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Friday, July 17, 2009

Debris Did Not Damage Shuttle -NASA

Debris that fell from the space shuttle Endeavour’s external fuel tank during liftoff on Wednesday probably caused no major damage to the orbiter, NASA officials said Thursday.
The space shuttle Endeavour lifted off Wednesday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and during the liftoff, several pieces of foam fell from its external fuel tank.
“We don’t expect any issues,” John Shannon, the shuttle program manager, said at a news conference. “We’re not worried about this flight.”
Since the loss of the shuttle Columbia in 2003, because of damage caused by a piece of insulating foam that struck the left wing, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has taken painstaking care to analyze instances of foam falling off during liftoffs.
A camera on the Endeavour’s external tank captured at least a dozen instances of falling debris. One large piece, about six inches square, came off 6 minutes 17 seconds into flight, but by that time the shuttle had largely risen out of the atmosphere, and the foam, even if it hit the orbiter, would not have hit with much velocity.
But two showers of debris flew off much earlier, one at 1 minute 47 seconds after launching and another eight seconds later. A couple of pieces could be seen hitting the orbiter near the nose, leaving small white spots. Mr. Shannon said the damage there appeared slight.
Those pieces originated near the camera, perhaps making them look bigger. “It was dramatic footage looking at it,” Mr. Shannon said.
What is not yet clear is whether any pieces hit farther to the back.
The Endeavour astronauts spent their first full day in orbit using a camera and laser scanner attached to the end of the shuttle’s robotic arm to scan the shuttle’s nose cone and the leading edges of the wings. On Friday, as the shuttle approaches the International Space Station for docking, it will perform a backflip to allow the astronauts on the station to photograph its underside.
As shown in photographs taken of the external tank after it was jettisoned, most of the missing foam peeled off in strips from the intertank section.
“That was a little bit of a surprise to us,” Mr. Shannon said.
The fuel tank actually consists of two tanks, one at the top for liquid oxygen and one at the bottom for liquid hydrogen. The intertank is the cylindrical structure connecting the two tanks.
Because the intertank is not in contact with either the ultracold liquid oxygen or liquid hydrogen, the foam there is thinner — about half an inch. That also means that it does not experience the same temperature fluctuations; this type of shedding had not been seen before.
The foam somehow did not adhere properly to the metal structure, and in at least seven or eight places, it came completely off.
Mr. Shannon said that while it did not appear that the Endeavour suffered significant damage, the problem would need to be understood and, if necessary, fixed before the next shuttle flight, of the shuttle Discovery, currently scheduled for Aug. 18.
Meanwhile, NASA has a new leader. On Wednesday, the Senate confirmed Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr., a former astronaut, as the new administrator, and Lori B. Garver, a former associate administrator at the agency, as deputy administrator.

Star navigation aid for lunar surface sold at auction for $218,000

A navigational chart used by Apollo 11 astronauts has become the unexpected star of an auction in New York City marking the 40th anniversary of man's first lunar landing.
Bonhams New York said that the lunar surface star chart sold Thursday for an astronomical $218,000. The tool, with a 9-inch (23-centimeter) diameter, had been expected to bring in $70,000 to $90,000.
The device consists of two plastic discs riveted together. The lower disc shows Earth, the sun, planets and star patterns against a black background. The upper disc is a semi-transparent overlay that could be turned to calculate position.

The historic mission of astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin began exactly 40 years earlier, on July 16, 1969, and came to a climax on July 20 with the moon landing. In a letter accompanying the sale item, Aldrin wrote that "this star chart was the single most critical navigational device we used while on the moon."
Among the expected highlights of the auction were three checklists from the landing's descent. Signed by Aldrin, the lot had been estimated to fetch $125,000 to $175,000. But the checklists failed to sell.
The sale contained about 350 items from a variety of space missions.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

NASA prevented space shuttle Discovery & ready for launch

Nasa ready for launch after repair..After two days of repairs to a faulty hydrogen vent line, mission managers give the go for shuttle Discovery to launch Sunday night.

NASA still doesn't know what caused a hydrogen gas leak that prevented space shuttle Discovery from flying earlier this week.

But officials are hopeful that repairs have solved the problem, and that Discovery will blast off Sunday evening. Good weather is forecast.

Discovery is more than a month late for its scheduled trip to the international space station. First, hydrogen gas valves inside the shuttle had to be double- and triple-checked. Then on Wednesday, hydrogen gas began leaking during fueling where a vent line hooks up to the external fuel tank.

Workers have replaced that hookup and a pair of seals. Nothing obvious was wrong with the removed parts.

Discovery and seven astronauts are set to carry up one last set of solar wings for the space station.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Scientists have developed a way to battery charging time from hours to seconds

9-second lithium-ion recharge discover Scientists.
Scientists have developed a way to reduce battery charging time from hours to seconds, opening up doors for its use in electronics and electric vehicles.

Scientists Byoungwoo Kang and Gerbrand Ceder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found a tunnel shaped lithium compound that speeds up electron transfer within the battery.

The scientists’ lithium-ion battery could mean quick charging for electronics such as laptops and iPods, as well as more efficient hybrid electric vehicles (EV). The faster an EV can recharge its batteries, the more ground it can cover in a given amount of time.

This breakthrough may extend to recharge capabilities of other battery materials. Just as nickel hydroxide achieved fast recharge rates before lithium, other materials may have the potential to follow suit.

Battery recharge speed depends on electron and ion movement. Lithium ions tend to slow down when moving from the battery’s cathode to its electrolyte.

Kang and Ceder found a compound called lithium-iron phosphate, which has a crystal structure that creates a tunnel for lithium to quickly travel through. In order to get the ions to the tunnels, the scientists coated the cathode with lithium-phosphate glass, which allows electron flow. The result: Recharge in nine seconds.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The first spacecraft dedicated to finding potentially habitable planets beyond our solar system

NASA's planet-hunting telescope, Kepler, rocketed into space Friday night on a historic voyage to track down other Earths in a faraway patch of the Milky Way galaxy.

It's the first mission capable of answering the age-old question: Are other worlds like ours out there?

The spacecraft launches Friday night to embark on the most exhaustive hunt for a potentially habitable planet beyond our solar system.
NASA's Kepler seeks another Earth among the stars.The first spacecraft dedicated to finding potentially habitable planets beyond our solar system is poised to blast off from Cape Canaveral tonight on a three-year mission to probe 150,000 stars in the most sweeping hunt for Earthlike objects ever undertaken by NASA.
The Delta II rocket, carrying the widest-field telescope ever put in space, lifted off the launch pad at Cape Canaveral at 10:49 p.m. Eastern time.
The launch vehicle headed downrange, gathering speed as its three stages ignited, one after the other, passing over the Caribbean island of Antigua and tracking stations in Australia before climbing into orbit.

Kepler will eventually settle down to scan tens of thousands of stars near the constellations Cygnus and Lyra in search of planets where water could exist on the surface in liquid form, a key condition for life as we know it.

"We have a feeling like we're about to set sail across an ocean to discover a new world," said project manager Jim Fanson of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge. "It's sort of the same feeling Columbus or Magellan must have had."

The $590-million Kepler mission is jointly managed by JPL and NASA's Ames Research Center in the Bay Area. The spacecraft carries a 15-foot-long telescope with a 55-inch mirror that can scrutinize a wide star field for the telltale dimming of starlight that occurs when a planet crosses in front of it, known as a transit.

Over the last decade, scientists have employed the same technique with ground-based telescopes to discover 340 planets circling other stars. But because the optics of ground-based instruments are compromised by atmospheric interference, most of the planets found so far are Jupiter-like gas giants that orbit so close to their parent stars that any life forms would be incinerated.

The scientists expect to find hundreds of planets during the mission, scheduled to last more than three years. But even with the telescope's wide field of vision, it will be no easy task for Kepler to find smaller, Earth-like planets. Scientists have calculated that the change in brightness caused by such a planet transiting its star will be only about 0.008%, or about 84 parts per million. On top of that, there is less than one chance in 100 that a planet circling a far-off star will be aligned in just the right way for Kepler to spot a transit.

A final complication is that not all dimming is caused by transits. Sunspots on the surface of a star are cooler areas linked to an increase in magnetic activity. They also cause the star's light to dim. But Kepler scientists said they think they understand the signature of sunspots well enough to deal with that problem.

