Monday, December 22, 2008

Computer grid aids film service

Film On screen shot
FilmOn says it will have movies from the moment they go into retail

A video on demand service has turned to the grid to help it get movies to viewers.

Called FilmOn the service offers users video streaming, film rental, and a number of free-to-watch movies.

By using a cluster of net-based computers FilmOn lets people watch broadcast quality movies over a basic broadband connection.

The computer cluster helps shrink the films so the high-quality images can be sent down the narrow pipes.

Media streaming made its debut in the mid 90s with the launch of RealAudio, although it was a number of years before video streaming was perfected.

FilmOn is not confined to a computer; the firm has developed a TV set-top box, and can also stream content to a mobile over a third-generation (3G) phone network.

FilmOn chairman Alki David outlines thinking behind his new video portal

There are also plans to expand community content, and matching up the films a subscriber chooses to those picked by folk with similar taste, which should - in theory - help people discover new movies they might like, but may never have heard of.

Digital Utilities's chief scientist - Richard Crosby - who helped design the network that delivers the video over the net, told the BBC that development of the system had taken nearly 15 years.

"The FilmOn Network Operation Centre makes use of the same grid and cloud technology used by CERN and government agencies."

"The processing power is spread out across the globe, rather than on a single server. We start off with a few servers in select places and as demand picks up, a fresh cluster kicks in."

The evolution of television

Richard Crosby
Digital Utilities

"What makes us different from a traditional grid is that the CPU's actually talk to each other across the global network. So it knows where the loads are and where projected loads will occur," he added.

Speaking to the BBC, Ian Nathan, Empire magazine's executive editor, said he thought this kind of service would be popular, although he did have some reservations.

"It's early days yet," he said. "I don't think this is some grand change in the way we do things, but it may well be how we watch things in the future."

"People were sceptical about music downloads, now it's the norm. I think video on demand might curtail the sale of DVDs, much in the way online is killing off CD sales."

"That said, sites like this almost re-emphasise peoples interest in movies, so I cant see it affecting cinema attendances."

"Computers are becoming more like TVs and I think [video on demand] is the rental market of the future," he said. "It will be interesting to see how this affects, say, Sky Movies. They may well have to become a downloadable service to compete."

Said Mr Crosby from Digital Utilities: "We're providing a true television experience, as opposed to a just a computer service.

"It doesn't matter what you're viewing it on - PC, laptop, or mobile - you're still receiving broadcast quality visuals," he said. "This is the evolution of television."

New guidelines boost web access

By Geoff Adams-Spink
Age & disability correspondent, BBC News website


Visually impaired tester Hazel Dudley uses the Jaws voice system to find out how easy it is to surf price comparison sites. Her ratings are personal and do not represent a scientific appraisal of the site.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has announced a new standard to make sites more accessible to older and disabled people.

Version 2.0 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) will apply to text, images, audio and video.

It also covers web applications and is said to give developers more flexibility than the old guidelines.

According to the consortium, WCAG 2.0 should also be easier to understand and use.

The guidance is designed to address barriers encountered by people with visual, hearing, physical, cognitive and neurological disabilities and older people with access needs.


Tester Chris Markley shows how his dyslexia inhibits his ability to use price comparison sites. His ratings are personal and do not represent a scientific appraisal of the sites.

WCAG 2.0 explains how to make content:

  • Perceivable - including descriptive text for images, audio captions, flexibility of layout and colour contrast
  • Operable - making sites usable with keyboards and improving navigation
  • Understandable - making content easier to read and input more logical
  • Robust - ensuring that content and applications are compatible with assistive technology such as screen readers and magnifiers

"WCAG 2.0...can help ensure that the web stays open to people with disabilities even as we continually introduce new technologies," said Gregg Vanderheiden, co-chair of the WCAG working group.

"WCAG 2.0 represents the outcome of a major collaborative effort, and its final form is widely supported by industry, disability organisations, research and government."

Dr Vanderheiden says this is important if the guidelines are to become a unifying, international standard for web accessibility.

