nickel would change depending upon the orientation of the magnetic field relative to the material. What he discovered is now referred to as anisotropic magnetoresistance, a property of materials that arises from electron spin-orbit coupling. Normally, this is a weak phenomenon, as general magnetoresistance changes the conduction in a material by only a few percent at most.

Even though this phenomenon is weak, it led to the development of many important technologies, including the parts that allow us to read and write to disks. Prior to the discovery of GMR materials, the best known alloy for exploiting magnetoresistance was permalloy (Ni20Fe80), and it represented little improvement over the materials used in Lord Kelvin's time. The major breakthroughs came when the two groups started experimenting with magnetic multilayers, stacks of alternating ferromagnetic and non-magnetic metals where each layer is only a few nanometers thick. The first materials used by Furt and Grünberg's groups had stacks of iron and chromium. Testing carried out on these early magnetic mutilayers showed a decrease in resistance of up to 50 percent—far greater than any seen previously. This radical increase appeared to be an entirely new phenomenon, which was named GMR.

GMR relies on a combination of magnetism and electron spin to cause changes in conductance in the stacks of magnetic layers used by the researchers. When adjacent layers have the same magnetic orientation, electrons of a single spin type can move easily between them. When the magnetic fields in neighboring layers are opposed, electrons of both spin types are scattered, causing high electrical resistance. A more detailed discussion of how a GMR magnetic multilayer works can be read in the background paper compiled by the Class for Physics of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (PDF).

While the GMR phenomenon was only discovered 20 years ago, it has already found many practical applications,mainly in the read heads used in high density computer storage. Other uses are still in the development phase; nonvolatile, low-power, high-density magnetic random access memory (MRAM) that is based on GMR materials may be the successor to DRAM that is found in most PCs today. The applications of this technology are still in their infancy, but some suggest that materials that exploit this phenomenon could eventually lead us to practical optical or quantum computers.

Big Brother or Big Help? OnStar 2009 can stop moving cars via satellite

Starting in 2009, police may be able to stop vehicles in their tracks with a simple phone call. The technology would come as part of something that most of us are already familiar with: General Motors' OnStar system. GM and OnStar demoed a prototype today of the new feature, called Stolen Vehicle Slowdown, which will be targeted at… well, stolen vehicles on the road. Stolen Vehicle Slowdown will come as part of OnStar's newest hardware, which will be available in some 1.7 million vehicles in 2009. 老域名购买

"We look forward to having technologies like Stolen Vehicle Slowdown available to aid our officers in apprehending suspected car thieves and keeping our officers, highways and citizens safe," said the national VP of the Fraternal Order of Police, David Hiller. "Since 1996, OnStar has assisted the law enforcement community by helping to locate stolen vehicles."

The OnStar system currently performs a number of useful functions that we've heard so much about on TV commercials. It is often used to locate lost or stolen vehicles via GPS, can locate customers immediately in the event of a car crash, and call 911. It also allows customers to call in to have the car unlocked if they get accidentally locked out. (Anyone want to take bets on this being the most-used OnStar feature?) GM says that it currently receives about 700 requests per month to help find stolen vehicles.

The process for Stolen Vehicle Slowdown would go something like this. A customer calls OnStar to report that his vehicle has been stolen, which would prompt OnStar to locate the car via GPS. OnStar would then provide the car's information and location to law enforcement in the area. The police, when they are able to establish a clear line of sight on the stolen vehicle, can then call into OnStar and request that the car be slowed down remotely. OnStar would then send a signal to the car that would instruct it to reduce engine power, thus slowing the car to an eventual stop.

Stolen Vehicle Slowdown is a significant milestone in another way: now mass-produced cars can be remotely controlled, and GM says that it might sell the technology to other carmakers in the future. And as long as the companies tout that it can cut down on dangerous police chases, it's easy to see why the general public might get excited over it.

But one concern would be whether the police could slow down any car with OnStar capabilities whenever they want—after all, no one wants to be driving along and suddenly have the car forced to a (slow) stop for any old reason. Indeed, there are number of troubling ways in which the new OnStar tech could be misused and abused. But GM says that OnStar customers will have the ability to opt out of the Stolen Vehicle Slowdown feature at any time if they should so choose, although the company says that its research shows that 95 percent of its subscribers want the service for their vehicles.

