Thursday, January 1, 2009

Squatters Are Screwed; Nobody Cares If Your Domain Has That Hot New Suffix

by Jason Kincaid

Quick, name three significant web sites that have domain extensions that end in .me or .tv. Having trouble? Sure, there are a few of them out there ( and come to mind, but I can’t think of any major .me’s). For all of the hype surrounding these extensions at launch, they’ve largely failed to deliver.

Earlier today Chris Dannen at FastCompany wrote a post titled “How 2009 Will Spur The Rebirth Of Cyber Squatting“. In it, Dannen writes about the beginning of a new age of domain squatting, as ICANN (the organization that handles domain name registrations) begins accepting applications for new domain name suffixes. He posits that with the emergence of new extensions like “.nyc” or “.law” these squatters will be given a new lease on life, with a nearly endless number of possible domains to plunder. Legitimate companies, likewise, will have to register as many domains as they can in the hopes of fending off sites like “Microsoft.sux”.

Fortunately, Dannen is wrong. Some overzealous companies may still go to the trouble of snatching up as many domains as they can, but it will be for naught.

If ICANN does wind up releasing dozens or hundreds of new domain name extensions, extensions in general will become increasingly meaningless. Many people are already confused enough by the differences between common extensions like “.net” and “.com”. And they’ve generally rejected the overhyped extensions that are already out there, like “.tv”. Adding countless others to the mix will only make them more confused, to the point that they no longer care.

Instead, they’ll just turn to search engines. Many people are already using Google to search for whole domain names, and I can’t think of the last time I’ve directly entered a URL from an ad I heard on TV or the radio (I usually just type the company name into Google). Search engines generally do a better job at identifying the most authoritative sites in a space, and as they get smarter by paying more attention to user location and semantics, the bias for search engines over URLs will only become stronger.

To some extent we need this - the internet has essentially run out of good domain names. Most startups and small companies can’t afford to play the squatting game, leading them to create brand names that are as forgettable as they are meaningless. As we make the jump from the URL to the search engine, they’ll be able to name themselves whatever they’d like, even if they use an obscure extension.

This won’t kill off cyber squatting entirely - .com’s will continue to command exorbitant prices, and a handful of domain extensions may eventually emerge as popular alternatives to .com and .net. But the idea that the web will soon become “incomprehensibly more vast and expensive” is simply misguided. It might get a little bigger, but it won’t be anything Google can’t handle.

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Wikipedia's new plea for donations stirs skepticism

By Jacqui Cheng

Regular visitors of Wikipedia have become so familiar with the standard fundraising banner at the top of the page that they've practically become blind to it, but Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has mixed things up by replacing it recently with a personal plea for donations. Wales' appeal has triggered renewed discussion about the site and its ability to sustain itself without advertising, while many remain skeptical about the severity of the situation.

In his letter to Wikipedia readers, Wales notes that the Wikimedia Foundation has a relatively small staff (23 members) and that all of its content is free. He says that donations help the organization cover the increasing cost of bandwidth and help improve the site's software.

"Like a national park or a school, we don't believe advertising should have a place in Wikipedia. We want to keep it free and strong, but we need the support of thousands of people like you," reads the letter.

Wikipedia visitors are presented with this banner when visiting the site

Wales' appeal has been compared to a PBS pledge drive—annoying at best, unnecessary at worst. Critics have long suggested that Wikipedia simply give up harassing its members with endless donation requests and turn to the ad-based revenue model that supports many other sites that offer free content to users, but Wikipedia has so far been adamantly against this option.

Not that an ad model would somehow automatically solve Wikipedia's funding issues. Companies like YouTube have had serious trouble trying to monetize user-generated content through advertising, and it's not hard to see why; what big-time brand wants to take a chance on appearing above unvetted and potentially libelous entries that could, at any moment, have key words replaced by terms for genitalia?

Former Wikimedia employee Danny Wool publicly criticized Wikipedia's constant donation drive on his blog last month by saying the organization is incredibly bloated and inefficient. He points out that Wikipedia once accepted numerous tiny donations (á la the Obama campaign—every little bit counts) but now has a suggested minimum of $30.

"As for Administrative expenses, should a charity that lives on $6 million be paying bloated salaries to the ED and her office, i.e., 8 percent of the budget?" Wool wrote. "Is that what people should be donating to support? Please donate to Wikipedia, so that [executive director] Sue Gardner can be among the elite few whom Obama admits he will raise their taxes? No wonder the WMF doesn't want the small donations any more."

Additionally, Wikipedia's own volunteer administrators and editors have had a strong negative reaction to the donation banners. Some have argued that they do all the work for free already, so what's with the increasing operating expenses—$6 million this year, up from $3.5 million last year? Others try to find ways to hide the Wales appeal from appearing on the site at all. Wales, on the other hand, feels that the accusations of bloat are a bit much.

