26-Foot-Tall Rubik's Cube Is Even Harder to Solve

26 feet tall and still just as hard to figure out. [Photo: Groovik]

It first appeared at Burning Man, providing a guiding light in the wastes, and now it's coming to Seattle's Pacific Science Center. What is it? Why, it's a huge 26-foot Rubik’s cube that can actually be solved. It takes 3 people, however, and they stand apart from each other (60ft-Burning Man, 30ft-PacSci) and each participant only gets to rotate one axis. Created by Groove Studios, they call it the “Groovik’s Cube.”

As the Groovik site puts it:

"Groovik's Cube offers a unique new playing mode consisting of three players who must collaborate to solve the classic Rubik's cube puzzle. The cube is controlled via three touch screen interfaces located around the cube, with each interface capable of rotating only one axis of the cube - no single player can solve the cube alone."

I know what you’re thinking, because I thought it too: The giant cube doesn’t rotate and turn in the air as if it were being solved by Yoda. The cube, which is built from steel and fabric, is lit from the inside with powerful LEDs, so it just has to change the color being displayed to reflect the moves made by the players.

Not having to move and rotate an enormous steel Rubik’s cube also allows people, as in 3 of them, to compete for the fastest solving time possible. The Groovik’s Cube has only been solved 6 times with the fastest time so far was at Burning Man, surprisingly enough, where 3 people puzzled it out with a time of just 46 minutes. I wonder how long it took them to find threepeople at Burning Man who could work together well enough to solve the massive Rubik’s cube.

Weighing in at a little over 2 tons (4500 lbs), the huge cube can be mounted on a steel pole and secured by guy-lines. Surprisingly, all the lights in the cube use only as much energy as 2 hair dryers. It's pretty impressive considering how bright the cube looks in some of the pictures.

They’re building a Groovik for the Pacific Science Center right now, and as of this writing, there are three videos up showing the first few days of construction in quick time-lapses. We've embedded the most recent one above, but check out the Pacific Science Center's YouTube channel for the earlier ones.

How fast do you think you and two of your best Rubik’s Cube solving friends could finish it in? Leave a comment below.

[Groovik via io9]

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Apps Created for Android, iPhone May Top One Million

Apps Created for Android, iPhone May Top One MillionA milestone was hit today in the market for smartphone apps. There may be a million of them out there.

If all the mobile applications ever created for the Android and iOS operating systems are tallied, they exceed that magical number, according to the app counters at Appsfire.

Unsurprisingly, only about 800,000, or 80 percent, of those apps are still active, Appsfire estimated. However, predicted that the combined total for active apps will break one million sometime in December.

Appsfire also noted that iOS apps hold a slight edge over Android apps, 52 percent to 48 percent. That gap will narrow as active apps approach the one million mark, with the split being closer to 50-50.

However, a survey of websites of other app counters didn't yield numbers as high as Appsfire's. That may be because Appsfire included apps found outside the Android market and global app numbers in its tally. The 148Apps.biz site, for example, pegged the total number of apps ever seen in Apple's U.S. App Store to be 593,492, while AppBrain pinned the current total of Android apps in the market at 282,830.

Apps in the Android marketplace can fluctuate, especially toward the end of a quarter, explained AppBrain. That's when Google typically prunes the marketplace of dubious apps at that time, it said.

While raw app numbers can be impressive--and boost the credibility of the catch phrase "there's an app for that"--the fact is that the number of bread-and-butter apps in an app store is in the ballpark of about two-dozen. For example, pollster Nielsen found that Android users spent 43 percent of their time with the top 10 apps in that market. Furthermore, they spent 61 percent of their time with the top 50 apps, Nielsen noted.

So if only a few number of apps are actually used by users, why all the posturing about "my store has more apps than your store?" From a marketing point of view, "more" is almost as attractive as "new" to technology consumers--even if the more is more of the same. For example, PCWorld's app expert, Armando Rodriguez, says that more than 900 Solitaire game apps have been written for the iPhone and 1200 for Android.

[Read: Why the Number of Apps in an App Store Doesn't Matter]

"If you were to remove all the copycat apps, you would probably end up with around the same number of apps currently available on Windows Phone 7 (30,000), which is a huge difference in terms of app variety," Rodriguez observed. "That's not to say that the WP7 platform doesn't suffer from duplicates. It does--just not on the same scale as Android and iOS."

While a million apps is quite an achievement, it may reveal more about repackaging ideas than innovation in the apps market.

Follow freelance technology writer John P. Mello Jr. and Today@PCWorld on Twitter.

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Archos Bargain-Priced G9 Tablets to Arrive Sept. 20

Archos Bargain-Priced G9 Tablets to Arrive Sept. 20Archos 80 G9 tabletAre you longing to get your hands on a tablet, but can't stomach the $500 pricing for devices such as the iPad, Motorola Xoom, BlackBerry PlayBook, or Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1? Then you might be interested in Archos' 80 G9 Android Honeycomb tablet for $300.

It comes with a dual-core processor and 8-inch display and will be available on September 20. Archos' tablet doesn't reach the TouchPad's fire-sale pricing, but it's still cheaper than many of the more high-profile tablets sitting on store shelves right now.

Following the base model launch, Archos will be launching more versions of the 80 G9 in October with beefed-up specs, as well as a 10-inch model called the Archos 101 G9, arriving around the same time. Archos' G9 tablets come with the usual array of Google apps including Gmail, Google Maps, Google Talk, YouTube, and access to the Android Market.

Archos has introduced other cheap Android tablets into the market. The new G9 tablet line-up follows Archos' $300 101 Internet Tablet and the $199 Archos 7 tablet.

PC World didn't review the 101, but gave the Archos 7, 2.5 starts out of 5, criticizing it for a shoddy touchscreen and a failure to provide access to the Android Market, opting for its own creation instead, the AppsLib market. The 101 Internet Tablet also offered access to the AppsLib market.

It's not clear how good the touchscreen for the G9s will be, but at least Archos got its tablets certified by Google this time around, which gives G9 users access to the Android Market.

Here's a breakdown of what's heading your way.

Archos 80 G9 Base Model

The Archos 80 G9 base model available September 20 features Google's tablet-specific Android 3.2 (Honeycomb) operating system, 8 GB flash storage, and a 1GHz dual-core processor. It's not clear what the other specs for the base model G9 will be, but presumably they will be similar to the models arriving in October. I have contacted an Archos representative to verify the base model's specs and will update this post should the company reply.

The base model will be available from Archos.com on September 20 and on September 30 at a variety of retailers including HH Gregg, Amazon, Newegg, Tiger Direct, Brandsmart, and Electronic Express.

The 8GB 80 G9 is priced at $300--$20 more than the promised $280 in June when Archos first announced the G9 series.

October Models

If 8GB storage won't fit your needs, Archos in October will launch a 16GB flash storage version of the 80 G9 for $329, and a model with a 250GB hard disk drive for $369. Both models feature a 1.5 GHz dual-core Cortex A9 inside a Texas Instruments OMAP 4 system-on-chip (SoC).

The display is an 8-inch touchscreen with 1024-by-768 pixel resolution, and the tablets also have a front-facing camera with 720p video capture (no word on megapixels). For ports and connectivity, you get an HDMI output, two USB 2.0 ports, a microSD slot (SDHC compatible) supporting up to 16GB, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR.

Archos promises 10 hours of battery life for Internet browsing, but as always, it's best to wait on third-party tests before accepting that claim as fact.

The flash storage version of the 80 G9 weighs about one pound and measures 0.46-inches deep. The HDD version is slightly larger measuring 0.58-inches deep and weighing close to 1.4 pounds. Specific launch dates were not announced.

Archos 101 G9

Many of the basic specs found in the 80 G9 are also in the 101 G9 including ports, the 1.5 GHz processor, front-facing camera specs, and connectivity. The biggest difference with the 101 is the 10.1-inch screen size with 1280-by-800 resolution.

The 101 G9 will be available with 16GB of flash storage for $399 or a 250GB HDD for $469. The flash storage version is half-an-inch thick and weighs just over 1.4 pounds; the HDD model has a 0.61-inch thickness and tips the scales at 1.66 pounds. The 101 will also be available in October, but a specific launch date was not announced.

Both 80 G9 and the 101 G9 feature a similar body design.

Connect with Ian Paul (@ianpaul ) and Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.

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Are Mobile-Style Interfaces Leaving Desktop Power Users Behind?

Microsoft certainly made a big splash with the early preview of Windows 8 it offered this week, and it's easy to see why: the new platform looks to be a surprisingly radical departure from the traditional Windows paradigm.

linux windowsThere are clearly going to be lots of improvements in Windows 8, but the change I find most interesting is the operating system's touch-enabled, mobile-style Metro interface, which reminds me a great deal of Ubuntu Linux's Unity.

Both Unity and Metro borrow heavily from the mobile world, and for that reason seem likely to appeal to an increasingly mobile-minded world of consumers. As I've said before about Unity, this is a good way to attract mainstream users, particularly when you're trying to help them get used to something new.

What I'm not so sure about, though, is whether these types of interfaces are right for the desktop, and especially for the power users who--“post-PC era” notwithstanding--do still tend to spend most of their time there.

