Mar 29, 2011

Profit delay as Sensis converts to digital strategy | Herald Sun

YELLOW Pages directory company Sensis does not expect to return to profit growth for three years, following its investment in an online strategy launched this morning.

The service, described by Sensis executive Gerry Sutton as a ``kick-ass solution'' is a multi-layered platform to help customers assess the return on their advertising investment.

Chief Bruce Akhurst said the Telstra subsidiary would suffer a mid-single digit decline in profit for the current financial year and a high single digit drop in earnings before tax (EBITDA).

"And we expect similar declines for the 2012 and 2013 financial years,'' Mr Akhurst said.

Sensis has invested $350 million in its new digital products and supporting infrastructure to sell advertising packages to small and medium sized business that will expand their reach.

"We are offering our customers a 360 degree approach to advertising,'' he said.

No Holds Barred: Can love exist without hate?

Why does evil still flourish? How is it that Muammar Gaddafi could get away with blowing up planes and discos for 40 years, yet only now is deemed to have “lost the legitimacy to rule”? Why has the mafioso Assad family ruled Syria for decades? And how can terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah continue to murder Jewish civilians with barely a peep from the international community? We have forgotten how to hate evil.

EARLY CHRISTIANS like the apostle Paul are said to have rejected the “vengeful” God of the Old Testament. In his place, the church fathers gave us the man Jesus, who they said was synonymous with love. Hate no longer had any place, including the hatred of evil. So whereas the God of Israel says explicitly in Malachi: “I love Jacob but I hate Esau” – presumably because the former represents those who struggle for peace, while the latter has become a symbol for those who “live by the sword.”

In the 20th century genocide was commonplace. A few of the better-known examples include the Turks slaughter of the Armenians during World War I, the Germans attempted extermination of the Jews, the Khmer Rouge and its killing fields in Cambodia in 1975-78, the Hutus hacking to death of the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994, the ethnic cleansings of Croats by Bosnian Serbs and the wholesale slaughter of black Christians in the Sudan by militias. Shmueli Boteach, Jerusalem Post, 28 Mar 2011

Shimano Unveils Dura-Ace Di2 Electronic Groupset

Front derailleur.: front derailleur.

Shimano's 2009 di2 electronic gruppo.: shimano's 2009 di2 electronic gruppo.

After all the spy shots, prototypes, anticipation and debate over Shimano’s foray into electronic gear shifting, the lid has finally been officially lifted on the new electronic Dura-Ace ‘Di2’ (Digital Integrated Intelligence) groupset which will be available to the public come this January.
The Dura-Ace Di2 7970 package will include wired STI Dual Control levers, front and rear derailleurs and a battery pack; the rest will be filled in with standard 7900 componentry. Even with the additional electronic hardware, the complete Di2 group will still be approximately 113g lighter than the current 7800 groupset - but around 68g heavier than the standard 7900 mechanical group, according to Shimano.  
Many have questioned the wisdom of electronic shifting what with its modest weight disadvantage and perceived increase in complexity – not to mention failed attempts by other manufacturers. So, what are the purported advantages of electronic over mechanical shifting?
  • Relatively lengthy shift lever throws are now just ultra-short button clicks
  • Optional remote shift buttons for time trial or other applications
  • Faster and more precise servo motor derailleur movements
  • No adjustment of the derailleurs after initial setup (adjustment and accuracy are monitored with each shift)
  • True all-weather performance thanks to the removal of cable and/or housing contamination
  • The future option for frame manufacturers to internally route the cables  
We’ll have an opportunity soon enough for a first-hand test ride but in the meantime, here are the details:
Shifter (side view).: shifter (side view).
STI Dual Control levers (ST-7970) – 255g/pair
Although the entire 7970 package is heavier than the standard 7900, the STI Dual Control levers themselves will shed over 155g, meaning the additional weight is at least located down low and the bike might actually feel a bit lighter when swinging side-to-side. Button placement is analogous to mechanical units so shifting should be intuitive for current Shimano users.
As with the new 7900, the 7970 levers will also have a reach adjustment and will be compatible with the new FlightDeck computer (SC-7900).
Rear derailleur.: rear derailleur.
Derailleurs (RD-7970 & FD-7970) – 225g & 124g
Save for the replacement of a spring with a servo motor, the Di2 rear derailleur will share many of the mechanical version’s changes such as the carbon fibre pulley cage and 27T cog compatibility.  A built-in mechanism protects the servo motor in the event of a crash, too, and the system supposedly recalibrates itself afterwards
The front derailleur’s more powerful internal guts supposedly deliver quicker and smoother shifts than mechanical systems, especially under load. The system CPU is also housed here and a self-trimming function automatically adjusts the cage in response to the position of the rear derailleur on the cassette to eliminate chain rub.    
Battery pack.: battery pack.
Battery (SM-BT79) – 68g
Dura-Ace Di2 uses a compact 7.4V Li-ion battery that will last for approximately 1000k (621mi) of “heavy use” and will recharge in just 1.5 hours. Extensive testing has also reportedly shown excellent sealing and reliability “in challenging conditions”.  
Shimano says it ultimately went with a wired system to save weight as a wireless setup would require three (or even four) separate batteries: one for the rear derailleur, one for the front derailleur, and one or two for the Dual Control levers. Moreover, the wired configuration should prove more reliable over the long-term.
Time Trial & Triathlon (ST-7971 & SW-7971) – weights TBD
Shimano will also introduce a Dual Control lever that is bar-end mounted for use with time trial and triathlon setups although it won’t be available until some time after the rest of groupset is introduced. Like the standard drop bar-mounted levers, the TT/Tri version will also be reach-adjustable and compatible with the new coded wireless FlightDeck computer.   
Finally, a satellite shift unit (SW-7971) will be available that can be mounted onto the end of time trial aero bar extensions (or elsewhere depending on your requirements) and optional internal wire routing will maintain a clean look.
And how much will Dura-Ace Di2 7970 cost? US pricing is still to be finalized but the tentative UK costs should at least provide some indication. Let’s be frank; it’ll be expensive:
  • STI Dual Control levers - £349.99/pair
  • Rear derailleur - £349.99
  • Front derailleur - £249.99
  • Cable set - £99.99
  • Battery - £49.99
  • Charger - £49.99
  • Chainset (Dura Ace FC7900) - £319.99
  • Cassette - £129.99
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Israeli geek tames information overload

In an attempt to organize the Web experience on a whole new level, 19-year-old Daniel Gross and his $4.7 million budding company have created a personalized search toolbar to index and sort through all of the user’s online data.

