Monthly Archives: November 2007

WebFives/Vizrea aquired by Microsoft so download your content


WebFives/Vizrea aquired by Microsoft so download your content in the next 30 days. WebFives (previously known as Vizrea) has been aquired by Microsoft and the service will shut down after 31 December. It is interesting to note that the WebFives/Vizrea service was available for primarily Nokia devices, yet Microsoft purchased the company. We may see some integration of this into future Windows Mobile devices.

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A cancer-resistant mouse?


University of Kentucky researchers have created a cancer-resistant mouse by introducing a tumor-suppressor gene called ‘Par-4′ into an egg. The ‘Par-4′ gene, discovered in 1993, kills cancer cells, but not normal cells. It was originally found in the prostate, but this gene also can lead to the death of a broad range of cancer cells. In their new experiments, the scientists discovered that the ‘Par-4′ gene was transmitted to new generations of mice. The next step will to use this gene in humans through bone marrow transplantation, but there is still work to be done before that. Anyway, this sounds like good news for people affected with cancers.

This research project was led by Vivek Rangnekar, professor of radiation medicine at the University of Kentucky. You can see a picture of him on the left. He worked on this project with other researchers from the universities of Kentucky and Nebraska.

So what makes mice possessing this gene so interesting? “Rangnekar’s study is unique in that mice born with this gene are not developing tumors. The mice grow normally and have no defects. In fact, the mice possessing Par-4 actually live a few months longer than the control animals, indicating that they have no toxic side effects.”

The fact that there are no toxic side effects is a potential good news from all the people affected by a cancer. “The implications for humans could be that through bone marrow transplantation, the Par-4 molecule could potentially be used to fight cancer cells in patients without the toxic and damaging side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.”

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Can baking soda curb global warming?


A start-up in Texas says it can turn the carbon dioxide emitted by power plants into baking soda. Some scientists have proposed compressing carbon dioxide and sticking it in underground caves as a way to cut down on greenhouse gases. Joe David Jones wants to make baking soda out of it.

Jones, the founder and CEO of Skyonic, has come up with an industrial process called SkyMine that captures 90 percent of the carbon dioxide coming out of smoke stacks and mixes it with sodium hydroxide to make sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda. The energy required for the reaction to turn the chemicals into baking soda comes from the waste heat from the factory.

“It is cleaner than food-grade (baking soda),” he said.

The system also removes 97 percent of the heavy metals, as well as most of the sulfur and nitrogen compounds, Jones said.

Luminant, a utility formerly known as TXU, installed a pilot version of the system at its Big Brown Steam Electric Station in Fairfield, Texas, last year. Skyonic, meanwhile, hopes to install a system that will consume the greenhouse gas output of a large–500 megawatts or so–power plant around 2009. Skyonic is currently designing one of these large systems.

“It has been working pretty well. It does present a potential solution to emissions,” said a representative for Luminant. “But right now there is still a lot of work to be done.”

If the concept works on a grand scale, it could help change some of the pernicious economics and daunting engineering challenges surrounding carbon capture and sequestration.

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Surveys show Vista struggling one year on


Almost a year on from the release of Microsoft’s Windows Vista, only 13 percent of companies say they expect to move all desktops to the operating system, according to a survey released this week. Furthermore, adoption of Linux continues to gather pace, with a particular emphasis on the desktop emerging.

A survey of 961 independently selected IT professionals found that 90 percent still have concerns about the migration to Vista, and 48 percent have not yet deployed Vista in any way. Forty-four percent said they are “considering” alternative operating systems — mostly Mac OS X, Red Hat Linux, Suse Linux and Ubuntu.

But analyst Clive Longbottom of Quocirca advised caution when interpreting the figures. “Very few places are looking at Linux as a replacement for Microsoft,” he said.

Longbottom disputes the widely held belief that users will find it easier to upgrade to Linux than to adapt to Vista’s new GUI. “It does take a bit of time to find things on Vista, but most people do the majority of the transfer themselves and require less than an hour’s worth of training,” he said. And, while Linux might be free, there could be a lot of effort involved in transferring things like Word and Excel macros, he warned.

