Monday, December 31, 2007

Next-Gen Asus Eee Getting Bigger Screen, WiMAX, Windows XP?

Asus will be discussing the next-gen Eee at CES, starting on Jan. 7, and it looks like there will be some major changes upcoming for the new model. Although of course everything is rumor until the show actually starts, one of them seems pretty solid as according to Asus' CES page at their site:
An Official ASUS/ Intel/ Sprint Joint Launch

Join ASUS, Intel and Sprint to learn about the state of WiMAX technology, preview next-generation mobile solutions (including the next generation EeePC) and immerse yourself in tomorrow’s wireless protocol.

When: Monday, January 7, 2008: 2:00 - 3:30PM
Where: The Riviera Casino and Hotel, Grand Ball Room

So it looks like WiMAX will be part of the new Eee. Meanwhile, the other items require a bit of translation - literally.

According to the Chinese language China Times and an article from Commercial Times, it appears the Eee will be finally be getting a version of Windows XP soon (presumably for the old as well as new models), as well as a larger 8.9" screen.

The article also states that the cost of a 7" panel for the original Eee is $40 while the 8.9" panel will be $55 - 60. With only a $15 to $20 difference between the two screens, that's not too bad, and I might even be tempted into one of these, particularly with XP.

More to come when CES starts.

Digital Converter Coupon Program Set to Begin

February 17, 2009, is the last day that broadcasters will transmit analog signals. For many of us, this will mean nothing, as those with cable or satellite TV won't need to worry about this ... only those receiving signals over-the-air (OTA) whose TVs don't already have a digital tuner.

Those TVs will need converter boxes. Boxes will be available starting in February at more than 14,000 government-certified retail outlets. You'll see your normal big names here, such as Best Buy, Circuit City, Radio Shack, Sears, Target and Wal-Mart as well as others. The boxes will range from $59.95 to $69.95.

At the same time, the government is running a coupon program to defray most of the cost of these boxes. Each household is entitled to two coupons, each of which is worth $40. These can be ordered after 6 a.m. EST Tuesday Jan. 1, 2008 at the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) site or by phone at (888) DTV-2009.

It should be noted that the coupons expire after 90 days, and although the government says it will not mail the coupons out until the converter boxes are available in stores, it might be better to wait until you check yourself before applying for coupons.

BTW, in case you're wondering why the move to digital signals is taking place, according to the informational site,
An important benefit of the switch to all-digital broadcasting is that it will free up parts of the valuable broadcast spectrum for public safety communications (such as police, fire departments, and rescue squads). Also, some of the spectrum will be auctioned to companies that will be able to provide consumers with more advanced wireless services (such as wireless broadband).
Cynic that I am, I'll say that you can bet the $$$ from the auction played no small part in this.

Australia Moves to Censor the Internet

Australian Telecommunications Minister Stephen Conroy today announced a requirement for ISPs to provide a "clean feed" for all homes, schools and any public PCs accessible by children. This follows up on a pre-election Nov. 19th Labor Party press release which first announced a proposed Cyber-safety plan.

As the press release said, "A Rudd Labor Government will transform cyber-safety in Australia," and here we are. So, is Australia the new China?

No, at least not yet. But there already is much heated discussion about the blogosphere on this. And deservedly so.

While today's press conference was pretty sparse in its content, Conroy did say:

"Labor makes no apologies to those that argue that any regulation of the internet is like going down the Chinese road. If people equate freedom of speech with watching child pornography, then the Rudd-Labor Government is going to disagree."

In the the Nov. press release and a linked .PDF are listed a series of issues that are said to be increasing affecting Australian children:

  • having their identities appropriated by others;
  • having photos or videos of themselves published online without their permission;
  • suffering from computer and/or internet addiction;
  • being traced by strangers from details they have entered online;
  • being the subject of cyber-bullying;
  • picking up a virus or trojan or being the victim of a phishing attack; and
  • inadvertently downloading illegal content when file-sharing.
Looking at this list, I fail to see how filtering will stop most of it, with the possible exception of viruses / trojans and ID theft. In particular, cyber-bullying will take place through emails, IM or posting to sites such as MySpace. While you can filter access to a site, if you allow access to a site, you can't filter what's posted to it. Certainly I would assume Australia wouldn't block MySpace!

There are additional ideas in the Cyber-safety initiative, such as education and research, that may help in some of these areas.

A couple of obvious questions:

Who will decide what gets filtered? According to the initiative, it will be the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

How will this be done? The U.K. has an example of this with Cleanfeed, which is used by BT. Likely it will be a similar system. Note that all U.K. ISPs have to implement some sort of similar-to-Cleanfeed filtering by the end of 2007.

Problem is, there will always be sites that are incorrectly blocked. There is a way out, however. The system will be opt-out, meaning you can always ask the ISP to stop filtering. Definitely not something you can do in China!

However, the paranoid among us will ask if those doing so will be kept on some soft of list. While that may seem over-the-top, it should be noted from Privacy International's 2007 report that while Australia isn't in the worst category for privacy protection (as the U.S. and U.K. are), neither is it doing all that well.

Readers, how do you feel about this issue? Are we heading down a slippery slope? It's bad enough that North American ISPs such as Comcast and Sympatico are blocking P2P traffic; do you think the U.S. and Canada will follow this path? And do you want them to?

Microsoft Updates Windows Home Server File Corruption Issue

Microsoft has quietly updated the Knowledge Base article on the Windows Home Server File Corruption problem I wrote about earlier.

The KB article, KB946676, now says that they are able to reproduce the issue. Originally they wrote the KB article without the ability to reproduce the bug. According to the KB article, the requirements for the failure to occur are:
  • A home server is under an extreme load. For example, lots of files are being copied to the home server.
  • At the same time, a user is editing files that are already saved in a shared folder on the home server.
  • The program that the user is using to edit these files is one of the programs that are listed in this article.
The programs listed in the KB article are:
  • Windows Vista Photo Gallery
  • Windows Live Photo Gallery
  • Microsoft Office OneNote 2007
  • Microsoft Office OneNote 2003
  • Microsoft Office Outlook 2007
  • Microsoft Money 2007
  • SyncToy 2.0 Beta
Also, as I previously indicated, there are reports of problems with Quicken and QuickBooks as well as Torrent software.

Some users misunderstood the prior warning, as well, and Microsoft added a note in the KB article to reassure them that backup software will work just fine with WHS.

One other thing: Microsoft has said certain programs were not designed to use a network share. While that may be true (for example Microsoft Money, as well as Quicken), I have used Quicken with a NAS with no issues for years - without simultaneous access, of course - and don't believe there should be an issue with file corruption if there wasn't an underlying problem in the OS.

