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18,270 articles from Sci-Tech Today
- SATURDAY 18. MAY, 2013
16:34 Windows 8 Update Hopes To Stem ConfusionA planned Windows 8 update to address complaints and confusion with Microsoft's new operating system will be made available for free this year, the company said Tuesday. Microsoft also announced a name for the update: Windows 8.1.
Not charging extra for Windows 8.1 is consistent with the company's practice of offering "decimal point" updates to operating systems for free. However, when Microsoft Corp. announced the update last week, it didn't say that it would be free. The company also hadn't disclosed the system's formal name, leaving open the possibility that it would be a larger update, perhaps to Windows 9. The update had been known simply by its code name, Blue.
Tami Reller, the marketing and financial chief for Microsoft's Windows business, said the company wants to assure customers that they can buy Windows 8 now and still get the benefits of Windows 8.1 later.
Microsoft overhauled its operating system with the release of Windows 8 in October. The changes are meant to address the growing popularity of smartphones and tablet devices, which are siphoning sales from desktops and laptops -- traditional strongholds for Microsoft. The company designed Windows 8 to work with touch-screen controls popular on mobile devices, while also allowing people to use mouse and keyboard commands.
However, Windows 8 has confused a lot of users. Gone is the familiar start button that gave people quick access to programs and settings. To change settings, people must pull out a drawer of icons from the side, using a different maneuver depending on whether the control is through touch or a mouse. Windows 8 offers a new start screen filled with tiles that link to frequently used programs, but some programs work only in a desktop mode that resemble older versions of Windows -- but without the start button. Windows 8 doesn't let...
15:48 Reality TV's New Stars: Small BusinessesThere's no business like small business. Mix the high stakes of running a small business with a dash of family drama and throw in a camera crew and you get hit reality television shows such as "Pawn Stars," "Welcome to Sweetie Pie's" and "Duck Dynasty."
Turning small business owners into stars has become a winning formula for television producers, but some businesses featured in them are cashing in, too. Sales explode after just a few episodes air, transforming these nearly unknown small businesses into household names. In addition to earning a salary from starring in the shows, some small business owners are benefiting financially from opening gift shops that sell souvenirs or getting involved in other ventures that spawn from their new-found fame.
Sales at Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas are five times higher than they were before "Pawn Stars" first aired in 2009. More people are pouring into the St. Louis restaurant featured in "Welcome to Sweetie Pie's" to eat its jumbo-sized fried chicken wings and six-cheese macaroni and cheese. And Duck Commander, seen in "Duck Dynasty," is having trouble controlling the crowds in front of its headquarters in the small city of West Monroe, La.
"Sometimes it's hard getting from the truck to the front door," says Willie Robertson, who owns Duck Commander with his father and stars in the A&E series with his extended family.
It's a big change for a company that sells duck calls out of a part-brick, part-cinder block warehouse on a dry, dead-end country road. Duck hunters use the whistles, which mimic duck sounds, to attract their prey.
Since "Duck Dynasty" began airing in March 2012, Robertson finds at least 70 people waiting in front of the warehouse every morning asking for autographs and photos. Neighbors have complained about the mobs and the police have...
15:39 Soundbars Up the Ante on TV SoundThe days of home theaters with multiple stereo speakers spread around a room may be numbered, thanks to the soundbar.
The soundbar is a slender collection of speakers in a single housing that connects directly to the TV -- so there's no worrying about stringing up speaker wire. The devices have been around for a while, but those in this year's crop are cheaper and more powerful, and have the ability to connect to smartphones, tablets and PCs for streaming music.
Soundbar prices range from upwards of $1,400 for multiple speaker systems from Bose and Philips to $700 for the new Sonos Playbar and $100 to $200 for lower-end units from Samsung and Sony.
This week, TV manufacturer Vizio began shipping its latest, the S4251w-B4. At $329, (street price, $299) it is $200 less than Vizio's previous model. It also has built-in Bluetooth to stream music into the living room from a smartphone, tablet or PC.
"If you have a Spotify or Pandora account, just come in, pair the phone or device with the soundbar, and you're set," says Matthew DeHamer, a Vizio product manager. "You don't have to have the TV on."
Soundbars are filling a gap in the audio quality of many new TVs. As prices continue to fall for flat-panel television sets and models get thinner and larger, manufacturers have skimped on sound. Speakers on new TVs are generally inferior.
The Consumer Electronics Association projects that soundbar sales will rise 22% in 2013.
Bringing Internet-streamed music into the living room has been a huge push for wireless speaker company Sonos, which goes beyond Bluetooth with a series of smartphone and tablet apps that let the device act as a remote control for TV and music.
Consumer response to the Sonos Playbar has been greater than expected. "We can't make them fast enough," says Sonos CEO...