Even wary of the “Amiga curse,” the new Amiga promises the moon with OS5

Amiga, Inc, the company that in 2000 split from Gateway Computers—the eventual owners of the Amiga IP after the Commodore bankruptcy in 1994—has had a rough and difficult life. The company was hit hard by the dot-com crash in 2001, which put most of its projects in limbo. Since then, it has managed to partner with other firms to release both new hardware (Eyetech's AmigaOne and AmigaOne Micro) and new software (Hyperion's Amiga OS4). Unfortunately, fights over the deals that were signed at the time have led to a legal standoff where both new Amiga hardware and a finished OS4 are available, but they cannot be sold to consumers. In the middle of this quagmire stands Bill McEwen, president of Amiga since the Gateway split, who finally came out of a self-imposed silence recently to answer some questions posed by Amiga fans. 老域名购买

Unfortunately, the answers contain very little of substance. McEwen was unable to comment on the lawsuit, so no new information was on offer about how the standoff might be resolved. Hyperion and Amiga, Inc. are fighting over ownership of OS4 based on a contract that allegedly stipulated that Hyperion would receive the rights should Amiga, Inc. declare bankruptcy. Amiga, Inc. was bought wholesale in 2003 by a company called KMOS that then changed its name back to Amiga, Inc. after the sale was completed. Hyperion is claiming that this constitutes a bankruptcy, whereas Amiga, Inc. disagrees.

McEwen also didn't comment on whether or not Amiga OS4 would ever be made available for the new Sam 440 PowerPC motherboard that was recently demonstrated at the Amiga show in Pianeta, Italy, and which is the choice of Hyperion to replace the no-longer-available AmigaOne board. Amiga, Inc. is instead promoting an unreleased set of PPC motherboards to be delivered by ACK Controls. McEwen was asked to comment on the state of these designs, but would only say that he was "very confident in his abilities" and "very pleased with the progress that has been made so far," without committing to any dates.

On the software side, Amiga, Inc. is implying that OS4 is yesterday's news. McEwen said that OS5 is "ahead of schedule" and will be "better than Mac OS X." As for a release date, he will only say that "details for OS5 will be made public in the fourth quarter of 2007" which is essentially an announcement of an announcement, something that the Amiga community has suffered more than its fair share of.

McEwen is not unaware of how he is viewed by the community. "I have been reminded time and again about the 'Amiga curse,'" he said. "I certainly can say that there has been more than one time where I considered this to be real." The Amiga curse started with Commodore, but continued on as company after company that picked up the Amiga assets has either abandoned the technology or gone bankrupt itself. It's a shame, as OS4 is a nice OS that runs extremely quickly on low-powered hardware. I continue to use and enjoy my AmigaOne, and with just a little investment in third-party software development it could be a genuine alternative to Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

Kane and Lynch multiplayer options detailed, no online co-op

One of the unexpected surprises at PAX this year was Kane & Lynch: Dead Men. I greatly enjoyed the single player experience of the unique bank-heist tactical shooter. Hinted at the show in Seattle and now officially disclosed are the unique multiplayer options that could mix up what's expected from an online shooter. 老域名购买

Kane & Lynch will ship with adversarial multiplayer including the traditional modes as well as the all new "Fragile Alliance." A group of 8 players is put into a specific scenario—say, robbing a bank—and the team must work together to best the enemy A.I. and steal as much loot as possible. The game keeps individual tallies of money collected, and whoever has the most money at the end of the round wins. The catch is that, at any time, you can betray or be betrayed by your teammates who can then scoop up the money you leave behind. Die once and you'll turn into a cop and be able to hunt down the rat who betrayed you, with a finder's fee for the money confiscated. Die twice and you're out for the round. However, killing your teammates right off the bat is not a good idea, as success will require teamwork.

Alas, not all of the new details about the game's multiplayer options are good. Given that the game is so heavily reliant on the partnership of Kane and Lynch, one would think that online co-op for a pair of buddies would be a given. Not so, says game director Jens Peter Kurup in a recent interview. While the game will still ship with local play for two players, there will be no online co-op. "It's a matter of focus, choosing what you want to deliver at what time," Kurup explained. "We looked at it and decided it was too much of a risk to change our code to be very very good at that, and we're not going to be very very good at other elements."

Early play tests indicate that the new mode still has some kinks to work out—such as the ability to secretly discuss plans with other teammates—but the premise is wholly unique and quite exciting. I was looking forward to Kane & Lynch: Dead Men before, but the multiplayer options have me really excited now. We'll have more on the title as it nears its holiday release for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.

When Google acquisitions go wrong: the disappointing story of Urchin

In March of 2005, Google acquired Urchin Software Corporation, a San Diego-based web analytics company. A few short months later, Google Analytics was unveiled, which was based on "Urchin On Demand," Urchin's javascript-based "Software as a Service" (SaaS) web traffic analytics solution. Urchin customers were generally thrilled about the acquisition, because it was assumed that it meant great things were in store for all of Urchin's customers. In reality, Urchin's core customers have been ignored, product development has stopped on everything but Google Analytics, and companies are wondering why Google took the money and, well, ran. 老域名购买

The problem stems from the apparent fact that Google's interest in Urchin Software Corporation was limited to its SaaS offering. Google has since developed Urchin On Demand into a real powerhouse analytics suite, and given its ease-of-use and cost ("free"), it's amazingly popular. The problem is that Urchin's other analytic tools have been ignored since the acquisition took place, but they weren't supposed to be.

