Intel debuts six-core gaming chip

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

As previously reported, the Core i7- 980X Extreme Edition processor was introduced at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.

The chip is based on Intel's newest 32-nanometer process technology. Generally, the smaller the manufacturing process, the better the performance. Most Intel processors still use "fatter" 45-nanometer technology.

Like other Core i series processors, it features Hyper-Threading, which can double the number of tasks--or threads--a processor can execute. The technology, which is not offered on prior-generation Core 2 chips, allows a six-core processor to handle 12 threads.

"The Core i7-980X Extreme Edition is the fastest desktop processor we have ever tested, bar none," said in a review published on Wednesday. "Factor in support for AES-NI, HyperThreading, and bump the shared L3 cache up to a cool 12MB, and you've got the makings of one seriously fast CPU." (AES-NI, or Advanced Encryption Standard New Instruction, is a technology for boosting security, available on Intel "Westmere" 32-nanometer processors.)

As many users will elect to build their own systems, motherboards already available from vendors such as Gigabyte (e.g., the EX58A-UD5) and Asus can take the new 980x chip. Game box suppliers such as Falcon Northwest and Dell's Alienware unit are also expected to offer configurations with the new processor. (Update: CNET has reviewed the Falcon Northwest Mach V, saying: "record-setting application performance thanks to overclocking and Intel's new six-core Core i7 chip.")

Intel also introduced GPA (graphics performance analyzer) v3.0, which helps PC game developers analyze and optimize game performance. The updated development platform supports multicore optimizations and includes support for DirectX 10.1 and 64-bit game executables, Intel said.

Microsoft Outlook

Monday, March 22, 2010

If you use both Outlook and MySpace, you are part of an interesting demographic. But you are also in luck.

Microsoft and MySpace said on Wednesday that they are ready with the beta version of a tool that lets Outlook users see their MySpace connections within the e-mail and calendaring program. A new "social connector" feature for Outlook lets users connect to social networks, including MySpace, LinkedIn, and soon Facebook, too.

In a blog posting, Microsoft said the connector for MySpace is now ready.

"MySpace for Outlook enables you to view activity updates for friends and colleagues in the People Pane, synchronize your MySpace contact list to your Outlook contacts, and get one-click access to profiles," Outlook program manager Michael Affronti said in the blog.

The MySpace connector works with Outlook 2003, Outlook 2007, and Outlook 2010. A beta of the connector for LinkedIn was made available last month. The connector for Facebook is due sometime in the first half of this year.

Twitter to block malicious links

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Twitter is launching a new service designed to stop users of the social-media site from getting duped by phishing links that steal their login credentials and other attacks.

The company will route all links submitted to the site through a filter created to catch links that lead to malware, the company said on the Twitter blog on Tuesday.

"A couple weeks ago, Biz [Stone, Twitter co-founder] explained how Twitter users were being victimized by phishing scams spread primarily through links in direct messages," the post said. "Basically, people click the link and bad things happen. My team can only detect these scams after malicious links have already been sent out."

With the new filtering service, even if a bad link is already sent out in an e-mail notification and somebody clicks on it, the user will be safe, according to the post.

The filtering will focus on links sent via direct messages and e-mail notifications about direct messages since the attacks occur primarily in those communications.

PS3 motion controller

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A small device that looks like a microphone--but with something on top of it that looks like a ping pong ball with an LED inside--Move is Sony's bid to gain control over the motion controller wars that are currently led by Nintendo, with its Wii controller, and which many think will be dominated by Microsoft and its Project Natal controller system.

To Sony, releasing the Move is an obvious move for the PlayStation, given it believes it started the motion controller era with its Eye Toy. Sony held its press conference during the Game Developers Conference here.

Now, the Move, which will be available this fall in a starter kit that begins at under $100 for a Move, a PlayStation eye camera and a game, is its attempt to jump ahead of Microsoft's Natal and to begin winning over Wii users.
"We like to think that the migration path between Wii households and PlayStation households is a natural path," said Peter Dille, Sony's senior vice president for marketing and PlayStation.

Shuehei Yoshida, Sony's president for worldwide studios, said Move will "demonstrate that the motion controller for PS3 will be the solution for both casual and hard-core gamers alike" and that the types of games Sony can create with it are "amazingly diverse."

Among the types of games Move will work with include those that involve swords, bows and arrows, guns, punching and much more. The idea is that Move will provide players with a realistic and precise feeling of holding whatever kind of thing the game calls for, be it a sword or a gun.

