Episode 203

posted in: Show Notes


Microsoft Australia apologises for bikini babes
Microsoft Australia apologises for bikini babes

Microsoft has apologised to any attendees at its Tech.Ed conference on the Gold Coast who were scandalised by its use of Meter Maid girls as promotional assistants, explaining that it didn’t know the girls would turn up wearing bikinis.

“The Australian Tech.Ed team would like to sincerely apologise for any offense caused by the promotional staff who were manning the remote controlled car exhibit at the Tech.Ed welcome reception,” the software giant said in a statement this afternoon.

“We were unaware of their exact costuming until the day of the event, at which time it was too late to be addressed.”

The Meter Maids attended the Tech.Ed launch last night and were initially welcomed by the predominantly male audience — 2,700 members of the Microsoft eco-system in Australia. They dressed in their traditional gold bikinis that have been seen on the Gold Coast for decades.

However some in the community questioned whether their presence did more to hinder the cause of attracting women to work in the IT industry than helping it.

MySpace gets in tune with Facebook | The Australian
MySpace gets in tune with Facebook

MYSPACE has begun letting users synchronise updates with Facebook, the web superstar that supplanted the firm that once ruled in that arena.

“This new sync functionality is part of an ongoing effort to make it simple for people to share their updates beyond MySpace and allow fans and friends to interact with that content across the web,” MySpace said in a statement.

“This is particularly exciting for the millions of musicians on MySpace who can now use this tool as a complement to their MySpace Music presence and share their vast library of content,” MySpace said.

Apple patent to catch jailbreakers: iphone bricking feared | The Australian
Apple patent to catch jailbreakers: iphone bricking feared

Anger, fear and loathing ran rampant on the internet the other day following revelations that Apple had applied for a patent on technology that would enable it to remotely identify stolen iPhones and disable them: “bricking” as it’s known in the trade.

Nothing wrong with that, but the patent application also mentioned that the system could be used to remotely identify “jailbroken” iPhones, and deal out the same fate.

Internode starts FetchTV trial in September | The Australian
Internode starts FetchTV trial in September

The company announced an early adopter program for customers with an Extreme or NakedExtreme ADSL2+ connection, who will get access to the service’s digital video recorder box, pay-TV channels and movie download service for a $99 start-up fee and a monthly payment of $29.95.

Customers with slower connections will have access to FetchTV Lite, which offers a smaller range of programming but makes it available to a wider geographic area, from the end of October.

Telstra has launched a similar service through its T-Box, which is being heavily marketed to its BigPond broadband customer base and on free-to-air TV, and has reportedly sold about 20,000 units.

iiNet and Internode are expected to launch full marketing campaigns for FetchTV in the lead-up to Christmas.

Internode customers can register their interest in the trial on the company’s website or via FetchTV.


Oxford Dictionary faces internet-only future | The Australian
Oxford Dictionary faces internet-only future

IT weighs in at more than 130 pounds, but the authoritative guide to the English language, the Oxford English Dictionary, may eventually slim down to nothing.

Oxford University Press, the publisher, said yesterday so many people prefer to look up words using its online product that it’s uncertain whether the 126-year-old dictionary’s next edition will be printed on paper at all.

The digital version of the Oxford English Dictionary now gets 2 million hits a month from subscribers, who pay $295 a year for the service in the US.

In contrast, the current printed edition – a 20-volume, 750-pound set published in 1989 – has sold about 30,000 sets in total. It costs $1,165.

PR firm wrote iTunes ‘reviews’ | The Australian
PR firm wrote iTunes ‘reviews’

California-based Reverb provides marketing and public relations services to videogame makers.

Between November of 2008 and May of the following year, Reverb posted reviews at iTunes about clients’ games in ways that gave the impression the comments “were written by disinterested customers,” according to the FTC.

Reverb failed to disclose that it was hired to promote the games and often received a percentage of sales, the FTC said.

Piracy targeted in ad campaign | The Australian
Piracy targeted in ad campaign

A NATIONWIDE ad campaign begins today, asking Australians if they are “accidental pirates”.

The ad stars actor Dan Wyllie, playing a series of characters representing a cross-section of Australians likely to unwittingly download pirated content or buy cheap, bootleg DVDs overseas.

Flying Fish Productions, filmed the ad, airing on pay-TV from today and in cinemas from Thursday.

www.accidental pirate.com.au


IK Multimedia ships AmpliTube iRig iPhone interface adapter

We know you’ve been waiting on pins and needles, and at long last, the gap between announcement and “now shipping” has been closed. IK Multimedia has just revealed that its AmpliTube iRig adapter is shipping, enabling iPod touch, iPad and iPhone users to jack their guitar or bass directly into their iDevice and access all sorts of effects. From there, users can pipe the audio to a pair of headphones or a guitar amp, theoretically allowing your handheld to supplant your mess of pedals. We’re also told that the iRig can be used with line level signal sources such as synthesizers, keyboards or mixing consoles, so there’s that. It’s available as we speak for $39.99 (or €29.99 overseas), and users can expect an iPad-specific version of the AmpliTube app to be released in the near future.

GuitarBud Plugs a Guitar Directly Into an iPhone

GuitarBud is a $29 adapter that allows you to plug a guitar right into an iPhone. How is that useful? Well if I ever learned to play that guitar in my closet, I could:

• Record riffs
• Tune the strings
• Play with realtime audio effects
• Share riffs in the cloud
• …and all of this with direct line-in quality, with the help of a few apps

If there’s one, single testament to the App Store’s success, it’s that a simple piece of hardware can immediately add so much extra functionality to the iPhone (because apps like Voice Memos, StompVox, Riff Raters and Guitar FX Deluxe already exist). But then again, if only the iPhone had a fatty 1/4-inch jack or two, we wouldn’t even need the GuitarBud in the first place! [PRSCables via ShinyShiny via DVICE]



Thanks to some recent network upgrades, you could now get even more speed out of your BigPond Elite Cable Broadband plan. The network can now provide speeds up to a maximum of 30 Mbps* (depending on the content you are downloading) – almost double the old 17Mbps maximum.

