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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Creative Introduces Xmod-the First External X-Fi Device

This device Improves Digital Music Beyond CD Quality. Music Listening Experience for Millions of People on their PC, Mac, iPod or ZEN Will Never Be the Same Again, a worldwide leader in digital entertainment products, today announced that it has invented the Creative Xmod, a device based upon its X-Fi® Xtreme Fidelity(TM) audio platform that improves music playback quality for MP3, WMA, iTunes or AAC songs to beyond the original CD quality. The Creative Xmod is a small device just about the size of a candy bar. It connects between stereo speakers or headphones and either a PC, Mac, iPod or ZEN or any MP3 player, and it dramatically improves the listening experience by upconverting the music during playback to the X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity standard -- very high-quality 24-bit surround audio.

The Creative Xmod enhances the low and high frequencies while improving audio dynamics for cleaner, richer sound that surpasses the original audio CD. Without requiring installation of any software, it takes just seconds to connect to a PC or Mac, allowing users to instantly improve the playback quality of their music to the X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity experience. For connecting iPod, ZEN or any MP3 players to the Creative Xmod, an optional AC power adapter is required. "There are more than 100 million people who listen to MP3, WMA or AAC music on their PCs, Macs or iPod or ZEN players, but the quality of this compressed music is highly compromised. The Creative Xmod enables them to listen to their music with audio that sounds even better than CDs," said Sim Wong Hoo, chairman and CEO of Creative. "Now with Creative Xmod, all your music is instantly upconverted to the Xtreme Fidelity standard in real time through a simple and compact device!" There is no need to re-purchase music in a new format to experience X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity. Just connecting the Creative Xmod enables Mac users to experience award-winning X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity audio for the first time, and PC users can now enjoy it for the first time on the notebook. Xmod doesn't require cumbersome or time-consuming conversion of files -- it literally connects in seconds to play back existing music files in X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity. X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity provides two important audio functions, X-Fi Crystalizer and X-Fi CMSS-3D, which improve and enhance music listening experiences. The X-Fi Crystalizer upconverts MP3 music by analyzing and identifying which parts of the audio stream have been truncated or damaged during compression. It intelligently and selectively restores the high and lows such as the snare drums and the bass and the cymbal crashes and guitar plucking that are damaged during the compression of MP3s.

Ideal for movies or an immersive audio experience, X-Fi CMSS-3D creates virtual surround sound through speakers or headphones. It expands audio for superior headphone listening so music completely surrounds the listener like a multi-channel speaker system instead of sounding like it's stuck between the headphones. X-Fi CMSS-3D also uses advanced techniques to place specific audio elements, such as the voice of a movie character, in the virtual center channel while ambiance is played through virtual surround channels.
Creative Xmod will be available this month for only US$79.99 at www.us.creative.com For more information about Xmod and X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity, visit www.us.creative.com .
About Creative
Creative is a worldwide leader in digital entertainment products. Famous for its Sound Blaster sound cards and for launching the multimedia revolution, Creative is now driving digital entertainment on the PC platform with products like its highly acclaimed ZEN(TM) portable audio and media players. Creative's innovative hardware, proprietary technology, applications and services leverage the Internet, enabling consumers to experience high-quality digital entertainment -- anytime, anywhere.

Security Software Makers Upset Over Windows Vista

Leading security software companies, including Symantec and McAfee, are publicly pressing their concerns that Microsoft’s new Windows Vista operating system hinders them and steers users to Microsoft’s security offerings. The security software makers have not made any antitrust complaints, but they have talked to authorities at the European Commission and to the technical committee that oversees Microsoft’s antitrust settlement with the Justice Department, executives at the companies said yesterday.

In Europe, F-Secure, a Finnish security software company, has joined American companies in criticizing the design of Windows Vista, which is scheduled to be available to business customers in November and to consumers in January. The issues raised by the companies, in interviews yesterday, touch on broad themes of consumer choice and innovations that surfaced in previous antitrust suits against Microsoft. “We’re trying to make sure that consumers have choice in security software and that future innovation is not prohibited in a Microsoft world,” said Enrique T. Salem, group president for consumer products and services at Symantec.

