Archive for June, 2005

Peer-To-Peer Document Security Solution

June 24, 2005

(World’s First) Peer-To-Peer Document Security Solution

Essential Security Software has released public beta of Essential Taceo – the world’s first peer-to-peer content security solution designed to meet the security needs of small businesses. Taceo is a powerful, easy-to-use document security solution that enables small business users and individuals to securely distribute sensitive email messages and documents while protecting the privacy, integrity and authenticity of the content.

Existing and pending legislation such as Sarbanes-Oxley, Gramm Leach Bliley Act, HIPAA, and California Senate Bill 1386 require that firms dealing with personal, financial or medical information implement proper safeguards such as those provided by Essential Taceo. “Security should be a top concern for any small business who wants to prevent information loss,” said Steven Guggenheimer, vice president of small business for the Small and Midmarket Solutions & Partner Group at Microsoft. “We are excited that Essential Taceo is offering small business customers an option to support them while using their existing Microsoft Office and Windows XP environments.”

“Essential Taceo was designed from the ground up with the needs of small and medium size business users in mind,” said Ray Zambroski, president and CEO, Essential Security Software. “We’re very pleased to deliver the world’s first peer-to-peer content protection solution providing unprecedented security, privacy and enhanced productivity to our customers.”

Taceo gives content authors the power to enable rights management controls that determine how the recipient may use their content. For example, Taceo senders can prevent sensitive email and documents from being edited, printed, copied or opened by an unwanted third party.

Taceo includes strong encryption and powerful rights management controls. Not only is content protected while in storage or transit, but also after it has arrived on the authorized recipient’s desktop.

Essential Taceo integrates with popular Microsoft products, giving users the power to exchange information securely without disrupting workflow. Peer-to-peer architecture eliminates the need for costly server licenses and facilities the delivery of secure content beyond the firewall. Persistent security controls travel with content regardless of where it is distributed or how it is stored.

Essential Security Software (ESS) delivers business tools that enable small business owners and individuals to securely distribute sensitive e-mail messages and documents while protecting the privacy, integrity and authenticity of the content.

Founded in September 2003 and headquartered in Bellevue, Wash., ESS believes that people have the right to security technology that is powerful, effective, flexible and easy to use. ESS provides robust software security solutions that enrich people’s lives by leveraging the full power of computing technologies.

More information is available at http://www.essentialsecurity.com.

Enter Avalanche: P2P filesharing from Microsoft

June 17, 2005

Enter Avalanche: P2P filesharing from Microsoft

Researchers at Microsoft’s computer science lab in Cambridge have developed a peer-to-peer filesharing system that they say overcomes the scheduling problems associated with existing distribution protocols such as Bit Torrent.

The researchers claim download times are between 20-30 per cent faster, using their network coding approach, than on systems that only code at the server, and between 200 and 300 per cent faster than distributing un-encoded information.

Naturally, Microsoft is very keen to stress that this technology should be used for distributing legitimate content. It even put that in italics in the press material.

http://www.research.microsoft.com/~pablo/papers/nc_contentdist.pdf

Overpeer acquires important Anti-Piracy Patent

June 16, 2005

Overpeer Acquires Patent from the University of Tulsa Covering Anti-Piracy on Peer-to-Peer Networks

http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/050608/sfw030.html?.v=15

Overpeer, Inc., an also ran in business-to-business digital media solutions has acquired U.S. Patent No. 6,732,180 from the University of Tulsa. The patent defines a system for closely imitating digital media files on peer-to-peer networks. The technology covered by this patent can impair the ability of peer-to-peer users from illegitimately acquiring copyrighted files.

/Quote

P2P and copyright infringment go together, atleast for now. While p2p is all about freedom et al, there’s another side to it — the virually unstoppable force of the network. So how would this “anti p2p technology” work, I wonder.

Wild guesses work. Let me try some.

Ok, we know that every file (in pure layman’ish way) has a unique signature – a Hash. The MD5 and SHA-1 algorithms are two popular but compromised algorithms for generating cryptographic hash functions; the SHA-2 algorithm has no known compromises.

