Friday, February 27, 2009

New Yahoo CEO ushers out CFO in executive shake-up

After spending six weeks diagnosing Yahoo Inc.'s troubles, new Chief Executive Carol Bartz started to prescribe a cure Thursday with a management shake-up that will usher out the Internet company's chief financial officer.

Go To

Besides pushing CFO Blake Jorgensen out the door, the overhaul will expand the responsibilities of Yahoo's chief technology officer, Ari Balogh, and the company's top advertising executive in the United States, Hilary Schneider.

Bartz also created two jobs: a chief marketing officer and her own chief of staff.

Elisa Steele, who has been working at NetApp Inc., will join Yahoo as chief marketing officer on March 23, while Joel Jones, a former McKinsey consultant who has been Yahoo's corporate strategist, becomes Bartz's chief of staff as of Thursday.

With the new pecking order, Bartz hopes to speed up Yahoo's decision-making and have a senior team that supports her strategy for turning around a company struggling with three years of declining profits — a downturn that had battered its stock price well before the market's overall decline.

Although Bartz still hasn't specified how she intends to get Yahoo back on track, she has left no doubt about her resolve to recapture the Internet pioneer's glory days.

"I'm singularly focused on providing you with awesome products. Period," Bartz wrote in a blog posting Thursday addressed to Yahoo's 500 million worldwide users.

Yahoo's previous two CEOs, co-founder Jerry Yang and former movie studio mogul Terry Semel, also attempted to revive Yahoo in recent years by reshuffling executives, but those moves never paid off. Bartz's reorganization is meant to last two to four years.

Trusted by over 7 million customers!

Investors appear to be betting that Bartz will deliver on her promises. Yahoo shares gained 50 cents, or 4 percent, to close Thursday at $12.98.

Yahoo hired Bartz, 60, last month to replace Yang, who exasperated many investors and employees with his wishy-washy management style. Yang also infuriated stockholders last year by turning down an opportunity to sell Yahoo to rival Microsoft Corp. for $47.5 billion, or $33 per share, well above the price of $19.18 just before the software maker announced its initial bid.

Although Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has repeatedly said he no longer wants to buy Yahoo in its entirety, he has indicated he still wants to explore a possible partnership that would involve Yahoo's online search engine, the second most popular behind that of Google Inc.

Bartz so far has been lukewarm to the idea in her public remarks, but Jorgensen expressed an interest in working with Microsoft in a Wednesday presentation at an investor conference.

In a Thursday research note, Barclays Capital analyst Douglas Anmuth said he didn't consider Jorgensen's departure a sign Yahoo is any less interested in working with Microsoft.

But Anmuth wondered about the wisdom of letting Jorgensen go, given that Bartz came to Yahoo without any previous Internet experience. Jorgensen also was somewhat of a novice, having joined Yahoo in June 2007, but Anmuth thought he would at least provide Yahoo some stability.

Jorgensen will remain CFO until Bartz can find replacement. His departure isn't a total shock because he was an ally of former Yahoo President Susan Decker, who resigned last month after Bartz beat her out for the CEO job.

But Jorgensen provided no inkling he might be headed out the door when he met with USB analyst Benjamin Schachter earlier this week, Schachter wrote in a Thursday note.

"While we were fans of Blake, Bartz is clearly going to be leading the charge here," Schachter wrote.

Jorgensen is paid a salary of $500,000, according to Yahoo's most recent disclosures about executive compensation. The terms of his severance package weren't disclosed Thursday.

Besides changing CFOs, Yahoo also appointed a new leader to expand its service on to mobile devices. David Ko, already part of the mobile team, was promoted to the top job in the division to replace Marco Boerries, who is leaving the company after a four-year stint.

Bartz mainly wants to root out bureaucracy with her new chain of command.

"People here have impressed the hell out of me," Bartz wrote Thursday. "They're smart, dedicated, passionate, driven, and really nice. There's so much great energy and frankly lots of optimism. But there's also plenty that has bogged this company down. For starters, you'd be amazed at how complicated some things are here."

In hopes of simplifying things, Bartz is placing all of Yahoo's products under Balogh, who joined the company a year ago. The shift appears to lessen the authority of Ash Patel, who had been overseeing most of Yahoo's products.

Schneider's job is being expanded to include oversight of advertisers and partners in Canada, not just the United States. Bartz intends to hire another executive to steer Yahoo's advertising relationships in Mexico and overseas.

Finally, Yahoo is creating a new division to handle complaints from frustrated users and advertising customers.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Microsoft: Laid-off can keep extra pay after all

A few weeks after launching the first wide-scale layoffs in its history, Microsoft Corp. admits it screwed up a key part of the plan.

Book with & get 5% cash back on next booking!

First Microsoft realized that an administrative glitch caused it to pay more severance than intended to some laid-off employees. The company's response: It asked the ex-workers for the money back.

But when one of Microsoft's letters seeking repayment surfaced on the Web on Saturday, the situation turned embarrassing. On Monday, the company reversed course and said the laid-off workers could keep the extra payouts.

