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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Prof Gets $100,000 Grant to Study World of Warcraft

September 17, 2008

Forget the infamous $600 toilet seat. When it comes to tax dollar expenditures that might raise an eyebrow, how does $100,000 to research how Americans play World of Warcraft sound?

As reported by the Orange County Register, Prof. Bonnie Nardi (left) of the University of California Irvine, received the $100K grant from the National Science Foundation for the project. At issue: why American players go to greater lengths to mod the popular MMO than do Chinese WoW players.

You can't make this stuff up.

Said Nardi, not surprisingly a WoW player herself:

We are examining the many reasons for this disparity, including cultural and institutional factors. The vast majority of Chinese players are not ‘gold farmers’... They’re ordinary players like anyone. The media has blown that story out of all proportion. Many people think Chinese play for a job. They play for fun...

[The] Chinese have invented some interesting ways to play with the in-game economy... Ways that I have not observed here in two years of studying ‘World of Warcraft.’ Chinese players are more attuned to the aesthetics of the game... They talked more about color schemes, animations, architecture, and so on more than American players...

Here and in Europe and Australia/New Zealand people play with parents and event grandparents. Not in China. The older generation dislikes video games. People here play with brothers and sisters. But in China people don’t have brothers and sisters for the most part, so friend relationships are very important.

GP: Okay, so I'm trying to imagine the budget request for this grant:

  • WoW - $19.99
  • Burning Crusade Expansion - $29.99
  • Pre-order Lich King Expansion - $39.99
  • Hot Alienware PC - $3,000.00
  • Strategy guide - $24.99
  • 12 month WoW subscription - $180.00
  • Power leveling service - $250.00
  • Ample supply of black market WoW gold - $1,000.00
  • TOTAL: $4,544.96

So... the rest is going for pizza and energy drinks?

I'm having a larf at Prof. Nardi's expense here, of course, but her research does sound interesting. Maybe not $100K worth of tax dollars interesting, but interesting all the same...

Via: Chronicle of Higher Education

20 Most Incredible Desert Oases [PICS]


The yellow sand dunes stretch to infinity, whilst the scorching sun of the Sahel beats down on your head. You’re tired and you’re thirsty – you’ve been travelling for miles, searching for water.

read more | digg story

10 Movies We Can't Wait to See This Fall

Many entertainment outlets play it safe this time of year, refusing to play favorites and pretending that they're just as excited for Madagascar 2 as they are for Quantum of Solace. We're calling b.s. on that kind of fall movie preview. We're ready to rank, based on early buzz, previews, and potential.

read more | digg story

Top 10 Right-Click Tools


The right mouse button—beloved by geeks for its power, theoretically unnecessary on a Mac, and generally under-utilized on the average desktop. Right-clicking can be a powerful tool for automating file actions and saving yourself time and arm effort, but only if you've put your own stamp on the offerings of that secondary button. Today we're rounding up some of the best tools for adding power and precision to your right-click menu on Windows, Mac, and Linux systems, so check out what can be done from the other side of the scroll wheel. Photo by geobeo.

10. Add convenient actions to Nautilus (Linux)

The default file manager for GNOME-based Linux systems has a pretty sparse right-click menu when first installed. Install a few helper packages, however, and soon you're rotating and resizing images without an editor, popping open terminals for quick system work, and skipping the sudo command entirely with a "Run as administrator" link. Ubuntu users can install the nautilus-gksu, nautilus-image-converter, and nautilus-open-terminal packages for starters; users of other distributions should search their package manager for "nautilus" (or "konqueror" for KDE-based systems) to see what's available for quick right-click fix-ups.

9. Use two fingers for trackpad right-clicking

If you're new to Macs, or you just haven't dug deep into its configuration options, it's easy to miss this one. Mac laptops only have one button; instead of stretching your hands an octave-length to the Control key, put two fingers on the trackpad and click. To enable it, head to the Keyboard & Mouse section of System Preferences, under the Trackpad section, check this option: "For secondary clicks, place two fingers on the trackpad then click the button."

8. Get Google Map directions without a street address

You can know where "that restaurant with the good burgers" is (a few blocks over from the big intersection) without knowing an actual street address. Find the general spot in Google Maps, right-click, and click for directions to or from that area. You might find it helpful, or you might not truly appreciate it until you're on a scarcely-there Wi-Fi connection, trying to find a way across town and furiously Google-ing for possible addresses.

7. Make one-click FTP uploads with RightLoad

Anyone with access to their own web space, or with a need to do a lot of FTP transfer, should add RightLoad to their file-swapping arsenal. Set up your FTP servers in RightLoad's preferences, and sending files to the server is as easy as right-clicking and choosing a server. After you're done, RightLoad creates HTML-formatted links for quick web writing or friend-linking, and automatically renames duplicate files. Your overworked FTP client thanks you for the downtime.

6. Tweak Windows' Send To Menu

If you're not a fan of installing contextual applications or power toys on your system, Windows' built-in "Send to" menu on the right-click box can offer a lot of flexibility—you can create instant shortcuts, email or open a file, and much more. Lifehacker reader Howard Dickens explained the process for adding "Send To" actions and items in Windows 98 and XP; for the Vista method, check with the How-To Geek.

5. Customize the Mac Finder's actions with FinderPop

One of those apps that gives back the more that's put into it, FinderPop is a hugely customizable tool for cutting down the number of clicks needed to copy, move, or alias files between locations on your Mac. FinderPop can also launch applications or kill runaway processes, making the right-click (or Ctrl-click) menu a powerful launching pad.

4. Add or delete context items with ShellExView

Programs come and go from your computer, and even after they're thoroughly scrubbed, they can leave behind annoying traces in your context menu. ShellExView is where you get complete control over what shows up when you right-click a file, your desktop, or even Internet Explorer. You can add any program, delete useless links, and otherwise hook yourself up with time-saving shortcuts.

3. Roll your own right-click Mac actions with OnMyCommand

Let's face it—some of the work you do is creative, and some of it is just resizing a bunch of images to 400 pixels wide and converting them to JPEG. Automate those mandatory tasks with OnMyCommand, an AppleScript/command-line app that adds your own scripts or already-compiled offerings to Finder's right-click menu. Check out SimpleHelp's concise and clear guide for help getting started with OnMyCommand.

