February 2008 Archives

Curtains for Netscape

by Paul Jay, CBCNews.ca

Few things make you feel quite so old as the march of technology, and the rapid rise and fall of technology companies.

Way back in 1995 I purchased my first computer, the hulking Mac Quadra 950 desktop computer, perhaps the last ugly beige desktop Mac would make before switching to sleeker fashions. At the same time my internet service provider was Interlog in Toronto, which was bought a couple of times and is now part of Uniserve (and not Sympatico as posted earlier. Thanks to Colin for the catch.)

And, of course, my browser of choice was brought to me by a company that provided nearly everyone's browser in an era of little choice: Netscape.

How things have changed. Tomorrow, March 1, represents the last day AOL - which bought Netscape in 1999 - will provide support for Netscape Navigator, a browser that's market share has slipped to 0.6 per cent.

AOL recommends users update to either Firefox, the spiritual successor to the once-popular browser. For nostalgic users, AOL recommends downloading Mozilla Firefox and then adding on "the Netscape theme and Netscape extensions" available on their site.

Netscape's rise and fall was typical of the first dot-com boom: the company had a huge initial lead but squandered it and allowed Microsoft to take control with its Internet Explorer browser, especially after Microsoft started bundling IE with Windows 95. That later versions of Netscape were notoriously buggy didn't help, either.

But since we're feeling nostalgic, we want to ask you: when did you make the switch from Netscape to another browser and why? And if anyone knows of someone who still uses it, we'd be curious to know how that's working out for them.

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PS3 coming on strong

By Peter Nowak, CBCNews.ca

If recent video game sales data from the NPD Group is any indication, Sony's Playstation 3 is starting to come on strong. The console had four games - Rock Band, Call of Duty 4, Guitar Hero 3 and Burnout Paradise - in the top 20 for January sales in Canada, the first time the PS3 has accomplished that feat. Rock Band and Call of Duty were also sixth and seventh, respectively, matching the console's double entry in the top 10 of November, where the PS3 versions of Assassin's Creed and Call of Duty 4 sold well.

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Two snapshots of life

by Paul Jay, CBCNews.ca

On Tuesday two archival projects dedicated to the preservation of life on Earth opened their doors: one real, one virtual.

In Norway, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault officially opened, taking in seeds from 250,000 distinct varieties of agricultural crops. And online, the Encyclopedia of Life website launched, although it promptly crashed after millions of curious users tried to access the site.

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UK users logging off Facebook

by Jennifer Wilson, CBCNews.ca

Social networking site Facebook suffered its first drop in British users in January, web monitoring firm Nielsen Online research found.

Media reports say this is the first drop in UK users - falling 5 per cent from 8.9 million in December to 8.5 million in January - since Nielsen starting watching the network's numbers in 2006. The firm monitors 40,000 British computers to measure on- and off-line internet activity.

Facebook had reported 17 successive monthly increases in the country prior to January's drop.

Despite the UK losses, Facebook has still grown 712 per cent in the past year, and nine per cent in the past three months, the web monitoring firm said.

Some media reports suggest the dropping numbers comes from flagging popularity among young people as more adults, politicians and companies are logging on.

Alex Burmaster, a European internet analyst with Nielsen, told AFP that the decline in users doesn't signal a failing Facebook.

"Just as one swallow doesn't make a summer, so one month of falling audiences doesn't spell the decline of Facebook or social networking," he was quoted as saying. "It was inevitable that the early growth rates couldn't be sustained and the larger networks have been plateauing over the last few months."

The data also showed that users of second-place social networking site MySpace had dropped by 5 per cent, while third-place Bebo lost two per cent of its audience.

Burmaster was quoted by the BBC as saying less popular social networking sites, such as Windows Live Space, BBC Communities and Friends Reunited saw a rise in users in January.

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Geist wins EFF award

by Paul Jay, CBCNews.ca

Digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation announced the winners of its annual Pioneer Awards, and once again a Canadian is among those honoured.

