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Monday, October 31, 2005

iTunes Music Store Sells One Million Videos in Less Than 20 Days

Apple® today announced that iTunes® Music Store customers have purchased and downloaded more than one million videos since they debuted on October 12. Customers can choose from over 2,000 music videos, Pixar short films and hit TV shows for just $1.99. Top downloads include music videos from Michael Jackson, Fatboy Slim and Kanye West; Pixar's "For the Birds" and "Boundin'"; and episodes of ABC's hit TV shows "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives."

"Selling one million videos in less than 20 days strongly suggests there is a market for legal video downloads," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. "Our next challenge is to broaden our content offerings, so that customers can enjoy watching more videos on their computers and new iPods."

Music videos are available from artists including Madonna, U2, Eurythmics, Coldplay and Kanye West, and animated shorts are available from Academy Award-winning Pixar Animation Studios. In a landmark deal with ABC Disney, the iTunes Music Store also offers current and past episodes from the two most popular shows on television, "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost" as well as the new drama series "Night Stalker" and the two most popular shows from Disney Channel, "That's So Raven" and "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody."

With Apple's legendary ease of use, pioneering features such as integrated Podcasting support, iMix playlist sharing, seamless integration with iPod® and groundbreaking personal use rights, the iTunes Music Store is the best way for Mac® and PC users to legally discover, purchase and download music online. The iTunes Music Store features more than two million songs from the major music companies and over 1,000 independent record labels, 11,000 audiobooks, gift certificates and exclusive music not found anywhere else online.

Apple ignited the personal computer revolution in the 1970s with the Apple II and reinvented the personal computer in the 1980s with the Macintosh. Today, Apple continues to lead the industry in innovation with its award-winning desktop and notebook computers, OS X operating system, and iLife and professional applications. Apple is also spearheading the digital music revolution with its iPod portable music players and iTunes online music store.

NOTE: Apple, the Apple logo, Mac, Mac OS, Macintosh, iTunes and iPod are trademarks of Apple. Other company and product names may be trademarks of their respective owners.


Mobile wallets take off in Japan

Life in the largest urban area in the world is fast and often frenetic.

This is something that Tokyo's 27 million inhabitants have adapted to, but they are also quick to adopt ways to help oil the cogs of the daily routine and make life just that bit smoother.

For the past few years, pre-pay smart cards have been doing exactly that.

Today, most people here carry a wallet full of them when they leave home in the morning - whether its to make a small purchase, claim shop reward points or to get through turnstiles at train stations.

But useful as smart cards are, there is one essential appendage that no self-respecting Tokyoite leaves home without, the cherished mobile phone.

In a society where two out of three people own a mobile, and there is always one eye on the future, they have figured: why not take things one step further?

Yes, it is time to say sayonara to your wallet.


The idea of a virtual wallet on your handset instead is coming of age and the education process is well under way.

What it means is that you can ditch your smart cards, because they will all be stored on your phone instead.

Shopping for groceries, renting a video, buying a drink, or going to the theatre can all be done now with your mobile.

Edy is the name of the service leading the charge into this brave new world of mobile cash. It began life as a smart card but made the leap onto mobiles last year.

"We're promoting Edy in places where it's more convenient than using cash", said Usoke Oue, a spokesperson for bitWallet which makes Edy.

"We need to communicate the advantages to consumers, not just the convenience factor, but also the fact that you can earn reward points."

You can charge your Edy-enabled handset with up to 50,000 yen (around US$450 or £250).

It can be done in various ways. For example, place your phone against a reader at a charging station and it will take your cash and credit your mobile in return.

You can also load your mobile wallet by using the handset itself to go online and make a transfer directly from your credit card or even your bank.

With your mobile cash in hand you can begin your retail therapy in earnest.

To pay, you just put your mobile against the reader-writer and the goods are yours.

"When you wave the smart card or the phone in front of the reader-writer, a signal is transmitted from the reader-writer to the chip, and it actually interrogates the chip," explains Daniel Scuka from the online publication Wireless Watch Japan.

It finds out how much money is on there and debits the chip for the amount of the transaction.

"The money is transferred from the chip that's on the card of the phone into the merchant's system and more or less immediately into the merchant's bank account."


Nintendo Revolution

When Sony and Microsoft kicked off E3 2005 with splashy next-generation console announcements, many wondered how Nintendo would respond. The Japanese giant answered with claims that its offering would revolutionize gaming, accordingly dubbing its effort the Nintendo Revolution. Over the past couple of months, Nintendo has kept pretty quiet amid an ever-escalating war of words between PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 advocates, but some information has managed to leak out. Here's a look at what we know about the enigmatic Revolution and what remains a mystery.

Confirmed: what we know
Appearance: The Nintendo Revolution is the most diminutive of the three next-gen consoles, living inside a sleek rectangular box that's similar in size to the slimmed-down PlayStation 2. As with the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3, the Revolution can stand either horizontally or vertically. Nintendo's E3 mock-up was jet black, but the company also showed the console in a variety of colors. The eye-grabbing feature has been its LED-illuminated slot-loading optical media drive, which will accept standard five-inch, DVD-style discs as well as the smaller discs from Nintendo's current-generation GameCube. Nintendo has said that "a small, self-contained attachment" will enable the Revolution to play DVD movies, though you can expect to pay extra for the privilege.

When Sony and Microsoft kicked off E3 2005 with splashy next-generation console announcements, many wondered how Nintendo would respond. The Japanese giant answered with claims that its offering would revolutionize gaming, accordingly dubbing its effort the Nintendo Revolution. Over the past couple of months, Nintendo has kept pretty quiet amid an ever-escalating war of words between PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 advocates, but some information has managed to leak out. Here's a look at what we know about the enigmatic Revolution and what remains a mystery.

Nintendo had hinted that the controller would be the truly "revolutionary" thing about its GameCube successor, and the company did not disappoint. Unveiled at the Tokyo Game Show on September 16, the wireless Revolution controller has the appearance of a wandlike remote control you might use to change the channels on your TV. In fact, it uses a motion sensor, so the movements in your hand can be translated onscreen--imagine, for instance, manipulating an onscreen lightsaber in real time instead of just mashing buttons, or pointing your weapon in a Metroid-style first-person shooter. In addition to the motion sensor, the controller features a four-way directional pad and two sets of buttons, including an over/under trigger configuration. Flip it on its side in a horizontal orientation, and the controls revert to old-school Nintendo--the D-pad on the left, two buttons on the right--a configuration recognizable to any Game Boy or NES player. It also features an expansion port that allows for the connection of an analog joystick and other control options. But while no one will doubt that the Revolution's controller is unique, is it so radically different from what gamers are used to that it won't appeal to the masses? Opinion seems evenly divided for now, but it will certainly take users getting some literal hands-on experience--and seeing how Nintendo and third-party software developers exploit the controller in its next wave of games--before a verdict is in.

Hardware specs:
The console packs a customized IBM-developed CPU paired with an ATI graphics chip, alongside 512MB of RAM and an expansion SD media slot for saved games and user-specific content. Nintendo's latest will also feature wireless controllers, a pair of USB 2.0 expansion ports, and built-in, router-style support for Wi-Fi Internet access. Unfortunately, it appears that the Revolution will not support high-definition output; this may prove to be a serious shortcoming since the PS3 and Xbox 360 have wholeheartedly embraced the standard.

Backward compatibility:
The Revolution's flexibility doesn't stop with GameCube games. The console includes a built-in emulator that will let users download and play just about every game from all of the Big N's past systems: Nintendo 64, SNES, and even the original Nintendo Entertainment System. That's a catalog of retro favorites stretching back to the 1980s, one that could reap significant long-tail rewards for Nintendo while recapturing some of the company's more nostalgic retro gaming fans. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has confirmed that the downloads won't be free, though we can hardly blame Nintendo for trying to make an honest buck; we can only hope that the content comes in cheap, impulse-buy-friendly increments.

