It’s the loooong Thanksgiving Day weekend in the U.S. and that means that U.S. corporations, institutions and government agencies are pretty much shut down.

For U.S. residents, that means a four-day break from the work-a-day routine, and the official start of the holiday shopping season.

For the news business, it means a brief, almost surreal calm in the usual information storm — like the eye of a hurricane. Past experience strongly suggests that there will be no merger, bankruptcy, new product, government regulation, technology breakthrough or other major announcements in the TECHLife Post domain until sometime this coming Monday afternoon, when the major news-producing nation in the world kicks back into gear and gets back up to speed.

As a former boss and mentor of mine used to say, “There’s no news like ‘no news’,” Which meant that, if you were the unattached, low gal on the newsroom totem pole whose family was in a another city hours away in the best of weather, and had to work on statutory holidays, at least there wasn’t all that much news to deal with. And there was no guilt or recrimination associated with not really working that hard to dig any up…

So… We’ll be updating our news feeds on an attenuated basis for the duration of the current holiday period, and focusing on more-in-dept stories designed to help carry you through the weekend!

With money as tight as it’s ever been during any holiday season in recent memory, it’s more important than ever to spend your gift dollars wisely.

With that in mind, Examiner.com, a popular news and review Web site, has surveyed this fall’s new computer game releases and offers its caveats about five titles which — in the estimation of reviewer Kenneth Wesley — don’t live up to their makers’ hype.

In all fairness, Wesley does offer pros and cons for each game. But what we found most useful was his suggestion for an alternative title to each game reviewed, chosen to appeal to the same gaming tastes as the not-so-hot new release.

If there’s a new computer game on your list this season, you’ll be glad you scanned this site before committing your cash!

From: Canadian Press / Yahoo.com —

The legislature of the Indonesian province of Papua is considering a bill that would see the mandatory implantation of some HIV/AIDS patients there with tracking and identification microchips. Moreover, it appears that a majority of legislators are planning to vote in favour of the measure.

News of the potential new legislation has sparked outrage among public health workers and civil libertarians around the globe.

As The Canadian Press reports, at Yahoo!.com, “Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country and has one of Asia’s fastest growing HIV rates, with up to 290,000 infections out of 235 million people, fuelled mainly by intravenous drug users and prostitution. But Papua, the country’s easternmost and poorest province with a population of about two million, has been hardest hit. Its case rate of almost 61 per 100,000 is 15 times the national average, according to internationally-funded research, which blames lack of knowledge about sexually transmitted diseases.”

If passed, the legislation could come into force before the end of the year. However, observers point out that the technical details and practial considerations of the plan have yet to be worked out.

Portland, OR, City Water Commissioner Randy Leonard is savouring the sweet smell of success after a down and dirty exercise in entrepreneurialism.

A new solar-powered public toilet, co-designed by Leonard, has been cleared to début on Portland streets by the end of this year.

The prototype of the so-called Portland Loo cost about (US)$140,000 — (US)$360,000 under the (US)$500,000 development program budget. The planned mass-production model could sell for as little as (US)$25,000, Leonard says, if he can get other cities interested in the product.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed that a production model will be very reasonable,” Leonard told Portland’s KGW TV. “I’ve had a lot of inquiries in the United States and Canada about purchasing them.”

The low-maintenance stainless steel Loo features solar-powered lighting, ventilation and heaters, making it suitable for most climates.

This is Part 3 of a series on Marketing to Mommy Bloggers…

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The first time somebody offered me a free book to review on my blog back in 2006, I thought it must be some sort of scam. Free book? Seriously? I was so paranoid I had them deliver it to my work address. That was about six months before marketing to bloggers swept the blogosphere and I was tickled to be chosen. I was less impressed when I received the book. It was awful and I discovered that, sometimes, even ‘free’ comes with strings.

Now, I get at least one pitch of some sort every week, whether it be free products, public service announcements or random press releases. A quick skim of my e-mail account includes pitches for skin lotion, shoes, coffee, head lice cures, “exclusive” access to authors and celebrities via conference call, baby gear, soup, Nestle Quick, a recipe exchange site, a public service site about breast exams, a writing contest, yogurt, paper towels — and books. Some of the pitches I’ve accepted include two different cell phones, chocolate, electronic keypad locks, video games and — most memorably — a four-day weekend at a resort. Plus a whole whack of books.

