2011/01/18

NEW NET Issues List for 18 Jan 2011

Below is the final list of issues for the Tuesday, 18 January 2011, 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. Microsoft releases free WebMatrix Web development tool http://arstechnica.com/microsoft/news/2011/01/microsoft-releases-free-webmatrix-web-development-tool.ars “…Microsoft released WebMatrix, a free Web development tool designed to give students and beginners an easy introduction to Web development…WebMatrix is designed as a one-stop-shop for simple Web development needs, supporting both PHP and ASP.NET development. It includes support for a wealth of open source Web frameworks (including Drupal, Joomla and WordPress), a local Web server and database for development and testing, and easy deployment to third-party hosts. It also includes a number of "Web Helpers": components providing easy integration with, for example, Twitter and PayPal…The goal of WebMatrix is to make it easy for people to get up and running with any of these frameworks; to take out the Web server configuration, database creation, and so on. They do this while still providing full access to the software if you should want it…With WebMatrix's simple front-end and extensive support for open source projects, Microsoft is hoping that the product will appeal to a wide cross-section of developers. It should offer a gentle introduction to development and customization to beginners and students, and time-saving and convenience to more experienced developers…”
  2. MIT OpenCourseWare introduces courses designed for independent learners http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2010/mitocw-independent-learners.html “…MIT OpenCourseWare is introducing courses designed to serve the needs of independent learners…These "OCW Scholar" courses address a need the MIT faculty never envisioned in 2000 when the idea for OCW was first conceived. At that time, the expectation was that other educators would use the syllabi, lecture notes, assignments and exams from MIT courses to design their own courses. But…independent learners have emerged as the primary users of these materials…We hope independent learners can use these materials without any additional outside resources such as texts or journal articles." Because the original OCW model was designed to support faculty, many courses in the current publication include partial selections of course materials or references to outside texts. It was assumed that visitors to the site could supplement these materials through academic libraries and other resources; often this is not the case for the millions of independent learners visiting the site…the OCW team has combined materials from multiple MIT courses and worked with MIT faculty and teaching assistants to create new materials specifically for OCW Scholar publication…OCW Scholar courses address this issue by presenting materials in study units…OCW Scholar courses represent a substantial rethinking of the OCW approach…OCW will publish 20 OCW Scholar courses in the next three years, all focused on introductory college-level science, mathematics, engineering and other foundational subjects…”

Security, Privacy & Digital Controls

  1. Why you should always encrypt your smartphone http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/guides/2011/01/why-you-should-always-encrypt-your-smartphone.ars Last week, California's Supreme Court reached a controversial 5-2 decision in People v. Diaz (PDF), holding that police officers may lawfully search mobile phones found on arrested individuals' persons without first obtaining a search warrant. The court reasoned that mobile phones, like cigarette packs and wallets, fall under the search incident to arrest exception to the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. California's opinion in Diaz is the latest of several recent court rulings upholding warrantless searches of mobile phones incident to arrest…If you follow a few basic guidelines, you can protect your mobile device from unreasonable search and seizure, even in the event of arrest. In this article, we will discuss the rationale for allowing police to conduct warrantless searches of arrestees, your right to remain silent during police interrogation, and the state of mobile phone security…Based on these precedents, California's Supreme Court held in Diaz that mobile phones found on arrestees' persons may be searched without a warrant, even where there is no risk of the suspect destroying evidence. Therefore, under Diaz, if you're arrested while carrying a mobile phone on your person, police are free to rifle through your text messages, images, and any other files stored locally on your phone…”
  2. Bank of America restores online banking system http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110115/ap_on_hi_te/us_bank_of_america_online_bank Bank of America Corp. said its online banking service has been restored for all of its customers, after being inaccessible for some users for most of the day Friday…The problem appeared at around 7 a.m. Eastern time, and was resolved about 5:15 p.m…the majority of customers could access online banking during the day, but…the system was very slow for those who could get in. As news spread of the outage spread during the day, traffic to the website increased and it became even more difficult to access…”
  3. Homeland Security Junks Billion Dollar ‘Virtual Fence’ http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/01/homeland-security-junks-its-sensor-laden-border-fence/ It only took nearly a year of hiatus and $1 billion in sunk costs, but the Department of Homeland Security has finally gotten rid of the networked suite of sensors that made up its virtual border fence. But some of its technology may live on as zombie border protection. The virtual fence “cannot meet its original objective of providing a single, integrated border-security technology solution,” Secretary Janet Napolitano conceded…SBInet was supposed to be the ultimate in anti-illegal immigrant technology: miles of surveillance-radar towers…hooked up to ground-based sensors that detected the heat of someone’s footprints or the metal of a border-crossing vehicle…the Customs and Border Protection office boasted in a fact sheet that it would ultimately cover 6,000 miles of the U.S.’ northern and southern frontiers. But only 53 miles of border in Arizona ever actually got outfitted with SBInet. Dissatisfied with the performance of the program…the Department of Homeland Security…conceded the program was an impractical waste. So what comes next for the border? Some of the same stuff that SBInet had. And lots of drones…”

