Thursday, June 30, 2005

New email address registries for "do not contact" (Utah and Michigan) News reports: "Utah and Michigan are the first two states to have both passed the legislation which is aimed at minors having access to otherwise unwanted, sexually explicit or violent electronic communications."

A 'do not contact e-mail and instant messenger address' list, makes as much sense as creating a 'do not rob list' to tell thieves not to rob your homes or businesses. The original 'do not call list' made a great deal of sense because most telemarketers are legitimate businesses that have to obey the law. I believe that 99% of spammers are probably not a legitimate business, so they don't have to answer to the law unless they're caught.

If you read the article the law looks like it has holes in it big enough to drive a large truck through. This law is a good idea, but bad in execution. I really believe this law can create more problems then it can correct. Its not that Utah and Michigan did a bad job in writing the law, just the problem its trying to address is very difficult legislate, prosecute and enforce.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Free and Legal Movies, TV Shows and More... (Bittorrent Not Required)

Are you looking for a free and legal alternative to Bittorrent for downloading video content (such as: movies, TV show, etc.) off the Internet? Your prayers have been answered.

Below are two sites that allow you to access different types of video content, from old cartoons and movies to documentaries and more.
  • Open Media Network: OMN is a free public service designed to help you enjoy a broad selection of movies, public TV and radio, video blogs and podcasts while protecting producer's copyrights. (Note: requires you to download a special application to view the content.)
  • Internet Archive: Feature Films: This collection houses a number of classic public domain feature films and shorts.
New Video Search Site
Google has launched a new video search service, called 'Google Video Search'. The Google Video search service enables you to search a growing archive of televised content – everything from sports to dinosaur documentaries to news shows. (Note: requires you to download a special application to view the content.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Google Earth - A 3D interface to the planet

I just downloaded Google Earth, and I have been using it for a little while this morning. It has been an absolute blast playing with it. If you're into maps, geography, or just playing with very cool applications, this is worth the download.

The bigger and more popular areas have more detailed pictures available. Although, if you live on rural farmland somewhere out in the middle of nowhere, then the high level detailed pictures of that area could be limited.

To download it, go to the following site. Note: this application does require a high speed Internet connection, fast computer, and a good video card.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Warning: In Five Seconds, This PC Will Self-Destruct (Article)

The Wall Street Journal reports: "Companies looking to protect sensitive data on stolen gadgets are taking a page from Hollywood, with hard drives that destroy themselves when picked up by a thief, software that remotely zaps documents from a desktop computer and technology that scrubs clean handheld devices when the wrong password is entered too many times."

It sad that technology has to come to this point, but it is the next generation of data security (physical data destruction). Hopefully this will prevent personal and private data from being stolen, when people lose or forget about their laptops. I think they're going to need to incorporate this technology into desktop hard drives as well.

The author of this article also points out a major problem with this technology, and that is its dependence on passwords. If the user forgets their password, they can accidentally activate the self-destruct technology. I believe this problem can be overcome with the use of biometric technology.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Lifestyle Drugs, Who Needs Them...

New Scientist recently published and article called 'This pill will make you smarter.' It talks about a new category of drugs called 'lifestyle drugs.' This is medication that is used to enhance your physical or mental performance.

Personally the idea of these types of drugs scares me, because of the long term social and biological effects that they can have on the body. I personally believe that as a society we need to learn that all things that come in pill form are not always good for us. How many miracle drugs have been pulled from the market, because they're too harmful.

What is Ajax, and Does it Matter?

For the last few months, I have been seeing a lot of different articles on the Internet about a technology called 'Ajax'. No, its not the stuff you use for cleaning your toilets. Ajax is a set of technologies that are being used together. The word Ajax is an acronym for 'Advanced Javascript And XML' or 'Asynchronous JavaScripting and XML'.

Ajax is composed of the following web technologies:
  • HTML + CSS: displays the information in the browser.
  • JavaScript: dynamically displays content, and allows the user to interact with it.
  • XML + XSLT: Using the browsers XMLHttpRequest function data can be requested, sent, or changed on the Web server.
If you're not a Web application developer, most of these words and acronyms may not mean anything to you. Although, if you're like me, to understand a complex technology you need to see a good working example of it to really understand its full potential. Check out Google Maps. Search for a location, zoom-in on it, then click-and-drag on the map to see other parts of the map that are off the screen. The technology behind this marvel, is Ajax.

Now the question, does Ajax really matter? If you're a web developer, the answer is yes it does. If you're just a web surfer, the answer is still yes.

Ajax allows for the creation of interactive web applications that were not possible before without the use of some external plug-in technology like Flash, Java, etc. If you're just a web surfer, it means that you will be able to use feature rich applications without the use of external browser plug-ins.

