Fantastic 4 – Silver Surfer

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Fantastic 4 – Silver Surfer, originally uploaded by Brajeshwar.

Whos going to watch F4?

Kabron the Spider

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Kabron the Spider, originally uploaded by zxo2000.

Thought i would share a recent pic of my spider…

She is a Metalic Pink Toe, native of Colombia…

How do you like her???

Microsoft admits OneCare flaws

Microsoft has promised to try harder, after its new OneCare anti-virus software failed a benchmark test often considered indispensable by the industry.

“The recent detection numbers were not stellar,” Jimmy Kuo, a member of the Microsoft security research and response team, said in a company blog.

“We missed capturing a VB100 [Virus Bulletin 100] in the last test because we missed one virus,” he wrote. “As a result, we have adopted new methodologies to … look more closely at families of viruses that have been found to be ‘in the wild,’ [those] found actively spreading among users.”

Early last month, Virus Bulletin, a UK publication whose VB100 tests are considered one of the anti-virus industry’s benchmarks, put 15 Vista security programs up against January’s WildList, a master list of all viruses, worms, Trojans and other on-the-loose malware. Five titles failed the test, including Microsoft’s Windows Live OneCare 1.5.

“We will keep on working to acquire the VB100 Award each time we are tested by Virus Bulletin,” promised Kuo.

Kuo said that the company’s developers would come up with signatures able to detect entire families of malware, something security vendors have been doing for years. Kuo also said that Microsoft would put more resources into identifying what he called “truly important malware.”

OneCare has been called into question by other tests in recent weeks. Earlier this month, AV Comparatives, a non-profit site that pits the most popular anti-virus products against nearly half a million pieces of malware, placed OneCare dead last in a list of 17 programs.

“You will see our results gradually and steadily increase until they are on par with the other majors in this arena,” pledged Kuo.

Kuo, who prior to joining Microsoft’s security team last September was a 10-year veteran of McAfee’s AVERT research lab, is probably best known as the researcher who tracked down the hacker who wrote 1999’s Melissa virus.

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Review: Toshiba Satellite P105 gaming notebook

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For a long time, the notion of a “gaming laptop” was a contradiction in terms. After all, everyone knew that notebooks had to compromise on features and performance to achieve maximum portability, right? And even with advances in chips that make it possible for today’s laptop PCs to outpace the desktops from 12 minutes ago, you’re still faced with awkward controls and a screen that’s too small. Am I right?

“Dude, you’ve been misinformed,” is what Toshiba would say to that. The notebooks in the company’s Satellite series are designed with gaming in mind, as the P105-S9722 shows. It sports a 17-inch widescreen LCD monitor (1,440 x 900 pixels) and some serious multimedia hardware, including an Nvidia graphics card with 256 MB of memory and dual-core processing power. We’re way beyond Pong here.

Not everything’s in the specs, though. When it’s all said and done, the P105 has one simple mission: Convince me that a laptop can serve as a primary gaming platform. After all, if you’re spending 2 Gs on a rig, it damn well better not be a “secondary” one. Let’s see how it did.

Flat Tax

Turning on the Toshiba for the first time, I was greeted by a dialogue box asking me if I wanted to disable CD burning in case I wanted to record on DVD-RAM discs, obviously referring to the built-in SuperMulti drive, which can write data to any of the five recordable DVD formats floating out there. Um, awesome, but I’m not interested in burning DVDs right now, thanks. Let’s just hit Cancel. Oh, you mean that box is always going to come back to greet me every time I restart? Great. Although I’m sure there’s a way to remove it permanently, who wants to bother with this right out of the box? In fairness, this is more of a Windows problem (XP, not Vista) than a Toshiba problem, but it sure made me immediately long for my MacBook.

One way-cool perk on many of Toshiba’s Satellites is the built-in fingerprint reader to the right of the mousepad. After you set it up, it provides a nice way to speed up any logins and add security to your computer. It also has the effect of making you feel like James Bond for a few seconds. Even though it sometimes took two or three swipes to work, I’m a fan.