Getting the speed upgrade is easy. Simply switch off your modem, wait a minute or so, then switch it on again. When it reboots it will automatically access the faster network speeds.

There are just a couple of things to be aware of:
• If you have a Wi-Fi modem, you’ll get the optimum performance when connecting with an Ethernet cable (a yellow cable was supplied with your modem) rather than the Wi-Fi connection. 
• Not all Cable modems are compatible with 30Mbps speeds. To check a list of compatible modems, please click here.
If you’d like to know more about this speed increase, visit BigPond.com.

Samsung’s New iPad Rival Device Leaked


A new tablet computer that is a direct rival to Apple’s iPad has been spotted on a train in Australia ahead of its official unveiling next week.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab is a portable device with a 7-inch screen, and is briefly shown in a newly-released teaser video on the firm’s website.

It is not due for release until September 2, but technology journalist Sanjiv Sathiah from Electronista.com said he saw a commuter in Sydney using a tablet matching the description with the Samsung logo above the screen.

He filmed the man using the device and asked a series of questions, until the man – who denied he worked for Samsung – said he could not reveal any more.

The anonymous commuter did, however, say that the tablet was ‘awesome’ and said it was ‘very different’ to the iPad.

He also confirmed it ran using the Android operating system, which has been developed by Google.

Mr Sathiah speculated that the man may have been testing it to see how it performed using Sydney’s mobile networks on commuter train lines.

The apparent leak of the Samsung galaxy Tab comes after Apple’s new iPhone was also revealed to the world prematurely when an employee left a trial handset in a California bar.

Website Gizmodo gave an in-depth analysis of the iPhone 4’s features, but failed to dampen consumer enthusiasm when the product reached Apple stores a few weeks later.

Samsung may be hoping a sneak peek at its Galaxy Tab will also help pique interest, rather than diffuse it, as it has an uphill challenge awaits the technology firm if it wishes to oust the iPhone.

Apple has sold more than 3.27 million of the devices since the April 3 launch and the range of applications is steadily growing.

Meanwhile LG is also developing a tablet and Blackberry maker Research in Motion is also believed to be close to launching a slate device.

Analysts say the tablet market is set to soar, and will account for almost a fifth of personal computers sold in 2015 – well ahead of the rate predicted for desktops.

‘Tablet growth will come at the expense of netbooks, which have similar grab-and-go media consumption and web browsing as tablets but don’t synchronise data across services like the iPad does,’ said Sarah Rotman Epps of technology researcher Forrester.

Google set to unveil “priority inbox” for Gmail


(Reuters) – Google is set to unveil a new feature to its Gmail service that aims to separate a user’s important emails from the ones that do not get read often.

The new feature called “Priority Inbox” will help users focus on messages that matter without having to set up complex rules, Google said in its official blog.

The Priority Inbox application splits the inbox into three sections: ‘Important and unread’, ‘Starred’ and ‘Everything Else’.

“As messages come in, Gmail automatically flags some of them as important. Gmail uses a variety of signals to predict which messages are important, including the people you email most and which messages you open and reply to,” the company said.

Google said Priority Inbox will roll out to all Gmail users, including those who use Google Apps, over the next week.

A monologue to Apple

A master storyteller and self-confessed Apple fan hardly makes for a compelling advocate for social change.

But Mike Daisey, whose new monologue focuses on what he calls the dark side of Apple’s iconic gadgets, hopes he can pressure Chief Executive Steve Jobs to push for better labour conditions at factories in China, where most Apple gadgets are assembled.

The two-hour monologue entitled ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs’ is part paean and part critique of Apple Inc, and Jobs, a pancreatic cancer survivor and founder of the iconic company that wields enormous clout in the tech world.

Dressed in black — in a nod to Jobs’ trademark black turtleneck and jeans — the stocky Daisey sat in the spotlight at a desk on an otherwise bare stage in Mumbai this week, gesticulating through his expletive-ridden monologue, barely pausing to sip water from a glass or wipe sweat off his face.

Daisey, acclaimed for his monologues including ‘Great Men of Genius’ and ’21 Dog Years’, posed as an American businessman to check out Foxconn Technology in Shenzhen that came under international scrutiny after a spate of worker suicides.

Critics have blamed the suicides on stressful working conditions at the factory that employs nearly 800,000 workers.

Daisey’s monologue, which is part-autobiography and part-journalism, is both hilarious and heartbreaking, as he admits his own obsession with Apple gadgets such as the wildly successful iPad and the iPhone, while also criticising a work environment he says has been forced by globalisation.

‘We, as Apple fans and the West are complicit in this tough work environment. We are every bit as responsible, let’s not kid ourselves,’ he said.

Jobs is not an unreasonable or uncaring man, Daisey said, noting how he has transformed Apple into one of the ‘greenest’ tech companies from being one of the ‘dirtiest’, and so can be persuaded to push for change at the factories in Shenzhen.

Jobs has said he found the worker deaths ‘troubling’, but insisted the Foxconn factory is not a sweatshop.

”The sweep of globalisation means that these factories will be soon set up in India — some of them are already here — and you need to be aware that there is this other side to the fantastic, shiny gadgets we all so love,’ Daisey said. ‘

TPB AFK: The Pirate Bay – Away From Keyboard

Two years in the making, TPB AFK is a documentary about three computer addicts who revolutionized the world of media distribution with their hobby homepage. How did Tiamo, a beer crazy hardware fanatic, Brokep a tree hugging eco activist and Anakata, a paranoid cyber libertarian, get the White House to threaten the Swedish government with trade sanctions? TPB AFK explores what Hollywood’s most hated pirates go through on a personal level.

