Infected PCs May Lose Internet Access In July

August 4, 2013

I hadn’t heard of this until this morning and verified this issue with our computer consultation friends at Bronxville Computer. Yes, it’s a legitimate concern, but don’t worry as it’s easy to see if your computer could be affected. From Today’s USA Today here’s the situation:

WASHINGTON – For computer users, a few mouse clicks could mean the difference between staying online and losing Internet connections this summer. Unknown to most of them, their problem began when international hackers ran an online advertising scam to take control of infected computers around the world. In a highly unusual response, the FBI set up a safety net months ago using government computers to prevent Internet disruptions for those infected users. But that system is to be shut down.

Most victims don’t even know their computers have been infected, although the malicious software probably has slowed their web surfing and disabled their antivirus software, making their machines more vulnerable to other problems.

Last November, the FBI and other authorities were preparing to take down a hacker ring that had been running an Internet ad scam on a massive network of infected computers.
“We started to realize that we might have a little bit of a problem on our hands because … if we just pulled the plug on their criminal infrastructure and threw everybody in jail, the victims of this were going to be without Internet service,” said Tom Grasso, an FBI supervisory special agent. “The average user would open up Internet Explorer and get ‘page not found’ and think the Internet is broken.”

Now, said Grasso, “the full court press is on to get people to address this problem.” And it’s up to computer users to check their PCs.

Here’s what you need to know from Bronxville Computer:

http://www.bronxvillecomputer.com/infected-pcs-may-lose-internet-in-july/

Here’s The Good News:

It’s easy to see if you’re computer is infected. Just click this link http://dns-ok.us/ and you’ll see a photo. If the background of the photo is green, your computer is okay. If it’s red, then you’ll need to take action before July or you could lose your Internet access. The test takes about three seconds.


Leaked: First Office 14 screenshots

February 7, 2009

It didn’t take long this time, either. Earlier this week, testers received alpha builds of Office 14, the codename for the successor to Office 2007. A reader wrote in to tell us that a tester from Russian site wzor.net has now leaked the screenshots of the applications included in the productivity suite.

While he didn’t screenshot every application individually, we do now know that the list includes: Access 14, Excel 14, Groove 14, InfoPath Designer 14, InfoPath Filler 14, InterConnect 14, OneNote 14, Outlook 14, PowerPoint 14, Project 14, Publisher 14, SharePoint Designer 14, Visio 14, and Word 14. Without further ado, here they are:

I’ve been told that the beta of Office 14 will start in May, and the final version is slated for the end of the year. The alpha is reportedly running with good stability, all things considered. Redmond is expected to provide official release details for Office 14 next quarter.


Windows 7: To be launched in 6 versions with a beta release in Hindi

February 5, 2009

The speculations are rife that Microsoft latest upcoming operating system windows 7 would be launched in 6 different versions.

The company in order to avoid clash of versions would heavily promote only two versions i.e primary version for consumers which will be called Windows 7 Home Premium, and the one for businesses which will be called Windows 7 Professional.

Versions to be launched:

Windows 7 Home Premium:: main promoted version for home users.

Windows 7 Professional:: main promoted version for business and professionals.

Home Basic :: It would mainly be used as OEM VERSION.

Starter edition:The Starter edition is intended for sale in developing countries

There would also be a Top-end Enterprise version for big corporate customers and a similar Ultimate version for consumers. Those versions will include security features and a few other tools not available in the two main versions.
Does game of plenty work?

* Microsoft first encounter with multi-tiered versions of their product started with windows xp which was launched in versions like home, professional, media centre edition etc…this practice of launching plenty of versions in the market seemed to have paid during xp time but was not so successful during the time of vista launch.
* This multi-tiered approach results into a increase in use of pirated operating systems in emerging markets and the reason being that people believe that the core or simple version may not be enough for their work and higher version being unaffordable they go for piracy route.
* It make cumbersome for people to decide which version to go for their use.

Why does Microsoft play this game:

* The main reason for launching multiple versions with different functionality is to remove price barriers and make it more accessible to buyers.
* This again helps in fueling the volume growth or the sales growth for the company.
* The company is able to leverage the brand Rep of its flagship operating system to sell different versions of it which again does not put too much load on advertising budget.

Microsoft has also said in a statement that changes to the way it communicates about Windows 7 should `make these choices as simple and clear as possible for customers and partners.”
Microsoft launches windows 7 beta in Hindi:

* Microsoft has announced that it has launched windows 7 in Hindi.

* The new initiatives is again followed by launch of Language Interface Packs (LIPs) in 12 Indian languages for MS Office and Windows.

* The company has also announced a total of 45 additional virtual keyboards for these languages.

According to the company,”This would facilitate company to overcome the language barrier to computing,and has showcased a variety of custom made products directed specifically at the vernacular language market – a market that has been largely left untapped till now.”

If you want to download windows 7 beta in Hindi just go here and click Hindi in the dropdown box.

