Jun 30, 2008

And the wait for 3G goes on

Buyer pointing at a certain model: Yeh mobile mein special kya hain? (What is the special feature of this mobile phone?)

Shop-keeper: Is mein double camera hain. (This phone has a dual-camera).This was the conversation I overheard when I was at a shopping mall recently. And as I curiously nosed around, I saw the buyer finally purchasing that cell-phone. Then I realized, one out of every five mid-range mobile-phones that are manufactured these days support this latest form of mobile technology; 3G.
For the uninformed readers, 3G is the gradual progression of the mobile standards and technology. Till the GSM era, people could use cell-phones as internet devices with a theoretical speed barrier of 236.8 kbit/s (EDGE). This still is the case here. And it's irritating, considering the proliferating broadband connections in India. Yes, when you have pages loading just a few seconds after you hit the enter key on your desktops, you'd sort of want to be blessed with similar speeds on your phone.

And this is where 3G and its varied iterations can help. With many phones currently supporting up to 3.6 Mbit/s speeds (HSDPA), true mobile broadband is not far from reality3G will let people do things that they aren't very keen on doing on their cellular device now. Other than faster internet browsing, higher speeds will mainly allow us to make video-calls (thus the presence of the secondary camera on the front), stream good quality videos without any lag, make voice-calls over the internet by using software like Skype, download media directly on the phone and also help laptops get their share of the high-speed pie (by the use of 3G network cards) among others.

I was really happy to see India in the iPhone 3G's official list of countries in which it is to be launched by the end of this year. I was a lot more surprised when today I saw Vodafone (one of the major carriers getting the iPhone here) advertised its arrival soon in leading newspapers. I had somehow hoped that the new iPhone and 3G technology will make a grand appearance together by the end of the year. But then the "some features (pertaining to 3G) may not be available currently" clause at the end of the ad dismissed my hope. Although technically speaking, it wouldn't make right business sense for Vodafone to put the iPhone 3G's launch on hold till they get their 3G service rolling. The iPhone itself will be a big hit here; 3G or no 3G.

Bottom line..the wait for 3G goes on..and we can only hope that by the end of this year, we can finally enjoy what people in many countries have been experiencing for many years now.

Atom smasher may create a black hole on earth

THE MOST powerful atomsmasher ever built will become operational in August. Scientists say that the reactor could make some bizarre discoveries, such as invisible matter or extra dimensions in space, after it is switched on.
But critics say the Large Hadron Collider could exceed physicists’ wildest conjectures: Will it spawn a black hole that could swallow Earth? Or spit out particles that could turn the planet into a hot dead clump?
Ridiculous, say scientists at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, known by its French initials CERN — some of whom have been working for a generation on the $5.8 billion collider, or LHC . “Obviously, the world will not end when the LHC switches on,” said project leader Lyn Evans.
David Francis, a physicist on the collider’s huge ATLAS particle detector, smiled when asked whether he worried about black holes and hypothetical killer particles known as strangelets.
“If I thought that this was going to happen, I would be well away from here,” he said. The collider basically consists of a ring of supercooled magnets 27 km in circumference attached to huge barrelshaped detectors. The ring, which straddles the French and Swiss border, is buried 100 meters (330 feet) underground.
The machine, which has been called the largest scientific experiment in history, isn’t expected to begin test runs until August, and ramping up to full power could take months. But once it is working, it is expected to produce some startling findings.
Scientists plan to hunt for signs of the invisible “dark matter” and “dark energy” that make up more than 96 per cent of the universe, and hope to glimpse the elusive Higgs boson, a so-far undiscovered particle thought to give matter its mass. It could help make incredible discoveriesThe collider could find evidence of extra dimensions, a boon for superstring theory, which holds that quarks, the particles that make up atoms, are infinitesimal vibrating strings.
The theory could resolve many of physics’ unanswered questions, but requires about 10 dimensions — far more than the three spatial dimensions our senses experience.
The safety of the collider, which will generate energies seven times higher than its most powerful rival, at Fermilab near Chicago, has been debated for years. The physicist Martin Rees has estimated the chance of an accelerator producing a global catastrophe at one in 50 million — long odds, to be sure, but about the same as winning some lotteries.
By contrast, a CERN team this month issued a report concluding that there is “no conceivable danger” of a cataclysmic event. The report essentially confirmed the findings of a 2003 CERN safety report, and a panel of five prominent scientists not affiliated with CERN, including one Nobel laureate, endorsed its conclusions.
Critics of the LHC filed a lawsuit in a Hawaiian court in March seeking to block its startup, alleging that there was “a significant risk that ... operation of the Collider may have unintended consequences which could ultimately result in the destruction of our planet.”
One of the plaintiffs, Walter L. Wagner, a physicist and lawyer, said Wednesday CERN’s safety report, released June 20, “has several major flaws,” and his views on the risks of using the particle accelerator had not changed.
On Tuesday, US Justice Department lawyers representing the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation filed a motion to dismiss the case.
The two agencies have contributed $531 million to building the collider, and the NSF has agreed to pay $87 million of its annual operating costs. Hundreds of American scientists will participate in the research.
The lawyers called the plaintiffs’ allegations “extraordinarily speculative,” and said “there is no basis for any conceivable threat” from black holes or other objects the LHC might produce. A hearing on the motion is expected in late July or August. In rebutting doomsday scenarios, CERN scientists point out that cosmic rays have been bombarding the earth, and triggering collisions similar to those planned for the collider, since the solar system formed 4.5 billion years ago. And so far, Earth has survived. “The LHC is only going to reproduce what nature does every second, what it has been doing for billions of years,” said John Ellis, a British physicist at CERN. Critics like Wagner have said the collisions caused by accelerators could be more hazardous than those of cosmic rays. Both may produce micro black holes, subatomic versions of cosmic black holes — collapsed stars whose gravity fields are so powerful that they can suck in planets and other stars. But micro black holes produced by cosmic ray collisions would likely be traveling so fast they would pass harmlessly through the earth.
Micro black holes produced by a collider, the skeptics theorise, would move more slowly and might be trapped inside the earth’s gravitational field — and eventually threaten the planet. Ellis said doomsayers assume that the collider will create micro black holes in But it could also create black holes that may swallow Earththe first place, which he called unlikely. And even if they appeared, he said, they would instantly evaporate, as predicted by the British physicist Stephen Hawking. As for strangelets, CERN scientists point out that they have never been proven to exist. They said that even if these particles formed inside the Collider they would quickly break down. When the LHC is finally at full power, two beams of protons will race around the huge ring 11,000 times a second in opposite directions.
They will travel in two tubes about the width of fire hoses, speeding through a vacuum that is colder and emptier than outer space. Their trajectory will be curved by supercooled magnets - to guide the beams around the rings and prevent the packets of protons from cutting through the surrounding magnets like a blowtorch. The paths of these beams will cross, and a few of the protons in them will collide, at a series of cylindrical detectors along the ring.
The two largest detectors are essentially huge digital cameras, each weighing thousands of tons, capable of taking millions of snapshots a second. Each year the detectors will generate 15 petabytes of data, the equivalent of a stack of CDs 20 km tall. The data will require a high speed global network of computers for analysis.

