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Microsoft Releases Beta For Windows Live Calendar

Microsoft is making available for download, a Windows Live Calendar that can be synchronized with Outlook. Called Outlook Connector, the beta software is described by Microsoft as:

Microsoft has just released a new version of the Outlook Connector, giving users access to the Windows Live services through Outlook. In what will be a popular move (judging by the comments on our last Calendar post), the latest version now adds in calendar synchronisation. This allows users of the new Calendar beta to synchronise multiple calendars to Outlook, and manage them from within the client. We’ve been tracking this release since we heard about the new version giving calendar synch to all users, which is a change from the older versions of the connector where calendar synch was only available to those with an MSN Premium subscription.

After a brief play with the new version, functionality looks good , with all calendars appearing in Outlook automatically after configuring the connector at startup. Just enter in your Live ID details during login and as with previous versions, it will download all your folders and email from Hotmail. With the new version 12.1 though, it’ll also download your calendars, which will be first noticeable when you switch to the calendar tab in Outlook.

Remember that this is beta software and is still being refined and tested. So you could experience problems during the testing period.

Comments welcome.


Steve Bartman, Chicago’s Favorite Son Offered 25 Grand For His Autograph

It’s not even September yet and already the legend of Steve Bartman is making the rounds once again. This time he is being offered an insane amount of money (Twenty Five grand) simply to sign a picture of the very incident that has cemented his name not only the history of Baseball, but sports history all together. Once again, any dignity that he might have regained since that chilly night in October 2003 has been crushed. Personally, I think it’s time to let it go & leave the poor guy alone, it’s obvious that is all he wants.

I can’t help but to admire him in a way. face it, the worst moment of his life was splattered all across national television, radio, the internet (now I am guilty of that too… but I am trying to defend him here) and endlessly satired. The guy easily could have profited from his misfortune seven ways from Sunday, turning his misfortune into a goldmine. To be honest, if that happened to me, I would have done everything I could to make as much money as possible from it. If I were persecuted to the extent he has been, well, what have you got to lose at that point? Might as well take advantage of a bad situation and make it as good as you possibly can. Yet, he simply minds his own business and goes his own way… truly admirable I must say.

Also, I think it’s important to point out that during the entire Chicago Cubs playoff run that season, Steve was only part of one play that was taking place in foul territory, and who’s to say that Alou would have even caught the ball? His fielding skills are not that impressive. Plus, in case you didn’t notice, Steve wasn’t the only one going for the ball, he had help. Others around him were making a go of it too. He just happened to be the one lucky/unlucky enough to get his hands on it.

Not that we will ever forget his mishap, how can you after all that has been made of it? But the guy’s life has been forever altered to the point where he might want to consider entering the witness protection program. All for attempting to catch a foul ball during a playoff game that just happened to be headed right towards him… any fans dream!

In Steve’s defense, the Chicago Cubs blew the series, not Steve Bartman. Chicago had nine guys on the field who were being paid to win the game as well as the series. Instead the events that followed Steve’s attempt to catch the foul ball was your text book domino effect; Moises Alou threw a temper tantrum that was enough to rattle any athlete’s mental state making it hard to focus on the game and task at hand. Starting pitcher Mark Prior then complimented Alou’s tantrum with a wild pitch for ball 4, which advanced the runner (Juan Pierre) who was on 2nd over to 3rd while putting Luis Castillo on 1st. However, all was not lost, a double play ball could have easily ended the inning. Sure enough, a ground ball was hit directly towards Alex Gonzalez, a perfect situation for the sure handed Gonzalez and almost Heaven sent, except Alex had a hell of a time handling it and blew the play. From there, well, no need to relive the entire 8th & 9th inning.

Having Alou catch the infamous foul ball would have simply been one play and one out, essentially leaving 4 more outs for the Cubs to contend with. It was not even a game winning situation that Bartman interfered with, it merely would have been out number two in the eight inning, far from the guarantee of a win… as I have seen the Cubs blow bigger leads with two outs in the 9th, any of which I am positive that Steve had nothing to do with.


Cancer Institute Warns Cell Phones May Cause Cancer

A Pittsburgh cancer institute has warned that use of cell phones may lead to cancer. This is the first cancer institute that has actually come out and said that cell phones impose a risk. Only time will tell if these warnings are true. In the meantime, the institute recommends the use of wireless headsets to combat the risk.

