Thursday, September 28, 2006

Microsoft Releases Zune Pricing and Availability Date

Microsoft announced that the Zune digital media player will be available to customers in the US on November 14, 2006. The Estimated Retail Price is $249.99 USD.

People who buy this devide will get the following:

  • 30GB digital media player will come equipped with wireless functionality for Zune-to-Zune sharing of music, pictures and home recordings; a bright, three-inch LCD video screen that works in portrait or landscape mode to view pictures and videos; and a built-in FM tuner. The device will be available in three colors: black, brown and white.
  • A selection of preloaded content including songs, music videos and film shorts are installed on the device’s hard drive to help consumers discover new artists and entertainment.

Zune makes it easy to find music you love — whether it’s songs in your existing library or new music from the Zune Marketplace:

  • Its dynamic music service will be continually updated with new content and experiences so there is always something to discover. The Zune Marketplace lets users browse and purchase songs individually.
  • A Zune Pass subscription gives consumers access to millions of songs for $14.99 per month.
  • Users can purchase songs individually using Microsoft Points for 79 points per track. Similar to a pre-paid phone card, Microsoft Points is a stored value system that can be redeemed at a growing number of online stores, including the Xbox Live Marketplace.

In addition to the rich service and Zune-to-Zune sharing capabilities available at launch, the built-in wireless technology and powerful software provide a strong foundation for Zune to continue to build new shared experiences around music and video.

For more information, see the following press release.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Free Xpresspost Pre-Paid Envelopes

Canada Post is a Canadian postal service that operates as an independent crown corporation. With the influx of alternative services, from both within the mailing industry and other forms of communications (i.e e-mail), Canada Post has had to come out with new competing services.

One of these services is Xpresspost.

Xpresspost is a shipping service for documents, packets and parcels that provides fast, guaranteed delivery at a cost much less than courier.

If you have never used this service before, here's your chance to try this service out. Canada Post is offering two FREE postage-paid Xpresspost envelopes for each of their Domestic, USA and International products in return for completing a simple survey.

Here are the links to the surveys:

For all of my Canadian blog readers, enjoy!

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

What's Coming in ArcGIS 9.2

Urban Planners are increasingly turning to more tools and technology to aid in their decision making processes. One of these tools is Geographic Information Services (GIS).

ESRI, the company which produces GIS products, announced a listing of new features and improvements that are coming in ArcGIS 9.2.

With the ArcGIS 9.2 release, ESRI focused on improved usability, stability, and performance as well as quality improvements and enhancements across all products. The general usability improvements include:

  • New keyboard shortcuts and mouse wheel support
  • New and/or improved tools including a customizable Full Extent tool, a My Places tool, a Measure tool, and a Go to XY tool
  • An integrated help system based on GIS concepts and content with
    improved index and search capability
  • Much faster geocoding
  • Support for ISO 19139 metadata and OGC GML Simple Features data
  • Direct reading of Microsoft Excel files
  • New COGO editing/construction tools

For those that use this software, this hotly anticipated release should be released in the October/November time frame. For more information, see ESRI's What's Coming in ArcGIS 9.2 website.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

ATI Driver Updates - Catalyst 6.9 and Theater 550/660 drivers

ATI released updated drivers for its Radeon 9500 and higher video cards and tv tuner cards based on the Theater 550/660 chipset.

For those of you using Windows XP Media Center 2005, these drivers should be useful to you.

Direct links to the download pages are available here.

Among the main features of the Catalyst 6.9 drivers include

  • 3DMark2006 overall performance improves 6.7-23.7% with anti-aliasing enabled due to improvements in HyperZ efficiency on the Radeon X1300, X1600 and X1800 series of products. The largest gains can be seen on Crossfire configurations and/or 256MB card configurations at resolutions of 1280x1024 or greater
  • Doom3 performances improves up to 9.3% due to further OpenGL shader complier and transform engine optimizations on the entire Radeon X1000 Series of products. The largest gains can be seen on Radeon X1900 configurations at resolutions of 1600x1200 or higher

Additional updates can be found at the release notes link at the above Driver download link.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Male Restroom Etiquette

This video, with the title Male Restroom Etiquette, was posted on Youtube and has been making the rounds recently. Measuring in at 9m 56s long, it is a humerous video that should be given a viewing.