A bit further down my list of “noteworthies” is the Dual Mode mousepad, which adds some extra functionality via a few “virtual” buttons. They light up when you touch the pad in a specific spot and do things like call up Outlook or a turn up the volume. Three of the buttons are customizable, though they can do only simple stuff like launch applications or skip tracks in a media player. I was hoping I could make them do fancy gaming actions like switching weapons or skipping a turn (depending on which game I was playing), but not so much. Plus the pad is just kind of small — or maybe it only looked that way right next to that brightly colored sticker touting the P105’s features. Nope, it really is tiny. Strike three: the pad seemed to click things from time to time when my finger hadn’t gone anywhere the mouse button. Yeah, not a fan here.

Game Time

Okay, the gaming. After a quick install of Guild Wars: Nightfall, I was ready to save the people of Elona with my party of warriors while accepting a quest… you get the idea. To fully get your war on, the Guild recommends a 2-GHz Pentium 4 processor, an Nvidia GeForce FX5700 graphics card, and a gig of RAM to play. Since the Toshiba is equipped with a pair of 2-GHz Centrino chips, an Nvidia GeForce Go 7900 GS card, and 2 GB of RAM, I think I was well covered. And with a colossal 200-GB hard drive, you’ll never run out of room for saving games.

Gameplay was as silky smooth as you’d expect from such a system. Guild Wars is an action-packed fantasy role-playing game; not only does it have a lot of elements moving at any moment, but also a fully customizable “camera” view that you can change on the fly. The P105 handled every spear throw, axe strike, and magic spell deftly. To be completely honest, when my party came to a village with dozens of online players present, there were some hiccups, but this was probably due to the speed of the network connection, not the hardware.

The only issue I had was that tiny mousepad. It could be just my style, but it was just too small and awkward to play a dynamic game like Guild Wars as effectively as I’d like. And, hey, if the monitor’s widescreen, why doesn’t the pad match its aspect ratio? Sure, you could hook up an external mouse, but then you might as well have a desktop. Whether or not this is a deal-breaker depends if you think you could get used to it. For me, it would take a while.

At the End of the Day…

There’s no question the Toshiba P105-S9722 has tools to impress. It’s no Dell XPS tower, but the guts of this baby will run most anything you can throw at it — even Vista. The performance is impressive given the price tag. A big, bight screen and other perks help to make you forget it’s a laptop, although eventually you’ll run into some inherent limits of portable computers. Stil, if you need to ditch the desktop for a notebook, the P105 won’t stop trying to win you over. Given enough time, it may even succeed.

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Star Wars mailboxes coming, and, yes, stealing mailboxes is a federal offense

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Apparently the post office is staffed by a bunch of geeks, as they’ve decided to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Star Wars by tricking out some mailboxes to look like R2D2. Apparently the USPS really knows the Star Wars audience, as they’re not gonna place them on the street where obsessed fans can steal them in the dark of night. They’ll be placed indoors under the protective eye of our nations postal workers.

Think any other government agencies will be joining the anniversary celebration? Perhaps cops will start dressing like storm troopers, or maybe the people at the DMV will start issuing licenses to fly spaceships. Hoo boy, that would sure be great! Or, they could spend our tax dollars on being efficient, but that’s not really as fun.

Make a Mii without a Wii

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Still having trouble finding a Wii out there? I know, it’s tough. They’re so popular that you have to wait in line on a Sunday morning if you want one, even so many months after the release. Well, if it’s any consolation, you can still have a bit of Wii-related fun without actually owning a Wii.

Miieditor.com will allow you to create a Mii avatar, just like you can on a Wii, right on the computer. Then you can save it to your computer for export as an image or for further editing later. Sure, you won’t be able to play Wii Sports with it, but it’s still fun. As you can see by the above example, I was able to make a version of myself that I feel is quite accurate, although technically my eyes are a bit farther apart.

Google Phone coming?

