Archive for the ‘Technology’ Tag

Super-Fast Broadband Via the Sewer System

sewer.jpgBournemouth, UK, is often mocked by many of the British for the average age of its citizens. In short, a seaside resort where many go to die. Jack Dee once quipped that the shop windows are all fitted with bi-focals to allow passers-by to ascertain what lies within.

But the citizens, it seems, are having the last laugh as it has been reported this week that the town is to be the first in the UK to make use of the sewer system in a whole new way.

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What can you do with a second Ethernet port?

Purchase a new PC or motherboard soon, and the chances are good that it will come with two built-in network interfaces — either two Ethernet jacks or one Ethernet and one Wi-Fi. Tossing in a second adapter is an inexpensive way for the manufacturer to add another bullet point to the product description — but what exactly are you supposed to do with it? If you are running Linux, you have several alternatives.

Plugging another Ethernet cable into the second jack and hoping for the best will accomplish nothing; you have to configure Linux’s networking subsystem to recognize both adapters, and you must tell the OS how to use them to send and receive traffic. You can do the latter step in several different ways, which is where all the fun comes in.

The big distinction between your options lies in the effect each has on the other devices on your network (computers, routers, and other appliances) — intelligently routing network traffic between them, linking them together transparently, and so on. In some cases, the simplest end result is not the easiest to set up, so it pays to read through all of the alternatives before you decide which to tackle.

More:

http://www.linux.com/feature/133849

Firefox 3: Site Identification button

Source: dria.org

Ensuring that users are safe, secure, and protected while they browse the Web is one of the greatest challenges facing browser makers. Browser security involves a delicate balance between protecting the user from the dangers that exist on the Web and overly restricting the user’s freedom to go where she wants and see what she wants while surfing.

One of my favorite new Firefox 3 security features is the Site Identification button. This button replaces and builds upon the ubiquitous “padlock” icon that has for so long been the primary security indicator used in browsers. Firefox 2, for example, indicates that the connection to a site is encrypted by changing the background color of the location bar and displaying a padlock icon.

fx2-paypal-locbar

There is a major problem with the padlock, however, in that a lot of people believe that it means more than it really does. I certainly thought so until I had a long chat with Johnathan Nightingale (Mozilla’s security UI guru and lead imagineer for this feature) who explained to me that the padlock simply means “encrypted” rather than “safe”. Where the padlock has a very specific meaning related to browser security, I had given it a deeper, broader meaning that it didn’t really deserve.

So, what’s the difference between “encrypted” and “safe”? It turns out that it’s not actually that hard to set up a site that will get your browser to display a padlock. In fact, it’s easy enough that essentially anyone can do it, including bad guys who are just out to steal your credit card info, identity, and whatever else they can get. So the padlock means “encrypted” but doesn’t say anything about the validity of the domain, nor about the identity of the people at the other end of the encrypted connection.

It’s even possible to easily spoof a padlock of sorts, as demonstrated here:

fx2-emergentchaos-locbar

The padlock isn’t in the right place, and it isn’t even quite the right padlock, but many users wouldn’t notice, falling back on the learned-but-not-quite-correct “padlock equals safe” assumption. It’s a very simple and imperfect spoof (they just have a padlock favicon for the website), but it’s enough to confuse and trick some users. Clearly things need to be improved.

How Firefox 3 makes things better

This is where the new Firefox 3 Site Identification Button comes in. Rather than just displaying a little padlock somewhere, Firefox 3 finds out as much as it can about the site you’re browsing and makes that information easily accessible through a single click of a button at the left end of the location bar.

site-identification-button2

The button can be one of three colors — gray, blue, or green — and displays the new Site Identification dialog when clicked. The dialog includes a matching gray, blue, or green “Passport Officer” icon, and shows a summary of the information available about the site’s identity.

gray-blue-green-icons

So, instead of having a single indicator that a connection is either encrypted or not (the padlock), Firefox 3 presents you with information that covers a range of different security levels.

Here’s what the various colors mean:

Gray – No identity information

gray-icon

The gray Site Identification button indicates that the site doesn’t provide any identity information at all. Also, the connection between the browser and the server is either unencrypted or only partially encrypted, and should not be considered safe against possible eavesdroppers.