Here’s a few suggestions and tips for marketing your product or service to the Mom Blogger crowd:

  • Respect my work. Don’t ask me to “contribute” articles, or my feed, to your ad-filled space for free.
  • Don’t just wallpaper the blogosphere with your pitch. A while ago, I received an invitation to the grand opening of a teens-only fitness centre in Los Angeles. Being the mother of three little boys in suburban Canada, I wasn’t too interested in this one.
  • Don’t bother with manipulation or false flattery. I may have mom-brain but I’m not stupid.
  • Use Google Alerts or Google Blog Search to find out who is already writing about your products or product category. The offer of free Nintendo DS games to review arrived mere days after I blogged about my preschoolers discovering computer games. Coincidence?
  • If I don’t get back to you right away when you pitch me, don’t take it personally. I know this is *your* day job, but it’s my hobby, and I’ll get back to you when I can. I try to answer every e-mail, but some weeks are better than others.
  • I like freebies, and I like to give stuff away. I am a lot less likely to respond to a pitch where I can’t see what’s in it for me.
  • Follow up to let the blogger know you have read and appreciated the post(s).

Ideally, you should get to know the bloggers you are pitching. If you’re going to be spending any amount of time in the blogosphere on a campaign, invest the time to read, comment and be a part of the community. If you’re going to pitch me, I want to feel like you’re interested in what I’ve created and not just the eyeballs that crawl across my blog. But be sincere about this. Don’t just skim the front page and pretend you’ve been reading for years. Mommy Bloggers especially value transparency and honesty — it’s part of what makes it an appealing community.

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Next Thursday in this space, the final instalment in this series: tips for Mommy Bloggers on dealing with advertising and marketers.

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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.

A television ad for Apple’s iPhone G3 has been banned by the British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) following complaints by users that the ads set unrealistic expectations among purchasers with regard to the speed of the device itself and the wireless service to which it connects.

iPhone 3G: Not exactly as shown?

The ad in question states: “So what’s so great about 3G? It’s what helps you get the news, really fast. Find your way, really fast. And download pretty much anything, really fast. The new iPhone 3G. The Internet, you guessed it, really fast.”

The ad also showed simulated iPhone screens in which functions were performed almost instantantly at the touch of a user’s finger.

The ASA said that a standard, small print disclaimer stating, “Network performance will vary by location,” was not sufficient to inform potential purchasers that the images in the commercial were for demonstration purposes only.

“Although we acknowledged that the majority of viewers would be familiar with mobile telephones, we considered that many might not be fully aware of the technical differences between the different types of technology. We also noted the ad did not give an explicit indication of a comparison with the older 2G iPhone,” the ASA ruled.

Microsoft placed fifth in a new list of the world’s Top Ten spam hosts released this week by online security watcher Spamhaus.org.

The preamble to the survey results notes: “Spam continues to plague the Internet because a small number of large Internet Service Providers sell service knowingly to professional spammers for profit, or do nothing to prevent spammers operating from their networks. … The majority of the world’s service providers succeed in keeping spammers off their networks and work to maintain a positive anti-spam reputation but their work is undermined daily by the few networks who, out of corporate greed or mismanagement, choose to be part of the problem.”

Among the other notable members of the Spamhaus spam host shame list: wireless data service giant Verizon.com, weigning in at number nine…

Reports earlier this week that a Google GMail “vulnerability” was being used by cyber criminals to hijack domains have been revealed to be part of a scam, themselves.

Google engineer Chris Evans explains, in a Google Online Security Blog post:

“With help from affected users, we determined that the cause was a phishing scheme, a common method used by malicious actors to trick people into sharing their sensitive information. Attackers sent customized e-mails encouraging Web domain owners to visit fraudulent Web sites such as google-hosts.com that they set up purely to harvest usernames and passwords. These fake sites had no affiliation with Google and the ones we’ve seen are now offline. Once attackers gained the user credentials, they were free to modify the affected accounts as they desired.”

