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Friday, October 26, 2007

More technology and the California Wild Fires

There is an LA Times Twitter feed that is dedicated to news about the fire and it is accessible via your mobile phone at this URL. It seems to me that this is potentially a very valuable tool to anyone who is truly affected by this tragedy. Those living in the area and displaced by the evacuations may not have internet access but one would assume cell access is still available. Besides your typical news articles, the feed is offering information about closures and shelter locations. I'm only seeing a couple of hundred people following the feed at the moment, it will be interesting to see if that number grows over time.

Mapping the California fire zone.

I'm seeing a lot of TV and web news coverage of the California wild fires and, not having had the privilege of ever being in that State before, was wanting to put it all into perspective. It was timely that while I was listening to Buzz Out Load this morning the Buzz crew spoke of an interesting Google Maps mashup that maps the area of the fires and pinpoints some major points of interest. It's amazing to see the area affected by these fires and truly brings into scope the magnitude of this tragedy! There's also something much more compelling about being able to click on the map and move the image around as opposed to just seeing the area represented by a static image on TV. Though the video and stories presented by mainstream media is also very overpowering!

Playing in Google's sandbox

If you are looking for a new way to experience searching ala Google, give SearchMash a try! It appears to be where the Google search engineers are trying their hands at a Web 2.0 interface to Google search, though I've not tested to see whether or not the same results are returned in both cases. The landing page is, as you'd expect, very sparse, but the results pane is much more functional. You can tab between results for 'Web', 'Images', 'Video', 'Maps', 'Blogs', and 'Wikipedia'. The site also uses Snap to provide a snapshot image of the pages returned and mousing over an inconspicuous tab on the left hand side of the page presents a list of resent searches. It's very usable and I'm kinda digg'n it!

Look up, look way up!

Would be rocket scientists will be in attendance at the X Prize Cup, which runs today through Sunday at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, New Mexico. "Organizers expect more than 60,000 attendees, up from last year's 25,000. The Lunar Lander competition will be the center of attention, but the show will also include robotics displays, hands-on spacecraft exhibits and fly-bys courtesy of the U.S. Air Force." according to Wired. The big attraction will be the $2 million lunar lander challenge with $1 million going to "the craft that can hover for 180 seconds and land on a pad that simulates the moon's surface, with craters and boulders." The odds on favorite is video game maker John Carmack (creator of Doom and Quake), and his team at Armadillo Aerospace who according to Wired "holds the record for the longest-hovering vehicle, beating the Japanese space agency and NASA,". Check out this video from Armadillo.

Microsoft surprises analysts with strong quarter

Stronger than anticipated sales of Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007, not to mention the lift provided by Halo 3 and subsequent Xbox 360 sales, have propelled Microsoft to a healthy quarter and the market responded favorably with a 12% jump in stock price. Despite strong growth in it's core business Microsoft still has a long way to go in it's online business. “Strategically, looking forward, the challenge for Microsoft is cloud computing and Google,” according to David Mitchell Smith, Gartner analyst. NY Times story here.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

More Facebook news!

Now all of those annoying crackberry addicts will have one more thing to do on their smart little devices! Research In Motion (RIM) today announced the launch of "Facebook(R) for BlackBerry (R) Smartphones", a new BlackBerry application that enables mobile access to Facebook using a BlackBerry smartphone. The press release says, among other things, "With the Facebook for BlackBerry Smartphones application, Facebook users can wirelessly send and view messages, photos, pokes and Wall posts. The rich, native application goes beyond browser-based access, automatically pushing notifications to the user's BlackBerry smartphone as friends and colleagues send notes, Wall posts or pokes. The application allows users to take a photo, upload it to the site with captions and tags; quickly and easily invite friends; manage events; manage photo albums; and manage their status while on the go." I'm not sure putting Blackberry addicts and Facebook addicts together is such a good idea... there goes the productivity! and probably the RIM share prices. Also interesting is the fact that Microsoft has been rumored to be interested in RIM, coincidence???

Microsoft injects cash into Facebook

It's been talked about for a while now and it's finally official, Microsoft and Facebook have announced that Microsoft will make a $240 million investment. The investment is part of a new round of financing that puts the value of Facebook at a whopping $15 Billion! The deal means that "Microsoft will begin selling ads for Facebook outside of the US and will become the site's exclusive ad provider in the US." according to ars technica.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The iphone's Canadian release date leaked

Officially there has been no news as to when the Apple iPhone will be launched in Canada, but Canadian brewing giant Molson's has been planning on giving them away in a contest and the contest rules state "the iPhones will only be available as of January 2008 on the wireless network of Rogers Communications Inc." It's no surprise that Rogers is named as the carrier of choice as they have the infrastructure to support the device but Molson's has back peddled some and says the rules were published in error, and that they do not know when the iPhone will be launched. The Globe and Mail says "The company has no idea when the iPhone will be launched in Canada and is only on a waiting list with Rogers for the device, according to spokeswoman Marie-Helene Lagace." Interesting...