I think many people choose not to believe that cell phones can cause cancer for the simple fact that it would have a dramatic effect on their lives. People are absolutely nuts about their cell phones. They just have to use them when driving, shopping in the grocery store and walking their dog. So nobody’s really listening to the warnings.

Microsoft – Trouble In Paradise?

It makes one wonder. Should Bill Gates come back to steer the good ship Microsoft? Maybe Microsoft needs a Jerry Yang of Yahoo fame to help out. No matter what your opinion of Microsoft might be, the once mighty corporation is feeling the sting of the Microsoft – Yahoo deal gone sour. In fact we may see more employees leaving the Redmond software company as the head of Windows tries to regain its direction. A direction which includes a bigger presence on the Internet.

But can Microsoft achieve their goal, without buying a piece of Yahoo? I think Microsoft has two problems. First, without Yahoo their search hopes may be damaged and second, they need to make Windows 7 the best Windows yet. In an article from Boomtown it states:

But, most of all, it has zeroed in on Yahoo, which has a share in the mid-20s, in order to give it a better chance to compete with Google, the dominant market leader.

After first trying to buy Yahoo in a bit of a ham-handed manner, it turned to a plan to buy its search business.

That proposal has been rejected by Yahoo twice as not good enough for a variety of reasons, some better than others.

The hubbub sent Yahoo into the arms of Google, with which it struck an outsourcing ad search deal, which has attracted a lot of controversy, but will likely go forward.

Welcome to Microsoft’s nightmare!

So what do you think? Should Microsoft do what it does best and concentrate on Windows 7 development? Or do they need to diversify and catch up with Google?

Comments welcome.


Ballmer’s Memo

I hate Infomercials!

I’m sure alot of you agree with me when I say “I hate infomercials!”.

The products themselves are usually poor quality but are made out to look like they are some kind of super item, but rarely live up to the claims.  Recently I saw one for a fishing rod that “shoots” the bait out with a sling shot like contraption.  You’ve seen these things late at night I’m sure.  They talk about how great the product is while exaggerating the problems you have with the current products for the task.  I saw one about a can opener that opens the can from the side instead of the top.  They compared it with a normal can opener and exaggerated the fact that sometimes you have a problem getting the top off.  He shoved his finger down into the can, causing the contents to overflow all over the counter and claiming that the opener left sharp edges that could cut you (Duh!).  The fishing rod commercial exaggerated the issues you have with normal fishing rods, showing a man in the middle of the trees casting and getting the whole pole tangled in the branches that were surrounding him.  Like anyone would cast from the middle of the flippin’ woods!

The people in them are way too excited about the product and the live audience is even worse.  They are obviously instructed when to “ohhh” and “Ahhh”.  I mean come on, I’m not impressed because you close the door on a rotisserie oven, and then “Set it and forget it”.  Then they show a regular rotisserie oven and the person spills grease all over the place, obviously on purpose.  I swear there should be a law that makes these kinds of exagerations illegal.  The “actors” they have in them are very poor and you can tell their complaints of the normal products are scripted.

I have bought a few of these items and none so far have even come close to the claims made by the infomercial.  I usually wind up going back to the original item that has been on the market for years.  Ever notice the items in the infomercials tend to dissapear after a few years?

What are your thoughts on infomercials?  Should there be some kind of law that prevents them from putting down the items currently on the market by exaggerating the “problems”? Why do we watch them anyway?  I think I do partly because I want to see how stupid the claims get.

Nanotechnology: Learning From Past Mistakes

A new expert analysis in Nature Nanotechnology questions whether industry, government and scientists are successfully applying lessons learned from past technologies to ensure the safe and responsible development of emerging nanotechnologies.

The study applies the 12 "late lessons from early warnings," published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) in 2001, to the emerging field of nanotechnology. EEA’s "lessons" are drawn from case studies that include the introduction of ozone-damaging halocarbons and of environmentally persistent and toxic PCBs.

The authors of this latest study, who include Steffen Foss Hansen of the Technical University of Denmark and Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies Chief Science Advisor Andrew Maynard, conclude that while the nanotechnology community is doing some things right, "we are still in danger of repeating old, and potentially costly, mistakes."

