The technology with impact 2007

The last 12 months have seen plenty of talking points around technology - from the iPhone, to Facebook, the launch of Vista and the XO laptop - but what were the developments, stories or gadgets which had the biggest impact?
The BBC News technology team members pick out their favourite technology of 2007.
1. Jane Wakefield
3. Rory Cellan-Jones
5. Mark Ward 2. Jonathan Fildes
4. Darren Waters
My technology of the year is, somewhat predictably, Facebook.

I know it isn't the most original of picks and ever since logging on back in the summer, I have had a nagging suspicion that it is little more than a glorified form of instant messaging - only slower, but I still find it addictive.

And that comes from someone who has never updated their status and rarely uploads pictures or does anything with the various applications I sign up for.

So why do I love it? Essentially it is about communication and people which, for me, is what technology should be all about. It also appeals to my innate sense of curiosity and allows me to people-watch on a grand scale, on my own terms and without getting accused of staring.

On a personal level I have found it if not life-changing then definitely life-enhancing. It reunited me with a long-lost university friend, as well as being the first place I learned of another friend's pregnancy and saw yet more friends' baby pics for the first time.

On a professional level it has allowed me to 'get' social networking which, up until that point, was a vague umbrella term for something I didn't entirely understand.

I have one concern. When instant messaging was in its infancy I was rarely disconnected but these days my account languishes. The interesting thing for me will be to see whether the same happens for my Facebook profile once the novelty wears off.
In January Apple Boss Steve Jobs launched the iPhone, a device he said would "revolutionise the industry". And the phone certainly lived up to expectations, for some.
But, for me, the highlight of the year was a technology that has the potential to have a far greater transformative impact.
Look no wires - power deliver over the air
In July, US researchers showed-off a relatively simple system that could deliver energy to devices, such as laptop computers, without the need for wires. The setup, called Witricity, was able to make a 60W light bulb glow from a distance of 2m (7ft).
The bulb was even made to glow when obstructions such as wood and metal were placed between the transmitter and receiver.
The reason it is my technology of the year is threefold. Firstly, if the system can be refined it has the potential to banish the annoying and ever-growing tangle of wires needed to recharge today's electronic gadgets to the past.
There are already systems on the market that use recharging pads - similar to electric toothbrush chargers - or highly directional lasers, but none that are able to flood a room with useful energy in the same way as the Witricity setup.
Secondly, the MIT researchers were able to build and test a workable system at breakneck speed.
Although the basic physics underpinning the system were well understood, the first results from their working prototype were presented to the public just eight months after the researchers had presented a paper outlining their theoretical design.

And finally, the experiment also vindicates the work of the nineteenth-century physics and engineering heavyweight Nikola Tesla.

He experimented with long-range wireless energy transfer, but his most ambitious attempt - a 29m high aerial known as Wardenclyffe Tower, in New York - failed when he ran out of money.

Witricity shows that Tesla was right to pursue a world without wires.

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2007 - the year of the iPhone and Vista and Leopard, and of more victories for the Nintendo Wii over the PlayStation3 in the console wars.

For me, though, one technology has made a bigger personal impact than any other - social networking, or to be more precise, Facebook.

In the first flush of my romance with Facebook, I added everyone in sight - students from American universities, forty-somethings who wanted to reassure me that I was not alone , someone masquerading as Patrick Moore, even, God help me, PR people.

Quickly I sobered up and began to ration my friendship to people I actually knew - or at least friends of friends.

And it worked. I developed a "virtual" social life, rediscovering old contacts, hooking up with other technology journalists, even talking more to my old friends.

News arrived on my computer each morning - one colleague announced his engagement, others the end of relationships. I felt better connected, part of a loose community where I could share as much or as little of my life as I wanted.

But in recent weeks, I have begun to wonder if Facebook has peaked. One friend - younger than me - became the first to leave, telling us it was encroaching too much on his time. Then I began to find aspects of the network increasingly irksome.

Back in May, the decision to open Facebook up to outside developers seemed brilliant, promising to change a simple pared-down site into a platform for your entire online life.

Now, I'm beginning to yearn for that early simplicity. I do not want to be bitten by vampires, or stock a virtual aquarium with fish, or watch another daft YouTube video sent to my FunWall.

