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Saturday, October 6, 2007

That's one hot iPod you've got there!

PCWorld is reporting that an Atlanta, Georgia man had his 2 year old iPod Nano burst into flames in his pants! The man works at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, according to his mother, is quoted as saying "If TSA had come by and seen me smoking, they could have honestly thought I was a terrorist,". The flames are said to have lasted about 15 seconds and reached chest height. PCWorld says "The iPod contains a lithium-ion battery, which has a history of catching fire in laptops." Apple sent him a packet to return his iPod in... I think he should use a Scottevest next time!

Nike your workout partner?

c|net's crave blog brings to our attention the Nike Amp+ Sport Remote Control, Nike says "it's a watch and a remote for the Nike+ experience. Hear instant voice feedback of your time, distance, calories and pace when you add the Nike+ iPod Sport Kit and Nike+ Ready shoes." Though it looks like something out of Star Trek, it's reasonably priced at $79, but when you consider the $29 for the iPod Sport Kit and $90 for shoes... etc. the whole collection starts to add up. If you're going to put your self through the torture of running you might as well be geeked out! I especially like the "Power song accessed through left-side button for quick motivation".

Friday, October 5, 2007

Multiple choice in the digital age

The University of Manitoba has introduced the iClicker to about 30 classes on campus. The device looks and acts a lot like a remote control only the clicks are in response to the questions posed by the professors. "What it does is it gives the student a relative anonymity in answering the question," Kumar Sharma, a physics professor at the university told CBC News. "There's no stigma attached to making the wrong answer, and some people who were too shy to put up their hands generally respond." Some professors at the university have made the iClicker mandatory in their lectures, they are sold at the university's bookstore for about $40, and the cost has irritated some students.

Research In Motion sees profit double despite iPhone

Research In Motion released it's second quarter results yesterday and Jim Balsillie and company had plenty to smile about. "RIM's second quarter results were exceptionally strong on all metrics including revenue, subscriber account additions and net income," said Balsillie, Co-CEO at RIM. "This growth is fueled by the depth of the BlackBerry product portfolio and the continued diversification of our business across market segments and geographies. With over ten million BlackBerry subscriber accounts and over twenty million handsets shipped, we are pleased with our position in the market today and we expect recent product and market initiatives to extend our business momentum through the remainder of the fiscal year." RIM certainly has a commanding lead in the business sector and while the iPhone is a pretty device, time will tell whether or not BlackBerry users will see any benefit in switching devices. E-mail integration may dictate the winner here...

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Audit Berkeley lectures from home via YouTube

CBC is reporting that The University of California, Berkeley is making it's entire selection of course lectures available free of charge on YouTube. "YouTube's ongoing innovations create a great environment in which students and lifelong learners alike can discover, watch and share educational videos," said Ben Hubbard, co-manager of webcast.berkeley, in a release.

This is exciting news, combine these videos with free course material from MIT and you can see a real trend starting!

HealthVault - Microsoft's Common Health Record Plan

Microsoft is planning a new online offering that will allow you to manage your electronic health records. The plan for "HealthVault" is to allow users "to view information from medical devices, myriad health care providers and insurance companies as well as share that information with health care providers of their choosing or search for information related to their health issues." according to this c|net post. A related health search service is also being launched and it appears as this will be the method of monetizing the venture, "When I am doing a health search I typically have a need," Microsoft's Peter Neupert said. "The ad is a valuable piece of content."

Google has a similar initiative underway and in both cases the sensitive nature of the data and user's trust that the company can ensure security will be a big hurtle to acceptance.

Geek Squad get their man and woman...

ars technica is reporting that two PC owners who chose Best Buy's Geek Squad to do repairs to their PCs have ended up in hot water over their hard drive contents. In one case a young woman who hired the Geek Squad to swap a hard drive out of her machine, is being targeted by the RIAA for alleged file sharing. The second customer finds him self in much deeper trouble after a Geek Squad member found child pornography on his hard drive and tipped off police. The Fayetteville, Arkansas Police found child porn images along with "a commercial video clip of child pornography, and two video clips of minor females changing into swim suits that appeared to have been taken by a hidden video camera," according to the US Attorney's complaint. The man who crossed State lines with the laptop has been sentenced to 135 months in jail and a $10,000 fine. Geek justice is served!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Bungie employees get flaming Halo 3 helmet