“More and more people in the world are approaching this point where a lot of information you have is online on a bunch of different websites,” Gross said, reminiscent for the times when computer users could just press “Control+F” and find necessary information on their computer hard drives. “What hit me hard was events,” he added, frustrated that a whole host of places, like Evite, Facebook and Gmail, could all contain different appointments and social gatherings.

The result – a free tool called “Greplin,” which allows subscribers to add as many websites as desired to their accounts so that the program can search through all the data in one place. If a user knows he or she had scheduled a meeting at a local coffee shop, for example, but can neither remember the time of the meeting nor where that information was stored, Greplin’s goal is to provide a quick answer.

Greplin – whose name comes from a combination of the words “grep,” a programming term used in search utilities, and “zeppelin,” the online “cloud,” or network – currently has around $700,00 worth of angel investments and about $4 million in series A (first round) finances.

“More and more of the information we have and consume is not sitting on our hard-dive – it’s on some other service,” Gross said. “Why can’t I have this box and type text into it and get results about items that I own on the Internet?” “If you think of Google, it’s a great way to search the public Internet – we’re primarily building a ‘Google’ but for your things,” he added.

Gross, who for the last 15 months has been living in San Francisco, was born and raised in Jerusalem, after his parents made aliya from America. After finishing high school in Israel, he successfully applied for a grant from Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley seed funder for start-ups.

“Y Combinator is boot camp for start-ups,” Gross said, explaining that participants are generally awarded investments between $12,000 and $20,000. “The goal is for you to take that money and go through this three-month program where they give you basic building blocks on how to be a good company.”

The idea that Gross originally used in his grant application was not Greplin, however, but a website like eBay with a social networking structure so that buyers and sellers could see what their friends’ consumer patterns were. This concept then evolved into yet another idea, which in turn ended up not working at the last minute, toward the end of the grant period. So Gross said he needed to quickly think of something else to impress the judges – representatives from various investment groups that were coming to learn about that season’s Y Combinator projects.

Doctors issue warning on Facebook use, which they say can lead to teenage depression | The Australian

DOCTORS have warned of a condition they call "Facebook depression" that may affect troubled teenagers who obsess over the social networking site.

Researchers disagree on whether it's simply an extension of depression some kids feel in other circumstances, or a distinct condition linked with using the online site.

But there are unique aspects of Facebook that can make it a particularly tough social landscape to navigate for kids already dealing with poor self-esteem, said Dr Gwenn O'Keeffe, the lead author of new American Academy of Pediatrics social media guidelines, published today.

With in-your-face friends' tallies, status updates and photos of happy-looking people having great times, Facebook pages can make some teenagers feel even worse if they think they don't measure up.

It can be more painful than sitting alone in a crowded school cafeteria or other real-life encounters that can make kids feel down, Dr O'Keeffe said, because Facebook provides a skewed view of what's really going on.

Corporate leaders call on unis and industry to address skills imbalance | The Australian

AUSTRALIA'S business leaders, including captains of legal and financial services firms, say universities are pushing out too many lawyers and commerce graduates and not enough engineers, scientists and mathematicians.
Launching a landmark higher education report in conjunction with The Australian yesterday, the influential Business Council of Australia has recommended a path of increased co-operation between business and universities to try to address severe imbalances developing in Australia's skills pool.
The chair of BCA's Education, Skills and Innovation Task Force, KPMG chairman Michael Andrew, told The Australian in an exclusive roundtable forum yesterday that Australia had to put "greater emphasis on teaching outcomes to make sure that what they are teaching is relevant to the future workplace".
"You only have to look at what is happening with our shortage of engineers or metallurgists to see that something went wrong within the system in terms of rewards and encouragement that is in place, not being able to predict that trend that is becoming so evident in the skill shortages across those segments."

Mar 27, 2011

Short Course of Hormone Therapy Boosts Prostate Cancer Survival: Study

Just six months of hormone therapy, along with radiation, cuts the risk of dying from locally advanced prostate cancer in half when compared to radiation alone, researchers report. Just as important, the study indicates that a short course of hormone therapy has few of the side effects seen with longer treatment regimens of two to three years.
Hormone therapy in men, also known as androgen-deprivation therapy, lowers levels of the male hormones that encourage prostate cancer to grow.
"A halving of the risk of dying from these more advanced prostate cancers clearly has very major significance for men affected," said researcher Dr. David Lamb, director of the Prostate Cancer Trials Unit at the University of Otago in Wellington, New Zealand. "Early diagnosis of prostate cancer remains the goal, but at least men presenting with more advanced tumors can now be offered treatment proven to have a much better chance of cure," he said.
The report is published in the March 24 online edition of The Lancet Oncology.

