"Thinking" robots not possible? Think again

Posted: 11 October 2011 1255 hrs

TOKYO: Robots that learn from experience and can solve novel problems — just like humans — sound like science fiction.

But a Japanese researcher is working on making them science fact, with machines that can teach themselves to perform tasks they have not been programmed to do, using objects they have never seen before.

In a world first, Osamu Hasegawa, associate professor at the Tokyo Insitute of Technology, has developed a system that allows robots to look around their environment and do research on the Internet, enabling them to “think” how best to solve a problem.

“Most existing robots are good at processing and performing the tasks they are pre-programmed to do, but they know little about the ‘real world’ where we humans live,” he told AFP.

“So our project is an attempt to build a bridge between robots and that real world,” he said.

The Self-Organizing Incremental Neural Network, or “SOINN”, is an algorithm that allows robots to use their knowledge — what they already know — to infer how to complete tasks they have been told to do.

SOINN examines the environment to gather the data it needs to organise the information it has been given into a coherent set of instructions.

Tell a SOINN-powered machine that it should, for example: “Serve water”.

Without special programmes for water-serving, the robot works out the order of the actions required to complete the task.

The SOINN machine asks for help when facing a task beyond its ability and crucially, stores the information it learns for use in a future task.

In a separate experiment, SOINN is used to power machines to search the Internet for information on what something looks like, or what a particular word might mean.

Hasegawa’s team is trying to merge these abilities and create a machine that can work out how to perform a given task through online research.

“In the future, we believe it will be able to ask a computer in England how to brew a cup of tea and perform the task in Japan,” he said.

Like humans, the system can also filter out “noise” or insignificant information that might confuse other robots.

The process is similar to how people can carry on a conversation with a travelling companion on a train and ignore those around them, or can identify an object under different lighting and from various angles, Hasegawa said.

“Human brains do this so well automatically and smoothly so we don’t realise that we are even doing this,” he said.

Similarly, the machine is able to filter out irrelevant results it finds on the web.

“There is a huge amount of information available on the Internet, but at present, only humans are making use of such information,” he said.

“This robot can connect its brain directly to the Internet,” he said.

Hasegawa hopes SOINN might one day be put to practical use, for example controlling traffic lights to ease traffic jams by organically analysing data from public monitors and accident reports.

He also points to possible uses in earthquake detection systems where a SOINN-equipped machine might be able to aggregate data from numerous sensors located across Japan and identify movements that might prove significant.

In a domestic setting, a robot that could learn could prove invaluable to a busy household.

“We might ask a robot to bring soy sauce to the dinner table. It might browse the Internet to learn what soy sauce is and identify it in the kitchen,” said Hasegawa.

But, cautions the professor, there are reasons to be careful about robots that can learn.

What kinds of tasks should we allow computers to perform? And is it possible that they might turn against us, like in the apocalyptic vision of Stanley Kubrick’s film “2001: A Space Odyssey”.

“A kitchen knife is a useful thing. But it can also become a weapon,” he said.

While Hasegawa and his team have only benign intentions for their invention, he wants people to be aware of its moral limits.

“We are hoping that a variety of people will discuss this technology, when to use it, when not to use it.

“Technology is advancing at an enormous speed,” he said.

“I want people to know we already have this kind of technology. We want people with different backgrounds and in different fields to discuss how it should be used, while it is still in its infancy.”
The Lost Civilization

“With today’s computers it is possible to mimic the human brain where a human being learns from the start of life as a baby until he dies, record keeping from experiences and memories, to pass on to the next generation, we do not want to end up like the Mayans, with such an advanced civilisation, to be totally lost and forgotten.” Contributed by Oogle.

The race to the Top

The race to the Top

New technologies will integrate
The following platforms
Where the PC, smartphone and car infotainment systems,
Will function as one
It is possible to move your data and messages
From contacts, messages, music, videos
Between all the platforms
Companies that invest
Will reap handsome profits
And create brand loyalty
With a huge global audience
Which OS will emerge the eventual winner?
Is it windows, linux or andriod?
Welcome to the New Economy

Contributed by Oogle.




