Friday, July 31, 2009

Three Things to Know About Office Web Apps

A new post on the Office Web Apps blog discusses some of the major tenets that have been driving the design and engineering of this new service launching alongside the upcoming Office 2010 software. The post describes how the team focused on trustworthiness, the familiar Office user experience, and the high fidelity of the content provided by the Web Apps. From these notes, we can gleam a bit more insight into what the new Web Apps service is going to look like and how it will behave.

1. Web Apps Won’t Cause Data Loss and They Won’t “Mess Up” Your Documents
One of the problems with some online file viewers and editors today is that they can “mess up” your document when you go to save it online. If the service in question doesn’t support a particular feature, for example, it won’t know how to properly display it. That won’t be the case with the Web Apps since they’re specifically designed to work hand-in-hand with the desktop software. For example, if a user uploads a file with a watermark, a feature which the initial release of Office Web Apps won’t support the editing of, the user can still make changes to the file and resave it without the Watermark being removed from the document. In other words, your files are safe.

2. Web Apps Will “Feel” Like Office
The Office Web Apps will deliver a familiar experience to the end user by offering a recognizable UI with many of the same features including matching icons, the same commands, the Ribbon interface at the top, and more. However, the goal is not to create an exact replica of the Office software UI. Instead, Web Apps will take advantage of the web platform’s strengths.

Web Apps will also offer a similar experience to what you would have in Office, even though the effects of this may be subtle. To give an example, the blog post demonstrated the difference as to how Microsoft Word would behave when you hit “enter” in a table versus how a basic text editor would behave.

3. The Document Always Looks and Acts the Same
The Office Webs Apps will ensure that no matter what kind of file you’re working with, it will always appear the same whether it’s being viewed on the web or on the PC. Not only will it appear with the same formatting and layout, everything in the document will be consistent, too, whether that’s calculations, animations, pagination, etc. In this respect, Web Apps docs behave much like the Adobe PDF – always the same file no matter where it’s viewed.
More here...

What to Look For When Buying Used

• Walk around the vehicle, looking for signs of body repairs and patches of paint that differ slightly from the original. Run your hand along the panels to check for any rough bodywork that may have been re-sprayed. Minor scratches and chips can be fixed but cracks and impact craters are another story.

• Telltale signs of repair include one headlight that looks newer than the other.
• Rust can be in hidden places, such as the inside of doors.
• Don't forget to look for rust spots underneath the car, and check for signs of oil leaks and other defects at the same time.
• If you can, bring a magnet with you when viewing the car. Run it along the bodywork. It will not stick to filler, telling you if any panels have been crash-repaired.
• Study the condition of the tyre sidewalls, and check the tread for signs of uneven or excessive wear. Check that all tyres are the same size, too.

Under the Bonnet
• Be brave and look under the bonnet. Corroded battery terminals or holding brackets, an oily engine, frayed wiring and cracked hoses are all signs of neglect.
• A coating of oil or sludge on the inside of the radiator cap is cause for alarm. To check this, remove the radiator cap and rub your finger along the inside of the cap to see if there are any substance buildups. There shouldn't be any.
• Remove the radiator cap and start the engine from cold. Look out for air bubbles surfacing in the water, which could indicate a defective cylinder head gasket.
• Check the oil level. To do this, remove the dipstick and clean the oil off with some tissue. Dip the stick back into the oil reservoir and gauge how much oil is in the engine. There will be a level indicator on the dipstick to tell you the required oil level. Low levels of oil indicate poor maintenance or a possible oil leak. This can be extremely expensive to repair and in a worst case scenario cause the engine to seize.
• Brake fluid levels are crucial if there is no brake fluid, the vehicle will be unable to stop. The brake fluid reservoir is located under the bonnet in the back right-hand area of the engine bay. Remove the rubber cap to show the brake fluid level. Low fluid levels could signal a leak.
• To check the shock absorbers, bounce the corner of the vehicle up and down several times when you release it, you should feel the vehicle bounce back twice, any more and you may need new shock absorbers.

On the Inside
• Check the brake and clutch pedals. If they look overly new they may have been replaced for the wrong reasons; if they look old and worn the car may have covered a bigger distance than claimed. They should have average wear for the claimed mileage.
• Ensure that all the controls (including heater, wipers and so on) are working as they should. Examine the windscreen, which is an expensive item to replace.
• Check to see if the oil, brake and battery gauges light up. Problems with any of the three could signify mechanical issues or owners' neglect.
• Check the headlights, brake lights and reverse lights before you take it out for a test drive. Also, test the horn and indicators.
• Observe the steering, clutch and brakes; the steering should not move more than two inches in either direction without turning the wheels; once you put the vehicle in gear, how far does the clutch rise before the vehicle moves? If it doesn't work until it returns to its original location, it may need an adjustment or replacement (replacing a clutch can be expensive).

The Test Drive
• The wheel should be in the correct straight-ahead position. Although correcting any deviations could entail no more than a slight adjustment, it could also indicate suspension damage.
• While the engine is running you should listen to see if it "idles" well. This means that there should be a constant and steady ticking over.
• Loud knocking or whines should be checked out by a mechanic. It may just need to be tuned; however, it could also lead to more difficult mechanical repairs.
• Observe whether or not it is easy to change gear. If you hear a grinding noise there may be transmission or clutch problems. If it is only happening on one gear, it is more likely to be the transmission.
• If the steering wheel shakes when making a turn, there may be a suspension problem. If all appears well, take the vehicle up to motorway speed and up some hills to test its performance. If the steering wheel vibrates at higher speeds, there may be an alignment problem.
• Press the brake pedal down fully and hold for just under a minute- it should hold firm. If it doesn't there could be a leak and you should drive with extreme caution. Check brakes at a slow speed to see if there is any pulling, screeching or sticking. If there is a pull, they may simply have to be readjusted; however, if there is screeching, it could mean the brake shoes are worn and need work. When it is safe to do so, check the brakes at higher speed for the same problems.

