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Monday, October 22, 2007

MIT Researcher :Rainbow gel changes color rapidly

Cambridge (24hoursnews) Source tgdaily-

MIT researchers have created a new structured gel that can rapidly change color in response to a variety of stimuli, including temperature, pressure, salt concentration and humidity.

Researchers at MIT have developed a type of layered gel which changes colors very rapidly. The color change extends even beyond the visual spectrum, from 300 nm (ultraviolet) to 1600 nm (infrared) radiation. Changes in pressure, temperature, salinity and humidity alter the color. Scientists believe the gel could be used as a fast acting chemical sensor, one giving visible cues as to the chemical's state.

The gel is a dual polymer thin film comprised of alternating layers of polystyrene and poly-2-vinyl-pyridine (2VP). By varying the thickness of these materials when manufactured, a color base change can be created. The change in material thickness during use due to various stimuli yields the various colors as the reflected light is shifted up and down the spectrum. This effect happens happens physically by varying the charge of nitrogen atoms within the material. The more positive they become the more the material expands and the more the color change is noted

sequence taken from a video. As the dropper releases chemicals onto the material, it goes from red to green to blue, then back to red as another solution is added. The color change effects were about as fast as water from an eye dropper would make the surface of a rock wet.

Because of this reaction, salt ions alter the color, as does the introduction of regular water in varying quantities (even humidity). They change the charge and physically affect the material's thickness in that way. Temperature and pressure also follow Boyle's Law, which states that volume will change predictably as either component is altered. This results in thicker or thinner material and the corresponding color change. By varying the different stimuli, the gel material reacts and changes the original color of the material almost instantly.

A practical example might be food processing plants where salt content, or the food's dryness could be determined rapidly. Changes in air pressure could also be given a visual cure for home use. Multi-readout home weather stations could sport a color changing ball which indicates current local air pressure.

Ned Thomas, Morris Cohen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and head of the department, left, and Joseph Walish, graduate student in materials science and engineering, display a new structured gel that can rapidly change color in response to a variety of stimuli. Photo by Donna Coveney.

It's interesting to note that in June, 2006, some new snake species were discovered in Indonesia's Betung Kerihun National Park. The snakes were reportedly able to change color. They would start with a layered series of red, brown, green and yellow colors, and then turn itself almost completely white in just a few minutes of being exposed to total darkness. Several species of lizards, some other snakes and rare turtles, as well as several octopuses, can change color on demand. Some of these living creatures can even do so almost instantly and with an amazing job of mimicking their surrounding environment. Perhaps these animals have a natural form of the MIT gel?

The team is researching a gel which changes color in response to direct electrical voltages. This work was funded by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and the NSF (National Science Foundation). The research was published by Edwin Thomas, MIT's Morris Cohen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, with work being carried out by his team.

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Sandisk Sansa TakeTV : getting your PC's video content onto your television

Really Exiting

San Jose (24hoursnews) - Sandisk, best known for its USB flash drives and low-cost MP3 players, has announced that its next project will be a portable media hub that users can use to transfer video from a PC to a TV.
Now that the wireless and streaming media extender market is starting to take root, SanDisk has a thought: "What's so great about wireless?" The company is taking a different, simpler approach to getting your PC's video content onto your television: a USB drive that plugs into a dock that connects to your television. And loading the device is as simple as dragging and dropping files onto the drive. Forget about HD content, surround (or even 2.1-channel) sound, or a ton of storage space. The TakeTV is pretty inexpensive, though-$100 for 4G of storage and $150 for 8GB-compared with Apple TV's entry-level price of $300. For those who don't do iTunes (or even those who like the selection at, SanDisk's source for video content), the TakeTV is a cheap, simple, and quick way to get content from your PC to your TV.

TakeTV's minimalist design won't blow your mind, but it won't eat up a lot of desk or table space, either. When the removable USB drive is plugged into the powered dock (which connects via cables to your television), the unit is roughly 5.6 by 1.5 by 0.5 inches. With the kickstand on the dock down-essential if you want your remote control to work-the unit's 0.5-inch depth becomes about 1.5 inches. Also included is a power adapter for the dock and a hardwired audio/video cable that sends sound and images from the dock to your TV (and/or stereo receiver). Not only is the cable pretty short (it's no easy feat connecting one end of the cable to your TV and the other to your stereo receiver since they spring from the same outlet on the dock), but it doesn't support surround (or even 2.1-channel) sound. It's simply left and right channels, so a lot of the rumble and audio ado in movie and television mixes is lost. A simple digital optical out would have fixed that. For video, there are S-Video and composite-out connectors.