It’s just one more example of how cyber crooks are getting more and more sophisticated in their ploys to steal from us. And, as such, it’s another warning that we all need to keep our eyes wide open for suspicious stuff when engaging in any online activity.

C’mom guys… You know you want one!

YoYoTech House of Technology in the UK is offering what may be the ultimate gift for the computer geek on your list this holiday season: The Fi7EPOWER MLK1610 desktop PC.

YoYoTech claims the MLK1610 is the fasted production desktop PC, with an INTEL Core i7-965 3.73 GHz processor, 6 GB of fast DDR3 system RAM, 2 GB of dedicated graphics RAM, a Blu-ray DVD drive and a monstrous 700 watt power supply. The Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit operating system is pre-installed.

As you might expect, the MLK1610 is fully customizable. It comes with an 80 GB hard drive, for the operating system and other basic applications and a 1 TB (terabyte) secondary drive for user files — but there’s loads of room for further expansion in the darkly powerful looking YoYoTech Haf 932 tower case.

About the only drawback (for most of us, anyway) is the price: Just under (US)$8,000 — plus shipping.

Theoretically, there’s till time to order for delivery in time for Christmas, depending on the shipping option you choose. But, if you’re springing eight grand for a computer, another (US)$200 or so for ‘air express’ shouldn’t be an issue.

From: ZDNet —

But nobody really expects him to pay up. In fact, the (former?) Montreal, Canada, resident has apparently gone in to hiding. And his spamming businesses is now out of business. Which, actually, was the point of the whole exercise.

As ZDnet’s Elinor Mills reports, “The default judgment was issued in federal court in San Jose, CA, on Friday [November 21, 2008] against Adam Guerbuez, of Montreal, and his company, Atlantis Blue Capital. The ruling also forbids Guerbuez from using Facebook or interacting with its members ever again. … Neither Guerbuez, who has made money selling videos showing people attacking the homeless in Montreal, nor Atlantis Blue Capital could be reached for comment.”

Facebook sued Guerbuez under the U.S. Can-Spam (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing) Act, which prohibits ‘false and misleading’ marketing e-mails.

“Although the law was written for e-mail, a judgment in favor of MySpace in May set the precedent for extending the law to messages sent within social networks. In that case, MySpace was awarded US$234 million to be paid by so-called Spam King Sanford Wallace and another man,” Mills adds.

How do the courts come up with astronomical figures like (US)$873 million for fines in cases like this? It’s based on a relatively small set amount per offending message — multiplied by the number of spam messages known or estimated to have been sent. Web watchers note that spamming-for-dollars is a numbers game and a recent survey showed that only about one in 12.5 million spam e-mails evokes a response from recipients — so spammers have to pump out millions upon millions of spams to make any serious money.

Researchers at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland have developed a Star Wars-style “light sabre” that could fight cancer cells.

In fact, the device “which measures only a few milimetres square” is claimed to be capable of targeting and puncturing individual body cells.

“You could think of these as tiny light sabres, like they had in Star Wars, inside your body,” Dr. Gunn-More told Sunday Mail reporter Daniel Martin.

Puncturing cells would allow chemotherapy drugs to enter cancer cells more easily, possibly making chemotherapy more effective with lower doses of the highly toxic compounds commonly used to fight cancer.

Professor Kishan Dholakia from the St. Andrews’ School of Physics and Dr. Frank Gunn-Moore from the School of Biology have successfully mounted the device on an optical fibre, one step closer to adapting it for use in endoscopes, the devices doctors use to insert cameras and other surgical devices into hard-to-reach parts of patients’ bodies, without the need for full-scale exploratory surgery.

And you thought you had it tough, getting detention for chewing gum in class…

The New Brunswic, Canada, Provincial Ministry of Education has banned access to the wildly popular social networking site Facebook on school computers during school hours.

Schools spokeswoman Valerie Kilfoil told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC) that the decision was made in response to complaints from a number of New Brunswic school boards about student Facebook use disrupting classes.

The ban applies only to computers owned by the schools, during classes. Facebook access via students’ personal laptops and wireless handheld devices is apparently still allowed on school property, but not during classes.