More here...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Aeryon Scout & Tablet-based Control PC

Your local police may soon be packing flying surveillance bots. At the AlwaysOn Stanford Summit, Aeryon Labs President Dave Kroetsch gave a compelling pitch on his company, which makes a two-pound robot helicopter that has enough on-board intelligence and stability control to allow it to be flown by people who just point to locations on a Google Map-based interface.

The whole kit, including a table-based control module, fits in a suitcase-sized crate and can be quickly assembled in the field. After the user snaps the flying bot together, he or she just tells it where to go by pointing to a spot on a map. The device has a motion-compensated camera that can take 5-megapixel stills and stream video back to the operator's tablet.

The Aeryon Scout and its tablet-based control computer.
(Credit: Aeryon)

More specs: Kroetsch says the Aeryon Scout can fly in up to 30 mph winds for up to 20 minutes. It is limited to 500 feet in altitude (to fly under FAA restrictions). One kit costs $50,000.

Aeryon plans to sell to private security forces, and eventually police departments. Kroetsch is doing things in this order because it's easier to get a contract from a private firm than from a cash-strapped police department or grant-funded program at one.

Obvious other markets include construction (for site surveys), other public safety applications, and of course military.

The company is headquartered in Canada and hopes to have United States FAA approval for its flying robot within six months. Sadly, until that approval comes, the Scout is grounded Stateside. And that means no demos for reporters or buyers unless they head up to Canada.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Panasonic Robot Mascot Off To Le Mans

Panasonic wants to prove that its AA alkaline Evolta batteries are the best in the world--even though it already has a certificate from Guinness World Records.
The electronics giant plans to send its 12-inch Evolta robot car in France, where it will race around part of the Le Mans endurance circuit for as long as possible.
Evolta batteries have a 10-year shelf life. Panasonic boasts they're the longest-lasting batteries of their kind in the world.
Built of carbon fiber over an aluminum frame, the Evolta robot car (more like a tricycle) travels at a blinding top speed of 0.8 mph. It has two small forward motors powered by a pair of batteries in its robot driver's back, and autonomously follows a lead car emitting an infrared guide signal.
The robot, called "Mr. Evolta" in English, was designed by entrepreneur Tomotaka Takahashi, known for his designs for humanoid kit robots inspired by Japanese animation and science fiction.
Mr. Evolta is no stranger to challenges. Last year, he managed to climb out of the Grand Canyon--it took over six hours but he successfully scaled 1,700 feet after two aborted attempts. Check out the video below.
The Evolta campaign is another illustration of how Japanese manufacturers are willing to use robots as pitchmen in Japan, catering to an innate Japanese love of machines. Honda Motor's Asimo robot is probably a more effective "spokesperson" than any of its human colleagues.
How would people respond if GM replaced Fritz Henderson with a robot CEO?

More details..

Turn Your iPhone Into A Humanoid Robot

An enterprising tinkerer in Japan has turned an iPhone 3GS into a humanoid robot by wiring it to a mechanical body.
Meet "Robochan."

Check out the video. Robochan is perhaps disturbing, but undeniably cute. The anime face and leek-waving are nods to Hatsune Miku, a character created for Yamaha's Vocaloid singing synthesizer application. Hatsune is a virtual idol in Japan; one of her albums topped the Oricon music chart last month.
Robochan consists of a 3GS wired to a Kondo Kagaku KHR-2 HV kit robot through its doc connector. The 3GS serves as the controller for the humanoid body, a popular kit which retails for about $900 with much assembly required.
Robochan can speak, dance, wake you up at a preset time, learn motions taught by hand, and react when its screen is touched. 

More details... 

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

NASA: Robots Very Successful In Endeavour

Computer world- Shortly after the NASA space shuttle Endeavour undocked with the International Space Station this afternoon, officials called the mission's robotics work a huge success.

The shuttle and its seven-person crew spent 10 days, 23 hours and 39 minutes linked up with the space station to install the last of the Japanese laboratory there. And for those nearly 11 days at least one, if not two, robots were at work almost every day. Without them, the mission simply could not have been completed, according to Bill Jeffs, a NASA spokesman.

"This was a challenging mission from a robotics standpoint," Jeffs said in an interview with Computerworld today. "We used the robotic arm on the space station, the robotic arm on the space shuttle and the arm on the Japanese laboratory. In terms of robotics, it's been very challenging but very successful."

After the undocking, the Endeavour embarked on a so-called "fly-around" the space station which allows the astronauts still there to visually scan the outside of the shuttle for any problems with the critical heat shield. Once the inspection is completed, NASA pilot Doug Hurley is set to maneuver the shuttle away from the station and put it on a course to earth.

Endeavour is scheduled to land at 10:48 a.m. EDT on Friday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Before the mission, Holly Ridings, lead space station flight director for Endeavour, called it one of the most technical ever to be undertaken by NASA. With an ambitious schedule of five spacewalks, the astronauts onboard both the station and the shuttle used three robotic arms.

More here...

Ferrari's Innovative New V8—the 458 Italia

The Italia is the latest incarnation of the mid-rear engined Ferrari berlinetta and will be unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. While it's true that every Ferrari is innovative by definition, it's equally true that in the course of the Prancing Horse's history, certain cars have marked a genuine departure from the current range. This is very much the case with the Ferrari 458 Italia, which is a massive leap forward from the company's previous mid-rear engined sports cars.

The new model is a synthesis of style, creative flair, passion and cutting-edge technology, characteristics for which Italy as a nation is well-known. For this reason Ferrari chose to add the name of its homeland to the traditional figure representing the displacement and number of cylinders.