“Microsoft’s big problem is not Linux, but the difficulty of upgrading desktops to Vista,” said Longbottom. “Old hardware has to be checked, so Vista is a new-build, new-install solution,” he said. Many users are waiting to see if Vista Service Pack 1 improves the situation, he said, and are worried about software compatibility. “Microsoft has done a very bad job of getting people to sign up to say their software is compatible with Vista.”

Early results from the Linux Foundation’s annual survey of Linux use indicate that, in those businesses and organisations that have deployed Linux desktops, just under 40 percent are running Linux on more than half of their machines. And, in most of these places, Linux is more common on desktops than servers — apparently contradicting the common belief that Linux is, and will continue to be, mainly a server OS.

Again though, Longbottom sounds a note of caution. Citing hard usage data of operating systems used to access popular websites, he said: “It’s still less than one percent, after 15 years of Linux at the desktop — that’s less than Vista has achieved in one year.”

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The GTA Patriot Indie Band/Group of the Year – The Carps


The CarpsThe Carps are from Scarborough, a pretend hood in Toronto. They are a duo that plays music for human ears. Having two people in a band can be a liberating thing, as it has been seen. Such a shame they are so young — had they come around any earlier they could’ve taken credit for more than a few novel ideas. With the EP the Young & Passionate Days of Carpedia VOL.2, the two ragamuffin soul rockers deliver the promise to set themselves far apart from elephants, swirly red and white candy, beards, brothers and sisters, and Phil Collins. The Carps stand alone. They sound like nothing you could imagine, and everything you’d like to.The Carps thrive on ingenuity and vicissitude. Newness always! Therefore the captain of the ship, Neil White, wielding his disheveled bass and a wonky synthesizer, steers this raw emotion into a palatable and progressive direction. All this while never leaving his “mindless self-indulgent” duct tape Punk Rock days far behind him. Perhaps the jungles of Sri Lanka still run through his veins, though he could never lose the class and distinction that only he, as a real British bloke, could carry.

CarpsJahmal Tonge is the soul junkie. Growing up on asexual legends like Michael Jackson and Prince, it was sifting through his father’s record collection that exposed to him to Motown, Stax, Soul music! These are the sounds that are at the heart of The Carps. From behind his drum kit, or with his guitar strapped and his MPC drum machine at his side, Jahmal soulfully screams his soul- ful, soul-catching, soul-baring soul in a raw way… It’s the only way he knows. It was Bold, Black, Christian women that led him that direction. Discernibly, the sight and sounds of the Caribbean still stick. Hearing the tropical wind blow through an open church tent as a woman cries out to God, tearing her vocal cords from the deepest part of her being, will change a temerarious young boy.

The band released The Young & Passionate Days Of Carpedia on Tuesday March, 13th, 2007.

 

http://www.urbnet.com/thecarps/go.html

http://torontoist.com/2007/11/indie_beer_indi.php

http://www.offtheradarmusic.com/2007/09/toronto-finds-part-un-carps.html

the Carps


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Toronto’s $1.25-billion light-rail gamble


Check out the “Globe and Mail” link below for this excellent post on Toronto’s Light-Rail Transit City situation.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20071124.TTC24/TPStory/TPEntertainment/Ontario/

Toronto’s decaying streetcar fleet, once made up of iconic “Red Rockets,” is rarely now described as a beloved historic symbol of the city. Drivers see streetcars as cumbersome obstacles. Riders despair at how crowded and infrequent they are. And residents near the tracks complain about rumbling vibrations and squealing wheels.

Just like the rusting family beater, the city’s streetcars are more than ready for a trade-in. The result – a brand new, state-of-the-art $1.25-billion fleet of what the rest of the world calls “light-rail vehicles” – will not only rekindle our love of the mostly downtown-centred streetcar system, proponents say, but provide the foundation for a radical expansion of rapid transit in the city.

