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The Pirate Bay

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THE PIRATE BAY: It’s web piracy for dummies

IN December last year, 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 home page. 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

The Pirate Bay homepage

How it 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 certain 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 then.

The Pirate Bay is still primarily funded by advertisements but supporters or users also have the option of donating money towards the pirate cause. There are also Pirate Bay T-shirts available for purchase off the website — 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
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 far 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.

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 illustrates my point about the 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 lawers on their side.

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 tibers.

IMPORTANT NOTICE
The downloading and distributing of copywrited 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.

Related article: The Dark Web explained

Farcical extremes

GREEN DAM: Latest Internet screening programme takes
its duties to farcical extremes – but China is adopting it

Green Dam uses colour and form recognition to zoom in on potential expanses of naked flesh.

BEIJING — What do Johnny Depp, Garfield, Paris Hilton and roast pork have in common? In China, the answer is that a new government-mandated Internet filter rates some pictures of all four of them as bad for your moral health.

Beijing has ordered all personal computers sold in China since the beginning of July to be preinstalled with the Green Dam software, which it says is designed to block pornographic and violent images, and which critics fear will be used to extend censorship in the country.

But a trial of the programme, which is available online for free download at www.skycn.com/soft/46657.html, suggested its filters may be of limited use to worried parents.

When the software is installed, and an image scanner activated, it blocks even harmless images of a film poster for cartoon cat Garfield, dishes of flesh-coloured cooked pork and, on one search engine, a close-up of Johnny Depp’s face.

With the image filter off, while searches with words like “nude” are blocked, a hunt for adult websites throws up links to soft- and hardcore pornography sites, including one with a video of full penetrative sex on its front page.

Green Dam has not detailed how it scans images for obscene content, but computer experts have said it likely uses colour and form recognition to zoom in on potential expanses of naked flesh.

Programme settings allow users to choose how tightly they want images scanned. When too much skin is detected, Green Dam closes all Internet browsers with no warning, sometimes flashing up a notice that the viewer is looking at “harmful” content.

But the interpretation of obscene is apparently generous enough to include the orange hue of Garfield’s fur and, on the highest security settings, prevent viewers clicking through to any illustrated story on one English news site.

The software also allows users to choose what they want to filter for, and besides adult websites and violence, categories include “gay” and “illegal activities”.

Another setting allows Green Dam to take regular snapshots of a user’s screen and store them for up to two weeks — ostensibly so parents can monitor computer use by minors.

But it could also potentially leave security officials a track of computer use by a suspected dissident, or be a gift to fraudsters who are on the hunt for online bank details and private information.

Western governments and trade groups have asked China to reconsi­der implementing Green Dam software based on concerns ranging from cyber-security and performance of the software to Internet freedoms.

— Sapa-AP

Related post: Porn to be a teen

First Android phone in SA

MTN has teamed up with HTC distributor Leaf International Communications to launch the HTC Dream mobile handset. This mobile device is the first in South Africa to make use of the new open source Android operating system, which is owned by one of the world’s best known brands, Google.

The HTC Dream gives users one-touch access to their favourite Google products such as Google Search, Google Maps, Gmail and YouTube. Unlike other operating systems that treat search functionality as an “extra”, the entire Android operating system was moulded around the core of search functionality.

HTC Dream

The software is completely open source and allows users to download a host of free applications as well as customise every facet of the HTC Dream – from the dialler, browser and photo viewer, to the core applications normally locked into the operating system.

“MTN is proud to be the first operator in South Africa to offer its customers a revolutionary smartphone that will change the way we use mobile technology,” says Donovan Smith – General Manager of Consumer Segments at MTN SA

FEATURES
The HTC Dream features a large, sensationally crisp 3.2-inch (8.1 cm) display with a resolution of 320X480. The touch-sensitive screen navigation is finger-friendly and super intuitive. The display switches from portrait to landscape mode when the keyboard is opened. It has a sliding five-row QWERTY keyboard that comes with a set of six navigation buttons.

The HTC Dream includes a GPS receiver and a microSD card slot that supports storage capacities of up to 16GB. The device comes standard with a 1GB microSD card. A fast, full web browser brings the power of the web to your phone and displays up to eight web pages simultaneously to open networks.

