2010/12/28

NEW NET Issues List for 28 Dec 2010

Below is the final list of issues for the Tuesday, 28 December 2010, NEW NET (Northeast Wisconsin Network for Economy and Technology) 7:00 - 9:00 pm weekly gathering. This week we're at Sergio's Restaurant again, 2639 South Oneida Street, Appleton, Wisconsin, USA.

The ‘net

1. Skype Supernode Snafu – Dec 2010 http://gigaom.com/2010/12/23/skype-ceo-tony-bates-i-am-sorry-here-is-an-update/ Tony Bates…has had better days. For the past 24 hours, he has been coordinating the efforts to bring one of the world’s largest communication networks back up: Skype…16.5 million of 25 million concurrent users are back online…The Group Video services and offline IM capabilities are not going to be working for some time, mostly because Skype is using those servers as supernodes…This outage, if anything, has made it even more clear how reliant people are on the service…A handful of Windows clients failed and set off a chain reaction that brought down Skype…” http://www.disruptivetelephony.com/2010/12/understanding-todays-skype-outage-explaining-supernodes.html “…Skype was down today…A ton of articles were written…pointing back to Skype's blog post…Some of these computers are what we call ‘supernodes’ – they act a bit like phone directories for Skype…Under normal circumstances, there are a large number of supernodes available. Unfortunately, today, many of them were taken offline by a problem affecting some versions of Skype…If you go back and read my primer on the technology behind Skype and P2P networks, I described supernodes as Skype clients that are on the public Internet and NOT behind a firewall or NAT device that broker the communication between two Skype clients…The supernodes…create the P2P "overlay network"... the "cloud"... that connects all Skype clients to each other…if you are running Skype on a computer - and you are NOT behind a firewall, there is a chance that your computer could become a supernode…the cool part about the "self-healing" aspect of the supernode architecture is that if a supernode goes down, Skype clients will simply attach to another supernode…Was it a software update that somehow affected the supernode algorithm?...My guess would be that there might also have been "cascading failures" in this scenario…when a supernode came back online, it may have been overwhelmed by the quantity of connection requests and soon failed again…Skype's blog post says this…Our engineers are creating new ‘mega-supernodes’ as fast as they can, which should gradually return things to normal…The information in this article is based on what technical material Skype has made publicly available plus information a number of us have been gathering over the years. It may or may not be accurate…”

2. No Signal: Homes Often Baffle Wi-Fi From Routers http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704774604576035691589888786.html “…My apartment has more than a dozen devices that feed off the network: two laptops, a printer, an e-reader, wireless speakers, two smartphones, an iPad and more. Yet getting gadgets to connect to my two-year-old wireless router is a dark art. I can surf the Web on the street in front of my house, yet can't get a signal sitting in bed…So I tested four top-of-the-line home wireless routers, each of which features the latest generation dual-band "wireless N" technology…None of the routers could deliver a 100% consistent wireless experience…One came close, thanks to a controversial signal-boosting feature that could potentially interrupt my neighbors' networks: the Netgear WNDR3700, which retails for $169.99…My tests weren't scientific studies…I conducted real-world torture tests designed to see how the routers might perform in challenging scenarios…I didn't test devices known as repeaters…because I wanted to see how far I could push the routers on their own…All the routers I tested, which included the $179 Apple Airport Extreme, feature a technology called simultaneous dual band. This means they really run two networks…the technology made little impact in my tests, because many devices don't yet support the new frequency, 5 GHz…Moreover, 5 GHz comes with a drawback: its signals usually can't travel as far through walls as the older technology, transmitting at 2.4 GHz…the biggest Wi-Fi problem I encountered was getting the network to reach the nooks and crannies of the house…To Mark's upstairs bedroom, the Netgear and Cisco routers could stream a video with ease, but the Apple would sometimes slow to a crawl…the Apple router was sometimes one-tenth the speed of the Netgear and Cisco…only the Netgear router was able without interruption to stream music from an iMac to speakers about 50 feet and five walls away…With the Netgear router, I experimented with a setting called "performance mode." Using it significantly improved the reliability of the network in some parts of my apartment…"channel bonding" or "20/40" mode, is controversial because it essentially pushes signals from your neighbors' Wi-Fi networks out of the way. The Wi-Fi Alliance…now requires routers to switch to a neighbor-friendly mode if other networks are around—but this Netgear router was certified prior to that rule. The other router makers say they either don't offer the option, or automatically downscale when there are neighboring networks…”

3. 150 Friends http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/26/opinion/26dunbar.html “…Facebook has revolutionized how we relate to one another…These sites may have allowed us to amass thousands of “friends,” but they have not yet devised a way to cut through the clunky, old-fashioned nature of relationships themselves. Our circle of actual friends remains stubbornly small, limited not by technology but by human nature…The critical component in social networking is the removal of time as a constraint. In the real world…we devote 40 percent of our limited social time each week to the five most important people we know, who represent just 3 percent of our social world and a trivially small proportion of all the people alive today. Since the time invested in a relationship determines its quality, having more than five best friends is impossible…Put simply, our minds are not designed to allow us to have more than a very limited number of people in our social world…no matter what Facebook allows us to do, I have found that most of us can maintain only around 150 meaningful relationships, online and off…a fact incorporated into the new social networking site Path, which limits the number of friends you can have to 50…Until relatively recently, almost everyone on earth lived in small, rural, densely interconnected communities, where our 150 friends all knew one another…the past century has worn away at that interconnectedness. As we move around the country and across continents…our list of 150 consists of a half-dozen subsets of people who barely know of one another’s existence, let alone interact…Emotional closeness declines by around 15 percent a year in the absence of face-to-face contact, so that in five years someone can go from being an intimate acquaintance to the most distant outer layer of your 150 friends. Facebook and other social networking sites allow us to keep up with friendships that would otherwise rapidly wither away. And they do something else…they allow us to reintegrate our networks so that, rather than having several disconnected subsets of friends, we can rebuild, albeit virtually, the kind of old rural communities where everyone knew everyone else…”

