Nothing to Fear... ?

Monday, February 12, 2007

What are you afraid of? What causes you real
fear, the kind that causes your heart to beat faster involuntarily,
your stomach to sag like you've eaten lead, and your mind to lose its
reason and revert to the primitive reactions of fight and flight?
Spiders? Snakes? Serial killers? Speaking in public? Or the worst, the
thing that freaks out almost everyone: scary clowns?

Those are what I what I would call primal fears, those that
exist deep down in our subconscious. Other fears, however, are
manufactured by politicians and the media (heck, some so-called "news"
channels base their whole business on this practice) in order to
manipulate us. John Twelve Hawks, in his perceptive essay "How We Live Now," discusses this exact state of affairs:...

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Enable Hidden BootScreen in Windows Vista

The Windows Vista BootScreen is pointless, but Microsoft decided to
hide a more visually appealing boot screen that can easily be enabled
with very little trouble. I’m not sure why they didn’t make the boot
screen better.


If you really want a better boot screen, you can check out my article on creating a custom boot logo....



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Intel shows off 80-core processor

Chief Technical Officer Justin Rattner demonstrated the processor in San Francisco last week for a group of reporters, and the company will present a paper on the project during the International Solid State Circuits Conference in the city this week.

The chip is capable of producing 1 trillion floating-point operations per second, known as a teraflop. That's a level of performance that required 2,500 square feet of large computers a decade ago.

Intel first disclosed it had built a prototype 80-core processor during last fall's Intel Developer Forum, when CEO Paul Otellini promised to deliver the chip within five years. The company's researchers have several hurdles to overcome before PCs and servers come with 80-core processors--such as how to connect the chip to memory and how to teach software developers to write programs for it--but the research chip is an important step, Rattner said....





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MySpace to Launch Video Filtering System

The popular online hangout MySpace said Monday it
will experiment with a video-filtering system designed to block clips
containing copyright materials.

MySpace is licensing technology
from Audible Magic Corp., which late last year obtained rights to a
system for scanning video clips and looking for signature vectors —
such as a unique digital fingerprint — to compare with vectors stored
in a database. Video can be blocked from appearing on MySpace when
there is a match.

The video system supplements audio filtering MySpace already has in place to block unauthorized music uploads....

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Internet users transformed into news reporters

As picture-taking mobile telephones and digital movie cameras grow ubiquitous, Internet users worldwide are being recruited as citizen news reporters.

In December Yahoo launched YouWitnessNews, a website that posts offerings from users after the submissions pass muster with professional editors.

Founded almost two years ago, news website NowPublic.com taps into legions of people that post pictures, videos, or commentary online.

NowPublic boasts more than 60,000 contributing "reporters" in more than 140 countries and promises to quickly locate potential witnesses or news gatherers close to breaking events from natural disasters to terrorist attacks...

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RIM to Introduce Newest BlackBerry

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. on Monday will unveil a new version of its top-end e-mail phone for business users, replacing the signature side navigation wheel with a front trackball that first appeared last year on the consumer-oriented BlackBerry Pearl.



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Yahoo to Unveil Mobile Marketing Platform

Yahoo Inc. will sell branded advertising aimed at
mobile phone customers outside the United States as part of the
Internet powerhouse's efforts to build other revenue sources beyond the
Web.

The new mobile marketing platform to be unveiled Monday will
deliver image-based ads to mobile phones in Mexico, Canada and 16 other
countries in Europe, Asia and parts of South America.

The Sunnyvale-based company launched a similar advertising push in the United States in November.

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More US states mull OpenDocument move

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Minnesota and Texas may become the next US states to adopt the OpenDocument Format (ODF) as the required standard for their agencies, thanks to two state bills currently up for vote.

The Minnesota Preservation of State Documents Act, if passed,
would require that all documents "including text, spreadsheets
and presentations" of the state be created in ODF. The XML-based
document format is a rival to Microsoft's Office technology.



The one-page bill, HF0176, was introduced to the state's
legislative Committee on Governmental Operations, Reform,
Technology and Elections on January 17 by Representative Paul Thissen.
Representatives Melissa Hortman and Steve Simon, later joined as co-authors
of the bill.



If it passes the vote, Minnesota Preservation of State
Documents Act will go into effect on July 1, 2008.



The Texas bill SB 446, authored by state Senator Juan Hinojosa,
was filed with the state Senate on February 5. That act, if
passed, would take effect on December 1, 2007, but agencies would
be given until September 1, 2008 to comply.

