Archive for the World’s Happening Category

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.

phones11

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.

car

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.

navy

 

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.

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.

a

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.

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. 

time2

 

      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.