The office desk has become a second home to most adults who work a 9-5 job. It can be infuriating knowing that someone has sat in your chair or moved your pens. For this reason we have created the 10 Cool Office Desk Security Gadgets list for your perusal. Having these gadgets on and around your desk will ensure a.) Nobody steps near your territory, b.) people will think twice before before stealing something and c.) You get to have lots of fun. Check out the list of gadgets below.

1. Rubber Band Ring Shot

ringshot If you work in an office job the chances are you have a stash of rubber bands sitting around. The idea behind the ring shot is that an immovable rigid L is created on your index finger and thumb. You mount the rubber band on to this and fire away. This device eliminates the pain caused by a rubber band snapping on your fingers.



2. Shooting Cubicle Alarm System

tri-link-alarm This next office desk security gadget is perfect for the time you need to take a 5 minute break away from your desk. The last gadget required you to be present to fight off any intruder. This gadget does the fighting for you. A three stage system protects your desk. Each of the three units has a motion sensor built in. When the first unit detects motion it triggers an alarm and a flashing light. It then secretly sends this alert wirelessly to the second and third base arming them. When sensor two detects motion it sounds an even louder alarm to scare the intruder away. If this is not successful then the final sensor fires two foam missiles at the intruder.


3. USB Cannon
usb-cannon This simple device can fire a foam missile 10 feet. Sound effects are included. It is powered by the USB port on your computer and you simply use the arrow keys to aim and the spacebar to fire.






4. Desk Catapult
desk-catapult If you like to take your office security in to the past then a desktop catapult could be used. It requires skill to get the angles and trajectory just right to hit your enemy but provides a good laugh at the same time. It measures 5 x 4 x 5.5 inches and is made of metal.






5. Self Build Desk Catapult
home-made-catapult Maybe you do not like the metal catapult and prefer to make your own. If this is the case then choose this wooden version which comes supplied in kit form. All the same features as those in point 4, but the fun of wasting office time by building it too.





6. Megazooka

megazooka The Airzooka was a cool toy which could fire a shot of air clear across a room to startle those who it was aimed at. The Megazooka is the airzooka’s big brother. In this version you can cock the megazooka and activate it with a trigger. Get it ready next your desk, ready to fire. You can then quickly grab it and fire at innocent, or guilty passers by. This thing will fire a shot of air 20 feet and as it fires air, there is plenty of that around to keep you entertained and secure.


7. Tagball – Indoor Paintball Simulator

combatball Now I doubt an indoor paintball gun will actually break skin although according to ThinkGeek it still fires accurately and at high speed. It’s essential to have one of these next to your desk to fire at those who are intruding in your desk space. This gun fires out 3/4″ velcro ammo and is capable of knocking over drinks cans from 20 – 30 feet away.


8. Radio Controlled Shocking Tanks
rc-shocking-tanks These tanks are more of a game then a security device, but can still be used to protect your space. The shocking tanks require two people to use them. They have infrared guns which when they hit the other tank a signal is sent from the tank to the controller and the person holding the remote control gets a shock. Ideal for giving to your boss as he will never come near your desk again not knowing what you have up your sleeves.




9. Magnetic Accelerator Kit
magnetic_accelerator_kit From looking at the video of this accelerator kit I get the impression it could hurt people. The devices uses magnetic forces to create an accelerator. All you do is put a metal ball in one end of the track at slow speed and a metal ball at the other end shoots out at high speed. Pain would be instant should it hit you. The system works by transferring the energy which multiplies down the track of balls till the last ball zooms off.





10. Lipstick Stun Gun
lipstick-stun-gun If all the above still do not keep people away from your desk then a Lipstick stun gun is in order. This stun gun fires out 350000 volts which is sure to scare the life out of someone should it come in to contact with them. However, when using this you can probably be assured that your job will go too as I am sure it would be against all company policies to use it.




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Could Windows 7 accomplish everything that's expected of it? Probably not, but it makes a damn good attempt. We've tested the gold master, the final version going out on October 22. Upgrade without trepidation, people. With excitement, even.

Windows 7 is not quite a "Vista service pack." It does share a lot of the core tech, and was clearly designed to fix nearly every bad thing anyone said about Vista. Which ironically puts the demon that it was trying to exorcise at its heart. What that means is that Windows 7 is what Vista should have been in the public eye—a solid OS with plenty of modern eye candy that mostly succeeds in taking Windows usability into the 21st century—but it doesn't daringly innovate or push boundaries or smash down walls or whatever verb meets solid object metaphor you want to use, because it had a specific set of obligations to meet, courtesy of its forebear.

That said, if you're coming from Windows XP, Windows 7 will totally feel like a revelation from the glossy future. If you're coming from Vista, you'll definitely go "Hey, this is much better!" the first time you touch Aero Peek. If you're coming from a Mac, you'll—-hahahahaha. But seriously, even the Mactards will have to tone down their nasal David Spadian snide, at least a little bit.

The Long Shadow of Windows Vista
The public opinion of Windows Vista—however flawed it might have been—clearly left a deep impact on Microsoft. While we've got final Windows 7 code, it's hard to look 2 1/2 months into the future to predict what the Windows 7 launch will be like. However, based on this code, and the biggest OS beta testing process in history, it sure won't look like the beleaguered Vista launch at all.

If you installed Vista on your PC within the first month of its release, there was a solid chance your computer ran like crap, or your gadgets didn't work, since drivers weren't available yet. That's not how it shakes down with Windows 7. The hardware requirements for Windows 7 are basically the same as they are for Vista, the first time ever a release of Windows hasn't required significantly more horsepower than the previous one. And it runs better on that hardware, or at least feels like it does.

We ran real-world benchmarking on two test machines, a nearly two-year-old Dell XPS M1330 with 2.2GHz Core 2 Duo, 2GB RAM, an Nvidia 8400M GS and a 64GB SSD, and an 18-month-old desktop with 3GHz Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM, an Nvidia 8800GT and a 10,000rpm drive. Results suggest there's little actual difference between Vista and Windows 7 performance-wise on the same hardware, as you can see:

XP_Vista_7_PS_CS4 XP_Vista_7_Shut_Down XP_Vista_7_Start_Up XP_Vista_7_Video_Conversion XP_Vista_7_Gaming

Ambiguous benchmarking aside, our experience during the beta period was that Windows 7 actually ran beautifully, even on netbooks that made Vista cry like a spoiled child who'd had its solid gold spoon shoved up its butt sideways, so the difference isn't based entirely on "feelings." Even Microsoft never attempted to market a Vista for netbooks, but is gladly offering Windows 7 to that category.