San Francisco Marketing Group Raises $16K for OLPC Foundation

The San Francisco-based Bay Area Interactive Group (BIG), which describes itself as a "non-profit professional association dedicated to championing innovation in digital marketing to brand marketers, publishers and agencies through educational, networking, and association events," held its holiday party on Dec. 20.

At the party, sponsored by Yahoo!, BIG held an auction, which included items such as restaurant gift certificates and an Xbox 360. The proceeds of the auction, approximately $16,000, will be used in concert with the OLPC's "Give One, Get One" program to purchase 80 XO-1 laptops, 40 for children in developing countries and 40 for children in the SF Bay Area.

The "Give One, Get One" program ends Dec. 31, if you are interested yourself.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Time Travel is Real, and You Can Buy it on eBay

Yes, you can apparently buy your way into a time travel project on eBay. Yes, it's $10 million, and yes, this auction is likely to be taken down soon, but you do get (if you qualify) a "no payments for 90 days offer." This means it could pay for itself. You know, jump ahead, get some stock info, jump back. Woo-hoo! Photobucket

The auction, for Project Clockstar, says:
Please do not be alarmed, and we hope not to alarm anyone... But the Possibility of Time Travel Truly Exists...

This is a True, Real, and Viable Time Travel Theory & Project. Logistics, Mapping and Methodology.Complete with Illustrations.
Don't worry, I'm not alarmed. However, I hate time travel episodes on science fiction shows, because of all the paradoxes they ignore. Can you guarantee I won't run into any of those? After all, me jumping forward to get stock prices could cause a paradox as my buying a bunch of stock will affect prices which means ... aaagh, I hate this stuff!

Here's some more of the description, though it is quite long:
After Ten Years of Research and Hard Work, our Discovery Indicates that the Possibility of Time Travel exists. It is a very Complex and Precise Formula. Under Precise Conditions this is Possible and Achievable. This Document & Project is completely Original and Exclusive It is not Plagiarized or Based on Anyone elses work. It is Real and True Science and Mathematics. This Document Facilitates Precise and Exact entry Point in Time and Space Desired. This Document & Project is One of a kind. A Forty--Two page Hand- Written Original. Included is Set-Up Chapter for Absolute Timing. Several Government Agencies have been Notified of its Existance. One U.S. Senator, Cal-Tech. the Dept.Of Energy and the Space Science Institute all have expressed Interest and informally requested these Specifics about this Theory/Project. There is Only One Logistical Diagram in circulation with Feds. They requested "Readers Digest" version so as to Decipher and understand presented Logistical Drawing. This is that Document along with Brief.

I have been Pondering how to Market such a Phenomenon and feel that eBay is a Good Open Market Forum. Support is available as I am the Innovator and would very much like to Advance this Science. This process is Explained in Complete Detail in Real Language. Experiments, Illustrations, Calculations, and Projection Information Required is Included. I Believe the Event of Time Travel is Possible and can Only be Achieved in Presented Theory. I Believe a Simulation is Possible. We will need alot of Energy/Power. This is the Only way Possible. This Theory/Project is Physically, Mechanically, and Mathematically Sound. All Peaceable Partners are Welcome. Government, Research & Development, Technology Science, Universities, Media & Entertainment Welcome. Principals must be Peaceful in Nature, as it's Sensitive Implications. Please NO WAR MACHINES.

The seller lists two phone numbers, (702) 645-3998 and (702) 581-1267, as well as an email address for those who may want more information before buying. You have 22 more days at the time of this writing, after all.

From his About Me page:

I did not start this Journey for money. But to see if there could actually be a way that Time Travel could be done. At First I was a Skeptic and thought there could not possibly be a way. I really thought I would ponder for a Lifetime without a chance of solving. But after much Research, hard work and filing alot of information for 5 years, a Way started to Develope. Then it came to me in a Revelation. There was a Way. There is a Way. & This is the Way. I Believe it to be Inspired. Its Weight and Magnitude gave me P.T.S.D. for 3 years. I am much better now, Thank God. Though its Knowledge is still a very Heavy Load & Responsibility. Add 2 years to Write and Ponder Ethics and as a Responsible Innovator, Market Cautiously. Hence 10 years Enough of me. Now about Clockstar. It is True, Real & Available Whoever Buys this should be prepared for its Reality. Thank You Ron Francis Clockstar

Any takers? Emails to that address have not been responded to ... yet.

College Bowl Participants Score with Tech Gifts

Their universities will score millions of $$$ as they play in this season's bowl games, but the players, who we know (!) of course have no salaries, will score ... perhaps not big, but at least something with gift packs containing - in many cases - a lot of tech.

For example, despite shortages of Nintendo Wiis, some bowl games managed to get some for their gift packs --- not easy because of the sheer number of players in each game. Some will get Xbox 360s or iPod Touches. Each bowl game can spend $500 on each player. You can imagine how much is spent overall when you think of how many obscure and inconsequential bowl games there are.

Here's a partial list of the tech booty.

Nintendo Wiis: The Holiday, Allstate BCS National Championship and Valero Alamo bowls managed to get these for their participants. Let no one rain on their parades as despite the fact many can't get their own Wiis, these guys are basically getting nothing compared to their colleges --- and very few of them will end up in the NFL.

Xbox 360: The Insight Bowl.

$400 Best Buy Gift Certificates:
The Champs Sports Bowl and the Capital One Bowl are giving their players a choice, as they get to buy whatever they want with these gift certificates. Hopefully they won't try to price match something they found online. Photobucket

Vizio 20-inch LCD HDTVs: Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

Oakley Thump: The Konica Minolta Gator Bowl.

Sony Bravia Home Theatre System: The Rose Bowl presented by Citi (ugh at that name)

Garmin navigation system: Meineke Car Care Bowl.

iPod Touch: Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl.

It's not an exhaustive list, but here's a question: is anyone besides me annoyed at how the bowl games have incredibly long names with all the sponsors? I long for the days when it was just the Cotton Bowl, the Rose Bowl, etc. etc.

Instead of "Capitalistic iPod Garbage," Girl Receives Bizarre Note

Here comes another tech grinch. There seems to be an abundance of them this year. In this case a Maryland girl received a strange note rather than an iPod Classic.
"Reclaim your mind from the media shackles. Read a book and resurrect yourself. To claim your capitalistic garbage go to your nearest Apple Store."
While the writer has it right: a National Endowment for the Arts report released last month said there has been a major decline in reading in general --- he could have left the iPod and slid an paperback in with the note. Photobucket

At any rate, Jay Ellis, the girls father, returned the ipod to the Germantown, MD store where he purchased it. Get this: it was Wal-Mart again, the same retailer (though not the same location) where a young girl received a porn-laden video MP3 player for Christmas.

Interestingly, the store manager said they had another report of the same type of "surprise" at that store.

This brings up a question, though: perhaps parents need to start opening up shrink-wrapped presents now. There have been far too many incidents of this type and it would prevent an unhappy Christmas day.

