It’s been a couple months since I’ve even been on wordpress (had more pressing matters than words – if you’ll excuse the phrase). However this news story came out of the New York Times and I found it rather exciting:

Now the title may be a stretch yet, but scientists were able to extract protein material from the preserved bone marrow of a T-Rex.

Much cooler is that they were able to test the sequences they’d retrieved for genetic similarities with current organisms. 3 of the 7 sequences reacted to chicken in a way that really supports the contested idea that dinosaurs eventually evolved into birds. Strong genetic correlations with dinosaurs and birds is a great find.

The best thing about this procedure is there may be some other fossils where protein can be extracted… I can see a bunch of paleontologists reading the initial reports and, in shock, spitting their coffee all over their monitors as they rush to go examine some of their fossils.

But the thought that DNA and protein can survive so long is a a great turn of events. This may mean that Jurassic Park may be possible in the future. This is great for everybody. Ok, well maybe it’s not great for creationists. =P

At the very least, this answers the immortal question of, “What would a T-Rex taste like?” Like Chicken!

Mike

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Evidently “some people say” that the Nintendo DS leads to child molestation… Ha!

You can see their actual report here.

Essentially their story goes like this:

– You are driving your child around and he or she is playing their DS. Fair enough.

– A pedophile or child molestor is driving on the highway near enough to you to glance over and scan your car for children. He sees your child playing a Nintendo DS. (improbable, but ok..)

– The child molester then whips out his DS and, while driving, begins pictochat to see if he can find your kid on pictochat. (Using a DS while driving would be a very difficult thing to do, especially pictochat which tends to require both hands – one to hold it and one to use the stylus).

– Your kid isn’t playing a game but is instead sitting already in pictochat mode for some unexplicable reason and just waiting for some random shmuck (who’s steering with his mental willpower at this point) to message him/her.

– When your kid gets the message he/she accepts the messages and the child molester uses his Jedi mind tricks to get the kid to tell him the address. “You want to tell me where you live.” (Again, the odds of a kid giving up his address so readily is very improbable. And a kid gullible enough to do it wouldn’t even know the address.)

– The pedophile writes down the address (balancing the DS and paper pad while writing and driving the car), seeks it out, breaks in and rapes the kid.

Uh huh, great job Fox.

This would be a great case study in sensationalist garbage.

The kid already has to be on pictochat (on the freeway which is very unlikely) and waiting for someone to message him for this to work. Most kids play games on the DS, it’s not really seen as a communication device among children except for friends and neighbors. Also it’s not like they’d have the sense to be quiet about it if they’re dumb enough to give away their address. They wouldn’t be at the age where they’d keep secrets from mommy because some random stranger said to. Plus, pedos are far more likely to reach kids online through IMs…

Just to address a comment in the report:

Granted they knew it was me sending the messages but they had only met me minutes before.

Really sherlock? I’m sure the fact that you were invited into their home, trusted by the mother, and already AT their address helped that. Oh and the fact that you’re a well known news figure and a trusted authority source was another factor playing into that. With the questions he was asking they probably thought it was a demonstration or test of the communication capabilities, not a way to test child readiness to divulge their address to strangers.

And wow, the DS can send a message more than 300′ away while they advertise only 65 feet, those must be evil deceptive bastards! Of course it’s probably fair to assume that the 65 feet is the range for the worst conditions and it’s safer to underpromise on this sort of thing, but how dare they allow such a long distance for gameplaying? I think that’s actually awesome and opens great possibility for multiplayer (what everyone really uses the wifi for).

Beyond that there’s the usual shallow propaganda techniques Fox is known for. It’s remarkable the kind of stories they will run know… are they just low on ideas?

Mike

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Can the RIAA even read?

February 9, 2007

Many of you probably already know about Steve Job’s essay on music and DRM copy protection that he published on Apple’s website earlier this week (if not you can find it readily here). He talks at length about DRM and copy protection, and how it’s not interoperable and other issues as well as the reasons behind why it’s done. He also recommends that the companies get rid of DRM as it would be better for the consumers and everyone involved. Here are some excerpts:

“The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely. Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.”

“Why would the big four music companies agree to let Apple and others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect it? The simplest answer is because DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy. Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music. That’s right! No DRM system was ever developed for the CD, so all the music distributed on CDs can be easily uploaded to the Internet, then (illegally) downloaded and played on any computer or player.”

“Convincing them to license their music to Apple and others DRM-free will create a truly interoperable music marketplace. Apple will embrace this wholeheartedly.”