Sony first talked about its new motion controller at E3 last year but didn't have a name or any kind of timing. Now, by unveiling the device's name it can begin what Dille said will be the company's biggest video game marketing effort of the year.

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Google Maps

Friday, March 19, 2010

In a move sure to make the grade with cyclists across the United States, on Wednesday added bicycle routes to its Google Maps service.

Biking directions and extensive bike trail data are now available for the United States through Google Maps, giving cyclists nationwide a way to customize their trips, figure out the most efficient routes, make use of bike lanes and avoid big hills.

"When I need to get off the trail to cross town, biking directions makes sure to keep me on bike-friendly roads and avoid some of the city's busiest intersections," Google product manager Shannon Guymon explained in a blog post early Wednesday morning. "The time estimate for the route is based on a complex set of variables accounting for the type of road, terrain and turns over the course of my ride."

More than 12,000 miles of trails are now included in biking directions and outlined directly on maps through the service thanks to a partnership with the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Guymon added. Also included are data on bike lanes and recommended streets for 150 cities across the country.

Perceived Security vs. Real Vulnerability

Thursday, March 18, 2010

With global organizations depending on the sharing of sensitive information to support everything from financial transactions to patient care records, many believe they are relying on secure methods to exchange data with trusted partners. However, there is often a significant and alarming gap between perceived security and real vulnerability.

To handle transmission of valuable company data, typical methods that are considered secure include FTP technology, "secure email," regular email, courier services and the postal service.

However, contrary to popular belief, the aforementioned most common methods used for file transfer are often not secure enough, and lack manageability and governance. Let's take FTP technology, for instance. A shortcoming with traditional FTP and even encrypted FTP sessions is that after the data stops moving (aka "data at rest"), it sits on the FTP or SFTP server in plain text. If that FTP or SFTP server is directly connected to the Internet -- as it most likely will be to allow business partners to connect to it -- the data is at risk of being accessed and shared. This is in violation of PCI and HIPAA standards.

FTP technology can also slow down business processes, as an organization's IT team often needs to modify FTP scripts in order to support a new business initiative or bring on a new business partner that needs to exchange sensitive information with the system. Furthermore, having the ability to know if the files were transferred correctly and on time (i.e., monitoring) is very difficult to do with transfer methods such as FTP, email and couriers.

EFF Knocks Apple for Dumping on Devs

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The first rule of Apple's App Club is: You do not talk about App Club. Any developer who writes an app for the App Store is forbidden from making any public statements about the iPhone Developer Program Licensing Agreement.

Second rule of App Club is: Said developers also can't sell their apps to other app stores, even if that app is eventually rejected by Apple. Third rule of App Club: You can't reverse engineer anything having to do with the App Store software development kit (SDK) or the iPhone OS.

Fourth rule: Apple retains the right to remove your app from the App Store at any time, for any reason. (Hello, Hottest Girls app; goodbye, Hottest Girls app.) Fifth rule: If you're sued because of your app, or if Apple screws up the app to the point where you lose money and/or customers, Steve Jobs' company is liable for only a whopping US$50 in damages -- an Apple self-insurance deductible, as it were.

With Jobs playing the role of Tyler Durden, these are the rules that application developers have had to live by if they want a shot at the largest, most successful smartphone app store out there, and by extension the audience of 40 million iPhone users. The contract details have been some of the closest-held secrets in Silicon Valley -- until this week, when the Electronic Frontier Foundation, using a Freedom of Information Act request on taxpayer-funded NASA (hello, NASA iPhone App), got the agency to give up its first copy, and then the latest version of the Licensing Agreement. EFF then posted it to its Web site, along with a stinging Deeplinks blog post from senior staff attorney Fred von Lohmann, who posits a dark scenario of Apple mobile domination that could include the forthcoming iPad.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Color is not typically a topic of much discussion on the Linux blogs, but in recent weeks, it's been drawing a lot of attention.

Why, you ask? Simple: Ubuntu recently announced a major change to its longstanding "Human" earthtone-palette theme and branding.

"I don't know whether to call it 'poo brown' or 'dirt brown,' but either way it is seriously awful," Slashdot blogger hairyfeet told LinuxInsider.

Orange and Aubergine

The new theme is meant to focus on the concept of "Light," and it uses primarily hues in the dark purple and orange ranges.

