Archive for October 2006

Marooned Mars rover returns stunning panorama

Marooned Mars rover returns stunning panorama – space – 25 October 2006 – New Scientist Space

The most detailed panoramic view ever obtained on Mars has been returned by NASA’s Spirit rover in time to mark its 1000th Martian day, or sol, on the Red Planet.

A total of 1449 individual images representing 500 megabytes of raw data were acquired for the view, called the McMurdo panorama.

Spirit took the images over a span of more than five months, while parked on a slope called Low Ridge Haven during winter in the planet’s southern hemisphere. The relatively small amount of winter sunshine meant the rover did not have enough power to drive anywhere.

The panorama shows Spirit’s view of part of the Columbia Hills region, where it has made many of its most interesting discoveries (see Water coursed through Martian hills). Many dark, volcanic rocks litter the area.

The tracks Spirit made to get to its current location are visible winding off to the left. In some places they have exposed light-coloured material that is rich in sulphates, which rover scientists believe formed in the presence of water (scroll down for close-up image).
Explosive eruption

They will be on the lookout for more of this material churned up when Spirit starts driving again. By examining it further, they hope to learn how long ago the water that produced it was present, says rover scientist Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis, US. “We’re not exactly sure what the origin and evolution of this material is,” he told New Scientist.

Spirit will make a very short drive in about a week to study new ground with its instruments. About a month from now, it will start a longer drive towards a formation called Home Plate, visible as a light-coloured strip of material in the upper right corner of the image.

Home Plate may be the remains of an explosive volcanic eruption. The explosion may have been triggered by underground water being heated by magma. The resulting build-up of steam may have blasted open the volcano, Arvidson says.

“We’re interested in how much water was involved in causing that pressure that would cause the explosive eruption – if, in fact, Home Plate is an eroded-down volcano,” he says. [Read on]

Which Vista Is the Right Vista?

eWeek: Which Vista Is the Right Vista?

Eventually, we’re going to see Vista come out. Yes, I know, even at this late date, Vista is still getting unexpected delays—it was set to go to manufacturing Oct. 25, but it’s not going to make it—but it is on its way.

My question, though, is: What version will actually work for you come that day?

With six different versions, the potential for buying the wrong version for the job has just gone up. Buy too low and you don’t get the functionality you need. Or, buy too high, and you get some office “functionality,” like the Game Performance Tweaker that you really don’t need.

Let’s me start though by looking at what’s not in Vista. No, I’m not talking over long-lost Vista features like the WinFS or the Next-Generation Secure Computing Base. I’m talking about XP features that aren’t in Vista.

Some of them are minor. I mean, does anyone still use the gopher Internet protocol?

Some of the old features, however, are major departures. For example, Windows Messenger, the XP IM client, is history. There is a link to download Windows Live Messenger, the IM client formerly known as MSN Messenger, but it’s not the same thing. NetMeeting, the VOIP (voice over IP), desktop sharing and videoconferencing client, is also going bye-bye. It’s being replaced by Windows Meeting Space. I know many businesses, and third-party applications, that are using Windows Messenger and NetMeeting together all the time for such purposes as IM discussions over a whiteboard or Web conferencing. I foresee a lot of grief for enterprises that have made these uses central to their business.

I can also see great pain ahead for anyone who’s foolish enough to buy Windows Vista Starter.

In theory, you won’t be able to buy it in the United States. In practice, I know there will be gray-market copies of it for sale in the States at unbelievable prices. I can think of nothing of any value in Starter for any user. You would be better off running Windows 98. I’m not joking. I could go on and on about this ridiculous bottom-feeder version of Vista, but I can sum it up with two of its “features.” It can only access 256MBs of RAM, and you can only run three applications on it at a time. This isn’t a 21st-century operating system. It’s a bad joke even as a 20th-century one. Windows Vista Home Basic is better. It’s not completely crippled the way Starter is. At the same time, it’s not much of a home operating system, and it’s a flop for businesses.

For instance, what is Vista’s one feature that has people talking? The answer: Vista’s eye-candy, the Aero Glass interface and all of its translucent, 3D prettiness.

Guess what, it’s not in Starter and it’s not in Basic either. You also won’t find such home favorites as DVD Video Authoring.
[Full Article_3pgs]

Creating Web Pages With Ajax

Slashdot | Creating Web Pages With Ajax

“Asynchronous Javascript And Xml, popularly known as Ajax, is a combination of Javascript, XML and some coding on the server side. Even though this technology existed for years, many believe it was Google which brought it to the front by implementing it on its sites and thus raising it to the cult status it enjoys now. There is something magical in seeing a website update its content without reloading the whole page, which is the visual essence of Ajax.”

An overview of using AJAX and what not, read on.

Battling the Botnet

eWeek: Is the Botnet Battle Already Lost?

