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Monday, December 15, 2008

Sony Ericsson C902 - James Bond 007 Edition

Sony Ericsson C902 is a slim high-end cameraphone with 5-megapixel camera with Face Detection feature. It is quad-band GSM with HSDPA support, features 262k color TFT display, Stereo Bluetooth, M2 slot for memory and FM radio, all in 0.4″ thick candybar housing.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Tips for a Green Holiday Season: Lighting Your House

Living green is not just a passing choice, it is a lifestyle. This lifestyle does not change or get put on hold for the holiday seasons. Neighborhoods filled with lights, adorning homes and outdoor trees and scenes. These lights traditionally spend more electricity during the Christmas season than the same household spends the rest of the year. Green lighting choices are available and prove to be just as beautiful as the old faithful bulb lights.

LED lighting is probably the greenest choice in the Christmas lighting market. These lights can be used both indoors on Christmas trees and outdoors to adorn homes and other Christmas decor. The great thing about LED lighting is the cost effectiveness of the choice.

When a home uses traditional outdoor lights for the Christmas season, these lights burn a lot of electricity. Based upon a 6 hour light schedule, traditional mini lights will cast the consumer $5.00 per day. This cost jumps to $50.00 per day if C7 lights are used. Green friendly LED lights, on the other hand, cost a mere 50 cents per day to run the same amount of time. The cost savings is so astronomical, it has been reported that if every household in the United States changed to LED lighting for the Christmas season, more than 2 billion kilowatt hours of electricity would be saved. That is enough electricity to run 200,000 homes for a year. That is what a green Christmas is all about.

For the consumers who want something a little less traditional, green and even more cost effective, forever lights are your choice. Forever lights collect energy from the sun and light up after the sun goes down. Many homeowners may know these lights as the choice for walkways leading up to a homes entrance. The forever lights use no electricity and with a little imagination can illuminate an entire yard with elegant Christmas style.

While LED lighting and Forever lighting may be a bit costly up front, those are not your only choices. For many years, I have used the same Christmas globes on my tree. Year after year, the same globes. Last year, I decided to change up things and go all natural with dried fruits and twig wreaths. But, I was left with a plethora of Christmas globe ornaments. I decided to recycle these globes and hang them on my outdoor trees. During the day, these beauties were magnificent. At night, however, they disappeared with the sun. That is when I decided to use some left over glow in the dark paint to change that. I painted every globe with glow in the dark paint and waited. That night my yard was a Christmas wonderland of lights and I never spent one dime on electricity or special lighting.

Moving indoors, light choices can stay green as well. Fiber optic, artificial Christmas trees and decorations, offer brilliant Christmas lighting at a fraction of the electric usage.

If you just have to have that real Christmas tree to feel the spirit of the season, do not worry, green lighting choices are available from real trees too. Battery powered Christmas tree lights are a great way to use a lot less electricity this holiday season. Just remember to use rechargeable batteries and the only electricity you will be using is on the recharge.

Green Christmas choices are great for every holiday, but Christmas is especially important. With electric usage topping out during the last two months of the season, homeowners are looking for more and more ways to not only save a few dollars on the electric bill, but save the Earth and stay green as well. There are many lighting choices for consumers this holiday season. So get out there and decorate, green.


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How to Afford Christmas on a Tight Budget

If you are like my family, money can get tight around the holidays. For instance, the majority of our Christmas savings money went to get 4 new tires for our car, after one blew out, and 2 others were constantly going flat.

First, scope out the sales ads. Many times you can find awesome sales on toys. Look in the unexpected places- like pharmacy stores(Walgreens, CVS, etc) many times these stores have specials such as Buy One Get One Free, or Buy 2 Get One Free. Many times they are more than reasonably priced. Honestly, does your child need a $100+ video game system? No.

Check out what stores have layaway. If you don't have enough money to pay for it outright, wait until there is a great sale, put it on layaway(most stores have you put down a minimum of 10%) and pay for it over a couple of weeks, or pay for the remainder when you do get the funds.

Get creative. The only people I have bought gifts for this year are my kids. Everyone else is getting homemade creations. For the women, I am making cookie, pasta, chili, and cocoa mixes in the jars. Everything to make those costs me less than $20, and it will make enough for the 8 women we are giving gifts to. I got all the jars at Goodwill, gave them a bleach and hot water bath, add some cute holiday fabric and ribbon around the lid for great decoration. The men are getting handsewn leather multitool holders with belt loops, and small wooden tool boxes for their cars. Each box has been engraved with their name, then finished in an oak stain. For the 5 men, the total cost for all the supplies was $27.

If you are ordering online, call and request a 10% discount code and/or free shipping code. All it takes is asking, and more often than not they will give you your option of which you would like to use. A lot of the time, I have been given a code for both free shipping and 10%.

Consider babysitting for a small fee for the parents of small children, so that they may go shopping child-free for a few hours. This is how I raised the money to buy my childrens' toys.

For extra cash, try selling things on ebay or amazon. Things like books, and movies sell really well this time of year. They are both great places to find cheap gifts too.

A way to save money year round, is to always use coupons. You can save lots of money using them. On average, I save 75% or more on my grocery bills, spending about an hour clipping coupons each week.



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Christmas on a Tight Budget

After I read the informative article, “Cheap Christmas Gift Ideas”, I decided to share some of my own ideas on how to get through Christmas on a tight budget. ( Most Americans are looking for ways to save money on Christmas gifts. It may be a tight budget or the number of people on your list, but everyone wants to give a nice gift without breaking the bank. These are some suggestions on how to do that:

1. As daunting as it may seem, shop department store special sales. Yes, it may be crowded, but those one-day sales lead to a lot of savings on gift items. You are going to buy the gifts anyway, so save yourself money on your purchases. Be sure to bring the coupons that come in the mail for extra savings on a certain day, even on sale or clearance merchandise.

2. I have nine grandchildren and I’m on a fixed income. It’s impossible for me to go out and buy an expensive gift for each grandchild. After Christmas each year, I shop the sales and buy each grandchild a special Christmas ornament for the next year. When Christmas comes, I write their names and the year on the ornaments so they have a keepsake. I’ve been doing this since they were born, so when the time comes for them to leave home, they will each have a collection of personalized ornaments to take with them. Then I purchase a ten dollar gift certificate for each one to go along with the ornament. The gift is special, but just right for my budget.

3. Each major bookseller has a website online. If you go to the “Bargain” section, you will find wonderful books for a fraction of the original cost. Some books are listed at eighty per cent off regular price. You can get an expensive hard-cover book for five dollars. Pick and choose special books for each person on your list. You have spent time looking for the perfect book for each person, but you haven’t spent a lot of money. The time you spend selecting the book is part of the thoughtful gift.

4. One of my credit cards gives you points for each dollar you spend. You can redeem these points for gift cards. I charge everything during the year (and pay my entire credit card balance each month) so I accumulate points. When Christmas comes, I redeem those points for gift cards at special stores for each of my adult children. Each of my grown children can then select the perfect gift for herself. It may seem generic to give gift cards, but my children and grandchildren love them. Why guess what they would like when they can select exactly what they like?

5. Don’t forget the discount stores for name-brand items at sale prices. Even the discount stores have sales on their already-discounted merchandise. You can find some good bargains this way.

6. Sometimes children or grandchildren have fund raisers at their schools. They usually sell magazines or small gifts to raise money for their school functions. Most of us buy something from them just to support their efforts, but why not make use of the gifts. Give someone a special magazine subscription that they will enjoy or a gift from the school’s selection. You can save these gifts for Christmas. You’ve supported the school fund raiser and selected some of your Christmas gifts.

7. When we are shopping, we may come across something that we think would be perfect for someone we know. Instead of passing up this item (especially if it’s on sale), buy it then and put it away for Christmas. When you buy a little at a time, the cost is spread out over the year and it doesn’t seem so overwhelming.

8. If you knit, crochet, or make quilts, hand made gifts are special and unique. Make a blanket or throw in someone’s favorite colors or a special pattern. My granddaughter’s other grandmother makes her a quilt for every season. Mittens for children who play outside in the winter are wonderful gifts. You can think of as many gifts as you have imagination.

A lot of these gifts are not expensive, but thoughtful. You can spend a lot of money (that you can’t afford) on Christmas gifts, and still not have done anything really special. An inexpensive gift that is selected with the person’s special interests in mind is just as wonderful as an expensive gift. It really is the thought that counts.


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Ten Ways to Save Money This Christmas

September is here, which can only mean one thing-Christmas is around the corner.. It is only natural to get in the Christmas spirit and start spending money on gifts, decorations and holiday meals. Wouldn't it be nice to save money while providing a great Christmas for your family? Here are some Christmas-saving tips to prevent burning a hole in your wallet.

