Windows 7 SP1 screens leaked

While many companies traditionally wait for Microsoft to release the first service pack before they buy a version of the Windows operating system, Redmond has been quiet about when one is coming for Windows 7.

Now a Spanish site Muywindows   claims to have found a screen shot or two of the forthcoming Spanish SP1.

Usually, the first Service Pack from Microsoft comes at least after a year of the launch of an operating system. Windows Vista was launched on January 30, 2007 and its first Service Pack came out on February 4, 2008. Windows 7 was launched globally on October 22, 2009, so we would expect to see Service Pack 1 to arrive sometime year-end.

Windows 7 Service Pack 1 is expected to have 150 updates in the current build. Most of it will probably be drivers for new hardware and USB 3.0 supporting devices.  We would expect several other fixes but nothing major.

Muywindows said that Microsoft will send them a Windows 7 SP 1 Demo preview in coming few weeks. This Service Pack 1 will be passed to selected testers in July and  the final version is expected in late 2010.

It is not clear when Redmond will release this first Service Pack, with a time frame like this, it might even be early.  Perhaps Microsoft wants to make sure that businesses take up Windows 7 as soon as possible.

Graphics guru turns to social not-working

Things must be looking a bit dire in the discrete graphics market, because even graphics guru Jon Peddie seems to be turning to social not-working to pay the rent.

Releasing a report entitled “The Social Web and its Implications,” Peddie peddles his ponderings on online media as an “attention economy,” whilst deploring the utter lack of web user attention.

Yes, yes, we know, Mr. Peddie, in your day, youth used to sit down and read whole books while working a vegetable stall and showing respect to their elders – nowadays they just poke each other, fertilize virtual fields and bump each other off on Mafia Wars. It has all gone so badly wrong.

Even disease isn’t what it used to be, complains Peddie, noting that “the word “viral” hardly existed in our vocabulary before social media… Now it’s in constant use without the slightest reference to illness.”

Even Google, Peddie laments, has come under threat from that young whipper snapper of an upstart, Facebook, with its 300M+ user base tantalizingly outside of the search engine’s clutches.

And for those who foolishly believe all this shallow status updating and narcissistic nonsense is just a phase, be warned, says Peddie, for “the Social Web is not just a fad; it is a fundamental shift in how humans communicate, interact, collaborate, create, inform themselves, prioritise, organise, buy, sell, and play.”

“It is your customers, your friends, your family, your employees, your constituents, your shareholders, and, like it or not, you.”

Indeed, Peddie even goes as far as predicting that “social media is to the Web what electric motors were to electricity, the quantum leap in utility that took a magical new technology and transformed society.”

Of course, if you’re interested to know more of Peddie’s predictions and insights on the subject, you’ll have to shell out the princely sum of $500.

Or just send Peddie the equivalent in virtual cows, sheep, and fertiliser on Farmville.

Google searches for fifth columnists

Google has activated its own version of MI6 in a desperate bid to track down internal spies who may have taken part in the mid-December cyber attack.

Counter-intelligence agents have been looking for Chinese spies after the attack, which targeted people who have access to specific parts of Google networks.

According to Reuters, Google fears that the attack might have been given a leg up by sleepers in Google China’s office waking up.

A spokesgoogle commented that she was not commenting on rumour and speculation. This is an ongoing investigation, and we simply cannot comment on the details, she commented.

Some Google China employees were denied access to internal networks after January 13, while some staff were put on leave and others transferred to different offices in Google’s Asia Pacific operations. Rumours that staff were being made to go for walks in the forests near Berlin with ‘minders’ have been neither confirmed or denied. Reuters reports that Google will not comment on its business operations.

Google, has denied also denied rumours that it has already decided to shut down its China offices, and it actually talking to the government to see if they are able to stay open.

Google is also still in the process of scanning its internal networks since the cyber attack in mid-December.

* Meanwhile, Google has postponed the introduction of two Android phones in China because of its beef with the hack.

 

Israel's army takes modern warfare to new robotic levels

When it comes to Modern Warfare, militaries understand that combat is more than just a game. 

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t significant crossover between the worlds of tech and global conflict, with a multitude of armies rushing to develop artificial intelligence and mechanical muscle to fight their battles for them.

