Monday, May 7, 2007

Google Could Change the Way We Live

If there's ever a time you need to search for something on the 'net, chances are you Google it. The website with the ever so simple homepage: a search box and a few options. Who would possibly think that the company that owns that humble stop on the web could change the way we live? And how could it happen? Well, it's already started, my friends.

To start with, Google owns this blog site, which is tied to my Gmail account, which is tied to my Google Earth, my YouTube account, and probably more. And Google can remember my search queries for who knows how long. Google dominates in the online advertising market, using the same servers that you use to search for content on the web. And now Google wants to get into other media forms, namely TV and broadcast Radio. If IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) ever takes off, Google could deliver consumer-specific content to right your Internet-connected TV. For example, if your hobby was classic muscle cars, Google could deliver ads for car care products, and maybe even user-created commercials, thanks to YouTube (also owned by Google).

Imagine this: a future where cars have RFID chips in them, identifying you, as the driver. You drive by an electronic billboard with an RFID receiver, which now knows that you, a muscle car fan, are near. The billboard changes its ad to Turtle Wax, because it's server knows your hobby. Then, your radio changes to commercials, but they are customized for you. This commercial is created by the owner of a fully restored classic, your favorite model in your favorite color. Thanks to the Internets cheap content creation, the owner of your dream car can now advertise the sale of his car. These services were all provided by Google, or some similar entity with alot of information at it's hands. This is information that you and other users on the Internet have willingly given up to these information powerhouses.

I'm not being paranoid about all this information being used to make money (its already happening). I'm just enlighting you, the reader, on a possiblity of what the future might behold. This is not necessarily bad, unless you don't like the idea of corporate entities knowing everything about you, and possibly where you are at any time. If you hate advertising now, just wait. And if you don't mind advertising, it probably won't be long befure Google rolls out TV ads.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Texans Beware: The Eyes of a Stranger are Upon You.

Don't Mess With Texas. It's a very well known slogan not only within Texas, but to outsiders as well. It is an ad campaign used by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to remind motorists not to litter on Texas roads. This campaign has been around for years, and for the most, part, people have obeyed the law. If someone decides to say, toss a cigarette but out the window, they can get a $500 fine if an officer of the law catches someone littering. What most people don't know, is that litterbugs can be reported to the Don't Mess With Texas website.

My friend's father received a letter in the mail from TxDOT last week, stating that someone saw him throwing out his cigarette butt (his car doesn't come with an ashtray), and it listed 'important' facts about littering in Texas. The letter details his license plate, make, model, the location, and date and time of the offense. In other words, while driving, somebody took their time (and the safety of others) to write down the license plate, make, model, location, and time. While they were driving. Obviously the environment meant more to him than the safety of fellow motorists tossing out their butts.
While obviously we prefer a cleaner, litter free world, it shouldn't have to involve a citizen writing down information while driving. We should let our current police officers do their job and enforce the laws. Whats more, it is not doubtful that the Sate of Texas has on record the fact that someone has reported my friend's father littering. Now, if an officer were to catch him, he'd be more likely to receive a citation, as opposed to a friendly warning. A cigarette butt on the road shouldn't be worth $500, unless the litterer has been caught littering before. Whats more, modern cars should come with ashtrays so drivers wouldn't have to toss their butts in the first place.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Samsung Releases First Hybrid HDD

Earlier today, Samsung announced the release of the first hybrid HDD's geared to work with and optimize performance of Windows Vista. Designed for use in laptops, these hard drives (with capacities of 80gb, 120gb, and 160gb) use onboard flash memory of upto 256mb to store frequently accessed files on. This tecnique eliminates the need to spin up the platters to retreive data, saving power on portable computers.

The onboard flash memory, more specificly called OneNAND Flash cache will also speed up boot time and resume time by storing the frequently used file on this cache. According to Samsung, this is expected to reduce boot time by 50 percent. It may be possible, based on how quickly the storage industry advances, that this cache will only grow in capacity as time goes on. I'm willing to bet that, in the near future, these drives will offer at least 1 gigabyte of cache, if not more.

