Microsoft’s ‘Battle for Beauty’ could use some work...

This weekend the fine folks at Microsoft created what they claim to be the "biggest HTML5 game made.” HTML5 is the next evolution of the HTML standard and one of it’s many features is video support and the ability to create fully featured games. It basically replaces Adobe Flash, which has been the dominate player in video and gaming content online.

The game is called "The Battle for Beauty" and although I like the concept, the implementation left lots to be desired.

The basic idea was to set up some giant screens in the Entertainment District in Toronto and have people throw softballs at the screens to destroy clutter, worms, spyware, etc. At the same time, people across Canada would also be playing at home on their computers.

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New Research Shows Cyber Criminals Moving Operations to Canada

New research by WebSense found that Canada is quickly becoming the go-to place for cyber criminals around the world. There are plenty of reasons for this but the big one is also the simplest: No one really regards Canada as dangerous.

IP addresses originating from Europe and China are highly scrutinized and many companies out right block entire countries (such as Nigeria) to stop online fraud, phishing and all the other nasty stuff that goes on online.

The problem is that Canada is just the opposite. We have a relatively clean  record when it comes to cyber security.

"More malicious content is being hosted in Canada than ever before," said Patrik Runald, senior manager of Security Research, Websense. "Cyber criminals are taking advantage of Canada's clean cyber reputation, and moving shop. We're seeing all time highs for both hosted phishing sites and bot networks. It is important for Canadian citizens to be extra vigilant on the Internet, taking extra precautions when clicking on links."

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Bitcoins: The Currency of Pirates

There’s a new currency on the Internet and it’s making quite a splash. The currency is called ‘bitcoins’ and it is currently the money of choice for pirates and other scoundrels. This is because bitcoins are secure, impossible to track, impossible to tax and extremely simple to use.

In a nutshell a bitcoin is a file on your computer that has a value. This value changes all the time but at the moment bitcoins are trading at about $7 per coin. Each coin is unique and created by a complex piece of software. If you were to try and create a bitcoin yourself it could take upwards of 5 years to make. Since they are trading at such a low rate it makes sense just to buy or earn them instead of make them.

A lot of people are opting to flat out buy bitcoins but you don’t have to. Instead you can offer a service or product in exchange for them. Many programmers will do small projects for them instead of money.

Why would you want them?

Why exactly would anyone want these coins? Can’t you just use regular money?

Sure, you could pay someone using PayPal or your credit card. The issue is that any kind of online transaction is easily traceable and taxable. Bitcoins are basically paper money that you can spend online.

This has caused them to get a bit of a bad name since people are using them to pay hackers, buy drugs and for other nefarious means. For us regular folks they are simply a great way to keep our privacy while still buying products and services online.

Are they secure?

 It depends. As mentioned above they are a file stored on your computer. Meaning if you don’t encrypt them someone could easily steal your laptop and get all your coins. Also, if your computer needs to be formatted and you didn’t back them up you could lose them all.

You can store them online but again, this means you are trusting the owner of the server you store them on.

Each coin is unique to the computer who made it. Not only that, each transaction involving the coin requires that it be modified with a special code that basically transfers ownership. A great way to think of it is like a house. You transfer ownership of your house to someone else, but with bitcoins it can be done anonymously. So there is a record that a certain coin has been traded 5 times, but it is impossible to know who those 5 people are.

There are already predictions that people will start using these at real world locations like casinos but it will probably be a while before you can spend them at your local grocery store.

You can learn more here or just watch this video.

Montreal company is the next big innovation in charging you more at the movies

Movie theaters are notorious for finding things they can charge you more for. It’s understandable why they do this, ticket sales net them very little profit. The issue is that they tend to go a little overboard with the extras. A large popcorn can have upwards of a 5000% profit margin. Not only that, they try to get you to go to the premium movies with IMAX screenings and ETX movies costing $2 to $4 more than the average ticket price. Then you have the insane prices of 3D, not to mention IMAX 3D which can cost upwards of $20 a ticket in Toronto.

So where do they go now? Where else can they charge us just a little bit more? Well, the answer to that lies in the seats.

Let me explain:

Remember when you were a kid and you went to Disneyworld for the first time? Remember that one ride that was kind of okay but was nothing when compared to the roller coasters? You remember, you sat down in a big complex looking chair and got to watch a movie while the seat moved and jerked around as if you we’re in the movie itself.

Imagine that ride, but in a regular theater.

According to some sources it’s the next big thing and this summer it’s going to be equipped in 50 specially equipped theaters. It’s not going to be free either, you can bet theaters will be charging an arm and a leg for the privilege of spilling your pop and popcorn all over yourself.

