Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Gaming: Sony Provides "Sneak Peek" Of The Upcoming PS3 Firmware (v2.60) Update

Eric Lempel the Director of PlayStation Network Operations provides PS3 users with a sneak peek into the software updates for PS3. The newest Firmware v2.60 is said to be coming soon and is designed primarily to enhance the system’s media capabilities.

According to Lempel's blog post the key feature is a new Photo Gallery application, which delivers a suite of tools for sorting through and displaying your digital photo collection. Digital pictures can be organized in groups according to various criteria, including the camera used to take the photos, the event date and time, colors in the photos, as well as the number, ages, or facial expressions of the people pictured. You can also create slideshows set to music and build photo playlists with an easy-to-use interface. The Photo Gallery application will need to be installed separately from the XMB after you update your PS3’s firmware. To install the Photo Gallery application, go to the Photo section on the XMB, select Photo Gallery and press the X button.

While there is no official word on the release date some sites are speculating it will be available for download tomorrow January 21. Until then here’s a video walk-through of the firmware showing off the Photo Gallery.

Amazing GeoEye Pictures Of President Obama’s Inauguration

The GeoEye gallery feature some great 1/2 meter resolution images of the Washington D.C. area during the President's Inauguration. The images were taken from space, some 423 miles up in, by the GeoEye-1 or as many know it the “Google Satellite”.

This half-meter resolution image of the United States Capitol, Washington D.C. was collected by the GeoEye-1 satellite on Jan. 20, 2009 to commemorate the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. The image, taken through high, whispy white clouds, shows the masses of people attending the Inaugural Celebration.

This half-meter resolution image of Washington D.C.’s National Mall was collected by the GeoEye-1 satellite on Jan. 20, 2009 to commemorate the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. The image, taken through high, whispy white clouds, shows portions of the monuments along the National Mall and the masses of people between the Capitol and the Washington Monument.

The images definitely offer a different perspective. The little blobs of people looks so minuscule, yet each blob represents 10's of thousand off people, if not more.

Payment Processor Heartland Hit With Security Breach, 100 million Accounts Vulnerable

Information is now being disclosed about a massive data breach that hit payment processor, Heartland Payment Systems, late last year. The breach may have may have led to the theft of more than 100 million credit and debit card accounts.

Robert Baldwin, Heartland's president and chief financial officer, said the company had receiving several fraudulent activity reports late last year from MasterCard and Visa on cards that had all been used at merchants which rely on Heartland to process payments.

"We found evidence of an intrusion last week and immediately notified federal law enforcement officials as well as the card brands," said Baldwin. "We understand that this incident may be the result of a widespread global cyber fraud operation, and we are cooperating closely with the United States Secret Service and Department of Justice."

Upon investigating suspicious activity surrounding processed card transactions, Heartland uncovered malicious software that compromised data that crossed Heartland's network. The company reportedly took immediately steps to further secure its systems. In addition, Heartland will implement a next-generation program designed to flag network anomalies in real-time and enable law enforcement to expeditiously apprehend cyber criminals.

Heartland has created a website, www.2008breach.com, to provide information about this incident. It is advised that you check your credit reports for any suspicious activity and scan your credit card statements closely. Even the smallest of charges should be considered suspicious as credit card thieves often create a test charge for something small to see if the card works. Then they'll go in for the kill and buy those high ticket items.

Obama Officially Takes Office

I'm not one for politics so instead of being glued to the TV like many of you I was sleeping during today's historical inauguration. Being the geek I am I knew there would be much missed as everyone, everywhere would be streaming the video. So I headed over to YouTube and watched the Associated Press video.

Being a "Semi-Republican", I'm a nonpartisan voter that votes Republican more often than not, I'm not a big supporter of our new President. I'd like to be optimistic and think he'll turn things around. That he can walk the walk and back up some of what he has been talking. I'm just not getting my hopes up. Politicians all to often make big promises, get into office and then don't deliver.

Today's historical significance aside I don't see the event as being worthy of the attention it is receiving. More than a million people crowded the National Mall and the parade route along Pennsylvania Avenue for the inauguration of President Obama. That's great that all those people wanted to be a part of the inauguration of our first black president, but at the end of the day that really doesn't mean much.

If President Obama can't, or doesn't deliver on his promises and the economy doesn't make a miraculous turn around then he goes down in history as what he is, just another President. In my opinion for this to truly be a noteworthy even President Obama has to make a significant impact on the world. If two years down the road things are as bad or worse then today's historic moment losses all of its shine.

Kaspersky Anti-Virus For Windows 7

Kaspersky Lab has released their technical prototype of Kaspersky Anti-Virus for Windows 7 which is now available for download. For more details you can read the full press release below, to get the new software prototype which includes not only an antivirus component but an effective and fully functional firewall and anti-spam filter visit the download page

Kaspersky Lab, a leading producer of secure content management solutions, announces the release of a technical prototype of Kaspersky Anti-Virus for Windows 7. The prototype is based on the new antivirus engine which provides complex antivirus protection from all types of Internet threats.

The new technical prototype of Kaspersky Anti-Virus is designed to secure computers running under Windows 7. The beta test version of Microsoft Windows 7 operating system was released at the beginning of January 2009. Kaspersky Lab simultaneously released its technical prototype providing greater efficiency and complex antivirus protection for the new operating system.

“We knew the release of the new version of Windows would be a huge event for the IT community, which is why we were prepared for it,” said Alexey Kalgin, Director, Product Marketing, Corporate Business Division, Kaspersky Lab. “Our company has always made support for Microsoft’s new operating systems a top priority. For example Kaspersky Anti-Virus for Windows Vista was released simultaneously with the operating system’s official launch. When Windows Server 2008 was released, Kaspersky Anti-Virus was the only antivirus product on the market certified by Microsoft. Users can now see for themselves how our antivirus protection technologies perform on the new platform.”

Kaspersky Lab’s technical preview is a comprehensive solution, including not only an antivirus pattern-recognition component but also a heuristic analyzer which can detect and block as-yet-unknown malicious programs based on their suspicious characteristics, a firewall and an anti-spam filter. The prototype is intended to provide effective protection from all types of Internet threats – viruses, worms, Trojans, spyware, hacker attacks and spam.

At the heart of the new technical prototype is Kaspersky Lab’s new antivirus engine which is even more effective at detecting malicious programs than its predecessor. The new engine dramatically increases system scanning speed thanks to improved processing of objects and optimized use of system resources, particularly on dual- and quad-core processor platforms. The unique product architecture ensures high productivity and one of the lowest uses of system resources in the industry. The prototype is fully compatible with 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the operating system. Both inexperienced and advanced users will find the solution to be user-friendly and easy to install and configure.

“The new Microsoft Windows operating system promises to be even more popular than its predecessor and we expect a high level of migration after its official release. We have already received numerous requests from companies planning to migrate to Windows 7 and who are now testing its efficiency and compatibility with the products they use. We see it as our duty to provide these companies with the most secure and reliable solution for business-level protection, which is why the prototype for Windows 7 was developed on the basis of our corporate solution,” added Alexey Kalgin.

Moreover, Kaspersky Lab plans to provide centralized administration tools during the testing stage of the new operating system. By the time Windows 7 is officially released, Kaspersky Lab intends to launch a full range of products providing comprehensive protection for both home and corporate users of the new operating system.

You can download Kaspersky Anti-Virus for Windows 7 here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Seagate's Firmware Update Bricking Drives

seagate logoAccording to several reports on the seagate support forums Seagate's recent firmware update for Barracuda 7200.11 drives affected by a faulty firmware is actually doing more harm than good and in many cases is bricking previously working 500 GB hard drives.

