I’ve been blogging the exploits of my three boys for more than four years now. When I started, the oldest two were still babies at one and three, both still in diapers and sucking pacifiers at night. No topics were too personal, too intimate, or too full of bodily fluids to be examined at length on my blog. Now that my oldest two are five and nearly seven, though, I’m coming to a point where I realize that their stories may no longer be mine to plunder in the name of blog fodder.


Part of it is the fact of Internet permanency — nothing you ever put out onto the Web really goes away, and I’m not sure they’ll appreciate that my loving descriptions of their early potty exploits will still be within Google’s vast realm by the time they hit high school. Careful as I’ve been to protect their anonymity, there’s still one link out there in searchdom that brings each of the big boys’ names (albeit indirectly) back to my blog.

Mostly, though, it’s more of a respect issue. As they’re growing up, the boys are becoming less a part of me and more fully individuals themselves. They have their own personalities, their own preferences, and their own peccadilloes. They have a vague awareness of the blog, inasmuch as it’s our desktop’s home page and they have to click through it on their way to the Pokémon site, and they’ll often stop to admire the photos of themselves I post on Flickr. They know I write stories about them, but I’ve been doing so for so much of their lives I don’t think they see anything unusual about that. But I just don’t feel like their stories are mine to tell anymore — at least, not in the intimate detail of years gone by.

Much as I want to blog the daily stories about the girls who have crushes on them, the teachers who vex them, and the antics that make me laugh, I find myself pulling back to write from a wider perspective. They still give me plenty of blog fodder as I wrestle with the various issues of modern parenting, but it seems a violation of the confidence between us for me to tell the stories that come out at the dinner table each night.

Now I know why we had that third child. It’s so I can continue to mommy-blog with impunity (and occasionally embarrassing levels of intimate detail) for at least another couple of years.


Danielle Donders is the author of the popular blog Postcards from the Mothership. She graces us with her take on how technology impacts the parenting (and motherhood) process each Thursday in this space.

Apple boasts that it has thousands and thousands and thousands of free and pay iPhone apps at its online App Store. But how many are actually downloaded by users? And how many of those are actually used?


Mobile apps developer PinchMedia has the surprising answer.

According to a recent Pinch survey of 30 million app downloads from the Apple App Store, only one in three are ever used more than a day or two before being left to gather dust. After 20 days, only five per cent of downloaded apps are still in use.

Pinch notes that the superannuation rate is even higher for free apps, which people may download on a whim, or out of curiosity, rather than because they have a specific need for them.

Overall, Pinch notes, only about ten percent of iPhone app titles enjoy any sort of lasting popularity and most of those are social networking site clients, movie listings interfaces and games.

Industry observers wonder whether Apple — which has been touting the vast selection of titles at it’s iPhone Apps Store as a major marketing point for its phones — shouldn’t rethink it’s advertising plan, now that this disappointing news about the longevity of the vast majority of apps is on the wire…

A coalition of 70 Internet-based companies including search giant Google, retail giant Amazon and Internet phone giant Skype has called on the Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to ban practices employed by Internet access providers known collectively as ‘traffic shaping’.

Traffic shaping is commonly used, by some access providers, to reduce the impact on their networks of data-intensive applications such as BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer systems commonly used to upload and download massive movie and video files.

An AOL study last fall found that just five per cent of AOL’s customers were hogging almost 50 per cent of AOL’s network capacity trading massive media files, and that was putting other users at a disadvantage, slowing the system.

The call, from Internet content providers and shippers, came during ongoing hearings on the future of new media broadcasting in Canada.

The content providers and shippers argue that traffic shaping by ISPs unfairly restricts their business opportunities.

The throttling issue, like others on the table in the new media hearings, actually impacts more directly on the Net Neutrality question, which the CRTC will address directly in its own set of hearings this coming July.

We once remarked that Microsoft’s (MS) lawyers must have apprenticed at the venerable old firm of Scrooge and Marley. Now, we suspect their accountants did, too…


It’s bad enough to be among the tens of thousands in the computer, software and consumer electronics industries being laid off around the world these days, as the economy continues to suffer.

But what a slap in the face, to be told by your former employer that they want some of your severance pay back!