To learn more about Ajax, check out a site called 'Ajax Matters'. This web site is one of the primary reference places for this technology.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Spectacular Mammatus Clouds (Hastings, Nebraska)

You have to check out these pictures (I hope this is real). These are Mammatus Clouds over Hastings, Nebraska. They're the weirdest clouds I have ever seen.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Miscellaneous Links

  • Want to do some budget rocketeering? (WMV)
  • Do those cement vehicle barriers really work? (WMV)
  • Funny Aussie TV ad called MetalOldies. (WMV)
Weird Stuff

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Introduction to Perpendicular Recording

Everyday I see more and more new hard drives being introduced that use 'Perpendicular Recording' to store data on the disk (for example see this article). Perpendicular Recording is a new method of storing more data on the disk then ever before.

If you want to know how this technology works, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies has released a great flash video that does a great job of explaining it. This video is designed for people who are not technical, it also makes the subject matter fun and easy to understand.

Star Wars - Revelations

If you like the fan film 'IMPS - The Relentless', then you might want to check out this film from Panic Struck Productions called Star Wars - Revelations.

Revelations is a independent film created by Star Wars fans on a low budget. The film is about 47-minutes, and it took three years to complete.

There are several ways to get and view the film, go to this page to see the download options.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

AMD Details Early Quad-Core Plans

ExtremeTech reports: "Executives confirmed that the company plans to enhance its Opteron enterprise processor line to four cores in 2007, adding focused optimizations to manage power and improve throughput."

Wow, Quad-Core CPUs. I bet after this there will probably be eight-core CPUs, then sixteen core, and so on... This could start a whole new CPU revolution. Also check out the slide show that is included with the story, it contains a cornucopia of new buzzwords.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Classic Video Game Commercials

This site contains a huge collection of classic video game commercials, including ones from: Atari, Nintendo, Sega, and more. I personally have an interest in computer history, and this is a great trip back into the video game part of that history.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Build your own MythTV box

Kevin Rose and Dan Huard former members of the 'The Screen Savers', have started a new site/show called 'Systm'. So far the theme of the show has been hardware hacking. Its not the criminal activity type of hacking, but modifying hardware devices to do something more or different from what it was originally designed to perform.

In episode #2 of their show Systm, they demonstrate how to build a MythTV box. I have been wanting to put one of these to together for a few weeks now, I just have to make the time. Now that I have seen their show, I am sure that they have saved me several hours of time trying to customize my configuration.

Note: You will need BitTorrent to download the show.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Infocom Adventure)

Here is a blast to the past... Play the original text adventure game for 'The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy'. It's great fun, but its requires a Java-based browser to play.

To access the game go to the web site. Go to the bottom of the screen, type "851108" and press the the OK button.

If your browser supports Java, it will load within your browser. Then read the page for the basic instructions on how to play the game.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Speakwire RSS newsfeeds

Speakwire is a interesting web site that reads RSS newsfeeds to you with the PanaVox Speak Perfect Speech Technology. The voice is clear, although it has a British type accent.

To use this application, pick a newsfeed category and then pick the feed you want to listen to. Press the Start button to listen to the newsfeed.

Windows Command Line to be overhauled

Tom's Hardware Guide reports: "Orlando (FL) - The command line interface to the Windows Server OS will be changed to the new Monad Shell (MSH), in a phased implementation to take place over the next three to five years. This confirmation comes from Microsoft senior vice president Bob Muglia in an interview published today by Microsoft."

This is good and bad new for scripters, and CLI gurus. Read the article to get all the news.

I hope that you will still be able to perform more powerful system functions as they upgrade this component. I would hate to see this functionality be taken away.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Alternative Digital Media Landscape

Blogs, Podcasts, BitTorrent and Peer-to-Peer (P2P) technologies, are taking on traditional media (such as: newspaper, radio, and TV) and at least making them pay attention to the potential of the technology. Blogs now allow the average person a forum to express their views and opinions. Podcasts allow the average person the ability to create and host their own radio show without a log of expensive hardware. BitTorrent and other P2P technologies allows the distribution of large files without the need for a central server to host and distribute them.

All these technologies empower people, and all these technologies have good and bad purposes. They empower the people by giving them an equal voice in the world of electronic publishing. They also, can and will be abused by performing tasks they were not intentionally created for.

For example, a hammer is a good demonstration of a technology that can be used for good or bad purposes. The hammer can be used to build houses, or kill if misused. P2P technologies is a great technology for distributing large files at a low cost, but it can be used to share copyrighted content as well. If the MPAA and RIAA had their way, this technology would be taken off the Internet and destroyed forever.

