The Week In Tech: 10 stories you might have missed

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The first in a new weekly feature rounding up some of the more intriguing, informative or plain baffling tech stories knocking about the internetweb. Casting aside all those cast-iron predictions that Apple would launch the iPhone this week, first up is News Corporation finally starting to throw its weight around in the Web 2.0 world.

Chief operating officer Peter Chernin (left) told a conference that MySpace wants to crush YouTube and, well, basically any other big Web 2.0 service. "If you look at virtually any Web 2.0 application, whether its YouTube, whether it’s Flickr, whether it’s Photobucket…almost all of them are really driven off the back of MySpace, there’s no reason why we can’t build a parallel business."

One reason why that might not be the case? If you look at virtually any Web 2.0 application, it’s easier to use than MySpace. And you don’t have to worry about your content getting spewed out of other parts of the Murdoch empire. Mashable’s verdict on MySpace’s plans: "This is such a ridiculous strategy that it’s not even worth contemplating."


This week’s bear/woods story comes courtesy of Microsoft Exchange hosting firm Intermedia.NET, which released some survey findings claiming that IT staff are twice as likely to wear a heavy metal t-shirt as their non-IT colleagues, are 32% less likely than business managers to wear clean clothes every day of the week, and twice as likely to carry a Maglite and a Leatherman.

"Our large Microsoft Gold Certified team of engineers was comforted that IT people are twice as likely to wear Megadeth and similar t-shirts, and that black jeans and ponytails are still hot items," said Intermedia.NET’s boss marketeer Rurik Bradbury. "However, they were distraught to find that the cellphone belt clip has gone ‘mainstream’ and lost its identification with the IT subculture."

Talking of heavy metal t-shirts, self-styled "software-Jedi" Dana Hanna starts his ‘An App a Day’ campaign today. He’s writing 30 software applications in 30 days, and then giving them away for free. "I write tons of prototypes at home, and never end up doing anything with them," he says. "So I might as well toss them out there for the good of the world."

First up is this nifty app that turns your mouse cursor into a magnifying glass, although Dana reckons the most entertaining suggestion he’s had so far is "an app to count polarbears in Norway and geotag them in Google Earth." That would be cool.


Moving on to enormous telephoto lenses, Carl Zeiss unveiled a whopper this week. It’s got a focal length of over 5.5 feet, with 21x magnification. Oh, and it weighs in at a healthy 256kg. So you won’t find it in a Cyber-Shot anytime soon. It’s being shown at this month’s Photokina show in Cologne. I’d like to see Jamiroquai frontman Jay Kay try to pick a fight with a paparazzo holding this heavyweight jobby.


From the large to the small now. How about a projector the size of a sugar cube? Yes, it does mean a passing hungry horse could guzzle up your home entertainment system, but still, it’s a feat of engineering. But hang on, read the story, and the ugly truth becomes apparent.

"Today’s technology
allows RGB projectors with a side length of ten by seven by three
centimeters to be produced. Although this is still distinctly larger
than a sugar cube, it is only a quarter the size of a standard
projector."

Fix! Apparently the key to getting sugarcube-sized projectors is shrinking green diode lasers. Fingers crossed. Meanwhile, boozers among you shouldn’t consider paying a visit to South Dakota any time soon. The state attorney general’s office is testing alcohol-monitoring bracelets on convicted drunk drivers.

The ‘Scram’ bracelets measure "vapours from the skin" (i.e. beer sweats) and send the results for analysis. If someone could invent one that would tell me the sixth pint of cider ISN’T a good idea on Friday nights, while flashing a photo of the local gutter in warning, that’d be grand, thanks.


Talking of items of personal clothing with unexpected digital-media features… How about the Egokast, a hefty belt-buckle that doubles up as a video player. You’re not supposed to watch it, mind, it’s for the people around you.

“This is the first media device that you don’t watch, but everybody else does,” says inventor Shaw Kaake, who I sincerely hope was named after the popular biscuit. “Instead of staring into your BlackBerry or your PSP, you’re looking at the reactions of people to the content.”

Surely this means entire train carriages of fellow passengers staring at your crotch. Where can I get one? Moving swiftly on, news of some Princeton computer scientists who’ve created prototype vote-stealing software that can be installed on public voting machines. Right now, someone’s reading this in a secret White House laboratory and saying "Meh, we did that weeks ago. Now when’s e-voting coming in…"


Paris Hilton, it’s time to dump the BlackBerry. There’s a new celebrity mobile on the block, codenamed ‘Black Diamond’ (right), which costs $300,000. Why? Well, it runs Windows Mobile 5.0, has Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, an SD memory slot and a touch-sensitive keypad. Oh, and only five units are ever being made. Far better value than a chihuahua.


And finally… We may be also-rans in Miss World, but us Brits can boast the most beautiful computer-generated woman on the planet. Doesn’t that make you feel proud as punch? Her name’s Prada Woman (left), and she was created by UK designer David Cathro using Photoshop, for a competition organised by 3D site 3DM3.

She’s a cross between Jennifer Lopez and the sort of secretary who appears in films pretending to be plain, until she gets to take off her glasses, swish her hair back and PURR LIKE A PUMA! She beat off competition from Poland, France, South Korea and Poland again.

Sources: Mashable, Intermedia.NET, Dana Hanna, Engadget, Physorg.com, Madisonet.com, New York Times, TechEBlog, 3DM3.com

Stuart Dredge

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