Umibozu: Your Newest (Meta) Search Engine

Marc Castejon is the main developer for Umibozu, a meta-search engine. He contacted me today to tell you about his public alpha release and see if you can try it out and spread the word. If you’re not familiar with the concept of a meta-search engine think of it this way – have you ever made the same search query at Google, Yahoo and Live while trying to locate something on the web?

And have you wished you could improve the results?

Welp, you can with Umibozu. Umibozu leverages the public APIs provided by Google, Yahoo and Live to query those engines using your one query. It then returns the top results from each and displays them side by side, allowing you to choose the one that suits you, and if you create an Umibozu account you can vote on the results.

Here’s a snapshot of my search for “Geeknews” on Umibozu –

umibozu

 

Well done Marc!

What Is That?

As I sit here in my freezing home (24 degrees, and falling), I have come forth to entertain you once again.  Or, to at least massage your brain with this picture of some random mysterious object 🙂  Appearances may be deceiving, so don’t pop off with your initial answer without thinking about it!

WIT0243       WIT0243a

Drop your guesses in the comments, as usual….

How To Destroy An Inbound Asteroid

How do you keep this…           Asteroid Tara

From turning into this…?           Barringer Crater

 

Don’t bother talking to Bruce Willis for tips, for starters you talk to the Geophysics and Planetary Sciences folks at the Tel Aviv University.

They’re examining asteroids from the standpoint of learning what it will take to deflect or destroy an asteroid that is found to be the harbinger of doom to mankind. More specifically, they’re studying not just the makeup of asteroids and their rotations and direction of movement, but also more esoteric aspects like the “YORP Effect” which predicts an asteroid’s rotation and acceleration influenced by sunlight to gain more clues.

Read more about these scientists.

Microsoft Ventures Into The iPhone App Business

Microsoft released its first iPhone app, it’s called Seadragon and it brings the same smooth image browsing you get on the PC to the mobile platform. It allows you to Deep Zoom, view giga-pixel images or get really close in on a map or photo with a few taps of the screen.

Seadragon Mobile is available for free at the iTunes App Store.

Go to Live Labs to see a video demo. Or check out this CNet article for more details.

Seadragon Mobile

Geek News Links – 12/15/08

Gaming

WoW icon  World of Warcraft restaurant opens [WoW Insider] – A new restaurant has opened up with a Warcraft theme, from the decor to the food. The entrance is designed to look like the Dark Portal, and there’s a recreation of Tel’drassil in the center of the dining room.

Guitar Hero Icon  First look: Metallica gets ‘Guitar Hero’ treatment [USA Today] – The legendary hard rockers are providing the latest riff on Guitar Hero, with a game based on their music expected in stores during the first half of 2009 for Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 3 and PS2. I used to scoff at this ‘fad’ until I learned The Guitar Hero franchise did around $1 billion in sales last year!

Wii  ‘Rock Band 2’ To Hit Wii, PS2 Before Christmas [RockBand PR] – Gamers who don’t own a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 — and aren’t expecting one under the tree this year — may still be in for a treat.

Gadgets

John McCain

Buy a BlackBerry and get John McCain’s number at no extra cost! [CSM] A Fox news affiliate in Washington DC bought John McCain’s BlackBerry at a ‘going out of business’ sale. The Blackberry had not been wiped it seems, so the Senator’s e-mail was still on it and some high profile phone numbers were in the contact list.

ATT - Radio ShackRadioShack To Offer $100 Netbook With AT&T [InformationWeek] –  The offering reflects an emerging trend among wireless providers to subsidize PCs and cell phones in return for customers signing service contracts. If you think it’s too good to be true, guess what?

Science

Holiday TreeFlame retardants prove ineffective on fresh-cut Christmas trees [Science Blog] – This Christmas season, think twice about spending money on a commercial flame retardant for your Christmas tree. The good, old-fashioned method—keeping your tree in a container of fresh water—is probably all you need to keep your tree green and healthy.

