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Saturday, August 4, 2007

NASA sends probe to Martian North Pole

Two scientists from Dalhousie University in Halifax will have an anxious years wait as their laser probe lifted off today from Cape Canaveral in Florida aboard a Delta II rocket destined for Mars. The Phoenix Mars Lander is expected to reach Mars next spring and is equipped to study the climate of the red planet's northern pole. Odds are not in their favor however, as only 1 in 3 missions to Mars is, historically, successful. Good luck gentlemen, I'm sure that the weather here in Atlantic Canada has prepared your equipment well for its destination! CBC News Story.

Some will pay just about any price for an iPhone in Canada

The Globe and Mail has the tale of two Canadian iPhone owners who were willing to pay largely for their iPhone's. One figures his first months bill will be $500 while the other spent an hour in lockup at the US - Canada border, lost his phones and has to pay another $400 in fines! Curb your enthusiasm folks, it will get here eventually.

Simpsons movie does not dissapoint

For the first time in a long while I was able to get everyone in my household to agree to a movie night out. Not that we don't like movies, it's just that we all have different tastes and we don't often find a movie that everyone wants to see. The Simpsons Movie was one of those rare shows that we all were itching to see, and from the moment it began until the last credit rolled we were all glued to the screen. If you are a fan, then you'll want to get off of the couch and experience The Simpsons Movie on the big screen, but don't give up and dash for the door when the credits start to roll because Matt Groening has hidden a few nuggets in there as well. I don't want to be a spoiler so I won't elaborate, you just don't want to miss it! Thanks for a great family night out Matt! D'oh, I also wanted to say I'll be picking up the DVD when it hits the shelf, we each noticed a few references to past episodes and I'm sure we missed more than we caught.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Allow me to translate

In my previous career I worked as a warehouseman / purchasing agent for a mining company. One of my duties was taking stock of consumables in the "shop" which included welding supplies like oxygen and accetaline. The welders would store the full tanks in one area, and the empties in another. On occasion I'd find tanks that were marked "M.T." (empty), since this was well before instant messaging, I have to assume that the welder who marked the tanks was either a bit of a joker or a little illiterate. Never the less, I think I know what happened to this guy...

He now works for the department of highways in Nunatsiavut! Thanks Jan!

Image copyright J. McKenna 2007

Black Hatter demonstrates webmail - Wi-Fi vulnerability

Here is a story from the BBC that comes from the current Black Hat conference in Las Vegas. According to the report, Robert Graham of Errata Security has developed tools that allow hackers to sniff traffic on public Wi-Fi networks and intercept cookies that an unsuspecting web-mail user may be passing from their laptop to their web-mail host. The information contained in the cookies could allow the hacker access to the user's web-mail or social networking site's account but would not likely allow them the ability to change passwords, as this often requires knowledge of the current password. To quote an 80's TV classic, "Let's be careful out there!"

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Web jumps to life in wake of disaster

In the wake of the Minnesota 35W bridge collapse, the Internet is a wash in stories, photos and video of the disaster. The personal accounts of hundreds of individuals who's lives have been some how touched by the tragedy are being told through blogs, video, and photographs uploaded to flickr and other sharing sites. Wired blogger Joe Brown has a round up on his Autopia blog. A terrible tragedy that unfortunately is not without precedent, this calls into question the state of an aging North American highway infrastructure.

Microsoft testing the waters with free version of Works

The BBC is reporting that Microsoft, feeling the heat from rivals like Sun and Google, is going to offer an ad-supported free version of Works with the release of version 9 later this year. Works is the version that generally ships with PCs or is available for $39.99 US, and is comprised mostly of Word and Excel. Not bad for the consumer...

Time wasted or athletes in training?

On my commute to work this morning, the local FM station ran a story citing a study that suggested the typical office worker wastes over 2 hours of their 8 hour day. The studies authors suggested that surfing the web and socializing were the major time wasters. I think that faceball might be a contributing factor! Thanks to net@night episode 30 for this link, great show Amber and Leo!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Russia dives for oil, gas at the North Pole

A Russian scientific expedition to the north pole also has political and economic goals, with the Russians planning to deposit a flag at the bottom of the sea. The team hopes to prove that the Lomonosov Ridge, a 1,240-mile underwater mountain range that crosses the polar region, is a geologic extension of Russia, and therefore can be claimed under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. Denmark also believes the ridge is an extension of their territory, while Canada seeks to maintain sovereignty over the region and is planning to invest $7 billion in a fleet of patrol vessels. The American government is also contemplating an investment in the Coast Guard's ice breaking fleet in order to protect it's interests. Looks like more than global warming is heating things up at the pole... let's hope that Megatron isn't disturbed by all the activity! CNN story here.

Gearing up to be your own IT help desk

c|net's "The Real Deal" episode 69 - "Be your own IT department" hosted by Tom Merrit and Rafe Needleman is a great listen if you are the tech go-to guy/gal on your block. I loved this episode for all of the software tools that are discussed. I hadn't considered creating a thumb drive tool box before, but this makes so much sense! Rather than trying to remember URLs, load up the flash memory with dozens of helpful utilities and be prepared for whatever that Windows machine throws at you. Tom and Rafe list dozens of apps that will help track down and fix whatever is ailing Granny's PC. Thanks guys, great episode!