The Ferrari 458 Italia is a completely new car from every point of view: engine, design, aerodynamics, handling, instrumentation and ergonomics, just to name a few.

A two-seater berlinetta, the Ferrari 458 Italia, as is now traditional for all Ferrari's road-going cars, benefits hugely from the company's Formula 1 experience. This is particularly evident in the speed and precision with which the car responds to driver inputs and in the attention focused on reducing internal friction in the engine for lower fuel consumption than the F430, despite the fact that both overall displacement and power have increased. However, Ferrari's track experience makes its presence felt in the 458 Italia not only in terms of pure technological transfer but also on a more emotional level, because of the strong emphasis on creating an almost symbiotic relationship between driver and car. The 458 Italia features an innovative driving environment with a new kind of steering wheel and dashboard that is the direct result of racing practice. Once again input from Michael Schumacher—who was involved from the very start of the 458 Italia project—played an invaluable part.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Nissan Unveils All-Electric Sedan Prototype

Nissan gave a glimpse of its plans to make an all-electric sedan that will go 100 miles on a charge and have a suite of online features to aid drivers.

The company on Monday showed off an electric car prototype, based on the Tiida mid-size sedan. It said that an all-electric production car with a unique design will be unveiled on August 2 at its Yokohama, Japan headquarters and go on sale in 2010 in Japan and the U.S.

The electric sedan will connect to Nissan's data centers to provide drivers with information and support, according to the carmaker.

Nissan's EV prototype, an electric power train fitted onto a Tiida/Versa mid-size Versa sedan.
(Credit: Nissan)

The EV-IT system will display on a map how much driving range they have left and can calculate whether a car can make it to a pre-set destination. The system can point drivers to available charging stations within driving range.

The driver can also remotely view a battery's charge and turn on the air conditioner from a Web-connected computer or phone. Charging can be scheduled to take advantage of off-peak rates, too.

The car itself is built around Nissan's electric motor and a 24-kilowatt-hour battery pack which is placed under the car. With generative braking that charges the car during deceleration and braking, Nissan estimates that drivers can get 100 miles on a charge, although it notes that range depends on conditions and driving styles.

Although it lags in hybrids, Nissan has been one of the most aggressive in developing all-electric sedans. It is already testing the EV-02, which is based on the Nissan Cube chassis. It also has a partnership to work with Better Place, which provides consumers with charging points and access to battery-swapping stations in exchange for subscription plans.

Nissan has not announced prices, but a company representative told the Associated Press in Japan that the electric vehicle would be "competitive" with gasoline cars.

Because of the limitations on driving range and the high cost of batteries, other automakers including Toyota and General have said they expect consumers will favor gasoline-electric cars.

Along with Tesla Motors, start-ups Coda Automotive and Detroit Electric are making all-electric cars which they say will have enough range for daily driving for many people.

More here...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Female Robot Takes To The Catwalk

The latest hot model about to grace the catwalks of Japan made an appearance today. Fluttering her eyelids, HRP-4C as she is known, was unveiled by scientists as the most human-looking robot yet.

Rory Cellan-Jones has been taking a look.

Robotic Fish to Mimic Swimming

Researchers at the University of Bath are to build a robot to help understand how fish swim against the flow.

A consortium of five institutions have been awarded £1.5m to create the swimming robot trout.

The Ocean Technologies Lab at Bath will try to mimic the sense organ found in fish which allows them to detect the flow of water and react to it.

It is hoped the robot can be used in future for pollution control and monitoring the world's ecosystems.

It could also be used to study marine life near the seashore.

Complex controls

Dr William Megill, Lecturer in Biomimetics at the University of Bath said: "Currently, most aquatic robots can't manoeuvre very well in the shallow water near the shore because they just get smashed against the rocks by the force of the waves.

"However, even in a tsunami, fish manage to sense and swim against the current so that they stay in the water, rather than ending up on the beach.

"So this project is interesting on two levels - firstly we want to understand more about how the fish manages to react to changes in current, and secondly we want to create a robot that mimics this artificially."

The fish's complex nervous system will be emulated by computer software, developed by the University of Verona, which will allow the robot to interpret changes in flow outside the robot so it can adjust its swimming behaviour to compensate accordingly.

The FILOSE (Robotic FIsh LOcomotion and SEnsing) project is financed by the European Union.

More details at BBC...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Paging Dr. Robot

A revolutionary robot mounted with a high-tech camera is helping physicians treat and save soldiers -- from just about any location in the world.

In three years, army docs have conducted at least 200 medical interventions from remote locations, thanks to the device.

Dr. Kevin Chung, who directs the Burn Intensive Care Unit at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, is one doctor who has incorporated the cutting-edge technology into the care of his patients.

He is a frequent operator of the robot and regularly uses it to treat patients, including those he cared for when he was deployed to Iraq.

When he was in Baghdad, Chung used the robot to follow up with critically injured soldiers after they had returned to hospitals in the U.S, he told CNN.

The high-tech medical assistant is controlled from afar via a laptop and remote joystick. The robot is able to move easily because sensors located on its "torso" help it identify any obstacles in its path.

The camera on the wireless robot captures images of a patient from just about every angle, and a zoom option allows doctors a close-up view of their distant patient.

Besides the benefit of allowing doctors to be in more than one place at once, the high-tech medical robot can be a confidence booster for those working in combat zones.

On using the robot to see soldiers he had treated in Baghdad when they were back in the U.S., Chung recounted: "To visually see that patient in a bed, with stable vital signs, halfway around the world -- that did wonders just to be able to see that for all the staff."

More on CNN...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Google Indic Transliteration

Google Indic Transliteration offers an option for converting Roman characters to the Urdu characters. This lets you type Urdu words phonetically in English script and still have them appear in their correct alphabet. Note that this is not the same as translation -- it is the sound of the words that are converted from one alphabet
to the other, not their meaning. For example, typing "shukriya" transliterates into Urdu as:

Try it now!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Encrypted CCTV Protects The Innocent

MANY people are unhappy about being filmed by CCTV in case the footage is used against them in some way. Now a surveillance technology company has come up with a method of scrambling the images of anyone in CCTV film who is not a suspect.

