All posts by Pallab De

Pallab De is a blogger from India who has a soft spot for anything techie. He loves trying out new software and spends most of his day breaking and fixing his PC. Pallab loves participating in the social web; he has been active in technology forums since he was a teenager and is an active user of both twitter (@indyan) and facebook .

Muziic Delivers Free Music Whenever You Want, Wherever You Want

Providing full music streams for free isn’t child’s play, but a 16 year old is certainly doing a damn good job of it. Muziic is a free service which utilizes YouTube’s API to provide free streaming music on pretty much every platform.

Muziic-Desktop-Player
Muziic-Desktop-Player
Muziic Desktop Player

Muziic is the brainchild of David Nelson, who manages the service along with his father Mark Nelson. Muziic is currently available as a web player, Facebook app, desktop player and an iPhone app. Any music available on YouTube is also available on Muziic. Additionally, it also leverages publicly available online radio stations.

Muziic-Web-Player
Muziic Web Player

The web player has all the essential features including playlists, shuffle and repeat. It even supports crossfade and features social network integration (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace etc.). I wasn’t able to test the iPhone app, but the Facebook app impressed me. The desktop based player is obviously the most feature packed and is the way to go if you want to make the best use of Muziic. It has a couple of handy additional features including AutoTweet (posts now playing information on twitter) and support for YouTube channels. It is also capable of playing local music files.

Muziic-Facebook-Application
Muziic Facebook Application

Techie Buzz Verdict

I didn’t find too much to complain about in Muziic’s web offerings. However, the desktop app has room for improvement. To begin with, the installer takes an unnaturally long time. Also, Muziic doesn’t allow users to opt out of the bundled free MP3 offer (eMusic). The app itself works well, but the user interface isn’t very smooth.

Muziic isn’t the first service which relies on 3rd party content providers to bypass licensing issues and it is definitely not going to be the last. It’s unlikely that the music labels are going to be too pleased about Muziic freeloading their content without sharing any revenue. However, it has been approved by YouTube and hopefully won’t run into trouble soon. If you mainly use YouTube for listening to music, I am sure you would love Muziic. It offers a great way to listen to the hottest new music anywhere, anytime.

Free-Streaming-Music-Player Listen-To-Music-Online-Facebook

Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5 (Excellent)

[ Visit Muziic.com ]

India’s National Security Adviser Alleges That China Tried to Hack Indian Government’s Computers

China-Tried-To-Hack-IndiaEarlier this week, Google revealed that it was the target of a highly sophisticated cyber-attack originating from China. Now, India has joined the ever expanding list of affected parties.

M. K. Narayanan – India’s National Security Adviser (NSA), has alleged that his office and other government departments were targeted on December 15. The attackers attempted to infiltrate by deploying PDF files infected with a Trojan. It is not known if it’s the same Trojan (Hydraq), which is believed to have been used in the Google Hack Attack. It is also not clear at the moment if this attack is indeed a part of Operation Aurora. However, circumstantial evidence strongly suggests the possibility. Google was also attacked in mid-December and Trojans were one of the vectors utilized by the hackers.

India’s NSA indicated that the Chinese government may be involved and said that, “People seem to be fairly sure it was the Chinese. It is difficult to find the exact source but this is the main suspicion. It seems well founded.” Although, Google didn’t directly blame the Chinese government, many experts suspected that an attack of this nature isn’t possible without government backing. The Chinese government has officially denied any role in the hacking attempts, with a foreign ministry spokeswoman stating that, “Hacking in whatever form is prohibited by law in China”.

Were Google Employees Involved in the Google Hack Attack (Operation Aurora)?

Google-Hack-Attack Google’s threat to quit China and the accompanying revelations managed to send shock waves through the intertubes. In fact its after effects are still being felt. We tried to make sense of whatever little we know about the attack in one of our earlier articles. Check it out if you wish to get caught up on what has been happening.

Reuters is claiming that the attackers were aided from the inside. According to its sources, one or more Google China employees colluded with the attackers. Local media has been reporting that, Google China employees were denied access to internal networks after January 13th, while several staff members were transferred or put on leave.