"We are an astoundingly effective charity with a tiny budget," Wales told Ars. "The idea that our budget is 'bloated' is ludicrous - we run the 4th most popular website in the world for $6 million a year."

On top of it all, some critics are still jaded over incidents that surfaced earlier this year in relation to Wikipedia and Jimmy wales. Former Novell scientist and Wikipedia donor Jeff Merkey issued a statement earlier this year essentially accusing Wales of extortion—he claims Wales offered him "special protection" for his Wikipedia entry "in exchange for a substantial donation and other financial support of the Wikimedia Foundation projects."

This is, of course, not the first or only accusation against Wales related to his editing and protecting of various people's entries in exchange for certain favors—just do a Google search for "rachel marsden" + "jimmy wales" to get enough gossip to fuel the National Enquirer for months.

(Keep in mind that Merkey has a reputation of his own as well. Jimmy Wales denies any wrongdoing in all of these supposed incidents.)

Still, the site is a unique worldwide phenomenon, and turning it into yet another place for advertisers to hawk their wares would certainly alter the feel of the wild but noncommercial encyclopedia.

Original here

Nine 2009 Techie Predictions: The Fanboy Forecast

Posted by Michael

The Shape of Things to Come (1936): Movie Poster

Year-after-year I’ve watched the usual suspects make their tech predictions, so this year I’ve decided as a fanboy that it was my right to make a fool of myself as much as the next guy. Most people are in a doom and gloom mindset right now, but I’ve always felt that there are opportunities when the going gets tough. In fact my one ambivalent prediction is that somewhere in 2009/2010 someone will start a new company which will become the next big thing. But here’s what I think will be happening with the current cast of characters in the tech scene:

Sun is Acquired or Sells Off MySQL/Java Assets
Sun Microsystems stock tanks and the company becomes an acquisition target for the likes of IBM or HP — or the company goes back to their hardware roots and they sell off the valuable software assets to stay alive.

Microsoft Announces Silverlight Office & Outlook
This will be the point where people realize that not only is Microsoft serious about going after Google, but they’re in it to win it by doing what they do best: By being the upstart underdog.

Mahalo Acquires from the New York Times
In one fell swoop Jason Calacanis takes on Wikipedia while Google quietly closes down Knol. Calacanis uses the opportunity to open an advertising network out of NYC thus firing the opening shot of Silicon Alley 3.0.

Apple Rolls Time Machine into Apple TV
It’s sink or swim time for Job’s hobby and one sure way to make Apple TV make more sense is to add further functionality.

Yahoo! Will NOT Be Acquired
Yahoo! always made money and with a recession this will seem like a virtue once again.

Pixar Announces a 2D Styled Feature Film
With everyone doing yet another 3D film Pixar will zig while everyone zags and will reinvent classic animation while doing it.

Technorati Shutters Down
I’m sort of surprised that this didn’t happen in 2008 — I’m still trying to figure out what this site is good for anymore?

Amazon and/or eBay Will Announce an iTunes Like Desktop App
(or Embrace a Silverlight or Flash Interface)
As Flash and Silverlight embrace accessibility you’ll start to see more high end commerce sites become more like desktop applications as ease-of-use will bring in more sales.

Google Acquires Twitter
Like Blogger and YouTube our friends at Google love to buy the best-of-breed dynamic websites. In many ways Google will also do this as a checkmate against further investment in Facebook by Microsoft.

Original here

The 11 Stupidest Moments in Tech for 2008

Mark Sullivan, PC World

Tech is overflowing with creative and hypermotivated people who do a lot of pretty incredible things. But they can be counted on to do some pretty silly things, too--which is lucky for us, since high-profile pratfalls are part of what makes this industry fun to watch. Certainly 2008 had no shortage of silly goings-on. Caught up in the Christmas spirit (and spirits), I'll toast 11 of my favorite flights of industry foolishness from the past year, and match each with a fresh Brandy and Egg Nog. So this list is sure to get more insightful and coherent as we go along.

Microsoft Advertising: Down the Rabbit Hole

I think Microsoft's marketing and advertising people took a vow last New Year's Eve to spend all of 2008 on acid. First the "Mojave" campaign, in which the company introduced people to the coolest parts of Vista under a different name ("Mojave") and recorded the results (people liked the Mojave demo). Then the publicity trust enlisted Jerry Seinfeld to star in a series of truly strange commercials that had almost nothing to do with computers or anything else. I admit to enjoying them (exactly for their weirdness), but Microsoft clipped short its arrangement with Seinfeld after making only two spots. (Seinfeld earned $10 million for his efforts.)

