It’s a classic example of how a silly Web site surprised the experts and became a serious money-maker. Maybe even an Internet icon.

You may not have actually visited the I Can Has Cheezburger (ICHC) blog site but I’ll bet you’ve seen its captioned photos of ‘LOLcats’ doing all sorts of improbable things. People love to share and repost them. The site also thrives, content wise, on the contributions of fans who submit their own photos and compose their own captions using ICHC‘s built-in LOLcat maker.

About all that owner Ben Huh of Seattle, WA, has to do is keep the Web site running and collect advertising revenues.

And, though he isn’t saying how much he makes from ICHC, he does admit to having in excess of 4 million visitors daily, across all six of his active time-waster sites, so we can assume he’s not starving.

Huh isn’t sitting on his feline laurels, either. Other sites his company already has in operation include: I Has A Hotdog (LOLdogs), Fail Blog (LOLphotos of things that didn’t quite succeed), Engrish Funny (LOLsigns in English, from foreign countries) and Pundit Kitchen. (LOLpoliticians) There’s also, apparently, another acquisition in the works…

On the development front, Huh is prepping a couple of new sites for launch in the coming year. These, he says, will be video-oriented — positioning him head to head with Web giants such as YouTube.

But his business model remains simple: “The company goal is to make people happy for five minutes a day.”

Premiere Elements is Adobe’s consumer video editing package. Going from raw video to a finished production in Premiere is a very straight-forward three step process: Edit, Create Menus, and Share.

Adobe Premiere Elements

The Premiere Elements 4.0 editing mode allows you to work with video clips of various formats, including “themes” that it provides to help with your productions. You can also insert dozens of effects, transitions between clips, and, of course, titles. You can assemble your masterpiece on a “sceneline” , which I highly recommend for those new to the product: You simply drag and drop your clips onto the sceneline and, if you wish, set transitions between clips. For more detailed editing, simply switch to the “timeline” view, which by default shows you four tracks: Video, Audio, Narration, and a Soundtrack. However, you can add additional tracks for more complicated productions.

I tested out Premiere on some video of the kids. It detected scene transitions as I imported the video from my camcorder, and it was easy to drag and drop the clips onto the timeline at the bottom of the screen. Next I played around with the menus to find one that I liked, and created a DVD for grandma. Overall, Adobe Premiere Elements 4.0 is a powerful video editing tool, yet it remains easy enough for a novice to use.

From: InfoWorld —

Back in the 1960s, the electric companies told us to use lots of power. “The more you use, the cheaper it will become!” Remember the electric furnace? The ‘all-electric’ house?

That sounds absurd in this day and age of expensive energy — especially in light of skyrocketing electricity costs. The jury is still out on whether we’ve learned our lesson on the dangers of conspicuous consumption.

But, now, as InfoWorldԉ۪s Tom Kaneshige and Galen Gruman report, the Internet is facing an eerily similar problem:

“The digital Disneyland of the future — where we freely work and play online — may be at risk. Why? Because, some argue, broadband carriers can’t support it. The Internet’s “free ride” culture has led to more people downloading gigabytes of data at practically no cost. Even if broadband infrastructure’s capacity doubled or tripled, there’s no avoiding the equivalent of an abrupt work stoppage.”

The first warning of the coming Internet traffic jams may be recent moves by many Internet service providers (ISPs) to impose bandwidth caps on users, or charge heavy users proportionally more for their service subscriptions.

In Canada, virtually all ISPs have traditionally offered tiered service plans based on both speed and data transfer limits. Elsewhere, such as in Britain and the U.S., competition has driven many providers to offer unlimited access plans. Even many so-called ‘unlimited’ plans now have generous but definite limits on the amount of data users can transfer in a given month.

In its recent statement announcing imposition of data transfer caps, U.S. Internet service giant AT&T noted that video downloads account for a full 40 per cent of its network’s traffic and that a mere five per cent of its users are responsible half of AT&T’s total bandwidth usage.

A coalition of enviro-activist groups and recyclers has launched a new initiative to certify ‘responsible’ recyclers of superannuated electronic equipment across North America.

The e-Steward Initiative is the brainchild of the Basel Action Network, the Electronics TakeBack Coalition and a number of recyclers who want to separate serious recycling operations from those which aren’t so serious or so competent, in the eyes of the public.

“Unfortunately today, most companies calling themselves electronics recyclers are scammers,” Sarah Westervelt, e-Stewards Project Coordinator for the Basel Action Network (BAN) in Seattle, said. “They simply load up containers of old computers and ship them off to China or Africa.”

