Saturday, January 12, 2008

TSA's no-bid, data-leaking website was a complete screw-up: House Oversight Committee


The TSA's Traveler Redress Website was created by a no-bid crony contractor, leaked giant amount of personal information from hundreds of travellers (who had already been screwed over by the agency and were writing in for justice) and exposed them to identity theft. The House Oversight Committee concluded that the TSA totally, absolutely screwed up.

They sure do a bang up job at stopping you from bringing water through the checkpoint though.

That's gotta count for something.

* TSA awarded the website contract without competition. TSA gave a small, Virginia-based contractor called Desyne Web Services a no-bid contract to design and operate the redress website. According to an internal TSA investigation, the "Statement of Work" for the contract was "written such that Desyne Web was the only vendor that could meet program requirements."

* The TSA official in charge of the project was a former employee of the contractor. The TSA official who was the "Technical Lead" on the website project and acted as the point of contact with the contractor had an apparent conflict of interest. He was a former employee of Desyne Web Services and regularly socialized with Desyne's owner.

* TSA did not detect the website's security weaknesses for months. The redress website was launched on October 6, 2006, and was not taken down until after February 13, 2007, when an internet blogger exposed the security vulnerabilities. During this period, TSA Administrator Hawley testified before Congress that the agency had assured "the privacy of users and the security of the system" before its launch. Thousands of individuals used the insecure website, including at least 247 travelers who submitted large amounts of personal information through an insecure webpage.

Link (Thanks, Bill!)

Update: If you want to read the world's greatest "TSA have lied and cheated and lied and cheated" rant, check out our Teresa's post in the comment thread on the five year old whom the TSA thinks is a terr'ist.


Using rabies to deliver drugs directly to the brain


Marilyn sez, "Harvard Medical School researchers have developed an ingenious way to deliver drugs directly to the brain (in order to kill a tumor, for example), that uses the virus that causes rabies, which is extremely effective in infiltrating the blood brain barrier that blocks most other kinds of molecules."
In this study, the drug was injected into the tail of the mice, targeting the blood vessels. Using small interfering RNA (siRNA) as a drug treatment for many diseases has been powerfully successful in other animal models, but the problem has always been the process of making it a practical drug for clinical application. Therefore, this new technology developed by Kumar et al sheds light into a new, non-invasive and feasible way to deliver siRNA specifically to the brain.

siRNA is gaining popularity as a preferred drug treatment method since its early conception in the past seven years. It takes advantage of the cell's ability to stop its own protein production as soon as a short RNA sequence corresponding to the protein is detected outside of the cell's nucleus. This triggers a powerful protein synthesis arrest, which can be harnessed to modulate or treat diseases such as diabetes, Hepatitis C, and even transplant rejection.

Link (Thanks, Marilyn!)


Friday, January 11, 2008

Facebook - Why Not Let Sleeping Dogs Lie?


Just as the press was getting bored with talking about the problems with Facebook’s new advertising platform, Beacon (first mentioned here on November 2), founder Mark Zuckerberg goes on 60 Minutes to stir everything back up again (the show will be on air this Sunday).

Beacon is interesting, as Zuckerberg puts it, because “What would you rather see? A banner ad from Bloomingdale's or that one of your friends bought a scarf?”

Exactly. Except there were two fundamental problems with Beacon. The first problem, now resolved, was that users were unwittingly participating and sharing this information. Now users can choose to opt out of Beacon. Not as good as an opt-in, but its a move in the right direction.

The second problem hasn’t been resolved, though. Facebook is allowing advertisers to use user images and names in their ads. So if one of your friends adds a third party application, you may see an advertisement that shows their picture, prints their name and says that they’ve added the application.

Certainly click throughs and responses increase with the addition of a recommendation from a friend in an advertisement. But all of this may be in violation of publicity rights in place in many states that prohibit the commercial exploitation of a person’s image and likeness without permission or contractual compensation. The image to the right is an example that a confused reader sent to me - he saw the ad on his profile and wondered if I was affiliated with Blockbuster’s Movie Clique application or with the Jackass movie.