Lisa Brummel, Microsoft's senior vice president for human resources, said the letters were mailed to 25 of the 1,400 people let go in January. Most of the checks were off by about $4,000 to $5,000, she said.

Hotel Reservations

Brummel said she learned of the letters over the weekend after one appeared on the technology blog TechCrunch.

"I decided it didn't quite feel right," she said in an interview.

The executive called most of the 25 laid-off employees Monday to personally tell them Microsoft would not seek repayment after all.

Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft also gave about 20 employees too little severance. When the company noticed its mistake, it sent checks and explanations to those people, she said.

Brummel called the glitch a clerical error, and said that at some point in the process of calculating severance packages, communicating with employees and cutting checks, "we had payments misaligned with people's names." (Brummel said she didn't know whether an Excel spreadsheet was at the root of the problem.)

With the recession biting into sales of Microsoft's core Office and Windows software, the company said in January it would let up to 5,000 of its 94,000 employees go, the only mass layoff in its 34-year history. Microsoft remains profitable, however, and has a cash hoard of nearly $21 billion.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Facebook has removed 5,500 sex offenders since May

Facebook has removed more than 5,500 convicted sex offenders from its social networking Web site since May, Connecticut's attorney general said Thursday.

Richard Blumenthal said the world's largest social networking site, which claims to have more than 175 million active members, reported to his office that 5,585 convicted sex offenders were found on the Web site and removed between May 1, 2008, and Jan. 31, 2009.

"The message in this number is Facebook has an equal stake in solving this problem of protecting children," said Blumenthal, who along with North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has led an effort remove sex offenders from the social networking Web sites.

"They have an equal stake in the predator problem and its solution."

Earlier this month, rival networking site MySpace announced it had removed 90,000 sex offenders in a two-year period.

Last year, the attorneys general got both sites to implement dozens of safeguards, including finding better ways to verify users' ages and putting limits on older users' ability to search the profiles of members under 18.

Chris Kelly, Facebook's chief privacy officer, said the convicted sexual offenders on the site were found through user reports, working with local law enforcement agencies and using the national sex offender registry. Your choice -- read online from any computer or choose to download and read offline, too.

He said Facebook's focus on members using their real names and identities helps discourage sex offenders, and even more is being planned to prevent them from registering. Earlier this month, Facebook officials said policy dictated that no convicted sex offender be allowed to keep a Facebook page.

Kelly said the company has pitched a proposal to attorneys general around the country to develop a real-time system cross-checking available outlets and "block any registration from the get-go."

"Our policy has been to remove convicted sex offenders when they are reported or identified through any means," Kelly said.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Facebook backtracks on terms of use after protests

In an about-face following a torrent of online protests, Facebook is backing off a change in its user policies while it figures how best to resolve questions like who controls the information shared on the social networking site.

Save when hotels bid on you at Hotel

The site, which boasts 175 million users from around the world, had quietly updated its terms of use — its governing document — a couple of weeks ago. The changes sparked an uproar after popular consumer rights advocacy blog pointed them out Sunday, in a post titled "Facebook's New Terms Of Service: 'We Can Do Anything We Want With Your Content. Forever.'"

Facebook has since sought to reassure its users — tens of thousands of whom had joined protest groups on the site — that this is not the case. And on Wednesday morning, users who logged on to Facebook were greeted by a message saying that the site is reverting to its previous terms of use policies while it resolves the issues raised.

Facebook spelled out, in plain English rather than the legalese that prompted the protests, that it "doesn't claim rights to any of your photos or other content. We need a license in order to help you share information with your friends, but we don't claim to own your information."

Tens of thousands of users joined protest groups on Facebook, saying the new terms grant the site the ability to control their information forever, even after they cancel their accounts.

This prompted a clarification from Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's founder, who told users in a blog post Monday that "on Facebook, people own their information and control who they share it with."

Zuckerberg, who started Facebook while still in college, also acknowledged that a "lot of the language in our terms is overly formal and protective of the rights we need to provide this service to you."

Low Fares to France and Europe

But this wasn't enough to quell user protests, and the site also created a group called "Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities," designed to let users give input on Facebook's terms of use. It also apologized for what it called "the confusion around these issues."

"We never intended to claim ownership over people's content even though that's what it seems like to many people," read a post from Facebook on the bill of rights page.

The latest controversy was not the first between the rapidly growing site and its users over its five-year history.

In late 2007, a tracking tool called "Beacon" caught users off-guard by broadcasting information about their shopping habits and activities at other Web sites. After initially defending the practice, Facebook ultimately allowed users to turn Beacon off. A redesign of the site last year also prompted thousands to protest, but in that case Facebook kept its new look.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Facebook is privately held. Microsoft Corp. bought a 1.6 percent stake in the company in 2007 for $240 million as part of a broader advertising partnership.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

How to go from analog to digital TV

Here's a checklist to make sure you'll have TV reception after local stations cut their analog broadcasts. Some stations shut down analog transmissions Tuesday. Almost all will end analog after June 12.

Save up to 50% on hotels, put get $10 off!

• Are all your TVs hooked up to satellite or cable feeds? If so, you're OK.

