Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Top 8 Games for PS3...

Note: The list starts from number 8 and goes down to number 1

Grand Theft Auto 4


Like Rock Band, Grand Theft Auto 4's a tossup. More opponents for online play is great, but we're big fans of better graphics, and the PS3 has an ever so slight edge in that department. Plus, the install cuts down on loading screens, which gives us more time to ram firetrucks into dirtbikes. As if that wasn't enough reason to count this game among the best PS3 games ever, there's always the fact that you can push people in front of trains, saw pedestrians down with helicopter blades, and drive your dinner date off a cliff. Be bad, be wild, and be a menace!


Batman: Arkham Asylum


No one expected Batman: Arkham Asylum to be this good. In fact, no one expected it to be one of the most impressive and thrilling action games to ever hit the PlayStation 3. Thankfully, Rocksteady Studios and Warner Bros./DC Comics made the invaluable choice of enlisting help from the best talent possible, including big-ticket names like Paul Dini, Kevin Conroy, Arleen Sorkin, and of course, Mark Hamill. For once, a video game developer got everything right in a Batman game, and Rocksteady Studios even went as far as including The Joker as a playable character for PS3 gamers. But most rewarding was the fact that The Caped Crusader fought like a demon from Hell, his tools were inventive and intuitive, and the atmosphere of Arkham Island was as demented and dangerous as its inhabitants. Welcome back, Batman.


Killzone 2


Sure, the original Killzone may have failed to be the "Halo-killer" it was proclaimed to be, but after a painfully long time in development (the sequel was supposed to be a PS3 launch title), Guerilla Games finally delivered a first-person shooter that pushed its console to its boundaries, mostly in terms of graphics. Even stunningly polished shooters like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare lacked the level of detail displayed in Killzone 2's bleak, post-apocalyptic wastelands and war-scorched cities. As soon as you boot up Guerilla's killer FPS sequel, there's no ignoring the mind-blowing lengths that the team behind the game has gone to, bringing the battlefield to life. Killzone 2 remains to be one of the best next-gen shooters, and is one PS3 game that's recommended for those who can appreciate its gritty science-fiction spin on the genre.


BioShock

Generally, gamers relish the ability to kill, maim and obliterate their enemies and obstacles, but BioShock changed the entire experience with solid, inventive gameplay and a new moral compass. This sleeper hit from 2K Games, a studio formerly known for high-profile but moderately successful strings of PC role-playing games (Jade Empire, Civilization IV, Sid Meier's Pirates), sold Xbox 360s and unintentionally became a flagship title for the console with little buildup and a huge amount of positive press. When it finally made the transition to the PlayStation 3, BioShock also came with a new "Survivor Mode" that made the already tough gameplay even harder than before, which was all the reason we needed to play the game just one more time.


Assassin's Creed 2

Ubisoft recreated the historic enviroment of 15th century Italy with the same care and attention to detail that Leonardo da Vinci gave to The Last Supper. No matter how well you can build a city, you almost can't do better than Assassin's Creed 2. Taking the stylish and addictive motions of the previous game's protagonist, the near-superhuman Altair, Assassin's Creed 2 went further towards the present with Ezio, the new assassin on the block. Noting both the forwards and backwards steps of the previous title, Ubisoft made sure that Ezio moves in ways that his predecessor never could: wading through waterways, stealing his opponents' weapons, and even flying through the skies with the help of some handy contraptions.


Modern Warfare 2

Gut-wrenching moments and fast-paced FPS action were the bread and butter of the first Modern Warfare. After taking the Normandy Invasion as far as it could go, Infinity Ward took their coveted franchise into the modern era with amazing results. Since then, Modern Warfare 2 has proved to be a more-than-worthy successor to 2007's Game of the Year, upping the ante with an insanely gripping story, even better multiplayer, and enough controversial decisions to jar any player back into reality, even if just for a split second. Even if you never go back to the solo missions after the first time around, playing online is so deep and incredibly well-polished, you'll have little to no excuse to get tired of Modern Warfare 2.


Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

When you call any title the video game equivalent of Raiders of the Lost Ark, you know that the action has to be impressively over-the-top, the characters must evoke unmistakeable charm, and the experience has to rival everything else of its genre. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves does exactly that, bringing back a more flawed, more human Nathan Drake, who's in a bigger adventure than even he can handle in one of the most highly acclaimed PS3 games yet. Even with the memorable Hollywood-style action-adventure in the bag, the multiplayer proves to be a showcase for the vastly improved gameplay. With a cover system that feels refreshingly more natural and spontaneous than Gears of War, and explosive weapons that can tear down the walls around your character, you'll have your hands full trying to stay ahead of the action.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

Gamers, this is the one. If you're planning to buy a PlayStation 3, or you already have one, Metal Gear Solid 4 should be at the top of your list. It's an epic stealth-shooter with jaw-dropping graphics and a massively detailed storyline. Sure, the 20-minute cinema scenes can drag on a bit too long, but the game's quality shines through in every aspect of its production. Unlockable rewards, 70+ weapons, and a well-designed online mode will keep you playing months after you've completed the core single-player experience. If you've ever loved a shooter, a stealth game, or an action game, Metal Gear Solid 4 is a can't-miss title.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Nokia N98...Unofficial Preliminary Specifications...


Nokia N98
General 2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
3G Network HSDPA 900 / 1900 / 2100
HSDPA 850 / 1900 / 2100 - American version
Announced Exp. announcement 2010, Sep
Status Rumored. Exp. release 2010, 4Q
Size Dimensions -
Weight -
Display Type AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size 480 x 800 pixels, 4.0 inches
- Multi-touch input method
- Proximity sensor for auto turn-off
- Accelerometer sensor for UI auto-rotate
- Scratch-resistant surface
Sound Alert types Vibration; MP3, WAV ringtones
Speakerphone Yes, with stereo speakers
- 3.5 mm audio jack
- HDMI port
Memory Phonebook Practically unlimited entries and fields, Photocall
Call records Detailed, max 30 days
Internal 32 GB storage
Card slot microSD, up to 32GB, buy memory
Data GPRS Class 32
EDGE Class 32
3G HSDPA, 7.2 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps
WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g, UPnP technology
Bluetooth Yes, v3.0 with A2DP
Infrared port No
USB Yes, v2.0 microUSB
Camera Primary 12 MP, 4000x3000 pixels, Carl Zeiss optics, autofocus, Xenon flash
Features Geo-tagging, face and smile detection
Video Yes, 720p@30fps
Secondary Yes, VGA
Features OS Symbian ^3 OS
CPU 1 GHz processor
Messaging SMS, MMS, Email, Push Email, IM
Browser WAP 2.0/xHTML, HTML, RSS feeds
Radio Stereo FM radio with RDS; FM transmitter
Games Yes + downloadable
Colors White, Black
GPS Yes, with A-GPS support; Nokia Maps
Java Yes, MIDP 2.1
- Digital compass
- MP3/WMA/WAV/eAAC+ player
- MP4/H.264/H.263/WMV player
- Voice command/dial
- Document viewer (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF)
- Video/photo editor
- Flash Lite 3
- T9
Battery Standard battery, Li-Po 1500 mAh

Friday, March 26, 2010

Guide- Add custom ringtones and notifications to your Android device

Fed up of the stock ringtones? Feel the need to have incoming calls announced with a few bars of Barbie Girl instead? I was asked how to add custom sounds for ringtones on the HTC Hero, but this should work for any Android device. It’s pretty straightforward in truth. Here’s how:-

  • Connect the phone to your computer via the USB cable
  • Open the Notifications screen on your phone (pull down a finger from the top of the screen to the bottom) and select the USB Storage notification
  • Choose “Mount”
  • Browse to the SD Card on your PC
  • Look for a folder called media, if it’s not there, create it by right clicking and choosing New Folder, then rename the folder to be media
  • Inside the media folder, you need a folder called audio, again, if it’s not there create it as above
  • Inside the audio folder, you can create a subfolder for the sound category you want to change-
    • ringtones – for sound files you want to use as ringtones
    • alarms – for sound files you want to use for any alarms
    • notifications – for incoming notifications such as SMS alerts, emails, etc
  • Copy the sound or music file which you’d like to use as your ringtone in to the relevant folder
  • You should now see your sound or music file listed in the menu for selection in the relevant sound settings menu (to access the ringtone/notification settings, press the hard Menu key from one of your home screens, then press Settings then Sounds and Display)
Please tell was this article helpful...??

