Sep 30, 2009

Twitter driven GFC

Since the launch of our new MyVantage online account management system in April, many members have asked for a mobile banking solution. We're now very excited to introduce the first-of-its-kind banking solution via Twitter. Introducing tweetMyMoney, available exclusively to Vantage members!

With tweetMyMoney, you can monitor your account balance, deposits, withdrawals, holds and cleared checks with simple commands. And, you can even transfer funds within your account. It’s all available on Twitter, 24/7! And, the best part is, our tweetMyMoney service is free!

So how is this mobile? If your phone can send and receive text messages and you’re on Twitter, you’re in! tweetMyMoney uses Twitter’s Direct Message feature to return the account information you request.

Meet Dell’s New $2,000 Laptop

About as slim as the Adamo and just half a pound heavier, Dell’s new ultra-thin laptop is a PC intended for business users who crave beauty and are willing to pay whatever it takes to get it.

At the basic level, the Dell Latitude Z is a notebook with a 16-inch HD display that runs Intel Core 2 Duo processor and offers a choice of up to two 256 GB solid state drives. It comes with multi-touch trackpad that supports gestures such as pinch and zoom.

But the device goes beyond that to offer some smooth features — a new kind of touchscreen, wireless charging and some solid security features.

Lets start with the touchscreen. Instead of a touchscreen display, the Latitude Z has touch functionality built along the frame of the notebook display.  Sliding your fingers vertically along the frame pops up a tool bar that lets you choose common applications like email, photos, and camera.

The Latitude Z has a two megapixel camera that goes significantly beyond the traditional webcam function. Hold your business card in front of the camera and it scans the card and saves the information to Microsoft Outlook contacts.  If you have a sheet of paper, you hold it in front of the camera and can choose to save it as a PDF.

The camera also has face-recognition capability. So, if turned on, it can detect when you step away from the computer and automatically lock the machine then.

Other security features include a fingerprint reader and contact less smart card reader so you can lock the computer by just waving your office badge over it.

Another interesting addition to the laptop is new hardware that supports a ‘Latitude On’ mode. The mode promises instant start up and offers always on connection to email, internet, contacts and calendar.

The idea is to bring the functionality of a BlackBerry that promises always synced email and calendar to a PC, says Steve Belt, vice president of business client engineering at Dell.

Tiny, Easy-to-Build Weapons Annihilate Office Boredom

The lunchtime fridge-raider. The stapler crook. The golden parachuter. Cubicle farms are full of enemy combatants begging to be taken out. Your guide: toy designer John Austin, who spent years miniaturizing firepower for G.I. Joe and Star Wars figurines. In MiniWeapons of Mass Destruction, he describes how to cobble together a small-scale arsenal from supply-closet goodies. Here are a few of his favorite workplace munitions (deploy with caution). Ready, aim ... avenge!

Fitbit measures everything from sleep to sex

Amount of steps you took today: 3,451. Miles traveled: 1.4. Calories burned: 348. Calories consumed: 625. Then you went to bed at 12:05 a.m. Time to fall asleep: 23 minutes. Times awakened: 25. You were in bed for 8 hours 2 minutes. Actual sleep time: 7 hours 42 minutes.

The math is easy, sure. But never before has a device tracked so many aspects of an individual's physical movements to measure overall wellness. From caloric intake to activity levels (sedentary, lightly active, fairly active, and very active), Fitbit clips onto clothing or straps around one's wrist and uses a 3D motion sensor similar to the one in Nintendo's Wii to measure multiple aspects of one's physical self.

And much in the way services like Quicken encourage people to measure whether they are living within their means, Fitbit's Web site analyzes all this data and allows users to input goals. The device costs $99 plus shipping.

Perhaps most exciting of all is that Fitbit will now help each of us understand objectively how vigorously we engage in such activities as laughing, having sex, popping open that bottle of champagne, etc. Will Fitbit users suddenly do these activities more vigorously to maximize caloric output? This little gadget could be a far more romantic gift than current marketing suggests....

Sep 29, 2009

Aussies claim robot dance record

MORE than 300 people, including university students, have danced in robotic unison to break a Guinness world record.  The group broke the world record dancing on a lawn at the University of Melbourne.

The previous record for the largest number of people dancing like robots was 276. More than 318 eventually signed up today after some prompting from organisers.  After the first official attempt to break the record failed - some who signed up, sat out - the second record breaking attempt was successfully held at 1.30pm (AEST).

Microsoft slashes student price for Windows 7 to US$30

The deal lets students with a valid university-provided e-mail address purchase either an upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium or Windows 7 Professional for US$29.99. Each student can purchase one copy of either edition, which they'll be able to download starting on Oct. 22, Windows 7's official launch date. Students in the US can place their pre-orders immediately through a Microsoft-sponsored site , while those in the UK can plunk down their ?30 starting Sept. 30, a company spokesman said yesterday.

Students in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Korea and Mexico are also eligible for the discount, but won't be able to order until Oct. 22. Microsoft has not set prices for those countries. The offer ends Jan. 3, 2010 in every market except for Australia, where it will run until March 31, 2010, Microsoft confirmed Friday.

ISPs force rewrite of law

INTERNET lobbyists have forestalled a law that could turn internet service providers into online sheriffs.

The federal government has substantially rewritten a bill intended to protect computer networks before its tabling in parliament by Attorney-General Robert McClelland.  Electronic Frontiers Australia spokesman Geordie Guy said it was unclear if the draft Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment Bill was an "attempt to sneak through" a wholesale expansion of intercepts of private emails and file-sharing or merely a badly drafted bill.

"There was an incredibly short two-week consultation period but it only takes one of our members to notice what is going on and wave the flag," he said. "The bill is now significantly less broad, and its scope is essentially limited to those (monitoring) government agency networks."  The Attorney-General's Department said the aim was to legally protect network administrators who may "inadvertently breach the TIA Act" when intercepting private communications in security defence activities.

Foreign students in limbo as 'rotten' college closes

A PRIVATE college for international students was allowed to operate for 10 years before it was recently discovered not to be meeting the standards required to provide education courses. St George Institute of Professionals, a city-based vocational college offering courses in management, multimedia and graphic arts, was closed after a ''rapid audit'', leaving 129 international students, mostly from India, in limbo.

The college will surrender its registration from tomorrow, making it the fourth private college to collapse in Melbourne in three months. But the Brumby Government has warned that several more are likely to follow suit, as the state continues its audit of 41 institutions regarded as a ''high risk'' to international students. St George, which is based in Flinders Street in Melbourne's central business district, was registered as a private college in 1998.

But industry insiders yesterday described it as a ''very rotten apple'' after the auditors found it had failed to comply with most of the necessary teaching and course standards required to operate as a training provider in Victoria. Skills Minister Jacinta Allan, who is in India promoting the state as a reputable destination for international students, admitted the latest closure was disappointing.

Labor ad takes on 'gouging' surgeons

THE federal government has accused eye surgeons of running a "dishonest scare campaign" over its plans to slash Medicare rebates for cataract surgery, in a new advertising pitch to win public support for the move. In a hard-hitting attack advertisement released on the internet yesterday, the government insisted new technology had made cataract surgery quicker and cheaper, yet despite now taking just 15 minutes instead of one hour "some ophthalmologists still want to unfairly charge what they used to".  "The campaign ... is about a few specialists who can't see beyond their own financial self-interest," the advertisement concludes, against a soundtrack of ringing cash tills. 

Paris Hilton wins film flop case

Paris Hilton was not at fault for her film flopping, a court has ruled. The socialite was sued by Worldwide Entertainment Group for allegedly breaching her contractual commitments for movie National Lampoon's Pledge This!, but a Miami judge has ruled she did her best to promote it, stating the movie was "hardly destined for critical acclaim".

District Judge Federico Moreno said: "Any causal connection between Ms Hilton's alleged breaches and the financial ruin of the film are wholly speculative. "The movie flopped because the film's inexperienced producers hastily cobbled together a wholly inadequate marketing plan. They sent scattershot requests to their principal star in the hope she could find time to promote a sinking ship."

Le Airbus plauged with safety failures

 A Singapore Airlines A380 was forced to turn round mid-flight and head back to Paris on Sunday after one of its four engines failed, the head of the airline's French operations said. The doubledecker A380 took off from Paris at 12.30 pm with 444 passengers aboard and headed for Singapore, but had to turn round after 2 hours 45 minutes because of the engine problem, airline director Jerry Seah said.

