Category: Tech


A man browses pictures of Japanese porn star Maria Ozawa on a websitePornography dealers can start registering on the industry‘s own exclusive .xxx web domain on Wednesday following its approval by an international regulatory body earlier this

 

 

The Florida-based ICM Registry, which provides the management and supporting infrastructure for the domain name, has touted its benefits for the industry, customers and those who prefer to avoid online adult content.

“.xxx registrations begin with a 50 day Sunrise period that gives businesses both inside and outside of the adult industry an exclusive timeframe to register or exempt themselves,” it said.

“Running concurrently, Sunrise A registers interest from the sponsored adult community, while Sunrise B has been specifically designed for companies outside the adult industry” to protect their intellectual property, it said.

The domain, approved by the California-based  () earlier this year, will take its place alongside the better-known .com, .gov, .edu and .net.

ICM Registry said the McAfee  will scan the domain for  on a daily basis, making the websites safer for users, and that having pornography sites concentrated in one place will allow people to more easily chose whether to visit them.

year, the domain operator said.

New camouflage technology from BAE hides war machines

 

 

 

BAE Systems says it has a camouflage system that can render battle machines like tanks invisible or even seen as other objects in the immediate environment to protect against attack. The ‘cloak’ applied to a tank, which is BAE’s illustrated object to showcase its Adaptiv technology, can enable the tank to blend into the environment undetected or to look like another object entirely, avoiding night vision surveillance equipment and infrared targeting by aircraft. In so doing, the Adaptiv technology can mask the vehicle’s infrared signature.

The Adaptiv cloak consists of a sheet of hexagonal hand-sized patches, or as BAE calls them, pixels. Their thermo electric material can switch temperatures quickly. On-board thermal cameras are what drive the panels, picking up whatever scenery is around and then showing that image on the vehicle. Around 1,000 of these panels can cover a small tank.

BAE field-tested its technology on a Swedish CV90 tank made to blend into the scenery without detection. Alternatively, the pixels can protect gear by manipulating their appearance.  can be made to look like cars, large rocks, trucks,or cows, for example.

The Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV), helped fund BAE’s project; use of the infra-red spectrum in warfare has been an important focus for them.

BAE estimates that the technology could be ready for production in two years. Later this month BAE will demonstrate the technology on a CV90 tank at the UK Defense and Security Equipment International exhibition from September 13 to 16. According to reports, research about the Adaptiv approach has been submitted to Britain’s Ministry of Defence.

Since the days when infantry men marched in confidence wearing helmets with hanging leaves, technology has come a long way and has a way to go in the use of  in the face of modern weapons. BAE sees its Adaptiv technology as a breakthrough, however. Past attempts have entailed excessive power requirements and that’s where Adaptiv stands out. Adaptiv project manager Pader Sjolund in a statement said Adaptiv panels in contrast consume relatively little power. “Our panels can be made so strong that they provide useful armor protection and consume relatively low levels of electricity,” he said.

No doubt developments and ideas to address camouflage for warfare will continue in and outside BAE Systems. “Invisibility cloaks” is a topic of research that has been explored for some time. In 2006, Sir John Pendry at Imperial College London, led a group that focused on a “transformation optics” technique that involves the design of materials that steer light around objects, making them disappear from view.

Nearly 86% of Chinese computer users acquire their software illegally most or all of the time

A man uses the internet in Beijing. Almost half of personal computer users around the world get their software illegally, with China‘s massive market the worst culprit, a Business Software Alliance (BSA) survey showed.

 

 

 (BSA) survey showed 47 percent of PC users globally believe there is nothing wrong with using unauthorised copies of .

This includes buying a single licence for multiple installations or downloading programs from peer-to-peer networks, BSA said.

The survey of 15,000  in 32 countries showed Chinese users have the most relaxed attitude to piracy.

As many as 86 percent of computer users in the country acquire their software illegally most or all of the time, the survey showed.

“The survey makes it clear that the global software piracy epidemic is spreading fastest in China, which is now the worlds biggest market for new PCs,” said BSA president and chief executive Robert Holleyman.

The Washington-based BSA is an industry group that works for  and counts among its members some of the world’s biggest, including Apple, Microsoft, Symantec and Adobe.

Pirated software installations cost the industry nearly $59 billion globally last year, a BSA report said in May.

