Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Busiest US Online Shopping Minute of the Year Will be at 10.25 AM, on Black Friday (November 28), Predicts Retail Decisions

/PRNewswire/ -- Retail Decisions (ReD), a payment card issuer and world leader in payment card fraud prevention and payment processing, predicts a bustling Black Friday on November 28 with 10.00 am - 11.00 am being the busiest online shopping hour of the year, with the peak shopping moment at 10.25 am. December 1, Cyber Monday's busiest hour will be between 9.00 am - 10.00 am. This will be the second busiest online shopping hour of the year with a peak shopping moment at 9.49 am.

ReD is forecasting that volumes will rise by 18% on a like-for-like basis vs. 2007. The Average Transaction Value in the United States will fall by 9%.

"A change in consumer behavior is evident with more and more consumers spending their dollars on 'stay at home' items such as fast food and "Pay As You Go" TV, as vacations are replaced by staycation. The recession has brought a new found frugality that is causing people to shop smarter, budget better and exploit sales," said Carl Clump, CEO of Retail Decisions.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Major Spam Botnets Yet to Recover After Host Shut-Down

/PRNewswire/ -- One week after the world's most significant breakthrough in the fight against spam, spam levels are yet to return to their previous levels, according to security experts from the Marshal8e6 TRACE Team. However, it is likely that spam levels will eventually return to their previous high levels in the future.

On November 11, the volume of spam around the world fell by as much as 70 percent due to the shutdown of a major spam hosting network, McColo.

McColo was shut down by its Internet Service Provider after an investigative journalist made inquiries about the Web hosting company's illicit activities. McColo was hosting the command and control infrastructure for three of the world's most prolific spam botnets: Srizbi, Mega-D and Rustock. When McColo was shut down, the spammers were disconnected from the networks of spam-sending bot computers under their control.

Throughout 2008, the TRACE team has published reports showing that just a handful of major spamming botnets are responsible for as much as 90 percent of spam. The TRACE Team has been campaigning within the IT security community for a coordinated effort against the top spamming botnets.

"This is the most significant single event in the fight against spam we have ever seen," said Phil Hay, lead threat analyst with the TRACE Team. "It shows that a coordinated effort against spammers by security researchers can have a positive and meaningful impact on global spam levels. It is something that we have been working towards for a long time and it is fantastic to see the flow-on effects on spam levels as a result of targeting the bigger botnets."

"Unfortunately we do not expect this situation to last," he continued. "The spammers are no doubt already setting up new command and control servers. The challenge for them is to re-establish connections with the thousands of zombie computers still infected with their bot code. We fully expect spam will resume in large volumes eventually. However, almost a week later, the spammers haven't managed to do that yet."

Marshal8e6 says that the command and control servers play a critical part in managing the hundreds of thousands of infected bot computers, also referred to as 'zombies'.

"An infected bot computer typically 'phones home' to the control servers periodically to get updated instructions and spamming templates. By shutting down McColo, the link between the zombie computers and their control servers has effectively been cut off for now," explained Hay.

The events that led to McColo's shut down involved months of collaboration and research by a variety of security professionals.

"Last week's events have proven that by drawing attention to the worst spam offenders, security researchers and law enforcement have the capability to focus their energies on the key players and take action," said Hay. "Five years ago when spam was dominated by numerous small-scale spammers it was extremely difficult to target an individual spammer and have any real effect on spam. Now, because botnets have enabled a handful of major spam players to dominate, the targeted actions of the IT security and law enforcement communities can have an immediate and palpable effect on spam."

Marshal8e6 says the command and control servers for the Srizbi, Mega-D and Rustock botnets were affected by the McColo shut down. According to Marshal8e6's statistics, just prior to McColo's shut down, these three botnets were ranked first, second and fifth respectively as the world's most prolific sources of spam, together responsible for nearly 70 percent of spam.

"It is a cliche, but the fight against spam is a game of cat and mouse," said Hay. "Over the longer term, the spammers will learn from this incident and will probably evolve their botnet control systems. They may adopt a more resilient peer-to-peer or layered model where control servers are harder to access and spread among many hosts. Only time will tell if these botnets recover. The key thing is that the IT security and law enforcement communities learn from last week's events as well. We have to work together to maintain the pressure on the key spam players."

