Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Windows Vista - DOA?

This is about as funny as the Bill Gates interview at the Daily Show (no PC guy cameo?) --except the very last second when Bill Gates just awkwardly left the stage...

...It's just that most of the security enhancements touted in Windows Vista don't appear in the Home Premium and Basic editions, and what's there, what's not already available within windows XP, could have fit into a free Windows XP service pack instead of requiring a $200 upgrade.

...a dozen bulleted security enhancements within Windows Vista, such as Enhanced Authentication Model, User Account Control (UAC), BitLocker Drive Encryption, Encrypting File System (EFS), Protected Mode for IE 7, Windows Defender, Windows Firewall, Enhanced Firewall Management, Group Policy for Device Lockdown, Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR), Kernel Patch Protection, and Network Access Protection. That's 12 enhancements that sound really thorough, if you get them.

However, because there are six different editions of Windows Vista, with varying features in each (...) home users will see fewer than half [of the security enhancements]. I spoke with Pete McKiernan, a senior product manager for Windows at Microsoft, who said that BitLocker hard drive encryption wasn't included in the Home editions because Microsoft feared home users would lock themselves out of their systems. He agreed that another feature, Device Lockdown, required a group policy, and therefore wouldn't be in the Home edition, nor would Network Access Protection, Enhanced Authentication Model, or Encrypting File System (EFS). That's 5 out of 12 security enhancements that you won't find in the Home editions of Windows Vista.

More from CNET.

Moreover, if you're not a hard-core gamer your current PC is probably not powerful enough to run all the new eye-candy Aero interface... so add the price of a computer upgrade to that $200 service pack...

BigDog -- A Robot Mule

Very interesting, although I wonder if it is at all more effective than a real mule...


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Tattoo is Forever... or not?

Just as the number of Americans sporting tattoos has soared in the past decade, so has membership in another group: people who want their bodywork removed. Only then do they come to know the truth -- that laser tattoo removal is painful, expensive and may not do the job completely.

Soon there may be a solution to the phenomenon of tattoo regret -- removable tattoo ink. A company founded by doctors says it will begin selling such ink early next year. The ink is applied just as with any tattoo, and will remain in place as long as desired. But if the owner later decides that the artwork has to go, it can be removed fully and safely with a single laser treatment.

The founders of the New York company making the removable ink, Freedom-2 LLC, say their goal is to help those who have come to regret permanently decorating their bodies. But backers say the technology will not only simplify tattoo removal, it will create an expanded market for body art -- since consumers can be now assured that the tattoo will come off easily and without exorbitant cost.


Chile con Carne - Man Serves Meatballs Cooked in His Own Body Fat

Skip this if you have a weak stomach.

"Bon appetit," said Chilean artist Marco Evaristti as he presented his friends with his newest creation: meatballs cooked with fat from his own body, extracted by liposuction. "Ladies and gentleman, bon appetit and may god bless," said Evaristti, a glass in his hand, to his dining companions seated Thursday night around a table in Santiago's Animal Gallery.

On the plates in front of them was a serving of agnolotti pasta and in the middle a meatball made with oil Evaristti removed from his body in a liposuction procedure last year.

Evaristti produced 48 meatballs with his own fat, some of which would be canned and sold for $4,000 (BD1,512) for 10.


Speaking of cannibals, just saw the trailer for The "Hannibal Rising" prequel...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Spiders on Drugs

Thanks to Jake P.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Want a Cool Million for Proving Psychic Powers - You Have to Pre-Qualify

If you're an undiscovered psychic, soothsayer, dowser or medium, time may be running out for you to put your supernatural powers to the test and claim a million dollar prize.

But you already knew that, didn't you?

Ten years after stage magician and avowed skeptic James Randi first offered a seven-figure payday to anyone capable of demonstrating paranormal phenomenon under scientific scrutiny, the 79-year-old clear-eyed curmudgeon is revising the rules of his nonprofit foundation's Million Dollar Challenge to better target high-profile charlatans, and spend less time on unknown psychics, who too often turn out to be delusional instead of deceptive.

"We can't waste the hundreds of hours that we spend every year on the nutcases out there -- people who say they can fly by flapping their arms," says Randi. "We have three file drawers jam-packed with those collections.... There are over 300 claims that we have handled in detail."

