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News In The Google v. Microsoft Saga

While the Google v. Microsoft saga seems likely to stay a one-sided battle for the next few years, it still comes up with some of the most interesting news in cyberspace. I'm not a fan of Microsoft, but I do try not to be biased with their efforts in cleaning their tarnished image. Really, I do. Watch:

The (sorta) GOOD news - Microsoft and Yahoo finally close the deal

It's been several months since the Microsoft-Yahoo merger was suggested, but the two giants ultimately sealed the deal over the weekend. "Microhoo" (not its official name) will start finding ways to chisel away at Google's dominance in search, although it's likely we won't see Bing take over Yahoo search until late 2010.

The OK news - Google trounces Bing in Mashable.com poll

While the merger should heighten competition quite a bit and ultimately improve the search experience for everyone, it's clear that Microsoft and Yahoo have their work cut out from them. In the latest Mashable.com Faceoff poll, Google trounced Bing 78% to 19% (with 3% either way) when users were asked what the best search engine was.

Still, snagging almost one out of every five searchers isn't bad. After all, it's Google we're talking about here.

The BAD news - Google adds a dictionary feature

One of the niftiest Google tools is the "define: ___" feature, where you can get definitions for most terms you've never heard of before. Google very quietly upgraded the feature with its own dictionary. You can go to google.com/dictionary to get definitions for words in 28 languages.

That's another item on Bing's checklist.

The TERRIBLE news -- Bing goes down.

It was only for 30 minutes last weekend. But it was enough to whip up a small storm in the social media scene, with tortured cries permeating Twitter throughout the darkness. Actually, it was just an upgrade gone awry -- the guys at Bing immediately rolled things back, and users were able to use Bing again soon after.

Okay, so maybe I AM just a little biased. But I do know that things are starting to look up with Gates and company, especially with the... ahem... mostly-successful release of Windows 7. (According to another Mashable.com poll, slightly more users prefer Windows 7 over Apple's Snow Leopard OS). Let's hope the trend keeps up -- if only to expect stiffer resistance from Google.

YouTube Debuts 'Lite' Version

Image credit: Adapted image from YouTube's Feather beta signup page

I like YouTube for two different reasons -- one, it helps keep me up-to-date with the latest trends in film and media. (After all, watching videos can sometimes be easier than reading some bad article.) The other reason is, quite simply, it's a fun way to schmooze. I still haven't gotten tired of the "sneezing baby panda" video, for instance.

But YouTube does (or rather, DID -- more on that later) have its pitfalls. In Singapore and the surrounding region, ISP's are pretty slow in offering higher-bandwidth offerings owing to the relatively slim competition. So, yup, we deal with a quite a bit of buffer time and staring at that annoying "loading" wheel indicator.

Thankfully, Google does listen to its users, and has recently launched the beta version of YouTube Feather. This feature of YouTube strips down YouTube pages to the bare essentials -- minus ads, ratings, bells and whistles, and simply presents the video with as little latency and bandwidth-hogging as possible.

This means good news for casual viewers -- you can now spend more time watching and less time groaning while on YouTube. This is particularly important in bandwidth-starved areas of the world, such as Southeast Asia, where there are people who actually still use Dial-up (or broadband with Dial-up speeds).

But is it bad news for content creators? After all, content creators rely on ads and "subscribe" features on their videos to grow their businesses.

Thankfully, content creators don't have to worry -- when YouTube knows the video comes from a content creator, it reverts to the regular YouTube, complete with all its functions (including HD).

When YouTube Feather goes live, it should make it much easier for people to appreciate and enjoy the benefits that YouTube brings to the computing experience. You can activate and use YouTube Feather by clicking this link.


Yeah, it seems not a day passes by without an update from Google. One worth mentioning is probably Google's crusade to create a "new" Internet -- or at least a faster one. Google is still asking for more community feedback and participation in its development of SPDY -- if you haven't heard of it before, it's going to be the next big thing in the Internet. It'll replace HTML one day, already being at least 50% faster in development stages.


Meanwhile, Microsoft is scrambling to deal with report after report after report of the Black Screen of Death plaguing Windows 7 users. Kinda shows you what's up in the Microsoft vs Google wars.

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.