Google is still in the process of scanning its internal networks and has refused to comment. “We’re not commenting on rumor and speculation. This is an ongoing investigation, and we simply cannot comment on the details,” is the official response.

As we mentioned in our previous article, one thing which we can be certain about is that, we would continue to hear about Operation Aurora in the days to come. McAfee has already dubbed the Google Hack Attack as “a watershed moment in cyber security”. Google is already communicating with the Chinese government and the US government has also officially requested an explanation. Stay tuned to Techie Buzz to get the latest updates on the story.

Get An Overload of Transparency With New Z1-Glass Skin For Opera 10.5

Do you love transparency effects? Do you have a fixation with Aero Glass? Do you love Opera (Browser)? If the answer to any of those questions is no, stop reading. This post does not concern you. However, if the answer to all of them is yes, you must try out the new Z1-Glass skin for Opera.

Opera 10.5 introduces a new skinning parameter which allows it to support transparency for various internal elements. To see it in action, download the Z1-Glass skin from here and place the ZIP file in the Opera/skin directory. Select the skin from Tools–>Appearance.

Z1-Glass With Tabbar on Left
Tab bar at the left

Due to current limitations in Opera’s skinning architecture, the skin works as intended only if your tab bar is positioned on the left or right (or at the bottom without visual tabs). While, the skin is usable with tab bar at top, the speed dial area would appear as solid black (instead of being transparent).

Z1-Glass With Tabbar on Top
Tab bar on top

The skin was mainly created to demonstrate what is possible with Opera 10.5 and contains an overload of glass effect. It may not be to your taste. Also keep in mind that this is created for a pre-alpha build and as such contains some usability issues. One of them is that you would have to reset your configuration on each start-up in order to fix transparency issues (for tab bar at left configuration). Use this button for a quick fix.

First Glimpse of Symbian 4 [Concept Screenshots]

User Interface (UI) has been the Achilles’ heel of Symbian OS. Sure, Symbian is powerful and gets the job done, but it isn’t intuitive by any means. The Symbian OS UI appears to be unnecessarily complex and disorganized when compared with the likes of iPhone and Android.

Symbian-4-UI-Screenshot

Nokia knows this and is working on making future versions of Symbian more intuitive. It is expected to showcase Symbian^3 at the Mobile World Congress (to be held next month), and has already begun working on Symbian^4. However, Symbian^4 won’t be here until late 2009 or early 2010.

Symbian-4-UI-Screenshot-Home Symbian-4-UI-Screenshot-Photos

Symbian^4 will be implementing the Direct UI paradigm which supports touch and hybrid devices. Moreover, Symbian S60 applications will be re-written using Orbit widgets and QT APIs.

Symbian-4-UI-Screenshot-Video-Player

Currently, Symbian^4 UI elements are merely at the proposal stage. The final release may differ significantly from the concept interface demonstrated in the screenshots.

[ Download Symbian^4 Concept Proposal ]

How Much Does It Cost To Develop a Video Game?

Developement-Cost-Games

Creating high quality video games for modern consoles and PCs is a tough job. Churning out the latest ultra-realistic chartbuster requires hundreds of people working behind the scene for thousands of hours. So exactly, how much does it cost to develop a video game?

M2 Research analyzed the condition of the gaming industry in 2009 and found that development costs for the current generation consoles have soared. While, prior consoles had a development cost ranging between $3 and 5 million per platform, the average costs for modern consoles are around $10 million for one platform and $18-$28 million for multiple platforms.

Casual and social games obviously have a lower development cost. Development cost for most of these games (having a development cycle of 6 months) is between $30k and $300k. Mobile and iPhone games cost even less, generally in the range of $5k – $20K per title.

While chartbusters like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 raked in billions of dollars, the soaring development and production costs represent a huge risk. As a result most newcomers are focusing on being smart about choosing their target audience and ensuring a good ROI (return on investment).

