Wednesday, June 21, 2006

How Digital Cameras Work

From light to bits, here's how digital cameras do the conversion.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

What’s the fuss over FOSS?

IN an industry where acronyms are de rigueur, it seemed inevitable that an old computing concept would get a new name.

Last November at the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (which goes by its own unwieldy acronym WSIS), FOSS was on everyone’s lips as a way of bridging the divide between technology haves and have-nots.

FOSS stands for “free or open source software,” and it’s increasingly seen as the answer to everything from piracy to the lack of computing resources in Third World countries.

Free software that just anyone can copy or download over the Internet? What a crazy concept! Would businesses want to use software that nobody sold or supported?

The surprising answer is, many of them already do—without knowing it.

Indirectly, anyone who sends e-mail or browses the Web is using free and open source software because that is what powers most of the Internet.

In June 2006, more than six of 10 Web sites were on servers using Apache HTTP Server, an open source program running on Linux, which is also open source. That means if a company has a Web site, chances are good that it’s hosted on an open source system.

Anyone using Firefox (186 million downloads as of this month) to surf the Internet is also using open source software.

Despite these success stories, few people understand why or how free software works.

The concept of free software isn’t all that new. In fact, before software became a commodity, Unix hackers in universities would routinely share their source code—human-readable instructions—with each other, copying and adapting them freely. Programmers expected to be paid for their work, not for the programs themselves.

Out of this environment came Richard Stallman, a programmer at the Artificial Intelligence Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Stallman valued this collegial approach and argued that software users should have the freedom to share programs with others and be able to study and make changes to the software that they used. Restricting these freedoms, he believed, would hurt the larger community by limiting the benefits that the software could bring.

Dissatisfied by the limits that companies were putting on software, including Unix, he set out in 1983 to create a free operating system that he called GNU—a recursive acronym for Gnu’s Not Unix— and invited other programmers to help. In 1985, he created the Free Software Foundation to support the development of free software.

Out of these efforts came a complete set of programming tools but the core of the operating system—called the kernel—proved difficult to complete.

Into this gap stepped Linus Torvalds, a student at the University of Helsinki. In 1991, Torvalds released a kernel that used libraries and tools developed by the GNU project and released it on the Internet, inviting feedback and help from other programmers. Remarkably, developers from all over the world responded and helped Torvalds create and refine his free operating system.

Today, Linux and other free or open source programs have made significant inroads in a world accustomed to proprietary software.

“The Codebreakers,” a BBC documentary in May 2006, shows how different countries have used FOSS to narrow the digital divide. These include school projects in Namibia, Spain and India, computer kiosks in South Africa, a disaster management system in Sri Lanka, and an environmental database system for the Galapagos.

One of the most high-profile efforts, however, is Brazil’s program to support the use and development of free and open source software in its government offices. The move saves Brazil $150 million a year in software licensing costs, which means more money to buy computer hardware for technologically deprived areas.

Nobody expects FOSS to replace proprietary software soon, but given the substantial savings and benefits it would bring, shouldn’t the Philippine government take a closer look?

Column archives and blog at:


Early web-spinner found in amber

Spiral orb webs, which to many people typify spiders, were catching insects in their sticky silk while the dinosaurs still walked the Earth.

True orb weaving spiders found trapped in amber from 121-115 million years ago are the oldest of their type yet found.

The orb-weavers are a diverse spider group

The spiral webs have proven an extremely successful strategy for catching prey - evidenced by the great diversity of orb weavers present today.

Two specimens are described in the UK Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

The fossil spiders were found embedded in amber from Alava in northern Spain. They date to the Lower Cretaceous.

Silky skills

Amber is a form of protective resin extruded from trees that has hardened over millions of years. It is very useful to scientists studying the history of past life because ancient animals and plants are often preserved in the gem-like material.

David Penney of the University of Manchester, UK, and Vicente Ortuno of the University of Alcala, Spain, assign the arachnids to a new species: Mesozygiella dunlopi.

Typical orb webs consist of outer frame lines to which radial (spoke-like) lines are attached, providing support for the characteristic spiral sticky line that occupies most of the web's surface.

Orb webs are a common sight in the garden
By using two different types of silk - one strong and rigid, the other weaker but stretchy - the orb weaver creates a web with the required strength and flexibility to cope with the impact of fast-flying insects - and the struggling which occurs once the prey is captured in the sticky trap.

Web of intrigue

The evolutionary success of this design can be seen in the high diversity of true orb weavers, which currently number 2,847 living species.

