Signs the machines are taking over: we've harnessed the power of the sun

So does this mean I'll never have to recharge my iPod battery again?

"A key component of a $10 billion nuclear fusion plant is vintage 2002 Indonesian coconut-shell charcoal. After a 20-year search, German researchers discovered that the coconut-shell charcoal is the best medium for 'adsorbing' waste byproducts sucked out of the thermonuclear reaction's vacuum chamber. In what will be the first fusion power facility that's commercially viable, magnetic fields will heat hydrogen isotopes to over 150 million degrees Centigrade. (Essentially, the super-hot plasma creates artificial stars.) As the article points out, 'It's not quite a Starship warp drive, but it does harness the power of the sun.'"

(From Slashdot)


Photo: Windows 7 will give you a heart attack

No really it will.

Tech market continues to rock the economy

While it may not be a sign that the economy is recovering quickly, it's good to see some industries bounce back from the abyss. The graphics processor market is humming along nicely since people like cards that make their video games render cool explosions and effects.

Third quarter graphics processors shipments jumped 21.2 percent sequentially after an initial rise in Q2 2009, according to the latest numbers from Jon Peddie Research. Overall 119.45 million units were shipped during the period, exceeding the record 111 million units that were shipped in the year-ago quarter, as computer vendors built up inventory in preparation for the Windows 7 launch.

As usual, JPR's report includes market share data and covered both discrete and integrated graphics -- thus as expected Intel continued to hold the top spot with 52.7% of the market, bolstered by its installed base of integrated graphics chipsets. Nvidia was second with 24.9%, followed by a closing in AMD with 19.8%.

Noticing a trend in the tech market? Everyone is making some profit. Good news...


Microsoft nixes Family Guy special

You may have heard about Microsoft's partnership with Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane to make a special with built-in Windows 7 plugs. You know that show... the one that pushes the line on decency and offensive material?

Well apparently Microsoft got offended.

Microsoft had planned to sponsor the special, titled "Family Guy Presents: Seth & Alex's Almost Live Comedy Show," and was going to embed Windows 7 pitches directly into the show, rather than using traditional ads. A sneek peek at a trailer revealed that the pitches were not even close to being funny.

Now that Microsoft has actually seen the show, the company has changed its mind about sponsorship. According to Variety, in a taping of the show Seth MacFarlane and his "Family Guy" co-star Alex Borstein:

"...made typical "Family Guy" style jokes, including riffs on deaf people, the Holocaust, feminine hygiene and incest."

That spurred Microsoft to pull the plug.

What did they expect? A special about ponies and rabbits? It's Family Guy! This show takes more risks that Michael Jordan at a craps table. Did anyone brief the Microsoft execs on what Family Guy was all about or were they assuming it was like that Simpsons cartoon?


Bing strikes back

Remember a month ago when people we're freaking out over the one-month drop in market-share by the Microsoft search engine Bing? Well look out naysayers... it's bouncing back!

Microsoft's Bing search engine captured 8.8 percent of the search engine market in September, up from 8.7 percent in August, according to a new report from Compete, a Web analytics company. Google continues to dominate the search engine market with 72.6 percent of all searches performed in September done through the Mountain View, Calif.-based giant; Yahoo ranked third with 14.7 percent of searches.

Google (NSDQ:GOOG), like Bing, also grew from month to month, outpacing its Redmond, Wash.-based competitor, with 0.3 percent growth, from 72.3 percent in August to 72.6 percent in September, according to Compete.

Yahoo (NSDQ:YHOO), on the other hand, was the biggest loser in the search engine market share race. The company saw its query volume drop 8 percent from 1.98 billion searches in August to 1.82 billion in September, contributing to its market share dropping from 15.8 percent to 14.7 percent.

While Google is still doing its thing, it looks like Bing is here to stay (hopefully). The real loser in all of this is Yahoo, which after announcing they'll be using the Bing search engine has lost users to either Google or Bing. Once Microsoft finally takes over all the search capabilities from Yahoo, there might not be any market share left.


Video: I hate when this happens

I think we have found a design flaw in the Nintendo Wii...