Jun 29, 2008

Next- Gen mobile networking soon

ANEW software system, which enables mobile phone users to obtain location- specific, real- time information, either actively or passively, from other users across the world, has been developed by ateam led by an Indian- American professor at Duke University. The rapid convergence of social networks, mobile phones and global positioning technology has given Duke University engineers the ability to create something they call virtual sticky notes, site- specific messages that people can leave for others to pick up on their mobile phones. “Every mobile phone can act as atelescope lens providing realtime information about its environment to any of the three billion mobile phones worldwide,” said Romit Roy Choudhury, an assistant professor at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering. “It will be as if every participating mobile phone works together allowing each individual access to information throughout the virtual network,” he added. Interested in trying that new Indian restaurant? Tap into the virtual sticky notes floating in the ether within the restaurant and find out what other network users think of it. Need to know where the traffic jams are? Sensors in the phones detect movement and can relay back to the network where traffic is the heaviest. The potential of this new application, which has been dubbed micro- blog, is practically limitless. “We can now think of mobile phones as a'virtual lens' capable of focusing on the context surrounding it. By combining the lenses from all the active phones in the world today, it may be feasible to build an Internet- based virtual information telescope that enables ahigh- resolution view of the world in real time,” Roy Choudhury said. The application combines the capabilities of distributed networks like Wikipedia, social networks like Facebook, mobile phones, computer networks and geographic positioning capabilities, such as GPS and WiFi. “Micro- blogs will provide unprecedented levels and amounts of information literally at your fingertips no matter where you are, through your mobile phone,” he added. “We have already deployed a prototype, and while some challenges remain to be addressed, the feedback we have received so far indicates that micro- blog represents apromising new model for mobile social communication,” he added. In simple terms, micro- bloggers will enter information —photos, comments, videos —into their mobile phones where it will be tagged by the user’s location


