Report: 86% of E-Mail Traffic is Spam

"Nearly every e-mail consumers receive -- some 86 percent -- is considered spam, either malicious or simply "unwanted content" today, a new study provided to TechNewsWorld demonstrates. As if that wasn't enough of a headache for corporate IT departments, instant messaging spam soared by 500 percent last month."

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Microsoft developing rival to iPod: sources

Microsoft Corp. is developing a music and video device to compete with Apple's iPod and creating its own music service to rival Apple's iTunes, sources familiar with the plans said on Friday.

Robbie Bach, a rising star at Microsoft who headed development of the Xbox video game business, is overseeing the project, one source said.

The company has held licensing discussions with the music industry and is already demonstrating the entertainment device, the sources told Reuters.

Microsoft declined to comment.

The news comes a day after Microsoft founder Bill Gates announced he would ease out of a day-to-day role at the company he built into the world's biggest software maker.

Bach was promoted to president of Microsoft's entertainment and devices division after it was restructured in December. At that time, he wrote in an e-mail to co-workers, "While I will continue to play an important role in the games area, I will spend more time thinking about our broader challenges and opportunities across the division."

A Microsoft-branded music service would reflect a digression from an existing strategy to provide software for other such services, just months after the company announced a service called URGE with Viacom Inc.'s MTV Networks.

"It seems like a shift in strategy ... (Microsoft) is very committed to it," one source said.

Microsoft's software technology has provided the copyright protection framework for a number of subscription music services globally, some with well financed backers including Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO - news) But Apple Computer Inc. remains dominant in the multimillion-dollar field of music and device sales.

Most iTunes rivals charge monthly fees to access a catalog of entertainment, but some allow consumers to buy single songs for about $1 each. Microsoft's service will emphasize the pay-per-download, or a la carte, model, sources said. A subscription component will also be offered, according to early accounts of the planned service.

One source, who has seen a demonstration of the service, said it was an improvement over iTunes.

"They have been developing technologies that have really good music discovery and community," another source said. "iTunes is the 7-11 (of music stores). You don't hang out there."

Microsoft joins a crowded field of competitors in the music service sector, including an entertainment device and service expected to be launched by Internet retailer Amazon.com Inc.

Amazon plans to heavily subsidize the cost of the digital device, much like wireless service companies do with the cell phones they sell, one source said. Some of the devices will come preloaded with music.

Microsoft earlier this year denied rumors that it was developing a hand-held video game device to complement its Xbox video game console.

It is unclear when Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, plans to launch the entertainments device and music service, the sources said.

Gartner: Google Likely To Buy Another Online Office App

Google Inc. is likely to acquire this year a Web-based presentation application, such as Thumbstacks, to add to its online spreadsheet and word processor, a market research firm said.

But even though Google is buying up Web-based capabilities found in Microsoft Corp.'s Office suite, the search engine isn't targeting the enterprise user space, which Microsoft dominates, or trying to compete with Microsoft desktop applications, Gartner said. Instead, Google is more likely interested in the consumer market and in extending its collaborative and social networking services to offer more space to advertisers.

'Google doesn't expect enterprise users to use online versions of office applications. It will be a long time, if ever, before Web-based applications provide the extensive functionality of traditional office suites,' Gartner said in a research note released Tuesday. 'In many cases, however, the reduced-function Web-based applications are 'good enough.' And they may be particularly good enough when employed in 'civilian' collaborative environments (for example, by 'soccer moms' or by investment clubs) or environments where nothing is installed today.'

In addition, it's likely that Google is also hoping that its online applications distract Microsoft in its efforts to compete with Google in its core advertising market, Gartner said.

Gartner expects Google to acquire an online presentation application, such as Thumbstacks sometime this year. The Mountain View, Calif., search engine bought online word processor Writely in March, and launched Google Spreadsheets this month.

New Firefox Extension Packs All Your Extensions Into One .xpi File!

The Firefox Extension Backup Extension lets you backup all of your extensions, themes, bookmarks, preferences...and the Compact Library Extension Organizer bundles everything into a single .xpi file that you can install on any installation of Firefox.

I WILL LOVE IT!!!!

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Top 10 Strangest Mini-Sized Devices

10. Evergreen’s Clip MP3 Player

Clip this new Evergreen “DN-CLMP128″ MP3 Player to your belt or bag. It’s ultracompact, measuring 25.6 x 53.2 x 22.6mm and weighing just 20g. This player comes with 128MB Memory built-in and supports MP3/WMA (64 - 192kbps) audio files. The “DN-CLMP128″ gets 5 hours of continuous playback on a single charge via AC or USB 2.0.

