Showing posts from April, 2009

Make or Buy a PC?

WinXPNews (April 28, 2009) In past editorials, we've addressed the question of whether 'tis nobler (or at least more effective) to buy a computer from a vendor or build it yourself. Each time I've admitted that my last few systems have been Dells, some readers have chided me for "wasting" money by not making it a DIY project. Another topic we've covered here involved whether to buy electronics online or from local bricks and mortar stores. Each time I mention getting something from Fry's, I inevitably get a few responses pointing out that I could have gotten better prices from various online outlets and saved the time and gasoline required to drive to the store.

All of that's very true, but there's another side to the story. Last week, I was reminded of one of the reasons I stopped building my own computers, and at the same time I remembered why I often pay a little extra to buy from a local store. I ordered all the parts from NewEgg to build a fas…

The Technology Lives On

April 24, 2009 (Baseline) Two mainstays of the early Web fade away, but their legacies are secure.

First Sun Microsystems -- the company that once claimed to have "put the dot in dot-com" -- got gobbled up by Oracle.

Then Yahoo! announced that it will shut down GeoCities, the pioneering websites-for-everyone company.

Nearly a decade after the tech bubble burst, survivors are still staggering toward extinction.

Sun's technology isn't going away, of course. But the company that helped define an era will be no more.

GeoCities, bought for billions back when such deals were routine, was made obsolete long ago by the drop-dead-simple technology of blogs and social networks.

Still, the legacies of both companies lives on: a robust, many-to-many Internet has become an integral part of our economy and our culture. Functions once performed by proprietary machines have been commoditized, and a personal presence on the web is practically a birthright.

Unlike the more recent financial…

SpacePilot Pro

April 20, 2009 (The New York Times) It’s not for the casual gamer — or the casual anyone—but the $500 SpacePilot Pro, arriving courtesy of Logitech subsidiary 3Dconnexion, is full of wow for designers and engineers who work in three-dimensional computerized environments.

SpacePilot has a built-in color LCD screen, which can display e-mails, messages and other customizable visual information, but the substance of the mouse is to expedite workflow and navigation through 3D spaces such as Autodesk Inventor, Microsoft Virtual Earth and SolidWorks.

Of course, mouse geeks will have to have one, if only to gaze gaga-like at sexy blue lights and the Darth Vader form factor—the buttons on SpacePilot make BMW’s confusing iDrive simple by comparison. The big knob in the center twirls six ways, and it tilts and rolls as well. In Logitech-speak, the device has “six-degrees-of-freedom sensor technology … by lifting, pressing and turning the controller cap, design engineers can easily pan, zoom and ro…

"March Madness"

April 14, 2009 (Networkworld) For the past several years, we've followed the impact of "March Madness" on corporate bandwidth consumption with interest and, from time to time, a bit of bemusement. Particularly as the first two rounds of the NCAA tourney approaches, the thoughts of corporate networking managers seem to turn to whether employees watching basketball at their desktops will have a significant adverse impact on their network's performance.

This was highlighted a couple of weeks ago when we received a copy of a corporate memo that stated, in part:

“The purpose of this communication is to remind all employees of our standards of conduct regarding usage of company systems and technical resources.

“We are all aware of the intensity of interest in ‘March Madness’ and the fact that today’s technology allows individuals to view the NCAA basketball playoffs live via streaming audio and video. However, usage of these services to view games during working hours can r…

Fake Conficker "Infection Alert" Update

April 9, 2009 (ZDNet) Researchers at Marshal8e6’s TRACElabs have intercepted a spam campaign that’s issuing bogus “Conficker Infection Alerts” and redirecting users to rogue security software upon clicking on the links.

The event-based social engineering campaign is also impersonating various Microsoft security departments in order to improve its truthfulness. This is the second attempt in recent weeks to hijack anticipated traffic, following last week’s campaign consisting of typosquatted conficker removal tool domains aiming to impersonate the legitimate ones.

Here’s the message, its associated subjects and related rogue security software domains used in the spam campaign:

“Dear Microsoft Customer,

Starting 04/01/2009 the ‘Conficker’ worm began infecting Microsoft customers unusually rapidly. Microsoft has been advised by your Internet provider that your network is infected.

To counteract further spread we advise removing the infection using an antispyware program. We are supplying all e…

Predicting The Next Really Big One

April 9, 2009 (MSNBC) The magnitude 6.3 earthquake that struck villages in Italy was horrible enough, but can you imagine what would happen to a city like Seattle if it were hit by a magnitude-9 shocker? That's exactly what Caltech's Thomas Heaton and Jing Yang try to do in a new series of simulations - and the picture isn't pretty.

In many of the simulations, high-rise buildings suffered severe damage. In some of the simulations, they collapsed altogether. Do those simulations reflect reality? The bottom line for Heaton and Yang, as for many other researchers looking into the potential effects of megathrust earthquakes, is that we just don't know.

"We can make some guesses, but they're just that: They're educated guesses," Heaton, who heads the Earthquake Engineering Research Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, told me this week. "Depending on how we set the parameters, we can end up with shaking where it looks like current [buil…

Angry Villagers Chase Away Google Car

April 4, 2009 (CNN) Google's ambitious plan to offer a 3-D street level view of communities across three continents hit a snag when angry residents of a UK village blocked the search engine's camera car from photographing their homes.

Fearing the appearance of their well appointed properties on the Web site would attract criminals scouting for burglary targets, villagers in Broughton, north of London, summoned the police after spotting the car.

"I was upstairs when I spotted the camera car driving down the lane," resident Paul Jacobs told The Times of London.

"My immediate reaction was anger: How dare anyone take a photograph of my home without my consent? I ran outside to flag the car down and told the driver he was not only invading our privacy but also facilitating crime.

"This is an affluent area. We've already had three burglaries locally in the past six weeks. If our houses are plastered all over Google it's an invitation for more criminals to str…

Windows 7 May be Worth Waiting For

Here are some of the improvements over Vista...

User Interface
Windows 7 retains the Windows Aero user interface and visual style first introduced with Windows Vista, but many areas have seen enhancements.

Aero's performance has also been improved significantly, allowing it to run on lower specification hardware next to Windows Vista, with even older Intel chips able to display Aero's 3D Desktop.

Windows Desktop Slideshow
Windows Explorer now includes a desktop slideshow that changes the desktop background in a designated amount of time. This feature supports pre-downloaded sets of wallpapers and also supports photo RSS feed.

Windows Explorer Libraries
Windows Explorer in Windows 7 presents Libraries for different file types (documents, music, pictures, videos etc). Libraries are virtual folders that aggregate content from various locations - including shared folders on networked systems - and present them in a unified view. Libraries are accessible from the Start menu, Windows Explo…