Toronto resident Dave Delaney and his wife were expecting a baby last fall, so what did Dave decide to do? Why, start a "podcast," of course. Dave and his wife Heather (who is from Jackson, Tennessee) have a website and a podcast -- a downloadable audio program -- devoted to the lives of new parents. As they describe it on their site, "This is our first attempt at being parents [and]it is also our first attempt at a podcast -- what could go wrong?" According to Dave, a little over three months after starting their podcast, Two Boobs and a Baby have had over 4,000 downloads of one of the couple's four episodes. Dave descrbes the show as "a free, PG-rated program about becoming new parents. It's a comedy, but we hope to share our stories with other new parents who may be seeking advice, or who wish to share their stories." The website also has a forum for parents and would-be parents to post messages or ask for advice.
As many expected, Google has launched a Chinese version of its search engine (NYT link) in an attempt to grow in that massive market, and to compete with local search providers such as Baidu.com, and it has agreed to filter its results to comply with government restrictions -- or what several wags have referred to as the "great firewall of China." The service will also not have Google e-mail or blogs.
This isn't terribly surprising, given some of the activity by Google and other tech giants when it comes to China -- such as the shutting down of a noted dissident's blog by Microsoft's MSN, and the identification of another dissident (who was later arrested) by Yahoo. And Google has been accused of at least helping to filter results before, including in this Harvard study.
It's obvious that companies such as Google see such activity as part of the cost of doing business in a country like China, and no doubt they would make the argument that if they didn't comply then someone else would. It's still a sad development, however, and it certainly throws into sharp relief how the search company's "don't be evil" mantra can be modified when necessary to fit the needs of the business.
John Battelle says Sergey Brin told him on balance Google figures it's better to be in China than not. I'm not sure I agree. Danny Sullivan says it's more complicated than that, and Philipp Lenssen says Google should come clean about what they censor and where. Good Morning Silicon Valley says it's like "watching little Anakin grow up into Darth Vader," and the Mercury News says Google should change its motto to "Don't be more evil than necessary" (thanks to IPDemocracy.com for pointing me to that one).
Reading about the launch of Tello, a software application aimed at the idea of "presence" -- in other words, helping people figure out where you are and then helping them reach you with the appropriate device -- reminded me that I wanted to blog about a chat I recently had with one of the co-founders of another "presence" company, Ottawa-based Iotum.
Howard Thaw, a serial entrepeneur who started the company with former Microsoftie Alec Saunders (one of a small group of CEOs who blog), told me a bit about the company and its solution, which Iotum calls a "relevance engine." Essentially, it is a kind of personal assistant that learns through heuristics, which Howard knows well from a previous venture, Thunderbyte anti-virus software. In effect, it is designed to learn what phone calls or voice messages or IM pings or VOIP calls to put through to where, based on your past behaviour and a set of rules it develops.
Iotum has just recently come out of "stealth" mode, and has been selected to present at the DEMO conference in February, a fairly exclusive conference run by Chris Shipley and aimed primarily at startups and early-stage venture capital. As Howard described it, the API for the Iotum engine will be open for developers to add functionality, and so that other companies and applications can "plug in" to the software and add features -- something Alec says would apply to a product such as Tello. Coincidentally enough (or not), VOIP pioneer Jeff Pulver, who is one of the founders of Tello along with John Sculley of IBM and Apple fame, is on the Iotum board of advisors.
Will such "presence"-oriented apps catch on with a time-pressed and increasingly fragmented consumer? Mike at TechDirt remains skeptical, as do VOIP blogger Tom Keating, Oliver over at MobileCrunch and Stowe Boyd, but Iotum and Tello -- and some high-profile finance types, in the latter case -- are banking on it.
Google hasn't made many billion-dollar bets, except for the recent one on AOL (which was more of a hedge) so the deal announced for dMarc Broadcasting is notable if only for the potential price tag. Up-front costs are only $100-million, but the potential outlay for Google if certain performance targets are met is $1.1-billion over three years (eBay's acquistion of Skype has similar terms).
Although Google has been reaching its tendrils into "offline" for a little while now, including a deal to run ads for its AdSense partners in print publications, I think it's safe to say that for many people, saying the word Google does not make one instinctively think "radio." After all, how do you click an ad that's on the radio? However, some -- including former Merrill Lynch analyst Henry Blodget -- think this could be the beginning of a big business for Google: namely, replacing big ad-buying agencies who place ads in all kinds of media.