Mobile Computing & Communicating

  1. Hello iPhone, Goodbye Upgrade http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704803604576077882199261422.html “…the iPhone is finally coming to Verizon. But what the company didn't announce yesterday may turn out to be more important to subscribers: A change in the company's upgrade policies that will make phones more expensive…The company is ending its popular "New Every Two" program, which offers Verizon subscribers a credit of $30 to $100 toward a new phone every two years. As of Jan. 16, the company will stop offering the credit to new customers…The cell carrier is also putting the brakes on its permissive early upgrade policy…With the New Every Two perk, a longtime customer with a $100 credit could get the iPhone4 for $99.99 – half off its new-subscriber price of $199.99…Verizon's motives in the change are obvious…Every time a customer upgrades his phone at a discount, there's a significant cost to the company…By forcing consumers to wait to upgrade – or pay more to do it – the company cuts its losses, without losing any income from the contracts. "The longer you can get customers to go between upgrading their phones, the stronger the profitability for the carrier…That point hit home for…AT&T last year when it allowed subscribers to upgrade early…when the iPhone4 was released on its network. Its profit margins shrunk considerably…”
  2. HP training materials out webOS netbook plans http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/news/2011/01/hp-training-materials-out-webos-netbook-plans.ars HP acquired Palm with the aim of bringing the company's webOS mobile operating system to a number of different form factors, including phones, tablets, and even printers…HP recently published a set of training materials for mobile carriers to help educate salespeople about the technical merits of webOS and Palm devices. One of the advantages of webOS that is briefly highlighted in the training is the platform's ability to run on multiple devices that can easily communicate with each other over the Internet…The webOS platform seems like a compelling choice for a netbook…It also seems like a good candidate for HP to adopt as an instant-on companion operating system on its Windows-based notebooks. HP has scheduled an event for February 9 at which the company is expected to disclose details about its webOS hardware roadmap…”
  3. First NFC Apps for Android Show Up in Market http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/first_NFC_apps_for_Android_show_up_in_market.php The first NFC Android applications have appeared in Google's Android Market. One, the U.S.-based EnableTable, is an app designed for American restaurant owners who want to offer discounts to their regular customers. The second, a Japanese app called Taglet, lets you register NFC devices with its service, which, when read, will retrieve stored data like a website address or contact information. NFC, or Near Field Communication, is a short-range, high-frequency wireless technology that allows for data exchanges between devices in close proximity to each other. Support for NFC has been added to the Android mobile operating system in its latest revision, Android 2.3…Google's new flagship phone, the Nexus S, is the first Android device to ship with the necessary hardware to use NFC…NFC-enabled apps will soon represent an entirely new class of services…”
  4. Apps With Maps: 11 iPhone GPS Apps Compared http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/216755/apps_with_maps_11_iphone_gps_apps_compared.html The world of iOS-based GPS navigation apps has matured since we last reviewed this category, and the situation has improved…Among the biggest developments since I last reviewed these apps: Apple released the iPhone 4, with its faster processor and higher-resolution display; Apple released iOS 4, which offers background location updates for navigation programs; AT&T started metering cellular data usage for all new accounts; and Apple released the 3G iPad, which includes its own GPS receiver…Most apps have gone through substantial revisions and improvements, with notable fixes to iPod music control, performance, and address recognition…A few apps haven't been updated in several months or longer, lacking full iOS compatibility and support. Others retain clunky interfaces borrowed from standalone GPS hardware with vastly less capability than iOS devices. In this round-up, we revisit 11 apps…Testing was done in and around Seattle, Washington…iOS 4 brought…background location updates and fast-app switching…You need iOS 4 installed on an iPhone 3GS or 4 to take advantage of background navigation. The iPhone 3G has a GPS chip, but lacks the specs to run background tasks…You could just download a GPS app from the App Store and hit the road. But to take full advantage of using the iPhone as a navigational aid, you'll need two key accessories…Charging cable…Windshield mount…”

