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Monday, March 17, 2008

Microsoft to license Adobe's Flash Lite

Support for Flash videos has been pretty disappointing on mobile devices. This is because Adobe's support is not at the same level as on the desktop, so Flash sites on your PC browser don't look exactly the same as on your mobile phone. Flash Lite for mobile devices has been around for a while, but only the latest version 3 supports FLV, the most popular format for video streaming on the Internet, including everyone's favorite video site, YouTube.

Even though Microsoft has its own mobile video-viewing software, Silverlight, it has decided to bite the bullet and license Adobe's Flash Lite and Reader software. This means future generations of Windows Mobile devices will be able to view and interact with a wider range of mobile Web sites -- ones that the iPhone can't view.

The mobile version of Internet Explorer in its current form is an "OK" mobile browser. It gets the job done, but other mobile browsers do it better. I'm talking about Opera Mini, Opera Mobile, the S60 browser, and, yes, Safari on the iPhone (even without Flash support, it bests Pocket IE). But this new licensing agreement between Microsoft and Adobe will put mobile IE on more even footing.

More and more, mobile Internet users are demanding the full Web experience. That means being able to see videos and animations that are embedded on Web sites. Right now, Safari on the iPhone doesn't support Flash or Flash Lite. Steve Jobs even recently said why, exclaiming that neither version of Flash is good enough for the iPhone. I happen to disagree with this statement, but can anyone really argue with his Steveness? Even Flash Lite would be a nice compromise on the iPhone, but it appears that it's not to be. Apparently less is more, as far as Apple is concerned.

Microsoft, on the other hand, is taking the angle that more is more. It's decided that users of Windows Mobile deserve a better mobile browsing experience. Licensing Adobe Flash Lite and Reader will lead to that end.

Scott Rockfeld, group product manager at Microsoft's mobile communication business, said the decision was about providing more choice to its customers, even though Windows Mobile already offers 18,000 applications for everything from picking a wine to go with dinner to watching videos. "Obviously, it's one of the things that customers are asking for. Flash is something that is very prevalent on the Web," Rockfeld said.

The financial terms of the agreement weren't disclosed, and Microsoft didn't provide any details on when or the software support would become available to users.


Adobes Licenses Flash Lite to Microsoft
The agreement will allow Adobe's mobile Flash player to operate with Internet Explorer on Windows Mobile devices.
In a surprise announcement on Monday, Adobe revealed that it had licensed Flash Lite, a software package for playing Flash files on mobile phones, to Microsoft, which offers a direct competitor to Flash in the form of Silverlight. The licensing agreement will allow Microsoft to include the software in future distributions of Windows Mobile.

While Microsoft’s own Silverlight package is not yet available for mobile phones, reports from earlier this month suggest that a mobile version will be available by the end of this year, leaving some spectators puzzled as to why Microsoft would license a competitor.

Microsoft will also license Adobe Reader LE, a software package to read PDF files on mobile devices, for which it has no direct competitor. It offers features designed to enhance the readability of PDFs on smaller screens.

“People want vibrant web experiences and access to entertainment and information anywhere, anytime,” said John O’Rourke, Microsoft’s general manager of mobile communications business, in a statement. “Bringing Flash Lite and Reader LE to the Windows Mobile experience will give consumers more of their favorite websites on the go.”

Adobe’s press release did not mention when consumers could expect to see both programs available, and Microsoft has yet to make a corresponding press release with more details.

The world's smallest diamond ring measures 300 nanometers thick and 5 microns across

Diamond's got just a little, itty-bitty bling
It won't win ‘oohs’ or ‘ahhs’ from admiring friends, but it can help scientists

The world's smallest diamond ring measures 300 nanometers (billionths of a meter) thick and 5 microns (millionths of a meter) across. It was made by carving out a circular structure in an artifically made diamond.

Scientists have created the world's smallest diamond ring.

At only 5 microns (or millionths of a meter) in diameter, and 300 nanometers (or billionths of a meter) in thickness, this rock won't get any ‘oohs’ or ‘ahhs’ from admiring friends.

But it can help scientists who are developing quantum information processing: The ring is a component in a device for producing and detecting single photons, or particles of light.

Set in different states, photons can carry information. In ordinary digital computers, information is stored in bits, which can have a value of either "" or "0" (just as a light switch can only be "on" or "off"). The order of 1's and 0's indicates a certain piece of information.

But these photons, called qubits, can hold a value of 1 and 0 at the same time, which could expand the possibilities for information storage.

