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TV start-up's story of woe

Also: A tale of two Tigers...Google bolsters star power...iPod plans turn car owners green.


Random bits of information, rumor and humor from the staff of CNET News.com and affiliated sites.

TV start-up's tale of woe

Consumer electronics start-up Vivadi may have invented a new category of public relations: the sob-story press release.

Jump to:
• A tale of two Tigers
• Google bolsters star power
• Apple turns car owners green
• Jobs to preservationists: Think demolish
• eWeek fumbles domain name renewal
• VIPs and VPNs, and schwagging the dog and pony
• Oracle: Too good for its own good
• Google wants your home page
• Sun laughs all the way from the bank
• Win sum, lose sum for Microsoft

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The Swindon, England-based company put out a press release on Thursday, proclaiming that it has produced the world's first "Media Center Plasma TV," but that it's stuck, because investors aren't willing to bet their cash on the company.

Vivadi's souped-up television comes complete with a Media Center PC, DVD recorder and Dolby surround sound system and features a "patented modular construction" called "Future-proof Electronics Technology" that makes upgrading easy, the start-up said.

Vivadi said the TV will be in stores in September. But the company said it hasn't been able to raise enough money to launch the product properly.

"This really is the Ferrari of televisions, but having a fantastic product is not enough," Vivadi's managing director, Paul Roberts, said in the release. "We've found ourselves in the equity gap--venture capital companies won't invest, because we're prerevenue, whilst the business angel community seems uncomfortable with sums over about GBP200,000 (about $365,000)."

"It's so frustrating that we can't give our products the marketing support they deserve, purely because we can't raise sufficient funding," Roberts said.
(July 1, 2004)

A tale of two Tigers

Two big cats were prowling dangerously close to each other in San Francisco this week.

At the Moscone West convention hall, Apple Computer showed developers the next version of Mac OS X, code-named Tiger. Meanwhile, across the street at the main Moscone convention center, Sun was showing a few features of Java 5.0--also code-named Tiger--at its JavaOne trade show.

Both cats bared their teeth, with Sun's Tiger showing a first-ever expansion for the Java programming language and Apple's Tiger offering an improved search engine and other enhancements.

Neither kitty is ready to be let off the leash, though. Apple's Tiger is due to be released in the first half of next year, while Java 2 Standard edition 5.0 won't be done for a few months.

Apple and Sun employees will also face off on the ice this week in a hockey game that has become a regular tradition. No word if both teams will use the Tiger as their mascot.
(June 28, 2004)

Google bolsters star power

Add Google mentions to the measure of fame.

Forbes released its annual list of the United States' 100 most powerful celebrities Tuesday, an exercise distinguished from dart-throwing thanks to a painstaking analysis of empirical data (we're sure!) such as pay estimates and media mentions in television, print and, of course, online.

Money was the biggest measure of power, but Web search giant Google helped improve showings for more than a few stars.

Former President Bill Clinton ranked only 86th on the Forbes list by pay, but scored 51 on the overall charts thanks in part to a No. 1 Web ranking. Film star Julia Roberts scored 51 on the income scale but pulled into 24th place overall with a No. 2 Web position.

Other top Web celebs were "Passion of the Christ" director Mel Gibson (No. 3 on the Web, No. 1 overall), singer Beyonce Knowles (No. 4, No. 19) and actress Angelina Jolie (No. 5, No. 13).

Expect blogs to spill over with arguments over the justice of the rankings. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling bests director Steven Spielberg? And what is Irish dance champ and "Riverdance" choreographer Michael Flatley doing there at all--let alone in 75th place?
(June 22, 2004)

Apple turns car owners green

Steve Jobs often compares the Mac's market share to that of BMW. Now it appears that the luxury car maker may be more than just a point of comparison for the Apple Computer chief.

Rumor has it that the two companies are teaming up to create a gadget that will allow some BMW owners to play their iPod through their car's stereo. MacMinute posted a photo of what appears to be a magazine ad for the new product, while Gadget site Gizmodo offered more details.

