Firefox 2 Beta 2 released

Mozilla Firefox 2 Beta 2The second beta of Firefox 2 is now available for download from Mozilla. There’s a surprising number of changes since beta 1. Among them you’ll find an updated default theme, phishing protection, keyword suggestions in the Search box, a new search engine manager, microsummaries for dynamically-updating bookmark titles, a new Windows installer, and more. To quote Mozilla, “Firefox 2 Beta 2 is a developer preview release of our next generation Firefox browser and it is being made available for testing purposes only.” I’ve been happily using Beta 1 for a few weeks, but have had to tolerate occasional crashes, YMMV and all that. You can read more at Mozilla’s Firefox 2 Beta 2 release notes page.

Oh, and since everyone always asks: No, your old extensions won’t work with Firefox 2–out of the box. But you can make most of them work using the Nightly Tester Tools extension. There are other methods, but I’ve found Nightly Tester Tools to be the simplest and most reliable.

Nokia’s E61 Smartphone

Nokia E61 Smartphone

You can check out Nokias E62 comming out in Cingular soon.

UMTS / GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900

2005, October


117 x 69.7 x 14 mm, 108 cc

144 g

TFT, 16M colors

320 x 240 pixels, 58 x 45 mm

– QWERTY keyboard
– Five-way scroll key

Polyphonic, Monophonic, MP3, True Tones


Card slot
miniSD, 64 MB card included, hotswap, buy memory

– 75 MB shared memory



Class 10, 236.8 kbps

Yes, 384 kbps

Wi-Fi 802.11i/e/g, VoIP over WLAN

Yes, v1.2

Infrared port

Yes, Pop-Port

Symbian OS 9.1, Series 60 UI

SMS, MMS, Email, Instant Messaging


Java downloadable



– Push to talk
– Java MIDP 2.0
– MP3/AAC/MPEG4 player
– Office applications
– Blackberry connectivity
– T9
– Voice command/memo
– PIM including calendar, to-do list and printing
– Integrated handsfree

Standard battery, Li-Ion 1500 mAh (BP-5L)

Up to 260 h

Talk time
Up to 7 h

Will fiber optics replace the lightbulb?

If fiber-optic lighting systems are good enough for the Declaration of Independence, they should be good enough for the dairy case, explains John Davenport, CEO of Fiberstars.

The Solon, Ohio-based company has come up with a way to combine industrial-grade lamps with fiber-optic technology to create interior lighting systems that consume far less energy than traditional fluorescent or incandescent bulbs. A single 70-watt metal halide high-intensity discharge lamp from Fiberstars linked to the company’s fiber system can provide as much lighting as eight 50-watt incandescent bulbs.

“We consume about one-third of the energy of the best fluorescent systems and about 25 percent of the typical fluorescent system,” he said. Additionally, fiber lighting won’t emit mercury (like fluorescent bulbs, if broken), radiate heat or give off ultraviolet light.

To date, the company, which was founded in the late 1980s and has received around $16 million in federal research grants, has mostly sold its EFO (efficient fiber optics) lighting systems for use in niche applications, in part because fiber costs more. Las Vegas hotels have bought them to beam special effects onto ceilings and walls.

Swimming-pool manufacturers have gravitated to the company’s lights because all the electronics are located outside the water, thereby eliminating the threat of electrocution. The Declaration of Independence is lighted by a Fiberstars system because the light source does not emit ultraviolet rays or heat.

“We just did the Magna Carta a couple of months ago,” Davenport said.

In 2005, it pulled in $28.3 million in revenue and reported a $7.4 million loss.

Rising electricity prices, combined with new regulations, however, could push EFO lighting closer toward the mainstream. The W Hotel in New York plans to install the lights in its notoriously murky hallways.

Whole Foods Market has replaced incandescent lights in its seafood departments at various stores with EFO. Not only is electricity consumption down, the ambient temperature of the seafood departments has dropped.

Grocery chain Albertsons ran a trial showing that the lights can reduce energy consumption in freezers. It will now test EFO to light seafood, wine, vegetables and other products. Traditional lights melt ice and can change the flavor of wine.

“There’s a huge problem with potato greening,” said Keith Tarver, an engineering manager at Albertsons. “It removes all of the heat out of the freezer case.”

Residential EFO lighting may come next year, Davenport said.

fiber optics Electric octopus
EFO essentially revolves around taming metal halide lights. Metal halide lamps are extremely efficient, capable of putting out 90 lumens per watt of energy. (A lumen is a measure of emitted visible light.) A typical incandescent bulb might produce 15 lumens per watt or less; most of the energy in lightbulbs actually gets converted into heat.

A halogen lamp might crank out 18 to 20 lumens per watt. Although longer-lasting and more efficient than incandescent lights, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) also emit heat; the heat comes out of the back rather than where the light comes out.

Unfortunately, metal halide lights work best for illuminating large areas. Big-box retailers like Costco Wholesale deploy 400-watt metal halide lamps on their ceilings. Civil engineers use them to illuminate roads.

To solve that problem, Fiberstars takes the light from the lamp and then distributes it through flexible plastic cables. Thus, the single light source serves to illuminate several different “bulbs.”