Facebook's other strategic move - the Beacon advertising system - also promises to make it less attractive to users.

So are we falling out of love with Facebook? I posed that question to my "friends" the other day. "The novelty is wearing off.. " "Suffering seasonal Facebook fatigue.." were two comments.

Another had found that all her thirty-something friends had gone. But most reported that, while their early passion had faded, they were still enjoying running their social lives online. So here's my prediction - Facebook will not fade away in 2008. But don't expect to hear quite as much about it as you have this year.

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I've been impressed with the iPhone, seen Facebook become an extension of my social life, suffered disappointed at the hands of Leopard and looked on in fascination as Microsoft struggled to make the best of Vista.

But the technology that has had the biggest impact on me personally is rich web applications. I know that's more of a range of technologies - but web apps like Google Calendar, Docs, and Reader and the new photo-editing tools on Flickr have made my life simpler.

I live a hybrid existence - using Macs at home, and on the road, but PCs at work. As such I have lots of issues around accessing information across two different platforms.

The programs I use for my e-mail, diary, RSS feeds and photos have always been different across the two systems. But the rise of web apps that are flexible, platform-neutral and accessible from anywhere I have a net connection has made my life almost pain-free.

The technology team plans its workload via Google calendar, we have collaborated on stories and scripts using a web-based word processor and I can now get access to the latest stories via RSS on my Mac, PC or mobile phone and it is always synchronised.

As technologies like Adobe Air and Google Gears allow richer and richer experiences to move to the cloud, and to merge the offline and online worlds, 2008 should be even more interesting.

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My pick of the year is a pretty geeky one - but in a good way. In late November Nominet, which looks after the .uk domain, started work on a British Enum directory.

Enum, or Telephone Number Mapping, does a couple of hugely important things. It makes it possible to map net domains to telephone numbers. This means you can look up a number just like you do a net domain.

This is important as it promises to start unifying the still, largely, separate worlds of phones and the net. For a start this means that firms who route calls over the net, like Skype, will be able to interconnect much more easily. But that's just the start.

Given that eventually all communication could travel via the net it marks the start of a grand conjunction.

Ultimately it could mean that when you have one way to contact someone you have all the ways they can be contacted. All you will have to do is look them up like you do a website now.

The net will know.

Leader in War Could be Leader in Peace

Ivan Simic


In our contemporary world there are 245 entities, which include; countries, independent states (both internationally recognized and generally unrecognized), inhabited dependent territories, and areas of special sovereignty. Almost, all of these entities have fought some kind of war and battle in their history for various reasons, such as: independence, religion, revolution, liberation, occupation, among others. According to war history, over 365 million people lost their lives in these wars, including ongoing ones. Unfortunately, the final number of war victims will never be known.

For centuries, numerous wars were fought among countries, and in relation to that, we cannot ignore one country that has participated or had a big influence in many of them, especially recent ones. That country is the United States of America (USA).

The United States proclaimed independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776 but she was officially recognized on September 3, 1783, and since then, the USA was involved in over 285 domestic and international military conflicts, some of which were: World War I and II, Vietnam War, Korean War, Gulf War, and ongoing wars: Iraq War (Second Persian Gulf War), War in Somalia, War on Terrorism (Operation Enduring Freedom); Afghanistan, Philippines, Trans Sahara, among others. If we look through world history for the last fifty years, we can see that no country has been involved in as many military conflicts as the United States has.

Currently, the USA has over 369,000 active military personnel deployed outside the USA, including: around 170.000 troops in Iraq, Japan 48.844 troops, Germany 63.958 troops, South Korea 26.477 troops, the UK 10.967 troops, among others. Also, the USA has; 27 Air Force Bases, 3 Army Bases, 4 Navy Bases, and 1 Barracks worldwide. Without these military installations, the USA would be vulnerable like any other country, and a country without major influence in the International System.

