Is This America’s Dark Knight?

                               

In last year’s hit movie, The Dark Knight, there is a classic scene between Alfred and Bruce Wayne. A befuddled Bruce cannot figure out what the Joker is actually trying to gain, and he is sharing his consternation with Alfred. Alfred responds by telling Bruce that some men are just different and, in one of the great lines of the movie, states bluntly, “Some men just want to see the world burn.”

While it is quite early on in the new administration’s term in office, it appears to be behaving in exactly this way. Obama is playing the part of the Joker to perfection, aided and abetted by the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. The only difference being that, instead of wearing a clown’s face, he has chosen to look promising and speak lofty words of nothingness as he and the other Democratic leaders push the nation ever closer to economic collapse.

Ignoring any sound economic principles, these leaders have carved a path of prodigality unmatched in American history. It seems as if they desire the total economic failure of the country.

To be sure, the Bush administration has left the nation ravaged by its excess spending and monetary expansion that undergirded the housing bubble. Indeed, during his eight years in office, federal spending ballooned from $1.8 trillion per year to nearly $3 trillion. That is a 67% increase! But while Bush radically expanded the size and scope of government, Obama and the Democrats plan the absolute explosion of it. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that this year’s federal spending will top $3.5 trillion, with a deficit in excess of $1 trillion. And this number was forecasted prior to the passage of the so-called “stimulus bill.”

Imagine Bush as a drunken sailor in port for the first time in a year. He goes into a casino in Atlantic City, sits down at a thousand-dollar-a-hand blackjack table, and promptly loses a million dollars. Obama comes in as Bush’s replacement, and the casino seats him in Bush’s old chair. While bemoaning the situation, Obama tells us we must end this failed policy by moving up to the ten-thousand-a-hand table and doubling down. Of course, this makes no sense whatsoever, and the sane person would quickly back away. But sanity appears not to be present anywhere in Washington these days.

For far too long now, we have allowed our leaders to take us in this direction. In earlier days our leaders did so mainly to line their own pockets and those of their favored friends. These days, however, it seems that they are merely driven by their own ideological madness. And we have been too busy to pay enough attention to understand the situation and to resist it. Neither Bush nor Obama could do the things they have done or are doing had there not been a long history of governmental abuses. To not understand this now will lead to even greater abuse in the future.

“If there is any hope for our economic future, we must come to a sound understanding of what got us here.”

This was my motivation for my new book, titled Unmasking the Sacred Lies. I wanted to help busy Americans come to grips with the current economic situation and to understand the long political process of change that has led us here.

If there is to be any hope for our economic future, we must come to a sound understanding of what got us here. With that in mind, I put together a book that paints the big picture. It traces the economic history of each policy area in order to demonstrate how each law passed by Congress and enforced by our government has pushed us into this hole that we find ourselves in today.

It is my firm belief that providing the average person with the right information in a readily understandable format can make a difference. I only hope that it is not too late, and that we do not have to watch America burn.

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The Ctrl+Alt+Del Tool for Lazybones

Do you always need to reboot the computer and/or start Windows Task Manager? Look no further than Ctrl+Alt+Del, a handy tool which does just that and nothing more.
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by techeblog.com

Generation OMG

IN 1951, Time magazine set out to paint a portrait of the nation’s youth, those born into the Great Depression. It doomed them as the Silent Generation, and a generally drab lot: cautious and resigned, uninterested in striking out in new directions or shaping the great issues of the day — the outwardly efficient types whose inner agonies the novel “Revolutionary Road” would dissect a decade later.

“Youth’s ambitions have shrunk,” the magazine declared. “Few youngsters today want to mine diamonds in South Africa, ranch in Paraguay, climb Mount Everest, find a cure for cancer, sail around the world or build an industrial empire. Some would like to own a small, independent business, but most want a good job with a big firm, and with it, a kind of suburban idyll.” The young soldier “lacks flame,” students were “docile notetakers.” And the young writer’s flair “sometimes turns out to be nothing more than a byproduct of his neuroses.” (This even before Philip Roth, born 1933, had published a novel.)

“The best thing that can be said for American youth, in or out of uniform, is that it has learned that it must try to make the best of a bad and difficult job, whether that job is life, war, or both,” Time concluded. “The generation which has been called the oldest young generation in the world has achieved a certain maturity.”

Today we are in a recession the depth and duration of which are unknown; Friday’s job loss figures were just the latest suggestion that it could well be prolonged and profound rather than shorter and shallower.

So what of the youth shaped by what some are already calling the Great Recession? Will a publication looking back from 2030 damn them with such faint praise? Will they marry younger, be satisfied with stable but less exciting jobs? Will their children mock them for reusing tea bags and counting pennies as if this paycheck were the last? At the very least, they will reckon with tremendous instability, just as their Depression forebears did.

“The ’30s challenged the whole idea of the American dream, the idea of open economic possibilities,” said Morris Dickstein, an English professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, whose cultural history of the Depression will be published in September. “The version you get of that today is the loss of confidence on the part of both parent and children that life in the next generation will inevitably be better.”

How today’s young will be affected 10, 20 or 40 years on will depend on many things — the children of the Depression were shaped as much by the war that followed. The recession generation will include those born into it, at the youngest end, and those emerging out of college and high school into a jobless marketplace, at the oldest. If history is any guide, what will matter most is where they are on the continuum.

