Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Gizbuzz has moved!

I'm posting this again just in case there are any noobs subscribed to the Atom feed who have not migrated to the address for Gizbuzz, the best technology blog on the web! So you can access the new blog at http://gizbuzz.co.uk , or just click here for the latest technology news.

[visit Gizbuzz.co.uk]

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Apple Fined $100,000

Apple Computer was today issued a fine of $100,000 USD by the state of Washington for not registering with the state.

read more | digg story

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

To Levent Besik

I have actually just moved my blog, to gizbuzz.co.uk, and will post about the issue there. Alternatively, you can contact me at ----------------------

In the mean time, you can download copies of the two files attached to the latest error report sent to Microsoft on crash here. The file names are original.

The crash appears to be random, but it always occurs within 1-2 minutes of opening, even when all addons have been disabled.

I hope this helps, but feel free to contact me if you need any more information. I would like to be able to use IE7, so am quite happy to help!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Gizbuzz has moved!

Gizbuzz has moved to Gizbuzz.co.uk. Same blog, just a different address!

If you are reading this via the atom feed, please subscribe to the feed at http://feeds.feedburner/gizbuzz, as this has been transfered automatically to the new site. We're now using Wordpress, which I think both looks better and has more functionality. If you link to Gizbuzz, don't forget to change over to the new URL.

Happy reading!

Friday, May 19, 2006

PS3 to cost £425

Yet again, the UK is the victim of silly price markups. For no particular reason, Sony have decided that an appropriate price for the Playstation 3 will be £425. That's equivalent to $800, when the console will cost only $600 in the US and 600 EUR for the 60GB version.

Sony Computer Entertainment UK's managing director, Ray Maguire, said in an interview with Eurogamer TV:

"If you think a Blu-Ray player by itself might be £600-700, and we're coming in at just £425 - it's a bargain.

"But you think about the price, think about the price of just a Blu-Ray player. It will be cheaper than a Blu-Ray player just by itself. So fundamentally we're going to be great value just from that point of view without even looking at the games side."

However, he did seem to acknowledge that £425 is 'definitely not a mass market price'. It doesn't appear that it's a price that will work in any market, in my opinion, with the fact that the Xbox 360 is significantly cheaper, even with the HD-DVD drive, and offers comparable features, and probably better integration with Windows as well as the much-lauded Xbox Live. It looks like this price is certainly the end of the PS3 in the UK, and quite possibly the end of Blu-ray on this side of the pond as well.

[via Eurogamer]

Get ready for Vista

Microsoft have launched a 'Get ready for Vista' site, along with details of the minimum requirements to run the next-gen operating system, and a downloadable tool to help you identify whether you fulfil the requirements.

The requirements are split into two sections. The 'Vista Capable computers' which have a spec of at least:

  • A modern processor (at least 800MHz1).
  • 512 MB of system memory.
  • A graphics processor that is DirectX 9 capable.
Then there's the 'Vista Premium Ready Computers', which will also do things like run Aero. They need at least:

  • 1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor1.
  • 1 GB of system memory.
  • A graphics processor that runs Windows Aero2.
  • 128 MB of graphics memory.
  • 40 GB of hard drive capacity with 15 GB free space.
  • DVD-ROM Drive3.
  • Audio output capability.
  • Internet access capability.
Full details available here. I'm pleasantly surprised by the specs, as I thought that they would be significantly higher, particularly the processor speed requirement for the 'Premium' end of things. It would appear that my laptop (Dell Latitude D410) will run the basic end, and my desktop (Dimension 5100) will run the premium features.

The downloadable tool means that the masses, who probably don't know what's inside that big beige box, can work out whether they can run Vista. It allows you to select which features you would like in your Vista upgrade, then tells you whether your computer can handle them, and also which edition of Vista you will need. This is a very good move on Microsoft's part, as it enables them to avoid some of the confusion which would otherwise have been felt by many consumers, inhibiting the numbers of people upgrading. Also sensibly, it is possible to print out the extra hardware you need to buy to run Vista, so that even if you don't understand it, you can take it to someone who can.

You can download the 'Windows Vista Upgrade Adviser (beta)' here.

Symantec vs Microsoft; Creative vs Apple

It seems all hell is breaking loose between some of the heavyweights in the technology industry. Firstly, Symantec vs Microsoft.

Symantec are one of the leaders in security products for Windows, with Norton AntiVirus to their name. Their argument against Microsoft is about Symantec's Volume Manager software (acquired from Symantec's purchase of software firm Veritas). Back in 1996, Veritas made an agreement with Microsoft to license this software to help move chunks of data around in Windows.

Symantec claim that Microsoft have violated their intellectual property rights. They probably aren't too happy about Microsoft's new anti-spyware (bundled with Vista) and anti-virus (not bundled) services which will be launched. It's still a bit unclear exactly how Symantec's rights have been violated in this case, but I'm sure we will find out when this case continues.

The second fight is Creative vs Apple. Creative recently sued Apple for violation of its patent to do with music sorting, by including this in the iPod.

Now Apple have struck back claiming that Creative's player violates 4 of Apple's patents.

Happy families.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

'The Free Antivirus Strategy'

I was emailed a link to this article by its author, suggesting that readers of Gizbuzz might be interested in it.

I have read the article, and certainly agree with the advice he gives. I'm sure that many of you have been through the situation described and come out the other side, but the article does have some good tips on how to beat malware. And how could I not link to an article which advises its readers to install Firefox and avoid Internet Explorer! (On a sidenote, I still can't get IE7 to run reliably).

The Free Antivirus Strategy - Photobird.com

Ofcom rethink iTrip legality

BBC are reporting that the UK telecommunications regulator Ofcom are rethinking their current ban on the iTrip iPod accessory.

The iTrip devices streams music from your iPod over normal FM radio, so you can tune any standard radio into your frequency and listen to your collection on better speakers.

Well, that's the theory anyway. In the UK at the moment, it's illegal to use this gadget, because it broadcasts over radio frequency. You need a license to do this, and also apparently it can interfere with emergency response radio systems.

Nevertheless, people do use this device in the UK (even though it's not sold here), and it would help boost sales if it was legal.

It's currently perfectly legal to use iTrips and similar devices in the US, so people are asking what makes the UK more likely to cause interference.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Visual Task Tips for Windows XP

For those of you who enjoy making your Windows XP systems look as much like Vista as possible, there's a great free (for personal use) program for XP called Visual Task Tips.

Like Vista will, it displays a small preview image of a window when you hover your mouse over the taskbar.

[Thanks to UNEASYsilence and Windows Vista Weblog for this story]

Urge goes live but UK not invited

Headline says it all really. Urge, which looks like a great service, has gone live this morning, along with the release of WMP11, but is not accepting UK users. Urge is MTV and Microsoft's combined attempt to beat iTunes, currently the dominant online music distribution service by a very long way. Obviously this is because they couldn't be bothered to license the music for the rest of the world, even though it is largely the same record companies. What would have been a far more sensible approach would be to have licensed the music for the whole world.

Also annoying, and amateur, is the fact that it didn't tell me when I tried to download Urge that it wasn't going to work, or even when I installed it, or even once I had installed it. At this point, instead of an error message, it just didn't work. I had to dig it out of the FAQ to find out that I couldn't use it.

So I'm afraid there won't be any review. I will review it when/if it comes out in the UK, because I am very interested in using it. I currently pay £15/month to Napster, and they have a very weak program as well as an increasingly small library (its not that they're losing songs from the library, they're just not getting any new ones really). So Urge would probably have had at least one other customer had they decided to launch in the UK.

