Antigua Government Planning to Open Legal Warez Portal

Legal piracy might become a reality soon, if the Antigua Government goes through with its plans. Antigua has been trying for more than a decade to get United States to repeal its prohibition of cross-border gambling services. Gambling revenues, which forms a significant chunk of Antigua’s GDP, fell from $2,392 million in 2001 to $948 million in 2007 as a result of the US ban. Now, Antigua is looking to fight back by striking at the US entertainment industry.

Antigua Government wants to run a pirate site, which will offer movies, music, and software for free. TorrentFreak is reporting that in a meeting held in Geneva, the World Trade Organization authorized Antigua’s request to suspend U.S. copyrights. This confirmed the preliminary authorization Antigua received in 2007, after the WTO found the Internet Gambling Ban to be illegal. The original ruling had basically granted Antigua a free ride in matters of copyright violations, as well as patent and trademark infringements.

“These aggressive efforts to shut down the remote gaming industry in Antigua has resulted in the loss of thousands of good paying jobs and seizure by the Americans of billions of dollars belonging to gaming operators and their customers in financial institutions across the world,” Antigua’s Finance Minister Harold Lowell explained to TorrentFreak.


Ideally, the Caribbean island hopes to resolve the dispute before having to open the warez site. However, so far, USA hasn’t shown any inclination to comply with the 2007 WTO ruling. Antigua’s piracy website will be more about registering its protest than causing real harm. Downloaders seeking pirated material already have plenty of sources, including the notorious ThePirateBay. However, that hasn’t stopped music records from going platinum and movies from raking in hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s unlikely that Antigua’s website will.

MS Research and UN Plan to Simulate the World’s Ecosystem

MS research and the UN have planned to undertake the massive task of simulating the ecosystem of the entire world. The plan has been revealed in a recent Nature article titled “Ecosystems: Time to model all life on Earth”. The article is behind a paywall, but for those who can access it, the link goes here. Work on this project has been undertaken at the World Conservation Monitoring Center (WCMC) of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), and scientists from Microsoft Research and the WCMC are working together on this project.

The scientists working on this project specialize in biodiversity assessment, and claim that,

This type of model could radically improve our understanding of the biosphere and inform policy decisions about biodiversity and conservation.

As part of this project, the team of scientists will build General Ecosystem Models (GEMs), which will simulate environmental processes like reproduction, migration, death, and feeding. This will provide valuable statistical data to plan and design conservation efforts for the ecosystem. A similar model called the General Circulation models (GCMs) is already in place, which is used to simulate climate changes as well as oceanic changes across the world.

The project is focusing on development of a number of competitive and cooperative models instead of a single model. This will keep the development process competitive, and will create a number of simulations that can exchange ideas and improve over time.

Here is a short interview on Forest Dynamics by Drew Purves, who is also the head of the Computational Ecology and Environmental Science Group at Microsoft and a part of the GEMs project.


Kim Dotcom Confirms 250,000 Registered Users on Mega [Updated]

Update: Kim Dotcom who spoke at the launch of the service at his mansion in New Zealand revealed that his new site Mega has passed 1 million users.

A few hours ago Kim Dotcom launched his new encrypted cloud storage service MEGA in the U.S. offering 50GB of storage for free and three PRO tiers of 500GB to 4TB for $13-$40 a month.

Kim Dotcom confirmed that in less than one hour 100,000 users registered on the site, intimating it to be one of the fastest growing startups in the history of Internet. With such a huge response, MEGA servers are experiencing overload, while many users on Twitter are complaining that the site isn’t loading and are stuck at the registration page.

At the time of writing the post, Kim confirmed in another tweet that MEGA crossed 250,000 user registrations with server capacity in maximum load! According to is.up, the site currently appears to be down:


Kim Dotcom Mega Launch Press Conference

Kim Dotcom’s New Mega is Launched

The long wait is over finally, as Kim Dotcom is back with his rejuvenated version of Megaupload. The new website is being called Mega, and it has been launched a few minutes ago. Mega comes with a bold tagline of “BIGGER. BETTER. FASTER. STRONGER. SAFER”, which sounds both appealing and challenging at the same time. The launch day also commemorates the Megaupload takedown, which affected Kim Dotcom’s personal life adversely. This launch has an undertone of revenge!


As a service, Mega is still in its beta stage. It boasts of being “The Privacy Company” and offers 50 GB of storage for free users, and strong encryption. With these features, it might give Google Drive, RapidShare, Dropbox and all other cloud storage solutions a tough competition.

The Mega website also quotes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 12, stating,

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference.

This reboot of Megaupload enforces 2048-bit RSA key encryption of all data stored on the Mega servers. They even have a fancy name for it — User Controlled Encryption (UCE). This solves two problems. The encrypted data cannot be sniffed by anyone without proper authorization, which will keep the user safe from prying eyes, as only his own key can be used to decrypt the data. Moreover, this will keep Kim Dotcom out of trouble because he cannot be held responsible for encrypted data stored on his servers.

