Google exec calls for digital ‘equality’

BARCELONA, Spain, Feb. 29 (UPI) — Google’s Eric Schmidt says “worrying legislative efforts” to censor the Web concern him but said technology will ultimately prevent a “digital caste system.”

Speaking at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Schmidt said the Internet is “like water” — it will find a way to break through — but “we need to act now to avoid the rise of this new digital caste system.”

The Google executive chairman was referring to censorship efforts throughout the Middle East in the last year, from Egypt to Syria and Iran, where access to secure Web sites — including Google services — was cut off this month, PC Magazine reported Wednesday.

But technology, he said, will eventually create a “global community of equals.”

Schmidt warned against burdensome legislation in the United States.

“There’s a tendency of regulators to regulate now as opposed to what will be,” he said. “If you have to regulate, try to regulate the outcome, not the technology.

“If there’s an outcome you don’t like, don’t specify in law a specific technology because the technology moves forward.”

Bringing the Internet to underserved portions of the world was another major theme of his remarks.

“There will still be elites,” he said, but “technology is the leveler [because] everyone is blessed with creativity,” Schmidt said. “I believe this profoundly — in every person there is a company waiting to get out.”

China’s Huawei announces new cellphones

BARCELONA, Spain, Feb. 29 (UPI) — The Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei unveiled a series of smartphones at the Mobile World Congress in Spain it said would be priced competitively.

The company said it has set a target of selling 60 million smartphones in 2012, an increase of 40 million units from 2011, China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Monday.

“We want the best performance in the industry, because our brand is not that famous,” Huawei Chairman Richard Yu said in Barcelona.

Based on a projected increase in sales this year, the company said, it expects to garner between 30 percent and 40 percent of the domestic Chinese market.

In addition to the announced Ascent D line of smartphones, Huawei said, it was preparing to launch a tablet with a high-definition screen and a processor that could match those of rivals by industry giant Apple.

Huawei, with more than 110,000 employees, has its headquarters in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China.

Excavation of possible emperor’s tomb off

XI’AN, China, Feb. 29 (UPI) — A possible tomb of the last emperor of China’s Qin Dynasty won’t be excavated until studies are conducted for subsequent protection plans, authorities said.

The cultural heritage bureau of Shaanxi province had proposed to excavate the suspected resting place of Ziying, the grandson of Emperor Qinshihuang (259 BC-210 BC), the first person to unify China, but the proposal was rejected by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

The tomb, discovered in 2003, lies about 500 yards northwest of the Qinshihuang Mausoleum near the provincial capital of Xi’an — site of the famous Terra Cotta Army — and authorities said they were concerned about new excavation causing damage to the mausoleum.

In an official statement, the state administration said thorough research and evaluations should be conducted in order to develop a proper protection plan.

Historical records show the young emperor Ziying held the title for just 46 days before the empire was overthrown by rebels and he was killed.

His burial site has remained a mystery ever since.

Microsoft unveils Windows 8 in Spain

BARCELONA, Spain, Feb. 29 (UPI) — Microsoft unveiled Windows 8 for public testing Wednesday at the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona, Spain, saying it would offer “fast and fluid” computing.

Aimed at winning back some ground lost to Apple and Google in the operating systems arena, Windows 8 is designed to work on tablets as well as PCs and laptops to give users a more consistent experience when switching between devices, CNN reported.

“It’s beautiful, modern, fast and fluid — it’s a generational change in the Windows operating system,” Microsoft Windows President Steven Sinofsky said in launching the consumer preview edition.

Windows 8 seamlessly scales across devices and screen sizes, Sinofsky said.

“There’s too many hard stops between phones and tablets and desktops. We want to make things more harmonious,” he said.

To that end the new operating system uses the “Metro” style of software currently featured on Windows phones, using a tiled startup screen.

Some tech-industry analysts said Windows 8 was unlikely to do that much for Microsoft’s market profile, but moving into the tablet arena was crucial for sustained relevance.

“Microsoft needs to be in the tablet game,” London-based analyst James Governor said. “It couldn’t sit out two or three rounds of tablets without trying to have a more effective play and clearly Windows 8 is a big part of that.”

However, he said, the popularity of Windows 7 suggests there won’t be a huge surge of people wanting the update for desktop and laptop computing.

“I don’t think it’s an explosive ‘Christ, we’ve got to have this new release,'” he said. “There isn’t necessarily a pent-up demand for what Windows 8 represents.”

Fossils of giant 1-inch fleas unearthed

PARIS, Feb. 29 (UPI) — Fossils discovered in China suggest prehistoric fleas up to an inch long may have fed on feathered dinosaurs, an international team of researchers says.

Fossils of several of the blood-sucking insects were unearthed at two sites in China, with females almost an inch long and males about half that size, Britain’s The Independent reported Wednesday.

Although much larger than modern fleas, they lacked the characteristic jumping hind legs, researchers said.

The blood-sucking “siphonate” mouth parts were unusually long and sturdy and would have been used to pierce the hides of their hosts, scientists wrote in the journal Nature.

Modern fleas feed exclusively on animals with fur and feathers, suggesting the prehistoric fleas may have been feeding on feathered dinosaurs rather than mammals, they said.