"We identified a palette which includes both a fresh, lively Orange, and a rich, mature Aubergine, which work together," Canonical's Mark Shuttleworth explained in a post accompanying the announcement. "The use of Aubergine indicates Commercial involvement of one form or another, while Orange is a signal of community engagement."

Along with a "warm gray supporting colour to give shape to pages and documents" and new logo designs, the overall effect is that Ubuntu 10.04 LTS and beyond will look very, very different.

Corel's X3 Photo Editor

Sunday, March 14, 2010

In the Windows world, photographers looking for an alternative to Adobe Photoshop that will save them cash without skimping on power typically have turned to Corel's (Nasdaq: CORL) PaintShop Photo Pro. The program has consistently kept pace with the evolving needs of shutterbugs over the years and the latest "X3" version (US$99) of the software continues that tradition.

Among the new features in X3 are a number of improvements to enhance a photographer's workflow. Workflow is important to shooters because once an image is captured, they are going to want to find it again eventually.

With X3, photos can be displayed in multiple views for quick scanning.

When a photog makes changes in one photo that he or she wants to apply to many images, it can be done with X3's new batch processing feature.

Express Lab, a feature that permits an imagesmith to apply multiple editing tools -- noise removal, sharpening, contrast adjustment and tone mapping -- with a single click has been enhanced to make it easier to use.

Local tone mapping is new to X3. It allows a shooter to modify the dynamic range of a photo. It's useful for recovering detail in a photo with large discrepancies between the light and dark areas in it.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

U.S. regulators are seeking sworn declarations from Google Inc. competitors and advertisers as part of their probe of the Internet company’s bid to buy AdMob Inc., indicating the government may challenge the deal, said people with direct knowledge of the matter.

The Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether Google’s proposed purchase of AdMob would reduce competition in the market for Internet advertising on mobile phones. At least two companies are being asked to sign statements, said the people, who declined to be identified because the probe isn’t being conducted in public.

The declarations put on paper information that Google rivals gave the FTC in its investigation of the $750 million purchase of AdMob, announced in November. AdMob sells ads that appear on Web pages and applications on mobile phones. The agency is assessing whether the purchase would let Google parlay its dominance in Internet searches on computers to phones.

Agency officials typically collect declarations “when they think there is some significant chance” the agency will ask a court to block a merger, or seek to modify a deal, said Stephen Calkins, a former general counsel at the FTC who is now a professor of law at Wayne State University’s law school in Detroit. Even so, it’s not uncommon for the agency to collect affidavits and then not litigate, he said.

Experts warn of catastrophe from cyberattacks

Friday, March 12, 2010

Computer-based network attacks are slowly bleeding U.S. businesses of revenue and market advantage, while the government faces the prospect of losing in an all-out cyberwar, experts told Senators in a hearing on Tuesday.

"If the nation went to war today in a cyberwar, we would lose," said Michael McConnell, executive vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton's national security business and a former director of national security and national intelligence. "We're the most vulnerable. We're the most connected. We have the most to lose."

The U.S. will not be able to mitigate the risk from cyberattack until the government gets more actively involved in protecting the nation's network, which may not occur until after a "catastrophic event" happens, McConnell said in testimony during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

"The government's role will change to become more active," he said. "We're going to morph the Internet from '.com' to '.secure.'"

The subject of the hearing was the Cyber Security Act of 2009, which would regulate organizations and companies that provide critical infrastructure for the U.S., require licensing and certification for cybersecurity professionals, and provide funding for grant and scholarship programs. The U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the Cyber Security Act earlier this month.

Toyota official says recall may not fully solve safety problem

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Toyota executive told the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday that the company's huge recall might "not totally" solve the problem of unintended sudden acceleration in its vehicles.

In response to a question by the committee Chairman Henry Waxman, the executive, James Lentz III, the president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., said Toyota was still examining the sudden acceleration problem, including the possibility that the electronics system may be at fault. At this point, he said, Toyota has found no evidence of a computer problem, but "we continue to look for potential causes."

There is the possibility, he said "of mechanical, human, or some other type of error."
"We need to be vigilant and continue to investigate all the complaint of the consumers," Lentz said.

Lentz also told the committee that Toyota was installing a new brake system that can override the gas pedal on almost all its new vehicles and most of those already on the road. He said that more than 800,000 recalled vehicles have been repaired.

Waxman, while criticizing Toyota's response to the recall, told Lentz: "We need to be sure that you're doing a full and adequate analysis of something you've denied, but that other witnesses have shown us is very possible."

"Consumer complaints need to be taken seriously," Waxman said in his opening remarks. "The possibility of electronic defects must be actively investigated."