As far as I can tell there is no point where users are agreeing to the use of their image and name in advertisements, explicitly or even buried in the terms and conditions of the site. Whether or not it violates people’s privacy rights is a legal issue, and one that doesn’t appear to have been pushed to the lawyers yet. But the ice is rather thin, and Facebook is treading away.


Supercharge Outlook with Xobni [Featured Windows Download]


Windows only: Freeware Microsoft Outlook plug-in Xobni (that's inbox backwards) adds a handful of killer features to its new Outlook sidebar. Among those features: Email analytics, extraordinarily useful contact cards, fast search, threaded (Gmail-like) conversations, and more. The video above gives an excellent overview, so give it a look. Seeing as Xobni has successfully made Outlook appear exciting (which is no easy feat), this freeware, Windows-only plug-in looks like a winner. Currently Xobni is in a closed beta, but the first 50 readers to head to the download page and enter the code "lifehacker" can download. Once you're in, you should be able to invite friends, so if you use the code, keep an eye on the comments and help out a fellow Outlook user. Outlook lovers, let's hear how it works for you in the comments.


Gmail Mobile for Google Apps [Featured Mobile Download]


mailbygoogle.jpg Not sure how we missed this last month, but a new release of Gmail's Mobile App that works with Google Apps (For Your Domain) accounts is now available for your Java-enabled mobile phone. Just browse to on your mobile phone and download "Mail by Google." The icon is a blue envelope (instead of the regular Gmail Mobile red icon) and it's labeled "Mail by Google." You log in using your address. You can have both Gmail Mobile and Mail by Google installed on the same phone, and it works on Symbian and other Java-enabled handsets like my Nokia 6682. Check out our screenshot tour of the Gmail Mobile 1.5 app to get a taste of Gmail Mobile 1.5. The Mail by Google mobile app is a free download direct to your handset.


Trick Automated Phone Bots into Never Calling You Again [Telephone Hacks]


robot.jpg Automated phone bots keep interrupting your dinner with their pre-recorded marketing messages? Play the U.S. Special Information Tone signal for "vacant circuit" when you pick up the phone. Our brother site Consumerist says a reader who kept getting automated debt collection calls added the tone to the beginning of his voicemail greeting:

The next time the robot called, it thought it was getting a dead line and dutifully erased the number from its system. Voila, automatons be gone. Some places have autodialers that don't (or have been tweaked) to respond to SIT tones, but if you've got a persistent unwanted robot caller, it's worth a shot.
Of course, adding this to your answering machine greeting may confuse genuine human callers as well, but that may be worth scaring off the bots. Grab the tone as a WAV file from the Art of Hacking site. Photo by geishaboy500.


Video: Hands-on with Microsoft's Origami Experience 2.0


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We had high hopes that the Origami Experience 2.0 would be more than just two apps and a new password system, but we were pretty disappointed when we spent some time playing with it at Microsoft's booth. Picture Password, Origami Central and Origami Now were running on a variety of UMPCs, including the Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium, Fujitsu U810, Kohjinsha SH-series, and our demo unit, an HTC Shift, and while everything pretty much worked as advertised, it certainly wasn't an "experience" -- and probably the least fun we've had with OE in a long time. Check out a bunch of screenshots in the gallery, and make sure to catch the video of a Vista dev manager telling us that Origami Now and Central aren't "launchers" and that HD DVD is doing "just fine" after the break.


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You Can Do Better Than This iPhone Window Shot [Show Us]


nakediphone56khz5.jpgWe're all way beyond figuring out how to do this, but certainly some of our readers can do much, much better. Send your most creative iPhone window shot to Tips and the best one gets on the Giz front page next week. Extra consideration given for craziness, originality and the risqué. (Thanks, Trevor!)


Music lessons


Things you can learn from the music business (as it falls apart)

The first rule is so important, it's rule 0:

0. The new thing is never as good as the old thing, at least right now.
Soon, the new thing will be better than the old thing will be. But if you wait until then, it's going to be too late.  Feel free to wax nostalgic about the old thing, but don't fool yourself into believing it's going to be here forever. It won't.

1. Past performance is no guarantee of future success
Every single industry changes and, eventually, fades. Just because you made money doing something a certain way yesterday, there's no reason to believe you'll succeed at it tomorrow.