Publication comes shortly after the British Standards Institute (BSI) issued a draft standard on accessible websites.


Tester Nicola Keary's non-specific arm pain (formerly known as repetitive strain injury), reduces her ability to use some price comparison sites. Her ratings are personal and do not represent a scientific appraisal of the sites. Since this trial was filmed, has redesigned its website to cater more for people with disabilities.

The standard - BS 8878 - gives advice on process rather than technical or design issue so should complement WCAG 2.0.

In particular, the draft standard recommends the involvement of disabled people in the development of websites and suggests automated tools to test for accessibility.

BSI has published a good practice guide - based on BS 8878 - which reminds organisations of their legal responsibilities for web accessibility.

The guide urges them to nominate a specific individual or departments to ensure compliance.

"Once published, this standard will be a fantastic tool for organisations whishing to understand their responsibilities in enabling disabled people to use web content," said Julie Howell who chairs the committee that drafted the standard.

The simultaneous publication of the British Standard and WCAG 2.0 have been widely welcomed.

"WCAG 2.0 coincides neatly with the release of British Standard 8878," said Leonie Watson, director of accessibility at web design consultant, Nomensa.

"BS 8878 is aimed at non-technical professionals who are responsible for the development and maintenance of websites, so it's the perfect complement to the more technical guidance found in WCAG 2.0."

User experience

The BBC News website invited three people with disabilities to point out the barriers they encounter when using websites.

The testers were asked to look at price comparison sites as an example of a typical task many people perform online.

The testers found big differences in the ease with which they navigate around sites.

One of the most popular sites was, which was partly funded by disability charities.

However, blind tester Hazel Dudley gave the same rating. All of the scores were personal opinions and were not intended to be exhaustive scientific appraisals.

Since conducting these trials, says it has updated its website to improve access for people with disabilities.

by bbc new

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Top 10 Open Source Stories Of 2008

The advent of Linux-powered netbooks, the launch of Google's Android and Chrome, and Nokia's move to snap up Symbian pushed open source further into the mainstream, despite ongoing legal wrangling.

The year 2008 showed open source -- both in the form of Linux specifically and as a software development model generally -- coming into the mainstream like never before. When it wasn't powering new hardware niches like the netbook, it was forming the core ofGoogle (NSDQ: GOOG)'s new Android mobile operating system or its Chrome browser, and sitting at the center of legal wrangling with wide-ranging repercussions.

Here are the top highlights of the past year in the open source ar

1. The Rise (And Falling Price) Of The Netbook

Linux-powered and budget-priced, the ASUS Eee PC and its successors proved that you didn't need a full-blown notebook computer to get work done. A netbook gets you Internet connectivity, word processing, and a slew of other common tasks -- all in a machine that cost around $350 or so. Even if later models of the Eee and other netbooks came with Windows XP as an option, that wasn't enough to kill the buzz for inexpensive Linux-powered devices. Netbooks also proved to be a better bet than Linux-powered desktop PCs at the same price point: why pay the same for a machine that doesn't even come with a display?

The race to the bottom with netbook prices hasn't stopped yet -- in fact, it's barely gotten started. As of this writing, consumer-electronics maker Coby is planning a $99 netbook. That's about a low a price floor as you can go to without subsidizing the sales in some fashion (e.g., a wireless data plan, as per cell phones).

2. Sun's Slow Spiraling Towards Nova

No, Sun hasn't gone nova quite yet, but it's getting mighty hot. Despite slumping sales, heavy layoffs, a tanking stock price, and customers hoofing it to other pastures (mainly Linux), Sun has beat relentlessly on its commitment to open solutions as a possible way out for both them and their stockholders.

One can't say they haven't tried. OpenOffice, under their sponsorship, released the long-awaited, if only incrementally revised, version 3. Solaris itself was open-sourced and, this year, released in a desktop-friendly implementation. And -- most significantly -- Sun bought MySQL AB, a move which ignited as much contention as it did enthusiasm among fans of both companies. Does this mean MySQL would go down with the ship if Sun implodes, or signal a change in direction for both companies?