Rumor and speculation: what we don't know
Developer support: In a much-publicized interview, Electronic Arts vice president David Gardner pooh-poohed the Revolution, saying that EA would likely give greater support to the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. Since EA publishes the bulk of the A-list titles these days, its hesitance has been serious cause for concern among Nintendo fan boys. But don't panic just yet; at this point, it's likely that not even EA knows what to expect from the Revolution. We will say that Nintendo's frequent, ambiguous promises of a wholly original gaming experience probably aren't helping the situation; game studios are perhaps justifiably skittish about limiting sales by committing to make games that won't be easily ported to Sony and Microsoft's consoles.

Release date:
Nintendo hasn't specified a date beyond "2006." But impatient fan boys can take heart in rumors that the Revolution may hit sooner rather than later. Kotaku reported that a gaming site received an e-mail containing preliminary ad copy from the Revolution's marketing campaign, trumpeting March 2006 as a release date. Though we'd advise you to take this information with a generous helping of salt, we will say that a March 2006 launch would help the Revolution steal some thunder from the PlayStation 3, which some have speculated won't even arrive until 2007.

Simply put, we've heard nothing. However, Nintendo has traditionally kept costs down on its console hardware, and the omission of costly extras (internal hard disk, high-definition support, and next-gen Blu-ray or HD-DVD drive) makes us think the Revolution will be priced to move. While it will almost certainly manage to undercut the likely $300 price tag of the Xbox 360, we're hoping to see the Revolution priced at levels closer to that of current console favorites.


NASA to Auction Original Stargate Robot

NASA is auctioning off Hazbot III. In real life Hazbot III was a prototype emergency response robot developed at JPL. The robot can operate in and explore environments with hazardous or explosive atmospheres. It boasted impressive specs for its time, sporting cameras and other sensors, an arm, and a tethered remote control.

Stargate fans will be more familiar with it as the original MALP used in the Stargate feature film which starred Kurt Russell. In Stargate, MALPs are small robots sent through the Stargate to unexplored addresses ahead of human exploration teams. In the spin-off Stargate SG-1 TV series, Hazbot III was replaced by a larger robot prop.

Apparently, NASA doesn't do eBay yet. The robot will be auctioned by a meat-space auctionhouse called Skinner. If you've got $30k to spend on a used robot, you'll find it in sale 2314, Lot 757.


Software Notebook: Surprise alliance for MSN book search prompts concern

Microsoft has been trying to control its own destiny in the critical Internet search business, crafting its own technologies to replace those it has licensed from a rival. But in announcing a new book-search initiative last week, the company took a different approach.

In a surprise move, Microsoft said it would create its new MSN Book Search service by working with the Open Content Alliance, a group founded to digitize and index books and other media. The group's founding members include Yahoo!, the very competitor from which Microsoft is trying to untie other parts of its Internet search business.

Under the circumstances, Microsoft's move might seem odd. But some in the technology industry see it as an example of the lengths to which Microsoft will go in its rivalry with Google.

Tim O'Reilly, whose O'Reilly Media book-publishing company belongs to the Open Content Alliance, expressed concern on his weblog that the group was "being hijacked by Microsoft as a way of undermining Google."

O'Reilly's comment arose from the fact that joining the alliance gave Microsoft a chance to try to cast itself in a positive light -- while contrasting itself with the Web search leader.

That's because Google has been involved in a high-profile dispute with book publishers and authors over its plan to scan in copyrighted books for searching in its Google Print Library project. Announcing its MSN Book Search initiative, Microsoft signed on to the Open Content Alliance's vow to incorporate copyrighted content only with permission of copyright holders.

"It's certainly much more complex, but it's the right way to do it," said Danielle Tiedt, MSN's general manager of search content acquisition. "For us, protecting copyright is really a core philosophical belief. I think it's the only way, long term, to make sure that this actually comes to market in the right way."

One of the primary groups opposing Google said it was pleased by Microsoft's approach.

"We're very excited about the Microsoft project because it appears, unlike Google, they are doing it the right way," said Pat Schroeder, president of the Association of American Publishers, which represents five publishing companies that have sued Google over its initiative.


Samsung to rival Apple in online music download

Samsung Electronics, Korea’s biggest digital products maker, will branch out into the online music business, according to Choi Ji-Sung, the head of the company’s digital media division.

The firm is preparing a service program similar to Apple’s iTunes in collaboration with domestic and foreign partners, he said at a press conference last Friday.

Samsung Electronics aims to duplicate its dominance in memory chips to MP3 players by forging a digital media player application like iTunes of Apple Computer. Apple dominates the MP3 player and online music business sectors with iTunes and its iPod MP3 player series.

Choi claimed Samsung MP3 players were better than Apple’s but so far lacked the music service. Once Samsung has its own, its players will be a match for the iPods, he added.

"We are now in talks with our partners to debut a service program like iTunes of Apple. Our No. 1 priority is to help customers use our products with ease," the 54-year-old execitove said.

During the press conference, Samsung also unveiled its research and development center for digital products for the first time, a mammoth 36-story building in Suwon, Kyonggi Province.


Free Oracle Database Takes On MySQL, SQL Server Express

Oracle is now fielding a free database.

The company on Friday posted a "freebie" version of its 10g product to the Oracle Technical Network (OTN).

Oracle Database 10g Express Edition, or XE, targets hobbyists, new database developers and others who might want to try out the technology, said Andy Mendelsohn, senior vice president of database server technologies for the Redwood Shores, Calif., company.

The slimmed-down version of 10g is a 150-megabyte download. It is compact but compatible with its bigger brothers, with all the relevant APIs.

"Developers can build against it and deploy their apps there or move them to Oracle Standard Edition One or beyond seamlessly," Mendelsohn said.

This database is limited to use on one-processor machines and handles up to four gigabytes of user data and up to one gigabyte of memory. Microsoft's upcoming SQL Server 2005 Express is restricted for use on one processor, up to one gigabyte of addressable RAM and a maximum four-gigabyte database size.

Oracle XE is available for Linux or Windows.

Neither the timing nor the naming convention is likely coincidental. MySQL 5.0 was available earlier this week. Microsoft plans to role out SQL Server 2005, and its various SKUs, on Nov. 7.

The product is not under the General Public License (GPL) prevalent in open-source software but it touts "open-source like" characteristics. ISVs can embed it in their products and redistribute it freely, Mendelsohn said.

Oracle Standard Edition database lists for $15,000 per processor for up to four CPUs; the Enterprise Edition for $40,000 per CPU for up to eight CPUs. The newer Oracle Standard Edition One, targeting workgroups and departments, lists for $4,995 per processor and runs on machines with up to two CPUs.


Sunday, October 30, 2005

Yahoo Cozies Up to Bloggers

Yahoo announced a new feature for its My Web 2.0 "social search engine" on Friday that's meant to appeal to bloggers and Web site publishers.

The new trait is further evidence that Internet search engines are embracing blogs, which are online diaries on any number of topics with links directing visitors to the operators favorite Internet locales. There are an estimated 20 million blogs.

With its new feature, Yahoo is exposing blogs to its My Web 2.0 community of users, the size of which a Yahoo does not divulge.

My Web 2.0 sets-up people with their own Web sites to store and organize favorite Internet findings. Yahoo calls My Web 2.0 a social search engine because users get to contribute their listings to a communal database that's searchable by others in the My Web universe. The benefit is "access to Web content that's ranked by search technology," Yahoo says.

