Cell Phones Make Great Warning Systems In Emergencies.

When disaster strikes, you may have only a short time to make what may be a life or death decision.Rare events such as fires,tornadoes or chemical releases do occur.Traffic jams on the other hand are common.Although impossible to predict,we can minimize the damage these things cause by keeping people informed.

This is where cell phones enter the picture.With every adult in the US using one why not incorporate this device into an early warning system?The possibility of sending text alerts to cell phones in a specific area is being considered seriously after the 9/11 terror attacks, and more recently, after the Virginia Tech massacre. This move is being encouraged by policy makers in Washington.A2006 law requires the Federal Communications Commission to identify ways to provide location based emergency alerts on cell phones. Necessary rules in this regard are expected this year.

But some problems are certain to be faced.Different carriers use different devices with varying capabilities. They will have to agree upon certain common features and facilities. Moreover alerts cannot be sent to a user without tracking his phone, and doing this is an invasion of his privacy.

Several companies in the US are developing the necessary software to be installed in cell phones.This will allow users to receive text messages aimed at a specific geographical area.In order to distinguish them from normal messages, these alerts will have different ring tones and a vibration alert for deaf or blind users.The software will be given to users free of cost.The charges for the service will be borne by the localities where they are available.

Such services are expected to be available in California in about a year's time. The Japanese government is working with cell phone companies to use phones to provide an early warning system for earthquakes. Once the technology is perfected it can be used for local advertising, allowing companies to reduce charges for the emergency services provided by them.

China's Anti-Satellite Weapon Test Bothers U.S. And Allies

On January 11th this year China carried out a successful missile attack on an old weather satellite.That the test was indeed carried out has been confirmed by NORAD the US surveillance agency.This is the first such test since 1985 when the US had carried out a similar test under its Star Wars anti-missile defense program while Ronald Reagan was President. Washington had halted such tests for fear of damaging military and civilian satellites with large clouds of space debris which drift about in space for decades.It is feared that the test may trigger a Star Wars space race.

What has come as a surprise to Western analysts is the sophistication of the launch and the weapon's ability to track and home in on a tiny satellite in the vastness of space.The US is most concerned with the test as it has demonstrated that China has the capability to knock out its military satellite system, which the Pentagon depends on for navigation and surveillance.Military analysts feel that a successful attack on 40 to 50 satellites in low orbit around the earth would seriously compromise US defense capabilities within a few hours.

Many feel that China has a right to challenge US monopoly of space. They point out that China has repeatedly urged the US to sign agreements outlawing arms in space,which Washington has refused to do.The reason given by the Bush administration for opposing a global ban on such tests, is that the US reserves its freedom of action in space. Arms control experts are not sure whether the test was undertaken to try and press the Bush administration into a global weapons treaty, or whether China was asserting its own interests in space. The timing of the test is significant as it came a few months after the Bush administration unveiled a doctrine asserting America's right to take action against any perceived threat in space.

The Soviets dismissed reports of the test as a rumor, but countries such as Canada, Britain, Japan and Australia have no doubt that it took place and plan to take up the matter with the Chinese government.China on its part denied that it had carried out any test and repeated its opposition to weapons in space.

Although the test poses no immediate threat to the US, it has once again demonstrated that China is extending its economic and commercial power to military areas. There is a strong lobby in the Republican government which perceives China as the main threat to the US. It believes that a confrontation could take place over Taiwan in future. The EU nations on their part are concerned that some kind of trade restrictions may be put in place which might affect exports of hi-tech equipment to China.

The test led Gen. T. Michael 'Buzz' Moseley, the Air Force chief of staff to order a wide ranging review of the vulnerability of US military satellites.What can the US do to protect its satellites?
High orbit satellites are safer as it takes several hours for a killer weapon to reach them.Low orbit satellites on the other hand would be difficult to protect.Methods which may be adopted are that that either such satellites follow sufficiently unpredictable orbits so that the enemy cannot launch a weapon on a collision course with them or they may be accompanied by decoys in nearby orbits. Deploying a large number of small satellites is also an option as it may not be technologically possible to knock out hundreds of satellites without allowing time for retaliation. The ability to launch replacement satellites quickly would also be an important deterrent. Laser weapons to detect and destroy such threats in time are still stories of science fiction.

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Love And Sex With Robots Are Inevitable

David Levy, artificial intelligence researcher at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands told LiveScience that he believes humans could marry robots within the century and consummate those vows. He has forecast that the around 2050 the state of Massachusetts will be the first jurisdiction to legalize marriage with robots.He says that at first, sex with robots might be considered geeky, but once you have a story like 'I had sex with a robot, and it was great' appear someplace like Cosmo magazine, he'd expect many people to jump on the bandwagon.