The music business had a spectacular run alongside the baby boomers. Starting with the Beatles and Dylan, they just kept minting money. The co-incidence of expanding purchasing power of teens along with the birth of rock, the invention of the transistor and changing social mores meant a long, long growth curve.

As a result, the music business built huge systems. They created top-heavy organizations, dedicated superstores, a loss-leader touring industry, extraordinarily high profit margins, MTV and more. It was a well-greased system, but the key question: why did it deserve to last forever?

It didn't. Yours doesn't either.

2. Copy protection in a digital age is a pipe dream
If the product you make becomes digital, expect that the product you make will be copied.

There's a paradox in the music business that is mirrored in many industries: you want ubiquity, not obscurity, yet digital distribution devalues your core product.

Remember, the music business is the one that got in trouble for bribing disk jockeys to play their music on the radio. They are the ones that spent millions to make (free) videos for MTV. And yet once the transmission became digital, they understood that there's not a lot of reason to buy a digital version (via a cumbersome expensive process) when the digital version is free (and easier).

Most items of value derive that value from scarcity. Digital changes that, and you can derive value from ubiquity now.

The solution isn't to somehow try to become obscure, to get your song off the (digital) radio. The solution is to change your business.

You used to sell plastic and vinyl. Now, you can sell interactivity and souvenirs.

3. Interactivity can't be copied
Products that are digital and also include interaction thrive on centralization and do better and better as the market grows in size (consider Facebook or Basecamp).

Music is social. Music is current and everchanging. And most of all, music requires musicians. The winners in the music business of tomorrow are individuals and organizations that create communities, connect people, spread ideas and act as the hub of the wheel... indispensable and well-compensated.

4. Permission is the asset of the future
For generations, businesses had no idea who their end users were. No ability to reach through the record store and figure out who was buying that Rolling Stones album, no way to know who bought this book or that vase.

Today, of course, permission is an asset to be earned. The ability (not the right, but the privilege) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who want to get them. For ten years, the music business has been steadfastly avoiding this opportunity.

It's interesting though, because many musicians have NOT been avoiding it. Many musicians have understood that all they need to make a (very good) living is to have 10,000 fans. 10,000 people who look forward to the next record, who are willing to trek out to the next concert. Add 7 fans a day and you're done in 5 years. Set for life. A life making music for your fans, not finding fans for your music.

The opportunity of digital distribution is this:

When you can distribute something digitally, for free, it will spread (if it's good). If it spreads, you can use it as a vehicle to allow people to come back to you and register, to sign up, to give you permission to interact and to keep them in the loop.

Many authors (I'm on that list) have managed to build an entire career around this idea. So have management consultants and yes, insurance salespeople. Not by viewing the spread of digital artifacts as an inconvenient tactic, but as the core of their new businesses.

5. A frightened consumer is not a happy consumer.
I shouldn't have to say this, but here goes: suing people is like going to war. If you're going to go to war with tens of thousands of your customers every year, don't be surprised if they start treating you like the enemy.

6. This is a big one: The best time to change your business model is while you still have momentum.
It's not so easy for an unknown artist to start from scratch and build a career self-publishing. Not so easy for her to find fans, one at a time, and build an audience. Very, very easy for a record label or a top artist to do so. So, the time to jump was yesterday. Too late. Okay, how about today?

The sooner you do it, the more assets and momentum you have to put to work.

7. Remember the Bob Dylan rule: it's not just a record, it's a movement.
Bob and his handlers have a long track record of finding movements. Anti-war movements, sure, but also rock movies, the Grateful Dead, SACDs, Christian rock and Apple fanboys. What Bob has done (and I think he's done it sincerely, not as a calculated maneuver) is seek out groups that want to be connected and he works to become the connecting the point.

By being open to choices of format, to points of view, to moments in time, Bob Dylan never said, "I make vinyl records that cost money to listen to." He understands at some level that music is often the soundtrack for something else.

I think the same thing can be true for chefs and churches and charities and politicians and makers of medical devices. People pay a premium for a story, every time.

8. Don't panic when the new business model isn't as 'clean' as the old one
It's not easy to give up the idea of manufacturing CDs with a 90% gross margin and switching to a blended model of concerts and souvenirs, of communities and greeting cards and special events and what feels like gimmicks. I know.