The remote is oddly shaped, but works well, despite the cheap-feeling membrane buttons. A large Play button dominates the top of the remote. Below that are smaller buttons for menu navigation, power, video information, screen set-up, subtitle control, and viewing mode (that is, pan and scan, fill screen, or letterbox). There's also an onscreen menu, where you can change items as granular as subtitle font type. For the most part, I found menu and remote navigation straightforward. The interface isn't beautiful, but it's executed well enough that you won't embarrass yourself scrolling endlessly through menus when friends are over.

TakeTV supports DivX, Xvid, and MPEG-4 video files. The device is Vista and XP compatible-there's no support for Macs here. It's a breeze to load the drive with video content from your PC. Just drag and drop files as you would with any other USB drive, then attach the drive to the dock connected to your TV, and you're set. Given that, I was surprised that I couldn't load music or photos onto the drive and play them on my TV/stereo system (it is, after all, a USB drive). SanDisk has hinted that this functionality is in the works for sometime in the future.

Getting content from, SanDisk's video content site, is also simple. You just need to create a log-in and password on the site (it's free.) Once you've done this, every time you plug in the TakeTV's USB drive, launches. The selection at Fanfare is pretty limited right now, but the site is still in beta. Currently, users can download TV shows for free from Showtime and CBS like Dexter and CSI: Miami, as well as download content from TV Guide, The Weather Channel, and Smithsonian Networks. Eventually, premium offerings from Showtime will go for $1.99 or more, or users can choose free content that will feature advertisements. Until Fanfare expands its content, the service is merely a bonus. That said, the quality of the available clips on Fanfare, though not HD, is certainly watchable. TakeTV's playback resolution is 720 by 576. Transfer time for the videos from Fanfare is fairly quick, but obviously the more content you download at one time or the slower your connection, the longer things take-you can expect transfer times comparable with those from the iTunes Store. If SanDisk does manage to expand its video collection, the site could be an attractive alternative to iTunes and Amazon's Unbox.

TakeTV is an easy way to grab the tons of BitTorrent files, er, video content from your PC to watch on your TV. Sure, the omission of 2.1-channel-or-better audio connections is a letdown. But the lack of wireless streaming isn't that much of a bummer. Wireless video streaming can be affected by network hiccups and bandwidth issues, and transferring files wirelessly isn't always speedy. Plus, the device is affordable, and that alone, considering it works so well, makes TakeTV worth checking out.

For tech support, call SanDisk at 1-866-SanDisk (1-866-726-3475), or fill out an on-line support

request at

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Google’s Purchase of Jaiku : develops New Privacy Issues

Google's acquisition of Jaiku, a small Finnish start-up active in the obscure field of microblogging - a word most often associated with the better-known company Twitter - might not appear to be an earth-shaking event.

But the deal, announced this month, has much of the tech-tracking blogosphere abuzz. Some claim it is the harbinger of a new, truly interconnected world, where a chunk of our existence will migrate online.

To begin with, the reasoning goes, Jaiku is not really about microblogging - those minimessages submitted by text or e-mail that made Twitter famous. Jaiku is "a mobile company in the business of creating smarter presence applications," and therefore "a leader in a category most people haven't fully grasped yet," Tim O'Reilly, a technology conference promoter credited with the phrase Web 2.0, wrote in his blog.

Petteri Koponen, one of the two founders of Jaiku, described the service as a "holistic view of a person's life," rather than just short posts. "We extract a lot of information automatically, especially from mobile phones," Mr. Koponen said from Mountain View, Calif., where the company is being integrated into Google. "This kind of information paints a picture of what a person is thinking or doing."

In practical terms, Jaiku's mobile application allows users to broadcast not only their whereabouts, but how the phone is being used, even what kind of music it is playing.

The information opens up a world of new mobile services for regular users, beyond the world of early adapters familiar with Jaiku.

Mr. O'Reilly's example is the Web 2.0 address book, where the old address book is made into a live diary, constantly updated so that we can see, on our cellphones, where our contacts are and what they are doing.

Chris Messina, an open-source entrepreneur and founder of the consulting firm Citizen Agency, takes it a step further. In a blog post after the Jaiku deal was announced, he said that he envisioned a world where all information had migrated online, where the address book "lives in Googleland," indicating presence in a way similar to the buddy lists on instant messaging programs, "and the data never grows old and never goes stale."

"Instead of just seeing someone's inert photo when you bring up their record in your address book," he wrote, "you see all manner of social and presence data."

One might, he suggested, "even get a picture of their current location."

Some industry analysts have speculated that the acquisition is part of a strategy in which Google will introduce its own phone, but most think the company will focus on advanced applications for its information services, like Google Maps.

All this opens serious questions about privacy, and about whether people are prepared to be constantly traceable, even if only by friends. Mr. Koponen said Jaiku was aware of this and was working hard to allow users to limit the information they share, without making the service too complicated.

"To date, many people still maintain their illusion of privacy," he said in an e-mail message.

Adapting will take time.

"For iPhone users who use the Google Maps application, it's already a pain to have to type in your current location," he said. "'Why doesn't my phone just tell Google where I am?' you invariably ask."