The car that drives for you

What technological advancements are in store for the future of driving?
There's an old car-related joke that's been buzzing around the internet for almost as long as computers have talked to each other. If cars had evolved as fast as computers, an anonymous someone quipped famously, we would all be driving vehicles that cost only $25 and they would be so fuel-efficient they would travel more than 400 kilometres on a litre.
The reality is that while computers have evolved in leaps and bounds since a bloke named Babbage thought of a better way to add up numbers, in the 125 years that the car has been around, the fundamentals are largely unchanged.
Look at the car of today. Similar to vehicles of 100 years ago, it still has a wheel at each corner, a big, round thing in front of the driver to make it go in different directions and a few foot-operated inputs that tell it to stop or go. There's even an interpretation of the century-old Benz Patent-Motorwagen's one-cylinder engine under the modern-day bonnet - albeit with more cylinders and a lot more refinement.
Come to think of it, even today's fascination with electric cars harkens to the turn of last century, when battery-powered buggies once dominated.
But that's not to say cars have stood still during the past century. It has been a continual process of improvement, with such advances as the monocoque shell (where a car's strength is built into the entire frame rather than just the chassis), seatbelts and airbags.
Computers, too, have brought their influence to bear, with features such as electronic stability control, which can help a car correct a skid, and anti-lock brakes, which allow a car to steer through a skid, contributing to the safety of those in the car and - in the event of a collision with another vehicle - those outside it.
Expect big things as the next generation of cars becomes more like computerised living rooms on wheels rather than the motorised tin box with which we're more familiar.
Here's our top-10 projections on the technology on the horizon that will change the way we drive.
Crash avoidance
crash avoidance
We've already seen huge advances in crash safety with the widespread introduction of seatbelts in the 1970s, airbags in the '80s and, most recently, the evolution of electronic stability control that will be mandatory on all new cars sold in Australia from later this year.
Volvo has led the field when it comes to playing safely and last year introduced City Safety (pictured above), a package that helps cars wearing the Volvo badge prevent a low-speed rear-end collision even before the driver is aware the situation is likely to end in bent metal. It uses forward-looking radar to detect if it is closing on the car in front too fast (a newer version also looks for pedestrians) and slows the Volvo down automatically.
At higher speeds, too, the Volvo can intervene to jam on the brakes and minimise the amount of damage and injury if the driver is unable to stop in time.
Subaru is working on a similar system that uses two cameras - just like a pair of human eyes - to identify cars or pedestrians. The system will arrive on the more expensive six-cylinder Liberty and Outback models this year.
Driver conditioning
Nissan Leaf dash
Here's an experiment anyone can try - drive as fuel-efficiently as possible for a week and see what a difference it makes at the bowser.
Modifying the way we drive cars has long been identified as a way of squeezing out fuel-efficiency gains without having to spend millions of dollars on making cars more frugal.
The most familiar way of helping a driver make a conscious choice to save fuel is the gear-shift indicator that lights up on the dash of many modern cars.
Audi's compact A1 and special versions of the Mini will even throw a message up on the dash asking the driver to switch off the airconditioner if a window is down. But there are better ways of doing it.
The Honda Insight uses a novel method of helping the petrol-electric hybrid's owners save fuel - by turning it into a game. Drivers who meet a pre-set efficiency target can earn a trophy that is displayed on the instrument panel. Careful use of the throttle is rewarded with a display of trees that grow with time. The dash will also change colour according to how conservatively the Insight is driven.

Mar 24, 2011

Racist Diggers

THE Australian Army has launched an investigation into the conduct of soldiers in Afghanistan who posted racist comments and videos on Facebook.
The Seven network has shown the videos which show soldiers referring to Afghans as "sand coons", "dune coons", "niggers", and "smelly locals".
Another is referred to as a "raghead."
When a local man is shown running away from an explosion, a soldier is heard to say that the blast "scared the f... out of that mufti."
A number of soldiers list their employer as a " ranga", some under their listing for Australian Defence Force.
Acting Chief of Army Paul Symon said the behaviour undermines everything Australia is trying to achieve in Afghanistan.
"There will be thousands of soldiers disgusted at what we're looking at," Major-General Symon told the Seven network.
He said the soldiers concerned could face serious consequences.

Australian Defence Force to investigate racist taunts by soldiers on Facebook | The Australian

Firefox 4 thumps IE9 in first day download contest - Computerworld

That number was almost triple the 2.4 million copies of Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) that Microsoft claimed were downloaded in its browser's first day of availability last week.
Mozilla officially launched Firefox 4 Tuesday at around 10:00 a.m. EDT, bagging an even million in the first three hours. According to Mozilla's real-time calculator, about 6.5 million copies of Firefox 4 had been downloaded by 10:00 a.m. Wednesday.
But while Firefox 4's first-day count trounced IE9's, it fell short of the record established by Firefox 3.0 in mid-2008 when that browser was downloaded more than 8 million times. Then, Mozilla had pushed for a Guinness World Record with a "Download Day" campaign that urged users to flood its servers with requests. Firefox's Guinness record still stands.
Not surprisingly, Firefox 4 is doing best in Europe, long a Mozilla stronghold.
Of the 7.6 million downloads counted by 11:30 a.m. ET, 44% went to users in Europe, while North America accounted for 26%. Asia came in third, with 20%, with South America, Africa and Oceania all in single digits.
Tuesday's release marked the end of more than a year of development. Mozilla issued the first alpha edition of the browser in February 2010; in July it kicked off a series of betas that eventually ran to an even dozen.
Firefox 4 was originally scheduled to ship last November, but bugs and other delays forced it to push the release into early this year.
It should come as a shock that Firefox 4 has trumped IE9 in the first day download contest: Firefox 4 has a built-in edge because it runs on Windows XP, the 10-year-old operating system that IE9 doesn't support.
Web metrics firm Net Applications said last month that XP accounts for more than 61% of all copies of Windows used on machines that went online in February.
Mozilla and Microsoft have recently traded barbs over the latter's decision to dump XP. Microsoft has defended the move by saying it did not want to develop for what it called "the lowest common denominator," a harsh label for the world's most successful operating system.
"The browser is only as good as the operating system it runs on and a browser running on a ten-year-old operating system tethers the Web to the past," a Microsoft spokesman said yesterday.

