Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Kuwait bans DSLR cameras countrywide… for no obvious reason

In a strange and unexplained move, three of Kuwait’s ministries have banned the use of DSLR cameras in the Middle East country, specifically in streets or in malls.

The joint offense against DSLRs was launched by Kuwait’s Ministry of Information, Ministry of Social Affairs and Ministry of Finance, and what’s interesting here is that it’s not a ban on photography in total: cell phone cameras and point-and-shoot digicams are still totally fine. Even micro four thirds and other mirrorless cameras are fine. It’s only if your camera has a mirror do you have to worry about it being banned.

Identification-carrying photojournalists are not subject to the law, but everyone else is, and so far, the Kuwaiti government hasn’t been forthcoming in explaining why DSLRs, in particular, are banned.

It’s not uncommon, of course, for governments to ban camera use around embassies, banks and monuments, fearing that the photos will be used by terrorists planning attacks. Again, though, Kuwait is not banning photography in specific places, or photography even in general: only DSLRs are subject to the ban.

Here’s my best guess: the Kuwaiti Government thinks that the larger form factor of a DSLR would allow terrorists to disguise a firearm or a bomb as one. Still, without a specific threat being publicly confronted, it’s hard not to be mystified by the Kuwaiti governments’ prohibition…. and perhaps chalk it up to some politicians’ sensitivity about his lack of photogeniality than any terrorist attack.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Quick update

Adsense decided to disable my account for invalid click activity. Conveniently enough it happened just when I was supposed to get paid. Any ideas for replacements? I am trying adbrite right now

Facebook’s new email service is censoring links to the Pirate Bay

Facebook’s new messaging system is meant to make it easy to move seamlessly between instant messages, SMSes and e-mail, but it’s also ready to censor your messages if you decide to link to file sharing sites.

To be fair, Facebook’s long been censoriously anti-piracy: try to post a link to The Pirate Bay on your wall or in a private message to your friend and see.

That said, as Facebook becomes a webmail portal, it’s surprising to see the social network try to exert even more control over the actual content of what’s being said in e-mail.

If you try to send an email to someone using Facebook’s new message system, and if that message has a link to the Pirate Bay, Facebook will unceremoniously refuse to say the message with the following error:

Message Failed. This message contains blocked content that has been previously flagged as abusive or spammy. Let us know if you think this is an error.

An error it is. There are numerous legal reasons to link to The Pirate Bay: for example, to link friends to your own copyright-free torrents. Moreover, as a messaging service, Facebook is actually exempt from liability if people share links to illegal download sites using their service, according to the EFF.

Mark Zuckerberg keeps on saying Facebook is all about being open and free, but how open and free can you be when you can’t even discuss certain subjects using Facebook’s system, lest you be automatically censored? If this is Zuckerberg’s vision of a free and open Internet, count me out.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Disney Games announced LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean

Given the dreadfulness of most movie-to-game film conversions, the LEGO series of games have been a breath of fresh air. The LEGO game series started with Star Wars and surprised everyone: who could have known that an all-ages, mute retelling of the Star Wars saga could be so charming? Indiana Jones and Batman followed, each delightful in its own way, and now we’ve got a new LEGO game property on the way: LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game.

Disney has just formally announced LEGO Pirates, which will be developed by TT Games and hitting store shelves next year, alongside the fourth movie in the franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

The events of the game take place during the first three movies, but also encompass some moments from the new film. The player will, of course, be able to control everyone’s favorite brown-toothed scallywag, Captain Jack Sparrow, but will also be able to control up to 70 additional playable characters. Who knew the Pirates-verse had so many to draw upon?

LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game will hit every major console, the PC and mobile devices in May of 2011.

