From: The N.Y. Times via —

Posting user-produced videos to YouTube was, until recently, an amusing passtime for millions. Now, however, it’s becoming a lucrative job for an increasing number of full-time Tubers.

As the New York Times’ Brian Stelter reports, “One year after YouTube, the online video powerhouse, invited members to become ‘partners’ and added advertising to their videos, the most successful users are earning six-figure incomes from the Web site.”

The partner program includes all sorts of users, from individuals to entertainment mega-corps promoting their latest releases.

“Some of the partners are major media companies; the ones with the most video views include Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, CBS (publisher of CNET News) and Warner Bros. But individual users are now able to compete alongside them. [Michael] Buckley [a 33 year old former music industry executive from Connecticut], who did not even have high-speed Internet access two years ago, said his YouTube hobby had changed his financial life.”

The bottom line?

YouTube has become an icon of what Stelter calls, “the Internet’s democratizing effect on publishing.”

Google’s Chrome Web browser finally went into official release yesterday, following 100 days of intensive public beta-stage development and 14 successive pre-release updates.

Google VP Marissa Mayer told reporters at the Le Web 08 conference in Paris, France, that Google techs had posted the first non-beta version of the new browser for download earlier that day.

Apparently, those downloading Chrome for the first time from the official Web site will get the new version first. Google will start pushing the update to some 10 million existing users today.

If you want to find out which version of Chrome you currently have, you can simply check the browser’s ‘About’ page. Chrome is set to check for updates after every five hours of operation.

Google Vice President of Product development, Sundar Pichai told reporters that the first official release version of Chrome will be significantly faster than previous versions and will contain many tweaks and bug fixes.

Internet security leader McAfee Inc. has released a major update of its popular free Site Advisor application which, “helps consumers know what is safe and what may be risky on the Web.”

According to the official McAfee update anouncement, “Risky sites are indicated by a ‘Red’ rating in McAfee SiteAdvisor software after each site has been tested for spyware, drive-by downloads, spammy e-mails, scam products, phishing or other malicious activity. Sites with minor security or nuisance issues merit a ‘Yellow’ caution rating. Sites with no problems found are rated ‘Green’.”

The latest update adds a new Secure Search Box which is designed to simplify the Site Advisor screening process, lets users block and filter known malicious Web sites from their search results and integrates the McAfee SECURE trustmarks rating system with all aspects of their Web experience.

“Sites that carry the McAfee SECURE trustmark undergo intensive daily testing for more than 10,000 known hacker vulnerabilities to help consumers avoid identity theft when purchasing online. … Currently, more than 80,000 Web sites carry the McAfee SECURE trustmark.”

You can find out more and download the updated McAfee Site Adviser from the official Site Adviser Web site.

Sony BMG (soon to be known as Sony Music Entertainment) has been sued by U.S. authorities for allegedly violating U.S. federal regulations designed to protect the online privacy of children.

The company is accused of allowing children under the age of 13 to register at its Web sites in contravention of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule.

A Sony insider told the Reuters news service this week that the suit is being resolved via behind-the-scenes negotiations. Apparently, the company will pay a fine of (US)$1 million, put in place a screening process to exclude underage kids from registering and hire a compliance officer to monitor the process.

The lawsuit is the least of Sony’s problems just now. Earlier this week, the company announced it will cut 8,000 full-time and 8,000 contractor positions from its worldwide workforce in the next few months. It will also close one of every ten of its 57 manufacturing plants around the globe in an attempt to save at least (US)1.1 billion this coming year to offset plummeting sales of its digital camera and flatscreen television products, among others.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has won a court order prohibiting two software companies from marketing their wares online. At least, in the manner in which they have been marketing them.

Innovative Marketing and ByteHosting Internet Services have allegedly been promoting sales of non-major-brand computer security products including WinFixer, WinAntivirus, DriveCleaner, ErrorSafe and XP Antivirus.

It seems the two companies have been using so-called ‘scareware’ tactics, subjecting unwitting Web surfers to online ads which look like warnings, falsely claiming that their computers were infected with viruses, spyware or pornography.

The FTC claims that at least a million consumers were frightened into buying the companies’ software products in recent months — at (US)$39.95 or more a pop.

