Sunday, June 28, 2009

NASA latest news - Water in Mars

NASA finds more evidence about water in Mars. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter recently has sent back data showing fractures in the surface that are called water's footprints. It has spied hundreds of small fractures on the surface of the Red Planet. Scientists believe that billions of years ago, those fractures directed water flows through underground sandstone. Scientist believe that this is one more piece of evidence that water used to flow across the surface of our neighboring planet years back.

"These structures are important sites for future exploration and investigations into the geological history of water and water-related processes on Mars," said Chris Okubo, a planetary scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Ariz. "Groundwater often flows along fractures such as these, and knowing that these are deformation bands helps us understand how the underground plumbing may have worked within these layered deposits."

In July, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory reported that its scientists had concluded that Mars was once awash in water. The orbiter sent back information showing that water was on Mars as far back as 4.6 billion to 3.8 billion years ago. NASA has the Reconnaissance Orbiter, two ground rovers and the Mars Lander all searching the planet for elements on Mars that could support life. The JPL noted that the period corresponds to the earliest years of the solar system. And the wet conditions were evident for thousands to millions of years after the waters formed clay, which later was buried by volcanic lavas.

NASA said in July that the scientists also found evidence of a system of river channels that flowed into a crater lake slightly larger than Lake Tahoe in California. This latest evidence of water shows not only surface erosion, but also groundwater effects that are widely distributed across the planet, according to NASA. "Groundwater movement has important implications for how the temperature and chemistry of the crust have changed over time, which in turn affects the potential for habitats for past life," said Suzanne Smrekar, deputy project scientist for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, in a statement.

source :

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Mars Technology Program

NASA is pursuing an aggressive, science-driven agenda of robotic exploration of Mars with a series of orbiters and landers. These missions carry science instruments selected to answer questions the planetary science community has posed to better characterize the planet (See Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group, MEPAG ). The overarching objective is increased understanding with regard to Life, Climate, Geology, and Preparation for Human Exploration.

Many new technologies need to be developed and infused into future Mars missions, which demand the following capabilities:

  • Better landing accuracy, with active hazard-detection-and-avoidance capability.

  • Access to high-priority sites with terrain too complex for landing current rovers.

  • Increased mobility to sample diverse geological sites and reach targets of interest.

  • Longer-lived, more robust and higher-output energy systems to allow year and longer surface operations in a greater range of adverse conditions.

  • Technologies to access the subsurface and acquire samples for in situ analysis.
  • New and improved science instruments.
  • In situ sample acquisition, preparation, and distribution systems.
  • Increased autonomy to enable increased return of high-priority science.
  • Planetary protection techniques.
  • Technologies for possible return of samples to Earth for analysis.

The Mars Technology Program (MTP) is responsible for technology development plans that are consistent with NASA's Mars Exploration vision, and implementing and infusing those technologies into future missions.

Technologies are selected for development funding by competitions via NASA Research Announcements (NRA) and by direct funding when appropriate.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

FBI 'cracks $50m healthcare scam'

The FBI says it has uncovered a $50m (£30m) scam involving the US healthcare system, making arrests in Florida , Michigan and Colorado .

Fifty-three people have been charged with defrauding Medicare, the government insurance scheme providing care to the elderly and disabled.

Doctors allegedly gave cash to patients to sign paperwork claiming to have had treatments which they were never given.

Medical staff, patients and company executives are among those charged.

A day earlier, police arrested eight people in Miami involved in a separate scheme using fake clinics to generate fraudulent bills of around $100m.

Federal agents say they are investigating almost 2,500 other cases and that fraud is costing American taxpayers billions of dollars every year.

Those in the administration and Congress now working on wider healthcare reforms say building better safeguards will be central to any new system.

President Barack Obama is currently seeking to overhaul the US healthcare system.

Source :

China accused over unfair trade

have collect you some information regarding “The US and European Union (EU) have filed complaints that China is unfairly limiting its raw material exports.” From the source

In the trade cases filed with the World Trade Organization (WTO) the US and EU said China was giving its domestic industry access to cheap materials. China said it was meeting its WTO obligations and would contest the case. The case may be the first of many between the world's largest nations as countries have sought to protect their industries amid the global recession. The cases concern the export of materials such as coke used to make steel, for which it is one of the largest producers, as well as bauxite and magnesium.

