Slings and skates
Ask most red-blooded Canadians and they’ll tell you that hockey is for real men and women and baseball is for cry babies with droopy diapers. I’d say they’re half right: all sports figures are a bunch of whiners. But in the tech world, the NHL is ramming the MLB into the boards. The former signed an agreement with Sling Media to allow fans to load their favourite clips onto Sling’s Web site.

Wet blankets Major League Baseball are complaining, saying it sets a bad precedent and could potentially interfere with the league’s own online plans. One of these perspectives is designed to engage fans in a game they love, the other is designed to alienate them. I say we just combine the sports into one glorious free for all. Ever been high-sticked with a baseball bat? Now that’s good TV.

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Tomb Raider goes retro
Tomb Raider is celebrating its 10-plus years in the biz with an anniversary edition. Back in 1996, it was a fresh, appealing arrival on the games scene and required a modicum of cerebral input to advance the game. But it soon degenerated into a series of pointless, slapped-together sequels, becoming more of an exploration of polygon boob physics (I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I know there is such a thing) than any revelation in game play. Well, at least the anniversary edition takes us back to the glory days. This review is mildly positive.

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Woolly bully
Once in a while, Insider just feels like taking a walk on the weirdly scientific side. I mean, if I want to include a story about woolly mammoths, I can, right? Please don’t answer that.

According to this article on FoxNews.com:

“For years, scientists suspected that ancient human tribes hunted the mammoths and other ice-age giants to oblivion. Recent research seems to contradict this notion, however – for instance, a comet or tuberculosis may have helped kill off the American mastodons (Mammut americanum), loosely related to mammoths.”

Fascinating, yes? What’s oddly diverting about this story is in the inclusion of a link to Fox’s Evolution and Paleontology Center. I can’t say that I’m not a wee bit scared that such a thing exists. I mean, what’s next, Fox’s human genome centre? Fox’s Manhattan Project? It’s all a little upsetting.

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Think a head
I think it was only yesterday that Insider was talking about rotting corpses. I forget why . . . Oh yeah . . . forensic research or somesuch. Well, this story blows that out of the water. Way creeper. A group of Israeli scientists claim they’ve found a way to keep a brain alive without a body to sustain it. Actually, that sounds pretty sweet. I’m sure you’ve seen the heads in jars on Futurama. Just like Al Gore and William Shatner, we can all live well into the next millennium.

Where’s the harm in that? Sure, there’s the possibility that the world’s governments will exploit the technology and hook up unfeeling supersmart brains to hovercrafts armed with lasers and smart bombs, but I’m willing to take that risk. I want my jar. The sooner the better.

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Just cool it
Insider isn’t exactly what you’d call a gearhead, but he can appreciate the nutty obsession that is overclocking. Someone makes a piece of technology and someone else is bound to hack it, mod it, tear it apart or stuff it into a BBQ. It’s just one of those immutable laws of IT. So it comes as no surprise that a nutter in Taiwan used liquid nitrogen to cool a dual-core Intel Core 2 Duo E6850 CPU to -100 C in order to run it up to 5.44 GHz. Sure, I get it. It’s cold, so it can run faster. But why can’t we turn that technology into something useful? It currently takes at least 20 minutes for Insider to adequately chill his beer by placing it in the freezer. Then there’s the added worry of the bottles exploding if Insider falls asleep in front of the TV and forgets about the beer. Surely we address that issue before we ruin another CPU.

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Scientists invent new use for delicious salty snacks
Mmm… beer. And what goes with beer? French fries. And sometimes chips. (This is Insider’s attempt at a segue, so just roll with it.) The humble spud has brought a lot of joy to many of us, so is it any wonder that the eggheads at the University of Maine are working on a way to introduce it into other aspects of our lives? It’s possible create a plastic material from potatoes which could be used to manufacture all kinds of things like carpets and upholstery, according to this article. I’ve no idea why this research is focused on floor and furniture coverings, but bottles are also mentioned as a possibility. And you know what goes in bottles? Beer. Preferably cold.

