Chitika

Delicious One

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

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Monday, February 22, 2010

How Green is your Valley?

Though India's per capita carbon emission is low, urbanites have a high personal carbon footprint. Here's how to reduce it at little cost-

IF YOU go by numbers alone, concerns about carbon emission may seem exaggerated. At an average per capita carbon emission of 1.18 tonnes, India is a laggard compared with countries like the US (19 tonnes), Japan (9.7 tonnes) and even our stiffest competitor China (4.6 tonnes). Moreover, households contribute a meagre 10-12 per cent to the national carbon footprint. So why bother about the carbon emission you are responsible for or the ways to reduce it?

"It is because the top 25 per cent of the population, which includes the middle class, has a larger carbon footprint than others," says Jyoti Parikh, executive director, Integrated Research and Action for Development (Irade). "As low-income households consume more resources to improve their standard of living, their footprint will increase. To maintain the overall balance, the top bracket must reduce energy wastage."

The CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre has helped formulate the carbon footprint of an average urban household for money today. According to their study, an urban family of four emits 13,865 kg of greenhouse gases every year. Says N. Muthusezhiyan, senior counsellor at the CII Centre, "We have assumed the maximum possible usage of devices. Most people will have a carbon footprint ranging from 80-100 per cent of 13,865 kg."

This figure may be lower than the average household emission in the West, but it is way higher than the carbon footprint of rural and low-income families. "It is the difference between owning two cars and none. If people incorporate the steps that we have suggested (see Small is not Costly), middle-class households can cut emissions by as much as 42 per cent," he says.

The problem, as most people believe, is that shrinking your carbon footprint may bloat your budget. A green lifestyle, they think, is an elitist pursuit and requires big-ticket expenses. Is it true or just a convenient way to pass the buck?

To find the answer, we worked out the cost of adopting the measures suggested by CII. The result is surprising. A green lifestyle can be yours for as little as Rs 1.03 lakh a year. We say 'little' because this is not incremental, but absolute cost. Moreover, it includes one-time expenses like a 5-star rated air conditioner, a solar heater and double-glazed glass for windows. From the second year onwards, staying green becomes much cheaper - about Rs 8,020.

The only other obstacle in popular imagination is the tedium of maintaining an eco-friendly lifestyle. "It involves no hassles," says 40-year-old Arjun Valluri, who built a green home in Hyderabad last year. It boasts solar panels for heating, a sewage treatment plant and double-glazed glass windows, besides other features. "Of the nearly Rs 6 crore that I spent, only five-six per cent was on green additions," says Valluri. It is no noblesse oblige that motivated him to shell out extra. "The payback period for these measures is five years. For instance, the monthly electricity bill for a house of this size would be about Rs 22,000, whereas I pay only Rs 4,000-5,000 a month," he says.

Does this convince you that an eco-friendly lifestyle is easy to adopt and inexpensive to maintain? However, you may not know how to start building one.

Here is a ready reckoner to take you through the nitty- gritty of going green.

Construction add- ons

If you are lucky enough to be building an independent house, you can enjoy a greener lifestyle than those living in an apartment.

Introduce the green elements at the blueprint stage itself. For instance, ensure that you make maximum utilisation of day light to reduce electricity bills. The trick is to know when too much light transmission will result in too much heat and increase your cooling cost.

Experts suggest that sunlight ranging from 100 to 500 lux (the unit used to measure illuminance) is adequate for a room.

Similarly, good ventilation is crucial to keep the cooling bills down. For the same reason, maintain a low window- to- wall ratio.

This means that the number of windows in every room should be as few as possible. Says Vishal Garg, associate professor and head, Centre for IT in Building Sciences, IIIT, Hyderabad, "An ordinary window with an area of 1 sq m brings in about 850 watt of heat if it is exposed to direct sunlight.

This can be cut by 75 per cent by using shades, doubleglazed glass, etc." As windows account for 10- 25 per cent of your heating bills, these methods are very cost- effective in the long run.

The upfront cost of doubleglazed glass is steep, ranging from Rs 400- 800 per sq ft, but you can opt for cheaper alternatives like sun films or shades, though they aren't as aesthetic as glass.

Retrofitting apartments

Readymade homes do not have too many options for changes in architecture. As the shell cannot be torn apart, you must concentrate on energy conservation by using efficient equipment. However, little things do add up.

Intelligent equipment

For most people, energy- efficiency ends with buying a starrated air conditioner. "Refrigerators also have a high electricity intake as they are never switched off," says Garg. They can constitute up to 35 per cent of the total electricity consumption of your household depending on their capacity and your usage pattern.

So it is important that all appliances have a high star rating.

Fuel economy

Apart from the obvious, such as walking instead of driving to the neighbourhood market and car pooling, you can reduce fuel consumption by maintaining your car well and driving by rules.
 
 [tags dilbag koundal, IT Projects, ERP/SAP Consultant, Web designer, Pantnagar, Kangra, Weonlinecoders, Himachal News]

Earth in the Beginning

The early Earth was a vision of hell, all scalding rock and choking fumes. Since then, its surface has cooled, continents have drifted, mountains have risen and eroded, and life has emerged, benign and green. Nearly all traces of the planet as it was have been wiped away. But from clues in the oldest rocks, deepest magmas, and even the cratered face of the moon, scientists have traced the planet's beginnings.

As those early days have come into focus, so have the rare scenes, found today in some of Earth's harshest places, that recall its ancient self.

Its birth pangs began some 4.6 billion years ago as rock and ice particles swirling around the young sun collided and merged, snowballing to produce ever larger planetary building blocks. In violent pileups, they smashed together to create planets, including the infant Earth. In the turmoil, another body, as big as Mars, struck our planet with the energy of trillions of atomic bombs, enough to melt it all the way through.

Most of the impactor was swallowed up in the bottomless magma ocean it created. But the collision also flung a small world's worth of vaporized rock into orbit. Debris quickly gathered itself into a ball, and since then Earth history has unfolded beneath the blank stare of the moon.

After the moon's fiery birth, the Earth's surface cooled. Even so, our planet remained an alien world for the next 700 million years; scientists call this time the Hadean, after the Greek underworld. Rafts of solid rock drifted in the magma like dark ice floes.

Gases hissed from the cooling rockâ€"carbon dioxide, nitrogen, water vapor, and others-enveloping the planet in a scalding atmosphere devoid of oxygen. As the temperature dropped further, the steam condensed into rain that tell in primordial monsoons and filled the ocean basins.

These first oceans may have been short-lived. Space rubble left over from the birth of the planets-chunks of rock tens to hundreds of miles across-bombarded Earth throughout the Hadean. The greatest impacts might have boiled the oceans away, forcing the process of cooling and condensation to begin again.

By 3.8 billion years ago the impacts relented. Liquid water could persist. About that time, perhaps in the oceans, lifeless chemical reactions crossed a threshold, producing molecules complex enough to reproduce themselves and evolve toward greater complexity. Life was on a road that led, as early as 3.5 billion years ago, to single-celled, blue-green cyanobacteria that flourished in the sunlit parts of the oceans.

