Archive for March, 2008
I finally got a webcam! I have to say that I really like it too. I probably paid a little bit too much for it (Even though I got it from NewEgg and saved nearly $50 because it was on sale), with how little I use it… but I like it anyways. It’s good for conferences that I need to do with work, I’m on a big kick with social networking sites so I get to use it occasionally meeting a new person, and I figured if Credal and I decide to start up a podcast, or some sort of more frequent video shooting I’d be able to use it for that too. If we do start up some sort of PodCast then I didn’t spend too much on it, other than that… yeah, it’s a little overkill. But hey, with it on sale it was only like $5 more than the equivelent 1.3MP Logitech WebCam so why not spend the couple of extra dollars and get the good stuff?
At this point I’d usually show it off and show you guys how the images look with it and everything… uh… just take my advice that it’s good! Really good… Maybe later I’ll post a video from it, and some pictures, but right now I just don’t want to put anything more than my boxers on (Yeah, the problem with working from home is that I get the luxury of sitting around in my boxers all day long and I really like it, hate to get dressed for anything).
NBC-Universal and Fox’s joint venture video site launches today
Online video streaming site Hulu.com officially opened its virtual doors today. A joint venture between NBC-Universal and Fox, Hulu has $100 million in venture capital funding under its belt and partnerships with over 40 content providers.
Hulu features a slick, clean interface that is direct and to-the-point. The website isn’t cluttered with many advertisements and its (so far) easy to find movies or TV shows. Load times for videos are also speedy and quality is impressive.
As can be expected, content is the key factor that will determine Hulu’s success, and the site has plenty of it. According to Hulu, the company has created partnerships with numerous big names including Sony, Warner Brothers, NBC Universal, Fox and MGM.
Hulu allows users to stream full-length TV shows such as The Simpsons or The Office, along with full-length movies such as X2: X-Men United or The 40-Year-Old Virgin. In total, Hulu says it offers over 100 feature-length films for free. Although the movie catalog might not be as large as a Blockbuster’s, it’s free and a decent start.
To add to its appeal, Hulu also gives the option to search for content that isn’t directly hosted on the service. For example, Hulu currently doesn’t have a partnership to stream CW’s hit TV show Smallville. However, searching for the show via the site’s search function yields links to the CWTV Smallville website, which features full-length Smallville episodes.
At the moment Hulu doesn’t permit users to download videos to their hard drives.
Advertisements on Hulu aren’t very intrusive. In-video ads feature a short pre-rolled advertisement and a limited amount of interrupting commercials. In DailyTech’s testing of the service, most advertisements didn’t exceed the length of 15 seconds, and also didn’t occur very often. In addition, small pop-up flash advertisements are also occasionally displayed in shorter video clips.
Prior to its launch, Hulu spent 18 months in private beta testing. The service cost over $15 million to develop.
Reports claim the U.S. and Chinese armed forces have begun to wage an escalating, silent war on the internet
Surveillance and subterfuge are timeless traditions. In ancient Japan, daimyo ninjas carried out dangerous spy missions to the highest bidder. Their surveillance missions and assasinations created fear and chaos within their enemies.
More recently in the days of the Cold War, espionage expanded to an unprecedented scale as the CIA and Britain’s MI6 waged silent war against the Soviet Union’s KGB agents. Telephoto cameras, spy planes and phone bugs were the most high-tech tools employed for monitoring.
Today a new war of intelligence has begun, this time online. China, the world’s most populus nation, began to exert its digital will. The U.S. military reported numerous successful attacks on Defense Department computers originating from China. While the U.S. military has not put it in these exact words, it indicates that the U.S. is on the verge of entering into a digital war with the Chinese government, much akin to the war of surveillance which occurred against Russia during the Cold War era.