3. The Release Of Ubuntu 8.10 And Fedora 10

Flagship distributions of Linux don't get any more prominent than Ubuntu and Fedora, and this year both of them hit major milestones. Ubuntu 8.10 brought the distribution -- one which for many people is Linux -- to a new level of usability and reliability, and added goodies like better mobile networking and the ability to build a mobile USB edition from an install CD.

Fedora, Red Hat (NYSE: RHT)'s non-commercial distribution, also got a new revision and now sports: a new startup system; better remote-provisioning features; wireless connection sharing; and Firstaidkit, a rescue utility designed to preserve as much user data as possible in the event of a system-gobbling disaster. If 2008 hasn't been the long-vaunted "year of the Linux desktop," it ought to be.

4. The Release Of Google Chrome

"What, another Web browser?" Those were my own words, unedited, when Google released the first edition of its Chrome browser. I was, and still am, deeply skeptical about the idea of using Chrome -- or any Web browser, really -- as a cross-platform portal to replace the applications we use on our desktops with 'Net-powered equivalents.

But never mind all that. Chrome's aptly named: it shines. It's fast, cleanly designed, and even in its 0.3 / 0.4 revisions shows remarkable engineering savvy: no more problems in one window or tab locking up the whole browser. One major flaw, aside from its relative lack of development, is that currently it's for Windows only.

Even if it doesn't turn into the portal for Google's vision of Web-meets-the-desktop, it may well be as much a challenge to Firefox as Firefox was to IE (and the older Netscape) -- competition for the competition.

5. The Release Of Google Android

Plain and simple: mobile Linux came of age in 2008 with the introduction of Google's long-heralded Android OS. Even if Android was still a tad raw, and even if Android-powered phones like the HTC G1 are still overshadowed by the iPhone, Android gave people a glimpse of what an open handset system could really provide. It's a first step, and like most first steps it's tentative and tottering.

And since the tools are in everyone's hands now, not just Google's, that step's a much bigger one than it might seem. It might prove to be salvation for the likes of Motorola, now looking to ditch their homegrown (and notoriously lackluster) phone operating system in favor of something that might better complement their hardware designs -- although Motorola may just elect to go with...

6. Nokia Picks Up Symbian

... Symbian. Which, in one of the more surprising open source developments of the past year -- and a complement to Google's own mobile open source play -- Nokia snapped up Symbian and pledged to make it available for free under the terms of the Eclipse Public License.

This year's developments have been all preliminary for Nokia and Symbian; actual handsets aren't expected until 2009 or so. (By contrast, the first Android phone is out right now.)

Aside from Motorola, other big-name phone folks like Sony Ericsson, AT&T, DoCoMo, and Samsung are hopping on board. From the look of it, Android may be the more programmer- and hacker-friendly environment, while Symbian is the more carrier- and handset-maker-friendly. Either way, it's become that much harder for phone makers and carriers to stick with closed architectures.

7. Courts Rule That Copyrights On Open Source Software Are Enforceable

Those worried that open source licensing conventions might not stick in a court of law breathed a little easier when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit handed down a ruling earlier this year. The decision for Jacobsen vs. Katzer made it clear that not upholding the provisions of an open source license is an infringement of the original code creator's copyrights. Open source advocates, including Creative Commons license creator Lawrence Lessig (whose work was cited by the circuit court's decision), were thrilled.

The financial stakes in this particular case weren't momentous -- they involved model railroad software for hobbyists, not exactly a big-ticket software market -- but the implications were wide-ranging. Since most previous legal tangles over open source have ended short of actually going to court, this much of a precedent is a huge boon.

8. Linux Developer Hans Reiser Convicted Of First-Degree Murder

It sounded too bizarre and lurid to be true, but horribly enough, it was. Hans Reiser, the creator of the Linux filesystem ReiserFS, was convicted of murdering his estranged wife and hiding her body. His defense attempted to explain away the preponderance of evidence against him as the quirky behavior of an eccentric if gifted man. It didn't work, and not long after that Reiser led police to where he'd buried the body in the hopes of obtaining a reduced sentence.

