Wednesday, December 30, 2009

In 2009, Web goes on a diet

2009 was, in many ways, a good year for the Web and the technologies that help us access it. Companies big and small had to re-evaluate what was important: an ethos that channeled into more focused product launches and notable improvements to existing software and services.

That refocus meant tech giants spent the early part of 2009 trimming the fat on services that were too costly to run, or simply underused. Google cut a myriad of its offerings, shelving microblogging service Jaiku, its social network Dodgeball, Google Video, catalog search, "shared stuff," and its notebook service. Yahoo followed suit, dropping the ax on its Briefcase online storage service, closing off access to its Jumpcut Web video editor, and 360 blogging tool. Yahoo also pulled the plug on Geocities--one of the Web's early relics. Other notable discontinuations include Microsoft killing off its online encyclopedia Encarta, and HP getting rid of its Upline backup solution.

Services that were not shut down saw improvements. Google's Gmail finally left beta, and gained a feature that lets users access it offline. The company also launched Google Wave--a somewhat experimental real-time collaboration service. Microsoft's Windows Live Search was relaunched as a new product called Bing, which was received well both by the press and users. Bing, along with Yahoo and Google, also integrated real-time results from social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Speaking of Microsoft and Yahoo, Microhoo finally happened--though not as it was originally intended. In late July, Microsoft and Yahoo entered a 10-year search deal that gave Yahoo Microsoft's search engine technology, while Microsoft got Yahoo's ad sales force and partners; The result was quite different from 2008's $44.6 billion unsolicited bid that would have given Microsoft complete control of the company.

2009 also brought new location-based tools, some of which, by some accounts, are a little creepy. Microsoft's Bing got its own version of local maps, complete with a street-level view. And at the South by Southwest tech and music conference in Austin, Texas, Foursquare debuted. The service lets people show where they are to their friends, and vice versa. The month prior, Google launched a similar service called Latitude that would put a user's exact location on a map--right down to the city block. Google also expanded its Maps and Earth services, taking street view outside of the U.S., and Google Earth took users to the Earth's oceans, the moon, and Mars.

Along with search and location, 2009 was a boon year for social networks. Facebook in particular saw huge gains in its number of registered users. It began the year with 150 million users, and is now well past 350 million. That's no small feat, as recent projections boasted the much-hyped and talked about Twitter somewhere close to 60 million, up from less than 10 million at the beginning of the year. Twitter also gained some celebrity traction, netting an account from Oprah Winfrey as well as Ashton Kutcher. Kutcher went on to become the first Twitter user to hit 1 million followers, beating out news network CNN. He's since blown past 4 million.

Both Twitter and Facebook also continued to show that they are an integral part in the spread of information. Controversy over Iran's presidential elections, and the Iranian government censorship that followed made the social networks one of the few places Iranians could go to vent frustrations and pass across news tidbits that would have otherwise gone unseen. Twitter even skipped its scheduled maintenance to stay up--as per a request from the U.S. State Department. Facebook, in turn, rushed to provide support for Farsi so Iranian users could join it.

Twitter was also the first place to go to see photos of U.S. Airways Flight 1549, which had to make an emergency landing in New York's Hudson River. Nearby ferry riders snapped the first shots of the crash and uploaded them to photo host Twitpic, which ended up crashing because of the sudden, and massive traffic spike.

Besides social networks, voice services and VoIP telephony were big in 2009. E-commerce giant eBay sold off its Skype services to an investor group that now runs it as its own product, with hopes of an IPO in 2010. Google redesigned its GrandCentral service as a product called Google Voice, which was opened up to users after a year and a half of dormancy. Google also snatched up Web-based VoIP service Gizmo5, which could end up being integrated into Google Voice. Other notable telephony launches include 3Jam, which does voice forwarding and transcription, and Ribbit's mobile service. Both of those companies, along with Google, are trying to get users to manage their calls and voice mails online, functionality that is likely to expand in 2010.

Even with a flashy relaunch, Google Voice had its own share of controversy. This year the service got into hot water with AT&T. It started when Apple pulled all the third-party Google Voice applications from its App Store, along with rejecting Google's submission of its own Google Voice application. This action caused the FCC to launch an inquiry to see why the apps were removed, as well as why Google's Voice application was not allowed onto Apple's store.

It turns out AT&T was not having any part of Google's blocking phone calls to certain parts of the country that would have cost the company more money to connect users to. In late-October Google bounced back, announcing that it had limited the amount of blocked numbers to fewer than 100. Despite this, 2009 closed out without any Google Voice apps (including Google's own) making it back onto the App Store.

Finally, 2009 saw a continuation of the browser wars. Mozilla iterated on the third version of its Firefox browser several times, while Microsoft, Apple, and Opera introduced brand new versions of Explorer, Safari and Opera, respectively. Google took the crown though--it managed to jump two version numbers, going from version one to three, with version four currently in developer testing.

Chrome also jumped from being just a browser to a full-fledged operating system. In late November, Google publicly demoed Chrome OS, an instant-on browser-based operating system designed for Netbooks. Users, however won't be getting their hands on hardware that will run Chrome OS until mid- to late 2010.


China's Latest Knockoff: Ubuntu in XP Clothing

What looks like XP but perhaps behaves better? A version of Ubuntu that sports the XP user interface, currently available in Chinese for download from the Web. Whether Microsoft will attempt to assert its intellectual property rights is unknown -- and the legal status of the OS is far from clear.

Chinese-language consumers unwilling or unable to pay the cost of a legitimate copy of Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT) Windows XP now have a new alternative: a clone of the operating system that's based on Ubuntu.