Moving in the right direction

09:03 AM Oct 28, 2011
SAN FRANCISCO – Hewlett-Packard ditched a plan to spin off its personal computers unit, a month after the ouster of CEO Leo Apotheker, whose idea would have cost billions of dollars in expenses and lost business.

New chief executive Meg Whitman, who replaced Mr Apotheker immediately, had vowed a quick decision on an issue that was beginning to alienate its PC partners, investors and customers.

Separating the PC unit would have cost the company US$1.5 billion (S$1.9 billion) in one-time expenses and another US$1 billion annually, it said.

The retention of the PC business marks the latest flip-flop in strategy as the company had said earlier that its preferred option was to spin out the business.

“This is the most pragmatic decision and allows them to continue to leverage the end-to-end supply chain benefits,” said Gartner analyst Mark Fabi, adding that it also showed Ms Whitman’s decisiveness as CEO.

“Clearly this was missing over the past year,” he added.

The world’s largest technology company by revenue stunned investors when it announced in August that it is considering strategic alternatives for its Personal Systems Group (PSG) – which includes PCs – and would kill its new tablet computer as part of a major revamping away from the consumer market.

Citing deep integration of the PC group in HP’s supply chain and procurement, Ms Whitman said the company was “stronger” with the unit. REUTERS
Moving in the right direction

“HP is a world leader in the PC and technology market, it would be like killing the golden goose that helps you lay the golden egg by ditching your PC unit. To stay competitive HP needs to reinvest and stay relevant in this competitive global markets by concentrating more on the software side to create more innovative products.” – Contributed by Oogle.

Billionaire Living Out of Tote Bag Gives Away Fortune

Nicolas Berggruen can’t sit still.
An hour into our interview, at the poolside restaurant of the Hotel Cipriani in Venice, Italy, the billionaire investor glances at the lunchtime crowd drifting over from their sun loungers. He fidgets. His fingers pirouette along the table edge. Polishing off a cappuccino that’s heaped with mounds of whipped cream, he suggests we move.
Berggruen selects a pair of wicker sofas on a patio outside the hotel bar. “It is better here, no? A little cooler,” he says. Five minutes later, he decides we are too close to a boisterous group. So we move again, this time to a table tucked discreetly into the corner of a deserted veranda on the far side of the hotel, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its December issue.
Berggruen, 50, lives his whole life this way, always on the move, as he seeks out companies to buy from Berlin to Bangalore to Brisbane. For the past decade, the dual American and German citizen has had no fixed home address. He constantly roams the world on his Gulfstream IV jet, living out of five-star hotels. Most of the time, he carries only a small tote bag containing clothes and his BlackBerry.
“If you have things and if you are a perfectionist, which I am, you have to really tend to them, and it takes energy away from other things,” says Berggruen, whose pink shirt, monogrammed with his initials in red on the pocket, is fraying at the cuffs and collar.
$2.5 Billion Fortune
The son of a wealthy art dealer, Berggruen parlayed a trust fund worth about $250,000 into a fortune of at least $2.5 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Over three decades, the investor has gotten rich by tapping his worldwide network of business contacts to find mostly small beaten-down companies to buy, expand and sell.
Berggruen has also made money with four blank-check companies: shell companies that go public and then use cash or shares to acquire an operating business.
“Nicolas is a very insightful investor,” says James Hauslein, a private-equity investor who’s a former chairman of Sunglass Hut International Inc. and a former independent director of a Berggruen blank-check company. “He has a long and successful career of building up companies and reviving brands.”
The eccentric investor has stumbled plenty too, particularly when taking detours from his buyout specialty. A foray into hedge funds produced lackluster results before he chucked the venture. And several of his investments in faddish businesses such as ethanol were a bust. “You make mistakes,” Berggruen says. “You learn. I’ve learned a lot.”