For a planet to become a candidate for the first Earth-type planet around another star, Kepler must measure at least three separate transits, scientists said. If the team is uncertain about some measurements, or simply wants more observing time, the mission could be extended to six years, NASA said.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Gmail Offline Mode Launched

Google is pretty fast-moving as company cultures go, with new products rolled out on a regular basis. And yet Google's popular Gmail email service is only just now getting around to providing offline access, as PC World reports, a feature that open-source Zimbra has had for nearly two years.
Excuse me, therefore, if I stifle a yawn at Google's announcement. While Google may claim nearly 70 percent of the search market, its rival, Yahoo, which acquired Zimbra in September 2007, is outpacing it in email innovation.
It has ever been thus. Google's heart appears to be in search, not alternative services like email: it's rarely first to market with cutting-edge features for Gmail.
Will it matter? Perhaps not. But as Google and Yahoo look beyond the consumer search market to enterprise IT, I believe things like enterprise-class email, which Yahoo has in Zimbra, will come to matter more and more. Google won't forever have the luxury of playing catch-up with Yahoo/Zimbra on a two-year time delay.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Get Your Photos prepared, PS3 Firmware Update 2.60 Now be in this world

The Sony PSP has been given a minor firmware upgrade, with 5.03 soon available for download to the device.

The update brings no new features, but should make crashes a little less prevalent.

Earlier this afternoon, Sony representatives confirmed to GameCyte that software update 2.60 was just around the corner, and that readers like yourself might receive it -- and the included Photo Gallery application -- tomorrow morning.

Well, "tomorrow" has morphed into "right now." Fire up your PS3, head to System Update -- as if you had much of a choice, your PS3's internet access is apparently locked down until you take the plunge -- and go get yourself a snack. Right now, our download is clocking in at oh, about 2% a minute.

Once you do get things up and running, feel free to post your impressions in a comment below, or check back tomorrow for GameCyte's verdict
PS3 System Update 2.60 slap , Includes ‘Photo Gallery’ Application
Whatever detractors may say about the $400 entry fee, there's no question that the PlayStation 3 is a powerful multimedia center. Sure, it's no TiVo, but it's much less bloated than your Windows desktop, and houses hardware that can play back the latest movies and rip high-quality music with ease.

Tomorrow, Sony will hopefully make the PS3 a place where you'll want to show off your still images as well. Sony announced today that in addition to support for Divx 3.11, the rapidly-approaching 2.60 software update will include a new application, "Photo Gallery," that allows you to sort and view photos in a wide and often surprising variety of ways.

Scientists have always wanted to take a closer look at biological systems and they have developed ever-increasingly sophisticated imaging devices.

New Imaging Method Lets Scientists 'See' Cell Molecules More Clearly
Scientists have always wanted to take a closer look at biological systems and materials. From the magnifying glass to the electron microscope, they have developed ever-increasingly sophisticated imaging devices.
Now, Niels de Jonge, Ph.D., and colleagues at Vanderbilt University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), add a new tool to the biology-watcher's box. In the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they describe a technique for imaging whole cells in liquid with a scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM).
"Electron microscopy is the most important tool for imaging objects at the nano-scale – the size of molecules and objects in cells," said de Jonge, who is an assistant professor of Molecular Biology & Biophysics at Vanderbilt and a staff scientist at ORNL. But electron microscopy requires a high vacuum, which has prevented imaging of samples in liquid, such as biological cells.

The new technique – liquid STEM – uses a micro-fluidic device with electron transparent windows to enable the imaging of cells in liquid. In the PNAS article, the investigators demonstrate imaging of individual molecules in a cell, with significantly improved resolution (the fineness of detail in the image) and speed compared to existing imaging methods.

"Liquid STEM has the potential to become a versatile tool for imaging cellular processes on the nanometer scale," de Jonge said. "It will potentially be of great relevance for the development of molecular probes and for the understanding of the interaction of viruses with cells."

The technique will also become a resource for energy science, as researchers use it to visualize processes that occur at liquid: solid interfaces, for example in lithium ion batteries, fuel cells, or catalytic reactions.

"Our key innovation with respect to other techniques for imaging in liquid is the combination of a large volume that will accommodate whole cells, a resolution of a few nanometers, and fast imaging of a few seconds per image," de Jonge said.

The research was supported by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program of ORNL, the SHaRE User Facility at ORNL, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and the National Institutes of Health.

Google split ends Sale of Ads in Papers After2 Years

Google’s efforts to develop its advertising empire beyond the confines of the Internet have hit their first major setback.

The company said on Tuesday that it would end a two-year-old program to sell ads in newspapers because the effort, called Google Print Ads, had failed to live up to its expectations.

“While we hoped that Print Ads would create a new revenue stream for newspapers and produce more relevant advertising for consumers, the product has not created the impact that we — or our partners — wanted,” wrote Spencer Spinnell, director of Google Print Ads, on an official corporate blog.

Google said the program, which sought to bring Google’s automated method of selling ads through auctions to the newspaper industry, would end Feb. 28.

The program began in November 2006 as a test. Google later expanded it to about 800 newspapers, including large dailies like The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune and The San Jose Mercury News.

But many newspapers used the program primarily for selling small amounts of ad space they could not sell themselves, newspaper publishers and industry analysts said. The ads were often sold at below-market rates.

“Financially, it was negligible for both Google and publishers,” said Jeffrey Lindsay, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Company. “None of these deals amounted to much.”

But some publishers, especially at smaller newspapers, may feel the impact of the program’s demise.

“We got some good business out of it,” said Steve Rossi, president and chief executive of the California Newspapers Partnership, which includes more than 30 daily newspapers owned by the MediaNews Group, Gannett and others.

The Google Print Ads program, along with two similar efforts by Google to sell ads on television and radio, were seen as high-profile tests of the company’s ability to bring the efficiencies of its automated marketplace for online ads to large, and sometimes, inefficient advertising markets.

Analysts said that all the programs had faced similar challenges and had been slow to gain traction with advertisers.

In radio, Google initially struggled to secure enough ad space to make the program attractive to marketers. In television, the company’s program has been looked at with suspicion, especially by cable companies that see Google as a competitor to their own efforts to sell targeted ads. The company is selling small amounts of ad space on the Dish Network, and since September, on some cable networks owned by NBC Universal, including MSNBC, CNBC and SciFi.

“If one was to drop out, the first was going to be newspapers, followed by radio,” Mr. Lindsay said. “TV is the one that has got the most legs.”

A Google spokesman declined to comment on the company’s radio and television ad sales programs.

Despite the limited size of Google Print Ads, some marketers were attracted to it, as the program often gave them the opportunity to place ads at prices lower than listed rates.

“It was very easy to use and we got very favorable pricing from many newspapers,” said Bruce Telkamp, executive vice president of eHealth, which runs Mr. Telkamp said print ads were a small part of the company’s marketing budget.

In recent weeks, Google has closed several other small products and services that have failed to gain traction as it seeks to reduce costs.

Security experts say Downadup worm is the bigges attack in year,but you can fend off attack

How to protect your PC against the Downadup worm
Security experts say it's the principal worm attack in years, call it "amazing" and report that it impure nearly 9 million PCs in just two weeks.
Downadup is downright malicious. And that's even before it does much more than just spread.
But as analysts argue about how the compromised computers will be used -- to build a substantial botnet, perhaps -- or how much information hackers will steal from infected machines, users like you have a more immediate concern: "How do I keep my PC from joining the ranks of the hacked?"

That's a simple question. Unfortunately, because of this worm's flexibility, the answers aren't.

What's the worm again? Thanks to the lack of an industry-wide labeling system, the worm goes by more than one name. Some companies dub it "Downadup," others call it "Conficker."

No matter the name, it's the same threat.

When did Downadup first appear? Security companies warned of the worm in late November 2008; Symantec Corp. was one of the first to sound the alarm when it raised its ThreatCon security alert level on Nov. 21. Within a week, Microsoft Corp. had added its voice to the chorus as it acknowledged a significant uptick in attacks.

However, the worm only really took off about a week ago as newer variations struck users and resulted in millions of infections.

How does it spread? One of Downadup's most intriguing aspects, say security researchers, is its multipronged attack strategy: It can spread three different ways.

The one that's gotten the most attention exploits a vulnerability in Windows that Microsoft patched nearly four months ago. The bug, which is in a file-sharing service that's included in all versions of the operating system, can be exploited remotely just by sending a malformed data packet to an unpatched PC.

But the worm can also spread by brute-force password attacks, and by copying itself to any removable USB-based devices such as flash drives and cameras. More on those two in a moment.

What machines are most vulnerable to Downadup attack? According to Microsoft, unpatched Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 machines are at the greatest risk to exploits of the bug patched in October. That gibes with reports from security companies, which have highlighted the danger to PCs running Windows XP Service Pack 2 and XP SP3. Not coincidentally, those versions account for the bulk of Windows' market share.

Unpatched Windows Vista and Server 2008 systems, meanwhile, are less likely to fall victim to attack, since hackers must have authenticated access to the computer, or in other words, know the log-in username and password.

Any Windows-powered machines, however, can be compromised by the worm's password and USB attack strategies.

I'm running Windows 7 beta... am I safe? According to the Microsoft support document that details the October patch, yes you are.