The Defense department reported multiple attacks over the course of the last year. Among them was a successful June 2007 system penetration which shutdown Homeland Security networks and potentially compromised sensitive data. The Department of Homeland security traced the attacks back to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and blamed the breach on lax security standards at the government contractor Unisys. Unisys was not alone though — in Fall 2006 hackers gained access to the Naval War College’s computer network and temporarily crippled it. And also in June of last year, another attack gained access to the unclassified Pentagon email system used by the offices of Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The email system had to be taken offline and reworked.
Some of these attacks likely were launched by China’s burgeoning free lance hacker community. CNN, in a meeting with high profile Chinese hackers, recently discussed the attacks. Several of the hackers claimed knowledge of friends in the Chinese underground hacking community who launched successful assaults on the Pentagon. More interestingly, the hackers reported the Chinese government subsidized them for successful attacks. While the Chinese government ardently denies such claims it appears, much like Japanese warlords used the ninjas of old, the Chinese government is employing these legions of hackers to create chaos and steal information on U.S. networks — for a price.
Meanwhile, according to U.S. intelligence, the PLA is building up its own force of elite hackers to wage cyberwarfare. A Pentagon report, released this month notes that China is expanding its military presence in “the land, air and sea dimensions of the traditional battlefield into the space and cyber-space domains.” Further, it notes, “The PLA has established information-warfare units to develop viruses to attack enemy computer systems and networks, and tactics and measures to protect friendly computer systems and network.”
The Chinese foreign ministry and its spokesman Gang Qin dismissed these intelligence assessments, calling them paranoid and misleading. Gang stated in recent public comments that the U.S. needs “to drop its Cold War mentality.”
However, few familiar with China’s military efforts can deny that its cyber-warfare efforts seem particularly active. General Kevin Chilton, who heads U.S. Strategic Command in Bellevue, Nebraska, stated, “The thing about China that gives you pause is that they’ve written openly about their emphasis in particular areas — space and cyberspace … you can kind of connect the dots.”
The government is also very concerned about possible attacks on vulnerable civilian infrastructure such as power and water treatment plants. In October 2006, according to U.S. Government Accountability Office reports, a Harrisburg, Pa., computer was hacked and software was planted that could affect the plant’s water processing. It has not been officially stated whether the attack originated from inside or outside the country.
In a statement to reporters Chilton indicated that despite China’s dismissive attitude, the country is entering into a Cold War-esque digital intelligence campaign against the U.S. He says its efforts focus on breaching U.S. military networks and mining data which can be used to steal weapons designs, monitor command decisions, and monitor the U.S. armed forces’ state of combat readiness. He states, “Twenty years ago you’d have hired somebody to go in the middle of the night with a flashlight in their teeth to open the drawer and do a bunch of photography of files. [Today] you can do it from your home country, wherever it might be.”
General Chilton also fears that future attacks may focus on crippling entire military systems, leaving entire armed forces branches without communications. He points to such an attack against Estonia’s government in the Spring of 2007, effectively shutting down the majority of Estonia’s government networks. General Chilton stated, “You don’t shut the system down completely, but you slow it down. I would consider that an attack.”
The U.S. is not alone in its belief that China is flexing its cyber-spy muscle. The United Kingdom has accused the Chinese Army of directly trying to infiltrate British networks and steal information, including personal financial information. It has distributed letters of warning to various financial institutions.
It will likely be virtually impossible for civilians to determine when exactly the cyberwar between China and the U.S. begins. It appears, however, the first shots have already been fired and with reports of attacks and buildup mounting, it is clear that we are heading towards a silent cyberwar with China, if we are not engaged in one already.
GE demos OLED manufacturing process similar to a newspaper printer
Looking at the future of displays for TVs, computers, and other electronic devices OLED is one of the main contenders to replace the traditional LCD screens common today. The problem with OLED displays at this time is that the manufacturing process required to produce the OLED screens is, for now, relatively cumbersome and costly.
GE has been conducting research into cheaper methods of manufacturing OLEDs funded by a $13 million research collaboration between GE Global Research, Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. (ECD) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). NIST funded the research with the goal of demonstrating a cheap, commercially viable way to mass produce OLED products.
