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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Vancouver Film School Short!

I love the work of the Vancouver film school! Here is a great little short from YouTube...

First 10 Teams In Google Lunar X PRIZE Announced

The X PRIZE Foundation announced Thursday the first 10 entrants in the Google sponsored Lunar X PRIZE competition. The first team to land their spacecraft, move 500 metres on the moon's surface and send a gigabyte of video and images back to Earth claims the $20 million grand prize, if they can complete the task by December 31, 2012. The prize drops to $15 million if the task is completed by December 31, 2014.

According to this CBC article the response has been overwhelming, with 560 expressions of interest from groups in 53 countries but to date only 10 have completed the registration criteria including posting a $10,000 entry fee.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Simple Solution To Compromise Encrypted Data

A group of researchers lead by a Princeton University scientist have developed a simple solution to hacking sophisticated encryption techniques and stealing data that, by many, would normally be considered to be secured. Rather than what you might expect to be a room full of powerful computing devices or highly complex computer code, the team describes the system in the following YouTube video, with further documentation on their website. Scary! Detailed story at the website.

Quebec Police Break Up Hacking Ring

Quebec Provincial Police made arrests on Wednesday breaking up a hacking ring that is said to be responsible for $45 million in damages to computer systems. The 17 arrested where from about a dozen different communities and included 3 minors. According to this InfoWorld article, the ring installed "botnet" software on unsuspecting victims' computers in order to run phishing and spamming operations, said Capt. Frederick Gaudreau, of the Surete du Quebec. The botnet network infected 39,000 computers in Poland, 28,000 in Brazil, and 26,000 in Mexico, and over 100,000 computers in all were affected. I'm curious... why Poland, Brazil, and Mexico? Were the hackers of Spanish and Polish decent or did they acquire e-mail addresses from these countries? Did they create websites that would be of interest to people who come from these countries?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Microsoft Vows To Be More Open

Microsoft's CEO Steve Balmer and chief software architect Ray Ozzie held a teleconference this morning to announce a new openness strategy for the company. In a follow up press release, found here, the company says "Microsoft Corp. today announced a set of broad-reaching changes to its technology and business practices to increase the openness of its products and drive greater interoperability, opportunity and choice for developers, partners, customers and competitors." The steps to be taken by the company include: : (1) ensuring open connections; (2) promoting data portability; (3) enhancing support for industry standards; and (4) fostering more open engagement with customers and the industry, including open source communities. “Customers need all their vendors, including and especially Microsoft, to deliver software and services that are flexible enough such that any developer can use their open interfaces and data to effectively integrate applications or to compose entirely new solutions,” said Ozzie. “By increasing the openness of our products, we will provide developers additional opportunity to innovate and deliver value for customers.” Looks like the Redmond giant is seeing the benefits of opening up to developers, or they are tired of all of these antitrust suits and want to appear more open... hmm? Let's hope it's not the latter.

US Navy Ship Shoots Down Failing Spy Satellite

CNN is reporting that the US Navy has successfully hit a dying spy satellite that it feared would survive reentry and pose a threat due to it's hazardous payload of fuel. "At approximately 10:26 p.m. EST today, a U.S. Navy AEGIS warship, the USS Lake Erie, fired a single modified tactical Standard Missile-3, hitting the satellite approximately 247 kilometers (133 nautical miles) over the Pacific Ocean as it traveled in space at more than 17,000 mph." a Department of Defense statement said. "Debris will begin to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere immediately," the department said. "Nearly all of the debris will burn up on re-entry within 24-48 hours and the remaining debris should re-enter within 40 days." Apparently the navy gunners had a 10 second window in which to fire the missile, if they had missed there would have been another 10 second window each day for the next 8 or 9 days. Good shooting guys! Hitting the target does not ensure that earth will not be struck by falling debris but it enhances the chances. There are plenty of conspiracy theories floating around suggesting that this was just a test of the US ability to take down a target in space, or that the real concern was the technology and data contained on the bird and not the fuel... whatever the reason it's a pretty incredible feat and the stuff that movies are made from.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lunar Eclipse Tonight

NASA's website has details of a total lunar eclipse that will take place this evening and which will be the last one until December of 2010. For those wondering what all of the fuss is about, NASA says "A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth lines up directly between the sun and the moon, casting a shadow over the moon's surface. The February 20, 2008 eclipse will last for nearly 3 and a half hours. For a full 50 minutes of that time the moon will be in totality - the period when the lunar surface is completely covered by the Earth's shadow. During an eclipse the moon changes color, going from a light gray color to an orange or deep red shade. This is totality. The moon takes on this new color because indirect sunlight is still able to pass through the Earth's atmosphere and cast a glow on the moon." For those of us in Canada, the partial eclipse will begin at 9:43 p.m. AT (10:13 NT, 8:43 ET, 7:43 CT, 6:43 MT and 5:43 PT) with the total eclipse beginning an hour and 18 minutes later. Residents of the Americas, Europe and Africa will have the best view according to NASA.