Press Release

Disney Interactive Studios, TT Games and The LEGO Group Announce LEGO® Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game

Jack Sparrow and Crew to Embark on a Swashbuckling Adventure in LEGO Brick Form

BURBANK, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Disney Interactive Studios and TT Games today announced that they are joining with The LEGO Group to bring Jack Sparrow and other familiar characters to life in virtual LEGO® adventures with LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game. The video game is being developed by TT Games, the group behind a portfolio of critically acclaimed, best-selling LEGO video games, and will be published by Disney Interactive Studios for the Wii™ console, Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, PSP® (PlayStation®Portable) system, Games For Windows – LIVE and the Nintendo DS™ family of hand-held systems. The video games will be released simultaneously with the highly anticipated new film “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” in May 2011.

“Combining the excitement of playing as Jack Sparrow and other recognizable characters from the franchise will make the game fun for players of all ages throughout the world.”
LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game will be based in the world of the globally successful film franchise, incorporating storylines, locations and characters from the first three films (“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”) as well as the upcoming fourth film, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.”

LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game will re-create the action, adventure and memorable moments of the Pirates of the Caribbean mythology in LEGO form, incorporating the humor of LEGO minifigures and fantastic worlds built from LEGO bricks and elements for players to explore. Players can take on the roles of more than 70 characters and experience the pirate adventure, irreverent humor and amazing creatures of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, through action-adventure gameplay and hilariously quirky LEGO cut scenes. Throughout the game, players will also have the freedom to explore environments from the highly acclaimed movie series in more than 20 levels. The game features two-player cooperative mode, in which players each control a character to experience the story together, and freeplay mode, which lets players return to levels to discover new items.

“Pirates of the Caribbean is a globally successful franchise based in action, adventure and humor perfectly suited for a LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game adaptation,” said Graham Hopper, executive vice president and general manager, Disney Interactive Studios. “Combining the excitement of playing as Jack Sparrow and other recognizable characters from the franchise will make the game fun for players of all ages throughout the world.”

“The action-packed world of Pirates of the Caribbean is a perfect fit for LEGO video games,” said Tom Stone, Managing Director of TT Games Publishing. “With so many wonderful characters, in such amazing environments, our teams are having great fun – and we’re sure that players will, too.”

To date, the Pirates of the Caribbean movies have generated more than $2.5 billion at the global box office while the multiple Pirates of the Caribbean video games have sold more than 6 million units globally.

In a companion release today, Disney Consumer Products and The LEGO Group announced an upcoming collection of LEGO brand Pirates of the Caribbean construction sets that will launch in conjunction with the video game and film release in Spring 2011.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Portal 2 delayed by two months until April 2011

Valve Software has gotten better at it in recent years with the Left 4 Dead series, but they still have quite the track record for delaying their games. Both Half-Life and Half-Life 2 were delayed by substantial amounts of time, and don’t get me started on the Half-Life 2 episodes: Half-Life 2: Episode 3 is at least two years overdue.

It’s disappointing, then, to hear that another of Valve’s much-anticipated sequels has ended up being delayed, but there’s good news: while it’s true that Portal 2 is being delayed, it’s not being delayed for very long… and the announcement itself is pretty funny.

Having sent out a message with the subject header “Valve Announces Shortest Delay In Valve History,” the games developer pushes the delivery of Portal 2 to April 2011, two months later than its slated February debut… which in turn was a delay from a fall of 2010 launch.

“This two month slip not only marks the shortest delay in Valve’s proud tradition of delays, it represents the approaching convergence of Valve Time and Real Time,” Valve wrote. “Though this convergence spells doom for humanity, it will not affect the new Portal 2 release date.”

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Microsoft paid for the development of many of the top Windows Phone 7 apps

Although it wasn’t quite the 2,000 apps they promised at launch, Microsoft still managed to launch Windows Phone 7 with a respectable app library of about 1,000 strong. Not shabby considering how late Microsoft was to the current smartphone race, but as it turns out, not all of those apps were programmed out of sheer dev enthusiasm: Microsoft wasn’t adverse to paying developers to deliver when they otherwise seemed reluctant.