By the trillions, these microscopic organisms transformed the planet. They captured the energy of the sun to make food, releasing oxygen as a waste product. Little by little they turned the atmosphere into breathable air, opening the way to the diversity of life that followed.

Those days are long gone, but the processes that turned our planet from a hell to a habitable world are still on view today. Primordial heat left over from the planet's formation still bursts out in volcanic eruptions, spilling lava that exudes gases like the young, cooling Earth.

In the planet's harshest environments today, cyanobacteria reign as they have for billions of years. And each time a plant gains a toehold on newly cooled lava, the victory of life over lifeless rockâ€"won so long ago on the young Earth-is affirmed again.

 [tags dilbag koundal, IT Projects, ERP/SAP Consultant, Web designer, Pantnagar, Kangra, Weonlinecoders, Himachal News]

Friday, February 12, 2010

An insider's guide to easier home loans

Arecent report by rating agency, Fitch, highlights the fact that there is a possibility the recent spate of 'teaser' home loan schemes could lead to a 'payment shock' for borrowers. Teaser loans have a fixed interest rate for one-two years, after which the rates jump to a higher level on a floating basis. So, if the interest rates rise sharply, there is a possibility that the borrowers' ability to repay is affected. According to the report, on an average, a percentage point increase in interest rates increases the monthly EMI by 6-8 per cent. However, there is no reason to panic, yet, since most bankers do not see a substantial increase in interest rates in the short term.

More interestingly, the report puts the spotlight on broad trends on defaulting patterns, which may help you gauge how banks evaluate a borrower's eligibility for a home loan.

Prepayments: The borrowers who make lumpsum prepayments have a relatively high degree of financial flexibility. Hence, it follows that this group typically experiences very low delinquency rates. In fact, the borrowers who are forced into an increase in their EMIs show the highest delinquency rates. But borrowers with discretionary incomes or personal savings enjoy the flexibility to prepay a home loan to keep the EMI payout in check even if the interest rates shoot up. It follows that prepayment rates will always keep pace with any hikes in a loan's interest rate.

Loan-to-value Ratio: This is the percentage of the property cost that is sanctioned by a bank for a loan. The higher the down payment paid by a borrower, the more his willingness to repay the loan since he has a higher stake in the property. However, the loans where the original loanto-value ratio exceeds 90 per cent are often the outcome of more stringent underwriting criteria, including authorisations from senior underwriting staff. As such, these loans have typically exhibited lower default rates.

Profile: By and large, borrowers with a salaried income exhibit default rates that are 20-50 per cent lower than the default rates of self-employed borrowers. An exception to this rule are self-employed professionals such as doctors and chartered accountants. This category exhibits default rates comparable with the salaried borrowers.

Geographical location: States such as West Bengal and Punjab have shown a higher default rate compared with the rest of the country. The relatively weaker performance in these regions could be attributed to lower levels of economic activity in specific sectors. Another factor could be the lack of underwriting and collection expertise. The loans originating in Delhi and Andhra Pradesh are at the other end of the spectrum, showing lower default rates in certain transactions. The report also highlights seasonal patterns that can influence your access to a home loan. For example, the collection efficiency of lenders varies with season. The highest efficiency is exhibited in March, which coincides with the end of a financial year.

The loan prepayment rates are as revealing. The highest prepayment rate is exhibited between March and June. This is understandable since this period usually corresponds with the time that a majority of salaried borrowers get their annual bonus payments. On the other hand, the period from September to December typically has a lower prepayment rate. Obviously, the festival-related spending in these months reduces a borrower's ability to prepay.

[tags dilbag koundal, IT Projects, ERP/SAP Consultant, Web designer, Pantnagar, Kangra, Weonlinecoders, Himachal News]

Think before you download

Are you downloading your favourite game or a particular application that allows you to share pictures, videos and information? These days, we have various gaming applications and individual developers coming out with unique and interesting downloadable applications. But, you need to make sure you are not inviting virus to disrupt your mobile handset. You should know that Internet/ mobile applications, if certified, can be trusted; if not, they can hamper your mobile data.

Worms, trojans, viruses and hackers - they not just threaten for your home PC or laptop anymore. As per Trend Micro, an Internet security firm, cyber crooks are on their way into your pocket. The popularity of smartphones like the Blackberry, iPhone and the emerging Droid is on a boom and that's making them a lucrative target for cyber crooks to cause mischief.

The possibility of someone hacking cellphone became public knowledge when Paris Hilton's mobile was hacked. Unfortunately for her, numbers of all her celebrity friends were also placed on the Internet - resulting in a barrage of calls to each of them. This was one of the highlighted cases of phone hacking through extracting personal information from the mobile handset.

The ingenuity of cyber criminals to come up with new social engineering angles seems endless. Mobile worms and viruses are similar to those that infect PCs. An unsuspecting user can be tricked into installing a harmless-looking file that infects a device and seeks additional mobile phones to target, often disrupting the phone's operations.

What can a mobile hacker do? There are quite a number of things that can be done by the mobile hacker. Depending on intent, their main targets are:

Steal your number: Your phone number can be accessed and obtained by hacking. This allows them to make calls and have it charged on your account.

Extract your information: Mobile hacking allows a hacker to contact your cellphone, without your knowledge, and to download your addresses and other information you might have on your phone. Many hackers are not content to just getting your information. Some will even change all your phone numbers! Be sure that you keep a backup of your information somewhere. All you have to do is to ensure that the handset is malware-protected. Here are some quick and easy points a user should keep in mind when downloading applications on mobile phones.

First, identify the source from where you are downloading the application. A general community site that does not have any face is not contactable. For example, download.com is the worst place to get the software from. You can download applications like our P2P software on your mobile.

Check the software for security certificates. Try not to use any unsigned application. These are third-party signatures from Verisign, Symbian and Sun. Absence of any trusted signature can make the application very dangerous. The only warning that you will get is when you install and load the application. So, go for trusted applications.

Once the signature is there, visit the company site to verify application that you have downloaded. Check for warnings, known bugs and the functions that it would provide. This may help you understand the resources the application will take, such as memory, CPU, etc. Applications like file share, Voip, etc use some core OS functionality. In case of a bug, such an application can disrupt other functionalities of the phone.

Social media-based applications that download the files can also bring in a virus-infected file to your handset. In such a case, one should have some anti-virus software installed in the system or the application should check for MIME-type before it allows the download of the content. But, make sure that you protect your handset with anti-virus software to ensure that even if by chance you have downloaded a non-trusted application, security solution providers like Trend Micro or McAfee have anti-virus solutions for you.

Check for your data plan before you start to use an application that uses some sort of data transfers. An application like mBit p2p can generate huge data transfers. The user is advised to get in touch with the customer care to identify an appropriate plan for it. The user can tell the customer support about the desired application and an appropriate plan for the same.

Follow these simple steps and you'll ahve a happy downloading session. So, treat your smart phones like your laptops or computers, and not a landline phone.

 [tags dilbag koundal, IT Projects, ERP/SAP Consultant, Web designer, Pantnagar, Kangra, Weonlinecoders, Himachal News]

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Re: The taxpayers' checklist

World's 10 Worst cities for IT pros


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Ever wondered which are the worst cities for techies? Cities which don't provide an ideal work environment for IT pros. CIO recently released a list of 10 cities that it thinks IT pros should avoid.
Here's over to the worst cities for IT pros.