3VR, based in San Francisco, says it should reassure members of the public who do not wish to be identifiable to police or lawyers, or even TV crime-stopper shows.

The technology uses 3VR's recently patented face-recognition algorithms to home in on known faces in crowds. An image-scrambling algorithm then blurs the faces and bodies of those who are not of interest and encrypts the blur pattern so that no one but the operator of the technology can unscramble it (see picture).
An image-scrambling algorithm blurs the faces of those in the footage who are not of interest

"This allows you to search for people on watch lists, for instance, but without capturing massive databases of innocent people," says Stephen Russell, 3VR's chairman. The company aims to supply the equipment to banks and retail chains so they can analyse CCTV footage for known suspects who install card skimmers on ATMs, for example.

The idea is unlikely to satisfy all privacy advocates, since scrambled footage is still open to abuse. "A safer approach is to record only when machine analysis detects something suspect- that way for 99.99 per cent of the time there is no recording of anything," says Mike Lynch of data-analysis company Autonomy.

Mercedes' Electric Gullwing

Mercedes and its performance arm AMG gave us a tantalising glimpse of the electric sports car of the maybe-not-so-distant future today with a cryptic outline of a new SLS AMG with electric drive. The Gull-winged electric SLS AMG uses four in-wheel electric motors with a combined peak output of 392 kW and a maximum torque of 880 Nm. By comparison, the current 6.3-litre V8-engined SLS AMG develops 420 kW, so performance will not be lacking.

The four electric motors are positioned near the wheels, substantially reducing the unsprung masses compared to wheel-hub motors. One transmission per axle transmits the power. This intelligent all-wheel-drive system allows dynamically optimised power transmission without any losses by means of Torque Vectoring in other words the specifically targeted acceleration of individual wheels. In its first pilot phase, the SLS AMG with electric drive incorporates a liquid-cooled high-voltage lithium-ion battery of modular design with an energy content of 48 kWh and a capacity of 40 Ah. The 400-volt battery is charged by means of targeted recuperation during braking whilst the car is being driven.

When it comes to dynamics, the electrically driven SLS AMG delivers an unequivocal statement: the swing-wing model accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in around 4 seconds putting it on the same high level as the SLS AMG with a 6.3-litre V8 engine developing 420 kW/571 hp.

"With the SLS AMG with electric drive, we wanted to redefine the super sports car. For us, it is not just about responsibility. We attach just as much importance to excitement and classic AMG performance," says Volker Mornhinweg, Chief Executive Officer of Mercedes-AMG GmbH.

The purely electric drive system was factored into the equation as early as the concept phase when the new swing-wing model was being developed by Mercedes-Benz and AMG. It is ideally packaged for the integration of the high-performance, zero-emission technology: by way of example, the four electric motors and the two transmissions can be positioned near the wheels and very low down in the vehicle. The same applies to the modular high-current battery, whose modules are located in front of the firewall, in the centre tunnel and behind the seats. Advantages of this solution include the vehicle's low centre of gravity and the balanced weight distribution ideal conditions for optimum handling, which the electrically powered SLS AMG shares with its petrol-driven sister model.

The installation of the drive components required no changes whatsoever to the swing-wing model's aluminium spaceframe body. And there were just as few constraints when it came to maintaining the excellent level of passive safety and high degree of long-distance comfort that are hallmarks of Mercedes cars.

The electrically powered SLS AMG sees Mercedes-Benz and AMG continuing to pursue their aim of minimising the amount of time it takes to bring about the electrification of the car. Their strategic involvement in Deutsche Accumotive GmbH & Co. KG, a joint venture between Daimler AG and Evonik Industries AG, will provide the battery technology. Daimler has the leading role in this joint venture for the development and production of batteries and battery systems for automotive applications.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tagging technology to track trash

The ebb and flow of thousands of pieces of household rubbish are to be tracked using sophisticated mobile tags.
It is hoped that making people confront the final journey of their waste will make them reduce what they throw away.
Initially, 3,000 pieces of rubbish, donated by volunteers, will be tagged in New York, Seattle and London.
"Trash is almost an invisible system today," Assaf Biderman, one of the project leaders at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told BBC News.
"You throw something into the garbage and a lot of us forget about it. It gets buried, it gets burned, it gets shipped overseas."
The Trash Track aims to make that process - termed the "removal chain" - more transparent.
Friends of the Earth's Senior Waste Campaigner Michael Warhurst said the project could be a "useful tool" for highlighting the impact of rubbish.
"[Waste] doesn't simply disappear when we throw it away, and all too often it ends up causing damage when it could be recycled instead.
"People must have much better information on - and control over - where their rubbish and recycling ends up."
Global waste
In order to monitor how the pieces of rubbish move around the cities and beyond, the MIT team has developed a small mobile sensor that can be attached to individual pieces of waste.
"It's like a miniature cell phone with limited functionality," said Carlo Ratti, another member of the project.
Each tag - encased in a protective resin - continuously broadcasts its location to a central server. The results can then be collected and plotted on a map in real time.

