Saturday, October 07, 2006

Top 10 Ways Best Buy Will Fix a PC

Every day, people flock to Geek Squad in Best Buy looking for help with their computer problems. Here are the top 10 fixes that they are offered by their under paid, under trained staff.

10. “How do I...?”
The truth of the matter is that a majority of people only know how to perform 1 or 2 tasks on their computers. When they try to do something out of the ordinary, like trying to burn a CD, something always goes wrong. Geek Squad (GS) will sell: 1) 1 to 2 Hours in-home training. Overall Cost: $159 to $228.

9. “I can't check my email.”
This is more common with people who have just gotten their first high-speed internet connection and are using Outlook or Outlook Express. Although Best Buy(BB)'s proxy actually filters all non-BB email, GS could just reference the ISP's pop3 and mail settings and input them for the customer (Cost would be $29). But as most employees aren't familiar with these they offer instead: 1) In-home networking setup. Overall cost: $159.

8. “Only the LEDs come on.”
Every once in a while a power surge, or just plain cheap parts, will cause a computer's power supply to fail. BB will recommend: 1) Full hardware diagnostics 2) New power supply 3) Installation of said power supply. Overall cost: $168-$198 (depending on cost the cost of the power supply).

7. “It doesn't turn on at all.”
Same as the case above, but instead of the power supply the motherboard failed. BB will sell, even if the computer is obviously hopeless: 1) Full hardware diagnostics. Overall cost: $69. Afterwards, they will recommend a data backup (+$99) and a new computer.

6. “My camera/printer/scanner isn't working with my computer.”
This is a classic case of the training GS employees DON'T get. If a customer comes into the store with this sort of issue, the only recommendation they will receive is 1) In-home computer peripheral configuration and/or 2)1-Hour in-home training. After they receive said service, approximately 20-50% need a redo service call. Overall cost: $159-$228

5. “My program X isn't working right.”
Be it AOL, Office, Norton, or whatever, people somehow always manage to find ways to get their programs to stop responding properly. In most cases they will be offered 1) Windows updates and “agent tweaks” (a collection of registry edits claimed to improve system performance by up to 40%) 2) Re-installation of said program. Overall cost: $58. However, if after this work the program still doesn't work, diagnostics, an OS Restore and a redo of the previous labor will be offered. Overall cost (in ADDITION to the previous $58 which is non-refundable): $257

4. “It crashed and I'm going to get a new one, but I need my data off of it.”
Sometimes people realize that their computers are outdated, and if they crash (even if the fix would just be an OS Restore) they would rather just get a new computer entirely. The problem is most people also never back up their data. The cost of labor at GS for a data backup, regardless of whether or not it is successful, is $99 for data less than <9GB and $159 for >9GB. This does not include cost of DVDs or external HDDs that the data will be copied on to.

3. “My camera/printer/mp3 player stopped working.”
Since no GS employees actually receive training on anything, if a customer comes in with a problem with any random device that isn't a computer and isn't under warranty, the GS employee will ALWAYS tell the customer to go purchase another one. Even if the fix is anything from new batteries, ink, physical cleaning, or settings/firmware.

2. “The Internet doesn't work!”
Regardless of the specific problem and quick fixes – from winsock fixes to potential removals of a single virus – GS will sell: 1) Hardware Diagnostics 2) Physical Cleaning 3) Data backup to DVD 4) Operating system restore 5) Windows updates and “Agent Tweaks” 6) Anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Overall cost: $398

1. “It's so slow!”
This may very well be the single greatest problem people have with their computers. In all actuality this is usually caused by a bad hard drive or viruses/spy-ware. In any case GS will sell: 1) Hardware Diagnostics 2) Physical Cleaning 3) Data backup to DVD 4) Operating system restore 5) Windows updates and “Agent Tweaks” 6) Anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Overall cost: $398 (Sound familiar?)

CPU price/performance update: AMD undercuts Intel on the low end

Price/Performance comparison 6 October 2006

Let's have a look at the price/performance comparison. In this chart, which does not consider the Intel quad-core processor QX6700, there is a striking difference between the performance-per-dollar values for Intel and AMD. In fact, the standard deviation for Intel's "performance per dollar" is about twice that of AMD.

n case of AMD, almost every processor currently lines up almost perfectly with an exponential price/performance trend curve, translating in a very balanced market pricing of each processor. Intel's processor prices, on the other hand, is much more radically spread out and still have to find their spots.

The Pentium Extreme Edition processors (965 and 955) are clearly overpriced at this time. At a little over $1000, the level of performance is not nearly as high as would be expected. On the flip side, there are some processors that are remarkably under-priced for the level of performance they provide. The Core 2 Duo processors (E6700 and E6600), for example, flatten the trendline for Intel and are priced more than $100 below Intel's exponential curve.

However, overclockers still find the best value in today's market with the Pentium D 805, which is currently available for an average price of $98. When overclocked to 4.1 GHz, it provides roughly the same level of performance as the $1081 Pentium EE 965, or the $546 AMD Athlon 64 FX-60.

If you are undecided which processor to buy, our chart indicates that at least at this time, AMD processors provide more bang for the buck in the mainstream segment of the market. Until a performance index of about 1.6, which includes CPUs up to the Athlon 64 X2 4600+, the blue team remains at a disadvantage.

AMD has in fact seen improvements since our first set of charts in July. On 20 July, our first graph showed that AMD's entire price-performance curve was above Intel's. However, after AMD cut prices on the 64 X2 series, it took over the advantage in the area of low-end processors. Then, as AMD prices continued to fall, Intel's top processors took price cuts, creating the dichotomy we have now. Our graph from 25 August, looks fairly similar to what it's like today. However, the the Core 2 Extreme QX6700 on the way, there may be a new shift on the way.
When including Intel's Core 2 Extreme QX6700 in the curve - we are using an expected retail price of $1200 for this model, the blue performance curve is slightly flattened, while AMD's current prices receive more pressure. However, AMD's curve will change significantly with the introduction of the 4x4 platform, which will - as we heard - will be available for about $800-$900 in packages of two dual-core processors.

We will have to wait for first benchmark data to determine how much of a value AMD's 4x4 systems will be. According to our curve and assuming a price of $900 - or 27% more than a current FX-62 - 4x4 will need to be 55% faster than a FX-62 system to undercut Intel's price/performance curve.

Video: iRobot Warrior

iRobot announced early this morning that it will showcase the new iRobot Warrior (the renamed version of the pictured 250-pound NEOMover), as well as the forthcoming iRobot SUGV, the 30-pound robot planned for the forthcoming Future Combat Systems, at the U.S. Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting & Exposition next week in D.C.