All applications integrate seamlessly with one another, alert you to events occurring in other applications and allow you to switch in and out of functions while on a call.

“The HTC Dream with Android will cater for any type of user whether you are a university student or the CEO of a company. By giving our customers instant access to Google services, we are ensuring that MTN sets the pace with innovative and convenient product offerings in both the local and African telecoms market,” says Smith

In view of the advanced data capabilities and applications offered on the HTC Dream, MTN is offering it to customers on the MTN AnyTime 350 package for R529 per month, which includes R350 worth of airtime and 100MB worth of data per month. With MTN’s new broadband offer, once the inclusive 100MB is used up, customers can buy as many additional data bundles as they need.

Sweet!

Lucky Number Seven?

REVIEW: A quick look at the all new Windows 7 operating system

Windows 7IF there is to be any war that is sustained longer than the Iraqi war, it will be the war on Microsoft.

There is a growing group of Windows users who would eagerly take up any opportunity to assassinate Bill Gates for all the pain and frustration that his Microsoft operating systems have caused. The numerous versions of Windows that currently exist attest to the fact that the operating system has never quite been perfected.

Windows Vista is one such version. What was expected to be the crème de la crème of all Windows operating systems — the one version to rule them all — it was met with countless bugs, system crashes, and several instances of users’ pulling out their own hair.

Vista is going down in Windows history as a failed project and we are entering into a new operating system era with the instalment of Windows 7. But we’re going to have to wait a little bit longer.

Windows 7 RC
Microsoft has launched the release candidate (RC) version of its forthcoming Windows 7 operating system. The RC version, which will be available as a free download until July, is the “next-to-final” release of the operating system that will likely replace Windows Vista on most desktops in the coming years.

According to mybroadband.co.za, there is much to like about Windows 7, just as there was much to dislike about Vista when it was first released. The initial impression offered by Windows 7 RC is that of a “lighter” operating system.

Among the complaints about Vista is that it does not work with some software designed for the previous operating system, Windows XP, and that it is it too much for netbooks or older computers to handle.

Gone are the heavy-handed and memory-demanding approaches of Vista in favour of a desktop that is clean and attractive without feeling bloated. In its place is a desktop that feels pared down with just the necessary controls in sight.

Some cool windows 7 concept art 

Performance
A central impression that Windows 7 offers is one of speed – lite-speed in comparison to Vista. Starting with the install, which needs just a handful of clicks and enough time for a cup of coffee, right through to a running desktop, Microsoft has succeeded in getting Windows 7 to feel really nimble.

Running on a desktop PC with 2GB of memory and a dual-core Intel processor running at 2,53GHz, Windows 7 is quick in responding to commands and loading applications.

One of the major drives behind Windows 7 has been to ensure that the operating system boots up and shuts down as fast as possible — something Microsoft has managed to get right. With the growing market for netbooks (ultra-portable laptops), modern operating systems are being designed to take advantage of new processors like Intel’s Atom and startup and shutdown within seconds. Windows 7 RC already boots a lot faster than Windows Vista and, depending on hardware, starts up in similar times as Windows XP.

Desktop appeal
The desktop is not noticeably different to the beta release version of Windows 7 and is still appealing to the eye. It borders on the “minimalist”, but still manages to add to the overall sharp impression.

The most obvious benefit of Windows 7 is the significant reduction in what could be called “interference”. Microsoft has been working on reducing the levels of interference for users by limiting the number of pop-ups and warning notices — a common occurrence in Vista.

This is all to do with the changes to “user account control”, which, instead of constantly popping up warnings of impending doom and danger, are slightly muted and less obtrusive. They’re still there, but definitely not with the same vigour as before.

Windows 7 is currently being tested on netbooks, which are increasingly popular, low-cost mobile computers designed essentially for accessing the Internet and running a few simple programs.

The taskbar in Windows 7 is a great deal better than the taskbar offered by Windows Vista or XP. However, it has a tendency to undermine itself with its own cleverness, something you’ll either love or hate.

For the uninitiated, the taskbar operates as a series of “flyouts”, which are smaller representations of open Windows. They’re pretty and functional, but could be just as effective without the flashy popup windows.

One complaint about the taskbar is that by default the open windows are all crammed together on the taskbar, which can make it messy if you have too many windows open. Fortunately the default settings can be tweaked to “group-open” windows — based on applications when a threshold number has been reached.