As of about 11:30 a.m. ET, Mozilla's counter showed 7.6 million copies of Firefox 4 downloaded since its Tuesday launch.
Earlier this week, Mozilla knocked its rival for leaving XP users stuck with the two-year-old IE8, and with no hope for a Microsoft-made browser upgrade.
Firefox could use the jumpstart provided by version 4: Net Applications' statistics show that the browser, once a lock to grab a quarter of the worldwide browser usage share, has stalled since its November 2009 peak. In the last 12 months, Firefox has lost two-and-a-half percentage points of share, and now accounts for 21.7% of all browsers in use.
During that same 12-month period, IE has lost 4.8 percentage points, while Google's Chrome gained 5.3 points and Apple's Safari grew by 1.9 points.

Mar 23, 2011

Rain causes flash flooding, landslips | The Australian

HOUSEHOLDERS and emergency workers in Victoria's east will be assessing the damage at first light after torrential rain caused flash flooding and landslips overnight.

Around 300 campers, including two school groups of 60 students, had to be evacuated to higher ground when their camp sites were flooded at Wilsons Promontory.
The State Emergency Service (SES) received around 110 calls for help from residents in East Gippsland including 100 from Moe and Foster where homes were inundated and roads cut by water.
Mallacoota, in the far eastern corner of the state, received 123mm of rainfall and the only road into town, Mallacoota Road, was closed off last night, turning the town into an island.
An SES spokeswoman said emergency workers had to rescue ten people whose cars stalled after they attempted to drive through flood water.
At Fish Creek, residents of five homes were evacuated and taken to a relief centre at the local town hall.
Tidal River at Wilsons Promotory was cut off by floodwaters and the campers were guided to shelter on higher ground by SES workers and Parks Victoria staff using boats.

Asia Times Online :: Middle East News, Iraq, Iran current affairs

For reasons one can only speculate upon, official pronouncements regarding the ongoing Fukushima reactor disaster in Japan have consistently either understated its severity, its potential consequences, or both. While this may benefit the nuclear industry and its backers, such a distortion of fact has left many either dubious of official claims or complacent because of them. Some difficult truths must be told.

It was April 27, 1986, when radiation alarms sounded at Sweden's Forsmark nuclear power plant, radiation 14 times normal the cause, though the radiation did not originate at Forsmark. Soon after, the then-Soviet Union revealed Chernobyl's nuclear accident, an accident across the Baltic Sea and many hundreds of

kilometers southeast of Sweden. Meanwhile, not far up Sweden's Baltic Coast from Forsmark sat the city of Gavle, almost 1,600 kilometers from Chernobyl, but soon to be lastingly impacted by it.

It was 21 years after the Chernobyl fire, May 2007, when one Swedish paper headlined "Swedes still dying from Chernobyl radiation", Gavle and what is occurring there figuring prominently in the English-language article. A heavy rainstorm had struck Gavle in 1986, doing so as a cloud of Chernobyl's fallout was overhead.

Prevailing winds at that time had driven radioactive clouds from Chernobyl over parts of Scandinavia, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) providing a report on the early amounts of radiation registered in Chernobyl's aftermath, a report where Gavle is again significantly featured. A recent article on, “Fukushima: Chernobyl Redux?”, describes the immediate effect Chernobyl had on Gavle in fairly plain terms. Quoting from Time:
I remember that after Chernobyl there was a town in Northern Sweden called Gavle. The radioactive cloud went over the town and it started raining heavily and there was a lot of deposition of radioactive particulate material that was caught into surfaces of roads and buildings. There was a high level of cesium-137. When we went there and waved our Geiger counters about the counters maxed out - it was that bad.
According to a 2006 Swedish study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, it appears Sweden experienced approximately a thousand excess cancer fatalities because of Chernobyl, the number expected to increase, the cases concentrated proportional to the levels of radioactive exposure. As might be imagined, there were other health effects as well, such as effects with an impact on unborn children.

Mar 22, 2011

Asia Times Online :: Japan News and Japanese Business and Economy

Hackers tackle secure ID tokens

Hackers have stolen data about the security tokens used by millions of people to protect access to bank accounts and corporate networks. RSA Security told customers about the "extremely sophisticated cyber attack" in an open letter posted online. The company is providing "immediate remediation" advice to customers to limit the impact of the theft  It also recommended customers take steps, such as hardening password policies, to help protect themselves.

Westpac Customers Potentially Compromised By Cyber Attack

The security of thousands of Westpac customers, who use an RSA security token to transfer money from their accounts, could be compromised after "an extremely sophisticated cyber-attack". Westpac has not commented on how serious the situation is.

RSA is a subsidiary of data storage giant EMC. The tokens are small devices which generate a digital security code that changes every 60 seconds. It is usually used together with a static PIN or password to access a computer system.

Other Australian customers include Telstra and Virgin Blue, the federal departments of Defence, Treasury, Prime Minister and Cabinet, Veterans Affairs and Parliamentary Services, along with the Australian Electoral Commission, Family Court, Geoscience Australia, AusAid and Crimtrac.

RSA has refused to say how its system was compromised and what specific kinds of threats its customers are facing. Its Web site continues to claim the SecurID system has never been breached in 15 years.

