Danielle Donders shares her digital parenting experiences with us on Thursdays. But she also shares a wide range of parenting insights, whenever the spirit moves her, via her popular blog, Postcards from the Mothership.


Now that we have the Canadian and American elections out of the way, we can turn our attention to something that really matters: the bloggy award season!

Nominations are now being accepted for the best from the Canadian blogosphere in the 2008 Canadian Blog Awards. This annual competition allows anyone to nominate a favourite Canadian blog or blogger in categories including “Best New Blog”, “Best Political Blog”, “Best Humour Blog” and “Best Personal Blog.”

Canadians can nominate their favourite blogs by choosing the applicable category and leaving a comment at www.canadianblogawards.ca until November 22, 2008. Two rounds of voting will follow. The first round will narrow each category to five finalists, and a second vote will determine the winner in each category.

This is the fifth year for the Canadian Blog Awards, a national competition run by Canadian bloggers (including yours truly!) for Canadian bloggers and blog readers. Last year, more than 700 blogs were nominated in 28 categories, and more than 45,000 votes were cast — an impressive number, considering only one vote per IP address per round was permitted. Last year, while I bailed out of the end of the awards to birth my third son, my cohorts came up with some fun videos to announce category winners with celebrities such as Jack Layton, a bobble-head doll and a talking ball of yarn.

If you’re not here in Canada, you might want to nominate a favourite blog or blogger at the 2008 Weblog Awards instead.

It only takes a moment to give a nod to your favourite blogger, so get out and nominate someone today!

Google Senior Vice President of Corporate Development David Drummond announced, in the company’s Public Policy Blog yesterday, that the on-again, off-again deal with Yahoo! which would have seen the two Internet giants cooperate on search and advertising, is definitely off:

“In June we announced an advertising agreement with Yahoo! that gave Yahoo! the option of using Google to provide ads on its websites (and its publisher partners’ sites) in the U.S. and Canada. At the same time, both companies agreed to delay implementation of the agreement to give regulators the chance to review it. While this wasn’t legally necessary, we thought it was the right thing to do because Google and Yahoo! have been successful in online advertising and we realized that any cooperation between us would attract attention.”

And, when Google’s lawyers looked deeper into the plan, they warned that the deal might trigger a lengthy anti-trust battle with U.S. federal regulators:

“…It’s clear that government regulators and some advertisers continue to have concerns about the agreement. Pressing ahead risked not only a protracted legal battle but also damage to relationships with valued partners. That wouldn’t have been in the long term interests of Google or our users, so we have decided to end the agreement.”

Drummond expressed disappointment that a deal with such great potential for both parties promised to be more trouble than it was worth.

U.S. communications giant AT&T has announced it will experiment with data transfer limits on its Internet access service plans.

The pilot project, in Reno, Nevada, will be monitored to see if data transfer caps can curb the bad habits of so-called bandwidth hogs. AT&T says a mere 5 per cent of its access customers account for 50 per cent of the total capacity of its system.

AT&T spokesmen Michael Coe says the pilot project will provide information on the typical data transfer levels and download habits of average users, which will help it decide where to set its caps.

For purposes of the test, AT&T will apply a multi-tier plan with higher limits for higher-speed service plans, starting at 20 GB per month and ranging on up to 150 GB per month for ATT’s fastest (10 mbps) consumer Internet service.

During the pilot project, users will be able to monitor their monthly usage via a special AT&T Web site and the company will contact users who unwittingly exceed 80 per cent of their limit. Following a grace period, to let users get used to the caps, AT&T plans to charge (US)$1 per GB of data transferred in excess of their assigned limit.

Other major U.S. Internet Providers, including Comcast and Time Warner, are also testing or are planning to test data caps.

Leading Canadian Internet providers including Rogers, Shaw and Bell/Sympatico already employ data transfer caps on a sliding scale similar to the AT&T plan.

Engineers are working on a new generation of robots for use in hazardous environments and may discover radio communications enhancements that will help police and emergency responders work more safely.

One lesson emergency workers quickly learned during the 9/11 attack in New York City was that their radio-controlled search robots did not work well in tunnels or under mounds of concrete and steel debris. In fact, there came a point — all too often, short of the robots’ intended destinations — where communications failed all together.

The same proved true of firefighters’ radios in similar circumstances.

Since then, the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has been researching ways to improve emergency worker communications.

According to NIST researcher, electronics engineer Kate Remsley, their breakthrough came as a result of carefully-controlled experiments in an abandoned silica mine in northern California. The tests revealed that there is a transmission frequency ‘sweet spot’ at which radio waves travel farthest in a given tunnel. And the exact frequency depends on the diameter of the tunnel.

