Category: Hardware

3D printed gun could be out by year's end

Instead of putting technological know-how towards bringing about a post-scarcity society where need is eliminated through Star-Trek esque replicators, gun nuts at Defense Distributed are fighting for America’s right to keep and bear arms – claiming a prototype for the 3D-printed plastic weapons may be ready before the end of this year.

Spokesperson Cody Wilson told the Guardian that his company is just sitting on logistics, time, resources, and money – and is just now waiting to get the nod for a federal firearms licence, a permit required for building weapons in the US. 

Although the company that was planning to lease its printer, Stratasys, repossessed the device, two Texan – where else? – companies offered their space for ballistics testing, while there is another firm that is now renting a 3D printer to Defense Distributed, although the spokesperson refused to name it.

Defense Distributed itself is applying to beome a nonprofit, describing itself as charitable public interest publishing – basically distributing weapons blueprints online for free, while a research company called Liberty Laboratories plans to build and trial the guns. Another will manage the finances.

The Guardian reports that as soon as Defense Distributed gets its federal firearms licence, the group is going to build prototype weapons as soon as possible, on the back of up to five blueprints independent designers submitted to the company. 

Along with the libertarian, gun-touting vision of Defense Distributed, scientists at the University of Glasgow boasted earlier this year that it may also be possible to print your own drugs not too far in the future.

Microsoft commits to Surface for four years

Apple cloning outfit Microsoft has said that it will support its Surface RT tablet with updates, including security patches, until April 2017.

But while this might sound like a long time, it is half what Vole usually offers, and would appear to be part of Redmond’s “copy Apple business” model plan.

Vole likes to offer support for nearly a decade, but seems to be enamoured with Job’s Mob’s trick of forgetting about one bit of hardware as soon as a new one comes out. Microsoft has not gone totally towards the Apple way of doing things. The Surface RT will have twice the support that Jobs’ Mob gave the original iPad.

According to Computerworld, Microsoft will support the Surface RT only in the “Mainstream” support phase. Normally Vole supports consumer-grade software only during that five-year period. However business software, as well as some titles that are designed for consumers, such as Office Home and Student 2010, receive another five-year stretch, called “Extended” support, for a total of 10 years.

If all this is true, then it is fairly likely that there will be a shorter-than-usual support lifetime for Surface Pro, which Microsoft plans launch at the end of January 2013. That tablet will be powered by an Intel processor, and run Windows 8 Pro.

All this goes against Microsoft’s latest policy of extending support rather than contracting it. Microsoft expanded the consumer versions of Windows 7 and Windows Vista to a decade to synchronise them with the lifespan of enterprise editions.

Credit agency rubbishes Sony

Troubled electronics giant Sony has just received a kick in the nadgers from the credit rating agency Fitch.

According to Reuters, Fitch claimed that even Panasonic had a better chance than rival Sony of surviving Japan’s consumer electronics slump.

Fitch cut Panasonic’s rating by two notches to BB and Sony three notches to BB minus. It is the first time that the three major ratings agencies have put the creditworthiness of either company into junk bond territory.

Panasonic is likely to survive because it has a fairly lucrative, if dull, whitewear line. If people don’t want its electronics they still need to wash their socks by night during the Christmas period.

Matt Jamieson, Fitch’s head of Asia-Pacific said that Panasonic “has the advantage of a relatively stable consumer appliance business that is still generating positive margins”.

But Sony had practically all of its electronic business losing cash and the company was more overstretched than a victim of the Spanish Inquistion.

Generally Japan’s TV makers have been kicked to death by cheaper models from Samsung Electronics and other foreign rivals.

Panasonic is looking to expand its businesses in appliances, solar panels, lithium batteries and automotive components. While appliances make up six percent of the company’s sales, but they generate good margins.

Sony is focusing on consumer gadgets in a bid to regain ground from Samsung and Apple in mobile devices while bolstering digital cameras and gaming. 

Microsoft is powered by poo

Software giant Microsoft has decided that the secret to having a good data centre is to have it powered by poo.

When the company dumped a press release on our desk saying that it would be opening a new data centre in Cheyanne, Wyoming it did not mention that its cloud will be similar to the one which was created by our dog.

The Data Plant will be the software giant’s first zero carbon data centre and will rely on human and animal waste er… bi-products to provide its back end with lecky.

Writing in his bog, Sean James, Microsoft’s senior research program manager for data centre advanced development, said the company has been committed to getting to the bottom of more efficient and sustainable data centre infrastructures since 1994. The post said that Microsoft is taking another step in that journey [surely it is sitting down, ed].

