Tuesday, December 27, 2011

3 Technology Link

3 Technology Link

The 15 Best Mobile Apps of 2011

Posted: 27 Dec 2011 12:59 PM PST

The 15 Best Mobile Apps of 2011

1. Android: Pulse News

Pulse News offers Android owners a visually pleasing way to catch up on current affairs and other web content, on and offline. Feeds are collated into a colorful and interactive mosaic homescreen. Sharing is simple, and the apps hosts read later options via Instapaper, Read it Later, Evernote and Google Reader.

Cost: Free

The 15 Best Mobile Apps of 2011

2. Android: Glympse

New location-sharing service Glympse lets people know where you are — whether that's a static location or on the road — via email, SMS, Facebook or Twitter. With timing options addressing privacy concerns, it's a useful app for both work and play.

Cost: Free

The 15 Best Mobile Apps of 2011

3. Android: AirSync by doubleTwist

Used in conjunction with the free doubleTwist desktop app, this app lets you sync your iTunes music, videos and photos from your PC to your phone, wirelessly over your home Wi-Fi network.

Cost: $4.99

The 15 Best Mobile Apps of 2011

4. Android: Camera ZOOM FX

This is a comprehensive camera app for the Android platform. As well as the cool filters, frames and vignettes we've come to know and love in such apps, Camera ZOOM FX takes functionality further with special effects such as tilt shift, distortion and composites. There's also image stabilization, a timer function, burst, time lapse modes and more.

Cost: $4.99

The 15 Best Mobile Apps of 2011

5. Android: Beautiful Widgets

One thing Android owners have over iOS users is tons more customization options. This app makes the most of them with a huge variety of ways to personalize your phone. As well as skins and themes, there's a wealth of widgets for the phone's clock, date display, toggle widgets and weather reports.

Cost: $2.89

The 15 Best Mobile Apps of 2011

6. iOS: Flipboard

Combining content from websites, blogs and social networks, Flipboard has been a big success story. Available for both the iPhone and the iPad, the "social magazine" is credited for changing the way people access online content, arguably making more of a stir in the digital publishing industry than paid-for, big name launches from established publishers.

Cost: Free

The 15 Best Mobile Apps of 2011

7. iOS: Snapseed

This post-process photo editing app is available for both the iPhone and the iPad, but on the tablet's larger screen it really shines. Awarded "iPad App of the Year" by Apple, Snapseed will help you get the most out of your images with auto-enhancement edits, the ability to enhance certain areas, special effect filters and more.

Cost: $4.99

The 15 Best Mobile Apps of 2011

8. iOS: Path

While major mainstream success is a ways off — although Path has seen approximately 1.5 million downloads to-date — the relaunch of this smart-journal-come-social-network late this year was well-received. Offering both a digital diary and a way of sharing with a limited group of close friends, Path appeals to privacy-aware, socially savvy consumers. With strong photographic options (the app includes filters) and an attractive UI, Path is a great-looking option for those who want to share their daily lives on a more intimate scale.

Cost: Free

The 15 Best Mobile Apps of 2011

9. iOS: Instagram

Apple's "iPhone App of the Year" combines creative photography fun with social networking. Its great results and ease of use means it's responsible for too many shots of our breakfasts/cats/boring commutes. With Instagram you can snap an image, process it with one of the app's awesome filter effects, and then share to not just the Instgram community, but to your friends, family and contacts on wider social networks.

Cost: Free

The 15 Best Mobile Apps of 2011

10. iOS: Stamped

Innovative startup Stamped is a recommendation service with a difference. You can "Stamp" anything from films to food, see your friends' Stamps and build up an archive of things you love, to refer back to later. Stamped takes the clutter and anonymity out of recommendations, while keeping things private to the wider public. Building affiliate programs for when people want to act on a Stamp is the clever business model behind this app, which we expect to hear more from in 2012.

Cost: Free

The 15 Best Mobile Apps of 2011

11. WP7: Tango

Somewhat bizarrely beating Microsoft-owned Skype to the WP7 platform, Tango allows you to make free phone and video calls over cellular networks and Wi-Fi to anyone who has Tango installed on their smartphone, tablet or PC. With a great-looking UI, it's a great option for Windows Phone owners, although that Skype option should be coming very soon.

Cost: Free

The 15 Best Mobile Apps of 2011

12. WP7: Metrotube

Although already as popular as the previous "LazyTube" incarnation, Metrotube, re-designed and re-developed for Mango, is an improvement — and so much better than the native YouTube app. Definitely one to download if you want to catch YouTube clips on your WP7 handset.

