Thursday, March 31, 2011

Republicans are renewing efforts to drill for oil and gas in a fiercely contested Alaskan wildlife refuge


Lower Coleen River, Arctic National Wildlife R...
Image via Wikipedia
Not yet a year after the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, Republicans are renewing efforts to drill for oil and gas in a fiercely contested Alaskan wildlife refuge.
Moving one day after President Barack Obama's unveiled a plan to cut U.S. oil imports by a third over 10 years, Republicans will unveil a bill to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The bill would also force the Interior Department to hold lease sales for offshore areas, a Republican aide said.
The Republican bill faces an uphill battle for passage with Democrats in control of the Senate and White House, but could open a bargaining process in the first attempt at a broad energy bill since the failure of climate change legislation effort last year.
Issues such as opening the arctic refuge and restricting EPA regulation of carbon dioxide provoke intense opposition from many Democrats.
Sponsored by around 30 lawmakers, including Senators David Vitter and Jim DeMint, the legislation would also amend the Clean Air Act so that carbon dioxide could not be regulated as a pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency.
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the winner for Google's ultra-high-speed broadband pageant is... Kansas City.


Official seal of Kansas City
Image via Wikipedia
And the winner for Google's ultra-high-speed broadband pageant is... Kansas City.
Google March 30 said Kansas City beat out almost 1,100 cities clamoring to be the guinea pig for Google's proposed broadband test, which will bring Internet access speeds of 1G bps to thousands of homes in the city.
The search engine inked a development agreement with the city to build broadband networks that shuttle data more than 100 times faster than most residential broadband connections. Assuming everything checks out with Kansas City's board of commissioners, Google will switch on the service in 2012.
Google in Feb 2010 announced its plan to construct speedy fiber networks, ostensibly to boost application consumption.
Faster Internet connections open new opportunities for programmers to write gaming applications and other graphically intensive programs. Google's own YouTube video-sharing service would benefit greatly from speedier data facilitation, generating more video views and more ads served.
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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

AT&T Atrix 4G owners have been claiming that upload speeds have been throttled


Southwestern Bell payphone with new AT&T signage
Image via Wikipedia

AT&T Atrix 4G owners have been claiming that upload speeds have been throttled to a measly 300 kbps since the phone has been shipping. AT&T initially claimed it was looking into the problem, then later backpedaled and stated that it was testing the 4G network to make sure it was working properly when it was turned on. Funny the ads didn’t mention it wasn’t enabled yet. Representatives from the carrier have now stated that the two 4G-capable handsets it sells, the Atrix 4G and Inspire 4G, will get software updates in April enabling the faster speeds that are expected on HSUPA phones.
The company hasn’t issued an official statement yet, but the above admission appeared today on its Facebook page. The statement that the upcoming Samsung Infuse 4G will ship with HSUPA enabled implies that it is intentionally not enabled in the two phones being sold by AT&T, as owners have been stating.
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China to scrap 34 bank service fees from 1 July

CHENGDU, CHINA - JANUARY 7:  A person counts y...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeChina to scrap 34 bank service fees from 1 July
The China Banking Regulatory Commission, the People’s Bank of China and the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) recently issued in their joint names a circular on banks and financial institutions scrapping some of their service fees. According to the NDRC, the circular asked all banks and financial institutions to further assume social responsibilities while adhering to market forces in charging fees for their services. Effective 1 July this year, 34 service fees of 11 categories will be scrapped for RMB personal accounts in line with this policy.In order to ensure the rights of members of the public to enjoy basic financial services, financial institutions are asked to waive handling charges for opening and closing personal savings accounts and personal bank settlement accounts, handling charges for intra-city deposit, withdrawal and transfer at the same bank (except credit card accounts), bankbook cost for opening or closing an account and the cost for replacing bankbooks, handling charges for changing or resetting password, and charges for domestic enquiry service.
Fully taking into consideration people’s need for basic financial services, the banking regulators decided to waive the annual fees and account management fees (including petty account administrative fees) for salary accounts, pension accounts, subsistence allowance accounts, medical insurance accounts, unemployment insurance accounts and housing provident fund accounts that have been opened by agreement. Inter-bank transfer fees, electronic transfer fees, postage and telegram charges for donations to special relief accounts as well as charges for providing paper or electronic account statements over a given period, will also be waived.
Banks and financial institutions are required to conscientiously fulfil their obligations to inform customers of the fees they charge so as to protect consumers’ right to know and to choose. They shall not impose charges for short message services on customers without separate authorisation from customers in writing or through telephone recording of customer service centres or in the form of electronic signature. For charges collected on behalf of relevant government departments or institutions, they shall clearly inform their customers of the relevant matters and respect the customers’ right to choose the relevant services.
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Movie rental company Netflix Inc has made adjustments to its Canadian video streaming service