A skeptic since his teen years, Randi launched his challenge in 1964, after growing outraged with fake mediums and fortunetellers using simple conjurers' tricks to prey on the public. A challenge was an efficient alternative to trying to prove a negative: Instead of traveling the world investigating and debunking miracle workers one-by-one, an unclaimed cash prize stands as a fact on the ground -- an immovable obstacle around which anyone purporting supernatural powers must eventually navigate.


Real Life Samurai Hero

A samurai sword wielding vigilante has come to the rescue of two Police officers when they were attacked by an armed gang in South Shields, England.

A group of men had forced their way into a house and were ransacking the place when passing plain-clothes officers were alerted by a woman inside screaming.

The criminals outnumbered them and were armed with a hammer, knives and chains and attacked the Police officers.

As one of them stabbed at a Policeman with his knife, a mysterious do-gooder appeared from nowhere and attacked him with a samurai sword.

One of the burglars began running away but was stopped by the stranger who struck him on the arm with the sword.

Two of the criminals were arrested, but in true hero style the samurai disappeared before police could speak to him.


Friday, January 12, 2007

Skype Phones Galore

Gallery with tons of Skype phones Click Here.

Thanks to Dr. Dan

Thursday, January 11, 2007

More on New Kinds of Ads

This is another interesting example of new viral ad strategies, in this case originating with a person -- she poses an interesting idea/ story, generates interest virally, and capitalizes on it, by getting a new notebook.

Lawsuit Tries to Ban Youtube in Brazil Over This Video

To see the Paparazzi video with Cicarelli click here.

Here's a funny parody (from a Brazilian state's government saying "The Dengue fever mosquito reproduces in the water".

Mosquitoes Playing At The Beach Like Daniella Cicarelli - video powered by Metacafe
After a steamy video of Brazilian model Daniela Cicarelli leaked onto the Internet, a judge ordered YouTube banned in Brazil until the site took down all copies of the video. (Click here to see the video, which may not be appropriate for the workplace.) How does a government block a Web site?

Any way it can. For starters, the government can tell its Internet service providers to cut off their customers from a certain site. Through a process called "packet filtering," ISPs can enforce a government blacklist by scanning data entering the ISP's network from abroad and then blocking information from certain domains or IP addresses. (Blacklists are usually top secret. Usually.) This method tends to be inexact, because many IP addresses host thousands of sites, which may get inadvertently banned. When Pakistan tried to embargo a handful of blogs hosted by during the Muhammad cartoon uproar, every single blog on the site was blocked. Some ISPs also filter less efficiently than others, so a ban might not be enforced the same way in every part of a country. (In Brazil, for example, people in Rio de Janeiro could see the beach sex video while people in Brasília were cut off.)


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Somebody Stole Something? Look on eBay

...had his GPS unit stolen right out of his car, a perfectly natural place to store such things. When confronted with his loss -- and his lousy sense of direction we presume -- he was propelled into the comforting embrace of eBay, eager to renew his GPS relationship, going so far as to replace his lost unit with the very same model. So, imagine his surprise when he found his exact unit, easily identified by its "special power cord" and verified by serial number. After the eBay seller -- one Mr. Danial Rangkar -- was arrested, police discovered dozens of similarly stolen gadgets that would have ultimately made their way to his (now disabled) eBay account.


Keychain Phone

The Vonage V-Phone comes with Vonage Talk software pre-loaded – there's no need to install it on your PC and no need to restart your computer. Simply insert the Vonage V-Phone into any available USB port, plug the earpiece microphone into the side of the Vonage V-Phone and you're ready to make and receive calls! Remove the drive when you're done and the phone and all your important contact information goes with you.

Very interesting. More.

Apple Announces iPhone and Apple TV, for real now

Steve Jobs just dropped a bombshell on the audience attending his Macworld Keynote Address. Jobs at first announced the product as three separate products; a widescreen video iPod, a phone, and a mobile internet communicator...