Get over it. It's the only option if you want to stay in this business. You're just not going to sell a lot of CDs in five years, are you?

If there's a business here, first few in will find it, the rest lose everything.

9. Read the writing on the wall.
Hey, guys, I'm not in the music business and even I've been writing about this for years. I even started a record label five years ago to make the point. Industries don't die by surprise. It's not like you didn't know it was coming. It's not like you didn't know who to call (or hire).

This isn't about having a great idea (it almost never is). The great ideas are out there, for free, on your neighborhood blog. Nope, this is about taking initiative and making things happen.

The last person to leave the current record business won't be the smartest and he won't be the most successful, either. Getting out first and staking out the new territory almost always pays off.

10. Don't abandon the Long Tail
Everyone in the hit business thinks they understand the secret: just make hits. After all, if you do the math, it shows that if you just made hits, you'd be in fat city.

Of course, the harder you try to just make hits, the less likely you are to make any hits at all. Movies, records, books... the blockbusters always seem to be surprises. Surprise hit cookbooks, even.

Instead, in an age when it's cheaper than ever to design something, to make something, to bring something to market, the smart strategy is to have a dumb strategy. Keep your costs low and go with your instincts, even when everyone says you're wrong. Do a great job, not a perfect one. Bring things to market, the right market, and let them find their audience.

Stick to the knitting has never been more wrong. Instead, find products your customers want. Don't underestimate them. They're more catholic in their tastes than you give them credit for.

11. Understand the power of  digital
Try to imagine something like this happening ten years ago: An eleven-year-old kid wakes up on a Saturday morning, gets his allowance, then, standing in his pajamas, buys a Bon Jovi song for a buck.

Compare this to hassling for a ride, driving to the mall, finding the album in question, finding the $14 to pay for it and then driving home.

You may believe that your business doesn't lend itself to digital transactions. Many do. If you've got a business that doesn't thrive on digital, it might not grow as fast as you like... Maybe you need to find a business that does thrive on digital.

No_one_cares 12. Celebrity is underrated
The music business has always created celebrities. And each celebrity has profited for decades from that fame. Frank Sinatra is dead and he's still profiting. Elvis is still alive and he's certainly still profiting.

The music business has done a poor job of leveraging that celebrity and catching the value it creates. Many businesses now have the power to create their own micro-celebrities. These individuals capture attention and generate trust, two critical elements in growing profits.

13. Value is created when you go from many to few, and vice versa
The music business has thousands of labels and tens of thousands of copyright holders. It's a mess.

And there's just one iTunes music store. Consolidation pays.

At the same time, there are other industries where there are just a few major players and the way to profit is to create splinters and niches.

13. Whenever possible, sell subscriptions
Few businesses can successfully sell subscriptions (magazines being the very best example), but when you can, the whole world changes. HBO, for example, is able to spend its money making shows for its viewers rather than working to find viewers for every show.

The biggest opportunity for the music business is to combine permission with subscription. The possibilities are endless. And I know it's hard to believe, but the good old days are yet to happen.


Report: Facebook Has Lowest Customer Experience of Social Networking Sites


Monitoring service WatchMouse has published a report today of many of the largest social networking sites customer experiences. They derive the scores based on load times plus penalties for non-load. Facebook is the worst scoring of all of the tested networks (about 100 total). Immediately I wonder about the report seeing as though Twitter is rated in the middle of the pack knowing how much downtime Twitter has had since launch.

Some of the best scoring networks include: Pownce, Meetup, Xing, Geni and Flickr. Check out the full report to view each network. Which reported networks stand out to you?

Of the 104 sites monitored, 51 show a Site Performance Index (SPI) of 1000 or more, making them very slow in load time.

Here are the worst 10 performing networks:


Beautiful and Mysterious Chemical Reactions Create Undulating Brew

By Aaron Rowe January 10, 2008 | 3:44:05 AM

Warning: This beautiful ballet of chemical reactions could make you trade your lava lamp for a magnetic stirrer.

When several clear liquids are combined, the mixture quickly changes colors -- back and forth -- over and over again. Like Mitt Romney speaking on social issues, the undulating brew just can't make up its mind.