• Do all your TVs have built-in digital tuners? Most TVs bought in the last few years, including flat panels, have these. If they do, you're probably OK. But you might need to force your TV to scan the airwaves to find all channels, because some are moving to new frequencies. Also see antenna issues below.

• If you have digital converter boxes hooked up and you get some but not all the channels you expect, you should first force the box to re-scan the airwaves, since some channels may have moved to new frequencies. Some converter boxes don't scan well, so you may have to key in the channel number manually. Check the box's directions, and look at to figure out which channels should be available in your area. Re-scan periodically until after June 12 to make sure you pick up stations that switch late.

Cheap Hotel Deals

• If re-scanning doesn't help, the problem may be your antenna. Outdoor antennas properly pointed toward a TV tower are preferable, but indoor antennas work if you're reasonably close to the tower. Note that antennas should be capable of receiving both VHF and UHF signals — some older ones are VHF-only. Modern indoor antennas are available from $40 to $100.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

TV stations get ready to cut analog signal

In theater superstition, a bad dress rehearsal is supposed to foretell a good opening night.

Get the Barack Obama - Change We Can Believe In Flip MINO Camera! Order Now

If so, the U.S. might be in good shape when it turns off the last analog TV broadcasts in June, because the lead-up to the smaller-scale turnoff Tuesday has been confusing to both viewers and TV stations.

For years, the government and industry has said Feb. 17 would be the day when analog TV signals go away, and viewers who lack cable or satellite would have to tune in to digital signals. But when funding ran out for coupons to subsidize TV converter boxes, Congress became concerned that viewers wouldn't be ready, and hurriedly passed a bill to delay the deadline to June 12.

At the same time, Congress left the door open to stations to keep the Feb. 17 date. When a third of U.S. full-power stations said they'd like to do so, the Federal Communications Commission put its foot down, placing extra conditions on some of them. Only late Friday did it become clear, or nearly so, which stations would shut down analog four days later, and which would wait for a few more months.

A patchwork of 641 stations across the country, mainly in thinly populated areas, are still turning off their analog broadcasts this week or have already done so. The most populous markets where many or all major-network stations are cutting analog include San Diego and Santa Barbara, Calif.; Providence, R.I.; La Crosse and Madison, Wis.; Rockford, Ill.; Sioux City, Iowa; Waco, Texas; Macon, Ga.; Scranton, Pa.; and Burlington, Vt.

"I think this whole delay is ridiculous," said Robert Prather, president of Gray Television Inc., an Atlanta-based company that owns 36 stations. "It's just going to cause confusion among consumers. There's no reason in the world for it that I can understand."

Wiley Culinary Holiday Sale

No one really knows how many viewers will be affected this week. Nielsen Co. said 5.8 million U.S. households, or 5.1 percent of all homes, were not ready for the analog shutdown, but it's unclear how many of them are in early-shutdown areas. Also, the National Association of Broadcasters has taken issue with Nielsen's numbers, saying they exaggerate the problem by counting households that have digital converters but haven't connected them.

"The ones who aren't going to be ready aren't going to be ready in June any more than they are now," Prather said.

Gray applied to keep the Feb. 17 date for most of its stations, but the push-back from the FCC left it with 14 that could. As a final twist, Gray over the weekend decided to turn those off on the 16th, some in the afternoon and the rest at midnight, because its lawyers interpreted the rules as saying analog should be "off the air by the 17th" rather "go off the air on the 17th."

Other stations differ in their interpretation, and plan to cut analog sometime on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, newspaper inserts from RadioShack Corp. proclaimed across the country this weekend that Feb. 17 is the day when viewers "must take action to continue receiving TV broadcasts," even though two-thirds of TV stations, and nearly all the ones in major cities, will remain on the air in analog for a few more months. A spokeswoman for the company was unavailable on Monday, a holiday.

Station owners contacted by The Associated Press are confident the large majority of viewers are prepared for the change, even if the message has been muddled on the timing.

Honeymoon Cruises! Click Here.

KSFY, an ABC affiliate in Sioux Falls, S.D., also planned to shut down its analog transmitter at midnight Monday.

"If we really, deep down, thought that the market wasn't ready for it, we would have, with the others, said, `Yeah, let's wait till June,'" said Kelly Manning, the station's general manager.

Alan Miles, a former analyst at Barclays Capital who studied the analog shutdown, said the whole process has been "botched politically," starting with Congress' order that the entire country had to kill analog at once. Nearly every other country is shutting down or planning to shut down analog broadcasts area by area. Only small, cable-dominated countries like the Netherlands have eliminated analog TV all in one go, like the U.S. planned to do on Tuesday.

Then, Miles said, the coupon program was underfunded, leading to the delay, which has turned into a disorganized partial shutdown.

"There will be problems with the transition, inevitably," Miles said. "So I almost feel like it's better to just get it over with rather than postpone the pain."

One benefit of having some stations shut down analog early is that the FCC's DTV call center (1-888-CALL-FCC) will now have a better chance of handling calls from viewers wondering how to get their TV signals back. Together with industry partners has nearly 4,300 operators ready to help.

