27th > January > 2007 Archive

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Silence and 'scareware' epidemic at MySpace

CommentComment MySpace's immense popularity appears to have handed the social networking site an unwanted role as a clearinghouse for Web 2.0 naughties. The Register has uncovered a third dose of "Myscareware" trying to make its way onto users' machines for file infection. Beyond freaking out plenty of teenagers and excitable men, the software cruft has pushed MySpace one step closer to inheriting the security laggard crown from Microsoft.
Dan Goodin, 27 Jan 2007
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Microsoft execs jilted by an unfaithful Dell

Microsoft executives - having been unceremoniously dressed down for, among other things, plotting to cut off rival Netscape's supply of life-giving air - discussed bludgeoning Dell over the true-blue ally's embrace of Linux.
Dan Goodin, 27 Jan 2007
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Intel cranks up next-gen chip-to-chip play

Almost always a slave to silicon, Intel this week unleashed a record-breaking modulator that shows its favored material just might play a dominate role in future fiber optic networking. Intel's researchers have turned out a silicon optical modulator that can encode data at 30 gigabits per second, making it the fastest such device on the planet. That speed notches Intel closer to rivaling the 40 gigabits per second of non-silicon devices used today in the fiber optic world. And it places Intel on the cusp of delivering fast, cheap networking hardware capable of rack-to-rack, server-to-server and chip-to-chip communications.
Ashlee Vance, 27 Jan 2007
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Intel exposes 45nm Core 2 Duo

Say hello to Intel's 'Penryn', the 45nm architecture that will form the basis for the chip maker's next-generation desktop, notebook and server dual- and quad-core processors, set to ship sometime in the second half of the year.
Tony Smith, 27 Jan 2007

Intel 45nm CPUs to use metal gates, high-k dielectric

Intel's 45nm microprocessors will incorporate transistors constructed with metal gates and high-k dielectric materials, the chip maker revealed today. That said, it was tight-lipped about which materials will actually make up these components in its 45nm dual-core die, 'Penryn'.
Tony Smith, 27 Jan 2007

Put the button on your users

The commuter sitting across from you with one hand in his pocket and an intent look on his face is probably just fiddling with a mobile phone or media player. If he’s fiddling with his pocket itself or the sleeve of his jacket, either you should move away – or he could be trying out Eleksen’s new reference design for fabric buttons, which mean any developer can build a controller out of fabric rather than plastic. If he’s staring at his pocket too, it could be the new Eleksen wearable display module. Either way, it could be your app at his fingertips. Founded by graduates of the Spitting Image puppet workshops, Eleksen has developed a way of making fabric conduct, so it works as buttons you can press. Its best known product is a roll-up fabric keyboard but the company also produced a fabric case for the Samsung Q1 that’s a keyboard too; “if you have a UMPC”, points out Eleksen’s John Collins, “you’re going to have a sleeve to protect it but why does it have to be a dumb sleeve?” Their buttons are also going into G-Tech messenger bags, backpacks from O’Neill and clothing with built-in iPod controls from brands like Kenpo, Spyder, Koyono and Scottevest. Controls embossed into leather or a Japanese down jacket with coloured gem buttons; it’s Eleksen underneath. These products use Eleksen’s iPod controller but the new kits mean you can either create your own buttons or put Windows Sideshow with a gadget for your app into any object you can attach fabric to. Sideshow is part of Windows Vista and takes information from the PC, like email messages, contacts, RSS feeds or anything else you want to code up using the new .NET Micro Framework, and puts it on other devices, which can be an extra screen on a laptop, a digital photo frame or a backpack. That way you can check the address of the meeting you’re supposed to be at or even flick through your PowerPoint slides for a quick refresher without needing to pull out your laptop. Eleksen calls it the wearable display module, but the 2.5 in. screen might be a little large for most clothing. There’s 1GB of storage for the information that transfers from the PC (either by Bluetooth or a USB connection if you think your users will plug their backpack in). And the fabric control pad has seven buttons: four navigation arrows, menu, back and go. Sideshow essentially presents lists of information that you can navigate through and select items from, because you’re viewing rather than creating or editing information. If you want to create your own buttons, look for the new evaluation kit which gives you a swatch of fabric, a USB connection to your computer and sample software interfaces to use the sensor as a QWERTY keyboard, controls for music or video and a sketchpad (because you can use the fabric as a touchpad). Buttons on Eleksen fabric aren’t fixed function or shape; the only thing you’re limited by is what you print onto the fabric to tell people where to press. So the same piece of fabric can be a music controller, a trackpad, a keyboard and a custom interface to your application. Eleksen is talking to a partner about using electroluminescence to let you change the appearance of buttons on the fly, but for now the evaluation kit is to help you test your code before you start building a custom fabric controller. By the middle of the year Eleksen will have a development kit with more tools and automatic code generation. If you want people to use your application on the go without pulling out a laptop, Eleksen’s fabrics and tools give you the option of truly wearable computing. ®
Mary Branscombe, 27 Jan 2007
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Great moments in human research