In a confrontational back-and-forth, Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts told Lentz, "You said you had solved the problem, you don't know if you have solved the problem."

Referring to the tests the company is running on its computer systems, Markey added, "You're only at the beginning of your investigation."

"We have not seen failures," Lentz reiterated.

Since last fall, Toyota has recalled more than eight million vehicles worldwide--more than 6 million in the United States alone--in two actions related to complaints about accelerator pedals that can stick, making it hard to stop the vehicles. Witnesses before Lentz detailed how an electronic problem could have caused sudden unintended accelerations.

China seeks identity of Web site operators

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Web site operators will need to offer photographs of themselves and meet Internet service providers in person under new guidelines announced by the Chinese government this week, according to published reports.

The "trial regulations" were issued by China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology under the auspices of an ongoing anti-porn campaign, but they will also help the government create records of all sites in the country and could be used to block other types of online content, the IDG News Service reported on Tuesday.

The regulations, which were dated February 8 and posted on sites of the Chinese telcom regulator on Monday, require ISPs to meet people applying to register new Web sites and to collect photographs of them. They also require applicants to provide a description of the site's content, along with other information, the report said.

Web sites without government records will lose their domain name resolution by the end of September, effectively pulling them off the Internet, the news service reported. More than 130,000 sites have been pulled offline recently for not having records with the government, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

China is the largest Internet market, with more than 384 million users of the global network, Xinhua reports.

The tightening of China's clampdown on Internet use comes as government officials there resume talks with Google over the search giant's plans to stop censoring Web searches in that country, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Google and China have been in a showdown since Google announced last month that it was targeted by a hacker attack that appeared to originate in China and which targeted Gmail users who are human rights activists. At the time, Google said it would stop censoring its searches in that domain and might even pull out of the country entirely.

Xerox sues Google, Yahoo over search patents

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Google and Yahoo are named in Xerox's complaint, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Delaware, as operating products and services that infringe on two Xerox patents for organizing documents. The two patents, No. 6,778,979 and No. 6,236,994, were granted to Xerox in 2004 and 2001, respectively.

In its complaint, Xerox said various services from Google and Yahoo--including AdWords, Yahoo Search, and YouTube--fall under the scope of the patents, entitled "System for Automatically Generating Queries" and "Method and Apparatus for the Integration of Information and Knowledge." Xerox is seeking an injunction against Google and Yahoo as part of the case, which is a relatively common move in patent trials.

Google and Yahoo representatives told Reuters they intend to fight the charges. A Xerox representative told Bloomberg that the company tried to work out a licensing deal with the two companies but was unsuccessful.

And so begins another potentially messy patent feud. Kodak recently sued Apple and Research in Motion for patent infringement, while Apple wages a separate patent battle against Nokia.

Adobe plugs critical hole in Download Manager

Monday, March 8, 2010

Adobe issued a fix on Tuesday for a critical vulnerability in its Download Manager program that could be used by an attacker to download malware onto a user's PC.

People who downloaded Adobe Reader for Windows from Adobe's Reader download site or Flash Player for Windows from Adobe's Flash Player site prior to the release of the security bulletin on Tuesday are vulnerable, the company said. The issue is resolved for any new downloads of Reader and Flash Player from those sites.

Download Manager is a tool that helps users efficiently download files from Web servers. It is used one time per session and is deleted when the computer is restarted. However, Adobe recommends users verify that a potentially vulnerable version of the Adobe Download Manager is no longer installed on their machine by following instructions contained in the Solution section of the security bulletin.

Adobe warned of the vulnerability in a blog post on Thursday.

The company credited Israeli security researcher Aviv Raff, and Dutch researcher Yorick Koster working through the iDefense Vulnerability Contributor Program, for reporting the issue. Raff accused Adobe of downplaying the issue in a post on his blog on Thursday.

Asked for comment, an Adobe spokesperson provided this statement: "The security of our customers is a number one priority for Adobe, and we take all reports of potential security issues in our products and technologies very seriously. To report a security issue to Adobe directly, please visit the Adobe Web site, so we can quickly and appropriately address the issue for our customers."


Sunday, March 7, 2010

The overwhelmingly young and male audience at the Future of Web Apps (FOWA) event this week tells you that it's one of those conferences where the attendees don't tend to be marketers, finance guys, or advertisers: they're the kids who write the code.

