David Kirkpatrick

January 31, 2010

E-book price issues already cropping up at Amazon

The e-book space should get really interesting over the next year or so. Amazon is dumping Macmillan’s hard copy and e-books over an e-book pricing issue. Right now all e-books are $9.99 at Amazon and Macmillan wants to charge more for e-books at the outset before lowering prices.

This move is pretty significant because here’s part of Macmillan’s roster: “Macmillan is one of the world’s largest English-language publishers. Its divisions include St. Martin’s Press, itself one of the largest publishers in the U.S.; Henry Holt & Co., one of the oldest publishers in America; Farrar, Straus & Giroux; and Tor, the leading science-fiction publisher.” That’s a lot of quality books that Amazon is willing to lose over a couple of bucks.

Is Amazon running scared from looming competition a bit? I’d say yes.

From the link:

Macmillan CEO John Sargent said he was told Friday that its books would be removed from Amazon.com, as would e-books for Amazon’s Kindle e-reader. Books will be available on Amazon.com through private sellers and other third parties, Sargent said.

Sargent met with Amazon officials Thursday to discuss the publisher’s new pricing model for e-books. He wrote in a letter to Macmillan authors and literary agents Saturday that the plan would allow Amazon to make more money selling Macmillan books and that Macmillan would make less. He characterized the dispute as a disagreement over “the long-term viability and stability of the digital book market.”

Also:

But, he wrote, the digital book industry needs to create a business model that provides equal opportunities for retailers. Under Macmillan’s model, to be put in place in March, e-books will be priced from $12.99 to $14.99 when first released and prices will change over time.

For its part, Amazon wants to keep a lid on prices as competitors line up to challenge its dominant position in a rapidly expanding market. The company did not immediately return messages seeking comment Saturday.

Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Sony Corp.’s e-book readers are already on sale. But the latest and most talked about challenger is Apple Inc., which just introduced the long-awaited iPad tablet computer and a new online book store modeled on iTunes. Apple CEO Steve Jobs, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, suggested publishers may offer some e-titles to Apple before they are allowed to go on sale at Amazon.com

January 29, 2010

New employee $5000 tax credit proposed

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:18 pm

More detail on the White House plan to help Main Street.

From the link:

President Obama will propose Friday in Baltimore a new business tax credit worth up to $5,000 for every new worker hired this year.

Under the president’s plan, a business could claim a tax credit of up to $5,000 for every net new employee it adds to its workforce this year.  If that business hires a worker and fires another, it would be ineligible for this credit.

Senior administration officials said they capped the total credits a business can claim at $500,000 to ensure their proposal mostly helps small businesses.

“The focus is really on small businesses,” said a senior administration official.

The president is also proposing the federal government reimburse businesses for the Social Security taxes they owe on increases in their payrolls this year.

Cloud computing and privacy

The early results are not too promising.

From the link:

Loosely defined, cloud computing involves programs or services that run on Internet servers. Despite the buzz surrounding it, the idea isn’t new–think Web mail. But huge benefits, such as being able to gain access to your data from anywhere and not having to worry about backups, have led more people to leap to the Internet to do everything from writing documents and watching movies to managing their businesses. Unfortunately, privacy is often still stuck at home.

Behind the Times

Archaic laws that focus on where your information is, rather than what it is, are part of the problem. But a disturbing lack of respect for essential privacy among industry heavyweights who should know better is also evident.

Consider comments that Google CEO Eric Schmidt made during a recent CNBC interview. In response to the question, “People are treating Google (GOOG) like their most trusted friend. Should they be?” Schmidt responded, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

This kind of “only the guilty have anything to hide” mindset is a privacy killer, and rests on the completely flawed no tion that people want privacy only when they’re doing something wrong. There’s nothing wrong with my taking a shower or searching for information about a medical condition. But it’s still private.

It’s possible Schmidt spoke without thinking–Google is mum for now on the prospect of issuing a clarification of any kind. But meanwhile, privacy is taking a pounding in other areas, as well.

Last summer, a U.S. District Court judge in Oregon ruled that government law enforcement agencies need not provide you with a copy of a warrant they have obtained in order to read all of your e-mail stored on an Internet server–where most of us keep e-mail these days. It’s sufficient to give your Internet service provider notice, according to Judge Michael Mosman.