Samsung is not the only company producing these drives of course. Hitatchi, Seagate, and Toshiba have joined forces with Samsung to develop and manufacture hybrid hard disks, calling thier industry group the Hybrid Storage Alliance. It is obvious that these drives are aimed at Windows Vista, since no other Windows can take advantage of this new technology.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Vista Already Cracked!

Less than two months after Vista's release to the public, the pirating group known as Pantheon has produced a crack that actually takes advantage of OEM licensing that's embedded in the OS. These "royalty OEM" licenses, which normally come preinstalled on OEM machines like HP, don't have to 'phone home' to Microsoft to activate, so that end users wouldn't be inconvienienced.

How this works is simple: major OEM manufacturers like ASUS, Lenovo, Toshiba, HP, and have a specific version of Vista (which undoubtedly, is available on p2p networks and the like) installed on thier machines. This version of Vista will only work on systems with a specifc hardware driver that corresponds to a specic OEM key already embedded in the OS. All a potential pirate would have to do is emulate that driver and viola! The pirate doesn't even need an OEM machine, he can build his own, download the crack, and emulate a specific driver to trick Vista. Now the user now has a 'legitimate' copy of Vista running and online, and Microsoft has no idea.

The funny thing is, Vista was supposed to be bullet-proof (and so was XP for the matter) Because supposedly, users were to be forced to activate online, there would be no way to crack it. However, since some OEM machines don't have to activate online, there is a weakness. Wheter Microsoft will do anything about this is unknown. There is probably a good number of machines, both legit and bootleg that are running this version of Vista. The only thing that could possibly be done is to shutout machines tied to the serials that apply to this version, but what would happen to legitimate customers of ASUS, Lenovo, HP and others with the same serials?

Why the Wii is the Future of Gaming

My friend, Jeff bought a Wii in January, and we've been hooked since. Even his parents are addicted. We're not even into video games. When he first got it, I thought "man, what a stupid looking way to play games." Now, I can't believe Sony and Microsoft hadn't thought of this years ago! The first game we played was Wii Sports, especially the bowling. I couldn't believe how realistic it was. Depending on just how I swung my arm, the ball went a certain way, at a certain speed. It was as if I was actually bowling! And don't even get me started on the driving games, where you simply hold the wiimote sideways like a steering wheel.

Two weeks ago, Jeff bought Splinter Cell. I'm not gonna lie, that game is alot of fun on the Wii. Like I said before, I'm not a big gamer at all. I don't even own a game console, and the only computer games I own are The Sims 2 and SimCity 4. And of course Roller Coaster Tycoon. To play Splinter Cell, you just use the joystick on the numchuck to navigate, and you use the Wiimote to aim your camera or weapons. You use the B (Wiimote trigger) button the shoot, and C (numchuck trigger) to climb. Jumping is easy--all you have to do is flick the numchuck up quickly. The controls are so intuitive, even a non-gamer like myself can play Splinter Cell.

Game controls like the Wii's are definately the wave of the future. You have to actually be involved in the games. And sports games on the Wii require you to throw, run, whatever is required. It's nearly impossible to trick the Wiimote into thinking that you're running. And shoot em' ups are alot more intuitive--and fun--to play than ever before. Gone will be the days of kids sitting on the couch just staring at the screen, moving two litle joysticks. In the Future, gamers will actually be apart of the game. Just watch and see.

Monday, March 5, 2007

The Death of Barcodes?

Barcodes have been around since at least the 1940's, but were not commercially succsessful until the 1980's. Bar codes are used for many things including scanning groceries, tracking inventory, shipping information on a box, on many ID tags, and even on vehicles so the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) can be scanned. Barcodes have been a very succsessful technology in part because they eliminate human error in data entry. Thier only pitfall, is that they have to be scanned with optics or cameras, which means they can't be obstructed at all.

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags, not unlike the security tags on expensuve merchendise, are becoming a common replacement of barcodes. They eliminate the requirement of having to be "seen" by scanners. By using radio waves, they are powered up, and send out data telling a computer what the product or item is, and other information. It is now possible to scan an entire pallet of products at once instead of scanning every box. This obviously saves time as well as money. They can be used in grocery stores, for example, to scan an entire grocery cart at once instead of manually scanning each item. In the near future, your fridge could keep track of what's inside it, and could let you know if your're running low. Your future fridge might even be able to order your food for you; all you have to do is eat, and it will place an order for more milk or apples.

