Windows-friendly desktop Linux launches

The latest version of Xandros desktop Linux has arrived, continuing the operating system's mission to welcome Windows users--a mission that's led some in the Linux community to dismiss it as "Linux with training wheels."

Xandros 4.0, the first version of the operating system in 18 months, includes features to read and write Windows-formatted drives and import user settings from Windows installations. It's based on v3.1 ("sarge") of Debian, with improvements from the Linux Standard Base (LSB), thanks to the DCC Alliance's Common Core.

Xandros' distinctive feature is its effort to carve out a commercial niche as an easy replacement for Windows. "The target audience of Xandros is primarily corporates looking to switch their workstations from Windows NT/2000 to Linux," commented one user on a Debian discussion board. "They've gone to great lengths to mimic the look and feel of Windows for this reason."

The OS includes Paragon Software's NTFS for Linux, which allows users to read-write to Windows-formatted drives, so they can add the operating system and still have access to work they did in Windows.

It includes the WINE-based CrossOver Office from CodeWeavers, an emulator that allows users to run Windows applications. It also imports settings and data--including e-mail, photos, desktop sound and music--from Windows XP and other versions, using Versora's Progression Desktop.

For consumers, the basic Home Edition costs $39.99. To get full versions of the Windows immigration programs, users will have to pay $79.99 for a Premium version. Users of earlier Xandros versions can upgrade for less money. The Premium version also caters to iPod users, with a music manager based on amaroK, and includes a photo manager, improved wireless connectivity and better security.

A business version, Xandros Desktop Professional, is coming in September, with support for Active Directory, multiprocessing and hyperthreading support. It will also have a centralized control application for enterprises, called Xandros Desktop Management Suite.

The OS has the KDE 3.42 desktop interface, and the usual open-source applications Firefox, Thunderbird and OpenOffice. At the other end of the scale, a free version, using only Xandros code and GPL code from others, is also planned.

Although several Linux desktops are bidding to replace Windows, they've made only small inroads. The Xandros team believes the way to change this is to start from where users are now.

"It's not intended for intermediate Linux users, or Linux users who enjoy the bleeding edge, customizing their OS, or learning all the intricacies of the powerful Linux operating system," commented one discussion board user. "It's for people who have work to do and want to get it done with as low a learning curve as possible."

Computers breed new addiction

Game over ... Michael Aspinall, whose addiction to computer games cost him his marriage and job, is receiving therapy.

Game over ... Michael Aspinall, whose addiction to computer games cost him his marriage and job, is receiving therapy.
Photo: Ken Irwin

Addiction to computer games is as serious as gambling and drug use, a psychologist has warned.

Computer game addicts spend so much time playing they can lose their jobs, break up their families and stunt their social development, says clinical psychologist Jo Lamble.

The co-author of a book on internet relationships, Ms Lamble is urging authorities to act.

"I have seen a steady increase in the number of computer game addicts," she said. "Mostly it's the partners or parents who come asking for help as the gamers don't even know they have a problem.

"Gamers report they feel much calmer when they are playing and feel euphoric when they win. Playing the games sets up a series of patterns, habits and routines that are addictive in the same way drugs are."

Overseas, the problem has become so great that clinics are opening. One in Amsterdam is swamped by calls for help. In the US, the Computer Addiction Study Centre in Massachusetts is treating dozens of addicts.

In South Korea, gaming is a national obsession and experts warn it is a bigger addiction concern than alcohol, gambling or drugs.

Computer games are booming in Australia. In the first six months of this year, $343 million worth of games were sold, up 8 per cent on 2005.

Games distributor Electronic Arts said 53 per cent of Australians played computer games regularly - 13 per cent more than Europeans.

Michael Aspinall, 34, of Melbourne, is in therapy after playing intensely for 10 years. He would play for eight hours a day and said if he didn't get his "fix", he'd be anxious and irritable.

"I used to take caffeine tablets to stay awake to play," he said. "Then I would smoke marijuana to come down off the high the game gave me."

Mr Aspinall said his marriage broke up over his addiction and he lost his job because he was always tired. When he was unemployed, he locked himself in his room and played 20 hours a day.

"In the games you can be somebody you're not . . . you live a life you would like to lead," he said.

Mr Aspinall spent tens of thousands of dollars upgrading hardware, internet speeds and buying games.

"It's not just the money you lose, but your life. You become out of touch with society altogether."

Don't like your search results? Edit them

Wikia Search, the nascent search engine that's promising it won't store your search terms for the benefit of creepy advertisers - or even creepier intelligence services - is beginning to look the part. A bit, anyway.

The site has finally delivered on one of its unique features, Users can now edit, annotate and re-order search results. Their changes will be reflected in the search index and seen by other users.

The idea is to have the community of users help sort the good stuff from the trash. Just mouseover a search hit and a bunch of options appear to the right - letting you edit, annotate, spotlight (highlight in garish yellow), comment or delete. You can also re-order the hits by upscaling or downscaling the importance of a hit.

To suddenly have some measure of control over search results is great fun, it has to be said. But it's clearly highly open to abuse.

A list of "white pages" - that must not be deleted from the index - will be kept to try and defend against that. Just like Wikipedia has a strong core of volunteer editors who help keep site vandalism and spam down, so Wikia Search must create its own watchdogs.

Since it launched in a less-than-popular alpha version in January - which didn't have editing features - Wikia Search's distributed Grub crawler - running on volunteers' PCs like SETI@home - has indexed 30 million webpages. That's small, if not infinitesimal, compared to the more than 20bn Google has indexed. But because Search Wikia is offering something very different I think we should give it a chance to prove it is worth.

Tell us what you think of Search Wikia: does it have legs? Or is it a disaster on stilts?

Silicon chip filters out cancer cells

IT'S harder than finding a needle in a haystack. Unusual or rare cells, such as those that cause the spread of cancer, are difficult to isolate from thousands of other cells in a sample.

Now a new device has been developed which can direct and focus streams of cells in a liquid, and even separate them out according to size. "We can take a stream of cells and focus, defocus and reflect it as if it's a light beam," says Robert Austin of Princeton University, who developed the device with colleagues from Princeton and Boston University, Massachusetts.

The device is a silicon wafer studded with rows of tiny pillars through which a liquid containing particles of various sizes is made to flow. Due to friction, the liquid flows more slowly close to the pillars than midway between them. Small particles are unaffected by this, but those above a critical size ...

Laptops could betray users in the developing world

IN JANUARY, a court in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, sentenced a young journalism student to death. Sayed Pervez Kambaksh's crime was to download and distribute a document about Islam and women's rights to his fellow students at Balkh University in Mazar, an action that the court considered blasphemous. Despite widespread international condemnation, the Afghan Senate later passed a motion confirming the death sentence.

Kambaksh was caught because some of his fellow students reported him to the authorities. But oppressive governments could soon have a simple way to track the internet activity of their citizens directly, potentially paving the way for many more such cases.