Microsoft offered the fix as a security patch to users of the Windows 7 "pre-beta," the version it gave developers in late October and early November. It then integrated the patch into Windows 7 before it launched the public beta on Jan. 10.

OK, so how do I protect my PC? Because this thing is a triple threat, you'll need to take more than one defensive measure.
First of all, if you haven't already done so, apply the October fix that Microsoft tagged as MS08-067. If you have Windows Update set to automatically download and install patches, you should be protected, but it never hurts to double-check. You can verify that the patch has been installed by bringing up Windows Update, then clicking "Review your update history" and looking for a security update labeled as "KB958644."

If you are only now installing the patch, you might want to take Microsoft's advice and also download and install the January edition of its free Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT), which was updated last week so that it can detect, and then delete, Downadup infections.

What's this about password attacks? Although most of the news about Downadup's spread has focused on its exploitation of a patched bug in Windows, the worm also propagates by trying to guess other machines' administrative passwords.

Once the worm penetrates a corporate network -- perhaps by infecting a single unpatched machine, say a laptop, that is later connected to that network -- it tries to break into other PCs, including those that have been patched with the October emergency fix.

"One of the ways in which the Conficker worm (also known as Confick or Downadup) uses to spread is to try and batter its way into ADMIN$ shares using a long list of different passwords," said Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant at Sophos, in an entry to a company blog last Friday. Cluley included the list of passwords that Downadup tries, which range from the ubiquitous password and the moronic secure to the slightly-more-clever letmein and nimda, or admin spelled backward.

Cluley urged users to steer clear of what he called "poorly-chosen passwords," while other security companies recommended that users not only pick stronger passwords but change them periodically as well.

Obviously, if you're using a password that's on the Downadup list, you should change it immediately.

From the moment Downadup infects a PC, it copies a file, named "autorun.inf" to the root of any USB storage devices, typically flash drives, that are connected to the compromised computer. That file name takes advantage of Windows' Autorun and Autoplay features to copy the worm to any machine that a flash drive, camera or other USB device is plugged into. Downadup will infect that PC when the drive or device is connected, or when the user double-clicks the device's icon within Windows Explorer or from the desktop.

Security experts have recommended that users disable both Autorun and Autoplay in Windows.
A December blog post by Symantec researcher Ben Nahorney spells out how to disable Autoplay, while a separate post on the Hackology blog outlines how to turn off Autorun by editing the registry.

What are the signs that my PC has been hit? Microsoft's advisory about Downadup lists several symptoms of infection, including these:

Account lockout policies are being tripped (because your password's been hijacked, and changed, by the attacker).

Automatic Updates are disabled (because Downadup tries to keep the PC unpatched by turning off Windows Update's automatic update, as well as Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS), the Windows component used by Windows Update to actually deliver the updates). Various security-related Web sites cannot be accessed (because Downadup blocks access to a whole host of security companies' sites in an effort to prevent antivirus software from being updated, which could result in the worm's detection and eradication).

If your PC is exhibiting any of these symptoms -- or the others that Microsoft spells out here -- the company recommends that you immediately use the MSRT to clean the machine.

You can download the MSRT from Microsoft's site, or follow these instructions, posted at its support site, that walk administrators through the steps to deploy the tool in enterprise environments

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Engineering team that developed the Android platform for Google Inc.

Samsung plans to launch its first Google Android mobile phone this year. The new smartphone will be available through T-Mobile and Sprint Nextel.
The leader of the engineering team that developed the Android platform for Google Inc.

has been named chief technology officer at Coupons Inc.The Mountain View interactive coupon marketing and technology company Steve Horowitz will oversee all of the Company’s worldwide engineering, product management and technology efforts as it expands its digital coupons and promotions platform.
Horowitz, 41, for three years led the Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) engineering team that built the Android mobile operating system and platform which launched with T-Mobile late last year.
Previously, he was at Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT) for almost nine years helping lead development and shipping of a range of consumer products including IPTV, Windows Media Center Edition, UltimateTV, Dishplayer, and WebTV. He was also one of the earliest employees at Be Inc. He began his career at Apple Computer Inc. where he spent six years working on Macintosh products and technologies.
“Our business is experiencing unprecedented growth, and as we extend our digital promotions platform to in-store, in-appliance and mobile phones, this is the ideal time for Steve to bring his deep experience to our team,” said Steven R. Boal, CEO and founder of Coupons Inc.


Android-equipped G1 phone set for European spread

Having initially made the trans-Atlantic jump from the United States to the United Kingdom in October of 2008, Google’s new G1 handset is now set to make more of an impression across mainland Europe.
More specifically, German telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom’s has announced it will begin selling the Android-equipped phone through its T-Mobile wireless unit in the next few weeks, according to a Reuters report.
In outlining the imminent European spread of the G1, T-Mobile CEO Hamid Akhavan explained that the HTC-made handset will be introduced in Holland, the Czech Republic and Austria from January 30, while Germany will take stock on February 02 and Poland will receive units before March.
In adding a little polish to the imminent European launches, Akhavan hailed the G1 as the most successful phone ever sold in the United States, adding that T-Mobile has already sold “several hundred thousand” units since release and that sales “have clearly exceeded our expectations.”
Presently, the G1 sells in the United States for $179 USD alongside a mandatory two-year service contract. According to T-Mobile USA, it had sold approximately 400,000 units of the phone by the close of 2008.
In something of a marked reduction when compared to its pricing in the U.S. market, the G1 will go on sale in Germany for a single Euro when combined with a two-year service contract.
Engineered by Google and the Open Handset Alliance, the open-source Android software platform has been designed so that developers and designers can create applications and services that don’t need to be rewritten to obtain compatibility with different hardware.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Europe launches antitrust hit on Microsoft in excess of web browser

European regulators have launched a astonish new attack on Microsoft of the Internet Explorer browser in its Windows operating system,opening the way for rivals including Google to make inroads into a core part of its business.

The case is a direct echo of the first big Microsoft antitrust battle, when the US accused it of unfairly blocking internet pioneer Netscape during the "browser wars" of the mid-1990s.
If the latest regulatory attack is successful, European internet users could find it more convenient to use browsers other than Internet Explorer, which emerged as the industry standard after Netscape was defeated.
The browser has returned to the forefront in the struggle for dominance on the web, given the ability of browser companies to steer users towards their own online services. Also, with software applications increasingly having both online and PC-based elements, the browser has come to be seen as a strategic piece of software, prompting Google to launch Chrome last year.
The complaint from European Union regulators came in a statement of objections privately sent to Microsoft on Thursday. After Microsoft disclosed the existence of the complaint late yesterday, the European Commission confirmed its objection.
It said its preliminary conclusion was that the "bundling" of Internet Explorer with Windows harmed competition, undermined product innovation and ultimately reduced consumer choice.
A similar objection was lodged in the US 12 years ago and settled at the start of this decade, although the remedies that were forced on Microsoft did little to dent its dominance of the business, at least until recently.
The European charges were prompted by a complaint from Opera, a Norwegian browser maker, which took advantage of a landmark European ruling against Microsoft in 2007 to make its case. In that case, Europe's Court of the First Instance ruled against Microsoft's practice of "tying" its Media Player software with Windows, a move that opened the way to similar attacks on other software.
The European regulators' latest attack seeks to turn Windows into a distribution vehicle for other companies' software, one person familiar with the statement's contents said. Under that arrangement, Microsoft would have to include rival browsers with Windows alongside Internet Explorer, thereby giving users a choice.

