Oct 30, 2009

Worried pilot asks passengers to pray

A worried Iranian airline pilot asked passengers to start praying after his plane was hit by a technical glitch early on Thursday, highlighting once again the notorious record of Tehran's aircraft.

The Aseman Airlines Boeing had taken off from Tehran airport after a six-hour delay, but had to return following a technical fault, the ISNA news agency quoted a passenger as recounting.

"The plane took off at 0015 in the morning and had to land back in Tehran after 45 minutes," the passenger said.

"The pilot told the passengers: 'The plane is facing a technical problem and has to return. So please pray.'"

Iran has been under years of international sanctions hampering its ability to buy modern planes from major manufacturers, such as Boeing and Airbus, or spare parts, and has suffered a number of air disasters over the past decade.

Its civil and military fleet is made up of ancient aircraft in very poor condition due to their age and lack of maintenance.

Facebook responds to privacy pressure

Facebook outlined changes to its privacy policy on Thursday and asked for feedback from the social network's more than 300 million users. Vice president of communications and public policy Elliot Schrage, in a post on the Facebook blog, said members will have until November 5 to send in their comments about the proposed changes.

"This is the next step in our ongoing effort to run Facebook in an open and transparent way," he said. "After the comment period is over, we'll review your feedback and update you on our next steps." Some of the changes to Facebook's privacy policy are the result of pressure from Canada, whose privacy czar conducted an investigation into its handling of personal information.

"In this revision," Schrage said, "we're fulfilling our commitment to the privacy commissioner of Canada to update our privacy policy to better describe a number of practices. "Specifically, we've included sections that further explain the privacy setting you can choose to make your content viewable by everyone," he said.

Schrage said the changes also clarify the difference between deactivating and deleting an account and "the process of memorializing an account once we've received a report that the account holder is deceased."

Cyberspies' code a click away

A link to the code for Ghost Rat, the Trojan horse that Chinese operatives used to hack into some of the most sensitive computer networks on Earth, pops up fourth on a Google search.
"Hope you guys like this," writes the poster, Evilxiaose. "Very nice Chinese rat program by C. Rufus Security team."
C. Rufus is a loosely agglomerated group of provocateurs who likely created Ghost Rat for kicks. Then they made it available to anyone on the Internet, including cyberspies and high-tech gangs who can use it to take control of your PC. Once the Ghost Rat is fully operational – and you probably won't even notice that it is – it can pull data off your system, turn on and operate your camera or even record audio.
"It's a nice piece of software – easy interface, easy to use," says Nart Villeneuve, the boyish 34-year-old who helped identify a China-based spy ring using Ghost Rat to target foreign governments.
So easy that anybody with a smidgen of technical know-how can use it against high-level opponents. Or your home computer.
"You can do it yourself," Villeneuve said yesterday, indicating a reporter.
So easy that Villeneuve and his colleagues at the Citizen Lab at the Munk Centre for International Studies have left room for a whisper of doubt that the Chinese government is behind the so-called GhostNet spy network they uncovered.
"There is overwhelming circumstantial evidence here pointing to the Chinese state (as the culprit)," Citizen Lab director Rob Deibert said. "But it's important to underline ... that the tools to undertake an attack like this are increasingly available. We've entered into the world of do-it-yourself signals intelligence. The Internet has democratized many things, including the ability to engage in espionage."
Asked what surprised him about the Chinese spy ring, Villeneuve cited their amateurishness.
"I was just mainly surprised by the open access to the Web interface to (the attackers') control servers. Shocking, really," Villeneuve said. "(The attackers) somehow got their site indexed on Google. Criminals just take more precautions."
In the language of computer hacking, trolling for scam victims is "phishing." The GhostNet perpetrators practised a con called "spear phishing."
Emails designed to be relevant to an intended victim were crafted. They included attachments. Once opened, the attachments unleashed the Ghost Rat. In a two-stage process, the Ghost Rat gained control of the victimized computers. Once in, it mined the user's address book to send more emails in the form of replies to friends or colleagues of the victim.
Most criminals aren't interested in gaining active control of a PC. They're happy to mine it for credit card numbers or bank passwords gleaned by deeply embedded malware (malicious software).
Jonathan Zittrain, co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, has estimated that between 10 and 30 per cent of all computers in North America are infected with malware. It can get into your computer in myriad ways besides email.
One of the most common is through simply visiting infected websites. One of these could be a friend's blog, unknowingly compromised as a porn distributor.
"At any given time, Google is identifying as many as 200,000 (infected) websites," said Maxim Weinstein, manager of Stopbadware.org. "That's probably a significant underestimate."

Roads are for cars, not Lycra louts

Whoever made up the Roads and Traffic Authority's 1990s slogan ''the road is there to share'' has a lot to answer for. It's a big fat lie. The road is not there to share. Roads are built for cars. Pretending otherwise is unfair to motorists and cyclists alike.

It leads to tragic accidents and violent incidents such as the attack on a 64-year-old bus driver by a cyclist last Friday.

At 5.05am, in the pre-dawn half light a cyclist in his 30s, "dressed like Cadel Evans", says the Transport Workers Union bus industry official Darcy Waller, was riding illegally on the bus only North-West T-way near Seven Hills.
Illustration: Edd Aragon.

Illustration: Edd Aragon.

You can see from the video footage released by police this week how dangerous the situation is, with the bus travelling at 80km/h in a narrow lane with little tolerance on either side.

The bus had to sound its horn and pull over to the right, into the oncoming lane, to get past the cyclist. When the cyclist caught up with the bus at the next set of traffic lights, he allegedly banged on the side of the bus, and broke the bus driver's side mirror.

This is classic angry cyclist behaviour, as if it's up to the cycling fraternity to forcibly educate the motoring public and instil fear like jackbooted Soviets.

How aggressive do you have to be at 5am, anyway? You never hear of rowers, joggers, swimmers, yoga artists or other dawn fitness devotees attacking people.

You can see from the footage later on, when the bus stops to take on passengers, that the cyclist is full of righteous rage, shouting and pushing his way on to the bus, past a woman paying her fare, to punch the driver in the face.

It wasn't the first time bus drivers have had to contend with irrational cyclists. This cat-and-mouse game has been going on for almost three years, since the T-way was built. The RTA has done nothing to address the problem.

Now Waller says drivers are so fed up they are calling a protest meeting next week. "There's been verbal abuse, drivers spat at, punched through the bus window. The RTA are aware of it but we're bringing it to a head next week.

''Bus drivers don't have a problem with cyclists, but that's a 15-tonne vehicle they're driving around. If you want to use the road you need to respect the road rules and other users. There's an element of cyclists that don't respect anybody."

Neither motorists nor cyclists ever wanted a civil war. But hostilities were fed by the lies told by the Government and the RTA, which gave cyclists unreasonable expectations and ideas above their station. The former roads minister Carl Scully, a vegetarian cyclist, threw $250 million at the lobby, further fuelling expectations which were dashed by subsequent roads ministers.

Most bike paths turned out to be little more than white paint on a road, with no room for a bike between parked cars and traffic. But they sent a signal to cyclists that motorists were somehow in the wrong.

There was a cycleway promised on the North-West T-way, but the reality turned out to be less than cyclists had in mind, with big gaps, traffic lights and intersections along the way. This caused an outbreak of vandalism and, as we saw last week, civil disobedience by cyclists with an inflated sense of importance.

Attempts to retrofit roads to allow equal access to bikes and pedestrians just makes them more dangerous and simply adds to Sydney's already woeful gridlock. Bikes and pedestrians are allowed on to roads only under the good graces of motorists, and only when they do not pose a traffic hazard.

The ideologues who have fostered the road-sharing lie must think a few dead cyclists and pedestrians are a small price to pay for getting cars off the road, because that is their ultimate aim: to make driving so unpleasant, slow, expensive and fraught with hazards that motorists give up.

So far, all they have done is create a dangerous sense of entitlement among other road users. Harold Scruby and his Pedestrian Council are much to blame for the attitude that far from sharing the road, cars are there under sufferance.

Pedestrians no longer stop and wait for cars to slow before launching themselves on to a zebra crossing. They stride out, like Moses parting the Red Sea, expecting cars to defy the laws of physics. The result is an increase in pedestrian injury.

Oxford Street reportedly has become a late-night killing zone, due to the arrogance of jaywalkers who think it is their god-given right to cross wherever they please. Councils have been forced to erect ugly kerbside fences to protect jaywalkers from themselves.