1. Make a list and stick to it. To some this may be self explanatory. Making a list will help you target what you are really looking for. Those who go shopping without a list may be more apt to spend more money by being distracted by other merchandise.

2. Start early. Staring early will help you budget between the gifts you are buying and other livelihood expenses such as mortgage payments, insurance, groceries, etc.

3. Get cash back. The internet has opened a whole new world for shopping. There are free sites such as Cash Crate, Inbox Dollars, Treasure Trooper and others that will pay you a cash back percentage when you shop through their site. They are partnered with name brand stores to provide the highest quality merchandise . They not only offer a cash back percentage, they also pay consumers to try out products. Money made from these sites can also give you extra money to purchase Christmas gifts. If you are interested in these programs, you may check them out here.

4. Save on wrapping paper. Let's face it-there is a lot of expensive decorative wrapping paper found in stores . To save money use newspaper. Another option is to use wrapping paper you already have (from any holiday) by wrapping the gift facing white side up and decorating it with Christmas stickers. These two tips will help you cut back on unnecessary costs and will enable you to spend more on gifts. Taking advantage of the after-Christmas specials will also cut you a deal on next year's wrapping paper.

5. Make your own Christmas Cards. Christmas cards can be expensive and impersonal. Creating your own cards will not only save money, but will give a Merry Christmas from the heart.

6. Prepare your Christmas menu early. There are some items on your grocery list that will stay fresh for a long time. Looking for sales on these items now will cut back on your grocery bill around Christmas.

7. If you are hosting dinner at your place for Christmas, ask others to contribute by bringing side dishes. You would be surprised by the willingness of others to contribute to the holiday meal.

8. Start a savings account. Starting a new savings account a dedicating it only to Christmas will help the age old question " How am I going to afford it". If your place of employment offers direct deposit, you may want to add your Christmas saving account to your direct deposit and set a certain amount to come out each paycheck.

9. Shop in the classifieds. The internet is flooded with people that are trying to sell something you may want. is a free classified site that has a "wanted" section to post what you are looking for. Buying from individuals rather than stores will be cheaper.

10. Buy your Christmas decorations at discount stores. There are a lot of dollar stores that offer nice looking decorations for the holiday at a good bargain.

These methods work great if you are on a fixed income or just want to save money. Christmas is a time to spend with family and give gifts from the heart, not the wallet. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


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Ways to Go Green During the Holiday Season

This holiday season many people trade in their normal routines for more convenient ones. With all of the entertaining and need for quick meals during frenzied shopping trips many consumers will find themselves doing more harm to the environment than they normally would.

Here are some ideas to stay green while you enjoy this time of year:

1. Monitor your trash and recycle. During the holiday season people buy more, use more and therefore throw away more trash. It is estimated that Americans throw away almost 5 billion extra tons of trash during the holiday season. From wrapping paper to gift packaging the amount of trash increases nearly 25%. This year try using recycled paper for your wrapping such as newspaper, and be sure to recycle everything you can. Be sure to bring cloth tote bags with you while you shop!

2. Assess your carbon cost. Millions of people travel during the holidays and increase the carbon emissions. If you are taking a flight see if you can make up the difference somewhere else. Try car pooling on your shopping trips and getting as much done in a single trip as possible. Keep your thermostat turned down at nighttime and turn off your holiday lights. You may consider using LED lights which burn longer than regular bulbs, and soy candles instead of wax candles which are both cleaner during production and usage.

3. Buying a fake tree is worse than cutting down a real one. This may seem illogical, but the facts are overwhelming. Artificial trees are made from non-recyclable materials and emit a ton of greenhouse gases during production. Real trees, on the other hand, release oxygen and take in carbon dioxide while they grow and are easily replanted. Most Christmas trees come from tree farms that continue to replant year after year. Worldwise reports that for every fresh-cut tree harvested, three seedlings are planted in its place.

4. Purchase eco-friendly gifts. Nowadays it's much easier to get your hands on ecologically friendly gifts. From charitable donations to homemade foods, eco-friendly gifts are a great idea for anyone. Give someone in your family some of your old jewelry and I'm sure they'll be happier than if you bought it. Create baskets of goodies right in your own kitchen and ask the recipient to recycle the basket by using it or giving it back for next year's gift giving. Visit websites of organizations like Heifer International and the World Wildlife Fund to give a gift to those in need in a friend's honor. If gift giving can't be escaped in your family, suggest a "Secret Santa" method so that everyone is responsible for giving and receiving gets just one gift. Check out or for an excellent selection of green gifts.

5. Serve organic food that supports local farmers. Whenever possible purchase and use local produce. It supports your community and those small time farmers who are trying to survive in a world where conglomerate corporations control everything. You'll feel good about it and the food will taste better. Organic food can be more expensive but it is well worth it. Shop at a Whole Foods Market or health food store for the best variety, but visit your local supermarket for some options as well. The food you serve your guests will be chemical free and better for everyone. Organic wine is also more readily available at reasonable prices.

Most importantly, don't use the stress of this time of year to change your ways. If you are normally an eco-friendly person, don't allow the pressures of our society to cause you to fold. Although the big companies don't want you to know it, you don't have to buy into their holiday to celebrate. Create your own and we'll all be better for it.


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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Adobe Illustrator CS4

Multiple artboards
Create files containing up to 100 artboards of varying sizes and display them any way you want — overlapping, side by side, or stacked. Save, export, and print artboards independently or together. Save a selected range or all artboards as a multipage PDF file.

Transparency in gradients
Define the opacity of any individual color stop in a gradient. Reveal underlying objects and images, and create rich color and texture mixes using multiple layers, knockouts, and cover-up fades.

In-panel appearance editing
Edit object characteristics directly in the Appearance panel, eliminating the need to open fill, stroke, or effects panels. Work with shared attributes and control display for faster rendering.

Blob Brush tool
Sketch with a brush that generates a single clean vector shape, even when strokes overlap. Draw naturally, using the Blob Brush tool together with the Eraser and Smooth tools.

Refined graphic styles
Combine styles for unique effects and increased efficiency, and apply styles without disturbing an object's existing appearance. Enjoy new thumbnail previews and an expanded library of prebuilt styles.

Gradients exposed
Interact with gradients right on your object. Set gradient angle, position, and elliptical dimensions. Add and edit colors using sliders — all with immediate feedback where you work.

Clipping masks demystified
Work with masks more easily by viewing only the clipped area of your objects during editing. Take advantage of Isolation Mode, and use Edit Clipping Path for even more control.

Integration and delivery
Collaborate with your team, work across products, and deliver almost anywhere thanks to integrated tools and extensive format support. Confidently design for print, interactive experiences, motion effects, and more.

Separations Preview
Avoid color output surprises such as unexpected spot colors, unwanted overprinting, overprints that don't overprint, white overprinting, and CMYK blacks in text and placed files.

Enhanced user experience
Stay in the creative groove thanks to interface improvements that include on-object controls. Interact with tools smoothly, and increase your efficiency using new timesaving features and shortcuts.


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Adobe Photoshop CS4

Smoother panning and zooming and fluid canvas rotation
Navigate to any area of an image with new, ultra-smooth zooming and panning. Maintain clarity as you zoom to individual pixels and easily edit at the highest magnification with the new Pixel Grid. And use the revolutionary new Rotate View tool to smoothly turn your canvas for distortion-free viewing at any angle.

Adjustments panel
Simplify image adjustment by easily accessing every tool you need to nondestructively adjust and enhance the color and tone of your images; on-image controls and a wide variety of presets are also included in the new live and dynamic Adjustments panel.

Auto-blending of images
Combine a range of images, each with a different exposure, color, and focal point — with options to preserve tones and colors — into a single color-corrected image.

Masks panel
Quickly create and edit masks from the new Masks panel. This panel offers all the tools you need to create editable pixel- and vector-based masks, adjust mask density and feathering, easily select noncontiguous objects, and more.

Improved Adobe Photoshop Lightroom workflow
Select multiple photos in Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® software (sold separately) and automatically open them in Adobe Photoshop CS4 to merge them into a panorama, a high dynamic range (HDR) photo, or a multilayered Photoshop document. And seamlessly roundtrip back to Lightroom.

Content-Aware Scaling
Use the new and revolutionary Content-Aware Scaling feature to automatically recompose an image as you resize it, smartly preserving vital areas as the image adapts to the new dimensions. Get the perfect image in one step without time-intensive cropping and retouching.

Better raw image processing
Enjoy superior conversion quality as you process raw images with the industry-leading Adobe Photoshop Camera Raw 5 plug-in, which now offers localized corrections, post-crop vignetting, TIFF and JPEG processing, and support for more than 190 camera models.