What's striking about the case is the fate of ReiserFS itself. Thanks to the project being open source, it'll continue. Even if future editions of ReiserFS lose out to competing filesystems like ext4 and the upcoming btrfs, it'll be due to technical merit and not the stigma from Reiser's murder conviction. Such is the way open source grants a new lease on life to its projects.

9. Debian's OpenSSL Blunder

The maintainers of the Debian distribution of Linux got an unpleasant surprise when they found that their implementation of the openssl encryption package, used to protect data transmitted to and from secured web sites, had a major bug. Bad enough that not only were existing encryption keys at risk of being compromised, but that keys generated by Debian's openssl since 2006 were equally weak.

The problem was quickly fixed, along with instructions for how to generate new encryption keys to replace the weakened ones, but the whole incident served as a strong cautionary reminder. One of open source's biggest pluses is transparency: anyone can look through the code and spot a problem ... but only if they're competent to do so, and if they know what they're hunting for. Many eyes may make bugs shallow, but they also need to be open and looking in the right direction first.

10. SCO Loses To Novell

Put a subtitle on this one: "And this time, we mean it." After an endless stream of back-and-forth in the courts that would've tested the patience of the Dalai Lama, SCO's scrap with Novell over the rights to UNIX has taken what seems to be its last punch to the chin.

Not only does SCO owe Novell a ton of money, but three of SCO's most important claims were dismissed with prejudice, never to be seen again. An appeal is said to be in the works, but given that IBM and Red Hat still have pending litigation (and IBM will most likely devour the husk that's left over from this one), SCO would be hard-pressed to find anyone who recognizes their initials to give them any kind of a new lease on life.


Why So Little Buzz Surrounding Windows 7?

Posted by Alexander Wolfe, Dec 12, 2008 10:25 AM

When Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) does something funky -- like CEO Steve Ballmer's infamous Monkey Dance -- the press can't get enough of it. Yet when the folks in Redmond act inspired, the publicity is apparently somewhat sparser. That sure seems to be the case surrounding Windows 7. My early tests of the operating system, which will succeed Vista in about a year, indicate that it's a solid, high-performing, great-looking platform. So why aren't we hearing more about it?

True, my complaint is highly subjective. If you ask Microsoft, they'd say they are beating the hustings for Windows 7. (Microsoft has an Engineering Windows 7 blog, though it hasn't been updated in half a month. The Windows Team blog and Welcome to WIndows 7 are even sparser.) However, if you think back to Vista, it's clear that Microsoft is taking a much quieter (viral, perhaps?) approach toward its OS proselytizing efforts. (Once burned, twice shy?)

I suspect part of Microsoft's reticence has to do with the fact that they haven't yet set a firm launch date for Windows 7. So, without a target at the end of the runway, it's hard for the software behemoth's public-relations corps to stage the roll out.

I further suspect that the reason Microsoft hasn't picked a drop date has little to do with the technological readiness of Windows 7. (In point of fact, the pre-beta of Windows 7 is more solid than the initial release of Vista, as well it should be since it builds on the experience of the latter.) Rather, Windows 7's release is likely dependent on the economy. Microsoft isn't going to launch what might be its best OS ever in the midst of a PC-upgrade-killing recession. I'm betting that the Redmond brain trust is hoping things will ease up in time for next December's Christmas shopping season, where Windows 7 could spark the kind of computer buying spree Microsoft dreamed of for Vista.

Still, there is hope for Windows 7 fans. The official beta of the OS is expected in January. (My tests were on the pre-beta, which was released at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference in October.) I expect that there will be a renewed round of buzz once the beta hits. Meanwhile, let's go to the nonvideotape for a look at my gallery of 43 Windows 7 screenshots:

First install of the pre-beta build of Windows 7. (Click picture to enlarge, and to see 43 Windows 7 screen shots.)

Windows 7 lets you snap your windows to the left and right, to ease screen management and to compare docs. (Click picture to enlarge, and to see 43 Windows 7 screen shots.)