The revelation comes from a source speaking to GigaOM, who says that when Microsoft prepared to launch Windows Phone 7, they formed two teams: one team meant to reach out to the top fifty app makers of the world and another team that was meant to try to encourage everyone else.

Surprise! Those top fifty app makers ended up getting paid by Microsoft to make Windows Phone 7 apps. Apparently, Microsoft was ready to offer them either revenue guarantees or even hire developers themselves to work with these companies to develop their apps for them? Amongst those developers number IMDb, Yelp, Twitter, Amazon and Facebook.

“It’s not that we’re funding a team of developers to build apps,” said GigaOm’s source, “It was that without the apps the phone is incomplete; consumers will be handicapped if they don’t have a good Foursquare or Twitter app.

He’s right, actually. Windows Phone 7 needed some app momentum for a successful launch. It looks like Microsoft’s team did their jobs pretty well, even if they had to grease the wheels a little bit.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

New dye changes bandage color if infection takes hold

Whenever you get a cut on your body some antiseptic cream and a plaster is usually the best course of action to keep it clean and let it stay protected while healing. For bigger wounds a bandage will be required, or even stitches and a longer period of time to heal.

One problem with covering wounds up is you don’t know if an infection has taken hold until you change the dressing. The act of changing the dressing can also be quite painful depending on where it is and what type of wound you have.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Modular Solid State Technologies EMFT in Munich have come up with a solution to this problem. A new dye added to plasters and bandages will change color if an infection is detected. It works by reacting to the pH level of the skin. A value below 5 is normal and shows a wound that is healing or healed. Above 5 and something is wrong and an infection may have taken hold.

Using such a method of testing for infection could mean problems are spotted earlier and dressings have to be changed less often. Fewer people will have complications and in the end it could save both a lot of time and pain for the patient.

Tests are now going to be done in a hospital environment and then a commercial partner looked for. But the researchers aren’t just stopping at color-changing bandages. Optical sensors are being looked into which would allow for a precise pH level reading to be displayed as a digital output  rather than relying on a dye.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

APB IP has been acquired, will become free-to-play game

There was a rumor last week that the rights to Realtime Worlds‘ MMO All Points Bulletin (APB) had been sold to free-to-play company K2 Network. It turns out that rumor is true, and APB is now set to become a free-to-play title.

K2 is best known for running the GamersFirst portal which focuses on offering free online games from Asia that have been localized for a Western audience. They all use the G1 credits system as an in-game revenue solution, something that APB players will probably have to use in the future.

Bjorn Book-Larsson, CTO and COO of GamersFirst commented:

APB was a game that had several exceptional features and some brilliant ideas, even though it was plagued by some initial balance and monetization issues. We want to take all the unique features of this title, such as its unparalleled character, weapon and car customization systems, and convert the game to a true free-to-play game. We are deep into the planning and early execution stages for this next chapter of APB and we will share more details in the near future. In order to put ‘Gamers First’ we will also actively engage the community in many aspects of all the planned changes.

Development of the game will be continued by Reloaded Productions, a wholly owned subsidiary of GamersFirst. It also looks likely the game will re-release with the name APB: Reloaded.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Google says Android doesn’t infringe on Oracle’s Java patents

Over the next few years, we’re going to see a lot of companies testing the validity of their mobile patents. We’re already starting to see some of those lawsuits go to trial, but Google’s Android operating system is going to increasingly find itself in the legal crosshairs as its popularity and market share grow… but Google’s not going to be an easy target to hit, if depositions coming out of their lawsuit with Oracle are anything to go by.

Here’s the backstory: way back in August, Oracle sued Google over the use of Java in Android, essentially arguing that the terms of the Java intellectual property license, while free, requires developers to demonstrate that their implementations of Java conform to certain standards… which Google has never done. In fact, Google’s implementation of Java deviates from Oracle’s standards. Hence, Oracle sued for both patent and copyright violation.