Open Source

  1. Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, EMC Still Pursuing Novell Patents http://www.informationweek.com/news/security/encryption/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=229000533 “…put the corks back in the champagne bottles. Microsoft sent on Tuesday to InformationWeek…saying its withdrawals of the plan from German regulators was just a procedural matter. Bottom line: Nothing has changed. "This is a purely procedural step necessary to provide time to allow for review of the proposed transaction," the statement says…the consortium, called CPTN Holdings and formed by Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, and EMC, had withdrawn its plan to buy more than 880 Novell patents for $450 million. Some of those patents are believed to cover technology used in open source software…”
  2. WebOS: The Other Smartphone/Tablet Linux http://www.zdnet.com/blog/open-source/webos-the-other-smartphonetablet-linux/8090 “…do we need yet another Linux-based operating system, webOS, for tablets, phones, and netbooks?...the rumor-mill is…that, on February 9th, HP will be showing off new smartphones, tablets and maybe even netbooks running webOS…Apple has the early advantage and the ubiquity of Android means it will grab a big share of the tablet market just as it’s done with smartphones…That being the case, what does webOS bring to the table that will blow the others away?...WebOS, like both Android and MeeGo, is based on Linux. It also uses a lot of other open-source components such as BusyBox, the Swiss-army knife of embedded Linux command sets; the GStreamer multimedia library; and numerous other common Linux programs. On top of this though, developers will find the webOS software developer kit (SDK) with the Mojo Framework and the Plug-in Development Kit (PDK). None of these are open source . With the SDK and Mojo, programmers can create Web-based applications using JavaScript, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), HTML and the WebKit open-source, Web-browser engine. The PDK, which enables the use of C and C++, can be used to port applications from other platforms, such as the iPhone, to webOS devices…”
  3. Xfce 4.8 released http://www.xfce.org/about/news/?post=1295136000 “…after almost two years of work, we have the special pleasure of announcing the much awaited release of Xfce 4.8, the new stable version that supersedes Xfce 4.6…Xfce 4.8 is our attempt to update the Xfce code base to all the new desktop frameworks that were introduced in the past few years. We hope that our efforts to drop pieces like ThunarVFS and HAL with GIO, udev, ConsoleKit and PolicyKit will help bringing the Xfce desktop to modern distributions. With Xfce 4.8 our users will be able to browse remote shares using a variety of protocols (SFTP, SMB, FTP and many more)…For the first time we had a serious release strategy formed after the "Xfce Release and Development Model" developed at the Ubuntu Desktop Summit in May 2009…”

SkyNet

  1. Upload and View Videos in Google Docs http://www.pcworld.com/article/216492/upload_and_view_videos_in_google_docs.html Google Docs is becoming a more robust cloud-based productivity suite, and the addition of uploading, storing and viewing videos is a boon for sharing…presentations…It's also a…way to skirt…firewall on streaming video sites such as YouTube…until recently you couldn't watch the videos you stored in-browser. Now a built-in player supports video files up to 1 GB with a maximum resolution of 1920x1080. Flash is required to stream the following supported files…WebM files…MPEG4, 3GPP and MOV files…AVI…MPEGPS…WMV…FLV…” http://docs.google.com/support/?hl=en (Docs Help)
  2. Johnny Chung Lee is a pseudo-Switcher; moves from MS to Google http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/01/18/kinect_man_goes_google/ One of the core engineers working on Microsoft's Wii-like Kinect set-up has jumped ship for Google. Johnny Chung Lee has blogged that he joined Microsoft's search and ads adversary after just two years at Redmond. He joined what he called a Google "special projects team". Lee had served as a core contributor on the human tracking algorithms for Kinect…a member of Microsoft's Applied Sciences Group, an interdisciplinary group that works with optics, electronics, and software to create what it calls "the next generation of computer interaction technologies." The former Microsoft man describes his own personal research interests as: "Exploring novel interface technology that can influence the lives of many people…”
  3. Google Buys eBook Technologies for Expanded Role http://news.yahoo.com/s/nf/20110113/tc_nf/76893 “…Google has purchased the online publishing company eBook Technologies…eBook Technologies supplies intelligent reading devices and licenses technologies that the company said "enable automated publishing and control over content distribution." The offerings include an online bookstore, an online "bookshelf," software that converts content to the format used by the company, and e-reading devices…The acquisition is the latest public move in Google's positioning in this new and growing market…Google Books, which has developed a large library of public-domain books, has become part of Google eBooks, for a total of more than three million titles available…As a device-agnostic service, Google eBooks also offers reading apps for Apple's iOS and the Android operating system, currently the most popular for tablets and among the top OSes for smartphones. Since the titles are cloud-based, syncing between devices is irrelevant…The cloud is also a big bookshelf, so customers can buy titles from Google or its bookseller partners, such as Alibris or a variety of smaller retailers. Titles purchased from any source are stored in a user's account…”

