Google announces the “Google Car”, drives themselves in traffic

Posted in Uncategorized on October 11, 2010 by Jagtheesh

Anyone driving the twists of Highway 1 between San Francisco and Los Angeles recently may have glimpsed a Toyota Prius with a curious funnel-like cylinder on the roof. Harder to notice was that the person at the wheel was not actually driving.

The car is a project of Google, which has been working in secret but in plain view on vehicles that can drive themselves, using artificial-intelligence software that can sense anything near the car and mimic the decisions made by a human driver.

With someone behind the wheel to take control if something goes awry and a technician in the passenger seat to monitor the navigation system, seven test cars have driven 1,000 miles without human intervention and more than 140,000 miles with only occasional human control. One even drove itself down Lombard Street in San Francisco, one of the steepest and curviest streets in the nation. The only accident, engineers said, was when one Google car was rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light.

Autonomous cars are years from mass production, but technologists who have long dreamed of them believe that they can transform society as profoundly as the Internet has.

Robot drivers react faster than humans, have 360-degree perception and do not get distracted, sleepy or intoxicated, the engineers argue. They speak in terms of lives saved and injuries avoided — more than 37,000 people died in car accidents in the United States in 2008. The engineers say the technology could double the capacity of roads by allowing cars to drive more safely while closer together. Because the robot cars would eventually be less likely to crash, they could be built lighter, reducing fuel consumption. But of course, to be truly safer, the cars must be far more reliable than, say, today’s personal computers, which crash on occasion and are frequently infected.

The Google research program using artificial intelligence to revolutionize the automobile is proof that the company’s ambitions reach beyond the search engine business. The program is also a departure from the mainstream of innovation in Silicon Valley, which has veered toward social networks and Hollywood-style digital media.

During a half-hour drive beginning on Google’s campus 35 miles south of San Francisco last Wednesday, a Prius equipped with a variety of sensors and following a route programmed into the GPS navigation system nimbly accelerated in the entrance lane and merged into fast-moving traffic on Highway 101, the freeway through Silicon Valley.

It drove at the speed limit, which it knew because the limit for every road is included in its database, and left the freeway several exits later. The device atop the car produced a detailed map of the environment.

The car then drove in city traffic through Mountain View, stopping for lights and stop signs, as well as making announcements like “approaching a crosswalk” (to warn the human at the wheel) or “turn ahead” in a pleasant female voice. This same pleasant voice would, engineers said, alert the driver if a master control system detected anything amiss with the various sensors.

The car can be programmed for different driving personalities — from cautious, in which it is more likely to yield to another car, to aggressive, where it is more likely to go first.

Christopher Urmson, a Carnegie Mellon University robotics scientist, was behind the wheel but not using it. To gain control of the car he has to do one of three things: hit a red button near his right hand, touch the brake or turn the steering wheel. He did so twice, once when a bicyclist ran a red light and again when a car in front stopped and began to back into a parking space. But the car seemed likely to have prevented an accident itself.

When he returned to automated “cruise” mode, the car gave a little “whir” meant to evoke going into warp drive on “Star Trek,” and Dr. Urmson was able to rest his hands by his sides or gesticulate when talking to a passenger in the back seat. He said the cars did attract attention, but people seem to think they are just the next generation of the Street View cars that Google uses to take photographs and collect data for its maps.

The project is the brainchild of Sebastian Thrun, the 43-year-old director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, a Google engineer and the co-inventor of the Street View mapping service.

In 2005, he led a team of Stanford students and faculty members in designing the Stanley robot car, winning the second Grand Challenge of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a $2 million Pentagon prize for driving autonomously over 132 miles in the desert.

Besides the team of 15 engineers working on the current project, Google hired more than a dozen people, each with a spotless driving record, to sit in the driver’s seat, paying $15 an hour or more. Google is using six Priuses and an Audi TT in the project.

The Google researchers said the company did not yet have a clear plan to create a business from the experiments. Dr. Thrun is known as a passionate promoter of the potential to use robotic vehicles to make highways safer and lower the nation’s energy costs. It is a commitment shared by Larry Page, Google’s co-founder, according to several people familiar with the project. -NyTimes.

 

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Google Struggles to give away $10M

Posted in TechNical on June 30, 2010 by Jagtheesh

On its tenth anniversary in 2008, Google promised $10 million to the best five ideas for using technology to improve the world, through Project 10×100 — a neat play on words (10 to the 100th power expresses the number “googol,” which is a one followed by one hundred zeroes).

Google’s intentions were good, of course — $10 million spent the right way could have a real impact on these problems, which range from building better banking tools to a real-time, user-reported news service.

However, the company’s follow-through leaves much to be desired. Google announced this cash prize contest in September 2008 and closed public voting on 16 finalists chosen from over 150,000 ideas in October 2009. Over eight months later, the company has yet to announce the winners.

Meanwhile, e-mails sent to Project 10 to the 100th’s Gmail account are bouncing, indicating that Google has deleted the address. And the company’s press department has yet to respond to our inquiries about the project.

“We’ll announce the winning big ideas in the near future,” reads a notice on the project’s website, which lists “©2009 Google” at the bottom. According to Daniel Meyerowitz, who says his idea for mapping ongoing genocides and providing early warning of new ones is a finalist in the competition, Google has not said a peep about this competition in nine months — despite having apologized for delays as early as March 2009.

“While genocide and other pressing problems relentlessly advance, it would seem that Project 10^100 does not,” Meyerowitz told Wired.com. “Years behind schedule. Nine months since announcing their most recent delay. How hard can it be to give away ten million bucks? Harder than Google can handle, apparently.”

Google, which reported revenue of $6.77 billion for the first quarter of this year, could practically consider $10 million to be a rounding error, so money isn’t the problem. And the company already did the hard work of combining the overt 150,000 submitted ideas, many of which were duplicates or complementary, into 16 “theme” ideas, on which the public has already voted.

Assuming the project is still ongoing, Google will select an organization already involved with the issue to receive a share of the cash with the goal of solving the problem. So all that remains for the company to do at this point is to announce the five winning ideas and the organizations that will receive the money to implement them.

“An inspirational effort which began in the best Google tradition seems to be mired in the worst Google lapses,” said Meyerowitz, who brought this situation to our attention. “When can we expect the final projects to be funded? Or how about just a blog update?”

Google’s not talking — not yet, anyway. But apparently, it’s the process of choosing the right organizations to address these issues that threatens to turn Google’s 10th birthday celebration into a 12th birthday surprise.

Jupiter Cloud belt missing again

Posted in Space on May 21, 2010 by Jagtheesh

Scientists don’t know why, but one of Jupiter’s two main cloud belts has disappeared again.

Like a wayward pet, the belt has gone missing before and has always returned.

“This is a big event,” said planetary scientist Glenn Orton of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. “We’re monitoring the situation closely and do not yet fully understand what’s going on.”

The brown cloudy band, known as the South Equatorial Belt, or SEB, started fading late last year, NASA said in a story on its website.

“But I certainly didn’t expect to see it completely disappear,” said amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley of Australia. “Jupiter continues to surprise.”

Orton says the belt may not be gone, just hidden under higher clouds.

“It’s possible,” he said on the NASA website, “that some ‘ammonia cirrus’ has formed on top of the SEB, hiding the SEB from view.”

On Earth, NASA says, white wispy cirrus clouds are made of ice crystals. On Jupiter, the same sort of clouds can form, but the crystals are made of ammonia instead of water.

The belt’s disappearances can be erratic.

“The SEB fades at irregular intervals, most recently in 1973-75, 1989-90, 1993, 2007, 2010,” said John Rogers, director of the British Astronomical Association’s Jupiter Section. “The 2007 fading was terminated rather early, but in the other years, the SEB was almost absent, as at present.”

The return of the SEB can be dramatic, NASA said.

“We can look forward to a spectacular outburst of storms and vortices when the ‘SEB revival’ begins,” Rogers told NASA. “It always begins at a single point, and a disturbance spreads out rapidly around the planet from there, often becoming spectacular even for amateurs eyeballing the planet through medium-sized telescopes.

“However,” he said, “we can’t predict when or where it will start. On historical precedent, it could be any time in the next two years.”

“I’ll be watching every chance I get,” Wesley said. “The revival will likely be sudden and dramatic, with planet-circling groups of storms appearing over the space of just a week or so.”

Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, is visible in the eastern sky before dawn, NASA said.

NASA ready to Launch Human-Like Robot

Posted in Space on April 17, 2010 by Jagtheesh

NASA will launch the first human-like robot to space later this year to become a permanent resident of the International Space Station. Robonaut 2, or R2, was developed jointly by NASA and General Motors under a cooperative agreement to develop a robotic assistant that can work alongside humans, whether they are astronauts in space or workers at GM manufacturing plants on Earth.

The 300-pound R2 consists of a head and a torso with two arms and two hands. R2 will launch on space shuttle Discovery as part of the STS-133 mission planned for September. Once aboard the station, engineers will monitor how the robot operates in weightlessness.

R2 will be confined to operations in the station’s Destiny laboratory. However, future enhancements and modifications may allow it to move more freely around the station’s interior or outside the complex.

“This project exemplifies the promise that a future generation of robots can have both in space and on Earth, not as replacements for humans but as companions that can carry out key supporting roles,” said John Olson, director of NASA’s Exploration Systems Integration Office at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The combined potential of humans and robots is a perfect example of the sum equaling more than the parts. It will allow us to go farther and achieve more than we can probably even imagine today.”

The dexterous robot not only looks like a human but also is designed to work like one. With human-like hands and arms, R2 is able to use the same tools station crew members use. In the future, the greatest benefits of humanoid robots in space may be as assistants or stand-in for astronauts during spacewalks or for tasks too difficult or dangerous for humans. For now, R2 is still a prototype and does not have adequate protection needed to exist outside the space station in the extreme temperatures of space.

Testing the robot inside the station will provide an important intermediate environment. R2 will be tested in microgravity and subjected to the station’s radiation and electromagnetic interference environments. The interior operations will provide performance data about how a robot may work side-by-side with astronauts. As development activities progress on the ground, station crews may be provided hardware and software to update R2 to enable it to do new tasks.

R2 is undergoing extensive testing in preparation for its flight. Vibration, vacuum and radiation testing along with other procedures being conducted on R2 also benefit the team at GM. The automaker plans to use technologies from R2 in future advanced vehicle safety systems and manufacturing plant applications.

“The extreme levels of testing R2 has undergone as it prepares to venture to the International Space Station are on par with the validation our vehicles and components go through on the path to production,” said Alan Taub, vice president of GM’s global research and development. “The work done by GM and NASA engineers also will help us validate manufacturing technologies that will improve the health and safety of our GM team members at our manufacturing plants throughout the world. Partnerships between organizations such as GM and NASA help ensure space exploration, road travel and manufacturing can become even safer in the future.”

New planet : Companion to brown dwarf

Posted in Space on April 12, 2010 by Jagtheesh

As our telescopes grow more powerful, astronomers are uncovering objects that defy conventional wisdom. The latest example is the discovery of a planet-like object circling a brown dwarf. It’s the right size for a planet, estimated to be 5-10 times the mass of Jupiter. But the object formed in less than 1 million years — the approximate age of the brown dwarf — and much faster than the predicted time it takes to build planets according to some theories.

Kamen Todorov of Penn State University and co-investigators used the keen eyesight of the Hubble Space Telescope and the Gemini Observatory to directly image the companion of the brown dwarf, which was uncovered in a survey of 32 young brown dwarfs in the Taurus star-forming region. Brown dwarfs are objects that typically are tens of times the mass of Jupiter and are too small to sustain nuclear fusion to shine as stars do.

The mystery object orbits the nearby brown dwarf at a separation of approximately 2.25 billion miles (3.6 billion kilometers — which is between the distances of Saturn and Uranus from the Sun). The team’s research is being published in an upcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

There has been a lot of discussion in the context of the Pluto debate over how small an object can be and still be called a planet. This new observation addresses the question at the other end of the size spectrum: How small can an object be and still be a brown dwarf rather than a planet? This new companion is within the range of masses observed for planets around stars — less than 15 Jupiter masses. But should it be called a planet? The answer is strongly connected to the mechanism by which the companion most likely formed.

There are three possible formation scenarios: Dust in a circumstellar disk slowly agglomerates to form a rocky planet 10 times larger than Earth, which then accumulates a large gaseous envelope; a lump of gas in the disk quickly collapses to form an object the size of a gas giant planet; or, rather than forming in a disk, a companion forms directly from the collapse of the vast cloud of gas and dust in the same manner as a star (or brown dwarf).

If the last scenario is correct, then this discovery demonstrates that planetary-mass bodies can be made through the same mechanism that builds stars. This is the likely solution because the companion is too young to have formed by the first scenario, which is very slow. The second mechanism occurs rapidly, but the disk around the central brown dwarf probably did not contain enough material to make an object with a mass of 5-10 Jupiter masses.

“The most interesting implication of this result is that it shows that the process that makes binary stars extends all the way down to planetary masses. So it appears that nature is able to make planetary-mass companions through two very different mechanisms,” says team member Kevin Luhman of the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds at Penn State University. If the mystery companion formed through cloud collapse and fragmentation, as stellar binary systems do, then it is not a planet by definition because planets build up inside disks.

The mass of the companion is estimated by comparing its brightness to the luminosities predicted by theoretical evolutionary models for objects at various masses for an age of 1 millon years.

Further supporting evidence comes from the presence of a very nearby binary system that contains a small red star and a brown dwarf. Luhman thinks that all four objects may have formed in the same cloud collapse, making this in actuality a quadruple system. “The configuration closely resembles quadruple star systems, suggesting that all of its components formed like stars,” says Luhman. Reference: Nasa.gov

Funny Computer-related signs

Posted in TechNical on March 29, 2010 by Jagtheesh

NASA moon crash struck lots of water

Posted in Space on November 15, 2009 by Jagtheesh

2009-09-24__Moon

Suddenly, the moon looks exciting again. It has lots of water, scientists said Friday — a thrilling discovery that sent a ripple of hope for a future astronaut outpost in a place that has always seemed barren and inhospitable.

Experts have long suspected there was water on the moon. Confirmation came from data churned up by two NASA spacecraft that intentionally slammed into a lunar crater last month.

“Indeed, yes, we found water. And we didn’t find just a little bit. We found a significant amount,” said Anthony Colaprete, lead scientist for the mission, holding up a white water bucket for emphasis.

The lunar crash kicked up at least 25 gallons and that’s only what scientists could see from the plumes of the impact, Colaprete said.

Some space policy experts say that makes the moon attractive for exploration again. Having an abundance of water would make it easier to set up a base camp for astronauts, supplying drinking water and a key ingredient for rocket fuel.

“Having definitive evidence that there is substantial water is a significant step forward in making the moon an interesting place to go,” said George Washington University space policy scholar John Logsdon.

Even so, members of the blue-ribbon panel reviewing NASA’s future plans said it doesn’t change their conclusion that the program needs more money to get beyond near-Earth orbit. The panel wants NASA to look at other potential destinations like asteroids and Mars.

“This new and terrific result reassures us about lunar resources, but … the challenges currently facing the human spaceflight program remain,” Chris Chyba, a Princeton astrophysicist who is on the panel, said in an e-mail.

President George W. Bush had proposed a more than $100 billion plan to return astronauts to the moon, then go on to Mars; a test flight of an early version of a new rocket was a success last month. President Barack Obama appointed the special panel to look at the entire moon exploration program. The decision is now up to the White House, and NASA’s lunar plans are somewhat on hold until then.

As for unmanned exploration, previous missions had detected the presence of hydrogen in lunar craters near the moon’s poles, possible evidence of ice. In September, scientists reported finding tiny amounts of water in the lunar soil all over the moon’s surface.

But it was NASA’s Oct. 9 mission involving the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, LCROSS, that provided the stunning confirmation announced Friday — water, in the forms of ice and vapor.

“Rather than a dead and unchanging world, it could in fact be a very dynamic and interesting one,” said Greg Delory of the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the mission, led by NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif.

The LCROSS spacecraft only hit one spot on the moon and it’s unclear how much water there is across the entire moon.

The October mission involved two strikes into a permanently shadowed crater near the south pole. First, an empty rocket hull slammed into the Cabeus crater. Then, a trailing spacecraft recorded the drama live before it also crashed into the same spot four minutes later.

Though scientists were overjoyed with the plethora of data beamed back to Earth, the mission was a public relations dud. Space enthusiasts who stayed up all night to watch the spectacle did not see the promised giant plume of debris.