Most of the Web will have the gray button, because most sites don’t involve passing sensitive information back and forth and don’t really need to have verified identities or encrypted connections. So, gray is fine for the majority of sites.

Note: If you’re sending any sort of sensitive information (bank information, credit card data, Social Security Numbers, etc.) the Site Identification button should not be gray.

fx3-gray-dialog

The gray Site Identity button, along with the fact that the Firefox 3 location bar doesn’t display a padlock in the location bar as a security indicator, makes it obvious that this site is spoofing a padlock and isn’t really encrypted or secure:

fx3-emergentchaos-locbar

Blue – Basic identity information

blue-icon

The blue Site Identification button indicates that the site’s domain has been verified, and the connection between the browser and the server is encrypted and therefore protected against eavesdroppers.

When a domain has been verified, it means that the people who are running the site have bought a certificate proving that they own the domain and it is not being spoofed. For example, my bank’s site has this sort of certificate and an encrypted connection, so it displays a blue Site Identification button. When I click on the Site Identification button, it tells me that the easyweb.tdcanadatrust.com site is verified to be part of tdcanadatrust.com, as certified by RSA Data Security Inc. It also assures me that the connection is encrypted so no one can eavesdrop on the connection and steal my bank login information that way.

fx3-blue-dialog

What’s not verfied in this situation is who actually owns the domain in question. There is no guarantee that tdcanadatrust.com is actually owned by the Toronto Dominion Bank. All that is being guaranteed here is that the domain is a valid domain, and my connection to it is encrypted.

If I’m still leery about a site’s identity when it is displaying a blue Site Identification button, I can see more information about the site by clicking the “More information…” button on the Site Identification dialog. Here I can view the site’s identity certificate, whether I’ve visited the site before, and if I have any cookies or passwords stored for the site.

tdct-pageinfo-dialog-cropped

This is the “Privacy and History” section of the security information displayed by the “More information…” button. Firefox 3 is here telling me that I’ve visited the site 94 times since I last cleared my browser history, that my browser is storing at least one cookie for the site, and that I have no saved passwords for the site. All of this information fits with my expectations, so I’m confident that this site is the site I think it is, and can now go about my banking more or less worry-free.

Green – Complete identity information

green-icon

The green Site Identification button indicates that the site provides fully verified identity information about its owner, and that the connection is encrypted.

If a site has a green Site Identification button it means that it is using a new “Extended Validation certificate” (EV). You can read all about EV certificates at the link above, but to make a long story a little shorter, EV certificates are a special type of site validation certificate that requires a significantly more rigorous identity verification process than other types of certificate. So, while the blue Site Identification button indicates that a site’s domain is not being spoofed but does not have any verified information about who actually owns the domain, the green Site Identification button indicates that the domain is valid and that the owners of the domain are who you would expect them to be.

With the EV certificate, the Site Identification button assures you that paypal.com is owned by Paypal Inc., for example. Not only does the Site Identification button go green on the Paypal site, it also expands and displays the name of the owner in the button itself. The Site Identification dialog presents further detailed information.

fx3-green-dialog

To contrast, here’s what Firefox 2 does when it is on the paypal.com site:

fx2-paypal-locbar

If I click on the padlock, it brings up this Page Info:

fx2-paypal-pageinfo

Compared to the Firefox 3 Site Identification information, the Firefox 2 padlock and Page Info dialog aren’t exactly enlightening.

But wait, there’s more!

In other situations the Passport Officer icon appears in two other colors, but not as part of the Site Identification button.

Yellow – Invalid identity certificate

yellow-icon

One thing you may encounter while surfing with Firefox 3 is a page that has a yellow Passport Officer icon. While the Site Identification button doesn’t have a “yellow” state, the Passport Officer icon will appear when there is some sort of problem with a site’s identity certificate.

fx3-selfsigned-warning

The page above is actually generated by Firefox 3 itself, and its purpose is to block you from going to a site that has an invalid identity certificate. Just like driver’s licenses and passports, site identifications need to be renewed or they expire. And just like only you can use your passport, each web site should present the credentials belonging to that site.

