Wrapping up the group presentations at Under the Radar's Entertainment & Media conference is the virtual worlds group. Only two of these companies offer what most would consider "virtual worlds" or a replacement for real life interaction with others. The other two consist of user avatars, and a video gaming platform.Doppleganger is a 3-D world similar to Second Life . It survives through a mix of micropayments, and partnerships with various companies who want branded areas and appearances for celebrities, movies, and music. We checked it out a few weeks ago and came away impressed, albeit a little bewildered.
The service currently has 150,000 users, and CEO Tim Stevens says it's growing by 10% weekly.Kaneva is part social network and part 3-D virtual world. I looked at the service in early February , shortly before the site went public beta in April. Despite the fact it's incredibly similar to social networks like MySpace , Kaneva's creators view its competition as movies and television programs. Like Doppelganger, Kaneva makes its money on the sale of virtual goods and sponsorship from content creators. Meez is one of the more interesting virtual worlds services due to its specialization. Instead of trying to re-create real life, Meez focuses on user avatars. They recently partnered with Photobucket , and provides user avatars for several other services. The site has 2 million registered users, and is now getting 425,000 new users a month.
The site makes its money off partnerships and micropayments, where users use their virtual currently on clothing items. One of their competitors Gizmoz recently launched a face mapping tool that will take a digital photo and stick it on a 3-D avatar.Multiverse is a development platform for anyone who wants to make their own massive multiplayer online game . They've built the system to work with a "world browser" which co-founder Corey Bridges compares to a Web browser since users can visit a network of different games built on the platform.
SAN DIEGO, Calif.--Anyone who has ever used a car navigation system knows that it is a wonderful, if flawed, technology.
While it helps drivers get to destinations with a minimum of fuss, the typical car navigator falls victim to unexpected traffic delays, and thus, can leave drivers stranded.
But at the DemoFall conference Tuesday, a Mountain View, Calif. company called Dash Navigation unveiled what it thinks is the solution to the problem.
The Dash navigator uses either Wi-Fi or cell network connectivity to provide users with real-time information that, if it works as advertises, could cut down on driving blindly into traffic jams.
The secret sauce seems to be the utilization of real-time route information sent automatically back to Dash's central servers by each Dash user's equipment. Then the central system sends specific route and traffic information back to individual users so that they can benefit from the experience of fellow Dash users ahead of them.
Of course, the benefit offered by the aggregation of traffic data is only as good as the total amount of information being sent back to Dash. Thus, it will clearly depend on a critical mass of users in order to work as advertised.
Dash also offers another impressive feature that could help drivers adjust their routes on the fly, or when they've forgotten where they're going.
That's because it allows anyone at a Web-connected computer to send new addresses to Dash users. Then the new addresses appear instantly on the driver's navigation system, which provides directions just as quickly.
The system is expected to be available in California in January and in the rest of the U.S. later in 2007. It will require a subscription, which the company says will cost about as much as satellite radio service.
Most enterprises needn't worry about the "viral" aspect of open-source licenses. Because most enterprises use software for internal purposes, rather than distribute it, they don't trigger the standard open-source requirement to contribute back derivative works. A recent Federal Computer Week article by John Moore does an admirable job of clarifying this.
There are, however, instances in which an enterprise might well trigger the contribution requirement of open-source licensing. If a company sold off a division to another company, complete with the servers running modified open-source software, this would likely trigger a "distribution" and might well affect the value of the deal.
For this and other instances, it's helpful to have a dual-licensing strategy. In this way, customers get all the benefits of open source, especially the ability to view and modify source code to suit their particular needs, without the obligation to contribute back derivative works.
Unfortunately, this perpetuates the problem that Jim Whitehurst of Red Hat has been highlighting : the more software created in isolation, the greater the industry's inefficiency and the higher the cost of software. Dual-licensing doesn't solve this problem. It is, however, a good way to help guide enterprises into open source on comforting terms.
LOS ANGELES--While it was Windows Azure that got much of the attention, Microsoft also released another important platform at this week's Professional Developers Conference.
Microsoft's Live Framework is essentially the developer piece of Live Mesh . It's what lets developers use the mesh technology to add online components to their desktop applications, or conversely, to give online applications an offline component.
The software maker had said that this would be coming when it unveiled Live Mesh this spring, but its actual launch was somewhat overshadowed by the discussion of Windows Azure on Monday. The Live Framework is itself built on top of Windows Azure, but exists one layer up from the core operating system, using Microsoft's prebuilt layers for things like contact management and other services.
As with Azure, the Live Framework is at an early stage. Microsoft at this point is mainly hoping that developers start experimenting with the tools, as opposed to building broadscale programs.
'"It's not ready for shipping a production app," Corporate Vice President David Treadwell said in an interview this week.
