Friday, March 31, 2006
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?
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
He goes on to say:
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.
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.
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
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
If Google Payments can work for a pebble, PayPal better watch out!
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.
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.
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
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]
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 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
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!
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.
Be the first to get the latest preview build of IE7 Work with the members of the Internet Explorer team in the Compatibility Lab to get your site ready for IE7 Test drive "Atlas," Microsoft's powerful new framework for building cross–browser, cross–platform AJAX applications Explore Windows Live!, Microsoft's new consumer services strategy Learn how to deliver revolutionary, media–rich Web content with the new Windows Presentation Foundation Find out how to extend your content, media and services into the living room with Windows Media Center and Xbox 360™ More than 50 separate sessions and discussions for Web developers, designers and business professionals
They are using it to show to the world how serious they are about web services, that is applications delivered dynamically over the internet as opposed to conventional applications stored on a user's computer. To that end they've been showing everyone 'Atlas', their AJAX developing system. Bill Gates gave a keynote earlier today extolling the virtues of Microsoft's new approach to the internet, as well as the usual chatter about forthcoming releases.
If you're particularly interested in more of the happenings at MIX06, there's a load of stuff on Microsoft's Channel9 website here and some Flickr photos here.
You also don't have to be at MIX to get the new build of IE7, and it is downloadable here. It isn't really a major release, just a few bugfixes (such as the inability to use Blogger) which had been irritating users. When I first installed it it was incredibly unstable, lasting on average about 30 seconds before crashing, but it seems to be better now, and so probably is worth downloading. More information at the IE7 blog.
ATI's new FireGL range is the first ATI graphics card range to support DirectX Shader Model 3.0, a really cool technology that allows much more complex lighting effects. Nvidia cards have supported DX Shader 3.0 since the top-end cards of their 5000 series, and all cards in their 6000 and 7000 series. This means that until now mid-range Nvidia cards such as the Geforce 6600, have supported Shader Model 3.0, where even the top ATI cards have not.
The specifications of the FireGL V7350 are pretty impressive, with 16 pixel shader processors and 8 vertex engines, meaning that the cards can churn out high-resolution, high-fidelity graphics even faster than their predecessors.
The V7350 model is currently priced at around $1,999 (about £1,100) and the slightly lower-spec V7300 goes for $1,599 (about £900).
Sunday, March 19, 2006
A quiz where you have to decide whether a name is a Web 2.0 company or a Star Wars character. It is surprisingly tricky!
I got 27, and Michael Arrington (Mr Web 2.0) got 35.
The way to go about it is to try and spot Web 2.0 buzzwords in the names (eg. 'tag'). Give it a go, and realise how silly the names have got.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Just spotted this in the ads on chait.net. It's not really news, but I find it somewhat ironic that over a year after Steve Ballmer (Microsoft CEO) screamed that he was going to 'kill Google' his company is quite happily contributing to their biggest revenue stream. I suppose that Google uses Windows, Microsoft Office and a whole load of other Microsoft products though...
More alarmingly, however, another judge in America has ruled that the entire contents of a Gmail account, including deleted items, must be given to the court. The lawyer for the owner of the account did manage to reduce that to emails which did not contain information which was too personal, but I would much rather that my Gmail account was not open to anyone getting emails out of it other than me. Unlike the previous judgement, I imagine this does affect UK users, as the data is held under the US, and so its disclosure is probably covered under US law rather than the law of the originating country. I could be wrong though.
I had a big surprise when I saw the costs:
With media costing that much, take up is going to be limited to obsessed early adopters for quite some time, which means that the real format war won't start until the prices are much lower, which I guess could be as much as a year or at most a couple.
Sony has priced its first desktop computer that will have a Blu-ray Disc burner. The drive will be able to write to 25GB and 50GB BD-RE (rewritable) and BD-R (write once) discs. Sony will start selling 25GB BD-RE and BD-R discs in April for $20 and $25 respectively and 50GB capacity versions of the same discs later in the year for $48 and $60 respectively.
Let battle commence!
On many aspects of this discussion I completely disagree. Here's my comment I posted on RealTechNews:
I donÂt understand why everyone hates DRM. In itself, DRM is not a bad thing. It is enabling content providers to feel happy about putting their content on the internet, thus opening up whole new business models such as subscription services that do suit large numbers of people. So long as there is a choice iee.Betweenn DRMed files and non-DRMed CDs) I cannot see a problem.
