U.S. Could Challenge China on Google's Behalf at WTO

Google made news in Washington on Tuesday as the Obama Administration is reportedly considering using the World Trade Organization to help Google in its censorship battle with China. Meanwhile, a leading U.S. Senator said he plans to introduce legislation punishing companies that cave in to censorship demands.

Google China WTO
Illinois Senator Richard Durbin said he plans to introduce a bill that would penalize Internet companies that violate customers' human rights at the demand of foreign governments. The Democrat made the announcement Tuesday, but offered few specifics, beyond saying that civil or even criminal penalties might be involved.

This is a wonderful thing as U.S. tech companies have a pretty sad record of protecting their overseas business at the expense of their customers' human rights. The bill appears to target search engine and social networking companies particularly.

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Chrome Browser Beta Adds Translation, Improves Privacy

Automatic translation is the newest feature added to Google's Chrome browser. A beta version of Chrome 4 recognizes pages not in the user's -preferred language and offers to translate. Also new are privacy settings which may be implemented on a site-by-site basis.

Chrome Browser
The new beta, released late Monday, works with Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7, despite some confusion because Google did not list Windows 7 as a supported operating system on an early version of the download page. (The new beta is Chrome version

The update is especially interesting to business users who need to keep up with international partners or competitors. The new privacy features, meanwhile, enhance users' control over their browsing experience.

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For Business' Sake, Yelp Needs New Owners

Yelp, the popular reviews site, needs a new owner, one that can bring credibility and quiet allegations that it spins reviews in order to extort advertising money from the businesses reviewed.

While I can't say whether the new claims are true, they certainly bring Yelp's reliability into question. The company, however, denies the allegations, contained in a class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday in Los Angeles.

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Ubuntu Linux Now Available to Fed Customers on GSA Advantage

Illustration: Chip Taylor
Canonical's Ubuntu has become third Linux operating system approved by the General Services Administration for use by federal purchasers. It joins Linux distributions from Red Hat and Novell, already available through the GSA Advantage purchasing program.

"This gives government purchasers the option of using Canonical's Ubuntu as well as its Landscape systems management and monitoring tool," said Cole Crawford, CTO of Autonomic Resources, an IT and service integration company approved to offer the products to federal customers.

Landscape will be offered as part of Autonomic’s cloud computing platform for government customers. The infrastructure-as-a-service platform provides government customers with simplified computing power, storage and supporting infrastructure that can be acquired and utilized on-demand all from FISMA certified data centers with standard multi-factor authentication access.

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Bloom Energy: What We Know, What We Don't

The announcement of Bloom Energy's low-emissions energy server drew the world's attention to Silicon Valley yesterday. But, even after the announcement and demonstration, many questions remain. (editor's note: term changed to the more precise "low-emissions," 4:45 p.m. February 25, 2010.)

Here is some of what we know about the Bloom Energy Server, and what we still need to find out:

Where did the energy server come from?

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Antitrust is Google's Mark of Success

With Google now in the crosshairs of a potential European Union antitrust investigation, it may be useful to remember that generally only successful companies get investigated. In that context, an anti-trust action may be the sincerest form a flattery that regulators and competitors can offer a business.

But, what might the investigation do to Google's cloud initiative and other business-to-business services?

In the worst case, an unfavorable ruling maybe cripple Goggle by cutting off the cash flow necessary to make huge investments in new technology, including that gigabit broadband experiment that's been so much in the news.

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iPad "Magic" Won't Hurt Netbooks

"The netbook is not an experience people are going to continue wanting to have," Apple COO Tim Cook said Tuesday at an investment conference in San Francisco. "When they play with the iPad and experience the magic of using it... I have a hard time believing they're going to go for a netbook."

Magic, huh? So that's how Apple says its iPad is going to best much more functional business netbooks in the marketplace.

Apple iPad
I'd been wondering, since the iPad's specs and features won't do it. Instead, Apple says a "magic" user experience will convince netbook users to dump those machines and use an iPad instead.

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