That’s just what happened to some laid-off Microsoft (MS) employees last week. The problems surfaced this past weekend, when MS admitted that some former workers had been over- or under-compensated by an average of (US)$4,000 to $5,000.

In a statement earlier this week, MS said…

Last week, 25 former Microsoft employees were informed that they were overpaid as a part of their severance payments from the company. This was a mistake on our part. We should have handled this situation in a more thoughtful manner. We are reaching out to those impacted to relay that we will not seek any payment from those individuals.

MS also confirmed that it is quickly reimbursing underpaid former employees.

We’re all familiar with the old joke about ‘putting another hamster on the treadmill’ to speed up a system or process. But, now, thanks to researchers at the University of Georgia, some folks aren’t laughing as loudly as they used to.


Experiments by a team at Georgia University’s Nano Research Group have demonstrated that hamsters can generate usable power when running on their exercise wheels.

The secret is dressing them in a little jacket equipped with a nanogenerator that converts their biomechanical energy output to electricity.

Team leader Dr. Zhong Lin Wang told reporters that the project’s first, single-hamster ‘proof of concept’ experiment produced only a small amount of power — about one twentieth of the output of a standard AA battery. At that rate, it would take about 1,000 hamsters working in concert, to power the average cell phone.

But the good doctor is confident that the technology can be improved and could be fited to human clothing within five years.

Meanwhile, marvel at this video clip of the team’s original hamster generator experiment…

A clever new social engineering hack is designed to get unsuspecting Facebook users to divulge personal information to cyber crooks.


According to Graham Cluely’s popular blog at the Sophos Internet security site, a rogue Facebook application called Error Check System is sending false error notifications to users, asking them to click on a link to ‘View The Errors Message’.

But, as Cluely reports:

Of course, there was nothing really wrong with the recipient’s profiles and the misleading notifications were an attempt by a third party Facebook application to recruit more users, and — potentially — steal personal information from profiles.

… ‘Error Check System’ is not the only Facebook application to try and increase its popularity by sending messages to your friends and family — but it is particularly sneaky presenting itself as an error message about the recipient’s profile.

Cluely’s blog entry includes instructions on how to remove the rogue application from your Facebook account.

But that’s not the end of the story…

It seems that the authors of  ‘Error Check System’ — or third-party baddies attempting to take advantage of the situation — have posted rogue Web sites which, if followed from a search engine results list for ‘Facebook Error Check  System’, take unsuspecting surfers to bogus virus scan sites which actually install trojan bugs on their systems.

Cluely warns that those bugs can recruit your computer to a bot net which, in turn can make your system a springboard for infecting other computers or a base from which cyber crooks can broadcast spam.

So… Beware random search engine results when seeking information on the ‘Error Check System’ bug and go direcftly to a recognised Internet security resource, such as the Sophos site or the online headquarters of your favourite Internet security suite.

One of the ideas placed on the table at the Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ‘new media’ hearings last week was to impose a federal tax on Internet access to build a (C)$100 million fund to support the production of Canadian content for Internet and digital cell network broadcasting. That proposal was put forward by groups representing Canadian media producers.

Internet service providers (ISPs) and cell service companies immediately observed that any tax would have to be passed on to consumers, a move which would harm their businesses.

But observers say any move which would increase the cost of Internet or cell access would also hurt contrent providers. The more it costs for access, the less people will use the Net and their phones for secondary purposes, such as watching videos or downloading music.

According to information provided by the CRTC, theaverage Canadian Internet user spends 46 hours per month online, and 83 per cent of users now watch some video content.

Cell and Internet giant Shaw Communications has already sought opinions from more than one prominent legal firm as to whether the government can legally impose sich a levy.

The overall issue in the hearings is whether the CRTC should continue its current hands-off policy toward the Internet and cell networks or redefine them, officially, as broadcasting systems which should, by association, be subject to the same regulations and resrictions as conventional radio and television broadcasters.

We stumbled across the link to this satirical gem while grazing the goodies at Crave, the branch of CNet News that showcases the newest and most desire-worthy consumer electronics toys and gadgets.