Thought Driven Game Controller Later This Year

A US/Australian neuro-engineering company, Emotiv, has developed a game controller that gets it's instructions from your brain. Using a technology known as non-invasive electroencephalography (EEG) to read neural activity, the $299 headset controller can be used to give authentic facial expressions to avatars in virtual worlds and to manipulate a game or virtual environment naturally using only your thoughts. "This is the first headset that doesn't require a large net of electrodes, or a technician to calibrate or operate it and does require gel on the scalp," said Tan Le, president of Emotiv. "It also doesn't cost tens of thousands of dollars." This is reminiscent of a very bad Clint Eastwood film, Firefox, in which a US pilot steals a super secret Russian fighter jet that is equipped with such a system... hmmm perhaps Emotiv should produce a Firefox companion game? BBC news story here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

iPod Shuffle For $49

Apple has announced on it's website that the lovable little 1GB iPod Shuffle is now available for $49 and a new 2GB version will soon be available at $69! I wonder what this signals for others in the iPod family of products? For $49, there is no reason not to own an iPod!

Toshiba Makes It Official - HD DVD Is Dead

A press release today on Toshiba's website states "Toshiba Corporation today announced that it has undertaken a thorough review of its overall strategy for HD DVD and has decided it will no longer develop, manufacture and market HD DVD players and recorders. This decision has been made following recent major changes in the market. Toshiba will continue, however, to provide full product support and after-sales service for all owners of Toshiba HD DVD products." The ax has fallen swiftly and decisively with the company saying "Toshiba will begin to reduce shipments of HD DVD players and recorders to retail channels, aiming for cessation of these businesses by the end of March 2008. Toshiba also plans to end volume production of HD DVD disk drives for such applications as PCs and games in the same timeframe, yet will continue to make efforts to meet customer requirements. The company will continue to assess the position of notebook PCs with integrated HD DVD drives within the overall PC business relative to future market demand." This should come as no huge surprise to anyone as the supporters of the format have been dropping like flies over the last several months, just glad that I didn't buy that XBox HD DVD drive!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Guitar Hero: Aerosmith Coming in June '08

Activision announced, in a press release on Friday, that it was planning a release of it's hit game franchise Guitar Hero that is focused on the music stylings of one of the ultimate rock bands, Aerosmith! According to the release "Gamers will experience Aerosmith's GRAMMY(R) winning career, from their first gig to becoming rock royalty, in a way that no other entertainment vehicle offers." To celebrate the collaboration, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock fans have the opportunity to download Aerosmith's "Dream On." via XBox Live, but you'd better act fast as today is the last day for this free offer. Band front man Steven Tyler says, "Any band that can go from 'Don't Want to Miss A Thing' (Aerosmith's #1 smash hit) to the ass-kicking 'Sweet Emotion' to the cheekiness of 'Love in an Elevator,' to the classic ballad 'Dream On' shows why Activision chose us to headline this game based on the diversity of the Aerosmith catalog. Not only is songwriting a bitch, but then it goes and has puppies." It's funny, my boys and I were having a conversation just last week about the next Guitar Hero offering, we proposed a couple of scenarios but totally missed the one band version...

Every Canadian To Have Electronic Health Record By 2016

Richard Alvarez, president and chief executive officer of Canada Health Infoway has a goal of having half of the population of Canada with electronic health records by 2010 and the remainder by 2016. Currently only about 9% of Canadian have an electronic health record so the goal is fairly lofty. "Isn't it ironic that I can pay my hydro bill online from Australia," said Dan Strasbourg, Canada Health Infoway's director of corporate communications, "yet if I present at a Toronto ER unconscious, the physician can't even access my medical history housed at my physician's office a few blocks away?" According to this Globe and Mail article Canada Health Infoway says that there are 245 projects under way in Canadian hospitals, other health-care facilities, pharmacies and laboratories, with an investment value of $1.332-billion. With that kind of investment perhaps 2016 is attainable after all, I suspect the biggest hurdle will likely be acceptance of this technology by the patient. After all, I think we all know people who don't trust online banking yet!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

1966 Jetpack Flight Around Disney Land

Here is a cool video found on Laughing Squid, it's a short flight around Disney Land via Jetpack! It makes me want to ask... Why didn't this mode of transportation catch on?

Weekends Made Easier With Batter Blaster?

Sunday mornings are often Pancake mornings at our house, simply because it's usually my turn to make breakfast and pan cakes are an easy solution. I often haul out the blender, slosh in the water and batter mix and spray the counter top with the flying doughy mixture. Now, at least in the western U.S., consumers have an easy alternative in "Batter Blaster"! It's pancake mix in a can reminiscent of Reddi Whip or spray on cheese and according to the website "Batter Blaster™ makes organic light and fluffy pancakes and light and crisp waffles in minutes!". The gals at Cnet's Kitchen Gadget Blog have put together a little show down of the Batter Blaster vs. Pancakes from scratch, check it out here.