Trailer and more info here: http://www.tpbafk.tv

This campaign starts exactly one month before the Court of Appeal hearings start in The Pirate Bay trial in Stockholm, Sweden. In 2009 the founders of The Pirate Bay were convicted to 1 year in jail and to pay damages of around 4 million dollars for having ‘assisted in making copyrighted content available’. The precedent in the Pirate Bay case will have consequences for the future of the internet. We will cover the upcoming trial closely.

After the court case we’ll sit down with two years of footage and start editing a first roughcut. The money we raise here will go to studio rent and an editor.

Thanks for showing interest in our project, all support is deeply appreciated!

Simon Klose

Link to the finished documentary.

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Link plus the finished DVD.

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Link plus a limited edition T-shirt by Finsta.

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Link, the DVD and a limited edition T-shirt by Finsta.

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Link, the DVD, a limited edition T-shirt by Finsta plus credit in the film.

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All of the above plus director Simon Klose will come to your theatre, movie club or house and screen and discuss the film.

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Vodafone Pocket WiFi

There isn’t much to differentiate the Pocket WiFi from similar devices in regards to performance, but the addition of its LED display gives it a leg-up in usability.

Editor’s rating:9.0 User rating:9

Vodafone Pocket WiFi Rating: 9.0 out of 10 Joseph Hanlon 23rd Aug 2010 There isn’t much to differentiate the Pocket WiFi from similar devices in regards to performance, but the addition of its LED display gives it a leg-up in usability. Vodafone Wireless Vodafone Pocket WiFi There isn’t much to differentiate the Pocket WiFi from similar devices in regards to performance, but the addition of its LED display gives it a leg-up in usability.

  • Good: LED display shows key network stats • Up to five connections via Wi-Fi • Reasonable battery life
  • Bad: Network locked
  • Specs: 7.2 Mbps • USB • See more specifications
  • RRP: AU$119.00 • Where to buy? Check price listings


Telco data allowances are swelling, and with these new monster-sized data caps comes the need to share the data you pay for with the multiple internet-capable devices you own. After all, if you lug an iPad, smartphone and laptop with you on the train to work each day you a) have a really big bag, and b) don’t want to be paying for multiple internet connections.

We’ve seen a number of portable Wi-Fi hotspots lately, and we’re even starting to see phones that can behave like a Wi-Fi hotspot, but something tells us the Pocket WiFi is one of the units we’ll remember first when we think about this niche category. Why? It has a lot to do with design.

Up until we saw the Pocket WiFi all of the wireless hotspots we have reviewed had one thing in common: LED lights. Red ones, blue ones, green ones, and ones with several shades of yellow blinking and attempting to indicate the status of the modem using something akin to rainbow-coloured Morse code. Pocket WiFi is the first we’ve seen with an LED display, and it’s a godsend. Now for the first time we can see signal strength, the remaining battery life and whether we’ve connected to HSDPA of a super-slow 2G service. There is also a few extra pieces of information displayed; there’s the number of devices currently connected (great to be sure no one else on the train is leeching your data) and there’s a counter that keeps track of how much data you’ve used in that session.

For more advanced usage details and settings, you can access a web portal for your modem by typing http://pocket.wifi into the URL of your browser once you’re connected. The interface is clean and easy to use, even on the small screen of a smartphone.


As with all wireless broadband products, our test results reflect a number of factors, primarily the service we experienced from the telco in our test areas. Pocket WiFi is Vodafone exclusive in Australia and our test SIM was generously donated by Vodafone for the trial. The modem is rated at a maximum of 7.2Mbps, a speed no one outside of Voda’s test team is likely to see.

We managed an average line speed of about 1.3Mbps on two separate devices simultaneously, and the same average speed when these devices ran speed tests one after the other. Pocket WiFi also performed well when placed in a different room and about 5 metres away from the connected smartphones and laptops, and, according to Vodafone, it is capable of supporting up to five simultaneous data connections. Battery life came out at just under five hours with a mixture of data transfers and standby power use.


Performance-wise, Pocket WiFi is on par with competing products available through Virgin Mobile and Internode, but the addition of the LED screen gives this latest device the edge. Having quick access to important information is far more preferable than trying to decipher the consistency of flashing, coloured lights. It is also a little cheaper too; for AU$119 you get a locked modem and a Vodafone prepaid SIM with 1GB of data to use.

Japan develops ‘touchable’ 3D TV images

A Japanese research team said on Thursday it had developed the world’s first 3D television system that allows users to touch, pinch or poke images floating in front of them.

‘It is the first time that you can feel images in the air,’ said Norio Nakamura, senior scientist with the research team at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology.

‘You can have the sense of touch like poking a rubber ball or stretching a sticky rice cake’ when manipulating images, he told AFP by telephone.

The technology changes the shape of three-dimensional images in response to ‘touches’, aided by cameras that monitor how the fingers move, Nakamura said.

It is not known when the technology will be put to practical use, but its creators see it being used to simulate surgical operations and in video game software, allowing players to experience the sensation of holding weapons or sports equipment.

It could even use scanned images to supplement existing realities, said Nakamura.

‘This technology could create a virtual museum where visitors, including vision-impaired people, can put their hands on valuable sculptures that are usually untouchable,’ Nakamura said.

Fire hits former Nazi death camp

A fire swept through a barrack at the former Nazi death camp of Majdanek, destroying more than half the building and possibly 10,000 shoes of Holocaust victims, officials said on Tuesday.

The Majdanek museum said the fire in the barrack housing a camp kitchen was discovered shortly before midnight on Monday by a guard making his rounds. The cause of the fire is not yet known and authorities are investigating.

In Israel, the director of the Yad Vashem museum, Avner Shalev expressed sorrow that the historic site and valuable artifacts had been damaged or destroyed.

“The damage to these irreplaceable items is a loss to a site that has such historical value to Europe, Poland and the Jewish people,” Shalev said.

Shalev offered assistance to the museum at the Majdanek camp, which is on the outskirts of Lublin in eastern Poland.

The museum said there were 10,000 shoes in the barrack, but that it was too soon to say how extensive the damage was.

