From: Yahoo! Tech —

Retail market observers say there’s an iPod shortage looming this holiday season — a shortage of ‘iPhone’ proportions, as market analyst Shah Wu of Kaufman Brothers investment bank put it.

As Yahoo! tech reports, “Wu checked his retail sources and found that Amazon.com, Best Buy, Target, and Wal-Mart have all been experiencing shortages of the popular iPod Touch, Nano, and Shuffle models. Wait times for certain models on Amazon range from three weeks to two months.”

“It’s a selective dearth, though. You can’t buy the bright green 1GB iPod Shuffle on Amazon without waiting a month or two, but if you can bear the pain of a bright blue one, it’ll arrive in a matter of days. Similarly, while the 8GB and 16GB iPod Touch models take a while to ship, the 32GB model is stocked and ready to go. The Apple Store doesn’t seem to be lacking any models at this time.”

Other observers noted that the iPod was a hot item with ‘Black Friday’ [the day after Thanksgiving Day] shoppers in the U.S. and suggested that the shortage should not come as a surprise.

But skeptics suggest that the notion of a shortage is really a ploy by Apple to generate hype and move more product in tight economic times, when families are cutting back on holiday spending and/or pooling their gift dollars to buy one large item the whole family can enjoy.

From the classic to the (slightly) crazy, io9.com offers it’s gift suggestions for the compulsive experimentalist on your holiday gift list.

Along with the traditional chemistry sets and telescopes, io9’s Scifi Gift Guide features more-modern technology including hobby lasers, robots and even a giant, ‘floor-model’ Tesla coil.

There’s something for every budget — from (US)$10 to (US)$1,000.

And, to keep the mad scientist in your house occupied more or less harmlessly for hours, most items mentioned come in kit form or, at least, require some assembly.

A new round of holiday-themed spam scams is circulating, luring unwary Internet users with tempting ‘major brand’ offers.

Internet security companies WebSense and McAfee have both reported e-mail attacks using bogus ‘special holiday offers’ from major brands to mask the delivery of malicious code which, when installed on a victim’s computer, turns it into a base to broadcast more spams to other unsuspecting users.

The security companies say to be suspicious of unsolicited e-mails from McDonalds, Hallmark and Coca Cola offering coupons, contests or special deals over the holidays. The e-mails apparently use brand logos and other images taken directly from the legitimate Web sites of the brands in question.

The security specialists recommend that users protect themselves by simply not opening attachments on unsolicited e-mails and keep their computers’ security measures up-to-date.

AT&T has tossed a big chunk of coal in its employees’ stockings: Christmas layoffs totalling 12,000 — about four per cent of its worldwide workforce.

The staff reductions will actaully start this month and continue through next year, costing the telecommunications giant an estimated (US)$600 million in severence compensation payments.

AT&T also announced plans this week to reduce capital expenditures next year from this year’s level — another move to address the effects of the worsening economy.

In contrast to the layoffs, AT&T has announced it will continue hiring for its wireless, video and broadband operations in response to still-increasing customer demand for those services.

Scientists at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, have created a new medical diagnostic system which might have been inspired by the labs on high tech detective shows such as CSI.

A team led by Professor Hogan Yu has demonstrated that the extremely fine resolution laser scanner used in CD and DVD drives can also be used to examine samples of saliva or blood and can detect very small amounts of various substances in the samples.

The discovery could lead to pharmacy- or even home-based instant do-it-yourself diagnosis machines. Yu says he’s not suggesting end users use his machine’s findings to diagnose themselves. Instead, he foresees a time when patients could submit samples to a conveniently-located machine and e-mail the results to their doctor, who could then prescribe treatment.

Yu says it will take years to develop a production model CD-based medical diagnosis machine. But he’s confident enough in the technology that he’s applied for a patent on it already.

A resourceful restauranteur in Melbourne, Aus., recently used the popular Facebook social networking site to track down a group of egregious tab evaders.

Peter Leary, proprietor of Melbourne’s classy Seagrass restaurant was not concerned when a group of apparently well-heeled young people sat down to a sumptuous feast at his establishment, running up a tab of (A)$520, about (US)$400. But he was concerned when they failed to return for dessert — and to pay their bill — after supposedly going outside for a cigarette break.

