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EU gives Oracle extra time to respond to Sun inquiry

Oracle Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. have been granted an extra week to defend their planned $7 billion merger in front of European regulators, the European Commission said today.

Earlier this month the commission, Europe’s top antitrust regulator, issued formal objections to the deal, arguing that it posed a threat to competition in the market for database software.

The deadline for a final ruling has been put back to Jan. 27 from Jan. 19, which amounts to six additional working days for Oracle to win over the skeptical regulator.

“Oracle requested the extension in order to have the opportunity to further develop its arguments in response to the commission’s concerns,” the commission said in a weekly statement on the status of ongoing merger investigations.

The commission’s concerns center on Oracle acquiring MySQL, an open source database developed in Europe and bought by Sun a year ago for $1 billion. It argued in its statement of objections that the acquisition of the most significant open source database on the market by Oracle, the proprietary database market leader, could harm competition.

Oracle responded angrily, accusing the commission of not understanding the database market. It claims that MySQL is aimed at a totally different type of client from the ones that use Oracle’s database products.

However, the commission, as well as many observers, argue that even if the products don’t compete at the moment, Oracle’s ownership of MySQL could stifle the software’s development. This could have a negative long term effect on the database market, they said.

FAA glitch shines spotlight on troubled telco project

The outage of a computer system used by airline pilots to file flight plans in the U.S will likely prompt a closer look at a $2.4 billion telecommunications system that has grappled with numerous problems in the past.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) offered few details Thursday about the exact nature of the glitch, which caused major delays and flight cancellations in airports across the country. But in a statement, the agency blamed a “software configuration problem” within the FAA Telecommunications Infrastructure (FTI) in Salt Lake City.

That problem brought down a system used mainly for traffic flow and flight planning services for about four hours this morning. The flight management system — it’s called the National Airspace Data Interchange Network (NADIN) — was affected because it relies on FTI services to operate, the FAA said. There was no indication that the disruption was the result of a cyberattack, the FAA said.

FAA experts were investigating the outage and meeting with Harris Corp., the company that manages FTI to “discuss system corrections to prevent similar outages,” the agency said.

In an e-mailed statement, a Harris spokesman said the company is working to “evaluate the interruption” to prevent future outages. “FTI has proven to be one of the most reliable and secure communications networks operating within the civilian government. Safety and security is our highest priority,” the company said.

A spokeswoman for the Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS) union, which represents more than 11,000 FAA employees, told Computerworld the problem arose when scheduled maintenance on FTI in Los Angeles corrupted a router in Salt Lake City. A back-up router that should have kicked-in when the primary router went down failed to do so, resulting in the widespread outage, she said. (more…)

Google goes for speed, security in Chrome OS

Google released its Chrome operating system to the open-source community today and said it has designed the netbook OS to be faster, simpler and more secure than existing ones.

However, Google also made it clear that Chrome will not be able to replicate everything that other operating systems do. For example, Chrome OS will only run Web-hosted applications and its peripherals will have to comply with specific hardware reference designs. This means it will not even be able to run applications built for Google’s own Android mobile operating system.

As such, when the first Chrome OS netbooks hit the market at the end of 2010, Google expects them to be “companion” devices whose owners will also have conventional PCs in their houses.

“There are applications today that aren’t available on the Web. We’re really focused, as the use case for this device, that most people who buy this device next year, we expect them to have another machine [with a conventional operating system] at home,” said Sundar Pichai, vice president of Product Management at Google. “The goal of this device is for it to be a delightful experience for you to be on the Web. That’s the scenario we’re focusing on.” (more…)

FAQ: All you need to try out the Office 2010 Beta

Because this is the last available-to-all milestone for the new suite, Microsoft’s geared up to get the beta into the hands of a very large group. “Instead of tens of thousands who tried the Technical Preview, now we’re talking about millions and million of people,” Takeshi Numoto, the corporate vice president for Office, said in an interview Wednesday.

On your end, the best thing about Office 2010 Beta is that you can use it free-of-charge for nearly a year: The preview won’t expire until Oct. 31, 2010.

But what does our expert say? “Anyone interested in Office should get a copy of this beta,” wrote Preston Gralla in his first-take review. “It was solid and performed well without crashing once. I experienced none of the slowness that you sometimes do with betas.”

You can find out whether Gralla’s right by downloading the beta and giving Office 2010 a spin yourself. But where is it, how do you install it, what do you need to run it, and how do you get rid of it if it’s a can of worms?

Questions, questions, questions. Here are our answers.

When can I download the beta? That’s easy: Now. Microsoft rolled out the beta during a keynote at its Professional Developers Conference (PDC) mid-day Wednesday. (more…)

Ballmer: Windows 7 sells twice as fast as past operating systems

Microsoft Corp. said today that Windows 7 has sold twice as many units as any other Microsoft operating system in the same time period.

During its annual shareholders’ meeting, CEO Steve Ballmer also dismissed market share gains by Apple Inc.’s Mac computer to “a couple of tenths of a percent” and said that many young people would eventually outgrow their preference for Macs.

“Some of it is marketing, some of it is phase of life,” Ballmer said in response to a shareholder question about Microsoft’s poor perception among younger buyers. “The truth is we do quite well, even among college students.

“Windows 7 gives us a real opportunity to get back that audience,” he continued. “With the down economy, people understand that the Mac is a lot more expensive for essentially the same computer” as Windows 7.

