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December 2006 Archives

Games that made the Dean's list

by Saleem Khan, CBC News Online

The putative dean of video game journalism, San Jose Mercury News reporter Dean Takahashi, has posted his top game picks of the year and his honourable mentions list. His colleague and fellow blogger Mike "Nooch" Antonucci listed his own Top 10 games of 2006 and remarked on a notable shift in Takahashi's selections.

Click the link below to read on.

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Chess cheat banned for Bluetooth gambit

by Paul Jay, CBC News Online

An Indian chess player named Umakant Sharma has been banned from competition for 10 years after he was caught using a Bluetooth wireless device to win games.

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Top 10 vapourware picks of 2006

by Saleem Khan, CBC News Online

Die-hard technophiles are sometimes known to follow their passion with an ardour that can rival the most torrid of romances but what happens when that love leaves them scorned? Technology companies have been known to announce and tout products long before they launch to gauge and generate demand — if they launch at all.

Hyper-hyped tech toys that miss the mark on shipping to shops' shelves have earned the nickname "vapourware" for their elusive — and sometimes illusive — nature, which inspired the annual Wired News Vaporware Awards.

Click the link below to read on.

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Philips CEO: Who needs gadgets?

by Saleem Khan, CBC News Online

The day after six million Canadians dropped $2 billion on a range of goods — with electronics high on the list — seems like an ideal time to reflect on the words of Paul Zeven, CEO of Philips Electronics America, who wonders whether anyone really wants the stuff his industry makes.

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Demand for PS3 slipping?

by Saleem Khan, CBC News Online

Would-be profiteers are returning PlayStation 3s to stores after finding their ability to squeeze a torrent of profit on high demand evaporated following Sony's effort to keep a steady stream of consoles flowing to shelves.

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Tech in 2006

by Saleem Khan, CBC News Online

From Apple's shocking shift to Intel chips to reports of exploding laptop batteries by Sony, high-definition DVDs, the video game console war and more, 2006 was a busy year for technology. Check out our 2006 tech year in review feature and tell us what you think.

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Venice vs. YouTube like NHL vs. street hockey: Om

by Saleem Khan, CBC News Online

Technology journalist/luminary Om Malik says pundits calling Kazaa and Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom's the Venice Project a YouTube killer are way off the mark. He should know. He's one of the few people who have seen the Venice Project in action. What do you think? Does YouTube have anything to fear from the Venice Project? Tell me in the comments below.

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Microsoft extends Xbox warranty

by Paul Jay, CBC News Online

Holiday shopping for gaming consoles has been pushed to new heights by the arrival of the PS3 and Wii this fall. Both consoles also had an advantage over the Microsoft Xbox 360 in the United States and Canada: A longer warranty.

Microsoft moved to correct that on Friday, announcing a retroactive extension of the Xbox 360 warranty from three months to a year.

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Art imitates life in Wii shirt

by Saleem Khan, CBC News Online
In the wake of reports of wrist-strap problems with Nintendo's Wii controllers, a T-shirt is letting gamers share their pain.

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Blogger upgrade as Battlestar Galactica

by Saleem Khan, CBC News Online

In case you missed it, the site that gave this whole blogging thing legs added a bunch of features yesterday. Blogger had slipped behind more feature-rich competitors over the years but software engineer Lexi Baugher reeled off some of the new functions in a post to Google's blog. The internet search giant owns Blogger.

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Novell loses software developer over Microsoft pact

by Paul Jay, CBC News Online

When Microsoft and Novell agreed to a partnership in November, it seemed an odd coupling.

Not only are the two companies embroiled in an antitrust lawsuit over Wordperfect, they have also taken different routes when it came to putting out software. While Microsoft's Windows uses proprietary software protected by patent and intellectual property law, Novell's SUSE Linux is based on the open-source Linux software.

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Second Life millionaire 'Anshe Chung' interviewed

by Saleem Khan, CBC News Online

It can be hard to fathom how a person could amass wealth by selling virtual real estate inside an artifical world, where the digital landscape is effectively limitless - when you start running out of space, you can just create more. But a Chinese businesswoman says she has become a millionaire as a virtual land baroness.

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Long way to go for a haircut

by Saleem Khan, CBC News Online

Astronauts often cut their hair short before they head into space. Long locks can get unwieldy just floating around in the virtually zero-gravity environment in Earth orbit.

