Monday, March 26, 2007 Blackstone files for $4 billion IPO
The historically secretive firm also shed light on its returns. Blackstone had $2.27 billion in net income for 2006, up from $2.3 billion the previous year. Revenue was $1.12 billion. Blackstone spent $250 million on compensation and benefits.

Its flagship corporate private-equity portfolio returned 30.8% annually since its inception in 1987. Blackstone's real-estate portfolio returned 38.2% since 1991. Investments in funds of hedge funds and mezzanine debt have returned 13% and 16%, respectively.

The private-equity company has $78.7 billion in assets under management as of March 1. The firm has $31.1 billion invested in companies, $1.9 billion in closed-end mutual funds, $1.5 billion mezzanine funds, $17.7 billion invested in real-estate funds, $6.9 billion in senior debt and about $1.3 billion in hedge funds, according to the filing.

Blackstone also has $17.1 billion invested in funds of hedge funds. - Gozi Trojan
Malware gets more and more evil/complicated.

  MSDN Kenny Kerr Blog - Balance CPU 1.0
Windows uses an interval timer to determine the time slices that the CPU allocates to different threads. These are absolute intervals that include time spent in the kernel servicing interrupts. On previous versions of Windows, the thread scheduler simply used these intervals to determine how much time each thread has been allotted even if a thread didn’t actually get its full slice due to interrupt processing and other factors. Well Windows Vista’s thread scheduler now takes advantage of the cycle counter register available on modern processors to accurately measure and provide the most accurate scheduling possible. Although Windows still uses interval-based scheduling, it can now more fairly determine whether a thread actually got to use a particular interval for any reasonable amount of time.

The QueryIdleProcessorCycleTime function, along with the QueryThreadCycleTime and QueryProcessCycleTime functions, provide applications with some insight into the number of cycles charged to different processes. In particular, QueryIdleProcessorCycleTime returns the number of cycles that each processor has spent idle. Think of this as the number of cycles consumed by each processor’s idle thread. As I mentioned, the QueryIdleProcessorCycleTime documentation is very misleading so here is a simple example illustrating how you might use it to display the number of clock cycles used by each processor’s idle thread.

  MSDN Blog - Where are we going, and what's with the handbasket? (no 4GB RAM for 32-bit Windows)
An in-depth look at why you can't access 4GB RAM per process under 32-bit Windows - mostly hardware restrictions, partly driver lameness.

Windows XP originally supported a full 4 GB of RAM. You would be limited to 3.1-3.5 GB without PAE, but if you enabled PAE on a 4 GB system with proper chipset and motherboard support, you would have access to the full 4 GB. As more people began to take advantage of this feature using commodity (read: cheapest product with the features I want) hardware, Microsoft noticed a new source of crashes and blue screens. These were traced to drivers failing to correctly handle 64-bit physical addresses. A decision was made to improve system stability at a cost of possibly wasting memory. XP SP2 introduced a change such that only the bottom 32 bits of physical memory will ever be used, even if that means some memory will not be used. (This is also the case with 32-bit editions of Vista.) While this is annoying to those who want that little bit of extra oomph, and while I would have liked a way to re-enable the memory “at my own risk”, this is probably the right decision for 99.9% of the general population of Windows users (and probably saves Dell millions in support costs).

Side-note: PAE is also related to page execution protection, called "hardware DEP" (Microsoft term), "NX" (AMD term), and "XD" (Intel term). In 32-bit x86 processors, this can only be used in PAE mode. This is why you might see PAE mode used even on systems with less than 4 GB of memory.

Performance note: 3-level page table lookups are inherently slower than 2-level page table lookups. However, the processor has substantial dedicated circuitry that usually eliminates most of the performance impact.

Friday, March 23, 2007
  WSJ - O Canada! Black Trial Stirs Interest, Pique Back Home
Many of Canada's best-known journalists are there, including Lisa LaFlamme, a correspondent for CTV News who has covered wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 tsunami. She was in Chicago for the trial this week but is scheduled to head back to Afghanistan on April 8. "It's a drag that it had to happen at the same time," she said, standing in line to get a courtroom seat.

Recent stories in the media blitz: A Globe and Mail reporter's experience sharing a lobster dinner with Mr. Black in Toronto before the trial and many dissections of the Black family's attire at the trial -- along with detailed explanations of each step of the courtroom drama.

Canadian network CTV Newsnet last week began airing a new program called "The Verdict with Paula Todd" four nights a week, using the trial to launch what it envisions as a long-running show about legal issues.

Asked why the trial is capturing so much attention in Mr. Black's native country, Mr. Genson said in an interview, "possibly not very much happens in Canada."

However, underneath the occasional patriotic sentiment is strong resentment. A recent poll of 1,059 Canadians found that 59% wouldn't feel sorry for Mr. Black if he is convicted.

The phrase that keeps turning up is "tall poppy syndrome." Translation: When a Canadian becomes conspicuously more successful than his countrymen, it's expected he soon will be cut down to size.

Canada isn't alone in this notion. Australians, also members of the British Commonwealth who consider themselves anti-aristocratic, use the expression. And in Japan there is the expression, "the nail that sticks up will get pounded down."

One recent example of this attitude: Last year at the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, the Canadian women's hockey team was a great source of pride. Then they began beating opponents by 12 and 16 goals on their run to the gold medal. Public opinion began to build -- against them. Canada fans were concerned their team was showing up other countries.

This prompted a joke: "What does a Canadian do when he wins a gold medal in the Olympics? He's so happy he has it bronzed."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007
  WSJ - Sales of Music, Long in Decline, Plunge Sharply
The record labels need to come out with bona fide hits, not the crap that's been pushed out for the past few years. When Britney Spears, et al. are getting more press for what they're doing outside the studio, it's bad.

In a dramatic acceleration of the seven-year sales decline that has battered the music industry, compact-disc sales for the first three months of this year plunged 20% from a year earlier, the latest sign of the seismic shift in the way consumers acquire music.

The sharp slide in sales of CDs, which still account for more than 85% of music sold, has far eclipsed the growth in sales of digital downloads, which were supposed to have been the industry's salvation.

The slide stems from the confluence of long-simmering factors that are now feeding off each other, including the demise of specialty music retailers like longtime music mecca Tower Records. About 800 music stores, including Tower's 89 locations, closed in 2006 alone.

Retailers and others say record labels have failed to deliver big sellers. And even the hits aren't what they used to be. Norah Jones's "Not Too Late" has sold just shy of 1.1 million copies since it was released six weeks ago. Her previous album, "Feels Like Home," sold more than 2.2. million copies in the same period after its 2004 release.

"Even when you have a good release like Norah Jones, maybe the environment is so bad you can't turn it around," says Richard Greenfield, an analyst at Pali Research.

Meanwhile, with music sales sliding for the first time even at some big-box chains, Best Buy has been quietly reducing the floor space it dedicates to music, according to music-distribution executives.

  CNet - Start-up taps Flash for online word processor
Flash is evil for most of the purposes it's used. Inlcuding this lame idea. I hope it's DOA.

A software start-up called Virtual Ubiquity is joining the ranks of entrepreneurs convinced they can make a better online word processor.

Today, Web-based text editors are typically written using a Web development technique called Ajax, which lets people drag and drop items and obviates the need to press the browser refresh button.

Virtual Ubiquity chose to write its application, called Buzzword, to run in Adobe's Flash Player, which is installed in most Web browsers. It is doing the programming in Adobe's Flex 2.0 development environment.

  Globe and Mail - Pills bought online likely killed B.C. woman
Pills bought on the Internet appear to have killed a 57-year-old woman on Vancouver Island, regional coroner Rose Stanton said Tuesday.

She said the woman, who lived in the Campbell River area, bought a sedative not legally sold in Canada and which has been linked to overdose deaths in other countries.

The woman also bought an anti-anxiety medication that's sold in Canada only with a doctor's prescription, Ms. Stanton said.

She said some of the pills also contained heavy metals that can pose a serious health risk.

The coroners service says the pills were bought through a health-related website belonging to a group of companies that change websites and Internet addresses every three or four days.

“These fake sites look very realistic,” Ms. Stanton said

“They would fool a lot of people. And they mention the names of organization and companies that don't exist.”

  MSNBC - Dad: Boy Scout was 'homesick'
I hope they send the family a bill for the search-and-rescue expense. Dumb-ass kid. Better to make the stupid mistakes now than later in life, I guess.

“He was homesick,” said his father, Kent Auberry. “He started walking, and at one point when he was walking he thought maybe he’d walk as far as the road and hitchhike home.”

“We’re going to have our lectures about hitchhiking again,” the father said. “We’ve had them in the past, but with a special vigor, we’ll go over that again with Michael.”

Michael had worn two jackets, one of them fleece, and was believed to have a mess kit and potato chips with him when he disappeared. Searchers found the kit within a mile of the camp site a few hours after he disappeared. The boy also said he lost his hat and glasses in the woods.

Once rescued, the first thing he said to searchers was that “he wanted a helicopter ride out of there,” said Blue Ridge Parkway ranger David Bauer.

He said Michael had been a bit reluctant to go on the trip. The boy had asked his dad if he would give him $5 if he didn’t have a good time. Auberry said he assured his son that if he wasn’t happy on the trip, they would do something fun together the next day.

  MSN - Does Liposuction Last Long Term?
So, before you run off to get lipo, seriously evaluate whether you can improve how you eat and maximize your daily calorie burn. In fact, you might as well start with that; even plastic surgeons say liposuction will not absolve you from having to spend the rest of your life eating better and exercising more.