In an open letter to customers, RSA's North American HQ said an investigation into the attack revealed that it had "resulted in certain information being extracted from RSA's systems". The stolen data was "specifically related to RSA's SecurID two-factor authentication products" and the attack "could potentially be used to reduce the effectiveness of a current two-factor authentication implementation as part of a broader attack," the security firm said.

Observers say one potential weakness that could be exploited involves a factory-installed key called a seed. Typically 16 characters long, it is different for each token and is stored on a corresponding server program, which authenticates the session each time a user connects to a secure network.

If the database containing customers' seeds was cracked, the intruder might still not know which user had which seed, but cryptographers said it would be possible to use a reverse-engineered version of the RSA algorithm to determine that information by simply capturing a single log-in session.

Mar 21, 2011

Sony VAIO-Z laptop now with quad SSD and switchable graphics

The 13.3-inch VAIO-Z laptop is the Sony’s flagship machine, which will get an upgrade by the company to feature quad SSD and switchable graphics. A starter of the VAIO-Z will get you with good specs including an Intel Core i7 processor, 6GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M graphics and 256GB quad SSD, packed in a 13.3-inch form factor.

The quad-SSD on the VAIO-Z allows you to use them in a single RAID stripe, which boosts the drive data load at up to 6.2 times faster than a regular 5,400rpm notebook HDD. Another interesting feature is the switchable graphics, which allows you to have options to choose from the powerful NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M graphics or the energy-efficient integrated to save battery.
So, when you’re into gaming or watching HD videos, you’ll need to choose the NVIDIA, and when you’re down to doing simple tasks such as word processing, you can toggle to the integrated graphics to preserve the battery.
One of these upgraded Sony VAIO-Z laptops will run you about $1,900, will be available in the US in April and Europe will get it earlier by end of March.

Importing from the United States - OCAU Wiki

Have you ever thought about buying that top of the range product from the US, but just weren’t sure if it was worth it? Have you already shipped it over and now eagerly await its delivery, but have no knowledge of Australian customs? This guide is designed to answer questions like this and more by presenting a step-by step walkthrough for anyone who hasn’t dealt with purchasing expensive items overseas (ebay, private sales, online stores etc).
In this example, I will run through my own experience in purchasing and shipping a laptop computer from a private seller in the United States to Brisbane, Australia. This guide eventuated because of my own frustrations with the system and a lack of understandable, collated information on what to expect when undergoing this process. 

My experience begins with a visit to the popular enthusiast site, It was on this site that a private seller was advertising competitive deals for the Dell XPS range of laptop computers. Following a quick currency conversion, I was overwhelmed when I realized that I would be saving around $1000 on a top of the line notebook (if I had purchased it from Dell Australia). This immense savings, coupled with several bad experiences on ebay (beware of Dell XPS scams, ebay is having a real problem dealing with them at the moment), cemented my intentions to take a risk and try organize something with this seller. 

Following several emails, and an international phone call (VOIP works wonders) I had knocked an additional $50US off the price and obtained the seller’s contact details. This is an important step for any international transaction – you will need all their details; as listed below. I chose to do an International Bank Transfer through Commonwealth Bank. I was extremely impressed as they actually phoned me to check that I had authorized the transfer. I did have to raise my daily transfer limit, which was accomplished with a quick phone call.

Mar 18, 2011

iTWire - F-Secure Mac beta throws a tanty and trashes files falsely

On Monday, F-Secure released a database update for its Mac Protection technology preview that falsely identified exploits in various browser-related files and moved them to the Trash, causing programs such as Safari, Firefox and Chrome to fail.

Things quickly got worse for users who assumed their systems had been infected and carried out a full scan, as that moved even more files to the Trash - all that were scanned, according to some reports, though F-Secure officials said that only "several" files were affected.

F-Secure released another database update on the same day that fixed the underlying problem, but left affected users with systems that were not fully functional.

The company advised that restoring from a backup was the best approach. Given the inclusion of Time Machine in Leopard and Snow Leopard, the existence of various other backup tools, and the low cost of hard drives (less than $100 per terabyte), it is hard to see why anyone would not have a backup regime in place whether or not they are in the habit of running beta software.

But for those who didn't, F-Secure released a tool designed to restore the trashed files by consulting the system log and the database of detected infections. Unfortunately for some, that tool was not 100% successful. One user claimed it failed to move "tens of thousands" of files to the correct homes.

Mar 14, 2011

Fifty-six airline pilots fail alcohol tests in India

Fifty-six pilots working for Indian airlines have failed alcohol tests in the last two years, according to a list issued by the civil aviation ministry.

Ten pilots were fired after they failed tests, including one who was found over the limit on two occasions, according to the list released by Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi in parliament on Thursday.

The fifty-six pilots worked for the state-owned national carrier Air India, as well as private airlines Jet Airways, Indigo, SpiceJet, GoAir, and Kingfisher.

Twenty-three pilots from India's top airline company Jet Airways failed their tests, but the airline did not sack any of them, putting them on suspension and subjecting them to a pay cut instead.

The list of pilots was issued a day after two pilots were found flying passenger planes with forged qualifications, deepening concerns about safety on India's booming airlines.

India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) drafted regulations recently, stipulating that pilots arriving to work drunk would be grounded for three months for a first offence and lose their flying licence after a second.

No more such cases have emerged since the DGCA's regulations came into effect in December 2010.

Rising incomes and the liberalisation of the airline market in the 1990s has led to an explosion in air travel in India, with passenger numbers up 25 per cent over the last 12 months.

With new routes and new aircraft being regularly inducted, the half-dozen low-cost Indian airlines are competing fiercely for locally trained pilots. Many employ foreign pilots, often from eastern Europe.

Mongrel-headed gladiators put their brains on the line

People have been cutting into the brains of dead footballers in recent years and what they have often found is ugly. Many footballers are having their heads beaten into premature senility and dementia, hit by hit. This may not be surprising, but the problem is worse than expected. We may be less removed from the gladiators' pit than we thought.

