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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Nokia N810 hits store shelves :Internet Tablet weighs less than 8 oz.

The new Nokia N810 Internet Tablet began shipping in the U.S. today and is priced at $479, announced Nokia Corp.

At just under 8 ounces, the tablet features a slide-out keyboard, built-in Global Positioning System capability, digital audio and video playback, and Wi-Fi functionality that can be used for voice over IP calls, Nokia said in a statement.

It runs a Maemo Linux-based OS2008, which provides a customizable user interface and a Mozilla-based browser supporting Asynchronous JavaScript and XML, Adobe Flash 9 and Bluetooth headsets.

The N810 is 2.8 by 5 by 0.55 in. in size, with a 400-MHz processor, 128MB of memory and 2GB of internal storage with support for external memory cards of up to 8GB. There is room to store up to 7,500 songs. The 4.13-in. color display includes touch-screen capability.

The device can support up to four hours of continuous use, even with the Wi-Fi active, and up to 10 hours of music playback as well at 14 days of standby time, according to Nokia.

Free maps are preloaded to find locations, but navigation through Wayfinder is available for $129.99 for a three-year license.

LHC data transport at SC07

Large volumes of LHC CMS data was shot around the U.S as part of a high-speed data transmission demonstration held during SC07 this week.
Images courtesy of ESnet

From the SC07 exhibition floor: Rick Summerhill and John Vollbrecht of Internet2 were part of the collaborative high-speed networking effort to move LHC data from Fermilab's Tier-1 computer center to a Tier-2 infrastructure in the Caltech booth at SC07.

Images courtesy of iSGTW The ultimate success of the Worldwide Large Hadron Collider (LHC) Computing Grid, and in turn of multi-billion dollar Large Hadron Collider, will heavily depend on an ability to move large volumes of data around the world at rates significantly in excess of 10 gigabits-per-second.

Paving the way for this success is a collaboration of research and industry technology leaders, who combined forces at last week's SC07 Conference in Reno, Nevada, U.S. to demonstrate their leading-edge capabilities in supporting the high-bandwidth needs of the worldwide research community.

Each member of the collaboration-involving Caltech, ESnet, Fermilab, Infinera, Internet2, Juniper Networks and Level 3 Communications-leveraged its unique networking, computation and storage capabilities to support the demonstrations.

"The cooperation between these leading technology organizations is a model of collaboration that propels innovation," said Rick Summerhill, chief technology officer at Internet2.
"Our members from industry and the research community are working together to push the technology boundaries so scientific researchers can do things that would have been unimaginable ten years ago," Summerhill said.

"These demonstrations are exemplary of the benefits resulting from sharing knowledge and resources to usher in the next wave of technological advancements."

The demonstration involved high-volume transmission of multiple 10 Gbps streams of data between Fermilab's LHC Tier-1 mass storage system and the SC07 show floor over a wide-area 40 Gbps network infrastructure, the highest-speed networking service available today.

The LHC Tier-1 then transferred data at speeds significantly in excess of 10 Gbps to the LHC Tier-2 computational infrastructure in the Caltech booth on the SC07 show floor.

Caltech's Center for Advanced Computing Research is home to the first LHC Tier-2 center and used its latest computing cluster to receive and store the multi-terabyte volumes of data.

The Tier-0 center and the LHC itself are hosted at CERN, which uses the GÉANT multi-gigabit pan-European network.

Google has announced a new service

Google lets users fine-tune maps

Has Google lost your address? Now you can help it find you.
Starting this week, the Mountain View search giant is letting users edit the errors found in its online mapping product.

"Sometimes a location can be a little off on a map and your friends can't find you," the Mountain View company explained in a video posted on YouTube by software engineer Seth LaForge. "Now you can fix that."

The move comes as Google grapples with opening more of its operations to outsiders. Once notoriously closed and secretive, the company is increasingly seeking to turn itself into a platform for other businesses.

To be successful, the ambitious effort will require contributions from people around the world, ranging from software developers who write new applications to owners of mom-and-pop businesses who enter information on the site about their grocery store, coffee shop or dry cleaners.

"There are multiple reasons that Google is doing this, and one of them is to clean up and improve the quality of the data," said Greg Sterling, an analyst with Sterling Market Research.

"Inaccurate Google map locations are a problem occasionally for most people who use online maps," said Gus Allen, founder of Swamplot, a Houston real estate blog. Among other services, Allen directs his readers to local demolitions using Google maps. Last week, Google mistakenly placed a Houston address in Oklahoma, he said.

To edit Google Maps, a person needs a Google

account. If someone see an error while searching for a business, he or she can click an "edit" link. For example, Google originally marked the entrance to the Mercury News on a side road leading to the employee parking lot until a reporter dragged the marker to the correct location - the newspaper's grand 1950s style entrance - Tuesday afternoon.
Google said it will prevent abuse by restricting changes to certain listings, like hospitals, police stations and schools, as well as the addresses of businesses that have claimed their listing online at Google's Local Business Center. Edited addresses will be clearly marked, and links to original address markings will be retained.

Users can also report abuse through a link. Certain edits, such as moving a marker more than 200 yards, must be reviewed by a Google employee.