New Lithium Battery Flight Restrictions to Begin

As if your traveling experience isn't bad enough already, here come new battery safety requirements from the DoT. The new rules ban packing of spare lithium batteries in checked baggage, and go into effect on Jan. 1, 2008.

The new rules are outlined here. It's OK to pack devices with lithium batteries in them, it's spare batteries that are forbidden. It's also OK to carry spare batteries in your carry-on luggage, as long as they are packed properly.

There are also quantity and size limitations for both your spare and installed batteries. The limits are expressed in grams of “equivalent lithium content.” Great since that's not how batteries are marked.

However, the rules say that 8 grams of equivalent lithium content is approximately 100 watt-hours while 25 grams is approximately 300 watt-hours.
  • You can bring batteries with up to 8-gram equivalent lithium content. All lithium ion batteries in cell phones are below 8 gram equivalent lithium content. Nearly all laptop computers also are below this quantity threshold.
  • You can also bring up to two spare batteries with an aggregate equivalent lithium content of up to 25 grams, in addition to any batteries that fall below the 8-gram threshold.
  • For a lithium metal battery, whether installed in a device or carried as a spare, the limit on lithium content is 2 grams of lithium metal per battery.
For myself, I tend to use rechargeable NiMH batteries instead of lithium batteries for devices such as cameras. Most of the lithium-type batteries I use are of the rechargeable Lithium-ion type which, according to the above, should be safe.

What they are concerned about is short-circuits and fires, which is why keeping batteries in devices or their original packaging, or taping the contacts is supposedly OK. The FAA has found that fire-protection systems in the cargo hold of passenger planes can't put out fires ignited in lithium batteries, while the NTSB said earlier this month it could not rule out lithium batteries as the source of a cargo plane fire at Philadelphia International Airport last year.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

GPS and More: Hidden Features in the Kindle

My early adopter friend found a few Easter Eggs in the Kindle. These are really keyboard shortcuts, but since he was looking for some easy-to-find hidden stuff, it wasn't hard. I'm not sure why these haven't been made public by Amazon as they are very easy to find and pretty useful. On the other hand, maybe things like Google Maps aren't fully debugged.

  • Alt-1 - location in Google Maps. Note that this isn't real GPS, but using the Google "My Location" feature and cell towers. Some online have received error messages instead of a real location, while others report it working for them
  • Alt-2 - find nearby gas station
  • Alt-3 - find nearby restaurants
  • Alt-5 - find nearby "custom keyword"
Alt-4 didn't seem to do anything.

Audio Player:
  • Alt-F - next
  • Alt-P - stop/start
  • I,J,K,L - up, left, down, right (figures, right?)
  • M - mark as mine
  • R - restart
  • Space - open cell
  • Scroll - cursor up/down
  • Alt-Scroll - cursor left/right
  • H - back to Home screen
While that's all he found there are tons more, apparently. A little Googling and I found a treasure trove. You can find these others, including some hacking info, at Igor Skochinsky’s blog. If you have a Kindle, try the ones above and the others. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

YouTube's Top 2007 Videos include "Obama Girl," "Leave Britney Alone," "Battle at Kruger"

As we wind down the year 2007, everyone's releasing their top 10 list, and YouTube is no different. This week they released their Top 10 Videos list, but it's not just about views. According to the press release, the "formula" includes: view counts, most shared, most discussed, top rated and general popularity. General popularity?

Here's the top 10 list (unclear if it's listed in a any particular order):
Battle at Kruger shows a literal battle between a herd of water buffalo, a pride of lions and crocodiles. Quite honestly, it's incredible footage, and according to the blurb at the video:
National Geographic has sent us back to Africa to develop a special giving the behind-the-scenes story on how we got this amazing footage. Potential airdate: Spring 2008.
On the other hand LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE! soon turned into Leave Chris Crocker Alone as he purported to be defending her panned performance at the VMAs. And though Crocker said he was really crying, it sure seems like good acting to me --- particularly since he's signed a development deal to star in his own TV show!

However, no one can dispute the phenomenon of Obama Girl, which led to sequels and spoofs / copycats such as Ron Paul Girl. The fact that Obama Girl is attractive certainly didn't hurt the video's popularity --- probably Obama's popularity as well.

You can read the full press release here.

Watch Obama Girl here.

Sony Offering Free PS3 with HDTV Purchase

Sony's got an interesting promotion for those of you in need of more plastic as well as a new HDTV: buy a Sony HDTV with your new Sony Card and you can get a free PS3 --- with caveats, of course.
  • You need to apply (and be approved) for a Sony Card
  • You need to buy an HDTV from their approved list (click above for larger image)
  • You only have until 12/31
  • You have to buy the TV through Sony's website
It's that last one that's the killer. Buy through Sony's site, and you pay full retail. Depending on the TV you have in mind, you might save little, or nothing.

Still, do some comparison shopping and it might be worth it. At least take a look, but don't jump in without some pricing. You do get no interest financing with the Sony Card for 12 months, which might be helpful.

RIAA Goes After Fair Use

In the case Atlantic vs. Howell, husband and wife Jeffrey and Pamela Howell have been accused of file-sharing over the KaZaA network. Their defense has been that although there are plenty of MP3 files on their computer, the files were not shared but were ripped from purchased CDs for personal use only.

Possibly to increase their chances of a win, a supplemental brief filed by the RIAA contends that ripping music from legally purchased CD’s is illegal. This would eliminate any escape the Howells have. If successful, it would also mean that anyone who ever ripped a CD for their iPod or other MP3 player --- would now be a criminal.

Right on page 15 of the brief linked above it says:
It is undisputed that Defendant possessed unauthorized copies of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted sound recordings on his computer. Virtually all of the sound recordings on Exhibit B are in the “.mp3” format. Defendant admitted that he converted these sound recordings from their original format to the .mp3 format for his and his wife’s use.
So, according to the brief, ripped CDs = unauthorized copies.

Of course, the Howells could lose their case while the argument about CD ripping is dismissed, but time will tell. The defendants have until January 11th to respond.

Notably, this goes against statements made by the RIAA's lawyers in the case of MGM vs. Grokster. It also contradicts the RIAA's own website, which says:
... burning a copy of CD onto a CD-R, or transferring a copy onto your computer hard drive or your portable music player, won’t usually raise concerns so long as:
  • The copy is made from an authorized original CD that you legitimately own
  • The copy is just for your personal use. It’s not a personal use – in fact, it’s illegal – to give away the copy or lend it to others for copying.
However, it also follows closely the comments made by Jennifer Pariser, head of litigation at Sony BMG, who said during testimony in the Jammie Thomas case that:
"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." Making "a copy" of a purchased song is just "a nice way of saying 'steals just one copy'."
It could be said this "test" of Fair Use has been a long time coming. Obviously more to come.

