2010/10/12

NEW NET Issues List for 12 Oct 2010

Below is the final list of issues for the Tuesday, 12 October 2010, NEW NET (Northeast Wisconsin Network for Economy and Technology) 7:00 - 9:00 pm weekly gathering. This week we're upstairs at Tom's Drive In, 501 N Westhill Blvd, Appleton, Wisconsin, USA -- if there's a chain across the steps, ignore it and come on upstairs.

The ‘net

1. Firefox for Android beta: A good first effort http://news.cnet.com/8301-30685_3-20019002-264.html The first beta of Firefox 4 for Android arrived Thursday…I tried the new beta on HTC's Google Nexus One, and I came away impressed overall…It's not going to be my default phone browser at this stage, but I'm not going to uninstall it…Mozilla is trying to reach the fast-growing and increasingly important mobile world with its "Fennec" version of Firefox…that market is dominated by browsers based on the open-source WebKit project, including those built into iOS, Android, Web OS…Android is critical to Mozilla's mobile effort: with Apple blocking typical browsers for iOS devices…Unlike most Android applications, Firefox is native software that runs on the underlying Linux operating system and ARM processor rather than Android's higher-level Java-like foundation…That native nature means Firefox compatibility is a more finicky issue: you'll have to check the supported devices list…Firefox, which needs Android 2.0 or later…uses the same browser engine as regular Firefox…Firefox Sync…lets you keep open tabs, browsing history, passwords, and bookmarks synchronized between whatever computers and mobile devices you have running Firefox…passwords sync in particular is a wonderful way to bypass the mobile-phone difficulties of Web page login pages…there's the superior window management. The native browser lets you move among windows by clicking Android's menu button and going to a window-selection screen…A button on the bottom of the list lets you fire up a new tab. When there are more than seven, on my phone, a second vertical column of tabs forms to the right…a faster way to switch among tabs, something I didn't realize until Firefox I'd been subconsciously avoiding somewhat on the Android browser…If you slide the main browser window the other way, you get a nice interface for adding a bookmark, going forward or backward through your browsing history, and configuring Firefox…Even if you have a Wi-Fi connection, all mobile browsers in my experience are frustrating compared to those running on desktops and laptop. But I found Firefox just wasn't peppy…Firefox seems aimed to intercept higher-performance hardware coming after today's phones…I was able to use Gmail, even with its new priority inbox, an impressive feat…Firefox is big--more than 30MB including the application and data, which is much larger than any other application I have on my phone. The closest is Google Earth at half the size, which I had to delete to make room…Firefox for Android is a reasonable first effort…”

2. Xmarks Victory for the Users, by the Users http://blog.xmarks.com/?p=1988 The past ten days have been an amazing lesson in the power of community…Xmarks users…told the world it was simply unacceptable for our service to shut down…Thanks to your passion, Xmarks now has multiple offers from companies ready and willing to take over the service and keep making browser sync better…This is not a signed, sealed done deal yet. But with multiple offers on the table we’re pretty confident that Xmarks will continue on with no service interruption…Some may accuse us of masterminding this whole process; I wish we were that clever!...Many of you know that we set up a pledge page where users can commit to paying $10 – $20 annually for Xmarks…We’re close to thirty thousand pledges already, and that’s without promoting this to our entire user base…”

3. Beaming in Grandma http://www.economist.com/node/17209514 “…On October 6th Cisco unveiled a video-calling system for the living room called “umi telepresence”. The same day Logitech launched a television set-top box that doubles as a videophone. Microsoft’s new Kinect Xbox game console, due in November, offers video conferencing…Video communication is becoming more popular, in part because the technology is improving. Video calls accounted for about 40% of the 95 billion minutes that people spent on Skype in the first half of this year…Having used it at home to let Grandma see the children on the PC, people now feel more comfortable trying video communication at work…Cisco’s gear is the more daring because it is a dedicated video-calling system. The package includes a camera and a console, which together cost $599. Users also have to pay $25 a month for unlimited calls…Already some families host “Skype dinners”, with relatives calling in. Others never hang up, thus turning a display in the kitchen into a window on somebody else’s home. Similarly, some firms have started to experiment with “virtual water-coolers”, connecting their office kitchens by means of a permanent video link…”

Security, Privacy & Digital Controls

4. Microsoft Wants to Ban Virus-Infected PCs From the Internet http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-11483008 Virus-infected computers that pose a risk to other PCs should be blocked from the net, a senior researcher at software giant Microsoft suggests…Putting machines in temporary quarantine would stop the spread of a virus and allow it to be cleaned…Despite our best efforts, many consumer computers are host to malware or are part of a botnet…”

5. Think Carefully About Which Country Hosts Your URL Shortener http://searchengineland.com/time-to-think-carefully-about-which-country-hosts-your-url-shortener-52579 “…Nic.ly — a domain registrar in Libya that handles Libyans domains — took back the vb.ly domain from its American owners, after it was in use for a year…Nic.ly told her…Pornography and adult material aren’t allowed under Libyan Law, therefore we removed the domain…Effectively, Nic.ly calls vb.ly a porn site. That…implies that the biggest shortener using the .ly domain, Bit.ly, won’t have similar problems…Still…What’s to prevent a Libyan registrar down the road from deciding that just pointing at any adult content through your domain, even if that’s not your main purpose, is a violation worthy of pulling your domain?...I can’t recommend anyone using the .ly extension any longer…I’d like to see Twitter clients ensure they are supporting J.mp…Adding in the new Google shortener also makes sense. Goo.gl makes use of the GL domain from Greenland…when I had to pick a short, custom domain for Search Engine Land, I went with .com. Even though selnd.com meant I gave up a few characters, I had the security gained from…the long-standing .com out of the US…”

6. Caught Spying on Student, FBI Demands GPS Tracker Back http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/10/fbi-tracking-device/ A California student got a visit from the FBI this week after he found a secret GPS tracking device on his car, and a friend posted photos of it online…An FBI spokesman wouldn’t acknowledge that the device belonged to the agency…I can’t really tell you much about it, because it’s still an ongoing investigation,” said spokesman Pete Lee…It seems very frightening that the FBI have placed a surveillance-tracking device on the car of a 20-year-old American citizen who has done nothing more than being half-Egyptian…Afifi, a business marketing student at Mission College in Santa Clara, discovered the device last Sunday when he took his car to a local garage for an oil change. When a mechanic at Ali’s Auto Care raised his Ford Lincoln LS on hydraulic lifts, Afifi saw a wire sticking out near the right rear wheel and exhaust. Garage owner Mazher Khan confirmed for Wired.com that he also saw it. A closer inspection showed it connected to a battery pack and transmitter, which were attached to the car with a magnet. Khan asked Afifi if he wanted the device removed and when Afifi said yes, Khan pulled it easily from the car’s chassis…a friend of Afifi’s named Khaled posted pictures of the device at Reddit asking if anyone knew what it was…a former FBI agent…said the device was an older model of tracking equipment that had long ago been replaced by devices that don’t require batteries. Batteries die and need to be replaced if surveillance is ongoing so newer devices are placed in the engine compartment and hardwired to the car’s battery so they don’t run out of juice. He was surprised this one was so easily found…It’s very rare when the guys find them.”…The agent who initially spoke with Afifi identified himself then as Vincent and told Afifi, “We’re here to recover the device you found on your vehicle. It’s federal property. It’s an expensive piece, and we need it right now.” Afifi asked, “Are you the guys that put it there?” and the agent replied, “Yeah, I put it there.” He told Afifi, “We’re going to make this much more difficult for you if you don’t cooperate…Afifi’s father, Aladdin Afifi, was a U.S. citizen and former president of the Muslim Community Association here, before his family moved to Egypt in 2003. Yasir Afifi returned to the U.S. alone in 2008, while his father and brothers stayed in Egypt, to further his education he said. He knows he’s on a federal watchlist and is regularly taken aside at airports for secondary screening. Six months ago, a former roommate of his was visited by FBI agents who said they wanted to speak with Afifi…the agency received an anonymous tip from someone saying he might be a threat to national security…after Afifi’s lawyer contacted the agency, he never heard from the feds again until he found their tracking device…Afifi’s attorney, who works for the civil liberties-focused Council on American Islamic Relations, said this kind of tracking is more egregious than the kind her office usually sees…other lawyers in her organization told her they knew of two people in Ohio who also recently discovered tracking devices on their vehicles. Afifi’s encounter with the FBI ended with the agents telling him not to worry. “We have all the information we needed,” they told him. “You don’t need to call your lawyer. Don’t worry, you’re boring…”