Former death camps across an area once occupied by Nazi Germany are falling into a state of disrepair decades after the end of World War II. There have also been recent cases of vandalism at some of them.

The most brazen of those was the theft of the sign over the entrance gate at Auschwitz bearing the infamous slogan “Arbeit Macht Frei” or “Work Will Set You Free”.

The thieves cut the sign in three pieces, but police quickly recovered it and arrested six suspects. A replica has since been put up in place of the original, which is being restored.

An estimated 80,000 people, including about 60,000 Jews, were killed at the SS-run Majdanek camp in occupied Poland between October 1941 and its liberation by Soviet troops in July 1944.

Wind claims ‘Anne Frank’s tree’

The Anne Frank Museum says the monumental chestnut tree that cheered the teenage diarist while she was in hiding from the Nazis has toppled over.

The diseased tree made headlines around the world in 2007 when Amsterdam officials ordered it cut down for safety’s sake.

Supporters who saw the tree as a symbol of freedom protested and it was granted a last-minute reprieve.

The 27-tonne tree was encased in a steel support system, but that failed under windy weather conditions on Monday.

Museum spokeswoman Maatje Mostart said the tree’s trunk snapped about one metre from the ground and it fell into neighbouring gardens, damaging several sheds. No-one was hurt.

Many clones of the tree have been taken.

Frank wrote about it several times in her diary.

World text message record smashed

A British woman was feeling ‘GR8’ after smashing the world record for typing the fastest text message, a mobile phone company says.

Melissa Thompson, 27, wrote ‘the razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human’, in 25.94 seconds on Sunday.

The official Guinness World Record is currently held by American Franklin Page, 24, who wrote the same passage in 35.54 seconds in March this year.

Thompson, from Salford, Greater Manchester, was using Samsung’s new Galaxy S smartphone when she shaved a huge 9.6 seconds off Mr Page’s record, also achieved on a Samsung device.

The record, which remains subject to Guinness approval, was smashed by Ms Thompson using the Galaxy S’s ‘SWYPE’ key pad, which enables users to input text without their fingertip leaving the screen.

The company said it allows people to send text messages at speeds that were never before possible.

Thompson, who works for an insurance company, was shopping with her boyfriend, Chris Davies, 23, when they visited a Samsung roadshow and she was invited to have a go at breaking the record.

She said: ‘I used to send a lot of text messages – 40 or 50 a day to Chris alone so we both knew I could type fast.

‘but since we moved in together and I started my job I haven’t been texting as much and, you could say, my fingers were out of shape.

‘It’s a real shock to find out that I’m the fastest texter in the world.

‘But using SWYPE helped. Everyone should give it a go and see how easy it is.’

Taiwanese LCD maker files second suit against Sony


Taiwan’s Chimei Innolux Corp sued Japan‘s Sony Corp for infringing on patents used in PlayStation 3 video game consoles, televisions, computer notebooks and cameras.

Sony engaged in “widespread infringement” of three patents dating back to 1998 Chimei said in its lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Delaware on Monday.

Chimei said the infringement came after it had invested tens of millions of dollars in developing liquid crystal display (LCD) panels and related products.

The complaint was filed a month after Chimei filed a similar lawsuit against Sony in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas.

Chimei is seeking unspecified compensatory damages, which it wants tripled because of what it considers Sony’s “willful” misconduct, and other remedies.

Neither company returned calls seeking comment.

Sony, the world’s second-largest camera maker and the third-largest flat screen TV maker, posted an operating profit of 67 billion yen ($785 million) in its fiscal quarter ended in June.

Chimei Innolux was formed in a three-way merger in March and overtook AU Optronics as Taiwan’s No. 1 LCD maker. It reported a second-quarter net profit of T$9.54 billion (US$298 million) on August 9

The case is: Chimei Innolux Corp v. Sony Corp et al, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware, No. 10-00706.

The case in the Western District of Arkansas is Chimei Innolux Corp v Sony Corp, et al, No. 5:10-cv-05122.

Sharp to cut LCD panel production: report


BANGALORE (Reuters) – Sharp Corp will reduce LCD panel production for up to two months starting this month, adjusting supplies as TV inventories pile up in the United States and China, the Nikkei business daily reported.

The company will lower the capacity utilization rate by 20 to 30 percent at its new Sakai factory, which makes panels of 40 inches and up, and cut panel supplies to TV makers including Sony Corp , the business daily said.

However, production of panels for Sharp’s own TVs will not be affected and it will maintain capacity utilization rates at its Kameyama plant in Mie Prefecture that makes small and mid-size TV panels, the daily said.

A Sharp spokesman said the company would not comment whether it was considering such a plan.

LCD panels were in short supply in the first half of this year but TVs have started piling up in U.S. and Chinese warehouses as Chinese manufacturers’ production outpaced demand, the paper said.

LG Display Chief Executive Kwon Young-soo said last month the company may cut production of LCDs due to weak demand from TV makers.

Sharp reaffirmed its TV sales target of 15 million units for the business year to March 2011, a rise of 47 percent from the previous year, the Nikkei said.

Sharp expects group operating profit to more than double to 120 billion yen ($1.41 billion), but a decline in panel sales to other manufacturers will likely erode this figure by 10 billion to 20 billion yen, the daily reported.

Shares of Sharp edged down 2.2 percent to 858 yen in early trading on Friday, underperforming the Nikkei stock average , which shed 1.4 percent.

China’s Tencent buys Google-backed social-networking co: report


(Reuters) – China’s largest Internet company Tencent Holdings Ltd has bought a Google-backed Chinese social networking company for more than $60 million, the China Business News reported on Tuesday.

Tencent, China’s No.1 online game operator and its largest instant messaging provider, had bought Comsenz, a Beijing-based social-networking provider, Comsenz said in a statement on its website. Comsenz is backed by Google Inc, Sequoia Capital and Morningside Ventures.

