Wednesday, December 30, 2009

TCS to step up hiring as info-tech spending takes off

In what could be a firm indicator of turnaround times for the IT industry, the CEO of India's largest IT services company said fiscal 2010-11 is likely to see his company step up the pace of hiring, give wage hikes, as well as increase capital expenditure.

“We are likely to hire more people next year ( vis-à-vis the current fiscal) and we have also increased the quantum of work done offshore. This means we have to create more facilities going forward,” Mr N Chandrasekaran, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Tata Consultancy Services, said in an interview to Business Line.

Next year's capex for the $6-billion company is likely to be higher than the Rs 1,300 crore earmarked for the current year, a figure disclosed by the group chairman, Mr Ratan Tata, at the company's annual general meeting last year.

However, Mr Chandrasekaran would not provide concrete numbers as the company is still in the process of firming up its plans for the next fiscal, ahead of its third quarterly results that are to be announced on January 15.

This revival in IT spend is propelling TCS to firm up hiring plans for next year and it is being led by companies in the banking, financial services space across geographies.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Skiers on New Year's Eve will get best view of the blue moon

It may become known as the great blue moon boo boo.

Reports of Australians celebrating New Year's Eve under a rare blue moon have been shot down by astronomers.News websites, including this one, were quick to follow up on a report in yesterday's The Age newspaper, which referred to a blue moon occuring on New Year's Eve.

The only problem is, that report was incorrect.In Australia, at least.The phrase blue moon refers to when a second full moon occurs within a calendar month. With the lunar cycle taking roughly 29.5 days, it generally happens every two to three years. The moon itself does not change colour.

A blue moon is scheduled for 7.13pm New Year's Eve, but astronomers work in Greenwich Mean Time.

Because Australia's time zone is ahead of England, the full moon will actually occur at 5.13am January 1, Brisbane time.The fact that it doesn't fall in the same month means it can no longer be considered a blue moon.

Mark Rigby, curator of the Brisbane Planetarium, said the term full moon referred to the specific point when the moon was on the opposite side of the Earth to the sun."If you were in London you could celebrate on New Year's Eve under a blue moon, but not at our latitude," Mr Rigby said.

"It is a specific moment in time when you have the sun, Earth and moon all in a straight line."

Australians devastated at losing this astronomical boost to their celebrations can take solace in the fact we will be compensated with an even rarer event: a month with no full moon.After New Year's Day's full moon, Australia will experience a blue moon on January 30, followed by no full moon at all in February. We will then have a second blue moon in March, coming on March 30 after a first full moon on March 1.

The last blue moon occurred in Australia in 2007, but the last time February had no full moon was 1991. It is not due to occur again until 2018.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Obama says U.S. to hunt failed plane attack's backers

"We will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable," Obama said, interrupting his year-end vacation in Hawaii to assure Americans that his administration was doing all it could to ensure security after a Nigerian man managed to smuggle explosives onto a Detroit-bound flight.

"The American people should be assured that we are doing everything in our power to keep you and your family safe and secure during this busy holiday season," he said.

Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, is charged with attempting to blow up a Northwest Airlines plane as it approached Detroit on a flight from Amsterdam with almost 300 people on board.

Abdulmutallab has told U.S. investigators that al Qaeda operatives in Yemen supplied him with an explosive device for the attempted December 25 attack and trained him on how to detonate it, officials said.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Russia to work on new nuclear missiles

Russia will work on a new generation of atomic weapons to strengthen its nuclear deterrent, President Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday, just hours after Moscow test-fired one of its most feared missiles.

Medvedev said that Russia and the United States were close to a landmark deal on cutting arsenals of Cold War nuclear weapons, but that Moscow would still push ahead with the development of new strategic offensive weapons.

"Of course, we will develop new systems, including delivery systems, that is, missiles," Medvedev told the directors of Russia's three main state-controlled television channels.

Medvedev said Washington and Moscow had agreed most of the remaining issues for a deal to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), which led to the biggest reduction in nuclear weapons in history.

"Despite the fact that we will prepare and sign this treaty, we will nevertheless develop our strategic offensive forces because without this there is no way to defend our country," Medvedev said, several hours after the armed forces test-fired a nuclear capable missile.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tell Google that you’re with fresh things over your website

All of us know the traffic on the web, both in terms of traffic as well as content; Search engines face a difficult task today. So the fresh content is becoming much more important.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Years Shortest Day

Today is officially the shortest day of the year and December 21 marks the astronomical event which sees the Earth tilting farthest from the sun, and occurs at precisely 12:47 EST.

December 21, or Winter Solstice marks the official first day of winter and also see’s the astrological sign of Capricorn come into the zone.

According to history, the Latin phrase “solstice” means the “sun stands still,” and has an accident history of celebrations and ceremonies dedicated to the shortest day where Yule festivals were held. You can find out more about Winter Solstice.

Celebrations still continue to this day, where Fairbanks, Alaska are hosting an event called “Solstice Fest,” a festival which involves live entertainment, fireworks and a light show.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Barcelona beat Estudiantes to win the Club World Cup

Barcelona secured a record sixth piece of silverware this season with a 2-1 extra-time victory over Estudiantes in the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi.

Lionel Messi's 110th-minute goal capped a stunning comeback by Barca after they had trailed since the 39th minute.Mauro Bosselli gave Estudiantes the lead before substitute Pedro Rodriguez equalised with a minute to go.

The Catalan side have also won La Liga, the Copa del Rey, Champions League and European and Spanish Super Cup titles.

This was the second time in succession in the competition that Barcelona have had to come back from a deficit to earn victory after they fought back to beat Atlante in the semis.

However, Barca could have been ahead early on in the final but instead of shooting after being released by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Xavi chose to pass and over-hit his lay-off to Thierry Henry.

Friday, December 18, 2009

'Lukewarm' climate change deal in Copenhagen

The UN climate conference in Copenhagen today approved a deal to tackle global warming proposed by world leaders, after an accord Barack Obama brokered with China, India, Brazil and South Africa.