You can, of course, still use the traditional desktop in Windows 8, and you can install something else on Ubuntu. The fact that these new-style interfaces are increasingly becoming default, though, is making me wonder if in all this focus on “post-PC” and multiplatform computing, there may be a growing niche for a less graphically focused alternative for desktop power users.

Producers vs. Consumers

This is not to say that operating systems like Windows 8 and Ubuntu don't offer features for power users; they both clearly do. Touch, however, is not particularly well-suited for long periods of time at the desktop--my arms hurt just thinking about it--and the mobile-style interface often feels like it's being forced to fit, in my opinion.

Then, too, there's the difference between content consumption--visiting Facebook and watching YouTube videos, for instance, both of which are easily done within the mobile paradigm--and content production, which tends to be done on desktops and requires much more involved interaction with the computer.

I don't have any statistics to offer about Unity, but I do know that a significant contingent of longtime Ubuntu users have protested vehemently the fact that it has been made the default. Now that Windows is heading in a similar direction, I think there may be growing demand for a desktop operating system that isn't based on the mobile paradigm.

'Configurable to the Last Detail'

Diversity, of course, is a hallmark of Linux, which is available in flavors for just about every taste and purpose. Some distributions--like Ubuntu and Linux Mint--are designed with ease of use at the forefront, while others target different niches and needs.

Arch Linux, for example, eschews the popular graphical installer in favor of a text-based one, and it focuses primarily on simplicity, as a recent report on The H points out. The base system includes only the fundamental necessities; from there, it's up to users to customize it however they want.

“Arch Linux defines simplicity as without unnecessary additions, modifications, or complications, and provides a lightweight UNIX-like base structure that allows an individual user to shape the system according to their own needs,” the project team explains in its description of its philosophy. “In short: an elegant, minimalist approach.”

Lower system resource demands are one consequence of that focus on simplicity; so too is better user control, the project team asserts.

“The base system is devoid of all clutter that may obscure important parts of the system, or make access to them difficult or convoluted,” the description adds. “It has a streamlined set of succinctly commented, clean configuration files that are arranged for quick access and editing, with no cumbersome graphical configuration tools to hide possibilities from the user. An Arch Linux system is therefore readily configurable to the very last detail.”

No. 6 and Growing

There are, of course, numerous other Linux distributions as well, many of them with a similar focus on higher-end users--Arch certainly isn't the only one, and it won't be the right one for everyone.

Arch does currently occupy DistroWatch's No. 6 spot for popularity among Linux distributions, however, and it's on the rise. Ubuntu, Mint and several of the other top distributions, by contrast, are on a downward trend, at least according to today's statistics.

The bottom line, though, is that the increasingly mobile-style, touch-enabled operating system may be leaving some desktop power users behind by removing a degree of user control and taking up considerable resources for features they don't need. I won't be at all surprised to see alternatives like Arch continue to gain ground.

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Are Your Eyes Ready for Dual LCD Monitor Glasses?

Do you love the promise of 3D gaming but hate the headaches?

Well, then, maybe Vuzix's approach to 3D gaming might appeal to you. Vuzix's series of Wrap glasses feature a 16:9 widescreen display offering "a 75-inch virtual display as seen from 10 feet." So instead of the headache-inducing shutter glasses used by companies like Nvidia, Vuzix utilizes dual LCD monitors with resolutions of up to 1280 X 720.

In our San Francisco offices, GamePro demoed the Vuzix Wrap 1200 series of 3D eyewear. The first thing we noticed is that these are much bulkier than your typical 3D glasses, yet much more adjustable. You can adjust the width between the monitors and the focus, making the Wraps well suited to a variety of facial types. While the press materials claim that they can support a number of glasses as well, I remain skeptical that the fit would be ideal.

Right now Vuzix's list of supported games is modest, but hits some of the bigger games: Far Cry 2, Fallout 3, Modern Warfare II, and Crysis Wars. The monitor and head tracking support for the Wrap 1200VR model ($599) make them well suited for flight and racing sims, but not well suited for multiplayer. The demo let us see how they behaved with Far Cry 2, an admittedly dated game, and they performed fine, but didn't seem to take much advantage of layerings between foreground and background. The movie trailers in 3D were much more impressive, with content that really jumped out and seemed to possess more depth.

Unfortunately, the pricing alone will likely deter most gamers from giving the Vusix series a try. The $500 entry point for the Vusiz Wrap 1200 is prohibitedly expensive for most gamers, especially given the comparatively paltry list of supported games.

But the biggest issue I found is that while the dual-monitors are supposed to reduce headaches compared to other 3D models, the truth is far more subjective. Adjusting the focus for each eye requires some troubleshooting and if you they aren't adjusted correctly, you're going to strain your eyes anyway. The glasses themselves are also noticeably much heavier than other 3D glasses I've used; personally I thought my nose wouldn't be able to support them for more than an hour. Finally, the Far Cry 2 demo I saw was simply not well thought out, with little attention given to how a dated game with little 3D support would look. I think the dual monitor approach is novel and deserves more research, but the initial demo I saw wasn't impressive.

Still, Vuzix is a company of smart people. They created the first commercially produced "pass-through augmented reality headset," the Wrap 920AR. The company has been working on augmented reality, like 3D, since its founding in 1997. For their part, Vuzix knows it has an uphill battle against the likes of Nvidia. And like any technological arms race, it's ultimately not only about innovation, but about marketability. If Vuzix can marry the comparatively cooler dual LCD monitor approach to a clever (and affordable) design, then suddenly gamers have a really intriguing vessel for 3D gaming...and a viable alternative to Nvidia.

This article originally appeared on GamePro.com as Are Your Eyes Ready for Dual LCD Monitor Glasses?

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Developers Get Access to First Google+ APIs

Google has released the first public APIs for Google+ so that external developers can start working with the social networking site and planning applications for it.

This first batch of APIs lets developers fetch only public data from user profiles in a read-only manner, and application calls are limited to what Google calls a "courtesy usage quota" for now.

Google sees this initial API release as the first step in building a more powerful and sophisticated developer platform. "For all of you developers who have been asking for a Google+ API, this is the start. Experiment with it. Build apps on it. Give us your feedback and ideas," wrote Chris Chabot, from the Google+ Developer Relations team, in a blog post.

Creating a thriving developer community, as Twitter and Facebook have done, has proven a must for social networking sites to succeed, so a lot is riding on the Google+ application development platform. Twitter announced in July that some 750,000 developers have built about 1 million applications for its microblogging service.

Interestingly, Google is holding off on adopting for Google+ the OpenSocial APIs that it originally developed in 2007 and championed for years as a better alternative to proprietary tools for specific platforms like Facebook's.

Google conceived OpenSocial as a standard, common set of APIs for social networking sites to adopt, so that developers could build applications once and have them work on multiple sites with little or no modifications.

The OpenSocial technology has been adopted by a number of consumer and enterprise social networking providers and its development is managed and overseen by the nonprofit OpenSocial Foundation.

When asked about plans to let developers build Google+ applications using the OpenSocial APIs, a Google spokeswoman said via email that at this time the Google+ platform doesn't support the OpenSocial APIs.

"However, we are using lots of the technology that was developed as part of OpenSocial, including the gadget application packaging model, and the Portable Contacts JSON schema, to power Google+ games. As we define the +Platform APIs, we are paying close attention to the future direction of the OpenSocial APIs, and converging wherever possible," she said.

Developers can use the OpenSocial APIs to build applications for other Google sites and services, including the Orkut social networking site and the iGoogle personalized home page service.

Google+ was launched in June in trial mode and remains available by invitation only from Google and existing members. It's estimated that about 25 million people have Google+ accounts.

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Cinemas Will Die Out and Museums Will Have to Evolve

When it comes to things like movies and museums, it's all about the experience. But that experience is going to change because it's no longer necessary or even as pleasurable to be at those venues as it once was and you know what will take their place? No? Read on.

What got me thinking about this was going to the movies to see "Our Idiot Brother," which I can recommend. It's entertaining, surprisingly funny, well-directed and altogether worth seeing. Alas, I can't be anything like as complimentary about the actual cinema the movie was shown in, which was the Century Downtown 10 (part of the Cinemark group) in my home town of Ventura, California.


Putting aside the usual issues that cinema tickets aren't cheap, the premises are only moderately clean, and the candy, drinks and popcorn for just two people can swallow up the budget of a small Central American country, we're left with what the experience involves, by which I mean the picture and sound quality.

In this case the picture quality was marred by something stuck on the screen that was reflective ... it might have been a dried splash of Coca-Cola. It wasn't huge but it was quite visible and I find that kind of thing distracting, not to mention just plain sloppy. It says, "We don't bother to ensure you have the best experience possible." And this wasn't a unique event; I've seen similar things at other cinemas.

Then there was the sound. Not the sound from the movie I was watching, but from the screen next door. They must have been showing "Transformers" or something similar that was loud and violent because every now and then a bass boom would wash through our cinema making a rather surreal counterpoint to the film we were trying to view.

And that's the problem with today's cinemas: They just aren't very good. I can rent a movie at home and, while it won't be shown on a mongo sized screen, it will be displayed on a perfectly good, quite large screen without junk stuck to it and accompanied by very good sound with no intrusive sound effects.

