Science & Tech – Khaama Press (KP) | Afghan News Agency The largest news and information source in Afghanistan Sun, 25 Jun 2017 06:59:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 White blood plasma procedure starts for the first time in Nangarhar Sun, 14 May 2017 08:12:37 +0000 Read the full article...]]> The white blood plasma procedure started for the first time in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, the local officials said Sunday.

The provincial public health directorate chief, Dr. Najibullah Kamwal, said the procedure has been launched in the provincial hospital with the support of the Healthnet TPO organization and the Ministry of Public Health of Afghanistan.

Dr. Kamwal further added that the Afghan patients can now visit the Nangarhar provincial hospital for the procedure.

He said the launch of the procedure in Nangarhar will help the patients to have the procedure done inside the country and there will be no need for them to visit the neighboring countries for the procedure or travel to other countries.

According to Dr. Kamwal, the procedure will be done everyday from 7am in the morning till 2 pm in the afternoon in the provincial hospital.

This comes as the Afghan patients were mostly visiting Pakistan and other regional countries to seek treatment with the officials saying that millions of Dollars were flowing out of the country due to the absence of proper health services inside the country.

The Afghan government had earlier instructed the Ministry of Public Health to take necessary measure for paving the way for the provision of treatment and health services inside the country.

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Roshan to launch 4G services in Afghanistan Tue, 09 May 2017 15:56:47 +0000 Read the full article...]]> The Roshan Telecommunications service provider in Afghanistan announced Tuesday that the company will soon launch the fourth generation internet 4G services in the near future.

A statement by Roshan Telecom said “Roshan has already invested over $100 million in its 3G network since launching services in 2013 and this reinforces the company’s commitment to providing its customers with the best data service experience.”

 “Today’s 4G services announcement forms part of a new program that Roshan is launching to invest in improving and upgrading our data network to reflect the significant growth in data usage that Afghanistan has seen over the last few years,” said Shireen Rahmani, Chief Operating Officer. “Roshan’s leadership in 4G services will serve as a catalyst for economic growth and provide broad social benefits for both private and public sectors that will positively impact the people of Afghanistan, including support for the development of eGovernment.”

The statement by Roshan further added that the launch of 4G services will enable Roshan to provide an enhanced-quality mobile broadband experience over its robust network, offering customers the fastest internet speed for accessing data-intensive applications, video streaming, and other innovative and high-definition services.

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China to help Afghanistan in deployment of second satellite to orbit Fri, 21 Apr 2017 08:13:26 +0000 Read the full article...]]> The government of China will help Afghanistan in the deployment of the second satellite to orbit under the name of Afghan Sat-2, the officials in the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology officials told reporters in Kabul today.

The Acting Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Eng. Syed Ahmad Shah Sadat informed regarding the deployment of the second satellite, Afghan Sat-2 into the orbit.

He told reporters that China has pledged to support Afghanistan in this regard.

Afghanistan’s first satellite was deployed into the orbit under the name of Afghan Sat-2 earlier in 2014.

 The officials had then said the satellite was deployed with an aim to provide digital broadcast.

The satellite was deployed into the orbit by Eutelsat Communication under a multi-year agreement signed by the former Afghan Telecommunication and Information Technology Minister Amirzai Sangin.

Afghan Sat-1 delivers full national coverage and extensive reach of Central Asia and the Middle East, under the multi-year agreement, according to the former officials of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.

The satellite also supports a wide range of services including broadcasting, mobile telephony back-haul and IP connectivity.

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Afghanistan to launch 4G services in the near future: MCIT Thu, 23 Feb 2017 06:51:18 +0000 Read the full article...]]> The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology of Afghanistan informed regarding the launch of fourth generation of wireless mobile telecommunications technology (4G) across the country.

Engineer Syed Ahmadshah Sadat, the acting minister of communications and information technology, said the leadership of the ministry in coordination with the presidential palace decided to announce the policy for 4G internet services.

Sadat further added that the ministry aims to introduce new technologies and better communication services with the new plan.

He said the ministry of communication and information technology will continue to its efforts to expand internet services in the country with the announcement of the new policy.

The ministry also called on telecommunication companies and internet service providers to contact the ATRA office for enabling the 4G internet services in the country.

Afghanistan witnessed major achievements in telecommunications sector in the past one and half decades, enabling more than 84 per cent of the Afghans to have access to telecommunications facilities.

According to the officials, the services have not been provided to the remaining relatively small portions of the country due to security related issues.

The majority of the Afghans are currently having access to internet services which enables them to gain easy access to information globally besides having access to the international services.

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India approves MoU with Afghanistan on Space Technology Cooperation Thu, 08 Dec 2016 09:41:08 +0000 Read the full article...]]> The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given his ex-post facto approval to the MoU between India and Afghanistan on cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space during the Union Cabinet meeting, it has been reported.

According to the local media reports, the MoU envisages cooperation between the two countries for application of space technologies in education, agriculture, weather forecasting, telecommunications, rural health, sanitation, urban development, resource mapping navigation, remote sensing and any other areas mutually agreed upon.
The benefits of the MoU according to local media are development of space sector in Afghanistan and making it self-reliant in space sector Burnish India’s credentials as a nation with advanced space technology which can assist other countries.

Deepen bilateral ties and mutual understanding and trust between both countries, according to MoU.
It also added that India will be provided foothold in Afghanistan’s strategic space and communication sector and to boost high-tech jobs in both countries in both core Science & Technology and R&D fields, and also the field of implementation.

India has remained one of the key donors for the reconstruction of Afghanistan following the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.

Since 2002, the Government of India has committed USD 2 billion dollars to the socio-economic rebuilding of the Afghan state and society in accordance with the development priorities of the Government and the people of Afghanistan.

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Afghan brothers make drone to hunt mines in Afghanistan Fri, 22 Jul 2016 08:04:16 +0000 Read the full article...]]> Afghan brothers mine hunter deviceWith Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) remaining the weapon of the choice of the militant groups in Afghanistan which is the major contributor to civilian casualties, two Afghan youths have launched a new device to hunt such explosives.

The two youths and brothers, Massoud and Mahmud Hussaini, have created the device in the southern Dutch city fo Eindhoven, according to a report by AFP.

The device, a low-cost drone, will detect and destroy the Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), combining drone technology, 3D printing and robotics with a metal detector.

Weighing 4.5 kilo and hinging on six arms with rotors that creates lift, the drone cosists of a blue hard plastic casing that contains batteries, computer hardware and software, and a global positioning system.

A robotic arm slung underneath is fitted with pincers that can remotely be opened and closed. The pincers can carry a metal detector or a small explosive charge, which the brothers say can be used to destroy a landmine.

The on-board GPS allows it to plot its course via computer.

When deployed, a 3D mapping system scans the section that needs to be demined. Secondly, the mapped area is meticulously sweeped by the drones carrying a metal detector on a pre-programme path.

“This way the mine field in question can be scanned inch-by-inch,” Massoud told AFP at his workshop in the southern Dutch city of Eindhoven.

Finally, the plan is to destroy the mines by using the drone to place a small charge on every mine to detonate it.

“We believe this way mines can be cleared almost 20 times faster than what they are now,” Massoud said.

The brothers are expecting to take the device to Afghanistan in coming two months as they are currently busy collecting funds using Kickstarter online crowd funding with an hope to raise 90,000 euros ($100,000).

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Facebook plans to provide internet to 4 billion people with solar plane Fri, 22 Jul 2016 06:07:12 +0000 Read the full article...]]> Facebook plane

The first successful test flight of a high altitude solar plane was conducted by Facebook as the company plans to provide internet to 4 billion people in remote parts of the world.

“After two years of engineering, I’m proud to announce the successful first flight of Aquila — the solar-powered plane we designed to beam internet to remote parts of the world. Here’s the video from our first flight,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said.

The plane, Aquila drone, which at cruising speed uses same wattage as three hairdyrers, uses lasers to beam internet to remote regions.

It has the wingspan of an airliner but weighs less than a car. When cruising it consumes just 5,000 watts – the same as three hairdryers or a powerful microwave.

Zuckerberg said “The flight took place before dawn in Yuma, Arizona. Our original mission was to fly Aquila for 30 minutes, but things went so well that we decided to keep the plane up for 96 minutes. We gathered lots of data about our models and the aircraft structure — and after two years of development, it was emotional to see Aquila actually get off the ground.”

“But as big as this milestone is, we still have a lot of work to do. Eventually, our goal is to have a fleet of Aquilas flying together at 60,000 feet, communicating with each other with lasers and staying aloft for months at a time — something that’s never been done before,” Zuckerberg said. “To get there, we need to solve some difficult engineering challenges.”

According to Zuckeberg, the challenges include, weight, power, control, speed, altitude, load, and communications.

“Over the next year we’re going to keep testing Aquila — flying higher and longer, and adding more planes and payloads. It’s all part of our mission to connect the world and help more of the 4 billion people who are not online access all the opportunities of the internet,” Zuckerberg added.

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Afghan youth among semi-finalists of science and technology competition in US Sat, 09 Apr 2016 06:51:16 +0000 Read the full article...]]> Tamim IsazadahAn Afghan youth has qualified to the semi-finals of the a science and technology competition in United States for a computer application he has developed.

Tamim Isazadah, a student of Computer Science Faculty, has created the application with an aim to help resolve the issues of education in the country.

According to Isazadah, the application will help the parents to review the educational progress of their children, including their test results and attendance.

He has managed to qualify to the semi-finals after his application was approved from 1,200 applications submitted for the application from 165 countries.

The competition, Tech-I, is being organized by Global Innovation through Science and Technology in United States.

The GIST Tech-I Competition is an annual competition for science and technology entrepreneurs from emerging economies worldwide.

Aspiring innovators submit their ideas and startups online in an application consisting of an executive summary and promotional video. Their applications are then reviewed by experts and voted on by the global voting public in order to determine the finalists, according to GIST Network.

Led by the US Department of State, since 2011, innovators from around the globe have showcased their science and technology ventures to the world through GIST Tech-I Competitions.

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Apple unveils smaller iPhone SE, starting at $399 Mon, 21 Mar 2016 18:15:50 +0000 Read the full article...]]> iPhone SEThe American multinational technology company, Apple Inc., unveiled a small and cheaper iPhone aimed at emerging markets and possibly China.

With a a4-inch (10-cm) screen, the new device, is called iPhone SE and is basically an iPhone 5S body with the guts of an iPhone 6S inside.

The new device represents Apple’s second bid for the crowded mid-tier market after an unsuccessful foray three years ago, according to Reuters.

The order for the new device will be available from 24th March and it’s launching at $399 for a 16GB model while the 64GB model is $499.

Apple unveiled the new device during a small gathering at its Cupertino headquarters and it is expected the product will be available from 31st March, a week after the availability of the orders.

The company also unveiled a new, smaller, iPad Pro to replace the iPad Air 2, besides officially releasing its iOS 9.3 software.

According to reports, the iOS 9.3 includes Night Shift, which makes the screen warmer in colour as the night draws in. It also lets you lock the Notes app with TouchID, and gives you a few new ways of viewing health data.

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150 engineering specialists receive topography survey training in northern Afghanistan Wed, 11 Nov 2015 09:16:00 +0000 Read the full article...]]> 151111_RIDF_Topographical_Survey_TrainingMore than 150 engineering specialists from various line departments in six northern provinces improved their skills in use of topographical survey instruments through Regional Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF) of Germany over the past month.