General Technology

  1. Biohacking: Wooly mammoth could be clone in four years http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/8257223/Mammoth-could-be-reborn-in-four-years.html “…Akira Iritani, a professor at Kyoto University, is reactivating his campaign to resurrect the species that died out 5,000 years ago…all we need is a good sample of soft tissue from a frozen mammoth," he told The Daily Telegraph…The nuclei will then be inserted into the egg cells of an African elephant, which will act as the surrogate mother for the mammoth…another two years will be needed before the elephant can be impregnated, followed by the approximately 600-day gestation period…"The success rate in the cloning of cattle was poor until recently but now stands at about 30 per cent," he said. "I think we have a reasonable chance of success and a healthy mammoth could be born in four or five years.”
  2. KFA2 Nvidia GeForce GTX460 graphics card is the world’s first wireless GPU http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/kfa2-combines-nvidia-geforce-gtx-460-with-whdi/ Europe’s KFA2…has decided that the Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 is a pretty nice video card—but what would be better is if users didn’t have to deal with any cables. To that end, they’ve melded the GTZ 460 with WHDI technology from Amimon to produce what it’s calling the world’s first wireless graphics card: the KFA2 GeForce GTX 460 WHDI. Instead of relying on DVI, DisplayPort, or HDMI outputs, KFA2′s creation sports five wireless antennas designed to push high-definition (and high-performance) video to a receiver connected to a display or HDTV up to 30 meters away…Amimon’s WHDI technology relies on a 40 MHz channel in the unlicensed 5GHz band to send video: the frequency means that the technology won’t interfere with Wi-Fi networks or cordless phones…the card is a full-fledged GTX 460: that means it supports DirectX11, OpenGL 3.0, sports 336 processor cores and comes with 1 GB of video memory…”
  3. Nano-Laser Could Improve Medical, Environmental, Computer Sciences http://www.dailytech.com/article.aspx?newsid=20651 The "Spaser" is a new nano-laser capable of being smaller than 100 nanometers…Professor David Bergman…along with a team of researchers, have created the Spaser, which is a groundbreaking nano-laser that can be used in several different applications. Up until this point, it was understood that an ordinary laser's physical length could not be less than one half of the wavelength of its light. Despite the laser's ability to transmit digital TV signals and telephone connections around the world as well as strike tumors, which are both admirable advancements, the fact that the laser's physical length could only be so long has prevented it from being used in several industries…the Spaser, which is an acronym for "surface plasmon amplification by stimulated emission of radiation," has the ability to be as small as needed and can be used in future technologies. It utilizes surface plasma waves, which have a wavelength that can be smaller than the light it creates…the Spaser is capable of being less than 100 nanometers long, which is significantly less than the wavelength of visible light…For instance, a microscope based on the Spaser could be 10 times more powerful and sensitive than today's microscopes. The technology could go as far as developing a microscope that can show genetic base pairs in DNA…”
  4. Bringing computer vision to Windows http://windowsteamblog.com/windows_live/b/windowslive/archive/2011/01/10/bringing-computer-vision-to-windows.aspx “…computer vision – which broadly includes robotics, object detection and recognition, sequencing, as well as modeling and object interaction - is moving into the mainstream…In addition to leading facial recognition technology, the latest release of Windows Live Photo Gallery includes two new technologies called Photo Fuse and Retouch…Photo Fuse started as a Microsoft Research (MSR) project, in conjunction with the University of Washington, as an attempt to solve the common problem of taking flawed group shots…Photo Fuse is based on the same high-quality image matching technology found in Photosynth, Bing image search, and panoramic stitching. Photo Fuse makes it possible to take the best parts of similar photos and fuse them together into one composite shot…”

