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Friday, January 18, 2008

Windows Server Update Service will include an automatic upgrade to Internet Explorer 7.

Microsoft warns of IE7 automatic update
IT managers given guidelines to stick with IE6
Microsoft is reminding IT managers that the scheduled 12 February rollout of Windows Server Update Service will include an automatic upgrade to Internet Explorer 7.

Companies wishing to remain with IE6 have been offered guidelines explaining how to prevent the automated update taking effect.

If the update service is configured automatically to approve Update Rollups, IE7 will be downloaded and installed to workers' PCs when the release becomes available.

IT administrators will need to disable the auto-approval rule before the deadline to prevent the download.

Microsoft claimed that the move was prompted by security concerns.

Many companies will choose to remain with IE6 as some web-based applications experience issues running with IE7.


Microsoft fixes 11 flaws in latest update
Microsoft has plugged 11 security vulnerabilities as part of release.

Five of the vulnerabilities carry a severity rating of 'critical', five are labelled 'important' and one is labelled 'moderate'.

The 'critical' vulnerabilities affect Excel 2000, Windows Server 2000 and versions 1.0, 1.1 and 2.0 of the .Net framework. An attacker could use each vulnerability to remotely execute malicious code on a target system.

A remote code execution vulnerability was also found in Office Publisher 2007. An attacker could use a specially crafted '.pub' file to take control of the target system with the privileges of the current user.

The vulnerability is classified as 'important' rather than 'critical' because the attacker would have to convince the user to manually launch the malicious file.

None of the 'critical' vulnerabilities affects Windows Vista, but the 'moderate' vulnerability lies within the firewall security software in the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Vista.

If exploited, an attacker could access the network interface and view sensitive user information.

Oliver Friedrichs, director of emerging technologies at Symantec Security Response, warned that, while the firewall vulnerability is not severe, it is still significant.

The flaw indicates that Vista's new networking components, or network stack, are not bullet-proof.

"A network stack can take decades of heavy scrutiny in order to become battle hardened," Friedrichs said in an emailed statement.

"As an operating system's first line of defence, its quality is directly related to its ability to withstand attack."

Users can download the monthly update through Windows Update or from Microsoft's TechNet website.

Microsoft bundles its patches in security bulletins, each covering one application or software component. July's security update contained six bulletins.

the world's smallest trophy, created by Cornell nanotechnology specialists

Physicists Create World's Tiniest Trophy, To Be Awarded On Super Bowl Sunday

While the world's biggest football game is under way, someone will be awarded the world's smallest trophy, created by Cornell nanotechnology specialists.

The "Nano Bowl" contest, sponsored by PhysicsCentral -- an educational arm of the American Physical Society -- challenges entrants to create short videos explaining some aspect of the physics of football. The winner, to be announced on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 3, will receive a trophy made at the Cornell NanoScale Facility (CNF). The trophy is built around a silicon chip on which, like Russian nesting dolls, football fields nest inside one another, the largest about 12 millimeters long and the smallest only 2 microns (millionths of a meter) long. The winner also will receive $1,000 in normal-sized cash, and the video will be featured on the Physics Central Web site.

The chip was designed and fabricated by Philip Waggoner and Benjamin Cipriany, Cornell applied and engineering physics graduate students working in the lab of Harold Craighead, the Charles W. Lake Jr. Professor of Engineering -- the same lab that created the famous nanoguitar. Waggoner and Cipriany were helped by Rob Ilic, a research associate at CNF.

Under an ordinary microscope, the surface of the fingernail-sized chip displays an image of a football field and the words "Physics Central Nano Bowl Champion 2008." In the center of the field, on part of a stylized football helmet, is a tiny rectangle 120 microns long. An electron microscope would reveal that this is another football field, and in its center is yet another, only 2.4 microns long. The smallest image is drawn in lines only 59 nanometers (billionths of a meter) wide, something that can only be done with the electron-beam lithography capability of CNF.

The usual process for making chips, called photolithography, can't make features smaller than the wavelength of light. Electron-beam lithography uses a tightly focused beam of electrons guided by a computer to erode away parts of a protective coating on a silicon surface, after which the exposed areas are etched away.

"I thought of nested fields because it's pointless to give someone a trophy they can't see unless they have an electron microscope in their garage," Waggoner said.

When not making nanotrophies, Waggoner is developing nanoscale sensors to identify proteins for such medical testing as detecting the PSA protein marker for prostate cancer; and Cipriany builds nanofluidic channels narrow enough to make DNA molecules line up in single file to be counted and identified.

To enter the contest, upload an original video about the physics of football to YouTube with the tag "nanobowl" by Jan. 15. The Society of Physics Students and the American Association of Physics Teachers are promoting the contest with the hope that students will be inspired to create videos, and maybe learn some physics in the process.

Internet television network Revision3 is launching The Digg Reel, a new weekly show Videos Coming to Internet TV Network

Internet television network Revision3 is launching The Digg Reel, a new weekly show that will highlight the most popular videos submitted to
Internet television network Revision3 is launching The Digg Reel, a new weekly show that will highlight the most popular videos submitted to

The Wednesday show will include 10 to 15 minutes of clips from the most popular videos on Digg that week as voted by the users of the popular news ranking site. In addition to highlighting the videos, the show will include the best comments from the Digg online community, said Jim Louderback, CEO of Revision3 Corp.

Viewers will also go behind the scenes to meet the creators of the videos to find out how, when, where and why the video was made.

"There is so much user-generated and other video on the Web and so much of it is not very good," Louderback said. "It's great to have the community select it. In 15 minutes, you're going to be able to be completely updated on all the top videos each week that the Internet is buzzing about.