Also, the delay provides a chance for the converter box coupon program to catch up. The stimulus bill that President Barack Obama is expected to sign on Tuesday contains $650 million in additional funding. Once that's available to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, it can clear the 4 million coupon backlog in a few weeks.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hongkong Woman who freaked hit big time

A Chinese woman who freaked out at Hong Kong's international airport after missing her flight has hit the big time on YouTube after her hysterics were filmed and uploaded to the video sharing website.

25% Off Top Adventure Vacation Deals!

The middle-aged woman was seen charging at a security guard at the departure gate, before screaming "aieyyahhhhh," at the top of her lungs in a rant that lasts about three minutes.


The woman, sprawled on the ground, was seen wailing. An elderly man traveling with her tried to pull her to her feet but she shouted in Cantonese: "I want to go, I want to go."

Cathay Pacific said it had already closed the aircraft's doors and had offloaded the woman's baggage, and so was unable to allow her to board the flight to San Francisco.

"Don't be so upset, don't be so emotional," a male Cathay Pacific staff member is heard saying on the video.

Cathay Pacific said the incident occurred earlier this month, and the video appeared to have been loaded onto YouTube late last week. By Monday, the "woman going insane after missing her flight video" had over 400,000 hits.

Give the gift of movies and receive a special reward (valued up to $100).

In 2006, another sensational outburst by a stressed-out Hong Kong man captured the imagination of many people in this fast-paced, money-obsessed, Asian financial capital.

The middle-aged man, who chastised and swore at a youngster in a six-minute-long diatribe aboard a double decker bus, was dubbed "Bus-Uncle" and a video of the incident received close to two million hits.

His quote "I have pressure, you have pressure" became a catch-phrase and sparked navel-gazing at the pressure that many over-worked Hong Kong citizens suffer.

As for the woman at the airport, Cathay Pacific said it put her and her two travel companions on a later flight to Los Angeles, at no extra cost.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Electronic evidence firm grilled over absent memos

Guidance Software Inc. bills itself as the leading provider of technology that helps companies dig up old e-mails and other electronic documents that might be evidence in a lawsuit. Yet when Guidance itself had to face a judge, it was accused of bumbling its internal digital search.

Get 30-50% Off International Airfares

Whether Guidance intentionally hid documents or just couldn't find them is a matter of dispute. The company said it did all that was required. But its inability to cough up certain e-mails, even over several months, led an arbitrator to accuse it of gross negligence and proceeding in bad faith.

At the very least, the case shows how thorny electronic evidence searches can be, even for a specialist.

The mountains of digital information piling up on hard drives and backup tapes have made discovery — the exchange of information between parties at the start of a lawsuit — increasingly complex. "E-discovery" software and services boomed from a $40 million business in 1999 to nearly $2.8 billion in 2007, according to George Socha and Tom Gelbmann, directors of the industry group Electronic Discovery Resource Model.

Pasadena, Calif.-based Guidance Software is one of the largest software specialists, with sales of $89 million over the last four quarters. The company began in 1997 making tools to help criminal investigators search computer hard drives. In recent years Guidance added new programs for scouring corporate networks for digital evidence.

Audiobook Downloads from Audible
Guidance needed to turn that expertise on itself in a case involving its former marketing director, Cassondra Todd.

Todd believed Guidance's chairman pressured her manager to fire her, in part because she is a woman. After she got a scathing performance review in 2007, she asked for an investigation.

"I was quite confident that whatever information was produced would wipe clean what was going on," Todd said in an interview. "That's what we did for a living."

[, America’s Magazine Superstore]

But Guidance told Todd it found no evidence of discrimination. It apologized for the harshness of the review but wouldn't delete it from her file.

Todd responded by hiring Arnold Peter, an attorney with Los Angeles-based Raskin Peter Rubin & Simon. A few weeks later, she was laid off.

Todd filed a wrongful-termination claim, and both sides were required to perform discovery, a hunt for documents that might matter to the case.

The results of Guidance's initial run of e-discovery seemed scant to Todd. She expected to see far more e-mails from her days in the company. But she couldn't argue Guidance was holding back — intentionally or not — until she got a break a few months later.

[Flyg billigare med Skytours]

Tim Leehealey, Todd's first manager at Guidance and now the head of a rival company, had printed and saved some memos from the time of Todd's bad performance review. When Todd reviewed his stash, she found e-mails about her that Guidance hadn't turned over. In one, Leehealey questioned whether someone in the company was setting Todd up to be fired.

"Other than (Guidance Chairman Shawn McCreight's) hatred of her, she was a good employee and produced for me," he wrote to Victor Limongelli, now Guidance's chief executive.

Whether Guidance didn't find Leehealey's memos or whether it chose not to hand them over, "either one was extremely damning," Leehealey said in an interview.

"Those documents were on people's hard drives for sure, and they didn't produce them," said Leehealey, whose company, AccessData Inc., tried to buy Guidance last year but was turned down.