The company's next big thing was the "I'm a PC" campaign, whose main message seems to be "See, really hip, creative people who do wacky things for a living use PCs, too, not just Apples." Campaign cost: $300 million. All of these ads are defenses against Apple's gains toward winning the hearts and minds of the computer-buying public, though Microsoft still controls a huge share of the consumer OS market, and an even greater share of the business market. Hey Microsoft: Spend 2009 sober; take your massive advertising budget and use it to hire the software design people you need to bring your OS back to the top of the heap.

Rumors of Steve's Death...

On October 3, some genius started a bogus rumor on the micro-blogging site Twitter that Apple's Steve Jobs had suffered a severe heart attack and had been rushed to a hospital. The "news" spread like wildfire on Twitter and elsewhere, bringing panic to many in the tech industry, and causing Apple stock to take a dive before quickly recovering. All in all, it was a bad day for "citizen journalism."

'New Facebook' Angers Many, No 'Facebook Classic' in Sight

Social networking site Facebook got many of its members' undies in a twist earlier this year when it revamped the design of its front page. Numerous groups with cheery names like "New Facebook Blows" sprang up almost overnight, and the biggest of these, "Petition Against the 'New Facebook'," attracted more than a million members.

With the new design, users have to click a couple of times to get to their beloved Facebook apps. The old design had all of the apps listed in a prominent vertical menu on the home page. For a while Facebookers could choose the design they preferred, but the service eventually deactivated the old version.

"The new design is different, and we understand that some people will be uncomfortable with the changes," Facebook's Mark Slee announced in the site's official blog. "But over time, we think people will appreciate the advantages of the new design and the new features it offers."

Truth be told, the new Facebook looks cleaner and more usable now than it did before. Clearly Facebook intends to be more about communication between members, and not so much about accessorizing a personal profile page with messy and browser crashing trinkets à la MySpace.

A Wikipedia Love Story

In a classic case of mixing business with displeasure, Wikipedia cofounder Jimmy Wales dumped his girlfriend, ex-Fox commentator babe Rachel Marsden, and posted the news on Wikipedia. In retaliation, Marsden put some of Wales's clothing (left at her apartment in New York) up for auction on eBay and said some snarky things about Wales in the process. Anyway, Valleywag, the tech industry's equivalent of the National Enquirer----broke the whole story and even unearthed some of the steamy IM conversations between Wales and Marsden.

Here's our favorite line from the Valleywag coverage: "Marsden subsequently told friends that Wales gave her feedback on her website design - is that what kids are calling it these days? - for 24 hours straight in a D.C. hotel." It took me about an hour to figure out what actually happened in the tragicomic affair, and I felt about 10 IQ points lighter afterward.

Another Year, Another "Google Killer"

One of the most widely anticipated new products of 2008, a search engine called Cuil, developed by four ex-Google people, was hyped (not surprisingly) as a "Google killer." The new search engine debuted, kinda sucked, and then sorta disappeared.

The first mystery was how to pronounce the product's weird name (like "cool," not "quill" or "kewl" or "cue-ill"); the second puzzle was what the name meant (allegedly an old Irish term for both "knowledge" and "hazel"), and the third and biggest stumper was why Cuil's search results had such a weak relevance quotient, to the point of being bizarre. Some first-time users reported that Cuil even had trouble yielding relevant results when searching its own name. That's just nuts.

Microsoft and Yahoo: Will They or Won't They?

Will Microsoft buy Yahoo? The behemoth of Redmond launched an unsolicited $44.6 billion takeover attempt of the venerable Web portal this year, an effort highlighted by a personal love note from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to the Yahoo board. Then Yahoo, which could really use a date, played hard to get for so long that Microsoft gave up, never to return. Well, not in 2008, anyway.

The failed courtship generated no small measure of frustration among Yahoo investors. Here's billionaire investor Carl Icahn in a letter to the Yahoo board of directors:

"Until now I naively believed that self-destructive doomsday machines were fictional devices found only in James Bond movies. I never believed that anyone would actually create and activate one in real life. I guess I never knew about [Jerry] Yang and the Yahoo Board."

Was Yahoo leader Jerry Yang the man who botched the deal? A lot of people think so. Maybe Yang did, too. He stepped down as Yahoo CEO in November.

Sprint: What If Roadies Ran the World?

It's funny how the advertising industry has conditioned us not to expect to find any connection between the subject matter of ads and the products they promote. My favorite example this year (other than this one from Gatorade) was a Sprint commercial that imagined a world in which roadies (the guys that lift the amps and pull the wires for rock bands) run everything--in the ad, an airline. I giggled at the 30-second spot, but it could just as well have been used to pitch fish sticks or odor eaters. Anyway, here it is.

A Few Hiccups in Political Tech This Year

In tech terms, 2008 was a bad year for the Republicans. While the Obama campaign was rewriting the rules for campaigning and fund-raising on the Web, John McCain and his people made one gaffe after another. The first came when Mr. McCain himself cemented his "out-of-touch old guy" image by admitting that he didn't use a computer and hadn't much need for e-mail either. Not that he wasn't trying: "I am learning to get online myself, and I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself," McCain told the New York Times.