In the case pictured above, the problem being warned about is that the site has a “self signed” identity certificate. On the Web, self signed certificates are like passports you made at home — they don’t mean anything, no one’s verified them, and while maybe the information on them is real, Firefox wants you to know that the passport has not been validated.

There are many perfectly valid sites that use self signed certificates simply so they can support encrypted connections to the server, and are not doing anything untoward or nefarious at all. This is why Firefox 3 allows you to add exceptions for sites who have self signed certificates that you know are not trying to trick you. Adding an exception is a simple process that only needs to be done once for each site encountered.

At the bottom of the “Secure Connection Failed” page that is blocking access to the site (shown above), there is a link that reads, “Or you can add an exception…”. Click this, and it shows the following to verify that this is what you really want to do:

fx3-selfsigned-adding-exception-step1

Click the “Add Exception…” button there, and you’ll see this dialog, where you complete the process:

fx3-selfsigned-adding-exception-step2

If you want to add the exception temporarily, make sure the “Permanently store this exception” checkbox at the bottom of the dialog is unchecked. Then click “Confirm Security Exception”, and Firefox 3 will no longer block you from visiting the page.

The yellow Passport Officer icon will appear in other situations as well, all related to there being a problem with the site’s identity certificate. The warning page will clearly explain what’s wrong and what you should do about it.

Red – Reported attack site

red-icon

There is also a stern red Passport Officer icon who carries a little stop sign rather than a passport. This is part of Firefox 3’s Malware and Phishing protection system that protects users against reported attack sites, but I’ll talk about that stuff in a later blog post. For now, be assured that if you encounter the red Passport Officer, he’s protecting you from potential attacks and is only here to help.

The Firefox 3 system — with its Site Identification button, Site Identification dialog, much friendlier security-related Page Information, and invalid certificate warning pages — is vastly superior to older systems that relied so heavily on the padlock. Not only have the security indicators been expanded and improved, it’s also now much easier to understand the levels of security being encountered while surfing the Web. No system is perfect, of course, but Firefox 3 makes some extremely important and valuable strides towards improving user safety and security on the Web.

Turn Your Point-and-Shoot into a Super-Camera

http://lifehacker.com/

5 Bionic Exoskeleton Suits of the Future

Source: environmentalgraffiti.com

Real Life Iron Man Suits

iron man

Image via Kotaku

As the old saying goes: the suit makes the man; never will this maxim resonate so well, than when referring to bionic exoskeleton suits. They’ll not only make you the man, they’ll make you superhuman.

Yes, picture this for a second. Imagine walking at an average speed of 20 miles an hour, lifting 300lbs weights as if they weighed only 10 and being able to leap 20-30 feet in the air. Imagine having a bionic extension that shadowed your every move.

You might be thinking that this could only be achieved in comic books, or in glossy Hollywood blockbusters like Iron man or the 1959 epic Starship Troopers. Frighteningly however, robotics has come a long way thanks to the archetypal bunch of mad scientists and inventors, working away in their laboratories.

The reality of an army of indestructible soldiers wearing exoskeleton suits may come sooner than you think. No longer are exoskeleton suits merely wearable joysticks. At long last, robotics is combining our decision-making processes with the dexterity and brute force of the machines. In other words, the mind controls the metal.

terminator
Image by Flickr user Alternate Words

However much this might sound like the plot of a bad science fiction movie, the rabbit hole goes deeper. The US Pentagon’s DARPA or Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has invested $50 million in robotic exoskeleton projects.

The question to ask then, is will we see a bionic army, roaming the battlefields of the future or will there be some unexpected twist?

No I’m not about to prophesize an apocalyptic battle between man and machine (even though as a die-hard sci-fi fan, I think it would be kinda cool). No, brute force, contrary to popular belief is not limited to the realms of the military, but extends to the more mundane. The potential applications of powered suits are endless. Hydraulic limbs could assist people to walk, lift heavy equipment or rubble in rescue missions and aid in construction. Anything is possible after all.

So, without further ado, let’s explore some of the most incredible exoskeletons (in order of coolness) that may be seen on the battlefields of the future or helping us in our every day lives.