Consultation period

"The United States believes that China is unfairly restricting exports of raw materials," US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said. "These actions are hurting American steel, aluminum and chemical manufacturers, among other industries, that desperately need these materials to make their products." Mr Kirk said the US had decided to pursue a WTO case after two years of talks between the Chinese and the previous administration of former President George W Bush had failed to reach a resolution.

China responded that its goal was to "protect the environment and natural resources, and the Chinese side considers the relevant policy to be compliant with WTO regulations". China has also responded by launching a complaint over a US ban on the imports of Chinese poultry, which has been in place since the bird flu scare in 2004. The US and EU complaints now trigger a 60-day consultation period. If the dispute is still not resolved, they can formally request a hearing panel, which could hear the case for up to a year. If they win, the US and EU would then be given the go-ahead by the WTO to impose economic sanctions on China .

Source :

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

China and US hold military talks

Defence officials from the United States and China are meeting in Beijing for two days of high-level talks.

They are expected to discuss several recent naval confrontations between the two countries in the South China Sea .North Korea 's recent nuclear and missile tests - and how to react to them - will also be on the agenda. Military relations between China and the US have been strained since last year because of the US sale of arms to Taiwan .

Sovereignty claim

Michele Flournoy, the US under secretary of defence for policy, is leading the US delegation for the talks, set up in 1997. She will meet Lieutenant General Ma Xiaotian from the People's Liberation Army, China 's armed forces. One of the top concerns for the US team is the confrontations between ships from the two countries in the South China Sea. Already this year, there have been a handful of incidents off China 's southern coast. Just a few weeks ago, a Chinese submarine collided with sonar equipment being towed by the USS John S. McCain off Subic Bay in the Philippines. China says that was an accident, but the US says it is worried about the increasing number of such incidents. There is already a mechanism to deal with this kind of conflict.

"We would hope to reinvigorate those discussions so that we can make sure that we're both operating in a safe and prudent manner," said a US defence department spokesman before the US delegation arrived in Beijing. China says the South China Sea , and its island chains, are part of its sovereign territory and it has previously complained about US naval activity in the region. The Defence Consultative Talks between China and the US are usually held every year, although not last year. Beijing suspended military ties between the two nations last October in protest at the US decision to sell $6.5bn-worth of arms to Taiwan , an island China considers its own.

source :

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ethiopia rejects Somali request

Ethiopia has refused a request by Somalia for military support to fight insurgents, saying such an intervention would need an international mandate.

The Somali authorities have been battling Islamist insurgents who control much of the country. The speaker of Somalia 's parliament had earlier urged neighboring countries to send troops within 24 hours. Ethiopian troops helped topple an Islamist movement in Somalia in 2006, but were withdrawn earlier this year.

On Saturday Somali parliamentary Speaker Sheikh Aden Mohamed Nur urged neighboring Kenya , Djibouti , Ethiopia and Yemen to intervene as fierce fighting continued for a second day in the capital Mogadishu . But Ethiopian government spokesman Bereket Simon said that an international mandate was needed for such an intervention. He added that the international community, not just Somalia 's neighbors, should assist its transitional government.


Somalia has been without an effective government since 1991. Its UN-backed transitional government controls only parts of Mogadishu , but little of the rest of the country. There are some 4,300 African Union troops deployed in Mogadishu , but they lack any mandate to pursue the insurgents. Pro-government forces have been fighting radical Islamist guerrillas in the capital since 7 May. On Friday, gunmen killed Mohamed Hussein Addow, an MP who represented the Karan district where fighting has been particularly intense in recent days.

It was the third killing of a high-profile public figure in as many days. Somalia 's security minister - an outspoken critic of the militant Islamist group al-Shabab - was killed in a suicide attack in the northern town of Beledweyne , and Mogadishu 's police commander was also killed this week. Militant groups including al-Shabab, which is accused of links to al-Qaeda, have been trying to topple Somalia 's government for three years. Some four million people in Somalia - or about one-third of the population - need food aid, according to aid agencies.

Source :

Thursday, June 18, 2009

New images show evidence of Ancient lake found on Mars

US researchers have uncovered traces of an ancient lake on Mars boosting hopes of discovering evidence that billions of years ago the Red planet hosted life.

The lake, which dates back some 3.4 billion years, appears to have covered as much as 80 square miles and was up to 1,500 feet deep, said the team from the University of Colorado.