Dubbed "Ylmf OS," the software is available from Rain Forest Wind Guangdong Computer Technology as a free download on a dedicated Web site.

The system is based on Ubuntu 9.10 and integrates Wine, according to the page. Also included are OpenOffice 3.1, CompizConfig Effects Settings Manager, Firefox and Pidgin for instant messaging.

Canonical, the company that serves as Ubuntu's commercial sponsor, could not be reached for comment by this story's deadline.

'I Don't Recommend It'

Uncovered last Saturday by Download Squad, the Ylmf hack is actually not the first instance of Ubuntu being made to look like Windows.

In what may or may not be a coincidence, an Ubuntu fan who goes by the name of Phrank Waldorf received considerable attention on the Linux blogs just a few weeks ago by posting a similar hack, also using Ubuntu 9.10 to emulate Windows XP.

"I don't use this. I don't recommend it, either!" Waldorf wrote. "I actually made the script as a programming exercise."

The response, however, was likely more than Waldorf had expected. Countless enthusiastic comments were left by readers on Waldorf's page, including at least one asking permission to translate it for a Chinese blog.

'Far More Interesting Work to be Done'

It's not entirely clear why Linux fans -- many of whom are overtly hostile towards Microsoft -- would want to emulate Windows with open source technology.

Indeed, in the open source community, "the general sense is there is far more interesting work to be done differentiating and competing with Windows rather than emulating it," Jay Lyman, an analyst with the 451 Group, told LinuxInsider.

It's also not likely such technology holds much promise going forward, Lyman added, "particularly as we see more support for Windows in Linux and other open source software and more support for Linux and other open source in Windows."

'A Brazen Effort'

In China, however, it seems at least possible that a Windows clone based on open source software could present a potentially more legitimate alternative to widely available pirated versions. User modification is fully expected in the world of open source software, after all.

On the other hand, can it be acceptable to use open source technology to closely mimic the graphical user interface of a proprietary counterpart? The legality is far from clear.

"Rarely does a brazen effort to pilfer the intellectual property of others appear so blatant as with the Ylmf OS product being circulated in China," Raymond Van Dyke, a partner with Merchant & Gould, told LinuxInsider.

'Clear Aim to Interfere'

"The Chinese government should proactively do what they can to squelch this obvious act of hacking and copying a well-known product covered by various patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets, both in the U.S. and in China," Van Dyke asserted.

While "legitimate reverse engineering of functionalities is acceptable in the U.S., one cannot wholesale copy a protected product, although some functionalities may be worked around," he explained.

More troubling, however, is "copying the exact design or style of the product, which pirates have absolutely no excuse to copy -- apart from their clear aim to interfere with the sales of the legitimate owner or otherwise trade on the owner's good name," Van Dyke added.

Better Than the Real Thing?

"If this is an effort to pass off the XP desktop theme as the XP operating system, I don't think it is going to work," Joe Casad, editor in chief of Ubuntu User magazine, told LinuxInsider.

"The irony is that this faux Windows system will be safer, more stable and less susceptible to malware than the system it is pretending to be," Casad noted.

Still, "it never really helps to manipulate the customer," he added. "We say that every day to Microsoft, and we would certainly say the same thing to people who are trying to make money by imitating Microsoft."

If the Rain Forest Wind Guangdong company "finds that it gives them a competitive edge to distribute Ubuntu to their customers, they should just admit it," Casad concluded. "It will be better for both their users and their tech support to have menus that match the underlying system."


Monday, December 21, 2009

Intel reveals information about future Atom chips

Intel's next range of Atom chipsets seem to be ready to take Nvidia Ion head on. The new lineup will be smaller, faster, will reduce the average power consumption by as much as 20%, and are expected to be available as early as January of 2010. However the best feature of these chips is the integration of a GPU.

As previously reported, Intel's latest N450 processor and NM10 Express chipset--technology that had been previously referred to as "Pine Trail"--will be used in a new raft of Netbooks that will debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. Hewlett-Packard, Acer, Dell, Asus, Toshiba, Lenovo and others are expected to either announce new systems before the show or exhibit new models there.

Intel said there will be more than 80 new Netbook designs--typically priced around $350--on the way, with systems coming available by January 4.

The Pine Trail design squeezes the graphics function, previously on a separate chip, onto the central processing unit, or CPU, a first for Intel. The result--by decreasing the number of chips from three to two--is a reduction in the overall chip package size by 60 percent.

Intel expects robust growth ahead for Netbooks. Nanduri cited numbers from ABI Research that show Netbook annual shipments reaching 100 million units sometime in the next three years. Since introduction, Intel has shipped more than 40 million Atom chips for Netbooks to major PC makers.

Intel is also launching a new Atom processor with two processing cores, the D510, which it is targeted at entry-level desktops and replaces an existing dual-core Atom. Also, a new single-core D410 design is being introduced.
New Atom processors:
• N450: 1.66GHz, 512KB cache, DDR2-667, TDP: 5.5W
• D510: 1.66GHz, 1MB cache, DDR2-800/667, TDP: 13W (2 cores)
• D410: 1.66GHz, 512KB cache, DDR2-800/667, TDP: 10W
(Note: the DDR2 number suffix refers to memory speed; TDP = Thermal Design Power; W = watt.)

By providing a more integrated solution than NVidia's Ion Platform -- which offers Nvidia's mobile graphics chipsets with the the Intel Atom processor -- it is clear Nvidia has some tough competition ahead.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Could Linux Use Some Bells and Whistles?