Total cost of the program was nearly AFN 1.5 million and its final course ended in Mazar-e-Sharif on Wednesday and engineers can now apply their knowledge in local infrastructure projects.

The engineers who took part in the training came from various line departments in Badakhshan, Baghlan, Balkh, Kunduz, Samangan and Takhar.

The syllabus was tailored to the needs of the departments of economy, rural rehabilitation and development, education, public works, power and water supply, and to the demands of river basin agencies and municipalities.

During training, participants used topographical survey instruments commonly used in infrastructure projects, such as GPS, theodolite and levelling systems.

The engineers also learnt how to enter data into computers and then analyse it. By being able to practice the exercises on an actual construction site, they learnt how to better understand the data collected on the spot, both technically and practically.

Apart from data collection and analyses, participants discussed questions of safety on construction sites for a safer working environment.

“There were good suggestions on how to improve safety on construction sites. Some-times it’s not even difficult or expensive to put it into practise,” one participant explained.

After completing their training in Mazar-e-Sharif, one participant from Kunduz said, “In this course I greatly improved my skills in how to use survey instruments. What is even more important, I now feel I understand and can interpret the data I collect. This is crucial for proper management of infrastructure projects. I look forward to applying my knowledge at work.”

The courses are part of a joint programme by the German government’s Regional Capacity Development pro-gramme (RCD) implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaftfür Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, and the Regional Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF), funded through KfW Development Bank and implemented by Joint Venture Grontmij-GOPA-INTEGRATION, in partnership with Afghan ministries and provincial institutions.

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China unveils its first passenger jet Tue, 03 Nov 2015 06:25:32 +0000 Read the full article...]]> C919China has unveiled its first commercial passenger jet developed by the state-run Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, or Comac to compete with Boeing and Airbus, the lucrative commercial aircraft business dominators.

The single-aisle, twin-engine C919 ‘Made in China’ which can seat up to 168 passengers was shown to a large crowd of government dignitaries and other guests, about 4,000 in numbers, in a hangar at an assembly plant outside Shanghai, near Pudong International Airport on Monday.

“China’s air transport industry cannot completely rely on imports,” China’s civil aviation chief, Li Jiaxiang told the crowd.

“A great nation must have its own large commercial aircraft,” he is quoted by BBC as saying.

The passenger jet will undergo testing over the next year or so and won’t be ready for delivery until 2018.

China is one of the biggest aviation markets in the world but relies on Boeing and Airbus aircraft.

The manufacture of C919 is aimed at prevent some of the country’s commercial benefits going to other countries.

The first customers of C919 are expected to be Chinese airlines with the manufacturing company Comac saying it has received orders from 21 customers for a total of 517 aircraft, mostly from Chinese carriers but also from GE Capital Aviation Services.

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NASA discovers planet very similar to Earth in the Milky Way Thu, 23 Jul 2015 17:34:16 +0000 Read the full article...]]> Earth 2 found in the Milky Way

The United States government agency for civilian space program, aeronautics and aerospace research – National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced Thursday that a planet very similar to Earth has been discovered in the Milky Way by their Kepler space telescope.

Named Kepler-452b, the planet could well have liquid water on the surface and could host alien life with NASA saying if plants were transferred there they would likely survive due to ‘substantial opportunity’ the planet could host for life.

Located in its star’s habitable zone – the region where life-sustaining liquid water is possible on the surface of a planet, Kepler-452b is said to be about 60% bigger than Earth.

It is about 1,400 light years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. “Today, and thousands of discoveries later, astronomers are on the cusp of finding something people have dreamed about for thousands of years – another Earth,” NASA said through a statement.

Kepler researcher Jon Jenkins quoted by CNN said while it’s a bit farther from its star than Earth is from the sun, its star is brighter, so the planet gets about the same amount of energy from its star as Earth does from the sun. And that sunlight would be very similar to Earth’s.

Jenkins further added that Kepler-452b could have a thicker atmosphere than Earth’s, as well as active volcanoes if the assumptions of planetary geologists are correct.

According to Jenkins it takes 385 days for the planet to orbit its star, very similar to Earth’s 365-day year, NASA said. And because it’s spent so long orbiting in this zone — 6 billion years — it’s had plenty of time to brew life.

“That’s substantial opportunity for life to arise, should all the necessary ingredients and conditions for life exist on this planet,” he added.

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Technology Innovation labs in Afghanistan Sun, 29 Mar 2015 04:36:50 +0000 Read the full article...]]>

Kabul innovation labsBy: Said Marjan Zazai

The concept of technology innovation lab was first introduced in Afghanistan in 2012 by Internews. They held their first event in the month of January of that year in Kabul, and, it was followed through a similarly designed second event in the capital in 2013. Whereas the previous two events were funded and operated by Internews, the 2015 event, was operated and implemented by a private company based in Kabul by the name of Technation and funded by the same organization. The only vivid difference in the approach of executing the event this year was the expansion to Herat.

iLabs identify themselves as an innovation lab, which is a structured multi-day event that enables innovative, technology-based solutions to be conceptualized, prototyped and built, in order to  address social challenges. The Labs also expose civil society organizations to the possibilities of information communications technologies (ICTs) and increase the awareness of the technical community about the social issues facing the country.

Technology innovation labs are needed for capacity development of the IT sector of Afghanistan and therefore the concept of iLabs is fruitful. However, what is concerning is that this initiative was not initiated by the Afghan government, the Afghan national civil societies or the academia in the country. This suggests the limitations of innovative capacity of our institutions or indicates a traditional approach by the international organizations where they (externally) not only fund such initiatives but also (externally) bring and introduce the idea in the country. This could be seen as one of the approaches of supporting the development of Information Technology sector in developing countries where projects that have worked well in other similar contexts (particularly post-conflict countries), are simply replicated. However, this also takes our attention to the sincerity of these organizations’ in promoting innovation and new ideas in the country, which is contradictory to the concept of this particular event.

Another important issue that the event organizers and donor agencies need to address, is the expansion of this event beyond Kabul. They have done that this year and it will be important to see these events in other major cities of Afghanistan. The event needs creativity in itself in order to make it different than the previous years’ events. The philosophy of identifying problems and developing prototypes could seem boring and repetitive in the upcoming year and as a result this approach has to be enhanced in a way where the problem organizations are notified, made partners with the idea group and help provide further support in implementing the technological solution to the problem organization.

The focus of this year’s lab was more on the problem identification part in the society rather than on how innovative, new and sophisticated the technological solution is. Other problems that were observable included the dominance of civil society participants and the sidelining of key players in the IT industry in the operations of this event. The effect of this negligence could be evaluated in the performance of the mentors who provided guidance and advice to each group participating in the contest. However, the students and young professionals participating in the event had a very strong understanding of the social problems and as well as providing technological solutions, which helped in the consistent relevant operational success of this event. Yet, the vast amount of investments that has gone into the organization and management of this event is beyond the scope of this article.

Finally, another concerning observation at this event was the diversion of problem identification towards public services. Pre-assigned domains were identified to the groups where they were allowed to identify a specific problem in an organization in the country so that a solution could then be generated for them. Some of the domains includededucation, health, good governance, security, agriculture and environment. However, the problems identified by the individuals in each group were associated with public services provided by the government in each of these domains. For example, the iNobat app targeted the passport department, e-Education app provided alternate methods of providing education to rural areas and theFarkhunda app provided solutions to enhance the existing incident reporting methods in the country. Although it is a good prospect that youth are not only identifying problems in public services but also suggesting solutions to these institutions, converting these ideas and prototypes into viable startups and businesses could be a challenge. The fact that a majority of the individuals in all of these groups focused on public services rather than private businesses demonstrate the dominance of Information Technology market which are primarily international organizations and government, followed by a few telecommunication providers who have a hard protected shell around them and their human resources haven not yet been integrated in to the IT industry within the country.

iLabs concluded their sessions on Thursday, March 26 2015. The events operations went well in encouraging individuals to identify social problems and to provide solutions to them. However the real success of this investment would be truly exemplified if the organizers and donor organizations take these apps and prototypes to the next level. Internewsmust ensure that these groups are rewarded for their work and that their Intellectual Property, that they create and contribute at the event. They should be further supported in either making it a viable business or partnering with the problem organizations that they have identified during the process and implement the prototype they developed. Only through such realizations, can iLabs ensure that it is able to overcome its challenges of discovering the best ideas and instead promote an environment where winning ideas and prototypes are taken to the actual problem area and actually apply it, keeping in mind the appropriate Intellectual Property rights of the initiators.

zazaiSaid Marjan Zazai, an IT & IS professional with 13+ years of expertise and holds a BSc & MBA in Information Systems. He can be followed on Facebook and linkedin.

]]> 0 A glance over the book: Afghani Sat, 07 Mar 2015 18:29:22 +0000 Read the full article...]]> By: Masoud Kadkhodayi

Afghani (Novel)

Farman, Aref

Ketab-e-Arzan, Sweden, 2012. First Edition, 272 Pages, Appendix: Dari Works and Expressions

ISBN: 9789186065874

Afghani Novel by Aref FarmanThis book should be read, not just because it is a good novel, but for all those realistic images it portrays of the Afghan people’s lives in Iran.

A twenty year old Afghan young man, who has left his university studies in Persian literature unfinished, leaves his beloved family in Afghanistan and heads to Iran with many hopes and dreams. The young man has much love for the great men of Persian literature, such as Hafez and Sa’di and yet still, has no idea how the contemporary social life in Iran misses that greatness in those mystical and globally-oriented viewpoints. He does not know that the greatness visible in the Persian literature is now harder and harder to touch and feel across the entirety of the social lives. The young man has not yet seen how some of the short-sighted and abusive people, who take advantage of racist laws, now sit in the-once-seat of the great national poets and the wise. When the young man faces new difficulties and troubles at the Iranian border, he still is in the heavy midst of the loss of accompanying travelers a bit earlier due to shootings at Afghanistan’s borders. During the whole of the story, the young Afghan who is neither illiterate nor wicked, nor lazy nor ill, and for the only reason being an Afghan, is constantly shifting state – from one difficulty to the next worse. In the horrifying Iran he sees, he is caught in the claws of evil.

He does his best and arrives at city of Shiraz. He meets a group of country mates there and feels the agony they are troubled with: their foreign country, their merciless geography; and whenever these Afghans gather, they sit in the mourning of days lost and youth gone in hopes. What are they to do? to return? to where, Afghanistan? or to stay in Iran? But where in Iran would they be accepted without being offended nor accused nor belittled nor prejudged?

But neither hard work or lowest wage, physical offence or stealing away of the money you have with so much hardship earned is as destructive and unbearable as people’s avoiding to call your name and to see you and want you as a person with no identity and to devalue your character.

The biggest pain the hero of the book – or better said, the poor young man who is the first character of the story – has, is that everyone considers him only an “Afghani”; instead of calling his name, they only call him “Afghani”. In the very same way they say “dog”, “wolf”, “jackal” or “crow” and consider no identity there, they call the people of their neighboring, same-language country so in order to depart them from the human society. Despite my dislike to use clichés I should like to use a familiar sentence: “how dishonorable!”