The new attribute announced Friday is a "Save to My Web" button that's displayed on Web sites or blogs. The feature lets My Web 2.0 users instantly add the site to their collection during their Web wanderings, rather than a more cumbersome alternative involving a visit to their My Web 2.0 Web page. Bloggers and Web site operators must first add the element onto their sites.


Start-up plans new energy-efficient processor

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based start-up this week is set to unveil its plans for a microprocessor based around the Power architecture--the same architecture behind chips in IBM servers and current Macs--that consumes only a fraction of the energy of existing chips.

The company's first so-called PWRficient chip will feature two processing cores, run at 2GHz and consume on average about 5 watts, thanks to an emphasis on integration and circuit design. At a maximum, it will consume 25 watts, far less than the single-core Power chips that can hit 90 watts found on the market today.

The power savings are even greater when compared with an Intel Xeon or Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron, said P.A. Semi CEO Dan Dobberpuhl. Over three years, a 4,000-node cluster of PWRficient-based servers might consume $360,000 in electricity--an equivalent bank of Xeons and Opterons would chew up $3 million and $3.5 million worth of electricity, respectively, P.A. Semi claims.

"It's like a factor of 10 from today's technology," Dobberpuhl said.

The PWRficient actually won't come out for two years, so it's hard to predict exactly how it will stack up against the competition. Landing customers in the notoriously difficult market won't be easy either. But analysts say the ideas represented in the design are worth watching.

"The chip definitely looks good from a power standpoint," said Linley Gwennap, an analyst at the Linley Group. "But will they be the low-power leader? It is hard to say."

Just as important, the chip has been designed in a way that will make it easy to adapt to a wide variety of devices. Different versions of the PWRficient will contain anywhere from one to eight cores. The chip also can be attached to a broader-than-normal number of input-output devices.

P.A. Semi, in fact, plans to pitch different configurations of the chip to network equipment makers, consumer electronics manufacturers and server makers. The company is expected to publicly showcase its plans at the Fall Processor Forum in San Jose, Calif., this week.

Although new, the people behind the company have played major roles in the industry for decades. While at Digital Equipment Corp., Dobberpuhl oversaw the development of the Alpha chip for servers and the StrongARM processor for handhelds. StrongARM, which was sold to Intel and became the foundation for the XScale family, was one of the first high-performance energy-efficient processors, Dobberpuhl pointed out.


IBM-Google team for corporate search tool

IBM is linking up its OmniFind corporate search system with Google's free desktop search for business to make it easier for users to locate information throughout an organization that is often locked up in many separate systems.

"Getting these two products together makes sense for both of us," David Girouard, general manager of Google's enterprise business unit. "If you want to have a good corporate search product, you have to have desktop search," he said.

Google wins IBM's endorsement among corporate technical managers for its desktop search product and IBM gives corporate information workers an already popular entry point into back-office databases through Google's search.

Searchable data ranges from e-mail to computer files to blog postings to corporate repositories of data, images, audio or video, Prial said. Much of this is not available using public Web search tools. Typically, it is hard to reach inside a company except by trawling through many different programs.

"There is a lot of information that passively sits inside an enterprise," said Jon Prial, IBM's vice president of content management. "Our intention is to provide more of an active service that gives a single view of all that information."

No money is changing hands in this loose partnership by the world's biggest computer company and the leader in Web search.

But coming just weeks after a software and research pact by Google and Sun Microsystems Inc., the IBM deal enlists yet another potential ally as Google increasingly faces off with rival Microsoft Corp. on PC desktops.

Prial downplayed any grand strategy in IBM's dealings with Google, but said it was part of a broader push IBM calls "information as a service," which the computer company plans to make more explicit over the coming months.

Users of IBM's WebSphere integration software would have access to information stored inside rival business databases and content management systems, not just those from IBM.

"There's a lot of raw data inside an organization -- as much as 80 percent is unstructured and something has to happen to make it into information," Forrester analyst Barry Murphy said of data forgotten on employee hard disks or other places.

IBM customers can use the Google-IBM search combination by buying IBM products and services and building their own in-house system or rely on IBM to create a pre-packaged system, tailored to the company's industry, the company said.


Google Wants to Dominate Madison Avenue, Too

IN many ways, Larry Page and Sergey Brin seem an unlikely pair to lead an advertising revolution. As Stanford graduate students sketching out the idea that became Google, the two software engineers sniffed in an academic paper that "advertising-funded search engines will inherently be biased toward the advertisers and away from the needs of consumers."

More quietly, Google is also preparing to disrupt the advertising business itself, by replacing creative salesmanship with cold number-crunching. Its premise so far is that advertising is most effective when seen only by people who are interested in what's for sale, based on what they are searching for or reading about on the Web. Because Google's ad-buying clients pay for ads only when users click on them, they can precisely measure their effectiveness - and are willing to pay more for ads that really sell their products.

HIDDEN behind its simple white pages, Google has already created what it says is one of the most sophisticated artificial intelligence systems ever built. In a fraction of a second, it can evaluate millions of variables about its users and advertisers, correlate them with its potential database of billions of ads and deliver the message to which each user is most likely to respond.

Because of this technology, users click ads 50 percent to 100 percent more often on Google than they do on Yahoo, Mr. Noto estimates, and that is a powerful driver of Google's growth and profits. "Because the ads are more relevant," he said, "they create a better return for advertisers, which causes them to spend more money, which gives Google better margins." (Yahoo is working on its own technology to narrow that gap.)

Google already sells its text ads for many other sites on the Internet (including, and is also moving tentatively to sell the picture-based interactive advertising preferred by marketers who want to promote brands rather than immediately sell products. Now it is preparing to extend its technology to nearly every other medium, most significantly television. It is looking toward a world of digital cable boxes and Internet-delivered television that will allow it to show commercials tailored for each viewer, as it does now for each Web page it displays.

Eric E. Schmidt, Google's chief executive, explains the company's astounding success in advertising - and reconciles it with the founders' distrust of hucksterism - by suggesting that advertising should be interesting, relevant and useful to users. "Improving ad quality improves Google's revenue," he said in an interview at the company's headquarters, known as the Googleplex. "If we target the right ad to the right person at the right time and they click it, we win."

This proposition, he continued, is applicable to other media. "If we can figure out a way to improve the quality of ads on television with ads that have real value for end-users, we should do it," he said. While he is watching television, for example, "Why do I see women's clothing ads?" he said. "Why don't I see just men's clothing ads?"

The media and advertising industries certainly see a future in which television ads are aimed at individual viewers. But few outside of the engineering Ph.D.'s at Google think that television ads should simply be utilitarian, rather than entertaining, provocative or annoyingly repetitive - the models that have worked so far. And some media industry executives wonder whether Google, which has already become the most powerful force in Internet advertising, should also become the clearinghouse for ads of all types - a kind of advertising Nasdaq.


Samsung Develops Industry’s First Ultra-Fast GDDR4 Graphics DRAM

Samsung Electronics has developed the industry's fastest computer graphics memory and has shipped it to major graphics card manufacturers for testing. The GDDR4 (Graphics Double Data Rate 4 th Generation) memory process es gaming and video images at 2. 5-g igabits per second (Gbps) or a staggering 10-gigab ytes per second, the equivalent of transmitting 10 hours of DVD quality video, the full series of Harry Potter movies. The first GDDR4 developed is a 256Mb chip that runs at 2.5Gbps.

Graphics DRAM is a high-bandwidth DRAM memory chip capable of simultaneously processing high volumes of video exceptionally fast compared to the speed of the main computer memory – DRAM (dynamic random access memory).

As games and video become increasingly high-resolution and encompass more content, graphics-DRAM data processing needs to improve at a similar pace. But due to an inherent transmission delay when data travels between the graphics chip and the resident system, the fastest graphics memory to this point has been limited to a speed of 1.6Gbps.