15:34 Edible Insects: Good for You, Good for WorldThe latest weapon in the U.N.'s fight against hunger, global warming and pollution might be flying by you right now. Edible insects are being promoted as a low-fat, high-protein food for people, pets and livestock. According to the U.N., they come with appetizing side benefits: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and livestock pollution, creating jobs in developing countries and feeding the millions of hungry people in the world.
Some edible insect information in bite-sized form:
Who Eats Insects Now?
Two billion people do, largely in Asia, Africa and Latin America, the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said Monday as it issued a report exploring edible insect potential.
Some insects may already be in your food (and this is no fly-in-my-soup joke). Demand for natural food coloring as opposed to artificial dyes is increasing, the agency's experts say. A red coloring produced from the cochineal, a scaled insect often exported from Peru, already puts the hue in a trendy Italian aperitif and an internationally popular brand of strawberry yogurt. Many pharmaceutical companies also use colorings from insects in their pills.
Packed with Protein, Full of Fiber
Scientists who have studied the nutritional value of edible insects have found that red ants, small grasshoppers and some water beetles pack (gram-per-gram or ounce-per-ounce) enough protein to rank with lean ground beef while having less fat per gram.
Bored with bran as a source of fiber in your diet? Edible insects can oblige, and they also contain useful minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorous, selenium and zinc.
Which To Choose?
Beetles and caterpillars are the most common meals among the more than 1,900 edible insect species that people eat. Other popular insect foods are bees, wasps, ants, grasshoppers, locusts and crickets. Less popular are termites and flies, according to U.N. data.
Insects on average can convert 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of feed into...
15:27 Sonic the Hedgehog Games Coming to NintendoSonic the Hedgehog is rolling with Nintendo. Sega says it will exclusively release the next three games starring the popular blue critter on Nintendo platforms. The first title will be called "Sonic Lost World" and is set for release on the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS later this year.
"With 'Sonic Lost World,' we're going to introduce new gameplay and enemies, which is always fun," said John Cheng, president and chief financial officer of Sega of America Inc. "In terms of Sonic and his friends, he'll have his same friends there, and I think there'll be some new ones as well. It's not a reiteration. It's going to be all new."
The original fast-paced side-scrolling "Sonic the Hedgehog" debuted in 1991. The twirling, ring-hoarding hedgehog became Sega's mascot and a video-game icon rivaling the likes of Mario and Pac-Man.
While his recent interactive exploits haven't achieved the same level of success as previous "Sonic" outings, the character has remained a presence in pop culture, appearing in cartoons, downloadable games and the Disney film "Wreck-It Ralph."
Sonic has competed against Nintendo's mustachioed spokesman Mario since 2007 in the "Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games" mini-game series. Cheng said the characters would be back for more match-ups in "Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games."
Over the past 22 years, Sonic and his friends have starred in dozens of games, including the hallmark 1992 sequel "Sonic the Hedgehog 2," 1997 3-D racer "Sonic R," 2002 hand-held adventure "Sonic Advance" and 2011 anniversary mash-up "Sonic Generations."
Sega says more than 75 million games and smartphone apps featuring Sonic have been sold worldwide. After the publisher stopped producing its own game consoles in 2001, Sega began releasing "Sonic" games for other systems, including Sony's PlayStation and Microsoft's Xbox.
Microsoft is expected to unveil a new Xbox console...
- FRIDAY 17. MAY, 2013
22:50 Google Glass Raises Congressional Privacy ConcernsThe buzz around Google Glass continues, but it's not all good. Some in Congress are raising privacy issues around the futuristic product.
Eight members of the House Privacy Caucus sent a letter to Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page. They have some questions about the privacy aspects of Google Glass. And they want answers.
"As members of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, we are curious whether this new technology could infringe on the privacy of average Americans," the letter says. "Because Google Glass has not yet been released and we are uncertain of Google's plans to incorporate privacy protections into the device, there are still a number of answered questions that we share."
The caucus then puts forth eight questions:
1. How does Google plan to prevent Google Glass from unintentionally collecting data about the user/non-user without consent?
2. What proactive steps is Google taking to protect the privacy of non-users when Google Glass is in use? Are product lifecycle guidelines and frameworks, such as Privacy By Design, being implemented in connection with its product design and commercialization?
3. When using Google Glass, is it true that this product would be able to use Facial Recognition Technology to unveil personal information about whomever and even some inanimate objects that the user is viewing? Would a user be able to request such information? Can a non-user or human subject opt out of this collection of personal data? If so, how? If not, why not?
4. Would Google place limits on the technology and what type of information it can reveal about another person? If so, explain. If not, why not?
6. Would [device-specific] information be collected from users operating Google Glass?...
21:17 U.S. Defense Department Gives iOS 6 Security OKIn a vote of confidence for Apple's iOS devices, the U.S. Defense Department has given the all-clear for employees to use iPads and iPhones for work. But only those running the latest operating system, iOS 6, and only if issued by the government.
