Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

August 25, 2011

Steve Jobs: From college dropout to tech visionary

As Steve Jobs ends his career at Apple — perhaps the world’s most valuable and admired company — business and tech pundits are showering him with superlatives: Innovator. Visionary. Genius.

August 19, 2011

Tracking Crime in Real Time

Almost everything we do leaves a digital trace, whether we send an email to a friend or make a purchase online. That includes law-abiding citizens — and criminals. And with digital information multiplying by the second, there are seemingly endless amounts of information for criminal investigators to gather and process.

Sherlock Holmes goes digital
Like digital files, people are always on the move, Prof. Ben-Gal says. It’s not enough to process the information you have and assume the output will remain relevant. “If the object is moving, modelling and eventually catching it is mathematically complex,” he says. Prof. Ben-Gal and his fellow researchers work with leading companies in homeland security on how to establish patterns of terrorist or criminal activity using mostly communication files. New pieces of information are automatically plugged in to existing data, and the algorithm’s analysis of the criminal’s movement or pattern is reformatted.
The algorithm works like a computerized sleuth, taking pieces of information such as phone calls, emails, or credit card interactions and reducing them to a set of random variables for further analysis. All of these communications are actually pieces of one long message waiting to be decoded, explains Prof. Ben-Gal. In a single telephone call, for example, there are several variables to consider — the recipient of the call, its length, the location of the caller himself. Once all this is known, the algorithm not only assesses patterns of crime to predict future movements, but also creates a probability map displaying the possible locations of the person or group of interest.
Like a topographical map, the probability map is divided into zones where the subject (a criminal, a terrorist organization or a drug dealing ring) is likely operating. Each zone is assigned a statistical level of probability that the subject is there. Although refining the programming of the original algorithm could take some hours, each new piece of information afterwards can be processed in a matter of milliseconds, and the analysis can be used instantly.
Our algorithms can help officials to use the available information wisely, Prof. Ben-Gal says. If they have one shot at obtaining a suspect, the location of highest probability is a good bet. Zones of lower probability can be ruled out and attention can be focused in increasingly specific areas. With more time to spare, it’s an adaptive searching game — lower probability zones can sometimes yield more information.
A gathering cloud of big data
According to Prof. Ben-Gal, these algorithms are designed to deal with the phenomenon of “big data,” the ever-growing amount of information available to crime fighters in the technological environment. But beyond tracking the bad guys, they offer solutions for our more legitimate world — from marketing to computer file sharing.
Prof. Ben-Gal points to companies such as Amazon, IBM and Apple, which have effectively put similar algorithms to use. Amazon, for example, generates purchasing suggestions based on books, music or products you have already purchased or browsed. Apple’s forthcoming iCloud, a service that wirelessly stores digital content, will need algorithms to locate moving files when they are needed and deliver them to various devices.
Prof. Ben-Gal says that this research can also lead to near-future consumer enhancements such as location-based marketing, which targets consumers based on their location, notifying them on their mobile devices of deals in their local area