"Move a marker, and make your virtual neighborhood a better place - that is, in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, where it works right now," LaForge wrote in a blog post Monday.

By making maps more useful, Google is trying to capture a larger share of the dollars spent on online Yellow Page advertising and local search - which is estimated to grow from $1.9 billion this year to $4.9 billion in 2011, according to the Kelsey Group of Princeton, N.J.

Yahoo is also eyeing this market. It began allowing businesses to update their information in January 2007. A spokeswoman for Yahoo said the number of companies that have done so is in the high hundreds of thousands.

A spokeswoman for Google said more than a million businesses have "interacted" with their online business center.

While there are an estimated 25 million local businesses in the United States, the total number of advertisers in the traditional Yellow Pages is 3.5 million, according to the Kelsey Group.

Sterling said the relatively large numbers reported by Yahoo and Google illustrate the great potential for local search online, which is still at a very early stage. "There's been a lot of learning and now all the parties are figuring it out," he said.

Users now able to alter Google Maps locations

Google has announced a new service that will enable users to move incorrect markers on Google Maps for their home and businesses to the correct locations.

Writing on the Lat Long Blog, Google engineer Seth LaForge stated that people can now click on a location flag on Google Maps and then choose edit in the pop-up box.

In order to guard against "people monkeying with markers", whenever a recently-moved address or business is identified, a "show original" link will appear so that users can see where it has been moved from, he added.

Access to certain listings, such as government buildings and hospitals, however, will be restricted and some edits, including moving a marker more than 200 metres from its original location, will require a moderator's approval.

According to Mr LaForge, "fixing markers can be downright addictive". He added that he has "spent hours using Street View to locate businesses and houses and then moving their markers".

Commenting on the new service, Greg Sterling wrote on his Screenwerk blog: "The move is consistent with [the] increasing 'socialisation' or openness of Google and part of a broader effort to obtain fresher and better local data.

"Allowing the community and business owners to edit and update information is the only viable way to have an accurate database."

The provision is currently available in the US, Australia and New Zealand.

British researchers discovered a foot-and-a-half-long fossilized claw of an ancient sea scorpion.

Ancient sea ,was 8 feet long
A fossilized claw suggests that the giant arthropod, extinct for 250 million years, was a dominant predator.

One of its claws might feed an entire family, but this sea creature would be more likely to eat the family.

British researchers said Tuesday that they had discovered a foot-and-a-half-long fossilized claw of an ancient sea scorpion, a species that would have been 8 feet long, making it the largest arthropod ever discovered.

"We knew the sea scorpions were among the largest creepy-crawlies ever, but we didn't realize just how big they could get," said paleontologist Simon J. Braddy of the University of Bristol, the primary author of the report in the journal Biology Letters. The fossil was found in a quarry near Prum, Germany.

Sea scorpions became extinct about 250 million years ago, but they were precursors of modern land-based scorpions. Smaller varieties are common in the fossil record, and evidence suggests that they ventured forth onto land for at least brief forays.

But "there is no way this thing could have crawled out onto land," Braddy said.

"This is simply too spindly. Its legs would break under its own weight."

And what does an 8-foot sea scorpion eat? Pretty much anything it wants to, Braddy said. The creature would have been the dominant predator in its environment, feasting on armored fish, early vertebrates, other varieties of arthropods and even on smaller sea scorpions.

The lack of predation may have been one factor that allowed the scorpions and other ancient species to grow so large, he said. The high oxygen content of the atmosphere then -- 35% compared with 21% today -- also probably was a factor.

But the sea scorpions were doomed. When vertebrates evolved to large sizes, "the tables were turned," Braddy said.

"The only way they could cope was by downsizing and hiding away. That's why all of them today are very small."


scorpion is an arthropod with eight legs. It is a member of the Arachnida class and belongs to the order Scorpiones. Spiders, mites and ticks are also found in the Arachnida class. There are approximately 2000 species of scorpions. They are found widely distributed south of 49° N, except New Zealand and Antarctica.

Physical characteristics
The body of a scorpion is divided into two segments: the cephalothorax (also called the prosoma) and the abdomen/opisthosoma. The abdomen consists of the mesosoma and the metasoma.

Cephalothorax/prosoma: the scorpion's “head”, comprising the carapace, eyes, chelicerae (mouth parts), pedipalps (claw) and four pairs of walking legs.

Mesosoma: the abdomen's front half, is made up of six segments. The first segment contains the sexual organs as well as a pair of vestigial and modified appendages forming a structure called the genital operculum. The second segment bears a pair of featherlike sensory organs known as the pectines; the final four segments each contain a pair of book lungs. The mesosoma is armored with chitinous plates, known as tergites on the upper surface and sternites on the lower surface.

Metasoma: the scorpion's tail, comprising six segments (the first tail segment looks like a last mesosoman segment), the last containing the scorpion's anus and bearing the telson (the sting). The telson, in turn, consists of the vesicle, which holds a pair of venom glands and the hypodermic aculeus, the venom-injecting barb.

Cuticle: this makes a tough armor around the body. In some places it is covered with hairs that act like balance organs. An outer layer that makes them fluorescent green under ultraviolet light is called the hyaline layer. Newly molted scorpions do not glow until after their cuticle has hardened. The fluoresent hyaline layer can be intact in fossil rocks that are hundreds of millions of years old.