P2P networks (like the popular bit-torrent) work on a principal based on hash. Typically, to share a file using BitTorrent, a user creates a .torrent file, a small “pointer” file which contains:

  • the filename, size, and the hash of each block in the file (which allows users to make sure they are downloading the real thing)
  • the address of a “tracker” server (which is discussed below)
  • and some other data.

Now this Hash serves as a reference checking tool whereby the downloader manages ditributed file transfer and check whether portions recieved are complete and authentic (you might recieve incomplete portions, in which case the signature — hash — won’t match). And here lies an important key to tap the whole transaction. If you know the file signature, you know which files are being transferred and how.

So if ‘Star Wars’ is being illegally downloaded and distributed over a network, one can ‘sniff’ the traffic to know which portions are being downloaded and by whom — the end points. And, possibly, stop the transaction (Difficult, but possible)

Just a wild guess folks. Drop in an email to shashark.at.gmail.dot.com if you have other thoughts on the same. I’m curious.

Where is Huminity ?

June 15, 2005

Huminity, a p2p based Chat cum Social Networking Client came with a bang in December last year. It was even covered in slashdot. Slashdot called it the technology of the year. Though the huminity site was worse then a newbie code, I really liked the app.

Then, it disappeared. So where is Huminity, now ?

Read this, and you’ll be surprised:


http://www.globes.co.il/serveen/globes/docview.asp?did=737641&fid=942

Social networking software co Huminity raises $2-4m Huminity’s product combines instant messaging and chat technologies enabling users to share their personal contact systems.

Sources inform “Globes” that Israeli start-up Huminity has raised $2-4 million, at a company value of $10 million, after money, in its first financing round. Sources close to the company said a leading Israeli venture capital fund, a US fund, and the CEO of one of the world’s largest Internet companies participated in the round, which is close to completion. Huminity cofounders Oren Rossen and Nir Ben-Halevy declined to disclose details about the round.

Rossen and Ben-Halevy are Humity’s only employees. Rossen was a former high-tech analyst at Investec Israel (TASE: INSI), and Ben-Halevy directed the high-tech team at Deloitte and Touche – Brightman Almagor. They founded Huminity a year ago. Huminity’s product combines instant messaging and chat technologies enabling users to share their personal contact systems.

“It took a while to find the right direction for a product that offers what “Newsweek” calls the technology of 2003 – social networking,” said Rossen. He said it was clearly impossible to raise money for a company developing Internet tools at this time. “The funds wanted to see revenue flows and growth, and we quickly realized that it would be impossible to raise money from them. We therefore decided to change our strategy.”

Huminity, which develops Internet-based software tools to manage personal and professional networks, launched its first financing round when it had a working product with 400,000 customers worldwide. In recent months, the two entrepreneurs made progress on developing the software, which uses extremely low-cost open code. Rossen said theyhad personally invested $30,000 by the time they launched the first version. He added that the company’s cash burn rate was $3,500 a month.


So, is Huminity back in stealth mode as a part of larger strategy ?

Looks like. Good Luck, Huminity!

Laplink releases Instant Networking p2p Appliction

June 15, 2005

There was Groove. Now there’s Laplink. Here’s official Media Release

The latest version of ShareDirect, an instant networking application based on peer-to-peer architecture, was released by Laplink today. ShareDirect 1.3 allows users to connect folders between any number of PCs and share files of any size or type directly.

ShareDirect enables secure, private folder-to-folder file sharing connections across an Internet connection and through existing firewall and router configurations.

Laplink’s ShareDirect needs no special configuration in order to share files between PCs. The files are shared between authenticated members only, meaning that no unauthorized or anonymous individuals can access files. The platform uses 256-bit encryption on all data transmissions, keeping files secure and private, and provides built-in anti-virus checking for all downloaded files.

“Email is an easy way to send files, but it’s not secure, and you can’t always send large files that way,” explained Carol Hughes, President, Tax Planning Centre, Ltd., which uses ShareDirect to share tax files between their head office and franchise locations. Hughes continued, “Other options required costly servers or a complicated set-up or management. ShareDirect gives us an easy-to-use, cost-effective way of sharing sensitive files of any size or type while maintaining high standards of security.”

In recent months, the credibility of peer-to-peer technology for enterprise and professional use received a significant boost when Microsoft acquired Ray Ozzie’s Groove Networks, a suite of “virtual office” features built on peer-to-peer architecture. Following this acquisition, Microsoft made the decision to invest in and license certain technologies from Laplink.