DHMN Technology

  1. Project HiJack uses iPhone audio jack to make cheap sensors http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2011/01/project-hijack-uses-iphone-audio-jack-to-make-cheap-sensors.ars Making accessories that tie into an iOS device's Dock connector is an expensive proposition: it requires getting certain components from Apple and applying for a costly "Made for iPhone" (or iPod or iPad) license. However, it is possible to use the headphone jack for two-way data communication with an iPhone and also to power small electronic circuits. A group of students and faculty from the University of Michigan's Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department have developed a small device it calls the "HiJack" to make sensing peripherals easily accessible to those on a tight budget. Project HiJack is a hardware and software platform for enabling communication between a small, low-power peripheral and an iDevice…The components to build a HiJack cost as little as $2.34 in significant quantities…Mobile payment processing startup Square uses a small device to read the magnetic stripes on credit cards—it is powered by the headphone jack on an iPhone or other mobile device. There is also a low-power FM transmitter for some iPod models that is powered by the headphone jack. The team behind Project HiJack envisions users building low-cost sensing and data acquisition systems for student and laboratory use. So far, it has built an EKG interface, soil moisture sensor, an integrated prototype with temperature/humidity sensors, PIR motion sensor, and potentiometer, and a version with a breadboard for prototyping new sensor applications…”
  2. British Researchers Look to e-ink to Camouflage Military Vehicles http://www.dailytech.com/article.aspx?newsid=20661 “…Camouflage has been around since the invention of war and as technology improves, so does the nature of the camouflage that is used in warfare…the British military is looking at a new way to hide a battle tank from the naked eye using e-ink displays. The scientists will use optical systems to make people and objects invisible to the naked eye using video screens to show the landscape behind the item being hidden. The technology will be called e-camouflage and uses a type of electronic ink. The hull of the tank would constantly change to hide it as it moves along…Military commanders want the prototype of the system to be ready in four years and have an experimental operational capacity by 2013…”
  3. Hacker Preparing Kinect-Controlled Robot Army http://news.cnet.com/8301-10797_3-20028658-235.html “…this whole Kinect-hacking phenomenon is starting to make my head spin…First we started to see Minority Report-style interfaces, by way of which one could browse the Web with nothing more than a gesture or two…to Web site Kinect Hacks, we can watch as humanoid robots are controlled by users of Microsoft's gestural-gaming system…How long before this setup gets combined with some sort of BattleBots competition for a true robotic smackdown?...who needs Second Life or other virtual worlds? Any day now we'll no doubt be able to send physical avatars out into the real world to do our bidding. By next holiday season, we'll probably be leaving it to our personal botatars to battle the crowds at Macy's (provided we practice our goods-snatching gestures enough to make them effective)…”

