Monday, July 18, 2011

“Caoon” DSLR Is Actually An MP3 Player

“Caoon” DSLR Is Actually An MP3 Player

by Devin Coldewey,
April 11th 2011

Oh, knockoff devices. You never cease to entertain me. This faux Canon DSLR is actually a little MP3 player; the speaker is in the lens, and it takes USB, SD card, MMC, or 3.5mm in. Yeah, it’s junk, and at $67 it’s pretty expensive junk, but you have to admire the craftsmanship.

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The History of Email [INFOGRAPHIC]

The History of Email [INFOGRAPHIC]

by Jolie O'Dell,
June 18th 2011

Email, you’ve come a long way, baby.

In its 40-year tenure as a form of communication, email has run its course from the domain of ├╝ber nerdy computer scientists to one of the most common ways to keep in touch, both personally and professionally.

Although email as a mode of communication was around for ten years before the term “email” was actually coined, we now count on it in our daily lives. In fact, the use of email has become so pervasive that the Oxford English Dictionary recently added a slew of email acronyms to its official canon.

And finally, just this year, the AP Stylebook, a.k.a. the holy book of all (or most) journalists, amended the spelling of e-mail to email, allowing articles such as this one to save bigtime on hyphens.

SEE ALSO: The History of Social Media [INFOGRAPHIC]

To give you a timeline of email’s progress through the decades, here’s a commemorative 40th anniversary infographic from email delivery company Reachmail.

Click image to see larger version.

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LeadersDirect - Thought Leadership - LeadersDirect

Thought Leadership

by Mitch McCrimmo,
June 30th 2011

Thought leadership is radically different from traditional top-down leadership.

It can be directed up as well as down or sideways, has nothing to do with position or managing people, is the basis of innovative change and is egalitarian because it can shift rapidly from one person to another. It cannot be monopolized. It has nothing to do with climbing a hierarchy. It changes how people think, hence no action is necessarily implied. Implementation is a separate phase - a managerial undertaking.

Kouzes and Posner base their view of leadership on the metaphor of a journey. Their leaders sell the tickets for the journey AND help followers reach the destination. By contrast, thought leadership merely sells the tickets for the journey, leaving it to others to get to the destination on their own or with the help of managers, coaches, facilitators and catalysts.

If this sounds like leadership cut in half, think about leading by example. It also stops at selling the tickets for the journey. It demonstrates what needs to be done, leaving others to follow without helping them get there. Of course, you could help people get to the destination, but then it wouldn't be leading by example. Thought leadership can be shown by example too, as well as by advocating a better idea. In general, leadership of all kinds can be defined as: showing the way for others either by example or by promoting a better way.

What is thought leadership?

Whenever you advocate a new idea to your colleagues or boss, you show thought leadership. It isn't necessary to have inspirational influencing skills, which is necessary for senior executives because they need to win over the entire organization and beat off their internal competitors for top jobs. Also, to initiate organization-wide change, it helps to be inspirational. But a thought leader can focus on smaller scale changes - ideas for a new product or changes to an existing one. Thought leaders can persuade others using logic, evidence or an actual demonstration of a prototype to win support.

To be a thought leader, you need to immerse yourself in your professional domain and search for new things to say that add value to your organization's objectives. Traditional, top-down leadership depends on personal credibility or character because such leaders are asking people to join them on a difficult journey and they have a great deal of power over their followers. Hence, we need to trust them. The stronger your content, the more content becomes king, and the less powerful your influencing skills need to be.

Thought leaders could actually have weak interpersonal skills and an indifferent character. They could be loners or eccentrics. All that counts is the credibility of their new idea. This is why we can buy innovations offered by odd creative types who we would not entrust to manage any part of an organization. If you can demonstrate the value of your idea and explain it with conviction, you might not need inspirational influencing skills. Think of the stereotypical artist who has no time to socialize or even sleep and can be quite hard to get along with, but if his or her art is highly original, leadership by example will be shown despite the lack of interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence.

Thought leadership traits

Thought leadership is based on youthful rebelliousness - the willingness to risk group rejection in the pursuit of a better way of doing things. Hence, thought leadership is not a learned skill. Only the content of your discipline or field is learned. Traditional, top-down leadership is portrayed as a collaborative effort between leaders and followers to achieve shared goals. But thought leadership has a more competitive edge. Thought leaders are saying, essentially, that they know of a better product or way of doing things than anyone else in the team or organization.