Breast Icon Why do women with dense breasts have more breast cancer? [ScientificaAmerican] – Doctors know that women who have dense breasts have as much as six times the risk of breast cancer as those who have less dense breasts. But they haven’t been quite sure why until now. Biopsies of healthy women showed differences in the cells of dense and non-dense tissue that may contribute to the development of tumors.

Medical Striking differences between brains of rich and poor [Science-A-Go-Go] – Measuring the brain activity of kids from a variety of backgrounds using an electroencephalograph revealed that the prefrontal cortex activity in the children from poor families resembled that of a stroke victim

Netflix: Good News & Bad News on Silverlight Adoption

netflix

Good News:

Netflix adopted Silverlight to act as their platform for streaming movies via the browser on Windows and Mac PCs. One of their VPs recently announced on the company blog that the Silverlight adoption has resulted in a better user experience with fewer technical problems to be solved – that’s the good news.

Bad News:

As the VP reports, the bad news is that the improved user experience has resulted in Netflix needing 50 fewer Tech Support employees…so Netflix is trimming the support staff in January.

Merry Frakking Christmas! 🙁

What an odd thing to announce in the company’s blog in the tone that it was given in (almost as a point of pride), I hope those 50 folks get an opportunity to stay on at the company in another capacity, that would be a better PR move than this announcement.

While the announcement is interesting yet odd, the comments responding to it are even better. Some of the anonymous comments seem to have more details on the layoffs and may be from insiders.

[found on Jim O’Neil’s MSDN blog]

Scrabble Teaches You The ‘F-Bomb’?

Games

One mother is furious that a Nintendo version of the Scrabble game used by her boy is throwing down dirty words from its dictionary like:

  • t*ts (which Scrabble says is defined as both “a garden bird” and “an informal word for female breasts”)
  • f*ckers (“slang word for chavs”)

Is it operator error on the part of mum and kid or is it failure on the part of Ubisoft and Nintendo?

Oh, if you’re wondering what a ‘chav’, I too was curious. According to Wikipedia a chav is:

Chav, Chava or Charva is a slang derogatory term applied to certain young people in the United Kingdom. The stereotypical image of a chav is an aggressive white teen or young adult, of working class background, who wears branded sports and casual clothing (baseball caps are also common) who often fights and engages in petty criminality and are often assumed to be unemployed or in a low paid job.

Here’s one below. So they’re saying ‘chav’ is equivalent to juvenile delinquent’ which has a slang word of ‘f*cker’ to represent it? I don’t get it.

Chav

Windows Mobile Phone Has Evil Android Twin

i6-Win_Goal

Qigi Future Technology corporation will be manufacturing twin phones for the Chinese Wireless provider TechFaith. These phones will be known as the ‘i6’, one will be based on Windows Mobile known as i6-Win and its twin will be based on Android and known as the i6-Goal.

Both specs are identical except for the OS and I would imagine the applications may be a little different though I’m going out on a limb and assume that the user scenarios will be virtually identical.

The i6 will ship with a Marvel pxa310 proc @ 624MHz, 128/256MB flash, 2.8″ touch display w/ 320×240 res. Will have Quad band, wifi, BT, GPS. The camera will be 2 megapixel.

On the i6-Goal, TechFaith Wireless had this to say in a press release:

TechFaith Wireless Communication Technology Limited, an original developed product provider focused on the research and development of cell phone solutions, and QIGI, a Smartphone brand in China, today announced the launch of i6-Goal, the first Android-powered phone in China. The fast, 624-MHz CPU slim bar-type phone has a touch-screen, business card scanning and GPS functionality. The i6-Goal also provides mobile Web access that includes Gmail, YouTube and Gtalk.

Read the full story with details at WindowsforDevices.com.

If you want to just oggle at the pics, go to ePrice (in Chinese).

Here’s the press release describing just the Android version of the Qigi phone.

