Sunday, December 03, 2006

Cingular Voice, Data Services Down Throughout California

Cingular Wireless voice and data services for customers throughout California went down Sunday, according to a customer service representative for the company, which touts the fewest dropped calls of any provider.

Interruption of Cingluar service began at 4:35 a.m. PTD, according to the customer service representative. The problem is related to voicemail and the data network, he says. Technicians are working to restore service, but the company representative says they are having trouble pinpointing the problem.

There is no estimated time to restore service.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Web Site Lets Consumers Test Biometric Keystroke Dynamics

Financial institutions that want to secure online banking need to look beyond authentication guidelines from the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) set to take effect Dec. 31.

The guidelines call on banks and credit unions to deploy stronger authentication measures to protect online users against ID theft and fraud. Banks do what they can to secure online transactions, but at least one software company believes consumers also must become educated to protect themselves from the dangers lurking on the Web.

BioPassWord Inc., a software company that provides authentication and antifraud solutions based on the behavioral biometric keystroke dynamics, launched a Web site Tuesday to give consumers insight into the science of keystroke dynamics. Consumers can go to the site to see how their typing rhythm compares with others.

BioPassword developed technology that uses measurements and timing to calculate the string template unique to an individual's keystrokes. The science examines "dwell time," the time between a key’s compression and retraction, and "flight time,” the time between the first key compression and retraction, and the next key retraction.

The basic process dates back to the late 1800s when telegraph operators were able to identify the person on the other end of the line by the tapping rhythm when typing a note on the keyboard.

By the early 1980s, the U.S. National Bureau of Standards concluded that by typing a user ID and password, keystroke dynamics provided up to 98 percent accuracy in identifying the individual.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Pre-Holiday Web Redesign Boosts Sales CEO Carter Cast says traffic and sales on the site increased 10-percent since the relaunch on Oct. 24. The world's largest retailer expects 279 million visits online from Nov. 1 through the end of the year, and estimates a 40 percent jump to 700 million for 2006, compared with 2005.

“We’re seeing a better conversion rates from visits to purchases,” Cast says, attributing the increase in traffic and sales to the newly redesigned Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Web site, as well as fast selling electronic gadgets, such as Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod and Microsoft Corp.’s Zune.

Cast believes the hot selling holiday items for the year that will contribute to the increase are Blu-ray HD players, video game consoles like Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Nintendo’s Wii, global positioning systems (GPS), Philips’ flat-screen TVs, Fisher-Price’s Elmo, and Lego’s Mindstorms NXT.

Interactive links and larger images now give consumers a method to visualize the layout for an entire room of electronic equipment, such as TVs and speakers, for example.

The site also has buying guides linking to CNET product reviews that can help consumers choose the perfect electronic gadgets, from Apple’s iPod to Microsoft’s Zune.

With more than $30 billion in online spending expected this holiday season, and other retailers are trying to get shoppers to turn on their computers, rather than hit the malls ahead of Cyber Monday, the day after the Thanksgiving weekend.

Cyber Monday was the second biggest shopping day in 2005, according to the and Shopzilla eHoliday Mood Study. Findings revealed that 63.4 percent of retailers who participated in the study experienced “substantial growth” on Cyber Monday, and 32.6 percent indicated sales rose more than 30 percent from the previous year.

Retailers say Dec. 12, 2005, was the busiest online shopping day for the year. Many view Cyber Monday as the online equivalent to “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving, which officially kicks off the holiday shopping season. may have added bells and whistles to revamp the site, but consumers won't have an option this year to buy and download digital movies. Cast says the retailer is evaluating the service.

“There are no imminent plans to offer the service,” Cast says. “As you know, movie files are large, and different portable MP3 devices like the iPod and the Zune, work well with music, but I think there will have to be some technological advancements in compression technology, as well as a device that gets it to the TV before movies on portable devices really catch on.”

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

RFID Authenticates Hendrix Memorabilia, Jessica Biel Photos

Spydo Music Inc. CEO Duane “Spyder” Hughes seems serious about using radio frequency identification technology as a means to authenticate celebrity memorabilia.

The music producer confirmed Friday he's working with RFID Ltd. to embed RFID chips into a Jimi Hendrix guitar strap and a wah-wah foot pedal. The pieces are owned by Tunde Ra and Taharqa, twin brothers who recorded with the rock icon on several albums prior to his death in 1970.