But the UN Secretary General today admitted the non-binding agreement at the conclusion of the conference was not "everything everyone had hoped for", as he confirmed a deal had finally been done.

Delegates have agreed to "take note" of the American-led Copenhagen Accord, despite criticism that there are no long-term targets to cut emissions and it is not a legally-binding treaty.

Obama had brokered the agreement with China, India, Brazil and South Africa to tackle global warming, which included a reference to keeping the global temperature rise to just 2C - but the plan does not specify greenhouse gas cuts needed to achieve the 2C goal.

Russia Arms Treaty "Close"

President Barack Obama said Friday that the U.S. and Russia were "quite close' to agreeing on a successor to an expired nuclear arms control treaty.Mr. Obama had wanted a new deal in place before the end of the year, but that appeared unlikely.

Emerging from private talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on the sidelines of the U.N. climate conference, Mr. Obama expressed confidence that a successor pact will be agreed to in a "timely fashion." Medvedev said technical details still needed to be worked out.

Both leaders made only brief statements to reporters and took no questions. Neither one said anything about a possible timetable for signing a deal.

"We've been making excellent progress," Mr. Obama said. "We are quite close to an agreement. And I'm confident that it will be completed in a timely fashion."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hollywood hopes an ensemble cast boosts Blu-ray

Although prices for some Blu-ray players dropped below $100 this holiday season, customers are hesitating to jump into the next-generation video format. Even people who already own Blu-ray players are still buying movies on DVDs.

One big reason: Blu-ray discs won't play on standard DVD players found in cars, computers and bedrooms.

Now Hollywood - which is banking on the pricier Blu-ray discs to help lift sagging home video sales - is stepping up its efforts to win customers. Studios are packaging Blu-ray discs with regular versions on DVDs, and throwing in so-called "digital copies," which can play on computers and iPods.

Over the past month or so, "Up," ''Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" and many other hit movies were released in such combo packs. Universal is releasing its "Bourne" movies on "flipper" discs with Blu-ray on one side and DVD on the other.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

NASA Chief Meets With Obama

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House Wednesday.

The two will likely discuss the findings of the Augustine Committee, which spent the summer reviewing the agency’s plans for human space flight after the shuttle fleet’s scheduled retirement in 2010.

NASA’s Constellation program is set to return astronauts to the moon by 2020, but the committee recommended eight options, six of which would cancel the Ares I rocket.

Meantime, an Alabama senator inserted a provision in the recent end of the year spending bill, forbidding NASA to cancel the Constellation project without congressional approval.

Much of the work for Constellation is out of NASA’s Huntsville, Ala., facility.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Obama says Senate near health care passage

President Barack Obama, center, makes a statement on health care reform after meeting with Senators, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2009, at the White House in Washington, From left are, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn.; Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.; the president; and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev.

Monday, December 14, 2009

US, Russia begin talks on cyberspace security

The United States, Russia and the UN arms control committee are holding talks about strengthening Internet security, reining in the growing threat of cyber warfare and limiting the military use of cyberspace. The effort is a virtual version of the ongoing negotiations of nuclear arms talks between the two nations.

The United States has begun talks with Russia and a U.N. arms control committee about strengthening Internet security and limiting the military use of cyberspace, The New York Times reported.

The effort was a virtual version of the nuclear arms talks being held between the two nations in Geneva – but rather than focusing on bombs and missiles, the discussions are aimed at curbing the increasing level of online attacks.

The Kremlin said President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev discussed ongoing negotiations for a successor to an expired nuclear weapons treaty Saturday, adding that the two sides are making "substantial progress" on the matter.

The United States has begun talks with Russia and a U.N. arms control committee about strengthening Internet security and limiting the military use of cyberspace, The New York Times reported.

The effort was a virtual version of the nuclear arms talks being held between the two nations in Geneva – but rather than focusing on bombs and missiles, the discussions are aimed at curbing the increasing level of online attacks.

The Kremlin said President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev discussed ongoing negotiations for a successor to an expired nuclear weapons treaty Saturday, adding that the two sides are making "substantial progress" on the matter.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Microsoft to offer downloadable Windows 7 Touch Pack

It would seem that Redmond has plans to offer a downloadable copy of the Microsoft Touch Pack for Windows 7. First introduced in May, the Windows 7 Touch Pack includes several applications and games that are compatible with touch-enabled displays.

It was initially only intended to be packaged with OEM systems, but the official page suggests that has now changed: "The Touch Pack comes preinstalled on some multitouch PCs running Windows 7, and will soon be available for download." For further confirmation, Neowin received word from a Microsoft spokesperson who said, "Microsoft is planning to make it available via download soon but has not confirmed/committed to a timeline."

The software bundle features programs like Microsoft Surface Globe, a multi-touch 3D globe with information about regions, 3D cities and more. Other applications include Microsoft Surface Collage, Microsoft Surface Lagoon, Microsoft Blackboard, Microsoft Rebound, and Microsoft Garden Pond. Neowin has detailed the Windows 7 Touch Pack if you're interested.

It's also worth noting that the Touch Pack can be downloaded from countless unofficial sources if you don't want to wait for Microsoft.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Obama and Nobel

President Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo Thursday, but his speech mentioned little about peace and focused more on the fact that he is a war-time President, and needs to defend his nation.

"Perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down," Obama told an audience of approximately 900 people gathered at Oslo City Hall, the traditional location for the Nobel Ceremony.

"The other is a conflict that America did not seek; one in which we are joined by forty three other countries -- including Norway -- in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks," Obama continued to the audience who warmly applauded the President but hardly gave him the rock-star appreciation he has become used to seeing in his overseas travel.

The theme of Afghanistan already colored the trip of Obama, having just made clear his intentions to send 30,000 troops to that country, and the President could not escape skepticism that his call for surge troops sent to Afghanistan should be withdrawn by July 2011.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Behind the scenes at the sceptics' conference

The Copenhagen Climate Challenge was signposted by a hand-written piece of paper and a small picture of a happy-looking person in a sun hat declaring: “Global warming: Hurrah!”