NPD Group reported earlier this month that first-week retail sales of Windows 7 in North America were 234% higher than Vista’s were at launch. Those Windows 7 sales include pre-orders that Microsoft and partners began taking in June. (more…)

Developers slowly rising to Microsoft’s Surface

LOS ANGELES — Microsoft’s Surface touch computer may be generating more oohs and ahs than some of the company’s other recent technologies, but the product has yet to generate rabid interest among programmers.

A year and half after Microsoft released Surface, just 250 companies are developing applications for the touch system, Microsoft officials revealed during its Professional Developers Conference 2009 (PDC09) held here this week. Some 5,000 copies of its free Software Development Kit (SDK) for Surface have been downloaded, they added.

Compare that with the 100,000 iPhone SDKs that were downloaded in the four days after its launch on March 6, 2008.

Some observers question whether such a comparison is valid — deployment of the $12,500 to $15,000 Surface tabletop PC is limited mostly to hotels, health clinics, banks and other customer-facing businesses looking for a new spin on the computerized kiosk.

The Surface’s April 2008 launch came amid a massive economic downturn that still has businesses shy about investing in new technology, leading to a chicken-and-egg situation where developers are holding off developing Surface apps until the economy improves. (more…)

Microsoft launches beta tests of free Office 2010, ‘streaming’ delivery

Microsoft has launched new betas for its free Office suite and for the “streaming” technology it will use to deliver some paid versions of Office 2010 next year.

As first reported by ZDNet blogger Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft has kicked off a private beta of Office Starter 2010, the ad-supported edition that the company will offer computer makers in lieu of the ancient Microsoft Works, which has been discontinued.

Office Starter will include on-screen advertisements, the first desktop edition of Microsoft’s longstanding suite to do so. The ads will be limited to a space in the lower-right-hand of the applications’ windows.

Microsoft announced Office Starter 2010 more than a month ago, but said it would not be available to the public until the completed Office 2010 suite ships sometime in the first half of next year.

Office Starter will include reduced-functionality versions of Word and Excel, the suite’s word processor and spreadsheet, but will not be a time-limited trial. Microsoft hopes that customers will like what they see and pony up the money for the real deal, such as the entry-level Office Home and Student 2010 or the more expensive Office Home and Business 2010. Prices for Office 2010 have not been set, and last month Microsoft refused to say whether Office Starter users will receive a discount if they purchase a for-a-fee edition. (more…)

Google’s Chrome OS hits BitTorrent

Chrome OS, the operating system that Google released to open source yesterday, has been compiled and posted for download on several file-sharing sites, Internet searches showed today.

The ready-to-run Chrome OS has appeared on several peer-to-peer BitTorrent tracking sites, including and Pirate Bay. The Gdgt Web site has also posted a free download of the Chrome OS disk image. Users must create an account with the site to access the download.

The operating system, which Google bragged will be faster and more secure than rivals when it ships late next year, can be run in a virtual environment using a desktop application, such as those available from VMware or Sun Microsystems.

According to notes appended to several of the BitTorrent downloads, users compiled Chrome OS from the bits that Google publicly released as part of its move to take the operating system open source. Yesterday, Google also posted instructions on the Chromium Projects site for creating a build from the source code. (more…)

Opera in top secret iPhone talks?

Opera boss Jon von Tetzchner says that one day Apple’s iPhone will run third-party browsers. But he won’t be drawn on whether the company is poised to offer a Jobsian version of Opera itself.

Von Tetzchner and company have already admitted to building an Opera incarnation for Steve Jobs’s mobile status symbol in the the Opera test lab, but after this story was mangled by the New York Times this fall, Von Tetzchner made it clear that the company had not submitted the browser to the iPhone App Store.

Apple’s SDK, you see, isn’t exactly browser-friendly. And companies like Opera would rather not face questions about an App Store rejection.

“You can read the SDK in multiple ways, but you can read it in a way that prevents a full browser from being available in the App Store,” Tetzchner told The Reg this morning in between sessions at the OpenMobileSummit in downtown San Francisco. “It’s a question of being able to run applications. Is it an application platform or not? If you define a browser as an application platform, it’s not allowed.”

When we asked if Opera actually approached Apple about this ambiguity, he said – after a very pregnant pause – “We did not make contact [with Apple] at that time.”

Yes, “at that time.” But he would not say whether Opera has subsequently approached Apple or whether an Opera for the iPhone is imminent. “When browsers come onto the platform from third parties, and I’m sure they will, I hope Apple is open to them,” he said.

Asked if Opera and other browser makers must simply sit around waiting for Apple to make up its mind, von Tetzchner was quick to say “No. No. No. I’m sure someone will provide a browser [for the iPhone] – and I mean a real browser. Whether that will be us or someone else, that remains to be seen.” (more…)

Reader Tutorial: Colorful Light Effect in GIMP

I was browsing the other day and saw a Sony-Ericsson Xperia X1 with a beautiful wallpaper on it and thought to myself “Can I make one that looks like it but using only GIMP?”

And guess what? I could! And with this tutorial so can you.

Step 1

We first create a new document, you can make it any size, though I used 1600 x 1200. Setting by default Black as your Foreground color, we can ask in the advanced options to use it as our background.
colorful1 (more…)

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