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Saturday, June 28, 2008

NASA Recruits WALL-E To Raise Interest In Science

NASA has teamed up with Disney's Pixar and enlisted their cute little robot star WALL-E to help encourage children to take an interest in science. "WALL-E is going to be a guest host to help us teach about NASA's satellite mission to the moon, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter," said Marci Delaney, the DLN team lead at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "We hope that with the help of our new robot friend WALL-E, NASA can encourage young people to learn about science and technology and become the explorers of tomorrow." said Robert Hopkins, chief of strategic communications at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Check out NASA's For Educators site.
Here's a link to the Public Service Announcement.

I think I need to see WALL-E, don't know if I can convince my teenagers to join me though...

Rogers Announces 3G iPhone Packages For Canada

Weeks after the iPhone 3G was announced and we knew for sure that it was coming to Canada, Rogers Wireless has finally unveiled the voice and data packages associated with the phone. The packages come in 4 flavours ranging from $60 to $115 per month. $60 buys you 150 daytime minutes, 400 MB data transfer, and 75 sent text messages while at the upper end you get 800 day time minutes, 2 GB data transfer, and 300 sent text messages. Oh and did I mention you are required to sign up to a 3 year contract? My guess is Canadians will want to stick with their Blackberries.

Friday, June 27, 2008

ICANN Changes Rules To Allow New Top-Level Domains

At a meeting in Paris this week, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or Icann unanimously passed new regulations which means that any company, organization or country will soon be able to apply for top-level domains.

The New York Times has quoted Peter Dengate Thrush, Icann’s chairman as saying:

“We’re expecting a broad range of applicants. Indigenous communities might come forward to protect aspects of their language and culture,”

“We may see a .smith so that all the Smiths in the world will have a place.”

“It’s very exciting to see what people will do with those names,” he said.

While some groups are applauding the move, there are those who think this opens up a whole new can of worms when it comes to threats online fights over ownership of names. According to ICANN applications for the new domains would go through an independent review process and companies will have the first priority when it comes to claiming their brand names. Lauren Weinstein, an Internet activist and co-founder of the group People for Internet Responsibility “The potential for mass confusion and fraud and phishing from these new domains seems to be what the primary impact will be for consumers,” and that “I fail to see the positive for consumers in this. It’s all downside.”

Looks like it's the wild wild west all over again! The only possible savior is that ICANN expects the top-level domains to start in the low 6 figure range.

Chrysler Announces 'uconnect' In Car Wireless

Chrysler announced Thursday that next years vehicle line will include an optional service known as 'uconnect' that will turn a subscribers vehicle into a rolling hot spot. The system includes a $449 dealer installed wireless router which will connect users to the Internet via the cellular networks. Service will cost $29 per month with a one time activation fee of $35. Besides accessing the Internet, the system will also link with cellular phones and iPods and has an in-car 30-gigabyte hard drive and "navigation and real-time traffic features, controlled by voice recognition or a touch screen." according to CNN. The move is an attempt to compete with Ford's "Sync" system and other 3rd party options. Hopefully we won't have to worry about people facebooking while driving!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Shape Shifting Building Plans Unveiled

If New York-based architect David Fisher has his way the "world's first building in motion," an 80 story shape shifting skyscraper will be built in Dubai by 2010. "You can adjust the shape the way you like every given moment," Fisher said. "It's not a piece of architecture somebody designed today and that's it. It remains forever. It's designed by life, shaped by time." The building will also be the worlds first skyscraper built from prefabricated units, with each floor capable of rotating independently. You can own a unit for between $4 million and $40 million, but hey where else can you buy an apartment where the view changes at any given moment? CNN story here.

Dynamic Architecture website here.

Google, Microsoft Join Insurers And Healthcar Providers On Guidelines For eHealth

A group consisting of Insurers, Health Care Providers, and IT companies (including Microsoft and Google) are endorsing a set of privacy standards meant to protect online medical records. "Consumer demand for electronic personal health records and online health services will take off when consumers trust that personal information will be protected," Zoe Baird, President Markle Foundation'. The Markle Foundation has been in charge of organizing a concensus framework known as "Connecting For Health". Take up of online health services has been slow with only 6.1 million adults in the United States having electronic personal health records, according to estimates released by the Markle Foundation, securing data would seem to be the biggest hurdle to consumer confidence. See this CNET News post for more details.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

RFID In The Operating Room

Radio frequency identification devices (RFID) are becoming a popular means of keeping track of things, including helping to identify patients in a hospital, and revealing the location of equipment. Dutch scientists are now claiming that RFIDs can have a negative effect on life-saving equipment, even in some cases turning off critical medical devices. Research conducted at Vrije University in Amsterdam, tested the effect of holding both "passive" and powered RFIDs close to 41 medical devices. According to this BBC report "A total of 123 tests, three on each machine, were carried out, and 34 produced an "incident" in which the RFID appeared to have an effect - 24 of which were deemed either "significant" or "hazardous". In some tests, RFIDs either switched off or changed the settings on mechanical ventilators, completely stopped the working of syringe pumps, caused external pacemakers to malfunction, and halted dialysis machines." Proponents of the technology say that the type of RFID used in medical situations are much less likely to have occurances than those used in retail situations and that any medical rated tag would have to meet a standard, meaning it is very unlikely that interference with medical devices would occur.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Simpsons' Trivia - Name That Character

Here's a fun little puzzle that test's your Simpson's knowledge... check it out. 10 minutes to name 63 characters. I'm a bit rusty... only got 40 but I think it was just the pressure of being on the clock. Leave a comment and let me know how you did.

Canadians Face Longest iPhone Contracts

Perhaps it's our reputation for being polite, or simply that Rogers Communications Inc. knows that we have no choice of carriers, but Canadians are facing the longest iPhone contracts anywhere in the world. In the U.S. and Japan you can lock yourself into a 2 year contract, in the U.K. 18 months, and in Australia you don't require a contract at all, but we here in the great white north are facing 3 year contracts under Roger's plan. "While I won't speak to our contractual agreement, all carriers are different," Elizabeth Hamilton a Rogers spokesperson said. As we all know 3 years is an eternity in the cellphone world but with Rogers being the only 3G game in town those lusting after the iPhone will have no choice in this country, legitimately anyway. CBC Story here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Ice On Mars

NASA scientists have identified the mysterious white substance uncovered by the Phoenix Lander as ice. Using Phoenix's stereo camera the substance was caught in the act of disappearing under the martian sunlight. The substance "sublimated", or transformed directly from a solid to a gas without passing through the liquid state. Sublimation is a characteristic of how water behaves on Mars according to

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Taking It To The Tweets

In another Web 2.0 showdown, the presidential campaigns are engaging in a debate Twitter style. The " face-off on Twitter sponsored by the Personal Democracy Forum" started on Friday and is expected to last at least until Tuesday night with the end of the organizations annual conference. The Obama camp will be represented by Mike Nelson a former Clinton Whitehouse staffer while McCain's campaign is represented by Liz Mair, communications director for the Republican National Committee. Time Magazine blogger Anna Marie Cox will moderate. Let's hope Twitter is up to the challenge! With all of Twitter's issues of late, you have to wonder whether or not this was a good move or simply one that they fealt could not be passed upon?