Also at home I can pause the movie if I need to, as well as eat good food, drink something that won't send me into diabetic shock just from looking at it, and I won't have the edge of the screen obscured by the abnormally large head of some random person sitting in the row in front of me. I also won't have to listen to that same person rustle his candy wrappers through every quiet scene and mutter to the person sitting next to him or have to try to ignore his body odor.

In short, by comparison cinemas have become subpar. Thus, I contend it is just a matter of time before cinemas start dying off and online video streaming services such as Netflix become the primary film distribution mechanism in the U.S.

MARKET GROWTH: Netflix expands into Latin America, Caribbean

Just consider that U.S. ticket sales have been slowly declining since their peak in 2002 (they were $1.58 billion then, today they've dropped to $1.33 billion, lower than they've been since 1997). At the same time, cinema tickets have become correspondingly more expensive. The average movie ticket in 1938 cost $0.36 which is roughly $3.37 today, while today's average ticket price is $7.89, more than double the cost!

If our economy were robust there might be hope for cinemas but, as you may have noticed, the economy is anything but, and should this depression (for that is what it really is) go on for much longer, your local cinema will have a limited shelf life.

Cinemas are already trying to stave off their own demise by holding special showings of remote live events, but that's just a tiny bandage on what will likely become a massive hemorrhage.

Some will say the demise of the cinema would be a shame, that the whole "going to the movies" thing is a valuable and enjoyable social tradition we shouldn't loose. Yeah. And so were hoedowns.

And all of that got me thinking about museums.

As a kid, I loved museums. When I was a preteen and then a teenager I lived outside of London. You could jump on the train to King's Cross and in an hour or so be at the Tate Gallery, the Science Museum or the Natural History Museum.

Computer History MuseumComputer History MuseumBut today, with transport so expensive no matter where you live, going to a museum is usually a fairly serious outing. And even when you do go, museums, in my experience, are now uncomfortably crowded.

But what do you go to museums for? That's right: to look at things. After all, most museums won't let you fondle the bones of their Tyrannosaurus, let alone touch their 2,000-year-old mummy, and most museums only display a fraction of the material they hold. All of which rather begs the question: Why go at all? If you can't touch the exhibits and often can't get really near, wouldn't an image do just as well?

I contend that when you can't grope the exhibits there's really no point in being physically there. And so, once again, the Internet is the perfect vehicle. As PCs and TVs become bigger and get better displays with more accurate color rendition, the need to be there, where the object is, becomes progressively less compelling.

ON THE HORIZON: Sony shows 3D images with glasses -- without the TV

Moreover, the ability to augment and enhance the experience of examining and exploring an object is a given online. Want to show X-rays of whatever it is? Explain its history? Show its relationships and context to other stuff? No problem ... the opportunities of online presentation of museums makes visiting physical museums far less valuable.

So there's the future: We'll all sit at home and entertainment and education will come to us with glorious, high-fidelity sound and in perfectly rendered color with incredible detail all wrapped up with rich, multimedia supporting content. It's just a matter of time.

So, can you see the demise of cinemas and museums?

Gibbs sees it all in Ventura, California. Your vision to backspin@gibbs.com.

Read more about lans and routers in Network World's LANs & Routers section.

For more information about enterprise networking, go to NetworkWorld. Story copyright 2011 Network World Inc. All rights reserved.

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First Look: Apple Thunderbolt Display

The Apple Thunderbolt Display may just be the most clever display ever. Macworld Lab received our new display Friday morning, and we immediately set out to test the new features.

The Apple Thunderbolt Display connected to a MacBook Air. A Thunderbolt RAID array (the Promise Pegasus R6, right), and a FireWire 800 RAID array (the Promise SmartStor DS4600, left), are connected to the display.

The $999 Thunderbolt Display’s specifications are impressive, but not much different from Apple’s 27-inch LED Cinema Display () released last year. Both feature LED backlit displays with a resolution of 2560-by-1440 pixels, the same brightness rating of 375 cd/m2, MagSafe power connector for charging a laptop, and three USB 2.0 ports. The Thunderbolt Display has a FaceTime HD camera, while the Cinema Display has an iSight camera.

The Thunderbolt Display (right foreground) has more connectivity options than the Cinema Display (left background).

What’s new—and what’s really exciting—is the addition of a FireWire 800 port, a gigabit ethernet port, and (of course) a Thunderbolt port to the back of the display. You get all of these extra ports, and at the same time, you have fewer cables to string to your Mac—the Mini DisplayPort and USB 2.0 connector cables on the Cinema Display have been replaced with a single Thunderbolt connection.

The Thunderbolt and MagSafe cables (front) from the Thunderbolt Display. In the background are the MagSafe, Mini DisplayPort, and USB connectors from the Apple 27-inch Cinema Display.If you, say, have a FireWire 800 hard drive, you can connect it to the Thunderbolt Display. That hard drive is then connected to your Mac via Thunderbolt. Ethernet and USB work in a similar way.

MacBook Air and Thunderbolt Display

The Thunderbolt Display, which was originally announced in July at the same time as the new MacBook Air, should be most attractive to owners of 2011 MacBook Airs, bringing some seriously fast I/O connections to Apple’s smallest laptop. Never before has the MacBook Air been able to use gigabit ethernet or FireWire 800 external devices. Before the Thunderbolt Display, connecting a MacBook Air to a wired LAN required an optional USB-to-ethernet connector, and external drives were limited to pokey USB 2.0 transfer speeds.

The 2011 MacBook Air uses the Eagle Peak Thunderbolt controller, which offers two 10Gbps bidirectional Thunderbolt channels and supports one DisplayPort connection.

To test the new features, we connected the MagSafe and Thunderbolt connectors from the Thunderbolt Display to a new 13-inch MacBook Air. We connected to our LAN using the display’s ethernet connector. The connection showed right up in our Network system preferences.

The ethernet connection on the Thunderbolt Display appears in the Network system preference as Display Ethernet.

We then connected a Promise Pegasus R6 array to the Thunderbolt port on the back of the display. The drive mounted automatically on the MacBook Air’s desktop. Next, we connected the Promise SmartStor DS4600 RAID to the FireWire 800 port on the back of the display. Again, the drive mounted on the desktop automatically.

MacBook Pro and Thunderbolt Display

The new MacBook Pros, iMacs, and Mac minis use the Light Ridge Thunderbolt controller, which offers four bidirectional Thunderbolt channels and supports two DisplayPort connections.

A 2011 17-inch MacBook Pro connected to the Thunderbolt Display (left). The Promise Pegasus R6 array is connected to the Thunderbolt Display, while the Cinema Display is connected to the Pegasus R6.

We connected the Thunderbolt Display to a 2011 17-inch MacBook Pro and were able to mount the two RAIDs, connect to the LAN through the display’s ethernet port, and connect an LED Cinema Display’s Mini DisplayPort connector to the second Thunderbolt port on the Promise Pegasus R6. The display was instantly recognized and we were able to drive two 27-inch displays along with the MacBook Pro’s built in display—that, my friends, is a lot of screen real estate.

Our MacBook Pro setup, with the Thunderbolt Display (right), a Cinema Display (left), and a Promise Pegasus R6 (next to the laptop).

The Thunderbolt Display requires OS X 10.6.8 or later, and a Thunderbolt-equipped Mac. The Mac Pro is the only line of Apple’s computers that has yet to be updated with Thunderbolt.

Check back soon for Macworld’s complete review of the Apple Thunderbolt Display. If there are any tests you’d like to see us try, please let us know in the comments section.

[James Galbraith is Macworld’s lab director.]

For more Macintosh computing news, visit Macworld. Story copyright © 2011 Mac Publishing LLC. All rights reserved.

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Get Street Fighter II And Final Fight On Your iPhone

Are you an App Store aficionado with a penchant for old-school pugilism? Then today may be your lucky day. Hot on the heels of the hefty update that hit Street Fighter IV: Volt earlier today, Capcom Mobile has released Final Fight and the Street Fighter II Collection for iDevices everywhere.

Final Fight looks to be a pretty faithful port of the SNES original, where the SFII collection packs in Street Fighter II, Street Fighter II: Championship Edition, and Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting. And if that doesn't sell you, then this awesome copy on its App Store page will:

"Here the legend was begun...

Passionate soulful battles...

And now...

The masterpiece is coming back!!

The origin of fighting games!!

Hell. Yes.

Both boast Bluetooth multiplayer, virtual controls, and are available right this second on the iTunes App Store.


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Great Deals Give Laptop Sales a Boost

It’s a critical time for laptops and the PC in general, with mounting signs that tablets (specifically, the iPad) are cannibalizing laptop sales, and the fact that HP--one of the largest PC makers--may give up on the consumer PC business altogether. But the laptop isn’t down and out, thanks to a late-summer surge in sales.

According to market research company NPD Group, although laptop sales were down 4 percent year-over-year for July and August 2011 combined (the months that NPD considers to be the back-to-school shopping season), laptop sales were almost 4 percent higher in August 2011 than they were during the same period last year.

We can thank back-to-school specials for the laptop sales comeback. In the last two weeks of August, sales of Windows laptops increased by more than 8 percent as compared to the same two weeks the year before. The spike is likely from shoppers rushing to grab last-minute laptop deals.