2. Create file-aware right-click options

Many of the tools listed above make adding custom file-wrangling options to your right-click menu easy, but only for every file or folder you click. If you want to get specific with certain file types, adding custom for-this-file-type-only actions isn't as hard as it might seem. Adam has explained the custom context menu process (pulled from a MetaFilter thread) for Windows XP; Vista users should check out FileMenuTools, detailed elsewhere in this list.

1. Combine lots of right-click tools with FileMenuTools

If you're a Windows user and only have time to try out one of the right-click tools we've gathered here, FileMenuTools is a safe bet for maximum utility. It doesn't get as in-depth as some of the utilities it rolls together, but it lets you create contextual file actions, improve your Send To menu, add super-helpful tweaks like "Run Command Line from Here" and "Copy Path," and generally geek out your right-click menu without touching the registry or hunting down obscure command line options.

Right-click menus are definitely a to-each-their-own tool, as the most useful tools depend on what you're trying to get done. So we ask our dear readers: What right-click actions, links, and tweaks help you act quickly and shuttle files more efficiently? Share your own tips in the comments below.

Microsoft's New Ad:Seinfeld and Gates out, Hodgman Lookalike

Echoing the Campaign of a Rival, Microsoft Aims to Redefine ‘I’m a PC

RELAX, computer users, after only two weeks Microsoft will stop teasing you as the company begins the next phase of an ambitious — and risky — $300 million campaign intended to make over its tarnished image.

The campaign, which begins Thursday and carries the theme “Windows. Life without walls,” will move away from the enigmatic teaser commercials that featured Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld in offbeat conversations about shopping, shoes, suburbia and the potential of computing to improve life. The teaser ads have generated considerable discussion since they started on Sept. 4, not all of it positive.

What follows is an audacious embrace of the disdainful label that Apple, Microsoft’s rival, has gleefully — and successfully — affixed onto users of Microsoft products: “I’m a PC.”

One new Microsoft commercial even begins with a company engineer who resembles John Hodgman, the comedian portraying the loser PC character in the Apple campaign. “Hello, I’m a PC,” the engineer says, echoing Mr. Hodgman’s recurring line, “and I’ve been made into a stereotype.”

The strategy to use the Apple attack as the basis for a counterstrike is typical for the agency behind the campaign, Crispin Porter & Bogusky.

Crispin Porter, part of MDC Partners, relishes efforts to transform perceived negatives into positives. For another client, Burger King, the calorie-stuffed menu is portrayed to a target audience of young men as a rebellious personal choice to “Have it your way.”

Mr. Gates makes a cameo appearance in the new Microsoft spots, along with celebrities like the actress Eva Longoria, the author Deepak Chopra and the singer Pharrell Williams. (Mr. Seinfeld is gone, at least for now.)

But the stars are everyday PC users, from scientists and fashion designers to shark hunters and teachers, all of whom affirm, in fast-paced, upbeat vignettes, their pride in using the computers that run on Microsoft operating systems and software.

Among them are more than 60 Microsoft employees, who are accompanied in the ads by e-mail addresses — even Mr. Gates’s (bill@windows.com).

Apple executives have been “using a lot of their money to de-position our brand and tell people what we stand for,” said David Webster, general manager for brand marketing at Microsoft in Redmond, Wash.

“They’ve made a caricature out of the PC,” he added, which was unacceptable because “you always want to own your own story.”

The campaign illustrates “a strong desire” among Microsoft managers “to take back that narrative,” Mr. Webster said, and “have a conversation about the real PC.”

A giant advertiser responding to the disparagement of a smaller rival can be fraught with peril. Consumers may see it as a validation of the claims, or even bullying. On the other hand, ignoring the taunts can damage images and sales.

In the car-rental wars, the market leader, Hertz, long kept silent about a cheeky Avis campaign that proclaimed: “We’re No. 2. We try harder.” But after Avis revenue grew robustly, Hertz shot back: “For years, Avis has been telling you Hertz is No. 1. Now we’re going to tell you why.”

Similarly, Coca-Cola said nothing as Pepsi-Cola challenged its hegemony in the cola category — until it turned tradition upside-down in 1985 by bringing out New Coke, with a more Pepsi-like taste. Roger A. Enrico, who was in charge of the PepsiCo beverage business, celebrated by co-writing a book titled “The Other Guy Blinked: How Pepsi Won the Cola Wars.”

Riffing on the Apple ads is “a smart way of changing the dialogue,” Mr. Webster said, “without taking them through the mud.”

Charles Rosen, chief executive at Amalgamated, an agency in New York that specializes in what he calls “cultural branding” for clients like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, said it made sense for Microsoft to engage Apple.

Through its campaign, which mocks the PC as it celebrates the Macintosh, “Apple represents the ideology of Silicon Valley, taking on big business as in Microsoft,” Mr. Rosen said.

That gives Apple “badge value, identity value,” he added, among consumers who prize brands they deem populist.

Trying to gain more firepower for ads by generating talk in the popular culture is another tactic of Crispin Porter’s. For example, commercials for Volkswagen became the subject of considerable buzz because they showed something rarely depicted in auto advertising: sudden crashes.

That was what the two-week Microsoft teaser campaign accomplished, according to companies that track discussions about brands.

At first, “the ads were ambiguous and confounding to some,” said Ted Marzilli, senior vice president and general manager of the brand group at the New York office of YouGovPolimetrix, a research company, but as they continued they helped improve perceptions about Microsoft.

On Sept. 4, when the teaser ads started, the “buzz” about Microsoft was 25 percent positive and 13 percent negative, Mr. Marzilli said, and by Tuesday it was 28 percent positive and 8 percent negative. Microsoft “has been beat up pretty badly by the Apple advertisements in the last six months,” he said. “These are strong numbers, good numbers, for Microsoft.”

Another research company, Zeta Interactive, using what it calls its Relevant Noise tool to mine places online like blogs and message boards for brand conversations, found what was described as overwhelmingly positive buzz surrounding Microsoft from Sept. 3 through Monday.

Of the posts analyzed by Relevant Noise during that stage of the teaser campaign, 63 percent were characterized as positive and 37 percent as negative.

“It did what it needed to do,” said Rob Reilly, partner and co-executive creative director at Crispin Porter in Boulder, Colo., and Miami. “People who got it, got it.”

To segue from the teaser ads to the actual campaign, he added, the phrase “I’m a PC” will serve to “set up the notion the real PC is not necessarily who we’ve been portrayed as” in the Apple ads.

“You can ignore it,” Mr. Reilly said of the Apple campaign, “or you can find a clever way to embrace it, to hug it to death, to turn it to your advantage.”

