Monthly Archives: October 2006

Does a sex offender live near you?

National Sex Offender Registry

Familywatchdog.us is a pretty impressive site. Not only does it provide an extremely important service, but it is a great use of technology. It also shows how a little information can be used to make your life very public.

The purpose of the site, as you might guess, is to let you know whether any registered sex offenders live or work within a certain distance of the address you enter. The point would be that you could use that information to help safeguard your children. I put in a few addresses of places I’ve lived or have relatives, and was pleased to find that there were few sex offenders nearby — though concerned to find the ones I did.

Technically, the site is also very impressive. It uses information gleaned from the national sex offender registry, in combination with Google Maps, to pinpoint your address, and any offenders and school addresses in the local area and display them in a easy-to-use format. Offenders are even color coded by type of offense. Clicking on a colored flag launches a new window with a picture and details about the offender. This is a huge leap forward from the Megan’s Law websites I’ve seen run by the state police, which provide information in list format.

[tags]sex offenders, children, safety, Google maps, AJAX[/tags]

SkillSoft buys NETg

[article no longer available]Thomson Announces Strategic Realignment of Operations; Company to Sell Education Businesses – MarketWatch

[tag]Thomson NETg[/tag] and [tag]SkillSoft[/tag] have been trading 1st and 2nd place in the [tag]enterprise e-learning[/tag] space for years. Yesterday, SkillSoft announced it is purchasing its biggest rival for about $285M.

NETg Sale Agreement Signed
* Thomson has agreed to sell NETg, a leading provider of continuing corporate education and training, to Skillsoft PLC (SKIL) for approximately $285 million. The sale is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2007.

This is a huge deal in the enterprise content provider industry. By combining the market share of these two companies, SkillSoft is positioned to have an unbelievable lead on the remaining competition.

Also, I’ve seen both companies’ systems from a client perspective. They both have excellent technologies. Combining these two powerhouses is a potentially huge win for their clients. Once they sort through the redundant course content, they can begin to think about how to integrate their delivery and administrative systems. Once they do that, assuming they do it well, they’ll have a very impressive set of tools.

I really think there is a lot of potential for serious gain for clients of both companies.

[tags]mergers & acquisitions[/tags]

‘Halo’ – Game Over?

Variety.com – ‘Halo’ pic loses its studios

Halo: Combat Evolved [tag]Fox Studios[/tag] and [tag]Universal Studios[/tag] have backed out of their deal to finance the [tag]Halo movie[/tag], based on the popular [tag]video game[/tag] by [tag]Bungie[/tag] and [tag]Microsoft[/tag].

The studios exercised their option to back out right before a deadline that would require an advance payment to Microsoft, who also would receive 10% of the movies profits.


While the exit of two studios would seem to imperil “Halo,” Kamins said Microsoft is already in talks with other distribution partners. Prep work on the film continues, he said. One advantage is having [Peter] Jackson and [Fran] Walsh as exec producers: Most of the pre-production is being done at their visual effects studios in New Zealand, Weta Digital and Weta Workshop, so there will be no stoppage.

So while it might seem that the studios’ exit might put an end to the anticipated movie, there is still time for Jackson (of “Lord of the Rings” fame) and team to find new partners.

Eudora goes Open Source

Monkey Bites

The post is missing a few details (perhaps because they aren’t available), but it looks like the popular Eudora email client from Qualcomm is being completely re-written, using the Mozilla Thunderbird code-base as its engine, and released to the public as open source.

Eudora is a well-loved if somewhat outdated email client that many people (Qualcomm claims millions of users, which sounds accurate) continue to use just for its unique feature set. Eudora can tell you if emails in your inbox contain inflammatory language before you open them, and it has some robust spam features. There’s a sponsored version of the client, as well, and my guess is that the ad-supported version will go the way of the ghost when Eudora becomes open source.

Supposedly, the open source version will have all the features current users expect. I used Eudora for a while, and just recently (within the year) switched to Thunderbird. Eudora was definitely outdated. The thing I liked about it, though, were the statistics it kept. I hope that makes it to the new version.

[tags]Eudora, Thunderbird, email client, productivity, open source[/tags]

Stephen Colbert, a Greenscreen, and ILM

Star Wars: Community | ILM’s Greenscreen Challenge Entry

Stephen Colbert, of the Comedy Central’s Colbert Report, issued a challenge to the public at large to put his lightsaber antics in front of a greenscreen into a full battle with monsters.