The reason that some people believe that liposuction is a permanent fat fix is because it used to be thought that you’re born with a set number of fat cells. So, if you get some sucked out, you forever reduce your tendency to store fat. But research shows that this is simply not true. Fat cells that remain will still fill up with more fat if you eat more calories than your body needs. And adults can develop brand new fat cells when more fat needs to be stored than the body has room for. So even if surgery removes a few adipocytes from your thighs, you may later find that your arms or calves—or anywhere else you have fat cells—gets fatter.

A study published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery surveyed 209 liposuction patients—most of whom had undergone the procedure more than two years earlier—and found that 81 percent had not lost any weight, and 43 percent actually gained more! (Most gained five to 10 pounds.) The researchers concluded that for liposuction to be a success, the patient must begin practicing a healthy lifestyle immediately after surgery and should eat a well-balanced diet and exercise regularly.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007
  CNet - John W. Backus, 82, Fortran developer, dies
John W. Backus, who assembled and led the IBM team that created Fortran, the first widely used programming language, which helped open the door to modern computing, died on Saturday at his home in Ashland, Ore. He was 82.

His daughter Karen Backus announced the death, saying the family did not know the cause, other than age.

After the war, Backus found his footing as a student at Columbia University and pursued an interest in mathematics, receiving his master’s degree in 1950. Shortly before he graduated, Backus wandered by the IBM headquarters on Madison Avenue in New York, where one of its room-size electronic calculators was on display.

When a tour guide inquired, Backus mentioned that he was a graduate student in math; he was whisked upstairs and asked a series of questions Backus described as math "brain teasers." It was an informal oral exam, with no recorded score.

He was hired on the spot. As what? "As a programmer," Backus replied, shrugging. "That was the way it was done in those days." - Euro Carmakers Build Microhybrids
For Ford, that's where John Kessels of Eindhoven University in the Netherlands came in. He developed a software tweak that reduced fuel consumption by 2.6 percent when tested on a Ford Mondeo with a 2-liter gas engine and a five-speed manual transmission ("a normal car for the EU," Kessels said).

That doesn't sound like much, but company bosses say such modifications are possible without passing a high cost to customers and without sacrificing performance. It's a small step that can add up over time, kind of like switching to diet soda.

The algorithm improves fuel efficiency by monitoring the vehicle's fuel map and other data to strategically switch the generator off and on, thereby using less energy to charge the battery. Standard internal combustion engines use the generator continuously.

The BMW's 2008 5-Series sold in Western Europe as well as the 1-Series now come with an Intelligent Alternator Control, or IAC, system that collects and reuses energy typically lost to heat dissipation. Unlike a traditional alternator that continually leaches power from the engine to top off a car's battery, this system disengages during acceleration, said Tom Plucinsky, BMW's product and technology communications manager.

Then, it engages during deceleration to reclaim energy from the spooled-up engine. A major component of the system is a special type of high-capacity battery that can power the car's hungriest electronic peripherals, like the air-conditioning compressor and power steering.

Idle-start (or stop-start) technology automatically switches off the vehicle's engine as soon as the car comes to a stop, then restarts the engine when the clutch or accelerator pedal is depressed, using software to link sensors and other components. Kessels estimated that adding idle-start technology alongside his algorithmic fix could increase fuel savings by another 5 percent to 6 percent.

"Delivery vehicles spend up to 60 percent of their time idling," Wagener said. "Whenever a microhybrid vehicle stops at a light or a loading zone, the internal combustion engine is shut down. When the driver is ready, it starts up again within milliseconds."

Idle-stop can be done for every piston-engine car in the world to good effect.

  CNN - Bus line appeals to shoestring travelers
For Internet-savvy travelers on a budget, claims to offer a service that makes mainstream bus travel seem pricey: rides from Pittsburgh to Chicago for as little as $1.

The Chicago-based company, which began operating in a number of Midwestern cities last year, plans to launch new service April 2 in Pittsburgh; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Columbus, Ohio; Kansas City, Missouri, and Louisville, Kentucky. It already offers service between Chicago and Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, St. Louis and Toledo.

Megabus uses online ticketing and sidewalk stops instead of ticket counters and bus terminals. Passengers do not buy tickets, but instead give drivers reservation numbers they receive when booking online.

The low-cost model was imported from the United Kingdom, where Stagecoach introduced a similar service nearly four years ago.

"The demand for this type of service has been outstanding," Moser said before a news conference on a street corner in downtown Pittsburgh.

Advance planning gets you the lowest fares. A limited number of seats are priced at $1, and the fares increase incrementally based on the time between the booking and departure dates, a pricing scheme used by discount airlines.

"But I will tell you that the highest-price seat is still cheaper than all the alternatives to get from Pittsburgh to Chicago," Moser said. The most expensive ticket for such a trip, booked 24 hours in advance, would be $43.50, he said.

  Silicon - Tech accidentally wipes out info on Alaska's $38 billion fund
Typically, people get better/faster at a task the second time around - unless they're being paid by the hour - in which case, they could probably take it easy and finish in the same amount of time as the the first time that they scanned in the documents.

While doing routine maintenance work, the technician accidentally deleted applicant information for an oil-funded account -- one of Alaska residents' biggest perks -- and mistakenly reformatted the backup drive, as well.

There was still hope, until the department discovered its third line of defense, backup tapes, were unreadable.

The July computer foul-up, which wiped out dividend distribution information for the fund, would end up costing the department more than $200,000.

And the only backup was the paperwork itself -- stored in more than 300 cardboard boxes.

``We had to bring that paper back to the scanning room, and send it through again, and quality control it, and then you have to have a way to link that paper to that person's file,'' Skow said.

The department is asking lawmakers to approve a supplemental budget request for $220,700 to cover the excess costs incurred during the six-week recovery effort, including about $128,400 in overtime and $71,800 for computer consultants.

The money would come from the permanent fund earnings, the money earmarked for the dividends. That means recipients could find their next check docked by about 37 cents.

Monday, March 19, 2007 - LED Faucet Lights
Just attach to the end of your faucet (universal adapters included), and when the water flows through the magic chamber, it simply turns on the LED array and illuminates the stream with soothingly powerful hues.

But wait, there's more! You get to choose between two different Faucets.

  • Blue LED - Always streams BLUE LED's
  • Blue/Red LED - Normally streams BLUE LED's until the water temperature hits 89 degrees after which the LEDs turn RED!

  NYTimes - Pet Food Is Recalled After Link to Animal Deaths
Gotta wonder what was in the pet food that would make animals sick.

More than 60 million cans and pouches of dog and cat food sold under dozens of brand names were recalled on Saturday after being linked to the deaths of 10 animals.

Menu Foods is recalling only certain gravy-style pet food in cans and pouches it made from Dec. 3 to March 6.

The company said in a statement that tests of its food had “failed to identify any issues with the products in question.” But it did associate the timing of the reported deaths with its use of a new supplier for wheat gluten, a source of protein. Sarah Tuite, a spokeswoman for Menu Foods, declined to name the supplier.

Kidney failure is common in older cats; in younger animals it is associated with accidental poisoning, typically by antifreeze, Dr. Weingand said. The condition can be treated through hydration.

Menu Foods says it produces 1 billion cans and bags of wet food a year. Shares of the company’s stock fell by 26 percent on Friday, after it announced that the recall could cost it between $30 million and $40 million.

  NYTimes - In Shriner Spending, a Blurry Line of Giving
Yet another organization's charity raising efforts reveals that a lot of the donated money doesn't get to the giver's intended recipients.

But his faith was shaken when he joined the leadership of the Suez Shriners in San Angelo, one of 191 temples affiliated with the order. He found that much of the money collected to support the hospitals was commingled with money used for liquor, parties and members’ travel to Shrine events. The Shrine’s national auditor largely confirmed his findings, but not before Mr. Goline was forced out of office.

The examination found these things:

  • More than 57 percent of the $32 million the Shriners raised in 2005 through circuses, bingo games, raffles and a variety of sales went to costs of the fraternity, including keeping temple liquor cabinets full and offering expenses-paid trips to Shrine meetings and other events.

  • Only 2 percent of the Shrine hospitals’ operating income comes from money raised by Shrine temples and members’ dues. (The bulk is supplied by the hospitals’ $9 billion endowment.)

  • A top Shrine official told a meeting of temple treasurers that poor accounting for cash coming into the organization was “an increasingly common problem,” and that more than 30 temples had discovered fraud — like theft of money and inventory, altered bank statements, padded payrolls and fake invoices — amounting to as much as $300,000 and involving members of their “divans,” the five-member boards that govern each temple.

Yet whistle-blowers like Mr. Goline are often greeted with hostility, retaliation and official sanctions.

  NYTimes - Airbus Superjumbo Takes a Lap Around America
For all its troubles, the double-decker Airbus A380 is enjoying its moment as the rock star of the aviation world.

The largest passenger plane in the world begins its United States tour this week. It arrived at Kennedy International Airport yesterday, and will take off from there in a celebratory “flight to nowhere” and circle over Manhattan tomorrow. It will also stop at Dulles in Washington and O’Hare in Chicago, while another A380 flies into Los Angeles International Airport (in press releases, airport officials there predict that 100,000 aviation enthusiasts will attend the event).

The plane can clearly generate excitement and buzz in the United States.

“When you see it fly, even hardened airplane hands stop and look,” said Edmund S. Greenslet, publisher of the Airline Monitor, a trade publication. “It will be noticed. It is dramatic. To see it is to be impressed at its sheer magnitude.”