[Source]

9. World’s Smallest USB Drive

This miniature USB drive measures only 9.4 x 17.6 x 36.3 mm and weighs just 8g — in 512MB or 1GB capacities. It comes in gold or silver colors.

Do not be mislead by its size, though, because at up to 30MB/s transfer rate and 1GB, Petito will exceed your expectations with its performances in terms of speed and capacity

[Source]

8. The Finger Mouse

One glance at this mouse and you know you’re dealing with something different. This nifty finger-worn device has two buttons, a scroll wheel, USB connectivity, 400dpi/800dpi optical resolution, and a fold up design for maximum portability. It measures just 2.3 x 2.7cm.

[Source]

7. Tiny Multimedia Player

At just 8mm thick, the TakaraTomy TDG-101 is tiny enough to slip in your pocket. It isn’t small on features, though, with a 1.2-inch TFT display, MPEG/QuickTime/ASF/WMV/MP3/WMA support, and 1GB of built-in memory. On a full charge, you’ll get up to 6 hours of continuous audio playback. The TDG-101 will be released this summer at the price of $145.

[Source]

6. Tiny Wristwatch Powered Robot

Robots just keep getting smaller and the “Eco-Be!” by Citizen is no exception. This nifty gadget is driven by a wristwatch motor and controlled via infared remote. It’s powered by normal watch batteries and has quad-directional movement. Measuring just 1.8 cm wide and 2.5 cm tall, it’s the perfect cubicle companion.

“Citizen president Makoto Umehara says he hopes Eco-Be! will prove useful in the development of smaller and lighter weight robots.”

[Source]

5. Micro PVPro Projector

Developed by Light Blue Optics, the matchbox-sized PVPro strives to the world’s smallest projector. At just 62cc in volume, the PVPro can be used with mobile phones, laptops, digital cameras, and even personal media players. This technology was made possible by using miniature lasers to display images in real-time.

Our vision is to make it simple for people to share photos with their friends and to comfortably view mobile TV and music videos from their mobile devices. We believe that access to a large display, such as is provided by our PVPro projection technology, is key to increasing ease of use

[Source]

4. World’s Smallest Supercharged V8 Engine



This miniature four-stroke V8 engine has a 1.000-inch bore, 0.900-inch stroke, 9:1 compression ratio, 12,000rpm max., rotary sliding vanes (supercharger), dual WALBRO carbs, dual electronic ignition, and a two stage dry sump oil system.

[Source]

3. Toshiba’s Micro Hard Drive

Measuing only 0.85-inches in diameter, this new hard drive from Toshiba opens up new possibilites in mobile storage. Slightly larger than a postage stamp, you could be seeing this technology in cell phones, PDAs, digital cameras, and more.

“Mounting dimensions are 0.94×1.26-inches, with a thickness of 0.197-inches. The drive uses 0.12-Watts in standby and 0.60-Watts during write operations. Running on 3.0-Volts over the 0° to 70°C temperature range, it has one platter, two heads, and a 3600rpm rotational speed.”

[Source]

2. Picoflyer - World’s Smallest RC Helicopter



With only a 60 mm rotor diameter, the Picoflyer is the world’s smallest RC helicopter. It’s roughly the size of a 9V battery, weighs 3.3g, and has a flight time of up to 1 minute.

It is operated via an 900 MHz radio link, however, due to its small size and no aid from electronic sensors it is rather difficult to control precisely in the air

[Source]

1. Tiny Space Cube PC

Measuring just 2 x 2 x 2.2 inches, the Space Cube is a tiny PC that boasts a 300 MHz processor, 64MB of SDRAM, and an external video connector — supports 1280 x 1024 resolution. External interfaces include a Flash memory card slot, USB port, Ethernet, and a serial port. It’s powered by Atom Linux and available now for a whopping $325.

[Source]

Honorable Mention - Penny-Sized Dreamcast

Finally, the Dreamcast has made its comeback, but in penny-sized toy form. This bundle includes the core system w/functional lid, two VMU’s, Space Channel 5 game, controller, and a removable modem. Available now from Lik-Sang.

