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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

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

Games Grandpa used to play

GAMING: A nostalgic look back at games of the 90’s

I first started playing computer games when I was about 10 – on our very first 486. However, when the Pentium was released and entered our household, I was distraught that I could no longer play my old games due to compatibility issues.

Then I discovered a website called Abandon Games dot com which hosts an arsenal of games that are no longer on the shelves. These golden oldies are available for free download, and there are also downloadable emulators, such as Dosbox, that allow one to play these games on today’s potent PCs.

Over the last few years I have gathered quite a collection of these out-dated treasures. I still play them regularly, and would like to start sharing some of my favourite ones with any die-hard gamers. (Links to more game reviews appear at the end of this post).

Let us begin with…

DUKE NUKEM 3D
Time to kick ass and chew bubblegum

Aliens have invaded LA and it’s your job to take them out

One of the first respectable “3D” first-person shooters, Duke Nukem 3D is a blast from the past that’s a great deal of fun. You are Duke – a blonde haired Nazi look-a-like with sunglasses glued to his head, whose favourite phrase is, “it’s time to kick ass and chew bubble gum!”

You have an arsenal of unique weapons at your disposal to do just that, including double rocket launchers attached to your bulking biceps. There is also no shortage of ammunition to fuel your array of lead-eaters.

The baddies are your usual breed of alien such as floating eyeballs and scaly monsters that clearly failed beauty school. There are also the usual ‘bosses’ to test your metal against at the end of each thrilling chapter.

Duke 3D is a fast-paced, action-packed shoot-em-up with respectable graphics considering that it was released in 1996. The story-line is simple yet a more complicated plot would only detract from the purpose and fun of the game.

I find golden oldies such as these great stress-relievers, whether you play them for five minutes or five hours. The controls are simple making the game easy to get used to. There is also a dedicated team of gamers that play Duke 3D online which is where you can test your skills and prove yourself as the Aryan top-dog.

All of the games reviewed here are available for free download at www.abandongames.com

Link: Download Duke Nukem 3D

Related Reviews:
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: Stunts
Games Grandpa used to play V: California Games
Games Grandpa used to play VI: Civilization