If you're on XBox Live, playing Halo 3, and you encounter a Spartan with a flaming helmet you might have your hands full! In fact you are actually playing one of the developers from Bungie. G4's The Feed is reporting that a flaming helmet signifies a Bungie employee and try as you might, you can never obtain one, unless you're resume is up to HR's standards... opens platform to the masses

Wired's epicenter blog is reporting that is opening up it's platform to allow users to broadcast their lives, with their own equipment. The company had opened up to a select group of beta broadcasters in May, contrary to earlier reports that it wasn't planning on broadcasting the lives of the masses. The move puts in competition with a number of other players, but it comes on the heals of a round of venture capital and cost cutting measures like moving to Amazon's Web Services.

Microsoft not giving up on Zune MP3 player

According to PCWorld, Microsoft is not ready to call it quits on it's line of MP3 players just yet. A new line of Zune Players, the Zune 2, is reported to be coming with 2 flash memory devices and an 80 GB hard drive model. This generation will be equipped with Wi-Fi and supported by new community features and DRM-free music sales at the Zune Marketplace music store. It's a handsome looking device with a familiar looking "click wheel" like control, and while the first generation was not a huge success it had it's fans. With these updates the Zune 2 could become a solid contender in the MP3 player market, though it will be tough even for Microsoft to truly mount a challenge of Apple's iPod line.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Canada to tighten identity theft laws

The Globe and Mail is reporting that the Canadian government is tightening up it's laws regarding identity theft. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced that Ottawa will introduce legislation targeting the gathering and trafficking of personal data for the purposes of using it deceptively. Fraudulent use of identity is already a criminal act in Canada, but the gathering and selling of credit card, banking, and other information is not, yet. “Our government will be giving police the tools to better protect Canadians by stopping identity theft activity before the damage is done,” the Minister said in a statement.

Robot love!

MSNBC has an interesting story about Roomba owners that appears to contradict a GigaOm post that I commented on recently. The article sites a report conducted by an associate professor at Georgia Tech, Beki Grinter. Here's an interesting quote "The third phase of the study, presented last week at the Ubiquitous Computing Conference in Austria, focused on more traditional users. Polling 379 U.S. users, it found that some would pre-clean their homes before using the machine, and that it seemed to make males more excited about the chore of vacuuming." Perhaps iRobot should market the little guys to women as a means of getting their man involved in the chores!

Heated blade, will it give hockey stars the edge?

Apparently Wayne Gretzky is a believer in the Therma Blade, a battery-warmed skate blade that melts ice to give its wearer more speed with less effort. The brainchild of former steam engineer Tory Weber, who has invested 5 years and $5 million in to the invention. Quoted in The Star as saying “It’s not super technical. We heat the blade and it creates a thin film of water between the skate blade and the ice and gives the user substantial performance benefits.” Weber provided The Great One a pair in 2004 and impressed him enough to get his endorsement. The only trouble is it's not Gretzky who needs convincing, though it probably helps, the NHL brass want to make sure the blade doesn't adversely affect it's ice. The Therma Blade will launch next month but the big league has not given the okay for them on it's ice, so we won't be seeing them on NHLers any time soon. No price point was revealed but they are said to fit any skate boot and are likely to be higher priced than traditional blades. Thanks to Engadget for this story.

Microsoft, Adobe chase Google online

Both Microsoft and Adobe made announcements on Monday that shows they are starting to take online services seriously. Adobe announced the purchase of Virtual Ubiquity, developer of the web word processor Buzzword, and launched a file-sharing service called Share. Microsoft on the other hand announced a web component for the Office suite of programs that will allow users to store, share and comment on documents. According to this CBC article "Microsoft Office Live Workspace, which launched as a test version on Monday, doesn't actually let users create new files from scratch online, but it is a step by the company towards bringing its suite of desktop applications to the web." Google has the lead but don't expect either of these giants to go down without a fight... competition is healthy!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Public curtain raised on Joost

Joost, the video dream site of Skype's Janus Friis and Kazaa's Niklas Zennström opened it's doors to everyone today, shedding it's beta status. Up until now the free, advertising supported, site was available only to those who could score a private invite. With content providers like Viacom, who brings MTV, BET, Comedy Central, and a limited selection of movies from Paramount, and CNN and MLB on board there is content worth looking at. ars technica's Jacqui Cheng thinks they have a challenge on their hands, particularly in signing on more content providers and finding a hardware partner to move the shows to the TV. This may be true, but it seems to me that the folks who know the television model will be all over this as it's virtually what they have now... easier for them to wrap their heads around than many of the newer ad models.