On their part, though, Google isn’t backing down: they have responded to the lawsuit with over twenty different reasons why they have not infringed Oracle’s copyright. One argument says that the Java code in Android is too simplistic to be protected by copyright, while another says that even if Google did infringe, it’s not their fault because the infringing code must have been implemented by an unknown third party.

It’s a weird suit, and it’s just starting to heat up. Don’t worry, though: Java on Android isn’t about to go anywhere.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Google says Google TV isn’t about getting viewers to cut the cord of their cable or satellite subscriptions

Something tells me that Google is genuinely taken aback by the fact that every major broadcast network has now blocked Google TV from accessing their online websites, and now they’re trying to prevent satellite and cable networks from also openly revolting by trying to calm their fears about “cord cutters.”

What’s a cord cutter? It’s the satellite and cable companies’ worst nightmare: a television viewer who cancels his subscription to get all of his video from the Internet or broadcast networks. But according to Google TV lead Rishi Chandra, Google TV isn’t a product meant to encourage people to cut the cords, but rather to help viewers discover content everywhere, regardless of where it comes from.

According to Chandra, cord cutting simply is “not happening” and that Google TV is meant to help users access the content that they already watch traditionally. They also stress that cable and satellite networks have nothing to fear: almost 99% of viewers consume video on their televisions exclusively, and what’s keeping them there is top-notch proprietary content like cable TV shows and live sports that simply isn’t available at the same quality and price on the internet.

Fears of a new frontier of television aren’t totally misguided, Chadra says. “The web is a new technology, and it’s not unheard of whenever there is a new technology that a lot of the incumbents in the space are trying to understand what that technology is going to mean for them.” The point is, though, that Google’s not trying to replace traditional television with internet video: it’s trying to make both even easier than before to access.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Retailers and competitors threaten to boycott Steam

Most gamers would agree that Steam is a force of good in the world of gaming. Sure, it’s digital delivery laced with DRM, but Valve has been great about giving players actual incentives to swallow that bitter pill including a robust achievement system, the ability to save their games to the cloud, the ability to own their games on every platform with just a single purchase and a constant barrage of sales.

Needless to say, though, there’s a lot of people who don’t like Steam: namely, brick and mortar game retailers and other digital delivery services. Now MCV is reporting that these groups are looking to team up and boycott all games that use Steam.

Basically, the complaint is this: even though many games that are on Steam are available in retail stores, Valve still requires them to build Steam into the game, which in turn installs it to a shopper’s hard drive and is required to actually run the game. Retailers and brick-and-mortars say this is creating an iTunes-like monopoly on the digital delivery games market, where they are being forced to sell their rival and install it on users’ machines… thus making them more likely to buy their next game directly from Valve.

You know, they have a point, but look at the list of amazing things that Steam does besides sell games and protect them with DRM that we listed in the first paragraph. Now tell me: are rival digital delivery services or brick-and-mortars offering a service that competes with that? They’re not, which is why they are going obsolete. Steam’s becoming a monopoly through its unique excellence, not due to underhanded business practices. This is just sour grapes, and my guess is that a boycott’s not going to do a thing to stop these behind-the-times businesses from going belly up.

Extremely Sorry!!

To all my fans out there: my apologies!! I was unable to finish my next exciting article as I just got back from a very long (and il admit,fun) night. So stay tuned for the next news!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tetris can stop you from having flashbacks of a traumatic event

Tetris is a fantastic way to waste time, but it cures more than boredom: according to a recent study, playing Tetris after a traumatic experience can act like a “cognitive antibiotic” that reduces the chances of being haunted by the memories of the event.

The study was conducted by Emily Holmes, a clinical psychology researcher at the University of Oxford who has been studdying post traumatic stress disorder. She says that flashbacks are one of the biggest problems of post traumatic stress disorder, and that soldiers who have PTSD are the most likely to die from accident or illness than those who don’t.

Tetris, though, can change all that. Holmes has shown that volunteers who play a game of Tetris for half an hour after they have looked at horrifying and graphic images of injuries have fewer “flashbacks” as a result.