NASA scientists had predicted the twin impacts would spew six miles of dust into the sunlight. Instead, images revealed only a mile-high plume, and it was not visible to many amateur astronomers peering through telescopes.

Scientists spent a month analyzing data from the spacecraft’s spectrometers, instruments that can detect strong signals of water molecules in the plume.

“We’ve had hints that there is water. This was almost like tasting it,” said Peter Schultz, professor of geological sciences at Brown University and a co-investigator on the LCROSS mission.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who in 1969 made his historic Apollo 11 moonwalk with Neil Armstrong, was pleased to hear the latest discovery, but still believes the U.S. should focus on colonizing Mars.

“People will overreact to this news and say, `Let’s have a water rush to the moon,'” Aldrin said. “It doesn’t justify that.”

Mission scientists said it would take more time to tease out what else was kicked up in the moon dust.

Dolphin’s Intelligence

Posted in Geographic on November 4, 2009 by Jagtheesh

dolphin

 

Deep thinkers

The more we study dolphins, the brighter they turn out to be. By Anuschka de Rohan

At the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Mississippi, Kelly the dolphin has built up quite a reputation. All the dolphins at the institute are trained to hold onto any litter that falls into their pools until they see a trainer, when they can trade the litter for fish. In this way, the dolphins help to keep their pools clean.


Kelly has taken this task one step further. When people drop paper into the water she hides it under a rock at the bottom of the pool. The next time a trainer passes, she goes down to the rock and tears off a piece of paper to give to the trainer. After a fish reward, she goes back down, tears off another piece of paper, gets another fish, and so on. This behaviour is interesting because it shows that Kelly has a sense of the future and delays gratification. She has realised that a big piece of paper gets the same reward as a small piece and so delivers only small pieces to keep the extra food coming. She has, in effect, trained the humans.


Her cunning has not stopped there. One day, when a gull flew into her pool, she grabbed it, waited for the trainers and then gave it to them. It was a large bird and so the trainers gave her lots of fish. This seemed to give Kelly a new idea. The next time she was fed, instead of eating the last fish, she took it to the bottom of the pool and hid it under the rock where she had been hiding the paper. When no trainers were present, she brought the fish to the surface and used it to lure the gulls, which she would catch to get even more fish. After mastering this lucrative strategy, she taught her calf, who taught other calves, and so gull-baiting has become a hot game among the dolphins.

“Intelligence” is a term with many definitions and interpretations. It’s difficult enough to measure in humans let alone other animals. Large brains are traditionally associated with greater intelligence, and the brain of the adult bottlenose dolphin is about 25% heavier than the average adult human brain. Generally though, larger mammals tend to have larger brains, and so a more accurate estimate of brain power comes from the ratio of brain size to body size – the “encephalisation quotient” (EQ). While river dolphins have an EQ of 1.5, some dolphins have EQs that are more than double those of our closest relatives: gorillas have 1.76, chimpanzees 2.48, bottlenose dolphins 5.6. The bottlenose’s EQ is surpassed only by a human’s, which measures 7.4 (Australopithecines – hominids that lived around 4m years ago – fall within the dolphin range: 3.25-4.72). But we don’t know enough about the workings of the brain to be sure of what these anatomical measurements truly represent. Today, most scientists share the view that it is behaviour, not structure, that must be the measure of intelligence within a species.

Dolphins have invented a range of feeding strategies that more than match the diversity of habitats in which they live. In an estuary off the coast of Brazil, tucuxi dolphins are regularly seen capturing fish by “tail whacking”. They flick a fish up to 9 metres with their tail flukes and then pick the stunned prey from the water surface. Peale’s dolphins in the Straits of Magellan off Patagonia forage in kelp beds, use the seaweed to disguise their approach and cut off the fishes’ escape route. In Galveston Bay, Texas, certain female bottlenose dolphins and their young follow shrimp boats. The dolphins swim into the shrimp nets to take live fish and then wriggle out again – a skill requiring expertise to avoid entanglement in the fishing nets.

Dolphins can also use tools to solve problems. Scientists have observed a dolphin coaxing a reluctant moray eel out of its crevice by killing a scorpion fish and using its spiny body to poke at the eel. Off the western coast of Australia, bottlenose dolphins place sponges over their snouts, which protects them from the spines of stonefish and stingrays as they forage over shallow seabeds.

Dolphins are quick learners. Calves stay with their mothers for several years, allowing the time and opportunity for extensive learning to take place, particularly through imitation. At a dolphinarium, a person standing by the pool’s window noticed that a dolphin calf was watching him. When he released a puff of smoke from his cigarette, the dolphin immediately swam off to her mother, returned and released a mouthful of milk, causing a similar effect to the cigarette smoke. Another dolphin mimicked the scraping of the pool’s observation window by a diver, even copying the sound of the air-demand valve of the scuba gear while releasing a stream of bubbles from his blowhole.

Many species live in complex societies. To fit in, young dolphins must learn about the conventions and rules of dolphin society, teamwork and who’s who in the group. For these dolphins, play provides an ideal opportunity to learn about relationships in a relatively non-threatening way. At Sarasota Bay in Florida, Randall Wells and his team have observed groups of juvenile male bottlenose dolphins behaving like boisterous teenage boys. Using its head to do the lifting, one dolphin may even get another dolphin air borne, actually tossing it out of the water. It’s unclear exactly what is going on. It could be play, but more likely these are serious interactions that are defining social relationships.

Dolphins gradually build up a network of relationships, ranging from the strong bond between a mother and calf, to casual “friendships” with other community members. Wells and his team were the first to notice that adult male bottlenose dolphins tend to hang out in pairs. The dolphins’ motivation for ganging together is under study but may involve ecological and/or reproductive benefits. Dolphins may also form “supergangs” . Richard Connor and his team in Shark Bay, Western Australia, discovered a group of 14 males. The supergang was a force to be reckoned with. In the three years it was studied, it never lost a fight.


To keep track of the many different relationships within a large social group, it helps to have an efficient communication system. Dolphins use a variety of clicks and whistles to keep in touch. Some species have a signature whistle, which, like a name, is a unique sound that allows other dolphins to identify it. Dolphins also communicate using touch and body postures. By human definition, there is currently no evidence that dolphins have a language. But we’ve barely begun to record all their sounds and body signals let alone try to decipher them. At Kewalo Basin Marine Laboratory in Hawaii, Lou Herman and his team set about testing a dolphin’s ability to comprehend our language. They developed a sign language to communicate with the dolphins, and the results were remarkable. Not only do the dolphins understand the meaning of individual words, they also understand the significance of word order in a sentence. (One of their star dolphins, Akeakamai, has learned a vocabulary of more than 60 words and can understand more than 2,000 sentences.) Particularly impressive is the dolphins’ relaxed attitude when new sentences are introduced. For example, the dolphins generally responded correctly to “touch the frisbee with your tail and then jump over it”. This has the characteristics of true understanding, not rigid training.


Not only do dolphins recognise their mirror images, but they can also watch TV. Language-trained chimps only learned to respond appropriately to TV screens after a long period of training. In contrast, Lou Herman’s dolphins responded appropriately the very first time they were exposed to television.

Of course, an understanding of TV is of little use in the wild, but the ability to respond to new situations has huge implications. In the shallows of Florida Bay, Laura Engleby and her team have recently discovered an ingenious fishing strategy. A number of the local dolphin groups seem to use a circle of mud to catch mullet. The action usually begins with one dolphin swimming off in a burst of speed. It then dives below the surface, circling a shoal of fish, stirring up mud along the way. On cue, the other dolphins in the group move into position, forming a barrier to block off any underwater escape routes. As the circle of mud rises to the surface, the mullet are trapped. Their only option is to leap clear out of the water and unwittingly straight into the open mouths of the waiting dolphins.


Zoologist Anuschka de Rohan produced last month’s Wildlife on One programme, Dolphins – Deep Thinkers? This piece is based on an article in the July issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine, available from newsagents or BBC Wildlife Magazine Subscriptions on 01795 414718.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2003/jul/03/research.science/print


Windows 7 Ultimate Installation…

Posted in TechNical on October 29, 2009 by Jagtheesh

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Sony introduces PS3 Slim, downs PS3 Price to $300

Posted in TechNical on August 20, 2009 by Jagtheesh

playstation_3_slim_mockup

Sony reveals the secret of its new PS3 price cut as well as confirmation of a trimmer, slimmer iteration of the PS3 after over a year’s worth of gossip and false leads and photo-forgeries. The PS3 slim looks, as you’d expect, kind of like a diet-PS3, except for the part where it’s still full-featured only priced $100 less. Make that 33 percent smaller, 36 percent lighter, roughly as tall, but thinner, with a matte finish all around.

It certainly looks nifty, that much thinner, speaking as a guy who had to lug two Xbox 360s and PS3s and a Wii overseas in carry-on luggage. Never mind the fact that the original PS3 is just about the ugliest-angled console to come along in decades. But I digress.

The current 80GB PS3 had been selling for $400, though a few retailers slashed prices in recent days and fueled speculation a price drop was imminent. It’s not clear whether the PS3 slim actually replaces the existing model or not, but if you don’t care about aesthetics, the price of the PS3 just dropped across the board, meaning that as of tomorrow, you can buy an existing PS3 anywhere in the US for $300 (or depending on your international locale, 300 euros or 29980 yen).

Apple Tablet Prototype is Real, Nov. Launch Expected, says Report

Posted in TechNical on August 8, 2009 by Jagtheesh

The Apple tablet is real, and someone claims they’ve actually seen the thing. Well, so goes the latest rumor anyway. After months of speculation, innuendo and good ol’ wishful thinking, someone finally found an anonymous source not willing to go on the record who claims to have first-hand knowledge of the storied Apple tablet. This morning’s rumor comes from the anonymous “A. Veteran Analyst,” who says they’ve actually held a prototype for Apple’s next wonder device in their own hands, according to Barron’s.

apple_tablet

Mr. Analyst says Apple is going to have a final design ready in the next six weeks, and the device would then be announced in September for a November launch. The Apple tablet may also break your bank, costing you a whopping $699 to $799. But for those big bucks you’d get a device that would be able to, among other things, play high-definition video. While other features might be nice, it sounds like the Apple tablet’s video capability is the feature to beat. The anonymous source says the device’s video quality “is better than the average movie experience.

“So the 10-inch Apple tablet is a better movie experience than staring at a giant screen with surround sound or watching a DVD at home? That must be some mythical device.

Computer Industry Scared Stiff

While Apple is busy creating its next super device to replace the multiplex, everyone else in the computer industry is reportedly so nervous about the Apple tablet they’re waiting to see what the product looks like before imitating or ripping it off. That’s a smart move considering how one guy was left with a warehouse full of iPhony Nanos after this year’s MacWorld Expo. By the way, if you’re looking for a fully non-functioning mini-iPhone drop me a line.

Apple Tablet: the Rumor That Keeps on Giving

Apple tablet mania has been heating up in recent weeks. Earlier this month, another rumor came out saying theApple tablet might be available through Verizon with a multiyear service contract. An arrangement like that would subsidize the heavy cost of the device, and with a price of almost $800 it’s not hard to see why that would make sense.

Late last week, there was also a rumor the Apple tablet would launch with a secret software project codenamed Cocktail. The software is rumored to be a development in conjunction with the major music labels, and would be “a new type of interactive album, which will combine photos, lyrics sheets, video clips, and liner notes, all gathered into an interactive booklet.”

That sounds like an interesting concept, but software is one of the big questions hanging over the Apple tablet. As Barron’s writer Tiernan Ray says, no one knows if this device will be attached to the iPhone App Store or will have a software model closer to Apple’s MacBook line. As I’ve said before, I think tying a tablet to the App Store could be a mistake since it would virtually guarantee a less-functional device. But we may have to wait until next month’s supposed announcement before we’ll know for sure how this device will work.

Assuming of course, that this yet-to-be-proven device exists. As PC World’s Michael Scalisi pointed out last week, the rumored Apple tablet, despite all they hype,could end up being a flop given the poor track record of past tablet devices. So would Apple risk its iPhone mojo on an unproven device that nobody may want, or are we truly at the point where the world will just go nuts for anything Apple comes out with? If the rumors are correct, we may know the answer to that question very soon. [Article from PCWorld].

OUTER-SPACE CIRCUS

Posted in Space on May 3, 2009 by Jagtheesh

   The month of May is bringing in so many outer-space wonders, it’s as if a three-ring circus were rolling into town with four or five rings. Today is Space Day, which morphs into Astronomy Day and the Astronaut Hall of Fame on Saturday, followed by the peak of the Eta Aquarid meteor shower next week … all leading up to one of the greatest shows off Earth, the final upgrade to the Hubble Space Telescope.

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And if that still isn’t enough rings for you, there’s a sparkling new image of a ring galaxy from Hubble’s younger sibling, the Spitzer Space Telescope.

Rivers of stars
The fresh infrared view of the spiral galaxy NGC 2841, which is 46 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major, figures in recently published research that looks at why stars become so smoothly distributed in such galaxies. After all, stars are created in bursts of clusters, and thus start out their lives in lumps.

“Our analysis now answers the great puzzle,” David Block, an astronomer at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, said in a news release issued Thursday by Spitzer’s science team. “By finding a myriad of streams of young stars all over the disks of galaxies we studied, we see that the mechanism for pulling the clusters of young stars apart is shearing motions of the parent galaxy. These streams are the ‘missing link’ we needed to understand how the disks of galaxies evolve to look the way they do.”

Spitzer’s infrared camera peered through the galaxy’s dust to spot the young stars hidden within. The image data was then manipulated to highlight the subtle structures associated with star formation. “The structures cannot be seen on the original Spitzer image with the human eye,” said Ivanio Puerari of the Institut Nacional de Astrofisica, Optica y Electronica in Puebla, Mexico.

The analysis highlighted the galaxy’s hidden streams of stars – a feat of image processing that would have been impossible without Spitzer’s infrared vision and the astronomers’ computational firepower. The results were published in the March 20 issue of the Astrophysical Journal.

Days of glory
That’s just one example showing how the space frontier brings a scientific as well as an aesthetic payoff here on Earth. Three events this weekend throw a spotlight on that same blend of exploration, education and entertainment from outer space.

Today marks the 13th annual celebration of Space Day, an international educational initiative backed by a coalition involving government agencies, museums, educational institutions and aerospace companies. Almost 200 events have been planned under the Space Day aegis, stretching well into the summer. The main event actually takes place on Saturday at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington.

In addition to the events, teachers can work Space Day lesson plans into their curricula, students can have their signatures sent into space, and anyone with an Internet connection can play out-of-this-world online games.

More opportunities for playtime are available courtesy of Astronomy Day, which is timed for Saturday to coincide with May’s first-quarter moon. That lunar phase is preferred because it gives skywatchers a chance to see the moon in profile while leaving time for wide-open observing after the moon has set.

Astronomy clubs generally schedule scads of events at this time of year: To find out what’s going on in your area, check the listings offered by the Astronomical League, Astronomy magazine and Sky and Telescope. If you don’t see your locality listed, click through this worldwide list of astronomy clubs and find out what’s coming up.

Saturday is a big day at Kennedy Space Center’s visitor complex in Florida: Three space shuttle veterans – George “Pinky” Nelson, Bill Shepherd and Jim Wetherbee – are due to be inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. If you happen to be in the Cape Canaveral area and get into rubbing elbows with astronauts, this is the place to be.

More coming attractions
   There’s more to come next week, when the annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower reaches its peak. This sky show flares up annually when Earth passes through the stream of cosmic grit left behind by Halley’s Comet. (Actually, Earth sweeps through that particular comet’s trail twice a year. The other meteors associated with Halley’s Comet are the Orionids of October.)

   The peak night for observing is Tuesday night – or maybe you should make that very early Wednesday morning, as in 3 or 4 a.m. Meteor activity traditionally picks up after midnight, when the nighttime side of the planet is plowing right into the oncoming stream. Also, the moon is due to set around 4 a.m., eliminating an extra source of glare. To optimize your viewing conditions, find an open patch of ground with clear skies, far away from city lights.

REAL ROBOTS ROCK !!

Posted in Robots on April 25, 2009 by Jagtheesh

 

   The Robot Hall of Fame may sound like a science-fiction museum, but the latest inductees actually include more real robots than fictional ones. Among the stars of the show are a couple of contraptions that have surpassed science-fiction expectations: NASA’s twin Mars rovers.