This ‘innovation’ (that’s been around for over 50 years) comes courtesy of D-box Technologies, a Montreal company that’s really kicking up a storm. The company has installations in about 50 theaters right now but plans to expand to about 100 by the end of the year and over 1000 within the next four years.

Let us know, do you think this is the next big 3D like revolution that started with Avatar (well arguably was rebooted by, not started) or will it fizzle?

Even more parents worried about Wi-fi in schools

A group of parents in BC have joined a frightening long list of organizations that are trying to get Wi-Fi banned from public schools. Like the others, this group is afraid that the low level radiation put out by Wi-Fi antennas could be dangerous and could cause serious health issues in the future.

The parents cite a lack of studies on the long term affects of exposure to Wi-Fi and urge decision makers to err on the side of caution and simply use the faster and more reliable wired internet connections.

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Rogers first to roll out 4G in Canada

Two months ago it was predicted that 4G wireless service would be hitting Canada by 2013 at the absolute earliest. It seems this prediction was a tad off as Rogers has announced that they will be launching LTE (which is a form of 4G) services in four major Canadian cities within the year.

The service will be launching in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa but no launch date beyond “this year” has been specified. Rogers plans to roll it out to the rest of Canada but again no time frame has been mentioned (and Rogers reps don’t seem to know either.)

Along with the announcement Rogers has created a website called IWantMyLTE.ca, which is advertised as “a website where you can learn about Rogers LTE network and share your excitement for LTE.” In reality the site simply allows you to sign up for e-mail updates on when the service is coming to various cities across Canada and click a few social media buttons.

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Why are Apple fans so crazy?

Apple released the iPad 2 today in Canada. At midnight they made online orders available and at 5pm it was available in stores.

A few points to remember before I go on:

1. The iPad 2 was and still is available online. You can order it and have it delivered directly to your door.

2. The Apple Store is not the only place to get the device. It is also available at Best Buy and Futureshop, both within a five minute walk of the Apple Store I visited in Toronto.

Now, moving on. The iPad 2 is not a revolutionary device. It’s a simple upgrade that increased it’s power, added a camera and had a few other small changes. Despite this, an anonymous person I interviewed in front of the Apple store in the Eaton Center, Toronto had waited five hours in line to get his hands on one.

That may sound a bit extreme but that’s nothing compared to what I was told. The first person to get an iPad 2 had been waiting in line since 6am yesterday.

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How the scum of the earth will profit from Japan's pain

There are two things that happen after every major natural disaster. They happened with New Orleans, they happened with Haiti and will most certainly happen with Japan.

The first is that there will be an outpouring of love. People will band together to help those in need through volunteering, money and in a million other ways. This part always makes me feel good to be human. The next part, not so much.

The second is that scammers will use the disaster to suck as much money out of innocent people as they can.

The instant a natural disaster strikes millions of e-mails are sent around the world asking for donations. Many of these are legitimate but most are from scammers trying to make a quick buck. They do this in many ways but I’m going to detail the most common methods.

Fake Charity:

This is probably the easiest for a scammer to pull off. They will create a website for a charity that doesn’t exist (think: The Human Fund from Seinfeld.) After that all they have to do is collect donations and use them to buy a new car.

How to avoid: Stick with the most well known charities. If you haven’t heard of it and no news organization has ever mentioned it, chances are it’s a scam. The BBB is another great resource.

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How to help Japan online

A massive earthquake hit Japan early Friday afternoon. This and the resulting tsunami has so far caused the deaths of over 2000 people. Not only that, entire towns have been washed away by the 100 mile long wall of water and millions of people are currently without water or electricity.

It will take years of work to clean up the mess left by this disaster but you can help make it at least a little bit easier for those most affected by the natural disaster.

Below you’ll find a list of charities that are already helping the Japanese cope. Please use the links provided to donate to the cause.

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What each political party is saying about UBB and Net Neutrality

There’s a lot of talk around Ottawa about a possible spring election and whether Canadians want one or not, it’s probably going to happen. To help make your voting decision a little easier I’m going to do a run down of what each political party has to say when it comes to net neutrality and usage based billing.

Conservative Party

Lets start with the most vocal party on this issue. Not long after Open Media’s petition started hitting staggering numbers the Conservative party came out against usage based billing. Industry minister Tony Clement railed against the CRTC for destroying competition. Prime Minister Steven Harper vowed to overturn the CRTC if they made a decision in favour of UBB.

Many people believe this is just a political move since the Harper government is the one who appointed each member of the CRTC.

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Consumers are adopting new technology so quick retailers can't keep up

Today IBM Canada released the results of an annual study that takes a look at shopping trends and the adoption of new technology. The survey was done on tens of thousands of people around the world including over 2,000 Canadians.