In his opinion and order, Mosman noted the Fourth Amendment’s “strong privacy protection for homes and the items within them in the physical world.” Still, he said, “When a person uses the Internet, however, the user’s actions are no longer in his or her physical home; in fact he or she is not truly acting in private space at all.”

I bolded that last bit of text, and that may be the most important statement regarding cloud computing and privacy — when you are operating in the cloud, United States Fourth Amendment law as it is currently read does not protect your privacy.

Let me restate that — any actions you take in any aspect of cloud computing conceivably are not covered by your Fourth Amendment right to privacy. This fact should give anyone who is considering the cloud for anything beyond trivial usage a great deal of pause.

Iran “censors” its own flag

Filed under: et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:39 pm

The green stripe at the top of Iran’s flag has been removed when the flag was displayed at recent official ceremonies. This totalitarian state is now willing to desecrate its national symbol to avoid displaying the color of the green wave revolution.

Ruling in fear is not ruling.

From the link:

Flag

IRAN-FLAG-BLUE

Radio Free Europe reports:

[I]n at least two official ceremonies in recent days, images of that flag have been used where the green color has been replaced by blue. The move has led to speculation that the Iranian government is trying to get rid of the green in the Iranian flag because it’s a symbol of the opposition movement that has been challenging the disputed reelection of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

According to the Center on Communication Leadership and Policy …

the government is helping kill commercial news media. It couldn’t possibly be years of stagnant practices and an unwillingness to meet the digital era head on when it had the chance years ago. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to add most commercial news media outlets enjoyed, then expected, unsustainable profit margins and had issues facing that reality as well.

The release:

Financial crisis in news: Government financial support of news media continues steep decline

WASHINGTON, January 28, 2010 — Government financial support that has bolstered this country’s commercial news business since its colonial days is in sharp decline and is likely to fall further, according to a report released today by the University of Southern California’s Center on Communication Leadership & Policy. Because these cutbacks are occurring at the height of the digital revolution, they will have an especially powerful impact on a weakened news industry.

Public Policy and Funding the News is a unique effort to begin examining how involved the government, at all levels, has been in subsidizing news throughout American history to foster an informed citizenry; and what this support has meant for publishers, journalists and news consumers. The report analyzes some of the financial tools that government has used to support the press over the years — from postal rate discounts and tax breaks to public notices and government advertising. The report documents cutbacks across a range of sectors and presents a framework for the consideration of policy options to place the industry on more secure financial footing.

“It is a common myth that the commercial press in the United States is independent of governmental funding support,” says Geoffrey Cowan who co-authored the report and is USC Annenberg School dean emeritus and director of the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy (CCLP). “There has never been a time in U.S. history when government dollars were not helping to undergird the news business to ensure that healthy journalism is sustained across the country.”

“Certainly, the U.S. has never supported news-gathering the way some European and Asian countries have,” said David Westphal, report co-author, former Washington Editor for McClatchy, current CCLP senior fellow and USC Annenberg executive-in-residence. “The point here is that it’s time all of us, outside and inside the industry, realize that tax dollars support the American news business, and those dollars, which throughout our history have been critical in keeping the news media alive, are now shrinking quickly.”

The late 1960s marked a high-water mark of government support for the news business. The postal service was subsidizing about 75% of the mailing costs for newspapers and magazines, roughly $2 billion in today’s dollars. Today, however, publishers’ mailing discounts for their printed news products are down to 11% or $288 million.

Paid public notices, government-required announcements that give citizens information about important activities, have also been lucrative for newspaper publishers, providing hundreds of millions in revenue to publications ranging from local dailies and weeklies to national newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal.

For example, in a four-week study, researchers found that the government was responsible for the most purchases, by column inches, of ad space in the Journal. And the newspaper wants more: in 2009 they battled Virginia-area papers in a move to get their regional edition certified to print local legal notices.

This public notice income is especially important to weekly and other community newspapers, accounting, in 2000, for 5 to 10 percent of all revenue. But now, proposals are pending in 40 states to allow agencies to shift publication to the Web.

Tax breaks given to news publishers are likely to decline because many are tied to expenditures on paper and ink and cash-strapped states are seeking to find new sources of revenue. Federal and state tax laws forgive more than $900 million annually for newspapers and news magazines, with most of the money coming at the state level.