The Pentagon previously approved the Samsung Knox and BlackBerry systems as secure enough for its employees, and made the decision after allowing some to use Apple devices during a trial period.
In announcing the decision, the Defense Information Systems Agency said it had approved the Security Technical Implementation Guide (STIG) for iOS 6, allowing government-issued mobile devices to be approved for connecting to DoD networks "within current mobility pilots or the future mobile device management framework. "
Pilot Program In Place
Employees won't be able to use devices they acquired on their own, however.
DISA is the agency responsible for a Mobile Device Management (MDM) system, which is in source selection now and expected to have a contract awarded in early summer, the statement said. That protocol will manage and distribute mobile applications and fend off persistent cyberattacks that have been targeting private and government computers in search of secrets.
"All of these pieces must be in place to allow the secure use of commercial mobile devices on department networks," said Mark Orndorff, program executive officer for Mission Assurance and NetOps, and chief information assurance executive at DISA, in the statement. "DISA is running a pilot program today where we bring this all together."
Chester Wisniewski, a senior cybersecurity analyst at Sophos International, said approving STIGs is a common procedure for nearly any type of technology or operating system. "Everything that is in use must have a STIG defining how it is to be deployed, which options must be enabled/disabled, etc.," he said. "While it is certainly a good thing for Apple, I...
20:46 Should Enterprises Skip Over Windows 8?IT will skip Windows 8 as the enterprise standard. So says a new Forrester Research report penned by David K. Johnson that goes by the same name.
"Windows 8 is the boldest release of the OS since Windows 95. Microsoft chose to discard the Start button in favor of a new look designed to tie together the PC, tablet, and, smartphone experience," Johnson wrote. But he noted that the "unorthodox offering" drives IT leaders to ask a number of questions.
Those questions include: Is Windows 8's new interface too far of a departure for some employees to learn, and will there even be any employee demand for it? Does Windows 8 offer enough new value to justify migration investments, and if so, when, and across which devices?
The report goes on to explain why Forrester believes most businesses will not adopt Windows 8 as their primary standard, but must be prepared to meet employee "bring your own device" demand. The latter point lines up with a recent Gartner report suggesting that half of companies will mandate BYOD for employees.
The UI Beef
Windows 8 started out of the gate with disadvantages. Usability guru Jakob Nielsen set the stage for the complaints with a review that tore the operating system to shreds last November.
Nielsen didn't like what he deemed a reversal of Microsoft's user interface strategy, one that differs from the traditional Bill Gates-driven style that emphasizes powerful commands. He said Microsoft has "gone soft" and "smothers" users with big colorful tiles while hiding needed features.
"One of the worst aspects of Windows 8 for power users is that the product's very name has become a misnomer. Windows no longer supports multiple windows on the screen," Nielsen wrote in a blog post. "Win 8 does have an option to temporarily show a second area in a...
18:42 What's Normal? Latest Psychiatric Guide DebatedThe new version of the world's most widely used psychiatric guide to mental disorders says grief soon after a loved one's death now can be considered major depression. Extreme childhood temper tantrums get a fancy name. And certain forgetful moments for the aging are called "mild neurocognitive disorder."
Those changes are just some of the reasons prominent critics say the American Psychiatric Association is out of control, turning common problems into mental illnesses in a trend they say will just make the "pop-a-pill" culture worse.
Says a former leader of the group: "Normal needs to be saved from powerful forces trying to convince us that we are all sick."
At issue is the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, widely known as the DSM-5. The DSM has long been considered the authoritative source for diagnosing mental problems.
The psychiatric association formally introduces the nearly 1,000-page revised version this weekend in San Francisco. It's the manual's first major update in nearly 20 years, and a backlash has taken shape in recent weeks:
-- Two new books by mental health experts, "Saving Normal" and "The Book of Woe," say the manual has lost credibility.
-- A British psychologists' group is criticizing the DSM-5, calling for a "paradigm shift" away from viewing mental problems as a disease. An organization of German therapists also attacked the new guide.
-- The head of the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, Dr. Thomas Insel, said the book lacks scientific validity.
The manual's release comes at a time of increased scrutiny of health care costs and concern about drug companies' influence over doctors. Critics point to a landscape in which TV ads describe symptoms for mental disorders and promote certain drugs to treat them.
Many of the 31 task force members involved...
18:42 In the Jaws of a Tornado: Horror in TexasAs the roar of the storm grew and the walls began to shudder, Carlton and Christy Russell crammed themselves and their 11-year-old twin daughters into their hall closet and sang church songs.
Outside, the muscular tornado that ripped through [Granbury, Texas], 35 miles southwest of Fort Worth on Wednesday evening was bouncing from house to house, shredding roofs, splintering homes and tossing cars and people blocks away. Inside, the Russells prayed for a miss.