What the separate launch probably means is that the prices will be higher, yet again, in the UK when compared to the US. I suspect that we will be paying not $15 (£8-9) when/if the service comes out in the UK, but £15.

PS. I loved Valleywag's response to hearing that MTV was aiming at people without iPods:

MTV plans to kill iTunes. The plan: "We will concentrate on people who don't have iPods." So, like, music for uncool people? [Financial Times]
Spose that makes me uncool then.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

X360 vs PS3 in HD format fight

Engadget have a story about the upcoming fight between the Xbox 360 and the PS3.

As it was shipped, Microsoft's Xbox 360 does not come with any high-definition movie support (only standard DVD), but the PS3, due for launch this November, will have an internal Blu-ray drive for HD movies.

What Engadget were speculating about was whether Microsoft will release an add-on external HD-DVD drive (the format MS is backing) for the Xbox 360, and if so, whether it will be popular enough to challenge the PS3.

Personally, I doubt an add-on drive will be cool enough, as it would look far too strange to have an external drive on a console.

If, however, in future revisions of the 360, Microsoft release an internal HD-DVD drive, this might make them a more viable competitor in the HD movie market to the Sony PS3.

So, for now at least, it looks like Sony have won this particular battle in the war of the next-generation consoles.

MacBook released

After the online Apple Store closing down this morning, the MacBook has landed. The biggest news is, like the Nano, it's available in black and white. All the rest is pretty much as predicted. Apple says:

What do you get when you put up to 2GHz of pure Intel Core Duo power, an iSight camera, Front Row, iLife ’06 and a 13-inch glossy widescreen display into a sleek case? More than you thought possible for less than you thought possible. Meet MacBook, starting at just £749 (UK) / €1119 (Ireland) including VAT.

£749 does sound remarkably good value for money, especially when Apple is involved. It's a little more expensive than the rock-bottom priced Core Duo Dell laptops, but then they are probably bigger, without an iSight camera built in, without Front Row and it's remote control and not made by Apple. They also don't come in black and white!

It sounds like there is a significant performance improvement over the iBook range, with the figure of 5x more powerful being quoted by Apple. Whilst that sounds extremely impressive, that figure applies to raw processing speed, so once the computer is running normal applications that will slow down as a result of all the bottlenecks.

These'll be selling like hotcakes for a long time, with people especially encouraged by the ability to dual-boot. If I had £749 rolling about at the moment, I would definitely buy one. More pictures of the new offering are available from Apple here.

Google releases Google Notebook

Google has released Google Notebook, a 'web clipping tool' announced at last week's press day at the Googleplex. From the site:

  • Clip useful information.
    You can add clippings of text, images and links from web pages to your Google Notebook without ever leaving your browser window.

  • Organize your notes.
    You can create multiple notebooks, divide them into sections, and drag-and-drop your notes to stay organized.

  • Get access from anywhere.
    You can access your Google Notebooks from any computer by using your Google Accounts login.

  • Publish your notebook.
    You can share your Google Notebook with the world by making it public.

To learn more about Google Notebook, please visit our overview page.

Michael Arrington is not impressed with Google Notebook, moaning about the lack of any product vision from Google:

I also wonder about Google’s dedication to its own projects. For example, what will be the fate of Google Bookmarks now that Google Notepad has launched? Google Labs is littered with half baked and half finished products. I see little or no product vision coming out of Google, sitting fat and arrogant on it its Adsense revenues.

I can kinda see his point there, but Google does seem to have some strategy; namely to throw out thousands of products in the hope that a few of them take off. He also laments the lack of tag support:

The lack of tagging is important: it is natural to be able to tag a piece of content to make searching easier in the future - its unclear why Google doesn’t support this proven model for describing bookmarks.

I completely disagree with him here, as I posted in his comments. The reason Google doesn’t have any tag functionality is that they don’t feel they need it. Even Gmail only provides tags (labels) as an afterthought, that you can use if you want. I have found them largely unnecessary, as the search function works extremely well. I think Google wants to move away from tags, towards text analysis. This is a good approach in the long run as, whilst we are not yet at the stage for text analysis to be as fully effective as tags, it offers an infinitely greater potential at much less bother to the user. So I think Google’s got it right in this case.

Google Notebook could prove to be a useful tool, or it could be a rubbish tool. I guess we'll have to wait and see, but I doubt that it will ever have a particularly large userbase, unless it moves out of labs and becomes a major Google product, a move which I think would be both unlikely and silly for Google.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Windows Media Player 11 leaked

I have just managed to download a leaked beta of WMP 11 from here. It will be released about the same time as Vista, both for Vista and XP. It offers a great new look, and other features as well, possibly eventually including integration with the MTV/Microsoft URGE music store venture announced at CES but not yet launched. I haven't been able to use it yet, because the download is really slow (everyone will be downloading it at the moment). When I do, I'll post some screenshots, but I'm looking forward to it as everything I've heard about the Vista version has been very positive.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Roundup for 9th May 06

I'm afraid that again, no time for any indepth posts. I'm writing this at 11:40pm, so by rights, I should be in bed!

A price has been fixed for the Playstation 3 by Sony, in the run-up to E3, the show that is to gaming what CES is to consumer electronics. It will retail for $499 in the US and 499 euros (£341) over here. The console will be released on 11th November in Japan, with US and Europe launching over the following week. At £341, it's expensive, more expensive than the 360 and significantly more than the Wii will be. However, what I'm more bothered about is the discrimation against europe with the pricing. According to a quick check, $499 is worth 391 EUR, so why Sony thinks it's OK to charge Europe that much more is an interesting and significantly irritating question. We shouldn't just blame Sony. Everyone does it.

The Webby Awards have been announced, with Google and Yahoo the big winners. Full details on the award winners here. The award winners seem quite sensible, but I would like to see a few more of the little people, as the awards could be used as a tool to draw attention to the really innovative ideas and services that aren't necessarily well-known or that don't have a marketing budget.

James O'Neill's made his RSS Stumbler available for download (as source code), after Scoble told him to. O'Neill works for Microsoft, and to demonstrate how easy it is to use the new RSS Platform distributed with IE7, coded an RSS reader in 90 lines in VB. It should be quite interesting to have a look at, especially as it's written in VB, which is a language which I can actually use to a level at which I'll be able to hack around with the program. Download VB 2005 Express Edition for free here.

Turns out that the MacBook wasn't announced today after all, apparently due to supply issues, but Engadget reckons that Apple never intended to announce today, as it would have to vie for coverage with the E3 crowd. Next Tuesday, according to ThinkSecret.

RealTechNews links to obscure Google pages. Some interesting ones there, but my favourite has to be the Google Easter java game, with a little bunny that has to catch eggs.

Good night!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Roundup for 8th May 06

I don't have time to write a proper post today, so just a quick update on some interesting stuff I've seen around today.

SoonR - In Touch Now is a new service, reported on by TechCrunch, which allows you to access some of your computer from your Java-enabled phone. A potentially interesting ramification of this is their SoonR Talk idea, with which you tell Skype on your computer who you would like to call, and
then Skype calls you back using your SkypeOut credits. A great idea, except that I did the maths, and worked out that it cost pretty much the same as using my mobile. A shame, but a great idea.

Copywriting 101 has an interesting post on how to improve your blog by writing good copy. For example, it gives advice on how to write a good headline:

A headline can do more than simply grab attention. A great headline can also communicate a full message to its intended audience, and it absolutely must lure the reader into your body text.

Apparently there are 8 different types of headline. Obviously the fact that I don't know that is why my blog isn't as popular as Copywriting 101!