Some additional excerpts:

  • In 2009, federal, state and local governments spent well over $1 billion to support commercial news publishers
  • The cumulative effect of reducing these government subsidies is not the primary problem afflicting the news business today. At most, government assistance has dropped by a few billion while newspapers alone have lost more than $20 billion in revenue in the last three years. Yet, government support represents a critical element of economic survival.
  • Policymakers cannot afford to be mere spectators while these changes flash by. American government does not work very well if citizens do not have a reliable supply of news and information. What is playing out in the news business is a vital national interest

Public Policy and Funding the News offers a framework to pursue options currently under consideration, including 1) Allowing newspapers to become non-profits; 2) Tax credits for taxpayers who subscribe to newspapers; 3) Expanded federal investment in digital technology and infrastructure, including broadband access; 4) An antitrust law timeout to allow publishers to form a common strategy; and 5)Significant new government funding for public radio and public television.

As policymakers debate these and other proposals, Cowan and Westphal offer the following principles:

  • First and foremost, do no harm. A cycle of powerful innovation is under way. To the extent possible, government should avoid retarding the emergence of new models of newsgathering.
  • Second, the government should help promote innovation, as it did when the Department of Defense funded the research that created the Internet or when NASA funded the creation of satellites that made cable TV and direct radio and TV possible.
  • Third, for commercial media, government-supported mechanisms that are content-neutral – such as copyright protections, postal subsidies and taxes – are preferable to those that call upon the government to fund specific news outlets, publications or programs.

“We live in an era of profound technological change that threatens many forms of news media. We do not favor government policies that keep dying media alive. But we do believe government can help to provide support during this period of transition,” says Westphal.

###

A complete copy of the report is available online at http://fundingthenews.org/. The website also features supplemental research papers on eight specific areas: postal rate subsidies, tax policy, broadband expansion, international broadcasting, government funding of public broadcasting, public notice requirements, copyright laws and antitrust regulations. In addition, the authors have collected an online directory of proposals for government intervention and links to public hearings and other activities on these issues.

About the Center on Communication Leadership and Policy

Based at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, the Center on Communication Leadership and Policy conducts research and organizes courses, programs, seminars and symposia for scholars, students, policymakers and working professionals to prepare future leaders in journalism, communication and other related fields. CCLP focuses its activities in two areas: 1) The Role of Media in Democracy and 2) Communication Leadership. Current projects include: Public Policy and the Future of News; New Models for News; The Constitution and the Press; Media and Political Discourse; Children’s Media and Ethics; Women and Communication Leadership; and Photographic Empowerment.

There’s a joker in the global warming deck

Filed under: Politics, Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:23 am

And surprisingly it’s stratospheric water vapor. Water vapor in a thin wedge of the upper atmosphere seems to have a strong effect on surface temperatures, and might be the explanation for both the rapid rise of the 1990s and subsequent dire predictions for global temperature in the short term. All the more reason to let science do its job of reasoned skepticism, and not turn into political dogma.

From the first link:

Water vapor is a highly variable gas and has long been recognized as an important player in the cocktail of greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide, methane, halocarbons, nitrous oxide, and others — that affect climate.

“Current  do a remarkable job on water vapor near the surface. But this is different — it’s a thin wedge of the  that packs a wallop from one decade to the next in a way we didn’t expect,” says Susan Solomon, NOAA senior scientist and first author of the study.

Since 2000, water vapor in the stratosphere decreased by about 10 percent. The reason for the recent decline in water vapor is unknown. The new study used calculations and models to show that the cooling from this change caused surface temperatures to increase about 25 percent more slowly than they would have otherwise, due only to the increases in  and other greenhouse gases.

An increase in stratospheric water vapor in the 1990s likely had the opposite effect of increasing the rate of warming observed during that time by about 30 percent, the authors found.

January 28, 2010

The cognitive dissonance is startling

Filed under: et.al., Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:29 pm

Scott Roeder, the man who murdered Dr. George Tiller in cold blood last May, apparently thinks vigilante justice against a man performing a legal medical procedure is a moral and socially just act.

