Thursday, July 8, 2010

Imagine Cup Challenges Students to Solve World Problems with Technology

“We deeply believe that tomorrow’s innovators will come from the dorm room, not the boardroom.”
That is a quote from Microsoft’s general manager of Education Strategy, Jon Perera. For eight years now, Microsoft has sponsored the worldwide Imagine Cup, a technology competition for high school and college students around the world. This year’s theme is, “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the world’s toughest problems.” Students work in teams to compete in a number of broad categories including software design, embedded development, game design, digital media and IT challenge, which is a systems level survey for managing technology.
This year’s event is being held in Warsaw, Poland home of the astronomer Nicolas Copernicus and physicist Marie Curie-Sklodowska. Opening ceremonies on July 3rd kicked off the competition of projects of teams who have advanced to the worldwide finals. Consisting of several students and a mentor to provide guidance, each team has advanced through several regional events in their respective countries to qualify to appear in Warsaw. For them, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to demonstrate the application of their ideas – ideas that can help change the world.

Team SuperLove Factory from Thailand - Image © Microsoft
This year there have been over 325,000 entrants into the Imagine Cup with 400 teams from all over the world competing this week for top honors and awards. A panel of judges helped narrow that list down using published criteria including how well the idea adheres to the theme and how well the students demonstrate mastery of technology in their categories, including various Microsoft technologies.

On that last point, I had read about Microsoft taking some criticism from earlier events. While it would be great to see some additional open technology used, whether that would be an open software language or open embedded platforms such as Arduino, I don’t think it compromises the competition. After all, the team’s projects are as much about the ideas as they are about the implementation.

For example, Team NLO from Russia developed a water quality monitoring tool called PolarVision that is already in place in a Russian national park to determine where contaminants are entering the water system. It’s possible that Team NLO can find an investor here at the Imagine Cup to bring his idea to mass market, or at least exposure for one of many compelling ideas that can have a positive impact in the world.
The first round of judging has already occurred across all major categories, with the finalists announced. There will be plenty of demonstrations, exhibits and presentations over the next two days, and I am here in Warsaw covering the event courtesy of Microsoft.

If you’re looking to get involved for the Imagine Cup next year, first check in with your school to see if they organize their own teams, or register your own. In the US there have been spring and fall competitions to tie in with class projects. There are also milestones that must be accomplished to advance. If your team succeeds, you can earn a spot at next year’s worldwide Imagine Cup finals.

World’s first HSPA+ phone to be made by HTC, run Android, launch on T-Mobile USA in September

HSPA+ is a technology meant to maximize the lifespan of 3G. Don’t get me wrong, LTE and WiMAX is all well and good, and we’ve seen what LTE can deliver in countries like Sweden and Norway, surpassing 20 megabits per second, but do you know what the upper limit of HSPA+ is?
How does 42 megabits per second sound? That’s using established standards. With hacks it can even even break 100 megabits per second, but the only place you’ll see such speeds are in a lab

So far there haven’t been any HSPA+ phones launched. It’s a chicken and egg problem. No HSPA+ networks, no need to make HSPA+ modems. Thanks to consumer demand for mobile broadband however, there’s plenty of HSPA+ in Europe and Asia, and thanks to T-Mobile USA there’s even some on the other side of the pond too. The iPhone 4, the latest from Apple, can only hit 7.2 megabits per second, and while you may not ever see that on AT&T’s network, there will be other countries with more evolved wireless infrastructure getting close to 4 or even 5 megabits per second.
According to a T-Mobile spokesman, we aren’t sure if they’re from T-Mobile EU or USA, but whatever, said spokesman said that in September there will be an HSPA+ HTC smartphone running Android launching on T-Mobile USA. Considering T-Mobile’s American network is rated at 21 megabits per second, you’re looking at possible speeds of 10 megabits or more, in the palm of your hand.