Image representing Netflix as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase
Movie rental company Netflix Inc has made adjustments to its Canadian video streaming service to cut down on the amount of data it uses in a country where Internet usage is typically metered.
Netflix said its streaming service in Canada will now use two-thirds less data on average, with only a minimal impact to video quality.
Thirty hours of streaming films or television would typically use 31 gigabytes of data; it would now use only 9 gigabytes, Netflix said in an email sent to customers on Monday.
Netflix noted that this would fall well below the data caps of most Canadian Internet service providers. Canadian Internet providers typically sell monthly Internet packages allowing between 20 and 60 gigabytes.
On Monday, one of the biggest providers, BCE Inc, dropped its plan to pass on usage-based billing to its wholesale customers, which often sell unlimited packages.
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Cisco's TelePresence, the first high-definition virtual meeting system

Image representing Cisco as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBaseCisco's TelePresence, the first high-definition virtual meeting system to transmit full-size, high-quality video images capable of conveying body language and excellent sound quality, has been moving right along on the market pathway since its introduction in 2006.
As an alternative to increasingly expensive personal travel, the idea resonated immediately in large enterprises around the world, with hundreds of systems being sold in the first year. At first, it was deployed only in specially designed and equipped teleconference rooms within enterprises—mostly larger ones that had both the extra space and financial bandwidth to handle it.
Later, Cisco started marketing scaled-down versions for smaller businesses and even home office use. Those, too, have gained attention as useful business tools. But the fact remains that they are a major capital expense.
Now another major step has taken place: TelePresence can now be utilized as a cloud service. Finally, the ability to virtually "sit across the table" with someone on another continent and talk business face-to-virtual face is coming within the reach of moderate-budget organizations.
Now Available as an On-Demand Service
IT integrator and cloud service provider CSC on March 28 launched its TelePresence as a Service offering, an end-to-end managed videoconferencing package that serves up TelePresence's product suite without the need for users to purchase any equipment. Cameras, lighting and all the connecting software come as part of the service in a rental-type arrangement.
"CSC's TaaS provides TelePresence packages at fixed monthly costs, and has the capability to integrate disparate technology platforms into one, simplified user interface," Nimesh Shah, CSC's Global Portfolio Executive for Managed Network Services.
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Monday, March 28, 2011

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T-Mobile customers do not appear to be happy about the company’s proposed sale to AT&T

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 08: A T-Mobile sho...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeT-Mobile customers do not appear to be happy about the company’s proposed sale to AT&T. In statements to me here at eWEEK, and elsewhere on the Internet, the last company that these people want to see handling their wireless service is the struggling and much-maligned AT&T.
Many of those people suggest that their only refuge in the coming storm is Verizon Wireless, which seems to offer an island of peace and stability as well as a network with broad reach and excellent coverage.
In fact, many of the T-Mobile customers I’ve been hearing from point out, some stridently, that they went to T-Mobile specifically to get away from AT&T. The reasons they mention are many, but the primary reasons are poor signal coverage and quality along with really lousy customer service. In a recent article in Consumers Reports, AT&T was rated dead last in the U.S. for customer service, while T-Mobile finished much better.
Unfortunately for many of these outraged T-Mobile customers, there isn’t a choice. It may be that they have a two-year contract that will need to be fulfilled and that means that it’ll be fulfilled with AT&T if this merger goes through. Others need a GSM phone because of their travel or in a few cases (me included) the only carrier that serves their area is T-Mobile.
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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Red Hat delivered a strong fourth quarter

Image representing Red Hat as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase
Red Hat delivered a strong fourth quarter and is on track to be the first pure play open source company to hit $1 billion in annual revenue.
The open source software provider reported fourth quarter net income of $33.5 million, or 17 cents a share. Non-GAAP earnings were 26 cents a share for the fourth quarter was $244.8 million, up 25 percent from a year ago. Red Hat’s earnings were boosted by 2 cents a share due to a research and development tax credit. Wall Street was expecting earnings of 22 cents a share on sales of $236 million.
For the year ended Feb. 28, 2011, Red Hat reported net income of $107.3 million, or 55 cents a share, on revenue of $909.3 million, up 22 percent from a year ago.
That revenue tally makes Red Hat a lock to break through the $1 billion sales total in the year ahead. Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat, said the company’s run rate is approaching $1 billion in revenue. Whitehurst added that Red Hat is gaining from data center upgrades, virtualization software and JBoss middleware.
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The general manager of a battery plant in eastern China faces environmental pollution charges