It said in terms of value, China was the world’s second-largest culprit behind the US, installing $7.78 billion of stolen programs last year.

The commercial value of pirate computer software used in the US was estimated at $9.5 billion, the BSA said in the May report.

 

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Apple CEO Steve Jobs has resigned and will be replaced by former Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook, the company said late Wednesday. Jobs will stay on as Apple’s chairman.

Apple made no mention of Jobs’ health in its statement about the change, but Jobs alluded to it in the letter of resignation he sent to Apple’s board on Wednesday and later released publicly.

“I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come,” wrote Jobs, who has been on medical leave since January. Cook has been filling in as the company’s leader. (For more on Tim Cook, see Fortune’s landmark profile: “Tim Cook: The genius behind Steve“)

Apple’s (AAPLFortune 500) board took pains to praise Jobs, who lead a historic turnaround for the once-ailing company. Apple shares were briefly halted in after-hours trading as Apple announced its leadership change. When trading resumed, shares dropped 5%.

“Steve’s extraordinary vision and leadership saved Apple and guided it to its position as the world’s most innovative and valuable technology company,” board member Art Levinson said. “In his new role as chairman of the board, Steve will continue to serve Apple with his unique insights, creativity and inspiration.”

Apple’s fans flocked to Twitter and other social-media sites to mark and mourn the CEO torch-passing. “The end of an era!” one Twitter user wrote, while another voiced the fears many share: “I pray it’s not bc [because] of his health.”

In January, Jobs said he would take another medical leave of absence, two years after a six-month sabbatical during which he received a liver transplant. Although it was his third medical leave of absence, he continued to make Apple’s major strategic decisions while Cook took over the day-to-day operations.

Cook has nearly 30 years of experience in the computer industry, serving in leadership roles at IBM (IBMFortune 500), Intelligent Electronics and Compaq before joining Apple in 1998.

 

Jobs made his last public appearance in June when he unveiled iCloud, a free wireless storage and syncing service, at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference. Jobs received a standing ovation when he took the stage.

Jobs co-founded Apple in 1976 from his family’s garage with Steve Wozniak. Nine years later, Jobs parted ways with Apple after disagreements with management. He returned as a consultant in 1996 and became interim CEO a year later. In 2000, he took the job permanently.

In his second run as CEO, Jobs led a Phoenix-like resurrection that transformed Apple from a bumbling also-ran to the second-largest company in the world by market value. Billion-dollar products like the iMac, iTunes, iPod, iPhone, and most recently the iPad have made Apple the envy of all tech competitors.

“I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role,” Jobs wrote in his resignation letter. “I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.”

 

Six years ago, Jobs delivered his only commencement speech — one that is often cited as the speech of his life. “Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new,” he told the crowd at Stanford University. “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

It was a powerful talk, given the CEO’s history of illness. Jobs was diagnosed with a treatable form of pancreatic cancer in 2004. Since then, both his health and how the company would run without him have been topics of intense speculation.

Tim Cook, who will take Jobs’ spot, quickly gained the favor of the notoriously hard-to-please CEO. Cook was named COO in 2005 after having “been doing this job for over two years,” Jobs said at the time. Jobs even gave him an office near his in Apple’s Cupertino headquarters.

As COO, Cook has been responsible for Apple’s product sales and operations, overseeing the company’s manufacturing, distribution and inventories, as well as negotiating with wireless networks that carry the iPhone. He organized Apple’s successful retail store strategy, and he is in charge of ensuring that Apple’s new products launch without any setbacks or major glitches.

Design and marketing, however — which fell directly under Jobs’ purview — is not Cook’s forte.

Still, some analysts that follow Apple say they believe Steve Jobs built up a resilient culture over the past 14 years, cultivating strong teams that can continue to innovate without him. Many of those teams pulled off very ambitious projects while he was on leave, including the iPad 2, iOS 5 and the new MacBook lineup.

“One of the most important things that Steve Jobs did in Apple 2.0 is rebuilding the culture,” said Mike McGuire, analyst at Gartner. “But it’s not quite the ‘cult of Steve’ like many believe. He built incredible teams that didn’t quite have free reign, but had plenty of room to innovate. It’s going to be hard work, but Apple will be fine without him.”  To top of page

This screen shot taken from myBART.org shows a page from the website after it was hacked by the hacker’s group Anonymous on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2011. Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) district officials said they were attempting Sunday to shut down the hacker’s group website that lists the names of thousands of San Francisco Bay area residents who are email subscribers of a legitimate BART website

The  known as Anonymous posted people’s names, phone numbers, and street and email addresses on its own website, while also calling for a disruption of the Bay Area Rapid Transit’s evening commute Monday. The transit agency disabled the effected website, myBART.org, Sunday night after it also had been altered by apparent hackers who posted images of the so-called Guy Fawkes masks that anarchists have previously worn when showing up to physical protests.

