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Friday, September 21, 2007

Yoga, an example of nanotechnology

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Using yoga to treat a disease is just another example of using nanotechnology in medicine, according to leading yoga and spiritual guru Swami Ramdev.

'In yoga, we use breathing techniques to treat a disease. This provides oxygen to the affected parts of the body,' said Ramdev during a talk on science and spirituality 'Bridging the gap: Nanohealth', held as part of the fifth global knowledge millennium summit on bio and nano technology here Thursday.

'Just as nanotechnology has the potential to send nano particles within the body system to seek out and treat afflicted parts, pranayam in yoga sends oxygen to the remotest parts inside the body which need oxygen for cure,' he said.

Peter Grutter, professor of Physics in Canada's McGill University and a world leader in nanotechnology research, who was the other main panellist in the discussion, appreciated Ramdev's use of yoga in curing diseases.

'From a philosophical point of view, as a scientist for me it was very interesting how you described curing diseases through yoga,' Grutter said.

Stating that there is no such thing like dogma in science, the professor said: 'Nanotechnology has to be evaluated and seen what are the positive and negative impacts.'

He said in the end it is all about what the society needs.

'Do people want nanoparticles running in their body to cure some cancer or do they not?'

The three-day summit, which concludes Friday is being organised by industry body Assocham.

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NASA Faces Hard Choices on "Essential"

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In its latest issue, and online, Scientific American offers a pair of articles on the "future of space travel," giving a detailed overview of what exactly NASA is doing, and what it has the potential to achieve - if funding and politics allow. They're must reads, for anyone who cares about the agency's future.

NASA, argues the magazine's main piece, is facing a time of radical change, and is experiencing something of an identity crisis. Ambitious goals to launch manned missions to the moon and Mars are cutting into funds for other, critical scientific goals.

From the piece: Essential Things To Do In Space

At the very least the agency is going through its most unsettled period of transition since Nixon shot down the Apollo moon missions 35 years ago.

To a child of the Space Age, books about the solar system from before 1957 are vaguely horrifying. How little people knew. They had no idea of the great volcanoes and canyons of Mars, which make Mount Everest look like a worn hillock and the Grand Canyon like a roadside ditch. They speculated that Venus beneath its clouds was a lush, misty jungle, or maybe a dry, barren desert, or a seltzer water ocean, or a giant tar pit-almost everything, it seems, but what it really is: an epic volcanic wasteland, the scene of a Noah's flood in molten rock. Pictures of Saturn were just sad: two fuzzy rings where today we see hundreds of thousands of fine ringlets. The giant planet's moons were gnats, rather than gnarled landscapes of methane lakes and dusty geysers.

All in all, the planets seemed like pretty small places back then, little more than smudges of light. At the same time, Earth seemed a lot larger than it does now. No one had ever seen our planet as a planet: a blue marble on black velvet, coated with a fragile veneer of water and air. No one knew that the moon was born in an impact or that the dinosaurs died in one. No one fully appreciated that humanity was becoming a geologic force in its own right, capable of changing the environment on a global scale. Whatever else the Space Age has done, it has enriched our view of the natural world and given us a perspective that we now take for granted.

"NASA continues to wrestle with its own identity," says Anthony Janetos of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a member of a National Research Council (NRC) panel that scrutinized NASA's Earth observation program. "Is it about exploring space? Is it about human exploration, is it about science, is it about exploring the outer universe, is it about exploring the solar system, is it about the space shuttle and station, is it about understanding this planet?"

The magazine's editors provide a detailed look at five "essential" missions: tracking climate change, monitoring the danger of asteroids' collision with Earth, searching for signs of extraterrestrial organic life, explaining the origin of the planets, and sending a useful probe outside the solar system.
All of these are endangered or underfunded under current plans. The magazine offers an action plan to get each one back on track. For anyone who's wondered exactly what NASA's core business ought to be, this is essential reading.

Earlier this week, I complained here that NASA Administrator Michael Griffin wasn't providing the kind of visionary, charismatic leadership needed at a time when we're on the verge of revolutionary progress in our public and private space programs. This article shows in part why - he has too many things on his hands, missions that compete for resources, and an uncertain mandate for his agency.

However, the magazine gives Griffin credit for his political helmsmanship.

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin is steering a slow but steady course that he argues can be sustained on a limited budget-an approach that many commentators wish his predecessors had pursued 30 years ago.

More >>>

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Malaysian Islamic body rules on how to pray, wash and die in space : Malaysian 'Gagarin' hopes to observe Ramadan fast in space

24hoursnews - Malaysia's first astronaut will blast off into space next month armed with guidelines from Muslim authorities on how to pray, wash and even be "buried" in space.

Two Malaysian candidates, a doctor and an army dentist who are both Muslims, are undergoing training in Russia with the winner expected to be announced on Friday, ahead of the 11-day space mission which starts on October 10.

Other Muslims have ventured into space, but none during the fasting month of Ramadan which began last week, and Malaysia's Department of Islamic Development (JAKIM) is hopeful the astronaut will choose to fast during his voyage.

"Conditions at the International Space Station which are so different from those on earth are not a hindrance for the astronaut to fulfil his obligations as a Muslim," it said in a 20-page booklet.

"In difficult conditions, Islam has conveniences to ensure that religious worship can still be performed."

Because the space station circles the Earth 16 times a day, theoretically a Muslim would have to pray 80 times a day while staying there.

But the guidelines stipulate that the astronaut need only pray five times a day, just as on Earth, and that the times should follow the location where the spacecraft blasted off from -- in this case, Baikonur in Russia.

In the unlikely event the Muslim astronaut dies in space, the religious directives said his body should be brought back to Earth for the usual burial rituals. If that's not possible, he should be "interred" in Space after a brief ceremony, though the guidelines failed to explain how that should be done.