Extended depth of field
Easily create a single image from a series of shots that have different focal points with the enhanced Auto-Blend Layers command, which smoothly blends color and shading and now extends your depth of field, automatically correcting vignettes and lens distortion.

Industry-leading color correction
Enjoy dramatically enhanced color correction with reengineered Dodge, Burn, and Sponge tools that now intelligently preserve color and tone details.

Auto-alignment of layers
Create accurate composites with the enhanced Auto-Align Layers command. Move, rotate, or warp layers to align them more accurately than ever before. Or use spherical alignment to create breathtaking panoramas.

More powerful printing options
Get outstanding prints with superior color management, tighter integration with leading printer models, and the ability to preview out-of-gamut image areas. Support for 16-bit printing on Mac OS offers increased color depth and clarity.

Efficient file management with Adobe Bridge CS4
Get instant access to Adobe Bridge CS4 with faster start-up, use new workspaces to jump to the right display for every task, easily create web galleries and PDF contact sheets, and more.

File display options
Easily work with multiple open files by using tabbed document display or n-up views.


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Differences Between Dreamweaver CS4 and Dreamweaver CS3

New Workspace and User Interface:
Dreamweaver CS3 for Windows brought in the idea of different program layouts depending upon what type of Web designer or developer you were. Dreamweaver CS4 takes that to a new level. There are 8 default layouts including: App Developer, App Developer Plus, Classic, Coder, Coder Plus, Designer, Designer Compact, and Dual Screen. And if that's not enough, you can now define your own, or simply modify an existing one to match exactly what you need it to do. And it no longer matters if you're on a Mac or not - these features are in both Windows and Macintosh versions of Dreamweaver CS4.

Live View of Your Pages:
If you've ever tried to edit a dynamic or data-driven site in Dreamweaver, you know how frustrating that can be. Just hitting the preview button forces you to publish to your "testing server", which for many of us is our live site. But now, Dreamweaver CS4 can preview pages in "live mode" with interactivity and dynamic elements included. It can even load data sources so you can see how those will impact the page. Plus, you can move through JavaScript scripts and stop the script just where you need to work on a design element, giving you much more control over over the design and interactivity as a whole.

Improved CSS Support:
There is a CSS properties navigator as well as the HTML properties that we're used to. These give you greater control over the style properties including creating style rules for exactly the site section you're in. You can then dial back the specificity to however specific or general you need for your CSS document. You can evaluate what CSS styles are impacting areas of your pages. You simply highlight the area that you're not sure of, and alt- or option-click and Dreamweaver CS4 tells you which styles are affecting it. Then you can edit them by clicking on them and they'll open in another window in Dreamweaver.

Photoshop Smart Objects:
With Dreamweaver CS3 you could import images directly from Photoshop, but in CS4, they take that a step further. Now when you drag a Photoshop (PSD) image into Dreamweaver, it creates a "smart object". This generates an optimized Web image ready for you to use in your pages. If you resize the image in Dreamweaver, you can then get an optimized copy of the image at that size. Plus, if you make changes to the original image, they can be reflected into the Web document.

HTML Data Sets and Suggestions for Use:
In Dreamweaver CS3, you could load XML and database data sets into your documents, but once you had them loaded, you had to figure out what to do with them. Dreamweaver CS4 provides some of the more common uses as well as the ability to load HTML pages (with repeating elements) as your data sets.

Subversion Integration:
Dreamweaver CS4 has basic check-in and check-out functionality, like previous versions. But now it integrates with the third-party application Subversion to provide powerful version control and rollback functionality for your Dreamweaver websites.

Author Adobe AIR Applications:
Dreamweaver CS4 now comes with an extension to allow you to author Adobe AIR applications from right within Dreamweaver.

Deprecated Features:
The following features are no longer in Dreamweaver CS4:

* Timelines
* Web services
* Layout mode
* Site Map view
* Java Bean support
* Flash elements (Image Viewer)
* Flash text and Flash buttons
* ASP.NET and JSP server behaviors and recordsets


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Adobe Dreamweaver CS4

Live View
Design your web pages under real-world browser conditions with the new Live View in Adobe® Dreamweaver® CS4 — while still retaining direct access to the code. Changes to the code are instantly reflected in the rendered display.

Code hinting for Ajax and JavaScript frameworks
Write JavaScript more efficiently with improved support for JavaScript core objects and primitive data types. Put the extended coding functionality of Dreamweaver CS4 to work by incorporating popular JavaScript frameworks, including jQuery, Prototype, and Spry.
New user interface
Work faster and smarter across Adobe Creative Suite® 4 components with a shared user interface design. Toggle quickly from one work environment to the next with the workspace switcher.

Related Files and Code Navigator
Click any included file shown in the Related Files bar to see both its source in Code view and the parent page in Design view. The new Code Navigator feature shows you the CSS source code that affects your current selection and allows you to access it quickly.

HTML data sets
Integrate the power of dynamic data into your web pages without the learning curve of mastering databases or XML coding. Spry Data Sets recognize content in a simple HTML table as an interactive data source.

Adobe InContext Editing (Free preview)
Design your pages in Dreamweaver so end users can edit their web pages without help from you or additional software using the Adobe InContext Editing online service. As a Dreamweaver designer, you can limit changes to specific pages, distinct regions, and even custom formatting options.

Adobe Photoshop Smart Objects
Insert any Adobe Photoshop® PSD document in Dreamweaver to create an image Smart Object tightly linked to the source file. Make changes to the source image, and update your image in Dreamweaver without opening Photoshop.

CSS best practices
Implement CSS best practices without writing code. Create new CSS rules in the Properties panel, and get clear, simple explanations of where each property fits in the cascade of styles.

Subversion integration
Update your site and check in modifications directly from within Dreamweaver. Dreamweaver CS4 integrates with Subversion® software, an open source versioning control system, for a more robust check-in/check-out experience.

Adobe AIR authoring support
Create HTML and JavaScript based Adobe AIR™ applications directly within Dreamweaver. Preview AIR applications without leaving Dreamweaver. Get your Adobe AIR application ready to deploy with AIR packaging and code-signing features.


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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Firefox Add-ons | Cooliris (formerly PicLens)

Full-Screen, 3D -- Cooliris transforms your browser into a visually stunning experience for searching, viewing, and sharing online photos and videos. Our "3D Wall" lets you effortlessly search and zoom your way around thousands of images, videos, movies, news feeds, and even online retailers. To share stuff with friends, just drag and drop.

Download here:


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Cooliris for iPhone

Go beyond the limitations of mobile Internet search with the
lightning fast, expansive feel of the Cooliris 3D Wall.

YouTube 3D Search
Swipe through a 3D Wall of YouTube Videos, sit back and enjoy. Never miss a cool movie with Discover's Cool Videos Channel.

Wicked Wallpapers
With the wallpaper channel in Discover, rapidly find that perfect backdrop for your phone.

Cooliris saves
Some things are worth saving. Just tap the “Save to Camera Roll” icon to save the image to the Camera Roll.

Don’t stop the Rock
Watch hundreds of music videos all through the new Music Video’s channel in Discover.

All the latest news
Get the latest News, Sports and Entertainment news from places like CNN, ABC, AP, ESPN and many more right on your phone

Search for Images across Google, Flickr, Picasa, DeviantArt, Yahoo, and SmugMug

Download here:


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Cooliris for the Web

Cooliris provides a lighthing fast, cenematic way to discover the Web. Our plug-in takes you to an expansive "3D Wall" that lets you browse of images, videos, and more with ease and speed.

The Great 3D Wall
The Cooliris 3D Wall provides a visually stunning and easy way to search and view thousands of photos and videos. By displaying content on a single, ever-expansive wall, Cooliris helps you find what you're looking for faster than the traditional way of clicking the "next" button webpage by webpage.

How to Use Cooliris on Supported Sites

1. Mouseover images and videos on supported sites and then click the Cooliris icon that appears.

2. Or simply click the Cooliris icon on your browser toolbar when visiting a supported site.

Cooliris works on hundreds of popular websites, including the small sample below. To enable your own website.

Bebo, deviantART,, Facebook, Ffffound, Flickr, Fotki, FotoTime, Freewebs, Friendster, Hi5, Ask Images, Google Images, Yahoo Images, Pollstar, MySpace, OBG Rocks, Photobucket, Picasa Web Albums, LA Times (Tribute), AOL Images, Smugmug, TTG Galleries (Lightroom), Arkyves, Fidel, fotocommunity, Free Image Browser, Getty Images, Gift Impact, iPernity, Jaman, Kodak Gallery, Live Images, MeOwns, My Album, Phoca Gallery (Joomla), Portsmouth Football Club, Prem1on, Shutterpoint, Talent-Aid, Tim Fahlbusch, Tripwolf, Xbox Live Faces, YouTube

Download Link:


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Monday, December 1, 2008

Startcraft 2 Officially Announced

Thats right. Blizzard has officially announced at the “Blizzard Worldwide Invitational” at Seoul, Korea, that they will be releasing Starcraft 2. To the surprise of everyone, there was an actual gameplay demo, a feat that many game companies fail to deliver when they tell of their future releases.