The arbitrator handling Todd's case, a retired judge, ordered Guidance to do a more thorough round of e-discovery. The company came back empty-handed — except for news that one of its e-mail backup tapes had been corrupted. The arbitrator lost patience.

"I want this game-playing stopped," the arbitrator, William McDonald, told Guidance's attorney, according to a court transcript.

[Deep link - Please modify the fields]

McDonald stopped short of saying Guidance was sitting on a smoking gun. But he was disturbed that Todd kept identifying documents the company hadn't unearthed. When he learned the corrupted backup tape had purportedly gone unnoticed for nearly a year, he had harsh words for the company.

"These are routine things in this business. And it wasn't done until pulling and screaming and kicking and facing the ultimate sanction," McDonald said, referring to his option to end the case in Todd's favor. "We're looking at people who should be very sophisticated in this area, given Guidance's business."

As punishment, McDonald ordered the company to pay for Todd's expert witnesses and her travel costs, plus the cost of rescheduling the trial. He also forced Guidance to search the backups, despite its arguments that it would take weeks, amounting to a task Guidance would charge customers $100,000 to perform.

In an interview, Limongelli said he didn't know in detail why Guidance didn't initially find many of the files Todd identified as missing, though he blamed a lost laptop for one oversight. Guidance executives also say the company was not legally required to search its backup tapes at first, given the expense of reading them.

"It wasn't an attempt to hide any information," Limongelli said. "We think we followed what is a quite normal course."

Some experts not involved with the case said there is support for Guidance's argument about the backup tapes. Under federal rules, all electronically stored information is potentially discoverable. But the rules distinguish between "reasonably accessible" files and ones that are too expensive to tackle, at least in initial e-discovery. Backup tapes often count as overly burdensome, said Scott Carlson, co-chair of e-discovery for the law firm Seyfarth Shaw.

Outside experts hired by Todd gave the arbitrator more critical assessments of Guidance's actions.

[The finest in Children's Christian Learning Products for kids of all ages. Lot's of free stuff too!. You don't want to miss this one.]

Brett Harrison, a director in FTI Consulting Inc.'s electronic evidence consulting group, wrote that the way Guidance saved documents once it knew of Todd's legal actions "was not performed to commonly accepted standards within the e-discovery field and in great part did not occur at all."

A second expert, William Moylan of Aon Consulting Inc., questioned why Guidance asked that deleted files be ignored during discovery because hunting for them would be a burden.

"Recovery and searching of deleted files is at the very heart of computer forensics," he wrote.

Ultimately, the arbitrator found enough information to decide in Todd's favor. He awarded her more than $300,000, about twice her annual compensation. A federal court is also set to consider whether Todd should receive damages under separate laws that prohibit discrimination. With most of the facts of Todd's dismissal already established, her attorney plans to focus on whether Guidance attempted to thwart e-discovery during arbitration.

Guidance was "egregiously in violation of everything they report to be best practices," Todd says. "They had every resource at their disposal. They didn't want to take it seriously."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

For millions, digital TV deadline still is now

Isidro Diaz surfs channels on his old TV about three hours a night in the trailer he rents for $350 a month. Come Tuesday, his limited choice of programs will be much more limited.

Although the government delayed the mandatory shutdown of analog TV signals by four months to give people with older TVs more time to prepare, that's small comfort to Diaz and other people who live in cities where some broadcasters are switching to all-digital broadcasts Tuesday, as they had originally planned.

Because it is costly to keep broadcasting analog signals, nearly 500 stations said they would make the transition on Tuesday or one of the nearby days, rather than June 12. After last-minute prodding by the Federal Communications Commission, 43 of them backed off. But still there will be an odd patchwork of programming for millions of Americans who rely on analog TV signals.

To deal with the change, they need a digital converter box or a new TV with a digital tuner, or cable or satellite service.

The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, a coalition of 200 advocacy groups, has digital TV assistance centers in seven metropolitan areas — Atlanta, Detroit, San Antonio, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Ore., and St. Paul, Minn. — to answer questions, demonstrate converter boxes and sometimes send out house calls.

In San Diego, the nation's eighth-largest city, the ABC, CBS, Fox and CW affiliates plan to end analog broadcasts Tuesday.

The Very Best in British Entertainment!

Diaz, a 63-year-old Mexican immigrant who was laid off a month ago by a garden nursery that paid $10 an hour, figures he will eventually muster $200 for a digital television; the least expensive model on Best Buy Co.'s Web site costs $130.

He recently shopped at an electronics store for a digital converter box for the $40 used Sony TV he bought from a newspaper classified ad four years ago. But the $60 converter box didn't seem worth it because he can get a new TV for a little more.

Subscribing to cable or satellite TV is out of the question.

"There's no work right now, $40 a month is very difficult," Diaz said while scarfing a dinner of beef tacos at a stand in San Diego's Barrio Logan neighborhood.

The Obama administration sought the delay in the analog TV shutdown after the government ran out of money for the $40 coupons that subsidize digital converter boxes. The program has a waiting list of 4 million coupons; each household can get up to two.

