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News articles search results by J. Micah Grunert

Ubuntu 7.10 officially released.

5 comments J. Micah Grunert - Oct 18, 07 12:30pm (PST) Like Share

A.K.A. Gutsy Gibbon.

I had some few months ago made the switch. I had started using Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn back in early August. Come early September, I installed a then recent build of Gutsy Gibbon 7.10 and quite enjoyed it. Now that the official build has been released, I'll probably re-install for the heck of it.

Ubuntu is currently the most popular of all Linux distributions (according to its first place ranking on DistroWatch) thanks to its user friendly interface and Debian based core. Some of the new features in Ubuntu 7.10 are . . .




  • The GNOME 2.20 desktop
  • Recent versions of Xorg, and Firefox.
  • Integrated Compiz window manager for really cool 3-D desktop effects.
  • Bulletproof X for zero hassle graphics hardware configuration.
  • Hot plugging for displays.
  • Support for NTFS partition reading/writing (FAT 16 and 32 have worked for years)
  • The Tracker indexing and search tool.
  • An energy efficient kernel for laptops.
  • A Firefox plug-in finder.
  • Integration of the Firefox extensions into the package management system.

  • Ubuntu is quite the unique OS. But if you still require a Windows box to run some select few apps (3-D games not included), VMware Server and Vmware Player work exceptionally well with Ubuntu. I'm in fact running WinXP Pro inside Ubuntu right now and it is surprisingly smooth.

    And as some may know, Dell has been selling select PC's with Ubuntu pre-installed.

    "At its core, Ubuntu is a free platform for delivering open source software, certified and guaranteed to work, and with each release we strive to enhance the experience of our strong and growing user base of over 6 million people," said Canonical Chief Operating Officer Jane Silber in a statement.

    In terms of what the future holds for Ubuntu, Gusty Gibbon 7.10 will be supported for the next 18 months. However, their next release of Ubuntu 8.04 (code named Hearty Heron) will have 3 years worth of long term support. Ubuntu also released new versions of Ubuntu Server, Kbuntu, Xubuntu and Edubuntu today

    If you're interested, and I strongly suggest you try it if you've ever been curious about Linux, you can try the Ubuntu site (which is a tad slow right now due to all of the requests going on) or download from DistroWatch through HTTP or the better of Bit Torrent. There's tonnes of sources out there.





    Categories: OS & Software

    It is a portable computer, if you don't mind bringing an extension cord.

    1 comments J. Micah Grunert - Oct 17, 07 1:53pm (PST) Like Share

    The Acme LPG370TS is in fact a very portable desktop for the likes of LAN patries.

    And here I thought Willie Coyote was the only one who purchased goods from the Acme catalogue.

    After a bit of designing and selection of subsequent hardware, the folks at Acme Portable Systems have pushed out their LPG370TS Triple Screen machine. Though they typically specialize in forensic and on-site computing (something for say a construction site), this three screen beauty has some sweet specs.

    Model No. LPG370TS
    CPU Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 2.4GHz
    Memory 2GB DDR2 PC2 6400
    Chipset nForce 680i
    Graphics Dual nVidia 8800GTX in SLI mode
    Audio 8-Channel audio output
    Network Dual Gigabit LAN
    Connectors Firewire 400, USB 2.0
    Power Supply  Seasonic® 650 Watt


    Diagonal Size 17"
    Resolution 1280 x 1024
    Color 16.7M colors
    Control System OSD
    LCD Protection Yes

    Reading through their Specification page, the manufacturer had this to say about their tripple screenn system

    The LPG370TS is a robust lunchbox computer built using heavy duty metal to provide tough, go-anywhere unit ideally suitable for gaming and video applications. Every LPG370TS comes equipped with three high resolution LCD displays, dual system cooling side fans and easy access to its expansion ports for immediate system upgrade or maintenance. Functional practicality combined with the simple and polished design, the LPG370TS with its extra-rugged construction to sustain bumps and impacted blows is the most cost-effective, durable and efficient portable solution for your needs.

    I guess we should all start saving our change.

    Categories: Portable Computing

    PS3 Science; supercomputing with a console.

    6 comments J. Micah Grunert - Oct 17, 07 12:34pm (PST) Like Share

    An astrophysicist ditches supercomputing in favor of PS3 computing.

    Ever imagined what would happen if a black hole were to get just a little too close to a star, or vise versa?

    Dr. Gaurav Khanna did. He wanted to model the resulting gravity waves that would be produced from such an occurrence. For some time, he had been buying time on supercomputer sites at the going rate of $5,000 bucks per session.

    Anyone up for a game of Heavenly Sword?
    Eight players max.

    And then Sony comes to the rescue with eight of their PS3 console gaming systems. We can see where this is going.

    His "gravity grid" of PS3s has been running smoothly for about a month now, and operates at the speed of about 200 of the supercomputer nodes he had previouslly used.

    "The interest in the PS3 really was for two main reasons," explains Khanna who is an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. His specialty is that of computational astrophysics. "One of those is that Sony did this remarkable thing of making the PS3 an open platform, so you can in fact run Linux on it and it doesn't control what you do."