Is Google Talking Trash to the European Commission Over Internet Explorer?
So Microsoft is again being called to the anticompetitive carpet by the European Commission (Wall Street Journal pay wall), this time over the bundling of its Internet Explorer Browser with its Windows operating system. Shocking.
In a piece detailing how Microsoft and the EC got to this point, my Microsoft Watch colleague Joe Wilcox points out that the commission started the browser investigation following a complaint filed by browser also-ran Opera.
However, he wonders whether or not Google lobbied the EC to come down on Microsoft as well. As if the EC needs to be told to go after Microsoft after 5 years of persistent opposition.
Why would Google complain about IE? Because its own Chrome Web browser is struggling to gain share versus Microsoft IE, which is at 69 percent and Mozilla Firefox, which is about 20 percent. Since September, Google's Chrome has garnered a meager 1.1 percent share of the browser market.
Google needs all the help it can get to buoy Chrome versus those rivals. If Opera can complain, why can't Google? If Moreover, if Google did in fact lodge a complaint with the EC, it would be simply repaying Microsoft the favor.
Remember, Microsoft threw a conniption when Google bid to buy DoubleClick, fighting hard to convince the Senate that the buy would make Google too powerful to fight in the market. Microsoft last year then opposed Google's agreement to partner with Yahoo over paid search for the same reasons.
Joe Wilcox has an answer for why Google should think twice about griping about Microsoft to the EC:
Some advice to Google: The cop you help to get Microsoft will one day come after you. In Sept. 2007, I warned that the European appeals court ruling against Microsoft would embolden EU regulators. Google is a bundler, too, by tying search and other services together with Chrome--and the company has monopoly-size search share in Europe. When the next chapter of the European drama unfolds, many Google may wish they had stood with Microsoft rather than against it.
While I appreciate Joe's sentiment -- it's nice to think that U.S. companies might stick together in the face of European regulators -- it's not the reality. Competition between Google and Microsoft is downright dog-eat-dog and Darwinian.
Microsoft, which has been roasted by U.S. regulators every bit as much as the European watchdogs, doesn't think twice about complaining about Google in search and advertising because it is an area where it is infinitely inferior to Google. Any little edge it can gain is a place.
Moreover, it's still doing so: According to Ad Age, Microsoft is an underwriter of a recent International Advertising Association survey concerning search-advertising competition, the Google-Yahoo deal and future attitudes about regulatory action.
Why would Google miss a chance to gouge Microsoft abroad over IE when Microsoft nary misses a chance to gouge Google over paid search at home? Just as Microsoft bows to Google in search, Google looks up at Microsoft's IE market share mountain. Turnabout is fair play.
I have no evidence Google is griping about IE in Europe, though it wouldn't surprise me and I fully expect it. Regulatory bodies would likely view complaints from a giant like Google with a grain of salt, much like they viewed Microsoft's gripes about Google. But it can't hurt to try.
I've asked Google for comment, but don't expect to hear much on this front. I won't take offense; this clandestine competitive throat-cutting is fun to dish about.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Apple, Yahoo boards face denigration

By raising as many questions as it answered, last week's announcement that Steve Jobs will take a six-month medical leave has sparked fresh denigration from those who say Apple's board seems more worried with shielding the charismatic chief executive's privacy than with meeting its responsibility to shareholders.

Critics have often accused corporate boards of being too deferential to management or ignoring stock owners' best interests. Last year, some investors accused Yahoo's directors of failing to meet their fiduciary duty by allowing then-CEO Jerry Yang to reject Microsoft's offer to buy the company at a huge premium.
While the circumstances were different, both boards have been too submissive, charged Darren Chervitz, co-manager of the Jacob Internet Fund, which owns shares in both Apple and Yahoo. "If their job is to look out for shareholders, they're not doing a good job of it."
Governance experts say corporate directors' first obligation is to make sure a company is operated in the best interest of its owners. Recent regulatory reforms have attempted to reinforce the role of directors as independent overseers, rather than simply advisers to management, by providing that outside directors meet independently and serve on committees that oversee audits and compensation.
But experts also said there is not a checklist of rules that tell corporate boards how to handle the kinds of situations that Apple and Yahoo faced.
In addressing .

Jobs' health problems, Apple has offered only terse statements that at times seemed to conflict with previous announcements. Critics point to the way Apple disclosed Jobs' medical leave as a sign the board is giving him too much leeway in determining his own fitness and deciding who will run the company, while depriving shareholders of relevant information.
The announcement came Wednesday in the form of a brief memo from Jobs, which said that "during the past week I have learned that my health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought."
"The fact the announcement came from the CEO and not from the board tells you a lot,'' said Nell Minow at the Corporate Library, a research group that advocates for governance reforms. Citing past episodes involving Jobs' generous stock compensation and an investigation into back-dating allegations, she added, "this is a board that has repeatedly had problems exercising independent oversight."
"The board should drive this process," not Jobs, agreed Charles Elson, a professor at the University of Delaware's Center for Corporate Governance.
But some experts said that, while the board should insist that Jobs keep them informed of his health, it may not have a duty to disclose details if directors are satisfied they aren't relevant.
"From my perspective, much of this criticism is based on speculation," said Joseph Grundfest, co-director of the Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford. "Much of this depends on what the board knew and when did they know it."
Investment banker Gary Lutin, who has served on several corporate boards, added that directors must balance shareholders' right to know against perhaps needlessly panicking investors, customers or employees.
Critics also have complained that Apple's board has failed to articulate a plan for replacing Jobs in the event he is not able to return to work full-time.
"Sadly, this board of excellent people seems to get caught up in the emotional vortex of protecting and sympathizing with their legendary and beloved CEO," said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, an associate dean at Yale University's School of Management. Apple's eight-member board includes such luminaries as Al Gore, Google chief executive Eric Schmidt and Avon chief executive Andrea Jung, in addition to Jobs himself.
Apple declined comment Friday. A spokesman said the company has a succession plan for the chief executive's job, but the plan is confidential.
Governance experts also are divided over the role of Yahoo's board in last year's unsuccessful buyout talks. Like Jobs, Yang's reputation and identity is closely tied to the fate of the company he co-founded. Some critics have argued that the board should have formed a committee of independent directors to handle the Microsoft bid, rather than allowing Yang to play a leading role in negotiations.
Yang was chief executive and a board member when Yahoo rejected Microsoft's offer to buy the search company for $33 a share, or roughly $47.5 billion, saying the price was too low. The stock was trading at just under $29 at the time of Microsoft's last offer; it's now below $12.
At one point, Yang and co-founder David Filo met with Microsoft executives to discuss their offer, with no other Yahoo directors present. But board chairman Roy Bostock publicly backed Yang throughout the negotiations.
Shareholders voiced their displeasure, however. More than a third voted against retaining Yang and Bostock as board members in August. Three months later, Yang announced he would step down as chief executive.
Board members have an obligation to evaluate whether the chief executive has personal or financial motivations that present a conflict of interest to such negotiations, but the question is ultimately up to the board's judgement, said Michael Klausner, a professor of business and law at Stanford, who added that he wasn't commenting specifically on the Yahoo case.
"The role of the board is oversight, but not necessarily to second-guess, unless there's a red flag," Klausner said.

Three million beat by Windows worm

A worm that spreads throughout low security networks, memory sticks, and PCs without the most recent security updates is posing on the get higher threat to users.
The malicious program, known as Conficker, Downadup, or Kido was first discovered in October 2008.
Although Microsoft released a patch, it has gone on to infect 3.5m machines.
Experts warn this figure could be far higher and say users should have up-to-date anti-virus software and install Microsoft's MS08-067 patch.

According to Microsoft, the worm works by searching for a Windows executable file called "services.exe" and then becomes part of that code.
It then copies itself into the Windows system folder as a random file of a type known as a "dll". It gives itself a 5-8 character name, such as piftoc.dll, and then modifies the Registry, which lists key Windows settings, to run the infected dll file as a service.
Once the worm is up and running, it creates an HTTP server, resets a machine's System Restore point (making it far harder to recover the infected system) and then downloads files from the hacker's web site.
Most malware uses one of a handful of sites to download files from, making them fairly easy to locate, target, and shut down.
But Conficker does things differently.
Anti-virus firm F-Secure says that the worm uses a complicated algorithm to generate hundreds of different domain names every day, such as,, and Only one of these will actually be the site used to download the hackers' files. On the face of it, tracing this one site is almost impossible.
Speaking to the BBC, Kaspersky Lab's security analyst, Eddy Willems, said that a new strain of the worm was complicating matters.
"There was a new variant released less than two weeks ago and that's the one causing most of the problems," said Mr Willems
"The replication methods are quite good. It's using multiple mechanisms, including USB sticks, so if someone got an infection from one company and then takes his USB stick to another firm, it could infect that network too. It also downloads lots of content and creating new variants though this mechanism."
"Of course, the real problem is that people haven't patched their software. If people do patch their software, they should have little to worry about," he added.
Technicians have reverse engineered the worm so they can predict one of the possible domain names. This does not help them pinpoint those who created Downadup, but it does give them the ability to see how many machines are infected.
"Right now, we're seeing hundreds of thousands of unique IP addresses connecting to the domains we've registered," F-Secure's Toni Kovunen said in a statement.
"We can see them, but we can't disinfect them - that would be seen as unauthorised use."
Microsoft says that the malware has infected computers in many different parts of the world, with machines in China, Brazil, Russia, and India having the highest number of victims.
The worm can also spread via USB flash drives.

MIT) has developed carbon nanotubes that can be used as sensors for cancer drugs and other DNA-damaging agents inside living cells.

A multidisciplinary team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has developed carbon nanotubes that can be used as sensors for cancer drugs and other DNA-damaging agents inside living cells. The sensors, made of carbon nanotubes wrapped in DNA, can detect chemotherapy drugs such as cisplatin as well as environmental toxins and free radicals that damage DNA.