Microsoft says that it has made changes in Vista from previous versions of Windows, such as not allowing anyone to fiddle with the core, or kernel, of the operating system. Such changes, Microsoft insists, were made to cope with the proliferation of Internet-borne viruses and other malicious software. Most software vandals aim at Microsoft’s desktop products, especially Windows, which runs on more than 90 percent of the world’s personal computers. With Vista, Microsoft will be entering the $4.4 billion-a-year market for desktop security software — and compete for the first time with companies like Symantec and McAfee. Microsoft insists there will be plenty of opportunity for the security specialists, but the company is taking responsibility for a basic level of security software that is included in Windows. The shift, said Ben Fathi, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for security, is not an anticompetitive step but merely a response to customers’ pleas “to provide them a more secure, stable and reliable computing experience on Windows.” “It’s our way of improving the health of the machine,” Mr. Fathi said. Symantec and McAfee, Mr. Fathi said, are the largest of 150 security software companies that Microsoft deals with. They are the most vocal, he said, because they have the largest vested interest in “the old way of doing things,” which is inherently less secure. “They need to continue to innovate as well,” he said.

The dispute between the security software companies and Microsoft has been brewing for more than a year, and negotiations are at an impasse. The security companies’ talks with regulators in Europe and the court-appointed technical committee in the United States go back months. But now, with Vista shipping soon, the companies are emphatically making their complaints public. On Monday, McAfee took a full-page advertisement in The Financial Times in the form of a letter to “computer users around the world” under the headline, “Microsoft Increasing Security Risk with Vista.” In an interview yesterday, George Samenuk, chief executive of McAfee, pointed to two design features in Vista that he said undermined rivals and led users to Microsoft’s security software. First, Mr. Samenuk said, denying outside software companies access to the Windows kernel — access permitted in earlier versions of Windows and other operating systems — would make it more difficult to develop innovative security products. Second, he said Vista would direct users to a Microsoft security console — an on-screen dashboard called Windows Security Center — that could not easily be shut off and replaced with security consoles from other suppliers. “These are two major steps backward for security and for customers,” Mr. Samenuk said.

The security companies say they want an easier way for users to switch off Microsoft’s security console, and a way to provide security software companies authenticated access to the Vista kernel while keeping software vandals out. The kernel lockdown applies only to the more powerful 64-bit versions of Vista, which will gradually take over from today’s 32-bit standard.
Microsoft, industry analysts say, seems to have adopted a draconian approach. “They are removing choice in the name of security,” said Neil MacDonald, an analyst at Gartner, a technology research firm. “There ought to be a mechanism for introducing trusted code into the kernel. It should be doable.”

Even security companies that are working closely with Microsoft — and not publicly criticizing the company — have their doubts about Microsoft’s decision to prevent all outsiders from dipping deep into the Vista operating system.
Trend Micro, a security software maker, collaborates with Microsoft, including supplying the virus-scanning software for Hotmail, Microsoft’s Web-based e-mail. Lane Bess, general manager for consumer products and services for Trend Micro, said he shared some of the concerns expressed by Symantec and McAfee. “But we try to work through any issues we have with Microsoft,” Mr. Bess said, “not by taking a shot across the company’s bow and suggesting that there might be antitrust action later.” Trend Micro’s concern, he said, is the possibility that limiting access to the Vista kernel could limit the diversity of security-protection tools to fight malicious software. “I’m not sure that a company that has had as much trouble securing its users from malware as Microsoft should be going it alone,” he said.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Napster opens in Japan

Napster Inc. said on Tuesday it launched an online song distribution site in Japan, challenging Apple Computer Inc. and popular music phones. Napster Japan, a joint venture between America's Napster and Tower Records Japan Inc., will introduce a service that lets members listen to and download an unlimited number of songs from its database of 1.5 million selections for 1,980 yen ($16.80) a month. Users will also be able to transfer music to compatible music players. "It would have been very difficult for us to enter this market without a local partner," Napster President Brad Duea told reporters in Tokyo. "Japan is a very unique market."

Napster's challenge in Japan, along with other online music sites like Apple's iTunes music store, is to expand in a market where more people download music directly onto mobile phones than to personal computer KDDI Corp., the country's No. 2 phone company, leads the market for wireless music download.

Napster users need to connect a special audio player to a PC to transfer files. Compatible players include some models made by Sony Corp. and Toshiba Corp. About 90 percent of Napster Japan's lineup is music from outside Japan, and it aims to expand the number of local songs, said Hiroyuki Fushitani, president of Napster Japan and Tower Records.

