Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bell Finally Joins Android Bandwagon

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Posters that have been appearing at Bell stores are announcing Bell Mobility will be the exclusive carrier for Samsung's first Android based smartphone called the Galaxy.  The Galaxy uses Bell's new HSPA network, runs Android 1.5, has a 5 MP digital camera, has WiFi and has a microDS slot for memory expansion.  This announcement from Bell now brings all three of Canada's national cell phone carriers into the Android camp.  Telus recently announced their exclusive agreement to bring the Motorola Milestone (The HSPA version of the Droid) North of the 49th.  Subscribers to Canada's two regional carriers, MTS and Sasktel still do not have an Android smartphone of their own, something that probably won't change until the exclusivity agreements expire in two to three years.  Those in Manitoba and Saskatchewan who are looking at an Android based smartphone have one choice, Rogers

Having a Tripoly of national cell phone carriers in this country has led to subscribers of regional carriers and Mobile Network Virtual Operating (MNVO's) getting shut out of getting the cool in demand smartphones.  Exclusivity agreements between handset makers and the big national carriers is yet one of the signs that competition is long overdue.  Just the threat of competition has made the big national carriers drop the much hated system access fee, and the absolutely fraudlient 911 fee.  In order for the consumer to pick a phone then pick a carrier it's starting to happen, with Bell and Telus' new GSM/HSPA network it's now possible to to swich carriers just by swiching a SIM card in an unlocked phone.

Monday, November 23, 2009

News Corp's Stupid Gamble - Delisting From Google

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Reports are surfacing that News Corporation is considering any offers for payment in exchange for de-listing it's newspapers and Fox news from Google News.  It is said that Microsoft is talking to News Corp about a deal where News Corp will make it's properties available through Microsoft's Bing search engine.  Bing's market share in search has fallen into the mid single digits after capturing 12 percent of all web searches when Microsoft launched Bing back in the summer.

For News Corp and other struggling news outlets the thought of the kind of money that Microsoft can bring to the table is at the very least worth considering, any such move to delist from Google may end up being hurtful in the end.  It's not just Google's web search market share of 80 percent or more that would make delisting from Google foolish to say the least.  People who use competing search engines often just use them as a second resort after searching Google first. 

A quick injection of cash from Microsoft may help News Corp in the short term, but in the long run sticking their online news properties on a search engine that is only capturing five percent of all web searches will rob them of the very thing that all online and offline media companies fight over, eyeballs.  Online advertising hasn't paid out the kind of money that media companies had expected, and people didn't pay to subscribe to online content.  Craig's List stole their classified cash cow, it's not hard to understand how traditional news outlets are struggling in the online age. 

Friday, November 20, 2009

Geek Anthems: Online - Brad Paisley

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Songs like'White And Nerdy' and 'It's All About The Pentiums' by Weird Al Yankovic are considered a couple of geek anthems, songs that celebrate geek culture.  There's another one that fits into the catergory as a geek anthem.  Online by Brad Paisley may not celebrate geeks or geek culture but it is story of one geek played by Seinfeld's Jason Alexander in the video.  The protagonist works a dead end job in the fast food industry and drives a beater of a car.  He lives in his parents' basement, his real life is much different than the life he creates for himself on the Internet.  In his fantasy world he is played by Paisley himself.  The video intercuts concert footage featuring Taylor Swift and Kellie Pickler to go with the line of the chorus of the song "Even on a slow day I can have a three way chatting with two women at the same time"

Alexander's geeky protagonist is then seen playing the song in the concert footage and dancing with Swift and Pickler.  The protagonist's dream is shattered when Paisley comes to ask him "what the hell are you doing?"  The dream is totally over when after a dissolve we see him and his father played by William Shatner asking what the hell are you doing?  The protagonist dons his marching band uniform presumabily from high school days and goes marching down the street with the geeky female from next door.  The protagonist's mother played by Estelle Harris is seen with Paisley she says that "marching music makes me hot" with Paisley shuttering at the thought. 

Many reviewers panned the song stating that is way mean spirited and close to bullying.  I doubt that most of us have embellished the truth about ourselves to make us look better than we actually are online or offline.  To the critics maybe they should take a look at themselves and listen to the song and have a laugh.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Kindle Will Be Coming To Canada After All

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When Amazon launched the international version of the Kindle e-book reader last month there was a big hole in the list of countries where people could buy Kindles.  Potential Canadian customers were left behind, but not any more.  Amazon has announced that Kindles will start to be shipped to Canada. It wasn't Canada's publishing industry that was holding back the Kindle, it was the cell phone industry.  According to Amazon "We were shopping around for the best deal on the cost of running its wireless capability." What this boils down to is that Amazon wansn't willing to play ball with Rogers and was waiting for Telus and Bell to launch their GSM/HSPA network.

Wannabe Kindle readers who live in or visit Manitoba or Saskatchewan will find that the wireless features will be no available because the Bell/Telus HSPA network doesn't cover those two provinces, unless Amazon makes a deal with Rogers to use their network in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. That may be change within the next couple of years.  Telus is expected to start putting up their own wireless network towers when existing network sharing agreements with MTS and Sasktel expire.

It may not be truly national coverage yet, but anybody who won't have access to the wireless features at first can still hook up to a computer for a sync.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What Microsoft Should Do If They Redesign The Xbox 360

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Once in the lifespan of any video game console system the manufacturer will redesign a system to lower the cost of production, make the system hardware more relabile, or to give it greater appeal to consumers.  At the beginning of the 1990's both Nintendo and Sega redesigned the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sega Master System. Both redesigned their 8-bit systems to make them cheaper to build and sell to consumers just as the 16 bit video games era began.  In 1999 just before the Playstation 2 was released to rule the gaming world the original playstation went under the knife and got smaller in size of the system and the price got smaller too. 