This latest version of Laplink ShareDirect streamlines usability and brings the supported languages to five – English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish.

ShareDirect costs less than $4 per month, based on an annual subscription of less than $40. A 15-day free trial is available.

Sharedirect is a nice little program very similar to gotomypc and Groove. Laplink’s investor’s include Microsoft.

Google Acquisitions Part II

June 15, 2005

Also on slashdot | Original Link

From http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2005/6/12/143721/743

Google Might Gobble

Technorati – If Google is the average person’s homepage, Technorati is the homepage of the underground, tech-savvy web user. Technorati is a blog portal whose average visitor enjoys podcasts, Wikipedia, and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Providing more cutting edge results than a normal search engine, Technorati would integrate well with Google News and/or Blogger, and could perhaps feature blogs on the Google Personalized Homepage. Technorati is somewhat similar to Bloglines, which was purchased by Ask Jeeves recently.

BuzznetYahoo! beat Google to the punch by acquiring Flickr, one of my candidates in the first draft of this article. Like Flickr, Buzznet is a photo hosting and sharing service that features unique tagging features. It is possible to browse by tag and see all sorts of interesting stuff. Buzznet would probably jibe with Picasa’s Hello photo posting service, perhaps include some sort of photo-Blogger, and integrate well with Orkut.

Koders – Koders is a search engine for open source code that works remarkably well. With the recent push for plugins for Google Desktop search, Koders would be an interesting addition to Google’s software initiatives. It would make sense to combine with Google Code and Google Linux Search in some way.

GuruNet (Answers.com) – Recently, Google stopped linking to definitions on Dictionary.com, and started linking to Answers.com instead. Answers features a wealth of information about different topics, and uses Wikipedia for much of it. Since Wikipedia’s non-profit status rules it out as a potential Google acquisition, Answers.com would be the next best thing. It also would help improve Google Q&A quite a bit. Interestingly, GuruNet is a publicly traded company (AMEX: GRU) with a market cap of about $100 million.

del.icio.us – This social bookmarking and tagging application could be used to improve Google search results, and perhaps integrate with Orkut in some way. Were Google to buy Buzznet as suggested above, this would work well with it.

StumbleUpon – This unique browser plugin and service would probably improve Google results and add a new level to the venerable search engine. It would probably combine with the Google Toolbar in some fashion, since the two have some similar functions.

Propel – Similar to Google Web Accelerator, Propel claims to speed up your browsing experience. The company is run by optical mouse inventor Steven T. Kirsch, who is no stranger to buyouts: his Frame Technology Corp. was purchased by Adobe, and his Infoseek was bought by Disney. This could help Google out with Web Accelerator, which it has been having trouble with.

From Left Field
Here are some companies you probably haven’t heard of, and some companies you know very well that fit in less well with the Google plan. It is not too likely that any of these will be bought by Google, but keep in mind, most of Google’s past acquisitions have been unexpected.

Audioscrobbler/Last.fm – So far, Google hasn’t made any inroads into the music industry. However, these sites together form an interesting, Google-ish service that uses algorithms reminiscent of PageRank to calculate the top artists and similar info.

TiVo – TiVo is a little too big and a little too well-known to be bought by Google. Also, Google’s experience with hardware is limited to Google Search Appliances and similar. But, TiVo would work well with Google Video. TiVo seems to fit better with Apple Computer‘s media plans than it does with Google’s geek mentality, though.

Icosystem – This swarm intelligence company might be useful for radical new spidering algorithms or some new form of PageRank. It’s only peripherally Google-ish, though.

Monster – Monster is the most popular job search site. Some bloggers have tossed this idea around, touting various forms of integration with other Google services. They also mention that Yahoo! owns HotJobs. However, one wonders whether Google is interested in this market at all.

Coral – This caching service would probably be interesting and useful for Google’s own cache. However, it is run by NYU, so it’s not a commercial company, and may not be up for grabs.

The Open Directory Project – The definitive web directory has long been partnered with Google for the Google Directory. But the Google Directory hasn’t been updated in a very long time, and it still sports the old tabbed Google design, which lacks links to Froogle and Google Local. Although the ODP is owned by Netscape, Google should have sufficient cash to acquire it since the IPO.