The thread is packed with owners of ST3500320AS model 500GB Barracuda drives who have attempted to update their firmware according to the Seagate knowledge base article. The update which is supposed to prevent failures is actually causing drives to be bricked.

For now the update has been "temporarily taken offline as of Jan 19, 2008 8PM CST for validation." There has been no official word from Seagate regarding the new issues faced by their users, however the company said yesterday they would provide free data recovery services for affected users so we can assume they will extend that offer to anyone that is affected by this latest issue.

AMD Phenom II X4 Chips Get Price Cuts

phenom II logoLess than two weeks after their official launch AMD's newest processors, the Phenom II X4 920 and Phenom II X4 940 Black Edition, are already receiving price cuts.

Several retailers including Newegg and ZipZoomFly slashed prices today, cutting $40 off the price of both CPUs. The Phenom II X4 920 is now selling for $195, down from its launch-price of $235. While the Phenom II X4 940 Black Edition is listed at $235, down from a $275 launch price.

Clearly AMD's is responding to Intel's price cuts announced earlier today, but you've got to wonder how long they can compete if they are already being forced to cut processors prices just weeks after their release.

One thing is for sure, these processor pricing wars are great for consumers. You can now get several power house chips at very reasonable prices.

Newegg is also offering $15 off with coupon code "AMD1815" dropping the price of the X4 940 to $220 and the X4 920 to $180 with free shipping on both.

AMD Phenom II X4 940 3.0GHz Black Edition Quad-core Processor

AMD Phenom II X4 940 3.0GHz Black Edition Quad-core Processor

AMD Phenom II X4 920 2.8GHz Quad-core Processor

AMD Phenom II X4 920 2.8GHz Quad-core Processor

Antec 902 Now On-Sale

Antec's recently launched Nine Hundred Two (902), is now on-sale at Newegg. The Nine Hundred Two, or 900 version 2, is the latest update to Antec's line of high-performance gaming cases that offer enhancements designed specifically for hardcore gamers, such as increased cooling and maximized airflow.

antec 902

The best-selling Antec Nine Hundred offers gamers an unbeatable enclosure, one that delivers a combination of cooling, performance and convenience that stands head and shoulders above the competition. Now, the Nine Hundred Two builds on this design with improved airflow and dominating style.

antec 902

The 902 features many of the design elements that make the 900 a great case. Including a perforated front bezel for superior air intake, a massive top-mounted 200mm "Big Boy 200", 2 front 120 x 25mm special black blue LED intake fans with front speed control and optional side or middle mounts for additional 120mm fans.

More Nine Hundred Two Features:
  • 9 drive bays
  • - External 3 x 5.25"; Internal 6 x 3.5" for HDD, or - External 6 x 5.25"; Internal 3 x 3.5" for HDD, or - External 9 x 5.25"
  • Built-in washable air filters
  • 8 expansion slots to support multiple graphics cards, including NVIDIA 3-way SLI
  • Front mounted I/O ports
  • - 2 x USB 2.0 - 1 x eSATA - Audio In and Out (AC’97 and HDA compatible)
  • Motherboard: Mini-ITX, microATX, Standard ATX
  • No power supply included
  • Unit Dimensions:
  • - 19.4" (H) x 8.6" (W) x 18.6" (D) - 49.3cm (H) x 21.8cm (W) x 47.2cm (D)
  • Package Dimensions:
  • - 22.7" (H) x 11.3" (W) x 20.1" (D) - 27.7 cm (H) x 28.8 cm (W) x 51 cm (D)
  • Weight:
  • - Net: 25.4 lbs / 11.5 kg - Gross: 28.9 lbs / 13.1 kg
"Antec is dedicated to meeting the needs of gamers with products that are able to withstand the most cutting-edge systems out there," said Scott Richards, senior vice president for Antec. "Evolved from a successful design, the Nine Hundred Two continues to provide quiet operation and maximum cooling, as well as user flexibility to create gaming powerhouses."

My thoughts
The 902 is a nice redesign of the current Antec 900 however I don't see anything that justifies the $50 premium for the case. For my money I'd buy the older 900 and spend the additional $50 on a power supply. But users wanting to pick up the updated version can get it now at Newegg for $159.99. Newegg current offers a free AMD X2 BE-2300 CPU w/ purchase, ends 1/31.

AMD Expected To Cut 1,100 Jobs

amd logoWith a worsening economy and poor sales it should come as a surprise that AMD has been forced to make cutbacks. According to AMD the company plans to cut 1,100 jobs - or roughly 9% of its global staff. In all the company will lay off 900 employees at various levels of its product business, and will shed a further 200 positions through attrition and by divesting its handheld business, according to spokeswoman Hollis Krym.

These cuts will be the third round of layoffs for the chip manufacturer in the last year with the latest round of cuts coming back in November when AMD laid off 500 workers. The largest of the three cutbacks came when AMD laid off 1,600 employees in April of 2008.

In addition to the layoff the company will be cutting salaries, cutting overtime pay and suspending matching contributions for U.S. employees' 401k retirement investment funds.

AMD will announce its Q4-08 earnings after market close on Thursday, January 22, 2009. At this time its unclear how just how much the losses for the fourth quarter will be however if they are inline with the recent Intel numbers they will be significant.

AMD had a rough year in 2008 reporting losses in each of the first three quarters. In the 3Q of '08 the company reported a net loss of $67 million. In the second quarter a net loss of $1.189 billion and in the first quarter their net loss was $358 million. All told AMD has reported eighth consecutive quarterly losses. (AMD Quarterly Earnings)

Rumors Confirmed Intel Slashes CPU Prices

intel logoLast week we reported that Intel might be slashing prices on their popular Core 2 Quad lineup, today the company has made it official cutting prices of its Core 2 Quad chips by up to 40 percent, while dropping prices along its other product lines, as well.

Intel Core 2 Quad processor Dec '08 (12/28) Jan '09 (01/18) %Decrease
  • Q9650 (12M L2 cache 3.00GHz 1333MHz FSB 45nm) $530 to $316 -> 40%
  • Q9550 (12M L2 cache 2.83GHz 1333MHz FSB 45nm) $316 to $266 -> 16%
  • Q9400 (6M L2 cache 2.66GHz 1333MHz FSB 45nm) $266 to $213 -> 20%
  • Q8300 (4M L2 cache 2.50GHz 1333MHz FSB 45nm) $224 to $183 -> 18%
  • Q8200 (4M L2 cache 2.33GHz 1333MHz FSB 45nm) $193 to $163 -> 16%

Intel Core 2 Duo processor Dec '08 (12/28) Jan '09 (01/18) %Decrease
  • E7400 (3M L2 cache, 2.80GHz, 1066MHz FSB45nm) $133 to $113 -> 5%

Intel Pentium Dual Core processor Dec '08 (12/28) Jan '09 (01/18) %Decrease
  • E5300 (2M L2 cache 2.60GHz 800MHz FSB 45nm) $86 to $74 -> 14%
  • E5200 (2M L2 cache 2.50GHz 800MHz FSB 45nm) $84 to $64 -> 24%
  • E2220 (1M L2 cache 2.40GHz 800MHz FSB 65nm) $74 to $64 -> 14%

Intel Celeron Dual Core processor Dec '08 (12/28) Jan '09 (01/18) %Decrease
  • E1400 (512K L2 cache 2.00GHz 800MHz FSB 65nm) $53 to $43 -> 19%