But do not be fooled by the amateurish approach, these are serious people with a very important message: “Global warming is not man made and in fact may not be happening at all.”

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Virgin Galactic Unveils First Tourist Spaceship

Aspiring space tourists got a first look at their future ride late Monday, when Virgin Galactic unveiled the first of its long-awaited SpaceShipTwo planes (pictured with wings folded upward, suspended from the middle of its twin-fuselage launch vehicle).

After years of teases, the world's only commercial spacecraft rolled out onto the tarmac at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. There, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson christened the Virgin Galactic craft with the customary smashing of champagne bottles.

Virgin Galactic leader Sir Richard Branson's daughter, Holly, announced the first SpaceShipTwo plane's name: V.S.S. Enterprise, short for Virgin Space Ship Enterprise, said Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn.

Virgin Galactic chose "Enterprise" for its long tradition in maritime and aviation history, he said.

"It was the name of the first space shuttle, and it has dominated science fiction as a kind of watchword for human spaceflight in the future," Whitehorn said.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Google Strives to Make Public DNS Secure

In an effort to enhance the Web experience and speed things up for users, Google is getting into the DNS business. DNS has privacy and security implications, though, that Google has to take into consideration in providing this service.

Privacy is a concern with virtually everything Google touches. The very nature of many of Google's core offerings is based on cataloging and indexing every possible detail about everything. To provide the best search results, it has to create the most comprehensive site index. To provide the most detailed maps, it has to painstakingly catalog every street in the world. Sometimes the goal of providing information oversteps the privacy boundary.

The privacy concern with Google Public DNS though is more about the Big Brother status that Google achieves by acting as the DNS resolver to the world. With recent purchases like AdMob and Teracent, Google is aggressively expanding its advertising footprint. The ability to monitor and capture detailed Web data from the DNS traffic could be a goldmine for Google.

David Ulevitch, founder of OpenDNS, challenges Google's altruism in his blog post: "Google claims that this service is better because it has no ads or redirection. But you have to remember they are also the largest advertising and redirection company on the Internet. To think that Google's DNS service is for the benefit of the Internet would be naive."

Privacy issues aside, DNS also comes with some inherent security concerns. The Google Code Blog acknowledged the security implications of DNS in the post announcing Google Public DNS. "DNS is vulnerable to spoofing attacks that can poison the cache of a nameserver and can route all its users to a malicious website."

There have been a number of issues discovered with DNS and attacks that exploit weaknesses in DNS in recent years. It was designed in a Utopian era before Internet or Web security were issues. DNSSEC has been developed as a next-generation, more secure implementation of DNS, but it is not yet part of the mainstream.

Google is aware of the security flaws with DNS though and has taken steps to protect against them. "Until new protocols like DNSSEC get widely adopted, resolvers need to take additional measures to keep their caches secure. Google Public DNS makes it more difficult for attackers to spoof valid responses by randomizing the case of query names and including additional data in its DNS messages."

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Intel hopes 48-core chip will solve new challenges

The 1.3-billion transistor processor, called Single-chip Cloud Computer (SCC) is successor generation to the 80-core "Polaris" processor that Intel's Tera-scale research project produced in 2007. Unlike that precursor, though, the second-generation model is able to run the standard software of Intel's x86 chips such as its Pentium and Core models.

The cores themselves aren't terribly powerful--more like lower-end Atom processors than Intel's flagship Nehalem models, Intel Chief Technology Officer Justin Rattner said at a press event here. But collectively they pack a lot of power, he said, and Intel has ambitious goals in mind for the overall project.

"The machine will be capable of understanding the world around them much as humans do," Rattner said. "They will see and hear and probably speak and do a number of other things that resemble human-like capabilities, and will demand as a result very (powerful) computing capability."

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

EA CEO Claims Digital Market Will Surpass Consoles Next Year

if you're looking for a hint as to where EA thinks the global videogame market is headed, look no further than their recent acquisition of Facebook all-stars Playfish. The company is convinced that not only will their investments in the digital market pay off in 2010, but that online games will soon surpass the packaged goods side of the industry.

Speaking with Reuters, EA CEO John Riccitiello talked up the digital games business:

"When people think of games, they traditionally think, in the U.S., of what sells on the Xbox, the PlayStation, and the Wii, and they forget about all these online services that are out there subscription, microtransactions, games they find on Facebook, or if they go to Pogo, or if they play Warhammer Online, or they download games, or they get them by way of their mobile phone or their iPhone. And if you add all that stuff up, it's almost half the industry now. It's about 40 to 45 percent. Next year it's likely to be the larger share of the total industry and it'll be bigger than the console games all put together."

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Astronaut Thirsk back on Earth

Record-breaking Canadian astronaut Bob Thirsk has returned to Earth after spending six months aboard the International Space Station. A Russian spacecraft carrying Thirsk and two other astronauts landed in Kazakhstan, in central Asia, after deploying parachutes to slow its descent.

The Soyuz module landed upright about 80 kilometres northeast of the town of Arkalyk in northern Kazakhstan at 10:15 a.m. Moscow time or 2:15 a.m. ET.

Braving icy weather, Russian recovery crews extracted cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, Thirsk, and finally Belgian space station commander Frank De Winne from the module.

"The landing was very soft; we were lucky not to have any wind," Romanenko said after leaving the capsule. "Everything went quite nicely; there were no problems whatsoever."

As is the custom with space travellers returning on Soyuz vehicles, all three were carried on stretchers to a nearby all-terrain vehicle. The cold weather grounded the helicopters normally used to recover landing astronauts. This was the first December landing of a Soyuz capsule since 1990.

The three astronauts were driven to Arkalyk and were expected to be flown to Star City in Moscow later Tuesday.