But turning buzz into actual sales in the United States is another matter. So far, no American carrier has bought the plane and many experts anticipate that none will anytime soon.

Over at Terminal 4 — where Emirates, Singapore, Virgin and Thai Airways, all A380 customers operate — new passenger-loading bridges are being built so that travelers can enter the lower and upper deck of the plane at the same time. Emirates plans to have three loading bridges, one set aside for passengers who can exit its airline club directly into the craft’s first-class lounge.

There are also two new baggage carousels able to handle more than 1,000 pieces of luggage each. The number of immigration officials is also being increased. Mr. Fazio, the chief operating officer of the terminal, estimated the Terminal 4 upgrades would cost around $5 million.

And even though Mr. Fazio has seen planes of many sizes and shapes, he is still impressed with the massive scale of the A380.

“Wait until it flies over Manhattan,” he said. “It will block out the sun.”

  NYTimes - A New Sorrow for Afghanistan: AIDS Joins List
Ignoring the problem won't make it go away - but Afghanistan doesn't seem likely to confront its problems head-on.

Cloistered by two decades of war and then the strict Islamic rule of the Taliban, Afghanistan was long shielded from the ravages of the AIDS pandemic. Not anymore.

H.I.V. and AIDS have quietly arrived in this land of a thousand calamities. They remain almost completely underground, shrouded in ignorance and stigma as the government struggles with the help of American and NATO forces to rebuild the country in the face of a new offensive by Taliban insurgents.

Afghanistan experienced a trade boom in the last five years, and hundreds of thousands of Afghans go abroad, especially to Arab countries in search of work.

The return home of more than two million refugees is another way the disease is likely to spread, said Renu Chahil-Graf, regional coordinator for Unaids, the United Nations program, who was visiting Pul-i-Charkhi prison in Kabul, where a voluntary testing clinic has opened. Some of those returning to Afghanistan have drug habits, and they spread AIDS by sexual contact with spouses, prostitutes and street children.

Afghanistan, the biggest opium- and heroin-producing country in the world, has nearly one million drug users, according to United Nations estimates. Most users still smoke the drug, but five years ago, injectable heroin hit the streets of Kabul, the capital. Now there are an estimated 19,000 intravenous drug users here, according to the World Bank. Addicts are not difficult to find, living in bombed-out buildings in the old part of the city and in Kota-e-Sangi, a neighborhood on the city’s south side.

  NYTimes - Partner Adopted by an Heiress Stakes Her Claim
The family, descendants of Thomas J. Watson Sr., the founder of I.B.M., owns more than 300 acres worth nearly $20 million on the northern tip of this sea-splashed idyll 90 miles northeast of Portland. Over four decades, various Watsons summering here have flown helicopters and other aircraft; driven antique cars and collected scrimshaw. The family has held an annual square dance at their compound, Oak Hill.

Recently, though, the Watson name has surfaced in a different context, a most unusual lawsuit. It concerns Olive F. Watson, 59, granddaughter of the I.B.M. founder and daughter of Thomas J. Watson Jr., the company’s longtime chief executive; and Patricia Ann Spado, 59, her former lesbian partner of 14 years.

In 1991, Ms. Watson, then 43, adopted Ms. Spado, then 44, under a Maine law that allows one adult to adopt another. The reason, Ms. Spado has contended in court documents, was to allow Ms. Spado to qualify as an heir to Ms. Watson’s estate.

But less than a year after the adoption, Ms. Watson and Ms. Spado broke up. Then in 2004, Ms. Watson’s mother died, leaving multimillion-dollar trusts established by her husband to be divided among their 18 grandchildren.

Many states allow adult adoption, but the laws were primarily intended for situations like a stepparent adopting a stepchild later in life, said D. Marianne Blair, an adoption expert at the University of Tulsa College of Law.

However, some same-sex couples began using the adoption process to establish financial security or inheritance for their partners, said Arthur S. Leonard, a professor at New York Law School.

In New York, some people sought adoption as a way to inherit a rent-controlled apartment from a same-sex partner, Professor Leonard said, but a 1984 court ruling said that same-sex couples could not use adoption to create legal family ties.

But in Connecticut, where the trusts were established, the law required the person doing the adopting to be older than the adoptee. The family’s trust lawyers have said in a brief filed in Maine, “this court should not allow homosexual couples from New York to use vacation time in Maine as the jurisdictional basis for an adoption that is disallowed in their own state.”

“Olive’s parents and siblings respected and honored the couple’s relationship,” the brief said. For one birthday, Mr. Watson gave Ms. Spado flowers and his wife, Olive C. Watson, gave her a Bulgari bracelet that he had given her. “Olive’s mother, in particular,” the brief said, “was deeply thankful for the fact that Patricia was instrumental in getting Olive’s life back together after a long period of self-destructive and dangerous behavior.”

Sunday, March 18, 2007
  Globe and Mail - Torture, radios, and why the U.S. won't let go
On a chilly Minnesota night in 2004, FBI agents invited an immigrant truck driver to step out of the April air and warm up in a waiting car. They proceeded to bring him in for questioning, telling him they knew he'd served as a mujahedeen sniper in Afghanistan.

“How much trouble am I in?” was his reply, court records say.

The agents told the man, a U.S. resident by way of Lebanon, there would be no trouble – if he answered their queries truthfully. The conversation lasted all night as they inquired about his life in 1990s Afghan training camps.

Then the interrogators switched gears: They wanted to know about a Canadian-run export enterprise. They suggested he worked for the business in 1996, sending walkie-talkies out of New York to Islamic radicals lurking in Afghanistan's remote refuges.

Since 1997 – and with heightened zeal since the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington – counterterrorism investigators have been trying to connect a Canadian two-way-radio export enterprise with al-Qaeda.

The probe, ultimately dubbed Project A-O Canada, led to the arrest and torture of Maher Arar, the telecommunications engineer wrongly smeared as a terrorist. It has left a Canadian exporter, Abdullah Almalki, trying to clear his name, and it has spawned the prosecution of the Minnesota trucker, held since 2004 in a maximum-security U.S. prison awaiting trial.

The charge? Lying about those ubiquitous radios.

The real fear: An al-Qaeda sleeper agent setting up shop in Canada.

The Globe and Mail has spent months investigating Project A-O Canada and its tangled aftermath – the complex web of personal and police interactions that have remained an unsettling mystery.

In 2001, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which has no powers of arrest, passed its probe on to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. For the Canadians, the investigation led to no criminal charges north of the border. It led instead to Mr. Arar, who has received $10-million in damages and an apology from Ottawa.

For the Americans, the probe seems never-ending. Mr. Arar, 36, remains on the U.S. watch list, for reasons never publicly explained. And in Minnesota, the government is pressing its case against the trucker, Mohammed Kamal Elzahabi, 43 – even bugging his prison cell.

In the U.S. view, the Elzahabi case is about radios the way the 1930s prosecution of gangster Al Capone was about tax evasion. Minnesota court records show that, in 2004, agents rushed to arrest Mr. Elzahabi because they knew him as an Afghan-trained sniper and had heard he was moving north.

“There was concern that he, like others in his specialty, in his trade, might use Canada as a base to attack the United States,” FBI agent Harry Samit testified in Minneapolis last year.

  Toronto Star - Blackmail journalism on the rise in China
Yes, corruption is in the Chinese private sector too.
After the August 2005 mine disaster, for instance, reporters and their friends in Henan province dispatched a flurry of cellphone messages as soon as they heard the news because they knew local officials would be eager to hush it up.

By the time Henan Business News reporter Fan Youfeng arrived at the mine, local officials told him they'd paid off so many journalists – real and fake – that their coffers were empty.

Over several days, the extortionists reportedly carried away more than $25,000.

Encouraged by editor Ma, Fan wrote a story on the payoffs, quoting local officials and citing a list signed by those who got the cash. But then, an official from the central government propaganda department visited from Beijing and accused Ma of publishing an "inappropriate" and "false" story.

Ma says publication of the Henan Business News was suspended for a month and he was forced to retire. The final death toll at the mine, he adds, was never reported.

Shenzhen journalists say reporters and editors also regularly receive payments from business owners and officials in exchange for publication of favourable articles.

The practice is encouraged, they say, by a system in which reporters are also responsible for selling advertising and subscriptions to the institutions and businesses they cover.

The payoffs have become so accepted that a reporter who showed up at a recent news conference called by an Internet software company here complained loudly and walked out when he discovered he would be given only a bottle of mineral water, according to other reporters present.

"I would say there are problems in the Chinese media world," one of them commented.

  Toronto Star - Blackmail journalism on the rise in China
Yes, corruption is in the Chinese private sector too.
After the August 2005 mine disaster, for instance, reporters and their friends in Henan province dispatched a flurry of cellphone messages as soon as they heard the news because they knew local officials would be eager to hush it up.

By the time Henan Business News reporter Fan Youfeng arrived at the mine, local officials told him they'd paid off so many journalists – real and fake – that their coffers were empty.

Over several days, the extortionists reportedly carried away more than $25,000.

Encouraged by editor Ma, Fan wrote a story on the payoffs, quoting local officials and citing a list signed by those who got the cash. But then, an official from the central government propaganda department visited from Beijing and accused Ma of publishing an "inappropriate" and "false" story.

Ma says publication of the Henan Business News was suspended for a month and he was forced to retire. The final death toll at the mine, he adds, was never reported.

Shenzhen journalists say reporters and editors also regularly receive payments from business owners and officials in exchange for publication of favourable articles.