Napster Japan targets 1 million subscribers in three years. The site also lets consumers buy songs without subscribing. The companies expect about 1 million individual downloads a month by around March. Apple's iTunes has been available in Japan for more than a year and has about 2 million songs available for local users.
"Japanese consumers are trend setters, and that's especially true in consumer electronics and mobile phones," Duea said. NTT DoCoMo Inc., Japan's No. 1 mobile operator, offers a phone model that is compatible with the Napster service, he said, and it plans to make more phones that are Napster-compatible. DoCoMo spent 12.8 billion yen ($110 million) last November for a 42 percent stake in Tower Records Japan, to offer in-store promotions to wireless users. The two companies had said they planned to offer music downloads. Fushitani said Napster and Tower Records Japan will work together to offer information about concerts and artists and also to link users to electronic-commerce sites where they can buy CDs.Tower Records Japan, with more than 100 outlets across Japan, is independent and separate from U.S.-based Tower Records, which emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2004.

Nokia Challenges Bluetooth

Cell phone maker debuts short-range technology as it seeks apps that will stir mobile demand. Nokia on Tuesday introduced Wibree, a short-range wireless communication technology that will both compete with and complement Bluetooth, another short-range technology used primarily in cell phone headsets.

Nokia, a company that seems ever willing to lend its name and resources to new wireless applications, has been quite active lately pushing emerging mobile trends such as fixed-mobile integration and location-based services (see Nokia Navigates Patent Deal and Nokia, Alcatel Make a Deal).

According to Nokia, Wibree consumes only a fraction of the power of “other such radio technologies,” allowing for less-costly communications with smaller, lower-power devices, such as watches and personal-conditioning sensors.

One of the primary applications of Wibree technology is in the area of personal health and conditioning. The company cited a scenario where a heart rate meter worn by a jogger and an accelerometer attached to the jogger’s shoe could send information to the jogger’s cell phone for later performance analysis.

The music to which the jogger is listening would fade when a call comes in from the jogger’s boss, for instance. The jogger could then monitor his or her heart rate as the conversation proceeded.

Driving Force

“Wibree technology is an important development that opens up new market opportunities and a whole new range of possibilities for mobile users,” said Dr. Bob Iannucci, head of the Nokia Research Center. “Our aim is to establish an industry standard faster than ever before by offering an interoperable solution that can be commercialized and incorporated into products quickly,” he added.

Nokia is one of the driving forces behind technologies such as DVB-H (digital video broadcast handheld), a standard for broadcast TV on cell phones.

Shares of Nokia rose $0.02 to $19.63 in recent trading.

On Monday Nokia announced a patent-sharing deal with Trimble Navigation, a specialist in location-based and navigational technologies to push that aspect of mobile communications.

The jury is still out on DVB-H and mobile broadcast TV, but location-based services and applications are starting to emerge as the capacity of the networks and other supporting technologies mature.

Nokia’s Failures

But Nokia has enjoyed mixed success with some of its ventures.

“Nokia has had its failures on this score also,” said Peter Gorham, an independent wireless industry analyst. “N-Gage was a failed foray into the gaming market.” In 2003, Nokia launched N-Gage, a combination mobile telephone and handheld game system Interestingly N-Gage was a Bluetooth device with which users could play games online. The device, which also had PDA features and was more expensive than the Game Boy, failed spectacularly. The company shipped far fewer devices than it expected.

Support System

Nokia has assembled a group of companies that will assist in defining Wibree’s specification. Broadcom, CSR (Cambridge Silicon Radio), Epson, and Nordic Semiconductor have all licensed the technology for commercial chip development. Suunto and Taiyo Yuden will also contribute to the specification.

Wibree will operate in dual mode so it will be able to communicate with Bluetooth devices. The technology has a data rate of 1 megabit per second.

Nikon Firmware

Nikon has issued firmware version 2.0 for three of its digital SLRs. The D200 gets support for the WT-3 wireless transmitter and image authentication via the menu (the use of which requires optional software). Updates to the D2X and D2Hs are far more extensive (probably the largest list of updates we've ever seen implemented by firmware) and include additional ISO settings on the D2X, auto-focus improvements, changes to menu options, new image processing options and playback information.

The new firmware should be downloaded from your regional support site and isn't yet available on all language sites (although is expected to be available everywhere by the end of the day). Major Kudos to Nikon for delivering such a wide range of new features to existing customers by firmware.

Nikon D200 firmware version 2.0

Support for the wireless transmitter WT-3 has been added.
An Image authentication option has been added to the cameras setup menu. For full functionality the optional Nikon Image Authentication Software is required to authenticate images.