Meanwhile, the Republican nominee's running mate, Sarah Palin, hewed to the campaign's Luddite theme by conducting official business via her private Yahoo Mail account--an account that an interloper hacked into. Some of her e-mail messages were published on a Web site called Wikileaks.

Later, in the heat of the campaign, McCain adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin credited his boss with having brought the BlackBerry into being. What McCain really had done was some work in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation that arguably helped create market conditions in which the BlackBerry thrived. But why split hairs?

Matters grew even dicier when the GOP decided to sell off the computers and smart phones that the McCain campaign had provided to staffers for use during the campaign. Problem was, the McCain folks forgot to wipe the data from some of the BlackBerry phones it sold, and several went out the door with sensitive information still on them, including the phone numbers of several prominent political figures who had worked with the campaign.

Obama's campaign wasn't perfect either. The nominee's attempt to be the first candidate in history to announce his choice for vice president via text message, uh, failed. The announcement that Joe Biden was the guy went out in the middle of the night on August 24, but not before the news had been leaked to and reported by CNN reporter John King.

Princess Leia Reporting From Chicago for CNN

CNN claimed a breakthrough on election night by "beaming in" a 3D image of reporter Jessica Yellin to a CNN studio in New York to talk to commentator Wolf Blitzer. You know, like in Star Wars. Yellin spent half of her air time going on about how it worked and how cool it was, explaining that she was actually inside a tent in Chicago's Grant Park where 35 cameras spun around her taking images that were processed by 20 computers.

But it wasn't really a hologram. Rather, Yellin's image was simply overlaid on top of the CNN broadcast feed. When Blitzer stood in the New York studio and said "You're a terrific hologram," he was talking to thin air.

The Year in iPhone Apps

Apple won't sell just any piece-of-crap iPhone app at its App Store. Still, a couple of things in 2008 left me a little confused about the vetting process used to decide which apps make it in and which don't. On the one hand, you can buy Cow Toss, an app for your iPhone that lets you throw cows around the device's screen. But on the other, you can't buy iBoobs, perhaps the best use of the iPhone's accelerometer feature I've seen to date.

Never mind, though. You can still buy an app called Hold On, whose sole purpose is to time how long you can keep your fingertip pressed on a large white button on a red screen.

For a while there, the App Store was selling an application called I Am Rich, which sold for--get this--$1000. The app did basically nothing other than plant a red jewel thing on the iPhone's menu screen, sending to all the world the message (as creator Armin Heinrich puts it) that "I can afford to buy a $1000 iPhone app" or (maybe more likely) "I am profoundly stupid." Yet something like eight people set aside their Neiman Marcus catalogs long enough to purchase the app--a bargain at one-third the price of a limited-edition Jay Strongwater Nutcracker Figurine. Developer Heinrich told the Los Angeles Times that he earned $5880 for his trouble, while Apple snapped up a tidy $2520, its standard 30 percent cut of app sales.

Effective Employee Relations During Difficult Times

In perhaps the e-mail dummheit of the year, the media consulting firm Carat accidentally shared with its employees both the news of impending layoffs, and the cool and calculated ways it intended to communicate them. The e-mail message, which was intended only for senior managers, included a PowerPoint slide show with talking points (obtained by AdAge). From the talking points:

"If you would like to go home today and come back tomorrow to clean out your desk or office, you are free to do so. We would like you to meet with your manager following our meeting to transition your work. We will be communicating to your team today. Your manager will be contacting clients. We ask that you do not contact your clients to discuss this situation."

The e-mail was sent out by Carat's top HR exec in New York. I can only imagine the scene: panic, screaming, high heels running down a well-appointed hallway toward the IT office. The company's IT department tried to pull back the wayward e-mail, but failed.

And On and On...Until Next Year

So that's about all the dopey tech moments I could remember from 2008. I'm sure I've neglected a few good ones, so please chime in in the Comments section to relive some more special moments from 2008. At this point 2009 looks like it's going to be a tough year in tech (and everywhere else), but here's hoping that we can have a few laughs along the way, and that it's not all gallows humor. Happy New Year, everybody.

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More Than Just Novelties: 20 Useful USB Gadgets That Don’t Suck

  • By Tech Mog

It seems that every day there are new USB devices. Some are cool and some are not. I think that anyone that even has a little bit of geek in them will appreciate any of these. Some have practical uses and some are just fun, but all twenty of these gadgets are awesome.

keychain1-300x261 More Than Just Novelties: 20 Useful USB Gadgets That Dont Suck

1. Digital Photo Keychain:

I’m sure you’ve seen these cool devices. They can hold up to 35 pictures and you can download them right from your PC. Now you can have pictures of your kids, dog, girlfriend, or wife with you all the time. Just make sure that you don’t have your wife and your girlfriend on the same key chain.