The plane landed safely back in France at 5.45 p.m. and the passengers were sent to hotels as the airline tried to lay on an alternative flight for them. Seah said he believed it was the first time the plane had suffered such a problem since it had started operating the Singapore-Paris route earlier this year.

MP3 makers forced to reduce volume

Tens of millions of people will be forced to listen to portable music at permanently reduced volume under European Commission proposals to be unveiled next week. The plans, trialled ahead of talks between Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva and gadget manufacturers on Monday, are aimed at reducing health hazards but also nuisance complaints.

Brussels says the dangers arising from high volumes or long periods spent wearing headphones or earplugs mean developers of MP3 players including iPods and mobile phones will have to lower permitted noise-output levels. According to a report issued by an EU scientific committee in October 2008, as many as 10 per cent of listeners risk permanent hearing loss by listening to loud music every day for five years.

Sep 28, 2009

PCI-E Solid State Drives

Z-Drive e84 is designed to meet the demanding storage and computing applications of enterprise servers storage arrays, super computing and data warehousing. The Z-Drive delivers faster more reliable data transfer and reduced power consumption. Unlike other solutions, the Z-Drive provides a cost-effective formula of performance, reliability, and upkeep for enterprise customers and their applications which require the benefits of solid state drive technology.

This proprietary SSD is bootable and takes the SATA bottleneck out of the equation by employing a high-speed PCI-Express architecture coupled with a compact enterprise-grade RAID array. With 8 PCI-E lanes and an internal four-way RAID 0 configuration, the Z-Drive delivers exceptional performance that translates to professional-class data storage in a complete, all-in-one form factor. Additionally, OCZ offers unique customization options for OEM clients that may require tailored hardware or firmware solutions for their business.

Impressive speeds are achieved all while providing lower power consumption, superior durability, and shock resistance compared to traditional rotational-based drives, translating into exceptional energy savings and reduced maintenance costs.

Sep 25, 2009

Cybersex addiction

Cybersex is a growing concern in the Australian workplace with more people seeking treatment for the addiction than ever before, according to research from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne.
Doctoral candidate Marcus Squirrell surveyed over 1,300 internet users who regularly frequented online sex, fetish and swinging sites to engage in online sexual activities, which included accessing erotic pictures, as well as interacting with others using chat rooms and webcams.
According to Squirrell, a "fairly large percentage" of respondents admitted to taking part in cybersex activities outside the comfort of their home.
"A lot of people who have got problems with compulsive online sexual behaviour can't actually control themselves and end up doing it at work as well.

Gmail More and More Like Late ’90s Era Hotmail Every Day by John Paczkowski

So much for those Gmail reliability improvements Google (GOOG) promised us earier this month. The service, which was felled by a major outage just three weeks ago, is once again suffering from accessibility issues. It’s not yet clear what exactly is amiss. Some users say they can’t access contacts and chat. Other’s can’t get into the service at all.    Google is aware of the issues and working on a fix, according to a Google Apps Status message:

September 24, 2009 7:29:00 AM PDT
We’re aware of a problem with Google Mail affecting a small subset of users. The affected users are unable to access Google Mail, but we’ve provided a workaround below. We will provide an update by September 24, 2009 8:29:00 AM PDT detailing when we expect to resolve the problem. Please note that this resolution time is an estimate and may change.

Pedophiles trawling social networking sites for details posted by parents

PARENTS have been warned that boasting about their children's achievements on sites such as Facebook could expose them to pedophiles. Police have reported a spike in child exploitation cases linked to online networking sites amid a push to educate parents about the pitfalls of posting personal data online. Federal Government cyber safety expert Greg Gebhart yesterday said there had been a big jump among 35 to 50-year-olds opening Facebook accounts.

"Most of them are very proud parents and they're not as technologically literate as young people, and they set up family profiles and include a lot of photos of their children and other content," he said. "There's all sorts of people out there, and certainly downright sex offenders and others who are interested in kids could use parent sites to get access to that."

Sep 24, 2009

Safety warning for Airbus planes

 Airlines with long-haul Airbus planes must check Goodrich air-speed probes for defects similar to one that might have led to an air disaster over the Atlantic in June, the European Aviation Safety Agency yesterday.

The EASA airworthiness directive concerns carriers that fly Airbus A330/A340 jetliners equipped with Goodrich pitot probes stamped with the part number 0851HL.

"Several reports have recently been received of loose pneumatic quick-disconnect unions" on the probes in question, the agency said, adding that the problem might lie at the "equipment manufacturing level."

The fault could result in an air leak that could in turn provide false airspeed indications, the statement said.

An agency spokeswoman said airlines had five days to verify the probes and report their findings to Airbus.

How is identity theft occurring in the contact center?

The FBI calls identity theft one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States and estimates that 500,000 to 700,000 Americans become identity theft victims each year.  In a recent 2008 survey Zogby International found that two-thirds of consumers are worried about identity theft and 43 percent is worried about falling victim to fraud-related crimes. The survey also reveals that 50.6 percent of respondents either was, or know someone who has been a victim of identity theft.  This article is written to help CEO’s understand how identity theft is occurring in the contact center, and multiple levels they can choose to protect their customer’s personal information.

What is identity theft?

The U.S. Department of Justice defines identity theft and identity fraud as all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, for economic gain.

How much is identity theft costing Americans?

The 2009 Identity Fraud Survey Report stated the annual fraud amount jumped 7% from $45B to $48B in 2008.

How is identity theft occurring in the contact center?

Criminals are using social engineering, non-technical methods through human interaction, to deceive the Customer Service Representative (CSR) and obtain a customer’s personal information. For example, a criminal using social engineering would try to persuade the CSR they are the account holder without providing the necessary security information to gain account access.
I have met criminals convicted of defrauding well-known citizens of millions of dollars by starting out the conversation by discussing the weather; obtain a single piece of account information, before politely ending the call. The fraudster would call back in a few days; obtain a different piece of account information, before politely ending the call. The process would be repeated until he built a profile to gain access of his victim’s account. He would even call the account holders local health provider to obtain additional information the contact center would not provide him. After the necessary account information was gathered, the criminal would phone the contact center, provide the necessary account information to gain account access, and bilked the account owner. He did this over and over, before getting caught, tried, and convicted.

Consumers are also overflowing with multiple account Passwords/PINs, and are having a hard time managing them. Family, friends, and dumpster divers are the leading culprits for Passwords/PINs compromise. Also, due the amount of account Passwords/PINs to remember, password reset calls are the leading call type into a contact center.

Other reasons for identity thefts are banks using single factor authentication such as name, address, DOB, last four digits of SSN, to gain access of account information. Some or all single factor authentication information can be found over the internet.

Solid-state drive prices to plummet

GET set for a big price drop in the run-up to Christmas for those quick and nifty solid-state drives that can cut Windows boot times in half. The advantages of SSDs over conventional hard drives are that SSDs have no moving parts, don't need to spin up before dealing with data, and are not as prone to shock damage.  The main drawback has been price. The cost per gigabyte of conventional drives is less than 20c, but it's a couple of dollars or more per gig for SSDs.

We tested a 160GB Intel X-25M SSD last week and found it booted Windows 7 in about 20sec, half the time it took for a conventional hard drive, as well as pepping up the PC's performance in opening applications and other day-to-day tasks.  The sticker on the 160GB SSD was $849, and its smaller 80GB sibling was $575.  Prepare for a serious trim on those prices in coming months as Intel introduces a value range of SSDs, including a bottom-of-the-pack 40GB SSD (just enough to pack on an operating system and some favourite applications) for just north of $100. At that price, enthusiasts can look at a hybrid storage system on a home PC, with the SSD housing the operating system and your favourite applications while a conventional drive handles all the large media files and less-used applications.

Sep 23, 2009

Intel's Solid State Disk

Hankering for an Solid State Disk  that's as big as your traditional hard disk drive? So is Intel according to industry rumours. In fact, we've been hearing whispers that a capacious 320GB solid state drive was in the works since January, and now those whispers have been upgraded to library-like voices. According to the generally reliable Golum, Intel's so-called Postville SSD family is well on its way to reality, and with them should come much needed price drops. The new series should top out at 320GB, with an 80GB and 160GB version falling underneath. Word on the street has it that both of the smaller two will be around $100 cheaper than the same-sized X25-M drives, though there's been no leaks on the 320GB model's recommended retail price. Currently, similar 80GB devices retail for $270, so early adapters should start saving right now. 