Therefore, general opinion would be that; the USA is a very aggressive country, but is she? For instance, if we compare the world entities to one big family; then we can say that the USA is like a "big brother" to the remaining countries. The USA is always there to help and protect small countries, to support, to give financial aid, but also to discipline some in order to make them better. The United States likes to be called the "leader of the free world", while others believe that she is a ruler, perhaps conqueror. However, many are wondering if she is capable of being a leader. Well, the USA is one of the youngest countries in the world, but she took that chance and became a leader, while others didn't. Being a leader is not easy, and occasionally she makes mistakes, therefore it is up to older and wiser countries to help her realise them.

We are evidencing dramatic changes in the world today; China, India, Russia and European Union are getting economically stronger, and the USA economy is beginning to stagnate. If this trend continues, then the only way for the United States to remain a superpower, and dominant economical, political, cultural, and military force in the world will be to fight wars. It would be better for the United States to use warfare money and invest in the domestic economy, instead of spending billions of dollars on useless wars.

In regard to the above, it looks like American people didn't get anything good from these hopeless wars, especially recent ones. These days, American citizens lives in constant fears from terrorist attacks, and they became potential targets for terrorist worldwide.

However, there are few very interesting facts: many countries have policy against the USA, her way of conducting politics and way of living, but at the same time wants to be like her. It is similar with different nationalities, many of them don't like Americans, but almost every person in the world would like to become an American citizen and live in the USA. Take for instance how many Mexicans, Chinese, Cubans, and even Muslims from countries that the USA army have occupied live in the United States, and struggle to become citizens. Many countries have implemented numerous US Laws and regulations, and it is evident the number of immigrants coming to the United States is increasing every year.

So, what can we expect from the United States in the future?

No one knows, let's just hope that she will end this war trend and use her resources to bring harmony to the world, so that we can enjoy her leadership in a peaceful and understanding way.

Ivan Simic

Belgrade, Serbia

Address: Paloticeva 12, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia. Tel: +381/63/7508500

Mr. Prime Minister, No Retirement Yet! Five More Years!

by Mulubrhan Tsehaye

Ever since the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Mr. Meles Zenawi announced to reporters (on many occasions) that he has no intention of seeking a re-election for the position of a Prime Minister after completing his current term, many Ethiopians have been expressing their disappointment and anxiety about his possible departure. For the opponents of Meles Zenawi who are usually in subterranean denial of the reality in the country, it has been a common practice to try to smudge anybody and everybody who makes even the slightest attempt to remotely recognize some of his clear and unmistakable leadership qualities as a blind follower or even a paid mannequin. No matter who the individual is or how principled of a person he/she might be, venturing into recognizing and encouraging any of the positive aspects of Mr. Zenawi’s leadership skills or the progress of his administration automatically earns him/her a nickname of a paid advocate or just a greedy sellout who is merely driven by a sheer voracity of acquiring a free real estate or a dispensation of special investment opportunity or other similar indulgence from the ruling party.

As the image of Ethiopia continues to perk up and all attempts to undermine or cover up the visible progress in the country fail however, these opponents seem to be left with no choice but to be honest to themselves and to the Ethiopian people that things have reached a point where it has become absolutely impossible to look to Ethiopia these days and simply brush off the extraordinary political and economic transformations it has been going through under the current administration of Meles Zenawi. Whether they like it or not, his opponents have to come to their senses that for the first time in history, Ethiopians have become quite optimistic about the future of their nation and people in and outside the country can be observed with a newly created hope and excitement about the ongoing remarkable economic and political developments in the country, the overall astonishing transformation of the nation that has unleashed boundless opportunities for all citizens to be engaged in various investment sectors. Over the past few years, the Prime Minister has demonstrated a unique moral fiber of a striking charisma, an astonishing degree of intelligence and extremely immaculate leadership skills, and most importantly, a ripe political maturity that has fascinated those who have had the chance to deal with him. He has proven to his opponents that he is a man of exceptional intelligence, incredibly shrewd and outstandingly slick politician with deep and complex way of thinking, and a dazzling talent at languages that are manifested in his eloquent articulation and multifaceted approach to every issue at hand. Regardless of what his opponents claim, there is no doubt that under his leadership, Ethiopia for the first time in history has started the long and treacherous path of a gradual transition to a multi-party democracy, a steady and sustainable economic growth, and an improved access to basic education and health services.