Grumpy journalist complains about not getting Microsoft press releases

Stop the presses! We've got a news story on our hands as PC Mag's John Dvorak has thrown down the gauntlet - he's going after the evil giant software company known as Microsoft. You may have heard of them because they're trying to take over the world. Dvorak reveals some of the horrible things that the company has done...

I haven't received a single personal note from a Microsoft PR person for roughly four years. Instead, the company has taken to sending out very lengthy and somewhat boring cheerleader-type consumer newsletters to the media in an attempt to keep us informed. It's essentially spam with lots of links and no real compelling content, which seems to be the work of someone who has recently finished taking English as a Second Language courses.

Somewhere along the line, Microsoft apparently decided that it only wants to deal with those amenable suckers who will give it a pass on everything—or perhaps the company has just given up any hopes of getting favorable press. Whatever the case may be, the Microsoft of 15 years ago did a much better job managing the media than it does today. The shift signals more than a simple annoyance—Microsoft's carelessness with the media seems to represent an overall careless that permeates throughout the entire company.

You haven't received a press release?!?! Heaven forbid you have to actually research something yourself or go onto these blogs which are already stuffed with info on windows. You want an article hand delivered to your inbox so you can rewrite it and collect a paycheck. Ladies and gentlemen, journalism!


Yahoo hauls in a boatload of cash

Yahoo has reported a total net income of $186 million this quarter, up an astounding 244% from last quarter when it netted $54 million. This comes largely because Yahoo cut costs but nevertheless shows how tech companies and raking in the cash in this recession.

Yahoo's surge in profit comes after some major budget trimming, and despite the company's handsome bottom line, its revenue is still falling. Yahoo recorded revenue of $1.6 billion in the third quarter, down 12% year-over-year, and excluding traffic acquisition costs revenue was $1.1 billion. 

Now considering all the issues surrounding Yahoo (i.e. their outsourcing of search engine duties to Microsoft) it seems like a good sign that the company is able to haul in profit at a decent margin. We'll see how this plays out in the coming quarters.


Sony Playstation 3 is king (for now)

After less than stellar sales during the early part of its existence, a new price drop helped the PlayStation 3 become the top selling console in September. What does this mean? Maybe people are sick of Microsoft and waving motion controls around like a drunk uncle.

Benefiting from a significant price drop last month and a hardware redesign, Sony's PlayStation 3 took the top spot in the U.S. gaming console sales rankings for the first time since it was launched in November 2006. According to the latest figures from NPD, the Blu-ray equipped device sold 491,800 units in September, compared with 462,800 for the Nintendo Wii and 352,600 for Microsoft's Xbox 360.

No one managed to topple the Nintendo DS, however, which boasts an impressive 524,000 units sold for the month. The entire industry as a whole enjoyed a 1 percent year-on-year growth to $1.28 billion, breaking six months of straight decline. Of that amount, software was up 5 percent to $649.32 million, while hardware was down 6 percent to $472.28 million and accessory sales were up 2 percent to $157.33 million.

While the PS3 does boast better graphics than the Xbox 360 and definitely the Wii, for some reason it seems to have excluded two key demographics: the kid gamer and the casual gamer. I would guess that hard-core gamers eat this stuff up since it's the most powerful machine on earth (other than PCs) and has several franchises from Sony. However, things have always seemed a little more advanced and adult on the PlayStation. Kids are going to be more attracted to the fun Wii, and the off-and-on gamer is going to be more inclined to buy the cheaper and better franchised Xbox 360.

Serious, name one franchise specifically on the PS3 that has reached main, main stream conscious (NOTE: I'm not talking about being mentioned on your gamer message board, I'm talking about something your mom would recognize). Now do the same for the Xbox and Wii. Mario? Halo? Those have entered the big time and people are willing to hope in bed with those machines. Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy are mainstream in the gaming world but probably not as popular as the other console's marquee franchises.

However it appears this price drop may have earned the PS3 some more fans.

Video: Does anyone find this commercial slightly creepy?

Just the end of it, with the change of music, made my skin crawl a little.


Apple profits on the rise

Looks like another tech company is doing well in the face of a rough economy as Apple posted a spiffy profits report...

