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.