Google And Apple Make Headway In China

Over the weekend, Google and Apple made significant headway in China (or at least, with things related to China). As time goes by it gets easier to wonder whether or not the two industry giants are out to get each other's throats, since their marketing strategies seem to cross on so many paths.

Let's start with Apple. Last weekend, the iPhone finally made it to China, greeted by the usual droves that go where the world's leading smartphone goes. Sales were brisk, but noticeably subdued at the same time -- while hundreds of people braved the cold rain to get their hands on an iPhone, there weren't many sellouts, unlike in Japan and the US.

Should be expected, I guess -- after all, what do you expect from China? Millions of "genuine imitations" of iPhones have been in use in China for months, and the new iPhone -- with a hefty price tag and no Wi-Fi -- isn't really as appealing as it could have been. While I think the iPhone will eventually make up lost ground in the next few months, I also hope Apple learned a thing or two about the Chinese market from the "lukewarm" reception.

Next up, Google. Now Google hasn't really physically ventured onto China like Apple did, but one of their most recent developments -- Google Voice Search in Mandarin Chinese -- make it so they might as well had. Google Voice Search is a smartphone application that lets you recite your search query instead of typing it out, saving lots of time and effort. (Hmmm... this sounds like what Yahoo! had some 2 years ago. I think I need to dig up some info on them and find out how they're faring in this area of search.)

Google Voice Search recognizes an increasing number of English accents, but stepping into Mandarin Chinese territory is a major feat. I mean, think about it -- it's China! China has two times more cellphone subscribers than the US, posing a very tempting market. Mandarin Voice Search is only available on Nokia S60 phones at this point, but if Google does things right, it poses to reap dividends over the next few months.

Netflix Comes To Sony PlayStation 3 - #movies #internet #film

Last week, Netflix announced that their live HD movie streaming feature, back then only available to very happy Xbox 360 users (with the annual $49.99 LIVE subscription, that is), was going to be made available to "another device" soon -- and speculation was rife in the blogosphere. Was it going to be the iPhone? Maybe on Google Android? Perhaps on a new platform Netflix wants to promote?

My own guess was right -- it was going to be released on the Sony PlayStation 3.

Netflix+Sony+Playstation+3+PS3+Chris+Gomez+EngineAlpha+Engine+Alpha

Image credit: Found on ecoustics.com  - Link -

It was a no-brainer for me and many other experts in the industry* -- I think the PS3 actually provides a better platform for Netflix's HD movie streaming offering. Since the PS3 slimmed down, both physically and price-wise, it had rocketed to the top of sales lists mere months ago. Now, with Blu-Ray support and fantastic online support, it looks like the PS3 is going to stay on top for a while.

Some Xbox 360 fans may dislike the idea. After all, Netflix's offering used to be "exclusive" to Xbox. Unfortunately, nothing really stays exclusive forever, at least not in this industry. Eventually Netflix will have to go where the profits lie, otherwise someone else will beat them to it -- worst case, with an even better offering.

PS3 users will definitely be pleased -- Netflix's service will only cost $8.99 a month. Unless something big comes along to challenge Netflix over the next few months, it's likely the PS3 will be spending them gaining even more ground on the Wii.


* Yes. I am an expert in my industry :)

Walt Disney Imagineering's Joe Rohde to speak at SIGGRAPH Asia 2009 (Press Release) - #film #sfx #cg

Joe Rohde, Executive Designer and Senior Vice President of Walt Disney Imagineering, is the 3rd Featured Speaker for SIGGRAPH Asia 2009. Scheduled to speak on the 19th of December, his talk is entitled Story Structure and the Design of Narrative Environments.

Rohdes talk will cover some guidelines and principles for creating spaces that serve both the initial needs of the primary designer or storyteller and the needs of future audiences, who may seek to re-adapt the narrative to their own purposes. The rules of storytelling are well understood when applied to traditional linear forms derived from literature, but spatial environments pose challenges that require special treatment. The principles that inform storytelling in built physical space can apply as well to virtual space.

Rohde is currently an Executive Designer and Senior Vice President at Walt Disney Imagineering. He is the creative lead for Disney's Animal Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, and related new projects. He has led conceptualization, design, and production for Disney's Animal Kingdom since its inception in 1990. He also oversees creative development at Disney's newest luxury resort project in Hawaii, which is scheduled to open in 2011.