On rare occasions, scorpions can be born with two metasomata (tails). Two-tailed scorpions are not a different species, but rather a genetic abnormality

The largest scorpion ever is the extinct 2.5 meter Jaekelopterus rhenaniae.

Birth and development
Unlike the majority of Arachnida species, scorpions are viviparous. The young are born one by one, and the brood is carried about on its mother's back until the young have undergone at least one moult. Before the first moult, scorplings cannot survive naturally without the mother, depending on her for protection and to regulate their moisture levels. Especially in species which display more advanced sociability (e.g Pandinus spp.), the young/mother association can continue for an extended period of time. The size of the litter depends on the species and environmental factors, and can range from two to 100+ scorplings.[5]

The young generally resemble their parents. Growth is accomplished by periodical shedding of the exoskeleton (ecdysis). A scorpion's developmental progress is measured in instars (how many moults it has undergone). Scorpions typically require between five and seven moults to reach maturity. Moulting is effected by means of a split in the old exoskeleton which takes place just below the edge of the carapace (at the front of the prosoma). The scorpion then emerges from this split; the pedipalps and legs are first removed from the old exoskeleton, followed eventually by the metasoma. When it emerges, the scorpion’s new exoskeleton is soft, making the scorpion highly vulnerable to attack. The scorpion must constantly stretch while the new exoskeleton hardens to ensure that it can move when the hardening is complete. The process of hardening is called sclerotization. The new exoskeleton does not fluoresce; as sclerotization occurs, the fluorescence gradually returns.

Life and habits
Scorpions have quite variable lifespans and the actual lifespan of most species is not known. The age range appears to be approximately 4-25 years (25 years being the maximum reported life span in the species H. arizonensis).

Scorpions prefer to live in areas where the temperatures range from 20°C to 37°C (68°F to 99°F), but may survive in the temperature range of 14°C to 45°C (57°F to 113°F).[6]

They are nocturnal and fossorial, finding shelter during the day in the relative cool of underground holes or undersides of rocks and coming out at night to hunt and feed. Scorpions exhibit photophobic behavior, primarily to evade destruction by their predators such as birds, centipedes, lizards, mice, possums, and rats.[7]

Scorpions are opportunistic predators of small arthropods and insects. They use their chela (pincers) to catch the prey initially. Depending on the toxicity of their venom and size of their claws, they will then either crush the prey or inject it with neurotoxic venom. This will kill or paralyze the prey so the scorpion can eat it. Scorpions have a relatively unique style of eating using chelicerae, small claw-like structures that protrude from the mouth that are found only in a handful of invertebrates, including spiders and vinegaroons. The chelicerae, which are very sharp, are used to pull small amounts of food off the prey item for digestion. Scorpions can only digest food in a liquid form; any solid matter (fur, exoskeleton, etc) is disposed of by the scorpion.

Fossil record
Scorpions have been found in many fossil records, including coal deposits from the Carboniferous Period and in marine Silurian deposits. They are thought to have existed in some form since about 425–450 million years ago. They are believed to have an oceanic origin, with gills and a claw-like appendage that enabled them to hold onto rocky shores or seaweed.

The eurypterids, marine creatures which lived during the Paleozoic era, share several physical traits with scorpions and are closely related to them. Various species of Eurypterida could grow to be anywhere from 10 cm (4 in) to 3 m (9.75 ft) in length. However, they exhibit anatomical differences marking them off as a group distinct from their Carboniferous and recent descendants. Despite this, some refer to them as "sea scorpions."[8] Their legs are thought to have been short, thick, tapering and to have ended in a single strong claw; it appears that they were well-adapted for maintaining a secure hold upon rocks or seaweed against the wash of waves, like the legs of shore-crab.


Stephen Totilo received this cake from Sony to celebrate the PS3's first birthday.

Wii, PS3 Celebrate First Birthdays; 'Halo 3' Expands; 'Ghostbusters' Return & More, In GameFile

We look at how the two consoles stack up to each other in their first year.

Last Friday, to celebrate the first year of the PlayStation 3's release in North America, Sony sent out birthday cakes to reporters.

Arriving at the MTV offices at 8:30 a.m., along with party hats and noisemakers, was an 11-inch, square yellow cake with vanilla butter icing on the outside, vanilla custard within and topped with a printed, edible image of a PS3.

Monday was the Wii's one-year birthday in America, and Nintendo sent nothing. But who should really be celebrating?

One year later, here's a look at how the two stack up:

Some comparisons are obvious: The Wii has handily outsold Sony's machine, and according to the NPD tracking group, in October there were 519,000 Wiis sold to 121,000 PS3s. The Wii crossed over as a cultural phenomenon, being used as a prop on late-night talk shows, while the PS3 largely went unnoticed.

The Wii has held steady at a retail price of $249. The PS3 has dropped from $599 for a launch model that featured full backward compatibility with PS2, original PlayStation games and a 60GB hard drive, to $399 for a model released last month that has no backward compatibility and a 40GB drive.