“There is no simple cause-and-effect relationship in how economic adversity pushed a generation into any one kind of behavior,” said Neil Howe, who with his longtime co-author, William Strauss, is credited with naming today’s 20-somethings the millennials. “The impact depends on the context and the mood of the time and how children understand the spirit of the times.”

In an afterword for the 25th anniversary edition of his 1974 book, “Children of the Great Depression,” Glen H. Elder Jr., a sociologist at the University of North Carolina, noted differences even between two cohorts of children born relatively close together: one in Oakland, Calif., in the early 1920s (comparable to today’s 9-year-olds) and those in nearby Berkeley at the other end of that decade (today’s toddlers).

In long-term studies, the younger group suffered the bigger psychic scars. For them, the worst disruption of the Depression coincided with the critical years of development when they most needed their parents. With incomes dropping, parents fought more and drank more, leaving children bewildered and often alone. Years later, the group looked back on their childhood as a period of unpredictability, and their high school years as a time they lacked direction or a sense of confidence. As one small-business man put it, “my entire adolescence was a period of painful and frustrating disorientation.”

The older children were better able to understand the hardships, and to get outside the household to help the family earn. They went off to World War II and benefited from the structure of the military, then returned to the booming economy and the G. I. Bill. Ultimately, Professor Elder said in an interview, “they came out with an ability to know how to survive and make do and solve problems.”

Today, the most immediately affected may be the oldest members of Generation Recession — those in high school and college.

Research shows that the wages of those graduating into the recession of the 1980s were held back for more than a decade. And weak stock markets tend to make the young more risk averse about investing into the next decade.

Those who study these young adults predict that they are about to get closer to their parents, at least physically, as more move home to save money. And their higher-education experience may be more a patchwork as they move between two- and four-year colleges as a way to save money getting degrees.

Surveys have shown young people becoming more civic-minded in the last four years, and those who study them suggest this will increase, if only because the jobs will be in creating the public institutions and infrastructure of a new economic order.

And with the assumptions of the past decade now popped, the older among the recession youth might feel bolder striking out in more creative directions.

Typically, applications to medical and law schools go up in a downturn, as young people look for safe haven. Applications to the Peace Corps and Teach for America, meanwhile, are up, as are those to some divinity schools and public policy programs.

Professor Dickstein notes that the 1930s, too, were freeing for a particular kind of young adult. There was no art market to speak of, so artists felt less constrained by commercial expectations. The thinkers who would go on to be the public intellectuals of their day, people like Irving Howe and Alfred Kazin, did not seek the traditional path of a doctorate because they knew there were no academic jobs (though in some cases, this was as much because they were Jewish as because of the economy).

Robbie Blinkoff, an anthropologist who runs a marketing consulting firm in Baltimore, hears both the anxiety and the potential in a class he teaches at Goucher College. One senior said he was applying to be a teacher — a profession he had never considered when there were so many more lucrative lines of work. The economic contraction, he told Mr. Blinkoff, “can give people more room to be creative.”

Neil Howe, who with Mr. Strauss considered how different cohorts react to economic setbacks in their book “Generations,” said history offered two models: the Depression, and the 1970s. Children born in the ’30s were raised in a cocoon. “The whole message was, we’re going to protect you,” Mr. Howe said. “We’re going to make these sacrifices for you and create a better world for you.”

The lesson, he said, “was to trust the system, keep your nose clean, study hard, be a technocrat.” That created the conformist, risk-averse generation that Time described. In job interviews, the first thing Depression babies asked potential employers about was the pension plan. As a generation, he said, they produced more than a dozen White House chiefs of staff, but not a single president.

Children in the stagflated 1970s, meanwhile, grew up in the too-much-information age of Judy Blume. As Mr. Howe quotes one: “Our parents gave us answers to questions we never asked.” The system that produced Watergate had failed everyone, the lesson was to be a free agent, to take risks. Even today, Mr. Howe said, lottery officials report that those Gen Xers are their biggest customers.

But when it comes to raising their children, the pendulum has swung. Today’s youngest children — the recession babies — are being raised in the same kind of protective bubble as the Depression babies. (When Mr. Howe’s Web site did a contest to name this next generation a few years ago, the winner was “the homelanders,” as in security). They stroll in sidewalk versions of sport utility vehicles, learn to swim in U.V. protective full-body suits.

So while today’s high school and college students will be the ones creating the new public agencies and Internet infrastructures, Mr. Howe predicts, those who follow “will come of age wanting to participate in a system they trust and take for granted” — the next Silent Generation.

Regardless of their age, members of the recession generation will most likely be shaped by a return to Things That Matter, a re-definition of values.

The Depression saw a return to traditional values that had broken down in the go-go 20s, said Robert S. McElvaine, a professor at Millsaps College who has written several histories of the period. The difference now, Professor McElvaine said, is that the buy-it-on-credit, how-many-colors-can-I-get-it-in consumer culture runs far deeper, including in the young.

“Our definition of cutting back is not nearly what it was for people in the ’30s,” he said. “Younger people have been targeted at least since the baby-boom generation was young in the 1950s to get them into the whole consumption-oriented way of life. It may take a little longer because we’re so infinitely removed from those waste not, want not values — we’ve never really practiced them.”

But let’s not doom anyone quite yet. In the studies of the Berkeley and Oakland Depression youths, Professor Elder notes that by middle age, the groups looked more similar. Both, as stereotypes have it, did marry earlier, value family life, pick jobs for security more than potential for greater reward. The less successful among them felt a lack of personal meaning. But as a whole, they turned out remarkably resilient.

