Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Great Interview with Larry Levine of "The Wall of Sound" Fame

You didn't seriously think that Phil Spector did all of it, did you? Read on...

Chinese Web Filtering Finally Questioned

You may not have heard this in the "conventional media", but read on...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

End of an Era- Nortel Liquidates

Well, Nortel is gone just like the old AT&T. Nortel was formed from Bell Canada, and twenty years ago was the largest company in Canada, dominating the stock exchange.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Blu-Ray Interest Waning?

Not too surprising, considering the general state of the economy and the relative lack of interesting content available... the discs are perceived as too expensive.

The good news is that Snow White is coming out on Blu-Ray in a couple of months from the Mouse, which should motivate a few crack their wallets open. Amazon is selling Snow White preorders for the two disc set at $25.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Monday, June 8, 2009

China Ups the Mind Control Ante

BEIJING -- China plans to require that all personal computers sold in the country as of July 1 be shipped with software that blocks access to certain Web sites, a move that could give government censors unprecedented control over how Chinese users access the Internet.
The government, which has told global PC makers of the requirement but has yet to announce it to the public, says the effort is aimed at protecting young people from "harmful" content. The primary target is pornography, says the main developer of the software, a company that has ties to China's security ministry and military.

Customers use computers at an Internet cafe in Changzhi, Shanxi province, on June 3.

China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology didn't respond to requests for comment.
The Chinese government has a history of censoring a broad range of Web content. The new requirement could force PC manufacturers to choose between refusing a government order in a major market or opening themselves to charges of abetting censorship.

The software needn't be preinstalled on each new PC -- it may instead be shipped on a compact disc -- giving users some choice. But if installed, foreign industry officials who have examined the software say, it could transmit personal information, cause PCs to malfunction, and make them more vulnerable to hacking. It also makes it difficult for users to tell what exactly is being blocked, officials say.

A spokeswoman for Hewlett-Packard Co., which has the largest PC market share of any U.S. vendor in China, said the company is "working with the government authorities and evaluating the best way to approach this. Obviously we will focus on delivering the best customer experience while ensuring that we meet necessary regulatory requirements."

Susan Stevenson, spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, said the embassy was studying the new rule to assess its impact. "We would view any attempt to restrict the free flow of information with great concern and as incompatible with China's aspirations to build a modern, information-based economy and society," she said.

The software's Chinese name is "Green Dam-Youth Escort." The word "green" in Chinese is used to describe Web-surfing free from pornography and other illicit content. Green Dam would link PCs with a regularly updated database of banned sites and block access to those addresses, according to an official who tested the product for a government agency.

The May 19 Chinese government notice about the requirement says it is aimed at "constructing a green, healthy, and harmonious Internet environment, and preventing harmful information on the Internet from influencing and poisoning young people."

The software was developed by Jinhui Computer System Engineering Co., with input from Beijing Dazheng Human Language Technology Academy Co.
Bryan Zhang, founder of Jinhui, said Green Dam operates similarly to software designed outside China to let parents block access to Web content inappropriate for children. Some computers sold in China already come with parental-control software, but it isn't government-mandated.

Mr. Zhang said his company compiles and maintains the list of blocked sites, which he says is limited to pornography sites. He said the software would allow the blocking of other types of content, as well as the collection of private user data, but that Jinhui would have no reason to do so. He also said the software can be turned off or uninstalled.

His company plans to transmit new banned addresses to users' PCs through an Internet update system similar to that used by operating-system software and antivirus programs.

The software requirement was outlined in a notice that was issued by China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology on May 19 but that hasn't yet been publicized by state media. The notice, a copy of which was seen by The Wall Street Journal, says PC makers must ship PCs to be sold in China as of July 1 with the Green Dam software "preloaded" -- pre-installed or enclosed on a CD.

The notice says PC producers will be required to report to the government how many PCs they have shipped with the software. The notice doesn't mention any punitive action for noncompliance.