RFID can go far beyond the refrigerator, of course. Imagine your car having it embedded on the license plate. Now, instead of reading your tag, a police officer can scan it while he is still driving. This eliminates the distraction of reading it and typing it in a computer. Your car itself may have one too, as a means of keeping inventory at a dealorship. Your clothes may have them too, more or less for the same reasons.

Surely this RFID madness will raise privacy conerns. Many people don't want authorities to know thier exact location via the RFID on thier car or t-shirt. Advertisers would be able to take advantage of this too, barraging you with personal ads wherever you go. And information could be stolen off ID's with these tags. Already, the fedral government is considering on putting RFID on passports, and many privacy advocates are concerned. Obviosly RFID has its uses, but it also has its own pitfalls. Only time will tell if RFID will pe as prevailtant as to be on everything we own, allowing us to be tracked. One thing is for sure, however. RFID will be used in the retail and shipping industry as a means to keep track if inventory. Soon enough you will be able to save time at the checkout by having everything in your cart simultaniously scanned.

Keychain Breathalizer, Little Miracle of Technology

Last week, my friend Jeff and I purchased a digital keychain breathalizer. For a mere $24, we were able to pick one up at the local Tom Thumb grocery store. We thought that this was just a gimmick; for just $24, we could buy something that is so much smaller and cheaper than what police officers use to detect the BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) in intoxicated people. So we calibrated it by blowing into it (while sober, of course) and off we were to the beer store to become unsober and raise our BAC to test this little wonder.

After about 3 beers* within an hour, we breathalized ourselves. The display read 0.07% BAC. We pulled out our handy BAC calculators (little carboard wheel we got from Alcohol Awareness class) and sure enough, the keychain was correct. According to the wheel, we were supposed to be slightly intoxicated, but thanks to tolerance, we didn't have any of the symptoms. I still claim I'm not an alcoholic, by the way.

Why is this little device so important? Well for one, you could use it after a night of partying to decide whether or not you should get behind the wheel. If your BAC were 0.08% or more, you might be better off calling a cab, calling a friend, or spending the night. You can also use this handy little device to amuse friends at a party. You'd be surpirsed at how many people are shocked to see thier real BAC in correlation to how they feel. Or, if you are a concerned parent, you can breathaize your kid when he stumbles in the door 3 hours past curfew. Ah, the little wonders that technology gives us these days. What's next? A keychain that can sober you up?

*The beer used in this test was Bud Ice malt liqour with an alcohol content of 5.3%. A normal beer is around 3-4%.

Red Light Cameras: A Privacy Issue?

Many cities across the country are installing cameras at intersections to catch red light runners in the act. However, many people are protesting this move on behalf of privacy rights (which, by the way are not a right protected in the Constitution). They believe that these cameras infringe upon their privacy while they are driving on public roads. Think about that for a second.

These cameras are being installed because there aren't enough officers to just sit around and watch for red light runners. They are too busy fighting real crime and arresting drug dealers. These cameras free up resources by taking a picture of a license plate and sending the photo to the police department, who then sends the vehicle's registered owner a ticket or bill. In some cities, these are civil fines, meaning that if they are not paid, the citizen does not go to jail. Instead, a creditor will just call the red light runner during dinner time demanding the money. This money can be used for civil improvements that benifet the whole community and pay for more police and firemen.

When you are driving in your car with windows on all four sides on a public road, you have no privacy. Anyone who decides to turn thier head can see exactly what you're up to: driving. Or talking on the cell phone while eating a Big Mac and yelling at the kids. Hopefully not the latter of the two. To expect privacy in a car in public is insane. Besides, there are cameras everywhere you go. In the conveinience store, at the bank, where you work, and at the grocery store. What's one more camera at the red light gonna matter if you stop on red anyway?

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Zune: Windows ME or Xbox?

