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Archive for November, 2007


November 30th, 2007

Powerful Playstation Processor Penetrates Password Protection

Powerful Playstation Processor Penetrates Password Protection

Sony’s Playstation 3 is currently experiencing something of a resurgance. It’s not unfair to say that the games console has had a troubled first year. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 enjoyed a significantly earlier launch, and Nintendo’s family friendly Wii captured the imagination of casual gamers across the world, but a prohibitive price tag, a lack of exceptional exclusives, and a late arrival onto the market has meant Sony have been forced to play catch up.

But things are looking up for the PlayStation 3. A price reduction has seen sales of the powerful console rocket. According to new figures, monthly sales of the PlayStation 3 have overtaken the phenomenally successful Nintendo Wii for the first time in its home territory of Japan. But it’s not just gamers who are enjoying the powerful capabilities of the PS3.

The powerful chip that lies at the heart of the PS3, the Cell chip, is being put to use in ways that are more… practical than gaming. The BBC reports that Aukland-based security researcher Nick Breese has been using a PS3 to crack eight character passwords. Typically, it could take days to crack these passwords, but the power of the Cell means it is able to crack these passwords in mere hours.

The reason for the Cell’s amazing performance can be attributed to the fact that it is designed with one thing in mind – brute force. Each chip has multiple processing cores, allowing it to go through over 1.4 billion cycles per second. As a point of comparison, a powerful Intel chip is capable of 10-15 million cycles a second.

Mr. Breese was quick to point out that although passwords could be cracked with the console, stronger encryption systems remained safe.

This is not the only example of the Playstation 3 being used outside its usual remit of games and films. FAH (Folding@Home) is a distributed computing network, harnessing the power of over 700,000 PS3s to research how the shapes of proteins influence diseases such as Alzheimers. The network has recently been recognised by Guinness World Records as the most powerful distributed network in the world.

Sony is making progress with the PS3, but it continues to lag behind its rivals. While it seems as if gamers have yet to take the expensive machine to their hearts, the scientific community certainly has. The Cell chip is an astonishingly powerful piece of technology, and it is being deployed in a wide variety of scenarios, from password cracking to supercomputers. Whatever happens to the PS3, it looks like the Cell is here to stay.

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November 21st, 2007

Three little blog posts

Three little blog posts

Usually, when posting on this blog, I would take just one piece of news that amused or interested me that week and write about it. Unfortunately, there have been just too many this week to choose.

Which is just another way of saying I’m indecisive. Or am I?

So, without further ado, here’s three little blog posts. Incorporated into one post. I’m confused…

Concerned about Kindle

Will electronic book reading devices ever take off? Amazon seems to think so. The BBC reports that Amazon has revealed an own-brand digital book reader – Kindle.

Usually, when a new gadget is launched, I would climb mountains to get hold of it. When Sony launched its e-book reader, I fought tooth and nail to try one out. For some reason, though, the Kindle isn’t exciting me.

A number of critics are screaming about the device already. ‘What’s wrong with normal books?’ they say. Pointlessness isn’t something that bothers me, though. After all, pointlessness is often half the fun of gadgets.

What does bother me is cost and management.

Purchase of the Kindle – $399
Purchase of the latest bestseller – $9.99
Subscription to newspaper- $13.99 a month
Subscription to blog – $1.99
Transfer of personal file – 10 cents

Individually, Kindle content may appear reasonably affordable. I’m certain that the costs start adding up though. Also, because everything costs money on the Kindle, it is important to keep track of what you are doing to control spending.

Based on previous experience, that means a significant amount of time consuming and tedious management.

I’m hoping the Kindle will demonstrate that my fears are unfounded.

Why don’t you shut up?

A diplomatic spat between King Juan Carlos of Spain and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has become the basis of a ringtone phenomenon, reports the BBC.

During the recent Ibero-American Summit in Santiago, Chile, the king uttered unto Mr Chavez the words that would launch a myriad of merchandising opportunities:

‘Why don’t you shut up?”

In very little time the phrase had become a ringtone. In less than a week, an estimated 500,000 people have downloaded the phrase, generating around 1.5 million Euros ($2 million). The insult has inspired t-shirts, mugs and websites, which are also proving profitable.

The BBC also reports that a group of Venezuelan students who oppose Hugo Chavez’s government have started downloading the ringtone, and protesters have started using the slogan as a chant.

The rate at which the phrase has been picked up is staggering, demonstrating how quickly these viral tones and slogans can spread over the internet.

I haven’t heard the ringtone myself, but I do know one thing. It’s bound to be better than that [expletive deleted] Crazy Frog.


A few weeks ago, I posted a story about Jammie Thomas, the file sharer who took the fight to the record companies and… um… lost.

Ms. Thomas was fined $220,000 for allegedly distributing 24 songs illegally on a file sharing network. Obviously, there is no way that she could afford to pay this, so the internet has decided to help.

