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My (Rather Reluctant) Take On Chrome OS

Google released the Linux-based Chrome OS a few days ago, to a largely mixed reception. Many pundits were quick to dismiss it as "unimpressive" and "underwhelming." It this a bad thing? For Google, it doesn't really seem to matter.

The Chrome OS is a revolutionary new operating system that pretty much relies on cloud computing for 99% of its work1. A Chrome OS netbook doesn't have a hard drive -- it only has a non-volatile flash drive that processes data. All your documents, programs, and applications will be based on the cloud -- and this means a slew of pros and cons when compared to the way we currently do things.

Chrome OS Pros:

#1 - No hard drive.
That means you don't have to backup your files -- everything will be stored on secure servers on the cloud. That also means you won't have to worry about viruses and other malware infecting your system.

#2 - Speed, speed, speed.
Chrome OS netbooks can startup at a super-fast 7 seconds, which means you can start working in the amount of time it takes you to turn on the TV. The fastest Windows systems take at least a minute2.

#3 - It's open-source.
That also means it's (... well.. kinda') free.

Chrome OS Cons:

#1 - Needs an Internet connection to survive.
That means when the Net connection conks out (which happens more than you think in this part of the world), you'll be left in the dark.

#2 - No installing of third-party software.
You can't, for instance, install video games. There's enough entertainment on the Internet, you might argue, but this is still a pretty limiting feature for most of us.

Google doesn't seem to mind the mixed feedback -- it would seem that most pundits see Chrome OS as Google's attempt to take over the computing world3. That's actually missing the point -- Google isn't out to beat Windows. At Chrome's infancy, Google is very likely out to start by dominating the Netbook market4, since Chrome OS's features seem more geared towards portable computing than anything else.

The way I see it, as it stands, a Chrome OS netbook would make an OK second computer -- one you could bring on business trips and such. Chrome OS won't officially be out until next year, meaning Google's simply letting the community take a more active part in developing it.

But no matter what Google's intentions are, there's no doubt that Microsoft is on its toes right now. Google Apps has already scored a noticeable dent on Microsoft Office -- will the Windows OS line be next?

1 OK, I just picked that percentage figure out of the air.
2 OK, that's probably not true, but it sure feels like a full minute (sometimes two, even).
3 OK, who doesn't know that yet? Dumbass.
4 OK. OK. They're out to take down Windows. You happy now? Geez.


SOUR '日々の音色 (Hibi no neiro)' music video


This video is really cool. The group SOUR choreographed their fans recording themselves on their web cams and piecing together all the videos into a really nice montage.



The song '日々の音色 (Hibi no neiro)', which is on their 'Water Flavor' EP, means "Tone of everyday". A quick check with Google Translate says it means "Thanks to everyone".

Whatever the case, it's a good song with an equally good music video. Both meanings sit well with me.

NEC's Eyewear Translator May Do Away With Language Barriers In The Future

While most of today's eyewear may cut back on radiation damage to the eyes, one of Japanese company NEC's devices in development may cut back on language barriers instead. NEC is developing an eyewear translator device that can translate foreign languages into your own in real-time -- definitely a handy tool at a business meeting in a foreign country.

Unlike previous prototypes, NEC's eyewear translator doesn't have any lens, which makes wearers look much friendlier -- very important when trying to make a good impression as a stranger in a strange land. With the help of a mic, the device translates languages in real time and recites the translation into your ear via an earpiece -- and at the same time projects a text translation directly into your retinas.

While using the eyewear translator, you may feel like you're watching a movie with dubbing and subtitles (except, of course, you have to talk back). The great thing about the eyewear translator is that if everyone around the table wears the device, everyone can talk in their native language and be understood completely by everyone else. Translators no longer required.

The technology is still in development, but NEC is confident it'll have it available for commercial use in two years or less. A company set of 30 eyewear translators is estimated to cost around $83,300 -- that's almost $3,000 for one set, and you'll need at least two.

Will it be worth the investment? If it closes business deals, builds friendships, and sets the tone for world peace, then I'll take two.

