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18,274 articles from Sci-Tech Today
- FRIDAY 12. DECEMBER, 2008
19:35 Apple Tweaks App Store Interface After ComplaintsWithin days of a well-publicized open letter from a developer complaining about how the dominance of free and 99-cent applications in Apple's iPhone App Store was hurting software development, Apple has made some changes.
The store has added the 20 top free and top paid lists in each category. Apps can be sorted by the user according to popularity, release date, or price. Previously, Apple listed the top free and paid apps on the home page. The rankings are based on the number of downloads.
Earlier this week, Craig Hockenberry, a principal at Greensboro, N.C.-based IconFactory, posted on his blog, furbo.com, an open letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs. "As an iPhone developer who's been in the App Store since its launch," he wrote, "I'm starting to see a trend that concerns me." This trend, he continues, is that "developers are lowering prices to the lowest possible level in order to get placement on iTunes," and the "proliferation of 99-cent 'ringtone apps'" is affecting product development.
The problem, he said, is funding the development of products. Instead of working on "cooler (and more complex)" ideas, he wrote, which require more development time, they're working on 99-cent titles "that have a limited life span and broad appeal."
Bigger projects, he noted, can take up to nine person-months, cost up to $225,000 and require sales of more than 300,000 units at the 99-cent rate. "Unless you have a white-hot title, selling 10-15k units a day for a few weeks isn't going to happen," he said. But raising prices meant the product wouldn't reach the top of the App Store charts, Hockenberry added.
Hockenberry said one basic issue is how iPhone users are assessing whether to buy new apps. He noted that it appears "people are buying our products sight unseen," with only a screenshot to evaluate...
19:16 Making YouTube Work for Your BusinessIt took John F. Kennedy less than 18 minutes at Rice University in September 1962 to inspire a generation to land a man on the moon. It took Barack Obama 17 minutes at the Democratic Convention in July 2004 to persuade millions of viewers that he had fresh ideas. It took San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom seven and a half hours to give his State of the City address in December 2008. Yes, you read that last sentence correctly -- Newsom's presentation lasted more than seven hours. Newsom tried something different by delivering the entire 10-segment presentation on YouTube. It was different all right. But it could have been more effective had he kept a few basic lessons in mind.
Keep it short. YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley says the average viewing time for a clip on the site is 2.5 minutes. That should tell you something. Viewers do not visit YouTube for an hour-long discourse. Newsom's series was broken into 10 segments that lasted approximately 45 minutes apiece. However, his introduction, which lasted less than a minute and a half, garnered 12,000 views in the first week. The longer segments only attracted 100 views during that time period. People simply don't have the time, nor, in most cases, the inclination to watch anyone for more than 10 minutes, even in person. Research shows that people watching a presentation tend to tune out after approximately 10 minutes. Attention spans are even shorter online. Keep your YouTube clips under three minutes. If your presentation is longer, edit the segments, and upload them as shorter clips.
Make it loud and clear. When I worked as a CNN correspondent, my videographers would spend a lot of time setting up audio for interviews. They would tell me viewers will forgive bad video but not bad audio. However,...
16:07 White House Opposes FCC's Free Internet PlanA debate between the Federal Communications Commission and the outgoing Bush administration centers on the FCC's plan to make broadband available for free at government-mandated speeds.
In a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez said providing free broadband services would be counterproductive, result in a congested and inefficient broadband, and be inconsistent with the Bush administration's stand that the service should be allocated by the markets, not the government.
Gutierrez asked the FCC to reconsider its business model that would include offering 25 MHz of the wireless spectrum in the 2155-2180 range to citizens without broadband access. The FCC is expected to vote on the move on Dec. 18.
Gutierrez said the administration believes the Advanced Wireless Services-3 Spectrum should be auctioned without price or product mandates and that the FCC should rely on the market to determine the best use of the spectrum.
Broadband for Everyone
If the FCC approves its AWS-3 rule, the auction winner would have to provide free wireless broadband to 50 percent of the population in four years and to 95 percent of the nation within 10 years.
Adopting broadband would increase the gross domestic product while keeping 61,000 jobs per year over the next 19 years and 1.2 million additional jobs in a single generation, according to a January report by the Congressional Research Service.
Seven percent broadband adoption would have $134 billion per year in direct economic impact, according to a study by Connected Nation.
Coming to the defense of the FCC is Menlo Park, Calif.-based M2Z Networks, which plans to bid on the AWS-3 spectrum and build the free nationwide broadband network.
"We made strong policy arguments about why 100 million people don't have broadband and about 45 percent of those people say they cannot afford it," said John Muleta, founder...