Sales of PCs in China neared 40 million units last year, second only to the U.S. Chinese company Lenovo Group Ltd. had the largest market share, with 26.7% of units shipped in the first three months of 2009, while H-P had 13.7% and Dell Inc. had 8.1%, according to research firm IDC.
Manufacturers have more than just sales in China to consider when the government asks them to do something: Major PC companies also have investments in factories and research facilities in China.

Dell declined to comment on the software. Lenovo said, "We review all legislation relating to our business," and didn't comment further.

Foreign industry officials say companies have been given little time to properly test Green Dam.

"The lack of transparency, the shortness of time for implementation, and the incredible scope of the requirement that is not matched anywhere around the world present tremendous challenges to the industry," said an industry official who has discussed the plans with several major PC makers.

China already operates an extensive Internet filtering system, commonly called the Great Firewall, which blocks access to a range of content, from pornography to politically sensitive sites. Such sites have included those promoting Tibetan independence and the spiritual group Falun Gong; in specific circumstances the government has blocked access to foreign media sites.
But that system blocks content at the network level, and many users circumvent it. The new method could give the government a way to tighten its control, say foreign industry officials who have examined the software.

Having one universal application that opens a link into every computer could also make those computers more vulnerable to cyber attacks. Mr. Zhang said that the software is no riskier than other programs that are updated periodically through the Internet.
Moreover, Green Dam, which is designed to work with Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system, could also conflict with other applications, causing glitches or even system crashes, industry officials said.

Wu Weiwei, an official from the government's China Software Testing Center who oversaw testing of the software, said extensive tests of the software have shown no problems.
U.S. Internet companies have for years grappled with demands from the Chinese government to censor content or share potentially private data with police.

Several of the biggest -- including Google Inc., Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft -- joined together last October to announce a set of guidelines for how they would comply with censorship requests from countries such as China, including a promise to be transparent about the requests they receive. But the effort, known as the Global Network Initiative, was criticized by some civil-liberties groups as being short on specifics and not doing enough to fight censorship laws. No computer hardware makers are members of the group.

A Yahoo spokeswoman said that the company would "continue to analyze international developments that may impact our industry." "We strongly support the free flow of information and the right to freedom of expression," she said.

Jinhui's Web site said it has a long-term "strategic cooperative partnership" with a research institute of the Ministry of Public Security on image-recognition technology, as well as long-term "technical cooperation" with the People's Liberation Army's Information Engineering University.
Mr. Zhang said Jinhui has only worked with the Ministry of Public Security on issues concerning pornography.

The Web site of Dazheng, the other software company involved in developing Green Dam, says the company works with the Armored Engineering Institute of the People's Liberation Army, and that it helped the PLA in 2005 produce a system to intercept "confidential" documents.
Wang Jingcheng, deputy general manager of Dazheng, said the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has "strict regulations and forbids all software companies from collecting any personal information." He added that the software will block content "according to the law."—Kersten Zhang, Justin Scheck and Nick Wingfield contributed to this article.

Write to Loretta Chao at

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Don't Cut That Wire!

Near Washington, D.C., construction crews watch for mystery 'black' wire

A Metrorail extension risks hitting communications lines, including some used for top-secret government intelligence operations.

By Amy Gardner June 7, 2009

Reporting from Washington -- This part happens all the time: A construction crew putting up an office building in the heart of congested Tysons Corner in McLean, Va., hit a fiber-optic cable no one knew was there.This part doesn't: Within moments, three black SUVs drove up, half a dozen men in suits jumped out, and one said, "You just hit our line."

Whose line, you may ask? The guys in suits didn't say, recalled Aaron Georgelas, whose company, the Georgelas Group, was developing the Greensboro Corporate Center. Georgelas assumed that he was dealing with the federal government and that the cable in question was "black" wire -- a secure communications line used for some of the nation's most secretive intelligence-gathering operations.