Zookoda - TechCrunch reports on new service Zookoda, which provides email marketing services for bloggers. Arrington makes the point that it could be percieved as just an unnecessarily convoluted competitor to FeedBurner by many bloggers, but it looks like it has some interesting features, including the ability to set templates for the email newsletters as well as other flexibility that FeedBurner just doesn't provide. I'd probably switch if I could be bothered!

A poster on Digg is drawing attention to what could be a very interesting podcast entitled

Beyond Search: Social and Personal Ways of Finding Information
Neil Hunt, Netflix; David Porter, Live365; Tom Conrad, Pandora; Kevin Rose, Digg; Joshua Schachter, del.icio.us; Rashmi Sinha, Moderator

Certainly an interesting bunch. I respect and use lots of the services on there (Pandora, Digg, Del.icio.us) and it should be a great podcast. All 1:48:49 of it.

Dave Winer's Share Your OPML service has gone live, and by all accounts is going very well. The services allows you to upload your OPML reading list (the file in which the feeds you read are stored if you use an RSS feedreader), and view other people's, including those with similar reading lists. To be honest, I find using a feedreader gives me information overload, and as efficient as it was, ReBlog gave me a headache when I had finished using it. It was just too efficient, so I've resorted to using a bookmarks folder for all my blogs, and clicking my way down the list, as far as I have time for.

Yahoo to update their ad system

To try and compete with the likes of Google, Yahoo are updating their advertising system to allow advertisers to target users according to the query they type into the search box.

This is all very good for advertisers, but Yahoo also need to try and increase the number of people who use their search engine. I, like many other people, use Google daily to do my searching, although I do have a Yahoo mail account that I use occasionally and read quite a lot of the Yahoo News pages. What Yahoo need to do now from a marketing perspective is to get more people to try Yahoo Search, and have them find that it works better than Google. At the moment, I don't think it does, personally.

Yahoo currently own 27% of the web search market, behind leaders Google with 42%.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

We Media

Last week the We Media conference took place in London. It was organised by media Think Tank 'The Media Center', along with Reuters and the BBC. It's remit was to

bring together the trailblazers of the connected society - the thinkers, innovators, investors, executives and activists seeking to tap the potential of digital networks connecting people everywhere.

Without the buzzwords, it was a conference to look at the changing face of the media and the impact of new methods of content creation and distribution, in other words, blogs. To this end, before the conference they commissioned some research to look at how much blogs were trusted, compared with mainstream media and and government. That research would have been great, had they not asked the wrong question, namely 'how much you trust each of the following institutions to operate in the best interest of our society' rather than 'what credibility do you percieve the following institutions to have', as Jeff Jarvis points out.

According to Jarvis there were lots of kneejerk reactions to the issue of how the blogosphere will affect mainstream media, but it would also seem that some interesting discussion happened. The Technology Editor for the BBC Website has been blogging about the event, and his final post summarises what he thought came out of the conference. I've just quoted some of the best bits:

One overwhelming issue that emerged out of the We Media event was the continuing divide between the mainstream media and the blogging community.

The two are talking to each other, but all too often this conversation descends into a war of words. Both sides have a tendency to adopt a defensive position when challenged, and this in turn leads to a dialogue of the deaf.

The world is changing and as we head in a participatory future, everyone involved in the media has to be open to sharing knowledge and experience.

In a period of uncertainty and rapid change, those who succeed may be the ones who find ways of tapping into the wisdom of the crowd.

I think it is fantastic that people at the BBC, the mainstream media giant in the UK are thinking like this, and that post sounds an awful lot like an embracement of Web 2.0 ('tapping into the wisdom of the crowd'). There are a whole load of clever ways the mainstream media and the blogosphere are working together. A great example is the new BlogBurst service, covered here on TechCrunch. Basically, they are an agency which buy content of blog owners, and then publish it on mainstream media websites. That way the blog owners get money and exposure, and the mainstream media gets quality content at a much cheaper price than they would normally get it.

Another idea, also on TechCrunch, is Waxxi, a new participatory podcast system, with which people can host podcasts, and anyone can sign up to contribute. The first podcast is with Scoble and Shel Israel (authors of Naked conversations), but think of the potential if the concept were applied to more mainstream people. As well as Prime Minister's Question Time in parliament, there could be a Waxxi PMQs, with people from the country ringing up, and everyone downloading the result. A Web 2.0 approach that would really enhance democracy and create valuable content at a low cost.

So, there's lots of stuff going on which we can be really proud of. It is clear that not only is it a bad idea for there to be a battle between blogs and mainstream media, but that such a battle is completely unnecessary. They can both help each other, enhancing each other greatly, and for that reason we can be sure that in 2050 the mainstream media and blogs will both still be thriving. It's just they will probably just be refered to as 'The Media'.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Apple patent 'wireless iPod'

The Register are reporting that Apple have patented an idea which could give a clue into the future of the iPod. What the patents basically allow Apple to build is an iPod that would wirelessly interact with the iTunes Music Store and allow you to purchase music on the move.

Apple are yet making another lunge to try and secure their grip on the music download market, with iTunes already being one of the most popular music download services currently available.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Google Health on the way (probably)

Rumours of Google moving into verticle search (that is, search of a highly specific topic area), starting with Google Health have been going around for a while now, but Kevin Maney of USA Today is reporting that it could be coming very soon. He interviewed Marissa Mayer (VP Search Products and User Experience) and she said "Health is an interesting one -- keep your eye out for that next week." Next week means the annual Google Press Event, happening on the 10th. Although it might not be released on the 10th, presumably journalists will be given a good look.

Moving into verticle search is a good idea for Google. To fulfil their goal of 'organising the world's information' they will have to expand on their current searching technology, as it simply does not perform as well as a verticle search engine ever can on topics like health, because although it can calculate the rough importance of a page through PageRank, it cannot adequately judge what the page is about, only the word content and it's rough placement.

So, for example, a blog post on a famous blog (with a high PageRank) entitled Back Pain, moaning about the terrible back pain inflicting him/her, would be judged both important by Google from the PageRank and to be about back pain, which although it is, it is not a desirable search result for a user searching for back pain cures.

More on this story from InsideGoogle and TechCrunch.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Upgrade your Gmail!

I'd been suspicious for a long time. The Google Talk in Gmail and the Gmail Clips updates seemed to have been rolled out to US users, and yet I didn't know anyone who had had the updates. So, when a friend told me he'd managed to get the updates by changing the language setting from English UK to English US, I wasn't very surprised.

Now I've got the updates, and I can finally say they're good! I am seriously annoyed with Google though, for blatant discrimination against UK users. There's no possible reason for it, other than probably some Googler forgetting about us. I hope, in future, that Google will not behave in such an irritating way, because if they do this on a larger scale, with a bigger improvement (for example, not making GDrive available) then there could be a lot of grumpy UK users. And we're very good at being grumpy! (Only joking, we're nice really!)

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Office 2007 Glass screenshots

Office 2007 seems to be making some good progress in the area of user interface. The Unofficial Windows Vista Weblog reports that there are some screenshots of what the latest versions of Microsoft Office Word and Office Excel look like when run on Windows Vista.

They now incorporate the 'glass' feature of the Windows Vista interface, so they look a lot more native to Vista; whereas previously Office 2007 looked a bit out of place on the Windows Vista desktop.

Check out the screenshots: Word | Excel

Cracking down on US campus piracy

The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) now seem to be targeting American universities in their latest effort to crack down on illegal file sharing.

They have sent joint letters to over 40 universities, acknowledging their efforts to crack down on campus piracy, but saying that more needs to be done.