Samsung Electronics has used cutting-edge technologies called DBI (Data Bus Inversion) and Multi-Preamble, for the first time anywhere, in the development of GDDR4, eliminating all data transmission delay. The result is a transmission speed 56% faster than graphics products on the market today.

While GDDR4 offers unprecedented speed, it retains a design virtually identical to that of GDDR3, today's graphics DRAM of choice. This minimizes inconvenience to graphics card and chipset manufacturers in developing new products.

Since introducing the first 128 megabit (Mb) GDDR2 in 2002, Samsung Electronics has maintained leadership in the graphics DRAM market. Samsung plans to introduce samples of 2. 8 Gbps GDDR4 by the end of this year with mass produced to follow by the second quarter of 2006 , allowing Samsung to maintain leadership of the high-performance graphics card market, which is expected to grow significantly in the second half of 2006.


iSkin Duo Gives Double Protection for nano

New protective skin for the iPod nano from iSkin offers a double layer shell which is shock and scratch resistant.

iSkin, a maker of protective iPod accessories, today announced the iSkin Duo for the iPod nano. This double layered skin for the thin Apple MP3 player is available now for $29.99.

The iSkin Duo, the company said, offers a double layer, shock resistant silicone skin that is scratch resistant and guards the nano against bumps, dirt and other undesired elements by completely enclosing the player. The skin allows for full use of the player’s controls, with a transparent wheel protector allowing scrolling action to occur while completely covering the scroll wheel.

Features of the iSkin Duo for the iPod nano include a removable, rotary belt clip, an anti-slip grip surface with special side grips and a variety of two-tone color combinations, including glow-in-the-dark schemes.


Saturday, October 29, 2005

Tokyo a Showcase for Technical Innovations

Japan showcased what appears to be world leadership in hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show. Indeed, every Japanese automaker large and small — and a few foreign ones as well — displayed their latest advances in hybrids and fuel cells as well as other technologies.

Lexus’ close-to-production concept of the 2007 LS 460, designated the LF-Sh, was exhibited equipped with a hybrid powertrain, expected to be a new 4.6-liter V8 when it goes into production. Lexus also displayed the GS450h, a hybrid version of its recently redesigned GS sedans that will go on sale soon.

Next door, Toyota unveiled the Estima Hybrid Concept, a new generation of minivan with Toyota’s latest hybrid system, THS II, and electric four-wheel drive. Toyota boasts the Estima delivers ultra-low fuel consumption and leads the compact class in low exhaust emissions. The automaker says the highly efficient system attains 18 kilometers per liter (it is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder) and has an exhaust heat recovery system for lowering carbon dioxide and other emissions.

The vehicle generates its own electricity via two motors. Standard AC outlets can supply 1,500 watts of power — enough to run a television, refrigerator, computer and more, making it ideal for recreation or blackouts, Toyota notes.

The Estima has independent four-wheel drive and independent four-wheel steering that use in-wheel motors. The Estima further uses carbon-neutral materials for interior and exterior materials. Toyota Eco-Plastic comes from plant sources and uses polylactic acid, a polymer made from corn and other vegetables, and kenaf, a natural fiber. Toyota says the carbon released during disposal by combustion is balanced by CO²captured during the growth of plants used to make the materials.

Toyota bills its Fine-X as a new concept and “a glimpse of the automobile’s future.” It is powered by a fuel-cell system, which uses Toyota’s proprietary technology for key components, including the fuel-cell stack and high-pressure hydrogen tanks.
The Honda FCV Concept is the automaker’s latest generation of fuel-cell technology, this time installed in a premium sedan. Honda claims the system delivers more power in less space with the fuel cell occupying a space beneath floor to allow for a roomy interior and short front end.

The hydrogen fuel tanks expand storage capacity over previous tanks, not by increasing pressure, but via a newly developed hydrogen absorption material inside the tanks, which doubles fuel capacity and extends the vehicle’s range to 350 miles. Three- energy-efficient motors — one in the front and two in the rear — deliver power to all four wheels.

Nissan, which brings its first hybrid powertrain to market in 2007, showcased its latest fuel cell technology in its X-trail sport utility, though an even newer generation of the technology is planned for unveiling by the end of this year.

Mazda’s star was the Senku concept, described by the automaker as a four-seater rotary-engine sports car for the near future. Indeed, it may well be the next-generation RX-8. However, the concept version features Mazda’s hybrid powertrain that uses the famed rotary engine, which will runs on hydrogen, electric motors and regenerative brakes common to gas-electric hybrids. The same technology had been demonstrated earlier in an RX-8 and was also installed at the show in a minivan concept, the Premacy Hydrogen RE, which is Mazda’s first front-wheel-drive application of it’s the rotary engine.

Subaru unveiled the B5-TPH concept, which will make its North American debut at the 2006 Detroit Auto Show in January. The sport wagon/sport-utility crossover is equipped with a powertrain Subaru calls a Turbo Parallel Hybrid, a new all-wheel-drive hybrid system. It consists of a turbo-charged 2-liter four-cylinder engine that is horizontally opposed under the hood and is combined with electric motors.

Subaru plans its first commercial hybrid vehicle in 2007, but now that General Motors has sold its stake in Subaru and Toyota has bought in, Subaru’s hybrid plans could be accelerated with Toyota’s help.

Meantime, Suzuki’s Ionis concept, a microvan, uses fuel cell technology from GM, which still holds a stake in Suzuki.

Even tiny Daihatsu unveiled a fuel cell powertrain on a production four-seater Tanto. Daihatsu, which is affiliated with Toyota, borrowed Toyota’s fuel-cell technology for the concept.

While most of the hybrids and fuel-cell vehicles were displayed by Japanese automakers, Mercedes-Benz used the Tokyo show to unveil the F600 Hygenius concept, a fuel-cell study based on its B-Class that aims to top 3.0-liters per 100 kilometers and a range of more than 400 kilometers.


Robot doctor to the rescue

Meet Dr Robot: about the size of a lipstick case, it's able to drive around inside your body and serve as the eyes or hands of a surgeon who could be thousands of miles away.

University of Nebraska researchers have developed the tiny machines, which they say could allow doctors to remotely conduct surgeries on the battlefield or even in space.

"We think this is going to replace open surgery," Dr Dmitry Oleynikov said on Wednesday. Oleynikov is a specialist in minimally invasive and computer-assisted surgery at the University of Nebraska Medical Centre.

The tiny, wheeled robots, which are about 7.6 centimetres tall, can be slipped into small incisions and computer-controlled by surgeons in different locations.

Some are equipped with cameras and lights and can send back images to surgeons. Others have surgical tools allowing them to make incisions, deliver medicine and perform other tasks.

Oleynikov said the robots allow surgeons to operate with more precision, and to see more clearly, than they can with laparoscopic techniques, in which doctors use tools attached to long tubes to conduct minimally invasive surgeries.

Robotic surgical systems already in use in the US use robotic arms that enter the body through small incisions and perform delicate work.

The University of Nebraska researchers say their robots are easier to manoeuvre inside the body, so they may need fewer incisions to work.


Google Provides Unintentional Peek at Classified Ad Service

Google Inc. has unintentionally provided a sneak peek at what appears to be a looming expansion into classified advertising -- a free service that might antagonize some of the Internet search engine's biggest customers, including online auctioneer eBay Inc.

Screen shots of the experimental service, dubbed "Google Base," appeared on several Web sites Tuesday shortly after the legions of people who dissect the online search engine leader's every move discovered a link to a page inviting people to list things like a used car for sale, a party planning service and current events.

Google confirmed the development of the service a few hours after taking down the link.

"We are testing new ways for content owners to easily send their content to Google," the Mountain View, California-based company said in a statement. "We're continually exploring new opportunities to expand our offerings, but we don't have anything to announce at this time."