Urchin's most popular analytics software was a server-based log analysis suite known simply as "Urchin." Urchin 5 came in a variety of flavors, priced according to tiers. It could be had for as little as $900, or you could easily pay more than $10,000, depending on the features and support you needed.

Urchin's log-based analysis gave webmasters access to data that is not available to javascript-based solutions (particularly: info for/on non-javascript clients, server-side application errors, custom user tracking, and more). Many customers would much rather have Urchin updated than turn to Google Analytics. Yet Urchin is still sitting at version 5.7, even though version 6 was in testing in late 2004, just before the Google acquisition.

In the wake of Google's purchase of the company, inquiring customers (including Ars Technica) were told that support and updates would continue. Companies that had purchased support contracts were expecting version 6 any day, including Ars. What really happened is this: Google focused its attention on Google Analytics, put all updates to Urchin's other products on the back burner, and rolled out a skeleton support team. Everyone who forked over for upgrades via a support contract never got them, even though things weren't supposed to have changed.

The support experience has been awful. Since the acquisition, we have had two major issues with Urchin, and neither issue was solved by Google's support team. In fact, with one issue, we were helped up until the point it got difficult, and then the help vanished. The support team literally just stopped responding.

As InfoWorld points out in a report on the situation, Google won't comment on if or when an update is coming. The report cites customers who are worried that this means Urchin may be "discontinued." Here's a news flash: when it takes 2.5 years to get an upgrade out that was due shortly after the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series, it's already effectively "discontinued."

Many companies desperately want to believe that Google still takes Urchin seriously, however. I suppose when you pay more than $10,000 for software and support contracts, it's painful to watch a third party walk right in and destroy the value of that software purchase by failing to provide meaningful support and turning its attention elsewhere. "Them's the breaks," as they say: the support contracts never guaranteed upgrades.

Of course, after buying the company, Google is free to do with it as they see fit. It's a shame, however, because Urchin's tools were indeed some of the best, and Google Analytics is not a drop-in replacement. We've long since given up hope of ever seeing 6.0, but given the fact that Google still offers a trial and still directs people to resellers for 5.7, perhaps we shouldn't give up hope just yet.

BitTorrent uses “evil” P2P goodness to speed video streaming

Like a snail slowly hauling itself toward a spider, broadcast-quality video is inching slowly onto the Web. For years, Internet video was small, grainy, and as enjoyable as an itchy back, but consumers are now demanding high-quality footage from broadcasters who want to use the Internet as a new distribution channel. Bandwidth remains a problem, though, especially if the goal is streaming video that can rival the high-def experience available a few steps away on the TV. BitTorrent today announced a plan to ease the bandwidth crunch by bringing some of P2P's outlaw magic to streaming Web video. 老域名购买

The new system, called BitTorrent DNA (Delivery Network Accelerator), applies the basic BitTorrent concepts to file downloads and streaming video delivery, but with a twist. Content is at first distributed through a company's normal channels, usually a content delivery network like Akamai or Limelight.

As the video is streamed to users, though, they begin to cache it locally. The DNA app breaks the video up into bits, and new viewers of the stream will start to draw on peers for data rather than the content provider. BitTorrent estimates that more than half of a company's bandwidth for this sort of streaming can be offloaded onto the P2P network, which is managed and secured by BitTorrent. The system can accelerate Flash and HTTP streaming, and BitTorrent says that it requires minimal backend changes to implement.

Despite repeated cries from content owners about the evils of P2P (and BitTorrent in particular), there's a certain irony in using the system to distribute secure content in a legal fashion on behalf of those same content owners.

Brightcove is one of the first users of the new technology. The company is bundling the DNA technology into its own video streaming solution, which it sells to companies like CBS and Discovery.

"The combination of Brightcove Show with BitTorrent DNA will let content owners stream direct-to-consumer video programming in a full-screen, broadcast-quality format with profound economic efficiencies and a dramatically better user experience," said Ashwin Navin, president and co-founder of BitTorrent, in a statement.

Users will need to download a small application to make all of this work, though, and will find themselves sharing some upstream bandwidth with others (just as in any BitTorrent system). Content owners can use the technology to craft their own streaming sites, and can save a bundle on the massive bandwidth charges racked up when millions of Americans tune in to an episode of Heroes online.

