Monday, May 18, 2009

Penguins vs Hurricanes

Both teams, who will square off in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series starting Monday night (7:30 p.m. ET) at Mellon Arena, made coaching changes during the regular season that helped spark a turnaround and avoid an early summer.

By the time the Stanley Cup playoffs began, Pittsburgh and Carolina were two of the hottest clubs entering the post-season.

The parallels don't end there.

The teams split the regular-season series 2-2. While the Penguins are known as a fast-break hockey squad, the Hurricanes have been applying the same up-tempo offence through the first two rounds.

And in Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, who shares the top playoff spot with 21 points, and Hurricanes centre Eric Staal (nine goals), this series features two players who can take over a game in an instant.

"You're going to see fast hockey," said Sidney Crosby, who also leads the NHL's playoffs with 12 goals.

"Both teams really play similar styles. I've watched them play. Their D is in the play, they're quick up front, they attack [and] they don't sit back. I think that's similar to the way we like to play as well."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Next generation of search engine

Even in the face of Wolfram Alpha, no one will deny that Google is a powerful research tool for our students. However, teasing out truly useful results can be challenging at best from the millions of pages returned by the average search. In response to this, Google revealed a new feature at their Searchology summit yesterday called Google Squared. To be released (not surprisingly) via Google Labs sometime close to the launch of Wolfram Alpha, squared adds an extra layer of semantic search to your Google research efforts.

As quoted in the Register, Google VP Marisa Mayer stated that

“One of the hardest problems in computer science is data abstraction - looking at the unstructured web and abstracting values and facts and information in a meaningful way in order to present it to users, building out some of these research spreadsheets in an automated way. But that’s no longer a hypothetical.”

The San Francisco Chronicle described the feature in a bit more detail:

compiles details from several Web pages and organizes them into a table on a single page, with multiple columns like a spread sheet. A search for “small dogs,” for instance, returns a list of breeds, an accompanying image and a brief description, plus the average height and weight of each breed.

Even Google acknowledged that this was still very much a “labs” feature that was imperfect at best. However, between Wolfram Alpha, Google’s efforts in semantic search, and a host of competitors that will be popping up in this field, we may very well be on the edge of Search 3.0. This is good news for our students, teachers, and library scientists struggling to help our students get the information they want from the billions of pages of junk (and millions of pages of interest) floating around the web.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Windows 7 release this year

Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) disclosed more details on its timetable for finishing up work on the Windows 7 operating system. An official at the software maker said the company hopes to release the OS to its manufacturing division by about mid-August.

"We expect to hit RTM in about 3 months or so," said Brandon LeBlanc, Microsoft's in-house Windows blogger, in a post Monday. LeBlanc said a mid-August release to manufacturing (RTM) would be contingent on Microsoft receiving feedback from Windows 7 Release Candidate users that "meets our expectations in terms of quality."

Microsoft Windows senior VP Bill Veghte on Monday confirmed what many in the computer industry have come to suspect -- that Microsoft intends to ship a final version of Windows 7 to stores and PC makers sometime later in 2009.

"With early RC testing and extensive partner feedback we've received, Windows 7 is tracking well for holiday availability," said Veghte, in a statement. The RTM process includes disc mastering and reproduction, as well as other manufacturing tasks, and generally takes about three months.

LeBlanc, in his blog, further emphasized that Microsoft won't take shortcuts in order to get Windows 7 out the door before the calendar turns. "I want to underscore that our top priority remains QUALITY. This guidance does not alter that principle," said LeBlanc.

Microsoft has good reason to be wary of shipping Windows 7 until it's ready for prime time. Windows Vista, the company's current OS, experienced a number of setbacks almost from the moment it debuted in January 2007. Problems included incompatible applications and device drivers, and user complaints about Vista's hefty hardware requirements and intrusive security measures that sought manual approval for even the most routine tasks.

Microsoft rival Apple wasted no time in lampooning Vista's foibles through a series of commercials, featuring the cool Mac guy and nerdy PC guy, that became instant classics in the ad and tech industries. Dissatisfaction with Vista also caused most major enterprises to shun the OS and hang on to predecessor Windows XP well past its intended shelf life.

Microsoft, which saw Windows sales fall 16% in the most recent quarter, is hoping Windows 7's early favorable reviews, as well as new features such as built-in touch screen support, will help it overcome the Vista debacle.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Diet tips for lower blood pressure

Hypertension, stroke, and heart disease are common in the United States and most other Western industrialized nations. Epidemiologists attribute much of their prevalence to diet. After decades of research, scientists have concluded that the typical American diet is a recipe for hypertension and cardiovascular disease: too much salt, too much saturated fat, too many calories, and not enough fruits and vegetables. But the good news is that you can take an active role in preventing and controlling high blood pressure by watching what you eat.

Consume less salt
Doctors first noticed a link between hypertension and sodium chloride — the most common form of dietary salt — in the early 1900s, when they found restricting salt in patients with kidney failure and severe hypertension brought their blood pressures down and improved kidney function.

Federal guidelines advise people to limit sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day — about the amount in 1 teaspoon of table salt. Yet Americans typically consume 1 to 3 teaspoons, or as much as 7,200 mg a day. This fact, coupled with the high prevalence of hypertension in the United States, led researchers to assume that salt overload was the culprit.

As it turns out, this may or may not be true. Nearly 50% of people who have hypertension are salt-sensitive, meaning eating too much sodium clearly elevates their blood pressure and puts them at risk for complications. In addition, people with diabetes, the obese, and older people seem more sensitive to the effects of salt than the general population. However, the question of whether high salt consumption also puts generally healthy people at risk for hypertension is the source of considerable debate. Regardless of whether high salt intake increases blood pressure, it does interfere with the blood pressure–lowering effects of antihypertensive medications.

Keep an eye on fat
A diet low in saturated fat can reduce cholesterol levels, but its effect on blood pressure is not well established. It’s important to remember, though, that not all fats are bad. Particularly heart-healthy are omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fatty fish like mackerel and salmon, some oils such as canola oil, and some nuts and grains such as flaxseed. Large amounts of these fatty acids may help reduce high blood pressure, but their role in preventing hypertension is unclear. What is apparent is their effect on heart disease. A number of studies have linked modest levels of fish consumption with a reduced risk of heart attack and sudden death.

Boost your potassium intake
Consuming too little potassium can raise your blood pressure and your risk of stroke. Increasing dietary potassium may allow some people to reduce the dose of their blood pressure medication. In a study in Italy, 27 people with hypertension increased their potassium intake while another 27 followed their usual diets. After one year, 81% of people on the high-potassium diet were able to cut their medications by more than half, while only 29% of the people who followed their usual diets could cut back that far.

Before increasing your intake of potassium, check with your doctor. Some people — for example, those with kidney disease — may need to avoid both potassium and salt.

Get enough calcium
Some research suggests a low calcium intake may contribute to high blood pressure, but calcium’s exact role in hypertension is unknown. One theory holds that a lack of calcium in the diet predisposes your body to retain sodium, which raises blood pressure. For this reason, it may be especially important that salt-sensitive people with hypertension get enough calcium.
While there’s evidence that consuming plenty of calcium-rich foods and beverages may help prevent hypertension, efforts to control blood pressure with calcium supplements have had mixed results. At this point, experts are reluctant to recommend calcium supplements solely to lower blood pressure. But since many Americans simply don’t get enough calcium in their diets, and calcium is vital for preventing osteoporosis, few would argue against the use of supplements to boost your calcium intake.