Stayhealthy/Fitness Expert – This online health company doesn’t offer content a la WebMD, instead providing health and fitness hardware, self-test kits, and a kiosk joint-ventured with IBM. The hardware interface is web-based. As with TiVo, Google’s limited hardware experience may be a problem, and one wonders whether Google is interested in the health and fitness space.

World66 – World66 could be Google’s answer to Yahoo! Travel, with some work. Its Wiki style, however, might be too wild for Google’s liking.

My Way – This image ad and popup-free page is very Google-like. However, it’s redundant to existing Google offerings, and these days having no popups isn’t as big a deal as it was 3 years ago. It might compete with Yahoo!’s portal, though.

Google Acquisitions Part I

June 15, 2005

This is an interesting article on Google and how it grew in size:

Companies Google Gobbled

Deja News (Google Groups) – This web-based Usenet archive started life in 1995. Between 1999 and 2000, Deja overexpanded into a comparison shopping portal. Losing money, Deja sold the shopping component to eBay in late 2000, and it became part of Half.com. In February 2001, the big G entered the game and snatched up the Usenet archives, reintroducing them as Google Groups and extending them back to 1981 with the help of private collections. Today, Google Groups features Deja’s Usenet, mailing lists, and Yahoo! Groups-esque features with a Gmail-like interface.

Outride – Outride, Inc. was an information retrieval spin-off from Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). Google acquired certain technology assets in September 2001 and quickly integrated them into its search engine. Outride.net currently forwards to Google.

Applied Semantics – Google bought up this contextual advertising company in April 2003 and used it for its AdSense/AdWords services, allowing it to compete with Yahoo!‘s Overture.

Kaltix – This 3-person personalized search startup company was quickly picked up by Google in September 2003. Kaltix formed the foundation of Google Personalized Search. Kaltix.com currently forwards to Google.

Blogger – Blogger was the flagship product of Pyra Labs. For a long time, Blogger was free of fees and ads, but it wasn’t making money. After the original capital for Pyra dried up, a number of employees resigned, including the co-founder. In an effort to become profitable, Pyra introduced the ad-powered Blogspot hosting and the pay Blogger Pro service. It wasn’t quite enough, and Pyra needed more resources, so Google stepped in during 2003. Blogger was redesigned by professional web designers in May 2004, and is now one of the most-used blogging tools.

Picasa – Picasa, a $30 photo organizer program, was first released in October 2001. In May 2004, Picasa announced integration with the Google-owned Blogger, and in July 2004, Google bought the company. Soon, Picasa was free, and it featured Google trademarks like an “I’m Feeling Lucky” button. The software routinely wins awards from leading PC publications.

Keyhole – Keyhole is a digital mapping company founded in 2001. Presumably to cut out the middleman for the not-yet-released Google Maps, Google bought them in October 2004. Since then, there has been an immediate price reduction for the Keyhole software (from $69.95 to $29.95), and integrated satellite photos in Google Maps.

Zipdash – Google acquired this traffic/mapping company in 2004 and put it to work in Google Maps. Although the acquisition was not publicized, Zipdash is mentioned in Google’s 2004 annual report.

Where2 – This Australian mapping company was also mentioned in the 2004 annual report, but not much is known about it. It also had something to do with Google Maps.

Urchin – In March 2005, Google acquired Urchin, a web analytics and statistics company. Though we haven’t yet seen what they’re up to with it, it will probably be used with AdWords/AdSense, with statistics about clickthroughs and such.

Dodgeball – Google acquired this two-person cell phone social networking company in May 2005. The company was looking for investors, and Google apparently fit the bill. So far, nothing has happened with this company, but it will probably have something to do with Google Mobile.

P2P – The Sharing Economy

June 14, 2005

The Sharing Economy

Yale law professor Yochai Benkler points to Google and Skype as examples of a new, Info Age market structure, based on peer production

Open-source software, song sharing, the volunteer-written online encyclopedia Wikipedia, and other activities, he contends, require neither traditional corporate oversight nor monetary incentives to create real value. And that’s likely to both threaten some existing companies and create entirely new ones, as it has with search engine Google (GOOG ) and Skype Technologies, a provider of free Internet phone service.