This astonishing diversity also owes much to the way in which the basic design can be easily modified.

"One modification to the web is quite fantastic," Dr Penney told the BBC News website.

"Picture a normal, spiral orb web and picture running down from it a ladder-type structure which is also made from sticky silk. This has evolved to trap moths, which have scales that rub off.

"When a moth flies into a normal orb web, it's the scales that stick and the moth tumbles out of it. But with the ladder structure, the moth tumbles down until all the scales come off and eventually it gets caught."

Diverse group

In Biology Letters, Penney and Ortuno write that spiders may have expanded in number and diversity during the Cretaceous.

An explosion in the abundance of flowering plants begot an expansion of the insects which pollinated them. These in turn provided prey for the spiders, the authors suggest, which prospered as a result.

There are fossil spiders that date from the Devonian (350-420 million years ago) - long before even the dinosaurs.

In some of these mineral fossils, it is possible to see evidence of spinnerets, the organs spiders use to spin their web silk.

But it is often unclear how fossil spiders used them; some species spin web silk to line their burrows and to protect egg sacs.


Monday, June 19, 2006

Super Battery

Ever wish you could charge your cellphone or laptop in a few seconds rather than hours? As this ScienCentral News video explains, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing a battery that could do just that, and also might never need to be replaced.

The Past is Future

As our portable devices get more high-tech, the batteries that power them can seem to lag behind. But Joel Schindall and his team at M.I.T. plan to make long charge times and expensive replacements a thing of the past--by improving on technology from the past.

They turned to the capacitor, which was invented nearly 300 years ago. Schindall explains, "We made the connection that perhaps we could take an old product, a capacitor, and use a new technology, nanotechnology, to make that old product in a new way."

Rechargable and disposable batteries use a chemical reaction to produce energy. "That's an effective way to store a large amount of energy," he says, "but the problem is that after many charges and discharges ... the battery loses capacity to the point where the user has to discard it."

But capacitors contain energy as an electric field of charged particles created by two metal electrodes. Capacitors charge faster and last longer than normal batteries. The problem is that storage capacity is proportional to the surface area of the battery's electrodes, so even today's most powerful capacitors hold 25 times less energy than similarly sized standard chemical batteries.

The researchers solved this by covering the electrodes with millions of tiny filaments called nanotubes. Each nanotube is 30,000 times thinner than a human hair. Similar to how a thick, fuzzy bath towel soaks up more water than a thin, flat bed sheet, the nanotube filaments increase the surface area of the electrodes and allow the capacitor to store more energy. Schindall says this combines the strength of today's batteries with the longevity and speed of capacitors.

"It could be recharged many, many times perhaps hundreds of thousands of times, and ... it could be recharged very quickly, just in a matter of seconds rather than a matter of hours," he says.

This technology has broad practical possibilities, affecting any device that requires a battery. Schindall says, "Small devices such as hearing aids that could be more quickly recharged where the batteries wouldn't wear out; up to larger devices such as automobiles where you could regeneratively re-use the energy of motion and therefore improve the energy efficiency and fuel economy."

Nanotube filaments on the battery's electrodes image: MIT/Riccardo Signorelli

Schindall thinks hybrid cars would be a particularly popular application for these batteries, especially because current hybrid batteries are expensive to replace.

Schindall also sees the ecological benefit to these reinvented capacitors. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 3 billion industrial and household batteries were sold in the United States in 1998. When these batteries are disposed, toxic chemicals like cadmium can seep into the ground.

"It's better for the environment, because it allows the user to not worry about replacing his battery," he says. "It can be discharged and charged hundreds of thousands of times, essentially lasting longer than the life of the equipment with which it is associated."

Schindall and his team aren't the only ones looking back to capacitors as the future of batteries; a research group in England recently announced advances of their own. But Schindall's groups expects their prototype to be finished in the next few months, and they hope to see them on the market in less than five years.

Schindall's research was featured in the May 2006 edition of Discover Magazine and presented at the 15th International Seminar on Double Layer Capacitors and Hybrid Energy Storage Devices in Deerfield Beach, Florida on December 2005. His research is funded by the Ford-MIT Consortium.

by Victor Limjoco


100+ megapixel CCD

DALSA develops 100+ megapixel CCD

DALSA Semiconductor has today announced that it has developed the worlds first sensor with a total resolution of over 100 million pixels. To be more specific this single sensor, developed for astronomy, has 10,560 x 10,560 pixels, 111 million in total. The active area of the sensor measures approximately four by four inches and has a 9 µm pixel pitch. This sensor has been developed in conjunction with Semiconductor Technology Associates for the US Naval Observatory.