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Microsoft: Vista follow-up likely in 2009

With Vista just out the door, Microsoft is now drawing up plans to deliver its follow-up client operating system by the end of 2009, according to the executive in charge of building the product's core components.



That would be a much faster turn-around than Vista, which shipped more than five years after Windows XP, but Vista was exceptional, said Ben Fathi, corporate vice president of development with Microsoft's Windows Core Operating System Division this week at the RSA Conference in San Francisco.



Microsoft originally planned for its XP follow-up to include a number of radical changes to Windows, including a new file system and a reinvented user interface, but after the company's products were hit by widespread worm outbreaks in 2003, Microsoft redirected almost its entire engineering effort to locking down Windows with the XP Service Pack 2 release.



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YouTube has to move fast to prove it has a future

With 35 million regular users and a reputation at the cutting- edge
of cool, the video-sharing site YouTube.com was the happening new media
company of 2006. It won Time magazine's award for Invention of the
Year. Savvy media commentators joked: "The revolution will not be
televised. It will be YouTubed."







Established giants of the digital era seemed to agree. Google paid
$1.76bn (£840m) last September to buy YouTube from its founders, the
former PayPal employees Jawed Karim, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen. Then
trouble started. Old media companies, whose content make it a
compelling online destination, began to demand payback.


Before Google, YouTube's image as a democratic, non-commercial
entity shielded it from lawsuits. But once in the behemoth's embrace,
music, television and film companies asserted their copyright. YouTube
signed short-term licensing deals with the likes of CBS, Vivendi,
Warner, Sony-BMG and Universal Music, but the daddy of all new media
questions is hanging over it: how to monetise an anarchic user-uploaded
business model.



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Windows Vista "out of tune"

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Windows Vista: more than five years in the making, more than 50 million lines of code. The result? A vista slightly more inspiring than the one over the town dump. The new slogan is: "The 'Wow' Starts Now," and Microsoft touts new features, many filched shamelessly from Apple's Macintosh. But as with every previous version, there's no wow here, not even in ironic quotes. Vista is at best mildly annoying and at worst makes you want to rush to Redmond, Wash. and rip somebody's liver out.

Vista is a fading theme park with a few new rides, lots of patched-up old ones and bored kids in desperate need of adult supervision running things. If I can find plenty of problems in a matter of hours, why can't Microsoft? Most likely answer: It did--and it doesn't care.

Example: If malware somehow gets into your machine, Windows Firewall will not stop it from making outbound Internet connections to do its evil deeds. If you turn off that firewall in favor of a better one, the Windows Firewall control panel will admonish: "Your computer is not protected; turn on Windows Firewall." But the Windows Security Center will correctly tell you that a firewall is on and that you shouldn't run two at a time. Call it convistancy.

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A DRM-Free World For Online Music

Earlier in the week Steve Jobs released an open letter
via the Apple website addressing some “rubs” against Apple for having a
digital rights management (DRM) that restricts iTunes music downloads
to be played on only iPods.

In the letter Jobs describes how the DRM came to be through
restrictions from the larger music companies who were concerned about
users pirating music through the iTunes website. The DRM was made to
protect downloaded music from being copied freely across the internet
and in turn gain the approval of the music companies which would then
allow Apple to sell their music online.


Jobs also points out that Apple is not the only company with a DRM
that restricts downloaded music to a device. “Music purchased from
Microsoft’s Zune store will only play on Zune players; music purchased
from Sony’s Connect store will only play on Sony’s players; and music
purchased from Apple’s iTunes store will only play on iPods. This is
the current state of affairs in the industry…”. He states that the
agreement Apple was able to make is still unmatched by most digital
music services which allows the music to play on an unlimited number of
iPods and up to 5 computers....

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Hosting firm run Windows, Linux on sites at same time

Citing increased demand from Web developers and their clients, a
Canadian Web hosting company Wednesday said it would begin letting
customers build and host Web sites running both Microsoft Windows and
Linux applications at the same time.



Toronto-based Netfirms has built its own clustering technology,
which allows customers to manage Windows and Linux applications -- each
running on separate server grids operated by Netfirms -- transparently
through a single account, according to Thomas Savundra, president of
Netfirms.







Netfirms said it is the first Web hosting company to let customers use both Windows and Linux applications and code through
a single Web hosting account....



