[Geeks are Sexy] technology news

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Bill Gate at the Daily Show: The True Story

Remember about that daily show clip we posted yesterday? I'm not sure if you guys noticed, but Bill seemed to have left in a hurry at the end. Wondering why? Here's the explanation:

Michael Dell Back in Charge

Dell's original founder, Michael Dell, has returned to his company, replacing Kevin Rollins as CEO, "as the No. 2 PC maker struggles with missteps in the U.S. consumer market and lost market share to Hewlett-Packard Co"

Rollins' departure comes after a terrible year for the company, during which it lost its lead in PC market share to Hewlett-Packard and an investigation by the SEC for possible accounting improprieties began. Several executives have left the company in recent months, including CFO Jim Schneider, who was slated to leave the company at the end of January.

Read Article - Reuters Business
Read Cnet's Article.

Run Windows and Linux in Parallel

Lifehack.org has "Beginner's Guide: Run Linux like any other program in Windows", a dead-simple tutorial for running Linux on your Windows desktop with VMWare Player.

"... these directions are designed for the absolute beginner and will not require you to do anything unfamiliar, threatening, or permanent to your computer. When you are finished you will be able to run Linux like any other program in Windows and share files between Linux and Windows."

This article is great motivation to try out a new version of Linux when you might not have done so before, due to any number of barriers. I'm a Gentoo fan, so I'm taking this opportunity to give Ubuntu a shot.

Sony's Earnings Hit by Battery, Gaming Woes

As expected, Sony's earnings fell for 2006 due to costs associated with the PlayStation 3 and the battery recall. What's ahead for Sony? Will the loss associated with the PS3 be a thing of the past in 2007 or will Sony continue to lose money with their new console?

Sony laid the blame for the earnings shortfall primarily at the feet of Sony Computer Entertainment, the division responsible for consoles. SCE posted a ¥54.2 billion loss ($443 million) due to the costs associated with manufacturing and launching the PlayStation 3 along with lower sales of the PSP and price cuts on the PS2. Last year, SCE saw a ¥67.8 billion profit ($556 million).

Read more

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hilarious 'Get a Mac' Ads Spoofs

Here are 3 hilarious "Get a Mac" spoofs that present us with a different perspective behind the eternal Mac vs. PC debate.




Bill Gates On the Daily Show

Yesterday, Bill Gates made an appearance on the Daily Show to promote the official launch of Windows Vista. As always, Jon Stewart had some excellent questions for his guest. Enjoy the show!

Followup post: Bill Gate at the Daily Show: The True Story

Helpful Webcasts

With a new mandate to improve security here at work, we have been coming up with new designs for our infrastructure. Between my SysAdmin partner and I, we have some experience in doing this, however, we're not entirely up to date on some of the technologies out there. IT changes so quickly, it's hard to keep up, right?

One of the other issues that we have to put up with in IT is that companies do not always enjoy forking out $5000 for a good course to get you up to date; at least, that is the case here. So I turn to webcasts from various places on the web to help me get acquainted with some of the newest developments out there in high-tech.

  • Symantec has some pretty helpful online events if you use Symantec Products, such as: Backup Exec, or Anti-Virus Server & Client.
  • The SANS Institute is another resource that I use for self-education on the latest technologies or methodologies. I recently watched a webcast on VPN & Security. If anything, it gave me ideas on how to better improve what we've got in place here. You can check out their archived and upcoming events HERE.
  • Every so often, I check out Microsoft's webcasts. Right now, they have a ton of information on Exchange 2007, Vista, and Office Live.
With budgets being so tight, and the fact that most of these webcasts are free, I thought it would be helpful to point out some great resources for self-education.

Happy Webcasting.


How to Properly Clean your LCD Screen

When it comes to optimize the layout of your office space, nothing helps to free desk space more then a nice, flat LCD screen. That's probably one of the main reason everyone has one these days. Apart from that, they're also very cheap, easy on the eyes and consume less electricity than their CRT counterparts. With all that said, there’s really no reason not to have one sitting on your desk in 2007.

But these screens are not perfect. In fact, you have to be very careful when cleaning them up. Too much pressure using the wrong kind of cloth will most likely scratch your display and could even burn some of its pixels. So the question is, what is the proper way to clean an LCD screen?

First, you've probably seen some of those LCD cleaning solutions in computer stores right? The good news is that if you do not want to pay for a commercial product, mixing up your own solution is very easy. If you don't want to take any chances and prefer to use a professional product, please see our recommendation at the end of this article. So to get started, you only need 2 ingredients:

The recipe is easy: Mix the Isopropyl alcohol and distilled water in equal parts (50/50) inside an empty Windex-like bottle. Do not use tap water! Doing so will leave white smears on your screen after cleaning it up because of the dissolved minerals inside the water. When finished mixing, just close the bottle using the "spray" adaptor that comes attached to it.

Next, you will need to find a good, soft piece of microfiber cloth to clean your display. Avoid paper tissues at all cost! Using those on your screen would be just like scrubbing sandpaper on it and may scratch it permanently. You wouldn't want to do that right?

Now that we have everything we need, start by turning off your screen. Dampen your piece of soft cloth with your cleaning mixture and then wipe the display gently from top to bottom. Never spray liquid directly onto the LCD. When you're done, wait a few minutes to let your screen dry, and then turn it back on. Voila, you're done! Your screen should now be sparkling clean.

And if you absolutely want to use a product that was specifically made to clean LCD screens, Amazon.com has a really cheap and effective Monster-branded alcohol free LCD cleaner, which even includes a high-tech reusable MicroFiber cloth.