15:22 Google Chrome Emerges From Beta Test PhaseGoogle's Chrome 1.0 has emerged from beta testing. The change to a final release came just 100 days after testers began submitting feedback about bugs and other outstanding issues, noted Google Vice President Sundar Pichai.
"Some of the areas where we've made great progress include better stability and performance of plug-ins," with video and audio glitches "among the most common bugs fixed during the beta period," Pichai said. "If you had problems watching videos with Google Chrome in the past, you should be pleasantly surprised with the performance now."
Gaining Market Share
Chrome's ability to start up fast and load pages quickly has already attracted a small but loyal following. Chrome's share of the browser market recently rose to 1 percent for the first time since the days immediately following its early September launch, according to Net Applications.
"One cause of this rise is that Google is leveraging its dominant search engine by intermittently placing a nine-word link on their home page advertising Chrome," the Web metrics tracker said.
Chrome's development team has also made it easier for users to control their browsing data. "All of the features in Google Chrome which affect user privacy are now grouped in one place with detailed explanations for each one," Pichai said.
Chrome beta users made better bookmark features one of their top requests, and Google responded. "It's now easier to switch between another browser and Google Chrome with the bookmark import and export features, and we added a new simple way to manage large numbers of bookmarks,"...
13:59 Gift Guide: Fitness Gadgets To Revive MotivationThe training regimen -- if you can call it that -- for my first triathlon included nothing more high-tech than a $35 digital watch and a basic MP3 player. But now that winter is arriving, sapping my motivation to get off the couch, I've started looking at fitness gadgets that could help refresh my workouts. A swimmer, biker, runner or walker on your holiday list might like a high-tech nudge out the door, too.
Garmin Forerunner 405, $300
Even though I had never used a GPS watch or a heart rate monitor, a few minutes with the quick-start guide were all I needed to get this oversized sports watch into action, tracking how far and fast I was going.
Cool: It wirelessly sends workout data to a PC if you plug an included USB stick into the computer. The free software I downloaded from Garmin's Web site looks a little outdated, but organizes workouts by date, displays routes on a map and draws charts for heart rate and speed over time. Useful for all land activities, including walking, biking and gym workouts (as a heart rate monitor). It can pause automatically when you stop moving. And there's lots of room to grow with advanced settings, like custom workouts with heart rate or pace goals.
Confusing: The watch has two buttons and a bezel that's sensitive to touch; navigating menus involves a frustrating combination of pushing buttons and tapping and swiping the bezel. The menus themselves aren't intuitive, so reading the whole manual is a must.
Nike + iPod Sport Kit, $29
This is an inexpensive way to get excited again about walking and running with an existing iPod Nano or an iPod Touch. When synched with a sensor in your shoe, your iPod's screen shows time, pace and calories burned. A voice interrupts the music to...
13:54 Review: A Lot More Camera for the HolidaysDear camera companies: It's time once again for the wintertime stunt I've been conducting since 2001 -- a research project I like to call, "How much digital camera can $300 buy you?" The main thing we care about is image quality, not bells and whistles. We want you to send us the best camera you have with a street price under $300. And may the best cam win!
With only one exception, the cameras submitted for this roundup cost around $250 or less. (Taxes may cause the price to be higher or lower in your country of purchase.) Maybe it's the economy, maybe it's some quirk of consumer psychology -- but there's no such thing as a $300 camera anymore.
Quite a bit has changed in the camera landscape since this survey began in 2001, and even since last year. All of these cameras now have optical image stabilizers.
All now offer face recognition, too. It sounds like a bell, or maybe a whistle, but is, in fact, fantastically useful. When you frame up the shot, the camera draws rectangles around any faces that it spots and calculates its focus and exposure on these.
No longer will you get a photo where your two buddies are out of focus, but the background behind them is nice and sharp. In principle, you won't get bleached-out faces from the flash, either; on most cameras, the flash throttles back its power when it sees faces in the scene.
Wide-angle lenses are fast becoming common, too. The Sony, Panasonic, Casio, Samsung and Canon cameras can capture a much broader slice of your landscape than the others, giving a dramatic, panoramic effect to your photos. You can see a complete table of specs and features at nytimes.com/tech.
Unfortunately, almost all of these cameras do terribly in low light. You inevitably...
13:39 Hubble Finds Carbon Dioxide on an Extrasolar PlanetNASA's Hubble Space Telescope has discovered carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of a planet orbiting another star. This breakthrough is an important step toward finding chemical biotracers of extraterrestrial life.
The Jupiter-sized planet, called HD 189733b, is too hot for life. But the Hubble observations are a proof-of-concept demonstration that the basic chemistry for life can be measured on planets orbiting other stars. Organic compounds also can be a by-product of life processes and their detection on an Earthlike planet someday may provide the first evidence of life beyond our planet.