My Favorite Lists of the Week

Lists

10 Useful Secrets the Cell Phone Carriers Don’t Want You To Know [Mobile Maven] – Wireless companies push you around, dictating terms you rarely can fight back against. Here’s 10 tips to enable you to “fight the man!” at their own game.

WordPress 2.7 – 20 Must See Features [Mashable] – 20 of the biggest changes coming in WP 2.7, but all together there have been over 400 changes to the program this time around. Any way you slice it, there is a little bit of something for everyone in this release. Take a look through and you’re sure to find something that appeals to you.

Most Underhyped Apps of 2008 [Lifehacker] – Take a look at the least hyped software that launched or saw great improvements in 2008, and give ’em the love they deserve

Top 10 International Products of 2008 [ReadWriteWeb] – They looked for products that were developed outside the U.S., which showed innovation and support for global Web standards. They also tried to choose from a cross-section of countries, although obviously they couldn’t cover all the major countries.

Google Earth Plugin Roundup [Google Earth Blog] – Roundup of the best GE plug-ins out there today. From Monster Milk Truck to Real-Time Satellites and Paragliding Simulator.

10 Useful RSS-Tricks and Hacks For WordPress [Smashing Magazine] – Each section of the article presents a problem, suggests a solution and provides you with an explanation of the solution, so that you can not just solve some of your RSS-related problems but also understand what you are actually doing.

Compilation of Promo’s and Trailers [Lost Spoilers] – OK, it’s not a really a list but a compilation of all the Lost Season 5 promos and trailers.

Mario Can Stick It….

Or is that you can stick it to Mario?  That’s exactly what some college kids in University of the Fraser Valley did, with 17,000 push pins!  After about two semesters of work, a final revision of this awesome art came to being.  My hat’s off to these guys for their creativity and dedication 😉

mariopins01 mariopins02

I don’t think I’d have the patience to do something like this….

Thanks To Oprah, No Kindle For You

 amazon_logo

From the WSJ:

For the second holiday shopping season in a row, Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle e-book reader is out of stock, and more of the devices won’t be available until mid-February, at the earliest.

Amazon thought it had plenty in stock, but then the most powerful person in book publishing intervened. In late October, Oprah Winfrey described it as her “favorite new gadget” on her TV show. And just as Ms. Winfrey’s reading selections turn no-name books into best sellers, the demand for Kindles soon overwhelmed Amazon

Originally met with a heavy dose of skepticism last year, the $350 e-book has quite a batting average right now is doing quite well thank you very much. My sister received one for her birthday recently and just fell in love with it.

While it hasn’t quite hit a home run with this clunky gadget, they have at least a standup double to its credit. Nice play Amazon.

Geeky Christmas Gift – Dr. Horrible @ US$9.99

Dr Horrible

Looking for a cheap geeky Christmas gift? Then look no further than Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog on DVD. At US$9.99, this one’s gotta go on my wish list! 🙂

Not familiar with Dr. Horrible? Here’s the synopsis:

Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) stars as Billy, A.K.A. Dr. Horrible, a budding super-villain whose plans for world domination continually go awry.  His two goals: getting accepted into the Evil League of Evil, and working up the guts to speak to his laundromat crush Penny, played by Felicia Day (The Guild).  

The only thing standing in his way is Captain Hammer, Billy’s superhero arch-nemesis played by Nathan Fillion (Firefly).  With one big score, Billy could get into the E.L.E. and earn the respect of Penny, but only if he can keep her away from the dashing Captain Hammer…

Good Old Games for Sale!

Have you been wishing you could get your hands on a copy of your favorite old game from years gone by?

Go to GOG – Good Old Games! They seem to have quite a spectacular assortment of old games that were great fun back in their day.

At the moment they have a promo running… If you buy two $9.99 games you get a $5.99 game free.