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Microsoft Launches Vista and Office 2007 Worldwide

Yes folks, today is the big day. Vista and Office 2007 have both been officially released and are now available in stores.

On Jan. 30 the most significant product launch in Microsoft Corp.’s history culminates in the release to consumers of the Windows Vista™ operating system and Microsoft® Office 2007. Starting tomorrow, these two flagship products will be available in more than 70 countries, in 19 languages (with 99 languages anticipated by the end of the year), and at more than 39,000 retail stores and online. The launch marks the achievement of an unprecedented collaboration between Microsoft and its customers and partners, and ushers in an era in which personal computing is easier, safer and more enjoyable than ever before.

Read more

Monday, January 29, 2007

Reuters Will Fire Photoshopping Photographers

Reuters has realized that using Photoshop (or any other image editing software) to alter the content of photos in the news is an ethically questionable practice in the least, as evidenced by their current rules and guidelines for photographers. Here's the money quote amidst the technical details:

Materially altering a picture in Photoshop or any other image editing software will lead to dismissal.

This comes after a Reuters scandal from last summer, wherein a Lebanese photographer artificially enhanced the smoke rising from buildings in a photograph of his country's capital. So there it is: if you're a photographer who deals with Reuters, and you try to pass off altered work, expect to get canned.

Link via CNet News.com

Are You Getting Paid What You're Worth?

Yep, it's that time of the year again folks; well, for some of us at least: It's job evaluation time. A moment where we, career-minded opportunists, have to take an objective, introspective view of ourselves and document it for our bosses to read. Should they agree that you are as fabulous as you say you are, you get a raise. If they don't, you will be 'subjected to a money freeze' or 'you are doing fine, however, current budgets have the company holding back monetary adjustments until Q2'.

Some people are so happy that they've even got a job, especially in the IT field, that they are content with collecting a paycheck every two weeks. This is irregardless of the dollar amount in the top, right-hand square marked: "Net Pay".

Are you getting paid what you are worth? I'll bet a lot of people out there wonder this everyday. The current rate that IT workers can expect this year for a raise is: 3.03%. That's up from the 2.5% that I got last year.

So go in to your evaluations with your eyes open, folks. Find out what you are really worth.

Canadian Salary Calculator.
USA Salary Calculator.

Introducing Vista 'Time Waster' Edition

Arstechnica is reporting that upgrade versions of Vista Starter, Home Basic and Premium edition will not permit "clean" installs like previous upgradeable versions of Windows used to. So what does this mean Mr. and Mrs. Everybody?

  • To install your upgrade edition of Vista, you'll need to have a working version of XP running on your system.
  • If your computer ever crashes after Vista is installed, you'll have to re-install XP before setting up Vista again.

Ridiculous isn't it?

"This annoys the hell out of me because clean installs simply make for better performing machines. Why is Microsoft making our lives difficult?"--Gizmodo

"One again, Microsoft appears to have made licensing decisions without considering how people actually use their products. Last fall the company trotted out changes to its retail licensing that would have punished users who frequently upgrade their PC hardware had the company not relented. Now Microsoft seeks to complicate our ability to start a crisp, new install with an upgrade version. Why?"--Ars Technica

"Many may say, what's wrong with that? But when switching OSes like this, you should really have a clean install. Otherwise you're going to have a system full of unused files and garbage. I realize that most users will just go with the direct upgrade, without starting from scratch, but I wouldn't be one of them."--Real Tech News

Read more

Edit: As always, it seems that the blogosphere jumped to conclusions a little too fast. People will be able to do a clean install of Vista using any upgradeable editions. This link has all the details.

Apple Releases British 'Get a Mac' Ad

The folks at Apple have recently released a new series of "Get a Mac" ads mainly destined to people in the UK. Here is the first one, for your viewing enjoyment.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Monday Morning Links Serving : The January 29th Edition

The Monday morning links servings are now officialy a tradition on [GAS], so for this edition, here's a bunch of links that I stumbled upon on the weekend that should be worth taking a look to start off your week the right way.

How to crack password-protected PDF's

Need I say more? Yes, there can be legit reasons to do this!

Before you go Vista: Advice from nine experts

I asked some of the best known of the bunch for one — just one — piece of advice they'd give to users who have decided to take the Windows Vista plunge. Not the fence sitters. Not Mac users. Not Linux champions. But individuals who have decided they are going to go with Vista, and probably some time soon (if they haven't already.)

10 Steps to Make Your Personal Firewall More Secure

"The Clapco D29 is the most impenetrable lock on the market today. It has only one design flaw… the door… must be closed!" –Seinfeld (1990)

I want a Freeware Utility to ... 450+ common problems solved

Good list of free utilities that do specific jobs very well and save time and money.

Pro guide to Google searches - Part I

Are the results to your searches always that relevant? Often you find irrelevant results and it takes you longer than it should to find what you want. But is this because of Google ’s faulty search algorithms or is it because sometimes our searches can be ambiguous?

More memory from chemistry

As computers and components scale down further and further, traditional manufacturing materials and methods become harder and harder to work with. Current DRAM components have wires that are about 140nm apart from one another, but a semi-conductor industry roadmap says that this spacing must be shrunk to a mere 33 nm by the year 2020. This poses a huge problem, as traditional lithographic techniques have difficulty resolving features in that size range. To sidestep this problem, researchers from around the globe are looking at novel materials and methods.

8 ways to keep your brain in shape

Gray hair doesn't signal gray matter's decline, and AARP's tips help 'old dogs' learn new tricks.