Monday, November 30, 2009

AIDS awareness from World AIDS Day (Dec 1 is World AIDS Day)

Art will spread a new message with the project 'I: Art Against AIDS' - a series of discussions and exhibitions spread over a year that will promote awareness about AIDS and the implications of the disease in India.

The project, a collaboration between the Religare Arts Initiative and UNAIDS - the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS - will open with a discussion Dec 1, which is World AIDS Day.

Twenty contemporary artists, both established and new, will contribute their art works for the inaugural show followed by 980 more through out the year. The subject of the 1,000 art works will be HIV/AIDS.

The works will be displayed at Religare's Arts Gallery till Dec 11.

The list of artists include Baba Anand, Ashok Bhowmik, Rajesh Patil, Promod Gaikwad, Daina Mohapatra and Jyoti Ranjan Jena.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Global warming fraud uncovered

Breaking news last week featured in the Wall Street Journal and Fox News has featured the story and data released by an unknown hacker or whistleblower that appears to be obtained from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, England.

There has been confirmation from Steve McIntyre, a climate scientist who is featured and attacked in the leaked information that seems to verify its authenticity. McIntyre was not one of the elite group from the CRU, but one of many scientists who has been seeking data and facts through a freedom of information request.

U.S. Stocks, Commodities Decline as Bonds Gain on Dubai

Stocks skidded Friday as concern swept world markets that financial trouble in the Middle Eastern city-state of Dubai will upend a global economic recovery.

Major stock indexes fell more than 1 percent from 13-month highs, including the Dow Jones industrial average, which lost 155 points in a shortened trading day but ended off its worst levels. Five stocks still fell for every one that rose at the New York Stock Exchange and all 30 stocks that make up the Dow slid.

Investors' broad retreat from riskier assets pushed Treasury prices higher. The dollar gained against most other major currencies as investors sought safety following steep drops in overseas markets. Commodities prices tumbled.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dubai debt fears hit share prices

The decision by Dubai's government-owned investment company to ask for a sixth-month delay on repaying its debts hits Asian and European stock market prices.

Dubai World, which has nearly $60bn in debt has asked creditors if it can postpone its payments until at least next May. Dubai is famed for its sprawling man-made islands, indoor ski slopes and world's tallest tower, but it has been hit hard by the global credit crunch and recession.

Property prices in Dubai have slumped by around 50 per cent within the last year. Lay-offs, prompted in part by project cancellations and delays, have forced many expatriates out of the city.

Dubai is one of seven self-governing emirates or states that make up the United Arab Emirates and one of the key forces behind the growth of the city-state. It has had to rely on trade, finance and tourism to compensate for its lack of oil wealth.

The conglomerate, whose businesses range from hauling cargo off ships to building islands and running US luxury hotels, announced in October that it has had reduce its work force by 15 per cent.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Shuttle Atlantis leaves space station

International Space Station drifting away from the Space Shuttle Atlantis shortly after undocking early Wednesday Nov. 25, 2009. The shuttle is scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center, Friday morning. Shuttle Atlantis undocked from the International Space Station early Wednesday, headed home with one astronaut eager to hold his newborn daughter for the first time and another who's been away from her young son since the summer.

The shuttle departed as the spacecraft soared nearly 220 miles above the Pacific, just northeast of New Guinea. Over the past week, the astronauts stockpiled the outpost and performed maintenance that should keep it running for another five to 10 years.

International Space Station drifting away from the Space Shuttle Atlantis shortly after undocking early Wednesday Nov. 25, 2009. The shuttle is scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center, Friday morning

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Windows 7 is Microsoft’s best-selling OS

Windows 7 has achieved record sales levels – more than double those of previous operating system (OS) releases – a triumphant Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told a shareholders’ meeting last week.

Speaking at the Microsoft Annual Shareholder Meeting, Ballmer announced record sales figures for Windows 7, and detailed the company’s plans to continue to deliver shareholder value in the long-term.

“Windows 7 is the simply best PC operating system we have ever built,” Ballmer said. “It enables people to do more of what they want to do more easily and more quickly, and customers are responding.

“Since launch, we’ve already sold twice as many units of Windows 7 than any other operating system we’ve ever launched in a comparable time,”

Monday, November 23, 2009

Antarctica Loses Ice From East as Well as West

Nov. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Antarctica is losing ice from its larger eastern side as well as the western part, an indication the southernmost continent may add “significantly more” to rising seas, researchers in Texas said.

The eastern sheet lost ice at a rate of about 57 billion metric tons a year from 2002 to 2009, contributing to the continent’s total annual average loss of about 190 billion tons, scientists at the University of Texas at Austin said in the journal Nature Geoscience.

United Nations scientists in 2007 said most of Antarctica’s contribution to rising sea levels amid global warming comes from the western sheet, with the eastern part either holding steady or gaining mass. The latest findings for East Antarctica are “surprising” because they differ from other estimates, said glaciologist Jonathan Bamber, who wasn’t involved in the study.

Global warming appears to be having a damaging effect on the Antarctic ice as study results indicate that it is melting faster than thought.

Since 2006, the East Antarctic icesheet, which was believed to be untouchable by global warming has lost billions of tons of ice. Researchers say that since 2006, East Antarctica has been losing up to 57 billion tons of ice each year.

The West Antarctic icesheet is also losing volume, even at a faster rate than the eastern icesheet.

Up until a few years ago, these icesheets were not losing water at all, and have just started to do so since 2006. This is as one may guess, is not good, and could result in increased sea levels over time.

The 2 bodies of ice contain enough water to push up the global sea level by about 7 meters if they were to actually melt away.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Windows 7 Sales "Fantastic"

Windows 7 isn't just getting good reviews, it's also selling well, CEO Steve Ballmer told shareholders Thursday.

Delivering opening remarks at Microsoft's shareholder meeting, Ballmer said that Windows 7 was off to a "fantastic start." "We've already sold twice as many units as any OS in a comparable time frame," Ballmer said. "Windows 7 is simply the best PC operating system that we or anyone else has ever built."