Looking forward to Windows 7? Let me know, by leaving a comment below or e-mailing me directly at

Like this blog? Subscribe to its RSS feed, here.

For a mobile experience, follow my daily observations on Twitter.

Check out my tech videos on this YouTube channel.

Alex Wolfe is editor-in-chief of

Sales Growth of Flat-Panel TVs Is Expected to Slow

Justin Lane/European Pressphoto Agency

In 2009, sales of all types of TVs in North America are predicted to decline by 4 percent

Sales of flat panel TVs are going flat.

In a reversal of fortune, television sales in the United States are predicted to drop in 2009, according to a new report from DisplaySearch, a market research firm. It would be the first sales decline in at least a decade, said DisplaySearch, and the first decline in revenue since 2000.

TV makers have long argued that TVs were recession-proof because Americans would continue to buy them as a cheap way to entertain their families. But consumers are now starting to shun the LCD and plasma sets, even as prices fall sharply.

In 2009, sales of all types of TVs in North America are predicted to decline by 4 percent. LCD TV sales are expected to increase in North America by 2 percent over 2008, a fraction of the 22 percent gain in 2008 and the 77 percent rise in 2007.

“There was an unnaturally high growth in sales due to the transition to digital TV and the replacement of picture tube TVs,” said Paul Semenza, a senior vice president at DisplaySearch. “You would expect a reversion to the mean, but this is beyond that.”

Mr. Semenza began to notice a rapid drop in production from August to November. By the fall, flat-panel manufacturers in Taiwan that supply to various brands began to cut back production as name brand manufacturers needed panels only from their own facilities.

The flat-panel factories are now running at 80 percent capacity, down from the 90 percent rate of just a few months earlier. A similar shift is now happening in Korea, Mr. Semenza said.

Worldwide, LCD shipments will continue to grow about 17 percent in 2009, the market researchers predict, but almost all of that growth will come from emerging markets, where few own flat-panel sets.

LCD revenue will drop by 16 percent, while revenue from all types of TVs will fall by 18 percent. In North America, revenue will decline by 24 percent.

None of this is good news for consumers. Mr. Semenza expects that prices for LCD sets 32 inches and smaller will remain fairly stable. Retail prices on TVs 42 inches and larger will not decline as fast as they have in years past.

Some makers of the flat panels for big-screen TVs are delaying the construction of factories that produce panels more efficiently and that allow them to undercut competitors with lower prices.

Published: December 18, 2008

Pogue’s Photography Tips and Tricks

From the Desk of David Pogue
Published: December 18, 2008

It's a crazy time of year to be finishing a book. But in between present wrapping and tree trimming, that's exactly what I'm doing. It's a book on digital photography, which, as you probably know, is among my favorite hobbies.

The Times's technology columnist, David Pogue, keeps you on top of the industry in his free, weekly email newsletter.

As I write, I keep coming across these important tips and saying to myself, "Man, this is what people REALLY need to know. I should pull them out into a special list at the back of the book called, 'The Best Photography Tricks of All Time,' so people can't miss it."

So that's exactly what I'm doing. Thought I'd send you the list as it stands today, so you'd have it when you unwrap that shiny new digital camera that you get as a gift. (Most of these apply to consumer cameras, not S.L.R.'s.)


1. Half-pressing the shutter button (to prefocus) eliminates shutter lag.

Everyone hates shutter lag. That's the half-second delay between the time you press the shutter button and the time the photo is actually snapped--during which your child, pet, or action photo slips away. (Pocket cams have shutter lag; S.L.R. cameras don't.)

Shutter lag is the time it takes the camera to calculate focus and exposure. Thing is, you can make it calculate that stuff ahead of time. Aim the camera, anticipating where the subject will be, and half-press the shutter button. When you hear the beep, you've locked in the exposure and focus. Keep the button half-pressed; now you're ready. When the subject appears, push the rest of the way down. Presto: no shutter lag!

2. For the blurred-background effect, back up and zoom in.

In technical terms, what you're looking at is a limited depth of field. That's a geek-shutterbug term meaning, "which part of the scene, front-to-back, is in focus." Subject yes; background, no.