As Mayor David Miller’s planned $6-billion, 120-kilometre light-rail expansion spreads across dedicated lanes in the suburbs, these sleeker, larger streetcars are supposed to coax thousands of commuters out of their cars and once again become a postcard-worthy symbol of the city. But huge financial, political and technical hurdles remain before 21st-century light-rail cars can roll onto Toronto’s 19th-century tracks.

“This is rebranding the streetcar and making it more like what people have experienced in Europe,” says Joe Mihevc, vice-chairman of the Toronto Transit Commission. The councillor for St. Paul’s is the driving force behind the TTC’s streetcar desires.

“… It will set us exponentially on the next level in terms of global cities and environmental sustainability.”

The TTC plans to buy 204 new streetcars at first, but possibly many more later for its suburban expansion lines. The new vehicles, expected to cost as much as $5-million each, will be “low-floor,” free of steps at the doors so the disabled can board, as required by Ontario law. This will also benefit an aging population and parents with strollers.

At about 30 metres in length, the sleek, new vehicles will dwarf the current “articulated” streetcars, and carry more than 260 people when full, compared with 132 passengers on one of the current regular streetcars and 205 on an articulated one. They will have modern amenities such as air conditioning, which are foreign to the current clunkers.

The contract will be the largest streetcar deal in North American history, and one of the largest orders currently up for grabs in the world. And that has massive streetcar makers, and their lobbyists, circling City Hall, even though the province has yet to signal that it will help the city with the bill. A request for proposals is to go out before the end of the year, with the TTC hoping it can award a contract in the spring, and have the cars gradually rolling into service starting in 2011 after two test cars arrive in 2010.

IN THE RUNNING

The two leading companies are Montreal-based Bombardier, which is offering a modified version of its Flexity Outlook, now running in Brussels and elsewhere; and the Canadian arm of Frankfurt-based Siemens, which wants to build a modified version of its Combino Plus, now running in Lisbon and Budapest.

Also expected to bid on the contract are Czech Republic-based Skoda Transportation and Dusseldorf-based Vossloh Kiepe, with local manufacturer Martinrea International. Other bidders could come forward.

The TTC has committed to a fair competition for the deal after being stung by controversy last year, when it awarded a $674-million contract for 234 subway cars to Bombardier without competition in order to protect jobs at its Thunder Bay plant. This time, the TTC will include “Canadian content” provisions in a competitive bidding process. This is common around the world: U.S. rail-transit vehicles, for instance, must have 60-per-cent American content.

When evaluating the bids, sources say, the TTC may award companies as many as 10 points on a 100-point scale, based on how much of the vehicle a company pledges to make in Canada. The companies would not talk publicly in detail about the issue. But sources close to Bombardier have expressed concern that the proposed system may be too lenient, and could allow foreign firms to build much of their product in countries with cheaper labour, and make up the lost points with a lower price. Sources close to other bidders have suggested a fear of the opposite: That the rules may tip the scales in favour of homegrown Bombardier.

Still, Mike Hardt, vice-president of Bombardier Transportation, wouldn’t commit in a recent interview to building the new streetcars in Thunder Bay, saying the firm needed to see the TTC’s request for proposals first. “Is there going to be local content work?” Mr. Hardt said. “That’s a speculation that I can’t make. … We’ve proven that we can compete from Canada.”

Siemens says it will make an effort to use as many Canadian components and do as much of the labour as it can in Canada, but concedes that the car bodies and its trucks will be built at its factories in Austria.

Mario Péloquin, Siemens’s director of business development for Canada, said the TTC or its consultants had approached his firm four separate times with questions about how much domestic content Siemens could guarantee. “We’re trying to do more than just putting in the seats [in Canada],” Mr. Péloquin said. “We’re trying to maximize everything that we will do, including supplying parts from Canadian providers.”

Other controversies are more technical. For example, the TTC says its 11-metre radius curves are the tightest in the world – many European systems have turns twice as wide – and few light-rail systems have to deal with inclines as steep as the Bathurst Street hill, which has an 8-per-cent grade. The TTC also has wider than usual tracks.

THE DARK HORSE

Vossloh Kiepe, a streetcar-components maker that helped to design light-rail vehicles now running in Leipzig, has protested against the TTC’s decision to accept only 100-per-cent low-floor streetcars on its unique tracks.