[Source]

USB drive that shows memory used


The Lexar Jumpdrive Mercury has been eagerly anticipated since first being announced at CES this year. As the first USB thumb drive to incorporate a persistent data display the Mercury is giving just a little taste of what type of monochromatic visuals we can expect on new gear in the upcoming year. Since an E ink display can retain the last image sent without taking any juice from the power supply the technology is in the running as a future replacement for that stuff we call paper."

Mobile phone companies join forces on Linux

Four mobile handset makers are teaming up with two cellular operators to develop a new Linux software platform for mobile devices.

Cell phone makers Motorola, NEC, Panasonic Mobile Communications and Samsung Electronics, along with mobile operators NTT DoCoMo and Vodafone, expect to announce on Thursday plans to form an independent foundation to develop a common mobile Linux-based platform. They will use this platform to develop new products, applications and features.

Linux, an open-source operating system, is already available on a wide range of mobile handsets. Motorola alone says it has shipped more than 5 million Linux-based handsets, mostly on smart phones, such as the Ming model shipped in China. In addition, Motorola just launched the new Rokr E2 music phone in Asia, which also uses Linux. The Rokr E2 will soon ship in Europe.

Top 10 Strangest Spy Gadgets

10. Motion Detector Telephone

Home security becomes less of a chore with the TeleSpy Motion Activated Intrusion System. If the built-in sensor detects movement, the phone will automatically call a preset number, allowing you to listen in for 30 seconds through its amplified microphone.

The passive infrared sensor detects changes in the room’s heat due to occupant’s movement. The detection range is about 30 feet long and the width is about 20 feet. It will then create about 45 degree wedge beyond the sensor origin

[Source]

9. CJAM 1000 Portable Cell Phone Jammer

Designed for government use, the CJAM 1000 is a portable device that can jam cell phones, Wi-Fi, or any other microwave frequency within a 1km range. A biometric fingerprint reader ensures maximum security. Practical applications include disaster communication, electronic theft denial, cellular triggered bomb defeat, and site control.

The CJAM 1000 using our antenna technology ‘Beams’ the jamming signal into the area of control while allowing for the use of communication in those areas which are not of concern.

[Source]

8. Tiny CMOS Camera

SuperCircuits has beaten their own “Guiness World Record” with the PC208 Mini CMOS Camera. Measuring less than 1/3-inch square, it’s smaller than a dime and requires only a 1/16-inch hole to look through. It features a 55 degree FOV, 1/4-inch color CMOS chip, 380 lines, 1.5 Lux resolution, and comes with plug-and-play cables. Overall, the PC208 is quite an impressive camera given its size, and the $150 price tag isn’t bad either.

[Source]

7. CP-1 USB Spy Mouse

Keep a close ear on your computer with the CP-1. Hidden inside this otherwise normal looking mouse is a condenser microphone - capable of picking up on any nearby conversations. It measures 53 x 95 x 35 mm and weighs just 75g.

CP-1 keeps on transmitting until PC is switched on. Once you switch off the PC, CP-1 continues recording

[Source]

6. The Pen Scanner

At $300, the Planon DocuPen RC800 is a new pen-sized scanner with 8MB of internal memory — good for use on classified documents. There’s also a built-in microSD card slot for memory expansion. Files are easily transferred via USB.

[Source]

5. 80,000 Volt Electric Suitcase

Keep all your secret documents safe with this shocking suitcase — 80,000 volts to be exact. The electric shock alarm is activated at the push of a button via remote control. A built-in secondary 107db alarm keeps would be thieves away. Available in brown or black colors, this suitcase comes packaged with 16 batteries and two remotes.

Nobody will be able to grab or take the suitcase. So your valuables are safe

[Source]

4. XB30 RC Digital Camera Spy Plane

Estes presents the XB-30, a radio controlled digital camera spy plane. This plane has a built-in digital camera that can take up to “26 aerial photographs” with the push of a button on the transmitter. Transferring the images to your computer is a breeze, just detach the camera, and connect to a USB port. The XB-30 is powered by electric fan engines with a wingspan of 55 in. and is 34 in. long.

[Source]

3. Shotgun Flashlight

ARES Defense Systems has developed a Mag-Lite that doubles as a .410 gauge shotgun. No word yet on pricing and availablity.

A grenade-style pin removes the safety, and the flashlight fires a .410 shotgun round out the back when a button is pressed. A Mini-Mag size fires a .380 round

[Source]

2. High-Tech Army Wristwatch

Tadiran Communications has developed new video communication technology that delivers real-time images taken by helicopters on to a 3-inch LCD display This wristwatch-style receiver gives solidiers an aerial view of the battlefield with video beamed directly from drones at 30 frames per second. For $50,000, you’ll get a receiver, transmitter, and battery.