Linfen, China

Situated along the banks of Fen River, Linfen in China tops the list of worst cities for IT pros.
The city also tops the Times' list of most polluted cities in the world with more than 3,000,000 people potentially affected due to automobile and industrial emissions. The city also figures among the world's ten dirtiest cities.
According to reports, Linfen residents are at high risk of skin diseases and lung cancer. With high levels of sulfur dioxide in the air, the city pays the price of China's high dependence on coal. China sources 70% of its energy requirements from coal.

Mexico City, Mexico

At No 2 on the worst cities list is Mexico's capital Mexico City. With an estimated population of 8.84 million as of 2009, the city is most densely populated in the country.
Also the largest city in Mexico, Mexico City is plagued by issues like high-level of pollution, noise and violence. Organized crime, drug abuse and alcoholism are some of the other factors that earns the city a place among the worst destinations for IT pros.

McMurdo Station, Antarctica

American Antarctic research center, McMurdo Station, located on the southern tip of Ross Island in Antarctica is at No. 3 on the worst cities list.
The largest community in Antarctica, McMurdo Station's summer population reaches 1,000 while the winter population swells to about 250. Though the station needs IT support, software training and a 24x7 help desk, but the freezing temperature is the biggest deterrent for IT pros.

Beijing, China

The capital city of China, Beijing, is at No. 4 on the worst cities for IT pros list.
China's second largest city, after Shanghai, Beijing figures among cities with worst traffic congestion globally. With over 17 million population, the city faces problem of high pollution, smog and degradation of natural resources.
The report also cites recent incident of Google threatening to pull out of China due to censorship and allegations of government hacking into systems of IT companies as issues.

Jakarta, Indonesia

The capital city of Indonesia Jakarta ranks at No. 5 on the worst cities for IT pros. The report quotes research from ORC Worldwide (a global human resources firm) that ranks Jakarta as the No. 2 riskiest place for workers.
According to Businessweek.com, other issues that puts Jakarta among worst cities are pollution, disease and sanitation, lack of medical facilities, political violence and repression and crime.
The ORC report quotes, "The threat of violence, from Islamic extremists in particular, is a serious drawback to living here."

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Next worst city for IT pros is the capital city of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh that ranks at No. 6.
According to a survey by ORC Worldwide and BusinessWeek, Riyadh faces problem of political violence and repression, political and social environment.
The report says, "The possibility of a terrorist attack is an ongoing threat, while wide-ranging restrictions on dress, movement, conduct, food, alcohol, travel and communications limit expatriate life."

Mumbai, India

India's financial capital Mumbai too figures among the worst cities for techies.
Ranked as the seventh worst city for IT pros, Mumbai gets this dubious distinction for its high rate of pollution, disease & sanitation, infrastructure, political violence, climate and medical facilities.
According to Businessweek.com, other issues that makes Mumbai part of the list is worst slums, traffic jams and security issues.

Nairobi, Kenya

Next worst city for IT pros is the capital city of Kenya, Nairobi which ranks at No 8.
The city's share of problems include: Crime, infrastructure, disease & sanitation, political violence & repression, and social environment.
According to ORC Worldwide research, "Violent crime is a significant drawback and shortages of water and electricity can be a challenge in Nairobi."

Afghanistan

At No. 9 on the list is Afghanistan. According to the report, any city in Afghanistan is not an ideal destination for techies to work.
For reasons well known, many parts of Afghanistan fall under the sway of extremists. Almost all cities in the country reel under threats of terror attacks.

Iraq

At No. 10 on worst cities list is Iraq. The continuous war in Iraq makes the country not so ideal destination for techies. Since 2006, the place is not even safe for tourists.

[tags dilbag koundal, IT Projects, ERP/SAP Consultant, Web designer, Pantnagar, Kangra, Weonlinecoders, Himachal News]

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The taxpayers' checklist

EPF and PPF
Returns: 8.5 per cent (EPF) and 8 per cent (PPF) per annum
Maximum deduction: Rs 1 lakh for EPF; Rs 70,000 for PPF
Income: Tax-free

It's compulsory and it's safe. However, in March, the Employee Provident Fund's (EPF) chief importance is that it automatically reduces the amount you must invest to exhaust the Rs 1 lakh limit. Jokes apart, the EPF has several advantages for taxpayers. To begin with, it offers a steady return of 8.5 per cent. Secondly, you cannot withdraw the money until you retire or change your job. This means you are exploiting the power of compounding to the fullest over your career span.

The best part is that the interest and the withdrawals are tax-free, a benefit available only in a couple of other products.

All these features make the EPF ideal for investing for a retirement corpus. However, if you really need the money, the authorities have the discretion of allowing you one withdrawal during your career even if you haven't changed your job or have not retired. For this, you must submit proof of expense for which the withdrawn amount will be used. Typically, a trans-Europe trip does not qualify as adequate reason for dipping into the EPF. If these features seem attractive, you can increase the contribution to the EPF from the mandatory 12 per cent to 25 per cent of your basic salary.

The returns from the Public Provident Fund (PPF) are slightly lower at 8 per cent per annum, but the interest and withdrawals are tax-free. The advantage over the EPF is greater flexibility of withdrawals. The maturity period of the PPF is 15 years. However, you can dip into the fund from the seventh year onwards. The maximum limit of withdrawal is 50 per cent of the account's balance as in the previous year or in the previous three years, whichever is lower. The cut-off date for calculating the balance is March 31, the last day of the financial year.

In case you want the money before the seventh year, you can take a loan from the account up to 25 per cent of the balance in your account in the third year. The loan must be repaid in a maximum of 36 EMIs. The interest on the loan works out to 12 per cent. As the interest on the money is not redirected to the PPF, it may be good idea to avoid taking a loan.

Five-year FDs and NSCs
Returns: 7-8 per cent
Maximum deduction: Rs 1 lakh
Income: Fully taxable

The National Savings Certificates are currently on a par with the PPF in terms of pre-tax returns. But they lose out to the PPF and EPF because the returns are taxable, thus reducing the post-tax yield. Needless to say, they are equally safe and have the advantage of a shorter lock-in period of six years.

The tax treatment of NSC income makes all the difference for taxpayers who have an income that falls within the 30 per cent tax slab. However, if you are a retiree or have an annual income lower than Rs 3 lakh, the tax rate is marginal (only 10 per cent, plus 3 per cent cess). Five-year fixed deposits also have a short lock-in period and offer almost the same returns. The difference is that the interest rates of FDs are more variable and the deposits in private banks are not as safe.

Senior citizens' savings scheme
Returns: 9 per cent per annum
Maximum deduction: Rs 1 lakh
Income: Fully taxable

Whether or not you are looking forward to a retired life, there is one sure reason to celebrate. It is called the Senior Citizens' Savings Scheme, which offers a higher rate of returns 9 per cent than most bank deposits. Though the income is taxable, it is unlikely that you will pay tax because the exemption limit for senior citizens is Rs 2.4 lakh per year.

