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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Microsoft Uping The Ante on Yahoo?

The New York Times is reporting that people close to the negotiations are saying that Microsoft and Yahoo! have been working for 2 days to get a deal done. Microsoft is apparently softening it's position on raising it's offer. “I know exactly what I think Yahoo is worth to me.” Steve Ballmer told Microsoft employees on Thursday adding, “I won’t go a dime above, and I will go to what I think it’s worth if that gets the deal done.” Microsoft's initial offer was $31 per share, the board of directors at Yahoo! is holding out for $37 but some Yahoo! stockholders have signaled that they would consider $35... the renewed talks seem to indicate that neither side wants a proxy war. You can read more here.

Update: Microsoft has withdrawn it's bid after upping the offer by $5 billion, only to have it turned down by Yahoo! More here.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Oh Those Wonderful Men And Their Flying Machines

All I can say is Wow! The Festo AirJelly is an amazing thing of beauty... I'm not quite sure why it was built, or if it even has a purpose other than proving it can be done, but German engineering company Festo has created some incredible automated creatures including my favourite the AirJelly featured in the video below. Honorable mention has to go to the AquaJelly as well.

Credit to Cali Lewis at for this find.

NY State Law Challenged By Amazon

A new law which recently passed in New York State forcing online retailers to collect sales tax on shipments to state residents is being challenged in court by the largest online retailer, Amazon. Previous legislation forced companies who had a physical presence in the state to collect state sales tax, the new law includes any Web site that is based in the state and that earns a referral fee for sending customers to an online retailer, in other words affiliate sites. So if you are an online retailer with just one affiliate that has a physical presence in the state you are obligated to collect state taxes on any sale originating in that state. Amazon's complaint says this of the law, “It was carefully crafted to increase state tax revenues by forcing Amazon to collect sales and use taxes,” noting that “state officials have described the statute as the ‘Amazon Tax.’ ” This should be interesting, what a precedent ! If the challenge fails we'll be seeing a whole lot more of these laws... NY Times article here.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Another Blow To The Video Rental Store Model

In January Apple turned on movie rentals from within it's iTunes store. Today the service has gotten a little better with an announcement that new movie titles will be released for rental or purchase on the same day as their DVD release. Previously the service had to wait 30 days after the DVD release date to add a title to its catalog. This can be seen as a big blow to traditional retailers as it removes one of the big advantages that brick-and-mortar retailers like Blockbuster had on the online downloading alternative. As ars technica puts it "...customers get new titles on the spur of the moment without having to leave the house." With competition from the likes of Apple and Netflix, it's not looking great for the likes of Blockbuster, Rogers, Jumbo Video , or insert your neighborhood video retailer here.

Radio Head Abandons Pay What You Want

When Radiohead offered their most recent album "In Rainbows" to their fans via a pay what you want digital download they set the music industry on it's head. There has been much speculation about the success of the experiment and the move has spawned a number of experiments by other big name acts, Nine Inch Nails for one. While Radiohead declines to comment on the actual success it appears as though it was a one time thing for the band with lead man Thom Yorke telling Reuters "It was a one-off response to a particular situation," While Radiohead may be backing down, expect to see more variations of the move as according to this story on the CBC website "On Monday, British rockers Coldplay announced a single from their new album, Viva La Vida, or Death and All His Friends, was available for one week as a free download. The group's website crashed the next day because of huge demand."

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Should Your Employer Compensate You For Time Spent On Your Blackberry?

It would appear as though the time that employees spend reading and responding to e-mails on Blackberry or other handheld devices is becoming a hot bargaining chip in contract negotiations. "For some people, having a BlackBerry is like: We own you. You are our person, 24 hours, 7 days a week," said Ed Cashman, Public Service Alliance of Canada's regional executive vice-president for the National Capital Region. "Our members are running into situations where they're not compensated properly for having to do work at home." The union, which represents government employees, is planning on putting the topic on the agenda for contract negotiations. One could argue that it's the employee's own addiction with the device that is the problem however "My true belief is it's up to the individual to just say no," says Christopher Higgins, professor at University of Western Ontario's Richard Ivey School of Business. I think it depends on the situation, I'm sometimes compelled to check e-mail or login remotely from home, but it's always a conscious decision that I make depending on the perceived urgency on my part. If and when I do, I generally record the time in my time sheet! The Globe and Mail has more here.