Jay Adelson, CEO of Digg Inc. and a founder of Revision3, along with Digg founder Kevin Rose, said that the popularity of videos on Digg shows how a large social content community can really help users find the best video content available.

"Revision3 will take it to the next level by giving viewers something they can't get anywhere else -- short clips from those videos, comments from our community and a behind-the-scenes perspective," Adelson said in a statement.

Revision3, which was created in 2005, served up more than 25 million shows and more than 103 million clips in 2007 through its Web site, the company announced early this month. In addition, it signed on advertisers like Sony, Virgin, Microsoft, Warner Bros., GoDaddy, Netflix and Intel last year, the company said.

Digg Reel Features Most Dugg Videos

Digg, the social community that performs the valuable service of spoon-feeding us popular stuff to read and watch, is perhaps a little too big. Who has time to watch all the offbeat videos with the highest number of Diggs? OK, fine, we all do--as long as we don't tell the boss why we skipped that meeting. But there must be a better way...

Revision3--the Internet video programming network founded not-so-coincidentally by the folks behind Digg--has a solution. Today it launched its latest online show, The Digg Reel, a weekly 15-minute showcase of clips snatched from the highest-rated videos on Digg that week. It's like The Daily Soup, but for Internet video instead of talk shows and reality TV.

Revision3 CEO Jim Louderback--PC Magazine's former editor-in-chief and current contributor/columnist--described the show's approach best: "There's so much crap out there, it's great to have the Digg community filter out the best, but no one can watch it all." In theory, now you can. (And the language used is NSFW all the time.)

Host Jessica Corbin--who also co-hosts Revision3's Tekzilla with another former PC Mag/DL.TV colleague, Patrick Norton--won't show just the oddball stuff, like the rabbit that can open envelopes featured in the opening episode. She'll also show clips on serious topics, such as politics and world events, according to Revision3's press release.

But I expect most visitors will check Digg Reel to get a video digest of people being tazed by a bro or getting hit in the junk. It can't just be me.

Lights A Possible Platform For Superhuman Vision

Contact Lenses With Circuits, Lights A Possible Platform For Superhuman Vision

Movie characters from the Terminator to the Bionic Woman use bionic eyes to zoom in on far-off scenes, have useful facts pop into their field of view, or create virtual crosshairs. Off the screen, virtual displays have been proposed for more practical purposes -- visual aids to help vision-impaired people, holographic driving control panels and even as a way to surf the Web on the go.

The device to make this happen may be familiar. Engineers at the University of Washington have for the first time used manufacturing techniques at microscopic scales to combine a flexible, biologically safe contact lens with an imprinted electronic circuit and lights.

"Looking through a completed lens, you would see what the display is generating superimposed on the world outside," said Babak Parviz, a UW assistant professor of electrical engineering. "This is a very small step toward that goal, but I think it's extremely promising." The results were presented today at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' international conference on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems by Harvey Ho, a former graduate student of Parviz's now working at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, Calif. Other co-authors are Ehsan Saeedi and Samuel Kim in the UW's electrical engineering department and Tueng Shen in the UW Medical Center's ophthalmology department.

There are many possible uses for virtual displays. Drivers or pilots could see a vehicle's speed projected onto the windshield. Video-game companies could use the contact lenses to completely immerse players in a virtual world without restricting their range of motion. And for communications, people on the go could surf the Internet on a midair virtual display screen that only they would be able to see.

"People may find all sorts of applications for it that we have not thought about. Our goal is to demonstrate the basic technology and make sure it works and that it's safe," said Parviz, who heads a multi-disciplinary UW group that is developing electronics for contact lenses.

The prototype device contains an electric circuit as well as red light-emitting diodes for a display, though it does not yet light up. The lenses were tested on rabbits for up to 20 minutes and the animals showed no adverse effects.

Ideally, installing or removing the bionic eye would be as easy as popping a contact lens in or out, and once installed the wearer would barely know the gadget was there, Parviz said.

Building the lenses was a challenge because materials that are safe for use in the body, such as the flexible organic materials used in contact lenses, are delicate. Manufacturing electrical circuits, however, involves inorganic materials, scorching temperatures and toxic chemicals. Researchers built the circuits from layers of metal only a few nanometers thick, about one thousandth the width of a human hair, and constructed light-emitting diodes one third of a millimeter across.

They then sprinkled the grayish powder of electrical components onto a sheet of flexible plastic. The shape of each tiny component dictates which piece it can attach to, a microfabrication technique known as self-assembly. Capillary forces -- the same type of forces that make water move up a plant's roots, and that cause the edge of a glass of water to curve upward -- pull the pieces into position.

The prototype contact lens does not correct the wearer's vision, but the technique could be used on a corrective lens, Parviz said. And all the gadgetry won't obstruct a person's view.

"There is a large area outside of the transparent part of the eye that we can use for placing instrumentation," Parviz said. Future improvements will add wireless communication to and from the lens. The researchers hope to power the whole system using a combination of radio-frequency power and solar cells placed on the lens, Parviz said.

A full-fledged display won't be available for a while, but a version that has a basic display with just a few pixels could be operational "fairly quickly," according to Parviz.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and a Technology Gap Innovation Fund from the University of Washington.

Technology Makes 'Super' Human Vision Possible
Adapting technology originally developed by astronomers to obtain better images of the heavens, a University of Rochester scientist has developed an optical system that has given research subjects an unprecedented quality of eyesight. The research dramatically improves the sight even of people who have 20/20 vision. Vision scientist David Williams presented his work this week at the summer meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Rochester, N.Y.

While the work is still in a research stage, eye-care giant Bausch & Lomb has licensed the technology and is working with University researchers to commercialize it.