A lot is riding on the military buying these new robots from iRobot. The SUGV has theoretically been slated for thousands of units, and the new iRobot Warrior, which could be equipped with guns and missiles and has a payload capacity of greater than 100 pounds, is iRobot's first foray into the Big Robot class. (The press release doesn't mention the guns and missiles, which were discussed previously by Chairwoman Helen Greiner, but does mention firefighting and battlefield casualty extraction! You can see a video of a NeoMover in action retrieving a battlefield casualty here. (Thanks, William Cox).

A lot more robot videos here.

Friday, October 06, 2006

DEFCON-Game from the 1983 movie "Wargames"

From Steam:
Inspired by the 1983 cult classic film, Wargames, DEFCON superbly evokes the tension, paranoia and suspicion of the Cold War era, playing on the fascinating aspects of psychological gameplay that occur during strategic nuclear warfare.

You play a General hidden deep within an underground bunker. Your mission is to successfully exterminate your enemy's civilian population whilst saving your own. Points are awarded or lost depending on both the efficacy and thoroughness of your nuclear vendetta and the number of your own civilian deaths. In order to win you must wipe out the enemy population and simultaneously disable the enemy's ability to retaliate against you. This is an extremely difficult task since launching an attack on the enemy exposes the positions of your own Ground Silos, Subs and Bombers the moment they launch nuclear weapons, making you extremely vulnerable and exposed to a crushing counter-attack.

Desperate attempts must be made to form fast, tactical alliances, alliances that may at any moment break-down to become the treacherous and most deadly of betrayals. Everyone looks to each other in a state of nervous suspense and paranoid accusation. In all-out nuclear Armageddon, everybody dies, everybody loses, you just have to make sure you lose the least!

Ultra concept - Chev's idea of a touring car

Ultra concept - Chev's idea of a touring car

September 29, 2006

Paris, France - Chevrolet has pulled the covers off its WTCC Ultra concept, described as "the vision of a new generation of touring car", at the Paris auto show.

The company adds that it is a celebration of its most recent racing victory when British driver Rob Huff won the WTCC race in the Czech Republic earlier this month.

The bold panels of the extreme body - the colour is listed as Stealth Blue' - are glass fibre and carbon-fibre laminate and the cabin, says Chev, is all racing car with rubberised black paint on the fascia.

Design chief David Lyon said: "We wanted to explore the concept of a Chevrolet muscle car reinvented for Europe
The bold panels of the extreme body are glass fibre and carbon-fibre laminate
. The Ultra is a car that celebrates Chevy’s racing heritage with a very forward-looking design."

But, unlike most styling studies, the car a fully working vehicle powered by a 150kW, common-rail diesel engine based on the unit that’s soon to debut in the all-new Captiva SUV.

The car is also as global: engineers and designers from all over the world worked as a team to bring it to production.

The initial concept and early design work was carried out in South Korea at the GM DAT Advanced Design Studio while the dynamic look was the responsibility of 25-year old Ewan Kingsbury at GM’s Australian styling department.

Colour and materials design was the work of Breony Crittenden, also of GM Australia, while the design was co-ordinated by engineers in the USA and Switzerland.

Final construction of the prototype took place in Japan with the help of British motorsport specialists Ray Mallock, the technical partner of the Chevy WTCC Touring Car team.

Jeep and Mitsubishi Alarm Screw Up?

16 yr olds playing like Globetrotters

Entire transcript of Airbus CEO Christian Streiff's frank speech to employees over A380 delay

The entire transcript of the speech delivered by new Airbus chief executive and president Christian Streiff on the full review of the A380 programme has been leaked by company insiders to a series of aerospace blogsites.

In addition to the A380 programme update, Streiff in the speech, given to Airbus employees yesterday, details of the Power8 cash-cutting and business process improvement programme. Finally, he gave his assessment of the company after his first 100 days in the top job.

Internet weblog sites, including those hosted by the Innovation Analysis Group (IAG) and the Seattle Post Intelligencer , have seen the entire transcript posted on their sites following a mailing from Airbus's ofifce in Washington, DC. Airbus in Toulouse did not initially release the speech.

In the speech (featured below) he hints at wider changes in the future, saying that Airbus is not yet an integrated company. "Airbus doesn't yet have a simple and clear organisation. There are shadow hierarchies – leftovers from the never-finished integration. And the change we bring about must also include the management culture," he says.

In the frank address, Streiff said that the A380 delays – along with such issues as the weak US dollar – would result in deferred revenues and a drain on the manufacturer’s cash-flow.

Streiff did not indicate how soon Airbus would proceed with its new A350 aircraft programme. Airbus says officially that it is still planning to make a decision on the industrial launch of its revamped A350 twin-jet this month, although it admits that the date could slip in the wake of the problems centred on A380 production.“We must generate cash to afford the A350 and continue investing in our future,” he stated.

“We also want to build the basis for the launch of the A350 quickly to satisfy the strong demand in this segment and compete effectively against Boeing,” Streiff said.
Speech delivered by Christian Streiff, Airbus President and CEO [unedited]

3rd October 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen, good afternoon….and Tom, thank you.

Yes, indeed, Airbus and EADS have jointly completed the full review of the A380 programme. And, of course, we studied the Airbus' overall situation in depth. We have come to joint conclusions and we fully share the situation analysis as well as the challenge for the way forward.

I will update you today on three topics:

1) The status of the A380 schedule and our path forward for that great airplane programme

2) An overview of a comprehensive business improvement programme for Airbus, which will make our company more nimble and profitable – and will position us better to meet our commitments to customers and shareholders more consistently

3) Finally, I will share with you my assessment of the state of Airbus after my intensive, 100-day review


First things first: An A380 production and delivery schedule our customers can count on. I will cut straight to the chase. As we have informed our A380 customers over the past few days:

The first A380 will be delivered to Singapore in October 2007.
In 2008 we will deliver 13 A380s (to Singapore, Qantas and Emirates)
In 2009, 25 A380s will leave the Final Assembly Line
The industrial ramp-up will really be achieved 2010, when we shall deliver 45 A380s, including the first freighters.

This means another delay of over one year on average. It is very disappointing that we find ourselves in this situation, but we need to be realistic with ourselves and our customers. It is the most reliable schedule we can deliver today following our in-depth review of the A380 programme.