Security, Privacy & Digital Controls

4. Little Brother (Doctorow) is here: American travel freedoms fade faster as TSA arrests people, rail and hotels join airport security measures http://www.kvue.com/news/local/Woman-arrested-at-ABIA-after-refusing-enhanced-pat-down-112354199.html “…Claire Hirschkind…is a rape victim and…has a pacemaker-type device…says her constitutional rights were violated…But the Transportation Security Administration disagrees. Hirschkind was hoping to spend Christmas with friends in California…Hirschkind said because of the device in her body, she was led to a female TSA employee and three Austin police officers…Hirschkind agreed to the pat down, but on one condition. "I told them, 'No, I'm not going to have my breasts felt,' and she said, 'Yes, you are,'" said Hirschkind. When Hirschkind refused, she says that "the police actually pushed me to the floor, (and) handcuffed me. I was crying by then. They drug me 25 yards across the floor in front of the whole security."…Other travelers…say they empathize with Hirschkind, but the law is the law. "I understand her side of it…but it is for our protection so I have no problems with it," said Gwen Washington…"It's unfortunate that that happened and she didn't get to fly home, but it makes me feel a little safer," said Emily Protine…” http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/dec/26/us-focusing-more-on-rail-hotel-security/ The U.S. has made air travel safer over the past year for Americans and is sharpening its focus on potential terrorists attacks on trains, subways and…hotels, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Sunday…” http://www.politico.com/blogs/politicolive/1210/Napolitano_see_something_say_something_campaign_isnt_Big_Brother.html The federal government's "If You See Something, Say Something" campaign to encourage citizen vigilance against terrorism threats doesn't amount to a Big Brother-style spying effort…Janet Napolitano said in an interview aired Sunday. "It just sounds very Big Brother to me, turning in the next door neighbor." CNN's Candy Crowley said to Napolitano…"It's not," Napolitano insisted. "It depends on the common sense of the American people…Crowley suggested that the type of activity that citizens are supposed to report is totally undefined, but Napolitano argued that…people can figure out for themselves what merits reporting…” http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40614732/ns/us_news-airliner_security/ “…the pat-down of India's ambassador Meera Shankar last week at a Mississippi airport…has created an uproar, with India objecting to what U.S. officials say was a by-the-book procedure that does not exempt diplomats…Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the incident is being examined…The U.S. State Department said diplomats are subject to the same basic screening as other passengers at U.S. airports…Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she had looked into the matter and concluded that "it was by the book…” http://www.aolnews.com/2010/12/06/baywatch-beauty-feels-overexposed-after-tsa-scan/ “…D'Errico said. "I immediately asked why we were having to go through an extra search, and no one else was being made to do so…In a very sarcastic tone, and still holding me by the elbow, the agent responded, 'Because you caught my eye, and they' -- pointing to the other passengers -- 'didn't.'"…it is my personal belief that they pulled me aside because they thought I was attractive…They never even told me what they were doing at all, or that I had any choice," she said. "It was just, 'Stand here. Raise your arms above your head like this.' They never told me that they were going to be conducting a full-body scan, or that I had the option of being searched instead…I would have opted for the search…After the search, I noticed that the male TSA agent who had pulled me out of line was smiling and whispering with two other TSA agents and glancing at me…her boyfriend, Roy J. Bank, the president of Merv Griffin Entertainment…says…her getting additional screening and the line full of people I saw around us not getting additional screening is not making us any safer!"…TSA decides for you that you will consent to being scanned or felt up, or you simply won't be allowed your constitutional right to travel from one place to another freely…This could, and I'm sure does, happen to other women," she said. "It isn't right to hide behind the veil of security and safety in order to take advantage of women, or even men for that matter, so that you can see them naked. It's a misuse of power and authority…” http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/whistleblower-pilot-shadows/story?id=12481594 The airline pilot who spoke out anonymously after he was reprimanded by the TSA for posting videos showing security flaws at a major airport said today he…still feared retaliation from the Transportation Safety Administration, but he wanted to keep his job as a pilot…he took a series of videos with his cell phone to show major flaws he says still exist in airport security systems. The videos show how easily ground crews at San Francisco International Airport were able to access secure areas…airport security is kind of a farce. It's only smoke and mirrors so you people believe there is actually something going on here…he said he'd had enough, and wanted to do what he could to draw attention to what he says is still a major problem in airport security. "People don't understand that when they walk through the TSA checkpoints, well, they are getting, now they are getting a groping, but they don't understand that all those people you see outside, the ground personal, all the caterers, all the airline cleaners, they get virtually nothing…He first posted the videos to YouTube on November 28. Three days later, he says, four federal air marshals and two local sheriff's deputies showed up at his home to question him about the footage. The pilot filmed the conversation, during which the federal marshals confiscated his federally-issued firearm…It was a bit of overkill. I could have just dropped my badge and weapon in a FedEx box and FedExed it in for 20 bucks," said the pilot. "They sent six people over to pick up a handgun and a badge…” http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40421711/ns/travel-travel_tips/ “…Travelers may be one of the most monitored groups of Americans. Whether it’s cameras in airports, hotels or train stations, software that tracks your activity when you book online, or applications that record your customer-service calls for "quality assurance purposes," you can be assured that someone is watching when you’re away…now travelers are watching back. Customers are taping calls and customer service interactions. They’re photographing hotels and berths that don’t meet their expectations and using the images and recordings to get the service they want. "Cell phones can easily capture the experience in real time and be uploaded to the Internet to be shared with the world…Consider what happened when one traveler suspected his car rental agent might renege on a promise to charge "no additional fees" on his vehicle: He recorded him with his phone. Later, when he was presented with a bill littered with surcharges, he called the agent and suggested the employee had been less than truthful. "He replied, 'I never said that',"…I played back the recording to him on the phone. He removed the extras from the bill."…TSA…does not prohibit anyone from videotaping at screening locations…Kim Usiak’s friend had a disagreement with an airline ticket agent…she pulled out her iPhone and began recording the conversation. The airline employee threatened to call the police. While Florida law states that both parties in a conversation must consent to being recorded, there’s an exception for "in-person" communications in a public place, where you might reasonably be overheard. The police sided with her friend…The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press publishes a helpful list of state statutes…Cameras embedded in a baseball cap, a book, or pen can be useful in documenting interactions with staff," said John Nardizzi, an attorney and security expert…Easy to use, legal, relatively inexpensive…the law is sometimes different when it comes to video recording…you can frequently legally record something with video that you wouldn’t be able to as audio-only…One solution to this problem may be a new federal law that explicitly allows people to monitor companies that monitor us…it would allow travelers to access the recorded conversations that are routinely taped for "quality assurance purposes" so that they can verify what a representative said — or didn’t say — in a call…” [more than you really wanted to know about TSA groping and travel hassles, but the freedom to travel in America anonymously and without government interference is quickly disappearing. Five year from now, kids in America will assume people always had to show their national ID card and be scanned/groped to use any public transportation, stay in a hotel or cross state borders. – ed. ]