"For years David has been way out in front exploring how we could enhance people's vision beyond what is normally thought of as perfect vision," says Scott MacRae, one of the world's leading cornea specialists and a widely recognized pioneer in refractive surgery. MacRae is moving to the University's Medical Center this month to join Williams at the newly established Alliance for Vision Excellence, a new collaboration between the University and Bausch & Lomb that is dedicated to improving technology to correct vision-impairing anomalies of the eye.

"In the old days," says MacRae, "we were just trying to correct people's vision problems and treat disease. This new research takes what we consider normal vision and enhances it. This is truly revolutionary," says MacRae, who is writing a book on such research, which he calls "the quest for super vision." Just last month at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, researchers from several laboratories and companies devoted a whole symposium to the topic of enhanced vision.

Williams uses technology known as adaptive optics, which was originally developed by astronomers to sharpen images from telescopes by correcting for aberrations in the atmosphere. Adaptive optics have been implemented on several telescopes, including the giant Keck Telescope in Hawaii, resulting in remarkably crisp images. Williams, who is Allyn Professor of Medical Optics and director of the University's Center for Visual Science, has led a decade-long effort to apply the technology to improve ordinary human vision.

His researchers direct a harmless, highly focused spot of light into the eye of a research subject and measure the light that is reflected outward. That light provides a glimpse or snapshot of the topography of the eye in exquisite detail. The light is broken up into 217 laser beams that are sent into a sophisticated device known as a wavefront sensor. The sensor analyzes deviations in each beam's path, revealing tiny imperfections or aberrations that exist in the person's cornea and lens.

The system detects visual distortions so subtle that physicians didn't even know they existed until Williams' laboratory invented the system. Today a visit to the eye doctor focuses mainly on two types of aberration: astigmatism and defocus. Most prescriptions are intended to correct for these two defects. Williams' system can measure up to 65 different aberrations.

These precise measurements are sent to a sensitive "deformable" mirror -- a mirror that can bend and customize its shape according to the measurements of a person's eye. Such flexible mirrors form the heart of traditional adaptive-optics systems used in astronomy. The mirror in Williams' laboratory is a two-inch-wide device that bends as little as one or two micrometers (just one-fiftieth the width of a human hair) thanks to 37 tiny computer-controlled pistons. This subtle shaping, done in response to the customized measurements of a person's optical system, alters the light in such a way that it exactly counters the specific distortions in a person's eye.

In the laboratory, Williams' team has shown that correcting these imperfections can result in greatly improved vision. He has published this work in the Journal of the Optical Society of America.

"When you look through an adaptive optics device, the world looks crisper," Williams says. "In some people, the ability to pick up contrast, such as minute patterns of stripes, is increased by a factor of six. It allows for a level of vision correction that's just not available today.

"It's like needing glasses and getting them for the first time. Everything suddenly looks sharper and clearer, no matter how good your eyes are normally. When you're using the adaptive optics system, you just say 'wow.' "

Williams is an expert on the circuitry of the human retina and the optics of the eye. After discovering some of the basic limits of the optical system of the human eye, he began exploring ways to improve ordinary human vision, eventually working closely with astronomers and other adaptive-optics experts. The research is now funded by the National Science Foundation Center for Adaptive Optics (based at the University of California, Santa Cruz), the National Eye Institute, and Bausch & Lomb.

Williams has found that the visual acuity of the human eye can be somewhere around 20/10. While adaptive optics may someday help patients approach that level, he says that acuity isn't the most noticeable improvement. Adaptive optics improves eyesight most under low-light conditions, such as night-time driving. MacRae, the laser surgery expert, estimates that a driver sharing the road with a bicyclist at dusk could see the bicyclist from roughly twice as far away if he or she were equipped with adaptive optics correction.

In the past, Williams has used the system to look into the eye. In a series of papers in such journals as Nature, Williams' team has published the best images ever obtained of the living human retina. Last year the team was able to differentiate the three types of cones in the living human retina. Detailed information of the eye is helpful to ophthalmologists monitoring patients with diseases like age-related macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy.

While the current set-up is too bulky to bring the experience of enhanced vision or super vision to many patients, MacRae is confident that that day is not too far off.

"Someday you may no longer have to sit and answer patiently when you're asked repeatedly whether lens No. 1 or lens No. 2 is better," MacRae says. "Someday you may just look into a wavefront sensor as David has developed, and in one quick second we'll have all the information needed to improve someone's vision dramatically."

2008's Hottest New Vehicles by Automakers company

Lincoln MKS

Bracing for a tough 2008, automakers are trying to make the most of their best new products, which is why they're unveiling more than 50 new production-ready models and concept vehicles at the Detroit North American International Auto Show, opening Jan. 19.

The 2008 Detroit auto show, the nation's largest and most significant, will have a little bit of everything: "green" cars, rubber-burning super-cars, workhorse pickup trucks and innovative family haulers. Technology-laden concept vehicles like the Cadillac Provoq offer a glimpse of the future, including many that are powered by fuel other than gasoline.

In another sign of what's to come, five Chinese automakers--the most ever--will have cars on display in Detroit, hoping to gain valuable insight into the minds of United States consumers even if the Chinese cars won't be sold here for years.

Futuristic cars are fun to see, but what about the vehicles that will be going on sale in the next 12 months?

Vroom! Vroom!
If it's power you crave, you're in luck. Gas might be above $3 a gallon, but that hasn't stopped automakers from rolling out some powerful new sports cars, including the Chevy Corvette ZR1 and Nissan's (nasdaq: NSANY - news - people ) GT-R. General Motors (nyse: GM - news - people ) says the ZR1 is the fastest and most powerful car it has ever produced, but new technology gives it a silky, smooth--not jarring--ride. Its new LS9 supercharged 6.2L V-8 engine kicks out 620 horsepower and has a top speed of 200 miles per hour. "Chevrolet's goal with the new ZR1 is to show what an American super-car can deliver, at a price that trumps exotics that cost two, three or four times as much," said Ed Peper, Chevrolet general manager.