The twist is that though you are eligible for earning 9 per cent interest after the age of 60, the tax exemption limit comes into effect only after you complete 65 years. Never mind this minor problem. The impact of the extra tax paid in five years will be minimal compared with the long-term benefits of this scheme. So do not ignore this option if you are planning a carefree retired life.

Equity-linked saving schemes
Returns: Market-linked
Maximum deduction: Rs 1 lakh
Income: Tax-free

They have been in the recovery mode since 2009, giving returns of about 76.1 per cent last year. This bounceback from the lows of 2008 (the ELSS funds lost 55.5 per cent on an average) proves that long-term investors cannot overlook the ELSS for saving tax. The returns offered by these funds are unmatched by any other tax-saving instrument. Of course, they have the same risk profile as other equity funds. However, you can play your cards right by choosing funds that have been consistent performers and by staying invested for long periods.

To further hedge your risk, you can invest via SIPs that give you the benefit of averaging out costs. This automatically makes tax planning a year-long affair, as it ought to be. You also have the option to choose dividend payouts for periodic payments. This doesn't affect the taxability of income as both dividends and capital gains at the end of the three-year lock-in period are tax-exempt.

Unit-linked insurance plans
Returns: Market-linked
Maximum deduction: Rs 1 lakh
Income: Tax-free

Last year, Ulips got a major facelift. The insurance regulator capped the difference between the gross yield and the net yield earned by a Ulip. The ceiling is 3 per cent for Ulips with a tenure of less than 10 years and 2.25 per cent for policies with longer tenures. However, mortality charges have been kept out of this calculation. The rule became effective from 1 January 2010.

Now that the steep charges are gone, you have hardly any reason to ignore this instrument that combines equity exposure, life cover and tax savings. In fact, if the Swarup Committee's recommendations are accepted, all the upfront commissions of Ulips will be phased out by 2011. Therefore, investing in this product will become more profitable.

Understanding the features of this financial instrument is important to optimise its benefits. For instance, in addition to saving tax, Ulips can also act as an effective allocation tool. This is because Ulips allow investors to change the equity-to-debt ratio without any penalty for a fixed number of switches every year. Even if you are not market savvy and are unable to take the decision on your own, there are Ulips that change the allocation according to your life stage.

However, if you are looking at short-term returns, stay way from Ulips. This is because they may not be able to recover the upfront charges unless you stay invested for at least 10-12 years. Do not be swayed by agents who claim that you only have to pay premiums for a minimum period of three or five years. In this way, your corpus is not likely to grow enough and will only be able to pay the charges for the life cover.

Life insurance policies
Returns:
5-6 per cent
Maximum deduction: Rs 1 lakh
Income: Tax-free

There may not be many advantages to the expensive endowment or money-back policies that your friend had recommended a few years ago, but there is one silver lining. The premium of the policy is covered by Section 80C of the Income Tax Act and is exempt from tax. This is not to say that you must buy such a policy now. If you are inadequately insured, opt for pure term plans, which are significantly cheaper than traditional policies. In fact, the premiums paid for all insurance policies that cover you, your spouse and dependent children are exempt from tax. But remember that experts are against buying insurance for saving tax alone. The latter should be an added advantage.

Pension plans
Returns: Market-linked
Maximum deduction: Rs 1 lakh
Income: Pension income taxable

It's a must-have for all investors. If your employer does not provide one, buy a pension policy that ensures a steady income after retirement. What can be better than earning tax benefits on the investment as well?

There are three types of pension plans to choose from. The first is the unit-linked pension plan. It offers greater control over your retirement corpus by allowing you to choose the mix of equities and debt according to your risk appetite. A unit-linked pension plan is not as costly as a Ulip because it does not offer life insurance.

However, keep in mind that on maturity, only 33 per cent of the corpus can be withdrawn tax-free. If you do not get gratuity, up to 50 per cent of the pension corpus can be commuted. You must use the balance to buy an annuity from an insurance company that will give a monthly pension.

This pension is fully taxable.

The second type of pension plan is offered as a mutual fund. In most of these funds, the money cannot be withdrawn before the investor turns 58. Even if early withdrawals are allowed, you have to pay a penalty. For instance, the Templeton India Pension Plan charges a hefty 3 per cent exit load on amounts withdrawn before the vesting age of 58.

The third option is the New Pension Scheme (NPS) launched with much fanfare in 2009. However, it is yet to attract investors in hordes. To know more about why the scheme has been a non-starter, read our story 'All you Need to Know About Pension' on our Website, www.moneytoday.in. Sign up only if you are convinced that the NPS has the potential to take care of your pension needs. The contributions fall within the Section 80C ambit.

Home loan EMI
Maximum deduction: Rs 1 lakh

For the past few months, the hefty home loan EMI had been one of the most important reasons employees feared the job axe. Now, the same EMI is cause to rejoice. The cumulative principal of your EMIs is eligible for a Section 80C deduction. This is usually a large amount and, along with the Provident Fund, should take care of most of your Rs 1 lakh limit. If you also factor in the deduction available under Section 24 on the interest paid, the effective loan rate comes down significantly.

Another way to increase the benefit is to take a joint loan with a sibling, spouse or parent. This way, both coowners of the property can claim individual tax benefits on the home loan. A word of caution: do not let tax saving inspire you to extend your loan tenure. It is equivalent to spending more to get a discount. The shorter the tenure of a mortgage, the better it is.

Tuition fees
Maximum deduction: Rs 1 lakh

The ever-increasing school fees of your children could burn a hole in your wallet. There is some respite because the tuition fee of up to two children is taxdeductible. Note that only the tuition fee is included. Other myriad charges in various forms, such as the building development fee, bus fee, etc, are not eligible for deduction. Another rider is that the fee must be paid to a recognised educational institution in India. This means that playschools, foreign colleges and private coaching classes do not qualify. Also, the fee must be paid for the taxpayer's children, not siblings, nephews, nieces or grandchildren.

The benefit cannot be availed of by both the parents. If there's one child, only one of the parents can claim tax benefits on the school tuition fee. Otherwise, each parent can claim tax benefit for different children. Even so, the tax benefit is helpful, especially for those who can't save enough to cut taxes.

[tags dilbag koundal, IT Projects, ERP/SAP Consultant, Web designer, Pantnagar, Kangra, Weonlinecoders, Himachal News]


How to write a love letter

Love, they say is in the air and don't you feel you would love tell them in simple words how special they make you feel? It might get embarrassing talking about it, but imagine their pleasure when you pop them a love letter. Here are some tips that will make any love note extra special.

 

Take some time off, clear the clutter in your mind and concentrate on the person you love. You will be amazed to know that there are several things which you took for granted from your partner. It can be anything -as mundane as a smile you both shared after cleaning out the cupboard to being a moral support during a crisis. Once you are clear what all you would write to your love, you can really get started.

 

Start the note by sweet endearments – my dearest sounds quite right in this context. Of course, if you are in a long term relationship, there might be nick names you have for each other. Every thing goes, as long as it speaks about the commitment you have.

 

Once you are through with this, tell them about those special occasions which made all the difference to you. Make the words come from deep within the heart, the message, will then be loud and clear. Tell them how special they make you feel. In simple terms just open up and spill your heart out and do not be timid.

