Friday, December 31, 2010

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Russian government will transition its computer infrastructure from Microsoft Windows to the Linux

Image representing Windows as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase
The Russian government will transition its computer infrastructure from Microsoft Windows to the Linux open-source operating by 2015, according to an order signed by the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
According to a Dec. 27 article in the Russian-language CNews, translated with Google Translate, the shift to Linux is set to begin in the second quarter of 2012. The 17-page order, called a “transition plan of the federal authorities and federal budgetary institutions on the use of free software,” outlines what government agencies have to do between 2011 and 2015 to comply.
The order affects a wide range of agencies and other bodies directly controlled by the federal government. It is up to the individual agency to determine appropriate data formats that is supported by free software by the third quarter of 2011, according to the paper.
The transition order provides a timetable for the “complete transition of the federal government and state employees” to free software, the deputy head of the Ministry of Communications Ilya Massuh told CNews.
Open source software pilot programs are scheduled to begin in second quarter 2012 and general rollout to government and fiscal institutions should be completed by the third quarter 2014, according to the order.
Open-source software has been gaining a lot of traction in governments around the world for a number of years, such as when agencies in the United Kingdom and Japan decided to include Linux desktop on its list of approved software. In the United States, a recent IDC report found that various federal government agencies were increasingly using open-source software stacks in the data center. The White House made waves when it announced that the White House Web site was developed using open-source content management system Drupal.
The state of Massachusetts revamped its systems in 2007 to require all documents use open-formats such as PDF or OpenDocument instead of proprietary ones, such Microsoft Office document formats. The state also increased the use of Linux as well as free and open source software among state employees.
The Russian order also lays the groundwork for a national repository for open-source applications similar to Apple’s App Store, which must be created by the second quarter of 2012. This is not a repository for Linux distribution, but for applications that can be used on free operating systems, said Massuh. The creator of the repository will be selected “by a government decree” or competitively, according to CNews.
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Thursday, December 30, 2010

The state of Minnesota sued 3M Co on Thursday

The state of Minnesota sued 3M Co on Thursday, saying that the company contaminated the state's waters for decades with chemicals used in some of its best known products, including Scotchgard stain repellent.
The lawsuit, filed by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, seeks unspecified damages from 3M.
The company did not respond to a request for a comment.
According to the complaint, filed in state court, St. Paul-based 3M polluted public and private wells in the state for years by pumping the PFCs, or perfluorochemicals, it uses to make fire retardants, paints, stain repellents and other products into waters flowing into the Mississippi River and by burying the chemicals underground.
3M manufactured PFCs in the state from the 1950s through 2002. It stopped making them following negotiations with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which says the chemicals pose serious risks to human health and the environment.
In 2007, the company signed a consent decree with the state's pollution control agency and agreed to remediate a number of sites in Minnesota. The Minnesota cities most affected by the releases, according to the complaint, include Cottage Grove, Oakdale, Woodbury and Lake Elmo.
3M, best known for its Post-it Notes and Scotch tape, has been engaged in settlement talks with the state to pay damages for the contamination for some time.
In 2007, the company agreed to temporarily halt the statute of limitations clock on any damage claims while those negotiations continued. That agreement expired on Thursday without any progress on a final settlement, so the state sued.
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new Android trojan named Geinimi

Android MarketImage via WikipediaAn advanced new Android trojan named Geinimi has been found in the wild, mobile security firm Lookout reports.
The trojan is possibly the most sophisticated piece of Android() malware so far, with the ability to steal your personal data and send it to a remote computer, as well as take commands from a remote server, which would effectively turn your Android device into a zombie inside of a botnet.
The detailed description of everything Geinimi can do sounds scary: it can send your location, device identifiers (IMEI and IMSI) and list of installed apps to someone. It can also download an app and prompt the user to install it.
The real threat to end users isn’t very big, however. You can install Geinimi on your Android device only if you install an infected app, and Lookout reports it only saw those in third-party Chinese app stores. Most users download apps from the official Android market, which is a much safer option; if you must install an app from a third-party store, make sure it’s safe before you do.
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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Paul Allen relaunched a wide-ranging patent lawsuit against Apple Inc.