According to research firm MRI, 17.7 percent of Americans live in households with only over-the-air TV. The Nielsen Co. said last week that more than 5.8 million U.S. households, or 5.1 percent of all homes, were not ready for the analog shutdown.

However, officials at stations that plan to make the switch Tuesday believe that the transition will mainly go smoothly, and that the delay will confuse consumers.

"They've had two years to get ready is our feeling," said Larry Patton, general manager of KSWO-TV, an ABC affiliate in Lawton, Okla. "We feel there's always going to be a few people who are going to wake up on the morning of Feb. 17, or June 17, or whenever it is, and not be ready."

Bryan Frye, marketing director at KAKE-TV, the ABC station in Wichita, Kan., said he was half-joking when he described fears about the analog shutdown as "a little like Y2K."

"We are going to pull out all the stops, we are going to have everybody on board, you know, full alert," Frye said. "It is going to happen and everybody is going to go, `Hmmm, OK.'"

In Jackson, Miss., Ashley Lewis, 25, said she has visited an older neighbor several times to help with her digital converter box. Lewis bought a new antenna Thursday for the neighbor, thinking that might make the box work better. In most cases digital signals, which are more efficient, come in better than analog, but some older antennas aren't well suited.

"She can barely walk," Lewis said. "Her knees are so bad sometimes and she is on a fixed income, and I don't think it is fair for elderly people."

A Radio Shack store in Casper, Wyo., where the ABC and CBS stations switch next week, has found that the converter boxes confuse some consumers, said assistant store manager Dorothy Durda.

"Normally, they come in and we draw them a little diagram or whatever of how to do it and that seems to fix their problem for them," Durda said. 234x60 Best Seller Giveaway

Major San Diego stations have twice flashed warnings to TV screens on analog signals, telling anyone who sees the message to call a toll-free number for more information, said Jeff Block, manager of KGTV-TV, an ABC affiliate.

After a warning in December, the toll-free number got 359 calls. A warning in January yielded 510 calls.

Diaz didn't call the number but said Tuesday's switch comes as no surprise. The stations he watches have advertised the change for about three months.

He'll still be able to get Spanish-language news broadcasts, which he watches about three hours each weeknight. And he can still enjoy boxing on Saturday nights and soccer matches on weekends. But starting Tuesday he'll have a puny selection of English-language programs.

Diaz said he might browse again for TVs this weekend but isn't sure when he'll buy one.

Friday, February 13, 2009

YouTube testing video downloads

YouTube said it is dabbling with letting people download videos to computers as an alternative to watching clips streamed over the Internet.

Beach Body. Great Deals!

Video owners would be able to offer downloads for free or for small fees paid through a Google Checkout service, according to YouTube product manager Thai Tran.

"Many video creators on YouTube want their work to be seen far and wide," Tran wrote in a YouTube blog post.

"They don't mind sharing their work, provided that they get the proper credit."

YouTube has been seeking ways to make money off videos shared at the popular website and address complaints from film and television studios worried that pirated material is swapped there.

"We've started working with a few partners who want their videos shared universally and even enjoyed away from an Internet connection," Tran wrote.

Find books at

Video copyright owners would be able to provide Creative Commons permits that license YouTube members to reuse content within specified limits.

"We're also testing an option that gives video owners the ability to permit downloading of their videos from YouTube," Tran noted.

Lecture videos from classes at a set of US universities including Stanford and Duke are being offered as free downloads at YouTube as part of a test of the service.

YouTube channels for Khan Academy, Household Hacker and Pogobat are also participating in the test of the potential "distribution and revenue-generating tool," according to Tran

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Google Extends FriendConnect With a 'social Bar'

FriendConnect, the Google service that lets Web publishers add social networking features to their Web sites, has gained a new feature that aggregates basic social media functions in a toolbar that can be added to Web pages.

Lowest International Airfares Online!

The "social bar," as Google calls it, puts functions like logging in, editing profiles and settings, activity streams display and discussion wall postings into a strip that can be placed at the top or bottom of Web pages, Google said Wednesday. People can expand the view of each function by clicking on it.

FriendConnect is Google's offering for data portability, which allows people to control the information and content they enter at social networking sites and social media-sharing sections of Web sites, so that they don't have to manually update multiple accounts.

For example, one idea of data portability calls for people to have an online dashboard of their social information and content -- friends lists, photos, video clips, blog items -- that would be independent from any individual site. From there, people can control what information and content they post where, avoiding data lock-in.

Although data portability has gained popularity among users and Internet companies, it has proven technically complicated to implement as well as controversial, because it brings up questions about users' data privacy and protection.


In a prime example of the complexities of bringing broad data portability into reality, Facebook blocked FriendConnect's access to its site in May, saying the Google service violated its terms of service by redistributing the data of Facebook members "in a way users might not expect or understand."

Facebook has its own data portability system, called Connect. MySpace also has one, called MySpaceID.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

a slimmer version of Amazon Kindle Book now release Inc. is releasing a slimmer version of its Kindle electronic reading device, but it still costs $359 — making it unclear how mainstream even an improved Kindle can be during a brutal recession. - Compare airfare prices and save!