Leisure & Entertainment

  1. Idea ‘theft’ rampant in mobile gaming http://www.appolicious.com/tech/articles/4788-idea-theft-rampant-in-mobile-gaming “…A controversy of angry Internet community proportions occurred during the last few days between various developers and LimaSky, the company behind the very popular Doodle Jump…many developers of games with “doodle” in the title had been contacted by LimaSky about changing the names of their games because of potential trademark infringement…LimaSky owns a trademark for “Doodle Jump,” but not for just the word “doodle,” and so indies (perhaps rightly) have been feeling attacked over properties like Doodle Hockey and any of the other 650 or so doodle-themed games in the App Store. LimaSky…has apparently withdrawn any claims against the word “doodle” as it relates to trademark infringement…the LimaSky situation does illustrate a good point -- there are 600 or more games with the word “doodle” in the title and Doodle Jump is certainly not even all that original in its genre…the vertical jump genre concept is certainly nothing new (and Doodle Jump doesn’t really add a whole lot to it), and the player character in the game could be argued was borrowed from, or at least inspired by, the old Atari game Q*Bert…The success of mobile gaming, the speed with which games are produced and the hugeness of the App Store are creating something of a new situation in gaming, in which games and concepts are constantly being appropriated, remade, capitalized on and expanded. The success of Doodle Jump probably led to the insane number of “doodle” games to appear since its release, and it was itself a borrowed concept. Gaming has always been an industry where ideas get passed around, but in the app space, IP “theft,” if you can call it that, is spreading like wild fire…”
  2. Eighth grader knocks Angry Birds out of the top free spot on the App Store http://venturebeat.com/2011/01/17/eighth-grader-knocks-free-angry-birds-out-of-the-top-spot-on-the-app-store/ Angry Birds and its variants have dominated the top ranks of iPhone games for the past year. But on Thursday, a game called Bubble Ball ousted Angry Birds: Seasons from the No. 1 spot on the App Store’s top free apps list. Bubble Ball is the work of 14-year-old Robert Nay, an eighth grader in Spanish Fork, Utah, and his mother Kari. Robert Nay managed to take a free version of Angry Birds Seasons — which has become a cultural phenomenon with tens of millions of downloads — down with his very first iPhone game…That’s pretty good for a solo effort. By contrast, Angry Birds was created by a team at Helsinki-based Rovio, which has dozens of employees and has made more than 50 mobile games since 2003. The iPhone has had lots of hits by independent game makers. But it is still a surprise to hear of a 14-year-old scoring such a big hit…it shows that being clever still pays off. Nay has toyed with programming in the past. But he found that creating an iPhone game was easy thanks to tools such as the Corona SDK from Ansca Mobile, which lets users create graphically rich applications and games for the iPhone, iPad and Android. A free version lets users create sophisticated apps such as side-scrolling games with physics effects. A paid $349 version lets you publish to the App Store…”