Big box, little box - IBM will slice it

IBM this week marched its virtualization agenda forward on two fronts, announcing new code for beastly mainframes and some labs-crafted software for thin x86 systems.

Big Blue has spent a few years banging out about the idea of running hundreds of Linux virtual machines on top of a mainframe. It's a nice way to put a modern spin on grizzled kit.

With release 5.3 of z/VM, customers now run even more virtual machines - up to a 1,000 of the bastards on a single copy of the hypervisor. We're not so sure that many customers will need virtual machines in such quantities, but IBM likes to throw out the big numbers.

More importantly, IBM has bulked up z/VM on a number of fronts.

Google - this internet won't scale

Google's TV chief has admitted the internet is crap for TV. Speaking to the Cable Europe Congress in Amsterdam, Vincent Dureau told attendees:

"The web infrastructure, and even Google's [infrastructure]...doesn't scale. It's not going to offer the quality of service that consumers expect."

Dureau, is head of TV technology at the ad giant. He candidly admitted that his own YouTube video service was part of the problem.

Engineers point to two different problems with today's Internet. The bandwidth is too low, but more acutely, latency and "jitter" mean the quality of the viewing experience is severely compromised. If an email program, or even one of Google's YouTube's Flash-based movies is forced to wait for a second, no one notices. But if a movie keeps hiccuping, no one will use the service again.

Open XML vs. ODF: Document Format Wars Rage On

There are new movements in the ongoing war over document formats this week, with Microsoft facing new challenges and Sun Microsystems possibly facing new opportunities.

As Microsoft encounters resistance in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) process of approving its Open XML document format, Sun is moving to advance the competing OpenDocument Format (ODF). Sun announced a conversion plug-in for Microsoft Office 2003 on Thursday as the two formats continue to compete to become the XML-based file format of choice for office documents everywhere.

Following several key losses to OpenOffice.org, including one in Massachusetts that made headlines and highlighted the document-format debate, Microsoft has been attempting to protect use of its Office suite from open-source competition by offering its own open document format....

Policing the Net

A bill introduced in the U.S. Senate lays the groundwork for a national database of illegal images that Internet service providers would use to automatically flag and report suspicious content to police. The proposal made by Sen. John McCain also would require ISPs and perhaps some Web sites to alert the government of any illegal images of real or "cartoon" minors. Failure to do so would be punished by criminal penalties including fines of up to $300,000.

The Arizona Republican claims that his proposal will aid in investigations of child pornographers. It will "enhance the current system for Internet service providers to report online child pornography on their systems, making the failure to report child pornography a federal crime," a statement from his office said....

Fast, Yahoo Roll Out New Options For Search Ads

Friday, February 9, 2007

Continuing the endless quest for an alternative to Google, Fast Search & Transfer and Yahoo rolled out new search advertising platforms last week, each hoping they had the answer.

Yahoo introduced the final piece of its Panama project, a new search marketing ranking model that takes ad performance into account when calculating where an ad will be placed on a page. Previously, Yahoo awarded the best page position to the advertiser willing to pay the most for a given search keyword. But as Google made clear with its recent report of 67% year-over-year quarterly revenue growth, ads that not only pay well but play well--ads that get lots of clicks--return better results for everyone involved in making them happen....

Can Google score with in-game ads?

Google has reportedly looked at acquiring AdScape Media, a small company, founded in Ontario and now based in San Francisco, that specializes in so-called in-game ads. Google did not return calls seeking comment, and an AdScape spokeswoman declined to comment on the talks.

Though an industry insider who asked to remain anonymous said negotiations had stalled, such an acquisition would allow Google to take on old foe Microsoft, which last year acquired a similar but larger company called Massive. In-game ads, however, are one place where Microsoft would have a rare advertising advantage over Google thanks to thriving sales of its Xbox 360 gaming console and a long list of gaming titles....

Gateway Plans to Cut Expenses, Employees

Gateway announced late Thursday that it will close its retail stores next week and lay off about 2,500 employees associated with the shops, or nearly 40 percent of its work force.

The company, based in Poway, Calif., will continue its direct-sales strategy but plans to shut its 188 stores on April 9. Gateway recently acquired eMachines, and following the closing of the stores, the combined company plans to lay off 2,500--38 percent--of its 6,500 employees. Employees will receive severance packages. The company said it will provide more details about the impact of the closings on its revenue and costs when it announces its first-quarter results April 29.