Opening up of new domain names on the World Wide Web will change the way we surf
THE INTERNET’S real estate just went boom. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) on Thursday was all set to open up the Internet to virtually unlimited possibilities in Top- Level Domain (TLD) names, potentially ushering in a new era for the World Wide Web and changing the way we conduct business and access websites. For its sheer impact, this has aparallel in what Chinese leader Deng Xiao- Ping did in 1978 to turn around his country’s economy. It can also be compared to the great land grab of 1803 when United States president Thomas Jefferson ordered one of his ministers to broker adeal with France —which owned alarge part of the US —to allow his government to more than double the size of the country. ICANN’s proposal allows cities and corporate entities to create their own domain names. Theoretically, this ensures there will be millions of more websites created by companies and cities across the world. Simply put, vanity domain names are now possible and any applicant- specific address can be bought from ICANN, the California- headquartered world governing body for allotting domain names and website addresses. For instance, the city of Delhi can register “. delhi” or acorporate entity such as Microsoft can buy “. microsoft”. The only hitch? Each of these exclusive domain names will be worth anywhere between $100,000 (Rs 43 lakh) and $500,000 (Rs 2.15 crore). The first domain names expected to be sold are “. NYC (for New York City) and “. Berlin” for the German capital. Besides these domain names, websites can now have addresses in as many as 15 languages, except for the part that comes after the dot in their address. However, at this moment, this list does not include any Indian language. In an interview to the Wall Street Journal in New York, ICANN’s president and chief executive officer Paul Twomey said the emergence of new and hugely variable domain names will be the biggest change ever to the way people find each other on the internet. “We are opening up new land, which people will be able to go out and claim — like the United States in the 19th century,” he said ahead of ICANN’s annual meeting in Paris. “It’s a massive increase in the real estate of the internet.”‘New names won’t be for mom-and-pop businesses’ However, Twomey also added that given the prohibitive cost of the domain names and the actual infrastructure cost of setting up a website will mean “these new names are not going to be for momand- pop businesses”. Apart from cities and corporations, the ICANN proposal may hugely help cyber squatters — internet entrepreneurs who buy domain names and then sell them off at a premium to either the highest bidder or to the company that owns the trademark. However, cyber squatting is now illegal in most countries, especially with domain names that are trademarked by corporate entities. According to media reports, the first batch of applications for these domain names would be processed sometime at the end of the first quarter of 2009, and sites are expected to go live on these domain names in early 2010. Interestingly, the first attempt at putting a structure to Web addresses was made in the 1980s. In the first set of registrations, users could append only three extensions — “.com” (for commercial sites), “.edu” (for educational institutions) and “.gov” (for government). Since ICANN was instituted in 1998 as a non-profit organisation, there have been several amendments to the TLD structure, and domain names could be registered based on country (“.in”, “.tv”, etc), or according to the nature of activity (“.biz”, “.info”, etc). After Thursday’s announcement, the possibilities for domain names seem to have become limitless, albeit at a price. ICANN said not everyone can apply in the new TLD regime. Any new applicant would have to have a business plan and display the technical capacity to be eligible for filing an application. It also added that disputed domain names — especially in the case of two companies in different countries with the same name — will be sold to the highest bidder. In some cases, where the intellectual property law applies, ICANN will decide in favour of the entity that owns that intellectual property. At present, according to ICANN, there are over 71 million websites registered under the “.com” TLD, while the next highest is “.de” for German websites. The fastest growing TLD is “.cn” for China which has nearly 11 million websites.

What is ICANN?
THE INTERNET Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is headquartered in Marina Del Rey, California. It is a non- profit corporation created on September 18, 1998, to oversee a number of internet- related tasks previously performed directly on behalf of the US government by other organisations, notably the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). The ICANN is responsible for managing the assignment of domain names and IP addresses. Its other functions involve helping preserve the operational stability of the internet, to promote competition, to achieve broad representation of global internet community and to develop policies appropriate to its mission through bottom- up, consensus- based processes.

iPhone Disappointments

No Flash: The biggest hitch of the iPhone is that it still doesn’t support Adobe’s Flash technology, which means many multimedia- rich sites remain offlimits for it. Adobe is working very hard to make its technology iPhone- friendly, but don’t hold your breath yet.
No Replaceable Batteries: Hardcore road warriors don’t have time to stop and recharge their phones. Instead, they carry their batteries with them, clicking them into their BlackBerrys in the backs of cabs, or, if they’re lucky, in acoffee shop. In contrast, there’s no easy way to crack open the new iPhone’s sleek case to pop in abattery, which has disappointed carping bloggers.
Can’ t Record A Video: If you want to record avideo, you’d better talk to Sony. Despite its built- in 2- megapixel camera, Apple isn’t building the the ability to shoot videos into its new phone, afeature even many ‘lowend feature phones’ include.
No Cut and Paste: The inability to copy achunk of text and paste it into another application has baffled geeks since the iPhone’s introduction. It’s asimple tool that would make blogging and zapping bits of text to friends via e- mail abreeze.
No Multimedia Messaging Service: There are some things dirtcheap phones cranked out by the tens of millions can do that the iPhone cannot. Forbes. com ’s David Ewalt sees the lack of support for MMS as one of the most maddening. Want to open an image sent to you via MMS by afriend from her (dirt- cheap) mobile phone? No dice. —www. forbes. com

Jun 27, 2008

Airtel starts booking of Apple iPhone 3G

Vodafone became the first mobile operator in India to start booking of the Apple iPhone 3G mobile phone.

Now, Airtel has launched its own booking section where they are accepting applications for the Apple iPhone 3G.

Apple recently announced that they were going to sell the iPhone 3G in India through both Airtel and Vodafone.

None of the three companies have revealed the launch date for India. Apple iPhone 3G would be launched in around 20 countries next month.