Purchasers of either still have reasons to be pleased as this year winds down: Wii owners have their "Wii Sports" and new "Super Mario," "Zelda" and "Metroid" games, among its exclusive software highlights. The PS3 has first-person shooter "Resistance: Fall of Man," a new "Ratchet & Clank" and the "Star Wars"-chess-style, camera-aided "Eye of Judgment" among its software exclusives.

But how about some less obvious comparisons?

Saved Reputations

Launch versions of Sony's first two consoles were plagued with criticisms of poor manufacturing. But even as the Xbox 360 experienced enough hardware breakdowns for Microsoft to announce a $1 billion warranty extension for every system, Sony's PS3 proved to be a stable, well-made device. For all the knocks Sony took in its first PS3 year, few, if any, seemed to involve the reliability of its hardware.

In the past, Nintendo had been accused of software stinginess, starving owners of the Nintendo 64 and GameCube with too few games. For the second platform in a row, Nintendo executives promised to do better. Still, who would have bet that Sony would publish 14 full-size PS3 games in its new system's first year and that Nintendo would top them with 16? And though few gamers now talk about the likes of "Pokémon Battle Revolution" or "DK: Barrel Blast," they do count. In 2007, Nintendo was not stingy with the Wii games.

Ever-Changing Hardware

Modern game consoles can be improved even after they are bought. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo are all capable of offering updates to their systems' firmware to improve what the consoles can do.

The PS3 firmware has been upgraded several times in its first year, for better and for worse. A PSP on the road can now turn on a PS3 at home and access all movies and audio stored within it. But these upgrades have forced system users to update their console regularly before playing new games or accessing the system's online store. The updates come in flurries: In May, version 1.8 added graphics upscaling for DVD; September's 1.92 addressed minor online issues; version 1.93, also released in September, addressed issues with 1.92; version 1.94 arrived in October and made the PS3 compatible with the new DualShock 3 controller, which will include rumble but won't be available in the U.S. until the spring. Since 1.94, Sony has released firmware 2.0 (last week) and firmware 2.01 (this week).

On the plus side, upgrades to the PS3 have also enabled system owners to lend their machine's processing power to Folding@home, the computer-networking project designed to search for a cure for cancer.

Nintendo has released far fewer upgrades to the Wii's core functionality. This has left access to the Wii online shop slower than the speed the company initially promised. Firmware upgrades did add a digital clock to the system's menu screen, along with a few optional channels: a free news channel, a polling channel called Everybody Votes and a Check Mii Out channel for comparing user-designed Mii avatars. Nintendo also offers a $5 Web browser "channel." (The PS3 launched with a Web browser included; the Xbox 360 does not support one.)


Nintendo and Sony both announced plenty of games for their systems, including several big ones for 2008. Nintendo has promised the exercise-based "Wii Fit," a new "Mario Kart" and the recently delayed "Super Smash Bros.: Brawl." Sony has touted the expected 2008 release of first-person-shooter "Killzone 2," world-builder "Little Big Planet" and the Konami-published PS3 exclusive "Metal Gear Solid 4."

That's all well and good, but the companies also went shopping this year. Sony, which in recent years purchased "SOCOM" makers Zipper Interactive and "Killzone" house Guerilla Games, has also added "Motorstorm" makers Evolution Studios and "Pursuit Force" creators Big Big Studios, both based in England. Doubtless, Sony is interested in more driving games, a specialty of both of those studios.

Nintendo made a rare acquisition of its own, purchasing Japanese studio Monolith Soft, makers of the "Baten Kaitos" and "Xenosaga" role-playing game series. The purchase wasn't just unusual in light of Nintendo's usual reluctance to buy companies, but also because Monolith appears to specialize in exactly the kind of long, involved games with which Nintendo's casual, party-game, fun-for-everyone Wii approach is at odds. Monolith Soft is currently developing "Disaster: Day of Crisis" for the Wii — another odd fit, as it appears to be an action game set amid realistic natural disasters, not the character-driven escapades of standard Nintendo-published fare.

Downloadable Games

Sony used the first year of PS3 to establish its store of downloadable titles as a sort of Sundance Channel of games. Experimental games such as "flOw," "Everyday Shooter" and "Pixel Junk Racers" were the norm, amid a steady stream of novel, downloadable $10-or-less games and only 15 downloadable PSOne classics. Nintendo offered no original downloadable games via the Wii's Virtual Console, but managed to release nearly three games every week from the combined libraries of the NES, SNES, N64, Genesis, TurboGrafx 16 and Neo Geo.

At the end of the first year, there is reason for owners of either machine to celebrate, and there are reasons for owners of either to close their eyes and make a few wishes. With PS3 having dropped in price twice and Nintendo failing to keep up with demand, it does not appear that Year One is what either Sony or Nintendo planned, but at least it was an interesting and unpredictable year.

More from the world of video games:

The cover story of the latest issue of Game Informer magazine announces that the Ghostbusters, the slime-hunting, marshmallow-man-fighting team from the early '80s hit movie, are getting back into video games. The magazine reports that Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis are "revisiting their roles to make a sequel to 'Ghostbusters' 1 and 2 — in video game form." Aykroyd and Ramis will write the script, the magazine reports, "going far beyond just the typical licensed add-your-voice-to-the-game-you-had-nothing-to-do-with formula." The game is set for a late 2008 release on all major consoles and handheld gaming platforms. For more information, go to ...