Let me summarize the key findings:

Great plane

First, the A380 is a truly great airplane. We have completed over 2,100 hours of test flights with four aircraft. It will fulfil customers' expectations and beyond. It is meeting the guaranteed performance. Airline pilots who've flown it, love it. The flight test programme is going very well, in fact exceeding expectations in many key areas, and certification is on target for the end of the year. This is a great achievement and Airbus teams have worked extremely hard to bring to the world this magnificent machine. I want to pay tribute here to all those who have achieved this "tour de force".


However, this is a very long and complex value chain. While everyone on board was on top of their job, the production process… not the airplane… but the production process has one, big flaw – one weak link in the chain: that of the design of the electrical harnesses installation in the forward and aft fuselage.

To be clear: This is the weak link in the manufacturing chain, this is the reason why ramping up the production is hampered.

But the electrical harnesses are not the root causes why we at Airbus are in a crisis – Tom has already mentioned the fundamental reasons. And I will come back to that.

Let me return to the issue why we are not yet able to ramp-up the production.

The issue of the electrical harnesses is extremely complex, with 530km of cables, 100,000 wires, and 40,300 connectors . It is twice as complex as for our next largest aircraft, the A340-600! And the depth of the problem was not fully understood in June. The full analysis over these past weeks has revealed it is much worse than expected.

Root causes

The root cause of the issue is that there were incompatibilities in the development of the concurrent engineering tools to be used for the design of the electrical harnesses installation. Quite simply, while the A380 is the most-advanced and modern plane ever made, the wiring harness installation design package in the forward and rear fuselage could not keep pace with the rest of the aircraft programme. Also, the learning curve for wiring harness changes was too steep during the complex development phase. We have to update and harmonize the 3D- design tools and data base – and it will take time to do this.

The problem became first apparent when the electrical harnesses were installed into the fuselage: there were mismatches between the designed routing of the electrical harnesses and the real aircraft.

What I can firmly say is that it is not the electrical design team of " Hamburg" who failed. Airbus is one company. It is Airbus as a whole which failed, the management on several levels with several passports who failed, and certainly not the teams on the shop-floors.

I want to be very clear: the problem we are tackling does in no way put into question the integrity, quality or safety of the A380 that have been produced to date, which are flying today and which are part of the first production wave.


What we are doing to resolve the problem? We now are putting in place the right people, the right tools, the right training and the right oversight to ensure it gets resolved.

1) Right People : A number of changes have been implemented in the A380 programme management. In Hamburg, everything to do with the A380 is now consolidated under the full responsibility of one manager: Rüdiger Fuchs. A reinforced management team, all co-located, with the right expertise from across Airbus supports him and reviews progress twice a day. Rüdiger, who has valuable experience in the field of cabin customisation for long-range aircraft, reports directly to Mario Heinen, who is now in charge of the A380 Programme overall.

In addition, specific teams of experts from across Airbus are being formed to finalise the electrical installation in the forward and aft fuselage sections for the aircraft currently in production. For example, specialists from Broughton or St Nazaire will be called upon to help their colleagues in Hamburg and Toulouse.

2) Right Tools : Since the concurrent engineering tools are at the heart of the problem, I took the decision in July to launch the immediate implementation of the best and most uniform tools and practices on all sites. Tools such as CatiaV4, CIRCE and GILDA, which have already demonstrated their robustness on other sites, are being put in place throughout the A380 centres of excellence – and the Airbus professionals in those sites will be trained to use them effectively. So, we are going to do two things in parallel:

Finish the production of the first wave of A380 aircraft with the present tools, but with a better organisation (as I already mentioned), and...

In the meantime install new tools, redo the installation design, and complete the Digital Mock-Up. To achieve this, we are also creating an integrated multi-national Airbus team to make best use of the available resources and best competences. That will allow for the full ramp-up beginning 2010.

3) Right Training : Through training of people has been launched to overcome the learning curve effect.

4) Right Oversight and Management : The overall programme management has been changed:

A fully transversal, cross-functional and cross-sites project management has been established – with daily reporting and tracking of all issues and tracking of progress. Nothing is hidden and all issues are addressed. After all, it is only by facing the reality in all honesty that we can overcome the problem.

Furthermore, I personally will be overseeing this, with a weekly meeting to review the status and evolution of the situation.

I have committed to keep our customers closely in the loop and regularly informed of all issues in a very open and transparent fashion on a monthly basis. We are of course also trying to find ways and means to help them out of the problem the delay in deliveries represents for them. They are our prime concern. I must say here that I have been humbled by the first-class dialogue we have with our customers and by their constructive reaction to this news.

We will also need to address the challenges our suppliers are facing. For them this is as painful as for us. We are aware of the fact that after the customers, our suppliers are our most important partners. We will, therefore, do what we can to find a way forward for all of us. We will start with a supplier conference call in the coming days.

Last but not least, we shall also use the time of delay to ensure full maturity of the A380 at entry into service.

There are no miracle solutions, and our production problem is not going to be solved overnight. But these measures will ensure a sound recovery, which will allow the A380's global success for the years to come.

Our A380 programme recovery alone, of course, will not guarantee a bright future for Airbus. We must also speed up our development process for new products, generate sufficient cash to finance their development, and drastically cut costs to remain competitive in the face of a persistently weak dollar.

That brings me to my second topic: our 4-5 year improvement programme, Power8.


Why do we need an overall business-improvement programme?

The A380 delay means delayed revenue streams and a high working capital requirement. This drain on our cash is compounded by the threat from the persistently weak dollar that penalises the competitiveness of our Euro-zone manufacturing. We also have to face the difficult pricing and we must generate cash to afford the A350XWB and continue investing in our future.

We also want to build the basis for the launch of the A350 quickly to satisfy the strong demand in this segment and compete effectively against Boeing.

This means: We need a much faster and extremely robust development process. We need to maximise cash. And we need to reduce costs. This is what Power8 will do.

Our change programme is called Power 8 because Power is what Airbus will generate through the 8 modules of this programme.

The programme is designed to speed up the development processes, deliver €2.1 billion in cost reductions, and drive €5 billion in cumulative cash savings by 2010.

We have already been working for two months to set-up this programme. We are currently further detailing Power8 at this point. We will need another two months at least before we can have the full programme up and running.

Let me summarize:

Power 8 is about

1/ First getting back to basics – in other words making great single aisle and long-range aircraft.

2/ Its about doing things the RIGHT way, FASTER, with as little capital as possible and the lowest possible costs.

3/ It's about real change. It will be difficult; there will be no room for complacency. But it will also be worthwhile and rewarding. We will make Airbus a true architect and integrator. We will move away from the heavy 1:1 sales-to-capital ratio that limits our potential and achieve a much less capital intensive structure. We will free ourselves from the legacy will become truly one integrated Airbus.