The problem here is just because a technology can be used for wrong, doesn't mean that the whole technology is evil. So you don't need to throw the baby out with the bath water, but this is what the RIAA and MPAA want. If they can't control how the content is used, then they don't want anyone too.

Problems with the Status Quo
Here is the problem, all of these technologies exist as separate software application that have to be installed and configured separately only to somewhat work together. Personally, I would like to have one application that does it all for me.

I also believe a lot of people miss out on these technologies because they don't understand how to install, configure, or use them. If you want something to succeed, then it has to be simple to use, non-proprietary and open so that anyone can expand it. I believe that most new consumer products fail because they use proprietary technologies, this formula doesn't work any more (maybe with the exception of the iPod).

All of these technologies could grow by leaps and bounds if they were all integrated together, because it would open them up to more people. Personally I would like to see the cable industry go obsolete, and I would like to watch and record all my audio and video content on my desktop or laptop computer.

Internet Digital Media Browser
Personally what I would like to see is a new type of digital media become available, that is solely based on existing concepts and technologies. For lack of a better name, I will call it the 'Internet Digital Media Browser' (IDMB). I envision this as an application that integrates the best of all technologies, such as: web browsing; watching, listening, and recording (time-shifting) digital media off the Internet; P2P file sharing, and an RSS reader.

Imagine only to have to launch one application to perform all these tasks. I would personally like to see IDMB, as a decentralized P2P client for hosting of audio/video media that can be watched live or recorded for later viewing. All without the need to have one organization, or company controlling the technology or the media that is available. IDMB could use a BitTorrent infrastructure, to make this live media available to everyone.

This would open up a new market for independent media producers to distribute their content. Imagine all the content that people could distribute, but have no medium to distribute it. By utilizing the P2P client file sharing abilities, these media producers will not have to pay for expensive file hosting infrastructure for people to see their content. People watching the media in the IDMB will make it available to others by sharing their bandwidth.

Although, there will still be the problem of different formats for handling all the different types of audio/video digital media that is available. There eventually will be a need for Digital Rights Management (DRM). But all these issues can be addressed by plug-in technologies.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Is the Mac Safe from Virus?

This article made me mad, "MacDailyNews has an editorial which summarizes reports from various research groups that analyzed the number of computer users affected by viruses. The conclusion was that 16 percent of all computer users are not affected by viruses because they use Macs."

There is an old joke about if builders built building the way programmers write programs the world would be destroyed by the first woodpecker that came a long. I believe the Mac platform is very vulnerable to a virus right now, mainly because Mac users believe that they're so safe. Just because you think you're safe doesn't mean you are!

I believe that someday soon, there will be a lot of unhappy Mac users when some virus writer gets around to writing something (I hope this never does happen, but it always does). Virus writers are pretty predictable, they always go after the biggest targets, and right now that's Microsoft. Once the Mac user base gets large enough, the virus writers will attack them as well.

A good example is of this is Firefox. When it was introduced it was pronounced more secure then IE. Then a few months after its release, people started finding all sorts of big gapping holes in it.

There is no such thing as a perfect security technology, and the best thing that we can do is educate users about how to protect themselves online. If people stopped practicing unsafe computer habits (such as opening email attachment, and giving out there personal) there would be a lot less infected computers in the world.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Triumph vs Star Wars Geeks (Video)

Triumph the insult comic dog takes on Star Wars geeks waiting to see Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones. In Windows video format. (This is one of the funniest things you will see on the Net.)

Friday, June 03, 2005

Russia rattles sabre over space weapons (Article)

The Register report: "Russia has warned that it will take 'adequate retaliatory measures' against any deployment of space-based weapons. Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov used a trip to the Baikonur facility in Kazakhstan - celebrating its 50th birthday - to indulge in a bit of sabre rattling against Moscow's old adversary the US."

Welcome to Star Wars v2.0 (no, I am not referring to the movie)! Do you remember all the Star Wars initiatives back in the 80s (aka 'Strategic Defense Initiative')? It is believed the Star Wars programs only existed to scare the Russians, and was fundamental in ending the Cold War. Well, I looks like Star Wars initiatives are going to be starting all over again.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Wired News: Biomass Adds to Ethanol Debate

Wired News reports: "Federal subsidies have made growing corn for ethanol a profitable venture for Corn Belt farmers while irking free-market advocates. Now, new technology for processing biomass from widely available plant and tree residue could increase Beltway bickering over ethanol funding."

With gas prices as high as they are, I have been trying to keep a close key on different alternative fuel technologies coming into style. This is one of the newest ones that I have seen.

Our petroleum fuel reserves are not going to last us forever, so the sooner we find an alternative the better. Some experts estimate our supply of petroleum fuel will only have a few decades more.