Melbourne students bid for robot dancing world record

HUNDREDS of Melbourne's most tech-obsessed geeks plan to smash the world record for robot dancing next week.  Robot lovers are already practising their moon walks and ‘pops’ for the official Guinness World record attempt at Melbourne University, but organiser Marita Cheng denies the effort smacks of being a nerd. “Actually, I’m more of a geek.”

The third-year Carlton mechatronics engineering student has already locked in 400 robot dancers, but wants to hit 1000 to make sure the quirky world mark stays here.  The current world record is held by the University of Kent in the UK, which convinced 276 dancers to perform a robotic “Macarena”.

But Ms Cheng promises Melbourne’s effort will be a lot funkier.  Ms Cheng and her cohorts are part of Robogals, a non-profit group of young engineering undergraduates teaching robotics to schoolgirls to lift the profile of science in schools. Ms Cheng’s dream is to make robot housekeepers for future homes.  “Basically, I’m really lazy and I like the idea of having a robot so you don’t have to do it yourself.”

A child view of the universe of Intel chips

Intel’s processor for desktops and laptops can be a jumble of codenames — Lynnfield, Nehalem or Clarkdale anyone? Add to that a rebranding initiative, unveiled three months ago, that split the same codenames across different chip families, and it can get downright confusing. With Intel’s developer conference, aka IDF, set to kick off Tuesday, we have created a guide to understanding Intel’s different consumer processors.

Intel currently has three main chip families: Core i7, Core i5 and Core 2. All are based on the 45nm technology that Intel started moving to in late 2007 and are available to consumers now. Eventually the company hopes to phase out the Core 2 line of products and introduce a new entry-level processor, Core i3.

Sep 22, 2009

Paris Hilton’s Words of Wisdom Immortalized

Paris HiltonThe musings of heiress and socialite Paris Hilton have recently been published among some of the greatest thinkers of all time. Paris Hilton has landed an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations for her thoughts on the importance of dressing stylishly. The reality star and D-list actress has been immortalized in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.

She is sitting in good company; Oscar Wilde, Confucius and others are also included in the legendary tome. Her pithy observation, “Dress cute wherever you go, life is too short to blend in,” was added this year alongside a quote from former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin: “What’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull? Lipstick.”
Hilton tweeted, “So cool that I have a quote in the dictionary.”

UMID mBook M2 at IDF ( now with video )

Steve just showed us UMID's new UMPC called mBook M2.    It's upgrade from their earlier model M1, updates include:
- new housing
- normal USB plug ( no more dongles )
- VGA out
- optical mouse on screen frame
- 1.2Ghz and 1.6Ghz Atoms CPU
- Windows 7
It has same keyboard and screen as on M1.   We should hear more soon...
Starting at $499 available next month..

Internet meltdown threat: Conficker worm refuses to turn

The brightest minds in technology and government are finding it "almost impossible" to defeat the Conficker worm, which has infected more than 5 million computers and, experts say, could be used to knock down the internet in entire countries.

The worm, first detected in November last year, spreads rapidly to computers through a flaw in the Windows operating system.

Infected machines are co-opted into a "botnet" army, which can be controlled and used by the hackers to launch unprecedented cyber attacks.

"The general agreement in the security world is that Conficker is the largest threat facing us from a cyber crime point of view ... it has proven to be extremely resilient. It's almost impossible to remove," said Rodney Joffe, a director of the Conficker Working Group formed to defeat the worm.

"The best minds in the world have not managed to crack the code behind this yet."

The scale of the threat has forced the world's largest computer security companies to join together with government around the world in an unusual alliance to pool their resources and solve the problem.

Microsoft has offered a $US250,000 ($290,000) reward for information leading to the identification of the individuals - or rogue governments - behind Conficker.

Sep 21, 2009

New Trojan virus poses online banking threat

Cyber criminals have created a highly sophisticated Trojan virus that steals online banking log-in details from infected computers. The Clampi virus, which is spreading rapidly across hundreds of thousands of computers in Britain and the United States, infects computers when users visit websites that host a malicious code.

Once on the computer, the virus sits unnoticed until the user logs on to bank, credit card or other financial websites. It then captures log-in and password information and sends it to a server run by the attackers. They can then tell the compromised computer to send money to accounts that they control, or they can buy goods with the stolen credit card details.

The trojan has a list of more than 4,500 finance-related websites that it monitors, including British high street banks. Security experts warned that it was one of the stealthiest and most pervasive threats to computers using the Microsoft Windows operating systems. Orla Cox, security operations manager with Symantec, the online security company, said: “Clampi is a complex threat. People are only just beginning to understand how it operates.”

Researchers have found that the list of sites that Clampi is monitoring includes banks, credit card companies, online casinos, e-mail, wire transfer services, retail sites, utilities, share brokerages, mortgage lenders and government sites.

Ms Cox said: “The first big wave was in the US in July, but it is spreading around the world, particularly English-language countries. We have seen samples of it targeting UK high street banks. There is potential for another wave to come.”

It is estimated that more than 1,000 out of 40,000 or more infected computers have been in Britain. Only computers running Microsoft Windows are affected. Most of the infections seem to have occurred among small and medium-sized businesses, many of which have been reluctant to reveal how they have fallen victim.

In America, $75,000 (£46,000) was stolen in July from Slack Auto Parts, a car parts supplier in Gainesville, Georgia. In August, criminals used Clampi to steal online banking details for the public school district in Sands Spring, Oklahoma. The attackers then submitted a series of false payroll payments, totalling more than $150,000.

The attack was one of a series on American schools in which criminals hired unsuspecting money mules — people who transfer money or fraudulently obtained high-value goods — to receive the transfers of stolen cash and then wire the money out of the country. Cyber criminals stole more than $700,000 from the Western Beaver School District in 74 fraudulent electronic transfers, The Washington Post reported.

Clampi is one of a new wave of viruses to target the online banking system. Its emergence came as security experts warned that malicious websites hiding trojan viruses were no longer confined to sites such as gambling and pornography.

A recent report by IBM security systems found an increase in malicious content such as viruses on trusted sites, including popular search engines, blogs, online magazines and mainstream news sites. The number of links to malicious web pages rose by more than 500 per cent in the first half of this year. Last week, attackers placed a virus in an advert on the website of The New York Times.

Trojan viruses such as Clampi accounted for 55 per cent of all new malicious software in the first half of the year, IBM said, up from 46 per cent for the same period last year. Researchers say that variants of Clampi — also known as Ligats or Ilomo — have been around since 2005, but the new version appears to be spreading more quickly.

Windows 7 to smack around the snow leopard

Microsoft has announced that it will be offering a discounted version of its Windows 7 operating system for students.  In the US, eligible students are being offered the Student Edition for US$30 - which is a similar price to what Apple Mac users are paying to upgrade to the new Snow Leopard operating system.

To qualify for the discount, students must be attending a registered and approved college or university, have a valid student email address at the educational institution and have a PC that will run Windows 7.  The exact pricing for the Australian region will not be made available until October 22.

ISPs asked to cut off malware-infected PCs

The Internet Industry Association (IIA) has drafted a new code of conduct that suggests Internet Service Providers (ISPs) contact, and in some cases disconnect, customers that have malware-infected computers.

The drafted code, which will not be mandatory, suggested ISPs take a four-step approach to protecting customers.

    * Identification of compromised computers
    * Contact affected customer
    * Provision of information and advice to fix the compromised system; and
    * A reporting function for alerting about serious scale threats, such as those, that may threaten national security.

"Once an ISP has detected a compromised computer or malicious activity on its network, it should take action to address the problem. ISPs should therefore attempt to identify the end user whose computer has been compromised, and contact them to educate them about the problem," the new code states.

Apple store is down

The online Apple store is currently down. Considering it's the middle of the weekend for folks in the Western Hemisphere, and considering that we haven't heard much in the way of rumors concerning new products or product updates, this is more than likely just a maintenance update. We'll be monitoring the store's status and try to determine what, if anything, has changed when it comes back up.

Another object of evolved techo-lust - new Lumix

Olympus' E-P1 may be cuter, but it was Panny's own Lumix DMC-GH1 carrying the Micro Four Thirds banner for quite some time. After an excruciatingly painful wait for it to slide from concept to production, it was largely met with praise from the industry. Of course, smaller rivals have since emerged, leaving early adopters with an expensive piece of larger-than-necessary kit. Still, we're anxious to hear if you MFT believers that jumped at the chance to own a GH1 are still satisfied with your decision. Is the image quality where it should be? Are the controls implemented well? Do you have to keep stealing it back from your lady friend? Rip it or praise it, but whatever you do, do it in comments below.