To conclude:

To conclude, after my first 3 months with Airbus, and looking at it still with a fresh pair of eyes, I can tell you: Airbus is a great company made up of many talented, very skilled, and highly motivated and dedicated people. They encompass the best know-how in the industry and a unique innovative spirit. They are what makes Airbus a very strong and sound company which has all the ingredients to regain its leading position.

But Airbus is not yet an integrated company. Airbus doesn't yet have a simple and clear organisation. There are shadow hierarchies – leftovers from the never finished integration. And the change we bring about must also include the management culture. Until recently, it has been more a "green culture" where truth was not brought to light.

The Airbus management has the full backing of EADS. Thus, we will be able to create an open spirit, a simpler organisation. We are establishing as a guiding principle for everybody "tell the truth, ask for the truth, the right to error".

The measures to get the A380 back on track, the Power8 programme and changes in the organisation and in our behaviour will deliver a sound basis for Airbus to regain its competitive edge.

And let us not forget:

We are producing record number of aircraft each and every month. By the end of the year we will have delivered around 430 Airbus aircraft. This was never achieved in Europe. And next year we will deliver even more. This should not be forgotten. Nor should it be forgotten that we have a backlog of around 2,100 aircraft on order. They will fill our production lines for the next 4.5 years. Coming from another industry, I know what it means to have such a backlog.

So, we DO have a sound, even enviable, basis to address and master our challenges and ensure a bright future for Airbus.

I have come to Airbus to shape, together with all our teams our future.

Such a future requires no huge leap of imagination. It is simply the realisation of Airbus' incredible potential.

I am convinced that the Airbus employees and management teams are ready to face the challenge – we will meet the targets – together.

Thank you.

George Lucas Announces The Death Of The $200 Million Feature Film

From Techdirt:
Back in April, at the Cato Institute conference on copyrights, someone in the audience from NBC Universal challenged both myself and Professor David Levine from UCLA on how the movie industry could keep making $200 million feature films in a world where copyrights were less stringent (or non-existent). The response, of course, is that he's asking the wrong question. Why focus on the cost of making the movie? It's like a mainframe maker asking how they can keep making million-dollar mainframes as PCs become more and more powerful. The answer is that you don't keep making $200 million films, but figure out how to make films for less. That means embracing technology that makes moviemaking, distribution and promotions much cheaper, while also recognizing that the value of star power (which is extremely costly) is greatly overrated. While the folks at NBC Universal may not like that, it does seem like some big moviemakers are recognizing the trend. John points us to an interview in Variety with George Lucas, where he discusses why he won't be making $200 million movies any more, saying that they're just too risky. Instead, he can spend the same amount of money making a lot more video for TV or for online. While he doesn't discuss ways to make quality films for less, he's clearly realized that the market is changing -- and it's changing in a way that will make him produce more content, not less. That's important, since the assumption from the NBC Universals of the world has always been that, if they can't make $200 million movies, the world would have a lot less content. Looks like that assumption isn't holding up either.

Completely Unsubstantiated Google/YouTube Rumor

From Techcrunch:
I got an email tonight about a possible Google acquisition of YouTube that may be in the final stages before closing. Rumored price is $1.6 billion. A quick phone call to a VC confirmed that the rumor is circulating (he also confirmed the price), but that is far from confirmation that this deal is happening. I’m digging for more but the source on this one is very good.

We know that YouTube has had informal talks with a number of companies about acquisition in the $1.5 - $2 billion range. And I suspect Google won’t be daunted by the prospect of dealing with a ton of pissed off copyright holders.

Based on experience with these sort of rumors, I’d put this at 40% likely to be at least partially true.

Phone in your skull

In-your-face interface
Wrap your head around this: As technology gets smaller, faster, more futuristic, imagine yourself connected to a device that doesn't just lamely hang on your ear but invades your skull. Not yet. Soon.
Published October 5, 2006


At the malls, at Bay-Walk and at Tampa International Airport, there are the people, and there is the blinking.

Those blue-lit Bluetooth wireless cell phone earpieces: They aren't everywhere, at least not yet, but they're getting there: 33-million sold in 2005, tracking to 60-million in 2006, continuing to double or so every year for the foreseeable future.

This trend is more than just folks looking like something off the Star Trek set. It is, say some academics, cultural critics and industry analysts, the latest of inevitable steps in the blurring of the line between man and machine.




At the airport early one recent morning, a guy in black slacks was standing at the magazine rack.

"I like machines a lot better than humans," businessman Richard Will, 58, said before flying home to Knoxville, Tenn. "I just have to interface with humans to do business."

Eddie Morrell is 20 and works at one of the two Cingular kiosks in St. Petersburg's Tyrone Square Mall. He said he sometimes falls asleep with the thing still on his ear.

"Once you start," he said, "you don't go back."

First the phone sat on our desk next to the Rolodex. Then it lost its cord. Then it crept into our purses and pockets.

Now it's on us. Clinging like a caterpillar to our cartilage.

When, then, will it be in us?

Some still scoff at the idea of Borglike implants. But plenty of others say it's inevitable. Even coming soon.

"This gets into the question not so much what we're going to be capable of; it's more a question of what we as a species decide we want," said Joel Garreau, "cultural revolution correspondent" for the Washington Post and author of the recent book Radical Evolution. "This is a conversation about what it means to be human."

"We call it the Bluetooth ecosystem," said Ed Valdez, chief operating officer of Parrot, a leading manufacturer of headsets and accessories. "We believe everything in a consumer's life revolves around their cell phone."

More than 200-million Americans and 2-billion people worldwide have cell phones. Studies from Michigan to MIT say a majority of us think we can't live without them . . . and think they're the most irritating of modern technologies.

Next up: Bluetooth.

One in six cell phones was Bluetooth-compatible at the end of 2005. By the end of this year, that's expected to be one in three, Valdez said. And by the end of '07, more than half.

Bluetooth is not just used in headsets. The wireless technology allows one device to talk to another within a small network. It is also used in hands-free car kits, computers, MP3 players, PDAs, mice, keyboards, printers, gaming consoles - any device that can be synched to another so they can be synched with you.

Oakley and Motorola partnered up for Bluetooth stereo sun specs. The snowboard company Burton sells a Bluetooth-enabled jacket. Watch phones are on the market.

And the headsets figure to follow three of the few guarantees when it comes to technology: They'll get cheaper, they'll get smarter and they'll get smaller.