Installing XP, Vista and Windows 7 on the same hardware over the space of a week also proved that point: Hardware just worked when I booted up Windows 7 for the first time, while my machines were practically catatonic with XP until I dug up the drivers, and gimped with Vista until I dutifully updated. Hitting Windows Update in Windows 7, I was offered a couple of drivers that were actually current, like ones for my graphics cards. Centralizing the delivery of drivers is huge in making the whole drivers thing less over whelming. (It helps that manufacturers are actively putting out drivers for their gear this go-around, rather than waiting until the last minute, as they tended to with Vista.)

Microsoft has even corrected the pricing spike that Vista introduced, even if they didn't fully streamline that confusing, pulsating orgy of versions. A full version of Windows 7 Home Premium is $200, down from $260, and if you were lucky, you could've pre-ordered an upgrade version for $50. (Microsoft says that deal has sold out, but we wouldn't be shocked to find it re-upped in the near future, possibly even as we head toward the October 22 launch.) So yes, most of the early Vista problems—performance, compatibility and price, to an extent—will likely not be early Windows 7 problems.

What's Good
Windows 7 is the biggest step forward in usability since Windows 95. In fact, over half of what makes it better than Vista boils down to user interface improvements and enhancements, not so much actual new features.


Its fancy new user interface—the heart of which is Aero Peek, making every open window transparent except the one you're focusing on at the moment so you can find what you're looking for—actually changes the way you use Windows. It breaks the instinct to maximize windows as you're using them; instead, you simply let windows hang out, since it's much easier to juggle them. In other words, it radically reorients the UI around multitasking. After six months of using Aero Peek and the new launcher taskbar, going back to Vista's taskbar, digging through collapsed app bars, or even its Peek-less Alt+Tab feels barbaric and primitive. I wouldn't mind an Mac OS Exposé ripoff to complete the multitasking triumph, though.

Windows 7 brings back a sense of a tightness and control that was sometimes missing in Vista—there's a techincal reason for this relating in part to the way graphics are handled—moments where I've felt like I wasn't in control of my PC have been few and far between, even during the beta and release candidate periods. The more chaste User Account Control goes to that—the frequency with which it interrupts you was grating in Vista, like standing under a dripping faucet. But it actually works as Microsoft intended now, with more security, since you're less likely to repeatedly hammer "OK" to anything that pops up, just so it leaves you the hell alone.


Other super welcome improvements are faster, more logical search—in the Music folder for instance, you can narrow by artist, genre or album—and more excellent file previews, though they're not quite as awesome as what OS X offers up. (And why aren't they on by default?) There are lots of little things that make you say, "finally" or "that's great," like legit codec support baked in to Windows Media Player, Device Stage when you plug in your gadgets, or the retardiculously awesome background images.

In short, Windows 7 is what Windows should feel like in 2009.

What's Not So Good
There are a few spots Microsoft rubbed polish on that still don't quite shine. Networking is much, much better than Vista—the wireless networking interface isn't completely stupid anymore—but the Network and Sharing Center still doesn't quite nail it in terms of making networking or sharing easy for people who don't really know what they're doing. I wouldn't turn my mom loose inside of it, anyway. The HomeGroup concept for making it easy to share files sounds good in theory, but in practice, it's no slam dunk. I imagine regular people asking, "What's up with crazy complicated password I have to write down? Can I share files with PCs not in my HomeGroup? What's all this other stuff in my Network that's not in my HomeGroup?"


Not all parts of the user experience are sweeter now. Microsoft, just fix the unwieldy Control Panel interface, please. (Hint: Steal OS X's. Everything's visible and categorized.) And Windows Media Player's UI while you're at it. If it makes iTunes look simple, it's got problems. I'd really like to be able to pin folders directly to the Taskbar as well, not simply to the Windows Explorer icon in the Taskbar. It's kind of confusing behavior, actually—why can you pin some icons (apps or files) and not others (folders)?

Internet Explorer 8 ain't so great, either. It's better than IE7, sure, and actually sorta supports modern web standards. But you'll be downloading Firefox, Opera, or Chrome as soon as you get Win 7 up and running, since IE's not better than any of them. And while you could argue you wouldn't be so inclined to use Microsoft's own mail application either, you might, but you'll have to download it first. Instead of being app-packed, Windows 7 gives you an optional update for Live Essentials, with apps like Mail, Photo Gallery and MovieMaker. Some people might like the cleaner install, but this is a fairly senseless de-coupling—not including a mail app with your own OS? I know those European regulators are ridiculous, but come on.

I suppose the biggest thing missing from Windows 7 is any sense of daring (psychedelic wallpapers aside). It's a very safe release: Take what was good about Vista, fix what people bitched about, and voila. We get it, people want a safe operating system, not an experiment in behavioral science. But even as Windows 7 restores some of the joy in using Windows, you get the sense that it could've been more, if it hadn't been saddled with the tainted legacy of Vista. I wonder what Windows 7 would have been without Vista.

The Verdict
Windows XP was a great OS in its day. Windows Vista, once it found its feet several months in, was a good OS. With Windows 7, the OS is great again. It's what people said they wanted out of Windows: Solid, more nimble and the easiest, prettiest Windows yet. There's always a chance this won't be a huge hit come October, given the economy and the state of the PC industry, but it's exactly what Microsoft needs right now. Something people can grab without fear.

Source: [matt buchanan;]

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Facebook, for better or worse, is like being at a big party with all your friends, family, acquaintances and co-workers.

Facebook-site There are lots of fun, interesting people you're happy to talk to when they stroll up. Then there are the other people, the ones who make you cringe when you see them coming. This article is about those people.

Sure, Facebook can be a great tool for keeping up with folks who are important to you. Take the status update, the 160-character message that users post in response to the question, "What's on your mind?" An artful, witty or newsy status update is a pleasure -- a real-time, tiny window into a friend's life.

But far more posts read like navel-gazing diary entries, or worse, spam. A recent study categorized 40 percent of Twitter tweets as "pointless babble," and it wouldn't be surprising if updates on Facebook, still a fast-growing social network, break down in a similar way.

Combine dull status updates with shameless self-promoters, "friend-padders" and that friend of a friend who sends you quizzes every day, and Facebook becomes a daily reminder of why some people can get on your nerves.