 More Than Just Novelties: 20 Useful USB Gadgets That Dont Suck

2. Phone Book Cell Phone/ PC Flash Drive:

This handy device is great for maintaining and backing up your phone numbers on your cell phone. You can edit the phone book on your PC and upload it into your phone. Conversely, you can download phone numbers from your phone to your PC so you can have a backup in case something ever happens to your phone. This device can hold up to 10,000 different phone numbers and is compatible with Windows 98SE, Windows ME, Windows 2000, and Windows XP.

 More Than Just Novelties: 20 Useful USB Gadgets That Dont Suck

3. USB Beverage Warmer/ Cooler:

Keep your drinks warm or cold with this awesome beverage device. In addition, it doesn’t just link up to your computer. It’s also compatible with video game systems such as Xbox and Playstation and is even compatible with your cable box. You can use this gadget for keeping your coffee warm while you’re working during the day, keeping your soda cool while you’re playing your favorite video games in the evenings, and keeping your beer cold while watching sports on TV on the weekends.

 More Than Just Novelties: 20 Useful USB Gadgets That Dont Suck

4. Oscillating Fan:

This fan is great for warm offices and can either be stationary or can oscillate to circulate some air. It’s only 7 inches, so it will fit anywhere and is perfect for a desktop in your office.

 More Than Just Novelties: 20 Useful USB Gadgets That Dont Suck

5. Wireless mouse:

There are numerous wireless mice to choose from on the market these days, but it’s an awesome PC item that I think everyone should have. You never have to worry about the restraints of a corded mouse again. You also don’t have to worry about the cord rubbing against a surface so much that it eventually loses wire connection, which is a common problem that can occur over an extended period of time. The wireless mouse is compatible with Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000, and Windows XP.

 More Than Just Novelties: 20 Useful USB Gadgets That Dont Suck

6. Flexible Keyboard:

This cool keyboard is not only spill-proof, but also water-resistant. You can actually run it under water to clean it! This is a great sanitary solution to keyboards that may sit out for months with crumbs from several meals and the oils from the skin of several different people.

Also, it’s made of high quality silicone, so you can bend it or roll it and it won’t damage the keyboard at all. The keyboard also has a soft and silent touch so you won’t hear that “tap-tap-tap” when you’re typing as you do with traditional keyboards. This keyboard is compatible with Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows ME, Windows 2000, and Windows 98.

notebook-charger2 More Than Just Novelties: 20 Useful USB Gadgets That Dont Suck

7. Battery Charger:

The USB battery charger holds either 2 AA batteries or 3 AAA batteries. This device contains two LED status lights and has an automatic off feature.

 More Than Just Novelties: 20 Useful USB Gadgets That Dont Suck

8. Pencil Sharpener:

The USB pencil sharpener can be useful at work or at home. It’s a perfect size for a desk as its dimensions are about 3 inches all the way around.

missile-launcher1-300x216 More Than Just Novelties: 20 Useful USB Gadgets That Dont Suck

9. Missile Launcher:

This little gadget has no practical use, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s equipped with three foam missiles, pre-recorded sound effects, and missile software in the form of a CD. The missiles can really soar through the air and can shoot up to 20 feet away. This means that you could have a lot of fun at home and drive your pets crazy, or you can have even more fun at work and drive your coworkers crazy.

 More Than Just Novelties: 20 Useful USB Gadgets That Dont Suck

10. Pen/ MP3Player:

I’ve never seen as awesome a USB gadget as the pen/ MP3 player. It contains a 1GB or 512 MB flash drive, FM radio, built in microphone for voice recordings, and earphones. You get 7 hours of playing time, so it would be perfect to take to work. It’s compatible with Windows XP, 2000, ME and 98 SE operating systems as well as Mac and included in the package is a driver CD and the user’s manual. It’s pretty reasonably priced as the 512 MB version is under $50 and the 1 GB version is under $70.

chess-board1-300x261 More Than Just Novelties: 20 Useful USB Gadgets That Dont Suck

11. USB Chess Board:

This awesome flexible chessboard is great for playing with a friend, by yourself versus the computer, or with online competitors. It’s great because you can roll it up and go. This gadget is compatible with Windows 2000 or Windows XP operating systems and you will need a 1.5 Ghz processor or faster.

humidifier1-149x300 More Than Just Novelties: 20 Useful USB Gadgets That Dont Suck

12. Mini Humidifier:

This “cool” humidifier works for a full 45 minutes in its continuous mode or you can use it in its intermittent mode and it will run for 90 minutes. You can also pour scented oils in it for aromatherapy. This is a great device especially during those dry winter months.

 More Than Just Novelties: 20 Useful USB Gadgets That Dont Suck

13. Digital Microscope:

Okay, all you scientists. Here’s one that you’ll love. This innovative microscope can magnify up to 200 times without even changing lenses. It can attain images up at 1,024 x 768 pixels and also records video. It’s pricey, but worth it.

