Friday, February 29, 2008

OpenID needs strong authentication

Here is a nice tutorial from Kim Cameron that demonstrates using OpenID for signon. This tutorial also illustrates the risks if you don't use strong authentication. Also one way to implement strong authentication with OpenID is via the Paypal Security Key which I have mentioned previously.

If your looking for more information on security tokens Information Week has a good article talking about OATH which is a industry wide group working on open authentication. Or you can go straight to the OATH site to get there latest information.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Heavy Machinery from Crooked Brains

If your needing a good laugh today go over to Crooked Brains and checkout the Heavy Machinery photo sequences. I wonder which sequence was the most costly in terms of monetary damage, my guess is the airplane. As far as job damage I wonder how many of these people managed to keep there jobs.

Monday, February 25, 2008

DTV is coming don't panic

What is DTV, it's Digital Television signals vs. our current system which is ATV or Analog Television signals. In case you haven't heard next year on Feb. 17 Analog TV signals in the US will cease to be broadcast. Not a big deal to the many who have cable or dish/satellite TV service, homes with cable or satellite service will not need to do anything. But if you still have an antenna on the roof or in your attic you will need to buy a converter box not a new TV. I repeat you do not need to buy a new TV to pickup DTV signals, ignore your friends or others telling you other wise. Further if you bought a TV in Mar. 2007 or later it is should be DTV capable. If you need a converter box, the converter box is being subsidized by the US Dept. of Commerce. So if you follow the directions at, the Government will send you up to 2 $40 coupons which should bring the final price to around $20 per converter box. Beware you have to use the coupons within 90 days from when they where issued. One other point to note is DTV is not the same as HDTV, HDTV is High Definition TV and in order to view HDTV you will need to get a new HD capable TV.

If your wanting more information on DTV, CNET has done a very good job explaining DTV so check out CNET if you want additional information. I found one very interesting link via the CNET information on DTV related to Antennas which is provided by CEA and NAB. Basically this site will tell you the type of antenna needed based on your street address. What this site does is figure out the distance between your house and the TV stations in your area. It then gives you the location on a compass to point your antenna and what kind of antenna you need to pickup your areas TV stations.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Femtocells what and why

Kind of a strange name but femtocells are very small cell towers. You may also see the term picocell used in place of femtocell, femtocells are a type of picocell. If your question is what good is a small cell tower think about cell phone coverage inside your home, in my case a femtocell has to help. Basically this femtocell is suppose to give you good cell phone reception in your home and sends the calls out over your broadband connection. So depending on how good your broadband connection, that will determine if one of these Femtocells will help in your situation. There is lot of work going on in this area. Sprint has started a trial with there AIRAVE device in Sept. 2007 in Denver and Indianapolis with plans for general availability in 2008. The pricing on the Sprint device seems very good also at $49. Although I have heard that femtocells may go for around $200. So not sure if the Sprint pricing is just for the trial or will also apply for the nationwide roll out. In addition to Sprint, Vodafone has a trial starting in Spain and O2 is starting a trial this month in the UK. I'm guessing the other wireless carriers will also be doing trials in the near future. So assuming this technology performs well the decline in land lines could really accelerate especially with the recent flat rate unlimited calling plans that many of wireless carriers have just come out with here in the US.

If you are using one of these offerings how about posting a comment about your experience with your carriers offering.

In case your interested here is additional background information on femtocells from Wikipedia.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dilbert Widget

Well I've been a fan of Dilbert for a long time and well today I couldn't resist and decided to add "The OFFICIAL Dilbert Widget" that's been in the works for a few weeks.

In addition to the Dilbert cartoons Scott Adams Dilbert Blog it's worth a read in my opinion. I may even add Scott's blog posts in a sidebar widget also, still thinking about that one.

Enjoy the Dilbert cartoons I know I will.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Los Angeles can now tax VoIP calls

Los Angeles has changed there tax code so that they can now tax VoIP calls. Well not a surprise that cities will start taxing VoIP many if not most already tax your cell phone charges. What I'm curious about is how they are going to do it. If you pay for the service or some part such as Skype Out/In minutes then they will have Skype/eBay adding the tax onto your purchase. But what about VoIP via your IM client AIM, MSN, Yahoo, Google Talk all have VoIP capabilities or even Skype to Skype these are all currently free. The updates to the tax code indicate the changes are broad enough they can also tax your Internet connection fees. But if they try to go after IM VoIP traffic how would they measure the usage and what would they base the charge on since it's free. Also Facebook and other Web 2.0 services are building in VoIP capabilities, so assuming cities try to get all the tax money possible how will they track all the new VoIP applications and there usage. Last I'm wondering where things currently stand at the Federal level, in the past taxing the Internet has been prohibited, has that changed and does that override state and local level taxing authority.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Vista SP1 vs. XP SP2 performance