It’s not. He is simply a murderer. A murderer who admits to planning, and preparing for, the killing of a law-abiding citizen over what he considered a moral crime. We have a word for people like that — terrorist.

From the link:

On the first day of defense testimony in the two-week-old trial , Mr. Roeder’s lawyers revealed that they wanted the jurors to take into consideration Mr. Roeder’s motive: his growing opposition to abortion, which he deemed criminal and immoral, and his mounting sense that laws and prosecutors were never going to stop Dr. Tiller from performing them.

“From conception forward, it’s murder,” Mr. Roeder testified, when asked his perspective on abortions. “It’s never up to man to take life,” he said, adding later, “only in cases of self defense or defense of others.”

Oh, that crazy bunch at NASA

Filed under: et.al., Science — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:44 pm

A little Space Shuttle humor …

The attachment point on the Space Shuttle’s 747 transport.

(Hat tip: FlyingPhotog)

J. D. Salinger, RIP

Filed under: Arts, et.al. — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:24 pm

Given Salinger’s minuscule literary output his reputation has probably been overstated for years, but what he did give to the world was great, great writing.

He sought, and found, anonymity for the balance of his life.

From the link:

J. D. Salinger, who was thought at one time to be the most important American writer to emerge since World War II but who then turned his back on success and adulation, becoming the Garbo of letters, famous for not wanting to be famous, died Wednesday at his home in Cornish, N.H., where he had lived in seclusion for more than 50 years. He was 91.

Also:

Mr. Salinger’s literary reputation rests on a slender but enormously influential body of published work: the novel “ The Catcher in the Rye,” the collection “ Nine Stories” and two compilations, each with two long stories about the fictional Glass family: “ Franny and Zooey” and “ Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.”

EBay users rejoice

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:21 pm

A free listing option is coming in a couple of months.

From the link:

EBay is about to shake up its pricing structure again, introducing an option that allows sellers to list up to 100 items for free each month if bidding starts under a buck. If the goods don’t sell, eBay collects no fee.

The changes, which will take effect March 30, will affect nearly every transaction on eBay’s marketplace.

The microbots are coming …

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:53 pm

… and that sounds like a good thing.

Via KurzweilAI.net:

Insectlike ‘microids’ might walk, run, work in colonies
Physorg.com, Jan. 27, 2010

Insectlike “microids” — robots the size of ants that move their tiny legs and mandibles using solid-state “muscles” — have been modeled by Jason Clark, an assistant professor of electrical, computer and mechanical engineering at Purdue University.

The microids could have significantly better dexterity than previous microscale robots, while having the ability to “scavenge vibrational energy” from the environment to recharge their power supply.

He also envisions the possibility of thousands of microids working in unison and communicating with each other to perform a complex task.


(Jason Clark)


Read Original Article>>

Cottle on Luntz

Filed under: Arts, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:29 pm

At the New Republic, Michelle Cottle reviews Frank Luntz’s, “What Americans Really Want…Really: The Truth About Our Hopes, Dreams, and Fears“, and pretty much nails down the entire Luntz shtick. Luntz it a pollster who made/makes his fame driving the GOP message. He’s had very real successes to point to, but I’d argue those successes stemmed more from creating a single message that party leaders force-fed down the ranks and enforced message discipline on than the content of the message itself. Luntz works in banalities that would shame Chance the gardener/Chauncey Gardiner.

Cottle sums those banalities up perfectly in her review:
For Luntz, of course, these answers are jewels that provide a window into man’s true soul. But Luntz’s analysis of the data is awash in revelations most generously described as unstartling. Do we really need Frank Luntz and his methodologies to tell us that moms do most of the food shopping in your average American household?  That in recent years there has been a rise in the popularity of organic food?  That younger employees don’t have the same sense of company loyalty as did earlier generations?  And how about this paradigm-shattering observation: “Blackberrys improve the speed of communication, but the devices don’t necessarily improve the quality of communication.” (The helpful italics are his.) Thumbing through Luntz’s dissection of our hopes and dreams, the exclamation that leaps to mind most often isn’t “Aha!” so much as “Well, duh!”

Iran executes protesters

Filed under: Media, Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:31 am

The heavy hand of a totalitarian state takes the life of its own citizens with the gall to protest a stolen election:

Iran hanged on Thursday 2 of 11 people who had been sentenced to death on charges stemming from unrest following last June’s flawed presidential election, according the ISNA news agency in Tehran.