The  came in response to the BART’s decision to block wireless service in several of its San Francisco stations Thursday night as the agency aimed to thwart a planned protest over a transit police shooting. Officials said the protest had been designed to disrupt the evening commute.

“We are Anonymous, we are your citizens, we are the people, we do not tolerate oppression from any government agency,” the hackers wrote on their own website. “BART has proved multiple times that they have no problem exploiting and abusing the people.”

BART spokesman Jim Allison described myBART.org as a “satellite site” used for marketing purposes. It’s operated by an outside company and sends BART alerts and other information to customers, Allison said.

The names and contact info published by Sunday came from a database of 55,000 subscribers, he said. He did not know if the group had obtained information from all the subscribers, he said, adding that no bank account or  was listed.

The BART computer problem was the latest hack the loosely organized group claimed credit for this year. Anonymous has worldwide adherents to calls from the group to deface and disrupt websites.

Last month, the FBI and British and Dutch officials made 21 arrests, many of them related to the group’s attacks on Internet payment provider PayPal Inc., which has been targeted over its refusal to process donations to WikiLeaks. The group also claims credit for disrupting the websites of Visa and MasterCard in December when the credit card companies stopped processing donations to WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange.

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The group also claims to have stolen emails from the servers of News Corp., which is the accused of hacking into voicemails of prominent news makers.

Anonymous also threatened on Friday to attack the website of the Fullerton Police Department, which is under fire after a mentally ill homeless man died following a violent confrontation with officers.

Fullerton Police Sgt. Mary Murphy said the department experienced no problems with its website, email system and computer systems after taking “appropriate steps” after Anonymous made its threat.

Allison said that BART’s main website was protected from attacks as well.

BART’s decision to shut down wireless access was criticized by many as heavy handed, and some raised questions about whether the move violated .

The contretemps began Thursday night when BART officials blocked wireless access to disrupt organization of a demonstration protesting the July 3 shooting death by BART police who said the 45-year-old victim was wielding a knife.

Activists also remain upset by the 2009 death of Oscar Grant, an unarmed black passenger who was shot by a white officer on an Oakland train platform. The officer quit the force and was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after the shooting.

Facing backlash from civil rights advocates and one of its own board members, BART has defended the decision to block cell phone use, with Allison saying the cell phone disruptions were legal because the agency owns the property and infrastructure.

“I’m just shocked that they didn’t think about the implications of this. We really don’t have the right to be this type of censor,” Lynette Sweet, who serves on BART’s board of directors, said previously. “In my opinion, we’ve let the actions of a few people affect everybody. And that’s not fair.”

BART officials on Sunday were also working a strategy to try to block plans by protesters to try to disrupt service Monday.

“We have been planning for the protests that are said to be shaping up for tomorrow,” Allison said. He did not provide specifics, but said BART police will be staffing stations and trains and that the agency had already contacted San Francisco police.

Laura Eichman was among those whose email and home phone number were published by the hackers Sunday.

“I think what they (the hackers) did was illegal and wrong. I work in IT myself, and I think that this was not ethical hacking. I think this was completely unjustified,” Eichman said.

She said she doesn’t blame BART and feels its action earlier in the week of blocking cell phone service was reasonable.

“It doesn’t necessarily keep me from taking BART in the future but I will certainly have to review where I set up accounts and what kind of data I’m going to keep online,” Eichman said.

Michael Beekman of San Francisco told the AP that he didn’t approve of BART’s move to cut cell phone service or the Anonymous posting.

“I’m not paranoid but i feel like it was an invasion of privacy,” he said. “I thought I would never personally be involved in any of their (Anonymous’) shenanigans.”

The group Anonymous, according to its website, does “not tolerate oppression from any ,” and it said it was releasing the User Info Database of MyBart.gov as one of many actions to come.

“We apologize to any citizen that has his information published, but you should go to BART and ask them why your information wasn’t secure with them. Also do not worry probably the only information that will be abused from this database is that of BART employees,” the statement said.