Nikon D2X firmware version 2.0

H 0.3 (equivalent to ISO 1000), H 0.5 (equivalent to ISO 1100) and H 0.7 (equivalent to ISO 1250) options have been added between the ISO 800 and H 1 settings in the ISO menu.
Autofocus subject acquisition and tracking performance has been improved.
A Black-and-white (sRGB) option has been added to the Color mode option in the shooting menu.
A new Trim function has been added to the shooting menu.
Up to 3 custom tone curves can now be downloaded to the camera for use with the Custom Tone compensation option.
Nikon Capture 4 (Ver. 4.4.2) Camera Control or Camera Control Pro with Ver. 1.1.1 and later is required to download 3 custom tone curves to the camera.
An Image authentication option has been added to the setup menu.
The optional Image Authentication Software is required to authenticate images.
A Save/load settings item has been added to the setup menu.
The Mirror lock-up option in the setup menu has been modified to function with battery power as well as AC-adapter power.
The Lock-On option in the CSM menu now offers 4 options: Long, Normal (default), Short, and Off.
Max. sensitivity and Min. shutter speed options have been added to the ISO auto menu.
The Maximum shots option in the CSM menu has been updated to support a maximum setting of 60 shots.
The FUNC. button item in the CSM menu has been divided into 2 separate items labelled FUNC. button and FUNC. + command.
A Recent settings item has been added to the setup menu.
The shooting data of an image in the playback photo-information display now includes. Focus mode (S/C/M) and Vibration reduction* (on/off)
*Displayed only when the image was captured with a VR lens.
Latitude and longitude GPS data now displays up to 3 digits* for each segment.
*3-digit display may not be possible with some GPS devices.
A compass bearing is displayed in the GPS data, if used with a GPS device is equipped with digital compass.

Nikon D2Hs firmware version 2.0
Autofocus subject acquisition and tracking performance has been improved.
Up to 3 custom tone curves can now be downloaded to the camera for use with the Custom Tone compensation option.
Nikon Capture 4 (Ver. 4.4.2) Camera Control or Camera Control Pro with Ver. 1.1.1 and later is required to download 3 custom tone curves to the camera.
An Image authentication option has been added to the setup menu.
The optional Image Authentication Software is required to authenticate images.
A Save/load settings item has been added to the setup menu.
The Mirror lock-up option in the setup menu has been modified to function with battery power as well as AC-adapter power.
The Lock-On option in the CSM menu now offers 4 options: Long, Normal (default), Short, and Off.
Max. sensitivity and Min. shutter speed options have been added to the ISO auto menu.
The Maximum shots option in the CSM menu has been updated to support a maximum setting of 60 shots.
A Recent settings item has been added to the setup menu.
The shooting data of an image in the playback photo-information display now includes. Focus mode (S/C/M) and Vibration reduction* (on/off)
*Displayed only when the image was captured with a VR lens.
Latitude and longitude GPS data now displays up to 3 digits* for each segment.
*3-digit display may not be possible with some GPS devices.
A compass bearing is displayed in the GPS data, if used with a GPS device is equipped with digital compass.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Yahoo allows outsiders to innovate on Yahoo e-mail

SUNNYVALE, California - Yahoo Inc is set to allow outsiders to create new services using the world's most popular consumer e-mail program, in the broadest move the Web has yet seen to enlist independent programmers to build a company's products for it. Officials of the world's largest Internet media company said on Friday it planned to give away the underlying code to Yahoo Mail, one of the crown jewels of its business, in a bid to encourage software developers to build new applications based on e-mail. The move to open up the underlying code of Yahoo Mail -- used by 257 million people -- is designed to spark development of thousands of new e-mail applications built not only by Yahoo engineers but by outside companies and individuals. Chad Dickerson, head of the Sunnyvale Company's software developer relations program, said he believed that the open approach to programming represented the biggest single Web software ever to be opened up for public development. "Yahoo is a very large company but we can't build every application that a user might want," Dickerson said in an interview at Yahoo headquarters. "You can imagine tens of thousands of niche applications (springing) from Yahoo Mail." Software developers have traditionally kept careful control of the underlying programming code of their products and allowed outsiders to make only incremental improvements. In recent years, Web developers have opened up that process to encourage outsiders’ far deeper access to the underlying code.

Open applications like Google Maps and Yahoo's own Flickr have inspired a new wave of programming in which developers can combine software features from different companies to create what are known as "mashups" -- hybrid Web products. The company made the announcement ahead of a 24-hour "Yahoo Hack Day," where it has invited more than 500 most youthful outside programmers to build new applications using Yahoo services. Hack is used in its original sense of "creative programming" not illicit sense of breaking into computers. "Hack Day" mixes Web programming competitions, overnight slumber party and a music festival where pop music superstar Beck has been hired to play a concert on the Yahoo campus.