It’s dress-down Friday at Sunbelt Software’s Clearwater, Fla., headquarters. In a bland cubicle on the 12th floor, Eric Sites stares at the screen of a “dirty box,” a Microsoft Windows machine infected with the self-replicating Wootbot network worm.

Within seconds, there is a significant spike in CPU usage as the infected computer starts scanning the network, looking for vulnerable hosts.

In a cubicle across the hall, Patrick Jordan’s unpatched test machine is hit by the worm, prompting a chuckle from the veteran spyware researcher.

Almost simultaneously, the contaminated machine connects to an IRC (Internet Relay Chat) server and joins a channel to receive commands, which resemble strings of gibberish, from an unknown attacker.

“Welcome to the world of botnets,” said Sites, vice president of research and development at Sunbelt, a company that sells anti-spam and anti-spyware software.

“Basically, this machine is now owned by a criminal. It’s now sitting there in the channel, saying ‘I’m here, ready to accept commands,'” Sites explained.

A botnet is a collection of broadband-enabled PCs, hijacked during virus and worm attacks and seeded with software that connects back to a server to receive communications from a remote attacker. And these botnets are everywhere.

According to statistics released by Symantec, an average of 57,000 active bots was observed per day over the first six months of 2006.

During that period, the anti-virus vendor discovered a whopping 4.7 million distinct computers being actively used in botnets to spit out spam, launch DoS (denial of service) attacks, install malware or log keystrokes for identity theft. [Read on]

Twas A Rare Friday the 13th

From Slashdot – Juha-Matti Laurio writes to point out a Washington Times story about
how special this particular Friday the 13th is. The digits in the
numerical notation for the date add up to 13 — whether you write it in
the US or the European form. From the article: “The phenomenon hasn’t
happened in 476 years, said Heinrich Hemme, a physicist at Germany’s
University of Aachen who crunched the numbers to find that the
double-whammy last occurred Jan. 13, 1520.”
/. Article

Link: The Washington Times article.

Wikipedia: Friday the 13th

Bin Laden Webmaster Arrested

eWeek: Bin Laden Webmaster Arrested

Early on the morning of Oct. 10, reports started circulating that German police had arrested a man they accused of being Osama bin Laden’s Webmaster. It was at that moment that I realized how different a war this is and how the Internet—and particularly its multimedia-friendly Web component— truly has changed all.

Imagine if during World War II, French law enforcement had arrested Hitler’s speechwriter? But that’s not even a clean analogy because a speechwriter presumably would help craft the message. This guy, identified in a Reuters report only as a 36-year-old Iraqi named Ibrahim R., is accused of being a programmer helping bin Laden’s Web sites stay up. [more]

Laser TV predicted to be death of plasma

Laser TV predicted to be death of plasma – Breaking News – National – Breaking News

With a worldwide launch date scheduled for Christmas 2007, under recognisable brands like Mitsubishi and Samsung, Novalux chief executive Jean-Michel Pelaprat is so bold as to predict the death of plasma.

“If you look at any screen today, the colour content is roughly about 30-35 per cent of what the eye can see,” he said.

“But for the very first time with a laser TV we’ll be able to see 90 per cent of what the eye can see.

“All of a sudden what you see is a lifelike image on display.”

Combine that with energy efficiency, price advantage and the fact that the laser TVs will be half the weight and depth of plasma TVS, and Mr Pelaprat says “plasma is now something of the past”.

Mr Pelaprat predicted LCD TVs would come to dominate the market below 40 inches, and laser television the market above that screen size, displacing plasma.

The optoelectronic chip-laser technology won’t be confined to TVs.

The technology is also being trialled in mobile phones, where it will be used to project images onto any surface, and in home theatres and cinemas.

The unveiling of the laser TV prototype was held on the eve of Arasor’s public float on the Australian Stock Exchange next week. [Article]

AMD Unveils Barcelona Quad-Core Details

ExtremeTech – AMD Unveils Barcelona Quad-Core Details

Processor architecture designs take years from initial conception to the first shipping CPU sliding out of the fab assembly. So it’s clear that AMD’s new CPU architecture has been in the works for some time. Whether that’s a problem or not vis à vis the competition isn’t yet known, since AMD isn’t yet talking about performance details.

What is known is that Barcelona—as AMD has dubbed this first iteration—isn’t so much a brand-new architecture as it is a highly refined, tweaked version of the existing AMD x86-64. Those tweaks are numerous and significant. It’s probably fair to suggest that Barcelona is to the current Opterons as Intel’s Core 2 is to the Pentium M—designed from the ground up, on a base of the old with a lot of new stuff rolled in. [Read on]

Scientists Nudge Closer to the Edge of a Black Hole

NASA – Scientists Nudge Closer to the Edge of a Black Hole

NASA scientists and their international partners using the new Japanese Suzaku satellite have collected a startling new set of black hole observations, revealing details of twisted space and warped time never before seen with such precision.