Intel Core 2 Duo Mobile (FCBGA6/A8 - FCPGA6/A8) Dec '08 (12/28) Jan '09 (01/18) %Decrease
  • P8600 (3M L2 cache 2.40GHz 1066MHz FSB 45nm) $241 to $209 -> 13%

Intel Celeron Mobile (uFCPGA) Dec '08 (12/28) Jan '0 9 (01/18) %Decrease
  • 585 (1M L2 cache 2.66GHz 667MHz FSB 65nm) $107 to $70 -> 35%
  • 570 (1M L2 cache 2.26GHz 533MHz FSB 65nm) $134 to $70 -> 48%
  • 560 (1M L2 cache 2.13GHz 533MHz FSB 65nm) $107 to $70 -> 35%
  • 540 (1M L2 cache 1.86GHz 533MHz FSB 65nm) $86 to $70 -> 19%
  • 530 (1M L2 cache 1.73GHz 533MHz FSB 65nm) $86 to $70 -> 19%

Intel Xeon Server UP (LGA 775) Dec'08 (12/28) Jan '09 (01/18) %Decrease
  • X3370 (12M L2 cache 3.00GHz (95W) 1333MHz FSB 45nm) $530 to $316 -> 40%
  • X3360 (12M L2 cache 2.83GHz (95W) 1333MHz FSB 45nm) $316 to $266 -> 16%
  • X3350 (12M L2 cache 2.66GHz (95W) 1333MHz FSB 45nm) $316 to $266 -> 16%
  • X3330 (6M L2 cache 2.66GHz (95W) 1333MHz FSB 45nm) $266 to $224 -> 16%
once you know, you neweggFor more on the prices cuts as well as other CPU prices affected you can read the entire Intel pricing list here (PDF). Prices have yet to trickle down to retailers, as Newegg still lists many of the old prices for their CPUs, however we can expect those prices to fall in the coming weeks.

With this new round of cuts the Intel Q9650 and Q9550, which both out peform the AMD Phenom II X4 940, have a great price to performance ratio. At its $316 price tag the Q9650 is only 15% higher than the current price of the Phenom II 940 which it beats handily in most benchmarks. Once again making Intel a clear winner for anyone wanting to get the most performance for their dollar.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Belkin Admits To Paying For Positive Reviews

Late last week Arlen Parsa of the blog The Daily Background posted a story accusing electronics manufacturer Belkin of hiring people to write fake positive Amazon reviews. According to the report (and the screenshots) a post was created by a user named Mike Bayard on Amazon's Mechanical Turk offering to pay users 65 cents for every positive review they leave the product, a Belkin router.

The request asks users to leave a 100% rating (as high as possible), also suggesting user write as if "they own the product and are using it" and to "mark any other negative reviews as “not helpful” once you post yours.”

It just so happens Mike Bayard is, at least according to The Daily Background and a now removed Linked-in profile, the Business Development Representative at Belkin International in charge of “Sales of Belkin products to major .com accounts such as Amazon.com.”

Belkin's President Mark Reynoso has confirmed the reports in his response.

Belkin has always held itself to the highest standards of corporate ethics and its employees to the highest standards of personal integrity. Similarly, we support our online user community in discussion and reviews of our products, whether the commentary is good or bad. So, it was with great surprise and dismay when we discovered that one of our employees may have posted a number of queries on the Amazon Mechanical Turk website inviting users to post positive reviews of Belkin products in exchange for payment.

Belkin does not participate in, nor does it endorse, unethical practices like this. We know that people look to online user reviews for unbiased opinions from fellow users and instances like this challenge the implicit trust that is placed in this interaction. We regard our responsibility to our user community as sacred, and we are extremely sorry that this happened.

We want to stress that this is an isolated incident and to re-instill trust with you, we have taken the following courses of action:

- We've acted swiftly to remove all associated postings from the Mechanical Turk system.
- We're working closely with our online channel partners to ensure that any reviews that may have been placed due to these postings have been removed.

It's also important to recognize that our retail partners had no knowledge of, or participation in, these postings.

Once again, we apologize for this occurrence, and we will work earnestly to regain the trust we have lost.
The question for many will be was this actually all Bayard’s idea? Or did it come from someone higher up? How many products does this actually cover and over how many sites? For now at least all of the postings have been removed from Mechanical Turk.

My thoughts
As a consumer I think it sucks and is unfair. But the truth is paying for reviews is nothing new, so this really doesn't surprise me much. Posts on Mechanical Turk have been involved in similar controversy in the past, with Wired.com reporting an iPhone developer was using the site to pay for positive iPhone reviews.

I'm sure in neither situation was it the first time it has happened and it won't likely be the last. User generated reviews can only be trusted so far, from there you've got to check some of the professional reviews and make a comparison. Not to say that professional reviews can't be tainted, but you do your homework and use your best judgment.

Follow-Up: Circuit City Liquidation Sale

circuit city logoFollowing yesterday's post Circuit City Liquidation Sale, I was contacted by a Circuit City employee wishing to provides us with a little feedback on the ongoing liquidation sale as well as clarify a few details from that post.

According to the employee, that wishes to remain anonymous, the shelves at Circuit City store might look bare, however this was not due to items being sold out rather because they had not been receiving new stock for several weeks (possibly even months).

I don't know about other stores but at our store [location not disclosed] we haven't re-stocked shelves in a long time. Before the sale hit there were sections of the store that looked empty. In my dept. [cameras & accessories] we had plenty of stuff left because no one was coming in and buying anything before the sale but I saw other parts of the store with empty shelves.

When asked about rumors that the liquidators, Great American Group LLC, Hudson Capital Partners LLC, SB Capital Group LLC and Tiger Capital Group LLC, had been raising prices on popular items anonymous responded:

I don't know about that, prices in my section looked the same. But prices tags on alot of items were gone. So you really wouldn't know what the original price was unless you looked it up. I guess they might have, but if they did we wouldn't be able to tell.
Yesterday during my visit I had noticed that several of the large ticket items I looked at didn't have prices. I also noticed that items displayed on a clearance table didn't have price tags. So customers were stuck trying to find someone that could access the computer system to verify the price of items before taking them to checkout. Removing the price tags means the liquidators could use the computer system and change prices at will and without customers knowledge.

As for customers buying items that were over priced it was noted:

People just pay whatever, I don't think they care. Its like they think they got a good deal so they are happy. I sold a guy a camera with a 10% discount and he thought it was the best deal ever. I mean I kind of felt like telling him he was an idiot cause we had that same camera around New Yrs. I think for way less.

As a final note I was asked to tell potential customers to keep in mind that the CSRs are working as hard as they can at a job they will only have for a short amount of time. They aren't responsible for there being a long line, a wait or there not being enough staff.

Seagate Issues Firmware Update Following Hard Drive Problems

seagate logoHard drive manufacturer Seagate has acknowledged a firmware issue in certain products, including some Barracuda 7200.11 model hard drives manufactured through December 2008 that has been causing many drives to freeze up during data transfers or failing all together.

For users affected by the issues Seagate is now offering a firmware upgrade that it says will fix the issue as well as data recovery for drives that are already bricked. Here's the full statement from the company's spokesman Mike Hall:

Seagate has isolated a potential firmware issue in certain products, including some Barracuda 7200.11 hard drives and related drive families based on this product platform, manufactured through December 2008. In some circumstances, the data on the hard drives may become inaccessible to the user when the host system is powered on.

As part of our commitment to customer satisfaction, we are offering a free firmware upgrade to those with affected products. To determine whether your product is affected, please visit the Seagate Support web site at http://seagate.custkb.com/seagate/crm/selfservice/search.jsp?DocId=207931.