The GT-R, known to many Americans only through videogames and movies, will be sold in the U.S. for the first time in June. It features a new, 480-hp, 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6 engine, and will start at around $70,000.

Mother Earth-Friendly Models
Cadillac hopes a new high-performance version of its highly acclaimed CTS sedan, the CTS-V, will boost Caddy's image among consumers who still aren't sold on the brand's comeback.

Lincoln is also making a comeback, based on the strength of new models, including the MKX crossover. Next up is the Lincoln MKS, its new glass-roofed flagship sedan. The MKS is the first Ford model to come with Ford's new EcoBoost system, a gasoline, turbo-charged, direct-injection engine. Ford figures smaller, turbo-charged engines are the way to make meaningful fuel-economy improvements across its entire fleet without sacrificing performance. The company says the new engine technology will deliver up to 20% better fuel economy, and 7% to 15% fewer emissions. EcoBoost will be offered on half a million Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles annually in North America within the next five years.

There are other ways to be green. GM's new two-mode hybrid system lets a monstrous Chevy Tahoe achieve the same 21 miles per gallon as a four-cylinder Toyota (nyse: TM - news - people ) Camry. The company will now sell a smaller Saturn Vue crossover with the same system. Clean-burning diesels are also making a big splash at the Detroit show. BMW is introducing diesel versions of its X5 sport-utility and its popular 3-series sedan. Mercedes, Volkswagen (other-otc: VLKAF - news - people ) and Audi also have diesels heading to the U.S. in the second half of the year.

Among luxury brands, Japanese makers are unusually quiet at this year's show--with nothing new from Lexus, Infiniti or Acura. BMW continues to broaden its portfolio with two highly anticipated new models, the entry-level 1-series, and the X6 "sports activity coupe." The 1-series, available in a coupe or convertible, slots in below BMW's mainstay 3-series and goes on sale in March.

BMW calls the X6 a segment-buster, combining the agility of a coupe with the versatility of an SUV. Scheduled to go on sale in the spring, it has five doors, four sculpted seats, a higher ride and loads of cargo space. Two engine choices--a 400-hp, 4.4-liter V8 or a 300-hp, 3.3-liter inline six-cylinder--give the X6 its zip, while BMW's new dynamic performance-control system improves agility by adding torque to either of the rear wheels when necessary. The X6 will be manufactured at BMW's Spartanburg, S.C., factory. Pricing has not been announced.

Pickup truck sales have softened in the past year, along with the economy and the housing market. But already cutthroat competition promises to intensify as Ford rolls out an array of its market-leading F-150 pickups and Chrysler readies a mean-looking new version of its Dodge Ram.

Nissan GT-R
This car might be the best-known car never sold in the U.S. Known to many Americans only through videogames and movies, the GT-R delivers 480 horsepower and 430 foot-pounds of torque from its new 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6 engine. Price: $69,850 for the base model; $71,900 for the premium version, which includes a Bose stereo, heated seats and side airbags.

Bugs Apple Fans

What Bugs Apple Fans
It was a moment that showed the two sides of Steve Jobs. It was the mid-1990s, before Jobs' triumphant return to the company he founded. Newton Munson rode in an elevator with Jobs and two of his employees at NeXT, the computer company Jobs founded after leaving Apple. Jobs was telling the pair off. Loudly.

Munson was going to speak up, but then he thought better of it. The feisty Jobs was giving their work his full attention, Munson realized. "That probably was a wonderful day for them," says Munson, now director of information technology and networking services at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and one of thousands of Apple (nasdaq: AAPL - news - people ) fans who gathered this week at the MacWorld Expo in San Francisco.

If there's one quality that sets Apple apart from other companies, it's the passion its users have for its products. "There's almost a personal connection with the computer," observes Herzl Goldin, a white-bearded man who has been an Apple user for nearly three decades. That passion starts at the top, with Jobs.

But while Apple users will line up to buy Apple's latest and greatest--and will eagerly defend the Mac from slights in the press--they aren't sheep. Wade in among the Apple fans gathered at the MacWorld Expo in San Francisco this week and you'll find there are things that bug even the most ardent fans about Apple.

You can put Steve Jobs at the top of the list. Sure, Jobs deserves a spot in the technology hall of fame. And over the past 10 years, Apple shares are up 34-fold. You can't do that unless you're doing a whole lot right. And Apple users love Jobs for it.

Jobs, however, can't love them all back, at least not the way they want. When blogger Violet Blue--who has pictures of herself posing with her Apple laptop on her Web site--approached Jobs on the floor of the MacWorld Expo to ask for a photo, lightly touching his arm, Jobs rebuffed her. "He told me curtly, flatly that I was rude. And turned his back to me. The small circle of people around him sniggered," Blue wrote on her blog, Tiny Nibbles. "That's the first time I've ever "fangirled" anyone. And it'll be my last."

A more serious concern: When Jobs' attention wanders, will the products they love suffer? Munson, for example, is concerned that Apple's server and hard-core desktop products got short-shrift during Jobs' keynote. "If Steve Jobs isn't interested in it, it might not survive," Munson says. "We want to make sure they keep making 'real' computers."

Jobs' and Apple's obsession with beautiful design also leads to other worries. Dive into the crowd at MacWorld gathered around Apple's latest product, the MacBook Air, and they'll quickly point out what could be the wafer-thin machines biggest flaw: Users can't swap in fresh batteries. (See: " Into Thin (MacBook) Air") That could be a deal-breaker for road warriors looking for a lightweight notebook.