The store closings were not unexpected. Analysts, who had been theorizing that the retail outlets were on the chopping block for weeks, said the stores could have been a liability for Gateway's efforts to form relationships with third-party retailers, which could carry Gateway-brand PCs and consumer electronics gear....

Apple's Not the Bad Guy

If the major record labels were as concerned about nurturing consumers of legal downloads as they are with preventing illegal downloads, maybe they wouldn't be in the financial downward spiral they're in right now.

Every chance they get, the labels are trying to make it less appealing to purchase legal downloads. Steve Jobs, loving his gig as the most powerful person is the music business, re-ignited his cat fight with the four major record labels this week by posting an essay on the Apple web site titled "Thoughts on Music." In it, he responds to repeated calls from Warner, Universal, EMI and Sony BMG that Apple makes songs purchased through iTunes available to be played on mp3 players other than the iPod.

His response is that the major labels should abandon the required DRM (Digital Rights Management) software...

Knowing your business's strengths and weaknesses: A simple SWOT analysis.

Business owners often wonder whether or not they are in a strong or weak position when compared to their competition. The SWOT analyzes a businesses strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in order to help the owner/manager precisely where their business stands. The extended SWOT or E-SWOT compares the responses generated on the SWOT to determine an appropriate course of action.

The SWOT and the E-SWOT is easy to use and only takes a few minutes to complete with some foresight. The example below is provided for a simple SWOT and E-SWOT on The New Business World Blog (NBWB).

SWOT

Strengths • A solid base of readers has been formed with a high level of return visitors. • The cost of maintaining such site is considered relatively low. • NBWB has a three-time published author to write high-quality articles • The site uses research and authority to be the back bone of its articles....

Former GameCube developer calls early Wii graphics sloppy

Developer Factor 5 is no stranger to Nintendo consoles. The company's Rogue Squadron II launch title for GameCube arguably pushed the purple box hardware further than most, right out of the gate. In its time (and perhaps still today) the game is a looker.

That said, the company's CEO Julian Eggebrecht was critical of first-generation Wii graphics while speaking with IGN yesterday. In short, he called developer efforts "sloppy" as many Wii launch titles output worse graphics than some GameCube games, notably Resident Evil 4. From the interview: "I really have to say, boy, am I disappointed [with early Wii graphics]... I was digging out Rebel Strike the other day and was looking at it, and we had some people who were visiting ask, 'Why isn't anybody else doing this on Wii?' and I am at a loss."...

Net Neutrality in Canada - Tory government selling out?

Canada appears to give in to telecoms lobby groups and give up on network neutrality.

Apparently the Canadian press has dug up information that the Tory government is not going to introduce network neutrality.

Frankly, as a Canadian, I am disgusted.

Any company opposing network neutrality is doing nothing but trying to impose taxes on data traffic they do not own, and trying to make sure that 'small voices' do not get heard equally. I am sure the RIAA would love net neutrality going down in flames as it would allow them to get ISPs to tax 'mp3' file transfers (it could be done - stateful packet inspection of data streams; all the governments would have to do is outlaw encrypted streams or mandate encryption they and the ISPs have keys to, which would make encryption useless)...

Sony wants you to watch 24, Lost on your PSP

Sony Computer Entertainment of Europe is in talks with Sky, trying to get it to distribute content for PSP users. Programs that are broadcast by Sky in the UK and Ireland include 24, Lost, The Simpsons, Deadwood, and more. This partnership will be crucial for Sony's plans in educating the general public about the multimedia functionality of Sony's handheld.

The service will supposedly launch by year's end. There's no indication that Sony Computer Entertainment of America will follow suit with a similar program.

Call of Duty: Road to Victory

I'm getting a little burnt out on World War II shooters... gimme World War I shooters, that would be hot. Actually, no, don't give me that at all. This only has my interest because it's a Playstation Portable shooter and it's always fun to see how the developers try to work around the fact the platform doesn't have two thumbsticks. Fun for them, usually not so much for us.

Can natural language search bring down Google?

Upstart search engine Powerset has just secured an exclusive license for natural language processing technology from Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center. It's a move that some are claiming will allow the small firm to someday challenge Google.

Steve Newcomb, one of Powerset's founders, characterizes the PARC technology as "the most sophisticated natural language technology known to man" and claims that it will give his company a major advantage over keyword-based search engines like Google.