The deal was reportedly worth more than $60 million, the newspaper said, quoting a source familiar with the situation.

Tencent could not be reached for comment.

Tencent, which bought a 10 percent stake in Russian Facebook investor Digital Sky Technologies (DST) for $300 million earlier this year, could be on the look out for more acquisitions as it seeks to expand its dominance beyond China.

China’s Internet space is becoming more cut-throat as users become more sophisticated and selective over which products and services they use and companies jostle for attention in an increasingly crowded arena. China is the world’s largest Internet market by users with 420 million online.

Scientists find star system with planets

European astronomers say they’ve discovered a star system containing at least five Neptune-like planets.

They suspect there are two more including one that could be the smallest found outside our solar system.

The discovery has been made using the European Southern Observatory telescope in Chile.

Five are covered with rock and ice and have 13 to 25 times the mass of Earth.

The moon is shrinking, say scientists


The moon is shrinking, say planetary scientists who claim to have spotted on its surface cracks which form when a planetary body cools and contracts. The intriguing features, called lobate scarps, are faults created when the Moon’s once-molten interior began to cool, causing the lunar surface to contract and then crinkle, astronomers reported in the US journal Science.

Relative to the Moon’s age, estimated at around 4.5 billion years, the contraction is recent, occurring less than a billion years ago, and is measured at about 100 metees.

Lobate scarps were first spotted near the lunar equator in the 1970s by panoramic cameras aboard the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions.

Fourteen new faults have been been spotted in high-resolution images taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The new discoveries show that the scarps are globally distributed and not clustered in equatorial regions, and this provides powerful evidence for the contraction scenario.

The investigation was headed by Thomas Watters of the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the Smithsonian Museum’s National Air and Space Museum, Washington.

Bacteria survives space


In the quaint English seaside village of Beer, the cliffs frame the spot where tourists enjoy the steep lane ways, centuries-old pubs and freshly-caught fish. What most visitors may not know is that bacteria taken from these cliffs, have shocked scientists and survived in space.

A variety of organisms make the cliff rocks their home, on the inside and on the interior.

The rocks were strapped to the outside of the international space station, hit by cosmic rays, and exposed to the vacuum of space – for eighteen months.

One kind of bacteria made it back alive.

Plants without water


US scientists have discovered 50 proteins that help plants survive without water, a crucial step toward one day engineering drought resistant crops.

Nature provides a few examples of plants with an innate ability to survive drought conditions, including the resurrection plant that grows in desert climates in Texas and Arizona. Companies such as Monsanto have been working to design agricultural crops that can thrive in dry weather.

“If we can figure out how to do that in crops that will be so important,” said Michael R Sussman, a University of Wisconsin professor of biochemistry and senior author of a report describing the proteins in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published on Monday.

Moreover, the discovery of these proteins – only five to 10 of which were known previously to be important – promises to give scientists a new avenue through which to examine how plants deal with other environmental stresses.

Sussman said he plans future experiments investigating whether these 50 proteins help plants cope with such other problems as nutrient starvation, ultra-violet light and cold weather.

“This work is a big deal. It’s a big deal because in the past we had tried to dissect this problem one wire at a time, and what Dr Sussman did was take a more global approach,” said Alan M Jones, the George and Alice Welsh distinguished professor of cell biology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“When a plant is wilting, many, many things are happening.”

The University of Wisconsin scientists observed the effect of a key hormone called abscisic acid in a laboratory plant called Arabidopsis. Arabidopsis, a weed related to cabbage and cauliflower, is a favorite model for the study of plants because it has a small genome and its life cycle from one generation of seeds to the next is only two months.

Plants rely on a sophisticated system of signalling to move water from the roots to the leaves when needed. In dry weather, the roots signal leaves to conserve water by closing their pores.

“The roots are yelling up to the leaves and the way they’re yelling is through this abscisic acid,” Jones said. “They’re saying, ‘It’s dry. We need to slow this down until we get some rain.’ “

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Visit JSOnline, the Journal Sentinel’s World Wide Web site, at http://www.jsonline.com/

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.


Foursquare Surpasses 3 Million User Registrations

Foursquare (Foursquare) now has more than 3 million users, if the site’s public user registration numbers are correct.

The 3 millionth member appears to be Brian S. from St. Louis, Missouri, who has yet to check in to any venues via the mobile-based social network.

Foursquare’s growth has been accelerating rapidly lately. The service hit 2.6 million users on August 2, up from 725,000 in March. The launch of Facebook Places, which many thought would bring about the startup’s demise, instead resulted in the biggest day of signups ever, CEO Dennis Crowley recently revealed.

Given that Foursquare appears to have a little more than 3.02 million users now, we can determine that it is growing by more than 15,500 users per day (a little less than the 18,000 per day Crowley told the LA Times last week), or nearly half a million users per month.

Although already rapid, that rate may very well pick up now that Foursquare has taken over Times Square.

Update: The team at Foursquare has informed us that they have not, in fact, reached 3 million users yet, but expect to hit that number either today or tomorrow.

First Full-length Trailer for “The Social Network” Hits the Web [VIDEO]

First Full-length Trailer for “The Social Network” Hits the Web [VIDEO]

Yahoo! Movies has just posted the first full-length trailer for David Fincher’s The Social Network.

The new trailer, which you can see above, actually includes some scenes from the film. The last two teasers have only given us a basic glimpse. It features much of the same dialog, but this time with the visual context.

Frankly, we think that it’s pretty brilliant.

For those of you unfamiliar with the premise, the film is loosely based on the book The Accidental Billionaires and it chronicles the foundation and rise of Facebook.

Although the film is about the early days of the social network, that doesn’t preclude the discussion of privacy and ownership. Sony’s campaign for the film is subtly drawing parallels between the issues facing Facebook today and the fictionalized account of its start. We think that’s a smart way to kickstart discussion around the movie itself.

As an aside, we also have to give huge props for the music choice in this trailer. It’s a cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” by the Belgium girls choir Scala.

