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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Mind-reading computers

A raised eyebrow, quizzical look or a nod of the head are just a few of the facial expressions computers could soon be using to read people's minds. An "emotionally aware" computer being developed by British and American scientists will be able to read an individual's thoughts by analysing a combination of facial movements that represent underlying feelings. "The system we have developed allows a wide range of mental states to be identified just by pointing a video camera at someone," said Professor Peter Robinson of Cambridge University in England. He and his collaborators believe the mind-reading computer's applications could range from improving people's driving skills to helping companies tailor advertising to people's moods. "Imagine a computer that could pick the right emotional moment to try to sell you something, a future where mobile phones, cars and Web sites could read our mind and react to our moods," he added. The technology is already programmed to recognise 24 facial expressions generated by actors. Robinson hopes to get more data from the public to determine whether someone is bored, interested, confused, or agrees or disagrees when it is unveiled at a science exhibition in London on Monday, July 3. People visiting the four-day exhibition organised by the Royal Society, Britain's academy of leading scientists, will be invited to take part in a study to hone the programme's abilities. The scientists, who are developing the technology in collaboration with researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States, also hope to get it to accept other inputs such as posture and gesture. "Our research could enable Web sites to tailor advertising or products to your mood," Robinson told Reuters. "For example, a webcam linked with our software could process your image, encode the correct emotional state and transmit information to a Web site." It could also be useful in online teaching to show whether someone understands what is being explained and in improving road safety by determining whether a driver is confused, bored or tired. "We are working with a big car company and they envision this being employed in cars within five years," Robinson said, adding that a camera could be built into the dashboard. Anyone who does not want to give away too much information about what they are feeling, he said, can just cover up the camera.
This was written by Patricia Reaney & seized 4 u at Reuters

Monday, June 26, 2006

A look back from September 2015 on the World Financial Market.

Will NYSE, Euronext & LSE merge in 2008 into a new global exchange? Will sports & bets be incorporated into the financial markets and be one of its biggest assets? Will Will Amazon buy Ebay? ... It's actually so believable that it's creepy ... The following narrative has been written by Sean Park - Head of Digital Markets and Credit Flow products at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein (DrKW). He is also Director of Markit Group and International Index Company. It is entirely speculative and fictional and does not represent the opinion of DrKW or any of its affiliates.

Monday, June 19, 2006

New System Blocks Digital Cameras

Newswise — Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have completed a prototype device that can block digital-camera function in a given area. Commercial versions of the technology could be used to stymie unwanted use of video or still cameras. The prototype device, produced by a team in the Interactive and Intelligent Computing division of the Georgia Tech College of Computing (COC), uses off-the-shelf equipment – camera-mounted sensors, lighting equipment, a projector and a computer -- to scan for, find and neutralize digital cameras. The system works by looking for the reflectivity and shape of the image-producing sensors used in digital cameras. Gregory Abowd, an associate professor leading the project, says the new camera-neutralizing technology shows commercial promise in two principal fields – protecting limited areas against clandestine photography or stopping video copying in larger areas such as theaters. “We're at a point right now where the prototype we have developed could lead to products for markets that have a small, critical area to protect,” Abowd said. “Then we’re also looking to do additional research that could increase the protected area for one of our more interesting clients, the motion picture industry.” Abowd said the small-area product could prevent espionage photography in government buildings, industrial settings or trade shows. It could also be used in business settings -- for instance, to stop amateur photography where shopping-mall-Santa pictures are being taken. Read more...
This was seized 4 u at Newswise

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Trax4u, free music for free people

If you are used to check out new music on the web you'll know that their beside the usual paid music download sites also is a lot of free music. Music under the Creative Commons licenses is free to download and share. Trax4u not only provides a space for free and unrestricted music available for download it also gives you the opportunity to find the really good trax which are released under the Creative Commons licenses.
The "recent" page lists details of the latest tracks, with a Flash-based player for each one, album art and license icons. You can listen to, comment and vote on listed tracks (using the "I like it!" button), then submit new ones. Those amassing the highest scores are listed on the Hits page. (Digg users should feel particularly at home with the interface.)
Trax4u is packed with features:
  • The circular play button next to each track title is a mini Flash music player - click it and you can listen to the whole song.
  • Want to listen to everything on the current page? Either use the long player bar at the top or click "m3u" on the top-right to download a playlist. (You can also add tunes to Webjay with the "playlist" button)
  • The Tags page lets you browse by genre. (Remember to tag appropriately when you're adding a tune!)
...and their is much more. Find the really good stuff, participate, comment, link your own music at
The application is a clone of Fabricio Zuardi's CCHits and runs on which means that you are free to clone it youself edit the source code etc...
Thank you Fabricio on a fantastic piece of work.
Some of this was seized 4 u at