Thought leadership ends when the target audience accepts the idea. It may be that you are using hard evidence to persuade others to avoid dumping a current process for a passing fad. In this case, your leadership does not result in any action taken. This enables us to define leadership as the initiation of new directions and categorize the implementation of new ideas as a managerial activity.

This is important because we tend, traditionally, to focus on the PERSON in charge of a group as the leader who may both champion a new direction and implement it. Hence we think that leadership is about managing change. The real value of examining thought leadership is that it helps us to see that there is a critically important distinction between leadership and management. When executives move from championing a new idea to its implementation, therefore, they are switching hats from leadership to management. The bottom line is that leadership is about the initiation of new directions. Implementing them is a managerial undertaking.

Related Lead2xl articles: Creative Class Leadership, The Content of Leadership and Showing Leadership - how you can show leadership. See also Are you a Leader? and Leadership Redefined for a 21st century world.

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Canada buys Obama's reject Brit choppers for spare parts • The Register

Canada buys Obama's reject Brit choppers for spare parts

by Lewis Page,
June 29th 2011 1:35 PM

Canada has snapped up a rejected fleet of US presidential helicopters, intending to break up the choppers for spare parts to keep its own search-and-rescue aircraft flying. The British forces may wish they had struck such a deal, as they too operate the "Merlin" copter in large numbers - and they too have severe difficulties in getting parts.

The helicopters sold to Canada are the so-called US101 version of the EH101 aircraft developed during the 1980s and 1990s in the UK and Italy by companies which are now grouped as AgustaWestland. The UK forces, after massive delays and cost overruns, eventually received two versions, both known as "Merlin" - a naval submarine-hunting variant and a cargo or troop-carrying one for the RAF. Both types finally reached frontline useability around 2004-2005, but their availability rates have been poor: perhaps due to the fact that the Merlin didn't sell well worldwide and thus parts were at a premium.

However the Merlin did sell to the Bush administration, which was seeking to replace its ageing VH-3 Sea King presidential helicopters operated by the US Marines (the president's chopper becomes "Marine One" when he is aboard, just as his airforce-operated plane becomes "Air Force One"). But the US101 project, managed by Lockheed on behalf of AgustaWestland, soon became mired in cost and time overruns every bit as bad as those which had hit the Royal Navy's HM1.

The plan might well have been doomed from the outset, with requirements calling for 14 VIP seats, hardening against electromagnetic pulse, an executive washroom and communications equivalent to "a flying Oval Office" - a pretty big ask for an aircraft which can only lift four tonnes in its RAF cargo-carrying incarnation*.

The US101 problems became bad enough that each new Marine One copter was projected to cost as much as an Air Force One jumbo jet, and the costs became an issue in the presidential election - with both Mr Obama and his opponent John McCain vying to issue the strongest condemnation of the aircraft. Obama in particular described it as "procurement amok", and unsurprisingly it was axed as soon as he took office.

Now the Canadians, who also operate the EH101 under the name "Cormorant", have snapped up the former presidential fleet of nine aircraft for $164m.

"This package is considered an excellent one-time opportunity for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces to address long-standing CH-149 Cormorant fleet availability issues related to the availability of spare parts," a Canadian defence spokesman tells the Ottawa Citizen.

Canada has struggled to keep its Cormorants in the air, finding that it needs a fleet of 18 aircraft to do the same work that was formerly done by a smaller number of copters.

Britain has also seen unimpressive availability from its Merlins. No more than four or five have generally been available for use in Iraq and now Afghanistan out of a fleet of 28, despite the hosing-down of maker AgustaWestland with extra support cash. The British forces, with their desperate lack of helicopter lift, may very well be wishing that they'd snapped up President Obama's rejects ahead of the Canadians. ®


*The Royal Navy HM1 also fails to impress in the matter of lifting power, being unable to get airborne vertically or achieve a hover when fully loaded with weapons and fuel. At sea, its carrying ship must steam so as to provide a suitable wind over the deck: ashore a pilot must taxi forward rapidly to get airborne fully loaded. (Helicopters generate more lift when their rotors are beating air which they haven't already churned up, which is why forward motion through the air reduces power requirements.)

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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Groupon India publishes 300,000 user passwords • The Register

Groupon India publishes 300,000 user passwords

by Dan Goodin,
June 28th 2011 6:58 PM

Groupon subsidiary accidentally published a database containing the email addresses and clear-text passwords of 300,000 users and the cache was indexed by Google.

The trove of personal data was discovered by Australian security consultant Daniel Grzelak as he plugged a handful of query terms into the search engine, he said Tuesday. He contacted Patrick Gray with security blog Risky Biz, which reported that the SQL database contained the details for 300,000 Sosasta account holders.