That beautiful, professional effect is easy to get if you have an S.L.R.; it practically happens automatically. (Dial up a wide aperture--a low f-stop number--to accentuate the effect.)

On a pocket cam, choose Portrait mode. Move your subjects away from the background--the farther, the better. Finally, use the back-up-and-zoom-in trick. That is, stand away from your subjects--the farther, the better--and then use the camera's zoom to "bring you" back up close. Thanks to a quirk of optics, zooming in helps create a shallow depth of field.

You may look like a weirdo, backing way up like that. But it really works.

3. Force the flash outdoors.

It might not occur to you to use the flash when you're taking pictures of people on a bright, sunny day. It certainly wouldn't occur to the camera.

Problem is, the camera "reads" the scene and concludes that there's tons of sunlight. But it's not smart enough to recognize that the face you're photographing is in shadow. You wind up with a dark, silhouetted face.

The solution is to force the flash on--a very common photographer's trick. The flash can provide just the right amount of fill light to brighten your subject's face--without affecting the exposure of the background.

It eliminates the silhouette effect. Better yet, it provides very flattering front light. It softens smile lines and wrinkles, and it puts a nice twinkle in the subject's eyes. (It also means that you can ignore the old "rule" about taking photos on a sunny day--the one that tells the photographer to "Stand with the sun behind you.")

4. Exploit the magic hour.

Hate to break it to you, but serious photographers don't get a lot of sleep. Show me an award-winning, breathtaking landscape--a pond shimmering in the woods, golden clouds surrounding a mountain peak--and I'll show you someone who got up at 4:40 am to be ready with a tripod as the sun rose.

That hour after sunrise, and the hour before sunset, is known as the magic hour. The lower angle of the sun and the slightly denser atmosphere create rich, saturated tones, plus what photographers call sweet light. It's an amazing, golden glow that makes everybody look beautiful, every building look enchanted, and every landscape look breathtaking.

It's a far cry from the midday sun, which creates much harsher shadows and much more severe highlights. Landscape shooting is more difficult when the sun is high overhead on a bright, cloudless day.

5. Use a lampshade socket as a tripod.

Another chronic problem with pocket cams is getting blur when you don't want it--which is just about any time you're indoors without the flash. Yeah, yeah, we know: "Use a tripod." But come on: for the average person on vacation or at school events, buying, hauling around, and setting up a tripod is a preposterous burden.

Often, there's a wall, parked car, bureau, tree, pillar, door frame, or some other big, stationary object you can use instead, to prop up either the camera or your arms.

But here's my favorite trick: It turns out that the threads at the top of just about any lamp--the place where the lampshade screws on--are precisely the same diameter as a tripod mount! In a pinch, you can whip off the lampshade, screw on the camera, and presto: You've got a rock-steady indoor tripod.

People might think you're a genius, a nutcase, or a genius nutcase, but never mind. It works.

There you have it, folks: five tips that can save you from throwing your pocket cam out the window. Happy shooting--and happy holly days!


W. Mark Felt, Watergate Deep Throat, Dies at 95 (2/2)

Published: December 19, 2008

(Page 2 of 2)

“As Deep Throat, Felt helped establish the principle that our highest government officials are subject to the Constitution and the laws of the land,” the prosecutor, John W. Nields, wrote in The Washington Post in 2005. “Yet when it came to the Weather Underground bag jobs, he seems not to have been aware that this same principle applied to him.”

Seven months after the conviction, President Ronald Reagan pardoned Mr. Felt. Then 67, Mr. Felt celebrated the decision as one of great symbolic value. “This is going to be the biggest shot in the arm for the intelligence community for a long time,” he said. After the pardon, Nixon sent him a congratulatory bottle of Champagne.

Mr. Felt then disappeared from public view for a quarter of a century, denying unequivocally, time and again, that he had been Deep Throat. It was a lie he told to serve what he believed to be a higher truth.

William Mark Felt was born in Twin Falls, Idaho, on Aug. 17, 1913. After graduating from the University of Idaho, he was drawn to public service in Washington and went to work for Senator James P. Pope, a Democrat.