Have a great week everyone!

MS Vista Won't Add To PC Prices

Windows VistaI remember that just a few months ago, every darn tech blogger out there (me included) used to yell at the top of their lungs that Vista was going to make computers unaffordable by increasing their selling prices drastically. Well guess what? It seems we were wrong. Vista preloaded PCs are going to be sold in the exact same price range as XP ones used to be.

At such e-retailers as Newegg.com, the price of so-called OEM editions of Vista -- those sold to smaller-scale system builders as opposed to large computer makers like Dell or Hewlett-Packard -- are on average $10 more than comparable versions of Windows XP.

Yes, I know, bloggers are an excitable bunch and jump to conclusions a bit too quickly. But hey, admit it, without hype the blogosphere wouldn't be much fun would it?

Read more

Friday, January 26, 2007

Google Releases 'Testing on the Toilet'

Yes, the title of this post means exactly what it implies. Some crazy folks at Google had the not so marvelous idea of displaying tips for its developers in each of the company's 500 bathrooms. The main goal of this program, which apparently has been already running for several months at Google, is to teach employees about the virtues of well-tested code, even while they're sitting on the throne.

We're unveiling the public release of "Testing on the Toilet": one of Google's little secrets that has helped us to inspire our developers to write well-tested code. We write flyers about everything from dependency injection to code coverage, and then regularly plaster the bathrooms all over Google with each episode, almost 500 stalls worldwide.

Am I the only one here that thinks that this project is a little disturbing? What are your thoughts on this?

Read more

[Geeks Are Sexy]: Introducing Thomas Edward

Hello, I'm Thomas Edward and I'd like to introduce myself as a new contributor to [Geeks Are Sexy].

Born and raised in New York City, I've had an interest in technology for as long as I can remember. Once upon a time I discovered a book on programming games with BASIC in my elementary school's library, a point from which there was no return. I taught myself as much as I could about technology, and then spent much of high school experimenting with C/C++ programming and web development. I eventually went on to earn a degree in Computer Science.

My days are spent as the database manager for a small non-profit organization, a job with which comes virtually every aspect of I.T. Aside from pushing data around, I get plenty of exercise in solving problems, supporting users, and even a bit of software development. Previously, I worked as a web applications developer for an NYC-based Internet start-up, coding up a storm in the trenches of LAMP.

Personally, I am a Mac enthusiast - I believe that Apple has designed a masterful combination of UNIX power and their own intuitive interface. My main computer is a 2.66 GHz dual-core Mac Pro, sporting 2 gigs of RAM and a dual 23-inch cinema HD display setup. I tote a 15" PowerBook on the road. Beyond the Mac, I'm a fan of Gentoo Linux for its philosophy of customization, excellent Portage system, and dedicated community of users.

Enough with the computers already... away from my desk, I'm an avid snowboarder. A group of friends introduced me to the sport a few years back, and the exhilaration of riding the slopes hooked me for life. I've been riding a K2 Illusion Wide board since last season.

They say never trust a man with two first names, but I'll work to earn yours by contributing honest, in-depth content to this fine website.

The Real Hustle - The Laptop Switch (Video)

In this segment of "The Real Hustle", Jess tries to sell a laptop for £200. What the unsuspecting buyer doesn't know is that she will be buying something entirely different.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Cell Phones: Unlocked?

Will it ever happen in North America?

With cell phones becoming the predominant method of communication these days, it's a wonder that the North American cell phone marketing machines aren't buying more cell phones that are unlocked. The more choices we have as customers, the more we wet our chops to buy the latest and greatest. However, more often than not, if we go to our major cell phone provider and ask for an unlocked phone, the guy behind the counter will give us the ol' hairy-eyeball and ask us what we're talking about.

Major mobile providers don't want to sell you an unlocked phone, mainly because that would give you the freedom to cancel your subscription, and jump-ship to a competing carrier. In Asia, this isn't the case. Consumers can buy their cell phones independently of their carrier; same is to be said in Europe, for the most part.

It is clear that when it comes to mobile phones and gadgets, Asia and Europe are far more ahead of the game than we are, here, in North America; and so is their approach to marketing the technology. However, large companies like Motorola and Nokia are trying to change all that.

They want to give Americans the choice of models independently of whom they chose to go with as a carrier. This is a dangerous game they're playing. The last thing these manufacturers want is to upset the carriers who shell out a lot of money to market their products. The recent introduction of the iPhone has given some manufacturers hope that should Apple sell these devices unlocked, it may prompt other major cell companies to do the same.

Working for a company that builds technology for cell phones in Asia, we have a hard time buying unlocked phones just to do testing. We turn to Ebay, or import from shops that may or may not have the models we're looking for. In essence, it's a crap-shoot.

The way things are now, I doubt that this will fly in the USA, or even in Canada. The carriers simply have too much control. Would you spend an extra $100 for an unlocked phone?

What does it give you?

  • The freedom to change your cellular carrier if you are unhappy with the service they provide.
  • The ability to travel overseas and use temporary SIM chips from other carriers so that you can stay in touch with home without having to buy a new phone.
  • And for those of us that use these phones to test our software or hardware on, we can do so without boundaries.
If your needs, when buying a cell phone, do not include any of the above points, then I just don't see why someone would buy an unlocked phone so long as carriers continue to subsidize their cost in trade for a 1 or 2 year contract.

Read the article.


WiiMote Controled Industrial Robot (Video)

Here's an interesting video of two guys who took an industrial robot, strapped a tennis racket and a sword to it, and put it under the control of a WiiMote. Enjoy the show!