Guillermo del Toro Heads To Disney

Guillermo del Toro, the acclaimed filmmaker responsible for "Pan's Labyrinth" and the "Hellboy" movies, is heading into a partnership with Walt Disney Studios, launching a production label called "Disney Double Dare You." It's a production outfit that's out to create new animated films that are more edgy and thrilling than the usual Disney fare -- and about time.

Del Toro is known for his fantastic storytelling skills, often coming up with engaging fantasy worlds and gripping plots. Disney Double Dare You seems to be tailor-made for Del Toro's style of filmmaking, and many people in the industry are thrilled at the new development.

The launching of Disney Double Dare You comes off the heels of Disney's $4-billion acquisition of Marvel Comics, which leads many of us to ask -- just what is Disney thinking? It does seem that, with last year's addition of the male-audience-friendly Disney XD channel, that Disney is reaching out to other demographics and coming up with features that can be enjoyed by all ages.

I personally think these are good developments -- after all, if "The Princess And The Frog" was Disney's only major offering this year, I'd probably think twice about the company's future in the animation industry. The addition of the Marvel superheroes and Guillermo del Toro is a step in the right direction.

What I particularly like about Disney Double Dare You is that Disney is bringing a storytelling powerhouse in del Toro into their roster. Del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth" was nominated for six Oscars two years ago, winning three. Currently, del Toro is directing two feature films on "The Hobbit," J.R.R Tolkien's prequel to the "Lord Of The Rings" trilogy.

Great news. Great news.

Men Vs Wild -- Awesome Times Two


"Man Vs Wild" is probably one of the most awesome shows ever created. There's something about watching how an ordinary human being can survive the most unfriendly environments in the world, and Bear Grylls shows us how it's done in the most straightforward way possible. Simply watching the show can make men question their own masculinity.

I'm sure a lot of men, me included, wouldn't pass up a chance to go with Bear on one of his up-close-and-personal encounters with Mother Nature. This is the reason why Discovery Channel came up with the brilliant idea of "upgrading" the series for this season into "Men Vs Wild," where Bear teams up with another celebrity to face the world and all its cruelty.

Will Ferrell, American funny guy, was the first to sign up.

I was able to watch the debut of "Men Vs Wild" yesterday. Not to spoil anything if you missed it, but Will was such a great choice for Bear's companion. According to Bear, he only asked Will to do two things for the show: One, to show up alone and without an entourage, and two, to trust him. Will did both, and they had a swell time.

Of course, "swell" is relative -- the two underwent 48 punishing hours in the Arctic, with the ever-resourceful Bear finding means and ends to ensure they both survive the trek. Will, on the other hand, provided a lot of banter throughout the show -- I swear, it was awesome times two.

If you missed it, and you live in Southeast Asia, then you can still catch "Men Vs Wild" encore showing on Saturday, August 8 at 6 PM, and Sunday, August 9, at 10 AM. Miss it, and you'll be half a man.

Online Community Comes Up With First Crowdsourced Animated Film

Some people in Hollywood aren't going to like this. The rest of the us, however, probably will.

Last week saw the debut of "Live Music," a short five-minute animated film about an electric guitar named Riff who falls in love with a violin named Vanessa. It's kind of a rock version of Romeo and Juliet, complete with mocking cymbals, keyboards, and other musical instruments.

What's interesting about this film is that it wasn't made by Pixar, even if the radical plot and setting seems so like them. Nope, "Live Music" was made entirely by animators around the world, collaborating on the project over the Internet.

The upstart animation group Mass Animation, led by Yair Landau, spearheaded the effort. They released the plot, the soundtrack, and some computer animation software on Facebook, for interested animators who wanted to help out in the project.

According to Landau, more than 500,000 Facebook users signed up to help out. In the end, shots from 51 animators were chosen for the final product, which Mass Animation took only $1 million and six months to produce. The animators came from all over the world -- 40 men and 11 men, and between the ages of 14 and 48.

Sony Entertainment Pictures has seen the short and, very impressed, offered to screen it as an opener for their November 12 animated film, Planet 51.

No one really expects "Live Music" to win or get nominated for any award, but you'll have to admit -- all the major animating studios started somewhere. Open-source filmmaking sounds so attractive that I'm pretty sure more crowdsourcing animating "studios" will pop up on Facebook and other social media platforms soon enough.

There's also little doubt that Sony and the other big names in animation will try to leverage this new way of generating good content to their advantage.