    Looks like if the PS3 doesn't start selling as a console gaming system, Sony could always open up the PS3 to the supercomputing market.


    A few new spots for Apple.

    4 comments J. Micah Grunert - Oct 16, 07 12:16pm (PST) Like Share

    OS X Leopard is set to prowl on October 26th.

    Though it is pretty nice, the Apple iPhone caused some serious delays for Apples' sixth iteration of their OS X operating system; Leopard.

    It should have been out four months ago, but perhaps that delay will bring some added stability, extra features and increased security to the waking Apple cat.

    We could wait for Steve Jobs to dawn his back turtle neck to boast of the new features of Leopard whilst he parades around on stage, but there have been some tasty tid-bits hinted to already.

    Some of the new features include a file backup system called 'Time Machine', improved e-mail and instant messanging features, the ability to preview documents withou launching the parent application, and further enhancements to networking across home and small business/office networks.

    "This is going to be great for Mac momentum, which has already been strong for the past few year years. This is just one more thing on top of that," Phil Schiller, Apple's vice president of marketing had said.

    As of June 30th, Apple had sold almost 1.8 million Mac computers. That's an increase of 33 percent over last year, a rate of growth that is around triple that of the PC market.

    Leopard has been set to retail for $129 USD on a single use system, $199 for a family pack that can be installed on up to five Apple computers in a single household. The Apple on-line store is also accepting pre-orders for Leopard.

    Categories: OS & Software

    Gmail puts on a few extra pounds.

    17 comments J. Micah Grunert - Oct 12, 07 3:29pm (PST) Like Share

    How does 3GB of Gmail storage sound?

    When Googles' Gmail service had unched back in 2004, the 1 Gigabyte of storage space quickly make the likes of MS Hotmail and Yahoo Mail quite obsolete.

    Then that 1GB of Gmail was doubled.

    And now an extra gig has been tacked onto that.

    Sweet ones and zeroes, a whole 3GB? That's better than most USB thumb drives!

    The reason behind Googles generosity stems from the fact that many people have photos and videos stored in their Gmail attachment, files that can add up quickly. So, Gmail is making good on its promise to increase storage capacity.

    "A few of you are using Gmail so much that you're running out of space, so to make good on our promise, today we're announcing we are speeding up our counter and giving out more free storage," blogged the Google engineer Rob Siemborski.

    But competition brings greater selection. Microsoft is currently offering 5GB woth of on-line storage for their Windows Live Hotmail service, while Yahoo is offering "unlimited" storage.

    Hmmm, could I possible upload the entire Internet to a Yahoo account?

    But it doesn't end with Gmail. Google Apps users will have their on-line storage increased to 3GB as well. Premier members of Google Apps will see a boost in their capacity; 10GB up to 25GB.

    Categories: Internet Related

    Microsoft looking to expand into space.

    15 comments J. Micah Grunert - Oct 12, 07 2:25pm (PST) Like Share

    Paul Allen fires up his brand new SETI array sattalite array.

    For centuries, people have looked to the stars and asked that eternal question; is there intelligent life out there?

    Then we come back down to earth and face the reality of life, death and taxes, quick to realize that there isn't much intelligent life down here either.

    However, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is still looking to the stars, hoping to catch some glimpse of intelligence life beyond our own. After pouring $25 million into a SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence), the ATA (Allen Telescope Array) came on-line yesterday.

    Nice, but does it get Cinemax?

    Located in Hat Creek, California, the sprawling telescope array consists of 350 dishes, each of 6 meters in diameter. The combined collection area of the array in roughly 10,000 square meters, giving it a comparable collection area to say the VLA (Very Large Array) in New Mexico which consists of 27 dishes with a diameter of 25 meters each. And though the VLA does boast slightly more available surface area for collection (around 13,000 square meters), the Allen array will have 17 time the scanning area when compared the the VLA.

    Unfortunately, only 42 of the 350 dishes booted up yesterday during the initial launch.

    In addition to listening in on E.T.'s phone calls, the array will also study other phenominom. Black holes and super novas are high on the list. Astronomers and astro physisists are aloso interested in looking for theoretical objects that have been speculated and or predicted by physics, but have yet to be proven.

    Categories: Technology

    A potential ban on harddrives and PC's because of some glue.

    7 comments J. Micah Grunert - Oct 11, 07 2:32pm (PST) Like Share

    Several companies are under investigation because the adhesive used to bond wires in harddrives is patented by someone else.

    Computers are getting smaller, therefore, the components used to manufacturer computer hardware shrinks. Case in point; the read/write heads of harddrives. These heads are now so small that the tiny wires that carry the data cannot be soldered into place. Therefore, a type of electrically conductive adhesive is used. Who would have thought that the holders of that patented glue would have petitioned the ITC (International Trade Commission) to investigate, and possible ban these patent infringing drives from ever entering the United States.

