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Friday, September 30, 2005

Skype signals online video plan

Skype, the internet telecoms company owned by eBay, today moved closer to becoming a major platform for digital content and hinted it could soon offer online video services.

Underscoring how rapidly the media landscape is shifting, the news came the day after BT revealed that it will move into television next summer. The telecoms group will launch a set-top box that will enable users to download programmes over broadband internet lines.

Skype's foray into content distribution starts today with the launch of Personalise Skype, a feature that means that callers can receive and send pictures, sounds and ringtones over the Skype network.

Skype users are able to make free phone calls between themselves by downloading free software. The company was bought by eBay earlier this month in a deal that could reach $4.1 billion (£2.3bn) if Skype hits its profit targets.

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Kodak ships computer-free wireless camera

SEP. 29 5:40 P.M. ET After a summer-long delay, Eastman Kodak Co. has begun shipping the first digital camera with Wi-Fi wireless technology to e-mail photos directly to friends and family without a computer.

Users of the new EasyShare-One, priced at $599, can send photos directly through a Wi-Fi transmitter at home or work, or pay $4.99 per month to connect the camera with any of T-Mobile USA's 6,000 hot spots at stores, airports, hotels and other establishments.

However, subscribers to other Wi-Fi services will not be able to connect an EasyShare-One to those wireless accounts.

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Google to team with NASA in space research

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Web search company Google Inc. said on Wednesday it plans to partner with U.S. space agency NASA on space research and to build a new campus at the agency's research centre in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Google and the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) said they plan to cooperate on research projects such as large-scale data management, nanotechnology, massively distributed computing and the entrepreneurial space industry.

Massively distributed computing aims to harness via the internet the power of thousands or millions of PCs while their volunteer owners are not using them, putting it to work on large scale research projects such as health or space exploration.

NASA Ames Centre Director G. Scott Hubbard said in a statement that the public-private partnership holds "an enormous range of potential benefits to the space program."

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Sunday, September 25, 2005

Battery life concerns mobile users

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Mobile phone users rate battery life over sophisticated built-in cameras and video recorders, according to a new study.

Topping the wish list of key mobile device features in 14 of the 15 countries surveyed is "two days of battery life during active use," indicating that insufficient battery life is a concern to consumers.

Worries about draining the battery are one of the main reasons why consumers do not use games, music and TV applications on their mobile more frequently, according to the survey conducted by TNS.

Respondents in China were the exception, saying 20 gigabytes of memory is the key feature to have in the future.

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Saturday, September 24, 2005

Coming to a small screen near you: mobile TV

A select group of mobile phone users in Oxford will soon have the chance to sample the brave new world of mobile television. From next week, up to 400 users of the O2 network will be able to watch BBC and BSkyB channels on their mobile phone screens in a trial designed to test the technology and gauge user reactions.

Some video content has already been made available on mobile phones, but most has been limited to short clips rather than continuous broadcasts. Public enthusiasm has been measured, although the mobile operator 3 is estimated to have made £250,000 from phone users who downloaded clips of this summer’s Big Brother to their phones.

Earlier this year, a series of one-minute episodes of the American drama show 24 were made specifically for Vodafone handsets, but the Oxford trial, run jointly by O2 and Arqiva, a company specialising in digital TV and new media, will involve the first attempt to broadcast multi-channel TV direct to phones within the UK.

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Ellison: Encryption is key to data protection

SAN FRANCISCO--Organizations need to look more closely at how they encrypt their databases to protect against security threats, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said Thursday.

Addressing an audience at Oracle OpenWorld here, Ellison stressed that security risks will continue to increase as more companies put business applications on the Internet.

Customers will get access to Web-based systems to check whether their orders are being processed or have been shipped, he said.

"Suppliers can also check their inventory through multiple systems on the Internet," he added. "But as you let your employees access systems from homes and branch offices around world, your security risks are increasing."

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Friday, September 23, 2005

Toyota: Hybrid demand up in Katrina's wake

Toyota has seen a rise in demand for hybrid vehicles in the United States in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as consumers seek more mileage out of $3-gallon gasoline

"At the end of last month, we had a 20-hour supply of the Prius (hybrid sedan)," Jim Press, head of Toyota's U.S. operations, said at the Reuters Autos Summit in Detroit on Thursday. "We no longer count in days."

