Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Firefox Browser a big hit Down Under

The popularity of open-source web browser Firefox seems to be on the rise, with a new report revealing a big increase in users around the world.

Latest statistics released by European "web metrics" company Xiti found that Firefox increased its browser market share in most markets in March, climbing to a share of around 29% in Europe.

But the company found the "continent" where Firefox was most popular was Oceania (which includes New Zealand and Australia), where the browser has a 31.2% market share.

Breaking down the statistics to individual countries reveals that Firefox's biggest fans live in Finland, Poland, and Slovenia, where it is used by 43-46% of all web surfers.

The browser was least popular in Asia (with a 17.2% market share), where many people use the alternative browser Maxthon (a Chinese-created browser, which uses the rendering engine of Internet Explorer).

Usage of the Firefox browser slipped very slightly in North America (possibly due to increased competition from Apple's Safari), but analysts believe the mid-year launch of the faster and improved Firefox 3 will give the open-source browser another boost.

The rising popularity of Firefox comes despite many companies forcing their employees to use Microsoft's sluggish, buggy, and security-prone Internet Explorer browser.


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What The?! Giant Squid captivates world Media

Ok, It's official... The world's "mainstream" media is seriously a lost cause ;-)

The continuing saga of "the world's biggest squid" led the nightly news bulletins of New Zealand's national tv networks TV3 and TV One tonight, bringing viewers the latest developments in the country's biggest animal story since Shrek the merino sheep.

This was followed by breathtaking reports by excited reporters on their respective "current affairs" shows Campbell Live and Close Up. Some people even sliced off a piece of the squid for quick nibble.

The story of the colossal squid has also proved a massive hit with the world's media, with hundreds of outlets reporting the latest developments, as the creature thaws out (live on web-cam apparently) at Wellington's Te Papa museum.

While Mr Squid is believed to be the biggest ever caught (at up to 10 metres long and over 1000 pounds, with a fearsome beak and razor-sharp hooks), scientists now believe it may be "a minnow" compared to other creatures lurking in the depths.

The monster squid was caught in Antarctic waters last February (yes, last February), and was donated to the museum after being "snap frozen". Staff finally began defrosting it slowly on Monday, by placing it in a tank filled with cold salty water. The squid is expected to go on show in a massive tank later this year at Te Papa.

Frankly, I don't really give a damn, and don't expect to be making the trip to Wellington anytime soon to see Mr Squidly. Now find me a biblical "Leviathan" or "Behemouth" (what scientists like to call "Dinosaurs") - or a genuine Roswell Alien - and I might be more interested... ;-)

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Saturday, 26 April 2008

Never Mind Beijing, Here's Bucharest...

If you're one of the people backing a Boycott of the Beijing Olympics, there may be an alternative to keep you entertained.

Here's a few Highlights clips from the "2003 Trojan Games" in Bucharest...

(NB: Don't view if you are offended by good-natured humour, partial nudity, or are a Wellington National Party voter named Adam Prouse ;-)

* Pelvic Powerlifting at its best (Ukraine)...

* Precision Vaulting - USA attempt the daring "Flip and Dock"...

* Mixed Judo Semifinal between Great Britain and France...

* NZ Herald: Topless clip angers National voter
* Trojan Games (UK)

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Even Parrots love the Backstreet Boys ;-)

Snowball the Cockatoo goes wild for the Backstreet Boys' classic, Everybody...

* Hat tip - [b3ta]

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Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Baby Panda gives Mom a fright

Super cute ;-) ...

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Sunday, 20 April 2008

Labour Party President Caught Lying

Grumpy Labour Party President Mike Williams has been caught out lying on national television, over allegations he backed a proposal to use Government agency brochures as Labour electioneering.

TVNZ obtained an audio recording from the party's recent congress, where a member raised the idea of using KiwiSaver and Working for Families pamphlets to promote Labour in election year, and get around the financial limits under the Electoral Finance Act.

The member didn't seem to have any moral objections to party activists using pamphlets from supposedly neutral Government departments to promote Labour, and thought they were actually "better than having Labour Party material".

Mike Williams described the suggestion as "a damn good idea", and told members that the party would also have some "generic stuff to hand out pretty soon".