5. The Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton (BLEEX)

BLEEX

Image Via Zamazing

The director of UC Berkeley’s Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory Homayoon Kazerooni’s central aim was “to create an exoskeleton that combines a human control system with robotic muscle.” The project funded by DARPA, was in 2004, the most advanced exoskeletal suit. It has subsequently been overtaken by others on the list however.

How does it work?

Much like a human nervous system surprisingly. There are a series of 40 sensors and hydraulic actuators, which form a local area network. The machine therefore is able to shadow the subject’s every move.

One challenge was designing the fuel-based power actuation system, vital for sustaining soldiers on the battlefield. Unfortunately, this hasn’t yet been perfected.

4. The Landwalker Exoskeleton

landwalker

Image via techfresh

At 3.4 meters tall and weighing in at 1000kg, this juggernaut looks like something out of Star Wars. It is in fact, a devilish mix of Japanese machinery and vision, from the robotics manufacturer Sakakibara-Kikai.

Unlike the UC Berkeley project, this exoskeleton is not anthropomorphic and not as intelligent. It sure looks cool though: it has a gun mounted on each side, which can currently only fire squishy pink balls, but given a bit of development time, this bad boy will scare the hell out of any soldiers on the battlefield. If you want to buy one, it’ll set you back 36 million yen, roughly US$345,000.

4. Hal 5

Hal5

Images Via Tactical War Fighter

HAL, short for Hybrid Assistive Limb, is not a war machine. In fact, it is designed to assist people who have difficulty walking or lifting heavy objects.

Hal5 is the latest in a series of robots designed by Dr. Sankai a professor at the University of Tsukuba, Japan. The structure of the exoskeleton is composed of nickel and aluminum alloys, as well as a thick plastic casing. Inside a small pouch on the belt buckle is a Linux-based control computer, a Wi-Fi communications system and a set of batteries that power the exoskeleton for over 2 hours.

Like Berkeley’s exoskeleton, Hal5 mimics the every move of its user: its weight is unnoticeable as it supports itself and you can easily leg-press 400 pounds. Nice…

What perhaps is most interesting, is the fact that you could see this prototype in action in a street near you.

As a report from spectrum confirmed:

Japan, with almost half the world’s nearly 1 million industrial robots, is likely to be the place where adoption of exoskeletons will first take hold. The country’s rapidly aging population—one in four Japanese will be 65 or older by 2015—and its ambivalence toward admitting foreign laborers have created a shortage of caregivers, and some believe robotic-aided nursing care could be the solution.

2. Sarcos’ Exoskeleton

Sarcos exoskeleton

Modified Images via the following sources: 1 , 2

Perhaps one of the most impressive exoskeleton suits overall, the dexterity and brute force of this machine is incredible. The video below shows the subject lifting huge weights effortlessly and quickly – I bet a punch with the exoskeleton would knock you flat.

Yes, Sarcos’ exoskeleton is another DARPA funded project. The exoskeleton, much like the Berkeley suit, works much like a human nervous system. A complex set of sensors act as nerves and hydraulics act as muscle.

1. Real life Halo suit

real life halo suit

Modified Images via the following sources 1, 2, 3

I just couldn’t resist including this one. Although it isn’t technically bionic, it is the first ballistic proof exoskeleton. Yes, Troy Hurtubise, inventor of the bear proof suit and star of the documentary Project Grizzly, deliberately went out of his way again to create a Halo replica suit called the Trojan.

It has already withstood knives, bullets, light explosives and clubs. It weighs 40 pounds and is crafted out of high impact plastic, has ceramic bullet protection and ballistic foam. The exoskeleton has everything from places to put pepper spray, ingestible transponders, knife and gun holsters and a device to record your last words.

Troy’s dream is to have this suit deployed on battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq. He claims that if any major military organisation takes him up on his offer, he can produce each suit for roughly $2000.

Windows XP SP3 hits Windows Update, Vista SP1 makes a comeback

Source: engadget.com

At last the moment you’ve been waiting for. Microsoft wants to hit your version of Windows with an update, and this time you don’t have to go rummaging around the internet to find it: just fire up Windows Update and let Microsoft do all the work. After a few false starts XP users get the much-anticipated SP3 update, which promises speed boosts and some of the fancy security features found in Vista. If you’re a Vista user you’re also in luck, since Microsoft has restarted its Vista SP1 distribution after some compatibility problems with Microsoft Dynamics RMS. Sounds like a party.