Vossloh Kiepe argues that these designs are less reliable than its more conventional 70-per-cent partial low-floor design, pointing to trouble Siemens had with its fully low-floor cars in Europe in recent years. (Siemens, which had to recall hundreds of streetcars after their frames started cracking, says it has solved the problem.)

TTC engineers have concluded after exhaustive testing that partial low-floor models would not be able to climb the system’s hills, and may be more likely to derail than 100-per-cent low-floor streetcars, which themselves are hard to adapt to Toronto’s curves. Vossloh Kiepe’s solution resulted in a streetcar with as many as four sets of internal stairs or ramps. The TTC says it has rejected such a design because it would impede passenger flow and possibly increase the number of “slip and fall” injuries on the system.

Vossloh Kiepe’s Canadian representative, Peter Maass, warns that the TTC may be cruising for trouble if it ignores his firm’s advice and goes with a 100-per-cent low-floor car. “I don’t think we’re going to know until that vehicle gets produced as a prototype in 2009 and gets rolling,” said Mr. Maass, whose firm is still in talks with TTC.

There have been other headaches, including making sure the newfangled cars will work with the TTC’s switches. Mr. Maass also said that modifying European designs to meet North American crash-worthiness standards means, in the words of German light-rail engineers, having to take a lighter European car and gepanzert it – literally translated, turn it into a Panzer tank. Many critics, and especially people who live near the tracks, have complained over the years about the weight of the streetcars, at almost 23 tonnes, and the strain – and resulting noise – they produce on the rails. The new ones may actually be heavier, although engineers say the weight will be better distributed.

Once these problems are solved, and the new streetcars begin to arrive, the TTC will face an even bigger challenger, warns Steve Munro, a long-time transit activist who helped to persuade the TTC to reverse its plans to scrap the streetcar system in the 1970s.

The TTC is not replacing all 248 of its streetcars one-to-one, but instead buying just 204 at first, because the new cars are bigger and carry more passengers. Mr. Munro says this means riders currently frustrated at how infrequent streetcar service is should prepare themselves: “My concern is they are going to end up with this lovely new fleet of cars and offer even worse service than they do today.”

Pimp my streetcar

Toronto is shopping for European-style low-floor light-rail vehicles. The TTC says the new fleet will be a quantum leap

from the current fleet.

MORE PASSENGERS

At about 30 metres long, with three to five articulated sections and three motorized trucks, the new streetcar will carry, when stuffed to “crush load” capacity, 260 to 270 people. That is more than double the crush load of the current regular-sized streetcars (132) and substantially more than their longer, articulated cousins (205).

BETTER BRAKES

Using new alternating-current motors and state-of-the-art controls, more braking energy will be recovered than on the current cars and converted back into electricity to be fed back into the overhead grid, similar to hybrid automobiles. Sophisticated “spin-slide control”

– just like traction control and anti-lock brakes in your car –

will help the vehicles stop.

COOL RIDE

Toronto’s first electric streetcars in the 1890s had only a coal-fired heater. When the current vehicles rolled into service in 1979, the mediocrity of their air-conditioning system was compounded by windows that didn’t open, and had to be modified. The new models will spoil riders with both heating and air conditioning.

ON-BOARD GADGETS

Digital display screens will show the next stop, and automated “smart card” fare readers will allow riders to board at any door. The driver will have computerized controls for propulsion, braking and communications.

A global-positioning satellite system will monitor speeds in work zones. Exterior lights will use light-emitting diodes.

LOW FLOOR

Instead of three steep steps, the TTC is calling for car designs with a maximum floor height at the doors of 35 centimetres, although some models have even lower entry heights. A special ramp will be used to help the disabled and those with strollers, as well as create a bridge to the current platforms, which are only 15 centimetres high. Eventually, as the system expands and the old cars are retired, stations and routes with platforms will be altered to match the cars’ height.

