Recent Entries in Sci-Tech

The Mozilla Foundation today officially released its open-source browser, Firefox 1.0, but the news won't come as a surprise to a great many computer users. Since it released its preview version in September, 8 million people have downloaded the super-fast browser, a direct descendant of Netscape.

The Firefox project began about 19 months ago, and the team is proud but not ready to rest. "We feel very good about it," Ben Goodger, lead engineer for Firefox, told LinuxInsider. "We're certainly not done working. This is our first big step. We're thrilled."

Part of that thrill comes from knowing that this software gives a huge boost to the open-source world.

Linux News: Open Source: Firefox Officially Reignites Browser Wars

  Image Magick test

So I can't seem to get ImageMagick to work with jpeg images, on account of it appears to fail when testing the jpeg-6b port on my OpenBSD 3.4 box. So it builds fine if I use the --without-jpeg flag.

This shows up in the logs:

checking for jpeg_read_header in -ljpeg... no

I may be limited to using .gifs and .png files for pop-ups, or if I want to use any kind of thumbnail image.

A team of neuroscientists have successfully implanted a chip into the brain of a quadriplegic man, allowing him to control a computer.

Since the insertion of the tiny device in June, the 25-year-old has been able to check email and play computer games simply using thoughts. He can also turn lights on and off and control a television, all while talking and moving his head.

The chip, called BrainGate, is being developed by Massachusetts-based neurotechnology company Cyberkinetics, following research undertaken at Brown University, Rhode Island. - Brain chip offers hope for paralyzed - Oct 20, 2004

A California biotechnology company has started taking orders for a hypoallergenic cat for pet lovers prone to allergies.

The genetically engineered feline, which is expected to be available from 2007, is the first in a planned series of lifestyle pets, Los Angeles-based Allerca said in a press release.

Allerca hopes to attract customers among the millions of people worldwide who suffer from cat allergies. - Genetically modified cats for sale - Oct 27, 2004

NASA released one of the best pictures ever made of Saturn's moon Titan as the Cassini spacecraft begins a close-up inspection of the satellite today. Cassini is making the nearest flyby ever of the smog-shrouded moon.

The spacecraft was slated to fly within 745 miles (1,200 kilometers) of Titan at 12:44 p.m. ET (9:44 a.m. PT), with data and other pictures being released thereafter.

It is one of 45 planned flybys of Titan -- some even closer -- during Cassini's four-year tour of Saturn and its moons and rings. Later this year Cassini will deploy a probe, named Huygens, that will descend to the surface of Titan in January.

Scientists believe Titan's atmosphere is similar to that of early Earth, and they want to study it to learn about the sort of pre-biotic chemistry that might have existed just before life on Earth began.

Cassini Flies Past Saturn's Moon Titan Today

Internet users at home in the U.S. are not nearly as safe online as they believe, according to an inspection by researchers. They found most consumers have no firewall protection, outdated antivirus software and dozens of spyware programs secretly running on their computers.

One beleaguered home user in the government-backed study had more than 1,000 spyware programs running on his sluggish computer when researchers examined it.

Bill Mines, a personal trainer in South Riding, Va., did not fare much better. His family's three-year-old computer was found infected with viruses and more than 600 pieces of spyware surreptitiously monitoring his online activities.

Technology -

Earth's spin warps space around the planet, according to a new study that confirms a key prediction of Einstein's general theory of relativity.
After 11 years of watching the movements of two Earth-orbiting satellites, researchers found each is dragged by about 6 feet (2 meters) every year because the very fabric of space is twisted by our whirling world.
The results, announced today, are much more precise than preliminary findings published by the same group in the late 1990s. - What a drag! Earth warps space�surrounding it - Oct 21, 2004

Like x-ray specs, the invisibility suit or the ever-lasting doughnut, it sounds too good to be true.

But a US electronics expert is selling a tiny remote-control device that he claims can switch off any television at the push of a button.

Demand for the keyring-sized TV-B-Gone, which retails at $15 (�8), is already outstripping supply.

The website of inventor Mitch Altman has crashed under the volume of enquiries from would-be buyers.

BBC NEWS | Business | Total turn-off for tiresome TVs

The use of robots around the home to mow lawns, vacuum floors, pull guard duty and perform other chores is set to surge sevenfold by 2007, says a new UN survey, which credits dropping prices for the robot boom.