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Facebook, Google, YouTube, MTV, Howcast, Columbia Law School and the U.S. Department of State Convene the Alliance of Youth Movements Summit

PRNewswire/ -- Facebook, Google, YouTube, MTV, Howcast, Columbia Law School, the U.S. Department of State and Access 360 Media are bringing leaders of 17 pioneering organizations from 15 countries together with technology experts next month in New York for the first-ever conclave to empower youth against violence and oppression through the use of the latest online tools.

These young leaders will form a new group, the Alliance of Youth Movements, which will produce a field manual for youth empowerment. The field manual will stand in stark contrast to the Al-Qaeda manual on the basics of terrorism, found by Coalition Forces in Iraq.

The gathering was inspired by the success of the One Million Voices Against the FARC, a group started on Facebook.com by young people in Colombia. Aided by social networking technologies, the organization inspired 12 million people in 190 cities around the world to take to the streets in protest against the FARC, an extremist group that has been terrorizing Colombia for more than 40 years. The magnitude of the marches illustrated once and for all that the FARC lacked a strong support base. Within days of the protests, the FARC witnessed massive desertions from their ranks. The Colombian group will share their ideas with leaders of other groups that use social and mobile technologies to promote freedom and justice and oppose violence, extremism and oppression.

The New York summit will bring together such organizations as One Million Voices Against the FARC, Save Darfur Coalition, Genocide Intervention Network, Burma Global Action Network and Invisible Children.

The Alliance of Youth Movements Summit will take place December 3 to 5 at the Columbia Law School in Manhattan. "We at Columbia are excited about helping, designing, and studying innovative public-private partnerships that leverage new technologies to tackle some of the world's greatest challenges. This summit is a great opportunity to do this," said Matthew Waxman, associate professor of law. The event will also be streamed live online by Howcast.com and on ThinkMTV.com. Howcast Media is organizing the Summit with additional support from Facebook, Google, YouTube, MTV, Columbia Law School, the U.S. Department of State and Access 360 Media.

Speakers at the Summit will include:
-- Whoopi Goldberg, Host of ABC's "The View"
-- Dustin Moskovitz, Co-Founder, Facebook
-- James K. Glassman, Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public
Affairs, U.S. Department of State
-- Oscar Morales, Founder, One Million Voices Against the FARC
-- Luke Russert, MSNBC
-- Matthew Waxman, Associate Professor of Law, Columbia Law School


Panels will discuss a variety of practical topics, including How To Build Transnational Social Movements Using New Technology, How To Use New Mobile Technologies and How To Preserve Group Safety And Security.

Summit participants will also be honored at a red-carpet event with entertainment celebrities, business leaders, and civil society figures at the former home of MTV's Total Request Live ("TRL") overlooking Times Square.

Howcast will use the field manual for youth empowerment developed at the Summit as the cornerstone of a much larger online "hub," where emerging youth organizations can access and share "how-to" guides and tips on how to use social-networking and other technologies to promote freedom and justice and counter violence, extremism and oppression. The hub (http://howcast.com/youthmovements) will include instructional videos and text guides, links to related online resources and discussion forums for sharing experiences, ideas and advice.

"The Summit provides a unique opportunity to bring these socially conscious groups together for the purpose of making real, positive change in the world," said Jason Liebman, Co-Founder and CEO of Howcast Media. "Howcast's mission has always been focused on making it easier for people to learn how to do just about anything, and I'm particularly proud to see Howcast being used to help people learn how to make a difference in improving the world that we all share."

"I'm thrilled and inspired to see how people, especially young people, are using Facebook and other technologies to work together to improve the lives of entire nations of people," said Elliot Schrage, VP of Communications, Public Policy and Platform Marketing, Facebook. "We often focus on the value technology brings to the individual but the true promise of technology is unlocked when it connects people and enables them to work with a common purpose."