The web magazine Search Engine Roundtable says if we have AdWords and AdPrint, and now AdRadio, it's likely only a matter of time before we get AdTV, and Google starts running ads on television. And Danny Sullivan says any dispute about whether Google is a media company or not can be put to rest.
Ross Rader of Tucows seems to agree, while Eric Schoenfeld of the Business 2.0 blog says there is potential for serving ads based on tracking your digital radio listening habits. As usual, Good Morning Silicon Valley has a great headline: "Sorry officer -- the last thing I remember is trying to click on an interactive radio ad."
Wireless networks are becoming so commonplace -- at least in urban centres -- that it is becoming possible to do without an Internet connection altogether, provided your neighbours are nice enough to let you use theirs (or fail to lock their network down -- but that's a topic for another column). According to the New York Times, two companies are planning to offer tools that would make it easier to set up such a neighbourhood Wi-Fi network: Mushroom Networks of San Diego and WiBoost of Seattle. Both are aimed at allowing users to share their network connections to improve download speeds.
Meanwhile, some neighbours are already doing this: technology consultant and writer Thomas Evslin writes on his blog about how he set up a Wi-Fi antenna on his roof that provides 25 of his rural neighbours with wireless Internet access, and how he sees such efforts as a response to the power of the regional Bell companies and cable conglomerates. In some parts of the United States, ad-hoc networks have been set up, including one in Manhattan called "Neighbornode," which features a local homepage and directory of services.
There is even a movement afoot to gather together wireless networks and create a wireless phone service using voice-over-Internet or VOIP. The project, known as FON, is being organized by entrepeneur Martin Varsavsky, who has reportedly even met with billionaire Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Unfortunately, this kind of sharing is against the terms of service that most Internet service providers require their customers to sign. One of the few national ISPs that actually promotes network sharing is Speakeasy.
Just as people were getting over the fact that Safa Rashtchy of Piper Jaffray boosted his target for Google's share price to $600 (U.S.), along comes Mark Stahlman of Caris & Co., saying in a report that the search company could go as high as $2,000 a share. Mr. Stahlman, who according to his bio was one of the people who helped take America Online public, takes pains to point out that this is not a "target," per se -- merely speculation about how high Google might go someday.
And where does Mr. Stahlman get this number? First, he assumes that Google will continue growing to the point where it has $100-billion in annual revenue. It now has sales of about $5-billion, but is growing at about 90 per cent year over year -- so it would have to continue doing that for at least four years. Then, he applies the same multiple of enterprise value to sales per share that Microsoft trades at, which happens to be 6.2 -- and presto! $2,000 a share.
This, of course, sounds a lot like the kind of math that analysts used to use back in the bad old days of the later 1990s, when a guy named Henry Blodget made his name by putting a $400 target on Amazon.com -- a target that was eclipsed within a matter of weeks. Fittingly enough, Mr. Blodget now has a blog called Internet Outsider, and recently wrote about the price target brouhaha. For what it's worth, his take is that forecasting stock prices and valuing companies is an arcane science -- the clear implication being that we should take such targets with a rather large grain of salt. If only Mr. Blodget and others had provided similar advice in 1999.
It may be something of a footnote to the $1-billion (U.S.) deal between Google and AOL, but to me (and others like Stowe Boyd at Corante and Gary Price at SearchEngineWatch) the proposal to blend Google's GTalk messaging service and AOL's AIM sounds like a great idea -- and possibly the beginning of something more.
It may take some technical voodoo to accomplish, but at least allowing GTalk and AIM to talk to each other takes us down to two main instant messaging networks, since Microsoft and Yahoo have said they plan to make theirs interoperable. I've been using Trillianand Gaim (both of which let you connect to multiple networks), because I know so many people on other networks, and I haven't used GTalk because I know most of them won't switch applications just to talk to me.
And why should they? It's like asking people to get a new cellphone because your phone can't call theirs. It's absurd -- and that means it has to change. Will Microsoft or Yahoo ever agree to make their networks compatible with GTalk? It seems pretty unlikely right now, since all the big companies seem to see IM as a kind of Trojan horse that can bring voice-over-Internet and a host of other services to users, and thereby help achieve customer "lock-in."