The new development, announced at the March meeting of the American Physical Society in New Orleans, was made by scientists at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

Wall Street news : IT M&A provides opportunities

Now the global economy is really largely controlled by Technology. Though many tech vendors are suffering as the widening U.S. financial crisis slows down consumer and business spending, IT mergers and acquisitions including bellwethers such as Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Electronic Arts and AOL continue to reshape the technology landscape and provide opportunities for investors.

AOL's announcement on Thursday that it willbuy social-networking site Bebofor US$850 million is just the latest example that IT companies are not letting a depressed market get in the way of strategic purchases.

The macroeconomic news and fresh data on IT returns this week are, as usual, not heartening. A survey released Thursday by research company ChangeWave shows that the U.S. economy is already in recession. The Feb. 27-March 5 survey of 3,345 professionals in U.S. businesses found, among other things, that 30 percent of those polled forecast first-quarter sales to come in below plan. This is 5 points worse than the company's previous poll.

"You have to go all the way back to 2002 to find a downturn of this magnitude in a ChangeWave corporate survey," said Tobin Smith, ChangeWave founder, in an e-mail note accompanying the report. "There's no doubt anymore the recession is now here," he said.

The general downturn is having a marked effect on many IT vendors. For example, in a software research note, Citi Investment Research on Thursday reported a marked decline. "After five years of positive full year returns, the software sector is posting negative returns so far in 2008," wrote Brent Thill and John Reilly Walsh.

Median software company earnings are down this year by 14 percent, compared to the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index's decline of 15 percent. Since October, software sector returns are down 20 percent, matching exactly the Nasdaq's fall since then.

What's an IT investor to do?

"In this uncertain environment, potential M&A targets may provide the best opportunities for appreciation," wrote the Citi research team.

Overall tech M&A activity will likely decline this year as turmoil in financial markets dampens tech buyouts from private equity firms, which had a record for acquisitions in 2007. However, this will not necessarily deter cash-rich tech companies themselves from acquisitions. Acquisitions are a quick way to bring in new technology in fast-moving sectors like the Internet, or expand market reach in mature sectors such as enterprise software.

The most obvious example of these trends isMicrosoft's bid for Yahoo, announced Feb. 1. The offer was originally valued at $44.6 billion. Since Microsoft stock is part of the deal, the total value of the deal has dropped as the software giant's share price declined after the offer was announced. Many industry insiders believe that Microsoft will find it hard to integrate the companies, which have overlapping product lines and services. However, the offer has boosted Yahoo's share price, from the $19 level at the end of January to the $28 level now. One caveat, if Yahoo successfully resists the deal: Look for its share price to fall again.

On Thursday, shares of game developer Take-Two Interactive jumped $0.73 to close at $25.64, afterElectronic Arts offered shareholdersa tender offer of $26 per share. EA made the offer after Take-Two's board continued to resist its entreaties. EA has been pursuing Take-Two since Feb.19, when its offer was a 64 percent premium on Take-Two's Feb.15 share price of $15.83.

Share prices of acquiring companies don't often go up on acquisition news because a big buyout can dilute earnings for a while. EA's share price has fluctuated with the market in the past few weeks, closing at $48.95 on Feb. 21, when the offer was made public, and $47.26 on Thursday.

Google's share price has plummeted along with the market in recent weeks, but rose Tuesday by $26.22, to $439.84, afterEuropean regulators approvedits purchase of DoubleClick. With DoubleClick, Google should be able to deliver more relevant advertising.

If you were not an investor in Yahoo or Take-Two (DoubleClick and Bebo were private companies), take heart, there are plenty of takeover targets out there.

Citigroup says to take a look at, among others, data-integration software vendor Informatica, trading at $17.79; middleware vendor Tibco, trading at $7.55; and data-center software provider Bladelogic, trading at $23.71. In any case, these companies are cheaper than Google, trading at $443.01 on Thursday.

Dexter To Become A Video Game

The life and adventures of the dark serial killer Dexter Morgan from the Showtime’s “Dexter” will be the subject of a new video game produced by Marc Ecko Entertainment.

In a press statement, Marc Ecko Entertainment said it will create the game in close collaboration with Showtime Networks to guarantee its faithfulness to the spirit of the show.

In the “Dexter” TV show Michael C. Hall, of “Six Feet Under” fame, stars as a likeable man who sublimates his serial killer drive (or at least tries to) with a job as a blood pattern analyst. The Miami Police Dept. forensics expert only kills criminals who cannot be caught otherwise in the justice system.

He was orphaned at three and was adopted by a Miami police officer, Harry Morgan, who saw that Dexter had sociopathic tendencies but never got him professional help. Instead he taught the boy to use his passion for killing in order to murder people, who “deserve it,” who slipped the justice system.