Apple is expected to sell the iPhone in more than 70 countries by the end of the year.

Jun 23, 2008

IPTV to trigger price war in DTH space

THE LAUNCH of Internet protocol television (IPTV) services in Delhi and Mumbai is set to add fuel to the ongoing price war in the pay- TV space. The technology provides more than 100 channels to subscribers and over 200 movies on demand for around Rs 1,500, which includes Rs 999 as security deposit for the set- top box. IPTV will provide competition to existing direct- to- home (DTH) players such as Dish TV, Tata Sky and the soon- to- belaunched DTH services of Reliance, Bharti and Videocon. Said Sanjay Vats, head, IPTV, Aksh Optifibre Ltd, “The IPTV technology is superior to DTH. Also, Aksh is offering competitive prices. Initially, we are targeting the six lakh- odd broadband users in the major metros. If we achieve acritical base of 200,000 by the end of this year then this technology will provide good competition to others in the near future.” Aksh has kicked off its service — icontrol —in Mumbai and Delhi. Icontrol’s offerings include the time shift TV facility, which allows viewers to view their favourite TV programmers at their convenience as well as reviewing the previous week’s telecasts. The company is planning to invest approximately Rs 148 crore in its IPTV and voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) businesses. In both the metros MTNL has ahuge consumer base. While the low- priced IPTV is all geared to make inroads into the pay- TV space. Said Jawahar Goel, managing director, Dish TV, “Competition has increased in the pay- TV space with the entry of new players. And IPTV is also anew competitor. But the DTH players have been able to penetrate just three to four per cent market of the pay TV space in the country.” According to an industry report, India is expected to join Japan as Asia’s leading revenue generating pay- TV market by 2015.

Jun 20, 2008

8 million Firefox 3 downloads in 24 hours

The quest to create a world record for the most software downloaded in 24 hours the SPREAD FIREFOX team has surely achieved a feat with 8 million downloads of firefox 3 in a day (the highest ever).
Now the wait is only for Guinness to review the record attempt which might take a few more days.
Now that many of us have downloaded the software let's sit back and enjoy increased security, blinding speed and cool new features that will change the way you use the Web.

Show the world that you helped set a Guinness World Record with your own personalized Firefox 3 Download Day certificate.

Jun 17, 2008

3G iPhone to Sell for 1 Euro in Germany

With the 3G iPhone launched, and with Apple set on launching it in as many as 70 countries, Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile has said it will sell the new iPhone for as little as 1 euro (about $1.54) for the 8GB version, along with a monthly contract of 69 euros.

What has affected the transformation? When about a year ago, iPhones (the original ones) came for not less than a couple of hundred euros, coupled with expensive, exclusive contracts with single carriers in each country. Apple's going multi-carrier (India being a case in point what with deals with Bharti Airtel and Vodafone), as also the company's doing away with insisting on carriers giving it a share of call revenue has probably led telecom operators to becoming a tad more adventurous when it comes to subsidizing the cost of iPhone to buyers (of course, in return for more lucrative contracts).

So, T-Mobile will now sell the 8GB 3G iPhone (enough to store around 2,000 songs or 8 feature-length movies) for around 1 to 169.95 euros, depending on the data plan. The 16GB version will be priced starting at 19.95 euros with an all-inclusive data plan costing 89 euros per month, going up to 249.95 euros -- for a minimal 29 euros-per-month contract.

Jun 15, 2008

MTNL launches iControl iptv service in Mumbai and Delhi

AKSH Optifibre Ltd. is the first company to launch icontrol brand in Delhi and Mumbai on to promote IPTV in Indiauin association with MTNL. Aksh has recently signed an agreement with BSNL also to provide IPTV services in 20 cities in North India , the states of Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and UP (West) etc The company plans to add about 5 lakh subscribers for our IPTV services in Delhi and Mumbai in next 3 years. Aksh is investing close to $37 million in its services business on IPTV and VoIP platforms.

Consensus reached on IPTV rates

THE Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has evolved aconsensus between broadcasters and service providers on Internet protocol television (IPTV) rates, which could see widespread provision of TV content on the Internet. Service providers feed television content for Internet users after obtaining them from broadcasters. This service is called IPTV. However, some service providers have experienced difficulty in getting television channels from broadcasters at prices which DTH service providers are given, Trai said. To resolve this problem, Trai had held discussions with both the parties last month, where aconsensus was reached to adopt anon- discriminatory price regime.

Jun 10, 2008

Readers’ Pick: 16 Sites for Web Design Inspiration

I posed the following question to the readers: "Where do you go for design inspiration?", and asked that you contribute suggestions.This is a list of websites that readers have recommended. Some I haven’t heard of, and several I’ve added to my own favorites list.

Without further ado – I present 16 sites that you visit for design inspiration.