And In UFO News Today…

karen-harper Will Barack Obama open the X-Files (UFO investigations) to the public? [Examiner] – The Extraterrestrial Phenomenon Political Action Committee is gathering signatures in the days leading up to President-Elect Obama’s inauguration in an effort to get the new President to disclose military “contacts” with UFOs.  The EP PAC believes that it is time for the US to open the so called “X-Files” to the American public, following Britain’s example last year.

ufo-xbox  Xbox 360 Logo Spotted in 1697 UFO Sighting Sketch [Gizmodo] – November 4, 1697, the citizens of Hamburg, Germany spotted “two glowing wheels” in the air. To some, it was just further proof of another civilization visiting Earth. Clearly Microsoft has some sort of time travel machine that resembles a giant Xbox 360 logo.

Mysterious object More UFO sightings over UK skies [FenladnCitizen] – Dozens of people reported sightings of UFOs in the skies over Fenland,UK following last week’s front page picture of some unexplained lights spotted over Wisbech.

 

Roswell  TV’s “UFO Hunters” to feature one of the last eyewitnesses of Roswell Incident [Suwannee Democrat] – The History Channel will feature an interview with Earl Fulford. He was one of the last remaining eyewitnesses to what some say was the wreckage site of a UFO

WoW’s Out of Box Experience Is Not "WOW!",…It’s "Crap!"

WoW

Sensing that World of Warcraft is not the years long, multi-million user flash in the pan I expected it to be, this last weekend I partook in a holiday discount deal from the local GameStop. I picked up the World of Warcraft Battlechest for half off the MSRP (came to US$19 if you must know).

During my install of the product, the setup from the DVD was flawless.

However, I was expected to accept the mother of all End User License Agreements. For the love of all that’s holy, their legal department probably puts Microsoft attorneys to shame. This behemoth of a document consists of:

  • 7 Pages
  • 37 Paragraphs
  • 275 Lines
  • 3634 Words
  • 19035 Characters

Who the hell is going to read that thing? Oh, I gave it the old college try and plowed through the first one and a half paragraphs then supplemented with scanning for keywords of interest in a handful of other paragraphs, but sheesh!

Later, while scanning through my hard drive to look at all the crap the installer left, I stumbled upon a newer version of the eula that is a year newer than the one i accepted. Blizzard managed to extend that large document by 2 pages, 3 paragraphs and 149 words. Needless to say, I’m not more educated on this one than the first.

OK, so far my positive WoW out of box experience went from positive to neutral, not bad, but let’s login to the server and see how it fares.

I find a desktop icon, nothing too fancy, big ‘W’, clean and crisp and to the point:

 WoW icon

What followed that mouse clicky was the beginning of a 4 hour descent into hell that would not see me creating my first character until the following morning.

It appears that Blizzard doesn’t believe in rolling up their updates. The program detected there were updates to be installed before the game could begin. So it promptly downloaded and installed the first update. When that was done, i clicked Play and again it detected another update…same process followed. I had to install update after update after update for about 30-45 minutes before the sh*t really hit the fan. Some were pretty small, others ~256MB. It was turning into a real pain in the arse, what would have helped is to know how far I had to go through this user interface until we’re done. Maybe it could tell me “Andy, you are on update #6 of 10”.

After 30-45 minutes, the process wasn’t done, it was just getting started. Because then I learned it needed to download and install a 2GB update! WTF is this all about? It took 4 hours to download, this old man needed to get some shut eye so I hit the rack while the installer did its thing and unpacked/installed itself. So I was fast asleep while the unpacking and updating actually occurred; given it’s size and complexity it’s probably best I wasn’t watching it tear its innards apart and rebuild.

The next morning, I sit back down in front of the PC, click the ‘Play’ button and learn that *another* update had to be installed. Thankfully, I could tell that the date of the package was released just a few weeks before so I must be near the end. And sure enough it was over after that last turdlet was dropped on my system.

So after 4+ hours of downloads and installs/updates of WoW on a clean system, I could finally get it on and start the click fest with millions of other nerds.