In 1973, the spectacular demonstration was perfected by Thomas Briggs and Warren Rauscher, two amazing high school science teachers.

Over thirty-five years later, chemists are still trying to fully understand how it works.

What they do know: Several reactions take place at once. One of them produces iodine, which gives the amber color. Hydrogen peroxide reduces other chemicals into iodide ions. Along with normal iodine, the charged particles interact with starch to create it a blue-black color. The speeds of those transformations are constantly changing. As one overtakes the other, the color suddenly changes.


Miro 1.1: faster torrenting for better net TV


Miro -- the free and open Internet TV program that lets everyone participate in making and watching video -- has just posted a fantastic update. Version 1.1 includes a new BitTorrent engine that delivers dramatic improvements in download speeds.

Miro combines BitTorrent (a downloading system that gets faster as more people download the same file) with the open VLC video player (which lets you watch every video format without worrying about which program you're using) and RSS technology, so that you can subscribe to any of thousands of channels and get the new videos when they're published. Miro comes from the nonprofit Participatory Culture Foundation, who also make Broadcast Machine, a tool that lets anyone publish channels for their own video.

Miro is also hiring hackers and fundraisers, so here's your chance to help keep the world safe for open video. Link

(Disclosure: I am on the Board of Directors for the nonprofit Participatory Culture Foundation)


Chip with its own Peltier cooler


North Carolina's Nextreme has announced a chip with its own built-in Peltier cooler -- a cooling system that uses electricity to move heat from one side of a surface to the other. These are historically very expensive to use -- bulky and energy hungry -- but many overclockers swear by them to keep their PCs running cool. Nextreme proposes to use this to make self-cooling chips that spot-cool different places on a chip, shunting exhaust heat towards fans or vents. Ars Technica has a great article explaining the technology:
But the Peltier coolers that Nextreme is touting are tiny—so tiny, in fact, that they can be integrated into a chip's packaging and used to target specific "hot spots" on the chip for cooling. If Nextreme's technology works as advertised, it is to the traditional Peltier cooler what the integrated circuit is to the vacuum tube...

Nextreme's big idea is to take those copper pillars and turn some of them into tiny Peltier coolers that can move heat off of small sections of the chip. (For a good, brief explanation of Peltier cooling, see the aforementioned Ars article.) As you can see from the diagram below, some of the copper pillars are still traditional power, ground, or I/O pads, while others would be there solely for the purpose of using the Peltier effect to move heat off of the chip.



Aaron Broder, Kid Reporter, Blitzes CES, Gets the Scoops [Kid Power]


aaron_broder.jpgMeet Aaron Broder, the 14-year-old reporter and member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps. He's covering CES from start to finish. Chaperoned by his mom, the resourceful young man convinced the CES suits to bend the "no one under 16, no exceptions" rule to grant him a press pass. Good move, because after all, there are millions of people his age who are tech experts (and who read Gizmodo), and it's about time they got some press representation.

Aaron is one of 50 young people chosen to report news from all over the world for website Scholastic News Online and Scholastic's classroom magazines. Look for Aaron's take on CES there, as well as his impressions of your humble Gizmodo narrators and our peculiarities. If the next generation of reportage is represented by go-getters like Aaron, the future looks bright. [Scholastic News Online]


Justify Your Gadget: Sony's 16 Camcorders [Clips]


Sony announced 16 new camcorders at this year's CES. Seriously, 16 brand new freaking camcorders. Why would any product line need so many (often indistinguishable) options? We went straight to the source to find out.


What To Expect at Macworld 2008 and Why We Think It Will Be Bigger than Usual [Macworld 2008]


iceberg-macworld.jpgT minus four days and counting. Steve Jobs' Macworld 2008 keynote is next Tuesday and at this point we only know one thing for sure: something big is coming from Apple. Maybe not one single iceberg-sized thing, but this year we believe the Boom Count™ is going to be so high that Apple had to take their new big irons out of the way to clear the launching pad. And if it wasn't enough, there's plenty of evidence that points out the magnitude and importance of next week's announcements:

What we know for sure • Without naming any specifics, our unofficial conversations with people inside Apple points out at a 2008 full of new products. Not new versions, but actual new products. According to them, as their consumer segment gets stronger by the day, the company can take risks that before were unthinkable.

