By Anthony CARUANA
Last week I wrote about Livewire - an online community for children that are suffering from chronic or other serious illness. In that story, I jumped to a couple of conclusions and the folks from Livewire contacted me and I'd like to correct my mistakes and set the record straight.
Last week I said:
I must say I was little disappointed at first. The news section hasn't been updated in some time and only points to a couple of press releases. Why doesn't it pick up newsfeeds from kid's entertainment sites? Why not news from gaming websites? In fact, clicking on each of the lead links reveals that LiveWire is, at best, a work in progress.
Well, it turns out that the front page isn't for kids. It's a corporate front page and is not specifically targeting kids. That's fair enough I guess although I still reckon it'd be good to keep it up to date with some current, kid-friendly content.
I also raised some concerns with the site's safety. I based this on being able to create an account.
My only concern was that I was able to create a user account, as an adult, that let me pretend to be a child. I didn't interact with any children in the course of my research but it was a concern that I could create an account. Potentially, a predator could create an account and target kids when they are at their most vulnerable.
It turns out that full access requires both a letter from parent and a nominating health care professional. The parents of prospective members are then contacted by the Livewire team before their account is given full access to the site. Depending on the nature of the child's illness and the duration of their hospital stay they'll have different access levels.
Livewire worked with the Australian Federal Police on the design, who declared it to be one of the safest web sites for children.
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Not Enough Broadbands
By David HAGUE
The launch of One HD, the new free-to-air sports TV channel run by Channel 10, caused a bit of a flutter over the weekend. Using the Australian Formula One Grand Prix as its flagship program, many other programs were also shown showcasing sport at its visual best we are told.
But was it?
While in the main, on my laptop using a Compro capture USB stick and Windows Media Center, my office 27” LCD and upstairs on a 50” LCD, the video and audio was quite good, I noticed differences in quality at various times of the day. For example, the races in the GP telecast of a “lesser” interest to many such as the GT cars, seemed far better quality than the big race itself. And on the Saturday in particular, the V8 Supercars at one point were virtually unwatchable with much digital interference, frame dropping and stuttery audio.
Why would this be so? This is supposed to be digital broadcasting at its finest. Atmospherics shouldn’t affect it, I have boosters on my antennae (and besides, all other digital channels were fine including ABC HD) so what would cause this.
Channel 10 would never divulge if in fact they were using HD cameras – they cost big bikkies – but I’ll give them here the benefit of that doubt. Certainly studio shots were crisp and clean and it appeared pit shots were the same. I haven’t yet hooked up the surround sound amp. So cannot comment on whether it was true 5.1 audio, but if they so and it wasn’t, that claim would not have lasted long!
A quick discussion with Steve Turner, a writer for my magazine Australasian Camcorder, who full times as a director and producer for Channel 7 may have solved the problem.
Without getting into technicalities, let’s assume that a TV station has 100 bandwidth units over three “normal” channels and one high definition channel (complete with 5.1 audio). To get the very best out of the HD channel, this might take up 70 bandwidths so the other channels hum along on 10 bandwidths each. It’s not high def so no one really notices a slightly less than average quality and audio is hardly affected at all.
But what if suddenly the three normal channels need more bandwidth for some reason? In this case, the hi def channel might get cut to only say, 50 bandwidths, and the quality of the video and audio will certainly degenerate. This is apparently what happened during the F1 broadcasts over the weekend.
This very problem is why, I am told, that some free-to-air channels are doing bugger all with their digital channels – they just don't have the bandwidth to cope and so they have the same program on different channels.
The answer of course lies in successive governments having it seems no clue about the digital changeover. I won’t be holding my breath until they get it sorted.
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Is this the best email feature ever devised?
By Ian GRAYSON
We’ve all done it: hit “send” on an email only to instantly realise it should never have gone. But now there’s a way out.
Those tenacious boffins over at Google Labs have devised a new feature for the company’s popular Gmail service that allows you to eat your own electronic words.
Launched five years ago (so why is it still in Beta?), Gmail has garnered a large number of enthusiastic users, no doubt attracted by its clean interface and massive storage quota.
During this time Google has also worked to incorporate a growing array of features, introducing everything from text and voice chat to video calling and status indicators.
But its latest feature will be an instant hit with anyone who’s suffered from post-send regret. It gives the option to recall a message for a few moments after it’s been ushered on its way. To me it’s a fantastic idea.
Just think of those times when, right after you’ve sent a terse reply to a colleague, you realise you inadvertently hit “reply all” and your less-than-diplomatic comments are now all around the company.
This feature only works for a few seconds after you send the email, but experience shows that this is when most people realise they’ve just done a dumb thing.