Previous observations of HD 189733b by Hubble and the Spitzer Space Telescope found water vapor. Earlier this year, Hubble found methane in the planet's atmosphere.
"Hubble was conceived primarily for observations of the distant universe, yet it is opening a new era of astrophysics and comparative planetary science," said Eric Smith, Hubble Space Telescope program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "These atmospheric studies will begin to determine the compositions and chemical processes operating on distant worlds orbiting other stars. The future for this newly opened frontier of science is extremely promising as we expect to discover many more molecules in exoplanet atmospheres."
Mark Swain, a research scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., used Hubble's near infrared camera and multi-object spectrometer to study infrared light emitted from the planet, which lies 63 light-years away. Gases in the planet's atmosphere absorb certain wavelengths of light from the planet's hot glowing interior. Swain identified carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. The molecules leave a unique spectral fingerprint on the radiation from the planet that reaches Earth. This is the first time a near-infrared emission spectrum has been obtained for an exoplanet.
"The carbon dioxide is the main reason for the excitement because, under the right circumstances, it could have a connection to biological activity...
13:36 Environmental Groups Irked by Auto IndustryEnvironmental groups are disappointed that money put aside to aid automakers to produce more fuel-efficient cars is now going to fund their operations.
Although the bill promises the money for retooling plants will be replenished in the future, environmentalists are skeptical. And they're also upset the bailout doesn't ban automakers from suing states that set tougher emissions limits than federal rules.
"We know they need help retooling their factories, and we feel very strongly that if those funds are going to be diverted and not replenished, Congress is walking away from their own commitment to fuel efficiency," says Phyllis Cuttino, head of the U.S. Global Warming Campaign for the Pew Environmental Group.
The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 called for increasing fuel efficiency to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. In exchange for agreeing, automakers would get $25 billion in loans to help revamp their plants. They waited over a year for Congress to allocate the money. Now, some will go to the bailout.
"The funding Congress is considering now is just a Band-Aid, and it diverts funds originally intended to help the Big Three and other companies produce more fuel-efficient vehicles," says Michelle Robinson, director of the Clean Vehicles Program for the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Those funds should be replenished when the new Congress convenes in January."
What particularly irks environmentalists is that the automakers will continue on their quest to stop individual states from enacting their own emissions rules.
Roland Hwang, vehicle policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, "The White House has decided they want to hold up this entire bailout bill in order to remove this litigation provision. We're very disappointed."
Still, even though they aren't getting money to increase fuel efficiency, high gas prices have forced the automakers to revamp their lineups in favor of more fuel-efficient...
13:30 About One in Nine U.S. Kids Use Alternative MedicineJust like their parents, kids are taking herbal supplements from fish oil to ginseng, a sign of just how mainstream alternative medicine has become.
More than one in nine children and teens try those remedies and other nontraditional options, the government said Wednesday in its first national study of young people's use of these mostly unproven treatments.
Given that children are generally pretty healthy, the finding that so many use alternative medicine is "pretty amazing," said one of the study's authors, Richard Nahin of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The sweeping study suggests about 2.8 million young people use supplements.
Their parents' practices played a big role. Kids were five times more likely to use alternative therapies if a parent or other relative did. The same study showed that more than a third of adults use alternative treatments, roughly the same as in a 2002 survey.
The researchers used a big umbrella in defining alternative medicine: Acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic, traditional healing, yoga, Pilates, deep breathing, massage and even dieting were included.
Vitamin and mineral supplements are not considered alternative medicine, nor are prayer or folk medicine practices.
Herbal remedies were the leading type of alternative therapy for both adults and those under 18. Among kids, such therapies were most often given for head or neck pain, colds and anxiety. Body aches and insomnia were other top reasons children got alternative therapies, the study found.
Fish oil for hyperactivity and echinacea for colds were the most popular supplements, although there's no proof such treatments work for those conditions, nor have they been tested in kids.
Nahin cited the lack of rigorous scientific testing in declining to call such widespread use harmful or beneficial. Unlike federally regulated medicines, herbal remedies don't have to be proven safe or effective to be sold. And studies that have been done...
13:26 Review: HomeManager Makes the Landline SmarterWhat if the humble old landline phone could be as interactive as the flashy iPhone?
A home phone that puts the latest information at your fingertips feels like an old sci-fi staple, but now AT&T Inc. has a $299 touch-screen gadget, called HomeManager, that brings the idea to fruition. It may be coming too late in the game to matter.
As if it were a cell phone, the HomeManager is a touch-screen device that taps into the Internet to monitor e-mail, dig up the latest news and sports scores and access other Web favorites. Yet HomeManager does all that while connected to a home phone line.