NPD's research also indicates that a record 65% of all notebooks sold to consumers priced under $500. Additionally, according to this latest report, you can expect more bargain notebooks during the holiday shopping season. So watch out for more great deals on laptops coming soon--these price cuts are the real drivers of the laptop industry right now.

Follow Melanie Pinola (@melaniepinola) and http://www.twitter.com/pcwtoday on Twitter.

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Google Patches 32 Chrome Bugs in Browser Update

Google last week patched 32 vulnerabilities in Chrome, paying more than $14,000 in bug bounties as it also upgraded the stable edition of the browser to version 14.

The company called out a pair of developer-oriented additions to Chrome 14 and noted new support for Mac OS X 10.7, aka Lion, including full-screen mode and vanishing scrollbars.

Google last upgraded Chrome's stable build in early August. Google produces an update about every six weeks, a practice that rival Mozilla also adopted with the last June.

Fifteen of the 32 vulnerabilities were rated "high," the second-most-serious ranking in Google's four-step scoring system, while 10 were pegged "medium" and the remaining seven were marked "low."

None of the flaws were ranked "critical," the category usually reserved for bugs that may allow an attacker to escape Chrome's anti-exploit sandbox. Google has patched several critical bugs this year, the last time in April.

Six of the vulnerabilities rated high were identified as "use-after-free" bugs, a type of memory management flaw that can be exploited to inject attack code, while seven of the bugs ranked medium were "out-of-bounds" flaws, including a pair linked to foreign language character sets used in Cambodia and Tibet.

Google paid $14,337 in bounties to nine researchers, including $3,500 to "miaubiz" and $2,337 to Sergey Glazunov, another regular bug finder.

The company's security team also credited others, including researchers who work for Microsoft and Apple, for "working with us in the development cycle and preventing bugs from ever reaching the stable channel." Some of those researchers were also awarded bounties, but Google did not spell out the amounts of those awards.

As per its practice, Google barred access to the Chrome bug-tracking database for the 32 vulnerabilities to prevent outsiders from obtaining details on the flaws. The company only opens the database after users have had time to update the browser.

Google also added a pair of developer-only features to Chrome 14, including support for the Web Audio API (application programming interface) and for "native client," an open-source technology that runs software written in C and C++ within Chrome's security sandbox.

The Mac version of Chrome 14 also supports Lion's new approach to scrollbars, which appear only when a user is actively scrolling through the browser window. Chrome 14 also now runs in Lion's full-screen mode, triggered via the icon in the upper right of the browser or by pressing Ctrl-Command-F.

But Chrome's full-screen support isn't polished or finished; the browser won't return to its windowed view with a press of the Escape key, as do Apple's home-grown applications in Lion.

Chrome 14 can be downloaded for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux from Google's Web site. Users already running the browser will be updated automatically.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer , on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more articles by Gregg Keizer.

Read more about browsers in Computerworld's Browsers Topic Center.

For more enterprise computing news, visit Computerworld. Story copyright © 2011 Computerworld Inc. All rights reserved.

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Google+ Releases Initial Developer API; FarmVille Awaits You

Last month, Google finally got round to releasing games for its new Google+ social network. At the time of this writing, there are currently only 16 games available to play, including Angry Birds (of course). While this may seem like a very small amount in comparison to sites such as Facebook, and not enough to impress reviewers, Google has now announced it will be steadily releasing a developer API.

An API (Application Protocol Interface) is a set of tools, protocols, and so forth, that companies such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ give to developers so they can create applications, be it games or something more useful, like the ability for Tweets to automatically appear as status update on Facebook as well.

[Photo: Google]

However, the Google+ API is not yet a complete package: At present, it only allows developer to access read-only public posts--posts that are not restricted to certain circles only. This means that developers won't be able to make games that can pull all your circles' information or provide you with a decent client just yet. Google's Chris Chatbot is calling this a "first step", adding that Google would rather improve the platform over time than create a "vaccum".

What Google has annouced which may be of some interest to developers though, is the various client libraries it offers. You can program your apps in PHP, Java, Ruby, Python, and .NET, to name a few of the languages accepted. Trusted access data is handled by OAuth 2.

So, while it's a pretty slow start for Google+ and it's API release, considering it will have to play a lot of catchup to be a Facebook contender, expect in the near future more interesting games or useful apps cropping up. Find out more information on the initial release on Google+'s Blogspot, or visit the developer website. Personally, a Google+ desktop client would be a great reminder to actually login once in a while.

What applications would like to see in Google+ beyond the initial API?

[Google Plus Platform via Wired]

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iPhone 5 Production Delays Reported

iPhone 5 production could be behind schedule, it has been reported, with the tear-shaped design seemingly causing manufacturing issues.

9to5Mac said that it had heard that there were problems on at least one assembly line with the production of the iPhone 5.

Unnamed sources confirmed to the website that there would be two new iPhone models -- an iPhone 4-alike and an iPhone 5 -- and Apple expects to have 10 million on hand at launch, likely to be October 7.

As well as a larger screen and thinner, rounder body, the iPhone 5 will have a larger screen than the iPhone 4 and is said to be "impossibly" light by 9to5Mac's source.

iPhone 5 will be 'fairly different' -- report

Meanwhile, more cases supposedly for the iPhone 5 have been leaked. After a Chinese vendor claimed it had its hands on cases for the iPhone 5 earlier this week, Stuff now claims to have some additional images of cases for the next-generation device originating from Essex-based Fonegadgets.

The cases seem to confirm a larger screen, tapered edges, a thinner design, with volume buttons in the same place as on the iPhone 4 but looking more like the iPhone 3GS volume controls, as well as a tapered, tear-drop like design.

Though we can't confirm that these cases are the genuine article, they do seem to tally with the best other evidence we have about the design of the next-generation iPhone. Hopefully we'll know for sure very soon.

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Microsoft Cracks Live Migration Problem

With the next release of Windows Server operating system, Microsoft has conquered one of the thorniest problems in virtualization: moving an operational virtual machine (VM) across a wide area network (WAN).

Microsoft unveiled this new feature at the Microsoft BUILD conference, being held this week in Anaheim, California. It will be available in Microsoft's Hyper-V version 3 hypervisor, included in Microsoft's next server operating system, Windows Server 8.

The capability, while viable in only a handful of use cases, nonetheless shows Microsoft's growing expertise in virtualization, analysts said.

With live migration, a working VM is moved from one computer to another without any disruption of the services offered by applications within the VM.

Most server virtualization software providers, including Microsoft, have long offered live migration within a local network. A far harder problem has been to offer the ability to move a live VM across different subnets, or separate WAN sub-networks. Network latencies and network addressing complexities have made this task a challenging one.

At the BUILD conference, Microsoft program manager Ross Ortega explained how the new technology worked. Essentially, each virtual machine gets two IP (Internet Protocol) addresses.

One address is the home address for the VM itself, which it uses to communicate with the rest of the network or, if accessed publicly, the Internet. The second IP address will be available for the local data center.

"The trick is to keep these mappings between the two address spaces," said Bill Laing, Microsoft corporate vice president for the server and cloud division, in a subsequent interview.

Microsoft is not alone in offering this capability. VMware, in its VXLAN offering, also offers the ability. This solution, however, requires Cisco networking gear using the Overlay Transport Virtualization (OTV) technology.

Long-distance live migration has been a research topic in the virtualization community for several years, though it is useful only in a limited number of situations, said Chris Wolf, a Gartner research vice president covering virtualization.

Replicating a VM memory state over long distances can take a considerable amount of time, Wolf noted. It could be handy for emergency situations, such as when a data center is threatened by an upcoming flood or hurricane, and its contents must be moved to another facility. But, given the sizes of most data center-run systems, it is likely that only a handful of VMs would be moved in time.

During another presentation at BUILD, Brian Dewey, Microsoft group program manager for Hyper-V noted one way around this problem. Administrators could also save VMs on thumb drives or optical disks, and then ship them to the new location, where the VMs could then be incrementally updated with the latest changes.

Another possible application of the technology would be in permanently migrating systems from one data center to the next without incurring any downtime, Wolf said. Such work would be necessary in data center consolidation projects, for instance.

Beyond the practical uses, the new capability carries symbolic importance for the company as well, Wolf said. It shows Microsoft is knowledgeable enough with this emerging technology to stay on the frontier of its developments.

The technology "marks a point where Microsoft will ship the first real formidable challenger to VMware vSphere," Wolf said.

At BUILD, Microsoft touted a number of other new features to make Hyper-V and Windows Server more competitive with VMware as well. The company debuted the ability to do live migration of the VM's virtual hard disk. Scalability was also touted: the new software will able to support up to 32 virtual processors for each VM, and each VM can now appropriate 512 GB of memory. A new virtual file system, VHDX, can be used to create virtual storage disks up to 16 TB in size.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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Obama Signs Patent Overhaul Legislation

Obama Signs Patent Overhaul LegislationU.S. President Barack Obama has signed the America Invents Act, the first major overhaul of the U.S. patent system in about 50 years.

The America Invents Act, passed 89-9 by the U.S. Senate last week, would allow new challenges to patents granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). It allows third parties to file a challenge to a patent within nine months of it being awarded.