Appearing on TV One's Agenda programmme on Sunday morning, Williams vehemently denied he said the proposal was "a damn good idea", and claimed that "according to people there [he] did not respond with it was a good idea". He slammed the saga as "an incredible media beatup, and arguably never happened".

Of course at that stage Williams believed it was his word against TV One's Political Editor Guyon Espiner, and had no idea that TVNZ had managed to obtain an audio recording of his exact words.

Faced with that audio evidence later in the day, Williams went into backtrack mode, claiming he didn't hear the suggestion properly (it seemed pretty clear to most people's ears) and was simply keen to move the session along.

The Labour Party is attempting to brush off the matter, while the National Party is calling for Williams to resign. Bill English says Labour suffers from a "culture of deceit", and Labour's president has "misled the public again in a bid to hide Labour's plans to break the law."

* Mike Williams' "Liargate" video from One News (with editing by Whaleoil)...

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Tuesday, 15 April 2008

More US Airline Mergers Likely

US-based flyer Delta Air Lines (which emerged from bankruptcy just a year ago) has announced a deal to buy rival Northwest Airlines, in a major stock deal.

The new merged airline will become the world's largest carrier. Delta is current the third-biggest US airline (by traffic), while Northwest holds the number 5 spot.

The combined carrier will have 800 aircraft and 75,000 employees, passing American Airlines as the world's largest by traffic.

The Delta/Northwest deal is likely to speed up merger plans by other rival airlines. Many commentators believe United Airlines is still in a delicate position, after having emerged from "Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection" in early 2005 after three years of restructuring.

It's understood United (America's #2 carrier) is in "advanced merger talks" with #4 US carrier Continental Airlines (although Continental is also believed to have met with American Airlines).

Continental bosses have previously said they'd prefer the airline remained independent, but were prepared to look at their options "if the competitive landscape changed".

A combined United/Continental airline is expected to be part of the Star Alliance frequent flyer programme. United is a founding member of SA, but Continental is currently a member of SkyTeam. However their large New York hub at Newark airport would be welcomed by European SA members.

The consolidation plans come as rising fuel costs and the slowing US economy puts added pressure on the already shaky airline industry.

America's eight largest carriers are expected to post a combined first-quarter loss of (US)$1.4 billion, and aren't looking forward to the increased trans-Atlantic competition from European carriers. Four small US airlines have recently filed for bankruptcy, including Frontier and Skybus.

But while the mergers are likely to be good for the airlines, they're likely to result in higher fares for passengers, and less choice with a reduction in the number of daily scheduled flights.

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Monday, 14 April 2008

Abercrombie & Fitch relaunches controversial Mag

Popular American clothing retailer, Abercrombie & Fitch is looking overseas to help it grow sales. The company has slowly been moving outside its US borders, opening its first store in the UK a year ago.

The company's also been broadening its reach, and now operates 5 distinct retail brands... the original Abercrombie & Fitch, abercrombie (the kids version), Hollister Co. (Southern California-inspired teen brand), RUEHL No.925 (upscale brand aimed at the post-collegiate upper middle class), and Gilly Hicks (women's lingere).

Things have been busy at Abercrombie & Fitch's flagship European store in Burlington Gardens, London, for the UK-only relaunch of the company's infamous A&F Quarterly, which is selling for the very premium price of £100.
The combo A&F catalogue/magazine ("magalogue") includes photos by Bruce Weber, plus articles by Tyler Brule (founder of Wallpaper magazine) and artwork by Mark Beard.

The new 200-page Quarterly - Return to Paradise - features a similar range of semi-naked attractive young models that caused the controversial catalogue to be "discontinued" in the United States in 2003.

The limited edition hardback (1000 copies, with a hard collectors case) will be sold to customers over the age of 18, and includes articles on "travel, dining, and trendy neighbourhoods".

The original A&F Quarterly was published from 1997 to Christmas 2003 in the United States, but was criticised by family groups and politicians as being "semi-pornographic" with "overt sexual content", including articles on drinking games and sex-tips.
Critics promoted a boycott of the clothing chain, and some US states threatened legal action about what they saw as explicit content being distributed to minors.

The popular catalogues featured tips for oral sex, plus images of group sex and nude young adults frolicking in the great outdoors.