Blu-ray hits bumps in the road to HD market dominance

Source: arstechnica.com

Mid-February was a good time to be a Blu-ray backer. Media moguls who had championed the technology were busy floating on yachts in the Pacific, chomping cigars, and stroking white longhaired cats; the billion-dollar payday was at hand. But numbers out last week indicate that standalone Blu-ray player sales plummeted in the early part of this year, and enthusiasm for the hi-def format appears as lukewarm as the applause at an REO Speedwagon concert. Where did all the buyers go?

Last week, both ABI Research and The NPD Group delivered the news: the standalone Blu-ray player market did not suddenly rise up and walk after HD DVD quit the market. Instead, it remained in its bed and took a turn for the worse. NPD reports that player sales dropped by 40 percent from January to February 2008 and increased by only 2 percent the following month.

ABI argues that the Blu-ray player market won’t improve to full health for more than a year, perhaps as long as 18 months. “BD player prices remain high, and supplies are limited,” says ABI Research principal analyst Steve Wilson. “This is good for the market because most current players do not support all the functions that studios place on the discs. Lacking support for—or upgradability to—BD Live! or Bonus View (picture in picture), consumers cannot utilize all the available options. Manufacturers would rather sell more fully-featured models.”


Data source: ABI Research

This is “good” only because the collective companies involved in supporting Blu-ray haven’t been able to get their collective act together. In fact, the only real beneficiary of the current high-prices, underperforming standalone players has been Sony’s games division, which produces the PlayStation 3, a solid (and future-proof) Blu-ray player in its own right.

In answer to the question posed above, it appears that buyers have gone in several directions simultaneously.

PS3. The reported declines in Blu-ray player sales aren’t actually declines at all; they only apply to standalone players. Sony’s PlayStation 3 has been moving serious units, and while standalone player shipments can be numbered in the thousands, Sony sold 257,000 PS3s in March 2008 alone. That represents a 98 percent growth rate in year-over-year sales. Given the high cost of standalone players and the fact that the price didn’t fall after the HD DVD announcement, it’s clear that most people are getting their Blu-ray fix from the PS3.

ABI believes that PS3s will account for a full 85 percent of all Blu-ray players in the wild by the end of 2008. Despite dire headlines regarding Blu-ray that are based on the recent ABI and NPD reports, it’s clear that the format is actually growing the number of players in the field, and in significant ways.

Upconverting players. HD players from both contending formats have long had to face questions about whether the quality boost they offer is “good enough” to drive users to make a pricey upgrade away from a DVD player. While the PS3 represents a good value for money, standalone players typically don’t. They still exist far above the $100 magic number for broad adoption of new consumer electronics devices, and upconverting DVD tech continues to look quite good. On my new 52″ LCD TV, for instance, Battlestar Galactica upconverted over an HDMI connection looks simply spectacular. Sure, it would look better in HD, but good enough that I want to drop hundreds on a new player?


Data source: NPD Group

NPD notes that upconverting DVD player sales are up 5 percent in the first quarter of 2008 over 2007, while those that cannot upconvert dropped by 39 percent.

Download services. But not everyone sees the need for a disc-based player anymore. The 360 has a well-regarded content download service that delivers HD movies right to the console, for instance, and Microsoft has been talking up to the direct download model for content distribution now that its pony is out of the race.

Apple has its own iTunes infrastructure that can serve up video content to iPods, iPhones, Macs, PCs, and TVs, and it now offers 720p rentals for the Apple TV. Amazon and TiVo provide further video download and rental options, while Netflix has been adding to its ever-increasing stable of films that can be streamed online instead of ordered through the mail.

Given the array of such services available, it’s not hard to see how even tech-savvy folks might hang on to a decent DVD player as backup but make use of newer streaming and download services to grab on-demand fare.

HD DVD is dead, and Blu-ray is arguably well positioned to take advantage of that fact. But the format has a long way to go before it supplants DVD as the physical media of choice for the living room. Remember, it took nearly a decade for sales of DVD players to overtake those of VCRs. It was only when DVD players began dropping down around $100 that they truly took off, and Blu-ray has a long way to go before it gets there.