But apparently, not everyone likes the idea. Soon after Mass Animation came into the public eye, a group called Anti Mass Animation also opened up on Facebook. They degraded Mass Animation's efforts, calling them "manipulative" and "insulting," among other things.

Meh. Probably Republicans.

Microsoft To Offer Its Own "Google Apps"

First, Microsoft gnawed into Google's market share in the search engine with the reasonably successful "Bing" search engine last May. Two months later, Google's reprisal came in the form of Chrome OS, a new operating system that's ultimately going to put most of a PC's functionality on cloud computing. Back then I had a feeling that it was only a matter of time before Microsoft counter-attacked with yet another Google-aimed venture.

I was right -- now Microsoft is out to challenge Google Apps by offering a free version of its Microsoft Office Suite on the cloud. That's right -- Microsoft is coming out with its own Google Apps, and it's a very risky move at that.

Everyone knows Microsoft earns billions of dollars each year with its Microsoft Office suite of programs, and there's no doubt that despite its hangups, it's still the office suite with the most bang for the buck. Google Apps is free and offers much of MS Office's functionality, but can't really cope with the kind of work that bigger players do.

Basically, I think Microsoft is walking a fine line between offering more functionality than Google Apps, but less than its standard offline Office suite. It will be interesting to see what happens if Microsoft can pull it off, but equally painful to see if the entire plan fails.

I'm personally not a fan of doing my work on the cloud -- with the Internet speeds I'm getting in Malaysia and Thailand, working with Google Apps is clunky at best. What's worse, broadband lines in this part of the world are prone to going down anytime -- what happens when I lose my connection in the middle of an important project? The mere thought of it is enough to keep most of my work offline.

I prefer working with open-source office suites like OpenOffice -- it's free, it's functional, and it feels like the real thing. Just tweak the default file types and you have every bit of MS Office XP's functionality.

But I'll have to admit that cloud computing really is the future of the way we work today -- gone is the monopoly that Microsoft once held over the industry. People are now looking for cheaper ways to do work, and Google Apps has largely filled that need -- there are about 15 million users of the online App right now.

"Microsoft Apps" is set to be released in 2010, so Google still has time to work on its next reprisal. But with its own Office suite in place and OS on the way, it's pretty much got Microsoft backed up against the wall.

Google Wave -- The Next Big Thing?

Recent developments in the search and collaborative media industry has taken some of the luster from Google's image, especially when Twitter revealed where Google falls short -- real-time search results. And nope, no matter what you hear, Google isn't out to buy Twitter. Apparently it has other, much bigger things in mind.

Enter Google Wave, Google's next ambitious project. It's out to revolutionize the way we do things on the Internet, supposedly merging e-mail, blogging, file sharing, cloud computing, and other common social media activities into one single online application. It made mainstream news last week, and has everyone on the Internet buzzing about the possibilities.

After all, who hasn't thought about how cool it would be to rely on only one online application for everything they need to do on the Internet?

We've all been there -- a few years ago, we all faced the problem of whether to sign up for Yahoo! Messenger, ICQ, MSN Messenger, Skype, or any other chat/voice client to keep in touch with friends, family, and co-workers. Most of us had to sign up for more than one application, which led to frustrating PC slowdowns, forgotten passwords, and basically a hairload of hassles.

Today, we face a similar predicament -- social media. With so many social media platforms out there -- Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, you name it -- we're constantly pressed to sign up for every single one of them.

Apparently, Google's playing Internet god again by changing the way we do things. Google Wave isn't by any means ready for testing, but from what we've heard so far, all the chat clients and all the web-based e-mail providers and all the social media platforms will be in a world of hurt if it ever takes off.

Yup, that includes Twitter -- Google is working on providing near-real-time results for searches made on Wave. As a collaborative platform, that's entirely possible.

There's only one question -- wouldn't Google be cannibalizing itself with Wave? The new application overlaps the functions of Gmail and Google Docs, after all. I suppose it remains to be seen.

For now, it's a cool idea, and I'm not really worried because, well, it's freaking Google. On the other hand, if it were Microsoft...