It does sound like the mullahs are ruling in a state of fearful panic of their own populace and all that newfangled technology (my bolded text):

On Jan. 15, Iran’s national police chief declared that the era of “mercy” was over and that the authorities would begin cracking down more harshly not only on street protests but also on anyone who used cellphones and e-mail messages to publicize them.

As part of its broad effort to quell protest, the government has shut down opposition newspapers and blocked Web sites, and has grown increasingly frustrated with the protesters’ continuing ability to elude its restraints.

The police chief, Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam, said those who used e-mail and cellphones to organize protests would be punished even more severely than the protesters themselves.

Watch out Kindle …

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:09 am

the iPad is about to start breathing down your neck.

From the link:

The Kindle DX is the same size as the iPad. It has a black and white E-Ink screen, 4 gigabytes of internal storage, 3G access and costs $489. Meanwhile, the cheapest version of the iPad has a full-color touch screen, a powerful processor and graphics chip, 16 gigabytes of flash storage, Wi-Fi and sells for $499.

The cheaper iPad might not have 3G or the same battery life as the Kindle DX (up to 4 days), but on every other count it wins. It has both a gorgeous screen and vastly more functionality. And, while Amazon has established an excellent, easy way to buy books, iTunes, which already has some 125 million customers, will give it a run for its money.

January 27, 2010

Obama’s State of the Union Address

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:13 pm

Didn’t catch the SOTU (late bit of work), but sounds like a solid, and sober, speech.

Sully and his underbloggers at the Daily Dish put together — as always — a great roundup of opinion from around the blogosphere.

Here’s one from the left:

538:

Obama is making a lot of arguments tonight that the WH should have been making for months now.

One from the neutral sidelines:

Ambinder:

Most remarkable: Secretary of Defense Bob Gates applauded Obama’s words [on DADT]. And Americans saw him applauding, thanks to the director’s cut-aways. Which means that, for the most part, the military is on notice: the policy is ending, and ending very soon. Said Obama: “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. Because it’s the right thing to do.” One note: the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the chiefs didn’t applauded. But that’s the protocol. They don’t applaud by tradition.

And one from the right:

Mark Levin:

I have watched many, many State of the Union speeches.  This is the most partisan, least presidential of them all.  His rhetoric, his glances at the GOP side, and his almost mocking tone at times — not to mention his over-the-top dissembling about the deficit, among other things — will not, I predict, improve his position with the public.  Nor should it.

Update 1/28/10 — Here’s a link to the full text of the speech.

Online privacy and advertising

The two have quite the tempestuous relationship. In many ways hyper-targeted advertising can help consumers and certainly advertisers prefer to spend money on people who might actually use the pitched product/service/etc. At the same time there are legitimate concerns about online privacy rights, and how data about your online habits can be used and misused.

This article outlines a reasonable middle ground for the moment, and offers a visual clue to web users on when they’ve been selectively targeted for certain ads.

From the link:

Trying to ward off regulators, the advertising industry has agreed on a standard icon — a little “i” — that it will add to most online ads that use demographics and behavioral data to tell consumers what is happening.

Jules Polonetsky, the co-chairman and director of the Future of Privacy Forum, an advocacy group that helped create the symbol, compared it to the triangle made up of three arrows that tells consumers that something is recyclable.

The idea was “to come up with a recycling symbol — people will look at it, and once they know what it is, they’ll get it, and always get it,” Mr. Polonetsky said.

Most major companies running online ads are expected to begin adding the icon to their ads by midsummer, along with phrases like “Why did I get this ad?”

And, the symbol:

The icon will be used in online ads that go to users based on demographics

TARP is a profit center

Who’d a thunk this last October when this thing was jammed through Congress.

From the link:

Guess what? The federal government will make money on bailing out the banks.

According to new numbers issued today by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, a key part of the much-loathed Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, has become a profit center for the U.S. government.

The CBO projects the government will ultimately make a profit of $7 billion from assisting the banks: $3 billion from the Capital Purchase Program, in which the government propped up banks by purchasing preferred stock; $2 billion from helping Citigroup (CFortune 500); and another $2 billion from helping Bank of America (BACFortune 500).