The celebration of PC users is intended to show them “connected to this community,” he added, “of people who are creative, who are passionate.”

As for the risks of responding to a smaller competitor, “Apple has done a tremendous job marketing their products,” Mr. Reilly said, so “I don’t know if it’s David versus Goliath anymore.”

The theme of “Life without walls” was the concept for the Microsoft campaign “from the beginning,” he added, because it declares “that the goal of Windows is to help remove the walls in your life, now and in the future.”

In addition to commercials on television shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” on Thursday, ads will appear in local and national newspapers in addition to new content added to the windows.com Web site, which will be reachable from the microsite lifewithoutwalls.com.

Coming magazine and outdoor ads focus on how Windows can be used for mobile devices, TV sets and laptops along with PCs.

Beginning on Thursday night, visitors to windows.com will be able to upload video clips and photographs demonstrating how they, too, are PCs. Some photos will be chosen to appear on electronic signs in Times Square from Friday through Oct. 13 and others will be chosen for use in Microsoft banner ads.

“This is just the beginning, the first phase of the campaign,” said Mich Mathews, senior vice president for marketing at Microsoft. “We’re on a journey to reposition the PC.”

“The conventional wisdom may be, ‘Hey this is motivated by Apple,’ ” she added, “but there has been a re-engineering of Microsoft.”

Ms. Mathews listed several steps to improve the consumer perception of Windows, which has been tarnished by problems with the Vista operating systems. Among them are the hiring by Microsoft of hundreds of trained employees, or Windows gurus, to work at retailers like Best Buy and Circuit City.

As for Mr. Seinfeld, will he return at some point?

“Jerry is a friend of the agency and Microsoft,” Mr. Reilly of Crispin Porter said, adding in a sly allusion to Brand X, “You like to keep your friends close — and your enemies closer.”

AIG Booted out of the DOW

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Big Insurance is out. Big Food is in.

American International Group, the beleaguered insurance giant, will no longer be a part of the Dow Jones industrial average starting next week.

Dow Jones & Company, which oversees the 30-stock index, said that Kraft Foods (KFT, Fortune 500) will take AIG's place.

The move, which will take effect on Sept. 22, comes just two days after the Federal Reserve said it would lend as much as $85 billion to rescue the crumbling insurer.

Fearing a bankruptcy by the insurer and an ensuing global financial crisis, federal regulators threw AIG a lifeline late Tuesday.

Like many of its Wall Street peers, AIG bet big on the on the subprime mortgage market and subsequently got burned. Over the past three quarters, the New York City-based company has lost more than $18 billion.

AIG (AIG, Fortune 500) shares have suffered as a result. The company's stock has lost more than 96% of their value since the start of the year.

In that regard, Thursday's decision by Dow Jones to remove AIG makes sense. While the 29 other index components have suffered alongside the insurer, AIG has helped dragged the Dow further into bear territory.

The last change to the index was made in February when Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) and oil giant Chevron (CVX, Fortune 500) replaced Altria Group (MO, Fortune 500) and Honeywell International (HON, Fortune 500).

AIG, which has been part of the index since April of 2004, saw its shares gain more than 3% in midday trading Thursday

10 Electric Cars You Can Buy Today

by Benjamin Jones 

Image: jurvetson

The internet is abuzz with news of new electric cars that all seem to be coming out in 2010. It seems like every day we hear more about the Chevy Volt “extended range electric vehicle,” but not so much about what’s available right now. If you’ve got an itchy trigger finger and a hefty wallet, there are a few options for you right now.

Who Sells the Electric Cars?

1. Zap

Model: Xebra

Price: $11,700

Top Speed / Range: 40 mph / 25 miles

Everyone was a little skeptical of Zap after Wired went and exposed a lot of shady doings over there. I won’t say that I’m any less skeptical now, but a forum member took the plunge and actually bought a Zap Xebra. His reports are interesting, and he seems to like the car, even though the government might not be so fond of it. Zap’s three-wheeled electric “cars” fall into that gray area where they’ve tried to register them as motorcycles to bypass safety regulations, but the government is starting to say “hold on, that’s no motorcycle!” Definitely check your local laws on these vehicles before taking the plunge.

2. Commuter Cars

Model: Tango

Price: $108,000

Top Speed / Range: 150 mph / 200 miles (with Lithium Ion batteries)

The Tango T600 is the like the Tesla Roadster’s slightly odd cousin. At first you think “oh, that’s weird,” until you realize that you’ve fallen in love and are getting married. That kind of what my experience looking at this car was. At first I wondered if someone had chopped a Smart ForTwo in half in order to be ironic about how small it was, then I realized this little sucker is extremely light, compact, and can do 0-60 in a very respectable 4 seconds. It’s certainly not cheap, but it’s the ultimate pocket racer if you really want to surprise the competition.

3. Dynasty Electric Car Corp.

Model: IT SEDAN

Price: $19,000

Top Speed / Range: 24 mph / 30 miles

The IT sedan is what’s known as a neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV), meaning that it is speed regulated to about 25 mph, even though it might be able to go faster. In some places, these are illegal because of the low top speeds, so if you’re looking into one you should check out local laws. There are however, good for putzing around town, if you live in that kind of area.

4. GEM

Model: e2

Price: $6,795

Top Speed / Range: 25 mph / 35 miles

Most people, myself included, are shocked to hear that Chrysler owns an electric car company, but once you scratch the surface, it becomes obvious that GEM’s NEVs are more like glorified golf carts than anything that could be morphed into a production electric car. Now, this isn’t an insult to NEVs, but you can tell by the fact that GEM’s vehicles cost thousands less than electric cars from companies like Dynasty’s that they’re not meant to be much more. If you’re looking to cruise around your country club estate in eco-style, this NEV might be for you.

5. TWIKE

Model: TWIKE

Price: $35,000

Top Speed / Range: 53 mph / 100 miles

The TWIKE, as a human-electric hybrid is sort of in a class of its own. It can run entirely on electric power, but using pedals inside the vehicle, both the driver and the passenger can pedal to help charge the battery and extend the range. I got to see one of these this year at HybridFest, and even though it looks pretty cool, I’d be scared to take it out anywhere where I would be nearing the max speed. 40 mph, maybe. But not 50 mph. Also, a starting price of $35k makes it a bit cost prohibitive, even though it’s very well made.

