Microsoft grants support genomic health IT projects

Microsoft has awarded $850,000 in grants to six health information technology (IT) projects, most of which are related to genome research, Health Data Management reports. Awarded through Microsoft's Computational Challenges of Genome Wide Association Studies Program, the grants will enable Columbia University to develop advanced informatics methods to covert raw health data into usable research information; the National Institutes of Health to identify genes that are relevant to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson's disease and other neurological disorders; and Purdue University to create a software and data management system that can aid the prediction and prevention of adverse drug events and provide training for physicians and pharmacists on the links between genes, drug metabolism and the risk of adverse drug events. In addition, the Translational Genomics Research Institute will receive funding to develop a universal data format that would allow vendor platforms for genomic research to be integrated into a single file and software library; the University of California will earn funding to develop computational tools to explain the connection between gene pathways that are related to specific disorders; and the University of the Republic of Uruguay will receive a grant to create a data-quality management environment to help users identify and evaluate biological-oriented data quality properties for particular data sources. Health Data Management notes that Microsoft has previously awarded more than $2.5 million for several initiatives through its External Research & Programs unit (Health Data Management, 4/17/08).

PC Gaming alliance brings together industry rivals

Consulting firm Global Inventures has helped assemble a group of industry competitors to develop resources and common standards in an effort to help the multibillion-dollar PC gaming industry grow even larger, the East Bay Business Times reports. The California-based consultant will manage the PC Gaming Alliance, which includes players representing the entire PC gaming supply chain such as chip makers Intel and Advanced Micro Devices Inc., graphics card maker Nvidia Corp., computer makers Dell and Acer Inc., and software companies including Microsoft and Epic Games Inc. Ultimately, the alliance aims to become the authority on the PC game industry and create standards that will make it easier to develop games for personal computers. According to the Times, the game alliance expects to release data on sales and forecasting later this year, as well as progress on configurations by year-end (Sailors, East Bay Business Times, 4/18/08).

Computer scientists unveil new computer graphics program

Computer scientists at the University of California-San Diego Thursday announced creation of a fog and smoke program for computer graphics, United Press International reports. Presenting in Crete, Greece, at Eurographics 2008, the researchers note that the program reduces the computational cost of making realistic smoky and foggy 3-D images, such as depicting beams of light from a lighthouse piercing thick fog. According to the scientists, their achievement will help cutting-edge graphics techniques transition from research labs into movies, and eventually to video games and beyond. UPI adds that “the work is part of a shift in the computer graphics, film, animation and video game industries toward greater realism through the use of ‘ray tracing algorithms’ that calculate how light in computer-generated images would behave in the real world, the researchers said” (UPI, 4/17/08). 

Red Hat says no plans to release Windows competitor to commercial market

Red Hat on Thursday announced that it does not plan to release a competitor to Microsoft's Windows operating system for PCs any time soon, Triangle Business Journal reports. Currently, North Carolina-based Red Hat sells and services a version of the Linux OS for corporate servers, and its low cost has made its the OS of choice for those big customers. Downshifting to the desktop computer market, where Windows dominates, however, would just be too risky and expensive, Red Hat officials note. Specifically, the company’s Desktop Team reported in a post to a corporate blog that, "as a public, for-profit company, Red Hat must create products and technologies with an eye on the bottom line, and with desktops this is much harder to do than with servers," adding that "the desktop market suffers from having one dominant vendor, and some people still perceive that today's Linux desktops simply don't provide a practical alternative" (Triangle Business Journal, 4/17/08).

Online calculator helps determine chances for premature infants

Researchers at the Neonatal Research Network of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development have developed a new online calculator that can help parents and physicians decide how much treatment to provide to extremely premature infants, the New York Times reports. Based on data from a larger study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday, the calculator takes into account traits, such as birthweight and sex, to generate statistics on the infant's likelihood of survival or disability. Specifically, the study included 4,446 infants born between 22 and 25 weeks' gestation at 19 hospitals in the Neonatal Research Network. One study author notes that the findings and calculator are part of an effort to provide more solid evidence for physicians and parents to make decisions. She adds that she did not know if the study or calculator would lead to more or less treatment of extremely premature infants (Grady, New York Times, 4/17/08). 