    The whole issue surround the patent for 'Dissipative Ceramic Bonding Tips' which is held by California residents Steven and Mary Reiber. The method is simply a way to attach ultra-fine wires using pressure rather than solder and heat. The Reibers' are claiming that the likes of Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba, Hewlett-Packard and Dell are all guilty of patent infringement. Certainly, those would manufacturer harddrive using this patented bonding method are, and apparently those who would sell PC's that use these harddrives are guilty as well. Using this method of manufacture violates the U.S. Tariff Act of 1930, specifically that of section 337 which states that it is illegal to import a good into the United States that infringes upon the patent, trademark, copyright and or intellectual property of the U.S.       

    The same had happened with Qualcomm last June when the ITC slapped a ban on the import of their EVDO chips, circuit board modules, and handsets that infringed upon patents held by the competing company Broadcom. That incident sparked an uprising amongst mobile carrier companies - AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint - who used Qualcomm parts in their phones. Eventually, the US Court of Appeals sided with Qualcomm and lifted the ban after many trade groups stated that such a ban would stifle competition and hurt millions of consumers.

    And though this could have potential serious repercussions, the ITC is still reviewing the matter and will not decide upon a definate course of action for at least another month. 

    It's quite likely though that nothing will come of this. Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba, Hewlett-Packard and Dell are tech industry giants, and a ban of their products for some quibbling over what is essentially a pressure sensitive glue, a ban on harddrives could bring an entire nation (citizens, government, industry, business, military, etc.) to its knees.

    Where else are we going to store our MP3's?

    Categories: Storage

    Say bye-bye to plasmas and LCDs down under.

    4 comments J. Micah Grunert - Oct 11, 07 1:28pm (PST) Like Share

    In an effort to reduce power consumption, the Australian government may ban energy sapping plasmas or LCD televisions.

    Certainly, many countries are concered about global warming, many taking valliant efforts to help reduce the ammount of green house gasses that are belched into the atmosphere every year. It seems though that Australia may actually start banning certian types of power hungry LCD and plasma displays by 2011.

    Though it is just a proposal of new regulations at this point, the idea may eventually form some type of legislation that would ban the import and or sale of most plasma or LCD displays. This suggestion was spawned after a report had indicated that the popularity of large flat panel televisions is on the rise in Australia. And despite this rise in popularity, manufacturers have not been terribly forthcoming in their efforts to make these displays more power efficient.

    The system that is being put forth would be somewhat similar to the North American Energy Star system, though with six stars to indicate the efficiency of an electrical device. This system, if introduced, could see most HDTV plasma displays, and a number of LCD displays removed from the market. There is indication as well that the government would like to have a minimum power efficiency standard set into place to prevent companies from importing and selling inefficient televisions and or monitors. The rating system would likely apply to other consumer electronics and or appliances.

    Much of the report was compiled by ABC (the Australian Broadcasting Company).

    There are of course those who object to the proposal, such as Tim O’Keefe, the Australian Digital Suppliers Industry Forum coordinator. He feels that the proposed regulations are unreasonable and would place impossible expectations upon the manufacturers. He also indicated that it may be impossible for manufacturers to meet these new guidelines by the due date.

    Conversly, Gene McGlynn, Australian Greenhouse Office spokesman, feels quite differently about the subject. he had said that “by the time the standard came into place, with the industry knowing that these standards are coming in, they can adjust their supply chains to make sure that the products will [meet the requirements].”

    In all honesty, it is wholly possible for the manufacturers to start producing televisions and or computer dislays that would boast signifigantlly reduced power consumption levels. It's likely that not many people buy CRT televisions or monitors any more. Improvements in technology could have plasma displays draw less energy for their operation. LCDs are pretty much on par with plasma, due mainly to the high voltage florescent back light. However, LED back lighting is starting to make in roads into the industry, a trend that could reduce LCD power consumption by anywhere between 10 and 60 percent. Furthermore, SED (Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display) and OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) displays are becoming more and more popular. 

    Besides, it's in the best interests of manufacturers to produce these higher efficiency displays. We the consumers are asking for them.

    Categories: Displays

    GTA IV could steal the sales crown from Halo 3.

    3 comments J. Micah Grunert - Oct 10, 07 12:23pm (PST) Like Share

    Some analysts suggest that GTA 4 could out sell Halo in its first week of launch.

    Microsoft certianlly riding high with Halo 3. They've bragged of $300 million dollars in sales in the opening week of Halo 3. Unfortunatlly, Microsoft has been mum on how many copies were actually sold, choosing rather to post sales figures rather than number of sales.

    But a new report from Mike Hickey at Janco Partners (an investement banking firm) hints to the possibility of GTA 4 breaking the Halo 3 record. As Hickey noted in his report, the seeeping success of Halo 3 can attrubuted mainly to the gowing fan base for the Halo 3 franchise, the demand for high-quality gaming content and the early release of the game within its triology life cycle. Those factors hold even greater promise for next years release of Grand Theft Auto 4. Add to that its release on both the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 consoles.

    To look at it in terms of numbers, Hickey belives that 5.2 million copies of Halo 3 were shipped during the first week, with 4.4 million of those being sold in that seven day period. Microsoft has yet to confirm this figure, electing to simply report dollar figures instead. That translaes to a 67 percent North American attach rate (the gross percentage of console owners who have purchased Halo 3). But Hickey speculates that if the European market were included, the attach rate would fall to 46 percent.