Here are 12 of the most annoying types of Facebook users:

The Let-Me-Tell-You-Every-Detail-of-My-Day Bore. "I'm waking up." "I had Wheaties for breakfast." "I'm bored at work." "I'm stuck in traffic." You're kidding! How fascinating! No moment is too mundane for some people to broadcast unsolicited to the world. Just because you have 432 Facebook friends doesn't mean we all want to know when you're waiting for the bus.

The Self-Promoter. OK, so we've probably all posted at least once about some achievement. And sure, maybe your friends really do want to read the fascinating article you wrote about beet farming. But when almost EVERY update is a link to your blog, your poetry reading, your 10k results or your art show, you sound like a bragger or a self-centered careerist.

The Friend-Padder. The average Facebook user has 120 friends on the site. Schmoozers and social butterflies -- you know, the ones who make lifelong pals on the subway -- might reasonably have 300 or 400. But 1,000 "friends?" Unless you're George Clooney or just won the lottery, no one has that many. That's just showing off.

The Town Crier. "Michael Jackson is dead!!!" You heard it from me first! Me, and the 213,000 other people who all saw it on TMZ. These Matt Drudge wannabes are the reason many of us learn of breaking news not from TV or news sites but from online social networks. In their rush to trumpet the news, these people also spread rumors, half-truths and innuendo. No, Jeff Goldblum did not plunge to his death from a New Zealand cliff.

The TMIer. "Brad is heading to Walgreens to buy something for these pesky hemorrhoids." Boundaries of privacy and decorum don't seem to exist for these too-much-information updaters, who unabashedly offer up details about their sex lives, marital troubles and bodily functions. Thanks for sharing.

The Bad Grammarian. "So sad about Fara Fauset but Im so gladd its friday yippe". Yes, I know the punctuation rules are different in the digital world. And, no, no one likes a spelling-Nazi schoolmarm. But you sound like a moron.

The Sympathy-Baiter. "Barbara is feeling sad today." "Man, am I glad that's over." "Jim could really use some good news about now." Like anglers hunting for fish, these sad sacks cast out their hooks -- baited with vague tales of woe -- in the hopes of landing concerned responses. Genuine bad news is one thing, but these manipulative posts are just pleas for attention.

The Lurker. The Peeping Toms of Facebook, these voyeurs are too cautious, or maybe too lazy, to update their status or write on your wall. But once in a while, you'll be talking to them and they'll mention something you posted, so you know they're on your page, hiding in the shadows. It's just a little creepy.

The Crank. These curmudgeons, like the trolls who spew hate in blog comments, never met something they couldn't complain about. "Carl isn't really that impressed with idiots who don't realize how idiotic they are." [Actual status update.] Keep spreading the love.

The Paparazzo. Ever visit your Facebook page and discover that someone's posted a photo of you from last weekend's party -- a photo you didn't authorize and haven't even seen? You'd really rather not have to explain to your mom why you were leering like a drunken hyena and French-kissing a bottle of Jagermeister.

The Maddening Obscurist. "If not now then when?" "You'll see..." "Grist for the mill." "John is, small world." "Dave thought he was immune, but no. No, he is not." [Actual status updates, all.] Sorry, but you're not being mysterious -- just nonsensical.

The Chronic Inviter. "Support my cause. Sign my petition. Play Mafia Wars with me. Which 'Star Trek' character are you? Here are the 'Top 5 cars I have personally owned.' Here are '25 Things About Me.' Here's a drink. What drink are you? We're related! I took the 'What President Are You?' quiz and found out I'm Millard Fillmore! What president are you?"

You probably mean well, but stop. Just stop. I don't care what president I am -- can't we simply be friends? Now excuse me while I go post the link to this story on my Facebook page.

[By Brandon Griggs CNN]

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Berkeley engineers invent a cell-phone microscope.

What the world needs now—besides love, of course—is a new technology for diagnosing infectious disease that's inexpensive and portable yet highly effective. The World Health Organization estimates that there were about 247 million cases of malaria in 2006 and more than 9 million new cases of tubercellscopeculosis in 2007, with African countries bearing most of the burden in both cases. Fortunately, a group of engineers at UC Berkeley may have come up with the very thing, a device they call the CellScope, a simple attachment that clips onto the back of an ordinary camera phone and turns it into a portable and easy-to-use microscope capable of visualizing single-celled pathogens like malaria parasites or tuberculosis bacteria—no laboratory required.

That's a good thing, because well-outfitted labs are often hard to come by in the developing world. The conditions are usually hot, and electricity may be spotty at best. Put simply, the best medical technologies require clean, air-conditioned labs stocked with bulky machines and endless shelves of reagents—not what a public-health worker is likely to find in places like sub-Saharan Africa and the jungles of Southeast Asia. In such locations, diagnoses used to be based solely on the observations of sparse medical personnel. Then basic microscopes become more common, making diagnosis more of a science. And in the past 15 years or so, strip tests, which work much like pregnancy tests but diagnose various infectious diseases, have become an important tool in the Third World.

But these methods are far from ideal, says Bernhard Weigl, group leader of diagnostics development teams at PATH, a Seattle-based global health organization. In field conditions, basic microscopy yields false negatives about half the time, partly due to poorly trained technicians, and strip tests have a bad rap because their quality is variable—some types are very effective, others are nearly useless.

The CellScope's engineers and the public-health groups that will help test it are optimistic that the device could be a solution. It all began in a Berkeley bioengineering class taught by Daniel Fletcher. To make things interesting, Fletcher presented his students with a challenge: if you were hiking in a remote village where an unknown infectious disease was spreading, what could you build with only a camera cell phone and a backpack of lenses that might help identify the disease? In response, his students developed a prototype CellScope, and the research seemed promising enough that some of the students continued working on it with Fletcher after the course ended (the research was described in this report, recently published in the journal PLoS ONE).

According to Fletcher, CellScope users will be able to take diagnostic images of blood or sputum samples and then either send them off for further analysis using the phone's wireless connectivity, or analyze them independently using image-analysis software that could be installed on the cell phone. In addition to being more portable, the CellScope may prove to be more valuable for diagnosis than basic compound microscopes. That's because the device is capable of fluorescence microscopy, which produces images that are much easier for a layperson to decipher. It's like picking out bright stars from a dark sky, says David Breslauer, a bioengineering graduate student at Berkeley and member of the CellScope team.

Weigl expects that the CellScope will be practical for field diagnoses of malaria and other parasites. He is hopeful that the CellScope could be more effective than test strips, which cannot differentiate between someone with an active infection and someone who was previously infected but has recovered. Furthermore, the CellScope should be able to detect malaria at an earlier stage of infection than test strips. Although the CellScope could be used to diagnose TB as well, Weigl cautions that this could not be done without a lab, given how infectious the disease is. Unlike malaria, which cannot be contracted from blood, a person could contract TB simply from handling an infected sputum sample.

