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Tech: Zen Internet Newsletter Issue 116 Oct 10

Arthur_itus 01 Oct 10 - 05:06 AM
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Subject: Tech: Zen Internet Newsletter Issue 116 Oct 10
From: Arthur_itus
Date: 01 Oct 10 - 05:06 AM

Just received the latest newsletter, which is always very informative. So hopefully a few of you may find it interesting. As there are so many website links, I will leave it for yourseleves to copy and paste any link that might be of interest.

Your Free Internet Newsletter
Issue 116, October 1st 2010
This month, Digital Unite, the charitable organisation dedicated to getting more 'silver surfers' online, is offering £1,000+ grants to groups and businesses willing to stage an event to encourage older Internet newbies with demonstrations and taster sessions. Applicants can get up to £1,150 to help fund activities and for such things as extra equipment, printing flyers, staff training or anything else needed on the day. Digital Unite hasn't set an absolute deadline for applications, but events are meant to happen this month and interested parties should get in touch right away.

YouView, a new free-to-air, Web-connected TV service combining Freeview digital channels with on-demand content from the likes of iPlayer, will launch in the UK next year. It has been described as "Freeview Mark Two" and an attempt to converge "broadcast with broadband", which the BBC's director general Mark Thompson once said was the "holy grail" for future public service broadcasting. YouView - formerly known as Project Canvas - is a partnership between BT, BBC ITV, C4 and Five, and TalkTalk. Users will access the service via a set-top box, which will go on sale in 2011. YouView's chief executive, Richard Halton, claimed it would "change the way we watch TV for ever".

In a race between carrier pigeons and broadband staged in rural Yorkshire, the birds won the day. Ten pigeons carrying USB sticks were released from a farmhouse at the same time that a five-minute video upload was begun. When the pigeons reached their destination almost 100 miles away, most of the 300MB file travelling by broadband was still in transit. Tref Davies, who serves on the board of the ISPA (Internet Service Providers' Association) organised the stunt to raise publicity for a campaign demanding better rural broadband.

Facebook Places, the social networking site's location-aware service has launched in UK. It allows people to 'check in' wherever they are and see who among their friends and other Facebook users is at the same location, or has visited previously. The service also lists nearby businesses and attractions, and Facebook will target the locations it lists for each Places user. By default, users are opted in to the ability to be tagged by their friends; they are opted in to allowing their friends' Facebook apps to access their location information, and they are opted in to allowing any 'non-friends' who are checked-in at the same place to see their whereabouts.

Go-Gas is a free Web service that helps you calculate how much fuel a journey by road will cost in various countries. If you are accessing the site using Google Chrome, the site will automatically get your location and show it on a map as your starting point. With most other browsers, it will at least present the map of your home country to begin with - and you can change the starting location to any other country or town where your journey might begin. There is also the option to set your vehicle's fuel consumption rate in gallons or litres. Available currencies on the site include Pounds, Euros and US Dollars. With these figures specified, you can right-click on the map to set your departure and destination points. The site then plots the route and calculates the amount of fuel required and its total cost. It also provides a short-form URL - e.g. - which you can send to travelling companions who may be sharing expenses on the trip, or to keep for reference when you need to bring up the map and details again.

By-products from the whisky distilling process could be used to power cars and even aviation, according to researchers in Edinburgh. Scientists at the city's Napier University have developed a process using the two main by-products of whisky production to make butanol, which can be used to fuel vehicles. The two by-products are pot ale, which is a liquid, and the spent whisky grains, called draff. Scotland produces large quantities of whisky each year, with 1,600 million litres of pot ale and 187,000 tons of draff left over. These waste products can now be used to create biobutanol, which is said to produce 30 per cent more power than ethanol. The university has filed a patent for the new biofuel and envisions a commercial operation to produce and sell it. Biobutanol can be used in ordinary cars, without adaption. It can be blended with conventional fuel or used in its pure form. Professor Martin Tangney, who directed the project, said that using waste products was more environmentally sustainable than growing crops specifically to generate biofuel. He added that it could contribute significantly to targets set by the EU for biofuels to account for 10 per cent of total fuel sales by 2020.

Shiply calls itself an eBay for haulage companies, offering a marketplace where users list items they want to move and haulage companies with spare capacity offer quotes. A quarter of the lorries on British roads run empty because they are on return trips, according to Shiply, which results in an additional 36 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, or 7.2 per cent of Britain's carbon footprint. Shiply claims to have already saved over 10 million road miles and its environmental contribution earned a 100,000 euros prize in the Dutch Postcode Lottery's Green Challenge competition last year. The company, founded by 25-year-old Londoner Robert Matthams, added Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and France to its UK operations recently, has over 150,000 registered users and receives 1,200 quote requests per day. It was founded in Manchester in June 2008. Its main competitor is the US-based company UShip, which expanded into Europe last year.

