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Monday, October 31, 2005

Supercomputer doubles own record

The Blue Gene/L supercomputer has broken its own record to achieve more than double the number of calculations it can do a second.

It reached 280.6 teraflops - that is 280.6 trillion calculations a second.

Where do you put the games in?

Top 500 supercomputers list
IBM Blue gene project
Wiki - Supercomputers

Friday, October 28, 2005

Iran makes the US case

The European Union and Russia have joined condemnation of the Iranian president's public call for Israel to be 'wiped off the map'.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's remark has already been condemned by individual EU states and Canada who all summoned Iranian diplomats for an explanation.

A top Israeli minister called for Iran to be expelled from the United Nations.

The White House said the comment showed the US was right to be concerned about Iran's nuclear programme.

Dumb or what? The US and the UK have been making grumbling noises about Iran for a while, the US has changed its nuclear policy to allow for first strike and the Iranian president calls for Israel to be 'wiped from the map'. I'm thinking this wasn't such a smart move and is going to cost Iran big time.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Net users told to get safe online

Widespread ignorance about basic computer security is putting millions of people at risk from net-savvy criminals, a study suggests.

It found 83% of 1,000 people questioned were not doing enough to protect themselves online, with 53% saying they did not know how to improve security.

Some 42% relied on family and friends for advice, the survey revealed.

It was released to mark a Get Safe Online campaign backed by the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit and the government.

"Increasingly we are seeing organised criminals turning to the internet as a vehicle for their criminality," said Sharon Lemon, head of the crime unit.

"And as more of us are connecting to the internet to shop, bank and communicate, we need to make sure that we do so as safely as possible."

Get Safe Online
National High Tech Crime Unit

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Music site inspires remix culture

Teens are been given the chance to learn more about music through remixing via a government-funded website.

Soundjunction, created by the UK's Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, lets people explore jazz, west African, and western classical.

Three pieces were written especially for the site by musicians Jason Yard, Tunde Jegede and David Horn.

The site aims to inspire people about music by letting them play around with different bits to create new pieces.

Now, if they'd only throw in a bit of Green Day ...

Monday, October 24, 2005

Your brain's sex can make you ill

Scientists say they have proof that the sex of the brain makes men and women more prone to different diseases.

Doctors know that women are more likely than men to have depression, anxiety or an eating disorder, while men are at higher risk of Parkinson's disease.

Post-mortem and brain imaging studies show that male and female brains are physically different.

Others [studies] have shown that hormone levels could play a part in multiple sclerosis.

Dr Carlo Pozzilli and colleagues at the University La Sapienza in Italy found that women with MS had lower levels of the male hormone testosterone throughout their monthly cycle compared to women who did not have MS.

In Parkinson's Disease ... when they took away the source of the testosterone in male rats by castrating them, the brain degeneration was lessened.

However, surprisingly, when they gave the male mice oestrogen the damage was even worse.

And my favourite bit 'cause I've said so for years ...

She scanned the brains of women before and after they were pregnant and found the brain shrank during pregnancy.

... but reversed by six months after delivery of the baby.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Under 16's will be automatically reported to police for seeking sex advice

CHILDREN under 16 would be automatically reported to the police if they seek advice on contraception, pregnancy or abortion, under government proposals.

Family planning and health campaigners said yesterday that the plans, which would do away with a child’s right to confidential sexual health advice, would be disastrous because they would deter many from seeking much-needed help.

Jan Barlow, chief executive of Brook, the sexual health charity, said it could lead to “a massive increase” in unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

“Abusive or coercive relationships would also be more likely to remain hidden if young people felt that there was no one they could trust to listen to them in confidence,” she said."

Dumb idea. Really dumb

Monday, October 17, 2005

Toxic computers burden India's poor IQ

While businesses see Bangalore as a technology hub, environmentalists claim India is the world's dumping ground for old computers. And this is threatening the health of some of the country's most vulnerable people.

Most of our discarded computers will end up in a huge pile. But India's pile of past-it PCs is larger than most.

This year the country will import more than 4.5 million new computers, plus many second-hand ones with shorter lifespans. It is known as electronic or e-waste.

In the cities, India's poor scrape a living by breaking down PCs and monitors. They boil, crush or burn parts in order to extract valuable materials like gold or platinum.

But what they do not realise is that the toxic chemicals inside like cadmium and lead can pose serious health risks.

Half of children in a city like Bangalore already have blood lead levels at about 10 micrograms per decilitre, which has resulted in a reduction in their intelligence quotient. We are seeing more and more cases now because more and more electronic waste is being handled by our people.

Nothing like a little neurologic dysfunction to make your life awkward.

Friday, October 14, 2005

'Death threats' land spammer in court

An internet spammer is in court following scams which allegedly netted him £1.5m over a number of years.

Peter Francis-Macrae is currently on trial for alleged death threats, made as police and trading standards moved in on his fraudulent net operation.

The court was told how he ran a bogus registration service for net addresses.

Pretending to be a legitimate agent who could act on behalf of businesses wanting to register a domain name proved a lucrative scam, jurors heard.