Lead warning on a gas pump at Keeler's Korner,...Image via WikipediaThe general manager of a battery plant in eastern China faces environmental pollution charges after lead emissions from the plant poisoned nearly 170 villagers, including 53 children, state news agency Xinhua reported on Sunday.
Ying Jianguo, manager at the Taizhou Suqi Storage Battery Co. Ltd in Zhejiang province, was detained on Friday, said Pan Fangdi, a local official.
He added that three government officials, including the deputy chief of the district's environmental protection office, were suspended for failing to supervise the region properly.
In the latest of a string of heavy metal pollution cases in China, 168 villagers in the Shangtao village near Taizhou city were found to have elevated lead levels in their blood, Xinhua reported, citing local officials and a provincial health department statement.
Three of the adults had more than three times the safe limit for humans, the report added, although nobody was found to be suffering from severe lead poisoning.
"An inspection of the battery plant showed that lead readings in gas and water discharged from the plant exceeded the legal limit, which also resulted in excessive lead in the earth nearby," it quoted local environment official Jiang Xincai as saying.
Villagers are being advised to avoid eating food grown in the area as the lead had probably contaminated groundwater, Xinhua said.
The battery plant is located just meters away from the village and opened in 2005, it added.
Production has now been halted and will not be resumed until the pollution problem is fixed, Xinhua said.
In January state media reported that more than 200 children in another eastern province had been poisoned by lead from battery plants located too close to houses.
Lead poisoning often builds up slowly as a result of repeated exposure to small amounts of lead. It can damage various parts of the body, including the nervous and reproductive systems and the kidneys, and it can also cause high blood pressure and anemia.
Lead is especially harmful for young children as it can lead to learning difficulties and behavioral problems.
China's environment ministry has called for urgent measures to tackle heavy metal poisoning as cases of mass poisoning have aroused widespread public anger.
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Saturday, March 26, 2011

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New Asus Eee Pad Transformer

Asus March 25 unveiled the Eee Pad Transformer, a convertible tablet and the computer maker's first slate based on Google's Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" operating system.
The Eee Pad Transformer will compete with Motorola Mobility's Xoom and other Honeycomb tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 and 10.1, which will launch in June.ASUSEeePadTransformer 300x250 Asus eee Pad Transformer
Like the Xoom, the Transformer is powered by the Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor and has a 10.1-inch touchscreen with a 1280-by-800 resolution, 1GB of RAM and 32GB of storage.
However, Asus is touting as a difference maker the expandable QWERTY keyboard docking station, in which the tablet can be situated to allow consumers to access it as if it were a laptop.
The optional dock includes Android function buttons, but also boosts the Transformer's average 9.5 hours of battery life up to 16 hours. The idea is that users will be able to use the Eee Pad for work.
In concept if not in form factor, the Eee Pad and it's dock resemble the pairing of the Motorola Atrix 4G smartphone and Motorola Laptop Dock. When connected to the Laptop Dock, the Atrix 4G's content is ported to a larger computer display, and rendered accessible via a Webtop application and Mozilla Firefox browser.
The idea is that an Atrix 4G user can hook up to the dock to do work. The Eee Pad more or less does the same, but with a tablet latching on to a keyboard.
Asus also stresses the Eee Pad's qualifications as a machine for media consumption, including support for Adobe Flash Player 10.2.
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Friday, March 25, 2011

Small to midsize businesses that have embraced mobile devices generated 40 percent higher revenue growth

Small to midsize businesses that have embraced mobile devices generated 40 percent higher revenue growth over the last 12 months compared with those that did not, according to a report from IT research firm AMI-Partners. Until recently, smartphones and notebooks have been the primary tools to process information wirelessly, but tablets are quickly catching on.
Worldwide SMB tablet penetration, however, remains low, at about 3 percent, and tablets still have a long way to go before becoming a mainstream IT asset, the report noted.
AMI's research also indicated that as the mobile workforce trend continues, mobile devices, including tablet PCs, will play an integral part in supporting these employees.
"SMB tablet adoption has been highly fragmented across industries," Michael McDonald, senior associate of worldwide SMB sizing for AMI-Partners, said in a statement. "We see the strongest interest in professional services, health care, hospitality and the media businesses. The early adopters realize the intrinsic value in having a highly mobile device that enables users to immediately access data, process information and respond accordingly."
An additional AMI study has shown that firms with tablets use SAAS (software as a service) applications 20 percent more than those without. As a content consumption device, the use of productivity suites and document collaboration tools is especially high in tablet firms. Hosted document collaboration usage among tablet users is more than double that of nontablet SMBs, while hosted productivity suite use is nearly 50 percent higher.
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Apple will continue its robust growth for some time to come

Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBaseApple will continue its robust growth for some time to come, according to the CEO of research firm Forrester.
“They’ll be bigger than IBM next year, and they’ll be bigger than HP the year after that,” George Colony, who also founded the company, told Bloomberg. He predicted that Apple would eventually earn $200 billion in revenues, and post sales growth exceeding 50 percent through the next two years. Demand for the iPad and other Apple devices will fuel that expansion.
However, he also warned that a permanent departure by CEO Steve Jobs could darken Apple’s rosy picture: “Remember, every two years, they have to fill that store with new stuff … without Steve Jobs as the CEO, I think it will be much harder for them to do that.”
Apple continues to dominate the mindshare, if not the market, for many mobile devices such as tablets. While the company has not yet released official sales figures for its iPad 2’s first weekend of release, a selected number of analysts believe the company sold 500,000 to 600,000 units. In a March 8 research note, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster predicted that the iPad 2 would sell 1 million units faster than its first-generation predecessor, which took 28 days to reach that particular mark.
On March 14, the iPad’s first day of wide release, eWEEK toured three Apple stores in Manhattan and found similarly long lines at each. Across the country, Apple’s retail partners—including Best Buy, Walmart, Target, AT&T and Verizon—reported shortages and outright sellouts of the tablet.
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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Shaw cutting 500 jobs


Shaw Communications logo
Image via Wikipedia
Shaw Communications Inc. (SJR.B-T20.37-0.27-1.31%), the Calgary-based cable giant, is slashing more than 500 jobs across its operations as it tries to maintain its profit margins in the face of fierce competition -- from the VP level all the way down to a call centre in Saskatoon.
In an interview, Shaw president Peter Bissonnette said the cuts came as a part of an organizational and structural review started by Brad Shaw, who took control as chief executive officer after his older brother Jim Shaw stepped down.

“We’ve always been known to be a lean and mean machine, but with the rapid growth we’ve experienced, we brought on staff,” Mr. Bissonnette said. “As part of the overall review of the organizational structure, and looking at the impact of competition and the traditional margins that we and our shareholders like to enjoy, we had to initiate an organizational review.”

Shaw, which has delayed a planned launch of a wireless cellphone network until 2012, has seen fierce competition from Vancouver-based wireless giant Telus Corp. (T-T48.81-0.24-0.49%), which has been rolling out an Internet protocol-based TV (IPTV) product in recent years.
As a result, Shaw, traditionally dominant in the TV business in Western Canada, has begun to suffer losses in its core cable TV customer base. Some analysts say that Telus's IPTV product is superior to Shaw's current cable offering -- in terms of the technology and services, which includes an on-screen Facebook application -- and that it is no surprise Shaw is losing some basic cable subscribers.
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senators claim these apps are promoting drunk driving

There is a saying here in Washington that "no man's life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session." It was reputedly coined by Judge Gideon Tucker, who was commenting on the New York state legislature in the 1800s, and it was quickly picked up by Mark Twain.
That saying remains true, and I was recently reminded of this through a column by my friend John Dvorak over at our former sister publication, PC Magazine. Four senators—Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; Harry Reid, D-Nev.; Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.; and Tom Udall, D-N.M.—have written a letter to the primary makers of smartphones demanding that they remove applications from their respective online stores that alert people to where police are conducting checkpoints. The senators claim these apps are promoting drunk driving, since, they say, only drunk drivers would have a use for them.
This is, of course, total cra … er … hogwash. The process of telling citizens about government activity is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The fact that it's being performed by an app that passes along reports from citizens to other citizens is entirely beside the point. The fact that it's being used primarily to report police sobriety checkpoints is also beside the point. The bottom line is that this group of four senators is trying to compel limitations on protected speech.
This, of course, should be no surprise. Congress in general, and these senators in particular, have long done whatever they thought they might be able to get away with in their efforts to limit the rights of the citizens of the United States to keep tabs on what their government is doing. This is just one more example of trying to force a limit on the freedom of speech through coercion rather than legislation because they know that actually getting a law passed would only mean that it would be overturned in court.
But attempting to force these companies—Apple, Google and RIM—through nonlegislative means avoids a court challenge. It's also possible that these companies may feel they have no choice. After all, these companies sell their products to the federal government; they're licensed by the federal government; and the use of force by legislators to put pressure on companies that are breaking no laws is a common tactic by grandstanding senators.
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

