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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wikipedia Founders Plea For Donations Successful

Even in an economic downturn the pleas of Jimmy Wales for donations to keep the Wikimedia Foundation afloat have netted the non profit organization an average of more than $215,000 in donations every day. The foundation has a budget of $6-million for operations in 2009 and the most recent call for donations is expected to reach the funds needed by the middle of January. “We're really thrilled that people have come out in force and made a clear statement that they care about this cause and they care about Wikipedia, even though we were kind of nervous after the economic news became really clear,” said Jay Walsh, a spokesman for the Wikimedia Foundation. The foundation has 23 paid staff members but relies on some 150,000 volunteers to keep the site running and reasonably accurate.

Source: Globe and Mail.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Times Square Ball Gets Green Makeover

The new version of the Time Square Ball has increased in size to 12 feet in diameter doubling the size of the previous one that was lit for the past 100 years. Besides growing in size the new ball will also require more lights too, 32,256 L.E.D. bulbs to be exact! The New York Times has the complete story of the makeover here.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

John Lennon For OLPC

The One Laptop Per Child campaign seems to have a new champion in... John Lennon? Imagine!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Planned Obsolescence A Gadget Lovers Reality

Lorraine Anthony of the Canadian Press writes, in this Globe and Mail article, of the gadget geek's dilema and the fuel that ignites their fire... "planned obsolescence". Most gadget manufactures subscribe to the planned obsolescence model where they give you just enough stuff to make their products cool, for now, but they are also planning on you growing tired of the product in a year or two. It's something that most of us wrestle with and from a business standpoint it's what keeps the companies going. Cellphones and mp3 players are prime examples of planned obsolescence, while that iPod shuffle still plays your favourite tunes, it's probably not seen much use since the Touch came along... am I right? For another view of this strategy, one that might get you thinking differently, check out The Story of Stuff. It may hit hard for the early adopters in our midst, but it's worth thinking about!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Twitter The Internet Phenom Of 2008

Ivor Tossell of the Globe and Mail has declared a winner for 2008, and it's Twitter. I don't think he'll get any arguement, certainly not from me.

"In 2004, the rise of blogs and their newfound political power gripped the public attention. In 2005, Wikipedia and the virtues of crowdsourcing announced themselves to the general public. In 2006, YouTube mushroomed into an online-video juggernaut, and ushered in a new age of user-generated cat videos. In 2007, Facebook went from college diversion to mainstream phenomenon.

And now, it's the end of 2008, and here she comes, the latest Miss Internet Hoopla. Today, everybody is facing the imperative of signing up to Twitter, the service that has just sashayed away with the crown."

While it was 2007 that I first signed up for my Twitter account, it wasn't until '08 that I really started paying serious attention to it and it's obvious by the adoption rate over the last 12 months that Twitter has become main stream.

Ivor's article here.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

9 Year Old Becomes Worlds Youngest Microsoft Certified Professional

A 9 year old girl from the Tamil Nadu region of India, has passed the Microsoft's Certified Professional exam. According to Indian media reports the feat makes the child the youngest MCP in the world, beating the former record holder a 10 year old from Pakistan. Kinda puts the rest of us to shame... to think I was playing with lego at 10!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tracking Santa

Once again this year the folks at NORAD are tracking the movements of a magical flight across the globe. For those who have wee ones or for you great big kids check out It's official he's in the air... and Google has gotten in on the act becoming an official NORAD partner in 2007 Together they have Santa on the map and on "Santa Cam" arriving in several different locations around the world, with commentary in six different languages.

The Official Google Blog has more.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Most Spam Served From The US

ars technica has an interesting story about the origin of spam. Citing the most recent Sophos report, the article says that the US hosts 37 percent of all malware sites followed by China (27.7 percent) and Russia (9.1 percent). Also of note is the rise in frequency of infected e-mails. In 2007 the ratio of infected e-mails to non-infected was 1 in 909, in 2008 the numbers were 1 in 714. 

Monday, December 22, 2008

Refining Your Google Image Searches

Google has just added a few new features to it's image search that allows you to narrow its returns to clip art or line drawings. This is a great little feature if you are looking for an image to add to an e-mail or presentation. Simply click the advanced image search link on the Google search page and make your selection, also available are photos only, news, and faces. You can further refine your search criteria by image size, file type, domain, and put filtering on to ensure that your searches return safe for work images. Check out the Official Google Blog for more details.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

British Media Firm Buys Bush Shoe Throwing Game For $7,818

According to G4's The Feed, a British media firm has purchased "Sock and Awe" an instant internet sensation for $7,818 on e-bay. The game developed by Alex Tew pokes fun at the incident in Iraq recently where President Bush ducked shoes hurled his way by an Iraqi journalist. The act meant as an insult to the outgoing president made news reels around the globe. Bush has since been hit in the face by more than 46,939,512 shoes.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Serious Disruption To Telecom / Internet Service Between Europe, Middle East, and Asia

Three of Four under water cables representing the backbone of telecommunications and Internet connectivity between Europe, Asia, and the Middle East have been severed and it may take more than a week to fix the situation. While the cause of the break is yet unknown, there were reported seismic activity before the disruption to service was detected.

"We've lost three out of four lines. If the fourth cable breaks, we're looking at a total blackout in the Middle East," Jonathan Wright - director of wholesale products at Interoute, the company that manages part of the optical fibre network, told the BBC.

"These three circuits account for 90% of the traffic and we're going to see more international phone calls dropping and a huge degradation in the quality of local internet," he added.

"Normally you would expect to see one major break per cable per year. With four you should have an insurance policy. For this to happen twice in one year, on the same cable, is a serious cause for concern."

Friday, December 19, 2008

1974: Altair 8800 Microcomputer Goes On Sale

On this day in 1974 the machine that inspired Paul Allen and Bill Gates, and eventually lead to the creation of Microsoft, went on sale. The Altair 8800 computer kit made by Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems of New Mexico marked the start of the consumer computer industry. According to Wired "The Altair 8800 kit sold for just under $400 (about $1,700 in today's money). If you wanted to forgo the case, you could get the kit for under $300. Or you could order the whole deal fully assembled: quotes a $595 price."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Google In The Holiday Mood

Check it out! Perform a Google search for anything that contains the word Christmas and you'll get an Easter Egg, or should I say Candy Cane. The results page will displays a string of candy canes, or holly dividing the results from the ads on the right hand side of the page. Hanukkah and Kwanzaa also work. Thanks for spreading the holiday cheer Google!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Apple's Final Macworld And No Jobs!

Apple Inc. announced yesterday that 2009 will mark the final year of it's participation in the Macworld conference and that Phillip Schiller, Apple's senior vice-president of worldwide product marketing will deliver the keynote address. The move has refueled speculation about the health of Steve Jobs who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October, 2003.