"The State Department is proud to play a role in highlighting the new wave of civil-society empowerment that is happening online," said James K. Glassman, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. "What is so encouraging is that this effort is being led by public-spirited technology firms like Howcast and innovative educators like those at Columbia University."

"It's critical that young people continue to utilize the technological tools available to them to band together and rally around causes and movements that can make a difference in the world," said Ian Rowe, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Strategic Partnerships for MTV. "On Think.MTV.com, we encourage young people to engage in and take action on the issues that matter to them most. This Summit revolves around how young people can do this, through multiple technology platforms."

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Study Finds Both Students and Teachers Lack Basic Cyber Security Education

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Less than 25 percent of educators feel comfortable teaching students how to protect themselves from online cyber predators, cyber bullies and identity theft, according to a recent study by The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and Educational Technology, Policy Research and Outreach (ETPRO).

At a time when children ages 10-to-14 spend more time on the Internet than watching television, the study found that only the Commonwealth of Virginia has education curriculum requirements that include information on how students can protect themselves online. Since completion of this study, several more states including Georgia, Illinois and Tennessee, have passed legislation requiring online safety education in the classroom. In addition, 90 percent of educators have received less than six hours of professional development on cyber security in the past year.

The 2008 National Cyberethics, Cybersafety, Cybersecurity Baseline Study was conducted to explore educational awareness policies, initiatives, curriculum, and practices currently taking place in the U.S. public and private K-12 educational settings. The survey was administered online. 1,569 public and private U.S. K-12 educators and 94 technology coordinators took the survey and local and state technology directors and 219 educators participated in focus groups for the survey.

"Children are integrating technology into their lives at lightning speed. Our schools need to find ways to introduce cyber security education as a fully integrated part of the K-12 curriculum," said Michael Kaiser, executive director of the NCSA. "We take the time to teach our children how to safely cross the street. Given the amount of time children spend online, the continuously emerging role of the technology in everyday life, and the risks that young people face, we are obligated to ensure that every child learns about safety, security and responsible use of the internet; yet we are not yet to the point of teaching children how to 'look both ways' to avoid the 'accidents' that can occur online."

"Schools are not alone. Nonprofit groups, government, the private sector and parents all play critical roles in ensuring children's safety online. However, educators and school systems will need to make the issue a priority if we can expect to see widespread adoption of cyber safety curricula in the classroom."

As part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, all students are required to be digitally literate by the 8th grade but half of the survey's respondents said there were no clear methods chosen by their school or school district to convey information on cyber safety and cyber security to students. Despite feeling unprepared or uncomfortable discussing C3 topics with students, more than 60 percent of educators are interested in learning more about C3 issues in general and in many cases the percentage increased on specific topics such as cyber safety, which was rated their highest priority.

"Policies need to be updated regularly and reviewed to ensure that teachers, students and parents understand the basics of cyber security. We must ensure our teachers are given the training necessary for them to inform their students on these topics," said Davina Pruitt-Mentle, PhD, Executive Director and Senior Research Analyst for ETPRO. "However, the burden cannot be placed solely on our education system. From media to corporate America to our federal, state and local governments, a variety of partnerships need to be formed to protect our children."

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Emory University Libraries, George Mason's Center for History & New Media, Announce Zotero Partnership

PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Emory University Libraries and The Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University have entered a cooperative partnership on Zotero (www.zotero.org), the free, open-source bibliographic manager. A team of librarians, information technologists and faculty members led by Connie Moon Sehat, Emory Libraries' new director of digital scholarship initiatives, will extend research capabilities of the software in collaboration with Zotero's main development team. Sehat is a former co-director of Zotero and CHNM.

For Dan Cohen, who is associate professor of history at George Mason University and director of CHNM, a relationship with Emory exemplifies the powerful opportunities for institutional cooperation offered by digital media.

"The Center for History and New Media and the Zotero Project are lucky to now have the resources and experience of Emory on their side," says Cohen, "and the continued insight and direction of Connie Sehat. We look forward to what will undoubtedly be a tremendously productive collaboration." Cohen oversees Zotero with Sean Takats, assistant professor of history at George Mason and CHNM's acting director of research projects.

