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Thursday, November 15, 2007

What Happens When You Mix Mentos & Coke Or Pepsi

Mixing Mentos and Coke

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News: Now see 10 recent profile visitors!

If you're not busy checking scraps, chances are you are checking out who visited your profile lately. After all, aren't you curious who's taking an interest in you, checking out your photos, and keeping up with the things going on in your life? Even if they don't leave you a scrap, you still know they care :)

In fact, increasing the number of recent visitors listed has been a very popular request, and so starting today, you'll see your ten most recent profile visitors instead of five. Of course, if you'd rather no one saw whose profiles you've been visiting, you can go to "settings" and click on the privacy tab to opt out.

We like it when you show an interest in orkut by sending us suggestions, and your friends like it when you show an interest in them. So keep letting us know what we can do to make orkut better, by telling us in the orkut Help Group, and keep letting your friends know you care by visiting their profiles!

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Colossus cracks codes once more

Colossus in operation during wartime, PA
Bletchley's code-breaking effort shortened the war by many months

For the first time in more than 60 years a Colossus computer will be cracking codes at Bletchley Park.

The machine is being put through its paces to mark the end of a project to rebuild the pioneering computer.

It will be used to crack messages enciphered using the same system employed by the German high command during World War II.

The Colossus will be pitted against modern PC technology which will also try to read the scrambled messages.

War work

Colossus is widely recognised as being one of the first recognisably modern digital computers and was developed to read messages sent by the German commanders during the closing years of WWII.

It was one of the first ever programmable computers and featured more than 2,000 valves and was the size of a small truck.

The re-built Colossus will be put to work on intercepted radio messages transmitted by radio amateurs in Paderborn, Germany that have been scrambled using a Lorenz SZ42 machine - as used by the German high command in wartime.

The Colossus machine will be pitted against modern computer technology that will also be used to decipher and read the transmitted messages.

Tony Sale, Stephen Fleming
Tony Sale led the project to re-build the Colossus machine
Tony Sale, who led the 14-year Colossus re-build project, said it was not clear whether the wartime technology or a modern PC would be faster at cracking the codes.

"A virtual Colossus written to run on a Pentium 2 laptop takes about the same time to break a cipher as Colossus does," he said.

It was so fast, he said, because it was a single purpose processor rather than one put to many general purposes like modern desktop computers.

Re-building the pioneering machine took so long because all 10 Colossus machines were broken up after the war in a bid to keep their workings secret. When he started the re-build all Mr Sale had to work with was a few photographs of the machine.

In its heyday Colossus could break messages in a matter of hours and, said Mr Sale, proved its worth time and time again by revealing the details of Germany's battle plans.

"It was extremely important in the build up to D-Day," said Mr Sale. "It revealed troop movements, the state of supplies, state of ammunition, numbers of dead soldiers - vitally important information for the whole of the second part of the war."

This, and the other information revealed by the code-cracking effort at Bletchley helped to shorten the war by at least 18 months, said Mr Sale.

The Cipher Challenge is also being used to mark the start of a major fund-raising drive for the fledgling National Museum of Computing. The Museum will be based at Bletchley and Colossus will form the centre-piece of its exhibits.

Colossus has a place in the history of computing not just because of the techniques used in its construction. Many of those that helped build it, in particular Tommy Flowers and Tommy Kilburn, went on to do work that directly led to the computers in use today.

The Museum said it needed to raise about £6m to safeguard the future of the historic computers it has collected.

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Q&A: Wii shortages

A pensioner playing Wii
The Wii is selling outside of the traditional gaming market, says David Yarnton
High street retailers are struggling to keep up with demand for Nintendo's popular Wii console - threatening Christmas disappointment for some.

Nintendo UK's Rob Saunders answers readers' questions on the issue.

Q: Having planned ahead and purchased my Wii in September, I have sympathy for those suffering at the hands of unscrupulous retailers. Does anyone know if there is a similar shortage of Wii games?
David, Fife, Scotland

As far as we are aware there are currently no problems in purchasing Wii software titles. Some retailers may experience very minor shortages of in-demand titles, but overall there is a healthy supply of software in the market.