At the time, the two brothers, Albert and Arthur Allen (Tunde Ra and Taharqa), were known as The Ghetto Fighters, a back-up group who played with Hendrix.

On the surface RFID and music memorabilia might seem an unlikely pair, but Hughes says the technology can help collectors identify counterfeit items. (You can read about plans for RFID Ltd’s global database and certification service in an article in the RFID Journal.)

“Most musicians are not aware of RFID technology, but once they become aware I think they will follow,” Hughes says. “They really think of RFID for use on retail merchandise, rather than memorabilia.”

Hughes shared some Hendrix history, such as the relationship with the Allen brothers, interesting information that didn’t make it into the RFID Journal article.

Although it's well known that Hendrix was born in Seattle, Hughes says, it may not be common knowledge he needed to improve his image among those in the black community.

"Jimi needed to be around some real cool cats that knew what was going on in New York City, and those were the Allen twins,” Hughes says. "Jimi wasn’t seen as a hero in the black community” because in the 1960, playing rock guitar appealed more to “white audiences. Black audiences were into James Brown and the Temptations, the Motown sound."

Hendrix’s guitar sounded more like the rockers who migrated to the United States from the United Kingdom. “The twins gave Jimi his blacker identity,” Hughes says. “In exchange, Jimi gave the twins the guitar strap and the Wah-Wah foot pedal and other things. Jimi was a big-hearted guy and gave the brothers a couple of things like one of his strats.

At the time it wasn’t a big deal, Hughes says, because no one knew Hendrix would die and become an iconic legend, making the Stratocaster guitar legendary, too.

Why put RFID tags on Hendrix’s guitar strap and wah-wah foot pedal? RFID technology will authenticate the pieces. Tunde Ra and Taharqa, now known as the Fantastic Aleems, have agreed to sell the guitar strap and wah-wah foot pedal, along with publishing rights to several songs, to one of the major digital music sites, such as Napster, SpiralFrog or Yahoo! Music. The bidding process takes place this week. RFID will authenticate the pieces as they transition from the brothers to new owners.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Watch Commercials For Free Stuff

Some advertisers are trying to stand out in the crowd by paying consumers to watch commercials online or on their mobile phone.

Virgin Mobile is banking on the trend with a rewards program known as "Sugar Mama," where consumers can earn free cellular minutes when they go to Vigin's Web site and watch commercials for products like Pepsi and Xbox.

The catch: Viewers must fill out a quick survey and rate the ads. For every minute consumers give, they get a minute of airtime back. Virgin Mobile says the minutes are posted within the hour of successfully completing the Sugar Mama survey.

Others are vying for consumers' precious time, too. Along with Virgin Mobile, an online service known as E-Miles, trades consumers their time for frequent-flier miles after watching or reading ads online and filling out a survey.

E-Miles' sponsors include Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines, Northwest Airlines, and U.S. Airways.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

El Dorado Makes VC Investment

Venture capitalists are looking to make investments in companies developing technology related to digital content and Internet Protocol TV (IPTV). Some seek companies with technology that can quickly and easily transcode digital content from one format to another.

El Dorado Ventures plans to make an official announcement this week related to transcode technology. Last summer, the VC made an investment in a company that developed an appliance to transcode video within the hardware, according to an executive at the firm.

The unnamed technology company built a hardware box that ingests video and converts the bit rate, resolution and format to the required specifications before spitting out the content for use in an iPod or cellular phone. If the digital content is uploaded as an AVI file, but needs to be viewed on a device as an MPG4 file, the technology does the conversion in the hardware, for example.

Although it's not clear where the unnamed technology company resides, data released last week from Dow Jones VentureOne and Ernst & Young suggests San Francisco, Calif., remains the dominant market for venture capital investments during the third quarter in 2006.

The San Francisco Bay area closed 207 VC deals totaling $2.45 billion during the period, a decline in the number of deals from a year ago, but an 8 percent increase in capital. Southern California posted a more significant increase in capital, 16 perecent, to $710.6 million.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The fine art of blogging

Thank you, Alex Wolfe, for introducing me to the fine art of blogging.