I am sure that millions of Iranians who have taken refuge to the other side of the Iranian borderlines are familiar with the painful discrimination and the irresponsible words of the right wing and extreme nationalist parties and that they know how much destruction such words generate. Now if we just add physical hurting and imprisonment to that, only for being born in another land, we could perhaps feel the circumstance the Afghans are caught up with in Iran. Beyond all this, what makes life much darker and engulfed with the un-treatable pain, is the very feeling of insecurity and no shelter; the feeling that if taken long, causes various severe mental health issues with the possibility to remain unsolved to the end of life. Of course such destructive feelings could even end a person’s life much earlier than any anticipated time.

The main character of the story – the young man – has no money, no stable job, and no stable residence. He falls in love with house owner’s daughter. The girl likes him, too and they plan a marriage. But the problem here is that the girl, who of course has no name in the novel, is only a “girl”. She neither has an impacting character nor is the symbol for any special type. If the story-teller had even thought in his head of marrying her, we could better remember her. If all that was said of the girl was taken away from the story, there would still be nothing changed in the meaning of the novel.

Another consideration is, that human being is scared of what he does not know, and this is natural. Some years earlier some research was done which showed that eighty percent of the Danish who had participated in the study had never confronted an immigrant or refugee directly, but all of them had prejudgments about these people – prejudgments resultant of Mass Media. These prejudgments were mainly negative. On the contrary, all of those who had directly confronted foreigners had a positive view about them.

The Iranians are afraid of the Afghans. The Iranians were made to fear Afghans. Now the question should be put: who has made such fear and how do they benefit it. Generalization over unique matters is one of the methods used by governments and mass media for personal advantage-taking. The generalization over a wrong act or even a murder by an evil or mad Afghan man can itself lead to more wrong-doing or even a murder much worse. As we see, in many matters, all Afghans are viewed as bad and murderous and therefore treated incorrect and even homicidal, and the flame of the fire awaken, can easily haunt and burn the simple life of an Afghan university student who has fled to the neighboring, same-language country in hope of life.

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Facebook website suffered temporary outage Tue, 27 Jan 2015 06:54:26 +0000 Read the full article...]]> facebook-inc-news-feed

Facebook, one of the world’s most popular social networking sites, faced a temporary outage due to unknown reasons on Tuesday.

The website refused to refresh, and multiple attempts led to the error message — “This website is not available.”
This is the second time Facebook is crashing during the past eight months. The site had went down for at least 15 minutes on 19th June last year.

The image sharing platform owned by Facebook – Instagram has also went down. ‘We’re aware of an outage affecting Instagram and are working on a fix. Thank you for your patience,’ Instagram said in a statement.

In the meantime, the service of the Facebook website was restored in about 40 minutes but there were no words regarding the reason that led to the outage.

According to reports, Facebook has about 1.25 billion users and Instagram has about 300 million.

In the meantime, reports suggest that Chat app AIM and dating app Tinder were also hit by the outage.

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What caused the Afghan government cyber-attack? Sat, 27 Dec 2014 06:14:09 +0000 Read the full article...]]> cyber attack on Afghan govt sites

Author: Said Marjan Zazai

While the motive of the recent cyber-attack on Afghan government websites is still not known, the incident has certainly put the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) on the spot and the administration and management of the IT programs and projects are under scrutiny.

A number of Afghan government websites were compromised on December 19, where a JavaScript file was modified on the Content Delivery Network (CDN), allowing malicious java applet to run on the webserver affecting the visitors of the websites. The affected government agencies included Afghan Embassy in Australia, Herat Province Government, Office of Administrative Affairs and Council of Ministers, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Commerce and Industries, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Justice, and Ministry of Women’s Affairs. MCIT officials released a press release three days after the incident, and a day after the US cyber security company ThreatConnect, hadreleased news about the incident. ThreatConnect provided details and evidence on the attack, it went further to link the attack with the government of China. . The company also related the attack explicitly with China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang, who wasmeeting with Afghan Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah during that time.  The linking and blaming by ThreatConnect indicates the company’s aggressive and political position in this incidence. Afghan technology civil societies also raised questions on why the US company performed penetration testing on Afghan National Data Center.

Although this attack did not pose significant implications to the infrastructure nor a severe data leakage has been reported, however it did draw attention of many civil societies and IT technologists of the country, to the hardware and software infrastructure in the country, the administration of the ministry, the technical capacity of the engineers and as wellthe policies and strategies set by the government for the development and adoption of Information Technology.

Shortly after the incident, MCIT officials tried to detract citizens’ attention from the severity of the incident by stating that maintaining 100% security wasnot possible anywhere. Among other concerns that the officials showed, two important issues were raisedin order to mitigate the problem in the future. The first ‘solution’ includedan improved compensation system for the IT staff in the ministry and the second was the possibility of outsourcing their programs to a company outside of the ministry or possibly outside of the country. As an expert in the field, these are red flags in the priorities set by our officials in tackling the incident. It was expected by the officials to take responsibility for their failure and work towards a more realistic operational plan in providing strong cyber protection to the citizens and their data. The request for further financial support to IT projects might be truthful but it is not timely, given that no immediate solutions have been provided to the issue.

Information security practices in an organization requires global standards set by a number of global organizations, such as ISO 27001 & 27002, which ensures that the organization has the processes in place to secure its data. Unfortunately the MCIT does not hold this standard but these practices are within the human skills and budget available to them. The practice of ensuring multiple layered server signing in feature, the practice of providing instructions and guidelines in protecting server access passwords and other authentication methods are within their capacity but perhaps not their priority. And the question of outsourcing the national data center service is again not timely and most certainly the priorities have been confused. It would have been less costly and more realistic if the government data center was outsourced when we didn’t have the infrastructure establish and then slowly bring the technologies in to the country and work towards developing the human capacity of the ministry.

The implications of this incident might not be big but it has taken our attention to the capacity of the administration and the processes established in the organization. The administration should set their short term and long term goals to address the issue. Implementing long term strategies of outsourcing or increasing compensation is not going to provide a workaround or a quick fix to the current vulnerable networks. Afghan university graduates and self-learned IT technologists have the capacity to provide the technological solutions to such incidents. MCIT administration need to develop a strategy to work together with the students in order to develop their skills and also work towards providing equal recruitment opportunity to its citizens.

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Young Afghan man builds solar-powered motorbike Mon, 22 Dec 2014 09:36:29 +0000 Read the full article...]]> solar-powered motorbike

A young and talented Afghan man has built a solar-powered motorbike in yet another initiative by the young generation of the country who are keen to join the global technological revolution.

The solar-powered motorbike moves with the help of electricity energy obtained from the solar panels planted on the roof of the bike.

The design of the motorbike has also been made by the young man Mustafa. The bike can run at a speed of 40 kilometers per hour.

The designer has also planted pedals in the bike which could be used during the emergency conditions, specifically when the energy of bike has been totally consumed.

This comes as a young graduate of polytechnic institute in northern Jawzjan province of Afghanistan is busy to build homemade helicopter.

Ghulam Sediq has been graduated from the polytechnic institute of Jawzjan province and is currently working on the project to build a helicopter.

According to Sediq, the work on the technical aspect of the helicopter has been completed and he is ready to build the helicopter.

On the other hand, an Afghan engineer has taken an initiative to build unmanned aerial vehicle – drone and aircraft flown by pilots.

Engineer Zmarai Helali has made drones and aircraft which are operated with fuel and electricity energy, and have been made by ordinary elements such as wood, clothes and electrical devices.

A teenager Afghan boy has also developed a small robotic excavator in a similar innovation which was demonstrated in ARG presidential palace in the presence of former President Hamid Karzai.

The teenager boy, Zainullah Niazi, is 6th grade student in Surkhabad high school in central Logar province of Afghanistan.

]]> 4
How to Use PayPal in Afghanistan Sat, 06 Dec 2014 07:51:43 +0000 Read the full article...]]> How to Use Paypal in Afghanistan

By: Assad Ullah Saffa

If you are working as an Affiliate marketer, Freelancer, Blogger, or somehow monetizing online, you probably need to use PayPal in order to get paid.

In Afghanistan most of people use Google Adsense in their websites for monetizing online, and the payment is via check or PayPal, but as we all see PayPal doesn’t support Afghanistan.

In the past 13 years Afghanistan had a remarkable growth in banking sectors, but still we have some banking guarantee problems. That is why PayPal is not supporting Afghanistan Banking System.

So in this case don’t worry if we live in a country which is not supported by PayPal we can still use it as a payment method to get paid.

In order to get paid by PayPal you need a third-party to transfer money from PayPal to your Bank Account or your Prepaid Card.

Here is the instruction of using a third-party (PayOneer) for withdrawing money from PayPal to our own Bank Account:

  1. If you don’t have a verified PayPal account, Sign up to PayPal and then chose United States or Canada as your residence country.
  2. Go to this third party website and Sign Up.
  3. Chose Afghanistan as your country and upload your National ID Card (Tazkera) or Passport.
  4. They will send you several emails, and you need to respond each one of them.
  5. It will take a while and they will send you a Master Card in Post Office.
  6. Verify your card and then they will give you a bank account from Bank Of America.
  7. Go to PayPal and click on Withdraw.
  8. Chose Withdraw to bank account.
  9. Use the banking information from your account.
  10. It will take from 3-7 days for your money transfer to happen.
  11. After that you can use your prepaid Master Card in Afghanistan International Bank (AIB) ATM’s or you can chose to get paid in your Local Bank Account.
  12. If you want to get paid directly in your bank account ask them to activate this service.

Sign up Now and earn 25$ in your card just after adding your first 100$

]]> 5
First Afghan Web Directory Launched Mon, 01 Dec 2014 06:41:28 +0000 Read the full article...]]> Afghanistan Web Directory

A web designing company has launched the first business directory in Afghanistan, an initiative aimed to further facilitate contacts between the companies and individuals through the rich source of online information.

The directory – AFG. DIRECTORY has been launched with the support of Barg Sabz Web Designing Company.

According to the company officials, AFG.DIRECTORY is a professional business listing interface where it enables organizations and companies to upload one page information which includes company logo, company background, portfolio and contact details.

“AFG.DIRECTORY is a project of Barg Sabz Web Designing; it is a local directory which helps organisation and individuals to find the details of the companies or organisation they are are looking for,” Assadullah Mossni, one of the directors of Barg Sabz said.

Web Directory for Afghanistan - NEws

Mossini further added, “A team of around 10 people will be handling the Directory in a professional manner. We have marketing personnels who visit the local companies in person and asks them to register their business with us by making a reasonable annual payment.”

“Currently we start the project from Kabul and will gradually take it to provinces,” said Shujauddin Eysanyar, the sales manager of Barg Sabz Web Designing Company.

AFG.DIRECTORY is said to be the first online business listing portal with an intention to cover the country.

The launch of the online business directory comes as there have been a significant advancement in access to internet since 2002 with the launch of modern technologies such third generation (3G) mobile internet further facilitating better access to internet.

The directory link:

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WHO: 16,000 people infected with Ebola Mon, 01 Dec 2014 03:26:47 +0000 Read the full article...]]> ebola-3Around 16,500 people have been infected with Ebola virus and nearly 7,000 have died, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organization.

The new death toll, released late on Friday by the UN agency, represents an increase of more than 1,000 deaths since a report from two days before.

 Most of the new deaths were recorded in Liberia, but the new toll likely includes deaths that have gone unreported over a significant period of time.