Readers were told that "going down at the movies is acceptable, just so long as you do not disturb those around you" ;-) Abercrombie & Fitch say they're not planning to reintroduce the publication in the US.

The Quarterly's relaunch comes as Abercombie & Fitch reveals first year sales in the UK of around £50 million, made up evenly of London retail sales and online purchases. A&F bosses say their UK website accounted for between 20-30% of the company's total web sales.

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Saturday, 12 April 2008

Teddy's world tour goes bad in Middle East

Mo' the Travelling Teddy Bear finds his "goodwill tour of the world's hotspots" doesn't get a good reception in the Middle East... ;-)

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Friday, 11 April 2008

TV Recording banned on Freeview HD

Bad news for busy tv viewers... if you miss your favourite HD TV show live, recording the programme will only give you the basic picture. The new Freeview HD digital terrestrial TV service is now on-air, with TV3 the first broadcaster offering programmes in true high definition.

But broadcasters say a worldwide restriction on replaying and distribution high-definition content means that regular HD set-top boxes fitted with an HDMI cable will prevent users from recording shows in HD.

Freeview general manager Steve Browning admits that content protection is a difficult issue...

At one end, you have consumer freedom to use, copy and share, while at the other [end] you have the rights of the owner [or] producer of that content to protect it.

For a significant proportion of their schedules, NZ broadcasters are not the rights-owner, therefore they must do what the rights-owner requires them to do.

TV companies claim the recorded digital signal will still be in better resolution than the old fashioned analogue signal, with some DVD recorders also capable of "upscaling" pictures to produce a higher-resolution image.

TV3 already up-scales much of its standard definition content to improve the picture quality, while signalling its true HD-TV programming with a "flag" symbol in the corner of the screen.

High-definition capable recorders are available overseas, but none of the "illegal electronic devices" are approved for use with Freeview, according to the consortium.

The new Freeview|HD service is due to be officially "launched" on Monday the 14th of April by PM Cluck.

* Computerworld - Freeview — DRM will downgrade best TV images

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Thursday, 3 April 2008

Soft launch for NZ High-Definition TV

High definition television television has finally arrived in New Zealand - if you live in the main cities, and have got hold of one of the new Freeview DTT set-top boxes.

The country's free-to-air platform Freeview launched its nationwide satellite service last April, but many viewers have been waiting for the arrival of Freeview's Digital Terrestrial network.

The new Freeview|HD service went live with a "soft launch" yesterday, although the "official" launch by PM Hillin Cluck isn't for another two weeks. News and information channel TVNZ 7 and Maori Television's Te Reo are the country's newest digital channels.

Viewers don't need a satellite dish for the new Freeview|HD service, but do need a high-definition set-top box, a UHF aerial, and good UHF tv reception. The DTT service will be available to around 75% of the population (Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Napier/Hastings, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin).

(Official coverage map from Freeview NZ)

As well as eventually offering more channels that the original satellite version of Freeview (which is restricted by bandwidth limitations to around 20 channels), Freeview|HD offers viewers with the right TV sets true high-definition television, with "crystal clear" DVD-quality widescreen pictures and sound.

Rival digital operator Sky says it has no current plans to add its free to air channel Prime or any of its subscription tv channels to the Freeview DTT service.

Initially only TV3 will be broadcasting in high-definition, with a selection of its programming including Boston Legal, CSI, Prison Break, Bones, Rove and Home & Away. TVNZ is expected to broadcast the Beijing Olympics in HD. Broadcasters are also able to up-convert standard definition material to a higher resolution.

Official Zinwell Freeview HD set-top boxes are now on sale through the likes of Dick Smith Electronics for just under $400 (a launch special), with private importers hoping to sell compatible boxes for between $250-$300 within the next few months.

* Stuff: High-definition comes to NZ's cities
* NZ Herald: Freeview service arrives without Prime

* NZ Herald blog: Hands on with Freeview HD
* NZ Herald blog: Freeview goes HD - but where's the hardware?

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Tuesday, 1 April 2008

A quiet April Fools Day for NZ media

New Zealand's media were a bit light on their sense of humour this morning, with only a handful getting into the spirit of April Fools' Day.