Is Linux just too quiet to attract mainstream users who are used to the siren songs of bells and whistles? Or do Linux bells and whistles run on a frequency Windows users can't hear? "One person's 'bells and whistles' are another person's 'this is too different for me' impediment," suggested Slashdot blogger Barbara Hudson. For example, "the desktop cube just blows [Windows users] away."

With the Season of Giving hard upon us once again, it's a safe bet that many of us are thinking about glitter. Not just glitter, but glitz, sparkle and shine, jingle, bells and whistles.

Such, after all, are the qualities gifts -- and the holidays in general -- are often expected to have, and manufacturers of everything from ornaments to iPods do their best to make it happen.

What, one might ask, about operating systems? Should they, too, have shiny, splashy, gotta-have features to make them sparkle in users' eyes?

'What Are the Killer Features?'

That, indeed, was essentially the question posed by blogger Simon Brew at Linux User & Developer recently, and it's sparked quite a discussion on the blogs.

"What are the defining features and characteristics of Ubuntu?" Brew began. "Or Mandriva? Or openSUSE? What are the killer features that are born to illuminate point-of-sale material and tedious slideshows the world over?

"What's... the 'killer app' that's going to get the world excited about Linux?" he asked.

Invisible Appeal?

Brew's answer: "There aren't any. There is no single feature to adorn the covers of magazines. There's no whizzbang gadget to turn the computing world on its head," he wrote. "Instead, the major appeal of Linux, for me anyway, is that it's content to be an operating system."

That, in turn, is a good thing, he concluded: "After all, isn't the best operating system the one you hardly even notice is there?"

The topic must have struck a chord with residents of the Linux blogosphere, because many of them had a lot to say on the matter.

'I Feel the Same'

"Nice article, and I would like to say I feel the same," wrote dhysk in the comments on Linux User & Developer, for example. "Unfortunately the idea of an operating system without bells and whistles as a default [is] one that just doesn't work as a whole."

The reason, dhysk added, is that "to most people an OS IS the computer itself."

On the other hand: Linux "is what you want it to be," opined cwrinn. "I feel this is the 'Bells and Whistles' in a Linux system."

For Details

Monday, November 9, 2009

Windows 7 Ultimate Cracked and Activated Permanently with OEM SLP Master Product Key (with SLIC 2.1)

Windows 7 Ultimate has been cracked, and can be permanently activated with OEM style instant offline activation which will pass Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) validation, before even any Windows 7 is officially released according to Windows 7 release schedule. All hell breaks loose when a Windows 7 Ultimate OEM DVD ISO from Lenovo been leaked and posted on Chinese forum. The ISO was quickly grabbed to retrieve boot.wim, which was then used to retrieve the OEM-SLP product key and OEM certificate for Windows 7 Ultimate.

Microsoft has updated the the SLP (system-Locked Preinstallation), a procedure that used to preactivate Windows operating system for mass distribution by major OEM (original equipment manufacturers), to version 2.1 to support Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 while provided backward-compatibility for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 activation. Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 OEM activation is provided by SLP 2.0. SLP 2.1 requires SLIC imprinted in BIOS to be updated to SLIC version 2.1 too, which contains new Windows Marker.

After extracting the OEM certificate and OEM product key, it’s confirmed that Windows 7 uses the same digitally signed OEM certificate (in .xrm-ms extension) that is been used in Windows Vista. Windows Vista OEM cert can be used in Windows 7 has been explained in Windows 7 forum. As OEM certificate is digitally signed by Microsoft with its own Private Key with OEM Public Key and OEMID (part of SLIC table in BIOS). The combination of correct Private Key, Public Key with OEMID will pass SLP validation as valid Microsoft license. Meanwhile, Windows Marker is signed by OEM itself based on OEMID and OEMTableID (both belongs to SLIC) using the private key that matches the public key. Thus, the same OEM cert can be used for many different SLICs, as long as OEMID remains the same, as in the case of SLP 2.0 and SLP 2.1, although Windows Marker has changed due to different OEMTableID.

The trick is to have BIOS modded to include the SLIC 2.1. The SLIC 2.1 can be modded into BIOS physically (hardmod or biosmod) or been emulated or simulated during Windows boots up (softmod). Various SLIC 2.1 BIN has been retrieved from various notebook computer that shipped with new SLIC 2.1 in BIOS to support the free Windows 7 Upgrade Option from Windows Vista. If you just bought a new PC, it’s possible to check if SLIC 2.1 exists in BIOS. The information can be used to mod the BIOS. If you’re not technically know-how, it’s possible to request for BIOS mod assistant, or wait for Windows 7 Loader or WoW7.

Last but not least (which makes no activation crack works properly so far) is OEM-SLP product key for Windows 7. So far no OEM-SLP product key required to activate Windows 7 as OEM offline instant activation been leaked yet as no machine has been officially ship in Windows 7 by OEM, until now.

The extracted Windows 7 Ultimate OEM-SLP product key, 22TKD-F8XX6-YG69F-9M66D-PMJBM, can be used to activate installed Windows 7 Ultimate system, which BIOS has a valid OEM SLIC 2.1, and corresponding OEM cert, even if it’s OEM cert meant for Windows Vista. Best news is that, the product key appears to be a master OEM-SLP product key for Windows 7 Ultimate, which able to activate many OEM brands, such as HP, Dell, MSI and Lenovo. Checkout the discussion at Windows 7 forums.