"This is the 1st unambiguous evidence of shorelines on the surface of Mars," said Boulder's research associate, Gaetano Di Achille, in a study published in the latest edition of Geophysical Research Letters.

"The identification of the shorelines and accompanying geological evidence allows us to calculate the size and volume of the lake, which appears to have formed about 3.4 billion years ago."

Analysis of the images has shown the water carved out the canyon in which it was found, which then opened out into a valley depositing sediment which formed a delta.

"Finding shorelines is a holy grail of sorts to us," said assistant professor Brian Hynek, adding it showed the lake existed at a time when Mars was thought to have been cold and dry.

"Not only does this research prove there was a long-lived lake system on Mars, but we can see that the lake formed after the warm, wet period is thought to have dissipated."

Scientists believe the oldest surfaces on Mars formed during the wet and warm era known as the Noachan epoch, about 4.1 billion to 3.7 billion years ago, that featured a bombardment of large meteors and extensive flooding.

The newly discovered lake is believed to date from the Hesperian era and postdates the end of the warm and wet period on Mars by 300 million years, according to the study.

Scientists believe deltas next to the lake may well hold secrets about past life on Mars as such places on Earth have become the natural deposits of organic carbon and other markers of life.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

NASA Cancels Space Shuttle Endeavour Launch

NASA cancels again the launch of the space shuttle Endeavour because of the Hydrogen gas leak.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Opera Launches 'Unite' an alternative version of Opera 10

Today the company launched 'Opera Unite', an alternative version of Opera 10 which allows users to effectively create a web server through their web browser. How it works is simple: you download the new version, select which folder(s) you want to share, choose a name for the PC you are using and that shared content and Opera generates a custom URL.

From here three access levels are available: public, limited and private. One note of caution, any folders selected automatically include content from their subfolders while obviously the PC sharing the content will need to remain both on and connected to the Internet.

Services initially available through Opera Unite are:

* File Sharing
* Web Server (host websites)
* Media Player (MP3 access)
* Photo Sharing
* 'The Lounge' (self contained chat rooms)
* 'Fridge' (an environment to securely exchange notes)

Further services will be rolled out as the platform matures.

"Today, we are opening the full potential of the Web for everyone," said Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner. "Technology moves in distinct cycles. PCs decentralized computing away from large mainframes. Opera Unite now decentralizes and democratizes the cloud. With server capability in the browser, Web developers can create Web applications with profound ease. Consumers have the flexibility to choose private and efficient ways of sharing information. We believe Opera Unite is one of our most significant innovations yet, because it changes forever the fundamental fabric of the Web."

Opera Unite is available now. A brave new world, or a niche service? Only time - and perhaps user imagination - will tell...


Monday, June 15, 2009

Swine flu rise in Indian country

More people have tested positive for swine flu in India, bringing the total number of those infected in the country to 23, according to reports.

Fresh cases have been detected in the northern city of Jalandhar, as well as Hyderabad and Bangalore in the south.

These include a student who tested positive on returning from a trip to US. Eight of his classmates are suffering from flu symptoms.

Last week the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global flu pandemic.

The swine flu (H1N1) virus first emerged in Mexico in April and has since spread to 74 countries.

Official reports say there have been nearly 30,000 cases globally and 141 deaths, with figures rising daily.

In India, a 29-year-old woman and her 3-year-old daughter who had flown in from US were quarantined in Bangalore after testing positive for the virus.

In Jalandhar, 8 students were quarantined when one of their classmates tested positive for swine flu in a hospital in the capital, Delhi.

They were part of a group of students who had returned from the US at the weekend.

In Hyderabad, reports say three people tested positive, including two girls and their grandmother. They also had returned from the US.

Earlier this month, India issued an alert against the flu. Airport screening has been tightened and more testing facilities would come.

The government has said that India was fully equipped to deal with the outbreak.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

HIV Found in 22 Porn Actors in Sex Films Since 2004

A Southern California porn actress has tested positive for HIV, reigniting concerns that the adult entertainment industry isn't protecting talent from the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

While initial HIV tests of the woman's partners came up negative, the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation, a nonprofit corporation that handles HIV and STD testing and treatment for people who work in the porn industry, said the actors are not working and are being encouraged to test again in two weeks.