No, it isn’t WiMAX, which has the nerve to call itself 4G, and no, it isn’t LTE, which for some strange reason Verzion can’t reach double digit megabit speeds with, T-Mobile uses plain old 3G technology, but they use the latest advancements that technology has to offer.
Think of your DSL modem. I remember growing up as a kid my mother would give me lunch money everyday, and me being the geek I am, I saved it up. What did I finally purchase with the almost $150 that failed to stunt my growth seeing as how I’m almost 2 meters tall? A U.S. Robotics 33.6 kilobit per second modem. At the time, that was the best you could get over the copper wire strung to your house. Then technology got better. The latest and greatest I know about DSL technology is called ADSL2+ and it pushes 24 megabits per second.
Same copper wires strung to your house.

See where I’m getting at with HSPA+? It’s 3G, but damn good 3G, and T-Mobile USA is going to get the world’s first HSPA+ mobile phone to take advantage of the best 3G has to offer.

Lack of Space Technology Is Not the Muslim World’s Problem

The Obama administration decided to dispatch Charles Bolden, head of NASA, to do “public diplomacy” on Al Jazeera, where he said that President Obama wanted him to “find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.” He then announced that our deficit-ridden U.S. government will begin a new fund “to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries.”
The 57 OIC countries include some of the wealthiest in the world, yet many are human-rights offenders. Handing them our technology and funds could end up strengthening theocrats and monarchs, further preventing real reform.
Consider the words of Dr. Ahmed Zewail, this administration’s first science envoy to the Middle East and appointee to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. After Obama’s Cairo speech last June, Zewail wrote a very revealing op-ed in the Boston Globe, in which he professed that the way for Obama to stimulate an “Islamic Renaissance” would be to provide “investment in education” with a “new emphasis on science and technology.” This ignores the fact that many militant Islamist leaders, from bin Laden to Zawahiri to most of the heads of the Muslim Brotherhood, are very scientifically educated. In fact, the Brotherhood (Ikhwan) is sometimes pejoratively referred to as the “Brotherhood of Engineers.”
Zewail goes on to write: “Most Westerners today are unaware of the extent to which Nasser’s regime promoted education as the vital engine of progress.” How insulting: Gamal Abdel Nasser’s legendary fascism, pan-Arabism, and socialism have become “engines of progress.” Nasser infected the Middle East with a deeply corrupt ideology, yet Obama’s science envoy is apologizing for the Egyptian despot.
The challenge is not science and technology. Real Muslim reform will only come from modernization of thought in the political sciences, liberal arts, free markets, theology, and philosophy. Theocratic Islamist movements are the primary obstacles to Muslim enlightenment — not the absence of space technology.
— M. Zuhdi Jasser, MD, is the founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy based in Phoenix, Arizona.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Intelligence Agents Borrow Wall Street Trading Technology

NEW YORK—Wall Street often guards its high-frequency trading strategies as if they were matters of national security. Yet the worlds of the quants and the spymasters share more than a penchant for secrecy.

The defense and intelligence fields have long relied on computers to help collect and organize data. But a new cross-pollination has flowered with the super-fast automated systems developed by Wall Street. That technology is now being used to search the Internet's message boards for security threats, comb through bank records for unusual flows of money and gather information used in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Just as ...

Microsoft toppled as world's largest tech firm

Microsoft has been toppled as the world's largest technology manufacturer, based upon market capitalisation at least.

Long-term rival Apple has forged ahead of the Seattle-based software giant in Q1 2010, with its value rising to £154 billion, compared to Microsoft's £150.98 billion.

The success of the Apple iPhone, and the new iPad, has led to a surge in the company's market worth in recent years.
Shares in the company now cost ten times more than they did in 2000, while Microsoft has seemingly struggled to maintain the industry dominance it established during the 1990s.
Microsoft is still the better performing company based on profits alone, clearing £10 billion in the first quarter of 2010 compared to Apple's £9.3 billion.

However, with the Apple iPad shifting more than one million units in its first month in the US, and the tablet device's global launch taking place today (May 28th), the next quarter's figures will be particularly interesting.

Commenting on the news, Microsoft's chief executive Steve Ballmer noted that the company has "good competitors", but is continuing to perform "very well".
Posted by Jon Aspinell