The official Web site explains that the e-Stewards Initiative aims to create, “a fully accredited, 3rd-party audited certification program: the e-Stewards Certification. By 2010, accredited certifying bodies will independently assure conformity to revised e-Stewards Standard, thus providing the highest level of assurance that they meet the world’s most responsible environmental and social justice criteria for electronics recyclers. These criteria include no toxic e-waste dumped in landfills or incinerators, exported to developing countries, or sent to prison labor operations and no release of private data.”

The e-Standards Initiative site provides full details of the e-Stewards Standard and the associated Certification program.

It may sound like something you’ve heard about before. And, if so, you may also remember that allegations of iPods and other portable music players interfering with heart pacemakers were disproven by medical researchers.

But, now, doctors and engineers are looking into reports that music player headphones can interfere with both pacemakers and implantable defibrillators.

Dr. William Maisel of the Medical Device Safety Institute at Beth Israel Medical Center in Boston notes that his team’s research has not been focused on electromagnetic emissions given off when the players are operating. In fact, he says the devices don’t even have to be turned on to constitute a danger.

The problem centres on the tiny, powerful magnets in the headphone speakers. Maisel told the American Heart Association conference in New Orleans, LA, this past weekend, that portable media player headphones or ear buds can interfere dangerously if placed within 1.2 in. / 3.0 cm of implanted devices.

Incidentally… Another paper presented at the conference concluded that Bluetooth wireless cell phone headsets are not likely to interfere with pacemakers or implanted defibrillators.

The moral of the story: If you have a pacemaker or defibrillator, don’t carry your music player earbuds in your breast pocket!

Today is Remembrance Day in Canada and Armistice Day in much of the rest of the world.

This Remembrance Day, specifically, marks the 90th anniversary of the Armistice that ended the First World War. Indeed, that event established the precise moment — the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month — on which we annually commemorate the men and woman who have died in the line of duty serving our country in two World Wars and numerous regional conflicts over the past 100 years.

Those in Canada and Britain who wear the poppy to show their respect are also remembering Canadian Dr. Lt. Col. John McCrae. As an artillery officer in May, 1915, he wrote the poem In Flanders Fields, which has become an icon of Remembrance Day observances the world over. Few are aware that McCrae, himself, died during the War, of pneumonia, on January 18, 1918, commanding No. 3 Canadian General Hospital (McGill) at Boulogne, which he had been detailed to set up two and a half years earlier.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Though most of us wish there could be a final, definitive end to war, we know that conflict is fundamental to human nature. And we tend to overlook the fact that many of the technologies we take for granted today were forged in the crucible of war. It may comfort some to reflect that at least a little good has come out of all the pain and horror.

From: Yahoo! Tech —

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama leveraged the Internet skillfully during his successful campaign against John McCain.

Observers are now wondering how he’ll use it as President.

According to Yahoo! Tech News, political and Internet sphere observers expect Obama to take maximum advantage of the opportunities the Web has to offer to make his government’s policies known to Americans and to mobilize support for its initiatives.

“It could, for example, email or text message or call people who live in certain districts to get them to lobby their senators and congressmen on issues that the Obama administration cares about,” said Julie Germany, Director of George Washington University’s Institute for Politics Democracy & the Internet.

“[Obama] is going to learn, either by succeeding or failing at this, that the more he partners with his supporters the more power he will have,” said Micah Sifry, co-founder of techpresident.com, a blog about politics and the Web. “By giving people a sense that they really do have a stake and a say they will be much more motivated to do things in support of his legislative agenda because they’ll feel like it’s their agenda, too.”

A coalition of product testers, software developers and media representatives has joined to form a new organization with the aim of standardizing the testing and rating of Internet security programs.

The Anti-Malware Testing Standards Organization (AMTSO) counts among its members more than 40 security experts, product testers and members of the media from around the world.

“Members of AMTSO believe that the new, unified approach will ultimately benefit computer users who use product reviews and other test results to help choose internet security software. Adoption of the standards by testers and publications will be voluntary, and AMTSO plans to eventually provide public feedback on the level of compliance with such standards, and to help assess the quality of published product reviews,” the official AMTSO news release states.

It’s also the first time that virtually all of the major consumer/SOHO security vendors have united behind such a cause. Industry leaders McAfee and Symantec (Norton) are prominent on the membership list, along with AGV, F-Secure, Kaspersky, Panda, Sophos and Trend Micro.

For complete details on AMTSO and its mission visit the official Web site.

The SP-565 UZ is the latest “ultimate portable zoom camera” from Olympus and is very similar to the SP-570 that I recently wrote about. The 565 and 570 have virtually identical specifications; the main change being that Olympus wisely removed the electronic (i.e.- non-mechanical) zoom ring from the lens and placed it around the release button. Like the SP-570, the SP-565 resembles a small SLR until you turn it on and the f2.8-f4.5 20x optical zoom lens (with a staggering 35mm equivalent 26-520mm focal length) extends from the body.