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Solutions for a Single European Electronic Market

The European Commission’s goal of establishing a Single European Electronic Market (SEEM) is being given a boost by a project that has brought together experts and stakeholders from across the continent and beyond to identify challenges and recommend solutions. The IST-funded SEEMseed initiative aims to “seed the development and implementation of the SEEM concept to create a virtual space where individuals and companies of any size can come together to do business without technological or linguistic restrictions,” explains project coordinator María José Núñez at AIDIMA in Spain. A roadmap based on the input of more than a 1,400 experts, and public and private stakeholders is due to be published by the project in July, outlining what needs to be done from a business, technological and regulatory standpoint to make the SEEM a reality. Though many small, mostly sector or area-specific electronic marketplaces have emerged on the internet in recent years, they remain highly fragmented and fall short of the SEEM goal of providing any company anywhere in Europe with easy, secure and trustworthy access to clients, suppliers and partners. From a technological viewpoint the barriers to interoperability between the systems used by different firms need to be overcome, while new electronic market solutions need to provide access in various languages and be simple and cheap, “even free,” to deploy notes Núñez. “This is especially important for small and medium enterprises, which make up the vast majority of companies in Europe,” she says. The demand-driven electronic market model that emerged from SEEMseed’s consultations was put into practice in a multilingual prototype for the waste management sector that brought together industrial firms, transporters and waste processors. It was built around a registry of businesses in the sector and a repository of data related to business processes. “A company in Spain that needs to dispose of hazardous materials could easily find a waste processor in France who can solve their problem, for example,” Núñez says. “They could also negotiate the contract and carry out other processes online.” However, the prototype also underscored the regulatory and business challenges that need to be addressed to bring a continent-wide SEEM into being. “Virtually all regulations are geared toward paper transactions. There is little legislation to support e-business models,” the coordinator notes. On top of that there is also the issue of trust, with Núñez arguing that national authorities should be in charge of deciding which companies are allowed into the electronic market. These challenges are not insurmountable, however, and although Núñez believes the road will be “long and difficult” she is confident that such a revolutionary marketplace will eventually emerge. SEEMseed’s roadmap, she says, will probably be closely followed by the European Commission to ensure it does.
This was seized 4 u at Information Technology Society

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Get Old = Get Happy

Back when he was 20 years old in 1965, rock star Pete Townshend wrote the line “I hope I die before I get old” into a song, “My Generation” that launched his band, the Who, onto the rock ‘n’ roll scene. But a unique new study suggests that Townshend may have fallen victim to a common, and mistaken, belief: That the happiest days of people’s lives occur when they’re young. In fact, the study finds, both young people and older people think that young people are happier than older people — when in fact research has shown the opposite. And while both older and younger adults tend to equate old age with unhappiness for other people, individuals tend to think they’ll be happier than most in their old age.
In other words, the young Pete Townshend may have thought others of his generation would be miserable in old age. And now that he’s 61, he might look back and think he himself was happier back then. But the opposite is likely to be true: Older people “mis-remember” how happy they were as youths, just as youths “mis-predict” how happy (or unhappy) they will be as they age.
The study, performed by VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System and University of Michigan researchers, involved more than 540 adults who were either between the ages of 21 and 40, or over age 60. All were asked to rate or predict their own individual happiness at their current age, at age 30 and at age 70, and also to judge how happy most people are at those ages. The results are published in the June issue of the Journal of Happiness Studies, a major research journal in the field of positive psychology. “Overall, people got it wrong, believing that most people become less happy as they age, when in fact this study and others have shown that people tend to become happier over time,” says lead author Heather Lacey.
The findings have implications for understanding young people’s decisions about habits — such as smoking or saving money — that might affect their health or finances later in life. They also may help explain the fear of aging that drives middle-aged people to “midlife crisis” behavior in a vain attempt to slow their own aging. Stereotypes about aging abound in our society, Lacey says, and affect the way older people are treated as well as the public policies that affect them.
That’s why research on the beliefs that fuel those one-size-fits-all depictions of older people is important, she explains. The study is one of the first ever to examine the ability of individuals to remember or predict happiness over the lifespan. Most studies of happiness have focused on people with chronic illness, disabilities or other major life challenges, or have taken “snapshots” of current happiness among older people. Read more...
This was written by Kara Gavin & seized 4 u at University of Michigan Health System