ILM picked up the challenge and ran with it. The result: butt-kickin’ Jedi political commentary.

And it came in second place!

Go to the Colbert Report site to see the winner, and some other great footage from the show.

[tags]Colbert Report, Star Wars, Greenscreen, lightsaber, comedy, Comedy Central, George Lucas, ILM, Jar Jar Binks, YouTube[/tags]

Review: Heroes Ep 1-3

I’ve been holding off on posting my thoughts until I felt I had a real grasp for quality of the show. Well, I can now say that I firmly believe this to be the best new show of this year. Heroes has it all: drama, mystery, suspense, action, and special effects.

After the first episode, I was impressed, but it still seemed like it was missing a bit of the punch I was hoping for. Chapter two, though, took care of that. If they would have paired the first two chapters together into a single pilot movie I think they would have captured even more viewers. They already feel like a two-hour movie to me.

I love how they’re dealing with each character as they come to terms with the fact that they are different. It runs the gamut from the politician who wants to hide the fact that he can fly to the Japanese office worker who excitedly embraces his new teleportation and time travel skills (named, appropriately, Hiro).

Who is the cheerleader’s father, and what is his interest in the super-powered people? How does he even know about them? (We might get answers to those questions next week, judging from the trailer.) Who is cutting the tops of people’s heads off? What’s with the nuclear bomb in NYC in 2 more weeks? How many powers does Syler have? How are all these geographically dispersed people going to come together? Is the stripper really a ruthless killer? Aside from their powers, these people are all pretty normal, with fears and doubts and confusion galore. Most can’t even control their powers. Are they going to be able to pull it together to deal with the catastrophe(s) they must prevent?

Those are just a few of the basic questions left after the third chapter of this self-proclaimed saga. I can’t wait to see how they play it out.

[tags]Heroes, NBC, sci-fi, fantasy, superheroes, drama, TV[/tags]

Stargate SG-1 ends its run on Direct-to-DVD

Slice of Scifi – Science Fiction TV & Movie News, Interviews & more » BREAKING Stargate SG-1 News

This is both great and disappointing.

On the one hand, we get to see the end of the Ori storyline. That’s excellent. I’m glad they figured out a way to make that happen.

On the other hand, it’s direct-to-DVD. That just screams “second-class”. Hardly fitting for a record-breaking, high quality TV series.

There will be a total of two movies released.

The first flick will tie up most of the finale’s loose threads — “It’s the climax of the Ori story line” — and will be written-directed by exec producer Robert Cooper. The second film, penned by Wright, will involve time travel, and both projects should debut in the fall of 2007.

There is some speculation that the time travel movie could be used to kick off another spinoff series. I’ll leave final judgement on that until it comes to be, but my initial reaction is that that would be a mistake. I’d rather see them invest the time and money into feature films (and use Atlantis as a teaser sprinboard from time to time), or into Atlantis than start another series. The more stuff they put out there, the more tired the ideas are apt to become. We’re invested in these characters now. Learn from the decline of Star Trek and don’t oversaturate the airwaves with one universe. (By the way, I have the same worry about the recent news of at least two Doctor Who spinoffs in production simultaneously. Unnerving.)

[tags]Stargate SG-1, direct-to-dvd, Stargate Atlantis, movies, spinoffs, Doctor Who[/tags]

VeinViewer

From Elliott Masie’s Learning TRENDS newsletter comes news of a new tool to help doctors and nurses.

Projected Vein Locations: This weekend I saw a fascinating new “performance support” system – one that helps doctors and nurses find veins easily when drawing blood or inserting an IV. At Wired’s NextFest in NYC, I had a chance to demonstrate “The VeinViewer” by Luminetx. Using near-infrared beams, the device locates veins and arteries below the skin and then projects a real time image of those veins on to the skin of the patient. Instantly, there is no guesswork on the location or size of the target for a needle. This is one of the cool “performance support” models that we see coming into the workplace to provide contextual support and altered work processes. It dramatically reduces the painful moments of “oops, wrong spot”. Check it out at: www.luminetx.com

As a geek, I think this is one of the coolest real-life tools I’ve ever heard of. Sci-fi becomes sci-fact yet again. As someone who has blood drawn with relative frequency, and can still vividly remember the IV I had inserted a couple years ago, I say “WOO HOO!” My doctors and nurses do a great job already, but anything that improves the experience is great in my book.

Check out some great pictures and news coverage on their Image & Video Gallery page.

[tags]technology, invention, medical, phlebotomy, infrared, performance support, cool tools[/tags]