   The other robots on the honor roll are also worthy of recognition:

  • iRobot’s Roomba floor-cleaning machine, arguably the first robot to do useful work in the living room (and pay off on the technological promise of “The Jetsons”).
  • Intuitive Surgical’s da Vinci Surgical System, which helps doctors do precision surgery in operating rooms (including prostate gland removal … yow!).
  • Huey, Dewey and Louie, the cute robotic gardeners from the classic 1972 environmental sci-fi movie “Silent Running” (just in time for Earth Day).
  • The T-800 Terminator, the killer robot from the future that was featured in the 1984 movie “The Terminator” (a role that arguably boosted Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career as California’s “Governator”).

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But could any of those other honorees work on the radiation-blasted surface of another planet, sending back science for more than five years without a single service call? I didn’t think so!

The “Class of 2010” inductees were announced on Tuesday in Pittsburgh by the Carnegie Science Center and Carnegie Mellon University, during a preview of the science center’s Roboworld exhibition. Starting in June, Roboworld will serve as the permanent home for the Robot Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame was created in 2003 to pay tribute to the fictional and real robots that have “inspired and embodied breakthrough accomplishments in robotics.” Inductees are selected by a jury of scholars, researchers, writers, designers and entrepreneurs. The latest batch of robots will officially take their place next year.

Matt Mason, director of Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute, noted that the real robots outnumbered the fictional creations for the second time in a row. “We in the robotics field believe this is the beginning of a trend, as robots such as Spirit and Opportunity, Roomba and da Vinci are approaching or even exceeding performance levels that once were only imagined,” he said in the university’s news release.

The Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, are all about “exceeding performance levels”: NASA’s original mission plan called for the six-wheeled, golf-cart-sized probes to last 90 days on the Martian surface – but they’re still in business more than five years after they bounced to their landings on opposite sides of the planet.

It hasn’t always been easy. In fact, as the years went on, the two rovers have developed different “personalities” in the minds of their controllers back here on Earth.

Cornell astronomer Steve Squyres, who heads up the rover science team, has often called Opportunity “Little Miss Perfect”: Sure, she sometimes gets into scrapes, like the time she was hung up on a Martian sand dune, but overall she’s had an easy time of it and tends to grab the headlines.

 

Spirit, on the other hand, is like the heroine in one of those dark Dickensian novels. “Spirit had to work for everything – literally had to climb a mountain on Mars,” Squyres once said. You might say she’s been working her fingers to the bone … if she had fingers, that is. As it is, she’s got one wheel out of commission and has to drag it behind her, rolling backwards over rough terrain. Lately, she’s also been suffering recurring bouts of amnesia.

But Spirit is still on the march, investigating an intriguing plateau named “Home Plate” (the name refers to the rock formation’s resemblance to a baseball diamond’s home plate). Opportunity, meanwhile, is breezing along on its way to its next big photo op: the 13.7-mile-wide (22-kilometer-wide) Endeavour Crater.

The other robots have their emotional appeal as well: To the outside world, Roombas may be nothing more than faceless floor-cleaning machines – but some owners have been known to give nicknames to their gizmos, erect Web sites in their honor and trade Roomba tips on online discussion groups.

 

As for da Vinci … well, how can you not invest some emotional capital in the device that’s doing the cutting during your hysterectomy, prostatectomy,heart-valve repair or weight-loss surgery?

When it comes to fictional robots, the Terminator has already gained immortality in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, and the T-800’s Hall of Fame status only adds to its status as a robo-icon.

“The Terminator represents humankind’s greatest fear of robots: that they may one day turn on us, their creators, and seek to exterminate the human race,” Don Marinelli, executive producer of Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center, said in Tuesday’s news release. The worry about a robot “nerdocalypse” has long been a part of the debate over the coming singularity.

Huey, Dewey and Louie are robots of a different color: In “Silent Running,” they’re the ones who help preserve Earth’s species – even after the humans decide they’re no longer worth preserving.

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If that sounds familiar, that may be because Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute is involved in a $10 million Agriculture Department program that uses autonomous robotic vehicles to help tend apple orchards and orange groves. Or it may be because the “Silent Running” storyline resonates in a more recent robot movie, “WALL-E.”

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Speaking of “WALL-E,” I’d have to say that the movie’s cute robot star should be on the list for a future spot in the Hall of Fame (even though some still debate whether WALL-E was a rip-off of Johnny 5 in “Short Circuit”). Every time the Robot Hall of Fame comes up for discussion, I like to open up the nominations for our “Robot People’s Choice” award. So now is the perfect time to nominate your favorite yet-to-be-honored robot – or take issue with the selections so far.

To refresh your memory, here’s the list of past Hall of Fame inductees. These robots and the newly named Class of 2010 are ineligible for the “People’s Choice” prize:

  • 2003 : HAL 9000, Mars Pathfinder Sojourner rover, R2-D2, Unimate.
  • 2004 : ASIMO, Shakey, Astro Boy, Robby the Robot, C-3PO.
  • 2006 : AIBO, SCARA, David (from “A.I.”), Maria (from “Metropolis”), Gort (from “The Day the Earth Stood Still”).
  • 2008 : Raibert Hopper, NavLab 5, LEGO Mindstorms, Lt. Cmdr. Data (from the “Star Trek” saga).

NASA aims for earlier launch of space shuttle

Posted in Space on April 23, 2009 by Jagtheesh

 

     NASA is aiming to launch the final space shuttle mission to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope a day earlier than planned to avoid a potential schedule conflict at the Florida launch site, the officials conveyed in CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida. 

090423-space-atlantis-hmed-1045ah2The lights of Launch Pad 39A cast a glow on the shuttle Atlantis at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Atlantis and its crew are due to pay one more service call to the Hubble Space Telescope in May.

    If approved by U.S. space agency managers next week, the shuttle Atlantis would lift off on May 11 at 2:01 p.m. EDT from the Kennedy Space Center.

“I feel fairly confident that we can make a May 11 launch date,” Leroy Cain, the deputy space shuttle program manager.

    The shuttle Atlantis and its crew of seven astronauts were due to launch last October but the failure of a computer aboard Hubble prompted a delay. The telescope has been using a backup computer to format its science data, and replacement of the failed computer is a key goal of the mission.

 

    Scientists say Hubble, launched in 1990, is an important source of scientific data that has changed their understanding of the origin and evolution of the universe and delivered unprecedented pictures of distant galaxies and celestial phenomena.
    Because it orbits about 300 miles above Earth, outside the planet’s atmosphere, its cameras can take extremely sharp images.

    The earlier launch date would give NASA three days to try to get Atlantis off the ground before having to postpone until May 22 to allow a previously scheduled U.S. military operation at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to proceed.

    The space shuttle shares tracking, safety and other support services with military and commercial users launching from what is known as the Eastern Test Range, which includes NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and the military’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

    The range can support only a single launch, launch dress rehearsal or major test at a time.

    The military has the range scheduled for about a week beginning May 14, Cain said, so if the shuttle is not off the pad by May 13, it would be delayed to about May 22.

 

    NASA faces a September 2010 deadline to complete assembly of the International Space Station and retire the shuttle fleet. Atlantis’ visit to the Hubble telescope is the only mission remaining on the shuttle schedule that is not devoted to space station construction or outfitting.

    Hubble has been serviced by shuttle crews four times since it was launched.

    The Atlantis astronauts plan to conduct five spacewalks to install new cameras, repair other science instruments, replace batteries and gyroscopes and complete other tasks. With the upgrade, Hubble is expected to remain operational until 2014.

10 tips to save dollars on your cell phone bill

Posted in General on April 21, 2009 by Jagtheesh

         The average cell-phone user spends about $600 a year on mobile service, while families that talk, text, or use other phone features more than average can spend upward of $1,800. And the bigger your bill, the more you get tapped for service taxes and surcharges, which tack on an average of 14.5 percent. But you can pay less and keep on talking by following the strategies below. Sample savings shown are per year, unless otherwise indicated.

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1. Go prepaid (save $100 to $1,080) Prepaid is just like a traditional monthly cell-phone plan except that you only buy what you need, you pay in advance, and there’s no contract. Compared with the cheapest monthly plans, we found annual prepaid savings of $240 to $360 for infrequent users with T-Mobile’s Pay As You Go plan, $100 to $220 for an average two-phone family buying Virgin Mobile per-minute packs, and $600 to $1,080 for big talkers using Boost Mobile’s unlimited national plan.

 2. Don’t overbuy minutes (save $240) Review your bills for the last six months with an eye on the billable daytime minutes. You might have bought a plan that included many more daytime minutes than you need, especially if you mostly use your phone when it’s free — during nights and weekends or for in-network calls. Switch to a less-expensive plan with fewer daytime minutes.

3. Don’t buy unneeded services (save $120 to $360) Voice service is now a cheap commodity, so carriers are pushing smarter, sexier phones and services to wring more dollars out of consumers. For example, Sprint’s 450-minute plans cost $40 a month for just Talk, $50 for Everything Messaging, and $70 for Everything Data, including talk, messaging, Web browsing, e-mail, Blackberry Internet Services, music, TV, GPS, and even NFL Mobile Live. Unless you really expect to use those features, save by sticking with basic talk service.

4. Buy enough of what you use (save $120 to $240) At 20 to 25 cents for à la carte messaging, buy a bundle if you send a lot of text, picture, or video messages each month. Sprint charges the least for an add-on bundle (300 messages for $5 a month) or unlimited messaging for $10 per month. Costs for Web browsing will rack up quickly if you pay by the megabyte. So sign up for unlimited service if you must have mobile Internet. AT&T’s $15 unlimited Web add-on is cheapest.

5. Check for employee discounts (save $96 to $432) AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon offer discounts to the employees of companies that use their service. To see whether you qualify, do a Google search for the carrier’s name and the words “employee discount.” You’ll navigate to a Web page that asks for your work e-mail address. Discounts can be as high as 20 percent, though some deals exclude the Apple iPhone or certain service plans.

6. Make temporary adjustments (save $140 to $295 in one month) Avoid hefty overage charges of up to 45 cents per minute by temporarily switching to a plan with more minutes if travel or a family crisis will cause a spike in usage. Talk to a live customer-service representative to make sure you don’t get hit with surprise overage charges, which can happen if you switch at the wrong time in your billing cycle. Switch back when life returns to normal. Carriers no longer require a contract extension for such changes.

7. Have your usage analyzed (save $300) Upload an electronic version of your monthly bill to http://www.billshrink.com for an analysis. The company will then check available wireless plans and recommend those it says are probably cheapest for your needs. The service is free. Another company, Validas, offers a similar analysis for $5.

8. Get local service (save $240) If you mostly use your cell phone locally, consider Metro PCS, which offers plans in 11 areas, including Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, and numerous cities in California and Florida. The company sells prepaid, unlimited local calling plans for as little as $30 a month. Roaming charges, of course, apply outside the local areas.

9. Choose the best carrier (save $50 to $200 per phone) Avoid huge early-termination fees and unsatisfactory service by first checking our cell-service Ratings. Then be sure to test the phone and service during the carrier’s 15- to 30-day trial period. If you’re not happy with the carrier, you can quit and port your number elsewhere without an early-termination penalty.

10. Say no to phone insurance (save $120 to $168 over 2 years) If you upgrade your phone, save the old one as a backup replacement in case you lose or damage the new one. You can eventually get another new phone at little or no up-front cost when your contract comes up for renewal.

Collision warning and Automatic car braking system

Posted in World's Happening on April 16, 2009 by Jagtheesh

Our aim for 2020 is that no one should be killed or injured in a Volvo car,” says Thomas Broberg, a senior safety specialist at the company.

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When Volvo launched its new XC60 car in November, it included as standard an automatic braking system it claims could prevent half of all low-speed rear-end collisions.

Called City Safety, the system uses a laser sensor to check the distance between the car and vehicles up to 10 metres ahead. Measuring the speeds of both cars 50 times per second, it calculates the braking force required to avoid a crash. If the driver does not react when the vehicle in front slows, the system applies the brakes.

The Volvo S60, which launches next year, is planned to be the first car to be fitted with full automatic braking to avoid collisions with pedestrians. The system uses a combined camera and radar sensor to monitor any obstacle in front of the car. The radar measures how far away it is, while images from the camera are analysed by image-recognition software to determine what the object is.

Drivers get an audible and visual warning of a potential collision, and if they do not respond the system automatically applies the brakes.

More systems under development
Volvo Car Corporation is working on many active safety systems in different stages of development. Some of these are practically finished, although not in production yet. Below is a selection of active safety systems that the company gives priority to right now, and that will be incorporated in the near future.

DRIVER ALERT sounds a warning signal if the driving pattern changes erratically within the lane.
The system thus alerts the driver of becoming drowsy, long before the eyelids start to drop. This
means better margins and greater chances at avoiding accidents caused by fatigue. Not in production yet.

VOLVO CoDriver co-ordinates information from all systems and functions, as well as evaluates
and interprets surrounding traffic. The system helps alert the driver when he or she becomes tired or stressed, then activates help functions. This gives the driver more time to take the right actions, which increases safety considerably. Not in production yet.

LANE DEPARTURE WARNING continuously monitors the road with a camera in the rear view mirror. If the wheels move outside the lane markings, a buzzer helps to inform the driver to take action. Not in production yet.

LANE KEEPING AID sounds a signal if the car drifts out of its lane. If the driver fails to steer the vehicle back on its course, the system momentarily takes over to guide the car back into the lane. Not in production yet.

EMERGENCY LANE ASSIST monitors oncoming vehicles as well, using both camera and radar. Should the driver not react on the buzzer, the system adds steering force to help turn the car back into the original lane. Not in production yet.
Volvo says its system could totally prevent collisions with pedestrians in cars travelling at 19 kilometres per hour or less, and reduce the impact of collisions above that speed by 75 per cent. Unfortunately it does not work as well in darkness and in poor weather, when accidents are particularly likely.

Supercharged: MIT students overhaul solar car

Posted in World's Happening on April 12, 2009 by Jagtheesh

     BOSTON – In a dingy basement in Boston, some young scientists are putting the finish touches to Eleanor, one of the most advanced solar cars yet designed. The technology-packed, environmentally friendly, solar racing car can hit speeds of 80 mph and drive up to 200 miles in the pitch dark — all good traits for a car getting ready for a long race across the Australian outback. Eleanor is the invention of the solar vehicle team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the universities now preparing for this year’s World Solar Challenge in Australia in October.

Lithium-ion batteries key to speeds up to 80 mph, and 200-mile range

untitled1    “Eleanor” is taller than earlier solar-powered vehicles built by MIT students, allowing a much more comfortable upright seating position for the driver.

   “Eleanor is definitely pushing the limits of what can be done with solar panels and solar power,” said Fiona Hughes, a senior at the school of mechanical engineering at MIT.

   Eleanor, ironically named after the gas-guzzling 1967 Ford Mustang showcased in the movie “Gone in 60 Seconds,” has 20 square feet of silicon solar panels that put out 1,200 watts — about the same as a hair dryer.

   While it doesn’t seem like much power, Eleanor’s weight of less than 500 pounds and aerodynamic design allow her to speed down a highway as fast as many traditional cars.

   “Using just power from the sun, Eleanor can cruise without draining power from her battery pack at about 50 miles per hour. If we were draining power out of the pack we would be able to reach higher speeds, possibly 70-80 miles an hour,” said Hughes.

   Eleanor will compete in the 10th World Solar Challenge — a grueling 7-day, nearly 1,900-mile race from Darwin to Adelaide across the Australian Outback that is a testing event for the latest in efficient solar-powered car design.

   MIT has been competing in the World Solar Challenge since its inaugural event in 1987, and Eleanor is the 10th design that students at MIT will race in the Australian contest.

George Hansel, a physics major at MIT, says the real beauty of Eleanor is her battery pack.

   “Our battery pack is composed of more than 600 cells from laptop batteries. They are lithium-ion cells and they give us an equivalent of about 6 to 7 times that of a normal car battery but is only twice to three times as heavy,” said Hansel.

 

   The team says their biggest obstacle between now and race day is putting some miles on Eleanor’s tires to ensure their design can perform on the highway and that it will go farther, faster and more efficiently than the competition.

   The last World Solar Challenge, held in 2007, attracted 41 participants.

U.S. Captain Is Hostage of Pirates; Navy Ship Arrives

Posted in World's Happening on April 9, 2009 by Jagtheesh

A U.S. Navy destroyer kept close watch Thursday on a lifeboat holding four Somali pirates and their hostage — an American ship captain — one day after the pirates briefly seized a United States-flagged cargo ship off the coast of Africa.

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The pirates boarded and seized the unarmed container ship, Maersk Alabama, taking 20 American sailors hostage on Wednesday. Although the crew managed to retake the ship within hours, the pirates were still holding the ship’s captain as they fled the ship in an unpowered lifeboat.

