Saturday, December 29, 2007

Netscape 1994-2008 Rest In Peace

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Netscape Navigator the once dominant and long forgotten pioneering web browser will officially pass into the history of the Internet on February 1st 2008. AOL announced that support for all Netscape products will end on that date. While there hasn't been any official development on the browser carrying the Netscape brand name in a couple of years, the legacy will live on through Firefox.

When AOL bought Netscape it was widely believed that Netscape would have a new lease on life in it's fight against Microsoft's Internet Explorer, but instead choose to distribute Microsoft's web browser while owning Netscape lock stock and barrel. Instead of breathing new life into Netscape AOL helped Microsoft kill Netscape.

While Netscape is about to become history, it's role in the history of the Internet and the World Wide Web should never be forgotten. It was the Netscape browser that helped make the Internet easy to use, more interactive helped put more multimedia content online. If it wasn't for the Netscape browser everybody and their dog wouldn't be online today.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Users of Bag Phones and bricks (and some other users) lose cell phone service

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Remember back in the 198o's or the early 1990's when Cell phones were just coming out into the market they were ether a big plastic brick with an antenna or a handset connected to a bag with an antenna. The analog cellular service that made those phones possible will soon be coming to an end.

The Federal Communications Commission has authorized American Cell phone carriers to start shutting down Analog cell phone service starting in March of 2008 in order to reallocate the frequencies used for analog cellular service to Digital cell phones . While most consider the analog cellular phones as antiquated as Windows 3.1, but for many in rural areas analog is the only cellular service available because digital isn't offered or digital coverage is poor.

It's not just users of big old cell phones in the country that will be left without service, about half a million owners of GM vehicles made before 2004 who have the OnStar service will also get disconnected. GM stayed with Analog cellular because it's more carrier agnostic than digital cellular systems. Another half a million household alarm systems will also be affected. These systems have a cellular telephone back up system for when the landline telephone system has failed.

I don't believe the progression of technology is a bad thing, it's government policies such as this that are a bad thing. Bueaucrats who have very little grasp of technological process are the problem, not the technology.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Firefox 3 coming soon

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The Mozilla organization, creators of the upstart Firefox browser that a couple of years ago knocked Microsoft down a notch, are getting ready to release the third version of the web browser that for the very first time caused a Microsoft product to lose market share.

The second beta of Firefox 3.0 has just arrived, and even though all the features aren't ready there is already a lot to like. The Address bar auto complete doesn't show recently visited website address similar to what someone is typing but the page title as well. Even if something is typed into the address bar, similar web site titles are shown too.

The new feature that is being talked about the most is the Places, where a record of most visited websites is kept in a separate and can be easily accessed even if the sites aren't even bookmarked.

Another noteworthy new feature in Firefox 3.0 is saving a set of tab for the next browsing session. If Firefox 3.0 is closed with many pages open in separate tabs, then Firefox will ask the user if they want to save the tabs to be opened the next time that Firefox is opened. This will help protect one's privacy from the prying eyes in the next cubicle.

An improvement in Firefox 3.0 over previous browsers is the enlargement of what is seen in the browser window. Pressing the ctrl and the - or + keys will shrink or enlarge the text of the web page, but in Firefox 3.0 pressing this key combination will change the size of everything in the browser both text and graphics. This is going to be even more helpful for the visually impaired.

There's a lot to like in Firefox 3.0, and a lot to look forward to.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Zune Arrives in Canada (sort of)

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Just a year after launching their portable music player in the United States, Microsoft has released the Zune in the Great White North (kind of). When I opened the flyer from XS Cargo, the local liquidation outlet that carries mostly refurbished electronics, Refurbished Zunes for sale for $129.99! Of course you cannot buy music from the Zune Marketplace (the official online music store run by Microsoft) in Canada because Canadian IP addresses are blocked. But that's alright with them because Canadians are pirates anyway!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

95% of all E-mail is Spam!!!!

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A new study of 50,000 corporations has found that 95 percent of all e-mail is spam. This may seem to be close to true. How often do we think that we are going to read an e-mail from a friend only to find it's an ad for some legally questionably product or service.

While some kind of technological solution has to be found to prevent people from getting scammed by spammers. Did you for a second think that those male enhancement pills that you get pitches for actually work?