The RIAA and MPAA are dedicated to fighting piracy, but they are unlikely to ever stop it completely, or even get anywhere near that point. Even with the new technologies included with new media formats (digital rights management on music downloads and copy protection on HD-DVD/Blu-ray discs), in time, these measures will just be circumvented as their predecessors once were.

And of course, they get plenty of opposition too...

Monday, May 01, 2006

IE7 and Google

A row has broken out between Microsoft and Google over the way IE7 choses which search engine is default. The New York Times is reporting [subscription needed - use BugMeNot] that Google has even gone as far as talking to the US Department of Justice over what it sees as an antitrust breach, and quotes Marissa Meyer (VP Search Products and User Experience) as saying:

"The market favors open choice for search, and companies should compete for users based on the quality of their search services. We don't think it's right for Microsoft to just set the default to MSN. We believe users should choose."

IE7 decides which search engine should be default by looking at which search engine is used by the IE6 AutoSearch feature when the user is upgrading, and using that. By default that search engine is set to MSN, so unless the user has installed a piece of software which changes the default (such as Google Toolbar) or their OEM or ISP has changed it, IE7 will use MSN as its default search engine, as it would take a very tech savvy user to change the settings without a program.

Microsoft has been really clever here. In the vast majority of cases, MSN will become the default search engine in IE7. However, Microsoft has engineered itself a strong defense against any antitrust proceedings which may be taken against it by being able to claim that it is using the users preferred search engine.

Google, however, is being ridiculous. It's not its proposed method of chosing the default search engine, which is to ask on install of IE7 which search engine the user would like to be default, but the fact that it is having the cheek to argue. Google does exactly what it is complaining that Microsoft does (namely setting the default search engine to itself) in not one, but two browsers. It has paid both the Mozilla Foundation and Opera vast sums of money for the privilege of being the default search engine for the search box, and it is Google's deal with Opera which enabled it to be offered for free without ads. And, as Phillip Lennsen points out, Google is currently promoting Firefox on its US homepage. I am amazed that the whole blogosphere is not shouting out 'hypocrisy' at Google. [UPDATE: They are! Just have a look at this post on InsideGoogle]

[More at the IE Team Blog, InsideGoogle and at Memeorandem.]

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Firefox Flicks Winners Announced

Mozilla have announced the winners to their 'Firefox Flicks' competition to come up with a video advertising Firefox.

The grand prize winner, "Daredevil," will be short-listed for the NY Festival of Advertising's 2006 International Advertising Awards in May, and the finalists' Firefox videos will be incorporated into Mozilla's 2006 marketing activities. The contest and today's announcement of the winners wrap up the initial launch of the Firefox Flicks campaign, which will continue throughout 2006.

The winner's video takes an interesting approach, with a 'daredevil' girl into surfing talking about her love, with the text 'my other browsers a surfboard. Get Firefox' coming up at the end. It's nicely done, but you can judge it for yourself:

Saturday, April 29, 2006


In the past few weeks, Scoble's been heavily promoting On10, a new website from Microsoft offering videos about technology. It seems a bit like Channel9 (the excellent, and very popular video website from MS aimed at techies and developers), except aimed at those with just a passing interest in technology, rather than an obsession.From the 0n10 website:

On10 is a place for people who want to use technology to change the world. Every weekday at 10:00 am (PST) we’ll update this site with a new video that highlights people, their passions and often the technology they are using. At the end of each week we compile these videos into a full length show with some extra surprises for you.In addition to the show, we're launching a number of blogs for the enthusiast covering a wide range of topics. Our blogs will be written by Microsoft employees, members of the 10 community or a mixture of both.

Welcome to the beginning of 10, the next step starts with you!

One of the features of On10 is the ability to stick their videos on your blog, like Google Video and YouTube, so just for the sake of it, here's a quite good video of Vista Scoble was talking about.

UPDATE: Video removed, it was causing 'issues'. You can view it here. In the mean time, On10 needs to sort this out!

It's a good way for MS to promote itself and improve its image with that all important target market of those people who are quite interested in technology but don't know vast amounts about it, and all-to-often (or maybe not) see Microsoft as a nasty big evil monopoly. They should do more of this stuff, maybe sponsering tech shows in the mainstream media in exchange for a chance to put across their products, in the hope of slowly eroding the image.

In other MS news, their appeal against the EU Commission is over, and they await judgement. If they lose, there's not much point worrying about image, because they've got the far bigger worry of millions of euros of fines per day, and compulsary sharing of information with competitors about their key architectures.


This week Microsoft released IE7 Beta 2. It's the third public build they've released (the other two being Beta 2 'Previews') and it is now said to be feature and layout complete. That means that it's not getting any more features and webpages look the same in it now as they will do when the final version is released. All I can say is, they've got a lot of bug fixing to do. I can't use IE7 for anything, as it is so unstable, on both my desktop and laptop. It crashes on Yahoo! Mail Beta and even on the MSN Videos site.

The good news is that MS is offering free telephone support to those trying the beta in the US and quite a few European countries. The bad news is it isn't available in the UK, so I can't ring them to sort out whatevever is causing the problem. I'm not running any particularly unusual software that could possibly be affecting the browser, and to be honest, by this point I would have expected the beta to be much more stable. Bon Echo, effectively Firefox 2 Alpha 1 is infinitely more stable, and I don't think that has crashed on me once. So it looks like I've made my decision as to which next-gen internet browser I'm using!

BT buys dabs.com

PC Pro are reporting that BT has picked up the UK-based online retailer Dabs.com. From a BT press release:

The move is part of BT’s strategy to strengthen its online sales and service
capabilities, particularly for small and medium-sized business and consumer products. To complement Dabs’ broad base of IT and technology products, BT will offer its full range of products and support services online – enhancing its position as a leading retailer of converged IT and communications products and services.

A spokesman has told PC Pro that BT will not rebrand Dabs.com, and it will remain a subsidiary. This move by BT shows that it is keen to move beyond its key business area of telecoms. This area of BT is under constant attack as Ofcom (the telecoms regulator in the UK) demands more and more 'demonopolisation' (not sure if that's a word!) with the unbundling of broadband connections in telephone exchanges, and the advance of rival telephone providers, such as TalkTalk. BT needs to find more areas to make money if it wants to survive.

Full BT Press Release

Friday, April 28, 2006

Revolution renamed Wii

No, there isn't a typo in the title. Nintendo have officially renamed their next-generation video games console, to Wii. Pronounced like "we", the new name has sparked some not-so-serious discussion about potential slogans ("Wii will wii will rock you").

Nintendo are saying this name change means that the new console will be recognised and understood in any language.

The Nintendo Wii will be Nintendo's way into the next generation console market, with Microsoft's Xbox 360 already released and Sony's PlayStation 3 set for this November.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Microsoft fights to keep secrets

According to the BBC, EU vs Microsoft continues (read up here).

Microsoft are now trying to fight the EU ruling that they must release information about how Windows works so that its competitors can more easily interoperate.

MS lawyers are saying:

The Windows source code is copyright. It is valuable, the fruit of lots of effort

While Europe say:

Microsoft are trying to turn this into an intellectual property case when it's not

The saga continues.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Free phone support on IE7 Beta 2

The BBC has a story that in the US, Germany and Japan, Microsoft are offering free telephone support to beta testers of Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2.

It seems Microsoft want to shift the focus of testing the beta now from developers to normal people. The pressure of increasing uses of alternative browsers such as Firefox, which now has around 10% of the browser market, seems to be forcing Microsoft to stir up interest in their new browser.

The beta is freely available to all users of Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows Server 2003, use the link above.