In other words, the banks are on track not only to pay taxpayers back all the $200 billion plus we’ve lent them, but put a dent — albeit a small one — in our enormous budget deficits.

I blogged against the massive bank bailout and basically threw up my hands by the time ARRAS came around. I’m happy to report I was completely wrong at the time. TARP and subsequent stimulus may not have been the best possible solution (there’s no way to know, find out or even guess), but it’s not a failure and could even be provisionally considered a success. Reducing the budget by a penny would be a success for the program in my book.

Cloud computing security

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:07 pm

Security is certainly the most prominent concern going right now with cloud computing. Having a long memory of dodgey connectivity using dial-up and even DSL lines, just making certain I could get to my data, services, et.al. in the cloud remain something of a personal concern.

From the link:

The hype around cloud computing would make you think mass adoption will happen tomorrow. But recent studies by a number of sources have shown that security is the biggest barrier to cloud adoption. The reality is cloud computing is simply another step in technology evolution following the path of mainframe, client server and Web applications, all of which had — and still have — their own security issues

Security concerns did not stop those technologies from being deployed and they will not stop the adoption of cloud applications that solve real business needs. To secure the cloud, it needs to be treated as the next evolution in technology not a revolution that requires broad based changes to your security model. Security policies and procedures need to be adapted to include cloud models in order to prepare for the adoption of cloud-based services. Like other technologies, we’re seeing early adopters take the lead and instill confidence in the cloud model by deploying private clouds or by experimenting with less-critical information in public clouds.

Using the cloud for code debugging

Interesting idea, but I get the feeling this release is trading on “cloud” being the tech word of the moment.

The release:

Safety in numbers — a cloud-based immune system for computers

A new approach for managing bugs in computer software has been developed by a team led by Prof. George Candea at EPFL. The latest version of Dimmunix, available for free download, enables entire networks of computers to cooperate in order to collectively avoid the manifestations of bugs in software.

A new IT tool, developed by the Dependable Systems Lab at EPFL in Switzerland, called “Dimmunix,” enables programs to avoid future recurrences of bugs without any assistance from users or programmers. The approach, termed “failure immunity,” starts working the first time a bug occurs – it saves a signature of the bug, then observes how the computer reacts, and records a trace. When the bug is about to manifest again, Dimmunix uses these traces to rec-ognize the bug and automatically alters the execution so the program continues to run smooth-ly. With Dimmunix, your Web browser learns how to avoid freezing a second time when bugs associated with, for example, plug-ins occur. Going a step further, the latest version uses cloud computing technology to take advantage of networks and thereby inoculating entire communities of computers.

“Dimmunix could be compared to a human immune system. Once the body is infected, its immune system develops antibodies. Subsequently, when the immune system encounters the same pathogen once again, the body recognizes it and knows how to effectively fight the ill-ness,” explains George Candea, director of Dependable Systems Lab, where the new tool has been developed. The young Romanian professor received his PhD in computer science from Stanford University in 2005 and his BS (1997) and MEng (1998) in computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The latest version, released online at the end of December (http://dimmunix.epfl.ch/), leverag-es the network. Based on the principle of cloud computing, all computers participating in the Dimmunix application community benefit from vaccines automatically produced whenever the first manifestation of a given bug within that community. This new version of Dimmunix is able to safely protect programs from bugs, even in un-trusted environments such as the In-ternet.

For the moment meant primarily for computer programmers, Dimmunix works for all widely-used programs used by private individuals and by companies. It is useful for programs written in Java and C/C++; it has been demonstrated on real software systems (JBoss, MySQL, Acti-veMQ, Apache, httpd, JDBC, Java JDK, and Limewire).

###

Mars Exploration Rover Spirit now a stationary science lab

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:53 am

Both the Spirit and  Opportunity have provided an amazing amount of science from Mars. Even though Spirit is no longer mobile, it still has missions to accomplish.

From the link:

NASA has spent several months trying to free the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit from a sand trap. Now, engineers are calling it quits. After six years of exploration, and significant scientific discoveries, the rover will remain a stationary science platform.

“Spirit is not dead; it has just entered another phase of its long life,” said Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., in a press release.

