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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Web-site hacking has reached a new low, both morally and technically.

Hackers Flood Epilepsy Web Forum With Flashing Lights
Web-site hacking has reached a new low, both morally and technically.

Unknown miscreants had a good time two weekends ago when they posted hundreds of flashing animated images onto discussion boards hosted by the Landover, Md.-based Epilepsy Foundation.

Flashing lights or bold moving patterns can trigger often violent seizures among 3 percent of the estimated 50 million epileptics worldwide.

"I was on the phone when it happened, and I couldn't move and couldn't speak," RyAnne Fultz, who has epilepsy, told Wired News about her reaction to viewing one of the images on March 23.

Fultz's 11-year-old son walked over and closed the browser window after about 10 seconds. Fortunately, she suffered nothing more than a bad headache.

By then, the second day of vandalism on, the jerks had moved on to hijacking the browsers of anyone who clicked on certain forum posts, filling the screens with bright, flashing colors.

Technically, none of this was hacking, since it didn't involve breaking into anyone's Web site, and any snotty kid with a rudimentary knowledge of JavaScript could do it.

The Epilepsy Foundation shut off the discussion board on Sunday for about 12 hours, and the attacks stopped.

"This was clearly an act of vandalism with the intent to harm people," said Eric R. Hargis, the foundation's president and CEO in a statement released Monday.

However, it doesn't seem to have been the first instance. A Texas-based discussion Web site called Coping With Epilepsy said it suffered a similar attack last November.

Epilepsy Foundation Takes Action Against Hackers

The Epilepsy Foundation’s quick reaction to a recent attack by hackers on one of its online forums raises awareness of the need for Web security for some health organizations. On Easter weekend, the Epilepsy Foundation—and those who use its online forums for help, support, suggestions and camaraderie—came under attack by people who posted rapidly flashing images to cause serious injury and harm. The type of epilepsy that causes people to experience seizures upon seeing flashing or flickering images is photosensitive epilepsy.

Barrages of messages are oftentimes problematic for electronic venues, but nothing more than a nuisance, or a potential embarrassment if pornographic images are included in the attacks. But for people with epilepsy, rapidly flashing text or images can cause actual harm to the person viewing the material, because such flashing or flickering objects can bring on seizures, or seizure-like activity. In fact, many people who viewed the at-first harmless-looking messages recently posted on the Foundation’s forums involuntarily froze when they saw what was posted, even if they didn’t experience a full-on seizure.

“This was clearly an act of vandalism with the intent to harm people, and we shut the attack down immediately,” said Eric R. Hargis, president and CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation. “We’ve established deterrents in the system to prevent similar incidences.”

The Epilepsy Foundation has been on the forefront of efforts to prevent this type of seizure. Three years ago the organization assembled a group of experts on photic- and pattern-induced seizures and released its recommendations for preventing seizures provoked by dynamic light and imaging sources such as television, videogames, websites, motion pictures and other media. The consensus recommendations covered factors, such as light intensity, flicker, contrast, duration and pattern, and the technical parameters within these factors that are most likely to provoke seizures in susceptible individuals.

More than 3 million Americans have epilepsy (approximately one in every 100); while about 3 percent of those people have photosensitive epilepsy. Photosensitive epilepsy has been in the news increasingly over the last few years because it has triggered seizures in people in newsworthy ways, including recently when a logo animation for the 2012 Olympics in Britain caused thousands of people to experience seizures and, previously, when a few years ago an episode of an animated TV series caused thousands of children to experience seizures in Japan. Some video games have also caused children to have seizures even if they’ve never previously displayed any seizure-like behaviors. Such warnings are included on most—if not all—video games today as a result. Though the Japanese government established guidelines following the incidences in that country, the Epilepsy Foundation’s Seizures and Photosensitivity guidelines are the only such recommendations in the United States.

