An effort to set a record for circumnavigating the globe and make a statement about the environment is over, according to a news report from New Zealand.
TV 3 in New Zealand reports that Pete Bethune, captain of the Earthrace, has conceded that it will be impossible to beat the record.
The Earthrace , a boat that runs on biodiesel and employs other green technologies, launched on March 10 from Barbados. Since then, it has been plagued by mechanical problems and also got delayed by a wreck in Central America. For the past several days, the boat has been stuck in Palau foraging for parts.The Earthrace, docked in S.F. in August.
"Even if we had a perfect run from here, there's no way we'd get the record by Barbados," Bethune, who is from New Zealand, wrote in his blog . Bethune's last post was April 26, on the early side of the International Date Line. The TV 3 story was posted April 27, New Zealand time.
The record for circumnavigation is 75 days, and it was set in 1998 in by a British group of sailors in a regular diesel boat. Although Bethune did not have extensive open-water sailing experience, the Earthrace on paper seemed to have a pretty good shot at the record. The boat, a trimaran, can cut through high waves and travel at 40 mph.
Several biodiesel refiners had agreed to supply the boat with fuel. Ironically, the only place that a sponsor had not delivered biodiesel, a form of diesel made from vegetable oil and/or animal fat, was Palau. Thus, even if the boat had nabbed the record, it may have had to rely a bit on fossil fuels.
The boat also employed organic compounds to keep barnacles off the hull.
The boat has created a media sensation in nearly all the ports it has docked and Bethune has mostly kept an open boat policy for visitors.
SmashMash is a new multifaceted visual editor. It can add motion to still photos, create slide shows, and edit videos and audio. A hybrid app , SmashMash is impressive for its capabilities, although in this early beta stage it's hard to actually make attractive content with it, and it's a bit buggy.
But it's got amazing potential. Just messing around? Take your still photos of people, make their lips move , and put words in their mouths. Or take a bunch of slides and create a Ken Burns-like slide show. You can insert videos in your productions and can do basic editing on them . You can record videos and audio from a Webcam and you can apply and modify transitions between your media clips.
SmashMash can make letters nod, rotate, wag, pulse, wander and blink.
If you want to really get creative, you can even start from scratch and create your own animations. SmashMash's drawing tools are rudimentary, but easy enough to use if all you're trying to make are stick figures.
There is more media editing power in SmashMash than most people will ever need, and it's a more open experience than any online editor I've seen. Unfortunately, at this point you can't take advantage of much of the power without either crashing the app or watching it slow to a crawl. I hope to see the bugs fixed soon, of course. More importantly, the app also needs templates to help users start out. While advanced users won't want to be constrained by anyone else's idea of what their projects should look like, we all have to start somewhere in an editing tool like this one, and having framing into which we can install our own media would make the early experiences with SmashMash more likely to generate subsequent visits. For beginners who want to create montages or slide shows, in fact, I'd recommend they steer clear of SmashMash and head over to OneTrueMedia or RockYou .
A timeline editor lets you manage photos, music and video in your presentations.
However, if you want more freedom to gussie up your photos or videos, or you want to experiment with animation or other strange moving manipulations of your media, do check out SmashMash. There's really nothing quite like it.
SmashMash will have three versions: A lightweight, Web-only photo editor, a more capable full media editor that's browser based, and a download that will eventually cost $19 . All of them will interface with the SmashMash servers for hosting of media, and SmashMash will provide embedding codes so presentations can be inserted into social network pages. Users will also be able to save their files, as videos, to their own hard disks.
SmashMash CEO Michael Land will pitch the product at the San Francisco New Tech Meetup on January 9.
It's time for me to come clean. I'm a Linux poseur.
But a new Linux book, Greg Kroah-Hartman's Linux Kernel in a Nutshell , could help people like me get some real technical chops.
I've had nerd tendencies for decades. I'm one of those reasonably knowledgeable people who tries new operating systems for entertainment and freely supplies friends and relations with middling tech support.
