Friday, January 16, 2009

Circadian rhythms controlled similarly in humans and fruitflies

You may never hear fruit flies snore, but rest assured that when you're asleep they are too. According to research published in the January 2009 issue of the journal Genetics scientists from the University of Missouri-Kansas City have shown that the circadian rhythms (sleep/wake cycles) of fruit flies and vertebrates are regulated by some of the same "cellular machinery" as that of humans. Typical symptoms of a nematode infection in plants are withering, seriously retarded growth, and impaired development of flower and fruit; severely infected plants often do not survive the damage. Each year, plant-parasitic roundworms cause more than 80 billion euro in agricultural losses worldwide.

Some nematodes have developed an ingenious way of making a plant feed them. They penetrate the plant's roots and make their way to their host's vascular bundles, which are part of the plant's transport system for nutrients and water. The roundworms inject a protein cocktail into a single plant cell of the vascular bundle system, causing the plant cell to merge with neighboring cells and start producing food for the worm. This plant cell − which can become as large as 200 normal plant cells − is called the "nematode feeding site."
Source: Public Library of Science.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Iphone outnumbered by its own sibbling, the ipod touch

According to The Inquirer, APPLE'S IPHONE TOY is being upstaged by the outfit's second generation Coldplaying Ipod.

TouchArcade reports that the second-generation Ipod touch’s processor runs at 532 MHz, while the Iphone 3G’s processor runs at 412 MHz if it is going down hill with the wind behind it.

Both fruit-flavoured toys use an ARM processor which is theoretically capable of running at 620-667Mhz.

It seems that, in a bid to save battery life on both bits of kit, Apple decided to under-clock the processors.

While this dumbing down of the Iphone makes sense when, as it is, it runs out of juice faster than a bloke wandering in the Sahara in summer, it does mean that sometimes Apple gets some embarrassing benchmarks. This one, which says that the smartphone can be beaten in processing ability by an MP3 whose sole function is to play Coldplay and U2 singles, is one.

Still it seems that Apple is slowly getting the hang of speeding up its processor speeds while keeping the battery drain to a minimum.

According to a Polish site iPod info benchmarks between the first generation Ipod Touch and the original Iphone, and the second generation Ipod Touch and the new 3G Iphone, is steadily increasing.

Microsoft searches for solution to Cyberchondria

The inquirer says web surfers are all a bunch of Cyberchondriacs (according to Microsoft), which published the results of a study on health-related Internet search yesterday. The study, which looked at searches on popular search engines and at Volish employee searches, reckons those who look to the Internet for self diagnosis, often end up clinging to the worst case scenario about what may be wrong with them, in other words, Cyberchondria.

Volish boffins are now prescribing features for Mighty-Soft’s search service which could help put such medical queries into context and retrieve less dire results.

Eric Horvitz, an artificial intelligence researcher at the Redmond Giant’s Research labs, told the New York Times, "People tend to look at just the first couple results," explaining "If they find 'brain tumor' or 'ALS', that’s their launching point."

Horovitz and his colleagues found that searching for terms like 'headache' and 'chest pain' were likely to bring up terrifying results with the same frequency as less serious ailments, even though the chances of having a brain tumour or tuberculosis were ridiculously small compared to just suffering from a caffeine overdose or having a bad cough.

The research also found that at least two per cent of all Web searches were health related and about 250,000 of the million people polled admitted to having searched at least once for something medical whilst in the study. A third of these went on to say they had then "escalated" their search to more serious illnesses they thought they may have as a result of the first search results.

Looking for any excuse to pull a sickie, half of the 500 Microsoft employees polled admitted to performing medical searches whilst at work.

Horovitz noted that it would soon be possible to make search engines which were capable of offering advice rather than scaring the bejesus out of people, modeled on a health advisory system for pregnancy and child care built in the 1990s by another team of Volish boffins.

Apple releases Safari 3.2.1 in two weeks

According to The Register, Apple has pumped Safari with yet another update less than two weeks after version 3.2 of the browser was released.

The Cupertino-based company has been scurrying to fix a host of bugs in Safari that left many Mac fanboys in a spin, with the revamped browser consistently crashing on launch.

Safari 3.2.1 was shoved out the door yesterday by Apple, which offered a vague maxim about “stability improvements” being added to the browser.