V-Rambo shortens the amount of time it takes to identify and strike a target,” he claimed. “Before it was minutes, 10 to 12 minutes. Now it’s a matter of seconds.

[Source]

1. .22-Caliber Cell Phone Gun


As cool as it is ingenious, the Cell Gunphone will give security officials even more to worry about. On the outside, it looks like any other cell phone, but lying beneath the exterior is a .22-caliber pistol that’s capable of firing four rounds in rapid succession. Twist the phone, load up the top half with .22-caliber bullets, and fire away using keys 5-8.

Honorable Mention - Super Mini Spy Scope

At only 32g and 5.6 × 2.8 × 3 cm , the “Super Mini Scope” is the world’s smallest spy scope. The compact design means you can stash this just about anywhere. It features 8x magnification and 50cm focus distance, perfect for the outdoors. This nifty little gadget is available now in Japan, priced at just $50 USD.

Google crushes competitors in search market share

Google Inc. held on to its commanding lead as the preferred search engine in the U.S. in May, processing almost 60% of all queries filed, way ahead of its two closest competitors, Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp.

Google nabbed 59.3% of search queries, followed by Yahoo in a very distant second place with 22% and Microsoft's MSN with 12.1%, market researcher Hitwise Pty. Ltd. said yesterday.

Google's continued stranglehold on the search market is significant considering that in recent years both Yahoo and Microsoft have invested heavily on developing and improving their search engine technology and accompanying search ad networks.

Microsoft and Yahoo officials strain to put on a happy face whenever they are confronted with Google's dominance. Both companies are fond of saying that search engine technology is still in its infancy and that consequently an opportunity exists to unseat Google as the leader.

Still, month after month, trackers of search engines show Google remains firmly perched at the top.

Compared with March 2006, the May figures from Hitwise show Google gaining 1 percentage point of share, Yahoo staying almost flat and Microsoft losing 1 percentage point.

The search segment is the largest of the fast-growing U.S. online ad market, accounting for 41% of revenue, or about $5.1 billion. Online advertising spending grew 30% in 2005 to $12.5 billion.

How to Mask Your IP and Use Country Restricted Services | 6initiative.com

If you want to watch ABC streaming TV episodes even if you don’t live in the US or see the Football Worldcup in the BBC Sport site, even if you don’t live in the UK - the next few steps will help you mask your IP by changing your default proxy to the correct country.

We always knew it was possible, but not that it’s this simple! This can probably help people who want to use different softwares and services online that are usually restricted to the locals and not only for just viewing the above online TV. This little IP and proxy tweak also makes your surfing much more secure and anonymous.

1. In IE -> Choose Tools -> Choose Internet Options -> Go to Connections (tab) -> Press LAN Settings (button) -> mark the “Use a proxy server for your LAN…” -> In the IP Address field, enter the IP (use 206.107.155.137 for US services, 62.171.219.179 for UK services) -> In the Port field, enter the port (US - 8080, UK - 80) -> Press OK (button) -> Press OK again (button).

2. For more IPs (proxy servers) from different countries, you can check out this site.

3. If you’re having any problems, read the original, very detailed post here.

If you know any other good location based sites or great services that you thought were restricted to your country until now, please comment and share them with us.

A peek into the mind of a genius

It was, without doubt, one of the finest minds of all time. Now scientists have proved that Albert Einstein's brain was not only unique in its ability to process concepts: it was also physically different.

New research comparing the characteristics of Einstein's brain with that of four men of similar age has found remarkable structural differences.

Parts of his brain were found to be larger than those of the others, and he also appeared to have had more brain cells, scientists have found previously.

The brain of the great mathematician and physicist, who died at the age of 76 in 1955, has long fascinated researchers, not least because while Einstein's body was cremated, his brain was saved for scientific study.

The brain has now been found to possess a greater number of glial cells for each neurone, suggesting that Einstein's brain needed and used more energy. As a result it may have generated more processing ability. The job of glial cells is to provide support and protection for neurones.

The density of neurones in Einstein's brain is greater, too, and the cerebral cortex is thinner than the brains to which it was compared.

Einstein's brain also has an unusual pattern of grooves in an area thought to be involved in mathematical skills. It was 15 percent wider than the other brains, suggesting that the combined effect of the differences may be better connections between nerve cells involved in mathematical abilities.