Until . . .

"We're going to wind up in essence with 'intelligent earrings,' " said Paul Levinson, professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University in New York and author of Cellphone: The Story of the World's Most Mobile Medium and How It Has Transformed Everything!

And then . . .

"The size is going to continue to decrease until it disappears," Garreau said.

And then . . .

Kevin Warwick, a cyborg expert at the University of Reading, England, told the San Francisco Chronicle last year that implants are "the next step" and "a relatively minor one."

"I think they'll go internal pretty soon," Levinson said. "Not in a matter of months. But maybe five or 10 years from now.

"Every new technology, you can almost begin to map the pace of its development, its dissemination to the public, how quickly it sprouts new features. I'm looking at what's happened between '01 and '06, and then I'm just extrapolating and projecting - if anything, the pace will pick up even more. Five to 10 years may even be a little conservative."

A cyborg is a human with robotic enhancements. Some people are cyborgs already.

By the most basic definition, in fact, people with pacemakers and some prosthetics are cyborgs. Cochlear implants help deaf people hear; they're computers embedded in the skull. And just last month, a 26-year-old from Arkansas became the first woman to get a bionic arm, which uses sensors and commands from the brain to make the mechanical arm move.

Cassette tapes were new once.

So were microwaves.

So were cars.

Now, though, the pace of technological change gets faster every year, exponentially.

"We're moving inside" the body with cell phones, said James Hughes, a bioethicist and sociologist at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., and author of Citizen Cyborg. "My opinion is it is realistic. But for at least a couple of decades, I don't think it's going to be terribly attractive to open up our heads."

Longtime mobile industry analyst Bob Egan agrees. "I don't think the mainstream population is ready to make that leap," said Egan, with Emerging Technologies in Needham, Mass.

But Valdez thinks it at least will be an option.

"I do foresee that coming, maybe 10 years from now," he said last week from his office in Austin, Texas.

Dill, the man in the airport, said he wanted anything that would make him more efficient - except that.

A cell phone implant? The self-described toy freak said no. No way.

But things change. Ten years ago, only about 30-million Americans had cell phones. They were clunky, and as big as a brick, and Bluetooth might as well have been sci-fi stuff, and implants embedded in our heads was a conversation to be had over popcorn at the megaplex.

Not anymore.

"I'm interested in what this means for the future of humans," Garreau said. "Not off in the distant future - in the next two, three, 10, 15 years, in our lifetimes and those of our children.

"It's not about the little piece of plastic," he said. "It's about the future of human connection."




Michael Kruse can be reached at or 352 848-1434.

[Last modified October 4, 2006, 21:17:07]

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Teams picked for DARPA Urban Race

From TomsHardware:
Culver City (CA) - The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has picked the first eleven teams for next year's Urban Challenge race. In the race, robotic cars from each team will have to complete an urban, obstacle filled 60-mile course in less than six hours. In return for giving up some technology rights, each team will receive up to $1 million in funding before the race.

DARPA is a military research agency and the technology from the race will eventually help make autonomous supply trucks. It's no surprise that delivering supplies is a dangerous job, especially in war-torn areas like Iraq and Afghanistan. The Urban Challenge course will try to simulate the environment by running vehicles through a city-like environment where traffic laws must be obeyed.

This is the third robotic race held by the DARPA agency with the first two being the Grand Challenge races. You may remember that the first Grand Challenge race was a bust with all the robotic vehicles only completing a few miles. However, five teams completed the second race with Stanford being the winner.

Many of the selected teams also entered vehicles in the first two races. Stanford will enter a tricked-out Passat, while the other teams will use more refined and smaller vehicles than in the desert-based Grand Challenge race.

The other teams are a mix of universities and heavy-duty aerospace and trucking companies. Here is the complete list: Autonomous Solutions, California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University, The Golem Group, Honeywell Aerospace Advanced Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Oshkosh Truck, Raytheon, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

The eleven teams picked so far are in Track A, while Track B teams will be picked in the coming months. Track A teams receive up to $1 million in DARPA funding for completing technical milestones leading up to the race. Track B don't receive any money, but get to tackle the same course.

The Urban Challenge race will happen on 3 November 2007 in a still to be named area in the western United States.

Boeing, USAF conduct first-ever laser test using recycled fuel

A U.S. Air Force-Boeing team has successfully demonstrated the world’s first laser powered by recycled fuel. This technology could be used with a future Advanced Tactical Laser aircraft, depicted here.

A U.S. Air Force and Boeing team has successfully demonstrated the world’s first laser powered by recycled fuel.

During an Aug. 24 test at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Davis Advanced Laser Facility in Albuquerque, N.M., a chemical laser was supplied with its two main fuels -- basic hydrogen peroxide and chlorine, which were regenerated from waste products produced during prior laser operations. Testers fired the laser at high power, proving its performance.

This fuel recycling process can be continued indefinitely, providing a practical way to fuel laser weapons for the Air Force and other military services without the complexity and cost of periodically supplying new fuel to the battlefield and removing used fuel for disposal. With the test’s successful conclusion, the laser is ready for affordable, low-risk weapons applications that meet warfighter needs.

"This demonstration is a technological breakthrough because it shows that lasers can operate effectively and reliably on recycled fuel," said Pat Shanahan, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems. "Fuel regeneration will eliminate the need to periodically replace fuel on the battlefield, making it easier for the warfighter to use and maintain laser weapons."

The regenerated fuels were produced in miniaturized electrochemical reactors that were specially designed to collect the waste products of laser operations and convert them to fresh fuel. This conversion process is proprietary technology of The Boeing Company.

This technology could be used with follow-on programs to the Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL), which a Boeing-led industry team is developing for the Department of Defense through an Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD), or other next-generation directed energy tactical weapons. ATL ACTD, which will consist of a chemical laser installed in a C-130 aircraft, is designed to destroy, damage or disable ground targets with little to no collateral damage.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Intel buyout of NVIDIA?

From Engadget:
Rumors were flying today around Wall Street trading desks of a pending Intel buyout of NVIDIA, which helped the graphics company to a hefty raise in shares, but didn't do much to validate the whisperings that have been going around ever since AMD snapped up ATI in July. The word was the deal is supposed to go down tonight, so we'll keep an eye out for sure, but we're not holding our breath. There are reasons aplenty for Intel to stay away from NVIDIA, including a hefty asking price -- about three times that of ATI -- and of course the fact that Intel already has some rather successful integrated graphics thank you very much, so the key reasoning behind the AMD / ATI deal just isn't present here. All the same, it'd be pretty badass to have the two biggest CPU processor manufacturers duking it out with the two biggest GPU manufacturers under their respective wings, so we've got our fingers crossed for some gauntlet throwdown tonight.

