AOL, Disney unveil new kids sites

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Online kids playgrounds are more popular than ever. Disney Online said Tuesday that it will add to its online services for children with a new virtual world called Pixie Hollow, based on fictional characters like Disney’s Tinkerbell and building on the site DisneyFairies.com. Similar to Disney’s Toontown and Club Penguin, the company’s newest virtual world will feature instant chat, games and tools to personal the environment. Disney did not specify when Pixie will launch, but it said that it will open the first phase later this year.

Also on Tuesday, AOL said that it will relaunch its kids site KOL with newly featured content from National Geographic Kids, among others. The new site will also let kids customize the page, sign up for a personal e-mail address and play as many as 100 games.

Redmond puts key Vista update on ice

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Microsoft has suspended distribution of one of the updates required for Vista service pack one (SP1), after customers complained that their PCs wouldn’t boot up properly once KB937287 had been applied.

The servicing stack update, which was pushed out to the Windows Update site last week, is an essential part of the Vista SP1 puzzle - without it, the operating system’s full service pack can’t be installed.

Despite Microsoft’s decision to hold the update back until its engineers fix the PC reboot error, Redmond insists that Vista SP1, which was released to manufacturing on 4 February and is already available to MSDN subscribers, will still be available for general consumption in mid-March as planned.

Microsoft product manager Nick White said last week that the pre-SP1 release of two final prerequisite updates, which included KB937287 and multi-component update KB938371, were “just one more example of how we’re continuing to actively invest in improving the Windows Vista experience through Windows Update”.

Mobiles on the moon? Nasa prepares trial for takeoff

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

After conquering the farthest corners of the globe, mobile phones are now destined for the final frontier - space.

Even in the cosmos there will be no escaping the ringtone as Nasa and the British National Space Centre (BNSC) prepare to trial a mobile phone network for the moon.

Astronauts and robots exploring the moon’s surface will only be a text message away after the system goes live later this century.

The satellite system should ensure a full four-bar signal for lunar colonists living in the base Nasa wants to build at the south pole of the moon after 2020.

The stellar vision of the mobile’s future even tops the effort that managed to get a text message to the top of Mount Everest.

Google funds Photoshop-on-Linux work

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Google is funding work to ensure the Windows version of Adobe Systems’ Photoshop and other Creative Suite software can run on Linux OS.

For the project, Google is funding programmers at CodeWeavers, a company whose open-source Wine software lets Windows software run on Linux. Wine is a compatibility layer that intercepts a program’s Windows commands and converts them to instructions for the Linux kernel and its graphics subsystem.

“We hired CodeWeavers to make Photoshop CS and CS2 work better under Wine,” Dan Kegel, of Google’s software engineering team and the Wine 1.0 release manager, said on Google’s open-source blog. “Photoshop is one of those applications that desktop Linux users are constantly clamoring for, and we’re happy to say they work pretty well now…We look forward to further improvements in this area.”

Apple Lowers iPod Shuffle Price, Plans New Model

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Apple is cutting the price of its one-gigabyte iPod Shuffle, from $69 to $49, and announced that a two-gigabyte version will be available later this month for $69. “At just $49, the iPod shuffle is the most affordable iPod ever,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of worldwide iPod product marketing. “The new 2GB model lets music lovers bring even more songs everywhere they go in the impossibly small iPod shuffle.”

Even at under $50, Apple is “printing money” with flash-based MP3 players, a commenter on the Ars Technica site said. Indeed, low-end MP3 players are starting to look like USB drives — products “where the price of production is so small because of the drastic drop in technology costs that companies will start delivering these things at breath-taking prices,” said Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT, in a telephone interview.

The price cuts may also be a reflection that the iPod is now a mature product no longer able to command premium pricing, at least at the low end. “The music market is starting to fracture and Apple will be seeing increased competition. It’s going to get ugly out there,” King said.

Universal to publish Blu-ray discs

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Universal Studios, one of the two major studios that was putting out HD DVDs, will focus its attention on the rival Blu-ray movie disc format.

The news follows the announcement Tuesday by Toshiba, creator of the HD DVD, that it would stop making players for the discs.

Universal Studios and Paramount were the two major Hollywood studios that supported HD DVD, while Sony Pictures, Walt Disney Co. and News Corp.’s Twentieth Century Fox are in the Blu-ray camp.

In a statement Tuesday, Universal did not say how long it would keep putting out HD DVDs or what it would do with its inventory. Toshiba said about 1 million HD DVD players were sold worldwide.

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