The latest research, due to be published this week, was conducted by scientists in the United States and Argentina.

'Einstein's astrocytic processes showed larger sizes and higher numbers of interlaminar terminal masses,' say the researchers.

Exactly what effects these differences could have is not clear, and the researchers caution that what they found could simply be a sign of ageing.

The researchers also suggest that the structure of Einstein's brain may not have been unique, and that other people may have something similar, but never get the chance to use it.

'Perhaps individuals with 'special' brains and minds are more frequent than suspected. They just may go unnoticed due to socio-cultural conditions or their early potential being cancelled following exposure to unwanted health or child-rearing hazards during gestation and early childhood, or lack of an adequate child-raising environment,'' say the researchers.

And there's hope for us all. The researchers say that the brain structure shouldn't be seen as a marker of intelligence in isolation. 'In a species with a heavily socially moulded brain and mind, such as humans, the full expression of an individual special aptitude depends on multiple genetic and environmental factors.'

Microsoft: Google Spreadsheets is so 10 Years Ago

"The innovations we're delivering in Excel in terms of new usability, new visual user interface advancements, support for collaboration and business intelligence with things like Excel Services are so far beyond [Google Spreadsheets] that it's like watching a time machine from 10 years ago."

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TechWeb | News | IE And Firefox Sport New Zero-day Flaw

Multiple security organizations warned Tuesday that Internet Explorer, Firefox, Mozilla, and SeaMonkey -- on Windows, Linux, and the Mac -- are vulnerable to a JavaScript bug that could allow a determined attacker to dupe users into giving up sensitive personal information such as credit card or bank account numbers and passwords.

According to Symantec, which issued an alert late afternoon Tuesday, all versions of the Microsoft and Mozilla browsers could be used to harvest data through a JavaScript key-filtering vulnerability.

'This issue is triggered by utilizing JavaScript 'OnKeyDown' events to capture and duplicate keystrokes from users,' went the Symantec warning.

The bug would let crafty criminals filter keystrokes entered into a form, say a credit card form to pay for online goods, to an invisible file upload dialog on the same Web page. Once the information's trapped in that hidden dialog -- the vulnerability discoverer used the analogy of the keystrokes 'bouncing' from the legit (or at least legitimate-looking form) to the cloaked one -- the data could be sent to the attacker."

Yahoo rolls out photo site beta

Yahoo is expected to launch on Thursday a limited beta of a new Yahoo Photos site that allows people to download high-resolution photos, tag shots with descriptors for easy search and comment on other peoples' images.

Yahoo Photos offers a more visually appealing user welcome page, with a list of the user's albums and albums of friends on the left, as well as larger images of recent photos. Users can drag and drop multiple photos at a time to rearrange them and easily rename them by pointing and clicking on the old name and typing in a new one.

Images are accompanied by additional descriptive information about each shot and are designated as private by default, Brad Garlinghouse, senior vice president of communications, community and front door at Yahoo, said at a briefing and product demo with reporters late on Wednesday.

The website is down because someone removed the X-Box

Public Universities are always running on a limited budget which means they sometimes come up with “innovative” solutions. A couple of years back, an X-Box with some variant of Linux installed had been put in the server room to support a subject designed to teach computer-illiterate Philosophy students how to build their own web pages. This unorthodox platform was chosen because one of the techs was a Linux enthusiast and had convinced “the powers that be” that a cheap web server solution for this subject could be implemented using an X-Box rather than a standard PC or server. Grateful to save money where they could, the project was approved.

Several years later and most of the staff in the department had moved on to bigger and better things. There was a new manager and a brand new set of helpdesk techs. The department’s Unix administrator was one of the few people left who knew what the X-Box was used for. Each year before the second semester class began he powered up the X-Box and updated its software. Few of the other staff ventured into the server room so there was little reason to wonder why an X-Box was sitting on the rack.

Five weeks into the “Web pages for Philosophy students” class the excrement encountered the rotary cooling device. The IT department’s help desk started receiving calls from Philosophy students who were unable to access their web projects.

Flummoxed, the help desk staff escalated the job ticket to the Unix administrator. Unable to remotely access the X-Box, he trotted off to the server room. He was surprised to find that the X-Box was no longer present. He did a quick search of the room but failed to find it. As it did not look as though someone had broken in to the room, there had to be another explanation.