Volunteers can apply to have their trash tagged and tracked
"It's like putting tracers in your blood and seeing where it moves around your body," said Mr Biderman.
Because cell phone technology is cheap and - importantly - ubiquitous, the system should be able to track rubbish around the globe.
This could be important when tracking computers and electronic waste, which is often disposed of incorrectly, according to Mr Ratti.
"Some of them are shipped to Africa to pollute," he said.
The team aims to tag different types of waste from computers and cell phones to bags of garden waste.
The group is currently looking for volunteers to donate their trash.
The results of the US studies will be shown at two exhibitions in Seattle and New York during September.
'Zero waste'
The team stresses that it has tried to limit the impact of its study and of the technology, and limit the amount of extra waste it contributes to the "removal chain".
"We are adhering to the highest standards in terms of environmental impact," said Mr Biderman.
"The impact this could have on waste management and removal… could be significant, so these kinds of experiments could be much more useful than harmful for the environment."
The MIT team has previously revealed the movements of people around cities, such as Rome and Copenhagen, by analysing mobile phone signals.
They used a similar method to show how crowds moved around Washington during the inauguration of US President Barack Obama.
The tags used to track the rubbish are a departure from these more passive studies of city movements.
Ultimately, the team hopes that the technology can be miniaturised and made cheap enough that the tags could one day be attached to everything.
"Think about a future where thanks to smart tags we will not have waste anymore," said Mr Ratti. "Everything will be traceable."

More here...

Europe's new space truck takes shape

He knows the near-flawless maiden voyage of the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) last year does not mean the second flight is guaranteed to turn out the same way. Attention to detail is everything.

The follow-up ship - dubbed Johannes Kepler - is in the process of being assembled.

Its propulsion and avionics units are being prepared in Bremen, Germany. Its pressurised module which will hold the cargo - air, water, scientific equipment, food, and clothing - to be taken to the space station is being built in Turin, Italy.

The various segments should come together in September, into a single line of assembly that will lead to a launch in November 2010.

Thereafter, ATVs will fly every year for three years. The vehicle is no longer an experimental spacecraft; it is a production spacecraft. And to emphasise the point, if you walk through the cleanroom at EADS Astrium in Bremen, you can already see ATV-3 components.

"The whole integration process, from the first day until launch, is 28 months. So if you want to launch every 12 months, obviously you have to produce in parallel," explained Esa's Mr Dettmann.

The space freighter has huge significance for Europe.

On one level, it is the "subscription" Europe must pay to be part of the International Space Station "club". If Europe can deliver about six tonnes of supplies a year to the platform, it is guaranteed six-month residencies at the ISS for its astronauts.

But ATV has also been a test of European competency. It is the biggest, most sophisticated vehicle the bloc has ever flown in space. Its automatic rendezvous and docking technology allows it to find its own way to the station and attach itself without any human intervention.

By Jonathan Amos
Science reporter, BBC News

Full article here ...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Windows Embedded NavReady Overview

The next generation of portable navigation devices

Windows Embedded NavReady provides OEMs with powerful, innovative technologies to help them quickly bring to market smart, connected, service-oriented hand held portable navigation devices that can easily connect to online services, Bluetooth capable mobile phones, Windows-based PCs, and the Internet.

Features at a glance:

FootprintSmall Footprint (new componentized technologies that can be quickly incorporated into CE 5.0 designs)
Real-time OS:32-bit Native Real-Time Support Unified Kernel
Real-time OS:Customized Win 32 Applications
TrialAdds new components to existing Windows CE 5.0 platform builder installations (trial or full packaged product)
SupportSame support and product lifecycle as technologies released with Windows CE 5.0.
Windows Embedded CE Development Center (MSDN). Partner Resources.

Quickly build new connected PND devices that easily interact with Bluetooth phones, online services and Windows-based PCsHelp lower development costs and accelerate time to market by providing leading familiar development environments and world-class supportTap into a worldwide community of Windows Embedded experts

Power your devices with connectivity

Windows Embedded NavReady helps you quickly build portable navigation devices that provide end users with smart, connected, service oriented scenarios:

  • Key Bluetooth technologies
    NavReady enables rich hands-free scenarios, managed dial-up networking services, and a host of other Bluetooth features

  • Live Search For Devices
    The power to perform Live Search queries from the device to find Points of Interest, and much more.

  • Desktop-pass-through
    Enables applications on the device to establish desktop-pass-through connections to online services and the internet when the device is connected to a Windows-Based PC that has ActiveSync/WMDC installed and internet connection.

  • Windows SideShow
    Helps bring new experiences to PNDs via a connection to Many Windows Vista based PC’s*

  • MSN Direct
    Enables OEMs to incorporate MSN Direct technologies. These technologies can reduce users’ commute time while enhancing the travel experience by providing up-to-date information such as traffic alerts and fuel prices. To learn more details about MSN Direct, please visit:
Find out more about NavReady features from these white papers:

Build your devices with confidence

Windows Embedded NavReady helps device makers lower development costs and accelerate time to market by providing innovative technologies in a familiar and reliable development environment. You can use this platform with confidence because:

  • Windows Embedded NavReady helps protect the investment made by OEMs, partners, and SV’s on Windows CE 5.0 by providing new technologies in componentized form that can be quickly incorporated into new or existing CE 5.0 designs and helping accelerate their time to market.Your investment is protected. NavReady is delivered in componentized form so that it can be quickly incorporated into your new or existing Windows CE 5.0 designs.
  • Windows CE 5.0 developers will be able to download Windows Embedded NavReady components directly onto their workstations, and take immediate advantage of these innovative PND-focused technologies.
  • Windows Embedded NavReady components have the same world class support and product lifecycle as all technologies released with Windows CE 5.0

    More here...

Windows Embedded 'Quebec' Due In 2010

Although it hasn’t said much about its plans for a Vista-based successor to its Windows XP-based embedded operating system, Microsoft already is working on one.

Microsoft released during the first week of June a new test build of its latest Windows XP-based embedded operating system, known as “Windows Embedded Standard 2009,” the final version of which is slated to ship by the end of 2008.

However, Microsoft also is readying the 2010 successor to this product — another Windows Embedded release codenamed “Quebec.” Unlike the 2009 release of Windows Embedded, the Quebec product will make use of a number of features that are part of Windows Vista.