The movie says that the sanctity and renown efficiency of the 'loo' have been preserved by a social contract stating types of behaviour that are appropriate and types of behaviour that are not.

Highlights from the four major sections include:

  1. Efficiency - "Waste no time. Walk in, do your business, wash your hands and walk out."
  2. Urinal Selection - "Always select the urinal that is as far away as possible from men using other urinals." ... "Under no circumstances, two adjacent urinals should be used at the same time." ... "Leave or come back later, or use a stall."
  3. Flushing - "In most cases, urinal flushing is optional. Over time, the water will become a rich orange, at which time, flushing widely considered to be mandatory. As for commodes, the rule is, without qualification, always flush when you are finished. When you come across an unflushed commode, leave it alone and use another."
  4. Noise Pollution - "In general, any noise in a public restroom which does not emanate from the plumbing, is considered extremely undesirable." ... "Speech is your enemy. Never ever under any circumstance say a single word while within a bathroom. Not to a friend, not to a lover, not to Jesus himself. Violation of this precip grates against all good things and the way of nature, corrodes the efficiency of the bathroom and places the very fabric of our civilization in peril."
All men of the world can find common ground in these simple rules of evacuation etiquette, and the world will be one step closer to peace and harmony, knowing one day, we will collectively wipe poor hygiene habits from the face of mankind.

Check it out, and enjoy (trust me, not only are the words important, but the delivery is what sets it apart). Thanks to 'Overman' of Zarathustra Studios for creating this video.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Time to Ban Incandescent Light Bulbs?

This morning, there was an article in the Toronto Star that caught my eye. Tyler Hamilton's Lights fantastic, and efficient article in the Business section of the Star got me thinking. If they could phase out the production of a number of substances believed to be responsible for ozone depletion (essentially Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC)) with the Montreal Protocol, why can't the same be done with incandescent light bulbs.

What is an incandescent light bulb?

The incandescent light bulb is a source of artificial light that works through the process of incandescence. An electric current passes through a thin filament, heating it and causing it to emit light. The enclosing glass bulb prevents the oxygen in air from reaching the hot filament, which would be otherwise rapidly destroyed by oxidation. A benefit of the incandescent bulb is that they can be produced for a wide range of voltages, from a few volts to several hundred volts. However, this type of light bulb has a relatively poor luminous efficacy. This means that its ratio of the total apparent power of a light source to its actual total power, is not good compared to newer lighting technologies.

  1. Glass bulb (or "envelope")
  2. Low pressure inert gas
  3. Tungsten filament
  4. Contact wire (goes to foot)
  5. Contact wire (goes to base)
  6. Support wires
  7. Glass mount/support
  8. Base contact wire
  9. Screw threads
  10. Insulation
  11. Electrical foot contact

Approximately 95% of the power consumed by an incandescent light bulb is emitted as heat, with the remaining 5% of power being emitted as visible light. This is extremely inefficient, compared to other types of lighting, such as fluorescent lamps which emit closer to 20% of power as visible light. In addition, incandescent bulbs produce much more heat, which end up adding to air conditioning costs, increasing the need for more energy to cool down a building in the summer.

Alternatives to Incandescent Light Bulbs

There are some current alternatives to incandescent light bulbs. One of these alternatives is the compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), which one can readily find available at most major stores these days. CFLs use about a quarter of the power of incandescent bulbs to produce the same amount of light. For example, a 14-watt CFL produces the same amount of light as a 60-watt incandescent bulb (approximately 900 lumens or 60 lumens per watt). A comparison of the operating costs of these two light sources follows (using $0.10 per kWh for cost of energy).