ALSA Semiconductor, a division of DALSA Corporation (TSX:DSA), an international high performance semiconductor and electronics company, announced today that it has successfully fabricated and delivered the world’s highest resolution image sensor chip to its customer, Semiconductor Technology Associates (“STA”) of San Juan Capistrano, California. The CCD device, which measures approximately four inches by four inches, has a total resolution of over 111 million pixels (10,560 pixels x 10,560 pixels at 9µm). It is the world’s first imager to break the 100 million pixel barrier.

STA developed the record-breaking chip for the Astrometry Department of the U.S. Naval Observatory (“USNO”), funded by the Navy’s Small Business Innovation Research Program. The device will assist USNO in the determination of the positions and motions of stars, solar system objects and the establishment of celestial reference frames. DALSA Semiconductor manufactured the device for STA at its wafer fabrication facility in Bromont, Quebec.

"As with past custom image sensor projects, I'm very satisfied with the versatility and capability of DALSA Semiconductor's foundry to collaborate on new process enhancements and to manufacture challenging custom CCD image sensor products such as this," commented STA President, Richard Bredthauer.

"I'm very pleased that we were able to deliver, ahead of schedule, this custom CCD image sensor to our long time DALSA foundry customer, STA," added Ralf Brooks, President of DALSA Semiconductor. "Completing this challenging, yet successful, project once again illustrates our strong process technology portfolio and our ability to work closely with our customers to create truly unique products."



Friday, June 16, 2006

Born In Madagascar

This rare African Baobab stands about 30 feet tall in the compound of Dr K G Desai’s bungalow on Coyaji Road. Known as Adansonia Digitata and in Marathi as Gorakh Chinch, the tree is native to Madagascar and may have been brought here by Arab settlers. The baobab has been documented in a garden-mapping programme undertaken by a group of Garware College students under Ranwa, an environmental group. The students of microbiology and biodiversity have mapped some ten gardens in the city, highlighting rare, exotic and indigenous tree species, and their location. “We started this initiative as an academic exercise to familiarise students with mapping techniques, but it can also be a guide for the layman,” says Ankur Patwardhan of Ranwa. The maps have been printed in the publication Sajeev Pune, three years ago. Other unique species include the Salix, a lone specimen stands at Deccan Gymkhana, the Star Apple, with just two or three samples that can be found in Sahakarnagar, a lone specimen of Surangi is located opposite Popular Book House in Deccan Gymkhana while the Undi and Kala Palas can be spotted inside Garware College.



Be it fish ladders or butterfly trails, two girls give it back to nature

Winners of the Ramabai Joshi award, Ketaki Ghate and Manasi Karandikar, are into full-time ecological restoration.

Avantika Bhuyan

Pune, May 30: AT a small check dam in Mohapada, near Nashik, shoals of fish jump their way upstream. They are helped by small steps built in the water. These passages, or fish ladders, have been constructed with a purpose— to allow fish migration from the dam to the source of the stream during monsoon.

While this is a done thing in the US and in European countries, Pune-based OIKOS consultancy is among the few organisations that have introduced it in India.

The consultancy is run by two young girls, Ketaki Ghate and Manasi Karandikar, who have been working in natural resource management, biodiversity conservation and eco-tourism planning for four years now.

With clientele ranging from private landowners to corporates like CIPLA and farmers, they plan to make conservation everyone’s business. “People think restoration and preservation is the sole responsibility of the government and environmentalists. We want to make the common man accountable for the conservation of natural resources too,” says Karandikar.

For their innovative services, the girls were recently felicitated with the prestigious Ramabai Joshi Award.

OIKOS took root when Ghate and Karandikar completed their diploma from the Pune-based Ecological Society. Karandikar had already worked with Wild, an NGO, and Ghate was interested in taking up environment restoration as a full-fledged career.

OIKOS offers its clientele services in natural resource management, ecological landscaping and eco-tourism planning. As part of the first service, they do the ecological assessment of the land and bio-diversity present to judge the potential. After the survey, they suggest ways to enhance the productivity and self-sufficiency of land in terms of water and energy. “We also provide baseline data that helps in evaluating and forecasting impacts of the development being undertaken,” says Ghate.

In a bid to save the environment, OIKOS has come up with the concept of ecological landscaping, whereby they use native plant species to beautify the place. “Alien plants like Subabhul, nilgiri and gulmohar don’t help our environmental conditions. These exotic trees alter the natural composition of forests and disrupt the integrity of life on the site,” explains Ghate. Instead, the Flame of the Forest, Indian coral tree and pipal are planted.