This case is the 1st publicly confirmed HIV infection in the industry in Southern California since 2004, when an HIV outbreak shut down porn production industry-wide for a month. At that time, actor Darren James returned from a work trip to Brazil and infected three actresses. More than 50 actors were placed on voluntary work quarantine until they were cleared.

There has been no similar production shutdown announced since the latest news of the unidentified actress's positive HIV test became public.

In a statement posted on the adult industry Web site, AIM founder Sharon Mitchell said this scenario is different because the actress worked infrequently and had not worked with a large number of partners.

"There has been a person who has tested positive. There were exceptionally few partners, inside and outside the industry. All partners are currently testing negative and in adult employment quarantine. All required reporting has been complied with, as have the AIM and industry protocols. The investigation is ongoing. This isn't a major event," Mitchell said, according to AVN.

Mark Kernes, senior editor of AVN, said the actress was an older woman who was only hired on rare occasions.

He called the case an "isolated event," saying she did not contract or spread HIV to or from anyone in the adult film world, a testament to the protocols the industry currently has in place.

All of the actors working in the industry are required to be tested for HIV every 30 days, according to Kernes. The time between tests for other sexually transmitted diseases is longer. He said on average, there are about 1,000 people who actively work in the industry every 6 months.

Mitchell said the woman and all the actors who have worked with her have been quarantined.

Dean Fryer, California's Occupational Safety and Health Administration spokesperson, said he's not sure the adult film industry safety guidelines his organization helped define are being followed. In particular, he voiced concerns that condoms are not used.

"I'm concerned that a lot of producers are not using condoms or using film techniques so as to film a simulation rather than a sexual act," Fryer said. "That troubles me."

Fryer said Cal/Osha is currently identifying the infected woman and her employer in an attempt to understand whether production on the actress's films was performed in a safe manner. He said the Los Angeles public health department is also conducting an investigation.

Dr. Jonathan Fielding, health officer for Los Angeles County, was also troubled by the lack of condom use.

"I don't know any other people that are unnecessarily exposed to life-threatening diseases as a condition of work. People need special equipment. Can you imagine fire fighters fighting fires without protective gear or police on the beat without some way of arming themselves?" asked Fielding.

While HIV is an issue, Fielding said the more pervasive problem was sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea. He said AIM notifies the Department of Public Health of about 15 new infections a week.

"These are serious problems," said Fielding.

The HIV case has not been officially reported to Cal/Osha or the Los Angeles Department of Public Health. Both plan on investigating the situation to prevent future incidents.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Delta Air Lines Inc and American Airlines to cut capacity

ATLANTA/NEW YORK - TWO major US airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines Inc, will slash capacity this year as the recession erodes travel demand, the carriers said on Thursday.

The cuts, which were broadly expected, are likely to be matched by rivals. US Airways Group and Continental Airlines also signaled plans to cut the number of seats available for sale.

The airline industry has barely digested last year's deep capacity cuts. But experts say more are needed to bolster fares and help compensate for rising oil prices and weak demand.

Delta said it plans to trim system capacity by 10% this year, with reductions beginning in September. Delta also said it plans to cut international capacity an additional 5% on top previously announced cuts, for a total reduction of 15%.

AMR Corp, parent of American Airlines, said it would cut available seat miles by 7.5% this year, compared with a previous forecast of a 6.5% decline.

US Airways said it expects further capacity cuts in its TransAtlantic flying but could announce "marginal reductions" in domestic routes, too.

Continental Airlines Inc said on Thursday it would outline further capacity moves in July, when it has a clearer picture of the status of business traffic.

Carriers have been hit hard as the weak economy has caused consumers and businesses to curtail spending on travel. Demand has also been hurt by this year's outbreak of the H1N1 virus, and rising fuel prices are now also pressuring costs.

Delta told investors that second-quarter revenue could drop by $150 million to $200 million because of reduced travel due to the virus.

Also on Thursday, plane maker Boeing Co cut its global outlook for aircraft demand, saying it now expects 29,000 new planes to be ordered worldwide in the next 20 years. - REUTERS


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Apple to reduces MacBook Pro Prices

At the on going Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) held at San Francisco, Apple has reduced the prices of its existing MacBook Pro lineup. Apart from that, Apple has introduced 13-inch MacBook to the MacBook Pro family with specs update. Also, the new 13-inch MacBook Pro & 15-inch MacBook Pro will carry the same 'non-removable' batteries found in 17-inch MacBook Pro. While the slim MacBook Air notebook gets jaw dropping $700 price cut.

