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Sunburn Alert: UVB Does More Damage To DNA Than UVA

As bombs burst in air this July 4, chances are that sunburn will be the red glare that most folks see — and feel. But unfortunately, even when there is no burn, the effects of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can have deadly consequences. Thanks to a new research study published in the July 2008 issue of The FASEB Journal, scientists now know why one type of UV light (UVB) is more likely to cause skin cancer than the other (UVA). This information should be useful to public health officials and government regulatory agencies in identifying specific criteria for exactly how effective consumer products, like sunscreen, are in preventing skin damage leading to skin cancer. It should also allow scientists to pursue new lines of research and treatment into repairing the damage caused by the sun’s rays.

"Our study is novel in that it fills the gaps in knowledge of mechanisms involved in sunlight-associated skin cancers, which cover various aspects of DNA damage and repair and genetic alterations," said Ahmad Besaratinia, PhD, Assistant Research Scientist at City of Hope National Medical Center and first author on the report.

According to researchers from City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California, UVB light is more harmful to our skin because our bodies are less able to repair the DNA damage it causes than the damage caused by UVA light. To reach their conclusions, scientists exposed three sets of cells to UVA light, UVB light and simulated sunlight. Then they compared these cells to an unexposed control group to analyze how well these cells were able to repair the damage. In addition, they analyzed published data on the genetics involved in human skin cancers. The researchers found that cells were more easily able to repair the damage caused by the UVA light, which explains why UVA light has been perceived as "safer" than UVB light. Despite this perception, scientists and public health experts caution that UVA light can and does cause serious damage that can and does lead to skin cancer.

"We know that sunlight causes skin cancer and that breakdown of the ozone layer exposes us to ever more ultraviolet radiation. This work tells us that both forms of UVA and UVB in sunlight cause damage to DNA. It forms a missing link in the chain of events from sun exposure to tumor formation," said Gerald Weissmann, MD, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "This research article gives us information that could lead to better sunscreens or effective ‘after sun’ products. It promises new ways to prevent — and perhaps to treat — the epidemic of skin cancer brought on by modern life."

[Cody Mooneyhan @ Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology]


Mobile Users Make Same Mistakes As Disabled PC Users

Mobile phone owners make similar mistakes to physically impaired computer users when using the technology, according to new research from The University of Manchester.

The first set of results from research funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) indicates that many able-bodied people make the same errors — and with similar frequencies — when typing and ‘mousing’ on mobile phones, as physically impaired users of desktop computers.

According to researchers in the School of Computer Science working on the RIAM (Reciprocal Interoperability between Accessible and Mobile Webs) project, mobile owners press the wrong key and press the same key repeatedly by mistake.

They also found mobile users tend to click the wrong area of the screen, click the screen multiple times in error, and make mistakes when trying to drag and drop information.

"These types of errors have been a big problem for physically impaired users for a long time," said Dr Yeliz Yesilada, a senior researcher on the project. "But solutions have been developed for all of these problems in the form of small assistive computer programmes, which supplement Windows and Mac operating systems."

For the study, researchers at Manchester re-analysed earlier work by scientists at the University of Edinburgh who had looked into the problems of physically disabled users. They then re-ran the experiments with mobile users and found that a significant correlation existed between the two user groups.

"In recent years solutions have been built to help disabled users and it is hoped these solutions which can now be applied for the benefit of mobile phone users," said fellow researcher Tianyi Chen.

"By using solutions developed for disabled users we can help handset manufacturers, such as Nokia and Sony, to reduce the time we all spend correcting errors on our mobiles.

"Software already developed for PC users with disabilities could automatically correct erroneous commands and help reduce those annoying times when you accidentally cancel a text message or call someone by sitting on your phone."

[Alex Waddington @ University of Manchester]


Personal Information In E-Mail Marketing Can Backfire

Businesses risk chasing away prospective customers when they send chummy e-mails that bandy around people’s names, hobbies and other personal information to pitch sales, according to a new study of the popular marketing tool.

"People bristle at personalization just for the sake of personalization," said Tiffany Barnett White, a University of Illinois marketing professor who headed the research. "It comes across as too pushy. They want personalization that is relevant to them."

To click, personalized e-mails need to offer value and also quickly explain how personal information such as buying tastes and leisure interests relates to the sales pitch, according to the study, which appears in Marketing Letters, a peer-reviewed journal.

"When messages are highly personalized, but lack value and justification, they have unintended effects," White said. "They can actually have a boomerang effect and cast the firm in a negative light, sending customers running to the competition."

The study surveyed undergraduate students to gauge response to marketing e-mails with varying amounts of personal data, ranging from just names and hometowns to more detailed information such as reading or cooking preferences.

In the end, the degree of personalization was less important than whether the pitch had value, and whether it told customers how the deal and their personal information intertwined, according to the study, co-written by marketing professors Sharon Shavitt of the U. of I., Helge Thorbjorsen of the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration and Debra Zahay of Northern Illinois University.

"If the offer was valuable and justified, the level of personal information didn’t matter," White said. "Firms were no better off for throwing all of your personal information at you."

She says the findings are surprising because the research is based on personal data provided voluntarily, rather than from credit-card companies and other third-party sources.