For security reasons, sensitive data sent over the internet, such as that used for online banking transactions, is digitally signed at source with a signature that can be traced to the user's computer. This helps validate their identity and guard against fraud. The system is known as non-repudiation, because the person creating the digital signature can reasonably be assumed to be the source of the sensitive data and, in a fraud case, for example, cannot repudiate this.

If this system were to become the default setting for all traffic on a network, there would be nothing to stop authorities from tracing the source of any online activity, says Len Sassaman, a computer security researcher at the Catholic University of Leuven (KUL) in Belgium. Users would be stripped of their anonymity and authorities could identify anyone that criticised them. "If countries like Afghanistan were to switch to a system where the user cannot refute any action they took on the internet, I suspect we'll see more cases like Kambaksh's," says Sassaman.

Now Sassaman and his colleague Meredith Patterson at the University of Iowa in Iowa City claim a prominent philanthropic organisation is inadvertently in the process of introducing just such a system across the developing world.

The One Laptop per Child foundation (OLPC), the brainchild of Nicholas Negroponte, hopes to provide children around the world with a cheap laptop, called the XO, and access to the internet. But rolling out internet-ready laptops to inexperienced users across the developing world poses a huge security problem, not least because the devices could easily get stolen.

To minimise this risk, the OLPC security team, formerly led by Ivan Krsti at Harvard University, developed the Bitfrost security model. Bitfrost has garnered praise from security experts around the world for its innovations, such as its anti-theft system, P_THEFT. Each laptop automatically phones an anti-theft server each day, sending its serial number. The server responds with an activation lease, valid for the next 24 hours. Any laptop that has been reported stolen is denied activation and becomes a useless lump of plastic and metal. While this will discourage theft, Sassaman and Patterson think there is a crucial element missing from the Bitfrost security model - personal privacy.

Because the XO laptops will often be used in areas with limited internet connectivity, the OLPC team chose to use a mesh network, in which all XO computers in the region act as nodes. This means a message might pass through many XOs before it reaches its target, so each one is digitally signed to authenticate its source. While it is possible to use a digital signature that simply confirms the device is legitimate without identifying it, Bitfrost uses non-repudiable digital signatures. These can be traced to a specific laptop and - since children must register their details with a central database on taking possession of their XO - an individual child.

"If a government happens to be monitoring, perhaps by inserting itself into the network between two XOs, it can prove to the world that the communicating parties said what they said," says Sassaman. Then, taking advantage of the P_THEFT system, the government could silence the user by simply denying their laptop a new activation key.

Steven Murdoch, a privacy and security researcher at the University of Cambridge, says that Sassaman and Patterson have made a useful contribution to the Bitfrost model. "What I found most surprising about the Bitfrost specification is that it doesn't appear to consider governments as a risk to security," he says.

Simson Garfinkel, a former security consultant for OLPC, dismisses the claims. He says Bitfrost does not use the signature to track user activity, adding that the model was intensely scrutinised by security experts after it was developed.

"It's an issue of intent versus possibility," counters Sassaman. "They may not intend for the signatures to be used for non-repudiation, but it's possible to use them for this purpose."

That won't be an issue, says Ricky Greenwald, a clinical psychologist and founder of the Child Trauma Institute in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Governments won't need to monitor the internet activity of 5 to 10-year-olds. "Children that age are more likely to use their computer for games and schoolwork," he says. It's very unlikely that a child's laptop would be deactivated by an oppressive regime, he says.

Sassaman disagrees. "Remember where these computers are being deployed," he says. "We have 11-year-olds in some of these countries being drafted as child soldiers. Why would we not want to give them the ability to whistleblow?"

Furthermore, Sassaman points out that it is unlikely that XO laptops will be used by children alone. "The OLPC project is laying the groundwork for a major network across the Third World," he says. "It's rather short-sighted to think that this would be limited to children, or to education." With rumours that an adult XO programme is in development, it is important to tackle security issues now, he says.

To this end, Sassaman and Patterson are working on a modified version of Bitfrost that will allow XO laptops to identify each other without eroding the privacy of their users. Their work is at a preliminary stage, but will be based on existing cryptographic techniques that cannot be used for non-repudiation.

With recent changes at the OLPC project it remains to be seen how widely Bitfrost will be installed in the XO laptops (see "Education, or just the laptop?"). The security system was designed to run alongside the Linux operating system and the experimental Sugar graphical user interface developed for the project. Last month, however, OLPC announced that the latest XO laptops will run Windows XP, although the foundation said the machines will eventually be able to run both operating systems. So far, there are 1000 XOs in Mongolia and 8000 in Uruguay using Bitfrost, with thousands more due to be delivered this year. Other countries that have agreed to buy XOs include Peru, Libya, Nigeria and Rwanda.

Meanwhile Walter Bender, the former president of software and content at the OLPC, has begun talks with a number of ultra-low-cost laptop manufacturers that might see Sugar deployed on non-XO laptops in the near future. "Bitfrost is a far-reaching design," Bender says. "Much of it is of general use, and aspects of Bitfrost will be folded into the Sugar efforts."

Sassaman welcomes this development. "Don't get me wrong, Bitfrost is a highly ambitious project. It's an application of lessons learned in software security and in that respect it has done a great job," he says. "They just happened to overlook a significant issue - user privacy. But those problems can be fixed without changing the goals of Bitfrost."

At the time New Scientist went to press, after four months of international pressure, the Afghan authorities appear to be on the verge of freeing Kambaksh. With modifications to Bitfrost, Sassaman and Patterson hope that, in similar cases, at least people's computers won't betray them.

New 'super-paper' is stronger than cast iron

Punching your way out of a paper bag could become a lot harder, thanks to the development of a new kind of paper that is stronger than cast iron.

The new paper could be used to reinforce conventional paper, produce extra-strong sticky tape or help create tough synthetic replacements for biological tissues, says Lars Berglund from the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.

Despite its great strength, Berglund's "nanopaper" is produced from a biological material found in conventional paper: cellulose. This long sugar molecule is a principal component of plant cell walls and is the most common organic compound on Earth.

Wood is typically about half cellulose, mixed with other structural compounds.

Support network

In plant cell walls individual cellulose molecules bind together to produce fibres around 20 nanometres in diameter, 5000 times thinner than a human hair. These fibres form tough networks that provide the cell walls with structural support.

"Cellulose nanofibres are the main reinforcement in all plant structures and are characterised by nanoscale dimensions, high strength and toughness," Beglund told New Scientist.

Cellulose is extracted from wood to make paper, is the basis of cellophane, and has also recently been used by materials scientists developing novel plastic materials. But they have used it only as a cheap filler material, ignoring its mechanical properties.

