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The End Of Windows 3.11- Say What?

Believe it or not, Microsoft has still been selling Windows 3.11 for embedded products. They are now announcing that this will come to an end on November 1, 2008. Holy smokes! That is some run for an operating system. According to this blog entry which states:

For those that were not aware, we recently announced that effective November 1st, 2008, OEM’s will no longer be able to license Windows for Workgroups 3.11 in the embedded channel. Now we all know that it’s been long gone in the standard (retail/OEM) channel, but one of the unique things in the embedded business is that we allow the classic OS products to be sold longer than the other channels. it’s *finally the end of an era! smile_sad



for those of you who have access to the Embedded Communications Extranet (ECE), you can find the article there. 

This is interesting since Microsoft is going to deploy Windows XP on those new laptop systems that are currently hitting the market. I wonder how long XP will be around. Maybe 2020 or beyond. :-)

Comments welcome.


WeatherBug In Second Life – WeatherBug API Entry


Long before their was ever Google Lively, there was Second Life. Unfortunately, when one spends enough time within a virtual world, they might not have an opportunity to see what current weather conditions are like in the “real one”. Tony from Cranial Tap has provided a great solution and entered it into the WeatherBug API Contest.

Below Tony gives an explanation of what his WeatherBug API powered Widget does within Second Life and where you can try it out for yourself.

The panel itself displays the current weather icon, current, high & low temperatures with a working thermometer, and an animated wind gauge that shows the current wind speed and direction. The built in clock can be configured to show either the time for the current zip code or Second Life time (PST).

Users interact with the panel through the use of a drop-down menu system that is generated when they touch the object. In addition to setting the zip code, users can configure which units (English or metric) the panel displays, choose which time zone the clock displays, anonymize the panel so that the city is not displayed in the panel (only the weather data),and control which (if any) other users may change the panel zip code/settings. The drop down menu also provides access to extended weather data. In addition to providing a more verbose description of the current weather conditions, links are provided to the WeatherBug sites for extended data, forecasts, and alerts.

See it in action via YouTube:

Take WeatherBug for Second Life for a test drive in real time:

Just hit this link here if you have Second Life already installed to visit Cranial Tap headquarters in-world. Second Life is fully cross platform supporting Windows, Mac and Linux.

You can find the source code used here - please respect the copyright to this source code.



I have been running some polls on my blog and I decided to remove them for the sake of the WicketPixe update. So, now it is time to post the results.

  1. The first poll I posted was on what is the best CPU: Intel vs AMD. The winner is Intel.
    Best Processor
  2. The next poll I posted was what is the best OS. Mac vs PC vs Linux. The winner is Mac.
    Best OS
  3. The next is: What is the best browser? The winner is Firefox.
    Best Browser
  4. Next is: How did you like the Indiana Jones movie on a scale 1 to 5? Winner 5.
    Indiana Jones
  5. Were would we be with out them Search engines. What is the best search engine? Winner Google of course.
    Search Engines

So that is what I a=have found out from launching polls on my site. Feel free to comment on what you like and what you think is best. Also some back to tomorrow so you can learn how to make your own poll.

Microsoft Says People Really Like Vista

I’ve been using Microsoft Windows before it was even a Window :-). But I can’t recall any operating system that has received such a negative reception as Vista has gotten. Yes. There have been problems when other operating systems were first introduced. Yes. We struggled with patches and fixes before getting things right. But I don’t recall Microsoft having to tell people that an operating system was not as bad as some people have made it. According to the article from Todd Bishop:

“Customers who are using Windows Vista are seeing it and really liking it, and having good experiences, and customers who aren’t are really negative about it,” said Greg Amrofell, small-business lead product manager in Microsoft’s Windows division. “We acknowledge that there’s a perception gap that goes on with Windows Vista in small business, but we’d also assert that, with Windows Vista, a little seeing is believing.”

I questioned that last claim. Amrofell’s statement isn’t supported by the phone calls and e-mails I continue to get from struggling Vista users whenever we publish something about the operating system.

These are people whose opinions are shaped by actually using Windows Vista — not by merely seeing Apple’s Mac vs. PC ads. Of course, people contacting a reporter aren’t a representative sample of the computing public. Happy Windows Vista users wouldn’t be as compelled to call. But a blanket assertion of satisfaction doesn’t seem justified.

Amrofell said in response that, according to Microsoft’s research, small businesses using Windows Vista are three times more positive toward it than those who haven’t actually experienced it. He said people may not have realized how the situation has improved since Windows Vista’s launch, particularly its compatibility with devices and software.

In other words, the company is offering the technical support as reassurance for small businesses, but downplaying the need for support.

