Saturday, December 20, 2008

"Blackbird" - A browser just for blacks?

A new version of Mozilla has appeared, dubbed "Blackbird". It's a browser that offers features and content meant to appeal to members of the African-American (and possibly the African-Canadian) community.

The company that developed BlackBird - a group called 40A Inc, says that the browser is designed to make it easier to find African American related content on the Internet and to interact with other members of the African American community online by sharing stories, news, comments and videos.

Through the use of embedded tools such as "Black Search", Blackbird attempts to provide users with the best black content available on the web.

It's a controversial idea, which has already stirred up a growing number of comments on the blog TechCrunch.

My initial reaction was fairly negative. Though I'm not black, I do belong to another ethnically distinct group. I shuddered at the idea of someone creating and then distributing a Jewish browser, so that folks like me can access the best of Jewish content on the web.

On the other hand, there are already plenty of web sites out there that do just that, but they typically focus on a specific activity like dating. Is an ethnically-targeted browser really any different?

I think so. Blackbird makes the assumption that the web itself can be filtered according to the tastes and interests of a specific ethnic audience. That's a difficult and possibly dangerous assumption to make. I'm not sure how it's even possible to determine a common set of interests, political views, humour, artistic preferences from someone's skin colour or other ethnically-defining characteristic.

Moreover, users who choose to browse the web using Blackbird are essentially identifying themselves as black to every website they visit. An unintentional but significant lapse of privacy.

Ars Technica has a more in-depth look at the new software and spoke with its creator Ed Young, who addressed criticism that Blackbird is exclusionary:

"We call it an 'identity browser,'" Young explained. "I could make a browser for the lovers of Warcraft. Would that be exclusionary of other people? No, I would just be bringing those people closer to the sites and resources that they are probably interested in."

Young makes a good point - there is a long history in the tech world of hardware and software being customized to reflect its users's interests. As Ars points out, Blackbird isn't even the first browser that's been purpose-built to serve the needs of a specific group. A version of the social browser Flock called Gloss is designed just for women.

Now, I haven't tried Blackbird, and clearly doing so would not give me a greater appreciation for how well the program achieves its goal - I'm just not part of its intended user base.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

5 online tips for a safe and happy holiday shopping season

Holiday shopping online is a great way to save time and sometimes money—as long as you take a few precautions to protect yourself from phishing scams and identity theft. Here are five tips for safer shopping on the Internet.

1. Use an updated Web browser. Internet Explorer 7 contains many new features, such as the Phishing Filter, to help you avoid identity theft when you shop online.

2. Make sure you’re on the Web site that you think you’re on. If you use Internet Explorer 7 or higher, you get an extra level of protection with Extended Validation (EV) SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificates. If your address bar turns green you’ll know that you’re not on a spoofed Web site.

3. Visit trusted sites or use a third-party payment service. Many online shops and auction sites will let you pay with third-party payment services, like PayPal. That way you don't have to turn over your credit card information to an unknown person.

4. Use strong passwords for online shopping retailers and keep your passwords secret.

5. Buy only Genuine Microsoft software. Counterfeit software can corrupt your system, make you lose data, and can lead to identity theft. If Microsoft software is on your holiday gift list this season, you can help make sure you're buying the real thing by reading the Guide to Purchasing Genuine Microsoft software.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Possible First Photo of Planet Around Sun-Like Star

Astronomers have taken what may the first picture of a planet orbiting a star similar to the sun.

This distant world is giant (about eight times the mass of Jupiter) and lies far out from its star (about 330 times the Earth-Sun distance). But for all the planet's strangeness, its star is quite like our own sun.

Previously, the only photographed extrasolar planets have belonged to tiny, dim stars known as brown dwarfs. And while hundreds of exoplanets have been detected by noting their gravitational tug on their parent stars, it is rare to find one large enough to image directly.

"This is the first time we have directly seen a planetary mass object in a likely orbit around a star like our sun," said David Lafreni�re, an astronomer at the University of Toronto who led the team that discovered the star. "If we confirm that this object is indeed gravitationally tied to the star, it will be a major step forward."

Further study will be needed to prove that the planet is in fact orbiting around the star, as opposed to the possibility, however unlikely, that the two objects just happen to lie in the same area of the sky at roughly the same distance from us.