"The construction manager was shocked," Georgelas recalled about the incident in 2000. "He had never seen a line get cut and people show up within seconds. Usually you've got to figure out whose line it is. To garner that kind of response that quickly was amazing."Black wire is one of the risks of the construction that has come to Tysons, where miles and miles of secure lines are thought to serve such nearby agencies as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Counterterrorism Center and, a few miles away, the CIA. With work underway on a Metrorail extension, crews are stirring up tons of dirt where the black lines are located.

"Yeah, we heard about the black SUVs," said Paul Goguen, the engineer in charge of relocating electric, gas, water, sewer, cable, telephone and other communications lines to make way for Metro."We were warned that if they were hit, the company responsible would show up before you even had a chance to make a phone call."So far, so good, Goguen added. But the peril remains for a project that will spend $150 million moving more than 75 miles of conduit along a three-mile stretch.

The Tysons corridor is also home to part of MAE-East, one of the nation's primary Internet pipelines installed years ago by the government and private companies. Most major telecommunications carriers link to the pipeline, meaning there's a jumble of fiber-optic wire under the new rail route.Moving utilities quickly and cheaply is a big part of any construction work. But the $5.2-billion rail project, which will extend service to Dulles International Airport, is particularly complex.

Construction crews have been digging for more than a year to shift the wires of more than 21 private utilities out of the path of the rail line -- and they have another year to go.And they have snapped, accidentally, dozens of those carriers' lines, because even not-so-secret commercial lines sometimes don't show up on utility maps. Goguen, the utility manager, estimates that the rail project has already hit three dozen lines.

Such issues are likely to resurface this summer, when tunnel construction is scheduled to begin. Above the tunnel's path is a giant microwave communications tower operated by the U.S. Army. And if you want to know what the 280-foot tower is for, too bad. "The specific uses of the system to which this particular antenna is attached" are classified, Army spokesman Dave Foster said.

Other government agencies near Tysons also had little to say. A CIA spokeswoman would not comment. And Mike Birmingham, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, would say only that if a communications line used by the agency was cut, the nation's intelligence-gathering would carry on uninterrupted."No particular project puts us at risk -- highway construction, building construction," Birmingham said. "We don't have a single point of failure. Our systems are redundant."

Georgelas, the developer whose company was overseeing the work when the Chevy Suburbans drove up, said he figured the government was involved when an AT&T crew arrived the same day to fix the line, rather than waiting days. His opinion didn't change when AT&T tried to bill his company for the work -- and immediately backed down when his company balked."These lines are not cheap to move," Georgelas said. "They said, 'You owe us $300,000.' We said, 'Are you nuts?' "

The charges just disappeared.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Disneyland Tram Accident Resolved

Disneyland Makes Settlement In Tram Accident

Rest and relaxation are at least two things people look for while seeking a break from the routine. Sometimes, going on a vacation or special trip such as going to the Outer Banks for a break might do. Some folks enjoy an occasional thrill and go on an adventure or to a theme park for a ride on their many attractions. One California woman got more than she bargained for when she last visited Disneyland for such an occasion.

Recently, a woman fell out of a moving Disneyland tram and suffered injuries that left her needing 24-hour medical care for the rest of her life has reached a settlement in a lawsuit she filed against Disney. Lawyers for Qi Zhao and Walt Disney Co. reached the agreement Tuesday, bringing a two-week trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court to an abrupt end.

Details of the deal were not released. Zhao sued Disney in 2007, alleging the tram driver was going too fast when she fell out, along with two of her sisters. Zhao hit her head on the pavement, suffering severe traumatic brain injuries and skull fractures. Disney officials said in a statement they were pleased to have resolved the case and said safety is their top priority.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

HDMI 1.4 Details Released

Written by
Friday, 29 May 2009

HDMI LLC, the company which licenses HDMI standards has announced the features that HDMI 1.4 will include. The latest HDMI will sport an HDMI Ethernet Channel to provide data transfer of up to 100 Mbps. It also features a bi-directional connection, which creates compatibility between the Internet functions of a broadband TV and a, HDMI 1.4 connected device, such as a gaming console.