• The same sources says that, although Apple is going to keep spacing these releases through time, the overload of information for this keynote requires their marketing agenda to be extremely focused, even more than during previous events. Getting the Mac Pro and Xserve lines at the keynote was only going to add clutter, so a decision was made to present them earlier, also knowing that the pro segment is well informed and taken care of by Apple specialists through the world.

• Last keynote served to launch one of the biggest consumer-oriented bets in Apple history: the iPhone.

• Other sources inside Apple confirmed us that, after the introduction of the Intel architecture, the company's strategy was not to update the external design of their hardware for the time being. The idea was to complete the migration, keeping it as invisible as possible. So instead of introducing new designs as an element of disruption, they kept the looks steady to transmit the idea of continuity and stability to an existing user base wary of yet another major architectural change in the platform. Once the transition was solid, the company was going to start changing the looks of each of the product lines, one by one, starting with one of their core products: the iMac.

• Apple is closing deals with studios on movie rentals and pre-ripped iPod/Apple TV movies included on disc.

• This is the year when Apple goes completely green.

• Although this receives no publicity whatsoever and is often overlooked by the press, there's a way to know what kind of products may appear at keynotes: while Apple doesn't communicate what new products are going to be announced to their own marketing and sales forces through the US and the world, the mothership communicates what kind of clients may be interested in the products to both the sales and PR teams, especially overseas. That way, they can plan and invite the adequate clients and media outlets to these events.

What we can reasonably expect That said and looking at the current product cycles, here's what we can expect almost for certain:

Apple TV. While the Apple TV never lived to the company's hopes and later was downplayed as a hobby (more like a "let's test the waters and keep a feet in this market," as our sources point out), the fact is that movies and TV series are one of the cornerstones of iTunes' expansion plans.

Apple knows that a solid presence in the living room is a must to make this happen. This is why we will probably see a new Apple TV, worthy of being called the iPod of the living room. Perhaps not in its current form, but yes, an AV product.

Apple Cinema Displays. Long overdued and surpassed by the competition at this point, the Apple Cinema Displays could be renewed in this Macworld. However, with new Mac Pro systems without any aesthetic change, don't expect a revolutionary change in terms of design. Most probably, it will be an evolution that will match the current professional desktop and in line with the looks of the latest iMac.

However, knowing Apple's obsession with green, their 2008 deadline and, why not, Steve's pal and board member Nobel friend, we think there's a very high probability of seeing state-of-the-art technology in the new displays, with LED backlighting.

iPhone. It is going to be one year after the announcement of the iPhone. We logically expect time to be devoted to the product, perhaps with announcements to highlight the incoming public release of the iPhone third-party software SDKs. Expect no 3G yet, however: our sources inside Telefonica, the Spanish telecommunications giant, point out that 3G will come later in the year, coinciding with the spanish launch of the iPhone. The AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson pointed out that it will be out in 2008, but didn't say exactly when.

MacBook Pro. Realistically, the MacBook Pro will probably be the Real Big Bang for next Tuesday morning. With the Intel transition over, and following the iMac revamp, the MacBook Pro has a very high probability of receiving a major facelift. One that will mirror the dramatic changes of the previous grand redesign of an Apple portable—which coincidentally matched a big architectural change—the PowerBook G4 Titanium.

While there are rumors about an specialized ultra-slim MacBook, some are pointing out at the lack of optical drive, the most logical step for Apple is to make all of its portable product line as thin, light and complete as they can. Instead of making a niche product, their best interest is to make all their laptops, which are their most popular computers, more attractive than those of the competition.

To do this, technologies like LED backlighting, solid state drives (in line with the flash drive memory news that have been reaching the public through 2007, positioning Apple as one of the biggest clients of various flash memory companies), new processors and tighter reduction of components will most probably make their way through all the product line.

One more thing While the above could be perfectly real, there's always the dream factor, the "one more thing." A totally new product that will take everyone by surprise. Looking at the rumors, and as we discussed in the past, it may be some kind of magic tablet, so well made, cheap and practical that could overcome all the current limitations of the Tablet PC platform. It could also be an ACME Food Synthesizer or anything we can dream about.

