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May 2004
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Agreement reached over six-term year

EducationGuardian

A fixed two-week spring break is being proposed for a new look school year under an agreement reached today between a teaching union and local government leaders. The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers has announced a new deal with the Local Government Association to encourage local education authorities to follow set principles if they choose to implement a six-term school year.

Under the agreement for a standard school year, there would be a fortnight's break in early April regardless of when the Easter bank holiday takes place. The summer holiday would remain six weeks where it was normal practice, with pupils starting the school year as close as possible to September 1. The aim of the changes is to introduce terms of more even length - and to avoid the mammoth 13-week terms that sometimes occur. The agreement proposes two terms of seven weeks and four of six weeks.

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A future view of RSS

Apple

Scan all the latest news, information and articles from thousands of your favorite major news organizations, community web sites and personal weblogs in one simple-to-read, searchable article list using Safari RSS.

Many major news organizations, community Web sites and personal Web logs offer headlines and article summaries in the form of news feeds using a new technology called RSS. Safari RSS lets you take these news feeds and view them together in a simple, ad-free list, so you can quickly find all the articles that interest you from across the Web.

When Safari RSS encounters a RSS feed, you can view a page with every headline and article summary right in the browser window. To read the complete article, click on the headline or summary to retrieve the complete Web page. RSS feeds naturally fit into a web browser, making Safari the ideal way to browse the entire web without a second application. Safari RSS has a slider control for customizing the displayed length of each article summary and controls for sorting and filtering displayed articles by Date, Title and Source.

Safari RSS even lets you know if you’ve landed on a Web site that offers an RSS feed by displaying an RSS icon in the Safari address field. Simply click the RSS indicator icon and Safari automatically formats the feed and displays it right in the browser. Bookmark the RSS feed so you can quickly return to it later.

Nice video clip showing how this all looks...

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iChat AV Conferencing

"iChat for Tiger introduces a new kind of interface for video conferencing. In its three-dimensional view, your buddies seem more like they’re in the room with you, making it easier to follow the conversation. Their images are even reflected in front of them, just as if they were sitting around a conference-room table. It’s an organized visual arrangement that facilitates communication and keeps your Desktop neat. Make your multi-way video conference full screen to instantly turn your office into a video conference room."

Apple - Mac OS X - Tiger Preview - iChat AV

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Apple - 30" Cinema Display

Apple

See the Forest and the Trees

The 77% increase in screen real estate of the 30-inch Cinema HD Display gives you the space you need to visualize your entire creation yet provides the resolution necessary to edit in place. So you can lay out a two-page spread and edit text without squinting. Or work with a Photoshop document with room for more than 30 layers in a palette. Take in the whole timeline in Final Cut Pro HD, with audio controls. Display an unheard of 126 Logic mixer controls simultaneously. Or peer into four different modes of a molecule visualization with subatomic detail. Add this colossal advancement in innovation to your well-equipped Power Mac G5 for just $3299.
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World's fastest txter?

Guardian Online

The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human.

"Technology-obsessed Singapore may have claimed a fresh world record Monday..." reports AP. "Student Kimberly Yeo, 23, managed to type this fiendishly complicated 26-word message on her phone in 43.66 seconds, organizer Singapore Telecommunications said in a statement Monday."
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EU suspends Microsoft sanctions

BBC News

It helps if you have lots of lawyers...

The European Commission has suspended sanctions against Microsoft stemming from a ruling that the group had abused its dominant market position.

The move came after the world's largest software company appealed against the decision at the EU court early in June. The EC stressed that the move was an "interim measure" until a court had ruled on Microsoft's request. Microsoft has also asked for a long-term suspension of EU-imposed changes to the way the firm operates. The changes ordered by the Commission include selling a version of Windows without its media player software.

Microsoft was ordered to unbundle the software within 90 days - that deadline runs out on Monday.

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Mobiles 'could cut male fertility'. Maybe...