Support is also available through Seagate's call center: 1-800-SEAGATE (1 800 732-4283)

Customers can expedite assistance by sending an email to Seagate (discsupport@seagate.com). Please include the following disk drive information: model number, serial number and current firmware revision. We will respond, promptly, to your email request with appropriate instructions. There is no data loss associated with this issue, and the data still resides on the drive. But if you are unable to access your data due to this issue, Seagate will provide free data recovery services. Seagate will work with you to expedite a remedy to minimize any disruption to you or your business.

For a list of international telephone numbers to Seagate Support and alternative methods of contact, please access http://www.seagate.com/www/en-us/about/contact_us/

According to the Seagate knowledge base entry, the issue may affect a large number of drive models with Seagate recommending that users with 1.5TB, 750GB, 640GB, 500GB, 320GB, and 160GB Barracuda 7200.11 drives, along with some Maxtor and ES.2 models, all install the firmware update.

The company hasn't provided a direct link for the firmware download, instead they are urging users to use the following tools and instructions to determine if you have one of the affected products. If you do, it is recommend that you update the firmware on the disk drive to prevent this condition:

When typing in your serial number into the validation tool, make sure to use ALL CAPS. Using lower case characters will invalidate the result. If the online serial number validation tool states that your drive is affected, you need to contact Seagate Customer Support for a firmware update to your hard drive.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Microsoft Hit With More Antitrust Charges

The European Commission has once again filled Antitrust charges against software giant Microsoft, alleging that the companies inclusion of the Internet Explorer (IE) browser with the Windows operating system infringes the EC Treaty rules on abuse of a dominant position.

According to the European Commission's Statement of Objections to Microsoft the commission feels Microsoft’s tying of Internet Explorer to the Windows operating system, "harms competition between web browsers, undermines product innovation and ultimately reduces consumer choice."

"Yesterday, Microsoft received a Statement of Objections from the Directorate General for Competition of the European Commission," the company said in a statement on Friday. "The Statement of Objections expresses the Commission's preliminary view that the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows since 1996 has violated European competition law."

Microsoft has 8 weeks to reply to the SO, and will then have the right to be heard in an oral hearings. If found guilty of violating the antitrust laws the Commission may impose a fine on Microsoft, require Microsoft to cease the abuse and impose a remedy that would restore genuine consumer choice and enable competition on the merits.

Opera Software CEO Jon von Tetzchner has released the following statement:
"On behalf of all Internet users, we commend the Commission for taking the next step towards restoring competition in a market that Microsoft has strangled for more than a decade. The Commission’s Statement of Objections demonstrates that the Commission is serious about getting Microsoft to start competing on the merits in the browser market and letting consumers have a real choice of internet browsers.

The browser is the consumer’s gateway to the Internet and a critical platform for application development itself. Today the Commission has confirmed that it will do what it can to make sure consumers are able to continue to freely enjoy one of the most important innovations in the history of humanity: the Internet.”

In a phone interview with NetworkWorld Tetzchner claimed that the software giant was undermining open software standards on the Internet.

"Its a problem for companies like ours if Microsoft doesn't support the open standards we all apply, because many Web sites are designed to work with IE, which means our browsers won't always work out of the box," he said.

With a market share of nearly 70% Internet Explore is still the most widely used browser on the web today. Although recent numbers would suggest third party browsers are gaining popularity as IE's share has fallen below the 70% mark for the first time ever. If Microsoft is forced to remove IE from its bundled software it is likely that we'll see a much larger decline in their overall market share.

However that is unlikely to happen. In their previous rulings the Commission ordered Microsoft to offer a second version of Windows alongside the regular version of the software, but without a bundled copy of Windows Media Player. Microsoft complied with that ruling by offering both choices with no price difference.

Circuit City Liquidation Sale

circuit city logoYesterday it was announced that Circuit City would close their remaining 567 stores nation wide, this following November announcement that the failing electronics retailer would be closing 155 stores across the country. As part of the closure Circuit City will liquidate all of its remaining stores.

In many areas the liquidation sale off began this morning, many more stores are expected to begin selling off their remaining merchandise later this month. These sales will last as long as it takes to sell through the merchandise at each of the stores, something that Circuit City and its liquidators expect to wrap up by the end of March 2009.

Here in the Sacramento area Circuit City has 5 stores which will be liquidated. Those stores include 7980 Arcadia Boulevard, Citrus Heights, 205 Serpa Way, Folsom, 8211 Laguna Boulevard, Elk Grove, 10251 Fairway Dr, Roseville Folsom and 2121 Arden Way, Sacramento.

Citrus Heights being my local store I decided to run down there today and do some bargain hunting.

The store was pretty busy, with lots of people trying to hunt down a hot deal. The liquidation prices are nowhere near what they should be. TVs, computers and most high end equipment was marked at only 10% off, with some accessories, DVDs, CDs and furniture at 30% off. Despite the minimal percentages off the store looked picked over in some spots, yet hardly touched in others.

Being a computer geek I hit that section first. Laptops, PCs and LCDs are only 10% off, so there were no real bargains there. There was a limited number of employees, with only one or two in each section,and getting help was nearly impossible. So I didn't get to check the prices or inquire about sale prices on some of the components I was looking at. For the most part however everything was still overly priced.

From my observation there seemed to be more people leaving empty handed than there were people actually buying anything. I did see some rather poor decision making and some very bad purchases. I saw two laptops and a desktop that was extremely overpriced being bought. I didn't get model numbers, but I know one of the laptops had been on sale not long ago for far less than the gentleman was paying.

Overall I'd say it was about what I expected. A bunch of uneducated impulse buyers (for lack of a better term) thinking they are getting a great deal buying up overly priced items.

Tips for bargain hunters

From my perspective right now there aren't any hot deals to be had at Circuit City. That doesn't mean there aren't deals just that I didn't see anything that was priced in my target range. But here are some tips for those of you wanting to check it.
  1. Research your prices ahead of time and go with a plan: If you are looking for a laptop then check prices at other local stores and get a feel for what the price range should be. If you've got an iPhone or other smartphone don't be afraid to use it to check prices elsewhere, heck call someone and ask them to look. But don't buy something just because you "think" it's a good price.
  2. Know what you need and don't expect alot of answers: There were only a few CSRs on the floor and they were overwhelemed with questions. So don't expect them to help you find out if a part is going to be compatible with your system.
  3. Plan for and expect a crowd: I saw several people in the parking lot getting frustrated with other drivers. I also so people complaining while standing in line to checkout. You should know ahead of time there is going to be a wait, it is a sale after all!
  4. All sales are final: This is a liquidation sale which means once you leave the store with it it is yours. If there is a problem then you won't be able to take it back to the store. So make sure you know what you've got and that it will work before you but it.
Shortly after posting this post I was contacted by an anonymous Circuit City employee that has provided us with a few details concerning liquidation prices, empty shelves and more. To read that post click here. It is also thanks to that employee that we added number 4 to the list.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Run Old Apps On Vista With New Microsoft Virtualization Tool

Microsoft has released the first public beta of MED-V a virtualization tool that will allow you to easily create, deliver and centrally manage virtual Windows XP or 2000 environments. The tool is based on and runs with Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 to help users to run legacy applications on their Windows Vista (and presumably Windows 7) desktops.

According to the Official Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) blog, the final version of MED-V 1.0 is slated to release in the second quarter of this year as a part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack.

MDOP is a suite of virtualization and management technologies that extends the Windows platform by enabling user productivity anywhere, greater IT control of the desktop, and streamlined PC management.