Tip: It doesn’t matter if you have download and install Windows 7 RTM retail version ISO or Windows 7 RTM OEM version ISO. Just use the following commands to convert to OEM version:

slmgr.vbs -ilc OEM.XRM-MS (where OEM.XRM-MS is a valid OEM cert matching with SLIC 2.1 in BIOS)
slmgr -ipk 22TKD-F8XX6-YG69F-9M66D-PMJBM

Both 32-bit and 64-bit (x86 and x64) Windows 7 Ultimate system should and can be activated immediately. For Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Home Basic, and Windows 7 Starter, the OEM-SLP keys haven’t been leaked, thus can’t be OEM-activated yet. It’s expected that various Windows 7 activators, Windows 7 activation toolkits, Windows 7 Loaders and etc are expected to be released by various hackers soon. However, Microsoft may decide to block and blacklist this leaked master OEM-SLP product key. If true, other OEM-SLP keys from actual machine shipped from OEM has to be retrieved.

Windows 7 already bigger than Snow Leopard and Linux combined

It's only been a couple of weeks since Windows 7 was released, but Microsoft's new OS has already captured a larger percentage of the market than Apple's OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and Linux (yes, all of Linux). This doesn't come as a huge surprise, considering how many Windows users were clamoring for Win7 after the flop that is Vista. Microsoft says Windows 7's launch outdid Vista's by 234%. Those brisk sales have already netted Windows a 2% share of the world's OS business, compared to just over 1% for Snow Leopard, and just under 1% for Linux.

Despite the strong sales of Win7, Windows as a whole dropped a quarter of a percentage point in October, with Mac and Linux both making small gains. That quarter of a point hardly matters when you've got 90% of the OS market and your new operating system is being adopted quickly, though.

I expect to see Windows swing back up after Windows 7's been available for a while. I mean, we're talking about an operating system that outsold Harry Potter in the UK. Right now, it's only got a 2% share, compared to 19% for Vista and 70% for XP, but that's after only two weeks. Expect that number to zoom upward by the end of November.

Windows 7 still needs anti-virus, susceptible to 8 out of 10 viruses

During the launch of the new Windows 7, Microsoft had a lot to say about the safety features it offered, and especially protection from viruses and malware. While it was always meant to be taken with a pinch of salt, the guys at security firm Sophos decided to put the operating system to the test. Chester Wisniewski of Sophos writes that they loaded up a machine with a fresh version of Windows 7, and left all the User Account Control options at default. Then, they grabbed the next 10 unique virus samples that arrived in the SophosLabs feed to see how well the newer, more secure version of Windows and UAC held up. “Unfortunately, despite Microsoft's claims, Windows 7 disappointed just like earlier versions of Windows. The good news is that, of the freshest 10 samples that arrived, 2 would not operate correctly under Windows 7,” Wisniewski writes. Lesson learned? You still need to run anti-virus on Windows 7. A viable option could be the new, free Microsoft Security Essentials suite that the company has launched recently. Ars Technica reported a few days ago on an antivirus comparison by AV-Comparative that puts Microsoft Security Essentials as the best free anti-virus solution out there, ahead of names like AVG, Avast and Avira. Windows 7 debut is a hitMeanwhile, market analysis firm NPD has released a report that says Windows 7 has done extremely well since its launch on October 22. According to NPD’s weekly tracking service, Windows 7 software unit sales in the U.S. were 234 per cent higher than Vista’s first few days of sales. “Microsoft’s program of early low-cost pre-sales, high visibility marketing, and aggressive deals helped make the Windows 7 software launch successful,” said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD. “In a slow environment for packaged software Windows 7 brought a large number of customers into the software aisles.”

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Google to launch online book store in 2010

Google announced to the world last week that it would soon be rolling out an online store for electronic books, or e-books, which would work with any device with a Web browser.

Currently, the two main players in the e-book reader market are Amazon’s Kindle and Sony’s Reader. The former has a proprietary format that it requires, while Sony is pushing for a more open database of books. Other players, such as Asus and Apple, have previously been reported to be working on touchscreen e-readers.

Reuters reports that the Web search giant said it would launch Google Editions in the first half of 2010, initially offering about half a million e-books in partnership with publishers with whom it already cooperates, where they have digital rights.
Readers will be able to buy e-books either from Google directly or from other online stores such as or Google will host the e-books and make them searchable.

Google has already come under some criticism and scrutiny for its project to scan and make all the books in the world freely available online.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A match made in Silicon-Heaven?

Nokia and Intel recently announced a “long-term relationship” of mutual benefit which in the least stands to bring in a new wave of ultra-portable, mobile enabled, internet capable devices.
Yes indeed a match made in heaven! While Nokia had shown interest in the netbook arena some time ago, this “relationship” stands for much more, as in Intel's own terms, they plan to “develop a new class of Intel® Architecture-based mobile computing device and chipset architectures which will combine the performance of powerful computers with high-bandwidth mobile broadband communications and ubiquitous Internet connectivity”.

With a partnership like this the sky is the limit. Perhaps Intel's Moorestown devices could be the child of this relationship! Intel already has Atom, which is rather successful in some of the most compact computers available today and Intel's code-name Lincroft chipset is suggestive of even smaller devices with lower power requirements.

Mobile phones even today offer nothing close to the experience we get from a “proper” computer. Even the lowliest of Netbooks today can challenge perhaps the best of mobile phones, with an operating system like windows or Linux, you can get much further than what you possibly could in a mobile device. With this coming fusion though, we might as well see something which lie in between. Mobile phones, MIDs, or even portable media devices which offer close to as much power as an full computer. With Intel inside, even an idiot outside is bound to be much happier.

