U.S. Tech industry lobbyists think so, and they’re pushing their proposition hard to U.S. President-Elect Barach Obama.

The Information Technology and Innovation Association (ITIA), a major U.S. tech lobbying organization, this week released a report predicting that a (US)$30 billion infusion of tax dollars into broadband infrastructure, health IT and electric power grid sectors could result in the creation of 949,000 new jobs in the next 12 months, more than half of them in what the U.S. government categorizes as ‘small businesses’, in this case, regional service providers, contractors and companies that supply the industries named.

The report argues that spending stimulus money in the IT sector would have a stronger impact on jobs and productivity than investments in more-traditional areas because the IT sector can respond quickly creating new services and applications which depend on broadband and power availability.

The ITIA doesn’t suggest where the (US)$30 billion should come from but observers assume the the plan would simply add to the (US)$1.2 trillion deficit that President-Elect Obama told reporters earlier this week he expects to inherit from the outgoing Bush administration.

And it’s instructive to put the ITIA plan into perspective vis à vis the big economic recovery picture: To date, motorhome builders, car makers, some major cities, the American Corm Growers Association (on behalf of struggling ethanol refiners) and a variety of others have warned that their industries will collapse if the government doesn’t give them billions, too. Even Larry Flint’s Hustler magazine has gotten into the act, proposing a bailout for the porn publishing industry.

This one’s far from over…

In our never-ending quest to provide engrossing, in-depth weekend reading for our faithful readers, we offer something new for TLP: A heaping helping of tech humour!

Denny Davis provides a feast of geek fun at his Computer Poems page.

Meditate on carefully-crafted Haiku error messages…

Windows XP crashed.
I am The Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.

Or imagine if the Beatles had been secret geeks…

Yesterday,
All those backups seemed a waste of pay.
Now my database has gone away.
Oh, I believe in yesterday.

Savour the offerings at this fun site. Consuming all these smile-hatching goodies at one sitting might cause a buffer overflow in your brain!

Apple CEO Steve Ballmer delivered the Microsoft (MS) keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2009) in Las Vegas Yesterday, confirming observers’ speculation that he’s something of a showman — but no Bill Gates.

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Ballmer takes the stage: He’s adopted the ‘blue sweater’ uniform
but does he have the charisma to follow Gates’ act?

Well, it is his first time and he appears to have potential. You can view the entire keynote here and make up your own mind.

Nevertheless…

The main event at CES was the official unveiling of the first beta version of Windows 7, successor to thhe the dynasty that has disappointed many users for several generations, or at least since Windows XP was rendered more or less stable after a long history of updates.

ZDNet’s Ed Bott, who’s at CES, sees, “plenty of small but significant improvements in Windows 7.”

Among them, one-click access to the Preview pane, a simplified shut-down menu, simplified user account controls and an enhanced back-up system.

Although Windows 7 is based on the same code structure as Windows Vista, those who have had the chance to try it say it is faster than Vista and ofers other user-experience enhancements. At trhis stage, the feature set for Windoes should be more or less complete but things can still change between now and the Q4 2009 official release target date that MS is still sticking to. On the other hand, we all recall the multiple release delays for Vista, so nobody in the industry is really counting on getting Windows 7 for Christmas this year.

Stop the presses!

Top MS exec Bill Veghte told CNet.com yesterday that Windows 7 is ‘no certainty’ for Q4 2009.

Here we go, again…

While much media attention this week has been focused on Macworld Expo in San Francisco — perhaps because of the controversy over Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ health — the rest of the gadget world has been focused on Las Vegas, where the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2009) has been in full swing.

Among the highlights of the show, a new touch screen Walkman from portable media player pioneer, Sony Corp.

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Sony’s X-Series Walkman features a large 3 in. touch screen as well as physical keys control volume and provide a quick jump to the device’s Home screen. It’s WiFi-ready for streaming content (a feature not yet available on the iconic iPod Touch) and includes a built-in FM tuner.

The X-Series Walkman handles a wide array of media formats including MP3, WMA, AAC and L-PCM (WAV) for audio plus AVC, MPEG-4 and WMV for video.

It’s not yet available in North America, but will come in 16 GB and 32 GB models. Sony has not committed to a North American retail price, yet, wary of possible drastic fluctuations in exchange rates during the current period of economic uncertainty. We also suspect they want to wait until after January 20, 2009, and see what the effect of the economic elements of U.S. President-Elect Barach Obama’s inauguration speech will have on world markets and currencies.