"You can feel the walls breathing and the roof going up and down," Christy Russell, 37, said Thursday at a Red Cross shelter set up at a local church. "We were singing and praying. And screaming a little bit."
The Russells walked away from the ordeal but Hood County, Texas, officials say at least six residents died in one of the worst tornado outbursts the city has ever seen. Late Thursday, rescue workers were searching for seven missing residents. The storm displaced more than 250 others.
Hood County officials on Thursday said two women and four men were killed in the tornado. Officials will next begin the long, meticulous task of cleaning up debris and rebuilding. Nearly 100 homes were destroyed in the storm, some ripped clean to their foundations.
After surveying the destroyed neighborhoods Thursday morning, Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds said he was surprised there weren't more deaths. The Rancho Brazos subdivision -- the hardest-hit area of the city -- was a barren landscape of splintered homes, flattened cars and piles of jumbled debris sitting atop of concrete foundations where homes once stood.
"I was expecting more loss of life," he said. "It was one of the worst things we've ever seen in Hood County."
Ismael Martinez, 57, was driving home from work at the Pecan Plantation with his son when baseball-size hail began pelting their car. They pulled over and...
18:17 Syrian Electronic Army Hacks Financial TimesThe Financial Times is the latest victim of the Syrian Electronic Army, a "hacktivist" group that supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The U.K.-based newspaper reported the attack followed a phishing attack on the company's e-mail accounts.
Twelve posts entitled "Hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army" appeared on the FT's tech blog between 12:38 p.m. and 12:42 p.m. London time on Friday, with the company's Twitter accounts also disrupted, the Financial Times said.
"We have now locked those accounts and are grateful for Twitter's help on this," said Robert Shrimsley, the managing editor of FT.com. "Unfortunately this is an increasingly common issue for major news organizations."
No New Tricks
Ken Pickering, development manager for security intelligence at CORE Security, said the Syrian Electronic Army's methods are straightforward: They rely on a phishing e-mail with a link to a spoofed Web page that in some cases looks like Google Apps, and is able to yank an employee's credentials fairly easily.
"However, some old tricks are good ones, and until we actually educate users to think before they click, these attacks will continue to be successful," Pickering told us. "There are vast architectural changes we could make to the Internet to make this happen, or we could all follow one simple policy: Don't enter your password on a link you followed from e-mail. If you get a notification from somewhere, just go to the site itself via your browser. It will cost you an extra 10 seconds of typing, but I promise it's worthwhile."
People tend to reuse passwords, Pickering said, so tactics like this are easy and effective. Once hackers have access to e-mail, he said, injecting malware into a network by using internal e-mails as a carrier is exceptionally effective. And it only takes one weak link to begin a chain of several attacks.
"I wish I could...
17:35 IDC: Windows Phone Now No. 3 in Market, BlackBerry No. 4Has Microsoft Phone moved into a coveted though distant third place for smartphone platforms behind Google's Android and Apple's iOS? A new report from IDC says it has.
IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker found that Android and iOS took an overwhelming combined 92.3 percent of all smartphone shipments in the first quarter, a huge increase of 59.1 percent over the same quarter last year. Separately, Android took 75 percent and iOS 17.3 percent.
Windows Phone, for the first time in IDC's reports, took third place with 3.2 percent, barely ahead of the BlackBerry OS, which had 2.9 percent. This compares with 2 percent for Windows Phone in Q1 of 2012, and what had been a more substantial 6.4 percent for BlackBerry. In January of this year, BlackBerry released its new BlackBerry 10 platform.
Rounding out the top half dozen platforms, Linux had 1 percent and the dying Symbian, which posted 6.8 percent in first quarter of last year, now has 0.6 percent.
We asked Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC's Mobile Phone team, if the Windows Phone showing in this report appeared to be just a blip, or if seemed to be a forward motion that could continue to keep Microsoft in third place.
He replied that he sees this "as forward motion" and not a blip, and the reason is Nokia. We can see now, Llamas said, "how serious they are and how serious their carrier partners are," as evidenced by their evangelizing, marketing, and steady stream of new Windows phones. Llamas said "it takes some time" to launch a new platform, and Nokia's efforts are now bearing fruit.
While other manufacturers have released Windows Phone devices, Microsoft's partnership with Nokia is the key to whether the smartphone platform succeeds. Nokia's devices accounted for 79 percent of Windows Phone shipments during Q1.
16:43 Lulzsec Hackers Jailed for Cyberattacks in U.K.Four young computer hackers who masterminded cyberattacks on targets from the CIA to Sony Pictures and Rupert Murdoch's News International were sentenced to up to 32 months in prison on Thursday.
The hackers, who were affiliated with the group Lulz Security, had all pleaded guilty to hacking charges. Prosecutors say they also targeted the Web sites of Britain's National Health Service and the U.K.'s Serious Organized Crime Agency, and posted stolen information including emails and credit card details belonging to millions of people on file-sharing sites like Pirate Bay in 2011.