“We've made a sensor that can be placed in living cells, healthy or malignant, and actually detect several different classes of molecules that damage DNA,” said Michael Strano, Ph.D., leader of the research team and a member of the MIT-Harvard Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence. Dr. Strano and his colleagues published their work in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Such sensors could be used to monitor chemotherapy patients to ensure that drugs are effectively battling tumors. Many chemotherapy drugs are powerful DNA disruptors and can cause serious side effects, so it is important to make sure that the drugs are reaching their intended targets. The sensor can detect DNA-alkylating agents, a class that includes cisplatin, and oxidizing agents such as hydrogen peroxide and hydroxyl radicals.

“You can figure out not only where the drugs are, but also whether a drug is active or not,” said Daniel Heller, a graduate student in chemical engineering and lead author of the paper.

Using the sensors, researchers can monitor living cells over an extended period of time. The sensor can pinpoint the exact location of molecules inside cells, and for one agent, hydrogen peroxide, it can detect a single molecule.

The new technology takes advantage of the fact that carbon nanotubes fluoresce in near-infrared light, whereas human tissue does not, which makes it easier to see the nanotubes light up. In addition, each nanotube’s fluorescence depends strongly on events taking place on the surface of the nanotube, such as when molecules bind to the nanotube surface.
Each nanotube is coated with DNA, which binds to DNA-damaging agents present in the cell. That interaction between DNA and the DNA disruptor changes the intensity and/or wavelength of the fluorescent light emitted by the nanotube. The agents produce different signatures that can be used to identify them. Moreover, the investigators developed signal processing methods that separate the signatures of multiple different molecules binding to the nanotubes.

“We can differentiate between different types of molecules depending on how they interact,” Dr. Strano said. He added that future studies will use the new nanotube sensors to study the effects of various antioxidants, such as the compounds in green tea, and learn how to more effectively use toxic chemotherapy drugs.
This work, which was detailed in the paper “Multimodal optical sensing and analyte specificity using single-walled carbon nanotubes,” was supported in part by the NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer, a comprehensive initiative designed to accelerate the application of nanotechnology to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. Investigators from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute also participated in this study.

scientists keep searching for new sources of drugs.

New Family Of Antibacterial Agents discovered
As bacteria resistant to commonly used antibiotics continue to increase in number, scientists keep searching for new sources of drugs. One potential new bactericide has now been found in the tiny freshwater animal Hydra.

The protein identified by Joachim Grötzinger, Thomas Bosch and colleagues at the University of Kiel, hydramacin-1, is unusual (and also clinically valuable) as it shares virtually no similarity with any other known antibacterial proteins except for two antimicrobials found in another ancient animal, the leech.
Hydramacin proved to be extremely effective though; in a series of laboratory experiments, this protein could kill a wide range of both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, including clinically-isolated drug-resistant strains like Klebsiella oxytoca (a common cause of nosocomial infections). Hydramacin works by sticking to the bacterial surface, promoting the clumping of nearby bacteria, then disrupting the bacterial membrane.
Grötzinger and his team also determined the 3-D shape of hydramacin-1, which revealed that it most closely resembled a superfamily of proteins found in scorpion venom; within this large group, they propose that hydramacin and the two leech proteins are members of a newly designated family called the macins.

The ocean's insubstantial acid balance may be getting help from an astonishing source, fish poop

Ocean wants fish devastate
The increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere also raises the amount of CO2 dissolved in ocean water, tending to make it more acidic.Alkaline chemicals such as calcium carbonate can help balance this acid. The main source for this chemical was thought to be the shells of marine plankton, but researchers report in Friday's issue of the journal Science that marine fish contribute 3% to 15% of total carbonate.Bony fish produce carbonate to dispose of the excess calcium they ingest in seawater. This forms into calcium carbonate crystals, or "gut rocks," which are then excreted.
The process is separate from digestion and production of feces.U.S. children study is recruitingScientists begin recruiting mothers-to-be this week for the largest study of U.S. children ever performed -- aiming eventually to track 100,000 across the country from conception to age 21.Nearly a decade in the planning, the ambitious National Children's Study tackles a major mystery: How the environment -- including a pregnant woman's diet and a child's exposure to various chemicals -- interacts with genetics to affect youngsters' health and development.Microwave 'cloaks' enhancedResearchers at Duke University, who developed a material that can "cloak" an item from detection by microwaves, report in Thursday's edition of the journal Science that they have expanded the number of wavelengths they can block.The team reported in 2006 that it had developed so-called metamaterials that could deflect microwaves around a three-dimensional object, essentially making it invisible to the waves.The system works like a mirage, in which heat causes the bending of light rays and cloaks the road ahead behind an image of the sky.Research planes are unmannedThere will be a powerful new scientific eye in the sky come summer.NASA and Northrop Grumman on Thursday unveiled two unmanned drones that will be used for atmospheric research. One of the two Global Hawks, a version of the Air Force's top-of-the-line unmanned spy plane, will conduct its first earth science mission in June for NASA.The planes, which are capable of staying aloft for more than 30 hours, will sample greenhouse gases and verify measurements by NASA's Aura atmosphere research satellite.Antidepressants may relieve painAntidepressants appear to relieve pain, sleep disturbances and other symptoms of fibromyalgia, a debilitating and painful ailment with no known cure, researchers reported in this week's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Assn.In an analysis of 18 previously published studies, they found that tricyclic and tetracyclic antidepressants seemed to have a large effect in easing pain, fatigue and sleep disturbances while selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Prozac had smaller effect for pain relief.New, efficient rice in the worksAn international team of scientists is attempting to develop a new rice strain that will use less water and fertilizer but could boost yields by up to 50% to meet growing demand.The ambitious laboratory project, announced Wednesday by the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute, could take a decade or more to complete.The project aims to improve the efficiency of a rice plant's photosynthesis, the process by which plants use solar energy to capture carbon dioxide and convert it into carbohydrates.Study finds stents may be overusedA new study gives fresh evidence that many people with clogged heart arteries are being overtreated with stents and that a simple blood-flow test might help prevent unnecessary care.Fewer deaths, heart attacks and repeat procedures occurred when doctors implanted fewer of these tiny artery props, using the blood-flow test to decide when they were truly needed, the study found.
Fish digestions help keep the oceans healthy..

The digestive systems of fish play a vital role in maintaining the health of the oceans and moderating climate change, researchers said on Thursday.

Computer models showed how bony fish produced a large portion of the inorganic carbon that helps maintain the oceans' acidity balance and was vital for marine life, they said.
The world's bony fish population, estimated at between 812 million and 2 billion tons, helped to limit the consequences of climate change through its effect on the carbon cycle, University of British Columbia researchers reported in the journal Science.
"This study is really the first glimpse of the huge impact fish have on our carbon cycle -- and why we need them in the ocean," researcher Villy Christensen and colleagues wrote.
Calcium carbonate is a white, chalky material that helps control the acidity balance of sea water and is essential to the health of marine ecosystems and coral reefs.
It helps regulate how much carbon dioxide oceans would be able to absorb from the atmosphere in the future, the researchers said.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

NASA Radar Provides First seem surrounded by Moon's Shadowed Craters

Using a NASA radar flying aboard India's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, scientists are getting their first look outside the moon's coldest, darkest craters.

The Mini-SAR instrument, a lightweight, synthetic aperture radar, has passed its initial in-flight tests and sent back its first data. The images show the floors of permanently-shadowed polar craters on the moon that aren't visible from Earth. Scientists are using the instrument to map and search the insides of the craters for water ice.

"The only way to explore such areas is to use an orbital imaging radar such as Mini-SAR," said Benjamin Bussey, deputy principal investigator for Mini-SAR, from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. "This is an exciting first step for the team which has worked diligently for more than three years to get to this point."

The images, taken on Nov. 17, 2008, cover part of the Haworth crater at the moon's south pole and the western rim of Seares crater, an impact feature near the north pole. Bright areas in each image represent either surface roughness or slopes pointing toward the spacecraft. Further data collection by Mini-SAR and analysis will help scientists to determine if buried ice deposits exist in the permanently shadowed craters near the moon's poles.
These first images and other information about NASA's Mini-SAR, also known as Mini-RF, can be found at:
"During the next few months we expect to have a fully calibrated and operational instrument collecting valuable science data at the moon," said Jason Crusan, program executive for the Mini-RF Program for NASA's Space Operations Mission Directorate in Washington.

Mini-SAR is one of 11 instruments on the Indian Space Research Organization's Chandrayaan-1 and one of two NASA-sponsored contributions to its international payload. The other is the Moon Mineralogy Mapper, a state-of-the-art imaging spectrometer that will provide the first map of the entire lunar surface at high spatial and spectral resolution. Data from the two NASA instruments will contribute to the agency's increased understanding of the lunar environment as it implements America's space exploration plan, which calls for robotic and human missions to the moon.