7. Java: if you use it, keep it current; if you don’t use it, delete it http://krebsonsecurity.com/2010/10/java-a-gift-to-exploit-pack-makers/ “…attacks against Java vulnerabilities have fast emerged as the top moneymaker for authors of the best-selling “exploit kits,” commercial crimeware designed to be stitched into hacked or malicious sites and exploit a variety of Web-browser vulnerabilities…and have surpassed Adobe flaws as the most successful exploit vehicles…accounting for between 50 and 65 percent of malware installs or “loads”…it seems that many consumers simply aren’t aware that they have this software installed, or that it needs fairly frequent updating…for some reason, Java seems to get a pass from the tech and security press, even though Java flaws consistently are found to be the most useful for attackers who wield these automated exploit kits. If you don’t use Java, consider removing it. You can always reinstall it later if you find you need it. If you do use Java, then please keep it up to date…programs like FileHippo’s Update Checker and Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector can help users stay up to date on the latest security patches…”

8. New Class of Malware Will Steal Behavioral Patterns http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/25859/ It's not hard to find frightening examples of malware which steals personal information, sometimes for the purpose of making it public and at other times for profit…there is another class of information associated with networks that is potentially much more valuable: the pattern of links between individuals and their behavior in the network…An email address associated with an individual who is at the hub of a vibrant social network is clearly more valuable to a marketing company than an email address at the edge of the network. Patterns of contact can also reveal how people are linked…This information would allow a determined attacker to build a remarkably detailed picture of the lifestyle of any individual…many companies already mine the pattern of links in their data for things like recommender systems…The idea would be to release some kind of malware that records the patterns of links in a network…the most effective way of mining data is to have a low infection rate…That's because it takes time to collect good information about an individual's behavior patterns. Also, a slow spread is less likely to be picked up by network administrators and antivirus software…If malware steals your credit card details or online banking passwords, you can easily change them…if a malicious attacker steals your behavioral patterns, there's almost nothing you can do. You can't change your network of friends or family…”

9. Web traffic redirected to China still a mystery http://news.cnet.com/8301-27080_3-20019093-245.html Six months after Web traffic involving popular U.S. sites and e-mail from computers around the globe was re-directed to Chinese servers unnecessarily, Internet watchers are trying to figure out why it happened and how to prevent future mishaps…The first situation happened on March 24, when workers at network operation centers in various parts of the world noticed that traffic to popular sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and about 20 or 30 others was being redirected to servers in China as a result of traffic interception via one of the main DNS root servers…The next month, something similar happened…37,000 routes, or paths to groups of Internet Protocol addresses--representing about 10 percent of the total routes--were diverted through networks in China for 17 minutes…Operators of those servers would have had the capability to read, delete, or edit unencrypted e-mail and other communications passing through those servers during that time, he said. The Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), used by e-commerce sites to encrypt traffic over the Internet, has been compromised so even supposedly protected traffic could have been exposed…What China did was effectively allow itself to be in the path of an enormous amount of traffic that they could then, theoretically, have examined and modified if they so chose…”

10. India developing indigenous computer operating system http://www.zdnet.com/blog/india/indian-govts-plans-for-indigenous-operating-system-gather-momentum/209 The Indian government seems to be taking security risks posed by Western services quite seriously…the Indian government officials made public their plans of developing their own operating system…India’s security agency, the DRDO (Defense Research and Development Organization) has been working on the operating system and has setup a software development center in the nation’s capital. A dedicated work force of 50 software professionals will be working from Bangalore and Delhi. The team will be coordinating with Indian IT companies and institutes like the IIT on developing the operating system…”

11. Philadelphia laptop spying school to cough up $610,000 http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2010/10/school-settles-laptop-spying-case-to-protect-taxpayers.ars “…The Lower Merion School District board of directors released a statement Tuesday morning, saying that it decided to settle in order to move on and "protect the interests of our taxpayers,"…The webcam issue first came to light in February when high school student Blake J. Robbins was disciplined by his assistant principal for engaging in "improper behavior" while at home—the evidence for which was apparently a photograph from the built-in webcam on his school-issued laptop…Even worse, the IT staff responsible for monitoring the student laptops seemingly viewed the whole thing as entertainment, with one admin telling another via e-mail that the photos were "like a little [Lower Merion School District] soap opera." Another responded with, "I know. I love it!"…The school district came to an agreement with its insurance carrier to cover more than $1.2 million in legal fees, and part of that agreement involves paying $175,000 to a trust fund for Blake Robbins, $10,000 to another student, Jalil Hassan, and $425,000 to the two students' legal counsel…the statement hinted that there were parts to the story that the public never heard…”

Mobile Computing & Communicating

12. Car Diagnostics with GoPoint technology GL1 and app http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/how-to/products/gopoint-technology-gl1-app-top-products-2010 Modern cars rely on sophisticated computers to operate their engines and internal electronics. To access these computers, owners typically need to use a scan tool—a device that can cost thousands of dollars…using an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch…the GoPoint scan tool and its accompanying app ($100) offer the kind of diagnostic info that usually requires a trip to the mechanic…DIYers…view trouble codes, turn off the Check Engine light and monitor every electrical signal that goes through the computer in real time…consumers can either save a trip to the mechanic or go to the shop armed with information that could protect them from fraud…Other software developers are already releasing apps that piggyback on the cable…”

13. How to Use Skype Over 3G on Any Android Phone http://www.readwriteweb.com/mobile/2010/10/how-to-use-skype-over-3g-on-any-android-phone.php This week, Skype finally released a version of its mobile application for Android phones. Unfortunately, the fine print revealed the new app was crippled, restricting U.S. users to Wi-Fi only calls…only days after the official Android app's debut, an ingenious developer has hacked the app to work over 3G…before you can use it - you'll need to enabled side-loading…Side-loading is one of Android's great features - it opens up the device for the installation of apps found outside of the Android Market…unlike the Apple iPhone, there's no need for advanced hacking like "jailbreaking" - it's just a setting you can switch off and on. To enable side-loading on your device, you'll need to go into your phone's Settings, then Application Settings…download the hacked Skype APK file and copy it from your computer to your phone via your phone's memory card…some Android phones don't allow direct side-loading of apps..One option is the Android Central Sideload Wonder Machine, which is a program for Windows computers that transfers apps from PC to phone…Remember, too, that Skyping over 3G uses data, so be aware that you don't go over your data plans limits…Verizon users have no need for this hack because Skype partnered with Verizon in March. The Verizon version of Skype has had 3G calling from the start.”