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer delivers a point at the company's Worldwide Partner Conference in July. By last week, Windows 7 accounted for 4 percent of Web-accessing devices, according to Net Applications; it took Vista more than seven months to reach that level.

Addressing the overall economy, Ballmer reiterated that things seem to have stabilized. "The economy has, at least for now, leveled off," he said.

The meeting is still going on and has just entered the question-and-answer session and I'll update this post if anything interesting comes up. So far, though, it's been mostly about local and legislative matters, rather than technological issues.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

California Adopts New TV Energy Efficiency Standards

California's Energy Commission has unanimously approved the nation's first energy efficiency standards for televisions, a move that the commission estimates will save $8.1 billion in energy costs after 10 years. The commission has enacted that all televisions smaller than 58 inches sold in California in 2011 must consume 33 percent less electricity and 49 percent less electricity by 2013.

"The real winners of these new TV energy efficiencies are California consumers, who will be saving billions of dollars and conserving energy while preserving their choice to buy any size or type of TV. Californians buy 4 million televisions each year and they deserve the most energy-efficient models available," said Energy Commission Chairman Karen Douglas in a statement.

Pacific Gas & Electric estimates that the new standards would reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by 3 million metric tons over the first decade.

The good news for TV manufacturers is that many products, more than 1,000 models today, already meet the 2011 standards, according to the commission. The new regulations will not affect existing TVs or any models bought in 2010, the commission said.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

IBM simulates cat, maps human brain to improve chip tech

Scientists at IBM said they'd made progress towards creating a computer system that will simulate and emulate the human brain for sensation, perception, action, interaction and cognition.

They also claimed that the system rivals the brain's low power and energy consumption.

Scientists at IBM Almaden, in tandem with scients at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, said they'd performed the first near real time cortical simulation of the brain exceeding the scale of a cat cortex and with one billon spiking neuros and 10 trillion individual learning synapses.

And if that wasn't enough, IBM has created an algorithm that uses the Blue Gene supercomputing architecture to measure and map connections between the cortical and sub-cortical places in the brain using magnetic resonance diffusion weighted imaging.

Not only will this help to explain the computational dynamics of the human brain, it will also advance a bid to create a small, low power synaptronic chip using nanotech, phase change memory and magnetic tunnel junctions.

Not only will this help to explain the computational dynamics of the human brain, it will also advance a bid to create a small, low power synaptronic chip using nanotech, phase change memory and magnetic tunnel junctions.

The simulation of the cat cortex used a simulator on the Lawrence Livermore Dawn Blue Gene/P supercomputer - it has 147,456 CPUs and 144 terabytes of memory.

IBM is involved in the DARPA SyNAPSE (Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics) initiative - that intends to build a prototype chip and eventually build low power cognitive computers approaching mammalian scale intelligence.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Microsoft to Share Some IE9 Details at PDC

That's the company's message Tuesday from its Professional Developers Conference here, where Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie gave the opening keynote address.

Ozzie announced plans for the formal launch of Windows Azure, the cloud-based operating system that lets developers write programs that run on servers in Microsoft's data centers. It will be in production for all users starting January 1, though a few customers will enter production now, Ozzie said.

In other news, Microsoft announced a technology preview of a new data service, code-named Dallas, that lets Azure customers access various commercial and public data sets. Early partners include NASA, the Associated Press, and InfoUSA.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Atlantis shuttle set to blast off

The US space shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to blast off from Florida on a mission to deliver spare parts to the International Space Station (ISS). Lift-off is planned for 1928 GMT (1428 EST) on Monday from the Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral.

There are just five more shuttle launches scheduled before the planned retirement of the fleet in 2010. The mission is set to include three spacewalks to store hardware on the outside of the orbiting outpost.

"Atlantis is ready to go, in really great shape," said shuttle launch manager Mike Moses at a news conference. The weather is also looking good for Monday's launch; meteorologist Kathy Winters said there was just a 10% chance of weather prohibiting the launch.

This mission is dedicated to building up the store of replacement parts on the space station, which is nearing the completion of its construction phase.

These spares include pump modules, gas tanks, two control moment gyroscopes and component for the space station's robotic arm. But the astronauts will also help prepare the way for the next shuttle mission, during which the last US space station module will be delivered: the Tranquility node with its attached cupola.

The cupola is a window module to provide crew members with a direct view of operations outside the space station and an observation point for watching the Earth.

Captained by Charlie Hobaugh, a colonel in the US marines, the all-male crew of Atlantis arrived on Thursday at Kennedy Space Center from Houston, Texas, where they have been training for the mission. The six astronauts will spend the US Thanksgiving holiday in orbit. They will return to Earth with a seventh crew member, Nicole Stott, who's been living at the space station for nearly three months

The 11-day space outing will be the fifth and last shuttle mission for 2009.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Obama Calls For Cooperation With China

U.S. President Barack Obama has pledged cooperation with China and a greater U.S. engagement in Asia during a major speech in Tokyo Saturday.

President Obama said the United States does not seek to contain China, and welcomes its efforts to play a greater role on the world stage. However, he said the United States will never waver in speaking up for values it cherishes and said a discussion about human rights can take place in a spirit of partnership.

Highlighting his own childhood in Indonesia, President Obama emphasized America's ties to Asia as he made his first trip to the region since becoming president. He said Washington's commitment to Asia's security was "unshakable."

During his wide-ranging address, the president also spoke about nuclear proliferation, climate change, and the global economic downturn.

2009 Leonid meteor shower to light up North America

According to NASA, the 2009 Leonid meteor shower will peak in the early morning hours of Tuesday, November 17 across North America.

"We're predicting 20 to 30 meteors per hour over," said Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office in an earlier interview. "Our forecast is in good accord with independent theoretical work by other astronomers."

The first stream peaks around 3 a.m. CST across North American skies, although the hours both leading up to and following should produce excellent viewing results as well.