The president of Microsoft has made just as many promises as any other. Let’s hope this one sticks to his and that the war on Windows can finally end.

— Original article at: www.mybroadband.co.za

  • THE Windows 7 release candidate (7 RC)version can be downloaded for free until July this year and is available as both a 32-bit and a 64-bit version. The 32-bit version comes in at a little under 2,5GB, while the 64-bit version is a lot bigger at 3,2GB.
  • Interestingly, Microsoft has said that users who download Windows 7 RC will be able to run the software for free until June 2010 before being required to purchase a copy, which is a very long trial period given that Windows 7 Final is expected to be released later this year.
  • Windows 7 RC can be downloaded from http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/download.aspx

Related article: Windows 7 beefs up multimedia

Google Earth takes to the oceans and enters space

Earlier this week Google Inc. launched a new version of Google Earth that allows users to explore the oceans, view images of the planet Mars and watch regions of the Earth change over time.

The new features mark a significant upgrade to Google Earth – a popular software program that provides access to the world’s geographical information through digital maps, satellite imagery and the company’s search tools.

Google Earth 5.0 was unveiled at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, where former Vice President Al Gore and others spoke about its capacity to educate the public about global warming, ocean acidification and other threats to the planet.

“This is an extremely powerful educational tool,” said Gore, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work raising awareness about global warming. “One of my fondest hopes is that people around the world will use Google Earth to see for themselves the reality of what’s happening because of the climate crisis.”

More than 500 million people have downloaded Google Earth since it was launched in 2005. The software is available for free on Google’s website. Researchers and organisations can purchase a more powerful version for $400.

Oceans in Google Earth
Something fishyJohn Hanke, director of Google Earth and Maps, said the idea of adding oceans came three years ago when a scientist pointed out that the software was missing the water that covers almost three-quarters of the Earth’s surface.

Google Earth users can now plunge beneath the ocean’s surface, explore three-dimensional images of the underwater terrain and view articles and videos about marine science contributed by scientists and organisations around the world.

Internet users are now able to fly over and around underwater seamounts or follow scientific research expeditions as they mine the depths of the oceans for new species and discoveries.

The new ocean tool from Google is being dubbed has one of the best tools for protecting our oceans. According to experts, less than one percent of the Earth’s oceans are protected, compared with 12 percent of the land surface.

A key creation of the project is the Marine Protected Area layer, which contains information on over 4,500 protected sites spread around the globe and is conceived as an interactive tool that anybody can contribute to. Anybody can now dive in and explore the natural beauty, learn what threats these protected areas face and find out what they can do to help.

Exploring the future and beyond
Explore space...The Historical Imagery feature lets users see archive satellite images of individual locations to see how the region has evolved over time as a result of climate change and other forces. For example, viewers can observe how the largest glacier in Glacier National Park has melted over the past decade.

Google has also made connections with the Hubble Space Telescope – a large space-based observatory which has revolutionised astronomy by providing unprecedented deep and clear views of the universe. These images range from our own solar system to extremely remote fledgling galaxies forming not long after the Big Bang.

With Google Mars 3D users can view three-dimensional, satellite imagery of the Red Planet taken during NASA space expeditions.

The new version of Google Earth also allows users to created narrated tours of places using the software’s content and images.

“It’s not just a fun demo,” said Google CEO Eric Schmidt. “What it really is, is a platform for science and research and literally understanding the future of the world.”

– Original text supplied

For more information on Ocean in Google Earth visit:
www.protectplanetocean.org

Download Stunts Free

Farting around on the inter-webs the other day I came across something that kept me entertained for hours (would have been days if I didn’t pass out on my keyboard and wake up to find “gfdhhhhhhhhhh” recurring on my monitor). So because it’s Christmas and I’m in a festive mood I thought I’d share this one with you. Christmas is all about the presents after all 🙂

STUNTS
If you have a Need for Speed yet perhaps lack the hardware requirements to run the latest racing games, then Stunts is for you.

Also known as 4D Sports Driving, Stunts features everything one could possibly want in a racing game: sharp turns, ramps, loops, extreme jumps, corkscrews, and lots of speed.

Players can choose from 29 tracks and 11 different cars and either race these against the clock or challenge up to six differently-skilled opponents.