Courtesy ScienceDaily

July 11, 2011

A Mobile Guide for Buses and Trains

 If people had access to a fully-fledged system to help them navigate public transport, it could persuade many drivers to switch to their local trains, buses and trams. Researchers in Germany are busy developing an application that will enable passengers to use a cell phone to navigate their way through the public transport network.
Drivers were freed from their dependence on maps a long time ago — nowadays they rely on their navigation device to get them to destinations in unfamiliar areas. But this luxury has so far remained elusive for users of local public transport systems. A personal guide — similar to a car’s navigation system — designed to show them the way to their destination and help avoid hold-ups and out-of-service lines would be a tremendous help. Commuters and locals could switch to alternative routes if their bus or train was late and tourists would be able to find the quickest route to their hotel or to the main city sights. Now it seems there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon for public transport users: Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Transportation and Infrastructure Systems IVI in Dresden are working with eight partners from industry and the research community on the “SMART-WAY” project, which aims to develop a personal guide which would offer a whole lot more than just timetable information.
This mobile guide is being developed in the form of a navigation application for cell phones and smartphones. The goal is to make the app available from 2012 to help people find their way through the labyrinths of trains, buses and trams that criss-cross Europe’s cities. “All you will need to do is to launch our SMART-WAY app on your cell phone and enter your destination. SMART-WAY will then guide you to the nearest station or bus stop and tell you where you need to change and what lines you need to take to get there,” explains Andreas Küster, the researcher responsible for coordinating the project at the IVI. The application displays multiple alternative routes on a map which shows all the stops, connections, modes of transport, directions, arrival and departure times. Users also have the option of breaking off their journey, switching to different forms of transport or entering a new destination at any point they wish: By constantly tracking the user’s current location, SMART-WAY is able to respond in real-time by simply re-calculating the route. The same applies in the event of traffic jams, delays or early arrivals — whenever new developments affect your chosen route, the app immediately suggests alternatives. A useful touch is the vibration alert that tells you when you have reached your destination or missed a stop.
But how exactly does the SMART-WAY app calculate a user’s current position and respond in real time? “As well as providing support for satellite navigation with GPS and — in the future — Galileo, our navigation system also dovetails with the location-finding systems the public transport companies use to keep track of their vehicles,” says Küster. “These positioning systems are supplemented by inertial sensors which register whether a vehicle is accelerating or braking in order to decide whether it is in motion or waiting at a stop. All the information on timetables, connections and hold-ups in the network are supplied by the transport companies in real time and imported into the app.” A prototype of SMART-WAY has already been completed and the researchers hope to have a final version of the application ready to roll out across Europe by 2012. The first field tests are scheduled to be run in September 2011 in Dresden and Turin in cooperation with the local public transport operators.
To demonstrate how SMART-WAY works, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM in Kaiserslautern developed a software program which simulates a virtual city and a virtual public transport operator including all the timetable information. “The software gives us a real feel for how the application would work in real life. It even lets us play around with situations that only occur sporadically, such as traffic hold-ups and similar problems. And we can also use it to demonstrate our real-time navigation system at trade fairs and conferences and to show public transport operators how the system works,” says Dr. Michael Schröder from the ITWM. SMART-WAY has been developed for Android smartphones. The question of whether versions will also be made available for other mobile platforms depends on the public transport companies who choose to offer users the application. “We hope to see as many public transport operators as possible offering this application to their customers from 2012 onwards,” Küster says.
Courtesy : ScieneDaily
July 11, 2011

Ubuntu Developer Week -Kicks Off

In just five years, Ubuntu has become the most popular Linux distribution in the world with millions of users. Ever wondered how Ubuntu development works? How to get involved yourself? Find out from July 11th 2011 to July 15th 2011!
Ubuntu Developer Week is a series of online workshops where you can: 
  1. learn about different packaging techniques
  2. find out more about different development teams
  3. check out the efforts of the world-wide Development Community
  4. participate in open Q&A sessions with Ubuntu developers

much more…
For more info
July 6, 2011

Important Step in Next Generation of Computing: Vital Insight Into Spintronics

Scientists have taken one step closer to the next generation of computers. Research from the Cavendish Laboratory, the University of Cambridge’s Department of Physics, provides new insight into spintronics, which has been hailed as the successor to the transistor.
Spintronics, which exploits the electron’s tiny magnetic moment, or ‘spin’, could radically change computing due to its potential of high-speed, high-density and low-power consumption. The new research sheds light on how to make ‘spin’ more efficient.
For the past fifty years, progress in electronics has relied heavily on the downsizing of the transistor through the semiconductor industry in order to provide the technology for the small, powerful computers that are the basis of our modern information society. In a 1965 paper, Intel co-founder Gordon E. Moore described how the number of transistors that could be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit had doubled every year between 1958 and 1965, predicting that the trend would continue for at least ten more years.
That prediction, now known as Moore’s Law, effectively described a trend that has continued ever since, but the end of that trend — the moment when transistors are as small as atoms, and cannot be shrunk any further — is expected as early as 2015. At the moment, researchers are seeking new concepts of electronics that sustain the growth of computing power.
Spintronics research attempts to develop a spin-based electronic technology that will replace the charge-based technology of semiconductors. Scientists have already begun to develop new spin-based electronics, beginning with the discovery in 1988 of giant magnetoresistance (GMR) effect. The discovery of GMR effect brought about a breakthrough in gigabyte hard disk drives and was also key in the development of portable electronic devices such as the iPod.
While conventional technology relies on harnessing the charge of electrons, the field of spintronics depends instead on the manipulation of electrons’ spin. One of the unique properties in spintronics is that spins can be transferred without the flow of electric charge currents. This is called “spin current” and unlike other concepts of harnessing electrons, the spin current can transfer information without generating heat in electric devices. The major remaining obstacle to a viable spin current technology is the difficulty of creating a volume of spin current large enough to support current and future electronic devices.
However, the new Cambridge researchers in close collaboration with Professor Sergej Demokritov group at the University of Muenster, Germany, have, in part, addressed this issue. In order to create enhanced spin currents, the researchers used the collective motion of spins called spin waves (the wave property of spins). By bringing spin waves into interaction, they have demonstrated a new, more efficient way of generating spin current.
Dr Hidekazu Kurebayashi, from the Microelectronics Group at the Cavendish Laboratory, said: “You can find lots of different waves in nature, and one of the fascinating things is that waves often interact with each other. Likewise, there are a number of different interactions in spin waves. Our idea was to use such spin wave interactions for generating efficient spin currents.”
According to their findings, one of the spin wave interactions (called three-magnon splitting) generates spin current ten times more efficiently than using pre-interacting spin-waves. Additionally, the findings link the two major research fields in spintronics, namely the spin current and the spin wave interaction.
June 28, 2011