And that's not to even mention the ridiculous turfing of the Sydney Harbour Bridge on Sunday, which caused traffic pile-ups of two to three hours of delay on the north shore.

This was one of Nathan Rees's most memorable achievements: to close down one of Australia's busiest routes at huge expense to the taxpayer. To lay tens of thousands of metres of kikuyu grass so a few people could have a picnic (with no view) in the middle of the bridge rather than at any number of beautiful natural parklands around Sydney.

The Premier was ecstatic, proclaiming the tourism benefits of attracting people from as far away as, oh, Thornleigh.

''This is Sydney at its very best and another extraordinary event proving we can do anything,'' Rees said. It does prove there is no limit to the bread-and-circuses desperation of the State Government.

But under the Government-sponsored jollity of the day there was a not-so-subtle message: that even the most crucial and iconic roads do not belong to cars.

They can and will be reclaimed for frivolous purposes at any time.

Oct 29, 2009

Tesla Roadster


The Tesla Roadster has set a new distance record for a production electric vehicle by traveling 313 miles (501km) on a single charge. The milestone took place during the 2009 Global Green Challenge in Australia where eco-friendly vehicles have been battling it out over a formidable 1800 mile course. The distance achieved is well above the 244 mile range Tesla quotes in its specs... and on top of that, the electric sportscar reportedly had 3 miles worth of charge left in its batteries when it finished the record breaking run.
The Tesla Roadster has set a new distance record for a production electric vehicle by traveling 313 miles (501km) on a single charge. The milestone took place during the 2009 Global Green Challenge in Australia where eco-friendly vehicles have been battling it out over a formidable 1800 mile course. The distance achieved is well above the 244 mile range Tesla quotes in its specs... and on top of that, the sportscar reportedly had 3 miles worth of charge left in its batteries when it finished the record breaking run.
The car was driven by Simon Hackett, managing director of Australian national broadband company Internode, along with co-driver Emilis Prelgauskas.

Non Chinese Proverbs

1.  Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead.    Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow.    Do not walk beside me  either.    Just pretty much leave me alone.                                                     
2. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and a leaky tire.                                                                   
3.     It's always darkest before dawn.    So if you're going to steal your neighbor's newspaper, that's the time to do it.                     
4. Don't be irreplaceable..    If you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted.                         
5. Always remember that you're unique.    Just like everyone else.       
6. Never test the depth of the water with both feet.                     
7. If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments.  
8. Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes.   
That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.  
9. If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is probably not for you.     
10. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day.  Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day . 
11.    If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably a wise investment.                                               
12. If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.           
13. Some days you're the bug; some days you're the windshield.           
14. Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.                     
15. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.                                                     
16. A closed mouth gathers no foot.                                       
17. Duct tape is like 'The Force'.    It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.                           
18.  There are two theories to arguing with women.    Neither one works.
19.  Generally speaking, you aren't learning much when your lips are moving .
20.  Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it. 
21.  Never miss a good chance to shut up.                                 
22 . Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.                                                        

Oct 27, 2009

Japanese firms to develop small nuclear reactors

Japan's major nuclear reactor manufacturers have begun developing small nuclear power systems for both developed and emerging countries, a report said on Saturday.

Toshiba Corp. is developing an ultra-compact reactor with an output of about 10,000 kilowatts and has started procedures for approval in the United States, the Nikkei business daily said.

The new reactor, the Toshiba 4S, is designed to minimise the need for monitoring and maintenance, with an automatic shutdown function to ensure safety in case of problems, the newspaper said.

Toshiba plans to market the reactor first in the United States, while foreseeing demand from emerging countries in Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe as well as in Africa, it said.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. has separately completed the concept design for a pressurised-water reactor with a power output of around 350,000 kilowatts, the Nikkei said.

Hitachi Ltd. also aims to develop a boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 400,000-600,000 kilowatts for use in Southeast Asia and other countries, it said.

Demand for nuclear power stations has been growing around the world. A total of 151 were under construction or slated for construction in 27 countries as of the end of 2008, it said.

Oct 26, 2009

Cloning pioneer Hwang Woo-Suk convicted of fraud

The scientist who once led the world in pioneering human cloning was convicted today of fraud over his apparently ground-breaking stem cell research.

Hwang Woo-Suk, a former South Korea national hero, was found guilty by a Seoul court after a trial that lasted more than three years.

Dr Hwang created the first cloned human embryo in 2004. He claimed, in the following year, to have generated cloned embyronic stem cells that carried the DNA of people suffering from conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and diabetes.

Such cells could potentially be transplanted into patients to replace diseased tissue, without the risk of rejection by the body’s immune system. This process, sometimes known as "therapeutic cloning", is widely considered one of the most exciting new frontiers in medicine.


But his work came under suspicion when he admitted that researchers in his team had donated their eggs and that other women had been paid for theirs.

He resigned from an international cloning consortium over the scandal.

A senior colleague at his laboratory claimed that Dr Hwang admitted to fabricating key parts of a study. It purported to show the creation of the first human master cells tailor-made to match individual patients. Sung il Roh said that Dr Hwang admitted to flaws in the study when Dr Roh visited the scientist in hospital, where he was being treated for exhaustion.

The claims led to the destruction of Dr Hwang's reputation, and to his trial.

Oct 25, 2009

More firms are cutting IT's pay -- are you next?

As more companies enforce across-the-board pay cuts and unpaid furloughs, a rising tide of IT professionals is seeing its annual compensation decline and must decide whether to switch employers as a result. 20 most useful career sites for IT professionals


Among the companies that have instituted broad pay cuts this year are National Public Radio, the New York Times, Nucor, and the Georgia State government. These organizations are slashing the pay of even their most in-demand IT staff, such as Web developers, information security specialists, enterprise resource planning gurus, and IT architects.

Some IT professionals jump ship immediately after their pay is cut.
For example, one Indiana firm eliminated annual bonuses at the end of 2008 for all of its employees, including the IT staff. A few months later, all employees making more than $90,000 saw their salaries cut by 10 percent, which impacted two IT managers. Both IT managers left the firm within a few months of the 10 percent pay cut, a knowledgeable source said.

IDG, the parent company of Network World, instituted across-the-board pay cuts of 10 percent in May. Rob Rebecchi, manager of Technology Support Services for IDG, says his group of five analysts, who handle tech support calls for the Framingham, Mass., publishing firm, was affected by the pay cut. "I've lost one junior analyst since then," Rebecchi says. "All the IT groups in IDG were affected by the pay cuts, and there have been some [staffing] changes in each group as a result."

Overall, IT pay and perks continues to shrink in 2009. A Janco Associates survey released in June found that total compensation for IT professionals fell an average of 19 percent between January 2008 and June 2009.

Windows 7 Upgrade Paths (and lack thereof..)

In a nutshell,

Vista -> Windows 7 has a supported upgrade path

Anything else does not. This means that installing Windows 7 from Windows XP or Windows 7 Beta or Windows 7 RTM do not have a supported upgrade path.. So you have to reinstall. 

Tricky things like 32bit to 64bit or cross language upgrades.. Just fergetaboutid!

Why Apple Is Gushing Hate On Windows 7

Microsoft's latest operating system, Windows 7, hit stores Thursday.
Apple, however, is already pushing commercials attacking Microsoft  for "broken promises"; touting the Mac as "a real fresh start," over Windows 7; and pointing to a series of grievous human rights violations against the indigenous islanders of Laputa.

OK, we made that last one up. You get the idea, however. Apple wants everyone to know it wants those Windows XP and Vista users thinking about Windows 7. Or, as Apple's commercials ask: "If we have to move all of our stuff why not move to the computer that is number one in customer satisfaction?"
But is it too late for Apple to grab those users? You know something interesting is happening when Apple's online jihadists take a break from slicing up Microsoft, PC makers and journalists to turn their attention to the Mac maker itself.
"We sometimes wonder if Jobs missed his 'Windows of opportunity' by failing to take all of the advantages that Microsoft's Vista presented to Apple," the Apple enthusiasts at MacDailyNews wrote earlier this month.
"Imagine Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server on specific HP, or Lenovo , or even Dell hardware that would be specifically approved by Apple to run Mac OS X. That would have been an easier sell to enterprise and many consumers."

Never happened. Mac users, like the denizens of Milan's Teatro alla Scalaor Yankees fans, are brutally frank. And they're often right.

So, does the release of Windows 7 mark a blown opportunity for Apple?  No. The reality is Apple has already blown it.