"Despite a good start, nanotechnology commercialization appears hampered and diverted because many of the same government organizations responsible for promoting nanotechnology also are responsible for regulating it. Risk research strategies are weak and not leading to clear answers to critical safety questions and to filling clear knowledge gaps. Collaborations on risk research, environment and health monitoring, and ‘green’ applications are hindered by disciplinary and institutional barriers. Most importantly, stakeholders and the public are not being fully engaged," according to lead author Hansen.

"Nanotechnology is all about looking to the future — solving new challenges with new science," says Maynard. "But if it is to succeed, we also need to look back and heed the lessons of the past. And those lessons are clear — work with foresight, honesty and humility; be grounded in reality; and listen to people. We still have a chance to get it right with nanotechnology. But we are not there yet."

[Colin Finan @ Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies]


Can Ubuntu Become A Beauty Compared To Apple?

Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Canonical and the very popular Ubuntu Linux operating system, has challenged developers to improve the GUI of Linux to surpass Apple in looks. At a recent conference he stated that he wants Linux to actually reach the status of being art. He also states in an article that:

“There is an emerging emphasis on services – that is the engine to invest in free software applications,” he said. “We [Canonical] are hiring guys to work on the desktop… the rationale is online services. This must be a shared platform.”

According to Shuttleworth, open source provides unparalleled opportunities to generate wealth and create change through innovation. He supported open-source projects like Firefox, which rely on plug-ins to harness other people’s ideas and extend the underlying platform.

He warned that a few challenges exist on the road to greater innovation, wealth and social change via open source.

He also stated that this needed to be done within the next two years. So what do you think? Can open source catch up with Apple? Is pretty what Linux needs to become popular?

Comments welcome.


Teleco’s Fear Home Landline Business Headed For Extinction

While AT&T is attracting subscribers with their iPhone and Cell Phone plans, the company states that their landline business is losing subscribers faster than expected. So while other companies are worrying about how to make more money from their texting customers, AT&T wants to just keep the talkers talking on their POTS. [Plain Old Telephone System].

In this article from the NY Times it states:

At the same time, as the American cellphone market gets saturated — nearly 85 percent of American consumers already own a mobile phone — phone companies are finding that growth is slowing. With more options, mobile phone buyers are also becoming more selective about the calling plans and the type of phones they want, making the market even more competitive.

“In short order, sentiment in the telecom sector has gone from bullish to guarded to … well, slightly queasy,” Craig Moffett, a research analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Company who follows communications companies, wrote in a recent report.

Wireless phones are, by far, more common than landlines. According to CTIA, the wireless industry’s trade group based in Washington, there are 262 million wireless subscribers in the United States. In contrast, the Federal Communications Commission counts 163 million business and residential landlines as of June 2007, its latest report.

Analysts say that AT&T will report a decline in the number of its traditional landline subscribers. A spokesman for AT&T said executives could not comment ahead of earnings. Currently the company has 60.4 million traditional landlines — in contrast to 68.7 million subscribers in the second quarter of 2006 — and 71.4 million wireless subscribers.

With this final statement:

It would not be inconceivable, said one telecommunications executive who declined to be named because he was not authorized to discuss his company’s plans, that in the next 10 years, carriers could entice their least profitable landline customers to give up their old-fashioned phones for free or deeply discounted wireless service.

Interesting. Is home landline service on its way out? Will cell service completely take over?

What do you think?

Comments welcome.


The Case for Precaution in the Use of Cell Phones — Analysis of Recent Studies

I’ve been following this issue casually for some years. Because of the short time this technology has been in use, definitive conclusions are not yet available. Prudent consideration of the information in this article, and understanding of the simple precautions recommended, would seem to be reasonable.

Electromagnetic fields generated by cell phones should be considered a potential human health risk. Sufficient time has not elapsed in order for us to have conclusive data on the biological effects of cell phones and other cordless phones—a technology that is now universal.

Studies in humans do not indicate that cell phones are safe, nor do they yet clearly show that they are dangerous. But, growing evidence indicates that we should reduce exposures, while research continues on this important question.

Please read more…