Since 31 March 2008 migrants who pre-purchase English language tuition from Immigration New Zealand as part of their residence application have up to

The TEC and the Department of Labour announce changes to the English for Migrants fund
Since 31 March 2008 migrants who pre-purchase English language tuition from Immigration New Zealand as part of their residence application have up to five years to use their funds.
The policy change will assist migrants to settle and integrate into New Zealand more successfully by allowing them more time to meet other settlement needs. Previously migrants had up to three and a half years to use their funds.

“Migrants often have a range of settlement needs to attend to such as helping their children to adjust to school or looking for employment,” says Tertiary Education Commission Service Centre Group Manager, Esther Calley.

“Extending the entitlement period gives them more time to attend to their other settlement needs and still make use of the English language tuition they have pre-purchased.”

The five-year entitlement period will also apply to migrants who pre-purchased their English language tuition in the last three years if they have not already used their funds.

The Department of Labour (Immigration New Zealand) currently requires certain migrants to pre-purchase English language tuition as part of their residence requirement. The objective of the English for Migrants Programme is to ensure that migrants have sufficient English language skills to integrate into New Zealand society and labour market.

The Tertiary Education Commission administers pre-purchased English language funds on behalf of the Department of Labour, as part of its English for Migrants programme.

More information on accessing pre-purchased English language tuition, including frequently asked questions, can be found on the English for Migrants page.

For enquiries relating to English for Migrants funds, please contact the Tertiary Education Commission Service Centre on 0800 601 301 or email:

Questions and answers
1. Why has the funds entitlement been extended to five years?

This policy change assists migrants to settle and integrate into New Zealand more successfully by allowing them more time to attend to other settlement needs and to choose a language provider that better suits their needs.

2. When is the change effective from?

This policy change takes effect from 31 March 2008.

3. Who does this policy change affect?

All migrants who pre-purchased English language tuition in New Zealand on or after 31 March 2005 or who pre-purchased their tuition overseas on or after 31 September 2004, provided they still have funds in their account with the TEC.

4. Can migrants apply for an extension over and above the five-year funds entitlement?

No, five years is the maximum entitlement period. All funds that have not been used after five years will be returned to Immigration New Zealand.

5. Will the change to a five-year funds entitlement affect the level of funds migrants have in their accounts with the TEC or how they can spend their money?

No, the policy change will not affect the funds held in a migrants account with the TEC. Migrants are free to use their funds provided it is for English courses with approved providers and within the five-year timeframe.

6. Are migrants required to pay more money to Immigration New Zealand?

No. Migrants are not required to pay more money to Immigration New Zealand.

7. Are migrants required to fill in another application form?

No. The change to a five-year funds entitlement will be automatically updated by TEC.

Microsoft Wants To Extend Mobile OS Reach, IE Mobile

While Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) wants to expand beyond business customers, it remains to be seen if the mix of improvements to its Windows Mobile operating system will be able to get the job done.

The Redmond, Wash., software giant has pushed hard to get its foot in the mobile door through its operating system, and now wants to bust it open. At the CTIA Wireless trade show on Wednesday, it unveiled the latest version of its operating system, which features tweaks to improve the user interface and better appeal to consumers. Some critics, however, said the improvements won't be sufficient to truly reach out to the mass market.

"Windows Mobile has been quite successful at meeting the needs of the enterprise user," said Avi Greengart, an analyst at market research firm Current Analysis. "That said, I eagerly await a complete overhaul of the user interface."
Microsoft has made strides in getting its software into smartphones. The company boasts that Windows Mobile will power 20 million smartphones. That trails only privately held Symbian Ltd., which runs most of Nokia Corp.'s (NOK) handsets, which also includes simpler phones.

As a result, it's better known in corporate circles. But the company wants to reach out to more consumers. The shift comes at a time when more consumers are considering upgrading their basic handsets.

"Windows Mobile is not just for business phones," said Robert Bach, head of the entertainment and devices unit of Microsoft, in an interview with Dow Jones Newswires. "It's a phone for people."