In a controlled experiment, Holmes compared Tetris’ ability to stave off flashbacks to that of a pub quiz: Tetris came out on top. Even four hours after a traumatic experience, a game of Tetris can have healing effects.

According to Holmes the Tetris effect occurs because the visuospatial work required to play the game places an additional burden interfere with this memory-forming process, thus preventing traumatic experiences from solidifying into flashbacks.

“It’s not wiping out the memory – it’s just taking the edge off its intrusiveness,” she says.

Speaking from personal experience, it also takes the edge off of boredom. Is there anything Tetris can’t do?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

COD: Black Ops suffering from lag and performance issues

Call of Duty: Black Ops has had a huge launch and met with critical acclaim, but all is not well with the game. It turns out that players are seeing lag and some other serious problems, including very high CPU loads which prevent the game from playing properly on PCs.

From the start I’ll say this: I put in about two hours on the PC version last night and had no problems. The single player worked great and while the multiplayer had some lag and rather high pings, it wasn’t enough to prevent me from playing. Reports around the web are prevalent enough that it’s clear problems exist, even if I can’t personally speak to them.

Kotaku discovered a forum response from a Treyarch employee staying that “the PC server browser was crushing the back-end”. We also have confirmation that the issue(s) is/are known and they are being addressed.

So if you are having problems, don’t worry, you’re not the only one.

We’re seeing performance fixes pop up around the web but if there are problems with the multiplayer backend those won’t help. At the very least maybe these will help people get through the single player campaign. Some of the fixes seem a bit dubious though, so read up before you start hacking away.

The Steam forums are generally the best place to turn when this happens, and this time is no different. There are a number of threads up on the problems, with the summary being that there are a number of glitches with the PC version and people aren’t too happy. That said, this is a huge release so even if bugs are only affecting a small percentage of users the outcry will seem widespread.

As it happens so often, users might just have to wait a few days for a patch to be released and things to finally work properly. It might not seem like a big deal to you, but if you took the time to pre-order and then pre-load what will probably be the biggest FPS game of the year, it could come as a serious disappointment.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Celebrating 300 followers! Thanks everyone!

Monday, November 8, 2010

LG’s L-03C is the world’s first true camera phone… or is it a phone camera?

For years, cell phone manufacturers have been trying to cram as many different gadgets into their handsets as possible. It all started with the cell phone camera but these days, you can crack open any smartphone and find half a dozen gadgets inside: from gyroscopes and accelerometers to FM radios and 3G modems. Heck, cell phones these days are actually fairly advanced computers.

As the cell phone continues to swallow all other gadgets up, it’s rather amusing to see the convergence process go the other way… well, at least for one gadget. LG have just announced the L-03C, which may look like a point-and-shoot digicam… but actually has a phone inside.

The L-03C will be sold exclusively in Japan by DoCoMo in January. Inside, you’ll find a 12.1MP sensor supporting a maximum ISO of 3200, as well as a Pentax 3.6-5.5 lens with three degrees of optical zoom. It can also shoot video in 720p, and comes with WiFi, Bluetooth, 3G and GPS.

It’s a weird gadget. Is it a phone that looks like a camera, or a camera that happens to contain the phone? I think the best way to describe the L-03C, though, is that it’s probably the first camera phone that even remotely matches the quality and performance of even the cheapest point-and-shoot compact… and the only way they could manage that was by just making a point-and-shoot compact and cramming a phone inside. I wonder if Nikon will get in on the action next?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Review: Asus Eee PC Seashell 1215N 12.1-inch netbook

Choosing a netbook over a laptop used to mean making a compromise in order to save some cash. Screen size would be limited to 10-inch, the processor was a single-core 1.6GHz solution, and graphics came from a just-good-enough Intel integrated solution. This was done to protect the laptop market as much as it was to allow a lower price point to be offered to consumers.