Microsoft is on tap to share some information about the Vista-based embedded release at its TechEd Developers Conference this week in Orlando. A first widescale Community Technology Preview (CTP) test build of Quebec is due out next year.

Microsoft’s Windows Embedded family of products, which Microsoft sells to device makers, is designed to power thin client terminals, point-of-service terminals, gaming devices, medical-imaging systems, DVRs and industrial-automation systems, among other products. Windows Embedded is not at the core of cell phones or ultra-low-cost PCs (ULPCs), however. Windows Mobile phones currently are built on top of a Windows CE-based core and ULPCs run full-fledged Windows. (Microsoft has OK’d ULPC makers shipping Windows XP on their systems through 2010.)

The forthcoming Quebec embedded release will include BitLocker drive encryption, Windows Firewall, Windows Defender, Address-Space Load Randomization — and on the memory-management front, support for SuperFetch, ReadyBoost and Dynamic System Address Space. On certain devices, the Quebec release will also provide as optional components Aero user-interface, Windows Media Player 11 and various Internet Explorer 7 features. Unlike Microsoft’s XP-based embedded releases, which are 32-bit only, Quebec will support both 32-bit x86 and 64-bit x64 processors.

Not surprisingly, support for all these features comes at a cost — size. According to a slide deck available to TechEd attendees, while Windows XP Embedded core’s minimum image size is around 40MB, according to a slide deck to be presented at TechEd on June 6, Quebec’s core is expected be around 300MB — not counting all the optional add-ons like Media Player, IE 7, etc.

The other cost is Quebec will require product activation; XP Embedded does not. The Quebec release will require basic retail activation or OEM activation. There will be a default evaluation product key that will allow the Quebec image to run for 30 days without activation.

Military Developing Robot-Insect Cyborgs

Instead of creating robots, researchers hope to augment actual insects

Instead of attempting to create miniature robots as spies, researchers are now experimenting with developing insect cyborgs or "cybugs" that could work even better. So far scientists can already control the flight of moths using implanted devices.

Miniature robots could be good spies, but researchers now are experimenting with insect cyborgs or "cybugs" that could work even better.

Scientists can already control the flight of real moths using implanted devices.

The military and spy world no doubt would love tiny, live camera-wielding versions of Predator drones that could fly undetected into places where no human could ever go to snoop on the enemy. Developing such robots has proven a challenge so far, with one major hurdle being inventing an energy source for the droids that is both low weight and high power. Still, evidence that such machines are possible is ample in nature in the form of insects, which convert biological energy into flight.

It makes sense to pattern robots after insects — after all, they must be doing something right, seeing as they are the most successful animals on the planet, comprising roughly 75 percent of all animal species known to humanity. Indeed, scientists have patterned robots after insects and other animals for decades — to mimic cockroach wall-crawling, for instance, or the grasshopper's leap.

Mechanical metamorphosis
Instead of attempting to create sophisticated robots that imitate the complexity in the insect form that required millions of years of evolution to achieve, scientists now essentially want to hijack bugs for use as robots.

Originally researchers sought to control insects by gluing machinery onto their backs, but such links were not always reliable. To overcome this hurdle, the Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems program is sponsoring research into surgically implanting microchips straight into insects as they grow, intertwining their nerves and muscles with circuitry that can then steer the critters. As expensive as these devices might be to manufacture and embed in the bugs, they could still prove cheaper than building miniature robots from scratch.

As these cyborgs heal from their surgery while they naturally metamorphose from one developmental stage to the next — for instance, from caterpillar to butterfly — the result would yield a more reliable connection between the devices and the insects, the thinking goes. The fact that insects are immobile during some of these stages — for instance, when they are metamorphosing in cocoons — means they can be manipulated far more easily than if they were actively wriggling, meaning that devices could be implanted with assembly-line routine, significantly lowering costs.

The HI-MEMS program at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has to date invested $12 million into research since it began in 2006. It currently supports these cybug projects:

* Roaches at Texas A&M.
* Horned beetles at University of Michigan and the University of California at Berkeley.
* Moths at an MIT-led team, and another moth project at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research.

Success with moths
So far researchers have successfully embedded MEMS into developing insects, and living adult insects have emerged with the embedded systems intact, a DARPA spokesperson told LiveScience. Researchers have also demonstrated that such devices can indeed control the flight of moths, albeit when they are tethered.

To power the devices, instead of relying on batteries, the hope is to convert the heat and mechanical energy the insect generates as it moves into electricity. The insects themselves could be optimized to generate electricity.

When the researchers can properly control the insects using the embedded devices, the cybugs might then enter the field, equipped with cameras, microphones and other sensors to help them spy on targets or sniff out explosives. Although insects do not always live very long in the wild, the cyborgs' lives could be prolonged by attaching devices that feed them.

More details here...

Miniature Robot Crawls Through Veins

The Technion - Israel Institute of Technology has unveiled a miniature crawling robot (ViRob) that measures just 1 mm in diameter and 14 mm in length. The ViRob has the potential to perform precise medical procedures inside the human body in order to diagnose and potentially treat artery blockage and cancer.

The Technion researchers, led by Professor Moshe Shoham, Head of the Kahn Medical Robotics Laboratory, have developed a basic prototype of the robot, which can move as fast as 9 mm per second.

Using tiny arms which allow it to withstand blood pressure, it can crawl through the inner walls of blood vessels, the digestive tract and the respiratory system in order to progress through veins and arteries. The robot is powered by an external magnetic field allowing it to be controlled for an unlimited amount of time during medical procedures.

The team at the Technion is examining the possibility of using the ViRob as a treatment for lung cancer. ViRob could assist in targeted drug delivery to lung tumours as well as take samples from different areas within the body.

