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Posts from January, 2009

30th Anniversary of the (No Good) Spreadsheet

Jan 14

theodp writes “PC Magazine’s John C. Dvorak offers his curmudgeonly take on the 30th anniversary of the spreadsheet, which Dvorak blames for elevating once lowly bean counters to the executive suite and enabling them to make some truly horrible decisions. But even if you believe that VisiCalc was the root-of-all-evil, as Dvorak claims, your geek side still has to admire it for the programming tour-de-force that it was, implemented in 32KB memory using the look-Ma-no-multiply-or-divide instruction set of the 1MHz 8-bit 6502 processor that powered the Apple II.” On the brighter side, one of my favorite things about Visicalc is the widely repeated story that it was snuck into businesses on Apple machines bought under the guise of word processors, but covertly used for accounting instead.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Guitar Hero Hits $1bn, Gaming The Future Of Entertainment

Jan 14

Our recent report of console game sales increasing and the general industry decline may not just be a result of the credit crunch, at least if you believe Activision boss Mike Griffith. According to the CEO, Guitar Hero III has become the first game in history to reach $1 billion in sales, and this is a figure that’s expected to be outstripped by World Tour in the future due to its full-band package. Griffith says that these figures are not an anomaly and that video games will eclipse all other forms of entertainment over the next decade. Factors such as social gaming and the ability of modern hardware to make titles so spectacular in terms of graphics and immersion means that it’s almost like living the role of the action hero in a movie for yourself, which is becoming more appealing than passively watching a film. “Games are no longer pre-set trips through linear mazes,” said Mr Griffith. “They are becoming a legitimate story-telling medium that rivals feature films” he says. “The moviegoer is passive whereas the gamer is active and part of the game itself.” US market statistics indicate that between 2003 and 2007 sales of cinema tickets dropped by 6% and recorded music by 12%, whereas the video game industry grew by 40%. Also interesting is the fact that those artists featured on the aforementioned game saw a rise in download sales of between 15 and 843%, so it seems like gaming is also giving a leg up to other sectors as well. With mind control on the increase we wonder if it’s getting to the stage where we’ll end up living a Matrix-like existence in a virtual world. Assuming, of course, we’re not actually doing so right now. – Paul Lester [BBC] consoles entertainment gaming

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Mind Control The New Black, Another New Toy Announced For 2009

Jan 14

It seems as though mind control will be the fad for toys in 2009, much like mild electric shocks were on those laser shooter/thumb-wars/pass-the-parcel games a couple of years ago. CES revealed a rather interesting new device from Mattel that used the power of your mind to move a ball around a maze and now US designer Uncle Milton (of Uncle Milton’s Toys) is doing something similar. This one seems to have been marketed slightly better as it plays on the old Star Wars gig, therefore requiring you to ‘use the force’ to raise a ping-pong ball up a tube by spinning a fan with your mind. As before it works based on how hard you can concentrate and though the action seems quite short-lived, we’d imagine there’s a bit of fun to be had in trying to distract the Jedi while he’s at work. The Force trainer will be available later this year for $100 but there’s no confirmation that it’ll be released in the UK, which is annoying as we’re itching to give one of these a go. – Paul Lester [TheRegister] toy neuroscience mind control

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Sony Announces Billion Dollar Loss, First Time In 14 Years

Jan 14

The global financial crisis really starts to hit home when you see some of the biggest companies in the world declaring a loss. Technology powerhouse Sony is the latest to reveal some rather shaky figures for 2008-2009, during which it not only missed its $2.2billion forecast but actually ended up $1.1billion in the red. To emphasise just how dire a result this is, it’s the first time the company has declared a loss in 14 years and only the second since 1958. The final figure is likely to be even higher; perhaps double what is being quoted so far. It’s certainly been a shaky twelve months for Sony, who announced that it would be closing 10% of its manufacturing plants and slashing up to 16,000 jobs last December in a bid to plug the leaks. Sony’s shares fell 1.5% yesterday following the news and it’s expected to take further steps to restructure its business, though further factory closures in Japan have been denied. – Paul Lester [Reuters] Sony finances technology

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US Wants Games To Come With Health Warnings

Jan 14

We’re only in week 2 of the new year and already computer games are in the firing line, this time from US politicians who want to see them come with big health warning labels. Leading the charge is Joe Baca [say that fast and see what you get], a Democrat congressman who wants a label similar to that used on cigarettes and alcohol. The proposed warning reads like this: “WARNING: Excessive exposure to violent video games and other violent media has been linked to aggressive behaviour.” According to Baca, the games industry has failed to protect the public.”The video game industry has a responsibility to parents, families, and to consumers – to inform them of the potentially damaging content that is often found in their products. They have repeatedly failed to live up to this responsibility. Meanwhile research continues to show a proven link between playing violent games and increased aggression in young people. American families deserve to know the truth about these potentially dangerous products.” If successful, the Videogame Health Labeling Act of 2009, would mean the warning will appear on all all ‘T’ and ‘M’ rated games. It should be pointed out that this is not Baca’s first videogame-related bill and he’s not managed to pass one yet. Is something like this needed on games sold in the UK and would it actually help parents?-Martin Lynch games health consoles

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Giant Plasma TVs May Be Banned