Apple's old White polycarbonate 13-inch MacBook still stands strong with the hardware refresh by the company back in January. Now, the MacBook Pro lineup includes 13-inch, 15-inch and 17-inch Aluminum unibody models.

The Lithium-polymer non-removable battery technology found in 17-inch MacBook Pro has been included in the new 13-inch and 15-inch models. And thanks to these lithium-polymer batteries, the battery life has been increased to 7 hours now from 5 earlier.

All MacBook Pro models would support
  • 8GB RAM & 500GB HDD or 256GB HDD,
  • FireWire 800 port, SD card slots (except the 17-inch MacBook Pro) and
  • backlight keyboard.
The13-inch MacBook Pro is available in two configurations:

First configuration for $1199 (Rs. 57,600 approx.) equips 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 3MB shared cache and 1066MHz FSB, 2GB DDR3 1066MHz RAM, 160GB SATA 5400RPM, Nvidia GeForce 9400M integrated graphics with 256MB video memory and SD Card Slot.

Second configuration for $1,499 (Rs. 72,000 approx.) includes 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 3MB shared cache and 1066MHz FSB, 4GB DDR3 1066MHz RAM, 250GB SATA 5400RPM, Nvidia GeForce 9400M integrated graphics with 256MB video memory and SD Card Slot.

The price of the 15-inch MacBook Pro starts from $1699 (Rs. 81,600 approx.), with a $300 (Rs. 14,400 approx.) price cut from earlier price of $1999 (Rs. 96,000 approx.), and ranges up to $2299 (Rs. 1,10,400 approx.). Including both integrated and discrete Nvidia graphics, option for 256GB SSD is now available for 15-inch models.

The 17-inch MacBook Pro gets 2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 6MB shared L2 cache and 1066MHz FSB, 4GB DDR3 RAM, 500GB SATA 5400RPM (still no 7200RPM in base models), integrated Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics with 256MB DDR3 RAM, discrete Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT with 512MB GDDR3 RAM and still caries the ExpressCard slot.

Last but not the least, MacBook Air gets price cut of a whooping $700 (Rs. 33,600 approx.) and now the base 1.86GHz MacBook Air model starts at $1499 (Rs. 72,000) a lot less than the previous $2199 (Rs. 1,05,600 approx.). While the 2.13GHz MacBook Air model offers 128GB SSD option. Also, MacBook Air box will now bundle the USB-to-Ethernet adapter which was to be purchased separately earlier.


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Post-E3, Sony lay and Nintendo claim to each other's audience

It's post-E3 and for the most part, gaming companies are feeling pretty confident about their work and their future. None seem more confident than Nintendo's president and COO Reggie Fils-Aime and PlayStation Europe's president Andrew House.

Fils-Aime and House spoke to CNET News and Edge Online, respectively about future and standing within the gaming industry.

"Nintendo's in a very fortunate place." Said Fils-Aime, "The industry through April is down about 4 percent, but we're up about 19 percent. So consumers are voting for us with their wallets, which is a great place to be, especially when so much of our best content will be coming in the second half of the year."

When asked about E3, House responded,

"I think we struck the right balance between being very future-facing - new motion controller technology, certainly a lot of good information about the network and how that is going to evolve. We balanced that with very solid tangible game lineup information. If the audience there was anything to go by, it caused a tremendously positive reaction and I think it positions us extremely well."

In an interesting kind of reversal, each seemed to be making up for their setbacks, as Nintendo seems to be interested in trying to grab the attention of more hardcore games, while PlayStation is trying to broaden it's appeal to more casual gamers.

"We think we can win over the Halo audience" said Fils-Aime, "with something like The Conduit, a multi-player, online, shooting experience, or Dead Space Extraction. And you know what? Once those people buy into Wii, they'll go buy Mario Kart or Wii Fit Plus. We're not going to be satisfied just picking up that existing gamer. We have to reach beyond and get that consumer who doesn't game. That's the only way we'll be able to continue growing as a company and as an industry."

While Fils-Aime seems confident that hardcore gamers will eventually find an entry point into the Wii, House noted that the Wii may be just the first step for casual gamers that will eventually lead to their system.

