Archive for February, 2007

Harddisk performance report surprises Google

On Feb 19, Google released a rather interesting paper regarding the failure rates of hard drives; discussing the company’s experience with the 100.000 commercial hard drives, ranging from 80GB to 400GB in capacity from a wide variety of manufacturers and models, used at Google to store cached web pages and services since 2001. The report concluded that the impact of heavy use and high temperatures on hard disk drive failure may be exaggerated:

Our data indicate a much weaker correlation between utilisation levels and failures than previous work has suggested. We expected to notice a very strong and consistent correlation between high utilisation and higher failure rates. However our results appear to paint a more complex picture.
First, only very young and very old age groups appear to show the expected behaviour
.”

There is a widely held belief that heavily used hard disks are more likely to fail than those used intermittently. It has also been thought that hard drives preferred cool temperatures to hotter environments.

The engineers found, however, that hard drives less than three years old and used a lot are less likely to fail than similarly aged hard drives that are used infrequently. The authors of the report speculated that drives which failed early on in their lifetime had been removed from the overall sample leaving only the older, more robust units.

The report also noted that there was a clear trend showing “that lower temperatures are associated with higher failure rates. Only at very high temperatures is there a slight reversal of this trend.” But hard drives which are at least three years old were more likely to suffer a failure when used in warmer environments.

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February 21, 2007 at 13:59 Leave a comment

Joost p2p TV goes beta

Joost is an interactive software for distributing TV shows and other forms of video over the Web using peer-to-peer tv technology, created by Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis (founders of Skype and Kazaa).

Back in 2006 and working under the code name “The Venice Project“, Zennstrom and Friis assembled teams of some 150 software developers in about a half-dozen cities around the world.

Joost is using Mozilla open source technology. The P2P client which will deliver the TV, will be based on XULRunner and will be available on the same platforms as XULRunner supports Windows, Mac and Linux.

Running on top of these core technologies is a highly modified version of Mozilla browser, which makes it easy for the company to port its client to any operating system – Mac, Linux or even mobile operating systems. The user interface is built using SVG technology. In other words, it’s a Web-enabled hybrid application, much like the brilliant Songbird meta-music client.

Super cool to see that a post dotcom company with a huge potential is using Mozilla technology.

The teams are currently in negotiations with TV networks, it has signed up with Warner Music and production company Endemol for the beta…

More reading:

Oh, YES I’m still looking for an invitation !

February 15, 2007 at 13:00 Leave a comment

Adobe announced Flash Lite 3 – offering mobile Flash video

At the 3GSM World Congress, Adobe Systems announced that support for video will be integrated in the next generation of Adobe Flash Lite software, Adobe’s award-winning Flash Player runtime specifically designed for mobile phones.

Flash Lite 3, expected to be available in the first half of 2007, will bring the Adobe Flash Player video format from the desktop to mobile devices, enabling operators, handset manufacturers alike to deliver more compelling and engaging experiences to mobile users.

The release will be a landmark addition that includes Adobe Production Studio for professional video editing, Macromedia Flash 8 for video encoding, and Adobe Flash Media Server for video distribution.

Read the Adobe Press Release

February 14, 2007 at 09:54 Leave a comment

New technology allows windows to become a mirror at the click of a switch

Windows can naturally heat buildings in the cold seasons, however during hot sunny daysthey make you wish that windows would just go away.

Scientists from Japan have recently designed new technology that will make windows seem to disappear by turning clear, transparent glass into mirrors.

The group, from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), has designed and produced the first full-size sample of switchable mirror glass to be realistically compatible in buildings, houses and cars.

A switchable glass is glass with adjustable transparency or color, or in this case, reflective properties. Scientists Kazuki Yoshimura and Shanhu Bao experimented with improving the characteristics of previous switchable glass by using magnesium-titanium alloy as the switchable film. Two glass sheets of 60 x 70 cm (24 x 28 in) made up the window structure, and each had an interior coating of 40-nm-thick magnesium-titanium alloy, plus a 4-nm-thick layer of palladium.

Finding the correct alloy mixture was essential to producing a transparent and energy efficient switchable glass. Previous attempts at switchable glass faced commercialization problems such as being too expensive (e.g. yttrium and lanthanum), or having a yellowish tint that was unsuitable for cars or clear viewing (e.g. magnesium-nickel).

While other types of switchable glasses have already been commercialized, these varieties tend to have minimal advantages in energy efficiency. For example, electrochromatic glass, which works by using electrical signals to change color and absorb sunlight, reaches high temperatures that often end up re-radiating infrared radiation in the room.

The switching mechanism in Yoshimura and Bao’s window, on the other hand, is done by altering the gas content between the two glass panes. By introducing a small amount of hydrogen into the atmosphere between the panes, the glass acts as a transparent window. Alternatively, adding a small amount of oxygen with no hydrogen forms a reflecting mirror.

“Small amounts of hydrogen and oxygen for use in the switching process can be readily generated by decomposition of water,” the scientists reported. “The thin film showed excellent switching characteristics. . . . The change between states is very impressive.”

By applying this switchable glass to windows in homes, offices and cars, the scientists estimate that reduced air conditioning needs could result in an energy savings of up to 30%. Scientists at the AIST are currently working on maximizing the durability of the switchable glass, and overcoming the deterioration that arises due to repeated switching. Also, because the magnesium-titanium alloy can be applied to transparent materials besides glass, more applications may yet be discovered.

February 2, 2007 at 12:33 2 comments

Robot to explore Egypt’s Pyramid of Cheops for the second time

Robot to Probe Cheops Pyramid

Archaeologist plan on using a remote-controllable robot to explore deep inside the Egypt’s largest pyramid (again). Following the steps of the first bot send on a similar mission 4 years ago, the robot will descend down a narrow passage into the “Queen’s Chamber”. This gadget’s aim is to discover the mysteries beyond the “doors with copper handles” that prevented the original equipment from proceeding.

“Teams from Egypt and Singapore and a joint group from Britain and Hong Kong plan to insert the robot in February inside the Pyramid of Cheops at Giza, near to Cairo.”

It is not yet clear as to how the upgraded machine will prevail over the challenges faced by the previous robot, but it would be interesting to see what is guarded by the Egypt’s largest pyramid.

[Source: Discovery Channel]

February 1, 2007 at 20:56 Leave a comment

Perceptive Pixel reinvents the human-computer interface

Remember this name: Perceptive Pixel, because you’ll be telling anyone who will listen about their kit for the next month. Last year at the TED conference, an NYU computer scientist named Jeff Han brought the house down with his multi-touch interface. He manipulated applications with the flawless, effortless touchy-feely ability that only a few years earlier was the sole realm of Chief John Anderton.

If you think Apples new Iphone touch screen is cool, then take a look at this. The iPhone’s new touch interface might be nice, but it’s nowhere near as involved as the future UI envisioned in Minority Report, where Tom Cruise could drag objects across the screen and manipulate them in all kinds of ways, or “push” them aside to bring up something new.

February 1, 2007 at 20:30 Leave a comment


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