What to do when you're drunk?

Tired of never having anything to do when you're drunk? It seems that most of us resort to the same intoxicated pass times: beer pong, card games and socializing with others. While these activities are certainly fun, it seems that new and original drunken experiences can be hard to come by. In fact, having a unique and fun time while drunk isn't very hard, you just have to use your imagination. Today, we explore fifteen fun and easy things to do when you're drunk. Try some out the next time you crack open your favorite bottle.

1. Breaking Stuff

Breaking stuff can be a great outlet for aggression and child-like fun when you're drunk. The more ridiculous the stuff you're breaking, the more fun it usually is. Electronics are always extra-enjoyable. Try to get your hands on some old computers or TV sets that haven't been used in ages. Once you're good and hammered, haul off and bust them apart however you desire. Try throwing them off high places or swinging a baseball bat at them. The first crunch your bat makes through the screen is always satisfying. If you can't find old electronics or furniture or anything like that, try smaller items. Something as simple as smashing glass bottles on an ally-way can be a blast when you're loaded.


2. Yell At People (Especially Strangers)


One of alcohol's most beloved (and also most regretted) side effects is lowered inhibition. Simply put, you don't care to stop and think about what you're doing before you do it. For this reason, yelling at complete strangers is a ton of fun. The best way to go about this is to convince a sober friend to drive you and your drunk buddies around town. When you see people walking on the sidewalk, just lean out the window and scream at them. What you scream at them is entirely up to you. Insults tend to be the most fun when drunk, but almost anything that comes to mind will do. If you can't find a sober friend to drive you around, you might try screaming at people outside the bar you're hanging out at. This can be fun too, but you'll have to censor yourself a bit unless you want to get into a fight.

3. Sing and Dance

Let's face it, karaoke would have never caught on if it weren't for drunk people trying to have a good time. Loud music and alcohol seem to go hand in hand and, for as long as brew has been consumed, people have sung and danced after a few drinks. One of the most fun things about karaoke nights at bars is that you don't have to worry about being a great singer. You can actually be considerably off key as long as you give a good performance. If you pick a song everyone knows and dance around like you're really into it, you'll have the whole bar dancing and singing along in no time! When you're drunk though, you don't even need a bar and a karaoke machine and a crowd of fellow drinkers. A stereo with your favorite CDs, a car radio, an Ipod or even a live concert are perfect ways to dance around like a crazy person and sing your lungs out.

4. Ride Bumper Cars

With most amusement parks serving alcohol these days, the question of what to ride after you've had a bunch of beer often gets raised. Roller coasters seem tempting, but the fear of throwing up makes them look unappealing. Spinning rides are off limits, and free falls make your stomach rise to your chest. Bumper cars, on the other hand, are the perfect drunk ride. Bumper cars allows you and your buddies to recklessly smash into each other with little cars, shoving one another into the wall and racing around a track at speeds that feel much faster than they actually are. The best part of it is, you can do all this without much danger to personal safety. This is an activity which is best performed with a large group of friends. You don't wanna be the one crazy adult in a bumper car slamming into little kids like a drunken maniac. On the other hand, if you and six of your friends commandeer the track, it will be an experience to talk about for a long time.

5. Play Competitive Video Games

From the old days of whiskey fueled poker to the modern frat house sponsored beer pong tournaments, drinking seems to go hand in hand with friendly competition. Video games can be a great outlet for this alcohol induced spirit. Get a few buddies of yours around a bottle of something strong and an Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 and let the good times roll. Before your know it you'll be shoving, cussing, cheering and screaming at your friends about "who's the f*cking man" and making sure they all recognize you as their daddy. The best games for such a night are those which pit all players against each other, such as Mortal Kombat, Golden Eye, Rainbow Six, or Street Fighter. Games in which your friends pick teams, such as all the popular sports games, can be excellent choices too.

6. Try To Meet New Chicks/Dudes

Alcohol has made the chase of the opposite sex infinitely more fun since the day the first village of people received the first barrel of wine. Whether you prefer a loud and pumping night club or a smaller, more relaxed bar, mingling is always easier with some liquid courage running through your veins. The next time you plan to go out with friends, dress your best and spray yourself down with your favorite scent. From there it's simply a matter of picking out other good looking people, and let the alcohol calm your nerves enough to go over and chat with them. Before long, you'll no doubt be having some cool conversations with other cool people, and you might even get lucky and score a phone number or two.