Microsoft did show several concept applications at the PDC, including efforts from Blockbuster and BBC, which showed a version of its iPlayer that used Mesh to help people see what programs their friends were watching.
As for which Microsoft applications will be mesh-enabled, Microsoft has not said a ton. Treadwell did say that Windows Live Wave 4, the release after this fall's update, will feature components of the mesh technology.
"We're working on integrating with the next major release of Windows Live," he said.
Neither Treadwell nor Windows Live general manager Brian Hall would give many more details, though when I suggested a mesh-ified version of Windows Live Photo Gallery might be in the works, Treadwell said "That's the class of thing that we're pondering."
Live Mesh, meanwhile, is shifting this week from a technology preview to a full-fledged beta, adding native support for Macs and Windows Mobile phones, among other new features.
Microsoft is also opening up the identity component for the Live Framework, meaning developers won't necessarily have to use Microsoft's Live ID to take advantage of other mesh components. Microsoft got a fair bit of attention at the show for its cooperation with Live ID, but it also said it will allow businesses to handle their own credentials, using Active Directory.
"The Microsoft Services Connector lets businesses take advantage of Live services, while letting the business use its active directory to handle authentication," Treadwell said.
Provided businesses can make sure only employees have access, Treadwell said, many are deciding it's OK for the data to live outside the firewall. "People are opening up to that."
Some businesses at the PDC also expressed interest in perhaps having their own storage piece used as well--something Microsoft will have to sort out for Live Framework.
Nobody wants to spend time scrolling through thousands of search results to find the page that contains the information they're looking for. In fact, few people bother looking beyond the first page of 10 results, choosing instead to recraft their search phrase and try again. But with the help of a few search operators, you can increase substantially the chances that you'll find what you're looking for on your first search try.
Restating the Obvious Operators I'll wager you know all about using the plus sign to search for two terms appearing together, the minus sign to find pages that contain one term but not another, the asterisk wildcard to search for a term along with any other word, and quotes to find an exact phrase. Here's another search character you might find handy: Place a tilde directly in front of your search term to find pages with words similar to the term in question. So searching ~inexpensive laptop will return pages that have the term "cheap laptop," "affordable laptop," and "low-cost laptop" as well.
Many of my favorite Web sites have terrible site-search boxes. I usually have a much better chance of finding what I'm looking for on the site by going to Google or another search engine, and entering my search term along with site:www. thesitename .com Here are some of my other favorite search limiters:
define: word to return a definition; link: url to find pages that contain a link to a specific site or page; inurl: searchterm to retrieve pages whose URL contains a specific word or phrase; intitle: searchterm (or allintitle: searchterm the find pages with the word or phrase in their title; and, info: url to get information about the page.
More Search Helpers If you're looking for a weather report, simply enter weather place or zip code and press Enter to see the temperature, conditions, and forecast for that locale. To keep adult-oriented content out of the results, use safesearch: searchterm . And to see pages similar to another page, type related: url .
Tomorrow: Five quick-and-easy Microsoft Excel formatting tricks.
European regulators announced Monday they have struck an agreement with Microsoft that will bring the company into compliance with the European Commission's 2004 ruling on the company's anticompetitive practices.
The agreement identifies three changes in Microsoft business practices that will bring the firm into compliance: competing software developers will be able to access and use Microsoft's interoperability information; royalties for use of the interoperability information will be reduced to a nominal payment of 10,000 euros ; and royalties for a worldwide license for use of its product, including patents, will be reduced to 0.4 percent from 5.95 percent.
Microsoft has been under increased pressure to come to reach an agreement with the Commission since September, when a European court ruled in the regulators' favor on key issues in their case against the company.
For more information on Monday's news, see " Microsoft finally yields to EU order ."
Intel will come out with a platform--essentially a blueprint for computer based around its own chips--for business buyers in the middle of 2006, said CEO Paul Otellini.
"We launched two platforms earlier this year and we will launch another one for business clients mid year," he said during the company's somewhat dour fourth quarter conference call. Intel missed earnings and said it lost share to Advanced Micro Devices over the last quarter.
Selling platforms is a better business for Intel than selling single chips. One, a platform is made up of several chips, so a single platform can potentially generate more revenue and profit. Two, it means Intel performs more of the independent engineering on desktops. Historically, the more intellectual property you control in this business, the better of you are.
Technically, Intel launched a business platform. Called the Professional Business Platform , it came out last Spring. However, it never got a flashy name. IT buyers try to pretend they are above branding. That's one reason.
Another is that work often doesn't conjure up those happy images. Productivus? sounds like something Caesar would have used in his galleys. Efficieo? Too much of that killed Marie Curie at a young age. Cubicle Buddy? Might be less welcome than a warm seat in a conference room.
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