 

Apple briefly became the most valuable company in the U.S. when it surpassed Exxon Mobil on August 9, but Breakingviews Columnist Rob Cyran says the iPhone and iPad maker may be worth far more.

I, like many people in this country, am a devoted Apple computer consumer. I mean, Apple must be superior for the common computer user who does like shiny, sleek packaging and does not like punching binary commands into the keyboard or having random code on their screen. That said, I had a disturbing visit to the Apple store earlier this week.

 

 

Let me back up. This disturbing visit was rooted in my workout (or lack there-of) regimen. Like many people in this country I will diligently jog everyday for a few months, only to have it slowly fade from my routine until one day I realize I haven’t hit the pavement in many moons.

 

Thankfully for my workout-averse brethren and I, Apple and Nike conveniently joined forces to create a market for something that really wasn’t necessary to begin with: the Nike+ GPS thing-a-majig. Somehow I convinced myself (or Apple convinced me, or Nike convinced me) that I could remedy my irregular jogging schedule with technology. Look! It tracks my workouts online. Look! It plays my “pump-up” song when I need that last little boost. Wow! Instant feedback relayed to me via a sexy voice. Lance Armstrong congratulates me after my workout!


I convinced myself this thing would make me run more often, thus get me in better shape, thus give me more energy, thus become motivated and get a good job, thus marry that beautiful girl, thus have great sex, thus live 20 years longer and die a happy, fulfilled, fit man. All this for just $29.99!

Not so fast. You need to have the compatible Nike shoe for this machinery to work. No problem- I just have to wait until the day comes when I needed a new pair of running shoes. After months of not running keep my New Balances in surprisingly good condition, I accidentally leave them out in the rain one night. The next day I sink eighty bucks into a pair of Nikes, then wander next door to the conveniently placed Apple store.

 

The first overly cheery employee sees me walk in and makes a b-line.

 

“Hello sir. Anything I can help you with today?”

 

“Yeah” I reply, “I just bought these shoes and I want to get the Nike thing for my iPod.”

 

“Perfect.” The employee spins around and grabs the Nike+ package as if he was anticipating this sale from the moment he saw my bright orange Nike shoebox.

 

“Cool” I reply. “So I just plug this part into my iPod and this part into my shoe and I’m set to go?”

 

“Pretty Much. What generation iPod do you have?”

 

“Um, I really don’t know. It’s black. It has the spinny wheel.” I motion little circles with my index finger.

 

“Oh the iPod classic.” He says with the smallest hint of condescension. Apparently my eighteen-month-old iPod had already achieved classic status. “Yeah, Nike+ isn’t compatible with that iPod.”

 

“Why? I thought you just need an iPod.”

 

“Well you see, how can I explain this…” He chooses his words wisely now, assuming I’m an Apple product luddite. “That iPod has a spinning hard drive (He mimics my motion), so Apple doesn’t recommend you run with it.”

 

“But I run with this all the time and I’ve never had any problems. So does Apple recommend I don’t run with this or will it really—“

 

The Apple punk interrupts me as if he has to stand up for his company. “No, no. It really won’t work. There’s no point in making an Apple product that will damage another Apple product.”

 

The conversation reaches a stand still.

 

“Okay…”

 

“But, do you have an iPhone?” He cheerily inquires.

 

As I mentioned earlier, I do happen to own a lot of Apple products. I dig into my jeans pocket and slide out my iPhone.

 

He sees it and squints at the phone as if it were out of focus. The condescending tone returns. “Oh, Nike+ isn’t compatible with the first generation iPhone. Besides, who really wants to run with their iPhone?”

 

I wasn’t the one to suggest it, but okay… “So what are you telling me exactly?”

 

“I’m telling you if you only own those two “i” products you can’t use Nike+”

 

Serenity Now! I gather myself “Let me rephrase. What’s the least amount of money I will have to spend to use this technology.” I foolishly assume that maybe Apple makes a third-party attachment that an individual who doesn’t own any “i” products can buy and still get feedback while they run. I assume wrong.

 

With a sale on the horizon, the Apple employee reverts back to friendly mode. “That would be our new iPod nano!” He drags me over to the display and launches into the features of the iPod. “And, and, if it’s upside down you just go like this and the display—“

Now it’s my turn to do the interrupting. “And how much will this cost?