For more details on MED-V visit the Official MDOP blog. To test out MED-V simply register at https://connect.microsoft.com/site/sitehome.aspx?SiteID=665 and download the beta software.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Possible Intel Core 2 Quad Prices Cuts Coming

inel logoAccording to eWeek, Intel seems likely to slash processor prices after it announces fourth-quarter financial results this week. Well today Intel released those results and the outlook is pretty gloomy, Intel reported that fourth-quarter profits plummeted 90% and revenue fell 23%.

Intel reported a fourth-quarter revenue of $8.2 billion, operating income of $1.5 billion, net income of $234 million and earnings per share (EPS) of 4 cents. The results included a billion-dollar negative impact from the previously announced reduction in the carrying value of the company's Clearwire investments.

For 2008, Intel posted revenue of $37.6 billion, operating income of $9 billion, net income of $5.3 billion and EPS of 92 cents. Intel generated approximately $11 billion in cash from operations, paid cash dividends of $3.1 billion and used $7.1 billion to repurchase 324 million shares of common stock.

buy intel core 2 duo at newegg"The economy and the industry are in the process of resetting to a new baseline from which growth will resume," Paul Otellini, president and chief executive of Intel, said in a statement. "While the environment is uncertain, our fundamental business strategies are more focused than ever."

Now for the good news, at least for consumers. According to an anonymous tipster that TechReport says, "has been right on at least one occasion, price cuts are indeed coming—they'll hit on Monday, January 19, and they'll affect Intel's line of Core 2 Quad processors."

Here are the chips TechReport says will likely see price cuts, the first price is the current volume prices from Intel's price list, the second price is the purported post-cut prices and the third is Newegg's current price:
If this information is accurate, the new pricing will place several of Intel's Core 2 Quad line well below that of AMD's recently released Phenom II chips. Meaning AMD will in all likelihood have to follow suit by slashing Phenom II prices.

House Stimulus Plan Includes Funds For Broadband Several Other Government IT Projects

The House Appropriations Committee today released details of their American Recovery and Reinvestment (PDF) economic stimulus package that would include a total of $275 billion in economic recovery tax cuts and $550 billion in "thoughtful and carefully" targeted priority investments with "unprecedented accountability measures built in."

Overall there is a combined total of $26 billion slated for for IT and Internet related projects with approximately $6 billion in grants for a wireless and broadband roll-out and $20 billion for health, science and other research related IT programs. The committee also wants to set aside $650 million to buy more coupons for DTV converter boxes.

Broadband to Give Every Community Access to the Global Economy
  • Wireless and Broadband Grants: $6 billion for broadband and wireless services in underserved areas to strengthen the economy and provide business and job opportunities in every section of America with benefits to e-commerce, education, and healthcare. For every dollar invested in broadband the economy sees a ten-fold return on that investment.

Scientific Research
  • National Science Foundation: $3 billion, including $2 billion for expanding employment opportunities in fundamental science and engineering to meet environmental challenges and to improve global economic competitiveness, $400 million to build major research facilities that perform cutting edge science, $300 million for major research equipment shared by institutions of higher education and other scientists, $200 million to repair and modernize science and engineering research facilities at the nation’s institutions of higher education and other science labs, and $100 million is also included to improve instruction in science, math and engineering.
  • National Institutes of Health Biomedical Research: $2 billion, including $1.5 billion for expanding good jobs in biomedical research to study diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, and heart disease - NIH is currently able to fund less than 20% of approved applications – and $500 million to implement the repair and improvement strategic plan developed by the NIH for its campuses.
  • University Research Facilities: $1.5 billion for NIH to renovate university research facilities and help them compete for biomedical research grants. The National Science Foundation estimates a maintenance backlog of $3.9 billion in biological science research space. Funds are awarded competitively.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: $462 million to enable CDC to complete its Buildings and Facilities Master Plan, as well as renovations and construction needs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
  • Department of Energy: $1.9 billion for basic research into the physical sciences including high-energy physics, nuclear physics, and fusion energy sciences and improvements to DOE laboratories and scientific facilities. $400 million is for the Advanced Research Project Agency – Energy to support high-risk, high-payoff research into energy sources and energy efficiency.
  • NASA: $600 million, including $400 million to put more scientists to work doing climate change research, including Earth science research recommended by the National Academies, satellite sensors that measure solar radiation critical to understanding climate change, and a thermal infrared sensor to the Landsat Continuing Mapper necessary for water management, particularly in the western states; $150 million for research, development, and demonstration to improve aviation safety and Next Generation air traffic control (NextGen); and $50 million to repair NASA centers damaged by hurricanes and floods last year.
  • Biomedical Advanced Research and Development, Pandemic Flu, and Cyber Security: $900 million to prepare for a pandemic influenza, support advanced development of medical countermeasures for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats, and for cyber security protections at HHS.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Satellites and Sensors: $600 million for satellite development and acquisitions, including climate sensors and climate modeling.
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology: $300 million for competitive construction grants for research science buildings at colleges, universities, and other research organizations and $100 million to coordinate research efforts of laboratories and national research facilities by setting interoperability standards for manufacturing.
  • Agricultural Research Service: $209 million for agricultural research facilities across the country. ARS has a list of deferred maintenance work at facilities of roughly $315 million.
  • U.S. Geological Survey: $200 million to repair and modernize U.S.G.S. science facilities and equipment, including improvements to laboratories, earthquake monitoring systems, and computing capacity.
Technology Improvements for a More Efficient and Secure Government
  • Social Security Administration Modernization: $400 million to replace the 30 year old Social Security Administration’s National Computer Center to meet growing needs for processing retirement and disability claims and records storage.
  • Farm Service Agency: $245 million for critical IT improvements to systems that have been unable to handle workload increases.
  • State Department Technology: $276 million to upgrade and modernize information technology platforms for the Department to meet security requirements post-9/11.
  • Department of Agriculture: $44 million for repairs and security improvements at USDA’s headquarters

Rumor: Palm Pre Exclusively At Best Buy

palm pre logoThe new Palm Pre was one of the biggest hits at this years CES and while there has been no official world on the phones release date rumor has it the phone is going to be sold exclusively by Best Buy mobile and Sprint.

According to WebOS Arena, a site specializing is Palm Pre news and information, "credible source" are saying, "Best Buy Mobile will be getting an exclusive deal with Sprint for the Palm Pre release. For 60 days the number one consumer electronics retailer will be the only place where you can get your hands on the Palm Pre, besides Sprint of course."

Unfortunately there are no other details, like pricing or availability dates, however the Pre is rumored to cost less than the 3G Applie iPhone. Eldar Murtazin of Mobile-review.com recently reported the Pre might be priced as low as $399 for an unsubsidized phone, and between $149 and $199 for a subsidized phone.

Woman Gets Tattoo In Attempt At Winning Island Dream Job

Turns out this story is a fake.
The video posted was was only intended as a example of the creativity Tourism Queensland expected from applicants, and to spur people to post their own videos. Read more at the Brisbane Times

By now I'm sure you are aware of the site islandreefjob.com which is offering of a $100,000 tropical island dream job to one lucky individual. Apparently people will do just about anything to land the position, according to reports from the Australian Associated press one woman has even tattooed a permanent advertisement for Queensland's Great Barrier Reef on her arm.

You can view several of the 60-second video clips uploaded to Tourism Queensland's website at islandreefjob.com. The videos show people from all around the world bragging, begging and even singing all for an attempt at landing their dream job.

A Queensland woman's clips shows her visiting a tattoo parlour to have a 10cm tattoo showing her love for the reef engraved on her arm. A Greek woman promises to do laundry for every Australian if she gets the job.