Assuming it survives the upcoming Martian winter, the rover will continue its scientific endeavors for several months to years.

This view from the front hazard-avoidance camera on
NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit shows the position
of its front wheels following a backward drive on Jan. 23, 2010.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

January 26, 2010

Four new asset bubbles to watch

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:15 pm

Oh, man.

From the link:

Less than two years after the housing market collapsed, the U.S. economy is threatened by a new bubble in asset prices. This time, four billowing balloons are hovering: two commodities — gold and oil — stocks, and government bonds.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that last week’s 5% drop in the S&P, and the recent sell-off in oil, remotely makes them fairly valued, let alone bargains. Equities and commodities, as well as Treasuries, which actually rallied as stocks dropped, still have a long way to fall. The reason: They’ve already seen huge run-ups that put their prices far above their historic averages, and far above the levels justified by fundamentals.

Optical computing breakthrough

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:06 pm

Via KurzweilAI.net — It really is fun watching to see where the next big advancement in computing comes from. Optical computers, quantum computers, something we haven’t even heard of yet? One thing is certain, computers will continue to become more and more powerful for the foreseeable future.

Spasers set to sum: A new dawn for optical computing
New Scientist Tech, Jan. 25, 2010

The “spaser,” the latest by-product of a buzzing field known as nanoplasmonics, based on plasmons, may lead to building a super-fast computer that computes with light.

Plasmons, which are ultra-high-frerquency electron waves on a metallic surface, overcome the speed limits of the wires that interconnect transistors in chips, allowing for converting electronic signals into photonic ones and back again with speed and efficiency.
Read Original Article>>

Obama’s domestic spending freeze announcement …

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:25 pm

… is getting a ton of play around the blogosphere today. There’s plenty of cries of capitulation from the right, there’s opining the move is a knee-jerk reaction to Brown winning in Massachusetts, and the Obama-leery left is fairly predictably apoplectic.

You can find a pretty good roundup of opinion on the announcement here at the Daily Dish.

Of all the various takes out there, this from Bruce Bartlett seems to strike closest to my thoughts:

More recently, economist Paul Krugman warned that the Fed’s talk of an early “exit strategy” from easy money sounds suspiciously like that which led it to tighten prematurely in 1936. He believes that the good economic news of recent months does not yet constitute proof that a sustainable recovery is underway and that the danger of a relapse this year is strong as stimulus spending wanes.

Nevertheless, the pressure to at least begin the process of normalization is overwhelming. The Fed has talked openly about new procedures to soak up the bank reserves it has created even as those reserves remain largely idle and unlent. And even Democrats and organizations affiliated with them are urging Obama to get the budget on a sustainable path as soon as possible. John Podesta and Michael Ettlinger of the liberal Center for American Progress recently argued that the primary budget (spending less interest on the debt) should be balanced as soon as 2014, with full balance by 2020.

I’m not terribly worried that Congress will reduce the deficit too quickly; too much of the budget is on automatic pilot or effectively off-limits. Entitlement programs like Medicare will continue to grow for years to come and there is no way that defense spending can be reined in as long as we continue to fight two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention the likelihood of new domestic security spending in the wake of an aborted terrorist attack on Christmas day. And it’s far more likely that Congress will appropriate new stimulus measures than cut back on those already enacted.

Small business tax credit still in play

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:09 pm

It may have died in Congress, but a tax credit for small businesses creating jobs is a good idea. There are pros and cons, but overall Main Street needs this. Companies need a little more financial flexibility, especially if they legitimately need to add employees, and people out there just need more jobs.

From the link:

President Barack Obama’s push to create jobs includes a new tax credit for small businesses that add employees, an idea that fell flat in Congress last year and continues to have skeptics this year.

The idea has appeal as the nation struggles with an unemployment rate topping 10 percent. But House Democrats left out Obama’s proposal when they passed a jobs bill in December because they didn’t know how to target the credit effectively. The Obama administration still hasn’t provided details on how the tax credit would work, and some tax experts question whether it would.

SETI eying upgrade

Via KurzweilAI.net — If you’re not familiar with the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Life) program, it’s an effort to do just what its name implies. A major part of the effort is the SETI@home screensaver that uses home computer CPU downtime to crunch numbers from Earth-bound radio telescopes in a distributed computing project. I ran SETI@home on a box several generations ago (computer-wise on my end) and found the data analysis weirdly fascinating to watch.