Q: We ordered a Wii from Next for home delivery in early September and were quoted three weeks' delivery time. We are still waiting. Next have not been good at keeping us informed as to what the current situation is.
Kenny Millar, Kirkintilloch, Scotland

Unfortunately I can't comment on your problems with Next directly, but it is an issue you should raise with their customer service team as soon as possible. Next do not deal directly with Nintendo, they purchase their stock via an independent distributor.

Wii consoles
Q: I ordered a Wii mid-October for my son. The retailer now cannot guarantee delivery for Christmas. I've seen prices for Wii sports starting at £369. I am disgusted at those who are cashing in on the shortage and angry at Nintendo. I wonder if Nintendo have done this on purpose to push up prices.
Michelle, Cupar, Fife, Scotland

The video games market is a fiercely competitive one and it is not in our interest to withhold stock from anyone. It is illegal for manufacturers to set prices for their products or engage in activity that artificially raises prices.

Retailers ultimately set the price. Unlike traditional video game products, Nintendo Wii is selling well all year round and to an audience outside of the traditional gaming market. This has resulted in high demand all year for Wii.

Wii is the fastest ever console to reach one million units in the history of the UK games market - in just 38 weeks.

Q: I ordered a Wii from Woolworths online back in September. The Wii did not arrive. It took me over two months to get a refund. I registered with and was delighted when they sent me an e-mail saying John Lewis had them. But the John Lewis website showed none available. I am not happy at all.
Tracey, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

The best thing to do in order to make sure you get a console is to visit a tried-and-trusted High Street and online retailer and ask them to add you to any waiting lists they have. They will then ring you when stock arrives to ensure that you get hold of one.

Playing the Wii
Q: Nintendo have also realised that they are able to maintain the price of the Wii if there is a "shortage". I work for a High Street company and were taking names for the console, which we now only sell as a bundle. We took about 70 names in two to three weeks!
Chris Jones, St Albans, Hertfordshire

It is illegal for any manufacturer to both set a selling price and artificially inflate the price of their products. Retailers decide at what price to sell products. Nintendo do not create these bundles, these are created at store level by retailers.

Q: I advise people to use European web sites, for example. If you are confused just give the shop a call and you will be amazed how many people can speak English when it comes to selling something. A simple two-pin adapter is all that is needed. Warranties are also available EU wide.
Guy, Helsinki, Finland

You are quite correct and within your rights to purchase any item within the European Economic Area for shipment to any other country in the EEA. Your warranty is still valid anywhere in the EEA if the product was bought from any EEA member country.

Recent newspaper articles have talked about buying products from the US and other non-EEA countries. There are several pitfalls to be aware of:

  • You are no longer covered under warranty.

  • Products from the US and Japan are not designed to run on the UK 240-volts mains supply and you risk damaging your product and hurting yourself.

  • Home console games are region coded, like DVDs. This means you will not be able to play any UK-purchased software on a US machine.

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Nintendo warns of Wii shortages

Man playing a Wii game
The physical element of Wii gaming has helped make it popular
A chronic shortage of Nintendo's popular Wii console could mean disappointment for those putting it at the top of their Christmas list.

The BBC has learned that high street retailers are struggling to keep up with demand for the console, which has been in short supply for months.

Websites such as have been set up to help shoppers find out when stock becomes available.

Nintendo said it was "doing everything possible" to keep up with demand.

Its push to fill the shelves in time for Christmas will see it ship an extra 3.5 million consoles globally. It is not known how many extra consoles will make it to UK shelves.

In April Nintendo estimated a yearly shipment of 14m units, but that has now been raised to 17.5m.

Despite this, the gaming giant admitted that not everyone who wants one is guaranteed a Wii this Christmas.

The video games market is a fiercely competitive one and it is not in our interest to withhold stock from anyone
Nintendo spokesman

"The demand for Wii hardware globally has been unprecedented and higher than Nintendo could ever have anticipated," said a spokeswoman.

"Nintendo is now in a position in which seasonality demand trends are being broken, therefore the demand for Wii hardware is constant throughout the whole year globally. Due to this phenomenon it is possible that the demand for Wii hardware may outstrip supply," she said.

Slow trickle

From the high street, the message is very similar.

"Although we're receiving regular deliveries from Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft and getting the products onto the shelves as fast as we can - it's possible that demand will outstrip supplies on some products, for example the Nintendo Wii, which has been hugely popular all through the year," read a statement from high street gaming specialist Game.