In 2004 Sony redesigned the Playstation 2 to make it smaller, but not just because they were replacing it with new system but to give it a competive leg up against Microsoft's original Xbox. Sony made the PS2 smaller by locating the power transformer outside of the box using a wire wart instead.  The hard drive expansion bay was done away with and the drawer loading drive was replaced with a drive that used a fliptop lid similar to the original playstation.  The Ethernet port became standard on the redesigned PS2 no longer an add on.

After a redesign and price drop Sony is now selling more Playstation 3's then they ever have since launching the system in 2006 it's now Microsoft that finds themselves in third place in console sales. Nobody every said that having a big clunky looking machine will doom a game machine to failure but the design was one of the biggest complaints about the original Xbox.  After five years the Xbox is starting to look an update is needed.  What changes will be needed so that Microsoft will be looking forward to success with the Xbox 360 rather than the current trend of gamers jumping ship to the PS3.  Here's just a few of my suggestions:

Dump the memory card slots: Those two slots right next to the disk drive drawer are for a couple of Microsoft's proprietary memory cards for the Xbox 360.  Since adding 256 MB of flash memory to the motherboard of the 360 Arcade has made using these memory card slots unneeded and unused by the vast majority of 360 owners.  This should definately be the first to go.

Go to a slot loading disk drive:  The competing consoles in this generation both have slot loading drives which game disks are inserted.  The old fashioned loading drawer can break off, and after a while can and will fail.  Slot loading disk drives prevent dust from entering the drive mechanism, and the brushes on the slot clean disks as they are being inserted into the drive.  Many Windows PC's as well as just about evey Mac that Apple produces have replaced the drawer load drive with a slot load drive, it's time Microsoft does the same with the 360.

Onboard WiFi:  One of the things that irks 360 owners and PS3 fanboys gloat about is the extra one hundred dollars for the WiFi adapter for the 360 that those unwilling to run ethernet cable have to buy if they want to get onto Xbox live.  Both the Wii and the PS3 have onboard WiFi standard if Microsoft wants to keep the 360 competive then they will have sacrifice the sacred cash cow.

Better ventilation:  Stories from gamers of Xbox 360's overheating and showing a red ring still aboud where gamers meet each other.  Changing to a design similar to that used by Apple's G4 cube where the CPU and GPU chips which create the most heat are placed cloest to the vent at the top of they system and chips that produce little or no heat are placed close to the bottom. 

At least considering these ideas is at least a way of looking forward instead of letting the 360 rest on it's laurels, it may seem like a big choice for the Xbox 360 team at Microsoft, but it really is not.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Jailbroken iPhones Get Hacked

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For those who have ever jailbroken their iPhones or iPod touch devices thinking that it was harmless, they have just been proven wrong.  Users of jailbroken iPhones in Holland recently discovered a message telling them that their iPhones have hijacked and that their personal information was available to the hijacker.  Clicking on a link in the message told them to hand over 5 Euros to the hijacker's PayPal account. 

While this was just a simple attempt to scare people out of money is just the first of what will be flood of security breaches that hit jailbroken iPhones or iPod touchs since jailbreaking disables all security mechanisms in the Apple devices.  This is proof that any iPod touch or iPhone is best left the way it came from Apple.

For more information about The Hidden Dangers of Jailbreaking

Monday, November 2, 2009

GSM Droid Confirmed For Germany, Canada Next?

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Since the official announcement of Motorola's Droid launch on Verizon there have been rumours of a Droid for GSM networks will be surfacing soon.  O2 Germany and Motorola have confirmed that the GSM version of the Droid dubbed the Milestone will be available on November 9th.  While this doesn't mean anything for Americans on AT&T or T-Mobile because of Motorola's exclusivity agreement with Verizon, Canadians will have a reason to hope that it's no longer a question of if the Droid will come to the Great White North but when.

The Droid coming to GSM means that Rogers will be able to offer the phone as well as CDMA carriers Telus and Bell.  The CDMA Droid is most likely to end up with Telus because most of the models of phones that Verizon carries get carried by Telus.  Bell on the other hand carries Sprint's phone lineup.  Having a GSM version of the Droid means that Rogers can and will offer the Droid to Canadians.

The GSM version of the Droid will also be HSPA network compatible so that Telus or Bell could offer the GSM/HSPA version of the Droid to get expected data hungry customers that the Droid would attract onto their new networks, while Voice call users would stay on CDMA.  While this may be a good way to manage their wireless networks, won't be a good move to provide service to those in Manitoba and Saskatchewan since the only networks that aren't owned by Rogers are CDMA only.  The best way for Telus to offer a national launch of the Droid is to pick up the CDMA version. (Subscribers of MTS and SaskTel are out of luck on this one since these regional carriers carry the phones the big carriers don't want anymore.)

Forbidding some kind of exclusivity agreement with one carrier can and should give Canadians choice of cellular carrier.  Not just now but in the future when the new carriers, Wind Mobile, DAVE Wireless and Public Mobile launch their cell phone services next year.  This oddly reminds me of ten years ago when people could flock to Bell, Rogers, Telus, Clearnet or Fido to get a Motorola StarTac.  Times change but sometimes what's old can become new again.

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