As the director of the Berkeley study wrote, looking back in the ’70s, “We have learned that no one becomes mature without living through the pains and confusions of maturing experiences.”

By KATE ZERNIKE

A Better Street View Comes to Canada

  Parts of Canada finally have their own Street View maps, but surprisingly, they didn’t come from Google. Instead, the maps were created in a joint effort between British Columbia-based Canpages.ca and San Francisco-based MapJack, two companies that have teamed up to provide the service which Google has yet to bring to Canada. These new Street View maps also have features that the search engine giant doesn’t offer, including a fullscreen mode and views of pedestrian pathways where cars can’t travel.

CanPages Introduces Street View Maps

Canpages.ca, the Canadian business directory listing service similar to the Yellow Pages in the U.S., is home to the new mapping service where it’s accessed by performing a search on their homepage. After your search results appear, they are accompanied by a traditional map of the business location. At the top of the map, you’ll see an option to select “Street View” from the menu bar when it’s available. You can also click on any of the blue highlighted streets to delve directly into Street View at that particular spot. As with Google’s Street View, you can click on arrows to move forward and backward and there’s even a small cartoon figure that appears on the map for reference.

Although the CanPages’ Street View maps offer many similarities to Google’s, what’s most notable about this launch are the many differences between the two services. For example, all of the CanPages maps have been created using high resolution photography. Google, on the other hand, has only used high-res imagery in a select handful of international cities including San Francisco, Paris, and Seattle.

CanPages’s maps also offer a fullscreen view which you can use to fully immerse yourself into the city scene. However, don’t try to tilt the camera up to the sky – that’s one feature the CanPages maps don’t have – they’re limited when it comes to panning vertically.

Another feature of the new Street View maps is a configuration menu which allows you to customize settings like image sharpness, brightness, quality, and projection or the curved effect. You can also choose to turn on or off additional visual aids, the blue navigation dots, or the grid.

Perhaps the nicest feature, though, is the pedestrian maps. Captured by a team of photographers who traveled on foot with shoulder-mounted cameras, the CanPages maps let you explore parts of cities where cars can’t go. For now, this allows you to travel down pedestrian walkways, but the company hopes to use their unique camera set up in the future to film hotel lobbies, retail stores, shopping malls, and parks.

CanPages also made privacy a priority from the start. When Google launched their service, faces and license plates were plainly visible. Only recently have they responded to people’s concerns and began to blur these images. On the CanPages maps, however, not only are these items blurred, there’s also a link at the bottom-right corner of the map that lets anyone submit concerns about that particular image.

A Better Street View

Considering that Google’s Street View technology has still not made its way to Canada, the CanPages maps provide a good alternative – actually, given the features offered, we could even say they provide a better one. For now, CanPages Street View maps encompass the cities of Vancouver, Whistler, and Squamish (all in British Columbia). The company plans to expand to Toronto and Montreal next, followed then by as much of Canada as possible.

Image credits: krisabel.ctv.ca

Written by Sarah Perez

Chrome Experiments: Google Launches New Site to Showcase the Power of Chrome and JavaScript

Yesterday, Google announced a new beta version of Chrome, which features a significantly faster version of V8, Google’s JavaScript engine. Today, Google also launched Chrome Experiments, which showcases JavaScript intensive games, apps, and visualizations. The site is obviously meant to highlight the power of the combination of V8 and Chrome, though quite a few of the apps should also work on Firefox, Safari and IE. In our tests, however, Chrome did indeed provide the best experience.

Chrome Experiments currently features 19 apps, and Google plans to constantly update the site with new experiments and encourages developers to submit their JavaScript apps for inclusion.

Note: If you want to live on the cutting edge, here are the instructions for enabling the Chrome Beta and Developer channels.

Some Highlights

Here are some of our favorite apps in the current Google Chrome Experiments line-up:

Social Collider

Social Collider might just be one of the coolest Twitter visualization tools we have seen in the recent past. Social Collider shows the connections between different Twitter users. You can use a user name or keyword to initiate Social Collider, but it can also be used to visualize current Twitter trends.

Note: Using Social Collider can be quite CPU intensive, but the results are definitely worth it.

Google Gravity

This is an utterly useless experiment, but it shows off some of the surprising possibilities of using JavaScript together with the Box2D Physics Engine. After you have seen gravity take its toll on the Google homepage, also try to perform some searches.

Smalltalk

Smalltalk is another Chrome Experiment that uses the Twitter API to visualize real-time chatter on the Internet. Specifically, Smalltalk looks at comments about the weather in the US (sunny, foggy, windy, etc.). Besides JavaScript, Smalltalk also makes use of the canvas element in HTML5 and the jQuery framework.

BallDroppings

Josh Nimoy’s BallDroppings is a cool little musical toy that has already been implemented in a number of other languages. Here is the JavaScript version. Just draw a few lines on the screen and see what happens.

Browser Talk

 

Click here to access Google Chrome Experiments

To Download Google Chrome Click here

Opera Turbo now available for testing

At Opera, we love speed. We work hard to make our browser faster with features that speeds you up, but your connection also plays a big role on how fast you can go.
Some people have fast connections, a lot have slow connections. Many are always on the run from one place to another — making it hard to find regular fast connection points. Even if you do, it might be that too many people are on the Wi-Fi in the cafe or that you are browsing through your mobile phone when commuting on the train.
That’s why we’ve been working on Opera Turbo, a server-side optimization and compression technology that provides significant improvements in browsing speeds over limited-bandwidth connections by compressing network traffic. This does not only make you surf faster, but also lowers the cost of browsing when you are on a pay per usage plan.
Today we start our time limited test phase for Opera Turbo, please read below to learn a little about how Turbo works and where to download it. You can also see it in action in the following video:

Bottom left corner is where the speed is

When turned on, Opera Turbo will display the average compression rate. Hover your mouse over the Opera Turbo icon to see a tooltip with the amount of bandwidth saved as long as it has been enabled.