Apple Fights Back: Attempts to Ban All Nokia Imports in the US

Apple-Nokia-Patent-LawsuitThe patent squabble between Apple and Nokia just reached new heights. As expected, Apple has chosen to go on the offensive, while reacting to Nokia’s ITC (International Trade Commission) request to ban Apple device imports in the US. Apple has decided to file an embargo request of its own. Notice of Apple’s complaint was posted yesterday on ITC’s website

The dispute started when Nokia sued Apple for infringing its patents and demanded royalty for a bunch of technologies related to GSM, UMTS, and Wi-Fi. Later on, Nokia filed a more comprehensive complaint which covered various implementation details including camera sensors and touchscreens.

It would certainly interesting to see who eventually emerges as the winner. However, a typical ITC hearing (if granted), takes in excess of a year. So get a pack of popcorns and enjoy the ride.

Microsoft Bing Gets Its Own (Not So Short) URL Shortener

BingMicrosoft has taken a plunge into the URL Shortening market with its own URL Shortener – Binged.it. The massive surge in Twitter’s popularity has bolstered the URL shortening market and it seems that every one wants to have their own short URL.

Binged.it is not yet public and is currently available only for internal use. According to SeattlePi, Microsoft is collaborating with Bit.ly on the URL Shortener. Microsoft didn’t reveal exactly what it wants to do with Binged.it. However, I don’t see Binged.it gaining much traction. The main point of a URL Shortener is to be short. Is.gd is 4 characters, Fb.me (Facebook) is 4 characters, Goo.gl is 5 characters, Youtu.be is 7 characters while Binged.it is 8 characters.

Why Microsoft decided to use a name which is longer than its original domain name (Bing.com) is beyond me. Sometimes, Microsoft’s stupidity can reach baffling heights. This is one such occasion.

Not Only Is Bing’s Crawler (MSNBot) Slow, But Also Stupid

microsoft-bingLast week, a Program Manager at Bing Webmaster Center had admitted that MSNBot is fairly slow at indexing. However, that is not the only problem that plagues the bot utilized by Bing to index the web. It also happens to be quite stupid.

MSNBot was single handedly responsible for knocking out the CPAN Testers server. In a weird demonstration of incompetence, Microsoft Bing unleashed 20-30 bots every few seconds, which pretty much amounted to a denial of service (DOS) attack. In order to avoid this kind of unwanted problems, most other search engines (including Google) have a policy of allowing only one bot to access a site at a time.

The webmaster also alleges that MSNBot ignored the rules specified in robots.txt. If true, it is a particularly troubling issue, since robots.txt was created in the first place to control various automated bots. Recently, GitHub also experienced similar problems with the MSNBot.

MSNBot seems to be in a desperate need for an upgrade. If Microsoft is serious about challenging Google’s dominance, they should begin paying more attention to their crawler. It’s not a good practice to allow your bot to crash webservers.

Google Hack Attack (Operation Aurora): What We Know

Google-Hack-Attack-Operation-AuroraYou must have heard by now that Google was the target of a “highly sophisticated” attack originating out of China. Details about the hack attack, which has been dubbed by McAfee as Operation Aurora, have been trickling in since Google’s explosive revelation. Here is what we know so far.

The Targets

Google was not the only target. At least, 20 companies were targeted in this hack attack including, Yahoo, Adobe Systems, Juniper Networks and Rackspace Hosting.

The Goal

One of the primary objectives was to gain access to the Google accounts of human rights activists. It is also probable that Yahoo was targeted for the same reason.

The Vehicle

The attacks are notable for their complexity and sophistication. The hackers used multiple levels of encryption and took unprecedented precautions to avoid detection. An unknown exploit in Internet Explorer was utilised by the hackers to gain control of target systems. The exploit affects all versions of Internet Explorer since IE 6 and can be exploited on Windows 2000, XP, Server 2003, Vista, Server 2008, Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2. You can see the exploit in action over here. Microsoft has published a security advisory and is working on a patch. In the meantime, it is recommended that you do not use Internet Explorer.

Internet Explorer was not the only vector used by the hackers. Vulnerabilities in Adobe’s Reader and Acrobat were also among the weaknesses utilised by Operation Aurora.

What’s Next?