The booklet covers Islamic washing rituals required before prayer, saying that if water is not available the astronaut can symbolically "sweep holy dust" onto the face and hands "even if there is no dust" in the space station.

There are also suggestions on how to pray in a zero-gravity environment.

"During the prayer ritual, if you can't stand up straight, you can hunch. If you can't stand, you can sit. If you can't sit, you should lie down," according to the booklet.

Muslims are required to eat food that is halal, which rules out pork and its by-products, alcohol and animals not slaughtered according to Koranic procedures are forbidden -- but again in Space there is flexibility.

"If it is doubtful that the food has been prepared in the halal manner, you should eat just enough to ward off hunger," the booklet said.

JAKIM said it held a conference with the Malaysian National Space Agency last year to identify the issues and problems facing a Muslim astronaut, and compiled the results in the booklet released earlier this year.

Malaysia's would-be astronauts were chosen from thousands of hopefuls in a nationwide contest.

The project was conceived in 2003 when Russia agreed to send a Malaysian to the space station as part of a billion-dollar purchase of 18 Sukhoi 30-MKM fighter jets.

Malaysian 'Gagarin' hopes to observe Ramadan fast in space

Malaysia's soon-to-be first astronaut Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor said on Thursday he hoped to fast aboard the International Space Station as he visits there in the holy month of Ramadan.

Muszaphar, who is expected to travel to the ISS aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket on October 10, acknowledged that following the normal prayer regime might be difficult, but said that Islam was a "lenient" religion and compatible with space travel.

"Of course if we can't do our responsibilities in space we're allowed to do it when we come back. But as a Muslim I do hope to do my responsibilities. I do hope to fast in space," he told journalists at Russia's Star City training centre outside Moscow.

"Islam is very lenient. If I can't fast in space I can always come back and do it at a later time, but I will discuss it in detail with my commander," he said.

Muszaphar, a 35-year-old doctor and part-time model, has been training at Star City for a year alongside reserve candidate Faiz Khaleed, 27.

He will visit the ISS with professional Russian cosmonaut Yury Malenchenko and American Peggy Whitson, spending nine days there before returning to Earth with the current crew.

Before the voyage, Malaysia's Department of Islamic Development issued a 20-page book of guidelines on observing Ramadan in space.

Otherwise, because the space station circles the Earth 16 times a day, a Muslim would theoretically have to pray 80 times a day.

The guidelines stipulate that the astronaut need only pray five times a day, just as on Earth, and that the times should follow the location from which the spacecraft blasted off -- in this case, the Baikonur launch pad.

Muszaphar said he had been inspired by the example of the first ever man in space, Russian Yury Gagarin, and hoped to capture the enthusiasm of other Malaysians, helped by a tele-conference and a radio link-up with students.

"I'm hoping to become like Yury Gagarin. I remember when I was a child I read a lot about him. He has inspired me so much in my life," he said.

"I do hope to become like Yury Gagarin and to spark an interest among the Malaysian people, especially school children."

The booklet of Islamic guidelines that has been issued covers among other things washing rituals required before prayer, saying that if water is not available the astronaut can symbolically "sweep holy dust" onto the face and hands "even if there is no dust" in the space station.

There are also suggestions on how to pray in a zero-gravity environment.

"During the prayer ritual, if you can't stand up straight, you can hunch. If you can't stand, you can sit. If you can't sit, you should lie down," it says.

And in the unlikely event of a Muslim astronaut's death, the body should be brought back to Earth for burial, failing which it should be "interred" in Space after a brief ceremony. No details of this are given.

The project to send a Malaysian to space was conceived in 2003 when Russia agreed to send a Malaysian to the ISS as part of Malaysia's billion-dollar purchase of 18 Sukhoi 30-MKM fighter jets.

Russia has taken a series of "space tourists" to the ISS, mostly businesspeople who have typically paid about 20 million dollars (14 million euros).

However Muszaphar said he was planning to help with scientific experiments.

Among other things the Soyuz will be taking cancer cells into space to study the effect on them of the weightless environment.

Muszaphar added that he would be taking some Malaysian food with him to treat fellow crew members: "We've made sure it's not very spicy so the Russians can eat it very well," he said.

Whitson, a biochemist who has previously spent six months on the ISS, said she looked forward to work on expanding the interior of the ISS after recent structural changes.

She said she would first be joining October 4 celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Soviet Union's Sputnik space programme, marking the first time a man-made object orbited the earth.

"It's why we're going to space. I really recognise that the 50-year Sputnik anniversary is important to the whole world, not just to Russia," she said.

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New range of phones with HSDPA connectivity and 8GB storage out-of-box are on the horizon. No WiMAX phones yet, though.

Sprint's aging EV-DO network has no future, so the carrier is forced to roll out a more capable network infrastructure in order to continue being a major player. At a recent event, Sprint made it clear to us that they will roll out a WiMAX network, and a range of manufacturers will release products soon.

Verizon Wireless, which is in the same position as Sprint, has chosen Qualcomm's MediaFLO network solution in order to get a more capable multimedia network rolled out. On the other hand, Verizon Wireless also seems determined to compete with Google when it comes to rolling out a new nationwide network from scratch. Nevertheless, the status of Verizon Wireless' multimedia services as of today isn't much to brag about, so the carrier may be forced to walk down the WiMAX road as well to ensure their customer base stays intact.

In terms of officially announced handsets, AT&T's HSDPA network seems to have a bright future though. T-Mobile is also planning on rolling out a HSDPA network, but on a different frequency. As such, most of the currently hottest upcoming phones will only work on AT&T's HSDPA network. However, we expect to see a range of WiMAX and MediaFLO handsets being announced later this fall.