6. REVA

Model: Standard

Price: $16,000

Top Speed / Range: 45 mph / 70 miles

The REVA, or the G-Wiz, as it’s known in the UK is the much mocked and sometimes loved electric car from India. Watch Top Gear for more humourous commentary.

7. Myers

Model: NmG

Price: $35,000

Top Speed / Range: 75 mph / 30 miles

The NmG stands for “no more gas,” and it’s another one of those vehicles I had the pleasure of seeing at hybrid fest. It’s a small and incredibly aerodynamic vehicle, but it only seats the driver and can’t take on much cargo. However, the aerodynamics allow the NmG to reach decently high speeds and it seems like a reasonably fun ride for less than the $100k price tags on the Tango or Telsa Roadster.

8. ZENN

Model: ZENN NEV

Price: $12,000

Top Speed / Range: 25 mph / 35 miles

ZENN is Canada’s own NEV maker, but recently they’ve battled the government over the basic legality of NEVs on Canada’s roads. ZENN, like other NEV makers, produces electric cars that aren’t meant to do much more than run around on local streets. However, unlike GEM’s cars, they are a bit more substantial, but also a little cheaper than Dynasty’s cars.

9. Venturi

Model: Fetish

Price: $435,000

Top Speed / Range: 100 mph / 155 miles

The Fetish is a French electric supercar for people with, well, an electric car fetish. You’ll pay out the nose, and it’s not exactly the fatest electric car out there, but if you like the style and the Frenchness and all that, it may be the car for you.

10. Tesla

Model: Roadster

Price: $108,000

Top Speed / Range: 125 mph / 225 miles

Didn’t think we’d forget the Roadster, did you? The Roadster may be expensive, but it’s becoming the Prius of the electric car world. I won’t bore you with details, because you probably know them all, but suffice it to say it’s fast, cool, and pure electric. #1 on my list.

Bill Gates invests in algae fuel

 Bill Gates' investment firm is funding Sapphire Energy, a company that intends to make auto fuel from algae.

Sapphire Energy said Wednesday that a series B round will bring the total amount it has raised to more than $100 million. Investors include Gates' investment firm Cascade Investment, as well as Arch Venture Partners, Wellcome Trust, and Venrock.

Green crude gasoline from algae

The lowly algae is the renewable fuel industry's great green hope. Because algae is rich in oil and can grow in a wide range of conditions, many companies are betting that it can create fuels or other chemicals cheaper than existing feedstocks.

So far, no company has made cost-competitive fuel at large scale from algae. But a handful predict they will within three years.

San Diego-based Sapphire Energy said last year that it has successfully made its product, Green Crude, which yielded 91 octane gasoline from algae.

Its process can use algae to yield a range of fuels, including the chemical equivalents of gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel. It has a test facility in New Mexico.

The series B equity will help the company build out its operations with a target of producing 10,000 barrels per day of fuel from algae and help it operate at commercial scale within three to five years.

Sapphire Energy has not provided many details publicly about its technology except to say that it doesn't need fresh water to grow the algae and that it has assembled a team with expertise in cell biology, plant genomics, and algal production.

The stake in Sapphire Energy is not the first foray into alternative fuels for Gates' Cascade Investments. The firm invested in Pacific Ethanol, but later sold its shares as the company's stock price fell

Smithsonian to put its 137 million-object collection online


WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Smithsonian Institution will work to digitize its collections to make science, history and cultural artifacts accessible online and dramatically expand its outreach to schools, the museum complex's new chief said Monday.

The Smithsonian Institution's new chief wants to bring in Web gurus to find creative ways to present artifacts online.

"I worry about museums becoming less relevant to society," said Secretary G. Wayne Clough in his first interviews since taking the Smithsonian's helm in July.

Clough, 66, who was president of the Georgia Institute of Technology for 14 years, says he's working to bring in video gaming experts and Web gurus to collaborate with curators on creative ways to present artifacts online and make them appealing to kids.

"I think we need to take a major step," Clough said in an earlier interview. "Can we work with outside entities to create a place, for example, where we might demonstrate cutting-edge technologies to use to reach out to school systems all over the country? I think we can do that."

Smithsonian officials do not know how long it will take or how much it will cost to digitize the full 137 million-object collection and will do it as money becomes available. A team will prioritize which artifacts are digitized first.

Clough told reporters and editors of The Associated Press that the Smithsonian will need a reorganized, central department that would become an authority on K-12 curriculum development.

The Smithsonian Institution's new chief wants to bring in Web gurus to find creative ways to present artifacts online.

The Smithsonian Institution's new chief wants to bring in Web gurus to find creative ways to present artifacts online


The biggest advantage for the museums, including the American history and air and space, is that many of their visitors are younger. Longtime Smithsonian leaders acknowledge, though, that the academic side could do more to relate to youngsters.

"Wayne's coming from a place, Georgia Tech, where he spent a lot of time with 19-year-olds, which is a demographic that the Smithsonian doesn't relate to all that much," said Richard Kurin, the acting under secretary for history, art and culture. "That's where the future is."

It's also a new way for the Smithsonian to generate cash from private educational foundations or the U.S. Department of Education at a time when funding from Congress is flat and could decline, Clough said.

The Georgia native replaced a Smithsonian chief who was criticized for pursuing questionable commercial ventures, including a television deal with Showtime, and spending lavishly on corporate travel and expenses while trying to boost moneymaking operations.

The push to connect with schools comes as some museums across the country are seeing declines in student field trips, said Ford Bell, president of the American Association of Museums.

The federal No Child Left Behind law with its "focus on math and reading, and the high prices of gasoline is a double whammy," Bell said.

Some museums are going out of their way to prove their programs tie in with state education standards, Bell said. Museum leaders also are increasingly focused on digitizing their online collections, despite its expense, he said.

Apple updates Remote app for iPhone, adds Genius functionality

Posted Sep 16th 2008 6:30PM by Cory Bohon

Apple just dropped an update for the Remote application for iPhone/iPod touch. Remote.app allows you to control any iTunes library (or Apple TV) over a local WiFi connection. According to the release notes, you will now be able to create a Genius playlist, and create/edit playlists in iTunes.

This application (and its update) is a free download from the iTunes App Store. Take a look at our gallery of screenshots below. And be sure to sound off in the comments if you notice anything different in this version!

Monstrous Aviation: World's Biggest Airplanes [PICS]


For a few thousand years the biggest things in the skies were only in our imaginations, flying figments of myth and fable: the Roc from Sinbad’s tales, the Garuda bird from the Mahabharata, the Thunderbird from North America, the Brazilian Blue Crow, and other high-flying nightmares or soaring benevolent gods and spirits.

read more | digg story

A First Timer’s Guide to Oktoberfest

Written by Stuart Anderson

Feature photo by PixJK. Photo above by Joachim S. Müller.