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT-Q28.050.040.14%) co-founder Paul Allen relaunched a wide-ranging patent lawsuit against Apple Inc. (AAPL-Q325.580.110.03%), Google Inc. (GOOG-Q601.112.190.37%), Facebook and others with specific allegations that the companies are illegally using technology owned by his firm.
Interval Licensing LLC, a small research company set up by Mr. Allen in 1992, originally filed a broad patent suit in federal court in Seattle in August, but Judge Marsha Pechman dismissed it on the grounds that it did not specify any actual products or devices. The revised suit was filed by Interval Tuesday.

Mr. Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975, claims Interval was central to research and development of technology in the Internet arena in the 1990s, amassing more than 300 patents and providing research assistance to Google.

In the suit, Mr. Allen’s firm claims four of its patents – chiefly related to the way Web data is sorted and presented – have been infringed by a number of successful companies.
The first patent concerns the generation of data related to information being browsed. Interval claims Google uses this technology to match advertisements from third parties to content being displayed, while AOL’s sites use it to suggest items related to news stories.
Interval claims Apple’s iTunes service uses the technology to suggest music based on a user’s searches, and that eBay Inc., Facebook, Netflix, Yahoo Inc. and Office Depot’s sites have also infringed the patent in the way they direct users to related content.
The second and third patents concern relaying information on a computer screen in a peripheral, unobtrusive manner, such as in an instant messaging box or overlay.
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The cloud computing division of i-Technosoft announced its service availability for SharePoint 2010

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Just before Christmas, FCC Commissioners thumbed their noses at the courts

Just before Christmas, FCC Commissioners thumbed their noses at the courts and bypassed the legislative process to implement something called "net neutrality".
But a poll released by Rasmussen Tuesday shows that a solid majority of voters do not approve of the move and believe the new rules will be used to push a political agenda.
54 percent of voters surveyed are opposed to the rules, while 21 percent want more regulation.  25 percent were uncertain.
The split was largely partisan, with Republicans opposing the move and a plurality of Democrats supporting it.
As usual, the "Political Class" holds the opposite view of most voters.  Rasmussen reported:
Most Mainstream voters see free market competition as the best way to protect Internet users, but most in the Political Class prefer more regulation. Seventy-eight percent (78%) in the Political Class  believe the regulations would be handled in an unbiased manner, while 72% of Mainstream voters believe they would be used to promote a political agenda.
Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell blasted the move saying, "The FCC is not Congress. We cannot make laws."
But that is exactly what the FCC did when it usurped its authority to regulate the Internet.
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Monday, December 27, 2010

Is Skype video calling for the Apple iPhone 4 and iPad coming?

Image representing Skype as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBaseIs Skype video calling for the Apple iPhone 4 and iPad coming?
Engadget is reporting that early on Dec. 24, there was a help document on the Skype site detailing how to place video calls using Skype for iPhone.
"You’ll just have to trust us, it was there! We swear!," wrote the tech site in an update, noting that the document had since been removed.
TiPb also got a look at the document, which reportedly said that video calls, via WiFi or a 3G connection, will be possible with the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, third and fourth generation iPod touch and the iPad. However, these iPad devices have to run iOS 4.0 or above and users need Skype for iPhone 3.0 or above, the document stated, according to the blog.
Was iPhone support the only document that was removed? "We don't know whether there's a corresponding document out there for Android, Symbian, or other operating systems, but we're certainly hoping so," wrote Engadget, "because if these guys come to the table at once with versions for all the major phone platforms, we've got a feeling they'll be dominating the mobile-to-mobile and mobile-to-PC video calling market in no time."
Furthering the likelihood that Skype is about to offer the capability is the company’s slated participation in a panel at Januarys Consumer Electronics Show (CES) titled Video Calling Gets Ready for Primetime.
According to an October report from the Pew Research Centers Internet & American Project, mobile video calling is poised to take off in 2012.
"Video calling has become increasingly available as camcorders have spread through the online environment, cameras have been built into smartphones, and as video-chat services like Skype, Google Talk and Apple iChat have become a feature of the online and smartphone environment," Pew stated, adding that teleconferencing is also becoming a staple in businesses.
In July, Skype released an updated VOIP (voice over IP) application for iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS handsets running iOS 4, enabling the phones to exchange calls and instant messages with other Skype users. It additionally offered the ability to place covers over AT&Ts 3G network, in addition to WiFi.
Skype competitor Fring also offered a new app in July, though this one allowed iPhone 4 owners to place two-way video calls over WiFi or 3G, and even to friends with phones running the Android or Symbian operating systems. Skype responded by threatening Fring with legal action.
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KA-SAT is a new generation of multi-spotbeam satellite