Update: The Washington Post covered this, and they have issued a retraction, saying the fact that the MP3 files were in a "shared" KaZaA folder was the reason they were illegal. While I already knew that, I'm still concerned over Pariser's statement above.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Apple Files Anti-Piracy Tech Patent Application

Many accuse Microsoft of copying Apple, but is the reverse now happening? Say it isn't so!

Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA), when it works (and that's the problem; it doesn't always) is an anti-piracy measure that currently disables functions in the OS when a pirated copy is disabled. However, due to false positives, Microsoft has indicated it will pull back somewhat with Windows Vista SP1 and simply nag you to death.

Apple's patent application 20070288886 is called "Run-Time Code Injection To Perform Checks" and is dated Dec. 13. In the application, the process is described as follows:
In a first phase, an authorizing entity (e.g., an application owner or platform manufacturer) authorizes one or more applications to execute on a given hardware platform. Later, during application run-time, code is injected that performs periodic checks are made to determine if the application continues to run on the previously authorized hardware platform. If a periodic check fails, at least part of the application's execution string is terminated--effectively rendering the application non-usable.
Let me just translate one sentence:
Later, during application run-time, code is injected that performs periodic checks are made to determine if the application continues to run on the previously authorized hardware platform.
Based on the prior sentences, that indicated that an application is authorized on a particular hardware platform (activation), this basically sounds like WGA checks to see if the software has been pirated onto a different computer.

Of course, it should be noted that an application doesn't mean Apple will even get the patent, or that if they are granted it, that they will use it.

However, a couple of comments:

1) Section [0025] says these checks could be done as often as 5 - 10 minutes. 5 - 10 minutes? If that really happens, and the system is actually "phoning home" to check that often, can you imagine a) the impact on network traffic, b) how much flak they will take? WGA was initially only connecting with servers upon boot, not every 5 - 10 minutes, and people were up in arms over that.

2) It seems like as Apple becomes more successful, they become more corporate and more like Microsoft, which they previously eschewed, and with much fanfare. Although I can understand the reasons behind this, they might just lose some of their longtime fans as they move further in this direction.

End of an Era: Netscape Browser Development to Cease

It's a sad day and the end of an era. Development is to cease on the Netscape browser, which at one time held the largest market share of all browsers, and was the first browser to gain mass popularity.

However, it had been evident for a while that this move was only a matter of time. After all, while Netscape's big brother Firefox has over 16% of the browser market share, Netscape has only 0.6%.

It was the entry of Microsoft into the "browser wars" with Internet Explorer (IE) that eventually led to the dethroning of Netscape, as competing with a browser built into the OS proved impossible --- that and the ubiquitousness of Microsoft in general. Additionally more and more sites began coding for the "uniqueness" of IE.

AOL acquired Netscape Communications Corporation in 1999. However, in 1998 Netscape had created the Mozilla Organization, which eventually spun off into the Mozilla Foundation as AOL's involvement decreased. This eventually led to Firefox, released in 2004.

For quite some time it's been evident that Netscape has become just a reskinned Firefox browser, and that's admitted in AOL's blog post announcing this move.

  • Support will continue in the form of security updates until Feb. 1, 2008, when all support will end.
  • will continue as an Internet portal, though how long that will continue is questionable.
  • AOL is going to provide an archive site for older versions of Netscape, though why anyone would use them is beyond me.
The King is dead. Long live the King!

Microsoft Warns of Windows Home Server File Corruption

What good is a file server if you can't store files on it? Uh, huh. Microsoft has posted a Knowledge Base article, KB946676, which warns of file corruption issues with Windows Home Server (WHS).

The KB article lists a set of programs what will definitely cause a problem:
  • Windows Vista Photo Gallery
  • Windows Live Photo Gallery
  • Microsoft Office OneNote 2007
  • Microsoft Office OneNote 2003
  • Microsoft Office Outlook 2007
  • Microsoft Money 2007
  • SyncToy 2.0 Beta
Also, Microsort appears to have solved the piracy problem as according to the KB article there have been reports of issues with Torrent software as well!

They also report problems with Quicken and QuickBooks, which is really great timing, considering we are ending the year-end period when financial software such as this is really necessary.

Unfortunately, since the KB article also says they are trying to reproduce some of the issues with 3rd party software, it looks like the safest bet would be to not use WHS at all, if you can.

"Higher Power" Helps Find Stolen Baby Jesus Figure

One just has to read the news to see there's been a raft of thefts of baby Jesus figures around the country. This one was foiled with the help of a "higher power" --- GPS. We've heard that people are starting to put these in the figures but this is the first time we've heard of one being used to successfully recover one.

Last year, the baby Jesus figure disappeared twice from the Nativity scene in front of the Wellington (Florida) Community Center, and this year when GPS units were purchased for the $40,000 generators used during hurricanes, a staff member decided to put one in the figure when the scene went up on Dec. 3.

The statue was noticed as being missing on Thursday morning, at which time the monitoring system was put to use. The figure was located in a neighborhood across the street from the nativity scene.

Police knocked on the door and saw the figure lying face down in the living room.
Danielle Santino later confessed to the crime, saying it was a prank. Prank it may have been, but the 18-year-old has been charged with felony theft, since the figure is worth $800 and the GPS unit $400.

Wal-Mart Quietly Drops Video Download Service

Wal-Mart quietly closed its video download service on 12/21, so quietly that no one noticed it --- perhaps because no one used the site in the first place.

The store first opened last November, though it didn't really get moving until early in February. Ironically, the first line of the NY Times article said, "Wal-Mart Stores may have lost the online DVD rental battle, but it has no plans to lose the higher-stakes video downloading war." Looks like that was wrong.

Go to the video download site today, and you'll find the message above (click to enlarge).

Worried about those videos you may have purchased? Wal-Mart has a FAQ page to assuage your fears.

Key points:

The videos you purchased and downloaded are yours to keep. Whoopee.

You can play your videos as many times as you wish on the computer you used to download the videos. Due to licensing restrictions, you cannot copy or transfer your video files and play them on a different computer. Ah, as long as the computer you downloaded it onto never dies, you're OK.

More details on the FAQ page linked above.

Based on how quickly this was noticed, we can see how many people were using the service, but based on Apple's deal with 20th Century Fox for video download rentals and more, it was likely a goner soon anyway.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Radiohead to Webcast "In Rainbows" New Year's Eve

Radiohead, famous for their earlier "it's up to you" download pricing of their new album, "In Rainbows," has announced on their site that they will be broadcasting a New Year's Eve concert on television and the Internet on New Year's Eve.

Just to be clear, the broadcast will be live starting at 12:00 midnight on New Year's Eve, but U.K. time --- at It will be be broadcast on Current TV and simultaneously at 12 midnight EST.