The new plant will be operated out of the Dry Creek Water Reclamation Facility, or a sewer as the rest of us know it.

It will convert the waste to bio gas extracted from wastewater treatment plants, farms, landfills and rest homes for the elderly.

James said that by capturing and reusing biogas on premise with its data centres, Microsoft will be able to significantly reduce its carbon emissions while producing beneficial uses at the same time.

Only time will tell if this proves yet another Ballmer sewercide business plan or will flush Microsoft’s bottom line with success.

Writing on the wall for Apple

The days of Apple’s share price being worth more than the gross domestic product of Taiwan are coming to a close.

According to Northern Voices, the share price has been falling for eight straight weeks and could go a lot lower.

The cocaine nose jobs of Wall Street believe that next year there is going to be a rise in capital gains taxes which should knock a lot of value out of companies like Apple. This means that shareholders have been dumping the market favourite before it loses much more cash.

Apple shares reached $705.07 a share in September but since then it has lost a quarter of its value. The company is still currently worth about $493 billion.

Some analysts still say that the company is worth $833.90 a share based on estimates for growth over the next five years and StarMine’s expected growth rates for several years after that, but that figure is somewhat questionable and based on Apple’s own projections which could be as deluded as a Mitt Romney campaign manager’s projections in Ohio.

Part of the reason is that Apple is assuming that will continue to win in the smartphone market, just at a moment when the gloves are expected to come off.

Apple has been unable to counter Google’s Nexus 4 which, at $299, has proven that people will dump Apple if the price is right.

Apple is also unable to compete with the Amazon Fire HD which is available for little more than the cost of manufacture. 

This means that some are predicting that Apple could be facing a brutal price war which its own model will not allow it to win. Over the next few months this will become clearer to shareholders who wills start to vote with their feet. 

NHS magazine fingers Telegraph, Daily Mail in bogus iPad story

The NHS has accused he Daily Telegraph  and the Daily Mail  of deliberately inserting Apple adverts into a story which never mentioned them.

A story about tests on mice claimed that boffins have proved that if you used an iPad at night you would get depressed.

The yarn was based on an animal study that aimed to investigate the effects of abnormal exposure to light on mice. The Daily Telegraph implied that once mice started using iPads, listening to Coldplay and started to convince other mice that the technology was superior, they started to feel a little out of sorts at night.

The theory was that the iPads were exposing them to abnormal light patterns which were activating stress hormones, which the researchers say are linked to depression.

The NHS in house magazine looked into the claims and said that the conclusion is interesting because, unless the mouse starts listening to the earlier music of The Cure, it is jolly tricky to tell if the rodent is depressed.

While the NHS seems to think that the original study that the Daily Telegraph story is based on had some merits, it said that the actual iPad link appears to have come from the reporter’s heads.

The NHS magazine cannot work out why the Daily Telegraph, and the Daily Mail, who both posted the story, both mentioned iPads when the original research didn’t.

The magazine had an interesting theory that it was all to do with search engines.

It thinks that the term ‘iPad’ is one of the most searched for terms on the internet. A story containing the term will therefore rank highly on search engines.

In actual fact, even if mice did get depressed using an iPad, the study does not conclude that humans will go the same way.

The NHS report said that staying up all night using an iPad or laptop on a regular basis could make you sleep-deprived and this could make you depressed. However, so could a night out drinking and no one considers this much of a problem.

Steve Ballmer calls the kettle black

Steve Ballmer must have briefly forgotten his company has been peddling Windows for decades when he slammed Android for being susceptible to malware.

LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman quizzed the shy and retiring CEO on all things Microsoft and mobile when Ballmer accused Android of being wild, uncontrolled, and susceptible to malware. He then went on to call Apple high priced and highly controlled, the Verge reports.

Where, then, does Microsoft fit in? In homage to Apple, Windows is becoming an increasingly walled garden, and the sales figures speak for themselves with Android. The price tag of the Surface RT shocked the world when it was announced and was widely criticised for being too costly to challenge the dominant tablet players. Meanwhile, Google is doing rather well for itself.

Ballmer also said he expected the Surface would not swamp the market and that the traditional vendors were more likely to take up the majority of the PC, talet and phone space.

We’re not sure whether he was talking about technology or his trousers when he went on to say: “It is absolutely clear there is an innovation opportunity on the seam between software and hardware,” and that this seam “must not go unexploited by Microsoft”.