Windows Mobile has been regarded as a solid tool for professionals, but never really appealed to casual consumers. The Apple Inc. (AAPL) iPhone's user interface and Safari Web browser, for example, are seen as offering a better experience.

Microsoft's newest version, Windows Mobile 6.1, allows users to more easily surf full Web pages on the cellphone than they could in the past. The company also upgraded the user interface so things are easier to reach and set-up. The new version will be made available to phone manufacturers in the third quarter, with devices hitting the market by the end of the year.

Many of the different upgraded features are found in other phones, Back said, but he argued the innovation comes from the combination of the multiple changes into one package.

There are no new game-changers in the latest update, but changes are definitely needed, according to Maribel Lopez, founder and analyst at telecom consultancy firm Lopez Research.

The upgraded operating system is the latest move that Microsoft has made to go after the consumer market. In February, the company agreed to acquire privately held Danger Inc., which makes software for the Sidekick mobile text devices. In November, it acquired Musiwave SA, which provides mobile music services to carriers and media companies.

If Microsoft Corp. can successfully pull off its announced acquisition of Yahoo Inc. (YHOO), it could gain a major edge in the mobile arena. Yahoo has been making a similarly strong push with its Yahoo Go mobile Web browser.

Bach declined to comment on the progress of any potential deal.

"I haven't spent much time looking at it," he said about the potential to fold Yahoo's mobile business into Microsoft. "We'll wait and see how they come out."

On the enterprise side, Microsoft said it would make available its System Center Mobile Device Manager, which allows corporate IT managers to better run the smartphones on their internal company systems.

The service also includes better security and allows the smartphones to create a virtual private network connection to the corporate system.

Microsoft, however, faces stiff competition from Research in Motion Ltd. ( RIMM). A legion of corporate workers still rely on their Blackberry email devices, and the company has a lock on much of the enterprise market. Apple, meanwhile, recently unveiled a set of enterprise programs in an attempt to get into the segment.

Bach noted phones with Windows Mobile were comfortably ahead of the iPhone and Blackberry devices.

After all microsoft is innitiating to develop the mobile utility, Microsoft has been associated with "bad karma" when it comes to the quality of its products. Moving on, the software giant has pulled up its socks in the mobile department and released the updated versions for Windows Mobile and Internet Explorer (IE) Mobile.

Through Windows Mobile 6.1, that would make it easier for users to navigate the feature menus in their phones. The changes in the updated version are not ground-breaking, but Microsoft hopes they'll make browsing an enjoyable experience overall. With updated IE Mobile, the company hopes to offer a PC-like, full Web browsing experience for mobile phones.

Other goodies introduced include a bunch of mapping features; these are meant not only for Windows Mobile but also for BlackBerry and other mobile phones. Phones that run on the Windows Mobile platform will now be able map a contact and access integrated Web search and local weather; they will also be able to download custom maps from Microsoft Virtual Earth to their PC or to any phone running Windows Mobile. These facilities are expected to be available by April, according to various news reports on the Internet. Meanwhile, Blackberry users will be able to utilize an existing Windows Mobile feature; they will be able to search through voice input, along with direction facilities and other information.

So this seems to be Microsoft's current answer to the iPhone's suave Mac OS mobile platform. However, it looks unlikely that Microsoft is going to beat the Yahoo! Go services this time around.

Engineers have created the first "active matrix"

Purdue postdoctoral research associate Sanghyun Ju, sitting, and professor David B. Janes work at a "micro-manipulation probe station" in research using nanotechnology to create transparent transistors and circuits. The innovation represents a step that promises a broad range of applications, from e-paper and flexible color screens for consumer electronics to "smart cards" and "heads-up" displays in auto windshields. The transistors are made of single "nanowires," or tiny cylindrical structures that were assembled on glass or thin films of flexible plastic.