The concert will be one hour long and will consist of songs from "In Rainbows."

Also interesting is that on Jan. 1, 2008, in addition to physical versions of the new album showing up at retailers, Amazon MP3 will have the album for download on their site. But no iTunes. Radiohead's own download "experiment" ended on Dec. 10.

"Amazon MP3" Store Adds DRM-free Warner Music

iTunes, Wal-Mart, and Amazon's "Amazon MP3" service sell DRM-free music downloads, but so far only from EMI (along with a "test" by Universal Music Group). Today announced it has beaten Apple (!) to the punch; it's signed a deal with Warner Music Group to sell MP3 downloads, giving customers the choice of more than 2.9 Million songs on Amazon MP3.

This is a major coup by, which yesterday announced its best holiday season ever. In a emailed press release, Bill Carr, VP of Digital Music said:
"Our customers are delighted with our DRM-free MP3 service. We have received thousands of emails from our customers since our September launch thanking us for offering the biggest selection of high-quality, MP3 audio downloads which play on virtually any music device they own today or will own in the future. With the addition of great Warner Music Group content, our customers will discover even more of the music they love on Amazon MP3."
Warner Music Group also chimed in, with Michael Nash, Senior VP, Digital Strategy and Business Development for Warner Music Group said:
"Consumers want flexibility with respect to what they can do with music once they purchase it, and we want them to have that flexibility, which is why we're pleased to offer our artists' music on Amazon MP3."
Interesting that Warner Music Group would do this, considering their response to Steve Jobs' call to the major labels to remove DRM from all music: CEO Edgar Bronfman flatly rejected that idea.

Could this be more fallout from the stiff negotiations that media companies are having with Apple over iTunes pricing? After all, Universal's "test" explicitly excludes iTunes as well, and NBCU's move away from iTunes shows the displeasure media companies are feeling with Apple.

Note: although Apple sells DRM-free music, it's in unprotected AAC format, not the more universal MP3 format, which gives and other vendors a major advantage. Of course, iTunes' market share gives it an even larger advantage. Photobucket

Apple, Fox in iTunes Video Rental Deal

Apple has signed a deal with News Corp.'s 20th Century Fox studio that will lead to video rentals on iTunes. The agreement, according to the Financial Times, will be officially announced at MacWorld on January 14th, during you-know-who's keynote.

Speculation over video rentals on iTunes picked up when code to support video rentals was spotted in iTunes in November. In addition, FairPlay-protected file will be included with new Fox DVD releases, enabling the DVD content to be transferred directly to a PC or Mac and then to a video iPod, without having to use 3rd-party software to rip the DVD.

Will other studios fall in line? Could be, as Apple is currenctly in talks with Sony Pictures Entertainment, Paramount and Warner Bros about making their new releases available on iTunes for purchase ... and rental (Walt Disney Studios already sells new releases via iTunes).

2008 could be another banner year for Apple, which toyed with but closed below $200 on Wednesday. 17 Wiis a Second Sold, Best Holiday Season Ever

Wednesday in a press release, said that 2007, its 13th holiday season, was its best ever.

According to, its busiest day was Dec. 10 (right when we figured online sales would hit its peak) with more 5.4 million items sold (62.5 items per second). It was also the second year of Amazon's Customers Vote promotion (which I still didn't "win"), and they said they had 4.6 million votes cast.

More tidbits from the press release:
  • sold Nintendo Wii systems at approximately 17 per second when they were in stock. We wonder how many minutes that was. Photobucket
  • Their most remote shipment was to Barrow, Alaska. It was for Full Metal Panic Fumoffu - Full Metal Pandemonium" (Vol. 1) DVD and Full Metal Panic Fumoffu - Full Metal Fracas (Vol. 2) DVD - anime, w00t!
  • Amazon shipped more than 99% of their orders in time to meet holiday deadlines. Nice patting yourself on the back, Amazon!
  • sold enough Hannah Montana wigs for the entire audience at her Dec. 20 show in Providence, RI. I still don't get the Hannah Montana thing, BTW, but then again I'm an adult, right?
You can read the full press release here.

Teen Gets "Grinched," PS3 Box Contains Phone Book, not Console

It was the present he'd wanted most for Christmas. And 13-year-old Brandon Burns tore into the sealed PlayStation 3 box to find ... a Thousand Oaks phone book.

The Camarillo, California teen said he was more amused than angry. His parents, on the other hand, weren't amused at all. Nicole Burns, his mother, said she suspected an employee wanted a PS3, opened the box, replaced the console with a phone book, and re-shrinked-wrapped it.

His parents bought the console at EBGames store in the Thousand Oaks mall. Although she was initially concerned that the store wouldn't believe them (I can understand her concern), apparently they did and the matter has been resolved.

Still, Brandon had to wait an extra day for his gaming fix, but I'm sure he's playing as much as possible now!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

84-Year-Old Woman Beats Bowling Champion in Wii Bowling Tournament

It's no secret that senior citizens have found the Nintendo Wii to be great fun, and great exercise. Tournaments like this happen at senior centers all the time nowadays. Still, it's impressive that Nancy Davies, an 84-year-old novice bowler (though not on the Wii) beat a bowling champion.

The tournament was held at the Riderwood Retirement Community in Silver Spring, MD. Of course, it should noted that Hal Winters, who has been bowling for most of his life, and won a bowling tournament earlier this year, is 79-years-old himself. Still, he's a champion!

Davies beat Winters 202 - 182.

The Wii is still scarce, and Riderwood didn't receive their 3 Wiis until March. Nintendo markets heavily toward the elder set, as seen by them attending both last year's AARP convention (before the Wii was even introduced) and this year's as well.

Google Reader's Sharing and Privacy: Overblown or Not?

Privacy and Google: many people say they don't mix, or at least, don't mix well. Seems like every day we hear about some new Google privacy flap. Here's still another problem, but is it somewhat overblown?

On Dec. 14th, in Google Reader Help and on the Official Google Reader Blog, they posted about a new feature, which, as they put it:
The short description of it is this: If any of your friends from Google Talk are using Reader and sharing items, you'll see them listed in your sidebar under "Friends' shared items." Similarly, they'll be able to see any items you're sharing. You can hide items from any friend you don't want to see, and you can also opt out of sharing by removing all your shared items.

This is still a very experimental feature, so we'd love to hear what you think of it. Thanks, and happy sharing!
That last line about it being experimental is key, I think, as it appears they didn't gauge public reaction too well.

The very first post in reply to the announcement (full thread here) shows one of the key things wrong with this feature: no granularity. In this I would agree. This is an RSS Reader, not a social networking site. I might want to share things with my friends, but just because they are in my contacts list doesn't mean I want to share anything with them.