SEATTLE — Apple Inc. said its net income rose 47 percent in the most recent quarter as more people bought Mac computers and gave in to the iPhone craze. The results, released Monday, sent Apple shares surging 7 percent in extended trading to an all-time high.

Apple unveiled a faster iPhone in June and cut the price of the previous generation of the phone to $99. That boosted iPhone sales from July through September to 7.4 million devices, half a million more than last year.

Apple weathered the economic meltdown better than other computer companies, giving it a running start when PC sales grew in the quarter. Apple had also updated its Mac operating system and refreshed its Macbook Pro line. Apple sold 3.1 million Macs, a 19 percent rise from the same period a year ago.

With Google also posting it's biggest profit ever, things look up for the economy at least in the tech sector, now if that could translate over into other parts of this country's economy, we could be on the road to recovery.

Microsoft to become the next Starbucks Coffee

Watch out now, not only is Microsoft software on most personal computers in the world, but now the company is expanding their physical influence by opening their first "Microsoft Store" in Scottsdale, Arizona. No word yet if you'll have to ask Windows Vista permission before going into the store.

Microsoft's retail stores are expected to showcase computers and mobile phones running Windows software, as well as the company's own Xbox 360 and Zune hardware. A further site is reportedly planned for Mission Viejo, California. Meanwhile, Apple is said to be launching an aggressive ad campaign to try and steal the spotlight away from Windows 7's launch. 

Oh no! Now people will have a physical target when their Windows system crashes and erases all their data. This will not end well... mark my word.

Microsoft out to ruin Mozilla Firefox

If you're a big company that has a PR problem, the last thing you want to do is create an add-on for a competitor browser that creates a serious security issue. Last Tuesday, when Microsoft released its huge update for Windows, one of those updates was to actually help users from getting hacked.

One of the 13 security bulletins Microsoft released Tuesday affects not only Internet Explorer (IE), but also Firefox, thanks to a Microsoft-made plug-in pushed to Firefox users eight months ago in an update delivered via Windows Update.

"While the vulnerability is in an IE component, there is an attack vector for Firefox users as well," admitted Microsoft engineers in a post to the company's Security Research & Defense blog on Tuesday. "The reason is that .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 installs a 'Windows Presentation Foundation' plug-in in Firefox."

The Microsoft engineers described the possible threat as a "browse-and-get-owned" situation that only requires attackers to lure Firefox users to a rigged Web site.

However, some serious issues arose (understatement).

What was particularly galling to users was that once installed, the .NET add-on was virtually impossible to remove from Firefox. The usual "Disable" and "Uninstall" buttons in Firefox's add-on list were grayed out on all versions of Windows except Windows 7, leaving most users no alternative other than to root through the Windows registry, a potentially dangerous chore, since a misstep could cripple the PC. Several sites posted complicated directions on how to scrub the .NET add-on from Firefox, including Annoyances.org.

Annoyances also said the threat to Firefox users is serious. "This update adds to Firefox one of the most dangerous vulnerabilities present in all versions of Internet Explorer: the ability for Web sites to easily and quietly install software on your PC," said the hints and tips site. "Since this design flaw is one of the reasons [why] you may have originally chosen to abandon IE in favor of a safer browser like Firefox, you may wish to remove this extension with all due haste."

Really Microsoft? Come on now. I had read somewhere that it had been fixed but keep a weary eye out for those add-ons.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.


PC Shipments bounce back! The computer industry is saved!

Apparently either more people are becoming homeless due to the economy or they're getting sick of being hosed by Best Buy salesmen. After seeing a drop in PC shipments first and second quarter, the market bounced back marginally and the release of Windows 7 is supposed to only have a small effect on the market in the coming months.

Gartner has released a report that shows a rise of .5% in PC shipments during the last quarter from a year ago. A small but nonetheless positive gain, compared to the second quarter's 5% decline and the first's 6.5% drop. The growth was somewhat of a surprise to Gartner, which expected PC shipments to fall by 5.6% in the third quarter.

Last quarter held a milestone for Acer, as the company raced passed Dell to claim 15.4% of the global market
, with the latter holding about 12.8%, and HP remained on top with a 19.9% share. HP performed about equal to the prior quarter, but Acer and Dell were neck and neck with 13.5% and 13.6% of the market. 