This is because robots will become so human like in appearance, function and personality that many people will fall in love with them, have sex with them and even marry them.It may sound a bit weird but it isn't, Levy says. Love and sex with robots are inevitable. Levy argues that psychologists have identified roughly a dozen basic reasons why people fall in love and almost all of them would apply to human-robot relationships.

Levy goes on to argue that when it comes to sex and love with robots the ethical issues on how to treat them are something we'll have to consider very seriously, and this is a very complicated issue. Levy successfully defended his thesis October 11.

Microsoft Boards Internet TV Bandwagon

Earlier TV signals were only distributed by cable, satellite or terrestrial systems.Now with an increasing number of people online, Internet TV is set to become the future of entertainment.With increasing internet connection speeds and decrease in connection costs TV content is increasingly accessible over the internet. The models for Internet TV are streaming Internet TV or selectable video on an internet location, usually a website.It allows you to watch TV programs on your TV, PC or even your mobile phone. Sources can be free or subscription based or supported by advertisements.

Presently several broadcasters allow you to download content for a small fee.But this requires that that the file must be downloaded before it can be viewed and this may take time. Streaming on the other hand means a continuous flow of data which can be viewed before the whole file has been received.It will therefore open in a couple of seconds.But it is unlikely to remain saved on your computer.

So far the barriers to wider use of Internet TV included poor streaming technology.There is nothing more annoying than watching a favorite program and losing the stream midway.Added to this is the problem of poor video quality due to bandwidth limitations.The BBC launched the Dirac project to address this problem but it is still under development.The reason for this is that internet infrastructure was not originally designed to support video.But this problem is set to be overcome by mixing new P2P technology with the latest cache technology which will work together and combine the bandwidth of the two.

Given its future potential Internet TV is now attracting the attention of heavyweight corporations including Microsoft. On 28th September Microsoft launched the beta version of its Windows Media Center Internet TV feature.According to Microsoft US based users of Vista Home Premium and Vista Ultimate will soon be able to download an update which will allow them to enjoy TV and video content on their PC's and TV sets.The PC will not require a TV tuner for this.The streaming content will be cost supported by an advertising platform provided by YuMe.So it seems that it will be free, at least to start with.The hit programs that are available are TV shows such as 'Arrested Development' music by artists such as Chris Cornell,Pussycat Dolls and others, news from MSNBC, sports from FOX sports and a host of other programs.It will be compatible with Microsoft and third party 'media extender' devices for Windows Media Center.These devices wirelessly connect a TV with a PC, delivering TV, music and online services to any TV set in a home.These devices, according to Microsoft, are designed to deliver the ultimate entertainment experience to every TV set in your home. Microsoft is thus set to take on You Tube, Joost and Apples' iTunes in the Internet video segment.

With problems of resolution and reliability likely to be solved Internet TV is set to take off in a big way.

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The $100 Laptop Is Almost Here

One Laptop per Child (OLPC) is a non profit association dedicated to research to develop a $100 laptop,a technology that could revolutionize children's education world wide. This initiative was launched by faculty members at the MIT Media Lab.These innovative machines will be full color, full screen laptops which will use innovative modes of power.Given the fact that they are going to be used in the world's poorest countries these machines have a dual source of power.An electric adapter which can be plugged in if electricity is available and also a string powered wind up!They will be almost as capable as normal laptops except that they won't be able to store large amounts of data.

What makes these machines so cheap?They use a dual mode LCD display for one.Then these low cost computers contain flash memory instead of a hard drive and use Linux as their operating system.Although Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computers, offered to supply free copies of the company's operating system OS X for the machine MIT declined to accept it because it is not open source.The designers clearly want an operating system they can fiddle around with. Flash memory is a non volatile computer memory that can be electronically erased and re-programmed. Its advantage is that it can retain the stored information even when the power is cut off.Non volatile memory is usually used for the task of secondary storage, or long term persistent storage as it has limitations which render it unsuitable for use as primary storage.For primary storage we still have to rely on a volatile form of random access memory.The first computers will be powered by an AMD microprocessor.Costs are expected to fall significantly when mass production of these machines begins.

The computers now called XO laptops will cost $188 to produce initially but company officials insist that $100 remains a long term goal.Presently the aim is to sell it to governments in large volumes.At the same time there are plans to introduce a commercial version that will sell for around $200, the profits going to subsidize the educational project.

The big computer companies whose initial reaction was to laugh at the project are now watching the developments with interest.The machines are scheduled to go into production in October this year and the first computers will hit US stores in January or February 2008.