Bulldozing its way forward in terms of military tech mogulism is Israel, which has thought of everything from robotic soldiers, to self-detonating grenades, un-manned aircraft, tunnel patrollers and the (ironically) dubbed “thinking bullets”. 

Indeed, the Wall Street Journal reports that after a grueling 60 years of constant conflict, Israel has managed to fashion itself into a leading nation when it comes to military robotics, second perhaps only to Japan and the USA.

The IDF (Israel Defence Forces) – along with the country’s leading weapons manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems – has worked long and hard to ensure that future battles will be fought with having to deploy a single soldier in the line of fire. 

Although the IDF is primarily focused on miniaturisation and accuracy, it has also made massive strides in broadband technologies to enable seamless communcation between robotic and human fighters.

And in a vision more Star Wars than sand wars, Israel has upped the ante on laser tech by helping its soldiers mark distant targets using GPS guided rockets. 

“We are moving into the robotic era,” Rafael’s vice president told the WSJ

No kidding. 

According to Israeli Ha’aretz hack Ora Cohen, the Jewish state is currently designing unmanned reconissance helicopters that will fly over and report suspicious activity to specialized drones. The UAVs will then photograph the sector and send the images back to soldiers in forward operating bases. 

In addition, Israel is also said to be shunting shekels into the shrinking of spy satellites, hoping to soon have them reach the size of a falafel.

Combine that with computerised rockets, unmanned patrol vehicles to prevent border infiltration, remote-controlled bulldozers and a six-wheeled, heavy-lifting robot named Rex, and you have the makings for a science fiction film extraordinaire.

But while the prospect of fully computerised combat may sound cool to some, it will likely require a fundamental paradigm shift in traditional attitudes towards the waging of war. 

As the WSJ notes, with the potential for one side to minimise its human losses, the psychological deterrent of flag draped coffins certainly loses its strength and the decision to attack may become that much easier to make.  The mechanical finger on the automated trigger may become that much easier to pull, so to speak.

But perhaps – as is currently the case with nuclear weapons – more power will result in heightened responsibility, and the futility of pitting machine against machine will render warfare a waste of time and valuable resources.

One can only hope.

Celebrities say silicon and bikes are key to civilisation

The BBC is very ambitious because right now it’s presenting the History of the World in 100 objects. Very ambitious indeed. And all very cosy.

We had a lass at the British Museum on the TV telling us that the statue of Tara that somehow ended up in Bloomsbury versus Sri Lanka was still iconic because Asian religions didn’t create a difference between sex and religion. Er, how come the beautiful statue of Tara ended up in Bloomsbury? Any chance the Marbles will go back to Greece?

But right at the end of the BBC teaser came some wonderful quotes from modern “personalities”.

An emblem of our modern civilisation, according to clapped out Labour politician Tony Benn, was the mini-computer called the Crackberry, sorry Blackberry.

David Attenborough was a bit more acute – he said the microprocessor was a huge element of 21st century civilisation.

James Dyson, inventor of modern hoovers, reckoned it was the photovoltaic cell.

Darcus Howe chose CCTV, because he said, quite wittily, that it marks the end of civilisation. Chinese State TV?

Journalist John Humphreys says it was the bicycle because it allowed people to travel some distance and get into bed with their lovers.

US celebrates Martin Luther King day

Here in the US, it’s Martin Luther King Day. A day most lucky Yanks have off work so they can go to the mall, or a movie, or watch a re-run of Oprah. What can I say, it’s a meaningful day.

Meaningful especially this year, the year when Martin Luther King’s great dream finally seems to have come to fruition, with the US’ first African-American president – a Commander in Chief currently doing so badly in the opinion polls that only Dwight Eisenhower was ever hated more.

A dream, some would say, turned to nightmare.

A nightmare of a president who has fumbled healthcare reform to the dismay of both Democrats – for whom he hasn’t gone far enough – and Republicans – for whom he has already gone far too far. A president who has bailed-out corrupt banks and the failing automobile industry.

A president who won a Nobel peace prize despite his continuation of a war in both Iraq and Afghanistan. And worst of all – and a cardinal sin to most Americans – a president who has raised taxes.

