Sonic blast deters Somali pirates

A British security firm is using an MP3 player hooked up to a device that makes a concentrated sonic blast to thwart pirates attacking ships off the coast of Somalia. The long-range acoustic device (LRAD) sends a precise beam of sound up to 1,000 meters away that can be turned up to debilitating levels. “You’ll be in absolute agony,” said Nick Davis, a military veteran and chief executive of Anti-Piracy Maritime Security Solutions. “It would give you more or less permanent hearing damage.” The device was used successfully to defend a chemical tanker last week – the sonic blast turned away Somali pirates who ignored warnings and came within 400 meters waving AK47s. (PhysOrg)

Red Hat claims Linux top spot

Red Hat claimed it had the largest Linux user base, with a roughly 9.5 million distribution for Fedora, according to That beats second-place Ubuntu, which claims to have 8 million users. To get its total, Red Hat counted the number of unique IP addresses checking Fedora for updates. The methodology isn’t perfect – some users might have dynamic IP addresses, while others could update several machines through the same IP address. The results also don’t include Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which could bring the total of Red Hat distributions to more that 13 million. (Internetnews)

Bush’s exit creates massive storage project

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is preparing a massive electronic filing project as US President George Bush’s administration nears its end. The agency is tasked with preserving all paper and electronic records from Bush’s tenure for the past eight years, which amounts to an unprecedented amount of information because of the continued development of technology. NARA expects to receive 140 Tbytes of data, with about 20 Tbytes consisting solely of e-mail. A new archiving system scheduled for completion in 2011 is expected to store the information. (Computerworld)

US military takes extreme measures to stop worm

The US Department of Defense has temporarily banned all use of external storage devices to combat a worm spreading quickly through its systems. Army e-mails warn that a virus called Agent.btz, a variant of the SillyFDC worm, is affecting two Defense Department networks, SIPRNet and NIPRNet. The worm spreads by copying itself to flash drives and similar devices, then replicates itself when the device is plugged into another computer.  (Wired)

IBM to model cognitive computer on human brain

IBM Research is working on a computer that acts like the human brain, envisioning a compact, low-power machine that contains nanoscale devices to simulate synapses and neurons. The company, which is collaborating with five universities on the DARPA-backed project, said it wants to make a cognitive computer that receives input frommillions of sensors, handles ambiguity, and learns over time. “If we could design computers that could be in real-world environments and sense and respond in an intelligent way, it would be a tremendous step forward,” IBM researcher Dharmendra Modha said. (PCWorld)

NASA taking Internet into space

NASA is testing a new networking protocol designed to let spacecraft communicate using the same principles as the Internet. Disruption-Tolerant Networking (DTN), developed through Vint Cerf’s Interplanetary Internet program, stores data packets until a recipient is found, unlike TCP/IP, which disposes of information within milliseconds if it doesn’t have anywhere to go. That difference is important in space, where information could take minutes or hours to get to its destination. NASA plans to test the protocol at the International Space Station next year, and expects to use it for the Mars Sample Return mission in 2020. (CNet)

Google kills off Lively

Google has given up on its 3D virtual world,  writing on its official blog that the experiment hadn’t paid off. Lively is scheduled to shut down at the end of the year. “It has been a tough decision, but we want to ensure that we prioritize our resources and focus more on our core search, ads and apps business,” the company said in its post. Some observers commented in Computerworld that Livelydidn’t offer anything different from Second Life, leading to its inability to attract visitors. (Computerworld)

Nvidia unveils desktop supercomputer

Nvidia has turned concept into reality with a desktop supercomputer, unveiling the Tesla Personal Supercomputer at the Supercomputer 08 show in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday, according to Computerworld. The machine has 960 cores, uses four GPUs, and can perform at nearly four teraflops. “We’ve all heard ‘desktop supercomputer’ claims in the past, but this time it’s for real,” said Burton Smith, a computer architect and Microsoft technical fellow. “Nvidia and its partners will be delivering outstanding performance and broad applicability to the mainstream marketplace. Heterogeneous computing, where GPUs work in tandem with CPUs, is what makes such a breakthrough possible.” (Computerworld)

Web application travels through time

Zoetrope, an application developed by University of Washington researchers and Adobe, offers users an easy view of historical content on certain Web sites. In a Web demonstration, the application’s creators show how it can browse quickly through a news site to see what content has disappeared over time. The system saves information on roughly 1,000 Web sites every hour, but its archives only go back for roughly four months, when the project was launched. According to computer science researcher Eytan Adar, developers hope to eventually reach the entirety of the the Web and include content from the Internet Archive, which spans 14 years. Zoetrope is likely to be available late next year as a free application.

Antitrust case against Apple dismissed

A California judge dismissed clone maker Psystar’s antitrust claim against Apple on Tuesday, turning back an argument that the Mac OS X constitutes its own market. According to Apple Insider, Psystar claimed that Apple had a monopoly on OS X because the operating system  isn’t interchangeable with others, such as Windows. Judge William Alsup rejected the claim: “Whether products are part of the same or different markets under antitrust law depends on whether consumers view those products as reasonable substitutes for each other and would switch among them in response to changes in relative prices,” he wrote in a 19-page order. Psystar now faces a copyright violation lawsuit from Apple that could force the company out of business. (Apple Insider)

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