The practice is encouraged, they say, by a system in which reporters are also responsible for selling advertising and subscriptions to the institutions and businesses they cover.

The payoffs have become so accepted that a reporter who showed up at a recent news conference called by an Internet software company here complained loudly and walked out when he discovered he would be given only a bottle of mineral water, according to other reporters present.

"I would say there are problems in the Chinese media world," one of them commented.

  Toronto Star - The slow wheels of justice
The estate of the late Peter N. Widdrington v. Elliot C. Wightman and others – better known as the Castor Holdings case – has its origins in the 1992 collapse of a Montreal real estate holding company. After Castor went bankrupt, some 75 investors filed lawsuits, alleging they were misled about the company's financial health.

The case has become perhaps the most extreme example of Canada's slow-moving justice system. The plaintiffs expected the trial to take between six and eight months when it opened on Sept. 8, 1998. But it has been grinding on for nearly nine years, and the investors' claims have been in the court system for 14 years – more than twice as long as the American Civil War, longer than the Great Depression and surpassing World Wars I and II combined.

Lawyers involved in the case use words like "crazy" to describe the length of time it has taken. And keeping track of 93 filing cabinets of court documents is "inhuman," they protest.

But there's a new sense of urgency surrounding the trial. Carrière turns 75 in 2010. By law, that's when he must retire and the trial must be completed. The judge has given the parties until December 2008 to present all their evidence and final submissions. After that, he'll have about two years to write his decision.

Last October, the trial was put on hold when Carrière had emergency surgery. He is awaiting the results of further medical tests, and it's not known when the case will resume.

Don Selman, a Vancouver accountant, was on the stand as an expert defence witness from April 2005 until last October. He was about to be cross-examined when the trial was suspended.

"This," he says, "is a marathon."

For at least three weeks a month, he was living in a Montreal apartment paid for by the defendants. It was a long way from home. But he's a long way from setting a record. Accountant Keith Vance, the plaintiffs' expert, testified for nearly four years – two under cross-examination.

Both sides are playing for keeps because the stakes are high. The former partners at Coopers & Lybrand are at risk of being found personally liable. "We tend to dehumanize what's happening here because we are working with huge figures," said Bourgon. "We tend to forget, these people are being sued personally."

On the other side, the investors lost a ton of money and they're still angry, said Flanz. "Frankly speaking, they feel they got screwed."

The judge has decided to err on the side of caution, allowing every question to be asked, Flanz said. And there's a painstaking ritual to each question. Bourgon tells the judge and opposing lawyers what documents he'll be asking Selman about. The court pauses, while Carrière searches through his files.

So far, there are 160,000 pages of transcript. If there's no settlement and the case ends with a judgment from Carrière, the losing side, whoever that may be, will certainly appeal, said Flanz.

  MSNBC - Final struggle to eradicate guinea worm disease
Finally, the worm is out, and the veranda full of other infected children explodes in claps and shouts of congratulation.

It took six weeks to draw the worm out, and another is about to emerge from her other foot.

A 20-year fight to eradicate guinea worm disease, or dracunculiasis, is in the last and most difficult stages. It could be the first parasitic disease wiped out worldwide — and only the second disease ever to be eliminated; the first was smallpox in 1979.

In 1989, the disease afflicted a reported 3.5 million people in 23 countries in Africa and Asia. In 2005, only 10,674 cases were reported in nine countries — all in Africa.

The last cases always are the most difficult phase of eradication. That is in part because, at a point when so much effort and money already has been extended, monitoring has to be stepped up to ensure no cases have been missed.

Ninety percent of Ghana’s remaining cases are within 100 miles of Savelugu, a semiarid Sahelian stretch of dusty farm plots and scrubland prone to drought, where guinea worms breed in manmade dams. About 25,000 people live in the area.

Aid workers built the dams in low-lying flat areas to catch rainwater because wells were so difficult to drill through the region’s rock bed. But in the dry season, the dams become breeding reservoirs for guinea worm.

Guinea worm eggs lodge in a microscopic water flea, which people swallow with untreated water. The eggs lodge in abdominal tissue where they hatch and mate. A year later, the worm starts emerging, most often through legs and feet and measuring a yard or more. It is a painful process that can stop people from working for three months.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007
  TechRepublic - Connect securely to Windows Vista Remote Desktop

  Windows clones are useful
If you're a developer and you are trying to track down a problem, these clones could help you reproduce a bug and then you could trace the avaliable source code to locate the possible problem.

What I ended up with was moving the entire display window to another thread, so that it could poll in peace at high priority. A persistent problem that kept cropping up here was the display thread taking 100% of the CPU, even though I had a MsgWaitForMultipleObjects() loop with a 1ms timeout. I tracked the problem down to that function constantly returning WAIT_OBJECTS_0, meaning that a message available, without there actually being one -- meaning that PeekMessage() was getting called in a tight loop. I hacked in a Sleep(1) as a temporary workaround, but then I had the weird problem of the UI becoming totally unresponsive even though the CPU was idle 80-90% of the time -- but still repainting. Even weirder, when I took the Sleep() out, VTune showed an abnormally high amount of time being spent in the kernel (ring 0) in functions like "win32k!xxxWindowHitTest."

It wasn't until I looked at the ReactOS and Wine source code that I discovered the culprit.

  Toronto Star - TB vaccine losing its power, study finds
The bacteria used for almost nine decades to make all the world's tuberculosis vaccines may have evolved to the point where it is almost useless in combating the disease, according to a new study involving Montreal's McGill University.

An international effort to map and analyze the genome of bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) has shown the organism, the key ingredient in all TB vaccines, has mutated significantly since it was first used in 1921. The study is to be published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Online.

McGill researcher Dr. Marcel Behr says the organism may have lost key protective parts through evolution, but stopped short of saying it has no benefit.

Until the introduction of deep-freezing technologies in the 1960s, BCG was only available by making new test tube batches. During that period of perpetual breeding, the organism likely evolved into something different from the original agent.

  Toronto Star - Chickenpox vaccine's protection fades: Study
Merck's chickenpox vaccine Varivax not only loses its effectiveness after a while, but it has changed the profile of the disease in the population, U.S. researchers reported Wednesday.

The study confirmed what doctors widely knew - that the vaccine's protection does not last long.

And with fewer natural cases of the disease going around, unvaccinated children or children in whom the first dose of the vaccine fails to work have been catching the highly contagious disease later in life, when the risk of severe complications is greater, they said.

"If you're unvaccinated and you get it later in life, there's a 20-times greater risk of dying compared to a child, and a 10 to 15 times greater chance of getting hospitalized," said Jane Seward of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, who worked on the study.

They helped prompt the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to recommend a booster shot between the ages of 4 and 6. The panel also said in its June 2006 report that children, adolescents and adults should be given boosters as well. - OpenBSD hit by 'critical' IPv6 flaw
A vulnerability in the way OpenBSD handles IPv6 data packets exposes systems running the traditionally secure open-source operating system to serious attack.

A memory corruption vulnerability error exists in the OpenBSD code that handles IPv6 packets, Core Security Technologies said in an alert published Tuesday. Exploiting the flaw could let an attacker commandeer a vulnerable system, according to Core, which said it discovered the issue and crafted sample exploit code.

"This vulnerability allows attackers to gain complete control of the target system, bypassing all the operating system's security mechanisms," Core said in a statement Wednesday. Core deems the issue "critical." Security-monitoring company Secunia rates it "highly critical."

OpenBSD is mostly known for its security enhancements and is used for firewalls, intrusion detection systems and other applications. Google is among OpenBSD users and backers. The OpenBSD team likes to tout that only a few remotely exploitable vulnerabilities have been found in the code in a decade. - Trend Micro acquires HijackThis antispyware tool
HijackThis is a free tool developed by Dutch student Merijn Bellekom. The tool is mostly used by technical users to pinpoint spyware infections on Windows machines and help remove them. It has been downloaded more than 10 million times, according to Trend Micro.

"HijackThis is a virtual standard in the antispyware world and has received many accolades," Trend Micro said in a statement. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

Trend Micro is readying a new beta version of HijackThis that works with Windows Vista and Internet Explorer 7. Other additions include an "AnalyzeThis" feature that lets users see the prevalence of threats detected on their PCs, Trend Micro said.

Bellekom sold HijackThis because university obligations left no time to work on the software, according to a blog post. "I had been sitting on an unfinished update for over a year, and I still could not make enough time to finish it," he wrote. Bellekom previously sold CWShredder, a tool to remove the CoolWebSearch spyware, to InterMute, which in turn was taken over by Trend Micro.

  MSNBC - Birds use wingman to get chicks
Some birds take the “wingman” approach to scoring a mate, the ornithological equivalent of two guys sallying up to a hot girl in a bar in hopes that one will get lucky.

This behavior isn’t totally selfless, however, and it turns out males of one tropical bird species receive future benefits from helping out an alpha pal.

One way to get an alpha badge would be to become a courting expert. DuVal suggests that along the way, the sidekick bird or beta “learns” the complex courting skills from the suave guru.

Beta males of lance-tailed manakins are generally younger than alpha partners, supporting the thinking that the phenomenon is akin to an apprenticeship.

  MSNBC - Coping With a Shortage of Cancer Doctors
There are about 10,400 oncologists in the United States today with roughly 500 new ones entering the workforce each year. Yet, an estimated 1.4 million people will be diagnosed with cancer in 2007. Looking ahead, the study predicts a 48 percent jump in cancer incidence and an 81 percent increase in Americans living with or surviving cancer in the years leading up to 2020. But the crunch might be felt even earlier as oncologist caseloads rise. "It will likely get tougher to get an appointment with an oncologist over the next few years," predicts one of the study's authors, Edward Salsberg, director of the Center for Workforce Studies at the Association of American Medical Colleges, which conducted the study.