"Even when someone has volunteered their personal information, they still have preferences about how firms use it. They don’t want to be bombarded with a mountain of facts about themselves unless they perceive a very good benefit," White said.

The study only looked at responses to messages with varying degrees of personalization, and White says more research is needed to gauge whether marketers should consider abandoning personalization completely and just focus on offering value.

"I can’t make any statements now about whether firms should just not spend money on personalization. But I think the big takeaway from this research is that personalization might not matter and it may actually hurt," White said.

In the meantime, she says marketing firms should use personalized e-mails to convey value, rather than just trying to "wow" prospective buyers with detail about them.

"Don’t just use a tool because you have it," White said. "Use it with the consumer’s perspective in mind. Think about the psychology, not just the technology. There needs to be a perceived value to personalized messages."

Without value, personalized e-mails can backfire, making consumers feel threatened by sales pitches they consider over the top, she said.

"That can really give smaller businesses an advantage," White said. "At the extreme, it could make consumers go searching for competitors that they might not otherwise have gone searching for. Those smaller firms probably don’t even have the technology to do that, and consumers find that somehow refreshing."

"Nowadays, consumers are so much more savvy," she said. "They’re so bombarded with tricks of this nature that they start to seem like tricks. So the onus in on marketers to convince consumers that this isn’t a trick, that it has some value."

[Jan Dennis @ University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign]


American Ingenuity

With all the hubbub about the restriction of access to Usenet it is wonderful to see that some people are putting thought into this, and realizing that the political adventures in stupidity, by the attorneys general; of New York and California, and the governor of California, are just temporary roadblocks, put there as a sham. These things are merely an inconvenience and quite literally have no hope of accomplishing their stated purpose.

What dullards we have running things! (time for a change…)

To its credit, Wired magazine has put up a wiki to show the average netizen how to get around this (hopefully, temporary) stupidity.

On another front, there is much talk about those affected by the Verizon removal of the many parts of Usenet, save for the Big Waste (oops, that’s Big 8), being able to use this to get out of any contractual obligations. It would make sense for anyone who is under a contract that provided news server access, and has it abridged or withdrawn entirely. Verizon wants its stance, that of not removing access entirely, to bolster its good-guy image, but it just isn’t so – for all the posturing, they caved in to a little tyrant (Andrew Cuomo) who also happens to be an idiot (the term is justified here, as we should have people in power who know how to do their jobs, and not simply put up a sham effort, that inconveniences most, and does little to combat stated problems).

On the downside, it was announced that Qwest will be capitulating to this absurd attempt at law enforcement – one opinion was that the methodology was similar to use of  a tactical nuke to kill a cockroach (very appropriate, because cockroaches are said to be one of those species that could survive a nuclear winter).

This small movement seems to be picking up steam, and perhaps the winners will be all who rebel against this tyranny

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Anti-Troop or Anti-War

I was doing some blog surfing today, and found a blog post that was talking about how anti-war citizens are starting to turn their attention to our troops:

Would You Like to Know More?

Linspire – It’s Been Fun Over The Years

Today I received news from a media contact of mine that Linspire has been purchased by Xandros, the company best known for Linux on the ASUS Eee. While this may be sad news for some, I do not think the ripples are going to be felt by anyone in the Linux community for a variety of reasons I am not going to get into.

A blast from Pirillo’s past.

Lockergnome's own founder is seen in the video above talking about the Linspire (then Lindows) notebook that was really gaining a lot of press at the time. Back in those days, the Linux landscape was so very different and there was no question that Linspire was a serious player.

Linspire the way they were.

For me, my first experience with Linspire comes from their release of version 4.5, best highlighted in this Flash video. Yes, seriously doubt Linspire is even aware this video still exists on their servers - good thing my bookmarks are quite old as is my memory of their product.

While the video was fun and did express what Linspire was providing at the time, it was not perhaps as "professional" as some users might have liked. Speaking for myself, I was always fond of it because it was just so off-the-wall.

Linspire 5.0 - so very close at the time of release.

As you can see from this Flash video, the approach taken by Linspire was a bit more feature oriented and less about the silliness of videos past. Featuring really great items such as an anti-virus for Windows partitions and SurfSafe content filtering for the kids, this was by far their best release to date.

Here is where things get sticky. With the exception of issues with the JACK sound server, this was and in my opinion, still is the best release to date. Other issues I struggled with at the time included a lack of Bluetooth support and an up to date hardware compatibility list.

Now these days I realize how silly this must seem. Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS among others have made much of this stuff a thing of the past. But at this time, the options for newbies were generally Xandros, Linspire and Simply Mepis. They key again at this time was a Debian Linux base. This changed for two of these three companies when they opted to go with Ubuntu.

Linspire 6.0

Simply Mepis took a quick dip into the Ubuntu waters and soon went back to the Debian pool due to the ongoing issues with stability. Linspire on the other hand, opted to make Ubuntu the base of their Freespire/Linspire releases. This could certainly be fine by itself with the exception of one very real issue. I honestly never really got the benefit of the new release over the older one? Again, I am going to tread lightly here as not to offend anyone, but Linspire 6 was really not giving the user anything that they did not already have from the end user's perspective.

