Thursday, May 19, 2011

New cell phone app allows beachgoers to report marine debris

With summer around the corner, millions worldwide will head to pristine beaches and waterways. However, with items such as bottles, cans and other debris washing up on U.S. shores each year, the University of Georgia and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, have teamed up to create a new, innovative cell phone reporting mechanism to combat the marine debris problem.

The Southeast Atlantic Marine Debris Initiative, or SEA-MDI, housed at UGA and a critical part of a partnership with the NOAA Marine Debris Program, hopes to empower citizens in protecting their beaches and coastal waters through a newly launched mobile application that tracks where debris is accumulating.

The tool is important for engaging with beachgoers and stakeholders and is geared at giving the public another way to be a part of the marine debris solution globally, said Jenna Jambeck, assistant professor of environmental engineering in the UGA Faculty of Engineering and one of the app’s developers.

Available through iTunes and the Android Market, the easy-to-use Marine Debris Tracker app can be downloaded for use on iPhones and Android phones. The simple tool allows users to report and record the type and location of debris through GPS features pre-installed on a cell phone. The data submitted is posted on an interactive website (www.marinedebris.engr.uga.edu) that allows data to be viewed and downloaded for users to design plans to prevent marine debris.

Jambeck said the app is one way the initiative is trying to reach people and raise awareness of marine debris. “If you are noticing marine debris, you are also much less likely to litter,” she said. “While this app collects data, one of its primary goals is to educate the public about marine debris and its harmful impacts.”

“We are very excited about the innovative products that have resulted from our partnership with the University of Georgia,” said David Holst, acting director of the NOAA Marine Debris Program. “This app brings the issue into the forefront and empowers the public to take a proactive step in mitigating the problem.”

Marine debris kills wildlife through ingestion and entanglement. It also can have an economic impact on the tourism industry and other coastal businesses by affecting the aesthetics of beaches and waterways. Jambeck and co-developer Kyle Johnsen, assistant professor of computer systems engineering in the UGA Faculty of Engineering, hope that the Marine Debris Tracker tool will help officials make decisions about how to mitigate marine debris, from supplying more comprehensive waste management, such as trash cans, to providing recycling and disposal opportunities for fishing gear.

SEA-MDI (http://sea-mdi.engr.uga.edu/) is a new regional partnership between the NOAA Marine Debris Program and a consortium of organizations in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. The initiative aims to create collaborative regional strategies that address marine debris prevention, reduction and mitigation.

For more information on NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, see http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Microsoft to Acquire Skype

/PRNewswire/ -- Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: "MSFT") and Skype Global S.a r.l today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Microsoft will acquire Skype, the leading Internet communications company, for $8.5 billion in cash from the investor group led by Silver Lake. The agreement has been approved by the boards of directors of both Microsoft and Skype.

The acquisition will increase the accessibility of real-time video and voice communications, bringing benefits to both consumers and enterprise users and generating significant new business and revenue opportunities. The combination will extend Skype's world-class brand and the reach of its networked platform, while enhancing Microsoft's existing portfolio of real-time communications products and services.

With 170 million connected users and over 207 billion minutes of voice and video conversations in 2010, Skype has been a pioneer in creating rich, meaningful connections among friends, families and business colleagues globally. Microsoft has a long-standing focus and investment in real-time communications across its various platforms, including Lync (which saw 30 percent revenue growth in Q3), Outlook, Messenger, Hotmail and Xbox LIVE.

Skype will support Microsoft devices like Xbox and Kinect, Windows Phone and a wide array of Windows devices, and Microsoft will connect Skype users with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live and other communities. Microsoft will continue to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms.

"Skype is a phenomenal service that is loved by millions of people around the world," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. "Together we will create the future of real-time communications so people can easily stay connected to family, friends, clients and colleagues anywhere in the world."

Skype will become a new business division within Microsoft, and Skype CEO Tony Bates will assume the title of president of the Microsoft Skype Division, reporting directly to Ballmer.