And the real fear is that Apple is turning its attention away from the Mac, and toward phones and other gizmos. In other words, co-founder Steve Jobs is doing what he said he would do in 1996 when he was in exile at Next and Pixar. "If I were running Apple, I would milk the Macintosh for all it's worth--and get busy on the next great thing," Jobs said at the time. "The PC wars are over. Done. Microsoft won a long time ago."

Standing on shoulders of giants


There's something about books that brings out the best in people, a reverence for knowledge, sharing ideas, and tangible acknowledgment of the worth of other minds.

And there are few better places to experience such edification than among Sydney University's rare books collection, in the bowels of the Fisher Library. On Thursday night two dozen people were invited by the university's Science Foundation for Physics to a special showing of the library's scientific treasures.

And I mean treasures. Chief among them is a first edition of Isaac Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, the Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, published in 1687, complete with his neat handwritten notes in the margins. The book has been valued at $8 million, and how it came to be donated to the library is a wonderful tale of altruism trumping greed.

According to the rare book librarian, Neil Boness, an anthropologist and medieval historian, Principia was first owned by Sir Demetrius James of Kent, who was knighted in 1685. When he died, the book was stored with others in an old clock tower. There it stayed for almost 200 years until a distant relative in Sydney, H.C. Elderton, inherited eight unopened boxes of books. He was persuaded to sell Principia to Arthur Bruce-Smith, a barrister and MP. His daughter, Barbara Bruce-Smith, a schoolteacher, of Bowral, inherited it.

She was offered a fortune to sell it to Harvard University, but she wanted it to stay in Australia. So in 1961 she donated it to Sydney University. Her nephew rode a train to Sydney carrying the precious tome in his briefcase. The librarian, Dr Andrew Osborn, was so nervous he took it home that night for safekeeping.

The library also has the 1482 Venetian printing of Euclid's Geometriae Elementa and a first edition of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, or to be accurate, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, for which the 150th anniversary of publication falls next month. We travel all over the world to marvel at such riches but here they are in our backyard, available to everyone (apart from Principia).

Boness is remarkably relaxed about public access. On Thursday he invited us to touch the books, and even turn pages. Gingerly, bare fingers stroked the vellum which, he explained, was made of stretched calfskin. The finest vellum was made of calf embryos, one foetus per page, which adds a certain gruesomeness.

The modern conservator does not require white gloves, regardless of what Robert Langdon does in Dan Brown's Lost Symbol when he goes to the Vatican Archives to read Galileo's Diagramma Della Verita. Boness says he may be a "heretic" in rare book circles but that white cotton gloves bleached by chlorine do a lot more damage than clean hands.

Even though the internet is an infinite virtual library, there is nothing like handling the real thing to give you the nuance of author personality.

You can see Newton's perfectionist paranoia in the meticulous way he eradicates mistakes. You might even detect the source of that paranoia, his arch-enemy, a hotshot mathematician in his own right, Robert Hooke.

Hooke accused Newton of commandeering his work, and as a result Newton wrote him out of Principia. Their rivalry probably drove both men to greater things but history only remembers one. Hooke was brilliant. He was also reportedly very short, covered in smallpox scars and crippled with scoliosis. No picture of him exists, and it is said the only portrait, housed at the Royal Society, disappeared when Newton became president.

It was in his last barbed letter to Hooke that Newton's most famous quote appears: "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants." Newton's malicious point, biographers say, is that Hooke, being short, is not one of the giants to which Newton refers.

One of the most fascinating books is entitled London's dreadful visitation, or a collection of all the bills of mortality for this present year, beginning the 20th of December 1664 and ending the 19th of December [1665, the height of the bubonic plague]. The author, John Graunt (1620-1674), was a wealthy London haberdasher who applied "shop arithmetic" to the calculus of death.

The book, regarded as the foundation of epidemiology, makes for grim reading, with every page featuring "The Disease and Casualties this Week".

There were some odd ways to expire. One person died of "frighted", 18 of dropsy, one of gout, two of grief, 43 of griping (indigestion), eight from "stopping of the stomach", 138 from "teeth", three from "winde", 25 from wormes, and a whopping 69 from "surfeit" - or gluttony. One person died of lethargy; 16 died of the poetically named "Rising of the Lights" (thought to be croup).

Women who died during childbirth numbered 38, 11 babies were stillborn, two were aborted, 26 died because they were "infants". Two people drowned and three were found dead in the street. But all the deaths pale into insignificance compared with the Plague, which killed 6988 people in that one week, of 8252 deaths in total. By contrast just 167 babies were christened.

In that terrible year, this bacterial disease spread by rat fleas would kill 100,000 people, or 20 per cent of Londoners. Death was not easy, with the sufferer feeling terrible pain, vomiting blood, their skin turning black.

For Graunt, his grisly accounting may have been his way of trying to make sense of the tragedy. He writes of his hope: "That neither the Physitians of our Souls or Bodies may hearafter in such great numbers forsake us: and that neither myself or any other of my Profession, may have the occasion in the future to penn such dreadful lines."

You can only marvel at the learning capacity of humans as you survey his neat lists that try to impose order on the chaos and grief.

To touch these books is the closest thing to being transported back in time, a tangible reminder that our knowledge has been achieved incrementally, by standing on the shoulders of giants - both intellectual and moral.

Oct 24, 2009

Five Things You Should Know About Upgrading From XP to Windows 7

Now that Windows 7 is here, the three out of four users who have rejected Windows Vista and clung to the tried and true Windows XP can breathe a sigh of relief and consider moving to the new flagship operating system.
Upgrading or switching operating systems often comes with some trials and tribulations and the Windows 7 upgrade is no exception. Microsoft has tried to provide the tools users need to make the transition as easy as possible, but you may hit some snags. Here are five things you should be aware of as you upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7.
1. . Unfortunately, Microsoft has not provided Windows 7 with the capability to upgrade directly from Windows XP. The explanation is that so much has changed between Windows XP and Windows 7 within the operating system kernel itself, the Registry, the drivers, etc. that trying to get from Point A to Point B just won't work. That isn't as horrible as it sounds. Frankly, although in-place upgrades are convenient, experts always recommend doing a fresh install when moving to a new operating system in order to ensure the best performance and overall experience. Just think of it like Microsoft did you a favor by forcing you to do it the right way. You're welcome.
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2. ?? You can't get from Windows XP to Windows 7 directly, but there was a little known operating system that came out between the two. I know you have blocked out that part of your memory to avoid horrible Windows Vista flashbacks, but surely you could make the switch to Windows Vista if its only for an hour or two. Windows XP users can work around the upgrade issue if they have a copy of Windows Vista. It doesn't even have to be licensed since you won't be activating it and won't have it loaded for more than a few hours-- well within the 30-day trial period. Just upgrade from Windows XP to Windows Vista, then upgrade the Windows Vista system to Windows 7. I make no assurances that this will go off without a hitch. I will add a disclaimer: refer to the first tip where I reminded you that it is recommended that you do the clean install.
3. . If you bought your printer when Clinton was still in office, or your graphics card when Michael Jordan was still ruling the NBA, you might have a hard time finding software updates and drivers to make them work with Windows 7. Thankfully, Microsoft has an app for that. Microsoft created the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor tool which scans your hardware and software and identifies any known compatibility issues. It provides guidance on how to resolve identified issues, and makes recommendations for what you should do to ensure a satisfying Windows 7 upgrade experience
4. . Whether you do the clean install or some sort of crazy work-around to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7, arguably the most important part is making you're your data and personal preferences stay intact. That's where the Windows 7 Easy Transfer tool comes in. The actual file is You can find it on the Windows 7 DVD under First you run it on your existing Windows XP system to migrate your user profile(s) to some external storage. Then, after Windows 7 is installed you run it again to import the user profile(s) to Windows 7. One small caveat. If you have 32-bit Windows XP and you are taking the opportunity while upgrading to make the switch to 64-bit Windows 7 you might run into some problems. I was unable to transfer user settings from a 32-bit to a 64-bit system using this tool during a previous upgrade.
5. . If you're running Windows XP I assume you have invested in some security software-- antivirus, antispyware, personal firewall, etc. Because of changes that Microsoft has made to protect the operating system kernel, those Windows XP-era security programs will most likely not work in Windows 7. The good news is that the Windows 7 firewall is significantly better than the Windows XP firewall, and Microsoft provides adequate security protection for free with Windows Defender and the recently released Microsoft Security Essentials antivirus program. You may still want to explore alternatives and install more robust protection, but these tools should provide sufficient protection for the time being without costing you any money.
If you don't want to spend all that time alone, maybe you could throw one of the Windows 7 parties and you and all of your Windows XP friends can have ice cream and cake (or pizza and beer) while you make the transition.
Of course, you might better off to simply invest the extra money and get a whole new system with Windows 7 already installed. If you have held on to your computer hardware as long as you held onto the Windows XP operating system then you are really skewing Moore's Law and its time you upgrade.