A guide for first time attendees to one of the biggest beer celebrations in the world.

–Note: Oktoberfest 2008 begins September 20th and runs to October 5th in Munich.

You race a mob of lads in leather shorts to find a seat in the packed, wooden tent. A busty barmaid whams down an enormous glass of beer. You drink to the cry of Prost! and get ready to do it again. Then you stroll outside and jump on the roller-coaster.

You’re pushed, pulled, stretched and slammed and decide this would have been a better idea before the beer!

Feeling hungry now? Nothing a plate of pork knuckles wouldn’t fix. Easy to fill your belly here, if you’ve got the coin for it. The sun goes down and you head back inside.

You start swinging your drink and singing along to the sound of oom-pah music. Soon you’re dancing on the benches with a dozen friendly locals.

Photo by Herby Crus.

Munich’s Oktoberfest originated in 1810 as a horse race to celebrate the royal wedding. But everyone apparently enjoyed the drinking a lot more than the horse racing and had such a great time they decided to do it all again the following year.

The horse race is now part of history, but the beer certainly isn’t. Oktoberfest is officially the world’s biggest party, drawing about 7 million visitors a year to southern Germany. The action takes place on Munich’s fairgrounds, called the Wiesn, south-west of the city’s main train station.

When to Go

Oktoberfest 2008 starts on Saturday, September 20 and finishes on Sunday, October 5. There’s often a mad rush to find a seat before the beer starts flowing at 10 AM (9 AM on weekends). There’s a parade on the second day and a gay party on the first Sunday. Weekdays are much quieter than weekends, especially around lunchtime.

Which Tent to Pick

Most of the drinking is done in the 14 big beer tents - actually big wooden halls. You can reserve tables through oktoberfest.de, but most sell out months in advance.

The festivities officially start in the Schottenhamel tent and often reach their rowdiest in the Hacker (Haven of Bavaria). The bright red Hippodrom tent near the main entrance can’t be missed: It’s the place to see and be seen among Munich’s hipper, younger, set.

The Hofbru tent is famed for pulling far more tourists than locals; the Augustiner might be the best for Bavarian authenticity; and the Lowenbrau becomes a good option when everywhere else is full.

Photo by StrudelMonkey.

Where to Stay

Munich’s Thalkirchen Camping Ground could be the cheapest place to stay with tents available for just a few euros. There’s a small supermarket on site, regular buses to the Wiesn and a 24-hour party ambience during Oktoberfest. It’s at Zentrall, 49, Munich.

A handful of good hostels sit just south of the main train station, about a 15 minute stagger back from the Wiesn. Check out Jaeger’s for its friendly bar, or the top-rated Wombat’s. Both are in Senefelder Strae.

What to Wear

Practically anything goes, but for an extra layer of fun, consider kitting out like a local. For guys, a pair of Lederhosen leather shorts start from 120 euros.

For gals, a traditional Dirndl dress costs about 100 euros. Tip: When worn correctly, Dirndls also reveal the wearer’s availability. Look just above the apron: If there’s a bow on the right, she’s taken. A bow on the left means she’s still to be had, and a bow bang on the front marks a virgin.

What to Eat and Drink

Beer!? The amber fluid is served exclusively in one litre glass mugs, called Ma (mass) that cost about 8 euros. The beer is slowly brewed through the summer and packs a six-percent alcoholic punch. For a change, try the beery-lemonade mixture called Radler, or head out to the wine tent.

Food is everywhere. Popular picks are roast chicken (Hendl), pork knuckes (Schweinshaxe), and giant pretzels. The huge hearts hung around girls’ necks are made of gingerbread. For the daring there’s the Ox (Osche).

Photo by .myke.

What to Say

Can I sit here? Darf ich mich zu dir sitzen? (Darf ik mik zoo dear sit-zen?)

One beer, please! Ein Ma, bitte! (Eyn mass, bit-tey!)

Cheers! Prost! (Prawst!)

Your eyes are as pretty as a meadow full of cows. Deine Augen sind so schn wie eine Weisen Tulpen. (Dine-ny ow-gen sind so schern vee eyen vee-sen tul-pen)

Let’s go back to my tent for a coffee! Gehen wir mal zu meinem Zelt f?r einen Kaffee! (Gay-en veer mal zoo mine-em zelt fair eyn-en kaf-ey!)

I need to chuck up. muss kotzen. (Ik moose kot-zen).

I have a killer hangover. Ich habe so einen Katter. (Ik hab-ey so eyn-en kat-er).


Stuart Anderson

Stuart Anderson left his home country of Australia in 2005 for a life of travel. He's never looked back since.

'Secret' Eco-Village Spotted In Aerial Photo Taken By Plane

By Luke Salkeld


For five happy years they enjoyed simple lives in their straw and mud huts.

Generating their own power and growing their own food, they strived for self-sufficiency and thrived in homes that looked more suited to the hobbits from The Lord of the Rings.

Then a survey plane chanced upon the 'lost tribe'... and they were plunged into a decade-long battle with officialdom.

Emma Orbach in eco village

Pioneering: Eco-dweller Emma Orbach is delighted planning has been approved

Yesterday that fight, backed by more modern support for green issues, ended in victory.

The eco-community in the Preseli mountains of west Wales was set up in 1993 and lived contentedly away from the rat race round a 180-acre farm bought by Julian and Emma Orbach.

In 1998, it was spotted when sunlight was seen glinting off a solar panel on the main building, which was built from straw bales, timber and recycled glass.

When the pilot reported back, officials were unable to find any records, let alone planning permission, for the mystery hillside village surrounded by trees and bushes.

Julian Orbach

Brainchild: Architectural historian Julian Orbach came up with the idea

They insisted the grass-covered buildings should be demolished.

The eco-community endured a decade of inquiries, court cases and planning hearings.

The 22 villagers fought planners even when they were within hours of the bulldozers moving in to demolish their eight homes.

Now, however, they can celebrate, thanks to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority's 'sustainability' policy.

With green issues now getting a more sympathetic hearing, the commune has been given planning approval for its roundhouses along with lavatories, agricultural buildings and workshops.

Community founder Emma Orbach, a 52-year-old mother of three, said yesterday: 'We are really excited and happy as it has been a very long battle.

