In mid-December, Google detected a sophisticated cyber attack on its corporate infrastructure.

Further investigation revealed that Google was among a number of Silicon Valley businesses and entities–from the finance, technology, media and chemical sectors–that fell under siege. The attackers may have succeeded in the theft of intellectual property, e.g. corporate data and software source codes, by exploiting an IE browser vulnerability.

Additionally, Google discovered that dozens of Gmail accounts belonging to Chinese human rights activists appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties. These activists were based in China, as well as Europe and the US. The search-engine giant suspected these attacks originated from China.

From the Official Google Blog:

These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered–combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web–have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China.

We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.

McAfee’s Chief Technology Officer, George Kurtz, said the Google hack comprised the “largest and most sophisticated cyberattack we have seen in years targeted at specific corporations“.

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Updates:
Foreign Journalists in Beijing Hit by E-Mail Hackers [NYT]
France, Germany Say Avoid IE Until Security Vulnerability Patched [eWeek]
Google probing possible inside help on attack [Yahoo]

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The Lenovo Skylight is the industry’s first smartbook, an ultraportable laptop based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor (a low-power phone chipset with integrated WiFi & 3G connectivity). It features a full-size keyboard, 10.1″ high-resolution display, and a custom Linux OS for easy web access.

Lenovo estimates up to 10 hours of usage, delivering on Qualcomm’s claim for an “all-day” battery. Much like a cellphone, the device is meant to be charged overnight and used during the day with no strings attached. At under 2 lbs, the Skylight is thinner and lighter than most netbooks.

The Skylight will be available in April 2010 and retail for $499. Those who sign up for AT&T data plans will get discounted pricing. [View a quick hands-on at Engadget.]

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Vocab Review

Netbook: mobile mini-laptop with the brains of a Windows PC (Intel Atom), runs Windows
Smartbook: mobile mini-laptop with the brains of a smartphone (Qualcomm Snapdragon), strictly non-Windows

The differences are in weight, price, battery life, storage, and OS.

Question of the day:
If Verizon has the larger 3G network in the US, why do netbook and smartbook companies continue to partner with AT&T?

eReaders and tablets have flooded this year’s Consumer Electronics Show.

Advances in technology have made it possible to manufacture these devices with a longer battery life and at an “ever-decreasing cost,” according to the NY Times.

“There are a billion and a half Internet users on the planet today, and a lot of them are primarily using it for entertainment and social networking,” said Glen Burchers, director of global consumer segment marketing at Freescale, a chip company hoping to power the new tablets. [via A Deluge of Devices for Reading and Surfing]

Consumers will soon be able to pick and choose from a wide range of products specifically designed for reading and/or surfing the Internet, for around the price of a netbook. Perhaps these WiFi-ready reading devices will help to rescue, or at least keep afloat the floundering print & publishing industries.

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Bonnier R&D and design firm BERG partnered to explore the future of digital magazines. Below is a conceptual video for  Mag+, a prototype for a future issue of Popular Science. According to Bonnier, they tried to capture the essence of magazine reading and create an experience where “high-quality writing and stunning imagery build up immersive stories.”

Sports Illustrated has their own take:

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3D HDTV was another buzzword at CES 2010, but the technology has been hyped up too much.

Watching Avatar 3D was a great experience, but I can’t imagine having to wear bulky 3D glasses over my glasses every time I wanted to watch TV. That would be a (dizzying) pain. I hope 3D TV doesn’t become standard.

“The fantasy of swapping out your tired life for a better one is a stalwart plot device in fiction, from Huckleberry Finn and The Great Gatsby to The Passenger and Mad Men. In such stories, the decision to take on a new identity often occurs in a single, serendipitous moment; an opportunity presents itself, and the character makes the fateful choice, often getting away with it. In real life, ad hoc escape plans rarely end well.” [Gone Forever: What Does It Take to Really Disappear? via Wired]

Writer Evan Ratliff has long been fascinated by faked deaths and sudden disappearances–ploys of fugitives and individuals desperate to start a new life. In Gone Forever, Ratliff recounts the story of 42 year old Matthew Alan Sheppard. Due on charges of fraud and embezzlement, Sheppard staged a drowning to thwart the police (complete with family getaway). But he slipped up and was captured six months later.

Reporting on the phenomena of disappearances and reinvented identities and was one thing, Ratliff said. To understand it, he figured he had to try it out. After talking with the editor of WIRED, Nicholas Thompson, it turned into a contest.

On the evening of August 14, Ratliff announced the details.

Starting August 15, he would try to stay hidden. He challenged readers to find him in 30 days. The prize? $5,000. To make it fair, Thompson posted Ratliff’s bank transactions, phone calls, and e-mails online.

Hundreds teamed up, sharing intel and coordinating through social media networks, in what quickly became a coast-to-coast augmented reality game. Ratliff narrates his harrowing journey, how he hid and was chased in Gone: Shedding your Identity in the Digital Age.

“The goal was to see whether Evan could create another identity—of a person who would live the kind of life that Evan would want to live. And Evan likes to live in cities; he likes to use Facebook and Twitter; he wouldn’t ever want the life a recluse or someone truly off the grid,” said Thompson.

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It’s a fantastic read:

August 13, 6:40 PM: I’m driving East out of San Francisco on I-80, fleeing my life under the cover of dusk. Having come to the interstate by a circuitous route, full of quick turns and double backs, I’m reasonably sure that no one is following me. I keep checking the rearview mirror anyway. From this point on, there’s no such thing as sure. Being too sure will get me caught.