Looking at the patents, the little news about component purchases and the rumors, these can be the possibilities:

MacBook Ultra-slim. We have seen recently unearthed dock patents that may be connected to a MacBook Ultra-Slim, but like other Apple research work, it may never reach the market or do it at a much-later date. However, we are more inclined to expect a major thickness and weight reduction of all the MacBook and MacBook Pro product line (like happened with the PowerBook G4 Titanium) than a specialized sub-notebook with separate docking station. If that happened, the difference in size and weight need to be huge enough to justify a different product line. Looking at the market size, it may not be justifiable.

MacBook Touch (Apple Tablet Mac.) Then there is the fabled Apple Tablet, recently revitalized by the Tablet PC's camp renewed activity and the roaring iPhone success. This MacBook Touch is a recurring rumor, but again, it's difficult to believe Apple is chasing this Holy Grail when there is not a clear market for it. We have no doubt that Apple has this kind of hardware working, especially after the experience of the iPhone. But also like the iPhone, which was originally a PDA before it was eliminated in favor of the iPod, the mass market that Apple is seeking may not be ready for it.

And then again, maybe Bill Gates knows something nobody knows when he points out a possibly imminent Apple version of their Tablet PC. With his connections, I won't be surprised. But on the other side, he may just be another looking for a validation of his Tablet PC passion by his biggest nemesis.

Apple Cinema Displays. Out of gut feeling, I bet Brian $20 that there may be a larger Apple Cinema product for the living room.

However, beyond all these facts, analysis and predictions, at the end of the day the only thing we are sure about is that the announcements will be dense and big. Now, the only thing to discover is if the surprise factor will be as big as the density of the information that will be delivered in the keynote.

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Hitachi CP-A100 Projector Shines a 50-Inch Screen From 15 Inches Away [Ces 2008]


The Hitachi CP-A100 ultra short throw projector here is rigged up to a touch-motion interface. Sitting at the edge of the table with a lens mounted about 15 inches from the screen, casting a 50" diagonal picture, in this case, a computer screen showing Google Earth. Tabletop applications are only the beginning—the XGA LCD-based projector casts a 120" screen from just three feet away. [Hitachi]


Ortery's Photosimile 5000 Creates Professional 3D Images From Physical Items [Photography]


The Photosimile 5000 is a professional office photography machine that is able to take professional 3D images from physical products/people placed in its central chamber. The imager work by utilizing a camera running along a rail, which can take a number of user defined images that are then translated into one unified 3D photo. The device can only capture the uppermost half of the item in the central cage, as the camera rail does not run along the base; however, the item being captured is rotated in 360 degrees, meaning the resultant snapshot can be viewed from all angles. Check out the video to see it in action.

The Photosimile 5000 will be able to output GIF and flash files, and the camera can be removed and replaced, if needed. There is no distributor in the US, and the guys at Ortery were unwilling to provide a price range for the Photosimile 5000, but it looks really promising nonetheless. [Ortery]


Jawbone whips CES into a nerd frenzy with free headsets


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Jawbone's giving away free headsets to anyone willing to trade in their old one here at CES -- which means they've accumulated an impressive collection of busted old headgear from nerds around the world. Check a few more pics of dudes waiting around for free stuff at the read link.



Penryn-based Mac Pro gets benchmarked


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It's just been a short two days since Apple rolled out its latest Mac Pro update, but that was apparently more than enough time for the folks at Primate Labs to get their hands on one and put it through its paces. They only got the 2.8GHz model, however, so they weren't quite able to fully back up Apple's claims that it's the "fastest Mac ever," but that's not to say they didn't find plenty to be impressed with. In particular, while the new system trailed the older, 3.0GHz model in floating point performance, it edged it out in integer, memory and stream performance -- a feat all the more impressive considering the new 2.8GHz Penryn system is a fair bit cheaper than its speedier predecessor. Of course, those less concerned with saving a few bucks can opt for the new, top-end 3.2GHz model, which should give you plenty of benchmark bragging rights until Apple dishes out its next update. [Via AppleInsider]



