Virgin Atlantic has imposed restrictions on the use of Dell and Apple Computer laptops and their notorious batteries.
Dell and Apple notebooks, according to a posted statement on Virgin Atlantic's site , may only be carried on Virgin Atlantic flights if the battery has been removed and stored in carry-on luggage. Users lucky enough to sit in seats with power supplies may use the laptops via that external source, and Virgin will even provide plug adapters for them. Otherwise, the use of Dell and Apple laptops is prohibited.
Passengers are restricted to carrying on two batteries.
"Any removed or spare batteries must be individually wrapped/protected and placed in your carry on baggage," said the statement on Virgin's site.
Virgin Atlantic was not immediately available for comment on what exactly the proper wrapping of a laptop battery entails. The company did note in its announcement, however, that it is in talks with both Apple and Dell, and will lift the ban once the battery situation is resolved.
Virgin Atlantic is the third airline to impose restrictions on Dell and Apple laptops. Since the battery recalls, both Qantas and Korean Air have issued varied levels of prohibition .
The odd thing about all of these restrictions , as CNET News.com has mentioned before, is that they are inconsistent. The policies blankets all Dell and Apple laptops, while only certain models actually contain recalled batteries. Yet there no mention of removing the batteries from laptops being put in checked-in luggage? Even taking into consideration smoke detectors and temperature, this seems like an odd oversight. A turned off laptop with one of these bad batteries might just as easily ignite in the cargo hold as in the cabin.
OPX Biotechnologies is a bit different than the other companies out there trying to make fuel from microbes.
It's not touting that it's found a magic microbe for turning wood chips into ethanol or synthetic petroleum. In fact, it doesn't even have a microbe in mind yet. Instead, the company has devised a system that speeds up the process for figuring out how the genome in a particular microbe functions and how it can be better exploited.
The tool, developed at the University of Colorado at Boulder, lets researchers test the function of different genes simultaneously. Right now, these tests are conducted sequentially, said CEO Robert Chess. The tool thus radically reduces the time needed to understand how a microorganism functions and therefore lets researchers more rapidly move to the next step, i.e. genetic enhancement and modification.
"It allows you to see everything going on in a microbe at the genetic level and see what causes what to happen," he said.
The company has raised $3.6 million from, among others, Mohr, Davidow Ventures, to now take the tool and develop a microbe capable of spewing out car or jet fuel. Once this is developed, the company would then, ideally, build a prototype manufacturing plant.
It's an interesting approach. Most of the other synthetic biology companies out there--Gevo, LS9, Amyris Biotechnologies--are mostly concentrating on finding the right microbe, not necessarily the tools.
So why doesn't OPX just sell the tools? If the software works, it seems that the company would have a built-in customer base. Plus, it's a lot easier to sell software than to find a microorganism that can be coaxed into turning out petroleum. OPX could become the Applied Materials, potentially, of the synthetic bio field.
OPX may license it in a few occasions, but Chess--who is a veteran of the biotech field--says that the most profits can be made by moving closer to the customer. The end product, in other words, will be more profitable.
Developing secret tools for your own personal use actually seems to be a pretty good formula in clean tech. One of the factors that has helped First Solar , the fast-growing solar panel maker, is the fact that it has developed a manufacturing process that no one else has. China's Suntech Power Holdings also is investing heavily in developing its own manufacturing tools.
Google is facing yet another legal tussle, according to the blogosphere. This time, it's a class action lawsuit from attorneys representing a Howard Stern from New Jersey and others that claim Google allegedly over-billed for advertisements, according to the Web site Marketingvox .
The lawsuit, filed last week in Santa Clara Superior Court in California, centers on Google's AdWords, its automated auction system for search-related ads, and the company's pledge to cap daily budgets if advertisers so choose. In the lawsuit, Stern and CLRB Hanson Industries, a Minnesota industrial printing firm, charge that Google broke this promise, according to the report.