Schroeder, El-Erian

Now, Berggruen is moving even farther afield in a quest to save the West from sinking into chaos. He says the stock market swoons of 2011, the brinkmanship in Washington over the debt ceiling and the euro-zone debt debacle are symptoms of the same underlying problem. “What you really have is a deep, deep governance crisis in the West,” he says.
To reduce the political paralysis that threatens the U.S. and Europe, the billionaire donated $100 million to create the Nicolas Berggruen Institute, with offices in Berlin, Los Angeles, New York and Washington.
In early September, the institute assembled a group called the Council for the Future of Europe. It includes former government leaders Gerhard Schroeder of Germany and Felipe Gonzalez of Spain, former European Commission President Jacques Delors, as well as economists Nouriel Roubini, Joseph Stiglitz and Mohamed El-Erian, the chief executive officer at Pacific Investment Management Co. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has served as an adviser.

Integrating Europe

In public statements from Brussels, the group called for greater political integration within Europe. That includes the centralization of some fiscal policy, wider powers for the European Central Bank and European Financial Stability Facility to restructure the debt of private banks and the issuance of joint euro-area bonds to relieve the sovereign debt crisis.
Berggruen, who in the past has funded the campaigns of U.S. Democrats, including Senator Charles Schumer of New York and President Barack Obama, says his institute isn’t necessarily introducing new ideas. Rather, his aim is to help experts reach agreement and then lobby to turn their proposals into policy.
“In Europe, all the experts say you need more integration, but the public doesn’t buy it yet,” says Nathan Gardels, a senior adviser to the Berggruen Institute. “So their job is really to resell the vision of an integrated Europe to the public.”

Leonardo DiCaprio

Berggruen seamlessly slips between the worlds of politics, finance, art and Hollywood. He flew to the island of Borkum in the North Sea, where Schroeder was vacationing, to talk to him about the European initiative. Schroeder then helped recruit other former heads of state for the project.
“We got them one by one,” Berggruen says.
In Los Angeles, the investor throws an annual party at the Chateau Marmont that has drawn the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Paris Hilton. Berggruen is also a trustee of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and has begun acquiring contemporary works for its collection.
“He’s a natural networker,” says Michael Govan, the museum’s director. “He looks at the world holistically, encompassing culture and economics and politics, and he weaves it together with all the people he knows.”
Berggruen grew up under the influence of the art world that made his father, Heinz, rich. Heinz was a Berlin-born German Jew who fled the Nazis for San Francisco in 1936. While there, Heinz writes in his 1997 autobiography, he worked as a curator and art critic and had a brief affair with Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

Art Collection

After World War II, he settled in Paris and, as a dealer, amassed one of the world’s most significant collections of works by Paul Klee and Pablo Picasso, says Andrew Strauss, senior director of impressionist and modern art at Sotheby’s in Paris. Before he died in 2007, Heinz donated some 90 works by Klee to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and sold more than 100 paintings by Picasso as well as works by Alberto Giacometti, Henri Matisse and Klee to the Berlin State Museums for the below market price of $120 million.
Growing up in Paris and attending boarding school in Switzerland in the 1970s, Berggruen was passionate about politics. As a teenager, he read Jean-Paul Sartre and leaned left; for a time, he refused to speak English because he thought it was the language of imperialism.
At the age of 17, he reconciled with capitalism and worked as a trainee for Robbie Rayne, who was then investment director of buyout firm London Merchant Securities, known today as LMS Capital Plc.