Footy season started properly at the weekend and the change is more pronounced than the turning of the seasons. This year the underbelly of professional high-collision sport is under scrutiny on a level of forensic detail never seen before.

On Friday the players in America's National Football League went on strike, not just over how to divide the spoils of the NFL's multibillion-dollar entertainment cartel, but over player safety. The players are refusing to expand the regular season from 16 games to 18 because the injury and attrition rate is so horrific (the average pro career is four years).

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The NFL Players Association wants a reduction in the number of full contact drills at training, and a reduction in the length of pre-season training. The 2011 NFL season may be curtailed or even suspended as the two sides grind away in the courts.

The shadow hanging over these negotiations can be summed up in three letters, CTE, a shadow which also hangs over Australian football, particularly rugby league, but also rugby union and Australian rules football. CTE stands for chronic traumatic encephalopathy. It is caused by repetitive brain trauma: multiple concussions and sub-concussions.

The first case of CTE was not diagnosed until 2002, when doctors examined the brain of a former player for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mike Webster, who anchored the Steelers to four Super Bowl championships and was elected to the game's Hall of Fame.

Fame and glory did not follow Webster after football. He died at 50, after a decade of acute pain from football injuries, plus depression, amnesia and early-onset dementia. He spent his last years living in his pick-up truck and sleeping on railway stations.

Since this belated discovery of a measurable link between CTE and professional contact sport, CTE has been found in the brains of a number of former athletes who died young, some by suicide, most notably the pro wrestler Chris Benoit, who murdered his wife and son before committing suicide in 2007.

CTE is also casting a long shadow over the cynicism of the National Hockey League, which has always tolerated on-ice fighting as part of its culture. Last week, Air Canada threatened to withdraw its sponsorship if legal action was not taken against a player who rammed another player into a wall, causing serious injury. Ice hockey also has the legacy of Bob Probert, who died last year aged 45. Probert was a goon, a designated enforcer, who ranks fifth all-time in the hockey league's list of most penalised players.

Probert's family donated his brain to science. Last month, researchers announced the autopsy had revealed evidence of CTE. No surprise. CTE is now part of society's growing awareness of the real costs of pro contact sport. Which brings me home, to the opening game of the 2011 rugby league season, which I attended, between the Sydney Roosters and the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Here was a game featuring a young player who is not waiting to be brain-dead by 60. The catalyst for the Roosters giving away a commanding lead was the penalty-conceding antics of forward Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, who is so intent on making a reputation as a hard man that he managed to fire up the Souths team.

Even Rugby League's latest pin-up boy, the Wests Tigers captain and brilliant playmaker, Benji Marshall, is embroiled in a violence-related incident that is now before the courts. His predecessor as the face of the game, Manly's Brett Stewart, was dropped from pin-up status after allegations of excessive drinking at a season-launching social event. A year later, the fall-out from this event continues to be contested.

This is business as usual for Rugby League, even as the game continues to evolve as a brilliant spectacle that is perfect for TV. The only thing that stands between league and a billion-dollar TV pay-off when its broadcast rights are negotiated this year is the game's underbelly: brilliant game, brainless sub-culture. For years, the number of scandals involving Rugby League players has been a conveyor belt of incidents involving drinking, gambling, drug-taking, sexual assault, and public defecating, urinating and brawling. The number of incidents has been beyond all statistical probability.

But the amount of brainless behaviour does make sense when placed within the context of league's pervasive culture of illegal conduct, in plain sight. Take the play-the-ball. It is the engine-room of the game, and it is a joke.

Players have enough time to make a cup of coffee and call their girlfriends as they lie on the tackled player until their mates get back into the defensive line, while the referees pretend it's not happening. When you are trained to get away with things on the field, it must spill over into conduct off the field.

Let us not forget Aussie rules, where the cheap shot is enshrined in the culture of the game. So much of the action in the AFL takes place off the ball as players constantly niggle, elbow, thump and verbal each other. Many AFL stars have been bullies first and athletes second.

Every parent should drill this fact into their kids: beauty and bravery on the sporting field does not translate to beauty and bravery off the field. To survive in professional contact sport you need a streak of mongrel and with some players mongrel is all there is