But U.S. astronaut Sunita Williams — who switched places with German astronaut Thomas Reiter on the International Space Station — waited until the space shuttle Discovery crew was set to leave on Tuesday before she had hers cut for charity.

A NASA spokeswoman confirmed a report by space enthusiast website collectSPACE that Williams' ponytail was among the list of items being transferred to Discovery from the space station. The list refers to Williams as "811" and her ponytail as "811.1"

From collectSPACE:

"Remove ponytail from 811 prior to transfer of 811" reads the resupply transfer list. "Report final stowage location."

"We believe 811.1 has been completed, please confirm," ground controllers wrote to the crew elsewhere in the list.

The snipped strands are to be donated to U.S. non-profit group Locks of Love, which makes hairpieces for children with long-term hair loss due to a medical condition, the NASA spokeswoman at Johnson Space Center told me today.

And you thought you had trouble booking an appointment with your hairdresser.

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The Digg Effect

by Tod Maffin

Imagine a newspaper where every morning, all its readers get together and decide what will appear on the front page. That's actually happening right now on the internet. And the web site behind it is quickly becoming one of the more influential news sources on the net.

Digg.com -- one of my own personal addictions -- lets its audience vote to directly control what stories appear on the front page. Tens of thousands Digg readers do just that every day. If they like a story, they click a button on the site that indicates they their interest in it, or they can vote against it if they think it’s inaccurate, a duplicate story, or just "lame."

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They put the X in Xmas

by Saleem Khan, CBC News Online

BlueCat Networks Inc. has had a good five years. The maker of internet hardware has seen their revenues grow 1,336 per cent over that period, and this year doubled their staff to more than 85 people.

To celebrate, brothers Michael and Richard Hyatt will assemble their employees from around the world together at their Toronto headquarters later today to unveil BlueCat's giant Christmas tree — made of Xbox 360 video game consoles. There are enough of the top-end $500 sets for everyone to take home.

In keeping with the spirit of the season, the company is also donating 10 systems and a trip to Disney World to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The organization fulfills wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses.

The company is expanding rapidly so you might want to apply for a job now in case next year's tree is made of Sony PlayStation 3s or Nintendo Wiis.

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Group sues U.S. government over secret profiling system for travellers

by Saleem Khan, CBC News Online

U.S. digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation is suing the country's Department of Homeland Security to get "immediate answers about an invasive and unprecedented data-mining system" for travellers.

The lawsuit relates to the DHS Automated Targeting System (ATS), which the EFF says does "risk assessments" on millions of travellers as they cross in and out of U.S. territory. But the digital profiles, which will be held by any or all levels of U.S. government for 40 years, are kept secret from the people they describe.

A copy of the EFF's complaint against the DHS [247 kB PDF file] is available on the group's website along with information about traveller screening.

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Sony, Nintendo choose Akamai

by Saleem Khan, CBC News Online

If you're a gamer, a company you may never heard of — but probably already have a connection to — could soon become a lot more important to you.

Earlier today, a couple of announcements from Akamai Technologies Inc. of Cambridge, Mass. crossed my desk, stating the firm's Japanese arm has signed a deal with Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. and another with Nintendo Co. Ltd. to distribute content for their gaming networks.

The news came as no surprise since Akamai says it handles as much as 20 per cent of all Web traffic thanks to its 20,000 servers distributed in networks throughout 71 countries around the world. That capability prompts companies, governments and every branch of the U.S. military to pay Akamai big bucks to help smooth the flow of their data over the internet and avoid the digital equivalent of logjams.

Jeff Young, an Akamai spokesman, told me the company does not disclose contract details as a matter of policy, so no specifics about the scope and value of the agreements with Sony or Nintendo are forthcoming.

But he did say the networking company is ready to carry whatever traffic comes its way as PlayStation 3 owners start using the PlayStation Network and Nintendo starts streaming out content to Wii consoles while they sleep.

Akamai has previously disclosed — perhaps obviously — that it gets paid based on the amount of network traffic it handles. In 2005 it had $283.1 million US in revenues.

Knowing how much gamers love to go online, it's a safe bet that figure is set to jump dramatically.

