Google has enhanced its Gears geolocation technology so that Web sites can determine the location of mobile and notebook users with even greater accuracy than before.

“Developers can now securely locate users to within 200 m accuracy, in major desktop browsers in hundreds of cities around the world. Whether [the] users are Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox or (soon) Opera users, [developers] can now automatically deliver an experience that is tailored to their current location.” Google Mobile Team Product Manager Charles Wiles explained, in an official Google blog, today.

Applications could include more accurate responses to questions that users submit to Web sites. For instance, mapping or travel sites could suggest the nearest hotel or seafood restaurant to a user’s current location.

What about privacy?

“To protect user privacy, the Gears Geolocation API server does not record user location,” Wiles notes. “However, third party sites may do so, and we recommend that users only allow Web sites they trust to access their location. Gears will always tell a user when [a] site wants to access their location for the first time and the user can either allow or deny [the] site permission. We recommend users check the privacy policy of [a given] Web site if they are in doubt as to how [the] site may use location information.”

From: The Ottawa Citizen

A new Ipsos Reid poll commissioned by PayPal Canada reveals that one in ten Internet users has fallen victim to identity theft.

As Vito Pilieci reports, in the Ottawa Citizen, “Globally, English-speaking countries have been hardest hit by identity theft, according to the study. Around 10 per cent of online shoppers in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom reported having their identities stolen as compared with only five per cent of respondents in France, Germany and Spain.”

The PayPal study, conducted this past August, included 1,000 Canadian Internet users as well as another thousand from the U.S., the UK and a selection of other European countries.

Threatening e-mails and solicitations from online predators rank just as high, with two-thirds of U.S. mothers with kids 13 to 16 years of age, as drunk driving and drugs, in terms of the danger they represent to teenage children, a new survey by Internet security leader McAfee Inc. reveals.

These findings jive with those of another McAfee study, which revealed that 52 per cent of teens have given out personal information to someone online whom they don’t know offline and 34 per cent of teen girls who are active online have given out a photograph or a physical description of themselves to someone they don’t know.

In addition, 32 per cent reported making a habit of clearing the browser cache after they finish a surfing session while 16 per cent reported establishing ‘secret’ Webmail or other online accounts to keep their online activities secret from their parents.

“”As a father of three I certainly worry about what my kids may do and encounter online,” said Dave DeWalt, McAfee president and chief executive officer. “While progress has been made over the past decade to combat online dangers, they remain very real for our kids. Education is a key part of the McAfee Initiative to Fight Cybercrime, which we announced yesterday, because we know that informed parents will mean safer kids online.”

In response to the growing concern among American Moms over online safety. McAfee has appointed Chicago mother of three Tracy Mooney as its first, official Chief Cyber Security mom.

“Through my own experience as the mother of three children, ages 17, 12 and 4 1/2 who are incredibly active online, I know how easy it is for your kids to get into danger online,” said Mooney. “Last year, I found out my son was receiving threatening messages. That experience started me on a path to learn more about all the things I need to do as a parent to keep my kids safe from harm.”

Parents who want to pursue the issue of online safety with their kids can download “McAfee’s 10 Step Internet Safety Plan” e-book for free.

When I test cameras, I prefer to do so under real situations. I photograph the kids indoors, landscapes outdoors, and generally carry the camera with me for a week or two. And every so often, it poses challenges, like when I recently wanted to transfer my images to my PC, but a previous reviewer had crammed the wrong USB cable into the box. So I pulled the card, stuffed it into the reader I keep in my laptop bag, and nothing.

After a brief look at various products online, I ordered an Ultra ULT31803 Flash Card Reader from Tiger Direct that supports just about every memory card format I could imagine including SD, CF, MMC, SMC, XD, and various Memory Stick formats. (Manufacturers like to list every variant, in this case 22 of them, which is great for consumers who want to ensure compatibility, but it makes for boring reading here).

The ULT31803 worked like a dream. I simply plugged it into my Vista laptop and I was copying files at USB 2.0 speeds. The Ultra All-in-One reader is available online for around CDN $20.