5. What Happens When You Steal a Hacker's Computer http://hackaday.com/2010/12/25/a-hackers-marginal-security-helps-return-stolen-computer/ “…a hacker…was robbed and they got his desktop computer…Because of a peculiar combination of his computer’s configuration, and the stupidity of the criminal, he got it back…he had set up the machine to use a dynamic DNS service, updated via a script. Since the criminal didn’t wipe the hard drive he was able to find the machine online…he discovered that he could SSH into it, and even use VNC to eavesdrop on the new owner. This, along with a keylogger he installed, got him all the information he needed; the guy’s name, birth date, login and password information for websites, and most importantly his street address. He passed along this juicy data to police and they managed to recover the system…”

6. Big Brotheresque App Kills Your Automotive Anonymity http://www.wired.com/autopia/2010/12/new-app-marks-the-end-of-automotive-anonymity/ A new app…lets frustrated drivers vent their anger at boneheaded motorists…it could raise your insurance premium. It’s like having thousands of unmarked police cars and speed cameras on every roadway, and it could spell the end of anonymity behind the wheel. DriveMeCrazy…is a voice-activated app that encourages drivers to report bad behavior by reciting the offender’s license plate into a smartphone. The poor sap gets “flagged” and receives a virtual “ticket,” which may not sound like much until you realize all the information — along with date, time and location of the “offense” — is sent to the DMV and insurance companies. Anyone can write a ticket, even pedestrians and cyclists…Even if you don’t use the program…you can’t opt out of being flagged if someone thinks you’re driving like a schmuck. Inghelbrecht is emphatic in saying he sees no privacy issues with the app…People think they can do bad things on the road because they think they can get away with it,” he said…If drivers know they’re being watched by smartphone-wielding vigilantes, Inghelbrecht figures they will refrain from aggressive behavior for fear of getting flagged. His goal is…700 lives saved annually…“The ability for monetization is actually really strong,” he said. “I don’t want to get into too much detail, but…Insurance companies rely on buying your driving record from your state’s motor-vehicle bureau, and they use predictive proxy data such as marital status, homeownership and ZIP code to determine your risk. Inghelbrecht sees insurance companies having great interest in a driver-behavior database that…Of course, the wisdom of the crowd may not hold up under the scrutiny of state regulators or insurance companies’ internal standards…we capture the day, the time, the location, obviously the license plate and the unique device identifier on [a flagger's] iPhone. You can quickly detect malicious use…multiple flags of the same driver from the same user are ignored…Inghelbrecht says someday his crowdsourced driver-behavior database may be worth more than relatively incomplete DMV records, much the same way that online review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp have gained in popularity over Michelin guides…”

7. Flaws in Tor anonymity network spotlighted http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2010/12/flaws-in-tor-anonymity-network-spotlighted.ars At the Chaos Computer Club Congress in Berlin, Germany on Monday, researchers from the University of Regensburg delivered a new warning about the Tor anonymizer network, a system aimed at hiding details of a computer user’s online activity from spying eyes. The attack doesn’t quite make a surfer’s activity an open book, but offers the ability for someone on the same local network—a Wi-Fi network provider, or an ISP working at law enforcement (or a regime’s) request, for example—to gain a potentially good idea of sites an anonymous surfer is viewing…”