Putting a radio observatory on the far side of the moon would provide a lot more benefits than seeking alien life forms, but that would be a pretty cool byproduct.

SETI founder Dr Frank Drake outlines ambitious plans
Wired Science, Jan. 25, 2010

A radio observatory on the far side of the moon to eliminate Earth-based radio interference and gravitational microlensing to view alien planets are among the projects for detecting extraterrestrial intelligence proposed bySETI pioneer Dr. Frank Drake.
Read Original Article>>

Predictive analytics can help beat a tight economy

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:16 pm

Customers are a precious commodity and the business climate is rough. Just the time for some of those specialized tools from the biz toolbox. Not to get too buzz-wordy, but predictive analytics gets very granular when parsing incoming data about your business. Of course you need to have a business that takes in a fair amount of information about customers,  markets, competitors, etc. to even begin to apply predictive analytics.

From the link:

Traditional business intelligence (BI) might point you in a direction, but predictive analytics aims to uncover a treasure map, says David White, a senior research analyst at Aberdeen Group. That’s because BI identifies relationships between a few data points, while predictive analytics evaluates how many factors work together. BI vendors are now offering predictive analytics tools that used to be available only from niche vendors such as SAS and SPSS.

White knows of a department store chain using predictive analytics to formulate more profitable coupon campaigns by targeting the right customers. If a store sends a coupon to a customer who was going to make a purchase anyway, the store is no further ahead. But send the same coupon to a shopper who wouldn’t have otherwise come in, and you’ve made money, White says.

Avalanching sandpiles and Congress

I’m going to let the subhead for this Physics arXiv blog post say it all:

The behavior of Congress can be modeled by the same process that causes avalanches in sandpiles.

And with that, hit the link and read the entire short bit. It is worth it.

January 25, 2010

Xerox 914 Copier turns 60 this year

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:42 pm

An early entry in the modern info tech world:

Office mate

The first print advertisement for the Xerox 914 Copier, the first automated copy machine, introduced to offices in 1950. In introducing the new machines, the president of Xerox said in a news release: “Our girls love to use the 914 and have discovered many new copying jobs for it to do.”

By Stephanie N. Mehta, executive editor

White House throwing the middle class a lifeline

Here’s some of the options on the table:

The initiatives were developed by the White House Task Force on Middle Class Families, led by Vice President Joe Biden. The proposals would:

* Require companies that do not offer retirement plans to enroll their employees in direct-deposit retirement accounts unless the workers opt out.

* Increase the “Savers Credit,” a tax credit for retirement savings, for families making up to $85,000.

* Change some of the rules for 401(k) employer-sponsored retirement savings accounts to make them more transparent.

* Increase the child tax credit rate to 35 percent of qualifying expenses from the current 20 percent for families making under $85,000 a year. Families making up to $115,000 would be eligible for some increase in the tax credit.

* Increase child care funding by $1.6 billion in 2011 to serve an additional 235,000 children.

* Boost government spending by $102.5 million for programs aimed at helping families who provide home care for an aging relative.

* Ease the burden for student loans by limiting a borrower’s payments to 10 percent of his or her income above a basic living allowance.

An idea that’s almost too simple

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:31 pm

Tax forms pre-filled with the information the IRS has on your taxpayer ID.

From the link:

Requiring taxpayers to file returns without being told what the government already knows makes as much sense “as if Visa sent customers a blank piece of paper, requiring that they assemble their receipts, list their purchases — and pay a fine if they forget one,” said Joseph Bankman, a professor at the Stanford Law School.

Many developed countries now offer taxpayers a return containing all information collected by the taxing authority — to “get the ball rolling by telling you what it knows,” Mr. Bankman says.

It’s a stunningly reasonable idea. When you prepare your return, why can’t you first download whatever data the Internal Revenue Service has received about you and, if your return is simple, learn what the I.R.S.’s calculation of your taxes would be? You’d have the chance to check whether the information was accurate, correct it as needed and add any pertinent details — that you’re newly married, for example, or have a new child — before sending it. Far better to discover problems early with the I.R.S., whose say matters more than third-party software’s best guess.

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