GE announced today it succeeded in devising a method to cheaply produce OLED lighting products using a newspaper printing like roll to roll process. Anil Duggal, manager of GE’s advanced Technology Program in Organic Electronics wrote in a blog post, “about 4 years ago, we set out to find out for ourselves whether it could be done. We found a partner company (Energy Conversion Devices or ECD) with great experience at making roll-to-roll equipment and together we were successful in winning a proposal that we submitted to a government agency (NIST) looking to help fund high risk technology development.”
What Duggal and his team of researchers did was devise a method of manufacturing OLED lighting products on a roll-to-roll machine. ECD then built the roll-to-roll machine needed for the manufacturing process.
Duggal went on to write, “Because this had never been done before, we faced some real technical challenges - especially given our program time constraints that often meant we had to start designing machine modules before we had the device fabrication process completely figured out! Anyway, in the end it all came together and we were successful in making our deliverable.”
While OLED lighting is an interesting proposition for lighting homes and business in the future, the really interesting application of the roll to roll technology for technophiles will be if the technology used to make the lighting products can be refined for use in making OLED panels for electronics.
According to Duggal, “Beyond OLEDs, this technology also could have broader impact in the manufacturing of other organic electronic devices such as organic photovoltaics for solar energy conversion, sensors and roll-up displays.”
This process could lead to cheap, easy to produce OLED TVs and PC displays in the future. The reason Sony cites for its low production volume and high relative cost of its XEL-1 OLED TV is the cost and complexity of making the OLED panel itself on traditional production lines, though almost every manufacturer agrees OLEDs will eventually cost substantially less than LCDs of the same size.
New chip design uses only 0.3V of power
Back in February a group of researchers from MIT and Texas Instruments designed a new chip for portable devices that uses a mere fraction of the power required in similar chips today. The researchers were able to design a chip that may be up to ten times as energy efficient as current technology.
Current chips operate at about 1 volt and the new design from the MIT researchers operates on 0.3 volts of power. Anantha Chadrakasan, Professor of Electrical Engineering told MIT Energy Initiative, “Memory and logic circuits have to be redesigned to operate at very low power supply voltages. Chadrakasan directs the MIT Microsystems Technology Laboratories, where the work was conducted.
Simply reducing the voltage required for the chip to operate wasn’t the only trick the researchers used to get energy savings for the chip. The researchers also optimized the energy processing circuitry to account for several factors including environmental conditions and variations in circuit demands.
One key to the efficient nature of the new chip design according to Chadrakasan says was a high-efficiency DC-to-DC converter used to reduce voltage to lower levels built right onto the chip. At this point the chip design is only a proof of concept and significant obstacles remain to be overcome before the chip can enter production and ultimately end up in your cell phone. Researchers say that one of the biggest problems they had to overcome was the variability in chip manufacturing.
Lower voltage levels mean that differences in variations and imperfections in the chip building process are magnified and become a problem. Chadrakasan says that commercial applications for the new chip could be seen in five years or sooner. The researchers are also looking at applications for the low voltage chip other than in electronics.
Since the chip can operate on such low power requirements, the researchers also believe it could be used in implantable devices like pacemakers. In this application the chip would be able to get all the power it needs from body heat or the movement of the person with the implant. This would allow implantable devices to be powered indefinitely. Battery life is currently a very big concern for implantable medical devices.
One of the main reasons cited for the lack of encryption on telemetry data sent from pacemakers and internal defibrillators is the added strain encryption would put on the battery inside the devices. A low power chip that gets all the power it needs from the body may be just what is needed to allow stronger security in implanted medical devices.
These researchers aren’t alone in their quest for lower voltage, less power hungry chips and processors. Intel recently introduced its Atom processor which is a full x86 processor and requires only 0.6W of power. The Atom processor still consumes more power than the 0.3V design from MIT.