BBC Health

Note, in particular, the last sentence which, in effect, says that this was poor science badly done..

Carrying a mobile phone could significantly affect a man's fertility, scientists have suggested. Radiation from the phones could cut the number of sperm a man has by a third, researchers from the University of Szeged, Hungary said.

The research, presented to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) meeting in Berlin, studied over 200 men. But other experts have criticised their research, saying it did not take any other aspects of the men's life into account.

The Hungarian study is the first to look at how electromagnetic radiation from mobiles could affect sperm. The men who had their phone on standby throughout the day had about a third less sperm than those who did not. And, of the remaining sperm, high numbers were found to be swimming abnormally, reducing the chances of fertilisation. The researchers say their findings suggest that mobiles do have a "negative effect" on male sperm and fertility.

But other experts at the ESHRE conference said the Hungarian study did not allow for other factors which could have affected the men's fertility.

Professor Hans Evers, the former chairman of the European Society of Human Reproduction, said it "raises more questions than it answers". He said the study had not taken into account the "many potential confounding factors which could have skewed the results". These could include whether the men who had affected sperm came from a different social class or age range than those who did not. It was also unclear whether the men were carrying their phones in their trouser pockets, close to their bodies, or in briefcases away from them. He said: "These factors would have a considerable effect on the outcome of the research."

Professor Evers added: "Mobile phones are related to a certain lifestyle and they may be related to stress, to a heavily occupied business man rushing around from one office to another, having a lot of concerns in the life, there's all kind of things. And it is known that this decreases sperm counts and if you compare that to farmers living in the open air, on the land and not carrying a mobile phone at all you can explain the difference by completely other ways than the use of a mobile phone."

He said the only way to get a clearer picture would be for scientists to carry out a study which was carefully designed only to look at the effect of mobile phones on sperm.

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HeckleBot

Toyz Wiki

HeckleBot prototype. A device that allows audiences to provide feedback to speakers using wireless technology to tie into an open chat line (IRC, Internet Relay Chat, if you must know).

The hardware consists of an embedded uClinux device and a programmable LED sign. All the software runs on the embedded uClinux device and boots automatically out of flash. Once configured, there is no user action required to activate Hecklebot. Simply plug it into an Ethernet port and turn it on!
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Decentralization

Supernova 2004

Thomas Malone, MIT.Sloan School

What I am going to try to explain to you this morning is not just why decentralization is a cool thing for technologists, but why decentralization is the next stage in a progression that has been going on for thousands of years--and what that means for where we are going in business.

We are in the early stages in a new freedom in business... Information technology is reducing the cost of communication to such a low level that it is now possible for people to have all the information they need about the big picture to make decisions themselves about what they do, rather than relying on a manager.

Examples: Wikipedia. Anyone can add to or change wikipedia, but people who contribute regularly watch the change list and manage what's done, so the quality stays high. This illustrates both the themes of freedom and scale: freedom because anyone can contribute; scale because of the global pool of contributors and audience.

How does this fit into my themes?

Well, my next example is eBay: $2B in revenue last year,150,000 people who make a living selling fulltime on eBay (as independent store owners these folks decided for themselves what to sell and so on) but they also have global scale in their infrastructure and market.

So this is the next logical stage in pattern of the evolution of human organizations.

Humans began with hunting and gathering, living in groups called bands. About 12,000 years ago, we saw the rise of larger human societies ruled by leaders called Emperors and Kings. 200 years ago, we began to live in democracies.

In each case, one change factor has been the improvement in communications: writing made it possible to organize in larger groups and share information; the printing press helped make democracy feasible... without a press to inform large numbers of people, it would be hard to have a participatory government.

This pattern appears to be playing itself out again, more rapidly, in business today.

Historically, businesses were small family affairs. Starting in 1800, new technologies made it possible to organize businesses on a larger scale, the "kingdoms" of the business world.

Now, new technologies are helping us enter the third major stage in the way businesses are organized."

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