Thursday, August 31, 2006

AJAX - A Year Later

I've been following AJAX and it's integration into our 'webbed' world for a while now. This article takes a look at the current state of AJAX and how it's come along

Making it possible is Ajax (Asynchronous JAvaScript and XML), a programming technique that lends Web sites the same kinds of interactivity and speed that desktop programs have traditionally had. With Ajax, we'll no longer need desktop applications. Our data will be available to us everywhere we go, because it will all be stored on Ajax-based Web sites. Who needs Microsoft or other makers of desktop software? We're finally free! That's the hype, anyway. But is it actually true?

Some of the best sites that are now using AJAX are listed on pages two to seven.  When I first heard of AJAX I started to learn to use it, going so far as to get a book from the local chapters.  When I asked if they had one they said, 'no'.  When I asked if they could get one they said, 'no'.  And along with everything else in my life I just let it go and decided not to bother.  It's a shame because it seems like a useful piece of knowledge to have these days.

I thought it may just be a passing fancy at first, but it looks like it may be worth looking into again.

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Movies on iTunes

Movies on iTunes? Who cares. I had a brief discussion about this today with someone before I saw this. I don't have a video iPod and I have no interest. Give me a 60" TV before you give me a 2.5" screen (or whatever it is).

Coming soon to a Mac or PC near you: Movies on iTunes. My BusinessWeek colleague Ron Grover has exclusive details about how how Wal-Mart, as the largest seller of DVDs -- it sells about 40% of DVDs produced -- is unhappy at the prospect of Hollywood studios doing business with Apple and iTunes. But here's the best part, and a detail you won't see anywhere else: The announcement is expected by mid-September, with prices of $14.99 for new releases and $9.99 for older movies.

I would have to guess is that there would have to be a new hardware product to go with such an announcement too, wouldn't you? Grover says says a "wider screen" iPod is on the way as well.

So unhappy is Wal-Mart at the prospect of all this that its demanding lower wholesale prices on DVDs, and Wal-Mart exec David Porter has been "playing the heavy" with Hollywood execs. Additionally, he wants marketing help when Wal-Mart launches its own movie download site later on. Wal-Mart's leverage certainly makes these Hollywood execs nervous.

Naturally this has studio execs spooked, and is irritating Steve Jobs, Grover reports. Jobs has apparently done some lobbying of his own around Hollywood, and is said to have personally called Wal-Mart honcho H. Lee Scott to express concerns. Wal-Mart also happens to sell an awful lot of iPods and Macs.

So are the movies going to have DMA protection on them also? Sure, it's not hard to get around, but if I'm buying it I don't want to have a bunch of problems making a back-up copy of it. I'm sure it won't be that hard, but Apple and the MPAA will make sure to include some sort of protection.

[byte of the Apple

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Zune Pics

Gizmodo has a picture of the upcoming Zune by Microsoft.  The Zune, said to be the iPod killer, looks fairly ugly to me.  There is not a lot of information on it, but as it comes available I'll have it posted.

More information was added at Gizmodo here, but the only thing that intrigues me is this:

FM support is fairly complete, with both an FM tuner and an FM transmitter so you can beam the music to your car. The FM transmitter also feeds up Song and Artist information so you can see what's playing from your car stereo (if it supports that feature, like in GM cars). Pretty neat.

While this is possible with an iPod, it's an add-on that you have to purchase separately.  I haven't done so yet, but I would like one for my car.  I'm sure Apple isn't far behind with their newest iPods being announced in December, and a handy feature like this would be nice to see.

Engadget also has information on the Zune, courtesy of iLounge, but really it says much of the same.  One feature that did stick out was listed here:

...but of course the Zune's killer app is WiFi. iLounge says that you'll be allowed to "loan" songs to other users for a day, which they can proceed to buy from the Zune music store, and you'll also be able to stream music to a WiFi-enabled Xbox 360, but we're not sure if a hard drive will be required to pull it off. At a purported $300 pricetag, we can't tell if the Zune will have what it takes to challenge the iPod -- iLounge, naturally, has their doubts -- but from the writeup it does seem like the Zune will have at least one heavily bandied feature: video.

'Loan' songs to friends?  Since everything digital is made of 1's and 0's this'll be cracked in no time.  You can 'loan' your song to your friend and they take it home, put it on their PC, crack it, put it back on the Zune, and away they go.  It'll only be a matter of time.  Look at the '360.  How long did it take people to crack the system?  No time at all.  How much effort did MS put into designing a system where people couldn't copy their friends games?  Too much for the amount of effort it took to crack their system.  Anyway, off topic a bit.

The technical details of the Zune will reveal whether or not it'll be worth switching over to iPod, or at the very least, going with both.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Blogger 2.0

Blogger seems to have an upgrade available.  I read it somewhere this evening and thought that I'd give it a try.  More on that in a second.

Google on Monday took the wraps off a new version of its Blogger service, which adds a number of new features in an attempt to catch up to its rivals. On the list of additions are categorizing posts with labels, controlling who can read a blog, and modifying the design without editing HTML.

While it's in beta, only a limited number of Blogger users are being offered the ability to migrate their blog to the new service, although those interested can create a new account on the beta. Google hasn't said when it plans to officially launch the new version, but notes that it will be tied to the company's Google Accounts system.

I had to sign up, which annoyed me because I already have a blogger account, why do I want two?  Anyway, after fiddling around with it for a while I came to the realization that it's not near complete and shouldn't have been released to the public yet.

There are neat features, like the drag and drop layout feature, but even that is far from perfect.  I have a feeling it won't be fully functional, to most users preference, even after the 'final' version is done.

Some more links:

Business Wire


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Imaging of Hydrogen Fuel Cells

While probably not that interesting to most people, this really intrigues me.

Thanks to a new and improved imaging instrument at the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), scientists now can conduct detailed surveillance on the comings and goings of water inside hydrogen fuel cells—a piece of intelligence key to making the technology practical for powering future automobiles.

With visualization powers 10 times better than those achieved previously, researchers can “see” water production and removal in fuel cells under a range of simulated operating conditions, from arctic cold to desert heat.

“This as-it-happens, inside view is essential because fuel-cell performance depends on a delicate balance,” explains NIST physicist Muhammad Arif, who leads the NIST team that developed the instrument. “Too little—or too much—water can shut it down.

”Better water management is fundamental to meeting targets for fuel cell performance, reliability and durability. Reaching these targets, in turn, is integral to efforts to replace petroleum with hydrogen to power cars and trucks by 2020—the goal of President Bush’s Hydrogen Fuel Initiative.

I've studied Fuel Cells in the past, and I think that they're going to be the only solution in the future.  Oil doesn't last forever, and electric vehicles will only get us so far.  The problem, as far as I can tell, is going to be having the cars make the hydrogen themselves.  The solution is quite easy in the mock up I designed, but the implementation is difficult.  The size of the cars would be massive.


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