7. Go Swimming


This is certainly one of the more dangerous drinking activities, yet under the right conditions it can be a great time. Drunk swimming feels awesome because the weightless sensation that water usually produces is amplified. The relaxing properties of swimming are also heightened when you are drunk. Of course, the risk of drowning is also greater, so don't drunk dive alone. Always have a sober friend around in case you get into any trouble. The best place to swim drunk is a heated personal pool. The ocean can be more dangerous because of its greater depth, sea animals, and unpredictable currents and waves. A soothing pool or hot tub can do wonders for the senses after consuming some adult beverages, and are generally much more controllable and thus less dangerous.


8. Go On Swings


As a kid, swings were some of the most fought over and cherished playground amusements. Many of us have never sat on a swing much past sixth or seventh grade, but that no longer need be the case. Swinging while drunk can be some of the most fun you can have, and it doesn't even cost a dime. This activity is not for those prone to motion sickness, as the back and forth motion may aggravate the stomach. Those who do not get motion sickness, though, will experience a sweet head rush and the sensation of flying while drunk swinging. This can be a great way to pass the time while talking to a fellow drunken friend or simply listening to your MP3 player alone. Just don't try jumping off like you did when you were younger! You will land off balance and uncoordinated, resulting in a broken limb or busted head. Keep it on the swing.

9. Go to See An Action Movie

If you have a high amount of testosterone in your blood, you know how exciting a big Hollywood action movie can be. All too often though, we find that the story lines and writing in such movies are atrocious, and the multi-million dollar explosions, fight scenes, car chases and other special effects rarely make up for the intelligence insulting writing. That is why these movies are often best viewed drunk, and on the big screen. Hopped up on booze, you rarely care about the stupid dialogue and instead become enthralled and amazed by the massive special effects you are viewing. The best plan is to pick an insane action movie, the biggest one out at the moment, and plan a night for you and your friends to go see it. Pick a theater with a built in bar, or at least that has one one located in walking distance. If these are not available, pick a designated driver and buy a bottle of your favorite spirits. Kill the bottle between your friends (excluding the driver, of course) and head over to the theater. Try and sit relatively close, as everything will look so much more epic the bigger the screen is.


10. Smoke a Hookah

A Hookah is a rather large middle eastern smoking apparatus used for exotic and uniquely flavored tobacco variants. In many middle eastern cultures, the smoking of a hookah is a social tradition between friends or families. Hookah smoke is far less harsh than cigarette smoke, and tastes distinctly of fruit rather than tobacco. The proper enjoyment of a hookah usually takes between 30-45 minutes, and results in a relaxed body and clear mind. Most cities have "hookah bars," or small pubs where hookahs are available at hourly rates. Hookah smoke tastes great with the flavor of many brown spirits or dark beers, and the dual relaxing effect of the alcohol and hookah will put you in a state of relaxation that can best be described as Zen. Check your local listings for such bars, it might just become a regular, therapeutic part of your week.


11. Eat a Huge Meal

After a long night of downing booze nothing hits the spot like a big, hot meal. Many people choose to go out to a diner or late night restaurant for such a meal. This is convenient because the last thing you want to be doing while sloshed is firing up a grill or a stove and attempting to make food. Serious burns or knife cuts easily follow from this. Stick with the restaurant, and try to find a place close to the bar or club you usually party at. This can be a great way for you and your friends to kill time while sobering up, and any place open late near a bar is used to serving drunk people, so you can be sure you won't be disturbing anyone.


12. Jump In a Moon-Bounce


One absolutely wild way to have a good time while drinking is to rent a massive moon bounce for your next party. You may think the moon bounce is just for kids, but you might be surprised to see how large these things come nowadays. The moon bounce is a far safer alternative to a trampoline, which has caused many a broken leg for drunk jumpers in the past. The nice thing about the moon-bounce is that it is enclosed, and even the walls and ceiling are either inflatable cushion or mesh netting. This way, if things get rowdy and people start throwing each other around a bit, or you loose your balance while showing off your sweet front flip, you are quite well protected against injury. Moon bounce jumping can provide endless amounts of juvenile fun for dizzied adults as long as safety is taken into consideration.