The administrator went down to the new manager’s office to report the missing X-Box. The new manager was quiet for a moment and then sheepishly informed the administrator that it was he who had removed the X-Box. The manager had thought the X-Box was just a games console that the IT departments staff used for recreation when it got quiet. Noticing that the X-Box hadn’t been moved from the server room for some time and that his son was going to be at home on school holidays for the next two weeks, the manager decided to take the X-Box home so that his son would have something to entertain himself with. The manager then drove home and retrieved the X-Box. The administrator got a labeling machine and plastered the words “This is actually a server” all across the console.

TechWeb | News | Microsoft Pulls PC-to-PC Sync From Vista

Microsoft confirmed Wednesday that it will yank yet another feature from Windows Vista, this time PC-to-PC Sync, a P2P-based technology for keeping files up-to-date on multiple machines.

'While PC-to-PC Sync is a great feature that improves productivity and collaboration we don't have it at the quality level our customers demand,' a company spokesperson said in an e-mail. 'As a result the decision was made to remove it from Windows Vista.'

Amazon selling Ubuntu DVDs

Ubuntu 6.06 LTS is now available on Amazon! If you�re in the USA, you can purchase jewel case DVDs for USD$9.99 right now.

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VoIP scam netted a million

Details of how a Miami man allegedly earned a million dollars by defrauding Voice over IP providers have been leaked by prosecutors.

The scheme was a doddle and a bit of a wakeup call for VoIP providers.

Edwin Andres Pena found the prefixes that Internet phone companies use to identify calls that are allowed to be routed over their network. He did this by 'slamming' Internet phone networks with thousands of test calls using different variants of prefixes.

With a mate, he looked for vulnerable ports and routers in companies and hacked into the network to get administrator names and passwords.

Apparently, he conducted six million scans of AT&T's worldwide network alone from June to October of 2005.

Using this information, Pena reprogrammed the routers to allow the routers to handle VoIP calls, and to disguise the true source of the traffic.

He then sold phone call minutes under a discounted rate and routed his customer's calls to the companies network via the routers he had hacked.

More here.

Slashdot | Google Releases Google Browser Sync Extension

"Google has just released the Google Browser Sync extension for Firefox. This extension allows you to save your bookmarks, history and passwords on Google servers, effectively giving you a 'roaming profile,' which you can sync on any computer running Firefox (and the extension, of course)."

Firefox to Drop Pre-Windows 2000 Support

"While more and more platforms are getting (or aiming for) Firefox ports, the trunk itself seems to be going the other way. In an effort to clean up the API calls used and reduce the codesize a patch was posted at Bugzilla removing support from pre-W2k versions of Windows. There's a fiery discussion going on over at the Mozillazine forums about this after a counter bug was filed. The official position appears to be that Firefox 3.0 will maintain this un-compatibility, but developers are, obviously, free to work on a separate Win 98 compatible 'port.'"

Al-Zarqawi killed in U.S. airstrike

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the self-proclaimed leader of al-Qaida in Iraq and the most wanted man in the country, was killed Wednesday evening in an airstrike near Baqouba, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Thursday.

Microsoft releases test of new Vista operating system

Microsoft said it released a public trial version of Vista, the newest version of its ubiquitous Windows operating set for a full rollout in January.

"Microsoft has officially kicked off the Windows Vista Customer Preview Program (CPP), providing the broadest access yet to pre-release test versions of Windows Vista," a company spokesman said in a statement.

This test version "allows developers and IT professionals who dont have access to pre-release versions of Windows Vista through other channels to obtain the code and begin their testing."

The release is a normal part of the rollout for Windows, which is used by many software developers whose programs interact with the operating system installed on some 90 percent of personal computers worldwide.

"This broad availability of pre-release code represents a significant milestone in the development of Windows Vista and the feedback received from testers will help us further refine certain areas of the product," the company said.

Microsoft earlier this year delayed the release of Vista until January, missing the key year-end period for computer sales.

The much-heralded Vista platform will now only be launched to the public after the end-of-year holiday sales, the company's busiest sales period and a full five years after the release of its last system, Windows XP.

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Abbas 'sets date' for referendum

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is to hold a referendum on a plan for statehood that implicitly recognises Israel on 31 July, officials say.

The Palestinian Authority president will issue a decree formally announcing the date on Saturday, they added.

Mr Abbas had given Hamas, which heads the government, until the end of the week to agree the plan or said he would put it to a public vote.

Hamas has rejected the plan and said a referendum would be illegal.

Mr Abbas had originally set a deadline of last Monday for Hamas to agree to the plan, but extended it so that talks could continue.