America's famous 'land of opportunity' status is slipping, challenged by other countries, according to a report from the US Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy, which evaluated 71 nations in terms of entrepreneurship and performance and placed Denmark and Canada at the top of its list. "The global perception of America as the mecca for individuals wanting to do something new and different seems to be somewhat challenged by the facts", say the report's authors. Stacked against other major economies, the US lacks high-growth business and cultural support for entrepreneurship and is even seen as frail in the technology sector. Other perceived weaknesses caused the United States to rank an unlikely sixth in entrepreneurial attitudes - society's feelings toward entrepreneurship, based on education and social stability - and eighth in entrepreneurial activity - what citizens are doing to improve the quality of human resources and technological efficiency. The report concludes that "Countries like Canada, New Zealand, and Australia have all been more pragmatic by giving strong incentives to attract educated, skilled workers to their shores - whether doctors, engineers, or academic researchers - and to keep them there with offers of residency and citizenship". The report puts the UK in 14th place, slightly ahead of France and Germany.

Two weeks ago, Yahoo! unveiled a new data centre in New York that claims to be one of the most energy-efficient in the world. It's part of a new push by big Internet companies towards green data storage. Yahoo! says the centre will use 40 per cent less energy and 95 per cent less water than conventional facilities and claims it has a power-use effectiveness (PUE) of 1.08, which means 92 per cent of its power consumption goes towards actual computing, not things like lighting and cooling. The data centre will be powered in part by hydropower and reduce energy costs to one cent for cooling for every dollar spent on electricity. It was built with the help of a $9.9 million grant from the Department of Energy. Adding to its green credentials has earned Yahoo! benevolent press coverage as well as government approval. But data centres can be a public relations nightmare. Facebook has been under fire from Greenpeace for its plans to build a data centre in Oregon that will use energy from coal-burning. Campaigners released a cartoon satire of "The Social Network" movie after the social media giant dropped plans to use wind energy and backed away from other renewable resources. Google, Amazon, Nokia and Microsoft teamed up earlier this year to fight a new data centre standard requiring companies to install a device that circulates ambient air to cool down servers, saying they needed time to study alternative efficiency measures.

The New York Post has an interview with Tyler Winklevoss, the Harvard Graduate, Oxford MBA and Olympic rower, who, along with his identical twin brother, is pursuing a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. "It took me 15 years to make the Olympics of rowing", Winklevoss tells The Post about his Olympic experience in Beijing in 2008. "We're not just guys who walk away from a fight because someone beats their chest hard. We're never going to go away, and we're never going to stop until this situation has been rectified and the wrong has been righted". The wrong, according to the newspaper, happened in November 2003, when Tyler - along with his brother Cameron and their friend Divya Narendra - claim Zuckerberg stole their idea for Facebook. After sending an immediate cease and desist to Zuckerberg, which he ignored, they sued in 2004. They finally reached a settlement reportedly valued at $65 million, but the brothers are now appealing for more, saying Facebook misled them about the value of the site. The August edition of Zen Monthly included the story of another claimant, Paul Ceglia, who said he had an outstanding contract with Zuckerberg that promised him a majority shareholding in the social network company.

Someone born in 1992 will be 18 this year. And in one way or another, their entire life could have been lived online. From birth announcements to e-mails to childhood photos, and now social networks and blogs, traces of a person's entire history can be pieced together online. This limited privacy is normal for many people, but some are having second thoughts about how much of themselves should be displayed to the world. Journalist Daniel Sieberg is one of them. He recognised that social networks had "taken over his life" and decided to disconnect. "Me and my ego got sucked in. And my relationships suffered", he said in his Declaration of Disconnection via the Huffington Post. In the Netherlands, Gordan Savicic picked up on the fact that some people feel they have lost control online. He designed a service to help people disconnect from social networks and created the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine, a site that logs into your accounts and deletes all your data, friend-by-friend and post-by-post. It rips the accounts apart bit-by-bit and lets you watch it happen. There has been increasing demand for the service, especially after it featured in a recent Southpark episode in which Stan Marsh committed 'Web Suicide'.

Comic Sans is the font that was invented to put the words into cartoon speech bubbles. Designers love to hate it; the Safari browser has an extension designed to remove it; there's an upcoming documentary about it that calls it "the most hated font in the world" and it's even the butt of jokes: "Comic Sans walks into a bar; bartender says, "We don't serve your type". But there's no denying its popularity with almost everyone else. Fifteen years after its birth, Comic Sans is still spreading. A recent study at Carnegie Mellon University found at least one reason why.

Web site designers are usually limited to two choices when it comes to representing type on the Web: use one of the 'Web safe' fonts that are pre-installed on major operating systems, or substitute text with images and Flash/JavaScript hacks. But it is possible to render HTML text using many more typefaces, supplied by the likes of Font Shop - - which has come up with an intriguing new Web site that lets you see how your site (or any other) would look using a range of different typefaces. Type-in a Web address and the loaded page will be analysed and its sans serif and serif fonts replaced according to preferences that you can set and vary using the yellow toolbar located at the top of each site preview. Note that the tests can't be run using Internet Explorer; you'll need to use another browser like Firefox.