Benkler recently spoke with Robert D. Hof, BusinessWeek‘s Silicon Valley bureau chief, about how peer production works and what it will mean for corporations and the economy. Edited excerpts of their conversation follow:

Q: How did you conceive the notion of peer production from such seemingly disparate activities?
A:
I had been looking at commons-based behaviors in unlicensed radio spectrum and in intellectual property, and their important role in innovation. I was uncomfortable with the notion that this was purely a phenomenon of software or musicians. That doesn’t explain Wikipedia. That doesn’t really explain Slashdot [the peer-written and -reviewed tech news site]. That doesn’t explain why Google was so phenomenally successful.

Q: What qualities do those things have in common?
A:
[They show that] the economic role of social behavior is increasing. It used to be that if you said, “Here, this is interesting, why don’t you read this?” it was primarily social. When you take the exact same behavior and plug it into Google’s Page Rank algorithm, you actually get a discrete economic output that increases welfare in the economy overall — even though you continue to have a certain social interaction there as well.

Q: Why is peer production happening now, and what technologies are enabling it?
A:
With the steam engine, the archetype of the Industrial Revolution, we moved to industries where the physical capital was relatively concentrated. You had to have financial capital in order to enable effective collaboration between individuals.

What we’re seeing now is cheap processors, which put computation on our desktops and in our laps, cheap storage, and ubiquitous communications. It’s this combination of a low-cost personal computer and the Internet…that allows this aggregation of behavior. Things that would normally just dissipate in the air as social gestures come to have some persistence as economic products. This departs radically from everything we’ve seen since the Industrial Revolution.

Q: How is the combination of these technologies turning that behavior into something economically valuable?
A:
You can build platforms and tools that assume that what you’re doing is facilitating sharing — as opposed to producing a finished product to a consumer. Look at Skype. It has built a platform that allows us to share our PCs’ excess capacity to produce connectivity. No one has built a network for Skype — all the million or 2 million people online are contributing resources. There’s no commercial transaction between us.

Just imagine trying to build a global voice-over-IP [VoIP] network. The cost would be unimaginable. The costs are unimaginable, except they’re borne by a million or 2 million different people instead of by a company. It hasn’t become less capital-intensive. The way in which it’s financed has changed. It’s user-capitalized networks.

Q: Does peer production challenge the market system as a whole?
A:
I don’t see a risk of that. At the end of the day, people have to put food on the table, and food won’t be produced in this way. Cars won’t be produced in this way. Buildings won’t be produced in this way. Even novels won’t be produced in this way.

There’s a subcategory of things that can be produced in relatively fine-grained, modular units that are amenable to this production. It so happens that a lot of the most valuable products of the Information Economy can be produced this way: software, most information, most knowledge, a lot of computation, a lot of storage, a lot of connectivity. And that’s quite significant. But it’s not a threat to business as a broad category.

Q: Still, it sounds like peer production could be pretty disruptive to many existing businesses, since they exist largely to marshal people to produce things under one roof.
A:
It’s going to create a pressure for a lot of companies in this space to see how they coexist in this new ecology and how they take advantage of the productive energies and capabilities of this new player.

If you’re in the business of making readymade barns, then a sudden influx of people doing barn-raising will kill your business. But if you’re in the business of planks, hammers, trucking, it’s actually not that bad at all. Or take the car and the horse-drawn carriage. There was a whole industry eliminated. But what about asphalt producers? What about suburban builders?

Q: What business models are emerging that leverage peer production?
A:
The first is surfing, like Google surfs the collective judgments of lots and lots of people, or like IBM (IBM) surfs on Linux. The second is essentially toolmaking, like Second Life, a multiplayer online game environment, where 99% or so of the objects in the same have been produced by the users. Skype has another business model. It’s built on untapped capacity in the economy, but it sells other things that allow us to connect into the public switched telephone network.

Q: Where might peer production go from here?
A:
There’s a possibility of using some of these insights for building distributed backup systems for data, like peer-to-peer networks. The basic idea is that these are fault-resistant backup systems. You could imagine banks having some kind of relationship with people who have accounts to create these kinds of distributed backup systems.

