Specifications unveiled for next-generation USB

The USB 3.0 Promoter Group announced Monday that it had developed a specification for USB 3.0, although hardware compliance with the new standard  isn’t expected to be available until 2010. Called SuperSpeed USB, the interface has a 4.8 Gbps transfer rate and has better power efficiency than the previous generation. The group is inviting adopters to review the specification and submit a license agreement at its Web site. (Ars Technica)

Laptop drive renewed for third-world kids

The One Laptop Per Child organization teamed with Amazon.com this year for its annual campaign to put a laptop in the hands of every child in developing countries. The promotion, called “Give One, Get One,” asks customers to donate a laptop for US$199 or buy two for $399 and keep one. The XO-1 laptops, which have a distinctive green-and-white color scheme, are produced by Quanta Computer. They have 1 Gbyte flash memory instead of a hard drive, a 433 MHz processor, and use a Linux operating system. (Channel Web)

Better method to produce graphene developed

Graphene, a one-atom-think sheet of carbon material that is highly conductive and has been called the strongest known material, could soon become an integral component of faster and smaller electronic devices. Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, developed an easy way to produce the material and reported their findings to Nature Nanotechnology. According to Technology Review, the research team field-tested 50 transistors with a sheet of graphene placed over a silicone wafer, and found that the devices had an output of a few milliamperes, more than 1,000 times higher than other attempts to make graphene devices.  “We believe this is a game-changing approach which will significantly improve graphene electronics in the future,” engineering professor Yang Yang said. (Technology Review)

Roadrunner still fastest supercomputer

IBM’s Roadrunner supercomputer held off a challenge by the Cray XT5 Jaguar for the title of fastest in the world, as determined by Top 500. The Roadrunner, devoted to classified nuclear weapons research at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, was clocked at 1.105 petaflops per second for the biannual ranking, with one petaflop equaling one quadrillion mathematical computations per second. The Jaguar, which was upgraded last week by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, performed at 1.059 petaflops per second. (CNet)

Firefox 2 support to end in December

The Mozilla Foundation is moving forward with plans to end support for Firefox 2 in mid-December despite some complaints that version 3, released in May, has significant flaws. Mozilla will also stop supporting Gecko 1.8, the layout engine for Firefox 2 and the Thunderbird 2 e-mail client, although support for Thunderbird will continue. Some users have said that Firefox 3 crashes more than the previous version and uses too much memory. (ZNet)

Software puts video within video

New software called ZunaVision, developed by Stanford University researchers, lets users easily alter video to realistically embed images and other video. The software uses an algorithm called 3D Surface Tracker Technology to identify pixels in the foreground and background and keep pace with camera movements. ZunaVision’s creators acknowledged that similar tricks are already available – such as the yellow first-down lines placed in televised football games – but say that its technology is more user-friendly. Stanford set up a Web site to let users try out the technology. (Stanford)

Microsoft relaxed Vista requirements to accommodate Intel, e-mails show

E-mails between Microsoft and Intel executives reveal that Microsoft relaxed system requirements for Windows Vista after it pushed up the OS’s release date, a change made because Intel complained that it didn’t have enough high-end chips to meet anticipated demand. The messages were revealed as part of a class action lawsuit against Microsoft and its “Vista Capable” marketing program. Plaintiffs allege that machines equipped with Intel’s 915 chip sets – lacking the Windows Device Driver Model – could only run Vista’s most basic version, which didn’t include its touted Aero graphics interface. Some Microsoft executives, including the then-head of Windows development, were unhappy with the change and wrote that the “Vista Capable” logo would be misleading. (Computerworld)

Alkaline earth metals proposed for quantum computing

The unique atomic properties of alkaline earth metals are more advantageous than alkali atoms for quantum computing, a team of physicists theorize in Physical Review Letters. The team proposed a quantum computing scheme that would use optical lattices, favoring alkaline earth atoms because they have two weakly-bound electrons as opposed to one electron in alkali atoms. “Even though the system is a little more complicated, there are some very nice properties,” physicist Andrew Daley said. (PhysOrg)

Flaws found in Microsoft VoIP apps

Vulnerabilities in Microsoft voice-over-IP applications could lead to denial-of-service attacks, researchers at VoIPshield Laboratories found. According to Dark Reading, the vulnerabilities affect applications that use media stream protocols such as Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP), a popular standardized packet format. “Until now, the media stream has been largely ignored by the security community as a source of malicious activity,” VoIPshield Labs director Andriy Markov said. “But attacks from these vectors have the potential to be dangerously persistent and widespread.” (Dark Reading)

Congress might address net neutrality

US Senator Byron Dorgan (D-S.D.), plans to introduce a bill in January that would prevent ISPs from blocking Web content, according to reports. The bill would reopen the network neutrality debate, which is already an issue in a legal case between the US Federal Communication Commission and AT&T. A Dorgan aide said at a Nebraska telecom conference that the legislation is necessaryto ensure free Web principles. ISP representatives responded that the FCC’s regulation is enough to enforce net neutrality and that companies can police themselves and filtering content would drive away customers. (Reuters)

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