Cost: $1.99 for premium version, free version available

The 15 Best Mobile Apps of 2011

13. WP7: FeedWorm

While rival reader app Fuse brings good looks, FeedWorm is a no-frills Windows Phone application that syncs with your Google Reader account and makes it very simple to read RSS feeds on your phone. Offline support and a super-clean interface make it a must-have.

Cost: Free

The 15 Best Mobile Apps of 2011

14. WP7: bubblegum

While Pictures Lab and Thumba Photo Editor still prove popular on the platform, new-comer bubblegum is the photo app du jour. Created by Microsoft programmers, bubblegum has all the cool filters and social options iOS and Android users have been enjoying with Instagram, but integrates beautifully into the WP7 platform.

Cost: Free

The 15 Best Mobile Apps of 2011

15. WP7: Mixtapes

The apps market continued to grow in 2011, with millions of apps now available across the major mobile platforms.

With so many apps out there, it's easy to miss out on a must-have mobile tool. We have rounded up our favorite apps of 2011 for iOS, Android and Windows Phone 7 so you can check to see what you may have missed.

Take a look through our app gallery. Obviously this list can be debated endlessly, so let us know in the comments which apps you consider the best of the past year.

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China GPS rival Beidou starts offering navigation data

Posted: 27 Dec 2011 11:09 AM PST

China GPS rival Beidou starts offering navigation data

China GPS rival Beidou starts offering navigation dataChina plans to launch a further 25 satellites to extend the reach of its navigation service

China's satellite navigation system has become operational, according to an official.

Beidou now offered location, timing and navigation data to China and surrounding areasannounced the project's spokesman Ran Cheng.

China has been working on the system since 2000 to provide an alternative to the US government-run Global Positioning System (GPS).

The move should make China's military less dependent on foreign technology.

A launch earlier this month delivered the tenth of Beidou's satellites into orbit.

Beijing plans to send a further six satellites into space by 2012 to extend the system to most parts of Asia, and then expand the network to a total of 35 satellites offering global coverage by 2020.

Interested parties are invited to study a test version of the project's Interface Control Document which has been placed online

Missile guidance

Beidou – which translates as the Big Dipper – promises to offer civilian users positioning information correct to the nearest 10 metres, measure speeds within 0.2 metres per second, and provide clock synchronisation signals accurate to 0.02 millionths of a second.

The Chinese military will be able to obtain more accurate data.

A 2004 study by Geoffrey Forden, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, suggested that Beidou could be used to target cruise missiles against Taiwan if a war broke out over the territory. Having its own system would protect China against the risk that the US could turn GPS off.

A 2011 report for the website defensepolicy.org suggested the network could also be used to guide drones to destroy foreign naval forceswere China to come under attack.

However, Beidou's developers also stress day-to-day benefits for the public.

They told China Daily that the system could create a 400 billion yuan ($63.2bn, £40.4bn) market in related applications for the automotive, telecommunications, fishing and other industries by 2020.

China GPS rival Beidou starts offering navigation dataThe European Union's Galileo system aims to offer a partial service within the next two years

Alternative systems

Mr Ran also noted that the system is compatible and interoperable with the world's other navigation systems.

Beyond GPS, Russia operates the Glonass network. It recently launched a series of satellites to cover gaps in its system and reported earlier this month that it once again covered 100% of the Earth's surface.

The EU is also developing its own system – Galileo. The first of its operational satellites entered orbit in October. The European Space Agency said the network should be completed in 2019.

Meanwhile, defence developer Lockheed Martin is working to upgrade the US's system to GPS III.

The firm has begun constructing a prototype next-generation satellite in a facility near Denver.

The US Air Force said the new system would have more power, making it harder for enemies to jam it, and allowing the signals to penetrate deeper into built up cities and dense foliage.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the project will cost $25bn by 2025.

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WRAPUP 1-Iran threatens to stop Gulf oil if sanctions widened

Posted: 27 Dec 2011 10:52 AM PST

WRAPUP 1-Iran threatens to stop Gulf oil if sanctions widened

  •  Iran threatens to block Strait of Hormuz oil lane to West
  •  Faces more sanctions after UN finds signs of atom bomb bid
  •  EU has mooted possible embargo on Iranian oil exports
  •  Closure of Strait of Hormuz could be spark for war
  •  Saudis, other Gulf states ready to replace Iranian exports

TEHRAN, Dec 27 (Reuters) – Iran threatened on Tuesday

to stop the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz if foreign

sanctions were imposed on its crude exports over its nuclear

ambitions, a move that could trigger military conflict with

economies dependent on Gulf oil.