Technically speaking, Yahoo is giving away "browser-based authentication" for its e-mail service for developers to build new applications. Currently only Yahoo Mail (http://mail.yahoo.com) and certain broadband partners like AT&T (NYSE:T - news) and BT (BT.L) are granted such access to the code. This will allow people to make custom versions of the basic interface, or look, of e-mail. Other uses may include tapping the information inside a user's e-mail program to create new ways of displaying the information to individual users. Since Yahoo keeps absolute control of usernames and passwords there are no security risks, Dickerson said. The event drew Dan Lindquist, 23, an unemployed recent computer science graduate from Olin College in Needham, Massachusetts. As an example of what Yahoo is allowing programmers to do, Lindquist quickly conceived of the idea of building a more intensely visual way of reading e-mail.

"This is totally new," Lindquist said "It's interesting to me not because I can build something to make people more efficient, but because I can offer something whimsical." He hopes to allow e-mail users to use the photo stream of Yahoo's photo-sharing program Flickr to see visual clues of what's inside each e-mail. Mention of "cats" or "New York" would trigger relevant photos from Flickr. If successful, he will post his work on his Web site at http://danlindquist.net later this weekend. Yahoo is not alone in its effort to open up who can program Web services using its tools. Major Internet companies including Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq:AMZN - news), eBay Inc. (Nasdaq:EBAY - news) and Google Inc. to established software providers such as IBM (NYSE:IBM - news) and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq:MSFT - news) have embraced such moves. Yahoo Mail's code will be generally available later in 2006 said Jason Rupp, product manager for Yahoo's e-mail services. Rupp said he hopes other e-mail providers will follow Yahoo's lead and open up the code of their own programs. This could allow a "mash-up" to be created that permits users to simultaneously read Yahoo Mail, Google's Gmail and Microsoft's Hotmail from the same browser window rather than forcing users to sign into each e-mail system separately.

"There are just all kinds of things people could do," he said.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Self-healing material by University of Alabama

Scientists at the University of Alabama have just developed a "self-healing material," that releases a "syrupy epoxy" stored inside an outer polymer paneling when the exterior is breached. The epoxy flows into cracks or damaged areas and sets when exposed to UV light, reports New Scientist. In addition, embedded circuitry alerts technicians armed with a special wand to damaged areas. As the website reports further: "This is because the wand induces a current in the embedded circuit when it is intact when the circuit is damaged this cannot happen and the wand sounds an alarm." We hope that these eggheads plan on collaborating with the University of Michigan's self-healing chip project so that both universities can create the ultimate in self-sustaining electronics.

Intel says new chips will arrive this year

The 4-core microprocessor had been expected in 2007. With an eye on its chief rival, Intel Chief Executive Officer Paul Otellini told several thousand hardware and software developers Tuesday that his company will bring out an energy-efficient microprocessor with four computing cores ahead of schedule in November. Otellini delivered a keynote address to a friendly crowd at the Intel Developer Forum that runs through Thursday at San Francisco's Moscone Center. "Much has been written in the last year about Intel losing its leadership," the Intel chief said, pointing to the accelerated chip launch as evidence that "We've now regained our leadership." His address comes at a time when Intel has cut expenses and mapped out a strategy to stop the loss of market share to its prime rival, Advanced Micro Devices.

In 2003, AMD beat Intel by bringing out 64-bit PC chips that process information in larger increments. In 2005, it started stealing sales in the market for servers -- the computers that run large networks -- by touting the energy-efficiency of its Opteron microprocessor.

In recent months, Santa Clara's Intel has responded by introducing its own performance-boosting and energy-saving microprocessors built around its dual-core architecture that calls for two processing modules in a single chip. Otellini promised Tuesday that Intel would bring out a four-core processor in November rather than in 2007, as previously expected. "These are targeted for the enthusiast or gamer segments," said Otellini, who also announced a $1 million prize for the sleekest desktop PC designed around its new chips. "I'm one of the judges," he said, adding, "I'm reasonably objective." Industry-watchers said Otellini set the right tone -- factual and focused on short-term accomplishments and plans. Philip Schiller, senior vice president for marketing at Apple Computer, which recently switched its Macintosh computers to Intel microprocessors, briefly joined Otellini on stage to tout that successful transition.

Richard Doherty, director of the Envisioneering Group in Seaford, N.Y., said this was Otellini's first solo appearance before this critical group of PC designers and software engineers. "He was a little nervous,'' said Doherty, praising Otellini for staying focused on when Intel would ship its energy-efficient microprocessors. "He's putting his reputation on the line, and the company's,'' he said.

Nathan Brookwood, founder of the Insight64 market research group, said now that Intel has started shipping more powerful processors that use less electricity, the company is bent on reassuring developers that Intel is on schedule, if not a little ahead. "From 2004 until 2006, Intel was constantly on the scramble," Brookwood said, adding, "It's going to be tougher for AMD to gain market share.''