The gap between netbook and laptop continues to blur, though. Screen sizes are getting bigger, Nvidia ION is now used as a more powerful graphics solution in many netbooks, and the Atom processors are being updated and now include a dual core option.

The Asus 1215N reviewed here is definitely a cross-over machine rather than a pure netbook offering. This is made clear from the basic specs:

Intel Pinetrail 1.8GHz dual core processor
12.1-inch 1366×768 LED-backlit display
Intel GMA 3150 and a Nvidia ION 2 (1.2GHz 16-core GPU) switching controlled by Nvidia Optimus
250GB hard drive
Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit
As you can see, this is not a typical netbook, and the price Asus set reflects that at $485. It’s more common to see a netbook priced around $300, but then they don’t have the screen size, processing, or graphical performance on offer here. In that regard you may see the extra $185 as worth it, particularly if you’ve been struggling to watch HD video on your current netbook.

And that’s clearly one of the reasons Asus has decided to release its latest update to the Seashell line. This is a netbook aimed at users who want to use it for entertainment purposes as well as a device for surfing the web.
As well as sporting an updated dual core processor, and plenty of RAM, the 1215N uses Nvidia’s ION 2 platform along with Optimus. This is significant because it means the 16-core GPU running at 1.2GHz allows for playing games. At the same time, Optimus, which turns off the power-hungry GPU automatically when not required, means battery life is increased significantly. The only quirk to this system is your battery indicator will jump around depending on what you are doing with your machine. One minute it will say you have an hour of battery left then the next it will say two hours because you stopped watching that HD video stream.
Asus quotes a 7-hour battery life from the 57W/h 6-cell Li-ion battery. On extended, heavy use doing a range of tasks including surfing the web, playing Flash games, watching HD video, and listening to music, I achieved just under 5 hours. Quite respectable considering the hardware running and the screen size. If you intend to use it for gaming then expect that figure to drop to more like 2 hours.

The battery life of this netbook is even more impressive considering how fast it is. Not once have I been left tapping my fingers waiting for content to load in a browser. Video playback is without fault, and the games it can handle put most netbooks to shame. If you are an avid World of Warcraft player then you’ll have no problems here. I installed Bioshock and Portal with both racing along at very playable frame rates when set to 1024 x 768 resolution. On a 12.1-inch display that’s more than acceptable.

As far as the build-quality and connectivity options go the 1215N is a bit of a hit-and-miss affair. There’s 3 USB 2.0 ports, VGA and HDMI out, mic and headphones, and Ethernet ports are included. The casing overall is solid if a little bland and plasticy in feel. It does fall down in two areas, though. The lid does not feel very strong at all and flexes easily under your finger. That’s a common issue in netbooks that can be forgiven. What is more concerning is the flex in the keyboard.

Detailed Specification

Intel Pinetrail 1.8GHz dual core processor
12.1-inch 1366×768 LED-backlit display
Intel GMA 3150 and a Nvidia ION 2 (1.2GHz 16-core GPU) switching controlled by Nvidia Optimus
250GB hard drive
Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit
WiFi 802.11b/g/n
0.3MP webcam
6-cell Li-Ion 5200 mAh, 57W/h battery (rated 7 hours, realistic: 5 hours)
1.46Kg / 3.22lbs
3 USB 2.0 ports
Headphone out
Chiclet keyboard
Multitouch touchpad

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Man arrested in Japan for sharing new Pokemon

Be careful when trying to catch ‘em all: it might just land you in prison, as one Japanese man has learned after sharing new Pokemon with individuals online.

Back in September, 27-year-old Makoto Sekiguchi from Yokohama, Japan uploaded images of still unrevealed new monsters from the latest Pokemon title, Pokemon: Black & White for the Nintendo DS.

He snapped the shots on his mobile phone and the publication of the new characters preceded the game’s Japanese street date by over two weeks.

