Scientists Look Towards Ferroelectric Transistors for Instant-On Notebook Technologies

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Date: Wednesday, April 29th, 2009, 08:45
Category: battery, News

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Researchers have apparently developed a technology that could allow notebooks to wake up instantly from shut-down states without draining battery life, as is commonly seen today.
According to Macworld UK, researchers have built ferroelectric material (which is usually found on smartcards) onto silicon, which could allow certain transistors to retain information after power is shut off. Scientists from Pennsylvania State University, Cornell University and Northwestern University are involved in the project.
The new findings could save users time by instantly booting laptops to an active and ready state when shut down.
“It would be instant-on, meaning as soon as the power comes back on, your computer would be in exactly the same state it was when you turned it off and ready for action,” said Darrell Schlom, principal investigator and professor at the department of materials science and engineering at Pennsylvania State University.
Quick-boot capabilities are enabled in Notebooks and most mobile devices, though many are unable to recreate shutdown states. As a result, notebooks usually never reboot back to their shutdown state, unless they are in sleep mode, which drains battery power. In essence, ferroelectric materials could wake up laptops from sleep mode, but without drawing any battery power.
The research could pave the way for a new generation of lower-power, higher-speed memory devices, Schlom said. For notebook users, it could reduce the time to load an OS from storage devices like hard drives. The ferroelectric material could also retain data in case power is lost.
The research itself revolves around building ferroelectric transistors, which are capable of retaining data in any electric state, onto hybrid transistors.
The researchers took strontium titanate, a variant of the ferroelectric material used in smartcards, and deposited it on silicon, putting it in a state where it could retain information even when power is off. The new findings cut the intervening layers that made it difficult to put the material on silicon.
Typically when power is turned off, voltages disappear from transistors, which have to be recreated when power is turned on. To recreate them, the relevant information is loaded from nonvolatile storage mediums like hard drives, which takes time. The ferroelectric transistors retain magnetization when the electric field is turned off, allowing it to retain data.
The technology will load operating systems differently from existing memory technologies like DRAM and storage technologies like hard drives and solid-state drives, Schlom said. Ferroelectric transistors conceptually differ in the way data is loaded and retained, Schlom said.
Benefits of ferroelectric transistors were first realized in 1955 by scientists at Bell Labs, Schlom said. Though the recent findings are a major step ahead, additional research is needed to build an actual ferroelectric transistor to make instant-on computing a reality, Schlom said.
He couldn’t provide a timeline for when such transistors would be built.
The researchers also include scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Motorola and Intel. The research is funded by the National Science Foundation and the US government.

Apple Apologizes Over “Baby Shaker” Application

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Date: Friday, April 24th, 2009, 07:05
Category: iPhone, News

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Ok, this was embarrassing.
After software developer Sikalosoft’s “Baby Shaker” app was briefly approved for the App Store later this week, Apple pulled the application and offered the following apology:
“This application was deeply offensive and should not have been approved for distribution on the App Store. When we learned of this mistake, the app was removed immediately. We sincerely apologize for this mistake and thank our customers for bringing this to our attention.”
According to Macworld UK, the application featured a drawing of a baby accompanied by audio of a baby crying with the goal was to shake the handset until the baby stopped crying. Some groups have called the application offensive, especially in relation to the dangers of Shaken Baby Syndrome. Defenders of the program, meanwhile, have said the application is clearly humorous in intent.
Though Sikalosoft has yet to officially comment on the situation, the company’s web site contains the following message:
“Okay, so maybe the Baby Shaker iPhone app was a bad idea. You should never shake a baby! Even on an Apple iPhone Baby Shaking application. No babies were harmed in the making of Baby Shaker.””
The site goes on to feature a description of the dangers of Shaken Baby Syndrome.

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Apple Releases Updated Mac OS X 10.5.7 Developer Beta, Build 9J56

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Date: Thursday, April 23rd, 2009, 14:48
Category: News, Software

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The Mac OS X 10.5.7 update, which appears to be close to release, went through yet another pre-release build late last week with developers working out additional tweaks for the operating system.
According to AppleInsider, build 9J56 focuses on “Bluetooth compatibility and stability fixes” per sources familiar with the software.
A number of recent Mac mini purchasers have complained about intermittent Bluetooth connection problems on their new systems, though similar problems are believed to be plaguing a variety of Macs.
Another fix in the latest build targets an issue with Personal File Sharing and AFP volumes not being properly recognized as Time Machine shares. However, the other three fixes were relatively minor, two of which add once-missing descriptive information to certain crash logs.
The Mac OS X 10.5.7 update is expected to offer more than 110 code corrections spanning over two dozen areas of the operating system. Earlier this month, Apple added Help Viewer to the list of key software components where beta testers should focus their testing efforts.
Though its believed that Mac OS X 10.5.7 remains close to release, Apple still notes that the software is incompatible with the public beta of Safari 4 — the OS update’s lone known issue.