 

The main body of the letter could involve things like what made you love your partner, the things you have in common – or you don't, the special moments you have shared, and what makes every day you spend with them special. There is a catch though, don't go overboard with the praise, if you have some resentment; make it clear, in a sweet way.

 

End it on a positive note. It is just fine to talk about all those future plans you have with your partner. And don't forget to profess your love.



Sunday, January 31, 2010

How stem cells can save your life

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Arthur C. Clarke once wrote. So it is with stem cells and their almost miraculous potential to save our lives. Stem cells are so tiny that it would take a million of them clustered together to form a pin head. Yet as their name denotes all other cells 'stem' from them.

They can divide and multiply rapidly into cells that give rise to the brain, the heart, the spine, the limbs, the muscles, the skin and everything else that constitutes the human body.

Once the body is fully grown they lie dormant in the marrow of your bones, in the cavities in your eye, under the nose, in your stomach and even in your skin waiting for the signal to transform into whichever tissue or organ that is needed. They are the body's hidden biological repair system - the super mechanics with a warehouse stacked with everything you need to make your body new again.

A decade ago, not many knew how to harness their almost magical capability to heal the body. Now researchers are unlocking the mysteries these nanosized cells store and are ushering in a revolution in the treatment of a range of debilitating diseases.

In Delhi, at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), a steady stream of patients comes in for treatment of dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart becomes weakened and enlarged. It cannot pump blood efficiently and one of its symptoms is a rapid pulse - twice the normal.

Till now, short of having a heart transplant, it was among the most difficult cardiac disorders to treat. But for such patients there is new hope with AIIMS setting up a cardiovascular stem cell group that has begun, probably for the first time in the world, clinical trials to see whether the stem cells extracted from the bone marrow of patients, known as adult stem cells, could improve the heart's performance. The results are encouraging but Balram Bhargava, professor of cardiology and a co-principal investigator, says: "It's not magic yet. Still, in a field that has little options for patients, this is a definite improvement."

Eye disorders

By 24, Abhishek Sharma, who was afflicted with allergic conjunctivitis, had lost his vision in both eyes. "I couldn't recognise a person if he sat in front of me." He couldn't find a job or a bride. He approached the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute and his vision was restored within weeks. Now he is a call centre executive, married and has two children. He says: "For me it's like a miracle."

Status in India - Corneal regenerative procedures using stem cells are the most promising in India. The L.V. Prasad Institute has treated over 700 cases with much success. The Drugs Controller has approved of such therapy for widespread use.

AIIMS is also conducting a major multi-centre trial to look at the role of stem cells in repairing tissue damaged during acute heart attacks. In many such cases, even bypass surgery doesn't seem to improve the functioning of the heart. Among the earliest beneficiaries of the wonders of such stem cell treatment is S. Kabilan, a former chief secretary of Assam.

Four years ago he suffered a heart attack and underwent bypass surgery at AIIMS. When he heard about the new stem cell treatment which could regenerate damaged tissue, he readily consented to having it done. Since then the functioning of his heart has been regularly monitored and the ejection fraction--the amount of blood pumped out of a ventricle with each heartbeat--has shown considerable improvement. Says Kabilan: "I feel fit as a fiddle and have never felt better in recent times."

In Hyderabad, inside an operation theatre at the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute, Dr Virender Sangwan, a surgeon, is in the process of implanting cornea tissue grown from stem cells into the left eye of a middle-aged factory worker who had accidentally burnt it, leaving him blind in that eye.

Harvesting stem cells from the limbus, the region where the cornea touches the white of the eye, Sangwan and his team of specialists are confident of restoring the worker's sight in a matter of weeks. That stems from the fact that in the past nine years they have treated over 700 such patients with remarkable success, possibly one of the largest such regenerative experiments anywhere in the world. Because of the work of the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute and others, the Drugs Controller of India has recently cleared Reliance Life Sciences to launch the first autologous limbal stem cell therapy--the first time stem cell therapy has been officially cleared for widespread use in India.

For once, Indian scientists are not lagging behind in a key area of cutting edge research and are rubbing shoulders with the best of the business which includes countries such as the UK, Australia, China, Italy and Korea. "India now has a global presence in both basic and clinical research in stem cells. We are in the big league now," says D. Balasubramanian, L.V. Prasad's director of research and till recently chairman of the apex government committee overseeing stem cells work in the country.

In areas such as ocular, cardiovascular and neurological disorders, Stephen Minger, director of the Stem Cell Biology Laboratory at the Wolfson Centre for Age Related Diseases at King's College London, acknowledges that the research being done in India is "world class and has exciting possibilities".

Part of the reason is that the Union Government has been proactive in promoting stem cell research and clinical trials in India. The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has launched over 100 projects at 18 premier institutes across the country to conduct not only basic research on stem cells but also test its efficacy in therapy. It has invested over Rs 300 crore, including setting up the first dedicated Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (INSTEM) in Bangalore.

M.K. Bhan, the erudite DBT secretary, says: "What we have done is to build up the capacity, infrastructure and manpower to keep India at the forefront of the brilliant possibilities that will unfold in this decade.

Liver failure

She didn't have much of a honeymoon. Soon after being wed to B.S. Prasada Rao, a postal assistant, her liver started malfunctioning. She vomited frequently and lost weight over the years. Dispirited, she even advised her husband to remarry. Just two years back, doctors at the Lifeline Hospital, Chennai, gave her stem cell treatment and her recovery was astonishing. For the last two years there has been no complication and she is eating normally.

Status in India - Treatment of liver disorders using adult stem cells obtained from bone marrow is growing. The results are promising even in cases of cirrhosis of liver.

Traditionally, we would do science but could not translate it for clinical use. Now we have a more balanced approach so that you can have an effective hospital-based treatment as well. We would need industry though to make it a truly mass revolution."

Among the first movers from industry has been the Mumbai-based Reliance Life Sciences, a unit of Mukesh Ambani's empire. It has already set up a sophisticated cord blood repository for couples opting to store stem cells extracted from the umbilical cord soon after delivery. Reliance Life Sciences is now developing a wide range of research-led, stem cell therapies and tissue engineered products, with the objective "of bringing about an era of regenerative medicine", as K.V. Subramaniam, its President and CEO, puts it.

Subramaniam estimates that in just two years, about 164 million patients, or 16 per cent of India, suffering from diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, neurological disorders, burns and wounds, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and liver disorders would benefit from stem cell therapies in India. But he cautions that it is still a long haul as the scalability of treatment remains an issue. Reliance is also one among the score of institutions in the world that has developed its own independent embryonic stem cell lines and is conducting research on them.

Fortunately for India, stem cell research here has not been derailed or devoid of funding over ethical issues concerning the use of embryonic stem cells as it had been in the US. Embryonic stem cells which are harvested within less than a week after fertilisation takes place in an ovum are among the most powerful cells with an ability to develop into any of the 200 types of cells or tissues needed by the body.

Former US President George Bush had stopped all government funding for embryonic stem cell research as he backed conservatives and religious groups who argued that you cannot destroy life in order to save it. Bush's veto has been overturned by Barack Obama who believed in the argument that these embryonic stem cells hardly constituted lives and in fact more lives were saved by research.