You probably know that Microsoft has SP1 in the works for Vista and what many people are hoping for is improved performance. My understanding from the testing that Adrian Kingsley-Hughes at ZDNet has done is SP1 has improved performance in Vista SP1 but when compared to XP SP2 well XP is still the winner. XP was the winner in 11 of 15 tests and 2 other tests where a tie with Vista SP1 only winning 2 of the 15 tests. So here are my recommendations -

  1. If you have an older PC (2.5 Ghz or slower with less than 1GB memory) running Windows XP don't even think about upgrading to Vista.
  2. If your going to Vista get SP1.
  3. If you have a newer PC or are buying a new PC get a minimum of 1GB of memory 2GB is preferable for Vista.
  4. If your big on running games on your system make sure you get current video card drivers there where significant issues with early versions on Vista.
  5. If your buying a new PC buy it before June and get Windows XP (after June Windows XP will no longer be available unless Microsoft changes there mind).
  6. Wait for Vista SP2 maybe by then Vista performance will be on par with XP.
Following are links to the ZDNet articles and benchmarks on Vista and XP performance. Also here is a detailed article from Mark Russinovich at Microsoft giving background on how Vista SP1 file copy performance was improved.

Vista SP1 vs. XP SP2 - Benchmarked by ZDNet's Adrian Kingsley-Hughes -- Over the past few days I posted two sets of benchmarks comparing Windows Vista RTM with Vista SP1. These posts generated a lot of feedback, and from reading this feedback it's clear that what many people are really interested in is not the performance differences between Vista RTM and Vista SP1, but between Vista SP1 and XP SP2. How does Windows Vista SP1 compare to Windows XP SP2? Read on ...

Vista SP1 - The promised performance gains are there by ZDNet's Adrian Kingsley-Hughes -- People are very anxious to know whether Windows Vista SP1 brings with it any noticeable performance gains when carrying out day to day tasks. My preliminary results seem to indicate that SP1 offers measurable benefits when carrying out a variety of tasks.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Alienware Android Phone

The mobile phone world just had there annual gathering in Barcelona Spain and here is one possible new phone as reported by Dialaphone that Alienware is working on. This phone will use the new Android OS that Google is working on. Definitely an eye catching design which sure would attract attention when you pull this phone out. Assuming this phone makes it onto the market it will be interesting to see how much mass appeal is has beyond the PC gamers.

Now thats a flashlight

If your wanting a brighter flashlight I have found just what you need it is called the Maxblaster. This flashlight built by Ralf Ottow a Dutch optics engineer puts out 38 million candlepower enough to light things up to 4 miles away according to this article at Popular Science. To put that in perspective your standard 100w bulb puts out 1600 lumens/12.57~127 candlepower, so the Maxblaster is 299,212 times brighter than a 100w bulb. The Maxblaster is also portable but heavy since it uses 54 batteries. You also want to have UV filtering glass or else you can get a sunburn as Ralf determined during his testing. Anyway one should be enough to light up your yard at night although if your neighbors are within a mile or four I'm sure they won't be too happy. Also I just noticed there was an update on a forum and a later version of the Maxblaster puts out 52 million candlepower or 409,448 times brighter than a 100W bulb. So I'm guessing this version should be able to light things up to 5 miles away assuming the relationship between candlepower and distance is linear. I wonder how long a set of batteries lasts.

Here are some additional pictures and lots of detailed information from Ralf over at the CandlePowerForums. If your thinking of building one yourself Ralf estimates the cost at $2000 US. Personally I would just like to see the Maxblaster in action.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine Day humor

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Who Owns What

Well I'm not the only one who has trouble keeping track of who owns what companies. First there was Dealipedia from Michael Robertson. Now Amy Webb has started working on an RSS feed of Who owns What to track the Web 2.0 companies. My suggestion is that Amy contribute to Dealipedia wiki.