He was reported to have met Hamas cabinet ministers earlier on Thursday, but officials said the talks broke up without agreement.

Robot device mimics human touch

A device which may pave the way for robotic hands that can replicate the human sense of touch has been unveiled.

US scientists have created a sensor that can "feel" the texture of objects to the same degree of sensitivity as a human fingertip.

The team says the tactile sensor could, in the future, aid minimally invasive surgical techniques by giving surgeons a "touch-sensation".

The research is reported in the journal Science.

"If you look at the current status of these tactile sensors, the frustration has been that the resolution of all these devices is in the range of millimetres," explained Professor Ravi Saraf, an engineer from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, US, and a co-author of the paper.

"Whereas the resolution of a human fingertip is about 40 microns, about half the diameter of a human hair, and this has affected the performance of these devices."

Undergraduate survey: iPods more popular than beer

"Whenever someone says college students, the first thing that comes to mind is drinking beer, right? Wrong, says new research by Student Monitor, which claims than in 2006 73% of students it surveyed said iPods were in, while beer drinking and Facebook.com fought for the second place with 71% of popular votes."

Slashdot | Firefox to Drop Pre-Windows 2000 Support

"While more and more platforms are getting (or aiming for) Firefox ports, the trunk itself seems to be going the other way. In an effort to clean up the API calls used and reduce the codesize a patch was posted at Bugzilla removing support from pre-W2k versions of Windows. There's a fiery discussion going on over at the Mozillazine forums about this after a counter bug was filed. The official position appears to be that Firefox 3.0 will maintain this un-compatibility, but developers are, obviously, free to work on a separate Win 98 compatible 'port.'"

Blogger Help : What is BlogThis! ?

BlogThis! is an easy way to make a blog post without visiting blogger.com. Once you add the BlogThis! link to your browser's toolbar, blogging will be a snap. Or rather, a click. Clicking BlogThis! creates a mini-interface to Blogger prepopulated with a link to the web page you are visiting, as well as any text you have highlighted on that page. Add additional text if you wish and then publish or post from within BlogThis!

There are two ways to use BlogThis!: if you use Windows and Internet Explorer, you can use BlogThis! straight from the Google Toolbar. If you're on another browser, just drag the link below to your browser's Link bar. Then, whenever the mood strikes, click BlogThis! to post to your blog:

BlogThis! <-- drag this link to your browser's Links bar

Google launches web spreadsheet

Internet search engine Google has released a web-based spreadsheet application, on a limited test basis.

Spreadsheets are software applications with a grid of rows and columns and calculating capabilities, which allow users to input or organise information.

California-based Google said its free, web-based application can be shared by up to ten users simultaneously.

The dominant stand-alone spreadsheet is Excel from Microsoft, and Google's move could put the two on collision course.

Yahoo boss sees salary fall to $1

Yahoo boss Terry Semel has had his annual salary reduced to $1 in exchange for millions of new stock options.

While Mr Semel will now only pocket about eight cents a month - subject to tax - he will not be short of money.

His latest three-year pay package comes after Mr Semel has reaped $429m (£228m) from his shares in the firm since 2003.

Yahoo said the 63-year-old's new deal was a means to both motivate and retain Mr Semel, who has the dual roles of chairman and chief executive.

Share price surge

Under the latest contract which runs until 2008, Mr Semel will be eligible to an annual bonus of up to one million stock options.

Since Mr Semel took over the top jobs at Yahoo five years ago, the firm's share price has tripled.

His previous annual salary was $600,000.

Over the past three years Mr Semel sold 18.1 million of his stock options for a gain of $429m.

He maintains another 17.7 million unexercised stock options.

Google founder lobbies for net neutrality

Google Inc. co-founder and President Sergey Brin met with U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday to press for legislation that would prevent Internet access providers from charging Web sites more for faster content delivery.

File photo of Google Inc. co-founder and President Sergey Brin

"The only way you can have a fast lane that is useful -- that people will pay a premium for -- is if there are slow lanes," Brin told reporters after meeting with Republican John McCain, a member of the Senate committee that oversees telecommunications issues.

Google, Microsoft Corp. and other major Internet site operators have joined with small Web site owners to oppose broadband providers such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications that want to offer faster network performance to companies that pay more. The issue has been dubbed "net neutrality" by those who oppose a two-tier system of access and pricing.

Brin acknowledged large companies such as Google would be able to cut deals with the network owners to get their content through. But he added that Google searches are only valuable if consumers can then quickly access the sites listed in the results.