By offering a forum that would enable people to sell goods and services without paying for the advertising, Google might hurt eBay -- a major buyer of the online ads that account for most of Google's profits.

EBay depends on the fees that it receives for helping to sell all kinds of products and services, including items that might be listed for free on Google Base. The San Jose, California-based company also owns a 25 percent stake in Craigslist, a popular site that offers free classified ads in more than 100 cities.

Google also has confirmed it's working on an online payment service, but CEO Eric Schmidt has said the service won't compete with eBay-owned PayPal.


Supercomputer doubles own record

The Blue Gene/L supercomputer has broken its own record to achieve more than double the number of calculations it can do a second.

It reached 280.6 teraflops - that is 280.6 trillion calculations a second.

The IBM machine, at the US Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, officially became the most powerful computer on the planet in June.

The fastest supercomputers in the world are ranked by experts every six months in the Top 500 list.

Blue Gene's performance, while it has been under construction, has quadrupled in just 12 months.

Each person in the world with a handheld calculator would still take decades to do the same calculations Blue Gene is now able to do every second.

Linton F Brooks from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) formerly unveiled it at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on Friday.

The completed Blue Gene/L joins another supercomputing team-mate, called ASC Purple, to get to work on safeguarding the US's nuclear stockpile.

Purple can do 100 teraflops while it carries out simulations of nuclear weapons performance.

"The unprecedented computing power of these two supercomputers is more critical than ever to meet the time-urgent issues related to maintaining our nation's ageing nuclear stockpile without testing," said Mr Brooks.

"BlueGene/L points the way to the future and the computing power we will need to improve our ability to predict the behaviour of the stockpile as it continues to age."


Friday, October 28, 2005

Canon Makes Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Canon has announced that it has developed prototype hydrogen fuel cells, to power portable electronics products such as digital still cameras.

With this move, Canon has joined companies like Toshiba, NEC and Hitachi that are working on the development and commercialization of fuel-cell batteries.

Fuel-cell technology, which mixes hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity, is considered a promising replacement for today's re-chargeable lithium-ion batteries. Fuel cells are geared to provide more power than a comparable sized battery; they can be re-charged instantaneously; and are said to be more environmentally friendly.

While most of the existing development of tiny fuel cells is based on devices that derive hydrogen from methanol, Canon is working on a system that supplies hydrogen directly from a re-fillable cartridg.

In this, Canon stands to gain, since fuel cells that extract hydrogen from methanol emit some carbon dioxide as a by-product, while fuel cells that use only hydrogen, do not.

Canon has developed 3 prototypes so far. One is relatively large and will mostly be used in a compact printer; the second is ideal for a digital camera; while the smallest is about 3 x 4 cm, and is likely to be used in tinier mobile devices. The company is un-decided about how to sell its new product, but is likely to re-fill hydrogen cartridges at company outlets.


Google guns for Ebay

Google has been showing off screen shots of Google Base, its new service designed to compete with Ebay and Craigslist.

Basically it will be a web-based database that punters will be allowed to contribute anything they like. This could be a listing for an auction or anything. Google Base will be linked to the search engine's shopping site Froogle, and Google Local. This will give a combination Google mapping and localised search results.

It will also be free, with Google making its cash flogging appropriate advertising during various stages of the process.

Google is not saying much about the screenshots, other than to confirm they are true. It could be that EBay is a little concerned about this.


Microsoft aims to trounce Google

The head of the software giant told the BBC that its ambition is to be bigger than Google in search.

He said that competition had ultimately been good for web users because it had pushed search technology. This meant search would be "far better" in a year.

The next decade looks even better, he said, with a lot more advances in software technology ahead.

"The beauty of software is that we are always making breakthroughs. We will have more in the next 10 years than we have had on the last 30," he said in an exclusive BBC interview.

Mr Gates said he saw Microsoft's strengths lying in search, but also in its software that provides the glue to make different devices talk to each other so that people can have more power over their content.

"We are in the best position we have ever been in," he said.

But he stressed that Google was not the only threat it faced in the long term.

It had competition in every arena, from the likes of Nokia, Sony and Apple, but that was something with which Microsoft had become accustomed.

More to do

He admitted Apple had had the biggest bite out of the digital music business with its iPod and iTunes success, and wished that Microsoft and its device partners had a bigger share.

But he stressed that, in most part, Microsoft was not about making devices.

"Our success is overwhelmingly greater than theirs [Apple's] is - they are learning from us every step of the way and we are learning from them," he said.

Microsoft is still about making PC technology work for people, with software being at the centre of it to "help people out."

Although software has been his life's work, Mr Gates said that the PC of today is still not the PC he dreamed about 30 years ago however, and that was a challenge he would continue to pursue.

Playing in the home

What was becoming ever more important to the company was providing the glue that makes it easy to get one device to talk to another, particularly in the home.

With more broadband penetration, Mr Gates said he still saw the PC as the device through which people could organise and share their digital content, such as photos and music.

He sees Microsoft's role as critical in helping to change people's lifestyle in the home, for example, making "digital memories" easily accessible.

Entertainment is also becoming an extremely important area for Microsoft and every other big name technology firm.

"TV will be redefined so that the shows can be when you want them. They can be personalised; when you see the news it will on the topics you care about," he said.

But it is also an evolving arena which is embracing gaming and other types of content much more, as well as video, music and TV.

The Xbox 360, released in November in the US and December in Europe and Japan, joins the media centre as part of Microsoft's effort to provide people a hub through which they can organise and share their content.

"The whole family home can be connected together so it is easy to see your photos on different screens in the house, and easier to get the music wherever you go."


Thursday, October 27, 2005

Can a home wind turbine make money?

Household windmills are becoming quite the fashion, apparently, but can they make money?

Domestic wind turbines have been described as "the new handbags" - the latest luxury items craved by those who want to be first to try new technology.

But this description overlooks their green credentials, because any electricity powered by the elements is reducing CO2 emissions, which are blamed for global warming.

And there are also the financial motivations.

A household with a windmill can save money on bills and sell excess electricity back to the national grid. So could wind turbines become a nice little earner?

They are certainly on the increase - 7,000 households have been given grants to get the turbines installed.

A report this week by the Sustainable Consumption Roundtable envisages a future where households generate their electricity at home, using wind, solar and heat energy - but only if the government bought panels and turbines in large quantities for public buildings, so costs fall.

"Then we could all afford them," says Alan Knight, the group's chairman. "To install a generator or solar panel today you need specialist help. You should be able to buy one at B&Q and stick it in yourself."

Turbines come in a range of sizes, prices and powers, and living close to neighbours can make planning permission problematic.


Japanese firm develops technology to transmit movie in 0.5 seconds

A Japanese company has developed technology to transmit a two-hour movie in 0.5 seconds, the world's fastest speed achieved with fibre-optic cables in the field, it said Thursday.

Kansai Electric used fibre-optic cables on power-transmitting steel towers to achieve the speed of one terabit per second, which is more than 100 times faster than inter-city data transmissions currently in use, a spokesman said.

The company, Japan's second-largest power supplier, has not decided when to put the technology into practical use but said it was possible that it would come in 2010 or later, he said.


Information about Fiber-Optic

The advantages of using fibre optics
Because of the Low loss, high bandwidth properties of fibre cable they can be used over greater distances than copper cables, in data networks this can be as much as 2km without the use of repeaters. Their light weight and small size also make them ideal for applications where running copper cables would be impractical, and by using multiplexors one fibre could replace hundreds of copper cables. This is pretty impressive for a tiny glass filament, but the real benefits in the data industry are its immunity to Electro Magnetic Interference (EMI), and the fact that glass is not an electrical conductor. Because fibre is non-conductive, it can be used where electrical isolation is needed, for instance between buildings where copper cables would require cross bonding to eliminate differences in earth potentials. Fibres also pose no threat in dangerous environments such as chemical plants where a spark could trigger an explosion. Last but not least is the security aspect, it is very, very difficult to tap into a fibre cable to read the data signals.