According to the report by this morning the site had received four million hits with one million unique visits. All that in spite of the fact that the unprecedented rush caused it to crash on and be down most of the day on Tuesday.

The report also states that more than 2000 jobseekers have applied and they expect more than 10,000 by the cut off date. However the Tourism Queensland's website reports more than 200,000 applicants had applied in less than 24hrs, so I'm not sure what number is correct.

As much as I'd love to have the job, and yes getting paid for doing what I'm going right now only from a tropical island would be my dream job, I have not yet uploaded a video. Mainly because I don't own a video camera, shocker I know. But don't let that stop you. I'd love to hear a reader has gotten the job, heck you can fly me down to visit.

In case you haven't heard of the offer or want more details we've got two informative posts that might be helpful.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

CPU Makers Postpone Move To DDR3 Only Till 2010

Reports by DigiTime suggest that Intel and AMD are postponing their transition to chips that only support DDR3 ram until next year. DigiTimes says the two chips manufactures may be delaying the release of DDR3 only processors citing higher than expected pricing as well as low adoption rates by users .

DDR3 memory prices have not fallen as much as Intel expected, while demand for its Core i7 CPU and X58 chipsets also has not yet met expectations, Intel has decided to postpone its DDR3-only Intel Core i5 series as well as 5 series chipsets until September this year. Intel and AMD were originally expected to fully transition to DDR3 across their product lines by the end of 2009.

DigiTimes also suggests that AMD is struggling with technical difficulties to achieve stability and compatibly with the DDR3 controller built into its AM3-based CPUs, and so the company is also unlikely to transition to DDR3 only chips until it is able to come out with a workable BIOS.

AMD's recently released Phenom II line-up currently supports both DDR2 and DDR3, yet motherboard manufactures have yet to release new DDR3 based motherboards. Several manufactures have announced new AM3 boards. Asus Gigabyte, ECS and Asrock have all reported AM3 boards.

ECS recently announced the ECS A790GXM-AD3 and Asrock announced the M3A790GXH/128M, however two weeks have passed and neither company has confirmed a release date. With the DigiTimes report suggesting that AMD is having issues with DDR3 the lack of board leaves room for speculation.

Apple Approves Third-party Web Browsers For The iPhone

Apple's App Store has seemingly dropped the "duplicate functionality" ban from Web browsers and has begun accepting a few third party apps, with one big caveat they are all still based on the same Webkit.

MacRumors is reporting that at least four third-party Web browsers have appeared in the Apple App Store in the past day. Edge Browser, Incognito, WebMate:Tabbed Browser and Shaking Web. However as mentioned all four of the apps Apple has approved so far are based on the WebKit frameworks provided in the iPhone SDK that is also used by Safari.

The new browsers, while being separate applications, are just different user interface designs of the built-in iPhone rendering engine - WebKit. So basically, the code in the new apps rendering the web pages is still Apple's and not really that off a "third party".

WebKit is an open source web browser engine, as well as the name of the Mac OS X system framework version of the engine that's used by Safari, Dashboard, Mail, and many other OS X applications.

Does this mean we'll see Firefox or Opera on the iPhone some time soon? Perhaps not, as Apple's SDK restrictions among other things remain in place. However as MacRumors has said,"Apple appears to be loosening some early restrictions they had applied to the App Store approval process."

Tom's Hardware Best Of CES '09

The editors over at Tom's Hardware have put together a great three four part article featuring some of the best products or most entertaining moments of this year's Consumer Electronics Show. Overall thirty different products are showcased, everything from the latest in gadgets, to TVs and even booth babes (personally I think they didn't get enough photos!).

If all goes according to plan next year I'll be out in Vegas covering CES myself, until then hopefully everyone can enjoy the article from Tom's.

Jobs Takes Medical Leave, Apple Stocks Hit Hard

Apple Inc. co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs said late today he is taking a medical leave of absence until the end of June, this just weeks after assuring investors and employees his recent weight loss was simply caused by a treatable hormone deficiency.

Apple stocks had been down as much as 3% during Wednesday's trading session and so far have dropped as much s 10% in after hours trading.

According to CNBC.com Apple CEO Steve Jobs today sent the following email to all Apple.
The letter also appears on the Apple site as a media advisory.


I am sure all of you saw my letter last week sharing something very personal with the Apple community. Unfortunately, the curiosity over my personal health continues to be a distraction not only for me and my family, but everyone else at Apple as well. In addition, during the past week I have learned that my health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought.

In order to take myself out of the limelight and focus on my health, and to allow everyone at Apple to focus on delivering extraordinary products, I have decided to take a medical leave of absence until the end of June.

I have asked Tim Cook to be responsible for Apple's day to day operations, and I know he and the rest of the executive management team will do a great job. As CEO, I plan to remain involved in major strategic decisions while I am out. Our board of directors fully supports this plan.

I look forward to seeing all of you this summer.


We'd like to wish Mr Jobs a speedy recovery and sincerely hope this isn't a sign of a worsening health condition.

Seagate Introduces New Cheetah 15K.7 AND Cheetah NS.2 Hard Drives

Earlier this week Seagate announced two new members of its award-winning Cheetah enterprise-class hard drive family: the Cheetah 15K.7 hard drive and the Cheetah NS.2 hard drive. Current economic challenges have put even more focus on reducing spending to ensure long-term business sustainability. For businesses that have an existing investment based on a standard 3.5-inch enterprise infrastructure, the new Cheetah drives bolster sustainability through easy drive/system integration, and provide improved levels of system performance, capacity, reliability, and lower power consumption.

In support of sustaining the environment, where reduce, reuse and recycle are keys to this best practice, Cheetah drives reduce power consumption, drive replacement costs, and costs per GB. Built for 3.5-inch Tier 1 storage applications, the Cheetah 15K.7 drive and the Cheetah NS.2 drive are the largest capacity mission-critical drives offered at 600GB, and have the highest reliability in the industry. The Cheetah 15K.7 drive delivers the highest performance of any 3.5-inch drive, while the Cheetah NS.2 drive takes power-savings to the furthest extreme by featuring the lowest power requirement of any 3.5-inch Tier 1 drive.

Both drives feature 2 nd-generation PowerTrim technology, which dynamically optimizes drive power consumption at all levels of activity. Using PowerTrim technology, the Cheetah NS.2 drive provides power savings of over 20% when compared to its prior generation design.Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB Internal SATA 3Gb

“Seagate recognizes IT budgets are constrained, and these new 3.5-inch Cheetah drives are aimed directly at helping enable many businesses sensibly grow and scale as their information needs continue, while at the same time providing the reliability required to avoid costly interruption or downtime,” said Sherman Black, senior vice president, Seagate Core HDD Marketing and Strategy. “While many organizations are making the transition to 2.5-inch enterprise-class drives which include the Seagate Savvio drive family, 3.5-inch Cheetah drives are the leading standard for existing enterprise systems. Seagate remains committed to serving the market with a full lineup of storage solutions for a broad range of needs and budgets.”

“External storage system OEMs continue to consume the majority of 3.5-inch performance-optimized HDDs shipped each quarter, whereas server manufacturers consumed nearly all of the 2.5-inch SFF performance-optimized HDDs that shipped in 2008,” according to John Rydning, IDC’s research director for hard disk drives. “Seagate’s new 3.5-inch Cheetah disk drives with up to 600GBs of capacity will fill a critical need for both its customers and end users looking to extend the life of existing external storage system platforms.”

“It’s a core tenet of Dell’s philosophy to offer our customers the best technology and services solutions to meet their needs,” said Praveen Asthana, director of Dell Storage. “By offering a selection of these new drives from Seagate, we are able to provide our customers Tier 1 reliability at 600GB while empowering them to place their own priority on performance and power consumption.”