Throttle your bandwidth to see the big difference

Opera Turbo will work with any type of connection, but to get the most out of it you should be on a situation with limited bandwidth. In case you can’t attend a crowded conference today or aren’t on a bus connected through your phone, you can simulate a slower connection speed with: NetLimiter 2 Pro on Windows and the pipe command on the Mac. We recommend limiting your bandwidth to 100Kbps.

Opera Turbo doesn’t change the Web site

Turbo uses a technology called “Opera Web Optimization Proxy”, which is different from the Opera Binary Markup Language used in Opera Mini. Web sites layout and text will look exactly the same, but image resolution may appear considerably lower as a result of the compression. Dynamic Web technologies such as Ajax (XmlHttpRequests) and Flash are supported, but some plugin content will load only after clicking on the empty element.

Your privacy is important

Even when Turbo is enabled, encrypted traffic does not go through our compression servers. This means that when you are on a SSL site, we bypass these traffic and let you communicate with the SSL site directly. Opera generates statistics of the usage of Opera Turbo, but these are aggregated numbers and no information can be linked to a single user. Opera does not store any users’ private information.

Opera Turbo will be part of future desktop versions

This is a time-limited release, but the feedback we receive from this test release will help us determine how and when to move forward with Opera Turbo.
You can download the test version of Opera Turbo right here and start playing around with it right away. Please report any bugs or join the discussion at the My Opera community.

Download Now

Zombieville USA Update and Lite Version

Touch………..if you dare

A very interesting iphone game

We last looked at Zombieville USA when it was first released in mid-February.

The survival shooter has since rocketed up the charts to the top 10 position in the App Store, and for very good reason. Despite its seemingly simple gameplay, Zombieville actually requires some strategy to progress and is a whole lot of fun.

Last week, Mika Mobile updated the app with a number of requested improvements including:

  • Two new zombie types that appear in high levels
  • 3 different difficulty choices
  • Pause button
  • Improved firing controls
  • Weapon balance tweaks

A Lite version has also bee introduced [App Store] which gives you a single level to play to get a feel for the mechanics. If you haven’t tried this game yet, we give it a solid recommendation.

ATI BIOS modifier Radeon BIOS Editor 1.20

RBE is a handy tool to modify several interesting parameters in ATI BIOS files. It focuses on fan and clock settings as these are the most important things to most users. BIOS modification is an alternative to using memory resident tweaking utilities such as RivaTuner, ATI Tray Tools or ATITool.

But RBE can do more than that: It will balance the BIOS file’s checksum, lets you modify the Overdrive settings, enables superior PowerPlay functionality for some video cards, contains a CCC profile editor for hidden features of the CCC and much more.

Main Features
Can display and change a lot of information strings inside the BIOS file, including Device ID and vendor ID.
Accesses every PowerPlay state and can change GPU clocks, RAM clocks and voltage for each of them seperately.
Displays the PowerPlay structure of the BIOS.
Also displays the voltages the card can make use of.
Can graphically display and modify four different fan controllers in a very comfortable way and automatically figures out which controller is used for a particular BIOS.
RBE modifies the Overdrive signature of a BIOS to enable a higher overclocking limit. Signatures can also be extracted and saved to a file.
Will make the annoying spin up bug some cards have vanish.
Enables superior PowerPlay.
Contains a profile editor for accessing hidden CCC panel features.
Acquires and flashes BIOSes all from within RBE using the built-in WinFlash interface.

Download Now

Virtual DJ Software 5.2

VirtualDJ is the DJ software used by many big brands such as Numark or Hercules, and is used around the world by bedroom DJs and professional superstars alike. With its breakthrough BeatLock engine, your songs will always stay on the beat, and you can work your mixes incredibly faster than any other DJ. The automatic seamless loop engine and the synchronized sampler will let you perform astounding remixes on the fly. The video engine lets you mix and scratch music videos as easily as audio. You can also use a special timecode vinyl and scratch MP3s or videos directly on a real turntable. Add to that customizable interfaces to suit both beginners and professionals; A visual beat display; An infinite number of cues; VST, freeframe and proprietary beat-synced effects; Karaoke; Internet broadcast; Recording and burning; CDs, vinyls and DVDs ripping; Automatic playlist mixing; DRM compatibility; Headphones and external mixer modes, and compatibility with many existing DJ devices.

Version 5.2 includes new smart play and smart cue options, new interface, and new compatible controllers.

Download Now

SPIKE LEE’S ‘KOBE DOIN’ WORK’

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AT&T bringin’ sexy back, offering iPhone 3G at no-commitment price, no activation

Time to clear out some inventory, boys! AT&T, starting March 26th, is going to start offering the 8GB and 16GB iPhone 3Gs at a no-commitment price. These prices are $599 and $699 respectively. The good news is that you do not need to perform an activation/unbrick at the point of purchase, so you can buy the devices for your grandma, your best friend, or for half of China before you head back home. There’s a limit of “one per line” which makes us think you’ll need an active AT&T line to purchase an iPhone (AT&T stores typically don’t sell you no-contract phones unless you provide them with an active line of yours), but the presentation also says that they basically have no way of tracking this. Still, at $599 and $699, are these going to move? Time will tell. Hit the jump for some more shots of the presentation we got a hold of!