Data from the outbreak has been spotty and slow to come and often death and case tolls see large jumps when backlogs of information are cleared. Because the data is so hard to come by, the World Health Organisation has cautioned that its figures may significantly underreport the actual number of people sickened and killed by the disease.

The current outbreak began in West Africa and has been severely hitting three countries there: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Friday’s data showed there have been 16,169 cases in just those three countries — an increase of 268 cases since a report two days earlier.

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European Parliament voted at Google break up Sat, 29 Nov 2014 05:54:23 +0000 Read the full article...]]> Google to be broken up in EuropeThe European Parliament members have voted that the Google should be broken up, as it favours its own services in search results, BBC reported.

US trade bodies and politicians have expressed their objection and disagreement at the vote.

Google has almost covered 90% of the market share for search in Europe and its rivals have asked Margarethe Vestager, the European Union commissioner who will take the final decision, to investigate the following four areas:

  • The manner in which Google displays its own vertical search services compared with other, competing products
  • How Google copies content from other websites – such as restaurant reviews – to include within its own services
  • The exclusivity Google has to sell advertising around the search terms people use
  • Restrictions on advertisers from moving their online ad campaigns to rival search engines

Many believes that the Commission may not order for the company break-up, as there has never been such an order before.

This comes as Google’s rivals had lodged an anti-competitive case in 2010.

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Apple Inc unveils new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus Tue, 09 Sep 2014 18:03:02 +0000 Read the full article...]]> iphone 6 and iphone 6 plusTwo new iPhone models were introduced by the world’s largest tech company – Apple Inc during an event in Cupertino, California on Tuesday evening.

Having fingerprint sensors and mobile wallet services for allowing smartphones to be used like contactless debit and credit cards.

The iPhone 6 come with a 4.7-inch screen and iPhone 6 Plus with a 5.5-inch display, having equal or better battery life than the iPhone 5S.

The new phones are also thinner – 6.9mm for the iPhone 6 and 7.1mm for the iPhone 6 Plus and comes with new “Retina HD” screens covered in ion-strengthen.

The camera of the new phones has also been improved by Apple Inc, fitting the new iPhones with an eight-megapixel camera using focusing technology often found in dSLR cameras, for fast and accurate photos.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has said the new devices were “the biggest advancement in the history of iPhone.”

The company is also expected to introduce its first new product, a smartwatch later on Tuesday.

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Afghanistan’s mobile phone sector boosts the economy Mon, 24 Feb 2014 13:32:27 +0000 Read the full article...]]>

UntitledBy Bradley Taylor

Since 2001 Afghanistan has made significant economical progress within its mobile phone sector. Its mobile phone sector has experienced exponential growth, as shown by the 12 million mobile phone users across Afghanistan. Approximately 60% of the population has a mobile phone connection and Afghanistan even has access to high-speed 3G connections. This new telecommunications network possesses great potential for rejuvenating Afghanistan’s economy and providing a wealth of technological luxuries for the Afghan public.

The existence of four private mobile companies and one state-owned company has resulted in private investments in Afghan telecommunications exceeding US$1.6 billion. This injection of wealth has helped Afghanistan boost its economy whilst simultaneously helping the country to develop a credible reputation within worldwide technological markets.

Untitled1The Government’s involvement in expanding the mobile phone sector has had a substantially beneficial impact on Afghanistan’s economy. The Government has executed a series of initiatives to expand network service delivery and support good governance. As a result private firms have been quick to adopt these advanced mobile phone technologies. In 2011, these initiatives resulted in the GSMA presenting the Afghan Minister of Communications and IT with the mobile industry’s prestigious annual Government Leadership award; recognizing the monumental achievements made by the government in promoting and expanding mobile communications. Thegovernment’s committed investmentwithin the mobile sector creates a myriad of lucrative opportunities for the Afghan economy. These include the creation of new jobs, increased foreign investment in Afghan companies and also an increased amount of government revenue.

Furthermore, the meteoric rise of Afghanistan’s mobile phone sector is beginning to facilitate a thriving mobile app market which in itself is beneficial for the Afghan economy. Mobile phone users can gain access to local, national and international news as well as discovering vast social network communities. There are even apps to help improve literacy and numeracy skills, as well as learning other languages. In turn, other Afghanbusinesses and industries can capitalize upon the vast advertising potential of these mobile phone apps, thereby facilitating a network within which both individuals and businesses can thrive.

Several leaders of industry have enthused about the growth of Afghanistan’s mobile phone market and its ability to improve the everyday amenities to which Afghans have access. JesKaliebe Petersen Director of Development for Paywast stated;

Untitled2 “We are excited to launch Paywast News, because it has the potential to have a direct impact on how modern Afghans get their information, and provides a steady stream of relevant updates and current affairs… There are currently more than 800,000 Android and iPhone devices in Afghanistan, and 3G consumption is growing quickly”.

Ultimately, Afghan’s mobile phone sector has a vast potential to boost other sectors of the economy. Western companies such as PremierPatient Line currently provide telecommunications services to medical practices and the Afghan government have expressed similar plans to use their flourishing mobile phone sector to improve other industries within society. Despite years of war and adversity, the Afghan economy is showing signs of revival. The exponential growth of its mobile phone sector demonstrates great economic potential for the future. Hopefully, much like the mobile phone sector has thrived in recent years, so too will the rest of the Afghan economy.

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First mobile-based news application launched in Afghanistan Wed, 27 Nov 2013 06:14:32 +0000 Read the full article...]]> Mobile News Application launched in AfghanistanMobile phone users in Afghanistan can now have access to daily news and reports about Afghanistan and the world following the launch of a new initiative by leading mobile-based social network outlet and local news agencies.

The Android-based application for smartphones, jointly launched by Paywast, Khaam Press (KP) and Wadsam News, aims to provide access to daily political, economic and social affairs including sports news.

The launch of Paywast News application is yet another breakthrough in media and telecommunications sector in Afghanistan, which will provide quality  local content to modern consumers – who believe spending time on what is value is a luxury.

The application will help over 800,000 Afghans who have smartphones, to have access to news articles in Dari as well as English.

Founder and CEO of Khaama Press, Khushnood Nabizada said, “The launch of the application and service will help the owners of smartphones to have access to latest news from Afghanistan, region and the world. “

Nabizada further added that Paywast News is a cost effective application which consumes less bandwidth and automatically downloads the contents to applications, once the owners of the smartphones enter the internet coverage area.

He also added that direct access to websites for accessing the articles will consume more bandwidth and will take more time to load the content along with its graphics, but the Paywast News application, once installed to the smartphones, will automatically download only the contens the news.

“We are excited to launch Paywast News, because it has the potential to have a direct impact on how modern Afghans get their information, and provides a steady stream of relevant updates and current affairs,” Jes Kaliebe Petersen Director of Development for Paywast said.

Petersen also added, “Paywast News is one of many products and services we provide in Afghanistan – but our first smartphone app. There are currently more than 800,000 Android and iPhone devices in Afghanistan, and 3G consumption is growing quickly.

We identified a need in the market for a news app with local high quality content – and today, Paywast News is available in the iTunes and Google Play app stores.”

Applications can be downloaded from the following  links directly:



]]> 0
Importance of SEO for your business Mon, 04 Mar 2013 05:48:35 +0000 Read the full article...]]> What is SEO?

SEO Perfect CompanySearch engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a portal in a search engine’s “natural” or un-paid (“organic”) search results. In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine’s users. SEO may target different kinds of search, including image search, local search, video search, academic search, news search and industry-specific vertical search engines.

As an Internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms or keywords typed into search engines and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience. Optimizing a website may involve editing its content, HTML and associated coding to both increase its relevance to specific keywords and to remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines. Promoting a site to increase the number of backlinks, or inbound links, is another SEO tactic.

The plural of the abbreviation SEO can also refer to “search engine optimizers,” those who provide SEO services. is a web information service website that ranks websites based on the number of visitors and page views. Alexa gets its data from its toolball users community.

Ten Benefits of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)


1. The Results are Low Cost (In Comparison to Adwords and PPC)

Organic listings are essentially free. When you are listed at the top, you don’t need to pay per click or allocate a budget for advertising, one of the main benefits of SEO is that it is the gift that keeps on giving. With a little bit of effort (and some money upfront to pay for SEO costs) you can watch your website get consistent traffic. You don’t have to pay $10 for every person who clicks on your ad. Unlike paid ads, your traffic will not drop to nothing when it stops. SEO gets rid of the need to have thousands of ads across the web.

2. Definite Increase in Traffic

With Analytics and reporting tools, you’ll see a clear cut increase in traffic. This is a definite way to maximize your business efforts. SEO will give you results (not immediately but rather quickly) and as soon as you start your SEO efforts, traffic will increase at a steady rate. Using tools to track traffic to your site you can clearly watch as more people visit your site and sales go through the roof.

3. Higher Brand Credibility, People Trust Google

People trust that the first listing in google is a reputable company, by doing SEO, your website becomes THE brand name. You’re the guy the competitors want to beat. The further back you are in rankings on Google the more people are skeptical about your website. If google has a spot dedicated to you at the top especially if it is a top tier listing with other subpages listed below the main home page it gives your website credibility that no ad can top. Ads can often be seen as annoying and many people have ad blockers installed on their browsers.

4. Better ROI (Return on Investment) Than Normal Ads

When you buy 1000 visitors from a paid ad, 2% of those visitors might convert into a sale. When you get 1000 clicks from SEO, 4% of those visitors will convert into a sale, leading to a better return on investment. This higher conversion rate is just another one of the benefits of SEO that cannot be matched by any other form of marketing. Google searches actually get people who searched for the tag in your website. These people are actually looking for your product. Ads can be from anyone. Many people may misclick on an ad. A hit from google is much more valuable over a hit from an ad.

5. Your Competitors Are Doing It

SEO is a rising field and it is gaining ground. More people are starting to realize that the benefits of SEO are extremely high. Your competitors know this and are starting to take advantage of it. If your competitors are using it then they will appear before you on Google and get all those hits that can lead to sales before your website will. Even if your site offers better services or prices. Hiring a better SEO company or investing in a skilled SEO Staff could be exactly what your company needs to rank above your competitors in the Google rankings.

6. Take Your Business to the Next Level

SEO can bring it thousands upon thousands of visitors to your website a day. This may put your company in a position of needing to expand to a larger web server to accommodate the traffic and sales to your website. Your customers may recommend you a product or service that they were looking for when they visited your website. SEO is a really great investment for your company and could be what you need to take it to the next level.

7. 250 Million websites on the web, SEO makes you stand out

There are well over 250 million websites on the web. It can be pretty hard to make a name for yourself with that many out there. Especially if your product or service is highly competitive. Using SEO will make your brand stand out from the rest and can easily be the boost that you need to see your sales go through the roof.

8. 60% Of Clicks Go to the First Result

This means that only 40% of clicks are left for the second through the millionth result on google for the keyword. Securing that top spot on Google is a sure fire way to gain thousands upon thousands of visitors. SEO is certainly the tool needed to gain that top spot as well. For a small up front investment you are looking at potentially millions of sales.