Mobile Computing & Communicating

8. The Rise of Apps, iPad and Android http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704774604576035611315663944.html “…There were 81 million smartphones sold world-wide in the third quarter…almost twice as many as a year earlier. They accounted for nearly one in five mobile phones sold that quarter…smartphones could account for nearly three of every four phones sold by the middle of the decade…momentum in technology is now with devices that can easily be carried around…the defining moments of that transition this year and…what to expect in 2011…IPAD…Apple created a new mobile category with its iPad touchscreen tablet computer…Coming next: Competition. So far, Apple has had the tablet market essentially to itself…ANDROID…it wasn't until 2010 that Android hit its stride…Google's partnership with Verizon Wireless and…Motorola and HTC Corp…saw Android pass Apple in market share…and ensured Google's profitable search engine will be a mainstay on mobile devices…Coming next: Cheap smartphones…with some predicting Android phones will sell at unsubsidized prices under $100…APPS…2010 was the Year of the App…apps have grown from time-killers into an ecosystem seen as a key to keeping consumers loyal to their phones…Apps…spawned a cottage industry with thousands of developers…and start-ups focused on churning out mobile programs…Coming next: Apps go corporate…GOING 4G…U.S. wireless networks moved…into their fourth generation…first generation was analog…second was digital…third allowed fast data connections…fourth-generation technology promises…service that will make wireless video a breeze…Coming next: Paying for what you use…AT&T has already dropped its unlimited data plan for new users…Users are going to have to start watching bits the way they used to count minutes…PARTS SHORTAGES…transistors, resistors and screens showed their clout…Droid Incredible went on prolonged back order almost immediately…due to shortages of its high-tech display. Insufficient supplies of basic components…cost…Ericsson around $500 million in sales in the second quarter…Coming next: Samsung…new facility…opens in July. Capacity will go up to 30 million screens a month from three million currently…SECURITY/PRIVACY…smartphone makers, app developers and users are well behind the curve when it comes to securing mobile devices…Hackers have turned up embarrassing holes in devices, and financial institutions copped to weaknesses in banking apps…there's plenty of intentional leakage…examination of 101 smartphone apps found 47 transmitted your location and five sent personal details…Coming next…Chip makers, carriers, and handset makers are going to roll out new security features…CHINA…Chinese makers of low-cost, unbranded cellphones doubled their market share over the past year to account for 33% of all cellphone sales in the third quarter…Coming next: Chinese smartphones. Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp. are rolling out Google-powered phones that could be sold by carriers for as little as $50…DIGITAL WALLET…It used to be stores had the advantage once you were inside: You knew their price, but not what their competitors were charging…Now, shoppers can use their smartphones to find better deals…wireless carriers are looking to turn phones into digital wallets…Coming next: Purchasing on mobile phones takes off…as smartphone penetration increases…LOCATION, LOCATION…Everybody had high hopes for location-based services and ads…But it hasn't worked out as expected…Just 4% of Americans have tried location-based services, and only 1% use them weekly…Coming next:Try, try again…Expect more coupons and other marketing offers to roll out.”

9. 2011 will be the year Android explodes http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2010/12/22/2011-will-be-the-year-android-explodes/ “…269.6 million smartphones sold this year, compared to the 173.5 million units shipped in 2009. In 2011, we might see half a billion…Smartphones will likely blow by traditional computers next year as the way most of the world gains access to the Internet. Two major factors will drive this, in tandem: Wireless infrastructure is getting better every day, and hardware is getting cheaper…Broadcom last week announced its BCM2157 - Mass-Market 3G HSDPA "Android" Baseband chipset. The platform provides everything a modern smartphone builder needs: a dual core ARM processor, Bluetooth, GPS, support for up to a 5-megapixel camera, support for capacitive HVGA (320x480 like iPhone 3GS)…The chipset will work on AT&T (T) and T-Mobile's 3G networks in the US and on global GSM providers….BCM2157…is able to run more efficiently, meaning less battery power will be needed…The dual-core processors will run at 500-800mhz…phones made from the BCM2157 chipset will retail for under $100 and may dip as low as $75…By this time next year, Broadcom says it will release a follow-up chip…That Nexus S that costs $530 now off contract will cost just a fraction of that in just one year…There is another chipmaker out of China building the same type of chipset for 3G EVDO Rev. A, the type of network that Sprint and Verizon use…at $100, many first-world shoppers will forgo the subsidized two year contracts and instead choose month to month plans…That, in turn will likely push data prices down…To entice low end smartphone users away from just using Wifi, carriers will have to make affordable data plans…unless Apple has a plan to keep up, their iPhone, once one of the only usable smartphone games in town, may wind up back where most Apple products are slotted-- at the top of the market, affordable only to those willing and able to pay a premium for Steve Jobs' aesthetic sensibilities…”

10. Android Market Tops 200K Apps http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2374806,00.asp In a matter of months, it appears that Google's Android Market has doubled in size. Numbers from AndroLib.com show more than 200,000 apps available in the store as of Tuesday. At the end of October, Google confirmed that the Android Market had surpassed the 100,000 app milestone. Google has yet to confirm the latest numbers…with more than 2.5 billion apps downloaded from the Android Market…it seems Google's platform is gaining ground. The Android Market debuted in October 2008 with just 34 apps and nine games…”