Fresh off of celebrating the fifth anniversary of Xbox Live, Microsoft has announced the first expansion of "Halo 3." On December 11, "Halo 3" owners will be able to spend 800 Xbox Points (about $10) on three new multiplayer packs for Bungie Studios' hit game. The maps will become free for download in the spring of next year, shortly before another pack of maps is released. In a press release, Microsoft described these first three maps: "Standoff's symmetrical valley, with its entrenched bases and fields of boulders is ideal for mid-sized objective and Slayer game types, while Rat's Nest's vast, labyrinthine passages bring something new to the "Halo" multiplayer experience: an indoor vehicle paradise, strongly influenced by the Campaign mode, ideal for big team battles. Finally, Foundry is the ultimate Forge map — players can edit every single object in this voluminous industrial warehouse, place stairways, walls, bridges and tunnels to create an entirely new play space and build almost any kind of map they can think of."

The International Space Station's (ISS) newest room for orbital flight

Spacewalkers Outfit Space Station's Newest Room
Spacewalking astronauts primed the International Space Station's (ISS) newest room for orbital flight Wednesday as they prepare to host a visiting NASA shuttle next month.

Expedition 16 commander Peggy Whitson and flight engineer Dan Tani spent more than seven hours wiring up about half of the power, heater and cooling lines needed to prepare the station's new Harmony connecting node for the planned Dec. 6 launch of a European-built lab. They will connect the other half during another spacewalk on Saturday.

"Another nice day at the office, here," said Tani as the spacewalk began at 5:10 a.m. EST (1010 GMT).

Clad in their bulky NASA spacesuits, the spacewalkers spent most of their time installing a 300-pound (136-kilogram) fluid tray carries vital ammonia coolant from the space station's main truss to Harmony. Whitson and Tani handed the 18.5-foot (5.6-meter) cable tray off like an orbital baton, then secured it in place and attached six stubborn ammonia lines to complete its installation.

"Those were hard," Whitson said after wrestling with the final coolant line.

Whitson did spot several crystals of toxic, frozen ammonia that apparently leaked out while she worked to vent some of the coolant during her work.

"I've got ammonia coming out of the vent tool," Whitson said. "Two crystals, quite small ones. I have had some of them bounce off of me."

Mission Control told Whitson to press ahead with her work, confident in established decontamination protocols that included brushing her spacesuit clean and baking it in sunlight before reentering the ISS.

"You're looking strong there," Tani told Whitson. "She's king of the world!"

"Queen," Whitson, the station's first female commander, replied with a laugh.

Tuesday's seven-hour, 16-minute spacewalk marked the second of three planned excursions in a three-week period for the Expedition 16 crew to ready their orbital laboratory for the planned Dec. 6 launch of the shuttle Atlantis and its STS-122 astronaut crew. The shuttle mission will deliver Columbus, a European Space Agency laboratory designed to dock at one of several available ports on the hub-like Harmony node.

Busy day in space, on Earth
While the Expedition 16 crew worked outside the ISS today, Atlantis's STS-122 crew staged a launch dress rehearsal inside their shuttle at Pad 39A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

"Atlantis is a beautiful ship and the folks here have done a wonderful job preparing it," STS-122 pilot Alan Poindexter told reporters Monday.

But Atlantis, or any other shuttle, won't be able to dock at the ISS until Harmony is fully equipped and outfitted, work that will continue during Saturday's planned spacewalk.

"So there's a bit of pressure there," Tani told reporters Monday. "But we like pressure and we look forward to getting outside and getting the work done."

Shuttle astronauts delivered Harmony to the ISS just last month, leaving the ISS crew with a packed November of orbital construction to complete the node's installation and activation. The astronauts moved the nearly 16-ton Harmony node to the front of the station's U.S. Destiny lab last week.

"We've still got a lot of challenges up in front of us," said Derek Hassmann, NASA's lead Expedition 16 flight director, after the spacewalk. "But based on all the successes we've had up to this point, I expect the rest of the stage to go very well."

Whitson, Tani and fellow crewmate Yuri Malenchenko - who watched over today's spacewalk from inside the ISS - have already pledged to work through their traditional Thanksgiving holiday this Thursday in order to meet their tight schedule. Hassmann said if all continues to go well, the crew should have a relatively light work day on Thursday.

"They are just a hard-charging, get it done crew," said Kenny Todd, NASA's ISS program integration and operations manager, of the Expedition 16 astronauts on Nov. 16. "We'll have to make sure they understand that it's Thanksgiving and that they take some time and take a breath."

In addition to their main spacewalking tasks today, Whitson and Tani also managed to squeeze in extra work to hook up additional power and data lines, as well as part of a power transfer system that allows the ISS to feed power to visiting shuttles. Mission managers are now scrambling to choose additional chores to add to this Saturday's excursion, said NASA's lead Expedition 16 spacewalk officer Tomas Gonzalez-Torres.

Tuesday's spacewalk was the 98th excursion dedicated to ISS assembly or maintenance. It was also Whitson's third spacewalk, giving her a total of 18 hours and 36 minutes of spacewalking time. Tani also raised his tally to three spacewalks, ending with a total time 18 hours and 1 minute. Both spaceflyers will also participate in Saturday's spacewalk.