Interested in building one for yourself? Here's the official tutorial:

How to build a sword-wielding, tennis-playing, WiiMote-controlled, friendly robot

It's A YouTube Kind of Day

This morning brings fresh news from two fronts concerning the web's most popular destination for video. Headlines include legal threats, search improvements, monetization and expansion.

First up is Fox, whom Techdirt reports has served YouTube with a subpoena over episodes of the popular shows "24" and "The Simpsons". What's different about this subpoena is that it isn't another takedown notice. Instead, Fox wants YouTube to reveal the identities of the videos' uploaders so the broadcasting company can pursue them individually over the pirated episodes.

The second round of YouTube news is on a more positive note - The Official Google Blog announced this morning details of Google's relationship with and future plans for YouTube. In the Google Blog's post, their Vice President of Product Management reveals that effective immedietly, YouTube videos are included in Google Video search results. With this announcement, the Big G hints at larger plans for Google Video — plans to move the site from a content platform to a search engine encompassing all the web's video content. This move would let both entities do what they do best — YouTube stays in the social video game, while Google sticks to search.

Other points of note from the Google Blog post include references to monetizing YouTube with new forms of advertising, and expanding the service into other countries.

Vista OEM Pricing Released

With the consumer launch of Vista only a few days away, we're finally learning more about OEM pricing for the newest version of Windows. Here is a quick list of these prices:

  • Vista Home Basic $99 (retail version: $199)
  • Vista Home Premium: $119 (retail version: $239)
  • Vista Business: $149 (retail version: $299)
  • Vista Ultimate $199 (retail version: $399)
While these prices may look cheap and at first, you have to note that Vista OEM licenses will not be transferable from one box to another. So if you're planning to build yourself new computer in a year or two, a full retail version of Vista might be what you need.

Insane discounts? It's a mix, really. Vista Home Basic and Vista Home Premium OEM are priced the same as the retail upgrade editions, meaning that your average do-it-yourself system builder isn't going to save much with an OEM purchase provided he has an old copy of Windows laying around to validate the upgrade.

Read more

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

MS Extends Support for XP Home and XP Media Center

Here's some good news for those of you who are either running a Home or Media Center version of XP and who were not planning to upgrade their OS for the next few years. Microsoft has just announced that they would now offer 5 additional years of extended customer support on both consumer versions of XP, bringing the end of support date on those products to 2014.

The "extended" support, which kicks in after April 2009, will bring the two products on par with Microsoft's Windows XP Professional for businesses. Microsoft previously reserved its five-year extended support feature to only enterprise-grade products.

Now, I seriously hope that none of you will wait until then to upgrade. If it is the case, you better keep this a secret. You wouldn't want to be the laughing stock of the entire geek community, would you?

Read more

[GAS] is Looking for a Few Good Contributors

[Geeks Are Sexy] is looking for a few good contributors to help provide fresh and innovative content to our numerous readers (Around 150000 Monthly). Interested in writing for us? We're looking for people who have technical expertise in any IT related field. If you are interested, send us a mail at geekpub@gmail.com and tell us a little bit about your background.

[GAS] 'Review' Contest Update

The first batch of reviews for our "blog about us" contest have just finished to come in. As promised, here are the linkbacks to all people who participated.

If you have a blog and wish to get some more exposure, then why not write something about us? Just head over to our "Articles and Reviews" section, blog about anything you see in there, and we'll give you a free linkback. You will also get a chance to win $50 via Paypal.

What We Don't Know: 42 of the biggest questions in science

42Wired has a great article today exploring 42 of the biggest questions in science. What is the universe made of? Why can't humans regenerate lost body parts? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? (Anyone figured that last one out yet?)

Now, I know exactly what you are thinking: Ha ha. Big Questions? Right. Like I need Wired to tell me what Earth’s core is made of. Or what noncoding DNA is for. Oh, and that “Riemann hypothesis”... is that one as unsolvable as the Poincaré Conjecture - the BS Mensa math problem that was just solved by a crazy recluse... in RUSSIA? Give me a break, pinheads.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Mortal Kombat Armageddon for Wii (Video)

Watch and be amazed. Warning: Contains blood and gore!

Mortal Kombat Armageddon official site

iPhone Trademarks: the Real Issues

Apple LogoSecurityfocus columnist Mark Rasch has just pubbed an excellent article today discussing the real issues behind the Apple/Cisco iPhone fiasco we all heard about recently. Definitely a good read if you need some enlightenment concerning this issue.

Apple's iPhone announcement and Cisco's iPhone trademark lawsuit has brought the iPhone moniker into the spotlight. But other companies also own and use iPhone trademarks, and market and sell their iPhone products. Mark Rasch explains how U.S. trademark law works and the real issues at play in this highly publicized trademark dispute.

Read more

Microsoft Offering Free Windows Vista Test Drive

Windows VistaThe folks at Microsoft have recently unveiled a new site called "Windows Vista Test Drive", which allows you to give Windows Vista a limited try before deciding if you want to set it up on your box or not. The site requires Windows 2000 or XP, IE 6 or 7 and the MS VMRC Advanced ActiveX control plugin, which installs itself automatically when you first try to access the service.

I didn't run into any problem while trying out my "virtual" copy of Vista, but the access was excruciatingly slow, reminding me of a time when I had to connect to remote PCs via a phone line to manage them. Since the site is fairly new, this general slowness is probably caused by the massive number of people trying to access it, so please be patient or wait a few weeks, things should be faster by then.