The SP-565 UZ boasts a 10 megapixel sensor, image stabilization, a 13.5 frame per second burst mode (more on that later), a pop-up flash, and a hot shoe. In addition to a host of automatic modes, the camera features complete manual controls, the ability to shoot RAW images, and video at up to 30fps.

During testing the SP-565 felt more like a small SLR than a compact camera. The main noticeable differences are the electronic zoom control and the fact that the viewfinder is a small LCD screen, as opposed to the optical viewfinder found in an SLR. My only issue with the camera is that the viewfinder is dark for a second or two after each shot while the image is written to memory. Olympus should consider better buffering so to allow a quicker second shot.

Unlike most digital cameras these days, the SP-565, like others in the UZ series, operates on four AA batteries instead of a proprietary rechargeable. Using AAs is a bold decision by Olympus, but they are less expensive and recent advances in AA NiMH rechargeable batteries make this a relatively minor issue. Those who travel extensively may also appreciate the availability of AA batteries on the road.

There is one catch: At a full 10 megapixels, the SP-565 is only capable of 1.2 frames per second (fps). To achieve 7.2 or 13.5 fps the resolution is decreased to 5 and 3 megapixels respectively. However, to keep this limitation in perspective, a decent 8×10 in. print only requires 3 megapixels, and 7.2 fps (5 megapixels) is more the fast enough for sports.

The SP-565 produced the great quality images we have come to expect from Olympus, and the ability to shoot in automatic, aperture priority, shutter priority, fully manual modes, and a host of other features make it a very flexible camera. The Olympus SP-565 UZ is a great option for those seeking a small, flexible, lightweight camera with an amazing zoom range that exceeds what most people carry with their SLR.

A new top-level Internet domain will officially become available for registrations December 3, 2008. On that date, applicants will be able to start registering domain names corresponding to legal trademarks that they own. So-called ‘landrush’ registrations open on February 3 of next year and general availability commences on March 24, 2009.

The .tel system works differently from other domains in that it is specifically designed to store contact information for business and individuals. Another characteristic that sets .tel apart from other domain extensions is that it requires no separate server hosting. The contact information for each subscriber is stored in the DNS listing, as the official news release explains:

“…The .tel Registry provides the fully hosted page that displays contact information for each .TEL domain. All you need to do is sell the domain. .Tel will be of interest to a large range of customers, from large corporations right down to small business owners and individuals who want to make sure that their contact information is easily found and readily available online.”

In fact, the manager of the new domain range, OpenSRS, predicts:

“The .tel domain extension is poised to become the white pages for the entire Internet.”

Maybe. But, at a cost of (US)$329.60 for three years (including an initial flat rate registration fee of (US)$275), we predict that only major corporations and institutions will rush to avail themselves of .tel domains.

If you’re still interested, check out the official .tel web site.

From: CNet.com —

U.S. consumer electronics retail giant Circuit City has filed for ‘Chapter 11’ bankruptcy protection, to stave off creditors at least through the coming holiday sales season.

As CNet’s Margaret Kane  reports, “Circuit City announced earlier this month that it would shutter 155 stores and lay off 17 percent of its workforce. The retailer said Monday that it will eliminate an additional 700 positions in addition to the reductions resulting from the store closings, bringing the total layoff projection to around 20 percent of its employees. According to the company’s FAQ, in February it had approximately 45,900 employees, not including workers taken on during peak selling periods.”

Circuit City acting CEO James Marcum told reporters the company has secured a little over (US)$1 billion in very-short-term credit to keep the chain afloat while he and his management team attempt to restructure the company’s finances. Chapter 11 protection will also allow the company to stay open and make the most of the coming holiday spending splurge — such as that ‘splurge’ may be this lean year.

Call it an announcement that was officially unofficial, but unofficially official…

It wasn’t an official Microsoft (MS) team leader blog entry, just a word to selected reporters at last week’s MS Professional Developers Conference. But industry observers say a highly-placed, anonymous MS rep let slip that the company is targeting Christmas 2009 for the official launch of Windows 7, successor to the oft-maligned Vista.

That’s sharply at variance with the still-official MS position, that Windows 7 won’t ship officially until sometime in 2010, a full three years after the launch of Vista.

That aside, MS watchers and reporters also say they’re looking for a Windows 7 public beta version to be released within the next few weeks with an advanced beta, or ‘release candidate’, version to follow in the first or second quarter of next year.

Meanwhile… Those who saw, and had a chance to test drive, the early development version of Windows 7 say it is definitely faster to boot than Vista and runs some applications faster, as well. MS also recently uttered very public pleas (and warnings) to PC manufacturers not to load down MS operating systems with tons of factory-installed trial software, redundant Internet security suites and other ‘crapware’, many of which load automatically on startup and can double or triple Vista’s boot time.