Also in this week's column: Does urinating after sex prevent catching HIV or other infections? How much damage does a tapeworm do to the human body? Is it dangerous to wake a sleepwalker? Great moments in human research 1: "Concluding, among other things..." The Ig Nobel Prizes are awarded to research that is not exactly compelling. Here are some "winners" in human research. A February 1976 article in Nature concluding, among other things, that there is often "scrotal asymmetry" in man and in ancient sculptures. A November 1984 article in the Journal of Trauma concluding, among other things, that serious head injuries can occur as the result of falling coconuts. An August 1988 article in the Annals of Emergency Medicine concluding, among other things, that there can be a "[T]ermination of intractable hiccups with digital rectal massage". A February 1990 article in the Journal of Periodontology concluding, among other things, that waxed dental floss is preferred to unwaxed dental floss by dental patients by a ratio of nearly two to one. A May-June 1990 article in the Journal of Emergency Medicine concluding, among other things, that "[a] zipper-entrapped penis is a painful predicament that can be made worse by overzealous intervention". A June 1990 article in the British Journal of Dermatology concluding, among other things, that people who think they have foot odour usually do have foot odour and people who do not think they have food odour usually do not have foot odour. An April 1991 article in the International Journal of Neuroscience concluding, among other things, that "[c]ognitive performance ratios can be influenced by forcibly altering the breathing pattern". A June 1991 article in the Annals of Emergency Medicine concluding, among other things, that electric shock treatment is not a successful treatment of rattle snake bites. An August 1993 article in Genitourinary Medicine concluding, among other things, that gonorrhea can be transmitted through an inflatable doll. An August 1993 article in Military Medicine concluding, among other things, that constipation occurs to U.S. military personnel at the following rates: 7.2 per cent while at home, 10.4 per cent while be transported to the field, and 30.2 per cent while in the field. A December 1993 article in the Scottish Medical Journal concluding, among other things: "[T]hree cases are presented of porcelain lavatory pans collapsing under body weight, producing wounds which required hospital treatment. Excessive age of the toilets was implicated as a causative factor. As many toilets get older episodes of collapse may become more common, resulting in further injuries." Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au
Stephen Juan, 27 Jan 2007
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Does urinating after sex prevent catching HIV or other infections?

Also in this week's column: Great moments in human research 1 How much damage does a tapeworm do to the human body? Is it dangerous to wake a sleepwalker? Does urinating after sex prevent catching HIV or other infections? Asked by John Norton of Philadelphia, USA It is widely believed that urinating after sex will prevent sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV. However, this is a myth, say medical experts. According to Dr Basil Donovan of the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research of the University of New South Wales in Australia, this notion "is a widely held belief among soldiers", but "has never been clinically proven". He adds that this idea is merely "part of the rich area of sexual myth". HIV is transmitted via bodily fluids. Welcome back from the planet Neptune if you do not know how to prevent HIV during sexual activity! Another myth is that the partner on top during intercourse will not catch a sexually transmitted disease. Dr Donovan notes that "some people believe infections are gravity-fed or that quick withdrawal prevents transmission. The danger of believing in and following practices based on these myths is that people may not be adequately protected against diseases, some of which are life-threatening". It is also not proven that urinating after intercourse helps prevent a woman from getting a urinary tract infection. The theory here is that the woman should urinate soon after intercourse so that any bacteria that might possibly get into the urinary tract will be flushed out. But the theory may be dangerous to rely upon in practice. If a urinary tract infection occurs, it can eventually spread into the kidneys which can cause a kidney infection (pyelonephritis) and major problems. Much of the above is beyond the competence of an anthropologist writing about body, brain, and behaviour. Yet another myth is that urinating after sexual intercourse will prevent pregnancy. Absolutely not! This is according to the website of Planned Parenthood Federation of America in New York City. Consult your family physician with any personal questions in this area, especially if you are confused or have spent too long on planet Neptune. Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au
Stephen Juan, 27 Jan 2007

Is it dangerous to wake a sleepwalker?