When the time is right and frustrations like this are unpalatable enough, Mr. Messina said, "Google will have a ready answer to the problem."

From Jaiku

While it's too soon to comment on specific plans, we look forward to working with our new friends at Google over the coming months to expand in ways we hope you'll find interesting and useful. Our engineers are excited to be working together and enthusiastic developers lead to great innovation. We look forward to accomplishing great things together. In order to focus on innovation instead of scaling, we have decided to close new user sign-ups for now.

But fear not, all our Jaiku services will stay running the way you are used to and you will be able to invite your friends to Jaiku. We have put together a quick Q&A about the acquisition.

Jyri Engeström and Petteri Koponen, Jaiku Founders

While it's too soon to comment on specific plans, we look forward to working with our new friends at Google over the coming months to expand in ways we hope you'll find interesting and useful. Our engineers are excited to be working together and enthusiastic developers lead to great innovation. We look forward to accomplishing great things together. In order to focus on innovation instead of scaling, we have decided to close new user sign-ups for now.

But fear not, all our Jaiku services will stay running the way you are used to and you will be able to invite your friends to Jaiku. We have put together a quick Q&A about the acquisition.

Jyri Engeström and Petteri Koponen, Jaiku Founders

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The science behind black holes

The science behind black holes
One late October morning several years ago, I received an interesting phone call.A Canadian radio station - I want to say it was from Vancouver, but don't quote me - wished to interview a black hole astronomer for its Halloween morning show.

I'm pretty far down the list from Steven Hawking and the like, so they must have dug quite a while before reaching me.

Nevertheless, I am a black hole astronomer, so they did land an expert.

I'd like to say I'm a media darling, but it's not so. Not counting this column, I average about one radio/newspaper interview every two or three years. But I'm a hog for the limelight, so I agreed.

Following some standard spooky music, the radio host asked me about all the weird things that black holes can do. I think I talked with him and an unseen audience of millions - or maybe hundreds - for a few minutes.

People joke about getting 15 minutes of fame. I can truthfully say that all the interviews I've ever done like this together don't reach 15 minutes.

Black holes

Because Halloween is again nigh, I thought I'd revisit this spookiest of objects with you.

A short definition of a black hole is "an object from which nothing can escape." In other words, once you fall in, you can't come back out.

The modern idea of a black hole is that its gravity is so intense that not even light can leave it. We pick light as the standard because we know of nothing that can travel faster than the speed of light.

Imagine you are an astronaut approaching a black hole. What would happen to you?

Ocean tides on Earth come from an imbalance of gravity from the moon and sun. Because your feet are closer to the Earth's center than your head (while standing), you experience tides every day, though these tides are far below any threshold of sensation.

But if you got close to a black hole, the pull on your feet would get substantially larger than its pull on your head. Before falling in, you'd be stretched out like a strand of spaghetti.

Time changes

Also, light can't go any faster than it already does, but it can be made more energetic.

Visible starlight would become X-rays as it fell in. So if being ripped apart wouldn't work, being fried by induced radiation ought to take you out.

It's even possible for light to orbit the hole, pulled around by the hole's gravity. At the right position, you wouldn't need a mirror to see the back of your head.

The weirdest part of being near a black hole is that time changes. Your astronaut buddies would see you slowing down until you froze in place. You would see the opposite - time outside the hole would speed up enormously, until the universe itself came to an end. All the Halloweens that ever can be would be pass by in an instant.

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Do good Google

Do good Google

Do good Google and open source goodness

As the good ship Google steams inexorably on clocking up new profit records, releasing cutting-edge applications and quietly buying up new infrastructure, it seems many of you are growing uneasy over the search giant's grip on the internet.

Google is the classic IT success story: started as a research project in 1996 by two Stanford University PhD geeks, Larry Page and Sergey Brin hypothesised that by analysing relationships between websites they could produce a better search engine. That idea has gone on to become a multi-billion dollar household name.

But many of you cynics are unconvinced by the company's "Don't Be Evil" slogan.

In our poll, 58.3 per cent of you thought that when the chips are down, Google's own brand of ethical leadership will melt under the weight of business real politicks.

Not all of you are so cynical though; 16.7 per cent thought the face of business will change as more companies seeks to do good, not bad. A quarter of you thought it a silly question, and fair enough too.

Ethical debates never seem to go away, whether in business or not. However, this week's Open Source Awards seemed further proof that the proprietary software business model is looking increasingly shaky.

Far from a fringe movement, the awards night - and its guest list of cabinet ministers, commentators and software leaders - proved open source is a very viable ICT option.

Take our poll on open source and tell us what you think.

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Future technology

Future technology

Future technology could make us all TV directors

We could all become TV directors in the future, editing shows to include the exciting bits we're interested in and cutting out the boring bits - if BT's predictions are right.