Engineers make first 'active matrix' display using nanowires
Engineers have created the first "active matrix" display using a new class of transparent transistors and circuits, a step toward realizing applications such as e-paper, flexible color monitors and "heads-up" displays in car windshields.
The transistors are made of "nanowires," tiny cylindrical structures that are assembled on glass or thin films of flexible plastic. The researchers used nanowires as small as 20 nanometers - a thousand times thinner than a human hair - to create a display containing organic light emitting diodes, or OLEDS. The OLEDS are devices that rival the brightness of conventional pixels in flat-panel television sets, computer monitors and displays in consumer electronics.

"This is a step toward demonstrating the practical potential of nanowire transistors in displays and for other applications," said David Janes, a researcher at Purdue University's Birck Nanotechnology Center and a professor in the School of Electrical and Computer engineering.

The nanowires were used to create a proof-of-concept active-matrix display similar to those in television sets and computer monitors. An active-matrix display is able to precisely direct the flow of electricity to produce video because each picture element, or pixel, possesses its own control circuitry.

Findings will be detailed in a research paper featured on the cover of the April issue of the journal Nano Letters. The paper was written by researchers at Purdue, Northwestern University and the University of Southern California.

"We've shown how to fabricate nanowire electronics at room temperature in a simple process that might be practical for commercial manufacturing," said Tobin J. Marks, the Vladimir N. Ipatieff Research Professor in Chemistry in Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and a professor of materials science and engineering.

OLEDS are now used in cell phones and MP3 displays and prototype television sets, but their production requires a complex process, and it is difficult to manufacture OLEDs that are small enough for high-resolution displays.

"Nanowire-transistor electronics could solve this problem," said Marks, who received a 2005 National Medal of Science. "We think our fabrication method is scalable, possibly providing a low-cost way to produce high-resolution displays for many applications."
Unlike conventional computer chips - called CMOS, for complementary metal oxide semiconductor chips - the nanowire thin-film transistors could be produced less expensively under low temperatures, making them ideal to incorporate into flexible plastics that would melt under high-temperature processing.

Conventional liquid crystal displays in flat-panel televisions and monitors are backlit by a white light, and each pixel acts as a filter that turns on and off to create images. OLEDS, however, emit light directly, eliminating the need to backlight the screen and making it possible to create more vivid displays that are thin and flexible.

The technology also could be used to create antennas that aim microwave and radio signals more precisely than current antennas. Such antennas might improve cell phone reception and make it more difficult to eavesdrop on military transmissions on the battlefield.

Electronic displays like television screens contain millions of pixels located at the intersections of rows and columns that crisscross each other. In the new findings, the researchers showed that they were able to selectively illuminate a specific row of active-matrix OLEDS in a display about the size of a fingernail.

"Displays in television sets are able to illuminate a particular pixel located, say, in the 10th row, fifth column," Janes said. "We aren't able to do that yet. We've shown that we can select a whole row at a time, not a single OLED, but we're getting close."

Future research is expected to include work to design displays that can control individual OLEDs to generate images, Janes said.

"A unique aspect of these displays is that they are transparent," he said. "Until the pixels are activated, the display area looks like lightly tinted glass."

The nanowire transistors are made of a transparent semiconductor called indium oxide, a potential replacement for silicon in future transparent circuits. The OLEDS consist of the transistors, electrodes made of a material called indium tin oxide and plastic capacitors that store electricity. All of the materials are transparent until activated to emit light.

"This could enable applications such as GPS navigational displays right on the windshield of your car," Janes said. "Imagine having a local map displayed on your windshield so that you didn't have to take your eyes off the road."

The new OLEDs have a brightness nearly comparable to that of the pixels in commercial flat-panel television sets. The OLEDS have an average brightness of more than 300 candelas per square meter, compared with 400-500 candelas per square meter for commercially available liquid-crystal display televisions.

"Even in this first demonstration, we are fairly close to the brightness you'd see in an LCD television," Janes said.

The researchers also demonstrated they could create OLEDS of the proper size for commercial displays, about 176 by 54 microns, or millionths of a meter. OLEDS that size would be ideal for small displays in cell phones, personal digital assistants and other portable electronics.