Check it out!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Microsofter Heads HTML Working Group

Chris WilsonIf you've been following the goings-on at the W3C recently, this will be slightly old news. For the rest of you, this should be interesting. Unless you don't at all care about the technology that is bringing this web page to you, that is.

As part of reorganization efforts at the W3C, the HTLM Working Group Charter is being rewritten, and a guy by the name of Chris Wilson has been named the initial chair of the committee. This is scaring a number of people, and has stirred up a bit of controversy. Here's why:

Chris is now in a very interesting position. He is a representative from a company that has misused its browser monopoly and, according to some, stifled open innovation of HTML (and other web standards). At the same time, he is chairing a committee that represents a large number of interested parties, including some in direct competition with Microsoft. Is he professionally competent for this position? Most definitely. He's the Platform Architect of the Internet Explorer Platform team, for goodness sakes. Will he act unbiased as chair, or will he forward Microsoft's agenda? We'll have to wait and see.

Just to be clear, this is not an anti-Microsoft or anti-Chris-Wilson rant. There should be similar unease and controversy if
any employee of a major browser manufacturer was put in this position. It's just a little scarier, given Microsoft's history in this medium.

Related Reading:

Monday Evening Fun: Bill Gates Goes Back to College (Video)

Here's a short movie featuring Bill Gates and Napoleon Dynamite that totally made my day. Watch it and get back to me; I can guarantee that you won't see Mr. Gate the same way ever again. Enjoy!

Recuva Undelete for Windows

RecuvaWhile doing a good cleanup of my windows box at work this morning, I noticed that Ccleaner, my favorite temp file nuking application, was missing from my system, so I went to download it right away. Just before hitting the download link, I noticed that the same folks who created Ccleaner had released a new file recovery tool named Recuva. Why not give it try? After playing around with it for a few minutes, I was immediately charmed by its clean interface and ease of use. The application was able to recover most of my recently deleted files as well as some older ones without any problems. Recuva is small, completely free, and unfortunately only runs under Windows.

Check it out!

Related [GAS] articles:

Wireless 802.11n Specs Moves Closer to Completion

The steering group responsible for shepherding the development of 802.11n, the high-speed successor to 802.11g, has finally marked an important milestone in the development of the new protocol. If everything goes as planned and the new version of the protocol is approved by the members of the 802.11 working group, the time to buy those 802.11n NICs and access points may soon be upon us!

802.11n has been hailed as an ideal, easy-to-use home networking solution because of its speed and backward compatibility with the slower 802.11b and 802.11g wireless networking spec. 802.11n will have a maximum throughput of 600Mbps, but will typically operate at 200Mbps, about twice that of wired 100BaseT Ethernet and nearly four times the maximum of 802.11g.

Read more

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Monday Morning Links Serving: The Top 10 Edition

Strangely, all links I stumbled upon tonight for this edition of "Monday morning links serving" are all top ten lists. As always, they should help wake up your brain for the coming week. Enjoy!

10 reasons not to get Vista

Ashton Mills of the Kernel Knowledge blog has taken a critical Linux user's eye to Vista and come up with 10 very good reasons why you -shouldn't- upgrade.

10 tweaks for Windows Vista

Mr. Lockergnome himself has a good list of 10 Tweaks, Tips, and Tricks for Windows Vista. A good read if you're planning to upgrade your box to Microsoft's newest OS in the next few months

10 Things You should Know About WordPress 2.1

WordPress 2.1 is here and Aaron has a list of top things we need to know. Check out the new features such as AJAX draft auto-save, Wordpress migration tool, updated visual editor with code tab, and image upload radio buttons.

The story behind 10 famous entertainment websites

The story behind Digg, Maddox, Fark, eBaum and more

10 Signs you've been using Firefox too long

You fumble with the TV remote for a minute before remembering
that you can't open another channel in a new tab.

Have a great week everyone!

Windows 386: Worst Windows Commercial Ever

This strange commercial was sent to retailers by Microsoft back in 1987 to promote the benefits of Windows 386.

Scary isn't it? Seeing something like this just makes me glad we're not in the 80's anymore. This must be one of the worst Windows commercials I've ever seen.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Future is Now: The World's First Microrobots

Wired journalist Emmet Cole just published a fascinating article introducing us to an international team of scientists that is currently developing the world's first microrobot. This little critter is supposed to be so small that it can easily swim through someone's arteries and navigate through his digestive system without any problems. Incredible isn't it?

The tiny robot, small enough to pass through the heart and other organs, will be inserted using a syringe. Guided by remote control, it will swim to a site within the body to perform a series of tasks, then return to the point of entry where it can be extracted, again by syringe.

Based on the E. coli bacterium, the microrobot will
use flagella to move through the human body.

It's funny how certain stories can bring back memories from our childhood. In this case, reading this article made me recall an old movie from the 60's called "The Fantastic Voyage", in which a team of scientists shrink a submarine (along with its crew) to microscopic size in order to send it in someone's body and save him from various health problems (If an attempted assassination can be considered a health problem!)

Read more

Friday, January 19, 2007

Amazing 3D Morphable Face Animation (Video)

Here's an interesting video presenting us with a 3D morphable face model which can be transformed any number of ways. Enjoy the show!

(via Techeblog)

Dolby to Turn Volume Down on Loud Commercials

Dolby DigitalWe can all relate to having been bombarded with an exceptionally loud commercial (or three) while calmly watching television at an otherwise normal volume. Dolby hopes to remedy that with a new technology that keeps volume levels more or less the same accross TV channels, programs, and commercials.