It's a recurring problem in many Apple designs. You can't easily replace the batteries in Apple's iPhone and iPods. Most users will need expert help to get it done. By contrast, laptops and smart phones built by Apple's competitors allow users to easily pop in a new battery. Of course, they're not as pretty.

Another nit, however, is wholly beyond Apple's control: Microsoft (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people ). It's the downside of one of Apple's most brilliant moves, namely switching to Intel (nasdaq: INTC - news - people ) microprocessors. The switch makes it possible to seamlessly run Windows applications on Apple's machines, thanks to software from Parallels and VMWare.

However, users who decide to ditch Windows for Apple quickly find that they can't escape the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant. If they want to run their Windows applications they've still got to have a copy of Windows somewhere on their Mac--and that means plunking down $200 and up for an edition of Windows Vista.

Of course, the biggest thing bugging Apple fans--at least those who own the company's stock--might be the performance of its shares this year. After the iPhone was unveiled a year ago, nothing Apple could do this year could top the hype the company kicked off with the hot-selling gadget. As a result, Apple's shares are down nearly 6% this year, as the stock market punishes fast-growing technology companies.

Long-term Apple shareholders will just have to console themselves with a dip in the pool or a drive in the car they bought after (hopefully) cashing out some of their gains.


The iTouch Woes: Long Time Apple Fans Are Not Surprised
The iTouch debuted a few weeks ago and Apple fans, old, new, and the curious, all wanted to get their hands on the new hot device. We thought we had to wait a few weeks after the announcement, but Apple surprised us with stocking a few stores with a few units which quickly sold out.

Almost immediately the negative reports started flooding in, one of the most humorous being the identity crisis. It seems that Apple simply copied the code from the iPhone and loaded it into the iTouch without any modifications.

Some users received units that didn’t even have OSX installed on them. This further supported the iPhone code being used in the iTouch, as there were hints that bluetooth was turned off in the unit, though it contained no bluetooth parts.

Then reports and pictures surfaced arguing that the iTouch’s screen had several problems, with one being the inability to display dark colors.

To top it off, as the world was shouting “Yes, an iPhone without the phone”, Jobs and Co were busy removing features such as the ability to add calendar appointments. Features like this were favored by the masses, as when coupled with the iTunes wi-fi store, your iTouch could operate without the need for computer connection.

As the internets went wild over these issues, I myself thought “So what?”

You see, I have been using Apple products for about 2 years or so now, and I have been witness to some pretty comical product launches from Apple. I have to give them credit for the iPhone launch though. The only thing jacked up about the iPhone was AT&T.

iMacs, macbooks, Macbook Pros, and whatever else you can think of, all shipped with some sort of issue or “flaw” within that first line of units. The most famous being the heat issues in the new Intel chip packed “laptop” that just happened to burn your lap if you used it as it was meant to be used.

With that in mind, most long time Apple users don’t rush to the front lines when a new product is released. Most have learned the hard way as well. I got a 1st product line Macbook, and though I love it to death, prior to the firmware update, I was unable to use it anywhere else but on a desk or flat surface. Apple fixed it, just as they have now fixed the iTouch issues. As usual, they have it down to the exact serial # of the last units affected by the current issues. Serial #’s 9c738 and after all will have revised iTouch units, thus having avoided any of the agony involved with spending $400 on a unit that shipped without the software installed.

Sure it is Apple’s fault, but you have to keep in mind that they do most of the designing and software for all of the products that they produce, leaving a lot of room for little errors like color performance on their best iPod to date.

Space Station Modules by UK Scientists

Space Station Modules Proposed by UK Scientists

Two habitation modules emblazoned with the United Kingdom's Union Jack could launch to the International Space Station (ISS) by 2011 under a new plan devised by British scientists and engineers.

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The proposal — not yet official with the ISS partnership — would not only improve living conditions on board the space station, but would also allow the United Kingdom to join other nations that have a foothold in space.

"I don't think there's an excuse for us not to be engaged in manned launches," said Mark Hempsell, aeronautical engineer at the University of Bristol and lead author on the proposal published in Spaceflight magazine.

The proposed Habitat Extension Module (HEM) would consist of two modules attached to the ISS Node 3 segment, a hub-like connecting module slated for a 2010 launch. The British addition would provide additional room and equipment for a permanent space station crew of six, as opposed to the current crew of three. The station is scheduled to shift to six-person crews in 2009, NASA officials have said.

Because NASA plans to retire the space shuttle by 2010, the HEM modules would launch on a Russian-built Soyuz-Fregat rocket in 2011 at the earliest. Once in orbit, the modules would use their own propulsion system to reach ISS.

Although ISS has plenty of experimental space for conducting scientific research, earlier plans for expanded living space were scrapped. The HEM modules would resurrect those facilities and provide enhanced protection for astronauts against space radiation.

Each module is a cylinder 12.5 feet (3.8 meters) in diameter and 18.7 feet (5.7 meters) long. The two modules would add 3,531.5 cubic feet (100 cubic meters) of living space, doubling the room provided by Node 3. They would include a communal area and six crew rooms with a radiation protection equivalent to 20.5 pounds of lead per square foot (100 kilograms of lead per square meter).

The modules would also deliver about three tons of supplies and experiments when they arrive to help keep the space station running.

"It's doing two things," Hempsell told "Britain would make a contribution while also delivering a load of logistics equipment, and paying for the running costs and supplies."

That would cost the United Kingdom approximately $1 billion (530 million British pounds) to build, launch, and run the HEM modules until 2015, when the current operating life for ISS ends. The British Interplanetary Society supports the proposal, but the government has yet to seriously latch on.

"The British government keeps saying it's aware, but it's not actually saying it's going to do anything about it," Hempsell said.