9. You’ll Have Access to Data

What data you may ask? You get customer data. You can discover new products to expand to by looking at keyword data and seeing what people are searching the most for. You can use this to your advantage and find a high search volume keyword with low competitiveness and although that may be hard to find it has the potential to bring in thousands of sales per month to your website. Customer data is extremely valuable in this business and is not that hard to come by with the right tools. Manipulating it to your advantage can be exponentially beneficial for your business.

10. The Results are Permanent

Unlike advertisements the affects of SEO are permanent. They don’t suddenly stop if you stop paying for them. Of course you will need a little upkeep to maintain that top 1st spot ranking, but if you can get that top spot chances are it will be quite difficult for it to get taken away.

Search Engine Optimization in Afghanistan

Yet there are no SEO and online marketing companies in Afghanistan due to being no online business in the country.

Recently there are few online Classified Ads services and Jobs portal, none of which are integrated with online transaction system as Afghan banks yet have not started providing Credit Cards.

It is important for larger enterprises to hire professional web developers and SEO consultants to keep their web pages in first pages of search engines.

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Facebook social networking website turns nine-year-old today Mon, 04 Feb 2013 10:15:37 +0000 Read the full article...]]> Facebook website turns nine-year-old todayThe world’s most popular social networking website, Facebook has turned nine-year-old today. Facebook was started on February 4, 2004 in a dorm of Harvard University by Mark Zuckerburg with the help of his four friends Dustin Moskovitz, Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum and Chris Hughes.

With well over 1 billion users, it’s hard to believe that the site has not even been around for a decade.

Zuckeberg relaunched Facemash as, initially and the name was later changed to Facebook. In 2005, the site allowed users to upload pictures. Till date, Facebook has seen over 219 billion photos being uploaded.

By September 2006, Facebook began expanding and allowed anyone over 13 to join the site. It also got the News Feed in 2006.

Facebook CEO Zuckerburg recently announced a new feature called Graph Search, a tool that utilises social data to help compile results for users.

Additional features like Facebook Cards and voice calling on iPhone in North America to attract users were also rolled out by the company.

Facebook has been mired in controversies over privacy concerns, underage members, hacking attacks etc despite tremendous growth.

The CEO of Facebook Zuckerburg has been dragged into lawsuits over stealing the idea for Facebook from his seniors at Harvard – Cameron Winklewoss, Tyler Winklewoss and Divya Narendra.

A separate case also filed by Co-founder Eduardo Saverin accusing Zuckerburg for pushing him out of the company. Both the cases were settled out of court.

Facebook in 2012 floated its IPO and the company went public with a peak market capitalisation of over $104 billion. The hype was short-lived and the stock of the company soon took a battering however the company is set to evolve more this year. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has indicated that in the earnings call, highlighting that mobile and new elements will be the key to the site’s future.

]]> 0
Chinese teen sells kidney to buy iPhone, iPad Sun, 08 Apr 2012 04:11:22 +0000 Read the full article...]]> In the second case of its kind in China, a teenage boy sold his kidney to buy an Apple iPhone and iPad. A 17-year-old high school student from Anhui province, surnamed Wang sold his kidney to buy the expensive gadgets, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The source further added, at five people in southern China have been charged with intentional injury in the case of a Chinese teenager who sold a kidney so he could buy an iPhone and an iPad.

The five included a surgeon who removed a kidney from a 17-year-old boy in April last year. The boy, identified only by
his surname Wang, now suffers from renal deficiency, Xinhua quoted prosecutors in Chenzhou city, Hunan province, as saying on Friday.

The news agency said that the man who allegedly organized the plot was in need of money to pay off gambling debts. He supposedly received about $35,000 to get the kidney, out of which he paid about $3,000 to the student. The defendant also allegedly paid the medical staff for the operation, and for the rental of a medical facility.

It said about 1.5 million people in China need organ transplants, but that only about 10,000 transplants are performed each year, fueling the illegal trade in organs.

Wang was recruited from an online chatroom and is now suffering from kidney failure and is in deteriorating health, the Xinhua news agency said.

International human rights groups have long accused China of harvesting organs from executed prisoners for transplant without the consent of the prisoner or their family, charges the government has denied.

China banned the trading of human organs in 2007, Xinhua said. Several other suspects involved in the case are still
being investigated.

Apple products are hugely popular in China, but are priced beyond the reach of many Chinese. IPhones start at 3,988 yuan (£400), and iPads begin at 2,988 yuan – just under £190.

]]> 0
Google unveils Chrome OS notebook for test scheme Wed, 08 Dec 2010 06:20:10 +0000 Read the full article...]]> By Maggie Shiels
 Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

Google has delayed a much anticipated branded laptop powered by its Chrome operating system until next year.

Instead of a Chrome OS device for general release, Google announced a pilot programme aimed at people who “live on the web”.

Chrome OS is Google’s boldest bid yet to erode Microsoft’s market dominance with Windows software.

Google has already gone after one of Microsoft’s cash cows, Office, with Google Docs.

Chrome marks a departure in traditional operating systems, offering a light touch approach to controlling a computer’s hardware and applications.

It also targets users who spend most of their time on the web and are comfortable relying on the cloud to access their data.

“We think cloud computing will define computing as we know it,” said Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief operating officer.

“Finally there is a viable third choice for an operating system.”

Google’s head of product for Chrome, Sundar Pichai, said the pilot scheme is aimed at early adopters, developers and users who are used to using beta software.

They will be given an unbranded black notebook that has been dubbed Cr-48.

Mr Pichai said there would be no devices on sale until next year simply because the software was not ready for prime time, due to a number of bugs and unfinished features.

“This is a profound shift,” said Mr Pichai, claiming that the operating system is Google’s attempt to “re-think the personal experience for the modern web”.

“Chrome is nothing but the web,” he added.

Machines for the pilot scheme will start shipping soon.

Consumer devices from Acer and Samsung are due on the market in 2011. No pricing details were given.


At the press event in San Francisco – in front of a crowd of journalists, bloggers and analysts – Google also outlined a number of features in Chrome OS.

Security was at its heart, with automatic updates for users taking away the need to constantly ensure that the latest version has been activated.

The company said that it hoped to be the first to ship a tool called “verified boot” on Chrome OS devices, which makes sure nothing on the machine has been modified or compromised.

“We are confident that when we ship Chrome notebooks, it will be the most secure OS ever shipped to users,” said Mr Pichai.

He also said that because data will be accessed through the cloud, users could loan their machines to other people.

“By delivering nothing but the web, it makes it very easy to share your computer,” said Mr Pichai.

Google said it has also partnered with telecom titan Verizon to offer connectivity with Chrome notebooks.

The plans range from 100 MB of free data, to $9.99 a day for unlimited data.

There will be no contracts, no activation fees, no overage fees or no cancellation fees.


A number of analysts have questioned whether or not Google is making a smart play with the Chrome OS, given that the computing world has changed dramatically since it announced plans for the low-cost operating system over 18 months ago.

In the last year, Apple’s iPad has reinvigorated the tablet market, and Google’s own Android OS – which powers smartphones – has taken off.

Android is also being used in tablet devices and netbooks, prompting a number of industry watchers to question Google’s twin approach in the OS market.

Many fear two Google operating systems will cause confusion for consumers.

Google’s Mr Schmidt does not believe it will, and recently stated that Chrome is for keyboards and Android for touch based devices.

The Chrome OS will be given free to hardware manufacturers.

Microsoft, in comparison, charges a fee for its Windows software.

Back in October, the software leader said Windows sales increased by 66% on a year earlier, to $4.8bn, helping to boost first quarter profits.

Browser growth

At the event, Google also revealed that the number of users of their Chrome browser has grown from 70m this summer to 120m.

During a demo, Brian Rakowski, the company’s director of product management for Chrome, emphasised the speed of the browser.

He showed how fast Chrome is at loading documents, from a 30-page comic book to the 1990-page Healthcare Reform Bill.

Both demos took a number of seconds, and Google said that thanks to enhancements like a tool called Crankshaft, Chrome is 50 times faster than browsers of two years ago.

“The most important thing is it’s all going to be really, really fast,” said Mr Rakowski.

The team also emphasised security on Chrome – the most important area according to Mr Pichai, who announced automatic updating.

“The bad guys have it easy on the web these days,” he said, because users do not update their browsers frequently enough.

Google also unveiled a Chrome web store to help bring users and developers together.

There are over 500 applications available now, ranging from games to newspapers to books.

Apple said in October it would open an app store for MacIntosh computers, in an effort to replicate its success in apps sold for the iPhone.

Source: BBC

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China leadership ‘orchestrated Google hacking’ Mon, 06 Dec 2010 06:00:53 +0000 Read the full article...]]> BBC – Senior Chinese figures were behind the hacking of Google earlier this year which forced the search engine to quit the country, leaked US cables suggest.

One cable, released by whistle-blowing site Wikileaks, cites a “well-placed” contact as saying the action against Google was “100% political”.

A politburo member is said to have been angered after Googling his name and finding critical comments online.

The cable says it is unclear whether China’s top leaders were involved.

Other cables show Beijing has been “extremely concerned” about the use of high-resolution satellite imagery on Google’s mapping software, Google Earth.

In January, Google said it had been subjected to a “sophisticated cyber attack originating from China” – it said the e-mail accounts of human rights activists were among those hacked.

In the ensuing row over internet censorship, Google abandoned mainland China and moved its Chinese-language operations to Hong Kong.

The company did not say who it thought was responsible but the cables, released by Wikileaks and published on the Guardian website, show the company had repeatedly raised concerns about the issue.

‘Forbidden fruit’

The BBC’s Nick Childs says the allegations contained in the cables will reinforce both the perception that the Chinese government is highly sensitive about the internet and suspicions that it was behind the hacking attacks on Google.

One cable from the US embassy in Beijing cites a “well-placed contact” as claiming “that the Chinese government coordinated the recent intrusions of Google systems”.

“According to our contact, the closely held operations were directed at the Politburo Standing Committee level,” it says.

The source, whose name is deleted from the text, told the US that the operations against Google were “100%” political in nature, not an attempt to reduce Google’s influence in China in favour of domestic search engines, such as Baidu.

But the writer of the cable notes that it is “unclear whether President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao were aware of these actions” before Google publicly announced its concerns.

The cable also reports on alleged concern in the Chinese government that, by challenging official censorship of the internet, Google had made itself seem more appealing to Chinese net users and given the impression that the US and Google were working together “to undermine Chinese government controls of the internet”.

“All of a sudden, XXXXXXXXXXXX continued, Baidu looked like a boring state-owned enterprise while Google “seems very attractive, like the forbidden fruit,” it says.

In cable dated 18 May 2009, US diplomats quote a Chinese source as saying that “the root of the problem” was an unnamed member of the politburo standing committee who wanted Google to stop linking to its international site from its sanitised version,

The politician is said to have “recently discovered that Google’s worldwide site is uncensored, and is capable of Chinese language searches and search results”. He reportedly carried out a search for his own name and found sites personally critical of him.

Google consistently refused to remove the link, citing its own anti-censorship principles, and eventually left the Chinese mainland.

The cable says that while the US can neither confirm nor deny the allegations against Beijing, “the potential for continuing escalation by the Chinese, assuming Google sticks to its guns – and the likelihood of loud US Congressional and public outcry if it caves – suggest a high-level USG [US government] response may be in order”.

The following January, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged China to fully investigate the hacking allegations.

“Countries or individuals that engage in cyber attacks should face consequences and international condemnation,” she said.