Open Source

11. School district saves more than $100,000 by switching to Linux http://www.azcentral.com/community/westvalley/articles/2010/12/27/20101227dysart-unified-school-district-saves-monday.html In a little-known approach to saving money, the Dysart Unified School District has switched about 3,000 of its computers from the Microsoft Windows operating system to Linux. Never heard of Linux? It's a free operating system widely used for servers, which are the backbone of computer networks…After the district was hit with budget cuts last year, its information technology department determined that switching to Linux would be a reasonable step…Some believe that, as school technology budgets shrink - and in some cases disappear - more districts will consider jumping off the Microsoft ship. "It could lead to an "open-source revolution," said David Ligon, director of grants and technology for the Higley Unified School District. "In the current fiscally conservative climate, most schools cannot justify the significant expense it would take to upgrade to Windows 7…”

12. OpenBSD code audit uncovers bugs, but no evidence of backdoor http://arstechnica.com/open-source/news/2010/12/openbsd-code-audit-uncovers-bugs-but-no-evidence-of-backdoor.ars “…de Raadt outlined his current perspective on the controversy and his interpretation of the findings that have emerged from the ongoing code audit…Reviewers have uncovered several bugs…but the nature of the bugs suggests that they were not intentional, nor were they intended to facilitate a backdoor. The most serious revelation so far is the discovery of a bad conditional expression in older versions of the Encapsulating Security Payload (ESP) code. This hole was quietly closed in 2002 without the usual vulnerability disclosure process…Reviewers also discovered potential susceptibility to cipher-block chaining (CBC) oracle attacks in some drivers, where the implementation doesn't generate fresh, random values for the CBC initialization vector…a fix was promptly devised…de Raadt describes the CBC IV bug as a "pretty serious accident." He doesn't believe that the bugs that have been found so far were introduced intentionally or with the aim of planting a backdoor…He suspects that NETSEC was involved in developing OpenBSD backdoors, but thinks it is unlikely that the code was ever actually merged into OpenBSD…”

SkyNet

13. Will 2011 See App Makers Thinking Google Android-First? http://techcrunch.com/2010/12/28/2011-android-iphone-apps/ “…there was a ton of talk about 2011 being the year in which Android “explodes” onto the market…despite Android as a whole already outselling the iPhone, there’s little debate that amongst developers, iOS is still the platform you develop for first. But this could change as well in 2011…the popular Pulse news reader app…started as an iPad app first, then expanded to the iPhone, then came to Android. Kothari credits both the support they’ve received from Apple and the press surrounding the iPad as the reason why they’ve been so iOS-centric up until now. But, “our thinking about the Android platform has changed significantly over the last couple weeks…A few interesting things have happened on Android recently…i) Revamp of the Android store…and much better discovery of apps, in general…ii) More powerful Android phones/Tablets…iii) Getting featured on the Market: Getting featured on the App Store gets you tons of downloads, easily 10x your normal traffic…”

14. First impressions: Google TV delights http://www.betanews.com/joewilcox/article/First-impressions-Google-TV-delights/1293393461 “…I set up the Logitech Revue on Christmas Eve and the family is absolutely loving it. Revue/Google TV delivers one of the best non-cable-provider set-top box experiences I've ever had testing these devices…I'm dumbfounded by how good Google TV is right now…Initially, I found Revue setup to be daunting…I was flummoxed by instruction to connect my IPTV settop box to the Revue. I figured that could only lead to trouble…Logitech provides an HDMI cable in the box, which I used to connect my AT&T U-verse tuner to the Revue…I then turned on the Revue and TV, which launched a 12-step setup process…I balked at the 12-step process, which was more than Apple TV ever demanded. But Revue/Google TV would be doing more -- gulp, controlling the AT&T settop box and television…Google TV starts from Revue's Home button, which serves up appropriate services/applications, such as Amazon Video-on-Demand, Netflix, television and other services. Chrome browser is also available, and it's surprisingly useful and integrated into other experiences…Pretty much any content available in a browser is accessible on Google TV, although the exceptions are perplexing…From a user interface perspective, Apple TV is much more visually appealing. But I found searching for and renting movies from Amazon VoD on Google TV to be much more functional…I often search Apple TV and can find nothing to watch, because of the presentation and cumbersome search capabilities. So less than two days using Google TV…and…The Apple TV is boxed; I'm done with it. Google search is what makes the experience so far superior to using either U-verse alone or another settop box…Google search didn't just cover the Web but future U-verse programming. Clicking "Google TV" took me to information about the show and option to record using the U-verse DVR…that's slick…Google search is simply amazing and, as I'll explain in a later post, may fundamentally change how I use the television…”