APOD: Galaxies Collide

Spore, Mass Effect PC to Require Online Validation Every Ten Days to Function

BioWare technical producer Derek French has said that the PC versions of both Mass Effect and Spore will make use of copy protection that will require online validation every ten days to continue working.

“After the first activation, SecuROM requires that [Mass Effect PC] re-check with the server within ten days (in case the CD Key has become public/warez’d and gets banned),” said French in a post on the BioWare forums.

If customers do not come online after ten days, the game will cease to function. “After 10 days a re-check is required before the game can run,” added French.

The check is run when users activate the game’s executable file, with the first re-check coming within “5 days remaining in the 10 day window.”

According to French, Maxis’ Spore will also make use of the same scheme: “[Electronic Arts] is ready for us and getting ready for Spore, which will use the same system.”

French also noted that the online requirement will be clearly labeled on the games’ packaging.

Wii homebrew channel video released

We’ve already seen some rudimentary Wii homebrew channel support, but this latest video released by homebrew developer Bushing steps things up considerably, with it turning what was once a curiosity into something that quite a few non-homebrew dabbling folks will likely be eager to get their hands on. As you can see after the break, the channel looks to be about as straightforward as can be, and it apparently includes built-in support for loading ELF and DOL homebrew executables via USBGecko and TCP/IP, in addition to support for loading ’em off SD cards. Sadly, there’s no word on a release just yet, but we can’t imagine it being kept under wraps for too much longer.

Hood.e Brings Speakers To Your Hoodie Hood

Source: gizmodo.com

hood.e.jpg

Tim Dubitsky’s Hood.e concept was originally intended as a safer way for his nephew to walk to school and listen to music at the same time. Apparently, his route takes him across busy streets which could be dangerous for someone wearing earbuds or headphones. With the speakers embedded in the hood, users can ditch the earbuds and cords while still being able to hear the music and ambient noise. At this point, the Hood.e has not made it past the concept stage, but the idea is definitely a hell of a lot better than some of the other crap out there. [Hood.e via Core77]

Could Sprint ditch Nextel?

Is Sprint Nextel getting ready for a fire sale?

It sure looks that way following speculation around Wall Street on Monday of a possible sale or breakup of the beleaguered wireless operator. First, The Wall Street Journal reported that German phone company Deutsche Telekom was considering buying the company. Later the same day, another Wall Street Journal article cited sources who said Sprint Nextel is considering unloading its Nextel assets, a move that might make the $22.3 billion wireless operator more attractive to potential buyers.

While a Deutsche Telekom sale seems like a long shot, it’s not surprising that the company is considering spinning off the Nextel unit. If Sprint Nextel is able to unload the Nextel network, it could open it up for sale to another bidder–just not Deutsche Telekom.

Why? There are three reasons.

Bigger isn’t better
According to the WSJ article, Deutsche Telekom is looking to expand international wireless networks as its wireline business declines. In particular, the company is looking to bulk up its U.S. subsidiary, T-Mobile USA, which is among its fastest-growing properties. The company added some 3.6 million subscribers in 2007 for a total of about 28.7 million subscribers.

If T-Mobile USA acquired Sprint Nextel, it would gain an additional 53.8 million subscribers and become the largest U.S. cell operator, surpassing both AT&T and Verizon Wireless, the No. 1 and No. 2 cell phone carriers, respectively, in the country today.

Sprint logo

But making T-Mobile bigger wouldn’t necessarily make it better. The main problem is that T-Mobile USA and its European counterpart, T-Mobile, use a different wireless standard than Sprint Nextel. T-Mobile is GSM-based, whereas Sprint uses CDMA and Nextel uses i-DEN.

If Deutsche Telekom tried to merge T-Mobile USA with Sprint Nextel, it would end up with a huge integration nightmare as it tried to accommodate not just two different technologies, but three. In fact, it would essentially be repeating the same mistake that doomed the 2005 merger between Sprint and Nextel.

Sprint Nextel has been bleeding customers since that acquisition, as Nextel customers, in particular, have dumped the company due to poor service. In early 2006, Nextel had roughly 16.6 million subscribers. By the end of 2007, it had about 13.2 million, according to the WSJ article. And some experts think that number could shrink even further to about 5 million to 7 million in two years.