Dolby says that the goal of Dolby Volume's aim is to deliver consistent volume levels by modeling how "humans perceive audio" to eliminate variable loudness in the audio stream. Dolby claims that the system does this automatically without any type of user intervention (aside from the initial setup).

There's no word out yet about how much this new technology will cost, but according to Dolby, it shouldn't raise television set prices by "more than just a few percent." A few percent on a cheap TV set could be quite affordable, but on a high-end one, we could be talking about a few hundred dollars.

[GAS] Contest Update: Only 3 Participants Up to Now

Just a quick reminder to let you guys know that our latest contest is still accepting new entries. Don't forget that you have a chance to win $50 via PayPal when you participate. Good luck everyone!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Microsoft to Sell Vista and Office Via Download

Starting January 30th, for the first time ever in the history of mankind, Microsoft will violate everything they used to believe in and will allow consumers to download the new versions of their Windows and Office suites of products directly online.

By doing this, Redmond has finally decided to follow the path that most software manufacturers have already taken. Let's just hope that they do the same for the rest of their important products soon. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone could get their hands on a desired piece of software the minute they need it? Something like this would be particularly interesting for businesses that sometime need to acquire a product in a rush. I can certainly recall a few situations where a direct download would have saved me from the ire of an uncomprehending client.

With this unexpected move, is Microsoft paving the way to a future Dell-like market for their own software? I think I'm already hearing the outraged screams of many third-party vendors echoing from the near future.

Steve Ballmer laughs at Apple iPhone (Video)

In this CNBC interview, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gives us his impressions on the iPhone. Do you agree with him?

[GAS] Top 5 Free Tech Magazines

We've now been giving out free tech publications for almost a year, and the response to these offers has been pretty amazing. Thanks everyone!

Here are the top 5 magazines (that are still available) that you guys have ordered in 2006:

  • Information Week
    From product reviews to real-world case studies, InformationWeek has the technology field covered.
  • eWeek
    eWeek is the essential technology information source for builders of e-business.
  • Queue
    Queue is a monthly magazine written specifically for the software development and IT practitioner community.
  • ComputerWorld Canada
    ComputerWorld Canada is Canada's #1 source for enterprise IT professionals. Delivered bi-weekly, ComputerWorld Canada delivers timely news and analysis to IT executives and professionals.
  • Oracle Magazines
    Oracle Magazine contains technology strategy articles, sample code, tips, Oracle and partner news, how to articles for developers and DBAs, and more.
You can get the rest of our publications right here. Grab them if you want them, try them if you haven't, they're all completely free.

Six Rootkit Detectors To Protect Your PC

Sony rootkitInformation Week has just released a good article evaluating six of the most popular rootkit detectors that can be found on the web. Might be worth a look if you ever had the misfortune of playing one of those Sony rootkit CDs on your box.

The concept of the rootkit isn't a new one, and dates back to the days of Unix. An intruder could use a kit of common Unix tools, recompiled to allow an intruder to have administrative or root access without leaving traces behind. Rootkits, as we've come to know them today, are programs designed to conceal themselves from both the operating system and the user — usually by performing end-runs around common system APIs. It's possible for a legitimate program to do this, but the term rootkit typically applies to something that does so with hostile intent as a prelude toward stealing information, such as bank account numbers or passwords, or causing other kinds of havoc.

Read more

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Get A Mac: Tech Support and Sabotage (Video)

Yesterday, we posted a new Mac commercial titled "Surgery", but missed the 2 other ones that were released along with it, so here they are, for your viewing enjoyment.

Tech Support


Attack Of The Tech-Savvy Toddlers

According to a report that was recently conducted by the NPD Group, children as young as 2 years old are now downloading content to cell phones, computers and mp3 players. Frightening isn't it? I'm not sure I want to know how these kids will turn out when they get in their 20's.

"Without a doubt, kids are digital content natives, seamlessly navigating between traditional and digital sources of media without missing a step," Anita Frazier, an NPD Group industry analyst, said through statement released Tuesday. "To kids, there is nothing new or novel about digital sources of entertainment. The real challenge for marketers is to be one step ahead of their competition, providing the content and technology kids crave."

Read more

Secure your GMail Sessions on Public Networks

There are probably quite a few of you out there who have to access their GMail accounts on public or unencrypted wireless networks, and in some situations, need to keep what they're doing private. Gmail does secure the authentication process to their service by default, but unfortunately, everything that happens after will pass through the wire in clear text. So what can you do if you need a little privacy while being logged in at work or school? The answer is simple: When you type in Gmail's address in your browser, just add an 's' in front of the http part of the url, like this: https://gmail.google.com. Your whole session will then be encrypted with SSL, including your Gmail chat conversations. Yes, we know, this is a pretty obvious tip, but tell me frankly, would you have thought of it?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Why and Where of Portable Apps

We've made mention of portable applications a few times here and there, but we've never actually explained what's up with this stuff. We've now decided to fix this tiny travesty.

Here's what a "portable app" entails:

When you use a piece of typical software that's been installed on your computer, all of your settings and preferences and other program-related data is stored in a special directory that is associated with your user account (and in some cases, the Windows registry). Because of this, you can't install these applications on a piece of portable media (like a USB key) and expect them to work on another machine. Your preferences, settings, and other program data won't travel with you.

Thankfully, a number of excellent folks have tackled this problem. They've managed to take a number of different applications, and change the way they save that critical program data. The result is a nice little bundle that includes the application itself, a special launcher program (to make sure the correct paths and whatnot are set), and a special place to store program data. It can be put on your favorite bit of portable media, and all of your settings and preferences go with it.