'Even when planning inquiries and court hearings went against us we were determined to fight on.

'The villagers are pioneering a new lifestyle and are determined to prove it's possible for people to live more simply.'

Tony Wrench, 62, who lives in the original roundhouse with his partner Jane, said: 'We are very relieved and delighted.

'We have been able to prove to the planners that it is possible to have a sustainable and low-impact community in the countryside.

Julian Orbach in eco-house

Green: The houses use only solar power and get light from a roof window

'We had to prove we were improving the biodiversity of the area and conserving the woodland and we did that. It's great that our efforts to build a community using renewable resources have now been supported by the planners.

'The planners have worked miracles in making a new policy which enables communities which are self sufficient to exist.'

Amid the celebrations over the victory, however, it seems that life away from the rat race has not run entirely smoothly for the pioneers of simple living.

The two founders, architectural historian Julian Orbach, 55, and his wife Emma are divorced, and the commune has been split into three entities.

Enlarge   eco village

Caught out: An aerial view of eco village Brithdir Mawr. The complex could not be seen from the road

The original 180-acre farm was divided up into the area around the farm, a section around the original roundhouse known as Tir Ysbrydol (Spirit Land) where Mrs Orbach lives, and 80 acres of pasture and woodland run by a community known as Brithdir Mawr.

Each community is independent and they co-exist as neighbours in a more traditional style.

Brithdir Mawr continues to support sustainable living based around the original farmhouse, with eight adults and four children sharing communal meals, looking after goats, horses and chickens - and also holding down part-time jobs to raise the £200 per month rent they each pay Mr Orbach, who lives in a house in nearby Newport.

The current residents now run businesses such as courses in furniture making and sustainable living for around £95 a head.

On their website they explain: 'We are eight big people and four little ones who choose to live here: working, eating, meeting and laughing together. Being a community is a large part of what we do. To sum up the rest; we are striving towards a life in which our footprints are as light as they can be.'

One resident, Ben Gabel, 38, who runs a seed business with his partner Kate, said: 'It is completely different to what it was. Most people would consider the set-up quite normal.

'The kids watch DVDs and we run a business from the farm.' 

2010 Mustang Dashboard Revealed

2010 Ford Mustang Dashboard

We hope you’re sitting down for this. The dash of the 2010 Ford Mustang made its public debut today, and as you can see, it looks slightly different from the dash on a 2009 Mustang.


Specific changes include a new chrome surround on the top part of the dash and changes to the center air-conditioning vents. The result captures the look of a 1967 Mustang while at the same time seeming a bit more modern than the current version.

Ford promises another sneak peak on Sept. 24, as its website the2010mustang.com counts down to the car’s formal reveal at the 2008 Los Angeles auto show.

Airline WiFi Sparks Porn Debate


NYPOST.com - Coffee, tea . . . porn? Flight attendants are urging American Airlines to filter its in-flight Internet service to block passengers' access to raunchy pornographic Web sites. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants said both employees and passengers have raised "a lot of complaints" since the WiFi service was put in place as part of a test project on several cross-country flights out of Kennedy Airport last month, Bloomberg News reported. The association said it met with AA officials and called on them to install filters to block offensive content. Although the move to carry WiFi access on planes has created a new revenue stream for the ailing aviation industry, it also has created new headaches as passengers retrieve sensitive e-mails and adult Web sites in tight quarters. "Customers viewing inappropriate material on board a flight is not a new scenario for our crews, who have always managed this issue with great success," he said. Passengers have been allowed to bring porno mags and personal DVDs on board flights.

What kind of stewardesses are these? I remember a day when flight attendants only had 3 jobs. Mix you a stiff drink, fluff your pillow and give you a boner when they walk down the aisle. Fast forward to present day and you’re lucky if they even bother to show you where the emergency exits are. And now they are actually trying to hinder your in-flight enjoyment. No wonder the airline industry is in shambles. The fact of the matter is that when you’re stuck on a six hour flight there is no better time killer than porn. A good stewardess should know this and shouldn’t be complaining about the diversion. If anything they should be suggesting a few good websites and helping clean up the mess after it’s over. I mean isn’t that what they are there for in the first place? To help with the enjoyment of the flight? Come on ladies, stop complaining and do your job.

Seinfeld out of Microsoft Spots

Looks like those Odd Couple ads starring the "comedy" duo of Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld are going the way of Windows CE.

Adding insult to injury? It isn't Gates that is being eased out. It's Seinfeld.

Blogs are aflutter with news that the ads are being pulled with a cover story that Microsoft intends to go into a "phase two" of the campaign, as Valleywag puts it.

Remember those awful Microsoft ads with Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates? Well, now you can forget them. Microsoft flacks are desperately dialing reporters to spin them about "phase two" of the ad campaign — a phase, due to be announced tomorrow, which will drop the aging comic altogether.

Truth is there was no middle ground with these two spots: there was the "Emperor has no clothes" camp and ... well, you get the idea. Looks like there's an opening in Redmond for a new tailor.

Making Money from Social Sites


Attention grabbing: Advertisers are turning to complex applications to reach users on social networks. Above is a game developed by Buddy Media for New Balance that encourages Facebook users to compete with their friends and rack up points that they can use to buy shoes.
Credit: Buddy Media/New Balance

Social networks might be popular, but the industry is struggling to find a way to turn all those users into a big payday. This conundrum is the focus of industry executives gathered at the Social Ad Summit in New York this week, and while no company has yet found the perfect solution, advertising campaigns that make far better use of social-network functionality are starting to offer hope of richer returns.

According to Michael Lazerow, founder of social-advertising company Buddy Media, 37 percent of adult Internet users (and 70 percent of teens) in the United States use social-networking sites regularly. Meanwhile, less than 1 percent of all digital-advertising budgets currently flows to social-media sites.

Share of advertising investment might be slim today, but many executives are optimistic about the future. "It seems a little like the search industry was in the mid to late '90s," says Martin Green, chief operating officer of instant-messaging company Meebo. During this period--before Google developed its lucrative search advertising model--many search engines found it hard to make money. But search engines are, of course, very different from social-networking sites. Someone using Google may very well be in the right mood to buy something, but people visit social sites to spend time with their friends. Mike Trigg, director of marketing for the social network hi5, says that advertisers have to ask whether an ad campaign resonates with the reasons why users come to social sites in the first place. "The campaigns we're seeing have the most success are very interactive," Trigg says.