Electricity Cost
(for 800-900 lumens at a rate of $0.10/kWh)

The average lifetime of incandescent light bulbs is about 750-1000 hours. It would take at least 6-11 incandescent bulbs to last as long as one compact fluorescent, which have an average lifetime between 11,250 and 15,000 hours. This causes an additional total cost of using incandescent bulbs.

Going further into the future, light emitting diodes (LEDs) technology should become more prevalent. In Hamilton's article, he writes of a company called Carmanah Technologies, based out of Victoria, Canada, that can't keep up with demand for its solar-powered LED lighting systems, which airports, municipalities, transit authorities and defence departments across North America and Europe are eagerly ordering. The reason is because for some applications, it costs more to put in electrical wiring (i.e. to a bus shelter or an airport runway) than to pay a premium for lights that can operate exclusively on sunlight and battery technology. Each system sold means a lighting system that won't be drawing from the electrical grid.

Carmanah's CEO says that LED technology is "crystallizing" in the area of general illumination and that it will eventually target its LED light systems at everything from walkways and parking lots to school campuses and phone booths.

Not too far from Carmanah is Burnaby-based TIR Systems Ltd., which touts itself on its Web site as "Building the Foundations of Tomorrow's Lighting." TIR's Lexel LED technology is aimed at general lighting and promises an 80 per cent reduction in electricity consumption. Steve Campbell, a spokesperson for TIR, calls lighting the "low-hanging fruit" for efforts to address the Kyoto Protocol and global warming. He also states:

No other world energy consumer represents a faster opportunity to reduce global energy consumption.


LED developers are heading toward lower-price markets that aim to replace the filament-based light bulb.

Two other alternative to incandescent light bulbs are silicon-based lighting technology and fibre-optic technology. While less mature than CFL or LED technology, investors and venture capitalists behind both technologies are hopeful that the can bring products to market at the $1/bulb milestone.

Why should we ban incandescent light bulbs?

Despite rising environmental awareness, steadily increasing electricity prices, industry innovation and heightened public awareness, it is difficult for people to embrace change. While it would be ideal for people to voluntarily switch to more energy efficient lighting sources, reality has shown that true buy-in comes when users have no choice but to accept it. We have seen this with the rising use of blue box/composting programs, coupled with cut backs/limits in garbage pickup.

Could this ban work? Here's where past history in the form of the Montreal Protocol comes in. Prior to its implementation, people thought that it would be nearly impossible to phase out CFCs. Despite these feelings from its skeptics, this international treaty, which phased out the production of CFCs over a set schedule, forced all stakeholders to actively pursue and bring to market alternative CFC-free products, and as such, many of the targets that were agreed upon within the Montreal Protocol were achieved ahead of schedule.

If the Montreal Protocol was able to cause this type of change with regards to CFCs, why couldn't something similar for incandescent light bulbs also occur? We have viable alternatives to incandescent bulbs today. With the elimination of incandescent bulbs on the market, this would force the public into replacing incandescent bulbs with more energy efficient solutions. This would in turn spur on more investments in other lighting technologies, thus causing prices to drop once a critical mass of new products hits the market. All new buildings (residential, commercial, industrial) would be fitted with these same lighting solutions.

While this would not be a popular ban to implement, the potential gains in this endeavour would outweigh the short term pains that might be experienced during the transitional period.

We all have a part to play in helping to reduce the amount of energy we consume; this would just be one of our first steps.

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Mobile Recording for Media Center Computers

Casey Chesnut, one of the newest Media Center MVPs, is also quite the developer. He's written quite a few apps for Media Center in addition to other technologies, but I wanted to point out one application that he recently wrote up that I think is really cool.