In addition, a number of these micro robots could simultaneously treat a variety of metastases. Researchers also plan to install additional equipment on the robot, including electrodes, miniature drug capsule and other miniature equipment.

Prof. Moshe Shoham said, “This robot is a breakthrough in the biomedical industry, as it allows doctors to access inaccessible areas in the body with minimal invasion. The technology enables a targeted treatment without scattering materials to unnecessary areas in the body."

Military Robot Could Feed on Dead Bodies

It could be a combination of 19th-century mechanics, 21st-century technology — and a 20th-century horror movie.

A Maryland company under contract to the Pentagon is working on a steam-powered robot that would fuel itself by gobbling up whatever organic material it can find — grass, wood, old furniture, even dead bodies.

Robotic Technology Inc.'s Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot — that's right, "EATR" — "can find, ingest, and extract energy from biomass in the environment (and other organically-based energy sources), as well as use conventional and alternative fuels (such as gasoline, heavy fuel, kerosene, diesel, propane, coal, cooking oil, and solar) when suitable," reads the company's Web site.

That "biomass" and "other organically-based energy sources" wouldn't necessarily be limited to plant material — animal and human corpses contain plenty of energy, and they'd be plentiful in a war zone.

EATR will be powered by the Waste Heat Engine developed by Cyclone Power Technology of Pompano Beach, Fla., which uses an "external combustion chamber" burning up fuel to heat up water in a closed loop, generating electricity.

The advantages to the military are that the robot would be extremely flexible in fuel sources and could roam on its own for months, even years, without having to be refueled or serviced.

Upon the EATR platform, the Pentagon could build all sorts of things — a transport, an ambulance, a communications center, even a mobile gunship.

In press materials, Robotic Technology presents EATR as an essentially benign artificial creature that fills its belly through "foraging," despite the obvious military purpose.

Japanese Scientists's Robot-Insects

Police release a swarm of robot-moths to sniff out a distant drug stash. Rescue robot-bees dodge through earthquake rubble to find survivors.

These may sound like science-fiction scenarios, but they are the visions of Japanese scientists who hope to understand and then rebuild the brains of insects and programme them for specific tasks.

Ryohei Kanzaki, a professor at Tokyo University's Research Centre for Advanced Science and Technology, has studied insect brains for three decades and become a pioneer in the field of insect-machine hybrids.

His original and ultimate goal is to understand human brains and restore connections damaged by diseases and accidents -- but to get there he has taken a very close look at insects' "micro-brains".

The human brain has about 100 billion neurons, or nerve cells, that transmit signals and prompt the body to react to stimuli. Insects have far fewer, about 100,000 inside the two-millimetre-wide (0.08 inch) brain of a silkmoth.

But size isn't everything, as Kanzaki points out.

Insects' tiny brains can control complex aerobatics such as catching another bug while flying, proof that they are "an excellent bundle of software" finely honed by hundreds of millions of years of evolution, he said.

For example, male silkmoths can track down females from more than a kilometre (half a mile) away by sensing their odour, or pheromone.

Kanzaki hopes to artificially recreate insect brains.

"Supposing a brain is a jigsaw-puzzle picture, we would be able to reproduce the whole picture if we knew how each piece is shaped and where it should go," he told AFP.

"It will be possible to recreate an insect brain with electronic circuits in the future. This would lead to controlling a real brain by modifying its circuits," he said.

Kanzaki's team has already made some progress on this front.

In an example of 'rewriting' insect brain circuits, Kanzaki's team has succeeded in genetically modifying a male silkmoth so that it reacts to light instead of odour, or to the odour of a different kind of moth.

Such modifications could pave the way to creating a robo-bug which could in future sense illegal drugs several kilometres away, as well as landmines, people buried under rubble, or toxic gas, the professor said.

All this may appear very futuristic -- but then so do the insect-robot hybrid machines the team has been working on since the 1990s.

In one experiment, a live male moth is strapped onto what looks like a battery-driven toy car, its back glued securely to the frame while its legs move across a free-spinning ball.

Researchers motivate the insect to turn left or right by using female odour.

The team found that the moth can steer the car and quickly adapt to changes in the way the vehicle operates -- for example by introducing a steering bias to the left or right similar to the effect of a flat tyre.

In another, more advanced, test, the team severed a moth's head and mounted it onto the front of a similar vehicle.

They then directed similar odour stimuli to the contraption which the insect's still-functioning antennae and brain picked up.

Researchers recorded the motor commands issued by nerve cells in the brain, which were transmitted to steer the vehicle in real time.

The researchers also observed which neuron responds to which stimulus, making them visible using fluorescent markers and 3-D imaging.

The team has so far obtained data on 1,200 neurons, one of the world's best collections on a single species.

Kanzaki said that animals, like humans, are proving to be highly adaptable to changing conditions and environments.

"Humans walk only at some five kilometres per hour but can drive a car that travels at 100 kilometres per hour. It's amazing that we can accelerate, brake and avoid obstacles in what originally seem like impossible conditions," he said.

"Our brain turns the car into an extension of our body," he said, adding that "an insect brain may be able to drive a car like we can. I think they have the potential.

"It isn't interesting to make a robo-worm that crawls as slowly as the real one. We want to design a machine which is far more powerful than the living body."

Copyright © 2009 AFP.

Office 2010 Coming To The Web For Free

In a move that will likely expand its market reach while adding appeal to its product range, American software behemoth Microsoft has this week confirmed upcoming free Web-based iterations of its popular Office productivity suite.

Specifically, next year’s official launch of Office 2010 will be boosted by the online availability of scaled back versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.

Get Microsoft Silverlight

“We believe the web has a lot to offer in terms of connectivity,” a Microsoft product manager explained to the BBC.

“We have over half a billion customers world-wide and what we hear from them is that they really want the power of the web without compromise,” he added. “They want collaboration without compromise.”