The increase in domestic robots coincides with record orders for industrial robots, the UN's annual World Robotics Survey adds.

The report, issued Wednesday by the UN Economic Commission for Europe and the International Federation of Robotics, says 607,000 automated domestic helpers were in use at the end of 2003, two thirds of them purchased last year.

Yahoo! News - UN report suggests use of domestic robots to surge to 4.1 million by 2007

Recent months have seen AMD taking an upper hand over Intel in the chip market. And the latest news is another new indication that Intel is struggling to keep up with the pace they once spearheaded.

As per latest reports, Intel is having a problem with inventory glut. They overestimated demand in the market, which led to more problems with them. They have delayed the launch of newer chips in the market and even had to recall other defective ones.

Tech News and Views � Intel having a hard time competing with AMD :: Technology related information

It was the reporters who noticed first. Unable to call their editors while covering the weddings of the rich and famous, they asked the priest why their cell phones never worked at Sacred Heart. His reply: Israeli counterintelligence.

In four Monterrey churches, Israeli-made cell phone jammers the size of paperbacks have been tucked unobtrusively among paintings of the Madonna and statues of the saints.

The jarring polychromatic din of ringing cell phones is increasingly being thwarted -- from religious sanctuaries to India's parliament to Tokyo theaters and commuter trains -- by devices originally developed to help security forces avert eavesdropping and thwart phone-triggered bombings. - Don't try using a cell phone here - Oct 19, 2004

The collisions that spawn planets are bigger and take place over longer periods of time than previously thought, say astronomers who studied nearly 300 stars with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The new cache of data gives astronomers fresh hope that Earth-like planets might be common in the universe.

Planets are thought to grow as dust collides and sometimes sticks together in the discs around young stars. Until now, most theorists suspected the process was relatively smooth, with dust clumps building up gradually through successive collisions.

Article: Planet formation is violent, slow and messy - New Scientist

Article: Free Google search for PC desktops�| New Scientist

Google has released a free search tool which sits on the PC desktop and can search its host computer for virtually anything. Launched on Thursday, it blends a search of hard-drive files, emails, recently visited web pages and Instant Messenger chat using Google�€™s popular web search format.

"It's a great tool and it's going to be useful for a lot of people - we've all got a lot of stuff all over the place that isn't visible," says Danny Sullivan, editor of the search industry news site

US software behemoth Microsoft on Tuesday unveiled a new technological assault that will bring music, movies and television into consumers' living rooms via their home computers.

Microsoft chief Bill Gates unveiled the expanded Windows XP Media Centre 2005 operating system, a group of software and linked hardware products that can turn a computer into home entertainment centre on which people can download music, movies, watch television or listen to radio.

The US firm, which has long battled to win a secure foothold to allow it to dominate the digital entertainment and TV market, hopes the updated system will make Microsoft the leading force in the burgeoning sector.

Microsoft makes itself at home

  New PC in Old Mac Clothes

Back in the early '90s, Iain Sharp spent so much money on his Mac SE/30, his hand shook as he signed the check.

In the intervening years, Sharp could never bear to part with it. He stored it in the attic until, when watching Seinfeld reruns recently, he had an idea: Why not turn it into a media center for his living-room?

Trouble is, the original electronics are way too sluggish for music or DVD, so Sharp cleverly shoehorned a powerful Windows PC into the classic Mac case.

Sharp's Mac-ITX is based on a Mini-ITX motherboard, a 9-inch monochrome LCD monitor and a lot of tinkering.

"There is something about the Classic Mac design that makes it outstanding," Sharp said. "I think the SE/30 actually looks even better today than it did at the time."

Wired News: New PC in Old Mac Clothes

  Biomimetic Robots

From the ominous Klaatu of The Day the Earth Stood Still to the Terminator, we've seen robots typically portrayed on screen as stiff, humanoid machines. But it's not just Hollywood that has locked robots to the human form.

"A lot of conventional thinking pervades the field of robotics," says Morley Stone, a program manager in the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's defense sciences office. "They still look very much like they are depicted in grainy black-and-white films. You see this humanoid robot that doesn't walk very well. We still haven't improved upon that all that much."

