The gauntlet has been thrown: HP’s webOS TouchPad

tp.jpgYesterday Earlier today in San Francisco, HP revealed a few new products; the new Veer, the Pre 3, and the new TouchPad — a direct competitor to the Apple iPad.

And the TouchPad is going to be a very cool device. My thoughts:

  • Same weight as an iPad — I was hoping for lighter
  • Cool inductive charging using the Touchstone technology
  • webOS – a very slick and intuitively designed operating system
  • True multi-tasking (iPad uses task switching or hot-switching — the app is suspended in background so no data processing occurs when an app is not in forfront)
  • Cool Touchstone technology pairs your HP smartphone with your TouchPad to share data, display presentations, etc (see below).

Continue reading “The gauntlet has been thrown: HP’s webOS TouchPad”

Woot! New Canon Rebel T3 cameras

T3.jpg

Last year around this time, Canon introduced the Rebel T2i (also known as the EOS 550D). An awesomely speced-out camera, as all the Rebel’s are, aimed squarely at the consumer Digital SLR and home video market – yes, the Rebel T2i was a true hybrid.

Well, today Canon reprised that tune with the announcement of the two new Rebels; the Canon Rebel T3 (EOS 1100D) and Canon Rebel T3i (EOS 600D).

The T3 (pictured above) looks like a great, modern entry-level DSLR with some powerful features. Here’s a few that caught my eye:

  • High Resolution 12.2MP CMOS Sensor
    A 12.2MP (APS-C sized) CMOS sensor and DiG!C 4 processor captures high resolution images boasting exceptional sharpness, clarity, tonal range and noise reduction.
  • EOS scene detection technology
    Enhance Photos Easily – When you want to go beyond Automatic Mode, Creative Auto allows you to change the photo finish to exactly how you want it.
  • Live View Function
    Live View allows you to compose your shots using the large LCD monitor. This function is now available in ALL shooting modes including Full Auto and Movie Mode.
  • 63 Zone Dual-Layer Metering System
    This Metering Sensor analyzes colour and luminosity information surrounding the chosen AF points to optimize exposure and image quality.

That’s just a few of the features on the inside. On the outside the T3 is a very stylish camera too — available in Black, Red, Brown and Metallic Grey — some colour’s you don’t find often on DSLRs.

For a full-up preview and more details, check out DPReview’s writeup.

T3i.jpg

Movin’ on up
But if you’re a more advanced photographer looking to graduate into a camera that offers you more creative options with more serious tech, check out the Canon Rebel T3i.

T3i_screen.jpgMore closely aligned with it’s predecessor, the Rebel T2i, the T3i breaks tradition with the previous Rebel models by adding this one cool feature; a large Vari-Angle LCD display screen – A First to the Rebel Series.

The 3.0” Vari-Angle LCD screen makes it easy to shoot from very high or low-angles. Features a 3:2 wide aspect ratio, and an incredible 1,040,000 pixel resolution, allowing for precise focus checking.

Flash!
Another neat feature when you’re using multi-flash lighting layouts is the ability to remotely trigger and control the power of external flash guns — the feature is called ‘Integrated Wireless flash controller with multi-flash support’.

Full HD 1080
And one feature that reinforces the hybrid status of the Rebel line is the ability to record full HD resolution movies at 1920 x 1080p.

Consumer or Prosumer?
Both cameras are part of Canon’s consumer line. Yet the line between consumer and professional equipment is getting quite blurred — especially with the introduction of powerful equipment like this. I can’t wait to get my hands on them and give them a workout :smileyhappy:
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Commerce in a post-Wikileaks economy

cc.jpgYou’ve likely seen the news that Visa, Mastercard, PayPal and others are under distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks by folk who feel that WikiLeaks headman Julian Assange is being persecuted for distributing sensitive information he’d received from others.

Setting aside that entire espionage, sex-by-surprise, persecution, journalism and right to information thing, what’s left is the hacking attempts — coordinated attacks on key points of the infrastructure of commerce. This, as we are in the midst of the holiday buying season. A juicy target indeed.

What’s happening
The coordinated attacks seem to be having some small effect on commerce. According to one report:

MasterCard, calling the attack “a concentrated effort to flood our corporate website with traffic and slow access,” said all its services had been restored and that account data was not at risk.

But it said the attack, mounted by hackers using simple tools posted on the Web, had extended beyond its website to payment processing technology, leaving some customers unable to make online payments using MasterCard software.

How it’s done
By using freely available tools to target and coordinate these attacks, *anyone* can join in the action. Find the right IRC server, download the tools, and turn them on — poof, you’re a ‘hack-tivist’ and  your computer (or computer network) is now part of a botnet:

The weapon of choice is a piece of software named a “Low Orbit Ion Cannon” (LOIC) which was developed to help Internet security experts test the vulnerability of a website to these assaults, the distributed denial of service attacks. The LOIC is readily and easily available for download on the Internet.