Economy and Technology

  1. Steve Jobs Takes Another Medical Leave http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703396604576087690312543086.html?mod=WSJ_hp_MIDDLETopStories Steve Jobs, who has battled pancreatic cancer and received a liver transplant, is taking another unexpected leave from running Apple Inc., raising uncertainty over his health and the future of the world's most valuable technology company…Apple's 55-year-old chief executive and co-founder didn't specify what health issue was causing him to take the time off or when he might return…The leave marks the third time in the past decade Mr. Jobs has been forced to step back from his role at Apple, which he has built into a $65 billion consumer electronics giant with products such as the iPhone and iPad. He took a leave in 2004 when he had surgery to remove a tumor in his pancreas and then again in the first half of 2009 for the liver transplant…In his absence, day-to-day operations will be run by Tim Cook, his longtime lieutenant and chief operating officer. Mr. Cook, 50 years old, led Apple during Mr. Jobs's previous leave and won praise for his ability to make Apple's sprawling operations move on time…Over the past year and a half, Mr. Jobs has…taken center stage in public events, making it clear that he was providing the direction of the company…there are concerns about succession at Apple…We had this issue in 2008, and the board was supposed to learn from it, but they haven't." Despite concerns about Mr. Jobs's health…Apple's past two fiscal years ended in September, the company's sales have more than doubled to $65.2 billion and its profit has nearly tripled to $14 billion. Last year, Apple passed Microsoft Corp. in market capitalization to become the world's most valuable technology company. The stock hit its latest high of $348.48 on the Nasdaq Stock Market on Friday, more than four times where it stood two years ago.”
  2. Peter Thiel Pours Money Into New Zealand http://www.businessinsider.com/peter-thiel-new-zealand-2011-1 Peter Thiel, famous for making billions off Facebook, tells us he's finally found "utopia" – New Zealand. Thiel has been investing heavily in the country…he invested $4 million in Pacific Fiber, an ambitious company that is building a fiber-optic cable from Australia to New Zealand to the US and is raising $300-400 million more to do so…Thiel is nothing if not an ambitious, long-term thinker, so what's the big picture here? What could the famously contrarian investor possibly see in a country of 4 million people whose economy is mostly based on agriculture and tourism?...maybe Peter Thiel wants to turn New Zealand into the next Silicon Valley…Investing in a huge undersea fiber optic cable is typically a safe, low-return investment, which isn't the kind of investments Thiel goes after. But bringing high speed internet into New Zealand would be a first step to turning the country into a new Silicon Valley…”
  3. Microsoft online CRM turns up the heat on Salesforce.com, Oracle http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9205361/Microsoft_turns_up_the_heat_on_Salesforce.com_Oracle Microsoft announced Monday that its Dynamics CRM Online software is now available in 40 markets around the world, bringing it in closer competition with Salesforce.com and Oracle's CRM on Demand…Microsoft is offering a number of financial incentives to switchers. New customers that sign contracts by June 30 can receive promotional pricing of US$34 per user per month for the first year. That compares to $65 and $125 per user per month for Salesforce.com's Professional and Enterprise editions, respectively. Oracle CRM on Demand pricing starts at $75 per user per month…”
  4. Are Apple's Best Years Over? http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704307404576080313626225674.html “…This week, Verizon Communications announced that its 93 million subscribers will be able to buy the iPhone in February…This development should bring a gusher of sales for Apple, which has been blowing away analyst estimates already. Its recent year-over-year earnings growth was 70%, on revenue gains of 67%. Its operating margin was 27%...I tote around my iPad and my MacBook Air, own an iPod and am typing this column at a work station with a large Apple desktop screen. I'm intrigued by Apple TV, and, as I said, hope soon to be brandishing an iPhone. I see only one problem: I'm not sure what worlds are left for Apple to conquer…Motorola's Xoom will be the first tablet to use Google's "Honeycomb" version of its Android operating system, designed specifically for the tablet market. CNET called it a potentially "disruptive technology" that "can literally and figuratively measure up against the iPad." The Atrix, which Motorola calls "the world's most powerful smartphone," docks into a laptop computer…I haven't seen or used either product. But as much as I love the iPad, I can't say it is flawless. The screen has a lot of glare and collects fingerprints, and I'm still struggling to type emails on the oversensitive touch-screen interface. Having once written off Amazon's Kindle, I find I'm now lugging around a Kindle (for book reading), the iPad (for newspapers, magazines and lots of other wonderful apps), and the laptop (for email and writing)…”
  5. Goldman Blames Media Attention For Killing Off Its U.S. Facebook Offering http://techcrunch.com/2011/01/17/goldman-facebook/ “…Goldman Sachs has decided to limit its much ballyhooed private offering of up to $1.5 billion in Facebook shares to international investors only. The reason? SEC scrutiny, sparked by this January 2nd article in The New York Times announcing Goldman’s $450 million investment and creation of a “special purpose investment” vehicle for Facebook. Arguably, as the Times article created a demand to get in on the private placement, it could effectively be viewed as solicitation by the SEC…Goldman refers specifically to “intense media attention” as motivation for pulling the U.S. placement…It’s unclear what the consequences would be if Goldman had continued offering US investors the chance to buy Facebook shares and the SEC found that it had acted inappropriately…”

Civilian Aerospace

  1. A Private Space Shuttle Replacement http://www.technologyreview.com/computing/27094/?a=f “…NASA, through its Commercial Crew Development program, has given $50 million in grants to companies developing new spacecraft capable of carrying people and supplies into orbit and to the space station. The recipient of the biggest chunk of this money was the Sierra Nevada Corporation, which received $20 million to develop the Dream Chaser. This spacecraft, the size of a business jet, will take cargo and up to eight people into low Earth orbit…then return and land on commercial airport runways…So far, the design has performed as expected…At facilities in San Diego, the company has been testing the craft's hybrid rocket motors. In the coming months, the company will put the two together to complete a full prototype, carry it into the air, and drop it to see how it flies. Other orbital spacecraft under development by companies including SpaceX and Boeing are capsules that will use parachutes to descend on land or in the sea. The Dream Chaser has a lifting body design; it looks something like an airplane without the large wings on the side. Another private company, Orbital Sciences, is also working on a space-shuttle-like lifting body craft. The Dream Chaser's shape, in combination with extensible wheels and motors, will enable it to make a controlled landing on a runway. Sirangelo says that the craft will therefore be able to land on the ground in more places than other vehicles can, and that the gravitational forces to which it will expose passengers—and sensitive cargo and scientific instruments—will be less intense. If the company continues to achieve its testing and development milestones, the Dream Chaser will be launched into orbit in 2014…”
  2. SpaceX sends a message to budget-cutting lawmakers http://blogs.chron.com/sciguy/archives/2011/01/spacex_sends_a_message_to_budgetcutting_lawmakers_1.html “…Just over a month ago SpaceX succeeded in becoming the first commercial entity to launch a spacecraft into orbit and subsequently recover it upon its return to Earth…it did so for about $800 million, from design to manufacture of the rocket and capsule, to its launch. In spaceflight terms, that's a bargain. Today the company posted an update asking for government help to accelerate development of its Dragon spacecraft into a crew transportation system. "The inaugural flight of the Dragon spacecraft confirmed what we have always believed--the responsiveness and ingenuity of the private sector, combined with the guidance, support and insight of the US government, can deliver an American spaceflight program that is achievable, sustainable and affordable,"…In other words, we can get astronauts into orbit faster and a lot cheaper than the government. And we're an American company, not the Russian government…the subtext is unmistakable. Last month's successful launch of the Dragon capsule showed what could be done by a private company and indeed, humans could have safely flown in that capsule. Dragon has been designed to carry humans from its inception…”