Even in earthquake zones, nuclear power is still a safe option

Why does such a geologically active region have nuclear power stations?
For an energy-hungry but resource-poor country with skilled engineers, nuclear power was and is an obvious answer. The industry has performed well for more than 40 years and helped propel Japan to technical and economic leadership.
In Australia, opponents of nuclear power already point to the situation in Japan as evidence of the dangers of nuclear reactors. They conveniently sidestep the loss of life and damage caused by exploding oil tanks, burst gas mains, electrical fires: hazards that come with living in a tectonically active region.
Japan has 55 reactors that generate about 30 per cent of its electricity. Half of these reactors are in eight power plants in the Sendai region. When the magnitude 8.9 earthquake hit, 20 reactors were operating. Eleven shut down as sensors reacted to the shifting earth and the remaining nine continued to operate safely. As they were designed for a geologically active region, the shutdown of the reactors went according to plan.
Under normal circumstances the core of a reactor operates at about 600 degrees C. Water circulating around the core is heated beyond boiling point, and the steam drives a turbine that produces electricity. A nuclear core is analogous to a coal or gas-fired furnace.
Without sufficient circulating water, however, even when a working reactor is shut down residual radioactivity can push the core temperature to levels well in excess of 1000 degrees, causing dangerous pressure increases from steam and hot and radioactive gases. If unchecked, a partial core meltdown could follow, rendering the reactor inoperable. This happened at Three Mile Island in the US 1979.
Following the insertion of control rods to stop the chain reaction, cooling must be maintained. However, at the Fukushima plant where four reactors were online, the earthquake knocked out mains electricity and then the tsunami front flooded and destroyed some backup power supplies.
For one, and perhaps two reactors, this created an especially difficult situation as cooling circuit pumps failed. Reviews ahead may well investigate whether such a situation could have been better planned for.
The focus of the Japanese nuclear community has been to restore sufficient cooling to these reactors. However, as shown in graphic television pictures, the housing of the 35-year-old Fukushima No 1 reactor, though not the steel containment vessel within which resides the nuclear core, was blown out following an explosion that is presumed to be from excessive build-up of hydrogen associated with the cooling problem. This makes access to this reactor more complicated. (Nuclear reactors cannot have an atomic explosion but the combination of high-pressure gases, superhot water and electrical circuitry contains all the components for a powerful chemical or electrical explosion.)
Instruments to measure heightened levels of radioactivity are extensively deployed and very sensitive. Whenever radiation leakage is measured in the vicinity of a power station, a series of protocols is followed: community warnings, then evacuation from progressively larger areas. If there is a likelihood of measurable fallout, a subsequent step is distribution of iodide tablets to help saturate relevant organs in our body with benign iodine and inhibit the uptake of radioactive iodine in the air or from food. This is especially critical for young children.
Most of us are exposed to about 4 millisieverts (mSv) of mainly background radiation each year. Radiation workers are allowed 50mSv per year. At the current radiation level reported at the perimeter of the damaged Fukushima plant, an individual dose would exceed 50mSv after about a week's continuous exposure. Measurable radiation poisoning occurs at a much higher level still.
Controlled venting of excess and mildly radioactive gases is happening, will result in some community exposure to radiation, but is very unlikely to have an effect on community health. At this time, only workers on site are likely to have had elevated radiation exposures. In the context of the general devastation from the earthquake and tsunami, any health or property damage arising from the affected reactors is likely to be small.
If core cooling can be satisfactorily restored, then in the best case local residents could return to their homes in days.
Engineers have taken extraordinary steps to get coolant to the reactor of most concern, flooding the core with seawater. This is a step probably not in the playbook and reflects grievous concerns about core integrity. Still, the combination of venting and seawater flushing should stabilise the situation in the days ahead. The reactor itself is a write-off.
Plans in Japan anticipate further growth in nuclear power but an earthquake of this magnitude followed by a huge tsunami may well demand another look at design specifications.
We will learn from the tragic Japanese experience how to build more robust reactors, how to ensure multiple layers of protection work properly, how to better contain radioactive gases. But when the grisly causes of fatalities, injuries and asset damage are eventually itemised nuclear facilities may not even feature.

Mar 13, 2011

Jamming may leave GPS in the wilderness

Australian researchers have raised concern over the growing vulnerability of global positioning system (GPS) devices to accidental and intentional attack.

Professor Andrew Dempster, from the School of Surveying and Spatial Information Systems at the University of New South Wales, says the GPS has become an integral part of our lives.

"Most people wouldn't be aware of how many of their daily systems require GPS to work," he said.

"It is not just a system to provide you with position in fact each GPS satellite is an atomic clock.

"Those clocks are used to synchronise a whole range of things, from radar for air traffic control... to the official time for Australia."

Professor Dempster spoke this week at a workshop in Canberra on GPS vulnerability organised by UNSW's Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research.

The workshop discussed threats to GPS including jamming and "spoofing" devices.

He says the weak radio signals used by GPS receivers makes them vulnerable to interference and attack.

"The satellites are 20,000 to 26,000 kilometres away and the power that they're transmitting is not much more than a light bulb," he said.

"By the time they get to the surface of the Earth they are very weak."

A recent survey by UNSW researchers found radio signals from a television transmission tower in the northern suburbs of Sydney disrupted GPS receivers, despite it using a different frequency.

"The SBS transmission tower in Artarmon has a transmission frequency about one third of the GPS central frequency," Professor Dempster said.

"The third harmonic falls in or near the GPS band and we have observed that there is interference to GPS."

Professor Dempster says electronic devices such as computer and portable music players can also interfere with GPS receivers.

GPS under threat

Recently, there have been claims radio waves coming from 4G transmission towers - the next phase of mobile telephone and internet services - are interfering with GPS signals.

"In 2010, the [Federal Communications Commission] in the US approved a company called Light Squared to use LTE equipment - the next generation of mobile phone technologies," Professor Dempster said.

"It will be operating in a band right next to GPS and those transmissions will be relatively strong.

"The lesson we need to learn from the US experience is not to use spectrum right next to satellite navigation."

But Professor Dempster says the biggest threat to GPS could come from criminal or terrorist activities.

His says UNSW is working with the University of Adelaide and GPSat Systems to develop jammer-detection technology that should reduce the threat.

"We are looking at setting up a system where we [can] identify the location of a jammer," he said.

"By using various techniques we are hoping that we'll be able to say 'OK, that jammer is at point X, Y, Z."å

Mar 11, 2011

Snakebot gets under your skin - literally, mends your broken heart

American Engineers have built a robotic snake that could change the way heart surgery is performed.

CardioArm can assist surgeon’s procedures, slithering into places in the body too tight or dangerous for ordinary medical tools to enter. Though it’s hardly comfortable, Snakebot is revolutionising the way heart surgery is performed, mitigating the need for open heart surgery.