Smartphone App Helps You Find Friends in a Crowd

The software, called eShadow, makes its debut at the IEEE International Conference on Distributed Computing Systems (ICDCS) on June 23 in Minneapolis.
It uses nearby wireless networks and smartphones’ wireless communication technologies to alert users that a friend who also uses the software is in the area — and gives directions to that friend’s location.
Dong Xuan, associate professor of computer science and engineering at Ohio State University, hopes that his research group’s software will also build bridges between strangers who share personal or professional interests.
At a business meeting such as ICDCS, for example, the software could remind a user of a forgotten acquaintance’s name, or help him or her make new professional contacts in the same area of research.
Since it enables face-to-face meetings, eShadow is a complement to online social networks such as Facebook, which excel at connecting people who are far apart, Xuan said.
“Today, online social networking has advanced dramatically, but our ability to meet people face-to-face hasn’t gotten any easier,” he said. “We want eShadow to close social gaps and connect people in meaningful ways, while keeping the technology non-intrusive and protecting privacy.”
The name eShadow comes from the idea that users input their interests into the software, and their smartphone broadcasts those interests to certain other users of the software — but only within 50 yards of the phone. So as users move, the broadcast follows them around like a shadow.
As to users’ safety, Xuan feels that, at least for some situations, meeting someone in person is safer than meeting them online.
“Online, people can steal others’ identity, or lie easily without detection. It’s much harder to pull off a masquerade in person,” he said.
Plus, users only share information which they want to share, and can observe potential friends at a distance before deciding whether to introduce themselves. Young people, Xuan pointed out, are especially comfortable with putting personal information online, and could readily adapt to using the software.
That said, people can be selective about who they wish to receive their eShadow signals. Users can select individuals from their phone’s contact list, and specifically de-select people as well.
“Say I’m from Ohio State, and someone else is from the University of Michigan, so I don’t want to talk to them. I just tell the software to ignore anyone who says they’re from Michigan,” Xuan laughed.
The researchers’ biggest challenges concerned efficient use of wireless communication, explained doctoral student Jin Teng. He and his colleagues wrote algorithms that let smartphones send and receive eShadow signals quickly, but without overwhelming a network.
In outdoor tests on the Ohio State campus, they measured how fast the software could detect users who were 20, 30, and 50 yards apart. They tested different numbers of users, from two to seven.
In all cases, the software was able to connect people within about half a minute — an average of 25 seconds for two users, and 35 seconds for seven.
Xuan noted that eShadow’s algorithms could be useful beyond socializing. Soldiers could use something akin to eShadow to locate each other on the battlefield.
Presently, the software works best when people move infrequently. Xuan and his research group are enhancing it to better accommodate motion. They are also extending it from Windows Mobile to support multiple smartphone platforms such as Android, and exploring opportunities for publicly releasing the software in the near future.
Other engineers on Xuan’s team include Xiaole Bai, an assistant professor of computer and information science at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, and Boying Zhang, Xinfeng Li, and Adam C. Champion, all doctoral students at Ohio State.
This research was funded by Xuan’s National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award, an NSF Computer and Network Systems grant, and an Army Research Office grant.
June 10, 2011

Motorola Unveils The Android Powered Motorola Triumph

Motorola recently announced a new Android powered Motorola Triumph smartphone. This handset runs on the old Android 2.2 (Froyo) Operating System and it will be available exclusively to Virgin Mobile customers in the US. The Motorola Triumph comes with a 4.1 inch WVGA display, 1 GHz processor, 5 megapixel camera with HD (720p) video recording, 32 GB expandable memory and more.