Ballmer also understood that Microsoft isn’t quite there yet in the “under five inches” category. We are pretty certain he was giving a nod to an upcoming flagship phone, and not his trousers.  

US Airforce wasted a billion on ERP project

The US Air Force has admitted that it wasted more than a billion dollars on a decade long ERP project that has never worked.

After wasting all that cash, they worked out that project would cost far too much more money for too little gain. One would have though that they would have sorted out those sorts of problems in the planning stage.

According to Computerworldthe Expeditionary Combat Support System (ECSS) has cost the Airforce $1.03 billion in costs since 2005, and has not yielded any significant military capability.

An Air Force spokesman said that it would cost an additional $1.1B for about a quarter of the original scope to continue and would not be ready until 2020.

Not surprisingly the Air Force has worked out that the ECSS program is no longer a viable option for meeting the FY17 Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness (FIAR) statutory requirement. Instead it will cancel the project and thing about something nice instead.

The programme has been restructured three times within the past three years, and finally hit on the wizard idea that the whole thing was better off forgotten about.

The project started in 2005, when Oracle won an $88.5 million software contract, beating SAP and other vendors.

It seemed a good idea at the time. It was to replace more than 200 legacy systems.

Michael Krigsman, CEO of consulting firm Asuret and an expert on IT project failures wondered why it took the Airforce a billion dollars and ten years to realise that the project was pants.

He also questioned how the Air Force would get itself auditable books, which was the goal of the project.

The tinfoil hat theory is that the Airforce does not want its books to be audited by 2017 or at any time in the future. If it does, then people will see how much the whole thing costs them. 

Google wants 2.25 percent cut of Microsoft's Surface

If you thought that Apple was bad in its patent trolling antics, it is looking like Google not only wants its own bridge but will be crowned King of the Trolls.

Since Google bought Motorola as a defensive action on patents, many had been wondering what evil the company could manage on the likes of Microsoft and Apple who had been playing a similar game with them.

Now it turns out that Google wants 2.25 percent of all the cash Microsoft makes from its new Surface tablet along with cash from technologies used by Windows and the Xbox 360.

The patent trial at the US District Court in Seattle heard how Google wants the judge to also consider new and future Microsoft products that implement Motorola’s patented technology when he sets the royalty rates that Microsoft should pay for Motorola’s patents.

Google claims that since the 802.11 WiFi technologies are critical to Surface, because it doesn’t have an Ethernet port or cellular broadband, Vole should pay up for that too.

The amount Microsoft is required to pay could depend on the significance of the particular patent in the final product.

Vole told US District Judge James Robart that the amount paid by Microsoft in licensing fees should be proportionate to the contribution of Motorola’s patents to the relevant industry standard, and to the role of the patented technology in the Microsoft products that implement the standard.

According to GeekwireGoogle laywers pointed out that Vole was working on its own smartphone, which undoubtedly will have wi-fi capabilities, so it should pay for that too.

Windows executive Jon DeVaan admitted that the Surface uses H.264 video technologies, which are also at issue in the case, covered in separate Motorola patents.

Microsoft said that Motorola’s original offer to licence patents to Microsoft for 2.25 percent of the end product price was outrageous and could earn Google $4 billion a year.

It is especially outrageous because Motorola promised to standards bodies to offer access to the “standard essential” patents on fair and reasonable terms.

Google claims that Microsoft gave up its right to a reasonable royalty the moment it started patent trolling in response to Motorola’s initial royalty demand.  Thus blaming its trollship on Microsoft’s earlier trollship, has the world gone mad? 



Industry bellwether rings economic warning

Industry bellwether Cisco has reported first quarter results that were better than what the cocaine nose jobs of Wall Street predicted.

But, according to Market Watch the outfit warned that it expects flat earnings and slower revenue growth for the current quarter.

Chief executive John Chambers said he thinks that Europe will get a lot worse before it gets better. However, he thinks there are signs of improvement in the US in the enterprise, service provider and commercial sectors.

Chambers warned that it was too early to speak of a trend “though we are continuing to see what we like”.

He sees revenue growth in a range of 3.5 percent to 5.5 percent, compared with 11.6 percent growth in the second quarter of 2012.

In its first quarter, Cisco surprised analysts thanks to its cutting costs.

First-quarter net income rose 10.6 percent to $2.6 billion, or 48 cents per share, compared with analysts’ average estimate of 46 cents a share.

Revenue rose six percent from the year-ago quarter to $11.9 billion, compared with a Street view of $11.77 billion.