Microsoft to unveil subscription-based, low-end productivity software package

Microsoft recently confirmed that it plans to release a subscription service that combines the consumer version of Office with its OneCare security suite, CNet News reports. Code-named Albany, the product features a single installer that uploads Office Home and Student, OneCare and a host of Windows Live services onto a user's PC. Users are then entitled to the latest versions of the products for as long as they keep paying for the subscription. Once they stop paying, however, they lose the right to use any version. According to officials, the product targets consumers that want a simple way to access Microsoft's productivity suite and keep their computer protected. Microsoft’s group product manager notes that the company soon plans to introduce a limited beta version of Albany, with the aim of commercially launching the product later this year. He adds, however, that the company has yet to decide how much it will charge or how the product will be sold (Fried, CNet News, 4/18/08). 

Researchers publish guide to measuring nanotubes

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration have published detailed guidelines for measuring single-walled carbon nanotubes, United Press International reports. According to UPI, the researchers suggest the guidelines constitute the current "best practices" for characterizing “one of the most promising and heavily studied of the new generation of nanoscale materials.” Nanotubes consist of cylinders of carbon atoms with a wall just one atom thick and a diameter of roughly two nanometers, but with lengths of up to several million times their diameter. UPI notes that “scientists say nanotubes' unique electronic, thermal, optical and mechanical properties make them ideal for a range of applications, including ultrastrong fibers for nanocomposite materials, circuit elements in molecular electronics, hydrogen storage components for fuel cells and light sources for flat-panel displays.” The new guidelines, available here, will likely help ensure more accurate, reliable and rapid measurement techniques, thus optimizing production processes and creating more nanotubes with fewer impurities. In addition, UPI reports that the techniques described in the guide have been proposed as the basis for international standards for nanotube characterization (UPI, 4/17/08).

Sun Microsystems announces new MySQL applications

Sun Microsystems this week released an upgrade of the MySQL open-source database and a new modeling and development tool called MySQL Workbench designed to help the computer maker expand the MySQL ecosystem, ChannelWeb reports. Announced at the MySQL Conference and Expo in Santa Clara, Calif., the new database will be offered in three editions: “the freely available MySQL Community Server, the MySQL Enterprise Server available from Sun for a paid subscription, and the commercially licensed MySQL Embedded Server for ISVs and OEMs,” according to ChannelWeb. Specifically, the software is designed to support a range of operating systems including Microsoft Windows, Macintosh OS X, and multiple versions of Unix and Linux. Available now, the MySQL Workbench offers data modeling, physical database design, database creation, change management and documentation capabilities (Whiting, ChannelWeb, 4/17/08). 

Chromium has magnetic properties, study finds

A new study published in the journal Nature suggests that U.S. physicists say have discovered the element chromium has magnetic properties,a finding they note may lead to new data-storage technologies, United Press International reports. According to study leader Yeong-Ah Soh of Dartmouth University, "the phenomena that we have discovered are likely to lead to new applications of chromium." During her study, she notes that she discovered chromium displays different electrical properties upon heating and cooling, adding that the differences reflect subtle internal rearrangements of the electrons and their spins. Specifically, she says that in ferromagnets—such as typical refrigerator magnets—the spins of electrons interact with each other leading to alignment, while in anti-ferromagnets the interactions between neighboring electron spins are opposed. Ultimately, she notes that the study "opens the entire new field of controlled electrical effects at a slightly-larger-than-quantum scale in anti-ferromagnets," adding that "the findings show that not only ferromagnets can be used in spintronics; there is a possibility anti-ferromagnets can also be employed to manipulate and store information" (UPI, 4/17/08). 

GAO Officials urge HHS to link infection databases

In testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) official said that U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies need to better coordinate their work collecting and tracking hospital-acquired infection data, Modern Healthcare reports. Specifically, the director for health care issues at GAO said that multiple agencies at HHS collect hospital infection data but that they are not making progress because the agencies only update each other about their independent databases, rather than collaborating on their respective work. Meanwhile, a GAO report released at the hearing recommended that HHS create links between its databases to better understand where and how hospital infections occur. Commenting on the hearing, GAO officials noted that HHS generally agreed with the agency’s findings (Lubell, Modern Healthcare, 4/16/08).  

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