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Pitchman poster
It’s a sad truism that any new media technology has to be tested as a piece of advertising, but I guess the money’s got to come from someplace. Advertisers are working on “talking ads” – no, not those obnoxious ones that exude from your radio or television set, but print ads; more specifically, poster ads on subways, in malls and other public places. They’re also touch sensitive, encouraging people to lay their hands on the ad in order to hear its message

I’m slightly baffled at this approach – who in his/her right mind touches subway ads in order to hear a hard sell for zit cream? – but the technology itself shows promise. It could be used to provide directions, give insight about a historical landmark, teach a child to read, or perhaps aid someone with a sight impairment. More likely, though, it’ll be used by someone that really knows how to exploit new technology to its fullest: the porn industry.

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A grave situation
Sometimes technology makes me think the human race is really able to rise above its humble beginnings and elevate itself to a new level of enlightenment. Then there are the occasional reminders that we’re really a bunch of monkeys. The latest research into how the human body decays after death involves dumping corpses in the woods and watching what happens. “Body farms” are cropping up all over the U.S., where cadavers, presumably donated for medical science, are literally exposed to the elements to see what happens. Call me nuts, but I thought we’d already figured this one out. This story isn’t for the squeamish, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

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Is annoying people a new Olympic event?
Brits are up in arms over their hideous new 2012 Olympic logo, but as if to add insult to injury, the Olympic organizers are airing ads that cause epileptic fits. The two and a half minute ad features animated athletes springing, zigzagging and generally cavorting madly across the screen. The effect is so off-putting, there have been eight complaints of actual seizures. One scene is particular – a diver entering a multi-coloured swimming pool – is said to have triggered the malady. The ads have since been pulled from the Web site.

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Connect the dots(then eat them)
I guess it doesn’t take long for Microsoft to step back into the hype machine. Wasn’t it just Monday that Bob Muglia was saying that MS won’t be hyping stuff it can’t deliver on anymore? Well, it’s hard to keep Muglia to his word, considering that this time the BS comes from another division: the Xbox guys. They’d promised the world “video game history,” and in a sense, that’s what they delivered. The historical announcement turned out to be a Pac-Man update.

It’s hardly a 3-D version of Halo or a console that massages your thighs while you play (Editor’sNote: EWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!! Yuck) but it’s still exciting news. Pac-Man will be presented in an all-new widescreen format with updated graphics and new mazes – the first in 26 years.

Does this mean that we can expect a killerversion ofCentipede or Defender? Dang, that would be sweet. Maybe games were justbetterin the 80s. Or maybe Insider is an old fart who doesn’t want to beinsulted byRitalin-addled 10-year-olds on Xbox Live.

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Wii steal ideas
Stillin the MS gaming camp, Bill Gatessays that a future Xboxinnovation could include a controller that can be swung like a baseballbat.Hmmm… Where have we heard this one before? Gates insists this isn’tgoing to belike Nintendo’s Wii controller (the Wiimote). “”That’s a3D positional device,” said Gates, during hisrecent conversation withSteve Jobs. “This is video recognition. This is a camera seeing what’sgoing on.”

Way to go, Bill. Must you take the fun outof everything? Isit just me, or is Gates reminiscent of everyone’s Grade 6 biologyteacher – theones who talked about the bird and the bees in such a clinical fashionit madeyou want to toss your breakfast.

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We love Microsoft
OK,Insider has been pretty mean toMicrosoft lately, but theykind of make it hard not to. Bill does some nice work on the charitablefrontwith his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, so he gets a free pass fromInsider(well, almost). Just for Billy, Insider decided to find a nice storyaboutMicrosoft.

It’s hardly a lovefest out there, but afew Google searchesand Insider found this Ten things we love about Microsoft article viadigg. It’s18 months old, but still relevant. Enjoy, Microsoft groupies. Insider’sfavourites are No. 9 and No. 10.(Yes, you heard me, No. 10).