 

Via[BGR]

iPhone graphics may get multiprocessor performance upgrade

Imagination Technologies, the firm that designs the PowerVR graphics core used in the iPhone, has announced a new generation of its SGX design with multi-processor support, providing embedded graphics applications such as a future iPhone with up to 16 cores.

The company’s PowerVR chips have long dominated the mobile embedded graphics market, but the new SGX543MP processors released this week aim to deliver “high-performance console and computing devices” according to a press release issued by the company today.

The company has expressed a desire to push out of the embedded space and into the desktop computing market dominated by NVIDIA and AMD’s ATI. Imagination’s partnership with Apple may help on that front, as the iPhone family expands upward and as Apple develops technologies that abstract the the CPU and GPUs and makes multi-core processors more broadly usable to general purpose developers, and not just those with specific expertise in coding for multiprocessing.

Imagination’s new processor design “maintains the highest performance per mW,” a phrase familiar to observers of Apple’s Intel transition; Steve Jobs noted at the time that Intel’s new Core CPUs offered not just speed, but power efficiency, a critical factor in making them attractive to to the kinds of applications Apple had in its roadmap.

The new graphics cores also support “scalable GP-GPU compute power, which can be fully utilised through all Khronos APIs including OpenGL ES 2.x, OpenVG 1.x and OpenCL.” General Purpose GPU computing using OpenCL is one of Apple’s core strategies in delivering Snow Leopard, and will also play a factor in the company’s mobile devices, unlocking new potential for mobile developers.

Last December, Apple was officially cited as both the mysterious PowerVR licensee that had obtained the rights to use Imagination’s current and future graphics and video processing cores in its forthcoming “System on a Chip” designs, as well as an investor, taking a 3% stake in the company. Jobs had earlier noted that Apple had acquired fabless chip design firm PA Semi in order to develop new chips for its iPod and iPhone products.

The next hardware revision of the iPhone, expected this summer, appears set release a major new architecture change, which may include the first fruits of Apple’s work at PA Semi.

By Prince McLean

NBA Player Can’t Use Twitter During Games Anymore

Twitter has lost its NBA locker room reporter: Milwaukee Bucks coach Scott Skiles told forward Charlie Villanueva — a.k.a. @cv31 — he can’t Tweet during the game anymore.

ESPN: “We made a point to Charlie and the team that it’s nothing we ever want to happen again,” Skiles said after practice Tuesday. “You know, [we] don’t want to blow it out of proportion. But anything that gives the impression that we’re not serious and focused at all times is not the correct way we want to go about our business.”

Using the screen name “CV31″ — Villanueva’s initials and jersey number — Villanueva posted the following message during halftime Sunday:

“In da locker room, snuck to post my twitt. We’re playing the Celtics, tie ball game at da half. Coach wants more toughness. I gotta step up.”

Not surprising that a NBA coach wouldn’t want his player to be goofing around on his iPhone during the game, even during halftime. But it’s still amusing (and amazing) how much access Twitter has given us to celebrity-types. Especially when they’re talking to each other, such as Villanueva’s tweet to Phoenix Suns star Shaq O’Neal, below.

                 

Terrafugia’s flying car makes maiden voyage

The start-up Terrafugia first popped up on our radar screens in early 2006 with a one-fifth scale model, $30,000 in prize money, and an urge to build a car that could fly. Or is that an airplane you can take on the highway?

Some signs point strongly to the latter. Terrafugia describes its Transition vehicle as a “roadable aircraft” and is pitching it in part as giving private pilots an easy travel alternative when bad weather makes flying a bad idea, or simply to avoid having to take a separate car to the airport. Also, in the eyes of the Federal Aviation Administration, the vehicle falls into the light sport aircraft category.

On March 5, Terrafugia got to show that–whatever the eventual business prospects–the Transition can indeed fly. The maiden voyage (the duration wasn’t specified) took place at the Plattsburgh International Airport in New York, with a retired U.S. Air Force Reserve colonel in the pilot’s seat. The flight followed six months of static, road, and taxi testing.

As a car, the two-seat Transition is designed to be easy on garages and oncoming traffic–its wings fold up quite snugly. In folded mode, the approximately 19-foot-long vehicle is 80 inches wide, and 6 feet, 9 inches high. As an airplane, it stands a few inches shorter and has a wingspan of 27 feet, 6 inches.

The vehicle runs off unleaded fuel from your run-of-the-mill gas station for both terrestrial and aerial travel, cruising at highway speeds on land and better than 115 miles per hour in the air.

But Woburn, Mass.-based Terrafugia (Latin for “escape from land”) still has a long road ahead of it. The vehicle that flew earlier this month is still just a proof of concept, and a production prototype has yet to be built, tested, and certified. The company says it expects to make the first customer delivery of a Transition in 2011.

Is it a bad idea for IBM to buy Sun?

By Stephen Shankland, CNET News.com
Thursday, March 19, 2009 11:14 AM

commentary Stranger things have happened, but there are several reasons why IBM buying Sun Microsystems could, to borrow a phrase from former Sun Chief Executive Scott McNealy, be like two garbage trucks colliding in slow motion.

The Wall Street Journal reported that IBM is in talks to buy Sun for at least US$6.5 billion in cash, which would amount to about US$4 billion once Sun’s cash and marketable securities are taken into account.