14. Windows Phone 7 to launch Monday amid crowded smartphone market http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9190140/Windows_Phone_7_to_launch_Monday_amid_crowded_smartphone_market “…Microsoft's success with Windows Phone 7 (WP7) is important to its mobile initiatives as well as to the overall future strength of the software giant, which is best known for its desktop operating systems and office productivity software. Analysts regard the WP7 announcement as important to the entire company. "On a scale of one to 10, this announcement is an 11" to both Microsoft in mobile and Microsoft overall, said Ramon Llamas, an IDC analyst…More daunting is how well WP7 can distinguish itself with consumers against Apple's iPhone and an array of Android devices, as well as the persistence of Research In Motion's BlackBerry smartphones with the corporate crowd. "With WP7, Microsoft is trying to catch up to everyone else in mobile…” http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/10/windows-phone-7-4/ “…Windows Phone 7 is aiming to do right a lot of what Google is doing wrong…The crucial part of Microsoft’s new phone strategy is the quality control it imposes onto its hardware partners. Rather than code an operating system and allow manufacturers to do whatever they want with it–like Google is doing with Android–Microsoft is requiring hardware partners to meet a rigid criteria in order to run Windows Phone 7. Each device must feature three standard hardware buttons, for example, and before they can ship with Windows Phone 7, they have to pass a series of tests directed by Microsoft…The effort to control quality and consistency may be just what Microsoft needs to regain some ground in the phone battle…” http://techcrunch.com/2010/10/12/windows-phone/ “…my initial audible reaction was: “wow, I already like this better than Android.”…My main problem with Android is that no matter which device I use, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m using a cheap imitation of an iPhone…It has the same basic apps-in-a-grid UI as the iPhone — it’s just more poorly done (but yes, getting better)…Windows Phone 7 doesn’t feel like a cheap imitation of the iPhone. It feels like something different. That’s the same reason why I liked webOS so much as well. I hated the Pre hardware, but the software was great because it was different. It did some things much better than the iPhone because it did things with the UI that the iPhone (as it’s currently constructed) could never do…Microsoft is sort of taking a middle of the road approach between Apple and Google in the mobile space. They’re working with a lot of partners (like Google), but they’re imposing a fairly strict set of manufacturing rules and rigorously testing to make sure the products are up to standards (like Apple)…just humor me in wondering if Android won’t end up as the PC here? It could be the unstoppable juggernaut that generally is lower quality…” [watch the video – ed. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHlN21ebeak ]

15. Ford Invites More Development of Car Apps http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/207295/ford_invites_more_development_of_car_apps.html Ford is releasing a software development kit to more companies, inviting them to build applications for its Sync in-car voice-activated computer…Pandora and Stitcher Internet radio providers, and OpenBeak, a Twitter app, have built apps…Ford's API gives app developers access to the voice recognition capability of Sync as well as buttons on the steering wheel…Our first approach will be evaluating existing apps that fit into categories that we think are appropriate for safe in-car use…The categories include personalized entertainment, information and news, location-based services, notifications and alerts, financial apps and scheduling…One example could be an application that offers specific information about dangerous intersections…a service that identifies available parking spaces. In a garage, the app could identify a parking spot and let the driver reserve and pay for that spot…A driver on a cross-country road trip might want to look for a restaurant other then the typical fast food spots available off the highway…He imagines an app that would let the driver use a voice command to send out a request for nearby restaurant recommendations to friends on a social-networking site…”

16. Cellphone-Enabled Healthcare http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/health/breakthroughs/cellphone-enabled-healthcare “…Aydogan Ozcan hopes to make microscope lenses obsolete…Bulky and expensive, they rely on finely polished curved glass to refract and focus light. By hacking a cellphone’s software to perform the same function…Ozcan’s cellphone microscope focuses LED light on a slide positioned over the camera’s image sensor. The sensor converts light bouncing off and around a sample of, say, blood cells into electrons and records them as a digital hologram. Image-processing software analyzes the hologram once it’s uploaded to a computer. One application, which will be field-tested in Brazil this year, identifies red blood cells misshaped by the malaria parasite…Unlike a scan by a trained human eye…software analysis is instantaneous. Future apps could screen for disease-causing parasites in drinking water and help monitor the health of HIV patients by counting T-cell levels in their blood…While conventional lens-based microscopy has essentially plateaued, fierce competition causes cellphone-camera technology to advance rapidly even as prices plummet…Ozcan believes, point-of-care facilities in the U.S. will begin replacing expensive and time-consuming lab procedures with cellphone-based diagnostic tools…”

17. With Antennagate over, is Glassgate next for the iPhone 4? http://gdgt.com/discuss/with-antennagate-over-is-glassgate-next-iphone-ani/ Whether or not you've experienced the iPhone 4's famed death grip, or even believe it's a real phenomenon (and based on extensive personal experience I can assure you that it is)…the story ended with a semi-contrite Steve explaining how all cellphones have "weak spots" and that iPhone 4 customers upset with their device's wireless performance would be entitled to a free iPhone case. The offer has since expired, but it had the desired effect: people pretty quickly shut up about the issue, and Apple got back to the business of selling a LOT of iPhones…after Antennagate the iPhone engineering team identified another potential design flaw that appears to have sent them into a quiet lockdown…in what's been described to me as something of a quiet panic…Apple has apparently found that non-bumper style cases -- specifically those that slide onto the iPhone 4, which are occasionally prone to particulate matter getting caught between the rear of the phone and the case -- can cause unexpected scratching that could quickly develop into full-on cracking or even much larger fracturing of the entire rear pane of glass. To put it another way: Apple is afraid you might buy a standard slide-on iPhone case, put it on your phone, and then discover the next time you take it off that the entire back of your device has been shattered by no fault of your own…”

18. Cell phone spectrometers http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/10/in-high-school-chem-labs-every-camera-phone-can-be-a-spectrometer/ University of Illinois chemistry professor Alexander Scheeline has developed software that turns a camera phone, an LED, and a few other cheap tools into a spectrometer…The potential is here to make analytical chemistry a subject for the masses rather than something that is only done by specialists,” Scheeline said. “There’s no doubt that getting the cost of equipment down to the point where more people can afford them in the education system is a boon for everybody.”…By measuring the electromagnetic spectrum a substance absorbs or emits, you can determine its molecular composition…Scheeline has already brought his cellphone spectrometers to high schools in Atlanta and Hanoi. Other high-school chemistry and physics teachers…have also brought Scheeline’s tools to their classrooms…Scheeline…wanted students to build their own spectrophotometry tool, to better understand their instruments and their limitations. Putting together the LED as a light source, diffraction gratings and cuvettes were easy; finding a small sensor to capture the light was hard…Almost everybody has a cellphone, and almost all phones have a camera,“ Scheeline said…Scheeline wrote a Windows desktop program to analyze the students’ JPEG files from their phones. One advantage of this approach over developing a smartphone application to do the analysis directly: Because the phones are used only to take the photographs, it doesn’t matter what operating system a student’s phone is running…”

Open Source

19. Maverick Meerkat: Ubuntu 10.10 arrives http://arstechnica.com/open-source/news/2010/10/ubuntu-1010-arrives-with-impressive-new-netbook-environment.ars Canonical has announced the availability of Ubuntu 10.10, a major update of the popular Linux distribution. The new version introduces the Unity netbook environment, which offers a custom desktop shell that is optimized for ease of use on small displays and has a global menubar to conserve vertical screen space. Ubuntu's…new installer can start downloading updated packages during the early stages of the configuration process in order to save the user from having to run a full update immediately after installation. It also has a new option that lets users choose to automatically install closed-source components, such as multimedia codecs…The Ubuntu One cloud service, which integrates with the Ubuntu desktop and offers features like contact file and contact synchronization, has also been updated. Canonical has changed the pricing structure of the service to make it more competitive. Users can extend their storage capacity in 20GB increments for an additional $2.99 a month…”