The result is a crisp device that's surprisingly easy to use and fairly handy. Indeed, it's like an iPhone for your landline. The problem, though, is that AT&T is introducing the gadget at a time when even basic cell phones allow users to access similar information on the go.
AT&T is offering HomeManager in nine markets from San Diego to Atlanta. Users must have a broadband Internet connection and home phone service -- from AT&T or another company -- or a Voice over Internet service with a telephone adapter.
It's actually three separate devices that, altogether, took me about 15 minutes to hook up. The base unit, which looks like a tiny black modem, plugs into a home phone line and a spare Ethernet port in your broadband modem. Then it sends wireless signals to a colorful 7-inch touch-screen "frame" made by Samsung Electronics Co. I set mine up across the house in the kitchen. The third part is a sleek cordless phone that can tap into the system's address book and call log.
The call quality is relatively crisp, and if you upload photos, the frame doubles as a nifty digital album. Like many of the latest cell phones,...
13:24 Study: PC Infections Plague Wire-Transfer ShopsFor immigrants who send money to their home countries, wire-transfer shops are backbones of their neighborhoods. On some blocks in San Francisco's Mission District, every third or fourth business might offer some sort of money transfer service, and they're always bustling, even on a Sunday morning.
The customers probably don't suspect one danger that apparently often lurks in the storefronts: a startling number of viruses on the computers used to transmit their financial information.
Some 60 percent of the PCs examined in 300 wire-transfer businesses in Los Angeles and Las Vegas were infected with nasty viruses, according to a study due to be released Thursday by Spanish software vendor Panda Security.
The viruses Panda found included the worst kinds: keyloggers that record the users' every keystroke, and other types of malicious programs that give hackers backdoor access to the compromised machines. Some infected machines held troves of private data, from Social Security numbers to credit card numbers to tax documents.
The study wasn't able to determine whether any information had been successfully stolen because of the infections, which likely got onto the computers from everyday Web surfing by wire-transfer store employees. Researchers said the findings should serve as a warning that there are significant weaknesses in the shops.
"It's a disaster waiting to happen," said Carlos Zevallos, the lead researcher.
Wire transfers typically require that money senders provide limited personal information, such as a name and a telephone number. But the centers' PCs were still rich sources of information because remittance shops are eclectic businesses. Although many are mere check-cashing places, with stark waiting rooms with no chairs and clerks behind bulletproof glass, others double as something else, selling everything from soccer jerseys, furniture and flowers to tax preparation and passport photos.
And when those side businesses operate on the same Internet-connected computers as the wire-transfer transactions,...
13:20 Online Radio Advertising Network Shows PromiseThe advertising market is gloomy, and radio is in a particular funk. But Doug Perlson still feels pretty good.
Perlson heads TargetSpot Inc., which acquired a rival in October to create the largest seller of Internet radio ads. New York-based TargetSpot will handle online ads for more than 1,000 stations, including those owned by terrestrial broadcasters such as CBS Radio, which is an investor in TargetSpot, and Internet-only radio sites such as those on AOL and Live 365.
Partly because this market is nascent, "our business has a good shot at more than doubling in 2009," Perlson said. His company does not disclose sales figures.
TargetSpot sells 15-, 30- and 60-second audio ads for online radio stations, with companion visual ads, that can be targeted to people in specific geographic areas, based on the Internet address of a listener's computer, among other factors.
Advertisers can also track whether an ad is effective, because listeners can, for instance, click on a link to be routed to a certain Web site.
TargetSpot began two years ago with ads from local businesses. But Perlson said major advertisers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., J.C. Penney Co. and Macy's Inc. have signed up.
If TargetSpot can help Internet radio stations make more money, the timing couldn't be better. Radio stations are under the gun to raise online ad revenue because of the higher royalties they could have to pay to stream music over the Internet.
Last year, the Library of Congress' Copyright Royalty Board raised the fees that Internet radio stations pay artists to play their music online through 2010. Online radio stations said the increases were cost-prohibitive and threatened their survival. The prospect led Yahoo Inc. last week to meld its online radio operations with those of CBS Corp.
Congress has passed a bill that would give government backing to deals negotiated...
13:18 Babelgum Launches Free Video to MobileFree video to mobile phones became reality on Wednesday in cell phone-crazy Italy, where Vodafone users with certain late-generation smart phones can now watch video content from Internet TV operator Babelgum, free of data charges.
The twinning of Babelgum's content with Vodafone's service is a next step toward realizing the full promise of smart phones, which integrate the Internet with the mobile phone.
The Italian launch will be followed by the rollout in Britain on Thursday, with other countries, including the United States, to follow, Babelgum said.
The Babelgum-Vodafone alliance will offer Babelgum's content free with no additional data charges to Vodafone clients with an iPhone 3G, Nokia N95 or 6210, and will eventually be supported by advertising.