The iPhone will use a revolutionary interface called MultiTouch, first seen in Apple patent filings over a year ago. The iPhone will run OS X, and be capable of running desktop-class applications:
  • Single front button.
  • 3.5 inch widescreen display featuring the highest pixel density ever shipped in a portable device.
  • 2 megapixel camera.
  • Proximity sensor which switches between modes and screen orientation based on how a user holds it.
  • 11.6 mm thick.
  • Syncs with iTunes
  • Wifi
  • Bluetooth
  • Cingular only.
  • Visual voicemail - shows a list of your voicemails like you see a list of emails.
  • Error correcting on-screen keyboard.
  • Gestural interface
  • Mail.
  • Safari.
  • Google Maps.
  • Widgets.
  • Switches seamlessly between EDGE and WiFi.
  • Free Yahoo! IMAP email to all iPhone customers.
  • GPS
  • 5 hour video battery life.
  • 16 hour audio battery life.
The 4GB costs $499 and the 8GB $599 (includes a 2 year contract). It is shipping in June.
Also the Apple TV, very cool as well:
Apple has just officially announced the Apple TV, formerly the iTV:
  • wireless transfer to Apple TV
  • HDMI output
  • support for 720p
  • includes 40gb drive
  • includes 802.11 a/b/g/n (yes, n)
  • stream from up to 5 machines
  • can sync iTunes library
AppleTV ships next month and goes for $299. That $299 includes the Apple TV, an Apple Remote, Power Cord, and a Quick Start Guide. The dimensions are 7.7 by 7.7 inches (Steve loves squares), height 1.1 inches, and weighs only 2.4 pounds.

What formats does it support, straight from the specs: Video formats supported:
  • H.264 and protected H.264 (from iTunes Store): 640 by 480, 30 fps, LC version of Baseline Profile
  • 320 by 240, 30 fps, Baseline profile up to Level 1.3
  • 1280 by 720, 24 fps, Progressive Main Profile.
  • MPEG-4: 640 by 480, 30 fps, Simple Profile
  • AAC (16 to 320 Kbps)
  • protected AAC (from iTunes Store)
  • MP3 (16 to 320 Kbps)
  • MP3 VBR
  • Apple Lossless
  • AIFF
  • WAV
More from TUAW and Apple itself. Very exciting announcements, I like them both a lot.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Ocular Dominance - Are you left or right-eyed?

Ocular dominance, sometimes called eye dominance or eyedness, is the tendency to prefer visual input from one eye to the other. It is somewhat analogous to the laterality of right or left handedness, however the side of the dominant eye and the dominant hand do not always match.

Dominance does appear to change depending upon direction of gaze due to image size changes on the retinas.

[Here are some tests to determine it]
  • The "Miles test". The observer extends both arms, brings both hands together to create a small opening, then with both eyes open views a distant object through the opening. The observer then alternates closing the eyes or slowly draws opening back to the head to determine which eye is viewing the object (i.e. the dominant eye).
  • The "Porta test". The observer extends one arm, then with both eyes open aligns the thumb or index finger with a distant object. The observer then alternates closing the eyes or slowly draws the thumb/finger back to the head to determine which eye is viewing the object (i.e. the dominant eye) .
  • The observer extends one arm, forms a small, circular opening with the thumb and index finger, then with both eyes open views a distant object through the opening. The observer then alternates closing the eyes or slowly draws the opening back to the head to determine which eye is viewing the object (i.e. the dominant eye).

Viral Ads - Tea Partay, Will it Blend

Like the previously posted Fish Slap Ad, these are great examples of the new class of viral video ads. Very entertaining.

thanks to Dr. Dan

New HDDVD/Blu-Ray Problems

If I understand this correctly, new HDDVD and Blu-Ray players are being cluttered with so much DRM (Digital Rights Management) overhead that:
  • It takes about a full minute for discs to start playing because of the decryption process.
  • You need to use (costly) HDMI cables. Not because they are better than composite, but because they maintain the encryption throughout the transmission of video (data) from the player to the TV (so someone can't copy the data or video stream). So, if you have a TV with no HDMI input, you're screwed, it won't play high-def videos.
  • If you buy a new disk and it so happens that the manufacturer of your player has had their key revoked for some reason, the player could update its internal list and stop playing discs -- even the ones that worked before!
  • The catch is, the weakest link on all of this is the HDCP protection on the HDMI connector. That is not very strong, so it's most likely that real pirates will crack this easily enough. So all of this just adds annoyance to the consumer who just wants to buy and enjoy legitimate media.
More details from Steve Gibson at Security Now.