20. Sun (Now Oracle) VirtualBox http://www.linuxjournal.com/content/sun-now-oracle-virtualbox-observation “…I’m a Linux person from the word go. But…I have to run Windows, because the company I work for uses 100% Windows software to run their business…to ensure that I can fill out my time sheet, and track all those changes in MS Word documents, I run Windows in a virtual machine…OO is not 100% compatible with MS Word. It’s also not always too swift with track changes…I cannot count the hours I have wasted trying to make an OO Presentation look like anything other than the dog’s dinner when viewed in MS Power Point…I’ve been quite happy with VirtualBox. I run the latest patched version of Windows XP in it…you basically can’t tell that you’re on a virtual machine when you’re using it. However...Today I ran up against one of those apparently persistent, long-lived bugs in VirtualBox…I created the VirtualBox VM that I am currently using about 3 years ago…it seemed like a good idea to use a fixed 10GB virtual disk drive for the XP C: drive in VirtualBox when I was building it…It turns out though that in the three years that I’ve been using this virtual disk image, successive software installs and upgrades have filled my virtual drive C: all the way up to the brim…my automatic SP2 upgrade to MS Office 2007 kept failing because there is not enough space left on the device. I needed a bigger virtual disk…Someone else who had experience this problem figured out a fix and then took the time to write it up for others to use (thanks, Nick!)…Oh, and here’s the catch…VirtualBox can go a bit wonky when re-sizing a VDI with snapshots attached…there has been a bug or two in VirtualBox for years that can (usually does, apparently) prevent a user from deleting snapshot files in virtual machine…Snapshots allow you to roll back to a previous instantiation of your VM. Let’s say your Windows VM gets a virus. No problem: roll back to the snapshot you took a couple of weeks ago…I’m now unable to successfully copy my too-small virtual drive C: over to a larger disk, because the resultant copy is, indeed, wonky…”

21. Two Top Tools for Cracking the PDF Nut http://www.linuxinsider.com/story/70965.html?wlc=1286624794 “…do not assume that one PDF file viewer is no better than another. Two PDF viewing tools that deserve your consideration are Evince and Okular. Each offers features not found in more basic lightweight PDF viewing options…I tend to favor multi-platform apps. I prefer working in Linux but have to remain conversant with Windows and Mac software. Okular…has versions for all three platforms…Okular can read PDF, Postscript, DjVu, CHM, XPS, ePub and others. This greater format flexibility is important in a business environment. The TIFF and CHM formats are often used for faxes, help files, e-books and online documentation. DVI is a device-independent file format. XPS handles windows printing specifications. The big difference between Evince and Okular rests in the interface. Evince has a much simpler design. Okular is more focused on a graphical view…Okular puts a big emphasis on presentation over editing functions. For example, it has the ability to rotate the document, trim the margins and use the document as a presentation…you can navigate through the pages like a PowerPoint or Open Office Presentation slideshow…if you need to add notes for presentations or collaborative projects, Evince comes up a bit short. With Okular you can add annotations to each slide or document page. You can turn note viewing on and off. You cannot do that with Evince…”

22. IBM and Oracle vs. Android? Good luck with that http://www.infoworld.com/t/languages-and-standards/oracle-ibm-pact-cuts-android-the-knees-487 “…you probably didn't think of much of yesterday's announcement that Oracle and IBM will cooperate on an open source implementation of Java. But…Oracle's lawsuit against Google over the Java components underlying the platform is a wild card that could change…the mobile and embedded landscape…the pact with IBM has the potential to seriously undermine the Android platform…Android apps are written in a restricted dialect of the Java language…based on the Harmony project…created under the aegis of the Apache Software Foundation. The vast majority of the code in Harmony was actually written by IBM employees…the core of the IBM-Oracle deal is that those employees will now switch their attention to OpenJDK, Oracle's in-house open source Java implementation. The move completely sucks the wind out of Harmony's sails…That would be a disaster for Android…Google also contributes to the OpenJDK project -- in fact, Google has more developers working on OpenJDK projects than Oracle does. By using a Java implementation from…the Apache Foundation, Android was able to exploit Java's popularity but keep itself at arm's length from much of the platform's byzantine politics. But that didn't keep Oracle's lawyers at bay…”

23. One Billion Files! http://www.linux-mag.com/id/7876 “…Ric Wheeler from Redhat experimented with putting 1 Billion files in a single file system to understand what problems/issues the Linux community might face in the future…data in the cloud (Google, Facebook, etc.) was expected to increases at a rate of 91.8% through 2012. These are astonishing growth rates that are causing file system developers to…start thinking about some fairly outlandish file system requirements…a single MRI instrument can produce 20,000 files in a single scan. In about 9 months they had already produced about 23 million files from a single MRI instrument…I know of a friend’s daughter who just started college and already has over 15,000 pictures of which a majority are on Facebook. With a family of 4, each taking 5,000-10,000 pictures a year, you can easily generate 20,000-40,000 files per year. Then you throw in email, games, papers, Christmas cards, music and other sources of data, a family can easily generate 1 million files a year…we’ve been able to store this much data because 2TB drives are very common, and 3TB drives are right around the corner…How can we search this data? How can we ensure that the data doesn’t become corrupted? (sometimes that means making multiple copies so our storage requirements just doubled). How do we move data to/from our laptops, cell phones, desktops, to a more centrally controlled location? How do we backup all of this data? But perhaps one of the more fundamental questions is, can our storage devices, specifically our file systems, store this much data and still be able to function?…”

24. 50 Open Source Tools to Make Your Life Easier http://blog.worldlabel.com/2010/50-open-source-tools-to-make-your-life-easier-2.html “…Here are 50 of our favorite open source apps that help us do everything from managing pictures on our computer to learning about Jupiter and Mars…Chandler…Tomboy…BasKet Note Pads…Freemind…Sunbird…Dolphin…Songbird…iTiVo…VLC…Handbrake…”

SkyNet

25. Goodbye to an old friend: 1-800-GOOG-411 http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/10/goodbye-to-old-friend-1-800-goog-411.html Back in 2007 we launched 1-800-GOOG-411, a voice-powered directory assistance service that connects you quickly to businesses across the U.S. and Canada. On November 12, 2010, we will shut down the service. GOOG-411 was the first speech recognition service from Google and helped provide a foundation for more ambitious services now available on smartphones…on Gmail you can use the new phone-calling features to call any U.S. business free of charge…if you don’t have the free voice search app pre-installed on your phone, you can download it here…keep an eye out for all the innovation to come.” http://searchengineland.com/goog-411-winds-down-bing-411-parties-on-52630 “…Bing-411 is and has been the best of the free 411 offerings, including GOOG-411. Bing-411 has more content (e.g., directions, traffic, weather, movies)…despite the potential consumer appeal of free DA services — consumers pay $1.75 or more for 411 calls — there has never been significant usage, comparatively speaking. Surveys by Opus Research and comScore found that 66% to 77% of respondents have “never heard of” or “never used” specific free DA options…Gary Price has a nice rundown on the full list of content types offered on Bing-411…”

26. Google Voice: Next killer application? http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/infotech/software/Google-Voice-Next-killer-application-/articleshow/6717033.cms Google releases so many products…that it’s easy to overlook one that’s really special. Google Voice qualifies…Google Voice—a service that’s like a supercharged telephone number that you can use from your cell phone, smartphone, or from Gmail—is gaining traction, offering features that are either unavailable with other phone numbers or available only at a fee…it’s likely to make you rethink your current phone setup —or , at the least, to provide you with some attractive, free options for enhancing how you use your existing lines…Once you have a Google Voice phone number, you can set it up so that any calls you receive on the service will automatically ring all of your other telephones, acting as a real-time call-forwarding system…One feature allows you to set up personalised greetings for particular callers or particular types of callers…a fairly formal greeting for business…friends and family would hear a whimsical voicemail message , complete with music and sound effects…more useful…is Google Voice’s ability to transcribe voicemail messages into text. With this enabled, you could automatically receive an email transcription of a voicemail message while you’re in a meeting…an instant record of all voicemail messages received—thanks to…Google’s call-screening feature…you can preview who is calling and then determine whether to answer the phone or send the person directly to voicemail…Voice also makes it easier than traditional phone services to block particular callers…Google Voice…can be used from most smartphones—removing you from the need to be at your computer to make or receive calls and potentially cutting down drastically on your cell phone bill…once fully rolled out, Google Voice may just be the next must-have app…” http://gadgetwise.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/07/how-to-record-phone-calls-for-free-with-google-voice/?src=me “…Google Voice, will record calls as MP3 audio files for free…Google can only record calls you receive via Google Voice, not those you dial out yourself…Google announces to all parties that the call is being recorded…At any time during an incoming call, press 4 on your phone. A lady’s voice will announce to everyone on the call, “This call is now being recorded.”…After you hang up, Google Voice…will create an inbox entry for the recorded call. You can click to play it in your browser, or download it to your computer as a plain old MP3 file. It’s a lot easier than trying to take notes while you talk…”