1. The Best Designs

http://www.thebestdesigns.com/Suggested by: chandan (Digg profile)

I’ve written about The Best Designs before, so I didn’t list it down this time around. For those unfamiliar with the site, The Best Designs is a wonderful spot to view high-quality XHTML and Flash designs. They tag each design with relevant keywords (i.e. - Bold, Colorful, CSS) so you can narrow down your search to the particular look you’re attracted in.

2. CSS Remix

CSS RemixSuggested by: chandan (Digg profile)

CSS Remix is (according to their tag line): "A Fresh Blend of the Best-Designed Web 2.0 Sites", though there are some non-Web 2.0 themed sites included as well. With over 14,000 RSS readers, CSS Remix is definitely a prime destination for designers looking to check out the work of other designers.

3. CSS Mania

CSS Mania - ScreenshotSuggested by: Pat of Atrick Design

CSS Mania is a regularly updated CSS-based web design gallery that includes many design genres. At present, it has over 10,000+ websites in its collection. Though the reader who suggested CSS Mania frequents this site, he warns (and I agree): "They aren’t as particular about the quality of the designs they present, but there are definitely some gems in there."

4. screenfluent

screenfluent - ScreenshotSuggested by: Damien

screenfluent is a site that features some very nice designs. What’s great about screenfluent is that it gives you a preview of the site by opening a modal window (more commonly known as a "lightbox"). There are over 7,000 featured designs so there’s not a lack of content to view.

5. Screenalicio.us

Screenalicio.us - ScreenshotSuggested by: Sachleen Sandhu of tehkubix blog

Screenalicio.us has over 9,800 designs for you to see. The users have the capability of rating each design based on a 5-star rating system and the ability to give feedback for each entry. You can sort the designs based on ratings and time submitted.

6. Open Source Web Design

Open Source Web Design - ScreenshotSuggested by: Sachleen Sandhu of tehkubix blog

Open Source Web Design is a community where users upload designs to share to the public. Downloading an OSWD design is free of charge. You can either browse their gallery of designs or download them to study.

7. One Page Love

One Page Love - ScreenshotSuggested by: adelle of Fuel Your Creativity

One Page Love is a niche web design showcase gallery that features beautiful, creative one page websites and applications. Some categories include products, portfolios, temp pages, and events.

8. FullSingle

FullSingle - ScreenshotSuggested by: adelle of Fuel Your Creativity

FullSingle is another site that displays single-page websites. The latest gallery entries are featured at the top of each page with a brief description of what the page is about.

9. One Page Folios

One Page Folios - ScreenshotSuggested by: adelle of Fuel Your Creativity

If the above two weren’t niched enough for you, here’s one with even greater specificity. It’s an aggregate of single page portfolio websites of designers and developers. There’s over 800 portfolios currently listed on One Page Folios, and each entry is reviewed before being published.

10. We Love WP

We Love WP - ScreenshotSuggested by: adelle of Fuel Your Creativity

We Love WP shares top-notch WordPress powered sites. They also showcase free themes that designers have modified into something unique.

11. CSS Divine

CSS Divine - ScreenshotSuggested by: Jess

CSS Divine is a CSS-based design aggregate website. You can do a color search by clicking on the color palette at the side bar, and it’ll narrow down the gallery to themes tagged by that particular color. There are plenty of categories including Art, Business, Clean, and Portfolio.

12. Design Snack

Design Snack - ScreenshotSuggested by: Justin Scheetz of Design Snack

Design Snack, according to their tagline, is "The designer’s showcase that you control". Design Snack features XHTML and Flash designs. You can customize the way the designs are displayed, vote on individual entries, and browse by color.

13. SF art & design portal

SF art & design portal - ScreenshotSuggested by: cindyf

SF art & design portal is the work of the Amsterdam-based web design agency, Strangefruit.nl webdesign. SF art & design portal features hand-picked, innovative, creative art and design sites. You can browse by category, style, color, and even country.

14. Design Shack

Design Shack - ScreenshotSuggested by: stefan alexandru of Stefan Alexandru

Design Shack is an exclusive repository of first-class CSS-based web designs. They look for designs that "stand out from the crowd". They also have a Tutorials section that features web design lessons.

15. CSSloaf

CSSloaf - ScreenshotSuggested by: CSS Loaf of CSSloaf

CSSloaf brings together designs from 35 other showcases so that you don’t have to go all over the place to see the latest designs. They feature large screenshots so that each design is visible; no need to strain your eyes on tiny thumbnails.

16. eduStyle

eduStyle - ScreenshotSuggested by: Luke Robinson (Twitter profile)

eduStyle is dedicated to the design of higher education websites for higher education professionals. It’s intended to showcase the best works of higher education designers to their peers.

Thank you for your contributions and suggestions, as well as giving me a few links to add to my collection. If your favorite sites aren’t on here, make sure to discuss it in the comments section and maybe we’ll have a follow up to this one.

Computer Literacy Tests: Are You Human?

Every web surfer, in the course of his or her browsing, has been forced to stop and perform this weird little task: look at a picture of some wavy, ghostly, distorted letters and type them into a box. Sometimes you flub it and have to retype the letters, but otherwise you don't think about it much. That string of letters has a name; it's called a CAPTCHA. And it's a test. By correctly transcribing it, you have proved to the computer that you are a human being.