"We're posting daily updates on our website at to give customers the latest news on availability, and will continue to do everything possible to help our customers find the consoles they want."

Woolworths said that it was receiving a "slow trickle of stock every week" and also advised customers to keep an eye on their website.

"The Nintendo Wii consoles have proved extremely popular with our customers and have been flying off the shelves whenever we get new stock in," said a spokeswoman.

Website meltdown

As a result of the huge demand, prices are beginning to be hiked, especially among smaller retailers with larger retailers bundling the console with several games.

"It is very hard to buy a Wii console now without two or three games bundled in with it, which can push the price up to around the £300 mark," said Darren McKillop, the man behind

Mr McKillop said that when stock did come in retailers were struggling to cope with the flood of traffic on their websites.

"In some cases their ordering systems let them down and they end up taking orders for stock they don't have and yesterday a major online retailer announced they had the Wii in stock and their website suffered a virtual meltdown as half the country tried to buy a Wii from them," he said. had seen a five-fold increase in traffic since the last Wii shortages at the beginning of the year, said Mr McKillop.

He predicted the stock shortages would last well into the new year.

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'Virtual theft' leads to arrest

Habbo Hotel
Habbo Hotel users create a character and can buy furniture
A Dutch teenager has been arrested for allegedly stealing virtual furniture from "rooms" in Habbo Hotel, a 3D social networking website.

The 17-year-old is accused of stealing 4,000 euros (£2,840) worth of virtual furniture, bought with real money.

Five 15-year-olds have also been questioned by police, who were contacted by the website's owners.

The six teenagers are suspected of moving the stolen furniture into their own Habbo rooms.

A spokesman for Sulake, the company that operates Habbo Hotel, said: "The accused lured victims into handing over their Habbo passwords by creating fake Habbo websites.

"In Habbo, as in many other virtual worlds, scamming for other people's personal information such as user names has been problematic for quite a while.

It is a theft because the furniture is paid for with real money
Sulake spokesman

"We have had much of this scamming going on in many countries but this is the first case where the police have taken legal action."

Habbo users can create their own characters, decorate their own rooms and play a number of games, paying with Habbo Credits, which they have to buy with real cash.

"It is a theft because the furniture is paid for with real money. But the only way to be a thief in Habbo is to get people's usernames and passwords and then log in and take the furniture.

"We got involved because of an increasing number of sites which are pretending to be Habbo. People might then try and log in and get their details stolen."

Six million people in more than 30 countries play Habbo Hotel each month.

Virtual theft is a growing issue in virtual worlds; in 2005 a Chinese gamer was stabbed to death in a row over a sword in a game.

Shanghai gamer Qiu Chengwei killed player Zhu Caoyuan when he discovered he had sold a "dragon sabre" he had been loaned.

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Yahoo settles China dissident case

Yahoo on Tuesday reached an out-of-court settlement with the families of two Chinese journalists who were jailed in their home country after the internet company identified their online activities to the authorities.

The ending of a human rights lawsuit brought by the families in a San Francisco district court came just a week after Jerry Yang, Yahoo chief executive, was strongly criticised by a congressional committee and urged to make recompense for his company’s actions.

Yahoo has agreed to cover the legal costs of the plaintiffs but said details of the settlement were confidential.

It said it would work to provide financial, humanitarian and legal support to the families. It would also create a humanitarian relief fund to support other dissidents and their families.

Tom Lantos, who chaired the House committee on foreign affairs hearing into the jailing of journalist Shi Tao, said the settlement was long overdue.

“It took a tongue-lashing from Congress before these high-technology titans did the right thing and coughed up some concrete assistance for the family of a journalist whom Yahoo had helped send to jail. What a disgrace,” he said.

He added that Yahoo officials had still not reached out to Shi Tao’s family 21 months after he had first requested this.

Jerry Yang met the family and that of Wang Xiaoning, the other journalist in the lawsuit, after the hearing.

Wang Xiaoning was sentenced to 10 years in prison after posting an article on a Yahoo group that called for democratic reform, while Shi Tao received a 10-year sentence after sending an email from his Yahoo account to an overseas pro-democracy foundation.

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