A technology blog for The Economist Group IT team

Friday, May 27, 2005

Google Toolbar 3.0 beta:

Taken from PC Mag
Google's latest toolbar provides a number of notable improvements. And while AutoLink worked erratically in our tests, this remains the Internet Explorer toolbar to beat.
Effective pop-up blocker and Web-form spell-checker. Useful WordTranslator feature. Icons change to reflect addresses, ISBN numbers found on each Web page.
Works only with Internet Explorer. AutoLink feature yields mixed results. Desktop search requires a separate download.

Download Now:
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Thursday, May 26, 2005

Bill's Brain Benders

Here's an interesting article from The Times about interview questions that Microsoft use to find the most suitable candidates from the 12,000 CVs/resumes they receive each month. See if you can work out the answers.

Note to anyone viewing this outside the UK - The Times restricts a lot of it's content to UK residents (in the interests of charging overseas readers for access) so if you would like to see this article but can't, let me know and I will copy and paste the text for you. (Hopefully The Times lawyers aren't reading this !)
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Forget StickeyKeys

A permanent fix for accidentally hitting [Caps Lock].
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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Space Space Glorious Space

Samsung develop 16GB flash drive Samsung Electronics today announced that it has developed the first Solid State Disk (SSD) based on Flash-memory technology for consumer and mobile PC applications that can store up to 16 GigaBytes of information.

The NAND-based SSD is a low power, lightweight storage media for notebook and tablet PCs. Using the industry's highest density NAND Flash, Samsung say they can now build SSDs with a capacity of up to 16 GigaBytes.

The SSD has a power consumption rate less than 5% of today's hard disk drives (HDDs), enabling next generation mobile PCs to extend their battery life by more than 10%. Free of moving parts, the Samsung SSD memory has no noise and minimal heat emission. Moreover, it is a highly reliable storage media that endures exceptionally well in environments with extreme temperatures and humidity, making it suited for industrial and military applications.

The SSD's performance rate exceeds that of a comparably sized HDD by more than 150%. The storage disk reads data at 57 MegaBytes per second and writes at 32 MegaBytes per second.

To ensure compatibility, SSDs have been designed to look like a normal HDD from the outside. Samsung has developed a 2.5-inch SSD that carry either 8 GigaBytes or 16 GigaBytes of storage. Smaller 1.8-inch type SSDs will also offer 4 GigaBytes or 8 GigaBytes of storage.

The full range of SSD devices will be available in August this year.
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No longer a Big Blue Apple?

Apple are apparantly considering ditching IBM's PowerPC chips for Intel hardware, Reuters reports today.
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Friday, May 20, 2005

Personal Video Recorder (PVR).....

I like to think I am good at upgrading my home pc having done it twice in ten years I consider my self a professional. I won't bore you too long with what happened there but to be concise, I bought a new hard drive for my four year old pc in the attempt to just have more space to have all my "legally obtained" music in one place on a big shuffleometer. So anyway, the hard drive didn't work because I never read what I had bought and my BIOS was out of date, I can't read Korean, so I couldn't flash the BIOS into shape no matter how many times I used babelfish to decipher the voodoo. So from a £40 hard drive I went on to spend £300 more and had a completely new pc, that I built from bits, in the vain hope that slowly faded that it was still an upgrade. It sits next to the old one now and they both work. That's no upgrade by any means.

Anyway the old PC is effectively useless now. OR IS IT? Ok basically I need a reason to keep it, couldn't think of one and then I started looking at upgrading my satellite tv at home to include a PVR device, when tada, I thought I could go get a card put it in the old pc, slap the old pc behind the tv and away I go....PVR heaven, so now I can tape Trisha, the UK Dr Phil, and watch it twice nightly.

To my surprise although I shouldn't have been surprised there are thousands of ways to do this. I read a bit and did my usual thing of finding a cheap one a found this compro one which at around £50 is way cheaper than a £300 sky+ box. Even more surprising it has a remote so I won't have to remote desktop to it to tape something. I have a spare scart socket so I imagine I will be able to turn the whole pc on and off using the remote. I want to have a standard channel on the tv which will show the pc screen and autoload the software on boot (shell=explorer.exe e.t.c) so it basically functions like a pvr that costs real money.

With the card and remote sat on my desk right now I have a vision of pausing football and getting another can from the fridge before Steve Bull makes a triumphant return to score the winner in the cup final. The reality is that Steve Bull making a comeback to score the winner in any cup is about as likely as me getting the thing hooked up, working and taping tv. We will see.

The ultimate aim is for my girlfriend to be able to tape something, although that may be the kiss of death, there is only so much Will & Grace one can handle. In reality she has trouble turning on the heating which is a single button that has three positions, so this may be a longshot.