    And despite the suggestion that relativly few Xbox 360 owners would buy GTA4, the expanding base of the PS3 could see a projected attach rate of up to 30 percent. If that figure were to come true, Grand Theft Auto 4 could see anywhere between 3.5 and 5.3 million units sold in the first week, a sales forecasting that could beat out Halo 3 for the best selling game of all time title.

    There is another, better possibility.

    "If the upcoming release of GTA IV attached at the same rate as Halo 3, the title could conceivably ship 9.5 million units of [the] game in the first week, producing an astonishing $466 million in sales."
    Hickey has projected that the first-week sales for GTA4 would approach 8.1 million copies.

    We'll just have to wait and see about that.


    Never buy another Windows OS ever again . . . sort of.

    9 comments J. Micah Grunert - Oct 05, 07 2:01pm (PST) Like Share

    Microsoft wrings out some plans for web based computing in Vista +1.

    Though details are sketchy at best, Microsoft had leaked some information on the next possible iteration of their Operating System. Dubbed (with the code name) Vista +1, the next MS OS is still a few years away, but could do away with harddrives and local storage all together. A presentation for an IHV (Independent Hardware Vendor) forum back in August suggested that Microsoft would be playing catch-up with a company named Citrix for the next three years.

    Two years ago, Citrix introduce a system for streaming Operating Systems over a high-speed broad-band connection. The end user would use a simple PC (sans harddrive and or local storage) to run a small application in system memory. That application would simply help to facilitate the front-end GUI (Graphical User Interface) displayed on the users' desktop monitor. All calculations and computations would be performed off-site at the Citrix servers. Furthermore, all of the user data would be stored on the secure Citrix servers through systems of iSCSI (Internet Small Computer System Interface) and Ethernet Block Storage. The system can be described simply as remote computing, something that has been explored by Microsoft (and dozens of other companies) in the past. Coincidentally, Intel made a big push for the adoption of iSCSI as a standard for all NICs during their last Intel Developers Forum.

    Though many companies have been tooling around with remote computing for some years now (take Google Apps for example), Citrix seems to lead the pack. The appeal of remote computing is the inherent security features it can provide. Since the streamed systems would be likely be running in virtual machines on some big main frame server system, it becomes impossible to infect the remote guest computer (which has no OS) with viruses or exploits. If the remote VM (at the server site) were to become compromised, then the infected virtual machine can be scrapped and a new virtual OS put into place, all without the end user being any the wiser. Additionally, large companies performing a service such as this would have security tools beyond what is available to the average consumer, not to mention the small army of IT professionals employed to keep the system safe and secure.

    But oddly enough, Microsoft suggested that the first focus market for Vista +1 wouldn't be the corporate environment or big business, but rather that of the home network. The idea is to have a storage drive that could be used intelligently when attached to a home network. That drive would use a small embedded processor, or may be a dedicated server box, that could act as the central media server for the home. All programs and music files would be recorded and stored there. Additional functions such as encoding and trans-coding would take place there as well. The user would simply access that remote system through a virtual terminal or Remote Desktop type feature.

    Could this mean the possibility of Windows Media Center Server Edition? If so, I'd like Microsoft to tell us just how many people have CAT5 cable strung throughout their house, because there's no wireless system that could even begin to handle the bandwidth required for streaming hi-def content. And don't even begin to mention 3-D gaming at this point. But perhaps they're not interested in streaming anything. Maybe the implied intelligence for this type of storage would be a system of DRM and copy protection for those television shows you've recorded.

    Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), Microsoft has said that  "These features represent proposed plans but should not be considered plan of record for Windows Vista +1 ". It's certain though that remote computing (even if it became mainstream) would never and could never replace the stand-alone desktop computer. Furthermore, if a remote computing platform is developed, who's to say that the service provider wouldn't tinker and toy with your remotely stored files. It's quite well known that the layers of DRM that have been wrapped into Vista are simply there to protect the likes of Hollywood and the music recording industry. But what if one were to use a remote computing platform to download/store pirated material? Would the service provider be able to delete said pirated content? Could the service provider control the usage of specific applications (no P2P allowed over remote computing) and filter content (no porn allowed on our remote servers)?

    That's all we need, Big Brother moving in with us. Thanks for the heads up Mr. Orwell.


    Another vague e-Patent.

    4 comments J. Micah Grunert - Oct 04, 07 5:44pm (PST) Like Share

    A Texas company holds a sketchy patent for selling goods on-line. Guess who they've sued.

    Apparently, lawsuits have become a legitimate business model for small companies and start-ups. Such is the case for Performance Pricing Inc., a small Texas company who filed suit against some very notable players in the virtual world of e-Commerce. The filing tool place last week in the Eastern District Court of Texas (where many a patent infringement claim has been filed). Named in the suit is that of AOL, Microsoft, Google and Yahoo. The suit claims that all four companies are infringing upon Performance Pricing Incs. patent "for conducting business transactions over the Internet".