However, the mechanical processes used to pulp wood and process it into paper damage the individual cellulose fibres, greatly reducing their strength. So Berglund and colleagues have developed a gentler process that preserves the fibres' strength.

Tough as iron

The new method involves breaking down wood pulp with enzymes and then fragmenting it using a mechanical beater. The shear forces produced cause the cellulose to gently disintegrate into its component fibres.

The end result is undamaged cellulose fibres suspended in water. When the water is drained away Berglund found that the fibres join together into networks held by hydrogen bonds, forming flat sheets of "nanopaper".

Mechanical testing shows it has a tensile strength of 214 megapascals, making it stronger than cast iron (130 MPa) and almost as strong as structural steel (250 MPa).

Normal paper has a tensile strength less than 1 MPa. The tests used strips 40 millimetres long by 5mm wide and about 50 micrometres thick.

Dissipating stress

The secret to the nanopaper's performance is not only the strength of the undamaged cellulose fibres, but also they way they are arranged into networks. Although strongly bound together, they are still able to slip and slide over each other to dissipate strains and stresses.

The individual cellulose fibres are also much smaller than in conventional paper. "A regular paper network has fibres 30 micrometres in diameter, here we are at a scale three orders of magnitude smaller," says Beglund. "The material [has] very small defects compared with a conventional paper network."

"This [work] shows quite clearly the potential for cellulose nanofibres to provide a basis for reinforcement," says Stephen Eichhorn, a polymer scientist at the University of Manchester, UK.

Form Follows You, Nokia 888 Concept Cell Phone

Today the considerable consumers for the gadgets are the youngsters those who are always on the move and always looking for fresh new things. Manufacturers do take this segment seriously and keep developing new products for them. Nokia has come out with what they call is Nokia 888 Form, a perfect phone for the youngsters which allows them to be free and have fun. It is simple, light and carefree as one can change the form according the needs.

The Nokia 888 design is aimed to show case the activity prone life of youngsters thus it can adjust to the moment and function used. Technology used is that of liquid battery, speech recognition with flexible touch screen and touch sensitive body cover which lets the same understand and accordingly to the environment. It’s easy to carry as it can be bent and rolled and put into the cloth like a clip if not carry it around the wrist or as a usual phone. So this is one instrument that is form fitted for the youngsters.

nokia888 cell phone concept

nokia888 cell phone concept

From the website :
*design concept
“Form follows you”
A personal mobile communication device which lets you be free and fun. It is light, simple and carefree. You can change its form according to your needs during the day.

*how the user interacts
E-motions… It means electronical motions that 888 has. You can send and receive forms from / to friends. You can send a heart shape to your girlfriend, so her telephone turns into an icon of heart. Or you can send a dancing form to your friends to call them to the party tonight. This is the fun side of the product. If we look from the functionality side, 888 is quite flexible. You can put it into your pocket, roll it and make it smaller, or put on your wrist when you want to make a video call on the go. If you want to talk like a normal telephone, there you have your telephone shape. We go through a lot of places and situations in the daily life, so it seems like one form is not enough.

nokia888 cell phone concept

nokia888 cell phone concept

nokia888 cell phone concept

Designer : Tamer NAKISCI

The Morph Concept Phone from Nokia

Another innovative design concept from Nokia, the morph concept. Featured in The Museum of Modern Art ?Design and The Elastic Mind? exhibition, the Morph concept device is a bridge between highly advanced technologies and their potential benefits to end-users. Developed by NRC (Nokia Research Center) in collaboration with the Cambridge Nanoscience Centre (United Kingdom), Morph is a concept phone that using nanotechnology which enables materials and components that are flexible, stretchable, transparent and remarkably strong. Users should be able to transform their cell phone into different shapes.

nokia morph phone concept

From the website :
“Morph concept technologies might create fantastic opportunities for mobile devices: * Newly-enabled flexible and transparent materials blend more seamlessly with the way we live
* Devices become self-cleaning and self-preserving
* Transparent electronics offering an entirely new aesthetic dimension
* Built-in solar absorption might charge a device, whilst batteries become smaller, longer lasting and faster to charge
* Integrated sensors might allow us to learn more about the environment around us, empowering us to make better choices”

We probably see this technology another 5-7 years in the future, by using nanotechnology, hopefully can lead to low cost manufacturing solutions and the possibility of integrating complex functionality at a low price.

future nokia morph phone concept

nokia morph futuristic phone concept

nokia morph phone concept

Source : Nokia

A SLIQ Cell Phone Concept Made of Recycled Aluminum

SLIQ cell phone concept is made of recycled aluminum which offers a lightweight, durable, and responsible alternative to plastics. The screen in an organic LED screen. High brightness is achieved at low drive voltages and they use 40% less power draw than conventional LCDs. Their manufacturing process consumes less power and raw materials. The crack power offers a solution to powering up when abroad where power conversion is not always available, crank is turned on. Electromagnetic charge is transferred to battery, no dead phone.

sliq cell phone concept

sliq cell phone concept

sliq cell phone concept

sliq cell phone concept

Designer : Mike Serafin via IGreenSpot

Redesign Eiffel Tower Proposal

Updated : News of Paris-based Serero Architects’ installation at the top of the tower has been declared a hoax by La Societe d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (SETE). Apparently, some blogs claimed that this proposal is actually going to happen. But there is one problem, the tower management company has never planned to change the appearance of one of the most instantly recognizable buildings in the world.

By redesigning Eiffel Tower based on Serero Architects proposal, I believe this tower will make more bold statement as iconic symbol of French. Serero Architects have claimed victory in the open competition to redesign Eiffel Tower’s public reception and access areas. Serero’s project will extend the top floor plate of the tower by grafting a high performance carbon Kevlar structure on it. The structure will be temporarily bolted to the slab without requiring any modification of the existing structure. Imagine of having the experienced to see fantastic 360 degrees sight of Paris, priceless. It will be very exciting if this proposal gets approved and built.

eiffel tower

redesign eiffel tower

eiffel tower new concept

eiffel tower new construction

eiffel tower anniversary awards winning

Designer : Serero via Bustler

Citroen C-Design Competition 2008 Winners

The Winner of Citroen C-Design Competition is Ognyan Bozhilov from Bulgario with his Citroen Sledge Design. Citroen C-Design Competition objectives is to design an object intended for everyday use using Citroen vehicle parts. The genius Ognyan Bozhilov has created stylish snow sled consisting of C4 Picasso’s rear seat, C3 steering wheel, C3 Pluriel’s roof pillars and the spoiler from a C4 Coupe.