A website, Freejammie.com, has been set up, allowing supporters of Jammie to donate money to help her pay her fine and legal costs. The site reports that $17,378 has been raised so far, but considering her $220,000 fine, and her legal costs, this isn’t going to go far.

(It amuses me that pirates are willing to spend money defending pirates, but not on the products in the first place.)

There is also a surprising, and frankly disturbing, array of Jammie Thomas products available, including the ‘Free Jammie’ T-shirt, the ‘Free Jammie infant body suit’, the ‘Free Jammie’ Teddy Bear, and the ‘Free Jammie’ thong.

Yes, the ‘Free Jammie’ thong. I’ll resist making a crack.

The website claims Jammie is appealing against the fine. More on this story as I get it.

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November 16th, 2007

Social Networking: What Makes It a Success?

Social Networking: What Makes It a Success?

While attending a PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) teleseminar two days ago on “Four Factors for Success with Social Networking,” it made me start thinking about what really makes a social network a success. There are so many social networking sites, from the goliaths, MySpace and Facebook, down to the increasing hordes of niche sites (see Duncan’s great post below) clamoring for a share of internet users’ decreasing attention spans.

The four factors of success to creating a social network, according to Sun Microsystems’ Terry McKenzie and Carrie Motamedi are:

1) Focus and simplicity
2) Flexibility
3) Control
4) Collaboration

I think that these are great points for a social networking site to keep in mind while developing, but none of these factors will drive people to actually use a social networking site. They completely miss the point of why most people want to use social networking: FUN! People don’t log onto Facebook because of its focus or simplicity, they log on to talk to their friends, watch the feed and play with applications. For MySpace, it’s because of its music, customizable web pages, surveys, and bulletins which are often the modern equivalent of chain letters.

Have a compelling reason to exist

Right now, social networking is a great buzzword and an excellent communication tool but also a jumbled mess that hasn’t completely found its niche in the communication spectrum. When the dust settles, it will find its boundaries, unnecessary sites will be eliminated and usefulness will be maximized.

People won’t want to use a corporate social network just because it exists; it has to be a place where they can interact with co-workers: poke them, recruit them into their massive ninja army and be themselves, people who like to have fun. From the presentation, I could tell that Sun Microsystems recognizes this without putting it into words, and I was also very impressed by their ideas on how to build a community.

A community cannot be forced. People only join together when they want to join together. A company can build the most sophisticated and high-tech social networking platform in the world or use an existing one, but it will be meaningless unless they are committed to making it a place where people feel free to be themselves (within the limits of good reason of course), and want to interact because they see the value of doing so.

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November 6th, 2007

Kylie Says Come into My World and Konnect

Kylie Says Come into My World and Konnect

Facebook? It’s okay, I suppose. Myspace? There are worse sites. But good as these sites are, I’ve always thought they lacked a little… glamour. Many times, I would sit, hunched at a computer, poking a contact on Facebook, and think,

“I wish Kylie Minogue was involved. But I should be so lucky!”

Well start spinning around, because the day has come! The BBC reports that Kylie Minogue has launched her very own social networking site – KylieKonnect. That’s right folks – a Kylie themed social networking site, built especially for you. I’ve had a look at the site and I can say, with a hand on my heart, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Joking aside, this social networking launch is just the latest in a seemingly endless series of challenges on the mighty MySpace and the fancy Facebook. Every day it seems as if a new social networking site has been launched – last week it was Saga Zone, a site for the over 50s, now it’s this. The word is out that social networking is the next big thing thing and it’s never too late to get into the market.

Companies have tried to compete against the big two social networking sites and failed to make an impact on the market. In a response to this, more and more sites are trying to find a niche in the market that they can exploit, and it will be interesting to see these new social networking concepts emerge. Yahoo! for example, are launching Kickstart, a social networking site targeted at young people who are looking for, or starting careers (reported by The Register). Whether this particular tactic draws people away from Facebook and MySpace or not remains to be seen, but on paper at least, its an attractive prospect.

Then there’s social networking as a targeted marketing tool. KylieKonnect is unlikely to win record numbers of users, but the fact that it encourages users to register their WAP phones to access content remotely, and sells premium Kylie products means that it could prove to be a nice little moneymaker for the antipodean pop princess.

Does this mean we’ll see more music stars getting involved in social networks? If KylieKonnect proves to be a success, then it’s not unlikely.
Can’t Get You Out Of My Head, On a Night Like This, Locomotion
The social networking boom goes on and on. Thanks to investment and support from the likes of Microsoft and Google, it is unlikely that anything will have an impact on the Big Two. In the last two weeks we have seen new sites launched or revealed that cater to very specific groups of people and I fully expect to see more emerge in the next few weeks.

Will they succeed where others have failed? If anyone can, Kylie can…

Prompt Challenge: Identify all the Kylie singles throughout this post and win… um… a sense of self worth?

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