27. The Self-Driving Google Car http://techcrunch.com/2010/10/09/google-car/ Google made a stunning revelation this morning: the existence of a secret self-driving car project. Even more amazing: it has been in testing for months, on actual roads across California, and things seem to be running smoothly…We’ve always been optimistic about technology’s ability to advance society, which is why we have pushed so hard to improve the capabilities of self-driving cars beyond where they are today,” Google engineer Sebastian Thrun, who spearheaded the project (and also runs Stanford’s AI Labs, and co-invented Street View), writes today…But there may be more to these automated cars than just an awesomely cool concept…If your car can drive itself, a lot of commuters would be freed up to do other things in the car — such as surf the web…” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/10/science/10google.html “…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…Robot drivers react faster than humans, have 360-degree perception and do not get distracted, sleepy or intoxicated…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…”

28. Chrome OS at 0.9.78.1, rolling out in November? http://ostatic.com/blog/as-goes-chrome-os-so-goes-googles-chrome-browser “...Google Chrome is emerging as the very best browser available…Chrome's evolution will have everything to do with the ongoing development of Google's upcoming Chrome OS…because the Chrome browser interface--and much of its plumbing--form the UI and guts of Chrome OS, the fate of the operating system and its sibling browser are inextricably tied…From the outset, Google has made clear that the OS will cater not just primarily, but exclusively to cloud-based applications, data and computing. As the Chrome browser is developed in tandem with the OS, it too, is likely to take on cloud-based intelligence…It is unlikely that Mozilla will be able to match this level of development and money spent as it revises the Firefox browser over time…Mozilla receives the bulk of its annual revenues from Google…Will Google continue to fund an open source browser that it can ostensibly beat with its own, or will it stay ecumenical…” http://techcrunch.com/2010/10/11/chrome-os-release/ “…bug comments on their Google Code site for the project indicate that the OS has already hit “RC” status…the most recent build would seem to be 0.9.78.1 (or RC 78.1). When that number evens out to “1″, we can probably expect Chrome OS to be ready to go…the Chrome Web Store is due out this month — that will obviously be very useful for Chrome OS as well…the statement from Google: “We are very happy with the progress of Google Chrome OS and expect devices will be available later this year…” [with the deep-pockets lawsuits against Android, the Chrome OS gains potential importance, assuming it doesn’t have the same lawsuit-attracting code that Android has – ed.]

29. Microsoft sues Motorola, targets Google’s Android http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/01/microsoft-activates-android-lawsuit-against-motorola/ Microsoft joined the Android lawsuit club on Friday, accusing Motorola of patent infringements…claiming that Motorola’s Android-based smartphones trample on nine Microsoft patents. The Microsoft technology in question covers tools used for synchronizing e-mail and contacts, scheduling meetings and altering software to changes in battery power and network signal strength…In March, Apple sued the Taiwanese phone maker HTC, saying its Android phones run afoul of iPhone technology patents. And Oracle sued Google in August, claiming that Android nicked technology found in Java…”

30. Google Confirms Acquisition Of ‘Everything Is The Best’ Assets, Including Plannr http://techcrunch.com/2010/10/08/google-confirms-acquisition-of-everything-is-the-best-plannr/ “…Google…sent us an email confirming their acquisition of “Outlook for hipsters” startup Plannr…They have built several innovative mobile applications, and we believe they can help us make a better and more useful mobile experience for our users.”…Having met at Stanford, Eidelson will be Product Manager and Prado will be Software Engineer of a new project they declined to mention at Google…”

31. Marissa Mayer To Leave Search Team, Take Over Location And Local http://techcrunch.com/2010/10/12/marissa-mayer-google/ “…Marissa Mayer…joined Google in 1999 as a very early employee and has been heading its all-important search team for years as Vice President of Search Product and User Experience, where’s she’s played an instrumental role…Mayer is stepping down from her position on the search team to head up Google’s location and local efforts…hopefully means that there are big changes ahead for these Google products. Google’s location service Latitude is rarely even mentioned in the same conversation as Foursquare, despite the fact that Google is selling Android mobile phones like hotcakes…Mayer will be replaced on the search team by Udi Manber…”

General Technology

32. Robotic legs for paraplegics march forward http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-20018972-1.html “…Amanda Boxtel hasn't walked since a skiing accident left her paralyzed nearly two decades ago. In the video below, she stands and walks for the first time in 18 years using eLegs, a 45-pound wearable robotic exoskeleton aimed at getting paraplegics out of their wheelchairs and onto their feet…"To take my first step in the eLegs was just astounding," Boxtel says with tears in her eyes, "because I bent my knee for the first time in 18 years and I placed my heel on the ground. And then I transferred my weight…it was so natural, and that was what really gripped me."…Berkeley Bionics unveiled the eLegs at a press conference in San Francisco today, saying clinical trials of the steel and carbon fiber suit will start next year at select U.S. rehabilitation clinics…”

33. Magnets With Printed Poles Have Endless Engineering Applications http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/engineering/news/strong-magnets-with-printed-poles-have-endless-engineering-applications Larry Fullerton set out to invent a self-assembling magnetic toy that would fuel his grandchildren’s passion for science. Instead, he invented a way to manipulate magnetic fields…Fullerton’s breakthrough tramples the long-held assumption that magnets have two opposing poles…He found..he could…reprogram material to have multiple north and south poles of differing strengths. “People look at magnets as having a north pole and a south pole…I came along from the field of radar and said, ‘Hey, that’s not a magnet—it’s a vector field!’”…Fullerton invented a device…that creates magnetic pixels he calls “maxels.”…Fullerton is now learning how to produce magnets that exhibit different behaviors. The practical applications appear limitless: from precision switches and a new generation of fasteners to robots that can scale walls without touching them…”

34. Gates Foundation Announces $20 Million Fund to Improve Education with Tech http://mashable.com/2010/10/11/gates-foundation-announces-20-million-fund-to-improve-education-with-tech/ “…the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is launching a $20 million grant designed to get entrepreneurs to develop new technologies to help students obtain their college degrees…The Next Generation Learning Challenges fund will be divided into grants ranging from $250,000 to $750,000, focused on technologies that emphasize blended learning models, deepen student engagement and learning through interactive application, high-quality open courseware and learning analytics for monitoring student progress. The deadline for the program is November 17; grants will be announced in March 2011…the nonprofit organization EDUCAUSE…will award grants every six to 12 months…Gates…isn’t limiting the grants to any specific type of organization. He believes that non-profits will primarily apply for grants related to blended learning models, but…hopes there will be a mix of private companies and startups for grants related to deepening student engagement and learning.”