Chrysler (re)Introduces Swiveling Seats

The fifth generation Chrysler minivans will arrive in Fall 2007, with a new theme of “family rooms on wheels.” There will be five models, three distinct seating and storage systems, and three powertrains, including the first six-speed automatic installed in a minivan.

Perhaps the most remarkable feature is Swivel ’n Go™, which brings to mind RVs and custom vans: the second row seats swivel 180 degrees to face the third row, with a removable table between the two rows, covered storage bins in the floor of the second row, third-row uncovered storage and fold-in-the-floor third-row seating. Swivel ’n Go is available with an optional industry-first integrated child booster seat in the second-row quad chair and an optional minivan-exclusive one-touch power-folding third-row 60/40 bench seat.


"New" Stem Cells Source

Scientists reported Sunday they had found a plentiful source of stem cells in the fluid that cushions babies in the womb.

The announcement may make it easier to sidestep the controversy over destroying embryos for research.

Researchers at Wake Forest University and Harvard University reported the stem cells they drew from amniotic fluid donated by pregnant women hold much the same promise as embryonic stem cells.

They reported they were able to extract the stem cells without harm to mother or fetus and turn their discovery into several different tissue cell types, including brain, liver and bone.


Big Apple News Tomorrow?

iSight, iPhone, iTV, a trademark on the letter "i", Steve Jobs retiring? We shall see...

This is a blind item, but a very trusted (and extremely anonymous) source of mine in Silicon Valley told me recently that he has it on good faith that Apple CEO Steve Jobs has invited all of his best friends to his MacWorld SF Keynote on Tuesday. In Silicon Valley buzz code, that means he's got something really special to show. Can you say iMobile? I knew you could.


Pencil Art

Interesting... sculptures made of pencils. More.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Myth or Fact

I think Mythbusters results must be taken with a grain of salt, but here's an interesting roundup.

An assassin can fire an ice bullet to kill someone without leaving a trace. - busted

An assassin can use a meat bullet to kill someone without leaving a trace. - busted

An assassin can use a gelatin bullet to kill someone without leaving a trace. - busted

An assassin can use a poison capsule fired from an umbrella to kill someone without leaving a trace. - partly confirmed*

You stay drier running in the rain than walking. - confirmed*

Using one's cell phone while pumping gas/petrol can cause an explosion. - busted

Silicone breast implants may explode at high altitudes or low air pressure. - busted

Urinating on the electric third rail of a train track can cause electrocution. - busted
It is possible to pick up radio signals through a tooth filling. - busted

It is possible to blow up a microwave oven by microwaving metal. - busted

If a glass of water is microwaved, and then removed, it will explode due to superheating. - confirmed
Cola is able to remove bloodstains. - confirmed

Cola is able to clean chrome. - confirmed

A frozen chicken launched in a bird strike simulation can penetrate aircraft or train windshields better than a thawed chicken. - plausible*

A woman, while swimming, accidentally swallows a fertilized octopus egg, which gestates in her stomach and caused symptoms similar to that of pregnancy. - busted

Blogging - Don't Quit Your Day Job

An interesting tidbit from Guy Kawasaki's wrap-up of his first full year blogging. Note that his blog has been consistently between the 35th and 45th most popular in the world, according to Technorati. Here are some of his stats:
  • 2,436,117 page views for an average of approximately 6,200/day. 21,000 people receive RSS feeds via Feedburner and 1,457 receive emails via FeedBlitz.
  • 21,000 people receive RSS feeds via Feedburner and 1,457 receive emails via FeedBlitz.
  • Total advertising revenue: approximately $3,350 = $1.39 cpm.
So just to review, that's:

A best-selling author and genuine tech celebrity writing a thoughtful essay nearly every workday on a top-50 blog for an audience of around 30,000 people/day.

And the pay for that is about $280 a month. If Guy can get Google to write a check at all.