To exploit this, advertisers are turning to social-network programming tools like Facebook Platform and OpenSocial. Buddy Media builds applications for advertisers that are a far cry from simple banner ads. One Facebook application, RUN-Dezvous, created for sports-shoe maker New Balance, is a running game that encourages users to challenge their friends to a virtual race. Points earned through the game can even be converted into credit toward a pair of the company's sneakers. Another application, Launch a Package (an advertisement for FedEx), lets friends share large files by "flinging them" to each other using a gamelike interface.

But to make social advertisements truly engaging, advertisers need to better understand how to grab, and hold on to, users' attention. Ian Swanson, CEO of Sometrics, a company that provides tools for measuring social-advertising success, says that user response to banner advertising tends to plummet dramatically after the first five page views. For this reason, Swanson says, efforts to integrate ads with the actions that users want to take on the site are particularly important. Buddy Media's Lazerow adds that in the future, advertising applications will need to be even more complex and scalable so that they can handle large numbers of users if necessary.

For the time being, however, advertising money is spread pretty thin across social networks. Many developers see advertising as a way to make cash from their programs. Advertising firms are also looking to either build applications or hire companies to do it for them. Don Steele, vice president of digital marketing at MTV Networks, says that the company has spent half a million dollars advertising on social networks this year--a relatively small number, considering the size of the company and its advertising efforts.

Although much of the focus has been on advertising, a few experts have raised the idea that some users might be willing to pay subscription fees to use applications. Clara Shih is the director of the AppExchange product line at Salesforce.com, which provides an online marketplace for business applications. While business users tend to be more willing to accept the idea of paying for third-party applications, she believes that the same might be true of some social-network users. This could very well free social networks from the need to woo advertisers at all.

Nano Carrier Targets Cell Sites


Tiny target: A new targeted nano carrier selectively brings a cancer-killing drug to the mitochondria, the drug’s subcellular site of action. In these fluorescent images, yellow indicates that the drug is inside the mitochondria. Cell nuclei are stained blue.
Credit: Volkmar Weissig

Most drugs work by affecting a particular organelle within cells, but it's difficult to get a therapeutic compound to the right place inside a cell. Now researchers have succeeded in targeting a cancer-killing drug to a part of the cell called the mitochondrion by packaging it in a nano carrier. The highly targeted version of the drug increased its efficacy in tests in mice, even at relatively low doses, shrinking tumors and extending survival.

Over the past several years, researchers have had great success using antibodies and other molecules to target drugs to cells of particular tissue types. But once a drug gets inside the right cell, it's easy for it to get lost. Drugs are tiny compared with cells, and their charge, weight, and tendency to interact with water all determine where in the cell a drug ends up. "You have to design it such that it finds its way," says Volkmar Weissig, a professor of pharmacology at the Midwestern University College of Pharmacy, in Glendale, AZ, who developed the new targeted therapy with Vladimir Torchillin, director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology and Nanomedicine, at Northeastern University, in Boston.

Subcellular targeting "is one of the biggest promises nanotechnology offers," says Jerry Lee, a project manager at the National Cancer Institute's Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer. The new research, he says, "offers early proof of concept of being able to target not only to cancer cells, but to pick and choose where in the cell to target."

Weissig and Torchillin developed a nano carrier to deliver a drug called ceramide to the mitochondria of cancer cells. The researchers enclosed ceramide within a sphere of lipids similar to those in many drug-delivery systems. This lipid envelope, which is too large to pass through the walls of healthy blood vessels, has a tendency to passively accumulate in tumors. (Tumor blood vessels have large gaps that allow the lipid-coated drugs in.) In order to actively target the drug to its subcellular site of activity, Weissig and Torchillin decorated the lipid envelopes with a molecule known to accumulate in the mitochondria.

In animal tests, the approach shows good efficacy, says Joseph DeSimone, a professor of chemistry and chemical engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. DeSimone is taking a different approach to intracellular targeting: he recently found that it's possible to control where in the cell nanoparticles accumulate by varying their shape. Overall, he says, "methods for accessing intracellular targets are extremely important to pursue."

Unhealthy mitochondria play a role in obesity and many diseases, including diabetes and degenerative diseases of the nervous system and muscle. And in theory, the nano-carrier system could be used to carry a wide variety of drugs to the mitochondria, says Weissig. However, since the carrier relies on leaky blood vessels to get to its target cells, it's not likely to be used to treat a wide variety of other diseases. Inflammatory diseases like arthritis, which also causes leaky blood vessels, are another possible application.

The nano-carrier technology was recently licensed by Telomolecular, a company in Rancho Cordoba, CA. Weissig says that the company will use it to develop an anticancer drug that works in the mitochondria. Although the system was proved using ceramide, Telomolecular will test other cancer drugs as well, says Weissig.

Is GM's Volt Really Ready to Roll?- Let's Take a Look


Volt unveiled: GM has revealed what its new electric car will look like.
Credit: General Motors

General Motors (GM) unveiled the production design of its Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle on Tuesday, as part of its 100th-anniversary celebration. But significant hurdles remain before the car can start rolling off assembly lines, chief among them the need for continued development of the car's main battery pack.

The Volt is an electric car that can be recharged by plugging it into a wall socket or by running a small, onboard gasoline, ethanol, or diesel generator. The 16-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack stores enough energy for 40 miles of driving--enough to cover almost 80 percent of the daily driving in the United States, the company says. On longer trips, the generator kicks in to recharge the battery, giving the Volt as much range between fill-ups as a typical gas-powered car. For more than a year, GM has been showing off the concept-car version of the Volt in ads. The new production version looks considerably different--it has a more aerodynamic shape--but it will have the same performance specifications that the automaker has been advertising.

Plug-in hybrid vehicles like the Volt began to seem feasible because of new technology that made lithium-ion batteries safer, more durable, and less costly. But while individual battery cells using the technology seem to work well, yoking nearly 300 of them into a battery pack has proved challenging. That, in turn, is forcing GM to design systems that make the vehicle more expensive. "At the cell level, things look good," says Mark Verbrugge, the director of the materials and processes laboratory at GM's research-and-development center. "There are still issues at the pack level that we're trying to iron out, which gets pretty nerve-racking as we get close to production."