General Technology

15. Racetrack: New IBM memory promises faster, higher-capacity devices http://news.cnet.com/8301-11386_3-20026553-76.html “…After spending six years as a theoretical concept, the memory, dubbed Racetrack, finally is a huge step closer to reality…This revolutionary type of memory could open up a whole new world for laptops, smartphones, and other mobile devices. Users would be able to store as much as 100 more times data on their portable gadgets, perhaps keeping as many as 500,000 songs or 3,500 full-length movies on one mobile device. And since Racetrack would use considerably less power, a single battery charge could power a device for weeks rather than days or hours…Racetrack combines the best elements of flash memory and magnetic storage…Unlike conventional memory, which needs to seek out the data it needs, Racetrack automatically moves the data to where it can be used…The data itself is stored in magnetic regions known as domains…Racetrack memory can move these domains at hundreds of miles per hour and stop them at atomically precise spots along the nanowire, allowing huge amounts of information to be retrieved in less than a billionth of a second…Recent developments in the field of spintronics, which focuses on the spin of electrons, is what allows for the movement of the bits along the nanowires in Racetrack memory, explained Parkin. That opens up the ability to read and write more data very quickly at specific points along those wires…Now that the physics have been proved and demonstrated, the next challenge for IBM is to begin building prototypes…”

16. Five Best Virtual Machine Applications http://lifehacker.com/5714966/five-best-virtual-machine-applications Most modern computers are powerful enough to run entire operating systems within your main operating systems, which means virtual machines are more commonplace today than ever. Here's a look at the five most popular virtual machine applications. Virtual machines allow you to run one operating system emulated within another operating system. Your primary OS can be Windows 7 64-bit, for example, but with enough memory and processing power, you can run Ubuntu and OS X side-by-side within it. Earlier this week we asked you to share your favorite virtual machine application, and now we're back to highlight the five most popular picks…VirtualBox…Parallels…VMware…QEMU…Windows Virtual PC…” [VirtualBox 4.0 was just released – ed.]

17. Synology Announces New 15TB NAS Device http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/214523/synology_announces_new_15tb_nas_device.html Synology America Corp…announced the release of its newest server, the Disk Station DS1511+. Synology, a manufacturer of network attached storage devices for homes and businesses, has a reputation for creating feature-rich NAS solutions for a variety of audiences, and this latest unit should satisfy small businesses, prosumers, and network administrators. Capable of storing up to 15TB of data…The $900 DS1511+ is the successor to Synology's DS1010+ server model. Alone, the new device can hold up to five 3TB SATA hard drives…When it is connected with two of Synology's DX510 server storage expansion units, it can manage and process…15 3TB drives…in a RAID 5 configuration the DS1511+ can write the drives at a rate 165.91 MB/sec, and reads them at 197.8 MB/sec…”

18. Ford Adding Automatic Engine Start-Stop to All Cars http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2374756,00.asp “…Auto Start-Stop…will be added to the Ford Escape Hybrid, Fusion Hybrid, and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid in 2011. In 2012…the feature will also be added to non-hybrid vehicles in North America…Auto Start-Stop for gasoline engines can improve fuel economy by at least 4 percent…can go as high as 10 percent…In city driving, the engine restarts the second a driver's foot leaves the brake pedal…Auto Start-Stop uses an enhanced 12-volt car battery and upgraded starter motor…An electric pump will keep engine coolant circulating through the heater so drivers stay warm in cold weather…Ford also announced that…Sync-equipped Ford Fiesta vehicles can download AppLink, which allows drivers voice control over the apps on their smartphones…the list of Sync-compatible devices…includes Android and BlackBerry phones…iPhone will be added in early 2011…”

19. A.I. Autos: Leave the Driving to Us http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/12/ff_ai_drivebywire/ “…The 200-mile trip from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe can be a frustrating slog in the wintertime traffic on Interstate 80. Speeds in the fast lane swing from 90 to 30 for no discernible reason…Stick-shift drivers collapse with dead legs on the side of the road; even the P-R-N-D crowd can be seen massaging their sore knees at roadside burger joints…Not me. I’m playing the license plate game and humming through playlists…in a borrowed Mercedes-Benz S550…We’re bopping through the same unpredictable range of velocities as everyone else, but I haven’t touched a pedal in hours. The Benz is doing most of the driving, keeping us a comfortable distance from the cars ahead with its next-gen cruise-control system. The core of the setup is a pair of radar emitters—a narrow-banded one that pings vehicles up ahead and a wide-angle unit that watches the rest of the traffic…The driver specifies a maximum speed, and the car does its best to hit that number—without hitting anything else…first time you let the car do its thing is a magically scary experience: You see the cars ahead closing at a rate that activates the “I’m going too fast” reflex; your foot hovers over the brake pedal as your frontal cortex strenuously attempts to override your survival instinct…Cruise control is just the most obvious sign of a particular kind of AI that has been accelerating for decades. Think about it: Antilock brakes know when to back off the pedal. Airbags know that you just smacked into something. Stability control knows that you just overcooked your Volvo into that hairpin and need a little help to stay out of the ditch. Your nav system knows where you are, your wipers know it’s raining, that annoying seat-belt chime knows you’re flouting the law. In short, modern cars are loaded with sensors and computing power. The 2011 Chevy Volt, for example, runs on some 10 million lines of code—more than Lockheed Martin’s new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter…The by-wire throttle first made its way into cars in 1988…and it now makes radar-assisted cruise control possible in…Fords, Lincolns, Volvos, Jaguars, and Mercedes…”