 

“$149.99” He says. “But then you still need to buy the Nike+ kit for an additional $29.99”

 

I mean, the thing does look cool. I look at the little MP3 player and start trying to rationalize the purchase, well it can play music and you can look at all of your photos. Then I realize: Wait, don’t I already own two Apple products that do that and more?


I walk out of the store, embarrassed that I was even considering adding another “i” product to my life. But therein lies Apple’s success. They create unnecessary products for markets that shouldn’t exist. “Oh you own an iMac?” Apple corporate says, “Well what if you need to check your email and stuff on-the-go? Surely you’ll need an iBook to do so. But what if you’re on-the-go and you don’t have wireless internet? Don’t worry! Just buy an iPhone and you can always have the internet, plus have all these cool, impractical apps that you’ll never actually use, but you’ll be able to show your friends how useful it would be in the hypothetical situation where you need to know where the nearest sexual predator is located.”

 

Here’s the real kicker, a product even Apple doesn’t know how to market: “The iPad! The coolest thing apple has ever released. It can, like, store all your pictures and music like your iMac but it’s smaller. For when you’re on-the-go and you need to check your email—er, wait iBook and iPhone do that. For when you want to relax and play with some apps—dammit, iPhone does that too.” Apple digs deep, “For when you’re like, um, on the couch, and your iBook is in the other room and your iPhone is charging and you really need to see who starred in Dunstin Checks In (Jason Alexander, right?) the iPad is going to be so convenient. You’ll never believe you lived without one.”

 

I write this as the girl sitting next to me on the plane rapidly switches between her laptop, her phone and her iPad. What a poor soul lost in a shopper driven, marketing heavy, capitalistic society, I think to myself.  How lucky I am to be a rational consumer in this irrational world

 

Wait. Is that Angry Birds HD?

 

info.cern.ch

The first website ever launched went live on August 6, 1991.

On August 6, 1991, the first website was launched on the Internet, forever changing the way we browse. (And thankfully, web design has improved just a bit in the past two decades.)

We here at NewsFeed think it’s important to respect our roots. And today happens to be a milestone in our history.

It’s like we’re celebrating the 20th birthday of our great-great-great-… -great-grandfather: the modern website. You see, we (and all of our newsy brethren to say the least) essentially wouldn’t exist had it not been for the work of Tim Berners-Lee. Then a contractor at CERN, the European nuclear research organization, Berners-Lee had access to the largest Internet node on the continent.

(MOREThe Fastest Websites on the Web)

The World Wide Web has become synonymous with “the Internet” in recent years, but the Internet actually predated Berners-Lee’s invention. While the Internet allowed computers to talk to each other, the World Wide Web was dreamt up as the way to browse between them and access various information sources. Berners-Lee is credited with the invention of the World Wide Web system – which, indeed, is the primary function of the Internet that most of us use on a daily basis.

The system celebrating its 20th birthday today allows us Internet users to easily browse between websites using hyperlinks. If you type in, let’s say, http://www.time.com in your address bar – bam, the World Wide Web kicks in to connect that address to TIME’s servers. Click a link to a story, and it’s because of the Web that the page loads and renders properly.

(LISTTop 10 Internet Blunders)

The first website was hosted on the web server info.cern.ch and was a simple text page containing exactly what the World Wide Web was for: a bunch of links. And of course, in the interest of paying it forward (and because the Web can’t work without other sites to link to), the first website included instructions for making your own website.

All jargon aside, we’re pleased the Web has come so far in the past two decades. Can you imagine if websites still looked like that? We fear you wouldn’t be browsing NewsFeed because of sheer boredom from the design.

The Microsoft booth is seen during the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show

The Microsoft booth is seen during the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center, January 2011. Microsoft on Wednesday kicked off a contest aimed at turning the tables on hackers by offering big money prizes for innovative tactics to foil cyber attacks.

Microsoft on Wednesday kicked off a contest aimed at turning the tables on hackers by offering big money prizes for innovative tactics to foil cyber attacks.

The US software titan launched the premier BlueHat Prize competition at a major Black Hat computer security conference in Las Vegas.

“As the risk of criminal attacks on private and government computer systems continues to increase, Microsoft recognizes the need to stimulate research in the area of defensive computer security technology,” said Microsoft Trustworthy Computer Group general manager Matt Thomlinson.