Remsley notes that NIST researchers are also looking at the ways radio waves bounce off of different kinds of objects. The hope there is that they can create a radio system that can penetrate curving or intersecting tunnels more effectively.

Microsoft (MS) has announced it will offer free MS Windows Server software to qualifying start-up companies under the BizSpark program. The program will offer a wide range of MS products in addition to Windows Server including Visual Studio, SQL Server, SharePoint and others.

To qualify, companies must be privately owned, must not be more than three years old and must have under (US)$1 million per year in revenues. But there’s a catch: Candidate companies will also have to be recommended (i.e.- sponsored) to the program by one of MS’s corporate, non-profit, government or academic partners.

Dan’l Lewin, head of MS’s outreach efforts toward start-ups, told reporters at a Los Angeles, CA, developers’ conference yesterday that the timing of the BizSpark announcement was fortuitous, but not planned. The program was initiated and development begun long before the recent economic downturn.

“There’s plenty of lore about all the great companies that have been started in a down economy. I think the good companies will hunker down and do well. We’ll do our best to help them,” Lewin said.

Companies that qualify for the BizSpark program will also be invited to take part in an online networking community for start-ups.

Industry observers are divided on the merits of the BizSpark program. Supporters say it will give qualifying new startups a critical advantage as they struggle to become established. Critics say it’s just another ply by Microsoft to identify start-ups with the highest likelihood of success and get them hooked on MS server and related products at the earliest possible moment.

From: Yahoo! News —

Around the world, supporters and critics alike celebrated the victory of Barack Obama in last night’s U.S. Presidential election in their own virtual ways…

As Derrik Lang of Yahoo! News reports, ‘…While crowds gathered at public rallies and millions of others simply glued themselves to television news coverage, many spent election night online — and they had plenty of company. Students at Navarro College posted a video of themselves reacting — screaming, jumping up and down, more screaming — to Obama’s win. Another YouTuber uploaded his toast to Obama: He gulped a 2-liter bottle of soda. … Elsewhere, dozens of Obama supporters clapped, danced and cheered inside the behemoth virtual world Second Life immediately after the Democratic nominee seized the electoral votes. Many avatars were left out of the virtual celebration in Obama’s unofficial Second Life headquarters because the digital enclave had reached maximum capacity”

For the first time, election coverage Web sites such as CNN.com and Yahoo!’s Election Dashboard carried information on all races, updated instantly as the results came in, on all races, at county-level data ‘resolution’.

Traffic on social networking sites hummed all evening — starting when avid Netizens got home from work yesterday afternoon — but exploded when Obama was declared the winner, just after 11:00 p.m. Eastern time, when the last polls closed on the west coast.

In which TLP futurist Zoe Brain peers into the tea leaves and tries to foresee our tech future.


My mommy has fallen down and I can’t wake her up! Help!

It’s going to be all right honey. Just tell me where you are.

We’re in the woods. We went camping. I can’t wake her up!

Honey, it’s going to be all right. Now, I want you to do something for me, Ok? Open the yellow door on the phone, press the yellow button and hold it down… That’s right. Good girl!

Search and Rescue, Search and Rescue… This is 911 Control. Child reports woman unconscious, map and co-ordinates follow…

The convergence of mobile phone technology and GPS navigation systems is just starting to happen, with the first dual systems coming onto the market.

The systems will first try to get a cellphone signal – and, if that fails, try to communicate via a constellation of quasi-military satellites in low earth orbit. The first option costs pennies per cal. The second can cost hundreds of dollars — but that’s still less than the cost of sending search parties and helicopters.

So how will this affect you?

Within the next decade, expect all wilderness hikers to be required to carry a satellite/cell phone and GPS system that will send out an emergency distress signal when required, pinpointing their position within a few metres. These will be available for private purchase or on loan through park authorities for a small refundable deposit.

Improved models will also carry a fold-out solar panel and a small homing beacon for when communications fail, to guide search parties.

Of course, wilderness trekkers won’t be compelled to carry them — but, if not, they had better have their insurance paid up or they will have to repay in full the costs of any rescue effort.

Although there are physical limits to accuracy due to antenna configurations, a watch band-style device suitable for small children will also be available, in a variety of bright colours and designs. All the worried parent will have to do is dial a number, enter a safety code — and an SMS message giving the location history of the child will be sent. When the calling phone is connected to a computer or, if it has an integrated map display, the program will show where the lost child is within a few metres and display its movements over the past few hours.

This capability will also be useful for travellers in less safe areas, and could be used by embassies to locate and evacuate citizens on short notice in time of crisis. Government regulations could make it mandatory to wear one in certain areas. If you’re unlucky, it will be the government of a country you’re visiting that will mandate this, to keep track of aliens.