Microsoft will reveal two iPhone competitors in 2010

It isn't really our area of expertise, but we've gotten word that Microsoft will unleash two new Smartphones, probably at CES in January 2010.  Developed under the project "Pink" moniker, these two slider phones stem from the aquisition of Danger and will continue to use Sharp as the manufacturing partner (not HTC as previously rumored by the WSJ).  In fact, they'll be co-branded as "Microsoft+Sharp" products.

One device is "squircle" in shape like the past Zune's buttons.  The slide out keyboard houses the mic at the bottom and it is meant to be open when being used as a phone.  This device is code-named "Turtle" and looks like a dressed up Motorola QA1.

The other device is more traditionally-shaped candybar slider and is code-named "Pure".  The devices had previously been rumored to be carried on Verizon but we haven't heard anything more in this area.

They will continue to use the App Store model that the Sidekick has employed with over-the-air applications appearing on your phone bill.  Danger's phone App Store predated Apple's by two years.

Another HTC Leo hands-on, will be named HD 2

Looks like the HTC Leo is on some worldwide journey. From Poland to Belgrade and now in Greece. got a little hands-on with the beast. It looks like the device they had in hand runs a newer version of the Rom dated 31/08/09 (compared to the one had which was dated 13/08/09) but an older build of WM 6.5 (5.2.21849). They noted that the usb connector is now micro-usb (all previous HTC phones to date have mini-usb connectors) and the battery is rated at 1200Mha. Another intersting tidbit is that when you access the Bleutooth settings the phone is detected as the HTC HD2 (Device ID).

GSM Palm Pre Release Date Narrows to Autumn

Kindly tipster eMd points us to this O2 Germany site for the Palm Pre, which lists the Pre as "Exklusiv ab Herbst bei O2." That's "Autumn" to you English-speaking folk, and it's just a bit more specific than the "before the end of the year" target we've heard before.

As we've said more than a couple times, the rumormill and tipline started coalescing around October, which we're still keeping an eye on despite how quickly it's approaching. Also, Germans are able to enter for a chance to win one of ten Pre phones they're giving away by answering a question - don't worry if you get it wrong the first time, O2 is forgiving.  So it's "Autumn" for the Pre, which is good, but not nearly specific enough to end this particular silly season. We wouldn't mind knowing the price, either.

Griffin intros kid-friendly MyPhones headphones

Accessory vendor Griffin Technology has announced MyPhones, a set of over-the-ear headphones for kids. Designed for children age three to 12, MyPhones are smaller than standard headphones and include a built-in volume limiter that prevents the headphones from producing audio at levels higher than 85 decibels—the recommended maximum volume to avoid hearing damage.

The MyPhones headphones also include heavy-duty cables for durability, as well as a customizable design that allows kids to choose the cover for each earpiece. Three inserts are included, and kids can create their own or download designs created by others. The MyPhones packaging doubles as a rigid carrying case.

The $40 MyPhones will be available in October.

A ticking time bomb in health

Planning must begin now to combat dementia, set to be the major disease of the century.

NEW figures released today, to mark World Alzheimer's Day, estimate that by 2050 more than 115 million people will have dementia worldwide. This makes dementia the major disease of the century.

Australia will be hit hard by this chronic health condition. Access Economics predicts that by 2050 there will be 7400 new cases of dementia each week - and 1.3 million Australians will live with the illness.

But the reality is this: the dementia epidemic is already here. In 2009, across Australia, there are already 1300 new cases of dementia each and every week. And the current cost of dementia to Australia's economy is already rising. It is estimated at about $5 billion a year, and projections indicate that the illness will become the third greatest source of health and residential aged care spending within two decades. These costs alone will be about 1 per cent of gross domestic product.

By the 2060s, spending on dementia is set to outstrip that of any other health condition. It is projected to be $83 billion a year (in 2006-07 dollars), and will represent about 11 per cent of the entire health and residential aged care sector spending.

We need those responsible for health policy to react with the same passion to dementia as they have done to other chronic illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. Why? Because dementia is the fourth most common cause of death after heart disease, stroke and lung cancer.

Sep 18, 2009

Hercules loads Windows 7 Starter on $399 eCAFE EC-1000W netbook

Is this really the first netbook to be officially announced with Windows 7? From Hercules? Yeah, we're miffed too. In fact, we forgot all about the outfit's eCAFÉ lineup -- which briefly splashed down about this time last year -- but we suspect this bugger may have a bit more staying power. The eCAFÉ EC-1000W is destined to ship at the tail end of October (you know, just after Win7 hits the streets), and while the 1.6GHz Atom N270 CPU, 1GB RAM module and 250GB hard drive are totally predictable, we get the feeling it'll just feel nicer thanks to the revitalized OS. Other specs include a 10.1-inch display (1,024 x 600), 50GB of online storage, a chiclet-style keyboard, 802.11n WiFi, a 6-cell battery, integrated webcam / microphone, three USB 2.0 sockets, audio in / out, a VGA output, Ethernet and a multicard reader. Not bad for $399!

Sep 17, 2009

HP Launches Laptops, Netbooks

Hewlett-Packard has introduced a line of premium laptops to take on Apple's MacBook Air and Dell's Adamo, and has also launched a couple of thin and light notebooks and two netbooks.

HP launched the systems on Tuesday, in what analysts say is a slowly improving PC market brought on by a more stable global economy.

Among the new laptops were two premium models under the sub-brand Envy. The 13-inch model with an aluminum and magnesium case and etched-metal palm rest is less than an inch thick and weighs under four pounds, making it competitor to the Macbook Air andDell ( Dell)'s Adamo.

However, the Envy 13, which is powered by a 1.86 GHz Intel (NSDQ: INTC) Core 2 Duo processor, is more expensive than its rivals, starting at $1,700 versus $1,500. As a differentiator, HP has partnered with rapper Dr. Dre's Beats company in developing audio software for producing better sound. The system is available with an extended life battery for up to 18 hours of power.

For consumers seeking a faster system, HP launched an Envy laptop with a 15.6-inch display, an Intel Core i7 processor, and an ATI Mobility Radeon 4830 graphics processor from Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD). The Envy 15 has a magnesium alloy casing, is an inch thick and weighs just over five pounds. Prices start at $1,800.

Both laptops are scheduled to be available Oct. 18.

Megan Fox tired of being over-exposed

It seems that Hollywood actress Megan Fox is tired of her fame and sexiness, for she doesn’t want to let people know more about herself. The 23-year-old actress is currently promoting new film ‘Jennifer’s Body’ at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Although the ‘Transformers’ star never complains about being the hottest female star in Hollywood, she does seem a little tired of all the attention she is getting. Asked whether playing a high-schooler made her nostalgic for her own high school days, Fox dodged the question saying that she'd instead like to “go back to a time where I didn’t have any responsibility.”  In fact, she seemed wary of the exposure she has had recently. "I feel like I cling to my privacy and I don’t need to expose myself further to people," Fox News  quoted her as saying.

Apple dumps on Amazon

Apple's chief executive says in the New York Times that the "iPod Touch is becoming a gaming platform, e-readers like the Kindle will never be a big market, and he's "eating like crazy" to gain weight after his liver transplant. A couple of years ago, pre-Kindle, Mr. Jobs expressed his doubts that e-readers were ready for prime time. So today, I asked if his opinions have changed. “I’m sure there will always be dedicated devices, and they may have a few advantages in doing just one thing,” he said. “But I think the general-purpose devices will win the day. Because I think people just probably aren’t willing to pay for a dedicated device.”

He said that Apple doesn’t see e-books as a big market at this point, and pointed out that, for example, doesn’t ever say how many Kindles it sells. “Usually, if they sell a lot of something, you want to tell everybody.”

The products that Apple revealed today have been in the works for a while-since before Mr. Jobs’s health-related hiatus from running Apple. I wondered: since he was gone for several months, will we see a several-month gap in the new products coming out of Apple? “There are some things that I’m focusing a lot of attention on right now-to polish,” he said. “No, I don’t think we’re going to miss a beat. We have some really good stuff coming up."

Surgical masks don't offer protection against flu for doctors

Surgical masks don't offer doctors any protection against a pandemic and need to be replaced, says a new study.  The study by University of New South Wales (UNSW), which compared the efficiency of various masks, found that specialised respirators (N95 masks) offer the best protection to health workers.