It seems that Apple is having a bigger impact than I had imagined. Yes. I have seen the Apple vs PC commercials. But it seems that Apple has put a dent in how Vista is being adopted by small businesses. Or should I say how it is not being deployed by small businesses. Microsoft is now offering a new support program for small businesses to help them deploy the new OS.

But here is an interesting point of view:

Free support will be available only to small businesses that buy new PCs with Windows Vista. Microsoft’s Amrofell explained that small businesses typically make the transition to a new operating system when they upgrade to new hardware.

But in general, people seem to be at higher risk of experiencing complications with Windows Vista when they install it on existing hardware. If Microsoft really wants to display confidence in Windows Vista, it’s curious that the company isn’t extending the offer of free support to small businesses that upgrade their existing PCs to it.

Now that would have been interesting.

So what do you think? Will this new support get businesses to deploy Vista? Or will they wait for Windows 7 ? Switch to Apple computers? Or just keep what they got?

Comments welcome.


Gene Therapy Research In Developing World Raises Ethical Red Flags

Early stage gene therapy clinical trials are recruiting patients from the developing world, providing medically deprived populations access to interventions that show promise but have largely unknown effects in humans. According to commentary by bioethicists at Carnegie Mellon and McGill universities published in this week’s issue of The Lancet, the practice may be inconsistent with international ethics guidelines on justice.

"There are many reasons why researchers might look to the developing world for research subjects," said Alex John London, lead author of "Justice in Translation: From Bench to Bedside in the Developing World" and director of Carnegie Mellon’s Center for the Advancement of Applied Ethics and Political Philosophy. "But serious ethical issues can arise when research relies on the deprivations experienced by people living in developing countries to advance research that is not responsive to the urgent health needs of their communities."

London and his co-author, Jonathan Kimmelman, an assistant professor in McGill’s Biomedical Ethics Unit, urge organizations that sponsor research in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to ensure that they are addressing the most pressing health needs of those nations. The article also notes that any interventions developed as a result of such research should be affordable and easily implemented in those countries’ health care systems.

While other authors have explored ethical issues in later stage clinical trials, in which the interventions have already been deemed safe and effective, for the most part, London and Kimmelman are the first to discuss the more complicated considerations surrounding the riskier early-stage research.

"Our report centers on complex agents like gene therapies that are being tested for the very first time in human beings," Kimmelman said.

Researchers have various reasons for turning to developing nations for clinical trial subjects. In some cases, patients are recruited because diseases like malaria were much more common in LMICs. In other cases, diseases are so rare as to necessitate worldwide recruitment. However, some trials also appear to have recruited patients who did not have access to treatments routinely available in developed countries. Such patients provide a pool of "treatment naive" subjects that would not otherwise be available to researchers. Treatment-naïve subjects are particularly valuable, as they offer the opportunity for researchers to observe an intervention’s behavior on a blank canvas, of sorts.

Echoing requirements that have been articulated in a range of international ethics documents, such as that of the World Health Organization, London and Kimmelman urge organizations that sponsor research in LMICs to ensure that they are addressing urgent health needs of those nations. Ensuring that research meets this requirement represents an important step toward unlocking the substantial promise of innovative research like gene therapy for populations that often experience staggering health needs.

"Our goal is not to curtail research in low and middle-income countries," said London, who is also an associate professor of philosophy at Carnegie Mellon. "It is to make sure that project sponsors give careful consideration to relationship between a particular research study and the needs of the communities from which study participants are drawn."

[Mark Shainblum @ McGill University]


The Over-Charge for Gas with a Credit Card

With the price of gas, every cent counts. It is not unusual for drivers to stop and fill up the car or truck if they happen to find a station that sells gas for a few cents less. However, that bargain price may vanish quickly if you are paying for the gas purchase with a credit card:

“…The card giant Visa, for instance, typically charges a 2 percent fee for each credit card transaction to the station owner. If the price of a gallon of gas is $4.11, that translates to about 8 cents a gallon, which is then passed on to the consumer who pays with a credit card.”

link: Credit Card Fees Up Gas Prices

The price that is advertised outside may not be what you are paying with the credit card. Many customers are finding that they are paying for the transaction fee that is charged to the business.

Check the credit card receipt the next time you are buying gas. You may find that that bargain price for fuel comes with a sneaky charge added to the bill.

Catherine Forsythe

The Perks of Being a Starbucks Partner

Starbucks partners (or employees) get treated very well by their employers.  The number of benefits are near endless.  Here is a short list of what the benefits include:

  • Free drinks 30minutes before and after work shift, as well as during the shift
  • 30% off drinks/equipment/coffee
  • Free pound of coffee every week
  • Stock options
  • Health/Dental/Vision benefits for all employees who work an average 20 hours a week
  • 401k
  • Ability to work in any Starbucks Coffee Retail Store around the United Stated
  • tips

With all of these great benefits, I have to say that one of my favorite is free AT&T wifi in any Starbucks Coffee location.