DHMN Technology

20. LVX: wireless internet via LED lights? http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hx8V8ANOMWfzdMpMuF11ESWK9wDw “…lights will transmit data to specially equipped computers on desks below by flickering faster than the eye can see…The first few light fixtures built by LVX System, a local startup, will be installed Wednesday in six municipal buildings in this city of 66,000 in…Minnesota. The LVX system puts clusters of its light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, in a standard-sized light fixture…A light on the modem talks back to the fixture overhead, where there is sensor to receive the return signal and transmit the data over the Internet…computers on the desks aren't connected to the Internet, except through these light signals…first generation of the LVX system will transmit data at speeds of about 3 megabits per second, roughly as fast as a residential DSL line…the approach could be a vital complement to the existing wireless system…a second-generation system that will roll out in about a year will permit speeds on par with commercial Wi-Fi networks…For the city, the data networking capability is secondary. The main reason it paid a $10,000 installation fee for LVX is to save money on electricity down the line, thanks to the energy-efficient LEDs. Pederson said one of his LED fixtures uses about 36 watts of power to provide the same illumination that 100 watts provides with a standard fluorescent…Pederson's previous company, 911 EP, built high-powered LED roof lights for squad cars and other emergency vehicles. He said he sold the company in 2002. He said the visible-light network grew out his interest in LEDs…St. Cloud…had been considering LVX for some time…They have been talking about it with us for couple of years, and frankly it took a while for it to sink in…”

21. XinShanZhai: Seeed Studio and Facilitate Open Innovation http://www.mobinode.com/2010/12/27/xinshanzhai-seeed-studio-and-facilitate-open-innovation/ Seeed Studio was founded 3 years ago in Shenzhen to explore combining open source hardware and the electronics supply chain in Shenzhen. Today, Seeed Studio employes over 30 engineers and support staffs with over USD$1 million in annual revenue…Seeed’s current focus is to grow its WISH platform…a ecosystem to support open source hardware designers to better manage the product life cycle. WISH platform let designers and users propose requests and new design and through the community voting and pre-ordering process…Seeed also works with partners sites such as Dangerous Prototypes to promote the platform. Eric’s 30 minutes talk was followed by over 2 hours of heated discussion on the topics of open source hardware, innovation and manufacture. The talk and discussions were livecast on Sina Weibo…”

22. Android tv coming from Vidtonic as DIY kit http://androidcommunity.com/android-tv-coming-from-vidtonic-at-ces-as-build-your-own-kit-20101227/ “…Android TV…is made by Vidtonic and its an IPTV kit powered by Android…Each pack includes a TV housing, cables, 1080p LCF panel in various sizes, power supply, and motherboard using an ARM/DSP microprocessor solution…Let’s level the playing field for TV application developers as it has been done in the mobile marketplace. Your skills as an Android developer in the mobile space can now translate directly to the consumer electronics…The HomeBrew Kit…Is a hardware/software platform kit designed for AndroidTM developers to bring their applications to the TV screen…Allows enthusiasts to build their own television, powered by Android…Vidtonic, a Fort Wayne, Indiana-based company, is a consumer video product development company that specializes in using open source technologies such as Linux and Android…”

Leisure & Entertainment

23. CityVille eclipses FarmVille as the world’s biggest game http://venturebeat.com/2010/12/24/merry-christmas-zynga-cityville-eclipses-farmville-as-the-worlds-biggest-game/ In just 22 days, Zynga’s CityVille has eclipsed FarmVille as the world’s biggest game…Now the challenge will be to make money from all of those users…CityVille is a city simulation like SimCity, but far simpler and more social. For instance, you can open a chain of stores and operate them as franchises in your friends’ towns…the concept was to create a game that felt like you were playing it in real time…The questions now are, will users will stick around and will they will spend money? Zynga’s games are free-to-play, where users can play for free and spend real money on virtual goods such as tractors in FarmVille…”

24. Not motivated? Make a game of it. http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-ca-gamification-20101226,0,5881081.story “…Now that 97% of teens and more than half of adults play video games, companies have caught on to the medium's addictive powers. Websites and apps are using virtual points, levels, leader boards, badges and challenges to motivate people to stay healthy, watch television or read a newspaper…gamification is now a full-blown movement, and the first Gamification Summit will take place in San Francisco in January…But while some believe this phenomenon is a motivation machine that will dominate lives in coming years, others think it's a manipulative fad that does not acknowledge how humans' brains really work…new technology allows gaming to extend its tentacles even further. Blackberries and iPhones can record and monitor personal information at all times…A game can be particularly helpful in an area such as financial planning, in which it makes arduous tasks sexier. The personal finance site Mint.com…introduced a "goals" feature, which makes a game out of buying a home or erasing your debt…Epic Win makes a game out of to-do lists by spoofing role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons and World of Warcraft…One Epic Win user…says the game reminds her to do simple things such as eat her vitamins. "I find myself being more motivated…One particularly ambitious startup is SCVNGR, whose mission is to "create a game layer on top of the world"…Vail Resorts is launching Epic Mix, a program to gamify skiing. A radio frequency chip inside your lift ticket is sensed by 90 gates spread across Vail's resorts, recording where you've skied and how many vertical feet you've racked up…Badges can be especially helpful in an area such as health and fitness, in which it's hard to see your body change with the naked eye…Good games offer a finely calibrated balance between difficulty and reward, with some uncertainty and surprise thrown in at the right moments. Some psychologists argue that extrinsic motivation (when people are driven by rewards) can actually decrease people's intrinsic motivation…Sebastian Deterding, a PhD student…who is studying gamification, notes that its proponents "believe virtual games are motivating because they dole our rewards…Whereas everything we know about the psychological value of video games is that they're intrinsically motivating."…a professor of communications at Stanford…says that in the last couple of years companies have begun to shed their allergy to combining work and fun. "When you're working in a call center, there is the stunning boredom of call after call," he says. "The pain and the value is incredibly significant. If you can keep those call center workers two more months, that would be huge. If you could change energy usage by 1% in households, that would be huge…”