This unison transcends even the bonds of hardware, as Nokia and Intel have plans for collaboration around the open source spheres of Linux. The Intel supported Moblin platform which is optimized for use in ultra mobile computers with the Atom processor and Nokia's Maemo platform which runs its N810 Internet tablet are both based on Linux and they plan to foster better compatibility between these platforms for an even better mobile experience.

As said by Anand Chandrasekher, Intel Corporation senior vice president and general manager, Ultra Mobility Group, "This Intel and Nokia collaboration unites and focuses many of the brightest computing and communications minds in the world, and will ultimately deliver open and standards-based technologies, which history shows drive rapid innovation, adoption and consumer choice. With the convergence of the Internet and mobility as the team's only barrier, I can only imagine the innovation that will come out of our unique relationship with Nokia. The possibilities are endless."

Intel and Nokia have both showcased their rather bold visions of the future of portable devices, could this be a merger of their visions into something even more powerful? Or a collaboration which will bring their designs to a more grounded reality sooner?

Monday, October 5, 2009

IBM Research jumps into genetic sequencing

It took 13 years for researchers to catalog all the information in a human genome the first time. Now IBM believes it can do better--somewhat perversely by equipping a newer genetic sequencing method with brakes.

Big Blue is among those who believe electronics technology can be applied to the task of sequencing a person's genes, thereby bringing genetic testing into the computing era and lowering its cost to something like $100 to $1,000.

IBM is working on prototype DNA-processing electronics that slurps strands of DNA through an extremely small hole called a nanopore, measuring the electrical properties of the chemicals as they go by to determine the genetic information. That technique is used beyond IBM, but what Big Blue researchers have been working on is a way to slow down, an essential step toward improving its precision, said Gustavo Stolovitzky/a>, manager of the IBM Functional Genomics and Systems Biology Group.

IBM Chief Executive Sam Palmisano is scheduled to unveil the project and what the company calls its "DNA transistor" Tuesday in a talk, "IT Innovation in Healthcare," at the Cleveland Clinic, IBM said.

The ultimate goal for such research is affordable genetic sequencing. "It would allow DNA sequences to be more or less routine," Stolovitzky said, forecasting that the technology will arrive in five or ten years.

OK, but why should you care?

"It would enable the possibility of going to the doctor with some infection, and the doctor gets the sequence pretty much on spot of the bacteria affecting the patient or the virus is in the blood," Stolovitzky said.

Or another possibility: knowing patients' specific genotypes could mean doctors would know if they had a negative reaction to some drug. That could mean some drugs useful that today are banned could become useful to a subset of the population.

IBM isn't the only one working on this technology. In addition to various academic efforts, start-up 23andMe offers some genetic analysis today.

The genes of animals and plants are encoded in DNA with just four molecular-scale substances--adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine. Their particular order governs not only their the formation of humans and other organisms but also the day-to-day biochemistry that keeps us alive.

IBM's sequencing technique to transcribe this biochemical data has been under way for three years, and it's easier said than done. The company is in the process of creating a new prototype device updated to reflect what IBM learned from an earlier one that didn't work as hoped.

"Translocation control we should have in a year's time more or less," Stolovitzky said, referring to the ability to ease the DNA through the nanopore one pair at a time.

The distance scales alone make the work difficult. Each DNA base is about 5 or 6 angstroms away from its neighbor--about half a billionth of a meter. By comparison, a human hair is colossal, about a ten-thousandth of a meter in diameter. And the DNA strands slip through a nanopore that's 2 to 3 billionths of a meter wide.

One problem with the nanopore approach is that it's hard to distinguish the four substances, called bases, as they slip through the hole. The four bases have overlapping electrical properties, so the more time spent measuring each, the better the accuracy.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Yahoo to shut down Xoopit for Gmail users

Yahoo on Friday noted to users of Xoopit that the Gmail integration of its service would soon be disintegrated.

Xoopit, which aggregates media files from users' Gmail accounts, was acquired by Google rival Yahoo in late July and has since been integrated into the company's own Web mail service.

Users of Xoopit will have until November 13 to grab any media from Yahoo's servers, after which it will no longer be available. Doing this is necessary only for users who have deleted the source file from their Gmail account, as Xoopit simply copies over the media, leaving the version on Google's servers intact. Yahoo will continue to hold on to all users' data until next February to comply with its 90-day data retention policy, it said.

In Yahoo's note, the company says one of the main reasons for the shutdown of Gmail compatibility is to enable the team to focus on making a better version of its product for Yahoo Mail, which only began working with the Xoopit service in December. It also said that discontinuing resources into tools designed to improve competing Web mail providers would leave Gmail users with a "lousy experience."

Along with access to Xoopit, Yahoo is also discontinuing its Firefox add-on and Facebook integration for Gmail.

The browser add-on has let users view attachments and other media in their Gmail accounts as a file explorer--functionality that has since been replaced by some of Google's Gmail Labs add-ons. Users with the browser add-on installed could also connect with Facebook to see and view status updates from within Gmail, a feature that will also become unavailable.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Linux in 2013: One *Billion* Dollars!

Has the much-anticipated turning point for Linux adoption arrived? Yes, says IDC analyst Al Gillen, who authored a report predicting that global Linux revenues will exceed $1.2 billion by 2013. "The monopoly is failing under its own weight," says blogger Robert Pogson. "If M$ wants to compete on price and features, they cannot continue paying people to use their OS."

It's a rare day on the Linux blogs when comparisons don't get made between Windows and our favorite operating system, but when those comparisons take the form of benchmarks, we can't help but sit up and listen.

Sure enough, following a like comparison earlier this year, the bloggers over at TuxRadar recently put Windows 7, Vista and various versions of Ubuntu through their paces again to see just how they compare.