I think they are wrong. Lock-in is something that very few companies achieve ( operating systems being one of the main exceptions) and it's particularly unlikely to happen when -- as with IM -- the whole point of the software is to be more connected and communicate with others. Anyone who facilitates that, whether it's Trillian or Gaim or Meebo and other Web-based IM clients, will benefit.
Julian Bond at Voidstar has some interesting thoughts on the IM front as it relates to VOIP, and the Googletalk blog has some more info if you're interested in that angle and how it relates to Libjingle, an attempt to join Google's voice-over-Internet with an open VOIP standard called Jingle.
Sylvain Demongeot, a French programmer, has released a piece of software called Tunatic that he says can identify songs played on the radio or any other music source. If the sound makes it into a microphone attached to your computer, the developer says Tunatic will be able to identify the title, name of the artists and any other useful information within seconds -- including links to download sites, music stores, lyrics and so on. Tunatic is free and available for both Windows and Mac OS X platforms.
If you've experimented with "social bookmark" sites such as digg.com or del.icio.us as a way of filtering the web, you may have come across reddit.com. When I mentioned it in a recent column for the Globe and Mail about Yahoo's acquisition of del.icio.us, I got an email from one of Reddit's co-founders, Alexis Ohanian, so I asked him some questions about the deal and about Reddit's business model.
Alexis said that he felt Yahoo's purchase had "validated the 'business model without a business model' approach of del.icio.us," but that he was "curious to know how whether or not it's an anomaly," adding that "one look at reddit and you can guess what we're hoping for." I asked whether reddit.com was modelled on del.icio.us, and he said it was -- but that Reddit wants to do something different as well. "We were actually inspired by del.icio.us/popular," Alexis said. "We found ourselves most interested in this page because it was a sort of zeitgeist for what people were busy bookmarking -- but we wanted to take it further."
The Reddit co-founder, who was part of a "summer camp for startups" along with his college roommate Steve Huffman -- and was in a movie called Aardvark'd -- said that while there are "aesthetic similarities in the minimalist designs of our sites," reddit.com is "trying to build a very different site." As a Guardian article on the site pointed out, Reddit users can vote an article up or down in popularity (in much the same way Slashdot users vote on comments) and they get "karma points" if something they linked to is voted onto the front page (Solution Watch has a nice overview).
As for a business model, Alexis didn't give me much to go on, but he said that the two friends "started on reddit with the hope of being acquired one day, but as the project evolved we started exploring a model that could (hopefully) be sustainable." He said there have been "overtures," but that he and his partner are "loving this ride and we want to see how far it will take us." As for venture capital, the company has met with a few but hasn't taken any money. "We secured angel funding in August," Alexis said, "that should, given our bare bones lifestyle (2 guys in a Cambridge apartment), last us until the thaw of summer."
The Wall Street Journal and others have reported that Google is close to deal to take a five-per-cent stake in America Online for $1-billion (U.S.). This, of course, is only the latest in a series of rumours about what's going to happen to AOL -- first Microsoft was close to a deal to buy the whole enchilada, then Google's's name was brought up, then Microsoft was seen as being back on top.
At one point, the speculation was that Time Warner CEO Dick Parsons was trying to get the takeover rumours going so that he could cut a better deal with Google, which AOL uses to power its search results. Then AOL founder Steve Case came out with his impassioned plea to split up the company -- the same thing Carl Icahn seems to want to do -- in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, which was hilariously satirized in a commentary piece here.
Most analysts seem to think that Google taking a piece of AOL -- if only so that Microsoft or Yahoo don't get it -- makes sense. The former online wasteland is estimated to account for about 11 per cent of Google's annual search revenue, and that wouldn't be a good thing to give up. And it's only a billion, right? Pocket change for a company with a market value of almost $130-billion.
Mitch Shapiro at IPDemocracy.com noticed something I did too in the rather long New York Times piece on Ray Ozzie recently -- namely, word that Google is working with Wyse Technologies on a $200 "thin-client"-type PC.
According to someone at Wyse, the search company is looking at a Google-branded machine that would be marketed by telecom companies in places like China and India. Wyse CEO John Kish said that Google is "on a path to developing a stack of software in competition with the Microsoft desktop, and one that is much more network-centric, more an Internet service -- and this fits right into that."
