Archive for June, 2007
June 25th, 2007
Roy Pearson, the man suing a cleaners for $54 million over lost pants, got his day in court today and shockingly lost (the case was tossed by the judge) and may now have to pay legal fees which unfortunately don’t amount to $54 million. According to ABC News, the hearing was brief yet emotional and “Pearson broke down in tears and had to take a break from his testimony because he became too emotional while questioning himself about his experience with the missing trousers.”
Is this guy for real? Pearson should sue himself for losing his dignity and the rest of us should sue him for waisting the court’s time with this insanely stupid lawsuit.
June 13th, 2007
First AT&T wanted to spy on all our phone calls (or at least allow the NSA to). Now it looks like they want to spy on our Internet traffic (this time without any involvement from the NSA). According to the LA Times,
AT&T Inc. has joined Hollywood studios and recording companies in trying to keep pirated films, music and other content off its network — the first major carrier of Internet traffic to do so.
The San Antonio-based company started working last week with studios and record companies to develop anti-piracy technology that would target the most frequent offenders, said James W. Cicconi, an AT&T senior vice president.
This sounds really scary. The only conceivable way to implement this would be to inspect all packets going through their network. As an AT&T DSL subscriber, I certainly don’t want AT&T looking at the content of all my traffic.
A couple months ago, PBS’ Frontline had a great episode called “Spying on the Home Front” which covered AT&T’s wiretapping of United States citizens’ phones. You can watch the episode online for free on the Frontline Web site.
June 11th, 2007
At Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference today, Steve Jobs announced a version of Safari (Apple’s Web browser) for Windows XP and Vista. I immediately went to Apple’s site which initially looked a little odd, downloaded it, and installed it on my PC to try it out. The result? I feel dirty. It just feels wrong installing Apple software on a Windows machine. I’ll give it some time before I form a real opinion but hopefully this will show Windows users what they’re missing by not using a Mac.
June 10th, 2007
I’ve noticed that the longer I leave Firefox running on my Mac, the more memory it seems to take up even if I’m not using it and the pages I’m viewing are static (no AJAX or other updating elements). I decided to do a little test and see how much memory it was taking up with three pages open that I’ve had open for hours, then restart with the “When Firefox starts: Show my windows and tabs from last time” option selected in the preferences (which will basically reload all the tabs that were open when I restart the browser). The results are below:
The restart basically reduced “real memory” usage by 306.5 MB and “virtual memory” by 1.2 GB!
Poking around the Web, there are a lot of reports of memory leaks in Firefox but what causes them and if they even exist is contested. I’ve decided to follow some advice at simplehelp.net and set Firefox’s browser.cache.memory.capacity setting to 18432. I’ll let you all know what happens .
June 10th, 2007
When Google debuted their newest addition to Google Maps two weeks ago, there was much excitement in the air. The new “Street View” allows users to virtually explore the streets of cities like San Francisco and New York and offers 360 degree panoramas that appear as though the user is standing in the street. At first the buzz centered on how Google accomplished this feat. Like a lot of things that Google has recently done, this has been done before (although Google’s interface is arguably the best implementation of it). In the first quarter of 2006, Microsoft launched their Preview version of Local Live.com which allows users to “drive” through streets as if they’re in a car. A French Web site has offered similar functionality for what one person told me has been 5 years. And then of course there’s Amazon’s A9 which offered street views of businesses (more on that in a minute).
Almost immediately after Street View launched, blogs and Web sites popped up chronicling humorous images that Google’s Street View captured. In fact, to date, the only things I’ve been hearing or seeing about Street View are funny images or things like Steve Jobs’ house and car. To date, I haven’t seen an example of why Google Maps’ Street View is actually useful or a viable product other than the cool factor.
Amazon’s A9 service showed how a street view could be combined with online yellow pages in a manner that made business sense. When searching for a business in A9’s yellow pages, the search engine would display the business information as well as pictures of the business (so if you were looking for a small business in a strip mall, you could know what to look out for while you’re driving). Google Maps completely misses the mark on this. For example, search for “bank” in San Francisco, Ca. The result shows me the typical push-pin result view. To get to Street View, you have to push the Street View button which then loses the push-pin you were on. You then have to either drag the icon of the person or double click near the business you want to view (if you remember where it was) and then drag the camera around until you find what you’re looking for. A much more useful version of this would be to 1) display the storefront when in the business push-pin view and 2) be able to go into Street View directly from the push-pin. This is what Amazon’s A9 did and worked very well. Once functionality like that is build, one can “walk” down the street and Google can tell users what other businesses are on that block (and of course advertise to the end user based on that).