CIPLA is one of the corporates which has availed of their landscaping services. As part of the programme, members of OIKOS also trained the employees so that they could take care of the landscape later on.

The girls are getting appreciation for their eco-tourism planning. Instead of putting pressure on natural reserves and sanctuaries, they strive to develop degraded lands and convert them into eco-friendly tourist attractions. Mayurvan Natural Park, near Pune, is one of the areas being developed by them. As part of this project the consultancy will be creating butterfly trails and interpreting wildlife through signages. “We will have signboards giving information about the life-cycle of butterflies and the variety found in the park,” says Karandikar.

Sanctity of wildlife will be preserved at all costs in these projects and the tourists will not be allowed to go deep into the habitat. At present, the girls are working on actor Atul Kulkarni’s property in Satara, that he is trying to convert into a forest.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Windows vs. Linux: Time to Call a Truce?

By Peter Galli
June 12, 2006

BOSTON—It's time for the Windows and Linux communities to drop the religious war and get together in a hurry to put the strengths of each operating system to best use, according to a nationally recognized authority on Windows Server.

There is still a broad knowledge gap about how to get Windows and Linux to work better together, and these issues won't be resolved until the two communities put aside the whole "religion" issue, said Jeremy Moskowitz, a consultant and authority on Windows 2000/2003 Server, Active Directory and SMS, to attendees at the annual TechEd developer show here.

In a session titled "Windows/Linux integration: The Art of the Possible" on June 12, Moskowitz said that Linux is free like a puppy is free, "but after that comes the costs of training and the leashing and the dog-sitter."

While Linux has been more stable than Windows historically, that gap is now narrowing. But there are a lot fewer reboots with Linux, he said, asking the audience whether Linux has less security bugs.

After hearing their response, he acknowledged that there is no consensus on this question and that from his perspective, "it appears to be equal. Windows has more patches, but Microsoft releases them more frequently and fixes things more quickly," said Moskowitz.

Not everything in Linux is ready for prime time, including the GUI client-side tools that should be Kerberized like their server counterparts, he said, adding that bringing new technology into an environment always has some cost.

"At the end of the day, both Windows and Linux bring things that are good, and we can all get along and we should look at how we can leverage the strength of each to the benefit of the other," he said.

Turning to the specific strengths of each, Moskowitz said Windows has been very successful with Active Directory, especially for single sign-on and single location source, or Distributed File System.

Windows is also a leader in applications and the application ecosystem; and it is clearly the dominant player on the desktop, he noted.

However, Moskowitz said Linux is doing a good job of playing catch-up and is also strong in the areas of "terminal services"-style functionality, firewall/networking tools, databases and custom applications.

Linux has also proved very successful at file sharing, Web services and programming--especially with LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP/Perl/Python), terminal services style functionality; firewall and networking tools and custom applications, he said. Another potential strength is databases, which is where Moskowitz said he expects the next challenge to Microsoft to come from.

So, where could integration start? Moskowitz suggested a scenario wherein Windows and Linux clients could be authenticated to a Unix NIS (Network Information System) Server. "Active Directory can be made to look like an NIS server, and the reason why you might want to make Active Directory an NIS server is that this would leave the Unix clients basically untouched; they would only need to rebind to the AD/NIS server; and the Unix NIS servers can be recommissioned," he said.

"The ideal goal would be to use modern standards for authentication for both Windows and Linux [LDAP and Kerberos]," he said, before showing a slide on "the authentication recipe."

More information and resources on Windows and Linux integration can be found here.

This involves extending Active Directory using SFU (Services for Unix) 3.5 schema or Windows Server 2003 R2; creating an account that can search Active Directory; downloading open-source tools to help with authentication and reconfigure them; instructing Linux about how to look up Unix account information in Active Directory; and instructing Linux clients how to handle home directories, he said.

Moskowitz also sketched scenarios under which printing could be integrated between Windows and Linux, as a likely first place to start before turning to e-mail integration.

This will be a key factor, since it is a given that Microsoft Exchange isn't going away any time soon, a point he made by first asking whether there was anyone in audience who works at a site that is phasing out the e-mail and collaboration system. Only one attendee answered in the affirmative.

The problem with integration is trying to achieve true single sign-on, which "is really tough, and the last mile will be a long mile, especially as we face dueling authentication systems," Moskowitz said.