Instead of constantly vilifying DRM we should be working out ways to make it work effectively, ideally so that it does not noticably restrict what a user wants to do with their content and only kicks in when the user tries to do something either illegal or that they have contractually agreed not to do.
In this case music players and providers should be looking at new DRM technologies that simply require less power to decrypt. Anyone who wants to decrypt DRMdesperatelyy can anyway, so why not just encrypt it to 8-bits or something.
DRM in general is always going to be controversial, but I think that when used responsibly, DRM can be successful and actually beneficial to consumers.
AppleInsider are reporting that a month ago, Apple placed the 60GB iPod on a '60-day at risk' list. Apparently, this can mean that Apple is intending to change the price, change the product or, most excitingly, bring out a new product. There has been a ton of spectulation that Apple will introduce a new video iPod with a much larger touchscreen, and there has been an almost weekly fake of the product.
Despite the fakes, it would appear that this formfactor is the only way to go if Apple want to create a true video iPod, as it is the only way to have a big screen without compromising their famed usability. I just look forward to all those fingerprints...
Thursday, March 16, 2006
PCPro have a story that it has been proven possible to get viruses to spread via RFID tags.
An RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) tag is a small chip which constantly broadcasts a radio signal. Each chip broadcasts a different signal, so each chip can be uniquely identified. They are increasingly being used to track stock and goods in transit, as a base station can work out exactly where each piece of stock or goods is.
What this discovery by Dutch researchers means is that if a security flaw is found in the RFID software, malicious hackers could hack into one of these base stations and also be able to track all the stock. They would then be able to spread the virus to all of the RFID tags in its range, and track them too.
As yet, this is only a possibility and it would need a lot of things to come together exactly right for it to happen, but in the future, who knows if this will be exploited by malicious hackers to gain access to a warehouse's stock database or something more sinister?
Ever since narf posted that he'd managed to dual-boot Windows on a Mac, thus winning the $13,000 prize from windows.onmac.net, there's been loads of speculation of whether or not it was all a big con. Well, the solution has been verified and the files made available, along with a how to. They are available at these mirrors:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5
I'm not a mac owner, but if I had the money I would probably now go out and buy one. A big problem preventing Apple gaining a bigger market share is the percieved incompatibility issues between Windows and Mac. Regardless of which is actually a better OS (I don't think there's much doubt about that), people will be glad to have the option to have Windows on their beautiful, shining new Intel Mac. The next step is to somehow sort out the licences with Microsoft so that some company can make a complete installation CD, including the bootloader, an OEM Windows installation and tools such as an automatic partition resizer with full GUI so that non-techies can install Windows quite happily.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
The system will work by having a WiFi network on the coach, and then accessing the internet via 3G. At speeds of about 384 kbps it's nothing special, but with 3G speeds set to increase to 1.5 mbps soon, the service could improve. It will probably also cost money.
At just €89, their 'TV extender' product looks like a fully featured XP Media Center extender, bringing access to films, music and pictures to a TV. These products normally cost £100s, and are certainly a cheaper alternative to the Xbox 360, which many people were contemplating buying for its extender technologies.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
You can check out Google Mars here.
No, it doesn't have the cheese when you zoom in too far, like Google Moon.
Monday, March 13, 2006
Meebo launched in alpha form on 14/09/05. It provides web access through an AJAX interface to AIM, ICQ, Yahoo! Messenger, Jabber/GTalk and MSN. An impressive list, and their registration feature enables you to consolidate all of these accounts into one, so with one login you have access to all your contacts, as well as the soon-to-be added feature of saving preferences.
Also impressive is the extremely slick AJAX interface.
It is highly intuitive, and behaves in much the same way as the real MSN. Each of the chat windows can be moved around the page as easily as with traditional programs. The sidebar (also moveable) contains all of the contacts online, and it is possible to chat to them by double-clicking. There is support for different statuses, and the necessary notification when the the person you are talking to is typing is also there. Above all, there is no noticeable lag from it being web based, and the AJAX functions perfectly to ensure that a page refresh is never necessary.
Meebo is in full public alpha, with no invitations or waiting lists.
Mabber is a similar service only in that it provides web-based messenging for its own Jabber network as well as MSN, AIM, ICQ and Yahoo!, the noticeable absence being GTalk. With Mabber an account is essential, and once you have signed in you are presented with a page with some options on (add messengers, leave feedback and other settings and help) and a messenger window.