Monday, June 12, 2006

Robber returns cash, with interest

Ok - this one is a classic from Reuters "oddly enough" column:
TOKYO (Reuters) - A Japanese man who robbed a post office returned more money than he stole and turned himself in after deciding to come clean for the sake of his girlfriend. The 33-year-old stole 340,000 yen ($2,300) at knifepoint from a post office in western Tokyo in March. Ridden with guilt, he went back to the post office at the end of May and left 350,000 yen in an envelope on the counter before running off. Sunday, he turned himself in to the police, Asahi TV reported. "I did the robbery because I was short of money," Asahi quoted the man, who works as a gardener, as saying. "I didn't want to get arrested when I took the money back, but I talked to my girlfriend about it and thought I should clear things up quickly for her sake." The Mainichi newspaper quoted the man as saying he gave an extra 10,000 yen back because he was sorry for what he had done. A Tokyo police department spokesman said they were still discussing what to do with the extra cash.
This was seized 4 u at Reuters

Friday, June 09, 2006

Ways to push open source

Having the latest computer technology is great. But what e-government users from the public sector as well as citizens really want is software interoperability. Unfortunately IT managers still only pay lip service to such interoperability, concludes a European project assessing today’s open-source movement. “Open standards provide independence, not traditional vendor lock-in. They are good for users, purchasers and government from both the economic and competition standpoint,” says Rishab Ghosh, from the Merit/Infonomics research institute in the Netherlands. Ghosh coordinated the IST project
FLOSSPOLS. It aimed to fill in some important gaps in the understanding of open source, with a view to maintaining the European Union’s lead in this field. It was also a direct follow-on to the FLOSS project, which developed the single largest knowledge base on open-source usage and development worldwide.
Open source is in keeping with European goals for free software development and deployment, and the model for collaborative research and development. It is also directly relevant to the European Research Area. So, one project goal was to evaluate government policy towards open source.“Our study revealed that preference is often given in business tenders to certain vendors with mostly proprietary software at national and international levels,” says Ghosh. “Whether explicit or implicit, this preference is illegal under EU rules. Hardware preference is already outlawed, yet the use of specific software can often limit competition even more.”
Yet the outlook for open source in Europe is rosy. “It is more mature and popular here than elsewhere else and has plenty of take-up,” notes Ghosh, even though there are few policy initiatives for it. That said, the European Commission’s IDABC Programme has decided on a definition for open standards, though the Commission has not officially approved it. Having the right definitions for open source and open standards will help governments to move forward. “We believe standards should be defined in terms of economic impact on technology and that they should only be ‘open’ if they allow competition into a market,” he adds.
One positive sign is the Open Source Observatory, launched in 2003 by the Commission. The observatory sees itself as a ‘clearinghouse’ for information on the use of open-source software by public administrations in Europe. Another is the Commission’s Good Practice Framework which documents many European cases using open source. Read more...
This was seized 4 u at Information Society Technologies

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Earth's earliest life

Ancient rock formations in Western Australia's Pilbara region are home to the earliest evidence not only of life on Earth, but also of biodiversity. That's the conclusion from research on 3.4-billion-year-old layered rock structures called stromatolites. Some palaeontologists think stromatolites were formed when growing mats of cyanobacteria trapped sediments and eventually fossilised. Examples of such living, growing mats can be found in Shark Bay, also in Western Australia. Other researchers, however, say that the fossil stromatolites were not formed by living organisms, but by physical and chemical processes around hydrothermal vents. Abigail Allwood of the Australian Centre for Astrobiology at Macquarie University, Sydney, and colleagues have now tried to settle the question by mapping stromatolites over the Strelley Pool Chert formation in Pilbara Craton. They conclude that the structures are biological and, more dramatically, that the different shapes of stromatolites they found suggest the mats formed a type of reef in which niche specialisation existed. The researchers described seven distinct types of stromatolite, ranging from cones to domed egg-carton shaped formations, which all appear in different environments. The team claims the complexity of the formations, the repetition of the shapes over an outcrop more than 10 kilometres long and their similarity with some younger structures identified as microbial fossils show that they were made by a biological process (Nature, vol 441, p 714). "This is the first time that all these different shapes have been documented, and they're quite distinct," Allwood says. The team thinks the mats that formed the stromatolites would have resembled a reef. "This is more than just evidence of possible life. It is evidence of biodiversity - that life had a firm foothold by 3.4 billion years ago - so that it pounced as soon as the opportunity arose," Allwood says. Read more...
This was seized 4 u at New Scientist