Bocconi media professor Carlo Alberto Maffe said the Babelgum project is well adapted to European tastes, where mobile broadcasting never took off the way it has in places like Korea and Japan.
"It's a video snack," Maffe said, noting players like YouTube already are attracting mobile viewers in Europe. "It is time for a new kind of Internet access and content, the fruition of the process (being pursued) by all major media and technology companies."
Babelgum, launched by the founder of the Italian telecommunication company Fastweb as a Web site that streams video for free, has set itself apart from sites like YouTube that are partially outlets for amateur video by providing only professionally produced content. Its mobile offerings will be generally shorter videos, including comedy, music videos, short independent films, animation as well as selections from its on-line film and video festivals, and will vary by country, depending on copyrights.
13:13 Technology May Halt the High-Speed ChaseEmerging technology could soon slam the brakes on high-speed police chases, which kill hundreds and injure thousands every year.
OnStar, the unit behind General Motors' GPS-based in-vehicle security system, offers Stolen Vehicle Slowdown technology: An OnStar operator can send a signal to a vehicle, restricting its fuel and slowing it to 3-5 mph. The technology is available on about 1 million 2009 GM vehicles, OnStar spokesman Jim Kobus says.
Another company, Virginia Beach-based StarChase, is field-testing its Pursuit Management System. It's a launcher on the front of a police car that fires projectiles that stick on a fleeing vehicle targeted by laser, enabling police to track it by GPS.
The system, which has been tested by police in Columbus, Ohio, and Suffolk County, N.Y., is in final testing by the Los Angeles police, StarChase spokeswoman Mandy McCall says. "That kind of technology is exactly what we need," says Geoff Alpert, a criminology professor at the University of South Carolina. "One of the most powerful tools the police have is to turn off their lights and siren because the pursued suspect will slow down."
David Hiller, national vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police and chief of the 44-officer Grosse Pointe Park, Mich., police department, calls the OnStar technology "very effective."
"We have to engage in police chases," he says. "Any technology that assists us in preventing ... crashes is welcome."
Barry Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union says the OnStar technology is fine as long as the vehicle's owner is the person reporting it stolen.
Last year, 424 people were killed in police chases, according to federal statistics, and more than 40,000 people die each year in vehicle crashes.
The technology raises hopes but is no magic solution, says Candy Priano, whose 15-year-old daughter, Kristie, was killed in a police chase in 2002.
"The human element plays...
13:13 Oh, What Fun It Is To Shop at the iTunes App StoreThe killer app for the iPhone is -- drum roll, please -- the iTunes App Store. Five months after Apple launched its online emporium, I believe it even more, having downloaded a gaggle of programs, including some that transform my iPhone 3G into a harmonica, metric system converter and level.
There are now more than 10,000 of these applications for the original iPhone, its 3G successor and in most cases, for the iPod Touch. Many are free.
I encounter buggy programs from time to time, but there are frequent updates to fix such snags.
And because of the drain on the battery, Apple still won't let developers produce apps that run in the background. So forget about listening to Internet radio while checking e-mail. I'm also waiting on an app that will let you shoot video.
All that said, exploring the App Store on your handheld or via computer is a delight, and you can rely on fellow users for reviews. Some of my favorites:
*Listening to radio. There's a reason Pandora has emerged as the most popular free iPhone application. Type a song or artist's name, and Pandora creates an instant radio station inspired by your selection, same as on a PC or Mac. Fine-tune stations by indicating whether you like what's being played. In some cases, you can buy the music you hear through iTunes.
The iPhone, of course, functions as an iPod. But your storage is limited. If you have gobs of music on your computer, consider Simplify Media. The $3.99 program lets you stream (most of) your music collection and that of up to 30 friends.
Setup is simple, and though music sometimes is slow to start up, it sounds good. Simplify generally worked really well as I rode in and around New York City. (It works on Wi-Fi, 3G or pokier Edge...
- THURSDAY 11. DECEMBER, 2008
20:37 Pastebud Brings Web-Based Cut and Paste To iPhoneA Web-based application is expected to help frustrated iPhone users desperate to cut and paste content. Users have been waiting for the functionality since the first-generation iPhone.
Pastebud may solve the cut and paste problem. The application that allows users to cut and paste in the Safari browser and in e-mail is slated to launch Friday, according to Pastebud's Twitter account, where creator Jed Schmidt says it's complete but he is working on making it look pretty.
There have been several iPhone cut-and-paste applications, but most failed. First there was MagicPad, developed by Proximi, which provided copy and paste functionality but didn't last long because of the iPhone Software Development Kit agreement. Proximi was only able to provide copy and paste for its own application.
