Saturday, September 25, 2004
  CNet: New Microsoft set-top box ready to roll

This is a niche product looking for a niche. Xbox Live and WinXP Media Centre have got the gamers and the videophiles respectively. What is the niche for MSN TV2? Teens? But there's no P2P file-sharing for MP3s and vids. Is it a $100M/yr biz? I don't think so.

On the outside, it's slick, with new video-playback and photo-viewing programs, and a custom version of Internet Explorer 6 designed to make Web browsing on the television a far less painful process. On the inside, it's a Windows CE-based product with a 733MHz Celeron--slow by PC standards but downright zippy in the world of set-top boxes.

Microsoft will sell the $199 device in two ways--as a dial-up product for technology newbies with $21.95 monthly service; and as an additional way for broadband homes to view the Web for $9.95 using the existing Internet connection. Newbies, who have historically been the bulk of MSN TV subscribers, are likely to be the majority of initial customers, said MSN TV General Manager Sam Klepper.

Many of the new features are aimed at those customers, including the ability to play music or movies stored on a PC in another room. The device can connect via wired or 802.11b wireless networks, though Microsoft plans to add support for faster 802.11g wireless networking in mid-November. Customers will get 2GB of e-mail space for their primary account and 250MB for up to 11 additional accounts.

One of the challenges for the unit, though, is that MSN TV finds itself as just one of many products Microsoft is aiming at the living room, including entertainment PCs, as well as two other set-top boxes: The Xbox game console and the Media Center Extender, a device that plays content stored on a Media Center PC in another room.

Thursday, September 23, 2004
  SJ Mercury: Sony shifts strategy to support MP3 music files
Sony is fighting a losing battle. ATRAC and MD are losers in the marketplace. Kill them now or make them way better than MP3 players/iPods. I don't see the latter happening though. Sony is fighting standards battle all over the place -- Blu-Ray, PS2, etc.
  SJ Mercury: Computer Associates settles fraud case
The charges were unsealed Wednesday after the company agreed to pay $225 million to shareholders in a settlement that allows it to defer criminal prosecution. An independent monitor will examine the company's financial reporting for at least 18 months. If the monitor finds Computer Associates is in compliance with its agreement with the Department of Justice, the company will face no prosecution.

The agreement also settles securities fraud charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In May, the company offered the government a $10 million settlement.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004
  NY Times: A Cycling Medalist Denies Evidence of Doping
Tyler Hamilton says he didn't receive blood transfusions (to increase his red blood cell count, thereby increasing his oxygen carrying capability).

Follow-up tests, which are mandated to confirm the first findings, were started Tuesday and will be finished Wednesday, but it was not known when the results would be announced, Hamilton said.

A spokesman for Phonak said that the sport's governing body, the International Cycling Union, or U.C.I., had told the team Monday that tests Aug. 19 at the Olympic Games and Sept. 11 at the Spanish Vuelta showed evidence of blood from another person.

Both tests followed victories by Hamilton, 33, a rider ranked behind only Lance Armstrong in the United States. If the results are confirmed by second tests, he faces the loss of his Olympic medal and a possible two-year ban.

The test is more sensitive than previous ones used to detect blood doping, said Dr. Don H. Catlin, director of the Olympic drug-testing lab at U.C.L.A., in a telephone interview Tuesday. The test, which was developed in Australia, can detect even smaller amounts of another person's blood cells in a sample. A person normally has only one type of red blood cell.

  CNN: Oprah car winners hit with hefty tax
According to a spokeswomen for Harpo Productions Inc., Oprah's company, the recipients must pay a tax on the winnings, just like any prize.

For a brand new Pontiac G-Six, the model given away on the show, the sticker price is $28,500. The $28,500 would need to be claimed as income so, depending on the individuals tax bracket, the tax could be as high as $7,000. And that was after Pontiac agreed to pay most of the local charges, including state sales tax and licensing fees.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004
  Seattle Times: Software programs called RSS readers creating a blog jam

Blogging needs more infrastructure like Usenet. Just watch it evolve into something similar. Bloglines is just the beginning.

The Microsoft Web site that hosts its employee Web logs gets a spike in visits at the top of each hour, 24 times a day.
The surge isn't because people are sitting at their computers, diligently searching every hour for the latest news from so-called bloggers. Instead, software programs called RSS readers are doing it for them, resulting in a barrage of traffic as the number of employee blogs has grown to nearly 1,000.