Many Zune owners, who are dissapointed with the current Zune, would still rather keep it, hoping for an update to fix some problems. These problems include skipping, a slow GUI, lack of WiFi functionality, and even parts of the casing that becoming loose. Those users who still plan to keep thier Zune, however, are still pleased with the good things about the Zune. Qualities such as a large, crisp screen, easy to use GUI, scratch-resistant case, and the fact that its not an iPod are good enough reason for many Zuners too keep thier Zune.

These people are the type that buy the lastest and greatest, even if it is expected to have problems. Often times, the first version or model of a product has problems. For example, the first Hondas were horrible cars. They were very unreliable, and fell apart. Nowadays, Honda is well known for reliablity and quality. Microsoft, on the other hand, has had a few products with problems as well. Windows ME for instance, is considered Microsoft's worst ever operating system. Meanwhile, Microsoft's own Xbox has had very few problems and is now considered, by many people, to be the superior game console.

Getting back to the Zune, Microsoft is developing an entire line of entertainment pruducts under the Zune brand. The portable media player (PMP) is not the only Zune device on the drawing boards. Our only hope is that Microsoft a) fixes the issues with Zune, and b) makes more superior products. Microsoft won't let the Zune PMP die if thier intent is to make a Zune brand. The only question left to ask is will Zune be the next Windows ME, or will it become the Next Xbox?

Windows Vista IE7 Flash Fix?

Anyone with the retail version of Windows Vista IE7 who tries to view flash videos knows one thing for sure: it's impossible. For some odd reason, Flash 9 is not compatible with Vista IE7. It is, however, possible to view flash videos and pages with Mozilla Firefox 2.x. The reason for this is beyond anyone. You can do anything you want to try and fix Flash, but it won't work. Even reinstalling IE7 won't fix the problem. It's a perplexing problem even Microsoft Support can't help fix.

Shortly after I posted my "Welcome to In Tech We Trust" post, I found the only site (it's also only viewable with Google's cache) that pointed to a file already installed with Vista that supposedly fixes the Flash problem. So I pointed Windows Explorer to
C:\windows\system32\Macromed\Flash\Flashutil9b.exe . This runs a Flash update utility that then, in theory, magically fixes the Flash issue. In reality, all it really does is download a certain version of Flash thats compatible with Vista (but for some reason really hard to find) and installs it.

So, I ran this utility and, amazingly, it fixed the Flash problem. I didn't have to reinstall IE or anything. The webpage that gave me the filename has no explanation as to why this works and why Microsoft has done nothing about it. But for the YouTube addicts out there who are running Vista, this is an excellent way to get your video fix with IE7. Just make sure you restart IE after you install it.


Welcome to In Tech We Trust!

Thank you for choosing to read In Tech We Trust. My name is Matt, and I am pleased to present a blog about technology in general that will cover anything from computers, to iPod's, to auto-tech, to anything tech. I will update at least weekly, and probably every couple days.

Now that my intro is out of the way, I would like to discuss some of my tech-peeves. First and foremost, I hate how dial-up companies try to promote their product as fast. It's not, and never will be. Broadband is taking over.

Second, I hate how digital cable companies promote their product as superior. It's not. Fiber (if available) is at least 3 times faster at 15 mbps. FiOS even has a 30 mbps package! And cable thinks it's 1.5-3 mbps is fast???

Third, what is it with cell phone companies charging by the minute? Metro PCS is starting a new wave by having an all-you-can-eat plan for just $40 a month. Thats unlimited everything. The only catch: you pay full price for the phone, and It's only available in metropolitan areas...for now.

Fourthly, why does Flash not work in Windows Vista IE7? I, and many others have tried installing it multiple times. We've tried everything we can to fix it. Even Microsoft (M$) support can't find a fix. The only thing that works so far is Flash in Firefox. Looks like M$ shot themselves in the foot on this one...

Numero Cinco. Why is it that cellphones don't have a standard layout. For example, every Verizon (VZ) Motorola has a different layout than the VZ LG's. Why is it that carriers can't carry over their own GUI across different phones? Or why can't cellphone manufacturers allow for this? That and better GUI's across all carriers and manufacturers is much needed.

That's it for my tech-peeves, feel free to leave your own in the comments. Hope you enjoyed my first blog, and I look forward to you reading my blog again.