In 1938, he married his college sweetheart, Audrey Robinson, in Washington. They were wed by the chaplain of the House of Representatives. She died in 1984. The couple had a daughter, Joan, and a son, Mark. They and four grandsons survive Mr. Felt.

Days before Pearl Harbor, after earning a law degree in night classes at George Washington University, Mr. Felt applied to the F.B.I. and joined it in January 1942. He spent most of World War II hunting German spies.

After stints in Seattle, New Orleans and Los Angeles, Hoover named him special agent in charge of the Salt Lake City and Kansas City offices in the late 1950s. Rising to high positions at the headquarters in the 1960s, he oversaw the training of F.B.I. agents and conducted internal investigations as chief of the inspection division.

In early 1970, while waiting in an anteroom of the West Wing of the White House, Mr. Felt chanced to meet a Navy lieutenant delivering classified messages to the National Security Council staff. The young man in dress blues was Bob Woodward. By his own description fiercely ambitious and in need of adult guidance, Mr. Woodward tried to wring career counseling from his elder. He left the White House with the number to Mr. Felt’s direct line at the F.B.I.

On July 1, 1971, Hoover promoted Mr. Felt to deputy associate director, the third in command at the headquarters, beneath Hoover’s right-hand man and longtime companion, Clyde A. Tolson. With both of his superiors in poor health, Mr. Felt increasingly took effective command of the daily work of the F.B.I. When Mr. Hoover died and Mr. Tolson retired, he saw his path to power cleared.

But Nixon denied him, and he seethed with frustrated ambition in the summer of 1972.

One evening that summer, a few weeks after the Watergate break-in, Mr. Woodward, then a neophyte newspaperman, knocked on Mr. Felt’s door in pursuit of the story. Mr. Felt decided to co-operate with him and set up an elaborate system of espionage techniques for clandestine meetings with Mr. Woodward.

If Mr. Woodward needed to talk, he would move a flowerpot planted with a red flag on the balcony of his apartment on P Street in Washington. If Mr. Felt had a message, Mr. Woodward’s home-delivered New York Times would arrive with an inked circle on Page 20. Mr. Woodward would leave his apartment by the back alley that night and take one taxi to a downtown hotel, then a second to an underground parking garage in the Rosslyn section of Arlington, Va.

Within weeks, Mr. Felt steered The Post to a story establishing that the Watergate break-in was part of “a massive campaign of political spying and sabotage” directed by the White House. For the next eight months, he did his best to keep the newspaper on the trail, largely by providing, on “deep background,” anonymous confirmation of facts reporters had gathered from others. The Post’s managing editor, Howard Simons, gave him his famous pseudonym, taken from the pornographic movie then in vogue.

By June 1973, Mr. Felt was forced out of the F.B.I. Soon he came under investigation by some of the same agents he had supervised, suspected of leaking information not to The Post but to The New York Times. He spent much of the mid-1970s testifying in secret to Congress about abuses of power at the F.B.I. Millions of Americans knew him only as a shadowy figure in the 1976 movie made from the Watergate saga, “All the President’s Men,” which made “Woodward and Bernstein” legends of American journalism. In the movie, Deep Throat (Hal Holbrook) gives Mr. Woodward (Robert Redford) probably the most famous bit of free advice in the history of investigative journalism. It was a three-word road map to the heart of the matter: “Follow the money.”

Mr. Felt never said it. It was part of the myth that surrounded Deep Throat.

W. Mark Felt, Watergate Deep Throat, Dies at 95

Published: December 19, 2008

W. Mark Felt, who was the No. 2 official at the F.B.I. when he helped bring down President Richard M. Nixon by resisting the Watergate cover-up and becoming Deep Throat, the most famous anonymous source in American history, died Thursday. He was 95 and lived in Santa Rosa, Calif.

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Bob Daugherty/Associated Press

W. Mark Felt with his wife, Audrey, on NBC's "Today" show in Washington in 1978.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

W. Mark Felt in 1980 in Washington after being fined for approving illegal break-ins in an F.B.I. push against radicals. Seven months later, he was pardoned by President Ronald Reagan.