/mobileRecord is essentially a bot running on your Media Center computer that operates over MSN/Windows Live Instant Messenger network. Using this bot, and a mobile device (or any other computer with the appropriate IM client), you can scheduling recordings on an Media Center PC.

I could attempt to further elaborate on how this application works, but you'd probably be better off visiting Casey's /mobileRecord website for more details. At this site, you'll find:

  • An introduction to /mobileRecord
  • An explanation of the architecture behind /mobileRecord
  • A demo mode of the bot
  • Installation instructions
  • A listing of the features of the program
  • A listing of the limitations of the program
  • Usage and troubleshooting tips
  • Information about the development process of this app
  • Sample videos of the application in action

Also take the time to browse the rest of Casey's website to see some of the other apps that he has developed. Who knows, you might find something else that will pique your interest.

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Microsoft announces New Presenter Hardware Products

Microsoft announced two products that will aid those that do a lot of presentations.

This new line of products, dubbed 'Presenter Products' consists of the following lineup:

Common to both of these products are innovations to assist presenters to manage PowerPoint presentations, as well as a built in laser pointer with a 50 feet range, so the presenter is not tied down to the computer during their presentation.

The Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000 has the following features:

Microsoft Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000 Features
  1. Presentation Controls - Smoothly navigate through Microsoft Office PowerPoint and other presentations from up to 30 feet away from your PC.
  2. Media Remote - Use for multimedia presentations and control digital entertainment from the comfort of your living room sofa.
  3. Battery Life Indicator - You won't caught with a dead battery—the Battery Status LED Indicator glows red when the battery is running low.
  4. 2.4 GHz Bluetooth with First Connect Technology - Connect wirelessly right out of the box with 2.4 GHz Bluetooth
  5. High Definition Laser Technology - Microsoft High Definition Laser Mouse products are more precise, more responsive, and deliver smoother tracking.
  6. Laser Pointer - Point out essential information during presentations with the laser pointer.

The Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000 will also have an on/off switch to preserve battery life, a carrying case, as well as software that allows for Magnification, Button Customization, and advanced window viewing.

The Microsoft Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000 will be available in mid-October 2006 with an ERP of $99.95.

The Presenter 3000 has the following features:

Microsoft Presenter 3000 Features
  1. Best with Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2003 - Deliver your presentation effortlessly with a full range of features that let you communicate in precise detail.
  2. Navigate with confidence - Move smoothly from slide to slide with simple slide presentation buttons.
  3. Command the pace perfectly - Control the tempo of your presentation with the LCD Presentation Timer, complete with Vibration Alert.
  4. Call attention to what counts - Highlight the details with the Laser Pointer.
  5. Interact with your presentation - Cursor control allows you point & click within your presentation.

The Presenter 3000 also offers 2.4GHz wireless with 50’ range as well as 6 month battery life.

The release date and pricing for the Microsoft Presenter 3000 should be released shortly.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Microsoft Releases Zune Details

Microsoft today unveiled details of the first products to be released under its Zune brand.

Designed around the principles of sharing, discovery and community, Zune will create new ways for consumers to connect and share entertainment experiences. The Zune experience centers around connection — connection to your library, connection to friends, connection to community and connection to other devices.

Available this holiday season in the United States, Zune includes a 30GB digital media player, the Zune Marketplace music service and a foundation for an online community that will enable music fans to discover new music. The Zune device features wireless technology, a built-in FM tuner and a bright, 3-inch screen that allows users to not only show off music, pictures and video, but also to customize the experience with personal pictures or themes to truly make the device their own. Zune comes in three colors: black, brown and white.

Every Zune device creates an opportunity for connection. Wireless Zune-to-Zune sharing lets consumers spontaneously share full-length sample tracks of select songs, homemade recordings, playlists or pictures with friends between Zune devices. Listen to the full track of any song you receive up to three times over three days. If you like a song you hear and want to buy it, you can flag it right on your device and easily purchase it from the Zune Marketplace.