A company like Facebook obviously wants to be there, and at past FOWA events it's used the soapbox opportunity to market developer initiatives like its application platform and Facebook Connect log-in tool. But this year the focus was instead on open source, with relatively recent hire David Recordon taking the stage rather than a platform evangelist. Recordon, who spearheaded the launch of the Open Web Foundation, is Facebook's first really prominent open-source guru, and when it comes to Facebook's marketing pitches, the open-source guys have taken a little more coaxing than the iPhone developers or widget-builders.

For a time, much of the open-source community was outright hostile to Facebook for keeping content behind a log-in wall, relying on proprietary technologies rather than open standards, and declining to participate in big open-Web initiatives like the Google-helmed OpenSocial and FriendConnect. Facebook's hire of Recordon, a Six Apart veteran, was therefore both a savvy PR move as well as a key engineering hire.

His point in his FOWA talk on Tuesday was to explain some of the open-source initiatives offered or supported by Facebook: mobile development library Three20, PHP source code transformer HipHop, authentication technology OAuth 2.0, publishing protocol PubSubHubbub ("definitely named by an engineer," Recordon quipped), and Web server Tornado.

"I joined Facebook about six months ago and it's been sort of nonstop since then," Recordon said at the start of his talk. "The first week I got there was a few weeks after the FriendFeed acquisition, and FriendFeed had an amazing piece of technology, a Web server Tornado." Facebook open-sourced Tornado, which powered FriendFeed's real-time streaming technology, and Recordon said that start-ups like Twitter client Brizzly and Q&A site Quora are now using it.

Google faces class action lawsuit over Buzz

Saturday, March 6, 2010

GOOGLE is facing legal action over claims it breached privacy laws with its controversial social networking service Buzz.

A class action lawsuit has been filed in the US on behalf of Florida resident Eva Hibnick by law firms in San Francisco and Washington, DC, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Lawyers filed the case on behalf of all Gmail users whose accounts were automatically linked to Buzz, a service that allows users to post updates and photos in a similar manner to Facebook.

The case, filed in San Jose, California, federal court, accuses the internet giant of breaking various electronic communications laws including the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

The plaintiff was reportedly seeking injunctions to prevent the company from taking similar action in the future as well as unspecified monetary relief.
The court filing noted there were 31.2 million Gmail users in January and that Google "added the Buzz program to most or all of these accounts".

Google has been fielding tough questions since the launch of the new product which users say shared their private information with others.

The Wall Street Journal's Digits blog previously reported that Google was scrambling to ward off public backlash over Buzz.

In an interview last week, Google product manager Todd Jackson said the Google Buzz product was not set in stone and that the company was working on new features, some of which would address privacy concerns.

"It’s still early, and we have a long list of improvements on the way," he said, declining to go into detail.

"We look forward to hearing more suggestions and will continue to improve the Buzz experience with user transparency and control top of mind."

The Electronic Privacy Information Centre filed a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission earlier this week arguing that enrolment to the product should be voluntary and that users should have more meaningful control over their information.

WISE telescope

Friday, March 5, 2010

NASA has unveiled the first images captured by its new $350 million telescope, including one of a comet discovered in Australia.

NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) was launched in December, the most sensitive satellite of its type in almost three decades.

It searches the sky in infrared for top-notch picture opportunities, taking snaps of anything from stars to luminous galaxies as well as comets and asteroids.

NASA has released just a handful of shots so far - the first of millions to come, say scientists - with images of Comet Siding Spring taking pride of place.

It was discovered in 2007 by Australian Donna Burton at the Siding Spring Observatory in northwest NSW.

The snowball-like comet is also the subject of an animated series of shots, which show it in vivid colour as it streaks across the sky.

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Its proximity to the sun causes it to shed ice and dust, which trail behind it - as captured in the movie.

Astronomers at the Anglo-Australian Telescope have welcomed the WISE mission, saying the data will help their own research projects.

3D television

Thursday, March 4, 2010

IF YOU were thinking about heading out and buying that new flatscreen this weekend you may want to hold off for a couple of months.

Panasonic allowed The Daily Telegraph to have the first look at 3D TV in Australia - a 127cm (50 inch) Viera plasma model in the country for industry testing - and our reaction can be summed up in one word: Wow.

And the good news, according to Panasonic, is the first wave of 3D TVs due to hit the market mid-year will be "surprisingly affordable".

The panel offers 3D in full high definition but does require the viewer to wear battery-powered glasses to enjoy the full immersive effect.