For quite a while now, Meles Zenawi has declared an all out war against the deeply rooted poverty and backwardness in the nation and delivered rather very commendable results that have essentially transplanted back the long lost hope and optimism in the hearts of many Ethiopians. While he has his own share of shortcomings as a leader of the ruling party, it is an indisputable fact that his leadership has demonstrated a stanch resolve to bring about a momentous economic change and the results so far have been very astounding at best and encouraging at the worst. Many analysts and senior diplomats have testified on many occasions that unlike most African leaders, Meles Zenawi is a man ahead of his time with an extremely high IQ, and a well informed individual with superb political dexterity and agile diplomatic proficiency. In fact, sometimes one simply can’t help it but get captivated to observe the Prime Minister perform a task that seems humanly unattainable to many in taking random questions from foreign or domestic reporters and endowing them with meticulous answers during his routine media briefings. As the journalists unload their series of questions, one after the other, some of them up to three or four questions each, the man’s brain simply absorbs them one by one without taking any notes and spits out well-thought and eloquently articulated answers for every question without leaving a single question unanswered. Now, many of us can’t even remember sometimes a single word we heard five seconds ago and we usually require a repeat but the Prime Minister seems to possess a special memory chip in his brain that retains information way beyond an ordinary man’s capability. If this isn’t a special talent what is? Of course, the point here is not whether the Prime Minister is always right or whether people always should or should not agree with his political views. There are many people who disagree with many of his political views or how his administration handles specific issues but it is rather to emphasize that his answers are always so well articulated and clear-cut regardless of the language he happens to communicate with that by the time he finishes responding to any of the questions, people don’t have to guess as to where he stands on the issues in question.

The Prime Minister’s political moves have always been calculated to precision as a skillful chess master who keeps checkmating his adversaries in every game he plays regardless of how complex a challenge his adversaries may come up with. Over the years, Meles has also demonstrated a superior understanding of global politics and earned himself a profound respect and admiration in the eyes of the international community. This in turn had a significant contribution in enhancing the stature of Ethiopia today and in glorifying its image into a nation of hope and optimism that has been otherwise tarnished by poverty, draught and famine during the previous successive regimes. As a result of all this, the Prime Minister has received various international awards for his dedication in laying a good foundation that will slowly move Ethiopia towards democracy and sustainable development. Some of the awards include: The 2005 Yara Prize for initiating a good foundation for economic progress in Ethiopia; Good Governance Award of the Global coalition for Africa” for leading Ethiopia in a democratic path during the challenging period of transition; Tabor 100’s prestigious Crystal Eagle International Leadership Award for his big contribution toward economic and social transformation in Africa; The World Peace Prize for his contributions for global peace and his effort to stabilize the Horn of Africa through cooperation with IGAD and other similar prestigious awards.

Of course, no one can claim that Mr. Zenawi is a perfect man or a saint sent by God who is error-proof and all the policies of his government or their implementations are always flawless. In fact, as the writer has been voicing them in previous writings, there are a number of political issues of his administration many Ethiopians disagree with. There are even those who protest about some of the aspects of the PM’s personality. These are people who are irritated by the arrogant or rather harsh personal tone commonly displayed by the Prime Minister in some of his public appearances. The feeling is that sometimes leaders have to be able to show their tender human side and try to understand people beyond the politics they are involved in. There are also some people who are of the opinion that the Prime Minister has a tendency of being inflexible and stubborn in dealing with the people around him. While it is quite expected or perhaps inevitable for someone who has been in power that long to be overconfident or even arrogant, in all fairness, this allegation has to be seen in the context of a person who was cultivated in an Ethiopian culture where exhibiting any degree of softness by a leader often times might be misinterpreted as a sign of weakness. That said however, the cruel treatment of his ex-comrades who fought side by side during the tough time but split due to some political disagreements shortly after foiling the invasion of Shaibya ought not be overlooked. Many are of the opinion that regardless of the bitter political differences between the two groups, it was certainly unnecessary and unwarranted to go as far he went to humiliate some of his long time colleagues whose contribution to the struggle was immense.