According to the Gizmodo report, the iPod connector kit will only work with certain BMW models from 2002 or later. Cars that have a cassette deck, satellite radio or CD changer already added to their sound system, however, won't be able to use the kit. The site also suggests that the iPod will sit in a dock in the glove box, with basic controls on the steering wheel to allow the driver to select tracks up or down.

The ad shown on MacMinute shows an ipodyourbmw.com Web site, which appears to be registered but not yet in use.

Apple and BMW representatives did not immediately return calls for comment, but Steve Jobs hinted at the "D: All Things Digital" conference earlier this month that Apple knows that there are a lot of people that want a better way to use their iPod in the car.
(June 17, 2004)

Apple's Jobs to preservationists: Think demolish

Is Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs' house a dump? That's what he claims, as part of his effort to tear down a 17,000 square foot home in Woodside, Calif., not far from Stanford University and Apple's headquarters in Cupertino. Local officials, however, say the home, designed by George Washington Smith, has historic value, and they're threatening to block Jobs' efforts to demolish the building, according to the Palo Alto Daily News and The Almanac.

The Daily News noted this week that the house, built in the 1920s for copper magnate Daniel Jackling, is an authentic example of the Mission Revival style of architecture. While Jobs claims it may not be the swellist of pads, the newspaper notes that he lived there for a time and that its guest house was host to former president Bill Clinton when daughter Chelsea attended Stanford. Woodside's planning commission is set to take up the matter June 16.

An Apple representative declined to comment on the dwelling dispute.
(June 10, 2004)

eWeek fumbles domain name renewal

Technology journal eWeek recently let the domain registration for its news site expire, causing the site to be unavailable to some visitors for several hours this week.

The account expired May 26 and was deactivated late Wednesday, according to eWeek's domain name registrar, Network Solutions. Ziff Davis Media, the magazine's parent company, re-activated the account Thursday, restoring access to the site.

Jim Louderback, editor in chief for Internet properties at Ziff Davis Media, offered a mea culpa in an interview with CNET News.com. "We made a mistake," he said.

eWeek isn't the first news site to fumble a domain-name renewal through Network Solutions, the largest of the registrars.

Earlier this year, the Washington Post Co. neglected to renew its corporate domain name with the company, causing its e-mail system to crash and blocking access to its news site. Microsoft made a similar oversight with its Hotmail e-mail service in 1999.
(June 4, 2004)

VIPs and VPNs, and schwagging the dog and pony

Reporters from around the world discovered just how serious the new Microsoft is about security when they tried--and tried--to log in to their corporate e-mail systems from the press room at the TechEd conference in San Diego.

After much cursing and much slamming of mouses, Microsoft propeller-heads were summoned to explain that the room uses an ultrasecure style of networking that forbids some VPN (virtual private networking) connections. (The system appeared to be especially selective against connecting to VPNs running on non-Microsoft software.)

Whew. No more worrying that hoodlums will intercept our secret communiques about the Information Worker Productivity Group road map.

Schmucks whose home office VPN setups were beneath the press room threshold were directed to the jungle-themed public Internet access section of the San Diego Convention Center, where each Wi-Fi connection was disturbingly labeled "Wild West." We're still waiting for the first angry standoff: "You ain't nothing but a low-down, packet-sniffing varmint. Draw!"

But far be it from us to disparage the integrity of an event with the highest quality schwag payload we've seen in years. Though promotional loot at most tech trade shows has dwindled to shopping bags and off-brand hard candies ("Mmmm, lichee!"), TechEd had geeks groaning under huge loads of loot. Tourists passing by the convention center on the Tijuana trolley were heard exclaiming, "Wow, look at all the worthless junk they got!"

(We'd like to note at this point that this space has prior art on the concept for trade show Rent-A-Sherpa kiosks. And we will vigorously protect our intellectual property.)