This electronic hoop you have to jump through was invented in 2000 by a team of programmers at Carnegie Mellon University. Somebody at Yahoo! had gone to them, complaining that criminals were taking advantage of Yahoo! Mail--they were using software to automatically create thousands of e-mail accounts very quickly, then using those accounts to send out spam. The Carnegie Mellon team came back with the CAPTCHA. (It stands for "completely automated public Turing test to tell computers and humans apart"; no, the acronym doesn't really fit.) The point of the CAPTCHA is that reading those swirly letters is something that computers aren't very good at. If you can read them, you're probably not a piece of software run by a spammer. Congratulations--you can have an e-mail account.

The CAPTCHA caught on, and now it's all over the Web. Luis von Ahn, an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon who was part of the original CAPTCHA team, estimates that people fill out close to 200 million CAPTCHAS a day. But you should pause when you see one--it's one of the rare moments when the invisible war being waged between spammers and programmers becomes visible to you, the prey. "Of course," says Von Ahn, "this has been a little bit of an arms race with spammers, because now there's a huge incentive for spammers to try to get around CAPTCHAS." You can bypass them, using brute force, for example, though it'll cost you. Go to a website like GetAFreelancer.com and you'll see dozens of ads placed by spammers and other bad actors, who hire whole teams of people to read and type out CAPTCHAS, all day, by hand, by the thousands. ("How the hell can they still maintain a profit margin?" Von Ahn wonders. "This is amazing to me!")

You can also get around CAPTCHAS by being clever. They work only because there are things computers can't do, and there are fewer and fewer of those things all the time. Headlines on tech blogs regularly announce the cracking of CAPTCHAS--Gmail's, Hotmail's, Yahoo!'s. Von Ahn doubts the headlines are true--and companies aren't eager to confirm this kind of rumor--but it's possible for an amateur, poorly conceived CAPTCHA to be hacked. (He gives an example: a CAPTCHA in which each letter was always formed out of the same number of pixels. All the malware had to do was count the pixels in a letter to figure out which letter it was looking at.)

The faster that software evolves, and the harder it gets to distinguish between people and computers, the faster CAPTCHAS have to change. They might soon involve identifying animals or listening to a sound file--anything computers aren't good at. (What's next? Tasting wine? Composing a sonnet?) Von Ahn is confident that the good guys are still ahead for now, but the point at which software can reliably read CAPTCHAS is probably as few as three to five years away.

In the meantime, Von Ahn has figured out a way to take advantage of all the spare brainpower hundreds of millions of people expend deciphering wiggly letters. He has teamed up with the Internet Archive, a San Francisco nonprofit that uses computers to digitally scan books and put the text online, where it can be accessed for free. When its scanners find a word they can't read, they automatically turn it into a CAPTCHA that gets exported to a website in need of one. A human reads it and transcribes it, and the results get sent back to the scanner and added to the archive. It's nice to know we humans are still good for something.

What's New With The iPhone 3G

For all you mobile maniacs out there, here’s the scoop, the 3G Apple iPhone or the iphone 3G as it’s being called, has now been officially launched and the reports I have, all seem to state that the attendees at Steve Jobs’ Keynote speech were somewhat thrilled amidst sighs of relief that the speculation and rumor mongering of what the new iPhone would look like and would incorporate have now been put to rest.

Here’s what we know, if you’ve been keeping up with us so far and before I begin, I’d just like to say, when it comes to quite a few of the updates – it’s about bloody time Steve! Without further ado let me clue you in on some of the more relevant features that make up the new and improved iPhone 3G.

First off, Apple has refurbished the design a bit and the iPhone 3G is now slimmer than the last model. They’ve also added a new color to the line up – White, but that’s only available with the 16GB model. The other models will now have a glossy black rear casing, and I’m tempted to wonder, why go with a finger print magnet? The earphone socket has also been adjusted to accommodate normal 3.5mm pins so users can simply plug in any headphones of their choice. Instead of a simple flat back it now also tapers a bit to give it a sleeker look and feel. Everything else design-wise hasn’t changed too much. Considering the fact that the new handset supports 3G and video calling there still doesn’t seem to be a secondary camera located in front.

Not only is the new iPhone 3G going to be faster than the previous model it’s also going to have a better battery life, which according to Apple would be 5 hours of talk time. One of the few rumors I’m happy to say are true, is the fact that the new iPhone 3G is going to be equipped with an integrated GPS unit along with a few other location-based services to help enhance that feature especially with Google Maps live tracking and photo Geotagging.

Some of the ‘bugs’ that have been fixed include an option for deleting emails in bulk, a new Contact Search feature for looking up names in the address book and complete support for viewing Microsoft as well as iWork documents. It will also have a new scientific calculator. But the best part with the handset, at least for the business users, is the total enterprise support that the iPhone 3G comes with. Besides just that, it will also support Push Email, Push contacts, Push calendar, Auto-discovery of Exchange Servers, Global address lookup, and a Remote Wipe security feature. Wowee!