The new law modernizes the U.S. patent system, said Mark Elliot, executive vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Global Intellectual Property Center.

"The legislation will help ensure that the USPTO is adequately staffed, efficiently operated, fully funded to reduce backlog, and process patent and trademark applications in a high-quality and expeditious fashion," he said in a statement. Reducing the backlog of patents at the USPTO "is essential to encouraging innovation and bolstering the U.S. economy."

The new law also creates a new challenge for finance-related business-method patents by companies that have been sued or accused of infringing them. The new mechanism for challenging business-method patents will apply retroactively to those patents, and the law opens an eight-year window for the USPTO to review business-method patents.

"Reforming the U.S. patent system will enable businesses of all sizes to obtain clearer and more reliable intellectual property rights in a more expedient fashion, so they can attract investments, develop their products, and hire employees sooner," U.S. government CTO Aneesh Chopra wrote on the White House blog. "By transitioning to a simpler, more objective, and more inventor-friendly system of issuing patents, the new act helps ensure that independent inventors and small entities have greater clarity and certainty over their property rights and will be able to navigate the patent system on a more equitable footing with large enterprises."

The America Invents Act allows the USPTO to set fees for patents, and it will allow the agency to keep all of its patent fees, instead of having some money to back to the U.S. treasury. Congress has diverted about US$900 million from the patent office over the past two decades.

Those provisions will generate money the USPTO needs to address a backlog of about 1 million patent applications, said supporters, including sponsors Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, and Representative Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican.

Several large tech companies, including Intel, Apple and Microsoft, have called for patent reform in recent years, and lawmakers have been trying to pass a bill for nearly six years. Earlier this year, the Senate stripped out limits on patent lawsuit damages that some large tech companies had supported.

The law streamlines the patent review process at the USPTO and it would change U.S. patent rules by giving a patent to the first person to file for it, not the first person to create a new invention. Changing to a first-to-file system puts the U.S. in step with most other countries.

Some opponents of the bill have said it favors large patent holders over small inventors. The first-to-file provision will create a race to the USPTO and disadvantage small inventors who may not have the money to immediately file a patent application, said opponents, including Senator Maria Cantwell, a Washington Democrat.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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Oracle Further Commercializes MySQL Database

Oracle has added additional commercial extensions to the enterprise edition of its open-source MySQL database, further differentiating it from the community version available to anyone at no charge.

A new thread pooling capability can provide a "significant" performance and scalability boost for "applications that service a high number of concurrent connections, specifically on 16-core and higher systems," according to an official blog post this week.

Enterprise Edition subscriptions now also include an Oracle VM template for quickly deploying databases; support for Windows Server Failover Clustering; and various authentication improvements.

The features, which join existing MySQL commercial extensions such as Enterprise Monitor, are available to current Enterprise Edition subscription holders now. They will be made available as part of a 30-day free trial "shortly," according to the post.

Oracle's handling of MySQL has been closely watched by community members who use and help develop the database, which it acquired through the purchase of Sun Microsystems in 2010. The Sun deal was held up while European antitrust authorities mulled the implications of what Oracle, which sells the industry's most widely used proprietary database, would do to MySQL.

Ultimately, Oracle issued a set of public pledges affirming its commitment to keeping MySQL open and viable, and has since delivered a number of significant updates to MySQL.

Its decision to limit the new premium extensions to Enterprise Edition customers and not include them in the community code is a common practice among commercial open source companies, but the move could still anger some users.

Database expert Guiseppe Maxia, a former lead of the MySQL community team, does not fall into that group.

"An open source product needs to be developed. And the developers need to get paid. Ergo, the company needs to make money from that product if it wants to continue developing it," he wrote in a blog post on Friday. "Either that, or the company needs to sell something else to pay the bills."

"Let's not get into the argument that a pure open source project with universal participation is better, faster, or more marvelous," he added. "MySQL was never that, not with Oracle, not with Sun, and not when it was an independent company."

Enterprise Edition subscriptions cost US$5,000 per year per server with up to four sockets.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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Online Communities Carry Risks

Online community groups are enticing because the members share common interests. But they also can cause people to make risky financial decisions.

www.netbanker.comThe reason: active community members believe if their risky behavior backfires, the community will come to their rescue -- which, in reality, isn't likely.

That’s according to a recent study authored by a quartet of professors from three universities.

According to the researchers, this study is the first to show that participation in an online community influences a person's financial decision-making in a systematic way, leading them to make riskier choices and behave in riskier ways.

Taking risks because you believe your virtual buddies will cushion any bad outcomes is a bad idea, warn the researchers -- Rui Zhu and Utpal M. Dholakia, of Rice University; Xinlei Chen, of the University of British Columbia; and René Algesheimer, of the University of Zurich.

Online bonds are much more tenuous than those found in the real world, the study explained. Members of online communities will likely not know each other offline and have no connections other than their virtual relationship. "Indeed, in many cases, they might not even know the real names or geographic locations of these individuals," the study says.

"Thus," it continues, "online community members are unlikely to offer actual financial assistance, such as a loan or a gift of money, to community participants when negative outcomes occur as a result of their financial decisions."

A moderating influence on a community member's risky behavior is how active they are within a community. If a member isn't very active in the community, they're less likely to engage in the riskier behaviors of active members, the study finds.

The researchers looked at three settings.

One was Prosper.com, a peer-to-peer online lending community, which has 1.11 million members and has created $249 million in personal loans. After tracking a group of 600 Prosper members -- some in communities, some not -- the researchers found that, over an 18-month period, community members engaged in riskier financial behavior than non-members.

Another setting was eBay in Germany. There, for 22 months, the researchers studied the behavior of 13,735 customers with an interest in collectibles -- stamps, coins, books, art, and toys. Again, they found riskier behavior by community members compared to non-community members, as measured by the number of bids placed on an item and amounts paid for an item.

A lab was used for the third setting. It allowed researches to test in a more controlled environment what they learned from the other settings.

The researchers note that their study has implications beyond financial decision-making.

It “raises the possibility that joining an online support group sponsored by a hospital, foundation, or advocacy group may make patients choose riskier treatments or courses of action," they say. "Similarly, members of an online (or offline) adolescent club may become more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors, some of which may be detrimental, relative to comparable non-members."

Follow freelance technology writer John P. Mello Jr. and Today@PCWorld on Twitter.

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Researcher Uncovers More SCADA Zero-Day Flaws

An Italian researcher has published details of a new batch of unpatched vulnerabilities found in the SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) products from seven different vendors.

Assessing the significance of the 14 zero-day vulnerabilities explained by Luigi Auriemma in proof-of-concept detail with exploit code is incredibly difficult to do, but they offer an unsettling picture of the flaws that seem to exist in systems normally hidden out of sight.

The companies mentioned include Beckhoff, MeasureSoft, Rockwell, Carel, Progea, AzeoTech, and Cogent, products used to control industrial systems across sectors including manufacturing, aerospace, military, and more or less any sector that might use SCADA.

Auriemma has a record of hunting down flaws in SCADA technology, having published 34 zero-day holes in March 2011. He remains unrepentant about his public disclosure of security flaws for which no patches exist.

"I like only to find them [flaws] and releasing the informations (sic) as soon as possible," he explains on his website. "And remember that I find bugs, I don't create them, the developers are the only people who create bugs (indirectly naturally) so they are ever the only responsible."

In the last year SCADA has gone from an obscure albeit important backwater of software security thanks probably to the discovery of a worm called Stuxnet, which was apparently deployed to attack systems used within the nuclear program of Iran over a year period from the summer of 2009 onwards.

Who created it and why has been speculated on ever since, but it was clear that profit-seeking criminals were an unlikely to have been behind it. With many suspecting the involvement of a government, suddenly SCADA seemed like a vulnerable underside for systems across almost every industry in the world.

SCADA exploits, meanwhile, have continued to be made public with disturbing regularity.

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Seven States Join DOJ in Opposing AT&T Deal

Seven state attorneys general have joined a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit attempting to block AT&T's US$39 billion acquisition of rival mobile carrier T-Mobile USA.

The states of New York, California, Washington, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio and Pennsylvania have joined the DOJ's antitrust lawsuit against AT&T, T-Mobile USA and T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom, the DOJ said Friday.

The deal, which would create the largest mobile carrier in the U.S., would significantly reduce competition, jack up prices and stifle innovation, the DOJ said in its lawsuit, filed Aug. 31. The DOJ pointed to T-Mobile USA's role as a low-cost competitor to the three other nationwide mobile carriers as a reason to block the deal.

AT&T officials have said they will fight the lawsuit. The company has argued the merger will allow it build out mobile broadband service to more U.S. residents and will help it improve quality of service.

The company continues to seek an expedited hearing on the DOJ's complaint, an AT&T spokeswoman said. "On a parallel path, we have been and remain interested in a solution that addresses the DOJ's issues with the T-Mobile merger," she said.

It is "not unusual" for state attorneys general to participate in DOJ merger reviews, the spokeswoman added. "At the same time, we appreciate that 11 state attorneys general and hundreds of other local, state and federal officials are publicly supportive of our merger," she said.