Connect to 3G and Wi-fi

From Cnet:
Helio Hybrid is a new service that allows users to connect to both free and commercial Wi-Fi hotspots as well as a nationwide 3G mobile broadband network. Using specially designed software, the service automatically searches for the best wireless signal from free private or commercial Wi-Fi hotspots and from Sprint's 3G network. Then it automatically connects users to the best-performing network. Users get this network card for free if they sign up for a 2-year Helio Hybrid contract.

Fujitsu's Turn Table PC

From PCWorld:
Aspiring DJs to scratch and spin digital media files on the Turn Table PC, a prototype of a combo system from Fujitsu that can serve as a notebook or as a digital turntable. It may never be produced in this form, but it's turning heads at the Ceatec exhibition in Chiba, Japan this week, says our correspondent Sumner Lemon of the IDG News Service.

The design calls for a 20-inch LCD screen that can be folded closed to use the turntable function. Users control the turntable by a touch screen on the outside of the notebook's lid.

A Picture of the Internet (Topology)

Have you ever wondered what the internet would look like if you connected all the nodes? Well, the CAIDA did just that, both for IPv4 and IPv6, although IPv6's representation is more detailed.

If you have a look at the IPv6 graphic they made, you'll notice some interesting facts like, for instance, Europe is the country that has the most IPv6 Nodes. However the most observed node is NTT/Verio one in Japan. You can find it near the center of the more detailed IPv6 topology graphic.
In comparison with the IPv4 AS graph, the IPv6 AS graph is much sparser with drastically fewer nodes and less richness of peering observed. The geographical patterns of the graphs also differ. While the majority of ISPs with the highest outdegrees in IPv4 space are all located in the U.S., the company with the richest observed IPv6 peering is NTT/Verio headquartered in Japan, with 141 peers. The largest cluster of high degree IPv6 AS nodes is in Europe (clustered around Tiscali which is headquartered in Germany) in the graph.

Of the dominant ASes in the IPv4 AS graph, only SprintLink and UUNET are near the core in the IPv6 graph, and only SprintLink shows rich IPv6 connectivity. This disparity is consistent with the U.S. industrial attitude toward IPv6 as still more experimental rather than operational reality.This visualization represents a macroscopic snapshot of the IPv6 Internet topology collected around March 4th, 2005. Topology data gathered from 17 monitors probing approximately 860 globally routable IPv6 network prefixes include 2,913 IPv6 addresses and 7,905 IPv6 links (immediately adjacent addresses in a traceroute-like path).

We aggregate this view of the network into a topology of Autonomous Systems (ASes). Each AS approximately corresponds to an Internet Service Provider (ISP). We map each IPv6 address to the AS responsible for routing it, i.e., to the origin (end-of-path) AS for the IPv6 prefix representing the best match of this address in Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) routing tables. We use the largest publicly available set of core BGP routing tables, collected by RIPE. The resulting abstracted AS graph consists of 333 Autonomous System (AS) nodes and 1,304 AS-links (peering sessions).

Zune Won't Kill the IPod

Zune in BlackZune in BlackFrom Wired:
Microsoft's soon-to-be-released Zune MP3 player is a sure-fire iPod killer -- if you believe what you been reading in the press recently.

There's nothing the press likes more than a good fight, and the Zune looks like a worthy contender for the iPod's heavyweight crown.

The tech press loves the Zune because of its specs. They tally up the features and conclude the Zune is better because there's more stuffed inside.

When it launches next month, the Zune will cost $250 for 30 GB -- just like the equivalent iPod. But the Zune also has Wi-Fi for wirelessly trading songs; a larger, 3-inch screen (good for widescreen movies); and will connect to Microsoft's Zune Marketplace music service, which will sell songs at 99 cents each and offer a $15 a month subscription plan.

The Zune will definitely have an impact. That's guaranteed by Microsoft's clout, and is why music labels, movie studios and accessory makers are jumping on the Zune bandwagon.

But although the Zune looks good on paper, it's not going to kill the iPod because of three things:

1. It's not cool and never will be.

The iPod is streets ahead in the things that really matter: ease of use, aesthetics and -- here's the tough one -- cool. The Zune is not cool. You can tell that at a glance. Take the choice of colors. It'll come in black, white and brown.

Wait a sec -- brown? Surely this is some sick joke gone horribly wrong. Or are they trying to rip off LG's Chocolate phone?

The Zune's best bet is waiting it out until the iPod becomes passé, which seems unlikely given that Apple is constantly redesigning and refreshing the device.

2. The Zune will be locked down tighter than the queen's knickers.

The Zune's interesting features -- Wi-Fi sharing and the music subscription plan -- will be subject to a strict digital rights management scheme, and given Microsoft's reputation in this area (PlaysForShit) -- I'll bet the Zune will drive customers to the iPod.

After all, PlaysForSure is such a technical and marketing disaster Microsoft is abandoning it altogether in favor of the Zune, which will attempt to tightly integrate hardware, software and services, just like the iPod.

But whereas Apple's FairPlay digital rights management scheme seems to be working very well (surprisingly, there aren't widespread reports of glitches and problems), Microsoft's penchant for complex and glitchy verification systems bode ill for the device.

3. Wi-Fi song sharing will not catch on in public.

The Zune's only original feature is Wi-Fi song sharing, which will allow Zune owners to search for others nearby and temporarily trade songs over the air. Traded tunes will be playable up to three times over three days, and can be flagged on the player for later purchase online. Otherwise they disappear.

But while it's obvious that sharing songs will be fun with friends at school or college, it's not an activity that will take off in public. It'll largely be confined to peer groups.

How do I know this? Because that's what's happening with iTunes music sharing, which does more or less the same thing with a computer over a network, instead of peer-to-peer.

Think of the typical experience with iTunes at the office or conferences. Instead of finding all kinds of cool new bands, you marvel at the dreadful taste of your co-workers.

Granted, offices and conferences aren't the best feeding grounds, but where is? There are no hip cafes or bars that I know forging reputations for being good places to hang out and browse other peoples' music libraries.

Will this happen wirelessly with the Zune? Will teenagers gather at the mall or the park to share tunes, sitting around quietly with their headphones on?

I don't see it. It will happen at concerts and clubs where like-minded music lovers will share music they already know they like -- and it'll be kinda awkward and nerdy. Remember swapping business cards with your Palm Pilot via infrared?