The reasons for the dwindling number of oncologists are two-fold: more than half of today's oncologists are close to retirement; at the same time there is a nationwide limit on the number of oncology fellowship training slots because of what critics argue were faulty projections in the past. "In the mid-90s, policy planners predicted there would be a surplus of 165,000 doctors in 2020," says Dr. Richard Cooper, a senior fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania, whose work is mentioned in the study, and who has been a leader in warning of an impending physician shortage across all fields for the past decade. "It was clear to me back then the basis for their projections were not valid. No one understood at the time that technological advances would increase demand for services, not the other way around." For example, he says that in oncology, there is new technology for treating lung cancer. "Before that technology, it's true, you wouldn't need more doctors—that's because, before the technology, people simply died." He says there are about 10 million cancer survivors currently living in the United States. - Apple megapatch plugs 45 security holes
Using open source can save money on the front end of development - but then software maintenance costs are astronomically high in comparison since you don't know the codebase, yet you are responsible for the security (even one bug can be bad) of the product/operating system. Then there are the security bugs in code you created - that's your own damn fault, Apple.

Apple on Tuesday issued a security update for its Mac OS X to plug 45 security holes, including several zero-day vulnerabilities.

The megapatch is the seventh Apple security patch release in three months. It deals with vulnerabilities in Apple's own software, as well as third-party components such as Adobe Systems' Flash Player, OpenSSH and MySQL. Sixteen of the vulnerabilities addressed by the update were previously released as part of two high-profile bug-hunting campaigns.

  TheInquirer - Prices of LCD panels fall through the floor
The firm said prices of bigger panels "are declining precipitously" with a 32-inch unit dropping by 17 per cent during the first half of this year.

Additional panel capacity will fuel the move with 40-inch and 42-inch WXGA units also dropping price.

Some manufacturers are selling 32-inch panels at prices below the cost of production.

  Toronto Star - CBC ensures King will reign yet again
Recently, only episodes from the final two seasons of the show have been turning up in reruns. The CBC's failure to strike an agreement on royalty fees for the first three seasons with one of the creators meant 65 episodes disappeared.

Now it has become clear that Layfield actually did something about it. She managed to sort out agreements that will put 56 of those 65 lost episodes on the air for the next 10 years. There are just nine episodes that still cannot be shown, because re-clearing the music rights would be too complicated and difficult.

  Toronto Star - Japan too busy for sex?
A record 39.7 per cent of Japanese citizens ages 16-49 have not had sex for more than a month – up five percentage points from two years ago – according to a survey published this week by the Japan Family Planning Association.

Among married couples, the rate was only slightly lower, at 34.6 per cent.

"The situation is dismal," Kitamura said. "My research shows that if you don't have sex for a month, you probably won't for a year."

  NYTimes - When You Need a Zoning Variance

  NYTimes - Living in an Amsterdam Canal House
Every other week, Mr. Reardon stuffs a suitcase full of stained and soiled clothes and leaves his apartment along Amsterdam’s swankiest canal, bypassing boatloads of envious tourists too busy admiring his residence to suspect his dirty little secret.

Ten hours later, he and his grimy cargo land in northern Virginia. Awaiting him there, in the interest of love and clean laundry, are his partner and, almost equally important, his dry cleaner.

Hauling dirty clothes across the ocean to have them dry-cleaned is Mr. Reardon’s signal to the Dutch that some of their service industries are to him, like his home, a bit dated.

“Dry cleaners here are only open during working hours typically, and it takes three days to get dry cleaning done,” he said. “In the U.S., it’s half the price and you can drop it off in the morning and pick it up in the evening. That’s inconceivable here.”

In spite of the Netherlands’ mild but often dreary climate, Mr. Reardon made sure his apartment had one last American addition: air-conditioning.

“The Dutch thought we were crazy,” he said. But a heat wave last summer has Mr. Reardon convinced that he may once again prove his naysayers wrong.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007
  MSDN KB - How to handle dates and times that include DST
Developer-related timezone information.

  Toronto Star - Mega church launches an audit
It's always a good idea to threaten the media.

A Toronto mega church whose spending practices were questioned in a recent Star investigation has hired a public relations firm specializing in "crisis communication" and launched an internal financial probe, a spokesman said yesterday.

The Prayer Palace, which annually takes in about $3 million in cash and other donations, hired an auditor to "show everything is above-board and there is no money being laundered anywhere," said Frank Fernandez, a church member who spoke on behalf of the Prayer Palace during local radio station AM640's morning broadcast.

The church's newly appointed public relations consultant, Strategic Communications Solutions' Peter Turkington, said in a news release the church has hired a "forensic accounting firm to show that the Star's innuendos are entirely incorrect." Turkington later told the Star the audit will be conducted by Toronto accountant Bruce Armstrong, a member of LECG Canada Ltd.

phone calls from angry Prayer Palace members.

"You have touched God's anointed! Be careful! Be careful that you don't drop dead one of these days," shouted one caller who identified himself as Roger.

Other callers said that to ignore their warnings would be to invite tragedy into reporters' lives, including leprosy and possible physical harm.

One caller issued a death threat; another called a reporter a "Mormon ... a racist."

The Star also received hundreds of calls and emails from readers concerned about the Prayer Palace's finances.

Dozens of callers told the Star they planned to log specific complaints with the Canada Revenue Agency, which regulates charities, in hopes the agency would launch its own probe.

Last week Marek Tufman, a lawyer for the Prayer Palace, threatened to bring an injunction against the Star unless the newspaper agreed to stop publishing stories regarding the Prayer Palace. The Star responded, saying such agreements run contrary to the paper's policy.

In response, Tufman told Star lawyers: "Your clients have been warned. We trust that they will understand the wisdom of conducting themselves properly."

  Toronto Star - Naked, bound and drunk Israeli diplomat loses job
Israel has recalled its ambassador to El Salvador after he was found naked, bound and drunk, according to Israeli media reports confirmed yesterday by a government spokesperson.

Long-time diplomat Tsuriel Raphael has been removed from his post and the foreign ministry is searching for a replacement, said ministry spokesperson Zehavit Ben-Hillel. Two weeks ago, El Salvador police found Raphael in the yard of his residence, tied up, gagged with a ball and drunk, Israeli media reported. He was wearing sex bondage equipment, media said.

  NYTimes - For U.S. Troops at War, Liquor Is Spur to Crime
Alcohol, strictly forbidden by the American military in Iraq and Afghanistan, is involved in a growing number of crimes committed by troops deployed to those countries. Alcohol- and drug-related charges were involved in more than a third of all Army criminal prosecutions of soldiers in the two war zones — 240 of the 665 cases resulting in convictions, according to records obtained by The New York Times through a Freedom of Information Act request.

A Pentagon health study released in January, for instance, found that the rate of binge drinking in the Army shot up by 30 percent from 2002 to 2005, and “may signal an increasing pattern of heavy alcohol use in the Army.”

While average rates of alcohol consumption in the Navy and Air Force have steadily declined since 1980, the year the military’s health survey began, they have significantly increased in the Army and Marine Corps and exceed civilian rates, the Pentagon study showed. For the first time since 1985, more than a quarter of all Army members surveyed said they regularly drink heavily, defined as having five or more drinks at one sitting.

The rate of illicit drug use also increased among military members in 2005, to an estimated 5 percent, nearly double the rate measured in 1998, a trend that the study called “cause for concern.”

The study also found other health problems in the military, from the growing popularity of chewing tobacco to a 20 percent increase during the past decade in service members who are considered overweight.

“I think the real story here is in the suicide and stress, and the drinking is just a symptom of it,” said Charles P. O’Brien, a psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine who served as a Navy doctor during the Vietnam War. There is a high incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder among Iraq veterans, he said, adding that “there’s been a lot of suicide in the active-duty servicemen.”

More than 90 percent of sex crimes prosecuted by the military involve alcohol abuse, defense lawyers and military doctors said. Roughly half of the marines charged with crimes in Iraq exhibit clear signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, a Marine defense lawyer said.

“They turn to alcohol and drugs for an escape,” he said.

  NYTimes - Growing Older, and Adjusting to the Dark
Another deficiency that people never mention due to aging - your night vision turns to crap.

The retina contains two kinds of photoreceptors: cones and rods. Cones enable us to see when it is light. They give us color vision and allow us to see details like the words on this page. Rods are very sensitive, especially to motion. They provide only black-and-white images and thus are critically important for night vision.

In dim light or darkness, eyes adapt by widening the pupils to let in as much light as possible. The iris (the colored part of the eye surrounding the pupil) contains tiny muscles that control the size of the pupil. As you get older, these muscles (like most in the body) weaken and do not respond as well to the need to let in more light. The result is a small pupil when you try to see in poor light. It’s as if your eyes were still young but you were wearing sunglasses at night.

There is also evidence that as we age we lose more rods than cones. In the young eye, rods outnumber cones by nine to one in the part of the retina called the macula. But an autopsy study of older adults found that while the cones remained intact, almost a third of the rods in the macula had been lost.

The less responsive muscles in the iris also affect the eye’s ability to adjust when the intensity of light changes, such as when a car with its headlights on approaches and then passes.

In older eyes, this phenomenon, called dark adaptation, takes longer, which means you see less well in the dark after being in the light, and vice versa. The diminished number of rods may be a factor, but in addition, the light-sensitive pigment in the rods regenerates more slowly in older eyes.