The company has been operating quietly so far, but has recently been profiled twice in the New York Times and other major media outlets as it gears up for a private beta release of its flagship search engine. The company has not yet made details of the deal available, but the Times is reporting that PARC gets an equity stake in Powerset, while Powerset gets access to its technology and to researcher Ronald Kaplan, a leader in the field of natural language processing.

Microsoft provides design docs for SaaS

Thinking about converting your traditional software product to software-as-a-service? According to Microsoft Corp, it requires more than a rethink of your business model.

You have to pay a lot of attention to software design as well, because what works inside the enterprise will crash and burn if it isn't redesigned for online deployment, the company says.

To provide ISVs a better idea of how to adopt the SaaS model, Microsoft has designed a reference application to show how it can be done.

The sample application, LitwareHR, is a fictional human resources app that shows how to incorporate and configure Microsoft offerings such as the .NET Framework 3.0 and SQL Server 2005 for a multi-tenant model. In essence, it shows what Microsoft has been previously talking about in white papers posted on the MSDN developer site...

A Website names that tune

It can strike anywhere, at any time. It might have been belted out by Christina, Britney, or any number of Swedish pop outfits. You might have heard it in an elevator, in your car, even on someone else's iPod. Fact is, one of the worst things about that annoyingly catchy tune you can't get out of your head is that you don't know its name.

But that's about to change with the launch of www.midomi.com, a Web site that puts titles to the tunes you hum, sing or whistle into your computer's microphone. The website relies on voice-activated search technology that analyses sounds and matches them against a music database...

Zune Phone Confirmed!

We don’t wanna say we told you so, but, ya know, we did. On Monday, Microsoft filed a mystery application with the FCC for an enigmatic wireless device that could be used to talk over the Internet. Sounds like a VoiP device, right?

Not really. The device is described as being used for “consumer broadband access and networking,” which doesn’t sound like vanilla VoIP to me. Microsoft goes on to say that the device would use OFDM as its communications protocol, not WiFi or Bluetooth. Well, why not? The standard OFDM (orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing) is a modulation scheme that is used widely in upcoming 4G standards of the future. But with wireless access gaining momentum, and the all-around arms race for bandwidth, 4G starts to make sense, in a crazy, crazy kind of way...

MIT Team Details Optics-On-A-Chip Device

Fiber-optic networks transmit massive amounts of information quickly, but the signals weaken as the data-carrying light travels long distances.

Now, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said they've overcome a major obstacle in harnessing the full power and speed of the light waves.

It promises to solve a problem that's long plagued fiber-optic networks: Light waves gradually weaken over distances as they become polarized, or randomly oriented horizontally and vertically. The tools available to fix it are expensive to deploy on a massive scale...

GPS Shoes Make People Findable

Isaac Daniel calls the tiny Global Positioning System chip he's embedded into a line of sneakers "peace of mind." He wishes his 8-year-old son had been wearing them when he got a call from his school in 2002 saying the boy was missing. The worried father hopped a flight to Atlanta from New York where he had been on business to find the incident had been a miscommunication and his son was safe.

Days later, the engineer started working on a prototype of Quantum Satellite Technology, a line of $325 to $350 adult sneakers that hit shelves next month. It promises to locate the wearer anywhere in the world with the press of a button. A children's line will be out this summer.

"We call it a second eye watching over you," Daniel said...

Gadget Fans Slam iPod Ban Plan

When it comes to clothes, some people would rather keel over and die that go without a favorite sweatshirt or baseball hat. For the gadget-lover, it's no different. You can see those famous white iPod headphones in the ears of music fans just about anywhere you travel.

But one lawmaker has had just about enough of the gadget-loving masses. He wants pedestrians to stop plugging in and to start waking up to the potential hazards of urban life. He's pushing a proposal to make plugging in while crossing New York streets a crime.

New York Senator Carl Kruger (D), who represents the 27th district of New York, plans to introduce legislation that would ban the use of hand held devices such as BlackBerries, iPods, and portable video games while crossing streets in major New York cities, such as Buffalo, Albany, and New York City itself.


Microsoft planning new wireless software

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Microsoft Corp. plans a launch this spring of its next-generation operating system for wireless devices, Windows Mobile 6, which is important for the company's efforts to grab market share beyond the desktop.

Microsoft is expected to disclose details of Windows Mobile 6 on Monday at a telecommunications conference in Barcelona, Spain.

The company pledged that the new software would render e-mails and other documents much as they appear on desktop computers. The software will also have deeper connectivity to Microsoft's "Live" suite of online services, including instant messaging....