Forget the anthropomorphs. Today, researchers are looking in the cupboards of their local diners and under rocks for biological inspiration to create a new generation of flying, crawling, and swimming automatons known as biomimetic robots. Intrigued by how other species have adapted to a whole world of environmental niches, researchers are working to understand and reverse-engineer the adaptive traits of creatures, including those--like the seemingly indestructible cockroach--we might much rather step on than study.

Computer Magazine - Biomimetic Robots

Psychedelic drugs are inching their way slowly but surely toward prescription status in the United States, thanks to a group of persistent scientists who believe drugs like ecstasy and psilocybin can help people with terminal cancer, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, to name just a few.

The Heffter Research Institute, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies and others have managed to persuade the Food and Drug Administration to approve a handful of clinical trials using psychedelics. The movement seems to be gaining ground in recent years. Since 2001, the FDA and the Drug Enforcement Administration have given the go-ahead to three clinical trials testing psychedelics on symptomatic patients, and several more are on deck.

Wired News: Long Trip for Psychedelic Drugs

It was a clear sign that the world's smallest technology had hit the big time. At the Department of Energy's NanoSummit, held in June in Washington, DC, energy secretary Spencer Abraham gave the opening speech before an array of scientists from universities, industry, and national labs. Former chief arms control negotiator Paul Robinson spoke at a luncheon. The closing address was delivered by Richard Smalley, the Rice University chemist who shared the 1996 Nobel Prize for discovering Buckminsterfullerene, a soccer ball-shaped carbon molecule, and its permutations, known as fullerenes. In between, luminaries from the increasingly glamorous world of nanotechnology outlined the fledgling discipline's future.

Wired 12.10: The Incredible Shrinking Man

The Incredible Shrinking Man

IBM hopes to ease the minds of roving execs by adding yet another layer of security to its ThinkPad notebooks.

Mirroring Microsoft's "biometrics for the desktop" move, IBM has added fingerprint readers to its line of distinctively black business-class notebooks. The feature becomes available on October 19 on certain ThinkPad T42 models.

IBM's fingerprint scanner is the latest in a number of security and durability enhancements that the company has made to its notebook line over the years including a tamperproof security chip that thwarts data theft and the company's own Active Protection System, a technology that reduces system crashes and data loss caused by falls by detecting sudden shifts in acceleration and "parking" the drive's head before damage occurs.

IBM ThinkPads Get Biometric Access Tech

Red Hat has expanded its Open Source portfolio through an agreement to acquire specific assets of Netscape Security Solutions, namely the Netscape Directory Server and the Netscape Certificate Management System, both part of the Netscape Enterprise Suite. Red Hat will begin marketing these products in the next 6 to 12 months. The assets were acquired from America Online, Inc., which owns Netscape.

Netscape Directory Server is an LDAP server that centralizes application settings, user profiles, group data, policies, and access control information. America Online current utilizes Netscape Directory Server to manage information as part of its operations. Netscape Certificate Management System uses certificates to verify the identity of users and to secure communications. It is used by the federal government and America Online.

Red Hat hopes that inclusion of these solutions in its suite of offerings will help customers with "enhanced security, manageability and office productivity." Geek News - Red Hat wants some of Netscape Enterprise Solutions

Microsoft has extended its Government Security Program (GSP) by offering government customers access to the source code of Microsoft Office 2003. The GSP, one of a number of programs in the company's Shared Source Initiative, is meant to foster collaboration and trust between Microsoft and government organizations.

Microsoft Reveals Office Code to Governments

As browsers like Mozilla and Opera find more widespread use, Microsofts Internet Explorer is facing a new challenge to its superman status in the world of browsers, says LinuxInsider in its sneak preview of new Mozilla Firefox browser.

Firefox, a product of the Mozilla Foundation, is the latest kid on the bloc to challenge Microsoft. The standalone browser was updated with a 1.0 preview release that includes Live Bookmarks -- a feature that allows you to receive RSS feeds within your browser -- and a built-in Google search toolbar. Firefox also lets you view more than one Web page within a single open browser and has the most customisation options of any browser available. Like Internet Explorer, Firefox also includes a built-in pop-up blocker..

Despite recent critical vulnerabilities that were discovered by security firm Secunia, Firefox is being heavily promoted by Mozilla, and is seeing some success. Within its first five hours of availability, Firefox 1.0 was downloaded more than 100,000 times.

Internet browser: Mozilla Vs Microsoft - The Economic Times

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