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Technology

Improved RFID system is created

Atlanta -- U.S. scientists say they've designed a system capable of simultaneously measuring and testing hundreds of radio frequency identification tags.

The new system allows the measurement of the signal strength of tags hidden behind other tags, said Georgia Institute of Technology Assistant Professor Gregory Durgin, who led the research.

RFID tags are used for applications that include inventory management, toll collection and airport luggage security.

The tag absorbs some radio frequency energy from a reader signal and reflects it as a return signal, delivering information from the tag's memory.

If several RFID tags are in the vicinity of a reader, the reader usually communicates with the tag transmitting the most powerful signal first and then puts it to "sleep" to prevent it from transmitting repeatedly. Then the reader moves to the next most powerful signal. This process can be very time-consuming.

Cell phone service dealers are falling out

New York -- U.S. companies that jumped on the cell phone service bandwagon in recent years are struggling and many are going out of business, industry observers said.

Phone service resellers ESPN Mobile, Disney Mobile and Amp'd Mobile, which catered to youth, have all gone under, USA Today reported Tuesday.

Sonopia, a company that helped smaller groups package their own cell phone service is also going under and Virgin Mobile, the second largest reseller, reported first-quarter earnings declined 75 percent in 2008, compared with a year ago.

Resellers are falling prey to common ailments, including the lack of a distinctive feature and trying to get by on low volumes, the report said.

Copyright 2008 by United Press International.

Secure Computing Stumbles


I suppose we knew it was coming.

Microsoft's Cold Feet


Perhaps Microsoft 's (Nasdaq: MSFT) board read excerpts from He's Just Not Into You at its meeting last week. Whatever its motivation, the company now plans to simply walk away from its bid for Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO). Yahoo! isn't exactly sobbing at the altar, since it clearly wasn't that into the deal, but some shareholders may have really been looking forward to that buffet.

Internet question hangs over Microsoft

Redmond, Wash. -- Microsoft Corp.'s decision to walk away from a pursuit of Yahoo! Inc. leaves the Redmond, Wash., company with a basic gap in its future, analysts said Monday.

The software giant is still on solid ground, analysts said. But the high-tech future belongs to the Internet, economists told The New York Times.

"The future of mass-market computing is not the personal computer," Timothy Bresnahan, an economist at Stanford University told the Times.

Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer's record "will be defined by how he manages this tremendous Internet transformation over the next few years," Forrester Research CEO George Colony told the newspaper.

How much is that future worth was given a pragmatic answer over the weekend.
Before talks broke down, Yahoo! CEO Jerry Yang held out for $37 a share for the company, while Ballmer would only go as far as $33 per share, sources said. The company's share price Friday closed at $27.65.

FMC Technologies: Lord of the Subsea

Subsea specialist FMC Technologies (NYSE: FTI) has made quite a splash lately.

There were the tremendous earnings results: Operating profit was up 53% for the energy production systems segment, all energy-related backlog hit a record $4.6 billion, and the company raised full-year guidance. Offshore oil and gas producers have a need for subsea trees, and FMC is here to please. (Trees help move oil or gas from the well to a pipeline.)

Purdue's big computer assembled fast

West Lafayette, Ind. -- Staff at Purdue University said Monday they put together the Big Ten school's new supercomputer in super-fast fashion.

The 812-node supercomputer -- the largest independent processor of any school in the conference -- was expected to take a whole day to build but it turned out by 1 p.m. more than 500 nodes were already running 1,400 campus research projects, the school announced in a news release. The work started about 6 a.m.

"The assembly was finished much faster than we expected, and by noon we were doing science," said Gerry McCartney, vice president for information technology and chief information officer. "The staff was enthusiastic, the weather was great, and there were no problems installing the hardware or software. There is no cloud to accompany this silver lining."

Construction workers learn new technology

Austin -- The University of Texas at Austin says it received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to teach new technology to construction workers.

The grant went to William O'Brien; assistant professor of civil engineering; Randolph Bias, associate professor of information; Christine Julien, assistant professor of computer engineering, and Kathy Schmidt, director of the university's Cockrell School of Engineering's Faculty Innovation Center. It will allow them to expand a previous small-scale project that involved incorporating computing and sensing technologies into construction sites.

The team plans to expand their work into a unified learning environment easily copied and customized to local conditions.

"Construction sites are unique, large and dynamic, with lots of worker choice of actions," O'Brien said. "Complicating it further are the often low education levels of craft workers.

New technology rids microchips of defects

Princeton -- U.S. engineers say they've created a method that rids microchips of tiny defects, possibly leading the way to smaller, more powerful nanometer-scale chips.

Princeton University researchers said their new nanotechnology enables more precise shaping of microchip components than has been possible. And, they said, more precise component shapes could help manufacturers build smaller and better microchips.

"We are able to achieve a precision and improvement far beyond what was previously thought achievable," said engineering Professor Stephen Chou, who developed the method with graduate student Qiangfei Xia.

Microchips work best when the structures fabricated on them are straight, thin and tall, the scientists said. Rough edges and other defects can degrade or even ruin chip performance in most applications.

Xobni aims to solve Outlook users’ e-mail-related woes

Xobni, a company that revolutionizes the way people manage email relationships, today (May 5) launched its long-anticipated Outlook plug-in that the company boasts will significantly save users’ time finding email conversations, contacts and attachments.