Whose phone is it

I don't know about you but I'm hoping that the promised openness from the mobile carriers fixes one item in particular and that's Bluetooth. My Sprint PPC6700 works just fine with my Plantronics 330 Bluetooth headset but only when making phone calls. Why I can't use my Bluetooth headset to listen to music, podcasts, etc. just really irritates me. I'm assuming the reason Sprint locked this down is to prevent a user from using alternatives like Skype. To add insult to injury my corded headset is only working on one of the 2 earbuds and the replacement is $30. I've heard rumors that there are hacks to allow more general use of Bluetooth but I hesitate since I'd prefer not to brick my phone. If you have information on how easy it is to modify the Bluetooth capabilities on a PPC6700 please pass that information my way. Also if you know that the reason Bluetooth is limited is due to technical reasons and not done artificially by Sprint let me know that also.

ps - Whose phone is it

Monday, February 11, 2008

Free High Resolution Wallpapers

Here is a nice collection of over 450 High Dynamic Range (lots of color and contrast) and High Resolution photos all setup for wallpaper from HDRwalls. If you interested here is additional detail on how the photos where created using Photomatix Pro. They have them in a number of high resolution sizes up to 2560x1600 and in addition have formats for Blackberry, iPhone and iPods. The photos/wallpapers are free according to the website which is ad supported.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Fancast has Star Trek TV episodes

If your a fan of Star Trek the TV show then you might want to checkout a new currently free (I have no indication there will be a charge in future but Fancast is run by Comcast) service called Fancast. Fancast has 77 of the 80 original Star Trek TV episodes plus numerous other current and past TV shows to stream to your PC. I was not able to find any hardware requirements for Fancast but it runs fine on my over 4 yr. old PC. You will need a decent broadband connection based on my observed average download rate of 2mbps while watching. The picture quality is decent when displayed at roughly 1/4 screen size but definitely lower quality when you go to full screen size. Your viewing is also interrupted by commercials every 10-15 mins. but commercial breaks I observed are shorter than on normal broadcast TV.

Overall in my opinion programs are watchable but don't get rid of your regular TV and obviously not even close to HD. But when you consider you can watch the program you want on your schedule and not the networks this type service has some real value in my book.

Fancast is currently in beta but you do not need an invite and you don't have to register unless you want to save favorites and such.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

OpenID gets money

Some of the big players Google, IBM, Microsoft, VeriSign and Yahoo! have made financial commitments to the OpenID Foundation and in exchange get board seats. Not sure how much each of these companies put in but hopefully this will provide the impetus to move OpenID to the next level. The real proof is still going to be how well each of these corporate players allow there OpenID offerings to let each other act as providers. If I have to get an OpenID from each of them then OpenID will provide little improvement over existing authentications processes. So far Yahoo now has OpenID up in Beta for access to the main Yahoo sites and you can also access Plaxo with a Yahoo OpenID. In addition Yahoo claims they will allow other OpenID providers to provide authentication to Yahoo sites but so far no definite time frame for that level of access. What about the other new board members Google has OpenID in beta with Blogger but that is all I'm aware from Google. Microsoft and IBM as far as I know do not have beta sites up yet. VeriSign has a very nice OpenID beta which interfaces with the Paypal Security Key which I'm hoping the other top tier providers also offer. Stay tuned hopefully there will be an ongoing stream of announcements with generally available implementations following shortly there after.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Microsoft buying Yahoo deal review at SEO Blog

If your looking for a good article outlining some of the details of Microsoft buying Yahoo check out this article at SEO Blog by Jim Hedger. The article has a good metaphor of Microsoft buying an aircraft carrier so assuming Microsoft is successful acquiring Yahoo, the first question is will Microsoft be able to drive there new boat. But more important assuming they can drive the boat will this aircraft carrier add enough firepower to the Microsoft fleet to defeat the current master of the search seas Google. Considering the amount of time it will take for Microsoft to get control of the boat, Google's actions during the next year or more will be of great interest.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Dealipedia - wiki of business deals

Now here is an interesting service based on the wiki concept/technology. Michael Robertson has come out with a new wiki called Dealipedia for the purpose of tracking all the various business deals that happen constantly. I know I will start using this wiki just to check on who owns which company because over the last few years it's been nearly impossible for me to keep track of who bought who. It will also be interesting to see if Bloomberg, Thompson and others who charge $1000's per month and up react to this wiki. My guess is initially they will pay little attention but with a disruptive technology such as the wiki in this case and the associated crowd sourcing the big players may want to keep an an open mind with regard to the future.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Website monitoring - Site24x7 from Zoho

If your looking for free to low cost website monitoring service checkout Zoho's Site24x7. The free version monitors 2 urls every 60 minutes, if you want more sites, shorter time intervals and additional features there are a number of options and associated pricing. One of the priced options that interests me in particular is the email monitoring which I had been unsuccessful at finding a few years ago when I really needed that type monitoring.