"If you look back at previous lifecycles, like PS2 versus N64 [sic], we have lots of data that suggests that lots of people bought into N64 as their entry level gaming device, and were happy to upgrade to a more powerful machine later in the life cycle when the price point was right for them. I think we're going to see this later on PS3, and the fact that it's a Blu-ray player as well and that there's a [greater] wealth of network based experiences than are perhaps available on the device they already have will add to the proposition.

Also, when asked about Sony and Microsoft's upcoming motion control projects, Fils-Aime didn't seem too worried.

"The only thing I'll say is a rhetorical question. Is it fun? If it's fun, then I tip my hat and say, "Well done." But what's happening sounds to me a lot like, "Who's got the prettiest picture. Who's got high-definition. Who has the best processing power?" It sounds like technology, when the consumer wants to be entertained. Our focus is how do we take active play and make it entertainment. And that's what we're going to continue to focus on."

In the end, whether one is holding the market for casual or hardcore gamers, both companies are pushing the envelope in terms of gameplay and technological achievements, and this may be the year in which both companies begin to blur the lines between casual and hardcore. Whether or not gamers will find a home on the Wii, PS3, or Xbox 360, it's clear from this year's E3 that the industry has changed, and it has changed in a big way, for better or for worse.


Monday, June 08, 2009

Movie studios launching new TV network - Epix

Three major movie studios are about to try an interesting experiment. They are launching a new TV network called Epix that will show their own recent films in HD, but they're going a step beyond by bundling it with an online, on-demand service that offers HD streaming of the same films over the Internet. Think of it like Hulu for movies that aren't yet out on DVD. Oh—and did we mention that the service will have no advertising and won't appear on your cable bill?
A new business model

The music industry was never much good at being a digital retailer—anyone remember MusicNet and Pressplay?—but TV networks and movie studios now seem to think they have learned the lessons of the past.

Like Hulu, the Epix movie service is a joint venture formed by the content owners; in this case, the service is powered by the movie studios Lionsgate, Paramount, and MGM. The Epix TV network will air movies that are in the "pay-TV" window, those weeks before a film appears on DVD in which it is available on pay-per-view or HBO, among others.

That doesn't sound so new, but Epix will be bundled directly into cable packages; under the current business model, it will never appear as a separate charge on the bill and will never have to be added to a package. If Epix can convince enough cable operators to sign on (it isn't yet announcing partners), the service will have an immediate competitive advantage over pay-TV channels with an additional monthly fee.

But the best part is that Epix viewers can access the same material online, on demand, at Ars spoke with Emil Rensing, chief digital office at Epix, who says that watching films online will be a two-click experience with full support for 720p streaming.

The video is offered through Flash and is multi-bitrate enabled; the player checks the available bandwidth every ten seconds to see if a larger or smaller stream is required. Epix currently creates six different encodings of each film which range from full HD support all the way down to 500Kbps (cell phone quality). In our own test preview of Iron Man, video was the best we have ever seen in a mainstream streaming service.

Pushing out that sort of data is bandwidth-intensive, and Epix would love to avoid streaming HD content across the public Internet wherever possible. One way to make that happen, which the company is currently pursuing, is to install caching servers directly in the data centers of ISPs with whom Epix has a relationship. (Rensing says that Epix does not require any sort of quality of service guarantees or bandwidth prioritization from ISPs.)

These "relationships" are one of the unique points about Epix. The company currently has no plans to offer content directly to consumers; it only wants to sign deals with TV distributors. These distributors certainly include the cable companies, but now also include Verizon's FiOS, AT&T's U-verse, and satellite services. will only be available to people who subscribe to one provider's TV offering and also subscribe to that same provider's Internet offering. That is, if Comcast were to offer Epix, users would need to pay for both Comcast cable and Comcast Internet in order to access the streaming, on-demand service. That's good for Comcast, and it helps them cover the cost of the service.
Do you Hulu?

Given that services like Hulu and Netflix On Demand work well and are increasingly popular, the real question is why the studios would launch their own distribution network instead of just offloading the films to partners already equipped to handle them?

Rensing insists that the services are just too different. While Hulu does offer some films, it's focused almost exclusively on TV at the moment and is ad-supported. Netflix On Demand doesn't have access to the same super-recent hit titles.