Seems obvious and straightforward enough, right? If you read the entire article he makes some very good points about how futile copy protection is (with numbers to support it) and how sharing the DRM protection among other major companies would be a terrible idea that would be problematic and ruin the whole point.

Now this is the kicker. Here is the RIAA’s response to Job’s article:

“Apple’s offer to license Fairplay to other technology companies is a welcome breakthrough and would be a real victory for fans, artists and labels. There have been many services seeking a license to the Apple DRM. This would enable the interoperability that we have been urging for a very long time.”

Did they miss the premise of the entire article? Did they miss the arguments and comments that licensing fairplay would be a complete and disastrous mess? It appears so.

Even if they had overlooked the bulk of article calling for all DRM protection to be removed, there is nothing Jobs said that would suggest Apple plans to license their DRM – quite the opposite in fact. Jobs lists it as an option and then immediately discusses why it’s not a viable one.

I am becoming increasingly convinced that the RIAA is living in some alternate closet dimension of their own creation. It seems that working for the RIAA requires a degree of self-delusion that could put even spin doctors like Bill O’Reilly to shame…

Mike

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As someone with a science background I tend to be quite skeptical of most claims, but this article is nevertheless unnerving.

Global warming: the final verdict

A study by the world’s leading experts says global warming will happen faster and be more devastating than previously thought

Robin McKie, science editor
Sunday January 21, 2007
The Observer

Global warming is destined to have a far more destructive and earlier impact than previously estimated, the most authoritative report yet produced on climate change will warn next week.A draft copy of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, obtained by The Observer, shows the frequency of devastating storms – like the ones that battered Britain last week – will increase dramatically. Sea levels will rise over the century by around half a metre; snow will disappear from all but the highest mountains; deserts will spread; oceans become acidic, leading to the destruction of coral reefs and atolls; and deadly heatwaves will become more prevalent.

The impact will be catastrophic, forcing hundreds of millions of people to flee their devastated homelands, particularly in tropical, low-lying areas, while creating waves of immigrants whose movements will strain the economies of even the most affluent countries.

‘The really chilling thing about the IPCC report is that it is the work of several thousand climate experts who have widely differing views about how greenhouse gases will have their effect. Some think they will have a major impact, others a lesser role. Each paragraph of this report was therefore argued over and scrutinised intensely. Only points that were considered indisputable survived this process. This is a very conservative document – that’s what makes it so scary,’ said one senior UK climate expert.

Climate concerns are likely to dominate international politics next month. President Bush is to make the issue a part of his state of the union address on Wednesday while the IPCC report’s final version is set for release on 2 February in a set of global news conferences.

Although the final wording of the report is still being worked on, the draft indicates that scientists now have their clearest idea so far about future climate changes, as well as about recent events. It points out that:

· 12 of the past 13 years were the warmest since records began;

· ocean temperatures have risen at least three kilometres beneath the surface;

· glaciers, snow cover and permafrost have decreased in both hemispheres;

· sea levels are rising at the rate of almost 2mm a year;

· cold days, nights and frost have become rarer while hot days, hot nights and heatwaves have become more frequent.

And the cause is clear, say the authors: ‘It is very likely that [man-made] greenhouse gas increases caused most of the average temperature increases since the mid-20th century,’ says the report.

To date, these changes have caused global temperatures to rise by 0.6C. The most likely outcome of continuing rises in greenhouses gases will be to make the planet a further 3C hotter by 2100, although the report acknowledges that rises of 4.5C to 5C could be experienced. Ice-cap melting, rises in sea levels, flooding, cyclones and storms will be an inevitable consequence.

Past assessments by the IPCC have suggested such scenarios are ‘likely’ to occur this century. Its latest report, based on sophisticated computer models and more detailed observations of snow cover loss, sea level rises and the spread of deserts, is far more robust and confident. Now the panel writes of changes as ‘extremely likely’ and ‘almost certain’.

And in a specific rebuff to sceptics who still argue natural variation in the Sun’s output is the real cause of climate change, the panel says mankind’s industrial emissions have had five times more effect on the climate than any fluctuations in solar radiation. We are the masters of our own destruction, in short.

There is some comfort, however. The panel believes the Gulf Stream will go on bathing Britain with its warm waters for the next 100 years. Some researchers have said it could be disrupted by cold waters pouring off Greenland’s melting ice sheets, plunging western Europe into a mini Ice Age, as depicted in the disaster film The Day After Tomorrow.