A battery pack for an electric vehicle is complex. The cells have to be wired together to deliver power reliably, despite the harsh vibrations and jolts encountered on the road. (For an example of what can happen when things go wrong, see "Electric Cars 2.0.") Even a few defective cells or connections can dramatically lower the performance of the pack. What's more, the pack includes complex electronic controls for charging each cell, delivering power, and capturing energy from braking to improve vehicle efficiency. And maximizing the battery's life requires a good cooling system. To make matters worse, methods for testing whether a battery pack will last for the life of the car are only now being developed.

"There's only so much known about how to accelerate the testing of batteries," says Greg Cesiel, GM's program director for the E-Flex Vehicle Team, which is developing the Volt and related electric vehicles. Questions remain about how to simulate driving the car and charging the pack, and how to confirm that the pack will survive vibrations and exposure to hot and cold temperatures over the life of a vehicle.

"The big risk when it comes to putting these on the road is, we don't have accelerated life testing," Verbrugge says. "We have some at the cell level, which gives us enough confidence to say we're going to do this thing. But I would contend that's still the big risk."

Verbrugge says that one of the biggest challenges is ensuring that the batteries won't fail in extreme climates, such as the deserts of Arizona. Conventional starter batteries already give automakers trouble in hot areas, he says. Today, they're the car part that most commonly fails under warranty in the Southwest. "Batteries don't like hot temperatures," Verbrugge says. "But we're not going to say to people in Arizona, 'We're not going to sell you our Chevy Volt. You can drive one, but we're not going to give you a warranty.' That's not an option."

To make up for uncertainties about the life of the battery packs, GM plans to coddle them, wrapping them in insulation and including heating and cooling systems to keep them at optimal temperatures. Questions remain about when these systems should operate, since they can eat into the energy savings that electric vehicles are supposed to provide. "Let's say you're charging," Verbrugge says. "Do you run your cooling system now to keep your battery cool over black asphalt? Then your energy efficiency doesn't look so hot. Do you do that only in Arizona? These become critical engineering issues."

GM is also oversizing the packs, adding several kilowatt-hours' worth of extra cells to make up for potential degradation over the life of the vehicle. That makes the packs, and the vehicle, much more expensive. "Cost is a major issue for us now," Verbrugge says. "We're not sure people are willing to pay."

Indeed, the Volt and other proposed cars like it are expected to cost thousands of dollars more than conventional cars, which could limit their appeal, says Paul Werbos, a program director for the National Science Foundation (NSF), who has been promoting research on better, cheaper batteries. "I don't expect most people are going to pay that," he says.

Werbos and Verbrugge spoke last week at an NSF-sponsored workshop focused on improving batteries for the next generation of hybrid and electric vehicles. Speakers at the workshop emphasized that better tests for battery lifetime, combined with improvements to battery design to make them last longer, will allow automakers to use fewer batteries and cut costs.

In spite of the remaining challenges, Cesiel is encouraged by the progress that the company's engineers have made so far and believes that the Volt will be ready for production on time. Based on its laboratory testing so far, he says, the company is "happy" with the capacity and performance of the batteries. GM also knows what the cooling system will look like and has physically integrated the pack into the vehicle. What's more, the entire propulsion system, including the battery pack, the electric motor, and the generator, was incorporated into a test vehicle and delivered to the company's Milford, MI, testing grounds at the end of August, just two days behind the schedule set last year. "I wouldn't say that the battery is ready," Cesiel says, "but we're right on track."

Canon Invents a New Kind of SLR

EOS 5D Mark II : Photo by Canon

Shutterbugs rejoice! The camera wars are heating up: meaning an avalanche of cool new tech as companies try to one-up each other. Canon’s latest salvo is the EOS 5D Mark II ($2,700 without lens), the extremely long-awaited successor to the popular 5D pro digicam. The Mark II blows away its predecessor in every way, both expected and unexpected.

Here are the key specs:

The full-frame sensor’s resolution nearly doubles from 12.8 to 21 megapixels, but trimming the space in-between pixels allows Canon to pack more without making them smaller.

Light sensitivity goes from ISO 100 to 6400, with the option to expand (i.e. no guarantee of image quality) to ISO 25,600 ¬ matching the near night-vision capabilities of
Nikon’s D3
and D700 cameras.

3.9 frames per second. And if they are JPEGs (vs. RAW), you can shoot an unlimited amount with the latest high-speed compact flash cards.

Full high-def video recording at 1920 by 1080i and 30 frames per second using MPEG-4 compression.

Video capability is the shocker. Not because it hasn’t been done before: Nikon introduced the first SLR to record HD video, the D90, on August 27. But it’s done so much better in the 5D Mark II. The resolution and frame-rate are higher (1080i vs. 720p, 30fps vs. 24fps). And the recording is far more practical because Canon adds autofocus, a feature agonizingly missing from the Nikon D90. Canon not only matches Nikon’s integrated mono mic but adds a jack for an external stereo mic to record at CD quality.

At this point, the 5D Mark II isn’t just an SLR with a cool extra feature, it’s a genuine movie camera. Its ability to take different lenses (nearly everything in Canon’s arsenal) leapfrogs it over all the consumer camcorders with built-in lenses and makes it a budget competitor to professional camcorders like Canon’s own XL H1S ($9,000, with lens).

It’s also bizarre for Canon to make a two-in-one out of a “serious” professional product. We’re more likely to see that with mid-range consumer gadgets. No pro cameraman would pick this SLR over a “real” video camera. But a pro photographer with the Mark II can double as a cameraman, allowing one person to photograph and video everything from traffic accidents to weddings.

That’s assuming this thing actually shoots top-notch video, which we won’t know till we get a review unit in November or December. But given that Canon is one of the top makers of video cameras, we’re optimistic.

The one weird glitch: Canon limits video clips to about 12 minutes so this thing won’t be taxed as a video camera in Europe. That’s probably plenty enough for a single clip. But if you need more, don’t be surprised if firmware hacks start popping up in a few months. According to Canon, there’s no technical reason why the thing can’t shoot longer.

Oh, and what about photos, the main purpose of this thing? Here Canon is aiming directly at the powerful Nikon D700, a camera that I have come to love. In terms of speed, the two companies are pretty well matched. Color has always been simply a personal preference: Some people swear by Nikon, and swear at Canon. Other people do the opposite. But with the Mark II, Canon is introducing new color filters on the image sensor that it claims will produce richer hues.
(Unfortunately, that¹s all we know.)

The real battle will probably be in low-light shooting. Nikon has been the leader recently, snatching a role long held by Canon. It will be a challenge to match or beat Nikon. But if Canon does, it offers the benefit of extra resolution: The D3 and D700 offer 12 megapixels.

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