I wonder if the rise has anything to do with the upcoming holiday... oh what is it called again... oh yeah, Christmas. It's only a few months away people. Of course more models are getting bought up, because those crazy people that do their holiday shopping in advance are gobbling them up.

Okay, that might be just a shot in the dark (it is) but I'm not sure how thrilled you can be about a .5% rise in sales - but hey, at least the bottom of the market isn't dropping out.


Finding the biggest prime number ever

This isn't nerdy at all. This is something I would totally use if I were trying to pick up girls at the bar.

San Francisco, CA - infoZine - A worldwide volunteer computing project called the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS) has discovered a 12-million-digit prime number, netting $100,000 and a Cooperative Computing Award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) for discovering a prime number of over 10 million digits.

The GIMPS PrimeNet network made the discovery on a computer at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Mathematics Department. Computing manager Edson Smith installed and maintained the GIMPS software at UCLA, and thousands of other volunteers also participated in the search process. The discovery was hailed by Time magazine as the 29th top invention of 2008.

That's freakin' huge number by the way. I'm not sure you could count that one on your fingers.

The winning number is the 45th known Mersenne prime, written shorthand as 2 to the power of 43,112,609, minus 1. A Mersenne number is a positive integer that is one less than a power of two. The GIMPS discovery was announced in the Fibonacci Quarterly journal in August of this year; it is the largest prime number ever discovered.

Yeah this isn't something you'd use on the T-80 in high school.


The Chinese have developed an artificial black hole, possibly working on a cloaking device

Sorry America, we're royally screwed. If Washington D.C. suddenly scrunches down to the size of a penny - we know who done it.

Step forward Qiang Cheng and Tie Jun Cui at the State Key Laboratory of Millimeter Waves at Southeast University in Nanjing, China, who have used metamaterials to create the world's first artificial black hole in their lab. Yep, a real black hole.

That's not quite as scary as it sounds. A black hole is a region of space from which light cannot escape (that's why it's black). According to Einsteins' theory relativity, black holes form when space becomes so distorted by a large mass that light cannot escape its gravitational field.

But gravity needn't be involved. Metamaterials also distort space, as far as light is concerned anyway (in fact there is a formal mathematical analogy between these optical and gravitational distortions). Physicists have already exploited this distortion to steer light around an object within a metamaterial to create an invisibility cloak. If that's possible, then more exotic distortions ought to be possible too.

Hmmm, but hasn't human-made black holes been in existence for quite some time now. We actually see them everywhere in America. Here's a photo of one...

No light or rays of hope ever leave these black holes, and they're significanlty bigger than the Chinese "black holes."

Bring it on China! We're ready.


Woman goes to pokey for poking someone on Facebook

Social networking continues to be a strange experiment in human interaction. Now a woman has been put in jail for poking someone that has put a restraining order on her.

...a Tennessee woman was arrested last month for "poking" another user on Facebook.

According to an affidavit filed with the Sumner County General Sessions Court on Sept. 25, Shannon D. Jackson of Hendersonville, Tenn., allegedly violated a legal order of protection that had been previously filed against her when she sent a virtual "poke" to another woman on Facebook.

I wonder what would have happened if she would have tagged in the person in one of her photos? I can only imagine the death penalty.


I'm a PC, I'm a Mac with a serious bug

Apparently despite all the banging drums about how stable Macs are, it still has some issues. Example: this nasty little bug that causes the Snow Leopard Operating System to delete all user data. Ooops.

The flaw is triggered when a user signs into the guest account, be it intentionally or unintentionally, and then attempts to sign back into their regular account only to find that all of their files have been erased. Unfortunately, the only way to get them back is from a backup on a separate drive.

The number of users impacted by this bug is uncertain as is the exact cause behind it. Speculation is that something makes Snow Leopard treat the regular account like a Guest account, from which by default all data is deleted upon logout. Furthermore, it seems the problem occurs only when the Guest account was already enabled in Leopard before being upgraded to Snow Leopard.