Is it any wonder that Microsoft has started talking very publicly about Web-enabled versions of Office and rolling out things like Windows Live? Dave Farber at ZDNet notes that this idea is just the latest in a long line of "network is the computer" visions, most notably from Sun, which could never seem to make it fly.
Oracle also tried it -- and Wyse CEO John Kish happens to be an ex-Oracle executive. David Berlind at ZDNet has also speculated that the time has come for a networked PC, and Google is the one to bring it to us. But others remain skeptical. Is a Google PC the way to go? Let me know what you think.
Yahoo already allows PC users to call other PC users for free -- as Microsoft's MSN and Google Talk do -- but now it is adding the ability to call regular phones for as little as 1 cent per minute, and to receive calls from regular phones for as little as $2.99 a month. Both prices are lower than what Skype charges. Susan Mernit notes that this could be just the beginning. And it seems obvious that Microsoft and Google are likely to add features similar to Skype's for next to nothing -- or perhaps (in Google's case at least) even for free.
This may not be terribly creative, as some critics have noted, but that isn't really the point. The point is to win market share, and the "first mover" doesn't always have an advantage (Exhibit A: TiVo). As lawyer and tech blogger Rob Hyndman observed recently, getting displaced in such a way is even easier in a world where technology changes rapidly, is either cheap or even free, and users are constantly looking for the next greatest thing. Is that good or bad? That's difficult to say. But it does seem to be the new reality.
P.S. At least one reader has pointed out that Skype does have some proprietary differences from other VOIP products, since it uses a "peer-to-peer" model developed by Kazaa founder Niklas Zennstrom. That makes it easier to use in some cases, because it can find its its way through corporate firewalls more easily. That's also why some companies block the software, however -- whereas "open source" solutions such as the Gizmo Project have the benefit of being, well... open. And that can mean a lot.
Update: Now Microsoft is wedging its rather large foot into the voice-over-Internet door, with an announcement recently about a deal with MCI. Still think Skype was worth $4.1-billion, eBay?
You might think that what Google does is simple -- it indexes Web pages and other content, including news stories from various sources (such as globeandmail.com) -- and then it lets people search for things. That's not what European publishers and news agencies think it does, however. As far as they're concerned, Google steals their content and then -- to make things even worse -- sells advertising that runs alongside it, thereby depriving them of revenue and stealing food out of their childrens' mouths (Note: I made up that last part).
According to the Associated Press, Francisco Pinto Balsemao of the European Publishers Council said (or planned to say) at a conference in Brussels that "The new models of Google and others reverse the traditional permission-based copyright model of content trading that we have built up over the years." Such companies, he said, "help themselves to copyright-protected material, build up their own business models around what they have collected, and parasitically, earn advertising revenue off the back of other people's content," which is "unlikely to be sustainable for publishers in the longer term."
Just one question springs to mind: What planet is Mr. Balsemao from? Google and Yahoo don't "help themselves" to copyright-protected content -- they index it so that people can find it, and then they show them where to go to get more of it. That's why searches return a bunch of links, rather than just a pile of other people's content. Google News, which is the subject of a similarly narrow-minded lawsuit by Agence France-Presse, shows small portions of news stories and then links to the original site. If people don't want to follow the link, that's not Google's fault.
Maybe Mr. Balsemao and his group will take their fight to the libraries and bookstores next -- after all, they display copyrighted content and sell services related to it. How dare they?
Another arrow got fired at wikipedia.org recently in USA Today, with an op-ed piece by John Siegenthaler Sr.., who writes about his outrage on finding an entry in the collaborative encyclopedia that described him as playing a role in the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy. The New York Times wrote about it on Sunday.
This is only the latest barrage of criticism aimed at the Wikipedia. Nicholas Carr made a splash a couple of months ago with an entry on his blog about the online encyclopedia and how incompetent and inaccurate many of the entries were. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales replied that some of the critcisms were well-founded. The former editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia Britannica also took some shots at the Wikipedia in a piece written for on Tech Central Station.
Despite the criticisms, Steve Rubel remains convinced that the Wikipedia is "the next Google" (ironically, his post appeared the day before Mr. Siegenthaler's piece appeared in USA Today). Rex Hammock has useful advice: "Use Wikipedia as a gateway to facts, not a source of them." James Robertson, meanwhile, points out that "real-world" sources of information such as the New York Times, have their problems too.