The company says "Apple is reaching more people in more ways than ever before, so like many companies, trade shows have become a very minor part of how Apple reaches its customers. The increasing popularity of Apple’s Retail Stores, which more than 3.5 million people visit every week, and the website enable Apple to directly reach more than a hundred million customers around the world in innovative new ways. "

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dell Cashing In On Twitter Craze

According to Venture Beat Dell has used Twitter posts (tweets) to ring up $1 million in sales over the past 18 months. "Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) says Twitter has produced $1 million in revenue over the past year and a half through sale alerts. People who sign up to follow Dell on Twitter receive messages when discounted products are available the company’s Home Outlet Store. They can click over to purchase the product or forward the information to others." Interestingly Twitter is under much scrutiny because the company has yet to reveal it's business model leaving many to wonder how the service will be monetized? Looks like Dell has been able to do something with the service that the service has yet to do, make sales. Regardless, Twitter is expected to announce it's plan for how to monetize the service in 2009.

Monday, December 15, 2008

For Weird Al, It's All About The Pentiums

Here's a pre Y2K video courtesy of Weird Al Yankovic straight from his Youtube channel. For Al It's All About The Pentiums! For the rest of us it's just fun to step back in time and reminisce about the pre-bubble days...

Thanks to Geeks are Sexy for the find.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Intel Survey Reveals Sex Vs. Technology A Tough Decision For Many

An online survey commissioned by Intel has uncovered that 46% of women and 30% of men would rather go without sex for two weeks than give up the Internet for the same length of time. Intel's goal was not to necessarily compare these two activities but rather to show how essential the Internet has become to people. Of course the survey was conducted online and that probably skews the results... of course the Internet is important to these respondents otherwise they would not have found the survey in the first place. Other findings, according to the Wall Street Journal "95% of respondents said it is very important, important or somewhat important for people to have devices that allow them to access the Internet, and 84% said they saved money by comparing prices online and finding the best deals before making purchase decisions."

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Research In Motion Still Hiring

According to the Financial Post, Research in Motion (RIM) has more than 1,250 positions that it needs to fill even with the economy tanking. "Right now, for every engineer who is promoted, RIM is hiring two or three to replace them. Probably in a few more years RIM could do some restructuring but not now." according to an unnamed company insider. "A good technology company will continue to innovate even in bad economic times to take advantage of the rebound," said Joe Campeau, of Richard Ivey School of Business. "If they don't, then everyone else will go past them and they'll burn cash to prevent that from happening." The jobs appear to be spread around the globe but the majority are at the companies head offices in Waterloo, Ontario.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Federal Trade Commission Target Scareware Dealers

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has gone to the courts in an attempt to stop two companies, Innovative Marketing, Inc. and ByteHosting Internet Services, LLC. from distributing software that they've dubbed "scareware". The companies operate webpages that run a fake "scan" proportedly looking for security problems. The scan returns many ficticious results and prompt the users to pay for removal software that affectively does nothing. Typically the scans report evidence of viruses, spyware and/or illegal pornography. "However," said the FTC, "the scans were entirely false." Yuval Ben-Itzhak, chief technology officer at security firm Finjan says "People are paying 40-60 dollars for bogus software which does nothing,"

A US District court has granted an injunction which stops the companies from advertising their software, and has also asked firms hosting the websites to block customers from accessing them. It has also frozen the assets of the companies so the cash can be reclaimed and refunds given to those caught in the scam.

BBC story here.

Voip Enable Your iPod Touch

It may not be an iPhone but with the addition of a freeware application called truphone and a clip on microphone you can turn your iPod Touch into a Wi-Fi powered Voip phone. "There are a slew of new features we're rolling out for the iPod Touch that will let users call landlines, Skype users or send instant messages. We're talking weeks, not months, before these go live." said Geraldine Wilson - Truphone's CEO. You won't be able to make calls from anywhere like you can on the iPhone, you'll have to be in range of a Wi-Fi hotspot, but then again you won't be locked into a rediculously high priced cell phone contract either... cool!

BBC Story here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hobbyist Creates Humanoid Robot, Looks For Investment

Le Trung, a 33 year old inventor living in his parents basement is building a humanoid companion named "Aiko" and is seeking investment to get the job done. "She can recognize faces, she can identify medication, she can even butter your toast," he says. "Her fingertips are still made of cardboard, see. I don't have money for titanium," With about $24,000 invested and his credit cards run up, the unemployed inventor continues to work on a shoestring budget hoping to attract the money he needs to finish the job. "I'm attached to it, but do I sleep with it? No," he says. "It was just less threatening to develop a female robot."

Trung's vision is for Aiko to be humanoid helper for hospitals, retirement homes or airports.

Globe and Mail story.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Compound Found In Red Wine Improves Metabolism Fights Aging

In yet another study of the benefits of red wine, Harvard Medical School researchers have reported that increasing the levels of sirtuin genes protects against aging by similar mechanisms in both very simple organisms like yeast, and in mammals. “This is the first potentially fundamental, root cause of aging that we’ve found,” said professor of pathology David Sinclair in a Harvard press release. “There may very well be others, but our finding that aging in a simple yeast cell is directly relevant to aging in mammals comes as a surprise.” When stimulated by the red wine chemical resveratrol, or by caloric restriction, sirtuins seem to have positive effects on aging and health, according to Sinclair’s research. Sirtris Pharmaceuticals is working with these results to create a pill that targets Diabetis and other diseases related to aging, as discussed in the following ScienCentral clip.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Mumbai Terrorists Relied On Tech

The Terrorists that laid siege to a Jewish Center and several Luxury hotels in India last month navigated across the Arabian Sea to Mumbai from Karachi, Pakistan, using a global positioning system (gps), communicating with corroborators via satellite phone and apparently studied satellite photos from Google Earth in preparation for their attacks. Their Pakistani-based handlers apparently communicated with them using Internet phones that complicate efforts to trace and intercept calls. The handlers reportedly relayed what they were seeing on television, via a voice over Internet Protocol service, to the terrorists providing them with intel and encouragement as the siege played out. Seems as though the level of suffistication is growing within these organizations.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pentagon Tests Missile Shield

The Pentagon is calling their test of the missile defense shield on Friday, a "smashing success,". A long-range ballistic missile launched from Kodiak, Alaska was successfully intercepted by a ground-based interceptor missile, launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The test was however not a complete success as a decoy failed to deploy. "Countermeasures are very difficult to deploy. We have had trouble deploying them in the past," said Lt. Gen. Patrick J. O'Reilly, director for the Missile Defense Agency. But O'Reilly said that the interceptor did differentiate between the actual missile target and the upper stage of the missile it had detached from.

CNN story.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Google Makes Unlocked G1 Available To Developers

Google has announced the availability of an unlocked G1 phone for developers in 18 international markets, including the U.S., U.K., Germany, Japan, India, Canada, France, Taiwan, Spain, Australia, Singapore, Switzerland, Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Poland, and Hungary. To purchase an Android Dev Phone 1 device, you must first register as an Android developer on the Android Market site and there is a limit of 1 device per developer account, for now. The device currently costs $399 (USD) (including free shipping in the US) and there is a one time $25 setup fee to register as an Android developer. So get your Androids running and head out on the info highway...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Koobface Virus Targets Facebook Users

With 120 million users Facebook is increasingly becoming the target of virus writers. Facebook users are being advised that a new threat has been uncovered which is being dubbed the Koobface virus. The virus is propagated via Facebook's messaging system and shows up as a message with subject headers like, “You look just awesome in this new movie,” upon opening the message the user is directed to a website which prompts them to download a file that it claims is an update of Adobe's Flash player. Once infected the virus takes users to contaminated sites when they try to visit search engines from Google, Yahoo, MSN and Facebook is telling members to delete contaminated e-mails and has provided directions on how to clean infected computers at

Globe and Mail story.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Doctor Uses Text Messages To Instruct Colleague On Tricky Surgery

David Nott, a vascular surgeon from London, was coached by Professor Meirion Thomas via text messages on how to preform a difficult forequarter amputation. Nott, who was attending to a teenager in Congo Africa while volunteering with Doctors Without Borders knew that the teens only chance was to have the operation which he had never attempted. A call to Thomas was responded to within 10 minutes. Thomas provided Nott with the 10 steps to the amputation then reportedly signed off with "Easy! Good luck." Nott says "I felt I had like my guardian angel on my left shoulder showing me what to do. I just got on with it, and everything he told me, I just did".