This is the first study to compare the efficiency of various masks, and it revealed that surgical masks offer no protection at all to either influenza or respiratory disease. N95 masks provided 75% protection against proven influenza infection and 56% protection against proven respiratory viral infections.

Bye Bye obsolete iPod

Sales of Apple's music player are heading for a long-term decline that could affect digital music downloads. Can connectivity alter that? This month, Apple released an upgrade to its iPod line. But amid the hype surrounding its careful marketing and intentional secrecy about the content of the launch, a different truth is emerging: that we are seeing the twilight of the stand-alone digital music player (DMP), a product category little more than 10 years old.

That does not mean digital music players will vanish. Quite the opposite: the sector is still growing. Increasingly, though, the products have some sort of connectivity — whether wi-fi, mobile phone, Bluetooth or all three.  But if you look closely, signs the stand-alone player is in decline are all around. The first, and most obvious, was Apple's announcement in its latest quarterly results that iPod sales fell year-on-year for the first time since the product's launch in October 2001. As the iPod dominates the market for DMPs, any drop in its sales indicates a fall in the market.

China Mobile IPhone Killer

China Unicom, which is racing with China Mobile and a third local carrier to attract 3G users, plans to start selling the iPhone in the fourth quarter, officially bringing the phone to a country where many wealthy urbanites already use versions of the handset bought overseas. The carrier has said it will offer both the iPhone 3G and the iPhone 3GS at "competitive" prices.  Lenovo Mobile has said it aims to start selling its rival to the iPhone this month. "The launch of the O1 symbolizes that competition between the Ophone and the iPhone has fully begun," the company said in a statement. "Ophone" is the nickname China Mobile has given to handsets that use its propriety mobile OS, which is based on Google's Android.

A report on local portal Tencent cited an unnamed source as saying the Lenovo Mobile phone will cost around 5,000 yuan, but that users will be able to buy it for 1,500 yuan if they also subscribe to China Mobile's 3G service. The first handset to launch with the China Mobile OS, a 2G version of the Magic handset from High Tech Computer (HTC), sells for 5,000 yuan. At the press event, Lenovo Mobile displayed its iPhone rival and mock-ups of four lower-end handsets that will also use TD-SCDMA (Time Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access), the homegrown 3G mobile standard being promoted by China Mobile and Beijing. The lower-end handsets will sell for China Mobile's target price of 1,000 yuan, and one is slated to go on sale this year. 

Lenovo Mobile is also working on its next 3G Ophone, which will target a younger audience and support Flash, executives said. The O1 will come with a 3.5-inch touchscreen, 8GB or 16GB of storage and pre-installed China Mobile applications such as the carrier's instant messaging client, but the phone is compatible with most Android applications, Lenovo Mobile said.

How much does Windows cost on a new machine

There's been no shortage of rumors and speculation about how much Microsoft charges OEMs for a copy of Windows over the years, but Microsoft itself has stayed fairly mum on the matter -- until this week, that is. Speaking at the Jefferies Annual Technology Conference, Microsoft exec Charles Songhurst revealed for the first time that the company has "always charged about $50" for a copy of Windows on the average $1,000 PC, or about 5% of the total cost. Songhurst also seems to imply that Microsoft is looking to get about 5% across the board for Windows, meaning that it can rake in some impressive profits on high-end PCs while still being able to offer Windows on the cheap for netbooks or $300 desktops. Songhurst even went so far as to say that cheap PCs are a net benefit for Microsoft so long as they are "not cannibalistic to the total PC demand," and he and unsurprisingly further went on to extol the virtues of Windows 7, saying that it is a "compellingly good product," and that "when Windows is executing well, Microsoft is in good shape."

iPhone Killer released from development

Chinese high-tech giant Lenovo on Wednesday unveiled the OPhone in partnership with China Mobile, which they hope will rival Apple's widely popular iPhone.  We hope OPhone will take at least 50 percent of China's smartphone market in three to five years," Huang Xiaoqing, president of China Mobile's Institute of Research, said at a ceremony. The OPhone will run on an operating system developed by China Mobile and will work on the carrier's homegrown TD-SCDMA third-generation wireless technology platform. Lv Yan, president of Lenovo Mobile, said each OPhone handset would cost more than $US200 to make, but the retail price would vary according to subscription plans with China Mobile.

Megan Fox threatens to kill boyfriend

Megan Fox has threatened to "kill" her boyfriend during rows.

The Transformers actress admits she often struggles to control her temper, leading to some explosive outbursts towards on/off lover Brian Austin Green.

She said: "My temper is ridiculously bad. I've had to say to Brian, 'You have to go and stop talking to me, because I'm going to kill you. I'm going to stab you with something, please leave."'

Sep 16, 2009

who is the real Megan Fox?

Transformers star Megan Fox has been slammed as "dumb-as-a-rock", "ungracious" and "classless" by fellow crew members from the blockbuster film, who also said the actress would be better off pursuing a porn career.

The three crew members tore into Fox in defence of Transformers director Michael Bay, after Fox likened him to Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler during a recent interview.  In an open letter that was posted on Bay's website, the three unnamed crew members - who said they had worked with Bay for 10 years - said it was Fox who was unprofessional and a "grump of the set". "Yes, Megan has great eyes, a tight stomach we spray with glycerin, and an awful silly Marilyn Monroe tattoo plastered on her arm that we cover up to keep the moms happy," the letter said.

"When facing the press, Megan is the queen of talking trailer trash and posing like a porn star. "And yes we've had the unbearable time of watching her try to act on set, and yes, it's very cringe-able.  "So maybe, being a porn star in the future might be a good career option."

They said Bay had picked Fox - a "shy, inexperienced girl" - from obscurity and turned her into a star. "And who is the real Megan Fox? "She's as about ungracious a person as you can ever fathom.

Sep 14, 2009

Speed will cost you for solid-state drives

SLIPPING a solid-state drive into the home PC was a bit like bolting a turbocharger on to the family wagon.

 Intel X25-M SSD 160GB is costly but is much faster than normal hard disks. In the silicon equivalent of a burnout, the normally staid home box was suddenly booting Windows like a muscle machine.

With no moving parts and no pesky spin-up times, SSDs boogie when it comes to moving data around. Using a conventional but reasonably swift 250GB Seagate Barracuda 7200rpm hard drive my modest, home-made Intel Core2 Duo 2.66GHz PC with 3GB of RAM boots a cleanly installed copy of Windows 7 RC1 in about 40 seconds.

Slap one of Intel's 160GB X-25M SSD drives into the same system and Windows 7 comes alive in 20 seconds. The improvement in starting up Windows was impressive, and the lift in overall responsiveness was equally pleasing. With the operating system and applications sitting on the SSD drive, everything flows more smoothly.

Windows and apps snap open faster and switching between multiple applications goes lag-free.

Even shutting down the system becomes much faster.

With a conventional hard drive the PC took 11 seconds to shut down Windows 7, while shutdown took just five seconds with the SSD.

As ever in information technology, there is a price for all this goodness, and with SSDs it takes the form of sticker shock.

Cost per gigabyte for SSDs is north of $4 while the figure for conventional drives is less than 20c. SSDs are nowhere near being a mainline storage medium for most of us, especially when you can buy a pair of 1TB hard drives for little more than $200, mirror them for data safety in a RAID configuration and then happily plant all your pictures, videos and music files on them.

That said, SSD prices are falling fast and capacities are increasing enough that well-heeled enthusiasts can look at a hybrid storage system on a home PC, with the SSD drive housing the operating system and your favourite applications while a conventional drive -- or drives -- takes all the fat media files.

Sep 13, 2009

Forget Antigua, 007 – all the real action is in Acacia Avenue

We’ve always known that in reality not one of Britain's secret agents has ever successfully fought a shark or garrotted Robert Shaw on a speeding train. In fact, we are told, over and over again, that most of what our secret agents do is boring; that instead of trying to stop Spectre stealing our nuclear bombers, they actually spend most of the day trying to stop their wives checking Max Mosley’s hair for nits. To hammer the point home, they even advertise for new agents these days in The Guardian.

And to reinforce the view that it’s all nasty coffee and budget meetings with flip charts, we should remember what happened in the run-up to the Iraq war. Instead of dispatching their best man to blow up some submarines and sleep with as many Iraqi women as possible, the security services simply asked Alastair Campbell what he wanted. And then went on the internet until they found it. “Yes. Look. Saddam does have missiles with nerve gas tips. It says so here in this student’s essay.”