Perhaps something else will need trading in to achieve that goal!
Forget all of that Stew, in a couple of months I will be selling my Tivo. Tivo is the easiest to use PVR platform around and it has a lot of features that Sky+ or Windows Media Center don't have.

I've upgraded it from 40Gb to 135Gb and now it can store up to 115 hours of TV. Enough for Will & Grace *AND* the entire contents of Sky Sports.
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Google gets personal

Not MyYahoo!.
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Thursday, May 19, 2005

BBCi takes on the world

The BBC have released a series of APIs on BBC Backstage that allow you and I to use their content however we like. The site showcases some of the work that people have already done.

Netscape 8 breaks IE
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There was a time when a new browser release by Netscape would be talk of the world, however there appears little fanfair surrounding todays launch of Netscape 8. I'm in the middle of installing it now. The features look good:

So it would appear to have the best of both worlds.

Well it looks great, and works well, or it did until it crashed. I'm sure it was a one off... I'll keep you updated.

Initial views would be try it.
Download: http://browser.netscape.com/ns8/download/default.jsp
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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Dell throws his hat in with Linux

CNN reports that Michael Dell has put $99.5m into Red Hat through his private investment company, MSD.
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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Pharm Phishing

Apparently phishing is old news in the fickle world of Internet security trends. Phishing has now morphed into Pharming according to the people who dream up brilliant new words like phishing and pharming.

Pharming appears to be a trendy way of describing a DNS poisoning attack where hackers are able to manipulate legitimate DNS records to redirect users to a fraudulent website where they will steal your identity, bank account details and ruin your life completely. No Phishing e-mail need be sent to ensnare you in the phishing net.

One method to protect yourself from a phishing attack is to download the Netcraft toolbar which will provide you the geographical location of the webserver you are browsing, provide a risk rating for the website and allow you to submit questionable URL's to the Netcraft community for inclusion on the block list.

Good anti-Phishing!
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Monday, May 09, 2005

Ever wanted to slam your mobile down in disgust?

You can now with the Phobile.
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Friday, May 06, 2005

Comment on The Da Vinci Code, Harry Potter and Pulp Fiction as a genre

Mike could not be more spot on about Dan Brown being totally unable to write in English (I do not know whether he can write in any other languages, but hopefully not). People may argue that this is mean because he has been successful, but it is not. Dan Brown's writing is so bad and so in need of a good editor (unless his current one made herculean efforts to bring the writing to the current standard), that there is no explanation why it is a best seller; or perhaps there is. Looking at what people read at airports, on the train, and what is commonly displayed at major bookshops windows, the Common Reader only chooses what is a masturbation of the mind. I am afraid that the same disastrous quality of writing applies to all Harry Potter novels who are even more detrimental as the kind of English used in these books is passed on happily to the younger generation of people who have very little exposure to (grammatically, not politically) correct language in the first place. Virginia Woolf called pulp fiction of the kind "penny dreadfuls". Richard Hoggart in The Uses of Literacy explains the phenomenon more thoroughly than this brief comment. Suffice it to say that people are influenced by "celebrity" opinions about books being good or not good, or... "unputdownable" [sic]. Harold Bloom, one of the most distinguished modern critics and theoriticians of language and literature said that "[...] I read a lavish, loving review of Harry Potter by the same Stephen King. He wrote something to the effect of, "If these kids are reading Harry Potter at 11 or 12, then when they get older they will go on to read Stephen King." And he was quite right. He was not being ironic. When you read "Harry Potter" you are, in fact, trained to read Stephen King." (the full article is in the Boston Globe).
Chartreuse has been delayed by the election results, but will go live during the weekend. If you have a bad book you have read, please email me with a comment about it so that we can have a Penny Dreadfuls section every week.
The Da Vinci Code has at least allowed people to see some old architectural masterpieces. There is now a constant stream of tourists to temple church and the surrounding inns of court (inner & middle). Although it must be said middle (of Bridget Jones edge of reason fame) is somewhat older with inner having being destroyed several times. Although the Revd Robin Griffith-Jones must be getting a little fed-up with the amount of people asking to see the crypt, there isn’t one.
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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Google save the world

Not likely - instead Google is now offering an online web cache service to save you time (and probably to see how they can stick ads on pages you browse).
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Smart uniforms

If you're ever offered a new uniform at work, beware; it could be smarter than you think. Cisco is rolling out some kit developed by AirSpace that allows tracking of RFID tags using existing W-Fi networks. "This can track your most valuable assets and people," said Phil Dean, manager of applications networking for Cisco EMEA. Mmm.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Calling all artists

Should we take Google's lead with a wall in the computer room at RLS?
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