What a great story!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Logitech Makes 1 Billionth Mouse

Swiss company Logitech is celebrating the shipment of it's one billionth mouse while analysts are predicting the demise of the device within 5 years. "It speaks volumes to the success of the mouse that they (Logitech) have produced a billion and good luck. But past performance is not a guarantee of future success. "The world has changed and the nature of machines has changed. The multi-touch interface I believe really does seal the coffin of the mouse," says Gartner analyst Steve Prentice. Mean while Logitech's General Manager Rory Dooley says "The fundamental functionality of the mouse has not changed for 40 years and that is one of the keys to its success. We do not envisage unlearning all those years of learning but that doesn't mean to say there will not be a place for touch interfaces. "Touch will augment the things you can do today with the mouse and keyboard interface,"

BBC Story here.

YouTube - Calling All Musicians

If you've ever aspired to play your music in front of a large audience on a world stage, then YouTube is looking for you. Yesterday YouTube put the call out for musicians to join the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. According to the Official Google Blog "This is a chance to perform alongside world-renowned conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, learn from composer Tan Dun and many members of the London Symphony Orchestra, and consult with pianist Lang Lang." Video entries will be combined into a collaborative virtual performance, and people around the world will choose their favorites to perform at Carnegie Hall in April 2009.

Check out the YouTube Symphony Channel.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Pownce Shutting It's Doors - Team Joining Six Apart

My inbox contained an e-mail this morning from the Pownce Team which prompted me to visit the company's blog for confirmation. Indeed, Pownce will be shutting it's doors December 15th! In a blog post to the Pownce community, co-founder Leah Culver announced the closure of Pownce and that she, Mike Malone and the Pownce team will be joining Six Apart. "We’re very happy that Six Apart wants to invest in growing the vision that we the founders of Pownce believe so strongly in and we’re very excited to take our vision to all of Six Apart’s products. Mike and I have joined Six Apart as part of their engineering team and we’re looking forward to being a part of the talented group that has created amazing tools for blogging and publishing." Culver writes. In the mean time you have two weeks to export your content before the plug is pulled on the site.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Canadians Heavy Social Network Users

86.5 percent of Canadian Internet users will use one sort of social networking site or another while in the U.S. that number is 70.2 percent. “We joke that it’s because of those long winter nights up there,” said Andrew Lipsman, a senior analyst at comScore. It seems Canadians’ are generally heavy users of sophisticated Internet features like online video as well, as comScore shows a consistency amongst it's numbers with these sites and the social sites.

NYTimes story.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Nokia Creates Mobile Home Control Centre

Nokia is working on a linux based mobile home automation system that could allow you to control your homes temperature, preheat your oven, or draw a bath from your mobile phone. The Home Control Center is expected to go on sale at the end of 2009. Nokia acknowledges that many of the pieces already exist in one form or another however "Nokia’s aim is to integrate state-of-the-art solutions from each area to the framework so that the systems can be controlled via mobile device. This provides the systems with remote access via the same user interface regardless if you use a mobile phone, web browser or an internet tablet, also enabling the different home systems to talk to each other."


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Black Friday Sales Overwhelm Some Online Retailers

The shopping carts were full on many online retail sites for black Friday, affecting the performance of several big retailers web sites. According to CNet's Rafe Needleman and his Webware blog. "Every year, we see a handful of Web sites that aren't ready for the holiday rush. The problems are in the shopping cart experience, where you cannot complete a purchase," Shawn White, director of external operations for mobile and Internet testing firm Keynote Systems told Needleman. Friday's traffic reportedly affected HP, Sears, Kohl's and Saks while on the flip side Walmart, Costco, NewEgg, Best Buy, Dell, and Apple all performed well.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Hawking To Visit Waterloo Research Institute Next Summer

The Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics based in Waterloo Ontario has appointed famed physicist Stephen Hawking to the position of distinguished research chair and as such Hawking will make a visit to the institute in the summer of 2009. "Stephen is coming here to do science and interact with the community of researchers at PI and hopefully to come up with new ideas that will push the subject forward," Perimeter director Neil Turok told CBC News.

"The institute's twin focus, on quantum theory and gravity, is very close to my heart and central to explaining the origin of the universe," said Hawking.

"I look forward to building a growing partnership between [Perimeter institute] and our Centre for Theoretical Cosmology, at Cambridge. Our research endeavour is global, and by combining forces I believe we will reap rich rewards."

The institute was founded in 2000 with the help of a $100 million donation from Research in Motion co-founder Mike Lazaridis, who gave an additional $50 million earlier this year.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Holiday Shopping Guide - Wired Style

Wondering what to get your geek for Christmas? Wired has put together the ultimate geek shopping guide. Regardless of where your geek's interest lays or what your budget is the "Wish List 2008" has you covered. Looking for practical? Go for the iRobot Dirt Dog Workshop Robot. Money is no object? How about the Lamborghini Murciélago LP640. Looking to buy Great Big Geek a gift? You'll never go wrong with Mimoco Star Wars Mimobot 1GB USB Flash Drive ;) Seriously though, check out the Wish List, if they don't have it there your geek doesn't need it!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Study Shows Mobile Internet Use Going Up, Fast

Neilsen Online has some, not so surprising, news regarding Mobile internet use in Britain. According to their number, 7.3m people accessed the internet via their mobile phones, in the second and third quarters of 2008. This represents a 25% increase over last year and compares to just a 3% increase in PC-based access.

"The fact that weather, sports, news and e-mail sites make up the majority of leading mobile sites shows that mobile internet is mainly about functionality and need at the moment as opposed to the more entertainment and e-commerce-focused makeup of the leading PC-based sites," says Kent Ferguson, a senior analyst with Nielsen Online.

Some interesting demographics:

25% of mobile internet users are aged 15-24 while the same group make up only 16% of PC based internet users;

23% of the PC based internet users are aged 55 or over while the same group make up only 12% of the mobile internet base.

BBC story here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Shaq Tweets

Looking for a celebrity to follow on Twitter? Not a Britney fan? How about THE_REAL_SHAQ? It seems that 7'1" Pheonix Suns star Shaquille O'Neal is trying to set the record straight regarding a Twitter imposter and decided to set the record straight by joining the ranks. “Somebody out there was trying to use my language and trying to speak for me,” O’Neal told the NY Times, sounding more amused than offended. “Rather than have that happen, I thought I’d do it myself.” The fake Shaq, Ward Andrews, says “I really didn’t have any intent to pull people’s leg. It was just to entertain.” What's really interesting here is that the fake Shaq was able to accumulate about 500 followers while the real deal currently has over 11,000! The New York Times article probably has a bit to do with that but then again perhaps its the writing... "A goal without a plan is just a wish, control your wishes Shaquille o'neal"

Monday, November 24, 2008

How Much Greener Are Rechargeable Batteries?