Karstadt Deal

“He was very bright and much more serious than most people his age,” Rayne says. “And very quickly, he caught on to the private-equity business.”
He enrolled at New York University in 1979 and got his undergraduate degree in business in just two years, according to the school. In 1985, he founded a company to manage his investments and the small family trust.
Today, Berggruen Holdings has offices in Berlin, Istanbul, Mumbai, New York and Tel Aviv and nine senior executives who help the founder find investments and manage them. The firm owns more than 30 companies, ranging from real estate to furniture, to health care. Berggruen is financing skyline-shaping towers around the world, including designs by Pritzker Architecture Prize-winning Richard Meier in Newark, New Jersey, and Tel Aviv.
He also bought German department store chain Karstadt Warenhaus GmbH out of bankruptcy in 2010 for the symbolic price of 1 euro. The investor immediately provided the business with a 65 million euro ($83 million) cash infusion and promised to spend 400 million euros over five years to revive the brand — his highest-profile corporate rescue effort to date.

‘Terrible Manager’

Berggruen, who says he negotiates many of the buyouts himself, looks for companies loaded with debt or with family owners who are looking to retire. The firms also need to have strong cash flows and defensible business models. After restructuring the company’s debt and investing in expansion, he’ll often hold it for a decade or more before selling. He says that he rarely fires rank-and-file workers, because his goal is to grow revenue. But he does typically shake up top management.
“It is always a question of finding the right people,” he says. Berggruen himself is never one of them. “I discovered pretty early that I am probably a terrible manager,” he says.

Fund of Hedge Funds

Berggruen’s $7.8 million purchase of AAi.FosterGrant Inc., an indebted Smithfield, Rhode Island-based eyeglasses manufacturer, was one of his biggest scores. He pushed management to offer new product lines and trendier styles. In 2004, the company acquired the Magnivision brand of nonprescription reading glasses, more than doubling its share in that market.
Following the acquisition, the company was renamed FGX International Holdings Ltd. When FGX went public in October 2007, Berggruen sold about half of his shares for $113 million. Two years later, French company Essilor International SA bought FGX, earning Berggruen another $139.2 million.
Berggruen has had more success managing his own money than other people’s wealth. In 1988, Berggruen co-founded Alpha Investment Management LLC in New York to run a hedge fund plus a fund of hedge funds. Alpha Investment’s flagship fund of funds, which collected a management fee on top of charges from the underlying hedge funds, didn’t outperform the market. After subtracting fees, it only about matched the returns of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index in the 1990s, with a third of the index’s volatility, Berggruen says.

Blank-Check Company

The firm grew to about $2 billion under management before the founders sold it in 2004 for an undisclosed sum. By then, Berggruen had soured on Alpha.
“I did it for internal reasons to manage some of my own capital better,” he says. “But in reality, the business made me manage the capital worse, not better, because if you have outside money to manage, you have to be much more careful and cautious.”
Two years later, as the stock market’s bull run was nearing its peak for the decade, Berggruen moved to cash in. He and business partner Martin Franklin set up Freedom Acquisition Holdings Inc., a blank-check company that went public in December 2006. It raised $528 million, a record for a blank- check-company IPO at the time. The next year, Freedom purchased U.K. institutional investment manager GLG for $4.15 billion.
“This is a bit like big-game hunting,” Berggruen says. “You look for companies of a certain size that deserve to be public.”

El Pais

Berggruen and Franklin played the blank-check game three more times: Their Liberty Acquisition Holdings Corp. raised more than $1 billion on the American Stock Exchange in December 2007 and acquired Spanish media company Promotora de Informaciones SA — which owns El Pais, the country’s largest paid-circulation daily newspaper — for $1.29 billion in November 2010.
Then came Liberty International Acquisition Co., which went public on the NYSE Euronext in Amsterdam, raising $879 million, in February 2008. It acquired U.K. insurance provider Pearl Group Plc — now called Phoenix Group Holdings — for $1.45 billion in September 2009.
Finally, they founded Justice Holdings Ltd., which raised $1.44 billion — another record amount — on the London Stock Exchange in February. It has yet to make an acquisition.
Berggruen and Franklin’s investment in Freedom didn’t work out as well as they had hoped. As founders, they were entitled to purchase shares of Freedom at a deep discount. The stake they spent $54.5 million to acquire was worth more than $270 million in the days immediately following GLG’s reverse merger with Freedom.