It’s nothing less than the ultimate generic Apple Inc. tease for any new product that Steve Jobs hasn’t had the chance to personally demo at a launch event, yet.


What is iProduct?

We’re not saying, yet. But don’t let that stop you. Post at length on every message board you have access to. Come up with fake product photos and post them, too. Start rumours or deny them. Compare it to existing products, even though you don’t know what you’re comparing it to. With Apple products, rampant, fruitless speculation is easy and fun.

(Warning: Contains one or two words that may offend sensitive readers.)

And, while you’re at it, don’t miss this super-slick spoof of every iPhone / iPod TV commercial you’ve ever seen.

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled day, already in progress…

If you’re new to Photoshop, you know that some tasks involve a steep learning curve. And most of us who have been using it for years could still learn much more about it. Adobe Photoshop CS4 one-on-one by Photoshop expert Deke McClelland, published by O’Reilly Media, is a 500-page book that will teach you everything you need to know about Photoshop CS4, and then some.


The book is organized as 12 lessons that begin with opening and organizing images and end with printing and output. Along the way, lessons address topics such as opening and organizing images, image adjustments, colour balancing, retouching, selections, cropping, masks, layers, and more. The book also includes a DVD with four hours of video lessons.

Simply put, if your goal is to master the fundamentals of CS4, buy this book.

No, not that kind of ‘white lightning’. We’re talking about something more wholesome and less expensive: Plain white household vinegar.

It’s not just for salad dressing and cleaning windows, anymore!

In an age when we are bombarded mercilessly with television and magazine ads for ‘new’, ‘miracle’ cleaners, good old vinegar still shines as a multi-purpose household hygiene problem solver.


For details, we gladly defer to do-it-yourself icon This Old House, on whose Web site you can find a handy list of ten ways you may not have thought of to use vinegar,  including:

  • Peeling off old wallpaper
  • Softening old paint brushes
  • Checking your garden soil’s pH
  • Unclogging shower heads
  • Whitening tile grout

The This Old House site, as a whole, is a great resource on household and construction technologies of all kinds, new and old. It features great navigation and search features to help you find exactly what you want quickly in its vast store of useful information.

If you’re the kind of person who only calls a repair service as a last resort, bookmark this site!

Canada’s text messaging resource centre, txt.ca, reports that Canadians more than doubled their use of SMS texting services in 2008, sending more than 20.8 billion text messages, compared to a mere 10.1 billion in 2007In fact, 2008 was the sixth consecutive year that Canadian texting activity more than doubled over the year before.

According to the txt.ca facts and stats page…

Canadians now send over 2.3 billion text messages per month – that’s more than 76 million text messages each day. What’s more, the number of people using text messaging continues to grow, month over month, as does the number of messages sent.

Txt.ca estimates that almost half of all wireless service subscribers in Canada send at least one text message per month.


Text.ca is an arm of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA).

Australian free speech activists are expressing alarm over ‘creeping’ restrictions on their Internet access following the announcement that the new government content-filtering initiative known as the Clean Feed will be mandatory for all Internet users in the country.

The censorship plan allows users to opt out of one level of filtering, designed to protect children from objectionable Internet content, but forces all users to take a feed sanitized of content that the government deems ‘illegal’ under Australian law. Because the system will use keyword flagging and other techniques to detect ‘undesirable’ content, free speech advocates fear that many innocuous Web sites will also be be blocks. For example, sites calling for more aggressive prosecution of child pornographers may well be filtered out along with child porn sites, themselves.

“The news for Australian Internet users just keeps getting worse,” Electronic Frontier Australia spokesperson Colin Jacobs said. “We have legitimate concerns with the creeping scope of this unprecedented interference in our communications infrastructure. It’s starting to look like nothing less than a comprehensive program of real-time Internet censorship.”

Other critics and Internet service providers (ISPs) report that test filtering activity is slowing Internet service across Australia by up to 30 per cent compared to previous speeds.

Jacobs observes, “The definition of ‘inappropriate’ material has never been well defined. With Government-mandated software monitoring each Internet connection, we expect the scope [of censorship] to expand further as time goes by. How will the Government resist pressure by Family First or other special interest groups to permanently block material considered by some to be harmful?”