The explosion in websites which let people share their own videos with a worldwide audience shows no sign of slowing down.

But with more and more videos being placed on the net, finding exactly what you want to watch could become tricky.

BT believes the future lies not only in being able to easily track down the video you want to watch, but being able to divide that video up so that you watch just the bits that interest you - allowing you to create your own story.

A vision for the future

The company's future content group has spent a year working with local people in the Liverpool inner city district of Kensington helping them to make their own videos, publish them online and allow them to be viewed in any way they want.

Ian Kegel leads the group - which is part of BT's Broadband Applications Research Centre. He explained: "This is the first project of its kind. We've created a novel broadband application called VideoShow which enables members of a community to create and share highly personalised video programmes.

"It enables creators to easily add structured 'tags' to their pictures and video clips, to a level of detail beyond what is currently possible with internet services such as Flickr and YouTube.

"Their friends, family and colleagues can then use an intuitive web interface to describe their own personalised movie, which is then automatically created from the library of tagged content."

As part of a community TV initiative called Kensington Vision, the people of Kensington were given camcorders to film their children playing in the Edge Hill Junior Football League.

They then used a simple tool to cut the match videos into short clips, tag them with short descriptions - for example, if a player scores a goal, that video clip is tagged "goal" - and upload them onto the Kensington Vision website using their broadband connection.

For example, if one dad misses a match his son is playing in, other parents will have filmed the match in his absence. He can go to the website and make a customised movie by asking for the sort of clips he thinks his son might be in - if he's a strong goal scorer he might opt for all features relating to goals.

The VideoShow system will then make the clips into a new video programme and stream it to his PC over broadband. The programme he sees is not hand-crafted by an individual - VideoShow performs the edits in real time and delivers them to him.

BT Regions north-west regional manager Peter Connor said: "The Kensington Vision partnership has demonstrated that compelling, locally-created digital content is a powerful tool for accelerating information communication technology (ICT) adoption, community creativity and regeneration.

"We are now working with local partners, the BT future content group and other BT colleagues to share best practice and to explore the potential for scaling up this successful model in Liverpool neighbourhoods and other UK communities."

Television - but not as we know it

Ian Kegel said: "The trial has been very successful. An initial evaluation has indicated that users particularly like the extra layer of control VideoShow gives them. You can define what you want to see there and then, rather than trawl through hundreds of clips - and this has wider implications for the broadcast and entertainment industries.

"In the future we may be able to choose to watch news bulletins with only the stories we want to hear about. It might be that you're always sent news about the local area where you live and the top political stories you're interested in. The system may also remember what you've watched before and give you updates on those stories.

"Equally, you may choose to catch up on a few episodes of a show you've missed, but choose only to find out what certain characters have been up to or to follow only certain storylines."

Of course, for this to become reality, professional media producers will need to produce programmes in a different way - so that they can be broken down into separate parts.

BT is working on a collaborative project - NM2: new millennium, new media - with professional communities to work out the best ways to create this new production environment.

Ian said: "At the moment, internet TV is very different from broadcast TV. But BT's new wave products will change all that. We're exploring extra services which we may be able to offer as the trend for user-generated content continues to grow."

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Building tomorrow's technology today

Building ,tomorrow's, technology ,today

It's a place where light bulbs speak to each other, where car steering wheels can take life-saving action, and where computers like to show their emotional side.

Welcome to the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in America - a place that brings a unique creative perspective to technological and social research. Here, the unofficial motto is: "If you've got an idea - you ought to build it."

Established as part of MIT in 1982, the Media Lab is a multi-disciplinary fusion of science, the arts and the business world. You'll find students, professors, industrial scientists and entrepreneurs all working together on a range of diverse projects.

From smart prosthetics for amputees to a system which helps autistic children recognise the emotions of others; from sensors which detect tired drivers to ambitious prototypes of the city car of the future; from computers with in-built common sense to light bulbs that pass instructions to each other over a network - the lab brings deep technical expertise and a distinct social and design sensibility to its research work.

This approach is now going global with services including new tools to enable kids to explore and design their own worlds, and "fab-labs" that "shrink-wrap" the advanced tools of a leading research university and deploy them to developing nations to find solutions to local problems.

One of the most ambitious projects to spin-out is the $100 laptop, which is part of an initiative to transform education in developing nations. To develop such a device, a range of new technologies were needed including whole new approaches to displays, power, wireless networking and user interfaces - developments which will all have impact in traditional markets.

"The Media Lab works best for those who are intellectually curious and naturally cross boundaries," said Steve Whittaker, BT's visiting scientist who is based at the lab. "Some of the projects being worked on here may sound a bit eclectic but the truth is that they form part of a much bigger innovation and research picture.

"Essentially it's the development of technologies and approaches that will be needed to tackle some of the big opportunities and issues facing business, society and individuals in the future. That means my problems, your problems, BT's problems and our customers' problems."