Chandrayaan-1 launched from India's Satish Dhawan Space Center on Oct. 21 and began orbiting the moon Nov. 8. The Applied Physics Laboratory performed the final integration and testing on Mini-SAR. It was developed and built by the Naval Air Warfare Center and several other commercial and government contributors. The Applied Physics Laboratory's Satellite Communications Facility is Chandrayaan-1's primary ground station in the Western Hemisphere.

For more information about the Moon Mineralogy Mapper, visit:

For more information about Chandrayaan-1, visit:


The observation of our natural satellite, the Moon, is a very fascinating and rewarding activity for the amateur astronomer, even if he/she is only equipped with binoculars or with a modest telescope. In fact, the Moon presents a large apparent diameter in the sky (almost half a degree, or 30 arcmin), it is very bright, and it shows profound and predictable changes in its appearance during a 29 1/2 day cycle called a lunation. Throughout the lunation, the Moon will practically show us the same hemisphere, the so called near-side. However, the various lunar formations present therein, namely mountain ranges and craters, will always look different due to high variability of the light-shadow patterns that may occur at the Moon's surface. Even with a small telescope, the 3-D perception of the relief of the various lunar formations will be magnificent. Occasionally, due to its orbital motion, the Moon will pass in front of a bright star or a planet. These phenomena are called occultations and, as you may imagine, they can be quite frequent if dimmer stars are considered. But even if the Moon does not occult bright stars or planets, quite interesting shows can occur if those celestial bodies are all clustered in a restrict area of the sky. Such conjunctions should never be missed, and are the perfect target for a first attempt of astrophotography. From time to time, the Moon may also be an active partner in the production of spectacular events called eclipses, namely lunar and solar eclipses. For "armchair" astronomers, or for those interested to know a little bit more about the History of Astronomy, the Moon is also the perfect object. The former will find printed and/or online images of "moonscapes" to be magnificent, and the latter will surely find a "gold mine" of references, and also of clues for teaching astronomy to kids. Have you already heard about Nicholas Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler or Galileo Galilei? And what about Plato and Aristoteles, or Archimedes and Eratosthenes? Besides their work, they were also immortalized as craters of our natural satellite. And for Portuguese like myself, the Moon may also have some pleasant "surprises". In fact, famous navigators like Vasco da Gama and Fernão de Magalhães, the great mathematician Pedro Nunes and the physician/historian Cristobal Acosta are also there! And they can all be easily spotted with a small telescope...

No matter what phase it presents to us, the Moon already displays some albedo features when gazed with the naked eye. The above images (first-quarter at left, and full-moon at the right) simulate the amount of detail that is visible without any optical instrument. The darker regions were interpreted by earlier astronomers as seas ("maria", in latin), while the brighter portions of the lunar disk were thought to correspond to continents ("terrae"). Nowadays we perfectly know there are no oceans on the Moon, and that "seas" are just vast lava plains, but the old terminology is still being used. For instance, who doesn't recall that the first manned flight to the Moon, Apollo 11, landed on the "Sea of Tranquillity" in 1969? Less known is, perhaps, the site where an automatic probe, Luna 9, made the very first soft-landing on the Moon, back in 1966. It was at the western border of the "Ocean of Storms", another of our satellite's "seas". As lunar "seas" really don't exist but the designation still persists, I think we are totally free to keep on trying to see the "Man on the Moon" just for fun. For instance, I'm convinced I can spot "him" in the above right image of the full-moon. I think "he" is shouting at me..., but obviously it is just my imagination. The "Man on the Moon" is nothing more than a funny pattern of "seas" and "continents" on the Moon's near-side. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure that I would not see astronauts on the Moon, even with a potent telescope, if they were there at this precise moment. In fact, the smallest lunar features seen from Earth with large telescopes are several hundred meters in diameter. Obviously, for modest amateur instruments that figure can rise up to several kilometers! Remember..., small pits on the Moon as seen from Earth, correspond to kilometer-sized craters in reality.

The simple use of binoculars (North up, as simulated in the above images) or of small telescopes at low-magnifications (see image below; although most astronomical telescopes invert images, all illustrations in these pages are shown with north up) already provides a lunar disk full of details to explore, namely to scan for variations throughout the entire lunation. For example, the differences between the darker maria (red, in the above center image) and the more reflective terrae (green) become overwhelming. With time, any observer will become acquainted with the twenty-one maria that are visible from Earth. The vast Oceanus Procellarum (Ocean of Storms) is located in the western hemisphere of the Moon. That hemisphere also contains Mare Humorum (Sea of Moisture), Mare Imbrium (Sea of Rains) and Mare Nubium (Sea of Clouds). Mare Cognitum (Known Sea) and Mare Insularum (Sea of Isles) are as well located in the western hemisphere. Mare Vaporum (Sea of Vapours) and, further north, Mare Frigoris (Sea of Cold), lay between both hemispheres. In contrast to its western counterpart, the Moon's eastern hemisphere contains the Mare Fecunditatis (Sea of Fertility), Mare Nectaris (Sea of Nectar), Mare Serenitatis (Sea of Serenity) and Mare Tranquillitatis (Sea of Tranquillity). The Moon's eastern hemisphere thus seems to have been considered as a rather favorable place, or of good augur, to early astronomers! An apparent exception is the discrete Mare Crisium (Sea of Crises), near the Moon's eastern limb. Of course, we now know the the Moon's environment is totally incompatible with life, except for astronauts wearing space-suits. By the way, since its exploration, the Moon is considered a true world and the selenographic coordinates now applied are similar to those used on Earth. In other words, the eastern and western orientations on the Moon are reversed with respect to the east-west celestial coordinates. Therefore, Oceanus Procellarum, at the left side of the above images lays on the Moon's western hemisphere, and Mare Crisium, near the right limb also in the above images, is located on the eastern hemisphere. The Moon also has various tiny maria, namely Mare Anguis (Serpent Sea), Mare Humboldtianum (Humboldt's Sea), Mare Spumans (Foaming Sea) and Mare Undarum (Sea of Waves). Finally, some maria are located near the limb, and thus are only partially viewed from Earth. Examples are Mare Australe (Southern Sea), Mare Marginis (Border Sea), Mare Orientale (Eastern Sea) and Mare Smythii (Smyth's Sea). Analyzing the global distribution of maria and terrae, it is evident that the former dominate the Moon's western hemisphere while in the east the latter prevail. It is for this simple reason that, at first-quarter, the Moon is considerably brighter than when it is is observed at last-quarter (see title image above). Major impact craters can already be distinguished with small instruments. At certain times, particularly at or near full-moon, some craters (yellow dots in above right image) are seen associated with bright irregular lines that irradiate from them (cyan lines). These are called lunar rays, and correspond to the ejecta that were produced during the impacts that originated the craters. Bright and/or ray-associated craters are usually recent events (at an astronomical time-scale), and not always correspond to the larger craters visible on the Moon. Some of the ray systems that can be easily spotted with small instruments are those associated with craters Tycho (1), Byrgius A (2), Kepler (3), Copernicus (4), Aristarchus (5), Anaxagoras (6), Thales (7), Proclus (8) and Stevinus A (9). Other craters easily spotted with binoculars have dark floors, like for instance Plato and Grimaldi. This appearance usually correspond to craters that were partially flooded with mare lava.