The sophistication of the attack has led some researchers to conclude that the Chinese Government was behind the attacks. Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department spokesman has stated that the US Government will formally ask China for an explanation. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already informally asked for an explanation.

We will be hearing a lot more about Operation Aurora in the days to come. One thing which is certain is that the issue won’t die quietly.

GodMode Creator for Windows 7 and Vista

Earlier this week, we took a look at the much hyped God Mode‘ trick and explained how it works and why it isn’t Godly after all. The God Mode trick simply uses Globally Unique Identifiers (GUID), which point to certain special folders.

Ed Bott provided the GUIDs for 39 useful Windows 7 and Vista shortcuts. Now, the folks at TheWindowsClub have created a free utility to easily create God Modes in Windows 7 and Vista. The utility contains 38 useful special folder shortcuts. Simply click on an icon and it will automatically create the respective shortcut on your desktop.

God-Mode-Creator

Techie Buzz Verdict

God Modes act as simple shortcuts to various special folders already present in your system. They don’t reveal any hidden settings and as such are only useful for providing quick access to frequently used options. The GodMode Creator is a straight-forward app, which simplifies this process by automatically creating the shortcuts for you. However, the main limitation of this app is that, the shortcuts are always created on your desktop. There is no option to specify the target directory.

Techie Buzz Rating: 2/5 (Average)

[ Download GodMode Creator for Windows 7 and Vista (32bit only) ]

‘Google’ Word of the Decade, ‘Tweet’ Word of the Year

Google-Word-of-the-Decade Technically speaking the decade isn’t yet over. However, that hasn’t stopped the American Dialect Society from declaring that ‘google’ is the word of the decade. The American Dialect Society is a scholarly association dedicated to the study of English language in North America, which is apparently more than a century old.

Why should we bother about the findings of a society which doesn’t even know how to count years? Well, there is no real reason. Anyway, the society selected ‘tweet’ (noun, a short message sent via the Twitter.com service, and verb, the act of sending such a message) as the word of the year and google’ (a generic form of Google,meaning to search the Internet) as the word of the decade. Other nominees for the world of the decade included ‘blog’, ‘9/11′ and ‘Wi-Fi’.

‘Fail’ (a noun or interjection used when something is egregiously unsuccessful) was selected the most useful, while ‘Dracula Sneeze’ (covering one’s mouth with the crook of one’s elbow when sneezing, seen as similar to popular portrayals of the vampire Dracula, in which he hides the lower half of his face with a cape) was adjudged the most creative.

Other categories included most unnecessary, most euphemistic, most outrageous and least likely to succeed words. Go ahead and check out the full report if you like useless fun stats.

Is Firefox Planning To Drop Extensions in Favor of JetPacks?

Mozilla-Jetpack-ExtensionIn many ways extensions are what defined Firefox and helped it carve out an identity for itself. Extensions are the reason why many early adopters and opinion makers switched to Firefox in the first place. And extensions continue to remain the reason why so many opinion makers and tech enthusiasts continue to swear by Firefox.

Firefox’s extensions are almost infinitely powerful and allow users to truly make the browser their own. However, extensions have their own disadvantages. First of all, developing and maintaining extensions for Firefox isn’t easy. Maintaining a popular extension requires significant amount of time and energy. The other problem is that, extensions have a considerable overhead and can be responsible for major issues including instability, UI quirks and memory leaks.

Google Chrome recently introduced their own extensions gallery, which was generally well received by both developers and users. Chrome’s extension architecture is a lot more restrictive than Firefox’s. While this potentially limits what you can achieve through extensions, there are several advantages. To begin with, Chrome’s extensions have little or no impact on browser performance. They are also significantly easier to develop and maintain.

Mozilla has been experimenting on similar lines with Personas and Jetpacks. Jetpack is basically an API which permits development of Firefox extensions using existing web technologies, while Personas are light-weight skins for Firefox. Mozilla hopes to significantly boost Firefox’s developer ecosystem by simplifying the development process.

