31 May, 2005

Google Translator: The Universal Language:
At the recent web cast of the Google Factory Tour, researcher Franz Och presented the current state of the Google Machine Translation Systems. He compared translations of the current Google translator, and the status quo of the Google Research Lab’s activities. The results were highly impressive. A sentence in Arabic which is now being translated to a nonsensical “Alpine white new presence tape registered for coffee confirms Laden” is now in the Research Labs being translated to “The White House Confirmed the Existence of a New Bin Laden Tape.”

How do they do that? It’s certainly complex to program such a system, but the underlying principle is easy – so easy in fact that the researchers working on this enabled the system to translate from Chinese to English without any researcher being able to speak Chinese. To the translation system, any language is treated the same, and there is no manually created rule-set of grammar, metaphors and such. Instead, the system is learning from existing human translations. All it needs is someone to feed the system the two books and to teach it the two are translations from language A to language B, and the translator can create what Franz Och called a “language model.” This is brute force AI, if you want – it works on statistical learning theory only and has not much real “understanding” of anything but patterns.

Now comes the exciting part. This translation system can have numerous applications. Apart from the usual 'website translation' services, it could be used in more advanced applications like Instant Messengers and Babelfish-It would be a smart device you plug-in to your ear, and it would have speech recognition and Auto-translation built in. You can now visit a foreign country and understand people who talk to you in languages you never learned. While the needed text-to-speech and speech-to-text technologies are far from perfect at the moment, they are still realistic possibilities.

25 May, 2005

Miscreants encrypt files, hold them for ransom -ZdNet

In a new type of online attack, extortionists remotely encrypt user files and then demand money for the key to decode the information. The attack occurs after a user visits a Web site containing code that exploits a known flaw in Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser. The flaw is used to download and run a malicious program that in turn downloads an application that encrypts files on the victim's PC and mapped network drives, according to Websense. The program then drops a ransom note.

Attackers could use e-mail, a Web site, or other means to distribute the Trojan.Pgpcoder and launch a widespread extortion campaign. Attackers leave a trail if they ask for money. This type of attack is not that difficult to perform. However, in order to collect money the attackers are leaving themselves open to investigation and tracing.

19 May, 2005

China's way ahead of India on software piracy list -The Economic Times:
India with 74% piracy rate has managed to slip out of the list of 20 countries with the highest incidence of software piracy, despite a 1% increase in piracy rate. China, with 90% piracy, occupies the third slot — after Vietnam and Ukraine leading with 92% and 91% piracy rates, respectively.

In India, it’s corporate end-user piracy where small and medium segment businesses use unlicensed software that is a constant worry. For every two dollars worth of software purchased globally, one dollar worth was obtained illegally.

18 May, 2005

Cartoon -Hindu

"How come you have given me only a name but no password?"

16 May, 2005

Go up the value chain or perish -ZDNet:
There's definite evidence of India excelling in the IT industry. But within this vast spectrum of IT services, including consulting, ITES, application development, what can be called India's niche area of expertise?

India needs to identify an area of specialisation in the face of rising competition from countries such as Russia, the Philippines and China. We need to excel in providing a certain category of goods and services, so we do not lose our footing when the eventual exodus starts - of countries shifting their outsourcing requirements to nations which have a definite cost advantage over India in terms of lower labour rates, better infrastructure and less red tapism.

With India having captured only 0.2% of the $180 billion global software product development market, there is still a long way ahead for us. Offshoring in the early 1990s began with product development, and not IT services. In the mid 1990s, the focus shifted to outsourcing IT services.

14 May, 2005

Microsoft tries to breathe life into older PCs -Zdnet:
Code-named Eiger, the product is basically designed to turn older PCs into a thin client, which is a terminal that gets most of its information from a central server. Unlike traditional thin clients, though, a few programs can be run locally, including Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player and antivirus software.

Microsoft is pitching the software at customers who can't or don't want to buy new PCs, but are concerned that their older computers are not secure and hard to manage. Under the hood, Eiger is a hybrid of Windows XP with Service Pack 2 and Windows XP Embedded.

03 May, 2005

An Adobe killer from Microsoft -Digit Mag

Adobe may have killed the competition in online publishing by acquiring Macromedia. But Microsoft is not keeping quite. The next version of Windows will include a new document format, code-named "Metro," to print and share documents. Metro appears to rival Adobe's PostScript and PDF technologies.

The format, based on XML (extensible markup language), will be licensed royalty free and users will be able to open Metro files without a special client. In the demonstration, a Metro file was opened and printed from Internet Explorer, Microsoft's Web browser.

The Metro technology is likely to go head-to-head with Adobe's PostScript technology. "It is a potential Adobe killer", said Richard Doherty, research director with The Envisioneering Group in Seaford, New York. "But this is just the first warning shot. Adobe could put something that is even more compelling Longhorn.

01 May, 2005

ASPs failed ? But are now making a comeback -ZDNet:
Some five to six years ago, Application Service Providers (ASPs) were one of the hottest categories in software. They would transform the way software would be delivered and create a win-win situation for customers and software vendors. That dream did not pan out.

ASPs offer applications over the internet using their own servers to customers, who pay a regular fee for the use. For companies, there is no need to own either the application or the underlying infrastructure.

For service providers, it helps them aggregate a large number of customers, providing economies of scale. Using the internet as the distribution medium, ASPs can reach out to customers globally.

ASPs in many respects presented a false start in the efforts to break out of the enterprise straitjacket. In particular, few of them adopted Web services architectures as their technology platform. Instead, they attempted to build businesses on the internet using traditional technology architectures. This proved a significant flaw in the early ASP model.

The big opportunity for ASPs is the long tail of enterprises in the world's developing countries. They have been largely unaffected by the internet - other than email usage and in some cases have a minor web presence.