Marvel Comics Attempts To Stop Screening Of Ironman

Popular website, TechCrunch has been handed a cease and desist notice by Marvel Comics' lawyers in an attempt to shut down a couple of private screenings of the Iron Man movie that TechCrunch had worked with Paramount Pictures to make happen. TechCrunch apparently rented a San Francisco theater and is paying full fare for all of the seats. The screenings where to take place Tuesday and Wednesday, while the official release of the movie is Friday. Sounds like Marvel and Paramount have to get their heads together and decide who is going to make these decisions...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

iPhone Coming To Canada This Year

A year after it's release in the US, the iPhone is finally coming to Canada. "We're thrilled to announce that we have a deal with Apple to bring the iPhone to Canada later this year," said Ted Rogers in a statement. "We can't tell you any more about it right now, but stay tuned." Rogers has long been reported as the likely candidate to provide iPhones to the Canadian market as it is the only carrier using GSM (Global System Mobile) communications protocol that the iPhone runs on, so it comes as no real surprise. The CBC has more here.

Lost - Flying Pig - $10,000 Reward

Coachella, a three day music festival in Indio California came to a close on Sunday with headlining act Roger Waters of Pink Floyd fame performing a number of Floyd hits including "Pigs" from the 1977 album "Animals". The act included a giant graffiti covered inflatable pig which has flown the coup, so to speak. "A pig got loose last night," said festival producer Bill Fold, on Monday. "We really like him and want him back.... It's a very emotional time for us." A $10,000 reward is being offered for the safe return of the piggy, you can contact the organizers via e-mail at should you know it's where abouts!

Wired's Listening Post.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Dell, HP And Lenovo Keeping XP Alive?

Dell, HP and Lenovo are reportedly keeping XP alive by exploiting loopholes in Vista licensing agreements. Under the terms of a "downgrade license" for the Business and Ultimate versions of Windows Vista, PC manufacturers are keeping XP flowing out the door. According to the BBC "... PC is logged as a Vista sale and, in effect, is being sold with an unused option to upgrade to the newer operating system". It will be interesting to see if this constitutes enough interest in XP to keep the OS alive. HP apparently is using the "downgrade" option to keep selling XP with some models until 30 July 2009 which exceeds Microsoft's deadline on the product by a year. The sales are however being considered Vista sales and have contributed to a reported 140 million licenses of that OS being sold to date. Your move Mr. Ballmer...

On the Eve of GTA's Release Expectations High

The latest installment in the Grand Theft Auto Franchise, GTA IV, is hitting the street and it's expected to fly of the shelves. Eurogamer called it "game of the year" and gave it a 10 out of 10, while the New York Times said it delivered a "new level of depth for an interactive entertainment experience". According to the BBC "The game is expected to break records for the fastest-selling game of all time and many shops are opening their doors at midnight for gamers." My son is already hinting that he'd like to be in line, we'll just have to think about that one... In any case it would appear as though the economy as a whole has little affect on gaming, or perhaps everyone just wants a way to escape reality even if it's only temporarily.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Real Ironman

Check out this Telegraph TV segment on exoskeleton research being conducted in the US.

And here is the story that goes with it. Cool!

Cubans Finding Voice Online

The Globe and Mail has an interesting article about bloggers in Cuba and how they are finding a voice online only a month after the government of Raul Castro lifted bans on Cubans buying, computers, consumer electronics, having cell phones and staying in luxury tourist hotels. With salaries averaging $20 a month it's amazing how the ingenuity of the people of Cuba is being displayed in their attempts to get online and be heard. "It's about how I live," Yoani Sanchez tells the Associated Press "I think that technically, there are no limits. I have talked about things like Fidel Castro, and you know how taboo that can be."