Firefox Architect Mike Connor discussed the benefits of Personas and Jetpacks at length in a recent blog post. He also revealed that Firefox wishes to move away from extensions and emphasize more on Jetpacks in the future. However, don’t get worried. Your favorite extensions aren’t going to vanish all of a sudden. This is only a general direction Firefox wishes to take in the future. If and when, this change happens, most of your favorite add-ons should be already available on the new API.

It is likely that Mozilla has been contemplating on this switch for a long time. There are tradeoffs to be made. XUL overlays will have to go. Although Jetpack add-ons are faster and lighter they lack tight and polished integration with the UI. It’s not surprising that many Firefox fans resent even the suggestion of ditching the current extension architecture. However, the success of Google Chrome extensions has undoubtedly emboldened Firefox.

How to Enable Windows Media Player Taskbar Toolbar in Windows 7

If you have used past versions of Windows, you are probably familiar with the Windows Media Player taskbar toolbar (or taskband). The taskbar toolbar used to be triggered whenever Media Player was minimized and provided a quick and convenient way to control playback. Unfortunately, this feature was dumped in Windows Media Player 12, which ships with Windows 7. However, Justin from WinMatrix has found a way to enable Windows Media Player toolbar even in Windows 7.

Windows-Media-Player-12

  • You will first need to get a copy of the %programfiles%\Windows Media Player\wmpband.dll file from a WMP 11 installation. You can obtain it from your friend’s system or you can use the download links provided at the end of this post. Remember that you must copy from a system with the same OS architecture (i.e. 32 bit or 64 bit).
  • Paste this file in the %programfiles%\Windows Media Player directory.
  • Type services.msc in the Start Menu and hit Enter. Ensure that Windows Media Player Network Sharing Service is stopped.
  • Start command prompt as administrator by typing cmd in the Start Menu and pressing Ctrl+Shift+Enter.
  • Type regsvr32 “%programfiles%\Windows Media Player\wmpband.dll” and press Enter.
  • Restart the Windows Media Player Network Sharing service (if you had stopped it earlier on).
  • Windows-Media-Player-12

  • Run Windows Media Player and minimize it. Right click on an empty spot in the taskbar and select Toolbars –> Windows Media Player. Ignore the warning and you should get the Windows Media Player taskbar toolbar.

Microsoft Office 2010 RTM Coming in April, New Build Leaked

Wzor gained notoriety during the Windows 7 beta phase, for consistently leaking internal builds and they are at it again! They have just leaked a new internal build of Microsoft Office 2010. The leaked build has version number 14.0.4730.1007 and is newer than the publicly released Beta build.

Microsoft-Office-2010-Leaked

Exactly what has changed in this new build is unknown at this point of time, however superficial changes are limited. Wzor expects Office 2010 to be finalised sometime in April. This is in line with Ars Technica‘s earlier report that, Microsoft is aiming for a June 2010 release. Microsoft has already revealed pricing for various editions of Office 2010.

The leaked builds are available in both 32 bit and 64 bit flavours at the usual places. Original CRC, MD5 and SHA-1 checksum values are as follows:

MICROSOFT.OFFICE.2010.BETA.2.BUILD.
14.0.4730.1007.X86.VOLUME.ENGLISH-WZT
BUILD: 14.0.4730.1007
FILE: 14.0.4730.1007_Select_volume_ship_x86_en-us.rar
SIZE: 3,330,331,324 byte
SHA1: 0997E4521B0DCB28134E35FA4CF947199904654C
MD5: BE566DE7521B28005A4F759709FAFED2

MICROSOFT.OFFICE.2010.BETA.2.BUILD.
14.0.4730.1007.X64.VOLUME.ENGLISH-WZT
BUILD: 14.0.4730.1007
FILE: 14.0.4730.1007_Select_volume_ship_x64_en-us.rar
SIZE: 3,775,757,630 byte
SHA1: 9F05F340EEB972D1CDC48B7AE9E4826C25FB0629
MD5: 56C681DD5677ED1E09B9719414C03ECB

Disclaimer: Please be careful while installing leaked releases. They have not been tested by us and may contain malware or other exploits.
[via Redmond Pie]