“Our interest is to promote a focus on developing innovative solutions rather than discovering individual issues,” he continued.

Microsoft opted to offer prizes for defending against entire types of cyber attacks instead of simple paying “bounties” to those that discover individual computer bugs.

BlueHat promised more than $250,000 dollars in cash and other prizes to software savants at young as 14 years old. The theme for the first year of the contest was preventing hacks exploiting computer memory vulnerabilities.

Microsoft said it hoped the contest would inspire contributions from researchers, security professionals, and even young hackers.

“Some of the value in this prize is beyond money; it is inspiring not just the current generation but the next generation,” said Microsoft lead security strategist Katie Moussouris.

“We have found that some of our best defenders come from the opposite side of the security coin,” she added.

BlueHat Prize entries will be evaluated by an internal panel of judges at Microsoft, with $200,000 going to the top submission and $50,000 awarded to the second place finisher.

The third-place prize will be a subscription to Microsoft services worth $10,000.

BlueHat winners will be revealed at the Black Hat gathering in Las Vegas next year. Information about the contest was available online at bluehatprize.com.

Google+, is growing much more rapidly than Facebook, Myspace and Twitter did in their early days

 

Google is a latecomer to social networking but its new site, Google+, is growing much more rapidly than Facebook, Myspace and Twitter did in their early days, technology experts said.

While + may be the fastest-growing social network ever, it remains to be seen, however, whether it can pose a serious threat to the  titan Facebook, which has more than 750 million members.

Andrew Lipsman, vice president for industry analysis at tracking firm , said Google+, which was launched by the  and advertising giant on June 28, had 25 million unique visitors as of July 24.

During a panel discussion on Google+ hosted by Wedbush Securities, Lipsman said it took other social networks much longer to reach 25 million users: 22 months for Myspace, 33 months for  and 37 months for Facebook.

“Obviously, this is a very strong growth trajectory,” Lipsman said.

He cautioned, however, that Google “has a really large user base it can build off of” with its one billion users worldwide.

And it still has a “really long way to go to be competitive with Facebook,” Lipsman said.

“Google+ is the fastest by a long shot but it’s important to realize that fastest may not always be best,” he said. “Sometimes, that slow build can lead to a strong network effect that pays long-term dividends.”

Most Google+ users — 6.4 million — are in the United States, followed by India with 3.6 million, Canada with 1.1 million, Britain with 1.1 million and Germany with over 920,000, according to comScore.

Lipsman said many Google+ users appear to also be users of Google’s email program  and display a “very strong early adopter profile.”

He said the ratio of men to women is about two to one and that 60 percent of Google+ users are between the ages of 18 and 34.

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In the United States, the highest numbers of Google+ users are in the tech-savvy cities of San Francisco and Austin, Texas, he said.

Steve Rubel, executive vice president for global strategy and insights at public relations firm Edelman, said Facebook is not “vulnerable immediately” to Google.

“I don’t see (Google+) taking significant share from Facebook in the next 18 months,” Rubel said.

At the same time, “what we have seen is that over the years there’s never been a social network or community that has had significant staying power,” he said. “There’s always a shuffling every two or three years, a changing of the guard.

“We saw it with ,” he said of the one-time social networking leader that has been eclipsed by Facebook and hemorrhaging users ever since.

Rubel said Google was compelled to try its hand at social networking because Facebook is restricting the access of its search engine to Facebook content.

“What’s happening is more content is being created behind Facebook’s walls than ever before and a lot of that content is invisible to Google,” he said.

“Conceptually, at least, they’re building kind of an alternate Web… There’s also an entire Web that is app-based on mobile phones. That is also invisible to them.”

Rubel said it was conceivable that more content would be invisible to them in five or 10 years than what the search engine can see today when created on Facebook or inside apps.

“So they had to make a play to get more people to create content on their site,” he continued. “It’s to get more people to spend time on Google.”

In unveiling Google+, Google stressed the ability it gives users to separate online friends and family into different “Circles,” or networks, and to share information only with members of a particular circle.

One of the criticisms of Facebook is that updates are shared with all of one’s friends unless a user has gone through a relatively complicated process to create separate  Groups.

Defibrillator for stalled software

It’s happened to everyone: You’re using a familiar piece of software to do something you’ve done a thousand times before — say, find a particular word in a document — and all of a sudden the program just stops working. You click the cursor and move the mouse, but nothing changes on-screen, and finally you just quit the program, losing whatever work you’d done since the last time you saved.