Furthermore, lackluster application support, Moskowitz said, still remains an issue for Linux, along with a dearth of updated code on many open-source projects at and a shortage of resources like specific walkthroughs and other documentation.


A million Seed Balls

I got a chance to meet the person behind "A million Seed Balls" yesterday and got to hear the story behind the inovation.

Imagine then, a clay ball the size of a large marble. Imagine also that it contains seeds for a complete habitat.

The seed ball: it could contain plant potential for an entire ecosystem. It can be made by anyone, anywhere in the world where there is clay, compost, seed and water.

Seeds that are selected are indigenious varieties such as:
1. neem
2. honge
3. sampige

Check out more details @

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Linus Torvalds : Reclusive Linux founder opens up

(CNN) -- Portland, Oregon is the unlikely capital of a global software revolution. The revolution is called Open Source. And its leader? Linus Torvalds, the reclusive founder of Linux.

Linux is the free software code developed by a global community of programmers. It's also the world's fastest growing operating system and number two behind Microsoft.

Torvalds works full time overseeing the development of Linux which he created back in 1991 while at university in Helsinki.

Usually media shy, the 36-year-old Finn invited Kristie Lu Stout and the Global Office team into his home for an insight into life at the helm of the operating system that is giving Microsoft some serious headaches.

Kristie Lu Stout: What role do you play in the development of Linux today?

Linus Torvalds: Well today what I do mostly is actually communication. I started out as the main developer but these days what I do is act as the central point for other people who do a lot of development and I gather it all together and basically communicate with people what needs to be done and so on.

KLS: What's your ballpark figure in terms of how many Linux developers there are out there?

LT: I actually only work with a few handfuls so I tend to directly interact with maybe 10 - 20 people and they in turn interact with other people. So depending on how you count, if you count just the core people, 20 -50 people. If you count everybody who's involved; five thousand people -- and you can really put the number anywhere in between... Almost, pretty much all, real work is done over e-mail so it doesn't matter where people are.

KLS: So you have the core people, you have the developers and you have the testers. What do you think motivates everyone, drives everyone to create the best work possible to create a good product?

LT: A lot of the core people just feel excited about the technology. And that's why a lot of people just start; that's where I started from, it was just the excitement of doing something yourself. It's kind of like a hobby. You can tinker with cars, you can tinker with computers. There are a lot of technical issues that are just very exciting if you're that kind of person...At least from the developers' standpoint, nobody does it because they hate Microsoft. None of the people I work with do it for that reason. They do it because they love doing what they do.
Tremendous growth

KLS: In the last year we've seen tremendous growth in Linux usage especially on desktop computers, especially with stuff out there like Open Office, especially the Firefox browser. Do you think we're nearing a tipping point where Linux is becoming mainstream?

LT: Well as far as I'm concerned it's actually been pretty mainstream. Already I've been doing this for 15 years and you have to realize that I've got a slightly different viewpoint on the whole thing.

KLS: I understand, but let's say your mom or my mom, they're surfing the Internet but maybe they're not surfing with Firefox just yet or they don't really know what Linux is just yet.

LT: Open source is definitely getting to the point where a lot of people who don't actually know about the technology start to know about the notion of open source and start to use the products. Not just Linux, I mean Firefox is certainly the one that a lot of people will have seen because they prefer it, because it's better or because it's more secure or for any other number of reasons.

KLS: Another reason, because it's an alternative to Microsoft?

LT: Well that is, I think, played up more than it necessarily needs to be. Because there is a very vocal side to this which is the whole anti Microsoft thing. I think it makes a better story than is necessarily true in real life.

KLS: Now let's go back to the beginnings when Linux first started in the early 1990s. What motivated you to give away the source code?

LT: I didn't start thinking I want to give out the source code. What I started doing, already at that point I was 21, I was at Helsinki University and for half my life I'd been doing programming. All the projects I'd ever done had been projects for my own enjoyment -- technical challenges, but also to just solve issues that I had. And Linux really was nothing different from that. So open source was not really a conscious decision of "I want to make this open source." To a large degree open source was just a way to allow others to look at this and say, "Hey, this is what I've done -- I'm proud of this."

KLS: Do you think there was a little bit of bragging involved?

LT: Absolutely. There was a bit of bragging, there was also a bit of, hey, I still, the way I do my work is I sit these days downstairs in my basement alone. And it's nice to just talk to people and a lot of it was probably just social, just saying, hey this is a way to interact with other geeks who are probably also socially inadequate in many ways.

KLS: And you have a mascot for all this which is the penguin. How did that happen?