And then of course, there are the issues including the notorious abortion of the stunning triumph of the gallant Ethiopian army over the invading force of Shaibya and the subsequent signing of the rather worthless accord known as the Algiers agreement that practically resuscitated the regime of Shaibya back to existence. The longstanding defensive position or containment policy of the Prime Minister’s administration towards the continuous belligerence of Shaibya and its sheer determination to destabilize Ethiopia has been another contentious issue for many Ethiopians. Characteristically, most politicians and certainly those who went through long and difficult armed struggles for their political principles like people to believe that sticking to their principles that brought them to power is very imperative for them. Thus, quite often, we hear them say that no matter how unpopular their decisions may be, they rather choose to adhere to their principles and make all their decisions based on those principles. There shouldn’t be any quandary about such an attitude. After all, in theory, guiding principles should be the driving force of any leader’s political move. The Prime Minister however has to realize that there is a clear distinction between running unpopular policy that adheres to his principles and trying to run a policy that is quite discordant and totally unacceptable just for the sake of adhering to his principles. His spongy stance towards the terrorist regime of Shaibya and its followers who suffer from delusional fantasy of superiority is not only unpopular but rather a completely and utterly unacceptable policy to the vast majority of Ethiopians. The bottom line here is, when it comes to dealing with the thugs in Asmara, instead of trying to pursue a policy that was simply devised by few politicians behind closed doors, the Prime Minister and his administration ought to go back and listen to the ordinary citizens with a purpose of learning and feeling first hand the hearts and minds of the grass roots about this rather thorny and explosive issue.

This said however, all leaders are human beings and as their fellow imperfect human beings, they are inevitably prone to making certain mistakes during their political life. It is also very important that they be judged in the context of their overall leadership skills and the political, economic and social achievements of the nation during their stay in office. In poverty stricken countries like ours where the concept of democratic governance has never been documented in the history of its existence, for any leader to try to lay a foundation for good governance and noticeable economic development poses a particular challenge of an immense proportion. Nevertheless, today in Ethiopia, although there are still massive economic and social problems that entail to be undertaken, things are changing dramatically and very fast. Against all odds, the country under the leadership of Meles Zenawi has been registering unprecedented near double digit economic growth. It is true that Ethiopia still remains one of the poorest countries in the world and it has a long way to go before one can entertain a concept of a prosperous nation. What can be said with a substantial level of confidence is that the current government under the leadership of Meles Zenawi has laid a good foundation that will gradually stir the nation towards democracy and sustainable development.

It can never be an overstatement however to note that a bigger job that requires even a stronger and more accountable leadership with a profound commitment to take the country through the upcoming long marathon struggle to eliminate poverty is waiting ahead. And who is better qualified and intellectually suited for the responsibility of leading the nation to the next step than Meles Zenawi who has proven conclusively to be a vibrant and visionary politician with an exceptionally colorful leadership resume. Although to no avail, his political opponents have been relentless in their efforts to paint him as a dictator and most importantly, to undermine the countries achievement records under his leadership in an effort to push him out of office and see him gone fast. However, for the vast majority of Ethiopians who has just started to see the light at the end of the tunnel, his announcement not to run for the next term is disappointing and distressing. The bottom line is as it stands now, the most competent and dynamic leader who is capable of leading the country into the final dash of a fully fledged democracy and economic prosperity is Meles Zenawi and thus he ought to stay and compete for the next five more years in office.

If Ethiopia is to propel itself further along the current promising path into a better future of economic prosperity and social well being, Meles Zenawi ought to be encouraged to finish what he started and deny those extremist power-hungry elements who are hell bent to return the country back to the era of gloom their relentless quest to hijack the process in motion. Meles has to have the courage to ignore those self indulging and hate mongering elements who are determined to push him around so they can reinstate themselves to power and continue marching forward with a renewed vigor in his efforts to lead the nation for another five year term. One can’t help it but get amused or even frightened to try to measure up the political incompetence and the total intellectual inadequacy of those who are claimed to be potential leaders by the some of their extremist followers with the broad qualifications, sharp brainpower and superb political agility of Meles Zenawi. The contrast in the leadership qualifications can only be described as a Professor versus a lazy student, a Professional versus an Armature or a Sprinter versus a crawler.

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