Source: BBC

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Wikileaks ‘attacked by hackers’ Mon, 29 Nov 2010 04:57:53 +0000 Read the full article...]]> (BBC) – Whistle-blowing website Wikileaks says it has come under attack from a computer-hacking operation, ahead of a release of secret US documents.

“We are currently under a mass distributed denial of service attack,” it said on its Twitter feed earlier.

It added that several newspapers will go ahead and publish the documents released to them by Wikileaks even if the site goes down.

The US state department has said the release will put many lives at risk.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has said the US authorities are afraid of being held to account.

Wikileaks has said the release of classified messages sent by US embassies will be bigger than past releases on Afghanistan and Iraq.

The newspapers set to publish details of the US embassy cables include Spain’s El Pais, France’s Le Monde, Germany’s Spiegel, the UK’s Guardian and the New York Times.

The latest leak is expected to include documents covering US dealings and diplomats’ confidential views of countries including Australia, Britain, Canada, Israel, Russia and Turkey.

“The material that we are about to release covers essentially every major issue in every country in the world,” Mr Assange told reporters by video link on Sunday.

A journalist with Britain’s Guardian newspaper said the files include an unflattering US assessment of UK PM David Cameron.

Simon Hoggart told the BBC: “There is going to be some embarrassment certainly for Gordon Brown but even more so for David Cameron who was not very highly regarded by the Obama administration or by the US ambassador here.”

No-one has been charged with passing the diplomatic files to the website but suspicion has fallen on US Army private Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst arrested in Iraq in June and charged over an earlier leak of classified US documents to Mr Assange’s organisation.

‘Illegally obtained’

The US government has written to Mr Assange, urging him not release the documents.

The letter from the US state department’s legal adviser Harold Koh said the release of classified state department documents was against US law and would put “countless” lives at risk.

Mr Assange is said to have asked which individuals would be put at risk by the leak and offered to negotiate over limited redactions.

In response, Mr Koh demanded that Wikileaks return official documents to the US government.

“We will not engage in a negotiation regarding the further release or dissemination of illegally obtained US government classified materials,” he said in the letter.

Mr Koh’s letter adds that the publication of the documents would endanger the lives of “countless” individuals – from journalists to human rights activists and bloggers – and put US military operations at risk.

Wikileaks earlier this week said that its next release of documents would be nearly seven times larger than the nearly 400,000 Pentagon documents relating to the Iraq war it published in October.

Wikileaks argues that the site’s previous releases shed light on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They included allegations of torture by Iraqi forces and reports that suggested 15,000 additional civilian deaths in Iraq.

Source: BBC

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Drug ‘can greatly reduce risk of HIV infection’ Thu, 25 Nov 2010 08:26:11 +0000 Read the full article...]]> A drug used to treat HIV-positive patients may offer gay and bisexual men some protection against contracting the virus, the authors of a new study say.

Trials of the combination drug Truvada among nearly 2,500 men suggested it could reduce the chances of male-to-male HIV infection by 44%.

Those using the drug regularly could further reduce the risk of infection, it was claimed.

The study is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Pills and condoms

Truvada is the trade name of a drug manufactured by the California-based company Gilead Sciences Inc which combines two antiretroviral drugs, used to treat Aids.

But this new study looks at whether it could be used to prevent HIV infection in the first place.

Almost 2,500 gay or bisexual men were randomly selected in Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, South Africa, Thailand and the United States. Half were given the pill, half were given dummy tablets.

All the men were also given condoms and counselling on safe sex.

What the researchers found after about a year of testing was that the drug appeared to cut male-to-male HIV transmission by 44%, when the group taking the pill was compared with the placebo group.

Those who took the pill regularly were deemed to have reduced their risk of infection further, by up to 73%, and blood tests were run to confirm this relationship between pill-usage and protection levels.

The research was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the federal US body, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The pills were donated by their manufacturer.

NIAID director, Dr Anthony Fauci, conceded more work needed to be done, but called the results impressive.

“This has been done in men who have sex with men. We need to know if we get similar results in women as well as in heterosexual men, which we have reason to believe we will,” he told the BBC.

“We also need to get a long term view of were there any toxicities. We didn’t see anything that was significant but we need to follow that for a long period of time.”

Questions and concerns

The trial does of course raise questions and concerns. Is it possible, for instance, that the results were skewed by greater condom use in the group that took the pill; and won’t such findings encourage some men to dispense with condoms altogether in favour of a drug?

There is also the issue of prohibitive cost of Truvada, which retails in the US for around $36 a day, and which makes the drug unaffordable to many possible users.

Dr Fauci argues that the two groups were fully randomised and says that drugs can only play a complementary role in the war on HIV. Condoms and fewer partners, he said, remain the first line of defence.

“We’re hoping that if this does become a useable tool in prevention, then the associated counselling will complement the effect of the drug and stop people becoming cavalier about it and say ‘now I have a pill I don’t have to worry’.

“That’s exactly the opposite of what we want to happen. We want to add something rather than have it replace something.”

Sir Nick Partridge, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, called the trial results “potentially significant”.

“It’s vital that we expand the ways we can prevent HIV transmission, particularly amongst those most at risk,” he said in a statement. “This trial proves that HIV treatment will have an impact on prevention, but that it’s not ready for widespread use yet.

“Three major hurdles are still going to be its cost, the risks of drug-resistant strains of HIV developing and taking a drug treatment every day.”

Source: BBC

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Facebook news feeds beset with malware Thu, 25 Nov 2010 04:07:31 +0000 Read the full article...]]> (BBC) – One fifth of Facebook users are exposed to malware contained in their news feeds, claim security researchers.

Security firm BitDefender said it had detected infections contained in the news feeds of around 20% of Facebook users.

By clicking on infected links in a news feed, users risk having viruses installed on their computer.

Facebook said it already had steps in place to identify and remove malware-containing links.

BitDefender arrived at its figures by analysing data from 14,000 Facebook users that had installed a security app, called safego, it makes for the social network site.

In the month since safego launched, it has analysed 17 million Facebook posts, said BitDefender.

The majority of infections were associated with apps written by independent developers, which promised enticements and rewards to trick users into installing the malware, BitDefender said.

Trusted community

These apps would then either install malware used for spying on users or to send messages containing adverts to the users’ contacts.

Facebook has a thriving community of independent developers who have built apps for the social network.

The vast majority enable users to tweak their Facebook pages, adding widgets, games or extra functions, such as delivering daily horoscope predictions.

Facebook said it had processes and checks in place to guard against the risk of malware.

“Once we detect a phony message, we delete all instances of that message across the site,” the site said in a statement.

Crooks have targeted social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter because of their vast number of users, said Rik Ferguson, a security researcher for anti-virus maker Trend Micro.

“Because social networks are based on a community of people you trust, they’re an attractive target for malware writers,” said Ferguson. “You’re more likely to click on a link from someone you trust.”

Source: BBC News

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Cisco shares hit by outlook fears Fri, 12 Nov 2010 09:02:06 +0000 Read the full article...]]> (BBC) – Shares in IT networking giant Cisco Systems have fallen sharply following disappointing first quarter results announced late on Wednesday.

Net income rose, by 8% to $1.8bn (£1.1bn; 730m euros), but investors were expecting more.

They were also rattled by comments about the outlook for the firm, which its chief executive said faced “unusual uncertainty”.

As a result, Cisco fell by 15.8% in a day of heavy trading for its shares.

An estimated 300 million Cisco shares changed hands – making it the third busiest day for the technology firm’s shares since it floated in 1990.

It also had a negative impact on the technology-heavy Nasdaq index, which was down 0.9%.

Lagging behind?

However, Cisco’s chief executive John Chambers described the results as “solid”, despite the “challenging economic environment”.

Investors consider Cisco as a bellwether, reflecting the health of companies as it dominates the market for the technology behind corporate IT networks.

Some analysts fear that it is lagging behind faster-growing rivals.

“If you look at what Cisco’s peers have said, as well as other data points in the supply chain, they’ve been arguably more upbeat,” said Kaufman Bros analyst Shaw Wu.

However, Mr Chambers said weak economic conditions were to blame, the not more intense competition.

Cisco pointed to a drop in spending by cable companies, European governments and US states.

“Our execution in areas we can control and influence speak to the success and relevance of the company’s strategy.”

Source: BBC

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Internet pioneer Vint Cerf warns over address changes Fri, 12 Nov 2010 08:32:35 +0000 Read the full article...]]> (BBC) – The internet could face years of instability as it moves to a new addressing system, one of the network’s original architects has warned.

Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the internet, spoke as the UK was urged to begin using the new addressing system.

With current addresses due to run out in 2012, nations and businesses must get on with switching, said Mr Cerf.

During the switch internet links could become unreliable, making sites and services hard to reach, Mr Cerf said.

“This has to happen or the internet will stop growing or will not be growable,” he said of the move to the addressing system.

The net has grown to its current size using version 4 of its addressing scheme (IPv4), which allows for about 4.3 billion addresses.

Estimates suggest that this pool of addresses will be exhausted by the end of January 2012.

Priority issue

A system with a far larger pool of addresses has been created, called IPv6, but progress towards using it has been sluggish.

“The business community needs to understand that this is an infrastructure they are relying on and it needs to change for them to continue to grow and to rely on it,” Mr Cerf said.

He criticised global businesses, saying they were “short-sighted” for not making the shift sooner.

“They cannot grow their business if they do not have an address space to grow it into,” he added.

The problem of the switchover will be exacerbated, said Mr Cerf, because the two addressing systems are not compatible.

As parts of the internet do eventually convert to IPv6 those trying to get at the parts still on IPv4 may not reach the site, resource or service they were after.

The net would not stop during the switch, said Mr Cerf, but access could get “spotty”.

That instability could last years, he suggested, as even search giant Google – his current employer – took three years to get its IPv6 network up and running.

“There’s work to be done,” he said.

“It’s not massive work but it is meticulous work.”

Mr Cerf was the keynote speaker at a launch event for 6UK, a non-profit group set up to get UK businesses converting to the new addressing scheme.

Currently only about 1% of data sent over the internet is wrapped in IPv6 packets, said Mr Cerf, adding that moving to using the bigger address space should now be a global priority.

Some nations, such as China and the Czech Republic, had made great strides in using IPv6 but others had not even started.

“There is turbulence coming,” said Nigel Titley, chairman of RIPE, the body that hands out Europe’s allocation of IPv4 addresses.

He said it was only a matter of time before the shortfall of addresses started to hit business.

Attempts to get more people online, close digital divisions or to boost e-commerce could all be hampered by a lack of addresses, Mr Titley said.

The key to accelerating the shift to IPv6 would be making internet service providers (ISPs) offer the service to their customers, he said, something too few were doing at the moment.

“Sooner or later BT is not going to be able to provision a new broadband customer,” said Mr Titley. “That’s when the accountants might wake up.”

Source: BBC

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Laptop designer honoured with Duke of Edinburgh prize Tue, 09 Nov 2010 06:01:17 +0000 Read the full article...]]> (BBC) – The creator of the world’s first laptop has been given a lifetime achievement award by the Duke of Edinburgh.

Bill Moggridge has been named the winner of the 2010 Prince Philip Designers Prize.

He was chosen from a list of famous nominees, including fashion designer Dame Viviene Westwood and the creator of the London 2012 Aquatics Centre.