See the other winners below …

citroen sledge by ognyan bozhilov

Citroen Sledge by Ognyan Bozhilov

citroen c zero by francesco castiglioine morelli

Citroen C Zero by Francesco Castiglioine Morelli

citroen aileron stair by jose luis gomez vaiz

Citroen Aileron Stair by Jose Luis Gomez Vaiz

The Aura : Combining Traditional Healing Methods with Cutting-Edge Technology

The Aura is a concept for future of personal health care. The concept includes lightness, simplicity and futuristic design. Aura is made up of monitoring, therapy and protection of personal health. Its monitoring pert involves looking into a bowl and then the Aura performs its process of monitoring your mood and health, and when you touch it, The Aura monitors the body temperature and heartbeats. The color and sound influences the external and physiological health. The white light across the bowl shows the color and images in the vessel. By keeping an eye on the health part, you can throw away the health problems. If you repeat it for some period of time, the Aura will provide you health security. Hence, the Frog shares a design concept for your health care with the combination of traditional healing methods and technology

the aura future health concept

the aura future health concept

the aura future health concept

the aura future health concept

Designer : FrogDesign

Citroën’s C-Métisse Car Concept at Festival of Speed at Goodwood This Year

One of the models that sure will grab eye balls at this year’s Festival of Speed at Goodwood would be the Citroën’s C-Métisse concept. Its appearance is the first in the UK for this 155mph supercar which made its debut at the 2006 Paris Motor Show.

It’s marked by front and rear gull-wing doors, with an cockpit that is “aviation-style”, the and is powered by a 208bhp V6 HDi diesel engine. Also there are two separate electric motors placed on the rear wheels, enabling a top speed of 155mph, and reaches 0-62mph in 6.2 seconds while producing a torque of 400Nm, all this while retaining exceptional fuel economy a whopping 45 miles per gallon on the combined cycle! and maintaining low-emissions. So just zip zap and zoom!

citroen c mentisse car concept

citroen c mentisse car concept

citroen c mentisse car concept

citroen c mentisse car concept

citroen c mentisse car concept

W-styled Luxury Apartment in The Sky

Be it New York or Beijing, today luxury residences are on the upswing, the stylistic cues offered by W Hotels across the world has made it a regular as far as luxury accommodation is concerned soon, a new W-styled apartment is coming up at the south of the World Trade Center in New York City.

W Residents would be sharing the building with the hotel guests in the lower portion of Manhattan, but some of the luxury facilities like the rooftop terrace, fitness center and spa in the sky, will solely be for the permanently residents staying in the upper floors of the luxury tower.

w style luxury apartment in the sky

w style luxury apartment in the sky

w style luxury apartment in the sky

The building’s façade is not merely about aesthetics, as the bands will also create shading from the daylight, deflect heat, guarantee every residence will have the highest degree of privacy, and simultaneously frame unparalleled views out across Manhattan.

The Loft Residences on the lower levels have a double-height living area that maximizes the light entering the space. The height of the great room continues on through a gallery where a white lacquered library wall ascends up into the second level.

w style luxury apartment in the sky

w style luxury apartment in the sky

w style luxury apartment in the sky

The upper-tier City Residences feature integrated terraces off the main living areas, and all units are custom-fitted with B&B Italia kitchens and built-ins throughout. The master bathrooms feature a circular sliding wall that allows the bathroom to become part of the bedroom and share its spectacular city views.

And for those at the top, the five ultra-luxurious Sky Penthouses are unmatched in practically every aspect. Again, B&B Italia has masterfully crafted the space, including the kitchen. Sweeping views from every room, even the master bathroom, automatically heighten the occupants’ awareness of their place in the cityscape and the surrounding environment.

w style luxury apartment in the sky

Designer : Ben van Berkell via TheCoolHunter

New Online Traffic Formula Compensation Plan Takes On The Internet Marketing Gurus...

Jason Pearson is announcing today, the arrival of the online traffic formula compensation plan. It is geared toward the small business owner who wants to see his/her business grow through the secrets that are revealed.

This new program, that he has created, is said to be the newest ideas in how to create the best quality traffic for your website and make you a millionaire. This online traffic formula compensation plan is geared toward the small business owner who wants to see his/her business grow exponentially. It promises that wealth can happen in as little as seven days and claims to reveal all of the secrets that the internet marketing guru’s won’t tell us.

The online traffic formula compensation plan includes many tools to help the business owner get the income that he/she wants. These tools include 13 audio CD’s, a quick start introduction, online video tutorials, a training manual and online assistance. The online traffic formula claims to have simplified and systemized all of the marketing strategy techniques and strives to teach online business owners how to overcome problems. It will help an exclusive group of people to decide what to sell, focus on their own profitability and generate traffic for their websites. The formula even claims to be able to help the business owners find the trigger that will generate more sales from all of this new website traffic.

Trisha Frauenhofer, a stay at home mom, claims that, “now, thanks to Jason’s online video tutorials, his personal guidance and his Online Traffic Formula, my income is double my husband’s full time job income, and I only work 10 hours a week!” These undiscovered traffic methods that are revealed within the program, are supposed to work just as well as they did for Trisha, and sometimes even better.

Jason Pearson, the creator of the online traffic formula, is a common name within the online marketing realm. He has also, in the last few years, introduced his perfect wealth formula, which has been very successful and has many followers that feel that there is no better teacher than Jason. This new online traffic formula claims to be just as beneficial to the clients as his former program and who knows, maybe it will even exceed the expectations of all of his followers. To find out more go to

The New Auto Pilot Cash Cycler Affiliate Program Is The New One To Beat

The Auto Pilot Cash Cycler was launched today and has all of the online marketing experts buzzing. Along with the program is also the Auto Pilot Cash Cycler affiliate program that promises to deliver substantial commissions from referrals.

This new program is ready to offer, to an exclusive group of people, all of the secrets that its creator, Jason Pearson, has discovered regarding online marketing techniques.

Along with divulging Internet secrets, this program has many other offers up its sleeve, including an Auto Pilot Cash Cycler affiliate program. This affiliate compensation plan is offering substantial commissions from referrals. Jason Pearson is claiming that he will pay his affiliates up to $1,895.00 for every customer referral that results in a sale. The Auto Pilot Cash Cycler is also claiming to be the only product out on the Internet that rewards its affiliates to this extent.

Besides the Auto Pilot Cash Cycler program, the product itself is a complete marketing program for any online business owner. The formula boasts that it can show anyone how to completely take over any niche and says that any business owner can have all of the top ten listings in all of the big search engines. There are also promises made that the program is not confusing or overwhelming and there are only 5 easy steps from beginning to end.

This seems like a very tall order, but the track record that follows the program’s creator tells us that anything is possible. Jason Pearson has recently proved to the whole world how successful his programs can be and he says that this one will be no different. An avid supporter of his business, Debra Roedl says that she has, “… worked with millionaires and billionaires worldwide and never before have I seen such an efficient business infrastructure. He is the best when it comes to teaching outsourcing and creating error-free infrastructure.” For additional information go to

Google launches “Website Workout” contest to help businesses boost their site performance

Today at the SMX Advanced conference in Seattle, Google announced the Website Workout contest to help businesses pump up their websites. Any U.S. business can enter to have a webpage optimized for free by Google’s team of consultants to boost sales, sign-ups or leads. Interested businesses can enter the contest by visiting the Website Workout contest site.