35. How Close Is a Workable Brain-Computer Interface? http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/mimssbits/25854/ “…The ultimate goal of brain-computer interfaces is something direct, noninvasive and relatively high bandwidth…Think about all the times you've seen someone in movies like The Matrix "jack in" to a computer via a gnarly port in their skull. In the real world, however, few people are ever fitted with direct neural interfaces to computers…Scientists led by Eduardo Iáñez of Miguel Hernandez University have for the first time combined a number of desirable features into a single brain-computer interface that is noninvasive, spontaneous and asynchronous…Iáñez and colleagues' approach gets around this limitation by using four different models, each with assumptions that are sometimes the opposite others…however a subject's brain happens to be wired up, all the computer has to figure out is whether they mean "left" or "right" in order to direct a robot arm in two dimensions…”

DHMN Technology

36. Profs bring free "Super WiFi" to working-class Houston http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2010/10/profs-bring-free-white-space-broadband-to-working-class-houston.ars A couple dozen residents of the working-class Pecan Park neighborhood in Houston are about to do something few Americans have yet tried—access the Internet through a wireless connection that uses the empty TV-band "white spaces." And the federal government is picking up the tab…Their goal: expand Rice's free-to-use testbed network in east Houston from Wifi to white spaces. Since 2004, the university has partnered with local nonprofit Technology for All (TFA) to build and maintain a three square kilometer wireless network that serves 3,000 local users, free of charge…To its users, though, the TFA network just looks like free wireless broadband—and they don't care how well a "multi-antenna system" works if it can't deliver a reliable signal into the home. WiFi, which generally operates in unlicensed spectrum at 2.4GHz or 5GHz, doesn't penetrate walls well (or leafy trees, for that matter)…signal strength was a major complaint among users…Operating in empty TV channels, these much lower frequency 500-700MHz signals easily penetrate walls…The research is funded in part by the government, but Knightly and his team also work closely with companies like Microsoft, Cisco, Intel, and Bell Labs on white spaces hardware and software…One of the goals is to do the basic white space research needed to develop comprehensive standards, like the 802.11 standards that have helped to make WiFi ubiquitous. We want to "provide early experiences to industry…For Rice students, who are "deeply involved" in the TFA network, this should be an incredible opportunity to help guide the development of a promising new tech. That's because the research team gets to do so much; as the grant application puts it, "the project team will serve as researchers, the wireless network service provider, the network equipment and protocol designers, and community-technology educators and advocates." To say nothing of the really fun part—students driving around Houston in cars with prototype hardware, doing "mobility experiments.

37. Vuzix ships 920AR augmented reality video sunglasses http://www.marketwatch.com/story/vuzix-begins-shipping-the-first-ever-sunglass-form-augmented-reality-wrap-920ar-video-eyewear-2010-10-06 Vuzix Corporation…is now shipping the PC version of its…Augmented Reality Wrap 920AR sunglasses…Early shipments are being made available to research and industrial organizations and to universities. The company expects to ship to its retail partners in the first quarter of 2011…With the Wrap 920AR video game developers and other publishers can design characters to come to life in your living room. Magazines and books can have animated links back to the web in real time…we anticipate our product will be used for…assembly, maintenance, warehouse management and logistics, medical surgery, training and education…our software development kit…has now shipped to more than 2,700 application developers…early shipments of the Wrap 920AR retail for $1,995, bundled with Vuzix's MAXimum3D(TM) software, a plug-in for Autodesk 3ds Max Design software…” http://gizmodo.com/5444111/hands+on-with-the-vuzix-wrap-920ar-augmented-reality-glasses-fun-shame-about-the-lousy-resolution

38. Smart specs unite world and data http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-11494729 A lightweight pair of augmented reality glasses that overlay the world with digital content…has debuted in Japan. The headset, created by Olympus and phone-maker NTT Docomo, uses augmented reality software on an attached phone…Researchers…managed to whittle an earlier "AV Walker" prototype down from 91g to no more than 20g…The retinal display projects text and images directly into the user's peripheral vision, allowing the wearer to maintain eye contact with whatever they are observing normally…As the glasses are attached to a smartphone with AR software, an acceleration sensor and a direction sensor, the AR Walker knows approximately what you are looking at and provides augmented information relevant to where you may be…The display can also be used to give directions with arrows and if a person lifts their head up to the sky a weather forecast is automatically protected into their peripheral vision…Augmented reality apps for smartphones such as Laya and Wikitude are already having some success as guides to our immediate surroundings. But as this usually involves holding up and pointing the mobile's camera in the direction you are looking AV Walker and its like have the added benefit of accessing information about your surroundings without altering your natural behaviour…” http://www.electronista.com/articles/10/10/06/glasses.connect.to.cellphones/

39. Revealed world: AR glasses http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/big-idea/14/augmented-reality Imagine bubbles floating before your eyes, filled with cool info about stuff you see on the street. Science fiction? Nope. It's augmented reality. And one day it'll be as routine as browsing the Web…Early forms of AR have already arrived. After downloading software, owners of smart phones like the iPhone and Droid can use the built-in GPS, compass, and camera to find information about nearby ATMs and restaurants, the closest subway stop, and other points of interest in some cities. With AR you might aim a phone's camera at a restaurant, and on the screen you'll see not just the venue but also a review hovering above it…mechanics…don headgear that projects animated 3-D computer graphics onto the equipment under repair, labeling parts and giving step-by-step guidance…augmented-reality glasses…from…Vuzix …look like wraparound sunglasses, except you can't see directly through the lenses. Instead, small cameras centered on the outside of each lens feed continuous video through a mobile computer (say, an iPhone) to an LCD screen mounted inside each lens. So you look at the world indirectly, through the two tiny cameras…The price for the glasses with cameras is about $600…the glasses combine computer input with the live video, creating a single stereoscopic field of view on the LCD, where computer graphics merge with the real world…for many users, AR might add to the toll that distracting technologies take on personal interaction…What will the consequences be of immersing yourself in a world that is isolated from the person standing next to you?…”

40. Next Gen Digital Sight for the Blind http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/health/breakthroughs/next-gen-digital-sight-could-cure-blindness Barbara Campbell…tomorrow…becomes the 25th person in the world to receive the Argus II artificial retina. In a healthy human eye, 125 million photoreceptors at the back of the retina act like the world’s most sophisticated digital camera, functioning in a range of light conditions separated by 10 to 12 orders of magnitude…Barbara has retinitis pigmentosa, a disease caused by any one of 100 different gene defects that trigger the deterioration of those photo receptors…“My sixth grade teacher first noticed it,” Barbara tells me—as a child, she had trouble filling in the bubbles next to answers on standardized tests…Every few years it would get a little worse and a little worse and a little worse.” In her 30s, Barbara finally started using a white cane—but only after she’d fallen down an open manhole…There was a ladder so I was able to climb out,” she says…In the morning, a surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital will make an incision in Barbara’s left eye and lift the saran-wrap-like membrane that covers it…He’ll then suture a small electronics package, about the size of a watch battery, to the outside wall of the eye and secure it with a piece of silicone rubber…Next, he’ll thread a thin cable through an incision in the wall; the cable connects the electronics to an array of 60 electrodes. After removing the vitreous humor that fills the inside of the eye—a material that’s essentially Jell-O, minus the sugar and food coloring—the surgeon refills the eye with fluid so that he can manipulate the array onto the retina, tacking it in place with what is perhaps the world’s tiniest pushpin. The whole procedure will take 4 to 5 hours…”

Leisure & Entertainment

41. Soccer Ball Makes Electricity During the Game http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/engineering/gonzo/soccer-ball-that-makes-electricity-during-the-game “…Four undergraduate students at Harvard University decided to harvest the kinetic energy of soccer, the world’s most popular sport…After just 15 minutes of play, their sOccket ball could provide families in sub-Saharan Africa…with 3 hours of LED light, a clean, efficient alternative to kerosene lamps…When the sOccket rolls, a magnetic slug slides back and forth inside an inductive coil in the ball, generating power that is stored in a capacitor…sOccket 2.0 has an embedded DC jack and weighs only 5 ounces more than a FIFA-regulated ball. A future version should hold enough juice—3.7 volts at a capacity of 600 milliamps per hour—to charge a basic cellphone. The women partnered with a manufacturer in Cape Town…”