“The early mammals were small animals, making the large size of these Mesozoic [flea] species and the robustness of their mouth parts seem mismatched,” Andre Nel of the Museum of Natural History in Paris wrote.

“It is … possible that the hosts of these early fleas were among the feathered dinosaurs of the period that became well known from the same [fossil] deposits.”

Greek helmet discovered in Israeli harbor

HAIFA, Israel, Feb. 29 (UPI) — A Greek bronze helmet covered with gold leaf and decorations discovered in the waters of Haifa Bay in Israel has been dated to 2,600 years ago, researchers say.

Archaeologists said the helmet may have belonged to a wealthy Greek mercenary fighting in a series of wars mentioned in the Bible that plagued the region at that time.

The Greek mercenary likely fought for an Egyptian pharaoh named Necho II, they said.

The helmet, discovered accidentally in 2007 during commercial dredging operations in the harbor, has been cleaned and analyzed by researchers with the Israel Antiquities Authority, LiveScience.com reported Wednesday.

The helmet is very similar to one found near the Italian island of Giglio, about 1,500 miles away, in the 1950s and dated to 2,600 years ago, which helped the researchers arrive at a date for the Haifa Bay helmet.

The owner of the Haifa helmet would have been a very wealthy individual as few soldiers could afford such an ornate helmet, the researchers said.

“The gilding and figural ornaments make this one of the most ornate pieces of early Greek armor discovered,” Jacob Sharvit, director of the Marine Archaeology Unit with the Israel Antiquities Authority, wrote in a research summary.

Wolf tracked through Calif. wilderness

SACRAMENTO, Feb. 29 (UPI) — A wolf being tracked in California has traveled more than 1,000 miles in the state’s wilderness areas in search of a mate and a new home, officials say.

The wolf dubbed Journey, tracked by a radio collar since he wandered south from his original home in northeastern Oregon, is demonstrating the importance of wilderness areas that serve as safe corridors for migrating wildlife, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

Scientists have long considered wilderness as worth preserving to create parks and so-called “green corridors” for wildlife, and Journey is proving the corridors actually work, conservation experts said.

“If you look at the map of where Journey has gone, he’s really hit some of the best wild places,” Laurel Williams of the California Wilderness Coalition said.

“And many of them are not yet protected, formally, as wilderness. It just really speaks to how important these places are for such an amazing creature and that we should be working to protect them.

“We haven’t had wolves in California for such a long time. This is a unique opportunity to see on the ground what’s important. We don’t have active legislation for these places right now.

“We’re just hoping someone will step up and bring these places into protection.”

Private rocket assembled for space launch

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Feb. 29 (UPI) — A private spaceship is close to heading to the International Space Station as SpaceX’s Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket have been joined, the company says.

The cargo capsule and the launch vehicle have been assembled at Cape Canaveral in Florida, SpaceX Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk reported in a tweet.

The launch, probably in late April, will be an unmanned mission to test the Dragon capsule’s ability to rendezvous and dock with the space station, Newscientist.com reported Tuesday.

The space drone is expected to carry some nonessential “demonstration cargo” that will be transferred to the space station and will be loaded with station cargo for return to Earth.

Following last year’s retirement of NASA’s space shuttles, the main means of ferrying supplies to the orbital outpost has been Russian Progress cargo ships.

If the upcoming SpaceX launch is successful, Dragon would be the first commercial craft to attempt to visit the International Space Station.

Desert greenhouse will mimic nature

DOHA, Qatar, Feb. 29 (UPI) — A $5.3 million desert greenhouse in Qatar will imitate nature to extract salt from seawater and create conditions ripe for plant growth, project planners say.

The Sahara Forest Project, to be built just outside Doha, will work by exploiting the difference in temperature between surface seawater and water taken from hundreds of yards below the sea’s surface.

Both will be pumped to the site using solar power through separate pipes.

The hot desert air will evaporate the surface sea water and the moist air will pass over the plants, creating a comfortable temperature around them. The moisture will condense as it passes pipes through which the cold deep seawater is pumped, creating fresh water, NewScientist.com reported Wednesday.

The design is inspired by the way a camel’s nostrils evaporate and condense moisture to keep it cool, and by the way fog-basking beetles can capture water from warm night air in the desert, Sahara Forest Project’s Michael Pawlyn, a biomimicry architect, said.

The saltwater will also be used to grow algae, which will be used in biomass production at the facility set to be built by the end of this year.

Google Privacy Policy Worries EU Officials

BRUSSELS (UPI) — Google’s new privacy policy may violate the European Union’s data protection laws, France’s data regulation body says.

The French regulator, Commission Nationale de L’informatique et Des Libertes, said the policy set to go into effect March 1 as Google unifies 60 different privacy policies across its products fails to meet the needs of the European Data Protection Directive.

EU regulators have been urging a “pause” in the policy’s implementation so they could analyze the changes.

“The CNIL and the EU data protection authorities regret that Google did not accept to delay the application of this new policy which raises legitimate concerns about the protection of the personal data of European citizens,” The Article 29 Working Party — an advisory body that includes representatives from all EU data protection authorities — said in a statement.

The French regulator said it was “deeply concerned about the combination of data across services and will continue their investigations with Google’s representatives,” the BBC reported Tuesday.