Microsoft and HP enter into deal to make Live Search default search tool on personal computers

Microsoft announced a deal with Hewlett-Packard on Monday which will put Microsoft's Live Search toolbar on all HP personal computers shipped in the US and Canada starting in January. Additionally, computers will ship with Silverlight preinstalled. Silverlight is Microsoft's answer to Adobe's Flash plug-in and is required to run the Live Search toolbar.  (BetaNews, 06/02/08).

Researchers develop means to more cost-effective quantum key distribution

Researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have demonstrated a simpler and potentially lower-cost method for distributing strings of digits for use in quantum cryptography—the most secure data transmission method, Science Daily reports. Detailed in an upcoming paper, the new "quantum key distribution" (QKD) method reduces the required number of detectors, which are described as "by far the most costly components in quantum cryptography." Researchers note that the minimum-detector arrangement reduces transmission rates by 50 percent. Still, the NIST system "works at broadband speeds, allowing, for example, real-time quantum encryption and decryption of webcam-quality video streams over an experimental quantum network," according to Science Daily (Science Daily, 5/30/08).

Carnegie Mellon researchers create computational model to predict brain activity

Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University have created the first computational model that can predict the unique brain activation patterns associated with names for things that you can see, hear, feel, taste or smell. According to the release, the research team developed the computational model "by using fMRI activation patterns for 60 concrete nouns and by statistically analyzing a set of texts totaling more than a trillion words, called a text corpus." The computer model combines this data concerning how words are used in text to predict the activation patterns for thousands of concrete nouns within the text corpus yielding accuracies significantly greater than chance. Moreover, the model "proved capable of predicting activation patterns even in semantic areas for which it was untrained," according to the release. The findings appear in the May 30 issue of the journal Science (Carnegie Mellon University release, 5/29/08).

New nanoscale assembly technology created

U.S. scientists say they have created a technology that improves the assembly of single-walled carbon nanotube networks from microns to inches, United Press International reports. The researchers at the National Science Foundation's Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing at Northeastern University, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Massachusetts and the University of New Hampshire, plan to display the process during next week's Nano Science and Technology Institute's Nanotech 2008 Conference in Boston. According to the scientists, the new technology creates a viable circuit template that can be transferred from one substrate to another for optimum productivity. They add that the revolutionary assembly process can "scale-up" nanoscale structures on the wafer level and may be able to change the way electronics and other applications are developed for consumers (UPI, 5/29/08).

Virtual worlds tapped for distance learning
Online education is increasingly investigating the use of virtual worlds such as Second Life for distance learning opportunities, the AFP reports. The trend involves enabling students to act through animated characters called "avatars," mingling in simulated school settings and embarking on Internet-based quests for knowledge. For example, San Jose State University in California has built a campus at Second Life spanning 16 digital acres with school buildings that Library Sciences Department students use for classes and experiments. One 15-week virtual-world class boasts 30 students who signed-up to learn about the application driving the Second Life program. While such class simulations are considered unconventional, industry analysts suggest the methods are not unique, the AFP notes. According to Sloan Consortium's survey director, who researches education trends, just a small fraction of the more than 3.5 million U.S. residents that took online classes last year did so in virtual worlds. The major barrier, according to the director, is finding constructive ways to leverage the technology (Sherr, AFP/Yahoo! News, 5/30/08)
Brazil, India challenge move to make Microsoft Office Open XML standard

Brazil and India recently appealed a decision to make Microsoft's Office Open XML format an internationally recognized standard for electronic documents, the Associated Press reports. According to the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), three countries have now formally protested last month's approval of the standard. Specifically, South Africa filed a complaint last week concerning the balloting procedure conducted by the Geneva-based IEC, asserting the global standards body ISO was poorly conducted and rushed. Microsoft, meanwhile, wants the file format used in its Office 2007 program "to be approved as an open standard so that it can apply for lucrative government contracts that require this designation," according to the AP (AP, 5/30/08). 

Mobile bandwidth increases, leaving devices behind

While mobile network bandwidth is increasing quickly, with some operators supporting 14.4M bits per second (bps) transmission using High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA), devices capable of harnessing the faster speeds remain slow to come to market, IDG News Service reports. For instance, the current top speed for modems is 7.2M bps. According to Björn Ekelund, vice president, product management at Ericsson, the limited support for 14.4M bps in devices is partially due to the fact that not enough operators have upgraded. He adds that carriers may not have enough backhaul capacity—the capacity that feeds base stations—to take full advantage of higher download speeds. Specifically, Ekelund notes that 100M bps in backhaul capacity is necessary to offer 14.4M bps, adding that such high capacity is very expensive. However, IDG notes that "the gap between network capacity and user devices appears to be temporary," as Ericsson in 2009 plans to launch its M570 device platform, which supports up to 42M bps downstream and 11M bps upstream (Ricknäs, IDG News Service/CIO, 5/29/08).

Russia boosts science funding

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin recently announced that the country will allocate $25 billion for scientific research across the next three years, United Press International reports. RIA Novosti on Thursday reported that, according to Putin, the Russian government has earmarked substantial resources for research in the areas of nano- and biotechnology, nuclear energy, aerospace and other research conducted from 2008 to 2010. Meanwhile, UPI notes that funding for the Russian Academy of Sciences has grown from $1.6 billion in 2007 to around $1.9 billion this year (UPI, 5/29/08).

U.S. government to auction airwaves for free, filtered Web access

U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin on Thursday announced a proposal that would auction an unused piece of 25 megahertz wireless spectrum to buyers that would use part of it to offer free Wi-Fi access that filters out obscene content, Reuters reports. Under Martin's proposal, the winning bidder would be able to use the rest of the airwaves for commercial services. Other stipulations would require the winner to create a system capable of serving 50 percent of the U.S. population within four years and 95 percent within 10 years. According to Reuters, the plans full details have yet to be finalized, but Martin's plan will likely be addressed at the FCC's next meeting on June 12 (Kaplan, Reuters/Yahoo! News, 5/29/08).

MySpace e-mail tool to tap Google technology

MySpace on Wednesday announced that it is leveraging Google technology to enable its users to search their e-mail more rapidly, the East Bay Business Times reports. According to the companies, the social networking site MySpace will embed Google Gears, which removes some limitations with browser technology. However, the Business Times reports that the companies have yet to unveil specific terms of the deal (East Bay Business Times, 5/28/08).

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