Fletcher says that specialized versions of the CellScope could be tailored to specific uses. A low-resolution version could be used to examine the skin for malignancies, or an otoscope version could allow a mother, for instance, to examine her children's ears for infections and to take a series of pictures that could be sent via cell-phone picture messaging to the doctor for a professional opinion. "You can imagine a suite of little attachments that had different applications," Fletcher explains.

While the CellScope is likely to fill a need for more effective microscopy in the field, experts say that the long-term trend will probably be toward higher-quality rapid test strips and nucleic-acid-based methods for diagnosing disease in the developing world. Commonly used for establishing identity in criminal investigations and for diagnosing disease in developed countries, nucleic-acid techniques involve amplifying and detecting the DNA of various disease-causing pathogens. It's a very precise and specific method of detecting disease, but the challenge is making it portable and cheap enough for use in the Third World. Many research groups are working to overcome these hurdles, and much progress has already been made.

In the meantime, Weigl says, simple devices like the CellScope may be just what the harried, developing-world doctor ordered.

[By Ian Yarett | Newsweek Web Exclusive]

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_45558466_mantis-baesystemsThe Ministry of Defence has showcased current and next-generation unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).

The event was held as part of National Science and Engineering Week - an annual event celebrating science, engineering and technology - and to give manufacturers the chance to show off some of their creations.

Military use of UAVs has been growing fast. Twenty years ago, they were a bonus item for the armed forces, now they are seen as an essential part of the modern warrior's arsenal.

UAVs are mainly used for reconnaissance, although some of the larger models can also drop weapons.

On show was equipment currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as prototypes and models of new technology that could be in service in the next few years.

The role of unmanned vehicles was to do "dull, dirty, and dangerous work and lessen the risk to the troops," said General Andrew Figgures, the officer in charge of MoD procurement, at the event..


Built by Honeywell, this 8kg hovering air vehicle carries a regular and night vision camera, _45558483_honeywell-mav enabling troops to get a stable eye-in-the-sky.

The device, with a price tag of $250,000 (£180,000) is already in use with the US Navy and is currently on trial with British forces and the US 25th Infantry Division in Iraq.

Speaking to the BBC, Adrian Harding from Honeywell, said the device was almost unique in the market.

"Unlike most other UAVs, which have to make numerous passes over a target, we can hover overhead and have constant eyes on the ground," he said.


Thales' UAV is already in active service in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Unlike many UAVs, _45558494_watchkeeper Watchkeeper does not need to be "flown" by an operator. The device is autonomous, choosing the best flight path to get to a destination set by an operator.

Speaking to the BBC, Sergeant David Alexander - serving with the 32 Regiment, Royal Artillery - said that the Watchkeeper had already helped save lives.

"It's easy to operate. Really easy. We have two-man teams, one who directs where the aircraft needs to go, and the other who monitors the images coming in.

"It's main use is spotting possible IED [improvised explosive devices] by looking for disturbed soil, wires or possible enemy combatants.

"The work is really satisfying as you help save lives."


_45558526_mq-9_reape The successor to the well known Predator UAV, the Reaper gives the armed forces a larger, faster aircraft with a greater payload.

Originally called Predator B, the aircraft has been designed to perform high-altitude surveillance, reconnaissance and so-called hunter-killer missions.

While the Predator could operate up to an altitude of 25,000ft (7620m) and a speed of 120mph (193kph), Reaper can go up to 50,000 feet at speeds of over 240 mph. It can also carry a weapon payload in excess of 1.3 tonnes.

The Reaper is already in service with the RAF and USAF and the developers are working on further modifications.

DESERT HAWK III_45558533_deserthawk3

Another UAV, but much smaller than Reaper, Desert Hawk III is a hand-launched drone that is used by troops to carry out surveillance. The device fits inside a backpack carried by troops.

Developed by Lockheed Martin, the UAV has a range of up to 15km and can be in the air for up to 90 minutes.

At present, an operator controls the Desert Hawk III from a laptop and transmitter, although the developers are working on a customised and more durable control system.


_45558557_casper250 British firms are also working on small UAVs that can be carried in a backpack.

Birmingham-based Sonic Communications has built the Casper 250 Man-pack, a battery-powered UAV that is ready for launched within 20 minutes of being unpacked.

The developer's say the device becomes "silent and invisible" once it reaches 100m, can stay airborne for more than 90 minutes and has a range of 12 miles.

Casper has two interchangeable cameras, for night or day use, and can transmit the images either directly to the ground control station or to a command and control centre.


_45558558_taranisgraphic-baesystems BAE Systems is working on two very different UAVs.

Mantis is a large pilotless aircraft, with a wingspan of 22m, can stay airborne for more than 24 hours and operate at more than 40,000 feet.

Speaking to the BBC, BAE's head of communications, Adam Morrison, said the Mantis could survey or patrol an area with great accuracy.

"Most UAVs are controlled on the ground, even if that control is a bunker somewhere in the US. Because of the human element, you're never going to get a precise and regular course over time.

"With Mantis, you can cover an area with almost regular monotony, which means not only constant coverage, but you can spot if anything in that area has changed.

"You could also use it for maritime patrol and with the autonomous nature of the plane, all you need to tell it is which airfield it takes off and lands at, the length of runway and off it goes."

The other UAV it is working on - Taranis - is very different. The £124m, four year project to develop it hopes to create an unmanned, stealth, deep-strike aircraft as part of the Government's strategic unmanned air vehicle experiment.

Initial ground trials are scheduled for late 2009, with a maiden flight scheduled for 2010.


[By Daniel Emery Technology reporter, BBC News]

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Traditional versions of the iconic device are a thing of the past, but future iterations will have a long and vibrant future.


Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

I was recently cleaning out a closet and came across an interesting artifact: my first iPod.

It was nearly eight years ago that I was among the very first people in New York City to carry around the first-generation iPod. About the size of a pack of cigarettes, it was advertised with the tagline "A thousand songs in your pocket." I can even remember the song used in the first TV spot: Take California by The Propellerheads.

Since then, I've upgraded to a 2007 model boasting a 160-gigabyte hard drive that makes holding a mere thousand songs seem quaint. Before long, I will no doubt be waxing nostalgic about this music player as well—one that, at not even half full, holds 5,231 songs, 141 videos, and 228 podcasts.