Monday, April 24, 2006

17" MacBook Pro announced

Apple have made a press release (and now you can see details on their website) that they are releasing a new version of their flagship notebook computer the MacBook Pro with a 17" LCD screen.

It includes three USB ports (compared with 2 on the 15" MacBook) and a Firewire 800 port in addition to the Firewire 400 port included as standard on the 15" MacBook Pro. It also has an 8x speed DVD writer (which now supports dual layer burning).

The new MacBook Pro still uses a dual-core 2.16 GHz processor, but nevertheless is a very powerful and stylish notebook. It comes with Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and iLife 06 and will set you back £1,999 ($2,799 in the US).

Sunday, April 23, 2006

New Vista screenshots

There are some new screenshots of the latest test version of Windows Vista (build 5365), now available for viewing here.

Unfortunately, there aren't many new features, as now the focus on the development of Windows Vista is on making what is already there as stable as possible, ready for the release in early 2007.

Having said that, features like the Windows Sidebar and User Account Protection are looking a lot more complete, but why not see the screenshots for yourself?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

PS2 price cut in US

Sony have slashed the price of their PlayStation 2 console in the USA to $130 (about £73), down around $20. This looks like another move showing that the PS3 console will hopefully be launching soon, after long waiting. The console is planned to be launched in November this year after many delays.

"While we continue to innovate and design groundbreaking new products, we remain dedicated to our long-term vision for the PlayStation 2 platform..."
Apparently, Sony haven't officially given up on the PS2 just yet then.

Unfortunately, Sony have no plans to modify the current UK price of £104.99.

Monday, April 17, 2006

New codename for Vista's successor

Apparently, an insider inside Microsoft has said that the successor to Windows Vista has a brand new codename.

We've already had the suggestions of 'Blackcomb' and 'Vienna', but this time the future of Windows is going to be called Fiji.

Obviously, this is a codenamed (like the 'Longhorn' codename for Vista), and will not reflect the final name for the product.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

High-def copy protection 'hackable'

Freedom to Tinker have a blog post about how HDCP copy protection works and how it might be possible to break it. HDCP copy protection is the next-generation copy protection used in high definition media setups (for example, HD DVD and Bluray discs to HDTVs) which will prevent the media content being copied through the cable using a device.

It is a bit complex, but in this article it has been distilled down quite well, so if you're fairly technically competent and have reasonable maths skills, you might be able to get the gist of it.

The remaining question is, how long will HDCP last before a mainstream crack becomes available? The Content Scrambling System pioneered on DVDs promised a lot, but it wasn't long before people just copied the protection codes from a legitimate DVD player and created decryption software.

Firefox released

Mozilla have released a small update to their flagship Firefox browser.

The new update, version, includes some important security fixes, some bug fixes and on the Mac OS X Platform, Firefox is now a Universal Binary (it runs on both Intel and PowerPC-based Macs).

If you're a Firefox user, get it now.

Friday, April 07, 2006

.eu goes live

You can now officially buy a .eu domain name (if you live in Europe, of course). According to BBC News, the 'sunrise' period where companies can snap up domain names with their trademarks in has passed. So, go out and buy the really good .eu domain names while they last. Because, they won't.

Germany have registered the most .eu domain names so far, followed by the Netherlands, France and then the UK.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Apple Boot Camp Installation Video

Just a quick follow up from the post about Apple Boot Camp. UNEASYSilence have a really cool video on how Apple's Boot Camp bootloader is installed. It's about 8 minutes long.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Apple Boot Camp

Apple have officially released Boot Camp, a public beta version of a patch to make Intel-powered Macs to run Windows. Yes, you read that correctly, Apple released a patch to run Windows on the Mac.

The patch works a bit like the hacked-up bootloader for Windows XP, developed by some enthusiasts to try and get Windows running on some Macs, which was largely a success. Boot Camp, however, provides a GUI (graphical user interface) for installing Microsoft Windows alongside Mac OS X. From the official Apple press release:

Available as a download beginning today, Boot Camp allows users with a Microsoft Windows XP installation disc to install Windows XP on an Intel-based Mac®, and once installation is complete, users can restart their computer to run either Mac OS® X or Windows XP. Boot Camp will be a feature in '“Leopard',” Apple'’s next major release of Mac OS X, that will be previewed at Apple'’s Worldwide Developer Conference in August.
So in Mac OS X Leopard, you will have a dual boot system built directly into the Mac operating system. Apple go on to say that:

"Apple has no desire or plan to sell or support Windows, but many customers have expressed their interest to run Windows on Apple'’s superior hardware now that we use Intel processors," said Philip Schiller.

This seems quite a big step to take for Apple, who seem to be embracing the idea that people will switch to Mac if they can run their Windows applications at the same time. Robert Scoble (a Microsoft employee) seems to think that Apple are listening to bloggers, and have made this decision as a direct result of what people want, thinking it might boost Mac sales.

Will it boost Mac sales, and get more people using Macs? Or will people just buy nice-looking hardware to run Windows on? It seems only time will tell what this momentous move by Apple will do for it, or against it. No official word from Microsoft about this yet, but I'll follow up when there's news.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Google Related Links

Google has launched Related Links today in the Labs. It had been seen around the place before, but it's now official. It allows site owners to put different variants of this box on their site.
[picture off Google Blogoscoped because I couldn't get JavaScript to work on Blogger]

It's not a particularly exciting launch, but it will probably have a reasonable takeup. For Google it's quite a good move. They get (all but) free advertising for their searches and news, which in turn gains them market share and converts into ad revenue. Philipp at Google Blogoscoped reckons that Google might look at putting AdWords on there at some point in the future, but I doubt that, as it would deter many publishers from using them and Google will already be getting some ad revenue from the search result page ads. It's more likely that they will put an optional Froogle module on it.

Apple ship major Tiger update

Apple have just released an update (10.4.6) to their Mac OS X system for users of the latest version, Tiger (version 10.4.x).

It fixes some bugs, patches some security holes, improves some of Mac OS' featurs and includes a whole new version of their iSync application. It's been released for both Intel and PowerPC-powered Macs, not as a Universal Binary, but as two separate downloads.

Apparently, it spooked one PowerBook user, as the PowerPC version of the update restarts the Mac twice, where the Intel version restarts only once.

Apple users can get the update through Mac OS X Software Update or from the Apple website.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Windows OneCare Live

[Picture from winsupersite.com]

As part of Microsoft's new 'Windows Live' marketing push, they are marketing a new complete security solution for Microsoft Windows XP and Windows Vista, called Windows OneCare Live. It will provide antivirus, firewall , antispyware and backup capabilites, all easily accessible to view and control from one OneCare centre. The beta is free (US only, however) and apparently gets you a discount on the product when it does finally come out.

This looks like Microsoft branching out into the (large) sphere of Windows security products out there. It looks like they will try and take on the big players like Symantec and McAfee, and are marketing OneCare Live as a separate product, as the EU would not be happy if Microsoft included it in Vista.

(On a completely different topic, there's a very complete list of all April Fool's Jokes this year here on Wikipedia).

Revolution will have SD and USB

Engadget is reporting that the Revolution will have an SD card slot, as well as a USB socket to enable external hard drives.

It doesn't look like the Revolution will have all the media features of the Xbox and PS3, but it will be significantly cheaper, and the lack of an internal hard drive or massive media support is probably part of an attempt by Nintendo to keep costs to an absolute minimum, enabling them to significantly undercut their competitors and market using a 'just games' approach. It's their best chance of success, 'cos the Revolution certainly can't compete with the other two on power.