OpenClip, however, had some legs. Zac White, a senior at the University of Oklahoma, started OpenClip, a nonprofit, open-source project with the framework for users to copy and past between applications. Users couldn't install the application to the iPhone, as White left it to developers to integrate the framework within applications.
Apple's 2.1 iPhone update kicked the college kid out of the sandbox and got rid of OpenClip.
No Need for App Store
However, the Web-based application only works with the Safari browser and the iPhone Mail application.
20:15 More Research Needed To Study Risk of NanotechnologyThere are more than 700 products on the market today that are touched, worn and used -- ranging from cosmetics to electronics -- that involve nanomaterials. In the next decade a number of products, including food and medical therapies, will also be derived from nanomaterials.
There's not enough funding, leadership and research being conducted to study the health and environmental risks that might come with products made from nanomaterials, according to a report released Wednesday by the National Research Council (NRC).
Nanomaterials are materials made at the nanoscale, or at 100 nanometers or smaller. Nanotechnology is the science of making matter at the atomic or molecular scale.
The NRC said a plan developed by the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) does not show a clear understanding of risks associated with the development and use of nanomaterials and products, nor does the NNI's plan include goals to ensure that nanotechnologies are developed and used as safely as possible, according to the report.
"The current plan catalogs nano-risk research across several federal agencies, but it does not present an overarching research strategy needed to gain public acceptance and realize the promise of nanotechnology," said David Eaton, chairman of the NRC committee and professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Nano-Based Consumer Tech
For electronics, nanotechnology is used to increase the capabilities of consumer-technology products, while decreasing weight, power and consumption.
Display technologies for laptops, cell phones, digital cameras and other devices are made of nano-structured polymer films known as "organic light emitting diodes."
Computer hard drives contain giant magnetoresistance heads with nano-thin layers of magnetic materials that enable a huge increase in storage capacity. And researchers are developing memory chips using nanotechnology.
Motorola is working on nano-emissive displays; Intel is working on integrated circuits with nano-sized features; and California Molecular Electronics...
20:08 Is Technology Raising Teen Birth Rates?Do you know what your teens are doing with their tech tools? Some are having sex, according to a survey from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and CosmoGirl.com.
Indeed, 22 percent of teenage girls -- and 11 percent of teen girls ages 13-16 -- admitted they have electronically sent, or posted online, nude or seminude images of themselves. The survey also reveals that these racy images are getting passed around. Thirty-three percent of teen boys and 25 percent of teen girls say they have had nude/seminude images -- originally meant to be private -- shared with them.
"Teenagers are early adopters of technology -- from the latest social-networking sites to the hottest new cell phones," said Susan Schulz, special projects editor at Hearst Magazines. "While this tech savvy can be seen as a positive, our study reveals there's also a negative side. Teenagers should be aware of the real consequences to this type of behavior, and we need to provide them with guidance and encourage them to make smart choices."
Troubling Results for Parents
The survey results also reveal that 15 percent of teens who have sent sexually suggestive content such as text messages, e-mail, photographs or video say they have done so with someone they know only online. And it's not just teen girls sharing the explicit images and words. Eighteen percent of teenage boys also admitted they have sent or posted nude/seminude images of themselves. Thirty-three percent -- 36 percent of women and 31 percent of men ages 20-26 -- say they have sent or posted such images.
In what could be troubling results for parents, the survey suggests what teens and young adults are doing electronically may influence how they behave in real life. Twenty-two percent of teens admit that technology makes them personally more forward and...
20:01 Developer Cites Price Point for Apple's iPhone App StoreApple's App Store for the iPhone is a huge success for users, with more than 10,000 third-party applications and 300 million downloads in about four months. But according to an open letter by an iPhone developer that's receiving attention on the Web, the dominant price point is hindering the development of better applications.
Craig Hockenberry, a principal at Greensboro, N.C.-based IconFactory, has posted the letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs at furbo.org. "As an iPhone developer who's been in the App Store since its launch," he writes, "I'm starting to see a trend that concerns me." This trend, he writes, is that "developers are lowering prices to the lowest possible level in order to get placement on iTunes," and the "proliferation of 99-cent 'ringtone apps'" is affecting product development.
99-Cent Apps Limited
Hockenberry said two products released by IconFactory -- the game Frenzic and the Twitter add-on Twitterrific -- have received a fair amount of recognition and popularity in the store.
The problem, he said, is funding the development of more ambitious products. Instead of working on "cooler (and more complex) ideas," he wrote, which require more development time, they're working on 99-cent titles "that have a limited life span and broad appeal."