13. Get Thrown Out of a Public Place


Either by excessive PDA with your significant other, problems with a group of people in attendance, or just due to over-all excessive rowdiness, never will you feel more righteous than when you and your friends are thrown our of a public place drunk. Pointing with indigent fury and screaming about how "this is bullsh*t" and how "you don't have to take this" while your friends hold you back and drag you out of a place can make you feel like someone to be reckoned with. As long as you don't do anything to get yourself arrested, being asked to leave a place for drunken conduct, creating a huge scene upon leaving, almost always provides some great laughs and cheap thrills for a night of debauchery.

14. Calling Friends

The all too common "drunk dial" is great way to pass the time while standing outside your favorite bar or just sitting around your house after drinking a bunch of beer. Who should you call, you might wonder. The best bet is to call other close friends who are either themselves out having a wild night or would otherwise find it funny that you're calling them tanked. Don't worry about what you'll say, generally once they pick up hilarious conversation will just naturally flow. If they don't answer, leave them a message. It is always hysterical (and sometimes embarrassing) when your friend lets you listen to the drunken message the next day. Whatever you do, don't make the mistake of calling a longed for ex-lover or straitlaced co-worker or boss. These are fatal mistakes that will come back to haunt you the minute you take off your beer-goggles.


15. Make Some Art


If you find yourself four to the floor and all alone, it can quite entertaining to practice your favorite art. If you play an instrument, jam out. If you're a painter, break out your canvas and have at it. If instead you prefer digital art, load up Photoshop and go to town, and if you're a writer, try and crank out a short story. Not only can you sometimes find inspiration drunk that you might not have had sober, it also ensures a fun time checking out what you did when you sober up. Art is all about expressions, and some of the most influential cultural pieces were created by someone just as blasted as you.

Don't let addiction take over your life. There are alcohol and drug addiction treatment programs to help you recover.


The 10 Most Disturbing Books Of All Time



In my younger days if I heard a book or movie was disturbing or hard to handle I generally took that as a challenge. Most books generally turned out to not be too bad, but occasionally I’d come across something that would leave me with a sick feeling in my stomach for weeks. I’ve largely outgrown this “genre” of late, but here are my picks for the ten most disturbing books of all time. Any one of these books is capable of leaving you feeling a little depressed at the least, and permanently scarred at the worst. I’d say enjoy, but that doesn’t really seem appropriate …

10. Blindness

blindness

Blindness is a book with a truly horrifying scenario at it’s heart: what if everyone in the world were to lose their sight to disease in a short period of time? The answer is actually somewhat predictable, but that doesn’t lessen the bleakness as society collapses quickly in this novel by Portugese author José Saramago. The story follows a group of characters who are among the first diagnosed and sent to be quarantined. Many think the book is an allegory dealing with spiritual blindness, but to me the book is all the more devastating when taken literally. An easily communicable virus that causes the recipient to lose their sight would be the end of things, and it wouldn’t be an easy end.

9. Requiem For A Dream

requiem-for-a-dream

Anti drug crusaders should stop airing goofy commercials that nobody takes seriously and start pushing to have Requiem For A Dream made required reading for every high schooler in the country. Kids would probably still do drugs, but I imagine they’d be thinking twice after reading Requiem. Most people are more familiar with the movie, which was a pretty faithful translation of the book that deals with four characters who all see their lives ruined by various addictions. I read an essay at some point that argued that the real protagonist isn’t any of the main characters, instead the protagonist is Addiction, and let’s just say for Addiction things go pretty swimmingly. For the human beings it’s just one long depressing ride that ends up making you want to curl up in a corner and sob. Not exactly good beach reading.

8. Naked Lunch

naked-lunch

Naked Lunc is another ode to drug addiction. While it’s not as flat out depressing asRequiem For A Dream, it’s a hell of a lot more strange. The story is told in a series of dream like vignettes that never allow the reader to really get their bearings and includes acts of child murder, auto-erotic asphyxiation, lots of drug use, cop killing, and orgies. The book was banned in many sections of the United States when it came out in 1959, and it’s not hard to see why. This book is easily one of the most bizarre I’ve ever read.