Detailed Information

IBM opens up on Xbox 360 innards

IBM has lifted the veil on the chips inside Microsoft's Xbox 360 console.

Under the hood of the game gadget will be three processing cores, each one running at clock speeds of more than three gigahertz.

So much processing power is needed because it is intended that many of the games for the console will use high-definition graphics.

The Xbox 360 will go on sale in the US on 22 November. Launches in Europe and Japan will follow in December.

Number crunching

The Xbox chips are based on IBM's 64-bit PowerPC processors but have been modified for game playing during the two years IBM has been working on the project. Three PowerPC cores made up of 165 million transistors form the processing engine of the device.

High speed links have also been put in place between the main processing engine and the graphics chip on the console.

To meet demand the chips will be manufactured at IBM's plant in East Fishkill, New York, and at a plant run by Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing in Singapore.

When it goes on sale the basic Xbox 360 console is expected to cost $299 (£209). The high-end version should cost $399 (£279).

The chips in the first Xbox were made by Intel and were a 733MHz variant of the Pentium III processor.

In 2003, Microsoft decided to drop Intel as it began work on what has become the Xbox 360 console.

When released the 360 will be the first of the new generation of consoles due to appear from gaming giants such as Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo.

IBM unveiled the chips at the Fall Processor Forum currently underway in San Jose and which runs from 24 to 27 October.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Nanomolecular motor spins on a surface

Netherlands scientists say they've developed the first molecular motor that rotates in just one direction while attached to a solid surface.

Although similar motor molecules have been made before, they have only worked in liquid solutions. Useful nanomachines built from individual molecules would need motors that could be anchored to a solid.

Ben Feringa of the University of Groningen and colleagues say their motor is based on a molecule with two "legs" that has sulfur atoms at its "feet." Those atoms cling to the surface of a tiny gold nanoparticle.

When the molecule is exposed to light and heat, it swivels at the waist, Feringa said. The rotary motion is restricted to one direction by chemical groups in the upper portion of the motor that act as a ratchet, preventing the molecule from slipping back in the opposite direction.

The discovery is reported in the current issue of the journal Nature.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Sony wants an 'iTunes for movies'

Sony is to make its top 500 films available digitally in the next year.

Michael Arrieta, senior vice president of Sony Pictures, said at a US Digital Hollywood conference that it wanted to create an "iTunes" for films.

Films will be put onto flash memory for mobiles over the next year, said Mr Arrieta, and it will develop its digital download services for films.

Movie studios are keen to stop illegal file-sharing on peer-to-peer nets and cash in on digital the download market.

Movie piracy cost the industry £3.7bn ($7bn) in 2003, according to analysts.

The movie industry body, the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) has started a campaign of legal action against operators of BitTorrent, eDonkey and DirectConnect peer-to-peer networks.

Cashing in

"We want to set business models, pricing models, distribution models like (Apple chief Steve) Jobs did for music, but for the film industry," Mr Arrieta told Cnet news.

Sony and other movie studios, say Cnet news, are keen to wrestle power, and financial gain, from any single technology giant - like Apple - which has had success with iTunes for music downloads.

There are legal film sites now, such as Movielink, which provides access to a limited catalogue of legal films.

It is a partnership between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Studios and Warner Bros.


Monday, October 24, 2005

Apple faces iPod Nano litigation

The lawsuit alleges that Apple launched the music player despite knowing its design would limit its life.

The legal action follows a rash of complaints from iPod Nano users who reported cracked and scratched screens.

Apple said a bad batch of Nanos had caused those problems and denied the device was more likely to scratch than other models of the popular player.

Commenting on the lawsuit, Apple said: "We do not comment on pending litigation."

Coating questioned

In the first 17 days that the iPod Nano was on sale, Apple sold more than a million of the credit card-sized music players.

But the gloss of the early September launch of the Nano was marred by reports that screens of some devices were cracking or scratching very quickly. Protests were led by Matthew Peterson who started a website to force Apple to admit the problems and replace gadgets.

Now Jason Tomczak, another disgruntled Nano customer, is at the centre of legal action over the gadget.

Represented by Seattle-based legal firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, Mr Tomczak filed a lawsuit on 19 October in the San Jose District Court which alleges that the Nano is too delicate for normal use.

Paperwork supporting the filing says that iPod Nanos "scratch excessively during normal usage, rendering the screen on the Nanos unreadable".

The lawsuit pins the blame for the scratching on changes Apple made to the design of the music player to make it as thin as possible.

It alleges that screen and controls in the Nano are beneath a film of resin much thinner than in other models. It alleges that other versions of the iPod do not scratch as easily because they are covered in a thicker, stronger plastic coat.

Mr Tomczak launched the legal action after a replacement iPod Nano also suffered scratching soon after he got it.

He is seeking the return of a $25 fee he had to pay to send the player back to Apple, plus the original cost of the gadget and damages.

The lawsuit was filed by Mr Tomczak and "on behalf of all others similarly situated" but will require a ruling by a judge to have it granted class action status.

Surging interest in the iPod in all its forms helped Apple report its best ever financial results in the year to 24 September when it reported profits of $430m (£246m).


Sunday, October 23, 2005

Sony 55" Rear Projection HDTV KDF-E55A20

Take your entertainment experience to a new level with the KDF-E55A20 Grand WEGA™ 3LCD Rear Projection Television. The KDF-E55A20 delivers natural color reproduction and exceptional brightness levels due to 3LCD technology with 1366 x 768 screen resolution, which is more than a native 720p capability. This television also utilizes the Sony WEGA Engine™ system to deliver detailed picture quality from any compatible video source by minimizing the digital-to-analog conversion process. Additional features include the WEGA GATE™ Easy Operation Guide, which allows you to easily navigate to TV functions, including favorite channels, TV channel list and external input list or settings, and a beautiful 16:9 aspect ratio.

• WEGA Engine™ System Delivers superb picture quality from any video source by minimizing the signal deterioration caused by digital-to-analog conversion and stabilizing the signal processing. The engine features unique Sony technology, including:The first step in the digital processing system, Composite Component Processor2, which enhances input signal-to-noise ratio by chroma decoder digital processing.

• Digital Reality Creation® (DRC) Multifunction Technology Unlike conventional line doublers, the DRC Multifunction feature replaces the signal's NTSC waveform with the HD equivalent, while doubling the number of vertical and horizontal lines. This results in four times the density for quality sources, such as DVD, satellite and digital camcorders. The Video Menu allows you to select interlaced, progressive or CineMotion® output.

• 3LCD technology is a video projection system that uses three LCD panels to produce an image. There are three key advantages of 3LCD televisions: A Brighter Picture even in well-lit rooms; Natural Colors are displayed with intense vibrancy; High Detail for spectacular HD performance.

• WEGA® GATE Easy Operation Guide is a new feature that allows you to easily navigate to the most convenient TV functions: favorite channels, TV channel list, external input list or settings.

• Integrated HDTV You can watch digital television programs and enjoy the improved audio/video quality offered by these programs.

• Wide Screen Mode allows you to watch 4:3 normal broadcasts in wide screen mode (16:9 aspect ratio).

• ATSC Integrated Tuner allows the reception of local, off-air digital broadcasts providing the viewing of free, true high-definition network programming without the addition of a set top box or a monthly fee.

• CableCARD™ Slot provides cable subscribers with access to digitally encrypted cable channels - without the need for a set-top box - that will enable you to receive not only standard definition but also high definition television. The CableCARD card which is provided by your cable TV provider, is inserted into the TV’s rear panel CableCARD slot. After the service is activated with your cable TV company, the card replaces the need for a separate set-top box.