Oct 23, 2009

Steve Ballmer's Windows 7 dance party from Sour Apple POV

October 22 has arrived, which means Microsoft can stop defending Windows Vista and start pretending it never happened. Eyes have now turned to Windows 7, while Windows Vista joins Microsoft Bob and Windows Me in the annals of underachievers past. Well, except for all those people who are still stuck with the thing.

To celebrate the virtual end of Windows Vista, Microsoft held a Windows 7 launch party Thursday morning in New York City. The SoHo venue looked like the sort of oh-so-trendy club you’d see on Sex in the City, with the requisite flashing lights and thumping electronic rhythms, as a crowd of tech journalists and other attendees gathered to see a product that everyone already knows about.

Needless to say, the crowd was far less fashionable than the venue.

Microsoft undoubtedly lacks Apple's Jobsian flair for revealing new stuffs. But Steve Ballmer was very proud of the fact that so many people have already used Windows 7, citing - repeatedly - that the beta had more than eight million testers in more than 200 countries.

As the clock approached the 11am party kick-off, the room was treated to a string of "I’m a PC" adverts featuring little kids connecting cameras to laptops and demonstrating their general ability to use a computer.

One spot showed kids competing against elderly people on common PC tasks. A seven-year-old versus a 70-year-old. An eight-year-old versus an 80-year-old. And, yes, a nine-year-old versus a 90-year-old. The children were victorious, which leads us to believe that Windows 7 is for children and the elderly should keep away.

Cycling's high-tech dilemma


In Italy's Cinque Terre this May, professional cyclist David Millar swooped alone into blind corners and hairpin turns with supreme confidence, all thanks, he said, to a high-tech navigation device on his handlebars.

"The race that day was really technical, more like a mountain stage in a road race than an individual time trial, and nobody had any idea where the turns were or how to ride the course beforehand," said Millar.

"When you are racing that hard, you need every technical advantage you can find."

Millar, whose cycling team is sponsored by the satellite navigation device maker Garmin, arranged in April for a company representative to drive the wild, rolling hillside above Italy's Ligurian coast and map Stage 12 of the Giro d'Italia's 60-kilometre course.

"So I could cook it into the corners hot because I knew just from looking down at my Garmin how tight the turn was. To have that GPS map on the bike definitely helped me race faster."

Cyclists now use an array of wireless technology to provide real time data. Athletes can track their heart rate on a wristwatch, their speed, pedal cadence and power output on small handlebar computers, and now their location with GPS devices.

In team cars following the peloton, directors use two-way radios to communicate with riders, track the race with onboard televisions, and take mobile phone calls from other directors to arrange temporary alliances as a day's events unfold.

But some say all this technology is killing the spontaneity and tactics behind bike racing, and in September the International Cycling Union voted to phase out the use of radio earpieces in the professional peloton by 2012.

"It's chess on wheels," said veteran Canadian cyclist Michael Barry, who rides for Team Columbia-HTC.

"Every team, every rider is wearing a radio, and young riders aren't learning how to read a race on the road. Technology takes the element of panache out of the racing, because radios eliminate a lot of the variables."

Tour de France organisers this year felt much the same way, and banned radio earpieces for one stage, with riders and teams giving a mixed reaction, calling it more leisurely but less safe, as race directors could not alert athletes to upcoming hazards.

"Why not have two days without helmets and two days without brakes?" German cyclist Jens Voigt said at the time.

Barry said the GPS devices specially made for bikes and available for sale commercially, are less of a strategic technological boon than the radios, as they provide no two-way communication with other riders or team directors.

"It's a little bit advantageous, but at 45-kilometre an hour on a windy road with 200 other guys if you are trying to look at a GPS it's the same as if you are trying to look at your cell phone," he said.

"Teams will always try to figure out ways to benefit from technology."

Click go the years in old family photos

ABOUT five years ago I embarked upon a small personal project that quickly got out of hand.

I decided to scan all photos I could find of my parents and grandparents. I started with about 20, mostly relating to the period prior to 1950.

I copied the lot and asked my parents (now in their 80s) and surviving uncles, aunts and even the odd cousin, to contribute what they knew of the people and the circumstances surrounding each picture.

What emerged was a level of detail that had remained unearthed within the memories of each family member. I began annotating the pictures and asking around for more.

The collection now stands at almost 600 different pictures spanning four generations and about 150 years. The earliest is a copy of a daguerreotype of a 30-year-old Scottish woman (my great-great-grandmother) taken, I think, in 1864.

Despite five years of effort in seeking out and reassembling whatever survives of my family's photographic record, the fact remains that only 10 pictures date from the 19th century.

I suspect this would be true for most ordinary Australian families. But it does raise an interesting question: Do you think that photographs taken of you, let alone evidence of your social/familial/work contribution, will survive into the 22nd century?

Personal stories of pain and anguish unfold with each of the pictures. There's the photo and story of the great-aunt who lost her fiance to the Great War and who subsequently never married.

There's another story of a cousin who went missing in action in Rabaul in 1941. And yet another story of a cousin who died in a plane crash while fighting with the RAF in 1942. Apparently the news of his death arrived at the family home in country Victoria just before Christmas.

That this single snippet of pain's detail should survive as oral history almost 70 years after the crash is testimony to the impact this event must have had on the family at the time. It is clear that real emotional pain can reverberate within a family for decades.

The harshness of the lives of women in the 19th and 20th centuries is difficult to comprehend: families of nine and 12 were not uncommon. Nor was it uncommon to simply lose children, especially during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918.

But the other thing that is fascinating about this exercise is the teasing glimpses the album provides of the ageing process. It must have been the custom in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to have studio photographs taken to capture a subject's youth and beauty. These photographic studies transcend time easily. It's remarkable how many survive in one family in little more than a shoebox.

But then the subject will disappear from the photographic record for 25 years and resurface in middle age as an entirely different person, shaped by years of childbirth and an unrelenting diet of roly-poly jam pudding. There is something of an overview effect in looking at a picture of a vibrant young couple from, say, the 1920s and knowing how life unfolds for them.

The conclusion I have come to from this exercise is that until very recently the idea of youth and beauty was fleeting; it existed in women and men for less than 10 years from, say, 17. Thereafter the grind of children and of a working-class life rapidly carried bodies into middle age. By 30, women's waists had disappeared; by 35, balding men cheerily added a decade to their appearance by adopting the comb-over.

The other thing I have noted from this exercise is that the family record has the greatest chance of surviving the years when women hold it (because they are the storytellers) and when families stay put. Families who move from district to district, let alone interstate, are less likely to lug around old photos.

I became so engaged by this process that I extended the time-frame to the second half of the 20th century.

Colour photography arrived at Christmas 1969. And the advent of even modest prosperity brought with it a shift in the subject of the pictures. There are photographs of holidays in the family caravan rather than pictures of picnics taken in botanical gardens.

Interestingly, the family photographic record comes to an abrupt halt in 2003. It's almost as if the photographic world was hit by a meteorite. Digital photography arrived and the number of pictures taken exploded. But unlike the studio shots of young debutantes taken in 1918, photographs of modern debutantes are captured and stored on the hard drive of a home (or work) computer.

And here's the irony: I suspect that the photo that has the greatest chance of surviving within a family to the 22nd century is not one of the thousands stored on a PC's hard drive; it is the old studio shot printed on card and stored in a shoebox. I think that on this measure an old shoebox will serve as a better family time capsule than a PC that will be tossed out at some stage in the middle of the next decade.

Digitise your family record, make copies and disseminate them, and as a consequence you will have a far better chance of reaching the 22nd century in photographic form.

Oct 22, 2009

In search of cheap Window 7

F you're seeking a cheaper copy of Microsoft's new Window 7 operating system in Australia, then, welcome to the club.
In search of cheap Windows 7
Windows 7 is not cheap in Australia, compared to the US, where, pre-release, the Home Premium upgrade had been on sale for a little more than US$100.
You are definitely not alone.

Today, October 22, Microsoft launched their mighty new system, and, due to our position on Planet Earth, Australia was one of the first countries where the operating system officially went on sale.

Buyers of new computers, especially laptops and net books, are expected to be the major consumers of Windows 7. Indeed, Australians who bought a computer loaded with a qualifying copy of Vista from around mid June this year can obtain Windows 7 for nix. Australian retailers are the winners.