The captain was identified as Richard Phillips, of Underhill, Vermont.

A distress call from the ship brought the destroyer, the USS Bainbridge, to the scene, and other warships were en route Thursday as well.

“The Navy has command of the situation,” a spokesman for Maersk Line Ltd., Kevin Speers, said Thursday morning.

The Alabama was the first American vessel to be hijacked in the pirate-infested waters off the Horn of Africa. More than 150 ships were attacked off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden last year, according to the International Maritime Bureau, and there have been six attacks in the region in the past week. Sixteen ships are currently being held for ransom by seagoing pirate gangs.

In this case, however, the crew of the Alabama managed to disable the ship at about the time the pirates came on board, according to a senior American military official. The four hijackers, apparently overrun by the ship’s crew, then loaded Mr. Phillips into a lifeboat, shoved off from the Alabama and began negotiating for his release.

The 508-foot-long Alabama was bound for the Kenyan port of Mombasa and was carrying food and other agricultural materials for the World Food Program, a United Nations agency, and other clients, including the United States Agency for International Development.

American officials praised the crew’s decision to disable the ship. The Alabama’s second in command, Capt. Shane Murphy, is the son of an instructor at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy who teaches a course on how to repel pirate attacks.

At the White House, military and national security officials tracked the developments from the Situation Room, and they provided several briefings to President Obama and other administration officials.

Mr. Obama first learned of the hijacking early on Wednesday morning after he returned to the White House from his overseas trip, and he later convened an interagency group on maritime safety, aides said. The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said, “Our top priority is the personal safety of the crew members on board.”

The Gulf of Aden, one of the world’s busiest and most important shipping lanes, is patrolled by an anti-piracy flotilla from the European Union and a U.S.-led coalition of ships, plus warships from Iran, Russia, India, China, Japan and other nations. But pirates using mother ships — oceangoing trawlers that carry speedier attack vessels — have extended their reach into the waters far off the East African coast. On Saturday, for example, a German freighter was hijacked about 400 miles offshore, between Kenya and the Seychelles.

At the time of the attack on the Alabama, the closest patrol vessel was about 300 nautical miles away, a Navy spokesman said.

“It’s that old saying: where the cops aren’t, the criminals are going to go,” said Lt. Nathan Christensen, a Fifth Fleet spokesman. “We patrol an area of more than one million square miles. The simple fact of the matter is that we can’t be everywhere at one time.”

Maersk’s senior director for security, Finn Brodersen, said in an interview with the International Herald Tribune last month that three of the company’s ships had been attacked off Somalia — all unsuccessfully.

Mr. Brodersen said Maersk, like most major shippers, did not favor the use of armed guards on its ships, largely for safety and liability reasons. Fuel or fumes could be ignited by gunfire, for example, and crew members would be put at further risk if a gun battle took place.

Some crews have sprayed fire-retardant foam at approaching pirates, and the Alabama crew reportedly used water hoses to battle the pirates on Wednesday. Some shipowners spray super-slippery goo on their decks to trip up pirates; others have even strung electrified wires around the hulls of their vessels.

Maersk also has tested LRADs, long-range acoustic devices. These sonic cannons, which look like TV satellite dishes, shoot disabling sound waves at approaching pirate ships. But these were found to be ineffective, Mr. Brodersen said, and they “expose the crew to being shot at.”

As part of their insurance coverage, most of the major merchant lines with ships transiting the Gulf of Aden have contracts with professional crisis teams that are called when hijack situations occur. These teams include former special forces commandos and trained hostage negotiators who deal with the hijackers and their ransom demands, deliveries of food and supplies to ships during lengthy negotiations, the relaying of ransom payments (usually in U.S. 100-dollar bills), and the safe release of hostages.

Hidden Planet Discovered in Old Hubble Data

Posted in Space on April 3, 2009 by Jagtheesh

 

A new technique has uncovered an extrasolar planet hidden in Hubble Space Telescope images taken 11 years ago

 

 

 

The new strategy may allow researchers to uncover other distant alien worlds potentially lurking in over a decade’s worth of Hubble archival data.

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The method was used to find an exoplanet that went undetected in Hubble images taken in 1998 with its Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS). Astronomers knew of the planet’s existence from images taken with the Keck and Gemini North telescopes in 2007 and 2008, long after Hubble snapped its first picture of the system.

 

 

 

The planet is estimated to be at least seven times the mass of Jupiter. It is the outermost of three massive planets known to orbit the dusty young star HR 8799, which is 130 light-years away from Earth. NICMOS could not see the other two planets because its coronagraphic spot — a device that blots out the glare of the star —blocked its viewof the two inner planets.

 

 

 

“We’ve shown that NICMOS is more powerful than previously thought for imaging planets,” said the scientist who found the planet, David Lafreniere of the University of Toronto in Canada. “Our new image-processing technique efficiently subtracts the glare from a star that spills over the coronagraph’s edge, allowing us to see planets that are one-tenth the brightness of what could be detected before with Hubble.”

 

 

 

Taking the image of an exoplanet is not an easy task. Planets can be billions of times fainter than the star around which they orbit and are typically located at separations smaller than 1/2,000th the apparent size of the full moon, as seen from Earth, from their star. The planet recovered in the NICMOS data is about 100,000 times fainter than the star when viewed in the near-infrared spectrum.

 

 

 

Over the last two decades, scientists have spotted more than 300 extrasolar planets circling other stars in ourMilky Way galaxy.

 

 

 

Lafreniere adapted an image reconstruction technique that was first developed for ground-based observatories.

 

 

 

Using the new technique, he recovered the planet in NICMOS observations taken 10 years before theKeck/Gemini discovery. The Hubble picture not only provides important confirmation of the planet’s existence, it provides a longer baseline for demonstrating that the object is in an orbit about the star.

 

 

“To get a good determination of the orbit we have to wait a very long time because the planet is moving so slowly (it has a 400-year period),” Lafreniere said. “The 10-year-old Hubble data take us that much closer to having a precise measure of the orbit.”

 

Hubble is due to be serviced by a NASA shuttle crew in May for the fifth and final time. The shuttle Atlantis was rolled out for the mission on Tuesday and is due to launch May 12.

 

NICMOS’s view provided new insights into the physical characteristics of the planet, too. This was possible because NICMOS works at near-infrared wavelengths that are severely blocked by Earth’s atmosphere due to absorption by water vapor.

 

“The planet seems to be only partially cloud covered and we could be detecting the absorption of water vapor in the atmosphere,” said team member Travis Barman of Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz. “Measuring the water absorption properties will tell us a great deal about the temperatures and pressures in the atmospheres, in addition to the cloud coverage.”

 

With the success of this planet hunt, scientists hope they can find more extrasolar planets lurking in the enormous catalogue of images that Hubble has taken in its lifetime.

 

“During the past 10 years Hubble has been used to look at over 200 stars with coronagraphy, looking for planets and disks. We plan to go back and look at all of those archived images and see if anything can be detected that has gone undetected until now,” said Christian Marois of the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, Victoria, Canada.

 

If the team sees a companion object to a star in more than one NICMOS picture, and it appears to have moved along an orbit, follow-up observations will be made with ground-based telescopes. If researchers see something once but its brightness and separation from the star would be reasonable for a planet, they will also do follow-up observations with ground-based telescopes.

 

NASA‘s recently-launched Kepler mission will also be hunting for extrasolar planets in our home galaxy, though it will be looking for ones that are Earth-sized.

Weather delays homecoming from space

Posted in Space on March 28, 2009 by Jagtheesh

 

Clouds, winds force shuttle Discovery to take at least one more orbit.

   CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Cloudy and windy weather forced NASA to delay the shuttle Discovery’s homecoming Saturday following a successful space station construction mission.

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Mission Control ordered the seven astronauts to skip their first landing opportunity and keep circling the world in hopes the conditions in Florida improve. They have one more chance for an afternoon touchdown before having to give up for the day.

The wind had picked up throughout the morning at NASA’s spaceport, and the clouds appeared to be building.

 

“We think both those things have a good chance of looking better for our second opportunity today,” Mission Control radioed.

Sunday’s forecast was more dire, with a cold front expected to bring thunderstorms.

Commander Lee Archambault and his crew are winding up a 13-day mission highlighted by the smooth installation and unfurling of the last pair of solar wings at the international space station. The $300 million addition brought the orbiting outpost up to full power, a vital part of NASA’s plan to double the space station population and boost the amount of science work in a few months.

Discovery is bringing back former space station resident Sandra Magnus. Saturday marked her 134th day in orbit; she flew up in mid-November. Her replacement, a Japanese astronaut, was launched aboard Discovery on March 15.

The shuttle also is ferrying five months’ worth of science samples from the space station, mostly blood, urine and saliva collected by its crew members. As many vials as possible were stuffed into the shuttle freezer, with the rest put in ice packs.

Also coming back for NASA scientists: a little more than a gallon (4 to 5 liters) of recycled water that had been the astronauts’ own urine and sweat. The water was produced after Discovery delivered a new urine processor that fixed the recycling machine.

NASA hopes to have the water samples tested within a month. If the toxicology results are good, the three space station residents will be given the all-clear to start drinking the recycled water up there.

The space station, meanwhile, got more guests Saturday with the arrival of a Russian Soyuz capsule, just three days after Discovery’s departure.

Two of the newcomers — an American and a Russian — will swap places with commander Mike Fincke and cosmonaut Yuri Lonchakov, who have been in orbit six months.

Billionaire space tourist Charles Simonyi, a former Microsoft executive, also flew up on the Soyuz for a 1½-week visit.

Obama to meet bank CEOs about ‘obligations’

Posted in World's Happening on March 25, 2009 by Jagtheesh

 

     WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama will meet with about a dozen top bank chief executives on Friday, including executives from JPMorgan & Co, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, two sources familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

The meeting will come just days after the U.S. Treasury Department provided details on a government plan to cleanse banks’ balance sheets of up to $1 trillion of distressed loans and securities.

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The sources did not speak on the record because the White House has not yet announced the meeting. 

 

“President Obama will … reiterate his belief that getting the economy back on track will require an understanding that each of us must look beyond our own short-term interests to the wider set of obligations we have to each other in order for America to succeed,” a White House official said.

Obama was scheduled to hold a news conference on Tuesday evening to explain his economic strategy to a recession-weary public angry over executive bonuses and concerned about the government’s direction.

JPMorgan declined to comment. Spokespersons for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup were not immediately available for comment.

It was not immediately clear what Obama plans to discuss with the top executives, but financial firms have been raising concerns about the restrictions attached to government aid.

Goldman Sachs is prepared to pay back the U.S. government’s $10 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program investment as soon as allowed by regulators, a person familiar with the situation said on Tuesday.

A growing number of financial firms that have received aid from the $700 billion TARP have said they plan to repay the money after lawmakers tagged on extra restrictions involving executive pay and dividend policies.

Wells Fargo & Co Chairman Richard Kovacevich said earlier this month that had the bank not been forced to take $25 billion in government aid, it would have been able to raise private capital and perhaps avoid a later dividend cut.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corp Chairman Sheila Bair said on Tuesday that banks should be allowed to repay TARP funds, saying that Treasury needs the resources and the government needs an exit strategy from the assistance it has provided to financial firms.

Bair said that banks who sell distressed assets as part of the government’s public-private partnership plan will not be subjected to TARP’s restrictions on executive compensation, dividends, and share repurchases.

Treasury officials also were careful to note that private investors who buy banks’ assets will not be subjected to executive compensation restrictions. 

Driving software saves big chunk on gasoline

Posted in World's Happening on March 25, 2009 by Jagtheesh

         Drivers willing to turn braking and acceleration over to a computer could save nearly 25 percent on their annual gas bills, say the British developers of an advanced new cruise control system.

        Known as Sentience, the system uses GPS technology coupled with detailed topographical information to control the gas pedal and brakes. If alone on the road, all the driver has to do is steer.

      “The car speeds up, slows down at speed humps, and stops at all the junctions without the driver having to intervene,” said David Overton of Ordnance Survey, the U.K. government agency that provided the map information for the Sentience Project.

      “All the driver has to do is stick the phone on the dash and off you go,” said Overton.

       The Sentience system uses a GPS-equipped smart phone, on the cellular phone network Orange, to determine the vehicle’s position. Wireless Bluetooth technology links the phone to the other piece of hardware necessary for Sentience, the r-cube, developed by the Ricardo company. The r-cube controls the vehicle’s acceleration and braking.

       For the initial tests, the Sentience team used an imported Ford Escape hybrid.

       The maps generated by Ordnance Survey include everything from speed bumps to school zones. When a Sentience-equipped vehicle approaches, say, a roundabout, the software automatically slows the vehicle down enough to take the turn. Once the turn is complete, the software then accelerates the vehicle in the most fuel-efficient way.

      Initial tests indicate that drivers can save anywhere between five percent and 24 percent on fuel costs. The wide variation in the numbers comes from the type of car — hybrid vehicles will save more fuel than those with internal combustion engines alone and from the driver’s driving style.

     On an empty road with no other vehicles, the Sentience system could completely control a vehicle.

     With other cars on the road, the driver must control acceleration and braking because the Sentience system is not equipped with the real-time location of all the other vehicles on the road. Future versions of Sentience could be, said Overton, although no final decision on that possibility has been made.

     The other option is to have Sentience, or a program like it, installed on every car on the road, said Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Joseph Sussman, an expert on intelligent automotive systems.

    “These technologies are quite positive from the point of view of fuel consumption and safety,” said Sussman. People talking on cell phones and elderly drivers with slower reaction times would benefit from software that would automatically slow or stop a vehicle.

     In the long run, equipping vehicles with Sentience-like systems is a step toward fully-autonomous vehicles, say both Overton and Sussman, although such systems are still at least a decade away.

    “Ultimately you could say that this will end with driver-less cars,” said Overton. The soonest that the Sentience system could be found on vehicles is 2012.

Saturn identied with 4 Moons

Posted in Space on March 18, 2009 by Jagtheesh

       A new Hubble photograph captured a rare alignment of four of Saturn’s moons lining up in front of their planet. The snapshot, taken on Feb. 24 with the Hubble Space Telescope, shows the moons transiting in front of Saturn. The moons, from far left to right, are the white icy moons Enceladus and Dione, the large orange moon Titan, and icy Mimas.

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      These pictures were taken with Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 when Saturn was at a distance of roughly 780 million miles (1.25 billion kilometers) from Earth. Hubble can see details as small as 190 miles (300 kilometers) across on Saturn. The dark band running across the face of the planet slightly above the rings is the shadow of the rings cast on the planet.

      Due to the angle of the sun, they are each preceded by their own shadow. These rare moon transits only happen when the tilt of Saturn’s ring plane is nearly “edge on” as seen from the Earth. Saturn’s rings will be perfectly edge on to our line of sight on Aug. 10 and Sept. 4, 2009. Unfortunately, Saturn will be too close to the sun to be seen by viewers on Earth at that time.

     This “ring plane crossing” occurs every 14-15 years. In 1995-96 Hubble witnessed the previous ring plane crossing, as well as many moon transits, and helped to discover several new moons of Saturn.

     Early 2009 was a favorable time for viewers with small telescopes to watch moon and shadow transits crossing the face of Saturn. Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, crossed Saturn on four separate occasions: Jan. 24, Feb. 9, Feb. 24 and March 12, although not all events were visible from all locations on Earth.

     Italian Galileo Galilei — often referred to as the father of astronomy — was the first to observe Saturn through a telescope in 1610. Dutch mathematician and astronomer Christian Huygens discovered Titan in 1655 and, 350 years later, the ESA probe named for him touched down on Titan (on Jan. 14, 2005), giving the world its first views of the surface of the mysterious, icy world. Giovanni Domenico Cassini, a French/Italian astronomer, discovered Dione (in addition to others) and the German-born Englishman, William Herschel, discovered Mimas and Enceladus. 

 

Daylight saving Time in United States.

Posted in General on March 13, 2009 by Jagtheesh

 

           In the United States Daylight Saving Time begins at 2:00 a.m. local time on the second Sunday in March. On the first Sunday in November areas on Daylight Saving Time return to Standard Time at 2:00 a.m. During Daylight Saving Time turn your clocks ahead one hour. At the end of Daylight Saving Time turn your clocks back one hour.

           The names in each time zone change along with Daylight Saving Time. Eastern Standard Time (EST) becomes Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), and so forth. Arizona, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa do not observe Daylight Saving Time. 

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      In the United States, Under the Uniform Time Act, the Department of Transportation is in charge of time zones in the United States and ensuring that jurisdictions observing Daylight Saving Time begin and end on the same date.

