You can go back to trusting your e-mail now

Spam, spam, spam, spam

It’s a sad day for those of us who love hearing:
We’re not so hot at pleasing “the ladies”
There’s an investment opportunity just a click away
We’re balding (and probably overweight)
We’re overweight (and probably bald)
Our privates are inadequate
Our eBay account has lapsed
Our privates have lapsed
$$$$We kan get supergreat deal on drug right now$$$$!!!!:);)

Yes, one of the world’s most infamous spammers has been rounded up in Seattle. Robert Alan Soloway, the so-called “spam king,” is being charged with umpteen counts of fraud and money laundering. He’s facing five years in prison and up to US$250,000 in fines.
I’ll miss the ol’ spam king. I mean, how else do I explain to my boss it takes me till lunch to sort through my e-mail?

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Cell phone reservation

File this in the: “Why didn’t I come up with this first?” file. A First Nations tribe in Manitoba is attempting to apply a levy on cell phone calls that happen to fly over their airspace. The rationale is that, well, they’re being compensated for use of their land and waterways so isn’t the air just another resource?
It’s sorely tempting to just toss this one out of hand. Insider read this article on CBC and was unsure if he was the victim of a practical joke. I mean . . . Uhhh . . . It kind of defies words, doesn’t it? I suppose I should be applying a bum tax to people who lean on my desk or even my own airwave tax to people who waltz into my office to tell me about their cat when I’ve got my headphones on.
Still, centuries of abuse adds up to a pretty stiff bill, and if First Nations want a piece of the cell phone pie, who can blame them?

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Two-handed Palm action

In a massive case of false advertising, Palm is releasing a notebook. Call me crazy here, and many people have, but doesn’t “Palm” indicate something that can be held in one hand? It’s just another indication that IT is a-changin’, folks. The once mighty handheld company is becoming about as relevant as a belt without pants.

As described in this article:
“Many technology analysts and gadget lovers found themselves this week scratching their heads, rubbing their chins, squinting their eyes and exhibiting other signs of uncertainty about the need for, and future of, Palm’s latest device, the Foleo.
Billed by Palm as a ‘smartphone companion product,’ the Foleo doesn’t come close to a full notebook computer in terms of power and functionality. However, because it has its own Linux operating system and WiFi radio, the unit is clearly more than just a monitor and larger keyboard accessory for cell phones.”

So it’s a bulky appliance that you have to carry with your phone, but it doesn’t really do anything. Allrighty, then, Palm. We’ll just keep our eye on that one. Maybe you’ll prove Insider (and a whole lot of other folks) wrong. Wouldn’t be the first time. Won’t be the last.

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A PhD student at MIT’s Robotic Life research group has created what he calls a “collaborative lighting assistant,” though some of us might call it a “lamp.”

Part robotic arm, part desk lamp, Guy Hoffman’s AUG – and no, we don’t know what it stands for – apparently tracks your position and focus, providing appropriately angled lighting as you move from task to task, from keyboard to notepad to whiteboard. The level and even the colour of the light can vary to match the activity.

And you were impressed by The Clapper.

In this article on The Register, Hoffman discusses “long-term human-robot relationships,” “co-operative robots” and more. Robolamp has also appeared in a play. In the role, I’m guessing, of a lamp.
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We dine in Hell!
I’m a sometime-collector of examples of Chinglish, the often hilariously mistranslated text that appears on packaging for dime-store Chinese products (“10,000 USE THE DISHCLOTH” is among my prizes). Were I an avid collector, I’d be on a plane to Beijing right now, where, according to, DVD pirates are producing some gems.

The poor quality of some of the theatre-shot examples makes them a minimal threat to real cinema-going dollars, but the packaging is worth more than the DVD, says Michael Kanellos. “WE DINE IN HELL!” shrieks the cover of warrior epic 300. Shrek 3 stars Michael Jordan. The sleeve for Children of Men boasts a featurette on the making of Carlito’s Way.

