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Submission Summary: 0 pending, 4 declined, 3 accepted (7 total, 42.86% accepted)

Microsoft

+ - Microsoft attacking crapware on PCs->

Submitted by dacut
dacut (243842) writes "Are they the evil monopolist trying to take over another market, or a benevolent entrant trying to free us from the bonds of crapware? Todd Bishop reports that Microsoft is now selling "Microsoft Signature PCs" in its new retail stores. While they did remove the trialware and adware familiar to most folks who purchase from major vendors, they do install various Microsoft add-ons (Security Essentials, Silverlight, Bing 3D Maps, Zune 4.0, etc.), plus Adobe Flash and Reader — perhaps less insidious than other programs commonly installed, but some pieces (e.g. Zune) are arguably just Microsoft's own version of crapware. Of course, the existing solutions — running removal tools targeted at crapware, building your own PC and playing OEM, or using an alternative operating system — are still fine alternatives."
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Idle

+ - Playing a DVD: Harder Than Rocket Science?->

Submitted by dacut
dacut (243842) writes "After successfully repairing the Hubble Space Telescope, astronauts aboard the shuttle Atlantis found themselves with a free day due to thunderstorms which delayed their return. They attempted to pass the time by watching movies, only to find that their laptops did not have the proper software, and Houston was unable to help. No word, alas, on what software was involved, though we can assume that software/codec updates are a tad difficult when you're orbiting the planet at 17,200MPH."
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Earth

+ - CFLs causing utility woes->

Submitted by
dacut
dacut writes "We've seen compact fluorescent lamps start to take over shelf space at the local hardware store. Replacing a 60 watt incandescent with a 13 watt CFL seems like a great savings, though many consumers are disappointed with the slow warm-up times, lower-than-advertised lifetimes, and hassles of disposing the mercury-containing bulbs. Now EDN reports they may use more energy than claimed due to their poor power factor. Mike Grather, of Lumenaire Testing Laboratory, "checked the power factor for the CFLs and found they ranged from .45 to .50. Their 'real' load was about twice that implied by their wattage."

The good news: you're only billed for the 13 watts of real power used. The bad news: the utilities have to generate the equivalent of 28 watts (that is, 28 VA of apparent power for you EEs out there) to light that bulb.

Until they fix these issues, I'll hold on to my incandescents and carbon arc lamps, thanks."

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Books

+ - How to write 200,000 books for fun and profit-> 1

Submitted by
dacut
dacut writes "A search on Amazon for Philip M. Parker turns up over 85 thousand books, in fields ranging from economics ( The 2007-2012 Outlook for Lemon-Flavored Bottled Water in Japan ) to medical topics ( The Official Patient's Sourcebook on Sleep Apnea ) to crossword puzzles ( Webster's English to French Crossword Puzzles ). For once, however, this is not a case of a search engine returning irrelevant results or finding multiple authors. In an article titled, "He Wrote 200,000 Books (but Computers Did Some of the Work)," the New York Times (registration required) describes how Mr. Parker "has developed computer algorithms that collect publicly available information on a subject" and "turns the results into books in a range of genres," relying on on-demand print services to keep the cost of publishing down.

These books, however, do not add to our general knowledge base. Parker concedes, "If you are good at the Internet, this book is useless." This is merely reformatting and visualizing data that is already out there. However, given the demand for "research" firms as Gartner, Forrester, IDC, etc. (and as anyone who has been told to regurgitate data into PowerPoint form for PHBs can attest), there is demand out there for this type of service.

He has put up a YouTube video demonstrating the program. Alas, the process has been issued a patent."

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Cellphones

+ - Audit: 39% of mobile calls below minimum quality->

Submitted by
dacut
dacut writes "In news which surprises nobody who owns a cell phone, Test & Measurement World reports that an audit by Ditech Networks showed that 39% of mobile calls fell below industry standards for voice quality. Unlike most carrier tests which focus solely on problems originating in the carrier's network, these tests factored in "the places where people make calls, codec impairments, and mobile devices like phones and headsets." These problems are more widespread in rapid growth markets (India, South America, and the Middle East), with 59% of calls below the minimum vs. 23% elsewhere.

The associated commentary does note that, "not surprisingly, Ditech offers technology that can help fix the problem in the form of its Voice Quality Assurance product," which helps reduce the types of problems uncovered by the audit. But if they're right, the carriers best pay some attention to the problem: poor call quality caused 66.5 million subscribers to switch providers in 2007, costing carriers $23.6 billion."

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Bug

+ - Charter accidentally wipes out 14k e-mail accounts->

Submitted by dacut
dacut (243842) writes "Charter Communications, which provides cable and internet access to 2.6 million customers, accidentally and irretrievably wiped out 14,000 active e-mail accounts while trying to clear out unused accounts. From the article:

There is no way to retrieve the messages, photos and other attachments that were erased from inboxes and archive folders across the country on Monday, said Anita Lamont, a spokeswoman for the suburban St. Louis-based company. "We really are sincerely sorry for having had this happen and do apologize to all those folks who were affected by the error," Lamont said Thursday when the company announced the gaff.
They're providing a $50 credit to each affected customer, which seems a paltry sum for anyone who was less than diligent about backing up their e-mail."

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Privacy

+ - AT&T to Sell Equipment to Monitor Workplaces

Submitted by dacut
dacut (243842) writes "According to an article in the New York Times, "AT&T plans to introduce a nationwide program today that gives owners of small- and medium-size businesses some of the same tools big security companies offer for monitoring employees, customers and operations from remote locations. Under AT&T's Remote Monitor program, a business owner could install adjustable cameras, door sensors and other gadgets at up to five different company locations across the country."

This isn't necessarily new technology — ADT and Digital Witness have similar offerings — but it is coming from a company which allegedly monitors all web traffic through its facilities."

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