Sony has been notably absent from the media player marketplace since Apple created the initial hurricane of hype surrounding its original iPod several years ago. But industry observers seem to agree that Sony’s new X-Series Walkman was worth waiting for.

This intriguing concept gives a whole new spin to the old admonition: You made your bed — Now, you have to lie in it!

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In this case, London (UK)-based industrtial designer Tom Ballhatchet has literally made that possible — for his hamster. Ballhatchet’s prototype hamster-powered paper shreadder mounts a shreading mill on top of a more or less standard hamster cage. The hamster runs enthusiastically on her exercise wheel — as hamsters usually do — which turns the shreading engine, producing fresh bedding that drops right onto the floor of the hamster cage!

When the floor gets … dirty … just remove the soiled bedding and dig it into your back garden for compost.

There are some challenges to commercializing the concept, however. The prototype shown above will only shread one piece of paper at a time and Ballhatchet admits it takes his hamster 45 minutes of wheel-time to shread one standard piece of office paper.

Nevertheless, the intrepid inventor says he’s has expressions of interest from several commercial concerns to turn the idea into a mass-market product.

Next to nuclear bombs or other “weapons of mass destruction”, the global threat that concerns U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) most is cyber terrorism.

At a homeland security conference in New York City yesterday, FBI Cyber Division Assistant Director Shawn Henry told delegates, “Other than a nuclear device or some other type of destructive weapon, the threat to our infrastructure, the threat to our intelligence, the threat to our computer network is the most critical threat we face.”

Michael Balboni, NY state Deputy Secretary of Public Security, described cyber terrorism as “a huge threat” which could compromise many critical infrastructure systems, such as power distribution and municipal water supply as well as communications, banking and business systems.

Speakers at the New York conference agreed that the U.S. has not yet been targeted for the kind of serious attacks they fear, but there’s proof that what used to be called “hacking” and was performed by individual notoriety seekers has now been embraced by foreign governments with the intent to spy on their untrusted neighbours and, in some cases, to attack their digital infrastructures.

Russia, China and various terrorist groups were spotlighted as being among the leaders in developing “cyber weapons”. Conference delegates urged U.S. authorities to catch up in developing the means to defend the country against such potentially crippling attacks.

And that’s all aside from the cyber crime epidemic which is expected to cost the world’s economy at least as much as the current economic crisis and continues to grow.

Yanko Design offers what looks like a win-win-win situation: Good for your eyes, good for your portable devices and good for the environment. The only problem is, you can’t really use it at night.

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Yanko’s Solar Powered Solar Panel Sun Glasses not only protect your eyes but convert the sunlight they filter into electricity, which powers the glasses themselves and any compatible portable digital device you care to plug into them.

The bottom line for the environment: No batteries at all to eventually replace or dispose of. Unless, of course, you use the glasses to charge the batteries in your portable devices so you can continue to use them after dark or indoors.

The Solar Panel Sunglasses are not yet in production but Yanbko is looking for a technology company to develop and produce a mass-marketable version.

Apple yesterday announced that it will cut prices at its iTunes music store, offering selected tunes as low as (US)$0.69, others at the former flat rate of (US)$0.99 and still others (new releases?) at a premium rate of (US)$1.29.

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But the big news may be that Apple is also removing its controversial digital rights management (DRM) technology from all tunes, which will allow buyers to freely transfer their tunes from one device to another — something iTunes fans have been clamouring for for ages.

The multi-tier price structure was a concession that Apple made to record labels in return for their permission to remove DRM from their products. The price changes will come in over the next few weeks and DRM should be gone from all 10+ million tracks in the iTunes library by the end of March.

Eye-Fi announced today that it has developed a way for users to wirelessly upload videos from their digital camera to YouTube and their home computer. Eye-Fi’s current product (review) automatically uploads digital photos to the user’s computer or compatible photo sharing sites.  According to the company, the point-and-shoot camera is now the most commonly used device for capturing memories on video.

“Some of the most popular clips on YouTube are shot on digital cameras, rather than video camcorders,” said Ziv Gillat, vice president of business development for Eye-Fi. “Eye-Fi will give people the power to upload videos automatically, making it even easier for the YouTube community to post their life events, home videos and breaking news – virtually as they happen.”

