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Archive for August, 2005

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August 31st, 2005

A night at the Opera

A night at the Opera

Standards-compliant browser Opera is celebrating its tenth birthday with an online party. The site includes music by employees, games and a chance to chat with senior managers. Best of all, you can get a free registration code for the browser worth US$40. The offer’s only good for 24 hours and the clock’s already ticking so apply straight away.

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August 26th, 2005

Hello? I'm on the squirrel.

Hello? I'm on the squirrel.

The BBC reports that a researcher at MIT is suggesting that telephones are replaced with stuffed squirrels. Instead of suffering the intrusion of a ringing phone, people can enjoy watching the squirrel dance when there’s an incoming call. The squirrel can also take messages (“Please leave a message after the pips. Mmmmmm. Pips.”). The BBC claims the squirrel can check you’re awake before disturbing you. If you ask me, anyone who can look into his eyes and say they’re not already disturbed by him has been spending too much time with woodland folk.

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August 23rd, 2005

Bluetooth spam, coming soon to a high street near you!

Bluetooth spam, coming soon to a high street near you!

The New Scientist reports that an advertising company in London has been experimenting with ‘Bluecasting’ – broadcasting media clips to Bluetooth devices from a transmitter located inside a billboard. Apparently the six experimental billboards detected over 87,000 Bluetooth capable devices over a two week trial period, and 17% of users chose to download the offered clips, which were advertising the latest Coldplay album.

While this kind of thing is new and exciting, it’s understandable that people will be intrigued enough to download the clips. But once it gets to the point where you can’t walk down any city street without dozens of advertisers attempting to blast their message into your phone or PDA, we suspect people will tire of the whole idea fairly quickly.

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August 23rd, 2005

Brain boxes build brain box.

Brain boxes build brain box.

Some very clever people at Switzerland’s Brain Mind Institute are using the ninth most powerful supercomputer in the world to build a simulation of the neocortical column – a component of the mammalian brain that plays an important part in intelligence and, ultimately, human consciousness. The ‘Blue Brain Project’ is the first step in an ongoing project to build an entire working simulation of the human brain as part of the BMI’s mission to gain greater understanding of our higher brain functions.

The scientists involved are keen to point out that this is not an attempt to create some kind of human-like artificial intelligence. Although the ability to build a mathematical model of the brain should certainly help research in the field of AI it does seem unlikely that we’ll see any great leaps in this area for many years. Nevertheless, the daydreamers among us can’t help but be intrigued by the prospect of a computer simulation proving once and for all that human consciousness arises from natural processes that can be documented and accurately simulated. Hah! Take that Descartes!

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August 22nd, 2005

Humans vs bots: virtual mugging

Humans vs bots: virtual mugging

A Chinese student, who was in Japan on an exchange programme, has been arrested for online mugging while playing the role playing game Lineage II.

It’s reported that the student designed automated bots to beat human gamers’ characters and to take virtual possessions. He then sold the virtual goods and credits on a Japanese auction site for real currency.

According to www.gamespot.com, the items sell for between $21 and $73 each.

It does make you wonder what he can be officially charged with. Japanese laws – like British law – do not cover trade in virtual possessions.

This also highlights the problem of bots in online gaming and how game publishers can set traps to tell them apart from characters representing human players.

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August 22nd, 2005

Thinking more clearly

Thinking more clearly

Here is a presentation on how to write more clearly, think more clearly and learn complex material more easily. The writing tips are what brought it to my attention, but the learning strategies for different subjects (history versus science) are interesting too. Presentation slides without the audio are often useless, but this set is clear enough to stand alone.

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August 15th, 2005

Video sharing for the masses.

Video sharing for the masses.

It was only a matter of time really, following the massive success of Flickr a similar service has been launched that allows people to share their video files in much the same manner. YouTube uses a similar blogging/filesharing hybrid concept for the kind of short video clips you can make with digital cameras and, increasingly, mobile phones. You can find pretty much everything, from self-indulgent artiness to Jackass style foolishness and everything in between.

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August 10th, 2005

Factiva launches blog monitoring service

Factiva launches blog monitoring service

With millions of people now airing their opinions online via personal weblogs, it’s not surprising that Dow Jones/Reuters-owned press monitoring company Factiva has come up with new technology to monitor what “ordinary people” are saying about companies and products.

Factiva’s new blog-monitoring service, powered by “text-mining and visualisation” technology from Intelliseek, promises to scan and analyse web chatter from blogs and message boards and present clients with reports on how their reputation is faring in cyberspace.

Marketing and brand managers, as well as PR executives, should be interested. Customers and investors are much more frank about the products they use and the companies they invest in – or don’t use and don’t invest in – when they’re in an independent environment. You can learn more about what people *really* think of your product or strategy from message boards and blogs than from focus groups or customer advisory boards.

But before you sign up to Factiva’s service, there are other – free – ways to get an idea of what people are saying about you. Technorati.com, for example, is a web site that searches 14.7 million weblogs around the globe. A little astute searching via the search box on its home page can give you an accurate idea of who’s talking about you and what they’re saying.

And if you find that no one’s talking about you, it might be time to invest in a little bit more marketing and PR – something that Prompt would be delighted to discuss with you…

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August 10th, 2005

PC Extreme magazine folds

PC Extreme magazine folds

PC Extreme magazine, from Live Publishing, has ceased publication. Its final issue will be issue 29 which is on sale now. Live Publishing has made redundancies and also cut the frequency of Retro Gamer magazine from monthly to every two months.

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August 8th, 2005

We're all self facilitating media nodes now.

We're all self facilitating media nodes now.

If I had more time, and talent, I’d write a thought provoking article about how the proliferation of internet enabled camera phones is starting to impact photo-journalism in much the same way that blogging has shaken up the business of reporting and disseminating news. But instead, I’ll just link to some people who are way ahead of me on that idea: Scoopt.

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August 2nd, 2005

Cheaper SDSL on the way.

Cheaper SDSL on the way.

BT has knocked down the wholesale price of its SDSL product by around 30%, which is great news for small business. For those of you who don’t know, SDSL is a kind of pumped up version of the ADSL broadband used by consumers, the main advantage is that you get a fixed IP address and upload speeds of anything up to 2Mbps. It’s more expensive than consumer broadband, starting at around UKP250 per month, but far cheaper than a leased line. This makes it ideal for hosting your own web server, running a VPN and all sorts of other cool nerdly stuff that you can’t really do on a standard broadband connection. You probably couldn’t run something like eBay or Amazon on an SDSL line, but it’s a good onramp for SMEs who would rather have their web server sat in the office than in a colocation facility in Devon.

It’s all over the wires today, but we’ll link to the Silicon.com story, just because it’s written by the ever affable Graeme Wearden.

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