Is Google entering the crowded cell phone market? That’s what the rumors say, and this might just be what it’s going to look like. Supposedly, the “GPhone” will be manufactured by Samsung with Google branding (much like Helio’s phones). It’s said to come loaded with all of Google’s services, such as Gmail, Google Maps, Blogger, et cetera. In addition, it will supposedly have a QWERTY keyboard, a 2-megapixel camera, WiFi, and 3G web connectivity.

What’s especially exciting about the potential of a Google phone is that reports state that the big G will shy away from forcing users to choose one wireless carrier, instead allowing for people to buy the phone and then use it with the carrier of their choice. This is the route we wished Apple had taken with their iPhone, and it has the potential to do wonders for the domestic cellular industry.

Vista 32-bit activation BIOS crack hits the street

You can coat anything in a rich creamy layer of activation security but the software cracking scene will still find a creative way around it. A post on Digg points to a brand spankin’ new Vista activation crack which promises to be a big pain for Microsoft.

According to the FILENetworks Blog, this Vista activation crack represents a giant leap forward from previous Vista activation “workarounds”. Using an installable software driver, the Vista BIOS emulation crack fools Vista into the belief that it is running on top of an approved vendor’s BIOS, apparently opening up validation free licensing similar to what an OEM would receive.

I don’t support the distribution of pirated software but, I do marvel at the lengths some bedroom software crackers will go to have the latest and greatest scot free.

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Design Tip – LightZone commercial quality for free

LightZone, the RAW photo converter, can cost you hundreds of dollars for the Windows or OS X versions, however, the Linux version is free. LightZone is a powerful photo editing software package based on tonal zones with an easy intuitive interface.

The Windows and OS X versions are available in a Basic edition for $150 and a Full version for $250. The Linux version is functionally equivalent to the Full version, and did we mention, is free? LightZone is copyrighted by Light Crafts of Palo Alto, CA. They do not provide online support for the Linux version however, Anton Kast, Light Crafts’ chief architect and Linux devotee maintains a separate page to keep the Linux version updated and to provide technical support.

[via Linux.com]

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How to get rid of the incandescent light bulb

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Incandescent light bulb, ye who sprang from the loins of Thomas Edison, thy days are numbered. Already you’ve been banned in Australia starting in 2010. Now similar moves are being contemplated in Canada and the European Union. Has the nanny state run amok once again?

This guy thinks so. He acknowledges the advantages of compact fluorescent lighting — the main alternative to incandescents, at least for the time being — including energy savings and flexibility in color temperature. But he also offers a long list of cons: They don’t produce a focused beam of light, don’t work well in extreme temperatures, can’t be battery-powered, pose a waste-disposal challenge due to mercury content, are too bulky for some light fixtures, don’t quite duplicate the golden glow of incandescents, and have higher sticker prices (though they’re cheaper to run). And, uh, they can’t be used to incubate an egg or keep your lizard warm, because they run cool.

I’d add a few more negatives: Compact fluorescents aren’t approved for use in places with high humidity (like your bathroom). Some of them don’t work with dimmers. And some people claim their flickering can produce physical distress, though others call that a myth, pointing out that modern fluorescents cycle much faster than the eye or brain can process.

Having said that, I agree that incandescents should be banned. I’ve replaced 75% of the bulbs in my home and office with compact fluorescents and use the latter 95% of the time. They light my desk by day and my reading by night. Because they dissipate less energy in the form of heat, fluorescents use one-quarter as much energy as incandescents, thereby reducing global-warming gases and saving me money every month. They offset their initial cost by lasting much longer, and I enjoy my chosen color temperature of 4,100 kelvins, the hue of late-afternoon sunlight. Oh, and if you don’t like fluorescents, you might try LED lights instead. There may even be a new breed of energy-saving incandescents from General Electric by the time the Australians pull the trigger.

So I’m in favor of the ban as long as it allows exceptions, so old-style incandescents can be used where they’re still appropriate. Climate change is a real threat and we need to modify our behavior. If people respond by acting like babies — “I can’t use my urine-colored luminescent space heaters anymore? Wahhh!” — maybe the nanny state isn’t such a bad idea after all.

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