Bottom line? "There's nothing in Windows 7 that Linux can't do, and in most cases, do it better," the TuxRadar bloggers wrote. "Our machines are quicker and more efficient. Our desktops are more innovative and less static. Our apps are more powerful, cheaper and less partisan, and Linux security has never been better.

"Best of all, we have complete control over the future of Linux, and its success or failure at the hands of Windows 7 is in our hands," they added.

'LINUX = Leave It Now Unless Xpert'

The reaction? Scores of comments on the TuxRadar site, covering all bases between the congratulatory and the outraged.

To wit: "I would have never thought I would read something like this in a Linux publication but you did a great job of comparing Windows 7 to Linux," wrote Anonymous Penguin. "For me I am sticking to XP and Ubuntu, Fedora 11 and AntiX. These run my older hardware the best."

Then again: "LINUX = Leave It Now Unless Xpert," wrote another Anonymous Penguin. "WINDOWS = When IN Doubt Order Windows Seven."

Not to mention: "I've seen more fair and balanced comparisons on Fox News," added Blast Hardcheese.

'No Linux Option Is Suitable on My Laptop'

The fact that "every current Linux distro fails to make 3-D and WiFi work together" makes it tough to take such benchmarks seriously, Dean noted.

"My problem might well be rooted in fglrx, but it's entirely irrelevant since neither replacement of the hardware nor change in my use habits are viable options for me," he said. "The simple fact of the matter is, no Linux option is suitable on my laptop today, and Windows 7 'just works,' including 3-D and WiFi."

Not only that, but "unlike Windows XP or Vista, it does so out of the box," he asserted.

'On the Server'

Linux will almost certainly end up a billion-dollar business "on the SERVER," Slashdot blogger hairyfeet told LinuxInsider.

"On a server you have experienced admins who prefer a text-heavy CLI interface because it saves on resources that could be better used serving clients," he explained. "That is why Windows server 2K8 comes with the ability to just run 'core' and have only that which you need most."

That said, however, "I have found even my most Linux-happy server admin friends keep one or more Windows Domain Controllers on the network," hairyfeet asserted. "Why? Because Linux has yet to come up with a 'top-to-bottom full stack' approach that touches AD+Exchange+Sharepoint+GPO for ease of use."

'It Is More Complex and More Work'

Linux gurus get "paid more for doing the same job because it is more complex and I would argue more work to get the same functionality from Linux that you get from Windows and the 'full stack' approach," added hairyfeet.

"Hell, I could probably teach my 16-year-old in a month or so enough to admin a basic Windows domain setup," he explained. "Everything is, set up in an easy to understand and visualize tree hierarchy, and there is even a nice wizard that will walk you through most of the basic tasks."

The closest approximation in the Linux world is Xandros server, hairyfeet added, and "while it gets a lot of the way towards the Server+Exchange functionality, it isn't nearly as good at GPO as a Winserver is. And I haven't seen a 'Sharepoint killer' or an 'Outlook killer' yet come from the Linux world."

'The Better It Does, the Better I Do'

So, "while I have no doubt that pretty much all the web servers will end up firmly in the Linux domain, everything behind the firewall will most likely stay firmly rooted in Windows," hairyfeet predicted. "Not only because there are still so many mission-critical apps that simply aren't offered in Linux -- from custom apps to CAD and graphics -- but admining a Windows Server is just so much easier than doing the same job in the Linux camp."

Either way, however, there's no denying that increasing success for Linux means the same for those who work with it.

"I certainly hope Linux continues to do well," Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack told LinuxInsider. "Linux is my bread and butter, so the better it does, the better I do."

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Microsoft launched free security software

After being criticised time and again for the amount of viruses and malware that affect the Windows operating system, Microsoft has decided to finally do something about it. The Redmond giant is set to make available a free suite of security software, and is calling the Security Essentials.

Offering antivirus and anti-malware protection, Security Essentials will be completely free to download either from the Windows Update program or through its official page. And as with all other free antivirus software, it will receive periodic updates to virus definitions via the Internet.

The download is expected to be about 4.7MB in size, and requires the user to have a legitimate copy of Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7 (Beta or RC). It’s as yet unclear whether the launch is going to be worldwide or restricted to a few regions, but all indications are that it should be an international release.

The Security Essentials suite is Microsoft’s new iteration of the Windows Live OneCare paid package, and has been in beta testing for a few months now. Several testers have already reviewed the beta version.

PC World has extensively reviewed the software suite, with Nick Mediati writing: “The Microsoft Security Essentials interface is clear-cut and cleanly designed. You'll likely spend most of your time on the Home tab; ‘set it and forget it’ aptly describes Microsoft Security Essentials. The default settings are appropriate for most users...”

The Security Essentials public beta also took fourth place in PC World’s recent roundup of free antivirus software. Microsoft Security Essentials beta detected 97.8 percent of malware in tests conducted by, which is decent score compared to other, similar free antivirus tools. Malware scans were a bit on the sluggish side, though, taking longer to scan than a number of competing products.

Reviewer Erik Larkin wrote: "If Microsoft can improve the detection rate a bit – and rev up the scan speed more than a bit – before the program's final release, Security Essentials could turn out to be a real contender in the free antivirus arena."

All in all, if you are someone who uses AVG Free, Avira or Avast, then Microsoft Security Essentials might be a very viable alternative.

Dell brings wireless recharging to laptops

Dell is releasing a new laptop for business customers is the opposite of surprising. But the fact that it contains notable features not seen in any other laptops certainly is.