I just read a short article in Wired - 16.11 which asks "Am I doing terribly wrong by the planet if I use alkaline batteries instead of rechargeables? I mean recharging requires power, right?"

I've always just taken it for granted that rechargeables would be more environmentally friendly and never really put a great deal of thought into how much more green they may or may not be. According to this article, a 2007 study by Bio Intelligence Service (sponsored by a French rechargeable battery maker) claimed that wearing out a single rechargeable battery impacts the environment less by a factor of 28 times. Makes me appreciate them all that much more!

Guitar Hero Playing With Robotic Precision

Cyth Systems (San Diego) has built a Guitar Hero playing robot that uses a camera to see and recognize the notes flying by and pneumatic fingers to depress the buttons with great precision. You have to see it to believe it...

"We have 5 groups of pixels on the screen corresponding to the 5 notes we might need to play," says Ivan Gagne, Systems Engineer with Cyth Systems. "We relied on the light intensity of the pixels in each of those groups. We couldn't rely on the color of the notes because during the game all the notes turn bluish white when you activate star power. We also couldn't rely on the shape of the notes because, at times, they turn into stars. If that light intensity value exceeds a predetermined threshold, we know we need to hold down that key and actuate the strum bar after a predetermined delay while the note travels down the screen to the bottom "play line". If a note was there for more than ~1/4 second the machine activates the whammy bar to score additional points on the sustained notes. There's another threshold where the intensity has to drop before it can consider the note "played" and therefore ready to start playing another note. The imaging, the region of interest, and the light intensity functions were all built into NI's vision toolkit for LabView."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

British Firm Develops Sniper Detection Device

When a sniper's gun fires a palm sized device designed by Qinetiq, a British defence firm, uses four microphones, a gps, and a powerful microprocessor to calculate the location of gunman and verbally relay the coordinates to the soldier carrying the device known as EARS (Early Attack Reaction System).

"Knowing immediately where the shots come from means that it eliminates the confusion and allows soldiers to find cover and return fire. It helps to make combat scenarios, especially in urban areas, a lot less confusing. Everybody immediately knows what side of the vehicle or building to jump behind when taking fire." according to Don Steinman at Qinetiq North America.

According to the "After roadside bombs, snipers have been the biggest cause of the 301 British fatalities in both wars..."

I think it's great that these and other such technical advances are helping our soldiers in the field, yet it still amazes me how the insurgents still manage to inflict casualties despite it all.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Verizon Says Obama's Cellphone Account Compromised

Barak Obama's cellphone carrier, Verizon, has acknowledged that a number of unauthorized employees have accessed the president elects cellphone account. “This week we learned that a number of Verizon Wireless employees have, without authorization, accessed and viewed president-elect Barack Obama’s personal cellphone account," chief executive officer, Lowell McAdam said in a statement. The account was apparently a simple cellphone account and not a Blackberry data account and was also inactive for several months. The incidents come as there is much debate over whether or not the new President should be allowed to use his Blackberry device while in office.

CBC Story.

Friday, November 21, 2008

CRTC Rules In Bell's Favor On Internet Throttling

In a long awaited decision the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has ruled that Bell Canada Inc. is not breaking the law by slowing internet speeds and will be allowed to continue throttling the bandwidth of both its own home customers and its wholesale resellers. The CRTC has concluded that Bell has proven that it must be allowed to manage its network in order to prevent congestion.

“Based on the evidence before us, we found that the measures employed by Bell Canada to manage its network were not discriminatory," said CRTC chair Konrad von Finckenstein in a release. The CRTC added “We have decided to hold a separate proceeding to consider both wholesale and retail issues. Its main purpose will be to address the extent to which internet service providers can manage the traffic on their networks in accordance with the Telecommunications Act.”

Net neutrality advocate Steve Anderson, who runs says "Anyone familiar with this issue knows this is a fundamentally unpopular decision they just made. Canadians want an open internet and the CRTC knows that, yet they just made a ruling that goes against the public interest." While Jacob Glick, policy counsel for Google Canada said "Though we're disappointed with the outcome of this proceeding, we're pleased the CRTC are looking at how to best keep the internet open, an important public policy issue for the future of the internet worldwide,"

What does it all mean for you and I? A whole lot more of the same...

CBC story.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

NASA Asjusts Plans After Astronaut Loses Tool Bag

A briefcase-sized tool bag drifted away from astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper on Tuesday during the first of four scheduled space walks to repair a joint used to position a solar panel towards the sun. Stefanyshyn-Piper and Stephen Bowen where about half way through their first day when the bag somehow became untethered and floated away. The bag contained a pair of grease guns, wipes and a putty knife and NASA is now considering having the two astronauts share tools from Bowen's bag in order to complete the repairs. "What it boils down to is all it takes is one small mistake for a tether not to be hooked up quite correctly or to slip off, and that's what happened here,"according to lead spacewalk officer John Ray. At least there's a back up, what a costly mistake it could have been if the repairs could not be completed. Just goes to show that regardless of how much you train and practice we are human afterall and stuff happens. Discovery Channel Story.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

007 Plot Plausible?

The latest Bond flik has hit theatres, and though I've not yet had the opportunity to see it "Quantum of Solace" is definitely on my list of things to do this weekend. It seems the bad guys in this movie are bent on controlling the water resources of an entire nation and Bond of course is out to stop them. The folks at have examined the plot and have asked how realistic is the premise that water might be a country's most valuable resource. Check it out... (don't worry, no spoilers)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Google Mobile App - Voice Search On The iPhone

Google has added voice search to the Google Mobile App for the iPhone. With the app running a user simply has to put the phone to their ear, wait for the beeb, and speak their search query. Taking things a step further the Official Google Blog "When you do local searches, Google Mobile App can now automatically use your location to make results more relevant to where you are."

Now if only Google could read your mind and provide you with the search results... on second thought, no!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Space Station To Get Extreme Makeover

The Space Shuttle Endeavour docked with the International Space Station on Sunday afternoon bringing with it a second toilet, sleeping compartments, exercise equipment and a water regeneration system to support an extra 3 long term crew members. There are also 4 space walks planned for the Endeavour crew to work on the stations power system. The astronauts plan to clean a huge rotary joint needed to pivot solar panels to face the sun, the joint was shut down last year when it was found that it contained metal filings.

CBC Story.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Flip Video Of Roomba

Here is a brief video that I shot with my new Flip Ultra. It struck me that if you had told me 20 years ago that I would be here today using a filmless video camera, not much larger than the palm of my hand, to film my robotic vacuum cleaner, and then I'd transfer this video to a computer somewhere in the world so that anyone could view it... I'd have called you nuts!