The report reflects climate scientists’ growing fears that Earth is nearing the stage when carbon dioxide rises will bring irreversible change to the planet. ‘We are seeing vast sections of Antarctic ice disappearing at an alarming rate,’ said climate expert Chris Rapley, in a phone call to The Observer from the Antarctic Peninsula last week. ‘That means we can expect to see sea levels rise at about a metre a century from now on – and that will have devastating consequences.’

However, there is still hope, said Peter Cox of Exeter University. ‘We are like alcoholics who have got as far as admitting there is a problem. It is a start. Now we have got to start drying out – which means reducing our carbon output.’

If it’s indeed true that this report was compiled by a wide array of scientists with all manner of different viewpoints, then this could be the most unbiased and accurate account of the possible dangers. It’s certainly worth considering. So far there seems to be a mountain of evidence in support global warming. The arguments against it seem soundly refuted from what I’ve seen and read, and the Michael Crichton novel (which probably deserves its own blog) has similarly been debunked as the fiction it is.

At the risk of sounding like an alarmist I’m starting to think we really should do something about this before it winds up being too late. It is better safe than sorry, and it definitely would be nice to clean up our act a bit and get some fresher air.

– Mike

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Well it seems my predictions were coming true… at least until Steve Jobs stopped early.

As I thought they went into more details about the iTV and they announced the iPhone! They also utilized that multi-touch functionality of theirs in a creative and useful way (for the phone). It seems to work very similarly to that video I linked to in my previous blog, in particular in how it handles pictures and how they can be sized.

Also as I predicted the phone included some unexpected features… It is fully touch screen compatible and comes with a number of sensors (including a proximity sensor) as well as means to prevent accidental touches. It makes calling and conference calling incredibly easy (you can touch the screen to add people to a call), and so on. This phone is going to drastically raise the bar and this is going to provide a solid kick in the ass to the other phone companies who have been very lackluster in terms of innovation (i.e. they haven’t innovated archaic things such as voicemail at all). And I don’t mean innovation as in adding new things, I mean innovation as in revamping and improving upon how things are already done.

Not to mention this phone carries the undeniably powerful iPod name, it comes with a version of OS X (which is an interesting way to get the OS in more people’s hands – often those who experiment with OS X switch shortly after), full fledged internet capabilities, comprehensive video and music capabilities, 2 megapixel camera and so on. This thing will make an impact for certain.

I’m even considering going back to Cingular even though we did not part on the best of terms (they gave me a whole bunch of BS fees when I switched to Verizon).

However that’s where the conference ended. Jobs and Co. brought John Mayor on stage for a few songs, concluded it simply, packed up and left. There wasn’t even the trademark “oh and one more thing…” this time around.

So which of my predictions didn’t see light?

– No new Leopard info

– No iSight or new monitor

– No iWork or iLife announcements

– No Tablet (though the multi touch in the iPod suggests we will see one)

We did however learn that Apple Computer Inc. was changing and shortening its name to Apple Inc. I suppose they’re dropping the “computer” to be more in line with their ever expanding electronic products. They are changing their horizons and taking on more avenues of the electronic market… They even showed a comparison graph which showed video game console sales. Is Apple planning on getting into the video game console market at some point? I actually hope not.

With all the crazy new stuff they’re coming out with, I hope they keep their emphasis and specialty on building great computers and fine tuning their operating system.

Peace,

Mike

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Well Apple has rolled out the big hype guns on its main page in preparation for Macworld coming up next week. I’m sure some people may dismiss the bold teaser as fuel for the hype machine, but the last time Apple did this was in 2002, where they went on to announce the flat paneled iMac, the 14″ iBook, iPhoto, OS X as standard boot, and more. Essentially they roll out the Macworld hype carpet only when they have some major changes to announce and I expect Apple is unveiling the big guns this time around because they really plan to deliver.

So here are some of the things I’m expecting to see, or at least hoping to see.

Leapord: Arguably the star of the show will be the full reveal of Apple’s new, updated version of OS X. Last September we were privy to many of its upcoming features but we were told there was still much that was top secret (for fear of Microsoft imitating them I believe was the stated reason). We can expect many of the same updates/software to be shown again here, perhaps updated or improved a bit. Spaces, time machine, the updated iCal, Address Book, and so on all look to be included and worthwhile. I’m particularly fond of the iChat modifcations, including the ability on video chat to show pictures and video live. I think iTunes 7 is indicative of some of the things we can expect from Leopard both visibly and functionally.

Most applications on Leopard have undergone a graphical overhaul, with Finder being a notable exception… Indeed Finder still carries that brushed metal look, and for this reason I expect that we will be given an updated Finder. I’m hoping it has tabbed browsing, and I hope they allow a form of Quick Look for the Finder to browse through picture files. The one thing I still like about Windows is that you can click on a picture and browse all of them in the folder by pressing the left or right keys, if Apple including something to that effect it would be fantastic.