Shares Plunge

Then, staff defections from the renamed GLG Partners Inc. and the global credit crunch caused the firm’s shares to plunge 90 percent from November 2007 through mid-December 2008. Two years later, U.K. hedge-fund manager Man Group Plc bought GLG for just $1.13 billion, about $3 billion less than what Freedom had paid for it.
Berggruen made $1.8 million in the end, and Franklin, who was given additional shares as a director of GLG, pocketed $6.2 million.
“All of the alternative investment managers, including GLG, got decimated,” Franklin says.
Long before dabbling with blank-check companies, Berggruen had already made enough money to buy all of the trappings of the ultrarich: a Fifth Avenue apartment in Manhattan, a mansion on a private island near Miami, the Gulfstream IV and artworks by Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons and Andy Warhol. Berggruen says that living amid all of that luxury turned into a burden and didn’t make him happy.

Buffett Pledge

“I understand the human instinct to want to create a nest and possess things, to show them off,” he says. “But for me personally, it became less and less interesting.”
So in 2000, Berggruen sold his houses, put his art collection in storage and gave away or sold most of his possessions, including his car. He says his decision to live a rootless existence wasn’t a means of dodging taxes; he says he pays them in the U.S.
The investor, who signed a pledge promoted by fellow billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill Gates to donate at least half of their wealth, says he’ll give away all of it eventually.
“Everything I do now is about growing the pot to have more to give away,” he says.
He has never married and says he is not interested in having children. Berggruen has been photographed at charity and fashion events arm in arm with a series of actresses and models, including Gabriella Wright, a British actress.

‘A Disaster’

In the past five years, Berggruen has poured his earnings into several projects to solve the world’s problems that have sometimes gone astray. In 2006, a subsidiary of Berggruen Holdings invested $85 million and helped secure a $100 million line of credit, as well as a $20 million loan from the state of Oregon, to build the largest ethanol plant on the West Coast. He believed, erroneously he now says, that ethanol would be a growing source of clean energy despite the chemicals and dirty fuels used to transform corn into fuel.
The ethanol company filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Construction delays, plant outages, a sulfate-contaminated ethanol shipment and the narrowing spread between corn and ethanol prices doomed the project.
“It was a disaster,” Berggruen says.
His investment to reduce world hunger also flopped. In 2008, Berggruen announced a plan to buy 24,700 acres (10,000 hectares) of uncultivated land in Latin America and Southeast Asia and turn it into farms to increase food production. Although he already owned almost 30,000 acres of farmland in Australia, he put any further investment on hold after discovering what any farmer could have told him.

Richard Meier

“There are a lot of variables out of the control of the people in the business, meaning commodity prices and climate and land issues,” he says. “I didn’t think I had come up with a sensible business plan.”
Berggruen’s investment in urban renewal in Newark has been more promising. He commissioned Meier to design a retail, office and residential complex that will include subsidized housing for teachers.
“Nicolas is a godsend to this project and to Newark,” says Stefan Pryor, the city’s deputy mayor for economic development. “This is one of the most complex projects in the city — maybe in the whole country — and it wouldn’t have been possible without the steps Nicolas undertook to make it happen.”
Berggruen is also pushing for governance reform in California, where he lives for several weeks a year, staying at the Peninsula hotel in Beverly Hills. With the state struggling with a $27.6 billion budget shortfall and cutting welfare programs for children, Berggruen last year brought together a panel of boldface names to offer solutions.