Research relationships

Steve's role as a visiting scientist is to look after BT's research relationships with universities and business schools in the United States such as MIT, Stanford and Berkeley.

"My job is to develop relationships so that BT people throughout the company, not just our own researchers, have access to the academic expertise of the world's best minds," he said.

"To do this effectively, we involve ourselves very closely with a broad range of disciplines and technical experts, from computer scientists, physicists and engineers to economists, artists, architects and business strategists. MIT and the Media Lab form a key part of that global team."

Partnerships with leading academic research institutions have long been a component of BT's open innovation programme and have delivered a range of benefits to BT - including a number of innovative additions to the company's products and services portfolio.

"A good example of how this can work well is in the area of radio frequency identity (RFID) - replacing the retail bar-code we all know with unique identities embedded in radio tags," said Steve. "What began as an effort by MIT to examine the potential of an emerging technology has resulted in the transformation of the way we think about supply chain solutions. These activities have also resulted in the creation of a whole BT division, BT Auto-ID.

"Often we have close collaborations between our own research people and their peers at places such as MIT - for example in our work in Liverpool on using in-home sensors to help people to live independent lives for longer.

"We are also very interested in understanding more about who we are and how we work. Learning how humans actually learn will help us to build IT systems which can learn along with their users."

Steve concluded: "It can be both eye-opening and eyebrow-raising to see some of the wonderfully creative projects being worked on at MIT and the Media Lab. But the big excitement for me is seeing my colleagues across BT collaborating with some of the world's leading minds on projects that really will make a difference."

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Living in a world

Living in a world

Jeff Patmore, BT's head of Strategic University Research, discusses how technology is shaping our lives - at home and at work.

Ten years ago, futurologists were forecasting that by now everyone would be 'connected' and that people would be able to 'work anywhere'.

Most of us thought they were overly optimistic at best. But, in actual fact, they were very nearly correct. Because now, the majority of world's population is already able to access communications technology of some kind and the rest are catching up fast.

We are entering a time of unprecedented change in terms of both technology and the way we work.

Spending time over the last five years on the MIT campus in Cambridge Massachusetts has given me a unique glimpse of what a 'connected' future looks like. Being able to open your laptop at any time and be online is now possible in many UK cities, but something I have experienced for some time and it is life-changing.

Increasingly, business meetings happen in an 'ad hoc' way with individuals coming together, often over coffee, to discuss the latest issues. And today, we can have all the latest data at our finger tips. This interaction has been enhanced by the development of search engines, which allow us easy access to an enormous amount of information both on the internet and on our own corporate intranets. You no longer have to memorise all the facts and figures you might need, your mind is free for more creative and innovative thought.

Another change has been brought about by the advent of broadband connectivity in the UK, with many people able to live the lives they have always wanted. The vision, for example, of living on the coast of Dorset or in the Lake District while being part of a fast moving, cutting edge company based in the busy capital is now possible without commuting every day - and more and more people are realising this and acting on it.

Instant messaging takes off

While we are not quite connected everywhere yet, people adapt to this, doing e-mail off-line and then 'uploading' when they reach a connection point. Many of my colleagues tell me that this is actually better than being connected all the time as they are not distracted by incoming mail. And have you noticed how instant messaging has taken off in the business community, not only as a way of communicating, but also as a way of flagging that you are 'online' and available to talk. We are adopting and adapting technology, something human beings have always been good at.

What we are currently experiencing is a realisation of 'Moore's Law' with the cost of devices falling at a rate that was forecast but not believed. I recently bought a 1GB USB drive in a UK high street store for £11 and it would have been even less had I ordered it on the net ( £6- £7), just a year ago this would have cost around £30.

This reduction is not limited to memory technology, the One Laptop Per Child organisation is disrupting the laptop industry with the unveiling of the $100 laptop project. I have been privileged in having a beta version for some time and it is an amazing device which works 'out of the box' on all of the wireless networks I have tried. With an internet browser, word processor, PDF reader and multimedia package, not only is it a great device for children, but it actually does most of the things a busy executive needs - coupled with having a screen that can be used in direct sunlight and a battery that lasts up to 12 hours. It's truly a laptop that can be used anywhere.

Sharing experiences
The ability to share knowledge and information has been enhanced by new web 2.0 tools. One of the interesting drivers of this change is YouTube, which enables users to share their experiences with the world. However, these changes are not confined to the consumer space - businesses are also embracing the tools. It is now possible through the use of a business wiki for remotely located teams to collaborate on a report or proposal in real-time, which would not have been possible a few years ago.

In leading companies these new tools have radically improved the productivity of the organisation, while allowing employees to experience flexibility like never before. As connectivity becomes ubiquitous and communications devices become very low cost the vision of a world where we can really work anywhere, and have the time and tools to be creative and innovative, is almost upon us.