However, there is still a thick blanket over many aspects as the gameplay videoes and game dev explanations were mostly concentrated on what the Protoss can do. They’re pretty much keeping a tight lid on the other two races and the much rumored fourth race.

There is still no set release date and the only confirmation we know is that it will be probably released later this year.


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BMW uses Microsoft Surface to customize cars

Buying a new BMW looks set to become a much more hands-on process, with the German car maker hoping to entice potential customers by using Microsoft’s Surface computer to configure the cars. Dubbed the BMW Product Navigator, the new system lets users customize their future car by placing small tiles onto the screen and then watch a computer-generated video of the vehicle in action.

Potential buyers can customize their new car’s interiors and exteriors in an interactive way and then take the results home via email, printed or saved to a USB drive. There’s nothing ground-breaking and it’s not surprising either to see BMW adopting new technologies, but it’s still incredibly cool. The company has not yet specified when the BMW Product Navigator kiosks will be widely available, though.


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Asus launches redesigned Eee PC 1002HA netbook

Asus has announced the newest addition to its netbook range, the Eee PC 1002HA, featuring essentially the same system specifications as its 1000H sibling but with a slimmed down brushed metal external shell and front mounted speakers. The new Eee PC 1002HA’s design is a cross between the sleeker yet more expensive Eee PC S101 and the older Eee PC 1000H, which might just be the happy middle ground.

It gets a 10-inch display, a 160GB hard drive – and another 10GB of online file space courtesy of Asus’ Eee Storage – a 1.6 GHz Intel Atom processor, 1GB of RAM, and Windows XP Home. It also appears to have a tiny 2-cell battery, but the company claims it should be enough to deliver over four hours of battery life using its Super Hybrid Engine technology. The new netbook from Asus should be available immediately through the company’s global network resellers for $499.


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Windows Vista SP2 to arrive in April 2009?

Soon after the first beta build of Vista SP2 was sent out back in October, Microsoft told testers that it was planning a release candidate build and a final build afterward, but did not give any specific launch dates. According to Malaysian website, however, which has accurately predicted several Windows launches in the past, the operating system’s next service pack will land in April next year.

The service pack will update both Vista and Windows Server 2008, and will require SP1 as a prerequisite to avoid making it cumulative and therefore much larger in size. As previously reported, Microsoft's next and potentially last major update to Windows Vista will include Windows Search 4.0, the Bluetooth 2.1 feature pack, native Blu-ray burning and a simplified tool for configuring Wi-Fi.


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BitTorrent defends new protocol against harsh report

Recently BitTorrent has toyed with the idea of switching to a UDP-based transmission method as opposed to the current TCP-based method. The new protocol was designed to combat network congestion, but it almost immediately came under fire with reports claiming it would destroy network traffic. Claims were made that the UDP-based protocol would make P2P traffic more unmanageable than ever, bringing services like VoIP to their knees and rendering networks dead in the water or slowed to a fraction of their normal speed.

In response to these, BitTorrent who created the new protocol has said that such claims are absolute falsehoods. They add that the report is inaccurate in how it describes or interprets their new protocol. To the contrary, BitTorrent says the new protocol will actually make torrent traffic more neutral and fairer, becoming more sensitive to high latency.

In this instance I'm inclined to agree with BitTorrent developers. The report made many generalizations regarding torrent traffic, and makes some pretty bold claims as to what this new protocol will do. I certainly don't foresee VoIP traffic being “destroyed” by torrents.


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Google Chrome users rejoice, extensions support to be added soon

Browser extensions support is one of the biggest reasons Firefox has become so popular and is also the most requested feature by users of the Google Chrome browser. Thus it is not surprising the search giant would want to add support for them and in fact they have already laid out a plan for the feature.

Particularly Google claims user created extensions should solve three problems in Chrome: the addition of features that have specific or limited appeal, it would make life easier for users coming from other browsers that support extensions “they can’t live without,” and it will allow partners who want to create their own Chrome bundle to add specific features.

The company is not offering a timeline for the extension system but are making it a priority, to the point of specifically mentioning a bunch of popular Firefox extensions they would like to support: Stumble Upon, Delicious Toolbar, FlashGot, ForecastFox, the Skype extension and even AdBlock – despite of the fact Google relies heavily on advertising to generate the bulk of their revenues, they also seem to want this option to be available in their browser.


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Microsoft admits NXE update breaking Xbox 360 sound

Microsoft is recovering from a bit of an embarrassment recently, as they have now admitted that a botched update for the Xbox 360 is what caused some people to completely lose audio on their systems. The update included a change to HDCP, which has been identified as the source of the problem.

Some workarounds included using analog audio temporarily, which was a workable solution for those who had devices capable of taking analog input. A more crude workaround was to pull the hard drive from the system, preventing the updated software from loading, which is certainly an unacceptable solution to a problem caused by an update to HDCP. Microsoft hasn't mentioned anything about how many users were affected only that it was a "very small number."


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The Coming Wireless Revolution

Gadgets that operate over television frequencies promise to transform the wireless landscape.

If you believe some radio researchers and engineers, within the next couple of years, high-bandwidth, far-reaching wireless Internet signals will soon blanket the nation. Thanks to a decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week, megahertz frequency bands that were previously allocated to television broadcasters will be opened to other device manufacturers. The frequency liberation means that future wireless gadgets will be able to blast tens of megabits per second of data over hundreds of kilometers. They will cover previously unreachable parts of the country with Internet signals, enable faster Web browsing on mobile devices, and even make in-car Internet and car-to-car wireless communication more realistic.

The FCC announcement essentially lets wireless take advantage of unused frequencies in between channels used by broadcast television, so-called white spaces. "The announcement that the FCC will allow white-space devices has a lot of people feeling like this is a beginning of a wireless revolution," says Anant Sahai, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California, Berkeley.

For years, researchers have been toying with radios that are smart enough to hop from one frequency to another, leaving occupied channels undisturbed--an approach known as cognitive radio. But until the FCC made its announcement, cognitive-radio research was a purely academic pursuit. "You could do all the research you wanted on it," Sahai says, "but it was still illegal."

With the FCC decision, however, researchers and companies finally have the opportunity to turn prototypes into products, knowing that the gadgets could hit the market in the next couple of years. Companies including Motorola, Phillips, and Microsoft have all tested prototypes with mixed results and hope to have robust white-space devices soon.

Motorola is one of the first companies to have developed a white-space radio device that meets the basic requirements of the FCC. The device is smart enough to find and operate on free frequencies in its vicinity while controlling the strength of signals to keep them from interfering with those from other devices using nearby frequencies.

There are still lingering concerns over interference, however. This is one of the main reasons why white spaces have been off limits until now. Broadcast companies, which fund a huge lobby in Washington, were not keen on sharing their airwaves, and musicians were concerned that future white-space devices would interfere with performances using wireless microphones.

Motorola's radio finds occupied frequencies by accessing a database of registered television stations and wireless devices within its vicinity, which it determines by using GPS. Steve Sharkey, Motorola's policy director, notes that the device has a secondary way of finding free signals that involves just "listening" to the airwaves and scoping out free space. Sharkey believes that combining both methods will provide the best results.

Motorola's early tests show that there's still work to be done. During an FCC trial in October, Motorola's device, which is about the size of a suitcase and can currently only receive signals, was able to find some but not all of the allocated frequencies in its vicinity. "These aren't ready to go," admits Sharkey. "They are more developmental devices, and the idea of the test is to demonstrate the basic technologies and help the FCC understand all the interactions [between transmissions]."

While eventually it may be possible to shrink down a white-space radio to the size of a cell phone, Sharkey says that Motorola is more focused on bypassing wired Internet technology by providing broadband to rural areas and providing point-to-point wireless antennas.

Other companies are more reticent to talk about their white-space plans, but Jake Ward, spokesperson for the Wireless Innovation Alliance, a consortium of companies that helped convince the FCC to open up white spaces, says that these companies have a wide range of motives. For example, computer manufacturers such as Dell may want to build broadband wireless Internet cards that are faster and have more range than existing ones do. Software companies like Microsoft could be interested in building software and applications for new devices. And an Internet giant like Google may simply want to push Internet coverage to increase the number of people who see Google ads. "Each company has its own interests," Ward says, "but the underlying principle is that higher connectivity is better for everybody."