Zune makes it easy to find music you love — whether it’s songs in your existing library or new music from the Zune Marketplace. Easily import your existing music, pictures and videos in many popular formats and browse millions of songs on Zune Marketplace, where you can choose to purchase tracks individually or to buy a Zune Pass subscription to download as many songs as you want for a flat fee.

In addition to the features available at launch, built-in wireless technology and powerful software provide a strong foundation to continue to build new shared experiences around music and video. As Zune evolves, the device can be easily updated. The Zune software on your PC will let you know when these updates are available for download.

Here are some pictures of the devices.

The three colours of ZuneZune in White and BrownZune in Black

Microsoft is hoping that this new line of products will allow it to gain a foothold in the digital music entertainment market, something that Apple has dominated in the recent past with its Ipod line. Only time will tell if Microsoft is successful.

More information is available at the following Microsoft Press Release and the Zune Virtual Pressroom.

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Microsoft Announces New Hardware for Windows Vista

Microsoft announced yesterday in the a press release that its hardware line, consisting of mice, keyboards and LifeCams would be compatible with Windows Vista upon the operating system's launch to retail customers.

In addition to this, Microsoft is releasing three new desktop (keyboard and mouse) sets that will take advantage of features in Windows Vista, so that users can easily accomplish everyday tasks, find what they are looking for and enjoy the latest in entertainment.

Here are photographs of the new products.

Wireless Laser Desktop 6000

Wireless Laser Desktop 6000

Wireless Entertainment Desktop 7000

Wireless Entertainment Desktop 7000

Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000

Wireless Laser Mouse 8000

Wireless Laser Mouse 8000

Among the features that will be on these new keyboards include:

  • The Windows Start Button offers one-touch access to the Windows Vista Start menu, with search functionality built in for searching the Internet or the PC.
  • The Gadget Button reveals or hides the personalized information consumers use most, such as weather and sports.
  • The Windows Live Call Button provides users with the easiest way to start an instant messaging session or a video call. It is like speed dialing for webcams.
  • The Media Center Start Button allows users to instantly access media, including movies and music (WED only).

The Wireless Laser Desktop 6000 features Microsoft’s Comfort Curve Keyboard design with a cushioned palm rest that encourages natural hand and wrist positioning, an easy-to-use layout for enhanced comfort and productivity, and an optional 5-degree reverse slope in addition to the standard 0-degree and positive tilts.

The desktop is also only an inch thick and includes many of the performance elements of the Entertainment line, including the Windows Start Button and Gadget Button.

The included Wireless Laser Mouse 6000 features Microsoft’s High Definition Laser Technology, which delivers more responsiveness, more precision and smoother tracking, even on uneven surfaces, as well as the new Instant Viewer, Magnifier and Tilt Wheel tools.

The Wireless Entertainment Desktops tap into the most innovative wireless technology with 2.4GHz Bluetooth technology. Featuring First Connect Technology, the desktops will work on PCs right out of the box. For added convenience, the transceiver supports a variety of Bluetooth profiles for connections to multiple Bluetooth devices. Even with multiple wireless connections, users will find virtually no interference as a result of intelligent technology that “hops” when it encounters a trouble spot.

As suggested by its name, the Wireless Entertainment Desktops are designed with entertainment in mind. The transition between work and play is effortless with the new keyboards; with up to a 30-foot range and compact design, they are ideal for on- and off-desktop use. For hassle-free entertainment, both desktops feature a navigation pad on the keyboard, which allows users to control the cursor from wherever they are. Users can kick back and relax on the couch and watch a movie or flip through a collection of favorite songs; with the integrated navigation pad, there is no need to get up to find the remote control or mouse.

The Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000 is set to take take entertainment to the extreme with its smart backlighting features. When users want to kick back, they can simply dim the lights and use the keyboard to control the TV show they just downloaded. The automatic backlighting lets them easily see all the keys without compromising the relaxed atmosphere. With its ambient light sensing, the backlighting is automatically adjusted based on the amount of light in the room. It also features proximity awareness to sense when the user walks away from the keyboard, which prompts it to turn off to conserve battery life and turn back on when the user returns.

The Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000 is also the first rechargeable keyboard that will allow users to power both the mouse and keyboard in one easy-to-use charging station and remain fully functioning while charging. The keyboard slides under the horizontal charging station and the mouse rests on top, providing a space-saving and sturdy recharging solution. To enable extra convenience and enhance the entertainment features, the docking station is equipped with three available Universal Serial Bus (USB) 2.0 ports for devices such as digital cameras, MP3 players and Microsoft LifeCams.

Paired with the new Wireless Entertainment Desktop keyboards is Microsoft’s first rechargeable mouse, the Wireless Laser Mouse 8000. The new mouse is the ultimate in sophistication, introducing a chic design with metal accents. It charges on the horizontal charging station, providing a sturdy base for mouse recharging and a blinking light for charge confirmation. The Wireless Laser Mouse 8000 delivers the ultimate Bluetooth experience and incorporates several new standout features:

  • Performance Slider. Users can optimize performance for intense PC tasks or lower it to extend battery life.
  • Instant Viewer. One-click access enables users to view all open windows and applications at once.
  • Quick charging. The mouse fully recharges in less than 90 minutes.
  • Faster than wired. Users will experience virtually no latency.

The Wireless Laser Mouse 8000 also includes Microsoft’s proprietary High Definition Laser Technology and five customizable buttons, including the Magnifier and Tilt Wheel.

Pricing and availability for these products is as follows:

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Office 2007 Beta 2 Technical Refresh Available Sept 14

Microsoft has announced that starting tomorrow (Thursday, Septemeber 14) you'll be able to download Office 2007 Beta 2 Technical Refresh build of Office 2007 (build 4407.1005).

If you're running Windows Vista RC1, you'll be happy to know that B2TR works great on RC1.

New features of the Beta 2 Technical Refresh include:

  • Better accessibility support
  • Improved XML file format scheme
  • Greater security
  • Improved indexing and searching

Jensen Harris, a Lead Program Manager on the Microsoft Office "user experience" team, reports that the UI is also totally feature complete, and you will see only cosmetic differences between B2TR and the final version in most areas.

Improvements to the Office 2007 UI that can be found in this Technical Refresh include:

You can find more information, including download links, at the 2007 Microsoft Office system preview site.

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US Open Closing Thoughts

Now that the US Open is over, here are some of my thoughts about what has happened in the last two weeks.

  • Why does the start of the US Open Mens' Final have to wait until the conclusion of an NFL game? This is suppose to be one of tennis' marquee events, yet it is playing second fiddle to another sport?
  • By now, everyone most have heard about Maria Sharapova and the mid-match coaching allegations leveled against her a.k.a. 'Bananagate'*. Why not put the coaches out of the line of sight of the players? For example, put the players' boxes at the corners of the court behind where the players sit for changeovers. Then it would be easy to see if a player was trying to communicate with people in the player's box during changeovers.

*For those that don't know what happened, Sharapova's coaching team (her father and her hitting partner) were caught on-camera during passing messages to her during changeovers (have a drink, have a banana). Here is a 2 minute video sequence showing this action from Maria Sharapova's Quarter-final match against Tatiana Golovin (see the 00:05 and 01:38 marks).

"You just can't make this up, folks."

Continuing on...