In the coming weeks, Google will select four of the businesses that enter. Using Google Website Optimizer™, Google’s free website-testing tool, the consultants will then work with the winners to test which combination of text, images, graphics and other content drives the most business.

Website-owners need not enter the contest to use Website Optimizer, however: the tool is free and open to anyone who wants to fine-tune a website. Anyone can sign up for the product at .

More information about Website Workout is also available on the Google Website Optimizer blog.

Apple Announces iPhone 2.0 Software Beta

Includes SDK & Built-in Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync

Apple previewed its iPhone™ 2.0 software, scheduled for release this June, and announced the immediate availability of a beta release of the software to selected developers and enterprise customers. The iPhone 2.0 beta release includes both the iPhone Software Development Kit (SDK) as well as new enterprise features such as support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync to provide secure, over-the-air push email, contacts and calendars as well as remote wipe, and the addition of Cisco IPsec VPN for encrypted access to private corporate networks.

“We’re excited about creating a vibrant third party developer community with potentially thousands of native applications for iPhone and iPod touch,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “iPhone’s enterprise features combined with its revolutionary Multi-Touch user interface and advanced software architecture provide the best user experience and the most advanced software platform ever for a mobile device.”

The iPhone SDK provides developers with a rich set of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and tools to create innovative applications for iPhone and iPod® touch. Starting today, anyone can download the beta iPhone SDK for free and run the iPhone Simulator on their Mac®. Apple today also introduced its new iPhone Developer Program, giving developers everything they need to create native applications, and the new App Store, a breakthrough way for developers to wirelessly deliver their applications to iPhone and iPod touch users.

With the iPhone SDK, third party developers will be able to build native applications for the iPhone with a rich set of APIs, including programming interfaces for Core OS, Core Services, Media and Cocoa Touch technologies. The iPhone SDK will allow developers to create amazing applications that leverage the iPhone’s groundbreaking Multi-Touch™ user interface, animation technology, large storage, built-in three-axis accelerometer and geographical location technology to deliver truly innovative mobile applications.

Apple has licensed Exchange ActiveSync from Microsoft and is building it right into the iPhone, so that iPhone will connect out-of-the-box to Microsoft Exchange Servers 2003 and 2007 for secure over-the-air push email, contacts, calendars and global address lists. Built-in Exchange ActiveSync support also enables security features such as remote wipe, password policies and auto-discovery. The iPhone 2.0 software supports Cisco IPsec VPN to ensure the highest level of IP-based encryption available for transmission of sensitive corporate data, as well as the ability to authenticate using digital certificates or password-based, multi-factor authentication. The addition of WPA2 Enterprise with 802.1x authentication enables enterprise customers to deploy iPhone and iPod touch with the latest standards for protection of Wi-Fi networks.

The iPhone 2.0 software provides a configuration utility that allows IT administrators to easily and quickly set up many iPhones, including password policies, VPN setting, installing certificates, email server settings and more. Once the configuration is defined it can be easily and securely delivered via web link or email to the user. To install, all the user has to do is authenticate with a user ID or password, download the configuration and tap install. Once installed, the user will have access to all their corporate IT services.

The iPhone 2.0 software release will contain the App Store, a new application that lets users browse, search, purchase and wirelessly download third party applications directly onto their iPhone or iPod touch. The App Store enables developers to reach every iPhone and iPod touch user. Developers set the price for their applications—including free—and retain 70 percent of all sales revenues. Users can download free applications at no charge to either the user or developer, or purchase priced applications with just one click. Enterprise customers will be able to create a secure, private page on the App Store accessible only by their employees. Apple will cover all credit card, web hosting, infrastructure and DRM costs associated with offering applications on the App Store. Third party iPhone and iPod touch applications must be approved by Apple and will be available exclusively through the App Store.

The iPhone SDK provides a reliable, fast and secure way to create innovative applications for the iPhone and iPod touch. In addition to the rich set of iPhone OS APIs, the iPhone SDK also provides advanced tools for creating native iPhone and iPod touch applications including: Xcode® for source code editing, project management and graphical debugging; Interface Builder with drag and drop interface creation and live preview; Instruments to monitor and optimize iPhone application performance in real time; and the iPhone Simulator to run and debug applications.

During the beta iPhone SDK program, a limited number of developers will be accepted into Apple’s new iPhone Developer Program and offered the ability to get code onto iPhones for testing. The Standard Program costs $99 (US) per year and gives members an iPhone SDK and development tools; access to pre-release iPhone software; technical support; the ability to get code onto iPhones for testing; and distribution of applications via the new App Store. The Enterprise Program costs $299 (US) per year.

In addition to these new iPhone network and security features, the beta iPhone 2.0 software provides several new Mail features such as the ability to view PowerPoint attachments, in addition to Word and Excel, as well as the ability to mass delete and move email messages.

Pricing & Availability
Apple plans to release the final iPhone 2.0 software, including the iPhone SDK and new enterprise features, as a free software update for all iPhone customers by the end of June. Third party applications created for the iPhone will also run on the iPod touch, and iPod touch users will be required to purchase a software update to run these applications. The free beta iPhone SDK is available immediately worldwide and can be downloaded at The iPhone Developer Program will initially be available in the US and will expand to other countries in the coming months. Apple is accepting applications beginning today from enterprise customers who would like to join the private iPhone Enterprise Beta Program (

Apple ignited the personal computer revolution in the 1970s with the Apple II and reinvented the personal computer in the 1980s with the Macintosh. Today, Apple continues to lead the industry in innovation with its award-winning computers, OS X operating system and iLife and professional applications. Apple is also spearheading the digital media revolution with its iPod portable music and video players and iTunes online store, and has entered the mobile phone market with its revolutionary iPhone.

Intel antitrust woes spread as FTC launches investigation

The Federal Trade Commission has launched an antitrust investigation against Intel. This marks a remarkably quick change in the FTC's stance vis-à-vis Intel; former FTC chairwoman Deborah P. Majoras refused to open a formal inquiry into Intel's behavior as recently as October 2007. Marjoras has since left the FTC, and her successor, William E. Kovacic, obviously views the matter differently.

This is good news for AMD, which has long lobbied for a formal investigation of Intel's behavior and alleged abuses. The company's calls for an inquiry have recently been backed by prominent Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York, though he admitted that his interest in the issue was partly pragmatic; AMD intends to build a fabrication plant in the state of New York.

Marjoras may have shied away from opening a full-bore investigation of the Santa Clara chip giant, but the FTC has conducted an informal inquiry into Intel's actions within the market since 2006. The two organizations have locked horns on several occasions, the most significant being an antitrust lawsuit the FTC brought against Intel in June of 1998 (the case was settled before trial).