The Cheetah 15K.7 and the Cheetah NS.2 drives are the second generation of Cheetah drives available as Self-Encrypting Drives for designated OEMs, providing government-grade data security, and instant secure erase for drives repurposed, reused, recycled, or returned for expired lease, repair or warranty.

“Many organizations are considering drive-level security for its simplicity in helping secure sensitive data through the hardware lifecycle from initial setup, to upgrade transitions and disposal,” said Eric Ouellet, Gartner research vice president.

Cheetah 15K.7 Drive Specifications

  • Capacity 600, 450, 300GB
  • Interface 6Gb/s SAS-2.0, 4Gb/s FC
  • Spindle Speed 15,000 RPM
  • Seek Time 3.4 ms
  • Reliability 0.55% AFR / 1.6M hours MTBF
  • Cache 16MB
  • Form factor 3.5-inch
  • Cheetah 15k.7 Product Overview (PDF)

Cheetah NS.2 Drive Specifications

  • Capacity 600, 450, 300GB
  • Interface 6Gb/s SAS-2.0 (600 and 450 GB drives), 4Gb/s FC
  • Spindle Speed 10,000 RPM
  • Seek Time 3.8 ms
  • Reliability 0.55% AFR / 1.6M hours MTBF
  • Cache 16MB
  • Form factor 3.5-inch
  • Cheetah NS.2 Product Overview (PDF)

The Cheetah NS.2 drive is available and shipping today while the Cheetah 15K.7 drive is currently available for OEM qualifications and will start shipping next quarter to the channel.

Source: Seagate Press Release

Google Adds Public Transit Layer To Maps

Finding your way around the public transit system just got a little easier thanks to Google Maps. Yesterday the folks at the Google Maps Team announced the launch of the Transit Layer on Google Maps in more than 50 cities around the world making life a little easier for citizens and tourists to access public transportation information in those supported cities.

To switch on the layer go to the More button and select the Transit tab:

If you want to book a hotel or make a restaurant reservation you can switch on the Transit Layer and look for the public transport line nearest to the location. If you want to travel from A to B you can quickly familiarize yourself with the public transport network and find out which lines to use and where to change.

The Transit Layer is a part of Google Transit. Whereas the main Google Transit product has the goal to provide full schedule information and routing, the objective of the Transit Layer is to overlay lines visually on Google Maps. Think of a virtual metro map on top of Google Maps -- even when we don't have itinerary planning available, we want you to be able to see public transit options that are available. Our goal is to be able to offer transit information as an alternative to driving directions wherever possible.

Let's say you plan a visit to London. For a long time you wanted to visit Tate Modern, but how do you get there? Simple! You do a search for Tate Modern on Google Maps, and then click on "More" and activate "Transit". Now you can see nearby Tube stations and which lines serve them. You can even click on a station and get passing lines highlighted. For agencies that are a part of Google Transit, you can also find schedule data and itineraries.

The full list of cities that Google Transit supports is Belo Horizonte, Berlin, Bordeaux, Brasilia, Cairo, Capetown, Caracas, Chicago, Copenhagen, Dallas, Dortmund, Duisburg, Düsseldorf, Ekaterinburg, Essen, Frankfurt, Genoa, Guadalajara, Hamburg, Helsinki, Johannesburg, Kazan, Köln, Lille, Lisbon, London, Lyon, Madrid, Marseille, Medellin, Mexico City, Melbourne, Monterrey, Montreal, Munich, Naples, Nizhniy Novgorod, Oslo, Paris, Perth, Portland, Porto, Porto Alegre, Prague, Pretoria, Recife, Rennes, Rio de Janeiro, Samara, San Francisco, Santiago, Sao Paulo, Seattle, Strasbourg, Toulouse, Tunis, Vienna, Warsaw.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Inventors Enter The Popular Science Invention Awards

Homebrewed inventors wanted to enter the third annual PopSci Invention Awards. PopSci editors are looking for the best garage built, basement designed invetions you can come up with. They will pick 10 inventions that best represent the spirit of homegrown ingenuity and solve real-world problems in a practical and innovative way. And feature them in there June 2009 issue.

Here are a few guidelines for you closest designers and engineers to follow:
  • Inventions must be physical objects—no processes or concepts.
  • There must be a working prototype or something else that demonstrates that the invention actually works.
  • Inventions must be the work of independent inventors or small teams; outside funding is fine, but inventions created wholly out of universities or other R&D labs will not be considered.
  • Inventions that are intended to become commercial products in the future are acceptable, but they must not already be available for sale.
  • Inventions must be something new, not just an incremental improvement on an existing item.
  • PopSci will not publish an entry online or in print without notifying the inventor first, but we will seek third-party verification of the technology and significance of the invention. All intellectual-property protection is the responsibility of the entrant.
  • All entries must be received by Feb 1, 2009.
  • Send a brief description of your invention to inventions@popsci.com.
For more information checkout PopSci.com and click here to checkout some of last year's winners.

Islandreefjob.com "Best Job In The World"

I know many of you have been trying to reach Islandreefjob.com to get your application in for the "Best Job In The World" however the site has been down for the better part of the day. So while you wait for the traffic to die down you can check out some of the great videos they have on their YouTube Channel: IslandReefJob.

For those of you that aren't satisfied with watching videos and are desperately trying to get to the site, the wait might be a long one. The site had well over 200K applicants in less than 24 hrs and given the fact the site seems to be overloaded it might take awhile to get in. Unfortunately you need to reach the site to fill in the online form as well as upload your 60 second video.

I posted the details of the job this morning "Australian Site Offers "Best Job In World" Blogging From Paradise Island" but here are the full details of the application process (PDF).

Candidates are required to create a 60 second or less video application in English explaining why they are uniquely qualified for the job. Candidates are also required to complete an application form and upload the video to www.islandreefjob.com. Applications open on 10th January and close 22nd February 2009. Tourism Queensland and their representatives in international markets will select ten candidates and visitors to www.islandreefjob.com will have the chance to select one Wild Card candidate. All candidates will participate in an interview selection process which will be held on a number of the Islands of the Great Barrier, on the 3rd - 6th May, 2009.

About the job
Tourism Queensland is seeking applicants for the best job in the world! The role of Island Caretaker is a six-month contract, based on luxurious Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef. It’s a live-in position with flexible working hours and key responsibilities include exploring the islands of the Great Barrier Reef to discover what the area has to offer. You’ll be required to report back on your adventures to Tourism Queensland headquarters in Brisbane (and the rest of the world) via weekly blogs, photo diary, video updates and ongoing media interviews. On offer is a unique opportunity to help promote the wondrous Islands of the Great Barrier Reef.

Other duties may include (but are not limited to)
  • Feed the fish - There are over 1,500 species of fish living in the Great Barrier Reef. Don’t worry – you won’t need to feed them all.
  • Clean the pool - The pool has an automatic filter, but if you happen to see a stray leaf floating on the surface it’s a great excuse to dive in and enjoy a few laps.
  • Collect the mail – During your explorations, why not join the aerial postal service for a day? It’s a great opportunity to get a bird’s eye view of the reef and islands.

50% Off First Month When You Sign Up For Blockbust

About the job package
Living above the Great Barrier Reef is a pretty unique benefit, but the successful
candidate will also be paid a salary package of AUD $150,000 for the six-month contract.