The washing machine that needs just one cup of water

A washing machine that uses only a cup of water to carry out a full wash, leaving clothes virtually dry, has been developed by British inventors.

Researchers say the technology, which uses less than 2 per cent of the water and energy of a conventional machine, could save billions of litres of water each year.

The machine, which has been created by academics at Leeds University, works by using thousands of plastic chips - each about half a centimetre in size - to absorb and remove dirt.


Around 44lb (20kilos) of the chips are added to each load, along with a cup of water and detergent.

During the washing cycle, the water is heated to help dissolve the dirt, which is then absorbed by the plastic chips.

The makers say the chips should be removed at the end of each wash, but can be used up to 100 times - the equivalent of six months washing.

The technology, dubbed Xeros, is already being compared to the Dyson bagless vacuum cleaner, which revolutionised the home cleaning industry when it was first released in the mid-1990s.

If adopted by many homes across the UK, the machine could save billions of litres of water each year.

According to Waterwise, a nongovernmental organisation which aims to decrease water consumption in the UK by 2010, washing machine use has risen by 23 per cent in the past 15 years, up from three times a week in 1990 to an average four times now.

The average UK household uses almost 21 litres (37 pints) of water daily on clothes washing, 13 per cent of consumption.

Nationally, this equates to approximately 455million litres (800million pints) of water a day - enough to fill 145 Olympic sized swimming pools.

Although the Xeros is currently in the design and testing stage, the inventors say they are in talks with a commercial partner.

The machine could be on the market as early as next year, they added.

Professor Stephen Burkinshaw, the machine's inventor, said tests have produced 'quite astonishing' results.

'We've shown that it can remove all sorts of everyday stains including coffee and lipstick whilst using a tiny fraction of the water used by conventional washing machines,' he added.

Dr Rob Rule, director of Xeros Ltd, a company created to develop and market the machine, said: 'This is one of the most surprising and remarkable technologies I've encountered in recent years. Xeros has the ability to save billions of litres of water per year and, we believe, the potential to revolutionise the global laundry market.'

He revealed the company has secured an investment of £500,000 from the University's commercialisation partner, IP Group plc, conditional upon reaching certain milestones.

The team also said the technology could be useful to high street dry cleaning firms as it will get rid of the need to use potentially harmful solvents, some of which have been linked to cancer.

More than two million washing machines are sold in the UK each year, giving the market a value of around £1billion.MailToday

Chameleon TV: The 'invisible' satellite dish that blends in with your brickwork

They're hardly the most attractive or classy addition to the exterior of a home.

So designers have come up with a satellite dish that’s less likely to incur the disapproving glances of the neighbours.

Called the Sqish, it is a receiver which blends in with its surroundings.

Scroll down for more

Your traditional, not-too-attractive satellite dish...

Your traditional, not-too-attractive satellite dish...

... The chameleon-like Sqish hides itself from view thanks to a sticker designed from a digital photo image

... The chameleon-like Sqish hides itself from view thanks to a sticker designed from a digital photo image

Whereas conventional dishes are round, concave and grey, the Sqish is a flat square, giving it its name.

Buyers decide where they want the receiver placed on their house, take a photograph of the surrounding wall and the Sqish is then supplied to match its background.

The Sqish has just arrived on the UK market and, according to those trying to sell it, it is already being ordered by homeowners who live in conservation areas which have planning restrictions.

It also appeals to those who live in areas where satellite dishes are thought to lower the tone.


Bharti Airtel and Apple to Bring iPhone 3G to India

NEW DELHI and SAN FRANCISCO—June 9, 2008—Bharti Airtel and Apple® today announced that they will be bringing the highly anticipated iPhone™ 3G to customers in India later this year. iPhone 3G combines all the revolutionary features of iPhone with 3G networking that is twice as fast* as the first generation iPhone, built-in GPS for expanded location based mobile services, and iPhone 2.0 software which includes support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync and runs the hundreds of third party applications already built with the recently released iPhone SDK.

“We are delighted with the opportunity to bring the innovative iPhone 3G to India,” said Manoj Kohli, president and CEO, Bharti Airtel. “As India’s leading telecom operator, Bharti Airtel has always stood for innovation and customer delight. With our reach across the country and iPhone’s revolutionary features, we have a valuable proposition for our customers in India.”

“We are thrilled to be working with Bharti Airtel, India’s leading integrated telecom company, to bring iPhone 3G to millions of mobile customers in India,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s COO. “We can’t wait to get this revolutionary product in the hands of even more people around the world.”

Airtel customers will be able to purchase iPhone 3G at Airtel Relationship Centers. Details of pricing and availability will be announced at a later date.