But as the net closed on his bogus businesses, he allegedly began threatening police and trading standards staff and it was this that finally landed him in court.

What a muppet. Death threats against the police and trading standards personnel are generally considered a bad idea, even amongst the most hardened of organised criminals, never mind a spammer. Oh well, you live and learn, I suppose.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Fraudsters can't beat Govt. incompetence

Fraud and error in the benefits system cost the taxpayer £3 billion a year - half of it due to mistakes by officials, according to a new report.

The report, by the influential House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, welcomed progress made by David Blunkett's Department for Work and Pensions in cutting unemployment benefit fraud by 38% since 1997-98, but said that the overall level of fraud and error had remained unchanged for the last three years.

It warned that plans to cut 30,000 staff as part of a Whitehall cost-saving exercise risked damaging morale and losing expertise needed to make an inroad into the massive fraud problem.

I love this story. The spin on the story is that fraud is costing the UK billions of pounds but the whitewash is that really, more than half of the £3 billion figure is actually due to incompetence.

This means that every fraudster and incorrect-form filler in the UK can't quite swindle or otherwise misappropriate a sum of money equal to that squandered and wasted by the officials who are supposed to be up to the job. Heh!

Useless management: £1.5 billion
Every scammer in the UK: £1.5 billion

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

50 million 'will flee environmental degradation'

There will be as many as 50 million environmental refugees in the world in five years' time.

That is the conclusion of experts at the United Nations University, who say that a new definition of 'environmental refugee' is urgently needed.

They believe that already environmental degradation forces as many people away from their homes as political and social unrest.

"In poorer rural areas especially, one of the biggest sources of refugees is land degradation and desertification, which may be caused by unsustainable land use interacting with climate change, amplified by population growth," he told the BBC.

"A second issue is flooding, caused I would say by increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere super-imposed with probably some natural fluctuations."

The projected figure of 50 million is derived from a number of previous reports, including the 1999 World Disasters Report from the International Red Cross.


UNHCR - the UN refugee agency
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Earthquakes - the next will hit

Some time back, I wrote about how earthquakes would be moving north after the massive 9.15 magnitude Sumatra-Andaman quake that struck the Indonesian fault plate and caused the deadly Tsunami that killed around 275,000 people all along the rim of the Indian Ocean, although its effects were felt in every corner of the world.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that such a massive geological shift would transfer the strain to geological fault lines to the North. So far, so bad.

The news however, gets worse. Not that it isn’t bad enough already given the devastation wrought by the 7.6 magnitude to strike Kashmir and the surrounding region. The death toll is enormous, estimated to be around 30,000 with 50,000 injured (and counting).

What makes this particular earthquake so ominous is where it occurred; at the very apex of the Indo-Australian plate. This means the tectonic stresses have compressed the fault lines, placing more pressure along those lines which are most active, which, in the case of Turkey, happens to be the fault lines running near Istanbul, a city with a population of around 11 million people and some would say, the kind of buildings which are less likely to withstand a major earthquake.

Worldwide Earthquake Locator

Friday, October 07, 2005

Some bloggy changes going on

Ok, so I’ve got this new gizmo I downloaded from which you can find here: Blogger for Word.

It plugs into Microsoft Word and lets you compose your posts in, surprise, surprise, Word, before publishing.

I don’t know about you but I sometimes find myself inspired to write some sort of inspirational blog post (well, the odd dirty joke), and just can’t be bothered logging into the Blogger dashboard to make a new post. This little plug-in should help a great deal with that little bugbear.

You may also have noticed that the post title is now a live link. This is thanks to SarahK, who writes a blog called Simple SEO, and in particular, this nifty little 5 minute copy and paste exercise, which allowed me to alter the template to make the links live in blogger.

Ok, that’s my first Blogger for Word post written. Let’s see if it publishes.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Web pages help criminals trap victims

Malicious hackers and hi-tech criminals are changing tactics in a bid to outwit security firms.

Statistics show that tech-savvy criminals are starting to turn away from e-mailed viruses to webpages to snare their victims.

Also, say security firms, criminals are using spyware to get hold of personal data they can sell or use themselves.

Fake programs that pose as proper products or security updates are reported to be on the rise.

More and more malicious code is appearing in web traffic as opposed to e-mail," said Mark Sunner, chief technology officer at MessageLabs.

For instance, said Mr Sunner, many phishing attacks use fake websites to try to steal login details and personal information rather than just rely on people filling in fields on a fake mailed message.

Users are being urged to keep anti-virus software up to date and regularly use reliable anti-spyware programs such as Spybot and Ad Aware.

Related Links:
Top Ten Scams (this blog)
Kaspersky Antivirus
Microsoft Antispyware
Spybot Search & Destroy* - recommended
Free Antivirus from Grisoft (AVG)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Exercise now to cut dementia risk

Exercising for half an hour at least twice a week during midlife can significantly cut a person's risk of dementia later, say researchers.

People in their late 40s and early 50s who do this could reduce their risk of dementia by about 50%, according to a study reported in Lancet Neurology.

Those who are genetically prone to Alzheimer's disease could see a reduction of about 60%, it adds.

oops! too late for me, I fear. heh!