AMD officials have promised to keep up the pressure, especially in the market for server computers, where it has made the greatest inroads by appealing to data center managers who count electric power consumption as a worrisome expense. "We're at the point now where 1 out of 4 (server) processors that ships in the world is an (AMD) Opteron,'' said John Fruehe, AMD's business development manager for servers.

In addition to engineers, the Developer Forum attracts Wall Street analysts who use the event to take the pulse of Intel's ecosystem of hardware and software designers. Analyst Han Lee, who follows Intel for Global Crown Capital in San Francisco, said now that Intel has a technology lead over AMD, the unanswered question is "How long can they hold this lead?" Merrill Lynch semiconductor analyst Joe Osha said he's been listening for -- so far without hearing -- how Intel plans to grow outside its core computer market. "What Intel is doing is really a PC extension strategy,'' Osha said.

AMD's success in recent years has raised questions about whether Otellini has the right stuff to run the world's largest microprocessor company. Intel Chairman Craig Barrett recently told Bloomberg News that he fully supports Otellini and thinks "he's been doing a good job." Doherty, the analyst, said he sees "total confidence" for Otellini's management.

MySpace takes the lead in online video

The Networking site serves 1.5 billion streams in July. Social networking site MySpace served the most videos of all online video sites in July. Statistics from web monitoring firm comScore show that MySpace served nearly 1.5 billion streams, representing 20 per cent of all video streamed to US internet users during the month. The typical US user on MySpace initiated an average of 39 streams in July, or slightly more than one a day.

Yahoo Video ranked second in total streams initiated by US users with 812 million, followed by YouTube with 649 million. In terms of number of users, Yahoo Video took the top spot with 37.9 million, followed very closely by MySpace at 37.4 million. YouTube ranked third with 30.5 million, followed by Time Warner with 25.7 million and MSN Video with 16.2 million.

More than 106.5 million people, or about three in five US internet users, streamed or downloaded videos during July.

Nearly 7.2 billion videos were streamed or downloaded with an average of 67 streams per streamer, which means that the typical video streamer viewed an average of more than two streams per day. "The surge in web video content enables advertisers to expand beyond banners and reach online audiences using sight, sound and motion," said Erin Hunter, executive vice president of comScore's Media and Entertainment Group.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

HP's Pavilion dv9000t goes HD DVD

Looks like the bevy of holiday updates are getting a bit of a headstart this year, as HP is already hoping its revamped Pavilion dv900t will be the prized jewel under a few lucky trees. Raising the already heightened bar, the flagship unit in the dv9000 series is receiving an oh-so-coveted HD DVD drive that doubles as a dual-layer DVD burner. It also packs a 17-inch 1,440 x 900 resolution LCD, 2.16GHz T7400 Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of RAM, dual 100GB SATA drives, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 graphics, 1.3 megapixel webcam, HDMI, 7.1 audio out, ExpressCard slot, twin headphone ports, the usual complement of connectivity options, and battery life stretching just over 2.5 hours. For those of you who rushed out to pick up last month's flavor and just can't get that craving for HD DVD to subside, HP's also bringing the High Definition DVD-ROM drive (that's an external HD DVD drive, folks) to the table. Both items should be hitting shelves (and shopping lists) soon, and while the dv9000t will set you back a respectable $2,395, pricing for the standalone HD DVD unit remains up in the air.

Chinese miffed by lewd Japanese computer game

A Japanese-developed adult-themed computer game has incensed some of China's Internet surfers who deem it a bawdy slur on the classic novel, "Dream of the Red Chamber."

"Slaves of the Red Mansion," a fantasy game about girls sold into sexual slavery, has been denounced as "blasphemy" by some Chinese Internet surfers who have called for the game's designers to apologize and halt its production. "Turning 'Dream of the Red Chamber' into a lewd game besmirches a treasure of Chinese literature, and is a desecration of Chinese culture," thundered one irate Net surfer on Web portal Sohu.com. "As a big fan, this is absolutely unforgivable for me!"

The game's developer, listed as Takayashiki Development, could not immediately be reached for comment. "Dream of the Red Chamber," also known as "Dream of the Red Mansion," by Qing dynasty (1644-1911) author Cao Xueqin, chronicles a noble family's declining fortunes, and is often regarded as the zenith of classical Chinese fiction.

