<IT WORLD> Microsoft tired of waiting
By Martin J Young
HUA HIN, Thailand - Microsoft, disappointed by the low adoption rate for the
company's latest iteration of its Internet Explorer web browser, will from next
week begin pushing the software to computer users through the Windows automatic
The target in the drive to expand use of Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) is the more
than 90% of the IE user base still on versions six and seven. According to
research firm Net Applications, IE8's share of the IE market has reached 4.36%
but overall IE share dropped to 60.90% this month.
The share held by the rival Safari browser is little changed at around 9.5%,
while Google's Chrome crept up to 1.49% and
Opera leveled at 0.81%.
This is all good news for Mozilla. Its Firefox browser for the first time has
more than a quarter of the market, at 25.91%. The company will release version
3.0.9 as a regular maintenance update next week and a fourth beta version of
the new advanced iteration of the browser, Firefox 3.5. The full final version
is expected to be available around June, about a year after the release of
Amazon had a busy Easter weekend when gay- and lesbian-themed books were filed
as "adult" and removed from their sales rankings. Irate consumers flooded the
social networking and communications site Twitter and a number of others with
their angry comments. The company has since stated that a technical glitch
caused the faux pas. A notorious hacker has also claimed responsibility.
Amazon has since fixed the listings problem which the company says affected
57,310 books. "We intend to implement new measures to make this kind of
accident less likely to occur in the future." Even so, the incident may erode
the confidence of authors and readers in the world's leading online store.
Twitter had software problems of its own this week, when a self-replicating
worm began infecting user profiles and directing people to a rival website.
Unwanted spam-like messages were displayed on over 10,000 messages, which
subsequently had to be deleted. Its creator, a 17-year-old US student, stated
that he wanted to promote his own website and expose weaknesses in Twitter. No
private information about Twitter's estimated 7 million users had been
Science Twin satellites are now able to map and record 3D pictures of solar storms,
according to a press release from the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA) this week. By using Stereo (Solar Terrestrial Relations
Observatory) satellites, NASA can provide an early warning system for solar
flares - eruptions that send huge clouds of energy particles towards the Earth
at high speed. These eruptions, known more scientifically as coronal mass
ejections (CME), can cause damage to satellites, disrupt communications and
disturb electromagnetic fields. They can also harm astronauts in orbit, and
even cause blackouts on more earthbound folk when the particles come into
contact with our planet. Larger eruptions can be even more devastating.
What is often termed a "solar tsunami" can now be more efficiently measured in
terms of speed, trajectory and three-dimensional shape by using tandem probes.
The Stereo spacecraft were launched in October 2006, one ahead of the Earth and
one behind it. As they drifted apart, the craft were able to take in the bigger
picture of the Sun-Earth system.
Astrophysicists monitoring another aspect of solar behavior - sunspots - have
recorded the lowering of sunspot activity over the past 18 months, which means
a slightly dimmer sun giving off less energy, resulting in a slightly cooler
Earth - the opposite of what occurs when sunspot activity is elevated.
Sunspots, which are planet-sized, high-energy pockets of magnetism with usually
an 11-year cycle between peaks and troughs, are at their lowest levels for
almost a century. They are a good indicator of general solar activity and the
likelihood of solar storms and CMEs.
There is a large degree of uncertainty as to when the next peak, or solar
maximum, will occur or how intense it will be - the current prediction is 2012.
A recent article in the New Scientist based upon a NASA-funded report issued by
the US National Academy of Sciences warns of an almost apocalyptic scenario
when the Earth is bombarded by high energy particles, or plasma, in the form of
solar wind during the next solar maximum. The effects on our planet could range
from total power outages to the complete disruption of telecommunication
services and devices.
The most serious recorded space weather event occurred in 1859 and is referred
to as the Carrington Event. Eruptions from two large sunspots caused eight days
of severe "space weather" above Earth, some visually stunning auroras - even at
equatorial level - and disruption of the world's telegraph networks. Our
current dependence on technology today could send us back into the dark ages
should a similar event occur during the next peak of solar activity.
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.