As for buying it off the shelf, consumers traditionally have been reluctant to go out and buy a full-priced retail version of Windows.

In Australia, the full retail prices of Windows 7 are at $299 for Home Premium, $449 for professional and $469 for Ultimate, with upgrades available for $199, $399 and $429 respectively - significantly more than in the US.

Today, some Australian stores, both real and virtual, are offering mildly discounted copies for, say, $30 off for Home Premium, as an introductory offer.

But for those in search of a cheaper copy, there are alternatives.

Qualifying students can pick up free copies of Windows 7 through their college or university. For those who can't, Microsoft is expected to offer the Student Edition for a little more than US$30, again provided you go to a qualifying institution.

See this site.

There are other routes to bargains.

Users in Australia who run the free release candidate (RC) version of Windows 7 can upgrade to the retail version without buying the full version, a saving of A$100 or so depending on the edition.

There is also the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) route.

OEM versions are supposed to be only for those who build machines. The OEM version of Windows is tied to the hardware, and if you change the hardware, especially the motherboard, it no longer works. You are supposed to be eligible if you buy a heap of hardware parts to build a new system.

But some online businesses will sell you a copy of OEM Windows if you buy say, only a printer cable, or less.

Windows 7 Home Premium OEM, both 32 and 64 bit versions, is selling for about A$135 upwards on some sites already.

This is probably the cheapest way to obtain a retail version down under.

Windows 7 is not cheap in Australia, compared to the US, where, pre-release, the Home Premium upgrade had been on sale for a little more than US$100, and a few months back, for much less again.

In the US, Microsoft is selling a ‘family pack' which allows users to upgrade three PCs to Home Premium, for US$149.

So far, there is no indication that the family pack will be available in Australia at all.

In fact, there appears to be quite radically different pricing and packaging of Windows 7 for different countries. The rub is, that your Australian credit card will not necessarily work if you try to buy Windows 7 from the main US sites, such as Microsoft itself.

It therefore pays to know a friendly American who can buy cheaper copies of Windows 7 for you. This is another route to a bargain.

Why soft drink tastes good

Like the fizz of a soft drink? Thank your tongue's sour-sensing taste buds.

No, it isn't the popping bubbles that gives the "taste" of carbonation. Try a swallow inside a pressure chamber - where the bubbles do not burst - and the sensation's the same.

So says a report in the current edition of the journal Science, where researchers tackled a bubbly puzzle: How do we taste the carbon dioxide that gives carbonated drinks their fizz?

After all, the human tongue is supposed to sense just five flavours: bitter, sweet, salty, sour and umami, sometimes called savory.

It turns out that the taste buds that let us sense sourness have an enzyme on their surface that interacts with carbon dioxide, said researchers from the University of California, San Diego, and the National Institutes of Health.

They made the discovery in mice, whose sense of taste resembles that of humans. They gave the animals sips of club soda or a little buzz of carbon dioxide gas and recorded how the tongue signaled the sensation to the brain. Both soda and the gas produced similar sensations. But when they tested mice bred to have no sour taste buds, the brain never got its sensory alert. Further probing uncovered the enzyme responsible.

Why is not the tingle merely sour? Carbon dioxide also stimulates somatosensory cells in the mouth, cells that give touch sensations, so presumably it's that unique combination.

But given that carbonating water was first tried not quite 250 years ago, why would mammals have evolved a way to sense carbon dioxide? The scientists could not say, but speculated it might have been a protective mechanism, to avoid fermenting foods that give off the gas.

Iphone the perfect tracking device

As if life were not insecure enough, every day there are new claims that our security and privacy are at risk. The following was posted just hours ago and raises some interesting privacy issues with iphone use. Of course, we have indicated in previous posts (and in our first book “Who is You”) that wireless phones and computing is not secure at all unless encrypted.

“As I sit here applying a new layer of Reynolds tin foil to my international hat of conspiracy, its been proven that Apple tracks iPhone usage and tracks IEMI numbers of all their iPhones worldwide. Hidden in the code of the “Stocks” and “Weather” widgets is a string that sends the IMEI of your phone to a specialized URL that Apple collects.

Facebook is the gold standad for identity ttheft

SOCIAL networking sites such as Facebook are "absolute gold" for identity thieves, a national fraud conference on the Gold Coast has been told. Just publishing your name and date of birth on the internet could be enough for international fraudsters to steal your identity and raid your bank accounts, senior police say.

The warning, delivered at the National Identity Crime Symposium  yesterday, came as new research showed fraud was costing Australians about $8.5 billion a year. Queensland Police Service fraud experts told a symposium media conference that international fraudsters trawled the internet for information and used sophisticated data matching technology to steal people's identities and their money.

Now it's the Android book reader

The big US bookseller, Barnes & Noble, has fleshed out its Kindle challenge by producing its own eReader to compete with Amazon. It's called the Nook, it operates on the Android smartphone operating system and it (possibly) points in the direction the eReader market is most likely to take. Ian Scales reports.

The fact that this gadget is running Android is noteworthy. The Linux-based OS is getting everywhere these days and even Google itself is rumoured to be producing a 'Google-phone' using Android (which, if true, is bound to annoy the big line-up of phone vendors The Open Handset Alliance' has managed to attract - but of course that's the logic of an open ecosystem. Anyone can play.)

Barnes & Noble's announcement is the culmination of its eBook activities this year as it squares up to Amazon (see - Up the amazon without a paddle) and it's not just Amazon it has to take on.



The e-reader market has been going bonkers for months now and at TelecomTV Leila Makki has offered a Newsdesk review  of a few of the latest examples. From what we've seen so far, the readers range from the frankly plasticky (we've dubbed these the paperback versions) to the aluminium-encased objects of desire you'd expect from Japanese consumer electronics companies.

Android 2.0 brings Sony Ericsson’s Rachael to market as X10

At last Android 2.0 is poised to launch commercially, bringing the first ‘grown-up’ release of the operating system. This could unleash a host of really big hitting Android products – true smartphones in hardware and apps terms, rather than the midrange, socially aware handsets we have mainly seen so far. While the HTC Hero and Samsung Galaxy did a good job of working around the limitations of Android 1.5 – especially in areas like multitouch and turbocharged video and image – Sony Ericsson would not even release a Google phone until it had its hands on release 2.0. Now it has, and its first Android offering could hit the shelves in time for Christmas, though some observers believe it will wait until February.

This was codenamed Rachael but is likely to launch with the name Xperia X10 (not X3 as previously thought, perhaps to distance it from the current Xperia X1 and X2, Sony Ericsson’s only Windows Mobile models). As with most branding decisions the firm has taken recently - like calling its attractive new Symbian smartphones by odd names like Aino and Satio, rather than leveraging the power of the Walkman and Cybershot brands some more – this is strange. If it wants to make a splash with its Android debut, it should avoid any confusion with the Xperia line and WinMo, especially as the X1 has sold poorly.

X10, by contrast, looks like it could be a heavyweight media phone like the Satio and Aino. Leaked images show a superthin format, flat but with curved corners and a four-inch touchscreen. It will also sport 16Gb of internal memory, GPS, Wi-Fi and an 8-megapixel camera (one of the best on Android, with the usual CyberShot wizardries). The phone will be heavily geared to high end audiovisual applications, promising the highest screen resolution yet seen on a phone, which would see Sony Ericsson challenging LG and Samsung for their leadership in hi-tech phone displays.

Americans fear online robberies more than meatspace muggings

A new survey shows, perhaps unsurprisingly, that more Americans are worried about being robbed online than they are about being mugged in real life. The bi-annual Unisys Security Index found that Americans fear fraudulent use of their personal credit and debit cards significantly more than they fear for their personal safety; and, in a change from the previous March survey, Americans fear for the nation's security even more than they do the security of their finances. Americans are also much more concerned about pandemic flu viruses than they are computer viruses, and they're a little less concerned about paying their bills than they were in the first half of the year.
The overall Unisys Security Index, which is based on a survey of 1,005 randomly sampled adults, aims to sum in numbers different countries' fears in the areas of financial security, national security, personal security, and Internet security. The overall security index, which is a composite of the aforementioned components, has remained roughly flat since its launch in mid-2007. But this year's changes in the underlying trends are interesting, especially because national security has ticked up from 154 at the start of 2009 to 162 currently, while financial security has dipped from 164 to 156 in the same timeframe. A combination of an alleged terrorist plot that was disrupted in September, along with the ongoing gains in major stock market indices, may have contributed to the movement in the two indices in the second half of this year.