Dexter taught to fake normality and keep up with the appearance. He is liked by most of his colleagues, his girlfriend, Rita, and her children. The show is currently airing in (slightly) edited form on CBS.

Marc Ecko Entertainment handled the production side of 2005’s Getting Up and is currently working on an untitled project with developer Human Head. The Dexter game is in pre-production and Showtime Networks and Marc Ecko Entertainment are in talks with a handful of developers to bring the game to life.

More detail of

Dexter is an American television drama series based on the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay and adapted for television by Emmy Award-winning screenwriter James Manos, Jr. The show premiered on the premium cable network Showtime on October 1, 2006. The show has been renewed for a third season.

Set and produced in Miami, the series centers on Dexter Morgan, a serial killer who works for the Miami Metro Police Department as a blood pattern analyst.

Dexter has received considerable critical acclaim and has won two Emmys in technical categories, and has also generated public controversies concerning its content and promotion.

An edited version of the series began airing on CBS on February 17, 2008, due to the 2007-08 Writers Guild of America strike creating a shortage of new content. CTV simulcasts episodes along with CBS, and is also airing the edited version in order to avail of Canadian cable simultaneous substitution rules.[1] Dexter debuted in Canada on The Movie Network and Movie Central on October 2 at 9 PM ET and October 1, 2006 at 8 PM PT respectively.

In the UK, FX aired the first season in the Summer of 2007, with the second season to air in July 2008. FX hold lifetime rights to the first run of every season in the UK. ITV aired the second run of season 1 on Wednesday 27 February at 10.35pm, to a much larger potential audience than the cable and satellite only FX.

Second Life creator changes role ,new roleAs Chairman

The man behind Second Life is stepping down from his role as head of the company that created the virtual world.
Linden Lab founder Philip Rosedale will become the company's chairman once a new head for the firm has been hired.

In a statement Mr Rosedale he would stay at the company and work on strategy and design for Second Life.

He added that he would contribute more to Linden Lab doing these tasks rather than in the day-to-day job of growing and managing the company.

Staff changes

Writing on the Second Life blog, Mr Rosedale said: "I will be 100% involved and fulltime at Linden Lab. Second Life is my life's work, and I am not going anywhere."

He added that his passion for Second Life was "undiminished".

In taking on the role of chairman Mr Rosedale will replace computer industry veteran Mitch Kapor - the co-founder of Lotus. Mr Kapor will continue as a board member at Linden.

Mr Kapor said Mr Rosedale's decision had been "expected" and was not triggered by any specific event. He told the Reuters news agency that it could take "many months" to find a new head.

The announcement marks the second high-profile staff change at Linden Lab in three months. In late 2007 Cory Ondrejka, chief technology officer for Linden, left following reported differences over strategy among the company's executives.

Linden Lab was founded in 1999 and its most high-profile creation is Second Life - in which people create and adorn avatars and that live out a parallel existence in the online space.

Second Life has been the poster child for the growing interest in virtual worlds. This has resulted in huge numbers of people signing up to look around Second Life though evidence suggests relatively few are becoming dedicated residents.

Second Life was launched in 2003 as an Internet-based virtual world that enabled people to interact through motion avatars. The project was developed by Linden Research Inc. and had its mainstream media peak in late 2006 and 2007.

Despite the 11.5 million accounts that have been registered over the years, There, Active Worlds and Red Light Center appear to be serious competitors. The predominantly American base of users has currently extended all over the world, with versions of Second Life available in several languages (more than half of the registered users come from outside U.S.)

Microsoft has licensed with Adobe's Flash Lite

Adobe Systems has announced that software giant Microsoft has licensed Adobe Flash Lite software to enable Web browsing of flash player compatible content within the Internet Explorer Mobile browser in future versions of Windows Mobile phones.

Adobe Flash Lite is an award-winning Flash Player software from adobe which has specifically been designed for mobile devices.

Besides Adobe Flash Lite, Microsoft has also licensed Adobe Reader LE software for viewing Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) documents including email attachments and Web content for its Windows Mobile phones.

According to John O’Rourke, general manager, Mobile Communications Business at Microsoft, “People want vibrant web experiences and access to entertainment and information anywhere, anytime. Bringing Flash Lite and Reader LE to the Windows Mobile experience will give consumers more of their favorite web sites on the go.”