The group also attacked their targets by launching distributed denial of service attacks, which overwhelm sites with traffic.
Sentencing the four, Judge Deborah Taylor said what they considered a "cyber game" had real consequences.
"You cared nothing for the privacy of others but did everything you could through your computer activities to hide your own identities while seeking publicity," she said.
She gave a 32-month sentence to Ryan Cleary, 21, who pleaded guilty to six charges including hacking into U.S. Air Force computers at the Pentagon.
The others were: Ryan Ackroyd, 26, jailed for 30 months; Jake Davis, 20, jailed for 24 months; and Mustafa Al-Bassam, 18, who was given a suspended 20-month sentence.
Prosecutor Andrew Hadik described the hackers' actions as "cowardly and vindictive" and said they caused companies serious financial and reputational damage.
"Coordinating and carrying out these attacks from the safety of their own bedrooms may have made the group feel detached from the consequences of their actions," Hadik said in a statement. "But to say it was all a bit of fun in no way reflects the reality of their actions."
16:39 Can Electric-Car Maker Tesla's Shares Stay White-Hot?Shares of electric-car maker Tesla zoomed 14.4% Monday, continuing a streak that started last week with the announcement of the company's first profitable quarter.
Tesla closed Monday at $87.80, up 57% from $55.79 a share Thursday before its first-quarter earnings report.
The investor interest in the California-based electric-car maker also follows a glowing review of its only model, the Model S sedan, on Friday from Consumer Reports magazine.
Investors are liking what they saw in the details of the electric-car maker's earnings report. The $11 million first-quarter profit shattered the assumption that no automaker can make money selling small numbers of plug-in cars. And Tesla posted a 17% gross profit margin, using American workers, in an industry in which 10% is considered outstanding.
"There's a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for this car and this company," said Theodore O'Neill, founder of Litchfield Hills Research. "How far can Tesla go? As far as they want to go."
As impressive as its first quarter looked, it's going to be a long road. Tesla's fortunes are tied to its only car, the Model S, which ranges from $70,000 before tax credits to more than $100,000. The car can go 230 to 300 miles on a charge. Consumer Reports called it the best car it has tested since 2007, giving it a score of 99 out of 100.
But Tesla has to show it can be consistently profitable with a single product that is priced so high that most buyers can't afford it. There are questions, too, about whether it can keep its order books full, or whether the number of people who crave electric cars is limited.
CEO Elon Musk has noted the affordability problem and said he hopes to create a mass-market Tesla, but that it is still three or four years away.
Tesla sold 4,900 electric cars over the first...
16:35 Technology and Labor Sectors Spar on ImmigrationTo the U.S. technology industry, there's a dramatic shortfall in the number of Americans skilled in computer programming and engineering that is hampering business. To unions and some Democrats, it's more sinister: The push by Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg to expand the number of visas for high-tech foreign workers is an attempt to dilute a lucrative job market with cheap, indentured labor.
The answer is somewhere in between, depending as much on new technologies and the U.S. education system's ability to keep up as on the immigration law itself. But the sliver of computer-related jobs inside the U.S. that might be designated for foreigners -- fewer than 200,000 out of 6 million -- has been enough to strain a bipartisan deal in the Senate on immigration reform, showcase the power of big labor and splinter a once-chummy group of elite tech leaders hoping to make inroads in Washington.
"A lot of people agree that employers should have access to (highly trained) immigrants -- that they are a benefit to the country, and we are a country of immigrants," said B. Lindsay Lowell, director of policy studies at Georgetown University's Institute for the Study of International Migration. "I think the question is how much of a good thing is good."
The Senate immigration bill -- the result of months of quiet negotiations among eight influential senators -- is on track to nearly double the number of highly skilled foreign workers allowed to work in the U.S. under what's called an H-1B visa, from 65,000 to 110,000. The number of visas could climb as high as 180,000 depending on the number of applications received and the unemployment rate.
The Senate Judiciary Committee planned to take up the portion of the bill relating to H-1B visas on Thursday, paving the way for an eventual floor vote and setting...
16:31 NASA: 'Mr. Leaky' Is Fixed, Space Station SafeAn impromptu spacewalk over the weekend seems to have fixed a big ammonia leak at the International Space Station, NASA said Thursday.
The "gusher" erupted a week ago, prompting the hastiest repair job ever by residents of the orbiting lab. Spacewalking astronauts replaced a suspect ammonia pump on Saturday, just two days after the trouble arose.
NASA is now calling the old, removed pump "Mr. Leaky," said flight controller Anthony Vareha.
"Right now, we're feeling pretty good. We definitely got the big leak," Vareha said in a NASA broadcast from Mission Control in Houston.
Vareha said engineers don't know whether the pump replacement also took care of a smaller leak that has plagued the system for years. It will take at least a couple months of monitoring to know the full status.
