Saturday, March 14, 2009


Congratulations to Tim Berners Lee who 20 years ago submitted his proposal for the framework that would become the World Wide Web. Part of the celebrations include a demonstration of the first browser environment on a NeXT workstation.

Ubuntu Saves Costs for French Police

Ars Technica reports that the Gendarmerie have saved up to 50 million Euros in maintenance and licensing costs since introducing open-source solutions and specifically migrating from Windows to Ubuntu. Moving to Vista would have required retraining and little practical advantage, but moving to Ubuntu from XP turned out to be easy. They intend to complete the migration of in total 90,000 workstations by 2015. The Open Source Observatory and Repository has a more detailed article here.

Windos 7 should kill UAC

Ars Technica have published an article describing their experience with the redesigned UAC security features for Windows 7, originally introduced for Windows Vista. I have to agree whole heartedly with the author. Yes UAC was annoying and even if you had admin rights under Vista you still presented with additional prompts for every single privileged action. However they were there for a reason; to make the user aware of his actions and to think twice before running everything standard as administrator. The implementation wasn´t perfect of course. For example the fact that you can switch it off is one thing, and the user has to create a standard user in addition to the default administrator account.
But now that they have decided to reduce the number of UAC prompts in Windows 7 following user complaints, including the ability to run rundll32 with elevated rights, means they´ve only succeeded in making a gaping hole in what was originally a vast improvement on traditional Windows security.
Sounds like Microsoft have made a pigs ear of another Windows release.

Naftogaz Raid

The offices of Ukraine´s Naftogaz, the company accused of illegally tapping off Russian gas supplies to Europe at the start of this year has been raided. The BBC reports that armed national security guard agents had been deployed as part of a new criminal investigation to retrieve contracts signed in January following the restriction of gas supplies. However the prime minister YuliaTymoshenko said the move was illegal. President Viktor Yushchenko who is in charge of the national security agents had criticized the January deal.

Lockheed Exoskeleton

The Register reports that Lockheed have announed the Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC), an exoskeleton designed to amplify human movements. The military applications are obvious.

The product sheet can be found here.

Artificial Flaggella

According to Ars Technica the Applied Physics Letters report that researchers have succeeded in creating the same microscopic propulsion devices found in nature. The rotation of the coiled tails of the flagella can be controlled by a magnetic field and steered. Such a mechanism could be used as a propulsion device for micro-robots in medical applications for example.

Birth of the War On Terror

The Department of Justice in the US has released a series of memos like this one in which the groundwork was laid for the recent spate of anti-terrorist legislation, including NSA´s increased wiretapping powers and the controversial Patriot Act. John Yoo was giving legal counsel to the White House following 9/11 and went further than just advising by also proposing measures to give powers to the president, that would legally circumvent the Fourth Amendment. Now although Obama is freeing prisoners from Guantanomo and undoing some of the other Bush blunders, the US has still managed to piss off a lot of people in the meantime, and that will be the thankless task of Obama and friends to try and clean up.

Nuclear Relic

A bottle discovered at a nuclear waste site in Washington state contains the oldest example of bomb grade Plutonium. The Hanford nuclear site was part of the Manhattan project in 1943 according to the BBC, and the same plutonium discovered there was used for the first atomic bomb tests as well as the weapons used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The researchers at Pacific North West Laboratory call their field ¨Nuclear Archaeology¨. Considering the half-life of the crap that´s been produced over the years, they´re probably not going to be stuck for work for a long time.

Beauty Perceived Differently by Men and Women

According to an article in Ars Technica, a collaborative ressearch project has revealed that men and women use different sides of the brain to perceive beauty. By measuring areas of brain activity, men apparently focus on the global picture while women in addition look at specific details. This is probably related to the different roles of men and women in hunter gatherer societies, in which women being the primary gatherers would have to pay more attention to fruits and berries.