Live Wires creates some noise in the music market by selling custom headphones for hundreds less than its competitors
Live Wires is a new and unique company, which makes custom-molded in ear headphones for the consumer market. Launched in 2007, the goal was simple — create an affordable professional-grade version of this technology, typically reserved for rock stars, and bring it to end users.
At the time of the company’s product launch in February 2007, custom molded earbuds cost around $800 to $900, putting them out of the reach of most consumers. Live Wire headphones retail for a mere $249.
The design of Live Wires features dual balanced armature drivers, one tweeter and one woofer. This driver pair combines to help give the earphones much higher-end sound quality and better efficiency than single driver moving coil designs, typical in the earbud market. The drivers have a range of 20 Hz to 16 KHz, offer 126 dB/mW sensitivity at 1 KHz, and have a mere 22 ohms of impedance. They also provide 25-28 dB of noise isolation as, well making them well suited for noisy environments like airports or during motorcycle or bus rides.
By comparison, Shure sells what is considered a relatively good in-ear headphone model, which are not custom molded but retail for around $119. The Shure se110 features a higher impedance of 27 ohms (lower is better) and a lower sensitivity of 113 dB/mW. The isolation for these phones is only 90 percent of ambient noise, only around a 19.5 dB noise isolation (25-28 dB is around a 99.9985% noise reduction).
Another interesting feature of the headphones is that the wires are full rotatable, allowing any style of wear. This allows for up and over the ear wear, or a more casual “Y” style of wear, with the cords dangling downwards. The cables also feature a custom adapter, which guarantees in-phase signal.
Live Wires co-developer John Diles tells DailyTech, “The creative process for the product was a result of my close relationship with Earl Neal, Toby Keith’s monitor engineer. Our lengthy conversations abotu ear monitoring and what features we’d like to offer led us to the introduction of Live Wires.”
Diles claims his target audience is everyone “from Jon Herington of Steely Dan — who enthusiastically endorses us — to a 16 year audiophile who wants to extract every minute tone flowing from his portable rig. We feel there is too large a discrepancy between what professional artists demand in their ears and what consumers of music have to tolerate in their ears.”
Diles points out that while the headphones are much lower priced than competitive entries, the parts used are from “the most prestigious manufacturers in the industry,” such as Knowles, which makes the balanced armatures.
Despite the fact that it is targeted to consumers, Diles says 40 percent of the headphones’ sales are to music professionals. Steely Dan’s guitarist, Jon Herington is an avid supporter. All of Jimmie Kimmel’s band wear the product. Mr. Diles points to this acceptance as a sign of the company’s success, stating, “Our dual-driver design is very pleasing sonicaly as well, as is evidenced by our rapid acceptance into the touring world.”
Deaf Dancing With The Stars contestant Marlee Matlin uses the Live Wires earphones when she performans. Matlin, like many legally deaf people, has some hearing in her inner ear. The high level of isolation lets her hear the music to some extent, critical to her performance.
Watching Google tiptoe around its relationship with Apple as it rolls out Android is one of the most enjoyable aspects of watching the industry these days. This is perfectly illustrated in the words of Rich Miner, group manager for Google’s mobile platforms, who said, “there’s a much larger potential market on Android than for the iPhone.” A truthful statement in all likelihood assuming that the OS is robust upon its global release later this year and available on handsets from HTC, Samsung, Motorola, and LG as expected. Miner then took a few shots at the iPhone SDK saying, “There are things I saw people doing with the first version of the Android SDK that it seems like you can’t do with the iPhone at least at the moment.” He then noted that the SDK had been downloaded 750,000 times (compared to Apple’s 100k in 4 days) as of February. Naturally, he then applied a thick, brown coat of public relations salve saying, “[If I were a developer] I’d certainly be looking at the iPhone, and if you believe there will be lots of Android phones out there, as we do, I’d be developing for both platforms.” Kumbaya my BossEricSchmidtSitsOnTheAppleBoard, kumabaya…
Rep. Tim Couch proposes legislation to ban Internet anonymity; knows of its impending doom and doesn’t follow through
Anonymity is one of the great things about the internet. The web is one place where people can be whoever they want, or say whatever they want. But according to one Kentucky lawmaker, attention should be drawn to the anonymous bullying.