Except when at new- or full-moon, our satellite always shows a distinct boundary between illuminated and non-illuminated hemispheres. This interface is called the terminator. The telescopic observation at or near the terminator is extremely informative because lunar formations laying at that place cast long shadows that bring up its relief. This strong 3-D perception can however be misleading, since long shadows may exaggerate the object's height or shape. Take for instance the lunar scarp known as Rupes Recta, also seen here at low-angle illumination just south of Promontorium Taenarium. The long and strait shadow it casts make it visible in small instruments. Can you spot it in this wide-angle view of the southeastern quadrant of the Moon? Well, this lunar formation is nothing but a gentle slope with a maximum height of about 300 meters and an inclination of around 7°. It is really not the steep scarp it once was believed to be.
The reason why long shadows are produced near the terminator is shown in the above drawing (the Sun is yellow, and the Moon's illuminated hemisphere is light brown). Compare it with the previous image, and confirm that lunar formations at the eastern limb, that is very far from the terminator, are devoid of shadows at this specific Sun-Moon-Earth geometry.
Increasing the magnification provided by the telescope will allow us to view more and more details, namely isolated mountains or mountain ranges, valleys and smaller craters, and to confirm that regions occupied by maria (above image) do exhibit a lower density of visible craters when compared to terrae-dominated sectors of the Moon, such as the southern highlands shown in the image below. Mare Serenitatis occupies the center of the above image. The shade of its surface is not uniform (here darker at the periphery), an observation that is common to other maria. Only three moderate-sized craters can be seen within it, namely (from north to south) Luther, Bessel and Sulpicius Gallus. A higher resolution image of the latter can be found here. However, in nights of favorable seeing conditions numerous small kilometer-sized claterlets pop into view. Take for instance Linné, a small crater surrounded by light material, that was made "famous" by the fact that various observers have reported changes in its size and appearance. It is just an example of what may occur when an object, whose size resembles that of resolving power of a given telescope, is visualized in less than perfect seeing conditions. Sometimes it is just impossible to see it. A part of Mare Tranquillitatis is seen at the lower-right corner while Mare Imbrium, still almost immersed in the shadow, appears at the left. Let's focus a little bit our attention on the latter. Three remarkable mountain ranges mark the eastern limit of this mare. From north to south we have the Alpes, the Caucasus and the Apenninus Montes. The Alpes are crossed by a 10 kilometer-wide valley called Vallis Alpes, and a very small instrument is sufficient to reveal it. With larger apertures and excellent seeing conditions, however, it is possible to glimpse a narrow cleft that runs parallel to the length of the valley. Between Alpes and Caucasus Montes lays the beautiful crater Cassini, named after the astronomer which discovered four of Saturn's satellites and the main division between Saturn's rings. A higher resolution view of crater Cassini, still illuminated at a very low-angle, can be found here. Near the western slope of the Apenninus Montes is the landing site of the Apollo 15 mission, at close vicinity to a well-known lunar sinuous rille, Rima Hadley. A great sight with large aperture telescopes. The field-of-view of the above image contains lots of other interesting lunar formations, far too many to mention at this moment. With respect to craters, however, I would like to mention the trio composed of Archimedes, Autolycus and Aristillus, all located in Mare Imbrium. Two other crater pairs are remarkable, Aristoteles and Eudoxus that are oriented in the north-south direction and, here more distant from the terminator, the east-west oriented Atlas and Hercules. Just another example of a crater that deserves seeing under low-angle illumination is Posidonius, located at the eastern border of Mare Serenitatis. On the other hand, craters Menelaus and Manilius (both located south of the same mare), become extremely bright at full-moon.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Scientists identify cause of Methane on Mars

Methane on Mars
The findings appear in a paper in print online on Thursday by the journal Science. The scientists also announced the findings at a NASA news conference. Dr. Mumma had previously reported some of his answer at scientific meetings, but the Science paper is the first time they have appeared in a peer-reviewed journal.

Methane, the simplest of hydrocarbon molecules, with one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms, is fragile in air. It falls apart when hit by ultraviolet radiation in sunlight. That means any methane in the Martian air must have been released recently.

When the 2003 methane emissions were reported in 2004 by three teams of scientists, the findings generated surprise and cynicism, because only two explanations appear plausible.

One is geothermal chemical reactions concerning water and heat like those in the hot springs of Yellowstone. But no signs of recent volcanism, or even any hot spots, have been marked on Mars.

The second is biological. On Earth, a class of microorganisms known as methanogens breathes out methane as a waste merchandise

Because of the trouble in the capacity, many scientists wondered whether methane was really there or whether all three teams had been misled by their data.

Dr. Mumma’s group used telescopes in Hawaii to examine the light reflected off Mars. Different molecules absorb different wavelengths of light, and the scientists reported seeing black lines in the spectrum consequent to methane as well as water vapor.

The concentrations in 2003 were densest over three regions known as Terra Sabae, Nii Fossae and Syrtis Major. The scientists said that mineralogy of the surface bedrock recommended that the bedrock might be covering gas-rich materials.

The scientists also detected methane in 2006, but the global measurement was half of what it had been in 2003, raising a second unknown. Ultraviolet light would obtain more than a century to destroy that much methane.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Can Google face up to Microsoft In The Channel?

Google executives say the new reseller program for Google Apps Premier Edition will put the search giant on equal footing with Microsoft, one of the most highly regarded channel vendors in the industry. But some way out providers say there's little in Google's channel track record that suggests it'll be able to back up that claim anytime soon.
Google's channel consists of partners that came over in its July 2007 acquisition of safety services provider Postini, and VARs in the Enterprise Partner Program, which launched in September 2005 with a goal of recruiting solution providers to help swell the search capabilities of the Google Search Appliance to commercial data behind the firewall.

Postini developed a name as a accomplished SMB channel player, but that reputation has been tarnished somewhat since the acquisition, and some VARs aren't sure if Google has its best wellbeing at heart.

In February 2008, Google angered VARs by dramatically cutting the prices of Postini security services from a range of between $30 and $100 per seat/per year to just $3 to $25 per seat/per year. Google also named two authorized distributors for Postini security services -- TestudoData and Excel Micro -- that act as liaisons between Google and channel partners.

Michael Cocanower, president of solution provider ITSynergy, said this arrangement makes it difficult and time consuming to resolve issues with Postini services when they arise. "Google won't engage with us directly, and that makes it tough to handle things like incidents and troubleshooting," he said.

The fact that one of Google's first steps after buying Postini was to distance itself from channel partners shows how hard it is for VARs to make money from the partnership, said Les Kent, principal at solution provider Progent. The Google Apps program's lack of deal registration adds to this difficulty, he added.

"I don't think Google really understands that in order to have successful channel partnerships, their partners need to be able to make money," Kent said. "Between the lower prices, modest margins and lack of channel protection, it's very difficult for partners to justify the transaction costs of servicing small numbers of clients."

Even if Google isn't starting its channel from rub, it still has a long way to go to catch up with Microsoft in terms of building a partner program that drives sales and builds loyalty among partners, said Mark Crall, president of Charlotte Tech Care Team, a Microsoft partner.

Microsoft's considered advantage in the battle to establish services 'sockets' has been its partners, and in the past year, Microsoft has launched the SBSC Partner program and the Local appointment Team, both of which leverage partners as strategic advisers to SMB clients, according to Crall, who cites these as leads Google would be prudent to follow.

Google reseller plan may punch Microsoft where it hurts
Google Apps has been far from a raging success, and has yet to make any serious inroads against Microsoft Office. But a new Google partnership with resellers may change all that. Don't expect immediate results, but in several years, Google Apps may start to see some success.

Reuters reports that starting at the end of March, authorized resellers "will be able to sell, customize and support premium versions of Google Apps."

Up until now, Google has sold directly to businesses itself, and not using a sales force, but instead over the Web. The results have been less than stellar --- Gartner Research estimates Google only has approximately 200,000 Google Apps Premier customers.

Under the new Google plan, resellers can buy the Premier edition at a 20 percent discount, and can "keep the recurring revenue for the lifetime of their customer relationship." That's a significant incentive.

Still, Google has a long way to go, because of Microsoft's relationship with resellers Reuters reports:

Microsoft, which is the world's largest software company, sells more than 95 percent of its software through more than 440,000 third party resellers, according to Gartner Research, and intends to spend around $3 billion on managing those sales channels in 2009.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Computer Engineering Associate developed a flexible light-sensitive material that could revolutionize photography and imaging technologies.

This example of a curved photodetector array was developed by University of Wisconsin-Madison Electrical and Computer Engineering Associate Professor Zhenqiang (Jack) Ma and colleagues. Inspired by the human eye, Ma's curved photodetector made of flexible germanium could eliminate the photo distortion that occurs in conventional photo lenses
Can You See Me Now? Flexible Photodetectors Could Help Sharpen Photos
Distorted cell-phone photos and big, clunky telephoto lenses could be things of the past.
University of Wisconsin-Madison Electrical and Computer Engineering Associate Professor Zhenqiang (Jack) Ma and colleagues have developed a flexible light-sensitive material that could revolutionize photography and other imaging technologies.

Their technology is featured on the cover of the January 5 issue of Applied Physics Letters.
When a device records an image, light passes through a lens and lands on a photodetector—a light-sensitive material like the sensor in a digital camera. However, a lens bends the light and curves the focusing plane. In a digital camera, the point where the focusing plane meets the flat sensor will be in focus, but the image becomes more distorted the farther it is from that focus point.

"If I take a picture with a cell phone camera, for example, there is distortion," says Ma. "The closer the subject is to the lens, the more distortion there is."

That's why some photos can turn out looking like images in a funhouse mirror, with an enlarged nose or a hand as big as a head.

High-end digital cameras correct this problem by incorporating multiple panes of glass to refract light and flatten the focusing plane. However, such lens systems—like the mammoth telephoto lenses sports photographers use—are large, bulky and expensive. Even high-quality lenses stretch the edges of an image somewhat.

Inspired by the human eye, Ma's curved photodetector could eliminate that distortion. In the eye, light enters though a single lens, but at the back of the eye, the image falls upon the curved retina, eliminating distortion. "If you can make a curved imaging plane, you just need one lens," says Ma. "That's why this development is extremely important."