• Dolby® Digital Technology

• SRS® TruSurround™ XT technology equipped

• HDMI™119 Interface (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) provides an uncompressed, all-digital audio/video interface between the TV and any HDMI-equipped audio/video component, such as a set-top box, DVD player, and A/V receiver. HDMI technology supports enhanced, or high-definition video, plus multi-channel digital audio.

• Component Video Inputs offer the best video quality for DVD (480p, 480i) and digital set-top box (1080i, 720p, 480p, 480i) connections.

• S-Video Inputs provide a high-quality image from connected equipment.

• CineMotion® technology using the reverse 3-2 pull down technology, the Cinemotion feature provides smoother picture movement when playing back movies or other video sources on film.

• Steady Sound® equalizes volume levels so there is consistent output between programs and commercials.

• Favorite Channels allows you to preview and select from up to sixteen of your favorite channels.

• Parental Control (V-Chip) allows parents to block unsuitable programming from younger viewers.


Friday, October 21, 2005

Endemol launch mobile TV channels

The TV company behind Big Brother is to launch two new channels for the mobile phone market.
Endemol plans to launch the Extreme Reality Channel, featuring "weird" clips from the world of entertainment, followed by a Comedy Channel.
The new channels are in partnership with mobile phone operators, which are yet to be announced.
Peter Bazalgette, Endemol's chief executive, described mobile TV as a "big success" of the 12 months.

Picture quality

In a speech, Bazalgette said Big Brother fans in Australia, Italy and the UK notched up more than six million streamed minutes and 500,000 downloads on their mobiles during 2005.
However, only a small minority of the mobiles in the current market are the third generation (3G) handsets that provide users with high-quality video, music and TV streaming.
Some research suggests that 65 million people globally will be subscribing to streaming or broadcast TV services by 2010.


World's First 10.1" Flexible Electronic Paper Display

LG.Philips LCD and E Ink have built a 10.1" flexible electronic paper display. Less than 300 microns thick, the paper-white display is as thin and flexible as construction paper. With a 10.1" diagonal, the prototype achieves SVGA (600x800) resolution at 100 pixels per inch and has a 10:1 contrast ratio with 4 levels of grayscale.

The display will be shown at the FPD International trade show in Japan, attended by over 60,000 visitors each year.

E Ink Imaging Film is a novel display material that looks like printed ink on paper and has been designed for use in paper-like electronic displays. Like paper, the material can be flexed and rolled. As an additional benefit, the E Ink Imaging Film uses 100 times less energy than a liquid crystal display because it can hold an image without power and without a backlight.

LG.Philips LCD and E Ink selected a steel foil material that could be supplied by Sumitomo Corporation in high volume and which was developed by Nippon Steel Corporation, the leading steel company in Japan. The flexible foil is a super-thin, extremely flat, high-performance steel that can easily withstand the high temperatures of a TFT production process.


Microsoft Tests 'Virtual Wi-Fi' Software

Researchers at Microsoft Corp. have created the prototype for new Wi-Fi software that allows a user on a PC with a single network card to connect to multiple local area networks concurrently via "virtual mirrors."
Wi-Fi—short for wireless fidelity—is meant to be used generically when referring of any type of 802.11 network, whether 802.11b, 802.11g, dual-band, etc.

The term is promulgated by the Wi-Fi Alliance.
"VirtualWiFi is a virtualization architecture for wireless LAN [WLAN] cards," lead researcher Ranveer Chandra told Ziff Davis Internet.
"It abstracts a single WLAN card to appear as multiple virtual WLAN cards to the user. The user can then configure each virtual card to connect to a different wireless network."
This new functionality enables many new applications that were not possible earlier using a single WLAN card, Chandra said.
For example, this new development would open new options for employees within an enterprise who need to do work outside the company network, he said.


Japan creates the world's fastest electric sedan

A new version of the Eliica car was developed by researchers at Tokyo's Keio University in cooperation with a government science promotion body and private-sector companies such as Japan's top tyre maker Bridgestone.

The car boasts unprecedented acceleration, taking just 4.2 seconds to go from zero to 100 kilometres per hour and seven seconds to reach 160 kilometres per hour, according to developers.

The car's maximum speed is 370 kilometres per hour, the world's fastest for an electric sedan, excluding vehicles with aircraft-like wings or special racing models, they said.
It runs on lithium-ion batteries and costs one yen to travel one kilometre, they said at the Tokyo Motor Show, which opened for the press at a convention centre east of the capital this week.
The Eliica has already begun public road tests. The developers plan to produce the car in small numbers initially.

Source Releases Long-Awaited Version 2.0 2.0, the first office application suite to feature native support for the OASIS-approved OpenDocument file format, was released Thursday morning, one week following the project's fifth anniversary of its founding.

The 2.0 final follows three beta versions—the latest released only last Friday. RC2 was released Aug. 31 after a review and repair of about 600 software bugs. 2.0 is the first stable version of the open-source office suite able to produce the new XML-based standard ODF (OpenDocument format), sanctioned internationally only last May by OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards).
It also features improved interoperability with Microsoft Word formats and a fully accessible, more powerful relational database for use with financial applications, community manager Louis Suarez-Potts said.
In addition to the OpenDocument format, a redesigned user interface and a new database module, 2.0 also adds improved PDF support, a superior spreadsheet module, enhanced desktop integration and several other features that take advantage of its advanced XML capabilities, such as the ability to easily create, edit and use XForms.


Google's 3Q Profit Seven Times Higher

Google Inc. posted a third-quarter profit seven times higher than a year ago, driven by the moneymaking prowess of its Internet-leading search engine.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company said Thursday that it earned $381.2 million, or $1.32 per share, during the three months ended in September. That compared with net income of $52 million, or 19 cents per share, a year ago. Last year's results included a $201 million charge to account for a legal settlement with rival Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO - news)

If not for charges for employee stock options and research and development related to an acquisition, Google said its earnings would have been $1.51 per share.
That figure easily exceeded the consensus estimate of $1.36 per share among analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.

Google's revenue for the quarter totaled $1.58 billion, nearly doubling from $805.9 million last year. After subtracting the commissions that Google paid to other Web sites in its advertising network, the revenue stood at $1.05 billion, exceeding the Wall Street estimate of $944 million.
The results were released after the stock market closed Thursday. Google's shares fell $5.50 to close at $303.20 on the Nasdaq Stock Market, then surged by $22.66, or 7.5 percent, in extended trading.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Chip start-up's big payoff comes in, at last

Micro who?

That was the question many asked when Intel reported in its third-quarter earnings Tuesday that it would pay a $300 million charge to settle a lawsuit with MicroUnity, an eight-employee company in Santa Clara, Calif.

The deal, which brought an end to a patent-infringement suit filed by MicroUnity in March 2004, was the first some had heard of the company, which specializes in media processors. But for Silicon Valley veterans, the MicroUnity name conjured up memories of the high-tech business before the Internet era, when Packard Bell and Egghead Software strode the Earth and Google founder Larry Page was just another guy in high school.

"They were the Transmeta of their day," Insight 64 analyst Nathan Brookwood said. Chipmaker Transmeta came on like gangbusters several years ago, promoting an energy-efficient processor for laptops, but ran into manufacturing problems and the dot-com bust.

In its suit, MicroUnity alleged that Intel had infringed on its patents with its use of extensions for multimedia and application threading, a process that lets a chip perform two tasks at once.

The settlement underlines the trend for small companies to seek revenue through patent lawsuits. In recent years, for example, Intel spent $675 million to put an end to a similar action by Intergraph. In MicroUnity's case, the deal illustrates how legal action can revive the promise of a once-hot company.


