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Saturday, November 3, 2007

Watching the DARPA Urban Challenge

Not sure how much time is left but you might have a couple of hours to take in some of the DARPAweb cast Urban Challenge . You'd think that it would be terribly boring but in fact it's oddly exciting, particularly when you consider that there is no driver, no remote control, these machines are driving themselves! The commentators have alluded to some near misses and "contact" but overall it seems as though there is a great deal of success. As I am watching there are 6 vehicles still in the running. It's interesting to see just how well they drive...

Getting ready for Post-Tropical Storm Noel

A little late posting this morning as I have been busy putting things in the shed, tying down anything that could blow away and stocking up on supplies as Post-Tropical Storm Noel bares down on Atlantic Canada. I'm not sure why I'm taking this one more seriously than past storms, I don't recall being this concerned when Juan approached back in 2003. Perhaps I'm just a little older or maybe it was the EMO presentation I attended a couple of months ago. Never the less, I have been doing all the things you are told to do and as a consequence I was able to find an excuse to buy a new gadget. It's the Noma Rechargeable Flashlight with Cell Phone Charger! The light is small, fits easily in your palm, sports 5 LEDs, has 2 brightness settings, a crank for charging, connects to Samsung, Motorola & Nokia cell phones, a USB adapter, alarm and compass! $19.95 at Canadian Tire ;-)

PS - Hope to be able to stay online for more posts through the weekend but if I go silent you'll know why. You can follow the storm and storm warning at the Canadian Hurricane Centre's web site.

Friday, November 2, 2007

RBC and Visa testing cell phones as electronic wallets

The RBC and Visa announced yesterday that they are launching a joint Ontario-based pilot project that would allow consumers to simply swipe their phone in front of a scanner to make purchases. The project will begin with laboratory testing followed by a trial for RBC employees and another, later next year, with consumers. Bank spokeswoman Anne Koski is quoted in a CBC web posting as saying "You pull out your phone at the checkout, wave it in front of the reader, and the payment is made for you, there is no pin, and typically you don't even get a receipt — it's that easy,". The program will only allow purchases of up to $25 and you will be required to contact the company if your phone is misplaced or stolen, similar to how you deal with your credit card in such circumstances. As big of a geek as I am, I just don't think this is a great idea. Convenient, yes, but I have an issue with the fact that no signature or PIN is required... I have the same issue with the new tap and go credit cards and key chains. There just seems to be a little greater measure of protection that is in place when I am required to sign or authenticate with my PIN. I guess, as long as the credit card company / bank is willing to take the risk with any number of $25 purchases that might take place between the time that I lose my phone and I report it missing, I shouldn't care. However, as consumers we all pay for these charges in the exorbitant rates that we are charged by the banks and their credit card companies.

Veronica Belmont is back!

After what seemed like an eternity, Veronica Belmont has announced that her new show "Mahalo Daily" will start podcasting next Monday (Nov. 5th). In a satirical trailer posted to the site, Veronica and her new boss, Jason Calacanis, poke some friendly fun at themselves and pay homage to a number of popular video podcasts. It's been too long Veronica! I am looking forward to the new show starting and have already subscribed in iTunes.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Concept cars on display at Tokyo Auto Show

The fun in the big car shows is the concepts that often never make the production line but sometimes the innovations will. The most interesting of these shows has always been the Tokyo show, at least in my mind! The Globe and Mail has a great photo slide show of a number of the new concepts on display and it's apparent that small and green are big themes. I'm particularly fond of Toyota's new hybrid urban truck 'Hi-CT.' and the Nissan Skyline GT-R! Daimler's subsidiary Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus has an interesting hybrid light-duty dump truck, not sure who the target market is for this but it's kinda cool.

Another tech magazine down for the count

Falling sales and increased internet numbers are sighted as the reason for PC World Australia's demise. TechCrunch's Duncan Riley says "where exactly is the appeal, particularly in tech, of reading a magazine that reports on news that is 6-8 weeks old, or sometimes even older than that?" I think he's just about nailed it! It's hard to compete with the speed of publishing in an internet world and add to that the customizable alternative, rss feeds, and paper is hard pressed to keep up. I'll still miss my Business 2.0 as it was my chance to get away from the PC for an hour or two but as long as Wired keeps publishing I'll have one publication to turn to.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Top 100 blogs to read

The good people at the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science have completed a study and compiled a top 100 list of the blogs to read in order to stay informed. The study asked "Which blogs should one read to be most up to date, i.e., to quickly know about important stories that propagate over the blogosphere?" Topping the list was Instapundit and rounding out was Scoble, also making an appearance are a number of the blogs that I frequent but I was surprised by the number of blogs I'd never heard of. In hindsight I guess not all blogs are technology related and I shouldn't have assumed the tech blogs would necessarily be the most popular, just goes to show their are many forms of geek! Check out the list here.

Strong Canadian dollar choking postal system

Canada Post is swamped by mail flowing across the border as Canadians try to make the best of a strong Canadian dollar while it lasts. According to the Globe and Mail, "Officials say the volume of parcels has choked three main international mail-sorting centres operated by Canada Post and the Canada Border Service agency in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal." With all of the reported delays and the holiday shopping season just heating up, the post office is advising, that Canadians who intend upon placing Internet orders, buy early and expect delays. It's a great time to be heading south!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

iRobot announces winner in the iRobot Create Challenge

The “Personal Home Robot” was announced today as the winner of iRobot's Create Challenge and it's creator Danh Trinh, 35, of Towson, Md., took home $5,000 for his efforts. The device can water plants, control lights and appliances, play music and remind owners to take medication. “This is an excellent example of the enthusiasm people bring to the idea of building robots,” said Helen Greiner, co-founder and chairman, iRobot Corp. “Contestants put in amazing efforts creating exciting and imaginative robots for the challenge. We saw everything from robots that serve food and drinks to robots that paint pictures and can be remotely controlled from distant locations.” No mention was made of any intentions to market "Personal Home Robot" but I'd sure like to have a robot that could take care of the plants!

HULU's first look

Started by NBC Universal and News Corp, is NBC's alternative to iTunes and YouTube, that the skeptics have given little chance for success. c|net's has had a look during the closed beta release that started yesterday and the verdict is "Hulu nailed the basics." The review is not all glowing "To be sure, Hulu needs work. The site featured a bare bones look, just a laundry list of show titles and thumbnails. Click on a link and a video player appears." but it seems that providing clear, full length video, for free, puts HULU on the right track.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Book promotion on YouTube!

It seems that viral videos are the way to promote your book these days, or so Random House believes! Commissioning marketing company Crush Toronto to promote Douglas Coupland's new book "The Gum Thief", Random House has released 9 short videos to YouTube with the author's narration. They're pretty good, I'm not sure that they'd make me want to pick up the book, but then again I don't read a lot of fiction... Check it out!

How many hits make you a YouTube star?

The Globe and Mail has an interesting round up of some of the more famous YouTube celebrities. One thing is clear, there is no telling what the viewing public will be drawn to as talent goes head to head with the bizarre and reality does battle with fiction. A million hits appears to be a benchmark but does not guarantee celebrity status.