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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Youtube wealth of UFO video

For no particular reason other than being bored I've spent the last hour or so watching UFO and Area 51 videos on YouTube. It's fun, some of these guys are totally out of their minds while others are fairly convincing. Ever since reading Close Encounters of the Third Kind in Jr. high school I've been a closet UFO buff. Not to the extent that I'm ready to weigh in one way or the other on the topic, lets just say that I want to believe but am not totally convinced. Check out this video and some of the others and you be the judge!

Mindstorms Automated Microscope... cool!

It never ceases to amaze me when I see a story like this. Geek Dad, Wired blog network blogger, found this "... USB microscope is controlled via a LEGO framework that moves the microscope and focuses automatically by raising and lowered the sample to be scanned." It's developer, PhD student, Jamie Robinson says this about Mindstorms "[it] allows for the rapid development of mechanical solutions that may take weeks to produce using traditional manufacturing processes. The use of LEGO Mindstorms provides us with a convenient, robust, programmable controller." This is just one more reason for me to want Mindstorms!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Microsoft Makes $44.6 billion Cash and Stock Offer For Yahoo!

In a Press Release this morning, Microsoft announced the proposed acquisition of Yahoo! Inc. in a cash and share swap offer that they say represents a 62% premium on current share prices. “We have great respect for Yahoo!, and together we can offer an increasingly exciting set of solutions for consumers, publishers and advertisers while becoming better positioned to compete in the online services market,” said Steve Ballmer, chief executive officer of Microsoft. “We believe our combination will deliver superior value to our respective shareholders and better choice and innovation to our customers and industry partners.”

The paragraph that I find most interesting, and of course this should be no surprise to anyone, is the following: "... The resulting benefits of scale along with the associated capital costs for advertising platform providers make this a time of industry consolidation and convergence. Today this market is increasingly dominated by one player. Together, Microsoft and Yahoo! can offer a competitive choice while better fulfilling the needs of customers and partners." Looks like the first serious volley has been fired, I expect that Google's response might come from the 700 MHz auction which some had speculated Google was not really that interested in, this might make that space a whole lot more attractive now. Lead or follow?

Dell Cuts Hit Edmonton Call Centre

Hardware giant Dell, in the middle of consolidating its global operations and cutting its costs by downsizing up to 10% of it's workforce, has announced the closure of it's Edmonton call centre sending 900 employees to the unemployment lines. Dell moved to the city in 2005 with major tax concessions from city hall, "a 20-year agreement to waive property taxes on the company's southside call centre", worth a reported $1.1 million over the first 5 years of the deal. Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel said "Their turnover was so high they couldn't keep people trained well enough to keep the level of service up,". Kenn Bur, director of communications for Economic Development Edmonton says "There a number of scenarios and we have referred that to our legal counsel," in response to questions about recuperating money due to Dell's breach of the agreement.
CBC story here.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Amazon Announces Acquisition of Audible, Inc. has announced today in a press release that it has reached an agreement to acquire Audible Inc. The acquisition of Audible and the recent roll out of the Amazon Kindle, a wireless portable reader that provides wireless downloads of more than 90,000 books, blogs, magazines and newspapers to an electronic paper display marks a move by Amazon back into the book space that got the company rolling originally, only this time the focus is on digital content. "Working together, we can introduce more innovations and bring this format to an even wider audience." Steve Kessel,'s senior vice president for worldwide digital media said in the release.

Messenger Shows A Side of Mercury Never Seen Before

NASA's Messenger probe has taken over 1200 photo's in its flyby of the aging planet. These photos unveiled on Wednesday by the space agency "help support the case that ancient volcanoes dot Mercury and that it is shrinking as it gets older, forming wrinkle-like ridges." The photos together with those taken by Mariner 10 in 1975 provide a picture of 75 percent of the planet. Messenger will perform a couple more close flybys of the planet before eventually going into a long-term orbit. Instrument scientist Louise Prockter of Johns Hopkins University said "there are some features we haven't been able to explain yet." For example a feature that scientists are calling "the spider" in the middle of a basin that was formed billions of years ago when space junk bombarded Mercury. Perhaps David Bowie was wrong, the spiders are not from Mars...