For Gmail users it can be turned on by going to the labs option within Gmail and scrolling down to the ‘Undo send’ option. It then appears as an option each time you send an email.
Trust me. One day, you’ll be very grateful you’ve turned it on.
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Nerds pay the price for One HD's 24 hour sport
By Adam TURNER
Australia's newest television channel shows 24 hour sport in high-def, but it comes at the expense of other high-def programming.
Network Ten became Australia's first commercial network to take the next digital leap this week, converting Ten HD into One HD - a 24 hour high-def sports channel. Ten has also launched a second standard-def channel called One, which is a constant simulcast of One HD. Of course you've still got the main channel, Ten, which gives Network Ten three digital channels in total; Ten, One and One HD.
One HD is obviously a smart move by Network Ten considering Aussies' passion for sport, but it comes at a price. Previously Ten and Ten HD were mostly in simulcast, so high profile sports such as AFL were already shown in high-def. It also meant that many of Ten's popular sci-fi and drama programs were shown both on Ten and on Ten HD in high-def. Late in the evenings, Ten HD would break away from the main channel to screen re-runs of sci-fi classics such as The X-Files and Buffy.
When Network Ten announced plans to convert Ten HD into One HD, sci-fi fans were hoping that the network's new second SD channel would come to the rescue by screening alternative programming to Ten - similar to the relationship between ABC1 and ABC2. Instead the second SD channel, One, is just more sport. The exact same sport. When the AFL is screening on Ten, the same game will also be on One HD and thus on One as well. So all three of Ten's digital channels will be screening the exact same thing. So much for more choice.
Viewers have lost the alternative late-night content that was on Ten HD, plus they'll never see any of Ten's sci-fi or drama in high-def because the HD channel is all sport, all the time. If you've spent good money on high-def gear, you're entitled to be annoyed. You'd also be tempted to turn to Blu-ray or BitTorrent to watch the latest sci-fi in high-def.
I think Network Ten should have struck a compromise by making the second SD channel a 24 hour sports channel. Then the high-def channel could screen a mix of programs from Ten and the sports channel - letting viewers see both high-def footy and high-def sci-fi. It will be interesting to see the public response to One HD and I'm sure the other commercial networks will watch it closely before unveiling their own plans for extra channels.
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Why should Apple's netbook foray flop?
By Stephen WITHERS
TheStreet reckons "Like a moth to a hot trend, Apple will fly into the netbook flame and get burned."
The reasoning is that "beyond the core fan base, Apple will discover what other PC makers have known for a while: Consumers find big tablets hard to swallow."
What's "big" in this context? 12in? 13in?
I've suggested elsewhere that there are really two types of netbook. One is what I think of as a "real" netbook - small, light and cheap. Users basically live in the browser: that's why it's a netbook. Consequently, there's no need to run the same operating system as the user does on the desktop.
The other is what we used to call a subnotebook. It's smaller and lighter than a regular notebook, but users expect to run all their usual software as well as a browser.
So why does TheStreet reckon Apple's netbook entry will be a "big tablet"?
Something along the lines of an oversized iPhone or iPod with a screen somewhere in the range of 7-10in makes much more sense to me.
Have you seen how successful the iPhone is as a mobile web device? According to various sources, it's responsible for more web traffic than all the other mobile platforms put together.
This shows that a hard keyboard isn't an essential part of a netbook. But it's hard to argue that a larger screen wouldn't be more convenient for use around the house or office. Think how many baby boomers need reading glasses.
Here's where TheStreet really misses the point: "The Apple tablet... will probably end up with a fate more like the MacBook Air... It's sitting at No. 52 on the Amazon bestselling notebook list. The tablet will be lucky to fall anywhere in the top 100."
Sure, the MacBook Air isn't Apple's most popular computer - but who said it would be? It addresses a particular niche: people who want a thin and light MacBook.
Don't these guys get it? Apple realised long ago that it was a bad move to sacrifice profitability for market share. Take another look at Amazon's list of notebooks: four of the top six are MacBooks, even though they cost around twice as much as the number one and five systems.
And people said the original iPod was too expensive. And we all know how big a flop that was. What's the top selling MP3 player on Amazon? The iPod touch.
A 7-10in iPhone 3.0-based model is unlikely to cannibalise Apple's existing range. If you want something that fits in your pocket, you'll still buy an iPhone or iPod touch. If you need a keyboard and Mac OS X, you'll buy a MacBook.
If you want small and light and a reasonably sized screen, you'll buy the new device. The acceptance of the iPod and iPhone among non-Mac users is also an indication of what could be achieved.
It would redefine the category - or arguably start a whole new category as far as big-brand vendors are concerned - and could be profitable. There's a lot of space between a high-end iPod touch ($549) and a low-end MacBook ($1649).
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