A Groupon spokesman confirmed that the digital coupon distributor “was alerted to a security issue” on Thursday night and corrected the problem immediately. The issue was limited to Sosasta, which uses its own servers and network and isn't connected to Groupon's systems in other countries.

“We have begun notifying our subscribers and advising them to change their Sosasta passwords as soon as possible,” the spokesman said in a statement. “We will keep our Indian subscribers fully informed as we learn more.”

At time of writing, there was no advisory on either the Groupon or Sosasta websites, although Sosasta's Facebook page contained a notice that came in the form of a JPG image that couldn't easily be indexed by Google or other search engines. Ah the irony.

According to Risky Biz, Grzelak found the massive cache as he was looking for additions to, a side project that indexes email addresses included in more than a dozen high-profile privacy breaches carried out by LulzSec and other hacking groups. The query that hit pay dirt included the terms “filetype:sql” “password” and “gmail.”

“I started scrolling, and scrolling and I couldn't get to the bottom of the file,” Grzelak told Risky Biz. “Then I realised how big it actually was.”

The Groupon statement didn't say why passwords weren't encrypted or why such a sensitive file was publicly available.

The snafu is the latest to expose the folly of using the same password on more than one site, a practice still followed by a shockingly high number of people. If you're one of them, you ought to consider using a password-management program such as Password Safe or KeePass.

The Groupon subsidiary sure isn't the first to carelessly expose data it has promised to keep private, and judging from this Google search, it's probably not the last. ®

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Microsoft patent points to Skype snooping • The Register

Microsoft patent points to Skype snooping

by Bill Ray,
June 29th 2011 11:41 AM

A new Microsoft patent points towards Skype becoming equipped for lawful interception, which could be important as the service grows up to challenge traditional telcos.

The patent was filed back in 2009, but published* last week and picked up by Computerworld. Titled "Legal Intercept", it covers one way in which a VoIP-based communications system might enable a call to be intercepted and covertly recorded, naming Skype as one of the services to which it could be applied.

Microsoft bought Skype back in May, but only received approval for the deal in June – so hasn't had much time to do anything with the VoIP leader. Skype is hugely successful, with 170 million registered users, but it's been very secretive about its protocols and security, refusing interoperability and asking users to just trust in Skype for their security.

That won't wash in the real world, and neither will denying governments the right to listen in on their citizens. Most of us accept that security forces need to occasionally tap into phone lines, hopefully with suitable judicial oversight, but Skype's apparent reluctance to permit such taps has resulted in rumours of secret deals and government-backed attacks on the cryptography used to protect Skype calls.

The patent describes how client, or network, software can be surreptitiously alerted that incoming and/or outgoing calls are to be monitored for a specific user. Such calls are then copied (packet by packet) to the monitoring server without the user being aware. The patent suggests the interception software could be placed in a NAT or router, but also incorporated into the VoIP client itself.

India has made it clear that Skype risks being kicked out of the country unless it sorts out some sort of lawful intercept capability, and other countries will be quick to follow India's lead. So if Microsoft wants to see Skype spreading around the world then it will need to have just what's described in the Legal Intercept patent.

Citizens aghast that their VoIP calls could be intercepted might be annoyed, but they'd be better off petitioning their governments, rather than raging against the companies trying to obey the law. ®

* That's "published", not "granted" as we earlier stated - our mistake.

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Lytro: My Thoughts About Shooting First – Focusing Later « Photofocus

Lytro: My Thoughts About Shooting First – Focusing Later | Jun 29th 2011

There have literally been hundreds of tweets and emails sent to me about the Lytro technology. Light field camera technology isn’t new. This particular incarnation was developed at Stanford, but I’ve seen other incarnations. That said, it is interesting and it is attracting a great deal of attention. Not just attention – but concern. In fact, this latest announcement from Lytro has caused a great deal of concern in the photo community because the people who think of photography as art are worried. They are worried that the science will make them fungible. In my opinion, that won’t happen any time soon.

Plenoptic imaging will have a place in the future of photography, there’s no doubt about that. It’s initial value is primarily in forensics and entertainment. Law enforcement will use this technology to identify suspects in out of focus photos. The military will use the technology to improve data gathered from airborne spy cameras. Other similar uses will make funding this stuff realistic. But the notion that we’re all going to Walmart to buy a light field camera for our family vacation photos – well that isn’t going to happen any time soon. In my opinion it is just not realistic.