If you happen to be out Beijing way, I’d be thrilled if you could pick me up the yet-to-be-released Harry Potter and Order of the Phoenix. The actual DVD within, apparently, is Bibi Blocksberg, “a German rip-off of Sweden’s Pippi Longstocking dubbed in Mandarin with English subtitles,” says Kanellos.
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Mac stores get thumbs up
There comes a time when even the Mac faithful get tired of Mac. I mean, aren’t we all sick of hearing about the iPhone? The frickin’ thing isn’t even available yet and people are already worshipping it as some kind of totem. It’s a phone, people. A phone. Who’s with me? OK, that’s my anti-Apple rant for the day (goodness knows we kick Microsoft in the teeth on a regular basis, so one in a while it’s nice to punch Apple in the seeds).Where was I again? Oh right. Apple is great at selling merch through retail. The Apple stores are proving mighty popular through a hands-on approach, “geniuses” (whatever the fruit they are) and a generally groovy atmosphere. Sony stores, on the hand, are sterile, dull and feel like a mausoleum. (Insider was also disappointed by Spiderman 3, but there’s only so muck you can hurl at Sony in one blog entry.)
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Second best buy, possibly third

Speaking of retail, apparently Best Buy isn’t living up to its name. You may already receive the tantalizing e-mails from Best Buy promising giant bargains if you shop online through its Web site. That’s nice, right? Cheap electronics are nice. Unfortunately, people who go into the stores expecting the same awesome savings are instead hit with higher prices. But that ain’t all. In Connecticut, Best Buy is being sued for (allegedly) misleading its customers. In some stores an Internet kiosk is available so people can compare the online prices with what’s available in-store. But wait a sec . . . that kiosk doesn’t show, but a close facsimile with jacked-up dollar values! Best Buy goes on to explain themselves in this article, but it all stinks like yesterday’s kippers.

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Nutty Google headline
Once in a while, a headline grabs you, often in a slightly uncomfortable way. That happened to Insider today when he discovered, though casual browsing, this article: Google takes care of its privates. Granted, we should all take care of our privates, but what this story is really about is Google’s attempt (or lack thereof) to follow the EU’s privacy rules. How privacy regs become “privates” is something that only the headline writer could explain, but think of the implications: Under PIPEDA, your privates would expire after seven years. Ontario Privacy Commish Anne Cavoukian would be drafting (and approving) new privates every year. Same goes for her Fed counterpart Jennifer Stoddart. Where does it all end? This is more a caution to would be IT journalists than IT users, but gross headlines just lead to more grossness. And watch those typos on “public sector” while you’re at it.

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Take a picture, it’ll last longer
In a country where the diet used to consist primarily of rice, seaweed and fish, it’s somewhat disconcerting to discover that the Japanese now have an obesity problem. But, unlike so many Western nations, they have discovered a way to battle the bulge: don’t eat that peanut buster parfait, take a picture of it.

The idea here is to snap pictures of your food with a cell phone camera and e-mail them to a nutritionist who will then tell you whether you should chow down or move on healthier fare. Use of the service is about $20 a month. Naturally, I would just inundate them with pictures of doughnuts. If a doctor tells me a Hawaiian sprinkle is better for me than a double stuffed chocolate, then I can live with that.

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iPod all washed up
There comes a time when you think you’ve witnessed every branding possibility under the sun. You figure, Hey, I’ve seen a Hello Kitty toaster, a Lando Calrissian toothbrush and a G.I. Joe assault rifle. Surely nothing can be more asinine than that? Yeah, right. Get ready for the Tide iPod. The Tide bull’s eye logo becomes the iPod wheel we’ve all grown to know and love and iPod itself is a delightful sunny orange, the same shade as a Tide detergent box. It’s easy to dismiss this as an awfully tacky product tie-in – and why wouldn’t you, seeing as it is? – but the kitsch value will probably make this baby a collectors’ item. Plus, it’s supporting a charity that will help build homes in New Orleans, so rock on. Just keep it clean.

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He ain’t heavy, he’s my pothole
This isn’t a story that Insider would typically feature in this space, but it’s something we can all relate to: getting stepped on. Researchers have discovered that ants are able to repair the tiny potholes that mar their roads by filling the holes themselves – literally. The most selfless ants will stand in the holes and let their little buddies climb over them. Insider really thinks we should take a leaf out of the ants’ book – Is that a pun? Possibly – and fill the potholes that are dotted around our Canadian roadways ourselves. You might be able to cram a Toyota Echo into one of the larger ones.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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