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Archive for July, 2008

NASA’s planning to spend another month and $2 million on its Mars robotic rover mission to obtain more icy soil samples, study the weather, and size up the planet’s suitability for human life.

NASA scientists said that the Mars Phoenix Lander mission has been going so well that it plans to extend the rover’s stay through the end of September, instead of August. On May 25, the rover landed more than 200 miles away on the edge of a volcano in the northern hemisphere of Mars, and has since confirmed the existence of frozen ice on the red planet.

Part of the goal of the extended mission is to continue studying icy soil samples in the area of the Lander. Just Wednesday, scientists said that the rover’s robotic arm picked up a sample of Mars soil and put it into the rover’s onboard oven–an act that prompted celebration among the project leads. Early analysis of the sample proved the existence of a small amount of H20 because the ice melted, but the scientists ultimately want to collect a sample with a larger composition of permafrost.

NASA is particularly looking for organic materials, but it has yet to find them. One hypothesis is that the soil might contain a strong oxidant, according to one of the NASA scientists. Instead, it has found potassium–among other minerals–a clay-like component, and properties it has yet to identify.

One goal of the extended mission will be to dig two more trenches around the site of the rover and study their soil. NASA plans to name the trenches with fantasy names like its other ditches–Snow White and Goldilocks. The new ones will be named Cupboard and Neverland .

Phoenix is also giving the scientists their first details about weather in the Mars arctic. The extended mission will help NASA better understand seasonal changes from springtime in Mars, when the rover landed, to high summer, to the end of the mission in its fall timeframe. For example, the team is using sophisticated sensors to measure the atmosphere’s pressure, humidity and winds. So far, the sensors have shown maximum wind speeds of 15 miles per hour on Mars.

One of the mission’s requirements was to capture a color panoramic view of the¬† with its on-board 1-megapixel digital camera. The Phoenix team completed that task stitching together more than 400 images taken from the rover over a month’s time. According to the team, it took about 15 relay passes to download the data– 100 megabytes worth–from the craft. The image confirmed water ice underneath the site of the rover.

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Microsoft is planning to ship its next major version of Windows–known internally as version “7”–within roughly three years.

The next client version of the operating system, will be among the steps taken by Microsoft to establish a more predictable release schedule .

Windows 7 will ship in consumer and business versions, and in 32-bit and 64-bit versions. The company also confirmed that it is considering a subscription model to complement Windows, but did not provide specifics or a time frame.

Windows 7 was previously known by the code name Vienna. A Microsoft representative confirmed that Windows 7 is the internal code name for the next client release of Windows. The details were released “as part of our ongoing outreach to enterprise customers and partners.

Microsoft is scoping Windows 7 development to a three-year time frame, and then the specific release date will ultimately be determined by meeting the quality bar.

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Adobe Systems is revamping its Media Player with a new interface and a deal that will let users of the software watch movies from Sony Pictures.

The interface update presents users with a larger number of video shows. “There’s more content that we surface earlier,” said Ashley Still, senior product manager for Adobe Media Player.

Users can browse various content categories, selecting some as favorites, or subscribe to their own video feeds via RSS, Still said.

Full-length episodes of Beverly Hills 90210, 48 Hours, The Love Boat from CBS, which expanded the content already  are available through its existing partnership with Adobe. CNET News is published by CBS Interactive, a unit of CBS.

Content providers get free access to the player, and can control whether the content is available only in streaming format or can be saved onto a person’s hard drive.

Shows can be encoded in the Flash video format, called FLV, or in H.264. The Adobe Media Player uses Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR), a programming foundation that lets software run on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux computers. Adobe Media Player, though, works only on Windows and Mac OS X, Adobe said.

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If you’re a Windows user you know full well the tight integration among Microsoft products that has made the operating system a little less than friendly when it comes to tying in various Web apps. E-mail in particular is one of those actions that will usually pop up Outlook or Outlook Express, forcing you to either install a third-party mail app like Mozilla’s Thunderbird or go in and tweak your registry.

If you’re a Gmail user, and looking to get that same level of integration in Office documents and elsewhere on your system check out gAttach. This simple program will append all your mail extensions, getting them to open up in Gmail instead.

One thing that’s nice is that it’ll simply tack onto whatever browser you’ve got open, or simply open your default one if you don’t have it running. It’ll also suck in multiple files at a time (up to Gmail’s 20MB limit of course).

Yahoo mail users can also take advantage of a sister product called yAttach, which will do the same thing, although you can’t have both installed at once.

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A US court has forced Google to disclose the user details of every viewer of its YouTube video site. Google will have to disclose the user log-in names and IP addresses of every viewer who has ever watched content on the YouTube site.

This means even non-members of YouTube could be tracked by Viacom, which says its copyrighted video content has been illegally posted on the YouTube site.

Google says it has no real control over what is posted on YouTube, although it often takes things off the site after complaints.

The mammoth viewing database awarded to Viacom includes the log-in ID of users, user IP addresses, and details of what they have viewed.

To get a positive identification of each user, Viacom would need the details of the ISP used by viewers, but it has not requested these details and has not so far indicated that it is after anyone but Google for allowing the copyrighted content to be posted.

Viacom owns MTV and Paramount Pictures, among other content generators.

The UK Premier League is also seeking class action status with Viacom on the issue. It says YouTube, which was bought by Google in 2006, has been used to watch copyrighted football highlights.

When Viacom initiated its legal action in March 2007, Viacom said it had identified about 160,000 unauthorised clips of its programmes on YouTube, which had been viewed more than 1.5 billion times.

The court also ruled that Google must disclose to Viacom the details of all videos that have been removed from the site for any reason.

Viacom says Google is not doing enough to stop copyrighted content appearing in the first place, although Google has recently introduced some filtering controls.

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