Showing posts from August, 2008

Can Seinfeld Make Microsoft Cool?

Jerry Seinfeld will headline a $300 million advertising campaign for Microsoft, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The WSJ reports that Seinfeld will appear with Microsoft founder Bill Gates in the ads. According to other sources, Chris Rock and Will Ferrell had also been considered. The ads are apparently a bid to counter the success of Apple’s Mac vs PC campaign which has recently been targeting Vista.

Wireless Recharging

August 23, 2008 (Associated Press) Imagine juicing up your laptop computer or cell phone without plugging it into an electrical socket.

That's a luxury that could be provided by wireless power transmission, a concept that has been bandied about for decades but is creeping closer to becoming viable.

Building off work unveiled last year by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers, Intel Corp. demonstrated Thursday how to make a 60-watt light bulb glow from an energy source 3 feet away.

The Intel team did it with relatively high efficiency, losing only a quarter of the energy the researchers started with.

"That, to me, is the most striking part about it: transmitting 60 watts at 75 percent efficiency over several feet," said Intel's chief technology officer, Justin Rattner.

"The power pack for your laptop isn't that efficient. ... It's one of those things that's almost too good to be true."

Wireless transmission of electricity makes use of so…

10 Worst Web Glitches of 2008

1. Amazon S3
When: February 15

What happened: These massive infrastructure services, Amazon's S3 especially, underpin many Web 2.0 companies. When these services fail, big sites go down. When the sites go down, they lose money.

Corporate coping behavior: Amazon CTO Werner Vogels banished to the lecture circuit to explain why S3 is still more reliable than any servers you could run yourself.

The damage: Companies forced to re-consider their reliance on "cloud computing."

2. Twitter
When: April, May, June. July too? Who cares?

What happened: Twitter began to get unreliable. It's up, then it's down. Repeat.

Corporate coping behavior: During the bad spells, Twitter turns off key features of the service -- like access from Twitter helper apps, or the "replies" tab on the site -- to decrease the load. Twitter also buys the search engine Summize, which adds a new level of utility to the service.

The damage: Twitter was becoming part of the social fabric of the t…

Fix It or Trash It?

By Dan Reilly

If your iPod or digital camera just stopped working one day, don't just assume it's finished. As we reported a few weeks ago, many gadgets are returned without being truly broken. Sometimes, a flaky gadget can be attributed to a loose battery or an improperly inserted wire, so check the your owner's manual or the manufacturer's Web site for troubleshooting tips, or just poke around the Internet. Sites such as or feature reports about or solutions to common problems folks have with their gadgets, but a quick Google search with the gadget name and the problem in the search field often yields some of the most exact answers. Also, give the manufacturer a call -- chances are they've heard about a gadget's issue before, or, if you're lucky (or friendly), a replacement device (even after the warranty has expired). Of course, if you put your iPhone in the microwave, this step doesn't apply.

How Old Is Your Gadget?

When di…

Slower Computers?

August 14, 2008 (Fortune) Could faster chips translate into slower computers? That's the sales-threatening prospect furrowing brows in every corner of the PC business, from industry titans such as Intel, Microsoft, and Apple to major centers of academe.

For decades the PC industry has juiced performance - and sales - with a regular two-step dance. First, chipmakers jacked up the speed of their latest offerings. Then the software brains figured out how to turn all that processing power into faster operations and cool new functions.

But the latest generation of chips, known as multicore, are so complex and so qualitatively different from their predecessors that they have flummoxed software developers. "We've gone through changes in the past," says Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer. But this one, he says, is the ,ost "conceptually different" change "in the history of modern computing."

The change was set in motion four y…

One Dollar Gasoline

While discussing where we all went over the summer, a few of my colleagues were trying to remember when gasoline was last under $1.00/gallon. I decided to do a little research and came up with this graph in Excel 2007:

As you can see, the last time was in early 1999. Also the last complete year of data available was 2007, so the $4.00 levels of this summer are not included!