The light emanating from the end of the fiber-optic cable can come out as a single beam of light or, to make it more aesthetically pleasing, the company can insert a lens at the end of the fiber-optic cables that create diffuse lighting (what you have in your living room) or project special effects.

An EFO system is more expensive than regular lighting systems. The lower electricity bills, however, pay back the price premium in two or fewer years. Southern California Edison conducted a four-month test at an Albertsons in Fullerton, Calif., in 2005.

The system was installed in about 40 freezer cases. The study determined that the lights could save $5,885 in a store with 100 fridge and freezer cases, about the average. Payoff could occur in about 1.8 years. The estimated annual electricity savings for each door was 535 kilowatt hours.

“We’re still kind of mulling the rollout part. With any new technology, there is a bit of a challenge with the retrofit,” said Tarver. Nonetheless, he added, “the technology is great.”

Even with the premium, regulations may prompt businesses to adopt the technology. Federal and state mandates have cracked down on the amount of electricity different businesses can consume or the type of lights they install.

Texas, Massachusetts and some other states are also offering rebates for installing fiber lights. A similar regulatory change prompted appliance makers to develop energy-efficient refrigerators, dryers and washing machines in the 1970s that are now dominant in the field.

Fiberstars makes all of the major components in its lighting system, including the light source, the fiber-optic cable and the integrated optics that distribute the light. In the future, it may outsource the production of some products or license its intellectual property (the company has 43 patents) to other, larger manufacturers.

Apple in Middle of China Labor Dispute

Apple, believing it had headed off a possible public relations nightmare regarding working conditions in one of the plants of the Chinese manufacturers it uses to produce the iconic iPod, found out it had a new headache this week. Its manufacturer Hongfujin Precision Industry has filed a lawsuit against two journalists in China accusing them of defamation.

Hongfujin is owned by Foxconn, which owned the plants Apple investigated earlier this summer. Although Apple found some instances of work code violations, it did not find any widespread occurrences of worker abuse. Reports in the state-owned China Business News, and in other sources worldwide, have indicated otherwise.

In the article, written by journalist Wang You and edited by Weng Bao, Foxconn was accused of forcing their workers to produce the music players for low pay and in harsh working conditions. Taiwan-based Hongfujin disagrees, and armed with Apple’s recent findings, it sued the two in federal court in Shenzen, China.

As a result of the case, the personal assets of Wang and Weng have been frozen, a move that journalist advocacy group Reporters without Borders criticized. The group also called for Apple to step in. The company confirmed it was working behind the scenes to resolve the case, but would not comment any further.

The case highlights two problems: one on the increasingly difficult job of the journalist in China, and the continuing problem Western companies face when using overseas production plants.

In many cases, the working conditions and pay are questionable at best and offenses of worker codes of conduct often occur unbeknownst to the company, sometimes surfacing through the media. To its defense, China Business News said it would fully support its two employees, even going as far as to publish another article saying Wang had evidence of worker abuses.

Representatives for Hongfujin declined to comment, although in the past they have denied any wrongdoing.

MP3Tunes offers 1GB free online music storage

MP3tunesMichael Robertson, the mogul behind Linspire, ajaxLaunch and formerly, has announced that his is now offering 1GB of free online storage for your music files. The service, called Oboe, is a “music locker” that you can upload your files to on Windows, Mac, or Linux, and then listen to them via unlimited streaming wherever you are via your web browser, or sync your music collection on all of your computers and devices. In the announcement on his blog, Robertson takes Steve Jobs to task for an interview in 2002 in which he said, “If you legally acquire music, you need to have the right to manage it on all other devices that you own,” a proclamation some say Apple itself has ignored. Robertson says his goal is “to amass a large number of music lockers to compel electronics companies to build devices that will work with this open system–so you’re always in control of your music.” The company has also released an open API so developers can build their devices and software to sync with MP3tunes.

Though some of Robertson’s previous ventures–all of ajaxLaunch, for example–have seemed a bit half-baked, I really like the sound of this, and I hope he achieves his goal. Robertson is, of course, chiefly concerned with turning a profit, so there are different tiers of service. The Free service lets you store up to 1,000 songs with a 1GB limit (so.. more like 300-some songs), a maximum of 20MB per son, and syncing for three computers. The Basic service, which will run you $19.95 per year, ups the limit to 2GB/2,000 songs, 5 PCs, and 20 playlists, and the Premium service–$39.95 per year–gives you unlimited storage, unlimited machines to sync with, and unlimited playlists, and ups the per-song limit to 40MB. Though streaming is limited to MP3, you can also back up your Windows Media and iTunes music, though their DRM will remain unchanged.

[Via GigaOM]

Mozilla hires firm for Firefox 2.0 usability facelift

Mozilla hires firm for Firefox 2.0 usability faceliftMozilla has decided to bring in some extra hands on a UI upgrade for FIrefox 2.0, still slated for an October release. Toronto software company Radiant Core beat out two others for the project which will focus on updating four specific areas of the browser: the search bar, icons, the tab strip and dialog buttons.