California Gridlock

Google Inc. Chairman Eric Schmidt, billionaire Eli Broad, former governors Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger and former U.S. secretaries of state George Shultz and Condoleezza Rice formed the Think Long Committee for California. In an attempt to reduce political gridlock, the group will call for giving more power to local governments, reforming the ballot initiative process and broadening the state’s tax base.
The committee is coordinating closely with California Forward, a bipartisan group that advocated for state budgets to be approved by simple majority rather than a two-thirds vote. Voters approved the measure in 2010. Berggruen has promised to spend $20 million to back the Think Long Committee’s proposals.
“Twenty million dollars gets a lot of people’s attention,” Broad says.
Back at the Hotel Cipriani in Venice, Berggruen’s BlackBerry buzzes. “I really need to go,” he says. He has another meeting. Then, tomorrow, it’s back on the Gulfstream IV. The next city, the next deal, the next place in need of a self- appointed savior await.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jeremy Kahn in London at jkahn21@bloomberg.net.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Laura Colby at lcolby@bloomberg.net.

Andriod Ice Cream Sandwich : Will it compete with iOS5?

by October 14, 2011 4:43 PM PDT
Fragmentation (still)
I’ve written about this problem before, and it’s still a problem. Sure, it’s a problem Google has pledged to address, by forming the Android Update Alliance back in May. Google announced it would work with manufacturers and carriers to deliver timelier updates on a standardized schedule, and to keep updating every device for at least 18 months after its creation. That seemed like good news, and a pretty straightforward acknowledgement that fragmentation was a serious problem, and one that was driving consumers batty.

As of August, progress was spotty, and abysmal at T-Mobile and Verizon, where AndroidAndMe found that only a fraction of phones with those carriers were running the latest version of Android. 
Just this month, Gingerbread adoption finally showed a measurable uptick (though primarily due to sales of new devices, one assumes), while Froyo penetration dropped below 50 percent for the first time. That’s a slow burn.
Meanwhile, Google’s Eric Schmidt is now promising that Ice Cream Sandwich would bring unity to hardware and software specs and make everything all timely and perfect.
But developers have heard that before: Honeycomb, the tablet-specific version of Android, was also supposed to come with strict hardware and software implementation requirements, but many developers say it only worsened fragmentation issues (not to mention the tablets running it were a dud, sales-wise). Now, Honeycomb is being killed off to make room for ICS. That’s a wise after-the-fact decision, but woe be the foolish developer who spent a lot of time and money writing apps for Honeycomb back when it was the fragmentation-killer du jour.
What’s the end result of fragmentation for you and me? First, the constant game of waiting for updates–some of your friends have Gingerbread, you’re still on Froyo, you’re complaining about that and then another friend comes up behind you and says they haven’t even gotten Froyo. You never know when updates are coming, other than rumors on blogs and forums, and there never seems to be a reason for the delay. That’s just a terrible customer experience–but it’s not the worst problem.
Fragmentation also leads to lukewarm developer support, which leaves us frustratingly behind the apps race compared to the iTunes App Store. And it means delays on hotly desired apps, like the Netflix app, which the company said was nearly impossible to develop considering the lack of a common DRM platform across devices. Say what you will about DRM, Netflix can’t stream movies without it–and that meant no app at all until only recently. The app finally appeared in May, and only worked on five devices, with a slow rollout to others happening willy-nilly over the last few months.
And that slow rollout and spotty implementation, says Symantec, opened the door to the fake Netflix Trojan that this week masqueraded as the actual Netflix app and then stole users’ personal information. 
To be honest, fragmentation alone is plenty reason to abandon the platform–I’m not buying a new phone every year just to keep up, and I’m tired of the guessing game and bullet lists about what’s coming when and to whom, and what apps support what version of the OS, down to the second decimal place. If only that were the end of the tale, though.
Lack of support
Smartphones are complicated devices, running complicated software. Android is further complicated by, as I mentioned, fragmentation, and also the introduction of wild-card apps from multiple sources. Don’t get me wrong–I prefer and appreciate the open(ish) nature of Android and the ability to get lots of kinds of apps. But when something goes wrong with my phone, I want someone to call, and Verizon (or AT&T, or T-Mobile, or Sprint) isn’t in the business or habit of supporting software. The manufacturers seem well out of their depth, in terms of support. And Google is no help at all.