So how does someone get their paws on this portable goodness? The good news is that it's available for the wonderfully low price of FREE! There's a nifty website known as PortableApps.com that will get you Windows bundles, and there is a Sourceforge project for you OS X people. I don't know if there's any similar effort for the Linux side of things, so drop a link in the comments if you've got some suggestions.

The next step with this kind of thing is a "universal" bundle. That is, a single "portable app" that will run different operating systems. A decent example is the PodcastReady client, which runs on both Windows and OS X.

The Apple iPhone: Hit or Miss?

Boy, did Steve Jobs wow the crowds with the iPhone announcement last week. But, by now, the excitement has largely settled down and reality has caught up with Apple. Analyst Rob Enderle takes a look behind the curtain and explains the iPhone - and what may not have been so obvious during Jobs' keynote.

Like a lot of folks, when I first saw the iPhone, I was blown away with its potential. But my job is not to look at what everyone sees, but to see what is being missed both in terms of opportunities and threats and this thing has a great deal on both sides.

Read more

Apple Releases New 'Get a Mac' Commercial: Surgery (Video)

The folks at Apple have just released a new "Get a Mac" ad titled "Surgery". They obviously want people to believe that upgrading XP PCs to Vista will be just like performing a delicate surgery. What are your thoughts on this?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Paypal Authentication Gets a Security Boost

PayPal Security KeyPaypal users rejoice! Ebay's online payment platform should soon allow you to authenticate to their service via a secureID-like password generator.

The way the device works is simple. First, users will have to enter their username and password on sites accepting paypal payments. Then, they'll have to look at their password generator and input underneath the other information the 6-character numeric key they see displayed on its screen. This number will change every 30 seconds, preventing villains that are trying to get in the victim's account from successfully logging in, even if they are already in possession of the user's login information. The device will be completely platform and browser independant, so it will work anywhere you are, whether it is at the office, at home or on a $100 laptop in a school in the middle of the third-world.

For those of you who wish to learn more about the "Key" and are knowledgeable about computer security, you'll be pleased to learn that the device operates on
Verisign's two-factor authentication system (PDF), a relatively new and very secure OTP technology.

The PayPal security key will cost $5 for common users and will be free for business users. There will be no recurring charges after that; the extra layer of protection is completely free. It will first be available in February 2007 to people in the US, Australia and Germany. If we consider the extra security this thing will bring you, I don't think anyone who uses paypal should ignore this offer. It may actually save you quite a bit of money if you ever are gullible enough to follow the instructions in a phishing email.

[GAS] Contest: Review One of Our Articles, Get a Free Link Back and a Chance to Win $50

For those of you who have been blogging for a while, you probably all know that being linked by other sites is one of the most important factors when it comes to being indexed by major search engines. So with that in mind, here is what we offer: Write about one of our articles (click!) and get a free link back. It's as simple as that. Why should you do it?

  • According to Technorati, [GAS] is the 3840th most popular blog of the Internet (On about 55 millions). If we link to you, it will help you become more popular.
  • [GAS] has a Page Rank of 6. The higher the page rank, the higher the value of the link to Google's indexing spider.
  • I will be giving out $50 to the blogger who writes the best blog post that points to one of our articles (via PayPal).
Are you ready? When you are done writing the post, just drop us a note and you'll be entered into the contest. Good luck.

Many thanks to John Chow for the great idea.

CES 2007 Winners and Losers

The folks at Wired have just pubbed a nice article listing their picks of the best and worst products on display at CES.

What was the show's best gadget and the best game? Did you know some of the 100-inch TVs are patched together from smaller screens? Wired News staff blows the lid off the show's best and worst, reporting from Las Vegas.

Check it out.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

[GAS] Monday Morning Links Serving: The Productivity Edition

Here are a few interesting articles I stumbled upon tonight that should help you all maximize your productivity for the coming week.

44 ways to Protect yourself from phishing

You don’t necessarily have to be tech-savvy to protect yourself from phishing attacks, it’s enough if you keep your wits about you, are a little aware that not all sites on the Internet are the genuine article, and follow one or a combination of the following 44 tips.

Top 10 ways to stop the spam invasion

Spam has become so insidious that every company has to consider the cost and means of reducing its impact. Sometimes it's as simple as implementing a basic spam filter and applying best practices-- i.e., following a few rules for recognizing and eliminating spam. On the other end of the spectrum are the most aggressive tactics, which involve turning the tables on spammers. This article provides ten tips to help eliminate spam email from your inbox.

20 Different Ways to Manage Your To Dos

How many ways are there to manage your task list? Almost as many as there are people with tasks to do. Here are 20 different ways of tracking your to dos, with examples of each.

The 7 deadly sins of résumé design

So you’ve labored with sweat and tears writing your résumé, and now you’re all set to turn it into a magnificently designed creation. Unfortunately, with the freedom of modern computers and fancy software, comes huge opportunities for abuse. When it comes to résumés, both non-designers and professional designers commit some almost unforgivable sins. Here are the 7 deadly sins of résumé design and how to repent:

52 Ways to Manage or Reduce your Stress Level

#24: Get enough sleep. Set your alarm for bedtime.

Turn your blog into a book Part 1 / Part 2

If you've got a book in you, a blog could be just the stepping stone you need toward your first deal. More than ever before, literary agents are paying attention to quality weblogs, and publishers are looking for someone with writing chops and a fresh take on a topic.