The FTC's findings, whatever they may be, will have a definite impact on the ongoing AMD-Intel lawsuit. To date, AMD has been barred from introducing any foreign decisions against Intel's business practices as evidence in its own US-based antitrust lawsuit. Domestic investigations, however, are a different matter, and AMD will argue strenuously for the right to introduce any of the FTC's findings that support its accusations. Intel will undoubtedly pursue its own version of that strategy, which could make the FTC's own ruling crucially important to the outcome of AMD's lawsuit. It's anyone's guess which of these two events will actually conclude first. Government inquiries aren't generally known for speed, but the start date for the Intel-AMD antitrust lawsuit has been pushed back again, from April 2009 to February 2010.

Intel's response to the FTC decision notes that the company has cooperated with the FTC's informal inquiry since 2006, and states that "Intel will work cooperatively with the FTC staff to comply with the subpoena and continue providing information." As is to be expected, the company steadfastly maintains that its business practices are "well within US law" and that the industry is "fiercely competitive and working...When competitors perform and execute the market rewards them. When they falter and under-perform the market responds accordingly."

That last statement is a perfect summary of Intel's response to AMD's antitrust allegations, but it hasn't found much traction yet. Japan and Korea have both rejected Intel's argument—Korea's FTC fined the company ~$26 million yesterday—while both the EU and the state of New York have launched their own investigations into the company's business practices. Given its current situation, Intel may need to try out a few different lines—and fast.

Swedish government may soon get power to spy on its citizens

A controversial surveillance law in Sweden, one that would broadly expose phone and Internet traffic to scrutiny by the government, is moving towards another vote this week and could go into full effect in January 2009. Critics of the bill fear that there is little that can be done to stop its passage at this late stage.

The bill dates back to 2005, when it was emphatically rejected by the government and widely condemned as excessively invasive. An official opinion issued by the Swedish Research Council in October 2005 stated that casting such a wide surveillance net would compromise citizen privacy without providing much benefit to the law enforcement community. "One danger with such a broad surveillance program as the proposed one is it can hurt law-abiding citizens more than criminals who know the art of not leaving tracks behind," the council wrote. "In that case, the surveillance may diminish the public trust in electronic communication."

After its initial rejection, the bill lay dormant until political leadership changed following a 2006 election. It was revived by a new defense minister and passed in June 2007 with majority support in a vote that was split along party lines. Implementation was delayed for year in order to facilitate review, and a second vote is now approaching quickly.

A noted critic of the bill is Pirate Party leader Rick Falkvinge, who claims to have evidence that suggests that the Swedish government already has a surveillance program of this nature in active use in defiance of the country's constitution. The new bill, he says, is being sought because it legalizes ongoing surveillance activity that is being conducted without authorization. This conclusion is drawn from statements made by a former intelligence director of the Swedish National Defense Radio Establishment agency. Falkvinge argues that the agency's alleged past and ongoing abuses demonstrate that the government cannot be trusted with expanded surveillance powers.

Falkvinge has also identified several other key problems and misleading aspects of the bill. The government claims that the function of the surveillance program is principally to track e-mails and phone conversations that are crossing Sweden's borders, and that it won't encourage widespread domestic surveillance. Falkvinge explains that the government's characterization of the program neglects to account for the fact that virtually all Internet traffic originating in Sweden will end up crossing the country's borders.

"E-mail and telephone calls take the shortest route from a topological view, which is never the same as how the bird flies," Falkvinge wrote in a blog entry. "Practically all mobile phones are bounced across the country borders for tariff regulation reasons, and anything on the Internet... well, let me put it this way: a guy in Sweden just tested what the route was between two of his rooms in the same apartment (which had different service providers), and the closest route went through Spain. While technically all traffic will not be wiretapped, it's the lion's share and close enough to all."

Falkvinge believes that the upcoming vote on whether to finally implement the bill will closely mirror the 2007 vote, in which it received majority support. If that is the case, then the Swedish government could soon be (legally) listening in on much of its population.

Opera unleashes innovative technology in latest mobile Web browser — Opera Mobile 9.5

Faster speed, new interface and Opera Widgets bring users closer to a full desktop experience

Exclusive preview at Mobile World Congress 2008 (February 11-14, Barcelona)

Oslo, Norway and Barcelona, Spain — February 5, 2008

Opera Software, the only company that puts the Web on any device, today announced the commercial release of Opera Mobile 9.5 — the latest version of its award-winning Web browser for sophisticated feature phones and smartphones. Participants at the Mobile World Congress 2008 will be the first to experience the improved functionality of Opera Mobile 9.5.

According to high-tech market research firm, In-Stat, the smartphone market will grow at more than a 30% compound annual growth rate for the next five years globally, exceeding unit sales for laptops, as users experience significant value from their smartphones. Users are downloading more applications and generating higher usage as measured by average revenue per user (ARPU) for operators. The main driver that has fueled this growth is overall user experience on the mobile Web.

Built on Opera's unique core architecture, the Opera Mobile 9.5 desktop-like browsing experience has been enhanced with innovations such as zooming and panning that make it easier to navigate, load pages quicker and get users closer to the Web content and entertainment they want. With Opera Mobile 9.5, users can experience the real Web and interact with content exactly as they do on their PC.

CNN EntertainmentTabbed browsingSend image as SMSMenu options

Faster speed

The new version utilizes Opera's Presto rendering engine to achieve page load speeds comparable to a desktop experience. The Opera Presto engine was modified and improves browsing performance significantly by accelerating the handling of Web pages. It dramatically improves page responsiveness on pages with heavy use of languages such as JavaScript and AJAX, ensuring smooth, hassle-free browsing.

Compelling experience

Opera Mobile 9.5 includes numerous features aimed at elevating the mobile browsing experience. Not only is the user interface (UI) intuitive enough to master in minutes, Opera Mobile 9.5 introduces several new innovations that elevate the Internet experience on a handheld device. Users can take advantage of the intuitive Opera Zoom™ to dive into the page and get closer to the content they want. In addition, productivity tools like the ability to save pages for offline browsing, Web address auto complete and password manager help busy users make the most of their time.

Fully loaded

Web 2.0-enabled, Widget-ready and Flash support turn Opera Mobile 9.5 into a fully loaded browser allowing users to access all their favorite Web sites such as Facebook, MySpace and more. With Opera Mobile 9.5, OEMs and operators will have the capability to include Flash Lite 3, empowering their smartphone users with access to the full Web including the ability to watch videos on YouTube effortlessly. In addition, Opera Widgets, which are mini applications that allow content to be accessed easily from the device idle screen with just a few clicks, are included in the new edition — automatically engaging the user through ease of operation and meeting consumer demands for quick access to information.