The technology news site Infoworld was getting so many RSS requests at the top of each hour that the site actually slowed down for a few minutes each time under the burden, said Chad Dickerson, the company's chief technical officer. Dickerson said the situation was similar to the trouble some Web sites had handling visitors years ago as the Internet became more popular.

The market is still nascent. Mark Fletcher, the chief executive of Web-based newsreader service Bloglines, estimates the people who use RSS readers likely number only in the hundreds of thousands.

"We are a bit early in the awareness curve," he said. Bloglines accesses some 270,000 feeds every hour and then sends the information out to its subscribers, taking some of the burden from the content providers.

Friday, September 17, 2004
  Digitimes: Alternative DVD format EVD not gaining acceptance in China
However, China’s domestic market response to EVD players has not been as positive as originally expected as prices are not competitive with foreign brands, and many local makers of DVD players are not willing to adopt the EVD format. In addition, two other competing DVD formats have been developed in the China market, HVD (high-definition versatile disc) and HDV (high-definition digital video).

Taiwan’s FVD could also be a strong competitor in the China market, based on its certification from the DVD Forum and support from Microsoft

Thursday, September 16, 2004
  SFGate: Widely used bike lock can be picked with a ballpoint pen
In recent days, bicycle chat rooms on the Internet have been flooded with irate comments from cyclists, some of whom have posted short movies of themselves picking their own locks with the hollow shaft of a Bic pen.

A spokeswoman for the Canton-based company, the country's largest bicycle-lock manufacturer, said it plans to accelerate the introduction of new versions of the lock because of the complaints.

Boston bicycle messenger John Anderson, 23, said a friend showed him how easy it was to defeat a U-lock.

"He did it in about two seconds. I was like, `You've got to be kidding me,"' he said. "People spend a couple of grand (on their bikes), so it's kind of a bummer that people can steal them so easily."

Benjamin Running, a 28-year-old graphic designer in New York, helped start the furor after he posted on the Internet a video of himself picking his own lock.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004
  NY Times: China's Plan: Import a Gold Medal
Bringing in American players is part of a deliberate push to raise the skill level of China's best homegrown players quickly so that they can win a medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Chinese officials say one of the best ways to build a worthy supporting cast around Yao Ming, the 7-foot-6 Houston Rockets center, is to import foreign players to compete against.

"That's the way we're going to improve our national team," Li Chun Jiang, the coach of last year's association champion Guang Dong Tigers, said through an interpreter. "U.S. players are more skilled - basketball belongs to the U.S."

Gee, I don't know if you can improve that much in 8 years. The Chinese basketball team is going to have to count on some luck as well to make it to the medal podium. Of course, cash wouldn't hurt - but it'd have to be a lot of cash. There are other inducements but no one solution for everyone.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004
  CNN: Mansions on wheels spur luxury RV resorts
The yuppies will not go softly into the night...
  Globe and Mail: Olympics put Greek economy in tailspin
The Games, which cost Greek taxpayers at least $10-billion, are credited with at least a fifth of the soaring debt. Total Greek public debt has now reached 112 per cent of the country's gross domestic product, which amounts to $75,000 for each Greek household.

By contrast, Canada's debt peaked at 68.4 per cent in the mid-1990s, prompting huge cuts in federal spending.

Greece has now joined a large club of governments that have been economically crippled by playing host to the Olympic Games. The most famous member is Montreal, whose municipal bill for the 1976 Olympics is not expected to be fully paid until 2006.

Sunday, September 12, 2004
  NY Times: Racial 'Handicaps' and a Great Sprint Forward
Even Chinese people think that Chinese people can't sprint as well as the rest of the world. Well, if the BALCO case is indicative, maybe the Chinese govt needs to get some chemists on the job...
  NY Times: A Booster Seat on Wheels
Gee, this baby stroller is expensive (US$749) and high off the ground. The target market seems to be those X-geners who have turned into yuppies.
  NY Times: Not Perfect, but a Recovery All the Same
Ben Stein seems to come out in favour of Bush's economic plans to stave off a recession and wonders why the media aren't portraying the recovery as such? Maybe because the media tends to lean to the left like the Tower of Pisa and hates Bush? These are also the people who seem to love anything done by Michael Moore.
Friday, September 03, 2004
  Seattle Times: Microsoft cuts 93 jobs in server division
Among the changes made to the server division was a move to automate some testing work that had been done manually.

"To improve quality and achieve predictability in shipping schedules, we need to significantly increase our use of automated testing and move away from the kind of manual testing that we have traditionally done," Senior Vice President Bob Muglia said in an internal e-mail announcing the changes. "This will give us much more control over shipping schedules and will significantly improve quality."

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