Japan's top automaker, a pioneer in gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles, has enjoyed booming sales in the world's biggest car market thanks to the popularity of its hybrid models, now also offered in the sport utility vehicle segment through the Highlander and Lexus RX400h.

"Our hybrid SUVs allow customers to have their SUVs and be responsible at the same time, and we've seen (demand) really accelerate since Katrina," Press, president of Toyota Motor Sales USA, said, adding that the waiting list was growing for its hybrid SUVs.

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Monday, September 19, 2005

Camera phones will be high-precision scanners

The software, developed by NEC and the Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST) in Japan, goes further than existing cellphone camera technology by allowing entire documents to be scanned simply by sweeping the phone across the page.

Commuters in Japan already anger bookstore owners and newsagents by using existing cellphone software to try to take snapshots of newspaper and magazine articles to finish reading on the train to work.

This is only possible because some phones now offer very rudimentary optical character recognition (OCR) software which allows small amounts of text to be captured and digitised from images.

But with the new software entire documents can be captured. As a page is being scanned the OCR software takes dozens of still images of the page and effectively merges them together using the outline of the page as a reference guide. The software can also detect the curvature of the page and correct any distortion so caused, enabling even the areas near the binding to be scanned clearly.

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IBM to help employees become teachers

Citing a U.S. shortage of math and science teachers, IBM has pledged financial support for employees who leave the company to pursue teaching careers.

The tech giant said on Friday that it would reimburse participants in its new Transition to Teaching program up to $15,000 for tuition and stipends. Participants will also be able to remain at IBM while they conduct course work and training, the company said.

"Many of our experienced employees have math and science backgrounds and have made it clear that when they are ready to leave IBM, they aren't ready to stop contributing," Stanley Litow, vice president of IBM Corporate Community Relations, said in a statement. "Transferring their skills from IBM to the classroom is a natural for many--especially in the areas of math and science."

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Can this man save the world?

Joe Williams Sr. believes he has the machine that will help save the world. It will make the sky blue, allow everyone to breathe easier, and, in a time of skyrocketing fuel prices, save us all money.

Yes, it's hard to believe. Williams is a Winnipeg boy who cut his business teeth managing McDonald's and Burger King franchises. Even now, he employs only 15 people in his Toronto and Manitoba offices. He entered this save-the-world field only 11 years ago and has invested just $7.5 million in his product.

But before you sniff skeptically and skip to the next story, read on.

Because if Joe Williams turns out to be right, "I think Bill Gates and our group will be shaking hands," he says. "It's that big."

"It" is his Hydrogen Generating Module, or H2N-Gen for short.

Smaller than a DVD player - small enough to sit comfortably under the hood of any truck or car - it could be big enough to solve the world's greenhouse gas emission problems, at least for the near future. In fact, it could make the Kyoto protocol obsolete. Basically, the H2N-Gen contains a small reservoir of distilled water and other chemicals such as potassium hydroxide. A current is run from the car battery through the liquid. This process of electrolysis creates hydrogen and oxygen gases which are then fed into the engine's intake manifold where they mix with the gasoline vapours.

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Saturday, September 17, 2005

Seagate buys storage company Mirra

Storage device maker Seagate Technology has acquired Mirra in an effort to develop a box that'll let people access their home and small-office content from any Internet-connected PC.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed in the acquisition announcement on Wednesday. Server maker Mirra now becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of Seagate. All 34 people at Mirra are expected to stay onboard at the company's offices, Mirra CEO Tom Shea said.

Mirra, a start-up out of Sunnyvale, Calif., makes a personal server that continuously and automatically backs up files, photos and other digital content from multiple devices. The included software and free service then secures the content and makes the file accessible through a standard Web browser.

"If you had three years' worth of digital photos on your network, you could share those with your mother in another state. All she would need to access the content is a special password and a Web browser," Seagate executive vice president Brian Dexheimer said.

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Friday, September 16, 2005

Xbox 360 Winter Release Set

Microsoft plans to beat Sony’s latest game console to market by rolling out Xbox 360 by mid-December.

In the latest round of the fight for dominance in the next-generation game console market, Microsoft has plans to release its Xbox 360 in three markets by the end of the year, beating the expected release date of archrival Sony’s PlayStation 3 by some three months.