Version 3.2 landed on 13 November and immediately got a frosty reception from Safari users who complained that the update, which came loaded with improved anti-phishing protection and the latest security fixes, caused frequent crashes.

Yesterday's stealth patch, which had no Apple fanfare whatsoever, is now available for download both for Mac OS X and Windows XP or Vista.

Apple closed a number of security holes with the release of Safari 3.2 including an update to the framework that underpins the browser – Webkit, and a bug in its autocomplete feature.

However, many have grumbled that Safari 3.2 had not been scrutinised and tested enough prior to release. Whether Safari 3.2.1 will right those wrongs remains to be seen.

Tony Blair's private calls were bugged all these years by US agents

Accoring to Dailymail, American spymasters snooped on the private life of Tony Blair, according to reports in the U.S.

Mr Blair was given the code name 'Anchory' as his private telephone calls were routinely listened into and recorded.

A file containing personal information about him is said to have been compiled at a giant U.S. listening post run by the secretive National Security Agency.

The extraordinary claim was made by a former Navy communications operator who worked at a listening post in Fort Gordon, Georgia.

David Murfee Faulk told American TV network ABC News that he had seen a file on the 'private life' of Mr Blair in 2006.

He said his security clearance at the National Security Agency base allowed him access to top-secret information.

Faulk declined to reveal the exact contents of the file, other than to say it contained information of a 'personal nature'.

Faulk said U.S. spymasters also 'bugged' telephone calls made by Iraq's first interim president, Ghazi al-Yawer.

Mr Al -Yawer and Mr Blair were considered two of America's biggest allies in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The admissions will cause huge embarrassment to the U.S.
Read the whole thing at Dailymail page.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Free PC security software from Microsoft in 2009

According to Dailymail, technology giant Microsoft has shocked the industry by announcing it will stop selling its OneCare security software and offer a free alternative instead.

Dubbed 'Morro', the no-frills product will support Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 and is expected to launch in the middle of next year.

Shares in rival anti-virus protection firms dived at the news, amid fears the new program would hit their sales.

But Microsoft executives insist their software was targeted at users with low-bandwidth connections and basic notebook computers.

Morro only offers software that protects from malware such as viruses, spyware, and trojans. But security suites from Symantec and McAfee include encryption, firewalls, password protection, parental controls and data backup programs.

'It is really focused on the 50 to 60 per cent (of PC users) who don't have, or won't pay for, anti-virus protection, anti-malware protection,' said Microsoft's Amy Barzdukas.

'This new, no-cost offering will give us the ability to protect an even greater number of consumers, especially in markets where the growth of new PC purchases is outpaced only by the growth of malware.'

The PC leader appears to be cutting its losses after OneCare only managed to garner two per cent of the security software market since its launch in 2006.

But why offer security software at all? Analyst Jon Oltsik told he suspects Microsoft would take a massive PR blow if they walked away from such a large section of the computer market.

As a trusted brand name, consumers are more likely to opt for Microsoft's anti-viral software than other less well-known free products such as Clam AV.

However, Anti-virus firms are remaining defiant following the announcement.

'It's simply not in Microsoft's DNA to provide high-quality, frequently updated security protection,' Symantec's Rowan Trollope said.

One year free digital edition of PC magazine

Amit at digital Inspiration says that the print edition of PC Magazine will be discontinued from January 2009 as the magazine publishers have decided to go 100% digital. That means you will still be able buy a copy of PC Magazine like before but the mode of delivery will change – the monthly issue will land in your email inbox instead of the mailbox.

Now here’s a more interesting offer – you can grab a one-year subscription of PC Magazine (Digital Edition) for free using this link. Type in your email and they’ll send you the download link as soon as a new issue of PC Magazine becomes available. If you are not too excited about PC Magazine, there are other options as well including Adobe Layers, Men’s Journal, iPhone Life, Parenting, MIT Technology Review, Yoga, US News, Penthouse, Playboy and Popular Science. You can subscribe to any of them for free.

This offer is part of the Read Green initiative where they’re giving away one-year subscriptions of several digital magazines for free to make people realize the benefits of this environment-friendly magazine format. The only catch is that you can subscribe to one magazine per email address which is the same as your Zinio Account.