So until Apple figures out a way to fix it, you might want to start away from those guest accounts. Unless of course you want your entire virtual life to be deleted... forever. As far as the "I'm a PC, I'm a Mac" commercials go, you've let me down Mac, you've let me down. Should of stuck with being a B actor that starred in movies like "Waiting."


Your Windows OS will be getting a rebuild come Tuesday

You might have heard that every once in a while Windows has bugs, security risks and other things that may need to get fixed. Okay, that's a slight understatement as Windows is constantly getting patched and worked on by Microsoft technicians and Mac users always like to point out all the issues with the operating system.

Well they just got more ammo as the upcoming Windows patch will include 13 fixes, a record for the company. You might as well not come into work while Windows is updating.

In June, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) issued 10 security bulletins addressing 31 vulnerabilities, the largest number of vulnerabilities fixed in a single day since the company began issuing regular patches on the second Tuesday of every month in October 2003.

This coming Tuesday, the company's four-month-old record will fall: Microsoft's October patch cycle includes 13 bulletins that address 34 vulnerabilities.

Eight of the bulletins are rated "critical" and five are rated important. The bulletins affect Windows, Internet Explorer, Office, Silverlight, Forefront, Developer Tools, and SQL Server.

According to a blog post by Microsoft senior security program manager Jerry Bryant, the patch will resolve two issues described in recent security advisories: a Server Message Block (SMB) vulnerability and an FTP vulnerability in Microsoft Internet Information Services (ISS).

"Usually we do not go into this level of detail in the advance notification but we felt that it is important guidance so customers can plan accordingly and deploy these updates as soon as possible," said Bryant.

13 fixes? All of a sudden Windows seems like the broken-down Cadillac spewing smoke on the highway.


Why video games slowly drain your bank account

Gaming can be an expensive hobby... ask anyone who's walked into a GameStop to get the latest copy of Grand Theft Auto: Beating up your Grandma for their X-Box. Sixty bucks a pop? Really?

Here's how it breaks down in pricing...
  • $12 goes to the retailer.
  • $5 goes toward discounts, game returns and retail cross-marketing. (You didn't think those cardboard standees were free, did you?)
  • $10 goes toward cost of goods sold, which includes manufacturing the game disc, shipping the games to the store and anything else directly related to production and delivery of the game package.
"It is generally accepted that most publishers receive $30 to $35 per game sold before they run into overhead, development and marketing costs."

That's all fine and dandy, but I have a different theory on why it costs so much to buy a video game
  • $10 goes to the donut fund that all the programmers use to feed themselves during the development of the game.
  • $5 goes to pay the Microsoft god Bill Gates so he doesn't smite unsuspecting game companies.
  • $5 is for the company party after the game is released. They spend it on cake and a live band (usually Bon Jovi).
  • $20 goes to making the cover art to a game. This usually takes longer and is more thought out than the actual programming of the game itself.
  • $5 is for the Canadians, because they secretly run America.
  • $5 is to the "How can we somehow add a female character with a large chest" fund that all gaming companies have.
  • $10 goes to paying off all the gaming publications to trick you into thinking this is a good game.
In other words, you get hosed.


Google Monster chugs through bad economy

While the sad state of the economy has hit everyone, the one exception has been none other than search-engine giant Google, which probably prints its own money now.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said that the tech firm has ramped up hiring, citing an end to the advertising slump.

Schmidt told reporters at the company's headquarters in New York that Google started to see the first signs of a recovery in May and June, and Wednesday he said the advertising recession has ended, according to a Google spokesman.

"The worst is behind us," said Schmidt. "We're clearly seeing aspects of recovery, not just in the U.S. but also Europe."

Google weathered the economic downturn well, but the company still endured more modest gains in revenue and earnings than the soaring profit and sales it was used to in prior years.

A couple of things that might have helped Google has been the fact that...

(1) People are going out less, staying home, and spending more time on the computer. You don't see internet providers going under because people are more likely to stop eating than stop updating their Facebook status. Since Google is the main search provider for everyone, they get used more since their surfing more often.

(2) Google has diversified, and the amount of items you can use for is staggering. Email, website management, blogging and even social networking. Meanwhile on Bing.com... you can search throw a group of photos... wow.

Well, when we are the Google States of America, just remember the days before the search engines took over...