Just another reminder that the reason to be a Long Tail producer is not direct revenues. Instead, it's exactly what Guy uses it for: marketing for his books, VC firm, speeches and consulting.

iChat Portable - the Real iPhone? Nope...

TecheBlog may have revealed the real thing - an Apple branded mobile phone named the iChat Portable.

From first glance, the mobile seems to be a PDA-phone of sorts, full touchscreen encased in Apple's signature iPod-white casing. Of course, the iPod would be one of the key functions for the phone. Judging by the name, the phone functionality will be based on Apple's iChat software, inline with the rumours that the phone would run off a modified version of OSX.

OF course, MacWorld begins next Monday, January 8th, with Steve Jobs' keynote scheduled for Tuesday January 9th, so this is when the iChat Portable will be officially announced. Until then, even a cell phone photo of the poster and the real product in its packaging will not convince some, but at least its enough to tide a few days. I'll post full details here when they are revealed.

UPDATE 2: The source of the pictures, TechEBlog, has now confirmed the pictures to be a fake, an unfortunate turn-of-events given that the announcement is only a few days out.


Lucy in The Sky - A Giant Diamond

Twinkling in the sky is a diamond star of 10 billion trillion trillion carats, astronomers have discovered.
The cosmic diamond is a chunk of crystallised carbon, 4,000 km across, some 50 light-years from the Earth in the constellation Centaurus.

It's the compressed heart of an old star that was once bright like our Sun but has since faded and shrunk.

Astronomers have decided to call the star "Lucy" after the Beatles song, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Portable DirecTV

Who knows if this'll see the light of day, but the DirecTV SAT+GO!, or Satellite To Go, has both an annoying name, and a brown color reminiscent of the swampy Zune. The briefcase sized box folds out to reveal a dish in the back, and an LCD on its face, with controls below it.

Of course, this photo is a pretty rendering a 2nd year design student could have pulled off. Don't get me wrong: It's a real honest to god DirecTV product in the making. But taking something like this to market, well...I'll believe it when I see it...


Will someone please make a good wireless IPTV platform?

Why We're So Good at Recognizing Music

Amazingly interesting research, well worth the full read.

'Listen to this," Daniel Levitin said. "What is it?" He hit a button on his computer keyboard and out came a half-second clip of music. It was just two notes blasted on a raspy electric guitar, but I could immediately identify it: the opening lick to the Rolling Stones' "Brown Sugar."

Then he played another, even shorter snippet: a single chord struck once on piano. Again I could instantly figure out what it was: the first note in Elton John's "Benny and the Jets."

Levitin beamed. "You hear only one note, and you already know who it is," he said. "So what I want to know is: how we do this? Why are we so good at recognizing music?"
"By the age of 5 we are all musical experts, so this stuff is clearly wired really deeply into us,"

Last summer he published "This Is Your Brain on Music," a layperson's guide to the emerging neuroscience of music. Levitin is an unusually deft interpreter, full of striking scientific trivia. For example we learn that babies begin life with synesthesia, the trippy confusion that makes people experience sounds as smells or tastes as colors. Or that the cerebellum, a part of the brain that helps govern movement, is also wired to the ears and produces some of our emotional responses to music. His experiments have even suggested that watching a musician perform affects brain chemistry differently from listening to a recording.
Ultimately, scientists say, his work offers a new way to unlock the mysteries of the brain: how memory works, how people with autism think, why our ancestors first picked up instruments and began to play.
"When we saw all this activity going on precisely in sync, in this order, we knew we had the smoking gun," he said. "We've always known that music is good for improving your mood. But this showed precisely how it happens."
The subtlest reason that pop music is so flavorful to our brains is that it relies so strongly on timbre. Timbre is a peculiar blend of tones in any sound; it is why a tuba sounds so different from a flute even when they are playing the same melody in the same key. Popular performers or groups, Levitin argued, are pleasing not because of any particular virtuosity, but because they create an overall timbre that remains consistent from song to song. That quality explains why, for example, I could identify even a single note of Elton John's "Benny and the Jets."

"Nobody else's piano sounds quite like that," he said, referring to John. "Pop musicians compose with timbre. Pitch and harmony are becoming less important."