I'm really enjoying the Flip Ultra. It's dead easy to use and a great size for stuffing in a pocket and taking on the road. However, I'm afraid that I'll have to buy more hard drive space, or at least be a whole lot more selective about what I save.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Oblong Industries Minority Report Like Interface

Here is an incredible demonstration of g-speak an operating system designed by Oblong Industries Inc. that acts much like the computer system depicted in the Tom Cruise movie, Minority Report. The resemblance is no coincidence however as the Chief Scientist of Oblong, John Underkoffler, is also the MIT graduate who helped Steven Spielberg with the science vision on the film. Also of note is Underkoffler's involvement in Ang Lee's movie adaptation of "The Incredible Hulk.", but let's hope he doesn't figure that one out!

g-speak overview 1828121108 from john underkoffler on Vimeo.

Wife Files For Divorce Atter Husbands Second Life Affair

Recently a Japanese woman was jailed for killing off an online character in a virtual world and now a British woman is filing for divorce from her husband (both online and in real life) because of his sexual escapades in Second Life. Even though her husband has never met in person the woman with whom he has been having a Second Life affair with, Amy Taylor is ending their marriages both virtual and real. “It's cheating as far as I'm concerned, but he didn't see it as a problem and couldn't see why I was so upset,” To put things into perspective the two met online in 2003 and married in 2005 both physically and in a lavish Second Life ceremony. According to Ms. Taylor they spent as much of their time together in the virtual world as they did in the physical one. When she suspected her husband's Second Life avatar of cheating she hired a virtual private detective to catch him in the act. Oh my, what are these worlds coming to?

Globe and Mail article.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Canadian Taxman Goes After eBay Power Sellers

About two years ago the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) launched a probe into eBay Canada "Powersellers" to ensure that they were claiming all of the income that they earned. A PowerSeller receives various benefits from eBay Canada, there are varying levels and it takes about $3000 in annual sales to qualify. The probe focused on sales in 2004 and 2005 and involved about 10,000 people. The CRA now says that it is expanding it's investigation to include 2006 and 2007.

The CRA has been hampered by eBay's unwillingness to provide information, saying that the data is stored on eBay's servers in the US where CRA has no jurisdiction however last week the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed eBay's arguments.

"We're just alarmed by this," Andrew Sloss, eBay Canada's manager said in an interview yesterday. "I think everyone who values their privacy should find this alarming. This is a slippery slope. I mean, who will be the next people who will be the product of a government fishing expedition and have their privacy rights compromised?"

Thursday, November 13, 2008

3 LCD Producers Plead Guilty On Price Fixing

In a plea agreement filed Wednesday, LG Display Co. Ltd., Sharp Corp., and Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd., all makers of LCD screens, have agreed to co-operate in a U.S. Justice Department antitrust investigation currently underway. Deputy Assistant Attorney-General Thomas O. Barnett said “These price-fixing conspiracies affected millions of American consumers who use computers, cellphones and numerous other household electronics every day,” Each of the manufacturers have agreed to pay fines, the fine for LG (Korea) and it's American subsidiary amounts to $400 million, Chunghwa (Taiwan) will pay $65 million, while Sharp (Japan) has agreed to $120 million. For it's part Sharp said in a statement that After carefully taking into consideration the applicable laws and regulations, the facts and other factors, Sharp has decided that the best possible course of action would be to conclude the aforementioned agreement,” The big question now is, will the fines affect the cost of new LCD's? ;-)

Globe and Mail story.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Philips Creates "intelligent pill"

Dutch group Philips has created what it's calling an "iPill" capable of measuring acidity with a sensor to determine its location in the body. The capsule contains a microprocessor, battery, wireless radio, pump and a drug reservoir to release medication in a specific area in the body. The benefit is in being able to treat digestive tract disorders such as Crohn's disease by releasing its payload directly to the location of the disease thereby lowering the required doses and reducing side effects.

Globe and Mail story.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Google Uses Search Terms To Estimate Flu Activity In US

Google has launched a new site called Flu Trends saying that "We've found that certain search terms are good indicators of flu activity. Google Flu Trends uses aggregated Google search data to estimate flu activity in your state up to two weeks faster than traditional systems." Check out the trends here and how Flu Trends work here. I see that Maine is showing moderate activity, glad I got my flu shot!

Phoenix Lander Goes Silent, Mission Ends

Having not heard a peep out of the Phoenix Lander since November 2nd, NASA has determined that the resilient little rover has finally ceased operating and they are pulling the plug on the mission.

"We are actually ceasing operations, declaring an end to operations at this point," said Barry Goldstein Phoenix mission project manager. "However, since we've been surprised by the robustness of this vehicle, we're going to keep listening. As the orbiters fly overhead every two hours, we'll constantly turn on the radio and try to hail Phoenix to see if it is alive."

"This is an Irish wake rather than a funeral," said Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars exploration programme.

"We should celebrate what Phoenix and the Phoenix team has done and where it is going to take us in the future. [There were] a lot of lessons learned in this mission for us that will feed forward to future missions. We learned a lot about handling of soils, soil consistency, and how difficult it can be."

It has been fun following the story and receiving the twitter tweets from the Phoenix team! Perhaps we'll see the day when Phoenix rises again to hails from the passing orbiters?

BBC Story here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

YouTube And MGM Strike Deal

Metro-Goldwyn Mayer Studios (MGM) will be the first major movie studio to post full length feature films on YouTube. MGM will start off with some classic movies such as "The Magnificent Seven" and 10 year old television shows like "American Gladiator". The move would appear to be a good one for each side with YouTube trying to play catchup to Hulu and MGM struggling for it's very existence. “We believe in comprehensiveness, and we want to have deals with everybody,” said Jordan Hoffner, the director of content partnerships for YouTube. “We want to be able to give users the most content possible.” For their part, MGM's co-president Jim Packer says “We will have some long-form videos up on YouTube, but I don’t think that’s the platform to have 30 or 40 movies up at once,” and “I feel much more comfortable doing that on a site like Hulu.”

I must say, I'm a little excited to think that I might get to see some classics from my childhood but American Gladiator? Really?

NYTimes and CNet.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Honda's Wearable Assistive Walker

Honda has unveiled a robotic walking aid that they claim reduces stress on the legs and knees of the wearer and enables them to preform tasks by expending less effort. "This should be as easy to use as a bicycle," said engineer Jun Ashihara at Honda's Tokyo headquarters. "It reduces stress, and you should feel less tired." The device is computer controlled and looks like a bicycle seat with legs. Honda envisions it's auto factory workers donning the devices to enable them to perform their tasks more easily, this is especially important to the company considering Japan's aging population.
CNN has more detail here.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Apple Sells More Smartphones In Quarter Than RIM

Steve Jobs is reveling in the fact that for the first time since the iPhone was launched it's sales out paced those of Research In Motions Blackberry devices. A report released Thursday by U.K.-based research firm Canalys showed Apple shipped approximately 6.8 million iPhones compared to RIM's 6 million Blackberry devices during the 3rd quarter of '08. Jobs said during a conference call announcing Apple's 3rd quarter results "I'd like to point out [a] remarkable milestone resulting from iPhone's outstanding performance last quarter," he said. "Apple beat RIM." The number gives Apple a 17.3 percent share of the overall 39 million smartphones shipped in the quarter and pushed the company into the number 2 spot behind Nokia who owns 38.9 percent of the market.