What do you think about the trailer? Are you going to see the film when it hits theaters this October? Let us know!

Gmail Priority Inbox Launches: Your E-mail Will Never Be the Same

Gmail Priority Inbox Launches: Your E-mail Will Never Be the Same

Today, Google will begin rolling out Priority Inbox for Gmail, a new feature for managing massive amounts of e-mail. Your inbox will never be the same again.

Priority Inbox is Google’s (Google) attempt to solve the e-mail woes of Gmail (Gmail) power users. At its core, the feature is an algorithm; Priority Inbox uses information such as keywords, the people you e-mail the most and your e-mail habits to select the most pressing e-mails in your inbox. Those e-mails are brought to the top of your Gmail and marked as important so you deal with them first.

Priority Inbox is also an adaptive algorithm. Marking items as important or unimportant teaches the system what types of messages you deem the most urgent. You can also use Gmail’s filters to automatically mark certain messages as important (for example, from your boss or your spouse),

The new feature appears as a new menu item just above the “Inbox” link. Instead of indicating how many unread e-mails you have in your inbox, Priority Inbox only displays how many priority e-mails still require your attention. These appear at the top of Gmail as “Important and unread.”

The second layer of the new layout is your starred e-mails. These messages appear in their own section under the Priority Inbox. The goal is to get users to star important e-mails they have read but for whatever reason still need in their inboxes. Under the “Starred” section is “Everything else,” which contains the rest of your unarchived inbox.

The Impact of the Priority Inbox

During the many months of testing the feature internally, the search giant found that users spent 16% less time reading insignificant e-mail. If you do the math, that’s about a full week’s worth of time saved. According to Google, once someone switches to Priority Inbox, he or she never needs or wants to go back.

We can see why. We’ve had the chance to test out Priority Inbox for the last few days and discuss the new feature with Gmail Product Director Keith Coleman, and we’re impressed. Our inboxes get filled with hundreds of e-mails daily, but only a few of them require our immediate attention. Even with dozens of Gmail filters, important messages often get lost in the pile, leading to lost opportunities or missed meetings.

Priority Inbox, while not perfect, is a dramatic step toward solving that problem. Important messages bubble to the top, while e-mails that still require attention can sit in the Starred section until they’re addressed. It basically takes the Gmail Multiple Inboxes feature and adds a smart algorithm for cherry picking the threads that require your attention.

Coleman says that the company has been working on the feature for 18 months, but the original version of Gmail had something similar to this before it launched, but was removed because it simply wasn’t ready for mass consumption. Now it is refined enough for use by all.

Aussie PS3 mod chips banned till 31 Aug – Hardware – News

Australia’s Federal Court has slapped a temporary ban on a handful of local retailers selling or importing hardware, commonly known as “mod chips”, that allows unauthorised software to run on Sony’s PlayStation 3.

The ban applies until 31 August while court action initiated by Sony Computer Entertainment’s Australian and European arms against three local retailers goes ahead, although the ban will be lifted if the gaming giant’s lawsuit is not successful.

According to court documents filed late last week, the four Australian retailers banned from selling the device are OzModChips and an individual who appears to be involved with the business — Ryan Caruana, Global Solutions International (trading as Quantronics) and Ken Tolcher (trading as Mod Supplier).

Furthermore, the court has required that the four parties actually hand over to Sony any PlayStation mod-chip devices they have, until the 31 August date.

OzModChips has responded to the lawsuit in a message posted on its site. “This is not OzModChips versus Sony,” the company wrote. “This is not OzModChips, Quantronics, Modsupplier versus Sony. We would go as far as saying that it is not even everyone in Australia versus Sony.”

“This will affect everyone that plans to buy such a device worldwide. It already sets a dangerous precedent. Everyone that was using OtherOS, everyone that has had a faulty PS3 laser … and those interested in PS3 custom firmware and homebrew applications.

“We cannot do it alone; we need the support of everyone in the homebrew community, the media, engineers that understand the inner workings and anyone else that can provide support.”

OzModChips also linked to a forum posting, which the company said was by Quantronics, responding to the temporary injunction slapped on the three retailers.

Quantronics wrote that the injunction was “baseless”, and it was very unlikely that it would be continued or become permanent. “OzModChips, Modsupplier and myself are all close friends, share lawyers and have sought senior counsel for this matter,” wrote Quantronics.

The retailer added that the trio started in the gaming industry as kids with an ideal of changing Australia’s views on copyright law, fair use and “freedom”. “To this day, we stand for the same beliefs, values and will at any cost fight for what we believe in, the rights we should have, and in a David versus Goliath battle, we will give it our best,” they said.

Comment is being sought from Sony Computer Entertainment.

Social is Google’s new black – Business – News

in brief Google has bought an awful lot of companies in 2010, but it hasn’t been hard to spot a theme to its purchases over the last few months.

Inside Social Games spotted news posted on the home page of SocialDeck, a mobile-game developer, that Google has acquired the company for an undisclosed sum.

“We’re super excited to announce that someone found our social games as fun as you have — in this case, that ‘someone’ is Google,” the company wrote.

SocialDeck has created mobile games, such as Pet Hero, and Shake and Spell, on the back of a “social-gaming platform technology” it developed. Sound familiar? Perhaps that’s because Google has bought two other social-gaming companies — Slide and Jambool — in just the last few weeks.


Toshiba to launch first glasses-free 3D TV | The Australian

Toshiba to launch first glasses-free 3D TV

  • From: AFP
  • August 25, 2010 9:54AM

TOSHIBA plans to market the world’s first 3D television that does not need special glasses later this year, a report said on Tuesday.

The Japanese electronics giant will unveil three models of the television, which will cost several thousand dollars, before Christmas, the Yomiuri Shimbun said.

The company has developed a new system that emits a number of rays of light with various angles from the screen so that viewers can see stereoscopic images without glasses, the daily said.

“People can enjoy images in three dimensions from various positions and suffer less stress,” it said.