Visit the new Mega at

Temple Run 2 Released for iTunes

The addictive Temple Run 2 was #1 on Apple’s App Store charts just a few hours after its launch. This free game has been released for the iPhone and iPad only so far. The Android version is expected to release on January 24.

Its improved graphics have taken advantage of the retina display available. The new scenery, at some temple in the sky, appears more vivid and spectacular. There is no doubt that this game’s improved visual itself makes the upgrade to version 2 well worth it. Though the background music could do with an improvement.

There are a couple of new touches as well. Users can still pick an avatar, the same ones as in version 1, but now you have to buy most of them. You can move to the next level only on meeting your achievements in a particular order in the game (this is time consuming). The monkeys have disappeared and are replaced by one monster ape. Also, you can stretch your run after you make a slip. This is done by finding or purchasing gems through the game, which no doubt will make it more addictive than ever. Personally, I advise all you fellow Temple Run addicts to watch your app store credit. By encouraging you to buy a lifeline in the middle of a game, it is like the capitalists are catching your wallet at your most vulnerable moment.

The best thing about this version of temple run is that it still stays true to its original game. You don’t have to learn anything new. Just keep running and navigate the obstacle course. It is easy enough to learn, but once you get the hang of it, this game is very hard to give up. The popular social angle is that you can compare your score with your friends.

Twitter has been awash with angry Android fans over the delayed release. The developers at Imangi Studio is a small team though, and seem keen to keep it that way. Their focus seems to be on their blockbuster game and taking advantage of hardware upgrades by mobile device manufacturers. Overall, this game is more challenging than its previous version.

“How far can you run?!,”

Images from

Google Doodle Honors Zamboni

Zamboni Doodle

Today, Google honors Frank Zamboni with a really cool video game doodle. From where I sit, the weather is freezing rain and cold so this doodle seems very appropriate on a day like this. The doodle is reminiscent of the old Atari arcade games, except the graphics are a little better. The premise of the game is pretty simple. An ice skater comes out and messes up the ice. It’s your job to operate the Zamboni machine to resurface the ice. There is a catch though, you have to make sure you don’t run out of gas. Each level presents a little more difficulty. It’s not a bad way to pass some time while you are bored.

So what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear Zamboni? For me, hockey came to the top of mind however, for many, it may be ice skating that comes to mind. That’s OK because Zamboni has been honored by both sports by being inducted in the World Figure Skating Hall Of Fame in 2006 and the US Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009. Zamboni’s ice resurfacer was actually patented with his name and like Coke is to the soft drink world, Zamboni is the name most associated with all ice resurfacers, even if it’s a different brand. Zamboni also developed technology to clean indoor turf and to remove paint stripes from turf too. The Zamboni family still runs the company he started in the 50’s. The company has sold over 10,000 ice resurfacers.

If you would like to learn a little more about Zamboni, play today’s doodle and at the end of the game you will see a little magnifying glass symbol. Click that symbol and you will be taken to all kinds of facts about Zamboni from Google.

End of the PC Era: Dell Buyout, Problems for Microsoft and Intel

After Apple launched the iPad in 2010, the technology market was disrupted. The PC gave way to touchscreen tablets. Many Goliath’s at the time, like Dell, Microsoft, and Intel saw the tablet market as being complimentary instead of as a substitute to their PC and laptop market.

“Tablets have dramatically changed the device landscape for PCs, not so much by cannibalizing PC sales, but by causing user shift to tablets,” says Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst of Gartner.

The end of the PC era seemed all too clear with the dismal earnings shown by HP and Dell last quarter. Today it seems that Dell, which is the master of custom-delivered computers, is in talks for a buyout. Sources have said that Silver Lake Partners was in discussions with Dell for a leveraged buyout at around $13 to $14 per share. This will be one of the largest deals since the global recession.

This is seen as a desperate attempt by Dell to focus on new areas away from its core PC business. Its decline has been the worst in its sectors after its shipments fell by 21% to 9.2 million. This news resulted in a surge of its stock price to $12.29.  Dell has declined to comments on these developments.

Consumers are flocking towards tablets. A recent study has already claimed that at the current rate, tablets will outsell notebooks this year. This may be due to the booming tablet market in China and the recession. The report explains that tablet shipments will reach more than 240 million units worldwide this year, with notebooks forecast to reach 207 million units.

After Microsoft launched Windows 8 in October last year, the expected boost to their sales would have come from users who upgrade their operating systems, in addition to users who buy new PCs or laptops. However, the declining PC sales (down 6.4% in the last year) will give them cause for concern.

The rise of mobile systems is not helping Intel either. Its era of extraordinary profits and market invincibility seems to have come to an end. Intel’s shares have fallen by over 7% last year. Its competitors are chip manufacturers for tablets and smartphones who have to work with smaller profit margins. Having said that, Intel’s server chip market is still growing very fast. This is mainly due to the rise of cloud services. Also, Intel is fighting back with a strong focus on Ultrabook laptops that have touch screens.