The jury said Mr Moggridge had been central to how design helped people understand and use technology.

The Grid Compass computer was designed by Mr Moggridge in the early 1980s and is widely credited as the fore-runner for the modern laptop.

The machine went on sale in 1982, with its own operating system, Grid-OS.

It sold for over $,8,000 (£4,900), meaning it was limited to specialist applications, with the US government being one of the main buyers.

It was used on the space shuttle during the 1980s, offering the astronauts a navigational programme when they were out of reach of earth-bound navigation tools.

Mr Moggridge told BBC News he was “astonished” to have been chosen for the award.

“I’m really amazed. The other nominees are such super-heroes of mine and have incredible bodies of work,” he said.

As well as designing the Grid Compass computer, Mr Moggridge also co-founded design company IDEO.

He is currently the director of the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

The Prince Philip Designers Prize is awarded annually to recognise a lifetime contribution to design.

It is Britain’s longest-running design award and was set up by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1959 to encourage entrepreneurship.

Past winners have included Sir James Dyson, Terence Conran and Lord Norman Foster.

Source: BBC

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Facebook uncovers user data sales Tue, 02 Nov 2010 11:10:47 +0000 Read the full article...]]> Facebook has taken action against developers it caught selling user names and contact lists.

The sales were uncovered as Facebook investigated a web browser bug that let user IDs be shared inadvertently.

The user details were sold to data brokers who used the information to target adverts more precisely.

The developers have been banned for six months from connecting to Facebook and must be audited to check they comply with the social network’s policies.

Facebook started investigating what was happening with user identifiers (UIDs) following media reports that the information and lists of contacts were being sold on to advertising firms.

In a blog post, Facebook said its investigation showed that the technical demands of some browsers meant that some user IDs were being leaked.

It also discovered that some developers that create applications for the social network were taking the user IDs of those who used their creations and selling them on.

Facebook said the investigation “determined that no private user data was sold and confirmed that transfer of these UIDs did not give access to any private data”.

Despite this, it said, it took the breach “seriously” and had imposed a six-month ban on the developers it caught out.

Facebook did not identify which developers were being punished and only said there were fewer than a dozen of them and none had any applications in the top 10 most popular used on the social network.

It named ad-targeting firm Rapleaf as one of the data brokers which had been buying UIDs. It said it had reached an agreement with the firm which would end Rapleaf’s involvement with any application on Facebook now and in the future.
Source: BBC

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Sleep loss ‘worse for extroverts’ Mon, 01 Nov 2010 03:17:36 +0000 Read the full article...]]> Outgoing people appear to suffer worse from the effects of lack of sleep, US army researchers suggest.

They kept 48 volunteers awake for 36 hours, with some allowed to mix with others, the journal Sleep reports.

Those defined as introverts did better at staying awake and in reaction tests.

And those extroverts who were denied social contact also did well, suggesting it is “social stimulation” that tires out the parts of the extroverts’ brains linked to alertness.

The study involved 48 people aged 18 to 39, who were divided into two roughly equal groups following personality type screening, which defined whether they were natural extroverts or introverts.

After a good night’s sleep, they remained awake for a day and a half, with various tests each hour to measure the effects of lack of sleep.

Some of the test subjects – both introverts and extroverts – were allowed to take part in group discussions, and play board games and puzzles for 12 hours of the 36. The others were not allowed any such social interaction.

First of all, the test subjects who were “socially enriched” in this way were tested to see if there was any difference between the natural extroverts and introverts.

While there was little difference in one of the tests, in which volunteers had to push a button as soon as possible in response to a light, introverts fared better in a “maintenance of wakefulness test”, which checks whether sleep-deprived people are able to stay awake over a set period of time.

The extroverts in that group did badly in the test, but the extroverts in the second group – those denied social contact – performed markedly better.


The researchers, from the Walter Reed Army Institute in Maryland, said the results suggested that personality type might not only have a bearing on ability to cope with military tasks which required being awake for long period, but also with shift work.

They reported: “Overall, the present results might also be interpreted more generally to suggest that waking experiences, along with their interaction with individual characteristics, influence vulnerability to subsequent sleep loss.”

One possibility, they said, was that intense social interactions might lead to fatigue in brain regions which also played a role in alertness.

Conversely, they said, it was possible that introverts might always have a relatively high level of activity in parts of the brain affected by social situations.

On a day-to-day basis, it is suggested this could mean that social contact leads to “over-stimulation”, explaining why introverts would withdraw or shy away.

However, the constant activity might also make their brains better placed to fight the effects of sleep deprivation, they said.

One UK academic said that there might be a simpler explanation for the different impact of sleep deprivation.

Professor Mark Blagrove, a neuroscientist from the University of Swansea, has published similar research into effects of sleep deprivation on the mood of introverts and extroverts.

Again, he found extroverts more vulnerable to mood changes driven by lack of sleep.

He said: “We suggested that extrovert people might be more heavily influenced by the sleep-deprived appearance of people in the group around them.

“They found no differences in the objective test of alertness they used, but did find differences in the wakefulness test, which is a slightly less objective measure of how someone is feeling.

“This supports a slightly simpler argument – that the extrovert is more likely to be influenced by a perception of what is going on in the group.”
Source: BBC

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Facebook celebrity game borrows from fantasy sports Thu, 28 Oct 2010 10:21:23 +0000 Read the full article...]]>  LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – Your ability to predict whether a celebrity’s star power will rise or fall is about to come in handy.

Launching on Saturday is FanSwarm, a Hollywood version of fantasy sports for Facebook users. But in this case your team consists of a group of celebrities who score points based on what’s being said about them in tweets and on blogs.

Whether an actor scores a major role or freaks out in a hotel, it doesn’t much matter, because players are scoring points whenever news is generated.

“We use an algorithm that reads the heat of the social graph to figure out if a celebrity is hot or not,” said Doug Levin, president and CEO of nascent developer Ayeah Games. “You can gain points by betting on Charlie Sheen’s and Lindsay Lohan’s crazy careers.”

It’s not limited to actors, either. At launch, FanSwarm’s data base will have about 2,000 names from which to choose including Sarah Palin, Bill O’Reilly and President Barack Obama.

FanSwarm users will compete to become king or queen of the entire userbase: the “Swarm.” Additionally, they can build teams or leagues and compete on a smaller scale.

Players also earn points by playing mini games like TV trivia and by nominating new celebrities that are accepted into the data base.

FanSwarm will aggregate news content around the celebrities and encourage commentary.

Players choose a group of celebrities and put them into 20 different “scenes,” the selection of which also increases or decreases points. Putting Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in the “beach” scene is a wise move, for example, but not if Jennifer Aniston also is there.

Levin said he got the idea for FanSwarm when he was disappointed that George Clooney didn’t win an Oscar this year for “Up in the Air,” but he had nowhere to go online and vent. And he knew he was on to something when he observed women reacting to Sandra Bullock’s marital problems with Jesse James.

“The environment is a highly structured way for people to express themselves, and we encourage user-generated content,” Levin said. “Leave a comment, get points, play with friends, map out your predictions about celebrities. Our research says people are interested in these ideas.”

Levin has raised one round of angel funding for the company and next month begins raising venture capital. The business model includes micropayments for virtual goodies, and he intends on selling data to PR executives, talent management and anyone else interested in the blogosphere’s opinion of a celebrity.

In 2002, Levin founded Black Duck Software, a company backed by Intel, SAP and Red Hat; he stepped down as CEO last year. He is a consultant to several tech companies in Massachusetts, where Ayeah is based, and he is a former CEO of MessageMachines and X-Collaboration Software.

Source: Reuters

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Hi-tech criminals target Vietnam Wed, 27 Oct 2010 05:14:46 +0000 Read the full article...]]> (BBC) – The net domain reserved for Vietnam has become a haven of cyber crime, suggests research.

About 58% of the sites using Vietnam’s .vn domain harboured malware found the McAfee report.

Those visiting the dangerous sites risk having sensitive data stolen or their computer being hijacked.

In all, it found, 6.2% of the 27 million live sites it tracks were found to be risky to visit. A figure up from 5.9% in 2009.

“The web is getting trickier to navigate safely,” said the report which tried to compile a global snapshot of the criminal activity perpetrated via the net.

Sites risky to visit could host so-called drive-by downloads that exploit bugs to install attack code on a PC. Others may be fake pharmacy sites or host virus-ridden files.

Vietnam had only become a favourite with hi-tech criminals in 2010, said the report, as in 2009 the country’s domain came 39th in the global risk ranking. By comparison, the UK is ranked as the 49th riskiest domain.

Explaining the surge in malicious activity, Paula Greve, director of web security research for McAfee Labs, said: “Cybercriminals target regions where registering sites is cheap and convenient and pose the least risk of being caught.”

“A domain that’s safe one year can be dangerous the next,” she said.

About 15,000 of the 24,000 websites sitting on the .vn domain were home to criminal activity, said the report. Many .vn domains are used as re-direct points for other malicious sites or to control networks of hijacked computers or botnets.

Among generic domains, the .info suffix also proved popular in 2010 as the number of malicious sites on the domain grew by 94.5%. Spam gangs were using the implied authority of the .info name to lend credibility to sites peddling fake pills or bogus security software, it found.

Malicious sites hosted under the .com domain almost hit one million in 2010 with many being enrolled in long-running malware attacks.

For instance, said McAfee, many .com domains were involved in the Koobface virus outbreak which targeted Windows users who were heavy users of social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter

Source : BBC

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Yahoo Mail gets first major revamp in five years Wed, 27 Oct 2010 05:07:10 +0000 Read the full article...]]> (BBC) – Yahoo Mail is getting its biggest redesign since 2005 to make it a message hub for its 279 million users.

At the centre of the revamp is a plan to make the communications system much more compatible with social media.

This means users can post updates to Facebook and Twitter without ever leaving Yahoo Mail.

Texting and sending instant messages has been updated. Yahoo said the service will be twice as fast as Google’s Gmail and Microsoft’s Hotmail.

Users will also be able to view photos and videos from Flickr, Picasa and YouTube inside their e-mail inbox.

Priority email

“People spend more than 30 billion minutes a month on Yahoo Mail,” Dave McDowell, Yahoo Mail senior product director told BBC News.

“It is a critically important product to our users and this represents [the] most significant upgrade to Yahoo mail in five years.”

Other upgrades to Yahoo’s service include improved spam filtering, and tools to search through mail that will help better sort and prioritise messages.

By revamping its mail system, Yahoo is mirroring refreshes already pushed through by rivals.

Google introduced its priority inbox feature at the end of the summer to help users grade e-mail into four categories.

Meanwhile Microsoft updated its Hotmail e-mail system in a similar fashion to help people organise messages better.

Cool factor

The Yahoo Mail refresh had been touted back in September as part of an overall product strategy to show the company remains relevant amid increased competition from Google, Microsoft and Facebook.

Last week the early internet pioneer posted mixed financial results, increasing pressure on executives to turn the company around. 

Industry analyst Greg Sterling, of Sterling Market Intelligence, said the upgrades to Yahoo mail are important in showing the firm still has products that can compete.

“Yahoo Mail is a critical product for the company with an enormous user base,” he said. “The challenge for them is to make having a Yahoo Mail address cool.”

“It has lost some of its chic or cachet to GMail among early adopters or the tech savvy so there is a brand issue there,” he added.

