There is no Secrecy on the Internet

September 21, 2009 at 19:11 | Posted in google, Secrecy | Leave a comment

And just between you and me – it’s a good thing, too. I think this is a great reminder to all those cowards who hide behind ‘anonymous’ e-mail accounts to spread libel, hatred, and – lies.

Google ordered to ID authors of emails to York University

Adrian Humphreys,  National Post

TORONTO — York University has won court orders requiring Google Inc. and Canada’s two largest telecommunications companies to reveal the identities of the anonymous authors of contentious emails that accused the school’s president of academic fraud.

The university took the extraordinary measures after an email was circulated alleging that president Mamdouh Shoukri "perpetrated an outrageous fraud" when publicly touting the appointment of a new dean.

In January, the school announced its hiring of Martin Singer as its inaugural dean of the new Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies, said to be the largest faculty in the country. The announcement called Prof. Singer a "renowned scholar of Chinese history" and quoted the president as saying: "York University is fortunate to have attracted such a strong scholar and administrator."

A week later, an email in the name of a group called York Faculty Concerned About the Future of York University was sent using a Google Gmail account to members of the York community challenging the statements regarding Prof. Singer’s scholarly output. "Lying about scholarly credentials is the gravest offence," the email said before calling for the president’s resignation and a new search for a dean.

York obtained a court order in May compelling Google to turn over Internet Protocol addresses associated with the Gmail account. Google identified Bell Canada and Rogers Communications as the relevant Internet Service Providers.

Last month, York sought similar orders compelling Bell and Rogers to disclose the contact information of the customers who accessed the account, a motion that went unopposed by the telecom giants. This week, Justice George R. Strathy of Ontario Superior Court released his reasons for granting the orders, saying it was a reasonable balance between protecting freedom of speech and protection from libel.

David Noble, an outspoken professor at York, was listed in the email as a contact person. In an interview yesterday, he denounced York’s legal moves as "a fishing expedition" that was unnecessary since the allegations raised were shown to be correct by statements from both the president and the new dean. "I think they are trying to create a chill among faculty," he said.

"They are spending enormous sums, for what? I think they are just desperate to find out who is involved." He said his colleagues sought anonymity because they are "afraid of reprisals."

Will McDowell, a lawyer for the university, defended the action. "Academics enjoy quite extensive latitude in what they say and what they write and what they research at Canadian universities but I would say this about any of us: The right of free speech is not unlimited," he said.

"What was said is quite damaging to the institution."

The school now has the identities of five or six people who allegedly had access to the Gmail account. Justice Strathy said the information is only to be used for the purpose of commencing litigation.

Neither Prof. Singer nor Prof. Dirlik could be reached for comment.

National Post


Zoho vs. MS Office

July 12, 2009 at 15:15 | Posted in computing, google, microsoft, zoho | 5 Comments


I just discovered by sheer accident this nifty on-line service which, at first glance, makes most of the Google applications look outright lame. I haven’t heard of Zoho until then, but I think I’m already becoming a believer. I’m not quite ready to ditch my MS Office – yet – but so far, the impression is good. For example, the Zoho Writer appears capable of reading the new Microsoft docx format. As I write this (not on Zoho, yet), it is uploading my Master’s thesis – very heavy on docx formatted features, graphs, etc. I’ll report back once it’s done and let you know how it went.

Until then, read this NYT review of Zoho – it’s a good reflection of my own experience so far.

Small Company Offers Web-Based Competition for Microsoft Word


WITHIN Microsoft’s Office group, the calendar on the wall appears to be 1983, the year the company introduced Microsoft Word. The company still expects customers to buy its software applications as products and install and run them on PCs.

Recognition of the Internet has been slow in coming. Microsoft is finally preparing Web versions of its Office suite, though these are intended as supplements, not as replacements. The company maintains that Web versions of a Word or Excel will never match the functionality and responsiveness that software installed on one’s own machine provides.

It may be wrong.

Granted, Microsoft’s largest competitor, Google, has not yet marched up to the bulwarks guarding Microsoft Office and blown a gaping hole into its adversary’s complacency. Google Apps, its Office-like suite, contains an uneven bunch of services. I find Google Calendar far superior to Microsoft Outlook’s calendar, but Google’s word processor, Docs, lacks many features in Word that I rely on.

The best online word processor, however, may be the one from a tiny company, Zoho, a nimble innovator. Zoho Writer is running close enough to Word to imagine that it and other online word processors will be able to do most everything that Word can do, and more.

Zoho Writer handles the basics and provides many advanced functions without breaking a sweat — like the ability to edit a document when page breaks are displayed. Google Docs can’t. Writer works even when one is offline, thanks to open source technology developed by Google, and used by Zoho in its word processor four months before Google used it.

Zoho Writer also provides some esoteric features, like a choice of footnotes or endnotes, with note numbers in superscript, placed in the text. Google Docs does only footnotes and puts in a pound sign as a placeholder. You may never need to create the most complex mathematical equations, but Zoho Writer makes it easy to do so.

Writer is offered free to individual users and to the first 10 users in a business. (So are 9 of Zoho’s 18 other online services at And free means free of advertising, too. “We don’t do advertising at all. We don’t believe in advertising,” says Raju Vegesna, a Zoho marketing executive.

Zoho hopes that word will spread and that larger businesses will sign up, willing to pay $50 a year a user for access to the 10 productivity applications, like Writer, and separate monthly fees for business applications.

Microsoft Office comes in various configurations and prices, and Microsoft doesn’t disclose its lowest price for volume purchases. But Office Professional 2007 is available from retailers for about $400.

Zoho is a division of AdventNet, which provides online software services to corporate I.T. departments and is based in Pleasanton, Calif. AdventNet, privately held, says its I.T. software is profitable but doesn’t claim the same for Zoho, which AdventNet created in 2005.