THE COMPETITION

Several light-rail-vehicle makers have expressed interest in submitting bids for the TTC’s contract of up to $1.25-billion for 204 new streetcars, including Bombardier, Siemens, Vossloh-Kiepe and Skoda.

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NFL in Toronto is a threat – The Toronto Bills?


TORONTO (AP) — Canadian Football League commissioner Mark Cohon believes all signs point to an NFL team being placed in Toronto. It’s the first time the league has taken such a definitive stance on the subject. “All of the tea leaves are indicating that it’s shifting,” Cohon said Friday.

. “You have guys like Ted Rogers and Larry Tanenbaum and Phil Lind, very powerful Canadians who are interested; you have an owner in Ralph Wilson in Buffalo who has said, ‘When I die, my estate will sell the franchise’; you have the Bills interested in marking Toronto as part of their territory, which I believe is indication that, ‘Hey this our territory, we don’t want another NFL team coming here.’

“So I think there’s all these things lining up as an indication that it could happen. So I’m not sticking my head in the sand. That would be the worst thing for the CFL commissioner to do. So I think there’s a real potential.”

Speaking at his first state of the league news conference, Cohon said an NFL team in Toronto would threaten the CFL in Southern Ontario, a key region for the league.

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Beowulf – Real and Unreal


Sorry for getting off track a bit on this one! I rarely would I ever comment on a movie, but the progression of 3D CGI graphics has defiantly hit a new level. When Lord of the Rings “The Two Towers” was released I was amazed on how real Golem looked in the movie. Meaning, how well he blended into the film. Now, with Beowulf, we are seeing 3D graphics progress even further. It is not perfect, however it makes me wonder what 3D graphics will look like in 4-5 years. Will we be able to tell the difference between the real and unreal? Beowulf is the classic story about the warrior Beowulf, who must fight and defeat the monster Grendel who is terrorizing towns, and later, Grendel’s mother, who begins killing out of revenge. Beowulf” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). Gory violence and Angelina Jolie (enough said…)! Yes, I placed this under Sci-Fi, but I guess I will have to make a new category for “Fantasy” sometime soon.

By: Andy MJ
a.k.a. “The G.T.A Patriot”
Toronto, Ontario

NOTE: If you are looking for some reviews about the movie, see the links below

http://www.thestar.com/article/276961

http://movies.nytimes.com/2007/11/16/movies/16beow.html

http://www.boston.com/movies/display?display=movie&id=8510

Microsoft Open Solaris? Microsoft BSD? Microsoft what?


 

I wonder what would happen if Microsoft dropped the Windows NT core, making an about face, like Apple did years ago with BSD and adopted Sun’s “Open Solaris” as the core? No, I am not talking about the movie! Granted I am sure I could write an essay and make some comparisons. What if they took the rock-solid Open Solaris core and built there new Windows 7 upon it, instead of re-inventing the wheel? I doubt that Microsoft would ever consider doing this. Nor will they truly give up on the Windows NT core. MinWin looks promising; however do they have enough time? With the release of Microsoft Vista turning into such a disaster, the next version of Windows will need to be something different. One good reason for moving to a new core would be the ability to concentrate on other areas of their business. Although Windows and Office sales make up a large portion of Microsoft’s revenues, they need to look to the future as these revenue streams slowly erode due to Web 2.0 applications. I have personally tested many different Operating Systems, from Linux to BSD to Amiga (yes they still exist) and other lesser known systems. I have always been amazed on the boot time, applications installed and innovation. This is not to say that Microsoft has not done much over the years.

 

In some ways, Steve Jobs, of Apple Inc., made a smart move years ago by adopting a BSD core. Plugged in with NeXT, it allowed them to concentrate on other areas and develop their core business, and diversify. Microsoft is a large company with a lot of smart people, however they cannot continue with business as usual. Sun’s Open Solaris may not be the best choice for Microsoft. In fact, Microsoft first needs to focus their energy. Sun has lately shown expressions of a desperate company. Yes, they have Java, SPARC and Solaris, but business is slowly dwindling on the server hardware side. It would definitely be a benefit to Jonathan Schwartz the CEO of Sun. The reality is that the popularity of Linux is adversely affecting Sun Microsystems. This could explain the move towards open source along with there moves in other areas?