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Wii Fit arriving May 19

by Paul Jay, CBCNews.ca

Nintendo's Wii Fit, the exercise software featuring the weight-and-motion-sensing Wii Balance Board, will be launching on May 19 in North America, just in time for casual gamers to start working their way back into last-year's swimsuits.

The announcement was made during the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, and while coverage focused on the U.S. launch, Lorena Cordoba, a public relations representative for Cohn & Wolfe, which represents Nintendo Canada, told CBCNews.ca that the launch date was a North American launch date, though no other information is available right now.

Gamers in the UK and Europe will get it a wee bit earlier on April 25, the Guardian reports.

Wii Fit has been touted as the next big thing for Nintendo's best-selling console, with the company claiming sales of over 1.4 million units in Japan since its launch there on Dec. 1. The Balance Board can be used for a new range of interactive gaming activities – such as skiing – but also could be used for yoga, step classes and other exercise routines.

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Crippled spy satellite: Has its final countdown begun?

By Eve Savory, CBCNews.ca

If the international group of satellite hobbyists that hangs out on the SeeSat List are right, USA 193 may meet its end Wednesday night - just 10 minutes or so before it crosses Canada's west coast.

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Guitar Hero: Too much of a good thing?

By Peter Nowak, CBCNews.ca

Activision today announced the newest addition to the Guitar Hero franchise and this time the game focuses entirely on the songs of one band: Aerosmith. So far, the reaction from gamers is quite negative.

Many of the comments showing up on blogs are of the "Aerosmith sucks!" variety. Whether or not Aerosmith does indeed suck is open to debate, but whether it's a good idea to devote an entire Guitar Hero release to one band does seem questionable at best and perhaps ill-advised at worst.

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IBM fighting evil mutants?

By Peter Nowak, CBCNews.ca

From an IBM press release, sent out today:

According to a new security report from IBM’s X-Force security team, an organized criminal network is behind a staggering rise in the sophistication of attacks on computers worldwide. By attacking computer users’ Web browsers, cyber-criminals are laying siege to the Internet's gateway, and are now stealing the identities of consumers at a rate never before seen on the Internet. IBM X-Force believes this criminal effort will result in thousands of additional attacks in 2008.
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What's in a name? More money, evidently

by Paul Jay, CBCNews.ca

The European Space Agency is still basking in the glow of the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis, which sent ESA's Columbus laboratory to the international space station over the weekend. As I wrote earlier this year, the launch of Columbus marks the beginning of a new, more prominent role for the agency.

Armed with this newfound ambition, the ESA is now looking at revitalizing its long-planned ExoMars rover mission, which is scheduled to launch in 2013.

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Sony to make a gaming comeback?

by Paul Jay, CBCNews.ca

Electronic Arts released a report yesterday including its predictions for 2008, and - surprise, surprise - the company seems to think Sony's Playstation 3 console will outsell the Xbox 360 in North America and Europe.

The report - link courtesy of Digital Journal - estimates Sony will ship between 9.5 and 11.5 million PS3s in 2008, compared to six to eight million XBox 360s during the same time frame.

Now, the same report expects the Wii to be top dog in 2008, selling between 12 and 14 million units, but to me the PS3 prediction is the odd one. Isn't this the same PS3 that - according to EA's data - sold fewer units in 2007 than its predecessor the PS2?

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Google distracting from the real prize

By Peter Nowak, CBCNews.ca

The tech media - mainstream and bloggers alike - are understandably a-twitter over Microsoft's $45-billion US move on Yahoo, not to mention Google's response to it. This is like our very own Britney Spears meltdown: An event to be covered in thorough, excruciatingly painful detail, with every aspect analyzed and re-analyzed until everyone is sick of hearing about it. If only Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had a little sister that was pregnant outside of wedlock.

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Nicholas Carr's vision of cloud computing

By Nora Young, host of CBC radio's Spark

"Cloud computing" is a buzz term in tech circles these days. It refers to the move from computing as something that happens on the hard drive of your computer - with software you've loaded onto it - to computing done remotely on a grid of computers, with software accessed online.

In his new book, The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google, Nicholas Carr looks ahead to the seismic shifts this move to cloud computing may bring with it, raising questions about security, privacy, and economics.

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