Tani sent an orbital greeting to his wife Jane, who watched her astronaut husband at work from inside NASA's Mission Control in Houston.

Expedition 16 Completes Spacewalk
International Space Station Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Dan Tani wound up a 7-hour, 16-minute spacewalk to outfit the Harmony node in its new position in front of the U.S laboratory Destiny at 12:26 p.m. EST Tuesday.

They completed scheduled tasks and did three get-ahead jobs in the spacewalk, which began about 50 minutes early.

After leaving the Quest airlock and setting up tools and equipment, Whitson removed, vented and stowed an ammonia jumper, part of a temporary cooling loop. Removing it allowed the hookup of the permanent ammonia cooling loop on a fluid tray on the station's exterior.

Tani meanwhile retrieved a bag of tools left outside on the station during the Nov. 9 spacewalk by Whitson and Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko. Then he removed two fluid caps to prepare for connection of that permanent cooling loop.

Next he moved on to reconfigure a circuit that was used for a Squib firing unit, a small pyrotechnical device that freed a radiator on the Port 1 truss for its deployment last Thursday.

Much of the spacewalk was devoted to work with the Loop A fluid tray. That 300-pound, 18.5-foot tray was moved from its temporary position on the S0 truss, at the center of the station's main truss, to the Destiny Lab, atop the starboard avionics tray.

Tani joined Whitson at S0. They released the fluid tray and then moved it to Harmony. They used a kind of relay technique, one moving ahead and attaching tethers to be ready to receive the tray, then the other moving farther forward to take the next handoff.

Once they reached the installation point they bolted down the tray, then hooked up its six fluid line connections, two at S0, two at the tray and two in between.

Tani moved to his final task, on the port side of Harmony. There he mated 11 avionics lines. Whitson, meanwhile, configured heater cables, then mated electrical umbilicals by hooking up four electrical harnesses linking Pressurized Mating Adapter-2 at the outboard end of Harmony to station power.

As the spacewalk wound down, Tani completed the first get-ahead task, connecting five starboard avionics umbilicals to Harmony. He then joined Whitson for two other get-ahead jobs, connection of redundant umbilicals to PMA-2. Subsequently, both worked on connection of Station to Shuttle Power Transfer System cables to PMA-2.

The two spacewalkers did the standard cleanup process, then entered the airlock. The beginning of its repressurization marked the official end of the spacewalk. In the airlock, they did precautionary decontamination procedures after working around ammonia lines.

Mozilla Rolls Out Firefox 3.0 Beta

Mozilla Corp. late Monday released the first beta of Firefox 3.0, but continued to warn most users to stick with production Version 2.0.

We do not recommend that anyone other than developers and testers download the Firefox 3 Beta 1 milestone release," Mike Beltzner, Mozilla's interface designer, said in a note posted to the company's development center. "It is intended for testing purposes only."

But while the official word was for users to stand clear, Beltzner's personal recommendation was a lot less intimidating. "It's a preview release, so use with caution and don't expect your add-ons to work without some magic; but between you and me, I've been running on this 'developer preview' for at least three months, and have never looked back," he said in a post to his own blog.

Beltzner also touted several of the improvements in Firefox 3.0, including new security features and tools, a redesign of the bookmarking and browser history and numerous back-end platform enhancements, but he said they all require more testing and user feedback. The company has posted a more complete list of new features in the release notes it added to its Web site Monday.

On the security side, Firefox 3.0 adds malware check, a phishing filter-like feature that warns users attempting to reach a URL blacklisted for suspected malicious code hosting; one-click site information that displays site ownership; fixes for vulnerabilities in plug-in updating; and integration with antivirus software and Windows Vista's parental control settings.

Mozilla also claimed that it has fixed more than 300 individual memory leaks and added a new cycle collector to eliminate other memory issues. Firefox has a reputation for leaking memory consuming large quantities the longer it's left running, and ultimate slowing down its host computer although some of its developers have contested the claims, and even pegged the problem as one of perception.

Most current Firefox plug-ins Mozilla calls them extensions will not work with Firefox 3.0, a stumbling block for some who might otherwise want to test the preview. "Users of the latest released version of Firefox should not expect their add-ons to work properly with this beta," the beta's release notes read.

Firefox 3.0 Beta 1 can be downloaded for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux in 21 language versions from Mozilla's site.

Mozilla has not set a deadline for delivering the final edition, and apparently does not intend to. "The final version of Firefox 3 will be released when we qualify the product as fully ready for our users," its release notes said. By the timeline it set for itself midyear, Mozilla is more than three months behind schedule, in part because it extended the alpha-testing stage to encompass eight versions.

This summer, Mozilla pegged Beta 1's release for late July with a second beta in September, both to precede a final release by the end of the year. The company is now shooting to deliver a second beta before the end of the year, with more betas possible before producing one or more release candidates in a run-up to final code.

Paglo launches ‘Google for IT’
Filed under: Software News, Search Engine News, Technology News

Paglo has launched a public public beta of a search engine designed to help IT administrators manage their networks.