The next stream crosses shortly before dawn in Indonesia and China. is forecasting partly cloudy skies for the New Orleans area Monday into Tuesday of next week. Escaping the light polution of the downtown area should provide the best viewing opportunity.

The Leonids are famous for storming, most recently in 1999-2002 when deep crossings of Tempel-Tuttle's debris streams produced outbursts of more than 1000 meteors per hour. The Leonids of 2009 won't be like that, but it only takes one bright Leonid streaking past Mars to make the night worthwhile.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bing vs. Google: Feature Wars

Bing unveiled new and improved tools like Wolfram Alpha integration, Facebook Previews and full-page weather reports. Then Google hit back on Thursday with enhanced movie listings and even safer SafeSearch. Before that Bing unveiled an overhauled maps interface, the next day Google announced Street View was now available in all fifty states. Last month during the Web 2.0 Summit, the two search engines sent out competing press releases bragging about Twitter integration, and on and on it goes.

Google may be the dominant search engine, but Bing is doing its best to push its way up the popularity charts.

With so much attention focused on adding new stuff, you've got to wonder what the future has in store for search and whether this feature war is getting out of hand.

The Battle for Search

It's nothing new to try and suck the life out of a competitor's product by making a competing major announcement around the same time. Palm and Sprint tried to do that to Apple with the launch of the Palm Pre. Not to mention that Google Wave launched on May 28, the same day that Bing made its debut. But lately, the battle between Google and Bing is getting to be like a tennis match that never ends, just a constant rally back and forth as each side tries to outmaneuver the other.

Look at Wednesday: Bing announces some interesting new features that integrate the computational power of Wolfram Alpha into its search results. As an added bonus, Bing gets limited Facebook integration and tweaks its weather results.

How does Google respond? An announcement about tweaked movie searches, and password protection for your SafeSearch settings--Google's filter for explicit content. Improved SafeSearch is worth talking about and likely a welcome improvement, but the Google Movies announcement looks like a desperate plea to prove that Google can be just as consumer oriented as Bing.

The Future

Although competing announcements can get a little tiring, there's a lot to love about the heavy competition in the search market. Google and Microsoft realize that search is where the online money is, which is why they spend so much time on new features and products that will keep you coming back for more. Increased competition could lead to helpful technologies emerging like improved semantic search, hyper local features, voice activated search on your PC and who know what else?

It's an exciting future for search--I can't believe I just said that--and Google and Bing are working hard to deliver the latest and greatest features to their loyal users. I just hope they don't lose focus on basic things like filtering search spam and phishing detection in the rush to deliver new features before the other guy does.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Microsoft disconnects Xbox gamers

Thousands of gamers may have been cut off from Microsoft's online gaming service Xbox Live for modifying their consoles to play pirated games. Online reports suggest that as many as 600,000 gamers may have been affected.

Microsoft confirmed that it had banned a "small percentage" of the 20 million Xbox Live users worldwide. Microsoft said that modifying an Xbox 360 console "violates" the service's "terms of use" and would result in a player being disconnected.

"All consumers should know that piracy is illegal and that modifying their Xbox 360 console to play pirated discs violates the Xbox Live terms of use, will void their warranty and result in a ban from Xbox Live," Microsoft has said in a statement.

"The health of the video game business depends on customers paying for the genuine products and services they receive from manufacturers, retailers, and the third parties that support them."
Many gamers modify their consoles by installing new chips or software that allows them to run unofficial programs. Some chips are specifically designed to play pirated games. Microsoft has not said how it was able to determine which gamers to disconnect.

"We do not reveal specifics, but can say that all consoles have been verified to have violated the terms of use," the firm said in a statement. Affected gamers were met with a message during the login process. It read: ""Your console has been banned from Xbox".

Reports suggest that the ban does not stop the console from working and only affects a gamer's Xbox Live account. Industry figures suggest that piracy may cost the video game industry as much as £750m a year.

In other news, a UK court has dismissed a man's appeal against an earlier conviction for selling modification chips - "modchips" that allow gamers to play illegal games. Christopher Gillham's earlier conviction was upheld by Hereford Crown Court which found that playing counterfeit games on a modified console infringed copyrights.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Intel Launches Text-to-Speech Mobile E-Reader For Disabled

Intel Corporation today announced the Intel® Reader, a mobile handheld device designed to increase independence for people who have trouble reading standard print. The Intel Reader can assist the estimated 55 million people in the U.S. who have dyslexia or other specific learning disabilities, or have vision problems such as low-vision or blindness, which makes reading printed words difficult or impossible.

The Intel Reader, about the size of a paperback book, converts printed text to digital text, and then reads it aloud to the user. Its unique design combines a high-resolution camera with the power of an Intel® Atom™ processor, allowing users to point, shoot and listen to printed text. The Intel Reader will be available in the United States through select resellers, including CTL, Don Johnston Incorporated, GTSI, Howard Technology Solutions and HumanWare.

When the Intel Reader is used together with the Intel® Portable Capture Station, large amounts of text, such as a chapter or an entire book, can be easily captured for reading later. Users will have convenient and flexible access to a variety of printed materials, helping to not only increase their freedom, but improve their productivity and efficiency at school, work and home. The Intel Reader has been endorsed by the International Dyslexia Association as an important advance in assistive technology. Additionally, Intel is working with the Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs, the Council for Exceptional Children, Lighthouse International, the National Center for Learning Disabilities and the National Federation of the Blind to help reach and address the needs of people who have difficulty reading print.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Microsoft releases Exchange 2010, acquires Teamprise

Microsoft made two enterprise moves on Monday, one expected and the other a bit of a surprise.

As promised, the company used its TechEd event in Berlin to release Exchange 2010, the latest version of its e-mail and calendar server software. Microsoft finalized the code for the product last month and had said it would launch at TechEd.

Microsoft VP Tami Reller talks about enterprise adoption of Windows 7 as part of a Webcast held after the first day of TechEd Europe.