The fact is however that Microsoft is being attacked on all sides and history waits for no one. Microsoft executives have some hard choices to make, however they better make them soon. With everything slowly moving to the web and more and more non-Microsoft based devices they are slowly becoming irrelevant. What are Microsoft’s choices? Do they need to refocus? Are they just fine? What will Microsoft look like in 2-3 years? What will the technology trends be? Only time will tell, unfortunately time is not a luxury for Microsoft.

By: Andy MJ
a.k.a “The G.T.A Patriot”
Toronto, Ontario


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An OS for the Rest of Us: PC-BSD


Sick of Windows and Linux? Mac OS too pricey? Looking for something different? PC-BSD to the rescue!

What is PC-BSD?

Before we get into the review, here are some highlights from the PC-BSD site discussing PC-BSD and its requirements. For a comprehensive look at what’s in this release, see the changelog and the release notes on the PC-BSD site.

Highlights of this release:

* Moving the FreeBSD base version to 6-STABLE
* Xorg 7.2
* KDE 3.5.7
* Compiz-Fusion 0.5.2
* Support for Flash7 in native BSD browsers. (Konq, Opera, Firefox)
* Official NVIDIA drivers to simplify activating Hardware acceleration.

Minimum system requirements:

* Pentium II or higher
* 256MB Ram
* 4GB of free Hard Drive space (Either partition, or entire disk)
* Network card
* Sound card

Now I know that some of you are probably very skeptical about the idea of using BSD as your desktop operating system. Maybe you’ve never heard of it. Maybe you have heard of it but have heard that it’s not very user-friendly or that the software is hard to install or manage. Put aside whatever preconceptions you have about PC-BSD because you’re in for a real treat—if you’re in the market for a new operating system.

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Ontario considers ban on baby-bottle chemical linked to cancer


TORONTO – There is a “compelling case” for Ontario to become the first province in Canada to ban a potentially harmful chemical found in common plastic baby products and linked to adulthood cancer, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Tuesday after meeting with experts and parents pushing for a ban of bisphenol A.

The governing Liberals are going to appoint a panel of medical experts to study toxins like bisphenol A – found in everything from baby bottles and sippy cups to the lining of food cans – with a view to introducing legislation next year, McGuinty said.

If that panel of doctors and scientists recommends a ban, McGuinty said it will be done.

“I just had the opportunity to speak to an expert up from Virginia who makes a very compelling case,” McGuinty said after a private meeting with about a dozen parents and environmentalists.

“So what we’ll do is we’re going to ask our Ontario experts to give us their best advice on that. If their advice to us to ban, then we will ban . . . There is no reason that we can’t be a North American leader when it comes to reducing toxins and carcinogens.”

San Francisco is the only jurisdiction in North America that has banned the sale, distribution and manufacture of baby products made with bisphenol A. Health Canada is currently studying the risk posed by bisphenol A and expects to report back to the federal government by May.

But Ontario can’t afford to wait, McGuinty said.

“Why is it that, at the beginning of the 21st century, one in four Ontarians are now dying of cancer?” he asked.

“We need to do a better job of understanding the influence of these chemicals, toxins and carcinogens in our environment and (on) our quality of life.”

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gOS Unboxed: Should Microsoft Worry?


Microsoft’s rivalry with Google heated up considerably this past year when rumors surfaced that Google might release its own operating system to compete with Windows. Has Google finally jumped into the fray with its own OS?

Unfortunately, no; gOS is not a “Google OS” nor is it affiliated with Google (though Desktop Linux has reported that Google has seen gOS and approved inclusion of the Google toolbar with the operating system).

gOS is developed by Good OS LLC out of Los Angeles. It’s based on Ubuntu Linux 7.10 and runs the Enlightenment E17 interface instead of KDE or Gnome. Despite not being created by Google, the focus of gOS is Google’s online applications such as GMail, Google News, Google Maps, Google Calendar, YouTube, etc. It’s a neat concept for a Linux distribution, but how practical is it?

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