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Back to the blunder
Does Christopher Lloyd have colossal gambling debts, because he seems to be cash-strapped right now. Not only is Lloyd appearing as his Doc Brown character from Back to the Future in a Direct TV commercial, he’s also schilling for Microsoft.
Lloyd was part of the opening keynote for Microsoft’s Tech Ed conference, which started Monday. Lloyd also appeared in a a href=”http://youtube.com/watch?v=pi3xmc1mpXQ”>short film with Microsoft’s Bob Muglia, again as his Doc Brown character, with Muglia playing the Michael J. Fox role. The two travel back in time (all the way to 2001) to witness some of Microsoft’s most recent disasters: Hailstorm and WinFS.
At least Microsoft has a sense of humour about these things, but you can’t possibly tell me that integrated storage is their biggest blunder. How about launching Windows ME? Or letting Steve Ballmer out in public?

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Reliving an unpleasant moment with Steve Jobs
Speaking of the wayback machine, Insider went all the way to 2005 to dig up this gem: Bill Gates meets Napeleon Dynamite. The only truly remarkable thing about this clip is that Gates appears to be a better actor than Dynamite actor Jon Hedder.

Then there’s this clip from 1997. Steve Jobs tells an angry mob that he’s signed a major deal with Microsoft. Things get really ugly around the 2:30 mark when Jobs lets the folks know that Explorer will be the default browser for the Apple OS. “We need all the help we can get,” says an obviously desperate Jobs. What a difference a decade makes.

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Save a screen, download a virus
Remember those old Macs that would burn images right into the display if you left them on screen too long? Well, today’s display technology doesn’t need to be refreshed quite so often, and it’s a good thing too, since screensavers may do more harm than good. According to this story, screensavers are one of the greatest risk areas when it comes to downloading malware. More than 40 per cent of Web sites based on a search of the word “screensaver” were found to contain malicious code. I could be wrong, but that’s probably more than if I typed in “infect my computer, please.” I’m not suggesting you try that, or anything. Help desk people don’t have a great sense of humour about that sort of thing.

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In a slight departure from our usual Insider (juicy news you really can’t use), we’re going to simply make up the news. Why? Because it’s Friday (Monday if you’re actually reading this). So, in the spirit of me leaving early, here’s some tech announcements, only one of which is real.

Sony to develop a PS4
Due to a slack response to the company’s PS3, Sony will quickly release a PS4 in time for the December Holiday season. Pricing issues have confounded the company and North American audiences aren’t willing to shell out close to $1,000 for a system plus a few games. The PS4 will be a stripped down version and priced to sell at only $199. Sony execs are calling the product a “back to basics” approach to gaming where the onus is on game play rather than slick graphics. The first release for the PS4 has yet to be announced, but insiders claim that the company is working on an adaptation of early text-only game Zork.

Intel and HP working on “black hole computer”
With processors coming in quad flavours these days, experts believe that computing as we know it will top out by 2015. Conventional circuit designs cannot support the rate of growth that’s expected from PCs, so Intel and HP are working on a radically different approach. Theoretically, black holes are gravity wells that suck everything into their vortices, including light and even data. Scientists at Intel labs believe they can replicate the phenomenon through a new technique known as “radical compression.” Using the technique, a data file that takes up 100GB of hard drive space will be reformatted such that requires less than 1MB. For obvious reasons, the partners won’t reveal how the compression works, but claim that it should included in HP PCs that will ship in the 2014 time frame.

Smithsonian Institute to catalogue “everything”
The Smithsonian, in partnership with Harvard university and other participants, has vowed it can put together a record of every living creature via an Internet catalogue. Each of the world’s 1.8 million species will have its own Web page. The project will be published via the Encylopedia of Life and more than $US12 million has been donated to the cause via grants. The project will require constant upkeep, but will be freely available online. Organizers are fully aware of the enormity of the task – new discoveries are being made every day. “Last year we found a new species of whale, a 60-foot whale” said one stakeholder.

Which one’s real? Well, this one. Duh.

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