Meanwhile, the company also announced it is buying the Teamprise technology from SourceGear. Teamprise allows developers using Eclipse and those working on non-Windows operating systems to build applications using Microsoft's Visual Studio product.

"We know our customers face daily challenges with management, collaboration and development in heterogeneous environments. The industry must take steps to make interoperability a stronger business asset for our customers," senior vice president and developer unit head S. Somasegar said in a statement. "With the acquisition of the Teamprise assets, we're taking a step forward on this journey, providing customers with a viable cross-platform development solution that will help produce business results more quickly."

Microsoft didn't announce financial terms of the deal, but did say the Teamprise technology will be integrated into Visual Studio 2010.

At TechEd Europe, Microsoft also talked about enterprise adoption of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, highlighting some early customers of the two products.

"We remain just pleased and humbled by the very warm reception we're seeing," Microsoft vice president Tami Reller said in a Webcast on Monday.

As part of the same Webcast, senior vice president Chris Capossela sounded off on Cisco's announcement of updated collaboration tools that could take on Exchange.

"Rather than stitching together acquired products and calling that a solution, we've built Exchange form the ground up," he said.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Windows 7 Japan sales 'fantasti

Sales of Microsoft Corp.'s new Windows 7 operating system have been "fantastic" in Japan since its launch last month, CEO Steve Ballmer. He declined to provide specific numbers for Japan, which is Microsoft's second-largest market, but said features like quicker start-up times were luring consumers to the newest version of the world's dominate software package. He added new computers were also helping attract buyers. "People don't buy operating systems, they buy computers with operating systems on them," Ballmer told reporters during a presentation in Tokyo.

Windows 7 was launched last month after consumers and businesses gave a poor reception to its predecessor, Vista. That operating system was considered slow and had trouble working with existing programs and devices. Many consumers and companies opted not to install Vista at all. The company has also been hit by the economic downturn. Microsoft said Wednesday it is cutting 800 jobs, in addition to the 5,000 layoffs it announced in January, its first broad layoffs ever.

Microsoft's Japan subsidiary is currently its best performing, Ballmer said. He said the company's Internet search partnership with Yahoo Inc. could be extended outside of the U.S. to markets such as Japan, without elaborating. Yahoo's Japan portal is dominant in the country, even in areas such as online auctions that are weaker in the U.S.

Ballmer called Microsoft a "small player" in search and said it has a long way to go to rival Google's strength in that area. Microsoft and Yahoo are working out the details and awaiting regulatory approval on an alliance in the U.S. that would see Microsoft handle searches from Yahoo's site and provide much of the advertising based on the results.

The Microsoft chief said the company was investing heavily on developing so-called "cloud" services, in which the majority of processing and storage is done online via the Internet, instead of on hardware "clients" like mobile phones and PCs.

Goldman Sachs, Citigroup got swine flu vaccine

Some of New York's biggest companies, including Wall Street giants Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, received doses of swine flu vaccine for at-risk employees, drawing criticism that the hard-to-find vaccine is going first to the privileged. Hospitals, universities and the Federal Reserve Bank also got doses of the vaccine for employees who need it the most, such as pregnant women or chronically ill workers, according to the city's health department.

In order to receive the vaccine, companies had to have their own medical staff. Distributing large doses of the vaccine to such businesses is "a great avenue for vaccinating people at risk," said Jessica Scaperotti, spokeswoman for the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. But critics said Wall Street firms should not have access to the vaccine before less wealthy Americans.

"Vaccines should go to people who need them most, not people who happen to work on Wall Street," Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut said Thursday.

"Wall Street banks have already taken so much from us. They've taken trillions of our tax dollars. They've taken away people's homes who are struggling to pay the bills," union official John VanDeventer wrote on the Web site of the 2 million-member Service Employees International Union. "But they should not be allowed to take away our health and well-being."

Meanwhile, the director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent a letter Thursday to state and local health departments asking them to review their distribution plans and make sure the vaccine is getting to high-risk groups.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Google touches add value to Droid

I love it when big, rich technology companies start smacking each other around like robots in a Transformers movie, because you’ll generally find some pretty cool gadgets poking out of the wreckage.

the Droid, a new Motorola Inc. phone that uses the Android operating system developed by Internet search titan Google Inc. The first Android phone to be offered by the nationals largest cellular carrier, Verizon Wireless. The Droid goes on sale tomorrow for $199 after a $100 rebate, and with a two-year Verizon service contract.

No doubt you’ve heard of the Droid from one of its ever-present TV commercials. Most smartphone vendors have tiptoed past direct comparisons with Apple Inc.’s iPhone. But the Droid ads have taken dead aim, flatly declaring that the Droid is better. In some ways, it is.

Apple will survive the onslaught; the Droid, though excellent, is no iPhone slayer. But you might want to start digging a grave for makers of standalone navigation devices like TomTom and Garmin. Droid’s most remarkable feature, a fine turn-by-turn navigation system, matches up well against any of the standalone GPS units. And it’s free.

The Droid’s sleek, angular look is reminiscent of Motorola’s last big hit, the Razr phone. It’s got a big, bright touchscreen that serves as a virtual keyboard, but there’s a snap-out physical keyboard as well. Perhaps this was a mistake; the keyboard is easily the Droid’s worst feature, with flat, smooth buttons that offer no help at all to touch typists. The pushbuttons found on other Android phones are mostly replaced with touch-sensitive controls, but the Droid still can’t match the simplicity of the iPhone.

Apple claims there are about 100,000 of the specialty software programs called apps for the iPhone; only about 10,000 apps are available for Android phones. And lots of them are unreliable, or don’t work at all. Google makes it easier than Apple to produce and distribute Android apps, but this has resulted in a lot of lousy Android software.

Still, there are plenty of gems. These include handy “widget’’ programs that sit on the screen and constantly update themselves with news headlines, stock quotes, or weather reports. Widgets work because unlike the iPhone, the Droid can run two or three apps simultaneously.