June 7, 2011

>Examining the Brain as a Neural Information Super-Highway


The brain functions as a complex system of regions that must communicate with each other to enable everyday activities such as perception and cognition. This need for networked computation is a challenge common to multiple types of communication systems. Thus, important questions about how information is routed and emitted from individual brain regions may be addressed by drawing parallels with other well-known types of communication systems, such as the Internet.
The authors, from the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Centre, Toronto, Canada, showed that — similar to other communication networks — the timing pattern of information emission is highly indicative of information traffic flow through the network. In this study the output of information was sensitive to subtle differences between individual subjects, cognitive states and brain regions.
The researchers recorded electrical activity from the brain and used signal processing techniques to precisely determine exactly when units of information get emitted from different regions. They then showed that the times between successive departures are distributed according to a specific distribution. For instance, when research study participants were asked to open their eyes in order to allow visual input, emission times became significantly more variable in parts of the brain responsible for visual processing, reflecting and indicating increased neural “traffic” through the underlying brain regions.
This method can be broadly applied in neuroscience and may potentially be used to study the effects of neural development and aging, as well as neurodegenerative disease, where traffic flow would be compromised by the loss of certain nodes or disintegration of pathways.
This research was funded by grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Santa Fe Institute Consortium to TP and a J.S. McDonnel Foundation grant to ARM.
Courtesy ScienceDaily
June 7, 2011

>Virtual Shopping in 3D


Courtesy Businessweek.
Linda Smith walked on stage at the Spring 2011 Demo Conference in Palm Desert, Calif., on Feb. 28 and tried on clothes. Looking at herself in an interactive mirror, she tested out virtual dresses, handbags, and jewelry. The interactive “fitting room,” called Swivel, is a mix of software created by her company, FaceCake Marketing Technologies of Calabasas, Calif., and a hacked 3D camera from Microsoft’s (MSFT) Kinect gaming console.
Kinect started out as a controller-free gaming system, but developers such as FaceCake are writing new applications for the system’s 3D camera. Kinect cameras essentially transform computers into two-way mirrors whose system can see users. One potential use of Kinect is making accurate 3D models of people to help them purchase everything from swimsuits to jeans online.
In 2011, 148.1 million shoppers, or about 83 percent of U.S. Internet users ages 14 and older, will make a purchase online, according to eMarketer. In the first quarter of 2011, retail e-commerce sales totaled $46 billion, according to the Census Bureau of the U.S. Commerce Dept. Yet almost 38 percent of women don’t buy online, according to Forrester Research (FORR), because they want to be able to see and touch items before they hand over a credit card. Retailers have tried to help shoppers overcome reservations with new visualization tools such as augmented reality, which lets customers try on clothes virtually, according to eMarketer. “The more lifelike you can make your e-commerce experience, the better that experience will be,” says Noah Elkin, principal analyst at eMarketer. “If you’re a retailer, it will make your site a more persuasive place to go to make that purchase.”
Augmented Relality Applications
In the retail sector, companies have been experimenting with two-dimensional augmented-reality applications that let customers try on clothes virtually. Last Sept. 10, Macy’s (M) installed a Magic Fitting Room in its Herald Square Store in New York. Within minutes, shoppers were trying on the most popular tops, dresses, and jackets, creating as many as 16 outfits that could be stored in a digital closet and then shared on Facebook and by e-mail. Over the next six weeks, more than 16,000 fitting sessions were completed, according to the maker of the Magic Fitting Room, digital marketing and technology agency LBI International (LBI:NA).
Similarly in April, Swiss watchmaker Tissot ran an interactive display in a Harrods window, inviting passersby to try on watches. Mobile apps also let EBay (EBAY) shoppers try on sunglasses or outfits superimposed on photos of themselves. Still, these efforts lack the depth of 3D images.
May 30, 2011

>Nokia Promises Updates for Symbian till 2016


Nokia’s move of switching over to Windows Phone 7 as it’s main platform caused quite a stir. People began questioning the support for Symbian devices.But there is good news for the users of Symbian devices.Stephen Elop (CEO of Nokia) stated in a video interview today that Nokia would continue supporting and updating Symbian till at least 2016. He said that although Nokia are in the transition period of moving from Symbian to Windows, the support for Symbian will continue.