Ward describes one white-space application as "mind blowing": sending high-definition television signals from one room to another within a house. "You have a TiVo, a DVD player, a cable box, and three high-definition TVs," he says. "Using a white-space device, you could beam those signals anywhere, to any TV."

Of course, technical and policy challenges still remain. "Right now, a device capable of moving around to different frequencies at will is very expensive," notes UC Berkeley's Sahai. But he suspects that economies of scale will lead to affordable devices within the next couple of years. Additionally, he says, regulations need to be established to ensure that devices consistently avoid causing interference. Ultimately, however, Sahai sees no shortage of demand for the wireless spectrum. "If you build it better and faster and easy to deploy, then the applications will come," he says.


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Firefox on Your Cell Phone

With the iPhone, Apple showed how to surf the Web on the small screen. Now, it seems, a modern version of the browser wars of the 1990s could be shaping up, with the battleground being the mobile phone. And there's a new list of contenders: Safari on the iPhone, Internet Explorer Mobile for Windows Mobile, RIM's BlackBerry Web browser, and a version of Chrome for Google's Android phones. Within the next few months, there will be a new entry: a scaled-down, sped-up version of Firefox, called Fennec.

Last week, Mozilla, the nonprofit organization behind Firefox, released an "alpha" version of Fennec, just as the desktop version of its browser reached 20 percent of the market for the first time. This early release lets programmers play with the interface, catch bugs, and write add-on features, says Jay Sullivan, vice president of mobile at Mozilla. Fennec (named for a type of small fox) is hardly consumer ready: it currently operates only on the somewhat bulky Nokia N810 Internet tablet, and there are plenty of bugs and interface challenges to iron out, says Sullivan. But by the first part of 2009, Fennec could be ready to run on consumer phones.

So far, says Sullivan, the feedback from the developers toying with Fennec has been positive. Early tests of the browser show its JavaScript performance, a measure of speed, will be competitive with the Android and mobile Safari JavaScript performance, Sullivan says.

But Mozilla still faces the challenge of distributing Fennec. Apple, Microsoft, and Google all have direct channels for distribution--operating systems for Internet-enabled phones. But Mozilla's path will require securing deals with other manufacturers and operating-system makers to ensure compatibility. While it's easy to upload software on a desktop computer, handset makers and cellular providers tightly control the software that can run on their handsets. For instance, Apple has kept other third-party Web browsers off the iPhone App Store.

Despite these challenges, Sullivan hopes that the novel look and feel of Fennec will boost its popularity. In conjunction with user-interface designers at Mozilla Labs, the Fennec team built a mobile browser so that its controls can be easily accessed but disappear when users don't need them. One of the main goals, Sullivan says, was to "give over the entire screen of the device to the Web content, removing all user-interface controls entirely." Using a touch-screen interface, a user drags her finger to the right to reveal open tabs, and to the left to reveal controls such as the back button and the address bar.

In addition, Mozilla designers have incorporated what they call the Awesome Bar--the smart address bar from the desktop version of Firefox that guesses which page a user wants when she types a letter or two, based on her bookmarks and browsing history. This feature has enhanced Fennec, says Sullivan, because typing on the browser is especially awkward. So Fennec's Awesome Bar also infers when a person is typing keywords for a Web search.

Moreover, Fennec will be able to work with a Firefox research project called Weave that allows a person to remotely access his desktop Web-browsing history, bookmarks, and other preferences. "One of my goals with Fennec is to leverage the number of Firefox users we have on the desktop," Sullivan says.

Future versions of the phone might even include a haptic interface, Sullivan says, meaning that the phone would vibrate, for example, when a user touches a button on its screen. "In the future, I think there's some stuff there to make interactions feel more natural," he adds, "to provide a sense of confirmation when you've clicked a button or when you're doing a drag-and-drop function." Voice control might be further off into the future, however. "I don't know if the technology is quite there yet," Sullivan says. "And we also need to be sensitive to licensing issues, as the most popular speech engines aren't necessarily royalty-free."

"I think Fennec has a good chance," says Jeffrey Hammond, mobile analyst at Forrester Research. "The first question you have to ask is what platforms we expect to see in the mobile space, and from a smart-phone perspective, I think it's a reasonable assumption that RIM, Windows Mobile, Symbian, iPhone OS, and Android all have a lot of momentum right now." However, Hammond suspects that Fennec could find a footing on the Symbian operating system, which powers Nokia devices.

Mozilla's Sullivan says that Fennec can't run on Android right now because the Android Marketplace, where phone software can be downloaded, only accepts programs written in Java. If Android were supportive of applications that could run directly on the operating system without needing to be written in Java, Sullivan says, "then it's interesting for us. We'll have to see which direction Google goes with that."

Hammond also believes that Fennec's performance could make it attractive for makers of mobile operating systems. The browser's combination of speed and small size could be crucial to its success, he says. "Speed is one reason why we've seen Firefox gain share in the enterprise, versus Internet Explorer," Hammond says. Because of that, he adds, "I think Fennec has a good chance of gaining share."


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Sharing the Browser

Software lets workers collaborate online by clicking together.

Online collaboration often consists of little more than forwarding links or snippets from a Web page to a friend or colleague with a few comments dropped in. IBM is hoping to change this by letting people share the browser itself. This is the idea behind Blue Spruce, an experimental browser project that IBM hopes may change the way many people use the Web.

David Boloker, CTO of emerging Internet technology at IBM's software group in Boston, says that Blue Spruce is a logical progression for the browser. After spending several years researching mashups--applications built by bolting together several smaller pieces of software--Boloker and his colleagues realized that many of the same tools could be used to build a tool for collaborative Web browsing.

The browser in front of him shows the result. It features real-time video of Boloker and a colleague in one corner, a streaming video news clip in the center, and real-time stock data at the bottom. Both Boloker and his colleagues can control the page using separate cursors. And, using a special feature, any changes that they make to the page show up in a different color.

Blue Spruce is not, in fact, a completely new browser; it's just a clever way of linking together existing browsers (the current prototype works with a modified version of Apple's Safari). After logging in to the Blue Spruce server, several users can interact with Web pages and applications while the Blue Spruce software makes that server think that it's dealing with a single browser. Anything that a user does on the shared page is sent to the Blue Spruce server, which sends the change down to other participants.

"We really started focusing on asking, 'How do I take that browser container and extend it much further than has ever been done before?'" Boloker says. Instead of having to forward a Web link via e-mail or instant message, Boloker's group wanted to create a system that would let people share information online as easily as if they were sitting in front of the same desk. "We're trying to replicate face-to-face interaction," Boloker says. He adds that this goes beyond Web conferencing because it allows multiple users to interact with pages and Web applications, rather than letting just one user take control.

IBM hopes that Blue Spruce can prove useful for many business workers. For example, financial analysts might start the morning by navigating to a shared Blue Spruce Web page, where they analyze news stories and changes in the stock market together. If the users don't want to share an entire Web page, the project also has a "huddle" mode that lets them create shared work spaces that contain only limited information.

Although Blue Spruce currently works with only one browser, it is built with broader compatibility in mind. It uses the Web markup language HTML 5, which enables its real-time video and audio feeds without additional software. This is an unfinished standard, but it should eventually be adopted by other browsers. The demonstration system is also built on top of the WebKit, a rendering engine used by both Apple's Safari browser and Google's Chrome browser that includes some features of HTML 5. Until all browsers support HTML 5, Boloker says, his group will make Blue Spruce work by building add-ons.

Clay Shirky, an adjunct professor in New York University's interactive telecommunications program and author of the book Here Comes Everybody, says that the project is most significant in that it shows that IBM has identified the Web as a powerful business platform. "IBM, the great seller of Big Iron and custom software, has decided that simplicity plus ubiquity is a better strategy for them," Shirky says. By moving the work environment into the browser, he says, the company is acknowledging a fact of modern computing: people need tools that will be easy to use no matter what operating system they run or what programs they have, and the browser may be the best way to provide them.

Although Blue Spruce is still a research project, Boloker says that IBM plans to test it early next year with companies in the financial and health-care industries. Assuming all goes well, he says, IBM will expand to six test customers later in 2009.


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Friday, November 21, 2008

One Account to Rule Them All

A new service combines many ways of communicating.

Thanks to the constant advance of communications technology, there are now more ways than ever to reach the people you know. But this doesn't necessarily mean that life's more convenient. Checking every account for new messages can be tedious and time consuming, and nowadays many people have multiple telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, and instant-messaging accounts--even several social-networking identities. TelCentris, a company based in San Diego, hopes to untangle this mess by providing VoxOx, a single piece of software that can be used to communicate with contacts in a wide variety of ways.