Oct 21, 2009

Facebook evolves into an attack tool for criminals

As Facebook evolves from a University Alumina network into an enterprise tool, VeriSign iDefense security experts are warning that the platform is turning into a prime attack vector for cyber-criminals.

Ryan Olson, US-based analyst for VeriSign's iDefense malicious code operations, told ZDNet Australia that the thousands of new applications being developed for Facebook users, whilst enriching functionality, present a perfect channel for distributing malware.

"The potential is there and all the framework is there," said Olson.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said in June: "Rather than putting it in our terms of service that you promise not to breach our security and putting the onus on us. We are just going to open it up slowly over time.

McDonald's EFTPOS cash machine scam netted millions

AUSTRALIA's largest fast food chain will overhaul security on its EFTPOS machines after customers were fleeced out of $4 million.  The Daily Telegraph revealed the McDonald's overhaul comes amid police warnings retailers must be more vigilant in maintaining EFTPOS security. Criminals snatched EFTPOS devices at McDonald's outlets across Perth and replaced them with bogus card-skimming versions, fleecing at least 3500 customers.

McDonald's spokeswoman Christine Mullen said the company will implement "a number of measures across the country to protect (EFTPOS) security". Ms Mullen admitted the scam was "very much a concern", but declined to reveal new security measures. It is believed they will include new technologies preventing the removal and tampering with EFTPOS PIN pad and give the machines a highly visual presence in each store across the country.

Western Australia's top fraud officer Detective Senior Sergeant Don Heise said the McDonald's scam occurred when legitimate eftpos PIN pads were replaced by bogus ones that transmitted PINs to criminals. "It does not take much time to switch one of these (PIN pads) over, perhaps 15 to 20 seconds. "It's plug and play."  The most likely scenario in the scam had been that McDonald's workers had been distracted while providing services to customers.

The fake EFTPOS devices were then probably substituted.  More than 3500 people's cards were compromised.. Sgt Heise is heading up a taskforce, Operation Mintox - which has so far made no arrests - to target the McDonald's crime.  He urged NSW retailers to learn from the Perth experience and closely watch their terminals. Spokesmen for Australia's two largest retailers, Woolworths and Coles, both also said they had no need to change their security protocols on EFTPOS terminals because their machines contained more advanced technology.

Android Army pincer movement on Apple

My, oh my -- can you feel it? Android excitement is certainly in the air this month. And, with each passing week, the anticipation only seems to grows thicker.
Fueling the flames now is Verizon's cryptic announcement of its upcoming Droid smartphone. The phone, believed to be a Motorola device once codenamed Sholes, was revealed via a spirited TV ad and accompanying teaser site launched over the weekend. The marketing materials take clear shots at the iPhone, using the phrase "iDon't" to list all the things Apple's device can't do that the Droid can.
Verizon's Droid phone is one of several new Android devices on its way to the U.S. smartphone market. Here's a look at what's known about it and the other upcoming Android-based options.

The only direct information about the Verizon Droid comes by way of that aforementioned iPhone-attacking ad. The commercial says the device will have a physical keyboard, interchangeable batteries, and a 5-megapixel camera with a flash. It'll also boast the ability to run simultaneous apps and widgets. Moreover, Verizon says its Droid will be fully customizable and built for open development -- two capabilities notoriously absent from that popular Apple product.

Oct 20, 2009

Pandemic opportunity for criminals

The Australian Crime Commission has identified the potential for organised crime groups to target the public in a time of pandemic, with the potential for counterfeit medication to be imported.

Under questioning from Greens Senator Scott Ludlum, Crime Commission chief executive John Lawler said an intelligence report had been prepared looking at the potential for fraud including dodgy medication in the event of a major pandemic.

''The example you are talking about are matters that we have looked at, across a broad range of spectrums and what the implications for the likes of pandemics are,'' Mr Lawler said.

The Crime Commission chief executive said the nature of organised crime indicated there was a risk that syndicates would target Australia during the time of vulnerability.

''One of the features we see in serious organised crime is their potential to be innovative and exploit opportunities where money can be made, significant amounts of money at low risk,'' he said.

Float a Live Surge Protector in a Pool on a Couple of Flip-Flops


Get Frustrated, Fired on Facebook

If you’re careless enough to friend your boss and then vent about how much you hate him on Facebook, you probably should make sure you bring a cardboard box for your personal items and remember to take your stash of Skittles out of the middle desk drawer. Because it’s not just an urban myth — Facebook comments can, and will, get you fired.

One of the stories rolling around the Internet this week is about a poor girl who called her boss a few harsh words and basically offered a criticism that might be considered an accusation of sexual harassment. If you haven’t already seen this re-tweeted or forwarded from a friend (hopefully not your boss), it’s included here at passiveaggressivenotes.com (exhibit D). And while the argument can be made that the boss didn’t exactly handle it as professionally as he should have, well, he’s still the boss. And she no longer has a job. Do you think it was the first or the second “wanker” that pushed him over the edge?

A week ago I wrote about watching what you tweet. Same rules apply: what you post on Facebook, while it could be respected as private, most of the time just isn’t. And even if you delete a momentary-lapse-in-judgment rant, that doesn’t mean it won’t end up in the hands that will be dunking you in boiling water.

Woman fired via Facebook after rant

The woman, whose identity was blacked out on internet blog Applicant, reportedly vented her frustrations about her boss and workplace on her Facebook status.  After posting "OMG I HATE MY JOB!! My boss is a total pervvy (sic) wanker always making me do sh*t stuff just to piss me off!! WANKER!" she was immediately fired by her boss.

Unfortunately the now unemployed worker had added her boss as a friend, allowing him, and all other co-workers see her status. Her boss, who's identity was also hidden, defended the allegations that he was making sexual advances on her. "You've worked here 5 months and didn't work out that I'm gay? I know I don't prance around the office like a queen, but it's not exactly a secret", he said".

The boss then proceeded to identify her day-to-day mistakes while ending the post with a notice of termination.  "Don't bother coming in tomorrow".

Judge Disciplined Over Facebook Addiction?

We've heard plenty of stories about people losing jobs due to inappropriate posts on Facebook, but this is the first time we've heard it suggested that a person was disciplined for Facebook addiction. Sources have suggested to the Staten Island Advance that Criminal Court Judge Matthew A. Sciarrino, Jr. was transferred from his post in the Forgotten Borough to a Brooklyn court, due, at least partially, to his constant use of the social networking service.

Until very recently, Judge Sciarrino's Facebook page was public, allowing people to view his frequent updates. These public updates included photos of friends and family, as well as detailed information about his location and activities. This wouldn't be an issue for many, but it does seem odd for a person whose job it is to send people to jail to post information about his family and location in a public forum. Additionally, the Advance states that Sciarrino updated his status at least once while on the bench, and uploaded a photo he took from his perch in front of his crowded court room.
The judge ruffled some feathers outside of his social networking activities however, and his "Facebook addiction" may have merely been used as an excuse for his ouster. Sciarrino had been very vocal in the media, particularly with the Advance, about the poor conditions at the courthouse and the need for an additional judge in light of excessive caseloads.

Regardless, it seems that Sciarrino failed to conduct his public, social networking activities in an intelligent and professional manner. A good rule of thumb is that if you're on the job -- especially if that job is one of public service -- you might want to think twice about updating your Facebook (or Twitter or MySpace, for that matter) account. Make your profile private and save those posts for when you're off the clock. [From: Staten Island Advance, via Business Insider]

Virgin Blue wheel 'disintegrated' on landing


AIRCRAFT engineers have demanded Virgin Blue inspect its entire plane fleet after reports that a wheel disintegrated on a plane as it landed at Melbourne Airport this morning.

The airline has not yet confirmed the incident, which Steve Purvinas, federal secretary of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association, said was extremely dangerous.

Mr Purvinas said the wheel on the 737-800 aircraft disintegrated as it landed at Melbourne at 9am this morning. The plane departed from Adelaide

The mental illness that flies under the radar

 Winston Churchill is widely cited as someone who suffered depression, or the "black dog" as he referred to it. I have an image of the old man slumped in a chair by a fire, weighed down by the enormity of the fight against Nazism. Churchill's depression was a burden; but it is also consistent with being a deep and serious man.

Fewer people know that Churchill also suffered anxiety, with evidence he was prone to panic attacks. I suspect this is a deliberate oversight: a focus on his anxiety may damage our view of him as a strong person. Doesn't it evoke an image of a worry wart? A neurotic with shattered nerves? Would we still want the free world's fate in his hands?