Meanwhile, India has developed over a dozen embryonic stem lines and is now using them to carry out basic research in key laboratories. But as in most countries of the world, the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), in its guidelines for stem cell research formulated in 2007 has forbidden the use of embryonic cells for clinical treatment. Though with Shinya Yamanaka, the Japanese stem cell biologist, recently demonstrating that he could derive stem cells of the potency of embryonic ones from skin tissue, it has become a game changer.

Ethical debates over its use may soon be a thing of the past if his technique is perfected and it shows that no tumours develop. Karan Goel, organiser of the Stem Cell Global Foundation, estimates that the world market for stem cell therapy is projected to increase from an estimated $30 billion (Rs 1,44,000 crore) in 2009 to $96 billion (Rs 4,60,800 crore) by 2015.

At the same time, Indian couples are flocking in droves to cord blood banks to preserve stem cells that could be extracted from the umbilical cord when it is severed after delivery. The steep prices of between Rs 75,000 to Rs 1 lakh to preserve cord blood in cryogenic storage vaults for a period of 21 years hasn't discouraged takers and over a dozen such banks have been set up in all major metros.

Heart Diseases

S. Kabilan, a senior bureaucrat and former chief secretary of Assam, had a bypass surgery at AIIMS, Delhi, four years ago. He was advised stem cell therapy to repair his damaged heart. Within six months of treatment, the amount of blood pumped out of his ventricles with each heartbeat showed considerable improvement. Four years later his heart is in good condition and Kabilan says, "I feel fit as a fiddle."

Status in India - India is among the leaders in the world in the treatment of heart disorders using stem cells. AIIMS itself has treated over 100 cases of both acute heart attacks and cardiomyopathy with some success. Multi-clinical trials are now in five institutes to validate the efficacy of stem cell treatment for heart diseases.

In Gurgaon last week, a couple frantically registered with Cryobanks International for extracting cells of the wife's second pregnancy. Their first child, a boy, was suffering from leukemia and they came to know that cord blood stem cells could be used for treating even the siblings and parents of the baby. Cryobanks CEO Chaitanya Nerikar says that since it was set up three years ago, it has expanded to 75 collection centres and now has over 10,000 samples stored in its vaults. The unit is run almost like a nuclear research facility with tight security and protocols.

The growing popularity of cord blood banks is partly because of the encouraging results coming out from a host of clinical research being done in hospitals across the country. At the Lifeline Multispeciality Hospital in Chennai, Latif Ahmed, a truck driver, is showing all the signs of an astonishing recovery after being diagnosed for cirrhosis of the liver caused possibly by overuse of alcohol. He could barely eat his favourite non-vegetarian food, his blood pressure had dropped and there was internal bleeding.

Normally, the only cure would be an expensive liver transplant. About nine months ago, doctors treated his liver with stem cells extracted from his bone marrow. Within a month, his liver showed signs of recovering and last week it was almost back to normal. Ahmed says, "I am back to eating mutton biryani without any discomfort."

Apart from liver complications, Lifeline has treated over 280 patients having severe spinal injuries, including paralysis, with stem cells. Almost one out of four showed significant motor and sensory improvement. There have been controversies over whether Lifeline has been ethical in its methods of treatment and claims of success. But J. S. Rajkumar, its chairman, dismisses all such criticism saying, "It's easy to rubbish our work but our data speaks for itself. People can always say why, but I say why not. It's not a panacea but stem cells are a great alternative. It is already bringing down the costs of treatment."

Controversies have always dogged stem cell treatment ever since it began in earnest a decade ago. In Moscow, beauty salons began offering it as a cure for wrinkles, hair loss and dry skin but many of the patients reportedly ended up with tumours. In South Korea, a leading researcher was exposed for fraudulently claiming he had developed a human stem line through nuclear transfer. In India, P. Venugopal, a former AIIMS director, walked the ethical edge when he rammed through stem cell treatment for cardiac disorders when he was head of the institution.

Since then, as Geeta Jotwani of ICMR points out, the DBT along with the ICMR have tightened controls and issued stringent guidelines for both research on stem cells and clinical trials. Balasubramanian says, "The problem is that it is more unethical than illegal, so you do have fly-by-night operators which patients have to be careful about." Bhan is for a legislation to be passed but prefers to wait for a year because, "so rapid are the changes in stem cell research that the law may become outdated even before it is passed."

There is a clear need to tone down the hype about the benefits of stem cell therapy till solid basic research validates its efficacy. Jyotsna Dhawan, dean of the newly formed INSTEM, says, "We should not have stem cells hyped up as being a magic bullet. There is need for a lot more basic research to understand the mechanism that affects the degenerative and regenerative process. We need to understand how these cells are set aside and retained as a reserve population and remain neither divided nor differentiated till the appropriate time. Also, how they go about repairing tissue." There are still huge gaps in the understanding of how the stem cells actually go about doing their work and how they will behave in the body.

Spinal injuries

While returning from Corbett National Park two years ago, Piyush Sharma had a car ram his motorbike leaving him with an injured spinal cord. He was paralysed from waist down and doctors implanted a steel plate in his back. Stem cell treatment at a private hospital in Rudrapur, Uttarakhand, six months ago, made him capable of moving his lower limbs partially and regain bladder control. He says, "It has given me new hope."

Status in India - Treatment of spinal injuries using stem cell therapy has been encouraging if not spectacular. In Chennai, a study of 280-odd patients found 23 per cent registering improvement.

BLOOD DISORDERS

Harshil was diagnosed with thalassemia major at birth, a rare blood disorder where its ability to produce haemoglobin is defective. His parents, Ravin Nanda, a paan shop owner in Ahmedabad, and Trupti, were devastated. Stem cell treatment at the Gujarat Cancer Research Institute by Dr Sandip Shah was a success, making Harshil the second such patient to be successfully treated and showing a ray of hope to such patients in India.

Status in India - Treatment of disorders like thalassemia and cancers of the blood is only now gaining a foothold in India. While experts say the potential is good, it is far from being realised.

Doctors don't want to be putting a stem cell into the brain and discovering that it was a bone! Moreover as Sujata Mohanty, head of AIIMS Stem Cells Facility, points out, "There is a huge difference between what we achieve in the lab and its efficacy with patients. Each patient has his or her own recovery pattern and would need different cell dosages.

So we still have plenty to understand about the processes." Getting stem cells to grow a tooth or as a cure for baldness is still a long way. Yet as Balasubramian says, "Stem cells are both exciting and promising, and the future would only see an increase in this therapy." Therein lies the hope.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

TOP 10 THINGS TO REDUCE GLOBAL WARMING



Burning fossil fuels such as natural gas, coal, oil and gasoline raises the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and carbon dioxide is a major contributor to the green house effect and global warming.
You can help to reduce the demand for fossil fuels, which in turn reduces global warming, by using energy more wisely. Here are 10 simple actions you can take to help reduce global warming.