Most everything about the new Latitude Z is expected: It's yet another very thin notebook (a metric which PC manufacturers keep using to try to one-up each other), with a different kind of exterior finish (soft-touch, in this case), and comes in a black cherry. It measures 16 inches across, and is 14 millimeters thin at its most narrow point.

But you probably wouldn't guess that the Latitude Z charges wirelessly. And as far as we can tell, it's the first laptop to do so. Surprised that this is coming from Dell? You're not alone.

The wireless charging is handled elegantly enough. An inductive pad that's built into a laptop stand can accomplish a full recharge in "about the same amount of time" as a standard-issue cabled charger, according to Dell. While smartphone maker Palm has a similar (albeit smaller) wireless charging system for the Pre, and companies like Visteon and Wild Charge have debuted wireless charging accessories for phones, no PC maker has incorporated the idea until now.

Most people aren't used to seeing Dell trying new things like this, some of it actually ahead of competitors. Last year, we wrote about how Dell was starting to be a little more risky about the types of products it was trying out. Not new to the market, just new to Dell, which has traditionally had a habit of waiting, analyzing the market's response to new products, and jumping in later with a more efficient, and less expensive way of making that product.

But that way of doing things is over for Dell now. The company has struggled to find the right mix of products and now has less opportunity to be picky. But it's a good sign that the company is trying out smaller, more innovative, and more practical ideas like wireless charging, docking, instant on, and touch interfaces. Though it's only in the Latitude Z right now, we hear these features are stirring a lot of interest in other product groups at Dell. It's easy to see how, for a cheaper price (the Z starts at $1,999), these new features could find much broader acceptance with retail customers.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Intel planning new 'App Store' for Atom netbooks

Here's another AppStore to add to the Mall, Intel's new developer program for its Atom-based computers.

In a press release, they unveiled plans of a developer program which allows people to target Atom-based devices. Renee James, corporate vice president and general manager, Intel Software and Services Group explains the need for an such as program:

"We want to fuel the growth of Intel Atom-based products designed for the mobile lifestyle. The netbook has become one of the most popular consumer devices in the market today, but its true potential has been limited by applications that are not optimized for its mobility and smaller screen size. The Intel Atom Developer Program provides a great opportunity for developers to create useful and inventive applications that will unlock a netbook's potential while opening a new sales and distribution channel."

In a model similar to that of the iPhone and Palm stores, Intel will get a 30% cut. However, due the the somewhat higher complexity of the ecology surrounding computers as compared to smart phones, Intel's Developer Program will have a slightly more complicated model. Developers can choose to exchange some of their revenue in exchange for promotion, and they can build and charge for components which will earn them percentage revenue share, based on each application using the component. Sounds very much like a pyramid scheme!

The Developer Program supports the Windows and Moblin Linux platforms, and additionally allows developers to use runtime environments such as Adobe AIR and Java. Strangely enough Silverlight is mentioned as a supported platform in the PR, while it is neither an off-line runtime nor cross-platform across the two platforms the program supports! They also plan to extend this range of platforms and runtimes as demand changes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Camera Reviews

PowerShot A590 IS

The A590 IS is somewhat similar in design to the A720 IS. The A590 IS is an 8 MP camera that comes with a 4x optical zoom and is also one of the cheapest cameras in the category at Rs 10,995.

Build quality seems to have taken a hit too. The battery door seems a little wobbly and loose. The rest of the body looks and feels great. The mode selection is done using a really rigid dial. The user interface hasn’t seen a lot of change either.

The quality in general is decent and a little sharp. There is some grain all through the photos. There is no kind of colouration in the images though. The video frame rate at 640 x 480 has been dropped to 20 fps which means you won’t get the smoothest possible video. For 30 fps you need to drop your video resolution to 320 x 240. If you wish to use the camera for video shooting purposes as well, then this is something to keep in mind before buying this camera.

Some of the old features are still there like the manual focus. It works great, is fun to use and is one of the cheapest cameras to feature this. There is also an Easy mode that lets you forget all about the settings you can use with the camera. Like many other manufacturers, features like face detection have been added to the list of features.

Overall, it scores very close to the Samsung i8. It is kind of disappointing to see a camera such as the A590 IS which should have been as good as its predecessor the A570 IS. Fortunately for you, the prices for the A590 IS are much lower too. If optical zoom holds no interest, then the A590 IS is a great photo taking camera to own.

Samsung NV24HD

The Samsung is another unique camera that we got. Much can’t be said about its performance, but what it does have Is features. The biggest impressive features are the touch sensitive buttons lining the sides of the screen. They make operating the menus and all the settings extremely simple.

The NV24HD not only supports HDMI but also HD video recording. It records videos at resolutions of 1280 x 720 at 30fps. Videos are recorded using H.264 so a good amount of video can be stored as compared to some of the uncompressed video formats used in other cameras. We shot a 1280 x 720 resolution video tat was 25 seconds long, and it took up only 20 MB of space. The HDMI support means images can be viewed on large screens without a lot of quality loss.

As usual, there is one dial for selecting the modes and there’s another one that changes the coloration for the images. We fired test shots with all settings turned to Auto.

It was clear that the quality was above average. In a category where all the cameras were so closely matched, the performance and a little bit of design was to blame for its lowered overall score. We awarded it one of the best scores for the video quality. With its great compression, it also makes a good video recorder, and not just a digital camera.

For a camera with so many features, the design could be a lot better. The flash for example is just a simple cube that pops out from the top of the camera.

The build however is solid and great. Sharp edges could leave scratches to its finish though. A camera such as this is ideal for someone who wants to shoot, but doesn’t know how to get all the settings. The touch buttons definitely help in making things accessible.