Ma and his group can create curved photodetectors with specially fabricated nanomembranes—extremely thin, flexible sheets of germanium, a very light-sensitive material often used in high-end imaging sensors. Researchers then can apply the nanomembranes to any polymer substrate, such as a thin, flexible piece of plastic. Currently, the group has demonstrated photodetectors curved in one direction, but Ma hopes next to develop hemispherical sensors.
"We can easily realize very high-density flexible and sensitive imaging arrays, because the photodetector material germanium itself is extremely bendable and extremely efficient in absorbing light," Ma adds.

Ma's co-authors include UW-Madison Materials Science and Engineering Professor Max Lagally and University of Michigan Professor Pallab Bhattacharya.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Google launch a reseller program for the paid version of its Apps hosted collaboration and communication suite.

Google Launches Reseller Program for Apps Premier
Google will launch on Wednesday a reseller program for the paid version of its Apps hosted collaboration and communication suite.

The program will allow, for the first time, third parties to resell Apps Premier, which costs US$50 per user per year.

Resellers can be IT service providers, VARs, system integrators, consultants, software vendors and ISPs of any size anywhere in the world.

Although most Apps customers are individuals and small businesses that use its free Standard edition, Google has beefed up the Premier edition in a variety of ways to attract the attention of large organizations.

Fostering the creation of an active reseller community for Apps Premier is the latest step in that direction. Resellers are able to provide the dedicated, one-on-one support that large organizations often require throughout the lifecycle of their enteprise software products.

Google will offer Apps Premier licenses at a 20 percent discount to resellers, and provide training, support and tools for sales and marketing.

Resellers will be able to bundle their own complementary IT services with the sale of the suite to generate additional revenue. Resellers will handle the billing process for Apps Premier, not Google.

To further differentiate the Premier and Standard editions, effective Wednesday Google is also capping the number of users an organization can have on the Standard version. This limit doesn't apply to existing Standard users.

CIOs and IT managers in mid-to-large companies are warming up to Web-hosted software like Google Apps as an option to traditional software that is installed and maintained on customer premises.

Among the things many find attractive about hosted software, commonly known as software-as-a-service (SaaS) products, are that it's generally cheaper, it's installed and maintained by the vendor on its data centers and it's usually designed to make it easy for users to share and collaborate on files.

On the other hand, there are also objections to SaaS products, such as occasional performance and availability issues and security concerns.

SaaS products are part of the cloud computing trend, which also includes the provision of IT infrastructure services via the Internet, like storage and server capacity.

"In general, there has been a lot more awareness about cloud computing [recently] and about the transition [to that model] that has been taking place," said Rishi Chandra, senior product manager of Google Apps. "Many partners have been coming to us and telling us they see the [cloud computing] momentum and that they want to get involved."

Companies interested in applying to the program can find out more information about the requirements online. Google will begin giving partners the green light to resell Apps Premier towards the end of March.

About 50 partners have been participating in the reseller program's pilot phase.

This Apps reseller program is an extension of the partner programs has had for some time for its enterprise products, like Apps and the enterprise search device Search Appliance.

Google has an Enterprise Partners program for third-parties that offer services for Google enterprise products. For example, Cap Gemini made a deal with Google in September 2007 to offer Apps Premier services to large organizations.

Google also has a Solutions Marketplace of products that extend the functionality of Google enterprise products.

Apps, which also has the free Standard and Education versions, is in use at more than 1 million [m] businesses by more than 10 million [m] end users.

Some large organizations that use Apps Premier include Genentech, Telegraph Media Group and the Washington D.C. government.


Introduces Google New Business Version of Popular Hosted Applications
introduced Google Apps Premier Edition, a new version of Google’s hosted services for communication and collaboration designed for businesses of all sizes. Google Apps Premier Edition is available for $50 per user account per year, and includes phone support, additional storage, and a new set of administration and business integration capabilities.

Google Apps™, launched as a free service in August 2006, is a suite of applications that includes Gmail™ webmail services, Google Calendar™ shared calendaring, Google Talk™ instant messaging and voice-over-IP, and the Start Page feature for creating a customizable home page on a specific domain. More than 100,000 small businesses and hundreds of universities now use the service. Google Apps Premier Edition now joins Google Apps Standard Edition and Google Apps Education Edition, both of which will continue to be offered for free to organizations.

"Procter & Gamble Global Business Services (GBS) has enrolled as a charter enterprise customer of Google Apps, a successful consumer product suite now available to enterprises. P&G will work closely with Google in shaping enterprise characteristics and requirements for these popular tools," said Laurie Heltsley, director Procter & Gamble Global Business Services.

"So much of business now relies on people being able to communicate and collaborate effectively," said Gregory Simpson, CTO for General Electric Company. "GE is interested in evaluating Google Apps for the easy access it provides to a suite of web applications, and the way these applications can help people work together. Given its consumer experience, Google has a natural advantage in understanding how people interact together over the web."

Google also today announced that all editions of Google Apps now include Google Docs & Spreadsheets™. In addition, Google Apps now supports Gmail for mobile on BlackBerry™ handheld devices.

"Businesses are looking for applications that are simple and intuitive for employees, but also offer the security, reliability and manageability their organizations require," said Dave Girouard, vice president and general manager, Google Enterprise. "With Google Apps, our customers can tap into an unprecedented stream of technology and innovation at a fraction of the cost of traditional installed solutions."

Your face reveals snooze muddle risk

A team of researchers from the University of Sydney has developed an innovative method to analyse digital photographs of faces in order to determine an individual's risk of developing Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA).
In conjunction with the Royal North Shore Hospital and the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, Professor Peter Cistulli and Dr Richard Lee have found that analysis of detailed measurements of the face from digital photographs can help doctors identify those most in danger of developing OSA.

"The novelty and potential clinical application of our work are very exciting and should hopefully lead to improved recognition and diagnosis of OSA in the community," Professor Cistulli said.

Four per cent of Australian middle-aged men and two per cent of middle-aged women suffer from OSA syndrome, while almost 50 per cent of middle-aged men snore during sleep: a symptom of OSA.

The disease is characterised by the repetitive closure of the upper airway during periods of interrupted sleep and is associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and strokes. Previous methods of diagnosis have involved expensive specialist assessment and overnight monitoring in a sleep laboratory, meaning the majority of OSA sufferers are as yet undiagnosed.

"This new approach is really a response to the critical clinical need to develop more readily accessible, non-invasive methods that can enable doctors to more efficiently diagnose larger numbers of patients," Professor Cistulli said.

Whilst being tested at the Royal North Shore Hospital the new test accurately diagnosed 76 per cent of OSA cases, yielding a higher success rate than the traditional clinical methods of questionnaires, medical histories and examinations.

Professor Cistulli's and Dr Lee's work has been recognised in two articles published in the latest edition of the international journal SLEEP and has been patented through Royal North Shore Hospital, who are hoping to commercialise the invention.

A new classification system of rare lung diseases in infants is improving diagnosis and treatment.
The system clears up considerable confusion about how to classify and treat diseases that are rarely seen by most doctors and pathologists, says Gail H. Deutsch, M.D., lead author of the multi-center study that developed the new guidelines.

Formerly, doctors used a number of different terms to label the same disease,” explained Dr. Deutsch, who is an assistant professor of pathology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center. “In some cases, a disease with a favorable prognosis has been confused with a potentially lethal lung disease.”

The research was published in the first issue for December 2007 of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, published by the American Thoracic Society.

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health through its Rare Lung Diseases Consortium, included data from 11 medical centers in North America. Investigators reviewed 187 biopsies of children under the age of 2 who were being evaluated for diffuse lung diseases like interstitial lung disease (ILD), an uncommon disorder that affects the interstitium, or tissue between the air sacs of the lungs. Children with ILD commonly have prolonged respiratory symptoms of fast breathing and low oxygen levels and exhibit diffuse changes on chest radiographs. When the cause of their symptoms is not identified with blood tests or x-rays, a surgical lung biopsy is often needed for diagnosis.

In this study, the researchers were able to classify 88 percent of the 187 lung biopsy cases, and found a diverse spectrum of lung diseases that are largely unique to young children.

One-quarter of the lung diseases studied were grouped together under the label “growth abnormalities.” The best-known is pulmonary hypoplasia, in which prenatal conditions result in deficient lung growth. Another group of diseases was categorized as “surfactant dysfunction disorders,” which refer to genetic abnormalities of surfactant, a fluid, detergent-like substance that plays a critical role in keeping the air sacs of the lungs open.

Dr. Deutsch said that at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and the other medical centers that participated in the study, the new classification system is helping pathologists diagnose children’s lung disease more accurately, leading in some cases to more appropriate treatment.

For instance, in the past, children with lung growth abnormalities might have been treated as though they had ILD and given steroids, which may not be an effective treatment for them

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