HP iPAQ 512 Voice Messenger- Overview:Overview

The HP iPAQ Voice Messenger offers professionals a powerful, easy-to-use Smartphone that combines the mobility of a cell phone, the capability of a handheld organizer, contact of a push e-mail device, and the power of an office phone system.


• Work in motion. Take your office on the road with productivity applications and the office functionality of mobile versions of Windows. Get to your most important Smartphone tasks quickly and easily with personalized shortcuts.

• Speak your mind. Voice Commander provides your own personal Voice Valet. Use spoken commands to perform a multitude of tasks. Have e-mails read to you and reply without typing. Dial a contact by name or digits. Get appointments read to you.

• Talk for hours - With hours of talk time, there is less to lose from dropped conversations. Save your wireless airtime minutes while in the office with VoIP (Voice Over IP) over your company's wireless LAN (WiFi) and PBX phone system.

• Protect your mobile work. Outlook security helps keep e-mail and other documents secure. Remotely erase data on lost or misplaced devices. iPAQ persistent storage helps protect your data, settings, and installed applications.

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BAE Systems has won a £4.4 billion contract to supply Eurofighters to Saudi Arabia

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BAE Systems, Europe's largest defence company, has won a £4.4 billion contract to supply Eurofighters to Saudi Arabia, despite failing to agree terms for a reciprocal investment in the kingdom.

The contract for 72 Typhoons is one of the largest defence export orders to have been won by a British company and will be worth an estimated £20 billion over the lifetime of the aircraft.

The Saudis signed the contract last week, although they have not reached an agreement with BAE on the level of investment that the company will make in the kingdom manufacturing and maintaining the Typhoons. Negotiations on the "Saudification" of the £60 million aircraft will continue in the coming months.

The Times reported on September 7 that the contract had been sent to Saudi Arabia and that King Abdullah was expected to sign the historic agreement within a week.

A Saudi defence official confirmed yesterday that the contract was signed on September 11 and initially is worth £4.43 billion. The contract will be called Project Salam, or al-Salam, meaning "peace".

The initial contract will be supplemented with a further order for armaments and weapons systems estimated to be worth £5 billion.

The Saudis are expected to spend a further £10 billion on maintenance, training and support for the aircraft.

The first 24 Typhoons will be built at BAE's factory at Warton, Lancashire, and the remaining jets are likely to be assembled in Saudi Arabia. BAE already employs 4,600 people in the kingdom, but negotiations on how much more the company will invest to build and support the Typhoons are yet to be finalised.

Confirmation that the Saudis have signed the Typhoon contract ends concerns that a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into BAE's earlier dealings with the Saudis could derail the sale.

The SFO was looking into allegations of corruption and bribery in the al-Yamamah contracts. The Saudis threatened to cancel the Typhoon order and withdraw anti-terrorism co-operation if the SFO pressed ahead with requests to examine the Swiss bank accounts of members of the royal family. The British Government ended the SFO investigation last December.

The deal was held up again this year when the Saudis decided to wait for Gordon Brown to become Prime Minister. They wanted the new British leader to endorse the deal personally as a sign of renewed co-operation between the two nations.

This is understood to have held up completion of the deal in recent weeks, but the Saudis went on with signing rather than risk having to renegotiate the whole deal.

In a statement to the Stock Exchange, the defence group said: "BAE welcomes this important milestone in its strategy to continue to develop Saudi Arabia as a key home market with substantial employment and investment in future in-kingdom industrial capability."

The deal will be a significant boost to the company after a year in which it has faced allegations of corruption in other defence contracts.

Howard Wheeldon, senior strategist at BGC Partners, the brokerage firm, said: "This marks a new era in the UK-Saudi relationship and BAE will be the major beneficiary. It is good for BAE, but it is also good for the Saudis, as they get some of the best equipment in the world."

Al-Salam is the successor to the massive al-Yamamah contract agreed by the Thatcher Government in the 1980s. The deal to supply Saudi Arabia with Tornado fighter jets has been worth more than £43 billion to BAE since it was signed in 1984 and is the largest export order won by a British company.

Eurofighter, which is a collaboration between the British, German, Italian and Spanish governments, has won only one previous export order, of 18 aircraft to Austria.

More about BAE system.

BAE Systems is a global company engaged in the development, delivery and support of advanced defence and aerospace systems in the air, on land and at sea.

Major operations across five continents, with customers and partners in more than 100 countries.

Contacts :

BAE system

Australia + 61 (0) 8 8480 888
Saudi Arabia KSAR + 44 (0)1772 854705
Sweden BOFORS + 46 (0)586 733 000
Sweden Hagglunds + 46 (0)660 800 00
Sweden C-ITS + 46 (0)852 802 600
UK + 44 (0)1252 37 3232
US + 001 301 838 6000

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Wi-Fi phones - Nokia 6301 - Nokia launches 6301 Wi-Fi phone

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Nokia today revealed a new phone that will allow users to switch from traditional mobile networks to make calls over the internet when they are in reach of a wireless network such as a Wi-Fi hotspot.

The 6301 is the latest handset to use unlicensed mobile access (UMA) technology, which allows users to switch between GSM cellular and WLAN networks. Nokia said the new model, which will be available through operators including Orange, would begin shipping in Europe in the fourth quarter of this year. It will cost an estimated €230 (£161), before subsidies and taxes.

Interest in UMA has been steadily building this year, especially in the US, as mobile operators face increased competition from free and low-cost internet telephony services such as Skype.

Earlier this month, Research in Motion, the company behind the BlackBerry mobile e-mail service, released a new UMA handset in the US with AT&T, the US operator.

Also in the US, T-Mobile recently unveiled a new service where customers pay $10 a month, on top of their regular payments, which allows them to make calls through a Wi-Fi network when they are at home and through T-Mobile hotspots in locations such as cafes and airport lounges.