Left unsaid is the fact that controlling distribution is also a chance to make more money, if it's done right. Epix is pursuing a strategy that has similarities with ESPN's streaming service, ESPN 360, which is also sold directly to ISPs and not available to end users directly. Again, the charge for the service never shows up on a customer's bill but instead looks like a nice added bonus that ISPs can use to differentiate their service from rivals.

The downside is that those who like the site (which looks fairly slick at the moment, even though development continues) and would gladly pay some monthly fee for access—well, they're out of luck.

An invite-only beta of begins today, with a sign-up form for rolling admission over the next few months.


Sunday, June 07, 2009

Computex wraps up

COMPUTEX SHOW organisers are pretty pleased to report that the event continues to grow, despite the constricting realities of the economic downturn and the more psychological threat of swine flu fever.

Having attracted some 32,178 buyers from around the world to its 4,498 booths scattered across halls around Old Taipei, the event can claim to be the biggest yet.

An indication of the shifting focus of the region is the fact that many firms from the Chinese mainland exhibited officially here for the first time, reflecting the changing nature of the relationship between China and Taiwan. For the first time, direct flights bewteen the two territories allowed a significant Chinese presence at the show and that presence seems certain to grow in the coming years.

Walter Yeh, vice president of TAITRA, the Taiwanese trade outfit that runs the show, said the numbers were up, the weather was fine and the Taipei traffic manageable. The show was therefore a definite success. Business was brisk if somewhat less frantic than previous years we've witnessed. Even the Brit presence was up by four per cent, Yeh said.

While OEM business remains pre-eminent, the growth of Taiwanese brands is most pleasing to a local industry obsessed with prestige. Both brands and OEMS are very important to our ecomony, said Yeh, allowing Taiwan to compete in International markets.

Next year is the show's 30th birthday and Yeh expects it to be the biggest and best yet. It will ensure "Computex is the most important showcase for the ICT industry," he said, but dismissed our suggestion that the organisers are desperate for Computex to outstrip Cebit in terms of size and numbers. Cebit is more B to C and focused on Europe said Yeh, Computex being much more about B to B and relationships between local suppliers and customers throughout the world. "We don't compete with others, we just cooperate with our partners," Yeh said.

Yeah paid tribute to local firms reckoning the preponderance of small and medium-size businesses on island means they are more flexible and able to adapt to changing market conditions.


Thursday, June 04, 2009

United Plans massive Plane Order

The news on June 4 that United Airlines (UAUA) plans to place a massive order for as many as 150 new jets was seen by some observers as the latest example of how some companies are shrewdly exploiting the economic downturn in hopes of landing a bargain. Indeed, by soliciting bids at a time when aircraft makers are already reeling from widespread cancellations, United may be able to extract major concessions from Boeing (BA) and Airbus, a possibility that isn't lost on United CEO Glenn Tilton.

"Our timing is opportune, as this is a competitive environment for manufacturers," Tilton said in a June 4 memo to employees disclosing the potential order, which some analysts estimate could be worth as much as $10 billion over the next couple of decades.
CEO Tilton: On His Own

But the plan, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, is perhaps more an indication that Tilton has given up hope, at least for now, that he can make good on his hopes to package the Chicago-based carrier for sale to another airline. Industry insiders say United's plans for a large aircraft order is a tacit admission by Tilton that a merger isn't likely, and that he has no choice but to operate United as an independent company.

"I think he had to accept that there just aren't any buyers for United out there right now," says Scott Hamilton, managing director of Leeham Co., an Issaquah (Wash.)-based industry consulting firm.

While Tilton has publicly argued for the need for further industry consolidation, he has also rejected any suggestions that he was managing the airline for a quick sale. Still, from the time the former oil company executive joined United in 2002 as CEO, Tilton has seemed to be on a mission to oversee a sale of the airline. Tilton's best qualification for the job seemed to be that as CEO of Texaco he had engineered the sale of that company to Chevron (CVX), negotiating a sale price in 2000 that was 25% higher than Texaco's market value at the time. And ever since the board of United's parent, UAL, recruited Tilton to take the troubled airline through its bankruptcy, it seems he has been looking for a merger partner.