  • At the award ceremony for the Men's final, there are so many things that Dick Enberg could have asked Roger Federer, but the only thing Dick had to comment on was Roger meeting Tiger Woods? What was the event here? Roger winning the US Open, or Roger meeting Tiger?
  • The Player Challenge/Instant Replay system was a great success, at either correcting or confirming calls by the officials. However, it seems like there are much less chair overrules now, as the chair umpires seem to be too afraid to overrule incorrect calls by the linespeople. This is dangerous, as it puts the onus on the player to use one of their limited amount of challenges. What if the player has no more challenges? A wrong call, coupled with the reluctance by a chair umpire and a player out of challenges could potentially lead to other match-defining blown call. While I can understand having limited number of challenges to cut down on frivolous challenges, a wrong call that can't be corrected due to a lack of challenges is something that we should not see either. I would like to see the system changed so that the chair umpire can check ALL questionable calls on the replay system as they wish (since it literally takes 3 seconds of time anyways), and give the players more challenges (perhaps up to 5) so they don't have to ration their challenges.
  • What are they going to do with the Player Challenge system at Grand Slams that don't have fifth set tiebreakers (i.e. all of the rest of them excluding the US Open). Perhaps 1 extra challenge upon every batch of six games after the players have reached 6-6?
  • I sure do miss the player arguments with the chair umpire. I guess we'll have to go to the Grandstand or outside courts to see that. However, let's hope these player/chair umpire/linesperson disputes don't end up with a player being defaulted, like what happened to Caroline Woznaicki.
  • Something has got to be done about excessive 'grunting' (you might have heard some of it in the above video segment). One should not have to wear earplugs to enjoy a match of tennis (whether you are watching it live, or in the comfort of your own home). If Roger can win (and win ALOT) without grunting, other players should use him as an example.
  • Speaking of excessive, what about players that take excessive amounts of time between serves? Rafael Nadal and Sharapova immediately come to mind; however, they are far from being the only offenders. If the rules say 20 seconds in between the previous point and the next serve, the chair umpire has got to enforce it. They only need to dish out warnings once or twice, and all the offenders will have to fall in line.
  • For Canadians, why oh why must TSN have to put US Open action on tape delay just to cover football? It was a good thing that we could resort to TVUPlayer to get the USA Network over the Internet to fill this void.

Despite the conclusion of the US Open, there are still tennis tournaments to be played. The men have two more TMS tournaments (Madrid and Paris) and the women have two more Tier I tournaments (Moscow and Zurich) in addition to various lower tier tournaments in order to gain enough points to qualify for their respective season-ending tournaments in Shanghai (for the ATP) and Madrid (for the WTA).

Enjoy the rest of the tennis season!

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

How to troubleshoot ATSC issues in MCE

Media Center has supported ATSC OTA high definition television in the US since the release of Media Center 2005 (with Update Rollup 1). Unfortunately, ATSC reception is not officially supported in Canada, even though those living close to the border can (in most cases) receive these signals without issue.

Despite this lack of support, a fellow Canadian Media Center MVP, Peter Near, has published a detailed rundown of some the ATSC reception issues that you might run into with Media Center based on his recent experiences in trying to get it working right.

Among the issues listed (along with viable solutions/workarounds) include:

  • Incorrect Channel Information in MCE
  • Incorrect Data in the Data Stream

For more information about ATSC OTA HDTV support in Media Center, here are a listing of useful guides that should broaden your understanding of the subject:

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Free WiFi in Downtown Toronto

If you have been in Downtown Toronto scanning for WiFi signals, you may have encountered the SSID "One Zone_High Speed Internet". Officially launched today, this is Toronto Hydro Telecom’s wireless Internet access zone known as the 'One Zone™ Wireless network'. Using 802.11g standard technology One Zone™ users are able to access email, connect to their office remotely or simply surf the web from any location within the zone – offering customers completely untethered access to Canada’s largest hot zone.

The wireless network in the downtown Toronto area will be built up in 5 phases. Phase 1, bounded by Front Street and Queen Street; Spadina Avenue and Church Street, is currently up and running. The next four phases and their respective coverage boundaries can be seen in the coverage map below. All five phases to be up and running for operation by the end of 2006.