Tim Couch proposed a bill criminalizing anonymous internet posting (HB775) and would mandate posters to give up their complete name, mailing address, and e-mail address. The information would have to be posted on websites alongside any comments made on the Internet. Failure for any website to require this or any person to give up their information will result in a $500 fine. That sum is just for the first offense; it is a $1,000 fine for any following offenses.
There are certain obvious flaws with the proposed bill such as the infringement on First Amendment rights, and the state’s ability to regulate Internet, or rather their inability to do so. The most important flaw in this bill is that it only includes websites hosted out of Kentucky. Even if the bill was passed, people would see very little effect from it.
Couch admits that the bill is unlikely to get passed and is unconstitutional. He notes that his goal with this move is that he just wants to make aware the “bullying” that takes place on the internet.
“I think right now (online posting) is pretty much just on its own. It’s a machine that’s going to go its own way,” said Couch in an interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader. “The state can try to pass some rules, but I don’t really think it would do anything.”
Lawmakers in the past have sidestepped censoring internet anonymity with other laws, like libel. Just in this case as in others in the past, it is the rights of the First Amendment that come into question.
“Some nasty things have been said about high school kids in my district, usually by other kids,” Couch said. “The adults get in on it, too … When you’re anonymous, you can say anything you want to about someone, and nobody knows who you are.”
In other cases, courts explored the idea of devaluing a public company via negative anonymous comments. But there still exists that idea that a price will always have to be paid in order to retain our rights.
Poor, poor client number 9, Eliot Spitzer. Having suffered a humiliating week in the US press, corporate Canada is now taking its shot at the disgraced New York governor. That’s the actual print ad which Virgin Mobile will run in Toronto newspapers this week with the following subtext:
“At Virgin Mobile, you’re more than just a number. When you call us we’ll treat you like a person, not a client. Whether you’re #9 or #900, you’ll get hooked up with somebody who’ll finally treat you just how you want to be treated.”
Let’s just see if Spitzer swallows the jab, or comes out fighting this unauthorized use of his image. Full text blow-up after the break.
Customers will be able to download SP1 tomorrow; retail versions will be in stores on Wednesday.
Microsoft’s long-awaited service pack for Windows Vista is reported to be heading to consumers tomorrow. The RTM version of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) was first released to testers in early February after a lengthy gestation period.
Customers will have two ways to obtain SP1: a stand-alone installer can be downloaded directly from Microsoft’s Download Center or users can get the update through Windows Update where it will be labeled as an optional update. Systems that have drivers which are currently known to be incompatible with SP1 will not be permitted to install the update.
“Customers who visit Windows Update can choose to install Service Pack 1. Any system that Windows Update determines has a driver known to not upgrade successfully will not be offered SP1,” said a Microsoft spokeswoman.
SP1 already caused problems for some testers who installed the RTM version, so Microsoft is likely trying to minimize a problematic launch for a larger consumer-based rollout — the last thing that Vista needs is more fuel added to the fire that surrounds the operating system.
Customers will be able to purchase retail-packaged versions of Windows Vista with SP1 already incorporated starting on Wednesday. Those who pick up the retail versions will also take advantage of new, lower pricing that Microsoft introduced late last month.
Microsoft dropped the prices for Windows Vista Ultimate (Full), Windows Vista Ultimate (Upgrade), and Windows Vista Home Premium (Upgrade) to $319, $219, and $129 respectively. Interestingly enough, Amazon.com offers even lower prices for the software on its site at $299.99, $194.99, and $94.99 respectively.