New revenue sources, bigger brand

Opera Mobile 9.5's ability to serve Web content directly on the idle screen gets mobile OEMs or operators closer to users. By greatly reducing the number of clicks required to get to content, there is a real potential for operators to increase data revenue and user loyalty. In addition, access to the idle screen allows operators to place their brand strategically to interact dynamically with users. Opera Mobile 9.5 is everything that handset makers and operators have been trying to achieve for years.

"Opera Mobile is the result of Opera's unwavering commitment to a vision that puts a true Web experience in the hands of mobile users," said Jon von Tetzchner, CEO, Opera Software. "The improved functionality of Opera Mobile 9.5 and easy access to information has raised the bar on a more compelling mobile Web browsing experience and will further stimulate mobile Internet adoption."

The Opera Mobile 9.5 experience includes many of the innovations found in Opera's trend-setting desktop browser including:

  • Intuitive user interface
  • Tabbed browsing
  • Improved text wrap
  • Page overview, zooming and panning
  • Landscape mode
  • Save Web page for future offline access
  • Call phone number from Web page
  • Send link as SMS/MMS
  • Send image as SMS/MMS
  • Small Screen Rendering™
  • Password manager
  • Web address input auto-completion
  • History and bookmarks
  • Copy text
  • Opera Widgets

Opera Mobile is currently shipped on more than 100 million phones with many of the world's top mobile OEMs and operators such as HTC, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, T-Mobile, and others.

Leading software platform provider, UIQ, has realized the potential of Opera's new mobile browser. "UIQ works with the world's leading mobile phone manufacturers to create the ultimate user experience. Our long-standing partnership with Opera has given users the ability to access all their favorite Web sites and services," says Mats Barvesten, EVP Product Planning and Product Management at UIQ Technology. "We look forward to introducing our upcoming handsets, featuring the groundbreaking Opera Mobile 9.5 browser."

Along with hands-on exposure to Opera Mobile 9.5, Mobile World Congress participants will also have the ability to experience Opera on a variety of devices: Opera Mobile on smartphones, free downloads of Opera Mini 4, improved Web browsing on gaming consoles and the ARCHOS Generation 5 Media players will be just a few of the exciting features of Opera's 2008 exhibit.

Mobile World Congress will be held on the 11th through the 14th of February in 2008 in Barcelona, Spain. Visit the Opera Booth in Hall 2, 2C76 or email to book a meeting.

Platform Support and Availability

Opera Mobile 9.5 will be available on all major platforms including Symbian, Windows Mobile and Linux, as both a standalone browser and as a SDK. The public beta release of Opera Mobile 9.5 will be announced separately. For media inquiries, please contact

A video demonstration of Opera Mobile 9.5 is available on

About Opera Software ASA

Opera Software ASA has redefined Web browsing for PCs, mobile phones and other networked devices. Opera's cross-platform Web browser technology is renowned for its performance, standards compliance and small size, while giving users a faster, safer and more dynamic online experience. Opera Software is headquartered in Oslo, Norway, with offices around the world. The company is listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol OPERA. Learn more about Opera at

Intel fined $26 million for Korean antitrust violations

The Korean Fair Trade Commission has fined Intel W26 billion (approximately $26 million) for its anticompetitive behavior some eight months after finding the company guilty of abusing its dominant market position. The penalty announcement wraps up the KFTC's three-year investigation into Intel's conduct; the CPU manufacturer has stated it is "disappointed" with the ruling and could appeal the case.

The KFTC's decision hinges on the aggressive/anticompetitive "rebate" programs Intel employed within the Korean market. According to the commission, Intel offered a total of $370 million dollars to Samsung Electronics and Trigem Computer between 2001 and 2005, on the condition that neither company buy processors from AMD. The KFTC further found that Intel's rebate program operated on a scale that ultimately blocked AMD from competing for OEM design wins, even if the smaller company made its CPUs available for free.

Thus far, Intel's response has been been a bog-standard rehash of Intel's firm commitment to business practices that are fair and pro-competitive. If that line is beginning to wear a bit thin, it's because we've heard it so often over the past three years. Korea is the second nation to rule against Intel in an antitrust investigation; Japan's Fair Trade Commission found similar evidence of monopolistic abuse back in 2005. Intel, thus far, has met every investigation and every finding with the same "We love fair competition" reply. Unfortunately for the chipmaker, regulators around the world aren't in agreement.

Japan and Korea are not the only places where Intel's actions are being scrutinized; both the EU and the state of New York are currently investigating allegations that the company has abused its market position. The EU decision is currently expected to arrive before the end of September; its findings (and potential penalties) could dwarf those of the Japanese or Korean FTC. The EU has the right to fine a company up to 10 percent of its annual revenue (maximum fine of €2.6 billion). Even if found guilty, Intel would almost certainly not be penalized so harshly, but the European Commission's decision to fine Microsoft some $800 million earlier this year is proof that the EC is willing to play hardball if it feels the situation warrants it.

The Korean FTC's decision will have no practical impact on the AMD-Intel antitrust case; AMD has already been barred from introducing international findings as evidence against Intel. The court of public opinion, however, operates under no such restriction. If—and I say "if" for a reason—the EU rules against Intel later this year, it could spur a fresh wave of investigations into behavior Intel steadfastly defends as being fair, procompetitive, and in the best interest of consumers.

3D HDTV Is Here, Courtesy of Philips

The new 3D HDTV from Philips
Three-dimensional (3D) displays have always been somewhat of a showstopper, given the fact that we're dealing with a pretty innovative technology, still largely unavailable for the wide mass of consumers and delivering some spectacular results. However, it would seem that Philips is willing to take things even further, as the company has just brought into the spotlight a device that combines 3D display technology with high-definition: the 52-inch 3D Display.

According to the company's statement, the 52-inch auto-stereoscopic 3D Display is based on a full HD (1920x1080) LCD panel, delivering a 700 cd/m2 brightness level, 2000:1 contrast ratio and a response time of 8 ms. At the core of the display there's Philips' WOWvx technology, which uses the 2D-plus-Depth format including Declipse, which gives additional occlusion information for a real 3D ‘look around’ effect.

As expected, this device won't find its way into too many consumers' homes, its primary target being the digital signage field. And that's exactly what Jos Swillens, CEO of Philips 3D Solutions, is pointing out, in his statement regarding the company's latest product: "With our new 52-inch 3D display in the portfolio, we can offer the pro-AV and digital signage market an even higher degree of immersion and a more exciting 3D viewing experience. Our broad range of 3D display product – in combination with our full range of content creation tools and our licensing program – makes us a true end-to-end 3D system solution provider".

As for pricing and availability... well, Philips does mention the fact that the 52-inch 3D Display will be commercially available from Q4 2008 onwards, but there's still no info regarding the possible pricing details. However, should you happen to visit InfoComm 2008, which will take place towards the end of June in Las Vegas, you could always drop by Philips' booth and take a look for yourself at this very interesting piece of technology.