The LOIC can be controlled centrally by an administrator in an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel, a type of computer chat room; it can seize control of a network of computers and use their combined power in a DDoS attack. The attack is aimed at the target website and when the LOICs are activated they flood the website with a deluge of data requests at the same time.

The DDoS attack prevents the overloaded server from responding to legitimate requests and slows down the website to a crawl — or shuts it down totally. The attacks are coordinated in the IRC channel, and on Thursday, around 3,000 people were active on the Operation: Payback channel at one stage.

One side effect of all this is that the participants are also testing the limits of the commerce infrastructure for hackers and others who’s intentions may not be so noble as preventing a perceived injustice.

The impact
So what does this mean for retailers and customers in the next few weeks and months, and what does this mean for the future of online commerce?

  • Slow or blocked online commerce — if the servers are clogged, your online merchant may not be able to process your credit card or PayPal transaction, and can’t complete the sale
  • Increased attacks — depending on how this spate of incidents turns out, copy-cats will use the same techniques against new targets, or evolve their own methods and tools
  • Increased unease — new online consumers will have another reason to *not* shop online, preferring to continue shopping at brick and mortar shops as they’ll feel more secure
  • Increased security — essential to recover control of the commerce infrastructure and to demonstrate to consumers that online commerce works and is safe
  • Increased cost — better and tighter security isn’t free, so this ‘cost of doing business’ will be factored into the retail process, resulting in higher prices

The Genie is out of the bottle
Yep, the tools and techniques have been around for a while. It’s taken one event like this to catalyze a motivated and unconnected group of people around the world to participate in coordinated action. We will see more of this, maybe aimed at political institutions, national governments, or launched by environmental activists. Welcome to a new reality.

Emotionally gaming your Twitter stream?

I’ve been watching the development of Littlecosm, a new Twitter client with excitement as it’s one of a new breed that is applying sentiment analysis to derive a result — in this case your disposition in a game.

Emotion plays a huge part in Littlecosm.  Littlecosm analyzes your tweets and figures out if you’re in a good or bad mood.  If your tweets are mostly “bad”, your character will turn out “bad” (you can see some “bad” characters in the screens above) – and vice versa.

But wait, there’s more!

Littlecosm isn’t only about disposition or sentiment, it’s also about memories:

Every memory you collect in Littlecosm has nostalgic value.  I think about how much fun I have talking to my friends about retro games, 80s music, tv shows from bygone eras, hypercolor tshirts… and the strange sense of discovery I feel when we talk about these things that we have already experienced.  That is the exact feeling I want to get from players of Littlecosm.
“Good” characters will be able to find good memories more easily.  “Bad” characters will be able to find bad memories more easily.  Time of day also affects the type of memories you can collect.  Players who want to get the full collection will need to trade with each other.
When?
Looks like the game is on track to launch in January, 2011.  But if you can’t wait, there’s an opportunity to get involved with the project:
Want a seat in the last spaceship leaving earth? Donate to Littlecosm on the fundraising page below and you’ll get game tester access AND be written into the earth ship’s manifest as Crew, Pilot or Admiral!

All About Littlecosm

Littlecosm is launching in January 2011.
I haven’t given much information about the game mechanics so far, so here goes.
What you need to know before reading this: the world of Littlecosm is shaped by your emotions.
Also, Littlecosm is played in real-time.  When it’s day in your world, it’s day in Littlecosm.  When it’s night, it’s night.
About the Twitter Client
On every screen is a Twitter client showing your latest tweets.  One of my first goals was to create a Twitter client that I would actually use, so I experimented with various interfaces.  I had the panel sliding out, I had the tweets in speech bubbles – none of it felt “right”.  In the end, I wanted my tweets on display at all times.  So I could leave Littlecosm in the background and come back to it at any time and see new tweets (it updates seamlessly without reloading the page).  That’s what I’ve built and I think it works rather well 🙂
Here’s a short (soundless) video of the game running – you can see the Twitter client at the bottom of the screen:
A lot of people have been asking me what type of “game” Littlecosm actually is…
About the Game
Emotion plays a huge part in Littlecosm.  Littlecosm analyzes your tweets and figures out if you’re in a good or bad mood.  If your tweets are mostly “bad”, your character will turn out “bad” (you can see some “bad” characters in the screens above) – and vice versa.
The first, most obvious game mechanic was to make a game where good players could fight bad players.  This would have an undoubtedly viral effect (@player_x just killed you! fight back?) but I just wasn’t comfortable with the concept.  I didn’t want to make a fighting game.
So I went back to the drawing board.  The goal was to make a game that resonates with people like me – people who actually don’t play a lot of social games, because they are spammy or because they are based on themes that we don’t particularly get excited about (growing plants on a virtual farm, for example).
My conclusions can be summed up in this great scene from Season 1 of Mad Men.
Along with being a game powered by emotions, I wanted Littlecosm to be emotive.  I turned to nostalgia.  This is the intro story to the game:

A ship carrying a great treasure has crashed on a planet far away. The treasure: every object, thought and memory that mankind ever created during its short history. The little inhabitants of the planet curiously collect things from the crashed ship and try to learn as much as they can about this place called “earth” and what has happened to it.