    The specifics of the suit involve the advertising technologies of Google AdWords, Microsoft adCenter, Yahoo! Search Marketing, and the Google-powered AOL Search Marketplace.

    "Defendants have used, and continue to use, Plaintiff Performance Pricing's patented technology methods and systems that they make, use, sell, and offer to sell, without Plaintiff's permission," the suit claims. "Plaintiff seeks damages for patent infringement and an injunction preventing Defendants from making, using, selling, or offering to sell technology claimed by the patent without Plaintiff's permission."

    Just wait, it gets better.

    Performance Pricing Incs. patented technology involves "Systems and methods for transacting business over a global communications network such as the Internet," and further describes their patent as a method "for conducting business transactions over the Internet, allowing buyers to reduce the price of the selected product/service based on the buyer's performance during a collateral activity."

    "Sellers offer the product/service within a specified price range, and buyers accept the offer, in exchange for the opportunity to close the transaction at the lowest price offered by achieving a high score during the collateral activity," the patent continues. "The ultimate price is within the agreed upon range, but is determined based upon the buyer's performance during the collateral activity."

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that called 'Capitalism' or a 'Free Market Society'?

    If that sounds ridiculous, then you'd best put away the Monopoly board, shut down World of Warcraft and forget about dropping a few bucks on the next Super-Bowl. The patent also say that this model can be applied to a variety of real-world and on-line activities including video games, electronic board games, sports betting, and card games.

    Grumble, grumble. No Friday night poker for you!

    But to ask an honest lawyer (and they're pretty rare), Santa Clara University law professor and an expert on tech law Eric Goldman said that this lawsuit is reminiscent of the type of "lawsuits that we're concerned about when we worry about patents being used as a way of shaking down people for cash as opposed to advancing social interests".

    Fortunately, the United States Congress is considering the passing of a bill that would see some overhaul to the patent litigation process. Google and Microsoft have both lobbied the bill in the hopes of preventing future frivolous lawsuits. Unfortunately, a revised patent office could serve to hinder legitimate start-up companies with truly unique patent applications and or ground for patent infringement lawsuits.

    Perhaps someone should patent silly patent infringement lawsuits in the hopes of stopping them. 

    Categories: Internet Related

    We're all pirates . . . according to Sony.

    65 comments J. Micah Grunert - Oct 03, 07 6:39pm (PST) Like Share

    Copying music in away way constitutes piracy according to the lawyers from Sony.

    There's a really big court case going on right now in Duluth, Minnesota. That trial by jury involves a fellow by the name of Jammie Thomas who has been accused of uploading 1,700 songs to the KaZaA P2P network, songs that he obviously didn't own the copyrights to. And as expected, Capitol Records decided to sue the pants off Thomas.

    So a jury was pulled together and the case heard its opening statements yesterday. Once the opening statements were concluded, the record label plantifs called their first witness; Jennifer Pariser, the head of litigation for Sony BMG. Imagine what she said.

    She said quite bluntly that when an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, Sony can say he stole a song. "Making "a copy" of a purchased song is just "a nice way of saying 'steals just one copy'.
    Jennifer has apparently never heard of 'Fair Use' and the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act'. Both of those American doctrines tell us that people do have the right to back-up and or copy their CD's for personal use. The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) agrees, having told the US Supreme Court last year that it is perfectly lawful to rip a CD (that you've legally purchased and own) to your computer and or portable music player. The line becomes blurred when users are forced to crack their way through the root kits (courtesy of Sony) and DRM that infects many of the CD's available for purchase.

    Unfortunately, the RIAA is hoping to have portions of the DMCA re-written to forbid the backing-up of audio CD's and (and movies DVD's if the MPAA gets involved).

    It's still a crime to upload that music to the Internet or P2P for all to share. Unless you live in Canada where the Supreme Court has said that sharing music on-line is not a crime.

    Continuing her testimony she called file-sharing a "tremendous problem affecting the music industry" that "causes several billions of dollars of harm" to the labels (every year I suppose). "It's important to combat," and "If we don't, we have no business." Oddly enough, some recent studies (conducted outside of the RIAA) suggesting that music piracy only costs (collectively) the music labels $7 to $15 million per year, and perhaps up to $30 million, not billions. In fact, counterfeit CD's (the knock-off's sold on street corners) account for a higher piracy figure since they are mass produced and tend to displace the legitimate CD's sold in stores.

    Though the case of Capitol Records versus Jammie Thomas has just gotten started, the future of fair use may hinge upon the jury's final decision, a decision that could be weeks or months away.

    Perhaps Thomas could simply testify that he had uploaded his music to KaAzA as a means of backing it up. Guaranteed, those songs will be there forever, or at least until KaZaA, the Internet or humanity dies.  Which will happen first?


    A very odd concept space suit from NASA.

    3 comments J. Micah Grunert - Oct 02, 07 10:56am (PST) Like Share

    Astronauts will need a rover and some space suits for our return to the moon. Why not combine the two?