Canalys also noted however that RIM showed a year over year increase of 80% and that there were many factors at play. The 3rd quarter was expected to be high for Apple with the release of the iPhone 3G and RIM will likely have had many faithfuls awaiting the arrival of the Blackberry Storm.

CBC Story.

Friday, November 7, 2008

FBI Investigate Stolen Medical Records

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been called in to investigate an extortion attempt on a medical benefit management company from St. Louis. Express Scripts received a letter in October threatening to expose data about the companies clients, the letter contained personal information on about 75 members "including names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and, in some cases, prescription information." “We have been conducting a thorough investigation since we received this threat and we are taking it very seriously,” said George Paz, chairman and chief executive, in a statement. “We are cooperating with the F.B.I. and are committed to doing what we can to protect our members’ personal information and to track down the person or persons responsible for this criminal act.”

The company has created a website to inform it's clients about the extortion attempt, and have made the following statement "We believe we have identified where the data involved in this situation was stored in our systems and have instituted enhanced controls." That's reassuring!

The company handles prescription benefits for approximately 50 million people for various health insurers, employers and union sponsored plans.

New York Times story.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Expert Says CNN Hologram Not Technically A Hologram

During Tuesdays CNN coverage of the US Election, anchormen Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper conducted live interviews "via hologram". Blitzer told CNN reporter Jessica Yellin that "You're a terrific hologram," during a segment where he spoke with a 3-D representation of Yellin, or so it would appear. Okay, I'm envisioning you reading this quote in a Simpson's Comic Book Guy voice..."They were quite sophisticated, no doubt," said Hans Jürgen Kreuzer, a theoretical physics professor at Dalhousie University and an expert on holography "But I immediately said to my wife that I don't think it has anything to do with holograms."

Kreuzer believes the images were tomograms or images that are captured from all sides, reconstructed by computers, and then displayed on screen much like the way that computer-generated special effects are added to movies.

Holograms, technically, are projected into space.

CBC story here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Indian Moon Probe To Enter Lunar Orbit

A moon probe launched by India on October 22nd is maneuvering into a lunar orbit at a distance of about 100 km from the surface of the moon by Saturday, Nov. 8. The probe will produce a 3 dimensional atlas of the moon and study the chemical and mineral makeup of the surface. The craft is carrying a payload of 11 scientific components from India (5), the U.S. (2), Britain (1), Germany (1), Sweden (1) and Bulgaria (1). According to the CBC "The launch of Chandrayaan-1 is the first step of the country's long-term ambitions to conduct a manned moon mission by 2020. India has also announced plans for the launch of Chandrayaan-2 — which is expected to land a rover on the moon by 2012 — and a manned space mission by 2015 using Indian systems and technology."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Is There Hope For The Wooly Mammoth?

Japanese scientists have successfully cloned mice who's bodies where frozen for as long as 16 years and have postulated that the technique could be used to resurrect mammoths and other extinct species.

"Cloning animals by nuclear transfer provides an opportunity to preserve endangered mammalian species," they wrote.

"However, it has been suggested that the 'resurrection' of frozen extinct species (such as the woolly mammoth) is impracticable, as no live cells are available, and the genomic material that remains is inevitably degraded," they said.

Unlike other cloning attempts the mice used in these experiments where not cryogenicly frozen which posed a unique challenge as freezing causes cells to burst and can damage the DNA inside.

CBC Story.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Game Industry Not Sheltered From Economic Downturn Afterall

Game giant Electronic Arts Inc. (EA) is laying off about 6 per cent of its work force to cut costs after posting a wider than expected quarterly net loss on Thursday. “Considering the slowdown at retail we've seen in October, we are cautious in the short term,” said John Riccitiello, chief executive, in a statement. “Longer term, we are very bullish on the game sector overall and on EA in particular.” The company said it expects about $50 million in annual pretax cost savings as a result of the layoffs, which will amount to about 500 - 600 positions across all functional areas. Wow, if you use the 600 number that puts the average salary + benefits for these positions at $83,333! Globe and Mail story.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hodgman's Crystal Head Vodka Tasting

John Hodgman has prepared a Halloween taste test video for Dan Aykroyd's Crystal Head Vodka. To my surprise Hodgman is rather serious during the brief video and seems to know his geography! I'd still like to see this stuff in the wild, is this an elaborate marketing scheme or does the stuff really exist?

Update: My curiousity was getting the better of me so I surfed over to the website of the Newfoundland and Labrador Liqour Corporation's website and a quick search reveals:

Crystal Head Vodka
SKU #: 8179
Place of Origin: NL
Litre Size: .750
Retail Price: $49.99
Total Available: 86

Mystery solved! Now how do I get a bottle here on Prince Edward Island...

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Cache Of Stolen Financial Data Found By Security Lab

RSA FraudAction Research Lab reported on Friday that it had uncovered a large cache of credit card numbers and online bank account logins and passwords that have been accumulated over the past two-and-a-half years. The researchers say that a technically sophisticated trojan horse program, the Sinowal Trojan, likely originating in Russia is responsible. “Only rarely do we come across crimeware that has been continually stealing and collecting personal information and payment card data, and compromising bank accounts as far back as 2006. And in addition to its longevity, Sinowal has also been evolving at a dramatic pace – its rate of attacks spiked upwards from March through September of this year.” according to the researchers.

New York Times article.
BBC News article.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Robotic Fish Form Hunting Party

Researchers at the University of Washington are developing fish like robots that have the capability of working autonomously but share information with each other to form a Hunting Party. “There’s no human directly telling them what to do,” explains Kristi Morgansen, UW assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics. She adds that, “They have a program on board and they’re getting various sensor information, either from their on-board sensors or stuff that’s transmitted over a wireless channel.”

RoboFish from James Eagan on Vimeo.

The "Robofish" have fish like fins rather than propellers to make them more maneuverable and less likely to get caught in kelp, rope, or fishing lines. “Fish are much more maneuverable in small spaces than things that we’ve been able to build in engineering with propellers."

I'm fascinated by these little guys! The video is impressive and the swarming, or shall I say "schooling" abilities are rather intriguing.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fab Four Coming To Rockband!

You can't legally buy their music digitally but today Apple Corps Ltd. - the company founded by the Beatles in 1968 and Viacom Inc.'s MTV Networks will announce that they have signed a deal that will see the Beatles' songs coming to the popular Rock Band franchise. "It is a bit of a coup since [MTV] has been able to license it and Apple [Inc.] still couldn't get the music," said Josh Martin, analyst at the Boston-based Yankee Group. It's uncertain whether MTV Networks will give the band it's own addition, similar to Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, or if the music will be downloadable for current Rock Band games. The move is being seen as a bit of a cue as Apple Inc. has been working hard to get the Band's music included in the iTunes music store. Globe and Mail article.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

iPhone Recession Proof?