"The thesis is that some content providers will pay for premium service. Why are they paying? Just because they feel charitable toward the telcos and ISPs?" Brin asked. "I assume they are paying because otherwise they would have worse performance, or maybe it won't really work."

The U.S House of Representatives may vote as early as this week on a telecommunications reform bill that does not include the net neutrality protection sought by Google.

But the bill would direct the Federal Communications Commission to enforce the agency's September 2005 broadband policy statement that says consumers are entitled to access the content and applications of their choice.

Critics like Brin say these provisions do not go far enough and they hope to get stronger language in the Senate's version of a telecoms reform bill. Brin said he "did not know where McCain will come out on the issue."

Clad in jeans and sneakers, the billionaire Silicon Valley executive said his company is new to Washington lobbying.

Nonetheless, the seven-year-old company has found itself at the center of several political storms in recent months. It successfully battled the Justice Department to avoid handing over search records and absorbed severe congressional criticism over its business practices in China.

"Our reputation certainly suffered" from reports that Google's Chinese site -- www.google.cn -- did not show search results on topics critical of the Chinese government, he said.

But he said only 1 percent of Chinese users use google.cn, while the majority uses the unfiltered www.google.com.

"We are not actually censoring in China," he added.

Live Anywhere Adds Platform

Microsoft has adopted yet another platform under its broad strategy to provide games and game communities wherever users go.

Under an agreement announced Thursday at the Brew 2006 Conference here, Qualcomm will build extensions for Microsoft's Live Anywhere technology into its own Brew mobile software development and delivery platform. The extensions will allow Live Anywhere to be provided as an application on Brew phones.

Microsoft's Live Anywhere vision, laid out by Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates in May at the E3 gaming conference, calls for consumers to be able to use a common user interface on Windows Vista PCs and Windows Mobile devices as well as the Xbox 360 console.

Since the E3 launch, Microsoft has said it plans to extend Live Anywhere to other mobile platforms, including Java and Symbian, but Thursday's announcement marks the first time the company has given details about its work with a non-Microsoft mobile platform.

More Mobile Options

The idea is to let users move easily from one gaming environment to another and use a single player identity across several communities that today are separate, namely MSN Messenger, MSN Games and Xbox Live. Scores recorded on one platform would be available on another.

Microsoft even anticipates interaction between environments, such as a gamer sending a clip from a play on a console game to a friend's phone. Eventually, Microsoft hopes to let users buy a game once and then play it on all the platforms.

The entire vision will take years to make real, but users should see some elements of it on phones by the time of the next E3 in May 2007, said Chris Early, studio manager at Microsoft Casual Games.

Growing the Market

Porting to Brew could allow Microsoft to reach a much bigger mobile market, though not as big as the universe of Java-enabled phones. Brew is offered on phones from 69 operators in 31 countries, according to the San Diego mobile technology company.

Microsoft plans to work with handset makers, content providers and mobile operators in getting Live Anywhere products to handsets, he said. It has not announced any such deals yet. Live Anywhere could be built in to phones, provided by the carrier or sold over the air by third parties, Early said.

Not many mobile subscribers play games on their phones yet, but linking the casual games on MSN Games to the mobile world may appeal to that market segment, said Yankee Group analyst Linda Barrabee. Compared with console and PC gaming, casual games attract older players and more women.

Letting consumers know that Live Anywhere is on consumers' phones and what it offers will be one challenge, Barrabee said. Another may be branding conflicts between Microsoft and the mobile operators, she added.

Firefox 1.5.0.4 Released

Improvements in version 1.5.0.4

Release Date: June 1, 2006

Web users to 'patrol' US border

A US state is to enlist web users in its fight against illegal immigration by offering live surveillance footage of the Mexican border on the internet.

The plan will allow web users worldwide to watch Texas' border with Mexico and phone the authorities if they spot any apparently illegal crossings.

Texas Governor Rick Perry said the cameras would focus on "hot-spots and common routes" used to enter the US.

US lawmakers have been debating a divisive new illegal immigration bill.

The Senate has approved a law that grants millions of illegal immigrants US citizenship and calls for the creation of a guest-worker programme, while beefing up border security.

But in order to come into effect, the plan must be reconciled with tougher anti-immigration measures backed by the House of Representatives, that insist all illegal immigration should be criminalised.

The issue has polarised politics and US society. Right-wing groups have protested against illegal immigrants, while millions of people marched in support of them last month.