Microsoft said Wednesday it will begin selling the device on November 22 in North America, December 2 in Europe, and December 10 in Japan. The announcement came on the eve of the Tokyo Games Show, the largest game convention in Japan, Sony’s home turf.

It’s “the first time a game console will be launched in three territories in the same time frame,” Microsoft said.

By setting the three regional dates of the Xbox 360 launch for the coming months, Microsoft is attempting to grab market share in the console business from Sony, which will not release its PlayStation 3 until possibly March 2006.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

IBM bulks up integration line

IBM is expected to expand its server software line on Tuesday with a handful of integration and workflow-related products.

The company plans to introduce two integration servers, called WebSphere Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) and WebSphere Process Server. The software pulls data from various sources and tracks different steps in a business process, according to a company representative. ESB is a loosely defined term to describe integration servers that rely on industry standard messaging formats.

In addition, IBM plans to introduce a development tool geared specifically for writing programs that move data between systems, called WebSphere Integration Developer. IBM's Global Services division has also developed professional services for building software that conforms to a service-oriented architecture, or SOA, an increasingly popular software design approach that relies heavily on standards-based integration tools.

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Flash memory closing in on hard drives?

Samsung has developed a new computer flash technology with so much capacity it could replace mini hard drives in some PCs, the company said Monday.

South Korean-based Samsung said its latest NAND memory device has 16-gigabit density. That's twice the density of the 8-gigabit NAND memory developed last year by Samsung, Toshiba, Hitachi and others.

NAND flash memory is widely used in consumer devices like digital cameras, cell phones, USB flash drives and portable music players such as Apple Computer's new iPod Nano.

But Samsung's top brass are touting the new small-size, large-capacity device as an alternative to mini hard drives and even the hard drives used in laptops.

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Monday, September 12, 2005

eBay to buy Skype in $2.6bn deal

Online auction site eBay has agreed to buy internet telephone company Skype Technologies in a $2.6bn (£1.4bn) deal.

eBay said it would pay half the amount in cash and the other half in stocks to create "an unparalleled e-commerce and communications engine".

Skype's software lets PC users talk to each other for free and make cut-price calls to mobiles and landlines.

Other players in the online phone market include computer giants such as Google, Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo.

Google recently launched its Talk service, while Microsoft purchased leading player Teleo for an undisclosed sum.

Technology used by Skype, and rivals such as Vonage, converts phone conversations into packets of data and transmits them down the same wires used to surf the internet.

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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Microsoft Web plan takes aim at Google

Microsoft will take aim at rival Google next week with a new Web development plan.

The software company plans to open access to its MSN and other public Web sites to let developers assemble new applications that build on those sites--a technique used successfully at Google and at other Web companies to promote their properties.

Microsoft will detail its "Web platform" strategy at its Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles next week, company executives told CNET It intends to publish the application programming interfaces, or APIs, to some of its public Web sites, including MSN Search, and deliver better tools to write those applications.

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Exclusive: Windows Vista Product Editions Revealed

Two days before the start of Professional Developers Conference (PDC) 2005, I've received exclusive insider information about the product editions, or SKUs, which Microsoft intends to create for Windows Vista (codenamed Longhorn). While the exact breakdown of the Windows Vista editions has been the subject of much speculation, this list closely matches the editions list I first published on the SuperSite for Windows last year. Here's how the Windows Vista product editions break down.

There will be two general categories of Windows Vista editions, which map closely to the two that exist today for XP ("Home," which comprises Starter, Home, and Media Center Editions, Pro, which includes Professional, Professional x64, and Tablet PC Editions). In Windows Vista, the two categories are Home and Business. In the Home category, Microsoft will create four product editions: Windows Vista Starter Edition, Windows Vista Home Basic Edition, Windows Vista Home Premium Edition, and Windows Vista Ultimate Edition (previously known as "Uber" Edition). In the Business category, there will are three editions: Windows Vista Small Business Edition, Windows Vista Professional Edition, and Windows Vista Enterprise Edition. In all, there are 7 product editions planned for Windows Vista

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Friday, September 09, 2005

Future Shuttle Flight Dates Uncertain in Hurricane's Wake

The timing of NASA’s next shuttle launch remains uncertain as the space agency works to recover key facilities from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, agency officials said Thursday.