Now that you've gone through all of this, get back to work and start being productive! You're not getting paid to read blogs right? :)

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Big Keynotes

If you haven't yet caught the big keynoter speeches from Macworld (Steve Jobs) and CES (Bill Gates), you really should. Take a few minutes to sit back and see what the "big guys who are calling the shots" have to offer and where they think the world of technology is going.

But, before you start madly clicking, a word of advice: watch Bill first, then Steve. It's only fair to Bill & co. that way. You'll thank me later.

If you don't want to go through the official channels, some intrepid YouTubers have put up both keynotes (Bill's here, Steve's here) in multi-part sequences of YouTubing goodness.

Edited to add: Lifehacker has noted that there is a torrent online that has ALL of Apple's keynote addresses (1996-2006). Nice.

The Apple iPhone: It's Everything (Video)

If you haven't had the chance to see the iPhone in action yet, have a look at this short video. You won't believe your eyes when you see some of its additional functions. This thing is so much more than just a regular cell phone. Enjoy the show!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Pirate Bay Buying Its Own Micro Country?

SealandThis must be the funniest thing I've read this year! It seems that the folks at Pirate Bay are planning to buy their very own country through the donations of their fans to avoid copyright laws. The country we're talking about here is "Sealand", a 500 meters long platform right in the middle of the North Sea, 10 kilometres (six miles) away from the coast of Suffolk, England.

Its proposal is to raise funds through donations to come up with enough money to buy Sealand. Haven’t heard of Sealand? What rock have you been living under? The Principality of Sealand was founded in 1967 by a former Army Major. He took the title His Royal Highnesses Prince Roy and his wife became Princess Joan of Sealand. Sounds unbelievable but this is completely genuine.

Read more

Aluminum Foil Ship Floating on Hexafluorid (Video)

Here is an interesting clip showing an aluminum foil ship floating above ground on hexafluorid, a non-toxic gas that is 5.11 times as dense as air. Hexafluorid is usually considered as pretty innoffensive, but be careful if you fool around with its byproducts, they can be extremely dangerous. Enjoy the show!

Another interesting point is that inhaling this gas will make your voice sound deeper. Sound does not travel as fast in this medium. Helium can transmit sound very rapidly, hence making your voice squeaky (Source: Neatorama)

Ultimate Guide to Enterprise Wireless LAN Security

George Ou, technical director at Tech Republic, has just released a fantastic step-by-step wireless security guide that will surely interest all of you network / system administrators out there. This guide will give you all the basic foundation you need to secure your enterprise wireless connections by detailing security protocols such as the Protected Extensible Authentication Protocol (PEAP), the Lightweight Extensible Authentication Protocol (LEAP), Cisco EAP-FAST authentication, and Microsoft IAS RADIUS. It will also walk you through the configuration of these protocols so you can properly implement them in your environment. This is one of the best wireless security guide I've seen in a long, long time.

Check it out! (Free registration required)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

[GAS] MyBlogLog Community

After reading Darren's "How To Market Your Blog in 2007" article today, I decided to follow some of his blog marketing tips and start a MyBlogLog community.

Here is Darren's advice concerning MyBlogLog:

Get Your MyBlogLog widget and work it, work it, work it (in a nice way): MyBlogLog — know it, love it, and embrace it. Since its been acquired by Yahoo, it has the potential to explode all over the blogosphere. The two sentence run down is that it offers a free widget that enables you to build a free community around your blog, and to easily see which other bloggers have been to your blog. You can “add” friends, and generate traffic, but more importantly, your own network of like-minded blogging colleagues in a way that is relatively easy and efficient.

Sounds great right? Trust me, it is. Only 5 minutes after signing up and joining a couple of popular communities, MyBlogLog sent us around 5 new readers. Now let's see how everything turns up after 24 hours.

Sign up to MyBlogLog

Join the [GAS] MyBlogLog community

AACS: Will it work, or will it break?

I recently wrote a little about the copy-protection technologies being deployed in Windows Vista in reaction to a certain paper being published. The commentary that resulted made me realize that we need to demystify some things before we go further.

To condense a rather large and far-reaching technical mess into a more digestible tidbit, here are three major "pieces" to the next generation HD content playback system that will sit in your living room.

  1. Video output and display. The datastream between your multimedia player's video-out and your shiny HD behemoth screen is protected by a protocol called HDCP, which is spec'd to be layered on top of a connection such as HDMI.
  2. Multimedia Player. This is the device that handles all of the processing and number-crunching to change the stream of bits coming off your piece of media into a bright and happy A/V stream to throw at your display by means of Item #1. This is your set-top box or your home-theater PC's software player. This is the piece that Peter Gutmann's paper discusses in the context of Vista.
  3. Media Reader Device. This is the drive that spins that little shiny disc around, and shines pretty lasers at it, and decrypts that mess of noise into happy bits that Item #2 can understand. This is where we largely start talking about AACS (the very beefy replacement to CSS that protects HD-DVD and BluRay media).
Yes, there is a lot of crossover and gray area here. Each noodle in this acronym soup has varying degrees of impact and influence across all three of the above generalizations. But these generalized distinctions are important ones to make, and provide a necessary context for the discussion below.

A couple of guys at Freedom to Tinker are in the middle of a very interesting series of posts that talk about AACS in response to emerging reports that the system has been cracked.

Commentary has been all over the map, with some calling this a non-event and others seeing the death of AACS. Alex Halderman and I have been thinking about this question, and we believe the right view is that the software isn’t a big deal by itself, but it is the first step in the meltdown of AACS. We’ll explain why in a series of blog posts over the next several days.

Start with their first post, and work your way forward. It's a good, candid and interesting read.