Large hadron collider V Big Bang and 1 New Snapshot Of The Universe

To know the reality of invention ,to to the reality of time, to know the reality of universe and future Large Hadron Collider is innitiating to introduce the dark facts,
Deep in the bowels of the earth --100 metres below ground in Geneva, Switzerland -- lies a supermachine of 27 km circumference called the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) that has been built to unlock the mysteries of the universe.
Claude Leroy, a Université de Montréal physics professor, was among the 2,500 scientists from 37 countries recruited to help design, test and build the ATLAS detector at the supermachine that will provide a new perspective into what occurred at the time of the Big Bang and immediately after. Designed for CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, the ATLAS detector, the largest among the four detectors operating at the supermachine in question, is 46 metres in length, 25 metres in height and 7000 tonnes in weight -- or the size of three football fields.

Prof. Leroy was responsible for the radiation and irradiation studies conducted to ensure the ATLAS detector will run smoothly. His investigations also led to the creation of MPX, a small device attached throughout the supermachine and ATLAS that uses pixel silicon detectors to perform real-time measurements of the spectral characteristics and composition of radiation inside and around the ATLAS detector. The small devices essentially capture images of what's inside the detector and its environment, such neutrons and photons, a world-first.

He also participated in physics studies that targeted the production of heavy leptons, excited leptons, quarks and supersymmetry, in particular the study of neutralinos as dark matter candidates. Prof. Leroy's experiments were critical in ensuring the viability of the ATLAS detector at the core of the supermachine, which is the world's biggest particles physics detector. Indeed, before the LHC can be started up, some 38,000 tons of equipment of the supermachine must be cooled down to minus 456 degrees Fahrenheit for the magnets to operate in a superconducting state. This will be achieved by using liquid helium for magnet. Parts of the ATLAS calorimeters use liquid argon cooled at minus 312 degrees Fahrenheit. "The radiation field produced by the operation of the machine and ATLAS is stronger than a nuclear reactor, so it is vital that its design master all aspects of physics," said Prof. Leroy.

Supermachine's Big Bang

The LHC will recreate conditions akin to the Big Bang -- which many scientists believe gave birth to the universe -- by colliding two beams of particles at close to the speed of light. Since it is estimated that only 4 percent of the universe has been charted, the supermachine will help answer the following questions in physics when it is turned on in summer 2008:

What is the unknown 96 percent of the universe made of?
Why do particles have mass?
Why does nature prefer matter over antimatter?
What lies beyond Earth's dimension?

Sprint Unveils iPhone Killer, Samsung Instinct

Sprint Nextel Corp. has announced its iPhone killer, the Samsung Instinct. The device features a touch-screen, and looks similar to the design of the popular Apple phone.

The Samsung Instinct will be offered on the Sprint network and will feature a virtual keyboard which will appear in a very similar manner to how the iPhone keyboard works.

There will also be a built-in Web browser as well as the ability to play music and video on the device.

Sprint stated that the Instinct will release this coming June.

The wireless company has stated that the service plans for the Instinct will be similar to how AT&T sets up their Apple iPhone plans.

Those who want to buy the Instinct will have to sign up for at least a $69/month plan. This will include unlimited texting as well as Internet access.

Sprint Nextel Chief Executive Dan Hesse is becoming his company's biggest pitch man. First he kicked off a $100 million marketing campaign in mid-March to promote new wares and service plans. And on Apr. 1 he took to the stage in Las Vegas to give attendees of the industry's largest trade show the hard sell on Sprint Nextel's latest efforts to compete with rivals Verizon Wireless, AT&T (T) and, more recently, Apple (AAPL) and its blockbuster iPhone.

The new weapon is called the Instinct, a handset made by Samsung that boasts a 3.1-in. touch screen and is slated to go on sale in June. Sprint Nextel will sell the device with recently introduced service plans that feature all-you-can-eat calling and data use, part of an effort to lure high-paying customers back into the fold. "People want the whole package," Hesse said during a keynote address at an annual conference held by CTIA-The Wireless Assn. "They're saying, who's going to give me what I want, when I want, and make it easy to use. They're all the building blocks of the wireless company of the future."