Ammonia is used as a coolant in the space station's radiator system.
The leak forced one of the station's seven power channels to go offline. NASA hopes to resume normal operations early next week, following computer software updates.
One of the spacewalkers, NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn, is now back on Earth. He returned this week aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule, ending a five-month mission.
The other spacewalker, Christopher Cassidy, a recent arrival, spent Thursday chatting with three of the actors and a writer-producer of the newest Star Trek movie, "Star Trek into Darkness." The film was beamed up to the space station a few days before its U.S. opening in theaters Thursday.
Cassidy watched the first half-hour of the movie while he was exercising Thursday morning and offered a stellar review.
"I was riveted as you're racing through the woods and jumping off cliffs," he told the actors. "I won't spoil the rest of the movie for anybody who hasn't seen it. But pretty cool scenes."
- THURSDAY 16. MAY, 2013
23:19 In Sight at I/O: Google GlasswareGoogle Glass' capabilities are becoming clearer. At the Google I/O developers conference now taking place in San Francisco, the first wave of brand name apps for the new interactive headgear -- of course, called Glassware -- are entering the field of view.
This week, apps were unveiled from CNN for getting news flashes, from Evernote for accessing notes and reminders, and from Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter for keeping up to date with your social network. The new software joins others previously announced by The New York Times and social networker Path.
The apps are intended to comply with Google's new guidelines for a platform that is continuously with the user and potentially overlays everything the user sees. For instance, Google advises that interruptions to a viewer's attention should be short, relevant and timely, so the CNN app allows a user to choose the subject area -- sports or politics, for instance -- for which attention-breaking interruptions are warranted. Additionally, the time of day can be set when such news bulletins can be sent, after which a user can call up a brief summary and a video.
The fashion magazine Elle has developed an app so fans of that magazine can flip through photos, hear a portion of an article read aloud, share articles or designate some for reading later. Facebook's software enables sharing Glass-captured photos on Facebook, and Twitter's offers the ability to voice-post and to filter which people's tweets to receive.
Evernote users can send notes to Glass, providing a to-do list when you're actually out in the world, and Tumblr's shows a user's feed or selections thereof.
One application by an independent development team indicates the potential for entirely new forms of weird behavior. Called Ice Breaker, it sends a notification to nearby users of the same app. The Glass-wearing Ice...
21:18 Intel Going Mobile with Its New CEOIn his first speech as the new head of Intel, CEO Brian Krzanich said he would focus on beefing up the company's presence in the tablet and smartphone markets, according to a news report.
"What we have will allow us to grow in this area much faster in the future," he said at a shareholders meeting, according to Fox News. Krzanich officially took the CEO reins Thursday after serving as Intel COO since 2012. He's the sixth CEO in company history.
As part of its mobile push, Intel launched "Experience Intel. Look Inside," a world tour to introduce consumers to mobile devices based on Intel products, including the Ultrabook, thin and light laptops, tablets, all-in-one PCs and smartphones.
Interactive Mobile Displays
Intel's tour will feature a custom-built installation that will travel to cities around the world during the next six months. The installation will provide consumers with various collaborative and visual interactions to experience Intel technology.
For example, consumers can experience the newest Ultrabook convertibles, 2-in-1 Intel-inspired devices that flip, fold and swivel from laptop to tablet. Consumers can also play with Intel-powered products, including thin and light laptops, tablets, smartphones and all-in-ones.
The first stop is New York, and it's not just about the products. Intel said the tour will also feature relevant artists, designers and thought leaders to create customized digital interactions, all powered by the Ultrabook. The installations span art, data visualization and gaming to show off the Ultrabook's features.
One of the designs is from Matt Pyke of Universal Everything. He created an experiential design that transforms guests' drawings -- completed on Ultrabooks -- into a digital flock of "wings" projected on the interior walls of the installation.
Then there's the Office of Creative Research, a multi-disciplinary research group. Its team has created custom data visualizations around the evolution of the computer,...
20:50 HP and SAP Partner to Advance HANA"Project Kraken," a joint initiative by Hewlett-Packard and SAP to improve business processes and mitigate risks for customers, was demonstrated Thursday at the Sapphire Now conference in Orlando, Fla. The initiative is based in HP server technology innovations and optimized with the in-memory SAP Hana database for SAP Business Suite.
With Project Kraken, the companies are on a mission to give customers more choice in scalability for large, online transaction-processing applications that require real-time analytical data insights. If the technology performs as marketed, it will give retailers, financial institutions, utilities, governments, and others a new alternative to detect patterns, analyze massive data volumes on the fly, and perform their operations quickly.
"With Project Kraken, HP and SAP are illustrating how customers can achieve a step-jump in performance, while adding simplicity in the management of the environment," said Vishal Sikka, a member of SAP's Technology and Innovation executive board. "It shows how large enterprises can confidently run their enterprise applications, including SAP Business Suite, with growing quantities of data in shorter windows of time."