HDMI 1.4 also includes an Audio Return Channel which eliminates the need for additional cables when broadcast audio is being directly received by HDTVs and streamed to an external amp for processing. It includes Automatic Content Enhancement, which supports future 3D technologies, dual stream 1080p resolution, and content recognition to automatically optimize output based on the content that is connected to your HDTV.

The new specification also supports resolutions 4 times the resolution of 1080p. The 4K x 2K support will allow transfer of content at the same rate as digital theaters. It can transmit 3840x2160 at 24Hz, 25Hz & 30Hz as well as 4096x2160 at 24Hz. Color space support has been increased to allow for digital cameras, specifically DSLRs.

HDMI LLC is also rolling out Micro HDMI connector support for portable devices. The 19-pin
connector is 50% smaller than the size of the current HDMI Mini connection. The full specs will be available to download starting June 30th on the HDMI LLC website, with the list of products supporting HDMI 1.4 to be released shortly thereafter.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Acoustic SuperLens Technology

When filled with water, the holes in this aluminum plate act as resonant cavities that can focus ultrasound.
First Acoustic Superlens

An ultrasound lens could be used for high-resolution clinical imaging.
By Katherine Bourzac

Over the past few years, researchers have developed several materials that bend light in ways that appear to violate the laws of physics, creating so-called superlenses, for ultra-high-resolution optical imaging, as well as invisibility cloaks. Now researchers have demonstrated that the same kind of images and cloaking devices could be made with sound instead of light. Using the first acoustic metamaterial ever produced, the researchers were able to focus ultrasound waves. This represents a significant step toward creating high-resolution ultrasound images and cloaking devices capable of hiding ships from sonar.
Acoustic lenses can be made to focus sound much as the lens in a microscope focuses light. But physicists' ability to work with both types of waves is limited by scattering effects called diffraction. Using conventional lenses, it's not possible to focus light waves or sound waves to a spot size smaller than half the wavelength of the light. To get around these limitations, a lens must refract, or literally bend light backward. No naturally occurring materials have a negative index of refraction, but some materials carefully designed in the lab, called metamaterials, do. The same tools used to make materials that can focus light or sound waves beyond the diffraction limit, enabling high-resolution imaging, can also be used to make materials that accomplish the opposite, cloaking an object by directing light or sound around it.
Theorists have been working on materials that bend sound waves backward for several years. Such a metamaterial has now been built by Nicholas Fang, an assistant professor of mechanical science and engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His group's sound-focusing device is an aluminum array of narrow-necked resonant cavities whose dimensions are tuned to interact with ultrasound waves. The cavities are filled with water. Fang likens them to an array of wind instruments, such as the pipes in an organ. When ultrasound waves move through the array, the cavities resonate so that the sound is focused. The cavities "work together to refract the sound," says Fang.
"This is a big step forward for acoustic metamaterials," says Steven Cummer, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Duke University. Cummer was involved with the development of the first optical cloaking device. "It's a good experimental confirmation that ideas from electromagnetics can be extended to acoustics," he says. "Figuring out a good way to do this experimentally was not easy."
The ultrasound system, described in the journal Physical Review Letters, hasn't yet exceeded the diffraction limit. But researchers expect Fang to beat it soon. "I am sure that we shall not have long to wait," says John Pendry, a professor of theoretical solid-state physics at Imperial College London, who designed the materials used by Duke researchers to make the first invisibility cloak.
"There are many important applications awaiting a successful sub-wavelength acoustical focusing device," says Pendry. The first application of acoustic metamaterials is likely to be in high-resolution clinical ultrasound imaging, says Fang. "Without pumping more energy into tissue, you can provide a sharper image." However, he notes that applications are a ways off.
"We've done focusing, but not yet imaging," says Fang.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Conduit as Art

Most of the time we're not allowed to discuss what we're working on contractually. Sometimes it's because its corporate policy, or the owner doesn't want their competitors to know what's coming, or maybe a dozen other reasons.

Yet this is one project we're currently working on. The electrical contractor's been busy putting the conduit out to the various destinations.

I thought you might find the picture enlightening. Click on the picture for more detail.