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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Canada Post, Police seek "rogue elf"!

As long as I can remember Canada post has been accepting letters to Santa at the special postal code - H0H 0H0. Youngsters from all over can write to Santa and receive a response courtesy of one of thousands of volunteers. This year however, the program has had to be shut down in Ottawa as at least 10 nasty letters had been delivered to unsuspecting children. "We firmly believe there is just one rogue elf out there," a Canada Post spokeswoman told the Ottawa Citizen!

Google testing Adsense Review Center

In a move aimed at giving publishers more control over the ads that they display on their sites, Google is testing a new system called "Adsense Review Center". On the Inside AdSense blog Google says this of the service, "... will allow you to review ads placement-targeted to your site and ensure those ads are relevant to your site's users... If you think an ad is not relevant for your users, you can prevent it from appearing again by blocking it in the Ad Review Center." As an AdSense user I think this is great, I'm not always thrilled with the ads that are placed on the site and until now had no choice but to allow them to filter through or stop participating in the program. I'm certainly not ready to quit the day job by any means, but may AdSense allow me to feed my geek habits a bit and I don't think it detracts from the blog?

RIM opens BlackBerry Store

Research In Motion has opened it's first BlackBerry branded store in Farmington Hills, Michigan. The Waterloo Ontario based cellphone producers plans to sell BlackBerry handsets, accessories and software, as well as service plans from all the major U.S. providers. The move is not unique to the industry but it's a growing trend that has the providers taking notice. "If you're Verizon and you're carrying the BlackBerry today, when you see one of these exclusive stores, obviously you're not going to be too thrilled about that," said retail consultant David Ian Gray in a National Post interview. According to the CBC "RIM is said to be earning around $10 per BlackBerry customer from Canadian cellphone providers" perhaps this is why the move was made in the US and not home in Canada?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Google's knol project - "a way to help people share their knowledge"

The official Google blog has an interesting post about a new project that Google is calling "knol" which according to them "stands for a unit of knowledge". The idea is to identify the author of content much like a book has the author's name on it's cover. My impression is that it is a lot like Mahalo in some ways. "We believe that knowing who wrote what will significantly help users make better use of web content. At the heart, a knol is just a web page; we use the word "knol" as the name of the project and as an instance of an article interchangeably. It is well-organized, nicely presented, and has a distinct look and feel, but it is still just a web page. Google will provide easy-to-use tools for writing, editing, and so on, and it will provide free hosting of the content. Writers only need to write; we'll do the rest."

The trouble with the web has always been that you have to be careful of what/who you choose to trust as a reliable source of information, these types of projects may help us to determine "the wheat from the chaff"! I for one will be interested to see how reliable the sources turn out to be. The project is currently by invitation only so you can't give it a try just yet, unless of course you were invited.

Board Game roundup, for geeks!

It's a well known fact that geeks like games, and not just video games! Wired has prepared a great list of 10 popular board games, just in time for last minute shopper for the geek on your list. You won't find Monopoly or Risk on this list and with titles like "The Settlers of Catan", "RoboRally", and "BattleLore" you might get some strange looks from the stock boy at Walmart! I'd suggest your local independent toy store or hobby shop!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Canadian television content hits iTunes Store

The CBC is reporting that Apple Inc. is launching the sales of "Little Mosque on the Prairie, The Rick Mercer Report and Corner Gas, as well as complete NHL hockey games." The cost to download is reported to be $1.99, assume that's Canadian dollars ;-). The video marketplace looks to be heating up here as this comes on the heals of Microsoft's launch of an Xbox Live video rental service and the recent announcement of TiVo's move into Canada. It's a long winter but it looks like there will be plenty of reruns to watch!

$85,000 Cellphone bill in a little over a month!

A 22 year old Calgary, Alberta man got the surprise of a lifetime when he found out that he owed Bell Mobility $85,000 in data charges on his new cellphone plan! The Globe and Mail has this story which highlights the need to read the fine print... it seems that Piotr Staniaszek believed he could use his cellphone as a modem with his $10 a month unlimited mobile browser plan when in fact he was being charged by the kilobyte. Bell offered to reduce his bill to $3,243 which reflects the rate that he would have to pay under the terms of their best data plan but Mr. Staniaszek has decided to fight the charge. That's a heck of a lot of bit torrents! Interestingly an unlimited data plan from US carrier Sprint Nextel Corp. would cost about $70.19 a month according to the article.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Asimo times two - smarter and working in pairs

Honda has made some strides in the technology in it's robot Asimo. The latest version works well with others, in fact they are designed to work with other robots allowing them to perform tasks in coordination with one another. According to this CNN article, "The 51-inch tall Asimo is "smarter" now, thanks to upgrades that allow it to do more tasks without human help, the company said. The robot can, for example, recognize drink choices and carry a tray with the requested drink to the person who placed the order."