       On Monday August 8, 2005 President Bush signed into law a broad energy bill that extended Daylight Saving Time by four weeks beginning in 2007. Since 1986 the United States had observed Daylight Saving Time from the first Sunday in April through the last Sunday in October. The provisions of the bill call for Daylight Saving Time to begin three weeks earlier on the second Sunday in March and end on the first Sunday in November.

         Every spring we move our clocks one hour ahead and “lose” an hour during the night and each fall we move our clocks back one hour and “gain” an extra hour. But Daylight Saving Time wasn’t just created to confuse our schedules. Although standard time in time zones was instituted in the U.S. and Canada by the railroads in 1883, it was not established in U.S. law until the Act of March 19, 1918, sometimes called the Standard Time Act. The act also established daylight saving time, a contentious idea then. Daylight saving time was repealed in 1919, but standard time in time zones remained in law. Daylight time became a local matter. It was re-established nationally early in World War II, and was continuously observed from 9 February 1942 to 30 September 1945. After the war its use varied among states and localities. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 provided standardization in the dates of beginning and end of daylight time in the U.S. but allowed for local exemptions from its observance. The act provided that daylight time begin on the last Sunday in April and end on the last Sunday in October, with the changeover to occur at 2 a.m. local time.

          During the “energy crisis” years, Congress enacted earlier starting dates for daylight time. In 1974, daylight time began on 6 January and in 1975 it began on 23 February. After those two years the starting date reverted back to the last Sunday in April. In 1986, a law was passed that shifted the starting date of daylight time to the first Sunday in April, beginning in 1987. The ending date of daylight time was not subject to such changes, and remained the last Sunday in October. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 changed both the starting and ending dates. Beginning in 2007, daylight time starts on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November.

 

     Pros :

                Energy Savings – will possibly save 100,000 barrels of oil daily. People will turn interior and exterior lights on later in the day which will save electricity. Lighting for evening sports events can be turned on one hour later.

 

                Recreation Time – people will have more time to enjoy outdoor activities such as golf, tennis and theme parks.

                Farming – many farmers work part time and will have an extra hour to work after they arrive home. Full time farmers may not benefit.

    Cons :

                School Children – will possibly wait in the pitch dark for the school bus. Example, in Louisville, Kentucky sunrise will occur at 8:01 on March 11, 2007, however, Louisville schools currently begin classes at 7:40 for middle and high school. 

 

               Business – the airline industry claims it will cost millions of dollars to adjust schedules.

               Computers, Clocks and Gadgets – many electronic devices automatically adjust for day light saving time. Some of these devices will show incorrect times. Some computer software will have to be reprogrammed.

Scans may be able to tell in days if chemo works for cancer

Posted in World's Happening on March 9, 2009 by Jagtheesh

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Speed of experimental medical imaging could save patients’ lives, money

    This image, provided by The University of Wisconsin, Section of Hematology & Medical Oncology and taken from a FLT-PET scan of a 47-year old woman, shows that leukemia present in the bone marrow before treatment, left, persisted after chemotherapy, right.

When Mike Stevens in NewYork, learned his lungs were riddled with cancer, it took only a week to start chemotherapy — but six weeks to find out if it was doing any good.

“You’re going through all this suffering and stuff and you want to know, am I going to survive? Is this stuff working?” said Stevens, 48, of La Jolla, Calif. “Your whole life is in sort of a limbo.”

Doctors typically must wait weeks or months to see if a treatment is shrinking tumors or at least halting their growth. But researchers are exploring a new use for medical imaging that could shorten the stay in purgatory, possibly revealing within a few days whether chemo is working.

That speed could save both lives and money. It would allow doctors to switch more quickly from an ineffective drug to a different one, and save health care dollars by waving doctors off expensive but futile treatments.

The same approach may also prove useful for monitoring radiation therapy.

What’s inside
This experimental imaging relies on a familiar hospital workhorse: PET scans, typically used for things like detecting cancer or revealing the effects of a heart attack. Unlike CT scans or MRIs, PET scans can show a tumor’s internal activity, not just its size.

When used to assess the effects of cancer treatment, it can reveal inside information about what the therapy is doing to a tumor even when there’s no outward sign.

To do a PET scan, doctors inject a patient with a radioactive substance that shows up on the scan in places where certain processes are happening — like hungry cancer cells gobbling up a lot of blood sugar. Think of it as looking around your neighborhood late at night for light in bedroom windows to see who is still awake.

Many cancer patients get PET scans now to assess their disease before treatment, or to spot recurrences later on. But except for lymphoma, PET scans aren’t routinely used to get a quicker answer on how cancers are responding to therapy.

The new research tests both standard PET scans and a newer approach that involves injecting a different tracer substance.

The standard scan, which looks for blood sugar usage, has gotten good results in tests with a variety of tumors including breast, prostate, colorectal and esophageal cancers, said Dr. Steven Larson of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

“I think it’s going to be extremely valuable for most tumors where there are effective treatments,” he said. Some experiments have revealed chemo’s effects within 10 days to two weeks.

As a practical matter, the goal of researchers is to convince federal regulators to cover the procedure under Medicare and Medicaid, which would open the door to routine use. That might take two or three years, he said.

On the horizon
Farther out on the research horizon is a PET scan that uses injections of a different radioactive material and has revealed chemotherapy’s impact even faster. Larson figures it will be especially useful for assessing newer drugs that aim to stop a patient’s cancer from growing rather than killing the tumor.

This scan is called FLT PET, after radioactive fluorothymidine. These scans show whether cancer cells are dividing. Uncontrolled division is a hallmark of active cancer, and stopping that division should be an early effect of successful chemotherapy.

“Our hope … is you might be able to give a single dose of a chemotherapy agent and within a day or two figure out whether the tumor is going to respond,” says Dr. Michael Graham of the University of Iowa.

If the tumor doesn’t respond, doctors would “go on to Plan B,” he said. “This is really … giving us the ability to tailor the therapy to the disease.”

Research into FLT PET is still in the early stages. Graham said there are maybe a dozen published human studies so far, most involving too few patients to draw a firm conclusion.

One report that impressed him involved 28 patients in Korea who were treated for advanced lung cancer — just like Stevens, who had to wait six weeks to learn whether it was working. The researchers reported that just one week after treatment began, they could tell with 93 percent certainty which patients would eventually respond to the drug and which would not.

In a much smaller study at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, seven patients with acute myeloid leukemia were scanned at various times during a week of aggressive chemotherapy. Normally, doctors wait a month after chemo is stopped to see if it worked. But the FLT PET scans offered an answer as soon as a day after treatment started.

“It’s always hard to get too excited about a study that just involves seven people,” said Dr. Mark Juckett, one of the authors. But “in these few patients, it looked like we could predict those who were going to respond well to chemotherapy and those who weren’t.”

A routine assessment?
Other preliminary studies suggest the new PET technology might be useful in gauging treatment for breast and brain cancers as well as lymphoma.

Graham figures there’s a good chance FLT PET scans will become routine for assessing therapy in the next 10 years.

“It’s a terrible waste of money to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on these patients when it doesn’t do any good,” he said.

Graham, president-elect of the Society of Nuclear Medicine, has been involved in discussions between the society and drug companies about incorporating FLT PET in their studies of experimental cancer drugs.

The hope is that, over time, FLT PET would prove reliable for giving a faster answer on whether an experimental treatment is working. That would save companies a lot of money, because they could spot ineffective drugs more quickly and not waste further research on them. And the drug company research would produce data to help persuade federal regulators to approve FLT PET for use in tracking therapy.

 

Dr. Samuel C. Blackman of pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. said he couldn’t comment on the specifics of talks with the nuclear medicine group, but he said, “We’re definitely enthusiastic about FLT PET” for cancer drug research.

Mike Stevens, the lung cancer patient, has seen his disease held generally stable by continuing chemotherapy since 2005. And along with the scientists, he also likes the idea of an earlier end to the limbo of not knowing whether a new treatment is working.

“It’s like having a rope tied around you and you’re leaning over a canyon at about a 45-degree angle, and you don’t know if someone is going to pull you back in, or let go of it,” he said. “If you get that encouragement earlier on that you’re doing well … you’ve got something to fight for.”

Financial crisis hitting Irish middle class

Posted in World's Happening on March 9, 2009 by Jagtheesh

 

As a veteran nurse in Dublin, Margaret Horan is used to feeling overworked and underpaid. A steady flow of coughing, moaning and bleeding Dubliners must wait hours to be seen because of staff shortages at her hospital in the working-class heart of the capital.

As if that wasn’t enough, Horan now can scarcely believe that the government plans to cut her pay by 10 percent or more — a sacrifice to be shared by hundreds of thousands of middle-class families across Ireland’s unraveling economy.

A government that long profited from a property boom is now raising income taxes and pension charges to combat a sudden, gaping hole in the public finances that means borrowing one euro for every three spent. Its emergency approach is fueling rebellion throughout the bedrock of Irish society — teachers, bus drivers, police officers and nurses — who feel they are being asked to surrender too much in defense of a wealthy, discredited elite.

 

“Our genius government blew the boom. On their friends in the banks, on property madmen who made the whole country insane with greed. We had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to pull this country out of the muck. All that money wasted,” rued Horan, dragging deeply from a cigarette outside her crowded emergency room on an icy March night.

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“They can find billions for the banks, and we’re getting our salaries and budgets slashed. It’s a sick, sick joke.”

Prime Minister Brian Cowen and his finance minister, Brian Lenihan, stress that everyone — not just the bankers who lost billions on Ireland’s lust for real estate — must pay their share in a national battle for financial survival. They say Ireland could collect less than euro35 billion ($44 billion) this year in taxes against euro55 billion ($69 billion) in spending — and so everything, and everyone, has to give.

Polls show support for Cowen’s 9-month-old government dissolving to a record-low 10 percent.

“It’s absolutely essential we restrict the sum of our borrowings. We must show the wider world there’s a credible path out of our present difficulties,” Lenihan said in an interview.

New taxes on paychecks
Lenihan has already imposed new taxes on paychecks, ranging from 1 percent to 3 percent. And he has begun deducting a further 7.5 percent on average from the wages of 350,000 state-paid workers, including nurses, teachers and police, to increase their contribution to state-subsidized pensions. He plans to unveil an emergency wave of even bigger tax hikes and spending cuts by the end of this month. Opposition leaders have already dubbed it “the April Fool’s Budget.”

The government is simultaneously raiding the National Pensions Reserve Fund for euro7 billion ($8.8 billion) to support the country’s two biggest banks and has taken over a scandal-stricken third, Anglo Irish, after its directors were discovered hiding their own loans and losses.

More than 100,000 workers marched last month on the parliament to demand that the nation’s tax-exile elite — and even its billionaire rock icons, U2 — be forced to pay far more to keep their country from drowning in red ink.

Unions representing 700,000 workers in this country of 4 million are balloting members to strike, among them the Irish Nursing Organization. It argues that the government should be seizing the assets of bankers and property developers who helped bring one of Europe’s most vibrant economies to its knees, not squeezing life-and-death services.

Among those most aggrieved at the government’s paycheck cuts are its own civil servants. About 13,000 workers in government offices were first to mount a one-day strike last week, arguing they could lose their homes if their salaries are pruned.

Homeowners in trouble
Derek Hollingsworth, 37, who works as a low-level manager in the prime minister’s office, says his family is running up monthly debts of euro200 ($251) a month, partly because his wife — due to give birth in a few weeks — was fired from her private-sector secretary’s job last September.

Hollingsworth is a victim of Ireland’s property obsession, during which the cost of housing tripled from 1997 to 2007. He stretched to buy a house that December, as prices peaked, on the western edge of Dublin for euro406,000 ($509,700) with monthly payments of euro1,800 ($2,260) due for the next 35 years.

He, like tens of thousands of first-time buyers, were reassured by leading economists that prices would rise no matter what. The global credit crisis shattered that presumption, and the value of unsold homes beside Hollingsworth’s dropped euro60,000 ($75,000) within three months.

“Some people say first-time buyers like me were stupid and greedy, that we lied about our own salary figures and incomes to get on the property ladder, and ended up with a house we couldn’t afford,” Hollingsworth said. “But we were deceived by people who should have known better. The simple reality is we had a dream of owning our own home and we kept getting told: Do it now or you’ll never get on the ladder.”

Jobless rate at 10.4 percent
Unemployment has already doubled within the past year, reaching a 12-year high of 10.4 percent in the latest figures published Wednesday. Taxpayers are transforming into state-benefit claimants at the rate of almost 1,000 a day; the latest budget figures, published Tuesday, showed welfare costs up 8 percent over the past year and income tax collections down 7.4 percent.

Alan McQuaid, senior economist at Bloxham Stockbrokers in Dublin, said surging unemployment should “be a wake-up call to public servants, who continue to feel sorry for themselves because of the introduction of a pension levy and pay freeze.”

“The vast majority of them at least have the security of guaranteed employment,” he said. “The way things are going, they will be the only ones left working in the economy.”

A hot topic of conversation is which country offers the best jobs for emigrants. Out-of-work stockbrokers and computer specialists are taking out their frustrations at a white-collar boxing club. An unbuilt McDonald’s has already stopped taking applications for its 50 positions — after receiving 500 resumes.

“We have had them from bankers, accountants and architects,” said the franchise owner, Kieran McDermott. “I had to do a double take on the CVs (resumes). It’s no joke.”

Stock surge after 5 days of heavy selling

Posted in World's Happening on March 4, 2009 by Jagtheesh

 

NEW YORK – Investors returned to the stock market Wednesday, sifting for bargains after five straight days of heavy selling that drove markets to levels not seen in more than 12 years.

A slightly better-than-expected report on the services sector helped push stocks higher. All the major indexes were up more than 1.5 percent.

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The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing executives, said that its services index fell to 41.6 last month from 42.9 in January. The number was slightly above Wall Street’s estimate of 41. Any reading above 50 signals growth, while a reading below 50 indicates contraction. 

 

Wall Street’s advance came as the Obama administration announced details of a program it says is designed to help as many as 9 million borrowers stay in their homes through refinanced mortgages or loans that are modified to lower monthly payments.

Investors also took a cue from overseas markets, which rallied amid optimism over a possible Chinese economic stimulus plan. Prices for oil and other commodities climbed amid the enthusiasm over China.

Still, the rebound in stocks is likely based more on bargain hunting than enthusiasm, analysts said, amid lingering pessimism about the economy.

“Everybody’s been beaten up so much in the last couple weeks, you’ve got to believe that people are gun-shy,” said Bill Stone, chief investment strategist at PNC Wealth Management. “There’s going to be a little bit of a lack of conviction this week particularly ahead of the Friday employment numbers.”

The Labor Department will release its unemployment figures for February on Friday. The monthly report has become one of the most watched indicators of the economy’s health, as rising unemployment means consumers spend less. In a possible sign of what to expect, the ADP National Employment Report said Wednesday its gauge of the labor market showed private sector employment fell by 697,000 in February, a bigger drop than expected.

Investors also are awaiting the Federal Reserve’s beige book, an assessment of the economy by region, to be released later Wednesday. 

 

The market has made attempts at a rally before, only to slump further as investors find little reason to hold on to stocks in an economy that has failed to show any signs of improvement.

“The question is will the initial bounce hold?” asked Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at brokerage house Avalon Partners. “We need to see clarity; we need to see confidence return to the marketplace.” 

Back Up Your Registry

Posted in TechNical on March 3, 2009 by Jagtheesh

       Backing up the Windows Registry isn’t as important as backing up your data (including photos, music, and documents), but it’s still a good idea. If Windows starts acting seriously weird, restoring the Registry to a point when it was healthy could save you a lot of grief.

Windows provides two methods for backing up your Registry. I’ll discuss both of them, then tell you of a better, third-party yet free solution.

System Restore: Windows’ built-in, semi-automated system backup tool protects a lot of important files in addition to the Registry. Windows is supposed to create a restore point (translation: backup) every day or so automatically, but don’t trust that to happen. To create your own restore point in XP, select Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System Restore. SelectCreate a restore point, click Next and follow the wizard. In Vista, click Start, right-click Computer and selectProperties. Click the System protection link, then theCreate button.

In either Windows version, you can restore by selectingStart, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System Restore and following the prompts.

And hope it works.

Because no single restore point contains a complete backup, one corrupted or missing restore point can make all the ones that follow it unusable. What’s more, Windows decides which points to keep and which to throw away, so it could throw out the one you use.