The chat window shows the transports (for other networks) and the contacts online. When a contact is double clicked, another window opens for a conversation. The multiple windows open make for a less slick UI than Meebo, and also make it slightly slower, as it takes a perceptible amount of time for each page to load and render, rather than the instantaneous response of Meebo. There are also less options for formatting of chat text and no emoticons, a missing feature that could annoy many people. Chats themselves are fast, and the system does show a notification when the other person is typing. In short, the UI of Mabber is, whilst competent and largely functional, not on the scale of the jaw-droppingly smooth Meebo interface.
However, this is entirely excusable, due to Mabber's killer feature. The flagship feature of the product is the ability to use a Java application on just about any modern phone to connect to your contacts. I have installed and used the program, and it does work well and is well designed. At the moment its usefulness is limited as none of my friends have Mabber on their phones so I can only talk from phone to computer, but if the service catches on and everyone has Mabber on their phones I can forsee it becoming a useful replacement to SMS.
In conclusion, Meebo and Mabber are both useful services, and which one you choose depends on what you need. If you are not a 'mobile person' but would sometimes find it useful to use IM from a computer without a client installed or you want all your contacts and chats in one place, accessable from everywhere, then you should choose Meebo. However, if you would appreciate the ability to 'go mobile' and have the ability to chat from your phone easilly, as well as a web interface them Mabber is for you. Or you could use both! Both services will be very strong, and I have no doubt they will attract a strong userbase. They certainly deserve to.
*Mabber is currently invite only. I have 10 invites, so as usual comment below to recieve them!
HD programmes are available via Telewest's Teleport on-demand service, which allows people to view and record programmes via their Telewest TV Drive (which works in a similar way to Sky+ and Freeview hard drive recorders, just in HD). The BBC are offering free programmes in the new high-definition format, which uses about four times as many pixels as a normal UK TV signal, and on-demand movies are soon to be added to the list of available HD broadcasts.
The TV Drive service will cost £10/month with Telewest's top digital channel pack, or £15/month otherwise, so it seems to be roughly equivalent in how it is charged to services such as Sky+.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
In depth: what can you do with FeedYes.com?
» Generate feeds for any website or specific page
» Save those feeds, so you can read them in any rss reader. One click adding.
» Syndicate those feeds: put the headlines on your own website
» Monitor websites realtime: always know the latest news from any webpage
They have some examples of what you can do with their technology:
|CBS Strange news||CBS has many feeds, but not for "strange news". We created it.|
|eBay search for Ferrari||Handy feed when you want to buy a Ferrari... toy. Took 10 seconds to create.|
|Pittsburgh Steelers News||The winner of the Super Bowl had no feed. Until FeedYes came along.|
|ATP tennis top 30||Tennis fanatic? In 15 seconds we created a feed for the top 30 players|
|MSNBC Palm Springs news||We found a page with local news, and got a feed for it.|
|Dr. Phil||Dr. Phil does not offer a feed. We made it for him.|
Of those I think the most interesting application is eBay. That is the use which could get the most people using the service, and with so many ways now to consume RSS feeds and the number increasing every day, FeedYes.com is a useful way to bridge the gap between where we are now, and the day when every non-static website will have feeds of some description.
Engadget has a story about fabric keyboards that could be used to make input into the new Origami devices that bit less fiddly. A picture of one is above, and it certainly looks very hip. I wonder how easy it would be to type on it, at least at any speed. The emerging of fabric keyboards is yet another attempt to solve the problem with small devices; how to input into them, and how to get data off them. It can be ridiculously difficult to interact with the interface of small devices to an efficient extent. Just think of your terror if you were told you had to type a 2000-word report on a Blackberry or a PDA. Many attempts have been made to solve the problem, with solutions such as keyboards which project onto a desk.
More interesting is how to get data off the devices, in other words, the screen. There are two interesting things happening in this area. Firstly, manufacturers are starting to look at sticking mobile projectors into phones. At the moment they're not very mobile, often having to be external to the phone and being brick-like in proportions, but the feeling is there that they could be a solution to the problem, allowing people to do things such as show off their photos taken with their phone realistically. The second interesting development is the idea is of flexible screens. These are possibly a more practical idea - you don't always have to find a wall to project onto. I can imagine quite happily getting out my flexible screen to read my morning headlines delivered to me by the (non-existent as yet) Underground Wi-Fi network as RSS feeds, and then rolling up the screen again to put it into my pocket.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
New Launches is reporting that Samsung have shown off a laptop using entirely flash memory. They have managed to pack 32GB of flash memory into the same space a 1.8" HDD. It cites the speed increase of the chips (able to boot Windows in 18s as opposed to 32s with a hard disk) and the noise reduction caused by the fact that there are no reasons. Obviously the laptop would also be more reliable as there would be no hard disk to fail, and power consumption may well be better as flash memory usually takes less electricity to read and write to, as there are no moving parts. There is, however, a significant downside; cost. Apparently, the flash chips alone cost $960, so it doesn't look like this laptop, or any other flash-based one for that matter, will be hitting the shops any time soon.