    The star gazing folks at NASA have promised that the human race (or at least a few of us) will be returning to the moon come the year 2020. It may still be a few years away, but the complexity of such a project will require new vehicles, improved technologies and a little ingenuity. And let us not forget any budgetary constraints that may come into effect.

    So it only goes to reason that the Lunar Architecture Team at NASA would approach the challenges of lunar exploration a little differently. Case in point being this concept vehicle.

    "Hey Bob, do you remember where we parked?"

    This is a simple lunar rover with a very obvious twist. The cylindrical body of the rover is pressurized, as are the two suits built into the side-wall. The astronauts can climb into these attached suits and drive (one at a time) via the control panel in-font of them. This concept rover will likely have four wheel independent steering and possibly some small remote controlled rovers (or droids) for collecting samples and further detailed exploration.

    Future revisions of this vehicle may have the suits be detachable from the module allowing for free roaming around the moons' surface. Kinda reminds me of this guy from that old Schwarzenegger flick 'Total Recall'.

    Quaid, start the reactor . . . and get me some eye drops, I can't see a thing.

    Some of the other concepts NASA has conceived involve a large portable habitat when the astronauts would live and sleep and play. In an instance, the habitat could be towed to another location. There was also the consideration of sending small packages (gear, equipment and supplies) to the lunar landing site before human arrival. After much consideration it was concluded that this multiple small package approach might cause more work for the explorers than a single large package would.

    It's still 12 years away, but NASA is hopeful that they will have conclusive plans to our return to the moon come the year 2012. Then, 8 years worth of construction and training will have a return mission (likely to Shackleton crater near the south pole) by 2020.

    Categories: Technology

    XP gets to live . . . just a little bit longer.

    15 comments J. Micah Grunert - Sep 28, 07 3:30pm (PST) Like Share

    Microsoft has bowed ever so slightly to OEMs, giving XP a five month extension before its demise.

    It has become quite apparent that most of the PC market has been quite apprehensive in the adoption of Windows Vista. Difficulties with hardware/driver issues, the inflated cost and the reduction in performance have had many OEM outlets choosing to stick with XP. And in many cases it has been the end consumer who asks for XP rather than Vista.

    Though Microsoft has planned to stop selling Windows XP come January 31st, 2008 (for OEMs and retailers) and January 31st, 2009 for custom system builders. But due to high demand, Microsoft has now agreed to continue selling copies of XP to OEMs and retailers until June 30th, 2008. It may only be a five month stay of execution, but a welcome one never the less. There has also been the life extension for Windows XP Starter Edition (a slim and trimmed version of XP for emerging markets. That will remain avaliable until June 30th, 2010.

    "While we've been pleased with the positive response we've seen and heard from customers using Windows Vista, there are some customers who need a little more time to make the switch to Windows Vista,"
    Microsoft said in a press statement.

    In reality, the hardware demands of Vista have complicated the OS switch. Many XP users have PCs with old and semi-antiquated hardware that may not be Vista compatible. Add to that the large number of system resources (memory, CPU and graphics) that Vista requires to simply boot and idle at the desktop.

    And of course there were those great expectations that Microsoft had for their Vista sales. Back in July Microsoft had predicted that by June 2008, Vista would out sell XP at a 6 to 1 ratio. But now they've adjusted those figures, saying that Vista will only outsell XP by 5 to 1 come June 2008.  

    Unfortunately, Microsoft had adopted a new policy back in 2002 that would give each and every Microsoft OS a four year life span before forcing users to upgrade to the latest and greatest of their Windows OS. This forced obsolescence has frustrated many an end user, especially those in the IT and business field. It has become quite apparent in past months that Vista is no where near ready for prime time. In fact, many large companies have stated that they will not be upgrading to Vista until the first Service Pack is released. that is expected for the first quarter of 2008. It may help to resolve some of the security and computability issues users have been having, but at what cost? There have been past Windows XP updates that have crippled computers, though Microsoft does eventually fix the problem.

    Regardless, XP will continue to run for many years to come. It seems unfortunate though that Microsoft would put XP (its best OS ever) out to pasture in favor of Vista (second worse only to Windows Millennium). Perhaps they'll reconsider, though it is quite unlikely. Maybe we'll all just start running Linux and OSX instead.

    Categories: OS & Software

    The LittleDog robot from DARPA.

    3 comments J. Micah Grunert - Sep 26, 07 12:45pm (PST) Like Share

    DARPA hopes to standardize the software for robots like LittleDog.

    The folks at DARPA sure do love their robots. This little guy however should become a household favorite.

    There have been plans for some years now to develop a robot waler that could transport materials into battle grounds and war zones without worry of traversing rough terrain. Though other robotic pack mules have been developed before, it's the control software that seems to be the big issue. It's one thing to have your robo-mule walk on pavement or in a lab, but it's something completely different to have it scale rocks.

    The hardware and robotics is easy, it's the software and fuzzy logic that's hard.

    DARPA's unique approach to this software issue by funding six different software teams to work on a common robot platform. Think of it as an ISO standard for droids. By having one single software solution, issues with hardware integration are reduced. Furthermore, if the software acts like a modular kernel OS, then new plug-ins can be written easily to accommodate new functions, leaving the underlying rain intact.