You’ll receive return airfares from your nearest capital city (in your home country),
accommodation and transport on Hamilton Island, travel insurance for the contract period, computer, internet, digital video and stills cameras access, plus travel to a number of the other Islands of the Great Barrier Reef. The six-month contract commences 1st July 2009.

About the location
Stretching for 2,600 kilometres, and composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900
islands, the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, Australia is the world’s largest coral reef system. The World Heritage Listed area supports a diversity of wildlife including whales, dolphins, sea turtles and more than 1,500 species of fish. The reef is an extremely popular destination for tourists, sustainably managing approximately 2 million visitors each year.

Education/Experience Requirements:
A broad range of experience will be considered, but the successful applicant should

    -Excellent interpersonal communication skills
    -Good written and verbal English skills
    -An adventurous attitude
    -Willingness to try new things
    -A passion for the outdoors
    -Good swimming skills and enthusiasm for snorkeling and/or diving
    -Ability to engage with others
    -At least one year’s relevant experience

How to apply:
Want the best job in the world? If you enjoy new experiences and you can spare six
months to enjoy life above the Great Barrier Reef, you’re already in with a good chance. All applicants must be eighteen years of age (or over) as of the 1st January 2009
It’s easy to apply.
  • Step 1: Create a video application in English and in 60 seconds or less. The file must be MPEG, AVI, MOV or WMV only and the file size under 100MB. Applicants should be telling us why you’re the best person for the job and demonstrating your knowledge of the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Step 2: Fill out a brief application form and upload your video to www.islandreefjob.com. Applications open on 2.00pm UTC 9th January and close 11.59pm UTC 22nd February2009

About the application process:
Eleven candidates will be invited to the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef for an interview from the 3rd to the 7th May 2009. So, if you want the best job in the world, you’ll need to be available to travel to Queensland for the final interview selection process. You’ll also need to be available to start work on the 1st July 2009.

Tourism Queensland will select ten candidates. Visitors to www.islandreefjob.com will
have the chance to select one Wild Card candidate, who will also participate in the final interview selection process. All applicants must be eligible for a short term business visa for the interview selection process and a long term temporary employee visa for the contract period.

Eligibility Requirements
From the terms and conditions page:

The following conditions must be satisfied and agreed to in order for your application to be accepted.

  1. You must be 18 years of age or over as at 1st January 2009.
  2. The successful applicant will be required to undertake activities and tasks which require excellent physical and mental health. Therefore, if shortlisted you must submit to physical and psychological examinations by Tourism Queensland selected medical professionals and meet all physical and psychological requirements.
  3. You must be of good moral character and not be under the influence of any medication, drugs or other substance which may impair your ability to undertake your employment responsibilities. By applying for this position, you authorize Tourism Queensland to conduct civil, criminal, financial, driver-history and other background checks deemed necessary by Tourism Queensland.
  4. You must be willing to be employed by Tourism Queensland or its nominee, for a period of six months pursuant to an employment agreement and otherwise act in accordance with the reasonable directions of Tourism Queensland during the employment period.
  5. If you are shortlisted by Tourism Queensland for an interview, you must be willing and able to travel to Queensland for approximately one week to be interviewed at a time as scheduled by Tourism Queensland for the final selection process. Interviews are expected to occur in early May 2009. Economy travel (return to and from the interview destination and the airport in your closest capital city) and hotel accommodation (in Australia) will be arranged and paid for by Tourism Queensland. Tourism Queensland recommends that all shortlisted interviewees obtain comprehensive travel insurance (at their own expense) prior to attending interviews.
  6. Applicants must be eligible for a short term business visa to Australia for the interview event and a Temporary Business Long Stay visa for the employment period. For business visa information visit www.immi.gov.au/skilled.
  7. You must be willing to participate in a formal interview and various activities during the interview process. Activities may include team challenges, physical, skill based and aptitude tests.
  8. Tourism Queensland shall be entitled to use your application, name, likeness, appearance, voice and biographical information for its promotional and publicity purposes.
  9. Your involvement in the selection process and your employment is entirely at your own risk. You agree to release Tourism Queensland and its nominees, and each of their respective officers, directors, agents, representatives and employees, and all others connected with the selection process and your employment, from any and all claims, actions, damages, liabilities, losses, costs and expenses, in any way arising out of or resulting from your involvement in the selection process and your employment, including, without limitation, any and all claims, actions, and liabilities for injury, loss or damage to you, to anyone else or to any property, regardless of whether or not such injury, loss or damage was caused by the negligence or misconduct of Tourism Queensland, its nominees or any of their respective officers, directors, agents, representatives or employees, or anyone else connected with the selection process and your employment. You agree to indemnify Tourism Queensland and its nominees and each of their respective officers, directors, agents, representatives and employees, and all others connected with the project and hold them harmless from any and all liabilities, claims, actions, damages, expenses and losses (including, without limitation, legal fees) of any kind or nature whatsoever in any way caused by or arising out of your involvement in the selection process and your employment.
  10. Shortlisted candidates will behave in an appropriate and professional manner as befitting their potential representation of Tourism Queensland.
  11. Any inappropriate, illegal or immoral behavior on the part of the shortlisted candidates will result in immediate exclusion from the selection process.
  12. All applicants will be subscribed to receive email communications from Tourism Queensland.
  13. The closing date for applications is 22nd February 2009, however this date may be brought forward at Tourism Queensland’s discretion should more than 30,000 applications be received.

Employment Conditions
The successful applicant will be required to enter into an employment agreement incorporating the following conditions. All applicants must confirm their acceptance of these conditions.

  1. You must be available for a six month employment period from 1 July 2009 to 31 December 2009. However if unforeseen circumstances arise you may withdraw from the employment contract after a minimum of 3 months, in which case the salary will be paid pro rata up until employment ceases. It is an employment requirement that you are to reside in Queensland, Australia for the extent of your employment under this contract.

  2. You are responsible for making any necessary arrangements with your employer and family in anticipation of an extended absence from home.

  3. Employment responsibilities will include the following:
    • Providing weekly internet updates/blogs;
    • Travel to various Islands of the Great Barrier Reef as required;
    • Represent Tourism Queensland at various functions;
    • Be an Islands of the Great Barrier Reef ‘Ambassador’ and participate in media interviews as required;
    • Act responsibly at all times and in accordance with the reasonable directions of Tourism Queensland.

  4. During the employment period, you must:
    • Reside on the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef for the period of your employment contract maximum 6 months, minimum 3 months
    • Act responsibly and demonstrate good moral character.
    • Should these requirements not be met, Tourism Queensland shall be entitled to terminate the employment agreement at its absolute discretion.

  5. You must be willing and able to participate in the various tourist activities available on the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef, including but not limited to sailing, kayaking, swimming, snorkelling, island picnics and bushwalking.

  6. The gross wage of AUD$150,000 is inclusive of superannuation, allowances, benefits and an amount of applicable income tax will be withheld. The wage will be paid on a fortnightly basis during the period of employment.

  7. Accommodation will be provided by Tourism Queensland or its nominee during the period of employment. However, you will be responsible for the cost of all meals, beverages, utilities such as water, electricity, telephone and personal items.

  8. The employee, as a representative of Tourism Queensland, will act in an appropriate and professional manner and not engage in any activity or undertaking which brings disrepute or cause damage of reputation to Tourism Queensland.

  9. The employee will exercise reasonable skill, care and diligence in the performance of the services in accordance with the standards of Tourism Queensland

  10. Tourism Queensland will own all intellectual property in reports, diaries, blogs, photos and other material created by the employee in the course of their employment.

  11. Tourism Queensland reserves the right to monitor and edit material produced by the employee in line with its corporate communication and marketing guidelines.