At Emory, participation in the Zotero project represents a step toward the realization of larger transformations happening in the libraries as well as the university overall.

"Developing exciting and innovative tools and capabilities to support digital humanities research is a cornerstone of our strategic plan," says Rick Luce, Emory University vice provost and director of libraries. "Partnering on the development of open source software with CHNM, an established center of excellence in the digital humanities, allows the Emory Libraries to create value for the research community while sharing the risks in developing innovative software."

Already a powerful research tool, Zotero allows users to gather, organize and analyze sources such as citations, full texts, Web pages, images and other objects. It meshes the functionality of older reference manager applications with modern software and Web applications, such as del.icio.us and YouTube, to amass large amounts of data in easy ways.

Over the next two years, Zotero will allow researchers--and their data--to interact with one another in Web 2.0 communities, help scholars archive information with the Internet Archive and offer text-mining capabilities. Zotero also will expand educational offerings to provide more support for its growing national and international communities of users, many located in university settings. Working in conjunction with the Zotero team at CHNM, Emory's Zotero team will take advantage of local research environments and library expertise to contribute to Zotero's anticipated growth.

Since its introduction in 2006, Zotero has earned significant accolades for its facilitation of online research. It was named a PC Magazine's "Best Free Software" in 2007 and again this year, as well as "Best Instructional Software" of 2007 as determined by the Information Technology and Politics section of the American Political Science Association.

The Emory University Libraries (http://web.library.emory.edu/) in Atlanta and Oxford, Ga., are an intellectual commons for Emory University, Atlanta and the world. The nine libraries' holdings include more than 3.1 million print and electronic volumes, 40,000-plus electronic journals, and internationally renowned special collections.

The Center for History and New Media (http://chnm.gmu.edu/) at George Mason University uses digital media and computer technology to democratize history. Since its founding in 1994 by Roy Rosenzweig, CHNM has used these tools to incorporate multiple voices, reach diverse audiences and encourage popular participation in presenting and preserving the past. Each year CHNM's many project websites receive over 16 million visitors. More than one million people rely on its digital tools to teach, learn and conduct research.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Chuck Leavell, Keyboardist for The Rolling Stones, Announces the Opportunity for College Students to Become Correspondents for Mother Nature Network

PRNewswire/ -- Today, The Mother Nature Network announces its College Correspondent initiative. One student from each major U.S. college will be selected to be the Mother Nature Network correspondent for 2009. MNN is running the contest in partnership with YouTube to find the country's best college environmental journalists. ( http://www.youtube.com/mnn )

With a new President waiting in the wings, 2009 is going to be a year of extraordinary environmental coverage. Mother Nature Network's college reporters will be at the forefront of this transformational change. Each of the winning correspondents will become a highlighted contributor at MNN for 2009 with his or her own video program or blog that will provide access to a nationwide audience. In addition, winners will receive a "Flip Ultra" video camcorder, and the top five correspondents will be selected to participate in an exclusive, all-expense paid summit where they will share ideas with top environmentalists, business leaders, scientists and entertainers.

MNN was co-founded by former environmental marketing executive Joel Babbit and Chuck Leavell, keyboardist for The Rolling Stones, and one of the world's most respected environmentalists. Its mission is to provide the most reliable and comprehensive environmental news and information available and to do so in a voice and design that is engaging and easily understood by the mainstream business and consumer audience.

"Providing environmental news coverage on a local level is a major component of the Mother Nature Network," says Joel Babbit, CEO and President of MNN. "Today's college students are so knowledgeable and involved in environmental issues -- we are hoping they will inspire others in their communities to become more informed as well. Those students who are selected as our correspondents will have the opportunity to report on important issues in their community, improve their skills as aspiring journalists, and gain an important addition to their resume."

Entry Submission Process

Participants will be chosen in two categories -- online and video. Students can audition by submitting a two-to-four minute video to http://www.youtube.com/mnn or a 500-word blog to http://mothernaturenetwork.blogspot.com/2008/10/announcing-mnns-college- contest.html . (Due to Length of URL please copy and paste into your Browser). People 18 years or older, and currently enrolled in college, are eligible to submit content. All entries must be in by January 15, 2009.