The way we view Churchill and his mental illnesses is indicative. There is a huge focus on depression – more and more high-profile Australians are coming out and admitting they suffer from it, the latest being Liberal front bencher Andrew Robb.

Their outings help remove the stigma of depression, which is an excellent thing. Depression is most dangerous when it is swept under the carpet and untreated. But for some reason anxiety flies under the radar – it remains the poor man of mental illness. How many people will only register the "depression" bit during beyond blue's Anxiety and Depression Awareness Month through October?

An anxiety attack: waves of fear and panic; a "torturer" increases the pain when you attempt to control and fight the anxiety. The pain ratchets up until – at its worst – it becomes like flesh being torn off your bones. How to stop the pain?

Anxiety, which beyond blue defines as unrelenting feelings of tension, distress or nervousness, can be just as dangerous as depression. It's common to suffer depression and anxiety at the same time.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics National Survey of Mental Health, some 2 million Australians live with anxiety – making it twice as common as depression. Yet a survey by beyond blue found just 7 per cent recognised anxiety as a major mental health problem, against 56 per cent recognising depression as a major health problem.

Until I became fully aware I was susceptible to anxiety, my knowledge of the illness was limited. I knew Howard Hughes suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder, a form of anxiety along with generalised anxiety disorder, phobias, post traumatic stress disorder and panic disorder.

My other image of the illness was standing behind a man at a chemist handing over his subscription to anxiety tablets with a shaking hand. I pitied him. The last story I read about anxiety revealed Hugh Grant suffered panic attacks when filming, which I thought mildly amusing.

Now I'm aware of untreated anxiety, I see it wreck marriages, ruin careers and, I suspect, cost lives. It's obvious it isn't taken nearly as seriously as it should be by the medical profession and society in general. It's either viewed as a weakness, particularly by men, or not that debilitating.

One of the problems is that anxiety appears difficult to treat. GPs are so focused on depression – which can be (supposedly easily) treated with drugs – that they tend to ignore anxiety. Anxiety is a major side effect of most antidepressants, a fact often overlooked. Many anxiety attacks seem to be diagnosed as indigestion, or even heart attacks.

Another problem is that people learn to cover anxiety up and self-medicate, most commonly by drinking, which gives an instant calming effect. Anxiety is also confused with stress – and isn't everyone stressed out these days?

Ultimately it's an issue of focus. People are choosing to overlook anxiety and not take it as seriously as depression. I was well aware actor Gary MacDonald suffered depression, but it was lost on me that he also suffered anxiety and debilitating panic attacks.

Once diagnosed, anxiety is treatable. Things that work include cutting down caffeine, regular exercise, stress management, and breathing exercises. But ultimately, the best way to deal with anxiety is acceptance.

Most anxiety problems are caused when people try and fight or control it. You have to let go and say to the "torturer" – "do your worst, I'm not going to fight you; my life's been great so far despite your presence, I can handle it". It requires guts and a leap of faith. For some reason the torturer sticks around but loses interest.

Far from being a sign of weakness, living a good, healthy life with anxiety requires courage, as Churchill himself would probably attest.

Oct 19, 2009

New fuel-miser Ford knocks Prius off its perch

The Toyota Prius hybrid is no longer Australia’s most fuel-efficient car. The car, which has held the mantle since its local launch in 2001, has been knocked off its green perch by a fuel-sipping diesel small car from Ford.

The Ford Fiesta ECOnetic model uses just 3.7 litres of fuel per 100km in official tests, shading the Toyota by 0.2 litres per 100km.

But the Prius still puts out less C02, emitting 89 grams per kilometre, compared with the Ford’s 98g/km.

At today’s pump prices, the Ford will cost just 14c less than the Prius for every 100km driven, but company spokeswoman Sinead McAlary says the title of Australia’s most fuel efficient car is worth much more than that.

“The bragging rights are important because this is a real brand changer for Ford. It’s something people wouldn’t expect from Ford,” she says.

“More and more people are concerned about fuel consumption. No matter what type of vehicle they are buying, they still want the most fuel efficient in that segment.”

The Fiesta ECOnetic will also have a big price advantage over the Prius, with a driveaway price of $24,990, compared with more than $40,000 for the Toyota.

Oct 15, 2009

Google Wave secured with 'crypto fairy dust'

Google Wave, the search giant's email-like collaboration tool, has been designed to avoid common security issues associated with traditional email because it contains a 'sprinkle of crypto fairy dust', according to the product manager of the technology, who was speaking to media in Sydney today.

User privacy is a huge concern for Google, according to Greg D'alesandre, Google Wave product manager.

He said Wave has been built with two levels of security designed to stop criminals exploiting the technology by spoofing another account - pretending to be someone they are not - or by sniffing Wave traffic while it is travelling between users.

"It is relatively easy to fake - or spoof - an email address. One thing we built into the Wave protocol is what we call crypto fairy dust. This means every piece of information you are getting on a Wave from another Wave server has authentication information built into it.

Millions stolen from McDonald's customers

MORE than $2.5 million has been stolen from 3500 bank accounts in a credit card skimming scam at McDonald's outlets in Perth, West Australian police say.  Major fraud squad detective senior sergeant Don Heise said inquiries by police had confirmed EFTPOS devices had been compromised.

Card information and PIN details from debit and visa cards had been obtained in the fraud, Det Heise said.  "Police are continuing to work closely with numerous financial institutions and McDonald's, with McDonald's being the only EFTPOS sale devices affected at this time," he said.

Oct 14, 2009

New device could diagnose depression in hour

A new 'mind reading' device developed at Monash University could diagnose depression in an hour, its inventors say.

The university's Brian Lithgow, a biomechanical engineer, has created a machine he calls an 'ECG for the mind', analysing the brain's electrical signals in the same way an ECG can detect heart problems.

It works by plugging an electrode into the subject's ear, then strapping them to a tilt chair that triggers changes in their balance system.

The balance system is closely connected to primitive parts of the brain relating to emotions and behaviour.

Working with psychiatrists from Monash University's Alfred Psychiatry Centre (MAPrc), he has been running tests to see if he can identify the unique electrical signals attached to mental illness such as depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The University is developing the device with a corporate partner to patent and eventually market the technology.

The head of MAPrc, Professor Jayashri Kulkarni, said the device could prove a major breakthrough in the diagnosis of serious mental illness.

"It is going to lift us, I think, into an era where mental illness can be better understood and better treated," she told ABC radio. Done the normal way, by taking a laborious history from a patient, it can be more than a decade before a condition like bipolar disorder is diagnosed.

However Professor Kulkarni said it was too early to say the device was proven effective.

Snow Leopard bug deletes all user data

 Snow Leopard users have reported that they've lost all their personal data when they've logged into a "Guest" account after upgrading from Leopard, according to messages on Apple's support forum.  The bug, users said in a well-read thread on Apple's support forum, resets all settings on the Mac, resets all applications' settings and erases the contents of critical folders containing documents, photos and music.

He was cleaning his tweets and 2 people got killed

The organiser of a US spiritual retreat, during which two people died and another 19 had to be admitted to hospital, has been caught deleting potentially incriminating tweets he published during the event. US authorities are trying to determine if criminal negligence played a role in the deaths, which occurred in a sauna-like sweat lodge at a resort in Arizona during a two-hour "spiritual cleansing ceremony" last Thursday evening.

The organiser of the "Spiritual Warrior" retreat, James Arthur Ray, is an author who holds seminars on wealth creation and was interviewed in the 2006 film The Secret. He has appeared as a guest on shows including Oprah and Larry King Live.  Ray is also an avid tweeter and, even while attendees were falling ill at the retreat, he made several posts to Twitter that were later deleted but not completely removed from the site.

"The Spiritual Warrior has conquered death and therefore has no enemies, and no fear, in this life or the next," he wrote in one.

Google Wave - a Brave New World?


s Google Wave trying to assimilate the internet?

The boffins at Google sat down and asked "what would email look like if it was invented today?" Their answer is Google Wave, a new service that's been available to developers for a few months and has just expanded to include around 100,000 early adopters.

It's hard to explain, but Google Wave is basically a cross between instant messaging, email and a wiki. You've got an inbox that looks like a Gmail inbox and you can create new Waves, which are a bit like email messages. You can add someone in your contact list to a Wave, at which point it will appear in their Google Wave inbox. Similar to a wiki, multiple participants can edit a Wave simultaneously and even change each other's comments. You can start new conversation threads within a Wave (known as Wavelets) and even see what other people are typing in real time.