Rather than having to crack open patients’ ribcage during heart surgery, this slippery little sucker buries itself deep inside your chest via a 2cm hole in your solar plexus and slithers around your organs.
The inventors of CardioArm say this technology has the potential to minimise the time it takes for patients to recover from heart surgery. Dr Howie Chosets from the University of Cargenie Mellon in Pennsylvania told Discover magazine: “Instead of cracking open a person’s chest we can do a surgery and send patients home the next day.”
With a camera attached to the head, a surgeon controls the movement of the robot using a joystick allowing it to visually map the parts of the body requiring surgery. Snakebot has already passed its test on its first human subject - doctors from the Czech Republic used CardioArm to successfully performed a diagnostic heart mapping procedure in February last year, but its inventor has even bigger plans for the 30cm-long serpent.

The roboticist plans to test the device in other surgeries such as ablation, which involves using lasers to burn away small amounts of heart tissue to correct an abnormal beat. Surgery isn’t the only thing on Dr Chosets' agenda however, the robotics believes Snakebot could assist in archaeology fields as well.
Dr Chosets told IEEE's Spectrum:“We’re hoping to use a remote-controlled robot to go through small caves in Egypt and find remains of ancient Egyptian tombs.”

Mar 8, 2011

High-tech criminals outsmarting the law

Computer crime investigations are facing a major upheaval as the shift towards a new type of hard drive technology allows criminals to cover their tracks and outsmart digital forensic specialists, Australian researchers have found.  The new drives found in many of the latest desktop and laptop computers make it virtually impossible to recover files that criminals have deleted, which forensic experts say will cause serious issues when it comes to presenting evidence in court.  Detective Inspector Bruce van der Graaf, head of the NSW Police computer crimes unit, conceded that with the new technology there would be some evidence that cannot be recovered but said there would always be other sources of evidence for police to draw on.

For decades, the primary method of storing data on a computer has been on a magnetic disc. Even after the disc has been formatted and data removed, most of the information can still be recovered by skilled forensics specialists.  But increasingly, computer makers are moving to a new technology called solid-state drives (SSDs), which are faster, quieter and less susceptible to physical shocks as they store data on memory chips instead of spinning magnetic discs. Graeme Bell and Richard Boddington of Perth's Murdoch University, in a paper published in the Journal of Digital Forensics, ran tests which discovered that with SSDs, once the user erases their hard drive, the data is gone forever in minutes and cannot be recovered.

The pair said the results were "remarkable" and revealed that SSDs are "quite capable of essentially near-complete corrosion of evidence entirely under their own volition". In their experiments, with a traditional hard drive almost all files were preserved after the user runs a quick format, and those files could later be recovered perfectly. "In contrast, with SSD we saw that shortly after reboot the entirety of the files were damaged and almost all were purged completely, including their filesystem and metadata records," the study found.

EADS Airbike shows building costly prototypes is old hat

A BICYCLE "grown" from nylon stockings was put on show in Britain overnight to demonstrate a process that some engineers are calling the most important manufacturing advance since the Industrial Revolution. The two-wheeler was produced by an EADS research team at Filton, near Bristol, where work on Airbus aircraft is carried out. The process is known as "additive manufacturing" and involves "growing" products by laying microscopic particles of metal or plastic on top of each other in a 3D printer.

To produce the bicycle, layers of nylon were stacked on each other to create a single structure with the wheels, bearings and axle all made in one piece. The process means that a design can be created on a computer and then printed, removing the costly process of building prototypes. The use of advanced materials also allows manufacturing companies to build components that are much stronger and lighter because they do not have to be joined, welded or lathed.

Robin Southwell, chief executive of EADS UK, said: "We can now design a component on a computer and, just like printing a sheet of paper, we can print a product using just powder and lasers." Additive manufacturing has been around for several years but it has been possible to grow only relatively small products. However, 3D printers are becoming bigger and the process has become more sophisticated. Some of the world's largest manufacturing companies are looking at how they can use additive manufacturing to speed up product development and reduce waste. For EADS, the prize is to build aircraft components that are lighter and stronger than is possible using traditional processes.

Mar 3, 2011

Fraud and mismanagement by Brumby

New generation infected by narcissism, says psychologist

AN ''EPIDEMIC of narcissism'' has swept across the student population in the past 30 years, a US expert will tell a conference on personality disorders in Melbourne today.
Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, said a study she conducted of 16,000 university students across the US showed 30 per cent were narcissistic in psychological tests, compared with 15 per cent in 1982. ''They are all 18 and 19-year-olds, so this is clearly a generational shift,'' she said.
Professor Twenge said the finding built on another study based on interviews with 35,000 people of varying ages, who were asked if they had ever had symptoms of narcissism.
''Usually the oldest people have the highest rates, because they have lived for more years, but this data showed the opposite,'' she said. Only 3 per cent of those over 65 had had symptoms, but for people in their 20s it was 10 per cent.
''These were shocking numbers because you can only diagnose this starting at age 18, so there weren't that many years for people in their 20s to develop this, yet their rate was three times as high as people over 65.''
In a keynote address to the International Society for the Study of Personality Disorders Congress, Professor Twenge will say that permissive parenting, celebrity culture and the internet are among the causes of the emerging narcissism epidemic.
She said telling children they were special to build self-esteem could foster narcissism.
Narcissists had an inflated sense of self, lacked empathy, were vain and materialistic and had an overblown sense of entitlement. Some resulting social trends were a greater interest in fame and wealth, more plastic surgery, and an increase in attention-seeking crimes - for example, ''beating someone up and putting it on YouTube''.
Professor Twenge was concerned about a culture ''that seems to not just accept narcissism but finds it laudatory … It worries me, when I talk to college students, that they are not surprised at all that their generation is more narcissistic.
''They say, 'We have to be this way because the world is more competitive.' But the problem is that narcissism doesn't help you compete. It blows up in your face eventually.''
She said narcissistic students tended to have poorer results and were more likely to drop out, probably because they thought they didn't have to study because they were already smart. ''It's delusional thinking.''