Take a look at the full thread and you'll see a lot of complaints, a few responses from Google (not very helpful, either) and a lot of enmity growing.

A lot of blogs are picking up on this, and while there are valid points, one point should be remembered: everything in your Shared Items list was already being shared, and to the entire world.

A lot of people forget about the "Public Page" automatically created when you share Google Reader items. The entire Internet can see that page. However, and this is important: that link is obfuscated. It's not something anyone's going to guess. (BTW, I have nothing shared, and I wouldn't give my URL out here anyway, so you'll have to try it on your own.)

So here's what I think went wrong:
  • Google thought: it's all public anyway, this is just making it easily accessible to your "friends."
  • Google forgot: contacts are not the same as friends.
It's an easy fix. OK, it's a conceptually easy fix. First they'll have to admit they made a mistake, though. Photobucket

Merry Christmas from Crytek: a Crysis Tournament Mappack

It's Christmas Day. What the heck are you doing? Fire up Crysis and install this new Christmas present from them: an official Crysis Tournament Mappack. Thing is, Santa didn't drop it down the chimney and it's not on the Crytek site (at least, it's not easy to find).

In a way that's probably good: anyone else annoyed at how you have to enter your birthdate every single time you go there? I understand why, but still.

The Crytek modding site, that's where you have to go to find the official post, though the download is available at a number of sites (more later).

This is an official pack, 5 maps all tested by Cryteks QA department. They are:

PowerStruggle - Desolation

Location: Henderson Island, Pitcairn Islands. Under North Korean domination.
Description: The long deserted colony of the Pitcairn Islands was one of the last crash sites to be discovered. The KPA reached the area first and set up a base amid the swampy wasteland.

PowerStruggle - Crossroads

Location: Pescadores, West of Taiwan. Under North Korean occupation
Description: Caught between two hostile nations, the tight forested roads and tracks of the Pescadores are better suited to infantry than vehicles.

PowerStruggle - Training

Location: Namu Atol, Marshall Islands. Under US control.
Description: The Marshall Islands provide the perfect platform for new recruits to learn the skills required to be the ultimate nano-warrior. Here on this tiny atoll the small, but expertly designed, training area provides everything a budding soldier needs.

InstantAction - Excavation (Note: If you have installed an earlier version you must remove it completely before installing this map pack!)

Location: Pago Pago, American Samoa.
Description: Under US control. An American stronghold, and location of one of the most valuable research sites so far discovered, the Koreans stole a march on the Americans to set up a surprise forward attack base.

InstantAction - Terminal

Location: Moorea, French Polynesia.
Description: An old military railway terminal has been converted into a multi-zone training facility. Rooftops are critical to maintaining dominance over the immediate combat area. Multiple advanced weapons have been hidden around the engagement area to facilitate field response to rapidly changing conditions.

In addition to the map pack Crytek also provides new tutorials about the Sandbox2 Editor - if you'd rather spend your time reading rather than playing.

Here are a number of sites that are providing the download. Don't be surprised if they time out or give other errors, as they are really busy. Some may require registration. I also added the file to SnapDrive myself.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Best Buy Continuing "Bait-and-Switch" Website Tactics?

Best Buy continues to hit the news with good (like sending Toshiba HD-A03 players when they sold out of HD-A02s) and bad (like running around trumpeting about the "last" Wii was for sale in a store) news - mostly bad, though.

Recall earlier this year allegations, and eventually a lawsuit (still ongoing), by the Connecticut AG's office over deceptive use of in-store kiosks that went to a "special site," rather than the one on the Internet? This sort of bait-and-switch tactic was supposedly settled, but apparently not. According to reports, the practice is still ongoing.

Here's how it (still) works. You find something online. Decide you don't want to pay the shipping since you live close to a Best Buy. Price in mind, you walk into the Best Buy and see the price is higher. Now, they should match the price in-store, but if the customer goes to a terminal, pulls up the "site" - oops, the price is the in-store price, not what the customer had seen earlier.

Despite the fact that I am still sicker than my dog Ascii (yes, Ascii) with my annual week-long cold, I decided to perform a experiment similar to the an experience by a Consumerist reader (linked above) over the weekend.

Trudging (or crawling, I am still really sick) to the store, I took my laptop, a cell phone to use as a modem, and my old wi-fi enabled PDA (no iPhone for me!) and headed to my local Best Buy. Based on the Consumerist report, I disabled wi-fi on my laptop and used the cell phone (in the parking lot) to connect to Best Buy's Internet site. I checked out some specials and off I went.

I found a mismatch on a shelf, looked it up on a public terminal and found the same price there. I also saw, as the LA Times reported, a banner that said,
"This kiosk displays in-store prices -- which may differ from national Internet prices. Promotions can differ between stores and Internet. See your sales associate if you have questions."
No surprise there. I also then powered up my old wi-fi enabled PDA to see if I could repeat the Consumerist reader's report (again, linked above) that wi-fi in the store was redirecting his browser to the intranet site.

Yep, that's what I saw as well.

So what does this mean? Well, first of all, why is anyone still buying from Best Buy? Yes, I know CompUSA is as good as dead, and "the specials, the specials" (!), but still. You have to pay sales tax, you have to drive to the store (global warming, anyone), and all this extra hassle.

If you want to buy at Best Buy, and see something online, three suggestions:
  • if the item can be ordered online and picked up in-store, do it.
  • if it can't, bring a printout
  • if they still hassle you, remind them of the Connecticut lawsuit Photobucket
  • if you really want to cover yourself, bring a laptop with a cell phone modem or just a data plan enabled cell phone
Good luck, you'll need it.

In-Game Ads to Tackle Drunk Driving

Normally I hate in-game ads. In this case, I would be willing to make an exception. In a move to reduce driving under the influence, the government of Scotland is reportedly spending £10,000 on in-game ads in Xbox 360 games.

The games of choice make sense when considering the target audience: Need for Speed: Carbon, Project Gotham Racing 4 and Pro Evolution Soccer 2008.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson, speaking of the initiative, said:
"It is innovative, it is new, and it is far removed from the more traditional methods we have been using. I believe that is what we need if we are to reverse the number of Scots families suffering the tragedy of a loved one being lost."
This is a only a trial, and if it works well, it may be expanded to include other road safety messages.

Statistics show that 70% of of 15 to 24 year olds in the UK have a gaming console in their home. Of course, how many of these are Xbox 360s?

Boy Raffles Nintendo Wii to Help the Needy

Many kids today are selfish and think only of themselves (come on, be honest), but this kid has been doing good stuff his entire life. Tyler Strasser, 11, of Mount Holly, North Carolina has, since he was 3, collected toys every Christmas for the disadvantaged.

This year he came up with a great idea: everyone who donated a toy would get a raffle ticket. Raffle winners would get an entry into a Wii Bowling tournament, and the winner would get the Wii. Knowing how scarce Wii's are, you have to bet he had plenty of entrants in the raffle last weekend.