Bigger projects, he noted, can take up to nine person-months, cost up to $225,000 and require sales of more than 300,000 units at the 99-cent rate. "Unless you have a white-hot title, selling 10-15k units a day for a few weeks isn't going to happen," he said. But raising prices means the product won't reach the top of the App Store charts, Hockenberry added, and things will become even harder as the number of apps in the store grows.
Hockenberry said one basic issue is how users of this platform are assessing whether to buy new apps. He noted that it appears "people...
19:59 Google Reintroduces Phone Messenging To GmailGoogle has relaunched an SMS text-messaging feature for Gmail, having worked out the kinks in the technology it launched -- and then pulled -- on Oct. 31.
"We ran into a few snags when we first started rolling this out, but starting today you can turn on text messaging for chat," said Product Director Leo Dirac at Gmail Labs. "We're just trying it out for cell phones in the United States right now, but you can send texts to your friends with U.S. phone numbers from anywhere in the world."
Gmail users engaged in conversations will be able to stay connected -- even when one chat participant has left a computer. This can come in handy if one person still needs to tell the other "something really important, like you've moved where you're meeting," Dirac said. And as soon as both parties are back at their computers, participants can manually switch back to Google chat.
To turn on SMS, Gmail users must first log onto their accounts. Open the Labs tab at the top of the main window and activate the "enable" button next to the entry for "Text Messaging (SMS) in Chat." Click on the "Save" button at the bottom of the Labs page to finish.
"You can start by just typing a phone number into the search box in the chat window on the left, then select 'Send SMS,'" Dirac said. "You can also select the contact you want to SMS first and then add their phone number." Gmail will memorize the cell-phone number, "so next time you can just type their name in the chat box and select Send SMS," he said.
Contacts switching from a PC to a cell phone will receive incoming text messages that originate from a Google number in the 406 area code, which is equivalent...
17:01 Microsoft Probes IE7, WordPad Converter VulnerabilitiesIn the wake of a near record-breaking Patch Tuesday, Microsoft is investigating reports of a zero-day bug affecting Internet Explorer 7 and attacks against an unpatched flaw in the WordPad Text Converter.
Researchers at Symantec have discovered the cause of the IE7 vulnerability is a XML parsing engine and the library MSHTML.DLL. The problem is a function that incorrectly frees a certain region of heap memory so an attacker is able to control the EAX register with a specially crafted Unicode URL that includes the magic "0x0A0A" value.
"The vulnerability depends on how certain elements of HTML pages are terminated and therefore could potentially affect not only XML, but also other objects handled by the browser," Elia Florio, a security researcher at Symantec, wrote in a blog post. "This means that attackers may start using different attack vectors in the future to exploit this vulnerability, but at the moment it seems that this recent exploit, which has been publicly released on several Chinese forums, only uses the XML elements and tags."
No Simple Workaround
According to Ken Dunham, director of global response for iSight Partners, a new attack series leverages the IE7 zero-day exploit to install variants of Autorun/Banker Trojans. The installed executable is Llwzjy081208.exe, he explained. It is a full-featured keylogger Trojan that communicates with a remote server.
"iSIGHT Partners' private archived data related to this attack shows a long history of attacks from this...
16:13 Android Beefs Up for Mobile Operating System BattleThe growing support for Google's Open Handset Alliance includes more research and development dollars from major names in the technology industry.
Earlier this week, the alliance, a group of technology and mobile companies working on the Android mobile operating system, announced 14 new members. They are AKM Semiconductor, ARM, ASUSTek Computer, Atheros Communications, Borqs, Ericsson, Garmin International, Huawei Technologies, Omron Software, Softbank Mobile, Sony Ericsson, Teleca AB, Toshiba and Vodafone.
"The ecosystem is growing larger. The critical names on this announcement are Sony Ericsson, which has invested in Windows Mobile and now appears to be hedging more with Android, and Vodafone," said Avi Greengart, a mobile analyst at Current Analysis. "Clearly these companies see Android as an important long-term viable mobile operating-system option. But they are going to need to rationalize their operating-system strategy because the R&D dollars are limited."
Sony Ericsson's Major Mobile Moves
The new members have agreed to either deploy compatible Android devices, contribute significant code to the Android open-source project, or support the ecosystem through products and services that will accelerate the availability of Android-based devices.
Sony Ericsson confirmed its intention to develop a handset based on the Android platform. Rikko Sakaguchi, head of development, said the company can "bring a wealth of experience in making consumer focused multimedia handsets with new user experience to the alliance." Sony Ericsson will draw on the successes of the Walkman and Cyber-shot sub-brands.
"Sony Ericsson joining the Open Handset Alliance says a lot," Greengart said. "Clearly this is a company that's struggling right now, particularly in the smartphone space against Nokia. Sony Ericsson is working closely with Nokia on the Symbian Foundation, and has just launched a line of high-end multimedia phones on Windows mobile, and now the company is investing in another operating system. For Sony Ericsson to embrace Android at this...