Freylok iconAnd now, after having played Freylok the Druid Night Elf for about 12 hours over 3 days, I get it. I understand the appeal of the game and I’m looking forward to more, but it’s unfortunate a new user has to go through hours of hassle just to get logged in. Even Windows rolls up updates between service packs, why can’t a game as popular and ubiquitous as WoW do the same?

 Things I’ve learned from this weekend experience:

  • Blizzard’s OOBE (out of box experience) sucks bad if you’re a new user like me. Be prepared to hand hold your PC through hours of updates if installing on a clean PC. I will file a bug to Blizzard this week.
  • WoW is one kick-ass game. The graphics are great, the size of the worlds is just unbelievably large. I knew it was massive, but sheesh, this is big and detailed. Tip of the hat to the development team and the IT Pros that have to maintain the servers.
  • Even a hard core anti-social introvert like myself doesn’t mind interacting with strangers in this new world. Unlike Sim City or Second Life, the attraction to interact with strangers in WoW is that you probably have a lot in common with the thousands of characters hacking and slashing around you as you both fight on to achieve your quests or save your sorry arse from the ‘black hats’.

Down with the Horde! Long live the Alliance! 😛

Insight into Recession Woes

No huge posts from me today… but interesting nevertheless!

MSN is reporting on the video games industry and how the recession is effecting it.

In an unusual turn of events the video game industry is being heralded as being strong and growing in the face of a recession. Mostly due to the fact that we gamers tend to want to play games instead of spending money on other junk… At least that’s my take on it!

Snippage from the conclusion of the article (for you people who don’t like reading the whole dull thing):

“In the short term, then, there is ample evidence that the video game business may well prove to be stronger than most others. No one is going to do better than companies producing cheap liquor, of course, but in the technology world, it may be tough to identify a sector that could better persevere than video games.”

Go forth and enjoy the read, if you’re the type to enjoy long winded ramblings of the market analyst style…

What Is That?

Feast your eyes on this device, my friends.  What can it be?  Even I had trouble identifying it, until I was let in on the secret.  And of course then I ran down a hallway yelling “Whyyyy….?” 

WIT212

Drop in some comments, there might be a cookie in for the first correct guess 🙂

Expert Expectations – Colin McRae: DiRT 2

Racing games. You either love ’em or hate ’em. I’m one of those people who loves them. But only if they are done right. There is nothing more annoying than a racing game that portrays beautiful cars travelling at high speed without any illusion of speed! Or the beautifully rendered car handles more like a racing yacht than a vehicle!

DiRTy Details

Codemasters released the first version of DiRT over a year ago and manauged to surprise everyone. They actually made a few mistakes with the game, but over all they came up with a well rounded winner.

One of the down sides of DiRT was the fact that it had a pretty arcadish feel to it. That seriously impacted my experience negatively at first, but once I was able to take a breath and get over it I found a beautiful looking game with a lot of simple fun behind it.

Another thing that DiRT fell short on, as a lot of reviewers agreed, was the lack of a good multiplayer component. Quite frankly I’m not sure why you would even attempt to release a competitive racing game with out a solid multiplayer component! But Codemasters did exactly that and ended up getting a lot of negative attention as a result. Silly programmers…

So what about DiRT 2?

DiRT2 Muddiness
DiRT2 Muddiness

Codemasters is bragging that they have beefed up the graphical engine from DiRT, which incidentally wasn’t one of DiRT’s weak areas at all.
Secondly there is supposed to be a beefed up physics engine. Can’t complain about that! DiRT had a pretty good physics engine but at times it just didn’t feel right. Here’s hoping they can put more than a bandage on that bleeding wound.
They’ve also stated that they are looking at an improved online gaming component, so maybe they learned something from the scathing reviews on the last go-round.
Additionally there will be the normal round of new cars and tracks for everyone… As anyone would reasonably expect.

The official word from Codemasters is located here: Clickity-Click

Stay tuned for more information on DiRT2… It’s definitely something we’ll keep in our scope.