On paper, the deal could make some sense: adding Sun’s server market share would give IBM more clout in its competition with Hewlett-Packard, IBM would get some software and intellectual property assets, and that price would be a nice premium for Sun shareholders disappointed with the company’s sliding stock price.

But given how directly Sun and IBM product lines overlap, there are no shortage of serious difficulties, too.

Hardware
Let’s start with hardware. IBM already has four major server lines running a variety of operating systems–AIX, zOS, IBM i, Linux, and Windows–on three major processor families. IBM needs Sun’s Sparc processor and Solaris operating systems like it needs a hole in its head. It took years for IBM to break down some walls among its various server fiefdoms, but even now it has to reckon with complicated, often overlapping product lines.

Granted, Sun has, in its current Niagara and future Rock processors, some great intellectual property and expertise in designing multithreaded processors designs that can juggle a lot of tasks at the same time. But IBM would either have to adapt that technology to its own Power processors, a process that would take years, or embrace Sparc chips in its own line. 

IBM or Sun could sell or license the Sparc line to Fujitsu, which has a line of its own and a Sun partnership. But the fact that Sun hasn’t done so on its own doesn’t bode well for Fujitsu’s enthusiasm for the idea, and buying Sun just to sell off one of its mainstay businesses erodes the market-share-grab rationale for the overall acquisition.

Sun also has a respectable line of x86 servers using chips from Intel and AMD. They aren’t a quantum level above the competition, though, and IBM already has a lot of in-house expertise with heavy-hitting x86 servers.

In storage, Sun made a big bet by buying StorageTek for tape drives that compete directly with IBM products. IBM might be able to consolidate customers in that market, but it’s not a big growth area. Potentially more interesting, though, is Sun’s Thumper line of x86-based storage devices, which have shown some life.

Software
Software is another tough sell for the bean counters. IBM’s embrace of Sun’s Java helped cement its success on servers, but for Sun, Java is more about intellectual property, industry influence, and bragging rights than big money. IBM might well have “Java envy”, as McNealy quipped in 2004, but it can console itself with having a much larger Java software business in WebSphere.

The open-source connection in general is stronger. Both Sun and IBM have a history of both proprietary and open source software. IBM got an early edge through its embrace of the Linux operating system, support for the Apache server software, and founding of the Ecplise programming tool project, but Sun arguably has leapfrogged IBM with a more-open-than-thou philosophy under Jonathan Schwartz; Sun’s open source move now embraces its two biggest software assets, Solaris and Java.

More compelling for IBM perhaps is MySQL, an open-source database product widely used to power up-and-coming Web sites. IBM knows how to sell a database, but MySQL fits in a market where IBM’s DB2 doesn’t.

However, making money from open source software is a challenge, even if it’s a great way to appeal to developers and to needle Microsoft. So the appeal of Sun’s software business is much less direct than something that would contribute to IBM’s top and bottom lines.

Cloud computing, which combines hardware and software, is an area where Sun has some experience and some bruises; it announced a second attempt Wednesday to tackle the market for a general-purpose computing foundation that customers can pay for as needed. IBM has some experience in the area–including a history that extends to a cloud computing progenitor of decades past called time sharing–and overall, it’s hard to imagine that IBM is unable to do this on its own.

Intangibles
Sun and IBM have different cultures that could prove difficult to integrate. Sun, based in Silicon Valley, is an engineering-centric, free-wheeling company willing to try many ideas and see which ones stick. IBM is more conservative and driven by business concerns. Its bold moves often take years to pan out. Both companies share a passion for research and development, but how they bring that to market differs greatly.

Sun employees looking at the company’s troubles might well be happy to don blue Oxford shirts, at least figuratively. But it’s not easy to reconcile different procedures for allocating resources, marketing products, assessing their success, and charting new directions. And IBM might well sidestep cultural mismatch issues by laying off thousands of Sun employees.

The closest parallel from recent history is Hewlett-Packard buying Compaq–the deal that McNealy said in 2002 was “a slow-motion collision of two garbage trucks”. HP and Compaq had overlapping product lines, too, but fairly rapidly coalesced them, for example, by immediately displacing HP’s x86 server line with Compaq’s stronger line and by scrapping Compaq’s Tru64 Unix. What’s different about Sun and IBM is trying to figure out which Sun assets would emerge victorious over IBM’s.

The fact that a company as large and rich as Sun could be had for $4 billion or so must appeal to IBM, which doubtless expects to emerge from the current economic problems as a consolidator, not as the consolidated. But the acquisition would have to be justified not so much as fleshing out IBM’s already rich product portfolio, but rather on the basis of acquiring good engineers, a strong portfolio of intellectual property, a reasonable developer community, and one less competitor in the market.

This article was first published as a blog post on CNET News.

Researcher cracks Mac in 10 seconds at PWN2OWN, wins $5K

Charlie Miller defends his title; IE8 also falls on Day 1 of hacking contest

March 18, 2009 (Computerworld) Charlie Miller, the security researcher who hacked a Mac in two minutes last year at CanSecWest’s PWN2OWN contest, improved his time today by breaking into another Mac in under 10 seconds.

Miller, a principal analyst at Independent Security Evaluators LLC, walked off with a $5,000 cash prize and the MacBook he hacked.

“I can’t talk about the details of the vulnerability, but it was a Mac, fully patched, with Safari, fully patched,” said Miller Wednesday not long after he had won the prize. “It probably took 5 or 10 seconds.” He confirmed that he had researched and written the exploit before he arrived at the challenge.