Along with text, Waves can contain images, video, maps and interactive widgets such as Yes/No/Maybe polls. Developers have been working hard to create new widgets along with automated bots that can join conversations. The instantaneous nature of Google Wave makes it tempting to use Waves like an instant messaging service, but it quickly becomes confusing as people talk over the top of each other. Looking around at the Waves that have been opened for all users to use (found by searching for with:public) it seems that most people are using Waves more as collaboration tool (like a forum or wiki) rather than a communications tool (like email or IM).

At the moment the early adopters are still coming to terms with the power of Google Wave and the best way to use it. It's full of people experimenting with different ideas, developing different services and thinking about concepts such as Google Wave etiquette.  It's amazing to watch these people build a new world - it's as if a few thousand people have crash landed on an uninhabited Class M planet and set about building themselves the foundations of a civilisation. All the basic necessities are at their disposal and now they're building cities and deciding how their society is going to function, in preparation for millions of new citizens set to arrive in the next few years. The limited membership means Google Wave is still a bit of a Utopian playground as the spammers and griefers haven't made their presence felt - yet.

Google Wave's first inhabitants are applying many old world ideas to this new world, but they're also developing new approaches to things. One thing that's struck me is that the forum/wiki approach to Google Wave could easily be replicated on the wider internet using public tools. Eventually people will start using Google Wave in ways that can't be easily replicated elsewhere. Still, it's worth asking the question - why are we locking away all this potentially valuable information within the walls of Google Wave? Doesn't this go against the open nature of the web? Google Wave has the potential to fragment the internet and thus diminish its usefulness. It also has the potential to lock away large portions of the online body of knowledge in an environment which only Google controls and can monetise.

Initially I didn't have a problem with Google Wave, and I still think there's a lot to praise, but after looking at Google's approach to Sidewiki I'm now more concerned about Google's habit of assimilating or hijacking other people's content to meet its own needs. Look at Google Book Search, look at Google Sidewiki, look at what happened to Usenet after it was consumed by Google. The search engine giant seems to think it has the right to do with the world's data as it wishes, without asking permission, and now it's trying to build Web 3.0 within Google Wave to give it even more control. It's an exciting new frontier, but historians may look back on Google Wave as another milestone in the slow death of the open internet.

[If you're on Google Wave, drop by and say hello - just do a public search - with:public - for "Adam Turner" or the name of any of my blogs or podcasts. I've also started a wave about "Wave, journalism and the Mainstream Media"]

Light work as card skimming gangs net $40K a day

Bank card skimming gangs from Romania have found an "easy target" in Australia and banks should improve their security measures, experts say. Speaking at a National Identity Crime Symposium hosted by the Queensland Police Service on the Gold Coast today, Romanian Police Cyber Crime Unit Chief Inspector Elvis Tudose said ATM and EFTPOS card skimming gangs from his home country had "discovered a new destination" Down Under. 

"Australia is new turf for Romanian gangs," he said.  "Places like Australia, Canada, Brazil and New Zealand ... the think they will find a new El-Dorado. Australia is an easy target and [criminals] think you have smaller punishments and if they are caught here... the law will be more easy with them." Chief Inspector Tudose said Australia should get tougher laws against card skimming gangs and banks should issue warnings on ATM machines about the possible dangers of electronic fraud.

"I think your banks have to improve their security measures and your population must be educated because people in Australia are not accustomed with this [type of crime]," he said.  Chief Inspector Tudose said card skimming gangs from his home country, who are entering the country on tourist visas, also scored with "old ATMs" in Australia.  "Machines here are weaker in security. They can still be compromised using old methods," he said.

"They have big withdrawal limits on your [criminals] can get a lot of money at one time. They have discovered Australia some time ago and they think it's an interesting territory.

Oct 13, 2009

Levinson resigns from Google board

The close boardroom ties between Google and Apple were loosened further on Monday as Art Levinson, a director of both companies for five years, quit the board of the internet group with immediate effect.  His departure comes amid a Federal Trade Commission inquiry of the board-level links between the two companies.

Eric Schmidt, chief executive of Google, resigned his position on the Apple board two months ago, after earlier saying that he had no intention of giving up his seat as a director.  In spite of the end of direct boardroom overlap between two of Silicon Valley’s most influential companies, the two still enjoy some un­usual high-level links. Former US vice-president Al Gore and Intuit chairman Bill Campbell both continue to sit on the Apple board while also serving as senior advisers to Google.

The competition between the two companies made it inappropriate for them to remain advisers to Google, said Charles Elson, a professor of corporate governance at the University of Delaware. “Their legal obligation is clearly to Apple,” he added. “They have to choose their loyalties.”

Oct 9, 2009

The Phone That Gets No Respect

Microsoft's phone software might be described as the "Rodney Dangerfield of operating systems," says analyst Michael Gartenberg, of market-research firm Interpret LLC. Historically, it's gotten little respect. But this new software release, called Windows Mobile 6.5, is robust enough to compete with the iPhone and other business-oriented rivals like BlackBerry maker Research in Motion ( RIMM - news - people ), Gartenberg says.
But Ken Dulaney, an analyst with Gartner, says Microsoft is probably a year away from truly being able to go toe-to-toe with user-friendly phones like the iPhone and those running Google ( GOOG - news - people )'s Android operating system. He called the new Windows 6.5 software a "placeholder to keep Microsoft in the game."

Telsa Roadster Sports Version


Like the Tesla Roadster but think it's just not expensive enough for you? Then fear not, person we'd like to get to know, 'cause the Tesla Roadster Sport is here complete with a $19,500 premium over its less sporty counterpart. (Umm that means about $130,000...) Thankfully, according to the lucky folks at Autoblog Green, you will get quite a few bonuses for that extra cash, including an improved 0-60 mph time of 3.7 seconds, a new suspension that can be set to one of ten different settings and, perhaps most importantly, a new set of black-finish forged wheels (paired with some Yokohama ADVAN A048 tires) that'll ensure no one mistakes it for a "low end" Tesla.

The internet will devour newspapers

What is the core problem of today’s newspaper industry? What is the central challenge of the Internet to the old certainties of the news business?  According to Clay Shirky, the New York University professor of new media and the author of the 2008 international hit book Here Comes Everybody, the central problem is that there isn’t a central problem. It’s the disappearance of the centre, Shirky argued when he and I spoke at Ryerson University in Toronto last weekend, which is most undermining the old industrial newspaper industry with its top down hierarchies and tangible centres of power.


Perhaps Shirky will entitle his next book Everything Changes. According to him, the Internet does indeed change everything, absolutely everything, about the news industry. The digital revolution collapses audience and author, making what he called “the shock of inclusion” the democratising cultural force of our new interactive age. The Internet undermines traditional news bundling, forever unstitching the necessity of combining disparate content in a single product. Internet technology does away with the oligarchy of newspaper publishers, enabling anyone to publish anything they like in real-time at minimal cost on an always-on global network.

Shirky is, of course, absolutely correct. The core reality of the Internet is its absence of a centre. The distributed Internet, all edge and no heart, has done away with the centralised structures of power of the old industrial world. And without a core, the news can’t be controlled by a central power. It can no longer be owned.

The Internet is like a blob, a centreless yet all powerful monster, impossible to destroy and yet able to devour everything in its path.  In a wonderfully scary 1958 movie, Hollywood imagined the Blob as a fictional horror story. Today, however, the blob has become a not-so-wonderfully-scary monster for the old media powers-that-be like News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch and the American Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Unfortunately, neither Murdoch nor the FTC were in the Ryerson University audience last weekend. They therefore still have faith in the old industrial organisation model. They still want to own the news. They imagine they can become the new centre of the internet. They think they can kill the blob.

Murdoch, in particular, could do with a dose of Shirkyian wisdom. Old media’s most battle-scarred warrior seems to think he can take on the Internet and survive. His latest warlike manoeuvre is to build a big wall around all News Corp content on the Internet and then charge subscribers to access the news. The storied Australian pugilist, the man who used to own the news in old industrial economy, is trying to rope off the blob from the millions of Internet users who aren’t paying for their content.

According to Murdoch’s The Man Who Owns The News biographer, Michael Wolff, the 79 year-old News Corp chairman is ready for a final, winner-take-all battle with the internet. “Rupert To the Internet: It’s War!” screams the title of Wolff’s latest dose of Murdochia in this month’s Vanity Fair magazine:  “He relishes conflict and doesn’t back down—one reason why he’s won so many of his fights and so profoundly changed the nature of his industry…. Now he’s going to war with the internet.”