Often, a stalled program has gone into what computer scientists call an infinite loop, where it keeps executing a single block of code over and over. At the 25th European Conference on Object-Oriented Programming in Lancaster, England, in July, researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) presented a new tool that automatically interrupts infinite loops and moves on to the next line of code in the computer program. In tests, their system restored five different programs to stable enough states that data could be saved and the programs exited safely; in the majority of cases, the programs also provided at least a partial solution to the computations they were trying to perform when they got hung up.

Loops are among the most basic building blocks of computer programs. They allow a programmer to specify, in a single step, a procedure that has to be performed on many pieces of data in sequence. For instance, the search function in a word processor might have to look at thousands of individual letters in even a fairly short document, comparing each of them to the letters in a search term. If it doesn’t find a match, it will move onto the next letter and “loop” back to re-execute the code that does the comparing.

Wheel spinning

A commercial program might contain tens of thousands of loops, and a slight error in the code for any one of them could lead to an infinite loop, in which the computer doesn’t know when to stop repeating the same operation. Computer science professor Martin Rinard and his graduate students Michael Carbin, Sasa Misailovic and Michael Kling developed a software tool that they call Jolt, which recognizes infinite loops by monitoring the program’s use of memory. A computer user who’s worried that his or her computer has entered an infinite loop could activate Jolt, which would take a series of “snapshots” of the computer’s memory after each iteration of a loop.

“The snapshots could be completely different,” explains Carbin, who is first author on the paper. “That can be an indicator that your program is computing. It may be doing something useful for you, so maybe you don’t want to break out of this. But if it’s not, and it has exactly the same state, then clearly it’s stuck in an infinite loop.”

Jolt works in conjunction with a compiler, a program that translates code written in a high-level programming language into rudimentary instructions that a computer can understand. When an application is being compiled, Jolt marks the beginnings and ends of all the loops indicated in the source code. If the compiled application later stalls, Jolt simply forces it to skip ahead to the first instruction following the loop it’s stuck in.

Keeping tabs on all the loops in a program, however, causes it to run 7 or 8 percent slower, Carbin says. And getting commercial software developers to use Jolt when compiling their code could be a tall order. So the CSAIL researchers are working on a version of Jolt that operates directly on compiled applications, whose instructions consist entirely of fixed-length sequences of binary numbers. This binary version of Jolt, the researchers explain, will be called Bolt.

Course correction

Bolt uses the same infinite-loop detection mechanism that Jolt did, and in early tests, it seems to work well with binary files. The steeper challenge is determining what instruction to jump to once a loop has been identified. A function written in a high-level programming language might invoke other functions, which could invoke still other functions. But at the binary level, those nested function calls just look like a long list of numbers. Figuring out where one function ends and another begins is no easy task.

But Kling has developed a clever algorithm that can identify the highest-level function in operation at a given time — the one that has initiated all the others — which could help Bolt orient itself. And even if the system can’t make an informed decision, Rinard explains, it could just start hopping around to new instructions at random, until it finds one that breaks the impasse.

Randomly modifying code on the fly may sound antithetical to the whole idea of computer engineering, but it’s an approach that’s paid off for Rinard’s group, in research on websites that can weather malicious attacks and software that adjusts to changing hardware conditions, among other things.

“The vast majority of software engineering or programming-language researchers are shackled to this notion of full correctness or full soundness: You can’t change anything in the program if there’s even the possibility of getting a slightly wrong answer,” says Westley Weimer, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Virginia. “One of the things that’s really characterized Martin’s research over the last 10 or 15 years is casting off the shackles of soundness in favor of approaches that are probably correct but dramatically more useful in real life.”

Weimer acknowledges that for Bolt, determining what instruction to jump to is a “difficult” problem, and because of some fundamental results in , “I know for a fact that he’ll never be able to get it exactly right.” But, Weimer says, “The vast majority of infinite loops he will be able to figure out.” There might be a few instances where Bolt will guess wrong, Weimer says. “But the comparison — and this is important for this kind of work — is that if he doesn’t jump, you’re stuck in an infinite loop. The comparison is not that it was working fine and he messed it up.”

This story is republished courtesy of MIT News (http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/), a popular site that covers news about MIT research, innovation and teaching.

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