Unifying communications tools is hardly a new idea. Over the years, several popular instant-messaging clients have been developed to let users from one network chat with those from others. And as cell-phone use has grown, companies like Grand Central (now owned by Google) and Ribbit (now owned by BT) have focused on bringing together multiple phone numbers. The idea has proved especially popular in the business world, with companies such as IBM building products that combine a variety of communications tools--voice mail, IM, Web conferencing--with business applications like Lotus Notes.

VoxOx continues this trend but offers a more exhaustive list of services. It allows users to send e-mail and instant messages, send text messages, host video conferences, make phone calls, post messages to social networks, and even share files--all from the same place.

Rebecca Swensen, a research analyst with IDC, says that the product is interesting and ambitious. She cautions that "they're still working out the kinks in terms of how to make it easy to use." Swensen also questions whether consumers will be willing to put in the effort required to configure a service like this. Although ultimately, the service might make one's life a little easier, she says, it's a fairly big commitment to start using a new service, and to get all contacts loaded in and sorted out.

Michael Faught, chief financial officer with VoxOx, says that the service is, initially at least, aimed at younger users who "are confronted with this chaotic world of many kinds of communication tools." Faught sees social networks as compounding the problem and says that there's no simple, efficient solution.

A preview release of VoxOx was launched last week and can be downloaded for free for both Windows and Mac computers. After signing up for an account, a user is given a free VoxOx phone number and configures the rest of the service by providing usernames and passwords for compatible IM, e-mail, and social-networking accounts. VoxOx pulls in these contacts, allowing the user to scroll through a composite list and select whom to talk to and how. In some ways, VoxOx functions like a powerful instant-messaging application. Whether messages are sent as texts, instant messages, or e-mails, the conversation pops up onscreen like an IM. A user gets two free hours of calling time within the United States and Canada when she signs up, and has the option to pay for more minutes or earn them by watching ads.

VoxOx can afford to hand out phone numbers for free because it is owned by TelCentris, a communications company with existing infrastructure, says CEO Bryan Hertz. The center of the company's technology, Hertz adds, is a hub that includes support for a wide variety of communications protocols, which can be extended to include many more. "For every type of communications protocol that's an open standard, we either support it already or are integrating it into the platform," he says.

Hertz believes that the real power of the service is its ability to unify different mediums--for example, when a VoxOx user creates a three-way conference call, adding one person on a mobile phone and another on a VoIP call. However, the company acknowledges that there are bugs to be worked out. Some users have reported problems making and receiving calls, while others have posted requests on the company's forums for support for Linux and Facebook Chat. Hertz says that the company is now focused on responding to this feedback and plans to introduce more features and support soon. The company also plans to launch a version of the application for business users in early 2009.


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Expanding the Mobile Web

An announcement by Adobe and ARM will let phones see more of the Web.

While it's true that more and more phones can surf the Web, it's also true that many mobile phones have only a limited ability to show much of the Web's best content. Videos that run in Adobe Flash Players, such as those by the New York Times, CNN, and Technology Review, and Flash-heavy websites simply don't work on many phones due to the software being incompatible with hardware. Today, in an effort to bring more of the Web to mobile devices, Adobe and microchip maker ARM, which powers 90 percent of mobile phones worldwide, have announced a collaboration to ensure that Adobe's software runs well on future ARM devices.

Specifically, the companies say that Adobe's Flash Player 10 and AIR (a platform for building complex Web applications) will be compatible and optimized for the ARM chips available in 2009. While ARM is used in a huge number of mobile phones, the announcement has broader implications: the chips are also used in set-top boxes, mobile Internet devices, personal media players, and automotive platforms.

The experience of publishing and viewing content on a PC is "near frictionless," says Anup Murarka, director of technical marketing of mobile devices at Adobe. "But when we get into devices like set-top boxes and phones, you run into a lot of roadblocks." While Murarka doesn't think all of the roadblocks will vanish immediately, he believes that the Adobe and ARM collaboration can help make it easier for people to post videos from their PCs or mobiles and access them anywhere.

To be sure, the agreement won't improve the Web on all devices. One big exception is Apple's iPhone. Steve Jobs has historically eschewed Adobe's Flash for the iPhone because the existing mobile version of Adobe's player, called Flash Lite, runs too slowly on the gadget. But for a vast majority of phones, the collaboration could make a difference to users. Murarka explains that the two companies worked together to optimize the software and hardware in three different ways.

First, the compiler used in Flash Player 10, which converts program code into microchip instructions, has been written to work smoothly with the ARMv6 and ARMv7 chip. This means that the software understands how these chips transport data and can tap into the right part of the chips at the right time, speeding up applications.

A second improvement, says Murarka, is that some ARM chips have been built with graphics subprocessors--pieces of silicon that are specifically designed to handle the heavy lifting of graphics rendering. Desktop versions of Flash, he says, don't use graphics processors, but the new version of Flash will take advantage of the graphics subprocessor, making graphics rendering more efficient on mobile devices and also saving battery power.

Third, the software that Adobe uses to compress and decompress videos will be optimized to run on ARM's chips. Today, content providers have to make sure that Flash videos are encoded in a specific way, in order to run on some mobile devices. This is how YouTube videos can play on the iPhone. "Flash now delivers over 80 percent of Web video," Murarka says. "By working with ARM, we can optimize that so that content that exists in video or audio form will be compatible with more devices."

A broader implication of this initiative is that both the hardware and software companies are providing the tools that programmers need to build content that works across devices, says Michael Gartenberg, vice president of mobile strategy at Jupitermedia, a research firm based in Connecticut. "The problem is [that] developers face a fragmented [mobile] landscape," he says. "And Adobe, by trying to get this content architecture on multiple handsets, is trying to make it easier for developers."

Earlier this year, Adobe announced the Open Screen Project, a collaboration with Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Qualcomm, and others aimed at standardizing Flash on mobile devices. The project led to Adobe removing licensing fees, which lets developers integrate Adobe Flash Player and Adobe AIR into any device or application without paying a fee. Many industry watchers saw the move as a reaction to Microsoft's release of Silverlight, a Flash competitor.

The announced Adobe and ARM partnership is "about the ability to get Open Screen Project onto handsets," says Gartenberg. "You've got the ARM folks supporting the technology, which is the critical first step."


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Sick Searchers Help Track Flu

Google releases a tool to track the intensity and spread of the flu.

On Tuesday, search giant Google released an experimental tool that tracks the intensity and movement of the influenza virus across the United States by monitoring the number of times that people search the Web using terms related to the disease.

The tool, known as Google Flu Trends, makes use of the fact that, before they go to the doctor's office, many people will search for information about what ails them. Using aggregate data on the number of searches for terms such as "flu" and "flu symptoms," software engineers from Google and researchers from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) found a strong link between these searches and reports from doctors of flu outbreaks a week to 10 days later.

"We found that there's a very close relationship between the frequency of these search queries and the number of people who are experiencing flu-like symptoms each week," Jeremy Ginsberg and Matt Mohebbi, both software engineers at Google, write in a blog post describing the work. "As a result, if we tally each day's flu-related search queries, we can estimate how many people have a flu-like illness."

The result could allow the CDC to respond to outbreaks of influenza more than a week earlier than it could using intelligence based on trends in reports from doctors, the federal agency's top flu tracker says. "Influenza has a very short incubation period," says Lyn Finelli, lead for influenza surveillance at the CDC. "You can have a lot of transmission in a very short time, so the more warning you have, the more you can do to prevent an outbreak of the disease."

The Google researchers worked closely with the CDC for more than a year to improve their model. The tool reveals a close match between historical increases in searches related to the flu and increases in reports from doctors, Finelli says.

The idea of mining data that people leave behind through their electronic existence is not new, says Nathan Eagle, a research scientist with the Media Lab at MIT. "This isn't the first example of it, by any means," Eagle says. "Virtually any type of trace that you, as a user or as a citizen, leave could be mined for all sorts of purposes."

Eagle and other researchers have published research on tracking students' movement patterns using GPS to better understand how a disease can spread through a population. Another system, called HealthMap, plots news and blog reports related to different diseases on Google Maps. And Philip Polgreen, an assistant professor at the University of Iowa, recently published a paper that used Yahoo search data to correlate searches for flu symptoms with the incidence of reports of the disease. "Every day, people search for information on health on the Internet, and we thought that the pattern of searches could give some information about future expectation or current incidents," Polgreen says.

Gunther Eysenbach, a health-policy professor with the University of Toronto, says that three years ago, he proposed to Google the idea of analyzing search data in the same way that Flu Trends does. However, he claims that he did not receive a response. Without direct access to Google's data, Eysenbach decided to take out an AdWords advertisement on the site. The ad not only gave him access to search data for the terms "flu" and "flu symptoms," but it also showed the number of people who clicked on the advertisements.