Regedit: Yes, you can back up the Registry using Windows’ Registry editor. To launch the editor, select

Start, Run (just Start in Vista), type regedit, and press ENTER. To make a backup, select File, Export. For the ‘Export range,’ select All, and otherwise do what you do in this sort of dialog box.

This creates a .reg file, and all you need do to restore it is double-click it and confirm that you want to change the Registry.

But this one also has problems. Restoring the entire Registry from this backup doesn’t always work. And even when it does, it will not delete new keys created since you made the backup.

And now, the best solution:

ERUNT: A few months ago I recommended the Emergency Recovery Utility NT for XP users, but said it didn’t work in Vista. I was wrong. This simple, free, and highly dependable Registry backup program gives off error messages and refuses to work properly in Vista–unless you know the trick.

And here’s the trick: Don’t launch ERUNT by simply double-clicking the shortcut. Right-click the shortcut and select Run as administrator. That’s it.

Well, there is one limitation. You can’t automate ERUNT to run automatically with every boot from inside Vista, but that’s excessive, anyway. Backing up the Registry before and after installing new software or a major upgrade is sufficient.

Once up, ERUNT is extremely simple–in Vista or XP. Each ERUNT backup consists of a folder containing several files. One of them is ERDNT.EXE, the restore program.

Finally, one quick note about restoring from any of these backups. If a restore fails, reboot into safe mode and try again. There’s a better chance the restore will work that way–although no guarantee.

iPhone Rules — Thanks to the Apps says Ian Paul

Posted in TechNical on March 3, 2009 by Jagtheesh

 

Apple’s iPhone is king of the mobile world, according to reports from two different metrics firms.

The Global Intelligence Alliance Group (GIA) released a report recently that says the iPhone has the leading app store for mobile devices, while Net Applications says Apple’s Safari is the most popular web browser among mobile device users.iphone-apps1

         The data indicate that Apple not only leads the market place on both counts, but its main competitors lag way behind the iPhone.

         The numbers from Net Applications’ analysis of mobile web use for February 2009 gives the iPhone a gigantic slice of the mobile web browsing world with 66.61 percent. Following Apple at a distant second are browsers based on Java’s ME application platform with a mere 9.06 percent, and Windows Mobile takes the bronze at 6.91 percent.

160495-mobile_web_marketshare_original

     Rounding out the top five are Symbian, found primarily on Nokia handsets at the moment; and Google’s Android. Research In Motion’s Blackberry devices rank seventh taking only 2.24 percent of mobile web browsing activity. GIA’s report, on the other hand, is not as clear cut since the analysts wanted to determine which company or platform produced the best application store for mobile devices. The study analyzed application stores from six different retailers including Apple, Nokia, Google, Microsoft, Research in Motion (aka Blackberry), and Palm. The app stores were judged on five categories: when the app store opened in comparison to its competitors (time to market); capability to attract developers to create apps for the device; success of roll-out and sales of a given brand (rate of device adoption); efficient interface and user experience at the app store; and the number, variety and appeal of apps offered for sale. GIA gave a maximum of two points for each category with ten possible points overall.

 

According to GIA, Apple scored nine points, followed by Google and Nokia in second place with seven points apiece. Windows came next with a score of six, and RIM and Palm rounded out the list with scores of five and three points respectively. GIA says Apple’s success is due to its ground-shaking concept that a smart phone is not just a piece of hardware with a bunch of features, but a software platform that embraces third-party applications developed from both corporations and start-ups. Apple was also one of the first and most popular app stores to launch, and the fact that people were already accustomed to making purchases through iTunes made it easier for iPhone users to figure out the iPhone App Store.

While I don’t dispute Apple’s success as characterized by GIA, it seems to me that this report is a little problematic. In fact, I don’t think it gives a clear picture of the current mobile world. We have to bear in mind the mobile phone industry is in a huge state of flux. This is due largely to the introduction of the iPhone, which significantly opened up the smartphone market to non-business users and reshaped the smartphone’s potential. Since then every company has tried to come out with an “iPhone killer,” and adapt the iPhone-App Store ecosystem to its own business model.

GIA’s analysis doesn’t seem to account for this flux. If you look at GIA’s scores, for example, a company gets a zero if there isn’t any data for that category. So Nokia, RIM and Palm get a zero for “number, variety and appeal of apps.” That score is not entirely surprising since both Nokia and RIM haven’t even opened their app stores yet, and Palm’s relevance in each category will certainly change after the company releases its own “iPhone killer,” the Palm Pre. In fact, when you look at the scoring, Apple is the only company that didn’t receive a zero in at least one category. That’s because Apple already has its pieces in play for each category, while the others are either trying to consolidate a wide range of products or are in the middle of launching their devices and/or app stores.

It seems to me that GIA came out with this report too soon, and if the researchers revisit the situation in a year, the numbers will be significantly different. Most likely Apple will still be on top, but some of the other competitors will probably change places and perhaps even score closer to Apple.

GIA’s report gives some food for thought, but I’d rather see the analysts revisit their study once all the companies mentioned have their app stores on the market.

Windows 7: Which Edition is Right For You?

Posted in TechNical on February 17, 2009 by Jagtheesh

 

 

        Microsoft has confirmed the existence of six separate Windows 7 versions. That’s identical to what launched with Windows Vista, although you won’t likely see Windows 7 Home Basic appearing on your local store shelves. Nor might you be able to use Windows 7 Starter, depending on where you live and the hardware you’re intending to run it on.

Confused? Here’s a full breakdown of Windows 7 shipped editions, ordered by complexity:

windows_7_graphic

Windows 7 Starter

Lacks: Aero enhancements, the ability to run more than three simultaneous programs at once*, HomeGroup creation, full mobility capabilities

Available: Emerging markets only, only installed on OEM-specific machines and limited to certain kinds of hardware

*Ignores background applications like file backup utilities, but will trigger if you actually open up the backup program

Windows 7 Home Basic

Lacks: Aero enhancements, live thumbnail previews, Internet connection sharing

Available: Emerging markets only (no U.S., Western Europe, Japan, and other developed countries)

Windows 7 Home Premium

Includes: Aero enhancements, multitouch capability, media functionality for playing movies and burning DVDs, and the ability to create home network groups

Available: Worldwide!

Windows 7 Professional

Includes: Enhanced networking features like domain join, advanced backup, location-aware printing, and offline folders, as well as Mobility Center and Presentation Mode.

Available: Worldwide!

Windows 7 Enterprise

Includes: Branch Cache, DirectAccess, BitLocker, AppLocker, boot from VHD support

Available: Volume licensing only

Windows 7 Ultimate

Includes: Everything. The whole enchilada. Just not any Ultimate extras–Microsoft has scrapped the notion of these extended add-ons for its future operating systems.

Available: Limited availability

What to Get and How to Install It

Microsoft intends for Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Professional to be the two editions that most consumers are apt to pick up. Your Average Joe should target the former, whereas small business-themed customers will want to opt for the latter. Microsoft has yet to offer its official suggestions for or hardware recommendations for the operating systems, so stay tuned. However, Microsoft alleges that the various editions of Windows 7 will be able to run on a “very broad set of hardware, from small-notebook PCs (sometimes referred to as netbooks) to full gaming desktops.”

Microsoft has yet to announce price points for any of the Windows 7 products. Upgrading from a lesser Windows 7 version to a more meaty variety will be handled through Microsoft’s electronic upgrade capabilities. Going from a standard Vista Home Basic or Home Premium install to Windows 7 won’t require a reformat of any kind. According to Windows guru Paul Thurrott, the new operating system can be installed right overtop of these Vista editions without complications. Going from XP to Windows 7 will require a clean installation, as will jumping from a 32-bit Windows 7 installation to a 64-bit installation.

Google Offers Tool to Let You Track Your Friends’ Movements

Posted in TechNical on February 13, 2009 by Jagtheesh

Not content with indexing the world’s information, Google is now tracking where the users of its map service are, and making that location data searchable by others.

google latitude mapview mapping tracking gis privacy

The tracking feature, called Latitude, will appear on compatible mobile devices in a new version of Google Maps, version 3.0.0. It can also be added as a gadget on iGoogle, the company’s personalizable home page service.

Tracking people’s movements is sure to raise concerns about privacy, but “everything about Latitude is opt-in,” according to Vic Gundotra, vice-president of engineering with Google’s mobile team, writing on the company’s official blog.

The service will indicate users’ locations with a small photo icon superimposed on a map. It is initially available for the BlackBerry and devices running Nokia’s S60 or Microsoft’s Windows Mobile software. An Android version will follow in a few days, said Gundotra, and he expects an iPhone version will follow “very soon.”

To begin sharing your location, you must either sign up for the Latitude service or accept an invitation to view the location of someone already using it.

Latitude’s help pages describe the fine-grained control the service allows over who sees what, and when. For each friend with whom you choose to share information, you can give your precise location, the name of the city only, or no information at all.

Latitude can automatically detect your location if you’re using it on a compatible smartphone — but it’s also possible to lie about where you are, by manually setting your location on a map.

Google Latitude: An In-Depth Look

Posted in TechNical on February 12, 2009 by Jagtheesh

Last Wednesday, Google launched its much-anticipated location-tracking service, Latitude, which uses the GPS hardware found in smart phones (such as Google Android phones and BlackBerry and Windows Mobile handsets) to pinpoint your position on a map and share that information with your friends. I’ve been playing with the software on my BlackBerry for a couple of days, and I’ve taken the time to explore its features. Here’s a guided tour of the Latitude experience.

Web Registration

If you already have a Google Account, you can get started simply by adding Latitude to your iGoogle page on the Web. If you take this approach, you can use your full keyboard and mouse to populate your Friends list. Alternatively, you can browse to google.com/latitude on your smart phone and download the latest version of the Google Mobile app, which has Latitude functionality built in. Once it’s on your phone, you can log in and get started.

google_latitude

 

Add Friends

Before Latitude can do you much good or harm, you’ll need to add some friends with whom you’d like to share your location. Gmail users already have a heavily populated contact list to select from, but you also have the option to enter e-mail addresses manually.

159137-google_latitude_web_contacts_350

Once you’ve added some friends, their avatars will appear on your map. You’ll also be able to see how long ago they last updated their location, either by clicking their avatar in the map view or by looking at their listing in your Friends list. If your friends haven’t entered a location for themselves and haven’t enabled GPS tracking on their smart phones, you’ll just see ‘Unknown Location’ by their names. In some cases, you’ll also see a tiny icon that looks like an eyeball with a slash through it. You might think that this means your friend has chosen to hide his or her location from you, but it actually means the opposite: The friend can’t see your location. In this case, you’ll need to select that friend and enable the level of location sharing you want to confer.

159137-google_latitude_web_1_original1

Privacy

You have three options for sharing your location: You can have Latitude detect your location to the best of its ability and automatically share it; you can set your location manually by entering an address or city; or you can hide your location entirely. You select the option you want in the oddly named Privacy menu. I think that a better label would be Location Sharing, which describes what actually happens here.

This menu sets your sharing preferences universally for all of your friends. If you like, however, you can change your sharing options for each friend individually. More on this later.

159137-google_latitude_web_privacy_350Because you can enter any address you want when you set your location, it’s very easy to spoof your position with Latitude. For instance, I’m toying with the idea of telling my friends that I’m in Timbuktu, Mali, because I want them to think I’m a hip jet-setter with a taste for exotic locales. (Sure, it’s a stretch, but some of my friends are pretty gullible.)

 

Mobile Latitude

Unless all you want to do is track where your friends are all the time–which sounds sort of creepy, if you ask me–you’ll probably spend a lot of time using Latitude’s mobile interface. The interface varies a bit, depending on the device you’re using it on, but this walkthrough of the screens on my BlackBerry Curve will give you a good sense of what it’s like.

Google Mobile & Maps

On the BlackBerry, Latitude lives in the Google Mobile App, which you can download by browsing to www.google.com/mobile on you device. Even if you already have Google Mobile and Google Maps on your BlackBerry, you must download the latest version to get the Latitude features.

 

159137-google_latitude_bb_mobile_original
In Google Mobile, select Maps from the menu. If you have an older version of Maps on your phone, you’ll be prompted to download an update now.

159137-google_latitude_bb_maps_original1Initially, Latitude won’t be enabled on your phone. Hit your menu button and then select Latitude to enable it. You’ll need to enter your Google account user name and password, but afterward you’ll have access to the features I discussed earlier in the Web interface section.

159137-google_latitude_bb_menu_original

Mobile Friends List

The Friends list in the mobile version is just like the Friends list on the Web, except that it’s slightly truncated because of the smaller screen. Instead of sitting off to the left of the map window, it hovers over the map, so you can’t see what everyone’s doing while you’re looking at their position.

159137-google_latitude_bb_friends_originalTo add a new friend, click Press menu to add friends at the top of the Friends menu; you’ll be taken to a screen that gives you access to all of the same contact list options that you had on the Web, including the option to enter new addresses manually. The Most Contacted option is quite helpful in this context, because it saves you from having to scroll through the names of hundreds of people you don’t want to track or share your location with.

159137-google_latitude_bb_add_original

Friend Options

To customize the options for a given friend, highlight the person’s name in the Friends list, and then pressEnter to bring up the person’s Options menu. Here you can get directions to the friend’s current location (which could be unhelpful in light of possible spoofing), search for things near that location, adjust the level of sharing you’d like to enable for the friend, or dump the person from your Latitude tracking group.

159137-google_latitude_bb_options_original

Satellite and Traffic Views

Because it’s built on Google Maps, Latitude has all of the same traffic reporting and satellite views you’re accustomed to working with on your phone. Simply enable these options in your menu to see the corresponding details on your maps.

159137-google_latitude_bb_sat_originalThe Traffic view is especially cool when you want to see whether a friend you’ve arranged to meet will be on time. Just look for any red lines between that person’s location and yours; such lines signify traffic delays. If the roads are all green, the friend will have no excuse for being tardy.

159137-google_latitude_bb_traffic_original

Quirks and Issues

Latitude is a brand-new service, and it’s not without issues. But it’s difficult for me to tell how many of these issues are the software’s fault and how many are the result of the phone’s underpowered GPS hardware. Mobile phones have long suffered from inaccurate GPS readings, resulting in all kinds of headaches with turn-by-turn directions and other basic location features.

It’s not surprising, then, that Latitude often reports strange and inconsistent locations for its users. In my case, it generally showed my friends that I was several blocks–and sometimes several miles–from my actual position. Furthermore, it often bounced me around from one second to the next, showing me at my house one second, five blocks east the next, and then in a field a mile to the west a few seconds after that.

So while Latitude is an impressive little tool for keeping in touch with your friends, coworkers, and employees in real time, it’s not exactly reliable if you’re hoping to track them down to within a city block. Of course, anyone who is worried about privacy probably won’t mind these little discrepancies at all.

Four Security Updates Due From Microsoft Next Week

Posted in TechNical on February 5, 2009 by Jagtheesh

Microsoft plans to patch critical flaws in its Internet Explorer and Microsoft Exchange Server software next week.

             In total, the company will issue four security updates, including two critical fixes as well as patches for Microsoft SQL Server and its Microsoft Office Visio, the company said in a note published on its Web site Thursday. Although hackers could theoretically exploit bugs in all of these products to run unauthorized software, Microsoft rates the SQL Server and Office flaws as less severe.

            The SQL Server flaw may be a known issue that Microsoft acknowledged late last year. Security experts had been expecting Microsoft to patch this flaw in February. According to the researcher who disclosed the SQL issue, Microsoft has known about it since April and wrote its initial patch for the bug back in September. It often takes Microsoft months, however, to run security fixes through its testing and quality assurance process.

           It seems likely that Microsoft will finally patch the SQL issue, according to Andrew Storms, director of security operations with security vendor nCircle. That’s because the list of affected software in the SQL patch is the same as the platforms Microsoft listed in its December alert on the SQL patch, he said. Microsoft has also acknowledged an issue in its WordPad Text Converter, although that does not appear to be on the slate for next week.

          Microsoft hasn’t released a lot of patches in 2009. Last month it released just one update, a fix for a critical bug in the Windows Server Message Block (SMB) file and print service. The February updates are due next Tuesday, Microsoft’s regularly scheduled date for delivering its monthly security patches.

The Six Worst Apple Products of All Time

Posted in TechNical on January 25, 2009 by Jagtheesh

           The Mac is certainly a landmark product, one of the many to make its way out of Cupertino in the last quarter-century. But not everything Apple touches turns to gold. We asked TidBits editor Adam C. Engst to list a half-dozen Apple efforts that probably seemed like good ideas at the time.