The FTC further alleges that the companies deceived Internet service providers (ISPs) and on line advertising netwoirks that their ads were legitimate, but then clandestinely replace the ads they had submitted for approval to the distributors with ‘scare’ messages.

In addition, the FTC has issued a product alert warning consumers about scareware marketing scams and warning against any offers of free virus scans that might come your way via unsolicited e-mail or pop-ups at Web sites.

There are several legitimate online free malware scanners available. Perhaps the best-known is Trend Micro’s Housecall service which features an online introduction to their full retail product. They market you hard to buy it, but don’t use scare tactics — and it gives you something to read while the scanner does its work.

Round two of teething trouble with Apple’s new ‘unibody’ MacBook notebook computers is drawing to a close as users install a second firmware upgrade to address hardware hassles.

The 15 in. ‘unibody’ MacBook, released earlier this fall…

Apple released a patch yesterday designed to fix unspecificed problerms with the system management controller (SMC) which oversees many of the notebooks’ functions. Apple declined to explain the problems in detail, saying only that the new patch would ‘improve the stability’ of effected systems.

An earlier firmware update addressed problems with the new MacBooks’ new glass trackpad controller.

Visit the Apple downloads site to see if your new MacBook is affected and, if so, download the patch now to ensure a happier holidayy season!

From: —

Internet giant Google, which owns video sharing giant YouTube, this week petitioned the Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to maintain its 1999 decision to exempt broadcasting via mobile phone networks and the Internet from federal regulation.

As reports: “[In 1999], the CRTC said these new media were not used widely enough to merit CRTC rules. But with widespread use of high-speed Internet access by Canadians, the CRTC is prepared once again to consider whether new media should be regulated and has scheduled a hearing on the topic in February. … A report commissioned by the CRTC earlier in 2008 concluded new media broadcasting was a significant force and should be subject to the same regulations as other Canadian broadcasters.”

The purpose of the February hearing will not be to discuss specific regulation proposals but simply to update the CRTC’s reference file on new media and look at whether regulations should be considered:

“The regulator hopes to look at how to define new media, what impact it is having on traditional media, how widespread access is across Canada and whether incentives or regulatory measures should be used for the creation and promotion of Canadian content.”

What is Google’s stake in the eventual CRTC decision on regulation of new media? A Decima survey in 2007 revealed that 37 per cent of Canadians regularly accessed YouTube to view online videos. The figures are likely even higher now, in line with increases noted in more-recent U.S. surveys.

Other new media outlets have warned that, if one country regulates Internet broadcasting, others will follow. On the other hand, groups that represent actors, writers, musicians and composers say government should regulate Internet broadcasting — and require that Internet broadcasters pay royalties to performers and other content creators as conventional broadcasters do.

It’s a brave new world for all of us, now that the Internet has permeated every last corner of our lives. Even Santa and his elves have had to embrace social media to keep up with the generation of kids who are connected to the Internet via their umbilical cords.

I have a soft spot for Christmas. I always have. Must come from being named after a reindeer. So, it wasn’t hard for me to come up with my top five favourite places to find Santa online:

5. Santa has his own Facebook page, of course.

4. Forget waiting for snail mail. You can send Santa an e-mail and get a reply, via Canada Post.

3. Santa keeps an eye on who’s naughty and who’s nice via his Twitter account.

2. On Christmas Eve, you don’t have to rely on the nightly news to bring you news of Santa’s progress like we did when I was a kid. Now, you can track Santa’s progress online thanks to Norad’s Santa Tracker.

1. This made my four- and six-year-olds’ jaws drop open in astonishment. At the Portable North Pole, after you go in and answer a few questions and submit a photo, Santa will send a personalized video message to your child. I loved the look on my oldest son’s face when Santa looked him up in his big book and right there was a picture of Tristan. Priceless! (Available only to residents of Canada.)

Only two weeks left until Chrismas! Let the holiday madness begin!

The U.K.-based Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) today reversed a decision made earlier this week which effectively cut off the majority of British Internet users to the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

The IWF bills itself as: “The UK Hotline for reporting illegal content specifically: Child sexual abuse content hosted worldwide and criminally obscene and incitement to racial hatred content hosted in the UK.”