Apple Begins Taking Bids on Mac Netbook Components

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Date: Monday, April 20th, 2009, 11:27
Category: News

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Long-time Apple manufacturing and component provider Foxconn is reportedly among a group of frontrunners expected to receive a contract to create a Mac netbook.
According to DigiTimes, sources lose to the story have cited that Foxconn “is in the running to land orders for a netbook from Apple.”
Outside of adding that Mac maker’s 13-inch MacBooks will become Foxconn’s major growth contributor during the second quarter, no further details were included in the report.
DigiTimes began a new wave of speculation earlier this year when it reported that Taiwan-based Wintek would start shipping touch panels to Apple sometime during the third quarter of the year for the launch of an unknown netbook product.
A pair of sources speaking to Dow Jones quickly backed the report, with one saying the panels were sized “between 9.7-inches and 10-inches” while the other said specifications for the project were still “under evaluation.”

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Jobs Apparently Still “Closely Involved” in “Key Aspects” of Apple

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Date: Monday, April 13th, 2009, 06:04
Category: News

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According to “people familiar with the matter,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs remains “closely involved” with “key aspects” of running Apple according to a Wall Street Journal article.
Though currently on medical leave since January, the paper is reporting that Jobs is working hard from home and is still involved in both strategy and key products, including details surrounding the new interface elements in iPhone 3.0.
Apple’s comment on the situation is a blanket statement that “Steve continues to look forward to returning to Apple at the end of June.”
Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

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AT&T planning changes to forbid video streaming, filesharing, and data tethering

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Date: Friday, April 3rd, 2009, 15:04
Category: Mobile, News, Services

AT&T appears to be changing its Terms of Service to limit data usage on its network. The new restrictions seems specifically aimed at several services that have already been available to current AT&T customers, especially iPhone users (but not stated as such).

The terms describe that accessing email and the internet is permissible, but prohibits:

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[...] downloading movies using P2P file sharing services, customer initiated redirection of television or other video or audio signals via any technology from a fixed location to a mobile device, web broadcasting, and/or for the operation of servers, telemetry devices and/or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition devices is prohibited. Furthermore, plans(unless specifically designated for tethering usage) cannot be used for any applications that tether the device (through use of, including without limitation, connection kits, other phone/PDA-to computer accessories, Bluetooth® or any other wireless technology) to Personal Computers (including without limitation, laptops), or other equipment for any purpose.

The change has seemingly been put in place on the heels of the recent release of the Skype iPhone app. While Apple itself stated it would not block VOIP applications on the iPhone, it has long been speculated what AT&T would do once those apps made it to the iPhone. Several apps like Fring and TruPhone already had hooks into Skype, but didn’t appear to attract any response from AT&T.

The current description of the restrictions is pretty wide, touching on several iPhone applications that facilitate filesharing and video streaming, which would cover software like SlingMedia’s upcoming SlingPlayer iPhone app. Where is all this headed? As devices become more internet enabled, phone companies seem determined to strangle their functionality rather than improve their level of services so that people will want to buy them.

Is AT&T being greedy, trying to slow people down until they can develop their own service plans, or are they like the record companies who just can’t see the writing on the wall? Discuss in the forums!

Internet News Reading Down 80% Due to Unreliable April 1st Trends

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Date: Wednesday, April 1st, 2009, 17:07
Category: Humor, News

People used to getting their daily news from internet news sources and blogs have finally given up reading the news online as the yearly trend to post fake news on April 1st continues. The online statistics service AdNumbers stated today that ad revenue from online marketing and banner ads, as of 5:00 PM EST, was down nearly 80%. ADNumbers representative Nick O’Parkman stated, “Everyone is just fed up. They go to the internet to read news on April 1st and they don’t know what to believe anymore, so now they don’t bother!”
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Medical health journalist, Dr. Eugene Simmons suggests that in the past this trend has been dangerous to unsuspecting news readers, in particular investors and individuals with large stock portfolios who might read that Apple Inc. is producing a line of computers with no keyboard, or that Steve Ballmer is going to be CEO of Microsoft. “Such outrageous stories have been know to cause heart-attacks, nervous break-downs, and unwarranted stock sellouts, which could hurt our already fragile economy”, says Simmons.
In a related story, the Onion News Network posted a TRUE news story today….and nobody noticed.