15:13 Democrats Accuse FCC Chairman of DeceptionFederal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin is under fire in a new report from an oversight subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The 110-page report, entitled Deception and Distrust: The Federal Communications Commission under Chairman Kevin J. Martin, charges that Martin changed and withheld data and reports to bolster his views, and presided over a demoralized and dysfunctional agency.
No Illegal Activity
Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the House committee, told The Washington Post that the findings suggest the FCC "has operated in a dysfunctional manner and commission business has suffered as a result." Despite the report's strong words, there is no indication of any illegal activity.
The report said there have been been "a number of indications that things were amiss at the FCC," but "these issues seemed to come to a head" and led to the investigation when Martin refused a request by Dingell to provide processes that would be "fair, open and transparent."
The report's findings focused in part on Martin's management style, saying the heavy-handedness "created distrust, suspicion and turmoil among the five current commissioners." It also described micromanaging by Martin, a "climate of fear" among FCC employees, and the tendency of Martin to compel staffers to rewrite reports that didn't satisfy his policy goals.
For his part, Martin has told the press that there were no findings of illegal activity and that some of the problems happened before he was chairman.
'Lack of Gentility'
The report began with backing from both the Republican and Democratic representatives, but the final version was signed only by Dingell and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), who is chairman of the oversight and investigations subcommittee. According to news reports, Republican leaders disagreed with the findings and refused to sign the report.
In fact, Rep. Joe L. Barton (R-Tex.), the ranking minority member of the...
13:58 Network Solution Secures U.S.-Canadian BorderLinking the two sides of the Niagara Falls region, the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission (NFBC) is a joint U.S. and Canadian agency that owns and operates three bridges that traverse the Niagara River. The organization is charged with keeping the Niagara Falls bridges safe and ensuring that traffic flows efficiently and unhindered between the two countries. Network security and traffic management functions are overseen remotely from NFBCs operations center at the agency's administrative headquarters in Lewiston, NY From this center, NFBC management and staff analyze information streaming in from 160 video cameras, 96 access-control points and six U.S./Canadian customs plazas distributed along the bridges.
Due to the critical nature of maintaining unimpeded traffic along the U.S.-Canadian border crossings, NFBC required a converged network and security solution to automate consolidation and interpretation of a wide array of disparate data sources, such as switch/router interface logs, user activities, network traffic statistics, log-in/log-out logs, host behaviors and other systems.
The goal of this communications and security solution was to cost-effectively automate once-manual correlation efforts in order to reduce the time to resolution of both network and security incidents. "We needed a network infrastructure capable of supporting our intensive environment, but we also wanted a network behavior-analysis solution that would allow us to view information about that network more efficiently," explains Dave Woods, manager of IT.
With a 10-Gigabit Ethernet network with more than 500 nodes across seven locations, the NFBC found that network management was taking up more time and becoming more complex. As the network grew, network and host behavior anomalies became harder to detect. The agency needed a solution to ensure that its network securely supported its high performance requirements.
Foundry Network's converged network solution and Lancope's StealthWatch Network Behavior Analysis (NBA) software met each of NFBCs requirements. Foundry's networking and wireless hardware transports on-demand...
13:58 Should Social-Networking Sites Be Blocked at Work?Here's a news flash: There are still challenges facing widespread use of social networking sites within an office setting. That's the gist of a recent survey by Steelcase on the use of social networking, but the tone of the press release announcing the survey results suggests companies should be more willing to let their employees visit MySpace and Facebook during the workday, as a way of somehow improving collaboration and fostering business connections.
We're not talking here about an organization's intranet. This is about employees using their bosses' computers to go to outside Web sites, such as YouTube, that are unrelated to work. What is surprising is not that 50 percent of the companies surveyed discourage or block access to such sites; what is surprising is that 100 percent do not block these sites.
Why do employees need to go to MySpace during the workday? According to the Steelcase survey, the majority of respondents sign onto social networking sites to reconnect with family or friends (82 percent). The most popular social networking sites among these workers include: MySpace (66 percent), Facebook (46 percent) and LinkedIn (22 percent).
Social networking within the workplace is a longstanding tradition (think the water cooler before everyone stocked cases of bottled water in their offices). Sure, mingling with employees just to chat can hurt productivity a bit, but it is also a valuable team-building and morale-building activity. Can the same be said for visiting family and friends on Facebook, or MySpace friends you've never actually met?
Intranets also can be problematic as they relate to productivity issues, but greater control over their use can be maintained by employers. Intranets also are work related, not a diversion to watch a funny video or chat with strangers across the country.
Steelcase suggests that companies need "to think out of the box...