And yet, it became clear last week in the trial of some Muslims who wanted to blow up some airliners that the truth probably lies somewhere between the two points. Our agents are not shooting men with metal teeth in the face. But they are not getting all their intel from Wikipedia either.

If you actually read the court reports, there is no doubt that what they did to catch those stupid weird-beards would make a better, more real and more gripping spy thriller than anything from the likes of Forsyth, Fleming or Ludlum.

Admittedly, the locations don’t have the visual impact of Corfu or Bolivia. There are no deserts in Walthamstow and no glittering oceans in High Wycombe. And that’s part of what makes the story so fantastic. These are ordinary British towns full of IT consultants and greengrocers. You expect to find arms dealing and bomb-making factories in Algiers and Marseilles. Not on a housing estate in Buckinghamshire.

So it begins. Bond is brought into M’s office and told there is dirty work afoot. Pakistan’s interrogators have pulled out some fingernails and it’s emerged that some religious fanatics have hatched a plan to blow seven planes and thousands of people out of the sky, in a single day. The stakes are high and you’re gripped already.

Bond heads off to the airport, where he’s told there are no flights to Buckinghamshire. Instead he must catch the Heathrow Express back into London and then a commuter train from Marylebone to High Wycombe. For a bit of light relief, and in the name of reality, he might like to try using the lavatory on this service, to see if he can get the door to close.

On arrival, he has to wait until the fanatics are out before placing listening devices in their house. And presumably he must do this so that no one else in the close notices. Maybe he could sleep with Mrs Needham at No 43 to keep her quiet. That bit’s optional. I’m sure it didn’t happen in real life.

But, whatever, it transpires that there is a plot and several Muslims are in the process of building some advanced liquid bombs. And here’s the really good bit. Bond can’t simply take them to a field and leave them with nothing but a can of engine oil to drink. He must wait and collate evidence, because in the real world that’s what is needed to secure a prosecution in the courts.

Even when he knows, and M knows, and you and I know some of the men are guilty, he has to have enough hard facts to convince the looniest, stupidest jury. And juries can be very loony and very stupid indeed.

Then comes the twist. An idiotic American man called Dick Cheney decides he must make George Bush, another idiotic American man, look like he is winning the war on terror, so he ignores British pleas for patience and orders the arrest of a shadowy figure with links to Al-Qaeda and the bombers in Britain.

This is likely to derail the entire operation. With the shadow in jail in Pakistan, where people tend to talk eventually, some of the British bombers may feel their operation has been compromised and decide to go ahead sooner than anticipated. So what do the intelligence people do? Arrest them, even though they know they probably don’t have enough evidence for a conviction? Or continue to watch and wait with crossed fingers?

Imagine what it must have been like at that meeting. The sheer rage at the American stupidity. The tension. And the certain knowledge that if a wrong decision is made, either the bombers walk free or thousands of people die. This is cinema gold. And it actually happened.

Eventually, some bombers were arrested and you’d imagine the film would be over. But no. Thanks to Britain’s legal system, which allows tradition to trample all over common sense, the electronic intercept recordings of the men were inadmissible. And the jury could not agree on whether the plot to blow up aircraft actually existed.

So now you’re in the cinema, shaking with impotent fury. How can this have happened? All that watching and listening. All those late nights. Naturally, the film does have a happy ending because eventually they found a way around the rules on intercept evidence and at the retrial three men were found guilty of a plot.

Although I do like the idea of a final scene in which Bond is seen at a meeting with Colonel Gadaffi, arranging for BAE Systems to ship some missiles to Cuba in exchange for the release of the convicted men on compassionate grounds.

This, really, is what has emerged from the proceedings. That no matter how real and how gritty the Bond producers try to make their films, they will never be able to match the tension of what almost certainly is happening today, possibly just down your street, just outside the post office.

Sep 12, 2009

We're losing our minds over technology

On the eve of the first anniversary of the Lehman Brothers collapse, which triggered the global recession, the former US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan this week blamed the ensuing global financial crisis on "human nature". He was echoing comments by the US President, Barack Obama, who blamed recent economic woes on "reckless greed and risk-taking".  This recognition of the impact of neuroscience and psychology on the world was music to the ears of the Oxford University professor Susan Greenfield.

Speaking at a lunch at the Centre for Independent Studies in Crows Nest this week, the eminent British neuroscientist theorised that the global financial crisis may be a portent of worse to come, as recklessness becomes the norm for technology-warped brains.

The bankers, brokers and traders, mostly young and male, whose impulsive decision-making and poor judgments fuelled the collapse of financial markets last year, may very well have possessed a version of a newly evolved human brain, physically changed by prolonged time in front of computer screens. From a generation "brought up in two dimensions", they are used to playing computer games that deliver thrills and risks without consequences.

"If the screen culture creates a world dominated by sensation and process rather than by content, significance and narrative, it may well be that those playing computer games have brains that adjust appropriately."

Greenfield is famous for warning that we are at risk of losing identity, attention span, empathy and the essence of what it is to be human, as we spend increasing amounts of time using new technologies - from Twitter and Facebook to Google and games such as Second Life and World of Warcraft - and less time developing an interior life.  The plasticity, or adaptability, of the human brain, which hard-wires new connections between its neurons as it learns, makes it particularly vulnerable to its environment. This ability to learn and adapt has allowed humans to reign supreme on the planet, but it also holds the key to our undoing.

Greenfield suggests prolonged computer use, particularly rapid-fire computer games, which drive the brain synapses into a frenzied state, may make people better at answering IQ tests. "The brain will adapt, survive and thrive."  But it may also lead to an underuse of the area of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex, the centre of higher executive functions, where judgment, planning, personality, goal-setting and social moderation occur. It is the last part of the brain to develop, in the teenage years, and was the most recent to develop in evolutionary terms.

Medical Robots don't play golf

Dread going the doctor? It could be worse. Your next physician could have the bedside manner of a robot. In fact, your next physician could be a robot.   Scared yet?

Surgeons and medical engineers have been trying to create machines that can assist in surgery, increase a surgeon’s dexterity and support hospital staff. These aren’t humanoid robots but computer controlled systems that have been optimized for use in sensitive situations. An exhibition called Sci-fi Surgery: Medical Robots, opening this week at the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, shows a range of robots used in medicine.

“Industrial robots appeared in factories in the early 1960s and robots have become an important part of space exploration,” says Sarah Pearson, curator of the exhibition. “But robots have been comparatively slow to be used in medicine because surgeons haven’t felt comfortable with them.”

Robots in medicine aren’t intended to replace surgeons, says Pearson, but act as companion devices. Most robots used in medicine aren’t autonomous because surgeons haven’t been comfortable giving up control, but with advances with technology, we can expect more autonomous machines.

Satyam Geelong project leaves $175m hole

VICTORIA faces a $175 million black hole following the cancellation of an IT project that was set to create 2000 jobs in Geelong.
The scheme was launched in April 2008 by Victorian Premier John Brumby who promised Geelong residents a gold chest at the end of the rainbow.  "This will be 2000 jobs, $75m worth of capital works and, on our estimates, Treasury modelling, around $175m worth of additional activity in the Victorian economy each year,'' Premier Brumby had said then.

The new jobs would have been created over a span of eight years -- the duration of the project, led by Indian IT company Mahindra Satyam.   zut Satyam found the project financially unviable and decided to pull out, a decision it says all stakeholders, including the government, agreed to. The government couldn't explain how it would fill the economic crater left by the project's demise. A spokesman for Victorian IT Minister John Lenders deflected the question by saying: "Victorians are concerned about the global economy, that's why we are taking action to invest a record $11.5 billion on infrastructure to secure 35,000 Victorian jobs this year.''

The state Opposition said the project's failure was another example of mis-management in Victoria under Labor.

Sep 11, 2009

What Andre The Giant Teaches Us About HealthCare

The story goes that a surgeon could fix Andre The Giant’s ravaged back well enough for him to continue wrestling, except that the resident anesthesiologists had no idea how much anesthesia to give the 7′5 500lb. man.  It had to be enough to keep him absolutely still during the delicate spinal surgery, but not so much that it killed him.  Finally, the doctor asked the wrestler how much he drank.  “It usually takes two liters of vodka just to make me feel warm inside,” replied the prodigious tippler. The doctor then calculated the appropriate dosage, based on his patient’s alcohol consumption. 
And so a modern medical breakthrough was achieved.