In addition to spreading widespread devastation across the Gulf Coast, Hurricane Katrina damaged NASA’s external tank-producing Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, as well as Stennis Space Center, where shuttle main engines are tested, in Mississippi.

While some NASA officials still hope to launch around March 2006, they were unable to complete a feasibility analysis for that target before the hurricane struck the Gulf Coast last week.

“We’re in the process of evaluating it,” William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for space operations, said of a possible spring launch during a teleconference with reporters.

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

HP to Fill Out Storage Lineup

Hewlett-Packard Co. this week at Storage Networking World Europe in Frankfurt, Germany, will unveil its new HP ProLiant DL100 G2 and HP ProLiant DL380 G4 Data Protection Storage Servers.

Due later this month and created through an OEM deal with Microsoft Corp., the new NAS (network-attached storage) appliances are built using technology from Microsoft's DPM (Data Protection Manager) and Windows Storage Server 2003 products, said Thomas Kappel, business strategy and portfolio manager for HP StorageWorks Services at HP, in Palo Alto, Calif.

Fully configured out of the box for disk-based systems, the new HP ProLiant DL100 G2 and HP ProLiant DL380 G4 will help customers reduce the risk of data loss for Windows file servers through capabilities including hourly byte-level snapshots and simplified file recovery, said Kappel.

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Mobile phones with MP3 functions may be the next big thing

SINGAPORE : Mobile phones with MP3 functions may be the next big thing in the MP3 world.

Some of the latest phones, such as the Sony Ericsson W800i, have a memory of up to two gigabytes which can store as many as 600 songs.

And Apple, famous for its iPod, is set to unveil a new phone that runs its iTunes music software this week.

Its maker Motorola says users will be able to download about two hours of music from iTunes for free.

Analysts say the new iTunes phone may eventually take away a significant part of market share from MP3 players and even multimedia players.

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Sunday, September 04, 2005

A baby step toward Wi-Fi photos

Every now and then, someone combines two technologies into a single new product, and the result is a triumphant new category that changes the industry. Clock + radio. Cell phone + camera. Music player + hard drive.

But of all possible combinations these days, few are more screamingly obvious than wireless + camera. Already, millions of people snap photos with their cell phones, then gleefully e-mail them or post them on Web sites. But why should you be satisfied with the crummy, low-resolution, bleached-out photos from cell phones? Why shouldn't you be able to have the same kind of fun with really good photos, from really good cameras?

The time has finally come. Kodak announced its wireless EasyShare-One camera way back in January, but its release has been repeatedly delayed. What would have been the second wireless camera to hit the market, then, is now the first: the new Nikon P1, due in stores on Sept. 15. It's an iPod-size, 8-megapixel camera dressed in brushed-metal black, with a list price of $550. (A sister model, the P2, is a silver, 5.1-megapixel version that lists for $400. Online prices will be much lower once the cameras actually arrive in stores.)

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4G prototypes reach blistering speeds

Cellphones capable of transmitting data at blistering speeds have been demonstrated by NTT DoCoMo in Japan.

In experiments, prototype phones were used to view 32 high definition video streams, while travelling in an automobile at 20 kilometres per hour. Officials from NTT DoCoMo say the phones could receive data at 100 megabits per second on the move and at up to a gigabit per second while static. At this rate, an entire DVD could be downloaded within a minute. DoCoMo's current 3G (third generation) phone network offers download speeds of 384 kilobits per second and upload speeds of 129 kilobits per second.

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Saturday, September 03, 2005

Microsoft CEO: 'I'm going to f---ing kill Google'

Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer vowed to "kill" internet search leader Google Inc. in an obscenity-laced tirade, and Google chased a prized Microsoft executive "like wolves," according to documents filed in an increasingly bitter legal battle between the rivals.

The allegations, filed in a Washington state court, represent the latest salvos in a showdown triggered by Google's July hiring of former Microsoft executive Kai Fu-Lee to oversee a research and development centre that Google plans to open in China. Lee started at Google the day after he resigned from Microsoft.

The tug-of-war over Lee - known for his work on computer recognition of language - has exposed the behind-the-scenes animosity that has been brewing between two of high-tech's best-known companies.

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