"Of course it would be premature to say that the object is definitely orbiting this star, but the evidence is extremely compelling," Lafreni�re said. "This will be a very intensely studied object for the next few years!"

The researchers used the Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii to glimpse the planet and its star, 1RXS J160929.1-210524, which lies about 500 light-years from Earth. Though the star has about 85 percent the mass of the sun, it is younger than our star. In order to image the far-flung system, the team utilized adaptive optics technology, which uses flexible mirrors to offset the distortion light suffers as it passes through Earth's atmosphere.

The strange planet so far from its parent star is unexpected based on current theories of star and planet formation. For comparison, the farthest planet in our solar system, Neptune, lies only 30 times the Earth-sun distance away from the sun.

"This discovery is yet another reminder of the truly remarkable diversity of worlds out there, and it's a strong hint that nature may have more than one mechanism for producing planetary mass companions to normal stars," said team member Ray Jayawardhana, also of the University of Toronto.

The distant exoplanet, at about 1,800 Kelvin (about 1,500�C), is also much hotter than our own Jupiter, which has a temperature of about 160 Kelvin (-110�C).

The team discovered the new planet as part a survey of more than 85 stars in the Upper Scorpius association, a group of young stars formed about 5 million years ago. The researchers have detailed the study in a paper submitted to the Astrophysical Journal Letters and also posted online.

"This discovery certainly has us looking forward to what other surprises nature has in stock for us," said University of Toronto team member Marten van Kerkwijk.

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Monday, July 7, 2008

IT news - Jul 2008

Coreflood, more Microsoft-Yahoo, iPhone plans
A Trojan horse program that has been around for about six years is now being used to steal system-administrator passwords, including those at banking and brokerage houses, according to security researchers. And it could be that six years from now we'll still be talking about Microsoft's aim to buy Yahoo's search business, which could involve obtaining the entire company and breaking it apart. Meanwhile, early adopters will undoubtedly be out in force on July 11 to be among the first to buy the new iPhone 3G.

Microsoft's Silverlight draws patent suit
Video software developer Gotuit Media has sued Microsoft, claiming that its Silverlight multimedia software infringes several of the company's patents.


Lenovo seeks prestige in price-sensitive market
The perception of Lenovo as a laptop innovator has paid dividends in the enterprise space, but the reputation may not effectively translate to buyers who focus on price over features in the consumer space, analysts said.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

News : Howard's mess greeted Gershon

THE federal Government's bid to slash its $6 billion annual ICT spend initially sidestepped a hurdle as there was no knowledge base that detailed the systems, risks and projects in play, Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner said.
“We had an incomplete picture of the risks, both of the service delivery and to the bottom line, of the government’s budget by a continued reliance on legacy ICT systems across the many silos of government,” Mr Tanner said.
Mr Tanner's office started pulling together this information late last year in anticipation of the Gershon Review.
British efficiency expert Peter Gershon has since been hired to conduct an exhaustive audit, agency by agency, and identify ways to slash costs while delivering better services. Mr Tanner said that despite the setback, primarily due to the legacy of the Howard Government, it had a clearer picture of the Government's ICT operations, and Sir Peter's report was still on track to be delivered at the end of August. The Government is considering forming a single group of IT executives to ensure all agency projects are successfully implemented. The group would advise agencies on project implementation to prevent funding blowouts, such as the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s Systems for People project, which recently required a $37.2 million injection. “We need the right information to be able to determine the cost benefit ratio to continue with our current approach to ICT upgrades. We’ll be happy to reform our procurement arrangement to achieve this. “It could be something like a single unit charged with planning and monitoring ICT systems upgrades across government could provide these sort of capability that we need,” he said during his keynote speech at the CeBit exhibition in Sydney this morning. Mr Tanner also flagged the Government’s Web 2.0 intentions and said it would turn to these technologies to facilitate greater citizen participation in policy making. “In the coming months we will open up an area of policy review to online consultation and engagement through a trial government consultation blog,” said Mr Tanner, who claims to be one of the first ministers to blog and broadcast on YouTube. “This blog will give the online citizenry (a chance) to interact with the bureaucracy and make contributions to the government policy and review. I’m currently working through the numerous issues associated with such a trial.”

Thursday, April 24, 2008


welcome and get info about IT, technology, gadget and communication very soon.