And while it might be interesting to take a sneak peek at what the thug at the back of the bus is listening to, it won't be a great strategy for discovering new music. There just won't be enough Zune users around.

The only place I can think of in the United States where the Zune might be good for browsing others' music is on an airplane. But will the airlines allow wireless song sharing mid-flight?

Plus, iTunes shows that many people are so self-conscious of their music collections, they will turn off sharing altogether or carefully prune their library to present themselves in the best possible light.

Wi-Fi song sharing will be more about managing your image in public than sharing music.

But of course, for a lot of people, that's the point: Music-clerk types will show off their bona fides by loading their Zune with obscure indie bands, while the rest of us will be frantically deleting treasured show tunes for fear of looking ridiculous.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Imorphosis shows off automatic podcast downloader

From TomsHardware:
Are you a podcast addict, but can't stand the hassle or the time needed to download all your new episodes? Imorphosis, a San Ramon, CA-based company, is developing a podcast appliance that automatically downloads and synchronizes podcasts to your Ipod and most other MP3 players. The ivory white docking unit has a Cat 5 Ethernet connection to directly download the podcasts, without a computer.

Imporhposis representatives showed off the prototype unit at the Podcast and Portable Media Expo recently held in Ontario, California. Podcasts are subscribed to through a web interface and then the user just has to dock their iPod or connect another MP3 player via the USB port. Company representatives told us that players from iRiver and Creative Labs are supported and that the dock also charges the iPod.

Now the unit doesn't actually store the podcasts in memory and merely alerts the user that a new episode is available with a blinking light. Downloads start when you dock or plug in the player and representatives told us that the unit also automatically deletes old podcast episodes.

The Imorphosis unit should be available in two to three months for under $100.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Five Reasons Zune May Kill iPod

From ECT:
"With the Zune, students will be free to share music, videos and photos right there in class. They'll be able to pass notes to one another. The Zune isn't just a solitary music player. Think of it as a portable, wireless, hardware version of MySpace," said Computerworld's Mike Elgan.

While many pundits don't expect Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) to make much of a dent in Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) share of the MP3 player market -- rather, the company is expected to cannibalize sales of other competitors -- Computerworld's Mike Elgan believes that the Zune "scares Apple to the core."

He offered five reasons: a consumer media "perfect storm" launched by Microsoft; Zune's social and viral aspects; the ultimate availability of more programming than iTunes; a better screen for movies; and the "cool factor."

Market Forces

Explaining the first one, Elgan said that Microsoft "will leverage the collective power of Windows XP, Windows Vista, Soapbox (Microsoft's new 'YouTube killer') and the Xbox 360" as part of the Zune's launch. He also claimed that "Apple once commanded 92 percent of music player market share, a number that has since fallen to around 70 percent," and sees Microsoft's 90 percent-plus share of the computer operating systems market as a key factor on its side.

However, that 92 percent figure was Apple's share only of hard drive-based MP3 players, not the entire market, which also includes flash-based devices. For example, an October 2004 Cnet article noted that fact, which was before Apple entered the flash market. In May 2005, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said that his company had 58 percent of the flash market, just four months after the launch of the iPod shuffle (then Apple's only flash-based music player), 90 percent of the hard drive-based market, and 40 percent of the overall market.

In February of this year, BusinessWeek reported that Apple had 69 percent of the overall market, and earlier this month, a pair of Gartner (NYSE: IT) analysts pegged that number at 75.6 percent. Recent reports have dropped the distinction between Apple's share of the hard drive-based market versus its piece of the flash-based market, since the year-ago introduction of the iPod nano dramatically changed the industry's landscape. Apple also no longer breaks down its iPod sales into individual model units.

Elgan, however, sees a key advantage for Zune in its ability to plug into the Xbox. "The Zune Marketplace will be integrated with, and promoted by, the Xbox Live Marketplace," he wrote. "Apple faces the prospect of competing not with the Zune alone, but with a mighty Windows-Soapbox-Xbox-Zune industrial complex."

Sharing Fever

Regarding his second point, the writer pointed to the popularity of YouTube, MySpace and other social networking sites as the reason why the Zune's peer-to-peer wireless music sharing "is both social and viral. Tweens, teens and twenty-somethings have acquired the habit of feverishly sharing videos and songs.

"With the Zune, students will be free to share music, videos and photos right there in class. They'll be able to pass notes to one another. The Zune isn't just a solitary music player. Think of it as a portable, wireless, hardware version of MySpace."

More Content, Bigger Screen

While he acknowledged that Apple "deserves a lot of credit" for being at the forefront of digital media sales, Elgan said that "the value of iTunes, Marketplace and other music stores will be judged by the quantity, quality and price of available media -- not who got there first."

While Microsoft won't be selling movies and TV shows until next year, he noted that the company has more movie studios lined up to offer content, compared to Apple's single offering (Disney).

Of course, Disney (NYSE: DIS) was Apple's sole partner when it began selling TV shows, and today it offers a wide array of them from many networks.

When it comes to watching that content, he said that "the Zune's screen is just as good -- and larger than the iPod's. More importantly, it can be turned sideways for a wide-screen movie experience, which is vastly superior to watching movies on an iPod."

Surprisingly Cool

As for the "cool factor," Elgan offered this: "The Zune is unlike any product Microsoft has ever shipped. It's actually very nicely designed, surprisingly minimalist and -- dare I say it? -- 'cool.' Zune marketing looks cool, too. The user interface is fluid and appealing -- and, again, like MySpace -- customizable. Users will be able to personalize the Zune interface with photos, 'themes,' 'skins' and custom colors."

He concluded: "The iPod is the soul of Apple's entire business. Apple has been relatively successful at winning converts from Windows to Mac OS X , for example, in part because its whole product line basks in the glow of iPod's success, hipness and ubiquity. Apple has recently and preemptively lowered the price of iPods, announced an iTV set-top box -- which will ship later than Vista -- and is probably working feverishly on a bigger-screen, wirelessly enabled iPod.

"All these efforts may not be enough to save the iPod from the Microsoft consumer media juggernaut. Microsoft has the money, the clout, the partnerships, the mind share and the market share to drive Vista, Soapbox, Xbox and Zune into lives of hundreds of millions of consumers."

© 2006 The Mac Observer, Inc.. All rights reserved.
© 2006 ECT News Network. All rights reserved.

NVIDIA to launch DirectX 10 G80 in mid-November?

From Bit-tech:
Sources cited by Digitimes claim that NVIDIA will launch the world's first DirectX 10-compliant graphics processing unit, codenamed G80, in mid-November.