Delayed Olympic Broadcast Foiled by Online Fans

By Brian Stelter

August 8, 2008 (The New York Times) NBC, which owns the exclusive rights to broadcast the Olympics in the United States, spent most of Friday trying to keep it that way.

NBC’s decision to delay broadcasting the opening ceremonies by 12 hours sent people across the country to their computers to poke holes in NBC’s technological wall — by finding newsfeeds on foreign broadcasters’ Web sites and by watching clips of the ceremonies on YouTube and other sites.

In response, NBC sent frantic requests to Web sites, asking them to take down the illicit clips and restrict authorized video to host countries. As the four-hour ceremony progressed, a game of digital whack-a-mole took place. Network executives tried to regulate leaks on the Web and shut down unauthorized video, while viewers deftly traded new links on blogs and on the Twitter site, redirecting one another to coverage from, say, Germany, or a site with a grainy Spanish-language video stream.

As the first Summer Games of…

Web Trend Map 3: Get it now!

Featured in The Guardian, WIRED, Le Monde, Corriere, kottke, Boingboing, Techcrunch, Mashable, Valleywag and literally thousands of blogs across the web, the current version of the Web Trend Map pins down nearly 300 of the most successful and influential websites of the Internet. You can download a 1600 x 1024 wallpaper for free or purchase the full sized poster version here. A great gift for your favorite geek or a terrific resource for a business or marketing class!

AOL to End Dial-Up Service

Tuesday, August 5, 2008 (Washington Post) AOL is finally in a position to shed the dial-up-access business that once offered tens of millions of people their first glance at the Internet.

In April, parent company Time Warner promised to make clear its plans for AOL's future by its second-quarter earnings call, scheduled for tomorrow. And it "won't disappoint," a source close to the situation said yesterday.

Time Warner had already indicated earlier this year during public discussions over restructuring the struggling AOL that it would consider spinning off the dial-up business. The unit, which turned AOL into the nation's leading Internet company in the 1990s, has hemorrhaged subscribers for years.

AOL has financially isolated the dial-up business, said sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the company is in the quiet period before earnings are announced. The separation would make it easier to sell the dial-up business outright or sell a piece of i…

Ancient Greeks Used Computer to Set Olympics Date

LONDON (Reuters) A mechanical brass calculator used by the ancient Greeks to predict solar and lunar eclipses was probably also used to set the dates for the first Olympic games, researchers said on Wednesday.

The Antikythera Mechanism was retrieved from a shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera in 1901, an example of the technological prowess of the ancient Greeks. Researchers reporting in the journal Nature said they had now discovered that the device, made at the end of the 2nd century BC, used an intricate set of bronze gearwheels, dials and inscriptions to set the games' date.

The ancient Olympic Games, which marked the start of a four-year timespan called an Olympiad, began on the full moon closest to the summer solstice, which meant calculating the timing required expertise in astronomy. Using three-dimensional, X-ray technology, researchers deciphered tiny inscriptions buried inside the device's fragmented brass pieces that pointed to its Olympic role.

The name &quo…

NASA Finds Water on Mars

August 1, 2008 (Associated Press) The Phoenix spacecraft has tasted Martian water for the first time, scientists reported Thursday. By melting icy soil in one of its lab instruments, the robot confirmed the presence of frozen water lurking below the Martian permafrost. Until now, evidence of ice in Mars' north pole region has been largely circumstantial. In 2002, the orbiting Odyssey spacecraft spied what looked like a reservoir of buried ice. After Phoenix arrived, it found what looked like ice in a hard patch underneath its landing site and changes in a trench indicated some ice had turned to gas when exposed to the sun.

Scientists popped open champagne when they received confirmation Wednesday that the soil contained ice. "We've now finally touched it and tasted it," William Boynton of the University of Arizona said during a news conference in Tucson on Thursday. "From my standpoint, it tastes very fine." Phoenix landed on Mars on May 25 on a three-month…