So is the Wikipedia fatally flawed, or does the self-correcting model of collaborative information (the basis for the "wiki" model) eventually produce the best results? Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine says it may be flawed, but it's also an opportunity. And Kevin Marks has some worthwhile thoughts, including a quote from Douglas Adams in which he says that "what should concern us is not that we can't take what we read on the internet on trust... but that we ever got into the dangerous habit of believing what we read in the newspapers or saw on the TV."
Online-classified service Craigslist.com is extremely popular, with close to 9 million unique visitors in September according to some estimates. So how much is it worth? (figuring out how much various Web services are worth seems to have become a new sport). Based on Business 2.0 magazine writer Om Malik's rough rule of thumb from recent deals for companies such as MySpace.com and Weblogs Inc., which he said produced an average value of $38 (U.S.) per unique monthly visitor, Craigslist would be worth about $330-million.
That figure might be about to go down, however, as the online classified game heats up (don't even ask where newspapers are in all this). There's Google Base, for example, which admittedly is rather confusing to use and therefore perhaps less of a threat (or more, depending on who you believe). And then there's a little company whose name begins with "Micro" and ends in "soft." The behemoth from Redmond is rumoured to be launching a new online-classified style service codenamed "Fremont," according to various sources, including TechCrunch.
One description a Chinese website allegedly got from a Microsoft marketing email says that Fremont will be "a dynamic new listing service that enables people to easily buy, sell, or swap among friends, co-workers, or the public.," suggesting that users will be able to share listings or announcements with buddy lists or with anyone.
Fremont will also reportedly be integrated with MapPoint.com and Windows Live Local (the satellite mapping service currently known as Virtual Earth), so that you can see where items are located and get directions. Oh yes, and one other important thing -- it will be free. Maybe Craigslist founder Craig Newmark should have taken some of that IPO money while it was still floating around.
|Design your own cockpit: People are used to configuring PCs on a website before they buy -- but an airplane? Diamond Aircraft Industries, a German-Canadian company that makes small single- and twin-engine planes, thinks the time has come. At its website, you can decide whether you want the Garmin GPS unit (for $8,868 U.S.), the autopilot with altitude hold for $12,390 or the engine pre-heater system ($620). Add those to the base price of about $145,000, and it's all yours. FedEx probably won't drop it off at your house though.|
Personal video recorder company TiVo Inc. said Monday that it plans to roll out a new feature that will allow users to choose certain commercials, based on keywords, and then have them inserted into TV shows that they have recorded with their TiVo (Dave Zatz has a description of how this would work, taken from a patent application by TiVo).
That might sound a little odd considering one of the main benefits of having a TiVo is that you can fast-forward through the commercials, but it's obvious that the PVR company is trying to find new revenue sources and is willing to consider just about anything. This new feature sounds a lot like an attempt to create a kind of Google AdWords model, but with TV instead of the Internet.
Is that even possible? Carl Howe, a former Forrester Research consultant, says he thinks it is "a brilliant idea," -- the Googlization of TiVo, he calls it (he goes even further to say that he sees Google buying TiVo because of the information it will be able to collect based on its new advertising model). Others disagree.
Om Malik, for example, notes that paying users of TiVo -- who are already paying for something that others can get for virtually nothing through the PVR offered by their cable company -- might be less than enamoured with the new service. AdWords works for Google because its main service is not only free, but is so useful that people don't mind having ads served to them, not to mention the fact that the act of searching is more closely aligned with targeted ads than, say, the act of watching CSI:Miami.
Stephen Baker of BusinessWeek is also skeptical, as is Cynthia Brumfield from IPDemocracy. And I would have to say I am too -- TiVo's move seems more like a Hail Mary pass by a struggling company than anything else.
A Norwegian engineer named Eirik Solheim recently posted an interesting comparison on his website between Webshots and Flickr. The former is a photo site that is celebrating its 10th anniversary, and the latter is a former Vancouver-based photo site that is now part of the Yahoo empire and has been around for less than two years (thanks to Thomas Hawk for pointing out the link).
One of the exhibits in Eirik's argument was a chart mapping the traffic patterns from both sites (courtesy of Alexa.com), which shows that Webshots has been going steadily downward in terms of "daily reach" while Flickr has been going steadily upwards.