The sources state that the the demand for the card will depend on the success of Microsoft's upcoming Windows Vista operating system, because it is the only operating system capable of supporting the DirectX 10 API.

Details of the card itself are incredibly thin and NVIDIA has remained tight-lipped. However, some supposed images of a reference card popped up on Chinese website PCOnline. The pictured card has two 6-pin PCI-Express power adapters and one image shows an integrated watercooling solution, but the images are not verified by an official source.

Digitimes also indicated that ATI's R600 chip is not expected to appear this year. Instead, consumers will have to wait until the first quarter of 2007 before they see any kind of competition for NVIDIA's next-generation part.

From Digitimes"Nvidia is expected to announce the world's first DirectX 10-compliant graphics chip, the GeForce 8800 (codenamed G80), in the middle of November, graphics card makers revealed. However, despite the advantage of early launch, demand for the new graphics processing unit (GPU) will depend on penetration rate of the new Windows Vista OS and availability of new PC games supporting DirectX 10, the makers indicated.

With Shader Model 4.0 support, DirectX 10 will improve visualization and rendering capabilities utilized in PC games, also reducing CPU overhead, according to the makers. It means that game developers will get additional space to make their games more sophisticated, said the makers.

The makers expressed the doubt that ATI's next-generation R600 chip, which is also expected to support DirectX 10, may appear in the market before 2007. Nevertheless, ATI will continue benefit from its close relationships with Microsoft around the Xbox 360, the makers said.

Since DirectX 10 is positioned as a Vista-only solution, with presumably no ability to work with previous Windows versions, Nvidia's move to launch the GeForce 8800 in November should rather be considered as a symbolic step, said industry sources. So far, Microsoft only promised that Windows Vista will run DirectX 9.0, allowing to later upgrade it to DirectX 10 via Windows Update, the sources indicated. When Microsoft releases a DirectX 10-capable OS, ATI will perhaps catch up with the competition, the sources added.
From Digitimes:

Nvidia is expected to announce the world's first DirectX 10-compliant graphics chip, the GeForce 8800 (codenamed G80), in the middle of November, graphics card makers revealed. However, despite the advantage of early launch, demand for the new graphics processing unit (GPU) will depend on penetration rate of the new Windows Vista OS and availability of new PC games supporting DirectX 10, the makers indicated.

With Shader Model 4.0 support, DirectX 10 will improve visualization and rendering capabilities utilized in PC games, also reducing CPU overhead, according to the makers. It means that game developers will get additional space to make their games more sophisticated, said the makers.

The makers expressed the doubt that ATI's next-generation R600 chip, which is also expected to support DirectX 10, may appear in the market before 2007. Nevertheless, ATI will continue benefit from its close relationships with Microsoft around the Xbox 360, the makers said.

Since DirectX 10 is positioned as a Vista-only solution, with presumably no ability to work with previous Windows versions, Nvidia's move to launch the GeForce 8800 in November should rather be considered as a symbolic step, said industry sources. So far, Microsoft only promised that Windows Vista will run DirectX 9.0, allowing to later upgrade it to DirectX 10 via Windows Update, the sources indicated. When Microsoft releases a DirectX 10-capable OS, ATI will perhaps catch up with the competition, the sources added.

ATI Steps Into Stream Computing

From Extremetech:
Call it Stream Computing, call it GP-GPU: It all refers to the same thing—using the massively parallel-processing power of modern graphics cards to perform certain non-graphics tasks.
Some types computing problems require crunching numbers (usually floating-point math) on huge sets of data. Some of these require lots of branching logic, others can be handled in more of a streaming fashion. The latter type of task is the perfect candidate for GP-GPU (general-purpose computing on GPUs) acceleration.

Today, ATI announced its Stream Computing Initiative. ATI's products are already in desktop and laptop computers, game consoles, handheld devices, and televisions. Now the company aims to move into enterprise computing, targeting the market traditionally served by HPC, or High Performance Computing. Think computing clusters made to solve big-math problems—atmospheric analysis, airflow simulation for cars or planes, crash simulation, seismic analysis in the oil industry, medical research, cryptography, that kind of thing.

The Future of Parallel Computing?

Are GPUs the future of massively parallel computing tasks? We wouldn't go so far as to say that. The CPU will continue to be very important, and ATI reiterated several times that it is "not trying to compete with the CPU." Still, there are certain kinds of tasks that, given the right software, will map very well onto the GPU's processing capabilities. When that happens, the increase in raw performance, performance per watt, and performance per cubic foot goes through the roof. We're only in the infancy of this technology, and software solutions like PeakStream will make it easier for supercomputer clusters to take advantage of the highly parallel floating-point-crunching power of the GPU. Future graphics architectures from both ATI and Nvidia will be better suited to GP-GPU tasks, offering even better performance.

High Performance Computing is all about parallel processing, and everyone who builds a supercomputer worries about how they're going to give it enough power, how they're going to cool it, how much space and weight it takes up, and how much it costs. If a GPU can run many parts of the simulation software 10 to 20 times faster than a CPU, you can quickly see how a bunch of 3U servers with two or even four graphics cards would dramatically increase performance without taking up more space or power. It could be that, within a few years, the most powerful supercomputers in the world will leverage hundreds of graphics cards. ATI today made it clear that they're working to make that happen, and they already have real-world scientific applications up and running with GPU acceleration. We expect to hear much more about this from Nvidia, too, in the not-too-distant future, as that company has also been working on the GP-GPU problem for years.

Netflix offers $1 million for a better review

From Cnet:
Netflix, the popular online movie rental service, is planning to award $1 million to the first person who can improve the accuracy of movie recommendations based on personal preferences.

To win the prize, which is to be announced Monday, a contestant will have to devise a system that is more accurate than the company's current recommendation system by at least 10 percent. And to improve the quality of research, Netflix is making available to the public 100 million of its customers' movie ratings, a database the company says is the largest of its kind ever released.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Novatel U720 USB EV-DO modem for Sprint

From Engadget:
Although there have been inklings in the past that Sprint was working on a USB EV-DO modem with Novatel Wireless, recent FCC approval documents have confirmed its existence and given us a first glimpse at what the modem actually looks like. In comparison to its peers, the U720 is visually appealing, although the single shot of the device doesn't provide a very good idea of its size thanks to the USB port being out of sight. Not that the style of the modem matters: we know people (read: MacBook owners) that would kill to see a USB EV-DO modem come to the States -- it's probably a good thing that the FCC approved the device then, eh?