Leaks happen on the Internet, of course, but whats happened to Sekiguchi seems drastic: he was actually arrested by Chikusei City police, who were prowling the internet while on a “cyber patrol” and immediately started drawing up an arrest warrant for the infringer.

What’s so weird about this case is that Nintendo or Gamefreak don’t seem to be involved pressing charges: Pokemon is big enough in Japan that the police department not only know which Pokemon have been revealed so far, but are willing to press charges against infringers themselves.

As for why he did it, Sekiguchi seems guilty of only enthusiasm: “I thought I would show everyone the characters that haven’t been made public yet,” he explained in a deposition.

Police are not investigating how he came to have access to the pictures at this time.

Hulu Plus now open to subscribers without an invitation

We have been reporting on Hulu’s trial of a new paid subscription called Hulu Plus. Hulu Plus differs from the free version of Hulu in that paid subscribers will have access to all the episodes from a television show’s season rather than only a handful offered with the free version. Hulu Plus had only been available by invitation, but that has now changed.

The service has now been made available without an invitation. Hulu says the reason for this is so the company can continue to scale its infrastructure to a larger customer base. In addition to opening Hulu Plus for more subscribers, Hulu also announced the expansion of the number of devices supported by the service. Hulu Plus is now available on Sony BRAVIA 2010 televisions with more BRAVIA devices slated to support the service in the future. Also, PS3 owners with a PlayStation Network account will now be able to download and subscribe to Hulu Plus.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

UniBrows brings IE6 compatibility to IE8

A coalition of ex-Microsoft employees and partners called Browsium are trying to drag enterprise into the modern web with a new add-on for Internet Explorer 8 that allows companies to run IE6 in a tab.

If you think this sounds like IETab for Firefox, you’re right. The plug-in is called Unibrows, and it’s meant to help companies deal with the problem of upgrading their operating systems and computers while maintaining compatibility with their existing web applications.

“Companies need something simple that isn’t virtualization based,” Browsium CEO Matt Heller told ComputerWorld. “UniBrows renders IE6 inside an IE8 tab without companies’ having to change a single line of code in the sites or Web applications.”

According to Matt Heller, UniBrows has all the functionality — if that’s what you would choose to call it — as IE6, including the same ActiveX controls support and JavaScript functionality. Unlike virtualization tools, it’s also amazingly lightweight: UniBros only takes up 10MB of memory when it’s running.

This seems like a great approach. Companies desperately need to upgrade out of XP for security reasons, but oftentimes, they are prevented from doing so by reliance upon web apps or intranets that require IE6 to function. Since these web apps can be incredibly expensive to upgrade, and since no one wants to risk a critical system falling over, no one ever upgrades. UniBrows gets around that, and at a cheap price: just $5 per user.

My only questions is this: UniBrows is such a great idea, so why doesn’t Microsoft make it a feature of IE9? They want enterprise customers off of XP as much as anyone, and since IE6 is a big part of what’s holding corporations back, why not make it a bit easier for them?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Apple hires top Warner legal executive to pave way for streaming iTunes

Given how much money it makes both them and the music labels, Apple needs to make sure that their iTunes legal department keeps its game face on, especially as Cupertino tries to enter the tricky world of digital music streaming.

Their latest hire, then, is quite the coup: Apple has reportedly hired former Warner Music Group executive Elliot Peters. Peter was Warner’s senior vice president and head of its digital legal department, and has a lot of experience negotiating contracts between music publishers and online retailers.

According to Warner, Elliott has “had a hand in almost every WMG digital deal.” That includes Warner’s deals with the Columbia House Music and Video Clubs, Word Entertainment and Warner Bros. Publications.

Needless to say, everyone expects Eliot’s hire to mostly be about getting Apple the contracts it needs to launch a streaming, cloud-based version of iTunes, which would according to report allow customers to play songs from their music collection from any online device, and in anticipation of which Apple has supposedly builts its $1 billion data center in North Carolina.