End note:

This could be followed by full fledge launches of future releases from the company in Hindi and other vernacular languages and in turn suggests that Microsoft is waking up to seriously notice the requirements of emerging markets which could provide it the next big opportunity looking at capping of I.T budgets in its prime markets.

This could further imply good news for PC and Internet penetration in India as it would finally see a robust growth due to breaking of language barriers.


Holy! India Brings Out the $10 Laptop

February 4, 2009

Just saw this bit of news on Rediff that India has unveiled its much talked and blogged about $10 Laptop, and apparently the ministry of HRD has kept its promise with this price. After Ratan Tata laid claim to the cheapest car ever with the Nano last year India has its hands on the cheapest laptop if this story remains confirmed.

India first announced the plan to make these ultra cheap laptops in the summer of 2007 almost two years back, and had said it would take around 2 to 3 years before it can come out with the product. With this launch we have even stuck with the time lines surprisingly. The laptop is expected to hit the market in 6 months time.

The $10 laptop has always seemed a very unlikely aspiration on part of the Indian government and was only seen as an ego battle against Nicholas Negroponte’s $100 laptop part of the OLPC programme which India had refused to be part of. The announcement was met with a lot of skepticism in the blogosphere and there were contradicting reports that the the government actually meant $100 instead. However, laying aside all the rumours the project has finally been unveiled and the price is expected to be anywhere between Rs.500 to 1,000.

“The mission was launched at a huge gathering of academicians and the officials from across the country including thirty vice chancellors of central and state universities at the campus of Sri Venkateshwara University Tirupati.” This is a rediff quote, the only thing that sounds amiss here is that if it was such a huge gathering why aren’t there any other report on this matter yet? Anyway that is just a curiosity more than an acquistion.

S K Sinha, joint secretary in the ministry for education, gave a demo to this packed audience though as of now we have no report on how the product looks or any concrete specs of the laptop. The laptop has 2 GB onboard memory with wireless Internet connectivity.

It seems a little too good to be true even now, and I am waiting eagerly to know what this thing looks like. If it holds on to its quality like the Nano did then it will most certainly be a proud moment for a nation whose contribution to computing began with a simple Zero. Fingers Crossed.


Transmitting data 16 times faster @ 640 billion bits per second

February 3, 2009

Every second, millions of phone calls and cable TV shows are dispatched through fibres as digital zeros and ones formed by chopping laser pulses into bits.

This slicing and dicing is generally done with an electro-optic modulator, a device for allowing an electric signal to switch a laser beam on and off at high speeds. Reading that fast data stream with a compact and reliable receiver is another matter.

A new error-free speed-reading record using a compact ultra-fast component – 640 gigabites (billion) per second or Gbps – has now been established jointly by scientists from Denmark and Australia.

New technology and new ways of doing business require new approaches to old procedures. Conventional readers of optical data depend on photo-detectors, electronic devices that can operate up to approximately 40 Gbps.

This in itself represents a great feat of rapid reading, but it’s not good enough for the higher-rate data streams being designed now. Sometimes to speed up data transmission several signals are multiplexed: each, with its own stream of coded data, is sent down an optical fibre at the same time.

In other words, 10 parallel streams of data could each be sent at a rate of 10 Gbps and then added up to an effective stream of 100 Gbps. At the receiving end the parallel signals have to be read out in a complementary de-multiplexing process.

Reliable and fast multiplexing and de-multiplexing represent a major bottleneck in linking up the electronic and photonic worlds.

In 1998 researchers in Japan created a data stream as high as 640 Gbps and were able to read it back, but the read-out apparatus relied on long lengths of special optical fibre. This particular approach is somewhat unstable.

The new de-multiplexing device demonstrated at the Technical University of Denmark, by contrast, can handle the high data rate, and can do so in a stable manner.

Furthermore, instead of 50-metre-long fibres, they accomplish their de-multiplexing of the data stream with a waveguide only five cm long, an innovation developed at the Centre for Ultrahigh Bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems, or CUDOS, in Australia.

Another benefit of the new device with the compact size is the potential for integration with other components to create more advanced ultra-fast functional chips. The dynamics involved in the CUDOS device could even allow for still higher data rates approaching terabits/second (Tbps, or trillion bits per second), said a CUDOS release.

Danish scientist Leif K. Oxenløwe, study co-author said that the record speeds of de-multiplexing represented by his tiny glass microchip is a boon to circuit designers and opens the door to faster network speeds. In the near future, the Danish and Australian researchers hope to achieve 1 Tbps Ethernet capability.

These findings were published in Optics Express, the Optical Society’s (OSA) open-access journal.


How Much Did Google Error Fiasco Cost To Advertisers?

February 2, 2009

It was just last month when google defeated yahoo to become the most visited page on internet and here comes something which made people frighten and helpless to use the internet without google for even 40 minutes.

All google users were taken aback last night when they experienced errors in google results where every search result was flagged as “This site may harm your computer” – the tag line reserved for sites believed to contain malware.

The time of occurence was :6:30 a.m. PST and 7:25 a.m

This resulted in huge hue and cry from blogging community and so called micro-bloggers.

what really happened-google’s explanation?