Scratching the Surface

Ars Technica writer, Jeremy Reimer, was given a rare opportunity for a personal demo of the Surface PC at Microsoft's campus. While his review offers no real news about the Surface's capabilities, it is interesting to read a 3rd person perspective of the experience. Reimer, it would seem, found the Surface an exciting new way of interacting with a PC, as indeed it is. In his conclusion Reimer writes "Although I already knew approximately what to expect when I was invited to the Microsoft campus to play with Surface, the experience of actually touching and using the unit exceeded my expectations. For a device still very much in development, it was remarkably smooth to use. " This sounds promising for those of us who are anxious to see the Surface... well, surface! Microsoft has said that it could be available for business applications as early as the end of '07 and at a cost of between $5,000 and $10,000 it will be a while before you see one in your living room, but it's coming!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Frankenstein Complex and iRobot's future

Kevin Kelleher at GigaOm has a theory about stagnant sales at iRobot, and it's called the Frankenstein Complex. Isaac Asimov coined the phrase to describe the fear of robots and Kelleher thinks it explains why we North Americans have not embraced the machines in our homes like the Japanese have in theirs. In his post Kelleher says "The Burlington, Mass., company went public nearly two years ago and its share price has spent much of last year below the $24 offering price. Revenue from consumer products –60% of iRobot’s revenue last year – fell 1% in the first half of 2007 from a year ago."

My experience with robots is more in the software realm of chat robots, but I tend to agree that they can be seen as a little creepy by some. I have found that the more human looking, the creepier they get. I just don't think that we (collective) are afraid of the Roomba, it's probably more to do with the fact that they are not as easily obtained as say a Dyson, and also not really mass marketed. I'd venture a guess that most people have never heard of them! I'd love one, but until my old upright throws in the towel I'm not motivated enough to purchase. On the other hand, the ConnectR and perhaps even the Looj are both something that I don't already have, fill a gap that is not met by any other device, and therefore I might be convinced to purchase.

Interesting theory though.

LAPD use laser targeted bug to end high speed chases

G4's The Feed has a story about the Los Angeles Police Department's use of the StarChase system, a laser sighted projectile that mounts to a police cruiser and when deployed fires an adhesive gps bug that sticks to the bad guys car allowing the police to back off and track from a safe distance. StarChase says "It’s comprised of a tracking projectile with a miniaturized GPS receiver, radio transmitter, power supply and a launcher which can be hand-held or mounted on a police car." Their site, which may not have been updated in a while, has a video of the system in action... cool!

Bricked your iPhone? These guys might still want it

The guys at TechCrunch have found a site that's looking for your old iPod, working or not! According to this post, will buy working or otherwise ipods and will give you a quote before you decide. You have to pay the shipping, but if you've just bricked your iPhone like Michael Arrington, $213 for an otherwise useless (but pretty) piece of technology might not seem so bad... the broken ones are taken apart for parts and the working ones are refurbished for resale, a nice green alternative to the trash bin!

NASA to offer history lesson on NASA TV to commemorate 50 years in space

NASA, in a press release on Friday, said it will air a 50 year retrospective of space craft, space travel and the space agency starting tomorrow on NASA TV. The show airs just ahead of the 50th anniversary of Sputnik the first craft put into orbit, by the Russians on October 4th, 1957. The Americans followed with the launch of their first satelite, Explorer I, on January 31, 1958 and NASA was born October 1, 1958.

The release says "NASA TV news feeds and a special interactive web presentation on will feature interview excerpts with former astronauts, engineers, scientists, flight directors and other NASA employees who offer historical perspectives on the Sputnik launch. Also provided will be file footage of Explorer I, the first satellite launched by the United States on Jan. 31, 1958, 3-D spacecraft models, and the subsequent announcement by NASA's first administrator T. Keith Glennan on the establishment of the agency on Oct. 1, 1958."