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Reinventing the Way People Learn to Play the Piano

Georgia Tech researchers are using technology to make learning to play instruments a little easier. Piano touch is a light-weight glove that is outfitted with electronics that cue the musician with vibrations on each finger that lets them know which finger they need use to play the next note.

The technology doesn’t stop there. The glove is wireless and can actually be synchronized with an iPod, cell phone or other music playing device so that musicians can hear the music as they are being cued to play it.

Kevin Huang, a second year master’s student majoring in Human-Computer Interaction, created the device and has been collaborating with Thad Starner and Ellen Do, two of his professors, to improve the invention.

“Adults today are so busy that they have a hard time finding the time to practice,” said Huang. “With this glove you can learn to play music while you’re at your desk or on the move.”

“Every once in a while, you have a project that comes along with relevance in two different domains,” said Thad Starner, professor in the College of Computing. “In this case, we have something very useful for learning the piano, but also may have applications for rehabilitation for people who have hand trauma or dexterity issues.”

During the initial round of research, Piano Touch was successful.

“Our pilot study showed that students learned the songs that they were practicing with the Piano Touch glove better than the songs that they were practicing without the glove,” said Huang.

The new device isn’t ready for prime time just yet, but Huang is preparing the next round of research to see how effective the device is. Part of the new study will include adding another component to the Piano Touch by synchronizing lights on a keyboard with the Piano Touch glove to also give musicians a visual cue for when and where to play. He is currently recruiting adults to be a part of the study.

“It is so exciting to see how we can enhance human life with music and technology,” said Ellen Yi-Luen Do, professor with joint appointments in the College of Architecture and College of Computing. “Whether the research can be applied for education, entertainment, rehabilitation or just the enjoyment of music, I think it is a wonderful opportunity to combine disciplines and knowledge.”

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Creating Music with Your Cell Phone

If you own a cell phone, then new software created by Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology director Gil Weinberg and his students will allow you to be the next composer and performer of your own original music.

The new software, called ZooZ Beat, allows the user to play and record a variety of instrumental sounds by shaking and tilting the phone. It also allows entering and transforming voice recordings and sharing the music in a group. The software interprets the movements and manipulates the music accordingly.

Weinberg says he created the software after realizing how his previous research on musical expression and creativity for novices could be applied to cell phones, which have become much more ubiquitous and powerful than in years past.

“My research focuses on developing algorhythms that would allow musical instruments to analyze and interpret a player’s intention,” said Weinberg. “With this technology, you don’t have to have a lot of skill or know a lot of music theory to become musically creative. You can just use your own expressive, intuitive gestures to create music that you can relate to.”

The new software, called ZooZ Beat, allows the user to play and record a variety of instrumental sounds by shaking and tilting the phone. It also allows entering and transforming voice recordings and sharing the music in a group. The software interprets the movements and manipulates the music accordingly.

Weinberg says he created the software after realizing how his previous research on musical expression and creativity for novices could be applied to cell phones, which have become much more ubiquitous and powerful than in years past.

“My research focuses on developing algorhythms that would allow musical instruments to analyze and interpret a player’s intention,” said Weinberg. “With this technology, you don’t have to have a lot of skill or know a lot of music theory to become musically creative. You can just use your own expressive, intuitive gestures to create music that you can relate to.”

Weinberg says that he always wanted to put this technology into the hands of everyone, but his previous instruments were too expensive and difficult to maintain.

“Cell phones have become so powerful as far as their capabilities, which led me to think that I could bring some of my research ideas into this realm,” says Weinberg. “I don’t have to develop the hardware, and everyone already has a cell phone. By making the software easily accessible, people will be able to create, manipulate and share music in a very intuitive and expressive manner.”

Weinberg has also applied the software technology to gaming by using the cell phone device as a game controller for PC games.

Georgia Tech Venture Lab has supported the commercialization of Weinberg’s technology, and he has a number of patents pending. The software will be available to the general public at http://www.zoozmobile.com.

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