Jan 14

New rules being implemented by the government will see large plasma TVs being banned for consuming too much energy. Ministers have labelled large plasma screens the “4x4s of the living room” and as part of the battle against climate change, models that fail to meet newer, more stringent energy guidelines will be banned in the UK. New minimum energy standards are expected to be agreed by the EU this spring. This latest energy-conscious decision follows hot on the heels of the recent withdrawal of 100W bulbs – which led to a mad sales surge. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said last week: “In the past five years we have seen the main television in a household change from typically being a 24in to 32in CRT television to being a much larger flatscreen television, with screen sizes of between 32 and 42 inches becoming more and more common. Not surprisingly, this has seen the energy used by the main television in the house increase.”According to the Independent on Sunday a 42in plasma can consume up to 822 kilowatt hours a year, compared to 350kWh by an LCD flat screen of the same size. A 32in CRT would consume around 322kWh. There’s already a minimum standard in place for how much power TVs consume in standby mode but the new regulations will apply an energy ratings system to TVs, similar to what’s used on white goods like fridges. The new ratings will help force TV makers to accelerate the production of more economical TVs, which is not really a bad thing. It should be pointed out that many newer plasma TVs are more energy efficient than ‘the average’ and that the Energy Police will not be kicking down the door of your living to confiscate your old power guzzling plasma.-Martin Lynch [Source] TV plasma energy

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[CES 2009] Samsung Unveils The ‘Show’ Projector Phone

Jan 14

Pico projectors have been doing the rounds since late last year but mobile phone manufacturers are very keen on cramming projector technology into their mobile phones. At CES, Samsung became the first mainstream phone maker to reveal a projector phone, called Show. There’s not too much detail on it at the moment but it uses DLP projection technology from Texas Instruments. It’s a touchscreen phone with an OLED display that uses Samsung’s TouchWiz UI and it can project any visual media – photos, movies and presentations – from the phone onto any bright surface. See a video of it in action after the jump.The Show can also be used as a flashlight for those nights when you just can’t seem to get the key in the door at 4am. Because it’s launching in South Korea first next month, the projector can also display DMB-T mobile TV signals received by the phone. We think projector phones are cool but, a bit on the gimmicky side, but then with so many millions of people paying for dumb ringtones, we predict they’ll sell like hotcakes in the coming years.-Martin Lynch [Crunchgear] mobile phone projector

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British Adventurer Takes To The Skies – In His Car

Jan 14

There’s a novel new way to dodge traffic jams and all you need is a flying car or, in this case, a flying buggy. Starting on Weds from London, risk-taking Neil Laughton will set out to travel to Timbuktu in an experimental buggy [for charity] that can take to the skies when the terrain demands. The trip will zip through Western Europe, North Africa and he plans to fly the Skycar through the Pyrenees, over the Straits of Gibraltar and the Moroccan Atlas mountains on the way. The Skycar is being claimed as the first road legal biofuelled flying car.The buggy, capable of a fast 0-60mph in under 5 seconds on the ground, has a top speed of 100mph and to get it off the ground, it’s been fitted with a nylon “ParaWing” that can be fitted and deployed in a few minutes. The giant fan on the back helps it get off the ground when the buggy hits 45mph and it can soar at speeds of up to 70mph at altitudes between 3,000 and a very cold 15,000ft. If successful, the £250,000 prototype buggy will be recreated in a commercial form for sale to the public at the bargain price of around £50,000. However, attempting to dodge jams on the M1 will most likely get you arrested. If they can catch you, that is.-Martin Lynch [BBC] car flying news

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[CES 2009] M&M Earphones For The Kiddies

Jan 14

Kids will eat almost anything, especially if its small and brightly coloured. That’s why we have to question the safety credentials of the latest earphones from Maxell, the M&M headphones. Dumb yes, but probably great marketing and at completely the other end of the scale from the new £1,000 Sennheiser HD 800s. Like the name and photo suggests, these are in act M&M-styled earphones, right down to the colours and logos on the outside. They even come in a package that looks like a pack of M&Ms. They will be available in 5 colours including red, pink, blue, orange, and white and will cost around £10 a pair. Sure they’re cute, as sweet-flavoured earphones go, and kids will probably pester parents endlessly for them but I think my cheapy Sennheisers [sub-£20] are safe for the moment. Still, if you lose them, there’s a 90% chance that you’ll find your kid having a good chew on them. -Martin Lynch [Coolest Gadgets] earphones music

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Detroit 2009: Motor City guys and dolls….but mostly dolls

Jan 13

Filed under: ,

Click above for a gallery of high-res pics of some of the faces from Detroit ’09

There are lots of people here in Detroit for the NAIAS, and there are lots of moments that have little to do with the cars themselves. So we figured we’d do a roundup gallery to show you some of the personal moments from this year’s Detroit Auto Show. Some of the faces you’ll undoubtedly recognize, while others you’ll probably hope to get to know better. Check out the gallery and you’ll see sports announcers, execs, kids, even a model or two. As always, we appreciate the tireless work of the booth professionals who have to stand in heels all day and pretend to be happy to see another camera shoved in their faces. Many have mentioned that they are fans of Autoblog, but we suspect they say that to everyone. Still, we know some will be viewing this post so please be civil and keep your comments clean.

Photos copyright (C)2009 Frank Filipponio / Weblogs, Inc.

Detroit 2009: Motor City guys and dolls….but mostly dolls originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 12 Jan 2009 19:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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