Sprint pre-order for HTC 7 Pro begins Dec. 8th with a catch

MS_Nerd is known for leaking information around Microsoft products and services through tweets. This latest one has to be taken with a grain of salt, though:

Exclusive : Sprint HTC 7 Pro preorders start December 8, 2010. You may now commence guessing at the launch date. Verizon ???

WPCentral reported on the tweet and backed it up by saying they had heard rumors the phone was coming soon. They also believe the rumor makes sense because the date occurs 30 days after AT&T and T-Mobile begin selling their stock. BGR went a bit further and confirmed the rumor with Sprint. There is a bit of a catch, though. You have to be a Microsoft employee to participate in the pre-order.

As it pertains to a Verizon Wireless HTC 7 Pro, BGR went on to report that HTC has already stated that a CDMA version of the phone won’t be available before 2011. So, if you want to take a guess at a launch date for the Verizon version of the phone it sounds like you’d be a bit closer if your guess is sometime next year.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

USB 3.0 coming to Intel-based notebooks… in 2012?

Over the past year, we’ve seen USB 3.0 go from a specification to a real world product, with numerous manufacturers releasing everything from USB 3.0 cards to USB 3.0 compliant external hard drives. Still, uptake has been slow on the new standard, with most notebook manufacturers still refusing to ship machines with even a single USB 3 slot.

What’s the hold up? Intel. The chipmaking giant still doesn’t officially support the standard, a fact which no lesser personage than Steve Jobs himself pointed to recently to explain why Macs don’t yet come with USB 3.

Hope’s on the horizon, though. Intel has just given notebook manufacturers the first details of their next notebook platform after Huron River. Called Chief River, the architecture supports the 22 nanometer processors coming out of Intel’s Ivy Bridge architecture… but better yet, features native USB 3.0 support.

Intel delivering a compliant notebook platform will go a long way towards pushing USB 3.0 into the mainstream. It’s certainly enough to get it into Macs, given that even most desktop Macs are built on top of Intel’s notebook platforms. The only problem is that Chief River’s a long ways away: Digitimes says the design will only enter mass production in September of 2011, which means the earliest we’ll see USB 3 come to MacBooks — and most other notebooks — is January 2012. Sigh.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Logitech goes green with solar-powered keyboard

Logitech has decided to offer up a keyboard that is as green as they come. As well as using no PVC in its construction the K750 is wireless, but requires no batteries.

Logitech has bypassed the need for batteries by introducing two integrated solar panels at the top corners of the keyboard. If you think that means limited usage, or a requirement to type while sitting in the sun, think again. Logitech claim 3 months of usage in total darkness on a full charge.

Charging occurs in most lighting conditions, so you never need to sit in the sun to get a charge. Use the keyboard in a typical daylight situation, or at night under your room lights, and it will start charging itself. There’s also a Solar App you can download telling you how much charge is left and how much your current lighting situation is helping with a recharge.

Connectivity is through the Logitech Unifying receiver which allows six devices to connect through one USB port. The company has also taken into consideration you may want to slide the K750 into a laptop bag, so it’s only 1/3″ thick.

The Logitech store is currently showing the K750 as out of stock, but you can pre-order one for $79.99 with a 3-year warranty.

Mac’s Opinion

Consider me impressed. A wireless keyboard that has a three month charge and requires no batteries. That’s quite an achievement, and one that’s sure to be popular with people sick of changing batteries in their wireless setups. Keyboards don’t use nearly as much juice as a wireless mouse, but they usually use smaller batteries and therefore require buying two types, one set for keyboard and one for mouse.

I am someone who will put up with using a laptop keyboard, but who takes the opportunity to switch to a full-size set of keys whenever possible. A solar-powered solution means I can use an external keyboard without having to carry batteries around or have another wire plugged into my machine. This keyboard is also ultra-thin so sliding it into a bag won’t add a lot of weight or thickness.

We need some real-world testing done to prove Logitech’s claims on battery life. I suspect you could bring that usage down by at least a month for a heavy user.