The Japanese computer game, however, features images of scantily-clad young girls attached to chains and comes with an adults-only warning, local media reported. While the game's setting has little to do with the epic novel, Chinese Internet users believed its main character -- a pallid young girl called Lin Daiyu -- was a direct take-off of the novel's heroine. The Chinese Internet users said the story's character had been slandered, described in the game as an illegitimate child borne after her mother had an affair with a foreigner. "Her mother died of drink and disease, and Lin Daiyu was sold into the red mansion," the Chongqing Economic Times said, citing the game.

China is very sensitive about Japanese interpretations of its literary landmarks, and anti-Japanese sentiment regularly spills over into the virtual world. In July, thousands of online game players denounced an image of a red sun used in the hugely popular online game, "Fantasy Westward Journey," developed by China's NetEase.com Inc. Players associated the rising sun image, used as a backdrop in a virtual Chinese government office, with a symbol of Japanese militarism, local media reported.

In August 2005, the Communist Youth League -- a branch of China's Communist Party -- announced plans to team up with a Chinese game developer to design a game based on resistance to Japan's World War 2 invasion of China.

Display of New gadgets including quirky 'wireless rabbits' at the DEMOfall conference

Nabaztags, "wireless rabbits" produced by Violet are displayed at DEMOfall, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2006 in San Diego. Nabaztag is a WiFi-connected object capable of providing a wide variety of information such as stock market movement.

SAN DIEGO — The best technology is often invisible because it's working efficiently in the background. Fun technology, however, is usually the stuff you can touch and feel. And when it talks and twirls, that's even better.
The quirkiest product appearing at this week's DEMOfall 2006 conference, a springboard for tech startups, had rabbit ears — and not the kind for televisions.

Violet, a small French company, showed off a plastic white bunny named Nabaztag that connects wirelessly to a home's computer network. Its ears can twirl or point up or down to notify you of incoming e-mail or the rise and fall of stocks. It can read e-mails or news headlines aloud, converting the text to speech. It can announce the time or play songs from your digital music collection. Color lights that glow from inside its belly can issue a weather report. All yellow, for instance, can mean sunny; all blue can mean snow. The 9-inch-tall rabbit performs according to preferences set up by the user on Violet's Web site. For instance, you could assign different light signals for e-mails that come from different people or contain certain keywords in the subject line.

Nabaztag can even marry another rabbit, and the two can link up over the Internet. The owners of the pair can instigate some bunny love, or "ear play," by getting their bunnies to mimic each other's ear movements. Nabaztag — the Armenian word for rabbit — is dubbed as the first wireless rabbit, but it's not the first home information appliance. A handful of other companies have introduced — with mixed success — an odd assortment of similar items, from smart clock radios to the spherical Orb lamp by Ambient Devices.

The smart bunny is available for $150 from select online retailers. A new version that adds a built-in microphone so the owner can give the rabbit orders will be available in November for $170.

Browser Bug could get early patch

Microsoft is considering the early release of a fix for a bug in Internet Explorer that malicious hackers are actively exploiting online. The software giant usually only releases patches once a month but said it might put the fix out sooner if the problem grew severe enough. Via the bug, hackers can take over Windows machines and implant spyware or bombard people with unwanted adverts. Independent, unofficial patches have already appeared from security firms.

Patch protection
The bug in the Internet Explorer browser was discovered by anti-spyware firm Sunbelt Software on 21 September. It found that hackers could exploit weaknesses in the way that Microsoft's browser handles vector graphics to hijack Windows PCs. One site found by Sunbelt used this vulnerability to install huge amounts of spyware and adware on a PC even though the machine was patched with the latest updates. Since the discovery, more websites have been discovered using the exploit to hijack PCs, install key-loggers or other unwanted programs. On its security blog, Microsoft acknowledged the discovery of the browser bug and said it was monitoring the situation. So far, it said, there was no indication that attacks mounted via the bug were "dramatic and widespread".
However, it said, this situation could change and it would release the patch earlier than the scheduled date of 10 October if it was warranted. "The primary driver here is quality and protecting customers, not adherence to the monthly schedule," Patches have already started to appear from security firms including one from the newly created Zeroday Emergency Response Team (Zert). This loose coalition of security researchers aims to produce fixes for bugs for which there are no official patches. However, Microsoft said it could not endorse the patch from Zert or any other security firm.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Tricks to keep your house cool