7. We Need to Talk About Kevin

we-need-to-talk-about-kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin concerns a fictionalized school massacre told through the perspective of his mother, who is writing letters to her husband trying to come to terms with the monstrosity that she birthed. The book goes into detail about Kevin displaying signs of psychosis from a young age leading up to his murder of seven classmates, a cafeteria worker, and an alegebra teacher. Kevin’s mother at least partially blames herself, as she was never all that enthusiastic about being a parent, led alone being a parent to a deeply disturbed individual. This book might sound like a bad TV movie, but it’s actually pretty well written and extremely depressing. It stays with you after you read it.

6. The Road

the-road

Bleak. If you had to sum up The Road in one word it would definitely be bleak.

Cormac McCarthy’s novel deals with a father and son dealing with a cataclysmic event (probably a meteor strike) that has left the world barren and gray. I read this book shortly after my wife and I had our first child, making the story of a father who is unable to provide much comfort to his small son in a post apocalyptic world all the more devastating. The pair travel through the book, with the father hoping things will improve the further south they get. Plants will not grow in this world, and food is scarce. Cannibals are everywhere. As powerful a book as this might be I still generally don’t recommend it to people, as it is pretty much guaranteed to leave you morose and feeling like you’ve been repeatedly hit in the stomach.

5. American Psycho

america-psycho

American Psycho really leaves you wondering a little bit about Bret Easton Ellis’ sanity. Many people are probably familiar with the movie starring Christian Bale, but the movie pales in comparison to the book when it comes to levels of depraved insanity. The book follows investment banker, and serial killer, Patrick Bateman over a few years of his life. As the book moves on his killings becomes more and more sadistic, leading to quite a few scenes that will never, ever completely leave your mind, including a particularly repugnant sequence involving a starved rat, some cheese, and a tube. You are guaranteed to feel a little filthy, at the least, after reading this book.

4. Johnny Got His Gun

johnny-got-his-gun

One of the most effective anti-war novels of all time, Johnny Got His Gun is also one of the most disturbing. The book was published in 1938 and deals with a WWI soldier who has had his legs, arms, and face blown off by an artillery shell. However, his mind is completely undamaged, leaving him a prisoner in his own body, unable to communicate with the outside world. The book was later made into a film and immortalized in the Metallica song “One”.

3. The 120 Days of Sodom

120-days-of-sodom

The 120 Days of Sodom was a work by Marquis de Sade, who had to have at least one work on this list. The book deals with four wealthy men who want to have the ultimate orgy. To accomplish this they seal themselves away with a bunch of young men and women. The sex quickly turns sadistic and matters quickly turns to humiliation, pain, and killing. Pretty much every debased and bizarre sexual fetish is explored in detail in the book, with much of the work crossing lines that even today would be declared obscene in many parts of the US. It is amazing to me that the book was written in 1785. The 120 Days of Sodom was turned into a film called Sado, widely considered to be one of the most unpleasant and disturbing films of all time.

2. The Turner Diaries

turner-diaries

The Turner Diaries is a racist, antisemitic novel written by William Luther Pierce, the crazy ass former leader of the white Nationalist organization “National Alliance”. It depicts a racist’s wet dream consisting of a violent revolution in the United States that leads to the overthrow of the US government and the extermination of all non-whites and Jewish people. To Pierce, Hitler’s problem was clearly that he didn’t go far enough. The rest of the plot is too crazy to even go into (let’s just say it’s about as well written and realistic as you’d expect a book like this to be), but the book gets bumped up a few notches on our list due to the fact that Timothy McVeigh was a big promoter of the book, and may have used a scene in the book as inspiration for the Oklahoma City bombing.

And the not at all scary thing is that this is still being sold at gun shows all over the US. Sleep tight!

1. The Girl Next Door

girl-next-door

Jack Ketchum is often mentioned when the topic of “most extreme horror writer” is breached, and it’s not hard to see why when you read The Girl Next Door. The book details the abuse of a teenage girl by her aunt, who enlists neighborhood children to help torture the girl over the course of a summer. The kids gradually go along with the insane aunt, who moves from abuse to outright torture and eventually murder. This is a very twisted tale that leaves you feeling ill, until you find out the story is based on the real life murder of Sylvia Likens, who was left with her aunt by her parents, and then really was tortured to death by her aunt and neighborhood children. Then you feel really sick.