From: CNet.com > News > Webware —

Google has ported over the name verification process from its Knowl Web site to the main Google system. The process lets you go through a verification process which ultimately gives your Google Profile an extra layer of authenticity.

Google Profiles are Web pages where users can publicly disclose as much personal information about themselves as they wish and access settings for their various Google subscriptions and activities, including GMail, Google Maps and other Google applications. Google recently made its Profiles searchable by Web search engines.

As CNet’s Stephen Shankland reports, “Upon user request, Google verifies names by checking them against phone or credit card records. It’s an experimental feature [currently] available [only] in the United States, and there are limitations.”

Name verification is is still in a relatively early stage of development. Verification is not required to access or use any Google feature or application. But that could change when the process is perfected.

Rogers communications, the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and VISA will launch the consumer phase of their mobile phone payment pilot project in mid-2009. Between now and then, limited trials involving small numbers of employees from the partner companies will be conducted to iron the wrinkles out of the phone side of the technology.

The system will ultimately allow users to pay for small purchases at a variety of locations such as restaurants and convenience stores, or from vending machines, simply by waving their cell phones at a wireless payment terminal. Rogers, RBC and VISA explained in detail how the VISA payWave system will be implemented in cell phones in a joint news release this week:

“Pilot participants will be issued specially-equipped mobile phones that can simply be waved at Visa payWave-enabled checkout readers at select retail stores and quick-service restaurants in Toronto’s downtown core.”

Phones used in the pilot trials will be outfitted with technology similar to that used in the new contactless ‘smart’ credit cards:

“Motorola mobile phones outfitted with Near Field Communication (NFC) contactless chips will enable customers to make purchases using the Visa payWave feature just as they would with a contactless RBC Visa card. The functions tested in the pilot will include the secure delivery and storage of account information to the mobile phone and the security of mobile payments at retailers.”

The consumer pilot program will also gather information about how users view the payWave system and how they prefer to use it.

Phone-based payWave service is not expected to be launched officially until 2010 or later. However, RBC, ScotiaBank and other VISA partner institutions are already deploying smart VISA cards containing payWave-compatible NFC chips.

A week before America went to the polls, the gaming world declared its ‘winners’ in the U.S. presidential race.

Pandemic Studios announced that Barack Obama and Sara Palin will be available as downloadable playable characters in its forthcoming major release: Mercenaries 2, World in Flames.

Pandemic exec Tom Stratton explains: “Mercenaries 2 is a game seemingly ripped straight out of today’s headlines and fueled with the same type of over-the-top action found in the best summer blockbuster films. It only makes sense we inject the game with a spin on current affairs. The timing was too good to let pass.”

According to GamePolitics.com, Obama struggles with a tank commander before dropping a grenade into the turret. Palin, clad in a signature-red designer jacket and fashionable black skirt, wields an RPG and beats a helicopter pilot into unconsciousness.

Oddly, Republican presidential contender John McCain — the only member of either ticket who can actually claim combat experience — won’t make an on-screen appearance.

Facebook CEO Cheryl Sandberg reports that the popular online community’s active membership surged from 90 million this past July to more than 120 million by the end of last month.

Speaking at Saleforce.com’s Dreamforce conference this week, Sandberg confirmed that, “We got more [members] in the last three months than in the first three years of our existence.”

Sandberg was at the conference to tout Facebook’s partnership with Salesforce.com, under which Salesforce.com customer relationship management applications will be able to run on Facebook.

Observers say the alliance could bring a new ‘business’ face to Facebook, which has, until now, been predominantly an entertaionment-oriented community.

The jury is still out, among users, as to whether business activity in the community is a good thing or not…

In stark contrast to days gone by, when Apple had to struggle to keep up with demand for its popular iPhones, industry observers say the company is now cutting back on production of the current models in anticipation of show holiday-season sales.

In fact, market analyst Craig Berger of FBR Capital Markets is quoted by CNet News as saying his research confirms that Apple has quietly cut its Q4 2008 iPhone order by 40 per cent compared to its Q3 order. Berger noites that Apple actually sold about 6.3 iPhones during Q3, but that doesn’t necessarily correspond to the number it may actually have ordered.

Industry observers say iPhone sales may be sagging in response to the worldwide economic slump. Recent market surveys indicate that consumers will probably spend less on consumer electronics items this holiday season and that many families are planning to pool their Christmas gift dollars to buy one large gift which can be used, or enjoyed, by the entire family, rather than buying smaller gifts — such as new cell phones — for individual family members.

Some observers suggest that Apple may simply be scaling back production after gearing up to meet the surge in demand for the new iPhone 3G, which sold out its initial production run soon after its launch last June.