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

AllOfMp3 is entering the debate about their legitimacy

I have written a few times about the russian music page AllOfMp3. This has risen a debat about the legitimacy of this site. A few moments ago I got the following statement about these questions from the administration of The US government officials and politicians have been demanding lately that the Russian authorities shut down, alleging the site is pirate. Otherwise, they threaten Russia with sanctions, including blocking its entry to WTO. In this regard we would like to make a statement:
  1. The site belongs to a Russian company and for 6 years it has operated within the country, in full compliance with all Russian laws. Throughout this period the various government offices have scrutinized site's legality and have not found any breach of the law. So far there has been no decision by any Russian court contesting the site's legality.
  2. The Russian site is not operating or advertising its business on the territory of other countries.
  3. The site does regularly transfer substantial amounts of royalties to the Russian organizations for collective management of rights such as ROMS and FAIR, which have granted the site licenses to legally deliver music through the Internet.
  4. The site reserves the right to take all steps necessary to protect its business reputation. We call upon everyone to take a thorough and unbiased view of the site's legality.
  5. On September 1, 2006 the changes to the Russian copyright legislation will come into force. Since January 2006 the site has been making direct agreements with rightholders and authors at the same time increasing the price of the music compositions and transferring the royalties directly to the artists and record companies. The aim of is to agree with all rightholders on the prices and royalties amounts by September 1, 2006.
  6. We believe in the long term and civilized business based on respecting the law, considering the customers' demands as well as the interests of both national and international rightholders.
The Administration June 6, 2006 Moscow

Computers that fold up for carrying

The popular science magazine New Scientist has again dug their way through the patent office. Here is the one that got my attention today:
The boffins at Sony’s Tokyo labs are working on a clever way to get bulky electronic devices into small pockets. Their plan is to create handheld computers, phones and portable games consoles that fold up for carrying and then become rigid for use. The body and screen of folding gadgets would be made from a flexible polymer containing conductive rubber bracing struts filled with a gel of aluminosilicate particles suspended in silicone oil. When a current is passed through the struts, the particles clump together and harden the gel, making the gadget solid enough to use. Sony has found that it would take very little power to make such a folding device harden, so the drain on its battery should be low. The company's patent adds that the transition from soft to hard takes just milliseconds. It suggests that the same technique could even be used in a video game controller to make it jolt or change shape in response to on-screen action. Read the full patent here.
This was seized 4 u at New Scientist

Friday, June 02, 2006

Great (Creative Commons Licensed) Music Page

If you're used to checking out new music on the web, you'll know that there's tons of free and unrestricted music available for download under Creative Commons licenses. However, it can still be tough to find the really good stuff. That's where CCHits comes in.
Fabricio Zuardi's latest production is probably the most ambitious user-created App-from-scratch that we've yet seen. The front page lists details of the latest tracks, with a Flash-based player for each one, album art and license icons. You can listen to, comment and vote on listed tracks (using the "I like it!" button), then submit new ones. Those amassing the highest scores are listed on the Hits page. (Digg users should feel particularly at home with the interface.)
Trouble is, this brief overview doesn't nearly do justice to the work behind this App. It's jam-packed with features:

  • The circular play button next to each track title is a mini Flash music player - click it and you can listen to the whole song.
  • Want to listen to everything on the current page? Either use the long player bar at the top or click "m3u" on the top-right to download a playlist. (You can also add tunes to Webjay with the "playlist" button)
  • Fabricio's made good use of Ning's tagging features: the Tags page lets you browse by genre. (Remember to tag appropriately when you're adding a tune!)
  • RSS feeds are available for every page, including tag listings, so it's easy to get a constant feed of your favorite genres.
  • The user profile features are fantastic. Click the "me" link at the top of the page and you can set your user picture and message, along with choosing your preferred language and bookmarking service.
  • Similarly, clicking any username in the App shows you what that user has added and voted for - so if you find yourself agreeing with someone else's taste, you can see what else they like.
  • CCHits is really suited to cloning, if you fancy forming your own music-blogging community. As ever, just hit "Clone this app!" in the sidebar.
  • Finally, the whole thing's topped off with some deliciously-slick styling. Gorgeous!
Ning likes to congratulate Fabricio on a fantastic piece of work. If you're interested to know more about him, his work and why he chose to build CCHits on Ning, keep watching: I'll be interviewing him for this blog very soon. In the meantime, dive in for some great free music!

I am so impressed by this, that I cloned it immediately and will provide a similar service for me, friends & like-minded people shortly on Trax4u. The site will be operational in about 1-2 weeks until then enjoy CCHits or look at a torso of here.
This was seized 4 u at Ning Blog

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Droids on the ISS

Six years ago, MIT engineering Professor David Miller showed the movie Star Wars to his students on their first day of class. There's a scene Miller is particularly fond of, the one where Luke Skywalker spars with a floating battle droid. Miller stood up and pointed: "I want you to build me some of those." So they did. With support from the Department of Defense and NASA, Miller's undergraduates built five working droids. And now, one of them is onboard the International Space Station (ISS).
"It only looks like a battle droid," laughs Miller. It's actually a tiny satellite—the first of three NASA plans to send to the ISS. Together, they'll navigate the corridors of the space station, learning how to fly in formation. Tiny satellites are a hot new idea in space exploration: Instead of launching one big, heavy satellite to do a job, why not launch lots of little ones? They can orbit Earth in tandem, each doing their own small part of the overall mission. If a solar flare zaps one satellite—no problem. The rest can close ranks and carry on. Launch costs are reduced, too, because tiny satellites can hitch a ride inside larger payloads, getting to space almost free of charge.
But there's a problem: Flying in formation is trickier than it sounds. Ask a crowd of people to line up single file, and they'll be able to figure it out and do it rather easily. Getting a group of orbiting satellites to do the same thing, it turns out, is extremely hard. "Suppose you've got a cluster of satellites in orbit," says Miller, "and one or two of them lose their place." Maybe a solar flare temporarily scrambles their nav-computers, or a thruster firing didn't work as expected. The whole cluster finds itself out of whack. Correcting the problem requires a complex set of 3-dimensional adjustments, coordinated among all the satellites—perhaps dozens or hundreds of them. "We've got to break this down into step-by-step, concrete instructions that a computer can understand," Miller says.
And that takes us back to the ISS: Miller's challenge to his undergraduate engineering class back in 1999 was to design a small, roughly spherical robot that could float aboard the ISS and maneuver using compressed CO2 thrusters. The project, called SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold Engage Re-orient Experimental Satellite), would serve as a testbed for trying out experimental software to control clusters of satellites. The robotic spheres provide a generic platform consisting of sensors, thrusters, communications and a microprocessor; scientists working on new software ideas can load their software into that platform to see how well those ideas work. It's a quick and relatively cheap way to test new theories on software design.
Possible applications include NASA's return to the Moon (see the Vision for Space Exploration). One way to build a moonship is to assemble it piece by piece in Earth orbit. "Software designed to control small satellites could just as well be used to maneuver the pieces of a spaceship together," says Miller.
The first SPHERE arrived on the ISS in April tucked inside a Progress supply rocket. (Remember, tiny satellites make good hitchhikers.) Eventually two more SPHERES will join it, one later this year when the space shuttle Discovery (STS-121) returns to the station, and another carried to orbit by a future shuttle mission. How will astronauts tell the three SPHERES apart? "They're color coded," explains Miller. The one onboard now is red; the second will be blue and the third yellow. "Red" is already busy. "We've commanded it to do a variety of maneuvers—loops and turns, for instance. And we've tested the robot's ability to solve problems." Astronauts tried to trick Red by causing one of its thrusters to stick "on." The robot diagnosed the fault, turned the thruster off, and returned to station-keeping. "Not bad for one little droid," says Miller. "I can’t wait to see what three of them can do."

This was seized 4 u at NASA