Kodak Easyshare M1033

The M1033 is a 10.1 MP Kodak camera priced at around Rs 12,000. The camera has an auto feature that changes modes for the user. So if you get too close to an object, it switches to macro mode accordingly. This can be really useful for new users and for those who do not wish to keep changing settings modes manually. All the menus and options are kept as simple as possible. The interface is also designed with that in mind and the minimal amount of buttons are put on the camera.

The camera itself is compact and solid. The joystick planted on the camera is robust and a little hard to use. The camera supports 720p video recording at 30 fps, which is excellent for a camera. There seems to be no image stabilisation during the video recording mode which is a little bit annoying. The video is still very crisp.

Kodak continues to add many scene modes to choose from. The M1033 is no different. It too comes with countless number of scenario modes. Overall, it seems like a better camera than the M1063. It is just Rs 1,000 more than the M1063, but it does a lot more...and it does it better.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Ubuntu Capturing Market

Ubuntu version of the Linux OS is the world’s most popular free desktop OS, and it’s popularity is growing up - from the bottom. Going over the role that Linux plays on the desktop and where its future lies, Shuttleworth specifically commented on a question issued about Wine – which as many of you may know, is the most popular way of running Windows-based programs on Linux. It's a very useful tool when migrating from Windows to Linux, and often is a mainstay of any desktop Linux distribution; as often there are cases when a program is more easily available under Windows.
Ubuntu has been selected by readers of as the most popular Linux distribution for the desktop, claiming approximately 30% of Linux desktop installations in both 2006 and 2007. Some people usually feel burden of the drivers in other operating systems, but in most of the Linux based operating systems, you will not face this problem. As if we take the case of Ubuntu only, it will provide you almost all the drivers preinstalled like audio, video, LAN card, blue-tooth, wifi etc. In the older versions of Ubuntu, people were required to install the drivers manually but now you need not to install them anymore in latest version(9.04). Also Ubuntu is spread worldwide in such a manner that you will get lot of forums for all sort of issues related to Ubuntu as it comes with full commercial support from Canonical and hundreds of companies around the world. As others have pointed out, attempting to emulate Windows won't do much good to capture market share. What would help is to focus on what people want or need to do, at its core. There may be difficulty in luring people away from apps they are loyal too, but software changes and is replaced as time goes on. The future of Linux on desktop doesn't lie within Windows app compatibility, but rather making the Linux desktop something people want to use due to its own merit.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

ROBO Week: The Best Robots

There is greater advancement seen in robotics now a days. In this post I would like to showcase some of the favourite robots and their videos, for this particular week. Robots in movies has always been a fascinating subject. On the one hand Robots carry that machine like mystique that enables them to do things that we humans can’t. And that factor alone leads us to curiosity and amazement. On the other, when we see human qualities in these robots, it makes them that much more interesting.


With the slogan of "Makes life fun, makes you happy!", QRIO entered the market in 2003. Bipedal robots that can walk up stairs seem flatfooted compared with the running, jumping, and traditional-Japanese-fan-dancing Qrio. Officially, Sony uses its state-of-the-art androids, debuted in 2003, as corporate ambassadors. But the company may one day sell them for entertainment.

QRIO is capable of voice and face recognition, making it able to remember people as well as their likes and dislikes.Four fourth-generation QRIO prototype robots were featured dancing in the Hell Yes music video by recording artist Beck.


Humanoid robot is a robot which looks like a human. its an autonomous robot which can adapt to changes in its environment or itself and continue to reach its goal. I-Sobot is the world’s smallest mass produced humanoid robot. Although it is fully functional, and features 17 degrees of freedom, the i-SOBOT is so small that the developers carry it around in a small plastic toolbox. It's target price is small also, about one third of the price of its nearest larger competition. It does pack a tremendous amount of performance, and a huge personality into that tiny package.

I-Sobot can be controlled in proper fashion for robot soccer tournaments, races, and other friendly competitions via it’s powerful infrared remote control. The remote control also allows you to create scripts, which are user defined chains of robot movements. The i-Sobot comes fully assembled and ready to play right out of the box.

RiSE: The Amazing Climbing Robot

RiSE is a small six-legged robot that climbs vertical terrain such as walls, trees and fences. RiSE’s feet have claws, micro-claws or sticky material, depending on the climbing surface. RiSE changes posture to conform to the curvature of the climbing surface and a fixed tail helps RiSE balance on steep ascents. RiSE is about 0.25 m long, weighs 2 kg, and travels 0.3 m/s.

Each of RiSE’s six legs is powered by two electric motors. An onboard computer controls leg motion, manages communications, and services a variety of sensors. The sensors include an inertial measurement unit, joint position sensors for each leg, leg strain sensors and foot contact sensors.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

COOL Pendrives

A USB flash drive consists of a NAND-type flash memory data storage device integrated with a USB (Universal Serial Bus) interface. USB flash drives are typically removable and rewritable, much smaller than a floppy disk, and most weigh less than an ounce (30 g).

Modern flash drives have USB 2.0 connectivity. However, they do not currently use the full 480 Mbit/s (60MB/s) the USB 2.0 Hi-Speed specification supports due to technical limitations inherent in NAND flash. The fastest drives currently available use a dual channel controller, although they still fall considerably short of the transfer rate possible from a current generation hard disk, or the maximum high speed USB throughput.

USB drives comes in thousands of designs and colors, but these 10 are extraordinary weird. Or what do you think? Go ahead, check them out. They are weird! Promise. For more Delatils..