One Zone™ will be free to all users from September 6, 2006 until March 6, 2007. After that time, three different subscription packages will be offered:

  • A pre-paid monthly subscription priced at $29per month
  • A daily subscription including 24 consecutive hours of use priced at $10
  • An hourly subscription at $5

Using the One Zone™ WiFi network is simple. First you need to be located within the perimeter of the One Zone™ network. Next you will require a WiFi enabled device along with a cell phone with text messaging capabilities. From there simply follow the steps below and get ready to visit your favourite website, check your email or even access your office remotely online

  1. Open your WiFi enabled device
  2. Use the network connections manager on your WiFi enabled device to view available wireless networks.
  3. Select the SSID One Zone_High Speed Internet
  4. Open your web browser and visit the new user page.
  5. Enter your mobile phone number in the space provided.
  6. Within minutes you will receive a text message containing your username and password.
  7. Enter your username and password.
  8. Start surfing.

Once you have your username and password, it is valid for the whole duration of the 6 month trial. After the six-month trial period users will be required to subscribe to the service.

For more information about One Zone™ , visit the One Zone™ website.

If you're ever in downtown Toronto, and you need WiFi access, give this new system a try.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Microsoft Windows Vista Retail Pricing Information Released

In a press release from earlier today, Microsoft announced the availablility of Windows Vista RC1 to more testers via the Vista Community Preview program, in addition to releasing the estimated retail pricing (US) details.

Microsoft plans to broadly release the RC1 (Release Candidate 1) code to current Windows Vista Customer Preview Program (CPP) participants this week. In addition, Microsoft will reopen the CPP, a popular pre-release testing program, to new enrollments in coming days. Microsoft hopes that it will be able to have up to 5 million users try this RC1 build of Windows Vista.

Microsoft also announced U.S. estimated retail pricing for all editions of Windows Vista for both business and consumer users. Prices for the editions remain unchanged compared with the equivalent Windows XP editions, with the prices of some editions constant since Windows 95.

I have summarized the retail pricing in the table below.

Windows Vista SKUFullUpgrade
Home Basic
Home Premium

The Windows Vista Enterprise edition is only available to Microsoft Volume License customers, it is not available for retail purchase.

More information about the feature set of each SKU can be found at the Windows Vista: Editions page or from the Windows Vista Product Guide starting in Section 2 (Page 7).

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Windows Vista RC1 is released

Microsoft Windows Vista RC1 (Release Candidate 1) was released today to Technical beta testers and TAP members. For those of you who downloaded Windows Vista at its Beta 2 stage through the Community Preview Program (CPP), expect Vista RC1 to be released to you shortly.

Here is a message that Microsoft Platforms and Services Co-President Jim Allchin posted in regards to this release:

To the TechBeta community:

It’s official — Windows Vista RC1 is done!

We could not have achieved this milestone without your support. The quantity and quality of feedback and data we received from you has been essential to helping us progress. Thus we wanted you to be the first customers outside of Microsoft to get access to the bits. Next week, a broader set of technical customers will get them via MSDN and TechNet. But you’re the first! We wanted to get it into your hands asap so you can start giving us feedback right away.

You’ll notice a lot of improvements since Beta 2. We’ve made some UI adjustments, added more device drivers, and enhanced performance. We’re not done yet, however — quality will continue to improve. We’ll keep plugging away on application compatibility, as well as fit and finish, until RTM. If you are an ISV, RC1 is the build you should use for certifying your application.

The operating system is in great shape with RC1, but there’s still a lot of testing to do. You’ve come through for us so far, and I’m asking you to once again put the pedal to the metal and send us feedback. Windows Vista is going to touch hundreds of millions of lives all around the world. Thanks for everything you’re doing to help us give them the best experience possible.


For those of you that are Technical beta/TAP Participants, you can download the release at For those of you that are in the Community Preview Program (CPP), keep an eye out at the Windows Vista homepage for more details in the coming days.

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