Sikka said the offering would "fundamentally and forever change the database market." So what's under the hood? The prototype system is optimized with 16 Intel Xeon processor E7 family -- codenamed Ivy Bridge-EX -- CPUs and 12 terabytes of memory.
The system has been engineered specifically for complex, data-intensive workloads, such as supply chain, customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning and data analysis. The technology makes it possible to consolidate multiple online transaction processing (OLTP) and online analytic processing (OLAP) databases into one vertically scalable server with improved performance.
SAP said Project Kraken will further the capabilities of HANA, providing real-time analytics on transactional data, eliminating the need to spend time and resources moving data between environments. HP and SAP are working to create a marketable solution that can scale...
19:18 Planet-Hunting Kepler Telescope in TroubleNASA's planet-hunting Kepler telescope is broken, potentially jeopardizing the search for other worlds where life could exist outside our solar system.
If engineers can't find a fix, the failure could mean an end to the $600 million mission's search, although the space agency wasn't ready to call it quits Wednesday. The telescope has discovered scores of planets but only two so far are the best candidates for habitable planets.
"I wouldn't call Kepler down-and-out just yet," said NASA sciences chief John Grunsfeld.
NASA said the spacecraft lost the second of four wheels that control its orientation in space. With only two working wheels left, it can't point at stars with the same precision.
In orbit around the sun, 40 million miles from Earth, Kepler is too far away to send astronauts on a repair mission like the way Grunsfeld and others fixed a mirror on the Hubble Space Telescope. Over the next several weeks, engineers on the ground will try to restart Kepler's faulty wheel or find a workaround. The telescope could be used for other purposes even if it can no longer track down planets.
Kepler was launched in 2009 in search of Earth-like planets. So far, it has confirmed 132 planets and spotted more than 2,700 potential ones. Its mission was supposed to be over by now, but last year, NASA agreed to keep Kepler running through 2016 at a cost of about $20 million a year.
Just last month, Kepler scientists announced the discovery of a distant duo that seems like ideal places for some sort of life to flourish. The other planets found by Kepler haven't fit all the criteria that would make them right for life of any kind -- from microbes to man.
While ground telescopes can hunt for planets outside our solar system, Kepler is much more advanced and is...
19:18 Jolie's News Prompts Calls to DoctorsActress Angelina Jolie's revelation Tuesday that she had a preventive double mastectomy has struck a nerve with women, many of whom have called doctors to ask about their own breast cancer risk.
Jolie, 37, carries a genetic mutation that increases her risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Her mother died of ovarian cancer at age 56.
Staff at the University of Kansas Cancer Center fielded 50 calls about genetic testing in the first 24 hours after Jolie's announcement, five times the usual number in a week, says genetic counselor Jennifer Klemp. Other hospitals contacted by USA TODAY also reported getting dozens of calls.
Calls to the hotline at FORCE, an advocacy group for women with these genetic mutations, quadrupled within 36 hours.
Jolie's announcement was an important reminder for women and doctors to look carefully at patients' family histories, says Beth Peshkin, a genetic counselor at Georgetown University's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.
"The fact that she took this step is really, really important," Peshkin says.
But Fran Visco, president of the National Breast Cancer Coalition, notes that women shouldn't rush to be screened. Only one in 500 women carry these mutations, which cause 5% to 10% of all breast cancers.
Visco says Jolie's story illustrates how little progress has been made against cancer. "We have invested billions of dollars in science and raising awareness, yet we have little more than disfiguring and barbaric options to offer women like Ms. Jolie."
Angelina Jolie revealed Tuesday that she had a mastectomy.
18:24 Cloud Computing Gains Another Competitor with GoogleGet ready, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. Google is upping the services offered through its Cloud Platform.
At an event Wednesday at its I/O developer conference in San Francisco, the technology giant announced that its Compute Engine will now be available to any users, not only those who have Google Gold support.
To make that possible with Compute Engine, which provides a high-performance, hosted environment for running virtual machines, it will be billed in instances as small as one minute to 10-minute increments, there will be shared core instances for low-intensity workloads, and advanced routing features have been added for creating gateways and VPN servers.
Additionally, large persistent disks will support up to 10 terabytes per volume, and the company said it has completed ISO 27001:2005 international security certification for Compute Engine, Google App Engine, and Google Cloud Storage.
'All the Right Things'
Google also said that its App Engine platform, version 1.8.0, will now add limited preview support for the PHP programming language, one of the most commonly requested additions.
The 5-year-old App Engine currently supports Python, Java and Google's Go. Google said PHP was being added so that developers could run open-source programs like WordPress. In order to ease the process of building modularized applications, App Engine will also now have the ability to partition apps into components that have individual scaling, deployments, versioning and performance settings.