Hesse's remarks echo the sentiment he's trying to convey in the company's new ad campaign. In black-and-white television ads that began airing nationally, the CEO walks down a New York street talking about the company's new "Simply Everything" data plan that provides unlimited voice, texting, and Web surfing. "Use your phone for all the great things it can do without worrying about the meter running. How's that for a wireless revolution?" he asks.

Looking for a Miracle
Sprint Nextel may need nothing short of a wireless miracle. The company is reeling from subscriber losses and operational missteps that forced it to write down almost the entire value of its acquisition of rival Nextel in 2004. Sprint Nextel said in January that it lost 700,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter, and Hesse is bracing investors for the defection of at least 1 million more in the first half of 2008. Subscriber beefs include subpar customer service and network performance. The company's stock lost more than half its value in the first quarter, closing at 6.69 on Mar. 31. The shares rose 3¢, to 6.72, on Apr. 1 in the hours after Hesse's remarks.

Some analysts say Sprint Nextel's best option is to sell out to the highest bidder. "The most likely scenario for Sprint going forward is a long twilight where the company's inferior network, ambiguous brand message, and quality of service results in a continuing [if slowing] attrition of subscribers, revenues, and margins," Craig Moffett, a Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. senior analyst, told investors in March.

Tough Competition
Internal problems aside, Sprint Nextel also must contend with increasingly formidable rivals in a shrinking market. As the U.S. market matures and the pool of new customers dwindles, wireless carriers are increasingly looking for innovative ways to retain the customers they have, and poach from rivals.

As a wireless-only company, Sprint has been at a disadvantage compared with AT&T and Verizon Communications, owner with Vodafone of Verizon Wireless. Both competitors not only offer wireless calling but can also provide landline service, high-speed Internet access and, in many cases, TV. "Right now, it's about trying to stop people from leaving, then trying to win some other customers from their competitors," says Charles Golvin, a telecom analyst with Forrester Research (FORR).

House Calls in the Southeast
That means taking potentially costly risks and launching innovative programs. Sprint on Mar. 31 announced it would expand in its Southeast region a pilot program with Next Star Communications to bring service and repair teams directly to customers. The yellow and black Sprint service and repair van offers phone repair, answers technical questions, and lets consumers purchase accessories and new handsets. Customers using the service will also be able to move their existing phone books from their previous wireless phone to their new one. "Providing our customers with convenient and superior customer service is a priority for Sprint," says Jeff Bennett, area vice-president for Sprint in the Southeast.

The company is trying to eliminate the reasons for customers to call Sprint in the first place. To achieve a consistent level of quality service in its call centers, the company is standardizing its contracts with call center outsourcers and putting a new emphasis on resolving customer problems on the first call. "They're doing the right set of things," says Jupiter Research wireless analyst Julie Ask. "Consumers are choosing based on the quality of the network, better handsets, and better customer service."

Nationally, Sprint is giving customers the ability to change their rate plans without having to renew contracts, and offering a 30-day ability to drop a new contract without penalty.

Spinning Off WiMax
The Samsung Instinct and other handsets announced at the wireless show are part of a slate of products Hesse hopes will get customers back into its stores. To lure young customers, the company last September was the first to launch Palm's (PALM) hit consumer-centric Centro smartphone.

To satisfy investors, Hesse could soon be giving up its biggest differentiating product: WiMax. The company has been negotiating with cable providers Comcast and Time-Warner, Google, and Clearwire to spin off its Xohm WiMax subsidiary (, 3/27/08) in return for additional funding to build out a nationwide network.

The spin-off could hurt Sprint over the long term, but Hesse has no choice. If his pitch to customers—and by extension, investors—falls on deaf ears, there won't be a long term to worry about.

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