The search engine, which was launched today, allows users to easily find information about the network - how many iPhones are being used, for example, or whether a machine’s security is up to date.

It helps to manage complex networks which have grown over time to include a variety of devices and technologies.

IT administrators have traditionally used cataloguing sytems to monitor IT networks, but these can be unwieldy because they keep information locked up. Paglo, on the other hand, makes information about IT environments immediately accessible via a simple search.

The system uses Paglo Crawler, an open-source discovery spider which gathers information from devices and software. Plug-ins are available to extend the software to include additional data sources.

The Paglo Dashboard displays results from saved queries and separate dashboards can be created for different operations.

The Paglo search engine is free to download. The company will gain its revenues through planned value-added products, which will be available for a fee.

The new Amazon Kindle e-reader, unveiled E-Paper

E Ink is making color and video versions of its e-paper, but commercial products are a few years off.
The new Amazon Kindle e-reader, unveiled yesterday, is the latest in a line of ever-improving black-and-white e-paper displays that don't use much power and are bright even in daylight; they more closely reproduce conventional paper and ink than do backlit displays. But bigger technology leaps are imminent. E-paper pioneer E Ink--the company whose technology underpins the Amazon gadget's display--is prototyping versions of the electronic ink that are bright enough to support filters for vivid color displays, and that have a fast-enough refresh rate to render video.

Add it all up, and it represents an emerging trifecta of color, video, and flexibility set to transform a display technology once seen as suited only for rigid black-and-white e-readers like the Kindle and the Sony Reader, and other niche applications like train-station schedule displays that don't need to change quickly. "This latest thing they've done with the video is a key milestone in the history of e-paper technology development," says Gregory Raupp, director of the Flexible Display Center at Arizona State University. "Until this point, you have been limited to static image applications."

E Ink's basic technology uses a layer of microcapsules filled with flecks of submicrometer black and white pigment chips in a clear liquid. The white chips can be positively charged, the black chips negatively charged. Above this layer is a transparent electrode; at the base is another electrode. A positive charge on the bottom electrode pushes the white chips to the surface, making the screen white. A negative charge pushes the black chips up, rendering words and images.

But the basic technology only produces a black-and-white image. So, E Ink has been refining the ingredients, the electronics, and the mechanics of that process. For example, in recent months the company has developed ultrabright inks that reflect 47 percent of ambient light--a significant improvement over the 35 to 40 percent in existing E Ink black-and-white displays. Higher reflectivity versions should go into commercial products, such as the Sony Reader, in the next year or so.

This higher brightness makes color displays possible. E Ink uses transparent red, green, or blue filters affixed above the picture elements. In essence, software controls groups of microcapsules sitting below filters of particular hues, and it only turns the microcapsules white when those hues are sought. The E Ink filters are custom-made by a partner, Toppan Printing of Tokyo, to work well with the specific shades, brightness, and reflectivity of the E Ink technology. The first color experimentation began several years ago, but it has been steadily improving in brightness and contrast, says Michael McCreary, E Ink's vice president of research and advanced development. He offered no estimate for a commercialization date.

In another set of advances, tweaks to the E Ink particles and their polymer coatings, and to the chemistry of solution inside the microcapsules, have helped improve the speed at which the particles can move. McCreary says that for years, conventional wisdom held that E Ink technology could never be made video ready, because particles had to be moved through a liquid. But E Ink has done it, thanks to polymer particle coatings and "special stuff in the clear liquid," McCreary says.

In the company's Cambridge, MA, headquarters, two prototypes show the payoff. One is an e-reader display in bright, vivid color. Touch a button, and an image of a bunch of flowers appears; bring the display outside, and it shines brighter because it is reflecting ambient light. (As with black-and-white e-paper, until a user changes that image, the unit consumes virtually no power.) The other prototype, a six-inch display hooked up to a computer, showed a video clip from the animated movie Cars. It was a bit grainy but was switching frames 30 times per second. Two years ago, the switching time in products with E Ink technology was just one frame per second.

While the video version is still several years from market, "this was a landmark milestone in the history of e-paper," says Russ Wilcox, E Ink's CEO. Invoking the long-held dream for e-paper--that it can be an electronic replacement for real newsprint--he added, "You can imagine a USA Today weather chart where clouds are actually moving."

E Ink is working with several leading display makers to develop flexible transistors that will create E Ink and other color displays that are bendable and even rollable. LG Philips recently announced the world's first 14.1-inch flexible color e-paper display using E Ink technology. The color version uses a substrate that arranges thin-film transistors on metal foil rather than on glass. And last month, Samsung used E Ink technology to set a new world record in terms of the resolution of a large flexible color display. (Samsung's 14.3-inch screen has a 1,500-by-2,120-pixel resolution.) No commercialization date has been announced for these technologies.

Other companies are also making advances in e-paper. One of them, San Diego's Qualcomm MEMS Technologies, has developed a MEMS-based version that can produce video-ready refresh rates and will appear in monochrome and bicolor displays in the next year or so. (See "E-Paper Displays Video.") But E Ink is generally acknowledged to have the best technology in terms of simulating the look of paper, says Raupp, whose research lab has partnerships with 16 display makers, including both E Ink and Qualcomm. "Put the two side by side--which one looks like paper? There would be no contest," Raupp says of E Ink and Qualcomm. The move into video and color "expands the application space" and makes E Ink a leading candidate to become a fixture in flexible displays, he adds.