The big reason is the fact that the Lytro camera will require a computer and software to operate. Grandma and Grandpa can be taught how to use an iPhone camera and how to hit the share button on a mobile device pretty easily. But they won’t be sitting down to learn the operation of a stand-alone computer software program that is needed to process plenoptic photography.

I believe that there is and will always be a place for such technology in photography. I am in fact, excited about it. But nothing will replace the photographer’s vision – their eye – their emotion – their heart. In my opinion, it will be at least a decade before technology of this nature will be widely adopted to the point it REPLACES traditional film OR digital photography. Even then, REPLACES is a strong word. It might subplant – subvert or otherwise impact traditional photo methods.

Whether I am right or wrong about the adoption curve, remember that no computer can make a nervous portrait subject feel at ease, or calm an excited groom. No computer can duplicate the beauty of Cartier-Bresson’s vision.

On the other side of the coin, all that matters to me personally is the picture. I don’t care if you use an old film camera, a 3D camera, a digital camera or light field camera to make your images. If I like the picture – I like the picture and to me, nothing is cheating. I realize this isn’t a view shared by all. In fact, I know the purists will scream. That is their right. But why not at least wait until we know what there is to scream about? It’s early days yet and there’s not much likelihood this tech will trickle down to the Walmart anytime soon.

This post sponsored by – Renting Canon, Nikon, Olympus & Sony, bodies, lenses and more.

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LeapFrog debuts $99 app-ready tablet for primary schoolers | ZDNet

LeapFrog debuts $99 app-ready tablet for primary schoolers

by Andrew Nusc,
June 30th 2011 7:33 AM

Educational toymaker LeapFrog Enterprises announced on Wednesday a $99 tablet called the “LeapPad,” deliberately positioned as a child’s version of an Apple iPad.

Like its adult counterpart, the LeapPad supports downloadable apps (at $5 each) but also supports $25 game cartridges. It’s intended for children ages 4 to 9.

From a technical perspective, the device as 2 gigabytes of memory, a five-inch (480×272) touchscreen, a built-in camera, video recorder, microphone and “animation studio,” where kids can learn how to animate Disney characters.

It also comes with a child-sized (and hopefully blunt) stylus. It’s available in either green or pink.

It will count more than 100 learning-game cartridges, books, applications and videos by year’s end, the company says, on topics as diverse as phonics skills, mathematics, spelling, geography, world languages, music, creativity, science and “life skills” such as brushing one’s teeth.

The LeapPad will appear on Wal-Mart and Amazon store shelves (U.S., Canada, U.K., Ireland; Australia and New Zealand to follow) on August 15.

Andrew J. Nusca is editor of ZDNet and SmartPlanet.

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Taco Bell: We haven’t figured out f-commerce, we can’t even give tacos away

Taco Bell: We haven’t figured out f-commerce, we can’t even give tacos away on Facebook…

by Paul Marsden,
June 21st 2011

Okay, so here’s a conundrum, if P&G can sell 1000 diapers in under an hour on Facebook, why can’t Taco Bell give tacos away for free on Facebook?

There’s an interesting post over at the Nudge blog reporting that when Taco Bell recently decided to offer its 6 million fans a free taco — no strings attached,  only 3% took them up on the offer.

Chief Public Affairs Officer Jonathan Blum of Taco Bell’s parent company Yum! Brands admitted “We haven’t even been able to give away the food, never mind figure out how to sell it online.” (see (long but interesting) Northwestern lecture featuring Jonathan Blum Yum! Brand, and Terry Davenport, Starbucks). Bottom line for Taco Bell – ‘We haven’t figured out how to make the cash register ring with social media’.

What’s going on? You can sell diapers on Facebook, but you can’t give away tacos to Taco fans…

Of course, the P&G f-commerce offer had the convenience of home delivery – whereas to claim the free  taco Facebook giveaway, you had traipse over to a Taco Bell restaurant.  Rule 1. Make it easy for customers. And you had to kill a tree and print off your free taco voucher. Rule 2.  Make it easy for consumers (and allow them to polish their halos (SMS vouchers?)).

But the key difference between the two – we think – was that P&G was shifting special stock – a fan-first exclusive of a new product line, not available anywhere elsewhere – online or offline.  Taco Bell, on the other hand, was offering regular 99c tacos available everywhere for everyone.

In other words, the P&G offer had ‘scarcity value’, offering ‘social currency’ – bragging rights for a get-it-first exclusive. We think this get-it-first experience is the true home turf for f-commerce – fan-stores that sell fan-first exclusives. We’d recommend thinking twice about f-commere, if you are just going to sell what’s already available elsewhere.

EXCLUSIVITY may be the key to f-commerce success. Thoughts?

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