No, it doesn't appear that the plaintiff is radio shock jock Stern. CORRECTION: Alas, an earlier version of this blog item mistakenly said that it was that Stern, as one online ad watcher pointed out.
The suit asks for all charges in excess of the daily budget to be disgorged. Google did not respond to a request for comment.
If you're one of those folks anxiously waiting for Google to release a mobile version of the sky layer they've got in Google Earth , you're partially in luck, because there's a comparable service called Starry Night that's launching a mobile version today. While there have been various iterations of the app in desktop and widget form for a while now, today makers at Imaginova are serving up versions optimized for Blackberry phones and Apple's iPhone .
The app is dead simple to use: Just use your phone's arrow keys to maneuver around the virtual skyscape. You can also zoom in and out, which will separate some of the constellations and planets that are bunched together. To help you in your quest, you can set the time of day when you're viewing the sky, and where you are. The default location when you're starting out is Canada, but you can switch it either with a ZIP code or your latitude and longitude coordinates, which admittedly isn't easy unless you're using a GPS-enabled Blackberry like the Curve 8310 and 8830 .
The one thing severely missing on the iPhone iteration is any kind of touch implementation. If you're a fan of the Google Maps application, Starry Night is nothing like this, and you're stuck with some fairly limited zoom and movement controls that make it difficult to traverse large distances quickly. It's also a little slow to load, even over Wi-Fi. I still really enjoy the idea of having an entire map of the sky in my pocket at all times, and it can make for some boredom-killing goodness the next time you're gaping up at the heavens.
CNN's iReport featured a story on Friday saying that a "reliable source" told them that Apple CEO Steve Jobs suffered a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital. Since then, Apple has denied the report, saying nothing of the sort happened. After confirming Apple's statement, CNN took the article down.
So it looks like Jobs is doing just fine. But then again, what if he wasn't? I'm willing to accept that he never had the heart attack , but doesn't it beg the question of whether or not Apple should appoint an heir apparent?
I know, I know: some people believe Jobs' health is a private matter and should stay that way, but the stock price plummeted on an unsubstantiated report that Jobs had a heart attack. Can you imagine how far it would fall if it was true?
See, what too many seem to forget is that Jobs is the key to Apple's success and the figurehead that shareholders look to for safe-keeping of their money. Thousands of people are willing to put their retirements in the proper judgment of Jobs, and I think it's time Apple wakes up and realizes that simple fact.
Apple needs an heir to the throne now. Sure, most companies usually don't play that game and instead choose to appoint a new leader when it comes time to do so, but I think Apple is an entirely different story.
Jobs is Apple. Apple is Jobs. There are few other companies like that in the world and none in the tech industry. Apple's success and failure depends on Jobs whether we want to realize it or not. And the only reason shareholders are happy to own Apple stock is because of Job's sound judgment. Without it, there would be panic in the streets of Cupertino as shareholders wondered what the future of the company will look like.
Realizing that, why doesn't Apple fill them in on that now? Naming a successor doesn't mean Jobs will need to step down anytime soon and more often than not, it buoys a stock price because shareholders would know where their money stands after the leader decides to retire.
Speculation abounds over who Jobs would pick to take the reins, but I don't think it matters to most who he picks. The shareholders trust his judgment so much, that whichever person he taps to take over will be greeted with open arms by the shareholders.
But simply saying that someone else is taking over probably won't be enough. Instead, Jobs will need to bring that person to each and every Stevenote and let them take some of the spotlight away from him to show that their vision is well in-line with his. And if he can succeed, Jobs' health won't be a factor anymore to shareholders and the reactionary drops will be a thing of the past.
If nothing else, Friday's blunder shows Apple needs to be more open to replacing Jobs. If it doesn't wake up soon, it could face a crisis if something really does go wrong.
Check out Don's Digital Home podcast , Twitter feed , and FriendFeed .
MIAMI--Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates on Friday indicated that Windows 7, the next major version of Windows, could come within the next year, far ahead of the development schedule previously indicated by the software maker.