At Microsoft, Chris Capossela, senior vice president in Microsoft’s Business Division who manages its Office product line, explained to me how the company was preparing for “the future of computing — a combination of the best of software and the best of Internet services.” The next version of Office — being prepared for release in 2010 or after, he said — will have three incarnations, beginning with what Microsoft calls the “rich client” (“rich” refers to features) and installed on the user’s PC, and the mobile version for smartphones. Both of those exist today. The third, and new, form will be the Web-based service.

Mr. Capossela sees the Web version of Office as only a stopgap for users who are away from home or office and, in a pinch, must use a machine that isn’t their own. With Office on the Web, “users can do a little bit of work, between classes, or at the airport,” he said.

Asked whether Microsoft was interested in making the Web version as fully featured as the desktop version, he scoffed at the notion that a “browser experience” could be equivalent to a “rich client,” at least without the graphical help of an add-in like Adobe’s Flash.

Adobe’s Web site offers its own free Flash-equipped online word processor, Buzzword. But to my taste, Flash is visual overkill for word processing. Zoho Writer manages perfectly well without Flash.

Mr. Capossela sounded confident when he described the lead that Microsoft enjoys over online challengers like Zoho. “A lot of our competitors have to spend a huge amount of energy copying features that we already have in the Office suite,” he said. “We don’t have that burden to bear.”

Zoho, however, doesn’t seem burdened at all. It has moved well ahead of Word in some areas, such as offering multiple users the ability to edit the same document simultaneously.

Zoho Writer is not completely polished — I lose double-spacing when exporting to Word, and there’s an irksome extra step required to print a clean copy of a final draft, without the browser’s header. In all, though, these are small irritations, balanced by gaining the ability to edit and share documents online effortlessly, in many different ways.

Microsoft estimates that 500 million copies of Office are running on the world’s one billion Windows machines. Those were the easy wins, before the Web was ready to compete against installed software. The next 500 million copies, if won, will require staying ahead of what rivals can accomplish within the unassuming frame of the Web browser.

Randall Stross is an author based in Silicon Valley and a professor of business at San Jose State University. E-mail:

Google to launch operating system

July 8, 2009 at 13:02 | Posted in competition, Economic Theory, google, technology | Leave a comment

[please note my quibble foot-notes below]

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

Google is developing an operating system (OS) for personal computers, in a direct challenge to market leader Microsoft and its Windows system.

Google Chrome OS will be aimed initially at small, low-cost netbooks, but will eventually be used on PCs as well.

Google said netbooks with Chrome OS could be on sale by the middle of 2010.

"Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS," the firm said in its official blog.

The operating system, which will run on an open source licence, was a "natural extension" of its Chrome browser, the firm said.

The news comes just months before Microsoft launches the latest version of its operating system, called Windows 7.

‘Back to basics’

"We’re designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you on to the web in a few seconds," said the blog post written by Sundar Pichai, vice-president of product management, and Google’s engineering director Linus Upson.

Both men said that "the operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web" and that this OS was "our attempt to rethink what operating systems should be".

To that end, the search giant said the new OS would go back to basics.

"We are completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates.

"It should just work," said Google.

Google already has an operating system for mobile phones called Android which can also be used to run on netbooks. Google Chrome OS will be aimed not just at laptops but also at desktops for those who spend a lot of time on the web.

‘Truly competitive’

The announcement could dramatically change the market for operating systems, especially for Microsoft, the biggest player with around 90% share.

"This announcement is huge," said Rob Enderle, industry watcher and president of the Enderle Group.

"This is the first time we have had a truly competitive OS on the market in years. This is potentially disruptive and is the first real attempt by anyone to go after Microsoft.

"Google is coming at this fresh and, because it is based on a set of services that reside on the web, it is the first really post-web* operating system, designed from the ground up, and reconceived for a web world," Mr Enderle told the BBC.

Last year Google launched the Chrome browser, which it said was designed for "people who live on the web – searching for information, checking e-mail, catching up on the news, shopping or just staying in touch with friends".

Stephen Shankland at CNET said the move had widespread implications.

"One is that it shows just how serious Google is about making the web into a foundation not just for static pages but for active applications, notably its own such as Google Docs and G-mail.

"Another, it opens new competition with Microsoft and, potentially, a new reason for anti-trust regulators to pay close attention to Google’s moves."**

Some commentators said Google’s motivation in all this was pretty clear.

"One of Google’s major goals is to take Microsoft out, to systematically destroy their hold on the market," said Mr Enderle.

"Google wants to eliminate Microsoft and it’s a unique battle. The strategy is good. The big question is, will it work?"

At the popular blog, TechCrunch, MG Siegler said: "Let’s be clear on what this really is. This is Google dropping the mother of all bombs on its rival, Microsoft."

Microsoft releases Windows 7 later this year to replace Windows Vista and Windows XP, which is eight years old.

The Redmond-based company claims that 96% of netbooks run Windows to date.

Out of beta

In a separate announcement Google also revealed that many of its most popular applications had finally moved out of trial, or beta, phase.

Gmail, for example, has worn the beta tag for five years.

"We realise this situation puzzles some people, particularly those who subscribe to the traditional definition of beta software as being not yet ready for prime time," wrote Matthew Glotzbach, the director of product management in the official Google blog.

The decision to ditch the beta tag was taken because the apps had finally reached the "high bar" mark, he wrote.

More than 1.75 million companies use Google apps, according to the firm.


*post-web? So there is no more ‘web’?

**Yes, they SHOULD. Because it proves once and for all that there is NO SUCH THING as a ‘monopoly’ in the free market.

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