1. Macintosh IIvi and IIvx

Originally introduced in 1992 as a replacement for the popular Macintosh IIci, the IIvi and IIvx featured a new case design and an internal CD-ROM drive. Unfortunately, the IIvi was powered by a measly 16MHz 68030 CPU, while the IIvx connected a 32MHz 68030 to a 16 MHz bus; both were slower than the three-years-older, 25MHz IIci. The IIvi lasted only four months; while the IIvx held out for a year, the significantly faster 68040-based Centris 650 went on sale just four months after the IIvi and IIvx were released.

2. Macintosh TV

Macintosh TVApple’s first foray into the world of television wasn’t Apple TV; it was the 1993 Macintosh TV, a black all-in-one Mac with a 14-inch CRT monitor. Based on the Macintosh LC 520 case, it wasn’t a horrible computer, but despite its name could not display TV from its cable-ready TV tuner card in a window. Apple made only 10,000 before canceling the weak-selling product.

3. Pippin

After the Macintosh TV, Apple didn’t give up on a device that connected to your living room TV. The next attempt was the Pippin, a stripped-down Mac designed by Apple and introduced by Bandai in the United States in 1996 as a video game console for multimedia CD-ROM games. It was underpowered, overpriced, and title-poor compared with the Sony PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and Nintendo 64–Bandai sold just 42,000 units before discontinuing it.

4. Power Macintosh 4400

Released in 1997, the Power Macintosh 4400 was Apple’s feeble attempt at a cheap Mac knockoff. It had a sharp-edged metal case and more industry-standard components than other Macs, and it was horrible. It crashed all the time, had a particularly loud fan and a lousy internal speaker, and (oddly) had its floppy drive on the left side–convenient for maybe 10 percent of the population.

5. Twentieth Anniversary Mac

apple, mac, 20th anniversary

Released in 1997, theTwentieth Anniversary Mac(TAM) featured an elegant, upright design that Apple would nod to years later with the flat iMac. But in a triumph of form over both function and common sense, Apple priced the underpowered TAM at $7,499–a whopping $5,500 more than the comparable Power Macintosh 5500. Within a year, Apple had knocked the price down to $1,995, placating people who had paid more by giving them gifts of high-end PowerBooks.

6. Apple USB Mouse

apple, hockey puck mouseThe “hockey puck” mouse. Perhaps no Apple product has been as reviled as the infamous “hockey puck” mouse, which shipped with the original iMac in 1998 and lasted for two years. Its small size made it awkward to grasp, and its round shape made it tricky to orient. The only people who liked it were the folks who made third-party mice and USB-to-ADB adapters that enabled the use of older mice.

Circuit City to Liquidate Remaining Stores

Posted in World's Happening on January 17, 2009 by Jagtheesh

 

It’s a sad day for electronics shoppers: Circuit City, the second-largest retailer of consumer electronics, has announced it is forced to close all its remaining 567 U.S. stores and sell all its merchandise. The closing also leaves 34,000 Circuit City employees out of a job.

circuit-city

The company entered bankruptcy protection in November 2008, and needed a healthy shopping season-and an infusion of funds-in order to continue going. Neither happened, and today it filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Circuit City. Circuit City says it will begin a sale of its merchandise starting Saturday lasting through March 31.

While I’d been hoping that Circuit City could pull it out, in spite of the weak economy, I’d been on a Circuit City deathwatch now since last week’s CES. There, I’d heard scuttlebutt from vendors saying that Circuit City only had money enough to last through January 15. If the company hadn’t found a buyer, or a refinancing deal of some sort to keep it going, that would be the end of them. Today came the news that retailer had no more options, and it would be liquidating its remaining 567 U.S. stores (it closed 155 stores in November; no word yet on the fate of the 765 stores in Canada).

As a careful shopper, I lament Circuit City’s passing for multiple reasons. Granted, I often found the chain’s in-store selection lacking and haphazard. But, just as often, I found better deals-and better service–at Circuit than I did at Best Buy. Circuit never played fast with its pricing-the price online was the price in the store (my experiences with Best Buy’s dual-pricing practices have frankly strongly prejudiced me against shopping there for most items).

A good shopper values choice, and Circuit City offered just that-a strong alternative to that other big box electronics retailer, Best Buy. Without Circuit in the mix, we consumers have one fewer option. And that one fewer option will likely translate into less competition. I won’t be surprised to see Circuit City’s death not only impact what electronics models we consumers have in-store access to, but also what prices we pay.

Circuit City will have plenty of company in the annals of consumer electronics sales. It joins the ranks of national chains like CompUSA, Computer City, and Egghead, and regional chains like Tweeter, The Wiz, and Incredible Universe-all of which are among the electronics chains that have died in the past two decades.

How to Unlock your iPhone 3G

Posted in TechNical on January 16, 2009 by Jagtheesh

The iphone world has been clamoring for this one for awhile. And what better way to start the new year then by playing around with the Dev Team’s newest creation–an official unlock for the iPhone 3G. We’ll run through the basics of this wonderful little tool and show you exactly how you can jailbreak and unlock your phone. You’ll be able to run as many third-party applications as you want on your device. And more importantly, you’ll be able to use your iPhone on any cell phone carrier you want.

What’s an Unlock?

Unlocking your phone allows you to use it on any carrier you want, not just AT&T. You’ll pop out your AT&T SIM card and insert the SIM card of a different carrier. The iPhone doesn’t allow you to do this normally, so a little bit of hacking is involved.

Is it safe? Will I break my iPhone?

Possibly. There’s always the worry that the unlocking process will royally screw up your phone–but the only way to deal with that is to read the situations of others who have attempted the procedure before you. As long as you follow the instructions closely, you will greatly reduce your chances of bricking (screwing up) your iPhone. Beyond that, once you’ve unlocked your iPhone, you’ll want to approach new iPhone updates with suspicion. Don’t just click “update” in iTunes–wait for the various iPhone hackers to release (and safely test) new tools that will allow you to redo the same procedure on the new firmware.

Is it easy to do? Hacking an iPhone sounds difficult!

It is. It used to be difficult, but a number of one-button (or two-button) programs have emerged that greatly simplify the process of doing evil things to your iPhone. Don’t worry. Even a cat could unlock an iPhone at this point.

How do I do it?

1) Upgrade your iPhone to the 2.2 Firmware

This one’s easy. Fire up iTunes and update your phone to the latest update, 2.2. If you’ve already done this, then you are one step ahead of the game. If not, you accomplish this task by clicking the “Update” button. Magic! Be sure to backup/sync your phone prior to doing so, and write down any note, programs, or settings you want to keep!

2) Pwn your Phone

Download Quickpwn. This is the application you’ll use to jailbreak your phone prior to unlocking.

Connect your iPhone to your PC all USB-style and fire up Quickpwn. The program is as self-explanatory as a jailbreaking application could be. Select your phone. Select your phone’s firmware (which should appear naturally, as you did the update through iTunes.). Install Cydia or Installer (I prefer the former). Follow the directions. Enjoy a hot cup of tea/coffee while you wait.

3) Install the application repositories

If you opted to install Cydia, fire up the application on your newly jailbroken iPhone and add the following application repository: http://apt9.yellowsn0w.com/

If you went for Installer, add this repository: http://i.yellowsn0w.com/

If you have no idea how to add a repository, fiddle around in each application’s settings and options menus.

4) Install Yell0w snow

Use either Cydia or Installer to install yellowsn0w. Once the server finally lets you do so (it’s getting hammered right now), run the application. Then turn off your iPhone. Grab a paper-clip and follow these instructions to pop-out your iphone SIM. Slap in the SIM card from the new carrier you want to use. Turn on your iPhone. If the carrier doesn’t pop up after a bit of a wait, repeat the process to remove the SIM and try doing it again.

5) Crazy Troubleshooting

Switching to T-Mobile? Turn off 3G on your iPhone settings (under Networking) before switching SIM cards.

Turn off any PINs on your SIM card before making the switch.

Microsoft’s Windows 7 Beta Available

Posted in TechNical on January 12, 2009 by Jagtheesh

Microsoft made the Windows 7 beta available for download Saturday after its servers were overwhelmed with users trying to download the operating system. On Friday, Microsoft struggled to keep its Web site online as users overloaded the company’s servers. Microsoft’s main Web site and the download page the were often unreachable. At the keynote for the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Wednesday, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said Friday would be the date for beta rollout.

windows7

On its Windows site, Microsoft posted a note saying “The Windows 7 Beta is now available for download.” The Windows 7 site lists a page where the beta can be downloaded.

Company officials said activation keys for the code would be capped at 2.5 million, but users who try the beta after that limit is reached will be able to trial it for at least 30 days.

  • Minimum recommended specs call for:

    • 1 GHz 32-bit or 64-bit processor
    • 1 GB of system memory
    • 16 GB of available disk space
    • Support for DirectX 9 graphics with 128 MB memory (to enable the Aero theme)
    • DVD-R/W Drive
    • Internet access (to download the Beta and get updates)

    And yes, like anything tech-related, these specs could change.

Some product features of Windows 7, such as the ability to watch and record live TV or navigation through the use of “touch,” may require advanced or additional hardware.

Get the download :

The 32-bit version of Windows 7 Beta is available in five languages: English, German, Japanese, Hindi, and Arabic. The 64-bit version is available in English, German, Japanese, and Arabic. Windows 7 Beta is available for a limited time, to the first 2.5 million people who download the software. Just choose the version that fits the system you’ll be using for the test, pick your language and click go to register for and download the Beta.

Downloading the Windows 7 Beta could take a few hours. The exact time will depend on your provider, bandwidth and traffic. The good news is that once you start the download, you won’t have to answer any more questions – you can walk away while it finishes. If it gets interrupted, it’ll restart where it left off.

Ways to know the System Uptime

Posted in TechNical on January 8, 2009 by Jagtheesh

Uptime is a measure of the time a computer system has been “up” and running.

The system uptime is very important for system administrators. Many times normal users like to keep the track of their PC.

Here I am showing 5 ways (Some Commands and Some Very Small and Free Utilities) to know How long has Your System been Running without Reboot.

  • Using systeminfo command

The systeminfo command tells us all about a computer system. Here you can get the system uptime as well as the original date and time of the OS installation. This command works on Windows XP Pro. Not tested in XP Home (Some users said it wont work in XP Home).

  1. Click on Start > Run
  2. Type CMD (Will open Command Terminal)
  3. Type systeminfo
  4. Find system uptime there, you will also get install date and time above the uptime.

system Info

  • Easy HR Computer Uptime

Easy HR Computer Uptime is a simple tool designed to show you the computer name, and how long your computer has been running (uptime) since it was last rebooted. Easy HR Computer Uptime also tells you the current user name and the current running Operating System.

  • System Uptime Monitor

Uptime

This is a small GUI tool which shows the System Uptime, the System Startup Date and Time. This tool has another feature that you can schedule any task like Shutdown, Logoff, Restart, Hibernate, Alert or any specific task you want to execute based on the System Uptime.

sys-uptym

This small GUI utility will display your current System Uptime in Weeks, Days, Hours and Minutes. There is no install/uninstall. Download XP_SystemUptime.zip and extract the EXE file to your hard drive. Create a shortcut to XP_SystemUptime.exe in your Startup folder, or anywhere you desire. To remove System Uptime, simply delete the EXE file and any shortcut you create. This application is freeware.

Windows XP (may run on Windows 2000). Requires VB6 Runtime Library (installed on XP by default).

Google Comes in Fourth on Top 10 List of Spam Enablers

Posted in TechNical on January 7, 2009 by Jagtheesh

Google has yet to stop a rising number of spammers from abusing Google Docs, its Web-based collaboration and spreadsheet application, according to junk mail watchdog Spamhaus.

On Tuesday, Google ranked fourth on a list of spammy ISPs (Internet service providers) and other Web services providers updated daily by Spamhaus. Google has been in the top 10 list over the last several weeks, said Richard Cox, Spamhaus’ CIO.

Google could not be immediately reached for comment.

Like peers Microsoft and Yahoo, Google’s free e-mail accounts are frequently used to send spam. Antispam filtering software is unlikely to block messages coming from the domains of those companies due to their wide use, although spam can be stopped through more sophisticated analysis of an e-mail.

But a greater problem is how spammers are manipulating Google Docs, Cox said. The application has a feature where users can share a document that is assigned a URL (uniform resource locator). If opened, those documents contain a “redirect” command that pushes them to spammer Web sites, which often sell pharmaceuticals, Cox said.

Spamhaus has had trouble getting top-level attention from Google about the problem, Cox said. That’s in contrast to Microsoft, which took steps recently to stop spammers from putting redirects on free Web pages and sending out the links as spam.

A top Microsoft executive finally took note of the problem after being alerted by Spamhaus, Cox said. Microsoft hasn’t detailed how it is stopping the nuisance, but their method appears to be working, Cox said. Spamhaus has had less luck so far with Google, he said.

There are a couple of fixes. One would be to simply halt the use of redirects, Cox said.

“We don’t see why when Google and Microsoft hand out free Web pages to people they should then allow those people to put a redirect to another site,” Cox said. “The only people using redirects are the spammers.”

Another method would be to check the URL to which a redirector points. If it is listed on Spamhaus’ Block List (SBL) of verified spam operations, the message could be blocked, Cox said.

Services such as Tiny URL, which make long URLs shorter, block those URLs that redirect to sites on the SBL and thus don’t have the problem, Cox said.

Watch Out for Hidden Cookies

Posted in TechNical on January 6, 2009 by Jagtheesh

By now, most of us are aware of the potential privacy risks posed by Web cookies. But according to a new paper published by security consultancy iSec Partners, traditional browser-based cookies aren’t the only technology used to store user data anymore. A number of browser plug-ins offer similar capabilities — and because plug-ins are nonstandard browser components, users are often unaware that these silent conversations are even taking place.

Browser cookies are invaluable for storing things like usernames and shopping cart contents between e-commerce sessions, among many other legitimate uses. But cookies can also give Web sites the ability to track your surfing habits for the purpose of data mining or other, more malicious goals. That’s why modern browsers give users fine-grained control over their cookies — we can view them, delete them, or even block them completely. These controls don’t apply to plug-ins, however, which add nonstandard features outside the customary browser UI.

The paper cites Google’s Gears as one example of a plug-in that can mimic cookies. While in general it gives Gears high marks for walling off users’ data from unwanted accesses, it also cautions that users might not fully understand how to specify what data Gears is allowed to store. Gears always asks you if you permit it to talk to a given Web site, but it will only ask once. If you later decide that you’d like to disable Gears for that site, you have to remove the site from a list via a special control panel. Your browser’s normal privacy settings have no effect on Gears’ behavior. The paper was even more critical of Adobe’s Flash plug-in, which it says will store persistent data on the local PC without notifying the user. Furthermore, the paper says this data will be available across any and all Web browsers the user might launch, even ignoring the “private modes” (otherwise known as “porn modes”) of modern browsers. Adobe publishes a Web page that allows you to view and edit the cookie-like data stored by the Flash plug-in, but there is no way to access this data from within the browser’s normal menu hierarchy.

While the risks identified by the iSec paper are relatively low, they do bring up an important point, of which all Web surfers should be aware: Cookies are only the beginning. As Web-based applications become increasingly sophisticated, incorporating an ever-widening array of technologies, don’t assume that a couple of checkboxes in your browser’s preferences panel will protect you from all of the data-collection methods on today’s Web.

Some anti-spyware software will detect and eliminate so-called tracking cookies from your browser, but most do not yet support Gears data or Flash cookies. As always, the best defense is to be aware of the sites you visit, avoid questionable sites (porn and pirated software sites are big culprits), and certainly never install browser plug-ins from untrusted sources.

Google Deal Produces 91% of Mozilla’s Revenue

Posted in TechNical on December 28, 2008 by Jagtheesh

It’s something of an open secret that Mozilla, the organization behind the open source Firefox Web browser, gets most of its funding from Google — 91 percent, to be exact. The deal gives Google top placement in Firefox’s search engine bar. But now that Google is also shipping Chrome, its own branded browser, some critics are asking whether the search engine giant’s deep pockets have allowed it to gain too much influence over the Web browser market.

This week, Mozilla CEO John Lilly admitted that his organization’s relationship with Google is “more complicated than it used to be” in light of the current funding arrangement. But Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz goes even further, claiming that because the market is controlled by just a few giant companies — namely Google and Microsoft — the Web browser has become “hostile territory” for application developers. Could the days of an open Web be coming to an end?

The technologies used to build Web pages — including HTML, JavaScript, and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) — are all open standards, maintained by industry consortia. No one company owns them. But experimental features often appear in new browser releases first, then are integrated into the official standards later. One example is Google’s Gears technology, which is built into Chrome and is available as a plug-in for Firefox and Internet Explorer. Gears is widely expected to influence the upcoming HTML 5 standard.