For example, Droid X users like myself waited months for a Gingerbread update that came more than a year after the phone’s release. Sadly, when it landed in June 2011, it crippled many phones, including mine. The list of problems introduced by the update is unbelievable, ranging from the navigation app confusing east and west to spontaneous restarts to weakened or disappearing 3G signals to Bluetooth failing completely to random Wi-Fi disconnections, and on and on.
Forum threads were filled with complaints. Motorola promised it was looking into the issue, and an Android fix finally arrived in August, fully two months later. In the meantime, Verizon didn’t say a word, officially (although it did helpfully factory reset my phone as a possible “fix” that simply erased every app and setting and left me with a clean Gingerbread install that was only marginally less buggy than the first), and neither did Google.
Now, I don’t necessarily expect Google to wade into every Android-related fray on behalf of their manufacturing partners. But its standards-setting clearly isn’t working, if updates this buggy are going out to customers, and if it can’t force its partners to deal with problems more quickly, it should at least communicate with the public about whether Android is a trustworthy product on any platform.
This is a question of brand equity and customer experience: Google needs to get control of it on more than just pure-Android Nexus phones. The answer to every Android-related problem on any phone cannot be an army of disdainful Reddit readers telling everyday consumers that all they have to do is root their phones, install Cyanogen Mod, and live happily ever after. 
Android is always late
To live with Android is to learn to wait. Like an overdue baby making its expectant mother insane with each passing day, Android came into this world more than a year after it was expected to launch, and it’s been running late ever since. Look:

  1. Android 1.5 (Cupcake) was delayed on T-Mobile
  2. Donut was delayed for Samsung users
  3. Eclair was delayed for almost everyone–two full months for HTC (Cliq XT users got the bad news that the upgrade was never coming to their phones)
  4. Froyo was delayed
  5. Gingerbread was delayed on the Droid Incredible and actually delayed the launch of the Nexus S with its tardiness
  6. The Honeycomb tablet OS delays themselves delayed the release of a multiverse of would-be Honeycomb tablets that were hoping to launch after CES 2011–possibly killing off serious iPad competition in droves
  7. Now, Ice Cream Sandwich and the promising sounding Galaxy Nexus/Nexus Prime have also been delayed, purportedly out of respect for the passing of Steve Jobs. At least one blogger has speculated the true reason may be patent-related; certainly, given Android’s history, the benefit of the doubt is a bit harder to find.

    In sum, life with Android has been an uncertain, buggy, frustrating mess.
    There are times when I truly doubt Google’s commitment to the whole enterprise, despite its burgeoning market share. The proposed Motorola Mobility acquisition throws even more questions into the mix: will other hardware partners abandon Android in favor of a more trustworthy bedfellow? If so, I’m unquestionably out: Motorola hardware fails fast and hard, although it’s not quite as awful as the crapware-laden Samsung Fascinate Verizon foisted on me–the only phone I did root, just to escape having Bing as my default search.
    Perhaps Ice Cream Sandwich will be all that we hope: the peacemaker, the great uniter, the forger of a New Deal between handset makers and Google. The Galaxy Nexus could prove to be the perfect phone, with a fully integrated suite of amazing Google services working in harmony and delivering on the promise that Google made back in 2007. But let’s be clear: it will have to be exactly that.
    As I said, the iPhone 4S gave Android an unexpected break: before that announcement, fully 42 percent were prepared to switch to an iPhone. Those numbers may be lower in the wake of the lack of 4G, the still-small screen, and the fact that Vlingo does a lot of what Siri promises. But the break is likely to be short unless Google can put some serious muscle behind bringing the platform up to prime time. Me, personally, I’m still keeping the credit card ready for the iPhone 5, just in case.