In its current implementation, Street View is almost a separate site, sharing only the overhead map view with Google Maps. Until all the features are integrated into one seamless application, I see little use for it except to find people picking their noses or in front of strip clubs.
Speaking of photos of people picking their noses or in front of strip clubs on Google, Privacy International, a “watchdog on surveillance and privacy invasions by governments and corporations” found Google last out of 20+ companies when it comes to privacy protection.
June 8th, 2007
I went to buy a Father’s Day gift on Amazon.com this morning and happened to glance at the “Recommended for You” section of the home page. Imagine my surprise when Amazon.com recommended Karl Marx’s “The Communist Manifesto”! You know, only 40 years ago Amazon.com would have been dragged before Congress, shut down, and Jeff Bezos would be in prison somewhere. Funny how times change.
June 7th, 2007
Here’s an update to my previous entry, “Earth, The Next Hollywood Superstar?.” The blog High-Def Digest is reporting that HD-DVD and Blueray sales for Planet Earth have broken revenue records. Although fewer units were sold (The Departed holds the record for that at 100,000), the approximately 42,000 units of Planet Earth are more expensive (around $70 each) which has lead to more overall cash than The Departed raked in.
June 6th, 2007
According to Wired’s Gadget Lab blog, Canon has developed a 50 megapixel CMOS sensor. Surprisingly, a 50 megapixel censor only provides an 8000×6000 image (am I getting greedy?). The storage requirements for these images must be insane! Time to stock up on memory cards . I’m still waiting for prosumer level DSLRs that have GPS tagging built into them.
June 5th, 2007
According to Multichannel News, Time Warner Cable will be installing switched digital video technology in a couple of their markets. Switched digital video (SDV) is a technology I saw at NCTA this year and in my opinion has a huge advantage over satellite. In a nutshell, SDV allows cable operators to offer a virtually unlimited number of cable channels. Currently a cable operator has to provision a certain number of channels given the limited spectrum. For example, let’s say a cable operator can only handle 100 channels due to throughput restrictions for the medium. Channel 002 is always Station X and channel 003 is always Station Y and even if no one is watching Station X, the operator has to send the station’s signal out. SDV allows the cable operator to reclaim throughput not being used and provision it for other channels. So, if no consumers are watching Channel 002, the operator can use channel 002’s bandwidth to offer a new channel, channel 101. So, the idea behind SDV is more analogous to your home internet. You have a certain amount of bandwidth going into your DSL or cable modem…what you do with it is up to you (50k of your 800k bandwidth isn’t always reserved to do one thing). SDV allows operators to virtually stream programming only when consumers want it. Therefore, a cable operator can offer thousands of channels. If no one’s watching a niche channel, nothing is affected since that space is reclaimed to send signals that people are watching a different channel.
This technology will ultimately lead to more high definition channels and more niche channels. Imagine having a high definition channel that solely consists of a camera mounted somewhere in Yellowstone Park (HD of course) and a channel dedicated to underwater basket weaving. Traditionally, a cable operator wouldn’t dream of such a thing since it would take away their ability to offer more mainstream channels but now the possibility exists to offer almost any channel as long as it’s commercially viable.
June 5th, 2007
It seems like Earth is becoming a huge star in Hollywood these days. Between Winged Migration, March of the Penguins, An Inconvenient Truth, and the cable television series Planet Earth, there’s no shortage of films about the home planet. Now, according to the UK’s Telegraph, the BBC is releasing a new nature documentary creatively named “Earth.” The article describes what went into the production of the film:
It took 130 cameramen and technicians five years to make the £8 million movie, the most expensive documentary film ever made. Filming in 62 countries, they braved some of the world’s most remote and treacherous terrain to secure footage of previously unseen aspects of the animals’ struggle for survival.
I really enjoyed Planet Earth so I can’t wait for this movie to come out.