1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Do your part to reduce waste by choosing reusable products instead of disposables. Buying products with minimal packaging (including the economy size when that makes sense for you) will help to reduce waste. And whenever you can, recycle paper, plastic, newspaper, glass and aluminum cans. If there isn't a recycling program your workplace, school, or in your community, ask about starting one. By recycling half of your household waste, you can save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide annually.

2. Use Less Heat and Air Conditioning

Adding insulation to your walls and attic, and installing weather stripping or caulking around doors and windows can lower your heating costs more than 25 percent, by reducing the amount of energy you need to heat and cool your home.
Turn down the heat while you’re sleeping at night or away during the day, and keep temperatures moderate at all times. Setting your thermostat just 2 degrees lower in winter and higher in summer could save about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year.

3. change A Light Blub

Wherever practical, replace regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. Replacing just one 60-watt incandescent light bulb with a CFL will save you $30 over the life of the bulb. CFLs also last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs, use two-thirds less energy, and give off 70 percent less heat.
If every U.S. family replaced one regular light bulb with a CFL, it would eliminate 90 billion pounds of greenhouse gases, the same as taking 7.5 million cars off the road.

4. Drive Less And Drive Smart

Less driving means fewer emissions. Besides saving gasoline, walking and biking are great forms of exercise. Explore your community’s mass transit system, and check out options for carpooling to work or school.
When you do drive, make sure your car is running efficiently. For example, keeping your tires properly inflated can improve your gas mileage by more than 3 percent. Every gallon of gas you save not only helps your budget, it also keeps 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

5. Buy Energy-Efficient Products

When it's time to buy a new car, choose one that offers good gas mileage. Home appliances now come in a range of energy-efficient models, and compact florescent bulbs are designed to provide more natural-looking light while using far less energy than standard light bulbs.
Avoid products that come with excess packaging, especially molded plastic and other packaging that can't be recycled. If you reduce your household garbage by 10 percent, you can save 1,200 pounds of carbon dioxide annually.

6. Use Less Hot Water

Set your water heater at 120 degrees to save energy, and wrap it in an insulating blanket if it is more than 5 years old. Buy low-flow showerheads to save hot water and about 350 pounds of carbon dioxide yearly. Wash your clothes in warm or cold water to reduce your use of hot water and the energy required to produce it. That change alone can save at least 500 pounds of carbon dioxide annually in most households. Use the energy-saving settings on your dish washer and let the dishes air-dry.

7. Use the "Off" Switch

Save electricity and reduce global warming by turning off lights when you leave a room, and using only as much light as you need. And remember to turn off your television, video player, stereo and computer when you're not using them.
It's also a good idea to turn off the water when you're not using it. While brushing your teeth, shampooing the dog or washing your car, turn off the water until you actually need it for rinsing. You'll reduce your water bill and help to conserve a vital resource.

8. Plant a Tree

If you have the means to plant a tree, start digging. During photosynthesis, trees and other plants absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. They are an integral part of the natural atmospheric exchange cycle here on Earth, but there are too few of them to fully counter the increases in carbon dioxide caused by automobile traffic, manufacturing and other human activities. A single tree will absorb approximately one ton of carbon dioxide during its lifetime.

9. Get a Report Card from Utility company


Many utility companies provide free home energy audits to help consumers identify areas in their homes that may not be energy efficient. In addition, many utility companies offer rebate programs to help pay for the cost of energy-efficient upgrades.

10. Encourage Others to Conserve

Share information about recycling and energy conservation with your friends, neighbors and co-workers, and take opportunities to encourage public officials to establish programs and policies that are good for the environment.
These 10 steps will take you a long way toward reducing your energy use and your monthly budget. And less energy use means less dependence on the fossil fuels that create greenhouse gases and contribute to global warming.

Monday, January 25, 2010

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Cyber Threats to Watch Out for in 2010

By Dilbag Koundal



Security is a huge part of the job for most IT administrators. We’re always striving to protect our organizations from the latest barrage of viruses, worms, and other malware. With 2009 over, what types of threats could we face in the year ahead? The recent 2010 Threat Predictions report from McAfee pegs a few different areas to watch out for in 2010.

Social networks will be one key breeding ground for cyber attacks, says McAfee. As sites like Twitter and Facebook (News - Alert) continue to grow in popularity, especially among the business crowd, cyber crooks will increasingly employ their usual bag of tricks to try to ensnare users.
A site like Facebook can be especially vulnerable as many people will implicitly and unthinkingly trust any "invitation" from their friends. But as McAfee points out, that next invite to play a cool game or run an interesting application from a Facebook friend could be a fake app created by a cybercriminal designed to infect your PC. We've already seen such malware attacking Facebook, such as the infamous Koobface worm that first reared its ugly head about a year ago.
Personally, I've just about stopped playing games, filling out quizzes, and running most applications in Facebook. I've never been comfortable with the way a Facebook app needs to gain access to your personal information in order to run. That's always seemed like an open vulnerability that could easily allow the wrong people to learn too much about you. Now McAfee's reminder that these apps are also a way to spread malware is something IT admins and Facebook users should keep in mind.
Another area to watch out for is the use of URL shorteners, popular on social networking and bookmarking sites. Services like bit.ly and tinyurl.com shorten URL strings so they can fit in smaller spaces, such as the 140-character limit imposed by Twitter. But you can't preview a shortened URL, so you don't know where it's going to take you until the page pops up. This makes it easy for cyber crooks to point these URLs to pages that could deliver malware.
Microsoft apps have traditionally been a popular target for malware writers. But that "honor" may switch over to Adobe this year. As Adobe Reader and Flash have become more prevalent, they've also become more of a target for cybercriminals. Adobe Reader in particular has been hit by security holes over the past year, forcing Adobe to take a more active role in keep its app properly patched.
Other threats that McAfee sees in its crystal ball for 2010:
Banking trojans designed to grab your financial account information may become more advanced. Already in 2009, they showed off the ability to sneak past some of the protections currently used by banks. McAfee warns that this year they may be able to silently interrupt transactions and even make withdrawals without being detected.
E-mail attachments will also continue to grow as a primary means of spreading malware. McAfee believes that these attachments could even target specific audiences, such as corporations, journalists - not good news on my end - and individuals.
Botnets, which are responsible for carrying out cyberattacks, will also increasingly use peer-to-peer networking to hop from one computer to another without a central base of operations. Such a strategy will make it more difficult for security professionals to track them down.
So how do you prepare yourself for the potential threats that lie ahead? Well, naturally since McAfee wrote the report, the company would like you to buy its own security software to protect your users. And McAfee does offer software with certain capabilities, such as the ability to scan shortened URLs. The company also recently struck a deal with Facebook to provide Facebook users with a free six-month subscription to its security software.
But any good security suite or application would be your first line of defense in protecting you and your users from the coming threats. It goes without saying that choosing and using the right software and keeping it updated is critical, no matter what security software you deploy. Also, make sure that you keep your organization's PCs updated with the latest patches from Microsoft to protect the operating system, office suite, and browser.
But beyond the right software, user education is vital. Make sure your users are aware of the latest threats and realize that their actions can have consequences. They need to think twice before opening a file attachment or downloading an application that could expose them and your business to malware. Though 2010 may bring its own share of cyber threats like any other year, protecting your organization and your users is the best role you can play.