An alternative proposal would simply use the Russian "astronaut tourist route" to launch British astronauts and some experiments into space, at the cost of just $31 million (16 million British pounds). However, Hempsell noted he was much more "enamored" of the bolder approach.

The United Kingdom currently makes no contribution to ISS and is not involved in the European Space Agency's activities on space station. For instance, the British opted out of contributing to the European Columbus module that is scheduled to launch with space shuttle Atlantis in February.

The British flag is currently displayed on the ISS Destiny module only because the nation signed the Space Station Agreement. Hempsell wants to see the United Kingdom take a more active role that would allow its scientists to participate in space-based research.

Current ISS participants such as the United States seem cautiously open to a serious British effort.

"If the British National Space Center decided it was something they wanted to do, NASA would look at the feasibility in terms of power, crew size, and propulsion," said John Yembrick, a NASA spokesperson at the agency's Washington, D.C., headquarters.

"In general, we support all our national partners," Yembrick added.

For now, Hempsell and his peers hope the idea will spur British space efforts as a new space race heats up across the globe. On the question of whether to take action, "the answer 'nothing' is the wrong answer," Hempsell said.


Britain Proposes New International Space Station Modules

British scientists hope to improve living conditions on the International Space Station (ISS) by designing a new addition: the Habitation Extension Module (HEM). Although the plan is currently unofficial, it is hoped the proposal will get accepted and built for a 2011 launch. This would be a massive victory for UK space

NASA Targets February 7 for Atlantis Launch to Space Station

After two launch delays in December 2007 and weeks of testing and modifying an element of the external tank’s fuel sensor system, NASA has targeted February 7 for the launch of space shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station. Atlantis and its crew will deliver to the station the European Space Agency’s Columbus laboratory.

Nintendo tops video game (2007)

Nintendo tops video game sales in 2007

Fueled by the success of Nintendo Co.'s Wii and Microsoft's "Halo 3," more video games were sold in the U.S. in 2007 than in any other year, with retail sales hitting $17.94 billion, according to the NPD Group.

The market researcher said total video game sales grew 43 percent, up from $12.53 billion in 2006. In December, historically the industry's strongest month, Americans spent $4.82 billion on video games, up 28 percent from a year earlier and up 83 percent from $2.63 billion in November.

Video games sold well during the holidays even as jittery consumers were cutting back spending on clothes and other items.

Hardware sales jumped 54 percent to $7.04 billion in 2007, while software sales climbed 34 percent to $8.64 billion. In December, hardware sales rose 17 percent to $1.83 billion, and software sales grew 36 percent to $2.37 billion.

"I think the industry has become much more generally accepted as a mainstream form of entertainment over the last couple of years, and that sets it up well for future expansion," NPD analyst Anita Frazier said in an e-mail.

Much of this growing acceptance has been attributed to the Wii, groundbreaking when it launched in 2006 for its motion-sensitive controller that lets players mimic movements for bowling, tennis or sword-fighting.

Even so, the portable Nintendo DS was by far the year's best-selling gaming system with 8.5 million units sold, 2.5 million of them in December. In short supply all year, the Wii still sold 6.3 million units, 1.4 million of them last month.

Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime said the company expects to sell more Wiis this year than it did in 2007. To deal with the high demand, Nintendo raised Wii production twice since last April, the last time to 1.8 million units a month. Though the consoles are still selling out soon after they hit store shelves, Nintendo has not said it plans to boost production again.

The year's best-selling game was Microsoft Corp.'s blockbuster first-person shooter "Halo 3," which helped sell 4.6 million Xbox 360s in 2007, about 1.3 million of them in December.

Microsoft spokesman David Dennis said there have been shortages of the Xbox 360 at retailers across the U.S. The company, he added, is working on getting the consoles back on store shelves "as soon as possible."

Sony's PlayStation 3 was the only gaming system that didn't sell more than a million units in December. Nonetheless, sales have jumped since Sony slashed the console's price by $100 and launched a low-end model last fall. There were 797,600 PS3s sold during the month, and 2.6 million in 2007.

Frazier said Activision Inc.'s "Guitar Hero" games remain the industry's best-selling franchise. People spent more than $820 million on "Guitar Hero" games for various consoles in 2007.

Dennis and Fils-Aime said the U.S. economic slowdown had not hurt video games, as the industry has generally been insulated from broader downturns.

"Gaming is about having fun, spending time with friends — you want to do it whether the economy is good or bad," Dennis said.


Top Gun (video game)
The popularity of the 1986 film Top Gun resulted in a number of licensed video games that have been released since the film's theatrical debut:

Top Gun was released in 1987 for the PC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) (with an equivalent version for Nintendo Vs. Series arcade cabinets). The Commodore and Spectrum versions were developed by Ocean while Thunder Mountain handled the PC version of the game. Konami developed the Nintendo versions.

The NES game
Piloting an F-14 Tomcat fighter, the player, as Top Gun's main character Maverick, has to complete four missions:

Mission 1 - Training for the next mission.
Mission 2 - Destroy an enemy aircraft carrier.
Mission 3 - Destroy an enemy base.
Mission 4 - Destroy an enemy Space Shuttle.
All four missions require the player to land on an aircraft carrier upon completion. Missions 2, 3 and 4 require the player to refuel in the middle of the mission. Mission 4 is the most surreal, involving combat with land, sea, air, and space targets.
There are three missile types available to the player:

Hound (quantity: 40);
Wolf (quantity: 20);
Tiger (quantity: 10).
The Hound is the best missile for training, since there are no targets on Mission
1 strong enough to withstand it, but it is a weak choice for the other missions.