 More Than Just Novelties: 20 Useful USB Gadgets That Dont Suck

14. USB Basketball Game:

This awesome little basketball game is great to kill boredom at your work desk or great to play at home too. It’s only about 6 1/2 inches tall, so it’s practical for almost anywhere, despite what your boss might think.

fridge More Than Just Novelties: 20 Useful USB Gadgets That Dont Suck

15. USB Refrigerator:

Don’t worry. Your PC’s USB port isn’t going to be powering a 6-foot tall, bulky unit. This is a mini-fridge that will hold only one can of soda so that you can keep a soda cold and ready for you without even leaving your computer. The best part about this mini-fridge is that it only takes about 5 minutes to cool a soda down to 47 degrees Fahrenheit.

wireless-presenter-188x300 More Than Just Novelties: 20 Useful USB Gadgets That Dont Suck

16. Wireless PowerPoint Presenter:

Do you prepare a lot of PowerPoint presentations at work? Are you tired of being tethered by a corded remote? Here’s your answer. This wireless presenter works from up to 10 meters away from the source and includes buttons for page up, page down, escape, and F5 (Presentation). It supports Windows 98SE, ME, 2000, XP, and Vista operating systems.

 More Than Just Novelties: 20 Useful USB Gadgets That Dont Suck

17. Heated Gloves:

This gadget is terrific if you share an office with others who insist on keeping the air conditioning cranked way up beyond your comfort level. These gloves with the holes in the fingers keep your hands warm and still allow you to work.

piano-keyboard-300x225 More Than Just Novelties: 20 Useful USB Gadgets That Dont Suck

18. Roll-up Musical Keyboard:

I doubt you’ve seen anything like this. This 49-key flexible piano keyboard contains six different tones and 100 prerecorded rhythms. The keyboard rolls out to be a little less than 30 inches long, but rolls up into a convenient small package. This keyboard and software is compatible with Windows 2000, XP, and Vista operating systems.

memory-watch-204x300 More Than Just Novelties: 20 Useful USB Gadgets That Dont Suck

19. Memory Watch:

Now you can carry all of your important data and files right on your wrist with this USB memory watch. This great gadget comes in a 2GB version and a 4GB version and it’s compatible with Windows 98, ME, 2000, XP, Linux 2.4 or higher, and Mac 8.6 or higher operating systems.

photo-frame-300x173 More Than Just Novelties: 20 Useful USB Gadgets That Dont Suck

20. Digital Photo Frames:

These frames come in sizes that range from 2×2 to 8×10 and hold tons of pictures. They’re awesome for setting in your living room or on your desk at work. It’s something you can enjoy and other people will marvel. Though you’ll pay quite a bit, these frames are worth it.

So, what do you think of these gadgets? I’m certain that you’ve seen some of these before. Which ones most impress you? If you think these are impressive, just think about what the next generation’s technology has in store!

Original here

11 Gadgets to Rock Your New Year's Eve

By Priya Ganapati


What better way to welcome the new year than with a collection of bright and shiny party gadgets?

You can handle the basics: Flare pants. Sequin dress for the ladies (and some of the gentlemen). Hair gel. Beer. Breath mints.

But Wired's Gadget Lab has the electronic tools that will make this a truly 21st century event. Whether you will live it up on Times Square, throw your own block party or merely make a drunken nuisance of yourself in a subway car, here are 11 cool gadgets that can help you pass the last few hours of 2008 in high-tech style.

Alcohawk ABI Digital Breathalyzer
So your New Year's Eve resolution is to quit drinking (for the 10th year in a row) but you want to have a blowout before you give it all up. Too bad you had to drive to the party. Before you get back into the car at 4 a.m., fish out the $100 Alcohawk digital breathalyzer and do a quick test. Above legal limit? Taxi!

Pacemaker_4 Pacemaker Pocket DJ System
This beautiful piece of hardware is pricey ($800), but it's all you need to create a mobile disco. The Pacemaker has two digital "decks" that let you scratch, bend and tweak your tunes to create a party and sell tickets. It comes with extensive mixing functionality, allowing you to change the pitch and cross=fade, and it has 120-GB hard drive.

Soundproof Microphone
Clearly karaoke is not your thing. That's why you may want to put a bag over your head when you sing, or do the digital equivalent of it and get a soundproof microphone. This rather uncool-looking device muffles your singing and lets you belt out Ricky Martin's "She Bangs" without letting everyone know you're more like William Hung.

Portaparty_2 Porta-Party
Shy guest coming to your New Year's Eve party? Rent this booth so they can party in private -- sort of. Los Angeles-based artist Nick Rodrigues has created an iPod-shaped booth called Porta-Party that you can walk into. Shut the door, crank up the music and start grooving. The best part is the exhibitionist aspect: The iPod-like screen on the booth shows a video of what's happening inside. Get ready to put on a show!