Eye-Fi is designing for HD to support new cameras like the Nikon D90 and YouTube’s HD capability.  They will demo the product at CES this Saturday in Las Vegas.

Apple is celebrating Macworld week with the launch of iLife 09, the latest version of its Mac OS X geared suite of home and recreation applications and a new 17 in. Macbook built on the same unibody frame technology introduced last fall in the smaller Macbooks.

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The new Macbook Pro features a built-in batter that Apple calls revolutionary. And it may well be. The company claims the new battery will provide up to eight hours of operation per charge and can be recharged at least a thousand times.

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iLife 09 includes the three usual headliners: iPhoto, iMovie and the GarageBand music recording app. There’s also iWeb, for creating simple Web sites and iDVD to satisfy all your ‘burning’ desires.

“iLife continues to be one of the biggest reasons our customers choose to get a Mac,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs, in a statement from his sick bed. “With iLife ’09, we’ve made working with photos, making movies and learning to play music a lot more fun, and iMovie users are especially going to love the advanced but easy-to-use new features.”

Jobs is currently recovering from what he described in a letter to Apple employees earlier this week as a diet-related hormonal imbalance. In the letter, he also confirmed that his illness was the main reason he would not attend Macworld this year, much less give his customary Keynote address.

Among the new features and enhancements in iLife 09:

iPhoto adds search by ‘place’ (importing location info from any GPS-enabled iPhone or digital camera) and ‘face’ (via new face-recognition software) to help you find your pics faster. You can also post photos instantly to Facebook or Flickr.

iMovie streamlines the video-making process even more letting you work quick and simple of slower in more detail. The new Precision Editor lets you tweak your movies to your heart’s content. iMovie 09 even finds and reduced camera shake for you.

GarageBand 09 adds basic video-based lessons for the most popular instruments, along with special ‘artist lessons’ by well-known performers.

The iLife ’09 suite is included with every new Mac and is available as a (C)$99 upgrade for existing users.

Apple also débuted iWork 09 at the Macworld Keynote address yesterday.

Nevertheless, some media types pronounced the event a disappointment. Yahoo! Tech headlined its Keynote report: ‘Macworld disappoints: No Jobs, [no] big news at Macworld’.

It’s currently just a cool concept but — if the marketing record of designer Art. Lebedev Studio is any indication — the fully programmable Optimus Tactus touch keyboard will soon be coming to a Web store near you!

The Tactus employs next-stage technology featuring a large, rectangular touch-sensitive surface which can be programmed to display any keyboard or work tablet layout you might want. According to the design spec, it will also be able to display images and video.

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Standard keyboard mode.

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Video display mode.

Art. Lebedev Studio is a consortium of Russian, Latvian and Ukranian technicians, programmers and industrial designers who have already brouight to market some other cool gadgets — both high tech and low — from a cursor-shaped wireless optical mouse to a seven-piece ‘Tetris’ fridge-magnet set.

The next version of the popular Universal Serial Bus (USB) data connection standard, USB 3.0, was officialy launched late last year. Industry oibservers say we can expect to see support for USB 3.0 in new products hitting the shelves within the first half of this year.

USB 3.0 is just as simple to use as its predecessors, but much faster. The example comparison offered by everythingusb.com indicates that a 25 GB movie or data archive that would take 9.3 hours to transfer via USB 1.0 and 13.9 minutes by USB 2.0 will take only 70 seconds to transfer via USB 3.0.

That’s great news for video fans and those who regularly deal in big image or audio files.

The USB 3.0 cable will look a lot like its predecessors and is backwards compatible with them but it has twice as many wires inside, making it about the same thickness as a standard Ethernet networking cable.

The effort to develop and nail down the USB 3.0 standard has taken three years and has been frought with delays. So frustrated were hardware makers that some, including graphics leader nVidia and microprocessor giant Advanced Micros Devices (AMD), threatened last year to come up with their own version of USB 3.0 and make the defacto standard. But the official standard arrived in time to head off that eventuality.

Alas, Windows 7, the next full version of Microsoft’s (MS) flagship operating system, won’t ship with USB 3.0 support, according to MS engineers who spoke at a recent Windows Hardware Engineering Conference. Unless, of course, Windows 7 — due for release later this year, runs into delays. And, if the developoment history of previous versions of Windows is any guide, there’s a good chance it will.

Stay tuned!