Red Hat Summit Preview: Five Trends Worth Watching

Red Hat LogoThe VAR Guy will keep a close eye on the Red Hat Summit, which kicks off June 18 in Boston. Here are five trends and themes he’ll be investigating at the event.

1. Red Hat on Laptops: Sure, Red Hat has publicly stated that the company isn’t launching a consumer desktop initiative. But that doesn’t mean Red Hat is ignoring the corporate desktop and laptop markets.

In fact, Red Hat’s Richard Hughes will host a session on Laptop Power Management, which will show attendees how to “make batteries last longer and how to make suspend work successfully in a modern Linux desktop.”

2. Linux on Appliances: The VAR Guy spends considerable time writing about open source appliances, and the growing popularity of network-centric open source products from Untangle, Groundwork Open Source and others.

But how is Red Hat attempting to serve the appliance market, and how can ISVs as well as hardware companies cash in? We may get some clues during an appliance-centric session scheduled for June 18.

3. IBM vs. Microsoft On the Desktop: We all know who won this ugly , one-sided war in the 1990s. This time around, IBM is wisely reaching out to open source developers and partners to aid its desktop cause. IBM’s John Walicki will be on hand June 19 to describe customer case studies involving the IBM Open Collaboration Client Solution (catchy name, eh?).

The VAR Guy hopes Walicki will describe how that effort relates to Lotus Symphony, the productivity suite alternative to Microsoft Office.

4. Red Hat Exchange: The company’s online software store, known as Red Hat Exchange, launched with great fanfare last year. It was supposed to serve as an of sorts, that would allow customers to buy a range of open source applications from dozens of software providers. But how is Red Hat Exchange actually performing? The VAR Guy will search for answers.

5. Managed Services: Red Hat hinted a few weeks ago that the company planned to more aggressively work with hosting providers as well as managed service providers. During the conference, The VAR Guy expects Red Hat to quietly tell channel partners more about this strategy.

Assuming The VAR Guy doesn’t take a wrong turn toward Fenway Park, he intends to cover the Red Hat Summit closely. Plenty of additional strategies — related to middleware, software as a service, and virtualization — should capture his attention at the event.

Here Comes the Asus 'Freee PC'

Still saving your pennies to buy a computer? Forget about it -- they're about to be free. It's a wonderful time to be a nerdy cheapskate.

Asus shook up the industry with its $300 -- $600 mini notebook last year. Asus continues to dominate the market for super small, super cheap mini-notebooks. It may sell as many as 5 million Eee PCs by the end of the year – far more than all other competitors combined.

It wasn't supposed to happen this way. Microsoft and OEM partners Fujitsu, General Dynamics Itronix, HTC, OQO, Samsung and even Asus have been planning, designing and building Ultra Mobile PCs that were supposed to be so good people would pay $600 to $2,000 for them.

Many of these devices attempted to re-invent the sub-notebook wheel with funky form factors, goofy keyboards and exotic feature combinations.

Worse, some took Microsoft's advice and made the gadgets dependent on Vista, which is a lousy OS for a full-size, full-powered desktop PC and a disaster for an ultra-portable.

It turns out that people just wanted a regular laptop, but much smaller and cheaper. When Asus came out with its mostly solid state, plain vanilla PC running Linux (and now XP), the masses flocked. And now, Acer, Dell, HP and possibly Sony, as well as a smattering of smaller companies, are rushing their own cheap-and-tiny offerings.

Soon, the market will be overwhelmed by what I like to call "mini me too" laptops -- commodity Asus clones that will drive margins for all players toward zero. There will be no real money to be made in direct sales of cheap mini-notebooks to consumers.

I'm predicting that the successful pricing model for "mini me too" laptops will look nothing like the notebook pricing model (where you always pay full price for the hardware), and a lot like the cell phone pricing model where you buy a service, and the hardware is heavily subsidized or given away free.

This will happen because improvements in solid-state design, economies of scale through mass production, aggressive competition and other factors will drive the cost of producing tiny laptops down even further.

Manufacturers will make their money by selling large quantities to companies who have more profitable products and services to sell. They'll use the lure of free PCs to steal customers from competitors and upgrade existing customers.

Don't believe me? It's already happening in Britain and Canada.

In the UK, will give you a free Asus Eee PC if you sign up for a two-year contract for a specific T-Mobile mobile broadband service called Web 'n' Walk Max, which costs about $68 per month.

Years ago, banks used to give away toasters (and other things) to encourage people to sign up for new checking accounts. Fast forward to 2008, and the Royal Bank of Canada is giving people Asus Eee PCs if they open one of two accounts.

My prediction is that by the middle of next year, "mini me too" laptops will be given away in the United States, and by so many companies that they'll become hard to sell at any price. Here's what you'll have to buy in order to get your free mini laptop:

• Mobile broadband services. Phone carriers will use "mini me too" laptops to lure existing customers into faster and more expensive pricing plans. They'll give you a good reason to upgrade to 3G, for example, by giving you a free 3G Eee PC if you upgrade. They'll also use them to attract new customers.

This makes a lot of sense because a two-year contract at, say, $30 per month (or $30 extra on top of your existing wireless cell phone plan), means $720 for the carrier. But with dropping prices and buying in bulk, they might pay less than $100 for the laptop.

• Online storage and synchronization services. Asus announced recently that customers in Taiwan would get free online storage for one year with the purchase of an Eee PC. After the year is up, presumably, they can stop using the service or pay a monthly fee. I think this is bass-ackwards.

A new breed of online storage and synchronization services, including SugarSync, Syncplicity, DropBox, FolderShare, Carbonite, Mozy, Upline and others are all trying to make money in their own over-crowded niche. The two were made for each other, because mini-notebooks are almost always secondary systems.

Almost anyone with a mini-notebook needs to synchronize files with their PC, or at least needs online storage. One of these companies is going to figure out that giving away a laptop along with a two-year commitment is a compelling way to beat the competition.

• Software. Hundreds of companies make vertical applications or applications suites for specific types of professions, and sell these software titles for hundreds or thousands of dollars. It's only a matter of time before they start selling their software already installed on a mini-notebook. Imagine, for example, a suite of Real Estate applications pre-installed on an Asus Eee PC, where agents could check listings and do all their work from anywhere. Or insurance. Or sales.

• Non-technology related products and services. Vacation packages, new cars, bank accounts (like in Canada) -- you name it. Mini-notebooks will become the new toaster, and will become popular giveaways for raffles, radio programs, universities trying to lure freshmen, and others.

I'm not saying all "mini me too" laptops will be free. I'm saying they'll be priced like cell phones. That means the low end of the market will be free, the mid-range will be heavily subsidized ($50 to $100, plus you have to agree to buy some service or product) and the yet-unannounced Apple product will be over-priced and totally unsubsidized.

It's a wonderful time to be a nerdy cheapskate.