In particular, mobile operators are keen to tap into the large numbers of phone calls people make using their mobiles at home.

According to Ovum, the marker researcher, in Europe 30 to 40 per cent of mobile calls are made within the home. That figure rises as high as 60 per cent in the United States.

Jeremy Green, an analyst for Ovum, the researchers, said: "Fixed-mobile convergence is one of the hottest topics in the mobile industry, even though the benefits of UMA for consumers are not yet clear."

Alongside UMA, operators including Vodafone, the world's largest, are also testing femtocell technology, small indoor versions of the large phone towers that link up national mobile networks. Commercial versions of the technology are slated to be rolled out next year.

ABI Research forecasts that about 70 million femtocells will be installed in homes around the world by 2012. Groups funding femtocell start-ups include Google, the search giant, and Intel, the world's largest microchip maker.

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Switching automatically between GSM and Wi-Fi networks, the Nokia 6301 will soon ship in Europe.

With a sleek stainless steel design, the Nokia 6301 phone launched today offers seamless voice and data mobility across GSM cellular and Wi-Fi networks via Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) technology. The Nokia 6301 phone uses UMA technology to integrate the benefits of landline and a mobile phone, including seamless indoor coverage, sound quality and affordability.

With UMA technology, the consumer can use the GSM network or a broadband Internet-connected Wi-Fi network for mobile services. This is supposed to ensure excellent indoor coverage both at office and home. European carrier Orange will be one of the first carriers to offer the Nokia 6301.

Weighing a mere 93 grams and measuring 106 by 44 by 13 mm, the Nokia 6301 also offers a 2-megapixel camera and a 2" QVGA screen, as well as Bluetooth support and microSD memory slot. Running on GSM 900/1800/1900 MHz networks, the Nokia 6301 will likely not appear in the U.S.

The Nokia 6301 will begin shipping in Europe during the fourth quarter of 2007 with an estimated retail price of 230 euros before subsidies or taxes.

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Technology war - IBM, Google take aim at Microsoft's Office .

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The tanks on Microsoft's lawn are growing in number and firepower.

Never mind the brutal verdict handed out against Microsoft by Europe's competition regulator on Monday. This week three rivals - IBM, Google and Yahoo! - gave notice of their intentions to compete head-on with Microsoft Office, recently the software giant's biggest earner by far. The stalwart suite of office tools, which includes Word and Excel, accounted for revenues of $4.6 billion - a third of Microsoft total sales - in the company's most recently reported quarter.

Gallingly for Microsoft, given its dependence on Office licence fees, much of the threat comes from software given away gratis over the internet - a dramatic departure from its licence-based model, in which software is hosted on a user's desktop machine.

IBM this week unveiled Lotus Symphony, a suite of free desktop applications that includes document, spreadsheet and presentation software.Hours earlier, the newly acquisitive Yahoo! announced that it had bought Zimbra, a start-up that specialises in online e-mail tools similar to Microsoft Exchange and Outlook - key parts of the Office family - for $350 million (£174 million).

At the same time, on the paid-for-software front, Google, the search giant widely regarded as the chief threat to Microsoft's dominance, unveiled Google Presentations, an online version of PowerPoint, the Microsoft presentations tool known to millions of executives around the globe.

Microsoft is in danger of loosing the Office licence fees it has milked for nearly two decades, some suggest, as customers opt for alternative subscription-based services that are hosted by providers. Its business model - built around the PC - will not survive the internet age, they argue.

"Recent moves from Google and Yahoo! prove that the Internet is the only way forward for business," said Lindsey Armstrong, co-president of in Europe, one of the leaders of a new generation of internet-enabled "software as a service" (SaaS) companies.

"Companies don't want to buy and maintain the stack of software that the likes of Microsoft force on them.

"They want innovation, not infrastructure - why bother with costly implementations when you can subscribe to business applications in the same way that you do for other utilities like water and electricity? It's the end of software - the tides are changing and Microsoft is losing its hold."

Those sniping at Microsoft may have a point. Google's new tool, for instance, will be wrapped into Google's Premier Apps, a bundle of Office-type applications that already includes an online word processor, spreadsheet and e-mail, which compete with Microsoft Word, Excel and Outlook, respectively.

"This constitutes a real threat to Microsoft's business model," Tom Austin, of Gartner, the technology analysts, told The Times ahead of the Premier Apps launch earlier this year. "Eventually, it will have to switch from limited-use licences to software as a service. That will require a fundamental re-engineering." Kyle Mcnabb, the Forrester analyst, said: "Microsoft will have to move away from licences, but not overnight. The new players still have to earn trust and there are questions over whether new [SaaS services] will work with the way people work."

Microsoft's competitors are slowly gaining traction. Underscoring its ambitions, Google last week forged a tie-up with Capgemini, the IT outsourcer, which will make its Apps products available on one million corporate desktops.

But Google needed a boost. It says that Premier Apps, which users access over the internet and which costs $50 (£25) a year per user, has been signing up more than 1,000 small businesses a day and has been adopted by more than 100,000 firms.

Microsoft, meanwhile, can point an estimated 500 million users of Office. The latest version, Office 2007 - launched, somewhat confusingly, in November 2006 - has outpaced Office 2003 in terms of initial sales, the company claims. Since April, it has sold 71 million Office 2007 licences.

Microsoft is not ignoring the shifting environment. But it isn't buying into the "end of software" line either.

"We think the future is going to be software plus services," Darren Strange, senior product manager for Microsoft Office, said. "There are some things which thick client [Microsoft's favoured model, where PCs are linked to a central server but can operate independently] is better at than [web-based services] - offline use being a big one.

"You also can't create the richness of an application like Word through a thin client [where a user's PC is effectively a dumb terminal and the processing of data is done elsewhere]".