Of course, it does an especially good job running Google software. Apple barred Google Voice software from the iPhone, perhaps because it enabled cut-rate phone calling and threatened AT&T’s profits. There’s no such limitation on the Droid; Google Voice works fine, and you can program the phone to use it for all your calls. There’s also a very good feature that lets you run Google searches with voice commands, like “How do I get to Cape Cod?’’

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Google And Cloud Computing Scores Win In Los Angeles

In a groundbreaking move, the big, busy city of Los Angeles, California has agreed to use Google Apps — Google’s cloud-computing alternative to Microsoft Office and other programs for all its city offices and officials. The $7.2 million contract means the city will undergo a complete overhaul of its city administration software, the slow and crash-prone GroupWise.

The contract was signed after various companies submitted their bids, and one of Google’s main rivals in the project, software giant Microsoft, was also in the game. LA’s decision to go with Google and cloud-computing is seen as a major blow for Microsoft, who largely depends on the success of their operating systems and (offline) office software.

On the other hand, LA’s move is seen as a big win for Google and cloud-computing. With LA’s initiative, this setup may soon be adopted by other cities and municipalities in the US and the rest of the world. As for Microsoft and other companies — while there will always be a portion of the population that prefers working off the cloud, this should wave a big red flag.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Unprecedented Collaboration Heralds Business-Ready IT Infrastructure

Cisco and EMC, Together With VMware, Form Coalition to Accelerate Pervasive Virtualization and Private Cloud Infrastructures

Unprecedented Collaboration Heralds Business-Ready IT Infrastructure Packages and Single Point of Contact for Design, Service and Support; Cisco-EMC Solutions Joint Venture Also Established to Help Enable Customer Adoption

Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) and EMC, together with VMware, today introduced the Virtual Computing Environment coalition, an unprecedented collaboration of three information technology (IT) industry leaders. The coalition has been created to accelerate customers' ability to increase business agility through greater IT infrastructure flexibility, and lower IT, energy and real estate costs through pervasive data center virtualization and a transition to private cloud infrastructures.

Cisco, EMC and VMware have worked closely over the past year on a shared vision for the future of enterprise IT infrastructure -- private cloud computing. A private cloud is a virtual IT infrastructure that is securely controlled and operated solely for one organization. It can be managed either by that organization or a third party, and it can exist on or off premises or in combination. Private cloud computing offers the controls and security of today's data center with the agility required for business innovation at substantially lower costs.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Inadequate Lung Cancer Care

Leading lung cancer experts report key areas of lung cancer care to be 'woefully inadequate', with the UK Lung Cancer Care Coalition saying UK care lags behind Europe in the area.

The umbrella group comprising of doctors, charities and private health firms report staff shortages are translating into fewer patients being given treatment like chemotherapy or surgery, because of staff shortages. The government says it is already aware of the fact that it needs to do more to improve lung cancer services, as the disease kills about 34,000 people every year, much more so than other cancer of the breast, prostate, bladder and leukaemia, combined.

Even though, lung cancer has been labelled as a 'smoker's disease', 1 out of 8-people who contract the disease, have never smoked.

Drawing on data from this year's official national audit, including feedback from leading doctors, the coalition report says, in some parts of the UK, less than 10% and 51% nationally of such patients receive any form of treatment. In recognition of the fact that treatment is not advisable in some patients in whom the cancer has spread too far, the coalition has called for a target of 70%, and estimates an extra 3,000 lives could be saved in a year.

A lack of access to surgeons is one of the major problems, with only 44 full-time positions for over 240-separate teams. UK's 5-year lung cancer survival rates below 9% are less than Europe's 12.3% on average, however, the coalition believes they could be doubled by 2020, by making the disease a priority.

More money would need to be invested in diagnostic equipment and the workforce, including encouraging GPs to refer at-risk patients for testing when the disease is still in its early stages.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Microsoft Opens Store in Same Mall As Apple

Microsoft executives have stated that they intend to compete aggressively against Apple in the retail arena, with plans to open some Microsoft outlets in close proximity to those of its hip Cupertino rival. The Shops at Mission Viejo will be the first true test of that theory, as the mall also contains an Apple Store.

(According to the local Orange County Register, the Apple Store in question is "closed for renovations and will not reopen until November." I doubt that. They're probably building a retaliatory iCannon in there.)

The opening itself apparently attracted a suitably massive crowd, lured by first-day discounts and gift bags that reportedly contained a $25 Zune Pass gift card and a sticker. The fact that the store and its local ecosystem will employ around 100 people (that's according to Mission Viejo Mayor Frank Ury, interviewed by the local news) is also probably helping the local mood.

Canadian pop star Justin Bieber will apparently be giving a performance in the parking lot at 5 p.m. PST today. You'd think a big corporation like Microsoft would have the cash to hire someone with a little bit more cachet outside of the tweener audience; I hear Kanye West's schedule is flexible lately.
As I mentioned in the blog post accompanying the Oct. 22 Microsoft store launch in Scottsdale, Ariz., it looks as if Microsoft borrowed some ideas from both Apple and big-box stores like Best Buy in order to craft its retail experience. Its consulting company on the project, Lippincott, evidently felt that the wide-open tables loaded with devices, and a "presentation area" with classes, would be essential in helping Microsoft's stores build audience share.

A lot of comments over the past week have called out Microsoft on the similarities of its stores to Apple's, but, based on the local news stories coming out of Arizona and California, it doesn't seem as if the customers particularly care about Redmond's Cupertino homage. Maybe Microsoft's striking the same vein here as it did with its "Laptop Hunter" ads: Present relatively inexpensive devices with the right sort of functionality, and people will show up with credit cards in hand.

That's what Microsoft surely hopes, at least. Once the hoopla dies down, it'll be interesting to see if the Mission Viejo store can maintain a steady stream of customers--especially with Apple waiting a stone's throw away.