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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Robot Lawn Mower Gets Revenge On Stupid Humans

A little while back I blogged about robot vacuums and my desire to get a robotic lawn mower. The Roomba 530 that my wife bought as an anniversary gift has been doing a great job keeping the floors clean and we've even discussed buying a Scooba to eliminate our need for a mop. There's very little these days that I find more satisfying than putting my feet up and reading the paper while Roomba does the chores. Gizmodo has an interesting post this morning regarding the recall of several LawnBott Lawn Mower models because the blades continue to turn if the device is lifted. Seems to me this was a serious design oversight since even Roomba, a vacuum cleaner, knows enough to cease operation when lifted! Even so, you have to be a little daft to even attempt to pick up a lawn mower when running, robotic or not. Which begs the question, would the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issue a recall on this device if it had handles and was propelled manually? Better to fix it though than have a bunch of fingerless half wits running around... besides, you wouldn't want young children, who don't know any better, attempting to lift the thing.

Gifting Good Genes On Facebook

An Alberta non-profit organization, Genome Alberta, is hoping to raise awareness by creating a new Facebook application that allows users to gift genes! Have you ever thought that your friend would prefer blue eyes or that they would rather be a red head? According to this CBC article, "Genome Alberta is marking the 55th anniversary of the day scientists James Watson and Francis Crick identified the double helix as the structure for the human genetic blueprint." The group spent about $15,000 dollars on the development of the application and hopes to attract 30,000 followers. "You can raise awareness really, really effectively and have a really viral campaign because people want to spread the word on that kind of stuff," says David Cree, an online marketing consultant. I'm not one of those Facebook users who gets caught up in this kind of application, I personally find them a little silly, but I'm sure the money was better spent here than on paper flyers that would have only local reach and $15k doesn't buy much television coverage...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Hackers Warn Big Business That Attacks Are Imminent

A "Hackers Panel" which convened in London this week at the InfoSecurity Europe conference is warning big business that denial of service attacks, the likes of which shut down the websites of banks, governments and political parties in Estonia, are imminent. Big business is seen as definite targets "If someone wants to have a pop at the UK, they are unlikely to go for the government web servers. They will go for the lower hanging fruit - companies which are seen as good representatives of the country." said panelist Steve Armstrong from the SANS Institute for information security training. Some believe that these attacks can be thwarted if ISP's take a more active roll in policing their networks and identifying machines that are compromised and participating in bot-nets, while others say it is not the place of the ISP and that more money needs to be spent by businesses to defend against such attacks. Seems rather obvious that the white hat hackers and security firms would want to support the later... The BBC has more here.

Xbox Division Leads Charge For Microsoft

G4's the Feed points out that while Microsoft's overall profits declined by 11% the Xbox video game unit surpassed expectations with its third straight quarterly profit and revenue gains of 68 percent to $1.58 billion. Microsoft had pegged the gains at between 25 and 35%. Canaccord Adams Inc. analyst Peter Misek in Toronto says "It's just amazing that a company this size is being driven by video games.'' Exclusive titles like "Halo 3'' and "Mass Effect'' lead the way.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Windows XP - "I'm Not Dead Yet!"

According to Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, "XP will hit an end-of-life. We have announced one. If customer feedback varies we can always wake up smarter but right now we have a plan for end-of-life for new XP shipments," The good news is that it's not an emphatic "no" which holds some promise for XP holdouts. This Globe and Mail article attributes Ballmer to saying that most retailers sold computers with Vista, the latest version of its Windows operating system, and most consumers were choosing to buy Vista. This may be true, but I wonder how many of these retailers are offering "free downgrades" similar to the offer that I viewed in a Staples flyer yesterday? See this link. It would stand to reason that if suppliers are offering such assistance then there must be demand for the OS, does it not?

Device That Repels Teenagers Coming To North America

A wall-mounted device that emits a high frequency sound audible only by teenagers and young adults is showing up in North American cities, the aim to disperse loiterers. Whether you can hear the noise or not depends on how much your hearing has deteriorated. Civil liberties groups are up in arms over the device for obvious reasons, yet nearly 1000 units have been sold here by "Kids Be Gone". England's government-appointed Children's Commission describes the device as a weapon that infringes on the basic rights of young people but a South Carolina School District says "Now, there's no confrontation at all; they just get aggravated and leave within a few minutes." after having installed the device. I personally don't like the idea of painting all young people with the same brush, it does smack of discrimination in my mind and what are the potential health risks? CNN story here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Live Mesh - Microsoft's Web Vision