Friday, January 8, 2010

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Saturday, January 2, 2010

The 101 most useful websites


 There are tens of millions of sites to visit on the internet. Not forgetting Telegraph.co.uk, here are the ones you actually need. 




The internet - like the world - is a massive and often confusing place
Read the whole list in Seven in this Sunday's Sunday Telegraph
NEWS AND COMMENT | Full list of the best news and comment websites
Related Articles

· The 101 most useful websites

· Best websites: organizing your life

· YouTube videos: the best channels

· Best websites: Education

· Best websites: Travel

· Best websites: News and Comment

1. The Daily Beast (thedailybeast.com) is a busy bluffer’s dream. This news and opinion website features a daily Cheat Sheet with summaries of must reads from all over.
2. Slate (slate.com) has news, politics, arts, business and science with a host of high-profile contributors.
3. Salon (salon.com) has a glossy dollop of lifestyle and two busy comment boards atop its core of news and culture.
EDUCATION | Full list of the best education websites
1. Make magazine’s videos and podcasts (blog.makezine.com/podcast) have dozens of weekend projects, some macho, some crafty, for the DIY-minded.
2. The Orwell Diaries (orwelldiaries.wordpress.com) publish George Orwell’s domestic and political diaries as a blog, exactly 70 years after they were originally written.
3. Everything on iTunes (apple.com/itunes) is free, amazing given that it offers recordings of lectures from some of the world’s most venerable institutions (Yale, Moma, Oxford, Tate).
CULTURE | Full list of the best the web has to offer for the arts
1. The Stage (thestage.co.uk) has all the latest theatre news and reviews – and the most comprehensive coverage of bickering among critics.
2. Io9 (io9.com) is a science fiction entertainment blog written from a female point of view. Sci-fi geeks leave the best comments.
3. Metacritic (metacritic.com) is an easy-to-navigate database of the combined wisdom of the leading (US) critics of music, television, film and games.
TRAVEL | Full list of the best and most useful travel websites
1. Tripadvisor (tripadvisor.co.uk) boasts more than 11 million members, clubbing together to rate and review hotels, B&Bs, restaurants and more throughout the world.
2. Travelsupermarket (travelsupermarket.com) covers everything from late package deals to insurance; one of the best price comparison sites.
3. Tripit (tripit.com) lets you use details from multiple travel sites to create one master itinerary, then furnish it with maps, weather reports and activities.
HOME | Full list of the most useful websites to make your house a home
1. Bob’s Books (bobbooks.co.uk) lets you turn video footage into a flick-book, design your own calendar and transform frumpy photo albums into glossy coffee-table books.
2. The House Directory (thehousedirectory.com) searches more than 3,500 companies to source the best furnishings for your home.
3. On Etsy (etsy.com) anyone can buy and sell vintage and handmade goods; quality varies (see regretsy.com for some of the less desirable items) but worth a scour.
FOOD AND DRINK | Full list of the best online sources for food and drink inspiration
1. Epicurious (epicurious.com) has a vast range of recipes, primers on baking bread and making pies, and an iPhone app to create shopping lists from recipes.
2. Supercook (supercook.com) is a recipe site with a clever twist: you enter the ingredients you have at home and the search engine finds recipes from food sites to use what you’ve got.
3. Jamie Oliver, Delia Smith and Nigella Lawson are all generous with recipes on their sites (jamieoliver.com, deliaonline.com, nigella.com); Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall puts the emphasis on seasonal produce on his (rivercottage.net).
GREEN | Full list of the best websites to help you live and buy green
1. Recycle Now (recyclenow.com) lets you find out about recycling in your area, offers tips on home composting and suggests ways to become greener.
2. What Do They Know (whatdotheyknow.com) is an online platform for individuals to query local government bodies and to put in freedom of information requests.
3. The Hunger Site (thehungersite.com) is an easy way to give to charity. Click on the site and its sponsors will then donate some money to one of several good causes, such as cancer research, literacy, hunger.
FAMILY AND KIDS | Full list of the best websites for parenting and family life
1. Mumsnet (mumsnet.com) is a tip-swapping, advice-proffering, review-writing, experience-sharing hub of parental activity.
2. You can search for your ancestors and build a family tree on Genes Reunited (genesreunited.co.uk), Britain’s most popular family history site.
3. If you’re searching for ancestors abroad, Family Search (familysearch.org), a free resource of international genealogy records, is a great place to start.
FUN | Full list of the most amusing sites on the internet
1. If you’ve ever lived with a food hoarder or neat freak you’ll appreciate the strained tones of the messages on Passive-Aggressive Notes (passiveaggressivenotes.com).
2. Smartkit (smart-kit.com) is home to all sorts of puzzles (jigsaw puzzles, sudoku, cryptograms) to help you train your brain.
3. Letters of Note (lettersofnote.com) is a stylish site with scans of letters, telegrams, faxes and memos: Einstein encouraging Roosevelt to pursue atomic research, the Museum of Modern Art turning down a gift from Andy Warhol in 1956.
1. If you’ve ever lived with a food hoarder or neat freak you’ll appreciate the strained tones of the messages on Passive-Aggressive Notes (passiveaggressivenotes.com).
2. Smartkit (smart-kit.com) is home to all sorts of puzzles (jigsaw puzzles, sudoku, cryptograms) to help you train your brain.
3. Letters of Note (lettersofnote.com) is a stylish site with scans of letters, telegrams, faxes and memos: Einstein encouraging Roosevelt to pursue atomic research, the Museum of Modern Art turning down a gift from Andy Warhol in 1956.
VIDEO | Full list of best archive footage and videosharing websites
1. Vimeo (vimeo.com) is a video-sharing site with playful, arty, HD content, supported by a friendly community of users, Kanye West, Lykke Li and Moby among them.
2. BBC iPlayer (bbc.co.uk/iplayer/) and 4 on Demand (channel4.com/programmes/4od) are still the big beasts for (legal) online television watching.
3. Visit the Viral video chart (viralvideochart.unrulymedia.com) to see the making of an internet sensation, be it a panda sneezing or Susan Boyle.
YOUTUBE CHANNELS | Full list of the best channels on YouTube
1. Chow’s channel (youtube.com/user/chow ) offers practical guidance for gourmands from cooking perfect rice to cleaning a rack of lamb with string.
2. Berkeley’s channel (youtube.com/user/ucberkeley) is packed with superb lectures. Among the most popular are Professor Marian Diamond’s on integrative biology: she looks like a Golden Girl but knows how to dissect brains.
3. At Cambridge (youtube.com/user/CambridgeUniversity) you can see David Starkey hold forth on Henry VIII or William Hague on William Pitt.
LIFE MANAGEMENT | Full list of the best websites to help you organise your life
1. Doodle (doodle.com) is a nifty tool that allows groups of busy friends to propose, vote on and schedule dates and times for meet ups. Sorted.
2. At drop.io (drop.io) you can upload pretty much anything – pictures, documents, audio/video – and share them with anyone, who can comment and collaborate within seconds.
3. Got a spare gig ticket? Want one? Seatwave (seatwave.com), an online marketplace, lets fans buy and sell event tickets safely and easily.

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