Eutelsat's KA-SAT satellite artist view (launc...
Image via Wikipedia
 The KA-SAT satellite of Eutelsat Communications was successfully lofted into orbit by a Proton Breeze M rocket supplied by International Launch Services (ILS). Built for Eutelsat by Astrium using the Eurostar E3000 platform, the KA-SAT is a new generation of multi-spotbeam satellite. Its concept is based on a payload with 82 narrow spotbeams connected to 10 ground stations.
 This configuration enables frequencies to be reused 20 times and takes total throughput beyond 70 Gbps (gigabytes per second). The company said the combination of KA-SAT's capacity and ViaSat's SurfBeam technology will make it possible to deliver Internet connectivity for more than one million homes, at speeds comparable to ADSL.
 The ground network will use ViaSat's SurfBeam technology, similar to the solution already powering broadband connectivity for almost 450,000 satellite homes in North America. Lift-off of the 6.1 ton satellite took place on the evening of Dec. 26 after a 9-hour 12-minute flight, the launcher released KA-SAT into geosynchronous transfer orbit. “Acquisition of the satellite's telemetry signal by Eutelsat's control center at the Rambouillet teleport, and the partial deployment of the solar arrays have already been successfully completed,” a company statement said.
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Sunday, December 26, 2010

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Bing has several updates socially

Image representing Bing as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase
Microsoft Dec. 15 announced several updates to its Bing search engine, including improvements to its user experience, local and mobile capabilities.
Google has made great strides in these areas, too. The leading search engine launched its Google Places local business search in April, overhauled its search user interface, and applied its Google Instant predictive search technology to mobile phones in November.
For all of that innovative firepower, Bing also cranked out a couple upgrades in an area where Google has been woefully lacking: social.
Microsoft recently began indexing Facebook user profiles to surface contacts that are relevant to the searcher. The company also added Liked Results, displaying the Websites and links "liked" by a Facebook user's friends.
So if a user searches for a coffee shop in Manhattan and one of their Facebook friends has recommended a certain Starbucks, that location will show up in Bing's search results.
This was a firm validation of Bing by long-time partner Facebook, the definitive social network around the globe. At the Dec. 15 search event, Bing said it was bringing this Liked Results feature to more sites.
Now if Bing search results include a specific link that has also been "liked" by someone in a searcher's Facebook network the link will be highlighted as "Liked" within Bing."
Bing also more quietly revealed that the Happy Island social game is now available on Bing Games, allowing users to play with their friends by connecting the game directly to their Facebook page.
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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Acer Aspire One 522



Computer makers are always coming out with new models with each one offering a slightly different hardware configuration from another model. On one hand, this gives the consumer a lot of choice, but on the other hand, for the average consumer, it can be kind of hard to sift through all the different options that are available.

Acer has to be one of the more popular hardware providers available and like the others, they to are busy introducing new models at regular intervals. One of their latest additions is the Aspire One 522 which may be considered a replacement for the earlier Acer One D255.

What’s new on their 522 is a 10.1-inch 720p HD display screen which has a pixel resolution of 1280×720 with a 1GHz AMD C-50 Ontario APU. For data ports, the 522 offers up an HDMI port, a VGA output, three USB 2.0 data ports and there is also an integrated webcam that can be utilized with an online video chat service.

For network connectivity, you’re looking at Bluetooth support as well as 802.11 b/g/n WiFi for wireless network connections. Acer has launched their product in Thailand where it comes out of the box with 2GB RAM and a 500GB HD. Microsoft’s Windows 7 Starter is the operating system that has been pre-installed on the device which comes with a base price of $425.
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Google is asking its Google TV hardware partners to postpone shipping


Image representing Google TV as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase
Logitech has told Taiwan's Gigabyte Technology to freeze shipments of the Logitech Revue companion boxes that power Google TV from December through January, according to Digitimes.
The publication said Logitech made the request to allow Google to finish upgrading the Android-based Google TV software, which felt unfinished to many reviewers. Logitech declined to confirm the report for CNet when asked to verify its validity.
If true, it marks the second piece of evidence that Google is asking its Google TV hardware partners to postpone shipping new appliances so the search engine can improve the product.
Google allegedly asked TV set makers such as Toshiba, LG and Sharp to refrain from launching Google TV sets at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show next month so that it can boost the software.
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Friday, December 24, 2010

A configuration error recently exposed corporate data belonging to customers of Microsoft’s cloud-based