Microsoft CES fashion show flaunts (some) good looking gear


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Not content with Apple's design team running circles around the PC world, Microsoft has created a team dedicated to helping OEM manufacturers make their boxes less beige and boring. Ingredients may include: aluminum, leather, carbon fiber and, uhh, cow fur. Microsoft held a fashion show at CES this year to show off the fruits of the PC world's collective efforts, and luckily betanews was there to nab some shots (like the one above). While we're not quite ready to say we're looking forward to more cow fur laptops, recent PC designs like the XPS One give us hope for the future of the beige box. [Thanks, Shyamal]



Tuesday, January 08, 2008

TV star publishes bank details in anti-privacy editorial, gets ripped off


Jeremy Clarkson, a presenter for Top Gear on British TV, wrote a newspaper editorial that accused privacy activists of being hysterical over giant data-leaks (such as the British government repeatedly losing CDs bearing the financial details for 25 million households). To prove that identity theft wasn't a big deal, he included his bank account details in the article.

Whereupon someone promptly began making fraudulent withdrawals from his account.

Clarkson, 47, writing in his column in the Sunday Times, decried the furore last year after CDs disappeared containing the banking details of 7 million families.

The loss led to fears of mass identity theft with people's bank accounts open to internet scams.

At the time he wrote: "I have never known such a palaver about nothing. The fact is we happily hand over cheques to all sorts of unsavoury people all day long without a moment's thought. We have nothing to fear."

However, yesterday he told readers he had opened his bank statement to find a direct debit had been set up in his name and £500 taken out of his account.

"The bank cannot find out who did this because of the Data Protection Act and they cannot stop it from happening again," he said. "I was wrong and I have been punished for my mistake."


(Image: crop from Books, a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike photo from William Hook's Flickr stream)


Panasonic 150-Inch Plasma Next To That Tiny 103-Incher From Last Year [Big Tv Watch]


panny150-inch_display.jpgWant some perspective on that Panasonic 150-inch plasma display? Here it is with a human standing next to it, flanked by Panasonic's largest TV shown at past CESes, a 103-incher. So if you like your TVs as big as a queen-sized bed and capable of displaying an elephant in actual size, you may now begin your five-year wait for it to become available, if you can save your money fast enough. UPDATE: video here and a bonus elephant pic on the next page!

DSC_0153.JPGMaybe someone really would want an elephant in the living room. Well, now it's perhaps someday kinda almost possible, in the fantasy world of Panasonic's gigantic CES plasma displays!


Mitsubishi Laser TV's Colors Look Even Juicier Than the Girls on the Set [HDTVs]


lasertvmitsu.jpgMitsubishi put together quite a spectacle to introduce its Laser TV last night at the Moon Nightclub at The Palms Hotel in Las Vegas, unveiling a 65-inch rear-projection set that uses a unique laser backlight. The result is some of the most vivid color we've ever seen on any TV, especially the primary colors of red, green and blue. The blacks were midnight-dark, too, and there was even a 3D version of the TV (goofy glasses required) that only made us slightly cross-eyed. Mits officials said to look for the TV to appear on the market "later this year" at an undisclosed price, and added that it will cost about the same as flat panel TVs of the same size. On the next page, let's explore how this laser backlight works and gawk at a slightly NSFW gallery.

When pressed for details, they kept repeating their mantra about laser being the "purest light source," but from what we could see, we think it must have something to do with hot-looking dancing girls, frickin' lasers, smoke and maybe even mirrors. We were taking shots of the TVs, but all these women kept getting in our way. Oh, well.


Mitsubishi laser TV unveiled


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Tonight at the Moon Room on the top floor of the The Palms Hotel & Casino overlooking Las Vegas, Mitsubishi unveiled its laser HDTV. As expected, Mitsubishi kicked off the event with a few execs expressing their love for lasers -- and Mitsubishi in general. They explained that Mitsubishi is a leader in laser technology and owns 75% of the led laser market, so bringing them together with big screen TVs made perfect sense. Then the event went from execs to night club as the curtain was dropped and there were three 65-inch laser HDTVs on display. At first glance the colors were sensational and the contrast was extremely intense; and although we were hard pressed to see anything that struck us as groundbreaking, we'll need to see this side by side with a traditional set to really know what we're looking at. Unfortunately, the event was short on details, such as price or availability, but during 2008 is the time frame Mitsubishi is aiming for.


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