42. You have been eaten by a grue on your Kindle http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2010/10/you-have-been-eaten-by-a-grue-vintage-text-based-games-on-your-kindle.ars “…gamers are formatting vintage text-based adventure games—at the time of this writing, the legendary Zork I-III and 1988’s less-legendary Mini-Zork—for the Kindle and other dedicated e-readers…"Whispernet combined with the handy keyboard and the limiting browser made the Kindle perfect for text-based adventures."…E-readers’ slightly older but tech-inclined demographic definitely includes lovers of vintage games. And the ability to save and reload games using Amazon’s Whispernet is a nice feature. Are the Zork games at times frustrating? Yes—maybe even more so on the Kindle… (You occasionally have to enter in numbers, and the alt+Q=1 shortcut is a lifesaver there.) Are they immersive and addicting? Yes…”

43. Constant Danger Fuels Addictive Indie Game Minecraft http://www.wired.com/gamelife/2010/10/minecraft-danger/ Lots of videogames let you build things, but hot new indie gem Minecraft adds an addictive twist: the constant threat that your elaborate creations will be destroyed by zombies, skeletons and other nasties…Players manipulate the game’s low-res environment, terraforming the earth and painstakingly crafting structures block by block — anything from giant castles and roller coasters to replicas of the Swedish parliament building…when the browser-based game’s ever-advancing world shifts from day to night every 10 minutes, Minecraft is overrun with killer monsters. In the scuffle, players’ creations can be destroyed. They can die and re-spawn without their loot…Peril is ever-present in the game, which is so difficult and unforgiving that users have put together elaborate tutorials just to show newbies how to last a day. Just as in real life, there’s no “Undo” in Minecraft. “There are a few different types of enemy mobs in Survival mode: skeletons, creepers, spiders and zombies,” says Valerie Hutchins, a 26-year-old teacher from Mission Viejo, California, who built a massive version of the starship Enterprise in the game…”

44. Amazon Kindle Singles: longer than an article, cheaper than a book http://www.digitaltrends.com/gadgets/amazon-kindle-singles-longer-than-an-article-cheaper-than-a-book/ “…Amazon…will soon be launching Kindle Singles, a new section of its Kindle Store that will offer pieces longer than a typical magazine feature article but shorter than an average book…Amazon envisions Kindle Singles fulfilling a market niche for works in the 10,000 to 30,000-word range—say 30 to 90 typical printed pages, about twice the length of a feature inThe New Yorker. Amazon characterizes the size of a Kindle SIngle as a perfect length to lay out a well-researched “killer idea,” without necessarily having to pad it out into a full book. “Ideas and the words to deliver them should be crafted to their natural length, not to an artificial marketing length that justifies a particular price or a certain format…”

45. New game characters could be able to 'think for themselves' http://www.theengineer.co.uk/news/new-game-characters-could-be-able-to-think-for-themselves/1005375.article A new research project will attempt to make computer games more realistic, using a recently developed type of computer algorithm…The algorithm simulates the effects of a large number of possible actions in order for the computer to decide what to do. This could allow computer-controlled characters to do things that they have not been specifically programmed to do…The research will use a version of Monte Carlo Tree Search…MCTS works by repeatedly and randomly simulating what will happen if it makes a series of moves in the game, and uses this information to calculate the value of individual moves and decide which one to make…MCTS could typically simulate around 100,000 games or more before making each move…This differs from traditional forms of computer game artificial intelligence that examine every possible move but don’t look as far ahead in the game…MCTS enables the computer to look far enough ahead to find the ultimate likely outcome of a move…The appeal for game designers is that MCTS could be dropped onto any system and generate intelligent, creative actions, said Jeff Rollason, chief executive officer of game company…‘As a gamer, I’d much prefer if the non-player character really did seem to be getting the better of me − and not just through physical skills in the game but by making better decisions…”

Economy and Technology

46. Pivotal Labs http://gigaom.com/2010/10/07/inside-pivotal-labs-the-agile-force-behind-twitter-and-groupon/ Pivotal Labs is…sort of an enigma. The company’s San Francisco office is home to the hyped-up distributed social networking effort Diaspora; its work has been credited for shaping Twitter’s development culture; and its clients include Groupon, Gowalla and Best Buy’s “Remix” API project…The office has all the trappings of a startup incubator: Ping-Pong games, ample snacks, big computer monitors, bike racks and clumps of scruffy young dudes. But Pivotal’s…a consultancy that brings technical teams into its space to grow them, train them and help them build their products…in the last few years, it has created a sort of focused training program for technology startups and projects within larger companies. Say you have an idea for a company and raise funding for it. You then come to Pivotal, which takes on any developers already working on your project and hires new ones to round out the team. Your technical folks come into the Pivotal office every day at 9:00 a.m., sit down at a desk with a “Pivot” from the company’s team, and work in tandem as pair programmers for the full day until 6:00 p.m. At the end of period of about 2-7 months, you have a trained agile development team for building products with Ruby on Rails, as well as lot of progress on your product…”

47. No Free Stuff Here: At Angie's List, Members Pay http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703843804575534493983291732.html “…22-year-old Angie Hicks…venture capitalist Bill Oesterle, a former boss from a college internship…co-founded Angie's List, a review service of home-improvement companies designed to take the angst out of hiring contractors…Angie's list has grown to more than one million members in some 200 cities and serves up reviews in 500 categories, primarily home and healthcare services. In the last two years alone, the 400-employee Indianapolis company raised $81.5 million from investors; it expects revenue—from membership fees and select advertising from highly rated service providers—to reach $60 million this year…After my internship, Bill and his family moved to Columbus, Ohio, and they were trying to renovate a 1920s home but having trouble finding contractors…we started talking about the difficulty consumers have in finding reliable service companies…So, I moved to Columbus and we started Angie's List as a call-in service for reviews about home improvement and lawn care…Every new member I signed up, I got a list and a review of every service company they had used…I worked by myself the first year and signed up a thousand members in Columbus that year. In the beginning, I went door-to-door selling the membership…I was a pretty reserved, quiet person, so that was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I remember one of the first houses I went to, her name was Patty. She was so excited that she bought two memberships, one for herself and one for her son. Then she asked me: How many memberships do you have now? I said, 'Well, that makes three!'…we've found consumers are willing to pay for good information. In new markets we do offer a free one-year membership to build reviews, but then switch to a paid model. And we focus [mostly] on services with a high cost of failure, like in health care and home improvement. For example, if I have my roof repaired but it's a bad job, it can leak and lead to a string of other problems. That's where consumers are willing to pay for high-quality [reviews]. And we don't allow anonymous reviews…”

48. Is Microtask the Future of Work? http://gigaom.com/2010/10/08/is-microtask-the-future-of-work/ Crowdsourcing is often used for fairly menial tasks: correcting databases, screening offensive images, transcribing audio. But what if you could make those little bits of human labor even more menial, discrete and interchangeable?...Microtask…software divides work into highly standardized tasks — on the level of validating the data in a single form field — that can be completed in 1 to 2 seconds. Unlike something like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, workers don’t get to choose their next project; Microtask queues up new tasks for as long as the person works…Microtask sells its product in two ways…for example, an existing insurance company customer outsources the process of entering information…to a division of its own company in the Baltics…where labor is one-fifth as expensive as at its home office. Or, Microtask will use its own worker pool and extract 10-15 percent of the cost of labor as its cut…Miettinen…thinks the next big thing could be outsourcing labor to social games. “Game designers are the experts in motivating people and getting them to do repetitive stuff,…Zynga could contract Microtask to have its FarmVille players complete menial tasks, rather than pay money or credits, to buy virtual goods to help tend their farms within the game…”