I listened to Buzz Out Loud 621 today and Tom and Molly covered this story, it was interesting to hear the banter that in sued regarding the "creepiness" of robots doing these everyday tasks. I for one would love to have a house full of them, they can vacuum my carpets, mow my lawn, and serve me tea; I won't complain!

New Halo 3 Maps available through XBox Live

As of yesterday there is plenty more to love about Halo 3! According to this Wired Blog post, "For $10, Xbox Live members can download three brand-new areas called Standoff, Rat's Nest and Foundry." If $10 is too much to spend on a couple of extra maps, and you have the patience of a saint, then you might consider waiting for the next map pack to be released as Microsoft says this map pack will become free when the next one is released sometime in the spring. If you'd like to see what your $10 will buy you... Red vs. Blue has put together an interesting tour of the maps, highlighting the new features and offering a few chuckles along the way.

Rogers inserting it's own messages into pages you are viewing

Canadian cable giant and ISP (Internet Service Provider), Rogers, is testing a system that enables it to inject messages to Rogers subscribers regarding their bandwidth usage. The company offers a tiered service with different bandwidth limits, the messages are meant to inform subscribers when they are nearing their limit. The move is setting off alarm bells with net neutrality advocates as the potential for using such technology for other purposes is very real. According to ArsTechnica, a Rogers spokesperson says "This is a trial to make it easier for our customers to keep track of usage. There is no deep package inspection and there is no privacy issue."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Japanese cellphone maker targets kids & parents with alarm and phone home features

Japanese cellphone maker NTT DoCoMo has developed a cellphone that features an alarm and location identification that will alert a parent, or whomever, that a child is in trouble and will forward the location of the phone via messaging. According to the CBC "The FOMA F801i produces two types of alternating noises when its alarm function is switched on, as well as emitting a bright light that is visible to nearby onlookers. The phone can be set to notify loved ones when the alarm is set off, as well as provide the handset's location, DoCoMo said Monday." It appears as though there are mixed feelings about such a device in Japan... one reviewer asks "Are you seriously thinking of the well-being of our kids, like my daughter, with this kind of product, or are you just trying hard to generate more money..."

NASA delays Atlantis launch until at least Jan. 2

A flight that was to begin on Thursday, for the crew of Atlantis, and then postponed until Sunday has now been pushed back until January 2nd and perhaps later. According to the New York Times, "one of four critical sensors in the liquid hydrogen section of the external tank malfunctioned during early morning fueling." The folks at Kennedy Space Center will attempt to make repairs on the launch pad but if it becomes necessary to roll Atlantis off the pad the delay could extend to later in January.

While I'm sure this is disappointing news for the mission crew, it opens up a whole new opportunity for my family during our vacation. We are arriving in Orlando on New Years Eve and plan on spending a week at Disney. The one thing that I've maintained would get me off of the resort is a shuttle launch! Perhaps we'll have a chance to experience the Atlantis launch in person, talk about your geek dream vacation!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

eBay Exposes America's Pop Culture Obsessions in 2007

eBay has compiled a list of items that it says gauges where America's interest lays in 2007! With sales numbers to back it up, the online auction site is offering it's insight into where America's attention was over the past year. In the hard to get tech category eBay says:

"Despite the iPhone frenzy that swept the nation this year, Apple's iPod remained the number-one gadget on eBay, with 2,781,243 iPod-related items sold. There were 532,390 Nintendo Wii-related items sold, followed by 272,852 Sony PlayStation 3-related items and 158,132 Apple iPhone-related items. Additionally, 96,508 Guitar Hero-related items were sold, 63,851 Microsoft Xbox 360-related items were sold and 50,182 Halo 3-related items were sold."

Here's the complete list in eBay's press release.

Ontario issues new drivers licenses, hope is that they will be accepted at the border

The Ontario government has begun issuing new drivers licenses with high tech features that they hope will cut down on identity theft and be accepted for entry into the US in lieu of a passport. According to the Globe and Mail, "Some of the new security features include a second photo on the front of the card, raised lettering of the number on the licence, signature and date of birth, a fine-line background, a barcode, and ultraviolet features." and "The card conforms with new standards developed by the American Association of Motor Transport Administrators." Transportation Minister Jim Bradley says that New York State, Washington, Michigan, Vermont, Manitoba and British Columbia are all interested in introducing similar licences.