One can also choose between manual and automatic transmission, switch between four different camera views, and save your insane wipeouts, stunts, and write-off crashes as instant replays.

Courses like these make for great instant replays
Awe ye!

In addition to all this is a built-in track editor that allows you to design your own tracks. With this you can choose to ice your track with snow, rough it up with gravel, or smooth the surface with a selection of paved roads.

Stunts was originally written for MS-DOS and therefore runs in 320×200 with 256 colours. However, it has a relatively advanced pseudo-physics engine for its time (1990), which is able to simulate oversteer and understeer.

Although Stunts is now more than 18 years old, it remains a popular and addictive title that maintains a large fan-base worldwide. It has seen a few World Stunts Meetings and there are even still online competitions held whereby players can send in their saved replays via e-mail.

• Stunts is available for free download via the link below and is a mere 1mg zipped file. Also note that you’ll probably need to run the game in DOSbox with Mo’slo, otherwise you may have almost no control over your car! May make for better replays though…

Links:
Download Mo’Slo
Download DOSbox
Download stunts now!

Related posts:
Games Grandpa used to play I: Duke Nukem 3D
Games Grandpa used to play II: The Lost Vikings
Games Grandpa used to play III: The Curse of Monkey Island
Games Grandpa used to play IV: California Games

Small acts. Many people. Big change

MXit has put its innovative technology to work to help raise HIV/AIDS awareness this World AIDS Day. If you have been living in a cave or under a rock, this day is today.

The company has teamed up with SANAC (South African National AIDS Council) to launch an innovative campaign that will simultaneously raise HIV/AIDS awareness amongst a key target group – the youth of South Africa – and raise money for future projects.

MXit has a subscriber base of 10 million, mostly made up of 16-25 year old South Africans, who thus represent a huge segment of the population.

CEO and founder, Herman Heunis, says that the MXit platform can be a positive force in South Africa today and that this campaign is an example.

“The MXit brand stands for the evolution of technology and communication and we constantly try to push the envelope with what is possible using this platform. MXit is more than just games and chat – we support an entire lifestyle – and see ourselves very much in this role” – Herman Heunis

The initiative, which kicked off on Friday, works in the same way as conventional advertising campaigns on MXit. Users are invited to download special World AIDS Day ‘skinz’ (artwork/photos with which users can customise their MXit interface) onto their mobile handsets at a cost of R1 (100 moola) per download. This is around half the usual price of a skin download. All the profits will go to SANAC.

Mike Carter, Account Manager at MXit, said Metropolis (SANAC’s media agency), had booked 5 million splash ad impressions – which are viewed when a user launches MXit – to ensure the call to action is loud and clear.

“MXit is the largest youth portal in the country and with it we can get this message out to a crucial segment of the population. Given the massive mobile penetration rates here in SA, it makes sense to use the cellphone medium for mass communication for this campaign” – Mike Carter

MXit has also been sending a broadcast message to its entire active database since Sunday to supplement the 5 million splash ads.

As a further incentive to get involved, users who download the World AIDS Day skinz stand a chance of winning one of two Nokia 6210 Navigator phones, which were donated by Nokia SA.

Mark Heywood, SANAC Deputy Chairperson, said that the organisation has planned an historic and unprecedented campaign for World AIDS Day 2008 and that the MXit initiative formed a crucial part of their strategy.

“Our mission this year is a massive one – we want to get every person in South Africa to think about HIV in relation to themselves and their communities this World AIDS Day and are using the MXit medium as well as radio, newspapers and civil society bodies like churches and trade unions to do this” – Mark Heywood

In addition to the one minute of silence planned for noon today, SANAC have also initiated 15 minutes of national dialogue, in which they hope work-places will stop and encourage discussion around the HIV/AIDS challenge.

“The campaign slogan developed by the Jupiter Drawing Room and Metropolitan Republic is “Small acts. Many people. Big change. We shall overcome.” The belief is that this encapsulates the immense power that rests with the technology-enabled social networks of today.

Can we trust that we can make a difference? To add the inspirational Barack Obama slogan: “Yes we can!”

•SANAC is a body made up of 18 different civil society sectors, including religious bodies, trade unions and government, amongst others, and aims to be the leading force in the country’s fight against HIV/AIDS.