Al Ramadan, senior vice president, Mobile and Devices at Adobe said, “We are thrilled to work with Microsoft to add playback of rich, web-based Flash Player compatible content and PDF document viewing to Windows Mobile. Flash has revolutionized the way we experience content on the web and we are excited that Microsoft has decided to extend the experience of Flash technology to Windows Mobile users.”

Both Adobe Flash Lite and Adobe Reader LE will be made available to those OEMs worldwide who license Windows Mobile software. The software’s availability for Windows Mobile phones will be confirmed at a later date.

Even though it has plans to release a competing technology, Microsoft has agreed to license Adobe's Flash Lite technology for its Windows Mobile operating system and browser.

The two companies are expected to announce Monday that Microsoft has signed a license to use Flash Lite and Reader LE in future Windows Mobile handsets as plug-ins for Internet Explorer Mobile. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, such as what the companies plan to do when Microsoft releases Silverlight for Mobile, a competing technology.

Flash Lite is a stripped-down version of the ubiquitous Flash video player that allows mobile handsets to view Web sites created with the Flash technology. Think of Flash Lite as a slightly older version of Flash; the most current version of Flash Lite can't properly display Web sites created with the newest version of Flash, Flash 9, but it works with sites created using older versions of the technology.

As smartphones become more and more common, people are starting to get fed up with the basic Web surfing experience offered by many phones. They want something that looks more like a PC experience, with rich graphics and video. But that's hard to duplicate on a device with a smaller screen, less memory, a slower processor, and battery life requirements.

Enter Flash Lite. "Past technologies have failed trying to get into mobile by cramming a desktop experience into a mobile device," said Anup Murkaka, director of technical marketing for mobile and devices at Adobe. "The technology has to bend to the use cases, rather than the use cases bending to the technology."

Microsoft's Derek Snyder agreed. "One of the hallmark experiences on any smartphone is the Web browsing experience," said Snyder, a product manager with Microsoft's mobile-communications business. Strengthening that experience, as well as adding support for PDF documents through the Reader LE license, was the motivation for Microsoft to make the deal, he said.

Flash Lite has several limitations compared with regular Flash, beyond the inability to support much of Flash 9. Apple CEO Steve Jobs rather emphatically declared his disdain for Flash Lite at Apple's annual shareholder meeting, saying Flash Lite was "not capable of being used with the Web." Murkaka declined to comment specifically on Jobs' put-down, but noted that Flash Lite ships on 500 million mobile devices.

He did acknowledge that developers using Adobe's Flex tools can't build Flash Lite Web pages, although the newer CS3 suite of tools does support Flash Lite.

But one huge advantage of Flash Lite is that it's currently available for mobile devices. Microsoft's Silverlight for Mobile is not.

Silverlight is Microsoft's attempt to rein in on Adobe's position in the Web development market with Flash. Microsoft is fighting an uphill battle, though, in trying to get Web developers to build sites using its technology as opposed to Adobe's.

Earlier this month Microsoft said it wouldn't have a mobile version of Silverlight out until later this year. A technical preview is expected to arrive in the second quarter, but no other details have been released. Snyder declined to elaborate on the time frame for a production version of Silverlight for Mobile.

With Microsoft's Windows Mobile team now having to meet a surge in demand for Web-friendly mobile phones, led by the iPhone, licensing Flash Lite makes sense as a "for now" solution, at least until the company's own dog food is ready. The iPhone has been able to capture mobile Web surfers without any support for Flash technologies, something that other mobile devices running IE Mobile or Opera's mobile browser will likely try to exploit later this year.

Eventually, Microsoft expects to support both Flash Lite and Silverlight on its Windows Mobile handsets. "Flash is, for a lot of people, something they've already invested in," Snyder said. Having support for the incumbent while it tries to get Web developers on the Silverlight team makes sense; "it's good to have both," he said.

Acceleration of the LHC commissioning tests

A host of events and activities await visitors to the LHC Open Days on 5 and 6 April. A highlight will be the physics shows funded by the European Physical Society (EPS), which are set to surprise and challenge children and adults alike!
The Control Room is a hive of activity while the electrical tests are carried out.

The quadrupole and main dipole circuits have been powered up to 10,200 amps in Sector 4-5. Sector 5-6 is currently being cooled and will be the next to undergo electrical tests, which will be stepped up over the next few weeks.
Numerous electrical tests were carried out in Sector 4-5 during the period from November to mid-February. Once the temperature had been stabilised at around 1.9 K (-271°C) at the beginning of December, the circuits were initially powered up to 8,500 amps. The main dipole circuit was then gradually brought up to 10,200 amps during the last week of January, then the main quadrupole circuits to 10,800 amps in February. At this intensity of current the magnets are capable of guiding a 6 TeV proton beam. During this process, for both the dipole and the quadrupole circuits, a number of training quenches occurred.