Barack Obama has seen his country’s unemployment rate skyrocket to almost 10 per cent since taking the oath of presidency, while house prices continue to sink into the ground.

This has, of course, been the perfect excuse for those with a racial axe to grind. At a recent demonstration, images of protestors carrying signs declaring “The zoo has an African lion and the White House has a lyin’ African” and “‘Cap’ Congress and ‘trade’ Obama back to Kenya,” set the tone.

“Lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification,” indeed.

According to the Times, in the week Obama was elected, gun sales across the US shot up by 50 per cent.

Hardly the “oasis of freedom and justice,” of which Martin Luther King dreamed. And the “vicious racists” are not confined to Alabama anymore either, but are beamed into every American home courtesy of Fox news.

As racism and bigotry continues to rear its ugly head, even amidst a stagnating swamp of political correctness and affirmative action, calls for the US president to ‘go back where he came from’ shouldn’t really shock or surprise anyone.

After all, long before the Nazis and Fascists of Europe thought up their ‘relocation’ plans for undesirables, Southern slave owners faced with abolition came up with their own solution to send freed slaves to the African nation of Liberia, rather than have to suffer their uppity free-ness at home.

This resulted in some 13,000 freed slaves being shipped over to Liberia, where they faced decimation at the hands of hostile local tribes and deadly diseases.

So much for the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners all sitting down together at the table of brotherhood.

So much, also for this nation rising up and living out the true meaning of its creed, for that old “truth” to become “self-evident”: that all men are created equal.

Or maybe MLK nailed that one right on the head, because even in a time when a still profoundly racist society can elect an African American president, it still can’t bring itself to elect a woman.

Dr. King was indeed a visionary, and a great man, who had a dream for America in which race didn’t matter.

Although Obama is the first black president, it seems more doubtful than ever that the racial divide has been healed, or ever will heal. Because, for a start, true equality will only really have arrived when someone is elected or unelected because of their policies and not skin colour.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” declared Martin Luther King that fateful day in Washington.

Character. Now there’s a thought. Does Obama have the character to fulfill the historic role of the most admirable François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture of Haiti? Can he cast off the shackles of inhuman dignity and poverty? Right the historic wrongs? No, he probably can’t and he probably won’t.

So perhaps MLK was right about that one, and maybe Obama has indeed done his bit for equality – showing the world and America that failure isn’t limited to just one colour.

Ocado to review chickens and cheese

Like other online shopping megamarts, Amazon.com has a ‘review’ space for all manner of consumer goods. Want to know if this lawnmower’s any good, or if that hat isn’t as warm as it looks? Take a look at user reviews. Ocado.com, the online UK supermarket, has spotted a gap and will be implementing a similar service for groceries.

All Ocado customers will get a mailout next week inviting Ocado Demand and Ocado Reserve customers to start adding grocery reviews, be it roast chicken, cheese, Dr Pepper, wine or whatever. The service will then go live to all customers in February.

It’s an interesting idea. Much of the online shopping middle class decides on what wine’s best for when from recommendations in Sunday Supplements and the likes. We’re not suggesting said supplements take pay-offs, but a purely user-based review system could swing things for the consumer.

Everything stocked on Ocado’s shelves will be available for review. That includes non-food lines too, such as toys, flowers, magazines and kitchenware. Think these flowers are crap and died too quick? Tell the world!

Social media channels will be incorporated too, including Facebook and Twitter. Instead of simply telling all your fascinated followers what you’ve just had for lunch, you’ll be able to tell them if the Hovis you used was subpar or not too.

Donald, where's yer hardware troosers?

Ah well, I’ve done this before and I’ll do it again, I’ll be scunnered if I  don’t and fashed if I do. So Och Aye, TechEye, and let’s get down to it the  noo.

Scott Wasson’s tech site – The Tech Report – has a round up of power supplies  for the true McGeek amongst ye all. The folks look at PSUs from Corsair, from  Enermax, from Seasonic and XFX. They’re all priced a bit similarly, apart from  the Enermax 850W unit, which costs $220. Turn the power on here.