Japan’s major electronics makers launched 3D television this year, but sales have not been as strong as expected while many customers have complained of being irritated by the glasses.

However, a Toshiba spokeswoman said: “We are not in a position to make any announcement.”

Google challenges Skype in web calls | The Australian

Google challenges Skype in web calls

  • Amir Efrati
  • From: The Wall Street Journal
  • August 26, 2010 8:45AM

GOOGLE has unveiled a way for web users in the US to make calls through its Gmail email service.

The move further pushes Google into the internet-calling business and ratcheting up competition with similar services such as Skype.

At an event in San Francisco, Google said the new service, which will roll out this week, is free for calls to the US and Canada at least until the end of the year, though there are costs to make international calls to landlines and mobile phones.

Google said it hoped to later offer the service to international Gmail users and possibly to businesses.

For Google, the move helps drive users to Gmail as well as the potentially to add a feature to its software for businesses, called Google Apps. More than 200 million people currently use Gmail actively, said Todd Jackson, a Google product manager.

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The move is Google’s latest foray into the telecommunications industry. Two years ago, Google launched a feature that allows Gmail users to do free video chats with other Gmail users. The company has also launched its Android operating system, which powers dozens of mobile phones made by Motorola, HTC Corp and others. It also backed a Google-branded phone made by HTC, which has been discontinued.

Google’s new web-based calls feature increases its competition with internet phone providers like Skype.

Skype, which is planning an initial public offering, also has a paid service offering low-cost calls to landlines or mobile phones, similar to Google’s new plan. Skype, which generated revenue of more than $US400 million ($452m) for the first half of 2010, said only about eight million of its 560 million registered users paid for their service as of June 30.

Skype didn’t respond to requests for comment on Google’s new offering.

The new feature “complements Google’s enterprise applications, especially for small businesses,” and it also will keep current Gmail users happy, said Jim Friedland, a Cowen & Co. technology analyst. “This makes sure they stay in the Google sphere of products.”

At its event, Google said its PC-to-phone call rates will be cheaper than those of providers of similar services. Gmail calls to landlines in China, France, Spain, Mexico, Britain and more than two dozen other countries will cost US2 cents a minute.

Calls through Gmail to mobile phones internationally will be more expensive, with users paying US18c a minute for calls to Britain and US6c a minute to India, for example. Google said it hopes to generate enough revenue from the foreign calls to keep domestic and Canada calls free.

Skype charges users about US2.1c a minute to make calls to landline and mobile phones in the US and dozens of other countries, according to its website. Skype also sells monthly subscriptions.

Gmail users who have a Google Voice account can also receive inbound calls in Gmail, the company said. Google Voice is a free service that gives callers a new phone number that can be used to ring different real-world phones they own and can send them an email transcript of voicemails they received, among other features.

Piracy targeted in ad campaign | The Australian

Piracy targeted in ad campaign

A NATIONWIDE ad campaign begins today, asking Australians if they are “accidental pirates”.

The ad stars actor Dan Wyllie, playing a series of characters representing a cross-section of Australians likely to unwittingly download pirated content or buy cheap, bootleg DVDs overseas.

Tony Singleton and Paul Fenton, from creative house The Furnace, developed the concept and Paul Friedman and Adam Blaiklock, from Flying Fish Productions, filmed the ad, airing on pay-TV from today and in cinemas from Thursday.

Blaiklock, who has completed his first feature film, Caught Inside, a disturbing tale of a remote surfing trip that is already getting international attention, said involvement in the campaign was a no-brainer.

“Having your film pirated before it’s even released is every filmmaker’s nightmare,” he said, noting he had heard of distribution companies withdrawing from deals to sign up a film after learning it had been pirated.

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ONLINE: www.accidental pirate.com.au

Internode starts FetchTV trial in September | The Australian

Internode starts FetchTV trial in September

INTERNODE has confirmed its plans to launch a trial of internet-delivered pay-TV service FetchTV by the end of September.

The company announced an early adopter program for customers with an Extreme or NakedExtreme ADSL2+ connection, who will get access to the service’s digital video recorder box, pay-TV channels and movie download service for a $99 start-up fee and a monthly payment of $29.95.

Customers with slower connections will have access to FetchTV Lite, which offers a smaller range of programming but makes it available to a wider geographic area, from the end of October.

“The FetchTV Early Access trial will let keen customers help Internode to ‘road test’ the service and our support for it, ahead of the doors being opened to all eligible Internode customers later in the year,” Internode MD Simon Hackett said.

“We’ve had a lot of interest since we announced our intention to work with FetchTV earlier this year, so we expect this early adopter program to attract strong participation from our customers who are as keen as we are to make this service a wonderful addition to their Internode broadband services.”

The Internode announcement follow’s rival iiNet’s decision to launch a trial with 100 households earlier this year.

The Australian reported today iiNet experienced a 95 per cent take-up rate from customers who participated in the trial.

Telstra has launched a similar service through its T-Box, which is being heavily marketed to its BigPond broadband customer base and on free-to-air TV, and has reportedly sold about 20,000 units.

iiNet and Internode are expected to launch full marketing campaigns for FetchTV in the lead-up to Christmas.

Internode customers can register their interest in the trial on the company’s website or via FetchTV.

Broadband ranks low in Bob Katter’s Kennedy | The Australian

Broadband ranks low in Bob Katter’s Kennedy

  • Andrew Colley
  • From: Australian IT
  • August 31, 2010 12:51PM

BOB Katter won’t find a single paragraph devoted to broadband in a briefing prepared by two local government officials.

The officials who scrambled to prepare and present the brief to his office last week said that broadband was so far down the electorate’s list of priorities it scarcely rated mention.

It’s not clear if Mr Katter, the Queensland independent MP for Kennedy , has received the document which was a wish list of policy developments that local authorities believed were critical to the region.

When asked whether the document contained any reference to broadband policy, the two authors said there was not.