First Quarterly Drop in iPod Sales

The iPod as many of us have known it is on the wane and giving way to a more feature-rich family of devices that in time will bear little resemblance to the trailblazing digital music players that helped Apple capture 70% of the North American market. Evidence of the iPod's decline came July 21, when Apple disclosed its first quarterly decline in iPods sold. In the three months ended in June, Apple (AAPL) sold 10.2 million iPods, versus 11 million a year earlier.

Anticipation of the drop-off is "one of the original reasons" Apple developed the iPhone and the WiFi-enabled iPod touch, Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer said on a July 21 conference call with analysts. Apple is prepared for lower sales of what it calls "pocket products:" the iPod shuffle, nano, and classic.

At the same time, the iPod business "will last for many, many years," Apple believes. The company has good reason to want to extend the life of a product line that's generated $38 billion on sales of 218 million units, catapulting Apple ahead of SanDisk (SNDK), Microsoft (MSFT), Toshiba (6502.T), and others.

Flash Memory Is Cheaper

What will iPod's next generation look like? Most of Apple's energy is going to be devoted to the iPod touch, the most advanced and versatile version of the iPod.

My prediction is that one of the first casualties of Apple's emphasis will be the hard drive-based iPod classic. Flash memory is cheaper, consumes less power, and resists abuse better than hard drives, so future high-capacity iPods will most likely be based on flash.

I'm also betting those high-capacity models will look more like the iPod touch, and less like my iPod classic. If history is any judge, Apple will revise its iPod lineup in September, as it has every year since 2005.

A Mic Would Broaden Appeal

Besides a refresh of the iPod nano (it's been revised every fall since its introduction), you can also expect a more advanced version of the iPod touch. The next touch will come with 64GB of flash memory.

And since it runs virtually all of the same applications that the iPhone does, then it stands to reason that the touch will starting taking on more hardware features to accommodate applications. Aside from music and video, it's now already marketed as a handheld gaming machine, a communications device, and a handheld Web device. In a limited way it can even be used for navigation.

Over time, the touch will do even more. Consider its appeal if Apple were to add a microphone that lets you make calls on Skype (EBAY) or other Internet-calling services, without the need for the awkward headset that's required for such calls now.

You could talk on it as if it were an iPhone, and the mic would put in double duty for simple audio recordings like meetings, lectures, and voice memos.

How About a Camera?

The touch should really have a camera, too. And is there any reason why that camera can't be better than the one in the iPhone? The latest iPhone 3GS sports a 3-megapixel camera sensor, while the latest phones from Nokia (NOK) have an 8-megapixel sensor. Apple could split the difference and give the touch a 5- or 6-megapixel sensor, giving it the ability to take really gorgeous pictures.

And if the touch has a camera, then it should support video. All that added memory leaves plenty of room for clips, and the Wi-Fi connection makes it easy to send them directly to YouTube (GOOG) and other video-sharing sites. And while Apple has resisted adding memory-card slots to its handhelds in the past, now that the Mac has a slot for SD memory cards, is there any reason the iPod touch (and for that matter a future model of the iPhone) can't have a slot for Mini-SD cards for added storage capacity?

While we're wish-listing, why should the iPhone be the only device in Apple's lineup that can help you get from one place to another? Why not add a GPS chipset, and let the iPod touch become a full-fledged personal navigation device? The touch's limited navigation features currently only work when Wi-Fi is present. This is fine when you're in a city, but no help when you're on the road. With excellent personal navigation devices from Garmin (GRMN) and TomTom (TOM2.AS) selling for as low as $120—more than $100 below the entry-level touch—why consider navigation a premium, iPhone-only feature?

However Apple answers that question, what's clear is that traditional versions of the device are a thing of the past—and future iterations will have a long and vibrant future.

[Source: by Hesseldahl: reporter for]

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A robot that can open doors and find electrical outlets to recharge itself. Computer viruses that no one can stop. Predator drones, which, though still controlled remotely by humans, come close to a machine that can kill autonomously.


This personal robot plugs itself in when it needs a charge. Servant now, master later?

Impressed and alarmed by advances in artificial intelligence, a group of computer scientists is debating whether there should be limits on research that might lead to loss of human control over computer-based systems that carry a growing share of society’s workload, from waging war to chatting with customers on the phone.

Their concern is that further advances could create profound social disruptions and even have dangerous consequences.

As examples, the scientists pointed to a number of technologies as diverse as experimental medical systems that interact with patients to simulate empathy, and computer worms and viruses that defy extermination and could thus be said to have reached a “cockroach” stage of machine intelligence.

While the computer scientists agreed that we are a long way from Hal, the computer that took over the spaceship in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” they said there was legitimate concern that technological progress would transform the work force by destroying a widening range of jobs, as well as force humans to learn to live with machines that increasingly copy human behaviors.

The researchers — leading computer scientists, artificial intelligence researchers and roboticists who met at the Asilomar Conference Grounds on Monterey Bay in California — generally discounted the possibility of highly centralized superintelligences and the idea that intelligence might spring spontaneously from the Internet. But they agreed that robots that can kill autonomously are either already here or will be soon.

They focused particular attention on the specter that criminals could exploit artificial intelligence systems as soon as they were developed. What could a criminal do with a speech synthesis system that could masquerade as a human being? What happens if artificial intelligence technology is used to mine personal information from smart phones?

The researchers also discussed possible threats to human jobs, like self-driving cars, software-based personal assistants and service robots in the home. Just last month, a service robot developed by Willow Garage in Silicon Valley proved it could navigate the real world.

A report from the conference, which took place in private on Feb. 25, is to be issued later this year. Some attendees discussed the meeting for the first time with other scientists this month and in interviews.

The conference was organized by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, and in choosing Asilomar for the discussions, the group purposefully evoked a landmark event in the history of science. In 1975, the world’s leading biologists also met at Asilomar to discuss the new ability to reshape life by swapping genetic material among organisms. Concerned about possible biohazards and ethical questions, scientists had halted certain experiments. The conference led to guidelines for recombinant DNA research, enabling experimentation to continue.

The meeting on the future of artificial intelligence was organized by Eric Horvitz, a Microsoft researcher who is now president of the association.

Dr. Horvitz said he believed computer scientists must respond to the notions of superintelligent machines and artificial intelligence systems run amok.

The idea of an “intelligence explosion” in which smart machines would design even more intelligent machines was proposed by the mathematician I. J. Good in 1965. Later, in lectures and science fiction novels, the computer scientist Vernor Vinge popularized the notion of a moment when humans will create smarter-than-human machines, causing such rapid change that the “human era will be ended.” He called this shift the Singularity.