The observations include clocking the speed of a black hole’s spin rate and measuring the angle at which matter pours into the void, as well as evidence for a wall of X-ray light pulled back and flattened by gravity.

The findings rely on a special feature in the light emitted close to the black hole, called the “broad iron K line,” once doubted by some scientists because of poor resolution in earlier observations, now unambiguously revealed as a true measure of a black hole’s crushing gravitational force. This technique can be exploited in future X-ray missions. [See more] pics/video

Scientists teleport two different objects

CNN.com – Scientists teleport two different objects – Oct 4, 2006

“Teleportation between two single atoms had been done two years ago by two teams, but this was done at a distance of a fraction of a millimeter,” Polzik, of the Danish National Research Foundation Center for Quantum Optics, explained.

“Our method allows teleportation to be taken over longer distances because it involves light as the carrier of entanglement,” he added.

Quantum entanglement involves entwining two or more particles without physical contact.

Although teleportation is associated with the science-fiction series “Star Trek,” no one is likely to be beamed anywhere soon.

But the achievement of Polzik’s team, in collaboration with the theorist Ignacio Cirac of the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, marks an advancement in the field of quantum information and computers, which could transmit and process information in a way that was impossible before.

“It is really about teleporting information from one site to another site. Quantum information is different from classical information in the sense that it cannot be measured. It has much higher information capacity and it cannot be eavesdropped on. The transmission of quantum information can be made unconditionally secure,” said Polzik whose research is reported in the journal Nature.

Quantum computing requires manipulation of information contained in the quantum states, which include physical properties such as energy, motion and magnetic field, of the atoms.

“Creating entanglement is a very important step, but there are two more steps at least to perform teleportation. We have succeeded in making all three steps — that is entanglement, quantum measurement and quantum feedback,” he added. [Whole Story]

Gas induces ‘suspended animation’

BBC NEWS | Health | Gas induces ‘suspended animation’

Sewer gas can induce ‘suspended animation’ in mice, say US scientists, and may help to preserve organ function in critically ill patients.

Hydrogen sulphide, a toxic gas that smells of rotten eggs, occurs naturally in swamps, springs and volcanoes.

But in mice, it was found to slow down heart rate and breathing and decrease body temperature, while keeping a normal blood pressure.

The results were presented at the American Physiology Society conference.

In the study carried out at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, mice were administered the gas at a concentration of 80 parts per million – a tenth of the dose which is lethal in humans.

Core body temperature also fell from 39 to 30 degrees C.

Despite the reduction in heart rate the blood pressure of the mice did not drop, which tends to happen with other techniques such as lowering body temperature.

When the researchers repeated the experiment at a higher room temperature, the heart and respiratory rate still fell significantly.

The effects of the gas seemed to be reversible with the mice returning to normal two hours after the mice started to breathe normal air again.

Previous research had shown the ability of hydrogen sulphide to induce a state of hibernation in mice but the effects on the cardiovascular system were unknown.

Some anaesthetics and sedatives can be used to slow down metabolism in the brain but currently the only way to protect other organs is to cool the body and induce hypothermia. [More]

North Korea, Nations Respond to Possible Sanctions For Nuke Test

FOXNews.com – North Korea, Nations Respond to Possible Sanctions For Nuke Test – International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News

UNITED NATIONS — North Korea is reportedly willing to give up its nuclear program if the United States takes what one official calls “corresponding measures,” a South Korean news agency reported Tuesday.

Reportedly, a North Korean official also threatened that the communist nation could fire a nuclear-tipped missile unless the U.S. acts to resolve its standoff with Pyongyang.

“We hope the situation will be resolved before an unfortunate incident of us firing a nuclear missile comes,” the unnamed official said, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

South Korea’s news agency quotes the official as saying that the North’s nuclear test was aimed at getting the U.S. to the negotiating table. He says the North wants to ensure its security as well as guarantee its “system.”

“We still have a willingness to give up nuclear weapons and return to six-party talks as well. It’s possible whenever the U.S. takes corresponding measures.” [More]

Wii Will Have an Updatable Linux OS

From Slashdot : eldavojohn writes “There’s bits and pieces of information floating
around that revolve around ‘Iwata Asks’ interviews on Nintendo’s
website. What I found interesting was the tidbit about the updatable
operating system: ‘Wii is the first system from Nintendo that we can
continue to be involved in (via operating system updates) after the
customer buys it. This means that Wii will greatly expand and diversify
the ways in which people will enjoy games in the future.’ The Wii is
reported to operate on top of a proprietary form of the Linux kernel,
although there are already efforts to make a GNU/Linux for the
console. So, the answer to the age old question is that it already runs
Linux.”

See Slashdot link for original article, comments, and other links.