What's Next: Chrome OS will have at least some friends in high places

What's Now | What's Next main bannerThe problem with awful neighbors is that the drama never ends, as South Korea would doubtless be the first to tell you. Officials there, having scanned the code that powered the recent DDoS attacks on that nation (and, apparently, the US), were braced for attacks Thursday afternoon (local time) on seven agencies.

South Korea under cyber-attack again

Afternoon of Thursday, July 9, 2009, Seoul time • The news outlets in Seoul are, naturally, all over this one. Yonhap News Agency names the seven targeted sites -- the South Korean branch of eBay is on the list -- and reports that plans to develop a national cyberdefense system have been accelerated. (You don't say.) Al Jazeera, speaking with both South Korean and US sources, notes that whoever's launching the attacks doesn't appear to be using machines based in North Korea.

In a more positive vein, The Korea Herald has an information protection professional at the Ministry of National Defense on the record as saying that no classified information was compromised in previous attacks, and Wired's Kim Zetter (writing from, presumably, the USA) talks to those who've examined the attack code itself and found it creaky, clumsy and C++-based.

State snoop sentenced

July 8, 2009 • A former State Department employee who thought it would be fun to look up the personal information of about 50 famous people to satisfy his "idle curiosity" over the course of several years (July 2005 - February 2008) caught a curious $5,000 fine and one year of probation for his trouble. He's the third department employee to be sentenced for the breaches, which included snooping on the passports of various candidates in the 2008 Presidential election.

Computerworld's Jaikumar Vijayan has the details on Gerald Lueders' sentencing for his unauthorized frolicking on the State Department's Passport Information Electronic Records System (PIERS) database. Blogging for BLT: The Blog of LegalTimes, Jordan Weissmann notes that of the three men sentenced since December, Mr. Leudens accessed the fewest records -- and is the only one to have gotten slapped with a fine.

Neopets scam neopoops on computers

Morning of July 9, 2009 • Bot-scat is everywhere as a social-engineering scam targeting kids playing on their parents' computers wreaks havoc -- stealing the kids' in-world treasures, not to mention their parents' credit-card info, and depositing botware on the system to boot.

Meg Shannon at Fox News has details, but it's pretty basic social-engineering stuff: Kids are told that they can create their own Neopets paintbrush (a highly sought-after prize in-world), and all they have to do is download and install a special program. Yeah, it's special all right: "Zealot" at MobilitySite puts it best, snarling, "Hackers who use keystroke captures and botnets to prey on other, less adept computer users are pretty low in my book...how much lower are they then when their preferred targets are still in grade school?"

Microsoft, EU edge toward a settlement

The sooner the better > After leaving the bargaining table in a huff last month, it seems as if Microsoft is ready for preliminary negotiations designed to put its legal woes in the European Union behind it. There are a couple of time sensitivities here: Microsoft would like to settle matters before sanctions start, and EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes is leaving her post at the end of the year and would like to wrap all this up by then.

Matthew Newman, Bloomberg's man in Brussels, had the drop on this situation. The Register's John Oates snarks that the time constraints make it high time for "last orders in the Last Chance Saloon."

Google names names as prospective Chrome OS partners

2010 if not sooner > After having said yesterday that Google would only have more to say about Chrome OS later in the fall, the company's Sundar Pichai took some more time out yesterday apparently to answer some critics who didn't think Google was all that serious about its intentions.

Betanews speculated that Acer would be a likely partner for Chrome OS, and sure enough, we were correct. (We immediately celebrated by comparing this morning's Google blog post to the Bill of Rights.)

On Google's short list of partners, evidently in the netbook category, are Acer, Asus, HP, Lenovo, and Toshiba. In the "smartbook" category, we find Qualcomm, which is a longtime licensee of the ARM Core -- the essential ARM IP portfolio necessary for a small manufacturer to produce embedded devices. Qualcomm supplies those devices with essential chipsets, especially for networking. We also find TI, Freescale Semiconductor, and curiously Adobe, which may be licensing Flash video technology to Chrome OS. That'll at least put it ahead of Apple, which doesn't seem ready to license Flash even by the time the first Chrome OS-endowed netbook ships.

Noticeably absent from Google's list: Dell, which has been a long-time partner of Microsoft, but the only no-show member among the Top 5 notebook producers; and both Intel and AMD. Intel, of course, has its own netbook Linux, so it will be a principal competitor. But an endorsement from AMD at this point might have been a real boon to Chrome OS, indicating that it's comfortable sitting on the fence at this point over whether netbooks constitute a viable category.

Thursday's tech headlines


• Ryan Tate brings some sanity to those breathless ZOMG GOOGLE CAN HAZ OS!!!!1 reports one saw here and there yesterday, pointing out that "OS" is in this case marketing talk; what's under development is more of a shell over Linux.

• The SEC is still investigating Apple's behavior concerning Steve Jobs' health, in case you forgot while the stock was off nearly doubling during the six-month leave of absence.

• ASCAP is looking into the possibility of suing certain YouTube users for embedding videos with members' music on their sites.


• Rumor (fueled by Robert Scoble, who lives for that stuff) has it that Google announced Chrome OS this week because Microsoft's got a big announcement on the docket for next week's Worldwide Partner Conference. Could it be Gazelle-related?

• Has Eric Schmidt got such a potential conflict of interest between Google's OS interests and Apple's that he ought to be kicked off the latter's board of directors? Some observers, mainly journalists, think so. (Fake Steve Jobs, OTOH, seems to have canned him already -- in his NSFW world, anyway.)

• Could cutting down the number of colors displayed trim OLED power consumption by as much as 40%? Researchers at Simon Frazer University think so, though everyone seems to hope you're not that into blue.

Ars Technica

• Google held a contest for researchers to seek out vulnerabilities in their Native Client (NaCl) apps-dev project, and they've announced that the winners uncovered an even dozen bugs -- ten of which the dev team has squashed so far. You can see the list of all bugs found on Google if you like.

• Slow-roasted for maximum flavor, or something like that: VLC 1.0 is released after ten years on the stove.

• So seriously, how many people has the RIAA sued at this point? Nate Anderson chases down a remarkably slippery number.


• The family of Jonathan James, a suspect in breaches at TJX, OfficeMax, and other enterprises, says that the 24-year-old killed himself last year after Secret Service agents raided his house looking for evidence in those felonies. In his 5-page suicide note, James, who was the first juvenile sentenced to confinement (six months' house arrest) for hacking, said he didn't do the deed but believed he was about to be scapegoated for it.

• Can Chrome OS make people love Linux on netbooks? Priya Ganipati is skeptical.

• Alexis Madrigal has a lovely photo essay on the Bevatron, a Bay Area atom smasher (once the world's largest) that's being demolished.

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