On the heels of other mega corporations who have already laid plans for cloud computing, Microsoft has finally unveiled it's vision called "Live Mesh". Live Mesh will "connect and bring devices together... to work in concert" says Microsoft's Amit Mital. "This new software-plus-services platform enables PCs and other devices to 'come alive' by making them aware of each other through the internet," said Mr Mital. Not only will users be able to synchronize their own devices but Live Mesh is also designed to facilitate the sharing of media online between different users according to this BBC article. I expect we'll hear from the RIAA and movie industry insiders shortly about that little feature. Live Mesh is said to be initially geared to Windows XP and Vista users but will eventually be made available to Apple owners as well. "Users will have 5GB of personal online storage and unlimited peer-to-peer data, for synchronising information between devices." Sounds promising!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Honda To Showcase Assisted Walking Device

Honda is showcasing assisted walking technology, think exoskeleton, at the International Trade Fair on Barrier Free Equipments & Rehabilitation for the Elderly & the Disabled (BARRIER FREE 2008) in Osaka, Japan on April 25th -27th. The device which is currently under feasibility studies has been under development since 1999 and owes some of its technology to Honda's ASIMO humanoid robotics project. Honda's website says "Applying cooperative control based on the information obtained from hip angle sensors, the motors provide optimal assistance based on a command from the control CPU. With this assist, the user’s stride will be lengthened compared to the user’s normal stride without the device and therefore the ease of walking is achieved." The idea is to assist those with compromised walking capabilities due to injury or age. Check out the link above for images; very slick and looking like it's ready to hit the market.

Thanks to Engadget for pointing this out.

Google Gadget To Help You Conserve On Earth Day

Google has an interesting little desktop gadget that helps you conserve energy when your Windows XP or Vista PC is not in use. The Energy Saver Gadget enables and optimizes your Windows power settings to EPA recommended standards and shows you how much energy you've saved as well as how much energy has been saved by all those using the gadget. An important feature is the "Pause" button allowing you to keep your computer from turning off when you are watching a movie or giving a presentation. You'll need Google Desktop installed! Thanks Google!

Canada's New Democratic Party Pushes For Net Neutrality

NDP Member of Parliament Charlie Angus is urging the Canadian government to introduce net neutrality and stop the country's telecommunications companies from throttling Internet speeds. In an open letter to the Minister of Industry Jim Prentice, Angus wrote "Ground rules are needed to ensure that the bandwidth management strategies of the major telecoms will not lead to anti-competitive practices or arbitrary discrimination against end use applications... I am urging you to adopt the recommendations of the Telecommunications Review Panel in order to send a clear signal that Canada has a plan going forward to ensure continued development of Internet technologies and fairness for consumers." Prentice is quoted by the CBC as having said recently in Parliament that "At this point in time we will continue to leave the matter between consumers on the one hand and Internet service providers on the other." While the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) does have the authority to rule on such practices, it has yet to do anything to stop the practice by the big teleco's.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Wii Owners Not Buying Games

With Nintendo Wii's in more than 20 million homes you would think that sales of software for the popular game console would be through the roof. The New York Times is however reporting that Wii game sales are not stellar and this is at least in part due to the demographic that the company targeted in selling the console. “The kind of person that buys a Wii is not the same kind of person that buys a PS3 or an Xbox,” according to John Greiner, the chief executive of Hudson Entertainment, “You have to be very specific when you design a game and target not only the gameplay mechanics for that user, but also the marketing for that kind of a product launch.” We've considered buying the Wii in our home but decided not to simply because of the game catalog, it just doesn't have the same appeal as the titles on available for our XBox 360...

Manchester Police Create Facebook App

The Greater Manchester Police force has turned to social networking site Facebook to assist in apprehending criminals. The force has created a Facebook application that delivers a real-time feed of police news and appeals for information, allows users to share a story with Facebook friends, post comments, links to a "Submit Intelligence" page on the forces website and to videos on Youtube. This is another great example of reaching out to the community using the tools at your disposal... I'd personally like to see more organizations take this kind of approach! As long as they don't pester you with annoying invite a friend requests it just might work. PC World has the complete story here.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

CNN Website Attacked

In a story on the network quoted a CNN spokesperson as saying "CNN took preventative measures to filter traffic in response to attempts to disrupt our Web site. A small percentage of users in Asia are impacted". The attack was said to have taken place on Thursday, and administrators took measures to counter the attack and isolate the trouble. The result was a slowdown in service to users in some geographic locations. The spokesperson added "We do not know who is responsible, nor can we confirm where it came from," but the attack comes on the heels of calls for denial of service attacks by hacker groups in China over CNN's coverage of the situation in Tibet. Chinese hacker groups... hmm.

Russian Capsule Makes Off-Course Landing, Astronauts Shaken But Okay

South Korea's first space traveller Yi So-yeon, American astronaut Peggy Whitson and Russian flight engineer Yuri Malenchenko are reported to be in satisfactory condition after what NASA commentator John Ira Petty described as a "ballistic" re-entry. The three were subjected to severe G-force and the entry took them 420 kilometres off target in northern Kazakhstan. For Whitson the time she spent aboard the International Space Station, together with a previous stay, totals 377 days in space, more than any other U.S. spacefarer. You can find more from NASA here and the CBC here.