For just a second take this study with a grain of salt because of the source, a company called Barracuda Networks maker of security tools for corporate IT departments including spam filtering for e-mail servers.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Cheap Laptops for third world countries, guess who wants in

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There has been talk about the XO laptop computer part of the one laptop per child program, for a couple of years. The concept is simple a laptop that is durable made from simple hardware and runs a simplified user interface on the Linux Operating System. This laptop is designed to enable learning for young people in third world countries. Currently the cost to manufacture a XO laptop computer is $188.00 each but the program hopes to bring the cost down to under $100.00

One of the things that keeps the cost so low is the lack of Copyrighted commercial software. Guess who wants their software on the XO laptop? If you guessed Microsoft then you are correct. Microsoft announced that they are developing a slimmed down version of Windows XP for the XO laptop. That's all fine and well if they keep the cost low enough to keep the cost of the laptop down to the $100 price point. The problem with trying to run Windows on the XO laptop is the limited capibility of the hardware (433 MHz, 256 MB RAM 1GB Flash memory) Windows XP crawls on a PC with those specifications. Microsoft's other stripped down of Windows XP (Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PC's) takes 1.1 GB just for full install which what needs to be installed just to be usable for most users.

The XO laptop is aimed at educating children in countries struggling to provide basic school supplies. The XO laptop is being provided by western philanthropists. Getting people to buy Windows for XO laptops sounds like a pretty hard sell to me.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Guess who's looking to pick your pocket - again

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Like it's a real surprise, some in Canada's music industry are looking to fleece Canada's Internet subscribers. In an open letter to the Canadian Government the Songwriters' Association of Canada is calling for a $5.00 per month levy on Internet subscriptions. This isn't the first time that there's been a proposal for a blanket levy on Internet subscriptions. A few years ago the Society of Composers, Authors, Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) went before Supreme Court of Canada to force Internet subscribers to pay musicians and songwriters whether a person downloads music or even if they don't.

Canadians are already hand over money to the recording industry when they burn music CD's. A levy of 21 cents per blank CD is charged in Canada. Of course that's fine and well the more people burn CD's but fewer and fewer are given the popularity of portable MP3 players.

Forcing people to pay a blanket levy for legal use of peer to peer networks isn't the way to go. Most P2P network clients have a lot of adware and spyware bundled with them, and there is so many viruses that circulate on P2P networks. Just allowing people to use P2P networks legally exposes people to online security threats.

Such a levy as is being proposed would act as a disincentive to use legal services like iTunes and, Paying a levy on the Internet subscription and paying a legitimate service would force users of these services to pay for music twice.

The levy that is being proposed amounts to $5.00 per month per Internet subscription makes no distinction between dial up which only allows very limited downloading and broadband which allows virtually unlimited downloading.

This proposed levy is nothing but mafia like behavior, this is not a business model.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Superman to change in the Men's room?

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In the past decade the pay phone has been in decline as cell phones have gotten cheaper and smaller. Telecom giant AT&T has just announced that they will be exiting the pay phone business by the end of 2008. AT&T expects to hand off their pay phone business to independent contractors but they could ultimately get bought up by AT&T's competitors such as Verizon, and Qwest if they don't make the same move to relegate the pay phone to the technology cemetery.
In places in rural and remote areas where there is no cell phone coverage, pay phones are still essential. If these areas lose pay phone service then there potential danger to residents and visitors to area that are not serviced by the cell phone carriers.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Verizon Wireless opens up

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Recently #2 US cell phone carrier Verizon Wireless announced that they would be opening up their network to cell phones that they didn't originally sell. This means that any unlocked CDMA cell phone will be able to be activated on the Verizon Wireless network. While this is a first in the United States, Manitoba based MTS is actually the first CDMA carrier to activate unlocked CDMA phones.

This gives CDMA users the same freedom that GSM users have always had, the ability to choose their phone if they are unhappy with the phones (or the prices for those phones) that their own carriers provide. While GSM users just have to put in their SIM card into an unlocked phone and use it, CDMA users will still have to visit a dealer to activate a phone even if it's unlocked. There could still be fees involved or a sales pitch to buy a Verizon phone.

Activating CDMA phones will allow switching even easier, switchers will be able to keep both their phone numbers and their phones. All that's needed is for the phone to be unlocked prior to a switch to Verizon Wireless. One of the biggest pains of switching cell providers is learning how to use a new phone and transferring phone book entries, but now even that's not much of a factor.

One thing that's hard to say is how many CDMA phones can actually be unlocked. Carrier lock down is something that had to be added onto the GSM standard so it's easier to defeat, but CDMA phones were designed to be locked down to the carrier that originally sold the phones. When open activation goes into effect some time next year it will be consumer that wins, and until the other CDMA carriers follow suit, Verizon Wireless will also be a winner.

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