Also in this week's column: Great moments in human research 1 Does urinating after sex prevent catching HIV or other infections? How much damage does a tapeworm do to the human body? Is it dangerous to wake a sleepwalker? Asked by Gale Power of Manly, NSW, Australia It is a myth that it is dangerous to wake up a sleepwalker because it may cause them a heart attack, shock, brain damage, or something else. It is not a myth that it is dangerous to wake up a sleepwalker because of the possible injury the sleepwalker may inflict upon themselves or the person waking them up. According to Dr Giuseppe Plazzi of the Department of Neurological Sciences at the University of Bologna in Italy, rousing a sleepwalking person, especially vigorously, might confuse or distress them temporarily. Disoriented, they may strike out at anyone close. It is best not to be in their way. Instead, it might be better to simply guide them back to bed in their sleep. It is not likely that a sleepwalker when woken up suddenly will have a cardiac event. It is no different from when a person sleeping normally is suddenly awakened by, say, a loud noise. The important thing is to protect a sleepwalker from themselves. Dr Plazzi and four colleagues recently reviewed research on sleepwalking in the December 2005 issue of Neurological Sciences. According to the Plazzi study: Sleepwalking is surprisingly common. Thirty per cent of children between the ages of five and 12 experience at least one sleepwalking episode. Persistent sleepwalking occurs in between one to six per cent of children. Sleepwalking peaks at between ages four and six. Sleepwalking occurs occasionally in two to three per cent of adults. About one in every 250 adults sleepwalks once a week. The prime time for sleepwalking is about one to 2-3 hours into sleep. Sleepwalking tends to run in families. Stress may be the most common reason for sleepwalking. Other causes in adults include sleep deprivation, alcohol intake, and drug intake. People sometimes perform elaborate tasks while sleepwalking. When sexual activity takes place while sleepwalking, it is called somnambulistic sexual behaviour, sleepwalking sexual behaviour, or sexsomnia. Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au
Stephen Juan, 27 Jan 2007
micrograph reveals the morphology of a Taenia solium tapeworm scolex with its four suckers, and two rows of hooks.
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How much damage does a tapeworm do to the human body?

Also in this week's column:
Stephen Juan, 27 Jan 2007

Inspirational Fortune editor changes sex in front of CEOs

CommentComment As someone who has suffered from intense (and very public) gender confusion for many years, I was thrilled this week to see another hack come out in Fortune magazine as a member of the genitalia flip-flopper club. Fortune's esteemed editor David Kirkpatrick revealed his longing to give up the frame of an aging man for that of a ripe co-ed - if only for a moment. In a column about the video game Second Life, Kirkpatrick confessed, "Just because you're a 50-year-old man, for instance, doesn't mean you can't have a 20-year-old female avatar (something I briefly tried)." [You can imagine what a striking, firm girl the editor would make.] To disclose something so bold in front of a few friends would take enough courage. But to throw off your cock and grow a bouncing pair in front of Fortune's elite business person readership makes Kirkpatrick some kind of modern, computer playing, sex shifting, not at all creepy, CEO influencing hero. Those wondering what fueled Kirkpatrick's courage need look only at Second Life and the two articles penned this week by the editor about the game. Kirkpatrick nailed us on Tuesday with the multi-thousand word feature "Second Life: It's not a game." In a nod to Fortune's cachet, IBM's CEO Sam Palmisano agreed to a rare interview - albeit via e-mail - for the piece, and Philip Rosedale, the CEO of Second Life's maker Linden Lab, granted an equally rare interview. [We're just as confident that Palmisano actually e-mailed Kirkpatrick as we are that the CEO controls his Sadville avatar, which is to say - very.] Our sources indicate that Rosedale giving up time for an interview was a really big deal in Linden Lab's estimations. And Kirkpatrick returned the favor in kind. His story stands out as an "objective" mainstream puff piece in that it doesn't contain even a single paragraph that tries for just a brief moment to dull some of the Sadville hype. One media maven remarked to us on Friday that he "lost all respect for Kirkpatrick" following the story, so the puffery hasn't gone unnoticed. Rosedale seems to have an intense influence on journalists. CNET's Daniel Terdiman, for example, once included Rosedale as a reference on his online resume until we pointed this out in a story. The journalist erased Rosedale's name for his web site, but didn't erase his mounds of stories about Sadville. He's written 56 stories about Second Life - for CNET alone - and even convinced his employer to buy land inside the game. Now Kirkpatrick has threatened to compete with Daniel Sadville on a story-for-story scale. "There were many Second Life subtopics that didn't fit into my magazine story. So don't be surprised if I write more about it in coming weeks," he wrote in the second Fortune story published this week. Having read Kirkpatrick's pieces for a long time now, I never expected such a talented, bright chap to fall victim to a video game cult. I wasn't reading technology reporting when Pac-Man first hit the scene, and maybe the same thing happened then. Grown men wishing they could be Ms. Pac Man for a moment or writing 3,000 words about how arcade systems accept quarters. But despite my disagreement with Kirkpatrick's video game fetish, I do feel closer now to him than ever. He knows what it's like to be a virtual man one instant and then a virtual babe the next. Perhaps we can buy some genitalia at the Ye Olde Stick and Fluffy shop in Sadville and enjoy a flip-flopping, gender bending romp on a pose stone. Maybe Sam can watch. ®
Ashlee Vance, 27 Jan 2007