Beating Google

Scoble has a post on what he thinks of Ask.com, formerly Ask Jeeves, and he talks about how he rates search engines:

Here's the first test I use to decide whether a search engine (that is relevancy based like Google, Yahoo, MSN, or Ask) deserves praise over Google: put in my last name and see if it ranks that properly. Why does that matter? Cause I have thousands of inbound links.

It set me thinking about how one decides how good a search engine is. I suppose the ultimate test would be the extent to which, over time, the right information was delivered when searched for. However, even that test is flawed because there would be an element of the user changing to fit the search engine as well as the sheer impracticality of comparing search engines that way.
One way that might work better is to come up with some program that automatically searches search engines for a specific information, when it already knows what that information is. Essentially what Scoble's doing. But then there's another problem. There are two possible types of webpage wanted when the search string 'scoble' is typed in. Not only Scoble's site, but possibly also the site that has the best and most reliable information on Scoble. It's just an example, but I think the point clear.

Probably the future of effective search lies in not only ranking the pages, which is what Google is good at, but in working out what the pages mean and what type of information the user is looking for, over and above the search string. The ability to test search results reliably is the only way that search engines can improve, and the winner of the quest to test the best may well also be the one that finally beats Google, unless Google get there first, of course.

MS Virtual Server to support Linux

It has been revealed that in Microsoft's new release of their Virtual Server 2005 product, they will support Linux running as a virtual machine for the first time.

Virtualisation software, such as MS Virtual Server, VMware and Xen allows multiple 'guest' virtual computers to run on one physical machine. It's useful for testing new software on multiple platforms and for spreading the load on overstreched servers.

It's been almost traditional that Microsoft's Virtual Server product only fully supported Windows as a guest operating system for Virtual Server, but it seems they are about to change that. This is probably a response to the growing dominance of VMware, which works on Windows and Linux physical machines and hosts both Windows and Linux 'guests'. VMware also released a beta of a free version of their server product, for Windows and Linux which can be downloaded here.

Microsoft also announced that Virtual Server will be built into their next server operating system, currently still codenamed Windows Longhorn Server (but will probably be called Windows Server 2007). This is also to rival VMware's free product.

This news comes just as the open source Xen virtualisation software is branching out to run on Windows platforms, as it currently only works on Linux (but is already built into SUSE Linux and Red Hat Enterprise Linux).

Saturday, April 01, 2006


Looks like Goowy is getting round to its much-anticipated upgrades, including support for lots of different IM systems as well as its own new one, and online storage, provided by the box.net API, with users getting 1GB for free and being able to pay for extra.

I've talked about Goowy before, and I think it could potentially be a very promising service if it successfully sorts out it's performance and occasional usability issues. It also urgently needs some extra widgets, so it should open up its system to other developers to solve that problem. With these new features, Goowy is definitely a Web 2.0 mover to watch.

Slashdot repositions

CmdrTaco, one of the people who run Slashdot, posted this message this morning:
Our marketing department has done extensive research over the last 3 quarters and discovered that our audience is strangely disproportionately skewed towards males. Like, 98.3% males to be precise. To correct this oversight, we have decided to subtly tweak Slashdot's design and content to widen our appeal to these less active demographics. Don't worry! We'll still continue to serve our core audience, but we hope you'll work with us as we try to find a balance that will work for all.
To that end, they have decided to do a little tweaking of their colour scheme:

and have added the strapline 'OMG, Ponies!' below their logo.

They have also found it necessary to change the style of their headlines, with wordings today including





All lovely!

Google's April Fool's joke

I predicted they would do one and they did.

I won't spoil the fun for those of you that haven't seen it yet, but here it is. (It's also on the Google homepage.)

Friday, March 31, 2006

New Yahoo Mail Beta

Yahoo have released a beta of their Yahoo Mail webmail interface to Yahoo Mail users, it asked me whether I wanted to try the beta when I signed in recently. It uses Ajax, meaning that the interface is very slick and doesn't need to reload the page to do most things. It looks like a response to Google's Gmail, which has led in the area of webmail interface usability for some time. It may also be a response to the Windows Live Mail Beta, Microsoft's up-and-coming version of Hotmail, which also uses an Ajax interface.

In my opinion, at the moment I prefer the Yahoo Mail Beta to Windows Live Mail Beta, it has a nicer-looking interface and it works in both Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer, where Windows Live Mail at the moment only works in IE.

The question is, will Gmail be rivalled by this new version of Yahoo Mail? Or even Windows Live Mail?

What will Google do this year?

Tomorrow is April Fool's Day and now the question is what Google will do this year.

Famously, Google have always done something for April Fool's Day. They famously created a page detailing their search technology, and also recently released Gmail on April Fool's Day, prompting people to wonder whether it was a prank or not. Apparently it wasn't.

Will they release a new product tomorrow? Will it be GDrive, Google Calendar or something else??

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Unofficial patches for IE flaw released

To follow up from this post about new security flaws being found in Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, it seems third parties have leapt to the rescue and released patches.

Security companies Determina and eEye Digital Security

EU not happy about Vista's bundled features

Now just before I start, can I say that this story is likely to be highly speculative, and as yet there has been no confirmation by Microsoft of this report. If there are any updates about whether this is true or false (especially considering the 60% of Vista controversy), I'll follow up this post.

EU told Microsoft it had Vista competition concerns [at Unofficial Windows Vista Weblog] [at Yahoo News]

There have been some rumours that the EU Commission are threatening to block European sales of Microsoft's upcoming Windows Vista operating system if it includes certain features as standard, bundled with Windows.

EU spokesman Jonathan Todd was quoted as saying:

"We are concerned about the possibility that the next Vista operating system will include various elements which are currently available separately from Microsoft or other companies,"

I wouldn't go as far as the Windows Vista Weblog have gone in saying that they might block Vista in the EU, I think, if this story is correct, that it's more likely that Microsoft may have to remove some of Vista's new features from European markets (like the 'N' EU-only editions of Windows XP, bundled without Windows Media Player).

So, don't take this as fact (as I've probably reiterated too many times already), but it certainly may force Microsoft to change their strategy, at least in Europe.

Anyway, here's my personal take on this story, but make of it what you will.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


I have been wondering for some time why Bloglines seems to be the feed aggregator of choice for many people. It is buggy, often showing old items as new, it has a primitive interface and is short on features. Despite this, it is the market leader. I think the reason for this situation is a lack of decent competition. There's Google Reader, which offers even fewer features, a silly UI and lots of bugs, as well as countless other competitors, but none stand out.

That is, apart from Reblog. I discovered it recently on Lifehacker, and whilst I failed to install the Open Source code on my server, I have managed to use its hosted service. Reblog is buggy, but it is early stage OS software, so that is to be expected. It works by splitting up your newsreading in two; skim reading, and then reading in depth. You look through all your incoming news, quickly selecting options using the keyboard to archive, follow links, or most importantly, publish. The publish option publishes the item to a users 'reblog', where it can be read in greater detail later. I can now spend much less time reading news because I don't read everything I'm not interested in. I also pick up more stories as I feel able to subscribe to more feeds as I am now more efficient. My reblog can be found here.

The 'reblog' idea has greater potential, beyond just the user's benefit. If it were possible to subscribe to feeds within Digg, with the publish option either submitting the story or a digg of the story if it had already been submitted, then an extremely powerful Web 2.0 'reblog' community could be formed.

The other direction RSS is going is on the desktop. Obviously there's Microsoft's strides forward in the area, and there seems to be a new feed aggregator released daily, all with slightly different takes. Ultimately some sort of fusion of the 'Web 2.0 approach' and the Microsoft approach (a unified system based on an 'RSS platform') will provide the best future for feeds.