As both Thomas and Eirik note, this is likely because Flickr is a much better example of a "Web 2.0" service. In other words, it does a better job of taking advantage of the interactive Web. It is easy to use, it has a simple interface -- and perhaps most importantly, it emphasizes community through the use of tags, groups, comments, contacts and so on, not to mention RSS feeds for everything and an open API (application programming interface).
Mapquest, like Webshots, is also the current leader in its sector -- online maps. However, it is not growing and sites such as Google Maps are. Why? There's a clue in this story about the company: Mapquest used to have satellite images, like Google and Microsoft, but did away with them because executives at the company thought they were fun but didn't see them as useful. Mapquest also doesn't have an open API, which allows other sites to create "mash-ups" using Google Maps, such as the a map of liquor outlets at beerhunter.ca.
Is Mapquest still the leader in the industry it created? Sure it is. So is Webshots. But their competitors are redefining the industry from under their feet, and they are in the process of missing the boat. That is what Web 2.0 really means -- and it doesn't just apply to the photo-sharing or map-making business.
Alienware headphones: If you have one of those high-end Alienware PCs, now you can get a set of headphones to match -- the Ozma 7 phones have S-Logic surround and a gold-plated adapter, and that little alien head logo on the side. Retail price: $200 (U.S.).
|Hat gets rid of jet lag: It may look a little odd, like some kind of futuristic gambler's cap, but the folks at legendary gadget retailer Hammcher Schlemmer say the Light Therapy Visor can help those who suffer from jet lag, by using "safe, heat-free blue-green light to biochemically increase seratonin, a mood elevator, while simultaneously suppressing melatonin, which increases alertness." Only $199.95 (U.S.).|
|Gadgets and breakfast: For the all-in-one fan, how about a toaster oven/coffee maker/frying pan? Yes, you can make your entire breakfast with a single appliance, featuring a 6-cup coffee pot and a dual-element toaster oven with a chrome rack and baking tray on the bottom and a frying pan/broiler element on the top. Only $49.98 (U.S.).|
|It's the shower shower! Maybe it's the name, maybe it's the pictures, but we can't resist posting this item about the "Shower Shower," a built-in cleaning system for your shower. You might think that your shower would stay pretty clean, what with all the water running through it all the time, but you'd be wrong, which is why you need the Shower Shower's four rotating spray nozzles that squirt your favourite shower cleaner everywhere.|
|Cracker-sized Web client: As more software and services get delivered over the Internet or the intranet, the need for desktop PCs decreases. If you want a really "thin client," take a look at the Jack PC from Chip PC Technologies. It fits an entire Windows CE operating system, chip and the required ports for sound and video into a box that fits where a regular Ethernet jack or power outlet would go.|
|Squeeze out the music: Slim Devices Inc. has launched the third generation of its Squeezebox network music player, a sleek metal gizmo with an LCD display and two internal wireless antennas, which allows you to stream MP3 or WMA digital audio files throughout your home. The Squeezebox can also connect to Internet radio stations and stream those over an 802.11g network. It's $299 (U.S.) for the wireless version and $249 for a version that works over Ethernet.|
|Power to the people: Any mobile technology user knows that the Achilles heel of the mobile device is battery power. Xantrex Technology of Vancouver has a solution called the Pocket Powerpack, which combines a battery with a power inverter, and can power or recharge your Blackberry, iPod or cellphone either through a regular DC plug or through a USB port. Suggested retail is $119.99.|
|Love that Crazy Frog: Can't get enough of that wacky "Crazy Frog" ringtone and its associated video clips with the annoying "ring ding ding, bom bom"? Then you'll love what Digital Jesters has for you -- a Crazy Frog racing game, for PC and PlayStation. Other downloadable content is also available on the site, including wallpapers for your PC and mobile phone.|
|See-through solar panel: A California company called XSunX says that it has developed a thin, semi-transparent coating for glass windows that can turn any window into a giant solar panel. Although the product is still in development, the company says it should cost one quarter of what traditional panels cost.|
|Finger-in-ear calling: Forget about the Dick Tracy watch-phone -- how about a finger-phone? A new prototype from Japan, it slips over a finger like an egg-shaped ring and a user makes calls by tapping their finger in a certain way. In order to talk, the user sticks a finger in their ear, and the conversation is transmitted through bone conduction.|
Posted Tuesday, October 11 at 2:02 p.m.