I had intended to flee in broad daylight, but when you are going on the lam, there are a surprising number of last-minute errands to run. This morning, I picked up a set of professionally designed business cards for my fake company under my fake name…” [Read more here]

Developers and manufacturers will gather in San Jose to tackle the challenges of emerging interactive technologies at the second annual Interactive Displays Conference. The improvement of multitouch displays for commercial and consumer devices will be up for discussion, along with advances in haptic feedback and 3D tracking tools.

Jeff Han and Steven Bathiche were recently announced as Co-Chairs for IDC 2010.

Both are pioneers in the field of surface computing. Han, founder of Perceptive Pixel,  stands as one of TIME’s 100 most influential people. Bathiche serves as research director for the Entertainment & Devices Division of Microsoft’s Applied Sciences Group and helped to conceptualize Microsoft Surface.

Conference producers promise that this year’s event will be bigger and better, following the success of IDC 2009.

I’ve compiled the features & tech specs of the eBook readers out on the market and whittled them down for your convenience. Major product perks are in bold–which one will you buy?

Amazon Kindle (6″ screen, 2GB, 10 oz.) = $259
Amazon Kindle DX (9.7″ screen, 4GB, 19 oz.) = $489

  • Audiobooks, eBooks, newspapers, and magazines are available.
  • Supports TXT, MP3, and Audible natively; many other file formats by conversion.
  • 3G wireless and has a basic web browser.
  • 16 levels of gray; 4 days of battery life with wireless on, 2 weeks of battery life without.
  • Charges via USB or power adapter. Has 3.5mm audio jack and built-in stereo speakers.
  • Features image zoom, bookmarking & annotations, dictionary, and text-to-speech.
  • International version of the Kindle has global wireless access.
  • *Kindle DX auto-rotates for reading in landscape or portrait mode and supports PDFs.

—–Barnes & Nobles Nook (6″ EInk + 3.5″ color touchscreen, 2GB expandable, 11.2 oz) = $259

  • eBooks, magazines, and newspapers are available.
  • Supports EPUB, eReader, PDFs, image & MP3 files.
  • 3G Wireless and Wi-Fi, but no web browser.
  • 16 levels of gray; 10 day battery life without wireless.
  • Features bookmarking & annotations, dictionary, and text-to-speech.
  • Charges via USB or power adapter. Has 3.5mm audio jack and built-in mono speaker.
  • *Lend books out to friends & family on their computers, cell phones, or Nooks.
  • Personalized screensavers, wallpapers, and backplate; runs on Android OS.

—– Sony Pocket Reader Edition PRS-300SC (5″ screen, 512MB, 8 oz.) = $199
Sony Reader Touch Edition PRS-600BC (6″ touchscreen, 512MB expandable, 10 oz.) = $299

  • >1 million public domain books available from Google. Magazines & newspapers TBA.
  • Supports ePub, PDF, BBeB Book and other formats by conversion.
  • No wireless and no web browser.
  • 8 levels of gray; 2 weeks battery life.
  • Charges via USB and has a 3.5mm audio jack.
  • *Touch edition supports freehand annotation, images & MP3 files.

Went out for sushi and when I came back, a new Macbook had been released, along with a nifty (but poorly named) wireless multi-touch mouse!
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White plastic unibody, built-in 7 hour battery, 13.3″ screen, multi-touch glass trackpad, $999.

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What interesting timing. A NYTimes article just came out today about Apple’s wicked sales gains in the last quarter. I’m convinced this company lives in its own universe outside of the recession.

Apple managed to surprise optimistic investors, posting a 47 percent increase in profit in the fourth quarter and handily beating Wall Street’s estimates.
[Apple’s Profit Climbs 47% as Sales Gain via NYT]

This is a lighthearted story from SF Chronicle that I had bookmarked at the beginning of summer, which draws distinctions between “typical” iPhone and Blackberry users. (What, I’m more Blackberry than iPhone?)

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Smartphone stereotypes beginning to break down by Ellen Lee
There’s a joke about a woman describing the kind of men she’s interested in meeting. “I want to date an iPhone user,” she says. “And marry a BlackBerry user.”

It’s a statement of how deeply the iPhone and BlackBerry smart phones have penetrated pop culture. The BlackBerry acts as shorthand for buttoned-up business men…[Full article @ SFGate]

[via Jalopnik]

Whoa. (1) When was the last time Toyota made a sports coupe? (2) It doesn’t look like a Toyota.

From Apple’s Rock&Roll event this morning:

nanoiPod Nano now has a 2.2″ screen, a built-in video camera, microphone, speaker, FM radio, and pedometer. Comes in nine colors; 8GB model for $149, 16GB model for $179. (Make it >30Gb and I’ll buy. My music library is obese.)

iPod touch 8Gb price cut to $199. 32Gb for $299 and 64Gb for $399. The Touch is fastest-growing product in the line.

iPod Classic 160Gb for $249. This model won’t be scrapped until flash memory gets cheaper.

iPod Shuffle comes in five colors and a polished steel special edition. 2Gb for $59, 4Gb for $79. People complained about the on-cord controls, so maybe we’ll see buttons later.

iTunes 9 has Genius playlists and IMPROVED SYNCING! You can selectively sync certain playlists, artists, genres, photos, etc. (Always wanted to do this!)

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