Levitin's work has occasionally undermined some cherished beliefs about music. For example recent years have seen an explosion of "Baby Mozart" videos and toys, based on the idea, popular since the '80s, that musical and mathematical ability are inherently linked.

But Levitin argued that this could not be true, based on his study of people with Williams syndrome, a genetic disorder that leaves people with low intelligence. Their peak mental capacities are typically those of a young child, with no ability to calculate quantities. Levitin once asked a woman with Williams to hold up her hand for five seconds; she left it in the air for a minute and a half. "No concept of time at all," he said, "and definitely no math."

Yet people with Williams possess unusually high levels of musical ability. One Williams boy Levitin met was so poorly coordinated he could not open the case to his clarinet. But once he was holding the instrument, his coordination problems vanished, music, science, and he could play fluidly.


The Girl Who Will Never Grow Up

Until New Year’s Day, not even her first name was known. Ashley was a faceless case study, cited in a paper by two doctors at Seattle Children’s Hospital as they outlined a treatment so radical that it brought with it allegations of “eugenics”, of creating a 21st-century Frankenstein’s monster, of maiming a child for the sake of convenience.

The reason for the controversy is this: three years ago, when Ashley began to display early signs of puberty, her parents instructed doctors to remove her uterus, appendix and still-forming breasts, then treat her with high doses of oestrogen to stunt her growth.

In other words, Ashley was sterilised and frozen in time, for ever to remain a child. She was only 6.

Ashley, the daughter of two professionals in the Seattle area, never had much hope of a normal life.

Afflicted with a severe brain impairment known as static encephalopathy, she cannot walk, talk, keep her head up in bed or even swallow food. Her parents argued that “keeping her small” was the best way to improve the quality of her life, not to make life more convenient for them.

Because of her small size, the parents say, Ashley will receive more care from people who will be able to carry her: “Ashley will be moved and taken on trips more frequently and will have more exposure to activities and social gatherings ... instead of lying down in her bed staring at TV all day long.”

By remaining a child, they say, Ashley will have a better chance of avoiding everything from bed sores to pneumonia — and the removal of her uterus means that she will never have a menstrual cycle or risk developing uterine cancer.

Because Ashley was expected to have a large chest size, her parents say that removing her breast buds, including the milk glands (while keeping the nipples intact), will save her further discomfort while avoiding fibrocystic growth and breast cancer.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Trippy Trailers

Many more, including West Side Story Horror Version and The Shining Romantic Comedy version at The Trailer Mash.

Vista Voice Recognition

Looks interesting.

(Apple) iPhone for Sale on Ebay?

This is an auction for a brand new iPhone (IphoneI) MP3 Player/Mobile Phone. This phone works virtually with all GSM service providers. Features a 1.8-inch touch screen, handwriting input, sensor keypad, MP3, MP4 and 3GP playback, and a 2MP camera. This is a rare gadget to find and resembles the popular Apple iPod.

Details here.

Looks like some sort of hoax to me... did someone hack this together? It's currently at $500.

Typography Nude Art

Cool stuff. More here.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Predictions -- Hindsight is 20/20

  • "The end of the world will surely come in eighteen hundred and eighty one."- Mother Shipton, English prophet, c.1600.
  • "The telephone may be appropriate for our American cousins, but not here, because we have an adequate supply of messenger boys." - group of British experts, c.1900.
  • "Aircraft are interesting toys, but of no military value." - Marshal Foch, France, 1912.
  • "The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?" - Associates of David Sarnoff, manager of an early US radio network, 1920s.
  • "While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially I consider it an impossiblity, a development on which we need waste little time dreaming." - Lee de Forest, "father of radio", 1926.
  • "I think there is a world market for as many as 5 computers." - Thomas Watson, head of IBM,1943.
  • Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons - Popular Mechanics, 1949.
  • "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." - Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, 1977 (who was wrong, even then, as the first Apple was already available. Maybe he had a very narrow idea of what people did at home.)
  • The first cars were called horseless carriages, and the first radio was called a wireless. What else could be renamed whatlessly? Is an egg the headless chook?) And what might be the next thing to drop an association we now take for granted? The pageless book? The computerless internet?


The Simpsons Movie -- In 2-D!

More trailers, including HD, avaliable here. Opens 7/27/07.

Sports News: