Archive for June, 2010

Twitter banned during election campaign

Posted June 30, 2010 By David Kolle

JAPAN’S political candidates’ Twitter accounts have gone silent in the run-up to parliamentary elections on July 11, because of strict laws regulating internet use.

Even Japan’s voters are banned from tweeting or blogging about a campaign.

This in a country that set a record of 3283 tweets per second after a World Cup victory last week, surpassing the 3085 when the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA championship.

Twitter Inc estimates Japanese users send nearly 8 million tweets a day, about 12 per cent of the global total.

The election laws, which also limit posters and TV air time, are meant to give a chance to less well-financed candidates.

But in the internet era, the restrictions deprive them of cheap tools that would make campaigns more democratic, some critics say.

“As long as we ban internet campaigning, Japanese politicians won’t mature, and voters also can’t mature,” said Masahiko Shoji, a leader of a movement to use the internet to promote democracy.
Attempts to change the law have met resistance from old-guard lawmakers, said Shoji, an assistant professor at the International University of Japan.

Elsewhere, politicians from President Barack Obama to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have embraced Twitter.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sent his first tweet last week from Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, exchanging greetings with other heads of state, according to Twitter spokesman Sean Garrett.

The company is hiring a Washington, DC, representative to promote Twitter’s use in politics and hopes to expand the initiative worldwide, he said.

“Obviously there is a lot of potential for policymakers, government agencies, politicians of all stripes to use Twitter and to connect with their constituency,” Mr Garrett said during a visit to Tokyo this week.

Japan’s former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama tweets, as do more than 100 candidates for the July 11 upper house election.

Almost all are refraining during the official campaign period for fear of running afoul of the law.

“It makes absolutely no sense at all,” said Tomoya Sasaki, senior operating officer of Digital Garage, which supports Twitter’s operations in Japan.

To skirt campaign rules, some people are tweeting about issues, such as US military bases in Japan or an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease among livestock, he said.

Campaigning in Japan is dominated by vans with loudspeakers that zip around, screaming the name of the candidate over and over and begging for votes.

“Japanese people need more information, and they need to be able to debate the issues,” he said.

“People have the right to make intelligent choices, not just pick someone by a name.”

Lawmaker Kenzo Fujisue, who is such an avid tweeter that he has earned the nickname “Twitter legislator,” is symbolically defying the ban by posting links to audio clips, because voice is not covered by the election law.

His recordings are cautious and mostly chitchat, though, reflecting uncertainty about the legal limits. One is just an instrumental music piece.

Taichi Irie, a freelance programmer who has created a website that shows live tweets of more than 560 politicians, said that Twitter is mostly used in Japan for personal posts or photos.

It will take time to develop as a platform for political debate, he predicted.

“I think Twitter use should be open,” he said. “But it is also important we are careful to pursue the true potential of what Twitter can mean in politics.”

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Sony recalls laptops over burn risk

Posted June 30, 2010 By David Kolle

SONY has issued a warning to customers worldwide that a system glitch affecting more than half a million of its VAIO laptop computers may cause overheating and possible burns.

The electronics giant said a heat-monitoring chip in some of its VAIO F and C series models that were launched in January this year could be defective, leading to possible overheating, a company statement said.

Although the defect has not been known to cause personal injuries, the firm said it received a total of 39 complaints from overseas customers saying that the shape of their computers became distorted from overheating.

The glitch affects a total of 535,000 laptops worldwide, of which nearly half is in the US and the remainder in Japan, Europe and China.

Sony said it is offering consumers a software application download with which to correct the malfunction.

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New ASUS notebook wired for sound

Posted June 30, 2010 By David Kolle
ASUS NX90 notebook: includes Bang & Olufsen audio technology.
ASUS NX90 notebook: includes Bang & Olufsen audio technology.

ASUS is courting serious music buffs with a chic new multimedia notebook that it hopes will set new industry standards for audio quality.

With a polished aluminium finish and large side-mounted speakers, the flagship NX90 is the result of ongoing collaboration between the Taiwanese computer manufacturer and audio experts, Bang & Olufsen.

Dual touchpads and an 18.4-inch high definition screen add to its multimedia credentials, and the NX90 has been designed more as an audiovisual centre for the home than a portable computing device, said Albert Liang, ASUS notebook product manager.

The company recently launched a 3D multimedia laptop aimed specifically at gamers but Liang said the new N-series was pitched more for general users, particularly those wanting their audio quality to match the advanced graphics functions now available in high-end notebooks.

The SonicMaster sound technology built into the N series laptops “sets a new standard in notebook audio, offering the best ever sonic performance on a portable PC,” said ASUS.

The combined expertise from ASUS’s own audio team and Bang & Olufsen has resulted in larger speaker chambers and stronger amplifiers necessary to deliver quality audio, alongside rendered high-fidelity sound and extensive software equalisation, the company said.

Derek Chang, ASUS technical marketing manager said the resulting SonicMaster technology helped to “solve the issues of conventional notebooks,” which were typically afflicted with white noise, low volume and weak bass.

He said the company had addressed all three with what he claimed was “the best sound in the PC industry”.

The NX90 is due to ship here in July and will cost $2999 and run on an Intel Core i7-720QM processor. Two smaller N series notebooks will also be released, priced at $1399 and $1499.

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Google’s Matthew Papakipos, the engineering director who started and led the project to create the Chrome operating system, has been hired away by Facebook.

Papakipos announced his job change Monday afternoon on Twitter, writing “Now that Chrome OS & WebGL are in good shape, it’s time for something new. I’m going to work @ Facebook! Love the product and team. Woot!”

Facebook tops Google ranking, snares 35% of Web users

Papakipos, who also worked on the WebGL 3D graphics API for Web browsers, had been with Google since 2007, and previously held jobs at Nvidia and PeakStream.

About 13 hours before announcing his job change publicly, Papakipos tweeted: “I love that in this busy crazy over-connected world I can still keep a secret among friends.”

Monday was a busy day in the Facebook-Google rivalry, with Twitter playing a role in two incidents. Earlier, Digg co-founder Kevin Rose fueled a series of news articles and blog posts about Google possibly launching a competitor to Facebookwith a tweet that said “Ok, umm, huge rumor: Google to launch facebook competitor very soon ‘Google Me’, very credible source.”

There’s no word yet on what role Papakipos will play at Facebook. Facebook’s engineering team has also hired Jocelyn Goldfein, who was vice president and general manager of VMware’s Desktop Business Unit.

Papakipos is based in Palo Alto, Calif., and has degrees from Brown University and Stanford University. According to his online resume, he has filed more than 70 patent applications.

“I architect complex computer systems,” Papakipos writes. “I’ve invented and patented a large number of hardware and software algorithms for solving real-world problems. I design systems that are novel, yet practical. I like solving problems that seem impossible to others: making graphics chips programmable (NVIDIA), making browser apps as fast as conventional native apps (NativeClient), making web apps that use graphics hardware (WebGL), creating a new consumer operating system (Chrome OS).”

Chrome OS, which grew out of Google’s Chrome Web browser, is a new kind of operating system that puts all the applications into the Web browser, and is designed mainly for netbooks.

“It’s all about the web,” Papakipos and fellow Google employee Caesar Sengupta wrote in a recent blog post. “All apps are web apps. The entire experience takes place within the browser and there are no conventional desktop applications. This means users do not have to deal with installing, managing and updating programs.”

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Source: Network World

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