Rather than lowering the price, Amazon touted several upgrades to the e-book reader and a novella from Stephen King that will be available exclusively for the device. The new Kindle is expected to begin shipping Feb. 24, with owners of the first Kindle at the front of the line if they want to upgrade.

"This device is a significant improvement versus the first generation," Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos said in an interview.

He said there was no way to lower the price given the upgraded components in the Kindle 2, which is a bit more than one-third of an inch thick — about half the thickness of the first Kindle. Its 6-inch screen can display 16 shades of gray, compared with the previous Kindle's four shades. It will be able to read text aloud from two small speakers on the back, and it can store 1,500 books, instead of 200.

The new Kindle is slightly taller, but like the old version, it weighs about 10 ounces. It downloads books — the catalog has 230,000 titles — and newspaper stories and blog posts over Sprint Nextel Corp.'s wireless network.

E-books still don't exceed 1 percent of overall book sales, but publishers say they are a fast-growing niche, a rare area of improvement in an otherwise terrible market. Although some publishers have expressed nervousness about's market power, they have supported the Kindle and expanded the number of books available for it and competing devices such as Sony Corp.'s Reader. The Reader costs $300 or $400, depending on the model.

The Kindle has enjoyed a steady buzz, with an endorsement last fall from Oprah Winfrey and Amazon's claim over the holidays that it was out of stock.

Seattle-based Amazon has carefully guarded key details, including how many Kindles have sold since they debuted late in 2007. Amazon wouldn't comment on an analyst report last week that it had sold about 500,000 Kindles, which was based on a regulatory filing by Sprint Nextel that indicated 210,000 were bought in the third quarter of 2008.

Sony spokeswoman Valerie Motis said that since the original Reader's launch in October 2006, the company had shipped 300,000 of the devices as of the end of November.

Bezos said Monday that Kindle orders were strong around the holidays and that he expects that to continue. Even in the recession, he said, "people are buying Kindles."

The Kindle is available only in the U.S.; Bezos said an international release is "clearly something we're thinking about."

Ross Rubin, an analyst with The NPD Group, called the Kindle 2 "an improvement across the board." He said that there was enough room for improvement over the first Kindle that the second probably will still appeal to people who already have one.

But for e-book readers to reach broader audiences, the price needs to come down, he said. He expects this won't happen until must-haves like textbooks become available for the devices.

Colin Sebastian, an analyst with Lazard Capital Markets, said Amazon could cut the Kindle's price before the next holiday season if sales are healthy enough that Amazon can save on some component costs. He noted that driving down the price could lead to more sales of books for the Kindle — and books are more profitable than the device itself, he said.

Amazon recently said it would make Kindle e-books available on other kinds of devices, including cell phones, as rival Google Inc. also is doing.

Amazon also hopes to make the Kindle enticing through exclusive content, beginning with King's novella, called "Ur," which incorporates the device into the story.

King has been known as a digital publishing innovator. In 2000 he released a novella, "Riding the Bullet," as a free download. Web sites such as Amazon and Barnes & were swamped by high demand for the 66-page story.

Amazon shares rose 16 cents to close at $66.71

Sunday, February 08, 2009

US E-Commerce expected to climb back to last year's levels by 2010

E-commerce in the United States is expected to climb back to last year's levels by 2010 after experiencing slowing growth in 2009 due to the recession, a research group said on Monday.

Rent DVDs by Mail, As Low As $9.95 / Month

Online sales in 2010 could reach approximately $176.9 billion, representing 13 percent growth, said Forrester Research in its five-year e-commerce forecast.

Last week, the group released data saying the online retail channel was expected to grow 11 percent to $156 billion in 2009, below the 13 percent growth seen in 2008, and the 15 percent growth it had earlier predicted for 2009.

"While there is the possibility of a bearish scenario in which no recovery surfaces in 2009, consumers appear to be enthused about a new president, and government plans to stimulate the economy," the report said. "Furthermore, few recessions have lasted longer than a year in total."

The deteriorating U.S. economy led to tepid online sales in 2008 as consumers cut back on all but the most necessary of purchases. flights link

Online retailers faced severe competition from brick-and-mortar establishments that were heavily discounting merchandise, while giants from Inc to eBay Inc have acknowledged the challenging macroeconomic environment that has spooked not only consumers, but financial markets around the globe.

In 2009, greater numbers of affluent customers shifting their purchases from traditional retailers to online outlets will outweigh decreases seen from other customers stemming their spending overall, the report found.

But after an acceleration in 2010, Forrester predicts that growth will slow, with 10 percent, 9 percent, and 8 percent growth expected for 2011, 2012 and 2013, respectively.

"It's just the maturity of the market -- it's reaching its maximum size," Sucharita Mulpuru, author of the report, told Reuters. "Even a few years ago we would have suggested it would be single-digit growth then."

At the same time, e-commerce will pick up a greater piece of overall U.S. retail sales.

Get 50% more with a 1year membership

"Despite the deceleration in growth, Web sales are nonetheless expected to be positive as e-commerce continues to capture market share from brick-and-mortar stores," the report found, citing Web shopping's convenience and the ability for consumers to search for low prices.