General Motors And Segway Team Up On Puma Pod

We all remember how the original Segway Personal Transporter made headlines in the technology world about seven or eight years ago. To date there have been about 60,000 of the two-wheeled transporters sold – one of them, helping Adam Savage get around on some episodes of Mythbusters, makes me want one every time I think about them.

Today Segway is at it again, this time teaming up with General Motors to come up with a concept vehicle that can ultimately transport people around entire cities. Dubbed the PUMA (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility), the two-wheel contraption comfortably sits two, rides at a top speed of 35 MPH (around 55 KPH), and goes 35 miles for every charge – which costs 35 US cents.

The PUMA basically employs bigger versions of the technology the original Segway PT used – especially the dynamic stabilizing technology it uses to keep from tipping over. The PUMA basically runs on two large wheels, but has four smaller wheels at the front and back for added stability (and to keep the thing from moving around while parked).

But wait – what does GM have to do with any of this? Isn't General Motors infamous for stubbornly sticking to big, gas-guzzling cars (and is now paying for it)? Well, apparently GM isn't as backward as most people perceived it to be – the plans for the PUMA were laid on the table over a year before they received billions of dollars in bailout money.

What's more, GM is a worldwide name, so Segway won't be limited to the US when production begins tentatively on 2012.

There's just one problem – while the PUMA is compact enough to effectively reduce traffic jams around the world, they're still built to be driven on bike lanes (35 MPH isn't that fast when you think about it, and probably would be passed as though it was standing still on the freeway). This isn't a problem in most of Europe, but this can be difficult in American cities (and in parts of the world where it's simply too hot to bike around town).

Still, it's good to know that GM is putting some of the bailout money to good use (despite the howls of criticism from the blogosphere's resident naysayers). It'll be interesting to see these little pods making their way to mainstream consumers.

Skype On iPhone – End Of Cellular?

It's been a long time coming, but iPhone 3G users can finally rejoice at this bit of news – Skype has finally become available on the App Store last week. Now iPhone users who complain of bad reception and call difficulties can now bypass the networks and make clearer calls, and disregard the alternative of putting up their own cell tower in the backyard.

Of course, Apple won't let Skype take over the revenue it gets from AT&T and the other carriers. Using Skype to make free calls through the iPhone can only be done under Wi-Fi coverage – you can't use Skype in your carrier's 3G and EDGE networks (aherrmmm... that is until someone comes up with a workaround ;)). Nonetheless, I think this is another attempt at shaking up the cellular industry – one that can change some pretty big things down the line. Probably bigger than Mobile Video + Google Voice + YouTube + Grand Central + Android. Dammit' I didn't want this article to be about Google... but theeeeere I go again.

Skype calls aren't really all that different from other telephone calls – everything is data being routed over the carrier's networks. There's no real reason to charge different rates for processing the same kinds of data. This is one of the main reasons why the “astronomically high” rates charged to text messaging has been under fire for several years. With Skype, even text messaging would feel too expensive.

The idea of having Skype on smartphones isn't all that new. Some other smartphones, like those that run on Windows Mobile, have had it for a while. The use of Skype on mobile phones have also been tried outside the US and it hasn't really made all that big of a dent on carrier revenue. So why is Apple limiting things with Skype?

It's really simple – the problem isn't about revenue. But when Skype becomes available through millions of iPhones around the world, carriers are going to have to deal with the flood of data that'll come through. Most likely the state of their current networks won't be able to handle all that.

Still, I'm thinking maybe this is going to be another big transition in the industry down the line, similar to the move from traditional mobile phones to smartphones that's going on today. I'm also pretty sure it's going to spark smartphone makers to include Wi-Fi capabilities in all smartphone models they have on the drawing board. Believe it or not, more than 70% of all smartphones today don't have Wi-Fi capabilities.

So what's next for smartphone carriers today? It's really up to anyone who has the guts to jump onto the bandwagon completely. VoIP has been around for quite a while – it's just that most carriers just weren't prepared for it to appear in the smartphone party anytime soon. If someone manages to make calling through Skype easier than calling the traditional way, they'll stand to make a killing – and even steal some of the spotlight from the iPhone and Blackberry.

Then again **hint hint* who said Apple, with their uber-successful iPhone and Mac lines, are already working on the possibilities of voice over WiFi (VOW)?  :)