According to a press release on the subject the quintessential Canadian shopper is a woman who is frugal but optimistic about her income. She is influenced more by family and friends’ opinions than retailers; and she regularly shops for more than people in her household such as her parents or other family members.

Not only this, the number of Canadians willing to use mobile technologies to shop increased by 160 per cent year-to-year, second only to the US in uptake. This means we are using

What’s most interesting though is what Canadians want from their retailers. Canadians want a seamless experience. They want to be able to check prices no matter where they are, get promotions on the items they scan and more. Not only that: “Consumers want a personalized shopping experience and will spend more and be more loyal to retailers who offer them quality, service and promotions on items they regularly buy and remember things such as their preferred payment methods.”

John Dawkins, IBM’s Canadian retail sector lead’s opinion on Canada is that we are finally embracing technology:

“It would appear Canadians’ conservative attitude toward adopting new consumer technologies is changing rapidly to the point that consumers are ahead of retailers, Wider access to bandwidth at lower rates, an increase in the number of Canadian wireless service providers, adoption of social media and a comparatively faster economic recovery are driving the emergence of a more complex, competitive and sophisticated shopper.”

Google’s new Blocklist may have some problems

Yesterday there was a lot of fanfare around the Google's new Personal Blocklist. You install a Chrome extension and if you see a website in your search results you don’t believe should be there you simply block it.

This is a great service for the average user, making it easy to get rid of websites you're sick of seeing in your search results.

Many have touted this as a great way to help Google out as well since they can easily get access to this data and if a website had lots of people blocking it, they could lower that website in the organic results. The problem is that this could very easily be manipulated.

Imagine you own a company that sells widgets. You have a competitor that also sells widgets and he just happens to appear higher than you in the organic Google search results. What do you do? Well, for about $2 an hour you can hire a thousand ‘freelancers’ on oDesk and get them all to use the toolbar to ban your competitors site. Therefore sending his site to the bottom of the search results.

This isn’t a strange scenario, companies have a nasty habit of reporting their competitors websites to Google or using black hat techniques on their competitors website in the hopes of getting it banned from Google.

Let's hope Google realizes this and figures out a way to make this impossible, or at least make it a useless maneuver.

Scamming the internet: How Google can be a villain when it tries to be a hero

Techvibes editor Knowlton Thomas ran an interesting article on Primerica. He asked how a scam like Primerica can survive in a world with the internet—when all you have to do is google "Primerica scam” and you’ll find tons of information on why you shouldn’t work for them. He offered this (googling the company name + scam) as simple advice to help you avoid scams in the future.

The problem is that companies know about this advice and use it to make even more sales.

Lets look at the fun world of ‘male enhancement products’ as an example. One such product called ‘Extenze’ is known for it’s misleading marketing. A quick search for ‘Extenze scam’ brings up the following webpage as the number 1 result: Extenzescam.com (Probably NSFW).

This website is far from helpful and in fact is an affiliate for Extenze—meaning they are trying to sell you Extenze by pretending to be a review site. Using Google’s natural appreciation of exact match domain names and thousands of purchased links (both black hat SEO techniques) this website has made it to the top result for a search term used by thousands of people looking to know if the product is legitimate.

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What exactly does the Internet know about you?

I’m a huge privacy advocate as you could probably tell from some of my previous articles and I’ve decided to show you all just how much information you’re sharing with the world as you browse the web.

Let’s start with the information you voluntarily give: Social networks have always been a major issue for privacy lovers like myself. They are built with the sole intent of selling all the information you input.

When you sign up for Facebook every bit of data you type in from your age to your sexual orientation goes to a Facebook database. From this database advertisers get unlimited access so they can sell you their wares. That means anyone who signs up for an advertising account with Facebook has access to your relationship status, wall posts and more.

Not only this, Facebook has in the past made sweeping changes to their privacy settings with little to no notifications to their users. They’re not the only ones, when Google tried to make a social network with Google Buzz they made some serious mistakes when it came to privacy.

Lets go back to advertisers. I’ll let Prof. Wills, Chief technologist for the FTC tell you a little more about what advertisers do beyond social networks:

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How usage based billing will affect you

A couple of weeks ago the CRTC made a valiant proclamation:

“From hereon in, the company known as Bell may (by royal decree) charge people more money when they use more bandwidth.”

They didn’t exactly word it like that but you get the gist of it. What exactly does this mean for the consumer and the Internet in general? A lot it seems. Not only can Bell start charging it’s own users based on how much they download and how many Netflix videos they watch, they can also charge the companies that rent out their lines.

This means companies like Primus and Teksavvy will no longer be able to offer unlimited plans, one of the main reasons people switch from Bell or Telus to an independent. This may not sound so bad, just try to keep under your 60 gig allotment right? The issue, is that the internet has changed a bit since the 90’s.

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