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Japanese publishers target "digital shoplifters'

A group of Japanese publishers has launched a campaign to stop people from using camera-equipped cell phones to photograph magazines instead of buying them.

Palm-size handsets embedded with camera lenses the size of a thumbtack have proved immensely popular in Japan, where people use them to snap photos and relay them instantly online.

But as the technology improves to produce sharper images, more people are using them in bookstores for "digital shoplifting," said Ryosuke Katsumi, spokesman for the Japan Magazine Publishers Association.

So for the next two months, the association is posting notices at bookstores across the nation advising customers that such usage is illegal, he said.

New video game ratings categorize violence

Four new categories designed to specify different types of violence have been added to video game ratings.

Effective immediately, "cartoon violence" will be defined as when "a character is unharmed after the action has been inflicted." "Fantasy violence" is when the actions involve "characters in situations easily distinguishable from real life."

An "intense violence" label will be applied to "graphic and realistic-looking depictions of physical conflict" that may involve "blood, gore, weapons and depictions of human injury and death."

A fourth designator, "sexual violence," is defined as "depictions of rape or other violent sexual acts."

Starting Sept. 15, content warning labels will be more prominently displayed on the front label of video game boxes.

Last year, 63 percent of games rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board received an E (for everyone) classification, 27 percent were T (for teenagers), 8 percent were M (for mature audiences only) and 2 percent came in EC (for early childhood).

New AOL icons become more animated

AOL TimeWarner's AOL unit plans new icons for its instant messaging product.

The SuperBuddy icons will be a highlight of AOL 9 Optimized, which will be available as a special preview to AOL members this summer. AOL SuperBuddy icons are 3-D animated characters that turn common chat abbreviations and phrases into personality-driven character animations on the recipient's screen. For example, as a member types "LOL," a character may act out the acronym by laughing with comical gestures or expressions, and by typing "zzz" another character may fall asleep with a dramatic flourish.

An AOL instant messaging trend survey, conducted with Opinion Research during the first week of June, showed that 78 percent of Internet users use AOL Time Warner's AOL instant messaging. Of the nearly 60 percent who customize their messaging applications, 85 percent say the buddy icons are the most common way to personalize messages.

Let librarians assist your Web search

What if every time you searched for something on the Internet, you could have a professional librarian directing you to the best Web sites?

Use the Library Channel, and you actually can.

The Library Channel (www.thelibrarychannel.com) calls itself the first search engine made up exclusively of Web sites researched and selected by librarians.

So, instead of plodding through thousands of Web sites on a broad subject, for example, earthquakes, you'd be directed only to those sites librarians have found to be the most useful, said Jim Zimmerman, president of the Library Channel.

Not only will that speed up the search time, he said, "We believe it will raise the quality level of searching the Internet by a quantum leap."

Apple's new iSight is 20-20

Apple Computer's new, way-cool little Web camera, the iSight, offers just about everything a user wants to see in a Webcam, Craig Crossman writes for Knight Ridder newspapers.

For starters, the iSight is easy on the eyes. Apple is know for its products' clean lines and almost Zen-like simplicity, and the iSight is a little matte-finished silver cylinder that sports tiny air holes on most of its surface. It comes with three different mounts that let you attach it to any of Apple's monitors or portables. Whatever mount you select, the iSight is able to tilt and swivel, making its positioning and adjustment simple.

The 2.3-ounce aluminum camera mounts on the center top portion of your viewing screen. That's very important since most Web cams sit on the table. That means the person with whom you are conversing does not experience the normal face-to-face view we see when speaking to each other.

The iSight connects to the Macintosh via a FireWire connection, which also powers the camera. There was a slightly perceptible lag between my live motion and my image in the screen. Still, the quality of the image was superior to other Webcam images. Also built into the iSight is a dual element noise-suppressing microphone that delivers surprisingly clear audio.

The iSight comes with a small carrying case and the iChat AV software, which is currently in its first public beta. The final version will sell for $29.95 for OS X 10.2 users. It will come free and built into Apple's next version of the operating system, Panther, better known as OS X 10.3 that was just unveiled last month at Apple's Developer Conference.

XM Satellite Radio nears 700,000 subscribers

XM Satellite Radio Holdings said it ended the second quarter with more than 692,000 subscribers, comfortably ahead of Wall Street's projected growth for the new broadcasting service.

_ Compiled from Times wires

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