And today, Linspire is no longer a stand alone company. If this works out for Linspire, then I am thrilled for them. But I am always reluctant to accept change in the constants in my life. And I will be honest, Linspire is something I have been watching and participating with since the beginning. So this is going to be really weird for me.

My past suggestion to Linspire was to make support services available to existing distros. Perhaps this is what is going to end up happening after all. It should be interesting if nothing else.

Linux Mint Logistics

Today Wayne asks:

I have been using mint 5 and really impressed with it. there is one drawback to it some sites require Adobe Flash Player and there is none available for mint 5. The KDE version works fine but i would like to stick with gnome any work around?

Well there are a number of things that come to mind. First, there is no KDE version of Linux Mint 5…yet. Mint 4, sure, but not 5 as of this writing. So what should you do? Make sure you are using the main edition – I suspect you are running with the “lite” edition instead, which is easy to do when downloading off of some random FTP server – it happens to the best of us.

Do you have an IT-related question? Perhaps you are just burnt out on writing on the walls with crayons? Whatever the comments may be, drop me a line, and you too can “Just Ask Matt!” Please address comments to the comments section above, my email address is for column questions only – thanks!

PlayStation Ideas

I have once again thought up some ideas for the Sony PlayStation. So here they are.

They need to make the PSP and the PS4 compatible. You might ask well how can they do this. First off make the two devices work off of the same Game CD. Next since the PSP already saves data to a removable media stick then make the PS4 read this media. This would then mean the same game that you could play on the PSP you could play on the PS4. Also the saved data would also be moved over.

I thought I would through this out to the web, since after all why should good ideas be kept away. I think this would be a great addition to the PlayStation line and one more way to make it unique. please leave comments and even give some ideas of your own.

Microsoft Determines the Marketplace

The old adage used to be that “the customer is always right”. Microsoft seems to have modified that into “we will tell the customer what is right”. In a supply and demand marketplace, Microsoft is ignoring the demand and controlling the supply. In fact, in the case of Windows XP, there will not be a further supply:

“Microsoft Corp. is scheduled to stop selling its Windows XP operating system to retailers and major computer makers today, despite protests from a slice of PC users who don’t want to be forced into using XP’s successor, Vista.”

link: Microsoft to stop selling Windows XP

With the inventory of Windows XP being throttled, Microsoft gives its customers two choices. It is either to switch to Vista or consider a non Microsoft product. As a switch away from Microsoft is not always possible, the choice for the consumer is limited.

This is reminiscent of voting in third world countries. The elections are free and unfettered. The problem is that there is only one candidate on the ballot.

Catherine Forsythe

Starbucks Gets A Bitter Taste of Defeat

In a reversal of its ‘One on every corner, two in the middle of the block’ policy, coffee giant Starbucks is finding out that George Bush’s stimulus package didn’t stimulate enough taste buds to continue buying overpriced coffee beverages.

The company announced it will be closing over 600 stores this year, to which I can only say, ‘Hooray! It’s about time someone woke up and smelled their coffee!’ Not that it is bad coffee – but seriously, you can’t fool all of the people all the time.

Starbucks Corp. (SBUX) said it will close 600 underperforming company-owned stores and further cut its U.S. expansion plans for the fiscal year starting this autumn amid growing economic uncertainty heading into the summer.

The move cuts even deeper into already reined-in expansion plans at the struggling coffee giant, which is in the midst of a sweeping restructuring. Tuesday’s announcement compares with its April expectation of a net “less-than” 400 new U.S. stores each year from fiscal 2009 to 2011.

Shares were recently up 2.4% at $16.

The company said the closures, which are scheduled to take place over the remainder of fiscal 2008 and the first half of fiscal 2009, are part of the strategy shift it began in January.

Starbucks said the stores are located in all major U.S. markets and that 70% of them opened in the past 2 1/2 years. The company said that, while jobs will be eliminated, it expects to move some employees to existing Starbucks locations. It expects $8 million in severance costs. The company said the 600 stores include 100 stores already slated for closure.

Starbucks expects to record some $200 million in write-downs this quarter as well as $120 million to $140 million in lease-termination costs in the fiscal fourth quarter and first half of fiscal 2009.

Chief Executive Howard Schultz returned to the CEO post in January to get the company back on track, and immediately announced 100 store closings and a slowed pace of expansion.

Several years of rapid expansion caught up with Starbucks last year as U.S. store traffic slowed, shelves inside stores became cluttered and two price increases drove away some customers. Starbucks launched its first national television advertising campaign during the year-end holiday season, but that wasn’t enough to help the Seattle chain lure more customers into the stores.

First it was Juan Valdez needing more money, now Starbucks has forced up the price that people are willing to pay for coffee. Well, there is a backlash starting, and it will continue until some reason comes to pricing of many things.

So many people refuse to see that, in a bad economic situation, frills with fancy names are the first things to go. (besides I’ve been there enough times with friends to see that their music selection sucks too – so that’s another reason to never darken the doorway) Does anyone publish figures on the skyrocketing popularity of the coffee at AM-PM?

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