Western tensions with Iran have increased since a Nov. 8

report by the U.N. nuclear watchdog saying Tehran appears to

have worked on designing an atomic bomb and may still be

pursuing research to that end. Iran strongly denies this and

says it is developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Iran has defiantly expanded nuclear activity despite four

rounds of U.N. sanctions meted out since 2006 over its refusal

to suspend sensitive uranium enrichment and open up to U.N.

nuclear inspectors and investigators.

Many diplomats and analysts believe only sanctions targeting

Iran's lifeblood oil sector might be painful enough to make it

change course, but Russia and China – big trade partners of

Tehran – have blocked such a move at the United Nations.

Iran's warning on Tuesday came three weeks after EU foreign

ministers decided to tighten sanctions over the U.N. watchdog

report and laid out plans for a possible embargo of oil from the

world's No. 5 crude exporter.

"If they (the West) impose sanctions on Iran's oil exports,

then even one drop of oil cannot flow from the Strait of

Hormuz," the official Iranian news agency IRNA quoted Iran's

First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi as saying.

EU ministers said on Dec. 1 that a decision on further

sanctions would be taken no later than their January meeting but

left open the idea of an embargo on Iranian oil.

Countries in the 27-member European Union take 450,000

barrels per day of Iranian oil, about 18 percent of the Islamic

Republic's exports, much of which go to China and India.

China, the biggest buyer of Iranian crude, has warned

against "emotionally charged actions" that might aggravate

tension in the nuclear standoff with Iran.

Russia for its part has warned against "cranking up a spiral

of tension", saying this would undermine the chances of Iran

cooperating with efforts to ensure it does not build atom bombs.

About a third of all sea-borne oil was shipped through the

Strait of Hormuz in 2009, according to the U.S. Energy

Information Administration (EIA), and U.S. warships patrol the

area to ensure safe passage.

Most of the crude exported from Saudi Arabia, Iran, the

United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Iraq – together with nearly all

the liquefied natural gas from lead exporter Qatar – must slip

through the Strait of Hormuz, a 4-mile (6.4 km) wide shipping

channel between Oman and Iran.

Iran has also hinted it could hit Israel and U.S. interests

in the Gulf in response to any military strike on its nuclear

installations – a last resort option hinted at by Washington and

the Jewish state.

However, some analysts say Iran would think hard about

sealing off the Strait since it could suffer just as much

economically as Western crude importers, and could kindle war

with militarily superior big powers.


Industry sources said on Tuesday No. 1 oil exporter Saudi

Arabia and other Gulf OPEC states were ready to replace Iranian

oil if further sanctions halt Iranian crude exports to Europe.

Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi had said that Saudi

Arabia had promised not to replace Iranian crude if sanctions

were imposed.

"No promise was made to Iran, its very unlikely that Saudi

Arabia would not fill a demand gap if sanctions are placed," an

industry source familiar with the matter said.

Gulf delegates from the Organization of the Petroleum

Exporting Countries (OPEC) said an Iranian threat to close the

Strait of Hormuz would harm Tehran as well as the major regional

producers that also use the world's most vital oil export


"If the sanctions take place, the price of oil in Europe

would increase and Saudi and other Gulf countries would start

selling there to fill the gap and also benefit from the higher

price," said a second industry source who declined to be named.

Brent crude oil futures jumped nearly a dollar to over $109

a barrel after the Iranian threat, but a Gulf OPEC delegate said

the effect could be temporary. "For now, any move in the oil

price is short-term, as I don't see Iran actually going ahead

with the threat," the delegate told Reuters.

The industry source said that in the case of EU sanctions,

Iran would most likely export more of its crude to Asia, while

Gulf states would divert their exports to Europe to fill the gap

until the market is balanced again.

A prominent analyst said that if Iran did manage to shut

down the Strait of Hormuz, the ensuing spike in oil prices could

wreck the global economy, so the United States was likely to

intervene to foil such a blockade in the first place.

"First, the U.S. will probably not allow Iran to close the

Strait. That's a major economic thoroughfare and not just for

oil. You shut that Strait and we are talking a major hit on many

Middle East economies," said Carl Larry, president of Oil

Outlooks in New York.

"Second, there is no way that the Saudis (alone) have enough

oil or quality of oil to replace Iranian crude. Figure Saudi

spare capacity is 2 to 4 million at best. Of that spare, about

1-2 million is real oil that is comparable out of Iran. Lose

Iran, lose 3.5 million barrels per day of imports. No way."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed hitting Iran with

an oil embargo and won support from Britain, but resistance

persists within and outside the European Union.