Users get good-quality video that actually gets easier to access the more people that watch it, but the need to install a P2P app could depress adoption rates.

The DNA program looks like a new direction for BitTorrent, which earlier this year struck out on an ambitious path to use its tech to sell legitimate videos. The offerings were DRMed and competed with better-known video download services from Amazon and iTunes. The new move gets puts BitTorrent in more of a back-end role, rather than a customer-facing position, and allows studios, broadcasters, and companies to stream their own content on their own sites where they can control branding, message, and advertising.

Back behind the wheel: A review of Project Gotham Racing 4

Another spin around the track

Project Gotham Racing 4
Developer: Bizarre Creations
Publisher: Microsoft
Platform: Xbox 360
Price: $59.99 (Shop.Ars)
Rating: E (Everyone) 老域名购买

The Project Gotham Racing series have been headline games for Microsoft's Xbox consoles. PGR2 was a major hit with fans on the original Xbox, and PGR3, with its good looks, was a launch title for the Xbox 360. I enjoyed the last release, although a lot of fans felt let down compared to PGR2, and we've been waiting these last two years to see if Bizarre Creations and Microsoft could pull another rabbit out the hat. So with that, on with the show!

As with the previous installments of the series, PGR4 isn't just a straight racing game, where your objective is to make it to the finish line before anyone else. There are straight races, but unlike in Gran Turismo or Forza, you don't win credits, you gain kudos points, and there are more ways of winning these points than simply coming in first place. Perhaps more in common with a skateboarding game, showboating earns you points. Lurid slides, drifts and jumps all score you kudos, and the more kudos you earn, the more of the game you can unlock.

As with most racing games, there's an arcade mode for "pick up and play," and a more involved career mode where you progress through the ranks, earning your stripes. This being an Xbox 360 title, there's the ever-present and ever-excellent Xbox Live for multiplayer, plus a basic livery editor and a place to watch replays. Upon starting the game, you're first asked to pick a nationality; this will become important in multiplayer games, where teams are organized based upon which flag the drivers are competing under. This might have been inspired by the A1GP series, but given the trouble they seem to be finding themselves in, let's hope PGR4 can do better.

After picking your flag, you'll notice something else. The characters in front of you might be wearing helmets, but they're not garbed in virtual nomex; those are bike leathers! Yes, PGR4 isn't just about going fast on four wheels, and it now includes motorbikes, a subject I'll come back to later. So you pick your flag, you choose a helmet and some colors, and then it's time to go racing.

Just like before, the game takes place in different cities across the world, with locations from prior games being included, along with some new ones. The developers have also finally had a good hard look at real street circuits, and as a result have reprofiled a lot of corners to leave a bit of room on the outside, so two-wide through the turns is now a possibility. But whereas before you only had to worry about racing during the day or night, now things have become more interesting with the addition of weather conditions; rain, fog, and even snow are on the cards.

Fog in effect

Rumor suggests Apple is buying up Xeons for Mac Pro speed bump

We got shiny new 8-core Mac Pros in April, but the rest of the line has been somewhat neglected, having last been upgraded in August of 2006. During that time, Intel has released a number of new processors, designed to thrill manufacturers and confuse writers with their names. One such processor, the "Harpertown," is apparently quite popular with Apple. According to The Inquirer Apple is pre-ordering large quantities of the fastest versions. 老域名购买

In this case, the fastest versions are the X5482, E5472, and E5462 which clock in at 3.2, 3.0, and 2.8GHz, respectively. All three of these new models use a faster 1600MHz FSB and have 12MB of L2 cache. Apple has apparently purchased as many of these "top bin" processors as possible, including almost all of the 3.2GHz chips that aren't part of minimum orders for other manufacturers.

I'm guessing that Apple is going to use these new processors for an upcoming revision of the Mac Pro line, perhaps in January. If this rumor is true, the 8-core Mac Pro will certainly get the 3.2GHz chips, which would require a redesign to accommodate the faster FSB. And hey, if you're redesigning one model for a new FSB speed, you might as well refresh them all. The possible offering of 2.8, 3.0, 3.2, and dual-3.2GHz machines would be pretty consistent with Apple's current Mac Pro lineup, and would also explain why Apple is buying so many of the 3.2GHz parts.

If Apple is indeed using the new Harpertown models, the quad-core Mac Pros would use only one processor (perhaps in a dual-socket board), which would make satisfying cooling and related per-processor needs a bit easier. The Mac Pros would also be quite expandable in the future, when prices on the Harpertowns drop. Speaking of prices, word on the street is that the new processors will cost between $800 and $1100 or so.

The Harpertown Mac Pros are coming, it's a just a question of when they'll arrive, and just how many processors Apple is stockpiling in anticipation.