According to Redmond-based Microsoft, more than 400 million customers armed with Windows Live accounts will receive online access to the free lightweight productivity applications.

A public beta period allowing for widespread testing and feedback collection regarding the free online Office suite is likely to be opened by the end of 2009.

In terms of the upcoming Office product range, Microsoft has said the new suite will be offered in five different editions – which is a reduction from the usual eight.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Windows Embedded @ Imagine Cup 2009

Solve the World's Toughest Problems

"I wish there had been an Imagine Cup when I was growing up. It gets people involved in seeing that software is changing the world."

- Bill Gates
Chairman, Microsoft Corp.

Everything that the world may become "someday" lies in the hands of young people today. As they look at the road ahead, their close relationship with technology enables them to dream in ways we never have before. Put the two together, and you have young minds holding the tools that can make their vision a reality.

This is the recipe that inspired Microsoft to create the Imagine Cup. What begins with a burst of inspiration and a lot of hard work can become a future software breakthrough, a future career, or a flourishing new industry. The Imagine Cup encourages young people to apply their imagination, their passion and their creativity to technology innovations that can make a difference in the world – today. Now in its eighth year, the Imagine Cup has grown to be a truly global competition focused on finding solutions to real world issues.

Open to students around the world, the Imagine Cup is a serious challenge that draws serious talent, and the competition is intense. The contest spans a year, beginning with local, regional and online contests whose winners go on to attend the global finals held in a different location every year. The intensity of the work brings students together, and motivates the competitors to give it their all. The bonds formed here often last well beyond the competition itself.

Following are the videos of Image Cup 2009 held in Cairo...

Windows Embedded @ Imagine Cup 2009 - Days 1

Windows Embedded @ Imagine Cup 2009 - Days 2

Windows Embedded @ Imagine Cup 2009 - Days 3

Windows Embedded @ Imagine Cup 2009 - Days 4

Windows Embedded @ Imagine Cup 2009 - Days 5

Get ready for Imagin Cup 2010 in Poland!

See more details here...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Norton AntiVirus 2010 Preview

Norton AntiVirus 2010 will be the fastest and lightest malware scanner Symantec has ever delivered. Norton AntiVirus scans faster and uses less memory than any other antivirus product on the market. Unlike free solutions from Microsoft, Norton AntiVirus includes intrusion detection to detect malicious code hidden in web sites before it can strike.

Norton AntiVirus’s pulse updates ensure that you are always plugged into Symantec’s global security grid and you are never more than a few minutes away from the latest update.

Improved Norton Safe Web technology blocks Internet threats before they can infect your PC. So you can browse, buy and bank online with confidence. Plus, unlike other antivirus products, Norton AntiVirus 2010 provides easy-to-understand threat and performance information to help you avoid future threats and keep your PC running fast.

Note that you are required to register the product before download can commence.

Download here...

My Blog - Google Analaytic Report

Google Analytic is very handy tool to manage traffic on your website. Its easily integrable with any web page and very power tool to improve traffic on your website. Following is report for for 12th July 2009.

Map Overlay:

Avg. Time on Site
% New Visits
Bounce Rate
1. 134 1.81 00:03:37 2.24% 65.67%
2. 6 1.33 00:00:09 83.33% 66.67%
3. 6 1.50 00:03:23 16.67% 66.67%
4. 5 2.60 00:03:13 80.00% 60.00%
5. 5 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 40.00%
6. 4 1.75 00:04:35 100.00% 75.00%
7. 3 1.33 00:00:29 100.00% 66.67%
8. 3 1.00 00:00:00 33.33% 0.00%
9. 2 1.50 00:00:57 50.00% 50.00%
10. 2 1.50 00:00:12 100.00% 50.00%
11. 2 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 0.00%
12. 2 1.50 00:00:01 100.00% 50.00%
13. 2 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 30.00%
14. 2 1.00 00:00:00 50.00% 20.00%
15. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 10.00%
16. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 10.00%
17. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 30.00%
18. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 20.00%
19. 1 9.00 00:48:16 100.00% 0.00%
20. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 0.00%

Network Locations:

Network Location
Avg. Time on Site
% New Visits
Bounce Rate
1. 75 2.01 00:03:57 2.67% 60.00%
2. 59 1.54 00:03:12 1.69% 72.88%
3. 5 1.60 00:04:03 0.00% 60.00%
4. 3 1.00 00:00:00 33.33% 100.00%
5. 2 1.50 00:00:57 50.00% 50.00%
6. 2 1.00 00:00:00 50.00% 0.00%
7. 2 1.00 00:00:00 50.00% 0.00%
8. 2 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 20.00%
9. 2 1.00 00:00:00 50.00% 30.00%
10. 1 2.00 00:00:10 100.00% 0.00%
11. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 10.00%
12. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 10.00%
13. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 100.00%
14. 1 2.00 00:00:46 100.00% 0.00%
15. 1 8.00 00:14:50 100.00% 0.00%
16. 1 2.00 00:01:17 100.00% 0.00%
17. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 80.00%
18. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 100.00%
19. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 10.00%
20. 1 2.00 00:00:01 100.00% 0.00%
21. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 50.00%
22. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 10.00%
23. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 10.00%
24. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 40.00%
25. 1 2.00 00:00:23 100.00% 0.00%
26. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 30.00%
27. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 10.00%
28. 1 4.00 00:18:20 100.00% 0.00%
29. 1 2.00 00:01:26 100.00% 0.00%
30. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 10.00%
31. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 50.00%
32. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 30.00%
33. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 20.00%
34. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 30.00%
35. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 10.00%
36. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 20.00%
37. 1 9.00 00:48:16 100.00% 0.00%
38. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 50.00%
39. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 10.00%
40. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 10.00%
41. 1 1.00 00:00:00 100.00% 50.00%

Thanks you all for visiting my blog.

Stay tuned.