LT: I felt that Linux wanted and needed a very nice kind of friendly mascot to kind of offset some of the geekiness and the hard technology. So selecting an animal was a pretty obvious thing to do. And at the same time you want something that is exotic; you don't want a dog or a cat because that's just too everyday. And everybody likes penguins, so I actually decided I want a penguin as my mascot. I want it to be cuddly, I want it to be a plush toy kind of penguin and I could do that myself. So we actually farmed out that design too and we just had a small competition for who could make the nicest penguin. Now you can see the winning end result everywhere on the web.

KLS: Did you ever think about getting into the money game, getting insanely rich from the operating system, which is now the fastest growing operating system in the world that you created?

LT: Well I got rich enough. This isn't bad. It wasn't what I was interested in. In many ways I am very happy about the whole Linux commercial market because the commercial market is doing all these things that I have absolutely zero interest in doing myself. The commercial market is how I actually get a pay check every month. And I get it for doing what I want to do and that is the technical side. I don't want to have anything to do with the commercial marketing stuff. I think everybody is actually quite happy about this arrangement, that people can do what they specialize in, not just on the technical side but overall.

KLS: Over the years, Linux has spawned other open technologies and even an open source spirit or open source philosophy. It has engendered stuff like Wikipedia, the online open source encyclopedia or even, some could argue, citizen journalism. What are your thoughts about that?

LT: We shouldn't give credit to Linux per se. There were open source projects and free software before Linux was there. Linux in many ways is one of the more visible and one of the bigger technical projects in this area and it changed how people looked at it because Linux took both the practical and ideological approach. At the same time I don't think this whole "openness" notion is new. In fact I often compare open source to science. To where science took this whole notion of developing ideas in the open and improving on other peoples' ideas and making it into what science is today, and the incredible advances that we have had. And I compare that to witchcraft and alchemy, where openness was something you didn't do. So openness is not something new, it is something that actually has worked for a long time.

KLS: What is your favorite offshoot of the open source philosophy?

LT: That is an unexpected question. I don't even know. I think the nicest part of it is not really the open source side but the whole community side which was to me not really expected at all. But it is really what keeps me motivated these days.

KLS: Now you are something of a rock star in tech circles...

LT: I don't notice that in normal life. I don't actually go to that many conferences. I do that a couple of times a year. Normally I am not recognized, people don't throw their panties at me. I'm a perfectly normal person sitting in my den just doing my job.

KLS: How often do you get the chance to see your fellow Linux contributors face to face?

LT: Not very often. There are a few of them that are local. I meet with them very occasionally. We go out for beer or breakfast or something. We have two conferences a year that people go to and those are largely social. I mean sometimes you also work out issues face to face during the conferences. Maybe it is easier to agree, but most of it really is about the social side when you go to conferences and you will find people sitting at the same table with laptops and they will send each other emails, because it is often a better way to communicate when you have a technical issue; you can write it down more, you can point to the code.

KLS: So the face to face thing is a little bit overrated?

LT: I think so. For example I long ago decided I will never go to meetings again because I think face to face meetings are the biggest waste of time you can ever have. I think most people who work at offices must share my opinion on meetings. Nothing ever gets done. When things get done, you usually have someone come into your office to talk about it. But a lot of the time the real work gets done by people sitting, especially in programming, alone in front of their computers doing what they do best.

KLS: What are your thoughts about the future of Linux and whether or not it can continue to survive without you?

LT: It has grown so much bigger than me. Ten years ago it needed me, both personally and as a figurehead. These days, there are tons of companies, there are lots of people who know the technology. I end up being the central gathering point but it's because people know me, people trust me. I am neutral. I really like doing Linux. I like the technical challenges, I like the interaction and as long as I am the best person for it I want to do it.

KLS: So it sounds like, going forward you are still going to do the job, be the as you put it, the central focus point of the Linux development process?

LT: Right. At the same time I will also try to farm out as much as possible. I still want to be the central point, but I don't want to be the bottleneck for anything and that does require that you trust a lot of other people and you just say, "hey, you make the decision, I am not going to micro-manage," because that really doesn't work. That drives people wild and when you don't even pay them they won't accept it, so I can't afford to be that type of bottleneck either.

KLS: Is there anything else you want to accomplish going forward?

LT: No, but on the other hand I am not the kind of person that really plans ahead a lot. When I started Linux it wasn't because I wanted to be where I am today. I am more of an "everyday as it comes" type of person. I am very happy that I feel like I do something meaningful, that has made a difference, that actually a lot of people use. But at the same time I don't have and I never have had any big visionary goals.