138 superconducting circuits ramped in unison at an equivalent beam energy of 5.3 TeV.
"Given the limited time at our disposal, we decided to stop at this energy, which is very close to the target, and start to commission the numerous circuits (each sector has 200) before Sector 4-5 was warmed up again. The mechanics have to connect the triplet (the focussing magnet on both sides of each experiment). We have scanned all the circuits to check that they are working properly. Today we know that the electrical circuits in this sector require no major corrective action", says Roberto Saban, responsible for coordinating the commissioning of the LHC technical systems.

"The experience we gained in Sector 7-8 has already allowed us to validate and improve the procedures, the tools and our understanding of the phenomena we encounter. This is invaluable for the sectors to follow, as confirmed by the commissioning of Sector 4-5, which was a lot quicker and more efficient", he continues. The teams who carried out the work and those responsible for the equipment from the AB, AT and TS Departments worked flat out to optimise the tests. Their task was facilitated by the existence of special tools designed to help with carrying out tests and analysing the results.

The commissioning of the LHC began with Sector 7-8 in June 2007. During the summer, the quadrupole circuits in the sector were powered up to 6500 amps (see Bulletin 30-31/2007 of 23 July 2007). The next sector to cross the 10,000 amp threshold will be Sector 5-6, which is currently being cooled down. It is scheduled to reach 1.9 K by the end of March, when it will be subjected to the same tests as Sector 4-5. Thanks to the experience gained, the commissioning should proceed even faster.

From late April onwards, the LHC commissioning teams will have a new sector cooled to 1.9 K and ready for testing every two weeks.

"We are working on unique and magnificent hi-tech facilities with sophisticated tools. I have every confidence in the professionalism and motivation of the teams involved and think we will be able to meet the challenge of completing the commissioning procedure for the summer", concludes Roberto Saban.

More from LHC
Warm reception for warm magnets
A celebration marking the successful completion of the installation of all the normal conducting magnets in the LHC was held on 19 February.
A celebration making the successful completion of the installation of all the normal conducting magnets in the LHC was held on 19 February
You often hear the LHC described as a super-conducting particle collider. However, that’s not 100% true. In fact, there are 154 normal conducting or ‘warm’ magnets in the collider, about 12% of the total number, which will be indispensable in shaping the course of the proton beams when the LHC is switched on.

A celebration organised by the AT/MCS (Accelerator Technology/Magnets, Cryostats and Superconductors) group commemorating the installation of the last warm magnet was held on 19 February in Hall 867 – the location where each of the magnets, plus many spares, have been tested over the past 10 years.

The LHC is not a perfect circle and in some places it’s almost straight. In these sections, the magnetic intensity required to bend the proton beams is not as high as elsewhere. In these few parts of in the accelerator, for instance on each side of the four big experiments and where there are the so-called long straight sections, the magnetic intensity delivered by warm magnets is sufficient, hence their use.

Another advantage of warm magnets is their robustness when exposed to radiation. In the locations where the proton beams interact there are a greater number of secondary particles. An example is in the long straight sections LLS3 and LLS7, where collimators clean the beam by removing particles that are located far from the central distribution of the proton bunches. Using superconducting magnets here would be hard, as senior physicist and previous head of the Normal Conducting Magnet section, Willi Kalbreier, explains: "Collimators take away the secondary particles, but they are not stopped immediately and reach the magnets. If they heated a superconducting magnet above a certain point the magnet would quench," – therefore losing its superconducting ability and stopping the whole accelerator.

Nearly all the warm magnets were made especially for the LHC and travelled vast distances to reach CERN. 48 magnets have come from Vancouver, 40 from Protvino near Moscow and 65 from Novosibirsk in Siberia (travelling a staggering 5,000 miles to reach CERN). That leaves just one magnet that was not built from scratch for the LHC. Originally built for the ISR in the 1970s, it has now been recycled for use in ALICE.

Apart from being able to withstand relatively high radiation loads, warm magnets also have the advantage of being more affordable than superconducting magnets and easier to make and install, due to their comparative simplicity. The head of the Magnets, Cryostats and Superconductors group, Lucio Rossi, believes that this is where warm magnets come into their own. "This is the new challenge – to do something that is affordable. It is not impossible," he said.

At the celebration Rossi gave a speech thanking all the contributors for their hard work. "This has been the fruit of collaboration between CERN and many countries which have contributed financially and via their national laboratories which designed and made these magnets for the LHC", he said. "Today we are very happy".

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