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His death was confirmed by Rob Jones, his grandson.

In 2005, Mr. Felt revealed that he was the one who had secretly supplied Bob Woodward of The Washington Post with crucial leads in the Watergate affair in the early 1970s. His decision to unmask himself, in an article in Vanity Fair, ended a guessing game that had gone on for more than 30 years.

The disclosure even surprised Mr. Woodward and his partner on the Watergate story, Carl Bernstein. They had kept their promise not to reveal his identity until after his death. Indeed, Mr. Woodward was so scrupulous about shielding Mr. Felt that he did not introduce him to Mr. Bernstein until this year, 36 years after they cracked the scandal. The three met for two hours one afternoon last month in Santa Rosa, where Mr. Felt had retired. The reporters likened it to a family reunion.

Mr. Felt played a dual role in the fall of Nixon. As a secret informant, he kept the story alive in the press. As associate director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he fought the president’s efforts to obstruct the F.B.I.’s investigation of the Watergate break-in.

Without Mr. Felt, there might not have been a Watergate — shorthand for the revealed abuses of presidential powers in the Nixon White House, including illegal wiretapping, burglaries and money laundering. Americans might never have seen a president as a criminal conspirator, or reporters as cultural heroes, or anonymous sources like Mr. Felt as a necessary if undesired tool in the pursuit of truth.

Like Nixon, Mr. Felt authorized illegal break-ins in the name of national security and then received the absolution of a presidential pardon. Their lives were intertwined in ways only they and a few others knew.

Nixon cursed his name when he learned early on that Mr. Felt was providing aid to the enemy in the wars of Watergate. The conversation was recorded in the Oval Office and later made public.

“We know what’s leaked, and we know who leaked it,” Nixon’s chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, told the president on Oct. 19, 1972, four months after a team of washed-up Central Intelligence Agency personnel hired by the White House was caught trying to wiretap the Democratic Party’s national offices at the Watergate complex.

“Somebody in the F.B.I.?” Nixon asked.

“Yes, sir,” Mr. Haldeman replied. Who? the president asked. “Mark Felt,” Mr. Haldeman said. “Now why the hell would he do that?” the president asked in a wounded tone.

No one, including Mr. Felt, ever answered that question in full. Mr. Felt later said he believed that the president had been misusing the F.B.I. for political advantage. He knew that Nixon wanted the Watergate affair to vanish. He knew that the White House had ordered the C.I.A. to tell the bureau, on grounds of national security, to stand down in its felony investigation of the June 1972 break-in. He saw that order as an effort to obstruct justice, and he rejected it. That resistance led indirectly to Nixon’s resignation.

Mr. Felt had expected to be named to succeed J. Edgar Hoover, who had run the bureau for 48 years and died in May 1972. The president instead chose a politically loyal Justice Department official, L. Patrick Gray III, who later followed orders from the White House to destroy documents in the case.

The choice infuriated Mr. Felt. He later wrote that the president “wanted a politician in J. Edgar Hoover’s position who would convert the bureau into an adjunct of the White House machine.”

Hoover had sworn off break-ins without warrants — “black bag jobs,” he called them — in 1966, after carrying them out at the F.B.I. for four decades. The Nixon White House hired its own operatives to steal information, plant eavesdropping equipment and hunt down the sources of leaks. The Watergate break-in took place six weeks after Hoover died.

While Watergate was seething, Mr. Felt authorized nine illegal break-ins at the homes of friends and relatives of members of the Weather Underground, a violent left-wing splinter group. The people he chose as targets had committed no crimes. The F.B.I. had no search warrants. He later said he ordered the break-ins because national security required it.

In a criminal trial, Mr. Felt was convicted in November 1980 of conspiring to violate the constitutional rights of Americans. Nixon, who had denounced him in private for leaking Watergate secrets, testified on his behalf. Called by the prosecution, he told the jury that presidents and by extension their officers had an inherent right to conduct illegal searches in the name of national security....