United hadn't placed a single order for new aircraft in the seven years since Tilton came aboard, a move that some observers took as an indication of a possible sale, since acquirers would prefer not to inherit any orders for aircraft that are incompatible with their own fleets.
Rebuffed by Potential Partners

According to industry sources, Tilton, 61, tried to negotiate a sale to both Continental Airlines (CAL) and to Delta Air Lines (DAL) in recent years. And his public lobbying for the government to lower barriers that prevent foreign airlines from taking more than a passive, 24.9% stake in U.S. carriers was widely viewed within the industry as an effort to open United for sale to one of its European partners, such as Lufthansa (DLAKY).

But Congress has shown no desire to give foreign acquirers the 100% ownership they desire, at least not for now. And Delta and Continental eventually turned down United's overtures, mainly due to their concerns about the carrier's poisoned relationship with its unions and its operational inefficiencies.

Indeed, when United executives were shopping the carrier in 2007 they held out those operational inefficiencies, which analysts figure result in $1 billion in excess costs per year, as a potential source of profits for any acquirer that could bring a new rigor to United's operations. (In the end, Continental did agree to a marketing joint venture with United in which the two airlines would fly certain connecting legs for each other.)

Tilton's plan for a big order doesn't appear to be so much for expansion, but to fill the looming holes in United's fleet as it begins to retire its aging aircraft. In the June 4 memo, Tilton said the carrier would be looking for "a potentially significant number of aircraft that could ultimately replace our widebody fleet" and would "also be assessing appropriate replacement of our Boeing 757 fleet."
Where Will United Get the Money?

But it isn't clear how United will pay for such a massive order. The airline has reported losses for six straight quarters, and despite raising nearly $500 million in cash through various financings and asset sales, United is sitting on an unrestricted cash balance of just $2.5 billion, as compared with the $4.4 billion cash hoard held by Delta and the $3.3 billion at American Airlines (AMR).

That's still well above the $1 billion or so that analysts say an airline the size of United needs to function on a week-to-week basis. But analysts expect United to lose another $335 million over the rest of the year, and losses could rise even more if the economy remains in its current funk for longer than that. "I don't quite see how they can afford this," notes Robert Mann, an airline industry consultant in Port Washington, N.Y. "Their balance sheet is still strained."

If the economy remains soft, Mann believes United's best hope to raise cash for the initial plane purchases would come from selling the rights to future income from its frequent-flier miles to hotels, rental-car companies, and the myriad other companies that offer them to their own customers as incentives.
A Bidding War Is Unlikely

Despite the common perception that aircraft makers like Boeing and Airbus are suffering from order cutbacks, Hamilton notes that as a result of the long lead times in manufacturing, both companies are still scheduled to deliver about 480 aircraft this year, or roughly the same number as in 2008. Which means that while both Boeing and Airbus would salivate at the prospect of landing a $10 billion order, Hamilton thinks it's unlikely that either will be willing to offer the kind of fire-sale prices that Tilton may be anticipating. "The perception that the workers at Boeing and Airbus are just sitting on their hands is incorrect," he says.

And as much as United might want to reap the biggest discounts by staging a "winner-take-all" competition, Hamilton believes it will be hard for either of the two manufacturers to create a portfolio of aircraft that fits United's myriad needs. While the carrier has come to rely on Airbus for the narrow-body jets that it flies on its domestic routes, Hamilton notes that United is still likely to turn to Boeing for the long-haul aircraft it uses on its international routes.

"I just don't see that any one manufacturer, at this point in time, has the lineup that fits all of their specific needs," Hamilton says.


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Opera Web browser offers more new tab options

NEW YORK (AP) - Norway's Opera Software has a new Web browser that lets you work more easily with multiple tabs in a single window.

Opera 10 is now out, in a "beta" test mode.

A resizable tab bar lets you stretch the row of tabs at the top so that mini, "thumbnail" versions of open pages appear inside. That way, you can choose the tab based on the appearance of the Web page, not just its name.

Of course, thumbnails are not new to browsers. Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer offers them, as does previous versions of Opera.

But Opera 10 lets you see those thumbnails up top while you continue to browse normally in the larger space below.

It is not clear, though, whether that will do much to increase Opera's tiny market share.


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Scientists Use Poop to Track Penguins in Antarctica

Researchers are now using a rather lighthearted method to keep track of penguins in Antarctica. They're following the animals poop from space

Monday, June 01, 2009

London's famous Big Ben Rings in Its 150th Anniversary

Defiantly low-tech yet accurate to the second, London's famous Big Ben clock is turning 150 years old.