Supercomputing & GPUs

  1. Chipmakers Churn http://www.hpcwire.com/blogs/Chipmakers-Churn-113469629.html “…mobile computing platforms are the new PCs and serious GPU technology is no longer optional…the playing field for general-purpose computing is being leveled, and this relandscaping is working to the detriment of the x86 dynasty. That…encouraged Intel to agree to a new six-year cross-licensing deal with NVIDIA…It also puts an extra $1.5 billion in NVIDIA's pocket, the amount Intel has agreed to pay the GPU maker over the next five years. Given Intel's lack of a mobile computing presence on smart phones or tablets, and the fact that the Larrabee fiasco essentially foreclosed the company's visual computing aspirations, Intel probably didn't have much of a choice. NVIDIA, who offers viable technologies in both the mobile computing space, with Tegra, and the graphics/visualization space with its discrete GPU offerings, has managed to expand into two areas Intel deems critical to its future…the agreement provides cross-licensing access to each other's patents…its an understanding not to sue each other when they bump up against their competitor's patents…It gives both parties the freedom to build CPUs, GPUs, and everything in between without having to worry about who came up with the original ideas. The agreement explicitly prevents NVIDIA from licensing Intel's x86 cores, flash memory, and certain chipsets. But since NVIDIA just revealed its ARM-based "Project Denver" strategy for CPU-GPU integration last week, that doesn't seem nearly the sacrifice it once might have been. Furthermore, NVIDIA has decided to exit the chipset business…It's unclear how Intel will use the new cross-licensing arrangement to move forward in the graphics/visualization space, but it certainly has more latitude to develop and use GPU technology than it otherwise would have had. The fact that the transfer of wealth is going in NVIDIA's favor indicates Intel needs the GPU maker's intellectual property far more than the other way around…”
  2. The Coming Graphics in the Cloud Revolution http://www.ctoedge.com/content/coming-graphics-cloud-revolution “…these days applications are getting more visually-oriented…we see this today in the form of gaming and consumer-oriented applications on the Web…businesses also routinely make use of graphics-intensive applications such as modeling or medical imaging…access to graphical processing units (GPUs) is about to get a whole lot less expensive thanks to cloud computing services…Sumit Gupta, who heads up product management and marketing for Nvidia’s Tesla products…says it’s only a matter of time before providers of high performance computing (HPC) systems in the cloud harness that power for processing analytics applications…Autodesk is already showing how 3D applications can harness processing in the cloud. In addition, Gupta says we should also expect to see a lot of video transcoding handled in the cloud as well as the need for on-demand video graphics for Web and gaming applications growing…visualization in all kinds of applications is about to take a major leap forward to GPU technologies…”
  3. How to Think about Parallel Programming: Not! http://www.infoq.com/presentations/Thinking-Parallel-Programming Guy L. Steele Jr. believes that it should not be the programmer’s job to think about parallelism, but languages should provide ways to transparently run tasks in parallel. This requires a new approach in building languages supporting algorithms built on independence and build-and-conquer principles rather than on linear decomposition of problems.” [1 hr. video]
*****

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