CNN story here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Canada's Smallest Province Mostly Without Electricity Today

Luckily for me I work in a technology centre which has backup generation capabilities! Prince Edward Island has been hit with freezing rain for the past couple of days and it is making life difficult for many Islanders. Schools have been canceled for most of the Island's students all week, and while travel has been difficult the power has stayed on for most of us until about noon today when there occurred a near system wide blackout. We have been busy scrounging around for extension cords, as not all of the outlets in the office are supplied by the emergency power system. The floors are a tangle of wires and we are without lights but for the most part we are still up and running. I don't have the luxury of backup electricity at home but the propane fireplace should keep the place heated. Oh, the joys of winter in Canada!

Police Embracing Social Networking As A Tool

For Toronto's Constable Scott Mills, Toronto Crime Stoppers schools officer, social networking sites like FaceBook and YouTube have become valuable tools in eliciting tips and feedback from the public. "We have to use the Internet as a violence-prevention tool, not just to go out there and ask for tips," says Constable Mills "So my Facebook account is for dialogue, to help the kids, and I've got people around the world e-mailing me." But the tips that he asks for on have already paid dividends with an announcement yesterday of an arrest on a charge of attempted murder. This is a great example of using the tools at your disposal and reaching out to people in the community through methods that they are familiar with. Kudos to Constable Mills! Globe and Mail article here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

EBay Lowering Listing Fees

EBay is hungry for more listings and is being challenged by other e-commerce sites, so in response has announced that listing fees will be dropping by as much as 50% on February 20th in the US. To counter this and offset the lost revenues, sellers will be paying higher commissions on items that are sold. The biggest change is for items selling for less than $25, the commission on these items will be raised to 8.75%. Numbers released by EBay last week indicate that fourth quarter listings rose by 4 percent and the number of people actively using the site rose just 2 percent from a year ago. Perhaps the economy has something to do with that, but then again you might expect that listings would be raising during hard economic times...

EBay press release.

Google experimenting with search again

From the Official Google Blog comes an update on new functionality for Google search results being tested. There are three new views available when you join the "Alternate views for search results" experiment.
  1. Map View plots some of the key locations contained in your web results onto a map;
  2. Timeline view does the same thing as map view, but for dates found on the web; and
  3. Info view which reveals text containing dates, locations, measurements, or images in the results.
The results returned are the same but the new views may help to identify the most relevant search result for your purpose. I've not tried it yet but intend on joining the experiment.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Bluetooth Technology Aiding Amputees

For double leg amputees, Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua Bleill and Army Lt.Col. Gregory Gadson, new Bluetooth enabled prosthetic legs are helping them to return to a normal life. CNN has the story of how these war vets are rehabilitating using the technology and blazing new ground for future amputees. The prosthetics "have Bluetooth receivers strapped to the ankle area. The Bluetooth device on each leg tells the other leg what it's doing, how it's moving, whether walking, standing or climbing steps, for example." The devices have not allowed the soldiers to be free from crutches and wheel chairs completely, but represent a major step forward towards normal mobility.

Good Sameritan goes to extreems to solve mystery

The Globe and Mail has one of those stories that restores your faith in man kind. Finding a camera in the back seat of a New York city cab and using the clues that were available to him, Brian Ascher viewed the contents of the camera to piece together a trail of clues and identify the camera's owner. Perhaps it's no coincidence that Ascher is a law student or maybe he should consider other job posibilities?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

US spy satellite loses power - could strike Earth

Wired is running a story about a disabled U.S. Spy Satellite that according to government officials could hit the Earth in late February or early March. The satellite is said to possibly contain hazardous materials, like they don't know, and it is unknown as of yet where it might impact Earth. Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council, says "Numerous satellites over the years have come out of orbit and fallen harmlessly. We are looking at potential options to mitigate any possible damage this satellite may cause." Don't know about you but this conjures up all sorts of "scrable the F-15's" type of scenarios in my head... the stuff that movies are made of!