The PWN2OWN rules stated that the researcher could provide a URL that hosted his or her exploit, replicating the common hacker tactic of enticing users to malicious sites where they are infected with malware. “I gave them the link, they clicked on it, and that was it,” said Miller. “I did a few things to show that I had full control of the Mac.”

Two weeks ago, Miller predicted that Safari running on the Mac would be the first to fall.

PWN2OWN’s sponsor, 3Com Inc.’s TippingPoint unit, paid Miller the $5,000 for the rights to the vulnerability he exploited and the exploit code he used. As it has at past challenges, it reported the vulnerability to on-site Apple representatives. “Apple has it, and they’re working on it,” added Miller.

According to Terri Forslof, the manager of security response at TippingPoint, another researcher later broke into a Sony laptop that was running Windows 7 by exploiting a vulnerability in Internet Explorer 8. “Safari and IE both went down,” she said in an e-mail.

TippingPoint’s Twitter feed added a bit more detail to Forslof’s quick message: “nils just won the sony viao with a brilliant IE8 bug!”

Forslof was not immediately available to answer questions about the IE8 exploit.

TippingPoint will continue the PWN2OWN contest through Friday, and will pay $5,000 for each additional bug successfully exploited in Apple Inc.’s Safari, Microsoft Corp.’s Internet Explorer 8, Mozilla Corp.’s Firefox or Google Inc.’s Chrome. During the contest, IE8, Firefox and Chrome will be available on the Sony, while Safari and Firefox will be running on the MacBook. The researcher who exploited IE8 will, like Miller, be awarded not only the cash, but also the laptop.

“It was great,” said Miller when asked how it felt to successfully defend his title. “But I was really nervous for some reason this time. Maybe it was because there were more people around. Lucky [the exploit] was idiot-proof, because if I had had to think about it, I don’t know if I’d had anything.”

This year’s PWN2OWN also features a mobile operating system contest that will award a $10,000 cash prize for every vulnerability successfully exploited in five smartphone operating systems: Windows Mobile, Google’s Android, Symbian, and the operating systems used by the iPhone and BlackBerry.

Miller said he won’t enter the mobile contest. “I can’t break them,” said Miller, who was one of the first researchers to demonstrate an attack on the iPhone in 2007, and last year was the first to reveal a flaw in Android. “I don’t have anything for the iPhone, and I don’t know enough about Google.”

The “We’re Linux” Video Contest

If you’ve been alive and aware of mass media over the last twelve months, you’ve probably seen television commercials from Apple and Microsoft touting their operating system. From Apple’s ubiquitous “I’m a Mac” to Jerry Seinfeld to Microsoft’s “I’m a PC” retort, operating system commercials have been flooding the airways. Except one OS has been notably absent – Linux.

While the Linux Foundation would love to spend millions promoting Linux on TV, it’s simply not our style (or in our budget). Even more importantly, Linux isn’t a top-down, commercially controlled operating system. It’s a grassroots product of mass collaboration. That’s why we’re sponsoring a community contest to create a Linux video that showcases just what Linux means to those who use it, and hopefully inspires many to try it.

The winner will receive a free trip to Tokyo, Japan to participate in the Linux Foundation Japan Linux Symposium in October 2009. The winning video will also be unveiled at the Linux Foundation’s Collaboration Summit in San Francisco on April 8, 2009.

Click here to vote

US role as internet hub starts to slip

An internet traffic boom in Africa and Asia has reduced US dominance over web capacity

Bobbie Johnson in San Francisco

America is losing its position at the centre of the internet, according to a new study.

The survey by communications analysts TeleGeography Research, based in Washington DC, shows a rapid growth in internet capacity around the rest of the world over the past year – particularly in Latin America and Asia.

As a result, America’s traditional role as the internet’s traffic policeman is drifting away as other parts of the world become less reliant on it.

“The US used to be a primary hub for many regions,” said Eric Schoonover, a senior analyst at TeleGeography. “A lot of data still comes through the US, and a lot of content there is served out to other countries … but its importance is declining, though it has by no means gone away.”

The survey – which looks at data taken from internet backbone providers around the world – examined the size and capacity of the physical connections that make up the internet, as well as the traffic that moves across them.

It found that dramatic shifts have led to a decline in America’s involvement in overall internet traffic. In 1999, 91% of data from Asia passed through the United States at some point on its journey. By this year that number had fallen to just 54%.

The change was even more pronounced in Africa. Nine years ago the US was involved in 70% of internet traffic coming from the continent, but that number has decreased to just 6% as more can be directed internally, or through Europe and the Middle East.

“There used to be a phenomenon on the internet called ‘tromboning’,” said Schoonover. “If I were sitting in Singapore or South Africa and I sent an email to a friend three houses down, it was just as likely that the email was going to traverse New York City as somewhere local.

“What we see now is that phenomenon becoming less and less apparent as more local hubs and internet exchanges crop up in Latin America, in Asia and a few in Africa.”

Greater capacity around the world not only offers better access to millions of people, but also helps to make the internet more stable overall.

Earlier this year it became apparent how important alternative routes around the world have become, when major undersea cables linking Europe, Africa and Asia were mistakenly damaged. The string of incidents cut off or reduced internet access for around 100 million people and caused massive disruption to businesses as far apart as India and Egypt.

America’s traditional role as the hub of internet activity is largely a result of the network’s beginnings in the 1960s as the Arpanet, a chain of interlinked computers funded by the US military.