The Australian spoke to the two authors, Etheridge mayor Warren Devlin and Atherton divisional councillor Rhonda Sorensen as they travelled to Queensland’s annual local government conference in Mackay yesterday.

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“The broadband issue probably wasn’t on there actually,” Ms Soresen said. “The basics are probably what we’re more inclined to focus on at the moment.”

The two councillors said Mr Katter needed to concentrate on saving rural agriculture, environmental issues and promoting projects to create jobs in the region.

What is at the top of the region’s agenda, the pair said, was a new carbon miles tax on transport aimed at letting local agriculture producers compete with the likes of Woolworths and Coles for local markets.

Mr Devlin said that the tax on food transportation, focusing on imported food, which could be put toward buying carbon credits from rural industries and carbon sequestration projects to support mining.

It would be a preferable alternative to carbon tax policy that would see electricity prices increase.

“We have a free trade policy that does not support our local industry or food growers in Australia, it’s just ridiculous,” Mr Devlin said.

“I have friends that used to grow food in Australia and now they import food.”

“If you’ve got great broadband what will it actually do for our little towns? It’ll let the kids play faster games. It’ll make email and internet access faster but in reality will it create any money?” Ms Soresen asked rhetorically.

“It won’t make any (crops) grow quicker and it won’t bring any money into our community. I just can’t see how it will do that and without money into our regional and rural communities then we are (in trouble).”

National Broadband Network top priority for independent Wilkie | The Australian

National Broadband Network top priority for independent Wilkie

KEY independent Andrew Wilkie has named completion of Tasmania’s National Broadband Network in a list of requirements to win his support.

Mr Wilkie, the member for Denison, is one of a clutch of independents set to decide the outcome of the federal election.

While the other three potential kingmakers have made noises about some of the changes needed to secure their support, Mr Wilkie is the first to release specific priorities, and key among them is the completion of stage three of the NBN in Tasmania by 2012.

Mr Wilkie’s desire to see continued rollout of the Tasmanian NBN may cruel any chances the Coalition had of swaying the independent member to its side. The Coalition has vowed to carve up and sell off the completed parts of the Tasmanian build should it be able to govern.

NBN Co has not set a specific deadline for the completion of the NBN in Tasmania, but expects the entire construction project to be finished by 2018. While the outcome of the election is still uncertain, all work at NBN Co is on hold.

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“Until the outcome of the election and NBN Co’s objectives are clear, NBN Co will not award any new significant contracts,” a spokeswoman said.

Stage one of the Tasmania NBN has already been completed and is now providing super-fast broadband services to residents in Midway Point, Smithton and Scottsdale.

Stage two will add Sorell, Deloraine, George Town, St Helens, Triabunna, Kingston Beach and South Hobart to the network.

Stage three will extend the NBN’s coverage in Tasmania to 90,000 premises in the major population centres of Hobart, Launceston, Devonport and Burnie.

Diner chain tastes success in battle with spreadsheets: Subway | The Australian

Diner chain tastes success in battle with spreadsheets: Subway

THERE are about 90 staff working across six Subway restaurants on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

Owner Jason Sandford-Bell was looking to gain control of a spiralling wages bill.

Having attempted a paper-based system and Excel spreadsheets to try to determine costs, Mr Sandford-Bell was no closer to an accurate forecast.

“We were using a fairly complicated Excel spreadsheet, which was all done by the managers individually on the computer system at the stores,” Mr Sandford-Bell said.

“One of the problems was it was taking a manager up to an hour to be able to get the roster correct because it was a fairly cumbersome way of doing it.”

And there was no way of confirming if staff members were available for a shift other than what was written on an availability book. “It was quite slow and time-consuming, and it really just failed in its accuracy on a regular basis,” he said.

Mr Sandford-Bell searched the internet, spoke to other franchisees, as well as head office group Subway Systems Australia, which recommended web-based employee scheduling and rostering solution Roster with ROSS. The program was developed by South Australian company Zarloc.

“We started looking into it and did a trial run and it was immediately clear how successful it was compared with what we were doing, and how it would help longer-term.”

Mr Sandford-Bell said the program was the most user-friendly for staff, with on-call and email support as well as systen training provided. It was rolled out across all six Subway stores about seven months ago.

“The staff can log on from anywhere, with their own log-on details, to put their availability down,” he said. “They can view the roster online and they receive it via email.”

Mr Sandford-Bell said store managers were able to see exactly what their roster costs would be for the week. “They put the percentage into the program that we want to achieve, they start allocating shifts, which are all hourly-based, because they have got the hourly rate for the staff member in, and it calculates an hourly cost, daily cost and then a weekly cost. It means we can hit a percentage very accurately, which we never used to be able to with the Excel spreadsheet.”

Mr Sandford-Bell said the ROSS system could link with Subway’s point-of-sale program.

“It gives you a guideline of how many staff you should have on — so it helps you to roster your system based on your previous sales from the year before.”

At the close of a week, ROSS exports time and attendance data to accounting packages. Mr Sandford-Bell said it now took a manager just three to five minutes to complete a roster, which was delivered via email and SMS.

He said the group was able to aim for a set percentage of 25 per cent of total sales per store collectively allocated to wages.

“Using this program, we can hit that percentage every week and we have shaved close to five to six per cent off our wage bill from this time last year,” Mr Sandford-Bell said.

He expects to save between $90,000 and $130,000 in reduced wages for the year.

“A lot of our staff are Gen Y and they are really adept at being online and used to being on the internet, so this isn’t a burden for them, they actually quite enjoy it,” Mr Sandford-Bell said.

The ROSS system is priced per roster, with free upgrades. Mr Sandford-Bell pays about $7-$8 per weekly roster for six stores, plus an administration roster. He is invoiced monthly and pays up to $220 a month.

“Plus any little upgrades that we wanted they did for us, and they were able to adapt the program to make it even better for us.”

Mr Sandford-Bell next plans to trial a new addition to the ROSS system with a “clocking on” style program for staff members.

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