Macbook Tablet: I may be alone in the blogging world on this, but I do think we will see a Tablet mac computer announced, if not demonstrated, at this upcoming Macworld. However, rather than just announcing a tablet computer I believe Apple will take steps to innovate the tablet computers and redefine what they’re capable of. Back in 2002 Steve Jobs dismissed the (then brand new) tablet concept as being the same thing except you could draw on it. With some of the touch screen patents and properties owned by Apple, I expect a tablet Mac to do things like this multi-touch demonstration (Apple evidently owns this technology) which will immediately set it apart.

iPod: May we finally be getting that touch screen video ipod? Might we see a model where the entire side is a video screen that you touch? I don’t know but that would be excellent. If nothing else I imagine there will be some iPod updates which include longer battery life, brighter screen, more interface improvements, and so on. Since there were some pretty substantial upgrades in September I’m not sure how much new we’ll be seeing on this front. I really don’t think the iPod shuffle can stand to get smaller without issues of losing it easily.

iLife: I think iLife 07 will be announced and demonstrated. I imagine iMovie will get some cool new features, making it an even more potent video editing software. iPhoto is liable to get a couple added features, along with Garage Band… the latter may get some new loops and interface changes making it even more convenient and easy to use. While many of the changes to these programs may be minimal, they will be welcome frosting on the leopard cake.

iWork:

iWork 07 ought to make an appearance with some updates as well. The main bonus to this version seems to be the alleged inclusion of a spreadsheet program similar to Microsoft’s Excel but naturally easier and more intuitive to learn and use. While still a rumor, there is some pretty solid backing to this. For one spreadsheets are a good thing to have and it would be a major selling point – especially to those who’d like one less reason to have the MS Office Suit

ThinkSecret has released this screen capture of the iWork Spreadsheet program:

The screen of iWork's new feature.

Now it could be fake, but Think Secret tends to be quite a reliable source. In any event I look forward to seeing what they do with iWork. Keynote is certainly superior to powerpoint, Pages is debatably better than Word, and I’d hope the iWork Spreadsheet winds up being more potent or useful than Excel.

Monitor with iSight camera built in: With the iSight apparently discontinued, there will be a lot of Mac Mini and Mac Pro users without the ability to engage in video chat (missing out on those new iChat features) or take pictures with photobooth… To deal with this I think future Apple monitors will have the iSight included as an incentive to choose those monitors over a cheaper Dell or Acer equivalent.

As for the singular iSight camera, I hope they are improved and reinstated. There were advantages of the iSight as a separate entity, such as the ability to maneuver the camera around and point it at different people and differnet directions, also the cord allowed some small measure portability… An iSight trapped in a monitor loses the maneuvarability and options afforded by the stand alone iSight, and a camera at the top of a large monitor may prove troublesome as it’s above the head of the user or the monitor would have to be otherwise adjusted.

iTV: This was quite the surprise last September, and I think we will see much more of it next week at Macworld. However I don’t really suspect it will be released until later in the spring, maybe in February.

Apple Phone: Saving the biggest (and most “controversial?”) for last, the oft rumored iPod phone. This seems to have been the major topic of bloggers and speculative articles on websites such as digg or cnet. There are so many rumors and speculation I don’t know where to begin. Will it have two batteries? Will it be touch screen? Will it interface with the computer easily? Will it play iPod games? Can it connect to the internet? Can you do run video chat on it? etc.

Now I can’t say for certain whether we will see this or not, but I am leaning towards a “big revealing” of a phone that will impress us with features nobody expected. I may be labeled an apple fanboy for this (and probably will be anyway for this whole article) but I think the Apple phone could be a big deal, particularly if the price point is indeed a mere $250 (which is significantly cheaper than many well featured phones)… The prospect of a phone that can play music/videos only partly appeals to me, but the notion of a phone that can interface easily with a computer (and, in the case of a Mac, sync with Address book, iCal, and others) and run a video chat conversation would be awesome. Hell, I’d buy a video cell phone just for that.

In any case, I’m looking forward to the news and announcements of Macworld 07 and I don’t think I’ll be disappointed. If Jobs and Co are true to form there will be something coming out of left field, some crazy new idea or technology. At the last bit Steve Jobs will do his, “oh and there’s one more thing” and go on to announce something interesting. More than anything though I am a bit curious to see what those top secret Leopard features will turn out to be…

-Mike

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