Mr Mcnabb said that the software plus services model "is credible". Companies such as Google "are yet to really understand what big businesses need," he added, though web-based services do offer firms the ability to include more employees - factory floor workers, for instance - under their "IT umbrellas" because of their flexibility and ease of deployment.

Microsoft executives also point to the strategic direction for their company envisaged by Ray Ozzie, the group's chief software architect - Bill Gates's old job title. Tellingly, Mr Ozzie, the inventor of Lotus Notes, was brought to Microsoft when the software giant acquired his company, Groove Networks, which specialises in "collaboration software for ad-hoc workgroups", in 2005.

Microsoft wasted no time in stressing that Groove's "virtual office" software would be incorporated into its own Office line.

"Ray shapes the way we go," Mr Strange said. "Our smartest people are looking at mash-ups [where several online tools are fused together to create new ones] and web 2.0-type applications [which focus on online tools that allow users to collaborate and share information]".

Analysts agree that Mr Ozzie is key to Microsoft's future, but warn against anybody underestimating the task before him. Mr Mcnabb said: "Ray Ozzie is instrumental, but he has a tough job. Microsoft is a behemoth and he has to get all the arms pointing in one direction."

Mr Strange also concedes that Microsoft is not about to turn on a sixpence - and greater agility is one of the capabilities often cited by pure SaaS players such as "When you have 500 million customers using a product you have to look hard at how you introduce change," he says.

More bad news for Microsoft. A day after it was slapped with a damaging anti-trust ruling in the European Union, the software giant is facing increased competition for its Office suite cash.

On Tuesday, Google and IBM both announced that they are intensifying efforts to challenge Microsoft's Office suite, which dominates the market for productivity software on office and home computers.

IBM announced the release of Lotus Symphony, a portfolio of free software tools for creating and sharing documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

Made up of Lotus Symphony Documents, Lotus Symphony Spreadsheets and Lotus Symphony Presentations, the tools support Windows and Linux desktops and are designed to handle the majority of office tasks that workers typically perform.

Lotus Symphony also supports multiple file formats including Microsoft Office and ODF (Open Document Format), and can also output content in the popular PDF format.

"IBM is committed to opening office desktop productivity applications just as we helped open enterprise computing with Linux," Steve Mills, senior vice president of IBM Software Group, said in a statement.

"The lifeblood of any organisation is contained in thousands of documents. When those documents are based on proprietary software, only future versions of the same software will be able to access that intelligence," he said.

"This dynamic forces companies to keep paying licence and maintenance fees to the same vendor for a basic commodity. Now businesses can unlock their critical office information free of the costs and controls of any vendor."

Google added to Microsoft's woes with a new presentation feature for its popular Google Docs applications suite. Designed to compete with Microsoft's Power Point, the new feature allows presentations to be edited collaboratively in real time.

Users can follow along as a presenter goes through a slideshow, while they chat via Google Talk. The presentation feature is available in 25 languages.

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E. Coli Fears Trigger Nine-State Lettuce Recall

E. Coli Fears Trigger Nine-State Lettuce RecallSPONSERED BY

The Dole lettuce recall, issued Monday, affects all packages of Hearts Delight sold in the United States and Canada with a "best if used by" date of September 19, 2007, and a production code of "A24924A" or "A24924B." The romaine, green leaf and butter lettuce hearts that went into the blend were grown in California, Colorado and Ohio.

A package of Dole salad mix that tested positive for E. coli has triggered a recall in at least nine states, prompting new produce fears almost exactly a year after a nationwide spinach scare.

The tainted bag of Dole's Hearts Delight salad mix was sold at a store in Canada, officials said. Neither Canadian health officials nor Dole Food Co. have received reports of anyone getting sick from the product.

The voluntary recall, issued Monday, affects all packages of Hearts Delight sold in the United States and Canada with a "best if used by" date of September 19, 2007, and a production code of "A24924A" or "A24924B," the company said.

Last year, an E. coli outbreak traced to bagged baby spinach sold under the Dole brand was blamed for the deaths of three people and for sickening hundreds more across the U.S. Authorities ultimately identified a central California cattle ranch next to spinach fields belonging to one of Dole's suppliers as being the source of the bacteria.

The latest recall affects packages sold in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime Provinces in Canada and in Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee starting around Sept. 8, said Marty Ordman, a Dole spokesman.

Eighty-eight cases -- or 528 bags -- were distributed in Canada, and 755 cases containing 4,530 bags were distributed in the U.S., he said. FDA spokesman Michael Herndon said the agency was talking with Westlake Village, Calif.-based Dole about the situation.

The romaine, green leaf and butter lettuce hearts that went into the blend were grown in California, Colorado and Ohio, then processed at Dole's plant in Springfield, Ohio, on Sept. 6, according to Ordman.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said it would be looking to find out at what point the salad blend became contaminated and to see if any other products are affected, spokesman Garfield Balsom said. "We'll go back and find the origins and determine where the product was produced and packaged," Balsom said.

Dole contacted the FDA on Sunday night, as soon as the company got word of the contaminated bag of salad in Canada, said Ordman. "They have been to our plant and they will visit the growers," he said.

The salad mix subject to the recall may have been available in the U.S. in states other than the nine already identified by Dole because in some areas the product was distributed by a wholesaler with clients in overlapping markets, Ordman said.

Food contaminated with this strain of E. coli may not look or smell spoiled but health officials say the bacteria can cause life-threatening illnesses.

Symptoms include severe abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea; some people can have seizures or strokes and some may need blood transfusions and kidney dialysis, while others may live with permanent kidney damage.

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U.N. Chief Urges Action on Climate

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The science is clear and the time short, but the political will is lacking to confront global warming, the U.N. secretary-general said Tuesday.
Ban Ki-moon said he hoped next Monday's "climate summit" here will help galvanize leaders to take action "before it is too late."