For the demonstration we watched a number of clips including sports such as beach volleyball, baseball and basketball with the ball seemingly firing out from the screen.
Another video showed footage of the Grand Canyon which stretched into the distance as though we were standing on the edge looking in.

A section showing tropical fish swimming in and around a coral reef gave the illusion that the colourful creatures had broken free of the boundaries of the panel.

We also viewed scenes from the 3D animated film Astro Boy.

With the success of Avatar and the fact it has made most of its money from 3D screenings, it is clear the market is ready for the same experience at home.

Harvey Norman head of consumer electronics Dave Ackery said 3D TV would drive a whole new market.

"There's enough buzz around it now and enough information to get the usual cycle with the early adopters," Mr Ackery said.

"It's very exciting because the technology is quite good. The interesting thing from a pricing point of view is it's not going to be much of a premium to get the 3D experience."

Rewinding the Clock for Aging Cells

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Reverting skin cells from people with a premature aging disease back to a more embryonic state appears to overcome the molecular defect in these cells. People with the disease have abnormally short telomeres, a repetitive stretch of DNA that caps chromosomes and shrinks with every cell Researchers from Children's Hospital Boston found that reprogramming the skin cells, using induced pluripotent stem cell technology, lengthened the telomeres in the cells. The reprogramming process activated the telomerase enzyme, which is responsible for maintaining telomeres. The research was published today in the online version of the journal Nature.

The research adds to previous findings suggesting that enhancing activity of the telomerase enzyme might benefit patients with premature aging disorders. The study also provides a new tool for studying telomerase, an enzyme of great interest to scientists working on both aging and cancer. The shortening of telomeres over a lifetime is thought to be tied to aging. And abnormal activation of telomerase in cancer cells allows them to proliferate uncontrollably. While scientists already knew that reprogramming could lengthen telomeres in cells from healthy people, it was unclear if the same could happen in cells with defective telomerase.division, even in healthy people.

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Solar Cells Use Nanoparticles to Capture More Sunlight

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Inexpensive thin-film solar cells aren't as efficient as conventional solar cells, but a new coating that incorporates nanoscale metallic particles could help close the gap. Broadband Solar, a startup spun out of Stanford University late last year, is developing coatings that increase the amount of light these solar cells absorb.
Based on computer models and initial experiments, an amorphous silicon cell could jump from converting about 8 percent of the energy in light into electricity to converting around 12 percent. That would make such cells competitive with the leading thin-film solar cells produced today, such as those made by First Solar, headquartered in Tempe, AZ, says Cyrus Wadia, codirector of the Cleantech to Market Program in the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. Amorphous silicon has the advantage of being much more abundant than the materials used by First Solar. The coatings could also be applied to other types of thin-film solar cells, including First Solar's, to increase their efficiency.

Broadband believes its coatings won't increase the cost of these solar cells because they perform the same function as the transparent conductors used on all thin-film cells and could be deposited using the same equipment.

Broadband's nanoscale metallic particles take incoming light and redirect it along the plane of the solar cell, says Mark Brongersma, professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford and scientific advisor to the company. As a result, each photon takes a longer path through the material, increasing its chances of dislodging an electron before it can reflect back out of the cell. The nanoparticles also increase light absorption by creating strong local electric fields.


Monday, March 1, 2010

AUSTRALIANS are abandoning pen-and-paper shopping lists and buying with their mobile phones in the latest retail craze.

The newest type of shopping to sweep the globe is set to drive annual sales of $119 billion worldwide by 2015, a report reveals.

Consumers can already order goods ranging from pizzas to digital cameras, TVs, nappies and even footy jumpers with the touch of a phone button.

Others are using handsets to direct them to supermarkets, banks or fast-food outlets while on the road, or to check recipes before grabbing groceries on the run.

Retail analysts said most Aussies were using smartphones like the iPhone to search for products and best deals or to find store locations before hitting the shops to buy.

An ABI Research report predicts a boom in actual buying in future years as more consumers upgrade their handsets and companies make online shopping services more quickly and easily accessible with phones as well as computers.

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Pizza chain Domino's says a new iPhone application that lets users order its food with their handsets has generated sales of $2 million in just 12 weeks.

Since October, 110,000 iPhone users have downloaded an application that lets you find your nearest Coles supermarket, create electronic shopping lists through links to recipes or select various groceries from a virtual home.

Coles IT general manager Conrad Harvey said there were plans to add weekly catalogue specials.

The company is also investigating a system to share electronic shopping lists with family and friends.