Although various governments have shown interest and are even running pilot projects to evaluate the machines and to find ways to distribute them, very few have so far made any financial commitments.Achieving the goal of distributing millions of these machines is still some distance away.

Why Is Apple Slashing Prices Of iPhones?

Apple launched the iPhone ,a cellular phone with computing and Wi-Fi capabilities on June 29th 2007.It was one of the most talked about and written about consumer electronics products ever.It had people camping in front of Apple stores to snap up the first phones to hit the shelves.

Ten weeks on people agree that most of the praise is justified as is most of the criticism.It does things no phone has ever done before, yet it lacks some features found in even the most simple and cheapest phones.

An average iPhone costs $499 for the model with a 4 gigabyte memory and $599 for one with an 8 gigabyte memory.It is thin and sleek and sturdy.If you think it is too expensive then you would do well to remember that the price includes a cell phone ,video,iPod,e-mail terminal,camera , web browser,Palm type organizer and an alarm clock.Of all the features built into it the cell phone is perhaps the least important part.

But the best part is its superb software.Its fast and simple to operate and you don't get lost.On the flip side you can't install new programs from anyone but Apple.The camera takes excellent photos but no video.The major problem however is that Apple is in an exclusive deal with AT&T.Their network simply isn't good enough and in fact ranks almost at the bottom.But this problem is expected to improve over time.All in all it rates as a good buy.

And here's the latest piece of good news from Apple.Clearly with an eye on holiday sales Apple cut the price of its iPhone Wednesday.The price of the $599 model was slashed to $399.The $499 ,4 gigabyte model has been discontinued.

Apple claims that it wants to widen the market for its popular phone which is considered to be simply too expensive.But one would do well to remember that this is because the cell phone part is the least important part of the gadget.

Steven P Jobs the CEO of Apple claimed that they would have met their sales target of a million phones in the US by the end of September even without a price cut.But experts are not so sure.They are quick to point out that Motorola Razr the world's best selling cell phone till now hit the market at $499 but now sells for less than $100.They say that the cell phone market is like that and steep price cuts are normal.They suspect that Apple was finding that sales are beginning to stall.

A lot of the people who bought the iPhone before the price cut was announced feel cheated now that prices have been slashed within merely 10 weeks of its launch.Apple has announced that those who bought the iPhone within the last 14 days can claim a full refund if they have not opened it.In case they have opened it they can still get a refund of the price difference.

Whatever may be the reason for the price cut it's A Merry Christmas from Apple.

Data Theft and How to Stop it.

News stories of data theft are becoming increasingly and disturbingly commonplace.

Most of the data theft is deliberate and is usually done by employees when they are leaving their company.Protecting one's self from ones' own employees is a major challenge as employees are able to use a large range of sophisticated devices which can be simply plugged into office equipment to do the job.An insignificant looking device such as a pen drive has the potential to cause large losses to an enterprise.Surprisingly most of these employees have no guilt about stealing data.Many of them in fact feel that they had a right to use the data since they had helped the company collect it in the first place.Some of the most serious data theft occurs when hackers breach the security systems of a computer and gain unauthorized access to records.Then data theft is often accidental.Laptops are frequently stolen by robbers, usually from parked cars.Often these laptops belong to senior executives of important companies and contain vital information.

The data usually stolen is in the nature of databases of names and addresses of persons and their contact details.These can then be used by rivals to steal business from a competitor.Sometimes the data that gets stolen also includes credit card details,information about bank accounts,social security numbers etc. of an individual.This is more serious as it can lead to identity theft and also the the theft of a persons money.Finally even trade secrets can be targeted.The most celebrated case is the one in March 2005 when Lexar was awarded almost $400 million when it was proved that its trade secrets were stolen and used by no less a company than Toshiba!

Data theft is occurring more frequently now because there is a ready market for such information on the one hand and because companies have paid insufficient attention to data security on the other.The most dangerous trend that has emerged is that what was earlier being done just for kicks is now being done for money and organized crime seems to have entered the scene.

One of the reasons why companies have been slow to react is that there are no laws which make companies which collect such data, accountable for its security.Although customers who are victims of bank or credit card fraud usually don't lose money the company which collected the data is not held responsible for its security.We must understand that the return of his money to a victim is not sufficient in itself.The damage that may have been caused, say to his credit history may take years to repair.

So how do companies protect themselves?The basic procedures that need to be adopted by companies to protect themselves are multi layered identification procedures for customers and more importantly encryption of stored data.

But all these things take up both time and money,which means lower profits.Therefore it is time the state/federal regulators stepped in and made sensible laws for the protection of the people