Economy and Technology

25. Stock Trading in Private Companies Draws Scrutiny http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2010/12/27/stock-trading-in-private-companies-draws-scrutiny/ “…A red-hot trading market has developed in the shares of the world’s leading social networking companies: Facebook, Twitter, Zynga and LinkedIn…none of the companies are listed on a public stock exchange…the Securities and Exchange Commission wants to learn more about the business of these stock trades…Over the last year, several private exchanges have matched up buyers and sellers of shares in these fast-growing companies…Driving this activity is the social networking phenomenon…Facebook, the social networking leader, and Zynga, a popular maker of online games, already generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. Twitter has more than 150 million users, and just received $200 million in venture financing. LinkedIn, another social networking site, has become a Facebook for professionals…Much of the supply comes from former employees at these companies and their early stage venture capital investors looking to exit their stakes…Part of what is driving this emerging market is the shifting dynamics of initial public offerings on Wall Street, particularly in the technology sector, as companies take longer to tap the public markets…”

26. Intel solar spin-off SpectraWatt to close plant http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-20026501-54.html Solar panel manufacturer SpectraWatt, which was spun out of chip giant Intel, will close its newly opened New York plant…SpectraWatt was created in 2008 and funded with a reported $91 million to create silicon cells for solar panels. Earlier this year, it moved it headquarters from Oregon to upstate New York…SpectraWatt was spun out of Intel two years ago to manufacture silicon solar cells…it will shut down the plant, which started operating in May this year…winter weather in Europe caused a slowdown in solar projects, cutting demand for its solar cells…all solar cell and panel providers face intense price pressure from global competitors…driven in part by a number of Chinese manufacturers…”

Civilian Aerospace

27. SS2 Glide Tests Exceed Expected Progress http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story.jsp?id=news/awst/2010/12/20/AW_12_20_2010_p32-277650.xml&headline=SS2%20Glide%20Tests%20Exceed%20Expected%20Progress&channel=space “…Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo…Testing has been going quite a bit better than we’d originally hoped, and we’ve been able to make glide flights ahead of what we’d anticipated in terms of flight-to-flight turn-around time…Virgin Galactic…remains on target to becoming the world’s first commercial space line…WK2 is currently flying with landing gear down and locked pending a modification. This design change, made following a partial gear collapse on a training flight in August, is “really close” to being implemented…Scaled has progressively increased the flight envelope of SS2 over three glide flights. The latest, on Nov. 17, increased top speed to 246 KEAS (knots equivalent airspeed) and loads to 3.5g. Lasting approximately 11.5 min…”

28. SpaceX launches new space era http://www.sbsun.com/editorial/ci_16953902 “…Until the flight by Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) on Dec. 8, only large nations such as the United States, Russia, China, Japan and India, and the European Space Agency had been able to launch a spacecraft into orbit and retrieve it. Although there were no people aboard SpaceX's craft, there easily could have been. In a few years, there probably will be…before anyone climbs aboard a SpaceX vehicle, the company will be used to transport supplies to and from the space station. A first flight is planned for next summer…Within a few years, the company says it will be able to land its spacecraft on solid ground, similar to the way the lunar lander touched down on the moon…”

Supercomputing & GPUs

29. NVIDIA Names 20 New CUDA Research and Training Centers http://www.hpcwire.com/offthewire/NVIDIA-Names-20-New-CUDA-Research-and-Training-Centers-112364439.html NVIDIA today announced the addition of 20 new CUDA Research Centers and CUDA Teaching Centers…focused on leveraging the immense parallel processing power of graphics processing units (GPUs) to address today’s most challenging computing issues and drive the next wave of scientific discovery. CUDA Research Centers are recognized institutions that embrace and utilize GPU Computing across multiple research fields. CUDA Teaching Centers have integrated GPU computing techniques into their mainstream computer programming curriculum. The new centers include…Boise State University…University of New Mexico…Epitech – Game Development Lab (France)…University of Southern California – GamePipe Lab…There are more than 350 universities worldwide teaching the CUDA programming language, and more than 100,000 programmers actively developing applications on CUDA GPUs,” said Bill Dally, chief scientist at NVIDIA…”

30. Intel: Why a 1,000-core chip is feasible http://www.zdnet.co.uk/news/emerging-tech/2010/12/25/intel-why-a-1000-core-chip-is-feasible-40090968/ “…Intel engineer Timothy Mattson…told the audience that one of the Terascale chips…could theoretically scale to 1,000 cores…if built, could that chip be effectively programmed?...We have shared memory that is not cache-coherent between cores. Can we use that together with the message passing to make programming the chip acceptable to the general-purpose programmer?...that…leads to…whether we have usage models and a set of applications that would demand that many cores…It depends on, one, how much of the program can be parallelised and, two, how much overhead and load-imbalance your program incurs. We talk about this in terms of Amdahl's law. This law says that we can break down a program into a part the speeds up with cores — the parallel fraction — and a part that doesn't — the serial fraction…”

*****

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