An import ban might raise global oil prices during hard

economic times and debt-strapped Greece has been relying on

attractively financed Iranian oil.

Iran's seaborne trade is already suffering from existing

trade sanctions, with shipping companies scaling down or pulling

out as the Islamic Republic faces more hurdles in transporting

its oil.

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Sears and Kmart to close up to 120 stores on poor sales

Posted: 27 Dec 2011 10:49 AM PST

Sears and Kmart to close up to 120 stores on poor sales

Shares in US retail giant Sears have fallen 23% after announcing plans to close up to 120 Sears and Kmart stores amid poor figures.

Sears Holdings, the department store group which owns the two major retail chains, blamed falling sales.

In the eight weeks to Christmas Day, sales at Kmart fell 4.4% and by 6% at Sears.

The company, which has 2,200 outlets in the US, says the closures should raise up to $170m (£108.5m; 130m euros).

It added that it expected fourth-quarter earnings to be less than half of last year's amount.

Both Sears and Kmart have experienced a decline in demand for consumer electronics, amid fears of another US recession.

Kmart has also reported a decline in clothing sales over the same period.

Chief executive Lou D'Ambrosio said: "Given our performance and the difficult economic environment, especially for big-ticket items, we intend to implement a series of actions to reduce on-going expenses, adjust our asset base, and accelerate the transformation of our business model."

The results point to "deepening problems at this struggling chain and renewed worries about Sears survivability," said Gary Balter, an analyst at Credit Suisse.

"The extent of the weakness may be larger than expected, but the reasons behind it are not. It begins, and some would argue ends, with Sears' reluctance to invest in stores and service."

The firm's third quarter sales saw the company post a loss due to weakness in its Canadian stores, soft electronics sales and struggles in clothing and pharmaceutical sales at its Kmart unit.

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China tests 500 kilometers per hour train

Posted: 27 Dec 2011 10:09 AM PST

China tests 500 kilometers per hour train

China tests 500 kilometers per hour train

China tested a 500 kilometers per hour (311 mph) train over the weekend. Government officials call the record-breaking speedster a "useful reference" for China's current high speed railway operations. The test train's speed, according to a Monday report in China Daily, exceeds the world speed record of 300 kilometers per hour held by the Beijing Shanghai High Speed Railway. China's latest high-speed train has a maximum tractive power of 22,800 kilowatts, compared with the 9,600 kilowatts for China Railways High-Speed (CRH) trains in service on the Beijing-Shanghai High Speed line.

The train tested over the weekend is made of plastic materials reinforced with carbon fiber.The design concept is inspired by China's ancient swords.

The train's designer and manufacturer is Sifang Locomotive, a subsidiary of China's largest rail-vehicle maker, CSR Corp Ltd., based in Qingdao in eastern Shandong province.

Last year, Technology Review carried details of the WuGuang line trains, variants of Japan's Shinkansen and Germany's InterCity Express high-speed trains. That line clocked impressive speeds. A rail expert at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark at the time noted that high-speed rail technology implemented in China was not entirely different from the world's TGV, ICE, and Shinkansen systems. What was notable about China's high-speed lines was that the system was designed from the ground up for very high-speed operation over hundreds of kilometers.

China has the largest network of bullet-train track in the world. The push for a massive buildout began in 2006 and continues, with the help of government stimulus funds. Miles of line are planned to the tune of billions to accommodate a future vision of over 16,000 kilometers of dedicated high-speed rail lines connecting all of China's major cities by 2020.

China's engineering triumphs, however, have been hindered by troubles, highly publicized in the world press. The Chinese Railways Ministry Chief, Liu Zhijun, in charge of the construction of the high-speed railway massive network, was arrested for corruption. Then came reports that corruption had sacrificed safety concerns in a haste to roll out the high-speed rails. There were stories of substandard materials used to cut costs. The New York Times reported that the concrete bases for the tracks were made with insufficient hardening agents. The tracks could possibly warp, according to the report.

Safety concerns, however, seem to be top of mind in the government after the July incident where 40 people died when two bullet trains crashed into each other in Zhejiang province.

Officials felt it necessary to lower operating speeds on its bullet trains whereas trains with top speeds of 350 kh would be lowered to 300 kilometers peer hour, and trains designed for 250 would instead run at 200 kilometers per hour.

Similarly, Chinese officials in the latest announcement are careful to point out that future Chinese trains will not necessarily run at such high speeds as that demonstrated in the newly tested superfast train. The CSR chair Zhao Xiaogang told the Beijing Morning News that "We aim to ensure the safety of train operations."

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