Megan Fox Has “Wacky Hot Chick Syndrome”

Megan Fox is fast losing her appeal for me.  Seems like every tabloid’s got a photo of Foxy on the cover these days.  Her ascension has been relatively swift, and pretty soon she could achieve veritable A-list status. Still, I advise her to watch out. Sure she’s pretty cute in an ultra conventional sense, and being heir apparent to Angelina Jolie does add a bit of context and credibility to her career. But whenever she opens her mouth to speak I get some major shrinkage.

Her latest ponderous nugget blabbed to Wonderland magazine makes me wonder if she’s trying to cultivate the crazy.  She states:

I basically read every book ever written about Marilyn Monroe. I could end up like that because I constantly struggle with the idea that I think I’m a borderline personality-or that I have bouts of mild schizophrenia. I definitely have some kind of mental problem and I haven’t pinpointed what it is.
Apparently in addition to her middling acting ability, she’s also an amateur psychiatrist. I think I can help her out though as far as a diagnosis is concerned. In my expert opinion I strongly believe she may be suffering from “wacky hot chick syndrome.” This unfortunate condition establishes itself in extremely attractive women who’ve become so bored with life due to the ludicrous indulgences afforded to them based solely on their mega hotness that they start spouting off-putting and bizarre statements in a subconscious attempt to deflect attention away from their appearance, and shift the focus to their brains.

Palm thinks small with new Pixi smartphone

Hoping to capitalize on the momentum created by the release of its Pre smartphone, Palm on Wednesday will unveil a smaller, cheaper smartphone called Pixi.

Apparently geared toward younger consumers than those targeted by the Pre, the playfully named smartphone will be longer but slimmer than the Pre and will sport a smaller multitouch screen, a full QWERTY keyboard, and a 2-megapixel camera, Palm said. However, like its smartphone sibling, the 3.5-ounce Pixi will still have 8GB of memory and GPS capabilities.

In addition to a new Facebook application, the Pixi will also be able to integrate LinkedIn contacts and Yahoo contacts, calendar, and IM in a single view via Palm's Synergy feature.

"With Palm WebOS, we're creating a new, more intuitive smartphone experience defined by unmatched simplicity and usefulness," Jon Rubinstein, Palm chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement. "Palm Pixi brings this unique experience to a broader range of people who want enhanced messaging and social networking in a design that lets them express their personal style."

The announcement of the Pixi comes less than four months after Palm began selling the Pre, which the company said registered record sales when it became available in June. The company did not discuss specific numbers that first week, but some analysts estimated that between 50,000 and 100,000 units were sold during the first weekend.

The move coincides with an announcement that Palm would drop the price of its Pre smartphone to $150 with a two-year service agreement and two rebates. Palm did not reveal the Pixi's price but did say it would be less than that of the Pre and that it was expected to be available to consumers in time for the holiday shopping season through Sprint. Palm also plans to offer artist-designed, limited edition replaceable back covers, which it plans to showcase at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York, which starts Thursday.

The Cliq: Motorola's first Android phone

On Thursday morning, Motorola officially introduced its first Google Android device: the Motorola Cliq. The announcement was made by Motorola's co-CEO Sanjay Jha at the Mobilize 09 conference here in San Francisco, who was later joined by Cole Brodman, T-Mobile's chief technology and information officer, to show off the Cliq.

Long-rumored as the Morrison, the Motorola Cliq will be available from T-Mobile later this fall, just in time for the holidays, but pricing was not revealed during its introduction. T-Mobile will offer the phone in two colors: titanium or winter white, and it will be sold worldwide in 2010 as the Motorola Dext. Unfortunately, Motorola did not unveil the Sholes but did say that it would announce a second Android phone in the coming weeks.

The Cliq measures 4.49 inches tall by 2.28 inches wide by 0.62 inch thick and weighs 5.6 ounces. It features a 3.1-inch HVGA touch screen with a 320x480 pixel resolution and has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard as well as a soft keyboard. It's also equipped with a 3.5 millimeter headphone jack.

Hulc - for your next hike?

 The Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC™) is the third generation exoskeleton system from Berkeley Bionics.  It incorporates the features of ExoHiker™ and ExoClimber™, exhibiting two independent characteristics:

1) It takes up to 200 pounds without impeding the wearer (Strength Augmentation)

2) It decreases its wearer's metabolic cost (Endurance Augmentation).

While the first characteristic requires little explanation, the 2nd characteristic is a compelling and a competitive advantage of HULC™ completely absent in any other exoskeleton system. During some preliminary evaluations, the oxygen consumption of the users walking at a speed of 2 MPH, was decreased by 5%~12% when using our Alpha test unit without a payload. When the users carried a load, the effect was more pronounced.  The oxygen consumption of these users carrying an 81 pound approach load at a speed of 2MPH was decreased by about 15% when using the prototype HULC™.

The reduction of the wearer's metabolic cost is of paramount importance for long duration missions. This is true because excessive oxygen consumption leads to premature fatigue even if the exoskeleton supports the load. In fact, a very recent BAA from the Natick Soldier System Center requests proposals to conduct a preliminary study on solutions that lead to a reduction of oxygen consumption. HULC™, fueled by proprietary technology, will allow soldiers to march with load at lower oxygen consumption and heart rate than any exoskeleton in existence

Sep 10, 2009

Hello Facial Recognition - how and why your laptop recognises your face

Getting a laptop with face-recognition is like having your best friend on your desk - not only is it helpful and informative, it also perks up when your bleary little face comes into its viewfinder.

Well by perk up I mean access your user account, but it's roughly the same thing.

Of course face recognition tech has been around before but it is only in the past few years it has come off scary passport interrogation and into the lives of simple consumers like you and me. Yes simple, but with complex faces that can be recognised with a webcam and a visual analysis program.

Brilliantly, there's also a little user log which records the day, time and the mugshot of you that it accepted. Map how you look at 7.30am Tuesday morning compared with Saturday afternoon...

Smith and Wesson are pleased to see Obama stimulates their pockets

Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation (Nasdaq: SWHC), parent company of Smith & Wesson Corp., the legendary 157-year old company in the global business of safety, security, protection and sport, today announced financial results for the first fiscal quarter ended July 31, 2009.

Net sales for the first fiscal quarter ended July 31, 2009 were $102.2 million, which was $23.8 million, or 30.3%, higher than net sales of $78.5 million for the first fiscal quarter last year. Gross profit of $35.6 million, or 34.8% of sales, for the first quarter of fiscal 2010 increased by 43.4% compared with gross profit of $24.8 million, or 31.7% of sales, for the first quarter last year. Net income for the first quarter of fiscal 2010 was $12.6 million, or $0.21 per diluted share, compared with $2.3 million, or $0.05 per diluted share, for the first quarter of fiscal 2009. Net income included a non-cash, fair-value adjustment to the contingent consideration accrual related to our acquisition of Universal Safety Response ("USR") that increased fully diluted earnings per share by $0.05 in the current fiscal period. Adjusted EBITDAS, a non-GAAP financial measure, was $20.2 million for the first quarter, nearly double the $10.2 million in the first quarter of fiscal 2009.

Smith & Wesson President and CEO, Michael F. Golden, said, "Ongoing consumer demand for handguns and tactical rifles fueled our strong growth and allowed us to deliver record financial results in the first quarter. Higher production levels in our Springfield factory allowed us to capture additional revenue in the quarter, and a focus on controlling costs helped translate that revenue into profitability."

Will a speed bump power the grid?

The Burger King on U.S. Highway 22 in Hillside, N.J., looks no different from any other franchise in the state. Customers pull in and out all day, and at least 100,000 cars visit the drive-thru each year. And now a newly installed, mechanized speed bump (video) will both help them slow down and harvest some of that coasting energy.

"We use the weight of a car to throw a lever," explains Gerard Lynch, the engineer behind the MotionPower system developed for New Energy Technologies, a Maryland-based company. "The instantaneous power is 2,000 watts at five miles-per-hour, but it's instantaneous [which means some form of storage will be required.] The real key is how do I get a million cars to do that for me."