The Computer and Communications Industry Association, a tech trade group, and Public Knowledge, a digital rights group, applauded the states for joining the lawsuit.

The attorneys general have "wisely weeded through the promises versus the reality of AT&T's takeover bid, and are taking steps to protect their states from the higher prices that come when an industry no longer has competition," Ed Black, CCIA's president and CEO, said in a statement.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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Seven Ways to Celebrate Software Freedom Day

Today is Software Freedom Day, and that means fans of free and open source software around the globe are celebrating all the ways it improves our lives.

software freedom day

If you've ever used a piece of free and open source software--Firefox, Linux or LibreOffice, for example--you're already familiar with at least some of those advantages. You also know that “freedom” figures prominently among them, not just because of the software's generally free price but also thanks to its freedom from restrictive requirements and vendor lock-in.

Technological freedom, in fact, has become fundamentally intertwined with basic human rights, argues Pia Waugh, a former president of Software Freedom International, which organizes Software Freedom Day.

“Technologies that matter to our freedom are used in our voting systems, our leisure, our work, education, art and our communication,” Waugh wrote in an article on the Software Freedom Day site. “What does this mean to you? It means that the basic human freedoms you take for granted are only as free as the technologies you use.”

If you enjoy the freedom technologies like these provide, I encourage you to celebrate the day in some way, even if only a small one. Here are a few possible ideas.

1. Attend an Event

Hundreds of teams around the globe organize events celebrating Software Freedom Day each year, so there's a good chance there's one near you. An interactive Events Map on the site shows where such celebrations can be found this year. If one is nearby, check it out and proclaim your support for technological freedom.

2. Take a Test Drive

If you're in the market for a new piece of software for your business or home, today would be a great day to try out a free and open source contender. There are free alternatives to just about every proprietary package out there, and trying them out won't cost you anything. For inspiration, check out the article "101 Reasons to Use FOSS" on the Software Freedom Day site.

3. Lend a Hand

Even if you're not a programmer, there are still ways you can help make your favorite free and open source software even better. If you use Ubuntu Linux, for example, you can participate in an Ubuntu Bug Day. Every little bit of help makes a difference.

4. Pay for the Privilege

Most free software projects welcome financial support as well. Your assistance could be just what it takes to keep a great project going.

5. Display the Button

If you run a website or blog, why not post the official Software Freedom Day countdown button on your site? The countdown may have reached its end, but you can still let everyone who visits your site know that it's an important day.

6. Sing the Song

Yes, there's actually an official Software Freedom Day song, so even if you can't make it to an event, you can still engage in a little revelry on your own. Maybe in the shower?

7. Spread the Word

Last but not least, if you value freedom and openness in the software you use, don't keep it a secret. Whether on your blog, Facebook page, Twitter or in person, tell those around you why it matters.

Saturday's event is just a single day, of course. But given the ever-increasing reach of technology in our lives and our businesses, it's important to stop and think about the impact of the choices we make. Choose free technologies and you cast your vote for a more free and open world.

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Research: Study the Player, Not the Game

We've heard it all before, usually from Fox News: games are murder simulators, games will corrupt your children, games cause youngsters to become murderous fanatics.

But new research presented to the American Psychological Association (via USA Today) suggests that it's not the games that are solely to blame for some individuals suffering negative effects from prolonged exposure -- individual personalities have a significant role to play, and games aren't as direct an influence as some believe.

"If you're worried about a video game turning your son or daughter into a killer, don't worry about that," said Patrick Markey of Villanova University, author of the research. "But is your kid moody, impulsive, or are they unfriendly? It's probably not the best idea to have that child play violent video games."

Markey discovered through his study of 118 participants that individuals who were highly neurotic and low on conscientiousness were more prone to exhibit elevated aggression levels following playing violent games.

Supporting Markey's research is a study from the online journal Psychology of Violence, penned by Paul Adachi of Brock University, Ontario.

"It appears that competition in games is what may influence aggression, not the violent content," said Adachi. "We found -- irrespective of violent content -- the two highly competitive games produced more aggressive behavior than the two less competitive games."

This article originally appeared on GamePro.com as Research: Study the Player, Not the Game

For more computer gaming news, visit GamePro. Story copyright © 2011 IDG Entertainment. All rights reserved.

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Smartphone Battery Life Could Be Dramatically Improved in "Subconscious Mode"

Smartphone Battery Life Could Be Dramatically Improved in If your smartphone was allowed to be just barely awake, it could extend battery life by as much as 54 percent. That's the claim of a research team at the University of Michigan that has invented a new "subconscious mode" for smartphones and other WiFi enabled mobile devices.

Computer science and engineering professor Kang Shin and doctoral student Xinyu Zhang found that, even when devices are in a power-saving mode and not actively sending or receiving data, they're still actively listening for incoming information and spending energy looking for a clear channel of communication on busy networks. Phones in power-saving modes were found to be performing these functions up to 80 percent of the time.

"This idle listening often consumes as much power as actively sending and receiving messages all day," says Shin.

Smartphone Battery Life Could Be Dramatically Improved in Kang Shin of the University of MichiganShin and his team developed a way for smartphones to listen more efficiently, called Energy-Minimizing Idle Listening, or E-MiLi. Basically, a piece of software would be added to smartphones to slow down the clock on the WiFi card to 1/16th its normal speed. Shin says the challenge was how to allow the phone to recognize an incoming message while it was slowed down to a crawl.

"We came up with a clever idea," Shin said. "Usually, messages come with a header, and we thought the phone could be enabled to detect this, as you can recognize that someone is calling your name even if you're 90 percent asleep."

There's a catch though. All headers would need to be encoded in this new and detectable way, and that has to occur on the sending end. Shin and his team have created new firmware to do the encoding, but it needs to be in all mobile devices on a network for E-MiLi's use to become widespread and have the maximum battery-saving impact. That means device manufacturers need to adopt the firmware modifications and incorporate new chips in their products. That's not quite as easy as downloading a new app.

Shin points out that E-MiLi would be backwards compatible, so phones without the new firmware and software would still be able to receive E-MiLi encoded messages in the future, if its use ever becomes widespread.

Shin and Zhang will be making their pitch to the industry when they present their concept next week at the ACM International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking in Las Vegas.

Follow Eric on Twitter, and at ericmack.org. Follow PC World on Twitter, too.

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Sharp Axes Two of Three Galapagos Tablets

Sharp is discontinuing the production of two of its three Galapagos tablets less then a year after launching them.

The 5.5-inch and 10.8-inch Galapagos tablet computers will be discontinued as of Sept. 30, Sharp announced in a press release. The devices were on sale in Japan.

When the companyintroduced the tablets in December 2010, it said it hoped to sell a million of the devices and in doing so take the lead in Japan from competitors like Apple's iPad and Amazon's Kindle.

With a bright, color LCD screen and Android operating system, the Galapagos tablet appeared closer to an iPad than a Kindle, but users were not allowed to download or install software of their choice. The device was also limited to Sharp's e-book reader software and and was introduced without a multimedia player.

The 10.8-inch model was priced midway between Apple's 16GB and 32GB Wi-Fi iPad models, and was a lot more expensive than Amazon's 9.7-inch Kindle. The 5.5-inch model was more expensive than all models of

the Kindle and Sony Reader at the time.

Sharp will continue to sell the 7-inch Galapagos model, which runs Android 3.2. Users can watch HD movies and play 3D games on the tablet. Sharp did not disclose sales figures for the 5.5- and 10.8-inch tablets.

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Wall Street Beat: Market Rally, Tablet Excitement Lifts IT

Tech stocks rose along with major indexes this week as central banks came up with a plan to ease market fears about European sovereign debt, and as key IT players including Microsoft, Intel, and Cisco held conferences for developers, users and analysts.

Tech stocks have been depressed through most of the third quarter, weighed down by fear that a sputtering recovery would short-circuit IT spending. The possibility that one or more countries in Europe would default on debt obligations, disrupting the financial sector throughout the world, compounded those concerns.

"The odds of a double-dip U.S. recession continue to rise and are raising fear that sales prospects will deteriorate further," said Bryan Lewis, research vice president at Gartner in a report on the semiconductor market this week. "Gartner is closely monitoring IT and consumer sales trends for any significant signs of weakness."

In a separate report, IDC noted that PC sales have been tepid. PC sales rose just 2.7 percent in the second quarter of 2011 from the year-earlier period, compared to a forecast of 2.9 percent growth. For the full year, IDC expects worldwide PC shipments to increase by just 2.8 percent, a downward revision from the previous forecast of 4.2 percent.

"In these tight economic times, and with new and competing products for consumers and businesses to spend money on, PC growth will remain slow in the next couple quarter," said Loren Loverde, vice president of IDC's Worldwide Consumer Trackers.

This week, however, a consensus among central banks on how to deal with the sovereign debt crisis emerged, calming fears of market watchers. On Thursday the U.S. Federal Reserve along with the European Central Bank and three other central banks agreed to supply loans to financial institutions with exposure to Greek debt.

The news sparked a market rally, lifting shares of IT companies. Computer companies on the Nasdaq closed Thursday flat for the year. Just Wednesday, Nasdaq computer stocks were down 1.67 percent for the year, and earlier in the quarter they had been down about 5 percent for the year.