There is also a new Cloud Datastore service, a managed and schema-less storage for non-relational data. The company said the standalone service offers automatic scalability and high availability, and provides such capabilities as ACID transactions, SQL-like queries and indexes.
Al Hilwa, program director for Application Development Software research at IDC, said Google "is doing all the right things to become a serious cloud platform competitor." He added that the company had previously "evolved App Engine...
17:34 Texas Tornadoes Kill Three, Injure 100Several tornadoes slammed into the Dallas-Fort Worth area Wednesday night, causing at least three deaths and injuring 100 people, the Hood County sheriff said.
Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds said one tornado touched down southeast of Granbury, in the Rancho Brazos subdivision, destroying mobile homes and single-family houses.
Deeds said at least three residents were killed and dozens injured, some critically. The injuries range from lost limbs to minor bumps and bruises, he said.
"There were probably 75 homes in that subdivision that are totally destroyed," Deeds said. "We haven't had a bad one like this for a while."
Hood County Judge Darrell Cockerham told CNN there were reports of houses flattened with people inside.
Officers "are going house to house" looking for residents trapped, injured or dead in the rubble of demolished homes near Lake Granbury, sheriff's Lt. Kathy Jiveden said.
The tornado was among several spotted in Texas on Wednesday night and part of a broader storm system that dumped rain and hail up to the size of grapefruit on parts of the state. The National Weather Service issued storm warnings for 32 counties in Texas and four counties in Oklahoma.
The storms packing lightning, large hail and powerful winds sparked fiery-red images on the National Weather Service radar.
Winds were fierce, registering between 80 and 100 mph on the radar, said Matt Bishop, a weather service meteorologist.
"This is serious," the weather service warned via social media. "Take shelter now!"
Granbury, a town of 8,000 about 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth, received only minor storm damage, Deeds said. City officials were sending first-responders to check neighborhoods and school buses to help evacuate the area.
A second tornado hit the small town of Millsap west of Forth Worth. Parker County Judge Mark Kelley said roof damage was reported to several houses and a barn was destroyed.
Another tornado was...
17:30 Google Bets Its Empty Wallet on Gmail Tie-InGoogle first demoed Google Wallet two years ago in its New York City offices. But nothing much has come of the app that promised to make your phone a wallet.
Google has hardly abandoned the idea of letting customers tap, pay and save using their Android devices and near field communication. Google Wallet is still a key part of the company's ongoing effort to improve shopping on both sides of the checkout counter.
But Google has rolled out a new concept at its I/O developers conference in San Francisco -- one that might trouble PayPal. Google is setting up a function to allow U.S.-based adult Gmail users attach electronic money to an e-mail. Google Wallet is still at the center, but you don't need a phone to make the transaction.
"Paying back your friends is now as simple as sending an e-mail, whether you're chipping in for lunch or reimbursing your roommate for your share of the rent," said Travis Green, product manager for Google Wallet, in a blog post. "Google Wallet is now integrated with Gmail, so you can quickly and securely send money to friends and family directly within Gmail -- even if they don't have a Gmail address."
As Simple as Attaching a File
Here's how it works: When you open up your Gmail and compose a message, you'll see a dollar sign ($) in the row of icons at the bottom, just to the left of the icon you click to attach a photo. When you click the icon, you'll be prompted to enter the amount of money you want to transmit. Press "send" and the transaction is complete.
Sending money is free if your bank account is linked to Google Wallet or using your Google Wallet balance. You will pay a fee if you send money using your linked credit card...
17:29 Indonesia Extends Forest-Clearing BanIndonesia has approved a two-year extension to a landmark ban on clearing primary rainforests and peatlands, officials said Thursday. Environmentalists praised the move but said the government must do more to curb the nation's burgeoning production of greenhouse gases.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed the decree on Monday to continue the 2011 moratorium, which barred new logging and palm oil plantation permits under a $1 billion deal with Norway, said his environment adviser, Pungki Agus Purnomo.
He said the ban will preserve 64 million hectares (158 million acres) until 2015. It will not affect areas where concessions were granted before the moratorium.
Environmentalists hailed the extension while also urging leaders to better enforce the law. They say some protected areas continue to be exploited because of corruption and illegal fires and logging.
Indonesia's largest environmental group, Walhi, said the government must also work to stop logging permits from being issued at the local level.
"It is just like a presidential instruction to his subordinates ... it has no power to sanction against violators," said Walhi environmentalist Berry Nahdian Furqan, who added that the ban should be made permanent.
Indonesia is one of the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitters, largely because many of the palm oil plantations on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra are planted on carbon-rich peatland that must be drained first, releasing vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.
Rapid deforestation has occurred in recent years in Indonesia as it feeds the world's hunger for palm oil, pulp and paper. The destruction has caused damage ranging from deadly flash floods and landslides to a loss of habitat for endangered species such as orangutans, elephants, tigers and rhinos.