Leary then put on his Sherlock Holmes hat. He remembered that one of the dine-and-dashers had asked about a server who worked at Seagrass. From the server, he got some names.

Knowing that Facebook is popular with young people, Leary plugged the names into a Facebook search and a photo came up, containing a face Leary recognised. The Facebook blog in which the photo was posted gave Leary the perpetrator’s name and where he worked — another restaurant just around the block from Seagrass.

Leary then contacted the bill-dodger’s boss and, within an hour, the tab was paid, with apologies.

Nevertheless, the young man and his girlfriend, both servers at the other restaurant, and both in on the dine-and-dash at Seagrass, were fired.

Tips for bloggers

This is the last post in a short series about marketing and mommy bloggers. In today’s finale, we veer off on a bit of a tangent with some tips to consider about monetizing your mommy blog.

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There are a lot of ways to get your blog working for you, most of which will not pay enough to put your kids through college (or pay for bail). There is no longer the same sort of stigma attached to profiting from your blog that there was a few years ago, though. And, with a bit of diligence and a regular audience, it’s not too hard to make a few bucks each month.

You can set up advertising in several ways, including using programs like Google’s AdSense, advertising networks like BlogHer or Glam, or affiliate advertising programs like Commission Junction, ShareASale or Linkshare. You can sell ad space in your sidebar for text-based link ads or small ad boxes. You can write sponsored reviews or join a review network like MomCentral or Parent Bloggers.

You can, in fact, do all of the above at the same time. But there are a few caveats to keep in mind.

First, if you want people to visit your blog and keep coming back, the monetizing tools have to be the icing on the cake and the substance of your blog ought to be quality entertainment — pictures, stories, advice, whatever you do best. You might use search engine optimization to bring readers in but you need to have great writing or some other attractive hook to keep them coming back.

Second, read contracts and regulations very carefully. Some advertising networks have restrictions about what kinds of other monetizing activities you can use on your blog and many want to control where and how you display their ad. Others want exclusivity — which very rarely favours the blogger. Make sure you understand whether you are getting paid per clickthrough (readers must click on the ad), per impression (number of times the ad is displayed) or — ideally, IMHO — simply on a per-month or per-week basis. For example, I understand that $50 per month for a 125×125 pixel sidebar ad is reasonable ad rate for a blog that gets about 500 visitors per day.

Third, know your own value and don’t sell yourself short. Keep track of simple metrics so you know how many visitors you get per day or per week and know your Google Page Rank (PR). I know, for example, that I have a high enough PR on my mommy blog that I’m on the first page of Google search returns for the keywords ‘best toys’. An online toy store contacted me and first asked if I’d accept a guest post with links to their store which I promptly declined. (“Hmmm… You want my Google juice but not my mad writing skillz?” was how I perceived that offer.) They came back with an offer of $25 for a year of text-based advertising in my sidebar that I could in no way indicate was advertising. The text was something like, “Consider active toys and educational toys to properly stimulate your child’s development,” with links to their site on active toys and educational toys. I promptly declined that offer, too.

That brings me to my fourth point: Be transparent and have a disclosure policy. It’s very important to me that my readers can distinguish between a paid review and a random product recommendation simply because something tickled my fancy. Any time I post a review, I am careful to spell out any compensation or freebies related to the post. Be aware, too, that Google frowns on “PayPerPost” blogs and last year busted page rank down to zero for many pay-per-post bloggers.

If you have any other tips or ideas to share, please feel free to leave a comment!

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Danielle Donders shares her digital parenting experiences with us on Thursdays. She is a proud Mommy Blogger at Postcards from the Mothership, and vaguely remembers a day job studying the tools of social media in the context of government communications.

Earlier this week, reports circulated widely that Apple Inc. appeared to have issued an official recommendation that Mac OS users install not one but multiple antivirus products to guard against the growing threat from Mac-specific viruses and Trojan Horse attacks.

Apple now says the advisory, at it’s official Support site, was at least a year old but had recently been updated, giving the impressioin that it was new.

The post in question has now been completely removed Support site.