49. PayPal ‘invests’ $16+ million in TradeShift http://techcrunch.com/2010/10/11/paypal-invests-tradeshift-lanng/ “…e-invoicing company, TradeShifthas just secured between €12 to €15 million euros from PayPal ($16 to $21 million dollars). The deal, the source says, was done quietly, with PayPal doling out the euros in the form of a loan for TradeShift…TradeShift, which has been referred to as “Skype for invoicing”…is an e-invoicing company that is trying to change the way businesses manage their online transactions. The startup currently offers a free platform that allows clients to take advantage of dynamic invoicing—a system whereby Tradeshift tracks exchange rates, and when the rates are most advantageous, takes funds and makes purchases. TradeShift also offers tracking tools and a permanent repository to store all current and past invoices, allowing you to pull up any previous invoice within 5 seconds…”

Civilian Aerospace

50. Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo Makes First Glide Flight http://www.wired.com/autopia/2010/10/virgin-galactic-spaceshiptwo-makes-first-glide-flight/ Seven months after making its first captive flight attached to its mother ship White Knight Two, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo (aka VSS Enterprise) completed its first solo glide flight today touching down on runway 30 at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California…Virgin Galactic boss Sir Richard Branson recently announced he expects the first passenger flights to suborbital space in SpaceShipTwo to happen within the next 18 months…today’s first glide flight of SpaceShipTwo lasted 11 minutes after the space craft was released from its mother ship Eve at 45,000 feet. Scaled Composites test pilot and director of flight operations Pete Siebold was at the controls, with Mike Alsbury as co-pilot…”

51. Caribbean Island to Offer Rides Into Space http://www.wired.com/autopia/2010/10/carribbean-island-to-offer-rides-to-space/ XCOR Aerospace is teaming up with the southern Caribbean island of Curacao to develop a space port for future suborbital tourist and scientific flights. The agreement is with the territorial government of Curacao and a group of Dutch investors with the hopes of offering flights in 2014. The joint venture is known as Space Experience Curacao, or SXC. The group will lease one of XCOR’s Lynx spacecraft. The Lynx is a small two-seat spacecraft (pictured above) designed to launch to more than 100 kilometers (about 328,000 feet)…The cost of a single ride is expected to be $98,000…XCOR is developing the Lynx and plans to begin test flights in 2011. Initial space flights will take place from the Mojave Air and Space Port before offering rides from other locations. The company also has an agreement to offer rides in South Korea beginning in 2013…”

52. Selling the $200,000 ticket http://www.alamogordonews.com/ci_16273289 “…surfing down a dune of white sand, 60 travel agents took a load off their feet Tuesday as they took turns riding sled discs to the bottom of the slope. A rumble in the air made all 60 go silent as they watched and pointed at the F-22 moving above White Sands National Monument…Virgin Galactic accredited agent…Michael Broadhurst with Vision 2000 is based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and has seven clients already signed up for the ride…I sense there is just a growing realization this (space tourism) is happening fairly soon," Broadhurst said…"For every one person on a space flight there will be six or more family members," he said…there are several classes of tickets…a "voyager class" ticket…means her client put $20,000 down with the balance to be paid at the time of the flight. The "founders group" tickets went to the first to pay the full $200,000, and these, 100 of them, have been sold out…”

Supercomputing & GPUs

53. GPU Computing Is Coming of Age http://www.hpcwire.com/blogs/Three-Years-On-GPU-Computing-Is-Coming-of-Age-104537274.html “…general-purpose GPU (GPGPU) computing has become a technology disrupter in HPC, and NVIDIA is the company driving it…But the technology, and especially the business, is still in its early stages. It was only in June of 2007 that NVIDIA announced its first Tesla GPU products for technical computing. Although AMD pushed its GPU FireStream products into market that same year, it is NVIDIA that has set the pace in this market…NVIDIA…pushed the GPU faster than I had expected…He credits a lot of this to the enthusiasm of the developer and user community.The high-end features coalesced in the current Fermi generation, like support for ECC memory and serious double-precision performance, were always on the roadmap, he said. They were just put in ahead of schedule because the community was asking for them. The first-ever Tesla GPU-equipped cluster was shipped to the Max Planck Institute in 2008 to support Professor Holger Stark's work in understanding the 3D structure of "macromolecules."…the TSUBAME 1.2 system…became the first GPU-equipped supercomputer on the TOP500 list…NVIDIA sees itself more as a catalyst for the community, rather than a market leader…Beyond straight HPC, GPU computing is now being employed in everything from computer vision to business intelligence. Like the CPU, the GPU is now in that territory where developers are adapting to the chip, rather than the other way around. "We could not have written the list of applications that are here at GTC," Keane told me. "Some are obvious, like pattern recognition and graphics. But things like neuron research? We wouldn't have come up with that…”

54. Lower Costs Pushing Adoption of High-Performance Computing http://esj.com/Articles/2010/09/28/Lower-Costs-Pushing-HPC.aspx “…high-performance computing costs are dropping -- a move that is greatly expanding the relevance of HPC and offering new applications in other industries. The forces driving down the cost of HPC systems are making HPC more accessible to organizations in the same way the widespread adoption of cell phones worked in the consumer market…industries that seemed to have fewer applications for HPC systems are finding ways to leverage them to improve their products, services, and solutions. Industry experts expected that the dropping cost would level off -- but the industry has instead responded by expanding the use of HPC systems into new applications…The questions the industry is trying to answer now have to do with the choice of processors for parallel computing. Is it better to use traditional serial processors such as x86 CPUs or use massively parallel processors such as GPUs and accelerators?...Distributed parallel computing has put the burden solely on the computer programmers to redefine the software to take advantage of distributed parallel systems. Even with advancements in software tools, this is difficult. A paradigm shift is coming again with the advent of GPGPUs with many cores, representing even greater challenges to programmers for rewriting existing code to take advantage of their hardware characteristics…With Intel and AMD trying to outdo one another on which company can fit more CPU cores in a CPU package, we have a third viable option with the emergence of nVIDIA and their Fermi GPUs. Efforts that nVIDIA have made in the HPC space cannot be understated. Massively parallel processing is here to stay…Memory is probably the single most important factor that affects the performance of an HPC system…the further you go down the IO hierarchy, the less impact you have to the overall system performance (generally). With the increasing number of CPU cores in the same CPU package, having access to very fast, low latency and high bandwidth memory is critical to ensuring that HPC applications run optimally. This is one of several reasons why GPU computing is showing so much promise in HPC…”

55. NVIDIA Announces New Quadro Graphics Solutions http://www.hpcwire.com/offthewire/NVIDIA-Announces-New-Quadro-Graphics-Solutions-104281749.html “…The mid-range Quadro 2000 with 192 NVIDIA CUDA processing cores and the entry-level Quadro 600 with 96 CUDA processor cores now bring…Fermi architecture to all segments of the market. The Quadro 2000 delivers 1.5 times the geometry performance of the previous Quadro graphics processing unit (GPU) mid-range solution and utilizes the new NVIDIA Scalable Geometry Engine technology to deliver dramatically higher performance across leading CAD and DCC applications such as SolidWorks and Autodesk 3ds Max…Both the Quadro 2000 and Quadro 600 feature 1GB of graphics memory and are compatible with the new NVIDIA 3D Vision Pro active shutter-glasses solution…NVIDIA Quadro 2000 and Quadro 600 are built on industry standards, including OpenGL 4.1, DirectX 11, Shader Model 5.0, DirectCompute and OpenCL…these new solutions feature NVIDIA Mosaic Technology, which will enable any application to utilize one or more Quadro professional graphics solutions to scale across up to eight high-resolution displays. Whether the application is CATIA, 3ds Max or PowerPoint or Google Earth, users just simply hit the Maximize button and the application will seamlessly span across all connected displays…”


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