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Macworld Expo to Shift From January to February in 2010

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Date: Tuesday, March 31st, 2009, 08:39
Category: News

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IDG World Expo announced Monday that Macworld Expo 2010, which will lack Apple, will occur February 9th through the 13th as opposed to the customary slot of January 4th through the 8th, as had been previously announced.
According to AppleInsider, IDG said the revised dates are the result of feedback from the Mac community that will “give exhibitors and attendees more breathing room between the busy holiday season and the world’s largest event focused specifically on Apple products.”
Since Apple’s announcement that the company would be breaking away from trade shows, IDG stated that it has been soliciting feedback from the Mac community on how to keep Macworld afloat without Apple’s participation.
“As we began the planning process, attendees and exhibitors made it clear that February in San Francisco was the time and location that worked best, so we listened,” IDG chief executive Mary Dolaher said in a statement Monday.
“We firmly believe that these new dates will better meet the needs of everyone participating in Macworld, and are pleased to have been able to respond to this request from the community,” he added. “The journey toward a new era for Macworld has begun and we are more excited about this ride than ever before.”
Macworld 2010 will further break from tradition by shifting the expo portion of the event to include a Saturday. The Expo now is scheduled to take place Thursday, February 11, through Saturday, February 13.
Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and let us know what you think in the comments or forums.

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New Mac Virus Discovered by Sophos

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Date: Thursday, March 26th, 2009, 17:51
Category: News

Early this week, security firm Sophos discovered a new Trojan Horse virus which they are calling OSX/RSPlug-F. They even have a video of the virus in action! The virus’ method seems to be a variation of the malware DNSChanger which was detected some time ago.
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As indicated by the blog entry, the virus is activated by browsing to particular web sites and downloading an infected program. Once the user selects the download, the virus is downloaded via a remote download server and OSX/RSPlug-F will try to change your DNS server settings which could lead to your Internet traffic being redirected through malicious servers.
Blogger Graham Cluley’s states, “One of the ways in which the OSX/RSPlug-F Mac Trojan horse is being distributed by hackers is in the form of a poisoned HDTV/DTV program called MacCinema.”
The biggest problem is that being disguised as a useful piece of software, users are that much more likely to give the program authorization to do whatever it wants. Since many programs on OS X request an administrator’s password the first time they are run, users may simply be in the habit of entering their password and hitting ok without a second thought. Another interesting thing about this particular distribution, it affects both Macs AND Windows. If you are using Windows, the web site will conveniently download a Windows executable file instead of the OS X program variant.
To keep up to date on the issue, you can follow the Sophos Analyses page or MacFixit.

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OnLive Gaming Service Announced, Will Be Mac and Windows-Compatible

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Date: Thursday, March 26th, 2009, 08:28
Category: News

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Over at the Game Developers Conference, the OnLive broadband gaming service was announced. The effort, developed over seven years, focuses on offering a variety of game choices to subscribers by handling the each game’s video and audio on remote servers and streaming the results to players. According to Gamasutra, the service is stated to be compatible with Mac and Windows-based machines (via a web browser), or without a machine at all via the use of a “micro console” attachment which connects directly to a television.
“What OnLive does is seamless and completely transparent, and it does not have any requirements for the local system,” said OnLive founder and CEO Steve Perlman.
OnLive’s service, which is planned to combine a relatively low monthly subscription fee with other per-game business models not yet fully determined, requires only a one-megabyte download to a computer, or a small plastic dongle (called a “micro-console”) to connect to a TV; no GPU is required.
Once subscribed, users will be able to run any of the service’s games, regardless of system requirements.
A variety of major publishers including Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Warner Bros., Take-Two, Eidos, and Atari have already signed on and OnLive has announced a partnership with Epic Games that will see the Unreal Engine 3 easily adapt to OnLive’s APIs.
“Not only have we solved the problem of compressing the video games, we’ve solved the latency problem,” Perlman said to Gamasutra. “We knew, in order to make this thing work, we’d have to figure out a way to get video to run compressed over consumer connections with effectively no latency. Our video compression technology has one millisecond in latency — basically no latency at all. All the latency is just for the transport, and we’ve also addressed that.”
Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you ever wanted to stream your console games to your Apple notebook, you might not have long to wait.
Let us know what you think in the comments or forums.

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