Starbucks Coffee goes through a lot of loops to ensure that the free drinks and 30% discount is used only for their partners.  They get very angry if a partners discount is used and someone else ends up paying for the drink (they track it).  They want to take care of their employees, but they want the benefits to remain in the company.

It is a great job that is fun and fast paced.


Vista’s parental controls – do they work for you?

I recently had to replace our home computer and found a great deal on a Dell XPS at Bestbuy. Okay, none of that matters, what does matter is that it came with Vista Home Premium. I’ve been trying various methods over the last few years to keep my kids safe while surfing. I had K9 protection on my previous PC. It seemed to work well, except that I got tired of entering my password every time one of my kids wanted to see a website.

I didn’t reload K9 with the new PC, instead I decided to check out Vista’s built in parental controls. The parental controls are broken into many categories. I think that’s a step in the right direction, but it still isn’t quite right. Each category has several sub lists. I imagine the idea is to give the parent more customization options. In theory it sounds great. In reality, it doesn’t work, at least not to my satisfaction.

It took a bit of time to set up accounts for each of my kids, customizing the settings according to what I consider age appropriate options. After tweaking the accounts, I thought we had a working solution. I was feeling good about it. The next day the real world tests began and my hopes were crushed. I had to enter my administrator password several times for each account just so that my children could play games. And I’m talking about E type games, not teen or mature games by any means.

So it seems the parental controls don’t work all that well and I’m back in the same bag. I’ve gotten frustrated and just given the oldest my password. Doesn’t someone make parental controls that don’t require a lot of baby sitting? I haven’t tried Net Nanny yet, maybe I should check it out. I’m sure there are many more resources I don’t know about. If you know of any no cost or low cost software that really works and is parent friendly- your feedback is appreciated.

X-Ray for Your Laptop

The airport security regulations differ slightly from terminal to terminal within a country. They may vary vastly from country to country. One of the precautions of air travel with the laptop is safeguarding it, as the machine passes through airport security.

At some security checkpoints, the personnel will allow you to request a hand check for the laptop. This may mean powering up the laptop and showing the security person that it is a functioning machine. Other checkpoints may require that the laptop be scanned with the x-ray equipment. Supposedly, this does not harm the machine.

The security procedure to avoid for the laptop is the metal detection sequence. This will damage the machine. Request a ‘hand check’, as the metal detector can cause a myriad of problems. The security personnel should be familiar with this request. However, with the high volume of traffic that passes through a checkpoint daily, it is the traveler’s responsibility to ask for an alternative to the metal detection sequence.

If the laptop is covered by household insurance, you may be surprised that damage through airport security is not included. Most policies cover theft, loss or accident. It does not cover damage to contents, like having the data on the hard drive scrambled. Check your policy and/or speak to your insurance agent. The insurance coverage for your laptop, without expensive riders, is minimal when you travel.

Catherine Forsythe

Castlevania Coming To Wii

Konami Digital Entertainment GmbH is to bring its world-famous Castlevania series to Nintendo Wii in the form of Castlevania Judgment, an all-new action title featuring a wealth of characters from the series’ 22-year history.

Created by series creator Koji ‘IGA’ Igarashi, Castlevania Judgment is a roving fighting game utilising heroes and villains from the Castlevania universe. The fighting game has been designed specifically for the Wii, and uses the Wii Remote and Nunchuk controllers to offer a stunning level of control over the central heroes. Taking centre stage within a series of 3D locations inspired by previous Castlevania games, the controllers are used to slash, stab and employ a series of attacks against the assorted minions of Dracula.

Each of the beautifully realised stages are fully interactive, and as the player battles their way through, various elements can be picked up, thrown, or used against the forces of evil — players can even make use of monsters on the field, while traps can also be set by specific characters. Castlevania Judgment also makes use of the Wii’s Wi-Fi capabilities, allowing players to fight with online friends in one-on-one settings, while the game also enjoys connectivity with Igarashi’s forthcoming Nintendo DS title Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, allowing users to unlock a very surprising bonus.

Featuring visuals from acclaimed artist Takeshi Obata, Castlevania Judgment sees the series’ famed Belmont clan enter fresh territory as their fighting skills are extended for this all-new challenge. With a huge cast of well-known monsters and undead adversaries, Castlevania Judgment marks a new chapter in the story of one of gaming’s most enduring series.