That system evolved over time into the internet, but it was only really with the creation of the world wide web in 1990 by Sir Tim Berners-Lee that explosive online growth really took hold.

Now more than 1.4 billion people worldwide use the internet, with access expanding and new uses requiring greater bandwidth.

But earlier this year the US lost its position as the biggest country on the internet, as the number of users in China overtook the number of users in the US for the first time.

There are also moves afoot to globalise the way the web works, allowing the creation of website addresses in languages like Chinese, Arabic and Russian, rather than just the Roman alphabet.

Plans by Icann, the organisation which oversees internet addresses, had been opposed by some who argued that it could create a splintering of information and allow some repressive governments to exercise greater levels of control over its citizens. However, the proposals passed and the organisation plans to start liberalising web addresses in 2009.

The growth of internet connectivity in other parts of the world does not mean there has been a slowdown in growth in north America and Europe, however. After several years of slower expansion, TeleGeography said capacity has started speeding up even faster, with growth rates hitting 63% last year.

“The US and Europe, just by the nature of scale, had started to flatten out – but even in the last year those have re-accelerated,” said Schoonover.

“In Asia and Latin America, growth rates are through the roof and Africa is starting from such a low base, they can’t help but to grow very, very quickly.”

IBM洽购Sun 涉资或达65亿美元

3月18日消息,据华尔街日报报道,IBM正与Sun商谈收购事宜。 消息人士表示,如果此次收购顺利进行,那么IBM在互联网市场的地位将得到进一步提高,其数据存储业务、政府业务及通信业务也将在Sun公司的帮助下得到长足发展。 另一方面,两家公司在企业客户的计算机系统研发上具有一定的重合。目前,IBM与Sun都希望研发一款不以微软Windows操作系统及英特尔(博客)芯片为基础的新型计算机系统。另外,IBM与Sun都是Linux系统与Java软件的坚定支持者,并希望在互联网技术的发展过程中更多的推广这两种产品。 报道表示,对于IBM与Sun的谈判是否能取得实质效果,目前情况并不清楚。但据消息人士称,如果IBM收购Sun成功,那么IBM至少将向后者支付65亿美元的现金。而按Sun公司在纳斯达克市场最近一个交易日的收盘价格计算,这笔收购金额存在将近100%的溢价。 另外,报道还表示,如果IBM能够成功收购Sun,那么IBM将在与惠普公司的竞争中占据更为有利的地位。另外,这笔交易规模也很可能超过IBM公司49亿美元收购Cognos公司的交易,成为IBM公司有史以来规模最大的并购。 但是,另一方面也有消息人士指出,虽然IBM正在与Sun进行并购谈判,但是最后的结果仍然是未知数。目前,IBM新闻发言人拒绝就与Sun进行并购谈判的传闻发表任何评论。(普莱)

国务院:部分地区及行业经济出现回升迹象

国务院总理温家宝18日主持召开国务院常务会议,会议讨论了当前国内外经济形势,一致认为国际金融危机仍在蔓延加深,我国部分地区和行业经济出现企稳回升迹象,但面临的矛盾和困难仍然很大。

新华网社北京3月18日电 国务院总理温家宝18日主持召开国务院常务会议,审议并原则通过《落实〈政府工作报告 〉重点工作部门分工意见》和《全国森林防火中长期发展规划》,讨论并原则通过《中华人民共和国人民武装警察法(草案)》。

会议指出,十一届全国人大二次会议审议通过《政府工作报告》后,落实《报告》提出的各项任务,就成为国务院及所属部门的重要职责。为此国务院制定了重点工作部门分工意见,对今年政府工作主要任务进行逐项分解,明确相关牵头和负责部门。

会议强调,做好今年政府工作,要以应对国际金融危机、促进经济平稳较快发展为主线,统筹兼顾,突出重点,全面实施促进经济增长的一揽子计划。要把应对危机的各项工作抓早、抓紧、抓实、抓出成效,不可贻误时机。这直接关系到我国在应对危机中能否占据主动地位,关系到能否防止经济下滑,关系到巩固改革开放的成果、把现代化建设事业继续推向前进。国务院各部门、各单位要认真履行职责,充分发挥主动性、积极性和创造性,抓紧制定本部门、本单位落实重点工作的实施方案,并在执行过程中进一步细化、实化;要加强配合,及时沟通协调,形成合力;要强化督促检查,严格落实责任,不折不扣地把各项政策措施落到实处。

 

 

会议讨论了当前国内外经济形势,一致认为国际金融危机仍在蔓延加深,我国部分地区和行业经济出现企稳回升迹象,但面临的矛盾和困难仍然很大。要加强监测预警机制建设,密切跟踪分析形势,及时发现问题,果断采取措施,促进经济平稳较快发展,努力实现今年国民经济和社会发展预期目标。

 

      

 

延伸阅读:中国经济走势图谱

会议指出,我国是森林火灾多发的国家之一。编制和实施《全国森林防火中长期发展规划》,对于全面提升我国森林防火综合能力,消除森林火灾隐患,巩固生态建设成果,保护人民群众生命财产安全,具有重要意义。各地和有关部门要认真做好《规划》的组织实施工作。

会议认为,为保障人民武装警察部队依法执行国家赋予的安全保卫任务,维护国家安全和社会稳定,保护公民、法人和其他组织的合法权益,有必要制定人民武装警察法。会议决定,《中华人民共和国人民武装警察法(草案)》经进一步修改后,由国务院、中央军委提请全国人大常委会审议。

会议还研究了其他事项。 (本文来源:新华网 )

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