LinkedIn reaches 100 million


Image representing Jeff Weiner as depicted in ...
Image via CrunchBase
LinkedIn won't be mistaken for Facebook anytime soon, but the professional social network crossed the 100 million member mark March 22 and is adding 1 million users per week.
LinkedIn launched in May 2003, which means it took almost eight years to hit the century mark in users. Contrast that with Facebook, which hit the 100 million member mark in August 2008, or four and a half years after it launched in February 2004. The leading social network now has more than 600 million users.
Facebook's counterpart for the workforce has expanded its offerings from helping users network and find jobs to helping recruiters groom new hires and entrepreneurs start new businesses.
While becoming a LinkedIn member is free, the company makes money from advertising, premium subscriptions and professional recruiting services.
Under CEO Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn filed for an initial public offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission in January. The company launched LinkedIn Today, which funnels relevant news users are sharing via LinkedIn and Twitter.
Now the company is celebrating the century mark, culling all sorts of factoids and stats about members and their profiles (anonymously, of course) via this infographic.
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    Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    The Apple iPad 2 will go on sale in 25 additional countries March 25,


    Image representing Steve Jobs as depicted in C...
    Image via CrunchBase
    The Apple iPad 2 will go on sale in 25 additional countries March 25, proving it takes more than hell and high water to slow down Apple.
    As the CTIA Wireless trade show got underway in Orlando March 22, the Cupertino, Calif., computer maker announced it will begin selling the iPad 2 in the additional locations at Apple retail stores and authorized resellers beginning 5 p.m. local time. Additionally, it will begin shipping its newest generation iPad to Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and additional countries in April.
    “While competitors are still struggling to catch up with our first iPad, we’ve changed the game again with iPad 2,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in a statement. “We’re experiencing amazing demand for iPad 2 in the U.S., and customers around the world have told us they can't wait to get their hands on it. We appreciate everyone’s patience and we are working hard to build enough iPads for everyone.”
    On March 2 Jobs introduced the device, which is 33 percent thinner than its predecessor, 15 percent lighter and noticeably quicker, thanks to Apple's dual-core A5 processor, the next generation of the A4 in the original iPad.
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    Sprint answered AT&T's proposed purchase of T-Mobile March 21 by unveiling the Samsung Nexus S 4G smartphone

    Image representing Sprint Nextel as depicted i...Image via CrunchBaseSprint answered AT&T's proposed purchase of T-Mobile March 21 by unveiling the Samsung Nexus S 4G smartphone and pledging to integrate Google Voice across all its phones.
    The aggressive plans come in the wake of AT&T's $39 billion offer to acquire T-Mobile, a deal that, if consummated, would easily make Sprint the smallest wireless carrier in the U.S. and jeopardize its ability to compete, versus AT&T and Verizon Wireless.
    The Nexus S 4G is more or less the same phone as the Samsung Nexus S Google launched last December, unlocked or paired with a T-Mobile contract for $179.99.
    Sprint plans to sell its Nexus S 4G for $199.99 with a two-year contract this spring from Sprint retailers and Best Buy stores in the United States.
    Like the Nexus S, Sprint's Nexus S 4G is powered by a 1GHz Samsung chip and runs Android 2.3, the latest Gingerbread build for smartphones, which offers NFC (near-field communication) capabilities for short-range wireless communications between sensors.
    Both devices offer a 4-inch contoured display (480 by 800 resolution), brightened by Samsung's Super AMOLED (active-matrix organic LED) touch-screen technology. The Nexus S 4G, like its predecessor, also sports a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera and front-facing VGA camera.
    The Nexus 4G also offers the familiar complement of Google mobile services, including Android Market access, Google Search, Gmail, Google Maps with Navigation, Google Calendar, Voice Actions and YouTube. Both handsets offer 16GB of internal memory and a 1,500mAh battery.
    Sprint also followed Google's approach with the original Nexus S by promising that Nexus S 4G owners will be among the first to enjoy Android software and Google mobile applications upgrades.
    This is a big deal considering that carriers have been known to drag their feet on platform version upgrades. For example, Sprint will start rolling out Android 2.2 on its Samsung Epic 4G this week, some 10 months after Google unveiled Froyo at Google I/O last May.
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