A configuration error recently exposed corporate data belonging to customers of Microsoft’s cloud-based Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).
BPOS is a set of messaging and collaboration tools that includes Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online, Microsoft Office Communications Online and Office Live Meeting. According to the company, the configuration issue exposed information in customers’ Offline Address Books, a feature in Exchange that permits Outlook users to access copies of e-mail addresses when users are not connected to Exchange.
Microsoft confirmed the breach in a statement, and said the problem was fixed within two hours of discovery. The company did not say exactly how long the error existed, but stated that only a limited number of improper downloads took place. According to Clint Patterson, Microsoft's director of BPOS Communications, the issue only affected Business Productivity Online Suite–Standard customers; no other Microsoft Online Services were impacted.
“Our records indicate that a very small number of downloads actually occurred, and we are working with those few customers to remove the files,” he said in a statement. “This issue applied to Offline Address Book information only, and no other information was affected. Offline Address Book contains an organization’s business contact information for employees. It does not contain Outlook personal contacts, e-mail, documents or other types of information.”
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Skype said it would issue refunds


Skype Technologies S.A. logo
Image via Wikipedia
Facing the wrath of its customer base following a massive service outage earlier this week, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) provider Skype said it would issue refunds to those unable to make calls during the 30-hour shut down. Skype CEO Tony Bates issued a statement on the company’s blog, apologizing for the service outage and promising compensation. Bates also issued an update on the outage, claiming the company has been able to successfully stabilize Skype due to the “dedicated supernodes deployed by Skype's engineering team.” The service is now at roughly 90 percent of normal user volumes, Bates said.
He said audio, video and IM are running normally, though a couple of the company’s other offerings, including offline IM and Group Video Calling, are not available yet. “We are working hard to restore them in due course,” he wrote. “We now understand the cause of the problem and we believe it was not caused by a malicious attack. But, we are still doing a full analysis and we will provide an in-depth post-mortem.”
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Thursday, December 23, 2010

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Skype outage continues


Image representing Skype as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase
Skype suffered a serious server outage Dec. 22 that left swaths of its 560 million or so worldwide users without PC-calling capabilities for most of the day.
Skype—the VOIP service that many use to make free or low-cost long-distance calls from their PCs and phones—began going down for users around 11 a.m. EST, according to ReadWriteWeb.
Twitter was lit up with complaints from users unable to access the service. Skype, itself,  addressed the problem around 2 p.m. EST in its blog and on its official Twitter account.
Skype's Head Blogger, Peter Parkes, said that after it noticed that the number of users online fell, it found that its "supernodes" had failed. Supernodes are clusters of computer servers linked by peer-to-peer networking software.
"Under normal circumstances, there are a large number of supernodes available," Parkes said. "Unfortunately, today, many of them were taken offline by a problem affecting some versions of Skype."
Skype employs millions of connections between supernodes, which are virtual phone directories, and phones. When a user clicks to place a call on Skype and the app can't locate a user's computer or phone, it will attempt to ping a supernode to connect the call.
With supernodes failing, millions of people were unable to make calls. Skype built new "mega-supernodes," which are presumably more powerful computers.
As of  3:30 p.m. EST Wednesday, Parkes tweeted on Twitter: "Skype is now gradually returning to normal—we expect it may take several hours for everyone to be able to sign in again, however."
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Federal Communication Commission rule approved Dec. 21 on a 3-2 party line vote imposing limited network neutrality

The new Federal Communication Commission rule approved Dec. 21 on a 3-2 party line vote imposing limited network neutrality on Internet service providers dissatisfied even its supporters and is likely to be nullified by lawsuits and congressional action before it has a chance to take practical effect.
 However, its strongest supporter, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, released a statement after the vote explaining the Commission's actions in adopting the new rule. Notably, he started with a quote from Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, who said "The Web as we know it [is] being threatened." 
Genachowski then went on to explain why he believes the newly approved rule adopting net neutrality regulations is basically a good thing. Genachowski's statement said that Internet users have the right to know the terms regulating their Internet access and how their network is being managed. He also said that customers have the right to send and receive lawful traffic without hindrance by Internet providers. He said that the FCC is not approving any sort of pay for priority discrimination.
Genachowski contends that broadband providers have the right to manage their networks to deal with congestion, and he said that the open Internet also applies to wireless networks, saying that wireless providers may not block some Websites or competitive applications.
 Genachowski also noted that he is forming an Open Internet Advisory Committee that will assist the Commission in monitoring the state of openness and the effects of the rules. In addition, he said the FCC is launching an Open Internet Apps Challenge that will encourage developers to build applications that will let consumers find out information about their broadband connections.
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Amazon.com could sell more than 8 million Kindle e-readers