The ever-reliable Otago Daily Times newspaper relegated their April 1st piece to page 3 this year. Their story was about a unique laser-guided sheep mustering project on the hills of the Harbour Cone property recently bought (at great cost, and with no consultation) on Otago Peninsula.

The sheep were apparently died pink, and laser-mustered in the shape of a giant bra. Nice work on the photoshopping, but not really as clever as last year's plans to dye the local Yellow-eyed Penguins Orange, under a sponsorship deal with Mitre 10 Mega ;-)

Meanwhile TV3's early morning show Sunrise had an "exclusive report" about Christchurch-based heptathlete Rebecca Wardell, who's apparently taken up smoking to help boost her chances at this year's Olympics, being held in the heavily-polluted city of Beijing.

Nationwide radio station The Rock tried to get into the sprit of things, but ended up having to apologise to listeners who "didn't get" their early April Fools Day prank.

The station had been promoting a one-off "secret" acoustic concert early this morning by American rockers the Foo Fighters at Auckland's Powerstation.

But after being overwhelmed with inquiries from listeners (with some people booking the day of work, and planning to fly up to Auckland to see the band) The Rock was forced to pull the planned stunt and apologise... Some people have no sense of humour!

Other April Fools' Day reports...

* Labour Government says April Fool!... (Scoop Satire)

* Newmarket signs fashion contract with Helen Clark
* Microsoft acquisition of 1-day!
* Plans to Launch a Revolutionary New Hydrobus

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Anti-Islam film draws protests in Pakistan

Hundreds of "angry Muslims" have marched in Pakistan, protesting an "Anti-Islam" short film by Dutch Politician Geert Wilders, which includes footage of Islamist atrocities.

The 15 minute film, Fitna ("strife" in Arabic) was released online last week, and shows a series of excerpts from the Qur'an, backed up with recent video clips and newspaper stories.

Geert Wilders, who leads the anti-immigration Party for Freedom (PVV) in the Dutch Parliament, says the film is aimed at "showing how verses from the Qur'an are being used to incite modern Muslims to behave violently and anti-democratically."

He describes Fitna as "a call to shake off the creeping tyranny of Islamization". The short film features footage of terrorist attacks and anti-Western, anti-Jewish rhetoric by Muslim leaders and followers.

Various video clips reveal the ultimate plan by Muslims for Islamic world domination, a goal is being assisted by the Western world under the guise of "political correctness and freedom". A verse from the Qu'ran reads, "Fight them until there is no dissension, and the religion is entirely Allah's."

The Netherlands own Prime Minister, Jan Balkenende spoke out against the short film, claiming "The film equates Islam with violence. We reject this interpretation. The vast majority of Muslims reject extremism and violence... We believe [this film] serves no purpose other than to cause offence."

Wilders says he believes Islam and the Qu'ran are "dangers to the preservation of freedom in the Netherlands." The film finishes with a message saying the West defeated the Nazis and Communism, and now must defeat an Islam that "wants to dominate, subject and seeks to destroy our Western civilization."

In the film, an Islamic leader is seen telling his followers, "We have ruled the world before, and by Allah, the day will come when we will rule the entire world again! The day will come when we will rule America. The day will come when we will rule Great Britain and the entire world!"

Anti-Semitism is a strong part of Islam. Sheikh Bakr Al-Samarai is shown waving a sword, while telling a chanting crowd, "A Jew is hiding behind me, come and cut off his head. And we shall cut off his head! By Allah, we shall cut it off! Oh Jews!... Jihad for the sake of Allah!"

Muslims are brainwashed from a very young age to hate the Jews and the western world. A young Muslim girl is shown being quizzed on her beliefs...
I: Basmallah, How old are you?
B: Three and a half
I: Are you a Muslim?
B: Yes
I: Basmallah, Are you familiar with the Jews?
B: Yes
I: Because they are what?
B: They're Apes and Pigs
I: Because they are apes and pigs? Who said they are so?
B: Allah
I: Where did he say this?
B: In the Koran
Wilders' short film Fitna was originally posted on the website on March 28th, but was removed shortly after because of threats to the company's staff and their families. It has now been reposted on the site following various security upgrades.

* : Geert Wilders' film about the Quran (English)

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