Hacking passwords getting a lot easier!

Engadget is reporting that a Russian software company has filed for a US patent which leverages the power of modern graphics cards to crack passwords! According to the article "An NTLM-hashed Microsoft Vista password, for example, can now be cracked in 3 to 5 days (instead of two months) using a simple, off-the-shelf, $150 graphics card -- less complicated passwords can take just minutes." Sounds like it might be time to invest in finger print and retinal scanners!

Research in Motion signs deal in China - Market reacts

Apple is not the only smartphone manufacturer that is seeing dollar signs these days. Research in Motion (RIM) and Alcatel-Lucent announced yesterday that they've signed an agreement to distribute BlackBerry smartphones in China. The stock market reacted by driving RIM shares up 8% and Alcatel-Lucent up by 4%. "This strategic partnership perfectly matches Alcatel-Lucent's global presence and strength in the Chinese market with the global awareness and popularity of RIM's BlackBerry brand," said Frederic Rose, president of Alcatel-Lucent's Asia Pacific activities.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Droids in space!

I was surfing the NASA site just now trying to find out a little info about the shuttle payload, namely Luke Skywalker's lightsabre that was carried aboard in celebration of Star Wars 30th anniversary. While that is a pretty cool event, I found an interesting story that I don't recall ever reading about before and it's totally inspired by Star Wars with a little Star Trek for good measure! It's describes as "a self-propelled, floating, talking, computerized personal assistant with artificial intelligence" that was inspired by the floating globe that Luke Skywalker used for lightsabre training in the original flick. The "robot will fly autonomously around the shuttle or space station, floating effortlessly in orbital free fall and propelling itself with 6 small ducted fans.", with Star Trek tricorder like capabilities, "the PSA will have sensors that can detect the pressure and temperature of the ambient air, as well as concentrations of gases such as CO2." This is awesome!

Apple sales soar on best ever product line

Apple announced 4th quarter results and shocked the analysts with a whopping $6.2 billion in sales up 29% over last year. Apple sold 10.2 million iPods, 1.12 million iPhones, and shipped a record 2.16 million Mac computers. In a statement on Monday, Steve Jobs says "We're looking forward to a strong December quarter as we enter the holiday season with Apple's best products ever,".

The Globe and Mail's report on business has more here.

I can't think of any other hot properties this Christmas, except maybe the Xbox 360, lead by demand for Halo 3 or the Nintendo Wii, if you can find one.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Staples to sell Dell products online and in store

Customers at 1400 Staples stores and at will soon be able to purchase Dell laptops, desktops, printers and more as the two companies announced the establishment of a retail agreement in a press release today. The release states " 1721 and 1521 notebooks, The initial products offered at Staples will include InspironInspiron 530 desktops, Dell 948 and 926 all-in-one inkjet printers, Dell 1320c laser printer, Dell SE198WFP 19-inch widescreen flat panel LCD monitor, and the Dell E228WFP 22-inch widescreen flat panel LCD monitor. Additionally, Staples will offer ink and toner for most Dell printers." Indications are that Dell products will be in store for the holiday buying season.

Sounds like a win - win for both companies!
No word about Staples selling Dell products in Canada.

China set to launch lunar probe this week

It seems like the space race is heating up in Asia. The Chang'e 1, named after a legendary Chinese goddess who flew to the moon, is scheduled to be launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province in southwestern China. The launch window is set between Wednesday through Friday. The move comes weeks after Japan launched it's own probe into high orbit above the moon and months before India launches a similar probe.

"The mission has a very strong scientific emphasis," Sun Kwok, a professor of physics and dean of science at the University of Hong Kong is quoted "It's not just about technology. It's more than just launching a satellite, it's more than putting the first satellite in orbit."

Perhaps they are just jockeying for Google bucks?

Wired has the story.

Robotic gun emplacement goes wild, kills 9 injures 14

Wired is reporting that a South African military exercise involving a robotic Oerlikon 35mm Twin Field Air Defence Gun - Type GDF-005, went horribly wrong earlier this month killing 9 soldiers and seriously injuring 14 more. The automated dual gun cannon is designed to use passive and active radar, as well as laser range finders, to lock on to high speed, low flying aircraft and cruise missiles. The South African National Defence Force is investigating the possibility that a software glitch may have caused the malfunction. The gun has the ability to reload itself and apparently only stopped firing when it had expended all of the available rounds. So much for the 3 laws!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Showing your geekiness on Halloween

Can't decide what to wear to that Halloween party? Check out c|net's! They have all the geeky costume ideas for 2007... think software pirate, dancing Mark Cuban and partner, or Leave Britney alone guy/girl?