This vision, embraced in movies and literature, is seen as plausible and unnerving by some scientists like William Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems. Other technologists, notably Raymond Kurzweil, have extolled the coming of ultrasmart machines, saying they will offer huge advances in life extension and wealth creation.

“Something new has taken place in the past five to eight years,” Dr. Horvitz said. “Technologists are replacing religion, and their ideas are resonating in some ways with the same idea of the Rapture.”

The Kurzweil version of technological utopia has captured imaginations in Silicon Valley. This summer an organization called the Singularity University began offering courses to prepare a “cadre” to shape the advances and help society cope with the ramifications.

“My sense was that sooner or later we would have to make some sort of statement or assessment, given the rising voice of the technorati and people very concerned about the rise of intelligent machines,” Dr. Horvitz said.

The A.A.A.I. report will try to assess the possibility of “the loss of human control of computer-based intelligences.” It will also grapple, Dr. Horvitz said, with socioeconomic, legal and ethical issues, as well as probable changes in human-computer relationships. How would it be, for example, to relate to a machine that is as intelligent as your spouse?

Dr. Horvitz said the panel was looking for ways to guide research so that technology improved society rather than moved it toward a technological catastrophe. Some research might, for instance, be conducted in a high-security laboratory.

The meeting on artificial intelligence could be pivotal to the future of the field. Paul Berg, who was the organizer of the 1975 Asilomar meeting and received a Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1980, said it was important for scientific communities to engage the public before alarm and opposition becomes unshakable.

“If you wait too long and the sides become entrenched like with G.M.O.,” he said, referring to genetically modified foods, “then it is very difficult. It’s too complex, and people talk right past each other.”

Tom Mitchell, a professor of artificial intelligence and machine learning at Carnegie Mellon University, said the February meeting had changed his thinking. “I went in very optimistic about the future of A.I. and thinking that Bill Joy and Ray Kurzweil were far off in their predictions,” he said. But, he added, “The meeting made me want to be more outspoken about these issues and in particular be outspoken about the vast amounts of data collected about our personal lives.”

Despite his concerns, Dr. Horvitz said he was hopeful that artificial intelligence research would benefit humans, and perhaps even compensate for human failings. He recently demonstrated a voice-based system that he designed to ask patients about their symptoms and to respond with empathy. When a mother said her child was having diarrhea, the face on the screen said, “Oh no, sorry to hear that.”

A physician told him afterward that it was wonderful that the system responded to human emotion. “That’s a great idea,” Dr. Horvitz said he was told. “I have no tim e for that.”


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The moon passed directly in front of the sun, causing a total solar eclipse that crossed nearly half the Earth - through Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and China. Today's was the longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century, lasting as much as 6 minutes and 39 seconds in a few areas. Despite cloudy skies in many of the populated areas in the path, millions of people gathered outside to gaze up and view this rare event. Collected here are a few images of the eclipse, and those people who came out to watch.

solar 4 

A partial solar eclipse is seen through clouds in Hyderabad, Pakistan on Wednesday, July 22, 2009. (AP Photo/Shakil Adil)


In this handout image provided by National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, the sun's corona is clearly visible during the solar eclipse on July 22, 2009, seen near Iwojima Island, Tokyo, Japan. (Hideo Fukushima/National Astronomical Observatory of Japan via Getty Images)



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iphone-macbook Apple wasted little time kicking Palm off its platform. When it was launched, the Palm Pre advertised the ability to sync with iTunes. A little over a month after Pre's release, Apple jammed that connection, though workarounds can still be done. Apple hasn't just been slapping rival devices, though -- it's wreaking destruction to the entire wireless industry's status quo, according to analyst Craig Moffett.

There's a lot of interesting activity to consider in the Apple-focused blogosphere this week, but three items in particular look like they might create some fairly long-range ripples.

One analyst says that Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL)  and its iPhone are wrecking the cellular industry. For Palm (Nasdaq: PALM) , that may very well be true -- Apple cut off the smartphone manufacturer's easy (and unauthorized) Palm Pre iTunes syncing ability.

Finally, in a possible win for prosumers and computing pros alike, there's a rumor running around that Apple might actually give users an option to buy an anti-glare screen in smaller MacBook Pro form factors.

Apple as a Wrecking Ball

Most every tech watcher and smartphone users is well aware that Apple has shaken up the smartphone industry. But is it really wrecking the whole cellular industry?

The relationship between Apple and AT&T (NYSE: T) is like the one between Apple and music labels back when Apple had to play nice as it launched the iPod and iTunes, according to Craig Moffett of Bernstein Research, as reported by AppleInsider. Of course, once Apple became a power player, the CD-driven music industry certainly changed.

While Apple has driven new customers to AT&T in the U.S. with its iPhone, AT&T has started to take the brunt of feature criticism -- issues with 3G connection, data plans, MMS and tethering, for example. The shift in power to Apple means that Apple can dictate terms, and it gives the iPhone maker a powerful weapon: the threat that it could take its gloriously popular phone to competing service providers.

Also, as the U.S. government reportedly mulls whether to investigate exclusivity deals as being anti-competitive, that intervention might not be needed.

"In short, the iPhone seems to be doing just fine at wrecking the wireless business without the government's help," Moffet notes, as reported by

Still, not everyone agrees with the "wrecking" sentiment -- or even the notion that Apple has recast AT&T as the villain.

"Nonsense. AT&T brought that entirely upon themselves through incompetence. Apple gave AT&T the opportunity to be the hero and AT&T failed their customers by being late on MMS and tethering and failing to adequately prepare for the huge increase in data usage that they should have seen coming from miles away," commented Zweben on the post.

Others simply say it's an issue of figuring out what customers actually want ... and then finding a way to give it to them, rather than offering something else entirely.

"AT&T and all of the other cellular providers imagine an Internet with a toll booth at every entry point, on every device, and at every node or junction. Consumers want an internet with unlimited everything, one monthly charge per customer (not per device), no mention of terms like: Contracts, Kilobytes, Roaming Charges, Cancellation Charges, etc. What's really happening here is that Apple is giving the customers what they want but AT&T (and the other networks) are giving the customers the shaft (or to be nice, exactly what the customers don't want)," added davesmall.

Still, the iPhone is still just one phone in a very big industry.

"I think Apple has changed the wireless industry in the smartphone sector, and customers on all networks benefit from the advanced services; however, I don't think Apple will change the entire industry by any stretch -- just their share of the industry," Jeff Kagan, a telecom industry analyst, told MacNewsWorld.