Is it possible to type in your own handwriting? If you're tired of sending personal e-mail messages and doing most other things using a selection from the typical set of impersonal default fonts available on your PC, you could try the new Web based tool known as Pilothandwriting. It enables you to type from your computer keyboard in a distinctly personal way. Printer and a webcam required.

Want a touch-screen phone but can't afford one? New software developed by Input Dynamics in Cambridge makes the LCD display of a standard phone sensitive to touch - or at least, tapping and 'scratching'. It needs no new hardware, so it can be applied to most existing phones and means that users can scroll through menus, browse or zoom - all by moving and tapping a fingertip. It works through smart use of the phone's built-in microphone, says inventor Giovanni Bisutti. Every tap on the phone's screen or casing produces a telltale sound that resonates through the device. Where and how the phone is touched is identified by analysis of the sound patterns and translated into appropriate actions.

Commodore USA has announced the PC64, an Atom-powered PC in a replica Commodore case. Yes, 28 years on, the Commodore 64 will soon be back on the market - and with much more impressive specs. The company has reached a licensing agreement to produce a full line of new Commodore branded All-in-One (AIO) keyboard computers and intends to start selling an exact replica of the original 'breadbox' beige chassis C64 later this year - in time for Christmas. Because users wouldn't think much of the original 8-bit C64's specs and certainly wouldn't want to be loading games from a tape drive, the updated Commodore PC64 will include an Intel Atom 525 CPU with NVIDIA Ion2 graphics, 4GB DDR3 memory, 1TB Hdd, HDMI, DVD/CD optical drive (Blu-ray optional), dual-link DVI, six USB ports, integrated 802.11n WiFi, bluetooth and a 6-in-1 media card reader. Between 1983 and 1985, the Commodore 64 outsold both Apple computers and IBM PCs and during its lifetime sales totalled more than 30 million units, making it the best-selling personal computer model of all time.

Microsoft's Web search engine, renamed Bing after redesign and relaunch early last year, faces an uphill battle against Google dominant market share in most countries around the world. In the US, 63 per cent of users rely on Google and less than 13 per cent prefer Bing. But following a 10-year deal to combine forces with Yahoo! the Microsoft engine's share is set to rise to at least 30 per cent and some experts believe Bing has particular advantages over Google. Genevieve Howard, Web specialist at the University of Missouri, says that one of Bing's extra strengths is "its simplicity and guidance for people who do not use the Internet or search engines frequently. Bing's market is an older demographic. The interface is friendly, and the results work well for people who are shopping for consumer items or travel deals". If your business uses Google Adwords (pay-per-click advertising), there might be other reasons to take a look at Bing. As the search volume on Bing increases - especially after the new partnership with Yahoo! - so should the effectiveness of ads, but the cost will be much lower and establishing an account and campaign history with Bing now should mean you'll have an advantage over those who wait. Bing has also promised better customer support than Google offers for smaller pay-per-click accounts.

The search engine "Cuil" has died and - according to several employees still looking for their last pay packet - it's down for good. Cuil launched in July 2008 with much fanfare, including volumes of mainstream coverage. The company was founded by ex-Googlers and aimed to compete directly with Google. Initially, the search engine's main claim to fame was its huge search index — at launch it contained 120 billion Web pages, making it three times bigger than Google, according to co-founder Anna Patterson. It also featured a ranking system that wasn't based on Web page popularity (determined by links in Google's case with its PageRank algorithm) but instead focused on content relevancy to searches. Given its pedigree, technology, free publicity and massive funding ($33 million from various venture capitalists) Cuil should have made at least a visible dent in Google's market share, but even at its best it gained fewer followers than the all-but-forgotten Alta Vista.

Google has created a separate search engine dedicated to producing real-time results only. Named Google Realtime Search, the new site focuses on social networking updates from the likes of Facebook and Twitter, with rolling updates presented 'as they happen'. It is similar to Twitter's search feature, and Twitter supplies most of the results, but other social media outlets, including the less popular ones, are covered too. Google Realtime Search will be rolled out across the world as a home page option. It can be accessed separately via the link below.

A few days after the unveiling of Google Instant, the search engine's predictive text add-on, Feross Aboukhadijeh, a 20-year-old computer science student at Stanford University, bet a friend that he could create a real-time search engine for YouTube videos in less than an hour. Five hours later, he'd lost the bet, but had launched YouTube Instant - - which guesses what the user is looking for as the search term is being typed and begins playing a video. The day after losing his bet, Aboukhadijeh won a job. The new search engine was spotted by YouTube co-founder and CEO Chad Hurley, who tweeted the student with an offer of employment. YouTube was acquired by Google four years ago for $1.65 billion.

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