"If you count the number of clicks, then you can get a better prediction," Eysenbach says. "You can weed out the number of people who have flu symptoms from the number of people who just hear about the disease from media reports."

In a paper published in 2006, Eysenbach showed a strong positive link between Internet users' searches and the incidence of influenza in a certain region--in this case, Canada. While Eysenbach's work is briefly mentioned in Google's paper, the researcher says that he was "in a mild state of shock" that Google had decided not to collaborate with him.

In its announcement, Google tried to head off any concerns that the tool would impact users' privacy, stressing that, while the research "aggregates hundreds of billions of individual searches," the information is anonymized and therefore cannot be employed to track an individual user.

MIT's Eagle, however, says that people should expect that their data will increasingly be used in the future. "At the end of the day, this type of data is a fact of life in the 20th century," he says. "We could ignore it and pretend it doesn't exist, or we could use this data, without compromising privacy, in ways that can help people."


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Agriculture goes urban and high-tech

POMONA, California (AP) -- Terry Fujimoto sees the future of agriculture in the exposed roots of the leafy greens he and his students grow in thin streams of water at a campus greenhouse.

The program run by the California State Polytechnic University agriculture professor is part of a growing effort to use hydroponics -- a method of cultivating plants in water instead of soil -- to bring farming into cities, where consumers are concentrated.

Because hydroponic farming requires less water and less land than traditional field farming, Fujimoto and researchers-turned-growers in other U.S. cities see it as ideal to bring agriculture to apartment buildings, rooftops and vacant lots.

"The goal here is to look at growing food crops in small spaces," he said.

Long a niche technology existing in the shadow of conventional growing methods, hydroponics is getting a second look from university researchers and public health advocates.

Supporters point to the environmental cost of trucking produce from farms to cities, the loss of wilderness for farmland to feed a growing world population, and the risk of bacteria along extensive, insecure food chains as reasons for establishing urban hydroponic farms.

"These are university theories," said Jim Prevor, editor of Produce Business magazine. "They're not mapped to things that actually exist."

The roots of hydroponically produced fruits and vegetables can dangle in direct contact with water or be set in growing media such as sponges or shredded coconut shells. Most commercial operations pump water through sophisticated sensors that automatically adjust nutrient and acidity levels in the water.

Hydroponics are generally used for fast-growing, high-value crops such as lettuces and tomatoes that can be produced year-round in heated, well-lit greenhouses. So far, production is not large enough for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to track.

The country's largest hydroponic greenhouse is Eurofresh Inc.'s 274-acre operation in southeastern Arizona, where more than 200 million pounds of tomatoes were produced in 2007. Most large-scale commercial operations are in the arid Southwest, where water-efficiency is prized, or the sometimes frigid Northeast, where the method can be used year-round in heated greenhouses.

The technology has benefited from nearly three decades of NASA research aimed at sustaining astronauts in places with even less green space than a typical U.S. city.

Hydroponics also bears the dubious distinction of being a growing method for marijuana.

Fujimoto said one of his research assistants got a call from the FBI after using a credit card to buy nutrients for the campus greenhouse at a hydroponic-supply store.

There's clearly nothing illicit going on at the greenhouse, where thin streams of water pass silently though dozens of long white plastic tubes arranged in rows across chest-high stands. Rose-shaded lettuce leaves, pale-green stalks of bok-choy and sprigs of basil poke from the holes in the tubes.

Fujimoto aims to prepare his students to operate the urban hydroponic businesses that he thinks will gain importance in the future. They sell their lettuces, peppers, tomatoes and other produce to an on-campus grocery store and at a farmers market.

In Ohio, the ProMedica Health System network of clinics used a Toledo hospital roof to grow more than 200 pounds of vegetables in stacked buckets filled with a ground coconut shell potting medium. The tomatoes, peppers, green beans and leafy greens were served to patients and donated to a nearby food shelter, hospital spokeswoman Stephanie Cihon said.

When the project resumes in the spring, the hospital plans to expand into at least two community centers in economically depressed central Toledo, where fresh produce is hard to come by.

"From the health-care perspective, the more we can increase people's lifestyle changes and encourage them to eat better, it's going to impact our services greatly," Cihon said.

In a New York City schools program run by Cornell University, students grow lettuce on a school roof and sell it for $1.50 a head to the Gristedes chain of supermarkets.

Cornell agriculturist Philson Warner, who designed the program's hydroponics system, said his students harvest hundreds of heads of lettuce a week from an area smaller than five standard parking spaces by using a special nutrient-rich solution instead of water.

The numbers have some researchers imagining a future when enough produce to feed entire cities is grown in multistory buildings sandwiched between office towers and other structures.

Columbia University environmental health science professor Dickson Despommier, who champions the concept under the banner of his Vertical Farm Project, said he has been consulting with officials in China and the Middle East who are considering multistory indoor farms.

He is also shopping his concept to engineering teams in hopes of having a prototype built as he seeks funding.

"Most of us live in cities," he said. "As long as you're going to live there, you might as well grow your food there."


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What's Next for Yahoo?

After Jerry Yang, Yahoo may need to rethink its strategy.

Late on Monday, Yahoo announced that Jerry Yang would step down as CEO of the troubled Internet giant. The company's shares were trading up more than 11 percent on Tuesday morning following the news, but with ad revenue declining and after several rounds of layoffs, Yahoo still faces a major challenge to turn its fortunes around.

Yang, who cofounded the company in 1994 and returned to serve as CEO in June 2007, will move back to his previous role as "Chief Yahoo" and remain a member of the company's board of directors. He steps down after a hard year for Yahoo and decisions that helped heap pressure on him as head of the company.

This January, Yahoo rejected a buyout offer from Microsoft, which had offered $31 a share ($44.6 billion), a decision that proved unpopular with some shareholders and led to a protracted battle for control of Yahoo's board. The company then looked to an advertising deal with Google for help resuscitating its business, but Google walked away earlier this month when it appeared that such a deal could lead to an antitrust lawsuit.

Yang's departure may well reopen the way for a deal with Microsoft. Without such an agreement, Yahoo will be hoping that the open technology strategy spearheaded by Yang as CEO pays off as other companies make money from using its platform to develop new Web tools and software.

In the past year, Yahoo has bet heavily on an open strategy that the company credits Yang with creating. The idea is for Yahoo to open many of its tools, including its search index, to other companies and to share in revenues earned from the use of those tools. Yahoo also has plans to organize its disparate properties into a "single social platform."

Andrew Frank, a Gartner Research vice president, believes that Yahoo has a chance to salvage its fortunes using such an approach. Despite recent negative news, he notes that the company still makes money and still has a large and loyal audience. Frank says that he thinks the open strategy is the right one for Yahoo in the long term: "Yahoo's fortune, for better or for worse, is largely connected to the fortunes of open platforms and open companies on the Internet, from a technology standpoint."

But other experts are more skeptical that Yahoo can make the strategy pay. "I think the open strategy is on trend, as they say," says David Card, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. "A lot of people are creating more and more APIs [tools that open a Web service to outside developers]. It's acknowledged to be the way you do business, especially if you're not the leader."

But Card adds that Yahoo must ultimately decide whether to maintain core services such as search or social networking--a task that is becoming difficult in the face of competition--or to more substantially open up popular properties, such as Flickr and, to other companies, and create similar new niche services--a choice that would be humbling for the portal company. Card adds that Yahoo's current situation might be helped if the company continues to invest heavily in mobile, an area where no company has yet achieved dominance.

Considering how much the company has invested in developing new open systems such as Build Your Own Search Service (BOSS), Frank questions whether new leadership will shift the company away from this direction. Yahoo's biggest problem in the short term, he says, is the market's shaken faith in the company. Open projects may have to go on the back burner while the company works to appease investors, perhaps by inking partnership deals, or even agreeing to be acquired.


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Review: ThinkPad X301 still good for frequent fliers

In fact, with the exception of a new DisplayPort connector, the X301's case is essentially identical to that of the X300, right down to the built-in DVD burner. The real change is inside the case: Lenovo has stocked the X301 with Intel's latest Centrino 2 platform, including the just-released ultra-low-voltage Core 2 Duo SU9400 processor.

The new CPU helped the ThinkPad X301 realize measurable gains over its predecessor on our performance benchmarks, though it trailed similar systems that were built on full-voltage Centrino 2 processors, such as the Fujitsu LifeBook T1010.

The trade-off, of course, is that the ThinkPad X301 outlasted those systems on our battery drain tests. Though our biggest complaint with this ultrasleek ThinkPad remains the price--the base configuration costs $2,605 and goes up from there--we still recommend it for frequent travelers seeking portability and usability without sacrifice.