Jeff Patmore currently leads an innovative research initiative involving a large number of universities, institutions and business schools across the planet, investigating the future of information communication technology (ICT).

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The network

The network

The network has gone soft

Evolutionary theory tells us that those that adapt best to changing environments are the ones most likely to survive. In the 21st Century telecommunications is facing an evolution from a world of hard switching and physical engineering to one dominated by software driven systems that can match the demand from communications providers and end-users for flexibility, cost-effectiveness and convergence in future communication services.

The 21st Century Network (21CN) is BT's ambitious and far reaching next-generation network transformation programme. By utilising soft-switching it can provide a highly flexible, open standards-based network architecture, with the capability to quickly create and deploy new services in contrast to the limitations of the traditional circuit-switched telecom network.

Matt Beal, director of Strategy, BT Design, says: "Today the software is as critical as the physical fibres and network components that make up the tangible network. This software focused approach in BT's 21CN will enhance innovation, by providing a foundation for new software-driven products and services."

With today's consumers driving change at a rapid pace, services need to be launched, upgraded and potentially retired more quickly than ever before. Consumers are increasingly dependent on communication services in their personal and working lives, and in turn they have become more demanding. To be truly compelling, these services need to be simple, seamless, intuitive and customisable.
These characteristics are just as relevant for communications providers, which seek flexible wholesale solutions that provide greater control.

Feature -rich services

For example, next year BT is due to launch Wholesale Broadband Connect, offering speeds of up to 24Mbit/s. It will enable cost-effective delivery of feature rich services and applications, together with simpler ordering and fault reporting and greater flexibility of billing.

Longer term BT's 21CN will allow communications providers to interact with the network to alter certain elements to meet their own customers' needs and thereby increase their ability to offer differentiated services.
Beal is aware of the need for wholesale providers to offer a broader portfolio and at the same time tailor the packages so communications providers can meet the rapidly evolving demands of their end-user customers by developing innovative and reliable new services.

He says: "In parallel to the deployment of the 21CN network infrastructure, we are simplifying our wholesale product portfolio into a mix and match of reusable common components such as presence, security and user profile."

"This is revolutionising the way BT's wholesale customers can package and sell their services. By building services in this way it will mean the time required to take a concept from idea to launch will be cut from an average of 18 months to less than six and in some cases to just a few days."

One of the first examples of next-generation self-service solutions is a new carrier Ethernet service based solely on 21CN components. It enables communication providers to offer connectivity speeds up to 500Mbps to customers who want to connect multiple sites and flex their bandwidth requirements up or down as required. With an intuitive, self-service capability the Ethernet service can be managed through a single graphical user interface.

Software-driven services

Central to BT's approach with 21CN solutions is ensuring communications providers can realise the benefits of delivering software driven services over BT's broadband network. To this end, BT has created Web21c, which in simple terms is web 2.0 running on the 21CN global network, bringing together BT's nascent on-demand computing infrastructure, with 21CN capabilities and reusable platforms.

BT is also creating software development kits (SDKs) to open up the network capability to third party developers. This allows them to innovate and create new services without having to be an expert in telecoms protocols and infrastructure. More than 3,000 developers worldwide have already registered to be part of BT's Web21C community.

Beal believes software-driven networks are going to be a massive driver of innovation in the next generation of broadband enabled services. He says: "The 21CN is designed to empower end-users, businesses and communications providers with control, choice and flexibility as never before. The strength of the proposition lies in the capabilities delivered by software development to enhance what we can offer to our customers."

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Russia's Old-School Spaceport

The Associated Press offers a fascinating look at Russia's Baikonur

spaceport, technically now in Kazakstan. It's a far cry from the shiny, futuristic sprawl expected for New Mexico's commercial spaceport, but Americans may want to get used to it, the article notes.

Baikonur was the home of the Soviets' space program. The launch pad used for the Soyuz rockets taking people and cargo up to the International Space Station is the same one used for the USSR's first manned space flight in 1961. Sputnik itself was launched nearby.

The area around is devastated, near the dry remains of a once-enormous inland sea drained by Soviet irrigation projects, now the source of dry toxic salts that blow across the desert.

The city is rented wholesale by Russia for $115 million a year, with a mayor appointed jointly by the Russians and the Kazakhs. The locals are proud, if bemused:

"We live under two governments, but unfortunately get only one salary," Kuzmin noted wryly as he walked the freshly renovated corridors of city hall.

With oil money now flooding into Russia, some modernization is happening, the articles notes. But the town remains an outpost of the past. Residents joke that socialism still exists, with free health care, state jobs and apartments available to those working for the Russian government.

As the U.S. space shuttle fleet winds down in 2010, this will likely turn into a launch point for U.S. missions to the ISS as well. Already space tourists have come here to blast off. And it may be a good reality-check for people dazzled by the slick new plans for the Southwest Regional Spaceport in New Mexico's Las Cruces, I think.