"Microsoft and Skype share the vision of bringing software innovation and products to our customers," said Tony Bates. "Together, we will be able to accelerate Skype's plans to extend our global community and introduce new ways for everyone to communicate and collaborate," Bates said.

"Tony Bates has a great track record as a leader and will strengthen the Microsoft management team. I'm looking forward to Skype's talented global workforce bringing its insights, ideas and experience to Microsoft," Ballmer said.

Speaking on behalf of the investor group that sold Skype to Microsoft, Egon Durban, managing director of Silver Lake, said: "We are thrilled with Skype's transformation during the period of our ownership and grateful for the extraordinary commitment of its management team and employees. We are excited about Skype's long-term future with Microsoft, as it is poised to become one of the world's most dynamic and comprehensive communications platforms."

Founded in 2003, Skype was acquired by eBay in September 2005, and then acquired by an investment group led by Silver Lake in November 2009. Skype has made impressive progress over the past 18 months under Silver Lake's leadership, increasing monthly calling minutes by 150 percent, developing new revenue streams and strategic partnerships, acquiring the intellectual property powering its peer-to-peer network, and recruiting an outstanding senior management team.

Other members of the selling investor group led by Silver Lake include eBay International AG, CPP Investment Board, Joltid Limited in partnership with Europlay Capital Advisors; and Andreessen Horowitz.

The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. The parties hope to obtain all required regulatory clearances during the course of this calendar year.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Malicious Software Features Usama bin Laden Links to Ensnare Unsuspecting Computer Users

The FBI today warns computer users to exercise caution when they receive e-mails that purport to show photos or videos of Usama bin Laden’s recent death. This content could be a virus that could damage your computer. This malicious software, or “malware,” can embed itself in computers and spread to users’ contact lists, thereby infecting the systems of associates, friends, and family members. These viruses are often programmed to steal your personally identifiable information.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) urges computer users to not open unsolicited (spam) e-mails, including clicking links contained within those messages. Even if the sender is familiar, the public should exercise due diligence. Computer owners must ensure they have up-to-date firewall and anti-virus software running on their machines to detect and deflect malicious software.

The IC3 recommends the public do the following:

* Adjust the privacy settings on social networking sites you frequent to make it more difficult for people you know and do not know to post content to your page. Even a “friend” can unknowingly pass on multimedia that’s actually malicious software.
* Do not agree to download software to view videos. These applications can infect your computer.
* Read e-mails you receive carefully. Fraudulent messages often feature misspellings, poor grammar, and nonstandard English.
* Report e-mails you receive that purport to be from the FBI. Criminals often use the FBI’s name and seal to add legitimacy to their fraudulent schemes. In fact, the FBI does not send unsolicited e-mails to the public. Should you receive unsolicited messages that feature the FBI’s name, seal, or that reference a division or unit within the FBI or an individual employee, report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

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Use Your Mobile Phone to Receive Alerts on Approaching Storms

/PRNewswire/ -- With the South still reeling from the devastating effects of last week's tornados, the need for effective and actionable communication during a storm has never been more apparent.

Global Alert Network (GAN) is the first-ever hands-free audio alert application for mobile phones. The app is free to download and is currently available on BlackBerry and Android devices through AppWorld and Android Market.

Scott Hughes, President of Global Alert Network, stated "While weather radios are essential for every home in tornado alley, there are times when you're just not around it to hear the warning. The one device that is with people everywhere they go now is their mobile phone. Our alerts are literally with you wherever you are, delivering up to date important local weather warnings and emergency information."

More than 1,500 alerts were sent out to the southern part of the country last week warning residents of the impending tornados. Global Alert Network works with content provider AccuWeather.com, a company that provides users all over the world with the best possible weather forecasts and warnings.

"What makes this application unique is that it initiates automatically – much like a ringtone – and plays the alert without the need for the consumer to interact with his or her mobile phone," continued Mr. Hughes. "Alerts are geo-targeted to the user's location to provide timely, accurate information about weather, traffic conditions and certain emergency alerts."

Traffic, weather and emergency notifications are the channels that are currently available on the Global Alert Network platform. The Company plans to expand its content channels to include entertainment, sports and news.

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