You could begin to imagine local governments using mesh networks built on top of Wi-Fi or next-generation wireless networks, to create robust emergency communications infrastructures. Connectivity in the last mile is co-produced by people basically handing messages that their neighbors are sending.

Q: Why is a law professor diving so deep into economics?
A:
When you’re looking at an area of radical technological, economic, and social transformation, we need to know what’s happening in the social and economic domain, why it’s happening in technological terms, and what are the technological possibilities. Only then can we understand that if we pressure this point with law or pressure that point with law, things will change in a way that is attractive or unattractive.

Q: What has been the reaction of traditional economists to your ideas?
A:
I’ve found myself treated with a reasonable amount of respect among the people interested in open-source software. But it’s an uncomfortable shoe for economists. Business-school economists, more than economics department economists, are interested in this. And more specifically, businesses are interested in this.

Oracle Buys TimesTen

June 14, 2005

TimesTen, Inc. accepts Oracle’s offer

Oracle and TimesTen, Inc., a privately held supplier of real-time data management software, today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement whereby Oracle will acquire TimesTen. The parties anticipate closing the transaction by the end of July 2005, subject to certain regulatory approvals and other customary conditions.

TimesTen provides infrastructure software for managing events, transactions and data for a growing number of performance-critical applications in telecom, networking, securities trading and other industries. Systems powered by TimesTen today include real-time billing, stock trading, call centers, airline operations and many other ultra high-performance applications.

Dropout and Startup !

June 14, 2005

Live, Jobs Tells Stanford Grads

Steve Jobs told Stanford University graduates Sunday that dropping out of college was one of the best decisions he ever made because it forced him to be innovative — even when it came to finding enough money for dinner.

In an unusually candid commencement speech, Apple Computer’s CEO also told the almost 5,000 graduates that his bout with a rare form of pancreatic cancer reemphasized the need to live each day to the fullest.

“Your time is limited so don’t let it be wasted living someone else’s life,” Jobs said to a packed stadium of graduates, alumni and family.

Jobs, wearing sandals and jeans under his robe, was treated like a rock star by the students, in large part due to the surge in popularity of Apple’s iPod digital music player.

A group of students wore iPod mini costumes over their robes and several shouted, “Steve, hire me!”

Jobs, 50, said he attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon but dropped out after only eight months because it was too expensive for his working-class family. He said his real education started when he “dropped in” on whatever classes interested him — including calligraphy.

Jobs said he lived off 5-cent soda recycling deposits and free food offered by Hare Krishnas while taking classes.

He told the graduates that few friends could see the value of learning calligraphy at the time but that painstaking attention to detail — including mastering different “fonts” — was what set Macintosh apart from its competitors.

“If I had never dropped out I might never have dropped in on that calligraphy,” Jobs said.

Jobs also recounted founding Apple in his parent’s basement and his tough times after being forced out of the company he founded when he was only 30.

“I was a very public failure and I even thought about running away from the valley,” Jobs said.

Instead, he founded Pixar Studios, which has released enormously popular films such as Finding Nemo and Monsters, Inc.

“It was awful tasting medicine but I guess the patient needed it,” Jobs said.

When he was diagnosed with cancer, Jobs said his doctor told him he only had three-to-six months to live. He later found out he had a rare, treatable form of the disease — but he still learned a tough lesson.

“Remembering you are going to die is the best way to avoid the fear that you have something to lose,” he said.

Before the ceremony, a plane rented by the Computer TakeBack Campaign, an environmental group, flew over the stadium with a banner that read: “Steve, don’t be a mini player — recycle all e-waste.” The group is prodding Apple to improve its efforts to recycle obsolete electronics.

Also Covered at Slashdot | More About Steve Jobs | Official Steve Jobs Page | About Imac and Apple

Yahoo Launching PhotoMail

June 11, 2005

Why they ever bought Flickr ?

Yahoo Inc. is introducing a test version of a new service called PhotoMail that lets users insert up to 300 digital photographs into the body of an e-mail and store an unlimited numbers of photos on the Web and media company’s computers.

Yahoo’s PhotoMail is the first such service to integrate and simplify its e-mail offering, its online photo storage and editing service and its image search function of more than 1.5 billion images, Spillane said, noting that senders simply drag and drop images that are stored anywhere on the computer’s hard disk drive.