Remote Fireworks Launcher
Why risk starting the new year with first-degree burns? If you have a place to set off some pyrotechnics, get the remote fireworks launcher. With a wireless remote you can set off up to five different fireworks at one time. Burn, baby, burn!

DIY LED Mirror Ball
A disco mirror ball is a must-have for a New Year's Eve party. What else will you point your upraised hand toward when "Stayin' Alive" comes on? But ordinary mirror balls are so ... ordinary. Buy a mirror ball and soup it up with some LED to make your party even more disco-licious.

Cocktail_fountain Cocktail Fountain
The name suggests a centerpiece shooting a fountain of Martinis or Manhattans high into the sky. The Cocktail Fountain is not quite that, but it promises to deliver cascades of alcoholy delight directly into cups, which is almost as good. It's the adult version of the chocolate fountain.

LED Throwies
Some people just talk about painting the town red. Others actually do something about it. LED throwies are little blobs of LEDs, stuck together with a battery and a rare-earth magnet that can be thrown and stuck to any ferromagnetic surface in your neighborhood. They're cheap and easy to make. Throw a few to see where they stick, and light up the city.

Mood_beams_3 Mood Lighting Kalediosopic Critters
Party lighting could mean candles and Christmas lights. Better yet, how about some glowing creatures that look like cousins of Casper the Friendly Ghost? They come in four moods -- chipper, peppy, dizzy and gloomy -- which will probably reflect your mood cycles through the evening. So bring on the kaleidoscopic critters, add the mirror ball, the pocket DJ system and the cocktail fountain, and it will be one helluva party.

Sony Dancing Egg Rolly
Need a party attraction? How about a dancing egg that flashes and rolls to the beat of the music it's emitting from its own flapping speakers? The Rolly dancing robot from Sony may be entirely useless, but it's good for a few laughs. It could be an icebreaker, too: If everyone is standing in the corners, roll this out on the dance floor and watch the crowds follow.

Cobra_radar_detector_2 Cobra XRS Radar/Laser Detector
New Year's Eve can see more cops per square foot in your town than a drug bust on a Baltimore street. Even going 55 miles an hour in a 50-mph zone is enough to get the red and blue lights flashing behind you. Before you hop into the car, turn the radar detector on and give yourself some advance notice about upcoming speed traps. A warning though: Radar detectors are illegal in some states.

Photo: Disco Ball (massdistraction/Flickr)

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GTA IV makes fun of Apple, predicts iPhone 3G reception problems

As 2008 comes to an end, we thought we’d look back at one of the best Apple spoofs from the last year. And the winner, hands down, is Grand Theft Auto IV.

GTA IV hit like a bombshell when it was released in April, received a ton of accolades, and subsequently won a few “Game of the Year” awards. But even in the midst of all the killing and violence, GTA IV came through with the great biting social commentary that we’ve come to expect from Rockstar. Check out these pics from the game (from an Internet cafe) which do a great job of mocking Apple and users of Apple products.

Check out the iMac, and the browsers close resemblance to Safari. But the real ‘gold’ lies in the description of this fictional company called “Fruit”:

Think Simple. Think Minimalism. Think Overpriced.


Funny shit. But it doesn’t end there.

The new IFRUIT Phone is advertised with the following tagline:

“No buttons. No reception. No Storage Capacity. All Ego”

Who would have thought GTA IV would have predicted the iPhone 3G reception fiasco a full 3 months ahead of time!

Large Form iPod Touch To Launch in Fall ‘09

by Michael Arrington

We’ve got this from three independent sources close to Apple: expect a large screen iPod touch device to be released in the Fall of ‘09, with a 7 or 9 inch screen. Prototypes have been seen and handled by one of our sources, and Apple is talking to OEMs in Asia now about mass production.

Apple has been experimenting internally with large form tablet devices for years, one source says, but there was concern that users wouldn’t like the device. The difference now is the iTunes app store, which has thousands of games and other applications that are perfect for a touch screen device with an accelerometer. Apple says more than 300 million applications have been downloaded since the App Store launched in July 2008. Combine the App Store, iTunes and a browser and you have one heck of a device.

We don’t have any information on pricing. The current iPod touch, with a 3.5 inch screen, starts at $229. The 32 GB model is $399. We expect the price on the larger iPod touch to be significantly higher.

Apple rumors, particularly Apple tablet rumors, tend to come and go. I’m not saying Apple is definitely launching a large form iPod Touch. But sources I trust are saying they are currently planning to, and one source has actually held the device.

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Delete Files to Prevent Crashes in OS X 10.5.6

Ted Landau,

Apple has recently posted several articles that offer advice on how to prevent crashes and freezes related to the Mac OS X 10.5.6 update. The fixes all involve deleting files, most often heretofore little-known system files.