Recommended PHP reading list

While looking for PHP resources, I bumped on this page on IBM website.

This list of recommended reading material on PHP is compiled from a variety of online sources by Web application developers in IBM's Global Production Services organization. These resources have been selected with the intention of introducing IT specialists and architects to PHP, providing specific information about development and maintenance, and helping to integrate the technology with IBM products.

PHP is an interpreted programming language run in an environment provided by an open source core engine and extensions whose development is driven by many companies and individuals. As such, this list describes resources that apply to writing PHP programs and to customizing the interpreter's environment. It links to material published by IBM and content provided by others.

This list is updated periodically. Please help us improve it by providing your comments below.

Go to the list

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Map Mania

Megha Bahree, 06.05.06

From Google Earth to tracking the avian flu virus, map software suddenly is hot tech.

The Web has gone map mad. Ever since Google released easy-to-use software tools for its nifty on-screen maps of streets and satellite images a year ago, fans have set off an explosion of creative overlaps, adding their own useful and sometimes quirky data.

One map locates dog-friendly hotels in the U.S., another tracks taco trucks in Seattle (with photos and health inspection records of the trucks). A map of upcoming Native American powwows marks each site with a blue eagle feather instead of a virtual pushpin. The Gawker Stalker map of celebrity sightings in Manhattan got George Clooney so mad he urged people to flood the site with fake posts, Gawker says.

Google started this binge on maps and "mash-ups"--loading simple maps with extra information--last June, and Yahoo and Microsoft's MSN have recently helped fuel it with features of their own. Silicon Valley cartographers held their first mash-up camp in February in Mountain View, California, drawing 300 people; 500 have signed up for the next one, in mid-July.

All this geographic mania amuses the de facto father of the mapping field: Jack Dangermond, founder and president of Environmental Systems Research Institute, the 37-year-old firm that is the Microsoft of mapping. ESRI, run out of Redlands, California, has annual sales of more than $600 million and is growing at better than 10% a year. It claims to be one of the largest suppliers of software to the federal government after Microsoft, Oracle and IBM. It is owned entirely by Dangermond, one of four children born to Dutch immigrants, and his wife, Laura, who also grew up in a modest home.

ESRI's 300,000 customers include most federal agencies, health departments in all 50 states in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, oil and forestry companies and more. ESRI maps are used in all cars equipped with General Motors (nyse: GM - news - people )' OnStar service. Its tools also track cholera and malaria in Bangladesh and India, guinea worm in West Africa and West Nile virus in the U.S.

ESRI's software's key strength is the "club sandwich effect" by which customers handle advanced spatial analysis with up to dozens of layers of data from economic, demographic and environmental databases. ESRI street and satellite maps can be updated almost instantaneously as new information streams in from the field.

Dangermond is a bit dismissive of Google's efforts, viewing its mash-ups as so much eye candy. Yet ESRI itself, until now focused mainly on high-end corporate and government clients, is responding to the Google excitement by making its latest software features available online to the mapping masses. "Because of Google Earth," Dangermond says, "people became more aware of" using geographic information systems (GIS), "and they now understand what we're doing. We're seeing a lot of business customers realizing that geography matters, location matters."

The low-key Dangermond says revenue will rise nearly 15% this year and will grow more than 20% in each of the next two years, once ESRI releases the next big version of its GIS software. "I'm not telling you these numbers because of Wall Street," says Dangermond. "We don't march to that kind of drummer." The firm won't disclose its profits, but Dangermond says his operating margins run around 15%, and the company plows 20% of revenue into research every year.

ESRI's publicly traded competitors, including MapInfo, Intergraph and Autodesk, are all growing nicely, too, and they often outhustle ESRI in markets such as direct mail targeting and retail store site selection. Cox Communication used GIS software from MapInfo to combine data about its customers, service offerings and broad demographics to figure out what products to market where and even where to build its networks next. Within ten minutes of assembling the data, Cox had a decent list of direct mail targets.

ESRI's rivals have made inroads into its stronghold in government and public health agencies. But its new release, called ArcGIS 9.2, will let any user publish a map online so it can be revised by another user, like a Google mash-up but with far more sophisticated data sets. The primary interface will be a very cool 3-D globe that lets you zoom around from place to place by simply entering an address or even a phone number, something you can't do on Google.

Up until now ESRI's software has been a tool for geo-geeks, many of whom have gone in for some training in GIS. Its maps are far less sleek and responsive than the simpler Google and Yahoo maps. The map on ESRI's Web site, showing driving directions to its headquarters, is inferior to Google's version of the same.