Strasser was also a semi-finalist in this year's Volvo for Life Awards. While he didn't win, according to the site, he's collected over 500,000 toys since he first started. He's even got his own site, Tyler's Mission, devoted to his causes (though the site is very obviously still under construction).

He may not have won a Volvo for Life award, but in my book, he's a definite winner.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Steam's End-of-the-Year "10 - 50% Off Everything" Sale

OMG! You're almost out of time to get presents, right?! Not only can you still snag a great game via Steam for a gamer gift recipient of your choice, you can get it for 10 - 50% off. And it can be delivered in time for Christmas, via Steam's Gifting Feature, which I wrote about earlier.

Since you can instantly send a game via the Gifting Feature, you still have hours to find and send a gift. And the sale means a great deal for you. Heck, the sale is on until January 1st; you can buy yourself something as well.

The sale is advertised on the front page, so no need to search for it. But how about some examples, eh?
  • Orange Box - $37.45 (25% off)
  • BioShock - $37.45 (25% off)
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl - $22.45 (25% off)
  • X3: Reunion - $9.95 (50% off)
  • Eidos Holiday Pack - $67.45 (10% off)
  • Company of Heroes - $22.45 (25% off)
  • Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare - $44.95 (10% off) All right, you can do better than this
Just remember, everything is on sale, though at varying rates. Go take a look, and if you still need something for Christmas, it's hard to find something quicker than this.

Jingle Bells for All, Played Graphics Card-Style

As Christmas approaches, I would be remiss if I didn't give you an opportunity to hear Jingle Bells played on a graphics card. Yes, this is likely the geekiest thing you have seen this year. Thanks to and instrumentalist Alessandro Bordin.

There's little I can add, so enjoy.

Merry Christmas, Apple: MacBook Current #1 on Computer Sales List

A friend, searching for a last-minute gift (for himself) last Friday, looked at's Computers Sales List and found an interesting tidbit: an Apple MacBook was #1 on the list (don't worry, he was going to use next-day shipping, late shopper that he is). Click the above image for something legible.

Looking at the list this morning, this MacBook, with a 13.3" screen, 1 GB of RAM, 120 GB hard drive and 2.2 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 CPU is indeed #1, with an HP laptop with a larger 15.4" screen, 1 GB of RAM, 160 hard drive, but a slower 1.5 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250 CPU #2 ... and nearly 50% less, after rebates.

Of course, knowing Windows Vista as we do, a better CPU would be helpful for that HP. For price comparison purposes, there's a Sony laptop with a 15.4" screen and a T7500 CPU at #6, with only a slightly lower price than the MacBook, but with twice the RAM and twice the hard drive space.

Back to the list, which since it's updated hourly, could change at any moment, there are 3 MacBooks in the top 10, and (it figures, given the prior rankings) the 3 Year AppleCare Protection Plan for the MacBook is #22!

There are 9 HP PC / laptop computers in the top 25.

The Asus Eee 4G also has two entries in the top 15, with white apparently being more popular at #8, though at #12 black is sold out (perhaps if it wasn’t it would be higher than white?). It's also interesting to see the Nokia N800 at #3.

Finally, if anyone doubts the desktop PC is on the way out, there are 18 laptops in the top 25 (if you include the N800 Tablet PC). When you subtract the monitors and the aforementioned protection plan, there are only 3 desktop PCs in the top 25.

PlayStation Emulator for iPhone, iPod Released

Previously only available as a private beta to donators, a PlayStation 1 emulator for the iPhone and iPod has been released to the public. The version is 0.1.0 so it's obviously far from done, but psx4iPhone is available now.

The developer, ZodTTD, indicates that although there will be public releases to come, if you want to see the full range of beta releases, you should sign up for the ZodTTD Beta Testers Club by donating.

To install the app,
  • Download the file (from the site above).
  • Extract the zip file to a folder on your computer.
  • Using any SFTP client connect to your iPod.
  • Navigate to /Applications/ and upload to it.
  • Right-click on the folder, and go to properties or permissions and set them to 0755 recursively.
  • Reboot your device and you should see it appear on your Springboard.
psx4iphone accepts the following game formats: .ISO, .IMG, .BIN, .Z, .ZNX

Controlling a game with the touchscreen instead of a regular controller is likely to take getting used to, but for someone really wanting to play ... it'll be doable.

Lawsuit Filed Over "Cell Phone Use While Driving" Ban

While many across the country support bans on texting and cell phone use while driving, an attorney, Blake Horwitz, has filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the city of Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley, and several police officers over the city's ban against cell phone use while driving.

Horwitz states that there are no signs around the city warning drivers of the ban on cell phone use. While this could be a problem for out-of-towners, the question is if the city is required to post such signs. According to legal experts, since the law does not conflict with any state laws, it does not have to be posted publicly.

Horwitz, of course, disagrees, and in a press release he stated:
"The City is simply trying to earn more money given the absence of a balanced budget."
Personally I'd like to see these sorts of bans on a federal level, based on how people drive while on the phone. Whatever the truth is, the aim of the law seems to be a good one. Let's be honest, text messaging and talking on the phone when driving are not the safest things to do. How many of you have seen people weaving around as they try to dial, or text on their phones --- or even when just talking? Some have linked such behavior with fatal accidents.

It should also be pointed out that Horwitz's firm specializes in police misconduct cases, as spectacularly advertised on his firm's site,

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Queen Elizabeth to Become a "YouTuber"

Queen Elizabeth, who every year gives a Christmas Day message on television, is going to post the message on YouTube as well. Additionally, the Royal Channel has launched today on YouTube, the "Official Channel of the British Monarchy."

While you might think someone of her age (at 81, she recently became the oldest monarch in Great Britain's history) would be a little averse to all the high-tech in today's world, while she's certainly no technophile, she's owned an iPod since 2005.

iPods, iPhones to Automatically Turn Down the Volume

Early last year Apple modified the software on their iPods to reduce the maximum playable volume. While this had already been done in France (due to French law), it was new to the United States. At the same time, Apple had been slapped with a lawsuit over iPod-produced hearing loss in February of that year. Thus, this move can be seen as proactive: protection against future lawsuits.

Apple has filed a patent that will could calculate how long a person has been listening --- and at what volume level --- and if it deems necessary, reduce the sound level. It will also calculate the amount of "off time," meaning time when the iPod or iPhone is turned off and when it is turned on again. This will be used to determine if the volume can be increased again.

I can already tell you, this will go over like a lead balloon. And there is an unanswered question as well:

Is there an override? If so, many people will use it, defeating the purpose. If not, will someone hack it? Perhaps, or even likely.