(Source: Gartner and Reuters)

Microsoft’s New ‘holodeck’ Turns Your Room into a Giant Screen

Microsoft shows off its “Holodeck” system to recreate your room into a more intense cinematic experience. Microsoft has refused to revel details on how this works until it is presented in Paris at the CHI conference on human-computer interaction this April.

Imagine your game spilling off from your screen onto your entire room wall. That should make things more interesting for sure. It will move gaming to a whole new level. Microsoft has submitted a patent application in the US Patent Office. Patent application ‘Immersive Display Experience‘ was filed by Gritsko Perez on behalf of Microsoft on 2 March 2011.

The idea has been sketched out shows that the foal point of the game will be seen on the screen, but the surrounding area will fill your room walls.

Microsoft has described the Holodeck as,

It augments the area surrounding a television screen with projected visualizations to enhance the traditional living room entertainment experience.

User enjoyment of video games and related media experiences can be increased by making the gaming experience more realistic. Previous attempts to make the experience more realistic have included switching from two-dimensional to three-dimensional animation techniques, increasing the resolution of game graphics, producing improved sound effects, and creating more natural game controllers.

Again, this seems to be a counter to Apple’s iGlasses, except that this is more multi-viewer than single viewer. The peripheral image would be created by a 360-degree projector and would adjust as the gamer moved around in the game, and in the room. Eye-tracking tech would ensure that the scene shifts as the user looks around it. A special built in mechanism would avoid shining light into the user’s eyes.

Perez’s application also suggests that the image could be adjusted to the shape and even color of the room to optimize the experience.


Facebook Launches New Graph Search

After a teaser from Facebook to “Come see what we’re building”, the web was awash with speculation. Ideas on what it could be ranged from a smartphone to redesign of a popular component. In addition to its existing two pillars of Timeline and the Social Graph, Facebook has announced its third pillar named “Graph Search.”


This event was met with great excitement and hope. Stocks were trading at $31.25 before the event, up by 1%. Zuckerberg began by extolling the virtues of Facebook’s “live” database, which led to the development of the Graph Search. As Google has its search engine and Apple has Siri, this is a natural progression for Facebook to rein in some of their competition too.

The Graph Search is still under development. It is being rolled out in its Beta version. You can sign up for a wait list at

Graph Search is supposedly filling a gap that Google search can’t fill yet. It allows you to search through photos, people, interests, and places. For example, Graph Search can be used for dating if you look up “friends of friends who are single.” This search can also extend to searching for professional colleagues as well.

Another example that was quoted by Zuckerberg,

A few months ago, he and his wife Priscilla were trying to determine which photos to use on their holiday cards. He looked up photos of him and Priscilla, and Graph Search pulled up a grid of photos. The photos with the most “likes,” engagements were pushed to the top. “It’s such a warm and engaging experience,” he says.

(Source: WSJ)

The Graph Search will pull results from Microsoft’s Bing for queries that it cannot answer. There are plans to integrate this search engine with Instagram at a later stage. Speaking of photographs, you cannot opt out of the Graph Search, though you can untag pictures of yourself (that you do not want to be discovered). For those concerned about their privacy, this search can only look through content that you have authorized to share.

As Facebook’s has a strong ex-Google brigade led by Sheryl Sandberg, this move escalates the competition between these two companies for advertisers. Monetization is a key issue for Facebook. Google has been able to handle this more successfully. The success of the Graph Search will depend on the level of engagement of its users. The more its users post within Facebook, the less will be the need for a Google search.

You can watch a promo video about it on

Now Sleep Comfortably with your Headphones

Remember how annoying it is to have your headphones or earphones fall out or become too bulky while you are trying to sleep. SleepPhones is your answer to those problems. They are lightweight, washable, and removable from their fleece headband. They even come with a sleep CD for those of you who prefer to fall asleep to relaxing sounds instead of music.

The SleepPhone has just won a prestigious awards at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It’s wireless version is set go on sale in April 2013. It comprises a fleece headband that has earphones embedded in it. The manufacturers claim that it will not cause your partner to wake up next to you. Its website also claims that it is safe to use while working out in an external environment as it allows you to hear traffic sounds along with your music.

This device can use either a wire or a bluetooth connection to connect to your phone or music device. Currently the wired device is available for $40, but the wireless version is expected to release in April retailing for $80.

Its creators are Wei-Shin Lai, MD and Jason Wolfe. 

The firm began selling the product in 2007. Dr. Lai has claimed that inspiration came as follows,

“In 2007, I had trouble falling back to sleep after patient phone calls late at night as a family doctor. ‘My husband suggested that I listen to something to take my mind off of patient concerns. Since I didn’t want to disturb my husband while he slept, I needed headphones or ear buds I could wear in bed. But there was nothing comfortable on the market so I came up with stuffing speakers inside a headband.”

The device can be used for sports, for sleep, and so on. They definitely need to come out as a stronger style statement though.

(Source: Reddit)