From: CNet News

Microsoft (MS) this week received a new patent on technology which will allow users to bleep out words, in any audio text stream, which are included in a list of pre-defined ‘unacceptable terms’.

The automatic censoring system will likely be welcomed by Web site operators — particularly social networking and media showcase sites such as FaceBook and YouTube which have millions of user uploads to deal with — but Web watchers also fear it will be used for other, less lauditory purposes.

As CNet’s Ina Fried reports, “Ars Technica, which reported on the patent both when Microsoft applied for it in 2004 as well as now that it has been granted, notes that the technology could be used for more than just censoring profanity, suggesting that perhaps China or another government would want it employed for other phrases, such as Tibet or free speech.”

The new technology could also, conceivably, be employed by the cable TV industry and cell phone service providers.

McAfee Inc., a leader in consumer and enterprise information security technology, today announced a new initiative designed to ‘close critical gaps in the fight against cybercrime’.

The McAfee Initiative to Fight Cybercrime (MIFC) is described as a multi-point plan that includes calls for action from law enforcement, academia, service providers, government, the security industry and society at large to deliver more effective investigations and prosecutions of cybercrime.

“Cybercrime is a growing problem that negatively impacts everybody,” said Dave DeWalt, McAfee President and CEO. “While a lot has been done to combat cybercrime over the past decade, criminals still have the upper hand. The chances of getting caught for knocking off a convenience store are several times larger than robbing an online bank. This must change.”

The MIFC will be guided in tis work by an Advisory Council. This global group of independent experts will be chaired by former White House Cybersecurity Adviser Howard A. Schmidt.

The MIFC will concentrate its efforts in three areas:

Education and Awareness — McAfee will work to ensure that officials around the world have the capacity to properly fight cybercrime, while helping users build “street smarts” so that they don’t become easy victims.

Legal Frameworks and Law Enforcement — McAfee will work to facilitate international collaboration, and mutual assistance on cybercrime among governments, industry and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Innovation — McAfee will work with the technology industry to provide technology solutions that stay one step ahead of the threats.

Full details of the MIFC are posted at the McAfee Web site.

Olympus describes the SP-570 UZ as having the “body of an ultra-zoom” and the “soul of an SLR”. Introduced in the spring, the SP-570, with its SLR-like grip and “normal” looking lens could be mistaken for a three-quarter size SLR. However, take off the lens cap and turn it on, and the extending lens gives away the SP-570’s secret: An f2.8-f4.5 20x optical zoom lens with a 35mm equivalent of a 26-520mm focal length.

The SP-570 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 SP-570 includes complete manual controls and the ability to shoot RAW images.

During testing the SP-570 felt and acted more like a small SLR than a compact camera, especially outdoors when I was using the viewfinder. Were it not for the digital shutter sound, LCD screen in the viewfinder, and the fact that the zoom ring on the lens moves the lens electronically (as opposed to mechanically), I might have actually forgotten that it I wasn’t shooting an SLR.

Unlike most digital cameras these days, the SP-570 operates on four AA batteries instead of a proprietary rechargeable. While it’s a bold decision by Olympus, AA’s do have an advantage for those who travel, and recent advances in AA NiMH rechargeables make this a relatively minor issue.

The SP-570 UZ produced the great quality images that we have come to expect from Olympus, and the ability to shoot in automatic, aperture priority, shutter priority, and fully manual modes makes the SP-570 a very flexible camera. But it’s greatest asset is a zoom range that exceeds what most SLR users carry in their bag, even with multiple lenses, and that fact alone makes the SP-570 very attractive. These two images show the dramatic range covered by the the 20x zoom lens.

There is one catch: At a full 10 megapixels, the SP-570 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” print only requires 3 megapixels, and even 7.2 fps (5 megapixels) is more the fast enough for covering sports.

In summary, the SP-570 is a great option for those seeking a small, flexible, lightweight camera with a zoom lens range that exceeds what most people carry with their SLR.