That cheeky wee Bosnian chappie Fuad Abazovic has a wee look at Nvidia‘s Fermi  announcement. We heard from TG Daily only a few weeks back that yields are not  totally brill on the manufacturing front. TG Daily’s piece is here. Charlie, as you’d expect, has something to say about this. The BSON  has something about this as well, but more interestingly to us is a look at  3M’s pocket camera.

There’s a new kid on the block with a familiar name, called thinq.co.uk – no  relation to theinquirer.net, it’s rolling out stuff about the top five netbooks your cash can buy.

And so we get away from the Mike Magee planets and turn our attention to Johan
De Gelas, at Anandtech. Johan really knows his stuff and his piece is about  dynamic power management.

My eyes are getting a wee bit rheumy now I’m in the twilight of my years, but  Over at HardOCP the Kyles of this world have a dekko at AMD’s Radeon HD 5670.  This is a graphics card and even monkeys can install graphics cards, according  to AMD. Hoots! Mon! The Noo!

ICQ returns from spammy wasteland

ICQ was one of the first instant messaging services. I remember using it when only the nerdiest of my pals signed onto IM services, and they tended to be either ICQ or AOL Instant Messenger. AIM is still going strong, but ICQ petered out and turned into a spammy wasteland. The now-AOL owned ICQ has been upgraded to version 7. Is it any good? Let’s have a look.

The first thing that greets you when you open the new ICQ is a synthy foghorn. How can I turn this off? First thing’s first, importing contacts.

I selected Facebook and entered my details. “Sorry, there are no contacts in this address book.” Remember when EVERYONE used ICQ? Like, in 1998? They don’t anymore, but hey, maybe they will.

Let’s try Gmail contacts. There are two gmail contacts I don’t remember at all, but ok, whatever, added. My Windows Live (that’s MSN) contact finder reaps the most results, with about 10 people using ICQ. This could be really cool if it imported your existing contacts and let you connect through other servers a la Nimbuzz on mobiles, but since ICQ is now AOL-backed and owned that’s unlikely ever to happen.

At this point I’d like to note that my Firefox homepage has been changed to start.icq.com and my search bar no longer goes straight through Google, but instead through ICQ search (enhanced by Google). Urghhh.

Onto other features. Pocket Lint says there’s added functionality, including Facebook Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. I’m frantically clicking on ‘set up your feeds’ and absolutely nothing is happening. I’m frantically clicking on ‘settings’ and nothing is happening.

Thirteen years on and ICQ is pretty much the same, except that now it’s a complete ghost town. Which means not much scope for ICQ’s best use in its infancy, childish pranks. Whose bright idea was this? Avoid.

Computer Game revenues down in US

Computer game revenues in the US last year were eight per cent lower than in 2008, according to a market research company.

Retail sales of portable and console hardware, software and accessories managed to only scrape a measly $19.66 billion (£12bn) in 2009, compared to the $21.4 billion generated the year before.

The Nintendo Wii and DS were the big winners, moving 3.8 million and 3.3 million units, respectively. The DS made up for 17 per cent of total portable hardware sold in 2009.

However things began to look up for the retailers towards the close of the year. In December, the video game industry experienced its biggest sales month ever, beating December 2008 by four per cent.  The top three game titles for December all belonged to Nintendo, and each sold more than 1.5 million copies.

For the year, the only category to see an increase over 2008 was portable hardware, which was mainly up due to a seven per cent increase in average retail price. Most prices were lowered in the year which, researchers NPD say, explain the low revenues.

“Unit sales were down only six percent from last year. Average retail prices were down in all categories except for portable hardware and accessories, which led to the greater dollar sales decline,” said NPD analyst Anita Frazier.

“January and February were both up, and since the decline that began in March, only September experienced growth,” she said. “The big sales this month, particularly on the hardware front, are a positive move for the industry headed into what will hopefully be a recovery year in 2010.”

 “Clearly, 2009 was a tough year for consumers and the national economy. However, the bigger picture is one that underscores the industry’s strength; 2009 and 2008 were the highest grossing years in our industry’s history,” said president and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association, Michael Gallagher.

PC game software revenues were hit hardest with a 23 per cent drop, generating only $538 million (£329m) all year.