While Apple has disrupted the industry because it brought amazing features to the marketplace that customers love, Kagan said, many of those features are now available on competing devices.

"The majority of the industry still does not use or does not want to use an Apple iPhone, as popular as the device is. The new features, available on other devices, are welcome," Kagan added.

Apple Tells Palm to Talk to the Hand

Apple's latest 8.2.1 iTunes update reportedly breaks the Palm Pre's easy iTunes syncing functionality. The new release notes in 8.2.1 spells it out:

"iTunes 8.2.1 provides a number of important bug fixes and addresses an issue with verification of Apple devices."

Some seem to think Palm is in the wrong in the first place with issue, but it remains somewhat sticky.

"Usually, I wouldn't want Apple to break functionality like this, but methinks since Palm knows the only way it can compete is by 'pretending' to be an iPod/iPhone, it makes it OK," zackisamazing commented on the The Unofficial Apple Weblog's post on the subject.

"I'm with the people that are surprised it took this long. While I don't think letting the Pre work with iTunes would have an adverse effect, it might encourage the behavior, which does dilute Apple's iTunes enterprise," added Christina Warren.

Nonetheless, the issue did manage to raise some hackles.

"Let me ask you guys this, what does allowing the Pre to sync with iTunes hurt? Nothing. This is anti-competitive behavior plain and simple. If Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) only allowed Zunes to use the Zune Marketplace (save your irrelevant 'Zune Marketplace sucks compared to iTunes' comments please) people would be all over them," added Christopher.

There's a Workaround

While Palm is advising customers not to upgrade to 8.2.1, there appear to be workarounds even for users who have updated. It just takes a little more work.

"There are many ways for users to get around this. It doesn't mean Palm Pre users are locked out. There's third-party free apps that allow you to sync devices with iTunes. What this does is it changes the iTunes syncing from being something for every Pre user to just savvy Pre users -- and that's going to be difficult for Palm to get around," Chris Hazelton, research director of mobile and wireless for The 451 Group, told MacNewsWorld.

"I disagree with where Palm has been going with this, using Apple's tools -- Apple uses iTunes as a differentiator, and they are well within their rights to block other devices," Hazelton said.

"The Pre is arguably the first competitor for iPhone in the U.S., so I think Apple is particularly conscious of the Pre. If Palm is going to be leveraging iTunes in such an open way, it's no surprise that Apple is going to block it. And Palm put itself in a tough position by openly touting the iTunes compatibility," he added.

Perish the Glare

Apple's move to mostly glossy screens on its laptops managed to annoy a niche group of prosumer and professional Mac users who depend on their machines to provide glare-free views day in and day out. A matte finish is much better than glossy when it comes to detailed photography and graphic design work. Right now, Apple only offers a matte finish screen option on its 17-inch MacBook Pro models, but according to an report, all that might change.

"Though speculative at this time, it would appear that the 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros would be the most likely candidates to receive antiglare options," reports.

"Ouch! My wife bought a 13 inch MacBook about six months ago with no firewire and the glossy screen, both of which are problematic. I guess it will be eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) time when the next 13 inch pro comes out with a matte screen," commented Jerseymac.

"I never quite understood why Apple, a company claiming to offer BTO (build to order) computers had too many missing options. At some point the BTO rings hollow if you're proverbially telling folks 'you can have any color you want as long as it's Black,'" added hmurchison.

Some hope the matte options will extend to other monitors, or possibly the iMac.

"It's about time. I wonder how many monitor sales this idiot idea has cost Apple. I would have bought the 24 inch but went elsewhere," commented Ed Wood on the TheAppleBlog post on the subject.

Popular as matte might be among a certain type of buyer, the option could well end up costing the customer extra.

"I think it is wonderful that Apple is listening to its customers and possibly giving the option for matte screens; however, to add a (US)$50 premium to the choice seems more like a Microsoft practice than that from something designed in Cupertino," Sven Rafferty, Director of Internet Technology for hyperSven, told MacNewsWorld.


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Contact Me

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Posted on 2:59 AM, under

Space Invaders

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About Me

Posted on 2:56 AM, under

Suggested topics to get me into a conversation:

GOD. I am an Evangelical Christian and am active in the Youth, Music, and Dgroup ministries of Christ’s Commission Fellowship (CCF) in Malolos.

SCIENCE and TECHNOLOGY. Hence, the blog. I am also taking up Electronics and Communication Engineering and am now in my fifth and last year. In the future, I see myself as a successful engineer working in a global company, or maybe building my own.

BASKETBALL. I am a HUGE basketball aficionado and a fan of Lebron James (as evidenced by my “King James” baller band I wear most of the time). I also play quite decently and I do so a few days a week (whenever I get the chance).

MUSIC. I play a variety of string instruments – acoustic guitar, bass guitar, violin. Favorite music genres include alternative and rock.

FOOD. I love all kinds of food. Special mentions include noodles, street foods, pizza, and seafood. However, any type of food will catch my interest. I’m not very fond of sweets, though.

MOVIES. I usually watch movies to pass time, when I don’t have anything better to do and when I just want to relax. Preferred genres include action, adventure, and comedy.

ASTRONOMY. Who wouldn’t be awed with the great mystery that is the universe?

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The purpose of the Apollo 11 mission was to land men on the lunar surface and to return them safely to Earth. The crew was Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, Command Module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., Lunar Module pilot.

After launch, the spacecraft was inserted into lunar orbit about 76 hours into the mission. After a rest period, Armstrong and Aldrin entered the Lunar Module preparing for descent to the lunar surface. The two spacecraft were undocked at about 100 hours, when the Command and Service Modules separated from the Lunar Module. The spacecraft landed in the Sea of Tranquillity at 4:18 p.m. EDT. Afterwards, they ate their first meal on the Moon and decided to begin the surface operations earlier than planned.

A Lunar Module camera provided live television coverage of Armstrong setting foot on the lunar surface at 10:56 p.m. EDT. Just as he stepped off the Lunar Module Neil Armstrong proclaimed, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." Aldrin emerged soon after, setting foot on the lunar surface at 11:16 p.m. EDT. Aldrin evaluated his ability to operate and move about and was able to move about rapidly and with confidence. Forty-seven pounds of lunar surface material were collected to be returned for analysis. The surface exploration was concluded in 2½ hours, when the crew re-entered the lunar module.