There's a reason space-going cities in sci-fi are often dirty, dark and dangerous. It's not just fiction; they're based on real ports, and the real seagoing transport business. Any city that wants to make itself a hub for future transport should make sure it is planning too for the less sexy side: growth, environmental damage, and the other costs that are sure to come with space traffic.

Russia's Space City Frozen In Time (AP)

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Soyuz Craft Lands Short of Destination :Spaceflyers Safely Land, Despite Worrisome Descent

A Soyuz craft left its docking port at the international space station on Sunday, starting a return trip to Earth with two Russian cosmonauts and Malaysia's first space traveler aboard.

The capsule was to bring back Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov after a six-month stint at the station, along with Malaysian Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, who arrived at the orbital outpost Oct. 12.

The Soyuz briefly fired thrusters to distance itself from the station after leaving its berth on schedule at 3:14 EDT, said Valery Lyndin, spokesman for Russian Mission Control outside Moscow.

It was scheduled to touch down about 50 miles north of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan, about three hours later, Lyndin said.

Despite making an off-target landing, three of the International Space Station's (ISS) latest visitors have safely returned to Earth today, making room aboard the orbital laboratory for NASA's soon-to-launch space shuttle crew.

Expedition 15 cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov as well as Malaysian astronaut, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, landed today at about 6:36 a.m. (1036 GMT) inside of a Soyuz crew capsule. Nine Russian transport helicopters swept in to greet the spaceflyers shortly after they touched down on the chilly steppes of Kazakhstan.

"All crew members have been recovered from the crew module and are feeling quite well," Russian mission managers said following the worrisome descent and landing.

"I'd like to stay in space a little bit longer. I like space," said Kotov, former ISS flight engineer and Soyuz pilot, shortly before undocking from the space station around 3:14 a.m. EDT (0714 GMT) this morning.

Shukor, an orthopedic surgeon selected from 11,000 applicants to become Malaysia's first astronaut, spent 11 days in space and nine aboard the ISS. Kotov and Yurchikhin each spent about 185 days in space, and recently handed control of the ISS over to Expedition 16 commander Peggy Whitson-the first female astronaut ever to command a space station.

Off-target landing

The Soyuz crew's descent lasted about an hour following a deorbit burn at 5:37 a.m. EDT (0937 GMT), which allowed Earth's gravity to take over.

About halfway through the free-fall to Earth, however, the crew notified ground controllers that the Soyuz had entered into a ballistic descent. The steeper, undesirable trajectory caused the crew to land about 216 miles (347 kilometers) short of their intended landing site.

Expedition 6 crew members experienced a similar problem on May 3, 2003 with their Soyuz descent, but recovery crews took several hours to locate the capsule and extract the spaceflyers.

Russian mission managers announced in a press conference shortly after landing that they intend to fully investigate the cause of the Expedition 15's dangerous ballistic descent.

Three musketeers

U.S. spaceflyer Clayton Anderson, the one remaining member of the Expedition 15 crew, will stay in orbit as part of the Expedition 16 crew until STS-120 crew member Daniel Tani arrives next week. In a space-to-ground interview, Anderson told how he will miss his "brothers" in space and is looking forward to seeing them again once he lands.

"It's been a wonderful time for me up here with you guys," Anderson told his Expedition 15 crewmates Friday. "I will miss you, but I will see you back on Earth."

"Sooner or later, everything good has to end," said former ISS commander Yurchikhin, who frequently referred to the station as his 'home' in space. "It was a great and very interesting flight."

Shukor performed physiology and Earth observation experiments, shared traditional Malaysian food with his ISS crewmates and, as a devout Muslim, observed the holy month of Ramadan while in orbit. He also expressed his sadness at ending an 11-day mission in space.

"I feel wonderful," he recently told reporters from the ISS. "I love it here and I don't really want to go back (to Earth) yet."

Lady commander

With today's successful landing, the space station is now clear to receive seven more visiting astronauts-and a new orbital room-from NASA's STS-120 mission later this week. Commanded by veteran shuttle flyer Pamela Melroy, Discovery's crew will deliver the new Harmony connecting node that will lay the foundation for future international laboratories at the ISS.

"I'm definitely ready for the busy construction ahead," Whitson told from the ISS, adding that the station will only get bigger during her flight. "I'm looking forward to, during our expedition, building up the inside."

Kotov told reporters this week that he tried to spend some of his free time just appreciating the view of the Earth and hopes to leave a healthy space station behind for the Expedition 16 crew.

"We got this station from the previous crew in good condition," he said. "We tried to keep it as such as we pass our home to a new crew."

Space shuttle Discovery and its seven-person crew are slated to shoot into space from Kennedy Space Center on Oct. 23 at 11:38 a.m. EDT (1538 GMT) and arrive at the space station on Oct. 25.