    The LittleDog testbed robot was designed by Boston Dynamics to bring proof of concept to this new software approach. Boston Dynamics was also responsible for the BigDog robot (a human sized version of this little guy).

    "What is really interesting about the whole project is the idea of a common research platform," said Max Lungarella, a robotics professor at the University of Zurich, "A lot of research in robotics is done on platforms built ad-hoc." 

    The software team DARPA has employed for this new software model includes MIT, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon and a few other choice educational institutions. Each month the programming teams involved will send their latest code to DARPA who will test it with the LittleDog platform. Eventually, there could come a day when the six software teams would have their code compete against one another, say in a game of capture the flag.

    Currently, each team has a duplicate model of the terrain that LittleDog must traverse. Next year though, LittleDog will be presented with a new terrain that it has never been programmed for. Hopefully, the fuzzy logic and pseudo intelligence programmed into these little walking bots will allow them to function autonomously in any environment.

    Still, despite it being a military project, LittleDog could make for the coolest pet. Just glue on some hair, screw on some eyes, weld on some fangs and you've got very odd robotic dog. Or is it a cat, or beetle?

    Categories: Technology

    Does your spreadsheet know basic math?

    0 comments J. Micah Grunert - Sep 26, 07 11:55am (PST) Like Share

    Whatever you do, don't ask Excel what 850x77.1 is! It's off by 34465.

    In an odd (and somewhat humorous) turn of events, it has become quite apparent that computers can't begin to equate with the intelligence of humans, or even that of a $10 pocket calculator. Well, it's not the computers per say but the software running on them. In this case, the dunce cap goes to none other than Microsoft Excel 2007 for failing basic math.

    A seriuous bug in Excel 2007 has the program goofing up on one simple arathmatic calculation. When users would uses Excel to calculate 77.1 x 850 which (in this dimension anyways) equals 65,535. But according to Excel, the answer is 100,000. Presumably, many people have beamed e-mails and sent inquiries to math professors around the world asking for conformation to this oh-so simple math problem. No matter what, the answer is still 65,535.

    No longer head of the class.

    And as fate would have it, Excel also gets a failing grade when trying to multiply 6 other sets of numbers. Some of those others include . . .




    Apparently the calculation error has something to do with the rounding of the 15th decimal place and the floating point numbers that Excel can store. For reference, there are 9.214*10^18 (or 229122501675061218872868200959448605.64) floating point numbers that Excel is capable of storing. Oddly enough though, the results for these difficult questions are stored properly in memory, but they display incorrectly in an Excel 2007 cell. A strange little programming glitch.

    Microsoft manager David Gainer has acknowledged the flaw and says that Microsoft is in the final stages of releasing a fix to correct te error. There may be a reason though for this little snafu. 65,535 is the highest number possible that can be represented by an unsigned 16 bit binary number. It may be that this one magic number could be mistaken for an 'end of code' command or some other binary representation.

    In the mean time and inbetween time (or at least until the patch is released), it is quite assured that OpenOffoce Base doesn't have this problem.

    Categories: OS & Software

    A new way to track criminals.

    2 comments J. Micah Grunert - Sep 25, 07 1:36pm (PST) Like Share

    Los Angles Police have started using StarChase to track crooks in cars during high speed pursuits.

    Who hasn't seen the reams of footage with some news reporter detailing every twist an turn of a car chase from his helicopter while a dozen police cars chase after some crook down below. It's quite the common sight in Los Angles, California.

    But sometimes those pursuits can get a little dangerous, requiring the police agencies involved to retreat for the safety of the surrounding public. But this doesn't mean that the criminal is lost and gone forever. A new tool by the name of StarChase holds some promise to make things just a bit easier for the police to track the bad guys.

    The StarChase Pursuit Management System uses a compressed-air laser-sighted launcher to propel a "miniature GPS receiver, battery and radio transmitter, embedded in an epoxy compound," at the suspect vehicle. Additionally, the radio data channel used is cellular based. This means that the unit can be tracked anywhere coverage is available, and hopefully without roaming charges.

    StarChase had undergone beta testing with the LAPD back in 2006. It was then that the LAPD Chief Willian Bratton had said "we believe this technology and the trials associated with it, will potentially give police officers yet another tool to minimize the damaging risks associated with high-speed pursuits. My goal is to protect not only my officers, but the general public as well.”  His colleague Sergeant Dan Gomez of the LAPD Tactical Technology Unit had also said recently that StarChase "has real James Bond appeal."

    Of course, a fleeing villain could always pull over and remove the tracking system from the back of their car (stolen or otherwise), but most criminals aren't that smart to begin with. They could also carry a cellular/GPS jammer with them st all times, but most crooks wouldn't how to use one.

    Categories: Technology

    The Apple/AT&T Genuine Dis-Advantage.

    4 comments J. Micah Grunert - Sep 24, 07 4:22pm (PST) Like Share

    Microsoft does it with less than genuine copies of Windows, and now Apple is going to do the same with hacked iPhones.