Cell phone maven Motorola has been out of the spotlight recently… The last Big Motorola Thing that captured media and consumer attention was the Razr phone, which the company marketed in a variety of models and permutations.

Now, Motorola is looking for its next Big Thing and industry insiders say that will be a new smart phone using the Android opertating system and geared to facilitate mobile social networking.

Among other things, the new Motorola phone will feature a side-out, QWERTY keyboard (giving users full access to sites such as Facebook and MySpace) as well as a large colour touchscreen.

The new phone, still to be named, is expected to sell in the (US)$150 to (US)$180. range with a standard two-year service contract, at most Motorola dealers of record. However, it’s not expected to be available until the first quarter of next year at the earliest.

Social scientists and Web watchers of all stripes have been warning us, for some time now, that the Internet — and the Web in particular — is taking the place of television as a destructive force, competing with “family” activities for the attention and affection of folks of all ages and disrupting communication between family members.

However… A recent survey of over 2,200 American adults by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that many families see the Internet as “a place for shared experiences”.

Among other findings, the Pew Networked Families study revealed that 50 per cent of Internet users in families with at least one child go Web surfing in the company of at least one another family member at least once a week. In addition, 47 per cent of those polled reported that the Internet had enhanced communication between family members while an equal percentage said it had made no difference, one way or the other.

The Networked Families report is avaialble in full at the Pew Web site.

From: The Daily Mail

[Though tangential, at best, to issues impacting our digital lifestyle, we just couldn’t resist sharing this tidbit on another technology! — Ed.]

The UK Daily Mail reports that a British chemist has been commissioned by NASA to create an artificial version of the fragrance of outer space, which has been described by visitors to the International Space Station as smelling like, “fried steak”, “hot metal” and “welding a motorbike”.

Chemist Steven Pearce, Managing Director of fragrance manufacturing company Omega Ingredients, had already created “eau de Mir” (named after the Russian space station) as part of a project associated with an art exhibit last summer. Upon hearing about that, NASA retained him to come up with an version of the aroma of “space”, itself, to help prepare new astronauts for their first missions.

“We have a few clues as to what space smells like. First of all, there were interviews with astronauts that we were given, when they had been outside and then returned to the space station and were de-suiting and taking off their helmets, they all reported quite particular odours,” Pearce relates.

“The suggestion to us has been that it’s about creating realism for their training,” he adds.

So far, Pearce says he’s succeeded in creating a realistic aroma of fried steak, but “hot metal” is proving more of a challenge.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) in the UK has renewed an earlier plea, to computer makers, retailers and Web site proprietors, to help make the Internet safer for kids.

In a recent survey at the NSPCC kids’ site,, almost four out of five kids who responded said they had been ‘disturbed’ by violent or pornographic images they had encountered, by chance, in the Web.

In one case, a young surfer reportedly clicked on a link offering ‘pictures of animals’ and was connected to a porn site.

NSPCC policy adviser Zoe Hilton observed, “Children are just a few clicks away from innocently stumbling across upsetting or even dangerous pictures and films such as adult sex scenes, violent dog fights, people self-harming and children being assaulted.”

The NSPCC specifically asks operators of social networking and video portal sites to monitor more closely the content their members are uploading and remove offending content without delay.

What’s as Canadian as Hockey Night In Canada (HNIC)? The first thing many will think of is, “beer” — Molson’s products, specifically, which have been sponsoring the game telecasts as long as most of us can remember.

Now, Molson’s and HNIC are partnering to promote themselves and the new Hockey Theme, chosen recently in a cross-Canada contest which saw hundreds of fans submit suggestions for new Hockey Night tune.

Thanks to Molson’s, you can download a custom ringtone of the new Hockey Theme for your cell phone, for free, from the company’s Web site.

But there are only 10,000 free downloads available and you have to be a Molson Insider (i.e.- register at their site) to access the download page. Hard-core fans will want to act now to avoid disappointment!