I realized exactly how shallow my real knowledge of computers is, though, beginning in 1998 when I installed my first version of Linux--Red Hat 5.2. Linux comes with a vast array of technical options and caters to the computer science crowd that likes to sniff packets, allocate heap space and scrutinize core dumps.
Most of this is beyond me. However, even for me, there is a certain thrill in the powers that Linux grants its users. It's like fiddling with a car's fuel-air mixture and valve timing as you drive. Sure, it's not for everyone--your mileage may vary, as the standard disclaimer goes--but it can be very instructive.
The most instructive Linux activity by far was building my own kernel, the core software of the operating system. This is the part that listens to the keyboard, schedules disk operations, and figures out where to focus processing attention. Using a customized kernel is a great way to peer into the inner workings of a computer .
But there's no way I could have figured out how to build a kernel on my own, or at least to devote the necessary time to figure it out. Without a techno-savvy friend who held my hand during the scary parts, I would have been completely lost, or more likely, I wouldn't have made the exploration in the first place.
Which brings me Kroah-Hartman's book. It's a thorough guide to building a custom Linux kernel. The Novell programmer explains how to download the kernel, configure it, build it, install it. He has a comprehensive guide to all kinds of options, from modules to kernel options such as voluntary pre-emption.
And if you don't want to buy the book from publisher O'Reilly, it is available as a free download as well.
It's never going to be simple to reach into the deepest part of the computer's software and start fiddling with the knobs. And it's certainly not for everyone. But for students, the technically savvy, people who want to see what Richard Stallman is talking about when he says "free as in free speech," or just poseurs who want to beef up their cocktail party conversation, Kroah-Hartman's book is terrific.
Stephen Shankland covers Google, Yahoo, search, online advertising, portals, digital photography, and related subjects. He joined CNET News in 1998 and since then also has covered servers, supercomputing, open-source software, and science. E-mail Stephen .
Got late word from Yahoo today about the company's new update of My Yahoo , due to roll out at 9:00 PM PDT tonight. As it turns out, I already have access to the features. So this report is based on hands-on access to the new service. We also covered an earlier version of the new My Yahoo back in March .
My Yahoo now has a slick pop-down window for adding new page elements.
There are a few new modules available to My Yahoo users, like improved calendar and bookmarks widgets. The biggest update, though, is a new method to update your personal page, called "inline personalization." Now you don't have to hop to a new page to select a module and add it. Instead, a little window drops down over your page and any changes you make are immediately reflected on your page, still visible underneath. It sure beats going to a separate page, as Google's personal page, iGoogle makes you do whenever you want to add content.
Yahoo's new implementation of home page personalization is quite good. The menu that opens up over your home page is clear and easy to use. But inline personalization is not unique. Both Netvibes and Pageflakes let you add content to your personal page without jumping away from where you are. Furthermore, Netvibes and Pageflakes also let you add RSS feeds by entering in just the URL of the site. Yahoo has a good directory of popular blogs that can be added with just a few clicks, but adding feeds not in the list requires that you find the complex URL of the RSS feed itself and paste that in.
I would still recommend the new My Yahoo, especially to nongeeks. It's simple but capable, it's slicker than Google's personal page, and it does most of the stuff that the upstart home page services offer. Personally, though, I am sticking with Netvibes. There's no killer feature in My Yahoo that makes me want to switch back to it , and it's too tedious to add RSS feeds to Yahoo.
Update, 5/17/07: You may have trouble getting to the new features today. Apparently the debut isn't going super-smoothly, and it's not happening all at once. My contact at Yahoo dropped me this note last night after I posted the above evaluation: "The rollout of new features did begin tonight but it will be gradual and complete tomorrow."
Hold the gravy! Check it out--it looks like you can add the Sprint store to your list of places to shop on Black Friday, as the carrier announced today that the RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8130, Motorola Q9c, and Motorola i335 will all be available starting November 23, though you'll only be able to purchase the Moto Q9c online for the time-being.
The RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8130 will run $199.99 with a two-year contract and has built-in GPS and EV-DO with support for the Sprint Power Vision services, including Sprint Music Store , Sprint TV, and Sprint Navigation --a pretty robust offering for a BlackBerry. Remember, this is also the first device from RIM to offer video-recording capabilities with its 2-megapixel camera. Additional goodies include Bluetooth 2.0 , a microSD expansion slot, and support for up to 10 e-mail accounts with push technology.
Meanwhile, the Motorola Q9c offers a refresh to Sprint's aging Motorola Q by bringing Windows Mobile 6 Standard Edition, a revamped design with a better keyboard, and GPS. Like the Motorola Q9h for AT&T , this model features Documents to Go for creating, viewing, and editing Office documents and features popular instant-messaging clients as well as various push e-mail solutions, including Microsoft Direct Push and Good Mobile Messaging. The Moto Q9c is $149.99 with a two-year service agreement and after rebates.
Motorola i335 for Nextel
Finally, for Nextel customers, we have the Motorola i335 . Though it's not a smartphone, the i335 works with the Nextel Direct Connect service to give you instant access to other Nextel users. The slim but rugged candy-bar-style handset meets military standards for standing up to dust, shock, and exposure to vibration. It also offers Bluetooth 1.2, integrated GPS, a speakerphone, VibraCall alert, and text and multimedia messaging. The i335 will cost $50 with a two-year contract and after rebates.
On Sale Now: $99.99 View the latest prices for Motorola Q9c
I grew up with The New York Times and still believe that for all its faults, real or imagined, this remains the best general interest daily newspaper published in the United States--in print and online.
When you're that visible, everyone's got an opinion. So it is that The Times gets it from the left, from the right and from the whack jobs who inhabit that bizarre netherworld beyond both extremes.
But anyone who thinks sensibly about the intersection of media and the Internet has to agree that The Times made the right decision when it announced today the end of the TimesSelect subscription service .
A couple of years ago, the newspaper put its primo content as well as its archives behind a cybergate. At the time, the decision raised a lot of hackles. Just another proof point for the critics that the "mainstream media" didn't have a clue.
That was harsh but it was hard to escape the conclusion that The Times ' business managers were unintentionally about to push away potential new business. Turns out that TimesSelect only accounted for $10 million a year, not much in the larger scheme of things.
Apropos, check out this perceptive piece in Advertising Age about advertising spending trends:
"But there's something else going on that has nothing to do with the natural rhythms of booms and busts or the fortunes of Madison Avenue's biggest clients. Simply put, American companies are shifting more and more marketing dollars out of paid media."
With U.S. ad spending dropping for a second consecutive quarter, give The Times ' management this much: They can read spreadsheets just as well as anybody. Compared to the sharp growth in Internet advertising, TimesSelect was a nickel-and-dime operation. It was time to reverse that mistake and change with the times.
So they did. Better late than never.
The fall-out continues over a USA Today story that claimed three of the nation's largest phone companies supplied customer phone records to the National Security Agency.
BellSouth on Thursday faxed a letter to the newspaper's publisher and top lawyer demanding a retraction of "false and unsubstantiated statements" about its practices in the story, according to a CNN report .
USA Today is reviewing the letter and plans to respond, a company representative said in an e-mail message to CNET News.com.
The letter was the latest step in BellSouth's attempts to free itself from allegations that it had illegally handed over call logs to the feds. Shortly after the USA Today story ran, both BellSouth and Verizon issued statements denying their involvement with the controversial NSA surveillance program .
The position voiced by BellSouth in recent days echoes the stance it took when surveyed by CNET News.com at the end of January. BellSouth was one of 15 large telecommunications and Internet service firms that was able to give a firm "no" in response to the question, "Have you turned over information or opened up your networks to the NSA without being compelled by law?"