iPhone market share jumps in July

For those who don't know, Net Applications is a web metrics firm that collects data from an "exclusive on-demand network of live stats customers" compiled from some "160 million visitors per month." While the company clams "web sites in our population represent dozens of countries in regions including North America, South America, Western Europe, Australia / Pacific Rim and Parts of Asia," it sure seems like the US is favored. At least that would explain the Mac's numbers, although those numbers dropped off slightly in July. HangZhou Night Net

Source: Net Applications

Dropping from 7.94 percent in June to 7.77 percent in July may leave Appleologists scratching their heads, especially since Apple reported record Mac sales last quarter. Not to cast blame, but in May, Net Applications had to rework its numbers due to a "massive marketing campaign that only worked on Internet Explorer." Perhaps something like that happened in July. If not, by platform, Intel Macs were flat at 5.24 percent, while PPC graybeards dropped from to 2.7 percent last month to 2.53 percent this month. No wonder Snow Leopard is Intel-only. By the time it's released, PPC users will probably represent fewer than one out of four Mac users.

Source: Net Applications

Like Mac OS X, Safari also saw a drop from 6.31 to 6.14 percent. Safari for Windows remained flat at 0.29 percent, the one-time Software Update trick having worked its magic. There are still a few people running Safari 1 & 2, about 0.5 percent, as well as a few developers and daredevils, 0.01 percent, running Safari 4 in Snow Leopard.

Source: Net Applications

As for the iPhone, the good news is that market share has roughly quadrupled in just over a year. The bad news is that four times nothing is still nothing, or 0.19 percent in this case. Still, there can be no doubt that the introduction of the iPhone 3G gave a big boost to that nothing in just a few weeks during July. Again, it's important to keep in mind that the iPhone is listed as an operating system, and it is growth that matters. Linux has doubled its insignificant status in the last year, going from 0.4 to 0.8 percent, but that growth loses out to the iPhone's rate, and things will only get better. Apple is on record as projecting 10 million iPhones sold in—don't even say "through"—2008, and 10 million is roughly double the number sold so far. Assuming Apple makes its goal, iPhone market share should be at least 0.4 percent by early next year.

Overall, this was a mixed month for market share news according to Net Applications. However, if we choose only to believe the numbers we like, it was a stellar month for Apple and the iPhone.

Geometry Wars 2: how to add complexity to a classic

It has taken me quite a while to determine what I think of Geometry Wars 2. While the overall feel and concepts of the game stay close to the original, much of the core game play has been changed, and this dramatically changes how the game feels. First, your gun doesn't level up, so there is only one type of fire through the entire experience. Two, you don't get multipliers for killing enemies. Now you have to kill enemies, and grab the little green balls they drop before they disappear. This is very reminiscent of Everyday Shooter, and forces you to move in a much more aggressive manner. HangZhou Night Net

There is also the matter of the different game modes. In the first game you were simply racing for the high score, but now the game includes six different game modes. Some of them are rather obvious—Deadline simply gives you a limited time to get as many points as possible—but others are genius; King and Pacifism will have you playing round after round until you're a sweaty mess.

In King, you can only fire while inside circular shields that keep the enemies out, but each shield only lasts a little while. You get a warning alarm, and have to rush to the next one without crashing into an enemy, while also trying to pick up as many multipliers as possible. It's frantic, and the risk vs. reward is a struggle as you try to make it to safety while also understanding you will never take down your friends' high scores without a huge multiplier. The best scores from your friends list stay on the upper right-hand side of the screen, taunting you. In an inspired touch, the music gets muffled as you move from circle to circle; you really don't feel comfortable moving without the protection of those shields.

In Pacifism you can't fire at all. You have to pass through exploding barriers to take out the enemies around you. The poles at each end of the barriers will kill you. The enemies will kill you. You have no way to attack that doesn't put you directly in harm's way. By leading huge groups of enemies through the barriers, you can rack up some major points, and again, it's all risk vs. reward.

Other modes, such as Waves and Evolved, are fun to play, but don't have quite the brain-grabbing addictive quality of the King and Pacifism. That's fine though, as Evolved is simply the updated mode from the first game, and it's still a blast to play. Between the six modes, and it will unfortunately take you an hour or so to unlock all of them, everyone will find something they love.

Unfortunately, the four-play multiplayer, which features co-op, competitive play, and team-based play for both, is a blast with a dedicated group of games, but it's also offline only. You won't be taking this game online anytime soon, except to challenge the scores of others.

No matter. The game is worth your $10. I've already put more time into the game than I have some full-priced titles. The new menus, improved music and special effects, and the built-in challenge of chasing your personal best and measuring it against the leader boards will keep you playing for a long time. I'm not sure what can be done with a Geometry Wars 3, but if the sequels continue to be this good, I'm looking forward to seeing even more modes and ideas. I had middling expectations going into this title, but I have been very impressed with how fresh everything feels. Bravo.

China opens crack in Great Firewall for Olympic press

It's closed! It's open! It's closed! It's open again! The Chinese government has once again agreed to open the Internet for press during the Olympic Games, apparently after being pressured by the International Olympic Committee, which in turn was pressured by the international journalism community. The IOC announced today that the press would, again, be able to report on the Games as freely as they have in other countries, and declared the issue "solved." HangZhou Night Net

The news comes just days after furor over China's continued Internet censorship reached fever pitch, as journalists began to arrive in Beijing in preparation for the Games' commencement August 8. China had originally promised, as part of its host city agreement, that it would open the Internet so that the press could report on the Games freely, but journalists quickly found that was not the case. This week, they complained of extremely slow Internet connections in the Main Press Centre (which some theorized was a deterrent from using the Internet altogether), completely inaccessible international web sites, and even "harassment" from Chinese law enforcement.