Littlecosm is a game about collecting memories.
Below is the map screen.  You can see the crashed ship half on land and half in the sea.
Every memory you collect in Littlecosm has nostalgic value.  I think about how much fun I have talking to my friends about retro games, 80s music, tv shows from bygone eras, hypercolor tshirts… and the strange sense of discovery I feel when we talk about these things that we have already experienced.  That is the exact feeling I want to get from players of Littlecosm.
“Good” characters will be able to find good memories more easily.  “Bad” characters will be able to find bad memories more easily.  Time of day also affects the type of memories you can collect.  Players who want to get the full collection will need to trade with each other.

Of course, there’s a video of the game in action — a silent movie — seems appropriate.

I read the news today (oh boy)

If you’ve been without power and not heard the news today, The Beatles music library is now available from Apple’s iTunes store for download.

Joy.

No, I’m not overly enthused by this, as I already own digital copies of all the Beatles music that I’m interested in. I bought them on CD years ago, and have since copied the music to my various .mp3 player devices. This is legal in Canada.

I’m not sure what additional value there is in then in the music being available through iTunes, other than to make it easier to buy songs or albums conveniently if you suddenly realize you’ve got the Blue and Red albums, but are missing the White.

Meh. It’s news, but it’s not the big news it’s being made out to be.

The Steve Jobs Way

Tomorrow Apple will likely announce a new look and feel for the MacBook Air and an update (perhaps significant) to their flagship operating system, OSX. And once again, the reality distortion field surrounding Steve Jobs’ presentations will be set to full power. It’ll be an interesting day, I’m sure. Especially since Steve ripped into Google, RIM,  and smaller-sized tablet computers in an earnings call earlier this week.

Coincidentally, last week Bloomberg released a good, detailed episode of Game Changers focusing on Steve Jobs.

Through interviews with friends, former colleagues and business associates, GAME CHANGERS reveals the many layers of the intensely private Steve Jobs – his style of leadership, management and creative process. Interviews include Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, former Apple CEO John Scully, journalist turned Venture Capitalist Michael Moritz, Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, former Apple “Mac Evangelist” and Silicon Valley Entrepreneur, Guy Kawasaki and Robert X.Cringely, technology journalist and former Apple employee.

Also coincidentally, former “Mac Evangelist” Guy Kawasaki re-released (for free) his 20yr. old insight into a particular period in Apple’s life titled The Macintosh Way.

The Macintosh Way is the first book that Guy Kawasaki wrote. Guy recently got the rights back for the book, and he’s offering it free to people who follow @GuyKawasaki on Twitter.

So, it seems that this is a good week to brush up on your Steve Jobs / Apple Knowledge — for free! Now just need to dust off my copy of iWoz and my week will be complete.

World’s workforce suffers huge productivity loss due to Google

Earlier today Google decided to see how much it could influence the economy and productivity of first and second world nations by unleashing a viral online attack against Internet-connected office workers world wide. Ostensibly promoted as a 30 year anniversary of a classic video game, Google is, in reality, bringing workplace activity to a crawl.

In Canada, on the Friday before a national holiday long weekend, the impact was realized when innocent office minions using Google’s website to search for information from the previously-trust-worthy search engine, were instead cleverly diverted  by an insidious interactive animation based on the ’80s arcade-game classic Pac Man.

According to a report by the Toronto Star:

Created to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the creation of the video game icon, the interactive doodle actually features all 256 levels from the original monster game hit.

Just how much productivity will be lost by employers whose workers will get waylaid by the new distraction on its homepage while doing a search? Wendy Rozeluk, a Google Canada spokesperson laughed and responded: “I have no idea.”

At workplaces, universities, cube-farms, and computer science labs around the world, the Pac Man theme could be heard anytime someone tried to look something up using the popular search engine.

“This is getting annoying…” said one user, declining to give her name for fear of retribution.

But it looks like a reprieve from the Pac Man theme is close at hand. Google will remove the Pac Man Doodle mid-day on Sunday. Until then, perhaps keep the sound turned down on your system when ‘searching’.