Asked at a news conference about President Bush's planned separate meeting to discuss global warming measures among a handful of countries later next week, the U.N. chief said Bush assured him it would be coordinated with the established U.N. process of negotiating climate treaty commitments among all nations.

The U.S. administration rejects treaty obligations, such as the Kyoto Protocol, to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. Bush favors voluntary reductions instead.

Of the Washington meeting, Ban told reporters, "We welcome individual measures and initiatives by many countries, but all these measures and initiatives should fit into the (U.N.) process."

He said about 80 heads of state and government would be among the 154 participants at Monday's all-day climate discussion. It isn't designed as a negotiation, but to send "a strong political message at the leaders' level for the climate change negotiations in Bali meeting in December," Ban said, referring to the annual U.N. climate treaty conference.

Bush isn't listed among participants in the day's events, although the U.S. Mission to the United Nations said he will join in the summit dinner that evening.

In a series of major reports this year, a U.N.-sponsored scientific network said unabated global warming, potentially raising average temperatures by several degrees, would produce a far different planet by 2100 -- from rising seas, drought and other factors. The scientists said animal and plant life was already being disrupted.

"The science has made it quite clear, and we have been feeling the impacts of global warming already clearly," Ban said. "We have resources . We have technology. The only (thing) lacking is political will. Before it is too late, we must take action."

The Kyoto Protocol, a 1997 annex to a 1992 U.N. climate treaty, requires 35 industrialized nations to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by, on average, 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. Talks at Bali are intended to launch negotiations on a similar regime of mandatory cutbacks for the post-2012 period.

Bush has rejected Kyoto and signals no new readiness to accept such mandates. He complains that the 1997 agreement, under which European and other nations are reducing power plant and industrial emissions, would damage the U.S. economy and should have been imposed on China and other poorer nations that are exempt.

The meeting Bush has called for Sept. 27-28 in Washington, involving major industrial nations and a few developing countries, including China and India, is expected to focus on "goals," not obligations, for reducing climate-altering emissions. Some environmentalists accuse him of trying to subvert the U.N. treaty process with the separate talks.

"If President Bush's idea of initiating new, parallel talks between just a few countries is just an effort to derail these ongoing talks, then the other countries participating in the talks should not allow this to happen," said London-based biologist Saleemul Huq, a lead author of this year's U.N. climate studies.

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NASA Caps Cost for Mars Rover Sensor

NASA Caps Cost for Mars Rover Sensorsponsored by

NASA has capped funding for a remote sensor being developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory for the Mars Science Laboratory rover.

"We didn't stop their work, but they're vastly overpriced and we have not been able to curtail that," said Alan Stern, head of science at NASA in Washington, D.C.

NASA told the project "you have to finish with the money you have," Stern said Tuesday.

The remote-sensing laser instrument known as ChemCam is 70 percent over the original price proposed, he said.

Roger Wiens, principle investigator for ChemCam, said last week the sensor is more than 90 percent complete. A French company has delivered the laser, which has been under testing for several months, he said.

Stern said that if the project cannot finish with the money it has, it might be able to find funds elsewhere. But, he said, "I'm out of resources."

The lab was chosen in 2004 to develop the instrument to accompany the mobile laboratory, which will look for environments that can support life on the surface of Mars.

ChemCam is to be delivered to the spacecraft late next spring, Stern said. The launch is two years away, said Stern, associate administrator for NASA's science mission directorate.

"We have missions that get into trouble," he said. "This is the third time this mission has needed more money, and we could not pay all the bills."

One way to cut costs was to cap ChemCam, he said.

Most of the instruments for the Mars mission are ready and within budget, "but this one and a couple of others aren't, and we had to treat them all similarly," Stern said.

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Space Based Solar Power Fuels Vision of Global Energy Security

Space Based Solar Power Fuels Vision of Global Energy Security sponsered link

The deployment of space platforms that capture sunlight for beaming down electrical power to Earth is under review by the Pentagon, as a way to offer global energy and security benefits - including the prospect of short-circuiting future resource wars between increasingly energy-starved nations.

A proposal is being vetted by U.S. military space strategists that 10 percent of the U.S. baseload of energy by 2050, perhaps sooner, could be produced by space based solar power (SBSP). Furthermore, a demonstration of the concept is being eyed to occur within the next five to seven years.

A mix of advocates, technologists and scientists, as well as legal and policy experts, took part in Space Based Solar Power - Charting a Course for Sustainable Energy, a meeting held here September 6-7 and sponsored by the United States Air Force Academy's Eisenhower Center for Space and Defense Studies and the Pentagon's National Security Space Office.

Energy from space: Tangible commodity

"I truly believe that space based solar power will become the first sellable, tradable commodity that's delivered by space that everybody on the planet can have part of," said Colonel (Select) Michael Smith, Chief, Future Concepts in the National Security Space Office and director of the SBSP study. To bolster such a vision, establishing a partnership of government, commercial and international entities is under discussion, he added, to work on infrastructure development that, ultimately, culminates in the fielding of space based solar power.

The U.S. Department of Defense has an "absolute urgent need for energy," Smith said, underscoring the concern that major powers around the world - not just the United States - could end up in a major war of attrition in the 21st century. "We've got to make sure that we alleviate the energy concerns around the globe," he said.

"Energy may well be the first tangible commodity returned from space," said Joseph Rouge, Associate Director of the National Security Space Office. "Geopolitics in general is going to be a large issue. I don't think there's any question that energy is going to be one of the key next issues, along with water ... that's going to be the competition we're going to fight."

Rouge said that moving out on the proposed SBSP effort would be the largest space venture yet, making the Apollo Moon landing project "look like just a small little program." As a caveat, however, he noted that the U.S. Department of Defense is cash-strapped and is not the financial backer for such an endeavor.