Another common change in older eyes is a gradual clouding of the lens — the formation of cataracts — which makes the lens less transparent and reduces the amount of light reaching the retina. Cloudy lenses also scatter light. This can cause temporarily blinding glare from, for example, the headlights of an approaching vehicle at night.

  Globe and Mail - There's a downside to obesity surgery
The possible symptoms sound like an episode of 'House'.

When people with obesity have surgery to help them lose weight, they can also lose something else — the ability to properly absorb certain nutrients, in particular vitamin B1. And that deficiency can potentially lead to permanent brain damage if left untreated, researchers say.

In a review of the medical literature, researchers at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine found 32 cases of bariatric surgery patients who developed symptoms of Wernicke encephalopathy, a condition marked by memory loss and confusion, an inability to co-ordinate movements and rapid eye movement.

Of the 32 patients — who had one of four weight-loss surgeries, including gastric bypass and gastric banding — 13 made a full recovery. Eighteen others were left with various levels of dysfunction and one patient, a 33-year-old woman, died.

Most had experienced vomiting prior to onset of the neurological symptoms, said Dr. Singh, noting that patients ranged in age from 23 to 55, and 27 of the 32 were women. (In the United States, 75 per cent of bariatric surgery patients are women, he said.)

  ABC News - Stallone Charged in Growth Hormone Case
Well, HGH might explain why Rocky looked relatively buff still. Maybe there is other stuff that Sly Stallone has been taking?
Sylvester Stallone has been charged with trying to bring vials of a muscle-building hormone into Australia, where it is restricted. Lawyers for Stallone, the 60-year-old star of the "Rocky" and "Rambo" movie franchises, represented him in a Sydney court on Tuesday where he faces a charge of importing a banned substance.

Prosecutors said Tuesday that 48 vials of human growth hormone were found with the actor. The hormone is officially considered a performance-enhancing drug in Australia and it cannot be imported without a permit from the government.

The maximum penalty for bringing it into Australia illegally is a fine of $86,000 and five years in prison. Stallone is unlikely to face the maximum penalty.

  VC Blog - Multi-processor builds in Orcas
So interns do get some interesting projects - though their work may need additional polishing before it ever ships.
Now I wonder what customer had such long build times that they needed a multi-processor compiler? I know of at least one tool which will compile a VC project on several machines to reduce overall build time. Why couldn't they use that method?

/MP works by exploiting the fact that translation units (a source file coupled with its includes) can be compiled independently of each other (up to link time where all object files need to be present). Since we can compile each translation unit independently, we can parallelize the compilation by spawning multiple processes to handle a batch of source files. This is precisely what /MP does; when you issue /MPn to the compiler, it spawns up to n processes to handle the source files passed to it. The compiler is smart enough to spawn only as many processes as necessary, so if you specify three source files on the command-line and invoke the compiler with /MP4, then the compiler only spawns 3 processes. By default, /MP takes n to be the number of effective processors on the machine.

The history of this switch is rather interesting to boot. This switch was originally an intern project way back in Everett (VS 2003) but due to technical difficulties and resourcing issues, it never saw the light of day. Some of our VC++ devs use the switch to build the compiler and see a 20-30% difference in time on a dual-proc machine. Recently, we gave the switch to a customer in order to help with their build times and they too saw a large performance increase when they used /MP coupled with our current project build parallelization technology, on the order of a 30% gain. After seeing this data and positive feedback, we decided that it would be prudent if we sat down and polished the switch now and get it out in Orcas.

You can preview /MP and the rest of VC++’s feature set in the March Visual Studio CTP, available as a Virtual PC Image or self-extracting install. We hope that you enjoy your decreased build times!

Monday, March 12, 2007
  MSDN - Security Development Lifecycle (SDL) Banned Function Calls

A list of banned APIs, mostly CRT stuff.

  Toront Star - Did mole in U.S. Navy target frigate ?
Hassan Abujihaad, 31, also known as Paul Hall, is accused of leaking the location of ships and the best ways to attack them, including data on HMCS Winnipeg, a multi-role patrol frigate.

He was charged Wednesday with supporting terrorism with the intent to kill U.S. citizens and transmitting classified information to unauthorized people.

Abujihaad allegedly gave the data to London-based terrorists.

In U.S. District Court in Phoenix, Ariz., on Wednesday, he accepted removal to Connecticut. He apparently was working as a delivery man in Phoenix.

Abujihaad is charged in the same case as Babar Ahmad, a British computer specialist arrested in 2004 and accused of running websites to raise money for terrorism.

Ahmad is fighting extradition to the United States to face trial.

  MSNBC - Cell phones safe to use in hospitals, study finds
Dr. David Hayes and colleagues said their tests suggest the ban is unmerited. They tested cell phones using two different technologies from different carriers, switching them on near 192 different medical devices.

During 300 tests run over five months, they reported no trouble with the equipment.

But not all technology mixes with medical devices.

Dr. J. Rod Gimbel of East Tennessee Heart Consultants and Dr. James Cox of the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville described two cases in which anti-theft devices apparently caused implanted heart devices to malfunction.

  Toronto Star - A Canuck classic loses its home
Today, there are more than 190 Swiss Chalet restaurants, most of them scattered across Canada but a few in the U.S., too.

But the first one, at 234 Bloor St. W. on the corner of Bedford Rd. and across the street from the Royal Conservatory of Music and the old Varsity Stadium, is going, going, gone, demolished recently to make room for – what else? – an upmarket high-rise condo development, One Bedford. There was little fanfare as the restaurant closed last September and none at all as the bulldozers moved in.

Swiss Chalet founder Maurice Mauran – a Montrealer – said his inspiration came from a Swiss recipe for cooking chicken in a rotisserie, an open-flamed oven that roasts the bird in its own juices. Most popular item was the quarter-chicken dinner with fries, still a favourite today.

By the end of the decade there were five more restaurants around the province – four of them offering home delivery – and two in Buffalo were soon to follow. By the '70s, there were 40 Swiss Chalets across Canada and a few more in the U.S. In 1977, Cara Operations took over both Swiss Chalet and Harvey's – our domestic take on the classic American burger joint.

By 1981, Swiss Chalet had gone to the east and west extremes, with restaurants in British Columbia and Newfoundland. The following year, Chatham, Ont., got the first drive-through. And chicken was no longer the sole item on the menu. The signs outside now read: "Chicken dinners; bar-b-q ribs."

  NYTimes - Facing Fraud Trial, Conrad Black Flouts the Rules
But the court made Mr. Black sign a waiver acknowledging that he understood that his lawyer, for all his renown in Canada, does not know American law.

If he loses, Mr. Black, who faces more than 90 years in jail if convicted, cannot appeal on the grounds that it was his lawyer’s fault.

“I love that I’ve been certified as stupid by the Illinois judge,” said Mr. Greenspan, who plans to frame a copy of the court document and hang it in his law office here. “So stupid,” he added, “that no matter how incompetent I might be, Conrad can’t rely on it.”

In Mr. Black’s native Canada, the media attention on the trial is nothing short of gaga. The Globe and Mail of Toronto, considered Canada’s most serious newspaper, recently ran a front-page article about eating lobster dinner with Mr. Black in a restaurant; the Canadian newsmagazine Macleans published a special edition last week devoted to the “trial of the century.”

Toronto Life, a monthly magazine in the city where Mr. Black has been holed up in his mansion since his troubles began, is preparing the Web site to follow every twist.

Mr. Greenspan’s place at the defense table is fitting for the latest chapter in Mr. Black’s odyssey. The two men attended their first year of law school together at York University here in 1965, although Mr. Black dropped out but later completed the degree in Quebec. Mr. Greenspan, who grew up in Niagara Falls, Ontario, also went to high school with Ms. Amiel.

Asked if he had tried to curb Mr. Black’s public statements, Mr. Greenspan declined to comment on the basis of client privilege. He said it had not been determined if Mr. Black would testify, but it does not require imagination to guess which way Mr. Black would go.

But one thing he said he had not done was attempt to moderate Mr. Black’s imperious, multisyllabic style. “You can’t change him,” Mr. Greenspan said. “That would be silly if I tried to turn him into Forrest Gump.”

  NYTimes - Google’s Buses Help Its Workers Beat the Rush

Another Google perk, if you live in Silicon Valley or nearby.

The company now ferries about 1,200 employees to and from Google daily — nearly one-fourth of its local work force — aboard 32 shuttle buses equipped with comfortable leather seats and wireless Internet access. Bicycles are allowed on exterior racks, and dogs on forward seats, or on their owners’ laps if the buses run full.

Riders can sign up to receive alerts on their computers and cellphones when buses run late. They also get to burnish their green credentials, not just for ditching their cars, but because all Google shuttles run on biodiesel. Oh, and the shuttles are free.

Not that small, really. The shuttles, which carry up to 37 passengers each and display no sign suggesting they carry Googlers, have become a fixture of local freeways. They run 132 trips every day to some 40 pickup and drop-off locations in more than a dozen cities, crisscrossing six counties in the San Francisco Bay Area and logging some 4,400 miles.

They pick up workers as far away as Concord, 54 miles northeast of the Googleplex, as the company’s sprawling Mountain View headquarters are known, and Santa Cruz, 38 miles to the south. The system’s routes cover in excess of 230 miles of freeways, more than twice the extent of the region’s BART commuter train system, which has 104 miles of tracks.