Prevent a Configuring Installation error

When installing an OS X update, the Installer may stall or freeze at the stage where a "Configuring Installation…” message appears. The good news is that this bug has been eradicated in Mac OS X 10.5.6. The only problem is that you may still see this error while attempting to install the very 10.5.6 update that fixes it! If so, the solution is to go to the /Library/Updates folder and delete its contents.

I am not certain (and Apple does not explain in the relevant article) exactly why deleting this folder's contents eliminates the Configuring Installation error. But after a bit of investigation, I at least know a bit about the overall function of this folder.

Most often, all you will find in the Updates folder is a single index.plist file. However, using Software Update, if you select to download and install an update that requires a restart, you will eventually get a message that says "The new software requires that you restart your computer." You can choose either the Restart or Not Now button. If you select Not Now, the update's package is temporarily stored in the Updates folder (as shown above).

The index.plist file maintains a list of these updates that are waiting to be installed after a logout/restart. In such instances, the update will also be listed as "Downloaded" in Software Update (as seen near the bottom of the screenshot on the right).

Fix a blue screen crash

Apple notes that, especially after using Software Update, you may get a blue screen crash at startup. If so, a likely fix is to restart with a Safe Boot (by holding down the Shift key down at startup). New in Mac OS X 10.5.6, a Safe Boot results in the deletion of the "dynamic loader shared cache" in the /var/db/dyld directory. A corrupt cache here turns out to be one cause of a blue screen crash. Restarting normally after a Safe Boot creates a new copy of the deleted cache, with the result that the crash should no longer occur.

Fix Mail crashes

According to Apple, the Mac OS X 10.5.6 Update "addresses an issue that could prevent Mail from quitting." In an ironic twist, Apple subsequently reported that Mail may actually quit unexpectedly after installing 10.5.6. This can happen if the Mail application was not properly updated.

If so, the solution is to run Mail Update 1.0. If and only if your copy of Mail needs this update, the update file should appear in Software Update. If unexpected quits persist even with an apparently properly installed copy of Mail, Apple recommends a visit to the ~/Library/Mail/Bundles folder. If you find third-party Mail plugins here (such as OMIC and GPGMail), these may be incompatible with the latest version of Mail. Check to see if there are newer versions of the plug-ins available. Otherwise, simply delete the plug-ins. This should eliminate the crashes.

Two follow-ups

• Adobe printing errors fixed in 10.5.6: Apple's list of what's fixed in Mac OS X 10.5.6 claims that the update "improves printing for the Adobe CS3 application suite." As usual, Apple's documentation offers little in the way of specifics. However, I am guessing that this addresses the printing problem described in a previous Bugs & Fixes entry.

• NYTimes app updated: I previously crowned the NYTimes app with the dubious honor of all-time iPhone crash champion. A new 1.4 version is now available at the App Store. It promises "improved stability," including fixing a crash that occurs when pressing the previous or next button at the last article. I've used the updated app for awhile and have not had a crash yet. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

For more Macintosh computing news, visit Macworld. Story copyright © 2007 Mac Publishing LLC. All rights reserved.

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Apple's Jobs is (Still) Fine

Posted By: Jim Goldman

Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs

You want to know how skittish Apple investors are and how little conviction they have in the company, or trust in its message, look no further than today's Gizmodo rumor fiasco.

The blog reports a serious decline in Steve Jobs' health as the real reason for his decision to pull out of the Macworld tradeshow keynote address, and the stock tanks. Apple shares [AAPL 85.35 -0.94 (-1.09%) ] had spent the day in the green before these headlines hit the tape, and then promptly turned red.

Never mind the Gizmodo report was flimsy at best. Never mind the blog seemed to distance itself from its own report. Traders and their hair triggers swiftly yelled "Sell!" — and rumor overshadowed reason once again.

I spoke to Apple after these headlines crossed and the company, which officially doesn't comment on rumors, reiterated the reasons it offered two weeks ago: Apple was pulling out of Macworld because the company didn't see the need to continue its investment in the expo, which included Steve Jobs' keynote.

I was told this morning (Tuesday) that nothing has changed since then. The same reasons apply today that applied two weeks ago.

I was told two weeks ago by sources inside Apple that the decision had nothing to do with Jobs' health. I got the same message today. Period.

I will say again: if Apple is lying, holding some truth back, manipulating its own stock by manipulating the truth, someone — indeed a lot of people — could be going to jail. Do I like the way Apple has handled this ongoing story? No. But do I traffic in rumors to fill the void the company has created by not choosing to be more forthcoming about Jobs' health? Absolutely not.

When Apple's got something material to report, I trust that it will. Meantime, unsourced garbage nuking its shares is just that.

Questions? Comments?

© 2008 CNBC, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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