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.]