Friday, October 03, 2003

Satellite contest features shades of "ENEMY OF THE STATE"

The Indianopolis Star reports that Coca-Cola plans to use satellites to find U.S. buyers who happen to purchase special cans of Coke products. Winners in the giveaway will receive a Hummer H2 sport-utility vehicle.

Coke's promotion will involves cans equipped with special Global Positioning System (GPS) transponders.

Another contest tied to the 2004 Summer Olympics, will award a golden prize of $1 million in gold, again awarded on the spot after the purchaser being found with GPS Satellites.

Though a cool and exciting use of technology for promotional purposes, the imagination can yield never-ending examples of machievellian uses for this technology as well.

And E-R isn't so sure that those are as refreshing as a bottle of coke.

TechnoCamps debate nextgen DVD formats

Does the squabbling ever end? Do these technowizes every learn from their past? Obviously not. Fresh off the heals of a current battle over DVD format standards, camps are divided over what format will drive the NEXT GENERATION DVD!

Wired reports that high-definition DVD is block by consumer electronics companies debating over what the standard should be, whose technology will be used and how much data the discs should hold.

And who suffers from this argument? The CONSUMER, of course.

Meanwhile, the makers of DivX has announced it's courting Hollywood as the technology partner of choice for film studios and consumer-electronics makers working to bridge the Internet and television. DivX is currently a hot commodity for file-sharers who like it's small file size and crystal clear resolution.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Open Office represents a no-cost alternative

OPEN OFFICE 1.1, a suite of open source office applications developed for Windows, Linux, and MAC OS, is "shipping" this week.

To date, over 15 million users have downloaded the suite, a word processor (named "WRITER"), a spreadsheet ("CALC"), a multimedia presentation application ("IMPRESS") which provides special effects, animation and high-impact drawing tools, and a drawing program ("DRAW") which states you can produce everything from simple diagrams to dynamic 3D illustrations and special effects. Finally, there's Database User Tools for database work, but in spreadsheet-like form.

Users can either download the suite for FREE at, or purchase (or even distribute) it. maintains a list of CD-ROM distributors from which one can buy CDs.

Japanese law requires computer recycling

With more and more landfills becoming the final resting place for obsolete computer hardware, The Japan Times is reporting that a net law compels personal computer manufacturers to charge consumers for collection of used PCs recycling their parts.

As a big fan of recycling, E-R likes this, but feels it should be optional, not compulsory. Then again, with space at a premimum in the land of the Rising Sun, we can certainly understand why such drastic measures may need to be taken.

According to the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association, 24 million PCs are used in over half of Japan's households. However, the association also estimates that some 9,000 tons of home-use computers were scrapped -- the equivalent of nearly a half million units.

Napster to return next week, but it won't be free

With legitimate online music services like Apple iTunes gaining popularity and market share, Napster, the pioneering song-swap service shut down for copyright infringement, will relaunch next week as a PAY service.

MACWORLD reports that Roxio, the company known for it's stellar CD & DVD burning software Easy CD Creator and Toast, purchased the file-sharing service last year and plans a test run of Napster 2.0 beginning October 9th.

Microsoft changes tack in fixing Windows Bugs

CNET News (via Leoville) reports that Microsoft is admitting that their strategy of releasing patches to fix security holes as they pop up in it's Windows OS is a bust.

Announcing a new "securing the perimeter" strategy, by focusing more on firewalls to block potential hackers than to shore up any holes in the OS. The decision came with the reality that most Windows users don't update their OS often enough to make a patch effective.

Windows XP comes with a built in firewall which users can turn on, but the conventional wisdom is that it's only marginally effective. So this move may prompt MS to focus on improving it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Amid triumphs and tragedies, the space agency turns 45

Tomorrow is the official anniversary of when the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics adopted a new mandate of space exploration, a big blue meatball of a logo, and became the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

And while members of Congress endlessly debate the merits of the agency and whether the space shuttle fleet should be retired and what should come next, it's important to remember the things everyone thinks about when they see that big blue meatball:

"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win ..."
- John F. Kennedy, Address at Rice University

For more of Kennedy's address at Rice University, click here.

First Lady warns of TV Addiction
While on a trip to Moscow this week, First Lady (and former librarian) Laura Bush criticized America's affair with television stating that American children are addicted to the tube.

Woops, gotta go, Oprah's on!

The Daily Prophet becomes reality

In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry and company find out about the robbery of Gringots by reading the newspaper THE DAILY PROPHET. What was cool about this scene is that the Prophet magically shows a live video, of sorts, in place of a simple picture.

Well, life has officially imitated art. NATURE.COM is reporting that paper capable of playing videos has been invented at the Philips Research laboratory in the Netherlands!

The paper looks the same, but the ink, known as "electronic ink," can be rearranged electronically fast enough to show video movies.

And it almost was

MSNBC has a cool article about the drop test of Burt Rutan's entry into the XPrize. It's dubbed SPACE SHIP ONE and it could be the will be the first privately-built manned spacecraft in history.

If it doesn't auger in first. But no worries about ole Burt. If anyone can get up there, he can. He designed the first aircraft to travel around the world on one tank of gas. That's over 25,000 miles, so how hard can 50 miles be?

Oh yeah, it's STRAIGHT UP.

In other XPRIZE news, founder Peter H. Diamandis told the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that he expects that one of two teams will launch within the next few months, using rockets and spacecraft that are already being tested and prepared for the daring adventure of placing the first privately funded man in space.

The teams, already approved by the FAA, include Scaled Composites, led by aviation maverick Burt Rutan, and Armadillo Aerospace, a Dallas group headed by John Carmack, a computer game designer who made a fortune on "Doom" and "Quake."

The stated goal of X-Prize is to promote commercial human spaceflight by offering a $10 million dollar cash prize to the first privately financed and built spacecraft which carries three astronauts to 100 kilometers (62.5 miles) and returns them safely to Earth. They must then repeat the launch with the same ship within 2 weeks.

There are 23 other registered groups competing from the U.S., Russia, United Kingdom, Romania, Israel, Argentina and two from Canada.

Music download service aims to lure 500K downloads by year's end

Yahoo/MacCentral is reporting that in an effort to counter both illegal music file sharing and Apple's corner of the legit download market, the Musicmatch service will offer the same pricing as Apple, but will allow a more liberal use of the downloads purchased.

Downloaded music can be played on up to three separate PCs at the same time, on mp3 players supporting Windows Media Player Series 9, and be burned onto CDs up to five times.

Single tracks will cost US$0.99 and most albums will cost $9.99.

Want to hook up with an old friend? Here are some ways:

But before you fire off that "hey, long time no hear!" email, you may wish to verify it by using one of these sites:

New spyware masquerades as ecard ...

If you may suspect your loved one of cheating on you, the best way to catch them may be to send them an e-card. It may also be illegal.

CNET NEWS reports that a new software called "LOVER SPY," sends an e-mail greeting card which can lure the targered cheater to a Web site which downloads a Trojan program onto the victim's computer that spys on their computer activity by recording everything from keystrokes, e-mail, chats and even monitors on the user's Webcam.

According to former Justice Department officials, Lover Spy would violate any number of laws designed to protect civil rights: "Loading a trojan horse onto someone's computer without their okay is patently illegal ... it would be a felony."

The best defense is updated antivirus software, and good firewall, and programs like LAVASOFT's AD AWARE which detect the spyware and clean it off.

Though Lover Spy is cheaper than marriage counseling, one has to wonder if the results will doom a marriage more than save it.

And who can blame them?

The BIG BAD's terror campaign against file sharing seems to be working as CNN TECH reports that it has scored settlements with 50 or more of the original 261 copyright infringements suits it has filed. And who can blame those who do settle? When one sees what the RIAA can do to grandmothers and 9 year old girls, taking their social security checks and lemonade money - much less the college tuition of students, is it any wonder why the average file sharing Joe would settle to get them out of the crosshairs? Some experts speculate that settlement payments have ranged from $2,500 to $7,500 each, with at least one settlement for as much as $10,000.

The campaign of terror is working too as the POST reports that traffic to the Kazaa file-sharing network has fallen a whopping 41 percent since the Recording Industry Association of America started suing college students for illegal music trading.

"The RIAA is clearly sending a strong message to American Web users, and the message appears to be working," said Nielsen analyst Greg Bloom, according to The Los Angeles Times.

And all this could be avoided if the RIAA would just embrace music downloads as a legitimate and AFFORDABLE distribution alternative.

Monday, September 29, 2003

A funny one from PVPOnline.

Rapid prototype printing may someday delivery parts from your computer!

Imagine this. You're on a long trip and your car breaks down out in the middle of nowhere. Blown fuel pump. So, you pull out your laptop and your 3D printer, open up a CAD drawing and "print" up a new one! In a few hours, you're back on the road.

An Astronaut on Mars needs new navigation boards since his were damaged in a recent electromagnetic storm. With the nearest parts store thirty-five million miles away, he just clicks "print" and his 3D printer does in minutes what would take a rescue mission up to a year and billions of dollars to provide - spare parts.

Sounds far fetched, but it could happen. In fact, it could happen NOW.

CNN TECH has a story about 3D printers named "Santa Claus machines," which can use a process called "rapid prototyping" to literally "print" a three dimensional shape, out of anything from starch, plastic or even metal.

The technology prints layer upon layer of conducting and semi-conducting polymers at the same time building up the piece of equipment being made. The process is called "flexonics" and is accomplished by using a print head similar to a deskjet design which "sprays" a dust onto the next layer and then mixes it with a bonding liquid before moving to the next layer.
The result is a true three dimensional object.

Next on the list of this emerging technology is electronics, as researchers seek to achieve the printing of electronic circuitry in an object. Such a breakthrough may make form, and function truly one in the same.

Flexonics could revolutionize everything from manufacturing to information. And coupled with "on-demand" flexibility could make wharehousing of parts a thing of the past.