    Dodd-Frank’s Volcker Rule Released by Regulators for Comment

    U.S. regulators requested public comment on Dodd-Frank Act restrictions that would ban U.S. banks from making short-term trades of financial instruments for their own accounts and prevent them from owning or sponsoring hedge funds and private-equity funds.
    The so-called Volcker rule, released today by the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, is aimed at heading off risk-taking that helped fuel the 2008 credit crisis.
    The language of the rule is little changed from drafts that have been leaking in recent weeks. It would ban banks from taking positions held for 60 days or less, exempt certain market-making activities, change the way traders involved in market-making are compensated and make senior bank executives responsible for compliance.
    The board of the FDIC is voting today on whether to seek comments on the proposal through January 13. The Federal Reserve also said it would accept feedback by that date.
    Analysts say the rule, as proposed, could cut revenue and reduce market liquidity in the name of limiting risk. Banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) have already been winding down their proprietary trading desks in anticipation.
    Banks’ fixed-income desks could see revenue fall as much as 25 percent under provisions included in a draft circulated last week, brokerage analyst Brad Hintz said in a note yesterday. Moody’s Investors Service said the rule would be “credit negative” for bondholders of Bank of America Corp. (BAC), Citigroup Inc (C), Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley (MS), “all of which have substantial market-making operations.”

    Risky Trades

    The rule, named for former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, was included in last year’s regulatory overhaul to rein in risky trading by firms whose customer deposits are federally insured. The Fed and the FDIC worked jointly on the draft rule with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. A final version is slated to take effect on July 21, 2012.
    The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is also due to vote on the regulation.
    Regulators are grappling with a difficult task, said Kim Olson, a principal at Deloitte and Touche LLP in New York.
    “The thing that has always been tricky about Volcker is how do you distinguish between what is permitted and potential proprietary trading that is not permitted?” she said in a telephone interview yesterday.


    The proposal includes a series of exemptions for trades designed to hedge credit, interest rate or other specific risks. A bank could be free of the Volcker restrictions if it is hedging a specific position or a portfolio of risks across multiple trading desks.
    Hedging trades would need to have a “reasonable,” not a full, correlation with the underlying risk. Banks could also win exemptions if they are hedging a risk they are “highly likely” to face in the future.
    Traders involved in the transactions would have to be paid from fees and the spread of their transactions rather than the appreciation or profit from their positions.
    Foreign banks would be covered by the rule if they have U.S.-based staff involved in the restricted trades, according to the proposal.

    To contact the reporters on this story: Meera Louis in washington at mlouis1@bloomberg.net; Clea Benson in Washington at cbenson20@bloomberg.net
    To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lawrence Roberts at lroberts13@bloomberg.net

    Investment in a weak economy

    *Investment in a weak economy

    Get a regular income job first, with at least six month’s of your savings in cash before you consider the following;

    1) Investment in Property (HDB or Private)
    An Asset or a liability, you chose. For HDB flats, the minimum occupation is 5 years, for EC is even longer, 10 years, before you can sell your property in the Open market. As such, it becomes a liability and my advice is to hedge against the risk of unemployment during this period by buying insurance. For investment purposes, it is prudent to consider both the rental income per annum and capital appreciation of the location of the flat you intend to purchase. Affordability is an issue and properties that the mass market can easily afford will help you find a buyer faster and more liquid in times of need. For private property consider if it is freehold or leasehold with at least more than 50 years of lease left or you will not be able to use your CPF to finance it. Next, find out from the MC if the project’s sinking funds are positive or negative, where positive with a huge balance means the MC can afford to carry out maintainance/improvement works without the owners paying for it, thereafter enhancing the value of the project. For HDB, it is up to the Town Council. Plan your budget carefully and if you cannot afford it, it is better to rent.

    2) Hedge against the risk of inflation for your retirement funds
    Have a regular savings plan other than your CPF to invest in risker products to hedge against the risk of inflation which may eat into your retirement funds.

    3) Have multiple incomes by investing in many incomes to spread your basket of risk

    4) Buy games of chance eg lottery where a small bet might help you win a large amount of money

    *Disclaimer : Enter at your own risk. What is suitable for me might not be suitable for you.

    Contributed by Oogle.