    It's quite alright for a company or service provider to protect their product, but to try and maintain a strangle hold over their own monopoly is a little excessive.

    A statement from give by Apple this afternoon hints that their next iPhone software update could render all hacked iPhones useless. To put it bluntly; your $400 buck iPhone becomes a paper weight if it was hacked to run on any network other than AT&T.

    As most will have heard, early adopter of the iPhone became quite interested in unlocking the iPhone so they could use their own service provider and no be locked into the AT&T network woes. Many people of course suspected that Apple would issue some software update to prevent this unlocking, but disabling the phone completely seems a little excessive.

    "Apple has discovered that many of the unauthorized iPhone unlocking programs available on the Internet cause irreparable damage to the iPhone's software, which will likely result in the modified iPhone becoming permanently inoperable when a future Apple-supplied iPhone software update is installed," Apple had said in a statement. "Apple strongly discourages users from installing unauthorized unlocking programs on their iPhones. Users who make unauthorized modifications to the software on their iPhone violate their iPhone software license agreement and void their warranty. The permanent inability to use an iPhone due to installing unlocking software is not covered under the iPhone's warranty."

    There is of course ways to restore the iPhone to its 'Factory Default Settings' should Apple's supposed update cause any damage, then allowing the iPhone to be flashed to the latest software version. This latest version of the the iPhone OS allows users to access the iPhone Wi-Fi Music Store which was launched earlier this month. Look for (or avoid) this update which is scheduled for sometime later this week.

    But of course, it is quite certain that hackers will find some way around this implied software nightmare. And Apple will likely respond by disabling hacked iPhones with every subsequent software update for the next couple of years, or at least until their partnership will AT&T is over.


    EA set to release their own zombie title.

    9 comments J. Micah Grunert - Sep 24, 07 3:05pm (PST) Like Share

    Riding the coat-tails of Capcoms Resident Evil franchise, Electronic Arts decided to spawn some space zombies.

    With the success of the Resident Evil video games and the Hollywood movies, Capcom has enjoyed a lucrative relationship with the digital un-dead. So it goes to figure that other developers would try to capitalize on the survival horror franchise.

    Electronic Arts has just announced their development of their own third-person survival horror game for the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360.

    Titled 'Dead Space', the game (in the infancy of its development) revolves around the main character Issac Clarke - an engineer tasked to fix a communications satellite on a deep space mining ship. According to EA, "it is not long before Isaac awakes to a living nightmare when he learns that the ship’s crew has been ravaged by a vicious alien infestation. He must fight through the dead silence and darkness of deep space to stay alive."

    There's no further details thus far, but executive producer Glen Schofield said: “This team has worked on some tremendous properties but we have always wanted to work on something that was darker and creepier. We are all such huge fans of the horror and sci-fi genres; we wanted to create the most terrifying game we could, and keep the player on the edge of his seat the entire time.”

    Space Zombies do sound pretty cool. Add to that the possibility of futuristic weapons and next-gen console graphics. I can almost hear the blood splatter.

    Deep Space has just begun its development with a speculative release date of late 2008.


    Intel aims its sights on AMD's 4x4, deflating those tires.

    5 comments J. Micah Grunert - Sep 21, 07 11:48am (PST) Like Share

    Does 4 cores and 4GHz wit dual PCI-e 16 slots sound tempting?

    Who comes up with these names anyways? Oh yeah, the marketing department.

    Well, the name Skulltrail does sound pretty tough and could take even more wind from the sails of AMD. As history will tell, Intel countered AMD's 4x4 back in January 2007 with something codenamed V8. That no holds barred platform was simply a suggestion then, but Skulltrail actually exists now.

    There's gotta be room for a fifth fan somewhere.

    So what pieces of hardware did the techs at Intel toss together to build this beast?

    • A pair of Harpertown Xeon server chips.
    • Dual Nvidia PCI-e chips for true and functional 16x by 16x graphics at PCI-e 2.0 speeds.
    • Future plans for 4 PCI-e graphic slots
    • Just 4 FBD (Fully Buffered DIMM's) instead of 16.
    • A butt load of cooling.

    Will 4 cores each running at 3.40GHz be able to handle Crysis? Only if Intel picked the right graphics card(s), amongst other things.

    • A modified Seaburg/Stoakley server board.
    • Dual 8800GTXs graphics.
    • 2 x 2GB sticks of Micron FBD-800 DDR2 memory.
    • 1600MHz system bus speed.

    It's nice, but a few things are a miss. First of all, no one in their right mind is going to pay twice as much for half the speed of buffered (registered) memory. The unbuffered (unregistered) memory is way cheaper and way, way faster. Buffered only belongs in servers. The 1600MHz FSB is to die for, but it is simple another sign that Intel hacked an off the shelf server board to build the 4.0GHz Skulltrail.

    4 Gigahertz sounds a lot tougher than 4000 Megahertz.

    As for the figures; Cinebench scored a familiar 21521 CB-CPU points, just like in this video.


    So some guys at Intel built something truley awesome, so awsome even the most die hard gamer will never see it in the flesh.

    Categories: CPU
    (total 83 articles found)