A commonly overlooked fact is that during landing sequences and refueling, the A and B buttons are used to control speed. Keeping the speed in the 280-320 knots window while following the other instructions (Left! Left!, etc.) is sufficient to bring the plane to a successful landing; however, one must keep in mind that the direction the plane is pointed in while accelerating will affect altitude. For instance, if the player accelerates while pointing the nose down, it will cause the plane to descend, not the best thing to do when the computer is urging "Up! Up!".

The game is notorious for its difficulty, especially regarding the landing of the plane. This aspect has been made popular by the Angry Video Game Nerd, who found, as shown on one of his videos, that it is virtually impossible to land the plane without crashing. Interestingly, on another video in which he showcased the NES Power Glove peripheral's poor controls on various games, he easily made the landing.

The computer game
The version for computers is a one-on-one dogfighting simulator with wireframe 3D graphics (opposed to more traditional sprite-based graphics and straightforward gameplay of the NES version). The game features a two player mode, in single player mode the other aircraft is maneuvered by the computer.

Top Gun: Fire at Will
Top Gun: Fire at Will was released for PC by MicroProse in 1996. A version for the PlayStation was released later that year by Spectrum Holobyte.

Fire at Will is notable for including full motion video cut scenes featuring James Tolkan, who played Maverick's commanding officer Hondo in the original film. The live video scenes were directed by Eli Noyes and produced by Brian Sullivan. Bill Zarchy served as Director of Photography.

Top Gun: Hornet's Nest
Top Gun: Hornet's Nest was released for PC by Atari and Zipper Interactive in 1998. It was considered to be a complete washout and received bad reviews for its noticeably lackluster design and gameplay.

Top Gun: Combat Zones
Top Gun: Combat Zones was released for the PlayStation 2 in 2001. It was developed by the now-defunct English developer Digital Integration, and published by similarly defunct French publishers Titus Software.

It was later released for PC and Nintendo GameCube the following year.


The game is composed of 36 missions spread over 3 eras (distinct periods in history), intended to illustrate the history of the Top Gun combat school and its near future. In each era, missions are located both at the Top Gun academy at Miramar and in a live combat zone. Upon gaining access to each era the academy missions must be performed before moving to the combat zone itself, but whilst the former do introduce new game concepts, aircraft and weapons they are not simple training missions - players must face tough opponents and live fire to succeed.

Only the first era is accessible from the outset, and is set in South East Asia, towards the end of the Vietnam War (erroneously showing the F-14 engaging in combat with North Vietnamese forces, despite never having fired a shot in anger during that conflict). During the second era, the action is set in the Persian Gulf States circa 1990; although the game story does not make direct reference, parallels can be drawn to the real-world Gulf conflicts of that time (such as hunting for SCUD missiles and protecting oil refineries). The final era is set within the Arctic Circle and depicts a future conflict based around disputed borders and a global fuel crisis.

Top Gun DS
Top Gun for the Nintendo DS was released on February 23, 2006 in Japan and May 3rd, 2006 in North America. The game was developed by Interactive Vision, and published by Mastiff Inc in North America, and Taito on Japan.

The game lets players play through a story-driven campaign (featuring appearances by characters from the film) as well as a set of solo missions and a multiplayer mode that supports up to 4 players.[1] The bottom screen is used as a map and weapons readout. There are two control schemes offered, but there seems to be no difference between them. The game was not well received.[2]

Mobile phone gamesMobile game publisher Hands-On Mobile (formerly knows as Mforma) have published three mobile phone games based around Top Gun. The first two were top-down scrolling arcade shooters. The third game takes a different approach as a third-person perspective game, similar to Sega's After Burner games.

Sun's Billion-Dollar Baby

MySQL: Sun's Billion-Dollar Baby

Sun put its money where its mouth is Wednesday, with the announcement that it would buy open source database vendor MySQL for a whopping $1 billion.

The price tag set tongues wagging, however, it was no more tantalizing than the question that immediately sprung to the minds of IT managers everywhere: Now that Sun owns MySQL, what on earth does it plan to do with it?

Sun has toyed with the idea of a database offering of its own for at least two years. But in a market where basic relational database functionality is increasingly considered a commodity, competing successfully is no mean feat, even when playing the open source card.

Certainly, Sun isn't the first to try it. In 2001, leading Linux vendor Red Hat launched its own branded version of the open source PostgreSQL database, only to scrap the project a year later after deciding that servicing and supporting a database was not its core competency. Similarly, Computer Associates opened the source of the Ingres database in hopes of becoming a one-stop shop for customers in need of an enterprise application stack, but had little luck winning market share away from the likes of IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle. CA spun Ingres off into its own company in 2005, where continues to nurture a small installed base.

In his blog announcing the MySQL acquisition Wednesday, Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz remains characteristically effusive. "Until now, no platform vendor has assembled all the core elements of a completely open source operating system for the internet," he wrote. "No company has been able to deliver a comprehensive alternative to the leading proprietary OS."

Yet CA's and Red Hat's experiences seem to discredit the idea that a stem-to-stern platform offering from a single vendor is what customers really want. Not to mention the fact that Sun already offers enterprise support for PostgreSQL, a competing open source database that is widely perceived as being technologically superior to MySQL. Schwartz reaffirmed Sun's commitment to PostgreSQL in a conference call Wednesday, causing some analysts to speculate whether the MySQL acquisition was anything more than a billion-dollar PR stunt.

Good Will Worth the Money?
But there may be method to Sun's madness. The considerable goodwill that MySQL has cultivated among enterprise customers could have benefits for Sun that technology alone never could.

"I think the answer is simple: ubiquity," says Andy Astor, CEO of EnterpriseDB, which markets a high-performance, commercial database product based on PostgreSQL. "[Sun is] a big company; to move their needle, they need to see millions of potential users, which MySQL provides."