The rally continued Friday morning, with Nasdaq computer stocks up 9.24 percent for the day by midday.

Conferences held this week by major IT vendors also played a part in boosting confidence.

For example, Cisco on Tuesday presented a plan to focus on core businesses and streamline management, about a month after reporting that profit dropped by a third, year over year, in its latest fiscal quarter. CEO John Chambers also put to rest rumors that he would be stepping down.

The company has cut its long-held view that it could generate 12 percent to 17 percent annual sales increases, adjusting expectations to 7 percent to 8 percent. Nevertheless, the management shakeup and new focus appears to have assuaged investors.

Elsewhere this week, vendors jumped on the tablet bandwagon. Even as growth in the PC market slows, tablets are taking off. Gartner said this week that global semiconductor sales have slowed, with the market due to decline slightly from last year.

"Three key factors are shaping the short-term outlook: excess inventory, manufacturing overcapacity and slowing demand due to economic weakness," said Gartner's Lewis.

However, increasing user takeup of smartphones and tablets are making NAND flash memory and data processing ASICs the fastest-growing areas for components in 2011, with about a 20 percent increase in sales, Gartner said.

At its BUILD conference for developers, Microsoft pitched Windows 8, making a big play for the tablet market with the upcoming OS' ability to run on ARM processors. ARM processors dominate the tablet market.

Intel, at its Intel Developers Forum, also made a push for the tablet market, showing off devices running on its Atom chip.

Tech investors took heart, boosting vendor share prices. Microsoft shares, closing at US$25.74 last Friday, rose throughout the week, jumping again Friday morning by $0.14 to $27.13. Cisco shares rose from $15.82 at the end of last week to $16.62 Friday morning, while Intel shares increased from $19.70 to $21.84 over the same period.

The rising tide has not lifted all boats, however, as Research in Motion shares plunged Friday, dropping $5.52 to $24.32 in late morning trading. RIM, reporting earnings Thursday, said shipments of its PlayBook tablet declined by half during its second quarter, as overall revenue dropped. Revenue was $4.2 billion, down 10 percent year-over-year, it reported.

RIM was blasted at the launch of the PlayBook for coming out with a first version that did not have crucial features such as enterprise email built in to the device itself. Though the tablet market is providing a respite from bad news in the hardware market, current market conditions, in which IT buyers are cautious, apparently do not leave much room for vendor error.

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Windows 8, iOS, and the Future

On Tuesday, Microsoft offered many more details about its next-generation operating system, Windows 8, to an audience of developers and invited media at its Build conference in Anaheim, California. I was present at the initial Windows 8 unveiling a few months ago, and came away impressed but disappointed.

The root of my disappointment is this: I think Microsoft has, for the first time in a long time, created a product that is truly innovative. It’s Windows Phone 7, which does not feel like an iOS photocopy (as opposed to Android and WebOS, which are very clearly inspired by the iPhone's interface). Windows Phone 7's interface design, “Metro,” offers a fundamentally different approach to a touch interface. Microsoft went its own way with Windows Phone 7 (although sadly not with its name) and it made me enthusiastic about the possible innovations that interface could offer on tablet devices.

But with Windows 8, Microsoft has embraced Metro while rejecting the concept that touch devices and PCs are different classes of products. There will be no “tablet edition” of Windows Phone 7, there will just be Windows 8—whether you run it on a tablet or a desktop PC or something in between.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that this means Apple and Microsoft are apparently taking entirely opposite approaches to the future of personal technology.

Views of the future

There are a couple factors at play in Microsoft’s decisions to create a single operating system for tablets and PCs. First and foremost, this is Microsoft. The company does not believe in a post-PC world, which you might expect from the folks whose software runs on most PCs. Microsoft has a real, business reason to try and keep everyone in the Windows ecosystem, where it dominates, rather than a mobile ecosystem where it’s way behind.

As someone who covers Apple and is used to that company killing its hit products in order to transition to something even better—and as someone who works in an industry with its own challenges—I am predisposed to appreciate businesses that embrace the new rather than opting to squeeze as much money out of the old thing as possible before turning off the lights forever. So yes, my instinct is to dislike Microsoft’s PC-centric approach. I understand it, but it feels like denial.

But what if it’s not denial? Let’s give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt here, because the company may also be betting on the fact that new technologies will make the distinction between PCs and phones and tablets completely irrelevant. Maybe Microsoft did miss the smartphone and tablet waves, but there’s a third wave coming and they’re going to try to surf that one. The company is protecting the past while making a bet on the future.

In this future world, you can use your device in many different ways. If you want to travel with a tablet but also need to run a Windows app, Microsoft will oblige: plug in a keyboard and mouse and your touchscreen tablet interface vanishes, replaced by old-school Windows. Carry a tablet with you for reading a book on the bus in the morning, then plug it in to a stand at the office and it becomes your PC. Maybe even something as small as your smartphone is actually your entire computer, docking to a tablet screen, TV set, or traditional desktop setup as needed. Microsoft is also counting on millions of PC users running Windows 8 on their desktop PCs and then demanding that same familiar interface on a tablet device.

I think I understand Microsoft’s vision here, but I’m not sure I can believe it’ll work. What made the iPad successful when a decade of Windows tablets has failed was that it was a focused product that omitted features in order to keep that focus. It was absolutely not a Mac or PC, but something new that was built from start to finish as a touch-based device. Not only did that make it a consistent, easy-to-use device, but it also made it relatively cheap and energy efficient.

The Metro interface on Windows 8 looks really good. What I can’t get over is that Microsoft wants a regular PC underneath. I suppose it offends me because I am trying to see the product through an Apple lens: If Microsoft had announced that Windows 8 Tablet would not support old Windows software and would run on dedicated tablet hardware only, I would have cheered, because I think that could be a really cool product. But I can see why Microsoft won’t do that: If it does, it risks just being an also-ran. PCs are its lot, for better or worse.

What if Microsoft is right?

Apple’s product philosophy up to this point has been that touch interfaces and traditional PC interfaces do not intermingle—that nobody wants to spend time with their arms out, touching their PC screen, nor do they want to plug in a mouse to an iPad.

But at the same time, Apple has released Lion, an operating system that brings numerous features of iOS “back to the Mac.” Apple is, at the very least, trying to create as much alignment between its two operating systems (which are related, remember) as possible.

Would Apple consider truly merging OS X and iOS into a single operating system, like Windows 8? Right now, I can’t see it. Though OS X and iOS have a lot in common—and more all the time—they run on hardware that’s built for different purposes. Software can adapt, but hardware really can’t. A tablet is not a laptop, and Apple’s not the kind of company to design a tablet with an optional snap-in accessory that sort of turns it into a laptop with a keyboard and a mouse.

As I see it, ultimately how we use these computing devices of ours will depend entirely on context. A tiny device in your pocket needs to behave differently than a 10-inch tablet in your hands or a 20-inch display with a keyboard and mouse at a workstation.

Apple’s philosophy is to create hardware that’s appropriate for a particular use, run appropriate software on that hardware, and (with the advent of iCloud) sync all your documents and data to whatever device you’re using at the time. All of Apple’s stuff is clearly part of the same family, and follows many of the same conventions, but a MacBook Air just isn’t an iPad. Even if it ran iOS on top of OS X, it still wouldn’t be an iPad. iPads run apps meant to be used on tablets. iPhones run apps meant to be run on phones. Macs run apps meant to be run on laptops (and sometimes desktops).

Microsoft's choice

Microsoft is doing this its way. The entire approach here is uniquely Microsoftian, at a time when almost everyone else in the tech industry is trying to take a page from Apple’s book. Perhaps it’ll even work this time. But as someone who was excited to see Windows Phone 7’s Metro interface come to a tablet device, I’m disappointed, because it seems what we’re getting is a small Windows PC with a tablet-interface shell floating on top. It just feels like the wrong approach to me, but I’ll say this for Microsoft—it’s consistent.

[Update: John Gruber chimes in, and as I noted back in June, there is a scenario where there are some tablets that run Metro and kick old Windows apps to the curb. Could be really interesting.]

For more Macintosh computing news, visit Macworld. Story copyright © 2011 Mac Publishing LLC. All rights reserved.

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Windows Phone 7, Day 15: Xbox Live Gaming on WP7

All of the smartphone platforms have games of some sort, but only Windows Phone has Xbox Live. For today's 30 Days With Windows Phone 7, I'm going to play around--literally--with the games hub and Xbox Live capabilities.

I have a number of games on my iPhone--two whole folders. I have Tetris, three different flavors of Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, the Atari Greatest Hits collection, Madden NFL, Tiger Woods Golf, Need for Speed: Shift, and more. I also have more traditional, or cerebral, games like chess and Sudoku.

Xbox LiveWindows Phone 7 "Mango" integrates the complete Xbox Live experience into the mobile phone.Xbox Live

Windows Phone 7 takes gaming to a different level, though, by integrating Xbox Live. Once I associated my Windows Live ID--the same Windows Live ID associated with my Xbox Live account--with my Windows Phone 7 device, my Xbox Live profile became a part of my smartphone gaming experience.