“When you’re looking for market share and scale advantages, it’s critical that the technology piece works,” said Charles Golvin, an analyst with Forrester Research. “And (Deutsche Telekom and Sprint Nextel) don’t have that. They’d have a whole bunch of integration issues, just like they did with the Sprint Nextel merger.”

Regulatory headaches
Spinning off Nextel could help alleviate some of the integration headaches for a potential buyer. That said, I still don’t think Deutsche Telekom would buy Sprint, mainly because I don’t think U.S. regulators would accept the deal.

Right now, the U.S. wireless market with four major competitors is viewed as a competitive-market success story. And it’s conceivable that U.S. regulators could block the sale between the No. 3 and No. 4 wireless companies, which together would become the No. 1 wireless operator in the country. Additionally, it’s likely that U.S. regulators wouldn’t like the deal, because it would mean that a foreign company–Deutsche Telekom–would control the largest wireless communications network in the country, something security experts probably wouldn’t like.

Better options elsewhere
That said, spinning off Nextel could help attract other bidders for Sprint. The WSJ reported that the company is examining several options. It has supposedly been in talks with Nextel co-founder Morgan O’Brien, who also founded a public service wireless company called Cyren Call. O’Brien is supposedly putting together a consortium of investors to acquire Nextel, which pioneered the push-to-talk, walkie-talkie phone service. The idea is that the Nextel network and service, which is already used by construction workers, airline workers, and public safety workers, would be combined with other spectrum assets to create a nationwide public safety network.

Cyren Call has been working closely with the Federal Communications Commission to develop a plan for the sliver of spectrum in the 700MHz spectrum auction known as the D block, which was created to help build this nationwide public safety network.

The spinoff of Nextel would finally cement the $35 billion tie-up between Sprint and Nextel as a major failure. Sprint would likely only get a fraction of what it paid for the company if it sold it today. But dumping Nextel would make it easier for Sprint’s management team to more nimbly direct its core PCS business. It might even give executives room to focus more attention on its next-generation WiMax network called Xohm.

But word has it that Sprint is also looking to spin off that business. The company has supposedly been in talks with Clearwire, which is also building a nationwide WiMax network, to form a joint venture backed by Intel and Google and possibly cable operators Comcast and Time Warner. The idea is that splitting up all of Sprint Nextel’s assets could bring more value to the company than keeping everything together.

Right now, one thing is certain. The Sprint executive team, led by CEO Dan Hesse, seems to be examining all its options. With second-quarter earnings coming out next Monday, there’s likely to be more speculation over the next couple of weeks about what the company will do next. So stay tuned.

Foster + Partners’ New Green Complex for Singapore

Foster + Partners UK, Foster + Partners Singapore, eco-complex Singapore, green building Singapore, geothermal cooling skyscrapers, sustainable design Singapore, green building Foster + Partners, green building Asia, fostersingapore_5.jpg

A new green complex from world renowned architecture firm Foster + Partners will be adding more than a dash of green to the Singapore skyline. As sustainability becomes an essential ingredient to development in this island nation, the UK-based firm is leaving no stone unturned to make good use of alternative energy sources in this 150,000 square meter mixed-use project. As the winning design from an international competition, Singapore’s new eco-complex from Foster + Partners is pushing the green envelope from top to bottom in this sophisticated downtown design.

Foster + Partners UK, Foster + Partners Singapore, eco-complex Singapore, green building Singapore, geothermal cooling skyscrapers, sustainable design Singapore, green building Foster + Partners, green building Asia, fostersingapore_6.jpg

The complex will fill an entire city block between Singapore’s Marina Center and the Civic District with commercial, residential, retail, hotels, and a ‘green’ link to an Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) station. All facades will be fitted with solar cells and, to help control solar gain, direct sunlight will be filtered through ribbon-like canopies rising from the base of the entire complex to the exposed east and west elevations of the towers.

The canopies will form vertical louvers at the elevations and provide more renewable on-site energy with integrated thin-film solar arrays. Vertical green spaces, and extensive sky gardens are also important components of the towers, further greening the whole structure with natural vegetation and ambient temperature moderation.