Personally I don't feel a scientific study is necessary --- although many have been done --- to show that listening to overly loud music for extended periods will impair your hearing in the future. In fact, common sense would say it doesn't even need to be an MP3 player.

When I sit next to a car on the freeway with his music loud enough for the people on the other side of the freeway to hear, I shake my head and laugh. While I don't appreciate having to sit through his music while I try to listen to NPR, I know he's going to have problems in the future.

At any rate, one recommendation is to use noise-cancelling headphones. This reduces the amount of exterior noise and should mean you can use lower volumes.

Since the volume of an iPod turned to the max (100 db) is the same as a snowmobile, it makes sense to be careful. In fact, this chart shows that 90 - 95 db is the level at which sustained exposure may result in hearing loss.

On the other hand, do we want such limits imposed on us? My view is, you can't have it both ways. If you're going to tell Apple or some other manufacturer you don't want this sort of automatic protection, you darn well better not consider suing them. After all, that's what the aforementioned lawsuit is all about.

Can I hear from readers (pun intended) on this? What do you think?

Like People, Do Roaches Love the Wii?

File this under rumor --- straight from Japan, no less. The Japanese entertainment magazine BARKS claims that a powered-on Nintendo Wii emits a frequency which falls into the range at which cockroaches are attracted.

Now, I haven't noticed any crunching beneath my feet while playing any Wii games, nor have I noticed any uninvited guests at night. Remember this is just a theory (though I have no idea where it came from), and if I were you I'd keep checking Snopes to see if it's been debunked yet (not yet).

Still, this might explain why roaches around the world are reportedly getting better at tennis and bowling.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Is "Fake Steve" in Trouble with the Real Steve Jobs?

When I wrote about the closure of Think Secret, I wondered what the next rumor site that Big Brother, I mean Apple, would target was. I certainly didn't think they would go after Fake Steve, or Daniel Lyons, and his "Secret Diary of Steve Jobs" satire blog. And honestly, I still don't.

In a post on his blog, one that a lot of blogs and sites have jumped on, Fake Steve wrote that "he's weighing an offer from Apple."
Bottom line is I've received an overture from the Mothership with a mention of a Think Secret type settlement if I'll stop impersonating Dear Leader on the Web. Nothing nailed down at this point but frankly, honestly, I'm tempted to just take it.
A later post, purportedly from an Apple lawyer, said,
Apple's lawyers have identified at least three posts in my archive that they "deem to be actionable."
So let's examine things calmly (while admitting we could be completely wrong).

1) It's a satire site. Everyone knows it. No rumors, a la Think Secret. What's there to sue over?

2) Just last year the real Steve Jobs said,
"I have read some of those Fake Steve Jobs blog entries lately, and I thought they were pretty funny. And I get asked a lot if I know who it is, but I don’t. And it is pretty funny."
I can't believe he'd do something after admitting his amusement at the site.

3) Just a few days ago Fake Steve posted a "story" about a "Blogger Amnesty Program," whereby Apple bloggers would accept a cash payment in return for a promise never to write another word about Apple for as long as they live. Though it was written right after the Think Secret closure, it makes this story seem more like a continuation than anything else.

4) The site is labeled "A site." Because of that, I'm pretty sure the posts he writes are Forbes material, and thus if Apple wanted to sue anyone, it'd have to be Forbes, not Fake Steve. Thus, Lyons shouldn't be worried about his personal assets.

5) In addition, the latest post at the site (at the time of this writing) seems more like satire than anything else, if you read it.

6) Can I say it again? This is a satire site. Satirizing this type of thing based on the Think Secret closure is perfect for this site.

As I said, a lot of blogs have jumped on this story, ranting against Apple as Big Brother, and so forth and so on. Oops. I could be completely wrong, but if I'm right, and I think I am, Dec. 22 just became the new April 1.

Hi-Def War Escalation? Official Blu-Ray Site Hacked to Point to HD-DVD Site

"Can't we all just get along?" as that pundit of peace, Rodney King, once said. Friday the official Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) website was hacked, such that users were redirected to the HD-DVD Promotion Group's site,

The BDA's site was up and down a couple of times on Friday. Now, don't assume anything about this being the work of the HD-DVD camp; most likely it was an HD-DVD fanboy. After all, if it was the HD-DVD camp, you could expect the "look and sound of perfect" to turn into the "look and sound of lawsuit" pretty quickly.

On the other hand, I suppose it could be a Blu-ray user who got angry when he found an HD-DVD disc in his Harry Potter set. Photobucket

Microsoft Finally Fixes Internet Explorer Crash the "Right Way"

You'll recall from my earlier post that Microsoft Security Bulletin patch, MS07-069, caused Internet Explorer 6 users running Windows XP SP2 to experience a freeze when visiting certain sites. As I said then, despite the fact that IE7 has been available for some time, many IT administrators at companies are still requiring users to stick with IE6.

The suggested fix at that time was editing the registry --- a nightmare for IT. If it was a patch they could push it out via the Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS). Besides that, registry edits are a risky proposition for non-technophiles.

However, Microsoft has released a real fix: a patch you can download here. This should resolve the issue, until the next screw-up at least. Photobucket

Retail Store Accused of Scalping Nintendo Wiis on eBay

Reports have surfaced around the web that a retail store in the Midwest, Slackers, is selling its allotment of Nintendo Wiis for a premium on eBay. Ars Technica broke the story but, in fact, you can see a completed auction here, and the description of the store here. In the auction, the Wiis, which have an MSRP of $249, sold for $399.

Although Nintendo has gone to the extreme of working with GameStop to give out "rainchecks," it's still unable to keep up with demand. It's also gone so far as to discourage retailers from bundles. And although it's not unusual to see someone trying to flip something on eBay, a retailer doing so is uncommon, and frowned upon.

However, unless contractually required by Nintendo to sell the consoles at the MSRP, there's little Nintendo can do to alter the practice, except perhaps stop alloting systems to Slackers.

On their website, Slackers responded to the allegations on Friday. Their statement, on their front page, says, in part:
Slackers is a small, 11 store chain in Missouri and Illinois selling music, movies and games. Slackers prides itself on its commitment to its customers, and offers great products with great service at a fair price. We are not big box, and our customers like that. They like that they get friendly, knowledgeable service when they come into our stores.

However, being small has its disadvantages. Unlike the big box retailers, we do not get an “allotment” from Nintendo. Rather, like all small independent retailers, we must buy our product from distributors. Since November of this year, the total number of Wii systems Slackers has been able to acquire from distributors this holiday season is 44 units – that’s it.

Does Slackers’ sell Wii systems on eBay? Yes. This holiday season, Slackers has sold a total of 5 Wii systems on eBay at a price of $399.99, while a couple units remain in stock.
The post goes on to indicate that the total profit from each eBay sale is less than $75. And while some will call this scalping, others will say it's capitalism at its finest. What do you readers think?