But with the new release ESRI will make big use of standard Web languages such as XML and Java to create maps far easier to use--and more fun--for clients. In one demonstration an ESRI engineer zoomed to within 6 inches of a building rooftop in Los Angeles. Another demo plotted a route from Greenwich Village to Wall Street in Manhattan and smoothly flew overhead along the route.

Dangermond doesn't see Google as a competitor ("We like those guys"), but he admits his software needed to be prettier and quicker. "I've watched our software grow for 35 years," he says, "but this release is more technology than we've ever released in 35 years."

Falk Huettmann, a wildlife ecologist at the University of Alaska's Fairbanks campus, uses ESRI software to track the spread of the highly contagious H5N1 bird flu virus. To a comprehensive terrain map of Alaska he adds data on avian flyways, urban settlements, hospital locations and climate. This mishmash will let him decide where to send field-workers to test for infected birds, plotting the risk of the disease spreading and the chance of setting up a secure quarantine.

Ten years ago ESRI started investing in partner companies in Asia, where it earns an annual revenue of around $250 million. Today it has subsidiaries in Japan, China, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand.

"In the last three to four years our companies in Asia have been seeing a 20% to 30% average annual growth, reflecting the growth of the economies there," says Dave Byers, head of ESRI, Asia-Pacific Region. The product has been localized and can "speak" in 27 languages. For instance, in two Hindi-speaking states in northern India the government has used GIS to plot parcel data. The output, which is used by local officials and farmers, is in Hindi. ESRI India's sales have gone up from $500,000 to $10 million over the past ten years.

Several countries have also used GIS to track diseases. In India it is being used to track malaria and identify the areas prone to breeding mosquitoes. It was also used by the government of Hong Kong to track the outbreak of SARS in 2003.

After the Asian tsunami ESRI India set up, for free, a center in Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu in the south to map the villages that were affected and offered information on the population of each village and the damage sustained.

For Dangermond's customers, location is everything. "People want the geographic advantage," he says.


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Elephants Dream : The World’s First Open Movie Released!

A new phenomena is making its debut in the movie industry today; the world’s first Open Movie has been released on the internet.

Ton Roosendaal has once again relentlessly turned a vision into reality: the dream to prove the power of Open Source software by creating a movie that could match itself with any commercial product.

Open Content

Not only would the movie be made using Open Source software, but the contents themselves were to be Open as well: all of the digital assets and production files are released under a Creative Commons license, allowing everyone to see how the movie was made, make changes to it and create a new, derived movie. This will be an invaluable archive not only for the Blender community, but for the 3D community in general.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

When and why use flash in Wildlife Photography - Jayanth Sharma

As an animal lover I always believed “flash is nothing but a strong disturbance to wildlife”. Instances like animals getting startled by flash, vacating the place immediately after the first time a flash is triggered, behaving strangely, and aggressive responses always made my belief stronger. I even heard stories of a tourist walking close to the lonely tusker on Bandipur-ooty road and taking a picture through his digital camera which triggered a flash due to low light. It was an unfortunate way of ending ones life.

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India will be 'youngest' nation by '10: Study

BS Corporate Bureau in Mumbai | May 30, 2006 10:16 IST

India is set to be the world's 'youngest' nation by 2010 and will be the only large country to have favourable demographics - the only large country where the earning population is more than those dependent.

While India's median age by 2015 will be 27 from the current 24, that of China will reach 37 from 32. Favourable demographics, along with structural reforms and globalisation will drive the country to a sustained +8 per cent economic growth, according to a JM Morgan Stanley study.

The second edition of the 'India and China: New Tigers of Asia' study, says that India can maintain the high-growth phase longer than East Asia as its age-dependency ratio will continue to decline till 2035 - that is, the share of working-age population will continue to rise.

"The economic impact of India's demographic trends should improve further as the age-dependency ratio falls to 55 per cent by 2010 and to 52 per cent by 2015 from an estimated 60 per cent at present," Chetan Ahya, executive director, JM Morgan Stanley Securities, said.

The favourable demographics would also push India's aggregate savings to over 33-35 per cent of GDP over the next five years, from the past three years' average of 28.6 per cent, Ahya said.

"This increase in savings and, correspondingly, the investment-to-GDP ratio to above 35 per cent should ensure a shift in India's growth to a sustained rate of +8 per cent," Ahya said. On the other hand, over the next 10 years China's growth rate would moderate from a high base.