The slanted facades are designed to catch the wind and direct it downwards for natural cooling of the ground floor spaces. A rainwater harvesting system, geothermal heating system, chilled beams and ceilings, and an ice storage system for cooling are further enhancements planned for the complex.

While it looks intensely complex, the design takes advantage of simple green building principles like passive solar, natural ventilation and natural cooling. Foster + Partners’ dynamic design will function in sync with the surrounding climate, and just might be the perfect merger of elevated architecture and grounded green build thinking.

+ Foster + Partners

Via Metaefficient

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Pictured: The world’s first bionic sea creature: Winter the dolphin gets a prosthetic tail

Two years ago Winter was the dolphin that could not swim.

Instead of powering through the water with a flick of her tail, the bottlenose could barely waggle from side to side.

She had lost her tail in a crab trap at just two months old and was found floating in distress off the coast of Florida.

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dolphin and tail The world’s first bionic sea creature: Winter now swims and splashes around like any normal dolphin

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Rescuers got her to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida where staff fought to save her life.

Winter survived but there was a problem … where her tail should have been there was only a stump.

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dolphin Winter lost her own tail in a crab trap

Aquarium director David Yates said: “She had to learn how to swim without a tail, which no dolphin has ever done in captivity.

“We didn’t know if she could do that. But vets feared her waggling might damage her spine.

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the tail The prosthetic tail which moves along with the dolphin’s full spine

Their solution was an artificial tail and Kevin Carroll, who has designed prosthetics for dogs, an ostrich, and even a duck, offered his services.

“I came straight down, saw Winter and felt really sorry for her,” he said. “I said, ‘OK, we’ll fit her little tail. Not a big deal’.

“Little did I know it was going to take a year and a half. He added: “With a person, when we fit a socket we have one long, solid bone. We don’t have to have the socket moving in every direction.

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winter the dolphin Winter had to learn to swim without a tail

With a dolphin, it needs to move along with her full spine. But the months of work were worth it.

When Winter was finally fitted with a 30in silicone and plastic tail she was a dolphin transformed.

She may never be the most elegant dolphin who ever swam but, as she splashes about in the aquarium, it is safe to say that she probably doesn’t care.

NASA to Fly You to the Moon for Free, Sinatra Style

NASA is opening the door to anyone wanting to go to the moon as part of their next lunar mission—all without requiring years of tests, training, or smoking astroturf. Sadly, only your name will go, which is actually good because the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter—set to select landing and outpost sites for the Constellation program—is not returning. Ever. Just submit your name to the mission site, and it will be added to a chip that will orbit for eternity around the biggest cheese in the Universe, and you will get a certificate from NASA.

And all without having to use your nipples as telescopic antennas to transmit data back to Earth. [NASA]

Send Your Name to the Moon With New Lunar Mission WASHINGTON — NASA invites people of all ages to join the lunar exploration journey with an opportunity to send their names to the moon aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, spacecraft.The Send Your Name to the Moon Web site enables everyone to participate in the lunar adventure and place their names in orbit around the moon for years to come. Participants can submit their information at http://www.nasa.gov/lro, print a certificate and have their name entered into a database. The database will be placed on a microchip that will be integrated onto the spacecraft. The deadline for submitting names is June 27, 2008.

“Everyone who sends their name to the moon, like I’m doing, becomes part of the next wave of lunar explorers,” said Cathy Peddie, deputy project manager for LRO at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “The LRO mission is the first step in NASA’s plans to return humans to the moon by 2020, and your name can reach there first. How cool is that?”

The orbiter, comprised of six instruments and one technology demonstration, will provide the most comprehensive data set ever returned from the moon. The mission will focus on the selection of safe landing sites and identification of lunar resources. It also will study how the lunar radiation environment could affect humans.

LRO will also create a comprehensive atlas of the moon’s features and resources that will be needed as NASA designs and builds a planned lunar outpost. The mission will support future human exploration while providing a foundation for upcoming science missions. LRO is scheduled for launch in late 2008.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is being built at Goddard. The mission also will be managed at the center for NASA’s Explorations Systems Mission Directorate in Washington.

Send Your Name to the Moon is a collaborative effort among NASA, the Planetary Society in Pasadena, Calif., and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.