Morning service starts on some routes at 5:05 a.m. — sometimes carrying those Google chefs — and the last pickup is at 10:40 a.m. Evening service runs from 3:40 p.m. to 10:05 p.m. During peak times, pickups can be as frequent as every 15 minutes.

Inside, most riders appeared to abide by the shuttle’s etiquette rules. Cellphone conversations are allowed if they are work-related and sotto voce. But loud personal calls are definitely out. In fact, except for a couple snuggled together, no one sat on adjacent seats. Many took out iPods or laptops and worked, surfed the Web or watched videos.

“People tend to be quiet and respectful that this is people’s downtime,” said Diana Alberghini, a 33-year-old program manager.

Google will not discuss the cost of the program, which it operates through Bauer’s Limousine, a private transportation company in San Francisco. But the shuttles appear to be having the desired effect on recruiting. Michael Gaiman, a 23-year-old Web applications engineer who lives in San Francisco and was recently hired, said he turned down an offer from Apple before accepting the job at Google. “It definitely was a factor,” Mr. Gaiman said of the shuttle.

  Toronto Star - Experiencing Technical Difficulties
The Canada Revenue Agency says the computer glitch that shut down processing of tax returns should be fixed no later than Thursday.

In a posting on its website this afternoon, commissioner Michel Dorais announced the timeline to bring the online services back on line.

Online computer services have been down since March 6 to try to correct computer malfunctions triggered by information contained in individual returns.

The glitch that has crippled Canada Revenue Agency's online tax return service since last Monday is just the latest in a litany of technical difficulties.

There are computer systems that won't talk to each other, massive cost overruns and one system that is so complicated that public servants refuse to use it.

Among the litany of computer woes:
  • The Global Case Management System (GCMS). The multi-year program to replace systems at Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) with an integrated case management system, was supposed to cost $194 million. It is now estimated at more than $250 million.
  • A decade ago, after spending $365 million, the federal government killed one of its largest computer projects rather than throw more good money after bad. It was to have automated Canada's income security system but would have cost millions more to complete.
  • Auditor General Sheila Fraser reported in her 2005 annual report that if federal departments didn't soon start using the $600 million so-called secure channel network, a security platform for online services, it was on the way to becoming yet another expensive technology debacle.

While the federal Public Works department is responsible for procuring new computer systems, a spokesperson said it is the individual departments that are responsible for making them work.

John Williamson federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said the federal government will continue to experience one computer problem after the other because "there is no punishment for sloppy programming or poor planning the way there is in the private sector."

About 25 million Canadians file income tax returns and about half them do it electronically now, either by themselves or through a tax preparer.

  ABC News - USA DST 2007 probably doesn't save energy
Kellogg and Wolff came to their conclusion by studying Australia, where several states extended daylight-saving time (DST for short) by two months in 2000 to accommodate the Olympic Games in Sydney that year.

They compared electric demand in the state of Victoria, which extended DST, with its next-door neighbor, South Australia, which did not.

"Our results show that the extension failed to conserve electricity," they wrote.

"If it's dark enough in the morning that pretty much everyone has to turn on the lights," said co-author Kellogg, "what that means is that that increase in morning electricity consumption is going to be so big that it offsets any benefits we get from the extra light in the evening."

In the 2005 energy bill, Congress calls on the department to report whether energy consumption drops, as hoped, after the early start of DST. If not, the bill has a provision for the country to return to the old daylight savings calendar. Under the previous law, standardized in 1986, DST began on the first Sunday in April.

  Who let the air out of the stock market?
In an interview with Bloomberg, Greenspan now boldly asserts that there is a "one-third probability" of a recession within a year. It's a pretty clear pronouncement for a man who used to be called Opaque Al because of his abstract choice of words.

But the real issue is that Greenspan first dropped the "r-word" not in a public talk but in a paid speech to Hong Kong investors. And he was paid handsomely to deliver that "scoop."

As you might remember, Old Greenie has carved out a lucrative post-Fed career dispensing his economic wisdom for as much as $150,000 a pop. This time, Greenspan's listeners got their money's worth. As word of Greenspan's speech leaked out, stocks began selling off around the globe - first in China, then Europe and finally New York, where the Dow fell 416 points on Feb. 27.

Tough questions, but there's been a bull market in outrage over Greenspan's comments of late. As Gary Kaltbaum of Kaltbaum Associates put it: "Two words, Mr. Greenspan: Shut up."

Thursday, March 08, 2007
  USA and Canada 2007 DST changes for Windows

In August 2005, the US government changed the changeover date and times for Daylight Savings Time from the first Sunday in April at 02:00 and last Sunday in October at 02:00 to the second Sunday in March at 02:00 and first Sunday in November at 02:00.

For some unknown reason, Newfoundland is changing over at 01:00 instead of 02:00.

The last month before the new DST changeover, the media seems to be freaking out about the change - I guess since Anna Nicole Smith has been buried, they have nothing better to do.

Here are the changes for Windows 2000 to observe the new DST settings.

  1. Copy and paste the text in the following gray box and save in a file, 'tznew.reg'.
  2. Then execute the following command regedit tznew.reg


[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Time Zones\Alaskan Standard Time]

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Time Zones\Atlantic Standard Time]

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Time Zones\Central Standard Time]

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Time Zones\Eastern Standard Time]

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Time Zones\Mountain Standard Time]

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Time Zones\Newfoundland Standard Time]

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Time Zones\Pacific Standard Time]

To revert the changes for Windows 2000 to observe the old DST settings.

  1. Copy and paste the text in the following gray box and save in a file, 'tzold.reg'.
  2. Then execute the following command regedit tzold.reg


[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Time Zones\Alaskan Standard Time]

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Time Zones\Atlantic Standard Time]

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Time Zones\Central Standard Time]

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Time Zones\Eastern Standard Time]

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Time Zones\Mountain Standard Time]

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Time Zones\Newfoundland Standard Time]

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Time Zones\Pacific Standard Time]

Wednesday, March 07, 2007 - Apple says updated iTunes still faces Vista problems

How lame are the iTunes for Windows programmers? It's been over a month since Windows Vista was released and they still haven't come out with a complete solution???


  Toronto Star - Meat-loving calf eats Indian chickens
The family decided to stand guard at night on Monday at the cow shed, which also served as a hen coop, after 48 chickens went missing in a month.

"Instead of the dogs, we watched in horror as the calf, whom we had fondly named Lal, sneak to the coop and grab the little ones with the precision of a jungle cat," Gour Ghosh, his brother, said.

Local television pictures showed the cow grabbing and eating a chicken in seconds and a vet confirmed the case.

"We think lack of vital minerals in the body is causing this behaviour. We have taken a look and have asked doctors to look into the case immediately," Mihir Satpathy, a district veterinary officer, said by phone.

  NYTimes - Trans Fat Fight Claims Butter as a Victim
But, in a twist of science, the law and what some call trans-fat hysteria, Mr. Reich and other wholesale bakers are being forced to substitute processed fats like palm oil and margarine for good old-fashioned butter because of the small amounts of natural trans fat butter contains.

Some researchers believe that the trans fat that occurs naturally in butter, meat, milk and cheese might actually be healthy. But to satisfy companies that want to call their foods completely free of trans fats, bakers like Mr. Reich are altering serving sizes, cutting back on butter and in some cases using ingredients like trans fat-free margarine.

One bakery that tested its food for Starbucks discovered that some of its all-butter pastries had as much as 0.79 grams of trans fat per serving. (The baker asked not to be named in print for fear that Starbucks would cancel its contracts.)

“This is an important issue because anything made with animal fats will have trans fats and make it impossible to claim trans fat-free,” said Marion Nestle, nutrition professor at New York University. “Milk has trans fats, after all, and you can see what a mess this is going to cause.”

An F.D.A. rule that took effect in 2006 states that if a product has a half a gram or more of trans fat per serving, the amount has to go on the food label and the food can’t be called trans fat-free, even if butter is the only fat.

(The rule does not affect products overseen by the Agriculture Department including most meat and poultry goods.)

The Schwartz Bros. bakery has been providing Starbucks with baked goods in the Northwest since Starbucks had only 13 stores. Now, bakeries in Seattle and Portland provide the pastries to about 600 Starbucks outlets.

“We’ve gone back and replaced all of the nice, good butter with supposedly trans fat-free margarine,” said Rick Doyle, the Schwartz regional manager. “The hardest one for us was the croissant. We replaced butter with palm oil. From my perspective it’s not a croissant any more. It’s lost all its lamination and flavor.”

In the end, the F.D.A. decided not to distinguish between the two fats, and requires all trans fat amounts to be labeled if there is a half a gram or more per serving. The half-gram mark is in part because it would be impossible to rid the nation’s diet of the natural trans fat in meats and dairy products.

Monday, March 05, 2007
  Globe and Mail - High fees prompt Canadians to leave cellphones on hold

The corporate bean-counters are trying to optimize their revenue before reaching the market saturation point. And techies know, premature optimization is bad.

Twenty-four years after the federal government issued its first licences for cellphone service, only about one of every two Canadians has a device, compared with about three-quarters of the population in the United States, which began going mobile at the same time.

While Canada can boast to pioneering such technology as Research In Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry wireless device, the country's adoption rate for cellphones puts it on par with Tunisia (average per capita income of $8,600 U.S.) and slightly behind Turkey.

“Being the rump of the wireless world should not be our national dream,” said the report's co-authors, Iain Grant, based in Montreal, and Kevin Restivo, of Toronto.

The report breaks the market into three categories of users. The high-end business user, who uses 1,200 minutes of voice plus data monthly, pays 150 per cent more than a subscriber in the United States.