Opera Enables Mobile Blogging

Opera Software ASA has created a new community-centered site that allows users to blog and upload photos directly from their mobile phones.

Quietly launched in September to Opera browser users, the My Opera Community site is attracting an average of 1,000 new members per day, the browser developer has said.

A map of users shows that there is a dominant concentration of members in Europe and Asia, where mobile phone use is at its strongest, but other countries, like the United States, also have a number of bloggers.

In addition to its mobile-powered functions, the site gives members 300MB of space at no charge, to create a Weblog, store photo albums or create private forums. Users can publish from their mobile phones by sending an MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service message), which instantly posts to a blog or adds an image to an online album.

"Blogging through a mobile is the next wave," said Tor Odland, Opera communications director. "It's quite powerful, to be able to update a personal page from anywhere."

Odland has a blog on the site that he has refreshed with images and comments from an Oslo horse show. He did find a limitation, though, when trying to send a 4-second film, shot with his Nokia 6630. "Being able to send video would be a great feature," he wrote in the blog entry.

The stripped-down My Opera Community site could see similar suggestions from users as it grows. Jason Steffans, who has had a blog on the site for the last few weeks, noted that there are a number of features that more experienced bloggers will miss, like being able to edit the time stamp of a post.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Nokia Intros "L'Amour" Fashion Phones

Is your mobile phone an extension of your personality, an expression of your unique style? And plastic, fake chrome, and gunmetal grey don't really do anything for you?

Well, phone maker Nokia wants to ring you up with it's new L'Amour Collection of three new phones aimed at the style- and fashion-conscious set. Each phone, expected to be available in Europe in early 2006, might be light on features compared with 3G smartphones, but that's not the point: these phones are intended to combine natural materials, colors, styling, and details with craft aesthetics, cultural and ethnic influences, and attention to detail. The L'Amour Collection is aimed at trend-forward individuals for whom mobile phones are not just a means to be heard,seen.

  • The Nokia 7380, expected to be priced at €500 will feature a keyless dial, an etched mirrored surface and display, and a leather cover. Phone features include voice dialing, a 2 megapixel camera, and built-in MP3 player.
  • The Nokia 7370 hides its keypad behind a swivelling faceplate, and features leather-inspired faceplates bound with etched metal trims in either warm amber or coffee brown. For an estimated €300, the phone offers a 1.3 megapixel camera, stereo speakers, a 2-inch 320 by 240 QVGA color screen, and support for video ring tones.
  • The €200 Nokia 7360 will be available in coffee brown and warm amber color schemes, each with unique graphics, screensavers, straps, pouches, and accessories. The 7360's textures and patterns designed to complement designer and luxury accouterments, and the phone itself features an integrated VGA camera, FM receiver, and the capability to play MP3 ring tones.

Alastair Curtis, Vice President of Design at Nokia's Mobile Phones division, said, "Every detail of these products, from the nature-inspired graphics to the velvet-lined pouches, has been carefully considered with the style-conscious individual in mind. We are very confident that consumers who appreciate design and attention to detail will fall in love with the L'Amour Collection."


Apple Unveils New PowerBook G4s

Chief among the features on these new PowerBook G4s are higher resolution displays and longer battery life. The 17-inch PowerBook comes with a 1680-by-1050 pixel resolution -- 36 percent more than the previous generation -- and the 15-inch PowerBook with a 1440-by-960 pixel resolution -- 26 percent more than the previous generation. The 15 and 17 inch models also have brighter displays. The 17 inch for example, said Apple, is up to 46 percent brighter then previous models.

As far as battery life goes, Apple said the 15 and 17 inch PowerBooks each provide up to an additional hour of rechargeable battery life. Other features include ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 graphics with 128MB DDR dedicated video memory (15 and 17 inch models), built-in Bluetooth 2.0+EDR (Enhanced Data Rate), integrated 802.11g WiFi wireless networking, a scrolling track pad, Mac OS X version 10.4 "Tiger” and iLife '05, a suite of digital lifestyle applications.

"The Apple PowerBook continues to deliver the ultimate in portability, performance and innovative features," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. "Our mobile customers are going to love working on the new high-resolution PowerBook displays and appreciate the added productivity that one more hour of battery life delivers."


Nintendo To Offer Free Online Games At McDonald's

Nintendo Co. Ltd. on Tuesday said it has signed an agreement with Wi-Fi provider Wayport Inc. to offer free access to the video-game maker's wireless gaming service at nearly 6,000 McDonald's restaurants.

Under the agreement, the new service, called Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, will be available Nov. 14 to users of the Nintendo DS handheld gaming system.

Similar to how cafe chain Starbucks Corp. has lured adult customers with Wi-Fi service for cruising the Internet while sipping cappuccino, McDonald's has joined with Nintendo in offering kids the chance to eat burgers and play Nintendo games Mario Kart DS and Activision's Tony Hawk's American SK8Land. Games that are expected to be available in the future include Animal Crossing: Wild World, and Metroid Prime Hunters.

"By enabling Nintendo DS customers to access Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection via our Wi-Fi World network and business model at McDonald's, we are continuing to drive more customers to the restaurants we serve and increase the relevancy of Wi-Fi to a broader customer base," Dave Vucina, chief executive of Austin, Texas-based, Wayport, said in a statement.

Nintendo DS is the first Nintendo system to connect to the company's Wi-Fi service. The same service is expected to be incorporated in the Tokyo-based company's upcoming home video-game console, code-named Revolution, which is set for release next year.


How To Get Excellent Sharpness From Your Digital SLR

Last week, suddenly, one year after I bought it, my Canon 1DsII with the 85/1.2 started producing the sharpest images I've ever seen from any camera. I figured out why, and what I learned from studying this unexpected boon falls into two categories: Things you need to do to make your camera sharp — that's hardware. And then there's what you need to do later in software.

I'll give you the executive summary right away: If you want sharpness, there's a careful setup to adopt, outlined below. However in my case there were two key steps: Ditching the lens protection filter which was perturbing the auto focus of my 1DsII, and adopting Canon's new DPP 2.0 Raw converter which has a superb capture sharpening algorithm.

Let's start with the hardware. Most SLR cameras nowadays have auto focus based on phase contrast. You need a fast lens to make this work properly. It's the physical diameter of the lens which counts, not the amount of light. Slow lenses won't focus as accurately as fast ones.

Of course, a slow lens has an intrinsic depth of field that may hide the fact that it's not perfectly focused. On the other hand, a fast lens such as the 1.2 has a razor-thin depth of field when open, and thus relies on perfect operation of the auto focus if it is to yield sharp results. But, believe me, the smooth transitions to out-of-focus that are characteristic of images made with a fast lens shot wide-open are worth the pain of focusing accurately.

Now you need to make sure your camera is focusing correctly, with the lens you're using. Unfortunately, tolerances for digital are stretching the old SLR designs a bit, so if you have problems achieving accurate focus, your camera may need to go back to service for a so-called focus check. If you do this, send the lens in for the check too.

And that lens should be fast, but it should also be a very good one: The resolution of digital requires the very best lenses. Full-frame digital like the Canon 1DsII is particularly demanding in the corners, while crop-frame cameras like the Nikon D2x and D70s are more forgiving: The small sensor of a crop-frame camera sits in the sweet spot near the center of the image circle, where every lens is sharpest.

Oh, and did I remind you to adjust the viewfinder to your sight? After all you want to see that your subject is right in focus. There's a trick to diopter adjustment : Tune it so that the various readouts at the edge are clear. Trust me, if your diopter is misadjusted, you'll get blurry pictures.

One last thing — I knew that filters degrade the lens performance slightly.— but it took me a year to figure out that the filter on my lens caused the AF to misfocus slightly, and that was seriously degrading image sharpness. Ditch that "protection" filter!