The EC antitrust case is about Microsoft being anti-competitive. They say that they are not allowing competing products to work together with Microsoft products.
It's claimed that Microsoft are using their monopoly of the desktop operating system market to try and also take the server market (with Windows Server) and the media player market (with Windows Media Player).
Microsoft Corporation broke European Union competition law by leveraging its near monopoly in the market for PC operating systems (OS) onto the markets for work group server operating systems and for media players.
Now the EC are saying that Microsoft have not done enough to allow competitors' products to 'talk' to Windows, and are accusing MS of 'dragging its heels' over the issue.
Considering that in Europe, Microsoft have already been forced to release Windows XP 'N' versions, without Windows Media Player bundled, it will be interesting to see how much more Europe will force Microsoft to do.
I've just been reading the Microsoft RSS Team Blog, and it contains some very interesting insight into how Microsoft are using RSS and what they are developing that uses it. A quick list here:
From early on, RSS has been heavily integrated into IE7. Following in Firefox's footsteps, Microsoft have added feed discovery to the list of features, making adding a feed as easy as clicking a button. They have also started to render Atom and RSS feeds. In other words, if you click on a feed URL in IE7 instead of seeing code you see a neatly presented rendering of the content, with titles etc. There is a feed sidebar acting as a news aggregator, in which you can place feeds, and read them easily from one place. Just the other day, Microsoft purchased Onfolio, a company providing a news aggregator with other features such as research collation added. Onfolio used to produce a firefox extension, but now the product is surprisingly only available as an addon to the Windows Live Toolbar for IE7. Onfolio is a very polished product, and seems to work very well. It is a good reason to download the toolbar.
Windows Live Mail Desktop
Basically, this is the new Outlook Express, to be released with Vista. Among its many promised enhancements are its RSS capabilities. It will work as an RSS feed aggregator so that you can read your news alongside your email. Whilst this is by no means a new feature for email clients (Thunderbird has been doing it for ages), it is a step forward and I'm sure that it will be very nicely implemented.
Good as these implementations are, there is one killer feature that Microsoft has been working on that really shows just how committed to RSS they are:
Windows RSS Platform
This shipped with IE7 Beta 2 Preview, and is the key technology that draws all the others together and enables new uses of feeds. Basically, its a program that sits between all the programs that use RSS feeds (IE7, Mail Desktop etc) and the internet. When the program wants an RSS feed, it asks the RSS Platform for the feed, rather than going directly to the internet. The advantage of this approach is massive. It allows a unified RSS system across the whole of Windows. A practical example of this is that if you read some items in your RSS feed in IE7, and then go to Live Mail Desktop, the items you have already read will be marked as read. Perhaps more importantly, an API is available allowing the development of all sorts of programs using this technology. For example, a screensaver has been developed that displays photos enclosed in an RSS feed.
The screensaver is just eyecandy to demonstrate what the platform can do; there are a loads of other possibilities for implementation that are far more useful.
Friday, March 10, 2006
Rival (and larger) VoIP player Vonage have complained to Canadian officials about the charges, claiming that it would damage the VoIP market. Vice president of marketing for Vonage in Canada, Joe Parent was quoted as saying:
Shaw's VoIP tax is an unfair attempt to drive up the price of competing VoIP services to protect its own high-priced service.
(Source The Register)
Thursday, March 09, 2006
It seems that in their original plans, the government wanted to fine illegal downloaders €300,000 (about £200,000), but they have now reduced the proposed penalty to a maximum of €150 (about £100).
The majority party also wish to remove a clause introduced by left-wing members of the government that allowed people to download as much as they want for a small fee, which would have been a step forward in legalising file sharing.
Meanwhile in the US, the RIAA vs the People battle goes on.
(Source BBC News)
I basically said all that there is to say about this topic in my previous post, so take a look at it here.
Origami is not one product, but a form-factor developed by OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), Intel and Microsoft. They are small paperback sized tablet PCs, currently running Windows XP Tablet edition, but soon Vista. They typically have about 512 MB RAM, 40 GB HDD and a 1 ghz - ish processor, obviously from Intel.