Why Windows is so slow

Windows Is So Slow, but Why?

This article by the New York Times is quite interesting, and it looks at why Windows can be so slow. Before people jump the gun, it's not an anti-Microsoft, anti-proprietary article, read it if you want.

It says that one of the main reasons that Windows is so bloated (with Vista set to have about 4 times as many lines of code as XP) is that it keeps backward compatibility with old software and hardware.

The interesting comparison that they made here was with Apple and Mac OS. In 2001, Apple bit the bullet with Mac OS X. They basically rebuilt the whole operating system from scratch (OK, not quite, but you get the idea) and built it on a foundation of Unix. It was a major change in the way Mac OS worked, and none of the Mac OS Classic applications ran on it (you had to run a 'Classic' virtual machine).

XP was also a big step forward in the evolution of Windows, being the first consumer Windows OS to ditch the ageing 95/98/Me setup and go for a Windows NT-style setup. But the support for 95/98/Me applications is still there today, and although that is a good thing, it does make Windows more bloated, and hence slower.

I think that the question is, will Windows change like OS X did? With the release of Windows XP Professional x64 Edition (the version of XP for 64-bit processors) and with Windows Vista being released for both x86 (current generation Intel and AMD CPUs) and x64, we may well see older applications losing support and perhaps evolution on the Windows platform. Through that, Microsoft might not see the need to keep lines and lines of code to run legacy Windows applications, and hopefully, Windows speeds up a bit.

But will Microsoft ever do an OS X and completely overhaul everything? Will it be Vienna (the codename for the successor to Vista) that brings about this change? My answer, I don't know.

Monday, March 27, 2006

More bugs in IE found

Microsoft have announced that they have discovered more security flaws in their Internet Explorer browser for Windows. One of these vulnerabilites simply causes the browser to crash, but some of the others could be used to gain complete control of a victim's computer.

These bugs affect versions 5.x and 6.x of Internet Explorer, but not the recent 7.0 Beta. So, needless to say, patch up as soon as they release the update (which should be 11th April), regardless of which browser you use. The reason behind this is that applications use the Internet Explorer framework (such as Outlook Express), even if you use an alternative browser for day-to-day browsing (like Firefox).

There's an interesting story about this exploit here.

PS3 online service being prepared

Sony are planning to build an online service, similar to Microsoft's Xbox Live, on their upcoming PlayStation 3 console.

It will allow gamers to download games direct to the PS3's hard drive. Like the new Xbox Live service with the Xbox 360, the basic service will be free to all PS3-owners, but to play games online a subscription will be required.

The PS3 will still be subject to the delay, and won't ship until November this year, because of the issues with Blu-ray disc copy protection.

This certainly will be a formidable rival to the Xbox 360, however, with Sony already owning the majority of the video games console market.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Vista not being rewritten

Robert Scoble (who works for Microsoft) rather forcefully refutes the allegation that 60% of the code for Windows Vista was being hurriedly rewritten in these two posts:

Whenever you see a story that says 60% of any OS is gonna be rewritten you should demand that the journalist who wrote that be immediately and publicly fired. Totally 100% incompetent. Did NOT do their homework.

There is NO WAY a major OS can be rewritten without breaking everything and certainly not in a short time frame. Such a rewrite would take a decade to make work right and I doubt it would even after that.

He goes on to say:

A journalist and an editor needs to be fired.

In fact, two journalists and editors need to be fired since the story is now being rewritten without any brains being engaged.

Whilst Scoble is obviously biased, I can see his point that it would be completely implausable for Vista to be rewritten to that extent by January 2007. The story is made more unlikely by the widely known fact that Vista has already been rewritten to a large extent, after the lead developer burst into Bill Gate's office one day to tell him that it simply wasn't going to work. I think this type of story was inevitable after Microsoft delayed Vista, and that it is a symptom of the widespread irritation and disappointment.

Office 2007 delayed

Peter posted that Microsoft has delayed Vista the other day, and now it looks like Office is being delayed as well. That's odd because the Office team has a reputation for being good at getting products out on time to a high standard, but they've obviously failed this time with Office coming out in January 2007, at about the same time as Vista. And that's only if the deadline doesn't slip more.

This is a problem for Microsoft; InsideMicrosoft's Nathan Weinberg sums up the general feeling of intense disappointment in Microsoft. This feeling matters because Office is by quite a distance Micrsoft's biggest earner, and competition to Office is really hotting up, on the desktop and potentially more lethally for Microsoft online, with the emergence of services such as Writely (recently aquired by Google), Zoho writer, iRows and Thumbstacks. I would have thought that Microsoft would be in a great hurry to bring out Office 2007 with its greatly improved functionality and usability to attempt to stop the growth in market share of these services, and then kill them by making Office Live the best online office suite available. Well, that's what I would be trying to do if I were in charge.

Lets just hope that Microsoft manages to satisfy the expectations of the new products, 'cos if they don't, they've got problems.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

BBC to show World Cup in Germany in HD

The BBC are going to screen the upcoming football World Cup in high definition TV (HDTV), as part of their trial of HDTV services which will last for about a year.

The HD pictures will only be viewable by people who own HD-compatible TVs and a set-top box with a HD-compatible service, such as Sky (a satellite TV provider). Unfortuantely programmes in the high definition format can't be streamed over Freeview, the free digital TV service, due to limited airspace, although there will be a trial of HD Freeview in some areas of London.

Along with the World Cup, the BBC plan to release programmes like Planet Earth in HD as well.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

BREAKING NEWS - Nathan Weinberg's Google Pebble arrives

Well, not really breaking, but very exciting! InsideGoogle's Nathan Weinberg ordered a pebble off Google Base using Google's new payment system (just because he could!). It arrived, and his blog shows it off in glorious technicolour.

If Google Payments can work for a pebble, PayPal better watch out!

Apple attack French DRM law

What did I tell you?

Following up from this story, it seems as I predicted, Apple aren't too happy about the proposed law by French MPs to force companies to open up their DRM systems.

They even gave a statement saying that the law would result in "state sponsored piracy":

iPod sales will likely increase as users freely load their iPods with "interoperable" music which cannot be adequately protected. Free movies for iPods should not be far behind in what will rapidly become a state-sponsored culture of piracy...

Surely the idea of opening up the technology will allow the content to be "adequately protected", as the copy protection would be built into the iPod? Or is it just that Apple don't want WMA files being played on iPods...

Anyway, no doubt there will be more on this story, considering Microsoft haven't said anything yet.

Google Reader adds sharing

Google Reader, Google's news feed aggregator, today added support for the sharing of feeds. From the blog:

You can send a link to your starred items in Reader, or you can put aclip on your blog with recent items from your reading list (as shown below).

Additionally, if you use the tagging labelingfeature of Reader, you can label items and share them. For instance, Imark all of the blogs I read from my hipster friends in Reader 'hipsters' (if my hipster friends aren't your speed try my tech list).Even if your friends use a feed reader other than Google Reader, wewon't be upset. You can direct them to a feed of any of your shared labels.

You control the privacy or shared nature of your lists. To begin sharing your reading lists or add a clip to your blog, go to reader.google.com and open the Share tab. Check the 'shared' check box to opt-in to sharing your starred items or selected labels. Enjoy!

I think this potentially really moves Google reader on. It has become known as more of a study in how to use AJAX rather than a popular and useful tool, with the vast majority those people who do read RSS feeds prefering Bloglines (including me). With this new feature, however, Google Reader has stolen a march on Bloglines, which only allows sharing of feeds or feed items via email. If Google can manage to create a news reading community of people always swapping individual feeds via their aggregator rather than their email client then they have a way of drawing more and more people into their service. Having said that, Google Reader still has a long way to go before it has a decent market share, and feeds have a long way to go before they are common practice on the internet.