According to the Globe and Mail 255,000 iPhones were sold in Canada between its launch on July 11th and the end of September, and there appears to be no slowing down in sales irregardless of how the economy is performing. “We've seen time and time again that if people want something bad enough, they're willing to put themselves in debt or save less in order to buy it,” said consumer research analyst Josh Martin of Boston-based Yankee Group. “It would be interesting to see if consumers are cutting out other things so they can afford to have their iPhone.” Martin added. They certainly have a lot of appeal and I've definitely noticed more of them in the wild, we'll have to keep an eye on the Christmas season sales numbers...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Azure - Microsoft's Operating System For The Cloud

Microsoft unveiled plans on Monday for a new cloud computing operating system dubbed Azure. Microsoft's Ray Ozzie made the announcement in front of 6500 software developers attending the annual Microsoft Developers Conference in Los Angeles. “Every time there is a major platform shift in our industry, it has turned into new opportunities for my apps and my business.” said Ozzie. Not everyone was as optimistic as Mr. Ozzie however, “Today’s announcement of Azure is the same Microsoft, keeping developers locked into their proprietary solutions, and failing to grasp the true power of cloud computing,“ said Mark Benioff, the chief executive of Whatever your take on the OS is, it will be interesting to see who follows. NY Times story.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Cellphones And Internet Essencial Even In Tough Times

A study conducted last week in Canada and the US by Toronto research firm Solutions Research Group says that North Americans see their cell phones and internet service essential utilities, like water or electricity. "People were saying, 'It's not going to happen - you would have to pry it out of my hands,' that kind of language," said Kaan Yigit head of the research firm. The company has ranked in order the items consumers will be cutting back on in order of most likely to least likely and it shakes out like this:

Ranking consumer targets for cuts:

1. Big-ticket events (eg. concerts, sports)

2. Movie-going

3. DVD buying

4. Magazine subscription renewals/newsstand

5. Cable/satellite TV extras

6. Video game buying

7. Home phone

8. Mobile/wireless phone

9. DVD Rentals

10. Home Internet

Solutions Research Group

Globe and Mail article.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Microsoft Ups Reward For Information About Missing Teen

15-year-old Brandon Crisp of Barrie, Ontario has been missing since a fight with his parents on October 13th over his obsessive Xbox use. The run away has been the subject of a large ground search by authorities and civilians for two weeks but few clues to his whereabouts have been turned up. As a result Microsoft has doubled the reward money for information leading to his location to $50,000. According to the Globe and Mail "Sergeant Dave Goodbrand says people from Miami to British Columbia have offered assistance, including search and rescue expert Terry Grant, host of Canadian reality show Mantracker, who flew in to help." Let's hope the child is located and this family can put their fears to rest!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Wired's Geek-o'-Lantern Contest

Having been born in October I've always loved Halloween, and traditionally it's been my task to carve the family pumpkin. From humble beginnings of jagged teeth and triangle eyes, I've really tried to step it up a notch or two as I've garnered some experience. I've done some good ones ,and some not so good ones, but I'll have to bow to the greatness that is present in the submissions to Wired's "Show Us Your Wired Geek-o-Lanterns". You've got to check out Yoda, The Deathstar, Venom, and Frankenstien for all of their intricate beauty, but perhaps my favorite is Cannibal! It's not all that geeky but it certainly looks like Jack-o-Lantern that I might be able to re-create.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Gmail Labs Roll Out Canned Responses

The Official Gmail Blog has posted about a new feature in the Labs called "canned responses". Turning the feature on allows you to save pieces of text as canned responses that can easily be sent in reply to common questions. To take things one step further, combine canned responses with the already available "filters" option "Gmail already lets you create filters based on a combination of keywords, sender, recipients, and more in your incoming messages. Turn on Canned Responses in Labs, and you can set a filter to grab one of your saved responses, create an automated reply, and hit the Send button for you." This duo of features seem like a great solution anyone who receives a relatively high volume of mail. The canned response does not include text from the originator's e-mail but it's a time saver and it's free.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Skipping Work? Don't Let The World Know

There's a lesson to be learned in this story... According to the Register an Australian call centre employee was tripped up by his social networking updates. Kyle Doyle apparently has a contract with his employer stating that he does not require a medical certificate for 1 day leaves of absence if he has stated that the leave was for medical reasons. The Register has published an interesting e-mail exchange between Kyle and his employer where each states their position and Kyle is eventually done in by his Facebook status on the day in question. "Kyle Doyle: is not going to work, f#$% it i'm still trashed. SICKIE WOO!" (expletive removed). Perhaps Facebook should talk to Google about licensing Goggles or allow updates to be e-mailed in so that Kyle can use his G-mail account next time.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

SMART Table Targeting Education Market

SMART Technologies, the Calgary based maker of the SMART Board has gone horizontal with its technology producing a SMART Table aimed initially at the education market (preschool to sixth grade). The company describes the product as "... brightly colored table with a touch-sensitive surface where groups of students can simultaneously interact with digital content." The SMART Table comes complete with a PC and Projection system and is expected to have an educational price of US$8000.

Mean while Microsoft is experimenting with the Surface PC and making sure that your glass remains full while at the night club.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

British UFO Files Opened

Britain's National Archive has released a second set of UFO files to the public. This batch represents 19 files reported between 1986 and 1992 but there is a promise to release a total of 160 files over the next few years. I'm particularly curious about "legendary 'feathered serpents"' who are supposedly awaiting our permission to land on earth? Most of the released files are explained by the authorities as weather balloons, satellites, or meteors but a few are yet to be explained.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sony Delays Global Release Of LittleBigPlanet

Sony has recalled all of the copies of LittleBigPlanet and is delaying the global release because a music track that was licensed for the game contained two phrases that can be found in the Koran. "We're sure that most of you have heard by now that one of the background music tracks that was licensed from a record label for use in the game contains two expressions that can be found in the Koran. We have taken immediate action to rectify this and we sincerely apologise for any offence this may have caused."says a statement on the LittleBigPlanet website. The company now plans to begin shipping in North America the week of October 27th. Described as a game about making games, the title has been highly anticipated.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Google Gadgets Get Room To Grow With Canvas View

This past week Google refreshed it's iGoogle pages and to be frank I didn't really care for the changes that much. When you get used to a UI and it suddenly changes on you it takes a little getting used to, and I'm still trying to do that. What I hadn't noticed was a new option called "canvas view" that enables you to maximize any given gadget within the iGoogle page. Though I'm not in love with the left hand navigation changes yet, I do like canvas view. In particular I like what it does for my Gmail gadget, maximizing Gmail allows me to view messages and create new ones right in the gadget where previously it only displayed a quick snippet view of my Gmail messages. Check out this guided tour of the new iGoogle features. According to the Official Google Blog the changes where for users in the US, however they seem to have crept over the northern border to us in Canada as well.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Smart Appliances That Adjust To Power Demands On The Grid

Engineers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have been developing a technology known as "Gridwise" that enables household appliances to adjust themselves on the fly in response to the overall power requirements of the power grid. When the grid is reporting high demand a controller sends orders to the appliances to cease some of the appliance’s high-energy operations that could be temporarily delayed, such as a refrigerator's defrost cycle. Their studies show that the Gridwise system could potentially reduce power requirements by 15%. Check out this video from, my favourite quote is from Pacific Northwest's Rob Pratt, who I envision as somewhat of a Star Wars fan, when he says the the controllers "... sense a disturbence in the power grid all on their own, and they can just take themselves out of action just very temporarily"