Auto-fill that iPod: If your music collection isn't big enough to fill up that giant iPod you just got, Apple add-on company Griffin Technology is happy to help, with something it calls (naturally) iFill. The software streams MP3 files from thousands of free radio stations directly to your iPod. According to the company, you can choose several stations at once and select from many different genres, and the software is available for both the Mac and PC platforms. It's $19.99 (U.S.) and there's a free 30-day trial available from the company's website.
Posted Friday, Oct. 7 at 10:45 a.m.
Flood-proof housing: Residents of low-lying areas in Louisiana and Mississippi aren't the only ones interested in ways of protecting themselves from flooding -- so are the Dutch, since 25 per cent of the country is below sea level. So architects there have come up with houses that "float" on giant pillars, rising and falling with the floodwaters. A good idea for a country that sinks a little more every year.
Posted Wednesday, October 5 at 12:24 p.m.
Mom sues record industry: As part of its campaign to stop Internet downloading of music, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has sued several thousand individuals for damages it claims they have caused by illegally copying music. Most of those claims have been settled out of court, but at least one of the accused isn't folding her tent so quietly: Tanya Andersen, a 41-year-old disabled single mother from Oregon, is counter-suing the RIAA for a number of things, including entering and taking information from her computer without her permission. Ms. Andersen's claim seeks damages under the Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations or RICO act, a piece of legislation designed for fighting mob-influenced criminals, and alleges that the RIAA has "abused the judicial system," and used third-party companies to hack into her computer system. Ms. Andersen's suit also notes that contrary to the RIAA lawsuit, she "does not like 'gangster rap,' does not recognize the name 'gotenkito,' is not awake at 4:24 a.m. and has never downloaded music."
Posted Monday, Oct. 3 at 1:47 p.m.
Like to watch TV in the rain?: If you just love sitting outside by the pool watching TV, then this is for you: a 32-inch LCD television with a resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels, which supports high-definition broadcasts -- and is totally impervious to weather, including rain. The manufacturer says it is also resistant to dust, dirt and extremes of temperature. Unfortunately, the website gives no price, so that probably means you can't afford it.
Posted Thursday, September 29 at 11:44 a.m.
Let Hydro control the AC: In an attempt to prevent future outages like the Great Blackout of 2004, Toronto Hydro wants to get consumers to install the "PeakSAVER," a wireless switch that controls your air conditioner remotely. During peak periods of power usage, the switch would allow the utility to slow down the device. While Hydro says that customers would only notice a "negligible and temporary 1ºC or less" change in temperature at the end of a three- or four-hour cycle, the utility says that it could cut Toronto's electricity use during peak periods by a total of 7 megawatts, equivalent to the electricity demand of more than 1,600 homes. Hydro says that PeakSAVERs are already installed in 5.5 million homes and businesses across the U.S.
Posted Thursday, September 29 at 11:55 a.m.
Nice play, 7-inch-tall guy: New York Jets lineman Michael King must be getting a lot of razzing in the locker room: A bug in a recent update to Electronic Arts' football title, "Madden 2006," means that King shows up as a tiny, 7-inch-tall version of himself. Game developer Phil Frazier says the bug was the result of a typo in the spreadsheet that lists player attributes. It expects a two-digit entry for height, but someone mistakenly typed in 727, so the game read it as 72 inches.
Posted Tuesday, September 27 at 1:22 p.m.
Do you want GoogleTV?: Some intrepid Google-watchers found a job posting recently (since removed) that seems to indicate the search titan wants to move further into the TV world -- something it has already done with a video search tool and the recent streaming broadcast of comedian Chris Rock's new show Everybody Hates Chris. The job posted was for a "product manager for GoogleTV," who would "provide leadership on product vision and execution of projects that enable using Google's search and advertising technologies to enhance users' Television viewing experience." The company said that this person would focus on "the intersection of Internet and Television technologies, Video-On-Demand, Personal Video Recorders and emergence of next generation set-top-boxes with IP connectivity" and find ways for Google to blend its services with those new technologies. What does the search giant have in mind? Guess we'll have to wait and see.
Posted Tuesday, September 27 at 10:14 a.m.
Let's keep it clean, Ed: Motorola chairman Ed Zander appears to have had it up to here with all the raves Apple is getting for its tiny flash-based MP3 player (to be honest, so are we). In an interview with MacCentral, he was quite blunt about it: "Screw the nano," said Zander. "What the hell does the nano do? Who listens to 1,000 songs?" Zander's comments come just three weeks after the introduction of the iPod nano in an event that also saw the unveiling of the Motorola Rokr, the first iTunes compatible phone.
