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House votes 325-91 to pass Innovation Act

The Innovation Act, a bill with measures aimed to stop "patent troll" lawsuits, passed the US House of Representatives this morning on a 325-91 vote. Several amendments that would have stripped out key parts of the bill were defeated.

Passage of the bill is a big step for patent reformers, which would have been hard to imagine even one year ago. However, patent trolls going after "Main Street" businesses like grocery stores and coffee shops have made headlines and enraged politicians from Vermont to California.

Majorities of representatives in both parties supported the bill. On the Republican side, 195 representatives voted in favor of the bill and 27 voted against, while 130 Democrats supported the bill and 64 opposed it. The White House has said it supports the bill, which must first pass the US Senate.

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Recover Tons of Disk Space with the New Windows Update Cleanup

windows 7Microsoft has released a Windows 7 update that adds a new option in the Disk Cleanup tool called Windows Update Cleanup. With it, you can free up several gigabytes of hard drive space from the bloated Windows Updates folder.

Windows Updates can be terrible space hogs. Windows saves every security update and hotfix—even if they're superseded by new updates—in the WinSxS directory. You can't just manually delete everything in that folder, because some files are needed just in case a system file gets corrupted or you need to roll back a Windows Update.

So that's where this new Windows Update comes in. Released yesterday for Windows 7 SP1 machines, KB 2852386 adds the ability to cleanup all the obsolete updates in the WinSxS folder. It's a "recommended" update but not "critical," so you might not have installed it yet. You can either do a Windows Update to download it or head to the Knowledge Base article to grab it from there. (Note: Windows Update Cleanup is included in Windows 8.1.)

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Winamp lovers beg AOL to make Winamp open source

Last week, AOL announced the impending death of Winamp, saying that the 16-year-old media player would be shut down within a month.

"Winamp.com and associated Web services will no longer be available past December 20, 2013. Additionally, Winamp Media players will no longer be available for download. Please download the latest version before that date," AOL announced.

But fans of the venerable software have launched a "Save Winamp" website and petition asking AOL either to keep Winamp alive or to open source its code.

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Gmail integrates Google Drive support

gmailWhen you're sent an email with an attachment you probably do one of two things. You might preview the file in your browser, or you might download it to your hard drive. If you want to be able to access the file on other computers without having to track down the original email again, you may then take the extra step of uploading it to Google Drive. But it's all too easy for attachments to end up getting lost on the desktop or a catch-all Downloads folder.

This is something Google may be able to change with the latest addition to Gmail. Now there is no need to click an attachment to view a preview -- supported file types (including images, PDFs and videos) are automatically previewed as small thumbnails. You can still click them if you would like to see a larger preview, but this is not the only change that has been made. When an email has multiple attachments, it is now possible to scroll through them slideshow-style.

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Dropbox connects business with home

dropboxCloud storage and sharing service Dropbox has been looking to grow its footprint in the business industry, adding Dropbox for Business, along with a steady stream of new features for the service. Now the company is attempting to consolidate its enterprise efforts with those for home users.

"On one hand, people wanted to access their personal stuff at work; meanwhile, IT admins wanted to keep company data separate and free of personal files. Both needs were real, but people had to choose between two Dropboxes", claims the company.

Your separate Dropbox accounts will now appear in the same location, allowing you to choose which you wish to access at any given time -- both appearing on the same File tab. The cloud service promises to not mix the two, for example your auto-photo uploads will still be private in your pictures folder.

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Russian Cosmonauts Occasionally Infect the ISS with Malware

Russian security expert Eugene Kaspersky says the International Space Station was infected by malware installed through a USB stick carried on board by a Russian cosmonaut.

Speaking to reporters at a National Press Club event in Canberra, Australia, last week, Kaspersky also said the infamous Stuxnet virus infected a nuclear power plant in Russia and "badly damaged" their internal infrastructure. Kaspersky refused to provide details or elaborate on how badly the virus affected ISS operations or how engineering crews cleaned up the mess left behind. Space can be scary enough when the system protecting you isn't infected with malware. This situation was probably even worse.

"The space guys from time-to-time are coming with USBs, which are infected. I'm not kidding. I was talking to Russian space guys and they said, 'yeah, from time-to-time there are viruses on the space station,'" Kaspersky told reporters in Australia. 

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Microsoft shouldn't hire any CEO who wants to kill Bing and Xbox

microsoftAccording to "people with knowledge of his thinking," Bloomberg is reporting that, should Stephen Elop become Microsoft's next CEO, he would consider shutting down or selling parts of the company to "sharpen its focus." The two divisions mentioned specifically are Xbox and Bing.

The "kill Bing" and "kill Xbox" memes have become popular among certain kinds of analysts. Though obfuscated by Microsoft's new reporting structure, both Bing and Xbox share one feature: they're not great money makers.

It's important to be a little wary of this kind of anonymous, unsourced commentary. It may not be accurate, and it may be agenda-driven. This kind of "thinking" appeals greatly to short-term investors who are more interested in boosting the next quarter's numbers than the long-term health of the company. The anonymous leak could, therefore, tend to make Elop seem more appealing to Wall Street.

Conversely, the leak shows a lack of strategic thinking and somewhat undermines the Xbox One, a product that launches in a couple of weeks. That's not likely to inspire confidence in a CEO candidate.

Microsoft's head of corporate communications responded to Bloomberg in typically robust fashion, saying "We appreciate Bloomberg's foray into fiction and look forward to future episodes."

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Firefox Turns Nine Today

firefoxThe date may not mean much to you, but it was rather big in the land of Mozilla. It wasn't the 'start' of the Firefox web browser, but it was the official ship date of version 1.0. That makes today a birthday celebration for the browser that dared to take on the Internet Explorer-giant.

"In the nine years since we first launched Firefox, we have moved and shaped the Web into the most valuable public resource of our time", the organization announces.

You may not get a slice of cake for the big celebration, but Mozilla is offering up what it calls "nine of our favorite gifts we’ve given the Web over the past year".

Mozilla proceeds to outline milestones such as the release of Firefox mobile, the move to create a mobile operating system, faster speeds ("we beat last year’s Kraken scores by 74 percent, and we’re 88 percent faster on Octane"), better privacy and security, and more.

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