VIDEO: NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson

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World Solar Challenge 2007 started : Solar car competition

24hoursnews (Australia) - For next generation power source solar is the unlimited source to get the power. many research and development has counted yet ,now 41 solar cars on their way competing in the World Solar Challenge 2007 in Australia.

The race, started on Sunday, takes the participating teams on an 1870 mile journey from Darwin, a town on the north end of the Northern Territory, south through the Outback, ending in Adelaide, South Australia. The race will officially end on October 28, while first cars are expected to cross the finish line as early as October 25.

The organizers describe the race, which was first organized by Danish adventurer Hans Thostrup in 1987, as an "energy efficiency challenge", which requires a balance between sustainable speed and endurance, energy management and strategic planning. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the challenge has been held in 3-year intervals until 1999 and since then has been held every two years. The last race was won by Dutch Nuon team from the Technical University of Delft, whose Nuon III car crossed the finish line after a race time of 29 hours and 11 minutes. The average speed achieved by Nuon III was 64.3 mph.
The current event is separated in two classes of vehicles - the "Adventure Class", which includes veteran solar cars, as well as the "Challenge Class", which has stricter regulations, including upright seating and solar panels that do not exceed a total area of six square meters.

Among the 41 teams are four US teams: The University of Oregon and the University of Michigan have entrants in the Challenge Class, while Stanford University and the Houston Solar Car Race Team from the Houston Vocational Center, Mississippi, are competing in the Adventure Class.

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Windows gets a 'Mini-Me'

24 hoursnews :A distinguished Microsoft engineer, was on hand last week to give a preview of upcoming virtualization techniques, hypervisors and the like. However, one of the more interesting aspects of the presentation was a short segment on Windows 7, the next generation of Windows (after Vista). The demo showed a slimmed down core operating system without graphics, one using only 33 MB of memory

It's rare that anyone at Microsoft talks publicly about Windows 7, the next version of Windows. It's even rarer that anyone provides actual information about what might be inside the operating system, which is still in the planning stages.

However, Microsoft has posted a video of a recent university lecture given by Distinguished Engineer Eric Traut in which he talks about, among other things, a new, slimmed down kernel known as MinWin that was created as part of the Windows 7 development process.

The kernel, which lacks Vista's bells and whistles or even a graphics system at all, takes up just 25MB on disk as compared with 4GB that the full Windows Vista takes up. And while people would need far more than MinWin to run even a basic Web server, Traut said it shows that Windows, at its heart, does not have to be a monster resource hog.

"That's kind of proof that there is actually a nice little core inside of Windows," Traut said. "A lot of people think of Windows as this really large, bloated operating system and that's maybe a fair characterization, I have to admit. It is large. It contains a lot of stuff in it, but at its core, the kernel and the components that make up the very core of the operating system actually are pretty streamlined."

Traut stressed that MinWin, though it uses the Windows 7 code base, probably won't be used on its own.

"This is an internal only (thing)," Traut said in the video. "You won't see us productizing this, but you can imagine this being used as the basis for products in the future.

He did hint at some of the possibilities.

"We're definitely going to be using this internally to build all of the products that are based on Windows," he said. "We build a lot of products based on this kernel."

Beyond powering laptops and desktops, Traut notes that the Windows core powers servers, media centers and smaller embedded devices. "This will provide us the ability to move into even more areas," he said.

The full video runs quite long and talks a lot about hypervisors and other stuff, but blogger Long Zheng posted a clip of just the relevant part of the talk on his istartedsomething site. Even if you are not interested in Windows kernels and all that, the first part of the clip is worth watching just for the demos of early Windows versions, like version 1 and 2.

When asked for more info, Microsoft returned to its position of near-silence on the topic.

"As a company we're always exploring new ways to innovate Windows, using customer feedback as a guide," the company said in a statement e-mailed to CNET "The video posted to Channel 8 is a reflection of our commitment to platform innovation. No decisions have been made--it's still an ongoing discussion for now. We have no new information to share on future versions of the operating system at this time."

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Join a tour of Nanotechnology Island in Second Life

Second life Provides an online society within a 3D world, where users can explore, build, socialize and participate in their own economy.You might have heard of Second Life, an Internet-based virtual world that has received quite a bit of media attention over the past year. A downloadable client program called the Second Life Viewer enables its users, called "Residents", to interact with each other through motional avatars, providing an advanced level of a social network service combined with general aspects of a metaverse. Residents can explore, meet other Residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, create and trade items (virtual property) and services from one another. Companies and other organizations have set up a virtual presence in Second Life; Sweden has even opened an embassy.
Now there is a nanotechnology presence as well - Nanotechnology Island has launched in Second Life with the goal to establish a place for the Nano Science and Technology communities to come together and to bring key ideas and research into public discussion

Second Life: Your World. Your Imagination.

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