Whereas the online channel will make up 6 percent of total retail sales in 2009 and 2010, that will increase to 7 percent and 8 percent in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

Online sales in 2013 are similarly expected to make up 8 percent of overall sales. (Reporting by Alexandria Sage)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Google calls in chips in AOL investment

Google is calling in its chips in its $1 billion investment in Time Warner's AOL.

The search giant, which struck the hefty deal back in 2005, gave it a 5 percent stake in AOL.

The 2005 arrangement, not only included collaboration on advertising, instant messaging and video, but also gave Google "certain customary minority shareholder rights," such as those related to any future sale or public offering of AOL.

With the markets in the doldrums and AOL's business continuing to take a beating, as evidenced in Time Warner's fourth-quarter earnings report Wednesday, Google is looking for payback time.

Last summer, Google announced it was considering writing down some of the value it had previously placed on its AOL investment. And when Google reported its fourth-quarter results late last month, the write-down figure came in at $726 million.

Discount Hotels in 53 Countries Worldwide!

And last week, things apparently between the two companies seemed to get worse when Time Warner Chief Financial Officer John Martin said 28 minutes and 13 seconds into the company's fourth-quarter Webcast conference call:

At the end of last week, Google sent us a request to exercise their demand registration rights that it has for its 5 percent ownership stake in AOL.

We're reviewing what we received and we're evaluating our options. Those options include: preceding with the request, delaying the decision for sometime, or we can move ahead to potentially buy back Google's stake at an appraised value, which would obviously be well below the value that was placed on at the time of the original investment.

In other words, stay tuned for more to come...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Do you know where your kid is? Check Google's maps

With an upgrade to its mobile maps, Google Inc. hopes to prove it can track people on the go as effectively as it searches for information on the Internet.

The new software to be released Wednesday will enable people with mobile phones and other wireless devices to automatically share their whereabouts with family and friends.

Best Fares

The feature, dubbed "Latitude," expands upon a tool introduced in 2007 to allow mobile phone users to check their own location on a Google map with the press of a button.

"This adds a social flavor to Google maps and makes it more fun," said Steve Lee, a Google product manager.

It could also raise privacy concerns, but Google is doing its best to avoid a backlash by requiring each user to manually turn on the tracking software and making it easy to turn off or limit access to the service.

Google also is promising not to retain any information about its users' movements. Only the last location picked up by the tracking service will be stored on Google's computers, Lee said.

Euro Relais Holiday Homes

The software plots a user's location — marked by a personal picture on Google's map — by relying on cell phone towers, global positioning systems or a Wi-Fi connection to deduce their location. The system can follow people's travels in the United States and 26 other countries.

It's left up to each user to decide who can monitor their location.

The social mapping approach is similar to a service already offered by Loopt Inc., a 3-year-old company located near Google's Mountain View headquarters.

Loopt's service already is compatible with more than 100 types of mobile phones.

To start out, Google Latitude will work on Research In Motion Ltd.'s Blackberry and devices running on Symbian software or Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Mobile. It will also operate on some T-1 Mobile phones running on Google's Android software and eventually will work on Apple Inc.'s iPhone and iTouch.

To widen the software's appeal, Google is offering a version that can be installed on personal computers as well.

The PC access is designed for people who don't have a mobile phone but still may want to keep tabs on their children or someone else special, Lee said. People using the PC version can also be watched if they are connected to the Internet through Wi-Fi.

Google can plot a person's location within a few yards if it's using GPS or might be off by several miles if it's relying on transmission from cell phone towers. People who don't want to be precise about their whereabouts can choose to display just the city instead of a specific neighborhood.

There are no current plans to sell any advertising alongside Google's tracking service, although analysts believe knowing a person's location eventually will unleash new marketing opportunities. Google has been investing heavily in the mobile market during the past two years in an attempt to make its services more useful to people when they're away from their office or home computers.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

IBM to send blazing fast supercomputer to Energy Department

IBM plans to announce on Tuesday that it will supply the world's fastest supercomputer to the U.S. Department of Energy in the next few years, according to numerous reports.

Not only will the machine, called Sequoia, be the fastest supercomputer to date, it will blow the current record-holder out of the water. IBM's Roadrunner, located at the U.S. Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory, was the first system to reach 1.026 petaflops (a petaflop is equal to a quadrillion calculations per second; the "flops" stands for floating point operations per second). But only seven months after the Roadrunner took top honors on a twice-yearly list of the world's fastest supercomputers, IBM is announcing that its successor will outdo it by an order of magnitude. Sequoia will be able to work at a staggering 20 petaflops, the equivalent of the compute power of 2 million laptops according to Reuters.

IBM says it plans to deliver the Sequoia to the Energy Department for use at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The supercomputer will run simulations to test the soundness of the nation's stockpile of nuclear weaponry, according to the IDG News Service.

Like Roadrunner, IBM says Sequoia will be energy-efficient. It will draw 6 megawatts of power in a year, which is roughly what 500 American homes would use, according to Wired.