Jun 2, 2008

The Pirate Bay: Two Years After the Raid

The raid on the Pirate Bay took down the site, but not for long. Within three days the site was back online, and much to the dislike of anti-piracy outfits, its traffic had doubled thanks to all the media attention.

At the time, the Swedish police confiscated 180 servers, most of which had nothing to do with The Pirate Bay. Last December the investigation finally came to an end, resulting in 4,000 pages of legal paperwork. Prosecutor HÃ¥kan Roswall later announced that four individuals involved with The Pirate Bay are being charged with “assisting copyright infringement” of 4 software applications, 9 films and 22 music tracks.

After the raid, it became clear that the US had threatened to put Sweden on WTO’s black list if they refused to deal with the Pirate Bay problem. Even the MPAA was involved, as John Malcolm, Executive Vice President of the MPAA wrote a letter to Sweden’s State Secretary in which he stated, “It is certainly not in Sweden’s best interests to earn a reputation among other nations and trading partners as a place where utter lawlessness with respect to intellectual property rights is tolerated.”

The users of the site don’t have to worry that the site will be taken offline though, no matter what the court decides. “In case we lose the pending trial (yeah right) there will still not be any changes to the site. The Pirate Bay will keep operating just as always. We’ve been here for years and we will be here many more,” Sunde said earlier.

In a blog post, The Pirate Bay team now suggests to make May 31st a day of celebration for pirates: “Let today be the pirates independence day! Today we celebrate the victories we’ve had and the victories that will come. Today we celebrate that we’re united in our efforts. Keep on seeding!”

Happy Pirates independence day!

Footage from The Pirate Bay raid

HP Exec Cuts Birthday Cake With MacBook Air

Those that know Rahul Sood, founder of Voodoo PC and CTO of HP's global gaming business, might not be so surprised to hear he used a working Mackbook Air to cut his thick, rich, chocolatey birthday cake. While wearing an HP shirt. And then posted it to his site. Good luck, Rahul -- we're totally sure the Apple fanboys of the world are going to give you a pass on this one.

2012: The Year The Internet Ends

Every significant Internet provider around the globe is currently in talks with access and content providers to transform the internet into a television-like medium: no more freedom, you pay for a small commercial package of sites you can visit and you'll have to pay for seperate subscriptions for every site that's not in the package.

Almost all smaller websites/services will disappear over time and multinationals who are used to using big budgets to brute force their content into every media outlet will finally be able to approach the internet in the same way.

This well-known illustration of why we need net neutrality turns out to be very close to the truth:

What can we do?

Internet providers have realized that the only way to not lose massive amounts of customers over this is to make sure there are no alternatives, that's why all major Internet providers are currently making agreements and planning to switch simultaneously somewhere in the year 2012. This is currently all going on under very strict NDA's (Non-Disclosure Agreements) because the last thing they want is the masses speaking out against it.

We were able to uncover this information because we have been well-known net neutrality activists for longer than a year now and over time have we've gotten in contact with many high-profile industry insiders. We will continue our activism and the I Power website serves as a platform for joining forces, sharing ideas and spreading awareness.

It's our responsibility to spread the word, use any sort of political or media contacts you may know. The more awareness there is, the more impossible it'll be for Internet providers to make this switch. Let's make sure that by 2012, ISP's won't even dare think about doing anything that goes against the principles of net neutrality.

More info...

Net neutrality has been a much debated issue for several years now and there have been many lawsuits in cases where an Internet provider blocked access to a certain competitor's site or simply crippled download speeds on services that they felt were using up too much of their bandwidth. But this new information that has now been confirmed by inside sources from major ISP's and content providers gives us a far bleaker vision of what the future of Internet freedom will look like if we don't take action in every way we can.

Why is this happening? The entire media and marketing industry is losing its grip on the upcoming generations of Internet-minded consumers. Statistics show that traditional media is losing popularity as the Internet continues to grow drastically every year. And the Internet is a completely different place: consumers aren't passive any more and advertisements don't have the same psychological effect they normally have on television. Internet users are very active and focused: they only go to the sites and services they want, and with an infinite amount of alternatives, users simply switch to something else if one service becomes too commercialized with annoying advertisements.With this in mind, it's no surprise that the past 6 years the industry has secretly been planning a 'take-over' to secure the Internet as a purely commercial playground.

Spread The Word

But there is hope... More and more people are becoming aware of the importance of net neutrality and now that we have uncovered what the industries have been plotting, it's not just about big corporations forming shady agreements, it's about what they will say to their users who will demand an explanation from their providers on what will happen to their access in 2012. As long as there are alternatives, we can pressure those providers who admit to being against net neutrality and favor those who take a stand and choose to give their users their freedom even after 2012. We can keep pushing for net neutrality laws and we can start spreading awareness on a massive scale to make sure that ISP's think twice before signing anything that'll go against the freedom that made the Internet into the important open medium that it is today.

It's our responsibility, spread the word and use any sort of political or media contacts you may know. Let's make sure that by 2012, ISP's won't even dare think about doing anything that goes against the principles of net neutrality.source : ipower.com