Microsoft delays Vista

Microsoft have pushed back the release date for their next-generation operating system, Windows Vista, to January 2007. This could prove disastrous, considering that this move will move Windows Vista's release past the Christmas buying rush, meaning that Microsoft's sales may be hit. Also, PC manufacturers (OEMs) will not be able to sell the new PCs running Vista, so they may also be hit by this move as well. Interestingly, though, Microsoft are allowing some of the business versions of Windows Vista to be released to companies in November 2006.

UPDATE: Huw here. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Microsoft is fiddling around with the Windows Division Management. Obviously Ballmer (Microsoft CEO) and Gates (you know who he is!) aren't happy with the Windows Divison performance, and are moving in Steve Sinofsky, formerly of the Office Division to lead Windows Development, presumably in the hope that he will instill some of the promptness and urgency shown by the Office teams in recent years when providing updates.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Lighting 0.1 released - a chance to look at calendars

Mozilla has released a 0.1 version of Lighting, a calendar extension for it's mail client, Thunderbird. A Calendar component already exists, as well as a standalone product called Sunbird, so I'm not sure I entirely understand why everyone is so excited.

I don't think that Lightning really a new product line, more of an evolution from the previous products, but it raises an interesting debate about which sort of calendar is better - online or offline. Online calendars like 30boxes have a few advantages. Firstly, they are easily accessable from multiple locations and ,potentially, devices. As they are on a webserver they can be accessed from any computer connected to an internet, and making them viewable on a mobile phone or PDA is as easy as providing an alternative stylesheet. They are also probably better suited to sharing calendars, as friends' online calendars can be synchronised and updated from each other easily.

However, offline calendars also have advantages. Despite recent advances in web technology (eg AJAX) offline UIs can be more complex and 'slicker' than their online counterparts. The look and feel of the calendar is not constrained by the browser rendering engine, and remains constant across one operating system. They are also likely to have more features as the architecture to provide them can be simpler and requires no ongoing cost to the developer.

The two options need not be mutually exclusive. With syncronisation feeds being built into more calendar tools and offering more power, there is no particular reason not to have an online calendar which feeds to an offline calendar. Then you get the best of both worlds.

[Maybe I'll do a review at some point, but in the meantime, 30boxes is an excellent calendar tool and offers a whole load of the syncronisation features I was talking about]

MSN search is allowed on Blogger

I found this post on Blogger Buzz (the official blog of Blogger) responding to the recent furory about a blogger being told he had to remove MSN Search from his blog quite reassuring:

  • You have always been able to run non-Google services on your blog. In the same way you can use Yahoo's Flickr to post photos to your blog, you can include an MSN Search box in your template. We consider it a violation of the terms to modify the Blogger navbar, but that's not what was reported to have happened here.

  • We did not send a request to have the MSN Search box removed. We reviewed the information that's been made available, and we found no such request from our support teams.

  • We did not delete nor remove the blog in question from Blog*Spot.

  • I think it's very important that companies don't start restricting the use of competitor's services on their own services, as it would create an artificial market, possibly leading to a monopoly caused not by the overwhelming merit of a company or service above that of its competitors but because it was reasonably popular and had the strictest policies in stopping the use of competitors services.

    French MPs vote to open up DRM

    French parliament have backed a draft law which would force companies like Apple, Sony and Microsoft to reveal the secrets of their proprietary copy protection and digital rights management (DRM) systems.

    Their idea is to open up the standards so that any music downloaded from any online music store can be played on any portable music player. Apple will certainly not be happy about this, as it seems to be their strategy to lock iTunes downloads so they only play on Apple iPod devices. Microsoft do have their proprietary DRM format, Windows Media Audio DRM, but they license this to hardware manufacturers (so WMA files play on Creative players, iRiver devices, different manufacturers). This is a bit like the situation with Windows and Mac OS, Microsoft allow any hardware manufacturers' products to run Windows, where Apple limit it to running on Apple hardware.

    Nevertheless, I doubt that Microsoft will be happy to open up their source code, considering their stance on the European anti-trust case(s), so it will remain to be seen what the response by these major companies is if this law goes through.

    Monday, March 20, 2006

    XP on Mac not such a good idea after all

    Engadget is reporting that Windows doesn't have the necessary fan drivers to run the fans on the Intel Macs, with a risk of overheating:

    According to a thread on MacRumors, the current XP install doesn't include a fan driver, which means your Mac's fan never goes on. That may not be a big issue if you're using an iMac for limited periods in a well-ventilated space, but if you're planning on running XP on a MacBookPro, you may find things getting mighty hot. We're not dissing narf and blanka here; they won the contest and deserve their $13,000. But you may want to be a little careful before trying out their solution at home.

    I can imagine this causing a few fried CPUs until someone makes a driver, which fortunately probably won't take very long. This sort of bug serves to bring those of us excited at the prospect of running Windows on our Macs back down to earth with the realisation that, even if it is possible to install Windows, it might prove very difficult to actually run it. I hope that someone sorts out all the potential bugs promptly, 'cos I would so love a Mac that can run Windows too!

    Firefox 2.0 Alpha 1 released

    The first release on the testing cycle that will culminate in the next version of Firefox was made available today. In other words, Mozilla released an early test of the next version of Firefox. Normally an Alpha should be approached with caution as they can be unstable, but this release seems to be fairly stable. Codenamed 'Bon Echo' (no, I don't know why either), it has several new features well worth a look. The improvements fall into two main categories; Bookmarks and everything else.

    The Bookmarking system in Bon Echo has been completely redesigned, and is called Places. It's built on some kind of new architecture (SQL-lite) that apparently gives it better performance. It also enables the program to store more information efficiently. Each time a page is visited, the time is logged, and so it is possible see how frequently pages are visited over time. In turn, this allows clever features such as special 'queries'. In other words, it would be possible to create a query of 'My favourite 20 pages' and the Places system work this out for you. As in previous versions it is also possible to search the bookmarks, and don't fear because existing bookmarks will be imported into the places system when you upgrade.

    Last release the development team spent little time on the UI, chosing to concentrate instead on the rendering engine (the bit that actually displays the site). This time they have worked harder on the UI, producing some good improvements, particularly in the area of tabbed browsing, where they've added a close button on every tab (although an extension was already available to do that) and clarified how they think users would like tabs to behave.

    The development team is beefing up the security around extensions. If you aren't a Firefox user, extensions are little programs written by third-party developers which add functionality to Firefox. The Mozilla developers are concerned that extensions could be used as a way to gain control of the browser and ultimately execute arbitary code on a user's computer. This has not happened to date, and so the improved security features are primarily a precaution, but a wise one.

    Feed handling has also been changed, with the wiki talking of features such as the ability to use Firefox to subscribe to feeds in third-party news readers, including web-based products such as Bloglines. I don't think this area is completely feature complete in 2.0a1, but with the involvement of players such as Microsoft showing how feeds are becoming more central to how users consume the internet, Mozilla is right to be treating it as an important issue.

    In summary, if you are an enthusiastic Firefox user (like me), you should definitely look at downloading Bon Echo, as it seems to be perfectly stable and does offer some exciting new features. If you're yet to get excited by Firefox, download the current program, 1.5 here, which is still better than Internet Explorer 6 and 7 in my opinion, and probably Opera. At the moment the release is not linked to on Mozilla's website, but it can be downloaded from their FTP site here.