Posted Wednesday, September 21 at 2:52 p.m.
How dare you provide a service: William Bright, a New Yorker, had a great idea to help travellers find their way around: create small, easily-readable subway and transit maps that people could read on their iPods. So he set up iPodSubwayMaps.com and started giving away free maps of transit systems in New York, San Francisco, Paris and London. Then he got a letter from a lawyer with the city of New York, telling him his maps were a copyright violation and would have to be removed. He got another letter from San Francisco saying pretty much the same thing. So he took the maps down, and has been trying to recreate them in different colours so as to avoid prosecution. The letter from Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) said: "There is a widespread belief that materials published by public agencies such as BART are in the public domain. This belief is incorrect." Isn't it nice when someone tries to provide a public service?
Posted Monday, September 26 at 10:59 a.m.
Virtual reminders: Bridging the virtual and real world, Geominder is a kind of sticky note for your phone. It allows you to create "location-based reminders" that are "attached" to physical locations. When you or your cellphone are near that place (Geominder tracks your cellphone's location) you can receive either a text note or audio note you wrote or recorded earlier. Doesn't require GPS.
Posted Wednesday, September 21 at 2:52 p.m.
Posted Wednesday, September 22 at 3:20 p.m.
Skype CEO a bit garbled: Niklas Zennstrom, the Swedish entrepeneur who just sold his voice-over-Internet company to eBay for somewhere between $2.6-billion (U.S.) and $4.1-billion, was supposed to give the keynote speech at the Voice On Net or VON telecom conference as a video conference using Skype's software, but the speech was delayed for an hour due to technical difficulties. When it resumed, it was audio only, and was hard for some listeners to decipher. "The sound you hear is the sound of eBay stock going down," said Blair Levin, a managing director at Legg Mason.
Posted Wednesday, September 21 at 3:33 p.m.
A CD-ripping factory: Ripping your music CDs -- that is, taking the songs and converting them to MP3 files -- can be time-consuming. But not with Baxter's "desktop data assistant." It takes a stack of 25 CDs and rips them automatically, then prompts you for another stack. Simple as that -- provided you have $895 (U.S.).
Posted Wednesday, September 21 at 2:52 p.m.
Get your HD films here: If you like high-definition movies, then HDFest will be right up your alley. The event, to be held in New York Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, will feature a lineup of movies all shot and projected in high definition. This year, all films will also be shown in the Divx format, a compression scheme that allows a full high-definition image -- that is, 1080 lines interlaced or 720 progressive scan -- to be projected at 4 megabits per second, which allows a full-length movie to fit onto a single DVD disc. Tickets are $10 (U.S.) per screening.
Posted Tuesday, September 20 at 5:06 p.m.
Headlights for your feet: Roller-blading at night may be fun, but it can be dangerous too -- but not with the Bladelite headlight and tail-light system. The device attaches to a pant leg, and includes two blue LEDs facing forwards, and a one facing backwards. Powered by a nine-volt battery, they will last for about 35 hours. $60 (U.S.).
Posted Monday, September 19 at 10:48 p.m.
Swap those old DVDs: Netflix is for renting new DVD movies -- and now there's Peerflix for swapping them once they get old. Launched by two friends in Menlo Park, California, Peerflix went live a year ago and has grown to 40,000 users in the six months or so that it has been widely available. It's a trading platform that asks users to make lists of DVDs they want and DVDs they want to get rid of, then matches "wants" with "haves" for 99 cents a trade. The company provides a mailing label with a tracking number and shipping envelopes, but users must pay postage. Each movie title is assigned between one and three "Peerbux," based on their desirability. Users rack up Peerbux each time they ship a movie, and can then use their loot to purchase movies from other users.
Posted Monday, September 19 at 12:32 p.m.
A TV in your fireplace: If you don't feel like flaunting (or advertising to thieves) your big-screen plasma or LCD TV, why not hide it in your fake fireplace? Yes, now you can buy an antique or modern-looking fireplace with a hydraulic lift in it that pops up your big screen at the touch of a button. And they're only about $4,000 U.S.
Posted Thursday, September 15 at 2:46 p.m.