Smaller, more powerful microprocessors possible

Taking another step in the application of Moore’s law, engineers at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a way to improve optical lithography to create smaller and more powerful computer chips. The engineers used metal lenses to focus precise measurements of light, creating circuitry patterns 80 nanometers wide at up to 12 meters per second. “Utilizing this plasmonic nanolithography, we will be able to make current microprocessors more than 10 times smaller, but far more powerful,” said Xiang Zhang, UC Berkeley professor of mechanical engineering and head of the research team behind the development. “This technology could also lead to ultra-high density disks that can hold 10 to 100 times more data than disks today.” (UC Berkeley)

Apple wants to connect your gadgets

Apple has submitted a patent application for a new communications method that would create a network of gadgets, so your wristwatch could use your cell phone to call your iPod and change a song. The technology would use short-range RF protocols, such as Bluetooth, to connect with long-range communications devices and act as an interface for sending calls or e-mails. Apple envisions its patent being applied in several ways – RF modules could be placed in purse straps or clothing and personal area networks could establish connections at home, in a car, or at work. (Ars Technica)

Nanotechnology leaves big environmental footprint

The manufacture of nanomaterials has a larger environmental impact than previously thought, according to a special issue of the Journal of Industrial Ecology. Scientists previously assumed that nanotechnology would be cleaner because the work is more precise and done on a very small scale, so by-products would be insignificant. But according to Reid Lifset, the journal’s editor in chief, the opposite is true. Nanotechnology requires more energy, and its intolerance for defects means there is more waste. “With current technology, the nature of manufacturing tends to be pretty dirty,” Lifset said. In one paper printed in the journal, “Identifying and Predicting Biological Risks Associated With Manufactured Nanoparticles in Aquatic Ecosystems,” the authors predict nanoparticles will accumulate in the world’s oceans and lakes, exposing organisms to metals such as iron, nickel, and cadmium. (Journal of Industrial Ecology)

Gates has new technology think tank

Bill Gates, who retired this summer as chief executive officer of Microsoft, has a new company called bgC3 that will act as a think tank for new technology breakthroughs, TechFlash.com reported. The company is headquartered in Kirkland, Wash., but Gates has been secretive about it and isn’t planning to devote his full-time attention to the venture. TechFlash noted that Gates’ interests include energy, biotechnology, and global economics, which could join computer science as areas the new company explores. (TechFlash)

Microsoft issues emergency update

Acting outside of its usual update cycle, Microsoft issued an emergency Windows patch Thursday to fix a flaw in its Windows Server service. The company didn’t release the code, but said attackers were already exploiting the vulnerability. Before the patch, Windows Server didn’t properly handle “specially crafted RFP requests,” so attackers could send malicious messages to take control of computers and spread  worms. (Computerworld)

TLD proposal would go beyond dot-com

ICANN has issued a series of papers to explain its new generic top-level domains (TLDs) system, part of its preparation for a November public meeting in Cairo to present the proposal and gather public comment. Calling the change necessary to allow more innovation on a global scale, ICANN plans to lift restrictions that limit registrars to 21 generic TLDs, such as .com or .org. Under the new rules, businesses would be able to reserve their own TLD, such as .ebay. According to The Associated Press, the cost of the new suffixes would approach US$200,000, making them prohibitive for individuals. Entirely non-English addresses could be created, but TLDs containing numerals won’t be allowed. (AP)

Twine lassos Semantic Web technology

Semantic Web continued its evolution this week with the debut of Twine, an online organizational tool that acts as a bookmark and social networking site. Twine uses Resource Description Framework  and Web Ontology Language  to tag information on Web sites and identify concepts, which is useful for grouping sites together in a “twine.” The site can then make recommendations to users about other sites and people that might fit their interests. According to Technology Review, Twine might indicate what the future holds for Semantic Web and Web 3.0. (Technology Review)

SSDs have arrived, but users haven’t

Solid-state drives aren’t likely to gain widespread use until 2010, according to a CNet report. Although SSDs are now a common option on laptops, their higher cost makes them less appealing, despite significant advantages in performance. Intel, which launched a line of high-performance SSDs this month, demonstrated an 80Gbyte version at a developer forum that reached 44,000 input-output operations per second. (CNet)

Google releases Android source code

Google officially made its Android mobile platform open source Tuesday by releasing its source code to the public, one day before the first smart phone using the platform is scheduled to hit the market. The source files can be built with either Mac OS or Linux, and Google hopes to see a wide variety of applications created for the device. According to Computerworld, Android will be released under an Apache license and developers will not be required to share their changes with the community. (Tech News World)

Kentucky lawsuit jeopardizes online gambling sites

A Kentucky judge last week upheld his earlier decision to seize 141 domain names associated with online gambling, and gave the site owners until 17 November to block access to Kentucky residents or risk losing the domain names. Citing Kentucky law, which prohibits unregulated gambling, Franklin County Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate denied a defendant’s motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that it would set a precedent for authorities worldwide to take action against undesirable Web sites. “This doomsday argument does not ruffle the court,” Wingate wrote. “The Internet, with all its benefits and advantages to modern day commerce and life, is still not above the law, whether on an international or municipal level.” According to the Wall Street Journal, many of the sites’ registrars are located in the US (even though the site operators are overseas), so they will be forced to comply with the order. (The Register)

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