Following in Will Ferrell's footsteps

Another video content site has sprouted from the desires of Hollywood professionals, tired of the creative restrictions placed upon them by the old media companies. The brainchild of former MTV and CBS Radio executive Rob Barnett, "My Damn Channel" will feature the works of Comedian Harry Shearer, filmmaker David Wain and music producer Don Was, to name a few. Barnett points to the hugely viral "The Landlord" video produced by Will Ferrell for his web venture as an example of the opportunities that exist in the web space. The site which launched yesterday has a distribution deal in place with YouTube. Wired News story.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Led Zeppelin and Apple make nice music together

Engadget is reporting that Led Zeppelin is finally embracing iTunes. Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones have personally selected a number of songs to be sold as a "best of" type collection. "Mothership," will include 'Stairway to Heaven', 'Whole Lotta Love,' 'Dazed and Confused' and other personally selected tracks. This at the same time that Apple announces it's 3 billionth download! No one screams like Robert Plant!

Tip toeing around the IT department

The Wall Street Journal has a top ten list of things the IT department won't tell you. These are tips similar to what you'll find on Lifehacker or boing boing, and covers such things as how to visit sites the IT department doesn't want you to visit or how to cover your tracks before you return the company laptop. The neat thing about this list is that it comes with it's benefits and risks clearly spelled out. Use them at your own risk, enjoy! Sorry Graham & John, I don't do any of these, honest!

Papers losing out to web sites, d'oh!

Who would have seen this coming? Newspaper publishers are recording large drops in revenue and at least partly attributing it to real estate ads moving online. The housing market is also in a decline and that should be considered here but is anyone really shocked by this news? Analysts are afraid that real estate ads are going the way of the help wanted ad, that has already largely migrated online, are these people living in a cave? I'll admit, it hasn't been the meteoric rise that some predicted a decade ago but still this should not be taking anyone by surprise, as the Internet generation grows up it's only going to get worse for traditional media. Ever heard of a little site called craigslist? Globe and Mail story here.

Monday, July 30, 2007

How to assure that the best team wins

The CBC has an interesting article that, to me, proves that scientists don't know very much about sports! After analyzing and simulating league play, they found "a great degree of randomness of outcomes in games, with at least some chance that a lesser team can win in any given game". I have some experience in coaching, having participated in two national sporting championships. The fact is that teams who look good on paper do not always win, there is randomness in sport, that's what makes sport interesting! I do find this quote about major league baseball interesting however, "Over the past century, the lower-seeded team had an astounding 44 per cent chance of defeating a higher-seeded team", that number seems high but plausible. The researchers say that in order to ensure that the best team wins the respective schedules should contain a number of games equaling the square of the number of teams in the league. That would mean that a major league baseball team would have to play a schedule of 256 games, nearly 100 more than the current schedule! I say the best team should not necessarily win, but rather the team that performs the best when required to. If the best team won all of the time, nobody would be interested in participating or watching!

The Internet is down!

A while back my now 73 year old father moved in with us. Cancer took my mother in 1999, she was 59 (much too young to go), and in the fall of 2005 Dad's new partner also passed from a similar fate. He was lonely and we took him in. My father is an intelligent man, he was a mining engineer by profession, however he is not terribly tech savvy. Our wireless network has been known to be a bit flaky and rather than spend the time figuring out what was up I had trained my family the ugly, but effective, hard reboot method of network administration. On more than one occasion I've had my Dad track me down to tell me that "the Internet is down", I usually chuckle to myself and get things up and going again. I must say, my father is a little bit forgetful and hard of hearing, I have tried to explain the difference between our network and the Internet, but he hasn't quite caught on. With more and more wireless networks creeping into our neighborhood I have taken matters into hand and have licked the problem, moving from the default channel was all it took, and in hind site seems like a relatively trivial issue that if tackled earlier would have saved a lot of frustration.

Having said all this perhaps you'll see this video through my eyes and appreciate it that much more for it's comedic value. This is truly priceless, thanks ONION! oh, and thanks should also go to CommandN... this was one of their web picks.

Breaking News: All Online Data Lost After Internet Crash

The technology of racing - in photos

c|net has a photographic look at the technology that makes it into a grand prix racer... from tires to wires they have it covered. This is an up close look behind the scenes, very cool!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Republican candidates shy away from YouTube debates

This Wired blog is quoting a Washington Post report saying that most Republican 2008 presidential candidates are staying clear of the CNN/YouTube sponsored debates that have everyday Americans posing their questions via video. It appears as though the Republicans are afraid to face the nation over fear of being pressed about the war in Iraq. Only Senator John McCain who has been open in his stance on Iraq and Congressman Ron Paul, who opposes the war, have agreed to participate in the debate. To no ones surprise, the debates have been popular with the 18 to 34 demographic.

Debate raging in Britain over fight videos

The BBC News is reporting that the Association of Chief Police Officers in Britain is criticizing online video sharing sites for allowing content depicting young people engaged in violence. "We would question who is in a financially better position to police the likes of YouTube - those in the private sector, who are earning huge amounts of money, or police forces which are currently having to stretch budgets." said Deputy Chief Constable Brian Moore. YouTube said in it's defense said that it did not employ anyone to police what is posted, but relied on it's site visitors to decide what was questionable and report it. Further, they claimed pre-screening content is a form of censorship which is not the role of a private company. It's natural that nobody wants to openly take responsibility for this sort of thing and considering the shear number of video posted daily, is it reasonable to expect YouTube or any other video sharing site to filter content? This is the same argument that YouTube has had with the big TV networks over copyrighted materials, only in this case it's not money at stake but young lives. I agree that the police have their hands full, the real question is where are the parents of these kids?