The Games hub live tile is labeled Xbox Live, and my avatar comes popping up every few seconds just to remind me he's there. When I tap on the tile, it opens the Games hub. The default display is the collection of games I have available on the phone. At the bottom there is a link to tap to go to the games marketplace to find more.

When I to the left to switch tabs, it switches to Xbox Live, and there's my avatar again--just hanging out. I can view and edit my Xbox Live profile--change my motto, location, or bio information. I can review my list of achievements, and--with a free app called Xbox Live Extras installed--I can even alter my avatar.

A little further on the other side of my avatar are tiles to see which of my Xbox Live friends are currently available online, as well as what game each of my friends last played, and for Xbox Live messages. I can send or receive Xbox Live messages to other Windows Phones, Xbox Live consoles, or even PCs with Xbox Live.

Multiplayer Platform

There is also a tab for Requests that displays any outstanding turn or game requests I might have. I am not currently engages in any multiplayer games, so I just see a message letting me know there are no game or turn requests, directing me to choose a multiplayer game and invite someone to play.

To be fair, other platforms incorporate social aspects into gaming as well. I have games on my iPhone like Zynga's Hanging with Friends that lets me play against other people, and ties in with Facebook and Twitter to let me know who else from my social network is available to play. The combined audience of Facebook and Twitter is near one billion, so it shouldn't be hard to find others to play against.

It is also worth noting that app development tends to be a catch 22. Developers want to develop for the platform that has the most users, and users tend to go with the platform that has more apps, so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Windows Phone 7 has significantly less market share than iOS or Android, so developers are less likely to create apps for the platform.

But, Xbox Live is a different story. Xbox Live has about 35 million subscribers now, and Microsoft has revealed that Xbox Live will also be incorporated into Windows 8. Within a year or two, the Xbox Live audience could increase exponentially to hundreds of millions of systems--actual Xbox consoles, Windows Phone 7 smartphones, and Windows 8 systems.

The Games

Windows Phone has XNA. XNA is Microsoft's game development system which spans the various platforms Microsoft games can run on. It gives developers a common and familiar set of tools to develop with. With "Mango" developers can now incorporate Silverlight and XNA together in the same app for an even richer experience.

Angry Birds is still Angry Birds. I don't really see any difference between launching birds at pigs hiding in structures regardless of platform. But, I played Need for Speed on both phones (Need for Speed: Shift on the iPhone 4, and Need for Speed: Undercover on Windows Phone 7), and the animation seemed smoother on Windows Phone 7 with more vibrant detail.

I wouldn't say that I am an avid gamer by any means, and I don't consider the smartphone to be the greatest gaming platform. But, my smartphone is always on me--which makes it the ideal platform for anything entertaining to pass the time when the need arises.

Most smartphone buyers are not making decisions based on gaming. But--all else being equal--a person who already has an Xbox console or Xbox Live account may be more likely to choose Windows Phone 7 because of the integration and the potential to play real-time multiplayer games with friends from virtually anywhere on the smartphone.

Read the last "30 Days" series: 30 Days With Google+

Day 14: Mapping With Mango

Day 16: The "Full" IE9 Experience

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YouTube Video that Captured Senior Moments Goes Viral

Webcams are not only hip for young people, but they also can be good for seniors even if they don’t know how to use them.

YouTubeThat was certainly true for Bruce and Esther Huffman.

The elderly couple, who live at a retirement community in McMinnville, Oregon, unknowingly recorded a video of themselves trying to figure out how to use their new laptop’s webcam. The video captured some off-color senior moments that are now the buzz of the social network stratosphere.

If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s a good chance someone on Facebook, Twitter or e-mail will be sharing it with you soon. Titled “Webcam 101 for Seniors,” the YouTube video has been viewed more than 5.5 million times within the last few days.

And it’s no wonder.

In a world with no shortage of bad news every day, this story is different.

During the video, Bruce Huffman makes “monkey faces,” sings, and sweetly tells his wife her hair looks nice and jokes that he wants to see her “boobies.”

Esther Huffman tries to be more serious and figure out why the camera wouldn’t take a picture.

“I’m so sad, Esther, I’m so sad,” laments Bruce Huffman while poking at his face. “Look at all the wrinkles up there, cracks in my head.” His wife responds with a lovely giggle that surfaces many times in the nearly three-minute recording.

When ABC News reported the sensation on Wednesday, the video had only been viewed 100,000 times. That figure has ballooned since then.

“Why won’t it take a picture?” wonders Esther Huffman during the video.

“I don’t know, dear,” replies Bruce Huffman, who belches loudly, then says, “Pardon me.”

Why has the video of the chipper couple gone viral, even though they don’t really do anything in it? You just have watch it for yourself. If it doesn’t put a smile on your face, nothing will.

Happiness, it appears, is contagious.

“When I was 8 years old, my uncle paid me five cents if I’d make a monkey face and I’ve been working on it all these years,” Bruce Huffman told ABC affiliate KATU. “I never knew it’d make me famous. He’s up in heaven and he’d be amazed at what’s going on right here, right now.”

Watch it yourself.

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Why Windows 8 on ARM Matters

See our full Windows 8 coverage

If Windows 8 works successfully on ARM-processor-equipped systems, expect to see thin, light, and innovative devices coming our way. Such devices would include ultrathin laptops with impressive battery life, and superlight, large-screen tablets.

ARM-based 32-bit processors are relatively simple in design compared with Intel's chips. This simplicity means that they consume less power, which makes them perfect for use in devices designed to maximize battery life--such as phones, tablets, and, soon, laptops. The core of the processor can be licensed by chipmakers, who, in turn, can package it into a system-on-chip processor that puts all of the components into a single, integrated-circuit chip. The ARM core isn't new, but it has traditionally been used with embedded systems or with portable devices that don't run Microsoft Windows.

That's about to change--and when it does, it could change the face of computing, as evidenced by the ARM prototypes demonstrated at BUILD.

The beauty of these system-on-chip architectures is that they can be placed in very tight spaces. This obviously impacts case designs--I saw one impressive, not-publicly-shown tablet prototype at this week's BUILD conference that was superthin and supersturdy and that weighed less than a pound and had a 9-inch screen.

Saving space is just one of the benefits of ARM. Another benefit is low power consumption.

"We're seeing no restriction on form factor for the ARM devices," says Steve Horton, director of software and product management for Qualcomm. "Power is going to give you multiple differentiators--multiple days of use, or the ability to do a device that's superthin, or superlight."

The potential power savings of ARM is why chip makers say there is even talk of putting ARM chips into clamshell designs that mimic laptops. ARM is clearly destined for more than just phones and tablets, areas in which ARM already dominates in the form of Qualcomm and Nvidia chips.

But if Windows 8 works on ARM-processor-equipped systems, consumers could see clamshell-style "laptops" with up to 15 hours of battery life.

Of course, once clamshell tablets come out, their keyboards will make them harder to distinguish from ultraportable laptops. Some will run on x86 chips, like those from Intel and AMD, and some ARM-based systems will run Windows 8--but those may not handle your existing software. We're not sure yet how that will be handled, as Microsoft didn't offer much information at this week's event.

If you're wondering whether you'll be able to use existing Windows apps on ARM systems, I did ask--but all of the manufacturers I spoke with glossed over the issue.

"We have thought about it. We're not super concerned," says Qualcomm's Horton. "We think there's a lot of good things coming. The end goal is for the experience to be the same, fundamentally, from a Windows OS standpoint--and it should be the same thing."

Microsoft was also vague about support for legacy apps on ARM, but the company has already demonstrated a version of Office that runs in the new Metro-style Windows interface, as opposed to the traditional desktop.

I asked about how the process of adapting ARM for Windows is going, and the Nvidia, Qualcomm, and Texas Instruments execs I spoke with indicated that things are going smoothly. All noted that they needed to add support for DirectX graphics (if they didn't already support it), but beyond that, the process of preparing ARM for Windows is largely about optimizing code for working with the system-on-chip architecture.

"The work has been going on for more than a year now," says Deepu Talla, general manager of mobile computing and wireless at Texas Instruments. "The only thing I would say we needed to work on was our graphics speeds. We've needed to make changes to our graphics engine to support DirectX. Silicon-wise that's the only difference. And we've made other optimizations in software."

Many of the capabilities of ARM, a chip that dominates smartphones and tablets today, will allow Windows 8 to gain smartphone-like functionality.

For example, Horton points to the "Connected On" demo at BUILD this week. Connected On is a new power state that sends a system into a powered-down state without hibernating, so you can come out of it immediately. In this state, apps are suspended, but can still refresh content in the background without requiring much power. This state of suspension will even work with Qualcomm's 4G technology, a boon considering how 4G can guzzle battery life.

There is one design catch that will have a clear impact on the shape of the devices we see: Microsoft is asking hardware manufacturers to stick with a 16:9 aspect ratio, because that's what the Metro interface (two-apps-on-screen) is optimized for.

In the end, TI's Talla notes that the company's focus is mobile computing.

"It's about developing this all-day computing experience," he says. The other ARM chipmakers agree with Talla--all have a goal of 12- to 15-hour battery life on a system, whether it's a clamshell or a tablet design.

If they manage this, we'll all be able to while away our days at the local cafe, nursing a latte from sunup to sundown--and maybe even beyond. Not bad.

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