According to the company MySQL's own estimates, there are already some 11 million active installations of the MySQL database worldwide. What's more, MySQL is virtually the de facto standard relational database for rapid application development, particularly for the Web. In future, as these fledgling sites mature and their needs broaden, they will become natural customers for Sun's enterprise support offerings.

Sun's new role as steward of MySQL is sure to ruffle feathers in the software industry, as well -- particularly at Oracle, which, with its recent acquisitions, increasingly competes with Sun in the enterprise application platform arena. In 2005, Oracle bought Innobase, makers of a plug-in component that adds advanced features to MySQL, in what was widely perceived as a competitive swipe at the open source upstart.

For his part, MySQL CEO MÃ¥rten Mickos has repeatedly denied that his company's aim is to displace high-end databases such as Oracle's. And that's only appropriate; for those customers who demand Oracle's most advanced features, no other product will do. But Mickos's protestations verge on false modesty. On the low end, MySQL is an absolute pandemic, and it's already making headway into the mid-tier territory traditionally owned by the likes of Microsoft. That trend is only likely to accelerate with Sun's backing.

Licensing Issues

What is unclear, however, is whether Sun will take any steps to alter MySQL's license terms. Licensing and project governance have played key roles in MySQL's success, and as a result, MySQL's license policy is somewhat more restrictive than the one that Sun has used for the rest of its software portfolio.

Although all MySQL code is available under the Gnu GPL (General Public License), the product is developed primarily by full-time employees of MySQL. Furthermore, the MySQL company requests that community developers sign over copyright to their code contributions to the company before those changes become part of the main MySQL code base. This allows the MySQL company to offer a separate, commercial version of its database for enterprise customers who don't want to be bound by the terms of the GPL. Initially, this license structure was used mainly to allow companies to embed the MySQL database into their own products, but the MySQL company was criticized last year for making it more difficult for non-paying customers to download the enterprise version of the database.

By comparison, Sun has been freer with its own code, foregoing separate, commercial versions of its products in favor of a subscription-based enterprise support scheme. PostgreSQL is arguably even more free; it is governed in a much more distributed, community-based fashion than MySQL, and its permissive license even allows proprietary derivatives, such as EnterpriseDB.

Name Recognition Factor
Ironically, however, MySQL's stringent intellectual property policy may be precisely what makes it so appealing to Sun. Red Hat Database and Sun's own version of PostgreSQL were merely different retoolings of an existing open source software product, one that customers could just as easily download from elsewhere. To the enterprise IT community at large, however, there's really only one MySQL -- and from now on, that name will be indelibly associated with Sun. Remember, for all Sun's talk about open source, this is a company that banks so heavily on its trademarks that it had its stock ticker symbol changed to JAVA.

Ah, but there's the rub. Sun open-sourced the Java platform in 2006, and while the move has been widely hailed by developers, not everyone in the business community was as thrilled with the idea of Sun giving away its crown jewels. As former Sun vice president Larry Singer put it, "We [at Sun] were spending all of our time and attention ... on things that were important from an intellectual standpoint, important from an innovative standpoint, [but it was] hard to understand how they were going to drive revenue for the company."

So far, MySQL has built a solid business selling open source database software. Whether Sun has the strategic acumen to take that success to the next level, however, remains to be seen. But stay tuned; after all, $1 billion gives Sun a hell of an incentive.


Users say Sun needs to fix what's broken at MySQL
Sun's acquisition will bring it an open-source database -- and some unhappy customers

Sun already distributes the PostgreSQL open-source database on its Solaris-based servers; on the company's Web site, it touts PostgreSQL for Solaris 10 as "the open-source enterprise database platform of choice." But Schwartz described the purchase of MySQL as "the most important acquisition" ever made by Sun -- indicating that MySQL's software likely will eclipse PostgreSQL on Sun's priority list.

In addition to introducing the internal issues of MySQL, the deal could complicate Sun's relationship with Oracle Corp., which is Sun's largest database partner. MySQL competes directly with Oracle and other database vendors. Also, Oracle owns InnoDB, after having bought the storage engine's developer, Innobase Oy, in late 2005.

"Now that [MySQL] is going to be supported by a major vendor, there's lots of companies that are going to give it a serious look," said Robert Lepanto, Oracle applications manager at AppCentric Solutions LLC in Stamford, Conn. "I would think that's a serious long-term threat to Oracle."

Lepanto, who also is president of the New York City Metro Oracle Applications Users Group, added that he's surprised that Oracle "didn't buy [MySQL] first to squash the competition."

Daniel Grim, executive director of networks and systems at the University of Delaware in Newark, has an enterprisewide license for Oracle databases but also sees value in the open-source alternatives.

"We've often found Oracle is more complex and more cumbersome than things like PostgreSQL and MySQL are," Grim said. "So we use those for small applications, although some of [the] applications are quite large, such as monitoring networking traffic."

In addition to Google, Yahoo and SmugMug, MySQL's wide-ranging customer list includes some of the darlings of the Web 2.0 era, such as Facebook Inc. and YouTube Inc., as well as more traditional businesses like Toyota Motor Corp. and Southwest Airlines Co.

The buyout deal ends widespread speculation about the future of MySQL. Before agreeing to sell to Sun, the company had been on track for an initial public offering, said Kevin Harvey, a partner at venture firm Benchmark Capital and chairman of MySQL's board of directors. Menlo Park, Calif.-based Benchmark has a 26% stake in MySQL, and it uses the open-source database to help power its Web site.

One of the questions that Sun continually faces is how it can improve its bottom line while offering key technologies such as Solaris and Java on an open-source basis. But Harvey said that from his perspective, open source "very clearly" can be "turned into a fantastic business model."

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