The average user, defined as someone using 500 minutes a month, pays a 33-per-cent premium. And the light user, someone who keeps the phone packed away most of the month and spurns add-on features such as voice mail and call display, actually comes out ahead, paying 27 per cent less.

However, Canadians pay more in all three categories when compared with Europeans, the report said.

  Toronto Star - Next generation gap

The tail end of the generation gap colliding, as people are living longer, younger and older seniors's lifestyles are colliding at retirement homes.

With Statistics Canada's reporting last week that the number of seniors has almost doubled since 1981 and will double again in the next two decades, it's a gap that's only going to grow as aging boomers move into institutions already occupied by their parents' generation who are living well into their 90s.

Asked how he communicates with the nonagenarians, Joe replies, "I shout a lot."

In the United States, where it's more common than in Canada for young retirees to opt for the residence lifestyle, a rift has opened around the country between 90-year-olds and comparatively spry 70-year-olds, reported USA Today.

In a San Francisco highrise retirement community, younger residents successfully challenged the dinner dress code calling for coats and ties for men and skirts or dresses for women, leaving older residents disgruntled. In other retirement communities, older residents object to paying higher fees to maintain fitness centres, lap pools, business centres and WiFi demanded by their juniors.

At Leisureworld long-term care residences in Toronto, computer access is important to new, younger residents, says spokesperson Christine Nuernberger. "It's a typical request. They want to be able to use chat lines. Internet cafés are becoming part of the nursing home scene."

But in at least one way, the younger generation in nursing homes may be less demanding.

They're more accepting of their situation, says Carmela Franze, director of resident and family services at Villa Leonardo Gambin in Woodbridge.

"The 90-year-olds, they expected to get old with their families," she says. "They expect their children to visit more and be more active in their care. The transition takes longer for them."

  NYTimes - Give Us This Day Our Daily Supplements

Verdict: One-a-day multi-vitamin, okay. Creatine, okay. DHEA, no proof.

  NYTimes - Ben Howland on the Verge of Being Famous
Almost 30 years later, Howland, now 49, is still wound tight. He’s an ever-revving engine of obsessive energy, a principal reason that he has emerged as one of the country’s most successful and respected basketball coaches. (He no longer throws up before games, fortunately.) Howland played professionally in Uruguay, then toiled for 12 years as an assistant coach at the University of California, Santa Barbara, before embarking on a series of impressive reclamation projects, reviving moribund programs at Northern Arizona University and the University of Pittsburgh before landing the most glamorous post in college basketball, head coach at U.C.L.A., in 2003. Howland’s turnaround skills took center stage last season, when he led an offensively limited Bruins team to the national title game against Florida and was named coach-of-the-year in the Pac-10, the third conference to give him that honor.

Howland says he spends about 15 to 20 hours a week studying video, far more than most head coaches. (To handle the avalanche of film, Howland created a team video coordinator position at U.C.L.A. Its impact? “Huuuuuge,” Howland bellows.) Before each game, someone on his staff watches every game the opponent has played that season, so there will be no surprises. After every game, Howland’s entire staff watches the contest again in his office.

Armed with this research, Howland and his staff figure out U.C.L.A.’s defensive strategy for each game. At practice, he explains each play, then walks the players through it. Next, the starters run the play and then defend against it so they understand its nuances from both sides. After that four-part process, they view each play on video, practice the plays again the next day and then walk through them yet one more time before the actual game. “It’s exactly like a class,” the point guard Darren Collison says of Howland’s preparation. “You have to pay attention and memorize.”

All of this requires an impressive infrastructure. In less than three years, U.C.L.A. has put together one of the most extensive video archives in the country, and the team’s video room offers a perfect window into Howland’s meticulous nature. Seventeen DirecTV units are hooked up to VCRs and the team records more than 1,500 games over the course of the season.

Of course, anyone can watch film. It’s Howland’s skill at processing that information, his ability to take two fleeting moments from random games months apart and make larger sense of them, that has led him and his team to the cusp of greatness. “He’s like a gifted trader on Wall Street,” says Barry Rohrssen, a former assistant of Howland’s at Pitt and now the head coach at Manhattan College. “Everyone has the same screen and information in front of them, but the upper-echelon guys see something different. That’s Ben. He sees things no one else can see.”

  NYTimes - Oil Innovations Pump New Life Into Old Wells
Within the last decade, technology advances have made it possible to unlock more oil from old fields, and, at the same time, higher oil prices have made it economical for companies to go after reserves that are harder to reach. With plenty of oil still left in familiar locations, forecasts that the world’s reserves are drying out have given way to predictions that more oil can be found than ever before.

“It’s the fifth time to my count that we’ve gone through a period when it seemed the end of oil was near and people were talking about the exhaustion of resources,” said Daniel Yergin, the chairman of Cambridge Energy and author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning history of oil, who cited similar concerns in the 1880s, after both world wars and in the 1970s. “Back then we were going to fly off the oil mountain. Instead we had a boom and oil went to $10 instead of $100.”

Many oil executives say that these so-called peak-oil theorists fail to take into account the way that sophisticated technology, combined with higher prices that make searches for new oil more affordable, are opening up opportunities to develop supplies. As the industry improves its ability to draw new life from old wells and expands its forays into ever-deeper corners of the globe, it is providing a strong rebuttal in the long-running debate over when the world might run out of oil.

Typically, oil companies can only produce one barrel for every three they find. Two usually are left behind, either because they are too hard to pump out or because it would be too expensive to do so. Going after these neglected resources, energy experts say, represents a tremendous opportunity.

“Ironically, most of the oil we will discover is from oil we’ve already found,” said Lawrence Goldstein, an energy analyst at the Energy Policy Research Foundation, an industry-funded group. “What has been missing is the technology and the threshold price that will lead to a revolution in lifting that oil.”

At the Kern River field just outside of Bakersfield, millions of gallons of steam are injected into the field to melt the oil, which has the unusually dense consistency of very thick molasses. The steamed liquid is then drained through underground reservoirs and pumped out by about 8,500 production wells scattered around the field, which covers 20 square miles.

Initially, engineers expected to recover only 10 percent of the field’s oil. Now, thanks to decades of trial and error, Chevron believes it will be able to recover up to 80 percent of the oil from the field, more than twice the industry’s average recovery rate, which is typically around 35 percent. Each well produces about 10 barrels a day at a cost of $16 each. That compares with production costs of only $1 or $2 a barrel in the Persian Gulf, home to the world’s lowest-cost producers.

Chevron hopes to use the knowledge it has obtained from this vast open-air, and underground, laboratory and apply it to similar heavy oil fields around the world. It is also planning a large pilot program to test the technology in an area between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, for example.

  NYTimes - That Which Does Not Kill Me Makes Me Stranger
Tonight, Robic’s insanity exists only in digitally recorded form, but the rest of the time it swirls moodily around him, his personal batch of ice fog. Citizens of Slovenia, a tiny, sports-happy country that was part of the former Yugoslavia until 1991, might glow with beatific pride at the success of their ski jumpers and handballers, but they tend to become a touch unsettled when discussing Robic, who for the past two years has dominated ultracycling’s hardest, longest races. They are proud of their man, certainly, and the way he can ride thousands of miles with barely a rest. But they’re also a little, well, concerned. Friends and colleagues tend to sidle together out of Robic’s earshot and whisper in urgent, hospital-corridor tones.

‘‘He pushes himself into madness,’’ says Tomaz Kovsca, a journalist for Slovene television. ‘‘He pushes too far.’’ Rajko Petek, a 35-year-old fellow soldier and friend who is on Robic’s support crew, says: ‘‘What Jure does is frightening. Sometimes during races he gets off his bike and walks toward us in the follow car, very angry.’’

The craziness is methodical, however, and Robic and his crew know its pattern by heart. Around Day 2 of a typical weeklong race, his speech goes staccato. By Day 3, he is belligerent and sometimes paranoid. His short-term memory vanishes, and he weeps uncontrollably. The last days are marked by hallucinations: bears, wolves and aliens prowl the roadside; asphalt cracks rearrange themselves into coded messages. Occasionally, Robic leaps from his bike to square off with shadowy figures that turn out to be mailboxes. In a 2004 race, he turned to see himself pursued by a howling band of black-bearded men on horseback.

‘‘Mujahedeen, shooting at me,’’ he explains. ‘‘So I ride faster.’’

His wife, a nurse, interjects: ‘‘The first time I went to a race, I was not prepared to see what happens to his mind. We nearly split up.’’

Over the past two years, Robic, who is 40 years old, has won almost every race he has entered, including the last two editions of ultracycling’s biggest event, the 3,000-mile Insight Race Across America (RAAM). In 2004, Robic set a world record in the 24-hour time trial by covering 518.7 miles. Last year, he did himself one better, following up his RAAM victory with a victory six weeks later in Le Tour Direct, a 2,500-mile race on a course contrived from classic Tour de France routes. Robic finished in 7 days and 19 hours, and climbed some 140,000 feet, the equivalent of nearly five trips up Mount Everest. ‘‘That’s just mind-boggling,’’ says Pete Penseyres, a two-time RAAM solo champion. ‘‘I can’t envision doing two big races back to back. The mental part is just too hard.’’

Hans Mauritz, the co-organizer of Le Tour Direct, says: ‘‘For me, Jure is on another planet. He can die on the bike and keep going.’’

And going. In addition to races, Robic trains 335 days each year, logging some 28,000 miles, or roughly one trip around the planet.

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