That’s all well and good, except that arguably only Microsoft can compete with Google’s share of the browser market. For example, Opera is a longstanding alternative browser that is often praised for its compliance with Web standards, but its market share is but a fraction of that of Firefox or IE. Because of Opera’s narrower reach, a new feature introduced in Opera might be seen as less significant, and therefore be less likely to become part of the public standards.

Sun’s Schwartz has good reason to fear a market where large companies wield an undue influence over widely-used technologies. A few years ago, Sun fought a protracted legal battle with Microsoft over the Redmond-based giant’s nonstandard implementation of Sun’s Java programming language. Sun argued — successfully — that Microsoft’s actions amounted to an attempted hostile takeover of Java.

Rather than see the same scenario play out on the Web, Schwartz argues that developers should avoid the “hostile territory” altogether. Instead of the browser, he says, developers should build applications using Sun’s new JavaFX technology. But this seems somewhat disingenuous, considering that JavaFX is so far almost entirely the brainchild of Sun, and is therefore less open than any browser.

But there are other reasons to be concerned about Google’s stake in Firefox and Chrome, too. Some privacy advocates worry that Google’s influence over the browser market gives it access to too much user data, which the company collects for the purposes of its massively lucrative online advertising business.

What do you think? Does the overwhelming influence of Google and Microsoft on the browser market mean the Web is destined to become just another proprietary platform? Or will the influence of open source and open standards bodies ensure that the Web remains a free, public resource? Sound off in the PC World community forums.

IE Loses European Market Share

Posted in World's Happening on December 25, 2008 by Jagtheesh

Fewer than 60% of European Web users run Microsoft Corp.’s Internet Explorer, a French-based metrics company reported yesterday, while more than 31% have switched to Mozilla’s Firefox.

Microsoft’s browser dipped under 60% for the first time in August, rallied slightly in September, but then dipped below that bar again during October and November, said XiTi Monitor, a Web measurement site operated by Applied Technologies Internet of Merignac, France.

For November, IE’s share of Europe’s browser market was 59.5%, down a percentage point since June and off five points since April.

Firefox’s share, meanwhile, has slipped nearly two percentage points since August, when it accounted for 33% of the European market. After falling to 31.2% the following month, Firefox ended November with a 31.1% share, the lowest number since May 2008.

Another Internet metrics firm, U.S.-based Net Applications Inc., had also noted a drop in Firefox’s share during September, and attributed the decline to desertions to Chrome, the browser that Google Inc. introduced that month. Net Applications’ numbers for Firefox, however, decreased much less dramatically, down just 0.2% from the month before.

But while Net Applications’ data showed that Firefox quickly regained losses it had suffered to Chrome, and then added more users, XiTi’s measurements indicate that Firefox’s growth has essentially stalled.

Net Applications has also tracked the slow, steady decline of IE. Last month, said Net Applications, which monitors visitors to more than 40,000 sites, the majority of them U.S. URLs, Microsoft’s browser fell under a 70% share for the first time since the California company began monitoring browser market share.

According to XiTi, both Chrome and Opera Software ASA ‘s flagship Opera browser control larger shares in Europe than they do in the U.S. Chrome, for instance, ended November with a 1.1% share — Net Applications pegged it at 0.8% — while Opera owned a 5.1% share, more than seven times higher than the 0.7% measured by Net Applications.

Opera, which is headquartered in Norway, is Europe’s only native browser maker. Since August, said XiTi, Opera has boosted its market share by 0.6 percentage point, all at the apparent expense of Firefox.

Traditionally, Europeans are much more likely than Americans to ditch IE and turn to an alternative. Earlier in the year, for example, XiTi said Firefox’s market share in some countries, including Finland, Poland and Slovenia, was approaching 50%.

2008 been a roller coaster for Windows

Posted in TechNical on December 25, 2008 by Jagtheesh

Microsoft is used to criticism ; after all, it’s a standing joke that the third version of any Microsoft software is the first one that works right. But the backlash against Windows Vista in 2008 was unprecedented. The new OS had been out for a year, finding its way into new consumer systems through 2007 but not getting much adoption by business.

Throughout 2007, InfoWorld heard IT staffers and CTOs grumble about the new OS, despite some nice features for IT, such as unified install images. Application incompatibility, a UI rejiggered without any user benefit to its changes, and a bothersome security mechanism increasingly annoyed individual users and small-business consultants.

[ Can your PC run the forthcoming Windows 7? Download InfoWorld’s Windows Sentinel tool and find out. ]

InfoWorld contributing editor Randall C. Kennedy’s Vista tests showed that it took way more resources than XP. As his tests revealed, the new Aero interface was a major resource pig, but it wasn’t the only one. And in his testing, Service Pack 1 didn’t help matters any.

The Vista Backlash Begins

By January 2008, 11 months after Vista shipped to the broad market, InfoWorld launched its Save XP campaign.

Our rationale was that Microsoft had already extended XP’s kill date from Dec. 31, 2007, to June 30, 2008, due to customer queasiness over Vista, so we had hoped it might do so again. It was not a birthday present that Microsoft liked.

By the time of the “Save XP” campaign, consumers and businesses alike were beginning to realize that they could not get XP past June 30 and thus no longer had the option to ignore Vista if they didn’t like it. In the six months that followed, more than 210,000 people signed an online petition to keep XP available indefinitely, and the news media was full of reports of an anti-Vista backlash. Resistance to Vista grew, especially by businesses. Major analyst firms joined in, recommending that Microsoft delay XP’s demise until 2009.

Microsoft defended Vista, saying its usability studies showed that users loved its new interface and that the new security approach was needed to finally force developers to abandon sloppy programming techniques — to be fair, Microsoft had been imploring developers since 1999 to change their behavior, to little effect.

But Microsoft was embarrassed by revelations that its own execs had trouble with Vista and that computers labeled “Vista Capable” in fact could not run Vista, calling into question Microsoft’s honesty, as well as that of many PC makers. The result was a messy lawsuit that is still dragging on, as it became clear that Microsoft was split internally about the accuracy of its “Vista Capable” certification claims.

XP Does Die, Sort Of

During the six months of this anti-Vista brouhaha, Microsoft held firm to the June 30 kill date for XP and indeed pulled the plug as promised. But it also started talking about the “downgrade” option that let many users buy Vista Business or Vista Professional, then use that license to replace Vista with XP. Microsoft also let PC makers continue to sell XP on new systems by using the downgrade approach to call it a Vista sale.

Currently, Dell Computer and Hewlett-Packard offer downgrade PCs, though consumers need to buy them through their small-business storefronts. Originally, downgrade sales were to end on Feb. 1, 2009, but Microsoft recently extended their availability through June 30.

Internet’s 100 Oldest Dot-Com domains

Posted in TechNical on December 23, 2008 by Jagtheesh

Its really interesting to see the oldest Dot-Com sites that came in Mid 80’s. Its was Symbolics the Oldest Dot-Com site, that means symbolics.com is the Internet’s oldest still-functioning dot-com domain — and, I must say, it still looks like it was designed in 1985 that was when I exactly born.

The Full List

All right, prurient interests addressed, ready to check out the full list of dot-com pioneers? Brace yourself, and dig in.

1. symbolics.com: March 15, 1985

2. bbn.com: April 24, 1985

3. think.com: May 24, 1985

4. mcc.com: July 11, 1985

5. dec.com: September 30, 1985

6. northrop.com: November 7, 1985

7. xerox.com: January 9, 1986

8. sri.com: January 17, 1986

9. hp.com: March 3, 1986

10. bellcore.com: March 5, 1986

11. ibm.com: March 19, 1986

12. sun.com: March 19, 1986

13. intel.com: March 25, 1986

14. ti.com: March 25, 1986

15. att.com: April 25, 1986

16. gmr.com: May 8, 1986

17. tek.com: May 8, 1986

18. fmc.com: July 10, 1986

19. ub.com: July 10, 1986

20. bell-atl.com: August 5, 1986

21. ge.com: August 5, 1986

22. grebyn.com: August 5, 1986

23. isc.com: August 5, 1986

24. nsc.com: August 5, 1986

25. stargate.com: August 5, 1986

26. boeing.com: September 2, 1986

27. itcorp.com: September 18, 1986

28. siemens.com: September 29, 1986

29. pyramid.com: October 18, 1986

30. alphacdc.com: October 27, 1986

31. bdm.com: October 27, 1986

32. fluke.com: October 27, 1986

33. inmet.com: October 27, 1986

34. kesmai.com: October 27, 1986

35. mentor.com: October 27, 1986

36. nec.com: October 27, 1986

37. ray.com: October 27, 1986

38. rosemount.com: October 27, 1986

39. vortex.com: October 27, 1986

40. alcoa.com: November 5, 1986

41. gte.com: November 5, 1986

42. adobe.com: November 17, 1986

43. amd.com: November 17, 1986

44. das.com: November 17, 1986

45. data-io.com: November 17, 1986

46. octopus.com: November 17, 1986

47. portal.com: November 17, 1986

48. teltone.com: November 17, 1986

49. 3com.com: December 11, 1986

50. amdahl.com: December 11, 1986

51. ccur.com: December 11, 1986

52. ci.com: December 11, 1986

53. convergent.com: December 11, 1986

54. dg.com: December 11, 1986

55. peregrine.com: December 11, 1986

56. quad.com: December 11, 1986

57. sq.com: December 11, 1986

58. tandy.com: December 11, 1986

59. tti.com: December 11, 1986

60. unisys.com: December 11, 1986

61. cgi.com: January 19, 1987

62. cts.com: January 19, 1987

63. spdcc.com: January 19, 1987

64. apple.com: February 19, 1987

65. nma.com: March 4, 1987

66. prime.com: March 4, 1987

67. philips.com: April 4, 1987

68. datacube.com: April 23, 1987

69. kai.com: April 23, 1987

70. tic.com: April 23, 1987

71. vine.com: April 23, 1987

72. ncr.com: April 30, 1987

73. cisco.com: May 14, 1987

74. rdl.com: May 14, 1987

75. slb.com: May 20, 1987

76. parcplace.com: May 27, 1987

77. utc.com: May 27, 1987

78. ide.com: June 26, 1987

79. trw.com: July 9, 1987

80. unipress.com: July 13, 1987

81. dupont.com: July 27, 1987

82. lockheed.com: July 27, 1987

83. rosetta.com: July 28, 1987

84. toad.com: August 18, 1987

85. quick.com: August 31, 1987

86. allied.com: September 3, 1987

87. dsc.com: September 3, 1987

88. sco.com: September 3, 1987

89. gene.com: September 22, 1987

90. kccs.com: September 22, 1987

91. spectra.com: September 22, 1987

92. wlk.com: September 22, 1987

93. mentat.com: September 30, 1987

94. wyse.com: October 14, 1987

95. cfg.com: November 2, 1987

96. marble.com: November 9, 1987

97. cayman.com: November 16, 1987

98. entity.com: November 16, 1987

99. ksr.com: November 24, 1987

100.nynexst.com: November 30, 1987.

Domain records provided by  iwhols.com.

Track your fuel mileage over time via your iPhone

Posted in TechNical on December 19, 2008 by Jagtheesh

Back when I learned to drive—one of the things my father instilled in me was the need to track my vehicle’s gas mileage. Such information would alert me to problems before they became major issues, or so I remember hearing. For some reason, that particular lesson has stuck with me over the years, even as cars have evolved with systems that will find trouble spots long before they become obvious in a mileage book. So, I’ve always kept a small notebook and pen. Every time I fill up, I pull out the notebook, and jot down the miles driven, gallons bought, and (usually) the cost per gallon. I then transfer these figures to a spreadsheet and track and calculate my miles per gallon over time. Have I ever actually done anything with this information? Not that I can recall… yet still, I diligently record every fuel purchase.

The advent of the App Store for the iPhone and iPod touch, however, has brought out a handful of applications that aim to put my little mileage book out of business. These mileage trackers help you record mileage, fuel costs, and in some cases, additional information about your car’s behavior over time. I took a look at five such programs in order to identify which do the best job of replacing my manual mileage logs. To evaluate the programs, I developed a set of conditions around what it would take to replace my manual mileage logs. To me, an ideal application in this category would meet all of the following criteria:

  • Has a fast and easy-to-use data input screen.
  • Supports more than one vehicle.
  • Tracks per-tank and overall fuel mileage data.
  • Can import and export data.
  • Has a database of vehicles, to make setup quicker.
  • Can use the vehicle’s trip meter or its odometer for mileage tracking.
  • Generates useful reports based off the stored data.

Oracle Profits Drop Slightly on Strong US Dollar

Posted in TechNical on December 18, 2008 by Jagtheesh

Hurt by a strengthening U.S. dollar, Oracle announced earnings Thursday that were slightly below the company’s previously issued guidance, and profits that fell slightly.

The company reported GAAP income that fell one percent year-on-year, to US$1.3 billion on $5.6 billion in revenue for its fiscal 2009 second quarter, ended Nov. 30. Revenue was up 6 percent from the company’s year-ago tally. Earnings per share of $0.34 matched analysts’ expecting earnings, according to a survey by Thomson Financial.

The strengthening U.S. dollar cost the company about $0.03 per share in earnings, Oracle said. It had issued guidance in September that it expected $0.35 or $0.36 per share.

Software licensing revenue was up 8 percent during the quarter, but new software sales were down 3 percent, compared to year-ago numbers.

The company signed its “largest on-demand sales force automation contract this quarter,” beating out software-as-a-service rival Salesforce.com, Oracle said in a statement.

With IT spending estimates for 2009 slashed in recent months, Oracle is under pressure to cut costs. However the company did not announce any layoffs in its earnings release, issued Thursday afternoon.

Know When to Compress Email Attachments to Save Time.

Posted in TechNical on December 13, 2008 by Jagtheesh

With so much work relying on file attachment emails–text documents, images, spreadsheets, and more–many people have the urge to compress everything. That instinct used to pay off when connecting over dial-up, but typical Internet speeds now mean that you and the recipient may spend more time compressing and uncompressing than seeing any net gain. This is especially true with some file types that are already heavily compressed. Consider the total size and if the file is common on the web before deciding to bother with compression. In most situations, you’re better off skipping that process.

Size is a limiting factor overall. Both your outgoing mail server and the recipient’s incoming server need to handle that clot of data. In general, you’ll be fine sending and receiving attachments that are 5MB or smaller. You’ll probably be able to send 10MB. I’ve gone even higher in a pinch, but those messages are prone to be blocked. In that case, either post to an FTP server, break multiple files into different emails, or try compressing the attachments.

However, some file types don’t benefit from compression. Try most methods on an MP3 or JPEG, and you’ll get a file size that’s roughly where you started. Generally, the file formats that are common online won’t be reduced by additional compression: JPEG, GIF, PDF, MP3, AAC, WMA, WMV, and MOV. Those need to be encoded at smaller sizes when being created. Other file types are too small to bother, including Office documents and text files. But compress if you’re sending a big file that doesn’t fit either category, such as TIFF or RAW graphics, or WAV or AIFF. And if your attachment relies on nested folders for organization, you’ll always need to zip or compress it. Even a single folder that holds a few files requires that treatment; in that case, attach the individual files to the mail message instead of wasting time compressing and decompressing the folder.

Patches From Microsoft on Tuesday

Posted in TechNical on December 7, 2008 by Jagtheesh

Microsoft Security Bulletin Advance notification for Dec ’08 says that there will be 8 bulletins and updates coming next week for a variety of Microsoft products. 6 of the bulletins have a maximum rating of Critical.

One critical update affects all shipping versions of Windows. Another affects only Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. One update for Internet Explorer is rated Critical for all versions of Windows, indicating that version 7 is affected. Another affecting Windows Media software is rated Important and affects all versions other than the Itanium-based server products.

4 other bulletins affect various Office and server-based products. One for Visual Basic affects only FrontPage and Project in Office, but also Visual Basic 6, Visual Basic.NET and Visual FoxPro.

One fix for Microsoft Word is rated Critical for Office 2000 and 2007 (with or without SP1), but Important most everywhere else, including Office 2003. An Excel fix is Critical only on Excel 2000, and Important elsewhere.

Lastly, a flaw in Sharepoint Server 2007 and an associated flaw in Search Server 2008 are both rated Important.

There will also be , An update to the Junk Mail filter; a new version of the Malicious Software Removal Tool; an update to deal with legal changes in daylight savings time in various unspecified countries; and one which addresses application compatibility problems on Windows Server 2008.