This demonstration project won't actually provide electricity to either the Burger King or the grid, but it will employ a mini-flywheel—a mechanical device that stores energy by spinning—to test storage potential. A higher price can be charged for electricity that is fed into the grid at the right moment. "How do we capture and hold these pulses efficiently so we can dispatch them at the right time when the electricity rate is most advantageous," Lynch says. "Here in Hillside, the average price when you take delivery is 17.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. It's double that in peak summer. The idea is: let's hit it all day and return [that power] at 3 PM in the afternoon."

In the future, New Energy may employ flywheels, super-capacitors or some other form of storage, but this demonstration is intended just to prove that the speed bump won't fold under continuous pressure from the 1,000 pounds per wheel of weight from an average car—and that people accept it. "Do people say, 'Get it out of my way,' or 'This is pretty cool'?" Lynch says.

Assuming that the latter is the case, the company hopes to develop the next generation of the technology, which could be employed anywhere from the local fast food joint to rumble strips at toll plazas. After all, there are some 251 million registered vehicles on U.S. roadways, so harvesting some of the energy otherwise lost in coming to a stop might make sense for use in powering streetlights or even the grid. "Our new device will look completely different, more like a traditional speed bump," says Meetesh Patel, New Energy's CEO. "The first guy that went over it didn't even realize that he had created electricity in his drive to get a burger."

Blow for Labor as health bill stalls

 THE Government's move to means test the private health insurance rebate has been knocked out in the Senate, punching a $1.9 billion hole in the federal budget over four years. The plan was to means test the 30 per cent rebate for singles on incomes over $75,000 and couples on $150,000-plus.

The Opposition said the Government was breaking an election promise to preserve the rebate and declared after the budget that this was the one measure it would block. It was voted down 37-25. The Government accused the Opposition of fiscal irresponsibility.

Sep 9, 2009

Naked mobile anyone?

T-Mobile is flapping about VoIP again and now says it's going to introduce a €9.95 surcharge on German users who want to use Skype on their handsets. Is this the road to naked mobile?
The trouble all started when Skype developed a client for the iPhone and unleashed it as a free download on the AppStore (see - Skype hype: one million downloads and a ban) that lead to the biggest downloading frenzy in history (so far) and in turn caused T-Mobile to make 'not on my network' noises in Germany where it supports the iPhone.
T-Mobile said that users would break their terms and conditions by using it and that it was banned because the network wasn't set up to cope with VoIP. Suddenly, with the surcharge offer, it appears the network is capable of supporting Skype after all.

China Mobile unveils new Ophone models

China Mobile pledged it had yet to hang up its call to Apple, but while Apple is on the phone with China Unicom to talk about the debut of the iPhone in China later this month, China Mobile hastily unveiled eight of its homegrown iPhone fighters, called Ophone, to safeguard its dominant market share in China's newly developed 3G market.
Eight new models of Ophones, developed by seven different cellphone makers both inside and outside China, were unveiled by China Mobile ( CHL - news - people ) earlier this week, even without concrete pricing and sale plans.

Collector's Corner: Umbrellas, Canes and Walking Sticks

Somewhere the sun is shining, just not here.

New England is on track for one of the wettest summers since record keeping began, so it is only natural that we should turn our attention to that foul-weather necessity, the UMBRELLA.

Evident in ancient Egypt and China, the umbrella (from the Italian for "little shadow") was originally designed as a protective canopy against the burning rays of the sun. No one is certain when the first folding, or collapsible, devices were invented, but it was not until the 18th and 19th centuries that continuing refinements in materials and design made them more affordable and popular, first on the Continent, then in England.

The terms "umbrella" and "parasol" had long been used interchangeably, but by the Victorian era, a functional division had occurred: gentlemen used umbrellas to shield their ladies and themselves from the rain, while ladies used their parasols to protect themselves from the sun. Umbrellas were sturdier, water-repellent affairs, while parasols evolved into fashionable, lightweight conveniences made of papers, silks, etc. and festooned with feathers, ribbons, and lace.

How To Get a Free iPhone 3GS

I would consider myself a gadget freak. One of the benefits of being an entrepreneur is that buying gadgets that are used for business purposes is tax deductible. However, getting the latest cool gadget, the iPhone 3GS-for free-is even better. Here's how I did it.  I  bought the first generation iPhone for $500 and I thought it was really expensive (comparatively between weight and cost) but I wanted it bad enough to pay for it. I have had the original iPhone for almost 2 years now.

About 4 months ago, I was perusing the American Express Awards website to see what gifts I can get for our team and stumbled upon an Apple Store Gift Card offer. They had a $300 Apple Gift Card that I could use our points to buy and we had close to a million points at one time. I bought the card with our points and was about to trade it in for the 3G but found out the same day that the 3GS was coming out soon so I waited and waited and waited. Finally today after dinner, I went with my boys to the Apple Store to proudly trade in my gift card for the new 3GS 32GB Black color iPhone.

Out of the box: Pandora, another evolved object of lust

As must-have mobile apps go, Pandora ranks high on the books -- with the proliferation of 3G and WiFi, it comes dangerously close to obsoleting the need to carry around your own 8, 16, or 32GB worth of tracks -- and another big-ticket platform has now joined the compatibility short list. This time around it's Android that's getting hooked up, offering a home screen widget and background playback (we'd expect no less on Android) over whatever type of network connection you've got handy. Using Wham! as a station seed is still indefensible, but we'd say the argument for scooping up a G1, myTouch 3G, or Hero just got a bit stronger.

Sep 8, 2009

Revealing State Secrets: China's Justice system goes under the microscope

If you are accused of a crime in China, and you desire to maintain your freedom, there are a number of things that you can do.  You can hire a slick lawyer. You can offer to make a large cash donation to the judge. You can even sit back and trust in the Chinese justice system (no laughing, please). All of which might of which might help if you are charged with an 'ordinary' crime, like petty theft, murder, or committing genocide in a foreign country.

However, if you are charged with "endangering state security", it is likely that there will be little that you can do, or say, to change the outcome. At least according to John Kamm, the head of the US based pressure group 對話基礎會 (the Dui Hua Foundation).

Speaking before the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents club, Kamm accused China of being a 'serial jailer of dissidents' with a policy of 'arbitrary guilt' when it came to state security conviction. The accusation came during a speech titled: “Crimes Without Victims, Prisoners Without Names”, made last Tuesday. In which Kama pointedly noted that somebody accused of "endangering state security" in China, one of the charges commonly leveled against dissidents, has only a 1 in 100 chance of escaping conviction.
 “99 percent of all people tried for endangering state security [in China] are found guilty. In 2004, only five people were acquitted. This is the highest conviction rate of all crimes tried by Chinese courts.” John Kamm, 對話基礎會(the Dui Hua Foundation), US    
Kamm, whose foundation regularly reports on human right abuses in China, also lambasted Beijing for the harsh sentencing of dissidents. Voicing that somebody convicted by Beijing, for "endangering state security", had almost a 70 percent chance of received a sentence of 5 or more years.

iPhone, the in-your-face device when it explodes

A French teenager was injured after his girlfriend's iPhone shattered and a piece of the device hit him in the face. According to the AFP, the teen claims his girlfriend's iPhone shattered, resulting in an eye injury for him. The phone began making a hissing noise and the screen suddenly broke, sending pieces flying in the air, the boy's mother told the AFP.  My son was frightened but he did not lose an eye," said Marie-Dominique Kolega.

The news echoes a similar and very recent story from the UK. Apple reportedly try to buy the silence of an 11-year-old Liverpudlian and her family after her father complained that her iPod had exploded. Ken Stanborough says he dropped his daughter's iPod and it started to make a hissing noise. Stanborough picked up the device and, upon feeling the iPod getting hotter in his hand, threw it out into the back yard where within 30 seconds, the device "popped" and jumped 10 feet into the air in a puff of smoke.

After contacting Apple, the Briton claims the Cupertino-based company offered him a full refund but stipulated that in accepting the refund, the family was agreeing to not tell anyone about episode. While the AFP reports that the mother of the French teen contacted Apple, the company's response is not yet known

Google China Boss vanishes. Does Stern Hu have a cell mate?

Google Inc. announced today that Kai-Fu Lee, president of Google China, has resigned from the company. He will be succeeded by two executives: director of Google’s Shanghai engineering office Boon-Lock Yeo, who will take care of engineering, and Google China’s sales team leader John Liu, who will be in charge of business and operations.

Speaking about his departure, Kai-Fu Lee gave the usually vague “moving on to pursue other ventures” statement, which might mean that he’s starting his own project. “With a very strong leadership team in place, it seemed a very good moment for me to move to the next chapter in my career,” he said.