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Great Canadian Video Game Competition deadline today

by Saleem Khan, CBC News Online

Today is Telefilm Canada's application deadline for the Great Canadian Video Game Competition. The contest is looking for entries from emerging game developers across the country to vie for up to $2 million in funding and mentorship from industry experts.

Canada already enjoys disproportionate success in the video games industry, which Telefilm hopes to build on through this contest and other initiatives. Contest information and entry forms are available at the contest website at www.telefilm.gc.ca/game.

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Video game opponent on ABC News Nightline

by Saleem Khan, CBC News Online

He's a crusading lawyer on a self-appointed mission to protect children from evil. He's a hero to conservative Christians like himself, and infamous in the gaming world, where he's the often the object of derision and ridicule —
especially among gamers. He's John Bruce "Jack" Thompson, a Florida attorney whose one-man practice is largely dedicated to putting a stop to depictions of violence in games, with mixed results.

ABC News Nightline broadcast an interview with Thompson last night that's worth watching. Irrespective of your opinion of his activities, how he comes across probably fits your preconceived notions.

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Asimo inspires Schadenfreude

by Paul Jay, CBC News Online

The eerily deliberate walking style of the Asimo has captivated us since Honda debuted the line of robots in 2000. It doesn't hurt their charm that the Asimo – which stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility – looks a little bit like the astronaut from a Lego space set, complete with cool silver backpack.
But learning to walk like a human remains a work in progress as this video of Asimo wiping out on the stairs during a demonstration shows.
We've been chuckling over this for days now since we first saw it on Engadget, but for those who haven't seen it yet, it's hilarious, particularly the way the presenters handle the crisis.

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Firefox 3 test version (Gran Paradiso Alpha 1) released

by Saleem Khan, CBC News Online

A prototype version of Firefox 3 is now available for software developers to evaluate.

The Mozilla organization, which oversees development of the free web browser, released the early test version of the next implementation of Firefox on Dec. 8. It is not intended for general consumer use.

The alpha 1 version of Gran Paradiso, the code name for Firefox 3, is available from mozilla.org.

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No comment on Wii controller lawsuit: Nintendo

by Saleem Khan, CBC News Online

Nintendo of America Inc. (NOA) is staying tight-lipped on the patent infringement lawsuit filed against the company by U.S. electronics device maker Interlink Electronics, Inc. last week.

"NOA is working on something and we're just waiting on that," Pierre-Paul Trepanier, director of marketing for Nintendo of Canada Ltd., told me from his office in Vancouver on Monday evening.

But a spokeswoman with Nintendo of America's PR agency sent a one-line e-mail late last night that suggested the video game company will not be making a statement on the matter.

"Nintendo isn't able to comment on pending litigation," the spokeswoman from Golin-Harris wrote.

I've asked to be notified of any updates but that's the official word for now.

Meanwhile, Interlink still hasn't returned my calls....

On another note, if the wrist strap on the controller for your Wii has broken, please let us know in the comments below and be sure to include an e-mail address where we can reach you.

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The gift of knowledge

by Saleem Khan, CBC News Online

Video game systems, entertainment gadgets and computer gear are perennially popular items on holiday shopping lists. But flaws, technology changes and other problems can sometimes leave the recipient feeling like they got a lump of coal instead of a shiny new toy.

My colleague, Paul Jay, and I put together a guide to avoiding pitfalls of items on technology hounds' shopping lists that tempers the hype with some context and historical experience.

If you think there's something that should -- or shouldn't -- have been included, let us know in the comments.

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Technology can't help the stupid

I'm always amazed to see product like this one come out: Some new gadget flashes a red light when it's too loud around you. The idea is it's supposed to help you know when to, you know, move the hell away from the ear-piercing noise.
     This is one of those "it looks good on a news release" kind of products, in my opinion. It has one fundamental flaw: You have to have the device with you for it to work. Duh.
     As the article notes, "Say you're near a tractor and worry the noise is loud enough to cause ear damage. Press your thumb on the handheld device's sound port to see whether it's too loud. Likewise, you can press your iPod's ear buds against the port to know whether you ought to turn the volume down."
     Really? Has society gotten this dumb?

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Buying a new television set

by Tod Maffin
It used to be so easy to buy a television set. You'd buy it, plug it in, and it would work. Not any more -- today, you need to know about resolution, technology, and all sorts of other geeky things. Here's a primer.

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