Observers suggest that the original post, recommending intensive antivirus use, was generated at the support desk level and was not subjected to higher-level approval or editing processes. Apple’s brass apparently never even knew about the post until the media reports started circulating this week.

Apple’s official line remains that the Mac OS is safe ‘right out of the box’.

“The Mac is designed with built-in technologies that provide protection against malicious software and security threats right out of the box,” Apple spokesman Bill Evans told CNet News. “However, since no system can be 100 per cent immune from every threat, running antivirus software may offer additional protection.”

Skeptics say the fact that Apple totally removed the post, rather than correcting or updating it, indicates that the company is running scared and or hiding in embarrassment over the whole affair.

A new study by the Memory and Aging Research Center at the University of California / Los Angeles (UCLA) shows that Internet search activities can exercise the brain and stimulate neural circuitry.

The nine-month study involved people aged 55 to 76 of similar educational levels who were neurologically normal — that is, were not suffering from brain damage or extraordinary neurological conditions such as Alzheimer Disease.

Test subjects appeared to have richer sensory experiences and longer attention spans when performing search-related activities than when they were simply reading text from Web sites on their screens, based on MRI scans of their brains.

The researchers stress that there’s not enough research, yet, for them to say conclusively that Internet search activity can help ward off dementia associated with aging, but one assumes it can’t hurt!

From: The Wall Street Journal —

The U.S. federal Communications Commission (FCC) will consider a proposal this month to bring no-cost, porn-free wireless Internet service to all Americans.

Sounds great in principle but free speech, wireless industry and consumer groups are up in arms over the plan.

The free access proposal is a sidebar of sorts to a larger plan by the FCC to auction off yet another huge chunk of the U.S. wireless signal spectrum. Under the plan, the successful bidder for the wireless airspace would have to set aside a quarter of the new communications capacity for no-cost, family-rated Internet access service.

As Amy Schatz reports, in the Wall Street Journal, “Consumer advocates have objected to the FCC’s proposed pornography filter, while the wireless industry has objected to the entire free Internet plan. To address concerns about the filter, the FCC is proposing that adults could opt out and access all Internet sites.”

Some cell phone service providers are also concerned that massive wireless internet traffic on nearly channels will cause interference with their services.

Firefox and other ‘alternatives’ are gaining ground in the battle of the browsers at the expense of Microsoft’s (MS) market-dominating Internet Explorer (IE).

According to a recent survey by Web measurement software firm Net Applications, worldwide use of IE dropped below 70 per cent last month — for the first time since browser popularity has been officially measured.

At the same time, popular alternatives to IE, including Apple’s Safari, Opera and Google’s Chrome browser, all gained market share with Mozilla’s Firefox topping 20 per cent for the first time.

The Net Applications survey also indicated that, while IE is more popular in business environments, Firefox and other browsers tend to be more popular with home users.

Net Applications predicts that Firefox and Safari will continue to gain in popularity through the end of the year.

Microsoft (MS) and Yahoo! now both both seem to be denying that a deal is in the works for MS to buy Yahoo!’s search business for (US)$20 billion. But, as they say, the Devil is in the details and the doubt is in the wording: Both companies have simply stated that they don’t comment on rumours. That sort of comment usually means that the reports are not necessarily wrong but that the principles in the deal simply aren’t ready to talk about it yet.

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The report, which circulated widely yesterday, was based on a story in the London Sunday Times. That story suggested that MS would buy Yahoo’s search business but that Yahoo would continue to operate its e-mail, messaging and content services.

Yahoo! rebuffed an unsolicited offer from MS to buy the whole business last for (US)$42.5 billion July. That scenario turned into a personal tiff between yahoo! CEO Jerry Yang and MS CEO Steve Ballmer. Yahoo! subsequently courted a deal with Google to cooperate on advertising and search but Google backed out, citing fears of a long, costly anti-trust battle.

Then, Yang stepped down as CEO of Yahoo! under pressure from his directors shareholders. And, less than two weeks later, the reports of the MS offer for Yahoo’’s search business surfaced. Observers suggested that Ballmer was just waiting for Yang to leave before approaching Yahoo! again.

This story is still far from over… Stay tuned!