But back to the schwag--we're talking high-quality stuff here. Slinkies! Retractable phone cords! Eyeglass holders! Frozen dessert bars! Several varieties of hand-launched plastic missiles! Enough T-shirts to clothe an army! Good luck to anyone who hopes to find overhead baggage space on flights departing from San Diego late in the week.

Oh, and there's more: Stick around TechEd long enough for cocktail hour, and they start handing out free beer. Makes us wonder how many attendees woke up the next morning with a bad headache and a 20-year Software Assurance contract.
(May 24, 2004)

Oracle: Too good for its own good

Quick, what's Oracle's biggest problem these days?

If your thoughts strayed to U.S. Department of Justice investigations, pending lawsuits and looming competition from Microsoft and others, you're not wearing the same Redwood Shores-tinted glasses that Oracle executives are.

In a session at the Enterprise Software Summit held by the Software & Information Industry Association--a Q&A that came off as more of a Miss America interview--Oracle President Safra Catz was actually asked a "What's your biggest weakness?" question about the software maker. Instead of talking about the legal issues that might have sprung to mind, she allowed that Oracle--and CEO Larry Ellison in particular--might have a teeny little perception problem.

"We're often early in what we see," Catz said. "Sometimes we're that annoying kid saying, 'The emperor is naked'--and no one wants to hear that. As a result, I think you get a little bit of a public perception that you're wacky or annoying."

Time to amend those lawsuits! "Claim #17: Willful and Premeditated Wackiness."
(May 19, 2004)

Google wants your home page

Home is where Google is.

At least that's the ambition of the Web's biggest search engine, which only aims to get bigger as it approaches a $2.7 billion initial public offering. What better way than to join a chorus of Internet operators asking people to "Make this site your home page!"

Visitors to Google.com are now being solicited to make the switch. By clicking on a link asking people to change their settings, Google will automatically alter the Web user's browser preferences. No muss, no fuss.

Being Web surfers' home page of choice has long been the goal of portals like Yahoo and Microsoft's MSN, which tweak--or try to tweak--people's start page settings to their own Web address with each download of a new toolbar, instant message application or music software. Even rogue Web sites try to surreptitiously alter visitors' home page settings by enticing them to "click here," only to receive a volley of pop-up ads.

Google's plea may be benign, but it seems to cement the company's trajectory to becoming a portal--something it vigorously denies.
(May 4, 2004)

Sun laughs all the way from the bank

Sun Microsystems isn't going to let a few hundred million dollars in losses ruin its sense of humor.

The same day the company announced

In the release, Sun said it would keep Kealia's technology but not its name, also the name of a Hawaiian beach. Here's how Sun put it:

"As part of the acquisition, Sun plans to formally drop the 'Kealia' name. No one could pronounce it anyway."

Bechtolsheim may lose his Hawaii reference as part of the deal, but he reclaims the employee No. 1 badge at Sun as well as the title of senior vice president and chief architect in Sun's Network Systems organization.
(April 16, 2004)

Win sum, lose sum for Microsoft

A discussion on the Full Disclosure security mailing list reveals that Microsoft may need a refresher course in basic programmer mathematics.

Coders use a variety of number systems to express values in code, from binary (base 2) to decimal (standard base 10), and from octal (base 8) to hexadecimal (base 16). The latter forms are generally used to express binary numbers that would require too much space to write using only 1s and 0s.

Some programmers discovered that if one mistakenly types in 90 as an octal value, Windows NT and 2000 computers interpret it as the decimal number 72. Technically that seems correct (9 × 8 + 0 = 72), except that the digits 8 and 9 aren't actually used in the octal system. The decimal value 72 would be the octal 110 (1 × 64 + 1 × 8 + 0 = 72). Linux gets it right.
(April 16, 2004)

CNET News.com's David Becker, Ina Fried, Alorie Gilbert, Jeff Pelline, Dawn Kawamoto, Rob Lemos, Stephen Shankland, Richard Shim, Michael Kanellos, Evan Hansen, Paul Festa, Declan McCullagh and Stefanie Olsen contributed to this report.