That said, users looking for a slightly less expensive ultraportable may want to consider the 12-inch ThinkPad X200.

Like all ThinkPads, the ultraportable X301 features a rectangular black case built around a sturdy chassis. There's still a blue ThinkVantage button above the keyboard, a fingerprint reader below it, and a keyboard light on the top edge of the display.

However, ThinkPad fans will notice small touches that make the X301 a bit more attractive than other ThinkPads. The lid and wrist rest feature an appealing soft matte finish; the ThinkVantage, power, and mute buttons glow when pressed; and the front edge is devoid of any ports or switches.

In addition to the keyboard light, the ThinkPad X301's display bezel includes a 1.3-megapixel Webcam and a noise-canceling digital microphone for Web conferencing. The matte-finish display itself features a 1,440x900 native resolution that's sharper than that of the MacBook Air and other similar-size screens, resulting in text and icons that are a bit smaller than you'd expect.

So far the sharper resolution hasn't caused tremendous problems, though we did find ourselves pumping up the font size on a newspaper's Web site so we could read a lengthy article. We also zoomed in a bit when working on documents and spreadsheets.

The trade-off: more screen real estate for multitasking and, when it's time for a break, beautiful video.

Given the amount of typing the typical executive does through the course of the workday, a keyboard can make or break an ultraportable. The ThinkPad X301 actually uses the same keyboard found on Lenovo's 14- and 15-inch models--which is to say, not the condensed keyboard found on previous X series models and many ultraportable laptops from other manufacturers.

After conducting several days' work on the ThinkPad X301, we still don't feel like we've been typing on a laptop. We love it.

Lenovo decided to include both the red eraser-head TrackPoint pointing stick and a touch pad on the ThinkPad X301.

The decision is understandable: many ThinkPad users are viscerally attached to their TrackPoints, while other users can't stand it, so why not include both methods?

However, the double sets of mouse buttons seem to run counter to the overall theme of simplification that the ThinkPad X301 embodies. In order to make room for the TrackPoint's buttons, the touch pad is placed rather low on the wrist rest, with its buttons near the laptop's front edge.

Fortunately, the ThinkPad X301 is thin enough that we could use the touch pad with our wrist resting on a desk surface--or on our leg, when the laptop was in our lap. Of greater concern is the fact that, during our lazier typing moments when our wrists dropped to the wrist rest, we were likely to graze the touch pad and accidentally misplace the cursor.

With just three USB ports, Gigabit Ethernet, and optional WWAN, the ThinkPad X301 keeps the same basic, business-focused feature set as its predecessor. The laptop still lacks a slot for PC Cards or ExpressCards, but we're not sure the expansion slot will be missed, given that Lenovo now offers the Gobi WWAN chipset with the X301.

Also new to this model: DisplayPort, a compact replacement for the standard DVI socket. As with the X300, the ThinkPad X301 incorporates a built-in DVD burner; opting out of the optical will knock $225 off the price.

The base model of the ThinkPad X301 costs a hefty $2,605. Much of that price can be attributed to the laptop's 64GB solid-state drive, which promises faster application launch and boot times as well as a longer lifetime than a traditional hard drive with moving parts. (Deep-pocketed buyers can also opt for a 128GB SSD, which adds $400 to the laptop's price.)

Our review unit included a few upgrades -- twice as much RAM as the base configuration, plus the integrated DVD burner and an extended-life six-cell battery -- that brought the price to $2,920. That's more expensive than a MacBook Air with a solid-state drive (though that system is based on Intel's previous-generation platform) and on par with a Toshiba Portege R500 configured with a 128GB SSD.

The ThinkPad X301 is the first laptop we've seen to incorporate Intel's newest ultra-low-voltage Core 2 Duo CPU, the 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo SU9400. Based on Intel's latest Centrino 2 platform, the ThinkPad X301 showed measurable gains over the X300 on CNET Labs' performance benchmarks (though not always the 20 percent the company boasted at the product's launch).

But the X301 trailed other Centrino 2 systems with full-voltage processors, such as the Fujitsu LifeBook T1010 and the 12-inch ThinkPad X200, most likely because the X301's CPU is designed to prioritize energy savings over performance muscle.

That's not to say it's pokey; as with any Core 2 Duo system, the ThinkPad X301 proved more than adequate for typical business productivity tasks, including Web surfing, media playback, and running office applications.

The ThinkPad X301's six-cell battery lasted 3 hours, 14 minutes in our video playback drain test. That places it at least 30 minutes ahead of similar-size systems based on full-voltage Core 2 Duo processors (such as the LifeBook T1010) and those built around the Intel's previous-generation Centrino platform (such as the Dell Vostro 1310).

In anecdotal testing, we were able to squeeze about 4 hours of runtime from the X301's battery--just enough for a half-day's work. Users who need more juice can extend their mobile computing time by purchasing an additional three-cell battery ($120) that fits inside the drive bay.

As Lenovo has moved toward offering built-to-order systems, the company has dropped the baseline warranty for ThinkPads to a single year. Extending coverage to three years costs $119; other reasonably priced upgrades add coverage for accidental drops or spills and LCD damage.

The preloaded suite of ThinkVantage applications helps users troubleshoot problems, and Lenovo's support Web site includes the expected troubleshooting topics, driver downloads, and user guides.


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How Google's Ear Hears

The new voice-search application for the iPhone marks a milestone for spoken interfaces.

If you own an iPhone, you can now be part of one of the most ambitious speech-recognition experiments ever launched. On Monday, Google announced that it had added voice search to its iPhone mobile application, allowing people to speak search terms into their phones and view the results on the screen.

In designing the system, Google took on an enormous challenge. Where an automated airline reservation system, say, has to handle a relatively limited number of terms, a Web search engine must contend with any topic that anyone might ever want to research--literally.

Fortunately, Google also has a huge amount of data on how people use search, and it was able to use that to train its algorithms. If the system has trouble interpreting one word in a query, for instance, it can fall back on data about which terms are frequently grouped together.

Google also had a useful set of data correlating speech samples with written words, culled from its free directory service, Goog411. People call the service and say the name of a city and state, and then say the name of a business or category. According to Mike Cohen, a Google research scientist, voice samples from this service were the main source of acoustic data for training the system.

But the data that Google used to build the system pales in comparison to the data that it now has the chance to collect. "The nice thing about this application is that Google will collect all this speech data," says Jim Glass, a principal research scientist at MIT. "And by getting all this data, they will improve their recognizer even more."

Mobile phones are assuming more and more computational duties; in much of the world, they're people's only computers. But their small screens and awkward keyboards can make text-intensive actions, like Web search, frustrating. While mobile browsers are getting better at predicting your search terms, and thereby reducing the amount of typing, nothing is quite as easy as speaking directly into the phone.

Speech-recognition systems, however, remain far from perfect. And people's frustration skyrockets when they can't find their way out of a voice-menu maze. But Google's implementation of speech recognition deftly sidesteps some of the technology's shortcomings, says Glass.

"The beauty of search engines is that they don't have to be exactly right," he says. When a user submits a spoken query, he says, Google's algorithms "just take it and stick it in a search engine, which puts the onus on the user to select the right result or try again." Because people are already used to refining their queries as they conduct Web searches, Glass says, they're more tolerant of imperfect results.

Even after the search application loads, the voice-recognition system kicks in only when the user puts the phone to her ear, as determined by its built-in motion sensors. "If you're listening all the time, then you trigger false positives," Glass says. "The typical solution is to make you push a button," but the motion-activated system is easier and more intuitive, he says.

The search application also uses the iPhone's built-in location-awareness system to prioritize results. For instance, if you search for Bank of America, one of the results will be a map of local branches. This saves users from having to include location terms--which can be open to misinterpretation--in their queries.

While Google won't disclose details about how its voice-recognition system works, it probably hasn't done anything too radical, says Nelson Morgan, director of the International Computer Science Institute, in Berkeley, CA. "Nearly everybody who does speech recognition has a system that looks about the same," he says. First, the system analyzes frequency characteristics of the voice input. Then, based on probabilities drawn from a huge number of real-world examples, it correlates them with words. Finally, those words are fed into a language model that uses common combinations or sequences of words to resolve ambiguities. For instance, if you say, "president of the United," it's likely that the next word is going to be "States."

While Google isn't announcing plans to use its voice-recognition technology for other services, the potential is easy to see. "Now we have tech to take spoken words and convert it to text," says Gummi Hafsteinsson, a senior product manager at Google. "There are a lot of options." Currently, there's no way to use your voice to access Google's calendar or e-mail applications or to write an e-mail or a text message. But that could change in the future. "I think this opens up a whole new dimension," Hafsteinsson says.


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