Amazon.com could sell more than 8 million Kindle e-readers in 2010, according to a new report from Bloomberg. That would outpace earlier estimates that placed device sales in the 5-million range.
Amazon has traditionally been reluctant to share sales figures for the device, which it touts as one of the bestselling items on its Website. The Kindle is widely credited with sparking off the growing trend in e-readers, although it now competes with not only offerings from Sony and Barnes & Noble, but also the Apple iPad, which includes an e-reader application.
Bloomberg’s Dec. 21 article also quotes from a survey of analysts predicting that Amazon would sell 5 million Kindles in 2010. Unnamed sources “aware of the company’s sales projects” apparently provided that 8-million-unit figure.
If that number proves accurate, it would greatly outpace recent predictions from research firm Gartner, which pegged worldwide e-reader sales at 6.6 million units in 2010, a 79.8 percent increase from 2009. The firm also suggested that e-reader sales will rise another 68.3 percent in 2011, to more than 11 million units.
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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Oilsands panel recommends critical fixes

Oilsands panel recommends critical fixes


Oilsands panel recommends critical fixes
A high-level scientific panel has sharply criticized the water quality monitoring system in Alberta's oilsands, going so far as to say “there is no system.”
The Oilsands Advisory Panel, appointed by former federal environment minister Jim Prentice, made its findings public in Ottawa on Tuesday in a joint news conference with current Environment Minister John Baird, who promised to act on the panel’s recommendations.
The panel’s chair, Elizabeth Dowdeswell, was critical of a piecemeal approach to water quality monitoring, saying the system is fragmented with no links between data on water quality — including ground water — and air quality.
She also said there is no reliable longitudinal data that would give a solid understanding of the environmental impact of the oilsands.
“There is no holistic and comprehensive system. There is no system,” said Dowdeswell, president of the Council of Canadian Academies and former executive director of the United Nations Environment Program.
“The panel was unanimous: Do we have a world class monitoring system in place? In short, no. However, we could have,” she said.
The panel underlined a critical need for a new governance structure including an inter-jurisdictional steering committee, an external scientific advisory committee and sufficient resources to follow through.
Dowdeswell did not cast blame. “It’s not that anybody has had any particular ill will,” she said. Rather, the present regime of water quality monitoring has just grown up as a very piecemeal system.
Response to criticism
She was one of six experts appointed to the panel in September and given a mandate by the federal government to review water data in the oilsands and make recommendations on the monitoring system.
The other panel members were Peter Dillon of Trent University, McGill University's Subhasis Ghoshal, Andrew Miall from the University of Toronto, Joseph Rasmussen of the University of Lethbridge and Queen's University's John Smol.
Prentice convened the panel in response to criticism about water monitoring in the Athabasca watershed in northern Alberta. In particular, a peer-reviewed study published by University of Alberta water scientist David Schindler found elevated levels of cadmium, mercury, lead and other toxic elements in the Athabasca River.
This contradicted provincial government and industry scientists who claimed the toxins were naturally occurring.
Despite previous federal claims that the oilsands are properly monitored, Baird said on Tuesday that his government accepts the panel’s findings and will act on them.
"For far too long, we have heard concerns about quality of water downstream from the oilsands," he said
'Ready to act'
"We've heard the panel loud and clear and are ready to act…. We accept this responsibility and will ensure our monitoring systems are properly and securely in place,” said Baird.
The minister said he has already directed senior officials to create a water quality monitoring plan in co-operation with the provincial government within 90 days. Once that is complete, he said the government will ask for scientific input to assess the plan, after which it will be implemented. He said monitoring data will be made public at no charge.
The government plans to use same process to examine air quality and biodiversity in the oilsands region, Baird said.
On Monday, Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner said his province is changing how it monitors water in the oilsands. He announced that a group of independent experts will gather in January and report to the province in June on how to best set up an environmental monitoring system.
He said the expert group will guide the province on how to implement recommendations from both the federal and provincial panels.
In September, Alberta announced its own panel of independent scientists to review the oilsands water quality monitoring system. It is due to finish its report in February.
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Ontario won't stop double-ending

Ontario moves to tighten rules around real estate agents 'double-ending,' but won't ban the practice If legislation is pa...