The present FIrefox 2.0 beta does not include any work from Radiant Core – you’ll have to wait until the second beta, on schedule for an early September release, to see what they’re bringing to the table.

Hopefully, Radiant Core can help make Firefox look more native to the various OSes it runs on; as a Mac user, Firefox definitely doesn’t feel like it’s from our side of the playground. It’s good to see Mozilla taking a special interest in this area, and we’re anxiously awaiting to see what progress the second beta brings.

[via IT Business]

Hybrid Solar Lighting (Cables Included)

Office workers toiling under eye-tiring fluorescent bulbs have hope for a brighter day.

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A mirrored lens concentrates sunlight before it sends it into a building. The system also has a secondary lens to filter out infrared light, a way of cutting down on heat. Credit: Sunlight Direct

A company called Sunlight Direct is developing a hybrid solar lighting system that distributes daylight into buildings through fiber-optic cabling, even to people not seated near windows.

The notion of maximizing outdoor light inside is common in interior design by using various methods, including skylights and even roof-mounted tubes with mirrors.

But Sunlight Direct is taking a high-tech approach by seeking to create a commercial product from Department of Energy research.

Its hybrid solar lighting system features a 40-inch mirrored dish with a GPS-director monitor to move it during the day and maximize light intake. Once light is collected from a roof and concentrated, it is filtered and then spread through a building through bundles of plastic fiber-optic chords.

About 25 retail outlets and office buildings are testing the company’s system, which the company hopes to bring to market early next year.

The selling points are lower electricity bills and the benefits that natural light has on people, whether they are employees or customers, according to the company.

“No longer do you need to be the CEO in the corner office. You can have daylight piped into the office,” said Duncan Earl, the company’s chief technology officer. “Natural lighting is just the best lighting for humans.”

A daylight distribution system can reduce the amount of power consumed during the middle of the day, when demand on the electricity grid is highest. Sunlight Direct estimates that its hybrid solar lighting system can result in saving up to $8,000 per year per unit.

Sunlight Direct is one of a growing number of companies seeking business opportunities while energy prices and concerns over the environment are high.

Sunlight Direct system

Another company called Ice Energy, for example, has created a product that was conceived from Department of Energy research.

Its air conditioner, which freezes water at night to cool refrigerant, has become more economically viable because of higher electricity prices and a soaring demand for power worldwide, according to CEO Frank Ramirez.

Happy people buy more
Sunlight Direct’s technology, started ten years ago at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn., originally was conceived with an eye toward energy efficiency, said Earl.

However, Sunlight Direct is finding that the less tangible benefits of natural light on people are also prompting its initial customers to test out the system.

“The original idea and value proposition was purely about energy,” said Earl. “What we found in developing it was that (energy) was still a very valid value, but there are all these secondary benefits of natural lighting.”

For example, a Wal-mart Stores outlet in Texas and Staples stores in New York and Florida are evaluating whether the Sunlight Direct lighting system will increase sales. Similarly, office buildings are using it to measure potentially positive effects–such as productivity and reduced absenteeism–on employees.

Green-building advocates argue that productivity benefits on people justify any financial premium that constructors must pay in design and materials.

In a 2003 study, Heschong Mahone Group, a building design firm, found significant financial benefits to natural lighting in retail situations and office buildings.

In the retail study, it found that stores lit by diffusing skylights had a strong association with increased sales. It concluded that an optimized day-lighting system could save a retail store 24 cents per square foot in energy costs and could potentially increase sales by 66 cents per square foot.

The studies, commissioned by the California Energy Commission, found similar patterns in office buildings and schools.

“Both the school and the office studies found strong and consistent correlations between better views and better performance. There is a clear suggestion from this work that window views are important for sustained human performance,” according to the report.

Mass market?
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.But to make potential customers buy its day-lighting system, Sunlight Direct needs to lower the cost of the product, Earl said. The notion of using fiber-optic cables has been around since the 1970s, but cheaper components will help lower system prices, he said.

Right now, the company is trying to fine tune its system and devise a cost-effective manufacturing technique to make it suitable for wide usage.

A breakthrough in the hybrid solar lighting system was the engineers’ decision to use plastic, rather than communications-grade, glass fiber-optic cables. Although they are 40 percent cheaper, the plastic cables cannot withstand the same amount of heat as glass cables.

“We ended up burning fibers for two years before we developed a passive cooling system,” Earl said.

Researchers developed a way to filter out the infrared light with the use of a secondary mirror which, along with other “engineering tricks,” prevents a build-up of intense heat, he said.

If it’s a cloudy day, the system can monitor internal light levels and compensate with lamps.

Ultimately, Sunlight Direct would like to harvest that filtered light, which is now just reflected away from a building. The idea is to beam the excess light onto solar photovoltaic panels to generate electricity.

Because the sunlight is concentrated by the dish, the panel should create more electricity than a traditional system, Earl said.

The company, which is expecting to finish its seed financing this year, is also eyeing the possibility of light dishes on people’s homes.

“We’d like to go there but for now, because of maintenance, reliability and safety reasons, we’re not offering it to home owners,” Earl said. “We need to make sure we have all the kinks and maintenance worked out.”

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