The three products announced today are the Samsung Q1, Asus and Founder models. Engadget things that the Asus has the edge on build quality and looks, but the Founder has a better processor - a 1 GHz Pentium M as opposed to the 900 MHz Celeron M processors in the other two.
No word yet on release date or final cost, but the BBC reports that the Samsung Q1 will be the first to drop with a pricetag of £699. It will also be available before the summer this year, otherwise there would be no point in installing Windows XP on them, and the machines would all be running Vista.
[picture from Engadget.com]
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Techcrunch has loads more screenshots, and good detail on the product. Apparently, it has very tight integration with Gmail, which I can imagine being a very useful feature, as well as obviously helping to publicise it. Arrington's impressed with it, and I encourage you to head over there to read the full story.
I don't really have much else to say about it, other than it fits well within Google's overall strategy of organising and making searchable all people's personal data. Until it opens into public beta (which Michael Arrington says will be a long way off), I can't really say much more.
What it is
Windows Live Search beta gives you instant answers in search categories like maps, images and more. And you won’t have to click through dozens of pages to see your results—they’re all presented on one clean, easy-to-read page.
What you will be able to do with it
• Search a wide range of sources including the Web, news, local information, images and feeds.
• Search the Web or get answers about places in your area, including detailed maps—right from your cell phone
• Easy integration with your live.com homepage—save your searches and see them updated automatically
I haven't used the search for any length of time, so I can't comment on it's reliability and efficacy, although it's probably identical technology to MSN search, which produces quite good results.
I'll just talk briefly about the UI (user interface). The results page is very slick and smart, with a nice and pretty scroll bar thingy down the side. It doesn't really add that much functionality for the user, but it does mean that the search ads are always displayed, even when the page is scrolled down. They don't call them Micro$oft for nothing! It is also possible to change how much information is shown for each result, via the sliding bar in the top right-hand corner, and thus fit more results on a page. Obviously the whole system is Ajax based, but I'm not going to praise MS for that because it doesn't work in Firefox, which is ridiculous. Other than that, there's not really much difference between Live.com search or Google, or for that matter any other search engine. The search is built into the Live.com personalised homepage, in the same way that Google's is.
In conclusion, a buggy, not particularly exciting release. It is beta though, and I'm sure Microsoft will improve it over the next few weeks and months (at least I hope they will).
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
In a world with infinite storage, bandwidth, and CPU power, here's what we could do with consumer products --It describes Google's vision that it will hold all of your data, and that your hard drive will only be used to store a cache of that data and probably the operating system, with your applications and main ('Golden Copy') data stored on Google's servers. This is significant, and cannot be dismissed as pie in the sky, because of the reference to unannounced Google products, namely GDrive and Lighthouse.
Theme 1: Speed
Seems simple, but should not be overlooked because impact is huge. Users don't realize how slow things are until they get something faster. Users assume it takes time for a webpage to load, but the experience should really be instantaneous. Gmail started to do this for webmail, but that's just a small first step. Infinite bandwidth will make this a reality for all applications.
Theme 2: Store 100% of User Data
With infinite storage, we can house all user files, including: emails, web history, pictures, bookmarks, etc and make it accessible from anywhere (any device, any platform, etc).
We already have efforts in this direction in terms of GDrive, GDS, Lighthouse, but all of them face bandwidth and storage constraints today. For example: Firefox team is working on server side stored state but they want to store only URLs rather than complete web pages for storage reasons. This theme will help us make the client less important (thin client, thick server model) which suits our strength vis-a-vis Microsoft and is also of great value to the user.
As we move toward the "Store 100%" reality, the online copy of your data will become your Golden Copy and your local-machine copy serves more like a cache. An important implication of this theme is that we can make your online copy more secure than it would be on your own machine.
GDrive has been rumoured for some time, and it has now become fairly clear what it is and what it will do. It will be a service which allows you to store data on Google's server farm, and access it from there in realtime, on demand. Google will probably release some sort of program which makes the GDrive appear as an extra drive on the hard disk, allowing easier saving to it. In the long term, they will also release AJAX web apps, in the style of writely.com, the online word processor, so that you don't even need to have any programs beside the OS on your computer.
Of course, Google already offers this functionality to a certain extent. They have recently started storing a copy of mine and thousands of other people's text-based documents on there servers, to allow the functionality of Google Desktop 3 of 'Search Across Computers'. Gmail was also just about the first of a new line of rich Web 2.0 application webmail programs, offering similar and in some cases enhanced features to conventional mail programs.