“In the past I would have said people don’t want all these functions in their e-mail box but with people now having so many sites to visit this makes sense,” said Mr Sterling. 

“I think if Yahoo Mail performs well, they will win people over,” he said.

Source: BBC

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Ray Ozzie tells Microsoft to ‘go beyond the PC’ Wed, 27 Oct 2010 04:59:47 +0000 Read the full article...]]> (BBC) – Microsoft must think beyond the PC if it is to weather the changes due to hit in the next five years.

The warning was given by Microsoft’s chief software architect Ray Ozzie in a memo penned soon after he announced he was leaving the company.

In it, Mr Ozzie said that the last five years had been “breathtaking” and expected the next five to be the same.

But, he said, the strengths that had helped Microsoft grow in the past now risked holding it back.

The memo, called “Dawn of a New Day” mirrors one Mr Ozzie wrote soon after taking over from Bill Gates as the man in charge of charting the development direction of Microsoft’s portfolio of programs.

That first memo imagined a world of seamless computing and kicked off Microsoft’s attempts to get its many different programs working together across lots of different devices.

In Dawn of a New Day, Mr Ozzie praised the work Microsoft had done towards that end, but said rivals had done even better.

“…their execution has surpassed our own in mobile experiences, in the seamless fusion of hardware and software and services, and in social networking and myriad new forms of internet-centric social interaction.”

The reason for this, he suggested, was Microsoft’s legacy of being intimately tied to the PC.

“For the most part, we’ve grown to perceive of “computing” as being equated with specific familiar “artifacts” such as the “computer”, the “program” that’s installed on a computer, and the “files” that are stored on that computer’s “desktop”.

Such thinking, he said, was becoming less and less relevant as the way people used computers and what they did changed.

“…the early adopters among us have decidedly begun to move away from mentally associating our computing activities with the hardware/software artifacts of our past such as PC’s, CD-installed programs, desktops, folders & files,” he wrote.

Connections rather than computers were more important, he suggested, and devices were becoming almost disposable.

“They’re instantly usable, interchangeable, and trivially replaceable without loss,” he said.

To prosper and stay relevant, he said, Microsoft must embrace this change and get to grips with a world that cares about “continuous services” rather than computers.

“Close our eyes and form a realistic picture of what a post-PC world might actually look like, if it were to ever truly occur,” he wrote. “Those who can envision a plausible future that’s brighter than today will earn the opportunity to lead.”

Source: BBC

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Heavy smokers ‘at increased risk of dementia’ Tue, 26 Oct 2010 06:29:17 +0000 Read the full article...]]> (BBC) – Heavy smokers with a 40-a-day habit face a much higher risk of two common forms of dementia, a large study shows.
The risk of Alzheimer’s is more than doubled in people smoking at least two packs of cigarettes a day in their mid-life.
The risk of vascular dementia, linked to problems in blood vessels supplying the brain, also rose significantly.
The US study, looking at over 21,000 people’s records, is published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.
The link between smoking and Alzheimer’s has already been suggested – but this is one of the biggest studies looking at how smoking in mid-life affects dementia risk decades later.
Reversible risk
The long-term research, which used records held by a health insurance firm, found clear evidence of the risk in the heaviest smokers.
No differences in risk were detectable in those smoking less than half a pack a day.
But among those currently smoking two or more packs, equivalent to 40 or more cigarettes a day, there was a 157% increase in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
There was also a 172% increase in vascular dementia risk compared to someone who had never smoked.
But there was good news for people who had given up by middle-age – their dementia risk 20 years later was no different to those who had never smoked.
Dr Rachel Whitmer, who led the research, said the findings show the brain is not immune to the long-term consequences of heavy smoking.
“We know smoking compromises the vascular system by affecting blood pressure and elevates blood clotting factors, and we know vascular health plays a role in risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” she said.
Dr Simon Ridley, from the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, said it came as no surprise that dementia risk was “entwined” with smoking.
He said: “This study will surely add to an ever growing list of good reasons to quit.”
Ruth Sutherland, from the Alzheimer’s Society, said that stopping smoking was one element of a healthier lifestyle which could protect against dementia.
She said: “Research has shown that smoking is extremely harmful, and significantly increases the risk of vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s, with smokers being twice as likely to develop the disease as non smokers.”
Source: BBC

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Apple’s new MacBook Air: As if a laptop ‘hooked up’ with an iPad Thu, 21 Oct 2010 04:25:51 +0000 Read the full article...]]> (CNN) — While Apple’s Wednesday event was called “Back to the Mac,” much of the undertones harkened back to its popular touch-screen products.

Apple released a redesigned line of laptops and offered a peek at new Mac software at a news conference at its Cupertino, California, headquarters.

The MacBook Air laptops will be available to buy Wednesday in 11- and 13-inch-display models. The smaller size costs $999, and the larger costs $1,299.

Neither model includes a hard drive or DVD player.

Instead, the MacBook Air uses what’s called flash storage, a more efficient but pricier technology used in many of the company’s other portable products. That costliness is evident in the base model, which only has 64 gigabytes of space. (It costs an extra $200 to double the storage.)

This flash memory helps the new MacBook Air achieve between five and seven hours of battery life when surfing the Web, and 30 days of standby time. That also allows the computer to turn on almost instantly.

The machines are lighter, at 2.3 to 2.9 pounds, and thinner — the wedge-shaped aluminum gizmos measure just over two-thirds of an inch at the widest edge.

“We really see these as the next generation of MacBooks,” Steve Jobs, the company’s chief executive, said at the event. “We think all notebooks will be like these someday.”

Rather than using DVDs, software will be installed through a new App Store, similar to the digital marketplace on Apple’s iPhone and iPad. This digital store can be downloaded to Macs running the newest version of OS X Snow Leopard sometime in the next 90 days, Jobs said.

For an event centered around Apple’s flagship Mac computers, the focus Wednesday often turned to its mobile-focused iOS software.

“We’ve invented some new things, and we’ve perfected them over the last several years,” Jobs said of iOS. “We’re inspired by some of those innovations. We’d like to bring them back to the Mac.”

Apple also demonstrated it hasn’t run out of jungle-cat names with its new Lion operating system. The software borrows many concepts from iOS, including a similar presentation of software, full-screen use, a focus on touch navigation and, of course, the App Store.

Apps aside, Apple said it would release a Mac version of FaceTime, the video chat program for iPhone and iPod Touch, on its website Wednesday.

A new version of the iLife software, which includes apps such as iPhoto, GarageBand and iMovie, was also released Wednesday, costing $49. It’s included with new Apple computers. These apps can aid struggling musicians or let users craft boilerplate movie trailers.

The new MacBook Air, too, borrows things from Apple’s hand-held products.

“What would happen if a MacBook and an iPad hooked up?” Jobs joked. “This is the result.”

But don’t expect to be able to tap buttons on the laptop’s screen.

“Touch surfaces don’t want to be vertical,” Jobs said onstage. “After a short period of time, you start to fatigue. And after an extended period of time, your arm wants to fall off. It doesn’t work. It’s ergonomically terrible.”

Due to the size of these new computers, some observers may be quick to draw comparisons to netbooks. But those devices are usually cheaper and pack a slower type of processor.

“Netbooks are getting squeezed on all sides,” including pressure from tablets, said Gartner analyst Van Baker. The netbook market “grew very fast, and now they’re shrinking very fast,” he added.

“The question now is: Are full-blown notebooks going to replace netbooks?” Baker said.

Apple is spring-boarding from a record quarter for its computer division, having sold 3.89 million Macs between late June and late September. While the company sold more iPhones, iPods and iPads than Macs, profit margins on desktops and laptops are generally higher, so they make up a crucial part of Apple’s revenue.

Computers made up a third of Apple’s revenue last year, Tim Cook, chief operating officer, said during the news conference.

“If it was a standalone company — and we have no plans to do that,” Cook joked, “it would be 110 in the Fortune 500 list.”

Source: CNN

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Apple iPad sales fail to hit forecasts Tue, 19 Oct 2010 13:27:26 +0000 Read the full article...]]> San Francisco (FT) — Sales of Apple’s iPad have failed to meet the steadily rising expectations for the touchscreen tablet device, letting some of the air out of the enthusiasm that has built on Wall Street in recent weeks.

 Apple’s shares slipped more than 6 per cent in after-hours trading after it said it had sold 4.2 million of the devices in the three months to the end of September, below the 5 million that some had ­projected. It sold 3.3 million after being introduced part of the way through the prior quarter.

 Meanwhile, Steve Jobs stepped up the rhetoric in his battle with Google, whose Android software has emerged as the main rival for both the iPad and iPhone. The Apple chief executive predicted that consumers would be disappointed by smaller tablets ­running Android which are expected to be launched in the next six months.

 Apple’s Jobs takes shots at competition

He also said the proliferation of online stores for Android applications would force developers to work much harder to distribute their apps than they do with Apple‘s single, supervised store for iPhone and iPad programs.

 Moreover, he said, Android’s use on more than 100 handset models meant that programmers would have to focus on a limited range of display styles and functionality, so that not all of their software would run equally well on all versions.

 Jobs said that Google’s portrayal of its software system as “open” and Apple’s as “closed” was a “smokescreen”, and that the real difference was that Apple’s combination of hardware, software and third-party commerce was integrated and more effective.

 He went on to take aim at plans for Android-based competitors to Apple’s iPad, saying that a seven-inch display was too small to provide high-quality applications for a tablet. He said Apple had decided not to make an iPad in that size for that reason.

 Jobs’ comments came as Apple reported earnings of $4.31 billion, or $4.64 a share, for its fourth quarter, up from $2.53 billion or $2.77 a year earlier, and well ahead of Wall Street’s consensus estimates of about $4.03. Revenue soared 67 percent to $20.3 billion from $12.2 billion. The company’s shares slipped back after rising 10 percent in the past week ahead of the earnings report and a Wednesday update to the Mac computer line.

 The biggest contributor to the profit surge was Apple’s stronger than expected sale of 14.1 million iPhones, 91 percent more than in the year-ago quarter.

 Jobs said that the volume had made the iPhone more ­popular than Research in Motion’s BlackBerry, based on that company’s most recent quarter, and that the iPhone 4 might have regained the ­shipment lead Apple ceded to smartphones running Android software earlier in the year.

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Kabul: First ever Aeroplane maker awaits flight permission Tue, 19 Oct 2010 05:48:54 +0000 Read the full article...]]> A Hazara boy, who has made what is being called the country’s first home-made plane, is waiting for government permission to fly his aircraft, an official said on Tuesday.

Sabir Shah, a 10th-grader from Jaghori district in southern Ghazni province, was summoned to the capital Kabul by President Hamid Karzai who wanted the plane to undergo a technical check up before allowing it to take flight, district chief, Zafar Sharif, said.

Residents of the district have welcomed the high school student’s initiative, and praised his effort at making the two-seater aircraft, he said.

The airplane can fly about 20 kilometres, the district chief said, quoting Shah.

“As it is a technical job, the airplane must have a certificate from the ministry,” Ghulam Ali Rasikh, deputy at the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, said.

Ministry engineers would check over the three-wheeled plane before giving it the all clear, he said.

Shah said he did not want to talk to the media until he received permission from the ministry. He has not yet revealed how he built the plane either.

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