Human Embryonic Stem Cells

Forget all the debate about vexing embryonic ethics for a second. The breakthroughs in stem cell research announced Tuesday are a boon for drug researchers.

Executives at Pfizer (nyse: PFE - news - people ), AstraZeneca (nyse: AZN - news - people ) and Genentech (nyse: DNA - news - people ) should be doing back flips.

The new approaches for creating , circumvent the need to destroy embryos or obtain eggs from women. This opens the door to new approaches for inventing and testing new medicines, just as the number of new drugs reaching the market is at the nadir of a multi-year slump.

The new stem cell work was done by researchers at the University of Wisconsin and Kyoto University in Japan

Scientists have imbued ordinary human skin cells with the versatile qualities of embryonic stem cells -- what some doctors call a scientific breakthrough that could change the tone of the ongoing stem cell research debate.

The advance was published in two independent studies reported in the journals Cell and Science on Tuesday
The findings on the technique, known as "direct reprogramming," follow a study published last week in the journal Nature that reported the extraction of stem cells from cloned monkey embryos, which contained genetic material from adult monkey skin cells. And they come five months after a similar feat was accomplished in mice.

The technique has big implications for human stem cell research, as it sidesteps many of the ethical and political pitfalls that have dogged the field for years.

Now that the research has been done in human cells, the excitement in the stem cell community is mounting. And while it may not be the perfect solution, many say it's a major advance.

"The discovery that it is possible to reprogram adult human cells to pluripotency using a simple combination of genes is an important breakthrough," said Sean Morrison, director of the stem cell biology research center at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

"It represents a phenomenal breakthrough, more important than cloning … or the discovery of human embryonic stem cells," said Dr. Markus Grompe, director of the Oregon Stem Cell Center in Portland. "This is a Nobel Prize worthy advance."

Researchers led by Shinya Yamanaka at the Kyoto University in Kyoto, Japan, generated cells called "induced pluripotent stem cells" by inducing four different genes to hitch a ride into human skin cells within specially designed viruses. These genes incorporated themselves into the skin cells, transforming them.

The new cells displayed several characteristics of embryonic stem cells, including the ability to grow into nerve and heart cells.

Similar cells were generated from human skin cells by a team led by Dr. James Thompson at University of Wisconsin in Madison. Both of these teams used an approach that generated embryonic stem cell-like cells without using an embryo.

"This research seems to be very well done, and follows on the heels of similar work by the Yamanaka laboratory in mouse cells that was independently confirmed by other laboratories," Morrison said.

Easing the Moral Dilemma?
The prospect of eliminating the controversial use of an embryo as a middle step to generate embryonic stem cell-like cells could well represent a holy grail of sorts to many in the scientific community whose research has been limited thus far.

"It is possible to generate human pluripotent stem cells by direct reprogramming, with good efficiency and without creating -- in other words, cloning -- or destroying human embryos," Grompe said. He added that the technique could also solve the problems associated with using hard-to-obtain eggs surgically harvested from women.

In a separate editorial published in Science, R. Alta Charo, a University of Wisconsin at Madison professor of law and bioethics, noted that this research could greatly affect the political and social controversy surrounding embryonic stem cells.

"This is a method for creating a stem cell line without ever having to work through, at any stage, an entity that is a viable embryo," Charo commented in the editorial. "Therefore, you manage to avoid many of those debates with the right-to life community."

On a political level, Congress in the past has attempted to overturn Bush administration policies on embryonic stem cell research and expand funding on embryonic stem cell lines.

"It's going to fuel those who call for preferential federal funding only for nonembryonic stem cell research, and it will certainly complicate any efforts to expand funding for embryonic stem cell research at the federal level," noted Charo in the editorial.

The Catch
But there are other hurdles that stand between this advance and therapeutic use. Most significantly, researchers report an increased risk of cancer associated with stem cells derived through this approach. One reason for this increased risk seems to be the use of viruses as conduits to carry proteins into cells.

Thus, one of the most vaunted potential uses for stem cells -- the creation of new replacement tissues to treat conditions such as diabetes, Parkinson's and spinal cord injury -- is still beyond the horizon.

"The risk for cancer -- a feature common to all pluripotent stem cells -- is a major problem and this risk may be higher in these cells than in embryo-derived stem cells because the viral genes used for reprogramming remain present in the cell," Grompe said.

Regardless, this approach holds great promise for further research.

"Pluripotent stem cells can be used to study developmental biology in a dish -- i.e., to observe how human cells, organs and tissues form," Grompe said. "The insights obtained from such studies are likely to lead to the development of new drugs and strategies which can benefit human health."

This approach holds potential for generating stem cells from specific individuals and specific diseases like Parkinson's disease, Type 1 diabetes and leukemia, to name a few.

"Taking a human disease stem cell and showing that it makes a disease in a dish -- that says to the whole human race that now we'll be able to study disease in a dish and not wait for the progression of the disease in patients," said Dr. Doug Melton, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute in Boston.

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