"But do look to us to help you develop the technologies and developing a lot of the other infrastructure," Rouge advised, seeing SBSP, for instance, as helping to spur a significant reduction in the cost of routine access to space for the U.S. and its allies.

Trends of concern

There is a compelling argument of synergy between energy security, space security and national security, observed Col. Michael Hornitschek, Co-Chair of the National Security Space Office Architecture Study on Space Based Solar Power.

Hornitschek flagged "trends of concern" in dealing with the world-wide energy challenge, citing global population and escalating energy demands, as well as the portent of climate change. He also referred to U.S. loss in global market share and leadership, in addition to declines in research and development investments and a skilled workforce.

Although space based solar power has been studied since the 1970s - by the Department of Energy, NASA, the European Space Agency, as well as the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency - Hornitschek said that the idea has generally "fallen between the cracks" because no organization is responsible for both space programs and energy security.

Over the last few decades, the march of technology useful to SBSP has been significant, said Neville Marzwell, Manager of Advanced Concepts and Technology Innovation at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

"We have made tremendous progress in technology from 1977 to 2007," Marzwell reported. He pointed to advances in micro and nano-electronics, lightweight inflatable composite structures, ultra-small power management devices, as well as laboratory demonstration of photovoltaic arrays that are close to 68 percent conversion efficiency.

Still, there's work to be done, Marzwell emphasized, specifically in wireless power beaming. By modularizing SBSP platforms, the work can start small and foster batch production to keep price per unit costs down while evolving a bigger energy market, he said.

Home run kind of situation

Overall, pushing forward on SBSP "is a complex problem and one that lends itself to a wide variety of competing solutions," said John Mankins, President of Artemis Innovation Management Solutions, LLC, in Ashburn, Virginia.

"There's a whole range of science and technology challenges to be pursued. New knowledge and new systems concepts are needed in order to enable space based solar power. But there does not appear, at least at present, that there are any fundamental physical barriers," Mankins explained.

Peter Teets, Distinguished Chair of the Eisenhower Center for Space and Defense Studies, said that SBSP must be economically viable with those economics probably not there today. "But if we can find a way with continued technology development ... and smart moves in terms of development cycles to bring clean energy from space to the Earth, it's a home run kind of situation," he told attendees of the meeting.

"It's a noble effort," Teets told Space News. There remain uncertainties in SBSP, including closure on a business case for the idea, he added.

"I think the Air Force has a legitimate stake in starting it. But the scale of this project is going to be enormous. This could create a new agency ... who knows? It's going to take the President and a lot of political will to go forward with this," Teets said.

Demonstration via satellite

As current director of the SBSP study for the National Security Space Office, Smith said that demonstrations of beamed energy from space - utilizing both breadboard lab tests and by using space assets - are vital. One possibility is to extrapolate meaningful lessons from signal transmissions by already orbiting communication satellites, he said, be they U.S. assets or experiments done with partners elsewhere around the world.

An orbiting SBSP demonstration spacecraft must be a useful tool, Smith added, to deliver energy while retiring science questions and identifying risk areas for next phase SBSP development. Conceptually, a locale to receive test broadcasts of beamed energy from space could be Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada, he noted.

Mankins told Space News that the International Space Station could also be a venue from which to conduct a whole range of in-space SBSP-related experiments on relevant component technologies or subsystem technologies. "The space station is perfect for that," he said, perhaps making use of Japan's still-to-be-lofted experiment module, Kibo, and its Exposed Facility located outside of the pressurized module.

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'Pulp-based computing' makes normal paper smart

Pulp-based computing' makes normal paper smart

Boxes that sense the weight of their contents and books that talk back when pages are turned could be developed using technology being tested by researchers at MIT in the US.

They are making paper with wires, sensors, and computer chips embedded, a technology dubbed 'Pulp-based' computing.

Marcelo Coelho, now at MIT's Media Lab in Boston, US, presented progress on the project this week at the International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing in Innsbruck, Austria.

Swedish researchers have previously used a slightly different technique have made interactive paper for billboard adverts.

Other research groups are also working on so-called electronic paper - flexible displays designed to make computer screens more like traditional paper. But Coelho and Patti Maes at MIT and colleagues at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, are instead blending traditional paper-making skills with electronic components (see a video of the production process and some applications).

Although paper-making is an ancient process, "only now we have developed the material technology to make paper sheets that are responsive and interactive," says Coelho.

Conductive ink

To make electronically-enhanced paper the team produces a layer of paper pulp and lays down wires or patterns of conductive ink on top. Adding another layer of pulp, pressing and drying it leaves electronics embedded within the paper.

This can give the paper a range of new abilities. For example, a spiral of conductive ink can act as either a speaker or a touch sensor, the researchers show. Watch this video clip to see paper speakers, LEDs and sensors in action.

Current running through the speaker spiral makes the paper vibrate and produce sound. The quality is not yet good enough to produce speech, but Coelho says it "works well enough for feedback sounds and simple melodies."

The same spirals can also work as sensors to detect the touch or proximity of a finger, using the same technology behind laptop touch-pads. Touching the paper or holding a hand close to its surface changes the way electricity flows through the spiral.

Bend sensor

Adding two layers of conductive ink allows the paper to sense when it bends. If incorporated in a book, such pages "could play sounds or light up as they are turned, supporting more interactive forms of storytelling," Coelho suggests. They could also allow cardboard boxes to sense the weight inside them by measuring the stresses on their walls, he adds.

"The advantage of paper over other materials is that we can make interactive objects that still look and behave like paper," Coelho says. People can interact with pulp-based computers as they would with paper, he adds, folding or writing on it, or even ripping it up.

Jean-Baptiste Labrune of the University of Paris-Sud in Orsay, France, says pulp-based computing could be useful.