He also led development and production of Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom. This project took him and other Imagineers to the mountains of Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibetan Sichuan, researching the background details to incorporate into the very authentic environment designed for Expedition Everest. His travels for the research and production work were featured in a series of hour-long programs on the Discovery Network.

He began his career at Walt Disney Imagineering as a model designer and scenic painter in 1980, working on the M鸩co pavilion for Epcot at Walt Disney World Resort. He also worked on numerous attractions for the redesigned Fantasyland at Disneyland in the 1980s, Captain EO, and the Norway pavilion for Epcot, before commencing his responsibilities on Disney's Animal Kingdom.

For more information on SIGGRAPH Asia 2009, please visit www.siggraph.org/asia2009

About SIGGRAPH Asia

The 2nd ACM SIGGRAPH Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in Asia will take place in Pacifico Yokohama, Japan. Featuring an international conference from 16-19 December 2009, SIGGRAPH Asia 2009 offers works that provoke thoughts, explore ideas in innovative ways, address contemporary issues, interactively engage viewers in discovery, and stimulate their intellect and creativity through art, computer animation, courses, education, new technologies, technical papers, sketches and posters.

SIGGRAPH Asia 2009 also features a trade exhibition of products and services from the computer graphics and interactive marketplace. Held from 17-19 December 2009, it is also a recruitment ground for job seekers to meet potential employers. Sponsored by ACM, SIGGRAPH Asia 2009 is expected to to bring together 8,000 computer graphics and interactive technology professionals and enthusiasts from Asia and beyond. For more information, please visit www.siggraph.org/asia2009.

The inaugural SIGGRAPH Asia 2008 was a resounding success. Artists, researchers, developers, gaming experts, filmmakers, as well as academics from 49 countries gathered in Singapore, spending four exciting days to discover new products, talents, technology and techniques in the digital media industry. In all, a total of 49 countries were represented in an array of thought-provoking works and breakthrough ideas presented at the show. For more information, please visit www.siggraph.org/asia2008.

About ACM

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) SIGGRAPH sponsors SIGGRAPH Asia 2009. ACM is an educational and scientific society uniting the world's computing educators, researchers, and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field's challenges. ACM strengthens the profession's collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.

The Weekend's Superhero Roundup #film

When it comes to superhero movies, I'm pretty much looking forward to three -- "Green Lantern," "Spider-Man 4," and the next "X-Men" movie. Here's a quick roundup of what's going on with plans on all three movies.

#1 - Bryan Singer may helm the next X-Men movie. That's right, the man who brought the first and second X-Men movies is back, and has expressed his interest in returning to the franchise. He sat out of the third X-Men film to direct "Superman Returns," and also sat out "X-Men Origins: Wolverine."

However, I think Singer may have his work cut out for him. I personally didn't like the third X-Men movie because they killed off so many characters, and "Wolverine" left so many plot holes to fill. It'll be interesting to see how well Singer would do if the job was returned to him.

#2 - Spider-Man 4 will thankfully NOT have 4 villains. Sam Raimi returns to direct the fourth Spidey film, and it's good to know that he agrees with many Spider-Man fans -- having three villains in a movie can be pretty distracting. What's more, Raimi claims he learned a few things after directing "Drag Me To Hell," so it's likely the fourth Spider-Man won't be as unvaried as the third.

#3 - Recession hits the Green Lantern. Warner Brothers Studios has canceled plans of producing "Green Lantern" in Australia because of the US dollar's faltering value. They are now in the process of looking for alternative areas of the world to shoot, most likely Canada or Mexico.

As of last week, one Australian dollar was worth US$0.95, which was a nearly 30% increase from six months ago, when Green Lantern was given the green light. Production costs would have increased by around $20 million, apparently something Warner Brothers wasn't willing to risk. Looks like the movie industry isn't as impervious to the recession as we thought it was.

Microsoft Launches Free Anti-Virus Software Today

Microsoft has been getting better at revamping public perception about it over the past year. It's now operating a couple of retail stores (more to come) in an attempt to reach their customer base more readily, and everybody's excited about the release of Windows 7 in just over three weeks. And today, they just released their very first free anti-virus software package.

Dubbed Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE), the free anti-virus is currently available for download in 19 countries, although only PC's with licensed versions of Windows XP, Vista, and 7 can accept it. It's Microsoft's comprehensive solution to many of the most common threats faced by the average PC user today.