At the time, the IOC seemed to be both alarmed at the news and resigned to it. The IOC had told certain news outlets that it was looking into the issue and that the press would still need unfettered Internet access. On the other hand, the organization admitted that certain web sites and topics would continue to be censored thanks to an agreement with the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games (BOCOG). This drew the ire of journalists everywhere, many of whom excoriated the IOC for not trying harder to hold China to its promises.

Now, however, things are magically solved. The IOC said in a statement issued today that the Committee met with BOCOG and the issues are in the process of being fixed. "Already we put a team together in the IOC to work with BOCOG to begin to open up sites which we believe are absolutely necessary to comply with noncensored reporting of the Games," IOC Press Commission chairman Kevan Gosper told Reuters. "We are in the process of getting web sites which were previously blocked unblocked."

Indeed, it seems as if web sites that the press had previously complained about not being accessible, such as Amnesty International's website and the BBC's Chinese version, are now accessible through Beijing—at least according to WebSitePulse's Great Firewall test. But the IOC warned that while these sites may be accessible to journalists in Beijing, the rest of the country would still be subject to China's filtered version of the Internet. Additionally, certain types of sites will remain blocked across all of China, including porn and those that are considered "subversive" or against national interests (such as sites related to the Falun Gong and many Tibetan organizations). Gosper attempted to justify this by adding, "That's normal in most countries in the world." Um, yeah… right.

Some organizations that previously criticized China and the IOC cautiously applauded today's progress, although they remained somewhat skeptical. Reporters Without Borders, whose web site has been blocked by the Chinese government since 2003, found that its web site is now not only accessible in various parts of Beijing, but also in some areas of Shanghai. "This is good news, of course," the organization noted, "but it continues to be unacceptable that the Chinese government can decide, according to its mood, which web sites are censored and which are accessible. And how long will these sites be available to the 253 million Chinese Internet users, who continue to be subject to massive online censorship?"

An animal model that doesn?t match humans

Mice are one of the most commonly used vertebrates in medical research, and their role as an animal model for humans could be called invaluable. However, in an early release paper from Science, researchers point out a case where mice are not ideal models for a protein deficiency that predisposes patients to suffer from specific infections in their first ten or so years of life. HangZhou Night Net

Streptococcus Pneumoniae

MyD88 (Myeloid Differentiation primary response gene 88) is a protein that mediates the interactions of Toll-like receptors and interleukin-1 receptors. The two receptors are significant participants in immunity, as they are both involved in recognizing invading microbes, inducing fevers, and activating cells of the immune system.

A deficiency in MyD88 is detrimental to children because it interferes with important signaling processes that are necessary for fighting specific strains of bacteria. As people grow older, the consequences of MyD88 deficiency lessen as the immune system compensates for this flaw. Although MyD88 deficiency can be overcome with age, it is still dangerous, as most affected children would not survive without the help of antibiotics. Out of the nine children investigated by the researchers, three died before their first birthday.

One issue that could hinder research in MyD88 is that mice and humans react differently to its deficiency. At the immunological level, mice and humans are similar, meaning that comparable signaling processes are disrupted. However, in terms of infectious symptoms, there are huge differences between humans and mice that lack MyD88.

Humans with MpD88 deficiencywere predisposed to be susceptible to Streptococcus pneumonia (pneumonia, meningitis, brain abscess, etc.), Staphylococcus aureus (pneumonia, toxic shock syndrome, meningitis, boils, etc.), and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (urinary tract infections, pneumonia, dermatitis, etc.). But, in addition to the above, mice that lacked this gene were vulnerable to nearly all the pathogens that the researchers tested, which included 19 bacteria, seven viruses, four fungi, and five parasites.

Since mice and humans respond differentlyto MyD88 deficiency, the mostpopular animal model would not be an ideal choice for this line of medical research. That means researchers will be limited to alternatives such as cell culture techniques or possibly other animal models.

Science, 2008. DOI: 10.1126/science.1158298

Latest Apple Security patch addresses DNS flaw, other issues

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Apple has released Security Update 2008-005. In addition to several other security issues, it most notably addresses a serious flaw in the DNS server included in Mac OS X. BIND is updated to version 9.4.2-P1, the same version that was recommended by TidBITS's Glenn Fleishman in his how-to that we mentioned yesterday. Also, a flaw has been fixed in Open Scripting Architecture that allowed applications with elevated privileges to execute arbitrary scripts and commands as root. This fix addresses previously-reported security issues with ARDAgent, part of Apple Remote Desktop.

The update addresses potentially serious security issues with several components of Mac OS X, including CoreGraphics, Carbon long-filename handling, Data Detectors, Disk Utility, and an issue with QuickLook and certain Microsoft Word files. For security reasons, several open-source components included in Mac OS X have also been updated to the latest stable versions, including OpenLDAP, OpenSSL, PHP, and rsync.

Yesterday, Macworld's John C. Welch took Apple to task for taking so long to address the DNS flaw, especially since Apple had been notified about the issue two months before the flaw was made public on July 8. By then, Apple was the only OS vendor that had not issued a patch. Whatever the reason for the delay, Welch rightfully criticized Apple for not communicating its plans to address the problem. "Even if the patch is released today, that’s not going to be enough," he wrote. Apple has come a long way in improving its response to security issues in its software, but this incidence demonstrates that Apple still has a long way to go to earn the trust of IT professionals.