In response to a question about Windows Vista, Gates, speaking before the Inter-American Development Bank here, said: "Sometime in the next year or so we will have a new version." Referring to Windows 7, the code name for the next full release of Windows client software, Gates said: "I'm super-enthused about what it will do in lots of ways."
Most of Gates' speech was devoted to topics closer to home for the crowd, such as how Latin America can be more competitive.
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.
Windows 7 and its intended feature list have been the topic of speculation since Microsoft discussed some details of the new software last summer.
At that time, Microsoft said little except that Windows 7 will ship in consumer and business versions, and in 32-bit and 64-bit versions. The company also confirmed that it is considering a subscription model to complement Windows, but did not provide specifics or a time frame.
Less than 24 hours ago, a Microsoft representative told CNET News.com that the company expects to ship the successor to Vista roughly three years from Vista's January 2007 debut.
Unclear is whether Gates was referring to early testing of Windows 7 coming within the year, as opposed to a widespread release or debut. An early test geared toward developers would be conceivable. The company has repeatedly said that it will accelerate the development of new Windows versions, largely as a response to Vista's roughly five year gestation period.
Microsoft on Thursday declined to extend a lifeline for Windows XP, saying that only a limited number of specialized machines will be sold with the operating system after June.
The company said it will continue to allow Windows XP Home edition to be sold for a class of computers it calls "ultra-low-cost PCs."
Vista, the current version of Windows, has sold well, according to Microsoft. But the operating system's debut was marred by repeated delays and shifting feature lists. Last week, Microsoft stepped up efforts to drive adoption of Vista by businesses.
CNET News.com's Mike Ricciuti contributed to this report.
How about a 64-bit operating system with that 64-bit processor?
The 64-bit version of Windows Vista is not new. It arrived when Vista did. But making it standard on a crush of new consumer laptops being sold at Best Buy is a recent change.HP's new Pavilion HDX model ships standard with 64-bit Vista.
All PCs now ship with Intel or Advanced Micro Devices 64-bit processors. Until recently, however, most consumer laptops have come with a 32-bit version of Vista. There are many reasons for this, two of the biggest being a lack of driver support and the larger memory requirements for the 64-bit OS.
But memory is no longer an issue. Many of the new sub-$1,000 laptops at Best Buy, for example, now come with 4GB of memory standard. Out of the 11 HP laptops listed as "new arrivals" at Best Buy, 9 come with 4GB of memory and 64-bit Vista. Ironically, the other two new-arrival HP systems come with "Windows Vista Business downgraded to XP Pro."
In other words, you get either XP or 64-bit Vista : 32-bit Vista is not offered standard at all in this list of new arrivals.
What's the difference between 32- and 64-bit Vista? Here's what Microsoft says: "The 64-bit versions of Windows can utilize more memory than 32-bit versions of Windows. This helps minimize the time spent swapping processes in and out of memory by storing more of those processes in random access memory rather than on the hard disk. This, in turn, can increase overall program performance."
One potential problem is driver confusion. Some buyers of retail laptops may not be aware that they are getting a 64-bit OS that requires 64-bit drivers. HP, for its part, provides plenty of 64-bit drivers. For the HP Pavilion dv5t laptop, drivers include those for the Nvidia GeForce 9200M and GS/9600M GT graphics chips, as well as those for the Mobile Intel 4 Series Express chipset family. Keyboard, mouse, network, and storage drivers--among others--for 64-bit Vista are also listed.
Also, Microsoft publishes software compatibility lists at its Windows Vista Compatibility Center . Though photo-editing applications such as Adobe Photoshop and CorelDRAW are listed as compatible, many applications are listed as not compatible or "unknown." In particular, a number of games are tagged as "status unknown" or "not compatible." Popular games, such as Crysis and World of Conflict are compatible, however.
One other thing to keep in mind: older "legacy" hardware could be a problem on 64-bit Vista. Although many older devices have 32-bit Vista drivers, that's not necessarily the case for the 64-bit version.