In their own words:-

“What happened? Very simply, human error. Google flags search results with the message “This site may harm your computer” if the site is known to install malicious software in the background or otherwise surreptitiously. We do this to protect our users against visiting sites that could harm their computers. We maintain a list of such sites through both manual and automated methods.

We periodically update that list and released one such update to the site this morning. Unfortunately (and here’s the human error), the URL of ‘/’ was mistakenly checked in as a value to the file and ‘/’ expands to all URLs.”

How did this cost advertisers?

All google search results were pointing to loop pages whereas advertisement clicks were working fine so to sum it up almost millions of google users were impatiently clicking on google ads just to check whether there pc was under virus attack or most importantly to witness the moment if google was hacked. This clicking of ads was almost meaningless because users must have hit back button to again see if the problem vanishes and this must have depleted a lot of credits from advertisers budget.

many publishers were also affected due to their dependency on the google search queries.

The money in question is huge because google was down for 40 minutes across the world not just a single country.

It needs to be seen whether google provides any compensation to the advertisers for clicks occuring on those 40 mins.
Lessons to be learned?

This is not a first time where a single error costed pain and monetary losses to users-dreamhost finger mismatch costed 7.5 million dollars which was refunded back.

Big corporations should learn lessons from the bloggers who proof read their articles several time even though they dont have so much on stake as google or for that matter other companies have on their actions,so they atleast double check their actions.


Robots To Clean Your Kitchen And Play A Game Of Hockey?

January 31, 2009

Alexander Stoytchev and his three graduate students recently presented one of their robot’s long and shiny arms to a visitor.
Here, they said, swing it around. And so the visitor tentatively gave the robot’s left arm a few twists and twirls. The metal arm was heavy, but still moved easily at its shoulder, elbow and wrist joints.


Then the graduate students hit some keyboard commands and the robot replayed those exact arm movements.

It was all incredibly quick, smooth and precise.

Stoytchev, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, says it won’t be long before robot technology is something we’ll all see and experience.

“We’ll have personal robots very soon,” Stoytchev said. “We’re waiting for the first killer app. Hopefully, we can contribute to that.”

Star Wars

There’s a little R2-D2-shaped trash can near the door to Stoytchev’s lab in the new Electrical and Computer Engineering Building. Turns out the Star Wars movies were an inspiration to a young Stoytchev back home in Bulgaria.

“My interest in robotics stems from the day I saw Star Wars for the first time,” the 34-year-old said. “I must have been in second or third grade at that time, but the two robots in the movie (R2-D2 and C-3PO) left a lasting impression on me.”

That impression led Stoytchev to his high school’s computer club and then to computer science studies as an undergraduate at American University in Bulgaria. He moved to Atlanta’s Georgia Institute of Technology for graduate work in computer science. He was at Georgia Tech when he started working with robots.

His research specialty is developmental robotics, a blend of robotics, artificial intelligence, developmental psychology, developmental neuroscience and philosophy.

“It’s one of the newest branches of robotics,” Stoytchev said. “People have learned that it’s unrealistic to program robots from scratch to do every task, so we’re looking at human models. Humans are not born knowing everything. It takes a really long time to develop skills.”

Stoytchev and his students are trying to figure out how a robot can learn what children learn over the first two years of their lives. (And child development is something Stoytchev is learning firsthand; he and his wife have a 2-month-old son.)

Graduate work

Stoytchev’s graduate students are working to develop software that will allow their lab robot to learn and use different sets of skills:

Shane Griffith, who’s from Cedar Rapids and is studying computer engineering and human computer interaction, wants the robot to learn on its own which everyday objects can be used as containers and which cannot.

Jivko Sinapov, who’s from Sofia, Bulgaria, and is studying computer science and human computer interaction, wants the robot to learn how to use objects as tools.

Matt Miller, who’s also from Cedar Rapids and is studying computer science, wants the robot to learn language.

Combine that developing software with existing robotics hardware, and you’ve got a useful, smart robot.

“The essential goal of developmental robotics is for robots to learn how to learn,” Miller said. “We want them to learn how to take a situation, adjust to it and learn from it.”

A robot, for example, could learn to use containers by putting a ball in a bucket and seeing what happens when that bucket is pushed across a table. Is the ball pushed along with the bucket? Or is it left behind? The researchers believe that simple interactions like these hold the key to capturing the common-sense knowledge about the real world that comes naturally to people but is so difficult to capture in software code.

A future with robots

Stoytchev was attracted to Iowa State in 2005 by the College of Engineering’s reputation and research capabilities. And now he’s directing Iowa State’s Developmental Robotics Laboratory and making his own research contributions.

It’s work that has him looking ahead.

“In the not-too-distant future, we will have personal robots just like we have personal computers today,” he said. “The robots of the future will be generalists. They will be employed in a large variety of tasks that require a lot more smarts and autonomy than is currently possible. They will have the ability to learn how to perform new tasks on their own without human intervention.”

Yes, he said, “The robots are coming. Are we ready?”