"Paper-based computation is an expression of one future area for electronics - flexible and stretchable circuits," Labrune adds. "This means that we could think about computational objects without the traditional limits of electronics."


Smart Paper

One of the outstanding products of TL8 science is Smart Paper, a material that looks and feels very much like thick, glossy paper, but is actually a controllable display surface. It combines the advantages of paper and screen, and has countless applications. There are several ways to make Smart Paper. Some manufacturers use thousands of tiny spheres with one dark and one bright hemisphere embedded between thin polymer foils, others make sheets out of crystal particles that can assume a certain color and level of brightness and maintain it without power.

There are two versions of Smart Paper: Normal and Advanced.

Normal Smart Paper is early TL8 and cannot change very quickly. Its surface can change many times per second, but not quick enough for video applications. The resolution of Normal Smart Paper is equal to that of a 20th century newspaper.

Normal Smart Paper has only very crude sensors to detect stylus movements on its surface. It can function as a simple touch screen, but writing can only be recognized with a Smart Pen, and it does not react very quickly. Users scribble on a small writing pad at the bottom of the page, which offers a quicker response.

Advanced Smart Paper is available at late TL8 or early TL9. Its resolution is like that of a modern high-quality art book, and it can change so quickly that it can be used to display video images in perfect quality.

Advanced Smart Paper has a fine latticework of sensors that can detect the movements on a stylus with a special electrically conductive tip (a dozen cost $50) or a Smart Pen. The overall quality of handwriting recognition depends on the Computer attached to the Smart Paper sheet. See Handwriting Recognition below.

Smart paper requires only minute amounts of energy, and all this comes from a tiny solar cell in one of the corners of a page or on the cover. Smart Paper can maintain its content without energy, but the quality of the image degrades after a few months. GMs take note: The good old barely-legible treasure map, the mainstay of many adventure stories, makes its comeback in the computer age as Smart Paper that has been in a dark corner for too long.

Smart Paper Products

Smart paper is available in several forms. The GM should use this list only as a rough set of guidelines, as the possibilities are endless. All Smart Paper items can be mistaken for normal paper, and are normally clearly marked with logos or colorful borders to prevent accidental destruction.

Datacloth (p. UTII32) is a single sheet of Advanced Smart Paper with a set of processors.

Single sheets of Smart Paper cost $5 for a 8" x 11" sheet. A "ring binder" with a reader for small storage media and a cable plug-in Connector that can load data into the pages cost $30 and weighs 1 pound empty. Note that complete books are cheaper because much of the technology can be put into the covers.

A Smart Book is a book whose sheets and cover are Smart Paper. These books have a data cable, but no real processing power. They can be linked to a computer, but the book itself is just a display device. It comes in several sizes:

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Microsoft vs. competition

Losing its appeal of the European antitrust ruling on Monday was just the first piece of bad news for Microsoft this week. On Tuesday, IBM put a selection of office-suite programs up on the Web for free.

Never mind some landmark court decision on the software giant's longstanding practice of "bundling" new features into Windows - a free Internet-based alternative to Microsoft Office is what could really start some temblors over in Redmond, Washington. Next to Windows, Office is Microsoft's biggest revenue source.

IBM's new Lotus Symphony is word-editing, spreadsheet and slide-show programs you can download free from after registering on the site. The programs, which borrow the Lotus brand name from IBM's best-selling commercial software, work on Windows and Linux operating systems, with a Mac OSX version "planned for the future."

Free office-software suites meant to cut in on Microsoft's dominance have been around for almost a decade. But Tuesday's move means three big brand names - IBM, Google and Sun Microsystems - are allied against the Redmond behemoth in this area. Microsoft Office may be entrenched today, but together, IBM, Google and Sun can do a lot of damage - at least as much as the European Commission can.

How did these three companies fall into step on office software? In some ways, they are united by accident, but mostly they are bound by their shared rivalry with Microsoft

The seeds of Lotus Symphony were planted back in 1994 in Lüneburg, Germany, when Marco Börries started developing StarOffice, an integrated package of software applications, at StarDivision, the company he started as a 16-year-old high school dropout. Five years later, Sun Microsystems bought the company, along with Börries, for $73.5 million and gave away the software for free.

Sun released most of the StarOffice source code to the Internet the next year, and that database became the foundation for a free, grass-roots suite of programs called, which Sun heavily supported. Version 2.0 of OpenOffice was released in 2005, and version 2.3.0 is available for free download today at for the Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Solaris and FreeBSD operating systems. (Sun, in the meantime, started selling a version of StarOffice commercially.)

Google entered the picture in 2006, when it bought a start-up Web-based word processor called Writely and used it as the text-editing element of Google Docs & Spreadsheets. Separately, Google offers the StarOffice programs for free downloading as part of its Google Pack of "specifically selected" software (Windows only).

All of these - Google Docs, StarOffice, OpenOffice and Lotus Symphony - can read documents in the Microsoft Word formats, which is the most important feature for consumers and corporate customers. But because their roots are in the open-source community, their specialty is something heavily promoted by IBM called OpenDocument Format, or ODF, whose underlying coding is designed to be "open" to change.

Why give away valuable software?

As Steven Mills, senior vice president of IBM's software group, told The New York Times's Steve Lohr this week, "There is nothing that advances a standard like a product that uses it."

Microsoft, meanwhile, has an "open" format of its own, called Office Open XML. For the moment, it lacks an official designation as an international standard, but it has something ODF doesn't: Microsoft.

With the arrival of Lotus Symphony, consumers get not just a competitor for Microsoft, but competition within the free office software category itself.

So whatever happed to Marco Börries, the wunderkid star of StarOffice? Today, he is one of the top executives at Yahoo - another ally in the brotherhood against Microsoft.

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