After lunar ascent, the Lunar Module docked with the Command and Service Modules at 128 hours. The crew transferred into the Command and Service Modules, the ascent stage was jettisoned and they prepared for trans-Earth injection. Only one midcourse correction was required, and passive thermal control was used for most of trans-Earth coast. Bad weather made it necessary to move the splashdown point 346 kilometers (215 miles) downrange. Atmospheric entry phase was normal, and the command module landed in the Pacific Ocean at 195¼ hours. The landing coordinates, as determined from the onboard computer, were 13 degrees 30 minutes north latitude and -169 degrees 15 minutes east longitude.

With the success of Apollo 11, the national objective to land men on the Moon and return them safely to Earth had been accomplished.

Video: Youtube

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Japanese wireless carrier Softbank has planned tests that track the progression of a virtual disease using GPS-enabled cellphones belonging to schoolchildren as they go through a routine day of classes. The experiment in virtual epidemic monitoring is meant to find new ways to use Japan's well-appointed wireless data networking systems to inform the public and prevent the spread of real diseases. {continue..}


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The very idea of Apple beseeching Microsoft to lighten up on its laptop hunter ad campaign is hard to swallow. That's apparently what happened, though, and if Microsoft is reacting with glee, it's understandable. After all, Apple is the company that knows how to brilliantly market its brand and devastate the competition while it's at it, right? {continue..}


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The video game industry's losing streak continues.

June video game sales dropped 31% compared to June 2008, according to data from market research firm NPD Group. The drop marks the fourth consecutive month of year-over-year declines.

"This is one of the first months where I think the impact of the economy is clearly reflected in the sales numbers," said NPD Analyst Anita Frazier in a statement. "The size of the decline could also point to consumers deferring limited discretionary spending until a big event (must-have new title, hardware price cut) compels them to spend."

The trend can't be attributed to consumer interest, as 4 million new players have entered the market since last year, according to the NPD. "Certainly there is plenty of opportunity in the industry, but the rate of change in many areas of the industry presents a lot of challenge as well ," says Frazier.

All platforms suffered a decline compared to June 2008, with the exception of the Xbox 360, which sold 240,600 units. However, Nintendo continues to dominate hardware sales.

Nintendo DS: 766,500
Nintendo Wii: 361,700
Xbox 360: 240,600
PlayStation 3: 164,700
PSP: 163,500
PlayStation 2: 152,700

The big story in software might involve a game nowhere to be found in June's top 10. Wii Play, a collection of mini-games packaged with a Wii remote, failed to crack the list for the first time since its launch on February 2007, ending a 29-month run. "That's an astonishing record for this industry," Frazier notes.

Activision's open world action game Prototype topped software sales, as consumers scooped up 419,900 copies. UFC 2009 Undisputed continued its strong showing at retail, with the 360 version selling 338,300.

Meanwhile, Wii MotionPlus, the motion-control accessory for the Wii remote, posted a solid debut. The Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 bundle sold 272,400, while the accessory sold an additional 169,000 as a standalone item. The rest of the top 10 (publisher and platform in parentheses):

Prototype (Activision, 360): 419,900
UFC 2009 Undisputed (THQ, 360): 338,300
EA Sports Active (EA, Wii): 289,100
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 (EA, Wii): 272,400
Wii Fit (Nintendo, Wii): 271,600
Fight Night Round 4 (EA, 360): 260,800
Fight Night Round 4 (EA, PS3): 210,300
Mario Kart w/ Wheel (Nintendo, Wii): 202,100
Red Faction: Guerrilla (THQ, 360): 199,400
inFamous (Sony, PS3): 192,700

The overall June plunge is the greatest year-over-year monthly decline since September 2000, when the industry experience a 41% drop. Barring any release delays, Frazier remains optimistic. "Even with the industry down 12% year-to-date, with a strong back-half performance, full year sales could still be flat to slightly up to 2008's record-breaking performance."


[Photos: Wikipedia]

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Good news, folks. Microsoft founder Bill Gates has turned his attention to controlling the weather.

Five U.S. Patent and Trade Office patent applications, made public on July 9, propose slowing hurricanes by pumping cold, deep-ocean water in their paths from barges. If issued, the patents offer 18 years of legal rights to the idea for Gates and co-inventors, including climate scientist Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

Hurricanes, most famously demonstrated by the deadly intensification of Hurricane Katrina before its landfall in 2005, draw strength from warm waters on the ocean's surface. The patents describe a system for strategically placing turbine-equipped barges in the path of storms to chill sea surfaces with cold water pumped from the depths.

First requested by Gates and colleagues last year, the patents describe methods "not limited to atmospheric management, weather management, hurricane suppression, hurricane prevention, hurricane intensity modulation, hurricane deflection" to manage storms.

Given the scope of the applications, "I suspect these will have a lengthy stay in the examiner's office. They are talking about some interesting issues here," says patent expert Gene Quinn of

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Caldeira declined to comment on the patents.

"The bottom line here is that if enough pumps are deployed, it is reasonable to expect some diminution of hurricane power," says hurricane expert Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is not part of the patent effort. Cutting sea surface temperature by 4.5 degrees under the eye of a hurricane would actually kill a storm, he adds. "This would have to be done on a massive scale, but is still probably within the realm of feasibility."

Says climate scientist Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University in State College: "Needless to say, there is a whole lot of skepticism about this among tropical meteorologists. But it's not so ridiculous that I would actually dismiss it out of hand. There is certainly an important role of upper ocean mixing on tropical cyclone behavior."

Ocean water quickly grows colder with depth, reaching temperatures of 28 to 37 degrees (salty ocean water doesn't freeze at 32 degrees) about 500 feet down. The patents envision sail-maneuvered barges, with conduits 500 feet long, pumping warm water down to the depths and bringing cold water up. The average depth of the Gulf of Mexico is 5,300 feet.

"By cooling a region in the path of a hurricane (over 60 square miles), models suggest we could knock a half-a-category in wind speed out," says Philip Kithil of Atmocean in Santa Fe, an ocean-pumping firm mentioned in Gates' applications. "All the models indicate the path of the storm would be unaffected."

In the average year, six hurricanes develop in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico in a season that officially extends from June 1 to Nov. 30. Over the past century, the annual cost of hurricanes to the USA has averaged about $10 billion, according to a 2008 Natural Hazards Review study. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina killed at least 1,800 people and caused at least $81 billion in damage.

"From a scientific and political standpoint, (the Gates plan) looks fanciful," Quinn says. "But the physics is real and like a lot of things, the question is whether the damage you prevent is worth the money you would spend to develop something so massive."


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