As such, it issued a blacklist warning for a single page at Wikipedia, reported to it by a reader. The page in question contained a photo of a 1970s vintage album cover which featured an image that the IWF said qualified, under its rules, as child pornography.

The problem was not that one Wikipeda page was subsequently blocked by UK Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Rather, it was the way they blocked it, which resulted in more than 90 per cent of UK Internet users being unable to reach Wikipedia at all, much less view any encyclopedia entries.

The IWF, however, reversed the original decision following an appeal by the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia:

“The IWF board has today considered these findings and the contextual issues involved in this specific case, and — in the light of the length of time the image has existed and its wide availability — the decision has been taken to remove this Web page from our [black]list.”

…And then apologised to Wikipedia users:

“IWF’s overriding objective is to minimise the availability of indecent images of children on the internet, however, on this occasion our efforts have had the opposite effect. We regret the unintended consequences for Wikipedia and its users.”

The IWF also noted that it will not blacklist other Web sites which post the offending image — provided they are hosted outside the UK.

From: —

Microsoft (MS) yesterday issued a record Patch Tuesday update containing eight security bulletins, six of which were rated ‘critical’. The bulletins collectively address no fewer than 28 separate vulnerabilities in Windows, Internet Explorer (IE) and MS Office.

Visitors to the MS Update site were greeted with screens like this one:

As ZDNet’s Ryan Naraine reports, “ Most of the bulletins address client-side flaws that could be exploited via the browser or if a user opens a booby-trapped file. … The bulletin with the most patches (MS08-072) addresses a total of 8 flaws in the ubiquitous Microsoft Office software suite. According to Microsoft, the bugs could be exploited if a user is tricked into opening a rigged Word of RTF (Rich Text Format) file. … Another major bulletin is MS08-073, which covers 4 flaws in Internet Explorer, the world’s most widely deployed browser. These could be exploited if a user simply surfs to a specially crafted page in IE, making it a perfect target for drive-by download attacks.”

The ‘monster’ update was the largest update ussued by MS, in terms of the number of vulnerabilities it addresses, since the monthly Patch Tuesday Update schedule was introduced five years ago.

Wal Mart seems to have cornered the market on the Nintendo Wii game and entertainment console this season…

The popular alternative — both in price and function — to the more-expensive Microsoft (MS) Xbox and the Sony Playstation 3 has been notoriously hard to get. In fact, most of the major big-box and department store retailers were sold out of the Wii by the end of last week.

However, Wal Mart yesterday joyfully announced that it has ‘tens of thousands’ of Wiis selling separately at (US)$249.24 and in a ‘value bundle’, which includes a Wii console, extra controllers and other accessories, for (US)$329.

The Wii has emerged as one of the most popular gift items this holiday season. It was the most-searched-for product on Yahoo! on Black Friday (the day after U.S. Thanksgiving and the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season in the States) and units were going for up to (US)$349. the same day on Ebay.

Now, however, Wal Mart has plenty of Wiis and will offer a special two-for-(US)$30. deal on selected Wii games. Selected Wii accessories will also be discounted.

A weak economy treats the mighty and the meek all the same — especially when the meek aren’t buying what the mighty are trying to sell.

Consumer electronics icon Sony Corp. has announced it will lay off 16,000 workers and take other drastic measures to slash costs in the face of seriously slumping sales. The company is aiming to save at least (US)$1.1 billion next year.

In October, Sony reported that demand for its high-end flat-screen TVs and digital cameras was way down. At the same time, market researchers were predicting disappointing year-end holiday sales for all classes of gift goods, compounding the situation. All of which added up to a major restructuring initiative for Sony.

Sony says it will cut 8,000 full-time jobs — about four per cent of its total workforce — and terminate another 8,000 contract employees over the next few months.

It will also close at least one in every ten of its 57 manufacturing plants worldwide and reduce R&D investment by about 30 per cent in 2009.

Sony is the latest electronics and entertainment giant to officially fall on hard times as a result of the economic crisis which has come to a head over the past few months. Just last week, telecommunications giant AT&T announced it would lay off 12,000 employees as part of its attempt to cope with plummeting revenues.