It's not "comprehensive" per se, though. It's only protects against viruses and other malware, and doesn't have the other pieces of the puzzle necessary for complete protection, such as anti-spam and firewalls. This has been the main criticism of MSE, made none other than those who profit from the status quo.

Big names in the anti-virus industry (such as Symantec) have bitterly attacked Microsoft's move into their lucrative market, obviously fearing the computing giant's marketing prowess. If you aren't aware of it yet, free anti-virus software is the exception rather than the norm in the business -- if you want complete protection, you have to shell out some good money for it.

Microsoft has assured the public that MSE will still provide enough protection, especially when used on Windows systems. The more recent Windows operating systems have built-in firewalls (which get better with every incarnation), and Internet Explorer 8 can warn users of potentially dangerous sites.

MSE is a decent anti-virus program to try -- it hogs system resources much less than most other protection suites, and has generally received warm reviews from testers in three countries. Its arrival also spells the end of Microsoft's Windows Live OneCare protection suite, which didn't do very well on the sales end.

You can download Microsoft Security Essentials, absolutely free, here.

Med Students Get In Trouble Through Social Media

For the longest time, doctors have been seen as some of society's most respected members, but today that distinction is getting blurry at best. The conduct of some Med students in the United States are worrying their seniors, and many fear it's much worse than it appears.

A new survey conducted among several major medical schools in the United States found a much higher number of incidents of inappropriate behavior and unprofessional conduct in medical schools. What's worse, the reported incidents were only those that reached the deans' attentions -- which is likely only the tip of the iceberg.

Many of the reported unprofessional incidents were posted on the Internet. For instance, a quick YouTube search would net you several videos made by medical students. Most are harmless -- musical numbers, for instance -- while a few are really disturbing.

One of them, a prank involving a dead body, caught the attention of many medical professionals lately. It's not known whether the cadaver was real, but even if it wasn't, what does such a video make you think? Exactly -- maybe your doctor isn't really that serious with his work.

There are other stories, as well. Some medical students post patient information on the Internet, whether on their Facebook pages or on their blogs -- obviously a breach of patient privacy. Others request inappropriate relationships with patients. Still others use profanity and even post photos of drug paraphernalia.

Sure, you could say that Med students aren't unlike every other kid on the Internet these days. But the situation is too serious to ignore -- all of a sudden, the medical profession doesn't seem so credible anymore.

But thankfully, deans and senior medical professionals are catching on to the online habits of their proteges. They're getting savvier with the Internet, blogging, and YouTube, as well as social media platforms like Facebook.

Hopefully this increased awareness will lead to better-behaved students, and much fewer embarrassments to one of the most respected professions in history.

Shaky September For Google

September wasn't very nice for Google and its users. Just yesterday, Gmail was hit with its second outage in the space of three weeks, and while this one wasn't as bad as the one that hit on September 1, it's enough to make many of us question whether doing everything the Google way really is a good idea.

Google is pretty much the industry leader of cloud computing, where people can access Office applications and save their work on the Internet. It's a largely more accessible and more cost-effective business solution than, say, Microsoft Office. The success of Google Apps in the past few years has enticed other players in the industry, including Microsoft, to develop their own cloud-based offerings.

But now that even Google is having trouble keeping its servers up indefinitely, it's confirming what most skeptics are worried about -- that if Google goes, so does all your work.

I myself am not that keen about the cloud. I think I've written before that I'm not really that confident about leaving my work on the Internet and being stuck whenever I'm offline. Sorry, but I'd much rather do it the old-fashioned way.

Speaking of the old-fashioned way, Google's new offering, SideWiki, is also coming under fire. Back in the day, bloggers enjoyed the way people would comment on their writings. But SideWiki, an application that Google Toolbar users can use to comment on certain websites, might be intruding on something bloggers consider sacred.

Of course, Google plans to rule the Internet unconditionally one day. SideWiki is apparently a means of gathering information from certain sites, through viewer commentary, to accomplish that end. Naturally, bloggers aren't happy with the idea that comments that would otherwise have been posted on their sites instead end up in Imperial Google's index.

But that's okay -- it's probably only a matter of time before spammers take to SideWiki and flood it with so much useless information that Google will have to take it down. But if Google does find a way to filter out the ne'er-do-wells, THEN SideWiki just might be something to watch.