22 tricks to keep a house cool to reduce the need for air conditioning. These tips are really useful.
Reduce the cooling load by employing cost-effective conservation measures. Provide effective shade for east and west windows. When possible, delay heat-generating activities such as dishwashing until evening on hot days.
Over most of the cooling season, keep the house closed tight during the day. Don't let in unwanted heat and humidity. Ventilate at night either naturally or with fans.
You can help get rid of unwanted heat through ventilation if the temperature of the incoming air is 77 F or lower. (This strategy works most effectively at night and on cooler days.) Window fans for ventilation are a good option if used properly. They should be located on the downwind side of the house facing out. A window should be open in each room. Interior doors must remain open to allow air flow.
Use ceiling fans to increase comfort levels at higher thermostat settings. The standard human comfort range for light clothing in the summer is between 72 F and 78 F. To extend the comfort range to 82 F, you need a breeze of about 2.5 ft/sec or 1.7 mph. A sow-turning ceiling-mounted paddle fan can easily provide this air flow.
If you have an older central air conditioner, consider replacing the outdoor compressor with a modern, high-efficiency unit. Make sure that it is properly matched to the indoor unit.
If buying a new air conditioner, be sure that it is properly sized. Get assistance from an energy auditor or air conditioning contractor.
Buy a high-efficiency air conditioner: for room air conditioners, the energy efficiency ratio (EER) rating should be above 10; for central air conditioners, look for a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) rating above 12.
In hot, humid climates, make sure that the air conditioner you buy will adequately get rid of high humidity. Models with variable or multi-speed blowers are generally best. Try to keep moisture sources out of the house.
Try not to use a dehumidifier at the same time your air conditioner is operating. The dehumidifier will increase the cooling load and force the air conditioner to work harder.
Seal all air conditioner ducts, and insulate ducts that run through unheated basements, crawl spaces, and attics.
Keep the thermostat set at 78 degrees F - or higher if using ceiling fans. Don't air-condition unused rooms.
Maintain your air conditioners properly to maximize efficiency.
Additional tips from the Real Goods Solar Living Sourcebook edited by Doug Pratt and the Real Goods staff.
Warm Weather Window SolutionsInstall white window shades or mini-blinds. Mini-blinds can reduce solar heat gain by 40-50 percent.
Close south and west-facing curtains during the day for any window that gets direct sunlight. Keep these windows closed, too.
Install awnings on south-facing windows, where there's insufficient roof overhang to provide shade.
Hang tightly woven screens or bamboo shades outside the window during the summer to stop 60 to 80 percent of the sun's heat from getting to the windows.
Apply low-e films.
Consider exotic infills in your windows, a new technology that fills the space between panes with krypton or argon, gasses that have lower conductivity than air, and which boost R-values.
Tips for your A/CProvide shade for your room A/C, or the outside half of your central A/C if at all possible. This will increase the unit's efficiency by 5 percent to 10 percent.
Clean your A/C's air filter every month during cooling season. Normal dust build-up can reduce air flow by 1 percent per week.
Turn off your A/C when you leave for more than an hour.
Several studies have found that most central air conditioning systems are oversized by 50 percent or more.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Medical Transcriptionist Outsouring in USA

Medical Transcriptionists in USA nowadays are a worried lot since most of the Medical Transcription work is being outsourced to third world countries like India and other countries. Agreed that one cannot stop such outsourcing to third world countries but one should try to find ways to compete such outsourcing. I have found out a way that I would like to share with Medical Transcriptionists in USA. Instead of cribbing about outsourcing to third world countries why don’t you as an individual take up Transcription Work for Doctors/Clinics and then outsource to third world countries individuals. Now here is my suggestion.
You take up Medical Transcription work from Doctors/Clinics. You naturally would have to charge a little less rate per line.
Outsource MTs from third world countries to pass on the work.
Agree upon the rate that you are willing to pay to the third world country MT and the percent of perfection, payment mode, etc., and make a contract with the third world country MT.
Pass on the work to the MT in India or some other third world countries. When it is returned back to you, you proofread the work and give back to the Doctors/Clinic
The only thing that you would be doing is proofread for accuracy and I think if 1500 lines per day is your capacity by outsourcing it can even become more than 10000 lines per day or more and over and above more earnings. I am ready to help out if anybody needs any help.

New Scam that is going around and this can even land you in Jail

Recently I came across an email sent to me by some company which said they are looking for agents in my area and would like to offer me the agency rights and that I would be getting 20% of the payment received. The only thing that I had to do was accept the payment that will be sent to my account and transfer to the account of this company. Now for this they are ready to pay me 20%. Now this is something which is equivalent to all pay and no work. Immediately I recollected such an incident which happened in US and the account holder who received the money was jailed and that she in turn transferred to another account which was not traceable and this she informed the authorities that she was recruited as an agent through the internet. Now the real culprit escaped and this poor lady landed in jail.

So be aware that such type of scams is happening and the internet provides the culprit to escape easily and you might just end up in Jail.