Google will not have an easy job gaining market share in this field. I have already mentioned writely.com, and there are many other innovative services which together offer the vast majority of the features Google is envisiging providing. I can edit documents online, I can sort out my music online, I can store my files online. Perhaps the competition Google is most worried about comes from Microsoft. In recent months, Microsoft has really got its act together with web services with the launch of Live brand, containing services such Mail Beta and most significantly Office Live, providing much of the functionality Google is probably intending to have.
Google's key advantages are likely to be
- its integration with its highly respected search system. If it can create a unique selling point that it can organise and sort all your data for you, and you can find it with incredible ease.
- the consolidation of all these services in one. Microsoft's plethora of different brands could cause confusion and deter potential customers. Google keeps its brands simple, and that gives it a high level of product clarity.
- great advertising space. It can advertise its products on probably the most visited website on the internet.
- the service will probably be ad-supported. Bargain hunters will therefore be overjoyed at the prospect of all this functionality for free
It also has features to add flags (your Flagr places) from a mobile and the ability to add a 'home' zip code, but these features are currently only available in the US.
The interface is nice and uses Ajax, not willy-nilly, but where the experience could benefit from it, for example when scrolling the maps and adding a flag.
You can check it out at www.flagr.com.
Monday, March 06, 2006
This is an article on the BBC's website discussing which of the next gen DVD formats will triumph. It is becoming a matter of increasing concern for both companies, who fear confusion which will cause delays in the uptake of technology and loss of revenue and consumers, who are worried that they could waste a substantial sum of money by chosing the wrong format. It looks like the first VHS-Beta war of the 21st century.
This service provides the majority of broadband internet connectivity in the UK (aside from large cities where other infrastructure is more feasible and speeds can reach 25Mbps).
Interestingly this video was filmed using Vista build 5270 (the latest build being 5308), but nevertheless it is interesting to see that the features are quite well developed in this build, including quite a nice UI for the speech recognition panel. It certainly beats the current look if you use Windows XP + Office 2003 recognition, where the somewhat irritating Language Bar becomes even more bloated with buttons.
The original story, with a link to the video is here.
The delay will mean that the Playstation 3 will release a year after the Xbox 360 will give the Xbox 360 a significant advantage in taking the lion's share of the market. Sony run the risk of no-one but hardcore gamers who buy all consoles or avid Sony fans buying the Playstation. They will have to go overboard providing unique features which cannot be found on either the Xbox or the Revolution (Nintendo's next gen product). The price will also have to be right, with concerns that the Playstation will cost $850 or more being quashed, and urgently to avoid yet more impatient gamers choosing the Xbox.
Saturday, March 04, 2006
From Home Basic you can upgrade to Home Premium or Ultimate Edition as seen here:
The interesting thing about this is that the functionality for all the versions of Windows must be on one disc (note that you only download a 'licence' to upgrade, not a big load of files). That must mean there is a great potential for people to crack open copies of Windows Vista Home Basic and turn them into Ultimate Edition.
(Screenshot courtesy of Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows)
Friday, March 03, 2006
I did a comparison of it and digg here, and the post was the cause of much discussion on newsvine itself. You can read the article at my column at huw.newsvine.com.
I think it could find itself a market leader fairly soon, but competition in the Web 2.0 news site sector is growing, both with digg clones such as Yigg.de and other, completely new concepts with different approaches.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
The new version mainly shows a newly designed user interface, which looks a bit reminiscent of Windows Vista (see the screenshots below) and probably numerous bugfixes I don't know about.
One of the irritating things is they have reverted the little people icons back to the Messenger 7.x style, and to me that feels like a step backwards. I'm sure they will have sorted the icons by the time it goes RTM, however.
1. iPod HiFi. These are already made by iPod accessory manufacturers, but Apple has decided it wants a share of the market.
It as a built in iPod dock on the top, and an Aux socket on the back so that it can work with the Shuffle as well as third party players. It costs a very high £249.
2. Intel Mac Mini. As expected, Jobs announced the Intel Mac Mini. It comes in both Core Solo and Core Duo flavours with Media Centre software Frontrow and iLife 06. According to Apple, it runs up to 4x faster than the previous model.
3. Leather iPod case for $99 (£69). Seems an awful lot of money for a case, but it does look quite nice.
The Apple logo on the front is probably the case's unique selling point.
iPod Accessory makers must be nervous as to the harm that Apple's new products could do to their business, but if I were them, I would be too worried. At £249 and £69 the HiFi and Case are hardly designed to appeal to the masses.