But then, to add insult to injury, you learn that her aunt (Gertrude Baniszewski) was convicted of murder, but was released on parole after serving 18 years, saying at her parole hearing “I’m not sure what role I had in it … because I was on drugs. I never really knew her … I take full responsibility for whatever happened to Sylvia.”

What happened to Sylvia was that she was raped with a Coke bottle while having “I’m a prostitute and proud of it” burned into her stomach with a boiling hot sewing needle before being bludgeoned to death, following months of other torture. This wasn’t enough to deny Baniszewski parole though. She lived the last five years of her life a free woman, dying of lung cancer at the age of 60.

Once you read the book and then learn all of the above you pretty much lose all faith in humanity. The horrid nature of Ketchum’s book combined with the real life events it was based on easily makes The Girl Next Door, for us at least, the most disturbing book of all time.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Ten Things You Didn't Know About Google

1) The most newsy news was today's launch of the Google Personalized Homepage, a sort of "My Google" that lets you plunk recent Gmail messages, Google News, news feeds from providers such as the New York Times, weather, and other bits of information onto Google's homepage. Personalization of this sort is a very old idea (My Yahoo has offered it for years), but Google's take on it looks typically Google-esque: It's simple, functional, and fast. Google's lab page lets you try it right now.

2) In the long run, the most meaningful thing we heard about today may have been a Google Research translation technology that involves statistical analyses of texts that are available in multiple languages (such as United Nations documents). The examples that we saw included a couple of Arabic-to-English translations that were, apparently, utterly perfect. If this process reaches a point where it works as well for documents of all sorts, and is available to everybody, it would be one of the most profound things technology has done for us since...well, the search engine.

3) Google is readying a software package called Google Earth, which is a Google-ized version of Keyhole, an astounding 3D mapping program from a company that Google acquired. It includes some built-in searching features that let you do things like see driving directions rendered as photographic flyover animations of actual the route you'll take.

4) Google is often compared to Microsoft these days, but one key difference between the companies is that Microsoft loves to talk about unreleased products (sometimes years before they show up), while Google is still rather secretive. Company execs almost apologized for showing us the unreleased Google Earth at all, and wouldn't say when it might ship or what it might cost. (You can download a demo of the current version here.)

5) Lots of folks--including me--are sometimes mystified about why Google gets into some of the businesses it enters. For instance, its Picasa 2 is a fast and fun photo organizer, but it's also free--and Google has never said why it got into the photo game, or how it hopes to turn a profit at it.

During the Factory Tour, we heard over and over of Google's mission--"to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful"--and its 70/20/10 philosophy, which involves spending 70 percent of the company's resources on its core business (search), 20 percent on closely related areas (such as news), and 10 percent on oddball projects. We also heard that the company was originally founded on cool search technology and a strong but vaguely-defined faith that search would eventually be a powerful way to make money.

Those elements--a desire to organize information, a yen to experiment, and a willingness to do neat things first and figure out how to make money with them later--go a long way towards explaning Picasa and other Google side projects.

6) Google leaves a service in beta as long as it has specific features it thinks the service needs, but which it hasn't implemented yet. Which apparently means that the company still has designs on improving its Google Groups Usenet archive, which has been in beta for years.

7) The company says that it knows the Google Web Accelerator caused problems for some sites and users, but says they weren't as bad as some critics claimed. It says that the experience taught it to test products more thoroughly before making them public. It also said that the Web Accelerator had unexpected trouble dealing with poorly-coded Web pages--which startled me a bit, because you'd think that if anyone knew that the Web is full of sloppy Web pages, it would be Google...

8) How many servers does it take to run Google? Nobody knowns--the company will only say that the last reported number was 10,000. (Some folks speculate that the current total could be as high as 100,000.)

9) It does say that it builds all those servers itself, which just may make it the biggest hardware do-it-yourselfer on the planet.

10) If you work at Google, you may end up with an untraditional job title...such as "Spam Cowboy and Porn Cookie Guy" (and that's one employee, not two).

If the above musings aren't enough for you, Search Engine Lowdown has a moment-by-moment blog report, including a review of the lunch that attendees ate (which included a "Googley" bistro salad).