Friday, October 17, 2008

Lottery Under Fire For Free Music Download Plan

The provincial lottery corporation in British Columbia (BCLC) is drawing fire from politicians and social activists over a plan that would offer free music downloads to some online gambling players. The scheme seems aimed squarely at young adults and is being seen as a ploy to hook them early. “It does sound like it would be something that would attract the college and university-aged student,” Amanda McCormick, who wrote the report on online gambling for the B.C. Centre for Social Responsibility said. “They are the ones who are probably more likely to be online and be familiar using these downloading programs. So I would think it would definitely encourage those people to visit the site.” While BCLC spokesman Trevor Miller says "It's a bit of a much ado about nothing,” and “We think the idea of having music downloads offers our players another form of excitement. Music is a form of entertainment, as is gaming. We think they kind of go hand in hand. It's something that will give our players a little more excitement to their online experience.” Globe and Mail story.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

YouTube Not A Big Fan Of McCain / Palin Content

It seems that the McCain / Palin camp has hit a brick wall with YouTube / Google. The campaign had asked that YouTube more carefully scrutinize the McCain / Palin advertisements that were being pulled from YouTube because they contained copyrighted materials, mostly news clips from sources like CBS. The McCain team is arguing fair use and wants the ads to remain on YouTube. YouTube's Chief Counsel Zahavah Levine has responded:

"While we agree with you that the U.S. presidential election-related content is invaluable and worthy of the highest level of protection, there is a lot of other content on our global site that our users around the world find to be equally important, including, by way of example only, political campaigns from around the globe at all levels of government, human rights movements, and other important voices. We try to be careful not to favor one category of content on our site over others, and to treat all of our users fairly, regardless of whether they are an individual, a large corporation or a candidate for public office.

The real problem here is individuals and entities that abuse the DMCA takedown process. You and our other content uploaders can play a critical role in helping us to address this difficult problem...You can file counter-notifications. You can seek retractions of abusive takedown notices. You can hold abusive claimants publicly accountable for their actions by publicizing their actions...

We look forward to working with Senator (or President) McCain on ways to combat abuse of the DMCA takedown process on YouTube, including by way of example, strengthening the fair use doctrine..."

G4TV story here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

US Authorities Shut Down Spamming Operation

The Federal Trade Commission in the United States, with the help of security firm Marshal Software, have won over the courts in Chicago allowing the FTC to freeze the assets of HerbalKing group and promptly shut down the operations. The group is said to have ties to Australia, New Zealand, India, China and the United States and it's estimated that the group controlled 35,000 computers, in a botnet, and could send 10 billion e-mail messages a day. “This is pretty major. At one point these guys delivered up to one-third of all spam,” said Richard Cox, chief information officer at SpamHaus, a nonprofit antispam research group. HerbalKing e-mails have flooded the internet with the promise of cheap knock off watches and a variety of pharmaceuticals, including weight-loss drugs and male anatomy enhancers. According to the New York Times "The group was shipping drugs like Propecia, Lipitor, Celebrex and Zoloft out of India. The F.T.C. also said the group based its Web sites in China, processed credit cards from the former Soviet republic of Georgia and Cyprus, and transferred funds among members using ePassporte, an electronic money network."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Space Tourist Arrives At International Space Station

A 47-year-old computer game designer Richard Garriott, the son former NASA astronaut Owen Garriott, has arrived at the International Space Station after paying the $30m (£17m) fair for a 10-day trip to the ISS. "Mr Garriott will occupy some of his time taking photos to record how the Earth's surface has changed in the 35 years since his father's voyage." Garriot arrived at the ISS aboard the Soyuz TMA-13 spacecraft carrying a new crew for the ISS, American Mike Fincke and Russian Yuri Lonchakov. I can understand Garriott wanting to follow in his father's footsteps but is there really that much money in designing computer games? BBC Story.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Text Messages From Dumbo

Game wardens and farmers in Kenya have been at odds over elephants that have been raiding villagers' crops, sometimes wiping out a half years worth of income at a time. Villagers used to beat pots and pans and light fires to ward off the massive animals and wardens where at times forced to put the animals down to save the lively hood of the farmers. A new project has collars with embedded cellphone SIM cards being placed on the perpetrators and virtual "geofences" created using a global positioning system. When an animal gets too close to the villages a text message is sent from the collar to the wardens who dispatch a team to divert the animals back to the conservancy. Though costly, the plan has worked and is changing the habits of the pachyderms. The technique is being employed in two Kenyan national conservancies. Besides stopping the raiding of crops the system also helps to track and understand the movement of the beasts and aids in the fight against poaching.

"Elephants are ranked as "near threatened" in the Red List, an index of vulnerable species published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature." CNN/AP story here.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

US Military Charters Kite Powered Ship To Deliver Equipment

While I think the motivation here is strictly cost savings, I'll applaud the choice of the US Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC) which has chartered the MV Beluga, a "kite-assisted" 400 foot cargo ship, to deliver Air Force and Army equipment from Europe to the US. MV Beluga uses a paraglider-shaped, SkySails-System, which supplements its conventional, internal combustion engines potentially reducing fuel costs by as much as 30 percent, or roughly $1,600 a day. The system utilizes a computer-controlled kite that flies from 100 to 300 yards into the air, using the wind to tow the ship. "MSC values innovation that leads to cost savings," said Captain Nick Holman, of Sealift Logistics Command Europe. CNet Story.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

YouTube Goes Long Format, - Offers CBS Shows

On Friday YouTube announced that it would start offering full-length episodes of TV series like “Dexter,” “Beverly Hills, 90210” and “Star Trek” through a deal with CBS. The catch for users of the site is that these longer videos will include preroll, midroll and postroll ads in each episode. Senior product manager for YouTube, Shiva Rajaraman, said the company is trying to match “the right ad format for the right content experience.” NYTimes article.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Firefox To Help Websites Home In On Your Location

Mozilla has released a new add-on technology for Firefox that helps websites detect the physical location of computers. The Geode project uses technology from Skyhook known as the Loki system which works out a computer's location from nearby wireless networks and can determine the location within seconds with an accuracy of about 10 to 20 metres. "Geode is strictly controlled by the user. When a website requests a location, a notification bar lets users decide whether to give their exact whereabouts, the neighbourhood or city they are in or nothing at all." The system will enable sites to serve up information relevant to the users location, such as news, weather, and of course ads, but also could be used for website authentication allowing people to log in from certain locations only. It's an interesting concept with obvious applications but it seems to me that it will only be a matter of time before the knowledge of our exact location is used against us for nefarious reasons. BBC story.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ford Addressing Parents Concerns With MyKey

Ford Motor Company has announced a new feature to be offered in the 2010 model of the Ford Focus. MyKey will provide safety features aimed at keeping teen aged drivers safe and responsible behind the wheel of the family car. With the MyKey feature installed the vehicle will alert